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Fanfiction has long been a tool for fans to enact their agency on fictional characters—exploring relationships, expanding on canonical scenes, and placing characters in alternate universes. Beginning in the 1960s at Star Trek conventions, fans distributed physical fanzines containing fanfiction and other fanworks. Through the popularization of the internet, digital repositories were created—such as Fanfiction.Net (FFN) in 1998, and later, Archive of Our Own (AO3) in 2008—that allow fans to upload, read, and save fanworks. While these works are based on characters from the associated series, fanfiction would not exist without an author brimming with inspiration and readers offering motivational kudos and comments.

9-1-1 and the Couch Theory

May 2023 was a tense month for many fans of FOX’s hit firefighter procedural 9-1-1. Was the network going to cancel the series? Would another network pick up the show if it was canceled?  A segment of the fandom had another question: Was this the season that Eddie Diaz and Evan “Buck” Buckley’s relationship would move from a best friendship into a romantic relationship? By the season finale, these questions were answered. Yes, FOX would cancel the series. Yes, it would be bought by ABC. No, Eddie and Buck’s relationship would not be confirmed as romantic. While the cancellation by FOX and subsequent renewal by ABC left fans with concerns about the future of the series, it was Eddie and Buck maintaining a platonic relationship that caused a rupture in fandom morale.

From the introduction of Eddie Diaz in season two of 9-1-1,fans “shipped” Eddie and Buck, holding out hope that the studio and writers would write a romantic relationship between them into canon. Eddie and Buck shared canonical moments of comradery through exchanges of “you can have my back any day,” anguished screams when the other’s life was in danger, and stumbling into the co-parenting of Eddie’s son, Christopher, leading to Eddie’s character telling Buck, “It’s in my will, if I die, you become Christopher’s legal guardian.”

Screenshot from 9-1-1 Season 3, Episode 9, “Fallout.” Left to Right: Evan “Buck” Buckley, Christopher Diaz, and Eddie Diaz.

Season six began with a metaphor about a couch, in a scene with the Buckley-Diaz family sharing a dinner homemade by Buck. The metaphor encapsulated Buck’s pattern of beginning relationships with women who showed little affection; they would bring a couch into the relationship, and inevitably leave with it. Fans ran with this, theorizing that not only was the couch a metaphor for Buck jumping into relationships based on quick affection but also viewing the “right couch” as a metaphor for Eddie, Christopher, and their relationship that developed across television seasons and in-show years. However, by the end of season six, the shippers couch theory was disproven. Instead of Eddie and Christopher being the “right couch,” Buck asked his female love interest of the season, Natalia, to go couch shopping with him.

The hit to morale—spurred from fans’ concerns about another case of queerbaiting by a major network—was compounded by confirmation that a new season wouldn’t air until January 2024, at the earliest, due to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes.

Typically, 9-1-1 would finish the season in mid-May and transition to producing the upcoming fall season. Between seasons, fans would get behind-the-scenes photos from cast and crew, peeks into the show’s production, episode names for the upcoming season, and so much more via social media pages (both official and those of the cast and crew). It’s a time when fans theorize and spend too much time zooming into photos in an attempt to piece together the theme for the next season. It’s a time when each new post of behind-the-scenes content sets off alarms in the fandom because, while we don’t have 45-minute episodes to look forward to every Monday, we still have the bits of photos and videos released to us.

However, this is not a typical summer. With two strikes going on, there’s a chasm of silence stretching from the last aired episode. And while fans are in support of the strike, they’re also left unaware of when, or if, 9-1-1 will return.

So, what do fans do in this moment of uncertainty regarding the continuation of their favorite series and the development of a romantic relationship between characters? They turn to fanfiction.

The Empowering Silence of Fanfiction

My nighttime routine mirrors the average American’s. I brush my teeth, double-check that my apartment door is locked, turn off the lights, get under the covers, and plug my phone into its charger. However, instead of setting it on my bedside table or shoving it under a pillow, I tap the screen to life and make my way to Safari, clicking on a red icon housed under the “favorites” tab. On my screen, the welcoming home page of Archive of Our Own greets me with a list of my coveted ships under a helpful “Find your favorites” section. I tap on the “Evan ‘Buck’ Buckley/Eddie Diaz” link and make my way into the “Bookmarked Works” tab.

The time it takes me to find a fanfiction I’d like to read varies. Am I looking for something specific, like a fic exploring the moment after a canonical scene ends? Do I want something to pull a specific emotion from me, like a fic tagged as hurt/comfort or fluff? Depending on the time of night and when I need to wake up in the morning, how many words would I like to read? The list of variables goes on, an endless assortment of fanfiction at my fingertips, just a click or two away. Rather than this being overwhelming, it’s empowering. At this moment, after a day full of fieldwork with loud cars revving their engines and burning their tires, I have the ability to choose the adventure I want to go on with these two characters. The silence of my room, save for the creaks of a settling apartment and sound of a vehicle driving by, turns into a universe where two of my most beloved fictional characters are going to fall in love.

