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It started off perfectly innocent. Absolutely nothing weird about his best friend sending Eddie a picture of a puppy after doing something annoying. Maybe not the most common way to deal with things, but nothing that would result in the expressions he'd end up facing down.

He could have explained the beginning away easily enough. Everyone could be a little obnoxious sometimes, but Buck seemed to find a particular joy in talking about a thing even when he knew he’d exhausted his audience. Eddie honestly found that a little charming, which maybe should have been a tip at some point about where things would go. Buck also didn’t always drop a joke when he should, and now that Eddie was thinking about it, that could also have tipped him off. Sometimes Buck would even push him to talk about more serious topics Eddie wanted no part in discussing at the time, they both knew Eddie would forgive him his trespasses soon after.

But Buck didn’t do well with anyone being upset with him, and Eddie didn’t do well with withholding forgiveness when it came to him, so it seemed only right that they find a solution. Buck started sending him pictures of something cute after he’d done or said something he knew or worried bothered Eddie, which Eddie would make fun of him for, and then they would both feel settled - like they’d had it out over something unimportant. It was sort of sweet, in a ridiculous way, and didn’t that just sum up his best friend.

No matter the hints he could pick up in hindsight, he could never have foreseen what would come from puppy pictures. Maybe his explanation should really have started with Buck trying to kill him during a rescue.

~~~~~

The house fire was small, the flame itself less of a danger in this case than the dense smoke, and they were all feeling pretty accomplished at the quick evacuation of the residents until a little boy crying about “Snickers” resulted in Eddie (and by extension Buck) rushing back into the home to look for a missing cat.

They checked all the normal spaces, and Buck somehow wedged himself under the little boy’s bed far enough to grab the huddled mass of grey fur. They raced back out of the bedroom, Buck a half-step in front of Eddie, when the cat suddenly had enough of a stranger carrying her through a hot, smoky house.

Flipping around like her bones phased briefly out of existence, the cat got her front paws over Buck’s shoulder and tried to launch herself away. He scrambled to keep hold of her and Eddie prepared to grab her if she made the jump.

In their worry over the cat and inability to see clearly, Buck missed the edge of the rug at the top of the stairs and, tripping, twisted his body so he wouldn’t crush the cat under the combined weight of 6’2” of firefighter and an extra 70+ pounds of gear. Unfortunately for Eddie, he was not expecting Buck to suddenly go horizontal.

Eddie just barely avoided stepping on him, and almost managed to catch himself - if only the floor had been where he expected it to be. He fell down a half flight of stairs to the landing, slamming into the wall. They were in full turnout gear, helmet included, but it didn’t stop him from feeling like an overripe peach thrown against a wall from, say, a half flight of stairs’ distance.

Buck was there with a hand to help him up, cat scruffed gently and well-supported against his shoulder with his other arm, and Eddie quickly shook it off so they could get the hell out of there.

As far as Eddie was concerned, it was a joint mistake and mostly Snickers’ fault that he had fallen in the first place, so he had forgiven Buck by the time Chimney was giving him a “just in case” check up. That didn’t stop Buck from feeling awful, evidently.

Buck followed him around for the rest of the day, whenever they weren’t busy, offering to get him water or a snack or another pillow as he sat on the couch. Eddie snapped at him at one point, he wasn’t proud of it but Buck wouldn’t stop fiddling with things, all anxious gestures. He had just said, in perhaps not his nicest tone, “Just sit down.”

And Buck had done so, right on the other end of the couch, giving Eddie his best hangdog look as he apologized for the tenth time.

“Buck," Eddie sighed, trying not to wince as his ribs protested. "It wasn’t your fault, it was the damn cat, and she was just scared. Chim said I’m fine. Stop giving me the puppy dog eyes and just send me the stupid dog pic.”

Eddie should have recognized the gleam in Buck’s eyes, but he didn’t have more than ten seconds to contemplate it before Buck had taken a selfie of his exaggerated pout and sent it to him.

Eddie shot him his best unamused look, tamping down on the smile that tried to push its way through, but he saw Buck glance down at his lips anyway, so he was sure he’d been caught. “I’m showing this to every probie that comes through here, no one is going to take you seriously again. Next time you try to be boss-man Buck at someone, know they’ve seen this picture.”

Buck looked so instantly relieved that Eddie couldn’t stay annoyed at his earlier mother henning. “There’s nothing wrong with a man who can express his emotions, Eddie.”

“I won’t make fun of you for that part, but this face?” Eddie shook his head. “This is much easier to work with, the dogs in those pictures didn’t try to murder me on the stairs.” That was the trick of this game, Eddie would bring up the thing Buck thought he did wrong (if he could guess) and make a joke of it. The humor would wash away Buck’s fear of any irritation between them.

Buck’s bright grin wasn’t even attempting to look put out. “Yeah, just cats. Snickers wanted you gone, man.”

Eddie rewarded him with an eye roll.

If he had known this would only encourage Buck, he - well, he wasn’t sure he’d have done anything differently, but maybe he was supposed to.

From then on, Buck switched to sending only pictures of himself trying to be cute in ridiculous ways, purposely giving Eddie plenty of fodder to tease him about. And it was fun. It never failed to make Eddie smile, and Buck seemed more settled than ever. Maybe this was a little weirder, but it was still on the side of the line outsiders would find acceptable.

Then came the faithful day when the picture Eddie received looked much more like a ridiculous thirst trap than a ridiculous cute pic, probably because Buck had obviously just finished working out, still flushed and sweating.

Eddie: where do I unsubscribe from your OnlyFans.
Buck: Aww you think I could have an onlyfans?
Eddie: Only if no one had to pay for it.
Buck: Thats sweet
Buck: [Pic of Buck ridiculous-sexy licking an spoon of ice cream]
Buck: sorry I didnt have any cones or this would be mind blowing
Eddie: I feel like I just learned something about you I didn’t want to know.
Buck: Ill show you another time
Eddie: Unsubscribe
Buck: Sorry that service isnt available do you want another pic of ice cream text YES or YEs
Eddie: Unsubscribe
Buck: Thank u for subbing to dog facts
Buck: dogs are the same species as grey wolves there just different subspecies there closer related to wolves than cayoties
Buck: coyoties
Buck: coyotes
Eddie: Buck fact you have suggested spelling from the app and still can’t spell.
Buck: Eddie fact at least I learn things
Eddie: So the fact is that I learn things?
Buck: Im going to just mark this down as a loss in my collum
Eddie: Colum*
Eddie: Column*
Buck: Eddie fact you cant spell ether and youre a jerk about it
Eddie: Either*

Eddie forgot all about the ice cream part of the conversation until a few weeks later, when Eddie was treated to a pic of Buck licking a cone, which he pretended to ignore, only to receive a second picture a while later, showing Buck licking melting ice cream off the side of his hand.

This was the first time Eddie really thought Oh, I’m in trouble. And it’s because of something this fucking embarrassing.

