I Threw a Wish in the Well - Chapter 1 - ThrillingDetectiveTales (2024)

Chapter Text

Hen and Chimney are sitting at the table in the kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee apiece, when Eddie comes up the stairs to report for A shift.

" - even more out of touch with pop culture than Maddie is, I'm telling you," Chimney is saying. "He's never seen Willy Wonka. Willy Wonka, Hen! That's like a childhood staple!"

"If that's the worst thing you have to say about him, I take it to mean the introduction went well," Hen replies.

"It went fine!" Chimney confirms, sounding extremely put-upon. "We took him out for dinner at Delano's and then went over to that karaoke joint in Koreatown, where he proceeded to slam six shots of tequila and deliver one of the most deeply disturbing performances of Single Ladies I've ever had the misfortune of witnessing."

"Six shots?" Hen echoes. "Kind of intense for a Wednesday night."

"That's in addition to the wine we shared at dinner," Chimney clarifies. He sighs and says dreamily, "Ah, to once again be in my twenties and immune to hangovers."

"Preach," Hen laughs. She catches sight of Eddie as he makes his way over to the coffee maker and greets, "Hey, Eddie."

Eddie nods at her. "Morning, Hen. Chim." The latter lifts his hand in a lazy wave. Eddie grabs himself a mug from the upper cabinet and presses on, "Who are we talking about?"

"Maddie's little brother," Chimney says. "He's in town for a visit."

Eddie hums and pours a generous measure of coffee into his cup before returning the pot to the burner. He takes a sip and comes to sit with his friends, flashing Chimney a teasing grin.

"Meeting the family already, huh?"

"Meeting one member of the family," Chimney corrects. "Singular." He extends his index finger, to illustrate.

"But an important one," Hen points out, raising her eyebrows. "The only one your girlfriend actually likes, to hear you tell it."

Eddie shoots her a quizzical look, but it's Chimney who sighs and explains, "Maddie isn't very close with her parents. There are some… issues there that have kind of soured the relationship, and I gather that she never really knew her extended family. She and her kid brother used to be thick as thieves when they were younger, but they haven't been in touch much since Maddie left for college. Then there was the whole thing with her ex - " He cuts himself off and shakes his head. "You can imagine that he didn't want her reaching out to anyone; especially someone who might try and convince her to leave, which, I can tell you after spending less than twenty-four hours with the guy, Evan definitely would have."

Hen and Eddie both nod, expressions sobering somewhat.

"Anyway," Chimney continues, "she got a postcard from Evan a couple of months ago that mentioned that he's stationed down in San Diego, so she invited him to come up and reconnect next time he was stateside and he took her up on it."

"He's military?" Eddie asks.

"Navy SEALs."

"SEALs," Eddie mutters, and wrinkles his nose. That tells him pretty much everything he needs to know about Buckley the younger, Chimney's positive character assessment notwithstanding. Eddie had the misfortune of meeting several SEALs during his deployment in Afghanistan and they were self-aggrandizing douchebags to a man. He doesn't care to ever cross paths with another one, no matter how much he might like their sister.

"Oh, right," Chimney smirks. "I forgot, you two are sworn enemies."

Hen frowns at Eddie. "You know Maddie's brother?"

"No," Eddie assures her with a shake of his head. "It's a military thing."

"The Army and the Navy don't get along," Chimney clarifies, leaning in like it's some kind of salacious secret. "They have this big rivalry. There's a college football game every year to determine which branch is best, and everything."

Eddie scoffs and rolls his eyes.

"The football game is one small part of it," he corrects, pinching his index finger and thumb together until they're nearly touching. "The bigger issue is that the Navy is staffed by a bunch of pinche tarados who all think they're a gift to God's green Earth and expect to be treated as such."

"I see," Hen says, with a distinctly unconcerned air. "Well, what's the verdict, Chim? Has Baby Buckley been spoiled by the Navy?"

"What?" Chimney looks startled. He shakes his head and waves a hand in front of himself. "No. No way. He's a little rough around the edges, maybe, and he sticks his foot in his mouth from time to time, but Evan is a nice guy. Really friendly and genuine, just like Maddie is. He kind of reminds me of a golden retriever."

"He sounds great," Hen says. "Do he and Maddie look anything alike?"

"Not even a little," Chimney snorts. "Maddie says he takes after their mom's side of the family. He's taller and kind of blonde. Built like a brick sh*thouse."

"Most SEALs are," Eddie agrees grimly. He can picture Buckley Jr. in his mind's eye—a short, straight shelf of sandy hair; dark eyes like Maddie's; probably somewhere around Eddie's height or maybe an inch or two shy, with a frame like a refrigerator.

