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What’s left of my heart’s still made of gold

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There’s a tiny piece of Buck’s heart that holds his parents - that loves them simply because he doesn’t know how not to. And a piece for Abby. And Noah, from back when he was in college. Maddie, Jee-Yun, Bobby, Athena, Hen, and Chim.

And, and, and.

Sometimes Buck thinks his whole heart is made up of other people, because he somehow finds a way to love everyone that spends a little time in his life. Like who he is is just a mosaic of all the people he’s ever known and loved. He’s just like that - soft, maybe. A heart so big he can barely breathe past the weight of it.

Maybe it’s foolish, to give his heart and his love so freely - that’s why its been broken so many times, after all. But he keeps doing it anyway, keeps loving because that’s all he knows how to do. Keeps giving himself to other people so they’ll never have to feel as lonely as he did.

But when Eddie walked into his life, something just felt different.

Eddie and Chris were holding his heart in their hands before Buck even gave it permission to love them. It’s like they reached inside and plucked it from his chest, and they’ve been keeping it safe ever since. Cradling it like it’s something precious - like it’s worth something even though it’s all cracked and splintered and hard to make sense of.

Buck has always felt safe with the Diaz boys. Until Ana shows up and sends his whole world spinning out of orbit.

Because she’s beautiful - absolutely radiant, and fits with Eddie and Chris like she was the missing piece to their puzzle. She’s smart, and kind, and gentle. Honestly, Buck can’t find a single thing to fault about her. And isn’t that just pathetic, that he was waiting and hoping for something - anything - that made Ana just a little less perfect, a little less good.

But the more Buck gets to know her - and he has plenty of time to do that seeing as she’s always around - the better she seems. Sure she’s a little too careful with Chris, but it’s only because she cares. And she might be a little high maintenance, but there’s nothing wrong with knowing what you deserve.

So the point is Ana is wonderful, and Buck absolutely hates her.

Or. He doesn’t hate her, because she’s far too lovely for that, but he definitely hates her with Eddie.

He hates her when she shows up to their Buckley-Diaz movie night and takes Buck’s usual place beside Eddie on the couch. He hates her when she comes to Bobby and Athena’s barbecue with a (delicious) home-baked apple crumble. And he especially hates her when she arrives at the station with muffins and charms the whole team.

It aches something fierce every time Buck has to watch her with Eddie and Christopher - watch her learn her way around their house, and slot so seamlessly into their lives that Buck isn’t sure he belongs there anymore.

Part of him knows he should pull away, wants to even, but when he tries Eddie just pushes back. When Buck cancels on movie night, Eddie and Chris show up at his apartment the day after. And when he backs out of their (and Ana’s) trip to the zoo, they just make him go again the weekend after.

It’s like Eddie won’t let him go, and who is Buck to argue?

He should, of course. He would, if he knew what was good for him. But sometimes it feels like so little of Buck’s heart is reserved for himself, like he gives so much love to everyone else that there’s none left over to keep. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t know how to put himself first - why he doesn’t know how to protect himself from all the things and people that might hurt him.

“Hey Ana, nice to see you again,” Buck greets her.

It’s Eddie’s turn to host their monthly team get-together, and Ana is already there when Buck arrives. She’s helping put all the food out on the dining table, and looks as lovely as ever in a pink polka-dot dress.

“You too, Buck,” she says with a smile. “How have you been?”

It feels false, talking with her like this. Exchanging pleasantries and small talk as if Buck doesn’t absolutely despise her presence in this house, with his family. As if he isn’t devastatingly in love with her boyfriend.

But she’s important to Christopher and to Eddie, and Buck wouldn’t ever do anything to jeopardise that. So he’s just about to answer when-

“Buck!”

Christopher barrels into him and wraps his arms tight around Buck’s waist, and suddenly all that heaviness in his heart is gone. He looks down and Chris is already looking up at him with that sunshine smile of his stretched across his face.

“Hey buddy! How are you doing?” Buck asks.

“Good! But I missed you,” Chris answers, his smile falling just a fraction.

“I missed you too Chris,” Buck says honestly. Then, “Hey, how did you do on that art project we worked on?”

