Title: Stifled Nature
Warnings: Child Abuse, Child Neglect
Relationships: Evan “Buck” Buckley/Eddie Diaz
Characters: Evan “Buck” Buckley, Eddie Diaz, Christopher Diaz
Tags: Shifters Are Known, First Time, Rough Sex,
Summary: Buck embraced his life in the 118 and inside of the LAFD, the first major group in the city to attract and support Shifters in their ranks over a century ago. Despite Buck being the only person in his family who wasn’t gifted that way. Then he met Eddie, and he wants something he had never wanted before, a family.
Word Count: 15,655
Year: Season 2 (2018-2019)
Spoilers: Up Through Season 2
Notes: Written for the Quarter 3 2022 Big Moxie.
Buck rolled his shoulders as he snagged his bag from his Jeep. He looked at the truck that was parked in the spot beside where he normally parked. He was glad that no one had parked there, but he was intrigued by the new guy. Buck knew a little about him; he was a Panther Shifter from another family that was like Buck’s, all Shifters. Except Buck wasn’t a Shifter. It was the reason why Buck was shunned by his family.
Ending up in LA at the LAFD and eventually at the 118 had been something that Buck had never seen for himself. The LAFD had been the first group to accept Shifters when they were formed in 1886. He had gone to the Academy but hadn’t figured he’d be stuck in one of the places with Shifters and Humans working together in the worst conditions, not with the fact that he was deformed. He was from a massive Shifter family, and he was not born one. He was seen as deformed. Due to the nature of Shifters, there were three stations in LA that were just humans. They were sent into the places where Shifters had issues going due to various reasons.
Buck didn’t even have magic. Still, he was at one of the flagship groups for the harmony between Shifters and Humans.
“And this is Evan Buckley; he goes by Buck. Buck, this is Eddie Diaz; he’s your new partner.”
Buck stopped walking with that because, as far as he knew, he would be with Makepeace forever. They worked well together. Makepeace couldn’t do all that Buck did, but he also was calm and cool. As far as Buck knew, he hadn’t been on tap to get a new partner with the last spot filled on the newest expansion the shift had gone through.
“It’s not on you, Buck; it’s on me. My body can’t take the rope rescues anymore,” Makepeace said as he laid his hand on Buck’s shoulder.
“You never told me.”
“I wanted to see who Bobby found for you, but I didn’t think Bobby was just going to drop that on you like this.”
Buck let Makepeace move him toward the locker room to get changed. Buck looked at Eddie, who looked every bit like a predator watching Buck.
“I thought you were doing better after that accident.”
“I am, but my body is taking longer to recover, and I want to do this as long as possible. I’ve got the education to be an engineer when it’s needed to cover days off, but Bobby never wanted to pull me off your partner for that since there is no one else here for the heavy stuff. So we just all stayed like we were. When Bobby got the approval for the new spot, I talked to him. I can still work with you two and be the one at the top if Diaz will allow it.”
“What do you know about him?” Buck started to strip down to get changed.
Buck looked at the glass and was glad that no one was looking at them. It didn’t mean that the Shifters weren’t listening in, but at least he could make himself believe it.
“Army medic, silver star, was nearly killed in a helicopter crash. Personal life is not being discussed at all. Hen thinks he’s hot. I think Chim actually popped a boner.”
“Ew,” Buck said, and he flicked his shirt at Makepeace before putting it on. He grabbed his boots in the locker and sat down to put them on, tossing his other shoes into the locker as he did.
“I think Bobby’s in love with his service record and might try to push him to take a few extra classes to fill in for Hen and Chim.”
Buck understood what Makepeace was saying with that. Bobby would groom him to be like Makepeace, a little Jack-of-All-Trades who could fill in where needed since floaters couldn’t always do more than fire fighting. Buck was closer to Makepeace, taking extra classes to become an engineer at some point, but down the road, when his body was like Makepeace’s and couldn’t take the high-intensity rope rescues he did.
“Can I get a minute with him?” Diaz asked.
Buck looked back at the guy as he tied his second boot. Diaz was leaning in the doorway.
“You do anything to him; I don’t care that you could shred me. You won’t like what I do to you.”
“I get it.” Diaz wasn’t looking at Makepeace when he said it. He was looking right at Buck.
Buck wasn’t sure what Diaz wanted with him.
“You don’t seem too connected to most of the Shifters on our shift,” Diaz said as he sat down on the bench a few feet from Buck, straddling it to face Buck.
Buck pulled his pants over the boot and turned to face Diaz the way he was facing him. “And?”
“I’m just trying to figure things out here. You’ve got Makepeace acting like an older brother or father; I haven’t figured that part out yet. Bobby, Hen, and Chim seem to treat you like family, and the rest don’t even smell a bit like you.”
“I haven’t seen them in twenty-four hours.”
“Why don’t they like you?”
“No, seriously. I can’t even understand it. You’ll have to ask them. I’ve never done a damned thing to them. I’ve learned all I can about Shifters and how to act around packs. I have never said or done anything that would upset them.”
“If it were you, Bobby would have you out of here. I just was trying to figure it out.”
“So you what? Came to the human to ask him?”
“You aren’t a human.”
“Yes, I am. I’m full-on human.”
“Who told you that?”
“My parents and two siblings, every single day of my life.”
Diaz looked like he was going to throw up. Buck looked away from him because he couldn’t take it.
Eddie got up from the bench and went outside and found that the Humans and Shifters were all crowded around, looking like they had been doing anything other than listening in on Eddie trying to figure out Buck.
“Captain, a word,” Eddie said.
“In my office, there are soundproofing spells built into it.”
Eddie followed Bobby into the room, and Eddie knew he should sit down, but he couldn’t. He felt like his more animalistic side was just aching to come out.
“I heard what you asked him, and I can state that Buck is fully human. He was shocked to be brought in here as he assumed that he’s human from a Shifter family would mean that no Shifter would want him around.”
“Bobby, that’s a bald-faced lie, and whoever told you that is covering up something.”
“His medical files were given to me when he was slotted to me.”
“Given to you?”
“He left home at eighteen and never looked back. He’s got a few injuries in there. He gave the whole damned file over when he joined the LAFD. Just carried the damned thing around on a thumb drive. This is the first family he’s ever had.”
Eddie clenched his fists. He snagged his phone from his pocket and messaged Pepa to have her do him a favor. After that, he messaged Abuela to ensure she brought what he wanted. Pepa was probably going to latch onto Buck as soon as she met him. Abuela and Chris as well.
“So his family doesn’t want him?” Eddie asked.
“No, the LAFD contacted the family because it was best for pack relationships. The pack they belong to in Hershey is a pretty big and powerful one. I am still not sure if the rest of the pack cares at all, but the immediate family does not care, so the larger pack can’t have a claim on him.”
“I know you had me and him working with Makepeace a little today; I also want to add in that other new guy. The one who replaced the second ambulance. He’s got the build for some things that Makepeace can’t do.”
“Sure. If he’s on a call, I’m not calling him back. Buck can be prickly when he thinks he’s being replaced. We all try and manage how we react around him. The scent of him pouting for hours turns us all a little feral.”
“I’ll gladly ensure that he never smells like that as long as I can help it. He’ll be a happy man today.”
“I wish you luck getting past his shell. Makepeace is the only one who has cracked the shell on him so far. I tried to get him to go to a Bruce Springsteen concert with me, but he declined.”
“My family isn’t going to let him go once they get their claws and wings on him.”
“No, I doubt they would. Someone needs to get him out of his shell, but please don’t force him. Despite it all, he’s a good person to have around on calls that have nothing to do with things he can help with. He’s great with kids. Have him show you his collection of pictures with kids he had gotten out of claw machines.”
“Will do. Now I was promised breakfast.”
“Buck’s probably up there working on it. Why don’t you come up and help as well? It’s a good way to get on his good side. Teach him a few things from your dual heritage that I can’t hope to teach him. He loves tamales, and his favorite place closed down three months ago, and he’s not found a good replacement yet for them.”
Eddie grinned and opened the door to exit the office. The small flush of magic over the door happened. It was nice that the place had magic to protect in ways that made it easier for people like Eddie to relax. He assumed the bunks had something close to it but more detailed to let in certain kinds of sounds.
The world’s magic was sentient in a weird way that no one could figure out. Eddie had tried to understand it once, but magic was beyond his understanding.
Buck was right where Bobby thought he would be, standing at the stove as he made scrambled eggs. Eddie watched him for a few seconds before he headed over to tackle the stack of bread that looked like it was to be turned into toast.
It smelled like potatoes, but since Eddie couldn’t see them, he assumed they were in the oven. It looked like everything was nearly done. He dropped toast into the toaster and then grabbed the butter.
“So, after we eat, Cap said you and Makepeace will take me through all of our gear and work on getting things set up for me. I brought my kit bag from the academy to pack up with supplies for if I need to go somewhere in my shifted form.”
