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all above, all your waiting coming home

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Eddie never thought taking public transport would taste like freedom, but—well, he never thought he’d move nearly all the way across the country in the dead of night with his son in tow like some fugitive, either, but.

Things happen.

The route itself is pretty simple. From their apartment in Scarborough to Christopher’s school, it’s a bus ride and a trip on Line 2, and then from the school to SickKids, it’s just another few stops on the train and a transfer to Line 1. They’ve got it down to a routine, him and Chris; back home, Eddie could never quite figure out the transit system, but despite all its many, many flaws, the TTC seems to have their back.

It could have warned him about the guy, though.

The guy—six foot two, two hundred pounds of muscle, bright blue eyes and curly blonde hair, arms that make Eddie want to do something insane, like bite down. It’s actually kind of stupid, how Eddie feels attracted to a perfect stranger, but he’s—look, it’s been a long time since Shannon divorced him, and since he left the prairies, he really hasn’t done anything that wasn’t isolated to just him and his right hand. So, when Prince fucking Charming sits down across from Eddie and Chris on the train, right at Kennedy Station, Eddie cuts himself some slack for the way his mouth kind of, sort of, waters.

And it would be fine—Eddie would be fine, at least, ignoring the way the back of his neck heats up when the stranger—Hot Train Guy, Eddie’s decided to call him—sticks out the tip of his tongue in concentration as he drags a neon pink highlighter over the page of the book he’s reading—if Christopher wasn’t somehow enamored by him.

“Excuse me,” Christopher says, leaning forward in his seat before Eddie has a chance to remind him about stranger danger, “what are you reading?”

Hot Train Guy looks up, and Jesus fucking Christ, Eddie is not prepared for looking at him head-on. His eyes are—God, Eddie wants to swallow his own tongue. Hot Train Guy’s eyes flick from Eddie to Chris and back before his mouth melts into a smile that’s so pretty Eddie kind of wants to jump off the platform.

“It’s about the solar system,” he says, tilting the book to show Chris the cover. There’s a picture of Saturn on it, surrounded by stars. “Do you like space?”

Hot Train Guy may as well have asked Chris if he liked to breathe. Immediately, Christopher’s face lights up, eyes going bright and wide, and he nods enthusiastically, shuffling forward in his seat a little. Eddie has the distant thought that his parents would find this—letting Chris talk to a stranger—the worst thing he’s ever done as a father, and it makes him want to let his kid do it more, just to spite the imaginary version of Helena and Ramon Diaz that are living in his mind.

Just as he’s about to say something—to Chris or Hot Train Guy, Eddie isn’t sure—the stranger glances away from Chris and up to Eddie. “Does Dad mind if we talk about it?”

“Dad,” Christopher says, tugging on the sleeve of Eddie’s zip-up. “Do you mind?”

“Maybe introduce yourself first, bud,” Eddie says, because if he’s going to do something that would make his parents pissed off, he may as well go all in. And in any case, if Hot Train Guy turns out to be a total creep, they can just take another train. Or maybe a streetcar—Eddie hears they’re kind of nice.

“I’m Christopher Diaz!” Chris says brightly, and okay , Eddie didn’t mean give the man his full name, but that’s probably on him for not specifying. “I’m in the fourth grade!”

Hot Train Guy chuckles, all warm and fond and Jesus Christ, Eddie is not allowed to have a crush on this random hunk of a man from the TTC. He’s not . He doesn’t even know his name—

“I’m Evan Buckley,” the man says, returning the favor. “My friends call me Buck, though.”

Eddie’s pretty sure Christopher’s eyes twinkle . “Can I call you Buck?”

“Of course,” Hot Train Guy— Buck —says, smiling. “I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship, Christopher Diaz.”

And that’s how it begins.

 

 

Three weeks later, Buck and Chris are practically inseparable. Buck gets on the train after them, but Christopher has taken to saving them seats, despite the morning rush. Every time Buck sees it, right before he plops down and launches into a tangent about something that Christopher will undoubtedly find endlessly interesting, he grins, so bright and pretty that Eddie wants to swallow it, just a little. Like, unhinge his jaw and eat Buck whole, which sounds so fucking weird. He knows. He doesn’t need to be told.

Even if Eddie doesn’t do much talking (and he doesn’t; he lets Christopher have his new train buddy all to himself because he’s pretty sure he would say something stupid like I could drown in your eyes if he tried to engage in conversation), he sure as hell learns a lot; about whatever it is they’re chatting about on any given day, sure, but more importantly, he learns about Buck.

He finds out Buck’s in a master's program, getting his teaching license so he can work at a junior high; he plans on teaching science because according to him (and Christopher), nothing is cooler than science. He’s twenty-seven, and before he went back to school, he traveled the world; Peru was his favorite place to live, but he loved Los Angeles too. He almost became a firefighter but decided he liked the idea of teaching kids better. He was born in New Brunswick, but hasn’t been back since he was eighteen; he misses the ocean, though, misses being out on a boat, misses the fresh seafood. He has an older sister—Maddie, Eddie thinks—who lives in Toronto, too, and he’s—fuck, he’s the kindest man Eddie’s ever met. 

He treats Chris like a normal kid, which shouldn’t make Eddie want to kiss him, but it sure fucking does, because it’s—God, people just. Don’t. They treat Christopher like he’s fragile, or delicate, or special, when all he wants is to be treated like his peers, and Buck does that. Maybe it’s his program that gives him some insight on how to treat a kid with CP like anyone else, but Eddie thinks, somehow, that it’s just Buck —that Buck would treat him like he’s worth something, even if they were in a different universe, even if they weren’t here, now, on the stupid fucking train.

Eddie’s fine. He’s being totally normal about it.

Or, at least, he was being totally normal about it, until one day in October when Buck and Christopher’s conversation hits a lull, just as they go underground, and Buck turns to Eddie. “So — nurse?”

Honestly, Eddie turns around and looks over his shoulder to see who Buck’s talking to, because it’s been—it’s been so about Christopher, this little ecosystem they’ve created on Line 2, that Eddie was convinced Buck kind of forgot he was there. Which was fine for him, really; it meant Eddie could make moony eyes at Buck without him noticing.

Except, now, he’s noticing. 

“Um, yeah,” Eddie says, once he’s thoroughly embarrassed himself by looking for the person Buck is speaking to. “Pediatric, at SickKids.”

“Oh, man, that’s so cool! My sister works at Women’s College Hospital,” Buck says brightly. He talks with his hands, Eddie’s noticed; or, more accurately, Eddie’s just noticed his hands. They’re nice hands, with long, thick fingers, short, trimmed nails, and there’s a freckle on one of his knuckles, right above his—

Anyways. They’re nice hands, is his point.

“I did a rotation at a woman’s hospital in Calgary,” Eddie says, because Buck’s waiting for an answer. “It was my second choice, after peds.”

