It hits Eddie suddenly. The realization that his son is no longer the same bubbly seven-year-old that Eddie sees him as. Eddie knows. Of course he knows. He’s watched Christopher grow up. He dropped him off at his first dance in middle school and cried in the car while Buck rubbed his back, telling him it would be okay.
He’s hit with the same feeling now as he was then. That Christopher is growing up and doesn’t need him anymore. He’s sitting on the couch with one of his friends, laughing at something they say, when suddenly she leans over, kissing him on the cheek. Christopher smiles and returns the gesture.
“Oh god,” Eddie whispers, more to himself than anyone else, despite Buck being nearby. “My son is old enough to date. What do I do?” He turns to Buck. “I’m not prepared for this! I haven’t even given him the sex talk, Buck!”
“What if she hurts him?” Eddie says. He turns back to the living room, where Christopher and his friend, no girlfriend, are sitting. Her name is Ally. She’s a nice girl. She’s always been great with Christopher. But that was before this . Eddie doesn’t know how to handle this. And if she hurts him…
Eddie narrows his eyes and squares his shoulders, “I need to know exactly what’s going on in there.”
He starts to leave the room when Buck rushes in front of him, placing his hands on Eddie’s chest. “Eddie, what exactly are you going to do? Interrogate them?”
“That’s exactly what I’m going to do!”
Buck smiles, soft and fond. “Babe. You had to know this would happen one day. Christopher is fifteen. Of course he’s going to date.”
“But it wasn’t supposed to happen now,” Eddie whines. “I thought I had more time.”
“I know,” Buck says, putting a hand around his shoulder and leading him further into the kitchen. “We both did. But you can’t stop this. He’s growing up. All you can do is support him and be there for him.”
Eddie sighs and rests his head against Buck’s. “You’re right. I guess I may have overreacted a bit.”
Eddie tells himself he's going to be cool, but by the time dinner comes around and he has to sit across from Christopher and Ally he's feeling that surge of protectiveness building up until he can't restrain himself any longer.
“What are your intentions with my son?” Eddie blurts out.
Next to him Buck starts coughing, but Eddie is more focused on the kids in front of him. Fifteen or not, they're still kids. Christopher is still his kid.
"Dad," Christopher groans. "Come on."
Ally for her part looks confused. “Uh... algebra?”
Buck snorts. "Algebra huh?"
"Yeah I've never been very good at math," Ally says. "And Christopher here is a genius at it so he's offered to help me."
Eddie doesn't know what to say to that. She's not wrong. Christopher is at the top of his class, something Eddie is immensely proud of.
"Do you believe them?" Eddie asks Buck as they're watching the dishes.
Buck smiles, "Not for one second."
"Then why are you being so cool?"
"Because we have to let him live," Buck says. "Look at him." He nods his head towards the living room where Christopher and Ally are sitting close together. He's smiling as he explains something to her. "He's happy, Eddie. Isn't that what matters?"
"Of course it is," Eddie sighs, handing Buck a plate to dry.
"And look, they're actually doing math, so it's not all bad."
"I guess you're right," Eddie sighs.
Buck starts rubbing a hand down his back in the way that Eddie loves. He loses himself in the feeling for a moment. Christopher says something about showing Ally his books and Eddie just nods.
He turns to Buck, kissing him softly. "I love you."
"I love you too," Buck murmurs against his lips.
Eddie wraps an arm around his waist and pulls him closer, not caring about the fact that he's getting Buck's shirt wet. Buck just laughs
"You do realize you just let them go to Christopher's room alone," Buck tells him.
Eddie pulls back suddenly, his eyes going wide. He rushes down the hall to Christopher's room and throws the door open. Christopher and Ally spring apart but not before Eddie sees them wrapped up and kissing heatedly.
Eddie looks between them, not having a clue how to handle this situation. “I told you they were not just doing algebra!” he yells down the hall to Buck. He turns back to Christopher and Ally. "I think it's time you went home, Ally."
"Do you want me to take her?" Buck asks.
Eddie nods, "Please."
"Dad," Christopher sighs.
"No." Eddie holds up a hand. "We need to talk."
"Can we wait until Pop gets back?" Christopher asks. "He'll at least be cool about this."
"Hey no," Buck says. "None of that. You need to listen to your dad, Bud."
"You're my dad too," Christopher reminds him.
Eddie sighs, running a hand down his face. "Chris…"
"I don't want to talk to you," Christopher mutters, turning away from him.
Eddie's breath hitches in his throat. They've had disagreements before, but they've always been able to talk about things. Eddie isn't sure how to handle this.
"Hey," Buck says, but Eddie shakes his head.
"It's okay. We'll talk in the morning."
"Yeah we'll see," Christopher mutters.
"My parents are here," Ally says, reminding them all she's still here. "I texted them to come get me. So I'll uh… I'll see you at school, Chris."
Christopher nods, "Okay."
He watches her go, before turning to Eddie. "I'm tired. So you can go now too."
Eddie nods, his throat tightening. "Okay. Goodnight bud."
