Summer Break in El Paso, Texas: July 30th, 2023
To Buck<3, 5:43am
Drive carefully. Call me when you get there.
From Buck<3, 5:45am
u text like a geriatric
From Buck<3, 5:46am
phone sex???? later obvi
To Buck<3, 5:48am
Get to LA in one piece and then we’ll talk.
From Buck<3, 5:49am
that’s totally a yes
To Buck<3, 5:50am
You better not be texting and driving.
From Buck<3, 5:52am
i’m not. maddie is typing it out for me :)
To Buck<3 5:53am
To Buck<3 5:53am
YOU MADE YOUR SISTER ASK ME FOR
To Buck<3 5:54am
Maddie doesn't capitalize or punctuate
her texts either?
From Buck<3 5:55am
From Buck<3 5:55am
oh no! tough traffic! gotta go baby! love you!
To Buck<3 5:53am
We are having a discussion about
boundaries later. I love you too, baby.
Everything goes wrong so comically fast. One minute, Eddie is texting his boyfriend, the next he's sitting at his kitchen table feeling like the wood of the chair is splintering into his skin with reverence. All he'd said was that Buck is his boyfriend.
“Edmundo.” Ramon scolds coldly. “Where did this come from?”
“It’s always been there.” Eddie explains patiently, like one might explain addition to an elementary school student. “I’m choosing to tell you about it now.”
Ramon paces with his hand over his mouth. There’s anguish all over his features. The heartbreak of a father could light the entire block on fire. He doesn’t look anywhere near Eddie as he rages.
The house doesn’t resemble anything of Eddie’s childhood. It’s pristine and clean in a way Eddie’s never seen it. His parents really cleaned it up after Adrianna graduated high school. He wonders distantly if they’re trying to erase them. Cleansing the palate or some bullshit.
“Which is it?” His father bellows. “You’ve always been like this or you chose it?”
“I didn’t choose- this . It’s who I am.”
“What is your mother going to say when you tell her you’re not giving us grandkids. THat you’re a- a- some kind of queer? You’re a handsome man. Any woman would be lucky to have you. Are you sure?”
Eddie can feel the tears brimming her eyes. He can only hope the man won’t notice them before he has the chance to wipe them away. “I’m sure.”
“It’s that Buck, isn’t it? He made you like this?”
He says Buck’s name like it burns his mouth. Eddie might not be able to stand up for himself but he won’t let a foul word be said about his boyfriend. “Don’t talk about him like that.”
Ramon sighs angrily. “I knew it. I told your mother that California is no good. You should have listened when we told you to stay in Texas. You never listen. Has sido un tonto.”
“I’m sorry.” Eddie whispers. He doesn’t notice his hands are shaking until he laces his fingers together over his lap. “Papi, I’m still the same person.”
For the first time in a long time, Eddie feels small. He could be blown away by a breeze right now, he’s delicate in his hurt. It’s the lasting kind, he knows that for sure.
“Don’t be sorry. Be better.” His father snaps. He puts his hands on his hips and looks at Eddie with heavy disapproval. “I don’t hate queers, mijo. This is just… unexpected. I raised a man, not this. This isn’t you! Wait until you graduate, find a nice woman to settle with, and go from there.”
Ramon goes into the kitchen and Eddie makes his escape. He wobbles up to his childhood bedroom half-conscious, like he’s just woken from a bad dream and it’s morning now, and there’s nothing left to be afraid of.
This is not that.
(2 Missed calls from Buck<3)
From Buck<3, 10:00am
hey, are u okay? i called like u said and it went straight to voicemail
(6) Missed calls from Buck<3
(1) Missed call from Abuela
(1) Missed call from Mom
(2) Missed FaceTime’s from Buck<3
From Buck<3, 12:13pm
Plz call me eddie
From Buck<3, 12:17pm
if i did something to upset you im really sorry
(13 Unread Messages from Buck<3)
(3 Missed calls from Buck<3)
From Buck<3, 4:31am
ok last one. i love you. hope you’re okay
To Buck<3, 6:30pm
Sorry. Call me when you wake up. We need to talk
(1 Missed call from Buck<3)
(1 New Voicemail)
“Hey, it’s me- uh Buck. I think you fell back asleep or something, that’s okay! S’ good, actually. Call me back whenever and I’ll pick up. Or FaceTime me. Or send a carrier pigeon, I’m not picky. But really, I hope you’re alright. Don’t forget to take your meds. I love you. I love you. Call me… I love you. Did I say that already? Oh well. Love you. Bye.”
(2 Missed calls from Maddie)
(1 Missed FaceTime from Karen)
(1 New Voicemail)
“Uh, hey, it’s me again. It’s Buck. Sorry for the fifty-five calls but I’m… I’m really worried, baby. You haven’t answered any texts or calls from anyone. It’s been, like, two days. I’m about to file a fucking missing person’s report. Seriously. I love you, I’m not mad. Call me back.”
A day later Eddie breaks up with Buck and packs for California.
First Practice: August 14, 2023
If Eddie knew what he was getting into when he accepted Coach Nash’s offer to swim for U.S.C. he might have turned it down. The University of Chicago gave him just as much money after all.
He hates how cold Illinois is. And how the only thing in Illinois is literally Chicago. He'd be stuck eating weird deep dish pizza and hot dogs that look as unappetizing as they are expensive.
His muscles are already the kind of sore that won’t be soothed by a hot shower, the string of his practice suit got shredded by the washing machine, and his foot slipped so hard on the block that there’s definitely blood under his toenail.
It's news to approximately nobody that Eddie's life fucking sucks. It might have everything to do that he sees his ex-boyfriend every single day, twice a day, and mainly naked.
“Diaz.” Buck scowls. “Are you even listening to Ravi right now? What is up with you?”
Eddie snorts. The repetition would be amusing if he wasn’t so tired. “Are you always such an asshole or is it something about the first day of practice?”
“As I was saying,” Ravi says cheerfully, slinging his arm around Buck’s shoulders, “Chimney graduated. Which doesn’t put us in a good spot for the relay this year because no one really does backstroke.”
“But,” he continues, gesturing wildly with bright eyes that put even Eddie in a better mood, “our lovely Buck could switch to backstroke. There’s more flyers on the team than backstrokers, so it’d be easier.”
“No.” Eddie shakes his head. He turns his glare on Ravi. “No, he’ll fuck up his leg on the start. No way.”
“I already said yes.” Buck avoids his eyes. “And so did Coach.”
“Bobby said yes?” Eddie demands. “Are you back in physical therapy then?”
“That’s none of your fucking business.”
This is how they’re starting the season off. Great.
Eddie stalks up to get right in this little asshole’s face. He can’t help himself when Buck is acting like a brat. It might be Eddie's fault as to why, but it’s been obvious that there’s nothing he can do about that.
Eddie does what he’s always done best. He pushes.
“It’s my business when you’re gonna fuck up the whole team being a stubborn child.” Eddie snaps. They’re nose-to-nose and scowling at each other like rabid hounds. “I don’t give a shit what you do about your injury. You say you can handle it yourself when that’s obviously not true, which means everyone else has to account for the fact that you’ll hide it until it’s too late to fix. Then we’re all fucked.”
“Oh, fuck you, Eddie. Stop acting like you always know what’s best.”
“Someone obviously has to-”
Coach Nash slaps his hands together loudly, making all of the men startle. “That’s enough. Buckley and Diaz, if you can’t figure out a way to work together you will be replaced.”
“Bobby!” Buck whines. “That’s not fair.”
“What’s not fair is both of you putting your relay and the team in jeopardy due to your personal issues. You need to navigate this and learn to trust each other at least as teammates. I’d like to have a talk with both of you after this in my office. For now,” he turns back to scribble a turn set on the whiteboard, “lets try and get through today without any more casualties.”
Thankfully, the rest of practice goes by like a breeze. Buck doesn’t look at him for the rest of it and the team is eerily silent, like they’re watching an invigorating tennis match and one single blink will make them miss something. He promises Bobby to work it out, then immediately avoids Buck slipping past him into the aquatics office after him.
Eddie goes back to his one-room apartment. He settles, opens up his binder for the NCLEX and tries not to think about Buck.
He doesn’t get much done that night.
It’s hard to be around Buck without touching or talking or being on generally decent terms. It’s like Eddie’s lost the once in a lifetime ability to gaze into the sun without being burned, and he turned around and closed his eyes, convincing himself that he doesn't need Vitamin D to survive.
He doesn’t have the right to be snappy at Buck. Not after what he did.
It’s just that… breaking up with Buck never meant Eddie stopped loving him or caring about him. He still wakes up every morning and wonders what Buck is having for breakfast (out of an old habit of them sending food photos back and forth) and has to break his own heart reminding himself that a message isn’t coming.
He doesn’t want Buck to hurt his leg more than it is. Eddie was there, holding his hand through hours of physical therapy, he held Buck as he cried after sessions where his leg was in so much pain he could hardly walk. He notices the way Buck grimaces when his calf flexes on the wall during the backstroke start.
Eddie has to keep his mouth shut, because Buck is no longer his.
Buck deserves to be with someone that isn’t sexually confused into their twenties, or someone that can’t talk to their own father without the urge to burst into tears. Buck deserves flower bouquets and holding hands that aren’t scarred and to be kissed all over his cheeks and neck.
Someone that sure as shit isn’t Eddie.
Second Practice: August 15th, 2023
Eddie wishes he could say that the second day of practice goes a lot better, but it really, really doesn’t.
Ravi is putting things away in his locker when he turns to him. “What’s going on with you and Buck?” He asks, and Eddie wants to pretend he has no clue what the guy's talking about, but Ravi isn't stupid.
They'd been at one another's throats all practice. Bickering about who's going first, how to split the lane, who has to get the equipment. Eddie hates it even when a small part of him enjoys Buck's attention. It makes him feel like a school girl with some stupid crush on a boy that'll never like her back. All coy-eyed and loving even when the treatment is below that of dirt being trampled on.
Practice ended maybe three minutes ago and Eddie is still trying to flush chlorine from his ear, so he’s feeling a bit perturbed already. He’s more than a little annoyed that that’s all people seem to ask him about these days.He got to play twenty questions with Karen just last week and he’s still recovering from her sharp eyes and even sharper wit. She sees right through him, annihilated him, and dehumanized him all over one coffee date.
“You’re paying for my drink, Jesus Christ.” Karen had said, exhaustedly at his antics. “As restitution for being this stupid. What the hell is wrong with you? That’s not rhetorical. I want you to tell me what’s wrong with you. That’s so stupid. Go buy me a croissant and think about what you’ve done. Go.”
Yeah. That hadn’t gone as well as he had hoped. Eddie knows she’s not actually mad at him and only wants what’s best for him. They’ve been friends since the beginning of last year, and then got even closer when he started going to Sunday brunches with her, Hen, Chimney, and Buck.
He thinks about how that’s going to work out this year, and which friends he got custody of in the divorce. He loved going to breakfast with them, especially when Buck didn’t sleep through it and downed his pancakes in syrup and butter like it would prevent cancer. Or when Buck wasn't busy fucking someone into his tiny mattress. Or when Eddie could even get the nerve to crawl out of his bed and be a functioning member of society.
“Why does everyone keep asking me about Buck?” He wonders aloud. “No, ‘hey, Eddie, how are you doing’ it’s always ‘where’s Buck?’ and ‘why is Buck is such a pissy mood? ’”
“Fuck you, Diaz.” Buck says happily, already changed and walking past him. “And this is for everyone!” He steps up onto the bench and spreads arms like he’s fucking Jesus or something. He always was one to make a show. “Eddie and I are no longer together, so you can stop asking us now. Especially him, apparently. Thanks.” He announces.
Eddie flushes at the attention and refuses to look at where Buck is now hopping off the bench so he doesn’t have to watch those leg muscles in motion. He pretends to tighten the straps of his gym bag, which are snapped in half and tied together, thank you very much.
Ravi shrugs. “I was only asking ‘cause he won’t stop listening to Taylor Swift. I swear to God if I have to listen to Right Where You Left Me again I’m going to kill myself.”
Buck only listens to Taylor Swift when he’s in deep emotional peril. Eddie knows this. Ravi knows this. Even Coach Nash knows this.
“There’s nothing I can do about it. Sorry.”
“He’s bitchy. And whiney. And scary.” Ravi pauses. “Did I mention bitchy?”
“You said that first.” Eddie grumbles. “And he’s not bitchy. He’s hurt. Well, he is bitchy, but it’s not for no reason. I’ll deal with it.”
“You don’t have to. It’s kinda hot.”
He shoves Ravi half-heartedly. “Hey. Only I get to objectify my ex-boyfriends.”
They are exes. Eddie has no reason to defend Buck especially when Ravi is right. Buck is snappy, and dejected, and downright sad. It hurts to have to watch. Eddie can’t complain like he's got nothing to do with it.
It's his fault.
“Pretty sure you don’t get to either.”
They’re exes, and Eddie loves him. It’s as simple as that.
He also will not be dealing with it, because fuck that.
“So you’ll talk to him?” Ravi pleads hopefully, shuffling like a nervous dog.
“Nope,” Eddie says, popping the p obnoxiously, hoping a little bit that Buck is somehow listening because he hates when people do that. It’s petty and small and Eddie probably shouldn’t poke a starving bear, but it’s too much fun. “I’m going to avoid him until either I graduate or we both die. Whichever comes first.”
Or pine for him for the rest of my miserable life, Eddie thinks glumly.
They walk out to their cars together. Eddie doesn’t spot Buck, so he must have either gotten a ride or literally sprinted back to his apartment.
“I'm sorry it didn’t work out.” Ravi looks at him sincerely. “You guys seemed really good together.”
“Thanks,” Eddie replies with an empty smile. The we were great together hangs loosely between them, as does the I’ve never liked myself more than when I was with Buck.
By the time Ravi drives away, Eddie sits in his parked truck and takes a few calming breaths.
He tries to tell himself that this year won’t be so bad, though he falls short of it every time. He ruined his relationship with his three-in-one best friend, boyfriend, and love of his life all in one sentence. The hurt is so new and fresh that Eddie doesn’t know if the wound will close soon enough for him to get some make-shift Neosporin over it.
He thinks of his parents and how upset with him they are. Eddie cleaned out his bedroom of all memorabilia he might want in thirty years time. He’s not welcome back home, he’s sure of it.
His extra things are currently sitting in his Abuela’s garage in giant plastic totes. When Eddie showed up on her doorstep woozy on energy drinks still crying at the rejection, she’d pinched his cheeks and wrapped him into a hand-knitted blanket. He told her everything, how his father reacted, breaking up with Buck, leaving for good.
Abuela took it in stride. She made him hot chocolate. She didn’t kick him to the curb, didn’t scold him for ruining his entire life in a two day span.
It’s not like he’ll be completely alone. He has Karen, Maddie, and sometimes Hen. He can make Ravi go grocery shopping with him and he’s always liked hiking alone anyway.
Eddie won’t be alone, but he also won’t have Buck.
First Week of Classes and Practices: August 21st, 2023
Eddie looks up and nearly has a goddamn heart attack. “Uh, hi.”
“It’s Ana,” the woman says, taking the seat next to Eddie with no mind to all his textbook scattered around the table making it uninviting. “From last year? I don’t know if you remember.”
He does. She’s just as gorgeous as she was when they met. Dark hair and even darker eyes, she’s just the kind of girl his father would pat him on the back for.
The thought makes him sick.
Eddie smiles politely. “I remember.”
“I was wondering if maybe you wanted to get a drink?”
They had ended on pretty good terms, so this shouldn’t come as much of a shock to him.
Last year Eddie had carefully explained that he wasn’t in a place to date someone when he was so emotionally inebriated and she let him off easy. Back then, all he could think about was Buck, Buck, Buck.
The only thing that’s changed is that Eddie has to pretend he isn’t always still thinking about Buck. How fucking pathetic.
“Sure. Text me the details.”
When Ana skitters off to do God knows what, she’s quickly replaced by an angry looking Karen.
“Do you even have her number saved?” Karen hisses, throwing her giant pile of shit onto Eddie’s giant pile of shit. He doesn’t even know who’s textbooks are whose with how the world is blurring together.
Eddie grabs Karen’s drink and downs it. He doesn’t even spit it out when he realizes it’s coffee and would pay himself on the back, but she's looking at him like she’s considering cutting off his fingers for such a risky move.
He sets the now-empty cup on top of his notebook. “I’ll save it when she texts me.”
“What?” Eddie whisper-yells. They’re in the library and people are beginning to roll their eyes and are giving them dirty looks. “We went out, like, twice last year.”
“She is crazy.” Karen retorts. “And not in the way misogynistic men call their ex-girlfriends crazy when they did something awful to them. I mean lighting-wildlife-on-fire crazy. One of her teammates said she puts Nair in random shampoo bottles!”
“How do you know that?” The days get worse and worse and worse.
“I slept with half the tennis team.” She says proudly, puffing out her chest like a peacock showing off its feathers. “But they all say the same thing. You dodged a bullet last year. Why would you put the gun to your own head?”
Eddie huffs out a breath dramatically and lets his head all to the table. “She’s pretty. And nice. She’s everything a guy would want.” Should want. Ana is everything Eddie should want.
“Eddie,” Karen says, gentler this time, “there is nothing wrong with you, okay? Whoever you love, it’s all going to be okay. You know that.”
He doesn’t believe her. Nothing can make this better- there is no reprieve for looking into your parents' eyes and seeing disgust. When Eddie told them he was dating Buck, their warmth disappeared into thin air. They don’t get it, and as of now, they aren’t trying to.
Even when Eddie was little he never understood the hatred for same-sex couples. He didn’t get when his parents would sneer and shield them from it like it was a goddamn disease, didn’t know what to say when the churches would spout how sinful it is to look lustfully at the same gender or at school when teachers would get a bitter look over their faces at the subject.
Eddie left Texas. Without the watchful eyes of his mother he could explore and allow himself to love without barriers. Buck wasn’t the first man he’d loved, but Eddie wanted him to be the last. No Texas meant no home, though it also meant the doors over his cage could melt away into something else.
Eddie could love him out in the open and all at once. It’s consumed him since they shook hands that day at the bonfire.
The flame has yet to extinguish. Eddie doesn’t think it ever will.
“Maybe you should talk to someone.” She suggests very genuinely. “I know they’re shitty, but the school therapists could be a start.”
“I’ll think about it.” He quickly collects his things, carefully as to not take any of Karen’s books by accident. “I gotta run to Ambulatory Care before the professor locks me out again. Are you and Hen still stopping for dinner?”
“Uh.” Karen says nervously. “Yeah, about that! Hen kind of invited Buck and it’s a little bit my fault because I invited her to come and then she said she was busy with Buck so I said bring him along and he already said yes. I don’t think Hen told him it was your house because I never told Hen whose house I’m going to and I don't want to tell him he can't come-”
Eddie cuts off her rambling with a forced smile. “Karen! Relax. It’s fine. It’s not like Buck’s never been there. We’re both adults. I'm sure we can stand one evening around each other without the place exploding.”
He actually isn't sure that's possible considering how practices go. Eddie isn't about to tell her that when she looks so relieved that her mistake isn't fatal, and he lets her pat his cheek excitedly.
“Okay, good. Hen said he’s cooking, too. Vegetarian chicken parm and spaghetti? Not sure how he’ll do that but I’m sure he’ll pull it off. He made Hen homemade croutons the other day and I was actually jealous that he made her moan with a fucking burned piece of bread-”
“Bye, Karen!” Eddie says over his shoulder. “Don’t be late.”
Later, when Eddie opens the apartment door, he can’t even lie and say he isn’t disappointed.
“Buck didn’t show?” He says pathetically.
Hen shrugs as both her and Karen shuffle through the door. She hands him the giant, steaming metal tray in her hands and kicks off her shoes so aggressively Eddie is scared she dented the wall. “Said he’s busy.” She rolls her eyes. “Right after I heard a Grinder notification go off. At first the whole slut thing was funny, now it’s just concerning.”
“What ‘slut thing?’” Eddie asks, eyebrows pinched. “He blew you off to hook up with some random guy?”
“Why didn’t you tell him at the end of the night?” Karen groans. “Now all he’s going to do is convince us to stalk Buck.”
Hen ignores her. “I gave him my blessing. I wouldn’t want to spend my only free night at my ex’s house.” She gives him an apologetic look. “No offense.”
He sighs regretfully. “None taken.” Eddie sets the pan onto his counter and peels back the lid.
The food smells fucking fantastic, as it always does when Buck cooks.