“Calgary,” Buck says knowingly. He taps on his nose, and then points at Eddie. “Stampede. Cowboys. Are you a cowboy, Eddie?”

And Eddie—Eddie doesn’t remember telling him his name, figures the information must have come from Christopher, but he thinks it sounds nice, coming from Buck; like the way Buck says his name makes it special, somehow.

Jesus Christ. Maybe he should buy a car.

“Not a cowboy,” Eddie says, knee bouncing.

“Liar,” Christopher says, because he’s Eddie’s kid, which means he’s the worst, just a little bit. “You have a hat. Dad, you have chaps .”

“Chaps,” Buck replies. His voice is half-drowned out by the sound of the announcement signaling their arrival at Broadview, but Eddie hears the tease in it anyway. “What does a guy have to do to see those?”

“Move to Calgary,” Eddie says flatly, narrowing his eyes at his son. Christopher just beams up at him, like the little traitor he is.

Eddie can see that Buck’s gearing up to say something else—another tease, probably, which like—he’s barely spoken to him in the last three weeks and now he’s just dogpiling on Eddie? If Eddie was a stronger man (he isn’t), he might be offended. Instead, he feels like his insides are made of spun sugar—but whatever it is is interrupted by the train going dark. Not in a hey, we’ve just entered the underground sort of dark; no, it goes pitch black in a second, the only light coming from the glow of people’s phones throughout the train car. Even Broadview Station, outside the car, is dark.

Great. Just great.

Someone screeches from the other end of the car; flashlights turn on; people begin murmuring. Eddie puts a hand on Christopher’s shoulder, ready to console him, only to watch as Buck stands up, his own phone flashlight on. 

“Don’t worry everyone!” Buck calls out in a smooth, calming voice. Eddie blinks up at him; Buck smiles down at him. “It’s okay! They’re doing construction on Broadview Ave right now, someone probably hit something they weren’t supposed to. You know how it is.”

It earns him a few breathy chuckles, some sighs, a couple of thank Gods . Buck’s words are enough to calm down the train, at least, which Eddie is grateful for; there’s nothing like a panicked train car to ruin his morning commute. 

Buck grins brightly as someone thanks him for the information. “I’m sure the TTC will have it fixed in no time. We can all just hang out in the meantime.” He sits down then, slumping back into his seat. Christopher chose a double set for him and Buck to sit on that’s facing the middle, and Eddie’s seat faces forward; when Buck sits, their knees bump. Eddie pretends not to feel it down to his bone.

“How’d you know that?” Eddie asks, curious. “About the construction, I mean.”

“Oh,” Buck says, grinning. “I just made it up.”

“You—” Eddie blinks as Christopher peals over with laughter. “You made it up?”

“Yeah,” Buck nods, “come on, you don’t ever tell a little white lie to smooth things over?”

Eddie thinks about work—about telling kids that the stuff in their IV bags is magic liquid, that butterfly needles are hand delivered by real butterflies, that the red Jell-O is the best because it’s full of super-secret healing powers. He thinks about Christopher—telling him that Shannon leaving was temporary, that moving to Toronto was always part of the plan, that yes, taking the train is his favorite part of the morning too. He thinks about all of it—all the little white lies that make up his life—and says, “No,” like a lying liar.

What? He has a kid that looks up to him. He can’t admit to being dishonest.

Buck raises an eyebrow at him, but they must teach him at school to never call out a parent on their dishonesty, because he just nods once, a smile tucked into the corner of his mouth. “Fair enough,” Buck says. He looks at Christopher, reaching out to poke him in the side. “Your dad’s right, buddy. Lying is bad.”

“Even if it’s for a good reason?” Christopher asks. Eddie’s definitely been over this with him— honesty is the best policy has been a staple in the Diaz household since Shannon left—but Eddie gets it. Hearing it from Buck—Buck, Chris’s veritable new best friend, who’s shiny and new and oh so smart about dinosaurs and biomes and the Canadarm— is like hearing it for the first time.

“Even then,” Buck says, nodding. “I know it might seem like the right thing, sometimes, but I promise the truth is always better. Even when it’s scary, or if you think it’ll hurt less, it’s never worth it.”

“My mom said she’d come home again,” Chris says quietly, looking down at the train floor. Buck’s flashlight is trained on his sneakers, casting a bright shadow across them. “She didn’t, though.”

Buck looks up at Eddie, eyes wide and a little panicked. Eddie doesn’t blame him; he’s sure Buck wasn’t expecting Christopher to unload his abandonment issues on him at Broadview Station during a station-wide blackout, but Chris is—God, he comfortable with Buck. After three weeks, Christopher is comfortable with him in a way that Eddie wasn’t expecting to ever happen, really. And he gets it, truly. Because Buck is good, and kind, and oh so patient with Christopher’s unending questions, and it’s just—

It makes sense, is all, that Christopher trusts him enough to talk about Shannon.

“You know, bud,” Buck starts once he realizes that Eddie is at as much of a loss for words as he is, “sometimes, when people leave, they mean to come back, but it’s really, really hard.”

Christopher glances over at him, frowning a little. “Don’t they want to come back, though?”

“Of course,” Buck says. He puts his phone face down on his knee so the flash is facing up. It makes the light cut across his face, shadows dipping in and out of the lines around his mouth and eyes, and Eddie is struck, all of a sudden, by the man in front of him—a man who’s stupidly pretty, and intelligent, and who’s talking to his son like he’s a genuine, bonafide person and not just some kid to be dealt with. “Of course they want to come back, Chris. But there are things that get in the way—and it doesn’t mean your mom loves you any less, alright? It might just take her a little longer to come home.”

Christopher nods, chewing on his lip. “Okay, Buck,” he murmurs. They’re all quiet for a moment, Buck glancing between Chris and Eddie, Chris deep in thought, when Chris says, “Like the astronauts, right? It takes them a while, but they come home eventually.”

Something flickers across Buck’s face, and then he’s grinning again, warm and soft. “Exactly,” Buck says, and when he looks at Eddie, his gaze lingers. “Exactly like the astronauts.”

And Eddie—Eddie is fucking screwed.



With November comes a snowfall, and worse, flu season. It hits Christopher’s fourth-grade class in waves. For a week or so, Eddie’s convinced it’s going to miss Chris entirely, and then halfway through the month, they wake up on a Tuesday to fevers and sore throats and stuffy noses. 

It’s strange, somehow, doing this without help. The last time Christopher got sick, his parents were there, and the time before that, Shannon was; Eddie’s never had to do this alone, never had to juggle everything with one hand holding Chris and the other holding the rest of the world. Thankfully, though, help comes in the form of his favorite co-worker, Carla, who offers to stay with Christopher while he picks up a shift at SickKids that will hopefully— hopefully —put him in the running for the promotion that was promised to him when they moved out to Toronto.

