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Eddie Diaz was perfect.

At least, he was in Buck’s eyes.

The man was beautiful inside and out. Kind, considerate, loving, and hot as fuck. His laugh made Buck’s heart sing, and his warm brown eyes made Buck feel safe and loved with just one look.

Of course, it wasn’t the way he wanted Eddie to love him, but he would take what he could get.

And Christopher. Don’t even get Buck started on the flawlessness of Christopher Diaz. The boy was sunshine personified. Bright, warm, and filled Buck’s life with light.

So how the hell were they both related to Helena and Ramon Diaz?

Eddie had warned Buck that they were coming to visit that weekend, effectively canceling the Buckley-Diaz movie night. But Eddie, being the kind soul he was, invited Buck to come over anyways and join them for dinner. Considering Buck was physically incapable of saying “no” to Eddie, he’d accepted the offer with a smile that was only 25% forced.

And that’s how Buck found himself in Eddie’s living room, smiling awkwardly at the two people sitting on the couch. Why he was nervous about being around Eddie’s parents was beyond him. He and Eddie weren’t together, they weren’t dating, they weren’t even friends with benefits. He had nothing to prove, and there was no pressure to make a good impression. Hell, he had already met them a few years ago at Eddie’s academy graduation. But back then, he was barely more than an acquaintance to Eddie. Now they were best friends, closer than Buck had ever been to another person. They were a massive part of each other’s lives, and it made his meeting the Diazes that much more important and meaningful. Especially considering how big of a role Buck played in Christopher’s life.

According to Eddie and his endless complaints about his parents, they loved Chris more than they loved their own children or any of their other grandchildren. Buck couldn’t blame them, Christopher was pretty damn great, but then Eddie told him why they did.

“They told me, “we have to love him enough to make up for the love he won’t get because he’s… different.” Can you believe that? As if no one will love him just because he has CP.” The air quotes didn’t even take away from the intensity of his thunderous expression.

Whether they actually did love him that much, or they just doted on him out of a self appointed duty, they got on Christopher’s nerves just as much as Eddie's. Buck knew Chris preferred to do things for himself as much as he possibly could, but his grandparents still treated him like he was the 6 year old they'd known before Eddie and Chris left El Paso. Christopher, the sweetheart, tried his best to grin and bear it. He knew it would be temporary, and the last thing he wanted to do was cause a fight between Eddie and his parents.

Buck had been warned about their attitudes, but he was no stranger to belittling, passive aggressively insulting parents. He could play nice for one night. And with Chris to his left and Eddie to his right at the head of the dinner table, Buck felt like he could take on anything the Diazes threw at him.

“So, Buck, why are you here?”

Well, almost anything. His eyes widened, unsure of how to answer that. “Uhh…”

“Because I invited him,” Eddie said, sitting up a bit straighter and shooting his father a challenging glare across the table.

Ramon shrugged innocently, unphased. “Why? It’s Friday night, he’s a fit young man.”

“Thank you?” Buck mumbled unsurely.

“And you’re single, I assume? I’m sure you probably had other plans. Perhaps a date?”

Eddie sighed in frustration. “Buck’s personal life is none of your business.”

“It’s okay, Eddie,” Buck soothed, laying a gentle hand on Eddie’s forearm. The simple touch was enough to snap Eddie right out of his mounting anger. Buck’s hand felt like it was on fire as he met Eddie’s concerned gaze for a beat before he turned back to Ramon. “Yes, sir, I am single. But Friday nights are our standing movie night, so I didn’t have any other plans.” Buck glanced at Eddie once more, a small smile coming easily as he wrapped an arm around Christopher’s shoulders and pulled him into a side hug. “But even if I had, I would have canceled them. Some things are more important.”

Helena didn’t even attempt to hide the roll of her eyes. “Eddie, you will never meet someone if you’re spending all your free time with your coworker. Don’t you want to get remarried? Give Christopher a step-parent?”