Hen leans over to nudge her shoulder against Eddie's and grins, "Think he could give our resident hunk here a run for his money?"

Eddie clicks his tongue. "I could take him."

"Aw, of course you could, butch." Chimney leans over to pat Eddie on the shoulder while Hen chuckles.

Across the mezzanine, Bobby steps out of his office with Castillo, both of them smiling. He puts a hand on her shoulder and says something and Castillo laughs and nods before heading downstairs. Bobby makes his way over to the table and greets their small assemblage with a cheerful, "You all look like you're having fun."

"Chim met Maddie's little brother last night," Hen explains. "He's been giving us all the gritty details."

"Wow," Bobby nods, looking impressed. "First time meeting the family. That's a big deal."

"One!" Chimney asserts, holding his finger up again. "It was one family member! Hardly even a thing."

Hen and Eddie share a look across the table, each biting back a laugh.

Bobby flicks a glance at them, clearly amused, and circles around the table to the fridge.

"So, how was it?" he asks, retrieving a carton of eggs.

"It was good. A little awkward at first, because they haven't really seen each other in a few years, but we got over that hump pretty quick. Evan's a good kid, and Maddie's really glad he's here."

"Good." Bobby nods, short and decisive, and starts cracking eggs into one of the big mixing bowls. "How long is he staying?"

"A couple of weeks. He's got some training thing to do at the beginning of May so I think he's planning to head back Easter weekend."

"You should bring him by sometime," Bobby offers. "Show him around. Maybe he and Maddie can come for dinner."

Chimney beams at him. "I think she'd really appreciate that. Thanks, Cap."

They chat more while Bobby whips up a country-style scramble, the conversation meandering from family talk to school projects to upcoming firehouse events and eventually circling around to Eddie's current least favorite topic: dating.

"What about you, Eddie?" Chimney asks around a mouthful of toast. "Any hot prospects?" He wags his eyebrows when Eddie looks over and Eddie can't help but laugh.

"Nah," he shakes his head, chasing the last few bites of egg, potato, and cheese around his plate with his fork. "Still kind of waiting for everything to settle, y'know?"

Hen raises an eyebrow at him. "It's been what? Two months since the divorce was finalized?"

"Yep," Eddie confirms archly. "Eight since we signed the papers."

And five since I came out to the team, he doesn't say, though from the awkward silence that descends over the table, he's sure they all hear it anyway.

Hen knocks her ankle against his under the table. Eddie darts a glance at her, shoulders loosening somewhat when he catches sight of her familiar, reassuring smile.

Eddie sighs and scrubs a hand over his face.

"Sorry, I just - I'm not ready, yet."

"No shame in that," Bobby says.

Chimney nods. "You know, after Tatiana broke up with me - "

"While you were in a coma," Hen interjects darkly.

" - I was single for almost a year before I met Maddie. You've got plenty of time. And who knows, maybe love will surprise you along the way."

Bobby nods in agreement and fixes Eddie with a meaningful look. "You're not on anybody's schedule other than your own."

"You mind telling my parents that?" Eddie snorts, only a little bitter. "They've been on my back about Christopher needing a 'consistent mother figure' since the day I told them Shannon and I were getting divorced, nevermind that things between us are the best they've ever been and Chris seems perfectly happy with the arrangement."

Hen fixes him with a sympathetic look and says gently, "And I'm guessing you haven't told them about - "

"The gay thing?" Eddie finishes with a rueful smirk. "No. Shockingly, between all the lectures from my parents and fielding my Tía Pepa's weekly offers to set me up with every eligible woman related to some member of her bunko club, it hasn't come up." He shovels a forkful of breakfast scramble into his mouth to spare himself the need to elaborate.

Hen takes pity on him, reaching over to settle her hand on top of his and giving it a little shake.

"Hey," she murmurs. "In your own time. Or maybe never, if you don't feel like they've earned the privilege. Inviting them into your confidence is a gift you give, not an obligation they're owed."

Eddie smiles at her, soft and appreciative. As if on cue, the bell wails to life above them.

"Alright, everyone," Bobby says, wiping his mouth with a napkin as he pushes back from the table. "Let's move!"

***

The day from then on is a non-stop carousel of calls, mostly minor and with the occasional break in between, until they're summoned to a two-alarm structure fire at a freight warehouse in the Wholesale District a little after six in the evening. All the employees have thankfully been evacuated by the time the 118 arrives on scene to assist the 122, but it takes them until around eight the next morning to get everything cooled down.

