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Buck spends his Friday nights watching cartoons and drinking apple juice. He is a guy who can say that now.

 

Step aside, shameless flirting. Goodbye, mystery drinks from the redhead across the bar. Move along, questionable taste in bathroom hookups. There’s only one way to his heart now, and it looks a lot like the emotional finale of Monsters Inc.

 

Tiny hands shove a tissue into his lap, at the ready. And it’s like handing Buck the world, in the form of two-ply aloe-infused cotton. (The Diaz boys were worth the good stuff, dammit, and he wasn’t gonna risk scratchy red noses when it was his turn to go shopping and he could afford the extra two bucks, thank you.)

 

“It always ends the same, Buck.”

 

“I know,” Buck sniffles once, crinkles the tissue in his hand, “Doesn’t mean I can’t be upset about it.”

 

Chris giggles at his right, sinking into the seam of the couch, between the cushions, where he always insists on sitting even though that always ends the same too. He gingerly places a hand on Buck’s, steers the tissue towards his face for him.

 

“Thanks, kid.”

 

“Welcome.”

 

“Tell me this,” Buck leans over, his shoulder bumping the boy’s head and a glint in his eyes, “How come you never get that excited when I come to your room, huh?”

 

It makes Christopher laugh again, “Because you just come to tell me to put away my toys,” Chris whispers conspiratorially, “So dad doesn’t get mad at you for letting me stay up extra late again.”

 

“The lies! The deceit!” Buck flops his head on the back of the couch, groaning in dramatics to supply Chris with another laugh, while the credits hum softly on the TV in front of them, “Just for that, I think we have to go to bed right… now!”

 

Chris squeals in delight when Buck makes a show of falling over on his side, the boy now trapped under Buck’s spontaneously “sleeping form”.

 

“You’re snoring!”

 

“Can’t hear you,” Buck sing-songs, punctuates it with another loud faux-snore, “I’m sleeping.”

 

No, Buck!” Chris whines, but there’s no real urgency to it, the boy’s free arm tapping lightly at his shoulder, “We didn’t even have dinner yet!”

 

“Exactly,” Buck peeks one eye open, ignoring his act in favor of conspiring with Chris, “If we pretend to sleep through dinner, we won’t have to pretend we like your dad’s casserole.”

 

And Buck thinks maybe, if he could only hear one sound for the rest of his life, that would be his choice. Christopher’s effortless bubble of laughter. The way it fills any room they’re in, no matter how big, how small, how many people are there to hear it. Buck always finds it and clings to it, commits himself to making sure that kid laughs as many times a day as possible, that he never has any reason not to. It twists at something burrowed deep in Buck’s heart, but he’s never really settled on it long enough to really understand it. Just that it makes him happy.

 

This makes him happy. Animated movies and stepping on Legos that hurt for three days on his socked feet after he steps on them. Picture books and 8pm bedtime. As a twenty-eight-year-old, good-looking single guy. On a Friday night.

 

It’s become routine, he’s not sure when, but it has, to come here instead of going home on a Friday night. Be it after work or errands or dinner with Maddie. He’s always wanted at the Diaz house, and Buck’s not going to say that isn’t the most wonderful feeling in the world. Second maybe only to that laugh.

 

“Dad would be a good monster scarer.”

 

“You think so?” Buck quirks an eyebrow up, props an elbow on the top of the couch, half-sitting up as he looks down at Christopher still being swallowed by couch cushions.

 

“His casserole is very scary.”

 

Buck’s lips pop open into a comically perfect ’o’ shape, and the boy relishes in the success of his joke. Going to be the death of him this kid. But probably, Buck thinks, beats any alternative.

 

“Shh, shh, shh…” Buck shushes Christopher as much as himself, his every breath laced with laughter, “He’s gonna hear us!”

 

“Already did,” another voice enters their delighted bubble, “I’d say you can’t eat my dinner but that doesn’t sound like a punishment.”

 

“Buck said he’d order pizza, daddy!”

 

“He did?” Buck asks, confused, while he looks down at Christopher who is nodding furiously. He chances a tentative glance back at his best friend, who’s taken to leaning at the entryway, arms crossed, “He did. Buck did say he’d get pizza.”

 

“Daddy’s favorite!”

 

“Of course,” Buck scoffs, like there was any alternative, “I’ll clean up too.”

 

“What a stand-up guy,” Eddie hums, clearly amused.

 

“He’s laying down, dad,” Chris says, because, duh, Buck can’t be a stand-up guy when he’s sprawled across their couch, pretending to snore.

 

“I see that,” Eddie makes this adorable little laugh-sigh sound that Buck’s got committed to memory, because he knows that means no matter where he is or what he’s doing, Eddie’s about ten minutes from passing the fuck out.

 

This has become routine too, observing his best friend, in more ways than just seeing him or noting his presence. Buck catalogues his movements, his quirks, his quick changes and moods. Knows which kind of creases on his forehead are from worry and laughter, how his smile quirks up on the right when he’s trying to hold it back, knows what he does with his hands when he’s nervous, how he pushes his hair back when he’s embarrassed.

 

Somewhere along the line, Buck’s Friday nights changed, but his attention to the occupant of his Friday night has been consistent, fulfilling.

 

So he knows from that little sound, at six-thirty on a Friday night in the Diaz living room, that Eddie is tired. And he’s going to fall asleep.

 

“You should join us,” Buck smiles, before stretching himself out even further on the couch, his long limbs hanging off both ends of the couch, Christopher nestled into his side, “There’s plenty of room.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

Buck watches as Eddie gets caught up in the joy of his son’s laughter, too. And he wants. He wants so badly.

 

He pushes his selfish thoughts away in favor of indulging the kid at his side again, reaching comically over his head for the remote and his wallet, for a promised second movie in their Pixar double feature, and newly promised pizza.

 

Eddie’s shoulders slump in on themselves the minute he leaves the propped stance of the doorframe, wanders aimlessly into the room and sighs again, louder this time, as he bends to sit on the floor between the couch and the coffee table, by the side on Buck’s feet.

 

“You wanna pick the movie, dad?”

 

“Oh, the perks of overhearing your son trash you cooking,” Eddie hums, drops his ear to his shoulder with one forearm on the couch behind him, “What’d you guys just finish?”

 

Monsters Inc.”

 

“Ooh, you made Buck cry?”

 

“I did not—”

 

“He only used one tissue this time.”

 

“Impressive,” Eddie laughs quietly, his eyes trained on Buck’s outraged face.

 

“You know, I am like Sully right now, the super cool best friend,” Buck jostles Chris and the couch cushions as he turns onto his side, “But I could very easily become Randall if this betrayal doesn’t end immediately.”

 

“That make me the one-eyed green guy?” Eddie questions, and Buck can feel Christopher’s laughter vibrating on his chest.

 

“The one-eyed—oh my god, Chris, where did we get your dad from, huh?” Buck scoffs in mock offense.

 

“I dunno.”

 

“It’s Mike Wazowski, you disgrace to society, one-eyed green guy,” Buck mumbles, “And obviously that’s Chris, for me.”

 

I’m your best friend?”

 

“Sure, you are,” Buck ruffles Chris’s curls, “Plus, you’re a lot funnier than your dad, by miles.”

 

“I’m gonna make you boys eat the casserole,” Eddie says, punctuated with a long yawn, “Every last bite.”

 

Though Buck knows it’s a joke, Chris is absolutely horrified by the prospect, and all but pushes Buck off the couch to order them a pizza. Buck catches his weight before he goes splat on where Eddie has made himself comfortable, nestled into himself on the floor. He swipes his palms over his jeans, tugs his phone out of his back pocket, and starts towards the kitchen, “Pick a good movie for when I get back, preferably one that won’t involve tissues at the end.”

 

Buck wanders into the relative quiet of their kitchen and dials the phone, makes a quick order that he knows by heart, the routine of their Fridays that Eddie decides he’s gonna cook. It’s strange, how such little things suddenly mean so much. He’s never thought twice about having a pizza order, resigned to mostly ordering a pie for himself nights alone he didn’t wanna cook just to sit in his lonely self-wallowing. But now he’s got a pizza order, for three people, that will be washed down with apple juice and laughter.

 

He expects to cringe at just how cheesy that feels to even think, but he really just wants an excuse to think it again.

 

Eddie looks up at him, from the other room, a light smile on his lips, as if to say, next Friday, you can think it again next Friday.

 

Buck tucks his phone away and all but skips back towards the couch.

 

“So, what’s the verdict, Diazes?” Buck claps his hands together, plopping himself backing his spot at Christopher’s side, “Do I need to replenish my tissue supply.”

 

“I picked Finding Nemo,” Chris happily throws the remote onto the table, assumes his sunken positions in the cushions at Buck’s side.

 

“Oh so you really wanna make me cry tonight, huh bud?” Buck throws an arm around the back of the couch, thinks about Chris’s smiling face on a fire truck against all odds. He kicks lightly at Eddie’s shoulder below them, to keep from crying before the movie even starts, “You still with us, Eddie?’

 

Eddie’s eyes drift closed, softly open just as quickly as they shut, seems to shake himself awake, “Yup, yup, lets do it.”

 

He doesn’t look like he’ll make it past the opening credits.

 

They’re coming off a 12-hour shift, which is almost always pretty awful, but Buck knows where he can sleep up until the ten-minutes before their oddly-timed shift starts, Eddie’s usually up, running around with Chris. Poor guy has put in a full day’s work before he even clocks in.

 

So when they’re changing out of their uniforms at the end of the day, everyone’s tired, but Buck takes to noticing Eddie’s set of tiredness more acutely, follows it until they get home, sitting here, his chain of sleep ticking off with that half-sigh in the doorway.

 

Buck loves watching Chris laugh, hearing it ring around the room and practically beg the sunshine to last a few minutes longer. But with Eddie, Buck’s favorite thing is watching him fall asleep.

 

Which sounds infinitely weird, he knows, but it’s not like that. Never been like that, not with him and Eddie. It’s creepy when you’re on the outside looking in, but Buck has been in, apart, wanted for a long time here.

 

Eddie never slows down. Not at home, not in his work, not in parenting. Buck gets the reputation, the boisterous and loud foil to Eddie’s cool, calm, and collected. But cool, calm, and collected is also busy as shit, and never relaxes.

 

But when Eddie looks at Buck, eyes half-lidded and a quiet stream of yawns, Buck knows, has physical and tangible proof, that Eddie is finally relaxing.

 

Maybe it’s selfish, and self-indulgent and shaped out of some fantasy life Buck imagines for himself. But knowing Eddie finds comfort in him, can relax with him? He’s not sure how to describe it.

 

So he doesn’t, try to describe it, that is, just knows that this is one of his favorite parts of Friday nights too. He used to look to sleep with random people in sketchy bar bathrooms. Now all he wants to do is take the weight of the world off his best friend for an hour or two, and let him sleep.

 

“Buck and I love Dory!”

 

“Yeah? I like Nemo’s dad, super cool,” Eddie’s voice is sleepy, relaxed, and he’s not fighting it as he sinks his head into the cushions by Buck’s knees, “And the sharks. Don’t crucify me for forgetting their names right now, Mike Wazowski.”

 

“Wasn’t going to,” Buck laughs, subtly pushes a throw pillow behind Eddie’s head. If he notices, Eddie doesn’t mention it, just takes the new comfortable positioning, “Hey Chris, did your dad ever tell you about the time we saved a shark on the freeway?”

 

“A real live shark?”