I roll onto my stomach, pillowing an IKEA shark as a support under my chin. My phone screen has my fanfiction of choice pulled up, ready for me to begin reading, to guide me until I’m fully settled and ready for sleep. It’s titled Objects That Care by Corneliascowboy,tagged as: 5+1, Hurt/Comfort, Getting Together, Post 5×18. The summary is an excerpt of the fanfic itself, with the last line being “Or, Five Times Buck Showed His Affections to Eddie Via Home Maintenance + The One Time Eddie Did,” taking place immediately after a canonical scene in season five.

Exhaustion is written across Eddie’s bones.

It’s been days since he took a bat to everything he owns, but it still feels like there’s tears and sweat caked to his cheeks. He’s splashed his face with water countless times between then and now, dried it with a rough towel, but the feeling remains. It’s like he’s stuck on the night he broke down, an endless cycle of remembering the blades of a helicopter, the sound of a bat connecting with plaster, and of Chris’ voice yelling for him in the hallway outside the bedroom Eddie intentionally locked.

Eddie pauses for a moment and takes in the wall he destroyed. His hand aches around the damp sponge he holds, skin and bones still raw. Each hole, scrape, blotch of spackling and drywall tape are reminders of why his hands ache. Of how much he scared Chris, scared Buck, scared himself. Of the lack of control he thought he tamped down session after session with Frank. His heart rate picks up as he looks at the wall before him, remembering his inability to pull himself out of his own mind. Water dribbles down his hand to his elbow from where he has the sponge pressed against the spackling, his fingers having tensed up in the memory of it all.

He drops the sponge on to the tarp with a wet thud and takes a slow breath. Eddie holds it until his chest burns and exhales a steady stream between his lips. He wipes his hand on the hem of his shirt, and turns away from the wall, as if the rest of his bedroom isn’t also a sore spot. The mattress up against the window, curtains off the floor and wrapped around the rod. It doesn’t look like his bedroom.

“Here,” Buck walks in with two glasses of water, one already up to his lips, the other extended to Eddie, “hydrate don’t die-drate.”

Eddie huffs a laugh, a small smile stretching across his cheeks, the feeling of sweat and tears fading, “I don’t think ‘die-drate’ is the medically correct term for dehydration related death.”

“It’s the essence of it,” Buck waves the hand not holding his cup, trying to emphasize the essence. He sets his glass on one of the steps of the ladder next to Eddie, Eddie’s honestly not sure where the ladder came from. From the chipped paint and dirt wedged into the rubber of the steps it’s not new, “you know exactly what I meant by it.”

The water is cold on Eddie’s tongue, he swishes it around his mouth once before swallowing. His throat is added to the list of things that are nothing but a memory, raw from screaming, dry from crying, “I know what you meant by it,” he concedes and lifts the glass slightly, “thanks.”

Buck shakes his head, picking up a precut strip of drywall patch, “No problem, man.” He looks at the wall, his teal hoodie bright against the shades of white and beige, the drywall patch held delicately between two fingers like it’s tissue paper, “You still good on smoothing everything out while I patch the rest up?”

And the thing is, when Eddie says “thanks” he means for everything, not just the water. For answering the phone when Chris called worried out of his mind for his dad, for kicking his door in, for making sure he’d been watered and fed before asking any questions, for bundling up him and Chris on the couch with The Land Before Time and a warm arm on either of their shoulders as he sat between them, for staying and helping Eddie with Chris. For showing up this morning with determination written across his face, a bag from Lowe’s and a ladder from God knows where, ready to try and put some of this behind Eddie through a tub of DryDex and brand new paint rollers.

Eddie takes another sip of water, “Yeah, on it.”

Whenever I talk about reading fanfiction to people outside of fandom, a question they often have (and often do not ask) is “Why?”Why read something written by a random person on the internet about fictional characters when you could just consume the canonical media? Why write it? To those questions I would answer: because fanfiction brings life to the silent moments in canon. We didn’t get to see what led up to Buck helping Eddie patch up his destroyed bedroom; we just know that he was there and there was a ladder. Countless scenes leave us needing to fill in the spaces, read between the lines, and many of us do that through the consumption and creation of fanfiction. However, rather than just working with what canon has given us, we include our own thoughts and desires. Do we know whether they watched The Land before Time (1998)? No, but from other Buckley-Diaz scenes, it’s not hard to imagine that they would. Has Buck ever said “die-drate” in canon? No, but it fits within his canonical personality.

These moments that fandom breathes life into is the point of fanfiction. A medium to experience more than canon has given us, to explore our own thoughts, theories, and emotions through. In these months with a growing gap between the last episode and the start of season seven’s production, fanfiction (and fandom) is what we have to accompany us through this precarity. Intentional silence from 9-1-1’s social media, by cast and crew, does not mean the fandom itself is silenced. Instead, we are here, in our bedrooms at two in the morning, keeping the characters alive and well within the microcosm of a singular fanfiction.


Syd González

Syd González is a PhD candidate within Northwestern’s Department of Anthropology researching material embodiments of masculinity with Latinx populations in Houston, Texas, and the way those embodiments produce joy. They are an avid fanfiction reader, writer, and tumblruser. In addition to their doctoral research, they co-host a podcast on Spotify with archaeologist Bridgette Hulse that converges fandom studies and anthropology called The Fanthropologists.

Cite as

syd-gonzalez. 2024. “The Sanctity of 2 AM Fic Time.” Anthropology News website, January 11, 2024.