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been here all along (you belong with me)

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“Can I help you?” Chim says, just outside the ambulance but not far enough to be out of Eddie’s earshot. 

The responding voice is young, male, familiar , but Eddie can’t quite place it. “Yeah, I’m looking for –” 

“Evan Buckley!” The familiar voice finishes on a yell, followed by several quick footsteps and an excited laugh from Buck. 

Eddie steps out of the ambulance to see Buck with his arms around none other than – 

“TK Strand!” Buck laughs, eyes sparkling in the light. “As I live and breathe. What the hell are you doing here, man?” 

What the hell, indeed? Eddie thinks. 

“I had a little vacation time saved up and thought I’d come see what all the fuss about LA was,” TK smiles cheekily and squeezes Buck once more before letting him go. “So, here I am. You look good.” 

Buck beams back at him and Eddie’s stomach turns. TK came all the way from Austin just to see Buck? And Buck is smiling at him like TK is just about the best thing he’s seen in all his days, eyes twinkling and hand lingering where it rests on TK’s shoulder. Eddie hadn’t even known they kept talking after Texas. How close are they? Are they just friends? Is it more? Why hasn’t Buck mentioned TK to Eddie?

The excitement has drawn the rest of the team down into the truck bay and Eddie rolls his eyes at the fact that TK is no doubt going to charm them all to death just like he did with Buck. 

Eddie doesn’t have a problem with TK as a person. He’s a nice guy, he’s a hell of a firefighter. He doesn’t have the best head on his shoulders, but then again, neither does Buck. He’s young and he’s cute and he doesn’t have a dead ex-wife or a kid with CP or mountains of PTSD or – 

Eddie’s getting off track here. The point is, he likes TK. What he doesn’t like is the way Buck has his arm wrapped around TK’s shoulders as he introduces him to the rest of the team, or the way TK keeps leaning against him. None of it sits right with Eddie. He wishes TK would stop touching Buck. 

“Captain Strand’s son?” Bobby questions, snapping Eddie from his downward – and very jealous – spiral. “Buck’s truck-stealing partner?” 

TK ducks his head shyly and offers a hand for Bobby to shake, barely holding down a smile. “That’s me, Captain. Nice to meet you. Buck’s told me a lot about you.” So polite, so charming. 

Bobby gives a fond shake of his head and takes TK’s hand. “Nice to meet you, too. I can’t believe Buck’s found someone to get into trouble with. That’s what I got Eddie for, to keep him in line.” 

Eddie rolls his eyes. Like he’s ever been able to keep Buck from doing anything.

“Where is Eddie?” TK asks, looking around the room until his eyes catch Eddie lurking against the bumper of the ambulance. “Hey, man!” 

Eddie puts on his best smile and pushes off the ambulance, giving TK a short head nod. “Hey. You come out here to get my boy in more trouble?” 

My boy? Eddie groans inwardly at his own choice of words. 

Something flashes across Buck’s face too quickly for Eddie to catch. 

“No, none of that. I promise.” TK laughs and turns back to Buck. “We’ll be on our best behavior, right?” 

Buck looks at Eddie and crosses his heart. “I promise not to commandeer anymore fire trucks,” he winks and Eddie has to will the heat away from his face. 

“Bobby, it’s cool if TK joins us for dinner, right?” Buck asks, sounding like a kid begging for a sleepover on short notice. 

“Absolutely,” Bobby nods, and then Buck is dragging TK up the stairs, talking a mile a minute and grinning so hard that Eddie’s sure his cheeks hurt. 

“You good?” Chim asks on his way by, eyebrows pinched together in concern. 

Eddie pulls his eyes away from Buck and claps Chimney on the shoulder. “Yeah, I’m good. Starving. We better get up there before nothing’s left,” and then he walks away, an ugly green monster rearing its head in Eddie’s chest. 

 

 

TK clears out after dinner and Buck is giddy as he practically bounces back into the station after he walks TK out. 

The visit was definitely a surprise, and one Buck was in need of. After all the drama with his parents, mourning a brother he never knew, trying to get his footing with the dating scene again, TK showing up was just the reprieve he needed. 

