He’s 19 before he gets to become Evan Buckley.
Too many years of repression and gender dysphoria have left him hollowed out and cold, but on this sunny July day, in the middle of New York, with his best friend by his side, Evan finally gets to be who he was meant to be.
The papers are dry and fragile beneath his shaking hands, but he still signs with a flourish, grinning all the while.
The judge smiles back at him, a lovely woman with the brightest eyes, who tells him everything’s settled, and he now gets to be himself, for the rest of his life.
He almost wants to kiss her.
T.K. and Owen are grinning back at him, before the eldest Strand wraps them all up in the biggest hug.
“I’m so proud of you, Evan.” Owen says, pressing a kiss to his forehead.
T.K. says. “You could have changed your last name as well, you know.”
Evan knows he could have – would love nothing more than to be a Strand – but there’s also something poignant about keeping Buckley; a big old middle finger to mom and dad, who never looked at him in any way like he was their child once he’d come out.
Owen and T.K. had been there for him the whole way, but Buck knew he didn’t need their surname to be part of the family. They treated him as such regardless.
His binder sticks to his skin, itchy in the mid summer heat, but where Buck would usually complain – can’t wait for the day he can get surgery – instead he feels nothing but freedom. He doesn’t have to hide his binders any more, doesn’t have to pretend it doesn’t hurt when someone misgendered him, or was just generally transphobic.
Here, he’s finally free, and he’s going to make the most of every moment.
Evan Buckley is done being a shadow.
Evan Buckley, is ready to be Evan Buckley.
‘We have this thing where you call me pops and I give you a hard time for being a punk ass kid.’
Two years on from that moment, Evan Buckley would not have thought he’d be in his captain’s back yard, enjoying his second – and this time less emergency filled – welcome back party.
Two years ago he was a punk ass kid, who was pretty lucky he hadn’t lost his job. Two years ago, Bobby Nash had given him a second chance, taken him under his wing, and let him flourish.
Evan wouldn’t be lying if he didn’t say a lot of his cockiness and brash attitude had come as a result of his repressed childhood. He’d had great male role models in T.K. and Owen, yeah, but that was it, and part of him had thought he had to be a man’s man to truly fit in around the firehouse – hell, in the world in general.
Bobby had shown him that it was okay to be in touch with his emotions too; that he didn’t have to be so closed off all of the time. Bobby was the first person he’d confided in about his childhood, about everything, since he’d moved to L.A. and the older man had taken the information in with grace and care. Then he’d wrapped Evan up in a hug, and told him that everything was okay, and that he was proud of him.
Evan would never forget that moment for as long as he lived.
And so they’d continued – dad and son in everything other than legality – for two years, through the fire truck bombing and the embolism, to now.
Bobby’s arm was wrapped around his shoulders, soft yet heavy in its comfort and stability, grounding Buck through the first hour or so of the party. It wasn’t that he was nervous, per say; he just didn’t have the best track record with these things.
“I’m proud of you, Evan.” Bobby said to him when they sat down later, the 118 captain handing his son a new shield. His original one had been scorched in the blast, and as he hadn’t been back at work since, he hadn’t yet gotten a replacement.
Evan held it lightly in his palm, grinning down at the shining silver. This badge, and everything it represented, meant so much to him.
But nothing yet meant more to him than the man he was lucky to call ‘pops’.
A small wrapped box is placed in his lap, Bobby smiling at him, eyes filled with unshed tears. “This is from me and your mom.”
Evan blinks, because he’d never voiced his thoughts about Athena out loud, but it seemed he’d never needed to. They saw him as theirs just as much as he saw himself as theirs too.
Trembling fingers release the bow, pulling the lid off, and then he’s staring at the contents with wide eyes, tears spilling down his cheeks.
“I know you’re not a kid anymore, but you’re my kid. Our kid.” Bobby’s grinning. “We’d love it if you’d be Evan Buckley-Nash.”
Evan just hugs him tight, sobbing into his dad’s shoulder. “How about just Evan Nash?”
Evan Nash is trembling with anticipation.
He’s warm, too warm, tugging at his shirt sleeves, cufflinks, cummerbund, everything and anything his fingers can slide between and tease.
He can’t breathe.
Strong hands stop him, holding firm but gentle. “Evan, take a breath. You’re okay.”
Bobby’s face hovers in his vision, and Evan’s expression just shifts between panic and a blinding grin. “I can’t… I… Oh my god, I’m getting married today…”
Bobby’s eyes are twinkling. “More like in ten minutes.”
“Not helping!” Evan groans, shaking loose from Bobby and starting to pace. “What if he regrets it? What if he decides he doesn’t love me anymore?”
Unable to refrain from rolling his eyes at his idiotic son, Bobby slides into one of the chairs nearby with a sigh. “Evan… Eddie loves you more than anything in this world, with exception of your son. You’re going to be fine.”
Evan stops at that, looking at his dad. “Yeah… Okay…”
Bobby moves, hugging his boy close. “You ready?”
Two hours later they’re signing the marriage register, one hand clasped tightly in their husband’s.
He’s never felt happier.
Three months after they marry, Christmas rolls around. With it comes more hectic calls, worsening weather conditions, and an abundance of Evan.
Yes, more sugar and bright twinkling lights equate to a very hyper and giddy Evan Nash-Diaz.
Even Bobby has become exasperated with his son, who seems to constantly show up at the firehouse with a multitude of new and exciting (read, loud or too bright) ways make the firehouse more jolly. Either that, or he’s baking a third batch of cookies during a slow shift.
When Christmas Eve finally rolls around, with both boys working the next day and therefore agreeing with Christopher to exchange one present each on the evening before, Eddie can hardly believe it.
His and Chris’ present has been ready for weeks, and now they finally get to see the look on Evan’s face when he opens it.
They start of, of course, with their son; gifting Chris with brand new pyjamas and a build-a-bear teddy dressed as a fireman. Chris is ecstatic, immediately racing off to put them on, and then snuggling between his parents with his bear and a Christmas gingerbread cookie.
Evan gives Eddie a gift certificate for a racing day experience. “So you can be James Bond,” he says with a little suggestive wink.
Then it’s Eddie and Chris’ turn, and they both hold out the box for Evan, grinning widely.
Evan can tell by their expressions that the gift is something very personal, because both sets of eyes are shining with unshed tears. He takes it softly, nerves tingling as he slowly lifts the lid.
He takes in the papers nestled within, the small hand drawn note and picture placed on top that reads ‘Will you be my papa?’, and he just breaks.
Sobs escape him with no warning, tears breaking free from their confines as he wraps his boys up in the biggest cuddle pile, whispering. “Yes, yes, of course I will.”
Christopher beams, snuggling into Evan with his own whisper. “I love you papa.”
“I love you too.” Evan whispers in return. “Both of you. So much.”
Two weeks later, Chris becomes Christopher Nash-Diaz, and never in all these years had Evan thought he would ever be this lucky.
If he could go back in time and speak to his 19 year old self – freshly named Evan and only two people to call family – he’d tell him one thing.
It gets better.