- Character Bashing
- Discussion - Child Abuse
- Discussion - Domestic Violence
- Alternate Universe
- Canon Divergence
- Fix It
Eddie was sitting in the parking lot at his son’s new school staring at the door the students went in. When he realized that not only was his son nowhere in sight, but neither were any of the other children, Eddie shook himself out of the stupor that he had fallen into. Rubbing his hands over his face, he took a deep breath and a deep swig of the coffee he’d gotten on his way from the station to home before getting Christopher to take him to school. Picking up his phone, Eddie shot off a text to his Tia Pepa asking if he could come over and then looked around trying to decide what to do while he waited for her response.
The previous night at the firehouse had been odd with both himself and Buck unable to sleep. Eddie had finally given up and thought he’d go up to the roof to try and sort through some of his jumbled thoughts and hopefully calm his racing mind. When he’d gotten there, though, he found that Buck had the same idea and had already beaten him up there. The fact that he had missed that his friend wasn’t in the bunk room when he slept right next to him showed how distracted Eddie was.
What had followed had not been either the lighthearted conversation or the inquisition that Eddie had expected. Instead, Buck had almost immediately opened up and confessed that he knew things with Ally were over and that the only reason he hadn’t moved out yet was that he didn’t know where to go.
Apparently, there had been offers to let him sleep on various couches, but Buck hadn’t wanted to intrude and while his initial instinct had been to accept Maddie’s offer, he’d hesitated. After bringing it up in a session with his therapist, Dr. Meryl Leach, Buck decided that he needed more time to learn who his sister was now before he moved into her personal space and spent so much of his off time around her.
He’d noticed that Maddie had a tendency to treat him like he still needed her to tell him/show him how to live his life. While it was something he’d needed when he was a kid and she was basically raising him, it certainly wasn’t something he needed now. He didn’t mind her guidance when he asked for it, however, he didn’t need or want her unsolicited advice on everything going on in his life.
Thus, he’d put off moving out until he could figure out where to go. Even though it felt like the right thing to do, still being at Ally’s was getting to him. Buck admitted that he found himself becoming restless and nervous at still being in his ex’ apartment when he’d acknowledged that in the end she had most likely known that she wasn’t coming back, but was ok letting him think that she was.
He had already sent her a text ending their relationship since she wasn’t picking up when he called anymore. Like everything else though she wasn’t very responsive to the texts either and thus Buck was waiting to find a place to go before moving out. It seemed that he hated living alone, and admitted that was most likely contributing to his indecision.
It was pretty obvious to Eddie that Abby had wanted to keep Buck in reserve for as long as she could just in case, even though she had never intended to return to him. It didn’t say much about her character and Eddie had found himself having to fight to hold his true thoughts back on her. He thought Buck would take them ok, but Eddie was still finding his way around his friend when it came to sensitive topics.
Buck was rapidly becoming incredibly important to not just Eddie, but Christopher as well. Something was nudging Eddie to offer up his spare room, but his uncertainty was holding him back. Something that wasn’t about Buck himself but something else that Eddie wasn’t quite making the connection to. It was on the list of things that he wanted to talk to his Tia Pepa about.
After Buck’s confession, Eddie found himself sharing his own plight. He had opened up about the situation with Shannon coming back into his life to do the interview with Durand to get Christopher into the new school. He confessed to a kiss but thus far he had held off on anything more despite her obvious interest in resuming at least the sexual part of their relationship. It led to a statement by Buck that had definitely given Eddie something to think about. In the end, it was that comment that led to Eddie seeking out guidance from his Tia whom he’d always found easier to talk to than either of his parents.
Eddie’s whole life, he had known that there were certain expectations for him when it came to how he lived his life. He often felt like he’d spent most of his time fighting between the person he wanted to be and the person he was expected to be by various people and institutions.
Eddie was to find himself a suitable career in something his father considered a manly profession, preferably following him into the family business with the understanding that someday he’d take over. He was to find a suitable Latina woman to marry and have babies with that his mother could tell them how to raise. The fact that his father hadn’t married a Latina woman himself but expected his children to all have Latina spouses was a hypocrisy that was not lost on Eddie.
He was to have lived his whole life in El Paso in close enough proximity that his mother could run his and his family’s lives. Again, the fact that they often used Eddie’s needing their help when he was in El Paso against him and had moved away from Ramon’s much larger family in Los Angeles to be near Helena’s smaller family in Texas was another hypocrisy that also wasn’t lost on him.
Going into the Army had been accepted as suitable, as long as he followed it up with an appropriate career when he got out. Being a firefighter hadn’t been what Ramon wanted, but it was acceptable. Working for LAFD instead of EPFD though hadn’t made either of his parents happy. While he had gotten married and had a baby, Shannon certainly hadn’t been what either of them wanted for him.
They hadn’t liked her before she left because she hadn’t been the kind of woman who was going to let anyone tell her how to live her life or raise her child. Eddie’s parents had done nothing but put her down both in and outside of Christopher’s presence. It was something that Eddie hadn’t done enough to counteract when they’d been together and knew he was wrong for. His list of reasons to feel guilty about Shannon and their marriage was lengthy.
There was a lot about his life that Eddie had kept from his parents knowing that they wouldn’t understand or approve. His thoughts about sex and relationships, his thoughts about how they treated their children, and his thoughts on how they ignored Ramon’s family as being an important part of their lives were all towards the top of the list. Eddie had always thought though that he had a good handle on being his own man until Buck corrected his thinking when it came to love and sex.
“You do know that love and sex have nothing to do with each other, right? I mean, I assume that you know that one-night stands are a thing, but just because you are in love with Shannon does not mean you are required to have sex with her. You are not required to have sex with anyone. Period. Regardless of how you feel about them. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t deserve your time, shouldn’t have a position of influence over your son, and honestly, doesn’t deserve a place in your heart.”
That then had led to Eddie spending the rest of his free time on shift reviewing his life and finding he didn’t stick up for himself as much as he should have when it came to Helena and Ramon Diaz. His thoughts on sex and relationships came directly from his parents, both of whom had very definite ideas about the kinds of spouses each of their children should have, and honestly had thus far found all of the selections they were aware of lacking.
Eddie’s self-realization about his how he reacted to his parent’s overbearing pressure on his life was both upsetting and frustrating. Their ability to influence him away from what he thought was best just because he often gave in or gave up fighting them was disheartening. They were all things that Eddie was determined to change. How much of what he did and thought and believed was his own and how much of it was a product of his parents that he’d just gone along with even if it didn’t fit the person he wanted to be? It was an important question, and one that he needed to figure out so that he could be his own man and not the person his parents had tried to mold him into hoping it would fix the flaws they had created.
Fortunately, Eddie was saved from his ruminations when his phone pinged signaling that he had gotten a response from Tia Pepa, who had immediately invited him over, promising an ear to listen and food to fill his belly if he hadn’t eaten yet. Relieved, Eddie accepted both and after triple checking to make sure there was no one around him, pulled out of the handicapped spot he was parked in, heading towards his Tia’s house.
When Eddie finally reached his tia’s house, he shut off the car and took a deep breath to try and calm his nerves. Clenching his hands, which had a slight shake to them, around the steering wheel, Eddie shut off the truck and forced himself to exit. He hadn’t even gotten to the front door before it was opened and Pepa was stepping out onto the front porch looking concerned.
“Eddito,” Pepa greeted, reaching up to cup Eddie’s face between her hands. “What is going on? Did you have a bad shift? You look like you did not get any sleep at all.”
“Just couldn’t get my mind to quiet down, Pepa,” Eddie explained as he let his tia pull him into a hug. “Thank you for letting me come over. I could use an ear. I feel like… I feel like someone just told me that the sky is actually green and the grass is blue.”
“Well come in and sit. I have a surprise that I hope will help. Then you can tell us what is going on while you eat. I had some breakfast casserole left over from this weekend. I heated that up for you, made a nice big bowl of fruit salad, and then put some of that on some yogurt with some granola to make a parfait for you. I know how much you love those. Once we have talked, you are using my guest room to get some rest, no arguments! You cannot drive again if you are half as tired as you look.”
“Us?” Eddie questioned as his tia pulled him inside the house. Pepa just ignored him though and continued to pull him through the house toward her kitchen with her hand wrapped around his wrist. He was about to question her again when he stepped through the doorway and spotted his younger sister Sophia putting a bowl of what he guessed was his yogurt parfait on the table with a plate of food and another bowl of fruit salad. “Soph,” Eddie breathed and had her in his arms before he even realized he’d moved.
“How the fuck are you here?”
“Surprise,” Sophia said with a laugh and hugged him back as tightly as he had her wrapped up. Eddie tilted his head to press his face against her hair, taking a deep breath of his sister’s familiar scent.
Sophia was just 17 months younger than Eddie and had only been a year behind him in school because of how their birthdays fell. With Adriana four years older than Eddie, that meant that he had been much closer to Sophia than his older sister all through his childhood.
This meant that Eddie and Sophia had often been each other’s closest confidant and at least in Eddie’s world, his younger sister had been his best friend. While nothing specific had happened, life, in general, had worked to put some distance between them with Eddie’s being gone for so long during his time in the Army that had covered one full and a partial tour.
Sophia on the other hand had turned her years of participating in competitive shooting into a career with the DEA as a sniper. While he was incredibly proud of her, and Adriana too for that matter who was a highly successful realtor in El Paso, Tx where she lived with her husband, an architect with his own firm, their careers made it hard for Eddie to be able to give Sophia as much of his time as he’d like.
“I’m moving here,” Sophia said with a big grin as she nudged Eddie towards the table where she sat down next to him with her own bowl of yogurt parfait and what looked like a croissant and a cup of coffee as Tia Pepa settled down across from Eddie after filling her own coffee cup.
“I got recruited by the US Marshall’s office here thanks to my mentor Ian to be a sniper on one of the special operations teams for the Marshall’s office.”
“I don’t recognize that name,” Eddie said frowning as he tried to remember if he’d heard it before. “Have you mentioned him before?”
“Maybe? I probably called him Cougar if I did. That was his nickname when he was in the service. He agreed to mentor me in my early years with the DEA when my first team leader asked him to. Anyway, he actually introduced me to Don, which is the other reason I am moving to LA. Don and I have decided that we want to move our relationship forward. He didn’t want to move away from his dad though, and I was more than happy to get away from Texas.
“You’d think living in Dallas would be enough distance from mom and pops to keep them out of my business, but it wasn’t. Tia Pepa is going to let me stay in her guest room for 6 months while Don and I make sure things will still work out with us living so much closer together. If things are still going well after that point, we’re going to look for a place to live together and start talking marriage.”
Eddie arched an eyebrow at the marriage bit, but was incredibly happy for his sister and told her that. “He’s Jewish right? Are you thinking of converting if you get married?”
“I am actually,” Sophia admitted with a nod of emphasis. “Which is another reason why I wanted to put as much distance between myself and our parents. Mom and pops are both going to flip their lids when they find out, and I would rather have them not be able to just drop in to lecture me whenever they felt like it. I told them I had a long-term assignment here in LA and that was why I would be here. I know it’s only putting off the inevitable meltdown, but…”
“No, I get it,” Eddie assured with a shudder as he thought of his conversation with his parents after Shannon left. “I would put that shit off as long as possible, too. Having gone through that discussion with them, trust me when I advise that you not rush into that conversation because they’re not going to take it well. God help us if Adriana ever decides to move away, too.”
“Oh no, there’s no worries there,” Sophia said with a laugh. “She doesn’t need to move away. Manuel has zero chill when it comes to mom and pops and refuses to let mom be all up in their business all the time. It’s part of the reason they live in that gated community. So, they can control who can and can’t get to them. Plus, Adri adores Manuel and there is no chance that she’d ever choose mom and pops over him, even if she is the favorite child. Enough about me though. What is going on? Something has you all torn up, I can tell, mi hermano.”
Putting down his fork and taking his time chewing the food in his mouth to buy himself time, Eddie ran a hand through his hair as he leaned back in his chair. “I told you that I was trying to get Christopher into a new school, right? Well, they wanted to interview Shannon. So, I had to get in contact with her and beg her to make an appearance. Fortunately, she was here in California, and it only took me two calls, several text messages, and an email to get her to respond. After the interview, we got to talking and… Wekissedintheparkinglot.”
Sophia arched an eyebrow at him, clearly unimpressed by Eddie’s mashed-up confession. While she had tried to be more supportive of Shannon than their parents had, neither of his sisters, but especially Sophia had liked Shannon. Sophia had been especially critical of their decision to get married considering how quickly they went from we’re just friends to we’re having a baby to we’re getting pregnant so we’re getting married. She had argued that loving each other as friends wasn’t the same as loving each other enough to get married, but both Eddie and Shannon were stubborn and hadn’t wanted to listen. Something that Eddie deeply regretted now.
Sophia argued with him up to the day before the wedding when Eddie put his foot down. His sister felt it was not just the wrong decision to get married, but wouldn’t work out in the long run because she wasn’t convinced that Shannon was all in on a) being a wife and b) being a mother. The argument they’d had over it, which had nearly resulted in Sophia not coming to the wedding, had been one of the things Eddie was focused on the last several hours. Not for the first time since Shannon left in the middle of the night, had it occurred to Eddie that his sister was most likely right all along.
“Edmundo Javier Diaz, do not tell me that you are…” Sophia started but stopped at a sharp word from his Tia Pepa.
“I don’t know what we are,” Eddie confessed after giving himself time to calm his nerves again. “Shannon has been pressing me to at least resume our sexual relationship, and I’ve been considering it. I mean, I love her. Something has been holding me back though and then Buck said something last night that I can’t stop thinking about.”
“Eddie,” Sophia started and stopped before taking a breath and starting again looking more upset than she should have. “Mi hermano, you do know that loving Shannon doesn’t mean that you have to have sex with her, right? Even if you are in love with her, it doesn’t mean that you are ever required to have a sexual relationship with her. To be honest, lately, I have wondered…”
“You sound like Buck.” When Sophia trailed off, Eddie couldn’t help but think of the man who had quickly become his best friend. Just saying Buck’s name gave Eddie a burst of warmth in his heart that he had thus far refused to explore. It occurred to him that maybe he should if he was thinking of moving the man into his house. “What have you wondered?”
“Let’s hold off on that for a second, Eddito,” Pepa inserted drawing his attention. “I want to speak of Shannon coming back for a second because I am concerned you are thinking about letting her back in so quickly. I have never made my dislike for her a secret, but I have tried my best to be respectful about my feelings where she is concerned. I certainly have never spoken of my dislike for her around Christopher unlike that cabrón brother of mine and his wife. That being said, I am aware how much her abandoning not just you, but Christopher as well hurt you both.”
Eddie nodded and opened his mouth to respond and defend himself but stopped when his tia held up her hand in a silent request that he wait and let her continue. “In my experience sex has never made anything simpler. In fact, it is almost always the exact opposite. You have many things to work out when it comes to your wife, and not just when it comes to her relationship with your son. So, it seems to me that adding sex back into your current situation with Shannon right now would be a mistake.
“You have to decide if you can trust her with not only Christopher but also yourself. Can you trust her not to run away if bad or things happen or even if you just go though another rough patch again? Can you trust that she’s really interested in resuming your relationship beyond the sex? And maybe most importantly, do you love her, or are you in love with her?
“Because, mi ángel, there is a vast difference between the two in this situation that in my opinion you have been ignoring from the beginning. Are you considering letting her back in because you are in love with her or because you know that Christopher misses her desperately, and your parents have programmed you into thinking that you must have a woman in your life to be a mother to your son and a wife to you? Because Eddie, you deserve to be with someone because you are madly, desperately in love with them and not because your parents have put you in a box that requires it.”
Eddie pushed his plate away from him and pulled the two bowls closer, knowing that his stomach wouldn’t tolerate anything heavier than the fruit and the yogurt parfait at that point. “Buck basically said that, too. He is pretty critical of Shannon and her running off on Chris specifically, to be honest. I get the feeling that he didn’t have the best relationship with his parents and maybe some not-so-great things went down there when he was a kid. He said that I needed to decide what I wanted for my heart with my brain before I decided what I wanted for my dick.”
“I like this guy more and more every time you mention him,” Sophia said cheekily and Eddie looked toward her to see she was grinning at him. “If I wasn’t completely in love with Don, I might have to insist that you introduce us.”
Eddie immediately growled at the suggestion surprising himself, but Sophia didn’t even seem phased as she held up her hands giggling. Quickly though she grew serious again as she reached out and took one of his hands in both of hers.
“Eddie, I need to be open and honest with you for a bit, sí? Because I think that some things are going on here that you have been conditioned into ignoring. One of the things that I had to do when I decided to go down my own path was to climb out of the box that mom and pops have built for each of us.
“They made these boxes for each of us and put us inside, then covered it with all these expectations for us on what we were to do, how we were to live, and what we were to think. The problem is that there is no way that any of us were ever going to fit in these boxes because we aren’t porcelain dolls that were made to fit in these velvet-lined boxes to keep us safe. We’re real human beings with thoughts and fears, wants and needs, and experiences of our own that would mold us and determine what kind of people we are.
“Adriana probably came closest of the three of us to meeting their expectations and they aren’t happy with even her. It’s only because Manuel practically worships the ground she walks on and seems to know exactly when to give in to mom and pops and when to stand between Adriana and our parents that their marriage works. You and I are not her though. She has always been much more invested in making them happy whereas you and I have always been more about being our own people, which is why we both had to move 800 miles away to find refuge with Tia Pepa and Abuela.
“Part of why I was so critical of you and Shannon marrying was because it felt like you were trying to make three different entities happy at once instead of doing what would make you happy. You have always wanted to be a father, and mom and pops have conditioned you into believing that you had to be married to a woman to do that. Honestly, the fact that you’d gotten her pregnant surprised me because I was a little surprised you were having sex. I shouldn’t have been… I mean heaven knows pops sees that as one of those requirements on that box he made. The thing is that you’ve never been that guy, big brother.
“Even when we were teenagers, you weren’t into sex like the other guys and when someone did draw your attention, it wasn’t the cheerleaders. You always had these other boys who you had these friendships with that were more intense than the average teenage boy’s friendship, and your heart was always more broken than others when the friendships fell apart, as is normal between kids.
“To be honest, Eddie, I’ve been waiting since about a month after you started at the 118 for you to tell me that you and this Buck of yours have started dating. My only hope was that he would understand that sex maybe wasn’t your thing.”
“Soph,” Eddie started but stopped when she stood and quickly wrapped him up in her arms letting him shake and hide his tears. Because there was no doubt he was crying. It was all too much. It was too much the truth. It was too much of everything he’d been thinking of all night. It was too close to what he had always known about himself but had been afraid to admit to. It was too much of what he knew in the bottom of his heart and the depths of his soul that he needed.
“I love you, Eddie, and I always will,” Sophia said gently and softly. “There will never come a time when I turn my back on you because of who you have chosen to spend your life with or whether or not you have decided to bring sex into that relationship.
“The last thing I want for you though is to start something back up with that woman you married because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do. I think you owe it to yourself and frankly, you owe it to Christopher to decide if you even want Shannon that way, or if it’s this Buck that you want. I’m not going to lecture you about your wife and try and push my thoughts and beliefs about her on you, again.
“You are the one married to her, and you are the one who had a son with her. Not to mention I don’t want Don to yell at me again if I open my big fat mouth. He was pretty upset with me when he found out how I acted after you told me that you two were getting married the first time. If you want my opinion, I will give it to you, but I doubt you really need to hear it. You know…
“I had mostly convinced myself that I had been wrong about you and sex. I mean you obviously had sex with Shannon at least once, and I figured that if you didn’t like sex you would have admitted it to me a long time ago. However, then a couple of months back, one of Don’s team members, Colby, was forced to come out to the team. See, Colby does a lot of undercover and is often borrowed by other teams within the FBI for undercover ops because he’s so good.
