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High Hopes

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5 +1 Ana tried to parent and the one time she didn't have to. 

Ana and Eddie had been together for seven months when she decided that maybe they were getting more serious and decided that she needed to be more hands on with Christopher. As a teacher, she has ample experience disciplining and encouraging kids. Now that she had her PH.D in Education and a vice principal, it was time to flex those muscles. 


(Little did she know that Buck was already the other parent, and she would find out that she could not compare.) 




The first time she saw an opportunity was when she arrived for a quiet dinner date at Eddie's house and Eddie (and Buck, boy did she not expect him to be there) put Christopher to bed. She wanted in on the bedtime ritual, but the literal ray of sunshine had clouds over his head at the thought of her helping. So she sat in the living room on the couch, while the two men put the kid to bed. Ana fully believed Buck would leave immediately after, and she spotted Eddie coming from Christopher's room and no said best friend. 


"Where's Buck? I thought he would be leaving after bedtime." she said, as Eddie approached her. He tilted his head like a confused puppy. 


"Uh, no he's staying the night. He usually does this time of year." 


This time of year? she thought and voiced her thought,"What do you mean this time of year?" 


"It's the anniversary of the tsunami in a couple days and I refuse to let them out of my sight. We even have the next two days off work because the nightmares come back in full force." Eddie said, sitting down and putting his arm on the couch. Ana took that as a sign to cuddle with him, so she leaned against him, head on his shoulder.

"You know studies have shown that kids don't need coddling after nightmares after a certain age. I'm sure Christopher would be alright if Buck went back to his place." She felt Eddie freeze for a moment and she didn't think overstepped. Christopher was big enough to not have his dad come running after a nightmare. That's all they were: nightmares. 


"You have no idea what those two went through that day. It took Christopher months to not wake up every night screaming for Buck. I had no idea how bad Buck's were until I slept over and he woke up screaming for Christopher." Eddie's tone changed, "You don't get to decide if I go comfort Chris or not. I do, and Buck is going to sleep in my room." 


Ana flinched and stared at her boyfriend. "Why is he staying over?" 


The firefighter withdrew his arm and scooted away from her. "Did you not hear what I just said? I won't get Christopher to sleep without Buck close by and vice versa. Usually he would sleep here on the couch, but we are here." 


"We can always go to your room…" she replied in a sultry tone. They hadn't had sex yet and she was hoping one of these nights they would. She tried to get him to sleep with her on the date where she helped him with math, but he said he needed to go relieve Buck. 


"Buck had a difficult shift and since he's been having nightmares, I would rather not disturb him," he replied firmly. "Instead of me calling him and him driving over here, I told him he can stay and I prefer it that way." 


Ana sat there stunned. What grown adult has nightmares so badly he needs to sleep at his best friend's house? And in said best friend's bed. 


"He does the same thing when it comes up to the anniversary of why I received my silver star. It's what we do." 


Did she say that out loud? "Obviously, you don't have experience with children's nightmares. Shouldn't he be over the tsunami?" 


"How anyone can be over what happened that day is beyond me. Sometimes I have nightmares about what we saw that day. You aren't a first responder and you probably haven't lived through any trauma so you don't know how it gets." Eddie stood up, brushing off his pants. "I'll be right back." 


Ana sat there, half watching the movie wondering where she went wrong. Eddie came back and sat on the opposite end of the couch with popcorn and a beer. She made him mad and now he didn't want to be near her. 


That was not her plan when she brought up the studies she read. "Edmundo, I'm sorry. I was just stating some facts I read." 


"I accept your apology but it doesn't make it right for Christopher, Buck or myself. Maybe you should go." Edmundo's eyes kept straying toward his son's room when she moved herself closer. 


"I won't mention it again, and I should stay." Her boyfriend sighed and nodded his assent, but did not move to allow her to cuddle against him again. She sat there curled up watching the movie, feeling like she was miles away from him. 


It was toward the end of the movie when a cry came from Christopher's room and he started wailing. "Buck! Where's Buck!" She had never seen Edmundo move so fast when another cry of "Christopher!" came from the other room. She got up, thinking maybe a woman's touch could help settle Christopher when Buck came running to the child's room in front of her. She was about to approach Christopher when he saw her and turned away from her. 


"No! I don't want her here, Daddy!" Ana gasped and moved when Buck barrelled into the room beside her and collapsed next to the small bed. Edmundo was already holding his son, when he grabbed Buck's wrist and pulled him next to them. Ana again, thinking the child needed a woman's touch, stepped in the room when her boyfriend motioned her to stop. Buck encircled them, taking deep breaths, and murmured to the other occupants. "It's ok. We are here, the water can't touch us." over and over again. 


She met Edmundo's eyes and he just jerked his head toward the front door. She sighed, walking toward the living room and grabbed her purse. Things were never going to progress if Buck kept taking on the other parental role. 


2) Homework 


The longer she stays with Eddie the more she notices things about Christopher that concern her. She had him in her class last year and he did exceptionally well but she knew that some areas were more difficult for him. 


