Title: Under the Stars
Author: Keira Marcos
Prompt: Togetherness (Fluff Bingo 2019)
Relationship: Evan Buckley/Eddie Diaz
Genre: Romance, Canon Divergence, Kid Fic
Warnings: Discussion of grief, discussion of parental alienation, & Grammarly is a horrible beta
Word Count: 5,558
Summary: Buck doesn’t half-ass a damn thing in any single part of his life, so he’s been whole-ass in love with Eddie Diaz for a while.
* * * *
The thing is, Buck’s the brave sort. Buck doesn’t half-ass a damn thing in any single part of his life, so he’s been whole-ass in love with Eddie Diaz for a while. It got a little frustrating, a little hard to take around the same time he found out that his best friend was still married and interested in banging his sort-of-wife on the sly. Then, Shannon Diaz died, the firetruck got bombed, and the tsunami tried to break his heart. Buck had limits, and life was pushing them hard.
The passenger door opened, and Eddie slid into the Jeep with a huff. “You’ve been sitting in my driveway for half an hour.”
“I’m trying to figure out what to say,” Buck said. “Where to start, I guess.”
“Did you get bad news?” Eddie questioned.
“Sort of,” Buck admitted. “I was at HR working on a few things yesterday—the insurance company tried to fight paying for all of my rehab. At any rate, I crossed paths with an ex, and I found out something I shouldn’t know.”
“Something like…” Eddie prodded.
“Bobby’s keeping me off the job—it’s all him, Eddie. I’ve been approved for full-time hours with everyone else.” He took a deep breath. “I can’t do much with this information because it could get Thomas fired—he didn’t know I was unaware of it and asked me how I was holding up knowing my captain has no faith in me.”
“Jesus Christ,” Eddie muttered. “What the hell?”
“I took a consult with a lawyer,” Buck continued. “Without giving the guy all that much information. I just told him that an individual was interfering with my ability to work for personal reasons. He said I could sue the city and the person who was causing the problem, if that person has authority over me. He said it would be considered an abuse of power and a bunch of other stuff since I’d been cleared by my doctors.”
“What are you going to do?” Eddie asked.
“I won’t risk Thomas’ job, and I’d have to…I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone employed with the city if I sued,” Buck took a deep breath. “Not even Maddie would be an exception to that. I was sitting at home thinking about that, thinking about cutting everyone off, and I realized that while I could go months without everyone else, but even a day without you and Chris seemed like an unreasonable sacrifice.” He leaned on the steering wheel and turned his head so he could focus on Eddie. “The thing is that the two of you are more family to me than Maddie is. And I’m in this driveway in the middle of the night because I had a nightmare about the tsunami, and I wanted to see Chris.” He huffed. “And I didn’t notice it was after midnight until after I was already here.”
“You can see Chris whenever you need, Buck,” Eddie said quietly. “You know that, right?”
“It feels true, but you’ve never said it in so many words.” Buck turned to stare out the front windshield as rain started to fall. “I’m glad I’m not on shift right now—people go nuts when it rains around here.”
“Yeah,” Eddie said with a laugh. “More nuts, actually. Because LA is full of crazy.”
“What are you going to do, Buck?”
“Thomas suggested I sign up for additional training since that would put me back on full-time hours and pay. I could finish the hours needed for paramedic certification and do some course work for FEMA, which I’ve been considering since the tsunami,” Buck cleared his throat. “I’ve put my loft on the market. I need the financial cushion in case I have to do a job search, so I don’t want the money tied up in property.”
“How long has this Thomas guy been an ex?” Eddie questioned. “You’ve never mentioned him before. Do you think he was being honest with you or fucking with you?”
“We dated when I first came to LA, and I trust him. He’s a really good person. Thomas was the one to suggest I think about going to the academy. He thought it would be a good fit for me, and he wasn’t wrong.” Buck took a deep breath. “I broke up with him before I graduated because he…well.” He sighed. “The truth will make me look like an asshole.”
“I can handle it,” Eddie said wryly.
