Bobby raises an eyebrow, opening and closing the tongs in his hand. “Eddie.”
“Do you have a minute?”
Bobby raises the other eyebrow too, but he sets his tongs down and moves away from the dying heat of the grill.
Eddie has chosen this moment strategically. They’re the only people left outside: Athena has gone into the kitchen to start on dishes and pulled Hen with her, which means Chim is also there, which means Maddie is, too; Harry’s playing video games, May and Karen have disappeared somewhere a while ago while passionately debating the dark side of academia, and Christopher is over on the garden swing with Buck having what looks like a serious conversation.
Eddie is standing in front of Bobby, sweating, only just realizing that this was a bad idea.
“I have a minute,” Bobby, still standing there, says when Eddie just blinks at him, frozen. “Are you okay? You look like you need to sit down.”
“I’m, uh,” Eddie swallows, “I’m cursing the patriarchy. Just give me a second.”
Bobby presses his lips together to stop what is very clearly a laugh at Eddie’s expense.
This is stupid. This is stupid, and Eddie’s a schmuck. He already asked Maddie anyway, why couldn’t he just keep his mouth shut—
“Eddie,” Bobby says, putting a careful hand on Eddie’s shoulder and steering him over to the garden table. “Have a seat. You need water? You look like you need water.”
“No,” Eddie says quickly, reaching out in Bobby’s direction. “No, no, just—sit down.”
He doesn’t tell Bobby that he can’t leave because if he does Eddie will lose his nerve forever, but Bobby’s a smart man, and he probably reads it off whatever expression is currently on Eddie’s face.
“Okay, then,” he shrugs. He pulls out the chair opposite Eddie’s. Sits down, puts his elbows on the table, folds his hands together.
Eddie might be sick.
Harry yells something from inside; a burst of laughter comes through the cracked patio door, drowning out the steady clink of dishes. Eddie should have volunteered him and Bobby for kitchen duty. At leas then he’d have something to do with his hands.
“I mean,” Bobby says, in his Patient And Understanding voice, “I could take a guess, if you want?”
Eddie could swear his eyes are twinkling. Eddie opens his mouth, and tries to force words through his constricted windpipe, but they won’t come, so he nods instead.
“Okay,” says Bobby, leaning back in his chair. “So, the patriarchy. Lots of issues with that one.”
Eddie wheezes around a laugh.
“But I’m not sure which ones you’d need to discuss with me,” he rubs his chin. “Is this—about you? I know we haven’t really talked in a while, but I usually have to drag you into the kitchen kicking and screaming, and we’re not at work which makes me think it’s nothing to do with—“
“I want to ask Buck to marry me,” Eddie interrupts, the words spilling out of him so quickly they almost slur together.
“This is so—“ Eddie sighs. “I feel like an idiot, but it feels wrong not to talk to you about it first.”
Bobby tilts his head. “You want to ask Buck to marry you,” he says slowly, a smile taking over his face. “And you want my advice?”
Eddie groans. “No,” he says, letting his head thunk down onto the table. “I want your blessing.”
“It’s so—outdated, I don’t know, but you’re kind of the one who brought us together, and you know he almost accidentally calls you Dad pretty much daily, so—ugh, I don’t know, Bobby, say something.”
Tentatively, he looks up. Bobby’s—frozen, a little bit, with the same smile a little wilted around the edges, looking over Eddie’s shoulder at where Buck and Christopher are still sitting.
Eddie holds his breath and waits him out, listening to the muffled playlist someone put on in the kitchen, watching as Bobby blinks once, twice. He looks far away.
“I remember what you told me about him, you know,” he says, once the silence has grown unbearable enough that he has to start bouncing his leg to offset the anxiety building in him. “I have this kid with a heart of gold who could really use someone to steady him. Bet you weren’t expecting this to happen.”
That, finally, has Bobby blinking, the look in his eyes returning to the present.
It’s funny, Eddie thinks. He hadn’t exactly been convinced by Captain Robert Nash who requested to meet him and sat up very, very straight in his chair with his jaw perpetually halfway to clenched. Station 6 is a little closer to his abuela’s house, would have been a better commute from home, and their captain reminded him of his CO in a bizarrely comforting way. He’d been convinced he was going to join them, even as he sat patiently through everything Bobby had to say, until the very end.
The very end, when he smiled a little absently, and leaned back in his chair, and mentioned Buck.
Eddie looks over his shoulder, to where Buck has both feet up on the swing, arms wrapped around his knees like a kid, nodding seriously as Christopher waves his hands to explain something. It’s gotten chilly since the sun went down, so he has his hood up over his head, the curls at the front of his hairline just sticking out, soft. Eddie can’t wait to take him home; him and Christopher, both of them screaming along to the radio until Eddie’s ears are ringing.
