“You might not want to get those,” a voice warns him, and Eddie looks up from the muffins he was considering, recognising one of the mothers from Christopher’s class behind the table.
“Excuse me?” he asks, confused. They’re at a bake sale, it’s kind of the whole point to buy baked goods.
“Sorry,” she says with a laugh, “it’s just that I sold three to your husband a few minutes ago, so I thought I’d warn you.”
“Oh, well, uh- thank you.” Should he tell her Buck isn’t his husband or is that too much information? They’ve never really spoken and she probably only knows Buck from pick up after school, from seeing him with Chris or the three of them together. It’s not a completely outlandish assumption, even though neither of them wears a ring.
“No problem,” she smiles.
He smiles back and steps away from the table, looking around for Chris and Buck. It seems unnecessary to explain their relationship status to a woman he barely knows. They’re not married, but that doesn’t take away any importance from Buck’s role in their lives. What does it matter if there’s an entry in the civil records confirming their commitment to each other? It’s only a piece of paper, Eddie doesn’t need that to know what they have.
Eddie finds his son and boyfriend a few tables down, watching the mother behind the table decorating her self-made donuts. He slides an arm around Buck’s waist and says, “I heard you bought muffins already, do we really need donuts too?”
“It’s for a good cause, Eddie,” Buck protests, leaning into his side. “Besides, she makes them fresh right here. I bet they taste amazing.”
They look amazing too, and Eddie gives in with a sigh. “You’re in charge of Chris when he comes down from his sugar high.”
Buck grins and kisses his cheek. “Deal. He doesn’t even crash as hard as he used to anymore anyway.” Then he leans forward and asks Chris, “Which one do you want, buddy? Pick one each for Dad and me too.”
Chris picks out three donuts - jelly for Eddie, rainbow sprinkles for Buck and a strawberry frosted one decorated with lots of hearts for himself - and Buck pays for them.
“We’re only getting this much because it’s for a good cause,” Eddie tells Chris, “so don’t get used to it.”
Chris grins at him. “Maybe you’ll get used to it.”
“Keep dreaming, kid.”
They don’t stay much longer - mostly because they already have more baked goods than they should eat, but also because Buck and Eddie both only got about three hours of sleep since they came off shift. Buck felt bad for not baking something, so Eddie had to promise they’d at least go and buy something at the bake sale.
Buck manages to warm up Chris; who keeps running into friends, that’s what they get for raising such a popular kid; to the idea of heading home by telling him that they’ll get to eat all the stuff they bought on the couch.
“Can we play Super Mario too?” Chris asks hopefully, and Buck gets confirmation from Eddie through a short look before he nods.
“Alright, yeah, for a bit.”
That gets Chris moving, thankfully, and Eddie grabs Buck’s hand as they follow him. “Bribery, hm?”
Buck gives him a sheepish look. “Too much?”
“Nah,” Eddie says with a grin and a squeeze of his hand. “That was a real dad move.”
Buck’s face lights up the same way it always does when Eddie or Chris insinuate he’s part of their family and lets go of Eddie’s hand to swing an arm around his shoulder instead, kissing his cheek.
“Love you,” he says, and Eddie wraps his own arm around Buck’s waist to keep him close. Buck looks tired, but Eddie knows he’ll power through it to keep Chris entertained. It makes his heart swell to know how much his boyfriend loves his son.
“I love you, too,” he tells him, “and now let’s get our son home so we can spend the rest of the day on the couch.”
At home, they eat the donuts while they’re still fresh (and they really are delicious) but keep the muffins for later in the day on Eddie’s insistence. He knows from experience that Buck and Chris will crave sugar this afternoon too, and it seems the best option to spread the intake out over the day.
Chris settles on the floor in front of the TV and sets up the console to play with Buck, who takes the couch with Eddie. Buck sits sideways, legs up on the couch, and pulls Eddie down with him to sit in between his legs, back against Buck’s chest. His arms go around Eddie to hold his game controller in front of Eddie’s chest and he presses a kiss to the top of Eddie’s head before the game starts.
“Get some rest, babe,” he murmurs. “You can take over after this.”
Eddie hums and gets comfortable against him, closing his eyes. A lazy day on the couch with his family is just what he needs.
“We’re not getting one of those things,” Eddie protests, taking a pan from Buck’s hands to dry it. “Ask Bobby about his experience with it.”
“Experience with what?” Chimney asks from the couch.
They’re at the station, in the middle of a pretty slow shift, and Buck and Eddie are on kitchen duty after lunch, cleaning Bobby’s fancy pots and pans that can’t go in the dishwasher.
“One of those vacuum robots, Buck thinks we should get one but I’m not letting another thing spy on us. Who knows what that thing can do if it can go anywhere in the house.”
Buck snorts. “We can get one without a camera, Eds.”
“Then how does it know where it’s going?”
“Well, depending on the price range, they’ve got different sensors. The cheapest ones have contact sensors, so if they bump into something, they change direction. The more expensive ones have infrared and proximity sensors so they recognise obstacles without bumping into them. Either way, it’s meant to clean, not to collect data. I promise you it can’t do that.”
Eddie wrinkles his nose, trying not to show how impressed he is that of course Buck knows everything about roombas already, and puts away the last of the dishes. “I don’t trust it.”
Buck gives him a fond look as he’s draining the soapy water from the sink. “I know.”
He steps in and puts his hands on the counter behind Eddie on either side of him. Eddie smiles and places his hand on his waist, tilting his head up so Buck can kiss him softly.
“Will you two ever leave the honeymoon phase?” Hen asks from behind them and Buck pulls back to grin at her.
“There a problem, Henrietta?”
“Not unless you call me that again,” Hen says with a glare that quickly softens again. “No, it’s cute, I just thought that after what, two years? You’d be a little less all over each other.”
“Almost two years,” Buck says and Eddie slides his arm further around his waist, pulling him even closer. Their anniversary is coming up, and most days he still wakes up and looks at the man next to him in wonder, can’t believe he got this lucky in life.
They’re not usually this affectionate at work, in an effort to keep things professional, but they’re just at the station among their friends, so Eddie figures they can get away with it for once. Besides, Buck woke him up this morning with a blowjob that left Eddie boneless, and he’s been more clingy than usual ever since, just that little bit extra appreciative of his boyfriend. Buck clearly doesn’t mind.
“Don’t plan on leaving whatever phase we’re in,” he tells Hen and Buck leans against him with his full weight, hiding his smile in Eddie’s neck.
Eddie cards his fingers through Buck’s hair at the back of his head and tries to read the knowing look Hen gives him. He must look as clueless as he feels, because she rolls her eyes in that fond way of hers that calls him an idiot louder than she could if she used her voice.
“If you guys steal the show at my wedding,” Chimney pipes up from the couch again, “I will never talk to either of you again.”
“How would we steal the show?” Eddie asks, beyond confused, and of course that’s when the alarm goes off for the first time in almost three hours.
Buck pushes off the counter and away from Eddie with a shrug, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek, and then they’re all off, rushing downstairs.
A guy is dangling from the balcony on the upper level at the mall, upside down, when they get there. He’s wrapped in some kind of fabric and a few strings, and he’s swinging back and forth slowly while the crowd below him and above him points and watches, not just a few phones trained on him.
“Sir, we’re here to get you down,” Bobby calls up to him. “Please remain calm and as still as possible.”
Then he turns to the rest of them.
“Eddie, Buck, you go up there and see what you can do to secure him, and if it’s possible to pull him back up or rappel down to him. Hen, Chimney, you’re on stand-by in case he needs medical attention. The rest of you: get the air cushion ready as quickly as possible, he could fall any second.”
Eddie and Buck take off immediately, running up the escalator, but before they can reach the guy, cries rise up from the crowd, and they can only watch the guy drop down onto the cushion below him, blown up at the literal last second.
They exchange a glance and head towards the spot from where he fell anyway, pulling up the thing he was hanging from while the guy gets checked over by Hen and Chimney.
It seems to be some sort of banner, and Buck unravels the strings enough to reveal the big letters on it: MARRY ME GINA
Eddie snorts and Buck just shakes his head, rolling it back up to take with them.
“So what, he was trying to propose and fell over the railing while hanging the banner?” Eddie asks. “How does that even happen?”
“No idea,” Buck shrugs and gives him a grin, “but we’ve been called to one too many public proposals gone wrong. You better not consider doing something like this.”
Then he turns around and heads back down towards the rest of their team, leaving Eddie standing there dumbfounded like he didn’t just completely blindside him.
Buck wants him to propose? Does Buck want them to get married?
Head spinning, Eddie follows Buck back downstairs and catches the tail end of the guy’s proposal to a woman who must be Gina. His arm’s in a sling and Eddie thought he looked ridiculous dangling there, but Gina still cries and says yes.