 

Buck nods to Chris’s wildly delighted expression, tracks the way Eddie’s eyelids droop, even as he nods along in agreement with Buck as he tells Chris the story. Buck knows that’s the next stage, half-asleep and nodding off. And it’s a good day, Buck sees, long and tiring but good, because Eddie’s not fighting sleep off.

 

It’s a quiet way for Buck to know Eddie’s okay, to watch him sink into comfort, give in to it for a change.

 

“Maybe they’ll make a Disney movie about us,” Eddie hums, his eyes shut and his head rolled to the side, pressing up against Buck’s knee, “Wouldn’t that be exciting, Chris?”

 

“Long as we didn’t have to eat your dinner while we watched it,” the boy teases, and Buck is sure Eddie will fall asleep with that smile on his face.

 

They’ve missed a good part of the movie by now, but there have been enough Friday nights for Buck to know the story by heart, almost as well as he knows this is the feeling he’s been searching for, Eddie relaxed on his one side and Chris giggling on the other.

 

Chris is rambling about clown fish and jokes, Buck’s not too sure, just that he absently remembers to nod and laugh in the right places. He’s too focused on watching Eddie’s breathing even out, his chest difficult to see at this angle, where he sits behind the coffee table, but still visible, tangible to Buck.

 

This is new, this part of the routine. Started a handful of months back, after the well. It’s the one part of the thing Buck knows is selfish, is just for him. Eddie’s here, he’s here and he’s safe and he knows it. Every inhale is a reminder, every exhale a reassurance.

 

He loses count only once the whole time, to scurry up and out to the front door, grab their pizza and some dishes and stifle Chris’s laugh every time one of them almost drops sauce on the couch cushions.

 

Chris laughs at every lame fish joke, Eddie sleeps through the entire movie, and Buck thanks whatever powers that may be that flipped his Friday nights around so wonderfully.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

This was weird. It’s weird, right? No, it’s not— yeah, no it’s totally weird.

 

Eddie will just, gently place the mug back on the counter, tongue peeking out the corner of his lip in concentration. Or better yet, he pulls the mug back up just seconds before setting it down, turns on his heels, and all but tip-toes around the counter towards the sink. He’ll get rid of it all together. Hide the evidence, as Buck always fails to do when he and Chris bake something sugary and sweet and hope Eddie won’t notice when he gets home.

 

The mug is warm on his fingertips, and comforting in a way, but no one’s ever liked Eddie’s coffee, he reasons, and he doesn’t think waking his best friend up with it at the end of a 24-hour shift will be the first time for it.

 

He stares down at the sink, hand hovering above the faucet. Is this weird, or is he overthinking it? Will getting Bobby mad that he dumped bad coffee down his sink drain outweigh the crippling paranoia he feels at the prospect of handing this mug of coffee that no one asked for to Buck when he opens his eyes? Is it worth it?

 

Eddie holds the coffee, turns from the sink, tries to get out of his own head.

 

He fails. Spectacularly.

 

Their shift had drifted to a steady lull about an hour before it was set to end, and the team had found themselves scattered around the loft, milling about quietly. Which was fine, all good, welcomed even, after one hell of a shift. But when time was running out and 20 minutes to shift change found Hen and Chim downstairs and Buck asleep on the couch, Eddie is left to his own devices. Devices being obsessive overthinking.

 

Bobby had let them all off as the next crew piled in, and Eddie had nodded along with Hen and Chimney, but felt rooted in place when they scurried downstairs and Buck didn’t budge, snoring peacefully, curled in on himself. He’d drifted off almost the second they had all come upstairs, put something mindless on the TV. Eddie hadn’t even thought twice about it until now, and now he can’t stop thinking about it.

 

Realistically, Eddie knows he could have woken him up. Or left him there. Wrote a note. Sent a text. Nudged him awake and invited him home to sleep on his couch because he knows it’s better than this one. There’s a lot of options on the table.

 

But Eddie’s alone and he’s thinking and he needs to be constantly busy, constantly doing something, and the only thing he can do that won’t burn the kitchen down is make coffee. Coffee for Buck. Coffee he was holding in his hands, to give to Buck, once he woke up from the only sleep Eddie has seen Buck get since they started their shift (like Eddie was ever gonna wake the guy up from that, all options considered.)

 

He slumps back against the kitchen counter. Shift is over in 4 minutes.

 

He wishes there were a manual on this, a book, something he could read that points him to the signs, tells him what he’s doing wrong and right here. Is it weird to wait at work for your best friend? Is it weird to do it with coffee you made him? Is it weird to want him to come home with you and finish his nap on your own couch?

 

He’s thinking there are a lot of yes answers in there. But he’s probably going to follow through on them all anyway.

 

Some members of the next shift come up the stairs, Eddie waves hello and looks up at the clock, decides it’s probably best to do something.

 

Buck must subconsciously take pity on him, Eddie notes, as he shifts slightly on the couch, one arm flopping down off the side and his eyes opening and immediately squinting shut. Even asleep the guy always knows exactly what Eddie needs.

 

His heart flips in on itself at the thought.

 

Eddie isn’t sure when he picked up on it, but somewhere things in his friendship with Buck got so intense that even things as mundane as waking up revolved around the blonde. It should scare Eddie, but it doesn’t. For the first time in a while he likes intense, craves it, wishes it were more.

 

“Good morning,” Buck’s voice is low and gravelly, just coming out of sleep, his eyes still shut as he stretches in place.

 

“Morning,” Eddie concedes, though it’s three in the afternoon. He doesn’t feel like correcting that sleepy little smile.

 

“Everyone leave?” Buck rolls onto his back, but keeps his right cheek pressed into the cushion, so he can peer up at Eddie, “What time is it?”

 

“Time to go home,” Eddie supplies, crossing the distance to the couch and squatting down by the side of the couch, “Shift’s about to end, c’mon.”

 

“Five more minutes,” Buck whines, sleepily, curling in on himself, which amuses Eddie more than it should.

 

Five more minutes until the next shift is gonna kick you off their couch,” Eddie huffs, forgetting his mug of poorly made coffee and patting Buck’s shoulder, “Let’s go, sleepyhead.”

 

“You won’t kick me off your couch, right?”

 

“Right,” Eddie melts at Buck’s sleep-ridden tone, the way his lashes flutter as he blinks back into the world of the waking, “I made you coffee, if you want it. Can take it home with us.”

 

You made me coffee?”

 

“Say it like that and I’ll never do anything nice for you ever again.”

 

Buck swats blindly at Eddie’s chest, “Hen always makes end of shift coffee and you know it.”

 

“Well Hen’s not here, so, you’re gonna have to settle,” and Eddie confirms, yes, it was weird. He slides the mug off the coffee table and into his hands, tries to run away and overthink some more, keep his hands busy with the handle of the mug, the cuff of his uniform sleeve, anything, but Buck stops him, a gentle hand on his wrist.

 

“Where’s Hen?”

 

“Went home,” Eddie shifts on his feet, still ducked on his toes in front of the couch as Buck slowly sits upright, “Slow end of the day so, Bobby let us off a little early.”

 

“But you’re still here?”

 

“Chim left too before you ask why he wasn’t an option to make you coffee either,” Eddie brushes it off, avoids Buck’s gaze.

 

“You stayed,” Buck pieces together, slowly, “To make me coffee?”

 

“Well, I could always use the practice,” Eddie tries to joke, but it comes out as more of a strained laugh, “You’ll usually play along.”

 

“Even if you’re trying to poison me.”

 

Eddie bites at his bottom hip to keep from disrupting the quiet peace of the loft with his embarrassingly smitten laugh. Even teasing him, Buck always looks at Eddie like he’s the most wonderful thing, like doesn’t want to look away, ever. It’s a lot to adjust to. And Eddie’s not the one who just woke up.

 

“You don’t have to drink it, I just got bored and it was the first thing I thought to do,” Eddie admits, quietly, to himself as much as Buck, “I really just didn’t want you to wake up alone.”

 

It stuns his best friend into silence, which isn’t rare. But Eddie knows all of Buck’s silences. The plotting with Christopher silence, the guilt silence, the too-hard on himself silence, the keeping something a secret that’s so difficult to keep he’s two breaths away from spoiling the whole damn surprise party silence, the stuck in his head silence.

 

But this one, is new. Eddie isn’t sure he’s ever been on the receiving end of it before. He promises himself to spur it on more, so he gets the chance to figure it out.

 

“That’s— you didn’t have to—” Buck stutters, sleep escaping him more rapidly now, as he sits upright, eyes boring into Eddie’s.

 

“I know I didn’t,” Eddie shrugs, “Just did.” Because what other explanation can he give, really?

 

If you were to ask Eddie, he might tell you he’s been alone a lot of his life. Single father, broken marriage, overseas. But it’s not the same kind of alone Buck will tell you he is. Eddie can’t count all his family on his hands and feet if he tried, Buck only ever talks about one. Eddie goes home to Chris, his abuela and aunt and knows no matter how ill-intentioned, his mother and father are only one phone call away. Buck lives alone, the only family besides his sister that Eddie knows of on another coast.

 

Eddie leaves. Buck gets left.

 

And it’s not really anything, in the grand scheme of things, to think Eddie can single-handedly make up for that, can replace the years of being alone for his friend. But he likes sticking around when he can, being someone who stays, someone Buck can wake up to.

 

It probably does more for his own heart than Buck’s, but still. That smile when he does, when he blinks awake and sees Eddie waiting for him, makes every shred of sheer embarrassment that he’s got a life-consuming crush on his best friend worth it. He’ll keep doing it.

 

“‘Preciate it, man,” Buck nods once, “And I’m not talking about the coffee.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Eddie tucks his chin as he stands, trying to hide the smile that breaks out, “You want me to drop you off at home? Don’t need you falling asleep at the wheel.”

 

“Nah, I’m good, thanks though,” Buck hums, claps Eddie twice on the shoulder while he stands up, shaking out the last bits of sleep with a stretch, “Actually, you wanna grab some coffee? There’s this cool place I’ve been meaning to try, but Maddie won’t come with me, they call it alien brew.”

 

“Alien— what?”

 

“C’mon, I play along, now you play along, that’s what we do,” Buck sways side to side on his feet playfully, already backing out towards the stairs, “Let me buy you weird flavored coffee.”

 

“I’m just saying, if you wanted caffeine that tastes like it’s from another planet you could have just had mine,” Eddie narrows his eyes at his friend, feels like his heart rappels down the side of a cliff when he smiles back at him.

 

“I’ll send you the address,” Buck points, before running down and out of Eddie’s sight.

 

Eddie bites back something cheesy and emotional, turns on his heels, and washes out his mug of poorly brewed coffee with soap, water, and a little hopeless romanticism.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

“If you could have any one superpower, what would it be?”

 

Buck peers around the door to his locker at his friend’s sudden question, almost slams it shut on his fingers in surprise.

 

“Because my go-to answer was always invisibility, but I am seriously reconsidering right about now,” Eddie slings his bag over one shoulder, exhaustion etched into his shoulders and weaved through his brows at the end of a shift.

 

And while Buck’s used to picking up on that, but he’s not used to the strangely playful conversation topic. It’s always been him. It’s new for Eddie.

 

Buck likes it.

 

“Okay I’ll bite. Why have you been thinking about your childhood choices in hypothetical superpower acquisition?” Buck glints under the fluorescent light of the locker room.