The former teacher usually arrived at Edmundo's house around 6 or 7pm depending on various meetings or plans she had. Every single time, she noticed Christopher was either playing in his room or watching a show in the living room. Most of the children she taught didn't finish their homework right away. Usually it's Christopher's home health aid that answers the door when she knocks, and today was no different because Carla smiles at her. 


"Eddie won't be home for another couple hours. You might want to come back then." Ana's jaw dropped. 


"Oh no, I can stay and maybe help Christopher with his homework. I was his teacher so I can help in any way." 


"Ah. Honey, I hate to say this but Christopher has completed all his homework already, and is playing a video game." Carla said, moving to close the door behind her. "And he has all the help he needs. If he gets stuck, he asks for either Buck's or my help." 


Buck again. Everytime she comes around, he's either there or running out the door yelling he loves the Diaz boys. He is nice and courteous any time she's here for dinner but it's like she's the other woman. "Oh is Buck here also?" 


"No, no. Eddie and him got stuck working a big fire and their shift ran over. Buck texted to let me know I needed to stay a few more hours." Carla replied, stepping into the living room. "Chris, look who's here." 


"Is it Buck? He was supposed to be home with Dad hours ago!" Christopher replied, not looking away from his video game. 


"It's Miss Flores, Christopher." Ana said, stepping in front of the television. "Don't you have homework to do instead of playing this?" 


"Nope! I finished it already. Can you move please?" Carla chuckled behind her. Ana was sure he still had homework especially since he was in the 5th grade now. 


"Don't be rude, Christopher and tell me the truth!" the 10 year old in front of her rolled his eyes. 


"I am!" he said, getting up from the sofa carefully and walking toward his room. She still didn't trust him. 


The next day she texted Edmundo, asking if he needed her to help Christopher with his tougher projects. 


Edmundo - Oh no he's fine. He has mostly A's and B's right now. 


Ana - Don't hesitate to ask! I was his teacher. 


Edmundo - Buck helps him if it's a subject I don't know much about. Don't worry about it. :-)


She opened up her email and messaged her old colleagues at Durand to ask about Christopher and see how much homework and projects they have been giving. 


Good Morning everyone,  


I hope you are doing well. I was emailing to inquire about a child in your class, Christopher Diaz. I'm seeing his father and I'm worried he may be falling behind. He always says he finished any homework and I doubt he does. I am also worried he's lying to his father about his grades. 


Please let me know, 


Ana Flores


She sent the email and proceeded to do paperwork thinking about how to get Christopher to respect her. 


Later in the day, she messaged her boyfriend to see if she could come over and help. He replied that she was more than welcome to stay for dinner but all homework will be done before she arrives. Seeing this, she leaves and drives straight to their house, making it right before 5pm. 


Ana knocks and the door opens to reveal Buck, who was dressed in his LAFD shirt and sweats. "Oh hey Ana, Eddie said you would be joining us for dinner. I hope you enjoy enchiladas, because I asked Abuela for the recipe." 


"That sounds lovely, Buck. Is Edmundo here?" She steps inside to see Christopher on the couch watching a documentary. "Hey Christopher, why don't we get started on your assignments from Mrs. Parker and Mr. Lang!" 


Buck slams the door accidentally and she is startled. "Oh sorry, it slipped from my fingers. Eddie is showering and should be out momentarily. How about you join Christopher and watch the documentary about wildlife in Hawaii. He's learning about various species in his science class." 


"Oh that's wonderful. What homework does he have left then?" Buck looks at her quizzically. 


"He just finished the last assignment due this week. He's watching this for his year end project and slowly trying to trick us into taking him to Hawaii." 


Us? Ana thought, shouldn't the us, be her, Edmundo and Christopher?


"Christopher, can I double check your assignments? I know how all your teachers grade!" 


Christopher presses pause on the remote next to him. 


"That's ok Miss Flores. You're a tough grader, and I doubt I can meet your expectations." 


Ana stood there shocked when Edmundo came out dressed like Buck. "Oh hi Ana. I didn't realize you would be here so soon. Why don't you join us while Buck makes dinner." 


She shakes out of her stupor and realizes they were all looking at her. " That sounds great. I can answer any questions you have, sweetheart." 


Edmundo rolls his eyes and sighs. "He said he didn't want your help, Ana. Buck and I have his projects and homework handled." 


Ana huffed, and proceeded to sit down in the armchair. She really was getting absolutely nowhere on this parenting thing. How was she supposed to build a relationship with the two boys when Buck apparently had everything handled?


She looked at her email and got a reply, "I don't understand how you are seeing Mr. Diaz or is it Mr. Buckley, but please don't ask about Christopher again. You are no longer his teacher and don't need to know how he is doing in school. 


Kind Regards, 


All of Christopher Diaz's teachers. 

3 - Grocery shopping 


Ana has yet to stay the night at Edmundo's and he has yet to spend the night at hers either. It was a decent Saturday morning when she arrived at the Diaz household, knocking to ensure someone heard her. She had seen her boyfriend's car in the parking lot, and knew he was home. Slowly the door opened to reveal a rumpled Evan Buckley, blinking slowly. 