“I can’t thank you enough,” Eddie says, patting the pockets of his scrubs to make sure he has everything. “Literally, Carla, I owe you my entire life.”

“You know I’m here to help,” she says, smiling kindly at him. Eddie’s tempted to give her a hug, or a smacking kiss on the cheek. “Plus, Christopher is an angel. Spending time with him is never any trouble.”

If Eddie preens at that, that’s between him and God.

“Okay, mijo,” Eddie says, once his bag is packed, his ID card is clipped to his front pocket, and his keys are safely tucked away. “You’re going to be good for Carla, right? And you’re going to feel better?”

“Yes, Dad,” Christopher says, halfway to miserable. He gives a little sniffle, rubbing a hand over his nose. “Promise.”

“Good.” Eddie brushes a kiss over his forehead; still warm, but not too concerning. He turns to Carla again. “I’ll order an Uber and be back at—”

Christopher shoots up, one hand braced on the back of the couch, the other reaching through his nest of blankets to grab onto the closest part of Eddie he can reach. It happens to be his sweater; he tugs on it, frowning. “An Uber? You can’t take an Uber, Dad.”

“Chris—”

“What about Buck?” And damn Eddie and Shannon for making such a kindhearted little boy. “You can’t leave him alone on the train.”

Carla makes a noise in the back of her throat. “Who’s Buck?” she asks, and it’s only been a few months since they started working together, but already Eddie knows that mischievous gleam in her eye. “I haven’t heard of a Buck.”

“He’s my friend!” Christopher's cheery words quickly dissolve into a cough, but the smile doesn’t leave his face. “We ride the train together.”

Carla raises an eyebrow. “Is that so?”

“Yup,” Chris says, popping the P. “And he’ll wonder where I am, won’t he, Dad? You have to tell him I’m not feeling well, so he doesn’t worry.”

The worst part is, Buck probably would worry. It’s not like Eddie knows the guy, or anything, not outside the weird little environment they’ve created on Line 2 over the past couple of months, but Eddie knows that them just not showing up one day might cause Buck some concern. It would cause Eddie concern, at the very least, if Buck just didn’t show one day.

That’s how he finds himself saving a seat for Buck on the train, watching the doors open at Kennedy Station, waiting for—

“Eddie Diaz,” Buck says brightly, dropping into the seat next to Eddie once he’s moved his backpack to rest between his feet. “Where’s your better half?”

“Sick,” Eddie replies, nodding when Buck makes a wounded sound. “The flu’s going around his school.”

“That’s sucks, man,” Buck says, leaning back in the plastic seat. His knee knocks into Eddie’s and stays there. “I was looking forward to talking to him. I read this book over the weekend about armadillos—”

Buck chatters on—first about armadillos, and then anteaters, and then giant ground sloths that use to wander around North America until their extinction. Eddie listens raptly, for Christopher, mostly, but also because Buck’s voice kind of sounds like an angel’s choir, until Buck pauses mid-sentence, right as they pull into Greenwood. “Sorry,” he says, a pretty red blush fanning across his cheeks. “This—you don’t want to hear all this.”

“I do,” Eddie says, before his mouth quite catches up with his brain. It’s not like he’s lying, though; he thinks, somehow, despite it only being a few months since they met, that Eddie would listen to him talk forever, if he had the chance. Buck could talk about anything—the vegan diet he tried and failed, the stupid construction for the Eglington line, how Bathurst Station has the best patties, even though he’s wrong (the correct answer, for the record, is Warden)—and Eddie would listen, because it’s Buck .

The sentiment is probably way too romantic for seven o’clock in the morning, for a man he barely knows, but it’s true. Eddie feels—he feels like the teenagers in the romance novels his sisters would force him to read growing up. Smitten. Stupidly crushing on Hot Train Guy from Line 2, who happens to sort of be his kid’s best friend. 

It’s—a lot.

But he isn’t lying. “I like listening to you talk,” Eddie admits, probably too earnest for a darkened subway car, surrounded by other commuters. “It’s—interesting.”

Buck blinks at him, once, twice, three times. “It is?”

Eddie would assume he was fishing for compliments if the look on Buck’s face wasn’t so incredibly insecure, as if no one has ever told him that he was worth listening to before. Somehow, Eddie thinks it might be true. He doesn’t know much about Buck’s life outside of the train car, but what he does know—somewhat absent parents, a sister who wasn’t in his life for a few years, a bunch of odd jobs before he got into his program—makes him believe that yeah. Maybe Buck does need to hear this.

“Yeah, man,” Eddie breathes, knocking his knee against Buck’s more purposefully. “You know like, so much. I feel like I’ve learned more from you in the last couple of months than I ever did in school.”

“You got your BSN,” Buck says, a smile tucked into the corner of his mouth. Eddie sees it for what it is; a deflection. “All you learn in school is like—anatomy.”

“Excuse you,” Eddie replies, huffing a little, “I’ll have you know, I was fantastic in my high school English classes.”

“Really?”

He pauses. “No,” Eddie admits, and then smiles when Buck laughs. “But I could have been.”

“Too busy going after all the cheerleaders, huh?” Buck says, and it feels, somehow, like a test. Like Eddie can say yeah, that he only went after the cheerleaders and a line would be drawn in the sand, or he could say—

“I was more into the baseball players.”

Buck’s mouth snaps shut. “Uh,” he stutters, the blush travelling down his neck, “Christopher’s mom, she—”

“My ex-wife,” Eddie supplies, shrugging a shoulder. “We dated in high school, she got pregnant, we got married…there wasn’t really much room for, uh—exploring.”

“But you wanted to,” Buck says, and it isn’t a question. It’s definitely too personal a conversation to be having on the TTC, definitely too personal a conversation to have with a man who only exists to him inside this train car, but Eddie is—well, he was repressed for thirty years of his life, unable to talk about this with anyone but his sisters, so he’s a little starved for it, to be honest.

“I wanted to,” Eddie confirms, tucking his arms into his sides. “Knocking up your first girlfriend isn’t super conductive to a great queer awakening.” He pauses, glancing over at Buck; Buck’s chewing on his bottom lip, birthmark bright pink and kissable, and the lights of the stations passing by cut across the planes of his face, washing him out in gold. He’s—Jesus Christ, is what he is.

“You got there eventually, though, right?”

Eddie shakes his head. “Nah,” he says, looking away. “There wasn’t any time. But—”

He cuts himself off, biting on the inside of his cheek, doesn’t look at Buck when he says, “But?”

“But if the right person—the right guy came along,” Eddie says, and somehow, it feels like he’s at confession, “then yeah. I’d get there eventually.”

Buck doesn’t say anything for nearly the whole time between one stop and the next, and Eddie’s about to do something even stupider than coming out to his train friend, something like saying he’s joking, that he loves—breasts, and perfume, or something that would probably not be convincing in the slightest—when Buck hums.

“The right guy,” Buck echoes. Eddie can see him looking at him from the corner of his eye, but he doesn’t look back. 

