The Grant-Nash household is loud. Louder than usual, that is. Conversations flow smoothly, moving from one topic to the next rapidly. That makes Eddie smile. The last few months were quite the challenge, in every way, for everyone.
Whether it be Athena and Bobby’s marriage hanging on by a thread, Maddie suffering from postpartum depression, Karen and Hen getting used to Nia’s absence, it was enough for everyone to feel a bit under pressure, feel overwhelmed, afflicted, weighed down.
And there was also that day. That particular day. Still on Eddie’s mind, all the time. No matter how hard the people surrounding him try to forget about the whole thing.
There seems to be a common agreement between all his colleagues, all his friends. A silent promise everyone made to each other. A pact. That day’s here and it happened but god forbid we dare to acknowledge it .
And Eddie gets it. That day was a living hell. It was traumatic. For him, for Buck, and for Christopher. And don’t get him wrong he doesn’t particularly like to be reminded of that day either, doesn’t particularly like to mention it, let alone talk about it. But sometimes he wishes he could. Sometimes he wishes he had that possibility.
But he doesn’t. He knows he doesn’t.
He tried bringing up the topic in the conversations. He tried making a few innuendos here and there, hoping Buck would catch up. He tried being patient, let his friend heal first. In vain. And Eddie knows Buck and him are not really the type to sit down and talk about their feelings, hell good communications skills don’t exactly run in his family either but he knows how to make an effort every now and then. He learned it the hard way. Raising a kid on your own doesn’t exactly give you a choice in the matter.
And yet, Eddie still smiles. Because they’re here now. They’re alive. Celebrating.
Bobby’s here, talking with Michael with hushed voices, David standing a few feet away with Albert, keeping a close watch on the barbecue while glancing at the two of them with what Eddie can only guess is an exasperated expression painted all over his face.
Hen, Karen and Athena are both seated at the table, seemingly engaged in a very lively conversation. Chimney is resting on a nearby chair, a very fast asleep Jee-Yun in his arms, both of them being subject to a series of pictures taken by May.
And then there’s Buck, sprawled on the grass, Christopher, Harry and Denny by his side, all laughing to tears. This brings a smile to Eddie’s lips.
“So I heard my brother wasn’t exactly planning on leaving you guys anytime soon?” Maddie asks next to him. “From what Albert told Chim, he’s got the loft all by himself for at least two months.”
Eddie chuckles and looks down at his hands, his cheeks turning red. There’s an implicit question behind Maddie’s words, an implicit question waiting to be answered. It’s not the first time Eddie has to face these hidden allusions from Maddie and as his eyes are being drawn to Buck once again, he realizes he doesn’t really mind.
“Yeah, he- he’s staying put.” Eddie admits. “After… After everything that happened, I think we all needed to-” He starts, but marks a pause. “Christopher needed him there.”
“Christopher’s the only one who needed him there?” Maddie asks and Eddie’s breath catches in his throat.
He shouldn’t be surprised, though. After all, Eddie hid his true feelings behind his son countless times in the past but it’s the first time he’s actually being confronted about it. It’s easy, hiding himself behind Christopher. It’s comfortable. And it makes him look like a great dad while really his son is just a thousand times braver than he ever will be. That’s not a secret to anyone.
Still, he finds himself saying:
“No.” Maddie looks up at him, smiling softly. “No, I needed him there as well.” Eddie finally admits. “I needed him to stay.” He adds. “I’ll always need him to stay.” He says more specifically, averting his eyes.
“Does he know?” She asks.
“That I want him to stay?” Eddie darts his eyes towards her but only for a second. He looks away just as fast. “Yeah. Yeah I think I made that pretty clear.” He chuckles, thinking back of all the times he had to physically drag Buck away from the front door, making sure he understands that he’s not “overstaying his welcome” or whatever Buck’s got stuck in his mind.
“No, I mean-” Maddie’s eyes shuttle back and forth on Eddie’s face, as if battling whether to be upfront or leave the conversation hanging. Eventually, she sighs, takes a deep breath and adds, without batting an eye: “Does he know you’re in love with him?”