A pang of guilt shot through Buck’s chest. He’d thought about that a lot himself, wondering if he was holding Eddie back from finding happiness. Buck wasn’t what he wanted or needed. His eyes fell to the half eaten lasagna on his plate, suddenly feeling very out of place and thinking he should make an excuse to leave. He missed the look of barely contained fury on Eddie’s face.

“First of all, Buck is not just a coworker, he’s my best friend and one of the most important people in mine and Christopher’s lives.”

Buck’s head shot up, wide eyes searching for any sign of one of Eddie’s tells. He hadn’t looked away from his parents, he wasn’t absently picking at his fingernails. He was telling the truth, and that little realization had Buck’s heart fluttering.

“Secondly,” Eddie continued. “ I choose how I spend my free time. If I wanted to date, I would, but I am perfectly happy with how things are right now.”

“And we like spending time with Buck,” Christopher added, leaning into the firefighter and bringing a soft smile to Buck’s lips.

Helena and Ramon both shot Buck an odd look as he dropped a kiss to the top of Christopher’s head, but frankly, Buck didn’t give a shit what they thought of him. Nestled between his two favorite people, both of whom apparently wanted him, Buck was content. That was all he needed.

The rest of dinner went on without incident, Eddie’s parents behaving themselves enough that Eddie was actually able to relax and smile as his father told a story. Compared to his own parents, Buck didn’t think the Diazes were all that bad. A little too blunt, perhaps, but they seemed to have their hearts in the right place. He wasn’t sure his own parents even had hearts. The Diazes just wanted what was best for Eddie and Chris, and apparently, they didn’t think Buck was what was best for them. But, thankfully, their idea of what was best didn’t seem to match up with Eddie’s.



Later in the evening, Eddie had shot him an apologetic look as he left to put Christopher to bed. Buck sat there in the armchair quietly, nervously picking at the beginning of a tear in the knee of his jeans. The vibe in the living room was nothing if not awkward, and Buck was running through Christopher’s night time routine in his mind to try and gage how much longer he would have to face Ramon and Helena’s judgemental stares on his own.

“We don’t want you around Christopher.”

Helena’s clipped voice shot a jolt of anxiety through Buck’s chest as his head snapped up, wide eyes meeting her narrowed glare. He glanced at Ramon, who wore a similar expression, suddenly feeling like a cornered animal. On edge, terrified but angry and ready to bite.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard what she said.” Ramon took his wife’s hand, giving her his unyielding support.

“With all due respect, Eddie is the one who decides who is and isn’t around Chris.”

“Clearly he shouldn’t be, considering he lets you hang around and leech off them,” Helena scoffed.

“What the hell do you have against me?” Buck demanded, standing up with indignation. “What did I do?”

Ramon rose from his seat as well, just as tall as Buck but somehow more intimidating than he'd been expecting. When Ramon clenched his fists and moved toward him, Buck took a step back, suddenly filled with irrational fear. He prayed Eddie would walk out just then, but he was almost positive he was still reading to Chris.

"You take up too much of Eddie’s time," Helena explained, moving to stand beside her husband. “He’ll never find someone with you around all the time. If you were truly his best friend, you would want him to be happy.”

“Not to mention the fact that you lost our grandson in a tsunami.” The way Ramon spat out the words was less painful than the words themselves. Buck flinched when it was said, traitorous tears building behind his eyes almost instantly. “How can we trust you to be anywhere near either of them?”

Between Eddie and Chris, and his weekly sessions with Frank, Buck had only just been able to forgive himself and accept that it wasn’t his fault. But the second the words left Ramon’s mouth, a year’s worth of progress was smothered in a fresh layer of guilt and self loathing.

“It wasn’t my fault,” Buck whispered, hating that his voice sounded so weak and rough. The mantra wasn’t enough to quell the feelings that they were dredging up, but he repeated it anyway, just like Frank had told him to do. He shook his head, forcing his voice to come a bit stronger. “We were in a natural disaster. It wasn’t my fault. I did everything I could to find him.”

“Yet in the end, you weren’t even the person who found him,” Ramon sneered.