“Don told me though that he’d become pickier over the last few years about the types of roles he would play. Well, a couple of months ago, this guy who runs a task force asked for Colby to be temporarily assigned to him to try and get close to a female target. When Colby found out and refused to do the job, the guy didn’t take it well and tried to shame him into doing it.
“Colby ended up showing up at Don’s in the middle of the night, in a panic, where he confessed to being a-sexual and that he couldn’t do the undercover jobs where he would have to fake sexual interest in someone, even if the actual act wasn’t either expected or even approved. Don nearly came unglued when he found out what the other guy had done because while he asks a lot of his team, he would never even consider trying to force or shame them into faking sexual interest in someone if it made them uncomfortable.
“The reason I bring it up is that Colby is at least 5 years or more older than you. We found out after everything settled, that Colby had only come to terms with his own sexuality within the last couple of years. So, it got me thinking that if he had just realized it was ok to not want to have sex with anyone, that maybe you didn’t know it either.
“So, I guess this is me saying that if you don’t like sex, if you only like certain types of sex, if you like all kinds of sex but don’t necessarily feel like you have to have any of it, or if I’ve completely missed the mark and you love and want sex it’s all ok. What I want is for you to be happy and content with yourself and not feel like you have to do something you are not comfortable with because our parents set that expectation for you.”
Eddie didn’t respond for a long while. He mostly sat with his arms wrapped around his sister’s waist as she rubbed his back and whispered quietly to him while he shook in her arms. The thing was that she was right. He’d never really been interested in sex, but he knew that it was expected that he should be. All the other boys in school were.
His Pops was always asking about girls and had made it clear his expectations in that area, jokingly nudging him to have sex with some pretty girl who caught his attention. His mother hadn’t been much different making jokes about boys being boys, and when he got Shannon pregnant acted like it had only been a matter of time. Like he had had some raging sex life when in fact he could count the number of women he’d slept with on one hand. By the time he’d met Shannon, Eddie had just known that sex went with relationships, even if he didn’t get what the big deal was because he had never felt like it was that enjoyable beyond the physical release he got.
“I don’t want to have sex with Shannon,” Eddie finally admitted pulling back and turning to face the table focusing his attention on the tabletop.
“If I’m honest, I don’t want to be married to her anymore. I’m really mad at how she left us, but I feel guilty because I feel like I ran away first when I re-enlisted after Christopher was born. That said, Buck pointed out that her leaving me and her abandoning Christopher are two different things, and I have to agree with him. I don’t trust her with Chris or myself, but I know how much Christopher misses his mom. So, I need to figure something out.
“I really want to… Buck needs a place to stay. He is living in his ex-girlfriend’s apartment right now while she’s running around Europe finding herself because he has no other place to go. And as soon as he mentioned it, I wanted to offer up my guest room, I wanted to offer my house. I’ve never had a relationship with a man and it kind of pisses me off because I’ve always known I was attracted to them. I just…
“I always knew mom and pops wouldn’t support it, or at least pops won’t. I don’t know what mom will say. But then I met Buck and after he calmed down and realized I wasn’t there to replace him but back him up, he quickly became one of the best friends I’ve ever had and he makes me want so much more than I’ve ever had before.
“But then I had to contact Shannon and everything got confused because sometimes it feels like she expects things to go back to how they were and then the next I’m not sure she has any interest in even Chris let alone there being a her and me. I don’t trust her, and honestly, I don’t know how I can ever trust her enough again to have a relationship with her but I know or it feels like I should want it. I just…
“I feel like if I had been with Buck instead of Shannon when I was in the Army, no matter what was going on between us, he never would have abandoned Chris. Even if he decided he hated me and never wanted to talk to me again. That means everything to me. I love Chris so much and knowing that I can trust Buck with Chris, knowing that I can trust him with Chris’ heart and his mind is everything. Then when you add in the fact that once he committed to being part of my life… I mean Buck is one of those all-in or all-out people. He doesn’t do halves, ya know?”
“Answer these questions for me, Edmundo, because it sounds like you know what you want, but you’re afraid that we aren’t going to support you in your decisions. Do not stop to think about your answers. Just say what comes to mind. Do you want to have a sexual relationship with Shannon?”
Eddie lifted his eyes from the table to his tia. “No.”
“Do you trust her with your heart? Do you even want to be married to her any longer?”
“No and no.”
“Do you trust this Buck with yourself and Christopher?”
“Yes and yes,” Eddie confirmed and the more they talked about Buck, the more he felt himself relaxing.
“Do you want to see if there is something more than just friendship between yourself and this Buck?”
Eddie paused longer before offering this answer than he had the others, but fortunately, his tia was patient and allowed it. “Yeah, I think I do. And I want to offer up my guest room because no matter what else happens if anything else even does, he’s my friend. He fills a spot that’s been empty for a while, and it feels like that’s only going to grow stronger.”
“Then I think you know what you need to do,” Pepa said calmly and matter-of-factly. “You have my support and my approval if you need it, and I would bet you have your sister’s, also. Do not worry about Helena and that brother of mine. They will not be happy, but eventually, they will come around. If they do not, we will just sit back and watch mama go after them once she hears about them being nasty.”
Sophia took his hand again and Eddie turned to look at her once more. “Tia Pepa is right, Eddie. I support you and I know Adriana will as well. None of this will surprise her and I can say that with confidence because she and I have talked about most of this at various times. If it matters Manuel will support you too, and will happily tell mom and pops what he thinks of them if they give you a hard time.
“If you want to divorce Shannon, then do so. Make sure that you get things with her and Chris worked out, and do not let her get away with running off without settling things there. Christopher deserves to know where he stands with his mother. If you want to offer this friend of yours your guest room, I support you in that also. I think you need to be clear with him on what you’re feeling though, and the things we have discussed today including what you may or may not be realizing about your sexuality. If he is half the man that you make him seem like when you gush about him, I don’t see that being a problem.”
“Sophia,” Eddie complained only to draw her laughter and a tisking sound from his tia.
“She is right, Eddito. It’s like listening to my Jose’s teenagers go on about their little love interests. You are not fooling anyone but yourself I think when it comes to this Buck. Well, you are probably fooling your parents. My brother has always been quite blind to such things. Helena had to practically throw herself at him naked to make him realize she was interested. I blame Helena’s uncle who got in his ear after they got together and put some foolish thoughts there that have ruined the boy he once was. Now, finish your breakfast, and then go take a nap. That is an order!”
Eddie gave a brief nod before digging back into his breakfast, including finishing the plate now that his appetite had reappeared. Maybe he hadn’t been as confused as he thought. Maybe what he’d needed was to hear that there would be people who still loved and supported him if he chose to climb out of that box and set it on fire. Maybe, just maybe, he could have Buck and his son and be truly happy for the first time in his life. Maybe, just maybe, as he continued on down his path, he’d have more people there with him than he’d expected.
Eddie sat on Chris’ bed smoothing out the blanket before leaning down and pressing a kiss to his son’s forehead. When he sat up, Christopher was frowning up at him, and Eddie waited patiently. It was obvious to him that his son had something to say, but Eddie had been biding his time instead of pushing him to talk about whatever it was knowing that trying to rush his son into getting out what was in his head never worked. Eddie would like to blame Shannon for that, but it was a trait that he was self-aware enough to know that Eddie did himself.
“I’m sorry that you’re sad, dad,” Chris said softly and Eddie lifted a hand to brush his fingers through his son’s curls as he tried to figure out what he could have picked up that Eddie was willing to talk about. He had decided that he wasn’t going to say anything about being in contact with Shannon just yet. He wanted to sit down with his wife to work some things out between them before getting Chris involved. Eddie wasn’t confident that Shannon would stick around if a renewed relationship between the two of them wasn’t in the works.
“What makes you think I’m sad, buddy?” Eddie asked laying a hand over where Chris had laid one of his on top of the blanket.
“I have eyes, dad. I can see you weren’t happy today. I was hoping that having Bucky over would help. You always smile when he’s around.”
“Oh, mijo,” Eddie sighed as he ran a hand over the back of his head in a nervous gesture. “I’m sorry if I worried you. I’m not sad exactly. It’s more like I have some things on my mind that I have to work out and I guess I’m a little preoccupied.”
“Is it me, dad? Did I do something?”
“No, Chris,” Eddie started and paused not wanting to lie or mislead Chris, but was confident in his decision not to tell Chris about Shannon just yet. It meant that whatever came next would require him to walk a fine line between being honest and not sharing news prematurely.
“I don’t want to lie to you. There is something involving you that I am working on, but I’m not ready to talk to you about it yet, ok? I need you to give me a few days to work out some grownup stuff before you and I discuss it. I don’t want you to worry about me though. I’m not sad, and everything is ok. There just some things I’m adjusting to, some changes that I’m considering that I need to work out for myself.”
“If I can’t help you, daddy, maybe you should talk to Bucky. He’s a really good listener. I like how he listens to me and gives me advice without talking to me like I’m a baby. I think we should make him part of our family.”
“You do huh?” Eddie asked with a grin, knowing that Abuela and Pepa were already plotting how to adopt Buck and make him an unofficial-official Diaz.
“Uh huh, Buck was explaining families to me earlier and how you can make a family for yourself made out of anyone, not just people you are related to. Bucky says families are complicated and just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean that they get to be mean to you. He also says that it’s ok to feel two different things about someone at the same time. Like, he told me that it’s ok to be mad at mommy for leaving but still miss her and wish she would come back and see me.”
“When was this, mijo?” Eddie asked softly, his heart breaking at the thought that his son was so conflicted about his mother and Eddie hadn’t known. What the hell did it say about his abilities as a father that he had no idea his son was struggling so much over Shannon leaving them?
“Earlier tonight when you were talking to Grandma and Abuelo. I told Bucky that you hate it when they call ‘cause they always make you feel bad feelings and your mommy and daddy shouldn’t always make you feel bad things. Buck said that parents are complicated. He said I was lucky to have a daddy like you. That’s when I told him about mommy and how I miss her but I’m mad at her too. Buck says that parents are people too and make mistakes or don’t always do the things that we think they should and it’s hard because you love them and want them to love you but sometimes, they just can’t do that the way you want.
“He said that doesn’t mean that mommy doesn’t love me and it isn’t ok if anyone is saying bad things about her around me. I told him that sometimes gramma and Abuelo said mean things about mommy, and it hurt my heart because it made me feel like I have to defend her even when I’m sad or mad. He said that wasn’t right and that I should come to you right away if they do that again, and it was ok for me to tell them that it hurt me when they said those things in front of me.”
Eddie took a deep breath and tried to calm himself because losing his shit would not help Chris. The problem was that he really wanted to call his parents and Shannon and cuss them all out. Thank God for Buck, though because Eddie wasn’t sure if he’d ever have heard any of this if Buck hadn’t… well if he hadn’t been Buck.
“Buck is right. It isn’t ok for anyone to say bad things about your mom in front of her, and it is definitely ok for you to be mad that she left, but still love her and miss her. You definitely need to tell me, your Abuela, Tia Pepa, or your Tia Sophia now that she will be around more if they do it again because it’s wrong for them to say those things around you.”
Chris nodded and cuddled into his covers. “Can we make Bucky part of our family then daddy? He said that his parents don’t like him very much. So that’s why he’s trying to make himself his own family of people he knows that he can trust and depend on to be there when he needs them and not make him feel so alone all the time. Did you know he doesn’t like living by himself, daddy?”
“I did,” Eddie admitted looking toward the doorway to make sure it was still just himself and Chris before returning his attention to his son. “I was actually thinking of offering to let Buck move into our spare room. How would you feel about that? Would you mind having Bucky here all the time?”
“That would be awesome, dad. Then we can work on this making our own family thing. You and me and Bucky.”
“What about your mom?” Eddie asked curiously wondering if this was a way to get Chris’ thoughts on his mother and seeing her again without telling him that Eddie was in contact with her.
“I love mommy and I really want to see her. I wish that she wanted to see me. Sometimes I feel like I’m not sure if she loves me anymore or I wonder if I did something wrong to make her go away. Buck says that her leaving had nothing to do with me, and some things are just hard to understand. He says that if she was a good mommy when she was with me then that’s what I need to hold onto and let myself feel whatever I feel about her leaving. I just… I like Bucky being here, daddy. And I think that if mommy does come back that… I don’t think I can trust her to stay, daddy. I love her and I miss her and I want to see her again, but I don’t trust her not to leave us if she does come back.”
“But I went away, too.” Eddie pointed out. His heart was in his throat as he thought about all the years of Chris’ life that he missed when he was away in the Army.
“But I always knew where you were, daddy,” Chris pointed out yawning. “I missed you and it made me sad, but it wasn’t like you were missing. Mommy just left. Sometimes I worry that she’s hurt or something happened to her and we’ll never know.
“You called me all the time and even though I didn’t know where you actually were cause it was a secret you weren’t really gone. You were just working defending people. Mommy is different. I don’t know where she is or if she’s ok or what she’s even doing. So, I guess I think that we should make our own family without mommy. If she comes back and we think that she won’t leave again, then we can think about letting her be a part of it but…”
Chris trailed off with a huff and gave another yawn. “Sleepy daddy.”
“Yeah, time for lights out, mijo. Try not to worry about your mommy, ok? I’m sure she’s ok and hopefully, you’ll get to see her soon. I will talk to Buck about moving in and I think us making a family for ourselves is a good idea. Remember, I love you to the moon and back, kiddo, ok? I will never leave you, again, voluntarily. Night, night.”
“Night, night, daddy,” Chris said before rolling over and hugging the stuffed dinosaur that Buck had gotten for him. Leaning down, Eddie placed another kiss on Chris’s forehead before turning off the light by his bed and leaving the room.
After shutting the door softly, Eddie leaned against the wall opposite the door and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes as he tried to just breathe through the emotions that wanted to come out. He wasn’t sure if that conversation with Chris about Shannon made things more clear or murkier, but he did know that he owed Buck big time for stepping up and handling something Eddie didn’t even know was a problem, and looking back thought he definitely should have.
Once he thought he had his emotions back under control, Eddie headed through the house in search of Buck, whom he had convinced to stay over under the guise of Buck helping him clean out the spare room. Smelling something good, Eddie headed to the kitchen to see Buck scooping what looked like cooked sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, and zucchini over he assumed to be shredded hash browns based on the empty bag on the counter next to him.
“What are you doing?” Eddie asked hoarsely and snickered when Buck jumped a little.
“Shit, Eds, you scared the crap out of me,” Buck complained before putting the pan in the sink and then moving back to scoop the sausage mix that he’d accidentally dumped on the counter when he jumped and into the 13×9 dish.
“And I’m putting together a breakfast casserole. Chris and I were talking about it the last time I was here and he wanted to try it. I always put it together the night before so that it has time to sit overnight. I think the flavor is better that way. Why do you look like you’ve been put through the wringer? I mean you’ve been preoccupied all day but you look worse now than before you went to tuck Chris in.”
Eddie watched Buck pick up a bowl of what appeared to be some kind of egg mixture and start to pour it over whatever was going on in the glass dish. Moving to Buck’s side, he waited patiently for his friend to be done, a feat that he felt should be acknowledged and he be given kudos for, before yanking Buck into a tight hug.
“Uhh, Eds?” Buck asked sounding confused, and Eddie figured he had a right to be considering he had no clue what happened while Eddie was in Chris’ room. “I don’t ever mind you hugging me, because you’re hugs are kinda magical, but what the fuck?”
“Thank you,” Eddie murmured softly tucking his face against the crook of Buck’s neck, and he felt himself relax when Buck not only returned his hug but didn’t seem in a rush to pull away from it.
“Chris told me about the talk you and he had about Shannon and how he likes talking to you in general and I just… Thank you. I didn’t even realize that he was so conflicted about her and I feel like a fucking idiot because I should have. I… Chris is everything to me, Buck, and sometimes it feels like there is such a small list of people that I can trust with him and I know that we haven’t known each other for long but…”
Eddie finally pulled back and looked at Buck who was looking a little emotional himself now. Taking a deep breath, Eddie looked around the kitchen and shook himself a little. “We need to talk. You almost done there? I thought we could go to the living room with a couple of beers. I don’t wanna risk Christopher overhearing us but I… I need to tell you some things and need your opinion about other stuff. Then I also have an offer to make you.”
Eddie stopped talking because he felt like he was starting to ramble and needed to center himself before he laid things out for the man who had quickly become his best friend. Which was weird, because Eddie had never been the type to just automatically latch onto someone.
Maybe it was that he had been missing his old team from when he was in the Army. Maybe it was because he’d felt a little isolated since he’d come back to the states. Maybe it was simply something inherent to Buck himself, but whatever it was, the man in front of him had somehow worked his way under Eddie’s skin and was forcing him, even if buck didn’t realize it, to re-evaluate his entire life and everything that Eddie thought he knew about himself.
“Yeah, Eds, of course,” Buck agreed quickly. “Why don’t I get the beers and you go and catch your breath? I have to put this in the fridge anyway. Then we can talk about whatever you need. It isn’t like we have to be up at oh dark hundred for work in the morning since we still have three more days off.”
“Yeah, that sounds great, thanks.” Eddie agreed before rubbing his hands over his face and then turning headed to the living room. On the way, he stopped to check the sliding patio door as well as the front door to make sure they were secured before he threw himself down on the couch, slumping down until he was angled at one end with a pillow hugged to his chest. While he wasn’t sure another heavy conversation was what he should be doing, he also wasn’t sure that he could sleep if he didn’t get some Buck things out of his brain and in the open.
Not to mention, he really would like to hear the thoughts of someone that he wasn’t related to about the whole Shannon thing. If Chris was to be believed, it sounded like Buck had experience with crappy parents and maybe was the perfect person to give an adult voice to Chris’ side of things.
Eddie wasn’t sure how long he’d been lost in his head going over everything, but he came back to himself when he felt someone nudge his knee and realized that Buck was sitting in front of him holding out a bottle of Eddie’s favorite beer looking concerned.
“Jesus, thanks. Sorry about that I was… in my head. It’s been a long day, and this could be my third life-altering conversation of the day. The second you already know about since it was Chris just a bit ago, and the first being this morning when I went to see Abuela and found out my sister Sophia has moved into town. I… Thank you again, Buck, for listening to Chris. Sometimes I swear I feel like the world’s worst father.”
“You aren’t,” Buck promised seriously and earnestly. “Trust me, I have experience with horrible fathers, and you aren’t even a consideration for the list. Chris adores you. From personal experience, I can tell you that if he held some kind of hidden anger or resentment about you or something you did then he wouldn’t trust you as much as he does. My parents barely remember I am alive and that isn’t a new thing. I haven’t seen either of them since I was 19 and haven’t talked to them in years and don’t care to. Even when I was a kid and still invested in trying to get them to love me I didn’t trust them half as much as Chris trusts you.”
“Jesus, Buck,” Eddie huffed before taking a sip of his beer. “Chris mentioned that you’d talked about parents and families and making your own family. He thinks that we should make a family with the two of us and you and I can’t say that I am opposed to the idea. Fair warning, by the way, this conversation may be jumbled and somewhat all over the place, and I’m sorry for that. My brain is tired and I’m a mess mentally. So, this whole conversation may be a rambling mess.”
“Say what you gotta say, Eddie, in whatever order it comes out. I’m good at keeping up and nonlinear conversations. I can’t say I’m opposed to the idea of the three of us building something. I know our friendship is new and it will take time to get to actual family, but then again maybe not as long as it should. It feels like there’s something different here. It’s…
“Well, being fair myself, I should say that to be honest, you are part of the reason why I finally said enough is enough with the Abby situation. I realized that something was going on in my head and my heart where you are concerned that could lead to something I shouldn’t be considering if I’m living in my almost, but maybe already ex-girlfriend’s apartment. Even if she’s ghosting me all the way from Europe.”