His family. His family.
Which, improbably, he owes to Bobby’s soft spot.
“I can’t say I saw myself sitting here, no,” Bobby says, and when Eddie turns back to him, his eyes are suspiciously shiny. “But I, uh. I’m glad we all ended up here.”
“You can say that again,” Eddie says, thinking of the day months and months ago when he was the one to request a meeting with Bobby. When he’d knocked on the office door and took a couple of steps inside, feeling small and exposed and embarrassed, and got as far as saying “Bobby, I wanted to—“ before Bobby was rounding his desk and dragging Eddie into a hug and pulling away with an “anytime you want.”
“It is outdated,” Bobby says, one eyebrow raised at Eddie, but there’s something very, very gentle about it. “But I have to say it’s kind of nice.”
Eddie laughs, a little breathless. “So do we—can I—“
“Have you asked Maddie?” Bobby asks.
“Of course,” Eddie replies, craning his head back to see into the kitchen, where Maddie and Chim are gesticulating about something wildly. “She said she wasn’t even going to give me the shovel talk because she could see me making embarrassing goo goo eyes at Buck years before he could.”
“I mean,” Bobby coughs. “We all kind of—“
“Yes, you all could, I get it, Bobby,” Eddie sighs. “I got that one when the probies started calling me Cow Eyes Diaz.”
“You were a little embarrassing,” Bobby says gently. “But—Eddie.”
And he waits for Eddie to look at him. It’s difficult to do, because this isn’t just Bobby, Eddie’s friend, his captain; this is Bobby, one of the most important people in Buck’s life, the person who kept him tethered before Eddie could get there. Eddie feels flushed and small and tentative in the face of all that.
“Eddie,” Bobby repeats. “Whatever blessing I can give, it’s yours. You have to know that, at this point.”
“I don’t know,” Eddie shrugs. “I’m told—“ he stops, clears his throat, tries to shift the lump that suddenly grows there, “I’m told I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.”
Bobby chuckles. Looks over Eddie’s shoulder again, and his eyes soften impossibly.
“Marry him,” he says, barely audible. “Marry him, make him obnoxiously happy, keep making out at the back of the firehouse where you think we can’t all see you until you’re old and grey,” he grins. “You have my blessing, Eddie. Okay?”
Eddie bites his lip until it stings. He can’t cry, because then Buck will ask what’s wrong, but—
“Thanks,” he tries, and his voice comes out wrecked. “I—thank you, Bobby. For all of it.”
Bobby pushes his chair back. “Don’t mention it,” he grins, and gets up only to stop by Eddie’s chair on the other side of the table and squeeze his shoulder, just firm enough to tether Eddie back to earth. “And just between you and me,” he says, barely moving his lips, “if you want to be the first one to ask, I’d hurry up.”
And then he’s off across the backyard, slipping inside, where Eddie can just see him wrap an arm around Athena’s waist in the brightly lit kitchen.
He clears his throat again. Stares at the tabletop for a while, and tries to stop this amazed, fizzy feeling wanting to burst out through every inch of his skin.
“There he is,” a familiar voice says from behind him, a warm hand landing on his chest. “We ate too much and we’re tired.”
Eddie tips his head back. There Buck is, all bright and golden and pouting just a little.
Eddie’s going to marry him.
“You wanna go home?” he asks, blinking up and waiting until Buck gets the memo and leans down to kiss him, a sweet, chaste upside-down peck that still makes Eddie’s blood sing.
“Yes we do,” Christopher sighs, put-upon and extremely twelve, coming up to Eddie’s side on his crutches. “We have business at home.”
“Oh?” Eddie raises his eyebrows, and if he wasn’t already looking, he’d miss the way Buck widens his eyes at Christopher to get him to shut up.
“I’m tired of this,” Christopher rolls his eyes, but he does it the way Buck does it, full-body, leaning backwards. “You promised, Buck.”
“I said soon,” Buck squeaks. “Not today. Not right now!”
Christopher purses his lips. “What’s wrong with right now?”
“Uh,” Buck blinks. “It’s—uh. Not the right moment?”
And Eddie—Eddie finally figures out what the hell is going on.
“Hey,” he says, and reaches back blindly for Buck’s hand. Buck provides it, and Eddie brings it down to rest on his chest, over the steady beating of his heart. “What were you guys talking about back there?”
Christopher looks at Buck. Eddie can’t see the expression on Buck’s face, but they go back and forth for a second, Christopher increasingly exasperated.
Finally, though, he looks at Eddie, and his eyes are determined.
Eddie raises Buck’s hand to his lips, and presses a careful, deliberate kiss to his ring finger.
“Buck,” Christopher grins, “was asking for my blessing.”