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but i leave in my heart, cause i don't want to stay in the dark

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Buck hadn’t meant for it to come out.

But somehow, during one of his now-frequent late-night talks with Maddie, it had. In the midst of everything going on with his parents and practically reliving his pretty awful fucking childhood, it came out, stuttered in short bursts of words and tears that Maddie couldn’t understand the first four times Buck had tried to say it.

Eventually, though, she understood him. She held him, rubbing a hand up and down his back while he worked through his tears, telling him they would figure it out. That things would be okay, because somehow, in the end, things always turned out okay, didn’t they?

Buck didn’t believe her. Because even if things turned out okay in the end, it still took him a long time to build himself up and get to the ‘end.’

And he didn’t want it to take that long to tell Eddie Diaz that he was in love with him.

*

“Today is not our day, is it?” Hen asked as they made sure the ambulance was restocked with supplies.

Buck chuckled. “No, it’s definitely not. Hopefully the new guy will learn fast that you don’t call a day ‘quiet’ unless you want to spend it literally putting fires out all day.”

“Three auto accidents, four house calls, two fires – and our shift isn’t even half over,” Eddie’s voice piped in as he came over to hop up onto the back of the rig. He looked over at Buck, who sputtered and dropped the wrap bandages he was holding.

Hen raised an eyebrow at him as she bent down to pick them up. “You okay, Buckaroo?”

“Yeah,” Buck stammered out. “I just – I just remembered, Bobby asked me to help him with lunch. He’s making a huge spread because of the day we’ve had. See you guys later!”

Before he could run off though, the bell sounded once more, and a collective groan could be heard from around the firehouse.

*

People had a habit of not – wanting Buck. His parents, old friends who really just saw him as a ticket to parties, old flames who just wanted sex – no one ever wanted him to stick around. And after a while, it got to where he was used to being by himself. Not that he liked it, because he fucking didn’t. He was a people person, an outgoing person. He loved having someone by his side, loved the feeling of someone pressed against him, skin to skin, heart to heart. He supposes that’s why he went through his Buck 1.0 phase – it gave him what he craved, if only for a short while. He realized soon enough that they didn’t want him, though, just what he offered. So he stopped doing it. And then he found Abby. Thought maybe he’d found that one person – but then she ran off to find herself.

So, Buck decided to, too.

And he thinks he did a pretty damn good job of it. He was able to get himself to a place where he was getting better, he could feel himself getting better. He was talking to a therapist, was trying to be more open with his friends and his sister – his family. His found family, who he loved more than anything in the world, and he’d finally gotten to a place where he’d accepted that maybe they loved him too. Like Hen had said after they got him out of the burning factory – after they had shown up for him, risking their own lives for him – they always would.

But some days, there was still a little voice in the back of his head that told him they wouldn’t always be there. That they would leave eventually.

And Buck would be alone again.

*

“Alright, team, listen up! We’ve got another fire, this one in a high rise,” Bobby called, gesturing to the building behind him. “You know the drill. Stay with your teams, and report to IC. Keep them updated and stick together!”

Bobby finished his usual spiel before calling out teams – Buck and Bobby were to go in around the back, and Chim, Hen, and Eddie in through the front.

“I know we’re tired – it’s been a long shift, but I know we can do this,” Bobby said as they checked their gear one last time. “Get in, get out safely. See you through!”

Him and Buck took off for the back entrance to the building. Buck could feel the exhaustion coursing through him, making his limbs feel like sludge, but this was the job he signed up for. Taking a deep breath and clapping Bobby on the shoulder, he nodded at the older man before they jogged into the apartment building together, fire crackling all around them.

Buck knew he could count on Bobby. He knew that he wasn’t going in alone. But with the exhaustion coursing through him and the worry for his friends – for Eddie – that were feeling the same as he was right now, he wasn’t quite sure how he was going to handle this.

But then he saw Bobby’s jacket ahead of him, plowing through the debris left by the fire, and felt a spark of energy. He had Bobby. Eddie had Chim and Hen.

They’d be fine. Everyone would be. They had to be.

Buck knew they’d get through and knew his teammates would too – he’d see them on the other side.

*

Buck didn’t realize he was in love with Eddie until they left Texas a month before. Sure, he had eyes, and had always known Eddie was an attractive dude, knew that he was an amazing dad to Christopher, that he was one of the most selfless people he knew, someone willing to put himself on the line in a heartbeat. They had fun together. Buck never felt more at home than when he was with Eddie and Christopher.

But he never wanted to kid himself. He knew the friendship he shared with Eddie was something rare, something amazing – and he didn’t want to do anything to lose that.