Eddie nodded and turned the bottle around in his hand staring at the brown glass as he considered his next words. “This morning, after I dropped off Chris at his new school, I ended up going over to my Tia Pepa’s house because that thing you told me about loving Shannon and wanting to have sex with Shannon being completely different was really stuck in my head. My sister Sophia was there. She was planning on surprising me with the news she had gotten a job here in LA in part to be closer to Chris and me as well as her boyfriend Don. We ended up having this big conversation and in the end I… I realized that I don’t really like sex.”
“Not any of it?” Buck asked frankly and without any kind of judgment, Eddie could hear, which made him relax a little. Eddie had heard a lot about Buck’s sex exploits around the fire station, mostly from Chim, and despite Buck being the one to mention it first, he’d been a little worried about how his new friend would take this whole sexual realization of Eddie’s.
“I have been thinking about it, and I like giving blow jobs sometimes, but that’s it when it comes to anything penetrative. I like kissing, but not with tongues. I don’t like fucking or getting fucked. I’m not sure about getting a blow job to be honest. Shannon hated them so it’s been a really long time since I’ve actually had one to know for sure how I feel about being on the receiving end of one. I remember giving another guy one though before Shannon and I got together and the rush I got from it will be burned forever into my memory. Not like a sexual thing. It didn ‘t make me hard or anything. It just…”
Eddie shrugged helplessly not sure how to explain things but Buck seemed unconcerned about it as he just nodded. “That’s cool. You like what you like and it really isn’t any deeper than that, Eds. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to sexuality and what turns you on whether it’s everything or nothing or something in between the two. People keep assuming that I’m like sex crazed or something, and I admit that there was a time not so long ago that I thought that, too. My relationship with Abby really cleared that up for me though.
“It was maybe one of the better things to come out of that time. I mean, I like sex. I like sex a lot, but it’s not the end all that be all. I can happily live without any kind of sexual interaction with another person, and just take care of my needs myself. What I really need though is affection and human contact. Holding hands, cuddling, and kissing all can satisfy my needs. Dr. Leach and I have been talking about that a lot in our sessions recently.”
“Dr. Leach,” Eddie asked not remembering hearing that name before.
“My therapist,” Buck explained shrugging. “My first year was… rough. I am sure you heard about most of my worst moments from Chim and Hen. But Bobby sent me to a therapist and that… didn’t go well. There was a thing that I don’t wanna talk about because I feel like it’ll derail our conversation, but some things came out into the open after Manny overheard Chim say some things and I ended up looking for a new therapist to deal with… well, a lot of shit. Anyway, long way to say, yeah, I see a therapist. His name is Dr. Meryl Leach and he’s awesome. We get along really well.”
“We probably need to come back to that, too,” Eddie admitted with a sigh. “Because after talking to Chris I’d say that he needs to start seeing someone about Shannon and I can’t very well send him and not work out my own shit. The VA really tried to push me to go see someone after what happened with my team, but I ignored their suggestion. I’m suddenly not sure that was such a good idea.”
Buck nodded again and pulled out his phone before he began to type something. “I’m making a note for myself. If you’d like, I can talk to Dr. Leach and get some names for you and Chris. I’m pretty sure they have someone in his practice who deals with kids. His office is actually himself and one of his life partners and a friend of theirs from college.”
“One of?” Eddie echoed and Buck explained how Dr. Leach was in a triad relationship that had been going on for more than a decade. The ease in which Buck talked about that relationship made him a little hopeful about his friend being open to a non-traditional relationship for himself.
A part of himself felt weird about having this conversation while he was still with Shannon, but both Sophia and Pepa had told him that a conversation was fine as long as he didn’t act on anything. There was a lot going on in Eddie’s life all at once, and he had several things that he needed to get worked out at once. The timing was crappy, but it was what it was.
“So, I want to let you know that I heard what you said earlier about your interest in me, and while I… I have interest too, I can’t do anything right now. I need to be clear with you about Chris’ mom. Her name is Shannon and we’re still married, although until recently it’s been a couple of years at least since I saw her or had any contact with her. She just left in the middle of the night one day, as Chris may have told you. I don’t know though if he told you about us still being married. I’m…
“What Chris doesn’t know is I have been in contact with her recently. Durand wouldn’t let Chris in without talking to her, and so I had to get her to make a reappearance. While we did kiss, she’s been wanting more than that and I… well, I’m just realizing that I’m not as open to sex as I thought maybe I was. So, while I am not opposed to the idea of the two of us, I need time, if… I mean, I hate asking you to wait, but I just…”
“Eddie, it’s ok,” Buck said gently and Eddie lifted his gaze with a jerk to see his friend looking as understanding as he sounded.
“I assumed that you guys were divorced or something before talking to Chris tonight. He said a couple of things though that had me wondering, but I’d decided to wait for you to bring it up. Take as much time as you need. I should probably take some time myself to be clear of this Abby thing before I jump into something new myself. Especially something that feels as big as whatever this is between us feels like it could be.
“Well, that and I need to find a damned place to live. Well no, what I need is a place to stay until I can move into The House. I can’t do that for a while though because I’m being super picky about the renovations on it. Fortunately, the people I am working with get it. Last I heard there isn’t any openings on the other wing that’s already done and I wouldn’t really want to move into that side anyway. So, yeah, no matter how you look at it, I need a place to live after leaving Abby’s and I don’t have a good option right now.”
“I have questions about some of that because I didn’t realize that you owned a house but I also have a thought about your immediate problem,” Eddie said chewing his bottom lip. “I know you said last night that you hate living alone and that’s why you hadn’t moved out of Abby’s yet.”
“I just have enough experience with living alone to know I don’t dig it,” Buck said honestly wrinkling his nose.
“I know people assume that I’ve always lived with other people, which is kind of weird. I mean, maybe people just don’t get how much time I spent on my own after I left Hershey but trust me it was a long time. Years, man. I’ve done all kinds of living combinations, and I just don’t like living alone. I much prefer to live with other people that I know, to be honest. It’s why I took over ownership of The House when it was offered which… yeah I should explain real quick.
“Long story short, and I mean short. I’ll go into more detail later but I own this former mansion that was owned by the Fairchild’s here in LA. It’s massive and awesome, but it needed work. It has two wings of bedrooms that they separated into a family wing and a wing for friends and guests. Then there is a space in the middle with the common areas that both sides shared like a kitchen, dining room, living rooms, and even a library.
“The friends’ side I have filled up with all of these different people, including Alex who has been floating at the 118 as well as his brother Diego and another firefighter from the 217 Tommy Kinard. The family side needed renovation in the worst way though before I could move into it. I finally ok’d that about 6 months ago, but it’s been slow going because I’m honestly being kind of picky. Auntie Lizzie loved that house so I am taking my time on making decisions. Plus, having a second place to live wasn’t urgent until recently.”
Eddie nodded to indicate his understanding even though he had a million questions, but agreed that he didn’t want to get derailed by a conversation into how Buck could afford to buy a mansion. “You know, my landlord keeps hinting that his sister and her family may be moving out here. If they do it seems like he wants to put them in here, and I honestly keep waiting for him to give me a notice that he’s not going to renew my lease. Finding this place was a rush and I honestly would have preferred to buy something but didn’t have the time. What if…
“How would you feel about moving in here for a while? I have six months left on my lease and he has to give me a 90-day notice if he’s not going to renew my lease. I feel like in that time period we’d know if a) we like living together, and b) at least on my end I should have things worked out with Shannon. I am meeting her tomorrow to talk about some things, and I am going to tell her I want a divorce. No matter what happens with you and me, it’s clear to me at this point that there is no going back to her. I can’t… I’m not sure I can trust her enough to even be friends with her after what Chris told me tonight let alone to stay married to her.”
“I don’t want to be critical where it isn’t my business,” Buck began, but Eddie quickly cut him off.
“Please, be critical if you need. Honestly, Shannon is one of the things I wanted your opinion on, and specifically when it comes to Chris. I need an adult to give me their insight into Chris’ perspective because my son is 7 and I can’t put him in the position of having to make adult decisions but I also don’t want to ignore his side of things. So, please, I am serious here, be brutally honest if you need to.”
“Ok,” Buck said and seemed to search Eddie’s face for something. Eventually, he must have found whatever he was looking for because after a bit he began to speak again.
“I’ve never been physically abandoned by my parents, but I can honestly say that it wouldn’t have made much of a difference if I had been. Honestly, it might have been kinder. My parents have never had any use for me, and my mother specifically barely even acts like she cares if I live or not. My father at least sometimes shows concern over my well-being, but not enough to go against what Margaret wants or thinks or says.
“I don’t know what happened in your marriage. I’m guessing by Chris’ age and how recently you were in the Army and how long you said she’s been gone that maybe a big part of your marriage was while you were deployed. Just guessing here based on my observations of you and Chris, my guess is that while physically you weren’t there, you made sure your son knew you loved him, even if you didn’t spend a lot of time doing traditional father-type things with him and along the same vein probably didn’t spend a lot of time doing husband type things.
“So, maybe you weren’t the best husband and maybe there were holes in your fatherhood, but that doesn’t mean you abandoned someone, and Chris certainly at least doesn’t feel that way. Shannon though straight up, unequivocally abandoned her child. Fuck you and her. That isn’t even important right now. Based on my observations of other people’s relationships that have gone bad I am guessing you did some shit and she did some shit and it didn’t work out. That in no way absolves her of what she has done to her son.
“As a grownup who suffered from at best neglect from his parents, I can tell you that shit can leave scars, man. There is nothing, in my books, that forgives that or makes it ok. This isn’t like I dunno the 60s when it might be harder to keep in contact with someone because maybe you only have the US Post Office or a landline phone to try and keep in contact with someone. I mean, I still don’t see that as justification but whatever.
“These days she had the mail, maybe a landline phone if you had one, but also there is email and cellphone that she could have called or texted him. So, whatever the fuck it was that she used to justify her fucking turning her back on her child for reasons that can only be selfish when you’re talking years without contact, is just straight-up bullshit.”
“So, you wouldn’t let her have contact with him again?” Eddie guessed and Buck huffed.
“You have to let her have contact, but you also need to put in some safeguards for Chris. You, Edmundo Diaz, cannot be the reason why Chris is cut off from his mother. He already has had one parent betray his trust in the most basic way a parent can betray their child.
“You cannot add to that betrayal, but you at the same time need to watch out for Chris while doing it. Which means being honest with him after you set some conditions for her and you definitely need to get him that therapist now ‘cause trust me when I say he’s going to have some shit to work through. Honestly, I’m glad that you have decided to end things with her because, for real man, I don’t know how you could have been objective about any relationship she and Chris may have if the two of you were fucking.”
“Wow,” Eddie said feeling a little dazed and raw in a way you can only get when someone lays the honest-to-God truth on you.
“I’m sorry,” Buck said immediately looking guilty. “I should have said that better.”
“No,” Eddie once more stopped him. This time with a shake of his head.
“You gave me exactly what I needed, even if it was a little hard to hear. And you were right about your assessment of our relationship. I really wasn’t the greatest husband. I didn’t side with her enough when it came to my parents, and I re-enlisted without talking to her because I was panicked about Chris’ CP. That makes me an asshole but, wow. Yeah, I mean I knew she’d hurt Chris with the way she left I just… I guess I never thought about just what she did. So, thank you. It might have been hard to listen to, but I needed to hear it. It will definitely help me tomorrow when I talk to her.”
“So, you umm… Does that mean I haven’t killed our friendship and ruined this whole us being roommates thing?”
“Fuck no! Buck, you haven’t killed anything and I totally want us to be roommates whether we’re living here or buying a place together or whatever. I will never, ever be mad at you for looking out for Chris, or for speaking up for him during times or situations where he can’t talk for himself. My son is the most important thing in my life, and I will never be mad at you for looking out for him.
“If anything, it strengthens the possibility that we could build something real, once both of us are free of our pasts. So, tomorrow we can work on that spare room when I’m not meeting Shann. You can order whatever you want for it since it’s gonna be yours, and we’ll work on building our friendship for now and let the future fall as it will.”
“I like that,” Buck said quietly and seemed to give what Eddie thought was a happy sigh. “Six months should be enough to get the rest of the renovations done. Andy already told me that all I needed to do was say the word, and he and his contractor could speed up what was left to do.
“And I promise I will do my best to always be there for Chris, Eds. That kid of yours is awesome, and I hate the fact that he is going through anything like what I did as a kid, even if it’s different circumstances. I told you I love kids, and I meant it. And, if I can help in any way with the you and Shannon thing or the you figuring out your sexuality thing, just let me know. My ear and my shoulder are always yours, Eds.”
“I gotta say, it’s been a long time since I’ve had what I could call a best friend, Buck. Hell, something tells me that someday I will look back and say that I’ve never had a friendship like the one we’ll have. Your support means everything to me. No matter what happens from here, please, don’t forget that.”
“I promise, Eds,” Buck said solemnly, and there wasn’t a doubt in Eddie’s mind that the other man meant it.
Eddie pulled into a parking spot at a private beach that Buck had suggested to him for his meeting with Shannon. It had been a couple of days since he’d met with his sister and abuela then talked to Chris and Buck.
He’d initially intended to try and meet with Shannon the following day, but Buck had suggested that he give himself a couple days to breathe and settle his mind before he go through another heavy discussion. As he headed out of the truck and crossed the parking lot to select a good spot on the beach with a blanket over his arm and a small cooler with some bottles of water in case this discussion went on longer than he planned, Eddie thought that Buck had been right.
If he’d tried to have this conversation when he’d planned, Eddie wasn’t sure that he would have been able to be as levelheaded as he hoped that he could be today. The last two days had been spent moving what little Buck had at Ally’s out of her apartment and cleaning out the spare room. Right now, the few bags and boxes of stuff that he had was shoved against one wall in Eddie’s bedroom while they finished off the spare room.
While Eddie was having this meeting with Shannon, Buck was running a load of stuff that they’d labeled for donation to the Goodwill. There were a couple boxes of things that had been Shannon’s that Eddie had been holding onto for her in the back of Eddie’s truck for her to take with her. When Buck was done, he was planning on going through the remaining couple of boxes and setting up the air mattress that they’d purchased for him to use while they waited for his new furniture to arrive.
If Eddie was honest, he’d never thought that looking for bedroom furniture could be fun but browsing bedroom stuff online had been more entertaining than maybe it had a right to be. They still had to go into a couple of stores to look at things in person, but that was for their next four day off span. Tomorrow, Buck and Eddie had to work, and they had decided that their day off between their two 24-hour shifts would be spent doing things around the house and maybe going to visit abuela who had demanded Eddie bring Buck over when he had time so that she could get to know him better.
One of the best parts of the last couple days was watching Chris and Buck together when Chris wasn’t at school. To say that Chris had been ecstatic to find out that his new best friend was going to be moving in with them for sure was an understatement. Watching the two of them together had solidified Eddie’s belief that he was making the right decisions. The way Buck related to not just Chris but kids in general kinda blew his mind. The day before Denny had come over for a couple of hours when Hen and Karen had a scheduling conflict, and Eddie learned that Buck’s kid whisperer thing wasn’t limited to Chris.
The way Chim talked you’d think that the reason Buck got along with them was because he was just this really tall 10-year-old, but the best moments Eddie had seen with Buck and the kids hadn’t been during one of his “big kid” times.
The thing that Chris had said about Buck not treating him like a kid when he had something to say seemed to not just be limited to Chris, and Eddie guessed that it was a big part of the reason why the kids liked him so much. When the kids had something important to say to Buck, he gave them his full attention and treated their concerns as if they were as important as anything he did on the job.
It was something that Eddie thought maybe he could get better at himself, but at the same time thought maybe part of it was just something unique to the person that Buck was.
“Eddie?” He heard and standing turned to see Shannon hovering a couple feet away from the blanket he’d been sitting on.
“A beach date? How romantic. I didn’t know you had it in you.” Shannon quipped and Eddie offered a smile but really wanted to sigh and roll his eyes.
Eddie had spent quite a bit of time over the last couple days thinking about himself and Shannon separately and he and Shannon as a couple. One of the things that Eddie was questioning was just how well he and Shannon actually knew each other as people without sex and alcohol and outside of highly emotional situations.
“I like the beach,” Eddie offered as he motioned to the blanket and retook his seat after she moved to sit down. Her sandals already in hand.
“And this one came highly recommended as being quiet and private. I thought that we should talk about some things without having to risk other people being around and without the imbalance one of us might feel if we had it in my house or wherever you are staying at the moment.”
“So, not a date?” Shannon asked, smiling a little and tilting her head to one side.
“Maybe we should kiss now and talk later,” She suggested as she leaned over towards Eddie who quickly leaned away from her. “Or not. What’s going on? We aren’t even kissing now?”
“I think the kiss was a mistake,” Eddie offered quietly turning his gaze toward the ocean in front of them and away from Shannon.
“When I said talk, Shannon, I meant talk. I thought I was clear about my purpose for today when we spoke on the phone, but I’m sorry if something I said gave you a different impression. So, just to make sure we are on the same page, no not a date. We have things to talk about and I couldn’t think of any other place that felt right.”
“I see,” Shannon huffed and Eddie pulled his sight away from the water and towards his wife to see her sitting watching him with her arms crossed over her chest and a scowl on her face.
“Does that mean we’re going to talk about me getting to see Chris?”
“That’s on the agenda,” Eddie admitted as he watched her trying to figure out what her emotional landscape was like at that moment.
“I have a few things that we need to get worked out before that though. I’m not opposed to you seeing Chris, but I want to make sure everyone is on the same page first. That way I can make sure he has the information he needs to set the right expectations for himself. You really hurt him, Shannon, and I would be a crappy father if I didn’t do my best to try and limit that from happening again as much as possible.”
“Let’s not act like you didn’t abandon him first, Eddie,” Shannon spat back angrily as she glared at him and Eddie forced himself to keep looking at her instead of seeking the separation he longed for that looking out at the ocean would give him.
“I may not have been there physically, Shannon, but didn’t abandon him. Let’s be really clear about that. I am not proud of my re-enlistment knowing that it was done out of fear on my part, but lets not act like my being in the Army was the same as you taking off in the middle of the night and not contacting him even once in the last two plus years.
“I may not have been able to be there in person as much as I should have or wanted to be, but I kept in contact with you and Chris both as much as I could. I made sure he knew I loved him and missed him. I made a crappy decision that I will always regret, but you’re the only one of the two of us who literally abandoned him. And I need to know what to expect from you if I let you back into his life again.”
“His life,” Shannon repeated, her eyes narrowed and her nose wrinkled the way it always did when she heard something she didn’t like and was trying to figure out if she’d understood correctly or not.
“You’re talking about Chris as if his relationship with me is separate from my relationship with you. Like we’re separate entities instead of a family.”
“Jesus, Shannon, of course it’s different relationships,” Eddie huffed as he ran a hand through his hair.
“Even if we were staying together, your relationship with Chris would be separate from my relationship with him and my relationship with you. But you’re right. I am stressing your relationship with him because going forward that’s all that matters to me.
“I’ve been doing some thinking over the last few days, and I’ve come to some realizations. I know that you’re… I don’t think that we should start sleeping together, again. Honestly, I think… I think that we should look into getting a divorce. I don’t see a path for us getting back together and it be a healthy relationship.”
“You want a divorce,” Shannon spat again and Eddie gave into his need for a tiny bit of escape and turned his gaze back to the water. Shannon’s next question though made him quickly look back in her direction, as his stomach sank at her words.
“Who the fuck is she?”
“Who the fuck is who?” Eddie repeated almost cluelessly and Shannon unfolded her arms, balling her hands into fists and pressing them down against the blanket.