“And don’t even get me started on your partnership at work,” Helena grumbled. “We know all about you and your reckless behavior. It’s a miracle you haven’t gotten Eddie killed yet. We would have stepped in sooner if we'd known how much of a parasite you've been to them, hanging around them like some abused puppy, desperate for attention.”

“You need to stay away from our son and grandson before you get them both killed,” Ramon warned.

The last thing Buck wanted was to let them see him cry, but it was a battle he was quickly losing. He didn't say a word as he passed them on the way to the foyer. He wanted to say something, to refute what they were saying, but the last thing he wanted was to cause more tension between Eddie and his parents. No amount of therapy and reassurance would ever rid him of every trace of guilt, it would always be there, just under the scar tissue, but he had been healing and they had reopened that wound. He shoved his feet into his sneakers by the door, not bothering to tie them.

"Buck? Where are you going?"

Eddie's soft voice made him freeze with his hand on the doorknob. He sounded concerned, and it made Buck's heart ache. Why this man still cared about him after everything, he didn't know, but he did know that he didn't deserve it. Still, he wanted to tell him what they’d said to him, desperate to hear Eddie dismiss it all and assure him it wasn't true. Their words were like venom, rushing through his veins and poisoning his mind. Eddie was the remedy for everything that threatened to bring Buck to his knees, but did he really deserve that kindness? Eddie had already spent half of dinner defending him, and that alone must have been exhausting. So Buck would suck it up and bow out gracefully.

"I uh… I should go. I've got an early appointment," he lied, hoping the smile he gave Eddie was convincing.

Eddie's brow furrowed, his warm eyes raking over Buck as if searching for any visible injury. How did he deserve this man's concern? "Like a doctor's appointment? Are you okay?"

"Oh! Yeah no, I'm… it's for my car?" He winced when the words came out as more of a question than a statement. "Oil change, tune up, the whole shebang."

The way Eddie visibly relaxed made Buck's heart surge. "Okay… call me if you need a ride."

Buck was trying really hard not to cry, but his smile was genuine. "Thanks. Have a good night."

Eddie still looked concerned and a little confused. "Yeah… you too, Buck."

Buck slipped out the door without a second to spare before he lost the fight against his tears.



Chris loved his grandparents, truly.

He just didn’t like them very much.

Chris knew that he was different, but he also knew that his family should be on the short list of people who didn’t treat him like he was different, and his grandparents definitely were not on that list. They treated him like he was still a baby, bought him toys that were meant for kids much younger than him, and didn’t trust him to ask for help if he needed it. On the day he and his dad moved to Los Angeles, Chris felt a huge rush of relief once he was free of his overbearing grandparents. His dad didn’t treat him like he was different, and neither did Tía Pepa or Abuela. He was going to be in a new city, and go to a new school, and make new friends who wouldn’t think he was weird or stupid. He knew LA would be great, and it was.

Especially after he met Buck.

Buck was like no other. He didn’t talk down to Chris like so many adults tended to. He didn’t insist on doing things Chris could do himself, but he always made sure Chris knew he was there if he was needed, somehow making Chris feel independant and taken care of at the same time. And not only that, Buck was the only person who didn’t see what he couldn’t do. Even his dad, as well meaning as he was, sometimes added things to the list of Things Chris Can’t Do a little too quickly. Buck, on the other hand. When there was something one person would say Chris couldn’t do, Buck would help Chris figure out how to do the thing in his own way. It made Chris feel like he really could do anything, as long as he had his dad and Buck there to help him find a way.

So when Christopher awoke the next morning, expecting to see Buck curled up on the couch as he did every Saturday morning, he was more than a little disappointed. Especially when his dad got called into work just after his grandparents had gotten there to have lunch with them.

“Can you guys watch him for a couple hours?” Eddie asked his parents desperately, slipping his shoes on as fast as he could. “Another firefighter’s wife just went into labor. Bobby needs someone to cover the last few hours of her shift, and I could really use the overtime.”