Coward , he chides himself. But, like—give him a break, alright? That was basically the first time he’d ever said it out loud, especially to someone that wasn’t family. His abuela and Pepa know, his sisters know, Christopher does, but that’s kind of it. So it’s—a lot, really. 

What’s even more, though, is the easy acceptance.

Buck nudges his shoulder into Eddie, finally forcing him to look up. “That’s cool, man. And based on the look on your face, that’s not something you do very often.”

“Try never,” Eddie says, trying for a smile that probably comes out (hah) a little wilted. “I’m pretty sure you’re the only person without my last name that knows.”

“Well,” Buck says, and he presses a hand to his chest, touched, “consider me honoured.”

“Okay, dork,” Eddie says, but it sounds cottony and warm coming out of his mouth. Almost—fond, really, but Eddie refuses— refuses —to feel fond about Buck. Because Buck is—unobtainable, and most likely puts up with Eddie for Chris, and probably straight—

“My coming out wasn’t all that special either,” Buck says thoughtfully. “It was in the gym, to a stranger, so I guess we’re kind of on the same level there. Confessing our sexualities to strangers in inopportune places.”

“You’re not a stranger,” Eddie says, ignoring the little monkey in his brain that’s hammering on about the fact that Buck apparently isn’t straight. “You’re basically Christopher’s best friend.”

Something soft passes over Buck’s face, then, warm and affectionate, and he smiles so wide his canines poke into his teeth. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, man,” Eddie says, and he feels breathless, all of a sudden. “He’s obsessed with you.” It kind of sounds like he’s saying I’m obsessed with you , with the way the words fold out of his mouth, but if Buck notices, he kindly ignores it.

“He’s kind of my best friend, too,” Buck says, still smiling. “Which like—if I was twenty again, that would probably embarrass me, but God, that kid —” He glances over at Eddie, the grin melting into something softer. His teeth disappear but his dimples don’t, and Eddie has the insane urge to dip his thumb into one of them. “You did a good job with him.”

Eddie doesn’t really know what to do with that—doesn’t know how to say that he failed Christopher more times than he can count, that he didn’t give him the perfect nuclear family, that he dragged him halfway across the country, away from his grandparents and aunts. He doesn’t know how to say that he feels like he’s ruining Christopher sometimes, that he’s trying his hardest but sometimes it feels pointless. 

He says, “Thanks.” It’s not enough, doesn’t encompass everything he wants to say, but it’s all he can manage.

Buck must sense Eddie’s reluctance to accept the compliment, because he just grins again, a little knowingly, and says, “So, why the train?”

Eddie blinks. “Like—as a concept?”

Buck huffs out a laugh. “Why is it your preferred mode of transportation, I mean.”

“Have you tried driving a car in this city?” Eddie asks, earning himself another light laugh. “It’s next to impossible. The train is cheaper, and more convenient, and Chris is—“ Eddie chuckles a little, “Did you know his birthday is Earth Day? He thinks it’s his God-given duty to save the planet.”

“Maybe he’s right,” Buck says. “Maybe he was put on the planet to save it. That would check out. He’s insanely smart.”

Eddie smiles, a little pleased. “Yeah, he is.” They pull into Bloor-Yonge, and Eddie has the fleeting thought that the next stop is Buck’s, that this conversation is about to be over. Tucked away in his chest, Eddie’s already mourning it. “Anyway, it’s his thing. Public transport, recycling, composting. He’s even trying to find a way to convince me to install solar panels.”

“Well, if it’s for the good of the future,” Buck says around a smile. 

“Yeah, yeah,” Eddie grins, “you can talk to my landlord about it, then.”

“Maybe I will.”

They stare at each other for a long moment, the lights of the stations outside cutting across Buck’s face, and Eddie has the insane urge to just lean in and kiss him. Which would be inappropriate, and uncalled for, and he already mentioned insane but it feels right to mention that again, and—

They pull into Bay Station and Buck smiles that stupidly pretty smile and says, “It’s my stop.”

“Don’t want to keep you from class,” Eddie says, his mouth a little dry. “Have a good day, Buck.”

“You too, Eds.” And with a clap on his shoulder that lingers, just a little, and another smile, Buck’s gone and the train’s leaving the station.

Somehow, it feels like Eddie’s leaving a part of himself behind, too.



“Last day before Christmas break,” Buck says on a blizzarding day in December. He’s wearing a pair of snow boots and a brown duffle coat that somehow makes his cheeks seem pinker. Or maybe that’s just Eddie’s imagination. He can’t be sure. “You excited, Chris?”

Yes ,” Christopher says emphatically. “I’m excited to go home.” Something pangs in Eddie’s chest at that, but it’s squashed nearly immediately as Chris brightens, says, “Well, not home home. Old home. This is home now, too. Can you have more than one home?”

Buck laughs at Christopher’s ramble, reaching out to ruffle his hair. “I think you can have as many homes as you want, buddy.”

“Then there’s here, and there’s there, and there’s here .”

Buck blinks at Eddie over Christopher’s head, raising an eyebrow. “What’s the difference between here and here ?”

“Here is Toronto,” Christopher says slowly, like he’s once again trying to explain to Eddie how different Pokemon types interact and failing miserably, “and here is the train. Duh.”

Buck looks touched by that; Eddie knows the feeling. Because yeah, the train is part of their lives now, a significant part, but Eddie knows that Christopher’s fondness for public transportation wouldn’t be there without Buck. That Buck makes the TTC for Chris.

Buck blinks a little rapidly, like he’s trying to stave off tears, and says, “That’s really cool, buddy.”

“How many homes do you have, Buck?” Chris asks, leaning into his side. Buck adjusts easily, swinging an arm around the back of the seat. His fingertips brush along Eddie’s shoulder, just barely; if Eddie were to shift a little closer, Buck’s thumb would touch his collarbone.

Eddie doesn’t move a fucking inch. Coward.

“Well, I have my apartment,” Buck says thoughtfully, chin tilted up, “and New Brunswick, where my parents live. I’ve lived a bunch of other places, but I don’t think they were ever really home.” He pauses then, looks back down at Chris, and his face erupts into a beautiful, fond smile. Eddie wants to kick something. “And the train, of course.”

“Of course,” Christopher says, nodding seriously. “Is New Brunswick nice? We’ve never been past Ontario.”

“It’s nice,” Buck confirms, but something passes over his face that Eddie can’t quite identify. “I used to go boating in the summer with my sister. We’d go fishing out on the river and accidentally catch eels.”

“Gross,” Eddie says, at the same time Chris says, “Cool.” They look at each other and grin, and Buck laughs, all warmth. 

“It was pretty cool, and pretty gross,” he admits, “but it was fun. We did that ever summer until Maddie moved away.”