"Oh hey, Ana. Did you and Eddie have plans today?" Buck said, opening the door more to let her in. He was so damn nice and it irked her. 


"No, no plans. Just wanted to stop by and see if he and Christopher wanted to do something. Are they here?" 


Ana stepped into the living room and noticed the mess of pizza boxes and chip bags. She knew Buck was the one leaving the mess and not her boyfriend. 


Buck yawned, "No, Eddie took Chris to Abuela's for breakfast and to talk. He hasn't seen her in awhile and he only had a 12 hours shift, but I was on for 24 hours. He took my car because the car seat was in it." 


Edmundo didn't even offer to have her come over to his abuela's house. "Oh, well if you want I can help you with the mess. I can just wait for Edmundo and Christopher, and then we can do something as a family." 


Buck shrugged, not even blinking an eye at the family comment. "If you want. I know the house is a mess but we haven't been home much in the last couple days so it's been piling up." 


Does Buck live with Edmundo and his son? "We" haven't been home? She can't help but feel like a third person or in a polyamrous relationship. Either way, she needed to find out. 


"I don't mind helping out Edmundo. I know how hard he works and having a child like Christopher can make it more difficult." Buck blinked and frowned, shaking his head. 


"I suggest don't put away the pans unless you want me to bite your head. I'm going to let Eddie know you're here and he will let you know if he still wants to do something," he said, yawning. "I'm going back to bed." 


Ana stood there for a minute flummoxed. He was going back to bed? Where? She followed him to where he opened the door to Edmundo's room and left it slightly ajar. She peeked in and watched him curl up on the side furthest from the door and promptly fall asleep. Turning toward the kitchen, she realized what Buck meant by a mess. 


She took stock of the various dishes piled in the sink and the nearly empty cupboard. There were two hampers of overflowing laundry, and the trash needed to be taken out. When was Edmundo supposed to clean? 


She decided food and laundry was the first project of the day. The dishes could wait a little more, so she wandered to the washing machine area and noticed that there was no laundry detergent or fabric softener in the closet. No wonder the laundry was overflowing, so she noticed a pad of paper with a grocery list written in her boyfriend's messy scrawl. The food cabinets were empty and so was the fridge and freezer. 


Noticing that there was nothing to cook for Edmundo and Christopher, she grabbed the list and headed to the store. What she didn't know was Eddie, Buck and Chris were going to do it once they got home, because grocery shopping was an adventure for them. Ana didn't know what brands they preferred and there was way too much junk food on the list. 


She wanders through Vons, picking up various items for the boys. She spotted the fruit bar grabbing the strawberry and blueberry flavor. She spots fruit snacks and grabbed those too. She noticed the unhealthy cereal and stuck with Honey Nut Cheerios and Oatmeal Squares. She noticed boxed meals and didn't get them, she can just cook from scratch for Eddie that night he didn't work and stopped in the laundry aisle. She grabbed the Gain liquid detergent and the store brand fabric softener. 


She goes aisle by aisle, picking up healthy snacks until she reaches the produce certain where she picks up carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, strawberries, bananas and apples. She even grabs lettuce for salads and continues to the meat section. She can make her pot roast and roasted chicken so she grabs the meats needed for those and checks out.


Meanwhile, Eddie gets Buck's text and shows his abuela, who just shakes her head. "Nieto, you need to pick your women better. Just date my lovely Evan and you can live happily ever after." Eddie glares at her and laughs when Chris walks up to them demanding food. Buck had asked Abuela where she gets her spices from, so she told Eddie who saved it in his phone. That was one of his first stops when they went to the store and then the farmer's market. It was their Saturday tradition but Buck wanted a little more sleep before they went. 


Ana didn't know she put a damper on their activities and arrived back at the apartment to see Buck was still sleeping. She unloaded the groceries and put what she could away, while starting a load of laundry. She went to the living room, picked up the trash and loaded the dishwasher. She was putting away the clean dishes when Edmundo arrived home with a chattering Christopher. The vice principal walked out to the living room to greet Edmundo who was moving toward his room. 


"Hi, sweetheart. Would you like a snack?" Ana asked, watching Christopher settle down on the couch. He shrugged and turned on the television. She took that as a yes and went to the fridge where she stored the smoothies she got on the way back, placing them on the counter. Grabbing the strawberries, she paused to set them near the bananas. 


"Oh no, no! Those are evil, stay away from me, evil fruit!" Edmundo and Buck explained, eyes growing in horror at the strawberries and bananas. They settled down a bit noticing the smoothies. "Are those for us?"


Ana's face brightened after their awful reactions to the fruit she bought. "Yes, I thought it would be a good snack before we head to the park. I even got one for Christopher." 


Her boyfriend and Buck shared a look. "Uh about that, I am sorry you came all this way but if Buck and I have a Saturday off, we spend it together with Chris. We go to the farmer's market and the store, and then usually have a picnic if the weather is right." 


The boys take a sip of their smoothies and their faces immediately drain of color. "Ana, what kind of smoothies are these?" Eddie asks, putting it down near the fruit on the counter. 