Buck hadn’t really expected anything to come of their two-day friendship during the wildfires, but as soon as Buck had gotten back to California, there’d been a message from TK in his Instagram DMs. 

tkstrand: hope you guys had a good trip back! lemme know if you’re ever back in texas :)

And from there, the friendship had blossomed from DMs to iMessages to FaceTime calls in which Buck spilled all his drama and TK spilled his right alongside it. Outside of Eddie, Buck would say TK is his closest friend. 

It’s nice, having someone who can see your problems from an outsider’s perspective. Buck never has to worry that TK’s advice is biased, because TK doesn’t really know Buck’s friends or his sister. He’s never wondering if TK is trying to save face with the 118, because why would he be? He is Buck’s friend, one he has all to himself, away from the 118. 

And no matter what, TK will always have Buck’s back. Buck is sure of it. 

It’s also nice having a best friend that you’re not painfully in love with, but. That’s neither here nor there, Buck guesses. 

“You wanna come over tonight? Chris has been asking for you,” Eddie says as they sit shoulder to shoulder on the couch, waiting for a call but praying one doesn’t come. 

Buck’s heart warms and he hates that he has to turn it down. “I can’t tonight.” 

“Why?” 

“I’m going out with TK and –” 

The alarm blares overhead and Buck’s sentence is cut off. Eddie’s already taking off down the stairs, but not quite fast enough for Buck to miss the look of annoyance that passes over Eddie’s features.

Eddie’s soft, gorgeous, dark, entracing features. 

Oh, right, the alarm is going off. 

Buck follows him down the stairs and tries not to think too much about why Eddie would be annoyed with him. They didn’t have plans. And yeah, Buck knows he hardly ever turns down an invite to the Diaz house, but Eddie can’t be mad at Buck for having a prior engagement. 

As Buck climbs into the truck, he catches that look on Eddie’s face again. 

This time, Buck ignores it. 

 

 

Buck rolls into the bar about an hour late. The last call of the shift had been a tough one, a pile up on the 110, and Buck had left the scene covered in smoke and dirt and blood that wasn’t his. 

He’d tried to catch Eddie before the other man left, just to make sure they were okay, but Eddie hadn’t even bothered to shower before he left the station. He changed into his civvies and peeled out of the parking lot before Buck ever had a chance to get him alone. 

Whatever. Eddie’s moody. Buck will deal with it later. 

Buck is trying to tame his hair – he didn’t have any hair gel at the station and Eddie’s locker pomade was empty – as he walks up to the table, an apology tumbling off his lips as soon as he  reaches them. “The last call ran long, I got here as soon as I could.” 

TK brushes him off and gestures to the empty seat across from him. “We know exactly how it is, man, don’t apologize.” 

Buck smiles and then his eyes flicker to the man beside TK. “Carlos. It’s so good to finally meet you, man.” He says, offering his hand across the table. 

Carlos gives him a smile that’s so pretty it should be illegal – seriously, TK is a lucky guy – and shakes Buck’s hand. “Good to meet you, too. Though I feel like I’ve known you for years after all the FaceTime calls.” 

Buck laughs. It’s a wonder Carlos doesn’t hate him for monopolizing so much of TK’s time. “The feeling is mutual. So, you guys like LA so far?” 

“I love it. Carlos is a little overwhelmed by it. Growing up in small town Texas makes the big city hard to handle.” TK teases.

Carlos rolls his eyes and swats half-heartedly at TK’s arm before wrapping his arm around TK’s shoulders. “I like it. Don’t know if I could live here, though.” 

Buck nods. “Yeah, Eddie’s from Texas, too.”

“I figured Eddie would join us,” TK says, sipping at his club soda with a raised brow. 

Buck is thankful for the low bar light, because he knows his face is bright red. TK’s look is too knowing. The feelings for Eddie had come spilling out after a long night of drinking wine alone in his apartment and he’d cried to TK for hours about how much he feels for Eddie, about the color of his eyes and how warm his hands are and how he always smells like cedar and sandalwood. It was embarrassing. TK teases him about it often. 

Buck clears his throat and shakes his head. “Nah, he had plans with his kid tonight.” And also, I didn’t invite him. 

Buck has no filter when he gets alcohol in his system, and the feelings are hard enough to keep to himself when he’s sober. 