 

“It’s past ten pm, so I’m gonna need you to use less big words,” Eddie shakes his head like this conversation, even though he started it, Buck reasons, is causing him deep exhaustive distress. It’s like, kind of adorable.

 

“Superpowers, dude,” Buck smiles, “Which one do you want?”

 

Better,” Eddie’s eyebrows bounce up sarcastically, and he takes it upon himself to shut Buck’s locker, moving him along, “And teleportation.”

 

“That was always my answer!” Chim pipes up from behind them, changing his shoes on the bench in the middle of the room, “I could stay up all night playing video games and not worry about missing the bus to school because I slept late. I’d just teleport.”

 

“Or,” Eddie points, “You could save yourself a twenty-minute ride home from work, and teleport straight into your bed.”

 

“See, I always knew you got me, Diaz,” Chim hums appreciatively, “Buckaroo probably wished for bigger muscles.”

 

“Hey, you know, that’s not fair,” Buck starts to protest vehemently, barely being heard over Chim’s satisfied laughter and Hen’s barely stifled agreement. Eddie’s apparent amusement isn’t as boisterous in his clearly tired state, but Buck hears the mocking loud and clear, “Super strength is a legit superpower, that I bet all your favorite superheroes have. So keep making fun.”

 

“Oh, is that why you always grab the hammer whenever it looks like we gotta break through a wall?” Hen’s a breath away from cooing at him condescendingly, and though he protests, the gentle ribbing is strangely like a warm hug, “Buck, smash!”

 

Her dramatic reenactment of the Hulk leaves Chim in stitches, and even gets a laugh out of Eddie.

 

“Very funny, Henrietta, I don’t even like the Hulk,” Buck pushes his work bag onto his shoulder with a sigh, “And also, Eddie’s the one who started this conversation so why are we not grilling him? Huh?”

 

“Because he’s got good taste in superpowers,” Chim bites back another round of laughter as he stands from the bench, clapping Buck on one shoulder, “Teleportation and invisiblity and both up pretty high on the list.”

 

“Super strength…” Hen whispers, and drops a hand down low, bends her knees a little, like the bar is on the floor.

 

“Keep laughing, you guys. There will come a time when my actual, real-life muscles will come in handy…” Buck throws his hands in the air as he back out of the locker room doorway, flexing for good measure, “And I’ll be using them to save none of you, ‘cept for maybe Bobby.”

 

 “Yo, cap!” Eddie nods when he spots Bobby passing by, outside the room, beckoning him inside. When he arrives, confusion reading on his face, Eddie just asks, “Which superpower would you pick? Teleportation or super-strength?”

 

“Teleportation,” Bobby answers seriously, arms crossed over his chest, “Who said super strength?”

 

Who do you think?”

 

“Goodnight, my terrible, awful, ungrateful crew!” Buck waves absently as he retreats out towards the doors of the station, laughter echoing behind him in a wonderful way. Every day he tries to stop and remember just how lucky he is, to be doing the job that he loves with the people that he loves, and being loved right back, even if they have a weird way of showing it.

 

Though, sometimes he lets himself wish for a little more.

 

“For the record, I don’t think super strength is the worst superpower you could have chosen,” Buck turns slightly at the sound of Eddie’s voice.

 

“Course you don’t, tough guy,” and when Eddie catches up to him (and Buck swears he didn’t slow down his pace, he swears) Buck punches him lightly in the shoulder fists tucked up by his chin, like he’s going in for another strike, “But you’d rather teleport.”

 

“Anything to be asleep and in my bed immediately,” Eddie punctuates with a yawn, stretching it into his next few syllables, “And to hopefully not wrap my truck around a tree on my way home.”

 

“But I could save you,” Buck hums, “With my super strength.”

 

“Thought you weren’t doing that.”

 

“Eh, gotta keep up appearances in there,” Buck shrugs, tugs his bag up so it doesn’t slip off his shoulder with the motion as they continue to walk towards their cars, “Can’t let ‘em know I play favorites.”

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever been your favorite.”

 

“Oh my god, Eddie I hated you for like, a total of 36 hours, let it go.”

 

“Yeah, and then three days later you met my son, so,” Eddie crinkles his nose, but his tired eyes are absolutely smiling, “Never been your favorite.”

 

“I know it’s tough competition but that’s what you get for having the cutest kid in the entire world, Eds,” and it should be illegal, for Eddie to keep looking at him like that, even all tired and droopy, even while doing something as simple as walking to their cars after work. Illegal. He’ll bring it up with Athena. This guy should be fined.

 

Eddie stops in front of his car door then, and makes no motion to move, just stares at the car door handle, head tilted in what Buck issues is deep thought.

 

“You want a ride home?”

 

“I want to teleport,” Eddie sighs, placing one tentative hand on the handle.

 

“Can’t help you with that, man,” Buck laughs weakly.

 

“Yeah, I know,” Eddie reluctantly tugs his door open and throws his bag into the backseat, “Was worth a shot asking, though.”

 

“If I was a superhero, Eddie, you wouldn’t have to ask. You’d probably know before me.” Buck smiles, “You sure you don’t want a ride home? You can sleep in my passenger seat while I drive…”

 

“No, no, get home, superman,” Eddie waves him off, climbs into his seat with another yawn, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

Buck tries not to dwell on it too long, how Eddie affectionately slipped a nickname he uses for Christopher into conversation with him, but it doesn’t really work. He’s thinking about Eddie’s soft smile as he climbs into his jeep, and he’s thinking about Eddie’s ruffled helmet-head hair as he turns his key, and he’s thinking about how Eddie’s shirt rode up and exposed the smallest sliver of skin above his waist when he pulls out of the parking lot. It’s not unusual for him to be constantly thinking about Eddie, but still. Thinks about him halfway through his drive home until he decided thinking about him just won’t cut it. Not sleep-deprived, running on fumes and very little filter to go along with it.

 

He’s telling Siri to call Eddie’s cell before he can second guess it (even though, if he had, he probably wouldn’t.)

 

“I’ve decided to change my superpower,” he says, without waiting for Eddie to speak once he answers the call.

 

Eddie sighs on the phone and Buck is glad his impulse control gave out for the night, “You’re still thinking about that?”

 

“Yeah well, you know, I’ve been known to have a thought or two every once and a while,” Buck smiles like Eddie can see if through the speaker phone, slows his car to a stop at a red light, “And I was thinking, if I can’t help you teleport—”

 

“Should I be nervous?”

 

“—I can use telekinesis to keep you awake until you get home.”

 

“Tele— that’s— Buck, what the hell are you talking about?”

 

“You know, telekinesis,” he implores, like emphasizing it enough will make Eddie understand, “When the bad guy gets inside someone’s head and they can like, hear their voice and read their mind!”

 

“You mean telepathy?”

 

“Isn’t that what I said?”

 

“I don’t even think telepathy’s the right word— did you just want to call me?”

 

“I’m inventing a superpower for you, can’t you just accept the gesture?”

 

“You could have just called me, Buck.”

 

“Having me on the phone is the closest thing I could think of to getting inside your mind, so you gotta use your imagination a little,” Buck is unperturbed by Eddie’s reluctance, is more so struck with a weird swooping sensation in his chest at Eddie somehow getting into his mind, knowing Buck really just wasn’t ready to let go of him just yet, even after 12 hours in close quarters.

 

“So hold on, if I’m going to play along here,” Eddie cuts in, trying to keep his voice even but amusement is slipping through, “Does this make you the bad guy?”

 

“No, no— I mean, yes, if we’re going off my explanation but no, because I only have your best interests at heart at all times,” Buck rambles, pulling into his apartment building lot, “Tell me you’ve at least gotten out of the parking lot in one piece.”

 

Ha, ha, Buckley, I’m five minutes from home,” Buck hears Eddie’s turn signal tick on the line, “And I’m driving immaculately tonight.”

 

“Alright, I was just checking,” Buck smiles, slipping the phone between his ear and his shoulder, “Listen to any good music?”

 

“You already know the answer to that question.”

 

“I gave you my playlist.”

 

“I don’t like your playlist.”

 

“Oh so you’re the bad guy?” Buck envies how sleepy Eddie still sounds, because this three-minute conversation has already jolted every nerve ending in Buck’s body wide-awake, “You know what? That’s fine. If lying keeps you awake, far be it from me to hinder you.”

 

“I’ll be home in three minutes, then I’ll be out of your hair and you can go back to pretending I like your taste in music,” Eddie hums.

 

“It’s okay, I like having you in my hair— uh—” Buck stops mid-step in the hallway, walking towards his apartment, cringes inwardly, “That sounded a lot better in my head.”

 

“I got the sentiment,” and Buck can hear the smile in Eddie’s voice, which doesn’t do much for his personal embarrassment, “Pretty sure bad guys aren’t supposed to use their telepathy to make caring gestures for their victims, though.”

 

“You must really be tired because we established I’m not the bad guy at least three times already.”

 

“Did we?” Eddie’s amusement is apparent, and Buck faintly recognizes the sound of his engine turning off, “Made it in one piece.”

 

“Mission accomplished!”

 

“How about you?”

 

“What about me?”

 

“You home?”

 

“I’m supposed to be taking care of you here, not the other way around,” Buck squirms under the scrutiny of his own feelings, how Eddie’s natural care always seems to slip in before Buck can swat the butterflies away by hand, “But yeah, I’m unlocking my door now.”

 

“Perfect timing,” Eddie jingles his keys by the speaker on his phone for Buck to hear, “Oh shit, I left my bag in the car.”

 

“Go get it.”

 

“But I’m so close, Buck, I have one foot in the door—” he whines like a petulant child.

 

“Go get your bag, I’m going to wait outside my door until you do.”

 

“Seriously?”

 

“Chop, chop, Diaz,” Buck claps, rests a shoulder on the frame of his door, and hears Eddie grumble at the order, and the use of his last name, but he thinks he hears footsteps anyway.

 

There’s a beat of quiet, nothing but the sounds of Eddie’s car door clicking open and shut, the faint noises of LA after hours, the AC blowing in the hallways of Buck’s apartment. Buck’s never appreciated quiet much, but this, this one he could get used to.

 

“Alright, am I good to go now?”

 

“You positive you got your bag?”

 

“What— how— yes, I am positive—”

 

“And you locked your doors?”

 

“Oh my god.”

 

“You put the car in park?”

 

“Should have taken you up on that ride so I could punch the smug look off your face in person.”

 

“Okay, okay, go,” Buck concedes, a happiness laced through his voice that he’s ever associated with a time past ten pm on a weeknight.

 

“Well, thank you, I guess for all your nagging and— what? No, it’s Buck— he’s— yeah, yeah,” Eddie trails off distractedly, before clearing his throat, “I was about to let you off the hook but now Carla wants to say hi.”

 

“Hi Carla,” Buck says, dropping his bag by the door and locking it behind him, noting Eddie’s phone being quickly handed off.

 

“Hey Buckaroo, I miss you!”

 

“Miss you more,” Buck smiles, walking further into his apartment, “Gotta convince Eddie to stop keeping you all to himself.”

 

“Careful what you wish for, Buck. You come over while I’m here I might never let you leave.”

 

He hears a shouted “Wouldn’t be a problem!” from somewhere behind Carla, and is glad this is a phone conversation. Because he’s blushing.

 

“Did you boys have a good day at work?” she asks, laughter on the tip of her tongue.

 

“Not too bad, though I was afraid after all the excitement, old man Eddie might fall asleep on the car ride home, so I was just making sure he got home in one piece,” Buck explains, hopping up his stairs to his bedroom two at a time, “Though it’s really all worth now that I’m talking to you.”