“It sounds nice,” Christopher says, nodding a little. He’s got his head pillowed on Buck’s shoulder, watching the graffitited walls pass by out the window across from him, and Eddie refuses to be jealous of his son, he does, but—but. “We should go, Dad.”

“Sure,” Eddie says. He’s going to leave it there, really, but instead, he adds, “Maybe Buck can show us around.”

Buck glances over at him, blinking, but says easily, “Of course. I’ll be your tour guide for the entire Maritimes if you want.”

“Yes, please,” Christopher says, yawning. “I’m tired.”

Eddie knows he shouldn’t—knows his parents would send him a disapproving look and probably say something unsavory about his parenting skills, but he says, “Close your eyes for five minutes, bud. We’ll wake you when we get to our stop.”

He ignores how easy it is to make them a collective, to bundle Buck and Eddie together like they’re both responsible for Christopher’s wellbeing. Thankfully, Buck decides to let Christopher rest and just smiles down at him, foot tapping on the sticky floor, so Eddie doesn’t have to address any of the big feelings that are settling in his chest like lead. Feelings like— wow, maybe this is a little bit more than a crush .

They’re only a few stops away from Castle Frank, so soon enough, Buck’s gently rousing Christopher from his catnap and bidding them goodbye and happy holidays, with a promise to see them again in the new year. Christopher hugs Buck tight, burying his face into Buck’s chest, and Eddie mourns the fact that he can’t do the same thing. Instead, he claps Buck on the shoulder, wishes him a Merry Christmas, and flees, like a rational, adult man.

Christopher goes to school and Eddie to work. It’s a relatively slow shift at SickKids, as slow as a children’s hospital can be, and on his break, he holes up in the break room with an overpriced smoothie from the Jugo Juice in the atrium and the charts from his morning patients.

He’s halfway through a chart—and a quarter way through the Raspberry Rush that’s giving him a brain freeze—when there’s a rap of knuckles on the door.

“Diaz,” Carla says, and Eddie looks up at her voice, because she sounds—smug, almost. Smug and incredibly curious. “You have a visitor.”

Eddie glances up from his charts, frowning at Carla. “A visitor,” Eddie echoes, narrowing his eyes. “Is Chris—”

“It’s not Christopher,” Carla assures him, smiling gently. “It’s his Buck.”

His Buck . There’s something nice about that, about the idea of Buck belonging to Christopher, and Eddie would dive into it—or, more likely, bury it down so far he’d forget it exists—but then Buck’s walking through the door with a sheepish smile and a hand waved in greeting.

“Hi,” Buck says. He’s got a messenger back on one shoulder, crossed over his body, and in his hand, there’s a brown paper bag, something brightly wrapped sticking out the top. 

“Hi,” Eddie echoes.

And it’s—it’s stupid, really. Because Eddie knew, of course he knew, that Buck existed outside of the train. That when he got off at Bay Station, the stop right before Eddie got his transfer, he existed in the real world; he went to class, and he visited his sister, and he volunteered at the daycare near his apartment. Eddie knew all this, and yet, seeing Buck here, at SickKids, feels like an out-of-body experience. Like—a fucking rom-com moment, or something equally as dumb as that.

Carla gives him a pointed look, grabs his charts, and disappears, and then it’s just him and Buck in the break room, the steady drip of the faulty tap the only sound. It smells like burned coffee and the Cup Noodles someone made an hour earlier, but beneath all that, Eddie can smell Buck—that spicy, woodsy scent he’s gotten to know from months of being close to him on the train.

Buck. Who’s here.

“You’re here,” Eddie says eloquently. Then: “Wait, why are you here?”

“Ah,” Buck says, rubbing his free hand over the back of his head. “I’m—okay, first, I’m sorry I kind of stalked you at work.”

Eddie blinks. “I mean, I told you I worked at the hospital.”

“Sure,” Buck acquiesces, “but you didn’t exactly say where in the hospital you worked. I sort of…got Maddie to track you down? Which is so unprofessional—trust me, she already chewed me out for it, but I mean, she did it, too? So like, it’s not all on me—”

“Buck,” Eddie says, laughing a little, “slow down.”

A pink flush creeps its way up his neck. “Right. Anyway. Maddie asked a friend who asked a friend, and now I’m here, in a hospital’s staff room, with a—” And he stops, thrusting his hand out, the paper bag swinging from his fingers. “A gift. For Christopher.”

“You got him a gift?” Eddie asks, taking it from his hands. He holds the bag to his chest, feeling a little adrift. “For Christmas?”

“It’s just a book,” Buck’s quick to say, “about Canadian inventions. You know, since we’ve been talking about the Canadarm? There’s some really cool stuff in there. Did you know BlackBerry is Canadian?”

Buck’s rambling, and Eddie grins, painfully endeared. “Buck.”

“Sorry,” Buck says, flushed pink.

“Don’t—don’t apologize ,” he replies, and he can picture his face, the way he probably looks absolutely fucking stupid with his smile. “I can’t believe you got Christopher a present.”

“Well, yeah,” Buck says like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Maybe it is. “It’s not his birthday yet, so I had to—well. I hope he’ll like it.”

“He’ll love it, Buck. Seriously, you could have gotten him a toothpick, and he’d love it,” Eddie says, and maybe it’s a little too honest, too earnest, for the staff room at SickKids, but he continues anyway: “He’ll love it because it’s from you .”

“Oh,” Buck says, blinking quickly. “That’s—oh. Okay.”

“Did I break you?”

He laughs, a little wetly. “Yeah, man. Kind of.”

“Chris has that effect on people.”

“Hey, this—” he gestures vaguely to his red face and bright eyes, “—is all your fault.”

“I’m just telling you the truth,” Eddie says with a shrug. “Even off the train, it’s I wonder what Buck’s doing and Dad, do you think Buck is having fun right now? and please, Dad, do you think Buck would want to go to the Science Centre with me?

“Yes,” Buck says immediately, nodding.

“What?”

“Yes, I’d want to go to the Science Centre with him,” Buck says. “If that’s—if you’re okay with it, obviously. I wouldn’t want to step on your toes—”

“No,” Eddie interrupts before Buck has a chance to spiral, “that would be great. Christopher would love that.” He doesn’t mention that he’d love it too, because he’s a coward and a chicken and so, so bad at this. “How about—how about we exchange numbers? That way we can set things up, after the holidays.”

Buck’s grin could light up the city. Huh. Maybe Eddie isn’t so bad at this after all.

“Sure,” Buck says, digging his phone out of his coat pocket. He taps on his screen, types something, and then thrusts it in Eddie’s direction. A contact is already loaded, and the name is set as: eddie! 🤒🤕😷🩺🥼

“Buck,” Eddie says around a laugh as he types in his number, “the emojis?”

“I don’t want to forget that you’re a nurse,” Buck says.

Eddie glances at him as he hands the phone back, raising an eyebrow. He gestures vaguely to the staff room, points directly at the cheesy poster that says Nurses are the real superheroes! “You’re gonna forget your little field trip?”