“Oh.” Hen stands next to him and peeks into it herself. “He made lasagna instead.”
He’s oddly touched. “My favorite.”
“You two make me so nauseous.” Karen says, even though her smile is bright. “He made garlic bread too, which I know for a fact only you like.”
Dinner is fine. Or, Edie thinks it goes fine. He can’t stop thinking about the fact that Buck made his favorite food. A food that Buck himself doesn’t even like much, and a side that Buck doesn’t like at all. Eddie knows because they had countless arguments about how much garlic is appropriate that always ended in Buck winning.
Buck would always link his arms around Eddie’s neck sweetly, and lean in. “I’m not kissing you if you reek like a garlic clove all night.” He would say, punctuating it with a kiss.
Eddie misses him like he'd miss the sun if it stopped rising. It was so much easier to be alive with Buck around. It was more enjoyable; being able to love someone so deserving of it all. Not in the way that Eddie can't function without him, more of, Buck made it easier to want to.
The rest of the week is only slightly a shit show so Eddie takes that for the win it is. It drags on. He only had one dick-wad professor that gave a quiz on syllabus day. He goes on runs in the vain attempts that they’ll put him to sleep, to no avail.
His classes are hard. He’s in the last year of undergrad and has to devote an entire day to being on a clinical rotation. That with practices and keeping up is GPA, Eddie is fucking tired. Eddie gets a solid twelve hours between the five days of classes and he’s to the point of delusion where he might drink the ink of his pen to end his own suffering.
On Friday night when Eddie should be out enjoying the first-week open frat parties with free jungle juice, he hangs out with Maddie. “You look like shit.” She tells him when he flops into her bed with a groan.
“Who’s pregnancy pillow is this?” Eddie asks, scooting into it. It’s a taupe curvy pillow that’s a little small for him but works like a charm. It’s so comfortable that Eddie may poach it for himself. He lays his head down and curls his legs around it.
Chimney and Maddie are both in graduate programs. They have a small one-bedroom just off the campus and it's the homiest place Eddie’s ever been. There’s tons of pillows and blankets thrown over every cushioned surface with candles and lamps that replace the overhead lights. The living room is right upon entry and is connected to a little kitchen, a bathroom and their bedroom down the hall.
Maddie doesn’t look up from her game of Candy Crush. “Chimney’s. He says it’s so he can empathize with pregnant people, but I think it's because he’s insecure about his curvy dick.”
Eddie slowly extracts his limbs from this monstrosity. “Not that I want to think about Chimney’s penis more than I have to, how exactly would this solve the problem?”
“I don’t think you want the answer to that. And you should probably burn those clothes when you get home.” She shoves a handful of Cheeze-Its into her mouth and through the mouthful asks, "Do you think I'd have a big dick if I was a man?"
He thinks for a second, half perturbed that she'd even ask and half truly pondering. "I think it would be a little above average."
"Fuck you, Eddie."
Eddie likes Maddie. They watch YouTube videos and drink an entire box of white wine between the two of them. She never judges, never prods at his issues. She seems to just genuinely want his quiet company- besides the one time he convinced her to get a nostril piercing while heavily high and it got infected within the week.
Three hours in when they’ve barely said a word to each other and they’re three episodes into 90 Day Fiance, Eddie turns to her. “Why haven’t you asked me about Buck?”
Her eyes never leave the screen, which is another thing he loves about her. She’s never awkward and always a calm energy to even out every room she enters. She gives him a place to hide in plain sight. “I was waiting for you to bring it up.”
“That’s polite of you-”
“And I don’t really want to talk about it.”
He pauses. “Uh. Okay.” It must be awkward to be friends with him. Eddie has ex-boyfriend status.
“Look, Eddie.” It must be serious because she actually pauses the show. He’s nervous all of the sudden without a real reason. Maddie wouldn’t have invited him over if she didn’t want him here or if she was angry with him. “Evan is really sensitive to this kind of thing. I’m not saying it like it’s a bad thing- don’t get all defensive! He’s got his heart on his sleeve all the time. If you give him time, I’m sure you can be friends again. I can’t tell you anything else. Really. He won’t talk to me about it.” She exhales sadly. "I've tried."
Friends. A dreadful concept to Eddie. He’ll have to accept that if he wants Buck back into his life, and it’s between having a little of him or nothing, Eddie would pick the former in a heartbeat. He did this to them.
Though he can't imagine going the rest of his life without being Buck's. The idea of having years go by without holding Buck's hand or getting to kiss the back of Buck's neck makes Eddie want to do something stupid like jump off of the Golden Gate bridge.
Maddie rubs his shoulder and gives him a sympathetic look, one that reminds him painfully of his own sisters. “Chimney and Buck will be back soon but you can’t leave until we’ve finished at least half the season and three-fourths of the wine.”
Eddie relents. They end up drinking the entire box and nearly finish the season, ending up giggly with pink cheeks by the early morning. He doesn’t register Buck or Chimney coming in which is odd since the walls are thinner than a foam plank.
That is, until he hobbles out to the living room and sees Buck passed out on the couch, slumped into Chimney who is avidly watching Genesee Horse Racing. He tries and very much fails not to think about the guy’s curved dick.
Eddie stops to take Buck in like the man is a tall glass of water and Eddie is dying of thirst. He’s wearing a dark maroon sweater that compliments the red flush of his cheeks. His hair is messy and Eddie wants to tug his fingers through the short curls at the top of his head that’s resting on Chimney’s arm in a position that doesn’t look comfortable at all. There’s a blanket over both of their laps and Chimney is getting popcorn crumbs literally everywhere.
It was a staple to their relationship. Every free night not spent being exhausted from practice meant watching whatever caught Buck’s eye on Hulu. They’d change into their comfiest pajamas and heat up frozen food. For how often insomnia got ahold of Eddie he almost always fell asleep within an hour of being there, with Buck.
He wonders how angry they would both be if Eddie laid across their laps like a street cat looking for some love.
“Get out, Eddie.” Maddie calls from inside her bedroom. “Bring chicken alfredo next time or I’m not letting you in.”
“Yeah, get out, Eddie.” Chimney parrots. “Before Buck wakes up and shoots you with a rifle.”
Eddie snickers while he puts his shoes on. “Buck wouldn’t touch a gun with a ten foot pole.”
“He’d probably be mad that I even insinuated that. Since you’re already bringing Maddie chicken alfredo, can you bring me pesto gnocchi? Please. I’ll have your babies. Please-”
Eddie remembers the pregnancy pillow, slightly traumatized, and shudders. “Yes, Jesus.” He rolls his eyes. “You like gnocchi?” It’s a very un-Chimney food to enjoy if he does say so himself. Eddie's barely seen the guy eat more than two vegetables a day. He practically lives on frozen fish sticks. Gnocchi?
“Good bye, Eddie. Have fun at practice in-” Chimney checks his watch, “-four hours.”
Practice does not go well. Eddie's doesn't even have to be there to know that'll it'll go terribly.
He's ten minutes late and causes the whole team to run an extra mile uphill and one-hundred burpees courtesy of Coach Nash’s strict on-time policy, he receives the stink eye from every teammate and a lot of angry grumbling.
Eddie is disgustingly dripping wet with sweat when he notices Buck limping around. He’s obviously aiming for secrecy and to anyone not paying attention, he would succeed.
That’s the problem. Eddie always sees him even when he’s not looking.
“Ravi.” Eddie whispers-yells. “Ravi.”
“I’m gonna kill you.” Ravi hisses. He’s laying on a muddy ground next to the rock Eddie is perched on. He’s covering his eyes with his forearm. “Don’t even look at me right now. I’m going to throw up, then I’m going to find something to kill you with.”
“Stop being a baby.” He wildly gestures for Ravi to come closer. “Look.”
Ravi does as he’s told and takes the small section of the rock besides Eddie. “Who are we looking at? Is it Jonah’s haircut? Because whoever did that really fucked him up.”
He’ll file that away for when he needs a good laugh and uses his head to gesture at Buck. “Does Buck look like he’s limping to you?”
“Not really. He looks kinda hot, though.” When Eddie glares at him, Ravi holds his hands up in the universal don’t end me motion. “What? You guys aren’t together anymore. I have eyes. His ass looks fantastic in those shorts.”
Eddie cocks an eyebrow, because while Ravi isn’t wrong, he doesn’t need people ogling Buck right in front of him. He is intimately aware of how sexy Buck is all the time, without lifting a finger. He doesn’t need other people enjoying it right in front of him. “Straight guys don’t check out other guys’ asses.”
Ravi has a thoughtful look on his face. “I think even straight men could appreciate Buck’s ass. And legs. And his arms, and abs, and thighs, don’t forget his ass-”
“You’re fucking with me.”
He holds out a hand and shakes it lightly to each side. “Eh, fifty-fifty. I’m not straight. What about me makes you think I’m straight?”
Eddie hadn’t thought about the possibility of Ravi not being heterosexual. Huh. “Swimming is a very straight sport.”
“Is it?” Ravi ponders. “We’re, like, ninety-nine percent naked all the time and we see each other’s penises every single day. Both of the captains of this team are bisexual. Buck has slept with most of the team, including both of said captains.”
Eddie sighs. “Point taken.” He’s such a glutton for punishment. “So how was it?”
Ravi pointedly does not look at him. “How was what?”
“Sleeping with Buck. How was it?”
“Unfortunately I was not one of the lucky souls that made it to his promised land.” Ravi sounds so mournful about it that Eddie would laugh if he wasn’t talking about the man that he’s deeply in love with. “We did make out at the Alpha Tau Omega party a few nights ago after I won us beer pong. It was alright. A little sloppy. He uses a lot of tongue. Not as handsy as I wanted him to be. Solid seven-point-five out of ten.”
Aaaaand Eddie has hit his Ravi-limit for the day. Thinking about how swollen Buck’s mouth gets when he’s hot and heavy isn’t exactly what Eddie needs right now. Not to mention how low that rating is. “Okay. That’s enough. Go somewhere else that isn’t near me or Buck.”
Ravi points at him with his shit-eating raised eyebrow look. “You cannot control that.”
Eddie watches without an ounce of amusement as Ravi fucks with him by skipping in Buck’s direction then quickly making a detour over to Coach, throwing a stupid grin over his shoulder. He really likes Ravi. He’s a damn good asset to the team and is turning out to be a great friend.
They were a little awkward around one another last year, and he’s still more Buck’s friend than he is Eddie’s, but it’s refreshing to be with someone so unabashedly dorky. Ravi likes himself, and he likes the people around him.
It doesn’t bother Eddie that Buck sleeps around. He’s not a slut-shamer. To some extent, sure, Eddie doesn’t really want to hear other people talking about how good his ex is with his tongue. They aren’t together anymore and Eddie doesn’t own Buck. He like a little possessiveness. Not to the point of truly controlling someone's actions.
It’s all a concern. Eddie wants to know why Buck’s body count has tripled since they split barely a month ago and why he’s being a little careless about who it is. Sleeping with teammates is pretty risky for a group this intimate. He’s lashing out, breaking down. That or he will soon.
Buck is acting out because he’s hurt, not because he wants to hurt Eddie back.
“Diaz!” Bobby calls, waving him back inside the Aquatics Center. “Let’s go.”
The Berkeley Invitational: September 2nd, 2023
“Please don’t look at my penis.” Ravi please, his eyes cast firmly to the grimy ceiling tiles. His skin is sweating and fidgeting.
Both Buck and Eddie are kneeling by Ravi’s legs, pulling at the Fastskin as hard as they can without ripping it. They’re all bloody messes- it’s coming out of their knuckles, hips, palms. Ravi is clutching the suit lube in his hand tightly. It’s easy to work together, seamlessly, even if it is as silly as getting Ravi’s genitals into his suit before warm-up is over.
Eddie would feel terrible for laughing if it wasn’t so funny.
Buck lets out a sharp huff of breath that does a terrible job of hiding his own giggle. “It’s a nice penis. You should be proud.”
While Eddie snickers, Ravi makes an offending noise. “Shut up. Please, shut up.”
“We’re not looking. Promise.” He soothes. Eddie nudges Buck with his knee and spurs him on.
Buck glares at Eddie, though he does make to comfort Ravi in this very obvious emotional detriment. “Okay, Ravi. We’re not looking at your penis. We don’t even want to look.”
“You don’t want to look?” Ravi squeaks. He looks down at both of them with his big brown, watery eyes. “Is it deformed?”
Eddie truly has not looked at Ravi’s penis, nor will he ever, especially with Buck kneeling right next to him in what could be considered the lamest or kinkiest gay porn set-up ever.
“What do you want from us, man-”
Eddie grunts and pulls the suit up the last few centimeters finally. “All done!”
The invitational is as shitty as Eddie plans it to be. He makes finals by the skin of his toes in his individual event, and the Medley relay doesn’t make it at all. It’s his fault too. He fucks up the turn and comes up way too fast to get a good pullout in.
He’s not used to going off of Buck’s backstroke. Buck is good at swimming, majestic in a way that all taller men seem to be. His arms and legs are miles of pale, sparkling skin that Eddie can’t seem to look away from. Buck’s touch is good, and Eddie is so distracted trying not to stumble that he does.
“Fuck me.” Eddie scowls in a derogatory manner when he pulls himself out of the water.
Next to him, Buck is still panting and doesn’t look his way. His chest is red and wet and Eddie wants to drag his tongue over every ridge of him as an apology for being so shitty, now and every minute of the past that brought them here.
He watches Ravi’s freestyle dutifully. He’s good. His technique could use a tad more shaping though he’s fast. His style is choppier and less organized. He goes a solid twenty-two second fifty on the higher side. It would be good for them is Eddie hadn’t fucked them over.
Once is a mistake, twice is a lack of skill, is what his father always said.
Eddie wonders the rest of the meet where he went wrong. He never misses practices, always makes up for the workouts he has to miss during his clinicals. He doesn’t eat terribly and he jogs up mountains for fun, for Christ’s sake. He wonders if his peak was last year, or possibly a touch of senioritis is making his bloodstream toxic.
Eddie loves his major, and he loves swimming. That doesn’t make it any less overwhelming. He’s tired- body and mind, and he hasn’t been able to let himself rest in what feels like years. His muscles are constantly sore and he’s never more than a minute away from collapsing with exhaustion during Advanced Biology for Nursing Majors. That class sucks.
The bus ride home is quiet. Eddie sits in his disappointment, sits in his fathers and teammates disappointment, with the empty seat next to him.
Eddie doesn’t know if failure is something a person can grow out of, but if it is, he hopes it happens to him sooner rather than later.
The Bonfire: September 3rd, 2023
Even as mopey as he is, Eddie allows his teammates to convince him to attend their bonfire. He goes, only because he knows he would regret not attending after he graduated. He wants to soak up all the moments before they pass him by.
Why he invites Ana Flores, he doesn’t know. It would be cruel to say he regrets it every time she laughs and grabs his bicep so tight she nearly rips it clean off, so he doesn’t say anything. He ignores the raised eyebrows of his douche-bag teammates and tries to focus on the way Ana’s mouth curls around the lip of her beer bottle.
“What are we doing, Eddie?”
Eddie looks at her over the edge of his can, wide eyed and slightly afraid. “Uh. We’re at a bonfire.” A minute ago they had been standing side-by-side watching two freshmen try keg-stands. He’s not too sure what’s wrong.
“No.” Ana says. She steps in front of him to force his attention. “I mean why did you ask me to come with you?”
He sucks in a breath. “You asked me to get a drink with you. And I like your company.”
It’s not necessarily a lie. They had a decent enough time together last time. They went to an expensive dinner. Eddie ate her out in the back of her car until she blacked out. It was fun enough.
Eddie winces at the thought. He’s one-hundred percent positive that Ana would not enjoy being considered something he used to pass time. It even sounds shitter the more he thinks about it.
They hadn’t clicked. The dinner was awkward to say the least. They found out that they have nothing in common besides being student athletes and being Latin American- and not even from the same part of Latin America. Their senses of humor are polar opposites, and Ana is delicate where Eddie is rougher around every edge.
After dinner, Eddie kissed her against his truck and buried his head between her thighs hoping to feel anything other than pure zilch.
It didn’t work. He wiped her slick off his face and drove her home rock-hard in his slacks like a goddamn gentleman. He made sure she made it into her apartment safe and sound before hitting his head against the steering wheel a few times, thinking about Buck.
Eddie saw him earlier, all stupid and handsome and charming the pants off some red-headed girl that smiled at him like he’s a piece of meat. Her claws were digging into the meat of his bicep where Eddie used to put his teeth, and he had to look away.
Eddie shakes his head, pulling himself out of the thoughts of biting Buck’s forearms. “Sorry. Yeah?’
She nods and smirks. “I was saying you could enjoy my company in your apartment. If you’re down.”
There’s nothing wrong with Ana for asking. Hell, Eddie would have agreed if not for the ugly buzzing feeling crawling up his throat and into his mouth. It’s not like they haven’t before. It would be easy to lift up her skirt and throw her legs over his shoulders and show her a damn good time but he’s hot and breathless and not at all in a sexy way.
Eddie is dizzy all of the sudden. He pulls at his collar and tries to nod at her but he can’t. His head is heavy and the pounding music is making his skull vibrate.
Somehow he chokes out, “I gotta- uh, I’ll see you later.”
Ana tries to call after him but he can’t hear anything over the buzzing in his ears. He makes himself get into his parked truck and take a few deep breaths, to no avail. He can’t calm down and his chest is too tight to take a deep breath.
“Christ,” he whimpers.
Going to an Emergency Room is pricey. Eddie runs through the possibilities and every one is scarier than the rest: indigestion, angina, heart attack.
Heart attack. Heart attack. Heart attack.
Could Eddie even have a heart attack at twenty-one? Severely uncommon although not impossible. It’s not pericarditis. His symptoms are pressured and not sharp or lasting. He’s fit, and healthier than most students on this campus.
It only causes his head to spin more. He really can’t afford an ambulance or the hundreds of tests a hospital would run. He puts a fist over his chest and rubs firmly in hopes it’ll loosen the knot there.
After a few minutes the blurriness fades and he’s left to catch his breath. His hands are still shaking though the tightness up his sternum is gone, he can see more than a few inches in front of him.
First Team Water Polo Tournament: September 9th, 2023
Eddie is going to scream.
It’s the first water polo tournament of the season. The team is ecstatic. It’s as though they’ve all shot caffeine straight into their veins.
He isn’t too big of a fan of water polo. It’s rowdy and loud and his teammates don’t know when the fuck to let you back up to take a breath. He was inches away from drowning at their last one.
Ravi slaps his shoulder blade with the joy of a baby on a sugar high. “I haven’t been this excited since the doctors told me I was cancer free.”
“Ravi,” Eddie says patiently. “No trauma dumping at morning practice. Ramirez has told us a hundred times. I think he’s sick about hearing Greenaway talk about that weird elementary school bus crash.”
“Sorry.” He says completely unrepentant. “Hurry up.”
“I’m coming, Jesus.” Eddie mutters, hopping into his suit before he’s the last man picked.
Thankfully (or unfortunately depending on how his exam on Tuesday goes) he survives yet another round. His team loses, no thanks to Ravi, which means they have to pay for the other team’s breakfast.
This time last year, him and Buck were beginning to be friends. He’d spend his time in the Education building meeting the other man after his three hour classes and staring at his lips. Buck would sneak sips out of his protein smoothies and he’d pretend not to notice. They would sit an inch apart on Eddie’s bed and watch YouTube documentaries about whatever obscure concept had Buck’s attention that week. Last year at their first tournament, Eddie took Buck home after he caught a ball to the face.
Buck loves water polo. Eddie can see him now, jittery and smiling next to Bobby like a kid in a candy store. It makes him happy to see Buck happy, and sad because he can only witness it second hand instead of being a direct cause. It’s pathetic.
He’s pining. Give him a fucking break.
Practice & a Week of Classes: September 12th, 2023
“I made you a Tinder.” Karen says excitedly, shoving the screen of her phone into his face. “You have four matches. Would be more if you add a pic of you shirtless.”
It’s all photos of him from his own Instagram account. The first is him smiling with his nicest deep, maroon shirt. The next two are of him with his arms slung around Karen and Hen, then with Maddie. The last is one of Eddie after finishing a race, smiling brightly at the blackboard.
“I swiped left on Buck. Figured it would just be salt in an open wound.”
Eddie flinches. That’s got his attention. “What did his profile look like?”
“Picture white frat-boy but almost appealing. Calls himself ‘Firehose’ though. I don’t know what that means.”