 

“Eddie, you hear the sweet talk on this boy?”

 

“Every day, Carla.”

 

“Well see, it’s sweet talk with Eddie, it’s just the truth with you,” and he knows he’s laying it on thick, but he can practically see the million-wattage smiles from the Diaz household all the way from here, so he keeps it up.

 

“Lemme hand you back to your boy before I really do keep you all to myself,” she tuts, chuckling, “Thanks for getting him home safely.”

 

“It was nothing.”

 

“You’re a good kid, Buckaroo.”

 

“Night, Carla.”

 

She blows a kiss through the speaker before the phone is tossed back, Buck assumes, to Eddie, and yells a whispered goodbye before leaving.

 

“I meant it, you know,” Eddie says softly, when he’s back on the line, and he faintly registers turning the lights on in his bathroom at the same time Eddie does.

 

“Meant what?”

 

“That it wouldn’t be a problem if we kept you here, if you were here more,” Eddie says simply, like that isn’t the most incredible string of syllables to spring on him in the middle of the night, “You know, keep me awake from the same car, get my bag for me when I forget it, say goodnight to Carla in person.”

 

And well, because it’s late and he’s tired and he’s doing a lot of thinking without really thinking at all, Buck admits, truthfully, “Sounds pretty great.”

 

Buck has rarely let himself admit how much he wants exactly what it seems Eddie is offering, tries to bury it down and mask it under false pretenses. Throws around phrases like ‘best friend’ and ‘anyone would do the same’ like confetti and tries not to make a habit out of indulging in the moments he keeps those thoughts away, when he lets himself want. They’ve been slipping in and out of something for a while now, and Buck hates to ask for more when everything is already so good.

 

So tonight they’re in. Tomorrow maybe they’re out.

 

He’ll take it. He’ll take anything.

 

“Chris is already asleep so you’re safe from him insisting you take us up on our offer tonight,” Eddie says, and Buck can feel a yawn on his breath.

 

“Well, that’s great because I already forgot where I threw my car keys. You’re gonna have to miss me another night,” Buck tries to play it off cheekily, but he’s oddly charmed at the prospect, of Eddie missing him.

 

“I do miss you,” and holy shit—Buck loves every version of Eddie but sleepy Eddie is making the strongest case to take top spot right now. Holy shit.

 

“I’m gonna put the phone down and brush my teeth. You should do that too,” is all Buck can reasonably say without making a lovesick fool out of himself. He feels like he can’t get back on the phone soon enough.

 

“You didn’t brush for long enough,” Eddie says before Buck can turn the lights off, start towards his bedroom.

 

“What?”

 

“You gotta sing happy birthday twice,” Eddie states, pretty matter-of-factly, “I’ve had to personally sing it for Chris enough times to know I’m right on this one, Buckley.”

 

“I thought you were gonna pass out in bed as soon as you got home, not criticize my teeth-brushing,” Buck sways on his feet, all fond and giddy at just the sheer idea of getting ready for bed at the same time as Eddie, “You know, teleportation and everything.”

 

“Shuddup,” and it sounds like Eddie is three steps ahead of him, has really already collapsed onto his bed, is minutes away from sleep, “Thanks for telepathy-ing with me tonight.”

 

“It was nice,” Buck throws back the covers, slides onto his mattress, phone still pressed up to his ear, “Probably not as nice as having super strength, but, it’ll do.”

 

“Hmph,” Buck can hear Eddie pull the blanket up to his chin, like he’s watched him do almost every movie night, “You already have nice muscles, without the super powers.”

 

“I want that in writing.”

 

“I’ll text you in the morning.”

 

“I’ll be waiting.”

 

“Miss you.”

 

“You said,” Buck has to physically clutch a hand to his heart, “I’ll stay on the phone until you fall asleep if it makes it better.”

 

“It does.”

 

It gets so quiet then, the lights off in his loft, the city sounds muffled below him, his whole heart zeroed in on Eddie’s breathing on the line. In and out. In and out. He’s here.

 

“I miss you too.”

 

(And when Buck gets a text the next morning that invites him and his very nice muscles over for breakfast, well, he wouldn’t be surprised if that smile alone powered his apartment for the next month.)

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

“Let’s go, Christopher,” Eddie yells down the hallway bright and early on a Monday morning. When he hears no sign of his son, he isn’t ashamed to admit he plays a little dirty, “If we don’t leave now, me and Buck are gonna be late for work. You don’t want to get your Buck in trouble, huh?”

 

And there they are, the sweet pitter-patter of crutches barreling down the hallway. Works every time.

 

“Sorry, dad,” Christopher muses, grabbing his backpack from its perch beside the front door, and Eddie affectionately ruffles his curls.

 

“You ready for school, superman?” Buck’s waiting for Chris at the doorway, is greeted with a very weak hi-five from the boy.

 

“No, got a spelling test today,” Eddie hears him remark solemnly, as he grabs his work bag, twirls his keys around finger.

 

“And you’re gonna crush it,” Buck bends to Chris’s eye-level, pokes a finger at his stomach until he squirms in ticklish delight.

 

“There’s a lot of big words.”

 

“Tell you what,” Buck starts, beckoning Chris closer with a finger, and Chris leans in for the secret, “You cannot tell anyone this, not even your dad, but I… I have superpowers.”

 

“You do?”

 

Buck’s eyes are wide with urgency as he nods, much to Chris’s awe, “They help me do a lot of tricky things.”

 

“Like be a firefighter?”

 

“Yeah,” Buck shifts on his toes, “But they’re extra special superpowers, because I can let people borrow them.”

 

“Can I borrow them? For my test?”

 

“Between you and me,” Buck tilts his head side to side, like he’s weighing his options in his mind, “I don’t think you need ‘em. You’re gonna do great. But I can give you a little boost.” Buck claps his hands together, then wiggles his fingers in front of him, earns himself a giggle from a no-longer hopeless Christopher. He then takes both of his hands and grips them lightly on either one of Chris’s shoulders. He takes them away with a squeeze and a dramatic flourish to finish, then grins, “There you go, bud.”

 

Chris gazes down at his own hands in wonder.

 

“Thanks, Buck.”

 

“You’re welcome, Christopher,” Buck beams when Chris looks up at him, falls into the most bone-crushing hug he can muster at 7 in the morning.

 

Eddie thinks he could very realistically melt into the pavement.

 

“C’mon, let’s get you to school so you can be super today,” Buck squeezes his arms around Chris’s waist and lifts him up, happily runs them to Eddie’s truck to make up for lost time, boyish giggles trailing behind the both of them the entire way.

 

Eddie locks the door, bites his lip to keep from smiling too big when he hears Chris ask Buck if his dad really doesn’t know about his superpowers, then immediately delights in having a small, special secret with his Buck. It’s just another minute before Eddie too is running down the walkway from the house, throwing his bag into the seat next to Christopher and swinging the driver seat door open to hop in, only, by some miracle, five minutes behind schedule.

 

Chris is already chattering about something in the backseat, and Buck is quiet but engaged, nodding along and wiggling in his seat until he’d comfortable (he always makes a point of complaining about Eddie’s truck and how he misses the old one, and it’d be frustrating if everything Buck did weren’t so goddamn endearing to Eddie at all times.)

 

He’s got the two front tires off the driveway when Chris goes uncharacteristically quiet in the backseat abruptly.

 

“Daddy…”

 

Eddie hits the brakes with a loud sigh.

 

“What’d you forget?”

 

Buck snickers at his side.

 

“My math homework, I think I forgot to put it away after you helped me last night.”

 

Eddie swings the door back open just as fast as he’d shut it getting into the car, makes a point of fixing his unamused gaze on his son.

 

“It’s on the kitchen table,” Buck supplies sweetly, amused beyond reason from the comfort of the passenger seat and Eddie has half the mind to say screw it, bail on work and spend the entire day kissing that unfairly attractive grin off his lips.

 

But Eddie has always played by the rules and that sweet fantasy falls under no rule Eddie’s ever heard of, so he shoots him a tight-lipped smile and runs back into the house.

 

It’s exasperating, obviously, to have to run around very last-minute when you’ve got a nine-year-old who won’t get out of bed and misplaces his math homework once a week, but Eddie can’t help but look back on the whole morning and nearly dreamily sigh. Yeah. That good.

 

Buck’s been staying over a lot more, his Diaz days confined usually to Fridays now stretching to any day of the week. Usually multiple. And not as the fun babysitter Eddie calls when their shifts don’t line up. But just to come over. To be around. Eddie is so used to it he doesn’t know how he’ll ever give it up.

 

He tries not to think about that last part too much because it implies things Eddie doesn’t ever have time to unpack in his busy day. And because well, the thought is kind of unbearable.

 

Having Buck at his kitchen table, scarfing down pancakes with a childlike ferocity that leaves his son in stitches might just be the greatest thing possible before 8 in the morning. Getting to card his fingers through Buck’s hair on the pretense that he’s fixing it, because it looks ridiculous while he works on a pot of coffee is equal parts self-indulgent and necessary (because really, if you’d seen it you’d know, it needs to be tamed.) He doesn’t think any of the stunts they pull at work rival the rush of hearing Buck say he’ll pick up dinner and meet them at home. He likes brushing his teeth in between both of his boys, shoulders bumping as Buck tries to literally sing happy birthday twice, with the toothbrush still in his mouth, and toothpaste falling on the counter. He gets to fall asleep with Buck a wall away, gets to wake him up.

 

For at least a couple nights a week, Eddie is unreasonably content.

 

He’s not sure there’s any way he can walk out of a conversation where he asks Buck to just, stick around permanently without his face either beet red, his sanity torn to shreds, or a ticket on the next train out of LA for good out of sheer embarrassment. So a few nights in, a few nights out. He’s handling it.

 

“Alright, please tell me you didn’t leave science homework in your room or something,” Eddie calls out as he jogs back to the car, front door locked and two sheets of math homework in hand, “Because you’ll take the detention. I’m not going back in.”

 

He doesn’t get an answer, but he’s smiling to himself when he pulls the back seat door open and shoves the homework in, saying, “Put this in your backpack right—”

 

“Shh!”

 

He’s immediately met with a loud shush, a small hand unceremoniously hitting him in the face to keep his voice in, and he nearly stumbles back in surprise.

 

“Chris—”

 

“Buck is sleeping, dad!”

 

And. Eddie’s not going to lie, not what he was expecting here.

 

“You have to be quiet,” Christopher’s attempt at a whisper is so poor it’s endearing, his eyes etched in concern for his friend, steady hands absolutely imploring that his dad stay quiet to keep Buck peacefully sleeping in the passenger seat.

 

Buck had worked yesterday, Eddie hadn’t. And as soon as he got home, Eddie could tell the guy needed a shower and sleep, nothing else. But Christopher sees Buck and he clings, and Buck played along spectacularly. You’d never know the guy was running into burning buildings just a few hours prior with how attentively he stacked Legos and drew pictures.

 

And again, the word of the day is endeared and Eddie— Eddie was endeared to no end.

 

Everything is instantly simultaneously more adorable and hotter when you’re doing it with his kid so. With Buck, his poor heart never stood a chance.

 

Christopher, for all his efforts, seems to feel bad about keeping Buck up yesterday, and is trying to make up for it now, pushing Eddie out of the car and shushing him the whole way.

