Eddie always enjoyed hosting, but since Buck officially moved in and the house officially became their home, he looked for any reason to have their friends over. It wasn’t because he had something to prove about how his life turned out– he saved that unhealthy emotion for visits from his parents – it was because he truly loved filling his small home with the people who mean most to him.
“Oh Buck, that looks wonderful.” Athena comments as Buck sets down a large tray of homemade jalepeno poppers next to her crab dip.
“Chris helped me stuff them all,” He answers with pride. “Did you know there are 70,000 acres of land in Mexico solely devoted to growing jalepenos?” Eddie heard the statistic already but still sends Buck a smile over the table.
“And if you made poppers out of them all, I still would want more.” Chimney starts to pile a few on the plate.
“Is anyone besides Bobby actually here to watch the game? Because I could stand by this food table all day.” Hen scoops some of Athena’s crab dip onto her plate as Bobby approaches.
“I am here for both. Speaking of football-“
“No way Cap, I saw the email this morning and as always my answer is N.O.” Chimney shakes his head.
“What are you trying to get out of?” Maddie hands Jee to Buck who starts blowing loud raspberries at the two-year-old. It doesn’t matter how many times Eddie sees Buck with his niece, he doesn’t ever think the warm feeling will go away.
“I’m not trying to get out of anything, I am trying to avoid an injury on scale with The Rebar Incident.” Chimney grumbles. Maddie raises one eyebrow, a talent her brother often tried to imitate but could never quite get.
“Every year LAFD and LAPD have a charity flag football game.” Bobby explains. “The past few years we’ve been either on shift or coming right off of it, but this year the A shift is free. Firefighters from every house sign up, and it’s a nice Saturday afternoon.”
“You’re leaving out the part where we got called to the scene two years ago because it got ugly.” Hen points out.
“Didn’t someone break an ankle last year?” Eddie asks. “I thought they were canceling it?”
“There is a bit of a rivalry.” Bobby concedes and Athena simply chuckles.
“And that’s coming from the man married to a cop.” Chim points out. “The email sent out was pretty much ‘send us your best and nothing less.’”
“Well then it’s obvious who you send.” Maddie laughs. When no one answers she looks around confused.
Buck has stopped his noises at Jee-Yun and is trying to catch Maddie’s attention. His eyes are wide, and he gives a slight shake of the head.
“Buck was the best running back our high school ever had. Two time All-American and set at least four school records- “
“He led the team to back-to-back state championships, the first time our school even made it since the seventies!” Maddie is bubbling over with pride, but Buck looks like he’s waiting for the ground to swallow him whole. Eddie shifts a few steps so he’s closer to him. “Watching him play…it was amazing.”
“Yeah, well you were my cheering squad of one.” Buck mutters and Eddie brings a hand to his back and gives a reassuring rub.
“Damn Buckley, I thought we knew all of your secrets. Eddie did you know about this?”
“Buck is talented at a lot of things.” Eddie replies and he heads Chimney mutter a faint ‘gross’.
“It’s not like you to hold out on us.” Hen is kind about it, but the sentence still makes Buck fidget.
“It was a long time ago. Played in college for a year and we all know how that turned out.”
“Their loss was the 118’s gain.” Bobby had long ago mastered the art of reassuring Buck without patronizing him. “You don’t have to play.” A flurry of emotions flits across Buck’s face, but eventually he slaps on a smile, the one that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.
It’s the only smile of his Eddie doesn’t like.
“No, it’s okay. I’ll do it. Count me in.”
Later, after everyone cleaned up and headed home, Eddie decides to ask Buck about it. They are folding up the extra chairs to put back in the shed and Eddie catches Buck’s gaze. Buck winces, like he knows what he is about to say.
“So. Football.” Buck groans. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No…yes.” Buck leans against the dining room table and runs a hand through his hair. “I was really good Eds. I know people say that a lot about things they did when they were younger, but I actually was a good player. I forged my parents’ signature for signups when I was twelve and I just…I guess I was a natural.”
He sinks down in to one of their regular chairs and Eddie sits next to him.