“The bitch. Whoever you’re cheating on me with. Who the fuck is she?”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Eddie asked confused as his mind sorted through their interactions trying to figure out where he could have given her the idea that he was in a relationship with anyone.
Buck was the closest thing, and that wasn’t anything more than the possibility of something happening in the future, maybe if things kept on a positive pace. Briefly there was a flicker of something that flitted across her face and this time it was Eddie’s eyes that narrowed. Hoping that he was wrong in his suspicions, Eddie forged ahead.
“I’m not in a relationship with anyone. I admit that I have recently formed a friendship with someone that could maybe at some point in the future lead to something. That though is firmly still in the maybe category. You and I are still married and I don’t fucking cheat, but also the other person is just getting out of a relationship themselves and not ready to jump back into another one yet. Right now we’re just friends and are perfectly happy to keep it that way, but have acknowledged that things could maybe change at some point down the road.”
“Right,” Shannon sneered, obviously growing angry.
“You expect me to buy that bullshit, but you’ve obviously forgotten that I’m no fool. There’s no way that you’ve kept your dick in your pants the whole time we’ve been split up.”
“Are you saying that because you believe it, Shannon, or are you saying it because you want it to be true so that you can feel better about the people that you’ve been with?” Or maybe he would just throw out his suspicions after all.
“You say that you know me, Shann, but I know you too, remember? I think we both know which one of us was involved with multiple partners before you got pregnant with Chris, and it wasn’t me. And, before you lose your shit, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass who you were sleeping with back then. I’m not interested in slut shaming you or anyone else for what you do outside of a relationship. This isn’t that though.
“We had no agreement that we were free to sleep with other people since you left in the middle of the goddamned night and couldn’t be bothered to respond to any of my calls or emails until I had to practically guilt you into making an appearance for the school interview. So, don’t try and project your misbehavior on me.”
“I deserved someone who was going to treat me with some respect, Eddie. It isn’t like you were going to do it. You couldn’t even be bothered to choose me over your family.”
Eddie lifted his gaze to look up at the sky as he reeled in his temper. He knew what this was. This was Shannon trying to get under his skin so that he’d either give in out of guilt one she started crying when he raised his voice and do what she wanted, or they’d fuck and forget about the talking. Neither of those things were going to happen, however.
“That whole trying to piss me off to distract me isn’t going to work this time, Shannon. So far, all that you’ve accomplished is to convince me that I’ve made the right decision about wanting a divorce.”
“You’re such a prick,” she sighed, shaking her head as this time she sought some kind of escape in the water herself.
“Do you even want to be married, Shannon?” Eddie asked abruptly, drawing her gaze again.
“For that matter, do you even want to be a mother? Because I have to say, I’ve had time to consider both and I have my doubts. So, what the hell is going on? You’re playing some kind of game that seems to be bits and pieces from like four different game boards and has no coherency.”
“I’m supposed to want to be a mother!” Shannon shouted looking back at him after a long pause where she seemed to be searching for answers in the waves. “It’s the way this works. I’m a woman and that comes with certain stipulations and responsibilities. I should want to have kids. I should want to be married and be taken care of by some man. I should want to be grandma some day and own a home with a fenced in yard and a dog. It’s just the way the world works, but I don’t want any of that and I am tired of feeling like a failure!”
“Who says?” Eddie asked quietly making her blink and head tilt in obvious confusion. “I’ve recently figured out that I don’t actually like sex. I know, or I assume, that we were pretty good at sex, but to be honest, I’m not sure we ever did anything when I was completely 100% sober and we weren’t in or it wasn’t following some highly emotional moment. I don’t know as I ever want to have penetrative sex again. Blow jobs aren’t off the table yet, but pretty much everything else is including kissing with tongue.
“I met a guy who has become the best friend that I have ever had faster than should be possible considering I’ve always typically taken my time in letting people in. This friendship already means so much to me that he’s moving into the spare bedroom at the house with me and Chris because he’s one of the few people I trust with my son other than Pepa and Abuela. And this guy, he’s like you. He really enjoys sex, but is totally ok with the possibility of a maybe someday relationship between us knowing that there is the possibility that he’d never fuck again.
“No one has the right to tell you how to live your life, Shannon. Honestly, I should have listened to Sophia and not my parents. You and I should never have gotten married. Once again though I panicked and we both caved in to parental pressure to do what they consider the right thing even though neither of us ever stood a chance at meeting their expectations. If you don’t ever want to be in another relationship again, then don’t do it. As long as you’re setting the correct expectations with your sexual partners, that’s all that matters. Chris, well, he’s another story, and we’d have to definitely figure some things out there.”
“I love Chris,” Shannon admitted softly before wiping at her eyes.
“It’s complicated and I don’t even know as I understand it myself. I don’t want to be a mother, or at least, I don’t want to be the kind of mother that everyone expects. I can’t deal with a child on a daily basis, even if he wasn’t… Even if the CP wasn’t part of the equation. At the same time though I’ve missed him. I miss talking to him and hearing his little kid problems and achievements. I’m not opposed to having some kind of relationship with him. It just don’t want to have to deal with any kind of decision making and don’t want to even have him overnight. I wouldn’t mind taking him out for a couple hours on occasion when I’m in town, but… well, if you and I are getting a divorce I don’t know how often that will be.”
“You don’t know if you’ll be in town? I thought you lived here now.”
“Kinda, but not really,” Shannon said with a shrug. “When I’m in town I live at my mother’s townhouse. I kept it after I got her estate settled, but I’m not here much. It was honestly just luck on your part that I was around. My mom was… friendly with this rich guy who has a son our age.
“After mom died, the son, Richard, offered me a position as a part companion and part personal assistant for his wife. They have an unusual relationship. They love each other and like sex but just… not with each other. I don’t know as I understand it, but it works for them. Anyway, she likes to travel, and he wanted someone that he could trust to be with her when she was away from home. The pay is really good and I get to see the world. Plus, since they have an open relationship, she isn’t bent if I pick up a guy now and then because she’s doing it too.”
“I see,” Eddie offered eventually unsure of how to respond to such a story. It certainly wasn’t any of his business how these people lived their lives, but he could say with absolute certainty that he would not be allowing Chris to be around them anytime soon, if ever. Although quickly after the thought formed in his mind, he winced and wondered if that was fair.
The fact that Shannon so casually admitted to having cheated on him and a number of times was more than unsettling, and Eddie was sure he’d react to that later when it was safe to do so. At the moment though, he had to get things worked out enough so Chris was protected and that required a cooperative Shannon which wouldn’t happen if he pissed her off by throwing her adultery in her face.
“And is Richard one of your… men?” Eddie asked and forced himself not to comment when she just gave a small nod and shrug combination.
“Marcy too,” Shannon admitted. “That’s the wife’s name. They’re both really good looking, and you know that I’ve never been one to limit my options. Although with Marcy it’s more a sharing guys when we’re out of town thing. I find I don’t really enjoy sexual encounters with women.”
“I would prefer that when you do see Chris that you not take him around them. I know you know these people, but I don’t.”
“I would never. Richard and Marcy both hate kids. Fortunately both of Richard’s younger siblings have children. So, they didn’t have to worry about it. The family’s future is safe, and Richard’s father is content with how things are as long as there are future generations to carry on things.”
“So, we’re agreed then? We’re getting a divorce?” Eddie asked bringing things back to what they were there for.
“Yes, I’ll talk to Richard about a name for a good lawyer. Maybe we should… I’m going to talk to Richie and whatever lawyer about full custody versus giving up my parental rights completely. I think maybe the second is the way to go for us.”
“You want to,” Eddie started but stopped and let his head drop so his chin rested on his chest.
“Why did we go through all this you calling me names, the crying and the whole you saying you didn’t know how to come back if you were thinking of giving up your rights? Because there is no way that you just had that thought pop into your head.”
Shannon huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. Normally, he would read it as her feeling vulnerable and back off, but today it felt somewhat manipulatve, and he wasn’t feeling like letting her off the hook. He wasn’t going to be outright cruel, but he wasn’t going to let her get away with this shit when she’d been fucking her way around the globe and then had the balls to accuse him of being unfaithful.
Eventually, she must have realized her little mind games weren’t going to work and she was going to have to explain. “One of the last things my mom told me before she died was that she wanted me to find you and for us to get back together,” she explained, looking more sulky than sad but Eddie figured it could be his state of mind projecting the wrong emotion on her expression.
“Mom told me that it was time for me to stop running around and that I needed to start being a wife and mother again. She said I needed to start thinking of other people and not myself all the time. And I mean, mom and I had a complicated relationship. I loved her but we didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. It just seemed like maybe I should try to make things work and well, I really have a hard time believing you’ve been celibate this whole time. It just doesn’t seem natural, but on the other hand you were never the most sexually motivated guy.”
Eddie didn’t know if he was supposed to react to that dig in some way, and it certainly felt like a dig. There was enough hurt and frustration being locked away, that it was making his skin crawl, but he refused to give her the delight of seeing her breaking him down. If it was going to happen, he’d do it at home with just him and Buck where he know he’d have someone with him who gave a shit.
When she soon enough just huffed again and rolled her eyes, Eddie figured that he’d read the situation right and felt dirty at the obvious manipulating she was trying to do. A part of him wondered what happened to the girl he knew, but then a thought whispered through his mind asking him if this was really a change or if she’d always been like this. The thought that the girl he thought he knew had never existed was messing with his mind. So, he forcibly shoved it away and decided to just let it be for now.
“I’ll get a lawyer and get that information to you in the next day or so. I’d like to get this done as quickly and as easily as possible. I’d also appreciate it if I could see Chris while I am in town since I am leaving again in a week or two. We’re going to Monaco in a few weeks and then somewhere else after that. Marcy hasn’t decided yet.”
“I’ll talk to Chris soon and get back to you. To be clear, Shann, this whole you seeing him thing is going to be dependent on how he feels about it. I’m not going to lie to him and I don’t know how he’ll react to the kind of relationship that you want to have with him.”
“OK,” Shannon said with a shrug. The fact that she didn’t seem to care all that much told him that he was making the right decision, and honestly made him question letting her see Chris at all.
Maybe he’d need to have someone there to monitor things. Not himself, because he didn’t want to give her any ideas. Certainly not Buck whom he didn’t want to put in a position where he had to be around someone that could remind him of his parents. They knew enough people though that surely they could find someone to go with Chris if he wanted to see his mom.
Eddie didn’t understand what the hell was going on in Shannon’s head but didn’t suppose it was his business if they were getting a divorce. His sole responsibility at the moment was his son.
A part of Eddie would always love Shannon because she gave him the most important thing in his life. That being said, he was utterly sure at this point that there was zero hope for any kind of relationship going forward between himself and Shannon. It was highly possible being friendly would be a test of his patience.
Honestly, Eddie wasn’t sure what to think of the story she’d just told him or how much of it he even believed. It could be true, it could be all one big fabrication, or it could be some combination of the two. Right then, the most important thing was to get this divorce pushed through as quickly as possible before she started regretting her decision.
As much as he had doubts about everything involving Shannon at the moment, there was a part of Eddie that was certain someday she would regret giving up all of her parental rights. As a man who loved being a father, he didn’t know how she couldn’t. Again though, that wasn’t his business. His business was Chris. Well, Chris and hopefully, Buck someday. After this crazy assed conversation, that some day seemed more possible than it had since the day he met Evan Buckley.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Eddie walked in the house shoving his house keys into his pocket as he started searching the house for his best friend. Now that he was within his home and safe from judgement by people he either didn’t know or trust, the reality of his current situation started to hit him. Stopping in the kitchen, Eddie grabbed himself a bottle of peach tea and then after a second thought grabbed a raspberry tea for Buck in case he was out.
He considered stopping in his bedroom to change his clothes. Before he could even get out of the kitchen though, he heard Buck’s voice singing softly along with the Pink song playing on whichever music streaming service he was listening to today. The urge to see Buck suddenly was more important than putting on comfortable clothes.
So, instead of turning left to go to his bedroom, Eddie turned right and headed into the guest room that they had managed to get cleaned out the day before. Buck seemed to have made headway getting what little he was going to unpack or set up done as he looked to be finishing putting the bedding on his blow up bed.
Buck didn’t have much of his own beyond his clothes and electronics, but what little he had was packed into boxes that had been stacked into one of the corners in the room. Stepping inside, Eddie moved to press his back against the wall next to the door. He intended to lean against the wall, but by that point his head was spinning. So, instead of standing he found himself sinking to the floor.
“Eddie?” He heard Buck call and Eddie turned his eyes towards his best friend. “How did it go? You don’t look so awesome. What happened?”
“She agreed to the divorce. She doesn’t want any kind of responsibility and thinks that she just wants to give up her parental rights. She’s been fucking other men while she was gone, and had the nerve to accuse me if cheating because I wanted a divorce and don’t want to fuck her. I can’t… Buck, what the hell am I doing to my kid? I keep fucking up this father thing. I have to be the worst father ever and I’m going to ruin Christopher.”
“Eddie, no,” Buck protested and Eddie heard him moving around. He couldn’t see him because he’d covered his face with his hands because he was afraid to see the disgust and disdain on his friends face for his horrible parenting. When he felt two warm hands wrap around his wrists and tug gently, he allowed Buck to pull his hands away from his face.
There was a look of horror and pain on his friend’s face that Eddie wasn’t sure how to interpret but could see how important what his friend was about to say was to him. So, when Buck started talking, he sat quietly and took in the words that seemed as if they were coming straight from his friend’s soul.
“Eddie, I need you to hear what I am about to say, because it hurts me how little that you think about your parenting skills. I don’t know if it’s Shannon or your parents who are responsible for this horrible mindset you have about your own parenting skills. It seems though that the three of them have quickly made their way to the top of the list of people I dislike the most who aren’t my own parents. So, while I know we’ve touched on my childhood, I think I need to expound on it because I need you to understand what a bad parent really is.”
Eddie immediately shook his head and opened his mouth to argue, but before he could utter a sound, Buck put two fingers over his lips and shook his head. “My parents never loved me, and by the time I left home they openly disdained my presence and often made it crystal clear just how little they thought about me. Maddie was the only person living in my house who even tried to be a parent to me, and without her or my Aunt Aggie and Auntie Lizzie I honest to God don’t know that I would have survived, and if I did I would be a lot more fucked up than I am now.
“It wasn’t unusual for my parents to tell me how much of a bother they thought I was or how difficult they though I made their lives. They did the bare minimum for me like provide me with food to eat and a room to sleep in, but I am fairly sure that was only to save face with their social circle. All of my clothes, and any thing beyond what I absolutely had to have for school was purchased for me by Aunt Aggie and Auntie Lizzie. I wasn’t allowed to do any after school activities because they both didn’t want to spend the extra money on me or want to give me any more time than they had to by having to come and pick me up at school or wherever after hours or dropping me off places on the weekend.
“As long as Maddie was there it was ok, but then Maddie left home for college when I was 9 and honestly, didn’t come home any more than she was forced to after that. The only reason that I managed as well as I did was because of my Aunt and Auntie.”
“You’ve never mentioned an Aunt or Auntie before. Are they your mother’s sisters or father’s?” Eddie asked quietly, and Buck shifted to sit next to Eddie with his back also pressed against the wall.
“My Great Aunt Agatha Clementine Adams was my grandmother on my mother’s side’s younger sister. My Grandmother Barbara adored her even though their parents and honestly the rest of the family including my mother found Agatha embarrassing. My Aunt Aggie was one of the bravest and most courageous people I’ve ever known in my life. To this day when people ask me who my hero is I tell them that it’s my Aunt Aggie because she fought to be her own person in a time when it was very much frowned upon.
“In her very early 20s my Aunt moved to New York City where she worked in on of the fancy hotels. It was there that she met Elizabeth Marie Fairchild and almost immediately fell in love with her. While Aunt Aggie’s family had more money than most they certainly weren’t rich. Auntie Lizzie’s family though was uber rich, like I am talking Rockefeller and Vanderbilt kind of rich and Auntie Lizzie was the only child her parents had. The money was from her mother’s family and like Lizzie she was also an only child. So, Lizzie was mostly pampered and allowed to do whatever she liked, outside of one stipulation.
“Lizzie was quite literally the end of the line for direct descendants of the Fairchild fortune. Because of that it was expected that she marry an acceptable man – acceptable meaning white, rich, and preferably one of the east coast families – and have plenty of babies. While my grandmother had always fought to follow her own path, my Auntie Lizzie just wasn’t that way. Aunt Aggie was a force to be reckoned with. She commanded people’s attention and was unafraid to speak up and fight for what she believed in.”
“So your Aunt Aggie was a lot like you,” Eddie joked and Buck huffed.
“I think you’re trying to joke, but honestly the greatest compliment that I could be given is to be told I remind someone of my Aunt Aggie. I mean it wholeheartedly when I say she’s my hero. Unlike Aunt Aggie though, Auntie Lizzie was quiet and shy. She was happy to loop her arm though Aggie’s and let my Aunt do all the talking. She would give you her honest opinion if you were in private and she trusted you not to be confrontational about it. Otherwise she’d probably either deflect or give a safe answer that she knew wouldn’t make waves without having to lie.
“So, even though Auntie Lizzie was as head over heels in love with Aunt Aggie as Aggie was with her, when her father announced that he thought that one of the son’s of a business associate involved in both railroad and overseas shipping would be the perfect match for her she agreed no matter how much it broke her heart. The only concession that she was allowed was that Aggie would be hired to be a companion for her to be by her side even after she married.”
Buck grew quiet for a moment and tilted his gaze upward. Despite the questions running though Eddie’s mind, he remained quiet sensing that something bad was coming up in this story. So, he was unwilling to rush his friend even though he couldn’t figure out what this had to do with Buck’s parents.
“To say this guy was a horrible person is an understatement. He’d never really done anything respectful in his life, and mostly spent his time drinking, gambling and carousing with his friends. Aunt Aggie said there had been rumors that he had a temper and his parents had gotten him out of a couple problems already, but Lizzie’s father brushed that off and the marriage went forward. Unfortunately.
“I honestly don’t know much about that time period because neither my Aunt or my Auntie liked to talk about it, and honestly I can’t blame them. All I do know is that the guy was verbally and physically abusive to Lizzie. He was a bigger, heavier guy who towered over Lizzie. I know that they weren’t even married for a full year before Aunt Aggie came to visit to find him beating the hell out of Lizzie.
“Aunt Aggie had never been one to stand around and wait for help when it was needed. While she was quite tall and broad shouldered for a woman, was still smaller than this guy. Fortunately for Auntie Lizzie though Aggie was a total badass, and when she realized what was going on she grabbed a nearby walking cane that his schmuck liked to use because he thought it made him look sophisticated and hit him over the head with it knocking him out.”
This time when Buck stopped, Eddie reached out over the short distance between them and took his friend’s hand squeezing it supportively wishing that he could hug him because it was clear how much the story was upsetting him.
Buck was one of the kindest and most tenderhearted people Eddie had ever known. He was the perfect definition of a gentle giant, because despite his size, Buck was the last person Eddie could imagine who would use his side to even intimidate someone smaller than him let alone get in a physical altercation with anyone.
“I don’t know what all he did to her, but I know that Auntie Lizzie’s injuries were extensive and that she walked with a limp for the rest of her life because of what her husband did that day. Aunt Aggie told me that it took more than a year for Lizzie to recover from what he’d done and the asshole never really faced any consequences for his actions. I don’t know exactly how he escaped justice, if his parents bought his way out of trouble again or what, but I do know from Aggie that he fled the country and died somewhere over in Europe.
“The only positive to come of it all was that by the time that Lizzie was recovered, she had been granted a divorce from him and her mother made it very clear that her daughter would never again be forced to marry anyone if she did not wish it. She outright said that the family name could die for all she cared, because her daughter was more important to her than their family line or money going on forever.