The B shift squad comes to relieve them at half-past, and when they finally get back to the firehouse it's pushing nine o'clock. Eddie takes his time showering off the soot and sweat and changing into a fresh set of clothes and makes it out to his truck at a quarter 'til ten. He has half a mind to drive straight home and try to sleep until he has to go and pick Christopher up from school, but there's a buzzy thread of adrenaline still running through him. He knows he won't be able to rest until it settles, so he detours to a brunch spot he and Christopher like to frequent on the weekends, instead.

Tres Hermanas offers some of the best Mexican food Eddie has encountered in California outside of the confines of his abuela's kitchen, so it's not surprising to find that it's busy, especially during peak brunch hours on a Friday morning.

Cheli, the youngest of the titular Tres Hermanas, is manning the counter, and she grins when Eddie walks up.

"Hey, if it isn't el bombero," she greets, bleached caramel curls bouncing. "Long time, no see. You didn't bring your hijo precioso with you today?"

"Hola, Cheli," Eddie nods. "Christopher is in school."

She pouts at that. "Well, tell the little man I'm sorry I missed him."

"I'll be sure to pass it along."

"You better bring him by to see me soon," Cheli warns with a playful wag of her finger. "Now, what can I get you?"

Eddie orders himself chilaquiles with a side of nopalitos and rounds it off with a horchata cold brew—a Tres Hermanas specialty and the only thing on the menu he's not convinced his abuela could replicate with pinpoint accuracy, if not improve upon. Cheli fusses with the drink dispensers lining the back of the counter for a moment, then turns around and hands him a laminated number tucked into the end of a bright blue card holder, and a recycled plastic to-go cup full of iced coffee, horchata billowing at the top in milky clouds.

"Gracias." Eddie tips his cup at her and nods to the door on the other side of the dining room. "I'll be on the patio."

Cheli flashes him a thumbs up and turns to smile at the next customer.

Eddie picks his way between the crowded tables and holds the door to the patio open for a middle-aged couple who offer passing thanks. He steps through and collides with something big and solid, fumbling his coffee, which spills everywhere, and sending his number tag clattering to the pavement in a shower of ice and cold brew.

"¡Ah, chale!" Eddie swears, stumbling back and doing his best not to slip or step on his card. "I'm so sorry, I - " He raises his head and finds himself staring at a broad chest, splattered liberally with coffee.

"No, it's okay," a husky tenor replies.

Eddie looks up into a pair of the most vividly blue eyes he's ever seen.

The guy smiles at him, sweet and sheepish and adds, "I'm pretty sure that was my fault. It's what I get for not looking around before I stand up."

He's tall—taller than Eddie by a couple of inches, which is unusual enough to stir a little frisson of heat in Eddie's gut—with a short crop of blonde curls and a lightly stubbled jaw. There's a mark over his left eye that might be a bruise or a birthmark, though Eddie can't quite tell which. He's wearing a short-sleeved button down in a flattering shade of burnt orange—now thoroughly stained—and a pair of dark wash jeans, sneakers poking out from under the hems. Even half-drenched in cold brew, he looks like he just walked out of a street fashion spread in GQ or something.

"Um," Eddie says, eloquently. He shakes his head, trying to knock some sense back into himself, and clears his throat. "No. No, man. That was all me. I'm sorry." He spies an unused napkin among the half-cleared dishes on a nearby table and reaches over to grab it and shake it free of its tight roll.

"Here," he offers, holding it out.

"Thanks." The guy accepts the napkin with a nod, then balls it up and pats awkwardly at his soaking chest, doing his best to temper the stain. After a few seconds spent sopping up the worst of it, he plucks at his shirt, the damp fabric slapping faintly against his skin. "Can I get you another one of these?" he asks, eyes glittering. "Since you didn't have much of a chance to enjoy the first one."

Eddie ducks his head and laughs.

"No, uh. It's fine, really. I'm sorry about your shirt."

"Nothing a good vinegar soak can't solve," the guy says, casual as anything, then holds out his hand. "I'm Buck."

Eddie takes it. Buck's palm is big and warm, his fingers long and calloused. Eddie very carefully doesn't think about what they might feel like wrapped around other parts of him.

He introduces himself by name and tacks on an absent, "It's nice to meet you, aside from the, uh - " He gestures at Buck's chest and Buck huffs a laugh.

"Likewise."

They stand there staring at each other for a moment, until someone clears their throat. Eddie startles and realizes that not only are they blocking the patio door, but he's still holding Buck's hand. He drops it, and he and Buck turn in tandem to discover a server in the doorway behind them with a platter balanced on one arm.

"Excuse me," the server says, apologetic, and both men step back so they can get through.

Eddie catches a glimpse of the plates on the tray and says, "Oh! Uh, I think that might be mine, actually. Chilaquiles with nopalitos?"