“Bobby said you were a panther. We’ve never had one here as a firefighter. We don’t have much gear in that way. It’s on order.”
“Thankfully, mostly, it’s just the gear I can carry in my form. The bag is simple. I was told by Bobby what Shifters we have. It’s nice to have a wide variety. Is it true that Kinard, who used to be here, was an Elephant?”
“Yes. I only have seen him shift once before, but he was good at getting kids and idiots down from trees. Put Hen in a tree once to assess a victim when the ladder truck was getting in position.”
“I bet that was a sight to see.”
Eddie engaged Buck in an idle conversation about everyone at the station; Buck had nothing but great things to say about everyone. There was nothing mean in anything that he said. Which was strange given the strands of conversions that were being had all around him while he had been getting the fifty-cent tour from Bobby before his shift had even fully started.
“Smells great, Buckaroo,” Hen said. She snagged a strip of bacon off the tray when it was pulled out of the oven. There was also ham and sausage.
Eddie figured they ate well here, and he didn’t begrudge them. The calories burnt using abilities to rescue people had to be massive. The food budget at the academy had been big, and they were just training. This was something else, though.
It took the last ten minutes of getting the food finished up that Eddie realized that Buck didn’t touch anyone. Others touched him, but he didn’t touch anyone else. It made Eddie’s heart ache. That was no way to raise a kid.
Buck heard the commotion, but he was neck-deep in the engineering manual. It wasn’t meal time, his other work was done, and they were offline for an hour as their paramedics were all tapped out on runs, and they all needed a little time after a fatal accident. He ignored the noise of everyone on the ground floor and just turned up the volume on his headphones.
Diaz hadn’t really left Buck alone all day, and after they had eaten breakfast, the man hadn’t really stopped touching him either. Buck was used to the touches from the others. He didn’t care about them doing, even if it meant nothing. He wasn’t part of their packs. Despite the 118 being a pretty tight-knit place, they were all part of various packs.
A little while later, Buck felt like someone was watching him. He looked up to find a boy who looked to be around seven looking at him from where he was standing. Buck pulled the headphones out of his ears and laid the book down.
“Hello,” Buck said.
“Hi! My name is Chris. What’s yours?”
Buck looked around, trying to find the adult the kid belonged to. He would not have been able to make it up there on his own, given the crutches. Or if he did, he was super sneaky to be able to do it.
“Buck. Where are your parents?”
“My mom ran away from my Dad and me, and Dad’s downstairs talking to all of the people. I saw your head and asked Miss Hen who was up here. Daddy helped me up and left me to bug you.”
“Bug me, huh?” Buck asked. He looked down to where the team was talking to a group of people, and he saw Diaz standing back from the main group, his eyes on the people around him, but the way his body was turned and how stiff he was, it told Buck that this was his kid.
It wasn’t normal for a Shifter to have a kid with disabilities like that, but it did happen occasionally.
“That’s what he said before leaving me on the other side so that you wouldn’t make him take me back.”
“What’s to stop me from marching you down those stairs?”
“You wouldn’t carry me.”
Buck had to agree about that. As much as his family hated him, they made sure that he didn’t make a single faux pas when it came to others being around him. He wasn’t allowed to do anything that would look bad on his parents. His schoolwork had been perfect because there was nothing else it could be. When it had come time for him to go to college, his parents had offered him a new car and a small amount of cash or the equivalent cash and Maddie’s old car if he wanted to go to college, but he had to figure out where and pay anything else on his own. He had taken the new car and some cash and lived out of that car for years as he wandered the country.
He had ended up in Peru with some guys, followed them to LA, and had ended up training to become a firefighter.
“No, I wouldn’t carry you,” Buck said.
“See. What took you so long to answer?” Chris moved closer, causing Buck to jump up to rotate one of the chairs around.
“You don’t have to sit down, but just in case you want to,” Buck said. He sat down again as he thought about what to say to Chris. “I was just thinking about my past, is all.”
“Dad says you aren’t as happy as you seem.”
“What else did your dad say?”
Chris sat down in the chair and laid his crutches against the arm with his leg keeping them up.
“That you want to be happy, but you are afraid. I told him I would help make you happy.”
Buck knew then that Diaz was a sly fucking bastard who would use his son as a weapon of mass destruction on Buck. No one else had tried to get Buck to do more than hang out for a beer on their evenings off. Bobby had tried once with some concert for someone Buck had no idea who they were, and then he had given up on that front.
Now, Diaz had a kid who was cute as fucking hell looking and looked at Buck like he wanted to make Buck his best friend.
“You are a weapon of mass destruction, you know that, right?” Buck asked.
“Dad has called me that before. Usually, when I have my Legos everywhere, and he has stepped on one. So, are you coming over after school tomorrow to play Legos with me?”
“Won’t you have homework?”
“Durand doesn’t give homework,” Chris said.
“Does your father know I’m coming over?”
“He does now. He’s listening to every word up here. I’m sure that if he was upset about it, he would be up here right now.”
“He keeps an eye on you a lot?”
“Just when I’m in new places. Abuela has dinner covered.”
“Dinner?” Buck asked. He wasn’t sure what the hell Chris was talking about there.
“Yup. Daddy said that Bobby would not be happy to give up his kitchen, but Abuela brought over the tamales she had finished making today. She was going to freeze them, but Daddy said you needed them. There is just enough to share.”
Buck really wished that Diaz hadn’t decided that Buck was someone he needed to have on his side.
“Hey, mijo, Abuela needs someone to help her show Cap the ropes in the kitchen. Are you up for it?”
“Yes, Daddy. You aren’t going to let Buck run away, are you?”
“He’s stuck here until tomorrow morning. He’s not going to run anywhere.”
Chris gave Buck a grin and stood up, carefully getting his legs under him before he picked up his crutches. He headed toward the kitchen. Diaz turned the chair around and gave Buck a look before sitting in it. Buck wasn’t going to get up, so he stayed right where he was. If Diaz wanted to talk to him, he could turn around to face him.
Buck picked up his book again and found the page he had been reading on. Diaz said nothing even as more people came up the stairs, and there was a lot of talking from all around. No one approached Buck. It was…honestly freaking him out a little bit. He looked up from his book to find that most of the firefighters were still downstairs, but the ones that Buck knew the best were all up there. He wasn’t sure how he felt about this. It felt a little like he was being treated like a wild animal.
“Buck, andale!” someone yelled.
Buck wasn’t sure who it was, but he closed his book again before getting up. He walked to the kitchen where there were two women and Chris, with Bobby looking on like he was being shown something by the best chef in the world.
“What am I needed for?” Buck asked.
“You and Eddie go to the store and pick up stuff for my rice. He knows what to get. Take the captain’s vehicle.”
“Bobby?” Buck asked.
Buck felt like he was a prisoner in all of this. He wasn’t sure he minded, though, and he had to think about that.
Buck was asleep in his bunk when it moved. He wasn’t sure what the hell it was until he felt the warmth and fur. He groaned and moved over to allow Eddie room to lay with him in the bed. Eddie had been with the 118 for three weeks now, and after the earthquake, Eddie and Chris had all but kidnapped Buck for a few days.
If ever there was someone who was a willing hostage, it was Buck, though, and he knew it. Chris had latched onto him, and Eddie had treated him like a feral animal. He let Buck slip away to lick his wounds when the love between Eddie and Chris made him hate his childhood.
The entire Diaz family loved Chris, even though he was human and would never treat him like Buck’s family, his pack, had treated him. Buck had been adopted into the LA part of the pack with no issue. When Buck had enough time to lick his wounds, Eddie pulled him back in with the promise of ice cream or just a movie like Battleship.
Buck was pretty sure that Eddie wanted him, but Buck was worried about what the pack would do. His or Eddie’s. It hadn’t taken long to find out that Shannon couldn’t deal with the pack. She lad left her child behind because of him being pack. While the Diaz pack hated Shannon now, it wasn’t that way before. Pictures showed how enmeshed she was, and Chris talked about all the things he and his mother had done with the pack. She had been more part of the Diaz pack than Buck had been a part of the Buckley pack, and Buck had been born into it.
“Come on,”: Buck said.
It was all Eddie needed for him to move just that little bit more that had him half draped over Buck. He was asleep in seconds, and Buck wasn’t that far behind.
It was honestly rare that they weren’t jerked out of sleep by the sound of the bells for a call-out. If it wasn’t that, it was Bobby’s alarm.
“DIAZ!” Makepeace yelled out loud.
Buck grumbled at the awakening. He had no clue if Eddie had licked Makepeace while he was sleeping again. He didn’t normally do it when they were all in the bunks, but if Makepeace was asleep on a couch, it was open season.
“At least cover yourself.”
Eddie laughed, his human vocals sounding off before he rolled off Buck, and there were more squawks.