“He told me he loved me,” Buck admitted. “And I knew…I just wasn’t going to ever feel the same about him, and that wasn’t fair, so I told him the truth. It was hard to hurt him like that, but I couldn’t just let him think there was going to be more than there could be. I liked him a lot, and the sex was great, but he just didn’t…there wasn’t…enough there. I can’t explain it better than that.”
“Have you ever been in love?”
Buck barely refrained from groaning because that was the last conversation he wanted to have with Eddie. First and foremost, it was hard to lie to the man, and he really didn’t think either one of them were ready for a conversation about his feelings.
He cleared his throat. “Yeah, I…yeah.”
“Abby Clark?” Eddie asked.
Buck blinked at the immense amount of venom in Eddie’s voice and turned slightly in the seat to stare at his friend. “I wanted to love her. I thought maybe we could have something nice and normal. Everyone around me wanted me to be less than I was, you know. Less reckless, less emotional, less…” He flushed and trailed off.
“Sexual?” Eddie questioned.
“I was gonna say slutty,” Buck admitted and averted his gaze when Eddie huffed. “I figured that a relationship would make things easier in a lot of ways. Maybe that’s why I let her ghost me when in the past she’d have gotten a ‘have a nice life’ text after the second time she ignored me or missed a planned call. I don’t mean to be ugly about this, but she was dating up, and I deserved better than that shit. I tolerated more from her than anyone else I’ve ever dated because I was trying to prove a point, I guess. But I wasn’t in love with her.”
“Then who?” Eddie questioned.
Buck pulled his keys from the ignition. “It doesn’t matter.” He left the Jeep because he wasn’t ready for this conversation.
Eddie caught his wrist and pulled him to a stop. “Hey, tell me.”
There was barely enough light in the driveway to make out Eddie’s face, and the rain had gone from a mist to heavy enough that his T-shirt was already clinging to his skin.
“Why are you being so weird?” Buck asked roughly.
Eddie tugged him closer. “Buck.”
He huffed and thought about just pulling free because Buck knew Eddie wouldn’t genuinely hold him hostage.
“Eds, we’re going to get soaking wet.”
“Please,” Eddie said and pulled him closer still. “Just…please say it.”
“You know it’s you,” Buck snapped. “Who else would it ever be?”
Eddie cupped his head and pressed their mouths together. Buck fell into the kiss, hands clenching on Eddie’s hips without much thought. He curled his fingers into the damp denim and deepened the kiss because he was going to get all he could in the moment in case Eddie changed his mind. Quickly, Buck found himself pinned to the front of his own Jeep, Eddie’s hands sliding up the back of his T-shirt. It was honestly a first, as he was nearly always the aggressor in any intimate encounter, no matter if it was with a man or a woman.
He wasn’t sure which one of them ended the kiss. Buck took a deep breath as Eddie’s grip tightened on him. “Eds.”
“I thought…” Eddie trembled against him.
“Let’s go inside,” Buck murmured.
“It would hurt so much if you cut off contact with Chris and me,” Eddie blurted out. “You have every right to want to sue Bobby, Buck. I know that, but it would hurt. It would’ve felt like neither of us meant anything to you.”
Buck tightened his hold on his friend and took in a deep, ragged breath. “I’m sorry.”
“I feel like I’m drowning,” Eddie confessed against his cheek. “Chris is having nightmares. I’m so…angry all the damn time, Buck. I don’t know what to do with myself. I feel like my parents were right, and I am dragging him down with me.”
“What the fuck ever,” Buck snapped. “You’re parents are wrong. They have no idea what Chris needs or wants. They’d destroy his dreams and leave him living half the life he has the right to. Your mom is an ableist bag of dicks.”
Eddie laughed sadly and lifted his head. “Come inside.”
“Well, now I gotta,” Buck griped. “You’re a hot mess, and we’re both soaking wet.”
He pulled Eddie into the house and locked the door behind them.
“Were you ever going to tell me?” Eddie questioned as Buck prodded him into his own bedroom so they could get some dry clothes.
