The shift so far had been pretty...noiseless. Hen refused to even think of the Q-word, just in case any of the first responder gods were listening in on her thoughts and felt like taking things out of context. She had been using the relative calm of the station to catch up on some of her readings for medical school, but she was finding it hard to focus. Her attention kept drifting to her phone where Karen was giving her a play-by-play of what shenanigans the kids were getting into at home.
Hen was seated at one of the small tables near the couches, and she watched as Buck walked up the stairs, making a beeline for the only occupied couch. Of course, occupied by Eddie. Buck doesn’t even acknowledge the other man, just drops down into the cushions and swings his legs into Eddie’s lap with no preamble. Eddie doesn’t seem to mind or even notice. Hen watched as he just held his cup of coffee out of the way while Buck got settled, and then continued to just scroll through his phone. Hen wished Chimney was in the loft right now so she could share a commiserating look over the boys’ heads. These two were killing everybody in the station with their ‘we’re best friends that are just unknowingly dating routine’. It was getting ridiculous.
Hen looked down at her phone as it buzzed and noticed a new text from Karen. She paused, oh that was interesting. “Denny is saying he wants to get his ears pierced.” She announced to the room.
Eddie, distracted by whatever was on his phone hummed in response while distractedly taking a sip of his coffee. Buck though perked up and turned to look at Hen. “That’s cool, did he say what made him want to?”
Hen was a little surprised how genuinely interested Buck seemed in this conversation about her son wanting his ears pierced. She laughed a little before responding, “yeah, one of the YouTubers he likes has his ears pierced and Denny thinks it looks sooooo coooooool.” Hen raised her hands, creating finger quotations around ‘so cool.’
Buck’s laughter joined Hen’s, “that sounds like a good reason to me!” Buck flashed Hen one of his megawatt smiles, “are you gonna let him get it done?”
Hen sighed, “I don’t know...what if he regrets it afterward?”
Pausing, Buck seemed to be thinking about it before replying, “well, it’s just his earlobes, so if he doesn’t like it in a few years he can just stop wearing earrings. The holes close up pretty quickly on their own.” Buck shrugged, “anyways, if it was me I’d say go for it! Getting your ears pierced is fun.”
That made Hen pause. She glanced at Eddie to see if he had noticed what Buck said, but Eddie was staring at his phone as if it held the secrets of the universe. Huh. He must be reading something pretty damn important. She turned more fully to Buck and looked at him with a critical eye, “how do you know that it’s fun, Buck?”
Buck looked up from his phone and gave Hen a look as if she was being slow, “my ears used to be pierced,” he said with a nonchalant shrug.
Oh. Hen found herself rearranging the image of Buck in her head. She had not pictured him as the type of person to have their ears pierced. “Why’d you stop wearing earrings,” Hen asked, genuinely curious.
Buck shrugged again, “when I was doing my SEALs training I took them out, and by the time I dropped out they had closed up.” He stopped a wistful look on his face. “I’ve wanted to get them redone for a while now, but y’know, everything with the blood thinners...” Buck trailed off and got a faraway look in his eyes, the corners of his mouth turning down into a minute frown.
Hen watched as Eddie’s ‘sad Buck’ senses seemed to activate. Without looking up from his phone, Eddie set down his cup of coffee and smoothed his hand down Buck’s shin in a comforting manner, and gave his ankle a reassuring squeeze, effectively pulling the younger man back into the present and out of the undoubtedly dark place his thoughts had been wandering towards. Buck shot Eddie the most disgustingly sweet smile Hen had ever seen in her life. God, these boys were trying to kill her. How could they not see they were both ass over tits for each other?
Hen tolerated the achingly domestic display of affection for only a few moments before drawing Buck’s attention back to her by saying, “you should get them done again, maybe you and Denny could go together.” Hen felt her heart bloom with warmth as Buck lit up like a goddamn Christmas tree, puppy dog eyes fully activated and directed full force at her. It was nearly blinding and Hen feared for her retinas.
“Really? That would be so awesome.” Buck sounded so goddamn hopeful Hen felt like she would have to be a monster to say no to him.
“Of course, Buck. Denny would probably think it’s even cooler getting his ears pierced if he does it with his Uncle Buck.” Hen couldn’t help it, she laughed a little to herself as Buck’s unadulterated joy poured forth from his every pore. This boy was just too much.
Buck settled back into the couch, pulling his phone up to his face again, still grinning ear to ear. “Oh man, I’m so excited now, I gotta find a good piercing parlor.” Buck’s voice was full of barely restrained excitement as he began furiously tapping away on his phone.
Hen smiled to herself, fully expecting that to be the end of the conversation now that Buck had gone full research mode. She was about to turn back to her textbook when Buck surprised her and piped back up, “do you think there are any regulations against body piercings while being a firefighter?”
Hen shrugged. She was pretty sure that there weren’t any regulations against firefighters having body piercings, but she was also pretty sure that pierced ears didn’t constitute the label ‘body piercings’.
Buck plowed on, not paying attention to Hen, seemingly just thinking out loud as he said, “‘cause if I get my ears redone, I think I want to get my nipples redone too.”