~~~~~

It only progressed from there.

Buck still sent occasional cute pictures, but most of what Eddie was treated to was a plethora of thirst traps to tease Buck about. Buck pretended it was to give Eddie easier material to make fun of, but Eddie suspected Buck just enjoyed taking the pictures more. He got a chance to show off a little, sneaking into the bathroom to take a quick pic of himself pulling his shirt up to show his abs or sharp V lines, leaning against the wall with one arm behind his head to put his arm definition on display.

Eddie made fun of him for the artistry or try hard nature of some of the shots, asking if he’d actually done math to find the golden ratio and googling other artsy terms he could use in future.

The final straw for Eddie pretending he could handle it in any capacity was an over-the-shoulder shot Buck had taken in just a pair of blue boxer briefs. Eddie was very delayed in telling him he didn’t think his outfit was in his color (a blatant lie if he’d ever told one, blue was definitely Buck’s color), because he couldn’t fault him for the shoulder or back definition, or truly anything else about how he looked in the picture.

Buck sent back: “Is this better?” It was a faster, less arranged shot, and was closer to the counter so the view was interrupted, but he had also taken the boxer briefs off and declined to put on anything else.

Eddie had to fight not to swallow his own tongue, reminding himself of his mantra: I am not allowed to jerk off to Buck’s absolutely hilarious pictures. They are so funny. That would be weird. And also he is my best friend. It would be doubly weird. Keep it in your pants, Diaz.

It was less and less persuasive.

It took him ten long minutes to talk himself down and send back a message dragging Buck for getting close enough Eddie could see how messy his counter was. It was a weak response, but anyone in his position should count themselves lucky to not spontaneously combust.

