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Hold My Hand, Here Comes the Tide

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Their alarm clocks ring out at 6:00am as they do most mornings, and Eddie doesn’t think much of it when Christopher’s echoes just a bit longer than usual. Throwing on his uniform and lacing up his boots, he hears the familiar shuffling of drawers as his son dresses himself for the day. 

 

Carla had spoken to him last night after his shift, letting him know Christopher seemed more subdued than usual that day. It was something he wanted to address immediately, but it was a school night and past midnight by the time he got home. Waking him up wasn’t exactly an option. And now Chris has skipped out on their morning stretches. 

 

His gut tells him to go over there and try to coax out what’s wrong right now. Except, a conversation like that might need more time than they have. Eddie has work and he needs to get Christopher to school. And it’s not like he can sacrifice hours. There’s too many bills to pay as it is. 

 

“Hey.” His voice does it’s best to stay casual as Chris sits himself at the table. “Would you like apples or grapes for snack time today?” 

 

The spoon full of cereal moves sluggishly in his hand. “Either’s ok.”

 

“Ok.” Say something. “Did you sleep ok last night?” Christopher just continues to munch on his breakfast. “Hey,” the chair rubs against the tile as he takes the seat beside him. “I can tell something’s bothering you. And I really wish we had time to talk about it right now, but I promise I’ll be all ears tonight. I’ll be home by seven and then we can figure this out, whatever it is. Sound good?”

 

There’s no response but he doesn’t pull away when Eddie plants a kiss on his head so that’s something. They’re halfway to Chris’ dropoff when he finally speaks up. 

 

“I don’t want to go to school today.”

 

That draws Eddie’s eyes away from the road, staring at the downcast gaze of his son through the rearview mirror. “W- I’m sorry, Christopher, I gotta drop you off. I have work.”

 

“I don’t wanna go.” 

 

Eddie bites his lip, looking for anywhere to pull over but he’s trapped. “Carla’s busy right now, mijo, and so is Abuela and Tia Pepa. There’s no one who can watch you.”

 

“You can watch me! I wanna go h-home. Take me home.”

 

“Chris-” The light turns green and Eddie slowly starts edging forward with the traffic. 

 

“NO! I don’t want to go! Ta-ke me home! Take me HOME! ” 

 

An ear-piercing screech scratches Eddie’s eardrums, his backseat and arm victims to the small limbs punching and kicking every direction. He tries to calm him down, twisting around to face him head on with one hand still on the steering wheel. His calls are drowned by the vicious screams. Chris is red with rage, edging on purple as all his air is redirected to yelling. Eddie is desperately trying not to ding the car in front of him as they move through the intersection, his focus swiveling back to the traffic for a second when he catches the diesel in his periphery. 

 

There’s hardly a moment to brace himself when it happens. In the half-second it takes for his airbag to deploy, he hears the glass shatter, the crunch of metal, and the angry screams of his son morph into something far worse. 

 

Then, everything goes black. 

 

...

 

There’s no sound when color starts to fade back into his vision. Red and blue lights flash between the cracks of his eyes, but the sharp, stabbing pain radiating through his body has him squeezing them shut. Taking a few breaths, he tries again, searching with a blurry gaze to figure out what happened. 

 

It’s a crash site. Looks like a diesel rammed into a white minivan. They need to keep a lookout for the driver, seeing as the diesel is empty. As for the van, there’s a woman, late 30’s, slumped against the deflated fabric of her airbag. She’s bleeding from a head wound and the grille of the diesel is right next to her face. With the air pumping out from the engine, she’s probably hot. They need to help her.

 

He’s waiting for Bobby to call for the jaws when Buck pops into view. No matter how long he stares at those lips, nothing seems to come out of them. 

 

“W-” The word breaks off with a cough, his throat stripped, and the small jostle is enough to send a shot of fire through the veins in his arm, his leg. Suddenly, there’s a hand in his and he grips it with all his might until he’s sure there’s air hitting his lungs again. Peeking his eyes back open shows Buck still talking to him. He looks so scared. 

 

That’s when his gaze follows the trail of the crash from the diesel, to the van, all the way to his truck. And it’s something in the way that the van is crushed on both sides that does it for him. Daring to look down, a deep, nauseating feeling building in his stomach, his eyes trail over the metal and leather molded against his side. 

 

Then, he remembers. 

 

CHRISTOPHER !” He cries out at the sudden jerk of his body, but he doesn’t care. Turning around is all he can think about, but then Buck is grabbing his face, holding it forward. “Buck? Buck, check Christopher. Forget me, check on Christopher!” His mind can't even register the brace locking around his neck until it’s there, restricting him. “I- I can’t move. I can’t hear. B- Please, Buck, I can’t hear him. Is he ok? Nod if he’s ok . Just nod, please . Christopher !” Tears well in his eyes and he thinks of clinging to his necklace, but he can’t bring himself to let go of Buck’s hand. “ Padre? Por favor, Padre, Dios, no me lo quites. PLEASE. Please, please… Buck-” 

 

Those blue eyes shift from the backseat back to him, and his hand grips his tighter as he nods. A brutal sob rips from Eddie’s chest. 

 

Buck is patting on his cheek to get his attention, several other firefighters coming into view. He sees the jaws of life and knows what’s coming without anyone having to say it. However, he is surprised when they work around Buck instead of making him move. The way he keeps their hands sealed together, they must know Buck’s not a quitter. Or at least they know now.

 

His screams echo back in his head in a way they didn’t before, and faint noises begin to register slowly as he’s laid on the ground. Hen and Chimney talk back and forth to his left, Buck whispering encouragement to his right. Everything comes to a stop for just a second when someone calls out from a distance. Then, Buck is leaning over and pulling their hands to his chest, his thumb rubbing over them methodically. 

 

“Eddie? Can you hear me?” It’s barely a nod but Buck seems to understand. “They’re moving Chris. I can’t let him be alone, Eds. I’m going with him, ok? I got him. Focus on you, now. I got Chris. I’ll be with him the whole ride. Do you trust me?”

 

Yes , he does. He does, he does, he does. “ Go .”

 

Buck slips out of his view and out of his grasp, and he’s left staring at the sky above until it’s eventually replaced with the ambulance roof. Hen and Chim try to keep him awake, try to talk to him, but he feels strangely calm. Well, not strangely. He knows Buck is with Chris. They’re ok. And that thought washes over him on loop as he finally lets himself fall back into the darkness.

 

 

It's quiet when he wakes, the sheets under his fingertips so familiar, yet not. 

 

The lights are dimmed low and he’s grateful. He couldn’t imagine anything brighter making the throbbing in his skull feel better. 

 

“Welcome back.” Bobby sets his book down and a quick glance behind him reveals the night sky through the window. "Woah, hold on. Let me help you sit up." 

 

His captain is fluffing a third pillow to prop behind his back when he finally finds his voice. "Where's Christopher?" 

 

"He got rerouted to a children's hospital. Your aunt was there with him all day and finally left about an hour ago. Buck's still there with him now." Eddie scans his eyes down the cast stretching over his lower arm and hand. The slightest strain of his eyes is enough to make his head ache. "Easy, now. You hit your head pretty hard, so try to be gentle with your movements. Do you remember what happened?" 