“My mother’s family though were horrified by the relationship between Aggie and Lizzie outside of my grandmother. I think that Margaret would have cut her off altogether if it weren’t for all that money that Lizzie had that Margaret and Phillip expected to get their hands on if they played their cards right. So, for the most part they played the game and acted appropriately when Aunt Aggie and Auntie Lizzie were around, even if they said horrible things about them when they weren’t there. This included how embarrassing they found their relationship and outright questioned what Lizzie had done to get that beating, going so far as to hint that maybe she’d done something to deserve it.
“It’s… I blame Margaret for what happened with Maddie later when my Aunt and Auntie started openly questioning Maddie and Doug’s relationship. Maddie has always had a weird view of our parents and will to this day tell you that they’re good people who were bad parents. She’ll do things to not prove my mother right and then turn around and parrot the same bullshit that Margaret says. I think she still keeps hoping that if she just does or says the right thing that they’ll apologize for all the shit they did to us and become the parents she wants.
“Me, I gave up on that a long time ago, and was nearly there when Maddie left for college. Eventually, things blew up over the whole Doug and Maddie situation and Maddie threw Margaret’s words at Aggie and Lizzie. She then went on to suggest that they keep their noses out of Maddie’s relationship when it was clear they were just jealous. Well… No matter how much I loved Maddie I was team Aggie and Lizzie in that whole fiasco.”
“Jesus,” Eddie breathed horrified that someone in a situation similar to the one Lizzie had been in could say those words. When he voiced that out loud though, Buck scrunched up his nose.
“Yeah, Aggie was with you there. She lost her mind over the whole thing. She threw Maddie out of the house and told her she’d not only never be welcomed back but would be written out of the will. When Margaret and Phillip dared to object, Aggie told them that the were going to keep their stupid mouths shut and do what Aggie wanted or they wouldn’t get a single dime when she and Lizzie died.
“Up until that point, I was allowed to spend a week maybe two with Aggie and Lizzie in the summers. After that though, it was demanded that I be allowed to be there all summer. The day after school let out I would be put on a train for upstate New York where Aggie and Lizzie lived in one of the Fairchild summer homes. I stayed with them as long as possible and was sent back to get back home the day before school started back up.
“Auntie Lizzie admitted once that if they’d been younger, they would have demanded that Margaret and Philip give me to them altogether or at the very least that they put me in a private school and then be sent to them during holidays, but Lizzie had a handful of health issues and neither of them thought they could take care of me.”
“Are they still alive? They sound like amazing people.”
Buck shook his head and offered Eddie a sad smile before answering. “Lizzie got pneumonia about eight months after I left home for good and Aggie died almost a week after her. She lived long enough to ensure that their affairs would be handled the way they wished, and then she just went to sleep one night and didn’t get up. I always thought that if something like soulmates really existed that Aggie and Lizzie had to have been soulmates.”
“Jesus,” Eddie sighed and hesitated before asking the question on his mind because it was really nosy and none of his business, but he really wanted to know what happened with the will. Fortunately, Buck seemed to be part mind reader because he flashed him a grin before continuing.
“The lawyers held the burial and the reading of the will for me to get back in the country from the trip I’d taken to Australia. After I saw Maddie when I finally left home, I went right to Aggie and Lizzie who highly encouraged me to take some time off and travel. They had done quite a bit of seeing the world after Lizzie’s divorce and thought that it would do me some good. Not only did they stick to their guns where Maddie was concerned, but when they got to Margaret and Phillip the lawyer handed my mother a brand new dime and advised that he hoped she spent her inheritance wisely.
“When she threw a fit, Jonathan said that neither Aggie nor Lizzie were stupid and they’d been aware of how Margaret and other members of Aggie’s family felt about her since well before Maddie let things slip. Since the money was all Lizzie’s, neither Margaret nor anyone else in Aggie’s family really had a claim to it, anyway. Of course, they threw an even bigger fit when, after all the donations to their various charities including more than half of the estate going to their personal charity Lizzie’s House, the charity they’d started to help victims of domestic abuse, it was announced I was their soul heir and that I was forbidden from giving any money to either of my parents.”
“That is epic,” Eddie said with a grin but followed that up with something that had been bothering him about the whole Maddie situation.
“The whole Maddie thing is…” He started, but trailed off because he didn’t know how to voice his thoughts and knew that Aggie and Lizzie had every right to do whatever the hell they wanted with their money.
“Aunt Aggie could hold a grudge with the best of them, and the quickest way to get on her bad side was to do or say something that upset Lizzie. I did talk to Lizzie once about Maddie though because while she frustrates me, I think she needs a shit ton of therapy from years of damage at the hands of other people. I also recognize that not only did Doug do a lot of damage to her mentally on top of the physical damage, but our parents did quite a bit of damage themselves, starting with making her keep Daniel a secret our whole damned lives and acting like he didn’t even exist.”
“Daniel?” Eddie asked and then listened horrified when Buck explained how Aggie told him about his dead brother whom Buck had been conceived to be a savior sibling for, but unfortunately died because of an infection no one knew about.
“Jesus, just when I thought your parents couldn’t get any worse,” Eddie swore and Buck just snorted his agreement as he turned to look back in Eddie’s direction.
“Lizzie was much more sympathetic when it came to Maddie. Even though she was the one Maddie’s ugly words had really been directed towards, Lizzie said that because she’d been in Maddie’s shoes, she thought that she had the best idea of what was going on his my sister’s head. It’s why there are conditions where I can give Maddie money or help her out. Lizzie understood how much I love Maddie and didn’t want my sister cut 0ff if she found the courage to leave Doug and needed help.”
“So, what does sole heir mean?”
Buck huffed again and made a face before he answered. “$23 million at the time they died. I have a lot of it tied up or invested although I do have a meeting scheduled with my money guy to set up some trust funds for Chris.
“I’m thinking a medical trust that you’ll have access to right away, and then I’ll create a college trust so that he has plenty of money to go to whatever college that big brain of his gets him into as well as pay for any schooling he wants or needs before that. Then I’ll probably set up another trust for him for… later.
“I haven’t decided on an age. I mean, I know maybe it’s quick or whatever, but Chris is a great kid, and honestly knew like the first day I met him that he was the most amazing kid I’ll probably ever meet. So, the last thing I want is for him to not be able to achieve a dream because he doesn’t have enough money when frankly I have more than I know what the hell to do with.”
“Buck, I…” Eddie started but couldn’t form words to explain how he felt right then. So instead he lunged across the snort distance between them and expressed how he felt with a soul searing kiss that hopefully said everything he didn’t know how to vocalize.
When they finally broke for air, both panting and trying to catch their breath, Eddie rested his forehead against Buck’s. “I don’t even know what to do with you.”
“I mean, I know people think that I’m a lot of work and shit, but honestly Eddie all I really want is for you to give me a space in your life and… not leave. I know that sounds hella needy and shit but I just… I need you to stay. I’m not trying to buy my way into your life either, just to make things clear. This money I will give Chris is his no matter what happens between you and me. Its just… everyone leaves me Eddie, and it would really… I just need you to stay. But also…
“I told you this story because its important to me that you understand when I say that I know bad parents and I know good parents. While Aggie and Lizzie were never actually my parents for a lot of my life, they were the closest thing I had. Whereas on the opposite side of things my actual parents were not just bad parents but in my opinion are horrible people.
“You, Edmundo Javier Diaz, are not just a good man, but you’re one of the best parents I have ever met in my life. My childhood would have been so much different if Phillip had loved me half as much as you love Chris. But he was too invested in doing whatever Margaret wanted because, in my opinion, he thought he’d get a payday in the end.
“Stop letting Shannon or your parents or whomever it is get in your head when it comes to Chris. He is better off with you in his life than he is without you. So, yeah. Just, knock it off. You know when Lizzie would start talking bad about herself, Aggie would ask her what dumbass she was letting in her head today. I’m going to start doing that with you to remind you that whomever you’re letting influence how you think about yourself doesn’t deserve the power you’re giving them. You’re a good man and an even better father and if I have to stand between you and these assholes who mare making you think otherwise then I’ll do it.”
“I don’t know how I managed without you, Buck but I will thank whoever is responsible for bringing you into my life every damned day. No matter how much things feel fucked up right now, I know that I wouldn’t be able to get through it half as good if I didn’t have you in it.”
“Ditto, Eds,” Buck breathed resting one hand on the back of Eddie’s neck and other on the small of his back. “Ditto. Aunt Aggie made me swear I’d never settle for someone and if I found someone to love with my whole soul that I’d fight for them with everything I have to my last breath. For a long time I didn’t think I had a chance at having what Aggie and Lizzie had, but suddenly, with you in my life, my road forward is full of a whole universe of possibilities.”
Eddie closed his eyes and just let himself be in Buck’s presence. His life felt like it was pure chaos at the moment, and he wasn’t sure he was onboard with Buck’s claim that he was a good father but with someone who believed in him as much as Buck did, for once Eddie thought that just maybe he could get there.
Eddie was on his way back from the bathroom when an incredible smell penetrated his sleep foggy brain. So, instead of heading back to his bedroom, he swerved down the hallway and headed to the kitchen where he saw Buck standing at the counter working on something. The oven was on and appeared to have something inside of it, and there was a 13×9 pan and what looked like either an 8×8 or 9×9 pan on the kitchen table on a cooling rack. Sliding up behind Buck, Eddie wrapped his arms around his friend feeling him jump slightly as he rested his chin on Buck’s shoulder.
“Is this ok? What are you making at like 3am and why?”
“It’s perfect. I’m making cinnamon rolls for here and work because I couldn’t sleep.”
Eddie peaked at what Buck was doing and now that he knew they were cinnamon rolls it made a lot more sense. When Buck started sprinkling walnuts on top of what looked to be the cinnamon mixture and raisins he wrinkled his nose. “Eww nuts.”
Buck snickered and peaked back at Eddie over his shoulder with a grin. “I am aware of your aversion to nuts. Don’t worry. There is a full pan and a half pan in the oven of nutless with raisins. The full pan is for work and the half pan is for here.”
Eddie looked around his kitchen and spotted several bars of cream cheese sitting near where the mixer was typically used. “Cream cheese icing?”
“Homemade yes. I thought I’d ice half of each of the full pans and leave half un-iced because I am sure there are those that don’t like icing. I’ll ice both of our half pans that are staying here. Why are you awake?”
“Had to pee and smelled something really good. Don’t think I didn’t notice that you avoided that question when I asked mister.” Pulling back from Buck, Eddie moved to lean with his back against the counter so that he could see Buck’s face. Although he missed the cuddling and from the briefly flashed pout on his friend’s face it seemed as if Buck felt the same.
“I have to get my address changed when we go into work later. It’s stressing me out because that means the whole shift will know and while I don’t care about most of them I don’t… I’m tired of being the station joke, Eds.
“There’s no way that Chim won’t make some crappy joke about moving out of my invisible girlfriend’s apartment, even though he knows Abby is a real person. Then Hen will jump in with him and before you know it half the shift will be laughing about something that really fucking hurt, Eddie. If I made a joke of half the personal things in their lives that they do mine I would have been fired by now. And I get it. The last captain was a crappy, horrible human being who treated both Hen and Chim like shit, but why does that mean that they get to make me feel like shit?”
“Damn, I’ll be honest, Buck, that I didn’t know it bothered you that much, and I feel like an ass because I feel like I should have. I mean, you’re right. Your personal life seems to be open for whatever jabs Chim wants to throw but half the time if someone even hints about whatsherface he loses his shit. At the same time though, I have noticed that he doesn’t joke with you the way that he does other people. Honestly if he made a joke about Shannon and I getting divorced with the snide tone he uses with you I’m not sure I’d be able to prevent myself from punching him in the face.”
“Well, you need to because that’s bullshit, even if I understand the urge. Mostly, I mean. I’ve never hit anyone in my life and the only time I’ve been in a fight is when I was trying to break up bar fights during my travels, especially when I worked at the place in Peru.
“Frankly speaking though, I honestly don’t think that Chim would ever make a joke about your divorce. He’s too scared of you and honestly I think he’s basically a coward there. I think for the most part he only pulls this bullshit with me because so far I don’t call him on his crap.”
“Which is so far from cool, I don’t even know what to call it. I know that you don’t like standing up for yourself much, but I honestly think you need to do it. I think more people would speak up if you did. I know Sully would because he’s told me that the only reason that he hasn’t said anything is because you haven’t. You seem pretty close with that Alex guy that’s been floating in the house the last couple weeks, too. I bet he’d speak up, and you know I’m gonna have your back.”
“I know,” Buck admitted and worked quietly for a few minutes finishing rolling the sheet of pastry into a log and then cutting it carefully before he put the pieces in the last disposable 13×9 on the counter.
“Doctor Leach and I have been working on it, and in my last session I told him that the next time Chim is giving me a hard time that I would just say I don’t think that’s funny. It’s a painful topic for me and I don’t like it when it’s made fun of. The thing is though that I don’t know how much good that will do.”
“That’s on Chim though if he doesn’t pay attention, and honestly as much as Hen likes jump on that teasing bandwagon, I think if you said that you don’t like it that she’d stop. Honestly, she’d probably feel like shit if she heard you say that it is a painful topic for you. Plus, if Bobby actually hears you say that and Chim doesn’t stop then Bobby will be forced to say something. If he doesn’t and that Alex guy is around there is going to be an even bigger mess. Sully was telling me that Alex and Chim hate each other, and that Alex is a Lieutenant too.”
“I didn’t know that you and Sully are friends,” Buck commented, and Eddie could see that it was a comment from curiosity not worry. He was glad that Buck at least was secure enough to know that no one else could compete with what he meant to both Eddie and Chris.
“I think friendly is more the term. He was a SEAL so we talk sometimes about shit that comes up on shift, especially if it’s something that freaks one of us out because it reminds us of when we served. We were talking about Chim actually, and he was telling me about the beef between him and Alex. Sully said you and he are friends.”
“Yeah, Sully is great. We go out sometimes and when I need a last minute partner for hiking, especially when I want to push things, he was my go to call before you and I got close. Honestly, I’ve been feeling bad that I haven’t been hanging out with him enough since you and I got to be close. I was thinking that maybe…”
“Maybe what?” Eddie prompted by poking Buck in the side as he was putting a towel over the cinnamon rolls, and Eddie guessed that it was to let them raise.
“I’ve always wanted to do a game night. Not necessarily poker, but some kind of cards or one of those adult board game things.”
“Like a Dungeon and Dragons type game?” Eddie asked and after his first flash of that’s odd, he realized that he wasn’t as opposed to the idea once he thought about it.
“Yeah, I guess. I just… I never got to do stuff like that as a kid. Have game nights, I mean. My parents certainly weren’t going to play board games with me and while Maddie would humor me occasionally, after she went to college she wasn’t there to play. We could even get together and play video games or whatever. I just…
“Doctor Leach and I were talking about how maybe I have or could have more friends, close friends than I thought. I just tend to keep people at an arms length. So, I don’t get the chance to realize that more people would be friends, friends if I gave it a chance. So after you and me we could have Sully, Alex and his brother Diego, and Tommy Kinnaird from the 217 and just do… whatever guys do when they hang out besides watch sports that I don’t watch a lot of.”
“So, if Chim starts giving you crap about moving, you’re gonna tell him that you don’t think its funny and it’s a painful topic for you, right?”
Buck sighed and Eddie reached over to pull him over to stand in front of Eddie so that he could wrap his arms around him. “I will I just… it makes me nervous.”
“I get it babe, I do. Just remember that you aren’t alone, and that regardless of what anyone else does, I have your back. Howard Han opens his fat mouth and doesn’t take the hint and I will make sure he knows what I think of his bullshit. I’ll go so far as to promise not to punch him in the face, even though some people really just deserve it.”
Buck rolled his eyes but nodded his acceptance as he melted into Eddie, turning his face towards Eddie’s neck. “I like the babe thing. Just don’t get weird and start using cutesy endearments.”
Eddie hummed and turned his head to press a kiss to the top of Buck’s head. “What about endearments in Spanish? Honestly other than babe, most of the terms of endearment that I used with Shannon were Spanish words.”
“That would be ok, too,” Buck agreed after a pause where Eddie assumed he was thinking about it. “It would kinda be like something between us. Although, Alex and his brother also speak Spanish. So keep that in mind if they’re around.”
“Noted,” Eddie said with a smile as he closed his eyes and let himself just enjoy being in Buck’s space.
Later that morning, Eddie was following Buck up the stairs to the loft with a pan of cinnamon rolls without nuts but with raisins to set on the counter. Buck had already bounded up ahead of him with the other two pans, letting the mixture of A shift coming on and B shift getting off shift know that there were plenty for everyone. Buck had been smart and marked the clear plastic lids that came with each pan which one had raisins, which one had nuts, and which one had raisins and nuts.
Eventually, the two of them settled down in their normal seats at the table, with Alex sitting down across from them. Alejandro Reyes was a Paramedic Firefighter Lieutenant from one of the other stations. He had been working at the 118 though for several weeks for reasons that were thus far a mystery to everyone except most likely Bobby. Buck seemed to think that Hen probably knew because he said they were pretty close.
According to Buck, Alex had worked at the 118 under the previous captain and had been there at the same time as Hen and Chim. Apparently there was some dust up at some point that created a huge rift between Chim and Alex. When the dust settled from whatever had happened, Alex moved to another station for what was labeled as an advancement opportunity and Hen, at least from outside appearances, had chosen Chim’s side. Then within a couple months after that, the old captain had been fired making room for Bobby. Buck confided that he wasn’t sure that Hen had actually chosen Chim’s side.
Buck was of the opinion, mainly because Tommy Kinard was and Buck gave Tommy’s words a lot of weight, that Hen had merely let Chim think that she chose his side. In reality, she’d continued her friendship with Alex, but had mostly kept it on the down low so as to not cause waves with Chim. Buck told Eddie, and Eddie agreed, that the whole situation was weird, and that no matter what happened with Alex and Chim that Hen shouldn’t have been forced to choose sides like they were in grade school.
“Does anyone know where Bobby is? I need to fill out a change of address form, and I was hoping that I could get it done before shift, but that ship seems to have sailed.” Buck asked the table in general but his focus seemed to be on Alex.
“I can help you with that,” Alex offered quickly just before Chim opened his mouth to spew his shit instead of making the same offer. Really, it was Chim that should have spoken up and been helpful given he was the Lt. that was assigned to the 118. Heaven only knew that Chim made sure no one forgot about his position as Bobby’s second in command, but when it came to Buck he typically decided to show his ass and give Buck crap instead of being helpful in any given situation. Apparently, Alex’s stepping in had only slowed down Chim’s assholery, because quickly he recovered and decided to flash his ass verbally anyway.
“So, what, you’ve finally moved out of the invisible girlfriend’s place? Did you find a new imaginary girlfriend to shack up with or have you decided to take back up your previous slut puppy ways and resume your quest to fuck your way through LA?”
“What the fuck?” Eddie spat instinctively forgetting for a second about the plan in his shock that Chim had actually been so open with that bullshit.
“I don’t think that’s funny,” Buck said quietly but firmly, as Eddie slipped his free hand under the table to squeeze Buck’s leg in support. “Abby wasn’t imaginary and I really cared about her. When she left it hurt, and when you say stuff like that it just adds to it. So, I would appreciate if you didn’t make my breakup a joke.”
“That is absolutely fair, Buck,” Alex inserted sending Chim a death glare so forceful that Eddie was a little surprised that Han didn’t immediately burst into flames.
“Breakups are hard, and you should absolutely be able to expect us to respect that and not make a joke of it. Especially when you have made a point to tell us you don’t like it.”