Eddie blinks a few times, opening his mouth to say something but closing it the next second. There’s no need to deny it – he thinks. Not after this past few months, not after what happened. Not after that day. There’s no need to deny it because his love for Buck, once so quiet, so cautious, so calm, is now so big, so vibrant, Eddie might as well take his heart and put it on a plate for everyone to see.
“I- I’m not sure.” He says and his eyes are drawn to Buck once again. His best-friend is still seated on the grass but this time he's holding his niece in his arms, Christopher is touching her hands very carefully, like he’s afraid she might break. Buck looks up at Eddie and for a few seconds, their eyes meet. Buck has that soft expression on his face, that soft expression only reserved to the two most important people in his life. And Eddie smiles, because how can he not?
“He must know.” He convinces himself out loud. “There’s no way he doesn’t kn-”
“Did you tell him?” Maddie insists. “Did you tell him these exact same words?” She asks. “Did you tell him to his face?”
“No.” Eddie admits.
“Then he doesn’t know.” She says. “Eddie, it doesn’t matter how many signs you throw at him. It doesn’t matter if you think there’s no need to say anything because he’s got to be blind not to see it. It doesn’t matter because at the end of the day it’s Buck we’re talking about, it’s my baby brother and you and I both know he’s not going to let himself believe it until there’s not a single doubt in his mind that this is what’s happening, that you’re in it just as much as he is.”
“I-” Eddie starts but looks down, biting his lower lip. “I know.”
“And unless you tell him to his face that you’re in love with him then-”
“Then, the doubts won’t stop.” Eddie finishes for her, his eyes still fixated on Buck as a small sigh escapes his lips.
“The doubts won’t stop.” Maddie agrees.
“It’s just-” Eddie’s hand fidgets with his keys in his jean’s pocket, nervously. “The way he loves. It’s always so…”
“Loud?” Maddie offers and Eddie huffs out a laugh.
He nods. “Yeah. Loud. And- and carefree. And you know, I- it's a good thing. I mean I’ve always-” He starts, and sighs, closing his eyes fiercely. “It’s a good thing.” He repeats. “But you’d think he has it all figured out.” He says, his eyes catching Buck’s gaze once again. He seems tired. Eddie can see it by the way his lips stretch up at the edges in an effort to smile but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. But it’s mostly the dark rings under his eyes that leads Eddie in the right direction. Buck thinks the others can’t see them, he thinks he can conceal them by acting overly excited, overly cheerful, and maybe it goes unnoticed by the others but not to Eddie. Never to Eddie.
“He has a big heart.” Maddie eventually says, following Eddie’s gaze until her own eyes are fixed on her little brother. “People often mistake it for over-confidence.” She adds. “But the truth is that he’s as terrified as you are. Maybe more.” She marks a pause. “Probably more.”
Eddie nods to himself, his smile getting bigger when he sees Buck standing up straight, crossing the few meters separating him from Eddie and Maddie. He lets himself fall on the chair with a heavy thud, raising his eyes towards Eddie, his smile always so soft, always so gentle. Eddie wants to embrace him and kiss him senseless.
“Hey.” Buck’s voice is hesitant. “Huh Chris asked me if he could stay the night here with Harry and Denny. I said yes. I thought- although I guess I- I guess I should maybe have checked with you first, I’m sor-”
“It’s fine.” Eddie smiles.
“You sure? Because I can-”
“Evan.” Eddie cuts in, and the effect is immediate. Like it always is when he uses Buck’s real name. He whirls his head around and looks at him with a mixture of disbelief and confusion in his eyes. Eddie thinks he can see some traces of hope in there, too.
“Didn’t know you had the Evan privileges.” Maddie teases and Buck looks down at his hands with a sheepish smile, blinking a few times like he can’t quite believe it himself.
“Wanna go back home?” Eddie asks. “I’m beat.” He says. It’s a lie. He’s feeling great, and he could probably stay there for a few more hours if he wanted, but that’s not Buck’s case. That’s not Buck’s case and his best-friend is just too damn selfless to say it and would probably be ready to fall asleep on that chair if it meant Eddie was having a good time.
“Oh yeah we can… We can go home.”