"You have strawberry banana and Buck has strawberry mango! Aren't they good?" The two gingerly back away from the counter. 


"Eddie, please tell me you haven't run out of Benadryl!" Buck exclaimed, as Ana watched in horror as red patches appeared on his skin. 


Edmundo turns to the cabinet beside the fridge to display various medications, takes out the Benadryl, hands two to Buck, grabs two bottles of water from the fridge and they both down the medicine. Ana has no idea which fruit they were allergic to, but apparently they had reactions. 


"Thank fuck there isn't mint in there. That would have been a trip to the hospital after I stabbed you with an EpiPen. You have the weirdest allergies," Eddie mutters, scratching at his skin. 


"Who is allergic to bananas ok? At least strawberries are a little more common!" Buck replied, downing the water in his hand. 


Ana felt horrible, and she should have asked if they had any food allergies. She was a teacher and vice principal dammit. "At least I went to the store for you guys. Just let me grab the strawberry cereal bars and I'll take them with me." 


She couldn't tell if Edmundo was mad or just confused. "I saw how bare the cupboards were and the messy house. I was just trying to help." 


Instead of her boyfriend responding, his best friend or roommate? did, "It's ok, Ana. I really do appreciate the effort. We probably wouldn't have gotten the cleaning done today. I, at least, greatly appreciate it. Just let me go break it to Christopher we are staying in today." 


Buck left the kitchen, leaving Ana and Edmundo staring at each other, when he sighed. "I appreciate the help, but please leave the grocery shopping to us. I know you're trying, and I see that. We have food allergies that you don't know about, and Christopher is so picky about what brands we buy." 


She nodded, stepping closer to him. "I can always take Christopher to the park if you guys are too tired from the Benadryl." 


Her boyfriend shook his head. "We will just take a nap and stick around here just in case our allergic reactions get worse. I am gonna call one of our friends to come and keep an eye on us." he replied, looking tired. "I know you're confused about Buck, but I can't really explain it right now." 


Confused is one way to put it. Ana went and gently kissed Edmundo on the lips. "I started the laundry, there is a load in the dryer and in the washer. You can keep whatever you will eat and I will take the rest. Text me when you want to see me." 


Her boyfriend nodded, and Ana made a strategic exit. The next day she got a message "Also we are allergic to most detergents. I appreciate the effort, just leave it to us next time." 


That was a failed venture. Ana Flores really was losing the parenting battle. 

4 - Playing rough


After the allergy and laundry fiasco, the next time Ana is invited out with Eddie is to a gathering of his co-workers, otherwise known as his family. She drives to his house again, and knocks on the door because all four of them were going to drive together. Edmundo greets her with a light kiss, and allows her to enter. 


"Buck is packing the food up, so we have a few minutes. Thank you for coming with us." 


"Of course! I am really excited to meet all of your coworkers!" 


"More like extended family, we are always having game nights or getting togethers at each other's houses. I hope they aren't too intimidating, and all the other kids will be there." Buck appears suddenly with a cooler and a picnic basket. 


"Is Chris ready? Make sure he wears the older clothes because you know how he gets with Harry and Denny." Ana raises her eyebrows. 


"I am his dad, but yes I made sure he is wearing his older clothes. Those three will rope into whatever game they are playing anyway and I don't see you wearing anything different." 


She did notice what Buck was wearing and was impressed to see he was wearing clothes like she was. Ana was dressed in her normal purple skirt, flats and a lightweight flowery blouse. If she knew it was going to get messy, she might have worn jeans. 


Eddie looked him up and down. "Just change into shorts and a t-shirt. I'm tired of trying to remove whatever stains you manage to get." 


"Yes your highness," Buck replied before setting down the bags and cooler. He ran to the bedroom and yelled at Chris they were about to leave. The domesticity of these three was slowly killing Ana and she was wondering whether or not Edmundo wanted to date her. 


She hears the clicking of Christopher's crutches and she smiles in greeting. "Hi Miss Ana." he says, before barreling into his father. "Can we go now? I wanna play!" 


"In a minute mijo, Buck is getting changed." Her former student looks at her intensely. 


"Why are you dressed like that? We are going to a park with messy food and grass!" Chris exclaims when Buck comes bounding back and picks Chris up. 


"Christopher, we have talked about why people wear what they do. Miss Ana thought this outfit was appropriate for the park ok?" Chris nods. 

"You look very nice Miss Ana," he turned to Buck, "Can we go now?" 


Thirty minutes later she is seated on a blanket in the shade next to Edmundo, Buck and Christopher as she chats with Buck's sister Maddie. Christopher was right about the messy food, and Ana can admit she hasn't gotten any food on her clothes. Suffice to say, Christopher is a mess so she rummages through her tote to grab the wet wipes to clean him up. 


She shuffles to Chris, ready to wipe his face when he gets up, completely ignoring her. Eddie notices and barks "Christopher! Clean up before you play, please. Ana has wet wipes for you." 