Oh, Eddie knows what that means. He swallows against the implication of the nickname and nods at her. “That’s for the best.”
“So you’ll use it?” Karen asks encouragingly.
“I don’t think I’m emotionally available.”
She snorts. “It’s Tinder. The only thing you need available is functioning genitalia.”
Karen sets her phone down screen-up and puts her hand over his. “You need to move on, Eddie.” She says gently. “Let him go. Buck might have been… an experience, but that doesn’t mean no one else will ever make you happy.”
That’s putting it lightly.
If Eddie were to move on he’d have a lot to forget about Buck. He’d have to forget the exact pitch of Buck’s snoring and the weight of his draped over Eddie’s chest while he does so. He’d have to forget Buck’s terrible rendition of Paramore songs and how hot it is when he’s driving Eddie’s truck. Eddie would have to forget Buck’s taste, his smell, his laugh, his eternal kindness. Everything Eddie loves about Buck wouldn’t be able to exist anymore, because he’ll never move past loving someone that embodies a buzzing bumble bee resting on a flower.
It brings tears to his eyes to remember Buck holding him under the shower head, how he’d press kisses to the space behind Eddie’s ears and wash his hair. Buck would always warm up the water before Eddie got in, and would get out first to get the towels without ever complaining. He cooked for Eddie, and blushed high on his cheeks when complimented about it. He let himself open up and set his vulnerabilities into Eddie’s palms. Buck let himself be seen.
He loved Eddie with everything. They’d get teased endlessly about gooey eyes and the I love yous exchanged with every separation. Eddie would routinely tune out fake gagging noises when giving Buck one small peck on the lips.
Eddie loves him, no past tense or bygones, Eddie loves him.
“I don’t want to,” he replies, a little childish and a lot crestfallen. His textbooks ablurry in the way that means he's too late to stop himself from crying in a very public place.
It hurts, and Eddie has no one to blame for the pain besides himself. They had something good, something great, and he’d ruined it in one phone call. One fucking phone call and Buck was gone.
Just as soft as before, Karen questions him. “Then why did you do it? You love him so much Eddie. I- no one really gets it. Including Buck.”
Eddie never did tell her the whole story. Only that he and his father had a disagreement and that he’d cut Buck loose. Not about any of the real pain, or tears he’d shed on the drive to California, freshly single and unable to breathe with it. How his Abuela held him as he cried into his shoulder and four in the morning over how badly his chest hurt the entire ride.
“He told you about it?”
She shakes her head. “He doesn’t talk about you. He’s weirdly sad all the time. Like, he’s there but he’s not there, you know? It’s not the same.”
“I do love him.” Eddie wipes at his eyes then squeezes Karen’s hand to ground himself. She squeezes right back, urging him on. “I told my dad about us. He wasn’t happy about his son being…” He can’t even say the word. Queer. Eddie can only hear it in the derogatory tone his father spit at him. “He said I could change. I should change.”
“I’m tired of being such a disappointment to him. He hates that I swim. He hates that I love California. He even hates the brand of pants I decide to buy and it’s so exhausting. I guess I’m just tired of never doing anything right. I freaked out. It was half breaking up with Buck so my father would be happy and half breaking up so Buck didn’t have to be not-happy because of everything about me is so fucked up.”
“You are not fucked up.” She says quickly. “Maybe a little mentally ill, but that's nothing a little C.B.T. and medical marijuana can't fix.”
“I don’t even know if I like women at all.” He admits quietly. “And then to be told that I should find one to marry because it’s what’s right? I lost it a little.”
Karen nods in understanding. “Hey, it’s okay. You overcorrected and did what you thought would be best for everyone. Next time I want you to put yourself into the mix. What would have been next for you?”
Eddie has a deep admiration for Karen. She gets him, can see him and never through him. They fit together. He makes her physics flashcards and he practices memorizing muscles on her wrist. Match made in Heaven.
He remembers what it was like for Karen freshman year. Freshly out to her parents and immediately kicked to the curb with no home to go back to. She’d been devastated, and mourned her entire childhood in one semester and had to pull herself together for the next. Eddie had been there, a steady place for her to come to, but losing parents when they’re still alive is rough.
He knows the feeling. Niether of his parents have called since the day he arrived in California to tell him that they’ll mail the rest of his things over.
Eddie’s seen more people touched by the hands of grief than not. It makes him spiteful that even someone as authentically wonderful as Karen gets shit in the face from the universe.
It’s his proof that the universe, God, any deity isn’t real.
Or, if it is, it hates his guts.
“Your parents don’t deserve to have a son as brave as you. And if you lose them for good, then I say good riddance.” She smiles at him widely. “You have a family with or without them.”
Eddie looks at her through his wet eyelashes. “Thanks. I love you.”
It rolls off his tongue smooth as butter, and it’s worth it for the smile he gets in return. “Love you too. Let’s go get Starbucks. Hen is working so we get a discount, and if you keep crying, maybe we’ll get our drinks for free.”
Post- Practice: September 14th, 2023
“It reeks like spare change in here,” Ravi moans miserably as he changes, “with a touch of wet dog.”
Eddie snorts as he pulls his shirt over his head. “There’s twenty dirty white guys in here. You just now noticed that’s how they smell?”
After practice the locker room constantly reeks of chlorine and straight up pennies. Eddie is used to it by now. Even in high school, most of the team was white. He’d tried asking his mother about it one day and got a swift slap to the back of the head.
Ravi winds his shorts up and whips it at Eddie’s thigh, only making him cackle when it snaps back and Ravi gets himself instead. “Are they actually dirty or is that their natural scent?”
“Huh,” he ponders, thinking for a moment. Eddie really doesn’t know, from a normal or a medical standpoint. “I dunno. Why don’t you go ask one?”
“No fucking way. I’ve had enough of their kind for today. Did you see the way Greenaway was looking at me?” Ravi barks humorlessly. “He’s racist. I can feel it.”
Eddie nods in earnest. “I’ll take your word for it.”
“Who are we talking about?” Buck asks, rubbing a towel over his wet hair, unaware of how the droplet are getting fucking everywhere- including all over Eddie.
“Jonah is racist.”
Buck’s eyebrows shoot up comically quickly. “What did he do? Do you want me to get a captain, or Coach-”
“He didn’t do anything.” Ravi groans, cutting off his friend’s rambling. “He just- I can’t explain it to you. Go get dressed. You’re making us late to breakfast.”
Buck looks warily between the both of them with narrow eyes. Eventually, he relents. “Okay,” he says slowly. “You coming?”
Eddie physically turns around to see if Buck is talking to someone behind him, though no one is there. When he meets Buck’s face, it’s expectant, waiting for an answer.
He is asking Eddie.
“Uh,” he says dumbly. Jesus, he might faint. “Sure.”
“Yay!” Ravi cheers. Eddie watched him clutch Buck’s arm tightly, smiling widely. “Buy us breakfast or you’re racist.”
Buck only sighs. “Do I at least get to pick the place?”
It’s fun. Eddie drives them to an obscure hipster diner that Ravi seems to know the name of every single staff member inside of. They all chatter endlessly, Buck and Ravi smush into the booth across from Eddie, who mostly argue about the new season of Never Have I Ever. As promised, Buck foots the bill without so much as a grumble. Eddie gets a free meal and gets to re-memorize that Buck eats like his food could be taken away any second.
Eddie smiles fondly when Buck throws down a wad of tip money. The meal couldn’t have costed too much, and there’s way more than fifteen percent
Ravi says exactly what Eddie only thinks. “Love me a man who tips.”
Buck shrugs off where Ravi’s head is snuggled into his shoulder. “You’d love anything that got you free food.” Though he’s flushing at the praise. “I hate people who don’t tip at least something. Then again, the restaurants should pay their workers a living wage instead of forcing them to rely on the customer already paying a shit ton for the service.”
They both nod along, far too used to Buck’s rants, packing up his food into the styrofoam boxes as he raves wildly about the injustices of the foodservice industry.
It isn’t awkward to spend time with Buck like Eddie thought it might be. There’s no tension besides Eddie’s one-sided urge to kiss Buck senseless.
It’s nice to see his smile again. Him and Ravi obviously got close, not that Eddie is jealous (maybe a little jealous- Ravi is touchy, okay?). He’s happy that there’s people in Buck’s life that make him laugh.
Even if Eddie wants to be one of them, he’s content with how things are right now.
It’s a Sunday, which means after Eddie drops Buck and Ravi off, it's back to his apartment to drown in his weight in textbooks and microbiological research.
Second Bonfire: September 17th, 2023
Another unsuccessful meet down the drain, and now here Eddie is. Standing in front of a blazing fire winder where the fuck he went wrong to be standing here.
Perhaps his first mistake was giving into Ravi big, pleading eyes that said he absolutely has to come tonight, that’ll it’ll be so epic and fun that Eddie will forget he’s slowly going mentally insane.
His second was interfering with whatever Buck and this red-head girl had going on. Eddie spotted them across the lot, her fingers digging tight into Buck’s shirt as he threw up over the curb, looking worse then Eddie’s ever seen him at one of these.
“What did he take?” Eddie yells over the music, holding Buck firmly by the biceps.
The team tends to stay away from the heavier drugs during the season. That doesn’t mean they aren’t being passed around- Eddie has heard one too many rumors about Greenway doing ketamine that he forgets it might not really be true.
The red head snorts. “Like, everything? I dunno.”
Eddie has been at this fucking bonfire for thirty minutes and he already want to go back to his apartment. His couch and microwavable popcorn are screaming his name. He reeks of chlorine and the jacket he brought isn’t nearly warm enough to head off the California breeze. He desperately wants to go home.
Instead, he’s asking his ex-boyfriend’s fuck buddy about how many illegal substances he’s done.
“Don’t think so.” She shakes her head dramatically. It tells Eddie that she’s just as hammered as Buck is. “He wouldn’t do it with me before. Pussy.”
Never hurts to ask. Eddie doesn’t know why cocaine has such a grip on rich white people. Not that he thinks Buck would ever, but he obviously is alright hanging out with people who do. The girl clinging to his arm has white powder under her nose and her pupils are the sizes of dinner plates. It’s a miracle she’s standing up by herself.
She sure as shit isn’t Eddie’s problem. Not when she’s acting like someone is worthless for not doing hard drugs.
“He’s not a pussy for not snorting a line. What the fuck is wrong with you?” He snaps before turning his attention back to what’s important. Eddie holds Buck’s face between his hands and forces him to focus. “Buck. Try to tell me what you took.”
“Jell-o.” He scrunches his lips. “And Ravi’s edibles. I think he was trying to kill me.”
Ravi’s weed is comparable to a horse tranquilizer so that makes a lot more sense. No sane person Eddie knows would touch Ravi’s weed besides Ravi. The stuff put half the team into a coma last year. Coach had to cancel an entire day’s worth of practice to let them all recover, even when his disappointment could kill.
Last time Eddie took a hit of it he was deathly afraid to masturbate for a week because he convinced himself that the ghosts of his ancestor’s pets were watching him from the afterlife.
The girl's hands creep down Buck’s chest, and she’s giggling so hard it makes Eddie’s teeth chatter with rage.
He slaps her hand away lightly. “Can you get off him? He looks thirty seconds away from puking his guts out and I’d hate for that J-Crew sweater to get dirty.”
“Go fuck yourself. This is Burberry.”
Eddie has no idea what that is. He’s really starting to dislike gingers. “I really don’t care.” He looks back to Buck. “Do you want me to call someone to take you home?”
“He’s my ride.” She tells him, finally keeping her grubby finger-nailed hands to herself.
That’s petty. Eddie is too busy whether or not to decide if this woman keeps up her hygiene. Ninety-nine percent of his concern is on Buck, who looks a second away from losing his life. He can save the internal bullying for when Karen interrogates him about where he’s been all night if she’s not too caught up in Karen. Eddie has never prayed harder for the magic of lesbians, because he really needs her not to see this. Eddie will never hear the end of it.
“He’s not driving like this.” Eddie argues. “He doesn’t even have a car. How the fuck did you get here? Who are you?”
“I'm Taylor.” She says it as though Eddie should already know who she is. This woman is aggravating. She looks like a business major in the most insulting way possible. Eddie looks her up and down, and can easily picture a stupid, bitchy briefcase and a half-chewed, over-priced pen tucked in a pantsuit pocket. “We’re dating.”
“We are not dating.” Buck corrects quickly, woozy as he is, right into Eddie’s ear. “Can you call my Hen?”
Keeping his firm grip on Buck, Eddie scans the lot.
Hen and Karen are currently sucking each other’s faces off, hips glued together like the separation would rip their pelvic bones clean out, and might be inching the border of a few indecency laws. Score.
“Hen is very drunk. And she’s dry humping her girlfriend on the empty kegs.” Their creativity and flexibility would be impressive if it wasn’t slightly scarring.
“She’s a doctor.” Buck whines, swaying forward to rest his head on Eddie’s shoulder. Thank God he’s only had one beer himself or else Buck’s weight would be on the wrong side of too much. He adjusts himself, puts his hands on Buck’s waist to hold him steadier. “A lesbian doctor. A doctor for lesbians! Being a lesbian is so cool.”
He pointedly doesn’t mention that if Hen solely treated lesbains Buck would not qualify for any kind of treatment, nor does he ask Buck how he knows that lesbianism is amazing. “Jesus, Buck, she’s in veterinary sciences.”
“I love her.” He whines, pawing at Eddie’s jacket with weak fingers. “Where did she go?”
“Buck. She’s busy. Come on, let’s sit in the truck for a sec. I can check you out.”
“You’re a nurse!” Buck squeals like a fan-girl. It’s such an ego boost that Eddie doesn’t snicker when he almost face-plants into a shrub from stumbling over his own feet. “That’s a lot cooler than a teacher. Maybe not cooler than a science teacher like me, but cool. I guess.”
“Teachers are just as important as nurses.” Eddie reminds him with more patience than he has. “Let's go sit. Come on.”
Taylor stalks off elsewhere once she realizes she’s not getting laid by Buck anytime soon. Eddie heaves a sigh of relief in her absence. He doesn’t know what Buck could possibly see in her, but it doesn’t matter all that much if they’re really just sleeping together.
It also stopped being his business the day he broke up with Buck. Eddie shouldn’t take advantage of how cuddly Buck is being though he doesn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. Buck’s big arms are loose around Eddie’s shoulders and are unrelenting.
“If you’re gonna throw up please try not to do it on me.”
Buck nods seriously against his neck. “Those are your good sweatpants.” He lets Eddie go and plops down on the swing door of the bed of the truck. “There’s a hole where the crotch is.”
Eddie ignores that Buck remembers that with how inebriated he is even when his heart skips a beat. “Tell me your name.”
“Buck- uh, Evan Buckley.”
“August 15, 2001.”
“What year is it?”
“Who’s the president?”
He sighs. “Close enough. You know where you are?”
“With you.” Buck replies with a dopey smile.
Eddie is unable to resist giving him a small smile. “Is it okay if I take you home?”
“To your home?”
He nods. “Gotta make sure you don’t choke on your own tongue.”
Eddie helps Buck into the car, puts his seatbelt on and has to avoid Buck’s snapping mouth trying to bite him. “Wait here, okay? Don’t touch anything. I have to see if anyone needs a ride.”
“I’ll keep my paws to myself!” He says confidently.
Eddie does end up bringing a few of his teammates home. Buck is passed out in the front seat by the time he gets everyone settled into the car and all then all the way to their homes. He keeps the radio low as he drives, using the rearview mirror to check on them. It’s Ravi, Karen, and Hen all squished together- Ravi in the middle surprisingly enough, being used as a pillow by the two women.
He loves them. It’s sappy to think while they’re all batshit drunk and reek of copious amounts of drugs. There’s nowhere Eddie would rather be than here, in this car, listening to Ravi sing off kay Fleetwood Mac in the backseat along with Hen and Karen shouting opinions about the band for the entire car to hear.
It’s sure as shit better than he spent the last bonfire; wiping his own tears and praying to God he wouldn’t pass out on the way back to his apartment, showering with boiling water so he’d forget everywhere that Ana touched him.
She was a great girl. She was pretty and nice and everything Eddie could want, everything he should want.
Eddie looks to the passenger seat where Buck is happily humming the lyrics to the song. Buck with his dimples peeking out from his cheeks and a few of his curls wild in the air. Buck with his fingers drumming to the beat on the dashboard in front of him and bopping his head, Buck who makes Eddie fucking ecstatic to wake up in the morning even though they’re apart.
It’s when Eddie thinks, maybe there is no certain way to feel. Since when has loving someone ever been wrong?
Eddie loves Buck innocently, all-consumingly. He feels like a sunflower upturned towards the sun when buck is in the room, his body no more than a green stem stuck in the dirt, his petals colored the prettiest shades of yellow.
“Eddie?” Buck mutters drowsily when it’s just the two of them.
Eddie risks a glance in his direction to find Buck already staring, a small and dopey smile playing along his lips. “Yeah?”
“Thanks for taking me home.”
It sparks something akin to hope. “Anytime.”
A Week of Classes: September 18th, 2023
Eddie loves his major.
No, really. Eddie loves showing up to the hospital every morning at eight to deal with the most obscure patient complaints around. Just last week he pulled a still-vibrating butt-plug out of a man’s anus right before performing CPR on a seven year-old boy that broke every rib right in half. He’s learning a lot in the program, but Eddie needs more. He loves going into every class and chattering with his friends about God-knows-what.
Eddie’s brain is fast-paced. He’s quick on his feet with ever quicker hands. Running labs and sewing up wounds is only fun until it’s really not. The majority of his days are spent entering collected lab work into patient charts.
He loves this job. Truly, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be, especially when the little kids come up and hug him around the legs in thanks or when an elderly woman gives gratitude in baked goods.
Eventually, in a few years time, this won’t satisfy him.
“Hello sir, my name is Dr. Diaz. I’m a medical nursing intern on clinical rotation today. Is it alright if I take your vitals and possibly insert a fluid I.V. into your inner elbow?”
“Sure thing, kid.” The man, a red-headed, burly guy with the mustache of a porn star nods gruffly at him. “Where d’you go to school?”
Eddie answers as he pulls out his blood pressure cuff. “U.S.C.”
“Smart enough for nursing school.”
“Ever think about joining the army?”
The corners of Eddie’s lips twitch upward. “Only before I got a scholarship.”
Truthfully, Eddie hasn’t thought about it besides that passing panic of how the fuck will I pay off my student loans. Eddie knows right from wrong, he knows that republicans and national fracking businesses are full of shit, but the military?
“You’re good with your hands.” The man notes as Eddie unwaveringly, seamlessly puts the needle into his vein to take his CBC stats. “Could be a medic. Don’t say no yet. Sleep on it for a while.”
Eddie chuckles and caps the vile. He pulls the needle out and tapes over the sight with a shrug. “I’ll think about it.”
It could be a fresh start- one that might give him a bullet through the shoulder and a new perspective on every monster under the bed. Eddie couldn’t picture himself holding a firearm with the snout longer than his leg.
Though he has to ask himself, could he kill a person? Eddie couldn’t picture himself holding a firearm with the snout longer than his leg, face dirty from fighting, permanent bruises littered across his body. Could he fight for a country that has never fought for him?
Eddie, even after everything, doesn’t want to hurt anymore. His heart is tattered almost beyond repair. He doesn’t want to wake up screaming about getting people killed or not being able to save someone. He’ll get enough of that being a nurse, but being the direct cause is a completely different sin.
After all, he’s caused enough hurt in his lifetime.
Maddie & Chimney’s Party: September 27th, 2023
Maddie and Chimney celebrate the anniversary of them becoming friends, which Eddie finds just as endearing as it is weird.
They’ve always been weird together. Eddie sees them in the stands of their meets to cheer on Buck, hand-in-hand and legs through together like they’re permanently woven that way. Chimney gives her this gooey-eyed look that Eddie has to shield his own eyes from. They give each other good-bye pecks like a married couple and Eddie can only hope to recreate their love someday.
Eddie has never been stupid enough to pass on free food and time with all of his friends in one place. He’s one semester away from graduating undergrad- and Eddie might not be the most sentimental man, but he’d like to grow into one. He wants to think back on college not as an entire four years of pulling his hair out from stress or ruining his body with swimming twice a day, but the people he met and who will hopefully stay lifelong friends until they’re graying and their eyesight has gone to shit.
He comes to help Maddie set up early to replace Buck, who’s sleeping sprawled out on the couch even with his ridiculously long legs uselessly. He tries not to look in the direction as she bosses him around the apartment, folding paper flowers and dumping bags of chips into bowls.