They say goodbye to everyone and head out, not before Eddie makes Christopher promise to behave and not give Athena and Bobby too much trouble. He holds him against him for a while, kissing his head and his heart flutters when he sees Buck hugs him just as tight the next second.
When they get to the car, Buck is nervous, his head is resting on the window and his eyes are glancing to Eddie from time to time, his eyebrows squint in concentration, just like when he’s searching the answer to one of Christopher’s math exercise. It’s never a good sign. Eddie knows him well enough to understand that Buck is on the verge of falling into one of these overthinking traps that always seem to be on the lookout for the next opportunity to invade his best-friend’s mind.
The car drive is silent, the atmosphere filled with a sense of irresolution no one dares to question. And Eddie knows all too well that now is probably not the best time to have that conversation, not while driving, not while Buck is in that state. But Maddie’s words are stuck in his head since they left that house and if he doesn’t acknowledge the elephant in the room now, he’s afraid it might take him another two months to have the guts to say it.
“You do know I’m in love with you, right?” He blurts out and Buck whirls his head around so fast Eddie’s afraid he might break his neck. He seems surprised. His eyes are wide open and his mouth is agape, his eyebrows furrowed, his brain probably working too fast for his head to catch up.
“I-” He starts but his voice dies in his throat. “I didn’t- I mean I wasn’t- I wasn’t sure.” Buck stutters, blinking a few times.
“Well, I am.” Eddie says, pretending to be calm about it all while really, his hands hold the wheel so tight his knuckles go white.
“I just-” Buck says, and stays silent for a few seconds to gather his thoughts. “Ever since that day, there were- there were times when I thought that maybe you- But I couldn’t be sure. And you never- you never spoke of it and I-”
“I never spoke of it because you never let me, Buck.” Eddie marks a pause, but speaks again just as fast when he sees the flash of guilt crossing his friend’s eyes. “I don’t blame you.” He reassures him. “I’ve been in your position countless times in the past to know that that day must have been as traumatic for you as it was for me. Maybe even more, I mean I- I was asleep the whole time, after all. You were the one who had to-” Eddie pauses when he sees Buck’s face suddenly contorted with excruciating pain – agony, even – but he pushes through it all the same. “You were the one who had to deal with everything.”
Eddie bites his lower lip when he sees his best-friend’s eyes already filled with tears.
“Buck, you saved me.” Eddie says, his voice determined.
“No I-” Buck shakes his head. “I let you down.”
“You saved me.” Eddie repeats, with even more vigor. “Evan.” He says. “Look at me.” He adds, glancing at Buck, knowing he now has his full attention. The blue eyes staring back at him are filled with pain, agony, and Eddie knows his friend is back there again, in the streets, watching him bleed to death in front of him.
“I didn’t-” Buck starts and suddenly tears are rolling down his cheeks and his lips are shaking and his shoulders slump alarmingly as ugly sobs start racking his body. He presses his hand through his eyes, as if to hide himself from his best-friend but the noise coming from his mouth is desperate and angry and broken and Eddie doesn’t waste anytime to park his car on the roadside. “You were dead, Eds.”
“Buck.” Eddie breathes. “I wasn’t- you saved me alright?”
“No Eds, you don’t understand, alright? You were dead. You died . In that ambulance. I- I was telling you to hold on but you- you died. For a few seconds Eddie, you- you were dead . You were gone. I thought I had lost you and I couldn’t- I couldn’t-” Another sob racks his body and Eddie wraps his arms around his shoulders, bringing him closer. Buck hides his face on his chest and Eddie holds him close as he cries, his entire body shaking from exhaustion, from all the pressure he contained during this past few months.
“You never told me that.” He eventually says, his own voice shaking.
“Didn’t want to go back there.” Buck answers and his voice is so small Eddie just holds him a little closer, a little tighter, his right hand running through his blonde locks. He presses a small kiss to his head and closes his eyes, letting his forehead rest against his hair. "You were fine and I wanted - I needed - to focus on that."
“I love you.” Eddie tells him. “Buck, how can you think you let me down while you’re literally the only reason I’m sitting in this car next to you? You saved me. You took care of my son. You took care of me . Even when I was being a whiny little shit.” Eddie smiles when a small laugh escapes Buck’s lips. “You did so good. You always do.”