 

"Got caught in a pileup… How bad was it?" 

 

Bobby straightens himself a bit like he always does when he discusses something serious. "Well, the minivan took the brunt of the impact but you two still got hit pretty hard. The diesel dragged you through the intersection at least 30 feet. No other casualties. The woman in the van is fine; on her way to a full recovery. You have a mild concussion and a fractured ulna. Your left arm is gonna be in a sling for a while and your leg has one hell of a bruise. But, other than that, you're ready to run a marathon."

 

"Yeah, I sure feel like it," he huffs, but it's hollowed with something dark. "And Christopher?"

 

"He got a pretty big bump on his head, too, so the doctors want to keep him overnight just to make sure he's ok. Buck's been keeping us all updated with any changes." 

 

He knows. But still… “I need to see him. Please.”

 

The smile on Bobby’s face only seems to grow. “He knew you’d say that.” He taps away at his phone before offering it over to Eddie’s good hand. It’s open to his messages and there’s a line of pictures sent all at once from this morning, then one sent every hour since. 

 

The very first one is Chris, fast asleep with a large blotch of purple shining on his forehead. It’s overshadowed, though, by the vast assortment of stuffed animals tucked around him and the shark blanket laying atop his hospital sheets. 

 

He keeps scrolling to find weirdly specific photos next. There’s one of the room itself, the little pulse oximeter clasped around his finger, his monitor, the room number. It takes a moment for him to realize these were small details Eddie would probably be drawn to if he were there. It goes on through the rest of the photos sent that morning, then the hourly ones following them focus solely on the monitor. To show Chris is still ok. 

 

Just as he feels the weight on his chest beginning to lift, Buck’s face pops up on the screen for an incoming call. 

 

“Uh-”

 

“Go ahead and talk to him. I need to make a coffee run anyways. Be back in a bit.”

 

There isn’t a chance to get a word in edgewise before Bobby’s out the door, the sound of his ringtone filling the room. Swallowing his nerves, he answers. 

 

“Buck?”

 

Eddie. ” He sounds as breathless as him. “ It’s good to hear your voice. How are you feeling?” 

 

“Like I got hit by a truck. How’s Chris? Have you heard anything from the doctors?”

 

Yeah, Pepa let me sit in when they came to talk to her. I got to hear everything. No broken bones. No major internal bleeding. Everything checked out ok. He’s just been asleep all day.” 

 

Eddie sighs. “He was really tired this morning. Something’s been bothering him since yesterday and I don’t think he got much sleep last night. That, on top of the head wound, I’m not surprised.” 

 

Do you know what had him so upset?

 

“No. We were supposed to talk about it tonight after I got back from work.” He scrubs his hand through his hair, wincing when he gets too close to his bump. “I thought it could wait but then he started freaking out in the car, telling me he didn’t want to go to school. He started yelling and screaming and throwing his body around... I tried to calm him down. I did. But he only got angrier . I didn’t know what was happening . I-.. I should have just focused on the road. I could have seen it coming. I-” 

 

Eddie, Eddie, breathe. Just breathe. You’re ok. Chris is ok. This wasn’t your fault. I saw the scene, Eds, and traffic was bad. There was nowhere for you to go, even if you did see it coming. There’s nothing you could have done differently where this wouldn’t have happened. That means it’s not your fault. Do you hear me?”

 

Eddie grips his hair a little harder, fighting back the tears in his eyes. When he speaks, his voice is less than a whisper. “I couldn’t hear him, Buck… I couldn’t hear if he was calling me or crying or breathing. I-.. I couldn’t hear whether he was alive and I was so scared, Buck, you don’t understand… ” 

 

His words dip off with a sob and he can’t stop the tears now, hand covering his eyes as he weeps into the phone. 

 

It’s ok, Eddie. Everything’s ok now. You wanna know how I know? Listen.”

 

The call goes quiet for a long second before the softest whoosh passes through the speaker, Christopher’s light snores singing in his ears. He pulls the phone closer, letting himself get lost in the noise, pretending his son is in his arms and not far off in a different hospital without him. 

 

After a few minutes, Buck pulls the phone back.

 

“Thank you...”

 

Anytime.”

 

Eddie?” Eddie turns his gaze to the door, Bobby and a nurse standing at the threshold. “They need to ask you some questions. Check you over to make sure everything’s good.”

 

“Ok,” he says but he doesn’t mean it. He doesn’t want to hang up.

 

Hey,” Buck calls him and he pushes the phone back to his ear. “ I’ll tell Bobby to call me back as soon as they’re done. Just let everyone have a moment to worry about you for once, alright? I’ll still be here with Chris. I’m not going anywhere.”

 

“Thank you,” he whispers again and he hands the phone to Bobby with a nod, his captain talking with Buck as he exits the room.

 

 

He had a vague idea of how much this sucked as soon as he woke up, but it doesn’t really compare to now, being poked and prodded by the nurse as she examines his wounds. She offers him a mirror when he rubs the wrong part of his face and feels every single cut sting his skin -- damn shattered glass -- and it’s his first real look at the damage. 

 

Dozens of little cuts litter his left cheek and forehead. He’s paler than this morning, that’s for sure, and it makes the bruise on his head look that much worse. As long as he can still wiggle his fingers and toes, he doesn’t care about the rest. It’s just more bruised ribs and muscles anyways. 

 

What he does care about is that, even after he's checked over and told that he's fine, the doctor still insists that he spend the night. And Bobby agrees. 

 

Stupid head wounds

 

Hen and Chim wander in after they leave. With a bright smile, Hen tells him that Athena sends her love, handing over his phone and a charger. 

 

“She figured you’d want to keep up with any updates on Chris and didn’t want you having to hog Bobby’s phone all night. She found it on site and had the cracked screen replaced while you were sleeping. It’s good as new.”

 

He can’t tell but he hopes his gratitude is as obvious as it feels. "Oh my god. Please tell her thank you for me. I could kiss her.”

 

“I’ll be sure to pass along the sentiment,” Bobby laughs. 

 

“I know our visit seems short lived but we’ll all be back in the morning to take shifts sitting with you.” Chim pats his leg gently. “Just rest up tonight, ok? You’ll be out of here in no time.” 

 

Eddie thanks them again and wishes them goodnight. The second they're out the door, he plugs his phone in and turns it on.

 

" Hi. " Eddie can practically hear his smile through the speaker. " Everything check out? They didn't have to remove like three of your ribs or something, right? An eye? Maybe your thumb-" 

 

A warm chuckle falls from his lips. "No, I'm good. Just really anxious to get out of here. How are things on your end?" 

 

" Well, I think I can officially count myself as an expert in all noises little kids make while they sleep." Eddie bites his lip. " Yep. Nope. I heard it. That sounds really bad." Their laughter mixes easily in the quiet. " So, you're really ok?" 

 

“I’m really ok. And I’m really tired of talking about myself. Can you-... I mean, would you mind telling me some stories? Anything to distract me from all of this?”

 

A brief silence fills the space around him. “Wow.”

 

“What?”

 

I- It’s-... No, I just think this is the first time anyone’s ever asked to hear me talk.”

 

“Do you not want to?”

 

“NO, no no, no. I do. I do. Uh- So, what do you wanna talk about? Sports? Science? Music? Movies? Umm..”

