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a line drawn in the sand

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a line drawn in the sand


“Dammit,” Eddie swears, and falls back against his locker, eyes fixed to the phone in his hands, the little alert he set up months ago mocking him with its short, simple message.

Tamales. Abuela’s.

“What’s up man?” Buck asks, concern laced in his voice and Eddie shakes his head, looks up to find Buck’s eyes fixed to his face, intent.

Eddie can’t believe he forgot.

Eddie shakes his head again, tries to shake off Buck’s concern. It doesn’t work – not that Eddie was expecting it to, not really – and Buck takes a step closer. Eddie can feel the heat of Buck’s skin bleeding into his own, seeking him out.

He doesn’t turn into it, but damn if it’s not a really close thing.

“There’s this Diaz family tradition...I was supposed to take Chris to my abuela’s this afternoon for it, but I forgot,” he says, trying to sound offhand, but Buck’s eyes dance over his face and Eddie knows he hasn’t been successful in hiding his disappointment.

Not that he’s all that good at hiding things from Buck, anyway. Take Eddie’s short street fighting stint. Even though Buck didn’t know the specifics, even though he didn’t know Eddie was doing his level best to erase his anger and frustration with punch after punch after punch, Buck still knew something was wrong.

“I still have four hours left on my shift.”

“Maybe Cap will let you leave early?” Buck offers.

Eddie shakes his head. “I’m covering for Langdon, since he covered for me-”

“Last week,” Buck finishes with a nod and a small grimace. “When you had that appointment with Chris’ specialist. Yeah.”

Of course Buck knew that. He knows Chris’ schedule just as well as Eddie does. Hell, his handwriting is on half of the filled-in squares on Chris’ calendar.

Eddie nods and rights himself off the locker, starts toward the stairs, Buck keeping stride. “And I can’t ask Langdon to switch it to another day, because he has his-”

“His daughter’s ballet recital,” Buck says. “Right. Can Carla drop him off?”

Buck’s shoulder knocks against Eddie’s, their feet making dull ringing noises on the metal stairs as they climb, and Eddie’s stomach warms, tightens, flips, the way it always does when he and Buck make contact. Eddie finds himself seeking out that contact more and more all the time, leaning into Buck on the couch at home, pressing their shoulders together in the cab of the truck, directing him occasionally with a hand on the back when he thinks he can get away with it, surprising himself every time with his own yearning. It’s getting to be a problem.

Eddie never thought it was possible to be this in tune with someone else. He never thought it was possible to want someone like this: in this wildly specific way that’s warm and familial but also romantic and comforting and affectionate and desperate and grasping and aching and fond all at the same time, as if all those emotions were meant to live side by side, as if they belonged together. Or maybe interwoven is more accurate. Laced together so tightly that to unravel them would take years.

It was never like this with Shannon. They’d had their good times, and he’d loved her – man he’d loved her – but their love had been full of sharp edges and missed connections and mine fields, and Eddie had never quite figured out how to navigate any of it without causing either of them harm. Neither had she. They were always a little out of sync, no matter what they did, and neither of them had ever put the work into figuring out how to fix that. Despite the good times, despite the love, it was never the kind of relationship that could have lasted in the long term. And even though that hurts to think, it’s the truth. It took him a long time to come to terms with that.

Admitting the truth had never felt so much like giving up before.

“He isn’t with Carla. He’s on a playdate with a friend from class. Kaylee. He’s at her house right now.”

Buck nods, then says, “Well why don’t I take him?”

Eddie hits the landing and stops, turns. Buck’s face is all open and bright, warm and tipped up toward Eddie from his place a few steps down, an easy smile gracing his lips. He looks like sunshine. God. He’s going to be the death of Eddie.

Falling in love with his partner, with his best friend, has really knocked him for six.

“Buck,” he says, and shakes his head. “I can’t ask you to do that.”

“You’re not asking, I’m offering,” he says with a frown, hopping up the last few steps and coming right into Eddie’s space, like he belongs there.

