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"We should get a cat."  

Giving the apple puree he is making a final stir, Eddie peers over his shoulder to where Christopher is dutifully checking the frosting for their cupcakes. He has such a look of concentration on his face that Eddie might even think he imagined hearing him. If this wasn't the third time in a week Christopher has brought the subject up.  

"Yeah?"  

"Yes. A kitten is best, because we can teach it everything first. An orange one."  

"You want an orange kitten?"  

"Yes."  

It's not like Eddie hasn't been thinking about it. Buck's sent him so many articles about how having a pet could first, be great for Christopher to give him a little responsibility, and second, be good for him personally. Something about petting fur lowering heart rates and counteracting panic attacks. Even if he's doing far better with those. Frank does keep telling him in his weekly therapy sessions that just because the source of those first panic attacks is gone doesn't mean he won't have others now he's starting to address the idea of potentially having PTSD. This is all a very long, daunting work in process that Eddie is taking his first steps with. Would having a cat help with any of it? Maybe, maybe not. But it's not the worst of ideas.  

Tipping the softened apples into a bowl, Eddie takes a fork and starts mashing them, adding a tiny touch of cinnamon like he used to do for Chris. Chris is far beyond liking his apple puree now aside from the occasional time Eddie makes it to swirl over yogurt, but Jee-Yun is definitely a fan. Maybe she can smell it, because when Eddie looks, she is banging her fists on her high chair table and babbling at him.  

"I tell you what. We'll definitely talk about getting a kitten, but if we do, we need to get one from a shelter. So, maybe they won't be orange. Maybe they'll just be a kitten in need of a good home."  

"That would be okay too."  

"Okay, then, good. How about tonight, instead of playing one last game before bed, you look up some things a kitten is gonna need, so we know how to be prepared? Then we'll think about getting one maybe next week?"  

"Okay," Christopher says with the biggest, most beautiful smile on his face.  

Their cupcakes are almost cool on the two racks on one counter. The frosting looks ready, and Jee-Yun's apple puree is now cooling in its dish. Eddie has stacked plates and cutlery on the dining table ready for when everyone arrives, and there is beer and non-alcoholic wine cooling in the fridge. He might not be the greatest cook in the world, but Eddie can bake, and he can host, and, apparently multitask pretty well. They have made the cakes, Eddie has fed Jee-Yun in between, all while peering over Christopher's shoulder to check his history homework. And supervising frosting making. Yes, Eddie is feeling pretty accomplished right now, and is really looking forward to this evening.  

Maddie came home a week ago looking nervous but happy, and the look on Chim's face ever since has been all love and relief. Eddie is convinced he can still feel how hard Buck hugged him after seeing Maddie for the first time in a little over a month. It's possible Eddie is thinking on that long hug a little more than anything else but he won't feel bad about it. Maybe now things are starting to go in a better direction for them all, he and Buck can start thinking about them. Maybe now is their time.  

Checking the temperature of the apple puree on the side of his finger, Eddie grabs Jee-Yun's spoon and bowl that both have little cows embellished on them then approaches with a dance and a song. Christopher starts laughing, but then he joins in too, because this is a song Eddie used to sing him when he was little.  

Jee-Yun definitely approves of the apple puree. She smacks her lips together and waves her hands for more after every spoon, even knocking the side of the bowl and sending a blob of it splattering against Eddie's shirt. That's okay, he was planning on changing it anyway, and it's not like taking care of a baby for a few hours never involves at least one outfit change.   

"Do you think Jee-Yun would eat frosting?" Christopher asks, sneaking his finger into the bowl for a dab of the puree.  

"I'm pretty sure she would, but she's way too young to learn about how good frosting tastes."  

"Because of all the sugar?"  

"Exactly."  

"Did Chim really never eat carrot cake cupcakes before?"  

Eddie turns up the corner of Jee-Yun's bib to wipe a spill of puree from her cheek. "He said he hadn't."  

"That's really sad."  

"Which is exactly why we made carrot cupcakes for tonight, right?"  

"Yes. Do you think I could call him Uncle Chim, and Maddie Aunt Maddie?"  

Aww. Eddie's heart is in his throat. "I'm pretty sure they'd love that. Why?"  

Christopher holds his hand out to Jee-Yun, who already loves him and grabs for his fingers the second he is in the room. "Because. For Jee-Yun, you're Uncle Eddie. So, maybe they can be Uncle and Aunt for me."  

"Yeah. I really think they'd like that."  

Oh no. Eddie knows that thinking face on Christopher. And he knows that look of mischief too. What's coming?  

"So... when is it okay for me to call Buck something else?"  

"Something else?"  

"When can I call him not Buck?"  

"Uh..."  

Christopher starts giggling. "He's your boyfriend. So, when can I start calling him Dad? Or something like dad?"  

"He's not my boyfriend. Yet," Eddie says, which isn't really an answer, and who knows? Maybe it's not even the truth. He and Buck have grown even closer over this past month and Eddie hadn't known that was possible for them. Not without their relationship turning fully from a friendly one to a romantic one, anyway. So maybe they already are something that they haven't clearly defined. But now he's flustered enough for thinking about it, and his kid is grinning at him like he won something.  