“See, even this guy can do it,” Chimney murmurs to him, and Eddie winces when he and Hen look at him and nod meaningfully.
Has Eddie done something to make them think he wants to propose to Buck? Or worse, has Buck said something? Because until today, he’s certainly never mentioned anything to Eddie, so he feels a little bit out of his depth.
“I don’t know what you guys are talking about,” he says stiffly and goes to stand by Bobby’s side instead as they wait for the cushion to deflate enough so they can pack it up. This is not a topic he wants to discuss, least of all at work.
Eddie starts noticing proposals and weddings everywhere. Have they always shown all those commercials centred around getting married? Why are there so many songs about it? Movies? Books? Even the damn billboards around LA seem to be conspiring against him. Every second store he walks past seems to either sell wedding dresses or rings, and whenever he turns on his car radio, there’s a reminder on there as well.
Eddie’s been married once, and after Shannon asked him for a divorce and then died before they could do anything about it, he figured that was it for him. One marriage with all its ups and downs is enough for a lifetime.
Granted, he didn’t think he’d fall in love with Buck and be lucky enough for that love to be returned.
Still, he’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to do it again. He’s not superstitious, but the first time around, the ring and the marriage licence at the circuit court didn’t exactly make the actual marriage easier. Instead, the expectations put on a relationship after being made that official probably made it harder. He and Shannon used to have fun together, and then they got married after she got pregnant, and everything got so much more complicated, everyone expected things from him he wasn’t ready to give. He and Buck are happy now - why should they add that kind of pressure?
But he can’t stop thinking about what Buck said at the call with the public proposal. He’s pretty sure it was just a throwaway comment, there was no real expectation in the words - but what if Buck does expect it? What if he expects Eddie to propose eventually, and starts resenting him if he doesn’t? What if Buck thinks it’s a lack of commitment on Eddie’s part? Couples have broken up for less, and the last thing Eddie wants is to lose Buck. He can’t lose him.
“Eddie, you know I have a dress already, right?” Maddie asks, an amused tone in her voice, and Eddie blinks, realizing he’s been staring at a page full of wedding dresses in one of the shiny magazines Maddie has lying around for god knows how long.
“Um, yeah, sorry,” he mumbles, pushing the magazine away. “Just lost in thought, I guess.”
“Are you okay?” She sits down next to him and peers at him closely.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he gives her a smile. “Can I do anything to help?”
He and Buck stopped by Maddie and Chim’s place because Chimney wanted Buck’s help with something wedding related that Maddie can’t know about, so they’re locked into the nursery while Eddie was tasked with keeping Maddie busy. Which he’s clearly not doing a good job at, considering he just zoned out staring at a bridal magazine.
“Well, if you really want to,” she says, pulling out a box from under the couch table, “you can help me fold these place cards. It’s easy, they just need to be folded in half so they can stand.”
She lifts the lids and shows Eddie two stacks of thick, creamy paper, each with a name written on it in beautiful calligraphy.
Eddie takes one of the stacks and Maddie the other, and they fold them in silence for a few minutes. It’s mindless work, almost meditative, and Eddie finds his thoughts drifting back to what he was thinking about earlier.
“Maddie,” he starts, “can I ask you something? You don’t have to answer, if it’s too personal.”
She gives him a quizzical look. “Sure, go ahead.”
“Why do you want to get married again?”
“What do you mean?” Maddie asks, and she’s stopped folding place cards now, her full attention on Eddie.
“It’s just...and again, don’t answer if you’re not comfortable, but you’ve been married before and it was...well, a bad experience, to put it lightly. I guess I’m just wondering why you want to do it again, when the first time was as bad as it was.”
Maddie looks at him for a long moment, but she doesn’t look offended or like Eddie went too far. Just...thoughtful.
“Well, you see,” she says eventually. “For the longest time, I thought that I didn’t want to do it again. Did you know that I couldn’t even tell Howie I loved him for over a year after I realised that I did? Just because the words had lost their meaning with how long I kept saying them to or hearing them from Doug after they stopped being true. But eventually, they started feeling like something good again, because how could they be meaningless or empty or a lie when Howie said them to me, or I thought them when looking at him or thinking about my unborn child? It took a long time, but eventually, the connection between Doug and those words faded, until he stopped appearing in my head every time I thought them. So I started saying it, too, and now nothing about them reminds me of Doug. And it’s the same with marriage, I guess. What I had with Doug was a marriage in name, but not in the things that really mattered, you know? My relationship with Chimney has always been completely different, so I started realising that comparing the two didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t the...institution of marriage that was bad, it was just the person I was married to.”
Eddie sits with that for a moment and Maddie lets him, quietly patient.
“I really admire you,” Eddie tells her, reaching over to squeeze her hand. “You went through one of the worst things I can imagine, and you fought through it and moved past it. You’re the strongest person I know, Maddie, and you deserve this happiness for the rest of your life.”
“Thank you, Eddie,” Maddie says, squeezing his hand back. “Now, do you want to talk about why you asked?”
“Hm,” he makes. “Not really, if that’s okay? I think I need to work some things out myself, first.”
“Sure,” she says easily, and Eddie is abruptly thankful for her. “So back to folding place cards, then?”
While he folds quietly, Eddie thinks. He knows of course that his marriage to Shannon can’t be compared to Maddie’s at all, shouldn’t be, considering the hell Maddie went through. He and Shannon fought a lot, and they were rarely ever happy with each other, but there was always love between them, until the end.
So if Maddie can put something so much worse behind her, shouldn’t he be able to too? Maybe the difference is that for Maddie, the problem was the person she was married to. Whereas Eddie blames the fact that they were married for some of the problems they had. Not all of them, but the pressure the label put on them sure didn’t help.
He’s got to pull himself together, though, because Maddie was glowing before he brought this whole thing up, and Chimney and Buck are both only one room over, both fiercely protective of her, so they’re sure to notice the mood change once they come back to the living room.
“So how’s the planning going?” he asks. “Is the wedding coming along?”
She smiles, and immediately the atmosphere in the room seems to shift into something lighter. “It’s going great! I mean, it’s stressful doing this while we’re both working and have a toddler to think about, but you’ve all been so great, helping out wherever you can, so we’re on schedule. Got the venue, the caterer, the music, the dress. We’re still working on decorations and the seating chart and some details have to be ironed out, but other than that, it’s going really well.”
“That’s good.” Eddie looks over towards where Buck and Chimney are still doing god knows what behind the closed door. “Buck’s getting really excited, too.”
“Oh I know,” Maddie grins. “He keeps texting me about it at all hours of the day, he’s got so many suggestions and ideas.”
Eddie laughs. “Yeah, I’ve caught him on Pinterest a couple of times.”
“Well, maybe he’s not just looking for inspiration for my wedding,” Maddie says pointedly, accompanied by a searching look that makes Eddie want to squirm. He doesn’t, but it’s a close call.
“Uh,” he says, brain stuck. “Does...does he want all that? A...wedding?”
Maddie throws him a weird look. “Maybe you should talk to him about that.”
Technically, Eddie knows that. It’s just - there’s a lot going on in his head right now, and he feels like he needs to sort that out and get his thoughts straight before broaching the subject with Buck. How can he ask him what he wants when Eddie isn’t even sure what he wants himself? A week or two ago, he was sure, he had made his mind up years ago and hadn’t really thought to reevaluate. But suddenly, things don’t seem so straightforward anymore.
“I will,” he promises Maddie. Buck is protective of her, but she’s just as protective of him. “Eventually. I just need...a little more time to think.”
“Okay.” She nods, and then her face softens into a smile again. “I know you love him, Eddie.”
Eddie ducks his head to hide the undoubtedly dopey smile on his face. “Yeah, I really do.”
Buck and Chimney pick that moment to come out of the nursery, Buck carrying his niece who clearly just woke up, blinking sleepily from where her head is resting against Buck’s shoulder. She’s already almost a year and a half old, bigger every time Eddie sees her, and her dark hair is curly and messy from sleep, her thumb in her mouth.
Buck loves her fiercely and she adores her uncle just as much, and watching them together makes Eddie’s gut twist in the same way it still sometimes does when he sees Buck and Christopher together.
“Hey, you,” Buck says, bending down to kiss the top of Eddie’s head before he sits down next to him. “What are you two doing?”
“Folding place cards,” Eddie explains, taking the baby when Buck holds her out to him. He missed out on most of this with Chris, but he’s gained plenty of experience holding sleepy toddlers over the past few years with the younger kids in their social circle, and this one holds a particular soft spot in his heart.
She smiles up at him around her thumb and giggles when Buck tickles her belly.
“You guys are cute and all, but that’s still my daughter you’re monopolising,” Maddie bursts their little bubble, holding out her hands with an expectant raise of her eyebrows.
“Hey now,” Buck protests, even as Eddie passes the little girl over to her mother, “you get to have her all the time.”