He does. It’s practically reserved parking at this point. And Eddie wishes he knew how to tell Buck that – that Eddie’s space is his, that Eddie’s kid is his, that every fucking thing Eddie has is his, if he wants it – but Eddie isn’t good at taking risks with his heart these days. Or with Christopher’s, for that matter. And this isn’t just anyone. This is Buck. Their Buck. Chris’ Buck. If Eddie made a move and Buck didn’t feel the same way?

It would devastate them.

“And why can’t you ask me anyway? I’m off in an hour and a half so the timing isn’t too bad, right? He wouldn’t be too late. Plus I love Chris, you know that. And Abuela and I are like this,” he says with his normal, bright smile, crisscrossing the middle finger and pointer finger together on one hand, holding it up between them. “She’d love to see me again.”

“Oh she would, huh?”

“C’mon, Ed,” Buck says earnestly, hand coming up to rest on Eddie’s bicep, eyes darting across Eddie’s face. “What’s up? Why are you questioning me wanting to spend time with Chris all of a sudden?”

“I’m not,” he says with a clearing shake of the head, and of course he’s not. That’s the last thing he wants Buck to think. “Of course I’m not, man. It’s just...it’s something Chris looks forward to every year, it’s something I look forward to every year, so-”

“You want to be the one to take him,” Buck says with an understanding nod, hearts in his eyes. “It’s a family thing, an important family thing, and not being the one to take him means disappointing the both of you.”

God.

“You’re a really good dad, you know that? Man, Chris is just...” Buck shakes his head. “Chris is just the luckiest kid.”

“Thanks,” he says, his heart in his throat, and nods when Buck gives his arm a squeeze. It takes him a moment to collect himself, and when he does, he asks if Buck will pick up Chris for him.

“Really?” he asks, eyebrows drawn together, body angled into Eddie. “You sure?”

“Yeah,” he says, and looks up when the alarm goes off. The rest of their team head for the truck but Eddie pauses Buck to say, “Chris shouldn’t miss out just because I forgot. Thanks, man.”

And Chris will love it – more time with his Buck.

Buck gives him one of his dazzling smiles, one that’s only for Eddie, and as Eddie follows him down to the truck, his breath catching just a bit, his heart beating a little harder in his chest, Eddie thinks, man...he could live off that smile for a week if he had to.


As it is he doesn’t have to, because two hours before the end of Eddie’s shift he gets a picture of Buck, Chris, and Abuela on her front porch, all three smiling just for him, Buck holding Chris on his hip, looking for all the world like he belongs there, the other arm wrapped tight around a beaming Abuela’s shoulder, and Eddie sits in the back of the truck across from Hen and Chim and can’t stop his grin from taking over his face.

“Alright,” Hen says, a smile in her voice. When Eddie looks up he catches the fond, understanding smile on her face to match her voice. She gestures with her hand. “Let’s see it. Hand it over.”

Eddie flips the phone around, hands it off.

Hen takes it and looks at the picture, Chim leaning in close to get a look too. She looks up from the phone with a smile, hands the phone back. “Nice.”

Eddie nods, stows the phone away.

“You know you might want to be careful Eddie,” Chim calls out, voice a little muffled through the headset. “With the way your grandmother was looking at Buck, there might be an adoption before the day is out.”

“Yeah, I think we’re way past that,” Eddie says, a smile on his face he can’t hold back. “Pretty sure she adopted him the moment she met him.”

They all laugh and Eddie watches Bobby glance over his shoulder at them, a smile on his face.

“Yeah, he has that effect on people, doesn’t he?” Chim asks, and shakes his head.

In the front seat Bobby nods, and Hen says with a grin, “A human golden retriever. Most popular dog at the shelter. Everyone wants to bring him home.”

But it’s more than that, Eddie thinks, as the truck turns the corner, heading toward their latest call. It’s not just that Buck is likable or good-natured or easygoing, so quick to smile and so quick to care. It’s that Buck is good at helping – at filling in someone’s gaps and loose areas, at supporting the people he loves unconditionally, at lending a hand when someone needs it. He’s the first person to offer to babysit Denny and Nia so Hen and Karen can have a date night; he’s the first person to offer his services to help a buddy move. He’s the first person Eddie calls for...everything.