The ten year old sighs and grabs the wipes from Ana, doing a quick swipe before bounding away toward the playground. Her boyfriend gets up to join Bobby by the grill and Buck is immersed in conversation with who she supposes is Hen and Karen. She was extremely concerned about the level of play the three boys were involved in and didn't think it was safe for Christopher. 


Looking around everyone else is engrossed in their conversation, so Ana takes it upon herself to go ensure Christopher's safety. She manages to catch up to them and blocks Christopher before looking over her shoulder at the other two children. They glare at her for stopping their friend. 


"Christopher, why don't we stick to the grass and maybe throw a ball back and forth. I know you like baseball." She speaks as the children continue glaring. 


"Dad and Buck already said I can play Miss Ana." She sighs, thinking the two don't know the dangers a playground and rowdy boys hold. She watches as Buck glances her direction and makes a face she can't decipher. 


"Well the last time you played like this Christopher, you got hurt. So I would rather you not play with these boys here and come join us in the shade." 


The glares on these children are impressive and Ana does not want to find out the glares that accompany their parents. "You're not his mom and Buck is coming to make sure we are safe." 


"I am not comfortable allowing you to play here or with them, Christopher. Let's go back and sit down." The other two children motioned for Christopher to join them and he dodges her completely, before she steps in front of him. "I need you to listen to me, ok? This is not safe and I cannot allow you on that playground." 


"Go ahead and try to stop us. Eddie, Buck and our parents are wondering why we aren't playing." 


Ana sighs, "Come on, Christopher, let's go see your father." 






"You're not my mom, you're not my parent. I don't have to listen to you!" he cries, when Denny and Harry see Buck and Eddie walking toward them. 


"What's going on here?" Edmundo asks, looking at the four of them. 


"She won't let Chris play with us. She doesn't think it's safe." They look at her incredulously, like she did something wrong. All she was doing was protecting a kid who needed extra help getting around. 


Christopher decides he has had enough of Ana and barrels into Buck, who picks him up. Edmundo turns to her exasperated,"I thought we talked about this, Ana. I know that we are dating, and you think we are serious, but I haven't stated I want you involved parenting Christopher. You didn't trust that we knew what we were doing and that Buck was about to come over to play with them. He knows what to look out for Ana. You don't." 


Her jaw drops. They had been dating long enough that she knows Christopher's safety is of the utmost importance. "I am only looking out for him. This playground isn't safe for him." 


"Again, we were watching. Why don't you leave the parenting to us." Buck was in the background murmuring to Chris, who insisted he be put down. 


"Why do you say us? How is Buck a parent? He's just a friend! Friends don't co parent your children, serious partners do." Ana exclaimed, watching her boyfriend shut down. 


"Buck is the friend who found me Carla, he's the one who researches safe activities for my son to do, and accompanies me to his doctors and therapists to ensure it is good for children with CP to do. You have no idea how much I trust Buck." 


"I'm starting to realize how big a presence Buck has in your life but it still doesn't mean this is safe for him." 


She could feel the stares of their friends behind her and Buck levels a look at her. "If you insist on holding this boy back, I kindly suggest you leave. Now." 


Ana huffed and crossed her arms. "I'm not leaving. You obviously need help in ensuring their safety." 


She turns to Edmundo for help, and he doesn't say anything for a minute. He and Buck have a silent conversation when he says, "Ana, I think it's best if you grab yourself and find an Uber home. They won't let you stay if you insist on removing Christopher's physical activity for today." 


Ana thought for sure Edmundo would trust her judgement and she was sorely wrong. "We will discuss this later. Please make sure he doesn't hurt himself." 


"I know you mean well, Ana, but there is nothing more to discuss. Please let me know when you get home safely." Edmundo replies, kissing her lightly and moving toward Buck and Christopher. 


Ana Flores has been embarrassed twice in regards to Christopher and she didn't know how she could prove she could also be trusted with him. 

5 - School Pick Up 


Ana was desperate to prove she could be that second (or third?) parent to Christopher and Edmundo barely let her in his life with Christopher. Sure, he took her out on dates, but there wasn't any quality time with the ten year old. She has no idea what his routine is, has yet to figure out his favorite foods or movie. Anytime she asked to help with Christopher, she was brushed off and told he can handle it. Or that Buck has it handled. As if that helped ease her anger. 


Edmundo let it slip that his and Buck's shifts ended at separate times today, due to Buck pulling a 24 hour and Eddie a 12 hour shift. She knew Buck had to be exhausted going by the last time he pulled a 24 hour shift and face planted into Edmundo's bed. (That she has yet to see, not that she is bitter or anything). Her boyfriend has mentioned that Buck was picking up Christopher today, so she thought it would be wise to beat him there and take care of him. It was her duty as the serious girlfriend to do so. 


Her day ended earlier than usual, as her students were extremely well behaved and she stated she needed to go pick up her kid from school. It was a little white lie, but if she and Edmundo ever moved past this hurdle (Buck), Christopher would be her kid too. 


