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They’re about halfway through their shift and Eddie already knows it’s going to be one of those days. There’s a little less laughter between them, a little more silence. A call earlier in the morning had been rough, a collision with multiple dead on arrival, a sedan and two motorcycles sideswiped by a trucker who’d had a heart attack behind the wheel. In the end, they’d pried open the sedan and found two adults and two children, all heavily injured. A family trip to the beach turned into a nightmare.

The father and youngest child died before extraction, taking the worst of the collision. They’d gotten the mother and son out and onto backboards, had started emergency medical care, trying to stabilize them enough to get them into the ambulance and rushed to a hospital. Buck had been with the boy, talking to him, trying to calm him as he started to come around. Eddie was with Hen working on the mother, but he knew something wasn’t right the second he heard Chimney’s voice softly saying, “Buck.”

Eddie had glanced over and seen Buck with bloodstains on his forearms, gloves dark where he’d been trying to help Chim keep pressure on the wounds. The kid was still and silent on the pavement. Chim had taken a step back and gestured for another body bag, didn’t want the mother seeing the broken body as she started to become more alert. They loaded her up and Buck stared at the ambulance as it drove away, jolting when Eddie put a hand on his shoulder.

“C’mon, man,” Eddie murmured. “Back to the truck.”

Buck had followed wordlessly, scrubbing at his arms with alcohol wipes the entire drive back to the firehouse.

Now they’re on another call, this one blessedly uneventful, but there’s an unmistakable gloom still lingering like a heavy cloud across the entire team, Buck worst of all. Eddie can only keep an anxious eye on him as they go about their duties. The 911 call had come from a terrified mother with two kids and a cat caught up in a tree. It takes them no time at all to get all three safely back on the ground and then it’s just a perfunctory check of both the girls before they’re good to go. Eddie is leaning against the truck while Hen and Chim finish up, Buck hovering behind them and keeping both girls laughing and grinning at whatever he says.

He’s too distracted to realize the mother, Lydia, has come up beside him until he feels a hand on his arm.

“Thank you,” she says. “I had no idea what to do.”

“Not a problem, just doing our jobs.” Eddie smiles and glances back at Buck, sees resigned blue eyes staring right back at him. It makes something cold shudder through his chest.

Lydia keeps talking, hand still on his arm. “Yeah, but you’ve all been so nice about it. I swear I looked away for one minute to get a can of tuna for the cat and then next thing I knew they were both up there.” She takes a shuddering breath. “If one of them had fallen—”

“But they didn’t,” Eddie is quick to interrupt. “Don't get caught up in the what ifs, just be glad for what you’ve got.”

She nods and gives him another weak smile. “Well, thank you again. And tell everyone else thank you when you’ve got the chance.”

Hen comes over with both girls in tow and the mother immediately crouches down to pull them both into a hug, kissing the sides of their heads and not letting go, looking up at them with a teary smile. “Thank you so much.”

“Of course. We’re just glad everyone’s okay,” Hen says, giving Eddie the perfect opportunity to slip away in search of Buck.

Usually, Buck would already be at his side, the two of them practically attached at the hip regardless of the situation, but especially when there’s an attractive caller involved. Eddie’s not the only one who can be a little possessive, and a hand on his arm like that is usually enough to have Buck sauntering over and throwing an arm across his shoulders. But now Buck is nowhere to be seen.

He hadn’t been with the girls. And he’s not with Chimney reloading the ambulance. Eddie climbs into the truck and finds Buck slouched in his seat, head leaned against the wall. He offers Eddie a tired smile that does nothing to reassure him.

“You okay?” Eddie asks.

Buck nods, sits up a little straighter. “I’m fine.”

They both know that’s a lie and Eddie just sighs, reaches out and grabs Buck’s hand and holds it the entire ride back to the firehouse, would keep holding on forever if he could.

It feels like their shift can’t end quickly enough, all he can see are Buck’s sad eyes, the hunch to his shoulders. He feels his silence like an oppressive weight against his chest. It’s amazing how much light Buck brings to the firehouse, and how lifeless the place feels when he’s down. A brilliant star suddenly collapsed into a black hole. Eddie wants to throw himself into that pull, tear himself apart if it means making Buck feel whole again. But he can’t, not here.