“Well you aren’t in charge here, Reyes,” Chim sneered and before Eddie could throw in his two cents a movement from the corner of his eyes caught his attention.
Turning his head, Eddie saw Hen was had set down next to Alex, and it occurred to him in the moment that it had become commonplace for her over the last several shifts. What was even stranger to Eddie though was the fact that now, instead of jumping in and defending Chim like she was normally prone to, she seemed to almost be folding in on herself. Before Eddie could think more about it though, Chim decided to continue to show his ass no matter that no one else on shift wanted to see it. From the expression on Sully’s face where Eddie could see him seated at the other table, he wasn’t the only one Chim was pissing off.
“It’s not my fault that Buckley has decided to be sensitive all of a sudden, and maybe if he doesn’t want to get called out for his shit, he should grow up and not embarrass himself so much. God knows that he’s given us plenty of material to work with. What with whoring himself out all over the place and trying to make us think that someone like Abby would want to do anything with him.”
Quicker anyone could say anything in defense, Buck was up and out of his chair heading towards the door that led to the stairs to the roof before Eddie could even consider following. Immediately he started to stand, but Alex caught his attention and shook his head, making a sign for him to stay where he was. Opening his mouth, Eddie intending to argue, but he was derailed from that thought before he could when a vaguely familiar voice spoke up.
“I think that is quite enough, Firefighter Han. Frankly, given you current situation one would think that you would be more careful with your words. Apparently, we haven’t made enough of an impact on you for you to change your ways, yet. It’s a shame, but I can’t say that I am all that surprised given what I know about bullies in general.”
Eddie didn’t recognize the voice, and quickly turned his sight in the direction of the stairs where it had come from. Standing there were two men, one dressed formally and the other in typical uniform that they wore when they were on shift. The one in formal dress was older with salt and pepper colored hair and slight stubble on his face. The other man was younger, but still older than Eddie with what most would call classically handsome looks. From the way his eyes were narrowed, Eddie guessed the younger of the two wasn’t any happier with Chim’s nonsense than the one speaking was.
“Holy fuck,” Hen whispered sounding pained, and Eddie’s eyes widened when Alex put a hand over hers where it rested on the table. He then leaned forward to explain to Eddie who the two men were.
“The guy on the left with the salt and pepper hair and stubble on his chin is Battalion Chief Andrew Barrows, but he goes by Drew. Good guy. Comes from The Barrows family. Sterling Barrows who runs Barrows Institute and Technology is his older brother. The other guy is Captain Antony Buckley. He usually works at the 36. So, I’m not sure what he’s doing here. He has a really good reputation from what I’ve heard.”
Eddie decided Chim obviously had either lost his mind, or wanted fired if his response was any indication. Frankly, Barrows was making him want to stand up and salute, and Eddie thought that he’d left that shit behind in the Army. Chim though seemed unphased by the man’s presence and plowed forward in his attempt to shame and belittle Buck, even though he wasn’t present to hear. It made Eddie wonder how often Chim had done the same when Eddie wasn’t around to hear.
“I shouldn’t have to censor myself just because Buckley has all of a sudden decided to be sensitive. He probably just wants the attention or something.”
“Shut up, Chim! What are you doing?” Hen snapped, and Eddie turned his head to look at her so quickly that he was surprised he hadn’t hurt his neck.
“You’re supposed to be on my side,” Chim whined angrily and Hen hit the table with her fist.
“I’m trying to keep you from getting fired, you jackass!”
“Enough!” Battalion Chief Barrows snapped and the room seemed to freeze for a moment.
“Firefighter Han, go to the captain’s office. I will join you there shortly after I fill everyone else in on a situation that has come up and if you open your mouth again I will just fire you now on the spot.”
Eddie wasn’t sure if he was thankful that Chim decided to leave instead of keeping arguing. The older man stood so quickly though and pushed his stool back with such force that it toppled over instead of sliding back, crashing to the floor with a loud bang as he stomped out. Eddie couldn’t help but notice that Hen was visibly upset at this point and that Alex was whispering quietly in her ear. After a few moments, Hen nodded and Alex seemed to turn his attention back to Barrows.
“Sir, if it’s ok, since I know at least part of what you’re about to announce, can I be excused to go after Buck? I am guessing he didn’t see you in his hurry to leave, and I am concerned about leaving him alone after he was attacked. Normally, I would suggest Eddie go, but given he needs to hear what you’re about to say, I think I’m the only choice.”
“Agreed,” Battalion Chief Barrows said with a nod as his eyes drifted to Eddie briefly. Eddie had been around upper command a handful of times during his time in the Army, but there had never been a man who immediately made him want to stand at attention like Drew Barrows did. The man screamed alpha wolf and Eddie had a feeling that he was the type of leader his men would run through a brick wall for.
“I’ll send Diaz up with Tony we’re done here so they can talk about the personal bit. Make sure that he knows I am still incredibly impressed by him and I don’t regret my invitation in the least. Diaz and Tony should be following you fairly quickly. You and I need to have another chat, but we can do that in a couple of days.”
Alex gave a nod in Barrows’ direction before giving Eddie a look that suggested he would do his best to look after Buck until Eddie could get there. As Alex left, the Captain for B shift, a woman named Esperanza Barnes, whom Eddie knew Buck thought highly of, was asking Barrows if they should clear out, but he just shook his head saying they needed the information as well.
“Given the bullshit that I walked into, which supports some concerns Captain Nash voiced to me in a private meeting, I want to stress something before I get into why I came here. I don’t care who you are, what happened under previous captains, or any other crap you can think up to justify using someone’s pain as fodder for your amusement.
“I don’t like bullies and I don’t tolerate shit like I overheard happening here. I understand stuff happens and sometimes teasing gets out of hand. At times it can be easy to step over a line without realizing it, especially if you don’t know the line was there to begin with. However, if someone tells you that they don’t find your jokes or your teasing funny I expect you to stop immediately!
“There’s no justifying or excuses or reasoning for continuing the conversation that will be excepted as justification. Frankly, I am appalled that someone’s personal pain would ever be considered to be a valid source of joke material, but I gave up trying to understand what the hell goes on in some people’s heads a long time ago.
“So, to be clear, if someone tells you to stop and you don’t, then I will consider anything said after that on that topic to be bullying behavior and you will be immediately put into a disciplinary situation. To make sure there is no misunderstanding, that includes firing. Bullying is against the LAFD Code of Conduct which you all have agreed to uphold.”
The Battalion Chief paused long enough to glare at the each individually before he continued. “Now, I am here to let you know about two separate disciplinary situations. One which will effect A shift individually and one which will effect this station as a whole. Lt. Reyes has agreed to transfer to A shift, and I will be shifting him into the firefighter paramedic spot that has been held by Lt. Han.
“Lt. Han will be suspended for an incident that occurred while he was covering a shift at another fire station. After the review of this incident is completed though, I think it would be best that should he still be employed by LAFD that he be transferred out of the 118. Captain Nash voiced some concerns to me and after what I walked in on, I agree with them. Lt. Reyes will be moving into the Second in Command spot on A shift, and one of the two captains that will be on A shift when Captain Nash returns.
“The second item that needs to be discussed is that during my meeting with Captain Nash he made me aware of a situation that happened during his time prior to LAFD that we were not made aware of when he was hired. Frankly, had we known of the situation, he never would have been made a member of LAFD.
“However, we didn’t know and after going over the situation with the Chief along with the Union we have agreed to a suspension of no less than six months and no more than twelve months. After he is deemed ready to resume his duties we will review the situation here and decide if he is allowed to resume his position over the 118 or if we put him over a different station. While he is out, Captain Buckley will be stepping into his place to run not just A shift, but will be acting Captain II over all three sifts.
“At the end of Captain Nash’s suspension, regardless of where he is placed, the 118 will be switching over to become a full task force, which means that there will be two captains and two lieutenants per shift. This will enable us to send the truck and the engine out separately and add some additional vehicles to this station. Fortunately, you have plenty of room for the added vehicles. We’re also considering making the 118 another backup SaR station in the case of emergencies. So, should we go through with that, we will be adding some additional firefighters to cover the requirements for that as well.
“We expect that it will take a full year to get this transfer done, so there may be some transition time when Captain Nash returns, if he returns here. This station is considered to be one of the best in LAFD and I expect that to continue while Captain Nash is out.
“I think that I will be requiring all of my stations to go back through some training on bullying, harassment, and sensitivity because it might do us all some good. If I hear any bullshit about retaliation against Firefighter Buckley for this situation with Lt. Han you can expect to verbally receive my foot up your ass.
“A shift, be good for Captain Buckley and show him why you make Captain Nash so damned proud every damned day. If any of you have any concerns, remember my door is always open. I know it sounds like lip service, but I mean it. My people are the most important part of my success. Now, if you will excuse me I need to go speak with Firefighter Paramedic Han before getting back to my office. A shift, have a good day. B shift, you are dismissed.”
B shift hurried out of the loft to go home. A large part of A shift left as well to go down and get their duties started after Captain Buckley promised they’d have a shift meeting in an hour or so. They’d been taken offline for a few hours to make sure that everyone was settled before they started answering calls.
“Hen, what the hell happened?” Sully asked, slipping into the chair that Alex had vacated, apparently not having gone down with the rest of the team he usually ran with.
“Chim opened his big, fat, stupid mouth while covering at another station. Not only did he start talking shit about one of the guys on that shift, but then he started ragging on Buck. He basically shot himself in the foot twice because not only was the guy he talked shit to popular within that house, but a third generation firefighter.
“As if that wasn’t enough, the guy went through the academy with Buck and while the aren’t close friends, they’re friendly enough that the guy was pissed off on Buck’s behalf. Since Chim had already had one violation of the Code of Conduct for the accident where he got impaled by the rebar, getting a second strike is a big problem.
“I mean, LAFD gives Chim a lot of leeway with what happened with the Captain before Bobby, but he knew that he was in deep shit. Chim was told to be on his best behavior while they investigated, but apparently that didn’t take. Bobby, I have no clue about Bobby. Captain Buckley, are we allowed to contact Bobby while he’s suspended? And also, another Buckley? I didn’t think it was that common of a last name.”
Eddie hadn’t realized that the new guy had moved over to stand at the end of their table until Hen directed the question to him. He decided to chalk it up to being only half there as the other half of his attention was focused on what was going on with Buck on the roof.
“Please, call me Tony. I know that you are all close to Captain Nash and that he likes to run his shifts with a family type atmosphere that I am honestly not opposed to. I run, or ran now I guess, my previous shift at station 36 the same way. As to visiting Bobby, normally we would be hesitant, but in this case there is so much going on here that we thought some contact would be ok. If it seems to be getting out of hand and my orders or Alex’s are being questioned because its ‘not something Bobby would do’ we’ll have to revisit, but there are some circumstances here that made us feel like it was best to allow contact in this situation.
“Now, I know that you all probably have other questions for me, and hopefully we can get to those soon. However, I really need to touch base with Firefighter Buckley. So, if you’ll excuse Firefighter Diaz and I we’re going to check in with Buckley to make sure he’s ok.”
“Buck,” Sully inserted after standing and holding out a hand to the new Captain. “He prefers Buck usually. Although I suppose you should verify that with him. I’m gonna go get my stuff started before Rey is all up in my ass.”
“Yeah, I’m gonna go stock the ambulance. It will give me a moment to clear my head. Tony, is it ok though if I take a moment to call my wife? I think after the last, shit not even an hour, I could use the sound of her voice.”
“Absolutely, that’s why we’re offline. I know that we’ve thrown a lot at you all over the last little bit. So, call whomever you need, and Sully, please make sure the others on the shift know that as well. Do what you need to do so that when we go back online everyone’s heads are in the game. If someone needs more time, tell them to just come to me. I’m not a hard ass and I want us all to get off on the right foot. Seeing to my people’s wellbeing mentally is as important to me as physically. And on that note. Diaz, let’s go see to Buckley.”
Not needing any more encouragement, Eddie hurriedly got up and took off towards the stairs to the roof. He and Buck were definitely going to have to talk to the new Captain to make sure he was ok with their developing relationship. Hopefully, he was because Eddie didn’t know what he would do otherwise. As he slammed open the door to the roof though, he put it out of his mind as he headed straight for Buck.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
When Eddie’s feet hit the rooftop, he crossed the distance between the door and Buck as quickly as he could, pulling his best friend into his arms and cupping the back of Buck’s dead with his hand. “You did so good, Evan,” Eddie whispered softly into his ear as he felt Buck shake in his arms. “I know that was hard, but you did so good.”
“He didn’t fucking listen though! It feels like no one ever listens!”
“But everyone else did,” Eddie pointed out softly again as he pulled back enough that he could look Buck in the eye. “And it made a huge impact I think on everyone else there, including the Battalion Chief and the new Captain who were both there. Some people are just jackasses, and you can’t help that. Don’t let Chim being an irredeemable asshole put you off speaking up for yourself when someone crosses your boundaries.”
Buck nodded, taking shaky breaths before offering a weak smile. “Yeah, ok.” He finally offered before glancing around the rooftop. When Eddie looked to where Buck seemed to be staring, he found Alex and the new Captain had moved to the chairs they had up there. “Who’s that?”
Guessing he meant the new captain, Eddie shared everything that the Battalion Chief had shared with him. He knew that Bobby’s suspension would upset Buck, so he made sure that the other man knew that they could still keep in contact and that Barrows had made it clear Bobby would eventually be back.
“Buckley huh,” Buck murmured as he eyed the new captain. “Not uncommon, but a little weird. You said they had something personal to discuss? Did either of them mention his first name?”
“Tony I think I heard, why? Do you have any uncles on your father’s side?”
Buck seemed to nod absentmindedly and Eddie could tell from experience that his mind was focused on something and not on their current situation. So, he waited quietly until Buck seemed to shake himself out of his thoughts. “Phillip had been estranged from his family for my whole life. I only know anything about them because Lizzie kinda sort of knew of them.
“I think they’re big contractors in several states but are mostly based east of the Mississippi. I think Phillip has at least one brother, but I thought his name was Russell not Tony or anything that could be abbreviated to Tony.”
When Eddie looked toward the other two men, he could see Captain Buckley watching them intently. Deciding that they’d already made their more than just friends relationship known, when Buck grabbed his hand and headed towards the chairs, Eddie gamely went along with it. After they sat, the other Buckley seemed to take a few breaths before he could pull himself out of his own head.
“Sorry, I was caught in my head,” the new captain explained offering an easy smile that just made Eddie want to relax and trust him. “Before we go forward with what I came up here to discuss with Buck specifically, did either of you have questions about what was discussed downstairs? It sounded like Eddie was filling you in, Buck, on what was discussed.”
“Sorry, I just thought that a lot of it might be better coming from me,” Eddie hurriedly explained not having considered that the new captain probably wanted to tell Buck himself. Fortunately, the man just shook his head and held up a hand in a stop gesture.
“I’m seriously not stressed about it. If either Drew or I had wanted to tell Firefighter Buckley about things ourselves, I would have made sure that you, Eddie, knew before we got up here. Captain Nash gave me a pretty thorough run down on the shift and the personalities and relationships on it. He didn’t mention that you two had officially come to him to report a romantic relationship, but he did tell me he thought it was only a matter of time.”
“It’s pretty new,” Buck murmured as he ran his thumb over Eddie’s knuckles in what Eddie guessed was an unconscious gesture.
“Well, I am not opposed to such things on a shift, as long as you can stay professional on the job. If it becomes an issue we’ll revisit, but given what Captain Nash told me, it seemed like it was only a matter of time.”
“Hen’s had a bet on the books for ages,” Alex laughed and Eddie couldn’t help but roll his eyes at that because of course she did. Eddie just hoped that whoever won knew the two of them. Usually, when the shift bet on anything that had anything to do with something as serious as a relationship beginning, the rule was at least part of the winnings had to be spent on the person or people being bet on. “It’ll be interesting to see who won.”
“Captain Buckley,” Eddie started but the older man just huffed a little.
“Tony, please, unless we are around the brass or somewhere that calls for formal address. I’m not one of those uptight Captains that need to hear their rank all the time. Not to mention, having two Buckleys in one station will make things confusing unless we both have nicknames, I think.”
“I’m Eddie then,” Eddie offered and waited for Buck to quietly asked to be called Buck before Eddie continued his thought.
“I know the relationship between Buck and myself is new but honestly, I feel like it’s new in being labeled. I’m not sure how many things will actually change outside of Buck and I moving in together, which means he’ll spend almost all of his off time with us instead of just like 70% of it.”
Buck snorted and nodded, giving Eddie a grin before looking back toward Tony. “True that. Honestly, Eddie and I are already pretty affectionate with each other but not in an over the line way, I think. We tend to sit as close together as we can, and it isn’t unusual for one of us to have an arm over the other’s shoulders or even for one of us to wake up in the other’s bunk if we had a bad call. That being said, I don’t see things going further than that in any public situation. Neither of us are huge about PDAs beyond what we already do.”
“Then it sounds like we’ll have no issues,” Tony assured as he looked to Alex and then Eddie before he seemed to be focusing his attention on Buck. “Now, the next part is more personal than LAFD related. I can ask Alex and Eddie to leave if you want this just between us.”
Buck quickly shook his head and briefly squeezed Eddie’s hand hard as if he were afraid Eddie was going to get up to leave. “I tell Eddie everything, and I trust Alex. I’m not trying to be rude when I say this, but I think I would feel better if someone in the station command structure that I am familiar with was present for whatever it is. So, whatever you need to say, they can hear.”
Tony nodded and lifting his hips seemed to be reaching into his back pocket to pull something out. Once done, he immediately held his hand out towards Buck before sitting back in his seat. When Buck unfolded the item, Eddie could see it was a picture of a family. The parents along with two of the boys and the single girl had big smiles on their faces, while one boy stood stiffly and unsmiling at his father’s side seeming to be looking at someone other than whomever was taking the picture.
“I see Philip has been uptight his whole life,” Buck murmured staring at the picture. Eventually, he pointed to the unsmiling boy before identifying him for Eddie then turned his attention back to Tony. “Are you one of the other two boys?”
“No, but my husband is,” Tony explained as he took what seemed to be a deep breath.
“The youngest boy with his arm in a cast. Broke his arm a week before the family Fourth of July campout in a baseball game when he dove to catch a fly ball and landed on it wrong. Went on to have one hell of a college baseball career though at Ohio State before going into the family business after he graduated. Light of my life to be honest.
“Your aunt Jackie, the only daughter, is the oldest child. Your father, the one not smiling as I think you figured out, is the second oldest. Then Michael and lastly Russ. The reason I couldn’t help but stare is because you look a lot like your Great Uncle Joe at your age. Your grandmother loves to show off the family albums and has spent a lot of time on not only her own family’s genealogy but also your grandfather’s.”
“They… they’re alive?” Buck asked and Eddie found himself dropping Buck’s hand only because it allowed him to put his arm around Buck’s shoulder. It wasn’t until after the fact that he worried it was too familiar, but when neither Tony nor Alex seemed bothered, Eddie left his arm where it was.
“They are,” Tony confirmed with a nod as he seemed to be rubbing at something on his knee. “The whole family is involved in construction in some way. They all have offices scattered around the country but were exclusively in the eastern half of the US until Russell and a couple of his cousins ventured west. There’s an office up in Seattle run by his cousin Samantha and her husband and one in Salt Lake City run by Russell’s cousins Thomas and Lucas, who are brothers. They’re all run separately for the most part but are loosely under the family corporation.
“I was reviewing the files last night after the Chief and the Union decided on the appropriate punishment for Captain Nash when I saw your picture. Then I saw your father and mother’s names on your file, and I knew as weird as it felt who you must be. The only person who knows of my suspicion right now though outside of Drew though is Russ. We decided to wait to tell any of the rest of the family until I’d talked to you. Given how much Phillip hates his family we didn’t want to say anything to the others until I could talk to you.”