As much as Carla has been a godsend, and as great as Pepa and Abuela have been, Eddie knows that it’s Buck who’s really done the heavy lifting for Eddie since he started at the 118. It’s Buck he leans on the most; it’s Buck he’d be lost without. It’s Buck Eddie and Chris would both be lost without. Eddie doesn’t know what they’d do without him.

He hopes he never knows what that feels like. He survived losing Shannon. But losing Buck?

He’s not sure he’d survive that.


When Eddie pulls up to his abuela’s he turns off his truck then takes a moment, staring out the windshield at the driveway, his hand on the wheel, eyebrows furrowed.

Buck’s Jeep is still here, parked right next to his parents’ rental car.

He shakes his head, gets out, and eyes the Jeep as he walks the short path to the front door, giving it one long look before he hops up the front steps. He brings his hand up to knock only for the door to open before his knuckles can make contact.

“Edmundo!”

“Hola, Abuela,” he says with a smile, bending to kiss her on the cheek. She gives his cheek a double pat in return and ushers him inside. He can hear his family laughing at the end of the house in the dining room, hidden from view behind the kitchen, and his smile grows as he shuts the door behind them.

“So, uh...Buck’s still here, huh?”

“Of course he is,” she says, as if it’s one of the silliest things Eddie has ever said. “He’s family.”

It’s so matter-of-fact, said with such surety, that it takes Eddie’s breath for a moment.

Buck is his and Chris’ family, that’s true. Even if he’s not aware – and Eddie’s pretty sure he isn’t aware, not really – Buck holds the keys to their hearts. (Along with the spare keys to Eddie’s house.) He just didn’t realize Abuela felt similarly.

Eddie knew Abuela liked Buck – who doesn’t like Buck? – but he didn’t know she’d really and truly claimed him as one of her own, as easily as she’d claimed Eddie or his sisters or Christopher when they were born. Like a foregone conclusion. As if he’d always belonged with them.

“I liked Shannon,” she starts, and Eddie can tell she’s ramping up to something, something he’s not sure he’s ready for her to say.

“Abuela-”

She holds up a hand, gives him a look, and he immediately shuts his mouth, chastened. Looks like he’ll have to hear it, ready or not.

“I liked Shannon,” she says again, and Eddie presses his lips together. “It was a terrible thing, what happened to her, and terrible that Christopher had to lose his mother like that. Terrible for you, to lose someone you cared about.”

Eddie nods, bows his head, stares at the carpet beneath his feet.

“But she was not your great love.”

His head snaps up. “Abuela-

She holds up her hand again, and he blinks hard, clenches his jaw, shuts his mouth. Again.

“The two of you were not right for each other. Never on the same page. Never singing the same song. Like your two sisters, whenever they get in the car together,” she says with a shake of the head, eyes raised to the heavens as if asking God for patience, and Eddie grins despite himself, ducking his head.

“Love is hard work, Eddito. Of course it is. But it should not be a struggle. It should not be forced.”

Eddie swallows hard, nods down at the ground, his throat feeling a little thick. That’s exactly what he and Shannon always were: always struggling, always a half step off, each of them always fighting the other to be heard, to listen, to understand. Fighting so hard for it that neither of them ever really stopped to listen to each other. At the time Eddie had thought that’s just how it was with couples, especially couples with big things between them, like Eddie’s deployment, like Chris’ CP.

But he was wrong. He knows that now.

“Love means working together, in the same direction.”

He nods at her, gives her the tiniest approximation of a smile, and she lays her palm on his cheek.

“Maybe a partner in work, as well as in life?” she asks slyly, knowingly, and Eddie seizes up a little, eyes widening.

It’s one thing for her to love Buck for himself, another for her to love him as Eddie’s partner. This is...Eddie doesn’t...

“Abuela...”

She raises her eyebrows, as if daring him to disagree, to deny it, but Eddie can’t do that. He won’t do that. Not to Buck.