Chris felt his heart sink. He didn’t want to be alone with them. “But, Dad!”

“Of course!” Helena chirped brightly, as if Chris hadn’t said a word. “We’d be more than happy to.”

It was one of the most frustrating things about his grandparents -- they often talked right over him as if he weren’t even there. His Dad and Buck never did that. If they accidentally talked over him, they would immediately apologize and ask him to continue. His grandparents didn’t seem to really care what kids had to say.

Eddie bent down in front of Chris, putting his hands on his narrow shoulders. “What’s wrong, buddy?”

Chris stuck his lower lip out and threw his arms around Eddie’s neck, burying his face in his dad’s warm shoulder as he was wrapped up in a tight embrace. “They treat me like a baby.”

“I know, Chris, and I’m sorry, but I really need to go. I made a promise to my friend that I’d help her.” Eddie heaved a sigh, whispering into Christopher’s ear so only he could hear. “Just be patient with them. They don’t know you’re Superman like I do.”

“They think I’m Clark Kent?”

Eddie leaned back to give his son a bright smile. “Exactly. So be good, listen to them, and try not to get too upset with them. Remember how to work through frustration?”

“Express myself through drawing, not yelling,” Chris smiled, then leaned in to whisper into Eddie’s ear. “It’s a good thing Buck got me the big pack of crayons. I think I’ll be drawing a lot.”

Eddie chuckled and pressed a kiss to his son’s cheek. “We’ll cover the fridge.”

“We’ll probably be able to cover Buck’s fridge, too.”

Eddie laughed outright, giving his son a tight hug. “Alright, I’ve gotta go.” He stood, then dropped one more kiss to the top of Chris’ head. “I’ll see you in about five hours. I love you.”

“Love you too,” Chris sighed. “Be careful.”



Chris was miserable.

His grandmother wouldn’t let him go outside to play because it was “dangerous,” and his grandfather wouldn’t let him watch the shows he liked because he thought he was too young for them, even though his dad and Buck let him watch them.

And apparently, telling his grandfather that was the wrong thing to do.

"Your father isn't here, so I'm in charge. And Buck ," he practically spat the name out. "Is not your parent."

"Neither are you!" Christopher's eyes welled up with tears, but he stood tall in front of his grandfather and glared at him defiantly. "I like Buck more."

The moment the words left his mouth, Chris watched with a sinking heart as his grandfather's face turned red with anger. "Excuse me?"

Christopher looked to his grandmother for help, but all she did was cross her arms and shake her head disapprovingly. "You will not talk back to your grandfather, young man. And I swear if I hear that name one more time…"

Narrowing his eyes, Chris shot his grandmother a look that said "try me, bitch" and grinned.




In his room, on his bed, Chris was spending his “time out” trying to figure out what he could do. He felt hurt and frustrated, but he just couldn’t think of what to draw to ease that feeling. He didn’t understand why or how his grandparents could dislike Buck. Aside from his dad, Buck was the coolest, bravest, funnest person Chris knew. He was nice, and smiled a lot, and made sure everyone around him felt loved. Chris loved Buck as much as he loved his dad. In fact, he wished Buck was his dad. His friend Spencer had two dads, why couldn’t he?

He really missed Buck. If his grandparents hadn’t been there, he’d be hanging out with Buck at that very moment. He was almost sure Buck wasn’t at work, because his dad and Buck’s work days and days off usually lined up with each other. But his dad’s phone was with him, and his grandmother had taken away his ipad, so he had no way of calling Buck to ask him to come over. And even if he could, his grandparents probably wouldn’t let him in.

And then Chris was struck with a brilliant idea.



Stealing his grandmother’s phone was the easiest part. It was sticking out of her purse, which was sitting on the table next to the front door. They were too busy talking to notice him, in a heated discussion about what they were going to do to convince him and his dad that Buck was a bad influence. He wasn’t supposed to use the word, but that was just stupid. There was nothing anyone could say or do that would make him or his dad stop loving Buck.