Chris’ smile is back to full brightness when he says, “A plus.”

Buck gives him a high five. “I knew you’d do great.”

Eddie chooses that moment to walk into the room, and Buck feels that weight settle in his chest again when Ana immediately goes to his side.

“Buck, I didn’t know you were here.”

Buck shrugs. “I came to help you guys set up, but I guess you’ve got all the help you need.”

And isn’t that the truth.

Everyone else slowly starts to arrive, and Ana makes sure their plates and drinks are always filled. She floats around the garden and the house, laughing and smiling, and joining in with all the separate conversations going on. She just fits so easily, with Eddie and Chris, with the team, in this house that Buck had always secretly thought of as home.

He can’t help but feel a little betrayed when he sees Ana cooing over baby Jee and Maddie talking with her like they’re the best of friends. It’s stupid and petty, but it’s the way he feels and it’s not like he can control it.

Buck almost wants to leave, but then Eddie is sidling up to him and giving him a gentle nudge in the ribs.

“I love this,” Eddie says to him.

Buck asks, “What?”

He doesn’t even glance at Eddie. It’s just - you know how you can’t look at the sun for too long before it starts to hurt? Well Eddie is the sun, and Buck is like a moth to a flame; if he flies too close, he’s going to get burned.

“You know, this. Family,” Eddie explains, gesturing around the garden. “I had a big family in Texas, but it wasn’t like this - it didn’t feel like this.”

Buck nods his head and hums into agreement. He gets it. Sometimes when he thinks about it too much, it takes the breath out of him - this team, this family who would do anything and everything for each other. They walk through fire for each other, risk life and limb and ask for nothing in return. Maddie had done everything she could to give Buck the childhood he deserved, but he’d never had anything like this before.

It’s a lot, sometimes. He gets why Eddie cherishes it.

“Yeah,” Buck agrees.

“Closest thing I had to this was the army, but that was different. We all drifted apart.”

There’s a twinge of sadness in Eddie’s voice, and Buck wishes he could do something to take it away. He knows that the war lives inside of Eddie - that some days he feels like he’s still fighting it, especially after the sniper. It’s like Afghanistan followed him home. But if this misfit family brings Eddie even the smallest amount of peace, Buck is glad for it.

“But that won’t happen to us, right?” Eddie says, his voice teasing.

The words are familiar - Buck had said them once before, when he was desperate to hold onto this thing they were building, but still so terrified of losing it. And when he turns to Eddie, Buck is pleased to see that his eyes are already on Buck and he’s smiling.

“Right,” he agrees, grinning.

There’s a lull in conversation, a brief few moments where they just stand side by side and watch the people that they love having fun together. It’s a comfortable quiet because things are always comfortable between Buck and Eddie.

Until Buck opens his mouths and ruins it.

“Ana seems to fit in well.”

He wants to kick himself as soon as he says it. Buck barely gets five minutes alone with the Diaz boys nowadays, and even then he has to bring Ana up. It’s pitiful, really.

“You think?” Eddie sounds mildly surprised.

Buck takes a swig of his beer - he’s driving so he has to make this one last - then nods his head. It’s not like he’s lying, even though he wishes it wasn’t true. Wishes that she didn’t look so right meandering through their family, fluttering from group to group like a goddamn butterfly or something.

“Yeah man, look at her.”

She’s crouched down beside Chris now, and he’s tipping his head back and laughing at whatever it is that she said. Buck feels suddenly, fiercely jealous. He wants to scoop Chris up into his arms and take him away from her - wants to hold him close so no one else can ever take his place in Chris’ life. It’s stupid and selfish, and Buck hates himself a little for it.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Eddie acknowledges, but he still sounds unsure.

Buck should ask, probably. He’s supposed to be there for Eddie - they’re best friends first and foremost, after all. But he just can’t. He can’t stand here and listen to Eddie talk about her because it just might kill him.

He finishes his beer in two large gulps, then gives Eddie a friendly slap on the shoulder.

“I’m gonna head out.”

Eddie’s brows furrow in confusion. Buck is always the last to leave because he usually sticks around to help with the clean up, and if Chris isn’t too tired they stick a movie on and settle in for a couple of hours. But Ana is here now, and as much as Buck doesn’t like her being around, he’s sure that she’s starting to feel the same about him.