“It doesn’t...” he trails off and his eyes move from her to the wall concealing the kitchen. He listens to the happy sounds being made by his family, by Buck, before returning his attention to her. He shifts from one foot to the other. He asks, his voice coming out hesitant and small, “It doesn’t bother you?”

Eddie’s abuela is just about the best person he knows, but...her faith is incredibly important to her. A vital part of who she is. And that faith doesn’t exactly have a great history with supporting men who love other men.

“I love every part of you, Edmundo,” she says firmly. “Every. Part. From the time that you were born, yes?”

Her eyes lock on his and Eddie finally nods, throat thickening, ducks his head under the weight of her love and support.

“But he doesn’t know?”

Eddie shakes his head.

“I can’t lose him, Abuela,” Eddie says softly, a little desperately. “We can’t. And...”

As he trails off his eyes flick back over to the wall hiding the kitchen and then flick back to Isabel. He doesn’t say anything else, but she seems to pick up exactly what he isn’t saying anyway, as her eyes soften and she tilts her head.

He’s never worried about how Pepa would react – she’s known and been fond of Buck pretty much from the beginning. He’s never worried about his sisters either – he imagines he’ll be in for a lot of teasing from Sophia and Adriana along with a little admonishing for not telling them sooner, and that’s about it.

But Abuela and his parents...that’s something else entirely.

“Love requires bravery, yes? It requires courage. And you’ve always been a brave boy.” Eddie swallows hard, eyes locked to her face. “It will all be okay.” She brings up her other hand, lays it on his chest, gives him a small, warm smile. “You must have faith. Love requires that too. And your Buck...he deserves it.”

He does. God, if anyone deserves that, it’s Buck.

She gives him another smile that Eddie returns and then she leaves him, walking around the wall and into the kitchen.

Eddie stands there for a moment and listens, lets the sounds of people he loves wash over him, the happy chatter filtering through into the living room, and Eddie closes his eyes, takes a deep breath. Breathes them all in. Then he squares up, lifts his chin.

He deserves his happiness. He does. So do Buck and Chris. And they deserve to be honest about their happiness. Life is short. Life is fickle. Eddie understands that better than almost anyone. And he just...has to claim all the good, all the happiness he can for all of them for as long as they’re allowed, which Eddie hopes is a really long fucking time.

He hasn’t had enough of Buck. He can’t imagine ever getting enough of Buck.

And screw anyone who doesn’t think they deserve all of that, and more.

When he walks into the kitchen he’s met with resounding laughter, Buck laughing the hardest as he gets hit with a lump of masa, flicked accidentally off Chris’ knife.

Chris twists in Buck’s lap. “Sorry Bucky!”

Buck just laughs harder, accepts the kitchen towel Eddie’s mom hands him and wipes off his face, grinning down at Chris.

“You and I aren’t the best at this, huh?”

Eddie takes a look at their station compared to everyone else’s: at their tamales that look a little irregular, at the dots of masa sprinkled on the table, at the pieces of pork lying next to their bowl.

Yeah, they’re probably right.

“Dad would be worse,” Chris says on a laugh, making everyone else laugh.

“Hey,” Eddie objects half-heartedly as he comes to a stop next to Buck and Chris’ chair, and Chris turns to him with an unrepentant grin that his abuela and tia match with raised, amused eyebrows.

Yeah, alright. That’s fair.

“Sorry I’m late everybody.”

“That’s okay,” Sophia says as she spoons meat onto the masa coated corn husk in her open hand then expertly folds it and sets it down in the pan to her left. “We got Buck instead. That’s a more than fair exchange.”

She says it with a shit-eating grin stretching her face, and Eddie says, “Ouch,” to more laughter.

But yeah, alright. That’s fair too.

“Hey Ed,” Buck says, and Eddie looks down at Buck, takes in his pinked cheeks, his bright eyes, his everything, and slips a hand down, gently grips his neck. He’s so fucking in love with this man.

So fucking in love with him.

“Hey. Can we talk?”