He needs Buck in his arms, needs to be able to hold him and whisper in his ear, needs to have him close and kept and his. Until they both feel it down to their very bones.

Time creeps by slowly until finally, finally they’re free to go. He catches Buck in the locker room, presses up behind him and grabs his hips.

“Come over,” he murmurs, loves the way Buck is already leaning into his touch.

“Tonight?”

“Mhmm,” Eddie hums, skimming his cheek against the side of Buck’s neck. “Right now. Unless you have somewhere else to be?”

He gives Buck’s hips a squeeze and Buck shivers, shakes his head.

“C’mon then, let’s go home.” Eddie pulls away and smiles fondly at the dazed look on Buck’s face, waits patiently while the other man gathers the last of his things.

A quick kiss in the parking lot and a lot of traffic later, they’re pulling up to the house, Eddie already on his phone ordering Buck’s favorite pizza. Christopher is ecstatic as soon as he sees Buck, shouts and crashes into one of his legs and won’t let go, devolving into a fit of giggles when Buck starts dragging him further into the house with a careful hand on the back of his shirt.

Carla shakes her head at the both of them, comes to stand next to Eddie with a fond smile on her face. “Something tells me you’re going to have your hands full tonight.”

“It’s worth it,” Eddie says—and he means it. Just about anything would be worth it to see a smile back on Buck’s face.

Carla gives him a shrewd look then glances at Buck, seems to catch something that makes her sigh. “Something happen at work today?”

Eddie nods. “Yeah, rough call this morning.”

“You want me to stick around for awhile? Help start dinner?”

Eddie shakes his head. “I already ordered pizza.”

Carla tsks, swats him gently on the arm. “You two could keep that place in business all on your own.”

Eddie laughs sheepishly, but is ultimately distracted with the way Buck suddenly leans down and scoops Christopher into his arms, spins him around and makes him scream with laughter. Carla nods and pats his arm on her way out.

“You boys watch out for each other.”

Eddie must mumble some kind of response, because suddenly she’s gone and it’s just him and his boys and a whole evening stretching out ahead of them. Christopher votes for playing with Legos until the pizza arrives and Buck is quick to second it, ends up sprawled on the floor beside him making whatever comes to mind. With the excitement of their arrival dying down, the house settles into an uncharacteristic quiet. There’s still the occasional tease, shared story, or bout of laughter, but it’s not as consistent as Eddie’s used to. Christopher seems to pick up on it too, if the gentle way he keeps coaxing Buck to make him things is any indication.

Ducking into the kitchen to prepare a simple fruit salad to go with the pizza, Eddie’s honestly not prepared for the sight that greets him when he makes it back out to the living room. Buck and Christopher have migrated to the couch at some point and now Christopher is laying on Buck’s chest, whispering softly as he moves little Lego men across the fabric of Buck’s shirt, Buck’s arms wrapped around him.

He takes a moment to just stand and take it in. How perfect they look together. How natural. To feel how much he wants this to be his everyday.

He’s struck with how much he wants Buck to be a part of their home, as much as he’s already a part of their family, there for each other on rough days, celebrating the good and the bad and the miracles and every little moment in between.

The doorbell rings and pulls him from his thoughts and he calls out a quick, “got it!” when he sees Buck start to shift on the couch, doesn’t want to disrupt their little bubble any more than he has to. He brings the box in to the living room and sets it beside the fruit salad on the coffee table, flips up the lid and puts one piece on a napkin for Chris, taps Buck’s shoulder and urges him to sit up so he can slide in behind him, pull him back against his chest and hold him tight the way he’s been wanting to since that morning.

They put on a TV show Christopher’s been watching and Buck eats a couple slices, wolfs them down with his usual lack of manners, and he’s halfway through his third slice when Christopher coughs. It’s just that, a cough, doesn’t do anything other than make Christopher wrinkle his nose and wipe at his mouth with the back of his hand, but it makes Buck freeze. Makes him put down his pizza and suddenly sit like he’s seconds away from bolting.

“You okay, Chris?” Eddie asks, even though he already knows the answer.