“I didn’t even know that there were others alive really,” Buck admitted before reaching up to swipe at a tear that was running down his cheek.
“I mean, I vaguely knew of your… my… I knew about the Buckley’s because of my Auntie Lizzie Fairchild. Her family was familiar with someone in the Buckley family enough that she knew they were in construction and she thought that Phillip had at least one sibling, but that was about it. I never… I’m ashamed to say it never occurred to me to try and find you all. I can’t really explain or excuse that.”
“I don’t see that either of them is needed,” Tony said firmly but kindly.
“From what little I know about your father through his parents and siblings, I doubt that he ever had many kind words for the rest of his family. While it is a shame that it is true, it’s not on you that it happened. Lizzie Fairchild…. I feel like I know that name.”
Eddie arched an eyebrow as Tony tapped his lip as he stared off into the mountains outside of LA before he suddenly nodded and perked up. “Andrew Shippley, are you the one owns that place he lives in that he calls The House?”
Buck nodded and offered a grin. “That’s me. Let me guess, Russ his contractor buddy who helps him with the renovations on The House when they’re needed is your husband and my uncle?”
Eddie just shook his head at the coincidence and how small the world was sometimes as Buck continued on. “I’m hoping that they can get the family wing done in the next 6 months or less. Eddie and I are planning on moving into it with Chris once it’s done. Alex over there and his boyfriend Tommy Kinard and Alex’s brother Diego are gonna shift over to the family side with me when it’s done too. I know that they have a couple people waiting to move into the friend’s side and Tommy and the Reyes boys are family in my mind so it makes sense to me.”
“I think I remember something about changes to an in-law suite, right?” Tony questioned and Buck nodded after giving Eddie a side eye.
“I changed my mind after they’d started and decided to renovate a big area on the first floor as a possible in-law suite for Eddie’s Abuela Isabel should she want or need it at some point in the future. Plus, I keep waffling on where to put Eddie’s son Chris’ suite of rooms, but now that all my skeletons are out of the closet if you will I can take them both over there one day and let them pick.”
“Buck,” Eddie started but he barely got his friend’s name out before the other man was shaking his head.
“Nope, nuh uh. If Isabel never wants or needs a space in The House then it’s there to be used as a recovery area or something if one of us needs it. As for Chris, he totally gets to have a suite of rooms in The House even if you and he weren’t moving in there. To be honest, I already was considering leaving him The House in my will. I mean it when I say I adore your kid, Eds. So, unless you totally kick me out of your life, he’s gonna get stuff after I die, and honestly even if you try to kick me out I’ll still leave Chris shit just to spite you because you’d obviously be an asshole at that point and totally deserve will spite bequeathments.”
Eddie’s lips quirked but he nodded. “Fair. That’s probably fair.”
Remembering they weren’t alone, Eddie offered Tony a grin of apology as Alex just rolled his eyes at them. Tony just cleared his throat and continued. “If it matters to anyone in the universe, will spite bequeathments need to totally be a thing, and I highly approve of this plan.” The Captain paused to flash them a grin before he continued.
“Anywho… So, Buck, I guess all I need to say is that whatever happens with any Buckley beyond me is up to you. You can meet as many or as few of them as you want. For now, Drew is ok with you reporting to me because the family connection is not only through marriage but mostly name only at this point. If needed though everyone is ok if we shift things so that Alex is responsible for your reviews and such until Captain Nash gets back, and between the four of us I will be highly shocked if he doesn’t come back, especially since they’re removing Firefighter Han unless I have really misread that situation.”
Eddie watched Buck’s face and knew that his friend was torn at what he’d found out. Family was a touchy subject for Buck, understandably. Eddie himself had no clue what he’d do or think if suddenly he had the possibility of connecting with a bunch of family members who he’d been estranged from his whole life.
When Buck looked his way, Eddie just offered him what he hoped was a reassuring smile and promised himself that he would be as supportive as he could when it came to the Buckley’s. Maddie crossed his mind briefly, but Eddie shoved all thoughts about her away. Things were complicated with the two living Buckley siblings, and Eddie wasn’t about to borrow trouble there before it was needed.
Even after A shift went back online things remained pretty quiet. So, after they’d finished their chores and the extra busy work that they kept track of needing done for times when the calls were few and far between, Eddie found himself following Buck up to the loft in search of Hen. Buck was concerned about her and specifically how she was taking this whole Chim thing. Since Eddie was a little worried about her himself and he wasn’t jazzed about being far from Buck at the moment, he’d decided to follow along.
It didn’t take them long after reaching the loft to find Hen at one of the tables on her tablet that she seemed to be either reading on or just staring at because she wasn’t really moving. “Hen, you ok?” Buck asked as he pulled out a stool, while Eddie diverted to the fridge to get them each a drink before joining the other two at the table.
“Yeah, just thinking Buckaroo,” Hen offered with a shake of her head and once Eddie was seated, he could see that her tablet was asleep. It left him guessing that she’d been stuck in her head and not doing something on the device.
“I’m sorry that you’re gonna be without Chim for a while,” Buck started to apologize, but Hen just stopped him with a shake of her head.
“None of that situation is on you, Buck. In fact, I feel like I am the one that should be apologizing to you. I’m ashamed that it took Alex confronting me about something you’d told Tommy about Chim to see how badly he treats you and other people. The truth of the matter is that Chim is angry about a lot of things in his life starting with how his father treated his mother. Most of it he bottles up and then unleashes on people that he thinks won’t bark back at him. I don’t really know what changed, but it seems like the last several months he’s felt braver about talking shit about you. I tried to warn him about it, but he didn’t listen and eventually, he talked crap around the wrong guy.
“The thing is though that it isn’t even the bullying thing that should have bothered me. The lying to his girlfriends is a huge concern. Well, his lying in general because if I’m fair it isn’t even just his girlfriends that he lies to. His angry outbursts can be scary when he lets it get bottled up too long, and I’ve always made excuses even though Karen absolutely hates it. Honestly, she is uncomfortable with him in general, but tolerates him for my sake.
“The bottom line is that I should have spoken up well before you even joined the 118 when it came to him, Buck, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. It’s a crap excuse because I feel like in the end it did him more harm than good. He’s needed therapy and a serious coming to Jesus meeting for a while. He’s probably going to lose his job after the bullshit he pulled in front of Chief Barrows, and I feel like I am at least partially responsible for that.”
“You’re not,” Eddie argued with a shake of his head for emphasis and was glad to hear Buck echo his sentiments before Eddie elaborated.
“Sometimes the hardest people to be honest with are the people we are closest to and see every day. It’s a lot easier to be up real blunt and honest with someone that isn’t going to be in your space all the time. You aren’t the first person to struggle with that situation, Hen, and you won’t be the last. I told Buck myself that I am ashamed that it took him telling me the Abby shit was hurting his feelings to get how over the line it all was.
“I feel like if it had been someone that I didn’t spend so damned much time with that I would have been much quicker to put them in their place the first time they used a personal situation to needle at Buck. Because it was Chim though I chalked it up to ‘he’s just teasing and sometimes he goes too far without meaning it’ when the reality is I don’t honestly know that he doesn’t mean it. Even if he doesn’t though picking on Buck because he knows Buck won’t defend himself is just straight up shitty and as a human being that’s the kind of situation I need to speak up in.”
“As one of the people he was being crappy to, can I just say that personally, I don’t want either one of you feeling bad about whatever short comings you see in yourselves when it came to me and Chim? The way I see it the only person who should feel bad about that whole deal is Chim. Unfortunately, I don’t see him realizing he was honestly in the wrong any time soon. I’d hope that the amount of trouble he’s in would be enough of a wake-up call, but part of me is just afraid that he’s just gonna come after me saying it’s all my fault.”
“Wow,” Hen breathed as she took off her glasses and rubbed a hand over her face. “I’d like to say that it won’t happen, but I promised myself that I’d be real about the whole thing. Honestly, I can totally see him blaming the whole thing on you, Buck. Especially since I am pretty sure he’s going to end up getting fired. Barrows really, really hates bullies and is notorious about his hard line about that stuff. Unfortunately, Chim doesn’t seem to be taking it seriously at all. Do you mind if I ask where you’re staying now? I think I missed that in this morning’s chaos.”
Eddie listened as Buck explained everything to Hen including owning The House, his Aunt and Auntie, and his connection to their new Captain. Eddie could tell Buck was nervous how Hen would take the whole thing. When Buck got done though, while she seemed a little more wide eyed about the whole situation than normal, Hen quickly proved why she was one of Buck’s favorite people on shift.
“So, what I’m hearing is that the next time Denny wants a new $200 pair of sneakers, I need to send him your way.”
Buck immediately snorted out loud offering Hen a grin before shaking his head. “Sorry, Hen, there are no Fairchild sneaker endowments I can offer Denny. On a serious note though, I would like to add some money to whatever college fund for him you and Karen have started. I’m kinda glad that this is all coming out in the open, because I’ve been wanting to talk to Bobby and Athena about May and Harry, but especially May since she’s gonna need college money soon and I don’t know how much she has for it.”
Eddie couldn’t help but give Buck a fond smile, and when he turned his attention back to Hen saw her shaking her head at him with an amazed look on her face. “I’d like to say I’m surprised Buckaroo, but I’m honest to God not. You are seriously one of the most generous and big-hearted people I have ever met in my life. While I need to talk to Karen about it, I don’t see it being an issue. Honestly, she deals with all of that though. So, while I know we have a plan and put away money for it. I couldn’t tell you the balance or what we’re doing with it.”
Buck nodded and promised to speak to Karen as he was pulling out his phone to make himself a note about it. “How’s Maddie going to take all of this?” Hen asked when Buck finished, and Eddie felt himself wince as Buck just let loose a long sigh.
“I don’t know. I mean her and Chim haven’t fessed up to actually being anything more than friends. While Maddie promised she wouldn’t disappear on me ever again and from now on we would be a united Buckley sibling front when it came to outsiders, her track record doesn’t really support that when it comes to her romantic relationships. Doug wasn’t the first guy that she dated that she devoted her whole attention to and forgot about me. Hell, if I’m honest, she’d been scarce well before she even met Doug. So, as much as she blames it all on him, I can’t say as I buy it.”
Buck sighed and drained his water bottle. When he moved over to refill it, Eddie found himself turning to watch Buck until his friend moved to sit next to him again.
“If I’m being straight up and honest with myself about the whole me and Maddie thing, the truth is that while I love my sister to death, I know very little about the person she is now. There’s a barrier between us that isn’t entirely her fault, but we’re both so used to having to protect ourselves without the help of anyone else that it’s hard to let even each other in.
“To compound problems only one of us is willing to do the therapy and work needed to fix ourselves enough to change that situation. My Auntie Lizzie was really big on therapy and because of her I’ve been talking to a therapist since I was a kid. They had someone that I’d see there in the summers when I’d visit them. It’s actually through that doctor that I found Dr. Lynch after… well, after what happened with the LAFD recommended shrink.”
Eddie felt like he’d missed something, especially when Hen froze and put trembling hands over her mouth. “Please tell me that shit Chim always teased you about that you’d slept with your therapist wasn’t real. Buck?”
When Buck just nodded, Hen shook her head and wiped at the corner of her left eye in what appeared to be agitation. “Just when I don’t think that I could get any more pissed off at that man. I swear on my son, Buck, I didn’t think that was anything more than him just making shit up. Which, is bad enough, but Jesus, I’m a horrible person.”
“No,” Buck said firmly with a jerky shake of his head. “You’re not. Look, what happened with Dr. Wells is horrible and she was way over the line. Especially since I’d told her I was worried that I had a sex addiction. I mean, she already had interest in me before that, but I feel like the second she heard me say that things shifted into a more predatory situation where she knew she could take advantage. Dr. Lynch and I have worked hard to place the blame over that situation exactly where it belongs.
“I want you to know though Hen, and I need you to hear me… I love the shit out of you and you couldn’t be more my big sister if we shared DNA. I hold Dr. Wells responsible for what happened in her office, and I hold Chim responsible for his over-the-line teasing and bullying. Maybe I am a little to blame for not telling Chim to stop, but after today it’s easier to see that it wouldn’t have changed anything, even if I had told him to stop. Maybe it needed to happen today, I dunno. What I do know is that I’m not willing to hold either you or Eddie responsible for not reacting supposedly correctly for someone else’s crappy behavior.”
“You are a national treasure, Evan Buckley,” Hen offered quietly. Her voice shaking with emotion as she reached out to put her hands over Buck’s.
“Nah,” Buck denied wrinkling his nose. “That’s Christopher. Don’t you know?”
“Word,” Alex said as he walked up behind them and plopped down in one of the empty seats before asking what he’d missed. As Hen made a flippant comment about him not needing to worry about it since he wasn’t there, Eddie sat and listened to Buck and Hen gang up on Alex.
The affection between the three of them obvious. Even though he was kind of on the outside of that because it felt like there was a lot of history collectively between the three of them that predated Eddie’s time in LA, he didn’t feel like an outsider at all. Instead, he mostly listened, while throwing in a barb here and there in Alex’s defense to try and even the odds.
When the alarm finally rang sending them all off on a run down the stairs, Eddie couldn’t help but feel like things at the station were going to change for the better with the addition of Alex and Tony. Maybe they were exactly what the 118 needed to really become the family Bobby always said they were.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
A little under two weeks later, Eddie found himself standing in the in-law suite at The House making decisions on things like colors, flooring, and fixtures as Buck finished showing Maddie the rest of the mansion. It seemed like telling Hen about his Aunt and Auntie and his financial situation was all that Buck needed to gain the confidence to come clean with the rest of their little family.
Maddie had been the last to be told, and in fact, today was the first day she was finding out the full extent of the consequences of her harsh words for Lizzie Fairchild years before. So, while Buck and Maddie walked through the two wings and the common area, Eddie had the meeting with Andy and Dorothy, his interior designer, that they’d been walking out of Eddie’s place to go to when Maddie showed up.
Isabel and Pepa had been the second set of people to find out about The House, even before Bobby and Athena, who had gone on a sudden but well needed vacation. Eddie was shocked when his Abuela got emotional upon hearing Buck’s plans. Not even Pepa had been aware of her mother’s concerns over living alone after breaking her hip, and how she’d been considering bowing to Ramon’s pressure for her to move to Texas.
Isabel had liked the idea of moving into The House where she’d have her own space but be surrounded by plenty of other people if something happened. She’d also been clear that the last thing she wanted was to have to go through the stress of all the choices that needed to be made for the renovation of her space. So, instead she’d asked Eddie to decide for her after giving him a very short list of requests for things she either couldn’t live without or always wanted.
Thus, Eddie was elbow deep in the torture that was picking out bathroom fixtures when he heard the soft voices of the Buckley siblings coming into the space. After withstanding the teasing of the two at the joys of faucets and cabinet fixtures, Eddie agreed to a well-deserved break. This led him to being able to enjoy the private courtyard nestled outside of what would be his Abuela’s patio doors where someone had put an old picnic table until they could pick out something better.
For at least fifteen minutes, Eddie sat and listened to the two siblings chit chat as they nursed their drinks, while he tried to figure the two of them out. It was obvious, at least to Eddie, that Maddie was not as happy or comfortable as she was trying to project. Her hands were wrapped tightly around the mug of tea that Buck had made her at some point and she was constantly fidgeting where she sat. While he didn’t know her well, it seemed that her laughs were just a bit too sharp and forced to be natural, but Buck seemed to be willing to let her play the game.
Just as Eddie was about to make his excuses and leave, having decided maybe they just needed him not present, Buck lifted a hand to rest it on top of Eddie’s before changing the topic of conversation.
“When are you going to tell me what’s going on, Maddie? I’ve tried to be patient and let you get whatever it is out in your own time, but that doesn’t seem to be working. So, what gives? Why are you here after you’ve spent the last almost two weeks since Chim got suspended dodging me.”
“That was,” she started and stopped, taking a sip of what had to be cold tea before trying again. “I shouldn’t have done that. You have… You’ve built something good here, Evan.”
“Buck,” was murmured softly, and Eddie almost jumped at the reminder, because it seemed like Buck had a tendency to just let Maddie get away with it when she didn’t use his preferred name.
“You’re… Right, sorry. Buck. I keep forgetting. I keep forgetting to do a lot of things when it comes to you it seems. You told me when Howard and I became friends how he was, and what I should be careful of, but I ignored it mostly. Chimney seemed to indicate that there was some beef between you two, and I just chalked it up to hard feelings. He didn’t act like someone who would lie about the things you claimed. So, I just let it go.”
“Right,” Buck bit out quietly and nodded as if it was exactly what he expected. Other than his tone being a little sharp though, you’d not know that it was anything other than business as usual. Maybe it was nothing unusual though, which really made Eddie’s dislike of the woman ratchet up.
“Then he came over all upset and angry saying you were ruining his career and that you were jealous of him. He even said you’d done something to get Captain Nash in trouble. It didn’t sound right, but he was so upset and I didn’t want to rock the boat so I just… let it go, again. I decided to give things a little time to cool down before I contacted you to fix whatever you’d done.”
Maddie let loose a sigh at that point that sounded like it came from the depths of her soul, and lifted her hands off the mug to cover her lips as she seemed to be becoming emotional. “I ran into your friends Hen and her wife Karen though by chance one day when I was out and about. They invited me to have lunch with them at this little hole in the wall place they like. I thought it was a good idea. It would let me get to know your friends better. So, I went along. I guess…
“I guess that Hen knew what Howard had told me and as soon as we got our drinks, she told me a different version of what Chimney had told me. In fact, she told me a lot of things that were different than what he said about a variety of topics. A lot of it matched almost exactly what you’d told me. It was hard to listen to because I knew that I’d messed up. After Hen was done setting the record straight on things, Karen gave me her assessment on Howard, and honestly I was pretty shaken.
“I couldn’t believe that I had gotten involved on some level with another man who was at least manipulative. Then as I was dealing with that, I got a call from the hospital where Doug and I worked at. It seems that Doug has disappeared and beat up someone I was friends with on the way out of town trying to find out where I was at. I… Buck.”
“You’re leaving,” Buck said tonelessly, and Eddie would have believed he was unaffected, if Buck’s hands weren’t wrapped so tightly around Eddie’s own, as if Eddie’s hand was his only lifeline.
“I have a standing invitation to join a friend of mine that I dated casually before I met Doug. She and another friend of ours have this practice out on a set of islands. It’s pretty remote but they both come from money so they’ve set themselves up a place with solar panels and satellite internet and other such conveniences.
“The locals come from all the islands in the area to them when they need medical help. They’ve gotten busy enough that they could use a second set of hands and some funds for the clinic. They are set personally, and don’t need money that way, but I was hoping maybe… They’re doing good things for those people out there, Buck. I’d be safe and it’s maybe the only situation where I’d feel comfortable nursing again.”
Buck nodded and seemed to take a deep breath before he spoke. Eddie wanted to rub his back to offer comfort. He wanted to tell Maddie that while he understood she was scared that it didn’t give her the right to abandon Buck again. Especially so soon after she’d promised never to do it again. He wanted to do several things that he wouldn’t because that was what Eddie needed, not Buck. So, instead, Eddie sat there quietly letting Buck grip his hand and waited for his friend to make a decision.
“I love you, Maddie. I do. You’re my big sister, and we both know that you’re the only person in our house who cared about me, even if you like to pretend otherwise. You say that our parents were good people who were bad parents, but the thing is that isn’t true. Good people don’t at best neglect the kid they didn’t want and if people are really honest verbally and emotionally abuse them.