Buck nods quickly, his eyes a little more earnest now and Eddie gives his neck a squeeze that he hopes reads as reassuring before he lets his hand fall away.

“Yeah...yeah, of course.”

Eddie helps Chris down out of Buck’s lap, sweeps his hand over Chris’ head as Chris settles himself back in the chair once Buck has stood.

“I’m going to borrow Buck for a moment, alright?”

Chris nods, leans forward and starts carefully spooning some of the meat mixture on his masa and Eddie gives his shoulder a squeeze before following Buck out of the room.

As soon as they’re clear of the kitchen, standing in the family room, Buck moving all the way to the other side of the room – too far away from Eddie – Buck says quickly, anxiously, “Sorry, Eddie. I was just going to drop him off and go but then Abuela told me to stay and I just didn’t want to tell her no and-”

“It’s okay, Buck,” he says, and Eddie feels suddenly, incredibly calm.

All of the angst he’s been giving himself, all of the wondering he’s been doing...he should have known it would be fine. Trusting Buck is one of the easiest things in the world.

He trusts him with his life, with Chris’ life. How could Eddie not trust him with their happiness too?

“Yeah?” he asks, and Eddie hates the doubt he sees in Buck’s face, the way he’s holding himself. Like he’s an animal about to spook.

“Yeah.” Eddie takes a slow step forward, eyes locked to Buck’s. “It’s more than okay. I want you here.”

“Yeah?” he says again, this time softer, his body stilling, eyes watching Eddie. Eddie waits, takes his time, feels the air between them growing thick, charged. Tight as a bow string.

He’s only going to get to do this once. And he wants to make sure Buck understands.

Bravery, courage, faith. Trust. Here he goes.

“Yeah,” Eddie says, taking another slow step forward. He asks, lowly, “And do you know what else I want?”

“What?” Buck asks softly.

Eddie breathes in, out. Might as well lay it all on the table.

“I want to drive into work with you. And when our shifts are over, I want you to come home with me.”

“Eddie...” Buck says, and Eddie takes a step closer.

“I want to pick Chris up from school with you. I want you to go to parent teacher conferences with me, so we can both marvel at how amazing our kid is.”

Buck’s eyes are wider now, his breath is coming a little faster, chest rising and falling.

Eddie takes another step closer.

“I want us to take Christmas card pictures together. And I want to send them to everyone I’ve ever met. I want to be obnoxious about it.”

“Eddie...”

Another step, a little closer.

“I want trips to the zoo and regular movie nights and you and Chris making me breakfast in the morning, laughing about how terrible a cook I am. How I’d starve without you.”

Ed...

“I want to take you out and show you off and then take you home and take you apart.”

Eddie is so close now. Just an arm’s length away. And God, Buck is so beautiful, his lips parted, wide eyes drinking Eddie in.

“I want to wake up every morning with you by my side, and know you’re right there with me, where you belong.”

Buck sucks in a breath, swallows.

“But most of all, I want to share a last name with you. I want everyone to know you’re mine. Mine and Chris’.”

He takes the final step, now standing right in front of Buck, so close that their chests almost touch on every breath, on every quick inhale.

God, it’s so much – maybe too much. But Eddie can’t stop himself. And...he just wants Buck to know. To know how much Eddie wants him, how much he means to Eddie. To Chris.

His voice is softer than it’s ever been when he asks, “What do you want, Buck?”

Buck takes in a shaky breath before he laughs, happy and shaky.

“You,” he breathes out on an audible exhale as if it’s been punched out of him, and he laughs again, eyes shining. “Chris. All of it. God...everything, Eddie. Everything.

Buck says his name one more time, so plaintive, and then they’re coming together, hands holding tight to faces, mouths meeting in desperation.

If it’s strange that Eddie is kissing Buck for the first time in his grandmother’s living room, Eddie doesn’t care. It feels right, somehow. Like it means his family is all finally together.

And God, it’s good. So right and so good.

When they finally pull back Buck lets out another shaky laugh and licks his lips, as if he’s chasing the taste of Eddie and Eddie leans forward, presses their foreheads together.