Buck’s quiet for a moment, eyes flicking between Eddie and the rest of the room. Eddie sees him look at the permanently stained microwave, the couch decorated in throw pillows, the locker in the corner that says Dia z with four heart stickers, courtesy of Carla. There’s something—fond, in Buck’s expression. Something searching. 

“No,” Buck says finally, eyes settling back on Eddie, “no, I wouldn’t forget.”

It sounds like he’s saying I wouldn’t forget about you, but it’s probably wishful thinking on Eddie’s account. It has to be. There’s no way Buck feels anything that Eddie does, because Eddie feels—

Whatever. He doesn’t want to talk about it.

Instead, he says, “Yeah.” It sounds a little bit like a confession. “I wouldn’t forget either.”



Christmas at home is an affair, to say the least.

If it’s not being surrounded by screaming kids, it’s trying to keep up with the adult’s conversations, and Eddie isn’t sure which hates more, to be honest. 

His parents are—not that bad, actually. They haven’t ripped Eddie a new one for his parenting decisions yet, at least, which he’s counting as a good thing in his books. Eddie thinks they’re too focused on Christopher, who they haven’t seen since last summer, to bother getting angry at him for leaving. It’s like they know that for once, they’re on a time limit with their grandson, and they don’t want to waste it berating Eddie for his parenting choices.

So it’s a good trip, really. Eddie sees his sisters and their kids, he sees his abuela and tía, plus all the extended family that comes down south from Edmonton and Fort McMurray for the holidays. They eat a lot of food, and share a lot of stories, and Eddie dodges questions about Shannon so sufficiently he thinks he deserves an award. He does all that, and he—

Texts Buck.

It’s kind of been non-stop if he’s being honest. It started with Buck texting Eddie eighteen— eighteen, Eddie counted—smiley face emojis to give him his number, and just sort of—spiraled from there. They talk about their days, and their families, and Buck’s been giving him a running commentary on everything that’s happening in New Brunswick right now, including Maddie absolutely chewing their parents out for forgetting they were coming down for Christmas. Buck says Eddie should have been there to witness it, and Eddie has to physically stop himself from promising next year .

They’re at ZOOLIGHTS two days after Christmas, an event hosted by the zoo that Christopher has loved going to ever since he was a toddler. Eddie and Chris, Sophia and her twins, Raquel and Veronica, and Adriana and her baby, Luis, walk through the zoo, looking at all the lights with hot chocolates in their hands. It’s—nice. Domestic. It makes a part of Eddie miss the city, miss his first home, but not enough that he’d ever seriously consider coming back. Not when they’ve put down roots in Toronto.

(Not when Buck’s there.)

Eddie’s phone buzzes in his pocket, and he wordlessly hands his cup of hot chocolate off to Adriana as he digs it out. She’s got Luis in one of those slings, so both her hands are free, but she squawks indignantly anyways because she’s his sister and enjoys being a huge brat, even as an adult. Eddie ignores her, though, tapping on the new text message displayed on his screen.

 

Buck
sos my mom just said that maddie and i are 'disappointing her even in ontario'
she hasn't called me once since i moved to toronto??? how does she know i'm being a disappointment???
like i probably am but she doesn't have to ASSUME
Eddie
You're not a disappointment
Buck
eddie.
Eddie
Buck.
Buck
you don't know that
Eddie
You volunteer with kids, Buck. I'm pretty sure that makes you a saint in most people's books
Buck
including yours? 🥺🤔🤨
Eddie
...
I mean, I work with kids too, so...
Buck
wow. rude. in my moment of crisis too.

 

“Edmundo,” Sophia says, knocking his elbow so he flails with his phone a little. The girls and Christopher laugh, sitting next to each other on the bench, because apparently, they’ve all stopped walking to take a breather. “You’re supposed to be with family .”

“I am with family,” Eddie grumbles. “I’m literally here, at ZOOLIGHTS. You know how much I hate ZOOLIGHTS.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Adriana says, tapping on Luis’s nose. It makes the baby giggle, smile all gummy. “We know, you’re an old man and the lights give you a migraine.”

“Haha,” Raquel says, eight years old and a spitfire with dark curly hair and two missing front teeth. It gives her a little bit of a lisp when she says, “Tío Eddie is old!”

Eddie’s in his thirties. He’s—dignified or something. “Migraines are a real issue,” Eddie argues, crossing his arms over his chest. “You know—”

“What’s a migraine?” Veronica interrupts, smacking her lips. “Your grain, my grain…why does someone own the grain?”

Eddie blinks at his niece. She blinks back at him.

“It’s a headache,” Christopher says knowingly. “A really bad headache.”

“So not grain,” Veronica says seriously. She nods once. “That’s good to know.”

Eddie looks at Sophia, and then at Veronica. “Vero, why is that good to know?”

“I’ll tell you when I find out, Tío Eddie.”

“That’s—”

“Don’t mind her,” Sophia says, flapping a hand through the air. “She’s going through a phase. Now, who were you texting?”

“No one.”

“Lying hasn’t ever worked on me, hermanito,” Sophia says. “I’m your big sister. You can’t get anything past me.”

“Really?” Eddie says, raising an eyebrow. He drops his voice low so the kids can’t hear. “Because if I remember correctly, you didn’t know about Shannon until—”

“That doesn’t count!” Sophia says as Adriana lets out a laugh. “You were hiding her away from us.”

“I wasn’t locking her in a broom closet, Soph—”

Anyway ,” Adri interrupts, “the texting?”

“It’s just a friend from the city,” Eddie says, a little defensive. “We met on the train.”

“Are you talking about Buck?” Christopher asks, like he’s specifically in tune to any mentions of Evan Buckley. Eddie wouldn’t blame him if he was. “Tías, Buck is my best friend. We ride the train together every morning.”

“Do you now?” Sophia and Adriana say in tandem, in their weird Diaz sister way. “And your Dad likes this Buck, does he?” Sophia asks.

“Of course,” Christopher says, taking a loud slurp of his hot chocolate. “It’s Buck .”

Eddie isn’t a fan of the look on his sisters’ faces—meddlesome, gleeful, downright nosy—so he turns to Chris and says, “How about we take a picture for Buck, yeah? I’m sure he’d like that.”

His sisters snicker as Eddie squeezes himself onto the bench in between Chris and Veronica, ruffling his niece's hair as he snaps a picture of him and his son with some of the lights in the background. Christopher’s smile is as bright as ZOOLIGHTS, and Eddie is struck, suddenly, by how much he fucking loves his son. What else is new, though? He kind of has the best kid in the world.

Ignoring Adriana and Sophia’s cooing noises, Eddie sends the picture to Buck.

