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Eddie liked to think of himself as some kind of a “do it yourself” kind of dad.

Most of the time, that was a good thing.

Kitchen faucet broke? No worries, Eddie has some plumbers tape and three different YouTube videos telling him how to fix it.

Car wouldn’t start? Not a problem, Eddie bought the full repair manual offline and knows his way around a wrench.

Christopher needed forty gluten free, egg free, dairy free cupcakes for class tomorrow? Eddie was perfectly capable of… admitting when he was outmatched by a stand mixer, and calling thirteen local bakeries to see if they delivered (because his car still wasn’t starting).

Point is, if there was a way he could work on something, Eddie would at least try it—and needless to say, that got a little complicated where Christopher was involved.

Eddie still wanted to do a lot of it on his own. Chris was his kid, and no one else’s, and he didn’t even like being away from him while Chris was at school—he wasn’t sure if that was guilt stemming from leaving Chris as a baby, or guilt about introducing Shannon back into his life only to have her wind up dead, or guilt about… well, pick-a-thing, but he was pretty damn sensitive about what he perceived he could do to help his child. His Chris.

Which is why, when Chris’ physical therapist gave Eddie some suggestions about how Chris could work on strength training at home, Eddie dove completely into the deep end, head first, no floaties.

Working on Chris’ fine motor skills had been cake. Writing, drawing, arts and crafts, even playing video games, all helped improve Chris’ hand eye coordination (and if Eddie ran out of room on the fridge for Chris’ masterpieces and started framing them instead, well, that was his own business, no matter how nosy the busybodies at Michael’s got).

Working on his gross motor skills, though, that was another story.

They could go on walks, sure, and they did every day. Eddie could hook up the trail-a-bike to his own once or twice a week so Chris could ride along with him, without worrying about his balance, but those were both leg heavy activities—and while it was great that Chris was building his core strength and leg strength, Eddie wasn’t about to just strap a padded weight to Chris’ arms and call it a ‘well rounded workout’.

Short of more physical therapy, Eddie was at a loss as to what to do—so when Google Maps pushed him off the 101 to avoid a wreck on his way home from work, and he got caught by a stop light right next to “Ricky’s Boxing Gym”, Eddie felt like his prayers had been answered.

"Hey, are you signing up new clients?"

-

Over the next few months, they had set up a pretty good routine. Eddie would bring Chris to the gym, they would hop into one of the many rings, and he and his son would get a half hour of quality time, three times a week, with Chris trying to wail on him. Eddie had his own set of boxing mitts, and made a very big deal about giving Chris a pair in his size; and Chris thought that spending a half hour trying to punch his dad was the most fun a kid could have after school. After about half an hour, Chris would tire himself out and sit on the bench, drawing or reading for a while more, while Eddie would actually spar with one of the staff members to get his own workout in, and then they’d go home.

Nine times out of ten, they’d stop for ice cream or pizza, and completely undo any of the workout they had actually done, but Eddie thought that was a small price to pay for the whoop of joy Chris let out when he actually managed to hit Eddie’s glove, dead center.

Eddie’s sparring partner of choice (well, after Chris) was Tommy Kinard. He was nice enough, light on his feet, and kept Eddie on his toes; his punches hit hard, but he still gave Eddie plenty of time to look over to Chris to make sure he was well occupied, and (“Dad, I’m fine! Go punch someone!”) okay, maybe he was helicoptering a little bit. He hadn’t really thought it was a problem until Kinard went on paternity leave, leaving him in the capable, and brutal, hands of Boscoe.

Boscoe was a beast. He didn’t know her first name—didn’t know if she had a first name—but what she lacked in pleasantries she more than made up with strength. If Eddie was being honest, though, he kind of loved it (even after the first day they sparred together, when he wound up limping into the 118, proudly admitting to Hen that he had been beat up by a girl).

The thing was, Boscoe was intense, and while that was a good thing, it gave him less of a chance to helicopter over Chris.

Which, okay, maybe that was a good thing too. Whatever.

He knew the gym pretty well by that point, and knew the people who worked there, knew he could trust Chris with any of them—which is why when he looked up after dodging a jab from Boscoe, and saw Chris absent from his bench, he only panicked a little bit.

When he managed to take a wider look around the gym and saw a familiar pair of shoes laying down on a workout bench, the rest of him obscured by a bigger, bulkier body, that panic went from 0-60 real quick.