 

Eddie isn’t surprised at how quickly Buck fell asleep, in what seems to be a very uncomfortable position in his passenger seat, but he looks calm, relaxed, his breathing steady and the sunlight on his face like a work of art.

 

Eddie climbs into his seat carefully, trying not to laugh at the absurdity of this.

 

“Chris, I have to turn the car on,” he warns in a whisper, amusement in his tone, but Chris only sees his mock-seriousness, “My keys are kinda noisy, so he might wake—”

 

“Do it quick, dad!”

 

Eddie nods, slowly turning his key and roaring the engine to life, as Chris sucks in a bated breath.

 

When he seems pleased enough that Buck hasn’t budged at the new sound, Eddie click in his seatbelt and puts two hands on the wheel, looks up at Chris in the rearview mirror, “All good?”

 

Not chancing his voice (oh my god Eddie could cry!) he nods seriously, and Eddie bites his lip to keep from laughing and starts the drive.

 

They make it down two blocks before Chris decides the AC is too loud and will wake Buck up, and Eddie plays along for about four more blocks before he thinks he’ll sweat through his shirt.

 

“Buddy, I don’t think Buck will mind if we have the air on,” Eddie starts tentatively, “It’s really hot in here.”

 

Chris seems to consider it, like the weight of the world depended on his decision here, but ultimately nods, “Just a little.”

 

“Okay,” Eddie whispers, smiling brightly as he reaches down to the center, kind of blindly waves his hand around, his eyes focused on the road (because despite how adorable this all is they’re still late), and settles on what he believes is the knob for air.

 

He is wrong.

 

The radio blares to life, loud and jarring in the still quiet of their truck, and Eddie wheezes in shock as he immediately tries to lower it, turn it off, change the channel to at least something more soothing than rap, and after what feels like three years but is probably thirty seconds, turns the music off.

 

He looks back at Chris briefly before they’re both looking at Buck, who, quite characteristically, sleeps through the whole thing. He grumbles something unrecognizable and snuggles in tighter to the seat cushion.

 

Eddie spots Chris in his rearview mirror, they make a second of solemn eye-contact. And then. It’s like the floodgates open.

 

Christopher sputters gasps of giggles, trying to contain them with two hands over his face, and Eddie isn’t as lucky when he echoes, both his hands on the wheel and his laughter harder to contain.

 

But he tries, he really does, and it should be a lost cause when Chris says “Daddy your face is all red!” from trying to bite back laughter and it just makes him laugh harder.

 

“Okay, shh, shh,” Eddie tries to calm down through a barely bitten back smile, his shoulders bouncing, “We got a case of the giggles this morning, huh?”

 

“But we have to be quiet, daddy,” Chris tries again, but his laughter is infectious, “Buck’s extra tired, and it’s my fault. I think he’s tired because he gave me his superpowers for my spelling test,” Chris gasps sharply almost as soon as he says it, eyes wide behind his glasses.

 

“You have superpowers?” Eddie delights in playing along.

 

“I borrowed them from Buck but you cannot tell him I told you dad, it’s a secret, you have to promise, okay?” He rambles urgently, and Eddie successfully holds back his first laugh of the car ride.

 

“Okay, I won’t tell him,” Eddie hums, turning into the school parking lot, “If he ever wakes up. I think he’s snoring now, Chris.”

 

Chris giggles again. Order restored.

 

Eddie jumps out of the truck the minute he parks in a spot, careful to shut his door quietly before he rounds out the other side to get Chris. He pulls him down and lets him get settled, adjusting his crutches and backpack straps.

 

“Have a good day, kiddo,” Eddie beams.

 

“Wait, dad!” Chris beckons him closer with a hand, and Eddie obliges, crouching down to his level.

 

“What’s up?”

 

Chris doesn’t say anything at first, just lifts one of his hands and places it on Eddie’s shoulder, squeezes slightly.

 

“I had to give you a little bit of the superpowers,” he whispers, “So you can keep Buck safe at work today, since he doesn’t have them.”

 

Eddie feels his heart triple in size.

 

“You’re the best kid in the whole world, you know that right?” He brings his hands up to Chris’s face, looks at him in wonder, thankful more and more every day for this little light of his life. God, what a kid he had.

 

“You promise?”

 

“I promise, he’ll be safe,” Eddie nods, voice thick with emotion, “Now go, crush that spelling test.”

 

“Love you, dad,” Chris tugs him into hug, and Eddie melts into it.

 

“Love you more, Christopher.”

 

He’s off within seconds, running into school smiling and happy, catching up with a friend on his way and probably talking about his superpowers. Eddie can’t wait for this year’s parent-teacher night.

 

He waits until Chris is tucked safely into the building, behind the doors, then runs back around to the driver’s side, climbs into his truck. He has less tact about it now without his son’s watchful eye, but he does still try to keep a little quiet in the car.

 

Buck doesn’t budge.

 

There’re not many times in the day that he ever sees Buck this relaxed. Eddie’s not even sure the guy has an off-switch, like they always joke about finding. Buck is always on, bright and boisterous and emitting actual sunshine, always running towards the next thing, working or playing or talking, always there.

 

And for a couple minutes it’s nice to have him here.

 

Their weirdly undefined relationship isn’t new, but the feelings behind it get more real every day.

 

Eddie keeps it mostly to himself though, or tries.

 

Buck blinks away just a block from the station, “Oh my god.”

 

“Good morning,” Eddie teases through a smile.

 

“We’re not in your driveway anymore?” It comes out as more of a question than Eddie guesses Buck meant it to.

 

“We’re not,” Eddie hums, “We’re at work.”

 

He receives a groan in response.

 

“Should have stayed in your driveway.”

 

Eddie grins at the idea, wishes more than he probably should that he could turn the car around, take Buck home with him and never let him leave.

 

But alas.

 

“Forgot to say bye to Chris,” Buck yawns, all the syllables adorably stretched out, “Wish him luck on his test, you should have woken me up.”

 

“Chris made it his mission to keep you asleep,” Eddie shakes his head as he pulls into a spot, “Thought he tired you out in the transfer of superpowers.”

 

“Shit, Eddie, I’m sorry about that. He just looked so sad—”

 

“Why are you apologizing? You made his day, year probably,” Eddie balks, then bravely adds, “Made mine too.”

 

“Yeah?” And it’s so gentle, so quiet, so unlike the Buck that the rest of the world gets to know. But Eddie gets this Buck too, Buck right after waking up, and he commits every marvel of it to memory.

 

“Yeah,” Eddie nods, turning the car off, “Made me promise to take care of you now that you don’t have superpowers.”

 

“Little does he know you’ve had my back since day one,” Buck’s smile barely fits on his face.

 

Eddie fixes his with a look.

 

“Okay, day one and a half,” Buck rolls his eyes at Eddie’s delighted laughter, “Day two?”

 

Eddie doesn’t think he could get used to this. He already has.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

There are perks to having a spur-of-the-moment wedding at city hall and having zero people on the guest list, Buck reasons. Honestly it sounds completely like the sort of impulsive thing he’d do and love and get tons of shit for later. (He keeps the thought in the back of his mind.)

 

Which is why it is surprising when it’s a thing Bobby and Athena do. He loves it. Thinks it’s one of the coolest things they’ve ever done, and the list of awesome stuff they do on a daily basis is already miles long, in Buck’s book.

 

And he loves absolutely every chance he gets to relive that, to see unbridled joy on Athena’s face, the awestruck look Bobby gives her like he still can’t believe it.

 

Everyone can tease them all they want. Buck thinks there’s something to be said for a love like that.

 

But tease them they do, and, as a result and promised years of making it up to everyone for being excluded on the big day, Bobby and Athena host an anniversary party at the Nash-Grant household almost every year. It’s usually small, low-key and relaxed, but Buck’s pretty sure that only makes the whole thing more wonderful, makes the city hall elopement even more enticing.

 

(Maddie would kill him, he reminds himself, Maddie would absolutely not speak to him for weeks.)

 

Tonight’s one of those nights. Buck isn’t sure how many years have passed since, maybe two or three, but every time he looks at them, it still feels like they’ve all just caught them in the act, like they’re floating around in newlywed bliss. And how lucky, Buck thinks, that they still all get to be a part of it.

 

There’re some people here Buck doesn’t really know, but the ones he does—Buck is mesmerized by the effortless joy that emits from them all around the house and yard. Michael is trying (read: failing) to teach Harry how to grill, still not tall enough to really see anything on the grill top and Athena’s belly-laughing at a story Bobby is telling her. Maddie is deep in conversation with May, bouncing her daughter in her lap and giggling at something on May’s phone, trying to get Hen to crack and laugh with hem too, but she’s holding her resolve as best she can. Chim is trying very hard to figure out the mechanics behind a card trick Denny is showing him, Christopher just as amused and proud that he’s got it all figured out before Chim. Karen is holding Nia on her hip, biting back her own laughter as Eddie leans over and makes faces at the toddler that have her in a fit of giggles.

 

It’s so perfect. Buck doesn’t even know what to do with himself.

 

He swirls the beer around in his bottle and doesn’t quell the smile that breaks out, his eyes squinting together like they’re making room on his face for a smile that big and bright.

 

“Buck! Buck get over here, you have to see this,” May waves him over amidst her laughter, Hen still holding her resolve, turned away from Maddie, though he can see it’s cracking.

 

Buck makes a note to figure out just how many people you can fit inside a courthouse ceremony.

 

He’d like to bring a few one day. Or a dozen.

 

The afternoon is a steady stream of this, of pockets of joy sandwiched in between Buck trying to remind himself how lucky he is to have it all. Buck proudly tries the one burger Harry managed to flip onto the grill and not on the floor and he’s so lucky.  He impresses Chim (and Denny and Chris) with a card trick of his own and he’s so lucky. He squeezes onto the couch between Maddie and Eddie and they try to swat him away with protests and he’s so lucky. So lucky.

 

By the time the sun is setting, Athena’s insisted they make room to dance, which won’t bode well for Buck and his two left feet but he’ll enjoy it from the sidelines plenty, he knows. He helps Bobby push the table to the side and Harry’s got someone’s phone on a Bluetooth speaker within minutes and before long everyone’s jumping in, even those more reluctant at the outset. Including himself.

 

Honestly, it’s never a fair tactic when you bring your kids into it with Buck, everyone knows that, but it doesn’t stop them from milking it for all that it’s worth.

 

Chim had been the first culprit, pulling the uncle card right out of the gate.

 

And well, by then, he didn’t really have any choice but to stay through every song.

 

He’s a huge hit with the boys, Denny, Harry and Chris delighted by his awful dance moves that he hasn’t resurrected since his sixth-grade best friend Sam’s bar mitzvah. They even wrangle their dads into it with them and Buck feels infinitely cooler, because at least he’s better than Bobby, Eddie and Michael. Combined. He slips away from the parent-son circle before Karen and Hen join because he won’t walk out of that without severely embarrassing himself.

 

Athena is an excellent dancer and Buck knows he’ll step on her feet and no matter how much Athena likes him now, he’s not risking it, so he swiftly grabs May’s hand before she can get to him and he twirls her under an arm, laughter dancing through the air with them.

 

He’s not sure how much time has passed before Hen’s tossed Nia into his arms, and Buck delights in the giggles she leaves on his cheeks every time he dips her, her curls bouncing with the motion.

 

She claps for him to do it one more time at least eight more times. And he does it all eight times.