“Well I did give birth to her, Buck. Besides, you two - or three, when Chris isn’t at school - see her plenty with how much we all hang out.”
“Planning your wedding.”
“Which I’m very grateful for, as I already told Eddie,” Maddie says pointedly, and Eddie grins at Buck with a shrug.
Chimney comes back from the kitchen with coffee for everyone and sits down next to Maddie, kissing his daughter’s head as he does so.
“We’ll repay you when you guys get married,” Chim says, and thankfully, neither he nor Buck seem to notice the glance Maddie and Eddie exchange at that.
“Careful what you’re offering,” Buck teases, “we’re gonna put you to work so hard.”
This time, Eddie doesn’t startle at the insinuation, but it still makes him slightly uncomfortable that everyone just seems to assume they’re gonna get married. Even Buck - they’ve talked about the future in passing, as throwaway comments about matching rocking chairs on a front porch or Buck jokingly telling him that he’ll still love him even when he’s old and grey after Eddie found his first grey hair, or vague worries about what to do when Chris leaves for college in a few (way too short) years. Their plans for the future involve each other, no doubt, but Eddie doesn’t remember ever mentioning getting married.
Maddie must make the connection between their earlier conversation and whatever it is she sees on Eddie’s face, because she quickly changes the topic back to what needs to be done for the wedding planning this week. Eddie gives her a grateful smile and leans back on the couch, uncomfortably aware that he’s gonna have to broach the topic with Buck eventually. He just wishes there was a way to untangle the mess of emotions in his head. He just can’t seem to combine his feelings for Buck with the concept of marriage, something that has so many negative connotations for him. But Buck loves him, he’s sure of that, so maybe he’ll understand. If Eddie ever manages to explain it to him, that is.
For now, he hides his face behind a cup of coffee and listens to the other three assigning to dos for the week.
Later, in the car on the way to pick Christopher up from school, Eddie asks Buck what Chimney needed him for.
“They’re writing their own vows,” Buck explains, with a crooked smile, “and he wanted to run some things by me. Then we both cried a little and had to wait until we looked normal again before we came back out so you guys wouldn’t notice. That’s what took so long.”
Eddie laughs and reaches over to him to grab his hand. “That’s really sweet, actually.”
“Yeah,” Buck says with a smile. “He really loves her. She hasn’t had that before, but it’s what she deserves.”
“It is, they both do. It’s gonna be a beautiful wedding.”
Buck squeezes his hand and gives him a soft smile. “Yeah, it will.”
Eddie isn’t one to talk about his feelings a lot, even though he’s gotten a lot better at it over the past few years. He prefers working through things in the privacy of his own mind first, usually.
But now he’s at his abuela’s kitchen table with the cup of coffee and a cookie she almost forced on him when he got to her place to pick up Christopher, and she’s looking at him like she can read him inside out.
She’d taken one look at him when he and Buck arrived and had sent Buck out back to Christopher with a kiss on the cheek and the instruction to stay away from the kitchen so she could talk to her grandson. Buck had given them both a curious look but did as she said without protest.
For a second, he hoped this was about something else, anything else, but the way she’s looking at him robs him of that hope. The thing is - if she knows he’s hiding something, then so does Buck, they’re the only two people who can read him like this. That means that Buck is just giving him time until he’s ready to come to him about it. Abuela isn’t as considerate.
“¿Qué te está pasando? ” she asks. “I can tell you’re overthinking something, Eddito.”
“How do you know I’m overthinking?” Eddie says petulantly. “Maybe I’m just thinking.”
Abuela gives him another of her looks. “I can always tell when you’ve gone and gotten your brain all twisted, and it’s gotten worse instead of better these past few weeks. What’s this about?”
Eddie knows that once she’s got her claws in, there’s no point in lying. It’s been a few days since his talk with Maddie and he hasn’t come any closer to sorting out the chaos in his head, maybe it can’t hurt to say it out loud for once. So he sighs and explains it all to her - that he always thought he didn’t want to get married again, that the world seems to have conspired against him in throwing hints about proposals and weddings at him anyway, that he worries Buck may want to get married eventually. It’s hard to explain it all, hard to find the words, and he’s not sure he’s making sense at all.
Once he’s done, Abuela looks at him thoughtfully. “So the problem is that you don’t want to get married, but Buck does?”
“I’m not sure if he does,” Eddie repeats, “and...I’m not so sure anymore about me, either. I know this is stupid.”
“It’s not stupid, nieto. It’s a big decision, and the first time around, maybe you and Shannon were rushed into it,” she says diplomatically, but Eddie still winces, almost hears his father’s voice telling him, it’s the right thing to do, Eddie - Abuela’s hand covers his and he snaps back, smiles back when she gives him a kind smile and continues. “There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, trust me. Even your abuelo and me weren’t perfect, but we were happy with each other. Were you happy with Shannon?”
“I…” Eddie hesitates. It feels like a disservice to Shannon to say he wasn’t, but he also can’t pretend they made each other happy during their marriage. Before, yes. During? More often than not, it felt like they were treading on eggshells around each other, fighting about nothing and everything every time they misstepped. Still, he loved her and it would be unfair to dismiss that. “There were good times, happy times. And she gave me Christopher, so I don’t regret marrying her.”
“And I wouldn’t want you to. But I think you should know that not all marriages are that hard, either. You love Buck, yes?”
That one doesn’t require any thought. “Yes.”
“Do you want to spend the rest of your life with him?”
It’s a big question, a final decision, but Eddie doesn’t hesitate this time either. “Yes.”
Abuela smiles. “He’s good for you, Eddie. For you and Christopher.”
“I know,” Eddie says, and he does. “It’s just...I don’t know if that means we have to get married.”
“Well,” Abuela sighs. “Only you can decide that, but you should involve Buck too. This is about both of you, after all.”
“I just feel like I should know what my position on the whole thing is when I talk to him, don’t you?”
“Maybe, yes. What I know is that thinking it’s what your partner wants is not the right motivation to get married. Remember that, okay, Eddito?”
At home, while they’re making dinner and Chris is in his room, Buck asks, “So what did Abuela want to talk to you about?”
“Would you be mad if I said I can’t tell you yet?”
Buck turns down the heat of the burner and walks over to where Eddie is dicing onions, wrapping his arms around him from behind and pressing a kiss to his shoulder.
“Never,” he murmurs. “I could tell you were working through something and I’m glad you talked to someone, but I can wait until you’re ready, baby.”
Eddie melts at the pet name and puts down the knife to turn around in Buck’s arms.
“It’s nothing bad though, right? You’re both okay?”
Of course that’s what Buck would worry about. Eddie stretches up to kiss him reassuringly.
“Nothing like that. Thank you for being so patient with me.”
He’s so stupidly grateful for this man and it must show on his face because Buck’s smile goes soft around the edges before he leans in to kiss Eddie again, deeper this time. His tongue brushes against Eddie’s and Eddie hears himself make a small noise that clearly spurs Buck on. He slips his hands under Buck’s shirt and slides them up his broad back, the counter digging into his own back when Buck presses ever closer.
All too soon, Buck slows them down, mindful of dinner cooking behind them and their kid a few doors down.
“Hey,” Eddie stops him when Buck tries pulling away. “I love you.”
“I know,” Buck says, kissing his cheek, “now chop these onions or your son is gonna starve tonight, judging from how hungry he’s been lately.”
Eddie laughs. “Less than a year and he’ll be a teenage boy eating us out of house and home.”
“Don’t remind me,” Buck groans, “what happened to the cute little kid who just wanted me to play Lego with him?”
“We can still play with my Legos,” Chris’ voice comes from the doorway, sounding a little offended, “and I’m still cute!”
Eddie laughs again and Buck rushes over to plant a kiss on Chris’ curls, which Chris allows grudgingly. “The cutest.”
“I’m just not a little kid anymore.”
“You’re still a kid,” Eddie insists. “You can’t grow up that fast, buddy, you’ll make me feel old.”
“But you’ll be as tall as your dad any day now, you’ll see,” Buck jokes, and Chris laughs.
“Maybe I’ll be as tall as you, Buck.”
“Maybe,” Buck offers, “but only if you eat your greens. You know the drill, buddy.”
Spotting his opening, Eddie nods seriously. “Buck’s right. So go wash your hands and help us make dinner, alright?”
Chris rolls his eyes but doesn’t protest, the sound of his crutches on the floor the only sound as he makes his way to the bathroom. He’ll be a moody teenager in no time, Eddie knows that, but until then, he’ll enjoy every day his kid is still an actual kid.
“That thing Hugh Grant does kind of works for him in this movie, doesn’t it?” Buck murmurs to Eddie about halfway through Notting Hill. “I feel like he played the same character all throughout the 90s, but I’m weirdly charmed by him right now.”