“Hey!”

He only barely managed to dodge a glancing blow from Boscoe as he ducked beneath the ropes, grabbing a towel to blot at his face as he hopped down. His voice was little more than a quick bark through the gym as he stepped around another group of machines, his frantic pace slowing a little as he got into earshot.

“… yeah, come on buddy, you can do it! Come on, give me one more rep! You got this little man!”

Fuck, had this stranger actually given Chris a set of weights?

His temper was white hot by the time he finally got around the front of the machine, opening his mouth to shout, to get a manager, to do something other than put the gloves on his hands to worse use, but the words died in his throat as he took in the scene before him.

Chris was definitely on the bench, and he definitely had his hands on the bar—the bar that was completely devoid of weights, Eddie noticed, the same bar that had two much larger, stronger hands attached to them. Hands that were probably doing all the actual work of lifting the bar, because Chris was laying back, unable to speak, because he was giggling so hard.

The bar landed back on the rack with a dull thunk as Chris pulled his hands back, sticking them straight up in the air triumphantly as he sat up. The man behind the bar gave a big show of leaning against the frame of the bench dramatically, fanning himself, giving Eddie a full view of an employee shirt, name badge, and the gym logo stitched across the polo he was wearing.

Whelp, that was almost very embarrassing for him.

“Holy cow, that was such a good job! Man, you have got to be the strongest kid I’ve ever met in my life!”

“Dad, did you see me? Buck says I’m super strong!”

Eddie had to admit, he was a little thrown by whatever was happening here, but Chris was obviously having a good time. It was easy for him to sink back into supportive Dad mode, feeling the white hot anger dissipate into something a little less angry and a whole lot more embarrassed.

“That was some pretty impressive work, buddy! Have you been holding out on me?” Eddie dipped down and tossed a few playful jabs at Chris, selfish only because he wanted to prolong the joy his son was obviously feeling; but it was all worth it as he was handsomely rewarded when Chris started giggling again.

The man—Buck, Eddie gathered—laughed, drawing Eddie’s attention upward, and for a moment, his brain short circuited, because there was no way on earth a gym rat could be this… pretty.

Because damn. Buck was pretty.

Pretty enough that Eddie was easily distracted, waxing poetic (internally, thankfully) about beefy arms and a plush lip that he didn’t notice what was happening until Buck stuck a hand out, smiling, and Eddie could only guess what was going on. He reached out and took the hand, his own smile freezing as Buck’s face slipped into confusion.

“Uhh—”

“…I was asking if you wanted me to take your towel for you and get you a fresh one.”

Oh. Right. Towel.

Eddie’s face burned as he pulled the towel off his shoulder, handing it over, giving a too-tight laugh as he nodded his head. “Yes! If you could get me a new towel so I could strangle myself in embarrassment, that would be great.”

Well, at the very least, that got Buck to laugh again—death would be worth it if that was the last sound he heard. “Hey, sorry I kind of stole your kid. He was wandering in between the machines, and it’s my first week off of the nights, so I just wanted to make sure he didn’t get hurt. But, then he started asking about all the weights and pulleys and stuff, you have a really smart kid!”

Total Gym Hottie (Buck, his mind corrected. If he was going to drool over someone the least he could do was use their name) was complimenting his kid now, and Eddie was so star struck he was actually proud to say he didn’t stumble when Buck nudged his shoulder, head jerking back to the ring he had abandoned.

”…anyway, I think strangulation is the least of your worries, if I know that look, Boscoe has an entirely different death planned for you if you don’t get back in the ring. Go on, I’ll help little man here wheel you out on a gurney when she’s done with you.”

Buck sounded way too positive about that, and it was all Eddie could do to groan and walk back to the ring, tail between his legs.

Sure enough, even after he had the next day off, he was still sore when he walked into the 118 for his next shift.

Buck became easily, seamlessly, a part of their routine, in a way that probably deserved a little more insight on Eddie’s part.

Insight was for suckers.

At least two days out of the week, their schedules aligned—Eddie and Chris still worked on their exercises, but now it included Buck giving a dramatic play by play on the sidelines, talking up Chris like an announcer, or just otherwise causing shenanigans.