Buck didn’t open his eyes; he stayed where he was nice and warm in the bed. It took a few seconds for Buck to realize it was Makepeace making a fuss about Eddie being naked. Eddie had been shifted, so he had come back from that naked. Normally it wasn’t a big deal. There were always areas on call-outs where one of them could shift in and out of their form and be safe from being seen naked.
That Eddie was in bed naked with him should have been someone of a shock, but honestly, it wasn’t. The only time Buck had ever seen any of them on shift stay in their shifted form when asleep was when they were that way due to injury and not being safe to shift back. Any other time, they shifted and woke up humans.
“You seriously didn’t even get under the covers?” Buck asked.
“And wake up naked pressed to you? I’m not that much of an asshole, and it’s not like people here haven’t seen my naked ass.”
Buck still hadn’t opened his eyes.
“It’s safe; I’m in shorts.” Eddie jerked Buck’s blankets off him.
Buck sat up and stretched, looking around to see that it had only been Makepeace up and around. Most everyone else was still in bed, some with pillows over their eyes. Buck reached out and snagged Eddie’s wrist, pulling the man’s attention back to him. There was just a second of a look of shock on Eddie’s face, but then it was gone. Buck almost let go, but Eddie moved his hand to grab Buck’s wrist as well with a huge smile. Buck swallowed and understood what Eddie was happy about without the man saying a word.
“Are we still on for this afternoon?”
“Yeah, that reminds me. Can you pick up Chris from school? Abuela wants my help on something, so you can pick up Chris, and I’ll join you guys at home as soon as it’s done.”
Buck wasn’t sure he believed that Eddie had something that would take all day at Abuela’s, but he also knew that Chris hadn’t been getting as much one-on-one time with Buck lately, so this could be an easy way to have that without making Chris feel like he was picking Buck over Eddie.
“So, how are you feeling?” Bobby asked.
“Good, Cap. The pain on my side is gone. I told you I just needed to sleep.”
“Hen’s still going to check you out when you get out of here.”
Buck gave Bobby a mock salute and moved to get out of bed. He felt pretty good after the knock he got from dealing with a drunkard at the bar they had been sent to last night. Eddie had restrained the man until one of the cops could cuff him. He had been deemed too drunk to be able to go to a cell and had been sent to the ER instead. Buck figured that he was but that sobering the man up with medical intervention had been a little bit of payback for him going after a firefighter.
“Let’s go, Buck; we can get that done before you even change,” Hen said.
Buck looked at the shorts he was wearing. Hen would make him strip his shirt off anyway just to see the movement of his body. SO this made sense, and he could still do the movement she wanted.
Eddie hung out to the side as Buck was checked over.
“You are good as new,” Hen said.
“I’ve always been a fast healer, not like the rest of you. My skin won’t knit back together in the blink of an eye but still faster than most people, it seems.”
“Probably genetics from being from a Shifter family.”
Buck shrugged. He’d never cared about that. He figured that the fact that he rarely got sick also came from that.
Eddie’s hand landed on Buck’s shoulder, and for a second, Buck wanted to lean his head over and press his cheek to skin, but he stopped himself. That urge had been there for days, and Buck had no clue what to do with it.
“Chim, when did you say your girlfriend was coming around?” Makepeace asked.
“Around the end of the shift. She’s picking me up, and we are going to breakfast. That excited to meet her?”
Buck laughed. He let Eddie use the hand on his shoulder to get him up to where oatmeal was being gotten ready. It was the kind of day that screamed for it.
The morning went by without a hitch as no call-outs happened. It was like the world was giving Buck the calm before the storm. He never trusted it. He figured he would get stuck in traffic on the way home.
“So, what do we know of this girlfriend?” Eddie asked as he dropped into the seat beside Buck at the table. The first vat of oatmeal was up, and it was going fast.
“Not much. I think I heard him call her Maddie once. He’s been secretive. He had a girlfriend last year that was human, and there were a lot of issues there. He went to therapy after Bobby ordered it. He’s been dating her for about a month, I think. He might have been before that. She’s new to LA, only been here a few months.”
“Chim said she has been divorced. Which no one bats an eye at anymore, but he seemed ashamed about it,” Eddie said.
“Gossiping?” Hen asked.
“Sharing what we know about Chim’s girlfriend. I wanted to make sure I didn’t say anything that would upset her or Chim.”
“Howie!” a voice yelled.
“I guess she’s early?” Eddie asked.
Buck wasn’t sure what it was about the voice, but he swore he knew it.
“Let’s go see her,” Hen said.
“You haven’t met her?”
“No, he’s been secretive with her outside of just talking about her.”
Buck grabbed his bowl and carried it with him. He followed behind Hen and Eddie and nearly ran into Eddie at the bottom of the stairs. “Hey, keep walking.”
“And this is Eddie and behind him Buck, who is the one making a racket.”
“Daniel and Maddie Buckley,” Eddie said.
Buck dropped the bowl, the ceramic of it shattering, and it was the only sound in the room.
“How do you know us?” a male voice asked.
“Well, your brother Evan looks a lot like you, actually. Buck, do you want to go back up?”
“Yes.” Buck turned, and he fled. He didn’t want to see them. He really didn’t care what they had to say. It hadn’t even clicked with him that Chim could be dating his sister Maddie.
Eddie listened to Buck as he fled up the stairs. He didn’t know what the hell would happen, but he wasn’t shocked when Makepeace walked right to the other set of stairs.
“Wait, they are related to Buck?” Chim asked.
“Well, if Buck is Evan Buckley, our brother, then yes,” Daniel said.
Eddie didn’t like the look of him. Daniel looked smug and like he was better than everyone.
“I think this might go better if a few of us settled in to talk. Chim, Hen, Eddie, gym. Mister Buckley and Mrs. Kendall, please follow them. Makepeace, make sure breakfast is served to everyone.”
“You got it, Cap.”
“We aren’t going to talk to our brother?” Daniel asked.
“He doesn’t seem like he wants to talk to you.” Eddie couldn’t help the smirk he gave the two Buckley siblings.
“You ordered him to leave.”
“No, I asked him if he wanted that. He jumped at the chance, as you can see.”
“Yes, and that other guy blocked the other stairs,” Maddie said.
“And?” Eddie asked.
“Okay, stop,” Bobby said.
Eddie sat down on the bench press, making sure he looked as big as he could with it. Daniel did the same on the other side. Buck hadn’t shared the kind of Shifter his family was. He wasn’t going to be shocked if it was something weak. While most Shifters were predators, there were a few classes that were prey and predators in the world. It wasn’t the kind of thinking that Eddie had been taught. He could see why it was sometimes brought up.
Cat Shifters of all kinds, even those who turned into house cat breeds, were still predators and no one really fucked with them. Some turned into domesticated dogs, and Eddie hadn’t yet to meet one he would give the time of day to.
“Chim, I’m sorry, but I am going to have to ask that your girlfriend and her brother leave and they are not welcome back outside of picking you up.”
“You got it, Cap,” Chim said.
Eddie wasn’t shocked that Chim didn’t fight him on that. Just a week and a half ago, while Hen had been at the ER with Buck after a cut needed to be checked out and stitched up, the group had a session of chatter about how they hated Buck’s family.
“You are just going to accept that, Howie?”
“Yes, I am. This is a workplace, and while my team and I are pretty damned close, I also understand that you and Buck will never have a good relationship.”
“He’s just a human; why do you care so much?”
“Just a human?” Bobby asked.
“Isn’t the LAFD big on having like all Shifters in their ranks?” Daniel asked.
“Actually, no, it’s about half and half. We have a few stations that have shifts with only humans on a shift so that when it’s needed, they can cover for things that Shifters can’t do. My team is currently half and half. Buck is one of the biggest heavy rescue assets in the LAFD at the moment, and for a while, his partner was human. We tried four other Shifters with him, but Buck and them didn’t get along. Until Eddie came along.”
“Everyone loves me,” Eddie said. He was the only one who was facing the stairs to see Buck slip through into the bunk room. Makepeace was on the stairs watching him, and Eddie nodded at the man. Makepeace turned around, and he headed back to get food. Eddie noticed the bowl Buck had dropped had been cleaned up. Eddie figured he had oatmeal on his pants. He didn’t mind that. If anyone noticed, they wouldn’t say a single thing about it.
“You are easy on the eyes,” Hen said.
“Maddie, Daniel, please. I’ll meet you outside after the end of shift,” Chim said.
“You are really going to just not have us a part of this?” Daniel asked.
“You made your choice long ago about what you wanted or didn’t want from Buck. You have to accept what that means now.”
Eddie was pretty sure that the look of shock on Hen and Bobby’s faces wasn’t from what Daniel said but what Chim had said.
“You are going to regret this, Howard,” Daniel said.
“Really? Because I don’t want drama in my workplace?” Chim asked.
“For choosing a human over Maddie.”
“I am not. I’m making a choice to not have my work be a toxic place, and honestly, after the way that Buck has spent the last year slowly having to be brought into the work unit and how afraid of touching anyone he was, I am not sure that this relationship will last. What happens if we get to where we have a kid, and they are human, Maddie? What then?”