Eddie laughs quietly and pulls him closer into his side, catching Chris eye as he looks up at them from where he’s stretched out on the floor with a couple of throw pillows.
“Happy with your pick, buddy?” he asks.
“It’s very romantic, right?”
Buck and Eddie both laugh. “Yeah, kinda.”
Chris nods and turns back to the TV.
“You think he’s looking for tips already?” Buck whispers. “Have you heard anything about a crush?”
“He’s 12,” Eddie whispers back. “Isn’t that a bit early?”
Buck shrugs. “Maybe, I don’t know.”
Barely 10 minutes later, Chris covers his eyes when Anna and William kiss on screen (which Eddie actually appreciates because it’s a bit racier than the previous kisses), so maybe it is still a bit early.
They don’t usually watch romcoms, but Eddie remembers seeing this one with his sisters when he was younger, and it’s actually pretty sweet. Cheesy and predictable, but it’s sweet, and that combined with the nostalgia he feels actually makes his eyes go a little misty at the press conference scene at the end, when William asks Anna to reconsider in front of the whole world and she says she’ll stay in England indefinitely. Sue him, it’s probably mostly Julia Robert’s ability to smile like she’s the happiest person in the world that gets to him.
At least Buck’s sniffling next to him too - though he tears up at anything, so that doesn’t really come as a surprise. Only Christopher seems entirely unaffected.
Later, when Chris is in bed, they switch over to regular TV, but Eddie can tell Buck isn’t really watching because he’s not laughing at any of the jokes on the comedy show.
“You okay?” he asks after a few minutes, nudging Buck’s knee with his.
Buck nods absently, but then he straightens up and takes a deep breath like he’s bracing for something. “So, that movie…”
“Do you have any idea why Chris wanted to watch it so bad?” Eddie asks with a laugh, suddenly not sure he wants to hear what Buck wanted to say, not with the awkwardness he’s giving off right now. “It doesn’t seem like his kind of thing.”
Buck shrugs. “Apparently Carla and Maddie talked about it the other day when Carla picked him up from there? What they said about it made him curious, but I don’t think he was too into it yet. You, uh...you thought it was romantic though, right?”
Eddie gives him a weird look, unsure what Buck is getting at but surer now he doesn’t really want to go there. “I guess? I mean, the press conference thing was a bit over the top, but the movie wasn’t bad.”
Buck hums. “Yeah, I wouldn’t want a public declaration like that, or a public proposal.”
“Yeah, you said that at that call we had,” Eddie says, desperate now to move away from this topic Buck has steered them to. “Do you want another beer?”
“No, thanks. So what do you think about in front of friends and family, like Chimney did it?” Buck keeps pressing, and Eddie feels himself snap, unable to do anything about it. The anxiety he feels every time he so much as thinks about this bubbles up again, and he’s just not ready for this conversation.
“Why is this all everybody talks about lately? Does anyone still care about anything that isn’t proposals or weddings?”
“Uh,” Buck makes, taken aback by his sharp tone. “I didn’t know it bothered you this much.”
“What bothers me is that everyone seems to assume we’ll get married eventually when we haven’t ever even spoken about that! It’s like they expect us to!”
“Okay, well,” Buck says carefully, “let’s talk about it now, then. I was actually trying to-”
“Even you,” Eddie interrupts, “even you expect me to propose to you, don’t you? You all talk as if it’s a done deal-”
“Eddie, I wasn’t...I don’t-”
“What if I don’t want to?”
Buck’s face falls. “Don’t want to what?”
“...to me?” Buck’s voice is small, hurt.
“To anyone! Fuck,” Eddie says, wiping a hand across his face. This is not how he wanted to talk to Buck about this, it’s exactly why he wanted more time to get his thoughts in order. “Can we not do this right now? I don’t wanna talk about this.”
He gets up from the couch and walks down the hall to their bedroom, closing the door behind himself before sliding down to the floor with his back to it, burying his face in his hands.
How did everything go so wrong so quickly? One minute, they were relaxing on their couch, and the next one he was saying things that put a look on Buck’s face he’d never wanted to put there.
He presses the heel of his hands to his eyes, taking a deep breath. He knows that to Buck, it probably seems like he overreacted to an innocent question. What he said clearly hurt Buck, and that’s not what he wanted, not something he can leave - at the very least, he owes Buck an explanation. He can’t have Buck thinking it’s him he doesn’t want to get married to, as if this means he doesn’t love Buck enough. It’s not how he wanted to have this conversation, but it’s gotta happen. If all he can do is explain his confusion to Buck, it’ll still be better than seeing that look on Buck’s face every time he closes his eyes.
So he pushes himself into a standing position and pulls the bedroom door open again.
Buck is still on the couch, but he’s turned off the TV and is staring at his hands instead. He doesn’t look up when Eddie walks back in, and Eddie’s heart clenches painfully.
“Buck,” he starts carefully, sitting back down with more space between them than he wants but scared to touch. “I’m sorry.”
Buck lets out a shaky breath. “No, I’m sorry.”
Confused, Eddie asks, “For what?”
“For...for making you feel pressured, I guess. I didn’t know you felt that way, and I never meant to pressure you into anything, I promise, Eddie.”
“It’s not that I’m scared of the commitment,” Eddie tries to explain, scooting a bit closer to Buck. “I am committed. I want to be with you for the rest of our lives. I just...I’ve been married before, and it- well, it wasn’t all that it’s made out to be. And I never even considered doing it again, but then everyone suddenly started talking about it like it was a given and - I’m just not sure if it’s something I’ll ever want again. But,” he reaches out for Buck’s hand, some of his anxiety receding when Buck lets him take it and squeezes, “I love you so much, Buck, this doesn’t have anything to do with my feelings for you.”
“I know.” Buck sighs. “I do know that. I think I let my insecurities get the best of me for a second there, but I love you too, and...and I don’t need a ring or whatever to know how we feel about each other. I guess I kind of assumed we were headed that way, but I’m sorry I made that assumption without talking to you first. It’s okay if you never want to get married.”
“But you do want to get married?”
Buck looks him in the eye then, and there’s a surety in his eyes that Eddie envies a little bit, even as it makes his heart race. “I would marry you in a heartbeat, Eddie. I’m not gonna lie, I like the idea of being your family officially, of calling you my husband, maybe even sharing a name. Then there’s the tax benefits…” He grins at Eddie and Eddie laughs, even though it comes out a little thickly. “But I don’t need it to be happy with you. I’m happy with the way things are now, it’s enough for me.”
He reaches out with his free hand and wipes a tear from Eddie’s cheek, leaning in to kiss him softly. Eddie clings to him, desperate to close every last bit of the distance between them. He’s not sure why Buck’s words made him tear up, but there’s still a lump in his throat.
“I feel like I’m putting my feelings over yours, though,” he admits, pressing his face to Buck’s shoulder to hide his tears from him. “Isn’t that unfair to you?”
“I’m fine, Eddie, promise.” Buck’s hand is warm as it sweeps up and down Eddie’s back, and he presses a kiss to Eddie’s temple. “As long as I get to have you and Chris, I’m fine.”
“You have us,” Eddie promises, kissing Buck’s neck, his jaw, every inch of his face until Buck starts laughing and the tension lifts.
It’s quickly replaced by a different kind of tension, when their kisses deepen and Buck pushes at Eddie’s chest with one hand, laying him out on the couch and lowering his own body down on top of him. And this kind, Eddie likes much better.
It doesn’t leave Eddie’s mind. Not even just because he feels bad (which Buck mostly talked him out of), but Buck’s words seem to stick with him. While he brushes his teeth, he finds himself wondering what it would feel like to introduce Buck as his husband, and while he makes coffee he wonders what it might be like to know that other people would know Buck is taken just by looking at his hand. His possessive side likes the thought more than he expected.
Still, the bigger part of him keeps reminding him of everything that could go wrong, of the way his and Shannon’s relationship got worse and worse despite their vows, or maybe because of them. But - it’s not the only side he can see anymore, and he’s pretty sure he owes it to himself and to Buck to consider all sides.
If only he ever got a quiet minute to think things through.
Their shift the day after their argument is a nightmare from the get go, one call after another with barely enough time to eat in between, and definitely not enough time to catch some sleep.
On hour 21, they’re called to a car accident, and by the time they get there, two of the drivers involved have freed themselves from their car and are shouting abuse at each other. They’re accusing each other of ignoring the red light, but looking at the accident, Eddie is pretty sure only one of them did. It looks like one car crossed the intersection when it wasn’t supposed to, which caused the oncoming traffic to collide with it and each other.
There’s a total of four cars in the middle of the intersection, and only one of them - sandwiched between two cars at the front and the rear - looks badly damaged.
Eddie goes to check on the driver and finds her conscious but bleeding heavily from a cut on her forehead, two young kids crying in the backseat. He can’t open any of the doors on his side, the whole car contorted just enough for the doors to be stuck.