"Yes!" The server perks up. "Where are you sitting?"

"I hadn't gotten that far yet," Eddie admits, bending down to retrieve his number card from the ground.

"The table next to mine is free," Buck offers, hooking a thumb toward the location in question.

The server glances back over to Eddie for confirmation. He nods, and they go about setting his things down on the little two-top with a smile. When they're finished, they straighten up and tuck the tray under their arm, looking between Buck and Eddie with their eyebrows raised.

"Can I get you guys anything else while I'm here? Maybe a rag?" They point at Buck's shirt and Buck laughs.

"Ah, no," he says. "That's alright. I was just about to head out, anyway."

The server smiles, nods, and takes their leave, while Eddie turns his attention back to Buck.

"You sure I can't spot you twenty bucks for dry cleaning or something? Seems like the least I could do."

Buck waves him off. "I've got it covered. Besides, you've already given me plenty to remember you by." He tugs at the stain on his shirt and winks.

Eddie can feel his face heating. He ignores it in favor of muttering, "Dios mío, are you always like this?"

"Pretty much," Buck grins, looking entirely too pleased with himself. "It was good to meet you, Eddie. Maybe I'll see you around."

"Yeah," Eddie says. "Maybe." He thinks it comes out sounding more like, I hope so.

He suspects that Buck can hear the subtle distinction, too, from the way his smile widens.

Buck gives him a little wave and heads inside. He sneaks one last glance at Eddie over his shoulder as he disappears into the throng of twenty-somethings splitting pitchers of habañero margaritas and lets the door fall shut behind him.

Eddie sits down and pulls his phone out of his pocket, shooting a quick text off to the group chat he shares with Hen and Karen.

Just spilled an entire cup of coffee all over the hottest man I've ever seen in my life. Kill me now, complete with skull and crossbones emoji for emphasis.

He takes a bite of his chilaquiles, only remembering once his mouth is full of tortilla, barbacoa, and egg in spicy red sauce that he no longer has a beverage to wash it all down with. He wipes his face off with one of the mismatched cloth napkins and is in the process of standing up to go order a replacement when Cheli walks out onto the patio, a cup in hand.

She sashays over to Eddie's table and sets it down on the corner, one dark eyebrow raised, gold earrings glinting in the sun.

"You want to tell me why that gringo bien rico came in wearing your drink?"

"It was an accident," Eddie sighs. "We bumped into each other."

Cheli hums and drums her fingers against the lid of the new cup.

"Well, he bought you another one." She reaches into the pocket of her apron and pulls out a folded up scrap of paper. "He left you this, too," she says, wagging her eyebrows as she holds it out, pinched between two fingers.

Eddie goes to take it, but Cheli yanks it back at the last second, fixing him with a hard look.

"You know if you two get married, you have to invite me to the wedding, right? Since I basically fixed you up, and all."

Eddie rolls his eyes and snatches the slip of paper away while Cheli laughs. She sways away from the table, one hand on her chest as she twirls back and forth and starts belting one of the old romantic classics in a trembling alto.

"Bésame! Bésame mucho! Como si fuera esta noche la última vez!"

Eddie ignores her in favor of unfolding the little, raw-edged paper. There's a message scrawled across the top in slightly slanted capital letters: Let me buy you a coffee for real next time? At the bottom, Buck has written his phone number and signed his name next to a lopsided smiley face.

Eddie swallows convulsively, eyes skimming the paper again and again. His face is hot all the way out to the tips of his ears.

His phone buzzes and he jumps and tucks the paper away in the front pocket of his jeans. He thumbs the screen on to find a response from Hen: OMG, is he okay????

Iced coffee, Eddie clarifies. He's totally fine. My dignity on the other hand…

Karen sends back a string of laughing crying emojis, followed by: This is your Hallmark meet-cute moment!

Hen reacts to her message with a heart then replies to Eddie: Maybe he likes his men hot and undignified.

He did give me his number, Eddie fires back.

Both Hen and Karen react to that with exclamation points, then Karen sends a string of fifteen or so party popper emojis alongside the message, Attaboy, Edmundo!

Guess that means everything's settled now, Hen says.

I just said he gave me his number, not that I'm going to use it, Eddie taps out.

Hen sends back a 'Sure, Jan' GIF, which Karen emphasizes with the emoji of a finger pointing up.

Eddie really needs to get better friends. He sets his phone aside and tucks back into his breakfast, doing his best to ignore the way Buck's number burns against his chest.