“Well, we wouldn’t raise them. It’s gotten easier to adopt out humans from packs these days.”
“Bobby,” Chim said.
“Hen, Eddie, and I will step over here. I do want to remind everyone here that there are cameras all over, and they are recording.”
Eddie headed all the way into the locker room and into the showers to find Buck standing under them. His uniform hanging up to where he could get into it quickly if needed. Eddie wasn’t sure what he needed from him. Buck needed something.
“You can come closer; I’m not going to break.”
“Chim’s breaking up with Maddie right now, I think.”
“Chim’s father didn’t want him because he took after his mother’s side of the family. So he and his mother were left here after his father had finished his part of his job here.”
“So he would never agree to have a child; he would have to give up because of genetics.”
“No, he wouldn’t. He would love that kid forever. He needs someone like that. I…thought I was over this,” Buck said.
“You’ve not seen them.”
“They will tell our parents, and I am not sure what I want to happen.”
“Well, I can see why you would want them to apologize but would not forgive. And I can see why if they don’t try and get a hold of you, that it would hurt you.”
“Honestly, I don’t want to hear from them. I never wanted to see Maddie or Daniel again either. I try not to think about them, but I know how I act is directly from how they treated me.”
“You were raised in a pack but not part of it. A little while longer with my family and me, you will be acting like someone who isn’t scared of touching.”
“It was never good. I wasn’t allowed to leave my scent on any of them. I did my own from when I was old enough to do my own laundry, I did my own. Anything that would have my scent on the family more than just passing was prohibited. I wasn’t allowed to sit in the living room or at the dining room table. I was not part of the family, but the pack would have been ostracized if I had been left back then. Which I just wish wasn’t the way it was done back then. Some kids are worse off than I am. I have my moment of stupidity, but some kids are really fucked up out there. Even just moving them to other packs in the same grouping or, hell, to other cities. There are humans who would take them in.”
“I would have taken you in,” Bobby said.
Eddie turned to see Bobby and Makepeace standing there.
“My family would have taken him in as well. It’s why it’s not done that way now.” Eddie’s heart ached for the ones that had been hurt over the decades. It was hard to think about. Children like Chris who were left behind because they were different, or in cases like Buck, just normal.
“You two head out as soon as Buck’s done. We can roll without you two. We are too close to leaving time anyway. One of the earlier shifts will take anything that happens. So, take the day. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t do anything wrong at all. Everyone will escort you outside, so Daniel and Maddie don’t try to talk to either of you. Will you follow Buck home, Eddie?”
“We drove in together. I’ll take him with me when we leave, and instead of just dropping him at his place, he’ll drop me at Abuela’s house, and then he can pick me up afterward. I’ll make sure he’s safe. Buck already had plans to pick up Chris.”
“Good. If you need anything. Just say something. We will do what we can to help.”
Eddie knew that Buck wouldn’t want that, not today but maybe soon.
Dreams were dreams, and they had been dreams since he was a kid. Buck knew he was dreaming because humans didn’t move this way, but he didn’t care. He was running with the wind, feeling the wind on his face, feeling it rush over his body. He took off faster as the sun started to peek above the trees.
The woods he was in smelled like nothing he had ever smelled before. It wasn’t until he was running so fast he didn’t see the greatest that he knew where he was, and then he fell into the water.
But he didn’t wake up.
Eddie reached out and found nothing but a cold bed. He opened his eyes, expecting to see Buck sitting in the chair at the side of the bed, but he wasn’t there either. Eddie sat up and looked around the bedroom. The faint light from the nightlight in the bathroom gave Eddie just enough light to know that Buck wasn’t in the room.
Casting his hearing to the rest of the house, Eddie found that Buck wasn’t home. He grabbed his phone and checked to ensure Buck hadn’t texted him. There was nothing from Buck, so he texted Buck to ask him where he was.
The vibration and soft chime from the other side of the bed had Eddie close the texting app. He got out of bed and grabbed Buck’s cell. There were notifications from apps and a few emails, but no calls since the one from Chim the night before. There were no new texts other than the one from Eddie. It wasn’t normal.
Eddie checked on Chris, who was asleep and looked like he had no care in the world. Eddie left him, entered the living room, and found the front door open. He squeezed his phone in his hand before he called Bobby.
“Eddie?” Bobby asked, sounding like he was still mostly asleep.
“Buck’s not here, but his phone is. His Jeep is, and the keys but the front door is wide open.”
“Okay, Athena’s on shift tonight. I’ll call her, and she’ll meet you there. Stay in the living room but don’t touch anything. Chris?”
“Chris is asleep. He didn’t even wake up. Bobby, he was in my bed. He’s been sleeping in my bed since weeks ago when Daniel and Maddie were in the firehouse.”
“Okay. And you are sure that his keys are there?”
“Yes, they are in the bowl with my keys. If he took a walk, he wouldn’t leave his phone, and he wouldn’t leave the door open.”
“No, he wouldn’t. Not with Chris home. Hell, even if it was just the two of you. I’ll call Athena. You just…hang in there. Who do you want?”
“I don’t know. Just…people for him. People that care about him. I can’t stay here, so Makepeace. I want him here in the house. Chris loves him, so if he wakes up, Chris won’t freak out.”
“Makepeace is the guy to go to. Okay. We will be there as soon as possible. I’ll call Makepeace first.”
“Thanks.” Eddie hung up, and he debated following the scent of Buck. There was another scent there laced with Buck’s, but he had never smelled it before. Someone had been there. Someone had lured Buck out of the house and got him to leave.
Eddie wasn’t going to stop until he found Buck.
“Who is that?” Chim asked as he got out of the car. Makepeace was in the driver’s seat, and he looked around like someone looking for a killer who would jump out at any second.
“I don’t know. The scent isn’t in the house. Did Bobby get you up to speed?”
“Yes. The rest of the team is on their way, well, the ones that Buck is close enough to,” Makepeace said.
It wasn’t long before the rest of the team was there. Makepeace was already set up in the living room, ready for whatever happened.
“Okay, Hen, are you ready?”
Hen’s form was that of a Silvertip Grizzly bear, and she had the best sense of smell on the team. She was the best one on the team to track. Hen came out of the porch area that locked her getting undressed. She was massive and barely fit through the doorway, but she had perfected getting places.
“I’ll catch up. I have a bag packed with clothes,” Eddie said. He wanted to be in his fur to do this. He wanted to be able to follow Hen as much as possible and get them through places she might not, but it might be hard to have her follow that scent.
It was like breathing for Eddie to shift and grab his bag and get Makepeace to help him get it on.
“Go and find our boy,” Makepeace said.
Eddie licked the hand that dropped from his head before taking off out the door. Following Hen’s scent was easy. The rest of the group was staying in human form for the time being since while Hen could move fast, she wasn’t going that fast, and someone needed to have a voice in this.
Athena was keeping pace with Hen, and Eddie rushed past, trying to figure out the scent that was surrounding Buck’s scent. It was something strange, but also Eddie thought he should know it.
Hen changed direction and headed toward the small park that led to a bigger one and the river.
Eddie smelled it as they neared the river. The scent of fear was so cloying that Eddie was pretty sure he would throw up from the fear. It wasn’t Buck that was the one who was afraid. It was the person with him.
“Did Buck throw the person over?”
“Then where is he?”
Eddie wasn’t paying attention to who was talking. He was looking down at the river below. This was Buck’s favorite place to sit and watch the river from the little rise that was created here. It wasn’t far enough of a drop to be that scary.
There was something else to the fear here.
“Where is he?” Chim asked.
Hen bumped into Eddie, and Eddie bumped back. He headed down the rise one way, and she did the other. Eddie knew that things were confusing, but it felt like he was missing one huge thing in it all.
“Brian, what is going on?” Bobby asked a few minutes later when Eddie was on his way back up.
Eddie listened to that conversation because Makepeace would not be calling without reason.
“Look, I’ve been here the entire time. I’ve sat in this damned chair and looked at the fucking door. Then I heard the kid say something that sounded like, ‘Daddy, you are all wet.’ So I go, and there is a fucking panther in bed with him, but it’s not Eddie. Wrong color.”
Eddie took off before anyone could say anything. The pieces all slotted together in his head as he ran. The front door was open, and Makepeace wasn’t standing anywhere near it. He was, in fact, in the kitchen. Not a threat.
Chris was still in bed, his arm thrown over the panther in the bed with him. The scent of that person with Buck filled the room, but then the smells meshed.
It wasn’t another person. It was Buck shifting. Eddie knew he had smelled something like it on Buck when he had met him, but then it had gone to the background of Eddie’s mind.
“What do you need?” Makepeace asked.
Eddie flicked his tail and turned around to shut Chris’ door, hoping that Makepeacce took it how it was meant.