 

“Okay, last one, I mean it this time, ready?” Buck breathes out through a wide smile, Nia’s face already alight with another giggle as she squeezes one arm around his neck, holds onto his hand tightly with the other, “One… two… three!” He bends at the waist, holding her back and tipping her little body upside down from where she sits on his hip, lets her giggle upside down for a second, then swiftly scoops her back up, and she tucks her infectious laughter into the crook of his neck.

 

“Oh my goodness,” he laughs, gently swaying back and forth to the music, “That was a better workout than I’ve had in years.”

 

“You’re silly, Buck.”

 

“Oh, am I?” He says as she looks up at him, and he wiggles his eyebrows like he knows she likes so much.

 

She pats a small hand at his cheek, “Stop that!”

 

“Stop what?” He feigns innocence, but as long as she keeps laughing like that, he doesn’t think he’ll ever stop, “What’s so funny? Are you laughing at me?”

 

“Yeah,” she giggles, tapping a finger above his eyes, “You have a silly face.”

 

“Can you make a silly face?”

 

She scrunches her forehead in thought, like she really has to think about how to make the most silliest face to impress Buck with, then promptly sticks her tongue out and opens her eyes wide.

 

Much to her amusement, he mirrors her immediately, just as Hen steps back into their bubble.

 

“What is going on here?” She raises a brow skeptically, but her tone is fond.

 

“Mama, Buck makes the best silly faces,” Nia giggles, before sticking her tongue out at her mother.

 

“Yeah mom,” Buck teases with an elbow to Hen’s side, “Bet you can’t make a sillier face than me.”

 

“You’re right,” Hen sighs, “So hard to do when your face is already so funny looking on its own!”

 

“Ouch, Hen, ouch.”

 

“Mama, can Buck come home with us?”

 

Buck huffs a loud laugh at that, his mouth hanging open in a smile as Hen covers up her smirk with a hand.

 

“Nia, I am sure there is nothing your mother would love more than to spend a whole twelve-hour shift with me,” he starts through laughter, “and then spend another twelve hours with me at home.”

 

“I don’t know how Eddie does it,” she jokes, but there’s some strange insightful truth to it that makes Buck’s heart leap, and then melt, and then triple in size. All at once.

 

“I gotta go home to my own house, Nia,” Buck says to the girl, seriously, “But maybe one day you and your brother could have a sleepover at my place?” He starts, then tacks on an urgent, “If that’s okay with your moms, obviously.”

 

Hen smiles, running and hand through her daughter’s hair then pulling her arm around Buck’s shoulder for a half hug, “I really do love you, Buckaroo.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” he flushes under her affection, but warms at her side anyway, “As certified fun babysitter of the 118, I am available most nights, and weekends. No extra charge.”

 

“You know you’re more than just a fun babysitter,” she glances down at him earnestly, putting just a little bit of space between them on the makeshift dance floor to see him better.

 

He just shrugs in response, looks over to where Eddie’s dancing with Christopher, his feet on top of Eddie’s, very poorly step-swaying in a circle off beat, but loving every second of it anyway.

 

Hen laughs like the beat Buck spends staring at them is subtle at all.

 

“You know, I’m not supposed to say anything, but you did just spend an hour spoiling my daughter, so, I think you earned it,” Hen starts, “Eddie asked me something the other day.”

 

“What— I mean— it’s not any of my business—”

 

“He asked me if I thought it was weird that he wanted you to move in with him.”

 

And there’s like, a million thoughts running through his head at that, but all he can manage is a lame, “Oh.”

 

“I don’t really know what’s going on with you two, and I don’t think you two do either,” she hums, like maybe she knows more than she’s letting on, “But I think it’d be good for you.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“After the kind of days we have, it’s nice to come home to someone,” Hen says simply, like at the end of the day, that’s all that matters, and maybe, Buck thinks, it does, “Even if it’s just as friends, or whatever you wanna call it, cool babysitter Buckley.”

 

Buck laughs a little at that, bounces a now quiet Nia in his arms and lets his gaze wander over to Eddie and Christopher again.

 

“I feel like I’m being very obvious.”

 

“Oh, you are,” she chuckles a little, “But he thinks he’s being obvious too. And I know it’s weird, trust me I’ve been there.” Hen follows his gaze, before holding her arms out to take Nia back from Buck, “I’m married with two kids, doesn’t get more obvious than that. And I still don’t see it sometimes. Love is weird, Buck.”

 

He wants to protest, because no one ever said anything about love, maybe it’s been implied but not in that exact four-letter word, out loud. But all he settles on is a whispered, “Yeah.”

 

“He’s not gonna ask you. Not yet. Went back and forth with me like six times and ended up there, but,” Hen tilts her head towards Buck, “Do with this information what you will. I know you’re a lot smarter than any of us let you believe we know.”

 

“I’m not really that smart.”

 

“You could use a little nudge every once in a while,” Hen smiles, “I am happy to help. To nudge.”

 

She all but actually nudges him towards Eddie then, eyes imploring that he moves, and not make up some lame excuse to stay with her and Nia, and before Buck knows what he’s doing his feet are taking him across the small room to where Christopher has just decided he’s had enough of dancing on his dad’s feet.

 

Buck is overwhelmed with the surge of love (because we’re using that word now, apparently) that washes over him when Eddie notices him approaching.

 

He nervously shoves his hands into his pockets and smiles, “Christopher, let me just say, I am so glad you didn’t get your dancing ability from your dad.”

 

“Like you’re one to talk,” Eddie scoffs, swinging the one hand that’s still holding Christopher’s between them.

 

I think you’re a good dancer, Buck,” Christopher smiles sweetly and Buck revels in the small praise.

 

“Good to know at least one Diaz has my back,” Buck ruffles Chris’s hair as he settles in next to them, doesn’t miss Eddie’s heavy gaze at the use of the phrase. Chris taps his dad’s arm then and rather unceremoniously bursts the moment they were having to ask if he can go play with Denny outside, because dancing with your dad is extremely lame and uncool, obviously.

 

Eddie accepts the defeat and waves him on, watches him run off excitedly.

 

“Eddie, I love your kid,” Buck’s not sure what prompts the admonition, but it’s true, and the day has made him sappy and warm and he feels like why not.

 

Eddie’s not looking at him when he answers, but Buck can feel the energy shift between them, in and out of something, “Pretty sure the feeling’s mutual.”

 

“Kind of unfair that I had to sit here and watch you be all adorable dancing with him,” Buck remarks lightly, bumping his shoulder into Eddie’s, “And I got stuck dancing with Chim.”

 

Eddie’s expression is unreadable when he finally looks up at Buck, though it quickly breaks into a small smile, and Eddie tucks his chin trying to hide it.

 

“What?”

 

“Nothing, nothing,” Eddie fails in his attempt to brush it off, looks back at Buck with such a soft expression of fondness that Buck feels could swallow him whole, “Just, you’re kinda a hypocrite.”

 

“A hypocrite?”

 

“Yeah,” Eddie nods, “I have Chris, sure, but every kid in this room has you wrapped around their finger.”

 

“You know I love kids,” Buck gets uncharacteristically shy at Eddie’s statement, “I love these kids.”

 

“And they love you. Chris loves you, I—” Buck doesn’t even register his gasp when Eddie cuts off his own sentence, clears his throat, “I think one day you’re gonna give every guy in here a run for their money for coolest dad.”

 

“Well that won’t shock anyone, they already know I’m the coolest guy in here,” Buck plays it off with a laugh, even though his heart is ping-ponging around his chest. When his laugh peters out he blinks back at Eddie, “I never really thought about it.”

 

“Being a dad?”

 

Buck nods, “My dad never made it look like a lot of fun.” He shrugs, because it’s the truth. His dad was so distant, so uninvolved, that it always made it seem like anything was more exciting than parenting, and there weren’t many other role models to go around when he was growing up. Buck just assumed the parenting gene skipped over his family. And there’s also the fact that: “Besides, I can count the number of serious relationships I’ve had on one hand, so…”

 

“Well, for what it’s worth, I have seen you with a kid at just about every stage of childhood,” Eddie starts, looking around the room and Buck follows, finding Maddie and Chim’s newborn, little Nia, the middle-school boys and way too grown up for Buck’s liking May, even Albert, who Chim refuses to let anyone group with the adults even though Buck’s pointed out several times he’s only a handful of years younger than him. “And you are pretty incredible with every single one of them.”

 

“Worth a lot, actually,” Buck sighs, “I mean, when you get the second coolest dad’s seal of approval…”

 

“Oh my god.”

 

“I’m never letting this compliment go.”

 

“I pray for the unlucky soul who gets to have kids with you.”

 

“Look, it’s a pretty stiff competition, but they could probably settle for third place,” Buck squares his shoulder towards Eddie, ignoring the stubborn thought that he really doesn’t want to have kids with anyone, just Eddie.

 

“I get to keep second place?”

 

Buck shrugs, and is about to spit back a witty one liner, when suddenly, the mood in the room shifts.

 

Someone put on a slow dance song.

 

It doesn’t take long for Buck to put the pieces together, chancing a glance behind him briefly to see Hen smiling smugly, waving and nudging him along, eyes promising that he’ll thank her for this later, and maybe he will, but that’s beside the point right now. He’s blushing.

 

“Alright Diaz,” Buck turns back around and bravely holds out a hand, trying to mask his bubbling nerves under his usual confidence and charm, “You wanna dance?”

 

“Do I?” He smiles, stepping an inch closer to Buck, “No seriously, do I? Or are you gonna step on my toes the entire time?”

 

“Very funny, I can go find someone else—”

 

“No, no,” Eddie takes Buck’s outstretched hand softly, and Buck’s heart free-falls. Eddie loops his other arm around Buck’s neck, and it’s so affectionate Buck doesn’t know what to do. It’s so non-platonic. And he’s gonna have to stand here and sway and pretend it’s very platonic.

 

Maybe the day’s got him in a sappy mood, maybe two beers made him bold, maybe he’s just gotten to the point where there’s no sense in hiding it anymore, hoping Eddie will grab on and run with it. But he smiles, settles a hand on Eddie’s waist and hums, “You look so good in this light. Is it warm lighting? Or is it bluer?”

 

“Watch it, before I step on your toes.”

 

Buck laughs, thinking about how much life had changed since Eddie Diaz, new recruit showed up, told him about his lighting. How if you had asked Buck where he’d stand on the guy in a few years, he’d never guess he’d be standing this close, chest to chest, holding hands and slow dancing in their captain’s living room.

 

Love is weird, indeed.

 

“Do you know what song this is?”

 

“No idea.”

 

“It’s nice,” Buck hums, swaying along to the tune, “You know, I’ve always been a fan of eloping, but another plus side: no one has to watch me fail miserably at a first dance.”

 

“You don’t have to dance at your wedding,” Eddie argues, shifting closer, tightening his hold on Buck’s hand, “I’d think the person marrying you would know you well enough to skip the first dance part. If it were me, I wouldn’t mind.”

 

And okay, like he can just throw that last part in there and get away with it.

 

Two can play at this game, Diaz.

 

“That’s sweet, but there’s something nice about tradition,” Buck shrugs, narrowly avoids Eddie’s left foot with his own, “I don’t have any family to appease besides Maddie, and she’d get over it… eventually… hopefully,” Eddie laughs at his reasoning, “But you know the last thing I’d wanna do is disappoint your family.”

 

“They’re always disappointed,” Eddie shrugs off, “But as far as my abuela and my tia are concerned, there’s not a single thing you could do wrong.”

 

“Well that’s good to know,” Buck chuckles lightly, sidestepping Eddie as they turn, “And think— we’d have plenty of flower girls and ring bearers to choose from.”