Eddie leaves the room and walks down the hall to his and Buck's room, Buck trailing after him. He sits down on the bed and puts his head in his hands. "What the hell was that?"
"He's a teenager," Buck says, wrapping an arm around his back and placing a kiss to his hair. "But he still shouldn't have talked to you like that."
"I know that," Eddie says. "But I was thrown, Buck. He's never been like that before. I didn't know how to handle it. I know it happens with teenagers but I thought we'd have more time, if it happened at all."
"I know," Buck whispers. "He was a great kid. He still is. He's just…"
"Growing up," Eddie whispers. He can't stop the tears from falling. This whole night has been taking a toll on his emotions. It's as if the reality of Christopher being a teenager is hitting him all at once.
His phone beeps and he sighs. "Just ignore it. I don't feel like talking to anyone right now."
"I think you'll want to talk to him," Buck says, holding Eddie's phone out to him.
He wipes his eyes and takes it, looking down at the text on the screen. Its from Christopher.
"He wants us to come talk to him," Eddie says.
"If you want to go alone…"
Eddie shakes his head. "No. You should come. You're his dad too. We just need to be united on this."
Buck smiles, "I have your back, remember?"
Eddie kisses his cheek. "Just like I have yours."
They walk together to Christopher's room, each taking a spot next to him on his bed. Christopher looks up at him and Eddie is startled to see tears in his eyes.
"I'm sorry," Christopher mumbles. "I shouldn't have acted like."
"You don't have to apologize," Eddie tells him. He's relieved when Christopher relaxes when he places a hand on his back. "This is a moment of learning for all of us."
"I just wish you could understand," Christopher says.
"What?" Eddie asks. "You know you can talk to me about anything."
"You know it's hard enough for me to get people to treat me like I'm normal," Christopher says, a bitterness in his voice that Eddie hates.
"There isn't anything wrong with who you are, Christopher," Eddie says.
"I know that, Dad," Christopher says. "But I am different. I'm not just going to be the guy with cerebral palsy now. I'm the guy with the overprotective dad who won't even let him kiss someone. It's embarrassing."
"You know," Buck says. "It is normal for teenagers to be embarrassed by their parents. In fact, that's probably something most teens can agree on."
Eddie smiles, "Yeah I was super embarrassed by mine."
"Then why do you have to embarrass me?" Christopher asks him.
"I'm your dad," Eddie tells him. "I know you're not a kid anymore, but you're not an adult yet either. There are still going to be rules you have to follow. Maybe we should have set those up early on so this… embarrassment could have been avoided."
"Maybe," Christopher mutters.
"We're not trying to be embarrassing, bud," Buck tells him. "We just care about you. And as your parents it's our job to look out for you."
"I wasn't doing anything dangerous," Christopher says. "We were just kissing."
"And here we thought you were just doing algebra," Buck teases.
Christopher rolls his eyes. Another new thing Eddie doesn't want to get used to. "You two kiss all the time!"
"We're married," Eddie says.
Christopher doesn't look impressed. "You kissed before you were married."
"We're adults," Eddie counters. "We know what we're doing."
"I do too!"
Eddie narrows his eyes. "You're fifteen. You damn well better not know what you're doing."
"I had my first kiss at twelve dad," Christopher reminds him. "It'd be a little weird if I didn't know how to kiss someone."
"As long as it's just kissing," Buck says.
Eddie shoots him a look but he just shrugs. "What? It's a compromise."
"I think we should talk before we compromise," Eddie says.
"We're never going to get anywhere being too strict," Buck whispers in his ear. "Give a little to gain a lot and all that."
Eddie is pretty sure that's not how it goes, but he can see Buck's point. When he was a teenager his parents set strict rules and he would break every one of them. He doesn't want that with Christopher.
He wants Christopher to be able to talk to him. If that means compromising, he'll compromise.
Eddie sighs, turning back to Christopher. "Okay. Let's talk this out."
Eddie's relieved when things somewhat go back to normal after that. With the new reality that Christopher is dating now.
Things don't work out with Ally, which Christopher luckily doesn't seem too upset about. He dates a boy named Lucas for a while. Eddie can tell Christopher is completely smitten. He talks about him all the time, always smiling when he does.
Until one day a month into their relationship Eddie comes home to find Christopher crying on his bed. He tries to get Eddie to leave him alone, but Eddie won't have any of it.
He calls Buck and has him stop and get Christopher's favorite ice cream on his way home and then he lays down next to Christopher, holding him like he used to so often when he was younger.
Buck shows up half an hour later. He rushes into the room and takes one look at Eddie and Christopher before moving to lay on Christopher's other side.
"The ice cream is in the freezer when you want it," Buck tells him. "Do you want to talk about what happened?"
"He broke up with me," Christopher says. "He said I was too much. Which really just means he thinks I'm a freak and doesn't want to date someone like me."
"Bastard," Buck mutters. "When I see that little shit..."
"You're going to do nothing because he's a teenager," Eddie says.
"I could still TP his house," Buck says.
"I don't have to be mature when someone breaks my sons heart," Buck tells him.