Buck was dead asleep, his body barely moving even though he was breathing. It wasn’t that strange for a first shift, but since it normally happened somewhere between seven and the end of puberty, Eddie had no idea what this meant. He carefully walked over to the bed, got up to press his front paws down onto the bed, and waited for Buck to move.
“Daddy?” Chris asked, and his voice held a tenor of fear.
Eddie licked Buck’s face, and Buck moved just like he did when Eddie licked his face when he was in human form. Eddie nudged at his face next, and Buck just purred a little. He rolled over, draped his front leg over Chris, and then moved to where Eddie could get in on the other side.
“Is this Bucky?”
Eddie walked around the bed and got in on the other side. There was a reason Chris had a full-sized bed despite still being small. Eddie draped a leg over Chris just like Buck had done.
“Okay, yes, that’s Bucky. I’m going back to sleep.”
Eddie chuckled a little. He could hear the rest of the team talking out in the living room, but he also knew that many of them had heard what Chris said. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, having Buck actually be a Shifter. There would have to be classes he took to be able to use his form, but Eddie would be able to help with that as well.
“Why is Bucky wet?” Chris whispered a few minutes later.
Eddie licked Chris’s cheek the way he always did when he wanted Chris to be quiet.
“Okay, okay. Sleep. You are telling me everything, or I will hum all day tomorrow.”
Buck’s body ached. He felt like he had run a marathon without trying to train or stretch out. He just wanted to sleep, but a pressing need was stopping him. Sleep would get rid of the ache.
“How is he?”
“Waking up but fighting it.”
“So situation normal.”
Eddie’s laugh broke through Buck’s trying to sleep. He groaned and reached out to find him, but there was just an empty bed. The sheets felt wrong, so Buck opened his eyes. He saw Bobby sitting in the chair beside Chris’ bed.
“Bobby?” Buck asked; his voice cracked, and it tasted like something had died in his mouth.
“Hey, don’t move. Eddie’s behind you. Don’t freak out.”
“Why would I freak out?” Buck felt like he would rather be dead. He stretched, trying to see if that would make his body feel better. “Why am I naked in Chris’ bed?”
“That’s why I said don’t freak out. Eddie?”
“It’s okay. I covered you up before Chris saw you.”
“Why am I naked in CHRIS’ BED!” Buck demanded. He tried to sit up and felt like he was half drunk with how he was feeling at the moment. The world spun, and Eddie was there to catch him before he dropped down to the floor.
“Bobby, go out and just keep everyone back, even Chris right now.”
Buck whined at that. He wanted Chris. The room smelled like him, but he wasn’t there. Buck wanted to make sure he was fine.
“Okay, okay. Bobby.”
“You got it.”
Bobby left, and Buck tried to follow him, nearly slipping out of Eddie’s hold. Buck wasn’t sure what was going on, but he didn’t like it. Chris was being kept from him.
“CHRIS!” Eddie called.
“I’m coming!” Chris yelled back.
Buck calmed down. Chris was coming to him. He wasn’t being kept from Buck.
“Hey, Bucky, are you feeling better?” Chris asked from the doorway.
Buck whined again, and there was an added noise to it that he wasn’t used to hearing. Chris stepped right up to Buck and held out his hand, his crutch falling to the floor. Buck reached out and felt Eddie tense where the man was holding him. Buck tensed as well and then relaxed when Chris touched him first. Then Buck noticed the claws.
“What the fuck?” Buck asked.
“You are like Daddy, Bucky! You were wet last night, and I thought it was Daddy who was wet, but it was you. Then Daddy came in, and everything was great. We had a sleepover in my bed. Are you feeling okay? You don’t look okay.”
“Do you remember when your cousin shifted for the first time at her seventh birthday party?”
“Yeah, she took a really long nap, and we all had cake and dinner without her, and even though Esteban wanted to open her presents without her, you said that it was mean but that the food needed to be eaten.”
“Well, Buck shifted for the first time, so he’s tired and still sore. His body will slowly knit itself back together. Bobby’s going to make you breakfast, though.”
“Can he make pancakes like Buck?”
“Who do you think taught him?” Bobby asked.
“Oh, then I’m really hungry, and my Bucky usually makes me four pancakes when I’m hungry.”
Eddie handed Chris his crutch, and Bobby ushered Chris out of the room, shutting the door as he went.
“And Buck usually eats eight of them and Daddy like ten, but Buck’s going to be really hungry. I think we need to eat in stages as there are many people here. Uncle Chim said you would tell me why.”
“Buck, focus on me,” Eddie said.
Buck looked at Eddie, and the sounds all faded to him and his heartbeat.
“You shifted last night. You were dreaming, I think. I found your clothes in the bedroom in the hamper. You were shifting as you moved through the house. Once a good look was gotten on the door and locks on the inside, it was evident a half-shifted hand did it.”
“I thought I was dreaming, and then I was going over the side into the water, and I didn’t wake up. I got to land and wanted to go home, so I went. I knew where I was, and then there was someone strange in the living room. I forgot to lock the window in our bedroom, so I got it up, and inside I went. I wanted Chris since you weren’t there. Then there was nothing.”
“Makepeace heard Chris talking to you, and he came into the room. He found you curled in bed with Chris. Called Bobby. I ran here in my form as fast as I could. it was nothing really to get here.”
“Eddie, this is impossible.”
“No, it’s really not. I am not sure who told you that you were fully human; you aren’t. I could tell it from the moment I met you. I smelled it on you, beyond the fact that you were mine.”
“It was evident from the first day you thought I was yours. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but you let me run when I needed the space and pulled me in when I was afraid to say I was ready to come back. You never got upset.”
“Abuse is abuse, and it takes a lot to overcome it, Evan. Chris and I were willing to wait as long as it took for you to realize that you were ours.”
“I didn’t want to leave the first night you talked me into staying when I had drank with you and wasn’t drunk even though I let you talk me into it.”
“You should have been drunk, though.”
“Buck, you put away enough drinks to put someone in the hospital with alcohol poisoning with how much you don’t drink normally. It just backed up what I already knew.”
“You really aren’t shocked? Cause I’m freaking out.”
“Oh, I can tell. The claws are a good show of you being freaked out. Don’t worry. You were careful with Chris. Even at my most freaked out after I was nearly killed using spiked bullets, I never hurt or scared Chris. You never would, and I trust you with him. You are not leaving here and running back to your place and hiding.”
“Eddie, I can’t…”
Buck leaned fully into Eddie, and he let him hold him. It was calming to feel Eddie’s arms around him. He smelled like safety; he smelled like home.
“How are you feeling? Body pain-wise?”
“Not nearly as bad as I did. I feel pretty good, honestly. It went away, and I didn’t notice.”
“It’s the first change. It changes you a lot; normally, it happens when the body heals up pretty well. You were just unlucky enough to change so damned late in late. You’ll get better at it, and it’ll stop hurting after a few times. Are you hungry?”
“And very thirsty.”
“We can get you a few glasses of water in you as soon as you get to the kitchen.”
“Why is everyone here?”
“You were gone, Evan. Gone and the front door wide open, and where your scent was changing with your first shift to blend you with your form, you didn’t smell just like you. I can pick it out now, but I couldn’t then. I was too freaked out. So I called Bobby. He got Athena and the rest of the team here to help look for you. Then you were at the river, and there was fear. So much fear. I thought you had gone over and then died, and the person who took you was afraid.”
“I’m here. I don’t even remember stripping my clothes off. I might have been asleep naked.”
“No, you were in one of my shirts that had been too big on me and a pair of shorts. You put them in the dirty clothes, so you were at least a little bit of a sound mind.”
“What’s going to happen since Athena was called in.”
“Nothing much. It was handled by the pack, and other than a BOLO for you, there wasn’t much done legally until we could prove it. A lot of kids go missing if they shift for the first time while sleeping. Think about a family with birds in their lineage. Tiny baby birds that have just learned to fly get stuck in a tree somewhere. Usually, whole neighborhoods come out to help with that. It’s not unheard of to see them all with flashlights going into trees. You can’t tell a normal bird from a Shifter bird when there is no idea of the smell or the sound of the Shifter like that.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“How have you never researched this?” Eddie asked.
“I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to know what I was missing. I already knew most of it. I saw my parents with Daniel and Maddie. I saw them with other packs. I saw the other packs at school. I was the different one. I was the one that was left behind. I was the one that was treated like shit. I didn’t want to know what I was missing.”
“Oh, cariño.” Eddie cupped the sides of Buck’s face and pulled him into a hug. He let go when Buck didn’t fight him and wrapped his arms around him.
Buck held on tight to him and let himself be held. He felt like he was drowning. He had no idea what he was doing, and his ignorance would hurt him. Eddie had already claimed him as his, so he wasn’t worried about losing him and Chris. He knew what place he had in their family.
After years of being Human, Buck wasn’t ready to be anything but Human.
Eddie opened the door to see Bobby standing there with two hands full of grocery bags. Eddie shook his head at Bobby, whose shoulders slumped.