Speaking of alcohol, he needs a drink. 

“I’ll get it,” Carlos is already standing when Buck finishes the thought, backing away from the table. “Beer? You seem like an IPA guy.” 

Buck smiles. “You got it.” 

Carlos nods and turns to head for the bar. 

“He’s even cuter in person. Seriously, he’s so handsome, TK.” Buck says as soon as Carlos is far enough off, hoping it will steer the conversation away from the question he knows TK wants to ask. 

“Yeah,” TK dismisses and leans forward on the table. “I told you to invite Eddie.” 

“I didn’t get a chance. And he had plans with Christopher.” 

“We could have made this a kid-friendly evening, Evan .” TK points out. Color him unimpressed.

“Well, Tyler, maybe I just wanna keep you two all to myself,” Buck teases, putting on his best I’m adorable and you can never be mad at me look. “Next time, I’ll drag Eddie along.” 

“Liar,” TK accuses. 

He’s not wrong.

“You promise you won’t turn it into some kind of weird, double-date thing?” 

TK gives him a cheeky smile. “Cross my heart,” he says. 

Buck does not believe him for a second. “Then I promise, I will bring Eddie next time.” 

TK doesn’t look convinced, but Carlos comes back with Buck’s drink and a fresh club soda for TK, and the conversation is left behind. It shifts to talk of what living in LA is like, how an East Coast boy like Buck ended up in Cali, craziest calls they’ve been on. 

“Dart board freed up. You wanna throw a game, Buck?” TK asks, gesturing behind himself. 

Buck is terrible at darts. Eddie tells him so every team outing, usually after Buck has been beaten thoroughly and Eddie has laughed until his cheeks have gone pink. 

“Sure,” 

Turns out, TK is just as terrible, and Carlos teases them both so mercilessly that Buck is sure he and Eddie would make fast friends. 

After too many beers and several terrible dart games, Buck pulls out his phone and pulls up Snapchat. He holds one long arm out in front of himself and TK, makes sure the board is in the background, and says, “Smile!”  

Finally found someone worse than I am at darts he writes for his caption before sending it off to the group chat. 

Several replies come in, poking fun at Buck and at TK. Chimney’s response is simply a series of side eye emojis, and Hen writes aren’t you two adorable. 

Eddie opens it and doesn’t respond. 

 

 

Eddie wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.

He barely slept after Buck’s Snapchat came through, sending that wave of jealousy into a crest once again. 

Buck had turned him down to go on a date . With TK. 

Buck went on a date with TK. 

At 2 AM, he sends Marjan a message.

eddiebodyw@ntssome: When did TK and Buck get so close? Did you know about this?

He wakes up at 5 AM – 7 AM her time – to a message that feels like she’s laughing at him. 

firefox: They talk every day. Keep up with the bromance, Diaz ;)

They talk every day ? As in, all of them? Every single one since the 118 left Texas?

Eddie’s mood only sours more and by the time he gets to work, he’s downright pissed. 

“Eddie, hey!” Buck says as soon as Eddie enters the locker room, eyes bright and smile brighter. 

Because of TK, his brain taunts. 

“Hey,” Eddie says, jerking the door of his locker open with more force than he needs to and pulling his shirt off.

Buck’s expression changes instantly. “Bad morning?” 

“Nope,” Yes, Eddie thinks. “I’m fine.”

Buck eyes him for a moment while Eddie buttons his shirt and then he sighs. “Okay, well,” he starts, but the sentence is cut off by the sound of Buck’s phone ringing. 

Buck answers and Eddie hears, “Hey, TK, what’s up?” 

Of course it’s TK. Why wouldn’t it be TK? Some cosmic being has set out to make his day awful, to make his life a living hell. Eddie pulls on his uniform pants and shoves his belt through the loops. 

Maybe the universe does scream, Eddie thinks as he laces his boots up too tight. 

Eddie ignores Buck’s happy voice as he talks to TK as best he can, and the phone conversation is over inside of five minutes. 

“What are you doing tomorrow night?” Buck asks, rocking back and forth on his heels. 

Eddie is not good at lying. Especially not on the spot. “Uh,” he fumbles. 

The alarm sounds and Eddie is saved. 

