If Buck analyzed the worst days of his life, they would all have one thing in common – they all started out great. The day he and Christopher had almost died in a tsunami had started out with a beautiful morning full of laughs and meaningful conversation with one of his favorite people. The night a blood clot nearly killed him had begun with a surprise party dedicated to him, thrown by the people he loved. But it was because of that pattern that he made a point not to analyze his bad days. Because if he ever concentrated too much on that pattern, then every good thing that ever happened to him would probably just give him crippling anxiety as he waited for the other shoe to drop. And that afternoon would have definitely caused him intense anxiety based on how good it had already been so far.
But then maybe he would have known to quit while they were ahead and go home, and they wouldn’t have gotten into such a mess.
He and Eddie weren't working together that day, Buck getting off from a shift as Eddie was starting one. Buck was going to pick Christopher up from school, so he had taken the opportunity to make plans for some quality time with the boy until Eddie got off that night. Buck was pacing back and forth as he planned the afternoon, having already clocked out but sticking around to hang out with Eddie for a bit. Eddie just watched his boyfriend pacing, leaning against the kitchen counter with his arms crossed and a grin on his face.
“We’ll go get fro-yo, go to the arcade, maybe run around the park to burn off the rest of the fro-yo,” Buck rambled, bright blue eyes staring off into space as he walked back and forth.
“You’re so cute when you get excited,” Eddie chuckled, looking at Buck with what Hen would describe as “heart eyes.” “How much coffee did you have last night? Are you even going to be able to nap?”
Buck’s ears turned pink, loving the feeling of butterflies that Eddie’s eyes on him still gave him. Even after a year the “honeymoon period” still hadn’t ended, despite warnings that it would from just about everyone around them. Buck didn’t think it ever would, as long as Eddie kept giving him that smile. “Who cares? I’m excited! With all the double shifts lately, I feel like I’ve barely gotten to see Chris in weeks.”
“Yeah, me too,” Eddie sighed. “But seeing Christopher’s face when we tell him we’re going to Disneyland for his birthday will be well worth it.”
Buck finally stopped pacing, turning to Eddie, eyes sparkling with joy and wonder. “I can’t wait.”
Eddie just stared at him, a blissful look on his face that made Buck feel warm. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Buck replied eagerly, leaning in to steal a kiss.
“Hey! I thought we agreed – no PDA on the clock,” Chim quipped as he came up the stairs, Hen right behind him making a mock-gagging noise.
Buck gave them a defiant smirk, slipping his arms around Eddie’s waist and pulling him close. He gave Eddie another chaste kiss, then stuck his tongue out at their friends.
“Ooohh, a bad boy,” Eddie purred, draping his arms over Buck’s shoulders. He wiggled his eyebrows at his boyfriend. “I love a rule breaker. You should go by a thrift store today, get a leather jacket.”
“You joke, but I’m actually going to do that now,” Buck chuckled, thrilled by the fire that his statement brought to his boyfriend’s eyes.
When the alarm started blaring, Buck stepped back from Eddie with a disappointed groan. Eddie gave his shoulder a squeeze and stole one more quick kiss that made Buck weak in the knees.
“Have fun today!” Eddie called back over his shoulder as he took off for the stairs. “I love you!”
“Love you, too!” Buck called after him, going to the railing to watch the team suit up and move out. “Be careful!”
Eddie shot Buck a smile and a wink as he got into the truck. As they pulled away, Buck released a deep, dreamy sigh. He couldn’t wait to marry that man.
After a shower and a couple hours of sleep, Buck found himself in the pickup line at Christopher’s school, watching for the boy to come out of the school. The moment he saw Christopher’s smiling face among the other students, Buck jumped out of his jeep, coming around to meet the boy at the end of the sidewalk. He was talking to one of his friends, his glasses sliding down his nose as he nodded enthusiastically at something his friends said. Buck just watched with a smile, the depth of his love for the boy causing a warm ache in his chest. As he got further down the sidewalk, Chris finally looked up to scan the parking lot for a familiar car, his already happy face lighting up like the sun when he met Buck’s eyes. It filled Buck’s heart, and his eyes.
“Buck!” he called, picking up the pace as much as his little legs and crutches could.
Buck chuckled, meeting Chris halfway and scooping him up into a tight hug. Even as he neared ten, he still loved being picked up for a bear hug, and Buck was going to get as many as he could before Christopher eventually grew out it. Christopher giggled as Buck nuzzled his hair and gave him a kiss on the cheek before putting him down.
“How was your day, Superman?” Buck asked, leading Chris back to his jeep.