"Why not?"   

"Because. We're working on it."  

"...do you want to borrow my calculator?"  

"What for?"  

"Dad. It's not math. You don't need to work on it. He likes you, you like him. It's easy."  

Being roasted by his own kid. That's what's happening now. Eddie wants to protest but what good would that do? Instead, he leans over, kissing the top of Christopher's hair.   

"I'm pretty sure Buck would let you call him anything you want."  

"That was so not my question," Christopher mumbles under his breath just loud enough for Eddie to hear. The sass is strong in this one. Eddie knows he has no one to blame but himself, and is half terrified, half thrilled about what other things Christopher might have to say about all of this.  

Between Jee-Yun's apple puree, and the frosting and decorating of the cupcakes, Eddie's shirt really is a mess by the time they are done. He takes it off there and then in the kitchen, putting it straight into the washing machine. It's not intentional, really it isn't, that as he's walking through the house to his bedroom just happens to be when Buck arrives.  

Eddie won't complain at all, however, about how Buck's eyes drift over his bare chest, and his lips curl up in a smile.  

"Hi?"  

"Hey, Buck."  

"Did Jee-Yun make art on your shirt?" Buck says, stepping in so Eddie can close the door behind him. His hands are full with a huge oven dish that Eddie knows holds lasagne.   

"Uh, she did. I'll just go throw a shirt on."  

"It's not the worst view," Buck whispers, looking him over again and even winking before walking away.   

Eddie is so stupefied for it that it isn't until he hears Buck's voice soften as he says hello to Christopher that he remembers to move. Yes. Bedroom. Clean shirt. That's what he was doing. Does he pick out one he thinks he's seen Buck show appreciation for? Yes. He does. And he is rewarded for it with the smile on Buck's face when he rejoins them both in the kitchen. But it's the sight of Buck with Jee-Yun in his arms, skillfully topping up Christopher's juice one-handed in between checking the temperature on the oven and then sliding the lasagne pan in, that really feels like a reward to Eddie. This is his family, in his kitchen, and it's the best thing he's ever seen.  

That affectionate familial feeling only grows deeper when Chim and Maddie arrive. Eddie hugs Maddie first, so happy to see her happy that it really does bring a tear to his eye. And Eddie loves getting to pull Chim in for a hug knowing when he steps back there will be a smile instead of sadness in his eyes. These people. Eddie loves them all so much. Even more so when Maddie takes Jee-Yun from Buck's arms and she and Chim cuddle in around her. They're good. They're going to be great. Seeing the return of the joyful, simple peace he's always known around them is the best feeling in the world.  

Buck's lasagne is a hit, with everybody having seconds, and Maddie approves of the non-alcoholic wine Eddie chose after exploring the shelves at the supermarket for almost half an hour. Chim announces that carrot cake is a revelation, making Christopher laugh when he stuffs two cupcakes in his mouth at once. It's such a simple evening full of great food and conversation. Eddie wouldn't mind having every night just like this. Which in a way he already does. It's just a question of solidifying what is already growing between he and Buck.  

"You're staying tonight, right?" Eddie asks as he and Buck clean the kitchen together while Christopher, Maddie, and Chim set up a board game in the living room.  

Buck hands him a plate to dry. "If you want me to."  

"I want you to."  

"Then, I will."  

"Maybe we could talk a little."  

Buck dries his fingers on the dishtowel still in Eddie's hands, turning to face him properly. "We can do that."  

"Good."  

"Good," Buck says, then sets Eddie's heart off racing by leaning in and kissing him quickly, letting his forehead rest against his before pulling back. Eddie can't help smiling, especially for watching Buck's eyes then flare in surprise. "I didn't misjudge that, did I?"  

Tossing the towel on to the counter beside them, Eddie licks his lips then rests his hands on Buck's hips. "No. You didn't," he says, then leans in for his own kiss, just a soft, sweet thing that promises so much more.   

When everyone has gone home, Eddie checks on Christopher, sneaking in to pick up his calculator then dropping it in Buck's lap when he joins him on the couch.  

"What's that for?" Buck says, laughing then playing with the buttons.  

"Chris. He said earlier that you and me were boyfriends."  

Buck's eyes light up. "He did?"  

"He really did."  

"And what did you say?"  

"I said, we weren't yet. But that we were working on it. So, he asked me if I needed this thing to help," Eddie says, tapping the side of the calculator.   

God, how he loves hearing Buck laugh.  

"So. We're working on it?" Buck says, his breath shuddering when he runs his fingers over the back of Eddie's hand, looking up at him hopefully.  

"I don't know, Buck. Maybe not. Maybe we're already there."  

"We could be."  

Plucking the calculator from Buck's fingers, Eddie leans to put it on the coffee table, then drags Buck's hand into his lap. "Then, we are," Eddie says softly, turning so he can cup Buck's face and kiss him properly for the first time.