“And I would play so hard every week, just hoping they would come. But they never did. I had Maddie and I kept telling myself it was good enough. But I’d see the other parents there, or the guy’s girlfriends wearing their away jerseys and cheering them on…it’s stupid.” He looks away and Eddie reaches up to catch his face and turn it towards him.
“Hey, it’s not stupid. They should have been there. Even if you warmed the damn bench the whole time…they should have been there.”
He thinks of before they were dating, how Buck would always find someone to cover for part of Eddie’s shift when Christopher had a school concert or a science fair. How Buck would always say ‘so-and-so is looking for extra hours to pick up’. How it wasn’t until Chimney let it slip that Buck was one repaying the shifts other people would cover for Eddie.
How when Eddie confronted him about it, Buck just shrugged and said ‘you’re his parent. I know you always want to be there for him, so if I could give you the chance to why wouldn’t I?”
“I guess I never talk about it because I don’t like thinking about how lost I was back then.” Buck leans further into Eddie’s touch and Eddie brings their foreheads to rest against each other.
“Bobby would understand if you change your mind,” but he knows Buck well enough to know once he commits to something, he doesn’t back down.
“I know. But it’s okay, it’s not that big of deal.” Buck closes his eyes and lets out a breath. It tickles the top of Eddie’s lips. “It’s just a game, right?”
“What’s just a game?” Christopher walks in and Eddie pulls his head back, but reaches down to hold Buck’s hand.
“Football. Buck is going to play for the LAFD team next month against the police officers.” Christopher grins at Buck.
“Awesome! We’re going to go, right dad?” He looks back at Eddie like there’s only one answer and Buck looks like he’s trying to hide a smile.
“Of course we are.”
Eddie is pretty sure when Buck asked Christopher to help him train, this was not what he had in mind.
“I wanna see two more, Buckley!” Christopher blows his neon green whistle and Buck groans, starting another round of up-downs. In hindsight, watching Remember the Titans with Christopher the previous night was a terrible idea. Eddie should have gotten suspicious when Christopher started to write things down during the training camp scene, but he was far too distracted with Buck’s head in his lap.
“And…done.” Buck is panting and has his hands on his knees. Eddie gives him a water bottle and he spills nearly half of it on himself. He looks good in his black athletic shorts and a gray tank top, which was starting to soak through with sweat.
The screech of Christopher’s whistle kills any more inappropriate thoughts.
“How many feet are in a mile?”
“Chris!” Buck lets out an exasperated laugh. Christopher is fighting a laugh as well and Eddie bites his bottom lip to keep from joining in.
“How many, Buckley?”
“Five thousand…five thousand…” Buck scrunches up his face.
“Five thousand, two hundred and eighty feet! And you’re going to run every one of them!” Christopher is nearly doubled over in laughter and Eddie starts to chuckle. Buck rolls his eyes but doesn’t stop smiling as he jogs out of the yard.
When Buck is halfway down the block, Christopher turns to Eddie with a serious expression.
“Dad, we need to make signs.”
“For the game. For Buck, to cheer him on. It can be a surprise.”
“I’m in.” Eddie smiles. He really does have the best kid. “We can hide them in the laundry room, he’ll never find them.”
“Can I go get a snack?” Eddie nods and Christopher heads back into the house. A few minutes later, Buck appears in the yard. When he doesn’t see Christopher, he lets out a sigh of relief.
“How can a plastic whistle go to someone’s head like that?” He drinks another water and Eddie smirks.
“Almost like you and a clipboard?”
Buck sticks his tongue out at Eddie, startling a laugh out of him and when Christopher comes back outside, whistle in hand, Buck pretends to hide behind the lawn furniture until all three are laughing uncontrollably.
Eddie pulls the garlic bread from the oven when it’s the perfect shade of golden, feeling oddly proud of himself. Even Bobby burns garlic bread sometimes. He lifts the lid on the meatballs and decides they can simmer for a few more minutes. Buck and Christopher had gone on an Italian cooking spree the month before and the freezer was full of homemade meatballs and baked pasta dishes. It certainly made weeknight meals easier.
“How’s the homework going?” Eddie walks out to the dining room table.
“I just have to finish this vocab sheet. Can it wait until after dinner?”