“Is he eating?”
“Yes, he is, but as soon as he heard you pull in, he went to the bedroom. I’m not willing to make him upset to leave that.”
“He’s got two more weeks of leave. Do you think he’ll be ready for it?” Bobby asked.
“Yes. I think so. He’s been reading non-stop. He’s just trying to learn nearly 30 years of stuff he would have learned if he had been included in his pack. My parents sent up all of the stuff I was taught on, updated by my sister carefully. It’ll take him another couple of days to get through it all before he asks for more things.”
“Has his family been told?”
“No.” Eddie nodded toward the kitchen and was happy when Bobby followed along behind him with the food. Eddie hadn’t asked for him to bring anything, but he also understood the want to take care of a pack member. People who worked the first responder and medical jobs formed a pack made up of members from other packs.
Bobby was worried, so Eddie understood why he was upset. Eddie knew that Bobby looked at Buck like he was his own kid. It had been evident from when Eddie showed that he was interested in Buck.
“You knew,” Bobby said as he pulled out things from the first bag.
Eddie was sure that Bobby had just bought a lot of stuff that was snack food for Buck. There were a few things that Eddie and Chris would eat, but mostly it was Buck. This worked out because Eddie had trouble getting Buck to eat a big meal. This was a great idea. Eddie grabbed a knife and started working on cutting up some of the veggies to stick in a bowl. He stopped as he had no idea what Buck would eat with them with.
“Italian,” Bobby said as he pulled a trio of bottles from a bag. “He likes Italian, not ranch to dip his veggies in.”
“Thanks. The other day, he ate a little while Chris ate a few veggies with ranch. He ate so little of the dressing.”
“He’s not that fond of it. The smell is fine, but he just doesn’t like the taste. This is his favorite. He’s not going to ask for when going shopping. He might get to where he will put it down.”
“How did you get that out of him?”
“He went shopping one day after work, and I took him. His Jeep had been hit, and it was in the shop. Chim picked him up for work, and since I had to go shopping for food as well, we went together. I saw what he bought, and the next time I went food shopping, I got two bottles of it. The next time he went for a snack, I got that, and he ate almost an entire bottle worth with veggies in a week. I keep making sure this brand is bought.”
“I’ll mark it down. I keep brands on my shopping list because we’ve had a few sneak things in that we didn’t like before. So, what else?”
“I bought a lot of steaks. He’s always craving it randomly. The cuts are good to be frozen, so if you don’t eat them before it’s going bad, just toss them in the freezer. I know you have a chest one somewhere.”
“I do in the mud room on the back of the house. It’s a nice place for it, but it’s got a lot of stuff stacked on top of it right now.”
“Chim is preparing to help you move if you need it.”
“Well, we all know that Buck’s not moving out.”
“Oh, that. Yeah. No. We are fine here. Buck’s been in my bed since a few weeks before he shifted the first time. He’s aware that we are not just friends, but the little bit of distance we had made on that front has stalled. He’s freaked out, and it’s okay that he is. He’s shifted a few times when he’s sleeping, so he’s just been sleeping in loose shorts. He’s only left the bed once, and it was to get in bed with Chris. Chris is okay with it, and if Buck leaves the bed, I will cover him up.”
“And Chris is fine with everything?”
“He’s already told Buck he’s not leaving.”
“Okay, well. There is another reason I am here. Maddie came over, and I guess before she knocked, she listened as Chim was talking to Hen on the phone about Buck. She demanded to know where he was. She called Daniel and Chim had to call the cops to have her escorted out of his apartment. The cops told her not to come back. I guess it freaked her out that Buck shifted. Be prepared.”
“I’ll make sure he knows if he isn’t listening in right now.”
“I can’t tell. The room is muffled a little.”
“I had some spells woven. One of the ladies who lives close to Pepa does house warding, and since I hope that things become more romantic between Buck and me, I went ahead and did that.”
“Sounds coming out when a rune is pressed are muffled. It’s less than what you have in your office at work, which works all the time. These must be turned on, like when the door is locked for adult times.”
“I’m going to head out. I don’t want to overstay but when he’s ready to see us, let us know. We can come over one at a time.”
“I will. Thanks for this. You didn’t have to, but I know what you need to do to prove to Buck that you care.”
Eddie laid the knife down as Bobby finished putting up the last few things. He wasn’t shocked when he heard the bedroom door open up. Bobby turned to head out of the kitchen but stopped when he saw Buck right there.
Despite his manic research, Buck looked good. He slept enough hours each night and ate mostly enough, but the caloric burn ramped up with the first shift was hard to change in an adult.
“Hey, Bobby,” Buck said.
“Buck,” Bobby said.
Buck swallowed, and his eyes darted around to where he was looking at Eddie. There was no fear, but there was something there. He looked like he was going to run.
“Can I?” Bobby asked.
Buck nodded, and he stepped up closer to Bobby. Bobby grabbed onto Buck, and he held on tightly. Eddie stayed back, ensuring Buck didn’t start to freak out. Bobby was one of the first that wasn’t the close pack of Eddie’s family in LA who had been allowed into the house.
“You look good,” Bobby said as he pulled out of the hug. He cupped Buck’s cheek and smiled at him.
“Thanks. I’m getting there. I’m not as manic anymore. Eddie got me to watch a movie with him and Chris last night.”
“Good. I’m glad. You are pretty manic sometimes when learning about new subjects. Are you ready for training?”
“I am. Eddie’s been working with me as much as I let him. I’m not too worried about it. I can do it. I’ve rolled with everything else in life.”
“You have. You are good at that. If you need anything, we are all here.”
“I know. I just need to come to grips on my own.”
“We’ve never been around you when something like this has happened, so none of us know what to do.”
“No one does.”
Buck looked at Eddie over Bobby’s shoulder. “Eddie always knows what to do with me.”
“Well, you’ll be in good hands. The rest of the station will be happy to know I have seen you. Just…don’t be a stranger until the day you come back.”
“I won’t, but I must take things my way.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Bobby left with one last pat on Buck’s cheek.
Eddie watched him go and waited to see what Buck would do now.
“I’m glad you came out, at least for the end.”
“I was listening. I hate that I hurt him, but I can’t…it’s too much.”
“I know. The worry, the scents, the feelings that those scents make you feel. It’s a lot, and kids are sheltered from it all in a way. You were not. You didn’t have anything to help you learn this beforehand. Even Chris has lessons on everything that the kids in the pack who will become Shifters learn. It’s the only way to do things and make sure that down the road, if he has a kid, he understands it all. He can have kids who turn, and that’s the legacy even you had when you were thought to be just plain human.”
“I’m hungry. I heard Bobby brought my dressing over.”
“I have some veggies cut up here. I’ll work on more to stick in a container in the fridge if you want to sit in here and eat while I work.”
Buck nodded his head. His head turned toward the clock on the wall. He inhaled and exhaled.
“We have two hours until Chris is home.”
“Yes,” Eddie said. He laid a plate of veggies on the island and then set a bottle of dressing over for Buck.
Buck pulled the plate close and picked up a cucumber before tossing it into his mouth.
“I think I have ADHD,” Buck said.
“I knew that within moments of meeting you, but I also understood within days that you had no one who had ever cared enough about you to get you taken in to see someone.”
“Medications won’t work on me now; my body won’t process them right.”
“No, but Buck, you’ve been dealing with this for decades at this point in time. You know how to manage it. Right now, it’s overwhelming, but you are still reining yourself in. You are good. There is nothing wrong with what you are doing.”
“I have no clue what I want.”
“You don’t have to. You know you want to keep working; you know you are happy here; everything else will come out later.”
Buck nodded and focused on eating, ignoring Eddie. Eddie was used to it.
Cleaning up the kitchen from the impromptu vegetable cutting session took little time at all, and then Eddie was standing and looking at Buck as he moved a sliced carrot around on the place with a claw.
Buck was excelling at the whole partial changes. It was astounding how much he embraced the lessons taught in books for kids.
It seemed that whatever Buck was thinking about, he had figured it all out. He picked up the carrot with the claw and popped it into his mouth before taking care of his plate. He washed it off and set it to dry. He put up the dressing next and got out one of the bottles of juice he liked that were kept there for him. It was one thing Eddie had figured out early that Buck liked.
Eddie opened his mouth to ask Buck if there was anything he could do to help when Buck moved to stand in front of him. Eddie swallowed around the lump in his throat at how Buck looked at him. Eddie had never felt more like he was prey in his life.
Buck had a slight grin on his lips before he took the final step that had their chests brushing.
“We have three hours before we pick up Chris after his after-school program.”
“Yes,” Eddie said. He swallowed and felt like this body was stiff even though it shouldn’t be.
Buck said nothing, but he touched his hands on Eddie’s hips. The claws were all gone.
“Nothing big, just…control when making out. We nearly had that first kiss a while back, before that call-out, and we were cleaning the truck. I was ready, and I wanted it, and then everything kind of went to shit after it. Chris got sick, he got better, and then I shifted for the first time.”