"It's okay," Christopher sighs. "He's not worth you getting arrested. I'll be fine."
"Of course you will," Eddie says. "And we're hear for you whatever you need."
"I think I could use that ice cream now," Christopher says.
"That I can do," Buck says.
Things sort of return to normal after that. Eddie knows Christopher doesn't tell him everything. He can't expect him to. But he tells him the big stuff.
It's what Eddie wants. He reminds himself of that when he comes home one afternoon to find Christopher in the kitchen with a junior named Toby. Eddie doesn't panic. He smiles as he greets both of them before putting a pizza in the fridge.
He seems like a nice enough kid. At least Eddie thinks so. He's nice and charming and can make Christopher laugh. Eddie is totally going to be cool about this.
"Oh no," Buck says, looking at where Toby is leaning over the counter, grinning at Christopher. "No this is horrible."
"What is?" Eddie asks him.
"Toby!" Buck hisses. "He's funny and charismatic and a charmer!"
" So. Eddie he's exactly like I was. Before Buck 2.0. Buck the player who couldn't settle down!"
Eddie's eyes drift to Toby and Christopher. Christopher is looking at him in a sort of daze as Toby rubs a hand down his arm. When he leans in, clearly about to kiss Christopher, Buck stands up abruptly, his chair scraping loudly across the wood floor.
"Stop it right there mister!" Buck shouts. "You keep those charming lips away from my son."
Eddie has to hide his laugh as he watches Buck stride across the room and pull Toby away. Christopher seems stunned, only able to stare as Buck starts to lead him towards the door.
"Mr. Diaz-Buckley?" Toby says, tone questioning. "Did I do something wrong?"
"It's not what you've done but you will do," Buck says. "I know your type, Toby. You charm your way into people's hearts and then once you've had your way with them you discard them like it was nothing."
"What? That's not true. I haven't…"
"I know you," Buck says. "I've been you. That's why I'm telling you now to stay away from Christopher. He deserves better than to be caught up in whatever game you're playing."
Eddie can see an instant shift in Toby. It's as if a switch has been flicked. "Yeah whatever. He's not worth this anyway."
Eddie sucks in a breath as Buck tenses. He rushes forward and grabs Buck by the arm. "Don't do anything rash."
As much as he'd like to toss Toby into a dumpster where he belongs, he's still a kid, and neither one of them are going to jail for assaulting a teenager.
"Get the hell out of our house," Buck says, tone hard.
Toby leaves without another word and Buck relaxes, leaning back against Eddie's chest as Eddie wraps his arms around his stomach.
"What was that?" Christopher asks them.
"He was bad news," Buck tells him. He places a kiss to Eddie's cheek before turning towards Christopher. "And by the way Christopher, you're not dating till you're 30."
"Clearly not with the way you two act," Christopher mutters. "And by the way , I wasn't even interested in him."
"Then why were you going to kiss him?" Eddie asks.
"I was going to stop him before Pop went all caveman must protect young on him," Christopher mutters.
"I could tell he wasn't good for you," Buck says.
"Because he reminded you of who you used to be?"
Buck nods. "Yeah. And that person isn't anyone I'd want dating my son."
"You changed," Christopher says.
"Years later," Buck says. "And because I met the right people. But younger me? No way. I wouldn't even want to introduce you to that guy."
"Would you want Dad to meet him?"
"Absolutely not," Buck says.
"Why not?" Eddie asks.
"Because we would have wound up in bed together," Buck tells him, sounding sure of himself. Eddie can't deny he's probably right. "And you deserve better than that. I like what we have. I'm happy I wasn't that Buck when I met you. Because that Buck couldn't love you the way I do now."
Christopher sighs, "I'm torn between being nauseated and happy you're so happy. And kind of wanting what you two have."
"You'll find it," Buck tells him. He walks over and puts an arm around Christopher's shoulders. "When you're 30."
Christopher rolls his eyes but doesn't push him away, "Sure Pop. When I'm 30."
"I know you don't mean that, but I appreciate you making the effort for me," Buck tells him.
Eddie joins them, wrapping his arms around both Buck and Christopher. It's harder now that Christopher is older, but they make it work. Even if his arms wind up being sore it'll be worth it.
"I love you," Eddie says, kissing each on the head. "Both of you."
"I love you too," Christopher tells him. "And you too, Pop. Even if you both drive me crazy sometimes."
Buck laughs, "We're your parents. We're supposed to drive you crazy."
"Is that some sort of secret unspoken rule?"
"Now it wouldn't be a secret if we told you," Eddie says.
"Right," Buck nods seriously. "We parents have to have some secrets."
"Another rule," Eddie says. "Keep the secrets."
"Yeah if you don't, they'll find you and kill you," Buck says.
"You guys are weird," Christopher says, but he's smiling.
"But you love us," Buck says.
"Yeah I do."
Eddie knows this isn't going to be the end of it. This is just the beginning of the long road of being a parent to a teenager. But he knows they'll get through it. No matter what happens he and Buck are going to be there for Christopher, supporting him and loving him.