***

Eddie arrives home around eleven-thirty, stuffed full of good food and finally, blessedly coming down from his adrenaline high. He takes the paper with Buck's number on it out of his pocket and sits down on the edge of his mattress, worrying it between his fingers. After a brief internal debate, he programs the number into his phone, checking it against the paper three times to make sure he has every digit entered correctly, and shoots off a text:

Are you sure you want to risk another shirt?

It's silly and stupid and Eddie cringes a little when he reads it back to himself, but the damage is done.

Buck probably won't even respond, anyway. There's no way a guy who looks like that is hurting for a date badly enough to chase after Eddie and his not inconsiderable baggage.

He collapses back onto his bed with a grunt, sparing just enough energy to set an alarm before he succumbs to the leaden pull of sleep.

Eddie naps for an hour, deep and dreamless, until the soothing sound of bells rouses him. He thumbs his alarm off, rolls out of bed, and shuffles through chores and odd jobs around the house until it's time to head over to the school.

Christopher is in excellent spirits, as usual, beaming while Eddie helps him into the truck. He chatters about his day, everything he learned and the shenanigans he got up to with his friends. He's particularly enamored of some experiment they did in science that involved making dry erase marker scribbles float on water. It sounds a little outlandish, if not downright impossible, which leads Eddie to suspect that Christopher isn't including all the relevant details in his enthusiastic retelling, but it's nice to see him excited even so.

The afternoon is a blur of snacks and homework and conversation that culminates in Eddie dutifully preparing a lazy workday dinner: a couple of boxes of macaroni and cheese with cut-up hot dogs, and steam-in-the-bag broccoli on the side. He has everything mixed and plated by the time Christopher finishes washing his hands and sits down at the table. Eddie tries not to dwell on the fact that Buck hasn't replied yet, but he's doing such a miserable job that even Christopher notices something is up.

They're halfway through the meal when he asks, "Hey, dad? Why do you keep looking at your phone?"

Eddie flushes and coughs around a mouthful of noodles. He flips his phone over so the screen is facing down toward the table and apologizes, "Sorry, buddy. I was checking my messages, but I shouldn't have been doing that at the dinner table."

"It's okay," Christopher says easily. "Who are you talking to?"

There's no guile to the question, just honest curiosity, but guilt and uncertainty churn in Eddie's gut.

"Just a - a friend," he says, for lack of a more appropriate descriptor.

"Which one?"

Eddie sighs and resigns himself to the forthcoming interrogation.

"A new friend," he explains, only slightly stilted. "I met him this morning."

"At work? Did you rescue him?" He looks so thrilled by the prospect that Eddie can't help but laugh.

"Nothing so exciting, mijo. I just bumped into him while I was getting some breakfast."

Christopher narrows his eyes. "Where did you get breakfast?"

Busted, Eddie thinks, and doesn't bother fighting against the sheepish grin he can feel tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"I stopped by to see Señorita Cheli."

Christopher scoffs, all youthful affront. "Without me?"

"Not on purpose," Eddie assures him, biting back a laugh. "I was just really tired and hungry after work and didn't want to eat freezer waffles again."

Christopher sighs, much aggrieved, and says magnanimously, "I guess that's okay." He fixes Eddie with a look that's half pity, half mischief, and adds, "You are pretty bad at making freezer waffles."

"Hey, now!" Eddie protests. "I do okay."

"You always burn them!" Christopher insists, laughing. "And sometimes you burn them and they're still cold in the middle!"

It's not an untrue accusation, but Eddie reaches over to tickle Christopher's ribs in retaliation anyway.

"I can't believe this!" he says, while Christopher shrieks with delight and does his best to wiggle away without falling off his chair. "Betrayed by my own flesh and blood!"

They settle back down a moment later, when Eddie's cheeks hurt from smiling and Christopher's wild laughter has lapsed into an intermittent stream of soft, contented giggles. He rests his cheek against the table while he catches his breath, and Eddie takes advantage of the opportunity to stroke Christopher's hair back from his forehead.

"Dad?" Christopher asks quietly, without raising his head.

"Hm?"

"Can we go visit Señorita Cheli together soon?"

Eddie's heart swells against his ribs, overfull with fondness for his kid.

"I already promised her I'd bring you to see her."

"Tomorrow?" Christopher sits up, face bright and hopeful.

"Maybe," Eddie hedges. "If we have time before the observatory, but that means you'll have to be up and ready to go pretty early."

"We could always go after."

"We'll see," Eddie tells him. "For now, let's just focus on finishing dinner, okay?"

Christopher heaves a big, dramatic sigh, but tucks back into the remainder of his macaroni with the expected fervor of a growing boy. Eddie picks his phone up off the table and slips it into his pocket, resolving not to think about Buck for the rest of the night.