Christopher looks up and grins with a mouth full of pizza. “Yeah!” He pats at Buck’s side, no doubt getting pizza grease on his shirt. “Pizza nights with Buck are the best.”

Buck gives him a weak smile and a quiet, “Thanks, bud” and relaxes just enough for Eddie to pull him back into his chest, loop an arm around him and keep his palm pressed right over his heart.

The TV plays on and Buck doesn’t move, shakes his head when Eddie offers him his forgotten third slice.  He knows it’s not the end of the world, that Buck eating a little less one night isn’t really that big of a deal, but right now Eddie kind of feels like it is. It feels like a failure, like he’s not doing enough, not taking care of Buck the way he’s supposed to.

He makes it about fifteen minutes before he’s leaning forward and grabbing the bowl of fruit salad, holding it out to Christopher and telling him to eat some before setting it on the floor within easy reach. Then, he’s picking out a piece of strawberry and holding it to Buck’s lips, kissing his temple and whispering “please, cariño” when Buck starts to turn his head away.

Buck pulls in a shuddering breath and parts his lips, lets Eddie slip the piece of fruit onto his tongue. Eddie can feel the soft, warm heat of his mouth and the wetness of the inside of his lips, everything lingering like crackling electricity on his fingers even after he’s pulled away. Buck chews, and swallows, and Eddie feels something inside himself glow warm with pleasure, with success.

He rubs his thumb over Buck’s chest and grabs another piece, kisses the side of Buck’s head when he takes it without complaint. He tries a grape next, then a slice of banana, and finally a slice of mandarin orange. The juice runs down Buck’s chin and Eddie wipes at it with his thumb, licks it off his own fingers and feels almost dizzy when Buck settles fully against him, head leaned against the side of his neck and Chris resituating against Buck’s chest, soft curls no doubt tickling the bottom of Buck’s chin.

He keeps feeding him little pieces of fruit, holds both his boys close and hopes that it’s enough, that Buck can feel how much he belongs here. With them. Can feel how much Eddie loves him.

When the episode ends and Christopher is visibly falling asleep, Eddie declares it time to get ready for bed. Christopher lets out a whine of protest but Buck sits up and tousles his hair.

“We can play in the morning, kid. It’s time for me to go to bed too.”

He yawns to prove his point and that quiets most of Chris’ complaints. It’s not long before they’ve got him bathed, pajama-ed and ready for bed. As they’re tucking him in, he reaches up and gives Buck an extra long hug, buries his face in Buck’s neck and whispers, “Goodnight, I love you.”

Buck’s voice is rough when he responds, “Love you too, kid.”

They turn off the light and slip into the hall, Eddie taking Buck’s hand and pulling him in to place a soft kiss on his forehead. “I love you too, you know.” He pulls back but keeps a hand on the side of his face, swipes a thumb across his jaw. “So much.”

Buck gives him a tired smile, turns and presses a kiss to Eddie’s palm. “Love you.”

“C’mon,” Eddie murmurs. He leads them both back to the bedroom, then into the bathroom, turns on the water and puts his hands on the hem of Buck’s shirt and gives it a gentle tug. “Can I?”

Buck nods and Eddie guides the shirt up and over his shoulders, puts his hands on Buck’s chest and lets them glide over the smooth skin there, so soft and warm beneath his palms. His fingers eventually find their way to Buck’s waistband, dipping down to undo his button and fly before pushing pants and underwear to the floor in one smooth motion, steadying Buck’s hips as he steps out of them.

Dios, but he’s beautiful. Brilla más que el sol. Absolutely perfect.

“Déjame mirarte,” he murmurs, stepping back but making sure to keep one hand on Buck’s waist to ground him, can see that Buck is still teetering on an edge. He keeps his voice soft and low and feels a flicker of pride when Buck lets out a soft groan. “Qué hermoso.”

When they’re both naked beneath the water, he can’t keep his hands to himself, traces over the strong lines of Buck’s arms and circles fingers around his wrists, brings them around his own waist and kisses the underside of Buck’s jaw.

Buck’s fingers flex against his back.

“¿Cómo puedes no ver lo perfecto que eres?” he asks, voice low beneath the sound of the water.