“Ma’am, we’re gonna get you and your kids out of here,” he promises. “I see you’re bleeding from a wound on your forehead. Are you hurt anywhere else?”
Buck is on the other side of the car, talking to the kids in a soothing voice, and it seems to calm everyone down.
“I don’t think so,” the woman says, “Can you get the kids out first? They’re scared.”
“Firefighter Buckley back there and I will get you all out,” Eddie says, meeting Buck’s eye through the car. “But I think we can get the kids out first.”
“We’re gonna use this really cool tool to open your door,” Buck tells the kids, who watch him with big eyes. The older one is cradling his arm, but his crying isn’t as hysteric anymore. “It’s called the jaws of life…”
Eddie lowers his voice and asks the mother: “Are you sure you’re not hurt anywhere else? Any discomfort in your legs, your abdomen?”
“I’m fine,” she insists, “please just get us out of here.”
Eddie nods and he and Buck jog back to the truck to get the jaws.
“I think one kid may have a broken arm,” Buck says, “but they seem to have been very lucky. With the way that car looks, it could’ve been much worse.”
They make quick work of the back door and get the kids out, handing them off to Hen and Chimney before going back to get the driver side door open too.
The woman is calm now that her kids are safe and lets them put a neck brace on her before they carefully free her from the car.
They get her on a stretcher to be safe, but she remains responsive and can wriggle her toes without pain. She seems to have hit the airbag with some force, so Eddie thinks her wrists are sprained, and the cut on her forehead will need tending to, but unless there are internal injuries he can’t spot without more medical equipment, she probably got away with whiplash.
When Eddie starts pushing the stretcher towards the ambulance, Buck doesn’t move. He’s looking towards where the only two cops on the scene - two young women - are trying to restrain the angry drivers still yelling at each other.
“I think I’m gonna see if I can help over there,” he says. “You okay to get her to the ambo on your own?”
“Yeah, but Buck - be careful.”
Buck gives him a fond eyeroll. “I will.”
It all happens very quickly after that, so quickly Eddie doesn’t even see it happening. He just hears a woman scream and whirls around just in time to see Buck hit the ground heavily, his head hitting the asphalt with a sound that makes Eddie’s stomach drop.
Without thinking, he takes off in a run towards him, seeing Bobby and Chimney do the same from the corner of his eye.
Bobby goes to help the cops restrain the men, but Eddie and Chim both drop to their knees by Buck’s side.
“Buck,” Eddie says, and he hears how frantic his own voice sounds.
Buck winces but gets out a, “I’m okay.”
He sounds normal, which makes the ice cold hand around Eddie’s heart unclench a little bit. Still, he carefully places his hand under the back of Buck’s head to check for injuries. It comes away bloody, but he can’t feel any irregularities on Buck’s skull. Chimney points his flashlight at Buck’s eyes and says, sounding just as relieved as Eddie, “Pupils are responsive and equal.”
“He needs a head CT anyway.” Buck rolls his eyes at Eddie again, but Chimney agrees.
“Yeah, Buckaroo, you hit your head pretty hard. You’re going.”
They put a neck brace on him too and lead him to the ambulance, holding him by the elbows, where Hen is waiting anxiously.
“Any dizziness, nausea?” she asks, making Buck sit down at the back of the ambulance. The driver Eddie and Buck rescued and her kids are in the back of the ambulance, watching them worriedly. Chimney climbs inside to take care of the mother’s bleeding forehead.
Buck shakes his head, then blinks. “Okay, maybe a bit dizzy if I move my head too quickly.
Hen nods and checks the wound on the back of his head too, cleaning it carefully before wrapping it. Eddie sits by Buck’s side the whole time, gently cleaning the scratches on his hands from when he tried to brace his fall.
“What happened?” he asks finally, pressing a soft kiss to the bandage on Buck’s right hand.
“I’m not sure,” Buck says, frowning. “I was jogging over there to help, and I got there just as that guy got free - I don’t think he meant to go for me? I just sort of...stepped in the middle of them and he knocked into me full force and before I knew it I was on the ground.”
Eddie looks over to where the guy is currently being escorted to a police car, in handcuffs, by the backup that has finally arrived. He’s pretty big, and if he got to Buck before he could find his balance or prepare for the hit in any way, that would explain it.
“Alright, Buck,” Hen says, “let’s get all of you to the hospital. You’re up front with me, Chimney, you stay in the back with the patients.”
Chimney gives her a thumbs up. In the few minutes it’s taken to clean and dress Buck’s injuries, he’s clearly prepped the three of them for the ride to the hospital.
“Sorry, Eddie,” Bobby speaks up as he comes to stand next to them. “You’re gonna have to stay here, there’s no room in the ambulance and we still have work to do here.”
Eddie nods. He knows that, it’s what Buck and him agreed to when they signed the HR forms to keep working at the same station after entering a relationship. It means you have to stay professional, even when your partner gets hurt on the job.
“It’s fine, Eds,” Buck whispers, squeezing his hand. “I’m fine. Meet me at the hospital after your shift ends?”
“Yeah,” Eddie promises, pressing a kiss to his brow. “I’ll pick up Chris and we’ll come and get you.”
“Okay.” Buck stands up and sways for a second before finding his balance. He gives Eddie a reassuring smile. “See you later.”
“I love you.” Eddie kisses him, short and sweet, and lets Hen take Buck’s arm to lead him to the passenger seat.
“Love you, too,” Buck says, and then Hen closes his door and the back door, and they’re off.
Eddie focuses on his work, and by the time they’re done with clean up at the accident site and get back to the station, their shift is almost over.
Hen and Chimney are back from the hospital too, but they don’t have any news on Buck.
“He was okay when we left him,” Hen says, “but you know our job ends at the door, Eddie.”
“Looks like he’s gonna get away with a concussion, a light one probably.” Chimney pats his shoulder with a smile. “Call after you’ve talked to his doctor though, alright? I’ll tell Maddie about what happened once I get home, and you know she’ll be worried sick until she hears from you or Buck.”
“Yeah, of course.”
Eddie checks his watch. Exactly 12 minutes left until the end of the shift.
“Get changed, Eddie,” Bobby tells him with a fatherly squeeze of his shoulder. “I’m gonna take us off rotation until shift change, and there are enough of us left to do a material check. Besides, we all want to know how he’s doing.”
Eddie breathes a sigh of relief. “Thanks, Cap. I’ll let you know on the group chat once I know more.”
He’s out of the station in record time and calls Carla from the car to ask her to get Chris ready to go to the hospital. She sounds worried when he tells her what happened, but promises to have Chris ready by the time Eddie gets home.
They’re waiting by the door when Eddie gets there, and he only gives Chris a short hug before opening the door of the truck so he can climb in the back.
“Thanks, Carla,” he says. “Sorry to rush off like this.”
“That’s okay, boo. Give Buck my love and tell me how he’s doing, okay?”
She hugs him and Eddie closes the car door behind Chris before getting back into the driver's seat.
“Dad?” Chris asks at the first red light. Eddie looks back at him and finds him staring out of the window with a troubled expression on his face. “Is Buck gonna be okay?”
“Yeah, buddy, I think so. Hopefully we’ll just go to the hospital to pick him up.”
“Before I explain, could you take my phone and text Buck, ask him where he is? So we know where to go at the hospital.”
Eddie hands his phone over and sneaks glances in the rearview mirror to watch Chris type in concentration. Once Chris is done, Eddie explains what happened at the call that landed Buck in hospital.
“Is that guy gonna go to jail?”
“I don’t know, buddy,” Eddie admits, pulling into the hospital parking lot. “But I’m sure there’ll be consequences.”
By the time Eddie’s parked the car, Buck still hasn’t replied, which makes unwelcome dread settle somewhere deep in his gut. It’s been three hours since Buck got brought here, is it possible he’s not done being checked yet? What if it’s worse than they all thought?
The walk to the front desk is long enough to get him worked up, and he tries to hide his worry when he asks the nurse for Evan Buckley.
She looks at her computer for a second, then gives him a once over. “Who are you in relation to Mr Buckley?”
“His boyfriend,” he says, then clarifies, “his, uh, domestic partner?”
“I’m sorry, we only allow immediate family to visit patients.”
“We are his family!” Eddie protests. “Where is he? We don’t even know how he’s doing, can you please just tell me where to find him?”
She shrugs, not sounding particularly sorry. “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.”
Eddie gapes at her speechlessly for a moment. Then, in a carefully level voice, he tells her: “I’m his emergency contact, you have to let me see him. Check his file, it has to be in there. Eddie...Edmundo Diaz. I’m his emergency contact.”
She narrows her eyes but does as he asked, then reluctantly tells them to find seats in the waiting area and that she’ll send Buck’s doctor to them. She doesn’t apologise and doesn’t offer any more information, so Eddie turns away from her without thanks and leads Chris to two empty seats.