“Great!” Chris enthused. “Did you put out any fires last night?”
Buck chuckled as he gave Christopher a boost up into the jeep. “No fires. Just a couple silly accidents. One guy got his foot stuck in a toilet. And it hadn’t been flushed yet!”
“Eww!” Christopher scrunched up his face.
“So, with that appetizing image in mind,” Buck chuckled, helping his boy get buckled in. “You ready for fro-yo?”
“Heck yesss,” Christopher whispered, eyes wide in wonder as if someone had offered him a million dollars. “Can I get sprinkles?”
“You can get whatever you want.” Buck ruffled his hair lovingly before shutting the door, jogging around the jeep to get in.
“So… Christopher…” Buck began, squirming uneasily in his seat as he lazily dragged his spoon through the mountain of Oreos crumbled on top of his fro-yo.
“So… Buck…” Christopher mocked him, a mischievous grin on his face as he copied the way Buck was resting his chin on his fist, elbow on the table.
Buck narrowed his eyes at the boy as a smile pulled at his lips. Christopher giggled and gave up the mimicking, taking a heaping bite of his sprinkle-covered concoction. Buck sobered a bit, clasping his hands together on the table. He leaned in, waiting for Chris to meet his eyes before he began.
"I have a very important question to ask you, but I need you to know that whatever your answer, nothing changes. I will always love you and your dad, no matter what. You can say no and I won’t be mad or upset or sad. I just,” Buck sighed, his stomach flipping with nerves. “I just want you to be honest about how you feel, okay? Do we have a deal?”
Christopher nodded, reaching across the table to cover Buck’s clasped hands with his own two. Buck smiled, taking the boy’s hands in his and giving them a soft, comforting squeeze.
“I love your dad. Like… soooo much. Almost as much as I love you,” Buck winked, making Christopher giggle. “And I was thinking… if you’re okay with it, and it’s totally okay if you’re not… I want to ask your dad to marry me.”
Suddenly Christopher’s eyes grew to the size of dinner plates, his crooked smile spreading further across his face than Buck had ever seen. It was exactly the face he anticipated for the Disneyland reveal, and it was enough to eliminate all anxiety he felt.
“YES!” Christopher cried out, gaining confused and concerned stares from the other people in the shop. "Yes yes yes please! That would be so cool!”
Buck felt tears threatening to fall as Christopher squeezed his hands, bouncing in his seat. “You’re sure it’s okay?”
“And you can adopt me!”
Buck couldn’t deny the thrill he got just from the idea of that. “Yeah, if your dad was okay with it, I guess…”
“My friend Kara’s mom got married and he adopted Kara and she got a new last name and everything! Are you gonna take our last name? Will we take yours? I wanna be a Buckley too! Kara’s got her mom’s name and her new dad’s name! We could do that!”
“Whoa, calm down, dude. Take a deep breath,” Buck laughed, even as he felt a blush creep across his face just at the mention of taking Eddie’s last name. He had been toying with the idea of “Buckley-Diaz” for almost as long as he had known the Diaz boys. “That’s something we’re going to have to get your dad’s thoughts on, but we will definitely talk about it.”
“This is gonna be great,” Chris wiggled in his seat, taking his hands back from Buck to get back to his fro-yo.
“Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, there’s one more thing I need your thoughts on,” Buck whispered conspiratorially, reaching into his jacket pocket and producing a small box. He slid it across the table and left it in front of Christopher. “Do you think he’ll like these?”
Christopher eagerly snatched the box up and opened it, his face lighting up at the two rings that lay within. “Yes!” he squeaked. “They’re so pretty…”
Buck felt warm. He thought that Eddie would like the design he’d picked out, but having Christopher’s approval eased any shreds of doubt he had. “Now, you can’t tell anyone we talked about this, Christopher,” Buck said, taking the box back as Chris offered it, slipping it back into the safety of his jacket pocket.
The little boy’s brow furrowed in concern. “You mean lie? I don’t like lying.”
“No no no,” Buck shook his head with a chuckle. “Not a lie, a secret. A surprise. Like Christmas presents. I want to surprise your dad when I ask him.” He extended a pinky finger, holding it out to Chris. “Can you keep it a secret? I’ll let you help me plan the surprise.”
Christopher linked his pinky with Buck’s, using his other hand to zip his mouth shut with an invisible zipper, pretending to throw the imagined zipper pull it across the room. “Your secret is safe with me.”
Buck tousled Christopher’s hair, earning him a giggle. “Thanks.”
“So does this mean I can call you dad now?”
