Buck didn’t know how he had gotten so lucky.
When he had originally decided to move out of his loft apartment, he thought it would take him 2, maybe 3, months until he was able to find somewhere else worth living.
He knew how hard it was to find a decent apartment in LA with a decent price, especially considering how quickly they were on and off the market.
It had been a mere coincidence that he had found a house to rent in a decent area and for a manageable cost. How someone else hadn’t snatched it up before he could, he’d never know.
He had only lived at his new place for a month, but it already felt like home .
He had fixed up the house nicely, even the back yard had been done, with comfortable lounge furniture and lights strung across the and from the porch ceiling. Buck had put the work in the first two weeks, and now it was perfect, exactly how he’d imagined it. Even the 118 agreed he had done a wonderful job at making the rental look like a home, and it was the new official hang-out spot for his team, aside from the Grant-Nash household.
He had also made friends with the neighbors.
The house to his left was a young couple with a newborn baby and a dog that Buck took for walks to help out the new parents when he had a chance.
The house across the street was a single mom and her teenage daughter, and sometimes Buck would make the daughter dinner when he knew her mom had a long shift at the hospital because he knew how rough those shifts could be from Maddie, and the last thing she needed to worry about was whether or not her daughter had eaten a full meal and not just junk food.
The house on his right was a sweet older lady who lived alone but never complained, and she was Buck’s favorite neighbor. She insisted Buck call her Abuela and not Isabel, and she made Buck feel like family. She had introduced Buck to some of her own family, including a woman named Josephina, who took to him just as Isabel had, and even some of her nieces when Buck had helped set up a video call between them. Buck admired how close the whole family seemed to be, and loved hearing stories about all of the family Buck hadn’t met yet.
Buck would sometimes help Isabel around the house, and in return, she would cook for him, or teach him traditional family recipes, and tell him stories about her grandson, and great-grandson, as well as her other family members, and Buck would tell her about his parents, his childhood, and how Maddie is the only real family he still has.
It was nice, comforting, to have someone to talk to who had no involvement in his life or his job, even though Isabel had met the 118 and Maddie when he had invited her to one of their cookouts.
He jumped at the chance to help her anytime he had the opportunity, which is why as he was pulling into his driveway, coming home from a long shift, he was hopping out of his jeep and towards Isabel, who was pulling groceries out of the car in her driveway.
“Morning, Isabel! Let me help you with those.” Buck didn’t give her time to protest, taking the bags from her hands and grabbing the ones still in the car as well.
“How many times do I have to tell you, Evan-”
Buck politely cut her off with a laugh, “Right, sorry, Abuela , I’ll get these for you, you just open the door.”
They made their way through the front door, Buck immediately heading towards the kitchen to set down the bags on the counter. “Thank you. That would’ve taken me multiple trips.”
“Well, that’s what I’m here for, to do all the heavy lifting. Gotta put these firefighter muscles to use at some point.” He joked as he flexed, causing Isabel to roll her eyes fondly and pinch his arm playfully.
Buck helped her put away the groceries as they talked, Buck telling her about his shift that and the calls he had found himself on, while Isabel updated him on whatever was going on with their family.
“My grandson has finally decided to move to LA. I told you about him, haven’t I?”
Buck’s eyes narrowed in her direction at the sudden shift in conversation from them talking about Josephina to Eddie, the grandson he had never met.
“You have. He’s the one with the little boy?” Buck asked, leaning against her kitchen counter.
“Ah, yes, him. He was doing fine in Texas, but his bosses convinced him living here was better for his career, so he’s bringing Christopher up here at the end of the month, moving in not far from here.”
Buck had no idea what Eddie did for a job, Isabel only ever mentioning that he was “traveling right now” or mentioning “his latest project” but never telling Buck what that meant. He guessed it made sense, whatever he did, as LA was supposed to be the place where dreams came true. It worked for him, and he hadn’t regretted the move a single day since.
