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Is It Too Late?

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Buck had fallen for Eddie, and he’d fallen hard. He couldn’t remember when it happened, that gradual decent over the edge separating friendship and something more, but he knows that it’s true. Know that these feelings he has towards his best friend is something more real and stronger than anything he’s felt before. Each day that passes he somehow convinces himself that it’ll go away with time, only it gets stronger each time he sees the other mans face. 

At first the man had been content with being secretly in love with Eddie. He was okay with the waiting and the longing, because he knew that so long as he did so there could be nothing that could ruin them. There’s no risk in pretending other than to his own heart. He was more than content with being in love so long as he got to be there, got to keep the laughs and confiding and trust. He got to keep the visits and the pictures Christopher would give him because he didn’t risk throwing it away for something like unrequited feelings. 

That was until he became worried when he remembered that he was the only one holding off. Eddie still had the status of openness and the opportunity to try to find a relationship should he please. There was nothing holding him back like there was Buck. He was painfully reminded of this truth when Eddie confided im him, as friends do, about a hookup he had the previous night. 

Buck knew that Eddie wasn’t one for one night stands, but at the same time it had been a year since Shannon died. A year that he knew Eddie hadn’t been with a woman or man, so he understood why the man would choose to relieve himself when he got the opportunity. Logically, it all made perfect sense to Buck. But feeling always overwhelmed that logic in the man, and while he sat there and forced a smile while he listened to the man he loved tell him about the woman he was with the previous night....

He felt destroyed. 

Buck had decided that night, whilst tossing and turning in disgust while he imagined Eddie with someone else, that the only option for him was to try to move on. The only option that would protect his heart and help him maintain his relationship with his best friend was to force himself to let go. To un-love, no matter how impossible that night seem. 

That was when he met Jared. 

He was at the bookstore on the search for a very specific book that Chris had wanted for his birthday when he clumsily jumped into the man. It wasn’t often that people were taller than Buck, but this guy he ran into was at least a couple inches taller. That was the first thing he noticed before he realized that the guy was also incredibly attractive. Big green eyes with curly brown hair, broad shoulders that led to thick muscular arms. 

One thing led to another and somehow Buck left the store with the book and a phone number of a guy named Jared. They’d talked through text for a bit, testing the waters, and that was how Buck learned the guys full name was Jared Stone and he was a police officer. The texts turned into calls and the calls turned into dates. Soon Buck found himself lost in the touch of another man for the first time in over a year, drowning in lust and kisses and so much more. He found that he could allow himself to feel this way for Jared, though it wasn’t near the level of love he still had for Eddie deep inside, without guilt or worry. 

A month after their first official date is when Buck felt secure enough to make it official to more than just the two of them. The first people he introduced his boyfriend to were Bobby and Athena on a night they invited him over for dinner, hoping that their approval would make him feel better about the others. They seemed shocked at first, which was expected since his pansexuality was never formally stated, but they quickly adjusted.

It turned out that Athena knew him from work and therefore her approval was faster than anticipated. Bobby followed lead, a bit more hesitant, but by the end of the night Buck felt good about his new relationship. The following weekend is when he introduced Jared to Chim and Hen (again, there was that confusion and shock) but they were automatically supportive as well. Jared and Chim got along with banter and jokes while Hen got along with him over their similar type struggles from the past. 

Maddie had found out from Chimney, so Jared was forced to endure a dinner with her interrogations. By the end of the night she didn’t necessarily approve, insisting there was something off about her brothers partner, but didn’t disapprove either. To Buck that was basically a win. He felt on top of the world that night when he made love to his partner and started to genuinely believe there was a chance that he could move on. 

Which is why it felt like a sucker punch when Eddie confronted him the day before Chris’s birthday, both of them in the locker room preparing for the workday. He knew it was a mistake not to tell Eddie before the rest of the 118, knew that he’d find out by their loose lips, but he couldn’t help but be a coward and hold it off. Now he was paying the consequences. 

“I heard that you have a boyfriend,” Eddie said, voice hard, “Garret, wasn’t it?”

Buck let out a sigh, “Jared. I was meaning to tell you but things have been so cra—“

“Why didn’t you tell me you were pansexual? What, did you think I wouldn’t support you?” Eddie interrupted, slamming his locker shut. 

“No, no of course not. It’s just not something I tell people, I guess I just k-kinda assume that people will figure it out themselves.”

When he looked to Eddie he found the other man was oddly closed off, his whole body tense with cold eyes. Buck knew the man probably felt betrayed that he failed to tell him about something so important, let alone that he was the last to find out through someone else. Buck wanted nothing more than to hold him and apologize, but he shut that thought down because he had someone else to hold now. 

“Why didn’t you tell me? I heard you guys have been dating for months!”