 

“Science. It’ll be fun hearing you explain things.”

 

Yeah? Ok. Science. Uh, lets see. Categories: I got stars and space, ocean life, microbes, plants and trees. Um, animals -- that includes aliens. Phys-”

 

“Aliens. Definitely aliens.”

 

Do I hear skepticism in your voice? Come on, Eds. You don’t believe in ghosts or jinxes or the universe-”

 

“I believe in the universe, Buck. I don’t believe it's sentient, and it definitely doesn’t mess with random firefighters just because someone says the word ‘quiet’.” 

 

Down the hall, alarms blare out, angry screams blasting from a patient who clearly wants more morphine. 

 

YOU- ” His voice drops to a harsh whisper. “ You just said the q-word in a hospital! Way to jinx the night shift. So inconsiderate.

 

“Buck.”

 

No, you know, fine. You don’t believe in jinxes. But you gotta believe in aliens! You really think that one planet in one star system in one galaxy-”

 

Eddie rolls his eyes but he tucks the phone closer, leaning into it. If he is smiling, it’s not like there’s anyone around to call him out on it.

 

 

A sweet chuckle draws him out from sleep, Carla failing to reign in her smile as she stares down at him. 

 

“Is that Buckaroo I hear snoring in your ear?”

 

Eddie barely has a moment to register the noise coming through the speaker before he’s hanging up, rubbing his eyes to try and hide his blush. 

 

He clears his throat. “Uh, good morning.”

 

Carla shakes her head. “Come here.” Her hug is as tight as it can be, and she moves to her bag to pull out some clothes and containers of food. “I heard they’d be releasing you later so I brought you a fresh pair of pants and a shirt to change into. I also have some free time right now. I thought we could eat breakfast together.”

 

“That’s sweet, Carla. Thank you. I gotta warn you, though, the hospital food isn’t the greatest.”

 

“Yeah, I’m familiar,” she sighs, yet the smile never leaves her face. “But food always tastes better with the right company.” Carla tells him little things about her weeks as they eat, mainly making conversation and acting innocent before she strikes. “How are things between you and Buck?”

 

He nearly chokes at her tone. “I- You know. Same as always.”

 

“You mean you chickened out. Again.” Eddie groans. “Oh, don’t look at me like that. For better or worse, I think people should be honest with their feelings. And you have a lot of them. I won’t force you to confess anything, but I will continue to strongly encourage it so long as these feelings stick around.”

 

And they clearly weren’t going anywhere. A chime from his phone cuts his thoughts short and he reads the message quickly. Every muscle in his body goes lax as he sets the phone against his chest. 

 

“Christopher’s awake. Thank God.” Carla rubs his shoulder gently, giving it a squeeze. Another chime. “I-” He reads the message again. “I guess the doctors want to run some more tests.”

 

“Probably just precautionary.”

 

“Buck said he would update me when they get the results.”

 

“Mm, that could be awhile. I was gonna go visit our boys after my chat with you, but now I think I should postpone.” This time it’s Carla’s phone that rings. It takes less than a second for Eddie to figure out it’s work. 

 

“If you need to go, it’s alright.” Carla purses her lips. “I’m fine. The others will be here in a bit to keep me company. I’ll be ok.”

 

Her stubborn facade cracks slowly at his words and she relents with a long exhale. “I’m really sorry to leave you like this. Are you sure you don’t need me here for moral support?”

 

“Carla, go. It’s ok.”

 

She does, but only after another apology and a hug. The moment he’s alone, he looks to his phone, finger dangling over the call button for Buck. 

 

He can’t press it. 

 

 

His eyes sting when they finally blink. It’s the nth time he’s zoned out staring mindlessly at the television, and he scrunches his hand into a ball to stop it from tapping against the mattress. 

 

“You can call him, you know.” Chimney doesn’t spare a glance away from his newspaper. “You know he’d answer.”

 

Nope. Not doing it. “Buck said he would text me when they got the results. If I call now, I’m gonna have a lot of questions he’s not gonna be able to answer and it’s just gonna make me mad. I can’t do that to him.”

 

“It's nice to see therapy is helping you recognize your shortcomings. But, that doesn’t mean you gotta overcorrect and go completely comatose just to get by.”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“You’re not fine.” Chim sets the newspaper down. “I sat here for over an hour and could barely get two words out of you. You’re trapped in your head. I get it . It’s a deep feeling and I can’t pull you out of it. But you know who can? Buck .” There’s a sincerity in Chimney’s eyes that Eddie can’t turn away from. “Call him.”

 

“N-... No, it’s fine. I’m f-” Even he can hear the weakness in his voice. His fist goes white-knuckled before the muscles give and he falls against the mattress. “... Ok… I’ll call him.”

 

“Thank you. I’m gonna go grab something for lunch. Would you like anything from the outside world while I’m away?”

 

“No.” He’s halfway to the door when Eddie adds, “Thank you.” And Chim just smiles, waving him off. He’s about to click the call button when Chimney walks right back in. 

 

“Better idea! You’re getting released early and I am now offering myself to be your personal chauffeur to the other hospital. Let’s go see our boys, huh?”

 

It's the first real breath Eddie’s taken today.

 

 

Easy. H- Eddie, slow down!”

 

Not on his life. While not broken, the massive bruise on his leg does give him a considerable limp. He sticks close to the walls, at some points physically dragging himself through the corridors. If he falls, Chim’s got him. It’s fine. 

 

They’re on the final stretch when they spot Buck coming out of a room, his phone clenched tightly in hand. 

 

“Buck!” 

 

Blue eyes swings up at the sound, joy bursting over his face. But then it’s suddenly overtaken by something else. Something closer to dread. And it drops a cold, heavy weight in his stomach. 

 

“What?” Buck rushes towards them, blocking Eddie at least three doors down from where he needs to be. “What are you doing? What’s wrong?”

 

And Buck is already talking over him. “Eddie. Eddie, look at me,” he says, both hands clasped on his shoulders. “He’s ok. He’s alive, he’s breathing, he’s safe. I-”

 

“If he's fine, then let me see it for myself.”

 

“You will. In a minute. I just need to explain what’s going on.”

 

“So there is something going on.” He tries to tear his good shoulder out of Buck’s grip. “Get out of my way. I need to see my son .”

 

“Eddie, maybe you should listen to him,” Chimney tries but it’s helpless. 

 

Move , Buck.”

 

Eddie-”

 

“MOVE!” 

 

His hand slams against Buck’s chest, shoving hard, and Buck goes stumbling backwards with a grunt. Chimney rushes forward, helping Buck upright as he rubs over his heart. That’s when it finally sink in, Eddie flinching his hand back from where it stayed curled up after impact. 

 

He wants to speak, but suddenly Buck is no longer focused on him. He's pleading to the nurse who looks a second away from calling security.

 

“It’s fine. Everything’s fine, I’m so sorry. It’s a stressful situation, but we’re ok now. We promise to behave, so please, please don’t make us leave. We’ll be on our best behavior from now on. He’s just really worried about his son. I swear, you won’t hear from us again.”

 

Her murderous glare doesn’t falter, but she does put down the phone. With a simple reminder that they are in a children’s hospital, she turns back to her work. 

 

Before Eddie can blink, Buck’s tugging him down the hall and into an empty waiting room. With Chim inside, Buck shuts the door behind them. 

 

Buck, I am so s-”

 

“It’s fine. I get it. If you want to make it up to me, sit down and let me tell you both what’s going on.” Eddie drops into his seat without a word, Chim taking the seat next to him. “ Thank you … Look, I was just about to call you. I just needed a second to figure out how to explain all this over the phone.”

 

“Is-” Eddie stops himself, sealing his lips back together.

 

“I know. You’re ok.” What makes this situation worse is that Buck is actually struggling to say the words here. “I wasn’t lying. Chris was calm and stable all night and that didn’t change when he woke up. His body isn’t the issue. It’s…” A light gloss covers his eyes. “He woke up asking for his mom .”

 

Eddie’s core drops ten degrees. “ What?”

 

“He didn’t recognize me or Pepa. He doesn’t remember anything about L.A. or the firehouse or leaving Texas in the first place.” Those piercing blue eyes strike right at his heart. “Eddie, I tried to jog something by showing him pictures, but he didn’t recognize any of us… and he didn’t recognize you .” 

 

And, oh. 

 

If he had to describe it, he’d compare it to a tidal wave. The feeling is thorough, drenching every inch of his body, and if the snap of it breaking and crashing along the sand wasn’t audible, it’d almost look painless to be under.

 

But it’s not. 

 

And it all floods in at once. 

 

You’re still a stranger to him…

 

Like a mirage, memories float through his mind, colorful, almost real. Holding that tiny, tiny body in his arms for the first time. Hearing Shannon cry over the phone with news of their son’s diagnosis. Medical bills piling up. The first surgery. The second. The third. .. Reenlisting -- We need you here! Christopher needs you. Three long years of dropped phone calls and lagging video chats. Getting in that helicopter. The crash. Taking fire. Getting shot and blasted and blinded by explosives. Clinging to a necklace and a photo instead of his actual son.

 

... but you don’t have to be. 

 

He doesn’t realize he’s on the floor until his sobs break free and he can’t do anything but curl up against his knees. There’s a steady weight on his back, a kind voice whispering in his ear, and he doesn’t understand either but he’s grateful they’re there. 

 

Eddie.”  Large hands cup his face. “Listen to me. The doctor thinks this is temporary, ok? It just might take some time. And we got that, right? We got time. All of us: me, you, Chim, Hen, Bobby, everyone. And we’re not going anywhere. We’re gonna get through this together, I promise. ” His arm moves on it's own accord but he’s happy when it wraps around Buck, his sobs tearing through him at full force. “Let it out, Eds. I got you. I got you.” 

 

A small part of his mind scolds himself for being so embarrassing, crying in Buck’s arms like this. But, then, a bigger part enjoys the gentle nails raking through his hair and against his scalp. 

 

Thanks ,” he croaks when he finally pulls away. Their grips are hesitant to let go but Eddie goes on, insisting he’s ok. 

 

Buck shakes his head with a smile. “You’re not ok, but you will be. Come on. Let’s go introduce you to your son.”

 

… 

 

Chim decides to head home and let Eddie have his moment. He also promises to update the team one what’s happening so neither of them have to.

 

“You got this, man, ok? He’s gonna love you.”

 

With one hand on the doorknob, Buck mentions that Pepa went home to rest so it'll just be the three of them. Checking one last time to see if he's ready, Buck opens the door. 

 

“Hey, buddy. I got someone who wants to say hi. Mind if he comes in?”

 

The small voice rings back, “That’s fine.”

 

His lungs feel tight as he walks in, a curious expression on his son’s face as he takes the seat by his bed. It’s a struggle to quiet his laboring breaths.

 

“Hi, Christopher. I’m-… My name’s Eddie. And I’m your dad.”

 

A light seems to flicker behind those eyes. He’s about to speak again when Christopher’s hands shoot up to his face, pulling and tugging the skin like it was made of clay. When he can’t help but laugh a little at the pain, Christopher seems to get an idea. 

 

“Hold on.” Scooting over, he leverages his left hand on Eddie’s shoulder, careful of the sling, and hoists himself up. With a single plop of his right hand over his forehead, Christopher pushes those eyebrows down into a scowl. “OH! I see it now. You don’t smile in the picture so I c-couldn’t tell it was you.”

 

Eddie ignores Buck’s poorly muffled giggles to blink at his son. “What picture?”

 

“The one Mommy points at when she talks about you. You-You’re wearing a uniform and the hat goes down to here-and you make an angry face like-” The angry pout surprises a laugh out of both of them. Christopher seems drawn to his grin, hand resting softly against his cheek. “I like it better when you smile.” He barely opens his mouth when Chris cuts in. “Hey! If you’re my d-dad, does that mean you know where Mommy is? Buck and Tia Pepa didn't know.”

 

There it is. Eddie takes a deep breath and stands, tucking Christopher back into the covers before sitting with him on the bed. The slump of his shoulder must say more than he’d hoped, because the smile drops from Chris’ face immediately. 

 

“Umm. I do.” Breathe. “She had to go away, but I think you’ll get to see her again someday.” He truly hopes so.

 

“Oh…” Eddie can see the wheels turning in Buck’s head as they both try to think of something to say. “Did she go to the place in the sky?” They swing their eyes back to him. “M-Mommy told me about it before I had my surgery. She said if I got there before her, I’d just have to as-k the nice man at the gate to let me wait for her if I was too scared to go in b-by myself.” 

 

Eddie chokes down the sound knocking at the back of his throat. “Yeah, buddy. That’s the place.”

 

Christopher nods to himself for a moment, then lifts his head. “Do you th-ink Mommy’s waiting for me at the gate?”

 

“I know she is.” Small arms welcome him as Eddie climbs up the bed, their bodies wrapping around one another. “Just in case you’re still scared when you get there.” 

 

“And you’re my dad?”

 

“I am. I know you can’t really remember me, but we live together. I take care of you and we watch movies. I help you with your homework and take you to school in the morning.”

 

“Do you buy me pizza wh-when I’m sad like Mommy does?” 

 

Eddie glances at Buck for a moment, but he just shrugs. “I can certainly start doing that, sure.”

 

“Can I have pizza right now?”

 

With a kind grin, Buck lifts himself off the wall. “I’ll go see what the cafeteria has. Be back in a few, ok? Be good for your dad,” he winks and both of them whisper their thanks as he strolls out to the hall. 

 

 

Based on the doctor’s questions, Christopher is missing roughly 5 to 6 years of memories. They’d have a more accurate account if Eddie were around at the time to provide context, and he tries very hard not to let that fact drive the knife deeper into his heart. 

 

Other than his lack of knowledge in names and faces, his developmental progress seems to have stuck, along with his practiced motor skills. Basically, although his memories only span from when he was a toddler, he still has the awareness and intellect that he usually does today.

 

“Brains are weird,” Buck grumbles, the neurologist nodding along with a laugh. 

 

By mid-afternoon, they get cleared to leave. All his scans came back normal, so there isn’t much anyone can do. The hope is that Christopher’s memories return on their own, and Buck assures Eddie again and again that everything will be alright. That he will eventually remember, even if it takes a while. 

 

“Thanks for coming with us,” Eddie whispers as he unlocks the front door. Buck simply flashes his teeth, trailing in behind them as they enter the apartment. 

 

The most obvious room to explore first is his son’s. Christopher sets his crutches aside, taking in the colors and posters and toys. Small fingers run across his blanket before he plops down onto the bed, rolling over it with a smile. 

 

“This is my room?”

 

“Yep,” Eddie chuckles. 

 

“And this is my bed.” That’s when he seems to realize something, head rising to circle the room. “Where are my movies? Mommy had them on a-shelf in the corner.”

 

Several memories knock into Eddie’s head at once; from scrambling to get Christopher’s essentials out of his parents house when they ran, to the couple of boxes he has shoved in the hallway closet that he never got around to unpacking. Was there even a shelf there when he got back from Afghanistan? 

 

Buck seems to notice his stump because he jumps to his rescue. “Uh, movies are a little different now. We can play them directly on the TV without needing a DVD. You wanna see?”

 

A slow exhale blows out both their chests at his son’s enthusiastic cheer. Watching Buck explain the many, many streaming sites they have nowadays and all the things they offer spreads something warm through his heart. 

 

Looking at Christopher now, he finds his hand sliding up to touch his necklace. But stops when there's only empty space. A desperate pat over his pockets amounts to nothing, not even his wallet. And that’s when he remembers the bag of personal belongings he got from the hospital. 

 

Buck carried everything in. He must have set it by the door. 

 

“I need to go check something real quick,” he says as he jumps up from the couch, only a little off balance with the bruises and the head wound and the cast. 

 

It’s easy to spot when he gets there and he dumps the contents onto the floor, clothes and wallet and shoes scattering everywhere. He’s on his knees ruffling through every item twice, praying it’d appear.

 

It doesn’t. 

 

“Hey.” A heavy hand smoothes along his spine. Eddie can’t face the concern in those eyes right now. “What’s wrong? Did you lose something?”

 

“My Saint Christopher necklace. It’s gone. I don’t know when it fell off, it could be anywhere. My truck, maybe, or when you guys moved me to the gurney. Someone could have picked it up. Or taken it. It could still be on the road.”

 

The hand on his back rubs up and down gently, quite shushes falling from Buck’s lips. “Look, I’ll talk to Athena and see if she can find out where your truck was towed. All we gotta do is call the place and ask them to keep an eye out for it, ok? I know how important that necklace is to you. We’re gonna find it.” Eddie takes a few steading breaths, then nods. “In the meantime, you should go watch Mulan with Christopher on the couch. Bobby left us some food in the fridge; I’ma warm it up and serve us. Sound good?”

 

It does. They part ways when Eddie heads back towards the living room and he gives himself a moment to collect himself before stepping in. But the room’s empty, too. 

 

“Christopher?” His heart rate rises with every glance. “Christopher?!”

 

“In here!” 

 

The sound pulls him back to Earth, and he mentally curses himself for letting every little thing get to him. ‘ You’ve had a long day, ’ Bobby whispers in his head. Right. He just needs a break. 

 

“Hey, buddy. Did you get the urge to color something?” Christopher hums a yes, eyes trailing over his desk and around it. “Papers’ in the big drawer. And you have markers in that top drawer to the right if you don’t want to use pencils.”

 

“Yay! Markers!” He spends a couple minutes picking out which colors he wants to use. Once he’s done, he piles everything together, lifting it in his arms to carry to the living room. “I’m gonna draw Mushu.”

 

He gives him until the second marker slips off the papers to speak up. “Would you like some help carrying all that?”

 

“Yes, please!”

 

That's how they both end up on the floor, coloring together with the movie playing in the background. Eddie’s not too proud to admit Christopher is way better at this than him, so his son decides to give him some tips to help. As he points to a particular spot on Eddie’s ‘mountain’, his marker accidentally brushes the arch of his finger, painting it blue. 

 

What other choice did he have but to retaliate? A loud giggle erupts from Christopher’s chest and he presses his now purple thumb against his father’s leg, smearing the excess ink onto his jeans. And it only seems to spiral downward from there. 

 

Just as the battle seems to reach its peak, they both freeze, the sound of muffled laughter drawing their eyes to the doorway. Buck is standing there with his phone out, no doubt filming everything, and his smile is stretched from ear to ear. 

 

“Oh my god, you guys are so freaking cute. I can’t.” 

 

That’s when Eddie looks down at himself, and then Chris, scanning over the myriad of colors on their arms and legs and faces. 

 

“We should go wash up for dinner.”

 

“I guess I’ll set the table,” Buck shakes his head. “But first-

 

He’s halfway off the ground when Buck’s arm swings around his neck, the click of his camera ringing out before anything could register. That quick glimpse is enough to know he’s got at least four colors scribbled along his cheeks and nose, and he immediately moves in for the phone. It’s hard enough to maneuver one-handed, but Buck also has those extra two inches of height that keeps the phone just out of his reach. 

 

Christopher is cackling somewhere below them but Eddie refuses to shift his eyes from the phone. He’s on his toes, stretching for it, and he’s almost there, just a step closer-

 

His foot catches the marker and he’s rolling before he can stop himself, the sound of heavy plastic striking the carpet. When he opens his eyes, Buck’s got him locked in his embrace, their lips a breath apart as he holds Eddie up. 

 

They break apart with a stutter, Eddie mumbling for Christopher to follow him to the restroom while Buck scoops his phone off the floor, heading for the kitchen. 

 

He thinks he’s finally got his blush under control as he pours his focus into wiping the marker from his son’s chin. 

 

"Hey." Christopher's eyes are locked on him, feet tapping against the counter.

 

"Yes, buddy?"

 

“So, you’re my dad?”

 

Eddie blinks at the question, surprised, then nods. “Yeah, that’s right.”

 

“What do dads do?”

 

Ha. “Well, I take care of you. I make sure you eat, get dressed, and exercise every day. I make sure you stay healthy and clean ,” he emphasizes with a rub of the towel to his cheek. “Let’s see… I take you to parks and zoos and aquariums and the beach. All over, really. We like to explore. And you come to me when you have a problem so I can help, whether it’s school work or a bad dream or figuring out what show to watch.”

 

“Like a mom.”

 

The words tug a grin on his face. “Exactly. Like moms. We both love you and support you and want you to grow big and strong. It’s just what we do.”

 

Something seems to shuffle through Christopher’s head for a moment. “Can someone have more than one mom or dad?”

 

“Of course. You have some friends, Harry and May, who have two dads: Michael and Bobby. And their mom is Athena. Then, there’s your other friends, Denny and Nia, who have two moms: Hen and Karen. And you’re gonna have a new friend soon who has one mom and one dad: Maddie and Chimney. Every family is a little different, but they’re all still families. And they’re all a part of our family, too.”

 

“Our family. Me and you.”

 

“That’s right.”

 

“And Buck!” 

 

The heat in his cheeks returns with a vengeance, but he doesn’t mind it so much this time. “And Buck... I think we’re both clean enough, now. How about we go join Buck at the table?”

 

“Ok!”

 

 

Dinner, for lack of a better word, is entertaining . Christopher is amazed at the ‘adult’ fork he gets to use and is even more impressed with his ability to use it. He grins around every bite and Buck cheers him on, telling him how hard he worked over the years to be able to do this. He drops in that Chris can even dress himself and that sends his excitement through the roof. 

 

The only way they can convince him to sit down and finish his food is to pinky promise he’ll get to try putting on pajamas as soon as he’s done. Eddie figures they can move bath time to the morning. 

 

They sit with him as he makes a show of his wardrobe change. When he finally shoves his shirt over his head, Buck tosses him a pair of fuzzy socks, pure joy bursting from his face at the softness. It takes a bit of concentration to slip them on, but Chris is giggling the whole time and absolutely no one could wipe away their smiles. 

 

And if that wasn’t enough already, Christopher practically screams when Eddie brings over a book. It’s snatched from his hand immediately, and there’s his son, pushing up his glasses as he freaks out about understanding letters and words. There’s a silent, yet strong appreciation for reading in that moment. Eddie mentions Chris’ good grades in school and how hard he works to be so smart. How proud he is to have a son as great as him. 

 

“Thanks, Dad.” 

 

It could have been all the excitement of the last hour, or the whole day, really, but Christopher knocks out halfway through the book, snoring against Eddie’s thigh. They tuck him in, both giving him a goodnight kiss, and head out to the living room where the markers have undoubtedly run dry. 

 

“I can go pick some more up in the morning,” Buck says after the third marker runs blank across the page. 

 

"No, it's fine. He's got more stashed in his room somewhere. I just gotta find them." Eddie stops short at one marker in particular, reaching slowly to retrieve it. It twirls along his finger, back and forth, shining red under the lights. “Hey, Buck… About earlier-”

 

He nearly crashes into the man as he turns, the two of them close enough to touch, close enough to kiss.

 

“I-” Buck scrunches his brows angrily, fighting with his voice. “It’s not just me, right? I’m not imagining this? Because I really want this, Eddie, and if it’s just my mind seeing what it wants to see-” 

 

Eddie grips Buck’s hand in his, their fingers weaving together perfectly. “You’re not imagining anything. I want this, too.”

 

Breathless relief spills from those lungs and Eddie watches that mouth lean in, until Buck drops his head entirely onto Eddie’s shoulder. 

 

“We shouldn’t. Not until Chris is better and we can really talk to him. I can’t-... I can’t have you and then watch him say no to us. I refuse to lose you like that. Either of you.”

 

Eddie trails his thumb over the back of Buck’s hand soothingly. “You won’t. No matter what, you’ll always have us, Buck. I promise.” They stay like that, wrapped in each other’s presence, for a long moment. Then, "I'm sorry I pushed you." 

 

Buck's chest bounces against his with an airy chuckle. "I forgive you. You were worried about your son."

 

"That's no excuse." 

 

"I know. But I forgive you anyways." Those arms curl around him a little tighter. "Just don't do it again." 

 

His huff is enough to dislodge the ache in his heart. Finally, when the heaviness in his eyes gets to be too much, they step away. With Buck sleeping on the couch and Eddie heading to bed, they whisper their goodnights and let their fingers slip apart. 

 

They'll be together again soon. 

 

… 

 

They decide not to rush reintroductions due to the vast amount of people Eddie realizes surround them.

 

Thursday starts with video chats with Eddie’s parents and sisters, all of them gushing over Christopher through the screen -- not that that’s anything new. Later that afternoon, Carla comes by, carrying a box of pastries from their favorite little shop in the city. She tells them that tasting all his favorite foods might trigger some memories, but neither of them miss the sly wink she sends Christopher’s way. And that’s how Carla becomes Chris’ new favorite person. 

 

Friday is reserved just for Abuela and Tia Pepa. Eddie barely cracks the door open and they’re already charging inside, smothering them both with hugs and kisses. And a certain, stupidly obvious thought never even occurs to him until Pepa takes Buck’s face in her hands, thanking him for sticking by Christopher until morning. 

 

“I wish I could have stayed with you, I really do. But these bones can’t do what they used to. Sitting in that chair all night would have gotten me admitted right next to him.” 

 

Buck just shines that billion dollar smile, looking every bit as understanding as he says he is as he brushes the matter off as nothing. That he would have been there regardless. If the two women shoot some very pointed looks at Eddie once Buck’s back is turned, well, he can only imagine what they know. 

 

The five of them gather in the dining room, Buck and Pepa competing to be the perfect host/guest as they shuffle back and forth from the kitchen to get Eddie a drink or Christopher another rolled taquito or Abuela more napkins. And Eddie wants to help. He does . This is his house and he should be doing this. But everytime he tries to get up, three sets of hands are shoving him back into his seat. 

 

“I broke my arm, not my legs! I can help!” 

 

The only reason he knows he said anything at all is because Christopher laughs when they ignore him. 

 

Come Saturday, it’s time to introduce the 118. And what better place to meet everyone than at a barbeque held by the Grant-Nash household. Christopher is a little nervous with the line of children waiting to greet him, but the tension melts quickly and he’s outside playing with them in no time. 

 

Eddie finds himself once again being shooed away from helping, Athena and Chim setting the tablecloth as Michael carries over a pile of plates. 

 

Hen knocks his good shoulder as she hands him a glass of water. “Has Christopher remembered anything yet?”

 

“Little things here and there. We haven’t left the house much, but we've been showing him pictures and videos.”

 

“He knows something bad happened at the pier.” Maddie grips Buck’s hand and squeezes. “I was flipping through my photos when he saw the ones I took on the boardwalk that day. He asked me to play the video I took of us walking... As soon as he heard all the people and machines and games, he started freaking out. He didn’t know why, though, so we tried to explain it as best we could.”

 

“It wasn’t all bad, though,” Eddie assures them. "Carla showed him videos from when we first went skateboarding. He said he could feel it in his stomach, like his gut remembered the feeling of going fast. It made him happy, even though the actual memory wasn’t there.”

 

“Maybe slow and steady is the best course of action,” Athena says, leaning against the counter. “The boy’s been through a lot these past years, both good and bad. Everything coming back at once could overwhelm the poor thing.” 

 

The sudden scream shoots through Eddie like a bolt. They’re all rushing outside in an instant. Harry and May are crouched around Christopher, hovering, and Denny stands to the side, holding Nia close. 

 

Bobby reaches them first, leaving the grill to a flustered Albert. “What happened?”

 

“I don’t know!” Harry cries. “Chris wanted to know more about his dad and Buck at work so we started telling him some of the stories you’ve told us. Nothing bad, I swear! I’m sorry ! Chris-” 

 

Eddie puts a hand on his shoulder. “Shh, it’s ok. I believe you. The doctor told us his memories could come back at any time, whether it’d be all at once or gradually. He just happened to remember something now. This isn’t your fault.” 

 

Harry nods his head and seems to understand. Karen calls for Denny and Nia, May chauffeuring Harry away, and soon the backyard is void of anyone but him, Buck, and his son. His son, who is still wound tight in a ball, breathing harshly against his knees and under his arms. It’s unclear if he’s even aware they’re there, or if he knows where he is. He’s locked himself in a bubble and they can’t be the ones to pop it. 

 

“Christopher?” No response. “Hey, mijo, it’s Dad and Buck. Don’t worry about opening your eyes, ok? Just listen to my voice. I need you to slow your breathing for me, Christopher. It’s gonna be hard and it might take you a while, but I’m gonna do it with you, alright? Breathe with me, nice and slow. I’ll count. Ready?” 

 

Eddie counts the seconds to inhale, then exhale, over and over again until the erratic stuttering of Christopher’s lungs begins to even out. When it looks like he's about to backtrack into his panic, Buck jumps in with soft words of encouragement so Eddie can continue his counts. 

 

“You’re doing so good, buddy. We’re both right here. Just follow your dad's voice. Focus on the feeling of air hitting your lungs. See if you can get that air to hit deep down towards the bottom. That means opening them up with big breaths… Good job, just like that. Feel that? You’re doing great. Keep them that big now. You got this.” 

 

Eventually, those small arms drop from around his head and he’s carefully unfurling from his ball. 

 

There’s my little man.

 

Christopher flings himself towards his dad, Eddie dragging him onto his lap and into the cocoon of his embrace. There’s a faint shuffle of grass and they turn their heads just as Buck moves to give them space. One hand squirms itself free from Eddie’s stomach and Christopher claws at the air with purpose. 

 

Bucky.”

 

Buck doesn’t need to be asked twice. He seals himself along the other side of Chris’ body, the boy meshed between the two men, safe and warm. 

 

“We’re here, Christopher. We got you. We got you.” 

 

“I know. I remember.”

 

Eddie's eyes flicker to Buck's, and he knows they're both thinking the same thing. "Everything?" Christopher nods. "Ok. It's ok. Let's head home so we can talk in private." 

 

"Buck, too?" 

 

"Yeah, kid. I won't leave you. Promise." 

 

They wave their goodbyes to everyone with a silent apology, but it's clear there's no need for one. They understand. 

 

Buck practically squeals when Eddie hands him the keys. He's asked to drive the truck more than once before, but Eddie's always taken the driver's seat. It's his truck. But today, Eddie takes the backseat, enjoying the view as he holds Chris' hand tight. 

 

They sit him on the couch once they're home, giving him a moment to process. 

 

"Christopher," Eddie starts, and he hates the way Chris is already curling in on himself. "I think we should talk about what happened Tuesday morning. Before… everything. Do you remember what I'm talking about?" 

 

"I didn't want to-go to school…"

 

"It wasn't just that, though, was it? Something happened." Eddie had called the school days ago, and as far as his teachers knew, Monday was just another normal, happy day. They even asked around his friend groups and no one knew anything about him being upset. "Can you tell me about it?" 

 

He shuffles on the couch, eyes darting to every corner of the room before he dips back into the cushions. 

 

"I was waiting for Carla to pick me up. She was a little late because of-traffic. All my friends had left." His fingers flex against the couch. "One of the older kids came up to me. She said she heard my dad was a firefighter and-that she saw on the news that a firefighter d-died over the weekend. She asked if it was you or someone you know. And I started th-inking about you and Buck and everyone at the station." 

 

Eddie shuts his eyes, defeat seeping in. "And you got scared ." 

 

"Uh huh," he sniffs. "I couldn't sleep. I kept waking up to ch-check on you but it didn't help. I was tired and just wanted to be with you so I told you I didn't-want to go to school. I wanted you to stay home with me. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I yelled and k-kicked you. It's my fault we crashed-" 

 

"Hey. No . That was not your fault. That diesel that hit us? The breaks broke and it couldn't stop. It was just an accident. And we're both alive, right? That's what matters." He pulls Christopher to his chest. "Thank you for telling me how you feel." 

 

There's really nothing more he can say. He can't promise that he'll always make it home. They've all had enough close calls to know just how dangerous their line of work can get. So, instead, he tells everyone to get changed. They're gonna spend the rest of the day in their pajamas and in a group pile on the couch. No exceptions. 

 

It's a testament to how emotionally exhausting this day has been when Christopher is passed out by sunset. 

 

"Ok," Eddie says when the credits start to roll. They let the rest of the movie play out even after Christopher fell asleep, just enjoying having him tucked between them on the couch. Now, the movie’s over and moonlight shines through the blinds. "I'm gonna go put him to bed. Be right back." 

 

Maybe it’s the way Buck holds Christopher closer so he doesn’t fall as Eddie shifts to stand. Or maybe it’s the way he smiles so sweetly down at his son as he does it. Either way, Eddie can’t stop himself from planting a lingering kiss on that rosy cheek before scooping Chris into his arms and taking off towards his room. 

 

When he gets back, the rosiness is still there, but also a thoughtfulness to his expression that wasn’t there before. His fingers are fidgeting with the corner of his pillow and he must not hear Eddie coming because he startles a bit as he steps into view. 

 

“Uh,” he shakes his head, huffing. “Sorry. Guess I zoned out for a second.”

 

“I hope I didn’t push you somewhere uncomfortable with the kiss. I kinda did it without asking.” 

 

“You didn’t. I liked it…” His eyes trace the outline of Eddie’s hand. “I was just thinking that, um, maybe I could sleep in your bed tonight.” That rosy hue burns into a deep crimson. “No funny business, of course. I still wanna wait for Chris, but… I mean today was a lot. Maybe we could both use a little touch therapy.”

 

“You’re asking me to cuddle.” The deadpan of his voice has Buck opening his mouth to try and phrase it differently, but nothing comes out. They both chuckle, Eddie biting his lip as he takes Buck’s hand in his. “Sounds good to me.”

 

He tugs Buck up and off the couch, leading them both to bed.  

 

...

 

Morning comes with soft light and a warm body next to his. Eddie blinks through blurry vision to see a very conscious Buck scrolling adamantly through his phone. 

 

“What’cha researching?” he slurs as he slides his head onto Buck’s chest. 

 

“Something special… Oh! Yes, perfect.”

 

Buck bounces out of bed, leaving Eddie to crash down into the divot of space he left behind. “Wha-?”

 

He’s tossing on a pair of jeans and his shoes, nearly tripping twice as he speaks. “I need to go but I’ll be back soon! Promise.”

 

“Where are you going?”

 

Buck just leans in, smacking a firm kiss onto Eddie’s temple before he’s on the run. “Errands! Love you! Bye!” 

 

The sound of the front door shutting shoves those words right past his morning fog and into the forefront of his mind, halting anything and everything else. He only manages to snap out of his daze when Christopher shuffles in, draping himself over his dad’s legs. 

 

He clears his voice, trying to play cool. “Hey, mijo. How’d you sleep?”

 

“Good. Can we have tortilla chips and eggs for breakfast? With cheese?”

 

“I like the way you think. I’ll get started on them right now.”

 

“Make sure the pan’s not too hot. Like Abuela showed you.”

 

Eddie rolls his eyes, ruffling his hand through Christopher’s curls. “Yes, yes. I got it. Go do your stretches and get dressed. They’ll be ready by the time you’re done.”

 

“Ok.” He doesn’t move. “Where did Buck go?”

 

A nervous ball winds in his stomach at the thought of Christopher knowing they slept in the same bed last night. “Uh, he had to go run some errands. He’ll be back later, though.”

 

“He said th-that he loved you when he left.” His chest swells at the reminder. “Do you love Buck back?”

 

“I-” Dammit, this was supposed to be a team effort. “I do.”