“Well, if they need help moving in, you tell them I’d be happy to help. I could probably rope some of the other neighbors into helping too. But only for you, Abuela.”
Isabel smirked, that sneaky smirk he recognized meant that she had a plan, and whatever it was, it was working.
Buck had no idea what he had just signed up for.
Over the next couple of weeks, Buck had heard quite a lot about the mysterious “Eddie” and his son Christopher.
It was as if every chance Isabel and Josephina got, they were telling him something about the man, small things like “You know, my grandson loves to cook, but he’s very bad at it, could use some help” or “Eddie is a great father, and Christopher is a great kid. You like kids, right?”
Buck never questioned it, although he did find it suspicious when Isabel and Josephina would go from whispering to each other adamantly to silence the second he walked into the room. He just figured they were excited to finally have family living close by since the rest of them decided to stay in Texas. He had the same feeling when Maddie decided to stay in California, so he understood the feeling.
The night before Eddie was due to be in LA, he, along with the single mom, Jessica, and her teenage daughter, Raegan, who lived across the street, helped Isabel as she set up her house for the “Welcome Home” party she had insisted on throwing. It was going to be a small dinner, only involving The Diaz family and Carla, who he had been told was the woman who took care of Christopher while Eddie worked.
Buck had been invited over for the dinner, as well as some of the other neighbors, but he had a shift that starts an hour after the dinner begins, and he couldn’t make it.
“So, Evan…” Isabel started, that sneaky smirk finding its way back onto her face, and he knew whatever conversation they were about to have had an agenda behind it. “You seeing anyone, recently?”
Buck looked up and across the living room from where he was hanging up the ‘Welcome Home’ sign, and he heard Jessica and Raegan giggling from the dining table, who seemed to both know why she was asking, even though he didn’t. “Not currently, why?” He asked, looking between Isabel and Josephina who both smiled wide at his answer.
“No reason, dear. Just curious is all. What happened to that girl you were with, the fiery one?”
“Abuela, you know nothing serious was going on with us. I told you that. I haven’t even talked to her in weeks, except when I turn on the news.” Buck laughed, finishing up the banner to move along to blow up the balloons that would hang around the house.
“Right, of course” was all Isabel added, and the conversation dropped as they busied themselves with finishing up.
As the night went on, and the decorations and food prep were finished, Buck made his way to the door, arms full of leftovers from that night’s dinner. “Have a good party tomorrow, I’m sad I’m going to have to miss it.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Evan, there will be plenty of other parties to attend in the future.” Isabel patted his cheek at the door.
“If you need anything, just call me alright?”
Isabel reassured him that she would be fine before sending him on his way, and he walked the short distance from her house to his own.
He had to admit, he really was looking forward to being at that party before finding out he had to work. He wished he could meet more of Isabel’s family, especially since he and Eddie had never managed to cross paths on a video call, unlike Isabel’s other grandchildren that he had talked to.
He knew, though, that he would be given plenty of opportunities to meet the mysterious Diaz father and son since this wasn’t the last time they’d be in LA.
And he was sure that whatever Isabel was planning, she’d make sure that meeting happened, one way or another.
The next night, Buck could hear light music coming from the house next door as he was getting ready for work, his dark LAFD shirt being pulled on and fixing his hair in the bathroom mirror.
The houses in their neighborhood were fairly close together, and the walls were thinner, so he could tell they were having a good time over there, as he heard laughter and a kid squealing in excitement throughout the evening.
It wasn’t until he was checking his work bag and grabbing his keys that his phone started to ring, and he heard the music next door pause. He picked up his phone quickly, noting that it was Isabel who was calling, before he answered it with a quick, “Hello?”
“Evan! You haven’t left for work yet, have you?” Isabel sounded calm and energetic from the other side of the line, so he guessed this wasn’t an emergency call.
“Not yet, I was just about head out the door though. Why, you guys okay?”