It was worth it, easily, because while Chris was certainly never a negative kid, Eddie had never seen him in brighter spirits. And Buck… well, anyone that could find a way to help out his son in a way that Chris clearly enjoyed earned an instant gold star in Eddie’s book. The fact that he was easy on the eyes wasn’t a bad thing, either.

“Diaz, I swear to God—”

Eddie only barely ducked under Boscoe’s extended hand, forcibly rooting himself back in the moment, looking guiltily back to her instead of watching Buck and Chris.

“—can you pay attention for like three minutes so I can hit you without feeling bad about it?”

Eddie tried, he really did, but it was hard. A few weeks had gone by since their initial meeting, and Eddie had gone from “wow he’s pretty” to “full high school crush” in no time flat. It wasn’t his fault, though—because what sealed the deal wasn’t the moment Buck had switched to tank tops over polos, or how happy Eddie was to spend time staring at Buck’s magnificent ass (and it was really, really magnificent, let the record show), it was how he interacted with Chris that sent him over the edge.

Buck was good with Chris, sure, but somehow that was the understatement of the year. He was kind, and he was bubbly, and he was just in sync with Chris in a way that Eddie wasn’t even sure he had reached, and Chris was his son. Buck was effortlessly patient, easily slowing himself down or changing what he was doing when he noticed Chris struggling, wether it was in going over a math problem while Eddie got the crap beat out of him or just showing him how some of the different machines worked.

Hell, right now, Eddie had his hands securely around Chris’ hips as he lifted the other male to a chin-up bar, helping Chris count out the pull-up’s he was doing—and while all Eddie could hear was Chris’ laughter, all he could see were the thick cords of muscle attached to Buck’s arms, lifting Chris like he weighed nothing.

Eddie wondered, not for the first time, if Buck could lift him like that.

Like she was a horrible mind reading pervert, Boscoe smacked him with an open hand—not hard enough to hurt, but not soft enough that he was going to ignore it.

“Diaz, this will be our last session together. Kinard is back next week—” Another punch, a quick jab that Eddie blocked with his forearms. “—so the least you could do is focus on me and not the apple of your eye over there.”

“Buck isn’t the apple of my—fuck—my eye, grow up.” Eddie huffed as he threw out a punch of his own, his hand knocked away violently, only barely dodging the sharp hook that Boscoe sent to him.

“God, I was talking about your kid, Diaz. You’re embarrassing yourself.”

Oh.

Ignoring how red his face was, Eddie grumbled and threw another quick jab, though he missed completely as Boscoe stepped back, a grin on her face, and Eddie knew better than to trust that look. The last time he trusted that look, he had been talked into fighting bare-handed, and he still wasn’t sure his knuckles would ever really work again.

“You know, Kinard is supposed to take you back as a client, but I bet if you asked nice enough…”

Oh no.

“Hey, Buck!”

Oh no. Eddie looked up in horror as Buck easily lifted Christopher onto his shoulders—god, so much muscle—and jogged over, with the nerve to not even be out of breath when he smiled up to the pair in the ring. Eddie bit his tongue and leaned over to high five his kid, fully prepared to deal with whatever terrible thing was about to come his way.

“Kinard was supposed to take Diaz here back after he’s off leave next week, but I know he wanted to ease back into things after being away from the gym for a few months. You think you could spar with him in the interim?”

Oh, no, didn’t seem to cover it anymore. Eddie was having a hard enough time focusing on the task at hand when Buck was in the same building, he would be signing his own death certificate if he had to stare Buck in the face, and then try to hit said face.

Eddie hadn’t even seen Buck break a sweat before—did Buck sweat? Was he even capable of being anything other than flawless?—and he didn’t know if his little bisexual heart could take it.

He was somehow both relieved and regretful when Buck shook his head, looking plenty apologetic as he pulled Chris up and off of his shoulders, making sure that he was steady on his feet before he leaned up against the ropes. “Sorry, Eddie. I don’t really box, and besides, I think Chris and I are making real progress while you get your butt kicked. Show him the guns, Chris!” Buck said, and Chris immediately started some classic strong-man poses, Buck posing dramatically behind him, and Eddie felt his heart melt for two entirely different reasons.

