They’re in the locker room when it happens. Eddie’s just finished changing out of his uniform, only half paying attention to the quiet conversations around him. It’s been a long shift and he’s exhausted, looking forward to going home, but just as he shuts the locker door—
“How’s Taylor?” Hen asks, and Eddie can’t quite help himself from going still.
“Good,” Buck says after a faint pause. He clears his throat, shifts his weight—Eddie looks over just in time to see Buck rub at the back of his neck. “She, uh—she told me she loved me. Before Christmas, actually.”
“That was weeks ago.” Eddie doesn’t mean to say it, doesn’t actually want to involve himself in this conversation at all. But it slips out before he can even think, accusing and sharp.
Buck glances over, his brow furrowing. He only meets Eddie’s eyes for a moment before he looks down at the floor. “Yeah, well...there’s been a lot going on.”
“That’s kind of a big deal though,” Eddie shoots back. There’s something black and vicious slithering through his insides, hissing and spitting poison. And logically, he knows that’s ridiculous—why shouldn’t Taylor be in love with Buck? Of course she should be. She couldn’t do better than him, no one could. Eddie dares anyone not to fall—
Buck’s avoiding his eyes though. And the sick feeling in his gut gets worse. Because it was one thing when Buck didn’t sound like he cared, when he was complaining about the inevitability of their relationship ending but didn’t exactly seem torn up about it. But Eddie also knows Buck, knows how much he’s wanted this, how much he’s thought he needed it, which is why he hardly even needs the confirmation when he says—
“Did you say it back?” His voice is brittle to his own ears.
Buck still doesn’t look at him. “Of course I said it back,” he replied. “What else are you supposed to say? I wasn’t going to leave her out on that limb alone.”
Why not? Something in him snarls. You left me there alone.
Of course, he hadn’t said it in so many words. He just gave Buck his son. Apparently that wasn’t enough.
“So you lied instead?”
“Eddie—” Hen says quietly as Buck’s jaw clenches.
“I didn’t—it wasn’t—” Buck starts, but Eddie interrupts.
“Do you? Love her?”
He’s lying on asphalt bleeding out, going numb, cold. He blinks and he’s back in the locker room. He’s staring a hole through the side of Buck’s head.
Look at me, he thinks. Look at me, look at me, look at me—
Buck doesn’t look. He doesn’t answer the question either. Not that Eddie really needed him to.
Eddie rakes a hand through his hair and lets out a quiet, bitter laugh.
“Right. Okay.” There are a lot of things that he could say. A lot. That’s part of the problem with knowing someone so well—you also know exactly what to say to cut the deepest.
But Eddie doesn’t quite have it in him to turn his tongue into a razor blade. He’s so fucking tired.
If you wanted someone to love you, I’m right here.
Look at me.
Buck swallows. Then turns his back and pulls his undershirt over his head.
And Eddie walks away.
There’s still a shout trapped behind his teeth days later when he goes for a run to try and work off some of the restless energy inside of him. Buck’s voice plays on a loop in his head—of course I said it back—and jealousy hooks its claws into his chest and drags them until he feels flayed open.
He’s been obvious, is the thing. At least he’s felt obvious. He’s felt love bleeding out of his pores every time he’s looked at Buck for—god, months? At least. But either he really hasn’t been or Buck just doesn’t care.
Then again, Buck hasn’t been looking back lately.
Eddie almost trips from how abruptly he stops when he sees the barbershop. He stares at the sign, at the empty chairs inside, and suddenly he can’t think of anything else. He can’t control anything else right now, anything that he’s feeling, but he can do one thing.
The stylist handling walk-ins is a short woman who barely comes up to his bicep, with a wickedly short, bleached pixie cut and shaved sides, and a full sleeve of brightly colored tattoos down one arm.
“So, what are we doing today?” She asks when he falls into the chair, combing her fingers through his hair. “Just a clean-up?”
Eddie stares at himself in the mirror. He looks...clean. Nice. Dependable. Soft. The kind of guy women take home to their mothers. Attractive in a boring, traditional way.
He doesn’t want nice. He doesn’t want soft. He wants—
He wants Buck to look at him and not be able to look away.
He wants to make him look.
“No,” he says quietly. “No, I’m looking for something different.”
He glances over his shoulder.
“I want to be noticed. Can we do that?”
The stylist smiles and ghosts her fingers over her clippers while tipping her head thoughtfully.
“Yeah,” she says. “I think I can work with that.”
Eddie is lighter when he gets out of the chair. His spine feels straighter, shot through with steel, and his jaw looks sharper when he catches his reflection in profile. He looks...good. He looks—
A little dangerous.
He likes it. He likes it a lot.
Eddie walks into the station the next day and Hen’s eyebrows shoot up as she drags her gaze over him. She lets out a low whistle.
“What’s the occasion?” She asks.
He shrugs. “Just felt like a change.”
She huffs a laugh. “Uh huh, sure. Well...you look good.”
A choked noise comes from the doorway and Eddie’s head turns.
There’s color high in Buck’s cheeks as he stands there frozen, his eyes darting over Eddie, taking him in.
Hen’s lips quirk. “What do you think, Buck?” she calls over. “Doesn’t Eddie look good?”
Buck’s eyes meet Eddie’s, wide and blue.
The dark, bitter, jealous piece of him purrs in satisfaction.
Don’t look away, he thinks.
And Buck doesn’t.