“No.” Buck pulled his wet shirt over his head and frowned at his friend. “I was going to pine and keep it to myself like a good friend because I didn’t think you felt the same. Plus, burdening you with my feelings would’ve been selfish considering everything. Moreover, even if I was going to say it wouldn’t have been now when you’re a big fat disaster.” He turned and found that Eddie had taken off all of his damn clothes. “Jesus.”
“When I was a little kid, no one could convince me that Jesus wasn’t Mexican,” Eddie said and shrugged when Buck laughed. “My mom was appalled and used to bribe me to be quiet in church because I kept arguing with the priest. My dad thought it was really funny.”
“New rule!” Buck held up a hand. “Do not discuss your parents, church, or priests while you’re bareassed naked.”
Eddie laughed and pulled on a pair of loose-fitting shorts, then he motioned toward your drawer. “Take your pick.”
He strolled out of the room, leaving Buck flummoxed and irritated. It was hardly the first time he’d seen Eddie naked as the man had no body shame whatsoever, and Buck figured that the Army had destroyed any bit of modesty the man had ever had. Still, naked-at-work wasn’t anything like naked-at-home. He grabbed a pair of shorts first then found the biggest T-shirt Eddie had. It was probably going to be too small. He shrugged it on anyway.
Buck found Eddie in the kitchen, leaning against the counter like a sex symbol drinking a glass of water. It was awful.
“Did I ever tell you that Chim thinks you’re beautiful?”
Eddie spewed water, which thankfully destroyed all of Buck’s sexy thoughts. “What? What the fuck?” He huffed and grabbed a kitchen towel and wiped his bare chest. “Seriously? What’s wrong with you?”
“Your first day on the job—you remember that whole calendar thing?” Buck questioned. “Chim said you were beautiful. I turn around and see you in the locker room, putting on a shirt. It was like porn, honestly. Even Hen was briefly led astray, and she’s all about the ladies.”
Eddie’s gaze flicked over him as he tossed aside the kitchen towel. “I only participated because I wanted your attention.”
Buck made a face at him. “For the record, I prefer a straightforward approach.”
Eddie put aside his glass. “Okay, I’m in love with you, and it was really frustrating that I wasn’t in charge of making decisions for you when you were in the hospital. I know your sister is family, but…I felt like it should be me even though you were dating Ali. I wanted to bring you home with me, but you said no. I came precariously close to deploying my own son with the singular mission of getting you to move in with us for your recovery.”
Buck huffed. “It would’ve worked.”
He laughed. “I know, but the thing is that I know you love Chris, but I can’t continue to make decisions about my personal relationships based on what he wants or what I think he wants. My parents think I should be out there dating—trying to find a good woman to be Chris’ mother. I know he wouldn’t accept that now and maybe never. He would be over the moon if you and I got together, but I just need to know that you want me as much as I want you.”
“Ali broke up with me because I said your name in bed,” Buck blurted out and flushed. “I mean, she was very understanding about it, but it happened. I felt like shit because I wasn’t honestly even thinking about you. It’s just…she was doing something for me that…well…when I jerk off, I think about you doing it to me.”
Eddie exhaled loudly. “What…was she doing?”
“I feel like answering that question would cross some kind of line regarding her privacy,” Buck admitted. “Let’s just say that I really enjoy anal sex. My prostate isn’t overly sensitive, but I can come from being fucked.”
Eddie made a face. “I’ve never gotten a woman to peg me, and trust me, I’ve asked.”
“Shut up,” Buck ordered with a laugh. He took a sip of his water before putting the glass on the counter beside the one that Eddie had abandoned. “Listen, neither of us is in the right place to start a relationship.”
“We started a relationship over a year ago,” Eddie said flatly and huffed when Buck blinked in surprise. “You co-parent my son, Buck. We’ve just been skirting around each other, avoiding our feelings in a variety of ways that can’t be good for either of us. When you were pinned under that truck, and that little bastard was walking around with you that bomb strapped to his chest, I felt like someone was tearing my heart out. I could barely breathe.”