In Texas though, when TK had made that comment about having a boyfriend, Buck was floored – not for reasons one might think, though. He hadn’t meant hang out like that with TK – not at all. But it got him thinking, and he spent the whole drive back to L.A. thinking about it: would he be interested in hanging out with TK like that – or any guy, for that matter?

When the answer hit him, it made for some very interesting therapy sessions and late-night texting sessions with TK, until Buck – with the help of both his therapist and TK – came to the conclusion that he was bisexual.

When he said it out loud for the first time (to TK, over FaceTime, because somehow it seemed easier to say it to someone he barely knew rather than someone he was close with) it felt like a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders, a weight Buck never knew was there until it was gone.

TK had just given him a knowing smirk and asked if he would be talking to Eddie any time soon.

Buck hung up on him, but the question had kept him awake all night.

*

“LAFD, call out!” Buck yelled, ducking around the growing flames shooting from the doorway to his left. He called out again, banging on doors as he walked by them.

“Buck, this floor is clear!” Bobby said, stopping in front of him. “The building isn’t go hold for much longer, let’s move out!”

Buck nodded and turned to head towards the stairs. He could feel the building creaking and shifting and knew they didn’t have much time. Luckily, they were only on the second floor. He heard Bobby behind him confirming with IC that they were clearing the building.

“Get out of there, fast,” the commander’s voice crackled through the radio. “I’ve ordered everyone out, that building is coming down.”

It was like a repeat of what happened at the factory fire the week before. The similarities were too much for Buck. He needed to get out of the building, and he needed to get out now. He kept repeating to himself that he wasn’t alone this time, that Bobby was right behind him, that there was no reason for him to just lay down and give up – Bobby was there, they were getting out, and getting to their team.

A loud explosion sounded above their heads, and Buck instinctively threw his arms over his head, ducking down.

The sound faded, but the building was shifting at an alarming rate now.

“Buckley! Let’s go!” Bobby said from behind him. “That sounded like a stove exploding a few floors up, and we need to get out of here before they all do!”

Buck didn’t have to be told twice. He jumped down the last flight of stairs, spotting the exit door. Throwing it open, he made sure Bobby was through it before they headed back around to the front of the building where command was set up.

“Bobby! Buck!”

Hen was flying towards them, and Buck tensed.

“Was Eddie with you guys?”

Buck felt his stomach drop straight to the ground.

“No,” he said, ripping his mask off, struggling to grasp what she was asking them. “He was supposed to be with you!”

Hen shook her head. “He split off from us, thought he heard someone calling for help towards the back of the building. Since you and Bobby were back there, we figured he’d find you guys and get out with you.”

Buck’s blood was running cold through his veins, turning every single cell to ice. Eddie couldn’t still be in the building, because the building was about to –

As if it had heard Buck thinking, the building gave one last earth-shattering shudder before sinking into itself, collapsing into a pile of flame and smoke.

A gut-wrenching cry ripped itself from Buck, and he felt Chim, Hen, and Bobby grab his turnout gear to stop him from running towards the fallen building.

*

The more he sat with his revelation, the more Buck realized how simple it really was: he was in love with Eddie.

He wanted to spend every day with him and Christopher. He wanted to be there to go to sleep with them and wanted to wake up every morning and make them breakfast. He wanted to make them smile, wanted to make them feel loved and wanted and cherished – he wanted to be their sunshine on their rainy days, he wanted to plant his roots with them and watch them grow.

He wanted to be their family.

The realization had hit him like a freaking freight train in the middle of the night, and then suddenly it was all he could think about.

He forgot how to act around Eddie. It was like he was a teenager again for god’s sake. And he absolutely no idea how to be subtle about it, so of course Eddie caught onto the fact that something was wrong right away. Buck’s solution to that was to just make himself scarce. He let the team think that he just needed time after his parents’ visit – which he did, because that was a whole other mess that his therapist had gotten earful about – and he took every odd job in the firehouse that would grant him solitude.

But time along with his thoughts soon proved to be the worst thing for him.

He started to think about how no one had wanted him, no one wanted him around, how he didn’t matter to anyone for the longest time, how he was never good enough, and how his parents’ visit had just dragged all of those feelings screaming back into existence.

What if Eddie felt the same? What if Buck confessing how he felt made Eddie leave, just like everyone did eventually? What if Eddie decided that Buck wasn’t worth the time?

The little voice in the back of his head was growing into a constant headache, running at a higher frequency these days, and almost gave Buck no choice but to listen to it.

*

Eddie!”

Buck whipped around to face his teammates. “We have to – we have to go find him!”

“Buckley,” Bobby said firmly, keeping his hands on Buck’s shoulders. “There is a protocol, and we will follow it. If Eddie is alive, we will find him.”