***

His fortitude in the matter sees him through the remainder of the meal and the subsequent dishes, a couple of loads of laundry, two DVRed episodes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Christopher's nighttime routine. They clamber onto Christopher's narrow mattress to read a few chapters of Sideways Stories from Wayside School, after which Eddie gives his yawning son a kiss on the forehead and turns out the light.

He putters around a little while longer, making sure Christopher's homework is in his backpack and picking up the occasional stray sock or Lego brick before undergoing his own nightly rituals. He tosses his phone onto the bedspread while he swaps his jeans for a pair of sweatpants and manfully resists checking the screen before going to brush his teeth.

His patience is rewarded. He flips the overhead light off and climbs into bed before he finally succumbs to his curiosity. When he thumbs his phone to life, there's a message waiting for him.

I'd risk more than just a shirt for the chance to get to know you.

Eddie flushes, torn between swooning and rolling his eyes.

Very smooth, he replies.

Buck's response comes through just a few seconds later; a winking emoji followed by, Is that a yes?

Eddie considers this.

He wasn't lying when he said he didn't think he was ready. As liberating as it is to understand a part of himself he's been warring with for thirty-odd years, the idea of dating as an openly gay man makes him break out in a cold sweat.

He feels well behind the learning curve in matters of romance. A few disappointing pre-teen smoothie excursions notwithstanding, he's never been intimately involved with anybody but his ex-wife, and they spent most of their relationship estranged. When Eddie imagines having to explain his lack of experience to a prospective partner, especially one as objectively attractive as Buck, it makes a part of him want to shrivel up and die of humiliation.

Eddie groans and falls back against his pillow, scrubbing a hand over his face. He glances at the clock—only a quarter after nine, not egregiously late—and dials Hen.

She picks up on the third ring, smugness evident in her voice as she greets, "Edmundo Diaz. Why ever could you be calling at this hour?"

Eddie grits his teeth and sighs, "I need some advice."

Hen hums. "And it couldn't wait until morning?"

"It's kind of time sensitive," Eddie admits with a wince.

"I see. This advice you're so desperately in need of wouldn't happen to have anything to do with Iced Coffee Guy, would it?"

"I don't recall saying I was desperate."

"Eddie," Hen says, unimpressed.

"Ugh, fine!" Eddie throws an arm up with all the flourish of an actress in a telenovela and then crosses it over his chest and tucks his hand into his armpit, embarrassed by his own dramatics. "It might possibly have to do with the guy I ran into at breakfast, yes."

Hen squeals so loud that the sound from her end of the phone cuts out for a second, and then she says, "Hang on, I'm putting you on speaker."

After a few seconds of rustling, Karen's tinny voice greets, "Hi, Eddie!"

"Hey, Karen."

"Okay," Hen says. "Tell us everything."

Eddie gives them a summarized version of his mortifying interaction with Buck that morning and explains, "So then I texted him when I got home, and he just responded a minute ago, and now I don't really know where to go from here."

"What did he say?" Karen asks, then immediately backtracks. "Actually, wait. What did you say?"

"I made a stupid joke," Eddie tells her. "And he came back with this extremely cheesy line, and then he - " He stops and shakes his head. "Here, I'm just gonna show you."

He takes a quick screenshot of his and Buck's exchange and sends it to the group chat.

There's a few seconds of silence from the other end of the line, while Hen and Karen read, and then Karen gushes, "Oh he has it bad."

"Of course he does," Hen agrees approvingly. "Eddie is a total catch." Eddie flushes while she continues, "I've got to say, Eddie, I don't really see what the problem is here. I mean, he's clearly into you and he's not being shy about it."

"I just - " Eddie starts, but the rest of the sentence gets caught in the back of his throat. He deflates a little, rubbing at his jaw as he sighs, "I don't know."

"Do you not want to go out with him?" Karen asks gently.

Eddie bites his lip.

"I don't know," he says again, a confession this time. "Maybe. It just feels like a lot, I guess." He sighs again. "I think I'm making it into a bigger deal than it actually is."

"It's okay if it's a big deal," Hen says, calm and reassuring. "I remember feeling like my first date with a girl was a big deal."

"Me, too," Karen chuckles. "I was so nervous, I had to run to the bathroom halfway through dinner to throw up."

"Really?" Eddie's voice sounds smaller than he's used to. He doesn't like it.

"Not my proudest moment," Karen confirms, though she sounds more amused about it than anything.

"You know, Eddie," Hen cuts in, "it's not always bad for something to be a big deal. That just means it's important, and that's okay."

Eddie nods, then remembers that Hen and Karen can't see him and murmurs, "Yeah, I know. It's just - I already f*cked up so bad. What if we go out for coffee or whatever and I do something even worse?"