He pulled the phone out of the purse and slipped it into his pocket, then made his way through the kitchen to the back door. The front door tended to squeak, and it was too close to where they were seated in the living room, so the back door was his only option. It was easy slipping outside without making any noise; the real challenge was walking through the soft grass to get to the front of the house and the street. It took him a few minutes, but he eventually made it around, stopping along the side of the house so they wouldn’t see him through the window. Clumsy fingers made his task a bit difficult, but the excitement of getting too see Buck squashed any trace of irritation he had. With only a few tries, he was able to find and open the rideshare app and punch in Buck’s address. True, he could just use the phone to call Buck, his dad had made him memorize his and Buck’s phone numbers and addresses in case of an emergency, but he didn’t think Buck would come and get him. Buck was too good, he would simply return Chris to his grandparents and leave, because that’s what he thought they wanted.

But that wasn’t what Chris wanted.

Chris had made it to the sidewalk by the time the car pulled up. As he climbed into the back seat and buckled himself in, the man behind the wheel turned around and gave him a puzzled look. “Aren’t you a little young to be taking an Uber by yourself?”

"You get paid either way," Chris said, crossing his arms. “Besides, my dad says I’m mature for my age.”

"That I do,” the man agreed with a grin, turning back to start their journey to Buck’s. "Mature, huh? So you’ve seen a lot, have you?

“Yep,” Chris chirped, popping the “p” on the end.

The man chuckled, but Chris could tell he was just amused and not laughing at him. “Like what?”

“Well, there was the tsunami.”

The man’s eyebrows shot up as he glanced at him in the rearview mirror. “Were you near that part of town?”

“I was on the pier.”

The car jerked slightly to the right as the man coughed, choking on air. “How the he--ck…” Chris knew what word he was about to use, but didn’t call him out on it. “How did you survive that?”

Christopher beamed at him. “My best friend Buck saved me. He’s a firefighter, and I’m going to see him right now.”

The man chuckled and shook his head, glancing back at him again. “Well okay then. Let’s get you to Buck.”



He almost didn’t hear the knock on his door, it was so soft. Buck was sprawled out across his couch, watching a movie, trying to take his mind off of what had happened the night before. The second he heard the noise, he was sitting up like a meerkat, looking over at his door. Did he imagine it? Was it just a neighbor making noise?

Then it happened again. Definitely did not imagine it, then.

He hopped up from his pile of blankets and self hatred, the tile floor cold under his bare feet as he made his way across the apartment. Leaning against the door, he peered out the peephole, his heart taking a nosedive into his gut. He threw open the door, eyes wide as he took in Christopher’s blinding smile.

“Hi, Buck!” The little boy moved quickly, wrapping his arms around Buck’s waist.

“Hey, buddy!” Buck greeted, hugging Chris back even as he peered out into the hall. “Is your dad here too?”

“No, he’s at work.”

His brow furrowed. “So… did your grandparents bring you?”

“Nope.” Chris still had his face pressed to Buck’s abdomen, voice muffled by his shirt.

That answer only amplified Buck’s confusion. “Then how did you get here?”

“I took an Uber.”

“Oh, that makes sen--wait what?”

Chris peered up at him with a bright smile. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too, but… do they even know you’re here?” He highly doubted it.

Shaking his head, Chris gave him a wicked, prideful grin. “I stole Gram’s phone and ordered a car.”

Buck’s heart was already racing with mild panic. “Oh god…” he mumbled, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. If Eddie’s parents hated him before, Buck now truly feared for his life. “I’d better call your dad.”



“Let me start off by saying he is safe, and completely unharmed, and this is not my fault.”

Eddie’s heart dropped, anxiety instantly spiking his heart rate as he stepped away from the others. With his phone pressed to his ear, he was able to hide the way his hands were trembling. “What happened?”

“Long story short, your kid is too damn smart," Buck began. "Seriously, Eddie, maybe you need to pull him out of that fancy school and send him back to public school. Dumb him down a bit so he’s easier to handle.”