“Maybe before I came here I could buy your whole insistence that they aren’t bad people but I’ve built something here now. So, things have changed. I met Eddie, who is one of the most amazing fathers I’ve ever seen. I have found people in Bobby Nash and Athena Grant that act more like my parents than my parents do. I have a pseudo big sister in Hen that I know will always have my back, even if sometimes she needs a bit to get there. The thing she won’t do though is leave me behind. ‘Cause that’s your trick.”
At that point Maddie began to openly cry, and Eddie thought Buck would stop because he normally would be very careful about doing or saying anything to hurt her. Something had changed though and this time, instead of stopping, Buck just continued his gentle, calm explanation of the facts as he saw them, even if they were hurting Maddie.
“I’m not opposed to giving you money to fund this clinic. In fact, Lizzie’s House is set up for just something like that. There are also stipulations set up in my inheritance where I can give you money, which I am willing to do, also. It all is going to come with some stipulations and some understanding on your part that might be difficult for you, Mads.
“The thing is that I get it. I do. You’re scared to death that Doug is going to find you and there’s a good chance he’ll kill you if he gets his hands on you. I am sure all of this shit with Chim has thrown you even further off center and so, you’re doing what you always do when things get hard. I get it. I understand. I’m not even unwilling to help you. I just need to make sure you understand that I have to look out for myself, too, because I can’t count on you or anyone else to do it.
“So, yes, I will give you money for the clinic. I will even set you up a personal trust because I know you’ll want to contribute money to the household no matter what your friends say. I’ll give you the number of my lawyer who handles all the will stuff and he’ll go over the stipulations for you, but I am gonna be upfront in that the biggest and hardest line requirement will be that you have to attend counselling. I get you’re going to be on an island, but if you have satellite phone and internet I am sure that we can get something set up.”
“Buck,” Maddie started to argue, but Buck just held up a hand stopping her words.
“Non-negotiable. You will do this, period, because honestly Maddie people in your life have been fucking up your head since Daniel died.”
“How?” She asked but then huffed wiping angrily at the trails of tears on her face. “Aunt Aggie and Auntie Lizzie, I assume. Mom and dad didn’t want you to know.”
“Which is complete bullshit. So, I don’t give two fucks what they want when it comes to Daniel or really anything else. You have a shitload of things to work out Maddie, and I am sure you will have plenty of time on your new island home to get yourself fixed. This is it, Maddie. This is the end of the Maddie and Evan Buckley against the world show. From here on out, my priority is myself, Eddie and Christopher, and the rest of the family I am building for myself.
“I’ve come in contact with someone who knows the rest of Phillip’s family and they are willing to put me in contact with them. I’ve been hesitant because frankly dad is a big enough asshole I don’t need more of him in my life. But it has occurred to me that Margaret is a hell beast and yet Aunt Aggie loved me nearly unconditionally right up to the day she died.
“I think you just convinced me to give the rest of the Buckley clan a chance. I can’t imagine how it can get worse, and maybe I’ll actually find people I am related to who give a fuck about me. That being said, when they ask about you. I’m going to tell them that I love you, but you’ve moved out of the country and we aren’t close because that is the closest thing to the truth that I have to offer them.”
“Dad says they’re horrible, Buck,” Maddie argued, and Eddie had to force himself not to blurt out how little Buck should care what his sperm donor thinks about his family. Fortunately, Buck wasn’t stopping anytime too soon, and instead just shrugged before replying back.
“I don’t honestly give a fuck what Phillip thinks about anything. One of the other stipulations will be that you are forbidden from telling Phillip or Margaret where you got the money to do what you’re doing. I won’t forbid you from having a relationship with them, but I have no interest in them ever being in my life again. The day after you leave the country, my lawyer will be sending them a letter telling them I never want to hear from them again, and any contact from that point forward will be considered harassment. I have family, but they aren’t part of it, and honestly Maddie you aren’t either.”
When Buck let go of Eddie’s hand, he almost asked why until Buck reached across the table towards his sister who let him cover her shaky hands. “I love you, Mads. I will always love you. For the rest of my life you will have a space in my heart, even if I can’t trust you to hold it anymore.
“Eddie gets to do that now. Bobby and Athena get to do that. Hen gets to do that. People I can trust not to leave me behind get to hold my heart. You have my phone number and my email address. If you want to continue to have contact with me, I’m very much ok with that, but I will leave that up to you.”
Maddie nodded jerkily, and Eddie was a little surprised that Buck didn’t go hug her. It was later that night when Eddie was laying in the dark with Buck wrapped around him like an octopus that he got it. While Buck was a tactile person, he gave his affection to people he could trust with it.
He didn’t just shower strangers or acquaintances with his touches and affection because his parents taught him that most people don’t care about Evan Buckley. Maddie wasn’t family anymore. She wasn’t someone who got to have that special allowance anymore. So, the most comfort she got was to have Buck touch her hands gently as she cried over what she’d thrown away. In that moment of understanding, Eddie swore to himself to never end up like Maddie Buckley in Buck’s life.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
A week later, Eddie was back at The House working on his Abuela’s new suite of rooms while Buck and Christopher worked on the set of rooms that Chris had picked out on the second floor. The second-floor rooms hadn’t been Eddie’s first choice, but they’d talked it over with Andy, and there were several changes being made to ensure that Chris could get out of the house if something happened.
“This bed is amazing, Eddie. She would love this.”
Turning his thoughts away from his almost boyfriend and his son and back to his task at hand, Eddie looked down at the image on the laptop they were using to hunt for furniture for Abuela’s house. Sophia was helping this time because she was off work for several days and Eddie thought that the rest of the choices to be made required someone with more of a feminine touch than he had. Sophia had recently done some undercover work, and her boss required she take a few days off after stints of a certain length to reacclimate herself to her reality.
“Where is your head today? I feel like it’s not here picking out beds and rocking chairs for Abuela.” When Eddie turned to look at his sister, he found her watching him with those eyes that knew him so well. Because of it, he found that he couldn’t argue.
“Just thinking about things. Some stuff happened with Buck since we last had time to chat and it’s on my mind.” One of the things that Eddie couldn’t get over was how lucky he was to have the sisters that he had. The situation with Maddie was hurting Buck’s heart, no matter how much he tried to project to the world that he was ok.
“Is he ok?” Sophia asked and Eddie loved her even more in that moment, because he knew she genuinely cared and was concerned that Buck was hurt.
“He will be,” Eddie assured with a sigh as he pushed the laptop away slightly to give himself room to fold his arms in front of him on the table. “The whole thing gave me a new appreciation for how awesome you and Adriana are. I don’t get how someone as wonderful as Buck can come from such crappy people. I’ve been thinking about some things concerning mom and dad, too. Do you think…”
Eddie trailed off because it was hard for him sometimes to voice his true thoughts about his mother. He loved her. There were a lot of times in his childhood where she was the only one there for the kids because their dad was always gone. As an adult he got how hard that must have been on her, but on the other hand it didn’t excuse some of her nonsense.
“Sometimes I wonder just how much dad understands about mom and us and everything. He’s always backed her up but sometimes I question if he really understands the full extent of what he’s backing up. The next time that she pulls her nonsense by trying to force me to move back to El Paso and telling me how to parent Chris, I’m putting my foot down. If dad’s on the phone, I’m going to draw a line with him and explain to him that I’m not letting her treat me specifically like shit anymore.
“I look at the things Buck is willing to do to protect himself from his family, and it makes me want to ensure I never have to go so far as to send mom and pops a letter stating if they ever contact me again it will be considered harassment.”
“Holy shit,” Sophia breathed and sat back in her chair. “They’re that bad?”
“Buck outright said to me that his mother at least was verbally and emotionally abusive to him his entire childhood, but specifically after Maddie left for college. His dad wasn’t as bad, but he was so absent mentally rather than physically it makes me see our relationship with pops in a different light. I mean, as much as he pisses me off, while he wasn’t there physically, I always knew that he loved me. I just… I want things to be better.”
“That’s totally fair, Eddie, and you know I will back you up in whatever you decide. I have no doubts that Adriana and husband will too. Maybe if we present it as a united front, it will make a bigger impact. Because I agree, as much as they piss me off, I know they love me and it would kill me if I had to break contact with them because of mom’s controlling bullshit.”
“I love you Soph,” Eddie said softly as he turned his gaze towards his sister. “I already had this conversation with Adriana, but I asked her not to say anything to you. I am so goddamned lucky to have the relationship with you and Adri that I do. Buck’s sister is a nightmare, and while completely get that she’s been basically traumatized her whole life by one shitty person or set of people after another, the way she treats Buck is just a nightmare.
“As much as it would hurt to have to cut off mom and pops, I’d survive because I know without a doubt that I’d always have my sisters. Honestly, that makes all the difference in the world to me. I am so lucky to have siblings who have my back no matter what, and whose actions match it when they say they have my back.”
“Now I get why Adriana told me you made her cry,” Sophia sniffled, and Eddie reached out to wipe the tears off her face.
“Did you know your man offered Don and I the final suite of rooms here on the family side? Like to the extent that he said they’re ours no matter what. He even said that there’s room in the suite for a kid’s room if we ever decide to go that route after asking if Don and I wanted kids. I told him most likely no, but if we did no more than one, and then probably an adoption.”
“Buck told his sister that he was building his own family, and it really feels like that’s what he’s doing. Once everything on this wing gets done and everyone gets re-situated, one of the rooms on the other side is going to Chim’s brother Albert. Buck says that someone has to look out for the kid. He debated putting him on this side, but decided Albert might feel better and do better on the other side. Another of the rooms freeing up is going to one of Diego’s team mates on his Halo team, and I guess it’s someone that Albert knows somehow. I just, every time I think Buck can’t surprise me he does something that just proves me wrong.”
“I say this will all sincerity big brother. You have caught yourself a really good one, and I am so fucking happy for you. I can’t think of anyone who deserves someone who loves as big and as generously as Evan Buckley as you do. Do you think… Adriana and I were talking and we want to make sure that as far as we’re concerned he’s family. So, if his sister has stepped out of his life, Adriana and I are happy to take up her slack.”
“Te amo, hermana. Muchas gracias.” Eddie whispered as he pulled her into a hug telling her that he loved her and thanking her. For what, he didn’t specify because there was so much he was thankful for when it came to his sisters. For the first time in his life, Eddie felt understood and accepted by his siblings in a way he never imagined possible. The fact that they were willing to love Buck as much as they loved Eddie meant more than he had words for.
It took two months, but eventually things came to a head with Eddie’s parents. It was a Saturday evening just after dinner, and Eddie’s mom and dad called to talk to their grandson. Unfortunately, Chris wasn’t at home. Instead, he was at a weekend sleepover with Denny and Harry at Bobby and Athena’s. It was something that had been fairly last minute, and Eddie hadn’t even been home with Chris asked if he could go. But, Eddie had been stressing lately with Buck that as far as Eddie was concerned Buck was a second parent to Chris, and he was more than ok with him making those types of decisions for Chris on his own.
So, when Athena called and asked if Chris could come stay for the weekend, apologizing for the last minute request, Buck agreed knowing that Chris’ schedule was clear provided there would be time for him to work on homework while he was there. Both Eddie and Buck knew that last minute requests for a full weekend sleepover we’re generally not a thing, and when Athena explained that there had been an incident at Harry’s school that upset him, they both totally understood.
The problem was that Eddie’s mother seemed to think that this was unacceptable. In her mind, Bobby and Athena were complete strangers, simply because she didn’t know them. She was even more livid when Eddie accidentally let it slip that Buck had given permission for the sleepover instead of Eddie. Thus, Eddie found himself pacing back and forth between the living room coffee table and the TV as Buck watched nervously. Eddie was sure he was telling himself all the ways he’d fucked up and was berating himself for it, which was the last thing Eddie wanted.
“Enough!” Eddie finally snapped as he moved around the coffee table to drop down next to Buck on the couch. Laying the phone on his leg, Eddie poked hard at the speaker phone button and nearly growled when his mother’s screeching beratement was heard. “I said enough, and I meant it!” Eddie snapped again.
“Pops, I swear on my son that if she talks again, neither of you will ever speak to me or Chris again. And I have never been so serious about anything in my life. If she won’t stop speaking and listen to what I have to say then you’re going to have to go into another room or something. I’m not taking this anymore, and I am very willing to cut you both off.”
When his mother started to berate him again, Eddie almost hung up, but for once his father stepped in and cut her off. “Helena, enough! I am not losing my children. Now I don’t know what is going on here, but if Eddie has something he wants to tell us without interruption then we are going to listen. If you cannot do that then I will go into my office and finish the conversation with Eddie without you. Now, enough!”
A minute or two later, Eddie heard a door slam, and wasn’t sure who had left the room until his father explained. “She has left. I am sure that I will pay for it later, but your sister Adriana has been saying some things to me that makes me believe you are serious about cutting us off. I do not that want that to happen, Eddie. So, tell me what is on your mind.”
While he had been thinking about this conversation for a couple weeks, there was a part of Eddie that hadn’t honestly believed it would happen for one reason or another. So, it took him a bit to find the words he wanted to speak. Fortunately for once, his father was willing to listen and give him the time that he needed to get his thoughts straight.
“I’ve made several changes lately. Some of which you probably know about just from things Abuela has told you. The last thing that I wanted to do was to put her in the middle or ask her to keep secrets from you over things that weren’t life threatening. One of the changes I made was to start divorce proceedings with Shannon. I had to get in contact with her a while back because Chris’ new school wanted to talk to her before they would accept him.
“She wanted to resume parts of our relationship that I wasn’t comfortable with and once I reviewed the situation with Tia Pepa and Sophia, I realized that I just didn’t trust her enough to be married to her any longer. Plus, I have met someone that I think I could build something real with, pops.”
“Is this the Buck that you and Christopher talk about when you call?” Ramon asked and Eddie found himself nodding in agreement before answering.
“Yeah, that’s him. He’s my partner at the 118 and while I say that he’s the best friend I’ve ever had, and mean it, whatever it is that’s happening between us feels so much deeper than friendship. He’s one of the most loving, and biggest hearted people I’ve ever met. He’s also one of the bravest people I know.”
“You have mentioned the things he does on your rescues,” his father pointed out and when Buck leaned against Eddie’s side he gave him a fond smile.
“The thing is that the strength and bravery that Buck shows on the job isn’t even a half of what he gives out in his every day life. Buck’s family isn’t great. His parents were honestly horrible and treated him really badly, pops. Instead of just taking it though, he’s learning to stick up for himself and draw firm boundaries with them including cutting them off completely to protect himself from their toxic behavior.
“He has a sister that flits in and out of his life whenever the mood strikes her, and yes, she’s had some horrible things happen to her, but it doesn’t change how she makes Buck feel like he’s easily disposable. I love you and I love mom, and I don’t want our relationship to get to the point where I have to cut you both off. The thing is though that Buck has shown me not through words, but his own actions that I could do it and survive.
“I can build myself a family separate to the one that I am related to by blood. I can find people who want to be parents, if you and mom can’t stop acting like I’m the worst father in the world. And before you defend her Pops, that’s exactly how mom talks. She acts like I’m incapable of raising my son when honestly she’d ruin him if she was allowed to raise him the way she wants. I’m not doing it anymore.
“I’m not going to allow her to call me constantly and berate me and constantly point out all the things she sees as flaws. Just because there are people in Chris’ life that she doesn’t know, does not mean that they’re strangers. Bobby and Athena have a son around Chris’ age who he is good friends with, and honestly they both act like pseudo grandparents, especially with this thing with Buck changing.”
“What does Buck have to do with these other two? I am not criticizing; I just do not understand.”
Eddie nodded and found himself leaning over to rest his head on Buck’s shoulder when his almost boyfriend began massaging his neck with his free hand. “I told you that Buck’s parents are horrible. Fortunately, though, Bobby and Athena have stepped up and all but adopted him. Chris and Buck are close, like really close. I am sure you’ve heard Chris call his Bucky his best friend and he does it cause that’s how he feels. Buck is like his best friend and another parent all in one person. So, as far as Bobby and Athena are concerned that makes Chris their grandson, even if Athena is still trying to come to terms with being a Nana.”
“I see, well, I am sure she will come around in time. Grandchildren are a blessing that I am thankful for every day. I do not want to be cut off from you and your sisters, Eddie, any more than you want to cut us off. Your mother is… complicated. I can’t say I didn’t know how she speaks to you because I am usually close by.
“I can say I never considered it from your side before and I am ashamed of that. My father never would have stood for someone to speak to myself or my siblings that way. Mama certainly never would have talked to one of us as Helena speaks to you. I don’t have an immediate solution for you where your mother is concerned, but I will think and pray on it. I can promise that I will not sit by and just let her speak badly to you and your sisters any longer.”
“That’s really all you can do, Pops,” Eddie admitted after a pause. “Honestly, if you did that it would make me feel better at least about my relationship with you. As to mom, honestly dad she needs therapy. I don’t know why she feels that she should have complete control over all of our lives still, but I can’t allow that to happen. Like I said before I certainly won’t tolerate her calling me any longer and berating me. If I have to, I will block her number so she can’t call us, and if needed I will stop all communication with her. I hate to put you in the middle but…”
“No, you need to do what is best for yourself and your son Edmundo,” Ramon said quietly, his voice thick with emotion and regret. “Things with your mother and I will work out as they should. This situation didn’t get to where we are quickly, and it won’t be fixed quickly either.
“I know that I wasn’t around as much as I should have been when you were growing up, Eddie, and for that I have many regrets. All I can do now though is to try and be the best father to you and your sisters as I can. If that means going to battle with your mother over her actions then that is what I will have to do. All I ask is that you give me time to try and figure something out. I do not want to lose either you or Christopher, mijo.”
“I don’t want to cut you off either, Pops,” Eddie admitted trying to hold his emotions in check, “All I can ask is that you try. Te amo, papá.”
“Te amo, Eddito,” Ramon said back, returning Eddie’s love back to him. “Have a good night. Tell Christopher I love him when you speak with him for me, por favor?”
“Si, papá,” Eddie promised before they said their goodbyes and hung up. Tossing the phone onto the coffee table, Eddie half turned so that he could press his face against Buck’s neck.
“That sucked,” Eddie whispered as Buck rubbed his back while Eddie shook in his arms.
“But you did good, Eds. You did so good. I know it sucks and it’s really hard to draw a line in the sand with people who are supposed to love you unconditionally, but it has to be done for not just Chris’ wellbeing, but for yours also. At the end of the day you and I are building something real here. Not just you and me and Chris, but like you said. It’s us three plus Athena and Bobby; Hen, Karen and Denny; and so many more. You and I… this thing between us Eddie isn’t going anywhere but up.
“I will fight the whole world for you if I have to, because you’re worth it. No one who treats us like shit gets to be a part of this thing we’re building. Hopefully things with your mother will come around when she realizes just how serious you are and what she’s going to lose if she doesn’t. I love you, Eds. No one can make that go away, ever. You are the one person in my life that I have no concerns about leaving me behind, and that is everything to me.”
“I love you back, Buck,” Eddie returned as he sat up so that he could look Buck in the eyes. “I feel like you teach me so many things. You teach me to be brave and strong in ways I didn’t get a man could be. You show me that it’s ok to feel whatever it is I’m feeling and that I don’t have to hide everything away.
“You show me that it’s ok to stick up for myself and remove negative people from my life even if they’re related to me by blood. You taught me that it’s my life and I am allowed to live it however I see fit, and that no one has the right to force me from my path. I know that it’s going to take time to get there, but this thing with us is forever. I can feel it. It’s our lives and I think as long as we stick true to each other and ourselves that no one can break us apart, and that is the most freeing feeling I’ve ever had. Te amo, Evan.”
“I love you, too Eds,” Buck swore softly as he pressed a tender kiss to Eddie’s lips. “Now and forever.”
“Now and forever,” Eddie repeated and knew in his heart of hearts and it was the truth.