“Of course. Better go wash up, Buck will be home soon.” As if summoned, the front door opens. Eddie hears the sound of Buck throwing his keys in the bowl on the table, the thud of two shoes hitting the shoe basket. He and Buck meet halfway and his strong arms wrap around Eddie, pulling him close.
“It smells good in here,” Buck murmurs. His tight black workout shirt is clinging to him in all the right ways but Eddie knows better than to start something while Christopher is still awake.
“Definitely better than you smell.” Eddie pulls back and Buck makes a face. “How was practice?”
“Really good! You’re looking at the starting running back.” He grins and Eddie presses a quick kiss to his lips.
“Never doubted it.” They move to the kitchen, Eddie to check on the food and Buck to grab another water. “Anyone we know on the team?”
“Dylan Green from the 101, Nikki Cole from the 122. And your old buddy Bosko from the 136.” Eddie winces.
“I don’t know if you would call us buddies.”
“Fine, your old bad influence then.” Buck says teasingly. Christopher comes into the kitchen and lights up at the sight of Buck.
“Buck! How did it go?”
“It went great! Everyone could tell I had the best training coach.” Christopher beams.
“Was everyone nice?” It’s a question he picked up from years of Eddie asking him the same thing after every school event. Buck looks down at him and smiles that soft, special smile.
“They were. I think we’ve got a good shot at winning.”
The game day is bright and sunny and Buck and Christopher are both buzzing with energy throughout breakfast. When Buck is getting changed, Eddie helps Christopher sneak the signs into the trunk of the Jeep.
They arrive to the field early and Buck heads over to the rest of the team to practice while Eddie and Christopher claim a section of the bleachers. Bobby, Athena, May and Harry arrive after with Maddie, Chim and Jee-Yun right behind them. Once Hen and Karen arrive with Denny and complete the group, Buck jogs over to them.
“What are you all doing here?” His eyes are bright.
“Cheering you on,” Christopher answers and as if on cue, they all hold up their colorful signs saying things like “Go Buck!” and “Buck is #1!”
Buck looks dumbfounded for a moment before breaking into the biggest smile Eddie had ever seen. Eddie climbs down so he can put his arm around Buck. He leans in close to whisper:
“I didn’t even ask them; everyone just showed up.” Buck nods and Eddie can tell he’s fighting a lump in his throat.
Buck takes a deep breath and smiles again.
“Athena, are you even allowed to be in this section?”
“I might work for LAPD, but you’ll never find me rooting against my Buck.” She shouts and there are cheers from their section of the stands.
One of his teammates calls Buck’s name and he smiles at Eddie.
“I better go over.” He gives Eddie a kiss on the cheek and walks a few feet before Eddie remembers something.
“Hey Buck!” Buck turns around. “I know it’s not an away jersey…” Buck’s expression turns to confusion but Eddie smiles and slowly unzips his sweatshirt. He turns around as he takes it off, revealing an LAFD shirt that’s a little big on him with BUCKLEY across the back.
He glances over his shoulder and something warm pools in his stomach at the way Buck’s expression has turned hungry.
“Go get ‘em.” Eddie winks because he can, and he makes his way towards the bleachers thinking about all the ways he can get that look on Buck’s face in the bedroom that night.
Buck was damn good at football.
And look, Eddie knows his boyfriend is not the most graceful person at the best of times, but on the field? He moves like it’s a dance, effortlessly zig zagging through the LAPD players and dodging all attempts to rip the flag off his belt. He scores one, then two, then a third touchdown and by the fourth quarter there have been multiple “Let’s Go Buckley!” cheers from their rowdy section of the stands.
As Buck dives in front of a player to get an interception, Chimney let out a whoop and slaps Eddie on the back.
“Oh he is never going to get out of a parking ticket again! LAPD number one enemy!”
After every touchdown, Buck looks to the stands and points at Christopher, who was going crazy with excitement. His gaze always would then move to Eddie- who never put his sweatshirt back on- and after the third touchdown, Eddie blows Buck a kiss.
Eddie had long ago given up trying to be cool when it came to how much he loved Evan Buckley. After spending so much time trying to hide his feelings, when they finally got together it was like something snapped.
Eddie was finally allowed to show the world just how happy this man made him and damnit he was going to make up for lost time.