Eddie licks his own lips, says, “You’re going to look so good with Diaz on your chest.”

And then Buck is kissing him again, smiling into his mouth, and Eddie is returning that smile, so happy and so relieved, and feeling so incredibly light.

When Buck pulls away again he says, voice a little desperate, “You’re sure? You’re sure?”

And Eddie tilts his head, lifts his eyebrows. How could Buck doubt him now?

“No. No! I’m happy, Eddie,” he rushes to say, hand reaching out to grip Eddie’s side. “God, so damn happy. I never thought...” He shakes his head then says, voice small, “It’s just...no one’s ever stayed before.” His eyes are intent on Eddie’s. “And you’re offering to stay.”

Eddie kisses him again, quickly this time, then pulls him in, wraps his arms around him, holds on tight. Buck clings tightly, sinking into Eddie, and Eddie whispers I love you into Buck’s skin, pressing it into him, wills him to believe it. To understand.

No, Eddie isn’t leaving him. Never fucking again, if he has any say in it.

They stand there for a while in the living room, holding each other, until Buck finally pulls back, swipes a hand over his cheek and gives Eddie the biggest, brightest smile he has.

Fuck. That thing is a weapon.

Eddie brings up a hand, sweeps one last tear off Buck’s cheek with his thumb. He thinks about what he said to Chim once, about how tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone, that if he loved Maddie he should tell her, and he sends a silent thank you to Abuela for helping him follow his own advice. For giving him the courage to step forward, to have this. To have Buck.

Maybe he’ll buy her flowers later. Take her to dinner. Thank her properly. She deserves it.

“What do you say we get back to the family?”

Buck nods, steps forward and past Eddie but turns before he steps back behind the wall and sends another blinding smile Eddie’s way. Eddie takes a moment to savor it, then steps forward and follows him quickly.

Buck is just sitting back down in his chair when Eddie walks in. Buck sets Chris back on his lap, says, “Wow, Superman. Look how much you got done!”

Buck holds his hand up for a high five and Chris gives him one with a grin, splattering Buck’s fingers and face with masa. Buck flinches, blinks, then lets out a laugh that’s echoed around the table. He catches the kitchen towel Adriana tosses at him from across the way with a thanks, wiping off his fingers and sweeping it over his face.

“Bucky, we need more pork.”

Buck eyes the empty bowl, sets the kitchen towel down on the table next to him. “Yeah, looks like we do.”

“I got it,” Eddie says, picking up their empty bowl.

“Thanks,” Buck says, looking up at him with a smile, and Eddie doesn’t even think. He just leans down and kisses him.

He can feel the room freeze around them but Eddie doesn’t care. He just smiles down at Buck and then heads over to his abuela at the stove, feeling about ten feet tall and proud as hell. He gives her a smile and holds out the bowl for a refill, and she gives him a smile back, pats his cheek, fills his bowl. Then she grabs another bowl, fills it, holds it out. Eddie takes that bowl for himself, kisses her on the cheek, returns to the table.

He takes his time getting set up and then he looks over at Buck and Chris to find them smiling at him, the love practically shining out of Buck’s eyes, Chris looking happier than Eddie has ever seen him, snuggled back against Buck, and Eddie reaches out and squeezes Buck’s hand that’s resting on the table in front of Chris.

“Eddie,” Eddie’s mom says, and Eddie looks over at her.

He gives her a smile, loose and easy and confident and sure as he sits back against his chair. Her eyes glide over his face and he tightens his hold on Buck’s hand, refuses to look away. And he realizes right then that despite his worries, he simply doesn’t care what she thinks about this, how she feels. He’s not looking for her approval. That won’t change how Eddie feels about Buck, and it won’t change the plans he has for them, for their future, for the family they’ve made for themselves in L.A.

If she wants to be a part of it, that’s entirely her choice. But he won’t let her treat Buck the way she treated Shannon. Eddie didn’t stand up for Shannon the way he should have – he didn’t stand up for himself the way he should have – and he can’t go back and make that right for her. But he can make it right for Buck now.