“And you weren’t ready,” Eddie said.
“No, but I am now.” Buck brushed his nose over Eddie’s cheek, giving him a chance to back away.
Eddie didn’t back away; he cupped the sides of Buck’s face and brought him for that first simple, sweet brush of their lips. There was something that felt so right about that. It felt perfect in a way that even his and Shannon’s first kiss didn’t.
Buck was all in after that. He pressed his body to Eddie’s, taking them all the way back into the shut door between the kitchen and the hallway, pressing Eddie into the wood and keeping him there. It felt like coming home.
Eddie lost control, and his hands on Buck’s hips tightened as his claws came out a little.
“You want me that much?”
“Dios, Buck. Quiero todo.”
“Yeah?” Buck pressed his lips to Eddie’s, and he licked inside. It was nothing to surrender to what Buck wanted. Letting Buck control everything.
Eddie had few partners compared to the number that Buck was supposed to have had. Yet, Eddie was pretty sure he was the only Shifter Buck had ever taken to his bed in any fashion.
Buck didn’t hate Shifters, but he had no reason to seek them out. The family and the packs around where Buck lived had done him a great disservice.
“Couch?” Buck asked when he broke the kiss.
“Make me,” Eddie said. He wanted to see what Buck would do. Eddie hoped Buck didn’t hold back.
“As far as you want. What you want, I want, and Evan, I want it all. You won’t hurt me.”
“You don’t have a bone in your body like that. Scratches? All part of this. Good sex gets messy, and since we heal quickly, it’s not like it’s a danger. Too much pain, and it all becomes too much. Learning how to have sex with claws and other features is just part of this. I mean it, Evan. Whatever you want. How you want it. I’ve wanted you since I set eyes on you coming into the station. Actually, I think I wanted you from the moment I saw you on the news.”
“Eddie,” Buck said. He closed the distance between them and kissed Eddie like he was dying.
They made their way into the bedroom, and Eddie barely got the door shut before Buck had Eddie on top of him on the bed. Eddie understood wanting that grounding. The feel of someone holding you down to help you settle. Eddie had done it before. He would give Buck exactly what he needed.
Buck’s hands tried to get under Eddie’s shirt, and when he was too worked up to do it, he just used his claws to shred the shirt. Eddie groaned into the kiss and rocked his hips down, finding Buck hard.
By the time they were both naked, there was more than a little blood on the bed, and Buck had figured out what his own pain/pleasure line was as well as what Eddie liked and didn’t like about it.
“Eddie,” Buck said as he broke their latest kiss and dropped his head to the bed. He groaned at the friction between their cocks.
Eddie got himself up on his hands and looked down at Buck. He looked like a fucking painting. One of the really dirty ones. The kind that someone tucked into a closet and only showed to a few people. As soon as Eddie locked eyes with Buck, Buck came, his body thrusting up to find the friction it wanted to make it good and nearly throwing Eddie off. Eddie dug in with his knees and gripped the bed with his clawed hands. Buck’s body slumped down. He pulled Eddie down into him, holding him close and coaxing him into rutting into him.
“I think…” Buck trailed off as Eddie came. His mouth tipped in a smile.
“I love you,” Eddie said when he could speak again.
Buck laughed, and he brushed his nose across Eddie’s. “I love you too.”
“Good. Now, we have time to take a nap. My phone is somewhere, and I have an alarm set. There will be enough time for us to shower, and we can deal with the bed after we get Chris.”
“Hmm.” Buck closed his eyes and laughed when Eddie dropped onto the bed beside him.
Eddie forced Buck into the position he wanted and started cuddling him. This was just the first of many times.
“Evan Buckley?” a woman asked as she looked around the entry area of the station.
Buck looked up at the woman and frowned at the suit and how put together she was. There was something about her that had his hackles rising. He was about to get up off the chair he was sitting in as he worked on the log for the triple. He wasn’t sure what she wanted, but he didn’t think it was anything good.
“I’m Captain Bobby Nash; how can I help you?” Bobby stepped up to her, stopping her entry into the rest of the place.
“I’m looking for Evan Buckley. He’ll be leaving with me today.”
“You haven’t stated who you are.”
Buck swallowed and tried to act as small as he could until Eddie, Hen, and Chim were standing there with him.
“My name is Elena Straight, and I’m with the Pennsylvania Shifters Association. I will be taking Mister Buckley in for questioning today on hiding his Shifter status from the state as a child.”
“Isn’t that on his parents?” Makepeace asked as he stepped up to stand with Bobby.
Eddie reached out and laid a hand on Buck’s shoulder, giving him silent support.
“Well, from what I understand, it’s not illegal for a child to hide what they are, but it’s illegal for the parent since the child cannot make a legally binding agreement about their Shifter status. Mister Buckley was registered as soon as possible and has gone through the process to become a full member of the LAFD under his new status.”
“His parents said he lied to them.”
“Even back then, he couldn’t lie to his parents about a genetic test that was done on him,” Bobby said.
“We have the results of what was done when he was made.”
“Made?” Eddie asked.
Buck huffed, and he shook his head.
“I was made to save my brother. Genetically created to make sure I was an HLA match for him to save him from the cancer that had racked his body. It nearly didn’t take since I guess he had gotten sick, but his healing started to kick in to take care of that, and when he was done with the treatments using the parts of me, he was shifting, and he was saved. If I wasn’t tested when it was time for me to be tested when I was four like the rest of the world, that’s not on me. I was told from my first memory that I was worthless because I was human. You can head to LAFD headquarters and talk to them. They went off the medical records I had on me.”
“LAFD did the same testing on you that was supposed to have been done when you were a child. It came back undetermined. I just assumed it was whatever shitty things your parents had done to you as a kid to try and turn you into a Shifter. There was a lot of that going on back then.”
“Yeah, no. I wouldn’t be shocked if my mother and father ensured I was human. I was never supposed to shift, but I assume that whatever made me perfect for giving parts of me up to Daniel made sure I turned.”
“Or they did something else,” Eddie said. His hand wrapped around Buck’s elbow and pulled him along to the stairs to go up. “You can come back with an arrest warrant.”
“Agreed,” Bobby said.
Buck didn’t fight Eddie at all, even if Buck’s size made him stronger than Eddie, even with Eddie being a Shifter for longer.
“I will leave with him,” the woman said loud enough that even the humans would have been able to hear her.
“Over our dead bodies,” Makepeace said.
Buck knew that Makepeace liked him, and even though the man was getting older, he was still the same as he had been with Buck. The man didn’t fear him at all.
“You are ours,” Hen said.
“I know. You guys accepted me before I changed. I’m scared about the results of the genetic testing the LAFD did.”
“Hey, there is nothing to be ashamed of,” Chim said.
“No, I know there isn’t. I am not ashamed of what was done to me. I am not ashamed of who I am. I’m just worried about something they did messed me up.”
Eddie sat down beside Buck on the couch and pulled him close.
As if called forth, Buck’s phone began to ring. He laid it on the table and tapped the button to accept it and then another to put it right on speaker. “Buckley.”
“Buck, it’s Clara. We have the results. Am I on speaker?”
“Yes. I…today was not a good day. I just had something happen, and I’m a little raw.”
“Well, you’ll be happy to know that the DNA testing that was done shows nothing abnormal. However, the lock of hair you gave us for testing you had from your childhood. It shows something else. You were regularly drugged.”
“There is no easy way to put this. But the drug is used to suppress children from shifting in times of extreme emotional distress when it’s good for them to not have claws or fangs. The hair you gave us showed it every month. The assumption is that your body just stayed like it. There has never been a study into the long-term effects of long-term use. It’s only been used for three months at the maximum. We found a specialist in the area, and insurance will pay to ensure you are fine. Everything and anything you need. We have your schedule and will try to ensure that anything that is scheduled will be as soon as possible and around your schedule unless the wait time is unreasonable.”
“Okay,” Buck said.
“Do you have any questions?”
“Not at this moment, but I will call back if I do.”
“There is a direct line, and I’ll text you the number to this number. Call that and leave a message. One of the doctors will get back to you.”
Buck nodded, but he knew that Clara couldn’t see him. He was kind of done.
“Thank you, Clara. This is Eddie. He’s a little overwhelmed. I think he’ll give me a call once he gets online and freaks himself out.”
“Yes, there is a note about that. I’ll send a few links in his email to information we have based on REAL studies about the drug Buck was given. I will also be sending you the information about a study being done about kids who have been given the drug, you were a kid, and there needs to be a full workup beyond what we did. We were not looking at long-term damage. Part of the study will go into that.”
“Thanks. I’ll have him look it all over, and I promise we will get a hold of you if anything comes up.”
Buck reached out and turned off the call. He leaned into Eddie and tried to just figure it all out. Eddie didn’t move at all as Buck just leaned there against him.