Buck’s words became so tangled in his anxiety that he couldn’t really process what he was saying. “What the hell are you talking about? Is Chris okay? Is he in trouble?”

“He’s fine. Safe and sound, happy as a clam, but I’d say he is definitely in trouble.” Buck’s chuckle was half genuine, half nervous. “He uh… He said he missed me, so he stole your mom’s phone and ordered himself an Uber.”

For a moment, Eddie was stunned silent, staring blankly at the wall. “Yep. He’s definitely in trouble.” And then something occurred to him, and it felt like the floor had been pulled out from underneath him. “Wait… Buck, how long has he been there?”

“Like, less than two minutes. I called you immediately.”

“Buck… it’s at least a thirty minute drive from my house to yours, and that’s with light traffic.”

Buck hesitated, sounding unsure when he spoke up again. “And that’s relevant because…?”

The heat of a thousand suns was suddenly pumping through Eddie's veins as blind fury settled in his chest. “My parents haven't called me.”

Buck was quiet for a beat. “Holy shit…”

“Yeah,” Eddie huffed, running a hand through his hair. “Which means either they haven’t noticed he’s gone, or they chose not to inform me that my kid was missing. And honestly, I don’t know which one is worse.”

After all the shit they’d given him over the years about his parenting…

The second the light bulb flickered on in his head, Eddie had to bite back a laugh. It was such a mean thing to do, but honestly, they deserved it. “Hey, could you watch him for a bit? I should be off in about three hours, give or take.”

“Yeah, of course,” Buck answered without hesitation. “But why?”

“Well, for one thing, I no longer trust my parents with anything, much less the safety of my son. I wouldn’t even leave them in charge of Chris’ hamster,” Eddie smiled wickedly. “And I want to make them sweat a little.”

“Oh I am definitely in.”

“Great. If it’s alright with you, I think I might go home before I pick him up. I don’t really want Chris to hear what I have to say to them. I'm probably going to use some pretty colorful language.”

“No problem. Superman and I will just chill and do something educational and boring, like watch a documentary. I saw one about mold on Netflix.” Eddie could hear Chris whine in the background and couldn’t stop the fond smile, no matter how upset he was with his son at the moment. “He will have absolutely zero fun.”

“Look at you, thinking like a parent. I’ll have to think of a punishment to fit the crime, but I think a boring afternoon learning about mold is a good place to start.” Eddie chuckled, imagining the blush that was sure to be lighting up Buck’s face at his comment. “Hey, why don’t you bring him home around five and then stay for dinner? Make up for last night’s debacle.”

Buck paused for a beat too long, and when he spoke his voice was hesitant, timid even. “You sure?”

“Of course ,” Eddie stressed, surprised by the sudden insecurity. They had just gotten past that, where Buck finally felt comfortable coming over whenever he felt like it, knowing he would be welcomed with open arms. And somewhere between yesterday morning and last night, Buck had completely reverted back. And he knew exactly why. “Buck--”

Before Eddie could finish his attempt at reassurance, the alarms sounded overhead, and Eddie cursed the universe and its timing.

“Talk later,” Eddie said, already on his way to grab his turnout gear.

“Be safe!” Buck called before Eddie had to hang up and get into the rig.

First insulting Buck, making him feel like a burden, and now this? Even if Eddie still fought, he would never touch his parents in a violent manner. But he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to verbally throttle them.



When Eddie pulled into his driveway, the first thing he noticed was that his parents’ rental car was gone. Over three hours and they still had not called to tell him Chris was missing, and he was growing more enraged about it by the second. Getting out of his truck, he may have slammed the door a little too hard. He had to consciously stop himself from stomping up the porch steps, and when he tried the knob, he was surprised to find the door unlocked. He’d left a spare key in case they’d wanted to take Chris out somewhere, so either they were in a hurry to leave, or someone was still there.

“Mom? Papi?” Eddie called, shutting the door behind him.

“Eddie!” He followed Helena’s surprised, overeager voice into the living room. “You’re home!”

