That’s my boy.
Eddie doesn’t mean to say it. It’s not like it’s even a phrase that he thinks often — not in regards to Buck.
Okay, so maybe, every once in a while Eddie will look at him doing something that is so whole-heartedly Buck — like performing a rope rescue when an apartment complex is on fire, or risking his life to save his ex-girlfriend’s fiance because he made a promise, because he’s always ready and willing to fall on the sword for the people he loves, even after they’ve hurt him, (Eddie wishes he wouldn’t do that so often, actually, but he understands), or organizing a Christmas party with Athena and inviting his whole family because he knew how upset they were that he wouldn’t be spending Christmas with them, or building gingerbread houses with Chris and Denny — and being happy to do it nonetheless. Just occasional things like that that make Eddie pause and make pride swell up inside him and remind him just how much he loves this man — despite all of the stress and anguish he causes him on a regular basis.
Which, is also, not something he thinks about often. The love thing, that is. The stress and anguish — that’s constant.
But when they’re on a call and Buck is ripping his helmet off, wiping the sweat from his forehead, skipping after the ambulance as it pulls away, overjoyed that his on-his-feet thinking and bull-headed determination saved yet another life, Eddie can’t help it when he smiles fondly, shakes his head, and chuckles to himself.
“That’s my boy.”
He doesn’t really process what he’s said until he looks back up and sees Hen, Chimney, and Bobby all staring at him. Chimney’s stopped chewing on his gum, mouth hanging a little open, Hen’s frozen with one perfectly manicured eyebrow raised, and Bobby’s looking at him with that look he gets when another imaginary piece of some metaphorical puzzle that only he is privy to falls into place. He tends to look at Eddie like that often, especially around Buck.
Eddie just stares back at them, tilting his head to the side a little, and pursing his lips.
“Your boy?” Hen prompts eventually, an amused grin slowly spreading on her face. Eddie feels his cheeks warm but shakes his head in confusion.
“What? I didn’t say—” Chimney starts shaking his head violently, cutting Eddie off.
“Nope, nope, you definitely did say those words.”
Eddie opens his mouth to argue that no he didn’t otherwise he would remember and also he’s never once said those words about Buck out loud so, of course, he wouldn’t — but Bobby holds his hand up, silencing all of them. Eddie tries hard to convince himself that the smirk on Bobby’s face isn’t also amused, because he likes to think that Bobby’s above all that. He’s their Captain, after all.
“Alright, you guys. Let’s wrap this up, okay?” Bobby says gently, gesturing to the scene in front of them. Eddie nods, avoiding making eye contact with either Hen or Chimney.
He does sneak a glance at Buck, eventually. He can’t really help himself. Buck’s like a magnet for him. He’s pretty sure he’d be able to spot Buck instantly, in any crowd, on any day. It’s partially this itch he has, this need to know where the people he cares about are, at all times, just to know that they’re safe. But also, there’s just a natural gravity that Buck has. Eddie always finds himself being pulled closer and closer.
It’s golden hour and Buck’s leaning against a post on the side of the street, talking to Athena and Bobby, making exaggerated gestures with his hands as he relays what just happened to them, even though they were right there with him. His hair looks soft and tousled, like it always does when he pulls his helmet off at the end of a call. The sunlight is hitting it just so, illuminating the edges of it and making it glow golden, like a halo around Buck’s head. Warmth blooms in Eddie’s chest at the sight.
That’s my boy.
When he turns back to the scene Hen and Chimney are smirking at him again. He rolls his eyes, finishes packing up, and spins to jog back to the truck.
Eddie likes to make his home in denial. It’s an island that keeps him safe, keeps him away from all of the things that could hurt him — like the reality of his feelings.
He’s known for a while that he feels something for Buck — he’s just not always sure what that feeling is. The thing about his feelings for Buck is that...not only are they absolutely terrifying to him — but they’re also confusing. He doesn’t fully understand his feelings because he’s not sure they're anything he’s ever felt before, not all at once, at least. He wasn’t expecting this — not from Buck.
Eddie doesn’t let a lot of people get close to him. It’s just a thing that he developed in his childhood that got stronger over time, the more he experienced loving and losing people. You don’t let people close, you don’t get hurt when they leave. That’s a simple fact.
But Buck hadn’t listened to that. Buck didn’t care that Eddie was scared of letting him in only for him to leave — because for Buck leaving wasn’t even an option. He had fucked up once and he spent every single moment since doing his damned best to make sure Eddie knew that he was ride or die, with him ‘till the end of the line. And he meant it, Eddie knew that.
So it could be easy for Eddie to look at Buck and be grateful that he has a friend like that, a support system that, no matter how hard either one of them tried, they couldn’t fuck up. But Eddie’s never felt the way he feels about Buck for anyone, ever. He had close friends in his childhood, and they always said they would be together forever, but none of them were around anymore. What did they have to base their loyalty off of, anyway? It was never serious when they said it, it was kid stuff.
And in his adulthood, most of his friends were from the army. They shared a lot of experiences that nobody else would understand, and came a lot closer than your average friendship, given the circumstances, but none of them made Eddie feel the way he does about Buck.