“Why didn’t that nurse want us to see Buck, Dad? Is it because you’re both men?”
Eddie closes his eyes for a moment, anger rising up inside him again. The last thing he wants is for Chris to experience homophobia on their behalf, but unfortunately, it’s still a reality they have to face.
“Maybe,” he says. “Or maybe she’s just having a bad day, I don’t know. She wasn’t nice either way.”
“Do you think it’d be easier if you were married? You could’ve said you were Buck’s husband, that counts as immediate family, right?”
Eddie narrows his eyes at his son. “If I had told her immediately that I was his emergency contact, it would’ve been easier too. I just forgot they had to know that for a second there.”
“But don’t you want to marry Buck?” Chris presses.
“I...I don’t know, buddy,” Eddie says, taken aback. “Do you want us to get married?”
Chris shrugs. “It’d be easier to explain, I guess. Buck’s already our family anyway. And we know that, but other people don’t, and sometimes they find it weird that I’m so close with Buck too. I think if he was your husband, they would get it more.”
“Did someone say something to you, Chris?”
“Just some kids, it’s nothing, Dad.”
“I’m sorry they don’t get it,” Eddie says. “But you know that people don’t have to marry for their feelings to be real and enough, right?”
“Yeah, Dad,” Chris rolls his eyes the exact same way Buck does, “I just think it’d be cool. That’s why I asked Aunt Maddie and Carla for movies about getting married.”
Eddie lets out a startled laugh. “Is that why you wanted to watch Notting Hill?”
“Did it make you want to get married?”
“It’s not that easy, kid.”
“Hm. They also said Love, Actually.”
Eddie laughs again and pulls Chris into his side, kissing the top of his head. “I love you, kid.”
Chris pats his knee and Eddie holds him for a minute, finding comfort in his son.
That’s how the doctor finds them, and Eddie startles upright when she asks, “Mr Diaz?”
“Yeah, that’s me,” he says, standing up. “Is he okay?”
She smiles and that alone is enough for Eddie to relax slightly. “Mr Buckley has a light concussion and a laceration at the back of his head that needed four stitches, and his back might bruise a little from the fall, but he’s fine apart from that. He got a head CT and all other necessary tests, so we’re happy to release him to your care. He said you both knew what to do in case of concussions?”
“Yeah, we’re both firefighters, this isn’t the first time either of us has had one,” he explains. “Why aren’t we allowed to see him?”
“Oh, I thought you were told - he was just giving his statement to the police, but you’re free to go to him now, if you want.”
She tells him the room number and directs them where to go, and Eddie thanks her before gesturing at Chris to follow him. He glares at the nurse at the reception desk when they pass her, sure she could’ve told him why Buck was held up and just decided not to.
And then they’re finally outside of Buck’s room.
The door is open, and Buck is sitting on the bed in his dark blue uniform, his turnout gear neatly folded next to him.
Eddie raps his knuckles against the doorframe twice and Buck looks up, his face lighting up when he sees them.
“Buck!” Chris calls, and hurries to his side.
“Hi, buddy,” Buck says, opening his arms and pulling Chris into a hug. “I’m so glad to see you.”
“We were worried about you,” Christopher tells him seriously.
Buck kisses the top of his head and pushes him back by the shoulders enough to look him in the face. “I’m fine, I promise, no need to worry. I’m not allowed to watch TV or read for a couple of days, and I’m supposed to be resting, so all I’m gonna be is bored.”
“I can read to you when I’m not at school,” Chris offers.
Buck hugs him again. “That’s sweet, thank you, Chris. We’ll figure it out when we’re at home, okay?”
Eddie steps into the room then, placing one hand on Chris' back and one at the back of Buck’s neck, stroking at the skin with his thumb and smiling at Buck, who leans his head back into Eddie’s touch and smiles up at him.
Eddie leans down to kiss him, pulling back quickly to ask, “How’re you feeling, babe?”
“Little bit of a headache and my back has felt better, but I’ll live.”
“Ready to go home?”
“Please,” Buck groans. “More than ready.”
They have to fill out the release forms and Eddie texts a quick update to their group chat, and then they’re finally all in Eddie’s car.
At home, Buck takes a shower (complaining about how uncomfortable it is to keep his head away from the water the whole time), then lies down on the couch on his stomach to listen to Chris talk. Eddie hears their voices drifting over to the kitchen where he’s preparing them lunch, and it’s soothing even though he doesn’t understand what they’re saying. Just knowing they’re both here and safe is enough for him.
When they both laugh at something, Eddie finds himself smiling too, and when he goes to sneak a look at them, his heart squeezes at the sight of them. Christopher is sitting on the floor by the couch, reaching out periodically to straighten the ice pack balanced on the back of Buck’s head, and Buck is listening to him with an expression that couldn’t spell out his love for the kid any more clearly.
Eddie heads back to the kitchen with a smile on his face and a warmth in his chest, Chris’ words from the hospital ringing in his head. We’re already a family anyway.
They are, and he’s known it for a long time, but - he never really considered that for years, he, Buck and Christopher have been a happier family than he, Shannon and Chris ever were. It doesn’t have to do anything with anyone’s feelings for Chris, he knows Shannon loved their son, but the three of them weren’t ever a unit the same way Eddie, Chris and Buck are. He and Buck are equal partners in ways he and Shannon never were.
With Shannon, he always felt like a failure as a father, because his own son barely knew him and he didn’t know how to change that. Didn’t know how to help Shannon, how to be there for her and to be the husband she expected. And after she left and then returned, he didn’t fully trust her not to leave again, and she definitely knew that too.
It’s never felt that way with Buck. He trusts him implicitly with Chris, has done so since long before they even started dating, they make decisions together and if they fight about something, they always work it out again quickly. They’re a team, always on the same side.
Eddie never even thought to compare their family to the one he and Shannon made. So why does he keep thinking of his and Shannon’s marriage in comparison to what he and Buck could have?
If they’re that much better at being a family, why wouldn’t they be better at being married too? And if he stops being scared of making the same mistakes again and accepts that he and Buck have an entirely different relationship - does he still not want to marry him?
It scares Eddie, that thought. He loved Shannon, and he still did wrong by her, can he even be certain the same thing won’t happen with Buck eventually?
“Dad,” Chris says from the door, and Eddie jumps, turning to look at his son. “Buck fell asleep. Is that okay or should I wake him up?”
“Let him sleep,” Eddie says, “at least until lunch is ready. We’re here to check on him, so it’s fine. And he needs the sleep, we had a pretty busy shift even before he got body checked by some asshole.”
Chris laughs, and Eddie realises what he said a few moments too late. “Just because I said it, doesn’t mean you can!”
“I’m not a baby anymore, Dad.”
Eddie sighs. “I know. So I trust you to know which words are bad and shouldn’t be used, okay?”
“Whatever,” Chris says, rolling his eyes and giving Eddie a great look at what’s probably gonna be a regular sight very soon. “Do you need help with lunch?”
“Think you can do it better than me?”
“Yeah.” Chris sounds matter of fact, and Eddie tries not to be offended. To be fair, Chris has been an eager student to Buck for years, whereas Eddie can still just make his handful of go-to recipes. He can make the soup and salad without a problem, but he’s certainly not about to turn down help his kid offered willingly.
“Alright, get in here then.”
Once lunch is done, Eddie quietly taps to the living room while Chris washes his hands.
Buck is still asleep on the couch, his face relaxed and one hand curled into the fabric of the pillow his head is on. Eddie squats down beside him and strokes Buck’s cheek softly to wake him up, smiling when Buck’s eyelids flutter open.
“Hey, babe,” he murmurs. “You hungry? Chris and I made lunch.”
Buck turns his head just enough to press a kiss to the inside of Eddie’s wrist, humming sleepily. “In a minute.”
The tenderness and love Eddie feels for him in that moment feels boundless, endless, and he’s once again struck with the realisation that he wants to spend forever feeling this way.
He doesn’t say that though, just presses his lips to Buck’s forehead and whispers, “Okay.”
Eddie isn’t drunk. He’s had more champagne than he’s used to, but it’s not every day two people you’re very close to get married, so he figured he’s allowed. And he’s not drunk.
A little bit tipsy maybe, but he’s surrounded by friends and feels happy and relaxed. Chris is somewhere around, hanging with Denny and Harry, out of his sight but safe and happy. They’ll take an Uber home, a decision they made early on so he and Buck would be able to let loose a little. Right now, Eddie’s half listening to what Hen, Karen, Bobby and Athena are talking about, most of his attention focused on the dancefloor, where Buck is currently spinning a laughing Maddie around. She looks gorgeous in her red dress, and blindingly happy. Buck looks just as happy, and Eddie suddenly feels a little dizzy.