“But it’s early?”

Buck nods. “Yeah I’m shattered, didn’t sleep well last night.”

Except that was the worst thing he could say, because now Eddie has his worried face on and he’s looking at Buck with big, questioning eyes.

“Nightmares?” Eddie asks.

Yes.

Buck shakes his head and smiles. “Nah man, just couldn’t get to sleep.”

Buck is lying and he knows that Eddie knows that he is. But Eddie doesn’t call him out on it, so Buck says a quick goodbye to everyone (Jee and Chris get an extra few minutes because they’re his favourite) and then heads home where he can fall apart away from prying eyes.

He knows what he needs to do. He needs to take a step back and let them find a rhythm without always being around to disrupt it. He knows he needs to let this happen, because she’s good for them and there’s nothing in this world Buck wants more than for Eddie and Christopher to be happy.

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt in a thousand terrifying ways.

—————

Buck is sitting on his couch, eyes red from crying, when his front door opens and Maddie walks in.

“Mads?”

“Evan.”

She doesn’t say anything else, just walks over and places Jee straight into his arms. And like, Buck is never going to complain about getting to see his little angel, but he’s not entirely sure what they’re doing here.

Maddie gets comfy on the opposite end of the couch, feet tucked beneath her and facing Buck head-on. She still isn’t saying anything though, so Buck diverts his attention back to Jee, who is already half asleep with a windy smile on her face. He lets his finger brush down her nose and his stomach goes all gooey when her eyes flutter closed.

“So, not that I’m not happy to see you both, but what are you doing here?” Buck asks, eyes still on Jee because he’s not sure what he’s gonna see on Maddie’s face.

“You need baby cuddles,” Maddie says, as if that’s an explanation in itself.

And like, she’s not wrong, but still. That doesn’t really answer Buck’s question.

He looks up at her and raises his eyebrows questioningly. Maddie just looks at him like he’s stupid.

“I know you Evan Buckley, I raised you.”

“And what do you know?”

“That your heart is hurting.”

She says it so casually, as if the words don’t knock Buck sideways with the force of them. He knows it’s written all over his face though, that he couldn’t deny it even if he wanted to, so he shrugs his shoulders gently, careful not to disturb Jee.

“I’m pretty observant,” she begins. “And while I was watching you, you were watching Ana. Like, every single move she made. It would have been creepy if it was anyone else.”

He can feel his cheeks burning. Buck thought he was subtle today, and he hadn’t realised that Maddie had been keeping an eye on him.

“Maddie-“

“You barely looked away.”

“It’s not - it’s not what you’re thinking,” Buck scrambles to explain.

Because the last thing he needs is Maddie thinking he’s pining after Ana. That would solve absolutely nothing, and create a whole host of other problems for him to deal with. And just - ew, really. No. Never.

“What am I thinking?” She asks.

“That I, you know, like her,” Buck elaborates. “Which I don’t.

The room is deafeningly quiet for a fraction of a second, and then Maddie is laughing like Buck just told the worlds greatest joke. Which - he does kind of feel like the punchline sometimes, but still.

She leans forward, laughter still curling at the edges of her mouth, and rests a hand on Buck’s knee. She squeezes tight.

“Evan, I know you don’t like Ana.”

And that’s a relief, because -

“You like Eddie.”

He can’t move, can’t think, can’t breathe.

No one was ever supposed to find out. Buck is kind of like an open book - he wears his heart on his sleeve. But no one was ever supposed to know this. It’s too real, it hurts too much to touch.

And it’s Maddie, so he trusts her completely, but he can’t do this - he can’t talk about this. Having someone else know makes it real, and if it’s real then it can ruin him. It can ruin them - Buck, and Eddie and Chris, and this messy half-family that he thinks he’d die if he lost completely. And this is the one thing that might make Buck lose them.

“Maddie, I can’t-“ his chest is tight and he can’t unstick the words from the back of his teeth.

“Evan, it’s me. It’s okay.”

He shakes his head. “No, it’s not.”

