The Question of Fate

Title: The Question of Fate
Fandom(s): 9-1-1
Relationships: Eddie Diaz/Shannon Diaz, Eddie Diaz/Evan Buckley,
Tags: Soulmate AU, Written On Skin Soulmates, Angst, Getting Together,
Warnings: Child Abuse (Neglect & Emotional), Explicit Sex, Major Character Death (Chim), Not Chimney Friendly, Not Maddie Friendly
Summary: It was the question, wasn’t it. Was the person writing on your wrist really the best person in the world for you?
Word Count: 36,181
Notes: Written for the Quarter 4 2022 Big Moxie
Beta: Grammarly


Eddie Diaz was so happy. It was nearly the end of school, which meant he was closer to his thirteenth birthday. He had been looking forward to it for two years once he learned exactly when it was that he would be able to talk to his soulmate. His mom had already picked up a whole set of pens that were safe to use on the skin all the time and came off with a special wipe. Sofía and Adriana were still going through a lot of the pens and wipes, there were many kinds, and not all of them were good. Eddie was glad his parents got him the best.

“Practicing what you are going to say?” Adriana asked as she dropped onto the couch next to Eddie.

“No, trying to focus on the history of soulmates. The class will suck tomorrow if I don’t know everything.”

“I’m shocked you haven’t read this before.”

“There was a printing error. It was the first five pages repeatedly in the booklet; no one knew until the class started, so we learned a lot of other stuff. So, we learned all about other stuff, and we get to read the booklet on our own time.”

“Aww, that sucks. Did you like the history you learned?”

“Yes. It’s strange, but it’s like fact. I asked a few questions and my teacher said she couldn’t answer them.”

“What about?”

“The people who say that soulmates don’t exist. How can they say that? Like I can see the writing appearing on your arm. How can you deny that?”

“The world is full of idiots, and none are stupid people who don’t get what they want.”

“Yeah, Miss Brown was talking about that. How there are people who lose their soulmates before they get to this stage or the writing just stops one day, and they never understand what happened.”

“People are stupid,” Eddie said.

Adriana laughed and got off the couch before heading to the kitchen. Eddie watched her as she walked away before he looked at the booklet again. It was huge compared to most booklets Eddie got as part of school, but the story he was reading was interesting; he just wanted everyone to leave him alone.

Eddie got off the couch and grabbed his backpack to take to his bedroom. He waited to make sure no one was around before he slipped out the backdoor. He snuck across the backyard to the gate behind the house and out the door to get into the woods. He shut the door and made sure it didn’t slam. His mother didn’t like him going out alone, but it was the only time he could get away from his sisters. Adriana was already home from college for the summer, and Sofía was being a pain like she always was.

There was a little area of trees Eddie loved to sit in. It was plenty shady, and Eddie had water bottles in his bag from soccer practice after school. He hadn’t drunk too many as there had been a lot of water breaks today. So Eddie had more than enough water to do him until dinner. He looked at his watch and saw that he had two hours until his mother would start to look for him.

Eddie wanted to learn everything because he wanted to make sure he could be perfect for his soulmate.

Eddie heard his father’s alarm going off, and he grabbed his pen from his bedside and then turned on his light. His arm was bare. It was early, though, only five in the morning. If his soulmate was in DC, they were several hours ahead. They could be awake and waiting on him to say something.

Hi, my name is Eddie. I’m happy to be able to talk to you finally.

Eddie made sure his writing was good. He had learned how to write best on his arm with practice. It was why his mother had bought him a lot of pens and wipes before he was even thirteen.

Nothing showed up on Eddie’s arm. He wasn’t going to be upset about that. He turned off his light and rolled onto his side, looking at his arm in the dark. It wasn’t like the pens glowed in the dark. He imagined he could see it. He imagined he could see his soulmate writing down a greeting to Eddie.

It took forever for Eddie to fall asleep.

Summer meant sleeping in, and Eddie was just glad his sisters thought the same thing. He was still tossed out of his bed by Adriana because she was a brat long before Eddie wanted to be awake.

Eddie groaned and freed himself from his blankets; he looked at his arm. There was nothing. He sighed. Sofía had to wait a year before her soulmate turned thirteen. Adriana was a little younger than hers. Eddie had hoped he would be younger just so he could talk to his soulmate now. He would have to wait, hoping it wasn’t too long.

Making his bed took forever because Eddie didn’t want to be doing it. Not when it was Adriana’s fault that it was as messed up as it was. The last time he had complained about Adriana tossing him out of bed and his mother being upset, his bed was messed up before he could make it; he had been told to man up and just do it.