 

Eddie
To help the crisis
He loved the book, btw
Won’t open it until we're back in Toronto. I’m pretty sure he's expecting you'll read it with him in January
Buck
what am i gonna do, say no? you know i'd do anything for that kid
Eddie
Yeah, I know
Thank you, Buck. Seriously. The TTC wouldn't be the same without you
Buck
the feeling's mutual
💞

 

Eddie tries not to think about that heart for the rest of the trip.



January comes, and with it, Buck returns.

Except—he doesn’t. The first day they’re all supposed to be headed downtown again—and Eddie knows it for sure, because Buck texted him a very enthused see you soon, with like, eight exclamation points this morning—the train pulls into Kennedy, and Buck just—doesn’t board.

Christopher frowns, his little eyebrows furrowing. “Dad. Where’s Buck?”

“I don’t know, kiddo,” Eddie says, a matching frown twisting his lips. “Maybe something came up?” He doesn’t know why Buck wouldn’t text if something had, but what’s he supposed to say to Chris? He’s the adult here. He has to act somewhat composed, and not like a weirdo because his stupid crush missed the train.

Christopher slumps back in his seat as they pull out of Kennedy Station, and Eddie’s about to start trying to cajole a smile out of his son when there’s a knock on the window. Eddie has an insane thought that it’s the outer train windows and someone’s stuck and he’ll have to use his medical training to save their life, as if he’s on some primetime procedural, but then Christopher cheers, straightening up entirely, and Eddie realizes—the knock is coming from inside the train. Specifically, the next car over.

And there’s Buck, hair mused and eyes bright, but here , even if they’re not in the same car. He waves at them, and they wave back, all three of them grinning like fools. They probably look crazy, but it’s—

God, Eddie missed him. Which is kind of ridiculous, really, but it felt weird, not seeing Buck five days a week; it felt like something inside him was unsettled, and he could blame it on the routine, probably, could blame it on being back in his parents’ house, but he knows, deep down, that it was this. That it was Buck that he missed.

Four minutes—four long, long minutes—later, they pull into Warden Station. Buck stops playing a weird game of charades with Christopher and points out the door, and then he disappears. He isn’t gone for long, though; Eddie blinks, and in the next moment, Buck’s in front of him, grinning.

“You will not believe what happened on my way to the station,” Buck says, dragging a hand through his hair. He’s not wearing any gels so his curls are loose over his forehead. Eddie, annoyingly, wants to bite him. “There was a pigeon—”

And he launches right into a story about how while walking toward Kennedy Station there was a pigeon with its foot stuck inside a grate, so Buck had, understandably, gone to help it. Except, despite the fact that Toronto pigeons are weirdly fearless when it comes to humans, this one apparently wasn’t, and—

“And look at these scratches!” Buck flashes his hand into Christopher and Eddie’s faces, and sure enough, there are a few scratches along the back of his palm, bright red and shallow. “Teaches me to never try and help a wild bird again.”

“But you helped it!” Christopher says. “Did it get free?”

“Yeah,” Buck says, smiling a little. “It flew away and everything.”

“I hope it made it home,” Chris murmurs, and he grins brightly up at Buck, reaching out to pat his wrist. “You’re a good friend, Buck.”

“A good friend who’s going to get an infection if someone doesn’t clean those cuts,” Eddie mutters, digging around in his backpack. He pulls out his mini first aid kit—a gift from Sophia when he graduated nursing school—and spreads it open on his lap. “Give me your hand.”

“It’s barely a scratch—”

Eddie glances up at him. He knows exactly what his face looks like—mouth drawn, eyebrows pinched. It’s the look Christopher calls his Nurse Diaz face. 

“Fine,” Buck huffs. He adjusts his feet so that they’re more spread out—getting on the train late during the Tuesday morning rush means he’s standing in front of their usual seats, a pink-haired woman in Buck’s usual place next to Christopher—reaching up to hold one of the grab bars before he pushes his hand right in front of Eddie’s face. “Take it away, doctor.”

“I’m not a doctor,” Eddie says, taking Buck’s wrist between his fingers. He ignores the way all the blood rushes to his head at the skin-to-skin contact, instead focusing on the task at hand. This—basic medicine—he can handle. “Chris, hand me an antiseptic wipe?”

Christopher does as asked, presenting it with a flourish. Buck coos and cheers quietly, thanking Chris for his help, and Eddie murmurs, might sting , before swiping the antiseptic over the cuts. Buck barely winces; he’s watching Eddie, though, with rapt attention. Eddie can feel it, the way his eyes are boring down into him, and the weight of the look makes heat rush to his cheeks.

“You’re a much easier patient than my usual kids,” Eddie says as the train car goes dim when they leave the station. “Much less crying.”

“Not the worst injury I’ve had,” Buck says idly, but there’s a weight to the words. “There was the motorcycle, and the truck, and oh man, the clots —”

Eddie looks up sharply at that. “As in blood clots?”

“What are blood clots?” Christopher asks.

Buck looks between the two of them, mouth twisting a little. He looks to Eddie for permission, like he’s asking if he can tell Chris, and Eddie nods. “They’re like little clumps of blood that get stuck in your veins, sometimes. If they get stuck in the wrong place, it can be bad.”

Christopher nods. “Where was yours?”

Another look at Eddie; another nod. “They started in my leg,” he says, pointing down to his left knee, “and it traveled up to my lung. It was uh—a close call.”

“I’m glad you’re okay,” Christopher says, sounding earnest and warm and fond. And Eddie—

“So am I,” he says, and he means it. His hand slips back down to Buck’s wrist and he squeezes, once, comforted by the dull thrum of Buck’s pulse beneath his fingertips.

“Thanks, Diazes,” Bucks says, eyes a little bright. “I’m glad, too.”

Eddie’s about to say something—something stupid, probably, or worse, embarrassing—when the train jolts on the tracks. Buck’s not expecting the sudden movement, so he flails a little, and is about to tip over right onto the floor, but Eddie—

Eddie just reaches out and grabs him, hands on either side of his hips. He’s touching Buck over his jacket, but he can feel the heat of his body anyway. They land sort of awkwardly, with Buck between Eddie’s legs, hands on Eddie’s shoulders, and he’s sort of bent over, forehead almost on Eddie’s. It’s the closest they’ve ever been, and Eddie wants—Eddie wants .

“Thanks, man,” Buck murmurs, as the train sorts itself out and continues its path down the line.

They both pretend Eddie’s voice isn’t wrecked when he says, “Any time.”



And so it goes.



April comes with rain showers, a snowstorm, and most importantly—

“Happy birthday!” Buck says once he boards the train, way too loud for seven in the morning. Christopher cheers along with him, and Eddie does too, because—well, sue him. It’s his kid’s birthday. They’re allowed to be a little annoying.

Buck sweeps Christopher into a side hug, holding one hand away from their bodies so as not to squish the box held between his fingers. 