When the song is over, Chimney - who had been dancing with Mrs Lee - steals Maddie from Buck’s arms, and her smile grows even wider. Seeing the two of them swaying to the slow song playing, only having eyes for each other, makes something twist sharply in his chest.
When he looks back towards Buck, he finds him swaying to the music too, holding his niece with one arm, twirling Nia with his free hand. Both girls look at him like he hung the moon, and Eddie can relate.
Someone behind him clears their throat pointedly, but Eddie can’t quite tear his eyes away from Buck.
“So when are you gonna make an honest man of our Buckaroo?” Athena asks, her voice teasing but kind.
And suddenly, everything seems so obvious to Eddie.
He’s always thought about their marriage, any marriage he might enter into, as a redo of his and Shannon’s marriage, which was, well, stupid. Buck isn’t Shannon. The relationships are nothing alike. Eddie’s spent years in therapy working on the realisation that just because he wasn’t a good husband to Shannon doesn’t mean he can’t be a good partner to someone else, to Buck. But he’s worked hard on himself, on his ability to communicate, on his feelings of insufficiency. He knows he’s a good partner to Buck now.
And he and Buck already have a marriage in every way but in name, he’s thought that before - he’s just been scared to continue that train of thought, scared to let go of the past so completely by untangling the memories of Shannon from his idea of marriage. He was scared of feeling the same pressure being married to Buck that he felt after marrying Shannon. But what would change, realistically, if they got married? When he married Shannon, they weren’t at the point in their relationship he’s at with Buck now, they weren’t even living together. He wants to spend the rest of his life making Buck happy. Why not put the name - and a ring - on it?
Eddie thinks about the surety in Buck’s eyes when he said he wanted to get married, stomach swooping when he remembers his words, I would marry you in a heartbeat, Eddie, and all at once he feels it too, that surety, and he finally knows what he wants.
He smiles, eyes still on Buck and the kids, twirling on the dancefloor. “Soon.”
There are multiple audible gasps, and this time, Eddie does turn around to find all four of them staring at him.
“What?” he asks.
“Eddie Diaz,” Karen says, leaning forward, “you’re going to propose?”
“Why is everyone so surprised?” Eddie asks, confused. “I thought you were all pretty much expecting it anyway.”
“Well, yeah,” Hen admits. “But you seemed a little...uncomfortable with that.”
Eddie shrugs, looking at the table rather than his friends. “It took me a while to figure out it wasn’t just something other people expected from me.”
“Eddie,” Bobby speaks up, “you know we all just want you to be happy, right? You and Buck. You don’t have to do something just because you think it’s expected of you.”
Eddie looks up and smiles at him. “I’m not. I want to be able to call Buck my husband one day, and I’m finally sure about that.”
“In that case,” Athena says, reaching over to grab Eddie’s hand, “we’re very happy for you, Eddie. We can see how much you two love each other.”
Eddie blames the champagne for the fact that he gets a little teary eyed at that, squeezing Athena’s hand in thanks.
“So,” Karen chimes up again, and her eyes are suspiciously shiny too. “Have you got a ring yet?”
“No, I kind of only just realised.”
Hen snorts, grabbing his other hand. “Oh, Eddie, I love you. You’re drunk, aren’t you?”
“So are you!” Eddie deflects. “And it doesn’t change how I feel.”
Karen nods meaningfully, and Eddie realises they’re all pretty drunk - except Bobby, of course. “Maybe it just gave you the push you needed.”
Eddie frowns. “The alcohol?”
There’s a hand on the back of his neck, and Eddie tilts his head back to see Buck standing at his shoulder, smiling down at him. He feels an answering smile spread over his own face.
“Hi, baby,” he whispers, or tries to, he’s pretty sure it comes out louder than he intended. “I missed you.”
“Hey, you.” Buck squeezes the back of his neck affectionately, then turns to the others at the table. “Am I interrupting some kind of heart to heart right now?”
“Hen gets sappy when she’s drunk,” Eddie says, and Hen glares at him.
“So does Eddie! See if I ever tell you I love you again.”
“I know he does,” Buck laughs. “You guys mind if I steal my boyfriend for a dance?”
“No, he’s all yours,” Karen says, and she sounds a little choked up saying it.
Buck gives her a puzzled look but pulls Eddie up by his hand anyway, after Hen and Athena let go of him.
“What’s up with them?” he asks Eddie as he leads him to the dancefloor. “What were you talking about?”
“Oh, you know how everyone gets at weddings,” Eddie wraps his arms around Buck’s neck as Buck places his hands on Eddie’s hips and they start kind of swaying to the slow song that’s playing, “they’re just overly emotional.”
“About you?” Buck slides his hands further around Eddie’s waist to pull him closer, and Eddie rests his chin on Buck’s shoulder, smiling. Buck leads them in a small circle, still more swaying than actual dancing, but Eddie’s fine with that, happy to hold Buck and be held.
“About us. The gist of it was that they love us and want us to be happy.”
“Oh,” Buck hums, “that’s, uh, sweet?”
Eddie laughs quietly and turns his head to press his lips to the side of Buck’s neck in a kiss. Once he’s started, he doesn’t want to stop, so he trails his lips up Buck’s neck and along his jaw, leaning back a little so he can kiss his chin and the corner of his mouth, curled upwards in a smile.
“You really do get sappy when you’re drunk,” Buck says, laughing when Eddie wraps his arms around his middle instead, running his hands up and down Buck’s back, “and a little handsy.”
“I’m not drunk,” Eddie insists, kissing the corner of Buck’s mouth again because he’s smiling too much to properly kiss him. “You’re just very handsome in a suit.”
“Oh, I am?” Buck’s smile grows even bigger and he spins them around a little faster once before returning to their swaying.
“Don’t milk it, Buckley,” Eddie warns, but he’s smiling too.
Buck’s hands come up to cup Eddie’s face, and his smile turns softer. “I am really happy, you know?”
“I am, too.” Eddie leans in to capture Buck’s lips in a kiss, keeping it chaste even though he’s kind of wanted to drag Buck to somewhere more private since he first saw him in his suit. “I love you.”
Buck kisses him again, one hand at the back of his head now. “I love you, too. And you don’t look too bad in a suit yourself.”
“Aw, you give the best compliments,” Eddie teases. “I’m getting dizzy from all this turning. We’re gonna get a DJ who knows to throw in a fast song every now and then, when we do this. I can teach you how to salsa until then.” Buck stops moving so abruptly Eddie stumbles into his chest. “What?”
“ When we do this?” Buck repeats, and Eddie feels himself flush.
“I said that, didn’t I?”
“Did you mean it?” Buck sounds almost scared, so Eddie kisses him reassuringly.
“I’ve done...a lot of thinking lately,” he murmurs, leaning his forehead against Buck’s. “Yeah, I meant it.”
Buck smiles, his lips brushing Eddie’s once, twice, before he pulls back to smile at him. “Okay, that’s...that’s cool. Also, we’re gonna talk more about that salsa thing later. Why is this the first time I’m hearing about it?”
Eddie laughs. “One of my many hidden talents. Maybe I’ll show you later...once we’re alone.”
Buck groans, his forehead hitting Eddie’s shoulder and his arms tightening around him. “You’re a damn tease, Diaz.”
It may have taken Eddie a while to figure it out, but now he knows, and - he can’t wait to marry this man.
Of course, nothing ever goes the way Eddie plans it.
The weeks after Maddie and Chimney’s wedding race by with nothing but busy days, work is stressful, Chris has school projects due, a pipe bursts in Abuela’s house so she has to stay with them for a week until it’s fixed, their washing machine breaks and they have to get a new one because laundry keeps piling up and Eddie feels bad about sticking Abuela with it, even though she says it’s a thank you for letting her stay with them.
So with everything happening, it feels like they barely have time for just the two of them that they don’t have to spend sleeping.
The third weekend after the wedding is the first one they have off work completely again. They get home from work on Saturday morning and get a few hours of sleep before the alarm starts blaring.
Buck shuts it off with a groan and rolls over, his arm a heavy but welcome weight around Eddie’s middle. His head follows suit, heavy and warm on Eddie’s chest.
Eddie smiles without opening his eyes, wrapping an arm around Buck’s shoulders and kissing the crown of his head.
“Morning,” he rasps, and Buck just hums but rubs his cheek against Eddie’s naked chest like a cat, his hand stroking up and down Eddie’s side. “We should get up. We have to pick Chris up soon and then head over to Bobby and Athena’s for the barbecue.”
“Not yet,” Buck mumbles, turning his head so he can rest his chin on Eddie’s chest and look at him. He grins and swings a leg over Eddie’s legs, bringing their bodies even closer together. “We’ve got some time.”
Eddie grins back and wraps his hand around the back of Buck’s knee, hitching it higher around his hips and rolling them over so he’s on top of Buck.