Buck turned around mid pose as the door chime went off, giving Eddie ample time to count out the individual strands of muscle fiber in the moment before Buck relaxed, turning with a smile back to the gang in the ring. “Lena, that’s my next client. Chris, Eddie, I’ll see you both next week, yeah?” He said with a grin before he fist bumped Chris and waved to Eddie, slipping back into Professional Buck mode. Eddie waved back, brows almost in his hairline as he looked back to Boscoe, who was scowling at him.

“So—”

“No, Diaz.”

“Wait, why not? Buck gets to call you Lena!”

“Beat me in the ring as often as Buck does and I’ll consider it.”

Eddie had his mouth open to retort when Chris cut him off, pushing his glasses up on his nose as he tilted his head. “Can I call you Lena?”

She didn’t even hesitate a moment, nodding her head seriously. “You can absolutely call me Lena, squirt.”

Chris promptly stuck his tongue out at his dad, and Eddie reacted in sort, falling to the floor of the ring as he grabbed at his chest. “The nerve! Betrayed by my own child, my own flesh and blood!”

Chris looked thoroughly unimpressed, sitting back on the bench as he started to pack up his schoolwork. “Lena, can you tell my dad to stop being such a drama queen?”

It wasn’t until they were both in the car, that Eddie, thoroughly beaten down by his son, his trainer, and his own brain for providing a play by play of Buck that day while he was in the locker room shower stall, really thought about what Buck said.

He didn’t box. Which was strange enough in a boxing gym, but whatever, there were plenty of machines that Buck could be working on instead.

But them Boscoe (god, he couldn’t even call her Lena in his head, it felt like she would figure it out and beat him to death) basically admitted that Buck regularly whooped her behind the ropes

If Buck wasn’t boxing in a boxing gym, what the hell was he doing?

As it turned out, Eddie didn’t have to wait long to figure it out. Barely a week had passed before Eddie had received a call from Chim, all but begging Eddie to switch shifts so he could take the girl he had been seeing out on a proper date. The switch was a no brainer—Maddie seemed like a great girl, and as much shit as he gave Chim for… well, being Chim, he obviously wanted to see his teammate happy, especially when the only thing he would have to change was a gym day from a Monday to a Sunday.

If he had known that this would be the day that sealed his fate, he probably would have reconsidered it all together.

The gym was packed—which probably shouldn't have been too surprising, but damn, Eddie had been glad he booked a ring with Kinard ahead of time. It was nice to see a familiar face in the gym anyway, one that wasn’t trying to beat the crap out of him, and he easily shot the shit with Tommy as they met up near the entryway. Eddie congratulated him on his step into fatherhood, ruffling Chris’ hair as he did—not that Chris noticed, busy scanning through the machines for a familiar blond head.

Not that Eddie could judge, when he was doing the same thing. “Hey, I’m gonna toss my stuff in a locker. See you out here in a sec?”

“Yeah, sounds good! Buck and Boscoe are almost done in their ring, we have it next.”

Eddie was halfway to the locker room before what Kinard had said clicked in his brain, and he immediately did a 180. He made a beeline to the rings set up on the far side of the gym, easily spotting the pair when he knew what to look for.

It was no wonder that neither he nor Chris had recognized Buck when they walked in—he was literally drenched in sweat, his usually fluffy blonde hair dark and slicked to his forehead, scowling around his mouth guard as he danced around Boscoe.

(Boscoe, who Eddie had never seen so worked up, drenched in sweat. Damn, she really hadn’t even had to try during his matches. Wasn’t that a blow to the ego.)

No, Buck definitely wasn’t a boxer, because this was a dance. Every move he made, he made with his entire body, his energy flowing through each form, moving easily and gracefully in a way that shouldn’t have been possible with such an incredible amount of force and flat out violence. He almost felt dazed as he followed Buck’s movements, but in the best possible way, his eyes snapping back and forth as he tried to trace where one hit ended and the next began.

“Wow.”

Eddie was glad that Chris said it, because he still couldn’t find the muscles needed to pick his jaw up off the floor. He didn’t know if Chris had followed him over to the ring or if his Buck-radar was just that good, but for the time being, Eddie was more than thankful for the minute distraction as he ruffled his kids hair again.