“I’ve tried really hard not to overstep with Chris,” Buck said quietly.
“I know, and I appreciate that. The thing is—that Chris’ heart picked you. In every single way that mattered, you took Shannon’s place in his life. Even when she briefly returned, he would ask to see you before bringing her up as an option. He kept a list of the dates that Ali was out of town so he knew when to ask you to come over because you wouldn’t say no if you were alone.”
“Eddie.” Buck took a deep breath. “You should’ve said. I’d never want him to think he wasn’t…my priority…oh.”
“Yeah,” Eddie said with a laugh. “That’s parenthood, Buck. And frankly, you’ve been owning it. Chris takes so much comfort in you that part of me would drag you headfirst into a relationship for that reason alone. But I’m kind of selfish, so I’d really like it if you loved the hell out of me.”
“I do,” Buck admitted. “I mean—I love you like my life depends on it, and maybe it does because the thought of losing you is agonizing,” Buck admitted and shifted into Eddie’s space. “And I wouldn’t have agreed to a change in our relationship if my feelings weren’t the same as yours. As much as I love Chris, we both deserve better.”
Eddie caught him by the hips and pulled him close. “I regret letting Shannon back into Chris’ life. I feel like it was the choice that led to her being in that street that day. If I’d denied her, refused to see her, never involved myself with her again—she wouldn’t have been where she was that day. She’d have still been in San Bernardino living in her mother’s condo.”
“Thinking like that will drive you crazy,” Buck murmured. “And it’s not fair to either of you because the other side of that argument is if she hadn’t met with you that day or ignored how much she clearly missed you, then she wouldn’t have been in that crosswalk that day. Since blaming her for her own death would be awful, then you can’t blame yourself either.”
“It’s hard,” Eddie admitted.
“Our decisions and choices ripple out around us in ways we can’t control,” Buck murmured and brushed his lips against Eddie’s jaw. “Look at where we are right now, in your kitchen talking about our future all because I had a nightmare and fled my own damn apartment without looking at the time.”
Eddie started to respond, but Chris started screaming.
Buck’s stomach lurched because he hadn’t ever heard a sound like that come out of Christopher’s mouth. Even during the tsunami, he hadn’t sounded like that. He followed Eddie out of the kitchen quickly but hovered in the doorway of Chris’ bedroom as Eddie quickly untangled the boy from his covers and gathered him up in a fierce hug.
Chris clutched at Eddie and cried with little shuddery breaths. It hurt to listen to. He started to move away from the doorway to give them some privacy, but Chris raised his head and saw him.
“Buck!” He lurched out of Eddie’s arms, and Buck barely caught him.
“Hey Superman,” Buck whispered hoarsely against his hair and sat down on the bed with him.
“Mom’s in the water,” Chris cried. “You have to save her, Buck!”
Buck shared a shocked look with Eddie. He cupped Chris’ head gently and rocked him. “Oh, baby, no, your mom wasn’t with us. She’s not in the water, I promise.”
“I saw her! I saw her, Buck!” Chris’ fingers dug into his shoulders.
Buck didn’t know what Chris had seen or experienced when they were separated as Chris had refused to talk about it with anyone. He’d tried so hard to keep the kid from seeing any of the bodies in the water, but after Chris had fallen off the fire truck, there had been no telling what he saw. He rocked him gently.
“I promise, Chris, your mom wasn’t in the water,” Buck murmured and rubbed his back. “Your mom was already gone.”
“In heaven?” Chris questioned.
Buck focused on Eddie, who gave him a firm nod. He didn’t discuss religion with Chris at all, so he wasn’t sure what he’d been taught or what he believed.
“Yeah, she was already in heaven,” Buck said gently. “She’s watching over you—making sure you’re happy and safe.”
“Mijo, do you see your mom in the water in your dreams?” Eddie questioned and scooted closer to them on the bed so he could rub his son’s back.
Chris just nodded, and more tears streamed down his face.