Eventually, Buck comes out into the kitchen rubbing his red eyes, hair so disheveled that Eddie can hardly see his face underneath the mop of curls. “Why didn’t you wake me?” He grunts.
Maddie pinches her brother’s cheek teasingly. “One day you’re going to sleep through a tsunami. How did you not hear Eddie drop an entire liter of soda on the floor? It got in my hair.”
The corners of Eddie’s lips twitch upward as they bicker. Buck’s been a heavy sleeper since he’s known the guy, and he sleeps a lot. Eddie spent most of his junior year of college cradling Buck like a baby on his dingy apartment couch, making sure his head had a comfortable place to rest on Eddie’s neck. Buck would sit on his lap like those big dogs that definitely know they aren’t lap dogs but know no one will treat them otherwise, and kiss Eddie’s cheeks and neck until he fell asleep to the lull of the television.
The guests arrive shortly after the tables are locked in place. Karen quickly whisks Eddie away to a drinking game, Hen in tow. He indulges her if only to see the crazy face she makes when she wins.
It’s as though Eddie’s eyes are drawn to Buck. Every turn of his head, every flicker of a gaze, Buck is there.
Everyday that Eddie doesn’t have Buck is a reminder of what he crumpled. He doesn’t make hot chocolate as good as Buck does- not because he’s bad at it, but because Buck used almond milk that Eddie was too stubborn to admit was better than dairy milk. Buck introduced him to sitcoms that don’t make him want to peel his own face off (The Good Place made him bawl his eyes out at three in the morning), showed him that bubble-gum pop music is necessary in a few situations, and told him that weighted blankets are good for stress.
Buck never made Eddie inherently better. Buck being there didn’t automatically make Eddie’s issues dissolve into dust or make them go away entirely.
Being loved by someone like Buck made him want to do better, for him and most importantly, for himself. Being loved by someone as overwhelming good as Buck made Eddie want to show the world that he deserved it. Being loved by Buck made Eddie feel like having problems isn’t all that life is about.
Being loved by someone like Buck made him realize that it might be worth it to love himself. If Buck can do it, he sure as shit can too.
When Eddie looks towards Buck on purpose this time, seeking him out in the room full of his friends, his head is thrown back with laughter, the lines of the tendons in his neck visible, the slight pinkness to his cheeks… the word stops spinning.
Obviously not literally. The Earth continues to rotate on its axis and the crickets continue to chirp outside and everyone around him is in motion. It’s just- when Eddie sees Buck, it all comes into focus, like it’s really real. It’s as if everything has been blurry for a long time, so long that all the colors blur together into gray and there’s no real reason to stop to see it all, but with Buck, Eddie gets a glimpse of what the world could be all the time.
Then, Buck spots him and throws him a soft, shy smile, and it’s vibrant. A shooting array of hues glow around the man’s face, an epiphany of new shades of color Eddie hasn't even been able to perceive before.
Eddie watches Buck make his way towards Maddie and Chimney’s shared bedroom and Eddie has the urge to follow. What makes his feet move, he’s not entirely sure. He figures they’re on decent enough terms now that they can be alone without ripping one another’s heads off.
The door is ajar when he reaches for it, pushing it open to reveal Buck sitting on the edge of the bed, stretching out his left leg with a wince.
He should turn around, give Buck some privacy, but his hurt expression only ropes Eddie in further.
“Uh,” Eddie says, as fucking smart as possible. “Hey.”
Buck gives him a tight smile before bringing his attention back to massage around his kneecap. “Hi.”
“Do you- Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Just tired,” Buck explains. “The more tired I am the more it hurts.”
Eddie knows that, and it stabs him right in the chest that he thinks Buck would forget that tidbit. He files his own hurt away and brings his regard back to the bigger elephant in the room: Buck’s leg has only been getting worse. It has been for a while now. Buck thinks no one notices, but Eddie hears the little hurt gasps during leg presses and the way he flexes his foot after diving drills. Eddie knows that Ravi carries Buck’s bag sometimes, and that Ravi carries a soccer-mom amount of Bengay around.
Obviously his wits have deceived him tonight. “I can help. If you’re okay with it.”
He expects to be shut down immediately, maybe even screamed at, then he feels guilty for thinking that Buck would ever yell even at him. Buck never yelled.
Being angry had always been Eddie’s speciality.
Buck nods, slightly hesitantly, shrugging. “Sure. You’re a nurse.”
Eddie is reminded of the bonfire where he made sure Buck didn’t choke on his own tongue. Maybe he doesn’t have a right to barge in here with the overwhelming need to make everything better, but Buck hasn’t sent him away.
The bonfire was different. Eddie was being a good samaritan. He was making sure one of their best swimmers didn’t get aspiration pneumonia. He’s being a team player for fuck’s sake! The team needs Buck just as much as it needs a pool to swim in.
“Not yet.” Eddie kneels in between Buck’s legs and helps him shimmy out of his sweats, leaving him in red plaid boxers that sit low on his belly, the light dusting trail of hair under his belly button that Eddie ignores, he’s ignoring it. He’s a goddamn professional. “I’m going to poke around, see if anything feels wrong from the outside- maybe it’s just a sprain, worse case scenario, you pulled the whole muscle. Tell me if it gets to be too much. Ready?”
Buck nods. His face is pinched up tight, and he doesn’t relax when Eddie slides both hands up his thigh, both to calm and to feel with his thumbs for any exterior tenderness. His leg is taught.
“Try to relax your whole leg.” When Buck does so, Eddie gives him a reassuring smile. “There you go. Good.”
Eddie goes from foot to calf without feeling anything extraordinary out of place. His muscles are twitching under the skin, but that’s not necessarily abnormal with no presence of other neurological conditions.
It’s when Eddie goes higher and higher past the knee that Buck flinches. He sucks in air quickly, leg jerking where Eddie is pressing around the hip joint.
“That hurt a lot?” Eddie asks worriedly. If Buck’s leg hurts from only doing a few basic stretches and prodding around, it means a lot of inflammation from being overworked. The muscles are tense under Eddie’s careful fingers, tender.
Buck nods roughly. “Yeah.”
“That’s the Brevis,” he explains. He wraps his hands all the way around Buck’s hips, his hands unfortunately digging into the meat of his ass. “This is the Medius. Does it hurt everytime you move or only when you put weight on it?”
“It always- it doesn’t matter what I’m doing. It always hurts.” Eddie’s heart crumbles under the exhausted tone of Buck’s voice. An injury like this is detrimental in a sport like theirs, especially if there’s no alleviation from the pain.
“Has the problem always been with the flexor muscles or the joint?”
Jesus. “Okay. I’m going to help you stand so we can go through some stretches. The muscles are super tight and it’ll only make it worse if they stay that way. After that I’ll go get something to put on it.”
They do so with Eddie holding gingerly to Buck’s hips, feeling the muscles in motion. Buck holds his shoulders tightly, leaning forward to take the pressure off his leg while they go through some stretches. He lets Eddie feel the front and back of the joint, around his knee, and the calf.
“There’s- Buck, this isn’t good.” Eddie tells him gently. “Have you been going to physical therapy?”
Buck looks completely miserable. He rubs a hand down his face tiredly. “I’ve been going twice a week. It only makes me feel shittier and Maddie- she keeps saying that it’ll take time, especially since I actively use it for hours everyday, but it doesn’t feel like it’s getting better.”
“Have you thought about taking the off-season to rest?”
“Her and Chimney and the physical therapist say if I don’t, the consequences will be life-long.”
“What does Coach say?”
Buck smiles sheepishly. “He doesn’t know.”
Eddie knows Buck. He knows that Buck feels like he’s got to be doing something to be loved, and that he has to be good at it to be worth something. Eddie knows how long he fought to be even a passing thought in the minds of his parents, how they never treated him how he deserved.
It’s not Eddie’s place anymore to pry. “I’m not going to tell you what to do.”
Buck nods, sad around the edges. “I know.”
Fetching the tube of Biofreeze in the bathroom gives Eddie a moment to breathe. He hadn’t realized how intimate this is. When they were together, Buck would lay back without a second thought while Eddie soothed this particular pain, and didn't even give a second glance when Eddie slipped his boxers down to examine the area. There were no hurt faces when Eddie would massage around his hip, nothing when he’d knead at the muscles there and press a playful kiss to the area, letting Buck make some stupid joke about how much Eddie loves kissing ass.
Even after everything, Buck still lets Eddie touch him where he’s hurt. He somehow trusts Eddie enough to see him actively in pain, and to try to make it better for him.
He will not cry in the bathroom with this gross, sticky substance all over his fingers. Not today.
Buck went back to sitting on the edge of the bed, legs spread indecently, leaning back on his arms, displaying a small sliver of his clenched lower abdomen.
Without meaning to, Eddie imagines dropping right to his knees and wrestling down his boxers. He would get his mouth right over Buck, moan as he would harden in this mouth. Eddie hasn’t sucked anyone off since Buck, hasn’t sucked anyone off before Buck either, and misses it. Not some nameless stranger that would leave the second he came, but he misses doing it for Buck.
Buck who’s so sensitive and responsive. Buck who moans and whines all pretty and low in his throat. Buck who scratches his fingers through Eddie’s hair and praises him the entire time, telling him how good it feels and how well he’s doing. Buck who kisses him even after Eddie swallows his come. Buck who hugged Eddie tight to his chest as if Eddie could ever leave. Buck who was just starting to accept that he didn’t always need to reciprocate for Eddie to want him to stay.
Except he did. Eddie did leave.
Eddie holds the tube up. “Is it okay if I do it? Or I can leave it here and-”
“No.” Buck says quickly. “It’s- you can do it.”
Again, he kneels between Buck’s legs and squirts some of the substance between his fingers. He doesn’t bother rubbing it together to warm it. It’ll sting cold anyway. As he works, Buck is silent. He holds perfectly still as Eddie hands massage the cream into his muscles and joints.
When Eddie looks up, Buck is already staring. His lips are slightly parted, eyes darker than Eddie has seen them in months, and maybe he’s thinking the same thing Eddie shamefully did a few minutes ago.
Buck physically shakes his head, and the moment is gone. “Thanks- um. Thank you for… doing that.”
Eddie clears his throat and gives Buck’s non-injured leg a friendly pat. “Of course.” He replies, standing, itching to get the hell out of here before he does something stupid like offer to jerk the guy off (it’s a medical thing, for Christ’s sake, orgasms are fantastic for pain control, Eddie’s just being a considerate teammate). “Need help getting up?”
“Nah, I’m going to take a nap. They have this really cool pillow-”
Eddie watches in horror as Buck reaches for the pregnancy pillow, and has to slap the thing out of Buck’s hands, both watching as it flies to the floor on the other side of the bed. They might be broken up, but Eddie is a decent enough person to save Buck from the wretched creation that’s curing Chimney’s side-dick condition.
“Don’t!” Eddie cuts him off yelping, probably seeming like a maniac. “You don’t want to touch it. Or be near it.”
“Chimney puts his dick on it. In it? I’m not sure.”
Buck narrows his eyes at him. “I can’t tell if you’re kidding.”
“I’m not!” He says frantically. “Maddie told me.”
“Maddie was fucking with you.”
While that’s possible, he personally wouldn’t take that chance. He shrugs. “Your choice.”
Eddie shuts the light off and closes the door with a smile, even if all he wants to do is kick off his jeans and curl into the place next to Buck where his body belongs.
Saturday Afternoon: September 30th, 2022
It’s one of the rare Saturdays that Coach went easy on them, letting them play Penguin instead of the second half of their main set as a reward for how well their season has been going.
Still, it tires him out. Though not enough to get any kind of sympathy from his grandmother. He lays sideways across his bed while she lectures him about never coming to see her.
“Abuela,” Eddie whines as a petulant child might, “Estoy cansada. Swimming has been kicking my ass-”
Even over the phone Eddie can see the woman’s indignation. “Idioma!” She scolds.
“Siento.” He resolves quickly. “And nursing sucks. I don’t know if I’ll make it for dinner.”
“Edmundo. I want to see my grandson.” Eddie’s Abuela is persuasive on her calmer days, and insistent on her worst, he’ll give her that. “Major pronto que tarde.”
Eddie feels guilty. For treading over his grandmother’s retirement with his family problems. For dumping all of his crap in her garage where her potted plants used to reside. For leaving two weeks after getting there. It’s ungrateful, and now, it’s amplified.
Eddie wasn’t lying about being tired. He’s had to miss every friday practice to complete his mandatory clinical rotation- which he is not compensated for, fuck the University of Southern California- which means he has an extra workout to make-up another day on top of all of his strenuous classes. The only sensible thing he’s done all year is submit his graduate application before he left Texas as to not add another duty on the top of his tipping plates.
“Okay,” he sighs, giving in. Eddie misses her, the feeling sits behind his teeth. It’s a childlike thing, always lingering in his mind. He misses when he was small enough for her to scoop up into her lap or when he’d sit on the counter and help her make chile tamales. “¿Qué tal el desayuno del sábado? I’ll come at eight.”
“Eddito.” Abuela says. It’s soft this time. It warms him up even through the crackle of the phone. “Te amo mucho. Your abuela is proud of you. ”
Eddie doesn’t know if it’s appropriate to cry at eleven in the morning on a tuesday. The words choke him up anyway. He knows his grandmother loves him, it’s just that- he needed to hear it again is all. That’s it.
“Yo también te amo.” He manages, swiping his undereyes free of the few fallen tears.
“Eres mi vida. Te veré el sábado.”
After she hangs up, Eddie scrolls through his phone for a moment in a vain attempt to emotionally recover. A message crosses his eyes and his thumb hovers over it before pressing down lightly.
To Ramon Díaz & Helena Díaz, 08/30, 6:38am
Hi Mom and Dad. My first Invitational is this weekend at Pitzer College in Claremont on Saturday. I hope to see you guys there since it’s my last first meet and it would mean a lot to me if you could come. Love you.
Read 9:03am 09/01
It’s only the first in a series of messages in this group chat of only Eddie and his parents where they completely ignore his invitation. He has a desk drawer full of meet tickets with their seat reserved, never punched through to indicate their usage.
Eddie closes his phone and shuts his eyes. He pulls the knitted throw blanket over his body, a gift from his aunt when he graduated high school that’s as ugly as it is warming, and tries not to think about his parents.
Practice: November 12th, 2023
“I’m sorry.” Eddie says genuinely. “I’m so- Are you okay?”
Buck’s face is red, and he’s clutching his hand as if it’ll fall off if he lets go. “M’ fine!” He squeaks. “Just need a minute.”
He watches helplessly as Buck takes short, steadying breaths. “Can I do anything? Want some ice?”
“No,” Buck breathes, still staring in horror at his hand.
“Damn, Eddie,” Jonah laughs in the lane beside them, and honestly, Eddie forgot there were other people in the pool. “I know you’re still pissed that he dumped you, but you don’t have to take it out on his fingers. We need those more than you do now.”
Eddie really hadn’t meant to kick him. It happens! They’re all swimming vigorously in a narrow space. They’re all pretty big guys. Buck’s hand is already regaining its natural pale color- regressing into its natural pale color? Either way, Eddie truly is sorry.
And he wants to beat the shit out of Greenway. Though Eddie might have to take a number and get in line. The dude isn’t exactly a team celebrity.
Ravi snaps his goggles onto his forehead dramatically. “Who are you again?” He says all bitchy and proud of himself. Eddie could kiss him. “Maybe instead of ogling Buck every practice you should focus on those stats. You’re a sophomore and haven’t broken a minute in the hundred back. It’s actually pretty pathetic.”
Buck nods in agreement, seemingly instantaneously recovered from his injury. “Plus, Eddie’s the one who broke up with me!” He says cheerfully, even when his eyes get sadder at the fact. “So really, he’s just salting a wound.”
“Let me take a look?” Eddie asks quietly, ignoring how silent the rest of the team has become at watching the spectacle unfold.
“Dude, I said I’m fine-”
“Please.” He insists.
Buck rolls his eyes so hard that Eddie wants to ask if he saw the cobwebs on his skull. He’s acting a little douchey and a lot hot, and hands over his, well, his hand.
Gingerly, Eddie traces the ligaments and joint, carefully watching Buck’s face for any further signs of discomfort. Nothing is broken or out of place. If anything, he’ll have a nice purple bruise tomorrow.
“What’s the diagnosis, Doctor Diaz? Will I survive?” He asks dramatically, pouting by sticking his bottom lip out to outer space. Eddie wants to plant a kiss to his palm and very bravely restrains himself from doing so.
Eddie snorts. He clicks his tongue, playing along to the bit. “We’ll have to perform an amateur amputation. I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do to save it.”
Buck gives him this sparkling look, and Eddie is still holding his hand. They look at each other and everything goes quiet; there’s no splashing water or the buzz of the time clock. There’s no one but them.
Eddie takes him in like a starving man. Buck is dripping. Obviously. The droplets slowly roll down his cheeks and catch in the curl of his eyelashes and in the wrinkled corner of his eyes from smiling. His dimples are completely displayed and the lobes of his ears pop out from under his cap. His hand is warm in Eddie’s, the fingers curved around his palm like he doesn’t realize he’s holding Eddie back.
The moment is broken when Ravi gets back to the wall growling and hissing like a sea-snake. He says something Eddie doesn’t hear over the soft sound of Buck’s giggle, and Eddie is in love with the sound almost as much as he’s in love with Buck himself.
“Stop eye-fucking.” Ravi scowls, crossing his arms over his bare chest.
When they both ignore him, he steps between them, contorting Eddie’s visual of those sea-glass blue eyes. “I said stop, you freaks. I feel like a pervert just watching the two of you hold hands. Coach is writing another set. Hopefully he splits the two of you up so no one else becomes a victim of whatever it is you’re doing.”
Eddie can’t help it. He bursts into laughter, the kind of laugh that makes his stomach and sides hurt, an ugly noise coming from the back of his throat. On Ravi’s other side, Buck does the same, only in a way more attractive way.
Coach doesn’t split them up.
In fact, he pairs them together.
“A relay gets the block for this practice, B relay gets in tomorrow, and C goes the next day. I want you to work on going off each other- Eddie goes off Buck, Sebastian goes off Ravi. Keep going until the clock hits forty-five, then we take break like always.”
Buck is beautiful all the time, but especially when he swims. He’s built like a goddamn building, all strong arms and ever stronger legs. It doesn’t look like he’d be good for backstroke. He’s more muscular and top-heavy, barrel-chested on the best of days, so it seems like butterfly would be it for him, but no. Buck moves relentlessly through the water during his backstroke. Sure, it’s not as graceful as the lanky men are. He’s fast and full of power; he’s gorgeous.
They're friends. Sort of. Buck will joke around with him, slap his back like the great bro he is, will steal sips from his water bottle when he thinks Eddie isn't looking. It's as normal as normal can be.
It still isn't enough. Eddie thinks this until the guilt consumes him whole. It's no one's fault but his own that they're only friends now. It's his fault that he can't reach over and kiss Buck when he's being particularly kissable, his fault that his bed feels all too big, his fault that he's got all of this love and nowhere to dump it all.
"Oh my God! " Buck squeals. "Deadpool 3 just came out!"
"Don't cream in the pool." Eddie mutters.
When Buck sacks him with a flipper, he only smiles.
Friends. Eddie can do friends.
Eddie’s Birthday: October 9th, 2023
Eddie turns twenty-two on a Monday.
There’s nothing extraordinary about it. After twenty-one, birthdays are just a reminder that life ticks by despite not ever wanting it to.
“Just think!” Ravi shuffles excitedly next to him with a stupidly happy smile that’s completely contagious, even to Eddie’s gloomy mood. “In three years you can legally rent a car in the United States!”
Practice is a bust. Coach Nash takes no mercy on them, and even uses Eddie’s birthday as another excuse to torture them with a set of twenty-two one-hundred freestyles on a minute and two seconds, no intervals and no mid-set rest. If it was moral to hate someone on their birthday Eddie is sure his teammates would have him publicly feathered and tarred for being alive.
Adoringly, none of his friends are good at keeping secrets. They all get pink in the face at the mere mention of Monday night, and Chimney has been kept away from him like a caged animal for a week prior. Maddie is the only one able to keep any semblance of humanity, even Buck gets all wide-eyed and steers away from him.
“Didn’t even know it was your birthday,” Maddie lies, like a liar would, “How old are you even? Forty-five? You got the wrinkles for it.”