“Wasn’t easy.” Buck teases him but his voice still betrays his true feelings.
“And yet, you stayed.” Eddie reminds him.
“Yeah well…” Buck answers like it’s not a big deal. “Where- where else would I go?”
Eddie huffs out a laugh and presses his lips on Buck’s shoulder when this one buries his face in the crook of his neck, still trying to catch his breath.
“Move in with us.” Eddie finds himself blurting out, causing Buck to sit straight once again, watching him with a bewildered expression on his face. “I mean it.”
“I- what- what about Chris?” Buck asks because of course that’s the first thought that crosses his mind. His son’s well-being.
“What about him?” Eddie asks, his eyebrows raised.
“I don’t- maybe he doesn’t want me there all the time.” Buck starts and frowns when Eddie huffs out a laugh.
“Yeah, right.” Eddie answers, unimpressed. “That kid would probably kill me if I ever let you go back to your loft and you know it.” He adds. “He adores you, Buck.”
Buck’s eyes dart towards him, his shy and sheepish smile stretching up his lips.
“What about you? Do you want me there?” Buck asks, hesitant.
“Buck I’m the one who asked.” Eddie says. “You’re practically already living with us anyway. Wouldn’t change a single thing. Except that you- well you definitely wouldn’t sleep in the spare room anymore.”
“But I wouldn’t-”
“Buck, can you please stop finding excuses and say yes already?” Eddie asks, exasperated. He still places his right hand behind his neck though, and looks at him dead in the eye when he says these next few words. “I want you there with us. All the time. Every day.”
“Alright.” Buck eventually says. “I- I’ll stay.” He adds.
“Good.” Eddie smiles, and when Buck’s eyes dart towards his lips for just a second, he doesn’t waste any time and crash their lips together in a gentle, soft kiss, tasting Buck’s tears.
“I- I love you too.” Buck says after a few minutes. “I just- just realized I still haven’t said it back.”
“You didn’t have to.” Eddie answers. “I already knew.”
Buck smiles a bit more, but another serious look crosses his face as he bites his lower lip.
“Thank you.” And Eddie heard these words a thousand times before from Buck’s mouth but in that particular moment, they seem to hold more meaning that he can possibly imagine. “For saying it first.”
Eddie intertwines their fingers together and presses a small kiss on Buck’s knuckles, starting the car.
“Anything for you, Evan.” Eddie says and huffs out a small laugh when he hears Buck’s groan resonating in the car. He puts his indicator on and turns his wheel to follow the road back home, his hand still holding Buck’s fingers.
“I-” Buck starts but seems to hesitate. His gaze is stuck on the road, like he’s afraid to meet Eddie’s eyes when he’s going to say these next few words.
“You what?” Eddie encourages him.
“I like it.” Buck says, keeping his voice low. “When you- when you call me Evan.”
“Oh I know .” Eddie teases him.
“You’re doing it on purpose, aren’t you?” He asks him, smiling.
“One hundred percent.” Eddie confirms. “Only way to be sure I’ve got your undivided attention.”
“Oh, fuck you.” Buck exclaims, rolling his eyes at him.
“Maybe later.” Eddie raises his eyebrows in a suggested manner and Buck only scoffs, but Eddie can already see his cheeks turning red.
“Alright alright, eyes on the road, Edmundo .” Buck says playfully and Eddie lets out a laugh. “I love you.” These words seem to slip past Buck’s lips of their own accord.
“Love you more.” Eddie instantly retorts.
“Well I loved you first.” Buck answers.
“Bold assumption you make here, Buckley.”
“Let’s hash that out at home.” Buck tells him, resting his head on the window, his voice tired and his eyes closed.
“Alright.” Eddie answers. “But you and I both know I’m gonna win this round.”
Buck huffs out a laugh and catches Eddie’s hand on the gearshift to intertwine their fingers together, the smile not leaving his face.
“Shut up and drive us home, Diaz.”
“Alright.” Eddie answers, pressing another kiss to Buck’s knuckles. “Let's get you home, Evan.”