“Yeah,” he nodded, glancing around. “Where’s Chris and Papi?”

“Oh… well, you see…”

This was it. This was the moment that would make or break the last pieces of the relationship he had with his parents.

“Your father took him to the park.” Helena’s smile was so forced her lips were trembling, her eyes bright with panic.

Eddie’s anger spiked. She just lied to his face. About his son’s safety. Before he could open his mouth to call her out, the front door swung open and his father entered the house. Eddie and Helena both looked to Ramon, who wasn’t even trying to fake a smile.

“Did you tell him?” Ramon asked, coming to stand at his wife’s side.

Eddie looked between the two of them expectantly. They both looked shaken and near panic, and if he wasn’t mistaken… Those were tears in his father’s eyes. But as heart wrenching as it was to see his stoic, toxically masculine father crying, it was also satisfying. They had lost his kid, and they’d let hours go by without telling him.

"Eddie," Helena began, voice trembling. "We don't know--"

“He's with Buck."

In an instant, his father’s tears turned to fury. He puffed out his chest, as if ready to throw down with a man who wasn’t even there. “He came and took Christopher without telling us? Eddie, how can you trust--”

“No, Chris went to him,” Eddie snapped, cutting his father off. It was something he never would have done growing up, but he wasn’t afraid anymore. “And I trust him because unlike you two, Buck called me immediately. How long exactly did it take you to even realize Chris was gone? And why the hell didn't you call me? Were you ever going to tell me that my son was missing?

"We made a mistake, but this is no worse than losing Chris in a tsunami," Helena countered, putting her hands on her hips as she tried desperately and pathetically to change the subject to Buck. "You seemed to forgive that man pretty quickly."

“That man," Eddie spat back at her, the heat of anger washing over him. “Walked around the city for ten hours, injured and bleeding - on blood thinners, might I add - looking for Christopher. He never gave up. By the time he found me, he could barely stand, but he faced me like an adult and told me what happened as soon as he could. Whereas you lied to my face and didn’t even call me. Right now I’d trust the mailman with Chris sooner than I’d trust either of you again.”

“We are your parents--” Ramon began to say, but Eddie just cut him off. He wasn’t in the mood to hear their bullshit.

“I don't give a shit who you are.”

Both of his parents looked at him in shock. Ramon’s eyes flashed with rage and he took a step toward Eddie. As a kid, the movement would have intimidated him enough to make him behave. But now… Now Eddie had a family to protect, and he wasn’t backing down. He stood his ground, squaring his shoulders and glaring at his father.

“Edmundo, you will show us some respect.”

“Not until you start showing some respect to the man who saved your grandson," Eddie shot back. "Buck has been there for me and Christopher since we met. He is the kindest, bravest, most selfless human being I have ever known, and last night you treated him like he was a nuisance. Like he was holding me back from something that I don’t even want. Because guess what? I don't want to meet anyone else! I want Buck! I'm in love with him!” Eddie’s entire body was trembling so violently he thought he may cause an earthquake. That was the first time he’d ever said it out loud, and it felt damn good. Especially with the wide eyed shock he’d painted across his parents’ faces. “Christopher and Buck are everything to me. No one is more important to me than those two, not even you. So you have a choice: you can apologize to Buck and to Christopher, or you can get the hell out of my house and out of our lives.”

It wasn’t until Eddie finished that he realized his parents had been glancing between him and something behind him since he started his speech. The second he heard muffled giggles, his heart plummeted to the bottom of his stomach and he slowly turned around. His father had left the door open upon his entry, and there in the doorway stood the two people he loved most.

Christopher, with his hands covering his mouth, barely holding in his sudden burst of laughter.

And Buck, eyes wide and glassy, lips parted in a look of absolute shock.

“We apologize. To all of you,” Helena said, and Eddie startled to find her standing right beside him when he turned back. She had a soft smile on her face and tears in her eyes as she looked to Buck, Chris, and back to Eddie. “This whole situation got out of hand.”

"What?" Ramon demanded of his wife. "No, I'm not apologizing!"