“Oh yes, we’re fine. Just had a little mishap, and the fire alarm won’t stop beeping. How do we get it to stop?” In the background of the call, Buck could hear the beeping every few seconds, and a man’s voice exclaiming that he’s got it taken care of.
Buck let out a small chuckle, “It’ll be quicker if I just come over and do it for you. Don’t start any more fires before I get over there, okay?” before he hung up the phone.
He made his way quickly to his car to set his bag down inside of it before walking to Isabel’s house and up her front porch steps, not bothering to knock on the door since it was unlocked.
The sight he was greeted with was… surprising, to say the least.
His eyes shifted around the room, from Isabel and Josephina who were on the couch, the phone still in Isabel’s hand from where she called him, a little boy and a woman laughing from the floor, and a man, waving a towel under the smoke alarm on the ceiling ridiculously, who he assumed was the person they were laughing at.
“Oh, Evan, thank you for coming! Please tell my grandson that him doing that isn’t going to stop the beeping!” Isabel had a teasing tone to her voice, which solicited a groan from the man, who he now assumed was Eddie, as the man turned around to face them.
Whatever response Buck had ready, it died in his throat as he caught sight of the man who was now looking directly at him, shoulders slumped in defeat as the towel was slung over one of them.
Whoever Buck could’ve predicted Isabel’s grandson to be, he never expected it to be Eddie Diaz , the award-winning country singer. He supposes he should’ve known, he did know that the man’s name was in fact Eddie Diaz, but he never connected the dots. Now all of the conversations of managers, tours, and moving to LA for his career made sense.
Buck cleared his throat, snapping out of the short shock he had found himself in from seeing the man’s face, and he laughed slightly, a bit awkward. “Right! Right, yeah, you have to reset it to stop the beeping. These old houses, it’ll just keep beeping until it dies if you don’t do it yourself.”
“See? That’s what I told you! Now move, let the handsome firefighter do his job so he can get to his real one. We don’t want him to be late” Isabel said, gesturing for Eddie to sit down close to her, but instead, Eddie just moved away from the smoke alarm, standing a few feet away but not far from Buck.
“I’ve got time, I was just heading out early to grab a coffee. Need it for the long night shifts. Do you have a chair or stool I can borrow to reach the alarm?” Buck asked, forcing his eyes away from Eddie to look up at the alarm. He was tall, but not quite tall enough to reach it.
“Oh, I can make you one. Make it a ‘thank you for saving your neighbor’ coffee.” Isabel said as she stood slowly from the couch, and Josephina grabbed a small stepping stool for him.
Buck made quick work of setting up the stool under the alarm and climbing up. He took out the battery and held down the reset button for 20 seconds before putting the battery back again, and the beeping stopped.
As he climbed back off of the stool, he was met with a boy staring up at him, a questioning smile on his face. “You’re a firefighter?”
Buck smiled back widely, pointing to the logo on his shirt, “Yep! Los Angeles’ finest. I’m Buck, nice to meet you.” He held out his hand to the boy, who couldn’t have been older than 10, who shook it enthusiastically.
“Buck?” The boy asked, obviously confused by the fact that Isabel had referred to him by a different name.
“Oh, yeah it’s a nickname. All firefighters have nicknames. My real name is Evan Buckley, but I only let your Abuela call me that. She insisted, and I can’t tell her no.” He mock-whispered, earning a “You can never say no to me!” From Isabel who was walking back into the room with a coffee mug in her hand. It was a glass mug, not a travel one, which he guessed was a subtle hint that he would be staying around for a while to finish his coffee instead of being rushed off.
He took his coffee with a polite thank you, taking a sip before turning his attention back to the boy.
“I’m Christopher, we just moved here. This is Carla,” he gestured to the woman on the floor with him, before pointing to the man behind them, “And that’s my dad.” The boy, Christopher, introduced the family, Buck following along with a small greeting to each of them.