She arrived before the last bell of the day and went to the front office so she could sign Christopher out early and maybe drop by the fire station to surprise Edmundo. Buck hadn't arrived yet, and probably would wait in the school pick up line. She knew the few times Christopher went home early that it was usually Mrs. Price or Buck who signed them out.


The receptionist was new, and her name tag saying her name was Alexa, and Ana smiled at her. 


"Hello, I am here to pick up Christopher Diaz." The other woman just stared at her. "Can you let them know I am picking him up today?" 


Alexa shook her head, "May I ask who you are? And I need to check the pick up list to ensure I can send him home with you. I haven't received any word from Mr. Diaz or Mr. Buckley that someone else would be picking their son up." 


Ana bristled. Their son? "Ana Flores. I should be on the list since I have been dating Edmundo for a while." 


The receptionist started typing and brought up the screen she needed. "I apologize Miss Flores, but you are not on the list. The school cannot release Christopher Diaz into your care." 


"Oh really? Well I was a former teacher here and I was hoping to surprise his father at his work. He would love that! You can even ask Principal Summers to vouch for me. Do you know who his last teacher of the day is? I'm sure they will remember me." 


"It doesn't matter if you worked here or not, you are not approved to take Christopher off school grounds. I can contact Mr. Diaz to see if he will approve it, otherwise Mr. Buckley will need to." Ana refrained from rolling her eyes. She understood the need to verify her identity, but to call Edmundo when she should have been on the list? It wasn't like she was going to kidnap Christopher. 


She watched as the other women dialed Edmundo, and she hated that this was going to ruin the surprise. Alexa listened and sighed, "I got Mr. Diaz's voicemail. Unfortunately because he cannot be reached, I need to contact Mr. Buckley. And I know it was his day to pick up their son." 


"Uh, ok. Are you sure you can't check with Principal Summers and get her approval?" Ana almost begged, because she didn't want Buck to know she was here. It was almost as the principal was summoned, because Summers appeared at the front desk. 


"Well, hello Ana. What are you doing here? We filled your position last year and we don't have any vice principal spots open." 


"I'm here to pick up Christopher Diaz, his father is my boyfriend and I was going to surprise him." 


Principal Summers took a look at Alexa, who shook her head. "You should know the rules here, Ana. Only designated people can sign children out into their care." she said, nodding to the receptionist. "Go ahead and try Buck, since Eddie isn't answering his phone." 


Ana listened as the phone rang and Buck answered. "Alexa, why are you calling me? Is something wrong with Chris?" 


Buck is on a first name basis with the receptionist at Durand? She left last year and she didn't know everyone. 


"Hey Buck, its Principal Summers. I have a Miss Flores here to pick up Christopher. She needs permission to do so since she isn't on the contact list." A pointed look was shot in her direction, but she didn't stand down. 


"Uhhhhh…. I am here anyway Justine. Eddie said Christopher wanted to spend some time with me since I have been working three twenty four shifts this week." 


Ana's shoulder started to slump and she couldn't believe this was happening. All she wanted was to spend time with Christopher and prove she could be a parent to him. 


"We tried Eddie, but he didn't pick up so we had to call you. You can come in, Buck and park in the handicapped spot." 


"I'm not surprised, we had a hell of a shift when he got in. I'll call Bobby to let him know it wasn't an emergency, so Eddie doesn't freak out." Buck sighed into the phone. He really did sound tired so why wasn't he allowing her to take Christopher home. 


A few minutes passed by when the door to the front office opened and Buck walked through. He was wearing his LAFD shirt and uniform pants, which was unusual because she knew he usually changed into civilian clothes. "Hi Ana, I know you were hoping to surprise Eddie, but we already promised Chris he would have the afternoon with me before Eddie got home." 


"Why am I not on the contact list? I have been dating Edmundo long enough to be trusted with Christopher!" Ana exclaimed, getting sharp looks in return. Why did Buck get that privilege and not her? 


Buck ignored while he placed his phone to his ear. "Hey Bobby, so Eddie should see a missed called from Chris's school, but tell him it's not an emergency." Someone on the other end was talking and Ana tried to have a more neutral look on her face. "Chris is fine, it's just… Ana came to school to pick up Christopher for us." 


The deep voice on the other end definitely wasn't Edmundo. "I know, I know. Just let Eddie know and I will see him at home. You don't need to let him go early." 


Buck hung up the phone and turned to her. "Eddie will call you, Ana. You need to stop trying so hard and trust Eddie has everything under control. I don't know his exact reasons for not involving you more, but he does have reasons to do so." 


Ana crossed her arms, "And why are you so trustworthy? You're single and yet you spend all your time with Edmundo and Christopher." 


Buck stood his full height and crossed his arms. "They're my family. Live with it or not, but Christopher is going home with me and you are not welcome to stop by. Especially after what happened at the park." 


She gasped, waiting to see if Edmundo would call her. He didn't so she was trying to stand her ground. She had more rights than Buck did. Suddenly her phone pinged and it was from her boyfriend. 


"Edmundo, please tell the school I can take Christopher with me!" 