He blinks back tears as he looks down at Jee. She’s sleeping soundly, unaware of all the chaos swirling inside the person holding her. Sometimes Buck feels a little envious of her - of her innocence, of how she’s never known anything bad and won’t have to for a very long time, if Buck has anything to do with it.

He’d set the whole world on fire and then walk through the flames to keep Jee-Yun safe.

“It’s okay to love him,” Maddie tells him.

Buck takes a deep, shaking breath to stop himself from crying.

“It hurts,” he admits out loud for the very first time.

“Loving him?”

Buck shakes his head. “No, loving him is the easiest thing in the world. It hurts that he doesn’t love me back.”

He feels selfish for feeling that, and even more so for saying it aloud. Because Eddie has given Buck things that no one else ever has before: a genuine friendship, unflinching loyalty, trust, a relationship with Christopher. It should be enough. God, it is enough. He would never ask for more than Eddie is able to give him - he’ll take whatever he can from them and it’ll be enough.

It’s just. None of this hurt so much before Ana. It was different when Shannon came back, because she was Eddie’s wife and Christopher’s mother, and Buck grieved for them when she died. But Ana is new - they don’t have some deep, complicated history that they’re trying to navigate or hold on to. She’s their future, and they’re making a life together, and Buck doesn’t think there’s a space for him in it.

“I don’t know where I belong without them anymore,” Buck confesses, voice quiet and shaking. “But I don’t think I belong with them, either.”

“Oh Evan,” Maddie sighs. “You’ll always belong with them - Eddie and Chris both love you.”

He laughs sadly. “They love Ana, too. And that’s all that matters, really. I knew it might happen one day - that he’d find someone and they wouldn’t need me around so much, but I didn’t think it would hurt quite this bad.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Maddie says.

There’s a glint in her eyes that means trouble - that tells Buck he shouldn’t ask her to elaborate.

He asks anyway.

“I’m just saying that Eddie spent more time with you than with Ana today.”

But that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t mean anything and he won’t let Maddie convince him otherwise. So he changes the topic, and diverts the conversation every time she tries to circle back to it. And then before he knows it both of his favourite girls are heading out the door and home to Chim.

He’s glad when they’re gone. Not because he doesn’t enjoy every single second he gets to spend with them, but because when he’s on his own he doesn’t have to keep the facade up.

He looks in the mirror before he crawls into bed. He looks at the messy curls that he’s run his hands through one too many times. He looks at his birthmark, and the dark circles under his eyes, and the way his mouth is turned down sadly at the corners - and he isn’t sure he recognises himself.

Maybe so much of his heart is home to other people that there’s no Buck left in there. Maybe he’s no one, really - just a mirror image who reflects whatever people need to see.

He goes to sleep with an aching chest.

—————

He starts to get used it, but it never hurts any less.

He’ll see Ana press a kiss to Eddie’s cheek, or wrap an arm around his waist, or ruffle Christopher’s hair, and it hits him like a wrecking ball every damn time. An arrow straight to his heart. And he knows he’s just being bitter, but it kind of feels like she’s trying to stake her claim - like it’s her way of saying they’re mine now.

Yeah, he’s definitely bitter.

It makes it marginally less painful that Eddie isn’t openly affectionate with her whenever they have company - dodging a kiss on the lips, or shifting out from under her arm after a few minutes. It makes it more bearable, but never easy.

Buck did what he promised himself he would do: he pulled back. He’s around the Diaz house less now, and he definitely doesn’t show up uninvited anymore, but it’s not like he can pull away completely. It’s not like he would ever want to. He still makes sure he’s there for Chris whenever he wants or needs him, because it’s not the kids fault that Buck fell in love with Eddie.

So he’s at the Diaz’s because there was a movie that Christopher wanted to watch that he absolutely needed Buck there to see. And okay, yes, it was great, Chris was right, and Ana wasn’t there either which made it that much easier for Buck to breathe.

But it was getting a little late and Chris was getting sleepy, which is how Buck ends up perched on the side of Chris’ bed with Eddie sitting down at the bottom, as they take turns reading from Christopher’s book. He insists that he’s too old for them to read to him before bed, but it doesn’t count with this book because he needs both of them to do the different voices or it isn’t the same.