"Then you'll both have a hell of a story," Hen says. "Besides, he didn't seem to mind that you poured an entire latte all over him. Given what you've told us about this guy, I'm willing to bet that even if you did make some sort of a misstep, he'd take it in stride."

"And if he doesn't," Karen interjects, "he's not worth your time, anyway."

"I know," Eddie groans, covering his face with a hand. "I know, just - I don't know what he's expecting from all this."

"Well, why don't you ask him?" Karen says, as if it's just that easy. He tells her as much and she says simply, "It can be. What's the worst case scenario?"

"Um, I don't know," Eddie drawls sarcastically. "He realizes I've only known I'm gay for a few months and have absolutely no idea what I'm doing and bails to find someone younger and hotter with more experience and less baggage."

"Okay," Hen scoffs. "First things first, I've told you this before and I'm always happy to tell you again: there's no right time to figure out your sexuality. There are plenty of people out there who are way older than you who have just started exploring themselves. And if Iced Coffee Guy has a problem with you asking a question in the spirit of honest communication, you just block his number and celebrate the fact that you didn't waste your time on an asshole."

"And then you come over to our house and vent about it over a bottle of wine," Karen adds sagely.

"Mhmm," Hen confirms. "Exactly."

Out of nowhere, Eddie's eyes start to sting. He swallows thickly and reaches up to rub at them before he can embarrass himself any further.

So much for needing better friends, he thinks, only a little hysterically.

"Thanks, guys," he croaks, when he feels like he can speak again.

"You know we've always got your back," Hen assures him.

"Yeah," Eddie nods, smiling softly to himself. He's still not sure what he's going to say to Buck—leaping straight into an interrogation about his intentions feels a little extreme—but he knows that, however it goes, he won't have to weather the outcome alone. "I think I'm gonna sleep on it."

"A valid strategy," Karen approves. "And honestly not a bad idea."

"Let us know how it goes," Hen adds.

Eddie promises that he will and they say their goodbyes. Eddie lies there in the dark for a long moment, just looking at the screen. It's been almost a half an hour since Buck's text came through. It's probably more than a little narcissistic to assume that Buck has been waiting around, biting his nails and hoping for a response, but even just the thought of those big blue eyes dark with confusion and anxiety is enough to get Eddie's fingers moving.

It's not a no, he sends.

Just like last time, Buck's reply pings a few seconds later, playful and just co*cky enough to have that little lick of heat stirring in Eddie's belly again.

I can work with that.

***

They text on and off for the rest of the weekend, idle snatches of conversation stolen between exploring exhibits about the far recesses of space with Christopher and catching up on the million everyday tasks Eddie doesn't have time for when he's on shift.

Eddie learns that Buck is a couple of years younger than him and originally from the East Coast. He's moved around a lot, including a brief but exciting stint as a bartender in Peru, but he likes SoCal the best of all the places he's lived so far. He technically lives a little south of LA, but he's in town while he has some time off work.

Eddie asks about his job, but Buck turns the question around on him after a vague explanation of "government stuff," and when Eddie realizes that he was so distracted telling stories of some of their craziest calls that he never got a proper answer, it's time to take Christopher over to Shannon's.

Don't think I didn't notice you side-stepping, he accuses as he follows Chris off the elevator and into the hall. Shannon's apartment is the corner unit at the end, and Christopher makes his merry way along with Eddie at his back, glancing up from his phone periodically to ensure that no sudden tripping hazards have appeared.

Buck sends back a series of question marks and Eddie rolls his eyes. He lets Christopher knock on the door while he texts back, 'Government stuff.' Be honest with me, Buck. Are you a spy?

I wish, Buck assures him, punctuated with two crying laughing emojis. Another text comes through a moment later. I'm in the military. It's honestly kind of boring.

Oh, yeah? What branch? Eddie replies. As conflicted as Eddie can be about discussing his own time in the armed forces, there's often an immediate camaraderie in meeting a fellow service member, and a part of him perks up, eager to share this common ground with Buck.

I'll tell you over coffee, Buck teases, just as the door swings open on Shannon's smiling face.

"Hey, baby!" she greets, and immediately bends down to wrap Christopher up in a hug. Her hair is significantly shorter than it was the last time Eddie saw her, cropped to just under her chin. She tucks it behind her ear as she stands back up, a familiar, self-conscious tic that has Eddie smirking despite himself.

"Hey," she says, at the same time that Eddie splutters, "Your hair. It's nice."

Shannon laughs and ducks her head, curling a hand over the door jamb.

"Thanks. I was ready for a change, y'know?"

Eddie nods, because boy can he ever relate.