The bell went off, and Buck jumped up. He looked at Bobby, who nodded. Buck needed to do it. He needed to push everything away and just focus on the job.
“If you do anything that makes me think you are going to get hurt, you are being pulled back,” Bobby said.
Eddie wasn’t sure what the meeting was about, but he looked to the side to see his parents sitting at the table along with Bobby and a pair of older adults that looked like they were unhappy to be sitting there. He looked at his sister, who was sitting outside of the room. Buck was down on the first floor talking to someone, and Eddie was supposed to wait down there for him, but he had come up instead. He kind of wished he hadn’t.
“Adriana, what is going on?”
“Buck has brought a whole bunch of shit down on the family but don’t worry, no one is upset. There is a shit ton of horrible going on all over the whole East Coast when it comes to Shifters. Buck’s tests showed that there was a lot wrong.”
“And?” Eddie asked. He knew it. It had been horrible, but at least there were no lingering effects now that Buck had shifted. If he had suppressed that, he could have died. Eddie had nearly lost him, and he never knew it. He had been very, very upset.
Chris had been worried about them and had clung to Buck tightly.
“Buck’s parents are trying to sue to get custody of him to take care of him. Abuela is on her way as well. She’s the eldest in the pack in the area, and then Dad’s the pack’s leader down in Texas, but it’s like the same pack, so all of them needed to be here. I think that Pepa is throwing her weight around somewhere.”
“No wonder no one told us anything. Buck’s probably going to try and run. He ran into someone he knows, and since we were early, he stopped to talk to them.”
“But Abuela, you cannot just kill my parents, even if I don’t care if they are dead. I don’t want you in prison,” Buck said. The doors to the elevator opened up seconds later. Buck stepped out first and held his elbow out to escort Abuela off the elevator after it.
“Nonsense, if they piss me off, I’ll challenge them to a duel. Your father won’t back down, then Eddie can rip him limb from limb.”
“I would,” Eddie said.
“Let’s get this over with,” Buck said. His eyes were on the room where Eddie assumed his parents were sitting.
Eddie kind of wished he could just walk in there and slap them.
“Evan,” the woman Eddie was sure was Buck’s mom said as soon as Buck entered the room.
Buck ignored her and settled Abuela down at the table with a kiss on her cheek. He turned, and when Helena offered her cheek, he kissed it before stepping around her and doing the same to Ramon. They had never met before that but were putting on a good show.
“Helena, Ramon, I’m sorry this has dragged you up here for this. I know you have no issue with it, but I hate that your lives were messed up.”
“You are family now.”
“He’s our son, not yours,” Phillip Buckley said.
“You threw him out. You have no files in either state about him being part of your pack. He was packless.”
“Was?” Margaret asked.
“I joined Eddie’s pack the day I shifted for the first time. The paperwork was filed here in LA.”
“The Buckley’s were not made aware of this. That’s not how things are done,” the stranger on Phillip’s other side said.
“Why would they? He was cast out of the Buckley pack when he was eighteen; I found that paperwork,” Adriana said.
“We pulled that paperwork,” Phillips said.
“I pulled it the day Eddie met Buck and said he wanted Buck. I looked everything up about him when it came to packs. He was packless and hadn’t been around anyone in his birth family for nearly a decade. You sent him off with money and a vehicle and told him to never darken your doorstep ever.”
“He lied to us as a child,” Margaret said.
“Adriana,” Abuela said.
Eddie wasn’t sure what was going on, but he knew everything was okay because Buck was relaxed. He wasn’t a ball of angst. Over the last two months since Buck had shifted for the first time. He had grown a lot and the hesitant way he was before that time. He had grown over the time before he had shifted for the first time as well. Buck was more sure of himself, and Eddie knew that had to do with him and his family. How they had kept him close and propped him up, showed him that being human didn’t mean he was less. It was the kind of thing his birth pack should have done with him.
“So what is your aim with this? To gain control of him before it’s figured out that you dosed him all of his childhood? That there is nothing in his medical records, so if it was done, it wasn’t done legally.”
The look of utter shock on Phillip and Margaret’s faces was great. Eddie was sure that Adriana had hit on the nose about it all.
“We were allowed to do what we wanted to our son,” Margaret said.
“Not really. There were strict laws in place even back then about the treatment of Shifters, and the continued suppression of him without a medical documented reason meant that the doctor who gave you the drugs would be found. They will lose their license, and there will be a look at every single patient of theirs over their whole life. The State of California will be looking into this as well. It’s nice that you were willing to come all the way here.”
Eddie heard the doors open behind him, but he didn’t look to know it was probably the FBI or at least the State Police. Crimes against minor Shifters of this nature had no statute of limitations and usually fell under the purview of the FBI. This would not go the way the Buckleys wanted it. Which he was glad of.
“We are good people. He wasn’t made to be a Shifter. He was made to be a human to give up parts of himself to save Daniel.”
“And that is disgusting,” Eddie said.
“What did your other children know of this?” Adriana asked.
“Nothing. They hated him because he was human, if they had known, they would have loved him, and we couldn’t have that.”
Eddie understood what that meant, and it was disgusting. It was all Buck had ever wanted: his parents’ love and his siblings’ to like him. Buck wanted love, but he didn’t care how he got it.
Buck had a string of lovers he had left in the past because they hadn’t got him, and they had tried to fix him but fix him how they wanted, not just loving him for who he was.
Margaret turned to look at Buck. “Do you think they will love you forever? You will be treated as an oddity until the shine wears off, and then you will be cast aside with nothing. A whore for their shining son to use and then cast aside.”
“Even if Eddie would get tired of me, the 118 won’t. Just because you hate me doesn’t mean that everyone in the world does. Eddie wanted me when I was human. He wanted to keep me around, and I was the scared little boy who was afraid of letting anyone in. He treated me like I mattered, then kept me around to ensure I knew that I did. Not everyone is like you, a vapid, shallow bitch who hated that she couldn’t save her son in any other way than to make me. You couldn’t even love me. I knew you never really wanted me. There was too much of an age gap. You had your boy and your girl, Shifters, who was the epitome of perfection in your eyes. You were someone who couldn’t love more than that, and you lonely love them because they are doing exactly what you want.”
“Shut UP!” Margaret screamed before she stood up and slammed her fist on the table. “You are a piece of shit. You weren’t worth carrying in my womb. They tried to tell me I could have made a baby with any surrogate and made sure that you were there for me to use as I needed, but I had hoped that carrying you myself would make it work better. I was right, but I am not sure it was worth it. You will come with us and submit to the rule of your birth pack.”
“Fuck you,” Buck said.
“Ma’am, you are not going anywhere,” the FBI agent said.
“You can’t keep us.”
“Actually, we can. We have warrants for your arrest,” another FBI agent said.
“This isn’t right. We are good people. Arrest him for being a horrible child.”
“I think you are done, Diaz family,” the first agent said.
“Thank you, if you need anything just tell us. And of course, you know how to get a hold of Buck if he needs to be talked to.”
“Yes, I do. The LAFD has been surrounding him and protecting him. It’s good to see, given what we have found back in his hometown. Our goal is not to put an undue burden on Buck. We just want justice done for him and anyone who was hurt like him.”
“Ready to go?” Eddie asked.
Buck nodded his head.
Eddie had no clue what was coming, but he had a feeling it was the downward trek on a long haul.
Buck felt het bed shake, and he smiled as Chris climbed up onto it. He relaxed as Chris laid down with him.
“You are bigger than Daddy,” Chris said.
Buck turned his head and licked up the side of Chris’ face he could reach. Chris giggled, and he flopped on Buck more.
“Daddy wants you to come outside. Grandma wants to see you.”
Buck huffed, but he didn’t move to get up. If Helena wanted him, she could come and get him. He had been napping since they had gotten home from the day at the park. Emotionally, Buck was just done with everything to do with his birth family.
“Or we can stay in here and take a nap. I get away with a lot of naps, and if I am sleeping on you, no one will bother you.”
Buck closed his eyes and waited for the soft sound of Chris’ breathing to even out. Eddie came into the room just as Chris was slipping fully into sleep.
“I thought he needed a nap. Mom wants to talk to you, but that can wait. I’ll come and get you two when it’s dinner time.”
Buck yawned, and he closed his eyes. Eddie’s footsteps didn’t retreat but came closer, and he scratched at Buck’s head a little.
“You are so beautiful, inside and out, Evan. Your parents and siblings tried to destroy that, but you survived and are a shining star in the night to guide me. I didn’t know I was looking for you, but now that I have you, I never want to let you go. I love you, querido.”
Eddie kissed the top of Buck’s head, then slipped out of the room. Buck turned his head to check on Chris, who was still asleep. He knew that he wanted this forever too. He didn’t want to be anywhere but where Eddie and Chris were. It had been sudden and sharp, but with them standing beside him, he felt as if he could do anything.
Buck might have been stifled growing up, but he was free now and chose Eddie and Chris and their family. They were his, and he was theirs.