He had to find a way to end this.

~~~~~

These days, Eddie was often feeling some sort of pathetic.

Every time he thought of a good way to tell Buck ‘hey, I love you, man, but you gotta stop sending me pics of your ass’, he remembered saying that would mean no longer getting said pictures, and then he put off the conversation. At first, he could almost convince himself he was doing it to spare Buck (or even himself) embarrassment, but he knew better, it was because he liked this.

The saying “take a picture, it will last longer” came to mind, because if it hadn’t been an incredibly creepy thing to admit to himself, he would have come to terms with the fact he would have gladly taken any of these pictures of Buck himself. He wasn’t normally in a position to just stare for as long as he wanted.

Now, Buck was fully aware Eddie had the pictures, he had sent them himself.

Eddie still just wasn’t sure if it actually crossed a line to… do… anything… with the pictures. He still told himself he wouldn’t. Couldn’t. But if Buck didn’t have to know about that part, was it really hurting anyone? He felt like he couldn’t get off anymore without thinking about the pictures, thinking about Buck, so really the only line he hadn’t crossed was actively looking at them while jerking off.

Buck solved that problem for him rather accidentally as well, since Eddie was in the middle of imagining one of the latest images and had just gotten a hand around himself when his phone vibrated. He glanced over irritably, saw it was a message from Buck, and his horny brain opened it before his thinking brain could stop him.

Buck: Sorry for hogging the squat rack but how am I supposed to keep the subscribers happy if I lose the assets

Eddie’s cock flexed in his hand, hardening as he stared at the new three-quarter view Buck sent him to show off his thighs and ass.

He needed a new best friend who was ashamed of his body and didn’t torment Eddie with shit like this when he was just trying to come in peace. The thought made him smile, knowing Buck would appreciate it, and before he could think better of it he had sent a reply.

Eddie: Warn people before you send shit like that some of us are out here trying to come in peace.

Buck didn’t reply for over ten minutes, during which Eddie half-heartedly tried to just imagine Buck’s ass and not take a single glance at it.

The next picture crossed a new line.

Buck had a sheen of sweat over his bare chest and a pleased smile on his face, eyes hooded as he flashed what Eddie assumed was supposed to be the Vulcan salute. A bottle of lube and box of tissues were on prominent display on his nightstand.

The menace.

Nothing below Buck’s navel was even in the picture, so somehow, in the moment, he decided it was alright to jerk off to this picture. Of Buck’s face, not something weird, like an actually sexualized part of a body. No, just that satisfied look, that was what was getting to Eddie now, and he didn’t have enough time or brain power to rethink it before he was coming all over his chest.

Eddie wiped himself down, then, before he could change his mind, sent a picture back to Buck for the first time.

Eddie: I don’t know what planet you’re from but this is the vulcan salute.
Eddie: [picture of Eddie from his bare chest up, his free hand flashing the Vulcan salute]

~~~~~

From then on, when Buck was going to send him something dirty, he’d send the Vulcan salute emoji first.

Eddie understood what the term 'Pavlovian' meant in a way he’d never wanted to, as he could now try to get somewhere alone before opening the picture, and if he did that, Eddie reasoned he was only looking at it and Buck had sent it to be looked at. He wasn’t reopening something, just. Just looking. While also stroking his cock. Just looking until he came thinking about Buck. That was fine, actually. And normal. And no one should look down on him for it.

It took him a truly embarrassing amount of time to realize Buck wasn’t waiting until there was even a chance he thought Eddie was annoyed with him anymore, he just seemed to send the pictures whenever. And sometimes, more and more often now, Eddie’s teasing was paired with a picture of his own. And they’d exchange a bit of banter with their messages, until one of them stopped, and then they’d either go back to texting normally or they’d pause and pick up talking later.

Like any text conversation, so it wasn’t a big deal.

~~~~~

Of course, it became a big deal when Buck sent a Vulcan salute emoji to the group chat between Buck, Eddie, Chimney, and Hen.

Because Eddie saw it, and immediately messaged back in all caps “BUCK THIS IS THE GROUP CHAT”, but of course Buck didn’t see that, so when a minute later there was a tasteful shot of his ass, it was followed by… questions.

If Buck had been in the right message thread, or if Eddie had said nothing, it wouldn’t have been as much of a problem. Even if Buck still accidentally sent the group a picture of his ass, it would have been but a momentary embarrassment for someone who was proud to show off his body. Hen and Chimney would have made fun of him for a while, and Eddie might have gotten scared enough to stop whatever it was they were doing.

But his reaction made it clear to amateur detectives Hen and Chim that Eddie and Buck had a secret code for nudes, and that was apparently A Massive Fucking Deal.

The worst part about it was they were at the station, because of course they were, so he couldn’t even escape from the consequences for long enough to compose himself. No, they had to have an awkward face-to-face conversation about it, Buck and Eddie sitting on the sofa in the loft area while Hen and Chimney hovered like confused, disappointed parents.

Eddie felt caught-out and obvious as he tried explaining it had been a joke, and it only devolved from there as Chimney hesitantly asked if they were being pranked while Buck started laughing instead of trying to help defend them. Hen said if this is how straight men pranked each other it was still the gayest thing she’d ever seen, and Buck caught his breath enough to say “uh, we are not straight”, which strangely did not make anything better, for all it was true.

Hen then gave Eddie the longest look, shook her head slowly, and walked away like they didn’t know she’d just get the rest of the story from Chimney later.

“Buck, your sister is going to hear about this,” Eddie hissed, and Buck finally decided that part was not as amusing.

“Chim, don’t show Maddie that picture,” he said seriously. “She’s the one who told me about online safety and not to ever take nudes with your face in it, she’d kill me.”

Chimney gave him an odd look. “Relax, dude, I’m not showing Maddie your butt. And I already deleted the message anyway, why would I keep something like that and risk seeing it again?”

Eddie studiously avoided looking in Buck’s direction.

Chimney glanced between them, then sighed, “You two have the weirdest relationship.” He followed Hen’s path out of the room.

Eddie decided his folded hands were very interesting.

“Eds,” Buck started.

“Don’t.”

“Okay,” he said quietly, but Eddie could hear that he was trying not to laugh again. “So how many pics should I send for you to forgive me this time?”