"Yes, we are, Ramon," Helena hissed. "If we ever want to see Christopher again, we are."

"Helena, Eddie is making a huge mistake!" Ramon pointed a finger at Buck, staring Eddie down. "I have never had a problem with you being attracted to men, Edmundo, but this man? This man, I have a problem with."

"You really think your opinion matters to me?" Eddie challenged, crossing his arms.

"I was right about Shannon."

His eyes flashed with anger as he met his father's gaze again. "Do not talk ill of my son's mother in front of him." Eddie glanced at Chris, seeing his son wrap his arms around Buck's waist and bury his face into Buck's side. "Christopher, go to your room, please. And no video games. We'll talk about your little adventure later."

"Okay, dad," Chris all but whispered. He squeezed Buck one last time before he started down the hall, sheepishly handing Helena’s phone back to her as she went by.

"Ramon, let's go," Helena demanded, tugging on her husband's arm. "Eddie, please, I'll talk to him. Don't write us off just yet."

"I'm not backing down, Helena!"

"I should go…" Buck mumbled, pointing toward his jeep.

"No, Buck, stay," Eddie pleaded. "They're leaving."

"That man almost got Christopher killed!" Ramon shouted.

"I would die for Christopher!" Buck yelled back, and all eyes snapped to him. "I would die for both of them in a heartbeat."

"If you're so willing to sacrifice yourself, then why don't you just leave? " Ramon demanded, taking a step toward Buck with his fists clenched at his sides.

It was impossible to miss the way Buck flinched at the sudden movement, his eyes wide as his back hit the doorframe. Eddie moved faster than he could even process what was happening, his body reacting on instinct as he stepped between Buck and Ramon. He practically growled at his own father. "Stay away from him."

"Ramon, let's go, " Helena stressed, shoving her husband toward the door. "Before you ruin what's left of our relationship with Eddie."

Buck stepped aside to let them through the door, staying behind Eddie as they passed. Ramon glared daggers at Buck over Eddie's shoulder, but Eddie just glared right back.

"Talk tomorrow?" Helena asked Eddie sheepishly, but he didn't miss the look of hatred she shot to Buck.

Eddie crossed his arms over his chest, side stepping to more thoroughly block his parents from looking at Buck. "Unless it's so you can apologize properly, I have nothing to say to either of you."

"This isn't over," Ramon grumbled to Helena as they headed down the front steps. "We'll get through to him somehow."

"Highly doubt that, Papi," Eddie called out to him before slamming the door shut. "I'm so sorry about them, Buck. I had no idea they would behave this way toward you. They never said anything about you before."

The taller man was still staring at him with glossy blue eyes, but he looked away before he spoke. "They said they would have stepped in sooner if they'd known what a parasite I've been to you. That I'm just too desperate for attention."

Eddie's blood ran hot all over again. "They said that to you?"

Buck nodded slowly as a tear slipped down his cheek. "I'm sorry, Eddie. I didn't mean to cause so much tension between you--"

"Hey, no. No, Buck," Eddie whispered gently, taking Buck's face into his hands and guiding him into eye contact. "This is not your fault. You did nothing wrong. And you are not a parasite." Eddie sighed heavily, shaking his head. "They were like this with Shannon, too. I never should've put you in this situation."

Buck reached up to lay a hand over Eddie's, leaning into his touch. "Did you mean it? Everything you said?"

Eddie's heart was hammering against his ribs as he slowly nodded. "Yeah, I did. I do. I love you, Buck."

Every one of Eddie’s worries evaporated from his mind the second Buck slipped his arms around Eddie’s waist, pulling them flush against each other as he captured Eddie's lips. Eddie hummed his delight as the kiss deepened, time seemingly standing still all of a sudden. When they finally broke apart, Eddie kept his hands on Buck’s jawline, wiping away his tears with a swipe of his thumbs.

“Just so we’re clear,” Buck grinned. “I love you, too.”

Eddie beamed, pulling Buck in for another sweet, languid kiss.