“Talk later,” Eddie lies, and then he takes off to grab his turnout. 

 

Eddie spends all day wondering why TK gets to have what he so desperately wants. 

He avoids Buck –  as much as he can; they are partners after all – and after about three escape attempts, Buck stops trying. 

It hurts. 

TK met Buck for two days. Eddie’s been here, almost every day, for the last three years. Been there for Buck through so much, had so many moments that Eddie thought would finally be their breaking point. 

You wanna go for the title?  

No, I know you did. 

It’s just gonna be you and me.

You’re a miracle worker. 

Eddie loves him so much that it hurts. Wants him so much that he can hardly stand it. From day one, Buck has been special. He’s been Eddie’s partner, his best friend, his co-parent, the love of his life, one half of his heart, the second most important thing in the world. He’s been everything and then some. And Eddie wants to tell him, wants to shout it from the rooftops and tell everyone in the city that he’s in love with Evan Buckley. 

But he didn’t. 

And now, he’s going to have to watch Buck fall in love with someone else. 

Would TK move to LA? No, his dad is in Texas. Buck would move to Austin. 

Eddie feels tears well up in his eyes as he stares at the lockers. 

If Eddie wasn’t such a coward, he wouldn’t be in this situation. If Eddie was braver, he’d be the one playing darts with Buck, making Buck smile at his phone, kissing him in the lowlight of the bar like Eddie’s sure TK did last night. 

He’s going to be sick. 

“Eddie?” Hen says from the doorway, her voice soft. “Are you okay?” 

Eddie wipes quickly at his eyes and then turns to look at her, forcing a smile. “Of course. Why?” 

Hen walks over and sits down next to him on the bench. “You’ve been avoiding us all day. Especially Buck. What’s going on, baby?” Her mom voice is in full effect now and Eddie feels like he’s falling apart. 

His heart is shattering across the locker room floor like broken glass and he feels like he should warn her not to step on it, not to cut herself on Eddie’s broken edges when she reaches out to touch his arm. 

“I lost him, Hen,” Eddie rasps out and God , it steals his breath from his lungs, leaves him gasping to try and take the words back. Saying it out loud made it too real and Eddie’s chest aches at the fact that it’s true. He lost Buck. His chance went flying out the window the moment TK walked into the station, and now Buck’s going to be the one that got away. 

Hen looks at him for a moment and then realization dawns in her eyes. “Oh, Eddie,” she breathes and wraps her arms around him, pulling him against her chest. 

Eddie feels pathetic. He feels like a fucking loser, crying in his friend’s arms, not at all hidden by the glass walls of the room. But he can’t even bring himself to care as the tears fall, quiet gasps escaping him against his own will. He’s mourning, he thinks, something he’s never lost before. 

Eddie’s never been in love like he is with Buck. He was in love with Shannon, yeah, but it never burned quite this bright. It wasn’t all consuming, didn’t carve itself into his bones and fill every empty space between his heart and his lungs, threaten to flood his chest cavity and burst out of him in the form of words. 

It fucking sucks. 

“I don’t know what to do, Hen,” Eddie admits after a few silent minutes. 

Hen lets him go and Eddie sits up to look at her. He’s met with a gentle look, something fond but also exasperated. “Eddie, you haven’t lost him. He’s right upstairs, asking everyone why you’re so mad at him.” 

“I’m not mad at him, Hen. I’m just… Fuck. I can’t pretend to be okay with this.” 

Hen gives a long-suffering sigh. “Have you tried talking to him? Telling him what you’re feeling?” 

Eddie shakes his head. “I can’t. I can’t admit that I’m not okay with him and TK without saying that I’m in love with him.” 

“Okay,” Hen draws out. “Tell him anyway. What’s the worst that could happen?” 

Eddie snorts and wipes at his face. “He could hear me.” 

Eddie ,” 

“No, Hen. I can’t – I just can’t, alright? Because then I’ll really lose him. He’ll never look at me the same, and he’ll pull away from me. And then Christopher will have lost another parent, and he’ll never forgive me. I can’t tell him, because the worst that could happen is that he walks away from me entirely.” 