He knows exactly how much Buck loves him speaking Spanish. Isn’t disappointed when Buck shudders against him.

Eddie.”

“Shh, I know, cariño.” He puts a hand on the side of Buck’s neck and lets another trail up his side, feels the muscles jump beneath his touch. “I’ve got you.”

He guides Buck’s head down onto his shoulder and just holds him, watches steam drift off his back, droplets of water sluicing down his shoulders and past the strong ridge of his spine. He’s not sure how long they stand there, but eventually he reaches for the shampoo, guides Buck back enough to get his fingers in the short strands of his hair, rubbing at his scalp until Buck is groaning softly into the space between them.

“That’s it,” he murmurs. “You’re okay, baby.”

Buck makes another soft noise and his hands flex where they’re wrapped around Eddie’s waist. He lets Eddie rinse the shampoo out then pulls him in, buries his face in the side of Eddie’s neck and rubs his mouth against the warm skin there.

Eddie gets the soap, starts lathering up every part of Buck he can reach, chuckling softly when he moves too much and Buck whines, pulls him closer. Close enough that he can feel Buck’s cock pressed against his thigh, half hard and becoming more interested with every shift of their hips.

With gentle hands, he guides Back out from the hollow of his shoulder, presses a kiss to the pout on his lips and starts washing the parts that before he couldn’t quite reach before. His chest. His legs, his thighs. Eddie spends a special amount of time on those, dips his fingers to the soft skin on the insides just to feel Buck tremble and grasp at his shoulders. Then, he wraps a hand around his cock, grip loose, giving just a few perfunctory strokes before letting go.

Buck bites back a whine and Eddie smiles, brings him back in to the safety of his arms and lets the water rinse them both clean, rubs his hands up and down Buck’s back and tilts his head to the side so Buck can bury his face back in his shoulder.

Then, he lets his hands drift lower.

He can feel the hitch in Buck’s breath against his skin, watches as his whole body shifts, pushing back into Eddie’s touch, searching for more. He savors the quiet moan when his hands finally land on the curve of Buck’s ass, running over the smooth skin there before dipping inside, the tip of one finger pressing at his entrance.

The sound Buck makes at that is almost a sob, muffled against Eddie’s skin, hands pulling at his shoulders while his back arches. But Eddie doesn’t want that, doesn’t want Buck to work for what Eddie is already going to give him. He wraps a solid arm around Buck’s waist and pins him, presses his finger a little harder against his entrance then starts rubbing in gentle circles, feels the muscles there twitch and tighten and then, finally, relax.

“So good for me, Evan,” he says. “No sé lo que hice para merecerte.”

He pulls his hand away slowly then turns off the water, Buck panting softly into the side of his neck, eyes dazed when Eddie steps back to grab towels. He stays pliant and soft beneath Eddie’s hands as he dries them off, follows him wordlessly to the bed and immediately curls into Eddie’s chest.

But Eddie isn’t done with him yet, knows that getting him calm is only half the battle. Is only the first step in getting Buck to listen.

He guides one of Buck’s thighs across his hips, shushes the sleepy sound Buck makes in response, then reaches for the lube, feels Buck turn and bury his face in his chest at the sound of the cap. It means Eddie feels his first moan like a tickle of warm air across his skin, finger back at Buck’s opening and making small circles against the rim.

“Always so good for me, cariño.”

He presses in just past the first knuckle and Buck whimpers, shakes his head.

“You are.” Eddie pushes his finger in a little further, starts to pump it gently in and out. “You are so perfect. So beautiful.”

Buck’s still shaking his head and Eddie wishes so much that Buck could see what he sees, could see all the light and beauty and good he adds to the world. But he knows Buck doesn’t see it that way, only sees his failures, especially on days like today. Days where Eddie needs to remind him even more that he’s good, that he’s loved, that he belongs.

Eddie presses another finger alongside the first, works Buck open with slow, even thrusts, twisting and scissoring his fingers until he’s got both in to the last knuckle, Buck shaking and panting against his chest.

“You’re so good,” Eddie whispers. “You want to protect everyone, saveeveryone. But sometimes you just can’t. And it’s okay.”