"I thought it was obvious at the park that I don't trust you with Christopher. We are dating, but that does not mean you have parental rights with my son. We are nowhere near that stage. Chris wanted Buck today and he will be the one taking him home. Please go home and I will talk to you later." 


Edmundo hung up and she just stared at the phone then looked at Buck. He smiled slightly and shrugged. "Go home, Ana and think if this is what you really want. I hope to see you soon." 


She was dismissed so she walked out the door severely frustrated. Edmundo still didn't trust her. The only thing she could do is to prove she was better than Buck and that meant asking her boyfriend to cut down his time with him. 


+1 - Don't Ask, He won't tell 


Ana Flores did not give up, it wasn't in her blood. She managed to get her doctorate in Education while teaching, if she could that then she could help Edmundo with his son. She wanted to be able to spend the night, have sex with him (every time she tried, he wasn't interested. Like she couldn't get a rise out of him). Adams Elementary heard from Durand about her outburst, and was severely reprimanded for it. She was lucky Buck didn't report her. 


Edmundo was at least trying to see her, around his shifts and various appointments with Christopher. He didn't invite her over to his house again, so she tried to get him to come over to hers. Last night, she wore her sexiest dress, a short red one that was low cut, straddled her boyfriend and he still didn't want her. She was trying dammit and she has no idea how to get him to have sex with her. She was beautiful, smart and a good woman, yet it wasn't enough. 


However, her boyfriend did invite her to his family's gathering as a make up gesture. She has wanted to meet his family, and it seems everyone including his parents will be there. Ana is sure they will love her but Edmundo insisted she drive separately, and she wondered again what was going on with them. 


She arrived at the party ten minutes later because of traffic and the fact she had to park a block away. She was in her trademark flowy blouse and skirt, this time with heels because she was meeting the family and wanted to impress. 


Walking up the yellow house, she knocked hearing loud voices in the back. The door opened revealing Buck who had two kids hanging off him. "Ana, welcome. Please come in and don't mind these hellions. These are Eddie's little cousins Xavier and Samuel and they wanted to see if I could hold both of them," he rambled, flexing and grabbing one of the kids, "Everyone else is out back, but I warn you... do not go to the kitchen unless you want an angry grandmother and Pepa." 


He turned away muttering, "Never want to anger Pepa." 


Ana stood in the foyer, wondering which way was the best to get to the backyard. "I can always help them if they need it." she said, watching as Buck herded the kids out the sliding door, talking with them and completely ignoring her. She really needed to speak to her boyfriend about cutting down on "Buck time". 


Completely disregarding Buck's warning, she entered the kitchen to see two old women bickering by the stove. She stood there for a minute before Edmundo came crashing in, laughing. "Abuela, the masses are getting hungry! Give us the food!" he laughingly says, getting a smack from his grandmother. "Oh. Ana, I didn't realize you arrived, you were supposed to text me!" 


The two women look behind him and gaze at her. "Sorry, I was busy walking and trying to balance this. Tres Leche cookies and mac and cheese." He takes them from her and sprints outside to place them. "Hi, Senora Diaz, it's a pleasure to meet you. Same with you, Pepa." 


"It's Josephina, dear. Leave us be while we cook and we will see you outside." Ana was summarily dismissed, without a greeting from Edmundo's grandmother. 


Walking outside, she was greeted with a cacophony of voices and she saw Christopher hanging off Buck's neck, and other kids running circles around them. Edmundo was speaking with two younger women. He didn't even notice she came outside, so she decided to go to him.

"Edmundo!" she exclaimed, placing her hand on his arm, "Why don't you introduce me to your family." 


The two women made a face and mouthed "Edmundo?" to each other. What was wrong with calling him by his actual name? Her boyfriend nodded and held his hand out. 


"Sophia and Adriana, this is my girlfriend Ana Flores. Ana, these are my sisters." 


"It's great to meet you too. I'm sure you have some embarrassing stories about your brother." Ana said, shaking their hands. They looked at each other then Eddie, who was looking to the sky. 


"We definitely do, but please excuse us, we haven't seen our tias and tios, and cousins in a long time. It was a pleasure to meet you, Ana." Sophia said, smiling lightly. 


Edmundo was glancing at Buck, who was now playing duck, duck, goose with the kids and smiled softly. "Edmundo, can we talk? You haven't really been around to do so," she asked, rubbing his shoulder. He turns around and faces her, nodding for her to go on. 


"Did you invite me to meet your family because you see a future with me? If so, then we need to talk about Buck and his place." Ana said confidently. There was a reason why he invited her, to further their relationship. 


He scowled and his eyes looked at the ground, while crossing his arms. "Buck is non-negotiable, Ana. He is my family, Chris's family. Hell, look around here and he's part of my family that is blood and my chosen family." 


Ana was starting to get frustrated. "I can't believe this! Everywhere I turn, Buck is there. Is there actual room for me, Edmundo? Because it doesn't seem so. I can be a good parent if you let me!" 


She takes a deep breath, continuing "I want this relationship to work Edmundo. Yet you won't have sex with me, you won't allow me to help with your son. I don't know what you want from me!" 