Certainly, no one looked at Christopher the way Buck did, save for his own family, and that was enough to throw Eddie’s entire body into some strange whirlpool of emotions he rarely let himself get swept up in.
Chris was Eddie’s entire world. He wanted to protect him from every hurt imaginable, even when he knew he couldn’t. Sometimes that protectiveness led to him making mistakes — but he was a parent and that was bound to happen, and he had to learn how to adjust, how to step back and let Christopher find out things on his own. He had to let him get hurt, sometimes, and then encourage him to get back up.
But the hurt Eddie wanted to protect him from most of all was the hurt of abandonment. He never wanted to let another person into his life again, not without knowing that they would stay.
And Buck? Buck would do anything for Christopher. He never even had to say it because Eddie just knew. He said it in all of his actions, the way he walked all day after the tsunami, bleeding from his arm, collapsing in exhaustion only after he saw that Chris was safe. The way he encouraged him to never give up, to find a way to do whatever he wants. He loves Chris, and that makes Eddie love him even more.
He’s loved people before. Even if he’s not one to say it often, not in those words at least, he recognizes it when he feels it. He loves his family, his parents, his sisters, his aunt, his Abuela — even when they’re overstepping his carefully set boundaries. He loved the guys in his unit. He loved Shannon, he loves Christopher. He loves everyone at the 118, the family he chose.
But Buck is something different. Buck is something he’s never felt before.
When he realized he loved Shannon, it was like a hurricane that came out of nowhere, rushing over him, drenching him in its rains, pulling him in every direction, and leaving him entirely breathless. She was a perfect storm of love and chaos. One that he doesn’t regret, but one that he’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to experience again. He’s not sure he could survive that kind of devastation again.
But Buck wasn’t anything like that, even though Eddie’s pretty sure that he should be, with all of his fierce love and reckless abandon. Eddie realized he loved Buck like watching a sunrise, slowly, gradually, growing warmer and brighter over time. He was a sight that made your chest ache from its beauty, one of those things that made you feel lucky to be alive, one of those things that made you feel like you were blessed to witness it.
He left Eddie feeling stunned and off-balance, but warm, and comforted at the same time. The thing about sunrises was that you could always count on them to come back around the next day. No matter what storms the night before brought, the sun was always there in the morning.
Buck made Eddie feel safe.
That’s my boy.
He’s packing up his gear in the truck when he spots Buck out of the corner of his eye, jogging towards him. He pretends to ignore him, ducking his head and smiling to himself as he shuts the door on the truck.
“Hey man, did you see that?” Buck says as he approaches Eddie. His voice is light and airy, like he’s a little out of breath from the jog over, which would make sense since he’s still got at least 70 pounds of gear on him. But he doesn’t look bothered by it at all. He just clasps his hands together and smiles at Eddie with that giant, overly pleased, and just on the verge of shy smile — the one he always shares with Eddie.
Eddie leans against the truck casually, crossing his arms and nodding at Buck, smiling.
“Yeah, I saw it. You did good, kid.” His heart constricts at the way Buck lights up at the praise. It’s times like these where he wants nothing more than to reach out and touch him, card a hand through his hair and then bring him in gently, tucking Buck’s face into his neck and holding him close, whispering all the words of encouragement he never got to hear when he was younger.
But he settles for this, standing at arm's length and keeping his praise to a minimum.
“We did good,” Buck corrects, punching Eddie’s shoulder lightly. “We make a good team.”
The team, Eddie knows, consists of Bobby, Chimney, Hen, Buck, and him. But when Buck looks at him like that, when he says things like that, it makes him feel like it's about just the two of them.
Buck’s matching his position, leaning against the truck now, looking down at Eddie with his flushed face and his sweet smile. It’s like they’re the only two people in the world. It’s an intoxicating feeling, so addictive that Eddie often wishes that he could just let himself get lost in it, soak up all of the love and attention that just radiates off of Buck, stretch out in the sunlight and just let it warm him all over, be utterly and unashamedly selfish with it. To relish in that love that he’s not always sure he deserves.
He opens his mouth, not sure what exactly he’s going to say next, when Hen appears behind him, patting him on the shoulder.
“Hey, Eddie, you and your boy ready to head back home or are you just gonna stand there looking pretty all night?” She shoots him a sly grin over her shoulder as she passes by them to climb into the truck. Eddie freezes a little at the teasing, not sure what he’ll say if Buck turns to him, tilts his head, and asks what did she mean by your boy?
But he doesn’t tilt his head in question at all. His eyes lock with Eddie’s for just a second and the corners of his lips twitch like he’s fighting a smile. Eddie feels his breath get trapped somewhere in his chest and then Buck turns away and disappears into the truck.
He hangs back for a bit, struggling to catch his breath again, nodding at Chimney and Bobby as they brush past him. Bobby pauses before he rounds the truck, looking back at Eddie with an amused smile.
“You good, Diaz?” He calls. Eddie looks away before nodding, waving a hand, and pulling the door open.
“All good, Cap.”