Hen rolls her eyes at him and turns to face him entirely, her face serious. “Eddie, you know Buck would never do that. That boy loves you, he loves Christopher more than anything in the entire world. Nothing in the world could ever keep him from you two.” 

Eddie wants to believe that. He does. And the part of him that isn’t aching for something he’ll never have does believe it. 

He still can’t risk it. 

“I’ll be okay,” Eddie says. “I just need a little time. I’ll talk to him.” 

Hen eyes him for a moment and she looks dissatisfied, but she doesn’t push. “Alright. If you ever need to talk, I’m here for you.” 

Eddie nods and Hen leaves him there to cope with the new peace he’s going to have to find. 

He’s going to have to make peace with never having Buck the way he wants to. With having to be his shoulder to cry on during rough patches in his relationship, when the distance gets to be too much, when he and TK fight. He’s going to have to make peace with the fact that someday, maybe, he might have to be Buck’s best man. He has to make peace with the fact that all he’ll ever be to Buck is his best friend. 

But that’s okay, Eddie decides. Because being Buck’s best friend is better than being nothing at all. 

 

 

“I don’t know what I did, TK. I don’t know why he’s so mad at me.” 

TK sighs and settles down onto Buck’s oversized leather couch, wrapping his arms around his legs as he pulls them to his chest. He sets his chin on one knee and watches Buck for a minute. “I’m sure it’s nothing, Buck. He was probably just having a bad day.” 

“Since when does Eddie have a bad day and not talk to me about it?” Buck asks, looking up from where he’s been picking at a loose thread on his sweatpants. The LAFD logo is peeling and they’re nearly threadbare. “I’d be able to tell if it was just a bad day. I know him. Today wasn’t that.”

“You could call him,” TK suggests, pulling the blanket off the back of Buck’s couch around his shoulders. 

Carlos pipes up from his spot in the armchair. “Maybe it’s best if you give him some space. He’s your best friend, right? He’ll come to you with whatever this is when he’s ready.” 

TK immediately shakes his head. “No, do not listen to my very sweet, very dumb boyfriend. You cannot let this fester. You need to talk to him soon.” 

Carlos sighs and drops his face into his hands. “ Tyler ,” he warns.

TK ignores him. “If it’s eating you up this badly, Buck, I’m sure he’s not doing much better. So call him. Invite him out with us tomorrow night.” 

Buck gets this pinched expression as he stares at his phone and for a minute, TK is afraid that Buck is going to take Carlos’ advice. Buck has said before that Eddie would rather run into a burning house than ever talk about how he’s feeling. Carlos’ advice, as sage as it may be, doesn’t work here. Eddie needs a push. TK thinks Eddie and himself might actually be a lot alike. 

“Alright,” Buck exhales after several long moments of silence. “I’m gonna call him.” 

“Yes!” TK exclaims, nudging Buck off the couch. “Go, before you talk yourself out of it. Go.” 

Buck shoves at him weakly and gets up, already dialing as he takes the stairs two at a time up to his loft. 

“This is going to go so poorly,” Carlos sighs and stares blankly at the TV. TK doesn’t even know what’s on. 

TK tosses a throw pillow at him and glares. “It’s going to go perfect , babe. They’re in love. Eddie’s just a little jealous right now.” He says smugly, settling back onto the couch. 

TK saw it as soon as he walked into the station. Eddie’s poker face is downright terrible and he spent nearly all of dinner looking like he wanted to drag TK away from Buck by his hair. TK doesn’t take it personally, he knows Eddie’s a good guy. Buck wouldn’t be so gone on him if he wasn’t. 

And for the record, TK wasn’t trying to make Eddie jealous. That was never his intention. But if a little jealousy is what it takes to get these two dumbasses together, then TK is okay with that. 

“I don’t think coming out to drinks with us tomorrow night is what they need, cariño. You’re meddling again.” Carlos points out, standing up and leaning over to kiss TK’s forehead before gathering up their takeout and taking it to the kitchen. 

God, TK is so in love it hurts. 

TK moves over on the couch so Carlos can settle down next to him before he leans in to lay on his chest. “They’ll appreciate my meddling soon, and you will, too. When I win the bet.” 

Carlos quirks an eyebrow at him. “The bet?” 