Buck knew that Chris’ level of trauma was well above their pay grade, and he hoped that showed on his face when he focused on Eddie. But, he didn’t think reframing the nightmare would hurt anything.
“Did you see a body in the water, buddy?” Buck questioned. “When you fell off the truck?”
Chris stiffened in his arms briefly but then slumped against his chest. “I couldn’t find you, Buck. I tried so hard, and the lady found me in the water. She pulled me out and took care of me, but she didn’t know you. She couldn’t help me find you.”
“I’m so sorry,” Buck whispered. “I was looking for you, too. I wasn’t ever going to stop looking.”
“I know,” Chris said simply and sat back a little to look at his face.
“You’ve got a snotty nose, and it’s gross,” Buck informed him solemnly and smiled when Chris giggled.
Eddie snagged some tissues from the box on the nightstand and handed them to Chris. “Chris, why didn’t you tell me you were having bad dreams about your mom?”
Chris averted his gaze but took the tissues. He shrugged.
“How about you tell Buck?” Eddie questioned. “And I’ll just sit here, okay?”
“Chris, you can tell us anything,” Buck said. “We’ve got your back.”
Chris wiped his nose and kept his gaze focused on his hands. “I…talking about mom makes Daddy sad, Buck. Abuelo says she was a horrible person, but I don’t remember her being mean. Grandma says I shouldn’t miss her at all because she didn’t matter.”
Buck took a deep breath and avoided looking at Eddie because he was instantly furious and didn’t want Eddie’s hurt or anger to add to that. “When did your grandparents tell you that you can’t miss your mom?”
“After her funeral,” Chris said and sniffled again. “They said I shouldn’t burden Daddy with my feelings because I hadn’t really seen her much at all in years, and she wasn’t family. Grandma said we should come back to El Paso and that I should ask Daddy about it every single day. But I don’t want to ever live in El Paso again because mom hated it there. She hated it so much that she ran away, so I hate it, too.”
He finally looked at Eddie. He looked horrified. Eddie rubbed his face and took in a ragged breath as tears welled in his eyes. Buck had never seen him look so hurt before, and it made him want to call Ramon and Helena Diaz and curse them out.
“Listen, you can be sad that your mom is gone,” Buck said gently. “You can miss her, and, of course, she mattered. She’s one of two people who matter the most to me in the whole world because she helped make you, and my life wouldn’t be the same without you.”
Chris leaned against his chest and buried his face against Buck’s shoulder. “It hurts so much.”
“I know,” Buck said.
“How do I make it go away?”
Buck’s own relationship with grief was stupidly complicated and wrapped up in the fact that he’d been grieving the parents he wished he’d had half his damn life. “You can’t.”
Chris huffed. “Buck.”
“I know that’s not the answer you want, but grief is part of life. Everything amazing comes at a price, and love is no exception. We miss the ones we love when they’re gone, and that can hurt. One day, it’ll hurt less. One day, remembering your mom will feel good. It’ll still hurt, in a way, but not like it does now.”
“This sucks,” Chris said. “Why does my brain think she was in the water?”
“I think maybe you might have seen someone in the water that reminded you of your mom,” Buck said gently. “Did you know that dreams are the way our brains deal with our memories and emotions? Sometimes we dream things that didn’t happen as a way to process our fears and trauma. Some scientists even think that we dream about situations that are dangerous as a way to teach us to deal with our physical environment and potential experiences.”
“You know so much stuff,” Chris said wistfully. “I want to learn all the stuff, too.”
“You certainly can,” Buck said with a laugh. “You just have to read a lot and pay attention to the world around us. We’ll get you a book on dreams, okay?”
“Okay,” Chris nodded and turned to his dad. “I’m sorry, Daddy.”
“You have nothing to apologize for,” Eddie said gently. “Your grandparents should’ve never said that to you, Chris. You can talk about your mom whenever you want, okay? You can ask questions about her, and we can look at pictures. I even have videos.” He leaned forward and kissed his forehead.
“But it’ll make you sad,” Chris said. “We were going to be a family again.”