 

“Chris would probably ask to be your best man, not mine.”

 

“Oh my god, he’d look so cute in a little jacket. And a tie!” Buck practically squeals, like the thought of it alone is too much for his heart to handle, and Eddie looks so ridiculously smitten that Buck hopes he’s not imagining it, “Oh my god, my niece in a fluffy dress? I’ll cry right now.”

 

Please don’t cry.”

 

“But Eddie!” He beams, “Okay, courthouse definitely out, I want too many people there.”

 

“I have a decent sized backyard.”

 

“You think Hen and Karen would let Nia be a flower girl too?” And it feels so strangely right, to be mapping out the logistics of his hypothetical wedding to Eddie Diaz, when he hasn’t even worked up the courage to kiss the guy yet. That he’s had a real, actual conversation with Hen about moving in with him when they’ve never been on a date. He lets himself lean into the fantasy, just for the song, “Yeah, yeah, they would, probably,” he answers for himself, much to Eddie’s amusement.

 

It’s then that Eddie leans forward just a smidge, pulls their interlocked hands in closer, and rests his head right above Buck’s chest, his cheek on his shoulder.

 

Buck, to put it lightly, short-circuits at the contact.

 

“You were really cute with her before.”

 

“You saw that?” is all Buck can manage, his brain still trying to catch up.

 

“Hard to look away,” and oh my god, Buck can feel Eddie’s voice vibrate against his skin, “So adorable.”

 

“She is.”

 

“I meant you.”

 

Oh.

 

“Maybe I’d allow dancing,” Buck reasons, “I’d dance with her, and Chris, maybe Maddie, though she’d probably wanna sing with Chim.”

 

“Whatever you want.”

 

“Although, I gotta admit,” Buck says, barely above a whisper, when he realizes Eddie’s eyes have fluttered shut, “We’re kinda crushing this dancing thing right now.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“I’d do it again.”

 

Eddie must be pleased with that answer, his close hum rippling across Buck’s shoulder with the contact, the song sounding like it’s almost going to end. Buck’s already mourning the loss.

 

He daydreams a little more about his nonexistent future with Eddie in the quiet, relishing in his weight on his shoulder, how much nicer it is to count his sleepy breaths this close. He doesn’t think he can go back to doing it any other way now.

 

But the song will end, Eddie will step away, they won’t get married in his backyard with Chris at Eddie’s side and Nia helping his niece waddle down the aisle with flower petals, with abuela cooing while they slow dance, with everyone he loves within reach, Eddie the closest.

 

It won’t happen. He’ll have to love him from a bit of a distance.

 

(Later, when the sun has set and everyone’s collapsed around the backyard under the stars, Hen and Karen will sit down next to him, Karen will give him that look, Nia will squirm into his lap already giggling, Hen will smile and lean in close and ask, “So, how’d it go?” and Buck will suck in a breathy laugh and say, “I think I want to marry him.”)

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

The pros of having days where Eddie’s shifts don’t quite line up perfectly with Buck’s don’t often outweigh the cons, in Eddie’s opinion, as he mills about the loft listless and bored without an energizer bunny of an accomplice to keep him occupied. But some days they do, and Eddie pinches himself every time he gets them, gets to have and to hold something this good.

 

Their twelve-hour shifts were about six hours off, and the overlap in the middle was great, but then Buck had left and Eddie had moped, much to Chim’s utter amusement.

 

“You know, the term work husband only works when you’re both at work,” Chim flops onto the couch cushion next to Eddie after washing up from their last call, and nods down to the phone in Eddie’s hands he hasn’t let go of the entire time since then.

 

Eddie’s not a moron, he swears, but it’s probably the wrong reaction in this case to shove the phone away with inhuman speed.

 

It makes Chim grin, “I am no Buckley, but I’ve been dating one long enough to be a good enough stand-in in a pinch. You wanna tell me what’s up?”

 

No, he definitely would not. But, “Buck took Chris to the park and I’ve been informed he’s getting too big for the slide,” Eddie hums, crinkling his nose at the memory of the video Buck had sent him and Eddie had just so unceremoniously shoved away, “Forget it, it sounds ridiculous.”

 

“I cry every time I change my daughter’s diaper,” Chim says, sinking into his seat comfortably, “It is not ridiculous at all.”

 

“I just— I remember the first time I took him to that park. It was one of the first things I did with him in LA, bribed him with it after a day of unpacking,” Eddie recalls the memory so easily, cannot believe it feels so close and so far, all at once, “I was worried Chris was too old to settle in to a whole new place, but— but he still got to grow up here. I don’t know, makes me feel better about my decision.”

 

“For what it’s worth we’re all really glad you made it,” Chim lets a hand rest comfortingly on Eddie’s knee, and Eddie reels at the affection. He’s home. He has a family. His kid is growing up here. “He really doesn’t fit on the slide anymore?”

 

“Not according to Buck,” Eddie laughs at Chim’s dumbfounded expression, “And I have gotten plenty of updates on it.”

 

“I cannot believe he’s that big, I—” Chim starts, looks like he’s going to actually scratch his head in thought, “I still put out the hose by the pinball machine every time he visits.”

 

Eddie’s whole body shifts in delighted laughter, at the image of Chim still trying to coddle and boost his almost ten-year-old kid (holy shit Eddie feels like an old man just at the thought) up so he was tall enough to see the pinball game. And then snorts another round of laughter at said son playing along with it.

 

“He’s probably never gonna correct you,” Eddie gets out through his laughter, “He lets Buck think he still doesn’t know how to tuck the sheets into his bed, gets the guy to make his bed every morning he’s over. With ease.”

 

Chim finally breaks, a peel of laughter escaping his lips at the small story, “Remind me of this when my kid starts doing this, otherwise I have no doubt she’ll rope me into more chores than making the bed.”

 

“You know, you probably were better for this conversation than Buckley anyway,” Eddie smiles, his fingers drumming absently on the arm of the couch beside him.

 

“If only because Buck would have gushed about the kids growing up for the entire last two hours of our shift,” Chim teases, and Eddie isn’t sure he’s wrong, “Uncle Buck is already a lot, I don’t know how you deal with him and Chris.”

 

And well, that probably should puzzle Eddie more than it initially does, that kind of distinction.

 

“I doubt he’s any better, not if my camera roll from today alone is anything to go by,” Eddie starts, tries to shove the meaning behind Chim’s words away with good-natured joking.

 

“I meant he’d be worse,” and god, Eddie misses when his friends had a little more tact around the subject matter, “At least, he is for the shifts you’re not here with him.”

 

Eddie raises an eyebrow.

 

“You quietly mope when he’s gone, but Buck bounces around like a puppy, never shuts up about you,” Chim smiles, “And I like you, Diaz, but there’s only so many conversations I can have about what color your eyes are gonna look like today.”

 

“Seriously?”

 

“That bad,” Chim confirms, his solemn nod not completely hiding his amusement, “They’re hazel today, in case you were wondering,” and Chim’s laughter can’t be drowned out by the groan Eddie emits when he sinks into the couch in his embarrassment.

 

“You gonna give me a speech?” Because that’s how this goes, someone corners him, teases out his feelings for his best friend, makes him squirm a little about it, then properly lectures him about timing and trust and putting himself out there and how Buck would never hurt him, like that’s ever been the issue here.

 

“No, I’m saving all the good stuff for the wedding, my best man speech,” and maybe, Eddie thinks, this alternative is worse, “Gotta beat out Maddie.”

 

“You know, if you’re all so sure I’m gonna marry the guy, you can take it up with him,” Eddie deflects, arms crossed over his chest.

 

“We have— or, Hen has. We flipped a coin,” Chim nods, “She got Buck, I got you.”

 

And for an awfully insane moment, Eddie laughs.

 

Chim’s very matter-of-fact tactics are indeed very well thought out for Eddie, he’s got to give the guy credit. He’s never appreciated the flowery love declaration nonsense people have tried to spur on him in the past. He’s done the love declaration. He’s done flowers and proposals and a kid all in the right order, and yet, none of it felt right, not when it mattered. No one had been straight with him, when he’d been in love the first time. And maybe if they had just talked to him like a person, like their son or their brother or their friend, and not like a bible passage, like a quota, like an image to be replicated and duty to be fulfilled, he could have saved himself a lot of heartbreak in the middle.

 

Because, Eddie realizes, he’s grown up here too, not just Chris, and things look different for him, feel different. And well, he’s thankful that now he has a friend who does just that. His friend knows him well enough by now to know that if he’s gonna go anywhere with this awfully ridiculous train of thought (he’s in love with his best friend, four letter l-word and all), he’s not gonna jump through hoops to get there. He just talks to him.

 

“This is going a lot better than I thought it would.”

 

“Yeah?” Chim chuckles at the admission, “I didn’t even do my big scary brother in law threat portion of the spiel yet.”

 

“Well, thank god for that,” Eddie hums, “I’ll keep one eye open at night.”

 

“I’m probably the only person who is ever going to say this and mean it, but I understand. The whole, not wanting to mess up a good thing, thing,” Chim stumbles over his words a bit awkwardly, looking down at his feet in apparent sincerity, his teasing taken off the edge of his tone, “Everyone will tell you they get it, that they know what it’s like, but I have literally also friend zoned a Buckley. And wished every day I hadn’t.”

 

“And now you have a kid with her.”

 

“At least you’re one step ahead of me there,” the corner of Chim’s mouth quirks up in a small smile, and Eddie feels his stomach drop to his toes. A kid. With Buck. He thinks about Buck immediately leaving the station to pick up Chris from school, milking the fact that it was Friday and he had a whole weekend to make up homework and spoiling him with a late lunch (I see what you put in that kid’s lunch box, Eddie, I gotta FEED him now, the text had read) and then letting him run all his energy out at the park. His kid. With Buck.

 

Chim must read his thoughtful silence as a win.

 

“I’m also going to be the only one to tell you that I think what you have is good. If it works for you, it works for you,” Chim nudges at Eddie’s foot with his own, “But if you decided to get married tomorrow I would also think that is a very, very good thing.”

 

“I’d tend to agree with you on that.”

 

“Well, this is definitely going better than I thought.”

 

“I’ve messed up a marriage before. And I’ve got a lot of baggage that comes with that, that I’d bring into a second marriage,” Eddie admits, likes the feeling he gets, the tension that uncurls from his chest when he talks to his friend like this, “I can’t bring Buck into that.”

 

“It’s not the same, and I’m not going to sit here and say it is but, Maddie had baggage too. I knew it from the beginning and, the worry that things will be difficult felt so small in comparison to how much I love her,” Chim nods, waits for Eddie’s shy gaze to find his, “For the people we love, it’s worth it.”

 

“I can’t ask—”

 

“You’re not asking him. He’s telling you that he’ll love you the same way he always has, no matter what.”

 

And it’s not much, a handful of words, but it might just be enough.

 

“I’m making no promises on a wedding tomorrow.”

 

“Good because, I’d have nothing to wear,” Chim’s easy tone returns to lights up the room, and Eddie is struck again by how well Chim has done, how he knows exactly what he needs to get out of an awfully uncomfortable conversation like this, how difficult it will always be for Eddie to put his emotions out into the open. He’d felt bad when he’d heard Chim had flipped for him. Hell, he’d be upset if he was the one tasked with pulling emotion out of him.