“Oh, I know. Isabel has told me all about you guys. It’s nice to finally meet you, I’ve been looking forward to it.” Buck added, his eyes meeting Eddie’s as he finished, taking another sip from his coffee to hide the smile on his face.
“You must the neighbor we’ve heard so much about, then. My sisters won’t shut up about you, neither will Abuela.” Eddie finally spoke, his hand reaching out in an offer of a handshake, which Buck met gladly. He squeezed Eddie’s hand slightly, before letting go.
“I guess that would be me. Your sisters are nice, your whole family is, even though I’ve only spoken to most of them over the phone.”
“Ah, so I have you to thank for teaching them how to facetime. Christopher insisted we do it every night when we were on the road.” Eddie laughed, ruffling Chris’ hair.
Buck smiled sheepishly, “yeah, that would also be me. It was the least I could do, they do so much for me.”
“Evan here is the best neighbor I could’ve asked for. He helps with everything, cooking, fixing up the house, carrying groceries…He’s very strong.” Isabel praised, causing Evan to roll his eyes playfully. The pieces were starting to click together in his mind. Why Isabel was so adamant about introducing Eddie and Evan, and why she only talked praises about the both of them to each other.
She was trying to set them up.
Buck didn’t even know how Isabel knew he liked men in the first place. Maybe he wasn’t as subtle with his dating life and the stories he told her as he suspected he was being.
Eddie let out a sigh, that sounded almost like a laugh, “Abuela…” He said pointedly, his head shaking. It was clear he had caught on as well, as Eddie and Buck’s eyes met again and they laughed a little louder between the two of them at the fact that they both had been set up.
“Right, well… I should be going. Shift starts soon.” Buck added, finishing up his coffee and setting the cup in the sink. He moved to kiss both Isabel and Josephina on the cheek, saying goodbye to Chris and Carla as well, as he walked out.
Eddie followed him out, stopping once they were out the door and out of sight of the rest of his family, “I’m sorry about them. I had no idea what they were doing, my grandmother can be pushy sometimes…” he trailed off, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.
Buck just smiled, shrugging his shoulders, “It’s fine, really. I didn’t know either. Although, I definitely should’ve known something was up when she kept mentioning how handsome her grandson was and was asking if I liked kids.”
They both laughed again, the awkwardness leaving them and shifting to a more comfortable atmosphere, now that they had cleared the air.
“Right, and I should’ve known when all she ever wanted to talk about was the handsome firefighter next door who knew how to cook. She knows I’m hopeless in the kitchen. It was a sign.”
“Ah, so you’re the one who set off the smoke alarm, then?” Buck asked, eyebrow raised in a teasing manner.
Eddie groaned again, his hand coming up to cover his face shyly, “yeah that was me. I was just trying to help with dinner! But they’re right, I should not be allowed in a kitchen. Even Christopher thinks so, makes fun of me all of the time for it.”
“Well, he’s a cute kid, he’s allowed to make fun of you all he wants and get away with it, I’m sure.” Buck looked around for a moment, glancing at his watch and realizing he had to leave if he didn’t want to be late. He cleared his throat, shuffling on his feet. “Your Abuela was right though. I do know how to cook, so if you ever, I don’t know, need help, I could… help.”
Eddie’s hand fell from where it was covering his face, a small smirk finding its way to his lips instead, “Help, right. I think I might need to try your food first before I decide If I want you to teach me.”
“I think that could be arranged, actually. I’d be happy to show you, just tell me when.”
Eddie chuckled, “I’ll get your number from my Abuela and we can set something up. Now go, we don’t want the handsome firefighter to be late.” He joked, patting him on the arm lightly.
Buck just blushed before nodding, throwing a “see you later” his way before jogging to his truck and heading to work.
He couldn’t believe he had fallen for Isabel’s trap to set him up on a date, but he couldn’t be too mad about it.
Abuela was the best wingman he ever had.