Buck is shaking his head again, eyes shut tight and face turned away, but Eddie keeps going, needs Buck to understand.

“And I will always love you, Evan. No bad day or pretty woman is going to change that. I love you. Every single piece of you.”

Buck lets out a choked sob and Eddie feels his heart break at the same time as relief rushes through him. He puts his hand on Buck’s face and guides him up, both of them shifting so Buck can hide in Eddie’s shoulder, clinging to him like a life raft as he shakes apart.

“You’re okay,” Eddie whispers. “I’ve got you, querido. No estas solo. Estoy aquí.”

Snot and tears are already dampening his skin and Eddie rubs a hand down Buck’s back, brings it back up to cradle the back of his head and press him further into his shoulder as he crooks his fingers, presses that spot inside him that makes Buck jerk and cry out, moaning brokenly into Eddie’s shoulder as Eddie pulls out to the first knuckle and pushes back in. He starts up a steady rhythm, thrusts his fingers in and out until Buck is loose enough to take a third.

Buck is trembling against him, crying and squirming in Eddie’s hold, one hand clutching at Eddie’s bicep and the other trapped somewhere between their sides.

“Taking my fingers so well, baby,” he says “Being so good for me. So perfect.”

Buck hitches his leg up a little more, gets his cock nestled in the groove of Eddie’s hip and starts to rock, pushing back into each of Eddie’s thrusts. His mouth is hot and wet against Eddie’s throat, letting out these choked little sounds that Eddie wants to taste.

“E-Eddie.”

“I’m here,” he murmurs, pulling him closer. “I’m right here. Just let go.”

Eddie can tell he’s getting close as his body tenses, puts an encouraging hand at his waist as he rocks back and forth between Eddie’s fingers and the cut of his hips. There are tears in his eyes and redness on his cheeks, but Eddie’s still never seen anything more beautiful, especially when he twists his hand and hits that bundle of nerves, Buck’s eyes fluttering shut and mouth open on a choked moan as he comes apart in Eddie’s arms.

And god, Eddie has no idea how he got so lucky, what he did to deserve this kind of trust, but he drinks it in greedily, keeps Buck full of his fingers and wipes at the tear tracks on his cheeks.

Buck collapses against Eddie’s chest and pants, every few breaths a shaky inhale, face red as he finally stops crying. His release is already drying between them but Eddie can’t find it in himself to care, just strokes at Buck’s face as he slowly comes back down to earth.

When blue eyes blink up at him, red and puffy but aware, Eddie offers him a gentle smile, leans down and presses a soft kiss to well-bitten lips.

“Perfecto.”

Buck huffs a small laugh against his mouth, a sound that tastes so sweet Eddie can’t help but lean in and lick it from Buck’s lips. He pulls out his fingers and swallows that whimper, too.

As perfect as the moment is, Eddie knows he’ll regret it in the morning if he doesn’t clean them up, gives Buck another gentle kiss before climbing out of bed and grabbing a warm washcloth from the bathroom. He washes his hands and wipes down his stomach first, then heads back out to Buck and does a gentle pass over his softening cock, the flat expanse of his stomach, and the insides of his thighs.

His hole is still wet with lube, stretched and pink from Eddie’s fingers. It makes something in Eddie burn a little brighter, like a hot coal at the base of his spine. He files that away for another time and cleans Buck up instead, throws the washcloth in the laundry and gets them both situated under the covers. Buck slots into his side immediately and Eddie feels himself relax, finally able to breathe again now that Buck is loose and happy by his side.

The room is dark and quiet and Eddie thinks for sure that Buck’s fallen asleep, almost jolts in surprise when he hears a sleepy voice say, “Thank you.” It’s muffled in his chest, but sends warmth tingling across his skin either way, makes him bite back a smile and lean down to press a kiss to the top of Buck’s head.

There’s a gentle intake of breath, and then Buck smiles, soft and squished against Eddie’s skin. “You’ve got me.”

“Yeah, Buck,” Eddie says, voice breaking slightly, tears pricking at his eyes despite the smile on his face. “I’ve got you.”

And he’s got every day for the rest of their lives to prove it.

 

He’ll have to Christopher help him pick out a ring.