“I’m turning twenty-two, asshole.” Eddie sticks his tongue out at her while he still has some youth left. “And says you. You’re, like, ancient. The mummification process knocks on your door every single night.”
“Fuck you, Eddie.” Maddie says cheerfully as she stabs him in the side with her pen.
The party is fantastic. Karen covers his eyes with her palms and shoves him into Maddie and Chimney’s apartment, everyone shouting and singing Happy Birthday the pitchiest Eddie’s ever heard. He gets about twenty cheek-kisses and back slaps, champagne poured down the back of his shirt, and a cake that has a small figurine of a male nurse swimming in a pool with his name in blood-red icing along the front.
Growing up, his parents never made this much of a fuss over him. They’d have a small tre leches cake with a wrong number of candles and a small check of money quietly slid to him over the table, stiff smiles and a blind-and-you’ll-miss-it celebration.
In this room, filled with every person that he loves, who has loved him since he transferred here from that tiny Texas community college, Eddie is loved. The apartment is bursting with it. He dances with Karen and lets Chimney hug him so hard that his feet leave the ground. Eddie takes over thirty selfies with Maddie and indulges Hen’s beer pong addiction. He lets Ravi fireman carry him a lap around in competition with Buck, who does it five times over just to be a show-off.
Buck looks like he belongs in one of the feminist soft-core porn videos Eddie can never get through. His jeans are tight and black and slutty . His shirt is a satiny textured blue that compliments his eyes. Eddie might be fucking crazy but it also seems like he has a touch of lipgloss- maybe from kissing or perhaps he put that on himself.
Now that he had a taste at the bonfire, Eddie can’t get Buck out of his head. More than the usual amount of sad pining, he misses Buck’s hands, his lips.
Fuck, he’s pretty. Gorgeous in a sinister way that makes Eddie want to fall to his knees and pray to God to get that dick in his mouth.
Not that there’s been a moment in Buck’s adult life where he hasn’t looked like the guy that always gets zoomed in on during porn. He’d totally tap that, day and night, twenty-four-seven. He has tapped that, and it was a holy experience for sure.
Eddie closes his mouth before he collects flies. So what if he’s a little horny from Buck throwing him over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, hand dangerously close to the swell of Eddie's ass.
Is it degrading to think about his ex-boyfriend in terms of porn? Eddie figures since he’s actually in love with Buck that it doesn’t count as badly. And Buck would probably be so flattered he’d blush all the way down his chest, which Eddie would happily lap at with his tongue without all the sweaty, messy sex that could follow.
They haven’t been avoiding each other, so to speak. They make polite conversation that Ravi doesn’t have to mediate. Eddie gets the tiniest glimpses into Buck’s life, and Buck doesn’t scowl when he sees Eddie anymore at all, in fact, he looks almost pleased. They’re making progress.
Eddie learns (not from Buck himself, but from Chimney) that Buck is considering dropping out to travel. Education isn’t screaming Buck’s name anymore, he wants something more. It’s intriguing to see Buck’s life from the outside, like watching the beauties of a wildfire without feeling the scalding heat of it.
How they end up in the bathroom together, Eddie doesn’t know. One minute he’s washing hands and the next the door is flying open, Buck is pushing him against the sink with a big, hungry question in his eyes that Eddie leans right into. He was just sitting on Maddie's couch, now he’s got his tongue down Buck’s throat.
He is a weak, weak man.
Then insane, fucking beautiful Buck dropped promptly to his knees and undid Eddie’s zipper.
It’s been thirty-second tops and his knees are already wobbling. “Buck,” he gasps. “Buck, so fucking good. Oh my God.”
Buck doesn’t respond, but he bobs his head faster and faster, lapping his tongue over the slit of Eddie’s cock with every pass. His blowjobs have always been messy and left Eddie completely boneless. All he can do now is grip the sink and pray that the walls are soundproof.
Another echoing moan, and Buck pulls off with a pop. “You’re being too loud.”
“Stop being so good at it then.” Eddie pants. The images of Buck peacocking under praise are burned into his brain. A permanent fixture right next to all the important things he needs to remember, like filing taxes and how to conduct the physical examinations of his patients.
Buck licks at the underside roughly. No one would blame Eddie if we were to pass out right now, right? “Never gotten any complaints from you before.”
His brain can’t even register that acknowledgement that they’ve had a before because Buck dives back in. He seals his lips over the head and pumps the rest of Eddie’s length in swift, sure strokes with his hand, practically begging the orgasm right out of him.
It’s so good after weeks of nothing except memories and his own right hand. He can’t keep up with Buck’s movements. He sneaks his hand down to where one of Buck’s is resting on his hip and laces them together for an anchor.
His heart soars when Buck holds back. He presses a kiss to the side of Eddie’s dick before working him to the finish line.
He selfishly tried to hold back his orgasm though it’s no use. The combination of knowing it’s Buck sucking him down and that it’s so good he can barely stop himself from screaming isn’t letting him stop it.
“M’ gonna come. Gonna come. You gotta… fuck! ” He wheezes, the hand clutching the sink tightening so hard his knuckles go white. His knees are threatening to give out where he stands, and not for the first time during this, he wishes they were in a bed taking their time. “ Buck-”
Buck doesn’t pull off like Eddie expects him too which makes another pulse of orgasm rush through him. He might black out. There’s a choir of angels singing. He’s just found the answer to world hunger. Buck swallows his come, and Eddie is going to fucking faint.
He’s terribly sensitive as Buck milks him through it, not stopping the motions of his mouth until Eddie is twitching away from him.
“Good?” Buck asks, shifting on his knees with a wince. His mouth is hoarse and he wipes his mouth on the inside of Eddie’s shirt. A possible revenge that Eddie couldn’t give a shit about right now. He’s still catching his breath from having his soul sucked out through his penis.
His leg, Jesus Christ. Buck has been kneeling on the tiles for a good few minutes (at least five, don’t judge him - it’s been awhile). It must be bothering him. Eddie reaches down and helps Buck up, holding his elbows as Buck shakes out a possible cramp.
“You okay?” Eddie asks. Buck might have initiated this, but he feels a little guilty for letting him in such awkward circumstances. There’s not much room in here and he’ll have to look his sister in the eye in less than a minute.
Buck shrugs off his hands and gives him half a smile. “Don’t worry. I wasn’t down there long.”
“Dick,” Eddie breathes, though he’s smiling too. It’s a small glimpse of the Buck he knows and loves. “Want me to get you off?” Buck is hard. Eddie can feel it against his thigh as they share a short kiss.
Buck pulls away much to Eddie's dissatisfaction. “Don’t worry about it.” He replies as he unlocks the bathroom door to slip out of it.
Eddie turns around and has to hold back a groan at the view in the mirror. His lips are swollen and there’s a deep, purple bruise beginning to bloom over his pulse point in the shape of Buck's mouth. It makes his bones tremble.
He’s completely debauched, taken apart and almost back together, all from Buck’s touch.
Eddie takes a deep breath.
There's a knock at the door, then it’s pushing back open.
Buck’s lips are on his before he can register enough to kiss back. “Happy birthday, Eds.”
The rest of it flies by. Eddie doesn’t see Buck for the rest of it. He’s mainly crowded by Maddie and Karen as they scream-sing into his ear like they’re trying out for American Idol.
It’s great. Not for the first time Eddie is overwhelmed with love for these people.
“Who made these?” Eddie asks with a mouthful of the best cake he’s ever eaten. He might have died and gone to Heaven. It’s strawberry filled with vanilla glaze, covering his tongue with sugar and pure sweetness. “I need to kiss them.”
Maddie snorts. “Buck did,” she replies, and he hopes that she can’t see his blush.
Twenty-two doesn’t feel all that different from twenty-one, Eddie thinks as he lays in bed, now back in his apartment. His friends sent him home without letting him help with cleaning up. There’s a box of cupcakes in his fridge and he had to wipe lip gloss off the base of his penis in the shower.
They had sex. They just had sex in Buck’s sisters’ bathroom with all of their friends and teammates outside.
That might be the worst part about it. He knows Buck, knows how his head works. He knows how Buck sees sex as a way to cope with feelings he might not even know exist yet.
Buck kissed him. Buck swallowed his come, left, then came back to give Eddie another kiss. Buck kissed him, and held his hand while sucking him off, and kissed him with his plump, glossy lips.
Buck kissed him, Buck kissed him, Buck kissed him.
They had a lot of sex while they were together; two young men with libidos the same height as mountains, it’s pretty obvious what they’d get up to. Not so often full-on explosive anal, though handjobs and blowjobs were in abundance probably everyday.
They had fun, giggly sex, laughing through the entire ordeal and kissing each other's smiles. They had rough sex that left them both sweaty and panting and pink in the chests. They had hot morning sex and shower sex and car sex. One time in the restroom of an off-campus club.
Eddie has missed him. Not just the sex part, the after . He misses seeing Buck’s head on the pillow next to his. He can recall the exact dimensions of the slope of Buck’s nose, the soft swoop of his eyelashes, the divot of his dimples, his collarbones. He misses Buck whining into his mouth and whispering into his ear and weaving their sticky fingers together.
Buck taught Eddie a lot about sex. Eddie couldn’t even find his own prostate before Buck’s long, thin fingers were prodding at it like he hit the golden buzzer on America’s Got Talent. He learned that he does embarrassingly enough love having his ass eaten and that he can sometimes come without a hand on his dick. One time Buck pounded him so hard they broke the school-issued bed frame.
That had been overwhelmingly awkward to explain to the exhausted maintenance man that had to fix it.
Eddie’s favorite thing is making Buck feel good, and he doesn’t just think that in the gentleman-ly golden rule of always make your partner come first. Getting Buck off is what gets Eddie off.
Buck is sensitive practically everywhere, and so fucking responsive. He’s always completely hard before Eddie sees an inch of that delicate skin, goosebump erupting when his shirt is finally off. He’s a walking wet dream that Eddie never wants to wake up from.
Now he’s laying in bed with a fucking hard-on thinking about his ex boyfriend. It’s a misery-boner. A boner of despair.
Eddie takes a pillow and half-heartedly tries to suffocate himself to death. He stops when he realizes he’s wearing boxers with pickles on them and a douchey shirt that has some stupid pun on it. He cannot die wearing either of these items.
Instead he rolls onto his stomach and tries to sleep (and also tries ignoring how his dick now has friction on the mattress that he could oh so easily roll right into).
What a fucking day to turn twenty-two.
Halloween Invitational: October 28th, 2023
To Coach Nash, 6:10am
I’m sorry Coach, my alarm went off late and my
truck battery died. I’m walking as quick
As I can to the aquatic center
now but I’m still going to be late. I’m sorry.
From Coach Nash, 6:11am
The bus will wait. Thank you for telling me.
“Look who finally decided to show up.” Ravi teases, slapping Eddie’s chest as he scurries to the back of the bus.
He flips his friend off, which gets him a stern warning from their coach. Bobby goes over their rouster of assigned events. Eddie is put in the two-hundred and the four-hundred medley, along with both A relays. He doesn’t listen to the rest, until Bobby urges them to discuss with their individual teams.
It’s been a hectic few weeks. Right after his birthday, Eddie got switched to a new rotation schedule, throwing off his entire practice schedule all for the shits and giggles of the University. He’s had to miss a few practices and even a meet, much to the whining of his relay team. The course load isn’t getting any easier either. How many fucking years does he need to take advanced calculus? His hair is thinning from stress, he’s sure of it.
Fuck the guy that invented advanced mathematics. What a total loser.
Eddie looks around the bus for Buck, only to see him snoring in the window seat next to Bobby oddly enough. Damn. He looks like shit, in all honesty. Eddie loves him to pieces and can still admit when Buck’s not doing so hot- not hot in the attractive way, because Buck is always attractive. He notices how pink his nose is, how dark the bags under his eyes are, that he’s shivering despite the heat blasting through the bus.
Eddie is shuffled down the line by a few of his teammates and is forced to look away.
When Ravi plops himself into the seat next to Eddie with a big grin, they talk about the relay alone, and then get very off topic about whether or not automations should have basic human rights.
The invitational is packed with swimmers and onlookers. By the time USC’s team arrives it’s a madhouse. The pool is overflowing, there’s men in the smallest suits Eddie has ever seen everywhere, and Coach is gripping his clipboard for dear life.
“Good luck,” Bobby claps Eddie’s shoulder as their relay rounds up to head to the starting blocks. “Focus on the turn. Nice big pullout.”
Eddie follows after his team, trying to ignore the already-fizzy disappointment sitting heavy in his gut.
The starting whistle buzzes, and Buck arches his back into the first fifty of the relay. His backstroke is choppier than his butterfly, but just as fast. His head practically flies over the water with every stroke.
When Buck flip-turns, Eddie climbs onto the block, getting his feet perfectly into position and resting his hands onto his knees.
In and out. In and out. In and out.
Doing breaststroke is a blur. One second he’s diving in and the next he’s got the touchpad right on his fingers. He doesn’t even get to acknowledge Ravi’s dive over him before his wrist is being grabbed.
“Eddie!” Buck yells excitedly, yanking Eddie out of the pool with pure, brute strength before he can even catch his breath. “That was fucking amazing!”
Maybe it’s the adrenaline, or Buck truly forgot himself, because Eddie is pulled into a tight hug, one where he’s lifted right off his feet and spun in a big circle. He has no choice but to clutch onto Buck's shoulders and pray that the man remembers that everything is wet and slippery and neither of them can afford being concussed right now.
“What did I go?” Eddie asks when he’s put down, grinning just as wide as Buck. He keeps his hands tight on Buck’s shoulders.
Buck bounces on the balls of his feet. “You broke twenty-seven!” He answers excitedly, dimples popping out and everything. “That’s fucking amazing, Eddie! Holy fuck!”
“Holy fuck!” Eddie echoes excitedly.
The meet starts off well enough to counteract Eddie’s shitty morning. His truck is still crapped out in the parking lot of his apartment and the hurt of his parents leaving him on read again after inviting them to this meet is stinging behind his ribs.
Even his fifty freestyle doesn’t go the worst it possibly could. He sure as shit doesn’t win, because sprint freestyle has never and will never be his thing, though he bests his heat. It’s good enough to get a pat on the back from Coach and the whooping cries of his teammates.
That is, until he twinges his right shoulder on a turn and completely loses momentum in his one-hundred breaststroke, making him gain three entire seconds onto his season-average time.
Eddie makes a B-Line for the locker room and tries to catch his breath, putting it off as being breathless from the strenuous swimming but five, ten, fifteen minutes later and it barely returns.
How many fucking heart attacks can a guy even have before dying? Eddie thinks as he digs both sets of his nails into his chest. I should call the Guiness World Record Book.
“Eddie?” Someone peaks through the curtain of the change stall, the voice distorted by its own uncertainty. “Eddie? Are you alright, man?
It’s Buck. Shit. Fuck. It’s always Buck.
Eddie doesn’t answer, doesn’t even know if he has the air in his lungs to do so.
Fuck, he’s going to pass out. He rubs the center of his chest frantically, and to no avail.
Heart attack. Heart attack. Heart attack.
“I’m going to come in, okay? It’s just me.”
“Fuck.” Eddie stutters out. “I can’t fucking breathe.”
“Can I touch you?” When Eddie nods, Buck takes Eddie’s hands and places them over his own chest, starts exaggerating his breathing for Eddie to follow. “Let’s breathe together. In four, hold, out four. One, two, three, four… one, two, three, four. Good, Eds.”
They do it together a few times. Buck talks him through every round, holding his wrists as a ground touch. He never stops his counting, never lets his eyes wander even when Eddie's do, and it works.
Within a few minutes, Eddie can breathe without it feeling like a giant elephant sitting in the middle of his chest. Buck is looking anxiously at him, never releasing Eddie’s hands even in his sudden reluctance.
“Fuck,” Eddie says when he catches his breath. “Sorry.”
Buck shakes his head and smiles tightly. “Don’t have to be sorry.” He lets Eddie’s hands fall and gives him a bottle of Gatorade that he must have set on the floor when he came in. “Drink it.”
When Eddie only takes one mouth full with a grimace, Buck pushes it back up to his mouth with an annoyed gesture. “Drink all of it. I don’t give a shit if you don’t like it. You need the electrolytes.”
“Bossy,” Eddie mutters. He does as he’s told and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “How’d you know I was in here?”
“I have a sixth sense for your bullshit.” Buck jokes.
When Eddie glares, he relents. “I had to pee.”
That gets him to smile. “Oh, I forgot. You can’t pee with people around.”
“It is a real thing!” Buck seethes. “I won’t apologize for being pee shy! And you’re the weirdo that would pee while I was in the shower. With me in it. You shower-pisser.”
“ That is so-”
They’d been so caught up in one another that neither of them heard the door opening. “Um,” Ravi interrupts. “Sorry. Time to warm up for the next relay.”
Buck takes a step away, nodding hastily at Ravi, and dropping Eddie’s hands all in one quick motion. Eddie misses the warmth of Buck as soon as it’s gone. “You good?” He asks Eddie.
Eddie is not fucking good.
The relay does fantastic as usual. Buck hobbles out of the pool like his leg is on fire and Eddie had to resist the urge to carry him bridal-style for the rest of the meet. He’s also been sniffling and blowing his nose an obnoxious amount. Eddie would strangle him if his hands would fit around that thick neck of his (and if he wasn’t deeply in love with him).
Eddie along with everyone in the team placed in at least one event. The team has to stay for finals. They’re all exhausted and cranky by the end. Most of his teammates go nonverbal at the overstimulation of the pool deck; constant screaming, the whistles, bullhorns, announcements. It gets to be too much after a while.
“You think he’ll finish the season?” Ravi wonders anxiously. “It’s getting bad again.”
They both watch Buck spread Lidocaine gel over his hip and thigh, wincing when he digs his fingers in to forcibly relax the muscle. He’s not being gentle with himself out of pure frustration.
Given the chance, Eddie would sit beside him and offer some help. He’d massage Buck’s leg until the man went boneless and his fingertips were numb from the cream. He’d curl his arm around Buck’s shoulders and hold him through the pain of it, would kiss his cheek to dull the stings.
Eddie shrugs. “Don’t know.” He says, because he doesn’t.
Eddie has no clue how bad Buck’s leg really is. The only glance he got at it was at Maddie and Chimney's party when Buck didn’t even want him in the room. He is sure that a begrudge from him would not be easily welcomed by Buck with how stubborn the guy is, with his complexities about swimming and being wanted.
“Didn’t realize we were still doing the thing where we all pretend not to see how much you still love him.”
“You’re a little shit, you know that?” He pushes the man, who only chuckles. "Hey, is Buck sick?"
"No. He just looks like shit today."
"Rude." Eddie gawks.“Go take a shower and get changed before someone hears you bullying your teammates again.”
“Oh, I'd hate for you to have to punish me!" Ravi mewls, using the exact tone and motions that he knows freaks Eddie out. The one that makes him sound like Mort from Madagascar, that creepy tan rat that Eddie burningly despises.
"You're suck a freak." He scolds.
Ravi winks. "Only on Tuesdays."
Eddie is feeling bold. After everyone is seated on the bus, half the team conks out before they’re even rolling, he takes the aisle seat next to Buck, who’s staring out the window mindlessly, still looking like he got hit by a public bus. Eddie wonders why, or if Buck would even tell him if he asked.
Buck doesn’t look at him as the seat shifts. He keeps his eyes firmly outside, hand gripping hard at his own thigh. Eddie can’t tell if it’s a nervous tick or if he’s trying to stave off some pain.
“Hey.” He ends up saying. “I wanted to thank you for the locker room earlier. You didn’t have to do that.”
“You think I would just leave you like that?” Buck asks with exasperation. He’s tired, Eddie can see it in his face as Buck finally looks at him. His eye bags are so dark they resemble bruises.
Eddie swallows. This is awkward. It’s really awkward and it’s making him just plain uncomfortable. “Um, okay, well I wanted to thank you. That’s all.”
When he makes to move, because clearly Buck doesn’t want him here, Buck throws him a sheepish expression. “You can stay if you want.” He offers, giving Eddie what can almost be called a smile. “I don’t mind.”
Eddie's heart pangs inside his chest. It could be a pity invite, one that he’ll take with five thousand fucking grains of salt after the day he’s had. If Buck is offering comfort, he’ll scoop it up and keep the leftovers. “Sure. Okay.”
Eddie settles into the seat closest to the bus aisle.
“On one condition: don’t hog my leg room.” At that, Buck does grin a little. “Should be easy considering how tiny you are.”