Eddie didn’t like his sisters most days, and he was looking forward to when Sofía was at college as well, and it was just him. He would enjoy every single day as long as he could keep his mother from him.

“Your father has to leave for work soon; he’s going to take you out to breakfast for your birthday. Get dressed. You can finish making your bed when you get back.”

Eddie rolled his eyes where his mother couldn’t see. She had talked up his father being home for the week for months. Eddie knew the thirteenth birthday was a big deal. There were some cultures around the world where the thirteenth birthday was celebrated more than when someone moved into the age of being an adult. Eddie just wanted to be alone all day to keep an eye on his arm and not celebrate with the whole neighborhood. He was glad he had soccer practice after lunch. He would hopefully be dropped off by Adriana and picked up when it was done. When she was the one to take him, it was what she did. She went off and hung out with friends before coming back and getting him.

Fifteen minutes later, Eddie was waiting for his father to get everything he needed to leave when they finished breakfast, and Eddie was dropped off.

“Wipe that off,” Eddie’s father said as he stepped up to him, his eyes on Eddie’s arm.

“I’ll put a different shirt on.”

“I don’t have time, Edmundo. You can write it back as soon as we are done with breakfast. Just do as I ask, please.”

Eddie pulled the baggie of wipes from his pocket, and he wiped at his arm before throwing it away. He had the pen on him, so he would write it on as soon as they were in the car for him to be dropped off. Eddie thought his parents were weird; they didn’t mind their kids writing on their arms, but as far as Eddie had ever seen, he had never seen writing on his mother’s arm when they were apart.

There was a chance that his parents wrote on other body parts. The whole body was a way to communicate, but Eddie knew that the arms had become the biggest place. It was easy to hide under shirts, and it was in a place that was seen all the time. Eddie knew one of his classmates wrote on his belly. The boy was weird, but Eddie liked him. He was fun, and that was all Eddie cared about. He also wasn’t obsessed with his soulmate like others were. Like Eddie, he just wanted a friend.

Eddie didn’t care who his soulmate was. They were going to be perfect for him. It would be a lot of fun getting to know them when they were old enough.

The car ride to the restaurant was silent; the meal was mostly silent because his father was working on whatever he had to leave to work on at the rig. Eddie had looked up to his father for a long time, but recently he hadn’t been. He didn’t want to be what his father was. He wanted to be with his kids as much as possible while still supporting them. There were a lot of jobs he could take, and move his family with him.

“Refill?” the waitress asked as she stepped up to the table.

“Coffee for me to go, please, nothing for him.”

Eddie opened his mouth to say something, but the waitress winked at him before heading back. She came back with a glass half full of the juice Eddie had been drinking and swapped it with his empty glass before setting down his father’s coffee.

“Finish eating, Eddie. I’ve got to go.”

Eddie started to shovel his food into his mouth and finished off his new juice.

Evan Buckley was bored. He flopped onto his bed and sighed at how bored he was. It was raining outside, but it wasn’t thundering, so he didn’t know why he wasn’t allowed outside. The neighborhood kids were playing in the field at the end of the street, getting covered in mud. Evan had never trailed mud into the house when walking home from school. He wasn’t that kind of kid. Evan wasn’t a baby. He was ten.

Getting up, he looked into the backyard. It was perfect running around weather. He touched the glass and grinned at how warm it was. It was warm rain on a hot day. He grabbed extra clothes and shoved them into his backpack before sneaking down to the first floor and listening for where his mother was. At this time of day, she usually watched those weird shows on TV.

“If I don’t make a sound, I can sneak out,” Evan said to himself.

The sound of his mother in the living room as she sat down again had Evan moving quickly to the backdoor. He opened it just enough to sneak out. If he opened it much more than that, it would make a noise, and his mother would come running; he knew it. Evan made sure to go out the back gate instead of the side gate. He didn’t trust his mother would get up and see him if he used the front yard at all.

The rain was coming down hard, but Evan hung his backpack under the small area in the tree in the alley between yards. He had stood under it before when it was really raining, and he was trying not to get wet. He patted his bag before he took off, running for the field through the alley. He found his friends still playing.

One of the older kids looked at him and sighed before waving him over.

“Did you get extra clothes?” Nathan asked.

“I did. In my backpack hanging on the tree.”

“I’ll take it onto the porch. You can hose off in my place unless your mom catches you,” Nathan said.

“Thanks. Nathan!” Evan shucked his shoes and socks before running into the giant mud pit.

There was nothing more fun than playing outside in the warm weather.

“Let’s go, squirt,” Nathan said.

Evan looked at him and then up at the sky. The sun was pretty far to the side. It was later than he thought. He freaked out.

“I’ll have mom go over and say you snuck into Greg’s room. Your mom won’t know a thing,” Nathan said.

