Eddie’s phone is dead. He must have dropped it about a million times in the past, from way higher than today, but there is always that one straw that breaks the camel’s back and Eddie’s phone is well and truly dead.
He stares at the cracked glass mournfully, his own face reflected back at him in the black screen, mocking him silently.
“It’s just a phone, Eddie,” Chimney says, glancing over from across the coffee table, looking up from his book for a second.
“Oh please,” Hen says amused, rolling her eyes, “I remember when you couldn’t find yours the other day. It was only ten minutes but you nearly had a stroke.”
“Look at it this way,” Buck observes as he plops down on the couch next to Eddie, swinging his leg underneath him so he can turn almost completely towards Eddie. “It’s the perfect excuse to get the latest model.”
Leave it to Buck to find the silver lining.
“We can swing by the mall after shift,” Buck says, a smile donning his face, “Get some corn dogs while we’re at it. We’ll make a trip out of it.”
Eddie can hear Chimney snort but he doesn’t really care. Buck somehow manages to get him out of his funk no matter what. Eddie nods as he drops his useless phone on the coffee table in front of him, giving Buck a smile. “Yeah, okay,” he says and Buck’s face lights up.
Eddie’s still thinking about the latest model, wondering if the difference in price is really worth it, when Buck’s phone chimes.
“Hello,” he says, picking up without even glancing at the screen, “Yeah, that’s me.”
His eyes flicker over at Eddie instantly as he listens to the voice on the other end of the line, but the brief flash of worry Eddie can see in them disappear just as quickly and makes way for relief.
“Yeah, no, he broke his phone,” Buck explains to the person on the other end of the line, the smile returning to his face, “But he’s right here next to me if you - ” Eddie sits up a little straighter, frowning slightly at Buck. “O - okay,” Buck says, holding up his finger in the universal ‘one second’ sign. “Of course he did,” Buck huffs out a laugh, a ridiculously soft and fond look on his face, “No, it’s definitely okay. I saw Eddie sign it the other day. We’ll make sure he has a copy with him tomorrow.” Buck must be talking about Christopher, but the relaxed manner in which he replies tells Eddie he has nothing to worry about. “But he’s got permission to go, thanks so much for checking. Alright, you all have fun then. Bye.”
“Christopher?” Eddie asks as Buck hangs up the phone and settles back down on the couch, an arm swung over the back behind Eddie.
“He lost his permission slip for the museum trip today,” Buck explains, nodding, “The teacher figured it was alright since it’s never been a problem before, but they have to check anyway.”
“That kid would lose his head if it wasn’t attached to him,” Eddie says, shaking his head fondly, then places his hand on Buck’s arm for a second. “Thanks.”
Buck just shrugs. “They called you first, but…” Buck trails off, nodding his head towards Eddie’s broken phone.
“So they called you?” Hen chimes in, looking at them both through narrowed eyes.
“Yeah,” Eddie says casually.
“Wait,” Chimney puts his book down and leans forward on his elbows, exchanging a quick look with Hen. “When you don’t answer, Christopher’s school calls Buck for like… in case of emergency stuff and permission slips and what not?”
Eddie looks at Buck, finding Buck looking right back, before he turns to Chimney and Hen. “Well… yeah,” Eddie says, a little bit wary of Hen and Chimney’s scrutinous looks.
“Eddie just wanted to have someone in case he’s not immediately available,” Buck says unceremoniously, even though Eddie knows he was proud as hell when he was asked.
“And your grandmother and aunt…” Hen trails off, a smirk tugging at her lips.
“Are on the list as well,” Eddie responds, feeling his cheeks heat up a little bit.
“After Buck,” Chimney says and it doesn’t even sound like a question.
“After Buck,” Eddie confirms.
It doesn’t even register with Eddie that he’s dialing Buck’s phone number until Buck’s rough voice rings out through the speakers.
“Eddie?” Buck asks, equal parts worry and sleep.
“Shit, I’m sorry,” Eddie sighs, realizing what he’s done - and mostly at what time he’s done it - and then Christopher starts heaving again so Eddie holds him up so he can aim for the toilet bowl just in time. Eddie doesn’t quite understand how Christopher can have anything left in his stomach after everything that’s already come out yet here he is, throwing up some more as Eddie rubs his back in an attempt at comfort.
“Eddie?” Buck calls out again, rustling noises in the background, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, sorry,” Eddie says as Christopher’s stomach settles down again for a second, sobbing quietly. Eddie’s heart aches for his little boy. “I didn’t realize what time it was. I didn’t - ” He didn’t realize he was calling Buck if he’s quite honest, having done so on pure instinct.
“Day or night, you know that,” Buck says easily, like it’s a given, which unclenches something inside of Eddie’s chest. “Was that Chris?”
“Yeah,” Eddie says, trying to ignore the mess in the toilet bowl as he presses a kiss into the back of Christopher’s hair, “It’s either a stomach bug or something he ate, but he’s been throwing up for about two hours now.”
“I’ll be right over,” Buck says and Eddie thinks he can hear the metal tinkling of car keys on a chain.
“No, Buck, you don’t have to,” Eddie sighs, guilt settling in at the thought of Buck being dragged out of bed at 3 in the morning. “I’m so sorry, I just - ”
Wanted someone to lean on , is what Eddie doesn’t say. He should be able to handle this alone, and he knows that he can . He can carry his kid to the moon and back all by himself, he can do anything for him. It’s just… sometimes it feels good not to have to do it alone.
“I’m already in the car, Eddie,” Buck says, like it’s no big deal, telling Eddie there’s no use in trying to change his mind anymore.
It doesn’t take very long for Eddie to hear Buck’s key in the front door lock, the door closing again softly as footsteps make their way towards the bathroom. The light is on and the door is open, so Buck peers his head in carefully.
“Hey guys,” Buck says with a careful smile, “Party at the Diaz house?”
Eddie huffs out a laugh. He’s slumped back on the floor against the wall next to the toilet, cradling Christopher against his chest. Eddie doesn’t have to look down to know that they’re both a mess, but Buck doesn’t comment on it, doesn’t flinch or wrinkle his nose in disgust.
“Hey Buck,” Christopher says, his voice quiet and a little bit breathless, but he lifts his head to look at Buck.
Buck kneels down on the floor in front of them, his eyes solely on Christopher. “How are you feeling, buddy?” Buck asks.
“Crappy,” Christopher says with so much honesty in his voice that Eddie can’t bring himself to call him out on his language.
“I bet,” Buck says, his face twisting in empathy as he reaches out his hand to lay his palm on Christopher’s forehead.
“No fever,” Eddie says, because he knows that’s what Buck is wondering about. “I checked earlier.”
“So just the vomiting?” Buck asks, meeting Eddie’s eyes.
“And some stomach cramps,” Eddie nods, his hand rubbing soothingly over Christopher’s arms as his son buries himself a little bit deeper into Eddie’s embrace. “He hasn’t thrown up since our phone call though, which is the longest we’ve gone since it started.”
“Awww, see,” Buck says with a sweet smile directed at Christopher, “I’m bringing good vibes to the table already.” He reaches over into the cabinet to get a clean towel and a washcloth and runs the latter under the tap of the bathtub next to them. “What do you think, Chris? Can we risk putting you to bed again? Maybe with a few buckets next to you just to be sure?” He gives Christopher a wink before he asks, “Or is this your sneaky way of getting to stay up all night?”
There’s a sound that escapes Christopher’s lips that sounds a little bit like a wet chuckle and Eddie kind of wants to cry with how happy it makes him. “ Bu-uck ,” Christopher says, using the voice he does when Buck says something silly on purpose, and Buck’s smile shines so brightly Eddie thinks it might blind him.
“What do you say?” Eddie asks Chris, brushing stray hair off Christopher’s forehead, “You have to be tired, no?”
Christopher nods, his head drooping a little.
“Okay,” Buck says with way more enthusiasm than Eddie can muster up right now.
“Hang on,” Eddie tells Buck, “I pulled the sheets off of his bed, they got a bit, uh - ” The understanding look on Buck’s face tells him he doesn’t need to explain any further.
“I’ll put new sheets on,” Buck says as he gets back up on his feet, “Grab a bucket or two as well, to leave on either side of the bed. Get some new pajamas ready too. Why don’t you clean him up a bit in the meantime?”
He hands Eddie the wet washcloth and Eddie does as he’s told. He starts wiping Christopher’s face softly as Buck disappears into the hallway. He whispers reassuring nothings into Christopher’s ear as he cleans him up again so he can comfortably get back into his bed and hopefully sleep until morning. When Christopher is presentable again, Buck is back in the bathroom, holding his arms out for the exhausted kid.
“Come on, bud,” Buck says as Eddie hands him over gently. Christopher curls into Buck’s arms instantly. “I’ve got fresh sheets and clean PJs waiting for you,” he whispers into Christopher’s slightly damp hair.
“Thanks, Buck,” Eddie whispers back, getting up off the floor, ready to follow them into Christopher’s bedroom.
“Those look ready for the laundry as well,” Buck says with a soft smile as he nods at Eddie’s shirt. “You wanna clean up while I get him settled back into bed?”
Eddie squeezes his eyes shut for a moment, inhaling slowly before saying, “You’re a gift from heaven, Buckley.” He leans into Christopher and presses a kiss into his curls before he can do anything stupid like, say, press that kiss onto Buck’s lips.
Buck disappears out the door again, arms wrapped safely around Christopher and Eddie pulls off his shirt - which did get a bit icky while manhandling Christopher and his sick - and throws it into the laundry basket. He steps out of his pajama bottoms as well, just to be sure and runs some water over his face. By the time he’s cleaned up, in fresh bottoms and a shirt and makes his way towards Christopher’s room, he finds his son curled into Buck, who is sitting at the head of the bed.
“Everything okay?” Eddie whispers at Buck, even though he was gone only a few minutes and he would have heard any major disasters.
Buck nods as Christopher stirs but keeps his eyes closed, mumbling out, “Daddy.”
“I’m here, baby,” Eddie says, hurrying over to the other side of Christopher’s bed and resting his hand in Christopher’s hair. “How are you feeling?”
“Can you stay?” Christopher asks, and Eddie is already sliding onto the bed, shoving the pillow Buck hands him behind his back so he can lie down more comfortably.
“Of course,” Eddie whispers and Christopher moves onto his other side, leaning into Eddie now.
“Both of you?” Christopher asks, and Eddie can see his little hand holding onto Buck’s behind him, tugging Buck a little bit closer.
Buck’s eyes meet Eddie’s over Christopher’s prone body, like he’s asking for permission - as if Eddie is ever going to say no. He just nods and pulls up the blanket up to Christopher and Buck’s hips as Buck scoots down a little in the bed, settling down on Christopher’s other side.
Christopher snores softly, his face pressed into Eddie’s shirt, already asleep as his hand still grips Buck’s.
“You do realize we might very well wake up with puke all over us, right?” Eddie whispers as he seeks out Buck’s eyes again.
Buck’s smile is soft, half pressed into his pillow. He shrugs his shoulder minutely so that it doesn’t jostle Christopher’s hand.
“I’m sure you’ve got a spare shirt lying around for me somewhere,” Buck just says quietly, seemingly not bothered by the thought of a kid’s vomit all over him in the middle of the night.
Eddie knows that if he just closes his eyes, Buck will too and they will fall asleep in no time and Buck won’t press him for anything else. Buck isn’t expecting an explanation from him but Eddie can’t help but say, “I didn’t even realize I was calling you, to be honest.” He sighs. Buck could be fast asleep in his own bed right now, not dealing with Eddie’s parental stuff. “I shouldn’t have.”
“Are you glad I’m here?” Buck asks, blinking softly at Eddie.
“Yeah,” Eddie breathes out, resting his hand on top of Christopher’s and Buck’s.
“Then you totally should have,” Buck simply says.
Christopher’s in bed and Buck is returning from a trip to the bathroom when Eddie takes the folder out of the drawer, opening it quickly to glance at the papers inside - as if they could have gone anywhere since Eddie put them in there - and puts the folder down on the table. His hands are shaking slightly, something Buck seems to pick up on as keeps the smile on his face but asks tentatively, “You okay?”
“Yeah, uh,” Eddie says, pointing at the chair at the other side of the table, “Could we have a talk?”
The smile fades from Buck’s face instantly, his features suddenly troubled and anxious, and Eddie curses himself for it.
“It’s nothing bad!” He rushes to reassure Buck, lame as it sounds.
“Okay…” Buck says warily, taking a seat opposite Eddie.
“I just wanna ask you something, I - ” Eddie exhales sharply, undeniably nervous and clearly rubbing off on Buck, who has gone motionless in his seat, looking at Eddie with distraught eyes. “I swear, it’s good. It’s positive,” he tries to lighten the mood.
“Have you tried telling that to your face?” Buck asks, a grimace on his own.
“Fair enough,” Eddie huffs out, slumping his shoulders a little bit. There is no turning back now, not that Eddie really wants to. “I just want to ask you something,” Eddie says, his fingers fumbling with the edges of the folder, “And it’s kinda big, and I want you to know that it is absolutely fine for you to say no, or maybe, or that you want to think about it.”
“Are you dying?” Buck asks, his eyes wide as Eddie’s face snaps up to look at him. How did Buck even get that from what Eddie is saying? Then his eyes go even wider as he blurts out, “Are you asking me to marry you?”
Eddie can’t help the snort that escapes him. “Buck…” he says, shaking his head, “Wouldn’t we have to be dating for that?” Eddie kind of ignores the way Buck’s neck flushes red all the way up to his cheeks, because if he lingers too long on that he’s never going to be able to say what he wants to say. “And no, I’m not dying,” Eddie adds for good measure, because he’s pretty sure Buck’s brain will get stuck on that if he doesn’t give a clear answer.
“Okay,” Buck says, swallowing visibly, “That’s good to know.”
“But I guess - ” Eddie starts, placing his palm on the folder as if it’s going to ground him in some way, “You never know what’s going to happen, and with Shannon gone… Something can happen to me, I can be - temporarily out of commission. Or permanently. I mean, with the job that we do - ”
Buck’s face falls, his lips parted slightly as he looks at Eddie with sad eyes. “Eddie,” Buck says, almost a whisper, “Are you quitting the job?”
Even if he was, Eddie thinks that Buck’s grief stricken face would be enough to change his mind again. But the truth of the matter is that Eddie knows that this is what he is meant to do; Christopher is proud of his father and neither one of them would be happier with Eddie doing some stuffy nine to five desk job, even though Eddie’s life might not be in danger quite so often he wouldn’t be truly living either.
“No, Buck, I’m staying,” Eddie says and the color returns to Buck’s face almost instantly. “But if anything happens to me,” Eddie goes on, sighing, “Christopher’s life is here, in LA. And I know that my parents love him to no end, but they’d take him back to El Paso and that’s just… It’s not what I want for him. Our life, his school, his friends, the firehouse, Carla, it’s all here. If I’m gone, I don’t want that to be taken away from him as well.”
“Yeah,” Buck says contemplatively, nodding, “That makes sense. Abuela and Pepa…”
“They’d be here for him, of course,” Eddie nods, “They’re family, they love him. He loves them.”
It’s not that Eddie has never thought of them, but the truth of the matter is that they both are of a certain age - especially Abuela - and while Eddie is sure that they would do everything they could to give Christopher the best life possible, Eddie is even more sure of the decision he ended up making.
“The thing is, Buck,” Eddie says, his hand nervously rubbing over his mouth, “What I would really want, what I think would make Christopher the happiest - is you.”
“Of course I’d be there for him, Eddie,” Buck says, the words falling out of his mouth like it’s the easiest confession in the world, “I wouldn’t just disappear out of his life. I would do everything I could for him, but Eddie, you’re not gonna go and die on us, alright?”
“No, I know that,” Eddie says, solemnly, “But it can happen and I just want to have something official, so that I know it’s taken care of, that Christopher is taken care of.”
“Okay,” Buck nods, frowning a little bit, “Well, I’m sure a lawyer or a notary or something can fix up those kinds of papers. I don’t really know… Like, make an appointment, have Abuela and Pepa go with you to sign, I don’t know?” His face perks up as he takes out his phone. “I can Google it - ”
“Buck,” Eddie says, and he can’t help the smile on his face as he reaches out his hand and presses it on top of Buck’s, guiding them to put the phone down on the table. “I have the papers already.” He grips the folder tightly. “I have them here.”
Buck’s face twists in another frown, eyebrows knitting together in confusion. “Then why do you - ”
“I’m asking you , Buck,” Eddie says, clearly, decidedly, “If I die, or if I’m in a coma or otherwise medically incapable of taking care of Christopher, I’m asking you to be there for him. To be his legal guardian.”
Buck opens his mouth but all that comes out is a click where his throat contracts. His eyes are fixed on Eddie, big and full of shock and if Eddie didn’t know that Buck could handle whatever comes his way he would think he might have broken him.
“This is a big thing to ask of you, I know that,” Eddie says, the nail of his thumb scratching over the surface of the folder, “And if it’s too much, I want you to just be honest with me and I will totally understand. It’s a huge responsibility, one that you didn’t ask for. But I mean it when I say that there is nobody in this world that I trust more with him than you. Nobody that I believe will take better care of him, will love him more. You’re - I mean, you’re basically a dad to him already and - ”
Eddie cuts himself off when he sees the tears in Buck’s eyes, glistening over his expression of wonder. His lips are slightly parted and Eddie isn’t sure he’s taking any breaths at all. The mere sight of Buck’s tears is enough to make Eddie’s eyes sting as well, a shaky breath leaving him as the tension and nerves build inside him. The truth of the matter is that Eddie knows he’ll be crushed if Buck says no, even though he would understand. What he’s asking of Buck is probably the biggest thing he could ever ask for, a responsibility unlike anything Buck has encountered before and yet Eddie has never been more sure of the fact that asking Buck is the right thing to do. He can feel with every fiber of his being that Buck loves Christopher the way a parent loves their kid.
“Does Chris - ?” Buck stammers, his voice small and wavering in the otherwise silent room.
“He doesn’t know,” Eddie says, shaking his head, bracing himself for rejection. The last thing Eddie wanted was to guilt Buck into accepting by using Christopher’s disappointment against him. “I didn’t want to break his heart if you said no. I know how happy he’d be…”
“But Eddie…” Buck says, his breaths now getting heavy, “I’m me .”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Eddie frowns, regarding Buck in shock.
“I - I’m not enough,” Buck says, his face scrunched together in a sort of agony that smashes Eddie’s heart into a million pieces. He knows how Buck feels about himself, the low self-esteem he has and yet it can break Eddie’s heart a thousand times over.
“Buck,” Eddie says, his hand reaching out to cover Buck’s. He waits until Buck’s eyes meet his own before continuing, “Not only are you enough, you are the one I choose. I am talking about raising my kid, the most precious person in the world to me, my everything. With Shannon gone - ” He swallows hard. Of course there was Shannon. Despite everything that happened, Shannon was his mother and she loved Christopher more than anything in the world, was good for Christopher, and of course Eddie wishes that she could have been there for Christopher for so many more years. “For me, for Christopher…” Eddie goes on, “There’s only you and me.”
Eddie can feel Buck’s fingers twitch underneath his palm, can see his lips tremble, his eyes spill over with silent tears.
“If you’ll say yes,” Eddie adds quietly, his own heart beat loud in his ears.
“Yes,” Buck breathes out, determined, without hesitation this time and Eddie feels like all the oxygen has returned to the room in one dizzying woosh.
Buck is out of his chair then, his hand slipped out from underneath Eddie’s and before Eddie knows it he’s being pulled up and into a bone crushing hug, arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders as a wet face is pressed into his neck.
“Yes,” Buck says again, muffled by sobs and Eddie’s skin.
“Yes,” Eddie echoes, squeezing his arms around Buck’s frame, feeling like the weight of the world has been lifted off his shoulders.
When Eddie hears the front door open, he expects to hear giggling or conspiring whispers like he usually does when Buck and Christopher go out together. What he doesn’t expect is for the door to slam shut with a bang and Buck to call out, “Hey!” as the clickety clack of Christopher’s crutches approach the living room rapidly.
“Chris!” Buck calls out from the hallway as Christopher comes into Eddie’s view, a cloud hanging over his face as he lets himself fall down onto the couch, throwing his crutches to the floor loudly.
“Hey!” Eddie says as well, reaching down to pick up the crutches just as Buck enters the room.
Christopher resolutely does not look at Buck, instead huffs out angrily as he sinks a little deeper into the couch, which is not something Eddie sees him do a lot. Then again, he’s never actually seen Christopher be angry with Buck of all people.
“Chris, come on,” Buck says, clicking his tongue before letting out a sigh.
“You promised!” Christopher calls out, indignant.
“I promised on the condition that you would be good!” Buck says, not following Christopher’s example of raising his voice, instead staying calm but firm. “You didn’t hold up to your end of the bargain, buddy and you know it.”
“Dad!” Christopher says, turning towards Eddie with a wronged look in his eyes, clearly hoping to find some support there.
“Okay, what’s going on here?” Eddie asks, looking from Christopher to Buck.
“Buck said we’d get ice cream after PT but we didn’t!” Christopher huffs out. “And he wouldn’t let me pet the puppy!”
Eddie frowns, Christopher’s explanation not really helping with his confusion. Eddie would think that Buck would be the first to pet puppies - though where the puppy came from Eddie has no idea - so there has to be some kind of clarification. He looks over at Buck expectantly.
“It was a service dog,” Buck tells Eddie.
“Ah,” Eddie says, the first piece of the puzzle making sense already.
“We came out of PT. He did great there, by the way,” Buck says poignantly, throwing Christopher an olive branch, “And there was this woman with a service dog - ”
“I just wanted to say hi,” Christopher mutters, sadly.
“But I told you what he was, Chris,” Buck says, clearly not for the first time, “I explained to you why we can’t just touch service animals, even if they’re cute and cuddly. And you just ignored me and did so anyway.”
Eddie only needs to take one look at Buck to know that he’s obviously torn up about Christopher being so angry at him. Christopher himself isn’t looking too cheerful either, still directing his angry scowl at Buck and Eddie would love to just hug both boys and magically make them feel better, but that wouldn’t help Christopher in the future at all.
Even if Eddie didn’t blindly trust Buck already, the fact that Christopher isn’t disputing Buck’s version of the facts makes it undoubtedly clear that the picture they’ve painted for Eddie is an accurate one.
“That’s not okay, Chris,” Eddie says, sitting down on the coffee table in front of Christopher.
“But Dad - !” Christopher starts.
“You weren’t allowed to pet that dog and Buck told you so,” Eddie says, “And he explained to you why.”
“He promised we’d go for ice cream!” Christopher says, his voice high pitched, working himself up in a full blown tantrum.
Buck sighs, rubbing his hands over his face and seemingly looking more and more unsure of himself by the second.
“Listen bud, when you’re out with Buck, Buck is the boss,” Eddie explains, because he feels like he needs to make things unambiguously clear for the both of them. “He makes the decisions and you have to listen to him. And from what I’m hearing here, Buck was one hundred percent right in his judgment. If you go and do something that he specifically tells you not to do, then you definitely don’t deserve ice cream afterwards.”
“It’s not fair,” Christopher says as he pushes himself off the couch in a huff, making a beeline towards the hallway and screaming at Buck on the way there, “You’re not my father!”
Buck recoils at the words, visibly flinching as the hurt twists on his face.
“ Christopher! ” Eddie calls after his son, leaping up from where he is sitting.
“Eddie, I swear I didn’t overreact,” Buck says, almost frantic, catching Eddie’s arm with his hand on the way to Christopher’s bedroom. “I explained why it’s not okay to touch service animals when he saw the dog. The lady just looked uncomfortable so I didn’t want to ask either - ”
“Buck,” Eddie says, gripping both hands on Buck’s arms in what he hopes is a reassuring manner. “I believe you. You made the right decision. This isn’t on you.”
“But Chris - ” Buck sighs, his eyes drooping.
“He’s a kid,” Eddie states, “This is how kids react sometimes, even when they know damn well they’re in the wrong. You think he’s never yelled at me before? Said nasty things he immediately regretted but stubbornly pushed on anyway?”
Buck shrugs, looking a little bit lost and a whole lot sad.
“Listen, I’m gonna go and have a word with him, okay?” Eddie says, trying to seek out Buck’s eyes. “Will you do me a favor? Just grab yourself something to drink, sit down and relax a bit, and Chris will be out here apologizing to you in no time, okay?”
“He doesn’t have to - ” Buck starts, shaking his head mournfully.
“Yes, he does,” Eddie says firmly, “You did nothing wrong here, Buck. I need you to know that.”
Buck swallows and nods, his eyes cast down at the floor.
“Just don’t leave, okay? We’re gonna fix this,” Eddie says and before he truly realizes what he’s doing, he’s got one hand cupped behind Buck’s head and he’s pressing his lips softly against Buck’s temple before he’s heading out towards Christopher’s bedroom.
The weather is nice and the smell of the barbecue fills Eddie’s lungs, awaking his appetite. Bobby and Michael are working the grill, David standing behind Michael, his arms wrapped around the other man’s middle and his chin hooked over Michael’s shoulder. Eddie’s only ever seen David once or twice before, but he seems like a good guy and he definitely makes Michael happy. Which in turn makes Athena happy and when Athena’s happy, everyone’s happy.
“You know,” Hen starts, pulling Eddie’s attention back, “I’d say we’re insane for spending pretty much all of our free time with the people we’re already doing endless shifts with at work, but we’ve got a pretty good thing going on here, don’t we?”
Eddie can’t help but smile as he looks over at where Christopher, Denny, and Harry are sitting in the grass a few feet away, playing together. He nods. “Yeah, this really isn’t half bad.” His eyes slide over to where Karen is just handing Nia over to Buck, who instantly smiles broadly and bounces Nia up in the air. Nia giggles loudly, almost hiccuping in the excitement. There’s a warmth spreading inside of Eddie’s chest that has nothing to do with the sun beating down on him.
When he looks back over at Hen, she gives him a knowing look that Eddie isn’t quite sure he’s ready to talk about yet. Instead he looks back down at the boys and listens to their conversation.
“Dad’s an okay cook,” Harry says, busying himself in their game, “But Bobby’s really good. He tries to make me help though.” The wrinkle in Harry’s nose tells Eddie that Harry isn’t exactly an aspiring cook.
“You’ve got a lot of parents,” Denny comments, no judgment in his voice. He’s sounding a little bit impressed even.
Hen can’t help but snort, sharing another look with Eddie.
“These kids can’t say they don’t know diversity,” Eddie remarks softly, accompanied by a shrug.
“Wouldn’t want it any other way, to be honest,” Hen says, sipping from her glass.
Eddie can’t disagree.
“My Mom makes the best mac and cheese,” Denny tells his friends and Eddie glances at Hen questioningly, only to find her shake her head in response. So not Hen, but Karen then.
“My Dad is good at a lot of things,” Christopher interjects and Eddie’s heart swells before he hears his son add, “But cooking really isn’t one of them.”
Hen almost chokes in her drink, fingers lapping up some of the liquid that came spitting out as Eddie just gives her a look.
“But Buck is really good,” Christopher goes on, seemingly not noticing the two adults following their conversation. “And he always makes my favorites.”
“Does he make you do the dishes?” Harry asks, somewhat disgruntled, “My Mom always makes me do the dishes.”
“Nah,” Christopher says, “But he makes me set the table though.”
“Yeah…” Denny sighs solemnly as he shakes his head, like he’s commiserating with Christopher, “Parents make you do stuff like that.”
The words combined with Hen’s now scrutinous gaze on him makes Eddie’s cheeks heat up a bit and he doesn’t even know why. It’s not as if Eddie doesn’t realize he’s not raising his son alone anymore. It’s not as if it hasn’t been explicitly named, with Buck, and with Christopher. It’s the implication of what that means for Eddie and Buck’s relationship.
“He’s a good Dad,” Hen says softly, not needing to specify who she’s talking about.
“He is,” Eddie confirms, and even though he has absolutely no merit in it he still feels pride swell in his chest. He looks down at the kids again, who are moving on to other topics.
“Eddie,” Hen says, taking a step closer to him until Eddie faces her. “He’d make a good partner too.”
Eddie swallows, presses his lips together. Hen’s face is open, regarding him with fondness. She’s not teasing or flippant. Not putting any pressure on him, just giving him an opening.
“He already is,” Eddie says, knowing it’s a cop-out, even if it is the truth.
“And that’s safe, right?” Hen says understanding.
“Is that so wrong?” Eddie asks, frowning at her.
“Not at all,” she says, shaking her head, contemplative, “You’ve both been through a lot. Chris too. I think it’s normal to just want to hang on to that familiarity that you have, the certainty of it. It makes you happy too, to have that safety rope.”
“ But? ” Eddie asks, raising his eyebrow at her, because surely that can’t be the end of her little speech.
Hen smirks softly, knocks her shoulder gently against his.
“Look at him,” Hen says, nodding her head across the lawn to where Buck is now talking to Chimney and Maddie. The sunlight is hitting his face, coloring his skin a soft pink, reflecting in his bright blue eyes. He’s smiling at something Chimney says, full lips - the same color as the mark above his eye - framing white teeth. His shirt is white too and probably a size too small but nobody’s complaining, least of all Eddie.
“What do you see?” Hen asks, coaxing him, and then Buck looks over at them, catching them watching him and his eyes lock with Eddie’s as his exuberant smile makes way for something a lot more delicate, more private. The edge of Buck’s mouth twitches as his eyes go soft, never leaving Eddie’s.
There’s noise and movement around the yard, kids playing, people talking, some music in the background. Nia is running around excitedly, being chased by May. Bobby and Michael are laughing loudly over by the grill. But everything mutes in Eddie’s ears, all the movement seemingly slowing down, everything out of focus but Buck.
“You can have that,” Hen says, leaning into him slightly, “All of it.”
As Eddie makes his way from the bathroom - that shower was everything he needed after the shift they’ve had - to the living room he sneaks a peek into Christopher’s room. He doesn’t interrupt the Zoom call he’s got going on with Eddie’s parents. If Eddie’s quite honest he doesn’t really feel up to chatting with them, so he just quietly makes his way towards the living room where he knows Buck will be waiting.
Christopher wanted to do a movie night - Buck has a standing invitation - and normally Buck would be cooking but their shift was rough and ran late, so before leaving the fire house they had already decided on delivery from the pizza place Eddie likes so much. Which is who Buck is currently on the phone with.
“Will that be all?” The disembodied voice asks over the speakers of Buck’s phone as Buck is shuffling on his knees, reaching his arm out under the couch to grab at something that must have rolled under.
“Oh, garlic bread!” Buck calls out, straightening up again as he holds out a pen - the elusive object that got away from him - and drops it down on the coffee table next to the phone and a little piece of paper that has their order on it. Eddie is standing in the doorway slightly behind Buck, not wanting to interrupt the call as Buck gives out Eddie’s address.
“And the name on the order?” The woman over the phone asks.
“Buck,” Buck says automatically, then adds, “Uh, Diaz.”
“Alright,” The perky voice over the phone repeats, “Buck Diaz. It’ll be between thirty and forty-five minutes.”
“Thanks,” Buck says, and the way Buck doesn’t bother correcting the name unfurls a warmth inside of Eddie.
Buck is smiling as he gets up off the floor, swiping his finger over the screen to end the call and...
He freezes a little bit when he sees Eddie observing the scene.
“Uhm,” Buck says, like he’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, as if Eddie’s cookie jar isn’t also Buck’s. “The doorbell. It, uh, says Diaz.” He says in way of an explanation, waving his hand in the direction of the front door.
“It does,” Eddie nods, his shoulder leaning against the doorframe, his eyes fixed on Buck.
“So…” Buck trails off.
“I don’t know what I would do without you,” Eddie says, unexpected, but seeded in a truth that Eddie can no longer deny. He feels like every inch of love he has for Buck is threatening to spill out if he tries to contain it any longer.
Of course Buck would find a way to understand it incorrectly. His eyes cast down to the floor, his stance shifting a little uncomfortably. “If I’m overstepping…” he trails off, a frown forming on his face.
“Buck,” Eddie says, taking a step closer towards him, “I don’t think you could.”
Buck lets out a self-deprecating huff, puts on a smile so weak Eddie can see right through it. “You don’t know me then.”
“Except that I do,” Eddie says wondrously, his hand finding the spot on Buck’s shoulder where it fits perfectly into the curve. “And that’s the thing, isn’t it?”
Buck dares to look up at him then, his head still ducked, expressive eyes barely hidden behind glorious lashes.
“These lines that friends are supposed to have between them,” Eddie says, his voice hardly a whisper, “Those unwritten rules of how you’re not supposed to cross them…”
“Y - you want to cross them?” Buck asks, and Eddie can only pray that he’s not imagining the sliver of hope in Buck’s voice.
“There are none,” Eddie says, his thumb leisurely traveling over Buck’s pulse point, feeling his own heartbeat copied in it. “When I look at you and me, there are no lines between us.”
Buck lets out a shaky breath, the corner of his mouth curling up.
“No lines,” he whispers, like he needs the confirmation, like he needs the assurance that Eddie knows now is the time to pull away if he wants to. But Eddie only wants to get closer. So when Buck’s hands settle above Eddie’s hips, Eddie leans in without conscious thought and then there is only Buck.
Buck’s kiss is soft, his lips a featherlight touch against Eddie’s, but Eddie has never felt anything more powerful. His hand snakes around the back of Buck’s neck, his mouth brushing over Buck’s, barely touching, sparking tingles all the way down Eddie’s body. His chest is pressed against Buck’s, Buck’s arms now firmly around Eddie’s waist, Buck’s weight solid against him as Eddie tilts his head just right and Buck’s full bottom lip slides in between Eddie’s.
Buck sways against Eddie, inhales sharply through his nose as his arms tighten around Eddie’s waist, pulling him up and impossibly closer. The two inches that Buck has on him is new to Eddie, giving him an angle he’s not used to but will easily adapt to as Eddie sucks Buck’s lip between his before parting them and then he can taste Buck’s tongue against his, can swallow the groan that escapes them and makes his way down to the pit of Eddie’s stomach, igniting a fire that has been smoldering there for too long. Maybe ever since he met Buck.
Eddie can feel Buck’s fingers grip in the back of his shirt, at the small of Eddie’s back, desperately holding him close. Eddie wants to tell Buck he’s not going anywhere, wants to whisper in Buck’s ear that this is it, that Eddie won’t go far even if Buck lets go. But that would require Eddie to pull his mouth away from Buck’s and it’s not a sacrifice Eddie is willing to make.
He has no choice when Christopher’s voice breaks them apart though.
“So you’re doing that now, huh?” Christopher says, not sounding the least bit surprised or upset.
It’s enough for Buck to yelp as he pulls back in a hurry, his lips red and swollen, his eyes glazed over and his hair somehow a mess, even though Eddie’s pretty sure he didn’t even touch it.
Eddie has to tear his eyes away from the disheveled sight, clearing his throat as he watches Christopher totter towards the kitchen.
“Good talk with the Abuelos?” Eddie asks, trying to chase the roughness from his voice.
Buck shoves an elbow in his side, giving him one of those looks and Eddie sighs, not waiting for Christopher to respond. “Are you okay with this, Chris?” he asks instead as they both follow the kid into the kitchen, his tongue swiping over his bottom lip quickly and still tasting Buck. “That we’re uhm - doing this now?”
“That’s cool,” Christopher says breezily, closing the fridge door behind him as he turns towards them. Eddie doesn’t comment on the can of orange soda he’s holding in his hands - without having asked first. If they’re going to have pizza, he might as well have soda to go with it. “Chimney’s been asking me if you guys don’t already secretly do that anyway.”
“What?” Eddie exclaims, already scheduling a talk with Chimney first chance he gets.
Buck just laughs. “And what did you tell him?” Buck asks.
“That I didn’t think so,” Christopher says, frowning, handing the can over to Buck who opens it for him. “I mean, I’ve never seen you do that before, so…” He shrugs, then accepts the soda out of Buck’s hand and takes a sip.
“We hadn’t,” Eddie says, not that he wants to give his son all of the details of his and Buck’s relationship, but he doesn’t want him to think he’s been hiding this kind of thing for Christopher either.
“Oh,” Christopher says, contemplative, “Did I ruin it?”
“No!” Eddie is quick to say, reaching out to Christopher and putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder, “Absolutely not. You didn't ruin anything.”
“Does this mean you’re still gonna play games with me and stuff?” Christopher asks, thoughtful, looking between the two of them. “Or are you just going to be kissing each other from now on?”
“No, buddy,” Buck says instantly, his voice gentle and reassuring, “We’re gonna keep doing all kinds of stuff with you! Like movies and the arcade and the pier and we were gonna go to the theme park soon, right?”
Christopher nods, happily.
“And we’ll play video games and draw together and build your legos and all that stuff,” Eddie interjects, “Buck will just be here a lot.”
“So basically how it’s always been,” Christopher concludes, hitting the nail on the head.
“Pretty much,” Eddie says, a relieved smile on his face that he sees mirrored in Buck’s.
Then Buck leans forward and drops a kiss to the top of Christopher’s head. Christopher laughs, rolling his eyes as he starts making his way back towards the living room again. “It’s not me you have to kiss, Buck!” he says with an exaggerated sigh. “Go kiss Daddy some more before the pizza gets here,” making it clear in no uncertain terms that the pizza will not wait for anything.
They both stare at Christopher’s retreating form.
“I think we got his blessing,” Eddie says, just a little bit stunned.
When he meets Buck’s eyes, he’s only a little surprised to see them damp. His hand finds Buck’s upper arm easily, squeezing gently.
“You okay?” he asks softly.
Buck presses his lips together, scrunches his face for a second as he blinks rapidly. Then he smiles and a floodgate of emotions wash over Eddie.
“He just - ” Buck says, his throat clicking, waving his hand in the direction of the living room, “Accepts me?”
Eddie leans into Buck, his hand finding purchase behind Buck’s ear, thumb rubbing over his cheek as he presses a kiss in Buck’s hair.
“You were accepted a long time ago, Buck,” Eddie whispers, reveling in the fact that Buck’s head goes lax into Eddie’s touch, tilting against Eddie’s. “You were a part of this family a long time ago.”
“No lines?” Buck asks, fingers coming up to hold onto Eddie.
“Nothing between us,” Eddie whispers, closing his eyes as Buck’s lips find his again.