“Thanks, Buck!” Christopher says once they’ve pulled back from their embrace, settling into their usual seats. Eddie watches on, smiling softly, because—well, what’s he supposed to do? Get down on one knee and ask Buck to continue making Chris smile like that forever? As if. 

“How does it feel?” Buck asks, shooting Eddie a blinding grin over Christopher’s head. Eddie returns it; he’s a weak, weak man. “Double digits?”

“I feel older,” Christopher says seriously, and Buck nods along with ease. “And also like I deserve cake.”

“Well,” Bucks says around a laugh, “I think you always deserve cake, but I don’t think Dad would agree.”

“Dad would definitely not agree,” Eddie says, reaching over to ruffle Chris’s hair. “But I think birthdays are a special occasion.”

“I’m glad you think that, Nurse Diaz,” Buck grins, “because I have a surprise for you.”

Christopher’s eyes light up. “A surprise?”

Buck presents the box with a flourish and a little ta-da! Christopher laughs, taking and opening it, and finds a chocolate cupcake inside, decorated with bright purple icing and rainbow sprinkles. “How’d you know chocolate was my favorite?”

Buck glances at Eddie again, his dimples out in full force. “A little bird told me.”

“Was it the pigeon you rescued?”

Buck blinks. “No, it’s an ex—actually, yes. Yes it was.”

Chris’s grin is blinding. “Tell them thank you for the cupcake! And thank you for the cupcake, Buck.” He takes a big bite of it then, icing and all, purple smearing its way up his nose.

“You're welcome, buddy,” Buck replies with a toothy smile.

“It’s Dad’s birthday too, you know,” Chris says through a mouthful of cupcake. He’s got chocolate smeared over the corner of his lips, and Eddie reaches out to rub it away with his thumb.

Buck's smile falters, and he blinks. “You have the same birthday?”

Christopher grins brightly. “Yup! He says I’m the best present he’s ever gotten.”

Eddie grins down at him. “And you always will be, mijo.”

He glances up to meet Buck’s eyes; Buck’s looking at him with a look on his face that Eddie can’t quite place. “You didn’t tell me that.”

Eddie shrugs. “It didn’t seem important.”

“Didn’t seem—it’s your birthday, Eddie!”

“It’s just another day.”

“I’m going to get you something,” Buck says resolutely, nodding once. He sounds determined, and if Eddie knows anything about Buck, it’s that he’s like a dog with a bone. He won’t let this go, as much as Eddie begs.

It doesn’t stop him from trying, though. “You really don’t have to—”

And then Buck just—reaches over, reaches across Christopher toward Eddie and grabs his wrist, squeezing lightly. It’s the first time they’ve really touched on purpose; a touch that isn’t knocking knees or elbows in sides, or the time Eddie grabbed him to stop him from careening to the floor. This is—meaningful.

Eddie feels it like a brand, straight down to his bone.

“I want to, Eds,” Buck says, and Eddie’s breath hitches in his throat at the nickname. “Okay? Just—let me.”

And what the fuck is Eddie supposed to do, when Buck’s calling him Eds and looking at him with his pretty blue eyes all wide and almost pouting? He’s a weak man, and he’s incredibly gay, and honestly, he might be in love with Buck at this point, so he just says—

“Okay.”

He kind of forgets about it, though. Christopher and Eddie get off at Castle Frank like usual, and then that night, they go out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant downtown that Eddie’s abuela personally recommended. Christopher has a video call with his grandparents and aunts, and they eat ice cream in Eddie’s bed and watch Ponyo , and Eddie forgets all about Buck’s promise of a gift.

Buck, on the other hand, obviously doesn’t forget.

The next day is a PD day at Christopher’s school, so he’s off at his friend Denny’s house for a playdate that’ll last the length of Eddie’s shift. He makes a mental note to bring Hen and Karen flowers—flowers and wine—on his way to pick Chris up just as Buck boards the train, his smile as bright as ever.

“Eddie Diaz,” Buck says, an echo of the first time they rode the train together without Christopher in between them. “Christopher excited about his day off?”

“You wouldn’t believe,” Eddie says with an easy grin. He saved the two-person seats for him and Buck, so they squish together to fit, and Eddie can feel the solid, warm line of Buck pressed against him, ankle to knee to hip to shoulder. “Getting to spend an entire day with his best friend? The only thing that would make it better is if his other best friend had been there.”

Buck blushes, like he always does whenever Eddie mentions how important he is to Christopher. Usually, the flush disappears after a few moments, once Buck realizes there’s nothing to argue; even if he’s a little insecure about it sometimes, Buck knows he and Chris are basically bonded for life now. 

Except, the flush doesn’t disappear.

“So,” Buck says as the train leaves the station, “about your present.”

“Seriously, Buck,” Eddie says, tilting his head so he can look at him properly, “you don’t have to do anything. I’m not much of a present guy, anyway.”

“Honestly, this is kind of for me more than it’s for you,” Buck says, and he turns to Eddie bodily, shifting around so his knee is sort of digging into Eddie’s thigh, warm and solid even through the material of his joggers. “Well, obviously I hope you enjoy it too, but really—”

“What is it?” 

“I want to take you out.” Buck stares at him, sheepish. Eddie stares back, speechless. “On a date. A proper date.”

And Eddie just—keeps staring.

Because this is—this was never supposed to be more than a crush. Buck was never supposed to be more than Hot Train Guy from Line 2, more than some eye candy with a nice jaw and nicer eyes. Except he fucking—told Christopher about space, and he sat next to them every day, and he came to Eddie’s work just to give his son a Christmas present. Buck’s become so wrapped up in their lives the last seven months, just like this fucking train has, and he’s—

Still talking.

“It’s okay if you don’t want to!” Buck says, a little high-pitched and breathy. “I’m totally cool with being friends. Honestly, you’re like the best friend I’ve ever had, it’s just—well, to be honest, man, you’re like the hottest guy alive, and then I heard you speak and I got to know your kid , and just—”

And Eddie just—kisses him. Right in the middle of the train car, between Pape and Chester, Eddie leans right into Buck’s space and fits his mouth to Buck’s, one hand snaking under his sherpa jack to wrap around his waist, right beneath his ribs. He can feel when Buck sucks in a gasp and gets with the program, fingers darting up to cup Eddie’s chin, his jaw. Buck’s other hand falls to Eddie’s thigh, and he squeezes once, and like always—like fucking always with Buck, Eddie feels it right down to his toes.

The lights in the car blink out momentarily as they hit a dark part of the tunnel, and when they come back, Buck pulls away, nose brushing against Eddie’s. They’re both breathing a little heavy, and Eddie can feel it on his mouth; Buck’s warm breaths that Eddie wants to swallow up.

“Hi,” Eddie says, a puff of air in the small amount of space between them.

“Hi,” Buck echoes, and when he speaks, Eddie feels their lips brush. “Is that a yes to the date, then?”

Eddie just kisses him in reply.



(If they both miss their stop—well. That’s between them and the TTC.)