It’s not like Buck is ever gonna say no to the kid. God help him when Jee is older and they both team up against him.

It doesn’t take all that long for Chris to fall asleep, and after sharing a look with Eddie, both of them sneak out of his room silently.

They don’t make a sound until they’re safely in the living room, and then Eddie falls back on the couch with a groan. He reaches his arms up into the air to stretch, and when his t-shirt rides up and Buck can see the smooth line of his hip bone he has to quickly avert his eyes before he gives everything away.

“I should head out,” Buck says, throwing in an exaggerated yawn as way of an explanation.

(Buck doesn’t see the flash of disappointment on Eddie’s face - he’s too busy looking everywhere but at him.)

“No man, stick around for a bit. I hardly see you anymore,” Eddie argues.

Buck laughs. “I spend half of my life with you,” he retorts.

He sits down beside Eddie anyway because he hasn’t figured out how to say no to him, either. Eddie shoves his shoulder lightly.

“Only at work.”

And okay, that’s fair. But Buck is doing this for Eddie- for the future that he’s building with someone who isn’t him. So however much this might suck for Eddie, it’s a million times worse for Buck.

“You’re hardly ever around anymore,” Eddie says, and he sounds kind of whiny. Buck doesn’t know what to do with that.

“I’m always here for Chris.”

“No, I know that. Of course you are. I just - we never really hang out anymore,” he says.

Buck shrugs his shoulders because he really doesn’t know what to say to that. He can’t very well tell him the truth: it hurts too much to see you with her.

“Is it Ana?”

Buck isn’t expecting him to ask that. Even if Eddie was suspecting it, Buck didn’t think he’d just come out and say it. And he wants to say no, but he knows instantly that his expression has given him away by the look that crosses Eddie’s face. It’s a mixture of hurt, and relief, and something else Buck can’t quite work out.

“You don’t like her?” Eddie asks.

“No, no that’s not it at all,” Buck tells him, and it isn’t even a lie. Not really.

“Then what?”

Buck laughs and shrugs his shoulders.

“She’s your girlfriend, buddy. I don’t think you need me hanging around like a third wheel. I don’t think she does.” That’s also true, even if it’s not all of the truth.

But then Eddie is frowning as he leans towards him and says, “Has she said something to you?”

He sounds pissed, and it probably shouldn’t make Buck feel good, but it does. It’s nice having Eddie care about him - it’s one of Buck’s favourite things maybe ever. And he likes that Eddie seems willing to have his back, even if it’s against his own girlfriend.

“No, but she doesn’t have to,” Buck explains. “It’s your relationship, I’m just a spare part.”

It’s supposed to be a joke, but Eddie doesn’t seem to think it’s funny. He shifts closer, rests his hand on Buck’s shoulder and looks him right in the eye when he says, “Don’t talk about yourself like that.”

Buck is rendered speechless by the intensity in Eddie’s eyes, and he’s searching for something to say that isn’t I love you when there’s a knock at the door.

He doesn’t think he’s imagining the disappointment on Eddie’s face, the way he lingers just a few seconds longer than he should when he has to get up to answer it. Or maybe he is. Yeah, he probably is.

Eddie looks over his shoulder at Buck, and then he answers the door.

Buck hears her voice before he sees her.

“Surprise,” she says, greeting Eddie.

“Ana, hi, what are you doing here?”

Eddie sounds uncomfortable and Buck knows it’s because of him - because of the conversation they’ve just had. He doesn’t want to do that to Eddie, to either of them, so he stands up and quickly pulls his jacket on so he can leave. His keys make too much noise when they jangle in his pocket though, because then Ana is looking around Eddie and her eyes widen when she sees Buck.

“Oh sorry, I didn’t realise you had a guest,” she says.

And fuck, she’s just being polite but a guest? Buck hates that. He’s never once felt like he didn’t belong in this house until this very moment, with Ana watching him like he’s something out of place.

“No, it’s Buck,” Eddie says.

Buck’s heart does something complicated in his chest when he hears that. Not a guest, it’s Buck.