“I’m an inch shorter than you!” Eddie squawks, more than mildly offended. “It’s barely even negligible.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Eddie clears his throat. “Talk about what?” He replies, playing stupid. Not that it’s ever gotten him anywhere, but it’s worth a shot.
“C’mon, Eds. You don’t have to pretend with me. How many of those have you had?”
“Of what?” Buck sees right through the act. That doesn’t mean Eddie can’t try. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Bullshit.” Buck retorts somewhat calmly. “Don’t wanna talk to me about it? Fine. Put it all away until the next one hits. And the next one, and the one after that. Talk to someone, Eddie.”
Eddie doesn't respond, and Buck drops it.
He wants to fight back. Eddie wants to take Buck’s limping and winces that he thinks no one sees and shoves them all right back in his face, wants to yell at Buck for being a goddamn hypocrite.
Eddie is angry. At the world, at Buck, at himself.
Eddie is angry at the world for giving him these circumstances. He loves Buck out loud and his own father fucking hates him or, he stays broken up with Buck and he loses his family. He loves Buck and he loves his parents. There’s so much frustration. Why can’t Eddie do both? There’s enough room in his heart for both of them. He loves all of them, and still manages to fail every person he cares about.
Eddie is angry that Buck let him go so easily. He’s angry that Buck never fights, or gets mad. Buck gets sad, and let's go. Buck doesn’t chase after what he deserves, and while that may not be Eddie, he sure as shit doesn’t deserve being fucked and then being left five minutes after. Eddie is angry that Buck isn’t sad anymore, that he’s content enough to fall asleep on Eddie as if nothing bad happened between them, Eddie is angry that Buck is too tired to feel it right at this moment, sleeping against the window when his head should lay into the crook of Eddie’s neck where it would be safest.
Eddie is angry at himself for losing everything. He tries hard, and loves so hard that his chest is too small for it all. Eddie wants to make his parents proud as much as he wants to hold Buck’s hand under the breakfast table, and what the fuck does that say about him? He’s guilty for breaking up with Buck, and for ruining his father’s image of him for no reason after all. Eddie is angry at himself for ruining the few good things he had. Eddie is angry at himself for always being so angry.
The bus rolls to a stop, and despite Eddie’s anger he’s desperate for a few more minutes with Buck if this is all he’ll get.
“Let me drive you home.” Eddie blurts out when the bus pulls away and all of their teammates and slinging bags over their shoulders with big yawns and stretches.
Buck gives him a weird look. “My apartment is literally right down the street. I can see it from here.”
“It’s dark, and cold.” And Eddie noticed him limping earlier. He wisely keeps his trap shut about that one though.
“Eddie.” Buck says quietly. “I get that you’re trying to pay me back for earlier or something, but you don’t owe me anything. And you don’t get to swoop in like fucking Prince Charming every time I stub my toe. I’ll be fine.” He shakes Eddie’s shoulder before taking his hand back, a quick-and-you’ll-miss-it touch that Eddie didn’t have time to cherish while it lasted. “You will too.”
Eddie blanches. He wants nothing more than to pull Buck into his chest, hook his chin over his shoulder, and hold him a little too tight. He misses it- feeling Buck’s warm, solid body against his own. It’s grounding.
“I’m sorry.” He says dolefully.
Buck gives him half of a forced smile, and it makes Eddie nauseous. The acknowledgement of the apology yet no forgiveness has him tasting bile in the back of his throat. “Maybe we can try being friends. Eventually. I… I need some time to get over you first. I don’t know when that will happen, or if it’ll be anytime soon. But I miss you, Eds. And if you want that too we can find a way to make it work.”
It’s so painfully honest that Eddie is going to shake apart over it. He doesn’t see himself ever getting over Buck. His sunny smiles are permanently burned into the back of his brain, the weight of Buck against him is unforgettable.
Eddie sucks in a breath. “I do want that.”
When they broke up, Eddie didn’t just lose his boyfriend. He lost his best friend.
He’d never had a friend like Buck. One where his heart felt safe enough to open up, one where he wasn’t afraid to be seen. One where he could rest and giggle and play on monkey bars at the local playground without being judged. Buck made him feel impossible young again, even when his hands would ache from playing on the metal and his knees would scream after racing on the wood chips.
“Okay.” Buck grabs his bag from the ground. “See you.”
When Eddie gets in his truck, he buries his head in his hands and lets out a cry. There are tears streaming through even where his palms dig into his eyes, and he teaches up to slap his fist against his forehead, hoping the pain of it takes his mind off the pain of everything else.
They had sex. Buck is willingly admitting that he’s not over Eddie. Buck doesn’t let Eddie touch him. Buck would try to be his friend. He’s messed everything up again .
The next day after practice, when Coach Nash asked to see him about team apparel order forms, he’s confronted in the small office.
Eddie likes Bobby. The guy is tough but fair, and he seems to actually care about his team’s well-being while being realistic about it. There’s no reason for him to feel as cornered as he does when the man pries.
“Buck told me about the locker room.” Bobby begins. “How long have you been having panic attacks?”
Eddie gawks. “I don’t panic.” He takes a heavy seat in the empty chair on the other side of the desk.
The room is small. It consists of only Coach’s desk and a chair to have discussion with people on the opposite side of it. There’s one framed photograph in the corner that Eddie can’t make out, along with a tattered ribbon hanging on by a thread.
“What, ‘cause you’re a man?”
“No!” He says quickly. “No. I’ve never- It only started this year. I think.”
Never in his life has Eddie cried so much, yet here he is. In his coach’s office, close to tears over his self-inflicted life wounds.
Eddie wipes at his eyes harshly, hating every last tear drop that spills down. “I fucked up.” He cries. “I fucked up with- with my dad, and with Buck, and everything. I want things to go back to the way they were before. I miss them. I miss my dad.”
Bobby makes his way to Eddie’s side of the desk to kneel in front of him. He rubs his back in a paternal way that only makes Eddie cry more. “Eddie.” He soothes. “This isn’t your fault.”
“It is my fault! If I just never tried to come out this would have never been a problem! I’d still have a home in Texas, I’d still have Buck…”
“I still look for them.” Eddie meets his coach’s sad eyes and lets them give him the courage to admit his pain out loud. “And I ask them to come. Every fucking out of state meet we have, I look for them in the stands. And they’re never there.”
They talk for a while. Bobby calms him down with a mug of tea and the advice that only a father would give which makes Eddie’s bones ache.
It’s true. Eddie misses his parents. They might not have been the best batch, but they’re his parents. He despises that they can’t love him, and he hates that he still loves them after everything they’ve put him through. It’s a wound that never stops bursting open.
When Eddie steps out of the office, with swollen eyes and a red face to show for it. Buck is there, wringing his hands together nervously. He’s got on his hoodie and sweat shorts, and is holding Eddie’s practice bag over one shoulder and his own over the other.
Eddie should want to punch him, or at least yell at him for snitching on him, but all he wants is to be swept up into those arms and held tight enough to forget why he was ever hurt in the first place.
“Look,” Buck says earnestly. “I’m sorry for telling him your personal business. That wasn’t right. I’m- We’re all really worried about you. I figured if I’m going to air out your dirty laundry, I should make sure you get home okay. If you really can’t be around me I’ll call Maddie. Or Karen, or Chimney. Whatever you need.”
Eddie blinks up at him. He probably looks like shit, all red and snotty from crying to an old man for thirty minutes, and Buck sees him anyway.
Buck always sees him.
Eddie surges forward and throws himself right into Buck’s chest, slinging his arms around Buck’s middle and squeezing.
It surprises Buck but he holds Eddie back just as hard, tucking his chin over Eddie’s shoulder like he’s shielding him from the rest of the world. It’s just them, and nothing hurts.
“Thank you,” he whispers.
Buck’s arms tighten. “You’ll be okay.”
Eddie wants to believe him.
Third Bonfire: October 29th, 2023
Eddie takes a swig from his beer. “We’re friends now. You can tell me why you’ve been sleeping around.”
It's not a lie. They are friends. Sometimes they text about House Hunters or Masterchef, practice schedules and completing the extra work-outs together. Being with Buck is fun, even when Eddie has to tuck his dick into his waistband when Buck uses the benchpress around him.
Now that he’s had a taste of Buck, something he never thought he’d get again, he needs to overindulge. He’s had a hug, a blow-job, a whole kiss. It’s a goddamn ex-boyfriend bucket list.
Buck chuckles in disbelief. “That’s the first conversation you want to have as friends?”
“We could talk about why you want to drop out this close to getting your degree.”
“We can’t talk about literally anything else?”
Call him a masochist.“Nope.”
He shrugs. “Sex is fun. I like making people feel good.”
Eddie cocks his head. “Don’t people usually have meaningless sex to make themselves feel good?” He points out.
“Making other people feel good makes me feel good.” Buck says. Maybe that would convince someone that doesn’t know hum, but Eddie does know Buck. He knows there’s something off about it. “Happy?”
“Not even a little.” He looks at the side of Buck’s face, searching for a crack in his hard exterior. He doesn’t find one.
“If you’re trying to slut-shame me, you’re doing a shitty job.”
“I’m not. Liking sex is fine. I just don’t think you’re doing it ‘cause it’s ‘fun.’ Who’s taking care of you?”
“Why does that matter?”
Eddie is terrible. No amount of repenting will forgive the sin he’s about to commit. His body and brain obviously have different control centers, because while his mind is screaming don’t you fucking dare, he moves.
“It matters,” he stands to take the space between Buck’s parted legs, where they’re holding him up from meaning against the truck bed, “because I want to.”
Buck looks dubious. “You really want to?”
Alarm bells are still sounding throughout Eddie’s brain, louder this time. Buck’s breath smells like beer and they’ve both got a tipsy haze to their movements. He bites down against the word mistake and leans in to brush their lips. Not kissing just yet, but a hair's-breadth away from doing so.
He needs this as much as he needs to breathe.
Eddie doesn’t stop.
“Please,” Eddie breathes, sounding whiny and debauched without so much as a touch.
The visceral want to have Buck overpowers any warning signs. His mouth waters at the idea of sucking Buck’s dick. Literally. There’s saliva pooling in his cheeks that he has to swallow before answering. His hands are aching to be on Buck any way they can.
Buck pushes off the truck and brushes imaginary crumbs off his pants. “Okay.”
“When? Right now?” Eddie follows suit, wobbling on eager legs that would follow Buck like a damn compass. He doesn’t care how desperate he’s being. He needs to get his hands on Buck like he needs air.
“Tell me how you want it.”
Not ‘it,’ Eddie wants to iterate, you.
If Eddie is going to ruin the last bits of their relationship, he’s going to do it with Buck’s dick in his mouth.
“I want to get my mouth on you.” He risks putting himself into Buck’s personal space again, backing them up until Buck is against the backseat door and Eddie is boxing him in. Their height difference usually isn’t negligible, but this close, Eddie has to tilt his head up to get their lips to brush together. “I want you to feel so good that we get a fucking noise complaint from how loud you are. Please?”
Buck leans in quicker than Eddie can comprehend.
They’re kissing. Not a soft, hello-I-missed-you-all-day kiss , an I’m-going-to-eat-you-alive-and-lick-my-fingers-afterward kiss. A kiss that shocks Eddie down to his core, toes-to-nose.
“In the car,” he chokes out. He reaches around Buck to get the door handle open and pulls them both inside.
Eddie landed right where he wanted to. There isn’t much room in his backseat but they’ve done this before and know how to handle it. He got the actual seat, legs spread wide, with Buck on top of him.
It makes his dick leak a blurt of precum into his pants. Buck is heavy in his lap, legs astride Eddie’s hips and squeezing every time Eddie sucks on his tongue. He’s really getting into it, making these delicious noises that Eddie is getting drunk on, gasping and pushing into the touches like he’s starving for it.
Eddie knows exactly what this is doing to Buck. Thank the Lord and Savior for sweatpants. Eddie can feel every twitch of Buck’s cock, the growing wet patch on the front seam. It’s intoxicating, Eddie can hardly breathe with how good he feels, especially knowing Buck will come this time too. It’s too much.
Eddie was unsure if he’d ever get Buck like this again, and he sure as hell isn’t going to waste the opportunity.
He pulls away, relishing in how Buck whines in his absence. He soothes by running his hands up under Buck’s shirt, feeling the goosebumps that erupt in his wake over his back, his sides, the cut of muscle over his abdomen. “I’m gonna take care of you. Promise. All you have to do is tell me what you want.”
“Please,” Buck pleads. “Please , fuck-“
“Hey,” Eddie says gently. He reaches out to hold Buck’s chin, forcing eye contact. Buck’s pupils are so blown out that he can barely see any blue left. “You don’t have to beg. I’m going to give you everything you need, just tell me.”
Eddie smiles and dives back in. He kisses Buck until his lips ache with it. He kisses him everywhere- even leaves a few marks on all of Buck’s favorite spots for him to see later; under his jaw, the side of his neck, just over his Adam’s apple. He grinds their hips together while he’s at it. He wants Buck as desperate as Eddie has been for him.
“ Eddie. ” Buck says frantically, eyes rolling back. His grip is hard on Eddie’s shoulders and he thrusts himself down to meet Eddie’s movements. “Gonna come.”
That’s so hot, but not what Eddie wants. He slows his hips and nibbles at Buck’s jaw to get him to pause. He wants to drag this out, give Buck something to remember when he’s got a hand wrapped around himself at night and when he’s with anyone else. That selfish idea that no one could make him feel as good as Eddie can.
“Not yet. I didn’t even get to touch you yet.”
“Then fucking do it already.”
“Okay, okay, I got you.” He promises. “Stay still. Let me do all the work. You can be good for me, right?”
Buck lets out a sob when Eddie finally gets his hand down his pants. He doesn’t go for fanatics like he would if they had a little more time and privacy. Buck is too far gone and too close to falling apart that he’ll have to settle for a messy handjob.
He’s disappointed at not getting his lips around Buck. Though there are a few perks. Like this, Eddie has a perfect view of his face and a front-row seat at hearing every moan and whimper that falls from the man’s lips.
If Heaven is real, Eddie’s will have Buck in his lap kissing him all desperate and needing.
Eddie holds his hand under Buck’s mouth. “Spit.” He orders.
Buck complies, and Eddie files away the image of it. He spits too and gets to work.
“God, fucking look at you.” He pumps his hand up and down quickly, brushing over the head of Buck’s slit every few strokes to hear those punched-out moans right in his ear. “Let me hear you, Buck. Let it out, I got you.”
It feels so good, so much better than his own hand. Eddie doesn’t take his time with himself. He masturbates in convenient places like the shower or his desk, and goes as quick as possible for the orgasm. He doesn’t do it often, and doesn't drag it out. There’s no stops pulled out, nothing to make it good enough to do a lot.
Eddie isn’t even actively touching himself and he’s already shaking apart. Buck’s ass grinds against his erection every time he squirms, and even if he wasn’t, Eddie’s sure he’d be this close to the edge without so much as a blow of the wind.
“Fucking, Christ, Eddie,” Buck whines. His arms are wrapped around Eddie's shoulders and he’s holding tight, fingerprints digging into his skin. The position can’t be comfortable anymore but neither of them seem to care at all. “Make me come.”
“I will.” Eddie murmurs, speeding up his hand even more, making Buck squirm in his lap. “Next time, I’m gonna get you in my bed, get my mouth between those pretty thighs and eat you out until you can’t say anything except my name-”
Buck comes with a groan that turns higher-pitched the longer it goes on. Eddie kisses his neck and mutters praise to get him through it. It goes on for longer than Eddie expected and they’re both covered in come, which is so gross and hot that Eddie can’t take it anymore.
He snaps his hips up into practically nothing once, twice, three times and comes into his jeans without so much as a hand
Eddie must be the only twenty-two year old man who doesn’t masturbate at every spare chance he gets. Add that to the fucking list. He just came in his pants at the sight of his ex-boyfriend’s explosive orgasm.
“Six out of ten,” Buck says against his lips, kissing him thoroughly.
“Six?” Eddie says exasperation all over his own face.
Buck shrugs like the little shit he is. “You’re a little rusty. Shotty technique. Not enough talking.”
Eddie slaps his shoulder lightly and laughs, a little offended and a lot turned on. “I’ll have to practice.”
“I make an excellent lab rat.”
Despite the teasing, they don’t do anything else. Buck climbs off of him with a grunt (much to Eddie’s regret) to take the seat beside him. He stretches out his legs over Eddie’s lap and they talk.
Eddie is slapped in the face with the very easy fact that Buck is Attractive with a capital A. People are constantly checking out the way his arms bulge in his t-shirts, how his thighs look like they’re about the rip that seams of his pants, how his ass looks in his practice suits. He’s seen people flick their eyes up and down that impressive physique, how they blush and try to brush their arms against Buck’s for a millisecond of his attention.
Not only is Buck completely, insanely, mind-bogglingly Attractive, he’s sweet. He refuses to kill bugs that invade the interiors of buildings, instead taking them outside to be set free. He waves to little kids and gives them high-fives and does stupid embarrassing faces to make them giggle. He tips every worker, is overly polite- a waitress’s wet dream if Eddie does say so himself. He helps old women cross the street and volunteers at the local food drive for fuck’s sake, he is perfect in all the ways he really doesn’t need to be.
Here, splayed out, hands behind his head and legs all spread out, Eddie wants him. Eddie wants to keep him, selfishly, intrinsically, and forever.
A Week of Classes: November 13th, 2023
They keep having sex.
In fact, they fuck like rabbits. Everywhere. In gym bathrooms, Eddie’s truck bed, vacant public locker rooms, parties, break times during practice (nothing like a good orgasm to make his set times a millisecond faster). It’s hard, and fast, and rough. It’s teeth marks and purple hickies and post-coitally gasping for air.
Eddie is so overwhelmed from having none of Buck to having this much of him, that the alarms blaring are quieter. He notices that Buck doesn’t let himself get off much, that he’s usually the one giving without receiving; not that Eddie doesn’t try or want to, fuck , does he want to. Buck also leaves within ten minutes of being done which makes him feel a little like shit. Buck doesn’t initiate kissing, but he does initiate almost everything else even if he's barely getting anything out of it.
The sex is good. It’s missing something that Eddie hasn’t been able to swallow. It’s like… he has Buck, has him in the way other people want him, but not necessarily the way he wants him.
All the time, everywhere, all at once.
They’re in a private practice together, just the two of them, the next time it happens.
The lane line is digging painfully into Eddie's stomach as he leans over it, dragging Buck into a filthy kiss why the straps of his suit. He prays to God that the locker room is empty by the time the sets are finished because he’s been teasing Buck for two hours. The blue balls might actually send him into a coma.
Buck pulls away panting. “Bobby cannot catch me having sex anywhere near this pool area again.”
Eddie opens his mouth, closes it, and then cocks his head. He didn’t know that event ever happened. “Again?”
“He kicked me off, you know.” Buck adjusts his goggles to make them tighter, fiddling with them in what Eddie recognizes as nerves. “But I’m so irresistible and such a great swimmer he had to let me back on.”
Eddie gives him a look. “What did you really do?”
“I sprayed this weird man with a water hose. I think he was chasing after a little girl? Lucky shot, I guess. The cop chasing the guy down was Bobby’s wife, which I didn’t know at the time. She convinced him to give me a second chance. She’s really nice. Almost shit myself when I shook her hand.”
“That sounds fake,” he says suspiciously.
Buck only laughs. “I swear to God! I fucked this ginger girl in the pool- she was a synchronized swimmer, graduated last year- and he caught me! You can ask Chimney.”
“In the pool?” Eddie scrunches his face up in disgust. “Didn’t the chlorine get in her… you know? How did you not get semen in the pool? That’s disgusting, Buck.”
“You can say vagina, Eddie.” He flicks Eddie on the nose teasingly. “Coach caught us before I got off. And I don’t know. I never talked to her again. If I ever see her, I’ll be sure to ask for you, you little pervert.”
Eddie looks at him, all goofy smiles and muscles that could cut grass better than a damn lawn mower. He’s so beautiful, even in the shitty gritty-yellow lighting of the aquatics arena, completely stunning.
“It got me here, though.” Buck says in an oddly nostalgic tone, far different from the jovial one he had seconds ago. He looks at Eddie with an uncharacteristically shy smile. “So I’d probably do it again.”
With that, he pushes off the wall with a trail of bubbles behind him, and Eddie takes it as a sign to start over.
Home Meet: November 18th, 2023
Eddie’s bad luck has possibly rubbed off on his entire team, because the next meet is a complete disaster.