So he blows Buck a kiss and Buck’s face lights up like a Christmas tree and Eddie is going to spend every day of the rest of his life making sure Buck knows how loved he is.
LAPD comes back the fourth quarter with a vengeance and with a few minutes left in the game, the score is tied.
Maddie had moved next to Eddie and was clutching his right arm.
“He’s got a lot of ground to cover, but he’s so fast…” Maddie starts, and Eddie can barely hear her over Denny asking Hen if he can sign up for football and if Buck can be his coach.
“He can do it.” Christopher says from where he’s standing in front of them. “We trained for this.” Eddie reaches down to ruffle his hair.
The whistle blows and the clock begins to count down.
The quarterback catches the snap, fakes throwing it to Bosko, then sends it soaring to Buck, who has already covered twenty yards and is approaching the endzone. He narrowly avoids two LAPD players and catches the ball, tucking it into his side and taking off in a sprint.
A player Eddie recognizes as Officer Williams comes at Buck and dives in, his hands nearly wrapping around the flag tired around Buck’s waist to pull it off and end the play, but Buck’s next stride doesn’t go forward: it goes up.
Buck leaps over Williams’ dive, clearing him by mere inches. He lands and spikes the ball down in the endzone and looks up at the crowd with a wild grin.
The roar is deafening and Buck’s LAFD teammates swarm him, jumping in victory.
Maddie’s eyes fill with happy tears and Eddie wraps her in his arms, giving her a loud kiss on the cheek.
“Go get him!” She lets out a watery laugh and Eddie helps Christopher down the bleachers and onto the field.
“Buck!” Christopher calls when they get closer and Buck immediately snaps his head to them. He jogs over, hoisting Christopher on to his shoulders in one easy swoop. Christopher cheers and Buck finally turns his gaze to Eddie.
Buck is covered in dirt and grass stains and sweat, and he is so beautiful that Eddie’s heart could burst.
“Great game baby,” Eddie grins, taking a step closer. Buck grabs the back of Eddie’s head, bringing them together for a long kiss.
The celebrations back at the house last well into the night. Harry, Denny and Christopher keep analyzing Buck’s best plays and Maddie can’t stop hugging her brother. They all cheer and dance and Bobby makes a toast that makes everyone emotional and through it all, Eddie keeps the Buckley shirt on and an arm around his boyfriend.
When they finally settle Christopher down enough that he could get ready for bed, Buck collapses onto the couch and pulls Eddie practically on top of him.
“It meant so much,” Buck nuzzles the side of Eddie’s face. “To look up in the stands and see you.”
“I’ll always show up for you, Buck.” Eddie turns so he can kiss Buck properly until the sound of a throat cleaning breaks them apart.
“I was gone for like two minutes.” Christopher rolls his eyes.
“Sorry buddy, you need anything before bed?” Buck asks, still keeping Eddie pressed to his side. It had been hard for them both last month when Christopher declared himself too old to be tucked into bed, but he always came out to give them a hug and kiss before going back to his room. After he was done, he pulls back and looks between the two of them.
“When you two finally get married, what’s our last name going to be?”
Buck’s eyes grow wide and he sputters something incomprehensible. Eddie tilts his head at his son.
“What do you mean finally?”
“It’s obvious you guys are going to.” Christopher says simply. “Anyway, I like Buckley-Diaz.” Buck’s expression changes to part nervous, part hopeful. He glances at Eddie.
There isn’t a single feeling of panic when Eddie replies:
“I like Buckley-Diaz too.”
“What about you Buck?” Christopher gives him an expectant look and a slow smile spreads across Buck’s face.
“Buckley-Diaz.” Something shifts in Eddie when he hears Buck say it and he sees matching gold rings and Buck in a suit and a promise for forever. “It sounds perfect.”
Buck looks at Eddie, silently asking if it was okay, if he’s allowed to desperately want this. Eddie nods and runs a hand through Buck’s hair, stopping to rub at that spot on the back of his neck that always makes Buck melt.
“It’s a lot to fit on a football jersey though.” Christopher sighs. Buck starts to laugh and Eddie joins in and they pull Christopher on top of them on the couch and are a mess of limbs and laughter and if this is what the rest of Eddie’s life is going to look like, he thinks he might be the luckiest guy on earth.