"It looks good," he tells her. "Suits you." He claps a hand to Chris's shoulder and says, "You want to tell your mom what we did yesterday, mijo?"

Chris obligingly launches into a detailed recap of their time at the observatory, interspersed every now and again with an enthusiastic reaction from Shannon—"A black hole? No way!"

She ushers them both into the apartment, swinging the door shut behind her. Eddie's phone lights up with another message from Buck.

Or if a coffee date is too traumatic, given the circ*mstances, I'm sure we could find something else to do.

Eddie flushes, tongue darting out to wet his dry lower lip, and carefully taps out, Oh, yeah? Like what?

It's more overt flirtation than Eddie has really allowed himself thus far, but Buck simply absorbs it and reflects it right back.

I'm told they rent out romantic swan boats at Echo Park Lake, if you're in the mood to be wooed.

Eddie chokes on a laugh, burying the sound in his fist. When he looks up, it's to discover that Christopher has disappeared—presumably dropping his things off in his bedroom—and Shannon is standing in the middle of the living room, watching him with one eyebrow raised.

"Uh oh," she says around a fond, sly smirk. "I know that face."

"What face?" Eddie does his best to school his expression, but from the way Shannon bites her lip against a laugh, he's not very successful.

Shannon glances toward the mouth of the hall to ensure Christopher is still otherwise occupied, then leans in and pokes Eddie in the arm as she murmurs, "The face you make when you like someone."

Eddie scoffs and steps away.

"What? No. I don't have a - a face, and even if I did, I'm not - it's nothing."

"Uh huh," Shannon drawls, unconvinced. She crosses her arms over her chest and narrows her eyes, an expression Christopher has inherited and employs just as effectively. "So, you're just standing here grinning at your phone like an idiot because, what? You beat your high score on Candy Crush?"

Eddie grits his teeth and scowls at the floor and Shannon sighs.

"I'm sorry," she says quietly. "I don't mean to pry. I know we're still kind of getting the hang of this whole friends thing." She flaps a hand awkwardly between them.

Eddie takes a deep breath in through his nose, exhales it slowly, and shakes his head.

"No, you're alright," he assures her. "I'm sorry, I just. It's kind of a new thing?" He huffs an exasperated laugh and shakes his head. "I don't even know if it is a thing, actually. Still kind of…feeling it out."

"Okay," Shannon nods. She summons a small smile and rests a hand on Eddie's arm. "Well, if it turns out to be a thing, you know you can tell me about it, right?"

"I know." Eddie brings his hand up to cover hers and lets it linger for a second. "You can tell me about your things too, y'know."

Shannon laughs, bright and husky and beautiful as ever. Eddie loves her, even if he understands now that being in love with her was never going to be in the cards the way both of them would have liked.

"Oh, believe me, the second I'm ready to dip my toe back into the dating pool, you'll have a front row seat to the carnage."

"Can't wait," Eddie tells her, then shakes his head sadly. "Man, between the two of us, we're really going to decimate the population of LA-area singles."

"A total extinction event," Shannon agrees, and they dissolve into laughter.

They're still giggling when Christopher wanders back into the living room a moment later. He squints at them and demands to know what's so funny.

"Nothing, mijo," Eddie tells him, crossing the room to cup a hand over his head and ruffle his curls while he groans in protest. "Just boring grown-up stuff."

"So boring," Shannon confirms. She and Eddie share a look that sets them both off again.

Christopher wrinkles his nose and announces, "You guys are being weird."

"Parents do that sometimes," Eddie agrees. He curls his hand over Chris's shoulder and gives a little squeeze. "You gonna be good for your mom?"

Christopher fixes him with a scathing look, tempered somewhat by the fact that he can't stop smiling long enough to really make it sting, and says, with feeling, "Duh."

Eddie and Shannon both laugh, and Eddie sighs, "Alright, mijo. I'll see you on Wednesday after school."

He bends down to drop a kiss into Christopher's curls, and then straightens up and opens his arms to Shannon. She rolls her eyes, but she's smiling when she steps in and wraps her arms around him in turn.

"Be safe," she murmurs against his cheek. Then she moves back and adds, eyes sparkling, "I want to hear all about your thing, whenever you figure it out."

"I'll be sure to loop you in as soon as there's news worth sharing," Eddie promises, and takes his leave.

He thumbs his phone on as he climbs into the elevator, scrolling back through his text thread with Buck and tapping his toe against the floor. Heart drumming and hands shaking, Eddie responds, My schedule is pretty crazy, but I could probably make some time for a swan boat.

I Threw a Wish in the Well - Chapter 1 - ThrillingDetectiveTales (2024)
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