Both Ravi and Buck are battling with the common cold, along with half of their teammates. They don't do so hot with their sections of the relay and when Eddie tries to pick up the slack, he slips on his turn and twists his ankle painfully.
All of his individual events went terribly. He places last in his heat every time and adds so many seconds that looking at the time clock makes him nauseous.
When this happened last season, Eddie could lean his head into Buck’s chest and listen to the man’s praises into his ear until it calmed him. Buck would hug him tight and kiss the side of his head until the ache of losing was merely a dull throb.
Now, Eddie watches Buck also have a shitty meet, and gets a twinge of jealousy when it’s Ravi who gathers him into his arms and pats his shoulder consolingly.
Eddie’s parents don’t come. He’s got one or two meets left of his entire athletic career and they have yet to show up to a single one. It hurts more than he’s willing to admit.
So he does what he can do best and shoves it all down until he can hardly fucking breathe under his covers, the meet long over and his heart far from okay.
Monday Night: November 27th, 2023
After days of it tearing Eddie to pieces, and thinking of Buck every night before falling asleep (nothing unusual, but still ), this is the right thing to do.
“We can’t have sex anymore.”
Eddie reasons that Buck can move on and find someone who will grow him flowers and sing all of his favorite songs and who won’t want the shower water so hot it makes his skin pink. Buck will find someone that can love him without fault, without misery. Buck can find someone that’s not Eddie, no matter how much it will hurt to see.
Buck whips his head in his direction that Eddie is afraid he gave himself whiplash. “Did I do something?”
Classic Buck. Pinning the blame on himself before Edie can get another word in edgewise. “You didn’t do anything wrong, just… we should stop. It’s not good for either of us. I shouldn’t have initiated anything.”
“You’re right.” He agrees, a bite to his voice. “You fucking shouldn’t have.”
Eddie chances a reach out to grip Buck’s shoulder lightly. “It’s better if we don’t. You know that.”
“Do I know that? Or did you come to that conclusion yourself?” Buck pushes Eddie’s hand off and begins pacing angrily. He’s getting more worked up by the second, running his hands through his hair and tugging on a few of the strands harshly. “I am so sick of you thinking you know what's best for everyone. You boss me around about my leg, about sex, about our relationship, about swimming. You don’t know shit.” Buck replies. He’s angrier than Eddie has ever seen him. It hurts more than he thought it would. “If you don’t want to see me anymore, then that’s not an ‘us’ situation. That’s you.”
Eddie feels his jaw tick from how tight he’s clenching it. He’s not used to seeing Buck mad, much less picking a fight. Especially about this.
Eddie thought Buck would play the tough guy, would store the hurt behind his ribs until he was alone to let it lose. At least, that’s what he did when they were dating. Eddie would spend hours prying into Buck’s skin trying to get out what was bothering him.
Buck keeps his pain closer than he keeps his love, which spills out over his toes every chance it gets.
“I wouldn’t always have to look out for you if you cared about yourself at all.” Eddie fires back. His fists clench at his sides, and he’s not sure if it’s out of frustration or from holding back the need to hold Buck to him and never let go.
“Then it’s a good thing that it’s none of your concern anymore! You,” Buck points to Eddie, “broke up with me.” He pushes his own finger into his heaving chest hard. “You didn’t want me the first time, and you don’t want me this time, so stop coming around whenever you’re bored or want your dick sucked. I’m done. ”
Eddie is scared. Terrified, even.
“You’re mad that I won’t have sex with you anymore?” Eddie questions, hiding behind it as though it’ll shield him from the real pain. Keeping Buck fighting means he won’t leave as quickly, Eddie rations, you know, like a maniac.
He knows Buck would never be mad about not having sex. This is more than that. Eddie is upset and afraid and failing to hide it over, and over, and over again.
Buck’s bottom lip wobbles dreadfully, and Eddie almost has to look away from him. He did that to Buck. He hurt him, he’s the one making Buck cry, he’s the one breaking Buck’s heart again. He watches with his heart in his throat as Buck’s furry melts into dejection. “You think I’m mad about the sex?” Buck asks, flinching away from Eddie. “Do you seriously think that low of me?”
Eddie knows his eyes are wide as he shakes his head aggressively. He needs to backpedal and quickly. He never meant for Buck to take it that deeply. He didn’t know he could do that kind of damage anymore. He should have never said that in the first place, or twisted the words around to get Buck to get going.
“That’s- I didn’t mean it like that-”
“I don’t know what I did.” Buck’s tears are slipping down and he doesn’t bother to get rid of them. He lets them fall just out of Eddie’s reach, where Eddie can’t wipe them away. “To make you do all of this. First, you ask me to fuck you in your car. Then, you keep asking me every day for two weeks straight. Now this? It’s- Maybe I’ll get over you not loving me, but I need to know why. I need to know why you decided to come back, I need to know why you kept having sex with me, and I need to know what made you decide that you didn’t want me the second time around. What did I do?”
Buck’s voice is small as he asks, he’s curling in on himself, crossing his arms over his heart protectively with those shaky hands. “What about me keeps making you leave?”
In a world much softer than their own, Eddie would take Buck by the shoulders and shake love right into his body. That Eddie would put his hands anywhere to ease the ache he’s caused, would do anything to see Buck’s eyes not so full of anguish.
This Eddie lets Buck walk away hurt, with tears streaming down the cheeks he used to kiss morning, noon, and night. This Eddie watches Buck close the door softly even in his rage, not for a second glancing back. This Eddie stares at the place Buck stood less than a breath ago.
Eddie ruined this. He’s ruined his father, his love, himself.
Not for the first time, Eddie wishes these weren’t his own hands capable of so much hurt. He wishes his knuckles weren’t bloody and he wishes there were wrinkles by his eyes from smiling too hard. He wishes his ribs didn’t always sting and he fucking wishes he was anyone but himself.
And he very selfishly wishes Buck was here to put a balm over it all. He would slide his hands over all of Eddie’s hurt and murmur the gentlest words to cloud his ears away from all that self-loathing. Eddie’s lips miss the way Buck’s birthmark felt underneath them and he misses filling the gaps between his fingers with Buck’s. Eddie’s eyes miss blinking awake to him and his ears miss the snoring that would follow that sleepy, slow consciousness.
Eddie sits down on his carpeted floor. He pulls his knees up to his chest and buries his head there, trying to catch his unsteady breath because anything is better than nothing.
Last Home Meet: December 6th, 2023
Chimney of all people catches Eddie on his way to have his locker room meltdown of the week.
It’s Eddie’s last home meet. Ever.
When he pictured this day last year, it was magical. He would go through all of his silly senior traditions and have Buck waiting by the end of the lane to kiss his cheek and smile so wide, he’d have his parents there to hand him flowers and be completely proud of the person he’s become.
In actuality, it’s his Abuela, the biggest smile on her face with a bouquet of daisies, calling his name with feverance.
“Eddito!” She squeals when he climbs out of the shallow end. She squeezes Eddie tight despite the cool water droplets getting her just as wet as he is. “¡Oh mi! Te ves increíble mi amor. Estoy tan orgulloso de ti.” His grandmother reaches up to put a palm on his cheek, rubbing her thumb under his eye lovingly. “You make me so proud. Te amo mucho, nieto.”
Eddie blushes under all of the attention. “Abuela.” He groans. “Te amo.”
Even after being filled with love for his grandmother, Eddie manages to fuck it all up.
They seem to be a staple of the season: Eddie swims his fucking skin off, he goes a terrible time, he cries it out on the wet bench behind a row of lockers until he can breathe again.
“If you’re going to hit me then get it over with already.” Eddie scowls, crossing his arms like a petulant child. “I still have an event to swim.”
“What the hell is wrong with you? Jesus Christ, I’m not going to hit you.” Chimney says easily, pacing in circles in the same way Buck does. Huh. Eddie distantly wonders who picked up the habit from who. “I want to talk to you. Why would I- you know what, I don’t want to know right now. No hitting, only talking.”
“About you .” He corrects. “I thought…“ Chimney stops right in front of Eddie, sympathy dancing all over his face. “Eddie. You guys were really good together.”
Eddie crosses his arms over his chest. “Can we not do this now? I’d like to enjoy my last meet without thinking about- him.”
“Are you enjoying it?” Chimney challenges. “Because you look fucking miserable. What happened?”
“He hasn’t told you?”
Chimney shakes his head sadly. “You know he doesn’t talk about that kind of stuff. C’mon. Tell Uncle Chim.”
“Please don’t call yourself that.” He runs a tired hand over his face and sits on the wooden bench, Chimney plopping down right beside him.
He and Chimney had never been particularly close. Eddie knows how much the guy cares and Buck. They’re inseparable even now that Chimney has moved into a Master’s program and Buck is in undergrad. Sometimes Eddie will see Chimney dropping Buck off for practice outside the aquatic center, always hugging over the dash, Chimney pats his cheek and sends him on his way. It’s sweet. Eddie likes that other people love Buck as intricately as he does.
Eddie finds himself spilling his guts to Chimney anyway. “Buck is- I love him. I love him so much that it scares the shit out of me.” He takes a shuddering breath and continues. “I didn’t know I could feel like that about someone. And when I told my parents, I thought they would get it. I knew they weren’t exactly activists, but I didn’t think… They don’t get why I can’t find a woman to marry and settle down with. They don’t love me for loving him.”
During his speech, Chimney’s hand had settled onto his back as a comfort. “I’m sorry.” He replies genuinely, heartbreakingly sad. “You shouldn’t have had to go through all of that alone.”
“It’s fine.” Eddie says self-deprecatingly. “It’s my fault. He deserves better than someone so fucked up anyway.”
“Hey, that’s not true.” Chimney interrupts. “I didn’t even know Buck had dimples until he met you. Did you tell him any of that before you decided that ending it would be best?”
Eddie shakes his head and swallows against the lump in his throat. “No.”
“He would have wanted to be there for you.”
“I know he would have.” It’s not even a lie. Buck would have gotten the first ticket down to El Paso and helped in whatever way Eddie needed.
“Why can’t you let him?” Chimney asks gently.
“We’re sleeping together.” He blurts out. “We were sleeping together. I keep… I fuck everything up. I thought that having something would be better than nothing, until I realized I can’t keep doing this to him. Buck is- you know.” Eddie breathes the name like it’ll save him. “Buck.”
“Can I give you some advice?”
He sighs. “I think you’re going to anyway.”
“Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. There could be- I don’t know, a tsunami or, or a helicopter could fall on your head, or you could ingest a deadly strain of E. Coli from Chipotle. So if you love him, tell him.” Chimney smiles, a little sad and a lot determined. “So if you love him, tell him.”
There is no if about it. It’s a simple fact of the universe: Eddie has three sisters, sea turtles don’t have teeth, Eddie loves Buck.
Eddie’s lips wobble. “What if it’s too late? Or what if he looks at me and decides that he doesn’t want all the trouble? What if-”
“Okay, Eddie, listen to me.” Chimney kneels in front of where he’s sitting on the bench, knees in what’s probably a giant puddle and hands on both of Eddie's shoulders so neither of them can hide. “I love Buck. I know Buck. There’s no one in this world that he loves more than you.” He smiles reassuringly. “Just tell him.”
“What if he doesn’t forgive me for everything I did to him?”
“I don’t know everything. Buck is- he keeps everything to himself. He’s so afraid that if people see him hurting that they won’t want to stick around and find out what it’s like when he isn’t. You’re not like that. You’ve never wanted him to be a certain way or act differently, you love him no matter what. And he loves you. I’m sure you guys can work something out.”
“Thanks.” Eddie wipes underneath his eyes and stands on shaky legs.
Chimney slaps his shoulder and smiles brightly. “When you get back together you owe Maddie a double-date.”
“Why would Maddie want a double-date with her brother?”
“Okay,” he sighs defeatedly. “You owe me a double-date. Buck won’t go to the new karaoke bar with me because he’s still mad that I filmed him singing Eye of the Tiger last time. But if you suggest it, he’ll definitely go.”
“Um.” Eddie takes a second to process everything that came from Chimney’s mouth. “Sure?”
“Yes!” Chimney cries, pumping his fist in the air triumphantly. “Do not tell him about the plan of I’ll slash every tire on your truck. I know you don’t have auto-insurance.”
“Don’t tell my Abuela that.” He mutters.
They walk back out to the deck together. Chimney winks at him before sauntering back over to his seat next to Maddie while Eddie lets the cool water of the warm-up pool wash away his troubles for a while.
Last Practice: December 12th, 2023
To Buck, 4:42pm
Hey, it’s Eddie. Can we talk after practice?
To Buck, 4:47pm
I don’t like how I left things with you. You
mean a lot to me and I want to fix it.
“You know,” Buck says, shirtless and preening as he leans against the lockers, “if you want to talk to me, you don’t have to kiss my ass to do it.”
Eddie looks up at him through his lashes. “What if I want to kiss your ass?”
The last practice had been completely uneventful in the swimming department. It was all goodbyes and banquet planning and writing senior speeches. Eddie is going to miss swimming like he’d miss a lung if he didn’t already have two.
There’s something he has to do first before he can try to let go of it all without bursting. He can’t graduate knowing he didn’t try to clean up the mess he made with Buck.
Buck shrugs, ducks his head so Eddie can no longer see his eyes. “We probably shouldn’t. Pretty sure that’s what got us here in the first place.” He shrugs into a hoodie and stares at him expectantly, a little exasperatedly.
“You’re right.” Eddie agrees. He takes a step forward, not quite into Buck’s space yet, but close enough for the words to be intimate. “I meant what I said though. You do mean a lot to me. And I owe you an apology.”
“For what? You didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.”
“I did.” He argues. “It was shitty of me to say those things about you. Especially things that aren’t true. I knew you weren’t mad about the sex part. I wanted- I thought that fighting with you was better than nothing, and that I was saving you from myself, which I see how awful that was of me. I’m sorry.”
Buck shrugs impassively, and Eddie would kill to know what’s ringing around in his head. “It’s fine. I get it.”
“It’s not fine. I never should have said that to you.” Eddie insists. “Or picked fight with you when I knew it would only make everything worse. I’m really sorry.”
“Eddie.” Buck’s tone is filled with exasperation. “I said it’s fine. Let’s move on.”
“No.” He shakes his head even though Buck is still staring at the wall. “I can’t move on.”
The man visibly flinches, taking a step back, cocking his head an inch, scrunching his eyebrows. Buck is trying to protect himself. “What are you talking about?”
Eddie is selfish. Utterly, downright selfish.
“I love you.” He blurts out. “I love you, and I know that doesn’t fix everything that’s happened between us. It doesn’t make the shitty things I said go away and it doesn’t mean we’re back together but Buck, holy shit, I love you. So I won’t be able to move on. I don’t- There hasn’t been a second in the past four months where I’ve been able to think about anyone, anything but you.”
“Eddie.” Buck says tightly. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“I was afraid.” It comes out quiet, trembling.
“That I’m never going to feel normal again.” He admits. “That everyday I’m going to wake up as sad, or as scared, and that it’ll never go away. I’m so fucking afraid, Buck. And I was scared that you would wake up and realize that I’m not worth all the trouble. I took it everything out on you when I shouldn’t have.”
Buck steps up, grabs one of Eddie’s hands in each of his own so close that they share the same breath.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Buck murmurs.
“I didn’t want to hurt you.” Eddie smiles self-deprecatingly. “It backfired. Obviously.”
“We could have figured something out.”
“I didn’t want to do that to you.”
“You aren't-” Buck cuts himself off to take a deep, calming breath. “Eddie. The only thing you ‘did to me’ was push me away when all I’ve ever wanted to be is right next to you. I’ve never not wanted to be with you. You have to know that by now.”
Eddie swallows, nods his head slowly. “I think I’m starting to get that now.”
Buck gives him a small smile, one that Eddie stores away into the files of his brain. “I’ll be here to remind you. Every day until you’re not afraid anymore.”
“What if that day never comes?” He whispers.
“I love you.” Buck says in earnest, and Eddie’s heart free-falls right between the slots of Buck’s ribs so that theirs can beat together, where it has always belonged. “That day will come, because I’m going to spend every day showing you that you can let go of all your fear and anger, and you’ll still be you.” He sighs and steps closer, allowing them to stand chest-to-chest right where Eddie needs him most. “I want to love you. All you have to do is let me.”
Even after the months of Eddie being cruel and destructive with not only himself, but with Buck, and here the man is still able to readily admit that he wants Eddie, all of him, no matter what’s happened. All the months of Eddie watching the only good thing he’s ever had crumble only for Buck’s few soothing words to tape over the wound of it- a temporary bandage for now though it’ll soon be stitched to mend.
“I’m trying.” Eddie replies. His voice is heavy with sorrow, weighing it down so he can barely gasp out his words. “I want to be someone who deserves it.”
“Eddie,” Buck whispers, cupping Eddie’s cheeks in his soft, smooth palms. “You already are someone who deserves it. You’ve deserved it since the day you stepped foot on the pool deck last year, your entire life. You don’t have to work for it. Not with me.”
“You hated me.” He reminds Buck helpfully, even as close to tears as he is. He reaches up to finally grab Buck back, holding his waist, letting the warmth seep into his own chilled skin. Buck is always a furnace, a fire that never truly extinguishes, devoted.
Buck only chuckles. “I was jealous of you.” His thumb swipes lovingly over Eddie’s bottom lip. “And horny.”
Despite himself, Eddie laughs too. “You know, Ana Flores asked me out again. A few months ago.”
“I know.” Buck growls playfully, pushing Eddie’s cheeks together possessively. There’s no need for it- everything about Eddie has always been Buck’s to have, though he does appreciate the attention. “I saw her grabbing your arm at the bonfire like she was going to take a bite out of it.”
Eddie shuffles impossible closer, wrapping his arms all the way around Buck’s lower back and letting their noses bump together. “If it makes you feel any better I left in the middle of a date because the thought of eating her out made me feel like I was having a heart attack.”
“That doesn’t make me feel any better at all.” Buck says in a mock-happy tone. He lets his own arms fall around Eddie’s shoulders to sway them where they stand, lips so close that Eddie can smell the chocolate on his breath. It’s sweet, and Eddie wants to taste it. “It actually makes me feel worse.”
“I don’t like that you were going through all of that alone. And don’t tell me it was your fault.” He says as if reading Eddie’s mind, sticking his pointed finger up between them to halt any objections.
“I won’t,” Eddie whispers back, though it’s more than that.
I won’t let my heart stray far from yours again. I won’t let myself get away from you. I won’t ever make you wonder if my love is true, because I won’t let you go another day without it.
“Practice ended twenty minutes ago. We should get going if we don’t want to get locked in here.”
“Wanna come back to my place?” Eddie squeezes him tighter. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever be ready to let Buck go again, and that certainly won’t be in twenty minutes from now.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Buck shakes his head, getting an oddly wistful look on his face. He pushes away carefully, pacing a few steps away. “I’m not sleeping with you until we figure out what we’re doing. I can’t mess that up again.”
“Hey, hey.” Eddie swivels his head around until he catches Buck’s eyes that are heavy with guilt. He grabs Buck’s wrist within the circle of his own fingers, their skin dry from the chroline. “I initiated that-”
“And I should have said no. You were in a shitty place. I knew better.”
“Then why didn’t you?” He asks, without malice. Eddie is genuinely searching.
Buck takes a deep breath. A big one, like he’s hurting everywhere except for the one place that Eddie is touching him- and maybe he is. “I wanted to feel close to you again. You’re not the only one not used to being… to feeling like you don’t matter to anyone. And I thought that making you feel good would make you want me again.”
Eddie closes the gap between them, leans up on his tippy-toes and kisses Buck. He pours everything he’s got into that kiss; every I love you that’s stayed repressed in his mind for months, every halted touch, every kiss, every look.
When they part, panting and the tips of their lips still touching to breathe each other in, Eddie touches their foreheads together.
“I never stopped loving you.” He promises. “You have to understand that it wasn’t you , or anything you did. It was me being stupid.”
He continues, keeping Buck’s neck in his hands to feel the kicking on his pulse. “And we don’t have to have sex to be close. We wouldn’t ever have to sex again and I would still love you just as much. The only thing that would change is me spending a little more time in the shower once a month.” The masturbation joke does the trick because Buck lets out a small giggle that Eddie swallows up with another shirt kiss. “I’m serious. I know you sleep around and do reckless things to get people to care about you, but you don’t have to hurt yourself for me to care. I never stopped. I want you. Whatever you’re willing to give.”