Buck flinched at the other mans raised voice, “Technically it’s barely been two months now. We’d been talking for a few weeks before anything official happened, I didn’t want to rush. It’s why I didn’t tell anyone until I thought there was something to tell...something that could last?”

“Were you planning on bringing him to Chris’s party tomorrow?” Eddie asked, voice quieter now and somehow that made it hurt more. 

Buck shrugged, suddenly unable to look into those brown eyes he loved so much, “I wasn’t sure if you’d want him to come, since he’s a stranger and all. He’d been wanting to meet Chris, ya know since I talk about how much I care about him, but I figured it wouldn’t be a good time. So, um, no I wasn’t.”

Silence hung thick in the air and it was so deafening then Buck was suddenly thankful for the fact that he could hear his own nervous heartbeat. He wasn’t sure what reaction he was expecting, but it was more positive than this. So he smiled sadly at his friend, trying to force down the pain this brought him, and moved to leave the room. His hand was on the door handle when Eddie’s voice stopped him. 

“Does he make you happy?”

Buck hesitated, something he was sure his friend noticed, but answered with a soft “yes” before he left. He tried to push down the thought of, ‘not as happy as you would’ve’, as he climbed up the stairs and plastered a big fake smile on his face upon seeing them. The rest of the work day was tense and busy, calls back to back and silence when everyone could feel the chill coming from Eddie. For the first time since he met his best friend, since he fell in love with him, Buck found himself looking forward to getting off so he could be away from him. Away from the hurt that this rejection was causing him. 

He got a message from Eddie that night while laying under the weight of Jared’s body that said that Buck could bring his boyfriend due to Chris’s insistence. He wasn’t sure if that was true, but before he could ponder on it longer his partners hand tightened its hold around his waist and he forced himself to go back to sleep.

•••

The evening of the party had arrived and Eddie was a mixture of many emotions. He was mostly happy that his son was now 9, but a part of him was also nervous. Nervous about the fact his son was growing up, about the fact that he was less than a decade away from the boys graduation, and that he was about to see Buck with his boyfriend. The “Perfect” boyfriend for Buck, according to the rest of the 118.

It drove him insane how much he’s already heard about this Jared guy in the past 48 hours. Chim insisting that he was the hottest guy he’d ever seen while also not being a “total asshat”. Hen insisting that this guy was the perfect match for Buck, being just as kind and loving and playful. Bobby saying that the guy “seems to be what he needs in his life”. Even Athena, argumentatively the most judgmental in her critics, said that she was glad they found each other. 

Eddie hated every second of it. He hated hearing about a guy that he didn’t even know existed from people that weren’t his best friend. Despised how everyone seemed to think they were perfect together, when they’d only ever met the guy once. It made him see red, his stomach jerking, and his head spinning. They didn’t know what Buck needed, not like he did. And as he watched his friend walk into the back yard to join them, hand entwined with the tall stranger, he couldn’t help but he bitter because he knew this guy wasn’t what Buck needed. 

“Hey guys!” Buck greeted, wide smile on his face as he carried a bag full of presents. “Where the birthday boy?”

Eddie watched as Chris yelled with glee as he walked to give Buck a hug, feeling a bit of that burning in his chest lessen at the sight. Buck kneeled down and handed the birthday bag (nearly the same size as Chris) to him before pecking the kids cheek. Eddie was so distracted with the sight that he didn’t realize Jared had left Bucks side to greet them.

“Athena, Bobby, it’s nice to see you again,” he guy said, voice smooth and kind. “Hey Chim, hows Maddie doing? Still sick? And Hen, how is Karen feeling? I’ve been meaning to bring by some cookies to cheer her up but haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

Eddie couldn’t help but be bitter with how smooth he was when greeting them, as if he knew them for years rather than a few weeks. The guy was far too charming and charismatic for it to not be an act. Despite feeling wary about the guy, Eddie still plastered a forced smile on his face when the guy held out a hand and introduced himself. 

“I’ve heard so much about you,” Jared said, instantly wrapping his arm around Bucks waist when he joined them. 

“Wish I could day the same about you,” Eddie couldn’t help but bite out, ignoring the sharp looks he got from the others. 

Eddie noticed the flicker of darkness go through the guys green eyes, how his smile wavered a moment, and mostly how the guy pulled Buck closer in unsubtle possessiveness. He was so focused on these things he missed how Buck deflated at the instant tension that rose in the air. 

“So how did you guys meet again?” 

Jared smiled genuinely again, “Its pretty cliche actually. Evan ran into me at the library and got all flustered, which was adorable, and I couldn’t help but give him my phone number and help him find the book he was looking for.”

Eddie resisted the eye-roll, but couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at the use of Buck’s first name. Obviously this guy didn’t know his best friend as much as he makes it seem. “Oh, Buck you didn’t tell me you’re dating a librarian.”