“Don’t look so smug,” Buck says, wrapping his other leg around Eddie too and pulling him down by the back of his neck to kiss him, “I’m exactly where I want to be.”
Later, after they’ve finally gotten up and have both taken a shower, Eddie is back in their room to get dressed. He’s in just his boxer briefs, trying to figure out whether jeans or cargo pants are better for a barbecue at the Grant-Nash residence, when Buck calls from the bathroom, “Hey babe, can you grab me a pair of socks? The fun ones with the hot dogs on them?”
Eddie snorts and pulls open Buck’s sock drawer, rummaging around for the novelty socks Chris got Buck for Christmas last year. Instead of them, his fingers suddenly bump against something hard, and when they close around the object, he realises what it is.
With the sound of blood rushing in his ears, he pulls out the small velvet box and stares at it. Technically, they could be cufflinks, or a very small watch, or earrings for Maddie, but Eddie knows without opening it what’s inside the box.
Slightly hysteric, he thinks how fucking cliché this is, finding a ring inside a sock drawer, and he’s definitely gonna tease Buck about it, but now he should probably put it back and pretend he never saw it, right? Buck has probably planned something and he’s been such an idiot, this whole time assuming it should be him that proposes when of course Buck has a ring already-
“Eddie, wait-” Buck says, frantic, stumbling into the room like he ran from the bathroom. He stops when his eyes land on Eddie, sucking in a sharp breath. “You, uh...you found it.”
“Is this a ring?” Eddie asks, turning to Buck. He’s wearing jeans but no shirt and - obviously - no socks. His chest is rising and falling quickly, like he’s out of breath or just very, very nervous. “You hid a ring in your sock drawer?”
“Eddie, I-” Buck fumbles, running a hand through his hair. “I’ve had it for a while but you weren’t supposed to know, I...I was gonna talk to you again first, to see if you meant what you said at Maddie’s wedding, if, if you meant it even when you’re not half drunk and y-you know, with all the emotions at a wedding...I can return it, I only got it because I saw it and thought of you but it was stupid, I should’ve talked to you first, I should’ve returned it after you said you didn’t want to get married-”
“Buck,” Eddie interrupts him, crossing the space between them in a few steps and pressing a hand against Buck’s chest, right over his thundering heart. “Don’t return it.”
“E-Eddie?” Buck stares at him with wide eyes as Eddie presses the velvet box into his hand, closing his fingers around it.
“You could just try and see what my answer is,” Eddie suggests, and Buck is still just staring at him, so Eddie tries to ignore his own racing heart and places his hands on Buck’s shoulders, thumbs rubbing across his collarbone soothingly. He smiles. “Ask me, babe.”
Buck gulps audibly, and then he laughs, most of the tension disappearing from his body. “You’re ridiculous.”
Eddie grins, shrugs. “You love me.”
Buck’s smile goes soft, then, and he breathes, “Yeah,” and sinks down onto one knee.
And - Eddie literally asked him to do just that, but his heart still jumps in his chest and trips over itself before resuming its hammering.
“Eddie Diaz,” Buck starts, reaching for Eddie’s hand and looking up at him with his blue, blue eyes, so incredibly beautiful in the midday light here in the middle of their bedroom, “I don’t have a speech prepared, but I love you. I love you, and you...you and Christopher make me happier than I ever thought I could be. You’re my family, you’re everything I used to dream of and so much more, and...and I promise I will spend my entire life doing everything I can to make you both happy. You’re all I want, and I’m going to love you for the rest of my life. We’re so good together, Eddie, and I think we’re gonna be this good forever. Also, I want everyone to know that I bagged the sexiest, kindest firefighter in the whole world, who’s also the best father in the world-” Eddie laughs and Buck smiles up at him before kissing the knuckles of the hand he’s still holding. “So. Eddie Diaz, will you marry me?”
“Yes,” Eddie says without a second of hesitation, without a doubt that this is what he wants, that this is right. “Yes, Buck, of course I’ll marry you.”
“Yes,” Eddie repeats, “so put that ring on my finger, babe.”
Buck lets out a startled laugh but finally opens the velvet box in his hand for the first time, exposing a simple gold ring inlaid with a narrow black band made from some other material.
“It’s crushed natural spinel,” Buck explains, “but if you don’t like it-”
“I love it,” Eddie interrupts, wriggling his fingers impatiently. “It’s beautiful. Please, put it on?”
Buck grins, bright and happy, and takes the ring out of its box, pushing it onto Eddie’s finger with shaking hands before placing a kiss on top of it.
Impatiently, Eddie grabs him by the arm with his free hand and hauls him up, sliding his hand up Buck’s shoulder and to the back of his neck to pull him into a crushing kiss.
“I love you,” he says, the hand with the ring on it tangled with Buck’s between their bodies. “I love you so much.”
Buck’s arm slides around his waist to pull him flush against his body, pressing kisses all over his face.
“You said yes,” he murmurs, like he’s still in disbelief, “I can’t believe you said yes.”
“You didn’t even have to try this hard. If you had just asked “Marry me?”, I still would’ve said yes.”
Buck chokes out a laugh but he’s also crying, and Eddie pulls his hands free to cradle Buck’s face, alarmed.
“I’m fine,” Buck sobs, “god, this is embarrassing. I just- You’re the love of my life, Eddie.”
“You’re the love of my life,” Eddie says back, kissing his tears away. “And you’re sappy as fuck.”
“I just got engaged to the love of my life, I’m allowed to be sappy!”
Eddie laughs and hugs him tight, burying his face against Buck’s neck. “You make me happier than I thought I could be, too.”
Buck hums happily and they stand like this for a minute, just holding each other, until Eddie pulls back just enough to slide his hands into Buck’s hair and capture his lips in another kiss, this one slow and deep.
Buck’s hands slide down his back and over his ass, grabbing tightly as he grinds their hips together. Eddie laughs around a moan.
“So this is what you wanna do to celebrate our engagement?”
Buck kisses his neck and leads him backwards until the back of Eddie’s knees hit the bed. “Are you complaining?”
Eddie reaches for the button of Buck’s jeans and tucks his fingers under the waistband. “Not at all.”
After, Eddie just lies there for a while, head on Buck’s shoulder and hand spread out on his chest, looking at the ring on his hand happily.
“We should get you one too,” he says, tapping his fingers against Buck’s chest.
Buck grabs his hand and presses a kiss to his ring finger, then his palm and says easily, “Okay.”
“And we can look at silicone ones for work. I don’t want to wait until we’re married for people to know that you’re mine.”
Buck grins and rolls them over again, covering Eddie’s body with his own. “I already like what being engaged does to you.”
Eddie kisses him. “So do I.”
Eventually, Buck asks, “What made you change your mind?”
It’s a short story, really, now that Eddie knows he based his entire opinion on a wrong assumption and fear, so he tells Buck everything.
Buck listens attentively, tracing invisible patterns into the skin of Eddie’s back as they lie on their sides, facing each other. Once he’s finished, Buck keeps rubbing his back and they’re quiet for a minute.
Then, Buck says, “I’m really happy you figured that out, Eddie. And I...I don’t wanna say I’m better than Shannon-”
“But you’re better for me. And I’m better than I was when I was with her. So...we’re gonna be just as happy as we are now, only we’re gonna be married, too.”
Buck smiles and kisses him. “That sounds good.”
“We’re already so late to pick up Chris,” Eddie says, “but we should still tell him before we head to the barbecue. Because I’m not taking off this ring, and someone’s gonna spot it as soon as we walk in there.”
Buck laughs and kisses his ring finger again. “Yeah, we should. I...kind of already told him I wanted to ask you, though, I hope that’s okay.”
Eddie raises a surprised eyebrow. “You did? When?”
“A few days ago while you were getting groceries. I wasn’t really planning on proposing yet, but he literally sat me down and asked if I wanted to marry you, so I figured I should be honest with him.”
Eddie laughs, rubbing a hand across his face. “That little matchmaker. He asked me the same thing while we were waiting to see you at the hospital, and apparently he only made us watch Notting Hill so we would...I don’t know, get inspired or something.”
Buck bursts out laughing, pulling Eddie close. “Guess your kid figured it out before us.”
“Our kid,” Eddie says, and kisses him.
“Our kid,” Buck repeats, eyes crinkling when he smiles. “Who we should pick up now if we want any chance at telling him before we have to leave so we don’t arrive at Athena’s way too late.”
Eddie groans, reluctantly pulling away from Buck and sitting up. “You’re right. Okay, quick shower and then we’ll leave?”
Buck sits up too, leaning over for one more kiss. “Yeah. I can’t wait to tell everyone.”
Eddie brushes his thumb across Buck’s cheekbone, smiling. “Me either. But when they ask us how it happened, we’re definitely gonna leave out the part where we were half naked.”