“I’m just heading out, don’t worry,” Buck says, laughing awkwardly.

Ana has slipped past Eddie and inside the house, but Eddie is still standing with the door half open. He moves to close it when Buck says that, though, and shakes his head.

“You don’t have to go,” Eddie tells him.

Buck’s eyes flicker between Ana’s frustrated face, and Eddie’s hopeful one, and he knows instantly that he can’t stay in this house with the two of them.

“You two have a good night,” Buck says.

He moves towards the door, and for a second Eddie just stands there, eyes trained on Buck as he blocks the exit. But then he looks at Ana, then back to Buck, and steps away.

Buck doesn’t take a breath until he’s locked the door of his jeep and he’s resting his head on the steering wheel. He can feel his heartbeat in the back of his throat, and his teeth are clenched so tightly that his jaw is beginning to ache.

He doesn’t remember making it home.

He doesn’t remember falling asleep either, but he wakes up the next morning with tired eyes and a throat sore from trying not to cry.

It’s barely 10am when there’s a knock at his door.

After tossing and turning for most of the night Buck is tired, and cranky, and not in the mood for people. It’s his day off, and all he wants to do it’s curl up on the couch and catch up with the latest season of Deadliest Catch. He’s not up for entertaining people, and he’s considering just ignoring whoever it is when there’s another loud thump on the door.

He looks upwards hoping for some kind of divine intervention, but when nothing happens he groans and drags himself to the door.

He isn’t expecting to open it and see Eddie standing there. He looks tired too, like maybe Chris gave him a hard time getting ready for school this morning. Buck hopes that’s what it is, because he refuses to even consider the alternative.

“Hey?”

“You left,” Eddie says as she shoves past Buck and stalks into his apartment.

“What?” Buck is too tired for this.

He closes the door and follows Eddie into the kitchen, where he’s pacing up and down and rubbing his hands together. Buck kind of wants to ask but somehow he knows that he’d rather not have this conversation. So he stands and watches for a while, until Eddie speaks again.

“I told you you didn’t have to go, but you still did.”

Buck can’t help but laugh.

“Your girlfriend showed up and wanted to spend some time with you,” Buck says, even though he feels like it should have been self-explanatory.

Eddie stops pacing right in front of Buck. He’s frowning, and chewing on his bottom lip like he sometimes does when he’s stressed out. Buck doesn’t ever want to be the reason for Eddie’s stress, but he really doesn’t feel like this is his fault. Like, at all.

“I invited you, I didn’t invite her.”

“Technically Chris invited me,” Buck corrects, just to be contrary.

Eddie gives him a capital-L Look, so Buck just shuts his mouth.

“I didn’t want you to leave. I asked you to stay.”

“Okay, I’m sorry? I don’t know what you want here, man,” Buck admits. “I was just trying to give you some privacy.”

It’s like he can’t do anything right. He can’t hang around too much because he isn’t actually part of their family - not really - and they don’t need a third wheel in their relationship. But then he gives them space to be alone together, and that’s wrong too?

It just feels like Buck is missing something here. Because he isn’t an expert by any means, but with all of his past relationships he’d actually wanted to spend time with them. He doesn’t think it’s that outlandish of a concept, but Eddie is acting like Buck is being ridiculous.

“I didn’t want privacy, Buck.”

And yeah, Buck just isn’t getting this. At all.

“It’s been weird between us for ages because of Ana, y’know? And I was starting to think that maybe I didn’t want a relationship with someone if it was going to cause problems with my friends,” Eddie says.

“Eds-“

“But then last night you left, and all I could think was that it was Ana that I wanted to leave.”

It’s like all the air gets sucked out the room, his lungs, the whole goddamn planet. Buck’s mouth falls open ever so slightly, and he’s honestly not sure if he’s hearing things - if this whole thing is just some kind of exhaustion-induced hallucination.

But Eddie is looking at him, all soft and serious, with that cracked-open expression on his face, and he knows this is real. Because even in his dreams, Buck had never imagined Eddie could look at him like this.

“Carla told me to make sure I was following my heart, and I wasn’t sure what she meant until last night. Until you walked out that door, and all I wanted to do was follow you.”