 

“Are you in love with him? There’s a difference.”

 

Eddie can’t take a breath without risking a scream. “Yeah... I think I am.” 

 

A wide grin blooms across Christopher’s face. “Good. I really like Bucky being here. I want him to stay.”

 

“Me too,” he sighs, the little ball in his stomach unwinding. “We should tell him that we want him to stay when he gets back.”

 

“Y-ou think he’ll say yes?”

 

Meeting that cautious smile with one of his own, he says, “I sure hope so.”

 

...

 

Keys jangle at the front door a little after noon, Buck strolling in with a bag hanging off his wrist. 

 

“Bucky!”

 

“Hey, Superman!” He pulls the boy into his arms, lifting him into a big hug. “Sorry I missed you this morning. I had to go pick up these super special presents for some super special people.”

 

“Who?” he asks, but his toothy grin tells them he already knows. 

 

Eddie scoots over as Buck kneels down to prop Chris onto the center of the couch. “You bought us gifts?” 

 

“I mean, kinda? You’ll see.” He’s still crouched to the floor when he turns to Christopher. “Mind if I give your dad his first?” The boy shakes his head so Buck reaches into the bag, pulling out a square, velvet box. 

 

Buck-...

 

A curious look crosses Buck’s face as he takes in Eddie’s stunned silence. That’s when he realizes in the scene he’s created, the box along with his current position on one knee. A bright laugh bursts from his chest, eyes sparkling in the daylight. 

 

“Hold on. It’s not that. But I’ll be sure to keep this moment in mind when we do get there.” He pops the box open. 

 

Eddie gasps, pulling it forward. “My necklace! But- Wait, the chain-” 

 

“Is different, I know. I’m sorry if you were really attached to that ball chain. But, Eddie, come on. When I went with you to get it fixed after it broke in the well, you told me it’d broken once before on that- uh, when you were in the army. And now with the accident? I had to get you an upgrade.” 

 

The thick, interwoven chain slides smoothly against his skin. “It’s beautiful.”

 

“It’s tungsten. I did some research and apparently it’s a tough metal to break. And hypoallergenic! Which means…” Buck pulls out a second box. “Here you go, Superman. This one’s for you.” 

 

Eddie watches Chris lift that lid with no shortage of excitement. He’s practically glowing at the sight. “It’s just like dad’s!” 

 

“Close,” Buck chuckles as he takes the necklace out, clipping it around Christopher’s neck. “The charm on your dad’s necklace has the seal of Saint Christopher, someone who protects travelers like your dad was when he was far away. He told me how he didn’t know if it really worked or not, but having it made him feel better because it reminded him of you.

 

“Your necklace has the seal of Saint Eustace. He helps pretty much anyone in a tough situation, but his specialty is actually helping firefighters!” Eddie can’t help but gape, his son practically jumping in his seat. “Your dad and I have a scary job and I know how helpless it can feel when you don’t know if we’re ok or not. That’s why I got this for you. I don’t know if it can protect everyone at the 118, but if it can help keep you calm when you think about us, then it’s already the best charm in the world.”

 

Christopher is off the couch and wrapped around Buck’s neck from one heartbeat to the next, and Buck hugs him back as tight as he can. 

 

Thank you, Buck. I love you.

 

“I love you, too, Chris. So much.” 

 

Eddie has only begun to contain the tears threatening to spill down his face when his son turns to him, the brightest smile on his face. “Dad! Can I use your phone to call Abuela and Tia? I wanna show them my necklace!” 

 

The words are muffled behind the raw emotions closing his throat. “ Of course , buddy. Yeah, here you go. Me and Buck are gonna go talk in the other room for a second, ok?”

 

His distracted reply is lost as Eddie grabs Buck’s hand and drags him towards the kitchen. There’s a nervous air around Buck when he faces him, but Eddie doesn’t give it a second thought, sealing their lips together as he presses Buck against the far wall. 

 

It frustrates him that only one of his hands is free to run through that hair, but he’s over it the moment Buck’s arms pull him in, pouring every ounce of love into their kiss. 

 

Eddie- ” He pushes forward again, desperate to keep their mouths close enough to touch. “ Fuck , Eddie, I love you so much. You and Chris are everything to me, I just-”

 

I love you, too. ” He’s on the verge of weeping, staring into those eyes. “God, how are you so perfect? I don’t deserve you.”

 

The puff of Buck’s chuckle breaks against his skin. “I am so far from perfect, but I’ll try every damn day to be if it means I get to be with you.”

 

“That’s my line.” The press of their lips is softer this time, undemanding, yet indulgent. “Christopher wants you to move in.”

 

Buck pulls away, but his grip never falters. “He knows about us? Since when?”

 

“Since this morning when you ran out the door yelling that you loved me.” It’s truly a sight watching that blush climb all the way up Buck’s neck and to the tips of his ears. “He ambushed me in bed. I had to spill my soul out, admitting that I was in love with you because ‘there’s a difference’.”

 

“There is.” A pause. “W- You’re really in love with me? You’re sure?” 

 

“I am,” he nods. “And you don’t-”

 

“I’m really in love with you, too.” 

 

Eddie hums, letting the warmth of the words wash over him. His eyes dip back to those lips again, leaning in. 

 

“DAD!” Christopher calls, thankfully still seated in the living room. “Abuela and Tia wanna talk to Buck so they can th-ank him for the necklaces!”

 

Eddie groans against Buck’s neck. “This should be fun. I’m pretty sure those two have known about my feelings longer than me. I’m finally starting to understand that weird look they give me whenever me or Chris talk about you.”

 

He can feel Buck's smile press into his skin. "I'm glad they weren't wrong." 

 

"Me, too." They're halfway to the living room when Eddie stops, turning back to him. "And about the moving in thing? We don't need to rush this. If you don't feel comfortable yet, we can wait." 

 

He shuffles his feet for a second, considering. "Do you want me here? Like more than just movie nights and sleepovers? I know I can be a bit-" 

 

"I want you here. You're not anything but wanted here. Understand?" Buck nods. "Ok, then." 

 

"Should I start calling you 'roomie' now or-" Eddie drags him into another kiss, relishing in the way Buck chuckles against him.

 

" ' Esposo' works, too." Eddie jerks back, hand flying to Buck's wrist as he turns to see his Abuela on screen. " Just saying." 

 

Pepa chimes in with a, " Cariño. Amor. Vida. There's plenty of options. You can even get creative-"

 

"Thank you, Tia, that's enough," Eddie whines, taking the phone from Chris. 

 

" Oh, look, Eddito's chain matches Christopher's. How beautiful. Thank you, Buck.

 

"Of course. Anything for the Diazes." 

 

Christopher apparently can't spend another minute waiting. "Are you really moving in with us?!" 

 

One glance to Eddie tells him everything he needs. "If it's ok with you, then absolutely. I'd love to live with you." 

 

Cheers erupt all around, Abuela and Pepa sending their congratulations. Buck checks his lease status that night when he's in bed next to Eddie. 

 

"Can I tell everyone the good news tomorrow when I'm at work or do you want me to wait for the next get together?" 

 

Eddie tucks himself a little close against Buck's side. "Go ahead and tell them. I'm pretty sure they already know." 

 

They did, but they say congratulations anyways.