 

But Eddie is so at home here, in this place his son has grown too big for the slide, and his best friends tease him and talk to him in all the right ways. And maybe, Eddie thinks, what Chim had said applies here too, that when you love someone, romantic or otherwise, no amount of baggage could stop you from trying to love them.

 

“You wanna see the pictures Buck sent me?”

 

“Uh, do you even need to ask? Hand it over!” Chim scoots forward in his seat, holds a hand out for Eddie’s phone that he digs out from where he’d sheepishly hid it earlier.

 

Eddie is so lucky.

 

He’s reminded again, three hours later, changed out of his uniform, work bag slung over one shoulder and a hand on Chim’s shoulder that he hopes presses enough of a thank you that he means to say but can’t seem to work out around words, when he leaves for the park.

 

Buck had texted him that they were still there, that he should meet them for ice cream and the sunset, like that wasn’t the most romantic thing he could suggest in the wake of Eddie’s epiphany on the loft couch, and well. Far be it from Eddie say no to his boys. Correction, boy. Chris, his boy, his son. And Buck. A boy who is with him. Of course.

 

He parks with a giddy excitement he’s never felt post 12-hour shift, especially not one he split with his partner. He immediately scans the small park for them, peeks over monkey bars and around trees, and it’s not a big park so there’s not many places they can really go at all, which is why he worries for a minute when he doesn’t immediately spot them. But he finds them, eventually, after he’s jumped out of his truck and taken a few steps onto the grass, his hands unusually nervous in his pockets.

 

They’re both sprawled out across a sheet, one Eddie’s never seen before, which, shouldn’t surprise him, because it’s Buck. He’d buy Chris the moon if he wanted it. So they’re stretched across this new blanket, powder blue and already sporting grass stains, tucked under a tree on the edge of the park, where it’s empty and quiet, save for the giggles Eddie can make out from all the way over here.

 

Chris’s arms are tucked under his chin, right on top of Buck’s chest, and he clings to Buck’s shirt with his small fingers almost as ferociously as it appears he’s hanging on to his every word, Buck half-asleep and still trying to please Chris in everything he does, undoubtedly weaving some wildly wonderful story.

 

It’s so picture perfect, but Eddie’s had a whole six hours of pictures.

 

He picks up all his baggage and goes, lets himself in, leans into the happy.

 

And Buck has an incredible way of letting him in. He smiles as Eddie so brightly you wouldn’t know the sun was setting.

 

He’s a couple of steps away, and he can see now that Chris has a library book propped up on the other side of Buck, peering over him to read the words. It’s a knock-knock joke book, if Buck’s “Banana who?” was anything to go by, and Eddie winces before he’s even had to sit through one joke.

 

Buck lets his eye contact slip from where he’d been watching Eddie approach for the briefest of moments, to look down at Chris.

 

“Hey, Christopher, is it my turn for a joke?”

 

“Can I pick it for you?” Chris hums innocently, already starting to turn the pages of his book.

 

“Bud, if you pick, you’re already gonna know the joke!” Buck’s eyes crinkle with joy, and Eddie finds it hard not to reciprocate.

 

“Well, duh, they’re my jokes, Buck.”

 

“Course they are, my bad,” Buck nods, turning his head just a little to look at the book, “Okay, which one?”

 

“This one,” Chris dutifully points, and Buck obliges.

 

“Knock knock.”

 

“Who’s there?”

 

“Your dad.”

 

“That’s not what it says—”

 

Your dad is gonna make you return this terrible book,” Eddie leans over, just in time for Chris’s almost comical head snap back at him, eyes wide behind the rim of his glasses, promptly scoops his son up with a delighted squeal.

 

“Dad!”

 

“Hey Christopher,” he hugs him tight, has his face buried so deep into Chris’s curls he almost misses the sleepy contented way Buck beams at him. Keyword: almost, because the image is permanently etched into his memory. “You have a good day?”

 

“The best!” And without so much as a breath, Christopher has launched into a wild retelling of his day, his arms flailing with enthusiasm as he recounts with incredible detail every moment since Buck put his seatbelt on in his car after school. He has no idea how he’s managed to make car safety exciting, but it only makes Eddie more certain he has to keep this man in his life forever. He’s got Chris excited over seatbelts.

 

It’s like magic sputters out of him as he keeps talking, as Eddie lowers them down onto the blanket and Chris settles himself in his lap, Buck curled on his side now to watch them, yawns escaping every other breath.

 

“Buck said we could have a sleepover at his house.”

 

“Emphasis on the sleep, bud,” Buck grins through closed eyes, his hands tucked under his cheek, the early shift and day with Christopher finally catching up with him, and Eddie is smitten. It’s so embarrassing and so not, all at once.

 

“He said I could read him a story,” Chris boasts, “I got three new books from the library today. We went to the library in school today, I forgot to tell you that.”

 

His excitement is so palpable Eddie thinks he could hold it in his hands, settles for running a hand through his curls instead, “Three new books?”

 

“Want me to read you one now?”

 

“I don’t think—”

 

“Go for it, Chris,” Buck sighs, “I need a nap anyway.”

 

“He’s so weird, dad,” Chris whispers up to Eddie, his eyebrows jumping as he shares his secret, just like Eddie’s seen Buck do so many times before. It clenches his heart and threatens to never let go.

 

“You know, all the money for ice cream is in my pocket, kid.”

 

Chris sticks his tongue out at Buck, and he responds similarly, his eyes still shut. But Chris pulls out a book and centers himself, his back against Eddie’s chest with a new book between his hands anyway, and opens the pages to read Buck a story.

 

Eddie’s heart is sitting outside his body, he’s sure, right here, in the park.

 

Chris is too big for the slide, and he can read, a whole chapter book now, and he’s so big. His shoes a few sizes bigger on the blue blanket in front of them, his shirt tighter around his shoulders and his glasses sitting on his face not as big and clumsy as they used to.

 

What has also grown, Eddie realizes before he can stop the though from spilling out, is their family. Him and Chris came here that first day and now, he doesn’t think he could sit here without Buck too.

 

Chris still fits here, right under Eddie’s chin, and now Buck fits right next to them too.

 

Eddie is so, so lucky.

 

“No! Buck!” Eddie is snapped out of his thoughts suddenly by Chris’s yell, and he’s not sure if it’s minutes later or more. Judging by where Chris has dropped his book, propped open to save the page, it’s been a while of reading.

 

“Chris,” Eddie urges, when he sees his son trying to wriggle out of his grasp towards Buck, who is mercifully sleeping, his soft breaths rippling across the blanket, “You can read to me, let Buck sleep.”

 

“No dad, he can’t go to sleep yet,” Chris is insistent, already nudging Buck awake, “We never go to sleep without saying goodnight.”

 

“Chris, he’s not sleeping—he’s napping,” Eddie says, frustration not nearly apparent enough in his voice, “You can say goodnight later, when he actually goes to sleep—”

 

“S’okay, I’m up,” Buck’s voice is raspy on the edges of sleep, twisting and stretching where he’s laid out under Chris’s urgent touch, “I miss the story?”

 

“You didn’t say goodnight,” Chris implores, like that explains everything.

 

Eddie’s about to explain it away for his friend, but Buck just smiles, half-awake and so pretty with his lashes fluttering Eddie thinks he’ll take back what he said to Chim earlier and marry him right here.

 

“I am so sorry,” Buck rolls onto his back and yawns himself awake, hands on his stomach, “Won’t let it happen again, little man.”

 

Eddie mouths a rueful apology when Buck finally rolls his cheek to the side to look at him and Chris, eyes lidded and bright blue in the darkening sky. Buck just smiles at him again.

 

“It’s okay, dad just says we always have to say goodnight ‘fore we go to sleep,” Chris explains, patting a hand on top of Buck’s gently.

 

“Your dad has some good rules.”

 

“Goodnight Buck,” Chris launches himself suddenly back into his position from before, head on Buck’s chest, squeezes him tightly with a purpose, “Love you.”

 

It shouldn’t shock Eddie, not in the slightest. That’s how he says goodnight to Chris every night. Goodnight Christopher, big hug, I love you.

 

It shouldn’t be so different when it’s goodnight Buck, big hug, I love you. And yet. Here we are. (Eddie thinks he might be crying. He can’t be too sure. He’s so mesmerized.)

 

Buck seems to be too, for what it’s worth, stuck in this bubble of awe, chin resting on Chris’s shoulder where he hugs him.

 

“You have’ta say it back, Buck,” Christopher nods in only a way a nine-year-old could, and it’s like the floodgates open.

 

“Night Chris,” he murmurs, his voice heavy with emotion Eddie can’t place, “I love you.”

 

“Love you, dad,” Chris starts, because this already fabulous display of emotion was not enough for Eddie’s over-taxed heart today, right?

 

“Love you, Chris,” he hums, gently running his knuckles over Chris’s shoulder, still slumped against a now very-awake Buck.

 

Chris looks between his father and his Buck very expectantly. And Eddie reminds himself to ask Chim if he got his kid in on this too. He knew Chim’s conversation was too good to be true earlier.

 

Before Chris can beg him to say it back and give Eddie the chance to turn an even more incriminating shade of red absolutely everywhere on his skin, Eddie smiles softly down at Buck, who’s already looking at him, like always, kicks his foot to lightly tap his leg.

 

“Love you, Buck.”

 

Easily one of the top three things Eddie has ever said out loud. Ever.

 

There’s a moment that goes still between them, in the mostly empty park and quiet of a long day, of the sunset behind them and forgotten jokes and books and promised ice cream. A long moment where Eddie sees Buck and all the possibilities, all the futures, all the things he can allow himself to have and give and love and be loved in return for.

 

“Love you too, Eddie.”

 

Apparently, that very wonderful moment where Eddie’s whole life flashes before his eyes is wildly misinterpreted by his nine-year old son.

 

“You hesitated.”

 

“Christopher!”

 

Buck’s bubble of laughter is music to his ears.

 

Eddie has gone that incriminating shade of red, impossibly so, as he tries to wrestle his kid into punishing tickles for that sudden outburst. Buck is beside himself on the blanket next to them.

 

“No, no, Eddie he’s right,” he spurts between boyish giggles and Eddie has never wanted to kiss someone so bad in his entire life, he’s so sure of it, “I shoulda been quicker.”

 

Chris keeps squirming away from Eddie as he laughs in protest, until Eddie all but falls on top of him, both Diazes in a fit of laughter, chins on their Buck’s chest. Eddie, out of habit, counts his sleepy breaths. In and out.

 

“Count me in, Chris.”

 

“Okay,” he giggles again, hand still clutching Eddie’s shirt collar, his eyes darting excitedly between Eddie and Buck, “One… two… three!”

 

“I love you, Eddie,” it comes out in a rush, quick and breathy and laced in giggles and god, Eddie didn’t think it could sound better than the first one, but it does. “I love you.”

 

“I love you,” Eddie doesn’t even think before he says it, but it feels so good.

 

“I love you,” Buck echoes, like maybe his mind is doing the same thing as Eddie’s stuck on the euphoria of these words and the smile that goes with them, “I love you, so much.”

 

“And I love ice cream,” Chris hums, “We should get ice cream.”

 

“Eddie, you kid is a menace,” Buck grumbles, but it sounds like I love you. Funny how everything sounds like that now. His smile, his laugh, his breaths, his name.

 

“Doesn’t get that from me.”

 

He tells Buck he loves him at least 8 more times that night explicitly, just because he can, and at least a million other times in a million other ways. (He’ll have to buy Chim a fruit basket, at the very least.)