Buck doesn’t know what to say, or do, or think. He’s frozen in place - can’t make his mouth, or body, or brain do anything. It’s just that none of this feels real. It is, he knows it is, but it feels so impossible that he can’t even begin to process what’s happening.

“Eddie, I don’t-“ he stutters, but can’t find a way to finish his sentence.

“I didn’t know, Buck. I didn’t realise that I was hurting you, but I was, wasn’t I?” Eddie asks, but he doesn’t wait for an answer. “The way I felt when I saw you with Taylor - you had to feel that all the time. I’m so sorry.”

Buck doesn’t think there’s a name for what he’s feeling right now, and the words to describe it haven’t even been invented yet.

It sure is something, that Eddie doesn’t even have to question Buck’s feelings for him. It’s like he just knows with complete certainty that Buck loves him, and he’s not sure if it’s because Buck is that obvious, or because they just know each other so well, but Buck’s stomach feels all twisty.

He feels too vulnerable, too exposed having Eddie know. Even if maybe, somehow, Eddie feels the same.

“I love you, Buck.”

Eddie whispers the words, says them slowly like he’s trying them out for size, testing whether or not he likes the taste of them in his mouth. And then a smile rises like the sun across his face, and he’s reaching out for Buck - resting his hands on Buck’s shoulders, letting his thumbs brush either side of his throat.

Eddie laughs. “Fuck, I love you,” he says again.

And Buck starts to panic.

He can’t do this, doesn’t know how to anymore. He always ruins things, even when he’s trying so hard not to, and he can’t do that to Eddie. To Christopher. It would be different if it was someone else - he could risk it, maybe.

But it’s not someone else. It’s Eddie, and it’s Chris, and they’re too precious to him - mean far too much for Buck to ever let himself ruin them. There isn’t enough left of his heart for it to hold them without hurting them.

He wants, he wants, he wants.

But he won’t take, he won’t be that selfish.

“Evan,” Eddie whispers his name like a prayer, and Buck wants to cry.

He looks him in the eye and he can see it, all the love that Eddie has for him. It hurts to look at, so he scrunches his eyes closed. Then Eddie’s hands are on his face, stroking his cheekbones so gently that Buck can feel himself starting to unravel.

“You’re so good, Evan. You deserve this, we deserve this. It’s okay,” Eddie says it like he knows exactly what Buck is thinking, where his mind is spiralling to.

“I can’t.”

It’s all he’s ever wanted and now it’s being offered to him on a silver platter, and Buck doesn’t know to take it.

“Kiss me,” Eddie whispers.

“No.”

“Kiss me.”

“No.”

“Please.”

Buck’s eyes fly open, and that one word - that one, breathless please - is all it takes to send Buck’s reservations crumbling to the ground.

He kisses Eddie.

It’s frantic and biting, and then it’s slow and tender as they give and take in equal measure. The press of Eddie’s lips against his own answers every question he could possibly ask. Buck can taste it - the love, and relief, and desperation, and longing. And maybe Buck has known longer, but this isn’t entirely new to Eddie. Buck can feel it in the way he holds him close, the ways his hands move through his hair, down his back, and to his waist.

It’s like Eddie is pouring every bit of his love for Buck into the kiss, as if he’s trying to convince him that they can have this - that they’re allowed it.

Buck believes him.

“I love you, too,” he murmurs against Eddie’s lips, and Buck can feel his answering smile.

“We’re gonna be so good at this,” Eddie says, and his confidence in them is staggering.

“I might mess up,” Buck hesitates to admit. He doesn’t want to ruin this moment, but it’s the truth, and Eddie should know before they let this go any further.

“Me too, that’s what happens in relationships. We’ll make mistakes,” he says. “But we’ll figure them out.”

And he sounds so sure of himself, so certain of every word that he’s saying, that Buck can’t help but believe him. He laughs because he can’t keep his joy in any longer, and then Eddie laughs too. And then they’re kissing, and laughing, and loving each other like it’s the easiest thing in the world - because it is.

Eddie’s hand is resting on the left side of Buck’s chest, right above his heart. And he doesn’t have a piece of it, no. Eddie has the whole damn thing.