TK grins up at him but doesn’t elaborate because he can hear Buck padding down the stairs. “How did it go?” He asks, giving him a hopeful look. 

Buck slumps into the chair and runs his fingers through his hair. “He said he’d come.” 

“That’s good, right?” Carlos asks, voice dripping with concern. 

Buck nods and stares at his phone, chewing on his lip so hard TK’s concerned he might draw blood. “He just… he didn’t sound like he wanted to come. He sounded like he was coming because I asked.” He mumbles, rubbing his thumb across his lock screen photo. 

TK waves it off. “He’ll have fun. Don’t worry, man.” 

TK didn’t know people who weren’t movie characters could be so in love but also so stupid. 

 

 

Buck and Eddie are wrapped in their own personal bubbles of misery. 

Eddie hasn’t cracked a smile since he showed up at the bar and slid into the seat beside Buck. He’s been nursing the same beer for an hour and Buck thinks it would be easier if Eddie looked angry but he just looks… sad. The sparkle in his brown eyes is non-existent and there’s no warmth in the arm that he’s thrown across the back of Buck’s chair. 

Buck figures his own expression doesn’t look much happier. 

The rest of their friends are glowing with laughter, the weight of a long week falling off their shoulders right before Buck’s eyes. He wishes he had that same lightness tonight, but his chest is so heavy that he can barely breathe. 

Eddie barely speaks to him, choosing instead to keep Chimney and Maddie wrapped up in conversation about the baby and engagement talk. Buck didn’t know he could miss someone like this when they were still sitting right next to him. 

TK and Carlos are late, stuck in traffic. Buck just wants to leave. 

“Hey, guys!” TK exclaims when they finally show, beaming at the table. “Sorry we’re late. Austin traffic is nothing like the hell we just experienced.” 

TK drops into the seat on the empty side of Buck while Carlos goes to grab another chair. 

“TK, my man, who is this handsome hunk of man you brought along?” Chimney says, flushed from the fruity cocktails Hen’s been funneling him since they got there. 

TK beams bright enough that it almost lifts Buck’s sour mood as Carlos joins the table. “This, Chimney, is my boyfriend, Carlos.” 

“Boyfriend?” Buck hears Eddie mumble under his breath. 

“You have a boyfriend?” Maddie asks, leaning forward with interest, eying TK carefully. “Buck, you never mentioned this.” 

Buck’s confused. “I mean… I thought I did. I guess it just slipped my mind.” 

Eddie is staring a hole through TK and Carlos right now, but his face is somewhere between relieved and confused. “Eddie?” Buck asks. 

Carlos turns from where he’s been introducing himself to everyone and catches Eddie’s eye. “You’re Eddie? The Eddie?” 

Buck wants the floor to swallow him whole. 

Eddie looks at Buck and then back to Carlos, smiles the first genuine smile Buck’s seen on his face in days. “Yeah, that would be me. Nice to meet you, man.” He says, gesturing a hello to Carlos with his beer. 

Carlos reaches out to shake Eddie’s hand. “Likewise. You’re even cuter than Buck said you were. It’s great to finally meet the famous boyfriend.” He grins as Eddie takes the handshake. 

Buck chokes on his Jack and Coke. The table around them falls silent as the team’s eyes track to Buck and Eddie. 

Buck catches the mischievous glint in Carlos’ dark eyes and the way TK is smiling into his fist, and he realizes they did this on purpose. They both knew Buck and Eddie weren’t dating, knew Buck was pining miserably for a man he could never have. 

Buck is so fucking embarrassed right now. 

“This is awkward,” Chim mutters – actually fairly loud – to Maddie, who elbows him in the ribs. 

Eddie’s cheeks have gone blood red under the attention and he forces a laugh. “Buck’s not my boyfriend,” he says. 

Carlos cocks his head and looks between them. “No? My mistake. Just… the way Buck talks about you and his Instagram feed, I assumed. I’m sorry.” And he does not look sorry in the slightest. 

“They’re sickening,” Hen rolls her eyes. “Your assumption isn’t wrong, they’re just both stupid.” 

The table bursts into collective laughter and Eddie looks equal parts pleased, embarrassed, and surprised. 