Her voice started to get louder, "Buck is in his twenties, and is single! I want you and only Edmundo, not Buck and you! You need to cut down on Buck time, because it's time to allow me in." 


Two older adults stop by Edmundo, who is seething, hands clenching. Ana doesn't stop, "I should be the parent by now, we should be talking about marriage and moving in together. How can we if Buck is already there with you? I don't want to compete with him!" 


"Eddie, mijo, it's ok. You know we love Buck and I know we have pushed you hard," the older adult says, glaring at Ana. "I'm his father, Ramon, Miss Flores and I must say you are nothing like we pictured." 


"Buck is a part of the Diaz family, Ana. He will always be here because he doesn't have a family like this. Do you have a family, parents or siblings?" the woman next to Ramon said.


"Of course! I want Edmundo to meet them but he refuses. It's like he doesn't want to try for a relationship! I am right here waiting." 


"FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CALL ME EDDIE!" her boyfriend yells. "You're right, Ana. I have been unfair to you, leading you on. I tried so hard to let you be a part of my and Christopher's life." 


Ana places both of her hands on Edmundo's face, "You can still try, baby. We could be so good together but Buck needs to find his own person. You and me against the world, Edmundo." 


Eddie steps back from Ana, "What about Christopher?" 


She looks for him and he is still with Buck. "Tell Christopher to listen to me when I tell him things. He needs extra help and I can provide that." 


"That's why we have Carla, and what about his happiness?" Eddie replied, bracketed by his parents and siblings. 


"Christopher can be happy doing things that don't hurt him! There are accessible things to do everywhere and I can bring him there." Ana thinks she's getting somewhere. 


Helena glares at her, "I admit we overcompensated with my grandson, but once I saw him here, flourishing with all the activities they found, I realized that stifling him could be the end of his sunshine. Honestly, Ana, he will never trust you or look at you with respect." 


"My Eddito is a different person around you, Senorita. You aren't enough for him or Christopher." A strong voice said behind her. 


"How do you know? You never met me!" she exclaims as Buck and Christopher approach. "Christopher, honey, tell them how much your dad and I have with you. You love me, don't you?" 


The ten year old looks thoughtfully at her, "Abuela is right Miss Ana. My dad is different." 


Eddie sighs, yanking her hand away from her. "Stop trying so hard, Ana. You should know that Buck will have custody of Christopher if I ever were to die or be incapictated. He is Chris's legal guardian right now and my power of attorney. Buck is everything to me, and I cannot force something that will not work." 


Ana gasped, looking at his parents.  "You're ok with this arrangement? You're blood and he would give Christopher to a non blood relative." 


"We understand his reasons why. Once we got to know Evan, we realized that if Eddie was gone, he would make sure their son is taken care of. I've heard about your various tries at fitting in, and I'm sorry it isn't working." 


"Also Ana, just because we are dating, doesn't mean you become a parent to my son. If I or Buck cannot take care of him, then these people here and at the 118 will." Edmundo sighed, looking at her. "I think it is best if we end this. I realized in the past few weeks that you just don't fit. I can't even find you sexy enough to sleep with." 


"We all know that you need to have chemistry with your other half. You don't have that with Eddie," Buck says, bumping shoulders with his best friend.


"We have chemistry!" 


"Then why haven't you spent the night or he spent the night with you? It's because Eddie doesn't find you attractive to him." 


Ana took a step back staggering. The truth hurt and she realized that she put more into the relationship than Edmundo did. Buck was absolutely right, he wasn't attracted to her. "Edmundo is in love with you, Buck. And I'm ninety nine percent sure you are in love with him." 


Buck smiled sadly at her, "I know. I know you had such high hopes for this relationship but sometimes those hopes fade. You need to accept what comes next." 


She nodded, looking at Eddie, "Let yourself love him, Edmundo. Everyone here loves him, your other family adores him and Christopher thinks Buck is his other parent. Every single person I have encountered with you thinks so. I don't know why I tried so hard." 


The brunette firefighter nodded thoughtfully, "I have always struggled with my sexuality, and asking you out was a way to fight what I really felt. I am so sorry I dragged this out." 


Ana has a feeling he had a long talk with his parents about it. It was time for her to bow out gracefully. "I wish you the best, Edmundo but I think it's time for me to leave. Thank you for trying and I am sorry that I tried to tear your family apart." 


She turned and walked away, knowing that behind her Buck would be comforting Eddie, maybe kissing him. 


One thing was for sure, Evan Buckley would be sleeping in Eddie's bed that night and every night after that. 



Six months later… 


Ana saw Eddie and Buck on a call at her school. She stayed back watching them as they herded the kids into the parking lot. Someone had lit a trash can on fire and it managed to spread to the books on the shelves. They looked up and saw her standing there and smiled. She noticed rings on their hands and realized she had made the right decision to back away. 


Ana Flores could never compare to Evan Buckley and she was finally ok with it. 


Ana Flores just needed to find what they had. 


True love. 


Eventually it would come, like it did for Eddie and Buck.


She had high hopes after all.