Boscoe was moving more desperately as the match continued, launching into a series of quick jabs, but even Eddie could see where that was her downfall. Buck knocked her arm back with her last punch and sent a kick straight for her shoulder, but then he twisted his entire body off of the mat and his other leg was in the air too, and Eddie instinctively sucked in a breath as Buck locked her neck between his thighs. They both came crashing down to the mat, struggling impressively until Boscoe slapped Buck’s thigh twice, and then—

—and then Buck was all smiles again, beaming as he released her and took a knee on the ring, helping her back into a sitting position, spitting out his mouth guard with an excited moment of praise for her technique.

Eddie could not compute. This was his downfall. Eddie is dead, long live Eddie.

“Holy cow, Buck! That was amazing! You’re like… you’re like a ninja crime fighting super hero!”

Well, that was one way to put it.

Buck’s head whipped around at Chris’ excited outburst, lighting up when he spotted Eddie and Chris near the bench. His face was a little pink as he scooted forward to the edge of the rings, and Eddie chose to believe it was out of exertion, unable to handle anything else.

“Thanks, little man! That was some mixed martial arts, it’s super fun. I’ve been teaching Lena for a few years, she’s getting pretty good!”

Buck’s grin slid into something a little more proud and pleased as he looked to Eddie, and Eddie felt every muscle in his body tighten as Buck’s gaze burned through him.

“What did you think of that leg lock, Eddie? Total knock out, right?”

Oh fuck, was Buck flirting with him now? That had to have been flirty, right? Come on, Brain, do something.

“… legs.”

“… legs?”

“Buck, your… your legs.”

Buck’s smile looked a little more pinched as Eddie groaned, shaking his head. “Okay, I, I’m sorry, but I have to ask you this or I will completely die. Can I take you out to dinner sometime? I know a great place off the strip, you’ll love it, my treat.”

The look on Buck’s face was skeptical, at best, but at least he wasn’t shutting him down, giving Eddie the benefit of the doubt (and giving him a moment to get his brain back online). “Because of my legs?”

“No. Well, okay, you have amazing legs. And arms, though, and like… a stupidly handsome face, and I would be blind not to notice those things—” shit, Eddie probably sounded like such a shallow asshole right now. “—but I’m asking because you’re really smart. And you’re kind, so kind to Chris too, and you’re patient, and… Buck, you’re really really sweet. And I would love to take you out for a dinner date the moment you can look past my apparent inability to form a single coherent thought.”

Buck's smile had softened into something that Eddie wanted to bottle, or frame, something he could keep with him forever, and the pink across his cheeks was back—oho, wasn't that an interesting observation—and it was all Eddie could do to avoid pouting when Buck sighed and leaned past Eddie, looking critically to Chris. He slid down to his stomach, squinting as he dropped down to eye level with the boy. “What do you think, Chris? Should I give your dad a shot?”

Well, at the very least, Buck was asking the one person that Eddie knew he always had in his corner; and sure enough, Chris delivered. “I think so. Dad really likes you.”

That’s his boy.

“Last week he spent my whole entire physical therapy appointment telling Dr. Wilson how much help you gave me and how nice and strong you were. It got kinda annoying.”

…well damn, Eddie wasn’t expecting to be called out by his own kid like that, but if the suddenly soft look Buck was giving him was any indication, it might have been the necessary push to get him to understand that Eddie may have been a bumbling idiot, but at least he was serious.

He tried to keep his excitement tamped down when Buck nodded, sitting back up. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll make you a deal. Only because you managed to ask me out before I could ask you.”

Wait, Buck wanted to ask him out?

“If you can land three hits on me in three minutes—should be easy after spending a few weeks with Boscoe—then you can pick the time, the place, and I’ll even talk Lena in to letting you call her Lena. But if you don’t…” Buck reached through the ropes to help Eddie up, tossing him a wrap for his hands as he did. “… then I get to pick you up, pay for dinner, and you start training with me in MMA instead of going back to boring old boxing.”

Eddie blinked at him in abject horror as Buck dipped his voice low, seeing with terrible clarity exactly where Boscoe had learned her terrifying grin.

“That way you can see my leg choke up close and personal. Deal?”

The stakes were too high, and Eddie couldn’t say no.

He was screwed.

He was elated.

But fuck, he was screwed.

(Three minutes later, Buck asked if Eddie was free on Friday at seven, promised to pick somewhere nice, and gave him a searing kiss before he disappeared into the staff locker room. Eddie, on the other hand, needed a spatula to peel himself off of the floor of the ring.

He had never been so happy that he could barely move in his life.)