“That’s not good enough!” Buck yelled, trying to shrug the hands off of him so he could just get to the pile of smoking rubble. “That’s not – Eddie!”

He couldn’t be gone. Not now. Not like this.

“Buck,” Hen said. “We will go to command and tell them he’s still in there. We’ll get the right measures taken –”

“Guys,” Chim interrupted, pointing behind Buck. Buck turned around so fast his head started spinning, and he nearly collapsed when he saw a familiar figure walking towards them from the back of the rubble pile, coughing, but ultimately looking unharmed.

“Eddie!” Buck yelled, this time successfully wrenching out of his team’s grasp and running over to him. “What happened?”

“Thought I heard a kid crying,” Eddie said tiredly, letting Buck sling an arm around him to help him over to the ambulances. “Turns out it was just a doll. Dove through a window just as the building collapsed. Took me a minute to catch my breath before I could get up. Didn’t mean to make you guys worry.”

Buck could’ve started crying right then and there, could have spilled all of his feelings in that single moment, just so that Eddie would know.

“I’m just – we’re glad you’re okay, man,” Buck managed. He sat Eddie down on the back of their rig so Chim and Hen could look him over. Bobby headed to command to let them know their team was clear.

Buck took one more look at Eddie, covered in soot and ash and in his burned turnout gear and went around the side of the firetrucks and threw up.

*

It’d finally seemed to spill out and come to a head a couple of weeks after their parent had left. Buck had been stewing and stewing and had finally showed up to Maddie’s apartment door late one night. He’d been doing that a lot since their parents left – talking to her just made him feel better. He’d been hesitant to bother her like that all the time, but when he’d tried to bring it up she shot him a look so dark that instantly shut his mouth. She told him that if he needed someone to talk to, she would be that person. She would be there for him – she’d missed out on so much after she’d left with Doug, and she wasn’t going to leave him again.

Just like when Hen had said they would always come back for him, Buck felt a strong urge of emotion welling up in him, and he broke down – and couldn’t seem to stop.

It was like everything he’d been holding in came roaring out of him – everything he talked about with his therapist, his parents, learning about Daniel, learning he was bisexual, the factory fire, and finally, his stuttering confession about Eddie.

Maddie didn’t even bat an eye, just told him things would work out. Buck managed to get out that he couldn’t handle losing someone as important as Eddie and Maddie promised he wouldn’t.

As she’d hooked her pinky around his, he found the courage deep within himself to maybe, just maybe, believe it.

*

That didn’t mean that he was ready to talk about it with anyone else, least of all Eddie. He had planned on going back to making himself scarce, but unfortunately, the day after his breakdown in front of Maddie was the day of many calls.

After that horrible apartment fire where for a split, long second Buck had thought the worst, Eddie was quickly cleared by medical and was instructed to take the rest of the day off. He didn’t argue – Buck knew that whenever he had a close call like that, he just wanted to get home to Christopher immediately.

Just one more thing that Buck loved about him.

A bang on the lockers made Buck jump, and he grabbed his locker door and swung it out of the way to see Eddie standing there, arm resting above his head, looking way too smug for someone who had almost just died.

“…hi, Eddie,” Buck said wearily, sticking his head back into his own locker. He couldn’t look Eddie in the face right now, not so soon after –

Buck couldn’t lose Eddie. He fucking couldn’t.

“Buck, what’s going on, man?” Eddie cut right to the chase. “We tried to give you your space after your parents left, let you figure things out, but you know that we’re here, Buck, right? We’re here.”

“I know,” Buck mumbled, talking directly to the inside of his locker.

“Do you, Buck?” Eddie moved closer, moving Buck’s locker door. “Because you’ve had a lot going on the past few weeks, with your parents and family and all –”

You don’t know the half of it, Buck thought.

“– and we don’t want to see you isolate yourself like this.”

Buck sighed and slammed his locker door shut. “Eds, you literally almost died, like, an hour ago. Why are you trying to fix me right now? I should be the one trying to fix you.”

He winced as the words came out, because that’s not what he wanted to say, not at all, but it was the only way he could think to divert the attention away from himself right now.

Eddie shook his head. “I’m not trying to fix you, Buck, and I’m fine. But I don’t think you are, and you haven’t been for a long time and I – we just want you to know we’re here for you, Buck.”

“I know, Eds,” Buck said quietly, stepping around him and retreating into the main part of the firehouse.

The bell sounded once again, saving Buck from anymore of the conversation.

*

Instead of going home after shift, Buck found himself driving the familiar route to Eddie’s house. It was late enough that Christopher would be in bed, and Eddie should have been too after the day he had, so Buck didn’t know why he was driving there.

He felt like he didn’t really know anything anymore.