Eddie is drawing his line in the sand.

She looks to Eddie’s right for one long moment then turns to Buck and says, hesitantly, “Um...there’s a trick to making Isabel’s tamales just right. Do you...” she trails off, eyes glancing over at Eddie before returning to Buck and asking, “do you want me to show you?”

“Yeah, please,” Buck says eagerly, and shifts Chris over closer so he can watch too. “I’d love that. Thanks!”

She nods, leaning forward to place a corn husk flat on the table between them.

Chatter has resumed, and as Eddie glances around the table, Pepa, Sophia, and Adriana stop in their conversations briefly to send him smiles. Eddie smiles back, and nods, then finally looks to his right, to his father.

The thing about growing up, Eddie guesses, is that you have a chance to throw out all the bad shit your parents taught you, stuff they’d internalized themselves and then gave to you like gospel, stuff you believed because you trusted them, because you had no reason not to.

Men don’t cry. Suck it up. Deal with it. Get over it.

No.

Eddie is not that kind of man anymore; not his father’s kind of man. And he’s proud of that.

And just like with his mother, he doesn’t care one bit what his father thinks.

Eddie is in love with a man – an incredible, kind, loving, gorgeous man who would do anything for Eddie, who has always treated Chris like his own – and he doesn’t care if his father doesn’t approve, if he thinks it somehow makes him less of a man.

Eddie knows the truth.

They hold each other’s gaze until Pepa says, “So you’re the reason Eddie and Chris aren’t living off takeout anymore?”

“Pepa,” Eddie says, and rolls his eyes.

“I like to cook,” Buck says. “And I especially like cooking for them.”

He ducks his head with a smile when Sophia and Adriana give matching awwwwws.

“And have you cooked many Mexican dishes for them?”

“Not yet. I’ve been hoping to learn some good, authentic recipes.”

“Buck...cariño,” Abuela says, “I will teach you, yes? I will teach you our family recipes.”

“Really? You would...you would do that?” Buck asks. He sits up and looks over at Eddie with such joy that Eddie releases Buck’s hand, grips his neck and squeezes, gives him a smile that Buck returns.

“Yes, Isabel. Thank you! I’d love that!”

Abuela tsks and lifts her eyebrows, pointing at him with her wooden spoon, and Buck blushes, ducks his head.

“Sorry. Abuela. I’d love that.”

She gives him a sunny smile, and Eddie turns to look at his father.

Ramon is watching all of this with a blank face, eyes slowly moving from his mother to Buck and back again.

It doesn’t matter if his father approves. It doesn’t. Not anymore. Line, sand. But Eddie would like him to. He’d like him to know Buck the way he deserves to be known; he’d like him to love Buck the way he deserves to be loved.

But that’s up to him.

Finally, after the silence has stretched on achingly long, after Ramon had taken his time and looked at everyone around the table, his father’s eyes move one more time to settle on Eddie. And then he nods. Just once.

And Eddie lifts his chin, squares his shoulders, and nods back.


There are final hugs and kisses, and an invite for everyone for brunch made by Buck the next day at Eddie’s, and Buck immediately starts rattling off what they need to pick up at the grocery store as soon as the door is closed, his shoulder brushing against Eddie’s as they walk back to their cars.

Chris begs to go with Buck to the store and Eddie hoists him up into the back seat of Buck’s Jeep in response, but begs off himself to head home, to get started on cleaning the bathroom, on picking up the house.

Buck leans against the passenger side door, slides down just a bit so that they’re eye level, his face lit up in the dark by a nearby street lamp, and smiles at Eddie. Something close and only for them.

“I’ll see you at home?” Eddie says softly, stepping forward to press his thigh into the space between Buck’s, to get closer. It’s a question but it’s not, and damn if that isn’t the best feeling in the world right now.

“Oh yeah,” Buck says, and leans forward to claim a kiss. “Before you even have a chance to miss us.”

Eddie claims his own kiss.

“Any special requests?”

No.

Eddie’s already got everything he needs.