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Family Unit

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Hen is enjoying the quietness of her house on her day off. It’s Wednesday afternoon, Karen is working, Denny is at school and Nia is at daycare. It’s raining outside, and the couch is calling her name. She lays down and reaches for the family tablet to cast the latest Nailed It! episode to the TV.

She turns on the tablet and unlocks it with the easy password they chose so the kids can use it to play. The background is a picture of Denny reading a story to Nia, Karen cried when they found them like that.

Hen is looking for Netflix on the sea of apps when a notification catches her attention. It’s from Slack, they only have that one so Denny can talk with his friends. The notification is a video from Chris, he must have sent it yesterday and is coming through now.

Denny and Chris are going through a Star Wars phase and for their respective birthdays, they both asked for theme-related Legos. They send each other videos of their constructions and missions they put the characters through. She has witnessed her son recording himself playing more times than she can count, making voices and the sound effects, it’s ridiculously cute.

Hen gets curious, she has never seen Chris’ stories and plays the video. It starts with Chris hitting the recording button and making sure the tablet is steady, tongue sticking out in concentration. Chris moves back and his surroundings come into view. Hmm. That’s Buck’s apartment. After the 24h shift they had yesterday, they spent the evening together too? Uhh, she’s gonna tease them on their codependency so hard tomorrow.

On the screen, Chris sits on the floor in front of the coffee table where his spaceship is on display. The tablet must be on the other end of the same table, Hen guesses. Behind Chris, there’s Buck sleeping on the couch, laying on his back.

Christopher explains Denny the setup, with a low voice not to disturb Buck. The kid recreates some made-up scene, making noises and improvising dialogue, just as Denny does. The story is actually interesting, and Hen lets herself be taken on the journey by Chris.

Some minutes on the video, Eddie appears on camera, glass of water in his hand. He doesn’t notice the tablet recording as he sets the glass on the table and ruffles Chris’ hair, who thanks his dad. Eddie moves to the couch where Buck is still asleep and shakes his leg lightly. His soft voice can be heard over Chris’ story, “Buck, dinner will be ready in twenty.” They are so domestic is not funny anymore.

Buck doesn’t open his eyes, he just grunts. Eddie’s answering snort is full of fondness. He shakes his leg again, “Wake up, sleepyhead.” Buck mumbles something that sounds a lot like “five more minutes” and reaches for Eddie’s arm, tugging it towards him. Eddie rolls his eyes but lets himself be pulled in. Buck makes room for Eddie and both of them end up cramped on the couch, Eddie laying on his side with his back to the backrest and Buck on his side facing Eddie, legs tangled together.

And that’s it, this is ridiculous. They are so oblivious and dumb and cute is painful. This is no bro behavior. And Hen is about to take a screenshot as proof when, on the screen, Buck makes himself smaller in Eddie’s arms, tucking his head on his friend’s neck. Hen stops midmovement, her breath catching in her throat at the enamored look on Eddie’s eyes. Taking a screenshot feels wrong. 

Eddie pulls Buck closer while Christopher seems unfazed by the men behind him, only throwing an amused smile at his dad, and keeps playing with his Legos. When Eddie starts combing his fingers through Buck’s hair, Hen feels like she’s intruded enough and pauses the video. She locks the tablet, Netflix's long forgotten.

Her heart swells in her chest with pride. The impulsive kid she met years ago, who didn’t know how to find a place for himself, is long gone. She remembers how, in the beginning, Buck tried to find any kind of physical connection wishing it could fulfill the emptiness he felt. When Abby came, he fell headfirst, craving that feeling of belonging, of having someone. When she left, the confidence and stability he had built broke into pieces. Luckily, Maddie came back to his life and Eddie appeared, bringing Chris with him, and by that time, the team had become a family, and Buck bounced back. He was happier, feeling part of something.

And then, one disaster after another crushed him. His family was the only thing keeping him alive and strong enough to fight back. So, when Bobby didn’t let him back, he was broken and desperate and the impulsive kid in him reappeared, putting at risk his bond with his family in order to get them back. Eventually, they talked and fixed their issues, but Buck was still cautious. You could see it in his eyes, the fear of being abandoned, left behind.

Lately, he’s been lighter, more confident, and carefree, as if that fear of ending up alone had diluted. Hen had noticed it, and she thought the reason was Maddie’s pregnancy, consolidating his sister’s presence in his life. But she was wrong. It’s not the prospect of being an uncle, of having a kid of his own blood to take care of and love unconditionally. It may be part of it, of course, but not the main reason. Buck looks settled because he is. He has found his own family, his unit. He belongs with Eddie and Chris, and even if they haven’t defined their relationship or made it public, Hen knows they have found their place in each other and she can’t be happier for them, for Buck.