Athenas eyes went wide at the obvious jab being made while Chim and Hen bit their lips to refrain from laughing awkwardly. Buck had gone uncharacteristically quiet, feeling anxious and worried, with his head ducked. His boyfriend had smirked at the challenge, pulling Buck impossibly closer before responding. 

“I’m not,” Jared said, “I’m a police officer actually. I thought you’d know this since you’re supposed to be Evans best friend but it seems like you’re only in this for yourself.”

“Alright,” Bobby interrupted at the rising tensions, “I’m gonna go get some drinks. Do you mind lending me a hand, Jared?”

“Of course not, sir,” there was that charming smile again before the brunette turned to Buck, “I’ll be right back babe.” 

Eddie nearly exploded with rage as he watched the kiss happen as though in slow motion. The kiss was deep and lingered longer than necessary before he pulled back, seemingly satisfied with Bucks flustered state, before walking with Bobby as if nothing happened. He knew he was shaking when Chim placed a firm hand on his shoulder as if to silently tell him to calm down. 

“What was that all about, Mr Macho?” Hen asked with forced laughter. 

“What are you talking about? I was just asking him questions.”

“Dude,” Chim said as he let go finally, “You were totally being a jerk. You knew he was a cop, I’m pretty sure that was like the first thing we told you after his name.”

Eddie shrugged, “I just don’t think that guy is all you make him out to be. Seems like he’s putting in a show, trying to be someone he isn’t. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Hen sighed but turned her attention to the still silent Buck, “You okay there, Buckaroo?”

Buck just nodded and before they knew it Bobby was back with Jared in tow. The man immediately returned to Bucks side, arm over shoulder, and handed him a beer. Eddie narrowed his eyes and knew he should stay silent but couldn’t help speaking,

“He can’t drink, he’s still on blood thinners. You’d know that if you were here when we saved him from a fire truck that nearly killed him.”

It felt as if everyone was either holding their breath or letting out a frustrated sigh. Jared was the only one who spoke, smile no longer on his handsome face, “He got off those two weeks ago. And don’t talk to me about being there for his trauma like it’s something you’re glad to have experienced. I’m there for him everyday now and every night when he struggles with nightmares.”

“Two weeks ago?” Eddie said at the same time the rest of the group said, “Nightmares?”

Buck heaved a sigh, “Jare, I told you not to tell them about those.”

The man turned to Buck as if betrayed, face slowly growing red as he growled out, “How can you make me the bad guy here? I’m trying to defend you from this asshole you call friend and all you can focus on is that I mentioned your nightmares?”

“No, that’s not—“

“Also, why the hell haven’t you said anything to defend me? You’re just standing here like someone kicked your puppy instead of being a man and saying something to defend me.”

“I’m sorry, okay? It won’t happen again, can we just all please drop this? We’re here for Christopher,” Buck said in an impossibly small voice, looking at the ground with dropped shoulders. 

“We’re leaving.”

Bobby was the one to speak again, “Now hold on, let’s not be rash Jared. This has all been a misunderstanding but that doesn’t mean you have to leave.”

“We,” The man stated again, “Are leaving. I’m obviously not wanted here. Come on, Evan, I want to go.”

“But Chris—“

“If you don’t come with me at this very moment then you might as well throw away my number like you’d be throwing away our relationship. I won’t repeat myself again.”

Ultimatums. There were always ultimatums.

Buck nodded weakly, “Okay. Go, um, go start the car while I say goodbye to Chris. I’ll be just a moment, promise.”

Jared seemed satisfied with his boyfriends choice because he agreed before walking off. Buck stayed there a moment, sniffling as he tried to hold back his tears, before looking up at them. His eyes were watery and red, making the beautiful blue pop more than usual, and his bottom lip was shaking. He just nodded as an acknowledgment of his goodbye before walking over to Chris who had just come back outside with his friends in tow. 

“Hey buddy,” he whispered gently, “I’m afraid something came up and I have to go home early.”

“But we didn’t even get to have cake or open presents yet,” Chris said sadly.

“I know buddy, I’m sorry. Make sure you save me a piece and maybe we can FaceTime tomorrow while you’re with your Abuela so you can show me all your gifts.”

The boy nodded in understanding, “I’m gonna miss you, Buck. I promise to call tomorrow.”

Buck hugged the boy before kissing his forehead, hoping his tears weren’t obvious this way, “I love you, Buddy. Happy birthday Superman.”

Before anyone had the chance to stop him, Buck was running towards his escape and back to his Jeep. Eddie was sick with guilt when he suddenly realized the consequences of his actions, and realized that he was being eyed down by the rest of the team. He looked back to where his son stood, who’s wide smile was now replaced with a small frown. Almost like the boy knew that his birthday had started off too good to be true.