Buck just about choked on the bite of fro-yo he'd taken, barely managing to swallow it in time to catch his breath. He stared at Chris across the table as the boy focused solely on his dessert, his demeanor completely casual. Maybe to a nine year old, this wasn't such a big deal, but it meant everything to Buck. Emotion swelled in his chest, and Buck had to blink rapidly to get his eyes to dry as tears welled behind them.
“Uh… yeah. If– if that's something you want to do. But you don't have to if you don't want to.”
“Okay.” Christopher just nodded in understanding, grinning up at Buck as he took another sprinkle-covered bite.
Buck snorted a laugh as Christopher stuck out his blue tongue at him. Damn it, he loved this kid.
Buck strolled up to the bank just as Christopher finished telling him about the game he’d played with his friends at lunch that day. The boy was practically vibrating with a sugar rush, his teeth and lips still tinted blue from the birthday cake flavored fro-yo he’d had. The little boy’s arms were wrapped snuggly around Buck’s neck as he carried him piggy-back, his crutches left in the back of the jeep. It wasn’t until they had gotten to the arcade that Buck remembered that his ATM card was broken, but with gorgeous weather and his bank just down the block, it seemed a perfect opportunity for a stroll.
“Okay, Chris, we just have to go inside real quick and get some cash out, and then we are headed back to the arcade,” Buck explained. “Sound good?”
“Yep!” Chris chirped, resting his chin on Buck’s shoulder.
In front of the bank Buck set him down, opening the door and taking Christopher’s hand to give him some stability as they walked in. The line wasn’t too terribly long, but Buck still cursed himself for not yet replacing the debit card he had snapped in half trying to unlock the bathroom door.
But however long the line, dumping ice water over Eddie while he was in the shower was worth it.
There was an older gentleman at the window for one of two tellers, a heavily pregnant woman at the other. Behind them there was a girl who looked to be in her early teens, her eyes fixed on her phone as her mother talked animatedly on her own phone. Just in front of Buck and Christopher in line were two guys who looked to be college-aged, one of them holding up a camera to which both were taking turns speaking. Buck shook his head and smirked. Christopher started telling him about the field trip his class had coming up, and Buck’s full attention fell on the boy he loved so much. He listened intently as Chris started naming off the fish that were supposed to be there at the aquarium, and all the ones you could pet in the wave pool. He was so captivated by Christopher’s enthusiasm that Buck didn’t hear the bell jingle on the door, signaling that someone else had entered the building. He didn’t hear the lock being slid into place in the door, or see the way both of the ladies behind the counter blanched suddenly.
But he couldn’t miss the unmistakable explosion of gunfire behind him, or the way Christopher screamed.
Looking back, Buck wouldn’t remember moving as fast as he did, or really at all. In one second he was standing there with Chris, in the next he had Chris on the floor, Buck bracing himself overtop of the boy to cover him completely with his own body. He kept his head down, one arm bracing himself so he wouldn’t squish the small boy with his body, the other wrapped protectively around Christopher, his head resting in Buck’s hand where he had braced him to keep him from hitting his head on the floor. Christopher was sobbing already, his thin frame trembling violently, and it broke Buck’s heart.
“Shh, you’re okay, I’ve got you,” Buck whispered as the man started shouting. His heart was pounding out of his chest, but he swallowed down his fear and forced his voice to come out steady. “I won’t let anything happen to you, Christopher.”
“Everybody stays down or I start shooting!” the man screamed. “You! Out of the office!”
Buck could hear a couple of the other patrons crying, but none were as heartbreaking as Christopher’s whimpers. He tightened his grip on the boy, gently scratching his scalp as he held his head in his hand. Chris seemed to relax a bit with this, wrapping his arms around Buck’s forearm, clinging to him. Buck dared to look up from the floor and take in the scene. The man with the gun was wearing a black ski mask, only his eyes and a thin mouth visible. What skin was showing was flushed and slick with sweat. His black hoodie and grey jeans looked old but not too worn out. He had his handgun trained on the bank manager as he exited his office, hands raised. It struck Buck as odd that the man didn’t seem to be as shaken as everyone else, but he just filed it away to analyze later. He was most likely just in shock.
“You’re going to get everything you can out of the vault and put it in this bag,” the gunman instructed, taking off the empty duffle bag he had slung across his chest and shoving it into the manager’s broad chest. “I’m gonna stay here where I can watch you and them. And if ANY of you try to play hero, someone’s gonna die! You all got that?!”
Christopher whimpered and squirmed beneath Buck, but all he could do to comfort the boy was hold him a little tighter.