“I loved your mom,” Eddie murmured. “And I’m very sad that she’s gone, but…Chris…we weren’t going to get back together.”
“Why?” Chris demanded, and tears welled again.
“Because we didn’t love each other the same as we did when we got married, and it wouldn’t have been good for any of us to try. She will always be our family—no matter who I’m with…romantically and your grandparents don’t get to say differently.”
Chris’ gaze narrowed slightly, and he leaned more purposefully into Buck. “Buck’s our family. I don’t want a new mom.”
Eddie stared for a moment, then sighed. “Did your grandparents tell you to ask me to find you a new mom, Chris?”
“No,” Chris denied and crossed his arms. “Grandma said you’d just pick the worst sort of woman you could find and that I should ask to come live with her and Abuelo. She said you were a bad father, and I told her to stop being mean. She got upset and didn’t talk to me anymore after that.”
Eddie’s mouth dropped open. “I…” He blew out a surprised breath.
“I’m not gonna apologize,” Chris declared. “Because she was being mean, and Carla says I’m allowed to tell people that I don’t like their behavior. I’m allowed to have boundaries.”
“Of course you are,” Buck said and took a deep breath. “You know what we should do?”
“What?” Chris questioned.
“Go someplace beautiful,” Buck decided. “Put on some clothes, Superman. We’re going on an adventure.”
“It’s the middle of the night,” Chris said, clearly awed by the idea.
“So what? It’s officially Saturday, and we can nap later,” Buck said and glanced toward Eddie, who just nodded his agreement.
A handful of minutes later, they were in his Jeep, and he was heading toward Templin Highway.
“Where are we going?”
“When I first came to LA, I didn’t know anyone and was a little low on money when it came to entertainment options,” Buck admitted. “I had to make sure I could eat and pay rent, so…that meant I couldn’t go out to meet people or go to clubs. I also had to save money for the academy. Anyways, I used to come to the Angeles National Forest to stargaze. For a while, I came once a week to just get out of my room.”
“It’s a special place?” Chris asked. “Thanks for sharing it with us, Buck.”
“You’re welcome,” Buck said as he rested his hand on the gear shift.
Eddie’s hand slid over his, and after a few seconds, Buck turned his hand over and laced their fingers together. Buck relaxed and focused on driving. A glance in the rearview mirror confirmed that Chris had nodded off. He’d suspected that he would since they’d already been in the car for over 30 minutes.
“Thanks for this,” Eddie said quietly.
“Sometimes…it helps to get out of your head and space when everything hurts.”
Eddie nodded. “So…therapist?”
“Definitely,” Buck said. “I can ask mine for a reference—one that deals specifically with kids.” He took a deep breath. “And you should get a referral from the department—they’ll pay for all of it if you go that route.”
Buck squeezed his hand. “You need to get a handle on your anger before you fuck up our lives. You don’t want to be that guy, Eds.”
Eddie’s fingers flexed against his. “Yeah, okay.”
Buck exhaled a little. “I’m going to take the extra training, but if Bobby doesn’t fess up soon, I’ll have to ask for a transfer after I finish getting whatever certifications that catch my eye. He owes me some damned honesty, Eddie.”
“Yeah, he does,” Eddie agreed. “Do you want me to…get in his face about it?”
“No, it has to come from him,” Buck said. “And I can’t say I’m going to be kind about it. I might need a transfer after everything is said and done regardless.” He glanced back at Chris and found him still snoozing in the safety harness. “We should go camping.”
“Camping?” Eddie questioned. “He’s never been…it would be a lot of physical work, and I’ve never had someone that would…”
“Well, that’s bullshit because you’ve had me since practically the beginning,” Buck said and squeezed his hand. “We’ll pick a campsite with a relatively short hike. He can walk when he wants, and we’ll take turns carrying him over terrain he can’t handle. I have some equipment, but we can get more.”
“It sounds great,” Eddie admitted. “It would be good…” He took a deep breath. “It’ll just be good.”
Buck nodded and turned off the highway onto a gravel road. “Your parents?”