Hen’s jaw audibly popped as it hit the floor. Did she just hear him right? She looked over to Eddie who had finally put his phone down and was frozen staring at Buck with his coffee cup hovering in front of his mouth. Eddie’s eyes were open so wide Hen felt they were at risk of falling out onto the floor. Hen would have been laughing hysterically at his expression if only she too wasn’t reeling at the information Buck had just dropped in their laps.
Seemingly unaware of how much he had just shifted the worldview of his two coworkers, Buck kept talking “I was super bummed when they closed up. They hurt like a bitch, but they were so worth it. I got so many compliments on them, you wouldn’t even believe it.” Buck gave a little self-satisfied wiggle, jostling his legs in Eddie’s lap, drawing a sound like that of a wounded animal from the other man.
“You got so many compliments on what, Buck?” Bobby’s voice carried over to the group.
Buck tilted his head back over the arm of the couch so he could look at Bobby as the captain walked up the stairs into the loft.
“My nipple piercings,” Buck said, his face the picture of innocence.
Hen watched as Bobby took it in stride, briefly glancing skyward as if to draw strength from the powers that be, before nodding to himself as if to say ‘asked and answered’ and then promptly marching into his office and shutting the door.
Eddie on the other hand did not seem to be having as easy a time handling the information. He had just been taking a tentative sip of his coffee before Buck’s response to the captain. Which in retrospect had been a big mistake.
Both Hen and Buck whipped their heads around as Eddie started violently coughing, their first responder reflexes kicking in at the sound. Buck quickly swung his legs out of Eddie’s lap as he continued to cough up what sounded like his lungs. Eddie tried to wave off Buck’s concerned hands as he patted the struggling man on the back.
“Just went down the wrong pipe,” Eddie wheezed out. His face was flushed a bright red, and Hen bet she could use it as a color match for their ladder truck’s paint job.
When Eddie’s coughing had died down a bit, Buck got up telling Eddie he was going to grab him a glass of water. Hen didn’t miss how Eddie’s gaze followed Buck’s chest as he stood up from the couch, or how he squirmed uncomfortably in his spot, flush growing impossibly darker.
Eddie caught Hen looking at him, and gave her a weak glare through watering eyes as she raised one eyebrow at him. “Shut up,” Eddie spluttered.
“I didn’t say anything,” Hen shot back.
Eddie looked like he was gearing up to give a scathing retort but quickly shut it down when Buck came back with a glass of water. Eddie gratefully accepted the glass of water from Buck, looking up at him with such naked affection in his eyes that Hen felt a little bit like she was intruding on something private. These boys were so goddamn thick, She wanted to knock their heads together and tell them to just fucking kiss already.
Hen looked away from the pair as they continued to stare into each other's eyes, her tolerance for their disgustingly sweet bullshit having reached its limit. She turned back to her textbook, doing her best to ignore the practically audible heart emojis popping up around the two idiots. She sighed deeply. It was going to be a long shift.
The piercing conversation had mostly been moved to the back burner after Karen and Hen had talked and decided that if Denny still wanted to get his ears pierced by then, it could be his birthday gift that year. Denny had been ecstatic when they told him, but no one had been more excited than Buck when Hen had told him that Denny wanted Buck to go with him. Seriously, Hen’s phone and Karen’s phone had been blown up by Buck sending them possible piercing parlors and new piercing care instructions as if Hen and Karen didn’t already have their ears pierced. The first shift after Hen had told Buck, she had found herself wrapped in an impossibly tight hug the moment she stepped into the station. While Buck’s excitement had been oddly adorable and heartening, Hen was grateful that it had calmed down. She did not want to think about the kicked puppy expression Buck would wear if Denny did decide he didn’t want to get his ears pierced anymore.
As if summoned by her thoughts, Buck waltzed into the locker room as Hen was fishing her uniform shirt out of her locker.
“Mornin’ Hen,” Buck said, trying and failing to stifle a yawn.
“Good morning, Buckaroo,” Hen replied, bumping their shoulders together as Buck walked past her to his locker.
When the contact jostled Buck, he winced and sucked in a sharp breath before letting it hiss out between his teeth.
Hen looked at him, concerned, but before she could say anything Buck flapped his hand in front of his face as if to dispel her worried look. “Don’t worry, I’m fine, I just um…” Buck trailed off, seeming to search for words as he gingerly slipped the strap of his duffel bag over his head and let it drop to the floor. “Over my weekend I decided to check out that piercing parlor I was telling you about.”
Hen tilted her head in confusion. She quickly looked at Buck’s ears, but they were still sans needle-made holes. Then she took note of Buck’s posture. He was carefully hunched forward, preventing the front of his t-shirt from touching his chest. Oh my god. He had been 100% serious during that first conversation.
“You got your-”
Buck cut her off, laughing at her wide-eyed expression. “Yeah, I got my nipples pierced.”
Hen found herself laughing, “I can’t believe you were being serious!”
At that moment Chimney walked into the locker room and he looked intrigued as he said, “Buck? Being serious? Now, I have to know what this is about.”
Hen looked over at him, “I don’t Know Chim-”
“I got my nipples pierced,” Buck said with a grin, clearly enjoying everybody’s reactions.