They’re in this locker room that reeks of pool and sweat. Eddie is pretty sure he’s standing in a puddle of one of those things, or possibly both. Here, with Buck, he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“I still like sex.” Buck explains abashedly in a way Eddie’s never seen him before. He’s never known Buck to shy away from the topic of sex. “But I want to get our relationship to get back on track before we do anything. If that’s a problem-”
“It’s not!” Eddie rushes to confirm. He reassures Buck with a swift peck to the cheek, and another for good graces. “That will never be a problem. Okay? Never.”
Their eyelashes flutter together when Eddie leans in to bump their noses together affectionately. “I fucking love you. I want to make this work.”
“I think I’m still mad at you. A little.” Buck admits, seeming ashamed when he has no reason to be. “We have a lot to talk about but- um, I want that too.”
Sure, Eddie is sad that Buck is angry. He’s sad that he gave Buck a reason to hold onto those negative emotions, but overall he feels relieved.
Relieved that Buck still loves him and is willing to make it work. That Eddie is allowing himself to have this even after messing it up. Relieved that he gets to make it up to Buck at all.
Eddie is comforted by Buck’s love. It’s like coming home after a long day, where your body is tired and achy, then sinking into a warm bed with clean sheets. It’s when your body feels old but the love is as new as the day is resonated. Buck’s love is confort; it’s a second shielding, consoling skin.
“You do?” He confirms happily. The giddy tone of his own voice would embarrass him if not for the pure joy he feels at the fact that Buck will stay.
“I do.” Buck nods, shaking both of their heads with the motion. “Kiss me.”
Who is Eddie to deny him?
Fi nals Week: December 16th, 2023
The high of getting Buck back thrums in his veins.
Eddie never thought he'd get the opportunity to be with Buck, in his space again, and he doesn’t plan on taking that for granted this time.
Record scratch. They aren’t technically back together. Not officially, anyway.
He plans on changing that as soon as possible.
Eddie’s nerves don’t go away as he climbs the stairs. Seriously fuck whoever put Buck in a fourth floor apartment with no elevator. The bouquet is crushed in his sweaty fist and he might throw up in one of Buck’s roommates’ ugly house plants.
If he’s even invited inside. Or if Buck still lives with his weird roommate from last year that told Eddie Buck was in a coma every time he came by.
Eddie knocks, and fortunately yet unfortunately, it’s Buck.
He softens. Buck looks sleep-soft, clad in a team hoodie and sweatpants with pink fuzzy socks that definitely belong to Maddie. His hood is up and covering most of the curls Eddie knows for sure are under there.
Buck rubs his eyes, blinking away the tiredness. “Eddie?”
“Hi.” He breathes embarrassingly breathless.
“Uh. What are you doing here? It’s kinda late.”
“It’s seven-thirty.” Eddie corrects with a fond smile he can’t hide. “I brought you these.”
When he holds out the flowers, Buck beams, and Eddie’s word shifts about fifty feet to the left, letting in all the sun shine he’s been missing out on for months.
“Eddie!” Buck yelps excitedly. “Are they for me?”
“No, they’re for the other guy named Buck that lives here.”
“You dick.” He laughs, grabbing the flowers. When he notices Eddie still standing in the hall, Buck reaches for his hand to pull him in. “Come inside. I have to eat dinner.”
“Actually.” Eddie says while he takes in the apartment. It’s clean and warm and smells of apples. “I came here to ask if you want to go out to dinner. With me.”
“Like a date?” Buck asks, a shit-eating grin on his face.
Buck sets his flowers temporarily on the counter and replaces them with Eddie’s hands, swaying in.
“If you want.” Eddie whispers.
The tension is thick. Eddie would need to hire a welder to cut through it. They’re chest-to-chest, getting closer and closer by the second.
“You didn't have to come all this way to ask me on a date."
"Yes I did." He frowns. "I wanted to."
Buck shoves him playfully before dragging Eddie back in by his shirt, grinning that shy smile that he sees in his dreams. "Of course I'll go on a date with you. Idiot."
Eddie is so happy he could burst. “How about tomorrow? And the day after that? The one after that, too?”
“Is there anything against having a pre-date date to all of those dates?”
He couldn't hide his own smile even if he wanted to, and Eddie finds he doesn't at all. “I don’t know. What’s in it for me?”
Buck is being cheeky now. “Me.”
Eddie leans in for a kiss. It’s slow and syrupy and everything Eddie has been longing for.
“I love you.” Eddie says, because he’s a fucking sap and loves to see Buck’s dimples, and it’s a gross oversight on his part that he hasn’t said that yet today.
Buck blushes and smiles at that which means Eddie just won a pot of fucking gold. “Love you.” He pecks another kiss to Eddie’s cheek before piling away and heading to the kitchen. “What do you feel like? I have tilapia. Or zucchini noodles. Some freezer-burned vegan mozzarella sticks.”
“What were you doing before I got here?” Eddie asks.
Buck scratches the back of his neck sheepishly. “I was studying for my advanced geography final before I fell asleep in the textbook. It’s just so boring.”
“How about you let me cook for you?”
“Trying to kill me so you can be single again?”
“Not in a million years, baby.” Eddie comes up behind him and wraps his arms around Buck’s waist, kisses the side of his neck and jaw a few times. “Or we could order Jack in the Box?”
“So you’re serious about killing me.”
“No, baby. Just- go. Sit down. I'll take care of it. You look tired.”
Buck does. Eddie thinks he looks beautiful. He’d fit perfectly in Eddie’s arms as he is now, dozing off, snoring in Eddie’s ear. He needs to eat first though. Soon he'll ask Buck why he's always so exhausted, and why it seems like a shadow has been following him around.
“That’s just rude.” Buck whines as Eddie pushes him back towards the couch. “Eddie.”
When Buck finally relents to Eddie binding him to the couch, it turns into a lovely night. They end up sharing a plate of fish tacos that Buck aggressively supervises (read: carries the meal on his back and bosses Eddie around ), meaning they turn out pretty damn good. They watch Madagascar 2 and giggle at those stupid fucking penguins trying to construct an aircraft. It’s silly and lighthearted after the months they went through, it’s perfect.
“No.” Eddie snatches the dish and shoves Buck back into the cushions when he sees him sneakily making his way to the sink. “Don’t even think about it.”
Buck grunts and follows him to the kitchen anyway. “Whoever cooks doesn’t clean. That’s the rule.”
“You did all the heavy-lifting.”
Buck rolls his eyes, but drops it when Eddie puts on the ridiculous pink dish gloves from under the cabinet.
“What are you wearing to the banquet?” Buck asks conversationally.
Eddie only shrugs, focusing half on the task at hand and half at how close Buck is standing. It’s intoxicating to be this close after so long of being apart, and Eddie is about to overdose. “Black shirt, black slacks?”
Buck is the more fashionable out of the two of them, and usually picks out Eddie’s nicer attire. He just gets matching colors in a way that Eddie’s little chimp brain can’t tell the difference between.
“Or,” Buck plasters himself behind Eddie, his breath on the back of Eddie’s neck. “You could wear something that would look better on the floor.”
He shivers at the words. “Whatever you want.”
The slope of Buck’s nose tickles the back of his ear, and Eddie’s dick is half-hard pressing against the lip of the counter. Buck’s big hands wrap the full length around his hip bones, fingerprints making delicious divots into his skin. “I want…”
They don’t end up having sex. They make-out on the couch, Buck squirming in his lap until they both take separate cold showers. They only get to some heavy petting before Eddie breaks it up with a gasp and a promise to do things right this time, and sex before giving Buck everything else he deserves feels like a cop-out.
“You’re so fucking pretty.” Eddie had whispered, running his thumb over Buck spit-slick bottom lip. “But not tonight, baby.”
They have a lot to talk about, and Eddie isn’t going to give up the love of a lifetime for a sloppy orgasm, even when his body aches for it, aches to have Buck in him, around him, anything it can get.
Buck nods roughly, catching his breath.
They watch the third Madagascar movie to calm down. There’s absolutely nothing sexy about watching animated animals join a circus. He listens to Buck’s rants about the unfair working conditions that real-live circuses push onto their workers. Eddie is laying horizontal over Buck’s body, head buried into the crook of his neck. He smells like air freshener, toothpaste, and this spicy scent that is solely him, and Eddie’s body is melting right into him.
“Stay the night? I make a mean omelet.” Buck asks quietly.
Eddie smiles into his neck, places three kisses there to punctuate his point. “I’d love to.”
Sunday Afternoon: February 11th, 2024
“I like the stubble.” Buck says in a voice a little over a whisper. He traces Eddie’s cheeks and jaw with his fingertips, mesmerized by it. “You should keep it.”
Eddie smiles fondly, softly. “It gave you beard-burn. Your nose and chin are all pink.”
“It’s hot.” His boyfriend pouts, now running his thumb over Eddie's bottom lip, allowing him to kiss the skin of it. “You’re so beautiful, Eddie.”
He must blush, because Buck smiles brightly even where half of his face is stuffed into Eddie’s pillow. His fingers never stop their ministrations over Eddie’s skin, soaking it all in like he’s re-memorizing it under his touch.
Eddie sighs happily under the attention. He scoots forward to close the minimal gap between them to slit himself right against Buck’s chest.
“Do you want some hot chocolate?”
He shakes his head. “No. I want you to kiss me.”
They do that for a while more. Slow and syrupy, tongues sloppy and smiles getting in the way just how Eddie likes.
There’s nowhere to go until tomorrow. Eddie is completely content to be wrapped up in all things Buck; Buck’s slightly sweet scent, the curling of his eyelashes, his nimble fingers, the chip in one of his front teeth. The imperfect permanence of him, one that Eddie loves with everything he’s got.
“You’re always so sweet to me even though I broke up with you.” Eddie begins gently, not wanting to break the mood they have. He watches Buck carefully for any shift that he’s uncomfortable, but it never comes. Buck listens carefully and intently with his eyebrows slightly furrowed. “Why?”
“Eddie,” Buck rolls his eyes in exasperation though there’s no annoyance in the tone. He kisses Eddie before continuing. “You gotta stop thinking that mistakes can’t be forgiven. I was hurt. Past tense. And yeah, it still sucks looking back, but I have you now.”
Eddie nods, taking that in. “I think I still love my dad even though… even after everything.”
There’s only understanding on Buck’s face when Eddie studies him, blinking fondly at the hand Buck places on his cheek. It’s a comfort he’ll always need. “It’s your dad, Eddie. It’s hard to stop loving people like that even when they can’t love you back.”
His next swallow is rough and he can’t get every word out. The emotions are spilling over at the realization that despite everything, loving his parents is innate. Eddie won’t know a day without the sorrow of being theirs. It’s the kind of lasting devastation that’ll take his breath away every time he looks in the mirror and sees his father’s eyes staring back at him.
“There is something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about. And- And it’s okay if you’re upset about it, or you want me to leave-”
“I’m not kicking you out of bed.” Is what he says. If Eddie's heart beats a little faster from the rush of anxiety it’s between him and God, and probably Buck, because they’re chest-to-chest and he can probably feel Eddie’s pulse rocket up. “What is it?”
“What do you think about therapy?”
At first, Eddie wants to get mad at Buck for suggesting it. He’s lived this long without therapy, and he doesn’t even talk to his parents anymore. It shouldn’t be causing him problems again. Does Buck think he’s weak? Does Buck think of Eddie as fragile? Diaz’s don’t go to therapy, Edmundo, his father would always say.
Then he really thinks. Eddie recalls every instance of panicking, then immediately denying there was panic at all. He thinks of saying the word queer out loud and barely being able to choke it out. He remembers ruining things for himself as punishment, of pushing away the people he loves to hurt not only them but himself too. And maybe he shouldn’t take the advice of a man who can’t stand to look at his son for being anything besides conventional.
It also probably has something to do with the fact that Eddie can’t believe that Buck would forgive him and take him back. It’s bizarre that a person could love him, especially someone that loves as explosively as Buck- with his entire self, toes-to-nose brimmed love, so much it spills over.
Eddie couldn’t list one thing about himself that’s worth an ounce of Buck’s love and affection. He doesn’t know what about him could appeal to Buck. They contrast.
Eddie is a perfectionist. He’s a grit-the-jaw kind of guy when it comes to pain and discomfort. He tried so hard to be collected that it only unraveled him further. He’s ashamed to look at himself in the mirror with all of the wasted potential that perches on the counter beside him. If Eddie isn’t the best- at swimming, in the Nursing program, in his relationships- he’s the worst.
Buck isn’t like that. He takes his mistakes in stride until they build up. Buck is loud and chatty, though he’s afraid of taking up space that’s so rightfully his. His hurt bleeds red, not invisible like Eddie’s does. He bruises and lashes out, though his skin was built to be outwardly tender. Buck loves people like it was all he was out on this Earth to do- if the sun was missing a ray, Eddie would be convinced it’s Buck.
“Hear me out.” Buck puts a soothing hand on the back of Eddie’s neck. “Your parents- your dad - hurt you a lot more than you’ve let on. And you’ve always been so hard on yourself, baby. It’s not just the whole coming out thing, it’s everything they’ve made you feel for a long time now. I know you’re in pain. I know you, Eddie, and I love you so much.” He kisses the corner of Eddie’s mouth sweetly. “I’m not trying to tell you what to do. I just don’t want you to think you deserve to feel like this forever. Because you don’t.”
“No, no.” Eddie cuts him off, still taking it all in. “You’re right.”
Not fragile, valuable . Buck wants Eddie to be better for himself, not for anyone else.
Ultimately, he allows his lips to quirk upward in gratitude for the man beside him. “When did you get so smart?” He teases softly, right through the tears.
Buck chuckles, wipes the slow drops away from Eddie’s cheeks with his thumb. The other hand grips Eddie’s between their chests a little awkward, though it doesn’t once cross his mind to let go. “Being away from you all that knocked me up a few IQ points.”
Eddie huffs and rolls them over, settles his weight onto Buck who takes it effortlessly. He relishes in Buck’s hands sliding up his back, making him shiver with benevolence. Eddie takes his own fingers and tangles them into the messy, golden curls of Buck’s hair, knuckles against the pillow beneath his head. They’re so close that their eyelashes could kiss, the slopes of their noses bumping together.
Buck’s eyes gleam. “Yeah?”
“I love you.”
They’ve become a fucking stereotype- confessing they love each other at every given chance. Eddie could have lost this forever. He won’t apologize for loving Buck. He’ll scream it to anybody who’ll listen, will paint their picture everywhere they go. He doesn’t ever want a minute to pass where Buck could doubt any of that.
“I love you.” Eddie repeats.
They can hardly kiss with the beaming smiles splayed on both their faces. Eddie memorizes Buck’s elevating heartbeat against his own, the feel of Buck’s spit-slick lips on his, how Buck squeezes his waist and moans so sweetly and softly that Eddie is slowly getting drunk on it.
“I love you.”
A Week of Classes: February 26th, 2024
“Did therapy do too much of a number on you to do this all night?” Buck pants.
Eddie is in Heaven, or Hell depending on who’s being asked.
The second Eddie set his keys down after therapy Buck had him pinned up against the front door, welcoming him home by shoving his hand down Eddie’s pants.
“No but if you don’t stop, I'm going to embarrass myself.”
It’s not true. Not really. Buck never judges him for anything besides forgetting to use mouthwash after brushing his teeth, and he’d certainly never do it in regard to their healthy, overly-enthusiastic sex life.
Heavy emphasis on enthusiastic.
They started having sex again only last week. Eddie’s body feels new, responsive, sensitive in a way it never has. It’s a pleasure he never got to experience until Buck came along and handed it to him on a silver platter.
Eddie’s body craves Buck. He needs Buck’s hands and mouth and tongue all over him at least once per day or he gets cranky. Not even for sex. Eddie needs his touch.
Buck sucks that place on Eddie’s neck that makes him melt into his own shoes, surely giving him a nice purple bruise that Eddie will dig his thumb into later and wonder why he didn’t beg for another.
“You won’t.” And suddenly, Eddie is cold, because Buck has stepped away to slip into his windbreaker. “Because I have a lecture in fifteen minutes.”
Eddie doesn’t pout. He doesn’t goddammit, he is a grown man! He’s merely disappointed that Buck is traitorously heading to class through the wind and rain instead of letting Eddie suck his dick.
“I’ll get you back for that.” Eddie mutters. He leans up to peck Buck’s cheek, holding out the mwah sound to hear him giggle.
Buck kisses him for real, slow and sure. “It’s not my fault you get hard from a little kissing.”
His eyes flick down to the bulge in Buck’s jeans. He looks back up unimpressed, catching his boyfriend’s bullshit head on.
“That’s my wallet.” Buck says, feigning nonchalance even when Eddie can see right through his antics. It’s a little cute that Buck thinks he can get away with anything with that charming smile and his big, baby blues (he can and he does).
“I hate you.”
Buck only smiles. “No you don’t.”
He sighs, kicking off his own shoes to settle in for the day. He throws his hands up all showy, surrendering. “You caught me.”
“Bye, baby.” Buck kisses him one last time and shuts the door behind him.
To Buck <3, 3:46pm
I Love you.
From Buck<3, 3:59pm
love you eddie :)
Abuela’s House: May 20th, 2024
“Don’t be nervous.” Eddie puts a hand on Buck’s shoulder and squeezes hard enough to get the words through the man’s thick skull. “She’ll love you- right when she gets over the fact that you’re a gringo.”
“A what?” Buck tugs on the collar of his shirt. He’s been anxiously fixing his appearance the entire ride to his grandmother’s cottage house. “Is it a bad thing?”
Eddie winces. “You’re white.”
“Fuck.” Buck hisses. He looks at Eddie with pure desperation. “Eddie, what do I do?”
Despite everything, he chuckles. He takes Buck’s nervously twitchy hands and rests their braided fingers over the middle console of the truck, making Buck turn to look at him. “There’s no fixing that, baby.”
Buck worries his bottom lips between his teeth. “What do I do? I don’t even have grandparents, Eddie. They’re dead. Old people despise me! One time I tried to help this lady get her weird cat out of a bush and she hit me with those claw things they use to grab stuff they can’t reach!”
“She probably thought you were stealing the cat.” Eddie reasons. “It’ll be fine. I’ll introduce you as mi hermoso novio, she’ll give you a little kiss on the cheek, then we both eat the food she made with a big smile- because it’s always fantastic. You accept your weight in leftovers without a peep and she sends you on her way, or, she’ll make you do some obscure task like dusting off her ceiling fans or cleaning under the stove.”
“What if she doesn’t like me?” Buck asks with a small, sad voice.
Eddie sighs and cups Buck’s face with both of his hands, completely enveloping his cheeks and jaw between them. He can’t resist giving Buck a reassuring peck on the lips before pulling back. “She’s going to love you.” He promises. “Not as much as I love you, but, you know. She will. A lot.”
Finally, Buck smiles and rolls his eyes. “You still going for that title?”
Eddie tips his head forward playfully. “The title of what? Who loves who more? I am not a loser, Evan Buckley. I’ll beat you any time of day.”
“I love you more.” Buck argues childishly.
There’s a sharp knock at the window, and both Buck and Eddie spring apart, unexpecting of the interruption.
“Eddito.” His grandmother scolds. “I am not getting any younger. Get in the house. No besar en mi jardín delantero. Vamos. Now.”
“Lo siento.” Eddie says, completely unrepentant. He’s very used to her tough love.
Buck on the other hand, is not.
She turns her scowl to Buck, who audibly gulps despite her gaze softening upon looking at him. “Hola, niño. Come inside. My Eddie told me you like tomato gardens- let me show you mine. He helped me plant it over the summer. I have some frozen for you to take home with you.”
Frozen tomatoes Buck mouths at him when she turns away to head up the walkway, and Eddie can only shrug because what the fuck are frozen tomatoes.
They follow after her, Buck grinning like a fool under her affection. Eddie watches him practically skip up the yard, dragging Eddie by the hand to follow.
“Eddie,” Buck pauses to whisper into his ear after the woman is already in her house.
Eddie leans in to let their foreheads bonk together sprightly. “Hm?” He hums, kissing Buck’s cheek, letting the thrum of excitement wash over himself.
For the first time in a long time Eddie is happy. There’s no underlying sadness or clawing for it, he just is. He’s going to spend the entire day with his boyfriend and grandmother, they’re going to teach Buck how to make tamales, watch about three episodes of La Fea Más Bella at his grandmother’s request, and then he’s going to bundle Buck up and take him back to Eddie’s apartment.
Eddie is happy, looking at Buck on the porch of somewhere that’s always been a home for him.
“Should I tell her I don’t like tomatoes?”