“Are going to get a very rude awakening,” Eddie said whispered and glanced over his shoulder at Chris. “Jesus, Buck.”
“I know,” he murmured.
“This place looks pretty popular,” Eddie observed as they parked. “Should we worry about him seeing something…untoward in another car?”
Buck laughed. “No, it’s not that kind of spot. I mean, I can’t say I’ve never seen people kissing, but never anything beyond that. I wouldn’t have suggested this if I had.”
“Right, I know that,” Eddie said and rubbed his face. “Sorry.”
“Hey, don’t apologize for being a concerned parent,” Buck said gently. “We know first hand that some people are just stupidly careless with their kids.”
Eddie woke Chris up while Buck spread a blanket out on the hood of the Jeep and set up the pillows they’d brought along. Shortly, they were all three relaxing against the windshield. Chris was tucked between them, laying half on his dad, staring at the night sky in amazement.
“How come we never see the stars at home like this, Buck?”
“Too many lights,” Buck said. “Light pollution is a problem in a lot of cities all over the world.”
“Noise, too,” Eddie said.
“Granted,” Buck agreed and took a deep breath. “What do you think?”
“It’s amazing,” Chris said. “Do you think Mom can see us better from here? Without all the light?”
“Maybe,” Buck said. “It can’t hurt, right?”
“Your mom and I went on a date to a science museum once,” Eddie said. “She loved that kind of stuff, and we watched an IMAX movie about the universe. She said that the universe was full of life and wonder, but that it made her feel small.”
“Can we go do that one day?”
“Yeah, absolutely,” Eddie said. “I’m sure Buck will know just the place.”
“Is this what heaven looks like, Daddy?” Chris questioned. “Which star is it?”
“Maybe,” Buck began when Eddie hesitated. “It’s all of them? Maybe there is someone on a world very far from here who is looking at Sol, our star, and wondering the very same thing.”
“So mom’s part of the universe now,” Chris said and relaxed between them. He caught Buck’s hand and pulled gently, so Buck shifted closer. “I’m glad Mom doesn’t have to feel small anymore, but I wish she was still here with us.”
“I know, baby,” Eddie whispered and kissed the top of his head. “I wish the same.”
“Daddy, are you and Buck going to date again?”
“Again?” Eddie asked in shock and shared a look with Buck in the near-darkness.
“He was with us all the time, we had sleepovers, went to the zoo, watched movies, and there were game nights. We even went to see Santa together,” Chris said. “Julie at school said that boys can have a boyfriend, Daddy. I understand. Buck picks me up from school sometimes, too. But he doesn’t get paid for it like Carla does. I figured you stopped dating because Mom came back, but I missed Buck when he wasn’t around as much.”
Buck let that whole thing roll around in his head for a bit in silence.
“We were just friends before, Chris,” Eddie said carefully. “But we’re…we’re talking about being together now.”
Chris huffed. “Adults are so complicated.” He pushed his pillow around until he could lay on them both, putting his legs across Buck’s lap. “Buck, what’s that really bright star?”
“That’s Sirius, the dog star.”
“Like from Harry Potter,” Chris said. “I don’t like to read the book where he died.”
“No, me neither,” Buck admitted. “Let’s just pretend the last three books didn’t happen.”
“Deal,” Chris said around a yawn. “Can we stay here under the stars near Mom for a while?”
“Yeah, of course,” Eddie said gently and rubbed his shoulder. “We can stop and get breakfast on the way home.” He reached out then and took Buck’s hand. “Maybe we can do this every once in a while—a new family tradition.”
“Yeah,” Buck said and cleared his throat. “Sounds good.”
“We’re better together,” Chris declared. “Mom agrees.”
“How do you know that?” Buck questioned.
“Because she’s making the stars shine just for me, Buck. It’s so I’ll know we’re all gonna be okay.”
Buck shared a look with Eddie before turning his gaze toward the stars. His heart had never felt so big and full as it did in that moment. The universe seemed small in comparison to the love and acceptance he’d found with Eddie and Christopher.