He wasn’t sure he was ready to talk to Eddie, but he also knew that there couldn’t be another close call like today without talking to Eddie.

Pulling into the driveway, he turned his Jeep off and rested his head against the headrest of the seat, closing his eyes.

He could barely focus on one single thing in everything that seemed to be swirling around inside of him, until something Eddie said earlier was pushed to the forefront of his mind.

We’re here for you.

Then it was Hen saying they would always come back for him.

Maddie saying she wasn’t going to leave him again.

He had a family, he had people he cared about, so why did he keep feeling like this?

Buck saw the porchlight come on from underneath his eyelids and cracked one eye open. Eddie had stepped out onto the porch, staring curiously at Buck’s Jeep.

No going back now.

With weary legs and a heavy mind, Buck stepped from the Jeep carefully, as if each step he took was going to blow a minefield open.

“Buck?” Eddie asked when Buck climbed the stairs to the porch. “What are you doing here?”

Buck didn’t trust himself to answer. He brushed past Eddie, going to sit down on the couch. A memory surfaced, when he’d told Maddie that it was Eddie’s house, he wasn’t really a guest, and he felt less bad about ignoring the man to all but barge into his house.

Eddie came to sit down, staring cautiously at the younger man.

Nothing was said for a long time. Buck could hear the clock ticking from the fireplace mantle. If he concentrated hard enough, he could almost hear Christopher’s light snoring coming from his bedroom. The traffic of L.A. was muted, as were the thoughts in Buck’s head.

He had never appreciated Eddie more than in this moment when he was giving him the space he needed before he spoke.

“Did you mean what you said, earlier?” Buck finally asked, his voice barely more than a whisper. “That you’re here for me?”

Eddie looked at him like he’d grown another head. “With everything that I have, Buck. I will always want you, I will always need you.”

“There’s – there’s – something I have to -”

The words were stuck in Buck’s throat. He couldn’t swallow them but couldn’t speak them.

“Buck,” Eddie said firmly. “I need you to hear me say this. You are by far one of the most important people in my life – in Christopher’s life. We will always need you, and we will always be here for you. Nothing you say or do will make us leave. Ever.”

“I love you.”

The words were a ghost of a whisper, so faint that Buck wasn’t even sure he spoke them.

But the way Eddie’s head snapped up, his eyes burning with something Buck couldn’t quite identify, told Buck that he did indeed say them, and Eddie did indeed hear them.

“What?”

Buck took a deep breath and cleared his throat. “I love you. I want to spend every waking moment with you, and with Christopher, if you’ll have me. But if you don’t – if I said something wrong, or said something –”

Buck was cut off by Eddie launching himself across the couch, barreling into Buck’s chest, wrapping his arms around his shoulders and pressing Buck to him, their hearts beating fast against one another.

Buck,” Eddie said, clutching at him tighter when he felt Buck all but collapse into him.

The two stayed pressed together for a long moment, before Eddie pulled back slightly.

“I am so lucky to exist at the same time as you,” Eddie whispered, taking Buck’s face between his hands and using his thumbs to swipe at the tears falling down his face. He leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Buck’s cheek. “I am so lucky that I know you and your wonderful, wonderful heart.” He kissed the other cheek. “I’m so lucky to have someone who would walk to the ends of the Earth and over the edges for me, and for Christopher.” He kissed the tip of Buck’s nose. “And I’m lucky that you teach me more and more every day – you teach me not to give up, you teach me to have courage, and you teach me to love boldly.”

He ended his speech with a soft kiss to Buck’s mouth, finally feeling the younger man let the tension he’d been holding his entire life drain out of his body.

When the two pulled away from each other, Eddie was surprised to see a small smile across Buck’s face.

“Is that your way of saying you love me too?” Buck asked softly, but still so hesitantly. Eddie wanted to find those parents of his and rip them a new one for making Buck think he wasn’t deserving of love.

Eddie smiled this time. “I’ve only been in love with you since you decided to help me defuse a bomb on our first day working together. Christopher teases me about it all the time.”

Christopher knows?” Buck guffawed, burying his face into his hands.

“He’s pretty sneaky,” Eddie laughed. “But I think he’ll be happy to know that his Buck will be here a lot more often.”

Buck reached forward and pressed a soft kiss to Eddie’s lips, before wrapping his arms around the other man, pressing his cheek against Eddie’s. Eddie reciprocated, letting their breathing drift together until it was in sync.

“I’m not going anywhere, Buck,” Eddie murmured. “I’m here, when the waves come too deep and when the fires are burning too strong. I’m here.”

Buck sighed softly, closing his eyes, breathing in the familiar scent of Eddie – of home.

“For what it’s worth,” Buck whispered against Eddie’s heartbeat, “I’m here too. Always.”