Chimney spluttered, nearly choking on his gum as he stared at Buck’s chest in disbelief. “No way man, I don’t believe you.”
With absolutely no warning and no preamble, Buck grasped the hem of his t-shirt and whipped it up under his chin, fully exposing his chest. He seemed way too excited to be doing that. Hen wondered how long he had been waiting for the chance to be showing off his new hardware. She rolled her eyes. She stood firmly by her belief that this man was just too much. Despite herself, Hen found herself taking a look. She was curious, sue her.
Yup, those were some pierced nipples alright. Two little stainless steel barbells were stuck through Buck’s flesh. His skin around the metal looked a bit sore and irritated. Hen winced in sympathy, unconsciously wrapping her arm around her chest. Yeah, that was a no from her. Absolutely no way she would ever get her own piercing like that.
Chimney was openly gawking, “Damn Buckaroo, I did not expect something like this from you.” Buck screwed up his face, but before he could say anything Chimney quickly interjected, “It’s not a bad thing! I was just surprised, man.”
There was a beat of silence, and then Chimney awkwardly said, “They uh, look good.”
Buck huffed out a laugh. “Thanks, man, but don’t make it weird.”
Chimney reared back, affronted. “Me? How am I making this weird?” Chimney threw his hands up, gesturing wildly at Buck, who was still standing there holding his shirt up. “You’re the one flashing us at work!” Chimney looked helplessly at Hen, and then exasperatedly back at Buck.
She lost it. Her laughter filled the locker room, bouncing off the walls, and soon it was joined by Chimney’s and Buck’s. Just as Hen would think she was done laughing, she would get a look at Buck standing there. Still. Holding. His. Fucking. Shirt. Up. She would lose it all over again.
Wiping tears from her eyes, Hen said “put those away, Buck! You’re gonna poke someone’s goddamn eye out.”
“Good morning, guys I-” all three of them whipped around to look at an unsuspecting Eddie as he walked into the locker room. Eddie’s words quickly died in his throat as he took stock of the scene in front of him.
Buck finally lowered his shirt, but he did it suspiciously slowly. It allowed Eddie to get a good long look at the two small pieces of metal adorning Buck’s chest. Which he did. Eddie looked like his eyes were glued to Buck’s chest by some invisible force. Hen narrowed her eyes at Buck. Maybe he wasn’t as oblivious as she thought.
“Good morning, Eddie.” Buck’s tone was light as if Eddie didn’t just ogle the hell out of Buck.
Oh yeah, Buck definitely wasn’t as oblivious as Hen had originally thought. This boy knew exactly what he was doing. Hen looked back at Eddie, the poor man looked like he was a moment away from having a full-blown conniption.
“Uh, um. You got your…” Eddie trailed off, either unwilling or unable to finish his sentence.
“Got my nipples pierced? Yeah, I did.” Buck said, finishing Eddie’s sentence for him. The devious smirk spreading across Buck’s face put to bed any last thought Hen had about him not realizing what was going on. He knew exactly what he was doing and how it was affecting Eddie. Hen was honestly a little impressed.
“...uh,” Eddie seemed completely incapable of stringing together a coherent thought. Hen wanted to laugh, but she was starting to feel a little sorry for the man. She found Chimney’s eyes and they shared a knowing look as they both moved to their own lockers.
Hen had to bury her head in her locker to try and muffle her laughter as she heard Buck say behind her, “my eyes are up here, Eddie.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Chimney doing the same thing as Eddie articulately replied to Buck, “right, yup. Sorry.”
There was silence in the locker room as all respective parties went to their respective lockers and went through the necessary steps of getting ready for their shift. The tension was palpable. Hen shared another long-suffering look with Chimney who rolled his eyes so hard it had to hurt.
Unsurprisingly, Buck was the first one to break the silence. “Hey Eddie, I was actually hoping I could get your help with something.”
Oh, Hen had to hear where this was going.
“Uh, sure, Buck. Anything you need.” Eddie sounded way too earnest as he said it. Also a tad bit breathless.
“Great!” Buck chirped. Uh oh, that tone in Buck’s voice never meant anything good. “I ran out of gauze at my apartment, and I need to cover these bad boys up before shift so they don’t get caught on my shirt.” There was a bang, as Eddie, who had looked like he was trying to crawl into his locker, jolted so violently he smacked his head against the side of it. Buck continued, ignoring Eddie having what looked like a mental breakdown, “Y’know, thought I could get you to help me, put those field medic hands to good use.”
Eddie audibly gulped and stuttered out “s-ure thing, Buck.” Poor man.
Hen shot a pointed look at Buck, who only smiled back, looking like the cat that got the cream. Buck was being an absolute menace, and Hen did not want to stick around and see what ‘good use’ Buck was thinking of for those field medic hands. Chimney must have had the same idea because he had changed into his uniform in record time and had already vacated the locker room.
As Hen was about to exit, she tossed over her shoulder, “make sure to keep it PG, boys.” Letting the door swing shut behind her, she laughed to herself at the sound of Eddie spluttering and Buck’s uproarious laughter. Those boys would figure it out.