Buck forces out a laugh and meets Eddie’s eyes. “I’m sorry about that,” he whispers while the conversation comes back to life around them. 

The arm that Eddie’s been resting on the back of Buck’s chair moves to rest on his shoulders instead and he just smiles in that soft way that always sets Buck’s soul on fire. “Don’t be sorry,” he whispers back, squeezing Buck’s arm. “Christopher’s at a sleepover tonight. Maybe you can come over tonight. We’ll talk.” 

Buck bites his lip and nods. “Yeah, um. I’d like that.” 

“Good,” Eddie grins and then someone is calling his name, trying to draw him into conversation. 

“Eddie, man, will you please tell them that LA traffic has nothing on Dallas at rush hour?” Carlos pleads, laughter painted all along his face. 

Eddie gets into the conversation without ever pulling his arm away from Buck, and TK bumps his shoulder against Buck’s arm. 

“You’re welcome,” TK says, looking pleased with himself. 

Buck glares but the smile he can’t wipe away takes out all the heat. “That could have blown up in my face,” he points out. 

“I knew it wouldn’t,” TK assures. “I have a feeling you’re going to be having a very good night tonight.” 

Buck lets his eyes drift to Eddie, who’s thrown his head back in laughter, highlighting the column of his throat and sharp jaw, and Buck wants to kiss him stupid right here in front of everyone.

“I’m already having a great night,” Buck sighs, settling against Eddie’s side and earning a sweet smile from the other man for his troubles. 

Buck is having the best night. 

 

 

Carlos and TK left the bar that night with an invite to join them team at breakfast on Monday morning before they had to catch their flight back to Austin. 

“You’re early,” Captain Nash says when they roll into the station before most of the people who actually work here. 

“Carlos here is an early riser. I tried to bargain to sleep in, but he wouldn’t have it.” TK sighs, sitting down at the counter and accepting the cup of coffee that the Captain hands him. 

Slowly, as TK and Carlos chat with Captain Nash, the rest of the station trickles in. Chimney is first with Maddie in tow, insisting she stay and have breakfast with them before Carlos and TK head back south. 

Hen is next, taking up one of the side tables with what Carlos thinks are her med school textbooks. He admires the hell out of her. 

Eventually, the whole team is in except for – 

“Where are the lovebirds?” Chimney chimes from the table, noting the two empty seats across from TK and Carlos. 

Carlos thinks he knows exactly where they are. 

He can’t even count the number of times that staying in bed with TK made them both late for work in the beginning. That sweet spot in the beginning of your relationship where it seems like the world can’t possibly exist outside the confines of the bed, the bubble you and your partner form around yourselves will make you think time has stopped just for you.

As if on cue, Buck comes tumbling up the stairs with untamed hair and a wrinkled shirt, and Eddie is on his heels with a shy grin and a hickey blooming right above his collar. 

“Sorry we’re late, Cap,” Eddie says as he sits down, tugging Buck down alongside him. “Missed my alarm.” 

Bobby looks grossed out and fond in equal measure. “Uh huh. Don’t make a habit of it, boys.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Bobby,” Buck says, smoothing his shirt out and flashing an innocent smile. 

“Alright, everyone pay up,” TK says, holding his hand out to everyone at the table.

Carlos sighs and pulls his wallet out. He should have known better than to ever bet against TK’s intuition. 

Everyone else grumbles as they hand over wads of cash, mumbling about TK getting lucky and rigging the bet in his own favor. 

In fairness, this is kind of Carlos’ own fault. 

“Um, what’s going on?” Buck asks, disbelief all over his features. 

“They were betting on us, cariño. That’s what’s happening.” Eddie says, shooting raised eyebrows at TK and Carlos. “And it sounds like your friend here fixed it.” 

TK goes all soft and gooey beside Carlos at Eddie’s use of the pet name. Carlos calls TK that often. “You guys are so cute already, oh my god. I can’t believe I made this happen.” 

Carlos shakes his head fondly. “Alright, enough, you three. Let’s eat, we have a plane to catch.” 

Breakfast goes into full swing after that and Carlos can’t help but feel overwhelmed with fondness for this new addition to his family. The 118, that’s what they are now to TK and Carlos. Family. 

With friends like these? Everywhere feels like home.