Evan nodded his head, and he took off for the Wilson’s backyard. They lived two houses down from Evan, and Greg was Evan’s best friend. Nathan was okay for an older sibling, much better than Maddie.

The house was comfortable when Evan got himself inside in his dry clothes, even if he was a little wet from hosing off with Greg. Greg’s mom was in the living room reading a book.

“Hi, Mrs. Wilson,” Evan said before taking off the stairs.

“I’ll show you the new Legos I got,” Greg said as soon as they entered Greg’s room.

Nathan came in a few minutes later and dropped onto Greg’s bed with a sigh. He was in pajamas and looked like he was comfortable. He was writing on his arm.

“You too?” Evan asked.

“Me too what?” Nathan looked up after he closed up the pen.

“Maddie’s done nothing but that since her soulmate started to write to her.”

“Her soulmate is younger than her?”

“I don’t know. She doesn’t tell me anything. I know that she started writing to them shortly after she turned thirteen. I think they wrote back then, but then they didn’t for a long time. Maddie’s obsessed with it. She wouldn’t take me to the movies my birthday week because she had writing dates with her soulmate.”

“Nathan would never do that to me.”

“No, I wouldn’t. I’m sorry she did that. She’s older and starting college but to just ditch your little brother because your soulmate is willing to talk to you on your body?”

Evan shrugged before looking back at the Legos on the floor. He knew what a soulmate was. He knew how much they were loved by the world. Evan wanted one, but not for the reasons most wanted. Evan just wanted a friend. Someone he could love and would never leave him.

“My parents don’t like me,” Evan said. It was the first time he had ever said those words.

“We knew that,” Greg said.

Evan laughed. He never understood why his parents didn’t like him. He tried. He had tried for years, but now he just did what he wanted, what made him happy, like going and playing in the mud.

“Boys, are your clothes on the back deck?” Greg’s mom asked as she popped her head into the room.

“Yes,” all three of them answered.

“I’ll throw them into the wash after making sure they are hosed down to not get my washer too muddy. I’ll try and make sure to sneak the clothes back to you, Evan. Will your mom notice you are wearing different clothes?”

“No, she barely looked at me today.”

“Are you okay?” Greg’s mom asked.

“Yes, Ma’am. I’m good. Can I stay for dinner?”

“I already called over and told her you came over to play. She said it was fine. Do you want to stay the night?”

Evan shrugged. Yes, he wanted to stay, but that was hard to say.

“I’ll call over and see. Where is Maddie?”

“Our with her friends. She’s acting like she’s going away and never coming back. She’s always been out with her friends or locked in her room, talking to her soulmate.”

“Well, you can stay here tonight. I’ll say you and Greg want to watch movies, and it’ll be better done here. Your mother will be horrified at the thought of the two of you watching movies in the living room.”

Evan nodded his head. He didn’t have a TV in his bedroom, and Greg’s mom always made sure they watched things that were not too old for them. Evan loved reading, so he didn’t mind not having a TV, but he couldn’t have Greg over that much because of it. He wanted to have more friends, but no one really liked him.

It was nearly time for be,d but Evan was thirsty. He didn’t want to upset his mother, but he needed water. Evan grabbed his glass from his bedside and carefully opened his bedroom door. He took a step out and looked. His parents’ bedroom door was shut. He crept down the hall to the bathroom. He got his glass full when he heard feet on the stairs, so he shut the bathroom door. It was a bathroom he shared with Maddie, but he didn’t spend much time in it.

“He doesn’t need the classes. I don’t care if he’s getting to the age where they start to do the short classes at the end of the day. He doesn’t have one. There is no way he has one, so there is no reason to teach him anything about it. We are allowed to make sure he doesn’t take the classes.”

Evan looked at his arm. He touched it and frowned. He was still nearly three years away before he could talk to his soulmate. He knew he had one. He knew it and couldn’t wait to show his mother because he would find his soulmate and be happy.

Once the sound of his parents faded, Evan left the bathroom again and went to his bedroom. He shut the door carefully to ensure no sounds came from it before setting his glass down. His mother was wrong. He had a soulmate who would love him. He didn’t know why his mother thought he wouldn’t, but he would prove her wrong.


Eddie took the ice cream cone from the clerk and handed over his money. He smiled at the clerk before walking away. He licked at the cone before taking a few more steps. He caught sight of a girl who was by the pools. He stared at her for a few seconds, only stopping when ice cream fell on his hand. He licked it off, frowning at the sweat there as well. He returned to the pool, smiling at the girl who was manning the kids’ entry. She waved him through since she knew he had already paid. The trips to get ice cream from the concession stand were usually long.

The ice cream machine at the pool had broken a week before, and so the concession had been hit hard when it came to people wanting ice cream who were swimming.

Eddie found where the girl was and walked over to sit near her. She was in the food area, which was where he would sit. He had brought a book to read after eating lunch before he could get in the water again. He had gotten sick after not waiting long enough, so he took his time with that now.


Eddie looked up at the girl who said hi. He swallowed the bite of ice cream he had taken. “Hi.”

“My name’s Shannon.”

“Eddie.” Eddie waved his hand for her to sit down.

“You were looking at me.”

“I was. You are cute,” Eddie said.

“I think you are cute too. Are you going to be here for much longer?”

“Until closing.”

“Today is the long day. That’s like ten. Your parents let you stay that long?”

“Dad’s away, and Mom’s visiting my sister in Austin, where she’s in college. I’m staying at home, and my aunt is checking on me. I told her I would be here all day. She’ll pick me up when the pool closes.”

“That’s cool. Want to come and hang with my friends and me?”

Eddie nodded. He looked at where Shannon looked and smiled at the girls who were there. There were a lot of them, and Eddie was pretty sure once he got to go over and sit down there, he would have a lot of other guys there jealous of him. Eddie was all for that.

“I’m gonna eat my ice cream and then grab my things, and I’ll go over where you are.”

“Sure. Come when you want.” Shannon smiled at Eddie before she got up and walked over to join her friends.

Eddie was sure that this would be the best day for him.

He was looking forward to heading over, so he ate his ice cream so fast that his throat and chest started to hurt. Eddie let his body settle back as he headed to his towel and grabbed it, his book, and the bag. Shannon had five other girls with her, and only one of them seemed to have a boyfriend. Eddie was drawn to Shannon, though.

“Hi again,” Shannon said.

“Hi.” Eddie sat down beside Shannon after laying his towel down.

“Where do you live?”

“A couple blocks over. If I wasn’t staying so late, I would walk home, but my aunt didn’t want me to do that. So I am indulging her. I think she’s afraid that something will happen to me while Mom’s out of town.”

“Has your soulmate contacted you yet?” Shannon asked.

“No. I haven’t written on my arm for a few weeks, but I assume that when they get old enough, they will do it first. You?”

“Never seen anything on my body. I looked a lot after I turned thirteen two years ago. Do you want a soulmate?” Shannon asked.

“I don’t know. Every day I feel a little different about it. There are days I want one more than anything, and others that I feel a soulmate I don’t get to pick is the worst thing in the world.”

“That’s like me. My mom and dad were soulmates. Dad died a few years ago. Mom didn’t take it as bad as I thought. I was more upset than her. She lost her soulmate, and she’s not upset.”

Eddie nodded his head.

Hours later, Eddie was waiting on his aunt to come and get him when he felt a tug on his bag. He turned around, and Shannon was right there. She grinned at him before ducking in and kissing Eddie on the lips. He was so gone on Shannon already. When she pulled out of the kiss, Eddie pulled her back in. It was his first kiss, and he didn’t know what he was doing, but it was good.

“Call me?” Shannon asked as she ducked back from him and headed to the car.

“YES!” Eddie yelled as Shannon shut the car door.

Summer was the best in the world, and Eddie didn’t hate school, but he loved the heat of summer and getting to be at the pool all day long.

“You use the phone to call me when you want to come home,” Eddie’s mom said as she looked around the pool. “Do you have enough money?”

“Yes, to get in and to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner here.” Eddie just wanted to get inside, but his mother hovered. She had been getting worse with him getting older and older. It was like graduation was going to be the worst thing in the world. Eddie just wanted to get out of there.

“Then go get in line.” She turned around and headed back to the car she had insisted on using to drive him there.

Eddie rolled his eyes as he headed toward the guy who was taking the money. He showed his pass to get inside. Despite being all up in his business, his mother forgot she had bought him a pass for the rest of the season. He didn’t have to pay to get inside. He would use the money she gave him to get in to pay for a few of Shannon’s things. She had money, but he liked to buy her stuff, and since they were limited to the park, Eddie couldn’t really get her much of anything.

Shannon was already settled in the corner she was always in. He headed over to it and dropped his bag before tossing his towel beside hers. He wasn’t sure where the other girls were today.

“Hey,” Eddie said as he sat in the middle of his towel to dig into his bag to get the bracelet he had bought for her. It was cheap but cute and something she could wear while in the pool with no issue. “I saw this and got it for you.”

“Yeah?” Shannon held out her hand when Eddie held out his.

Eddie dropped it down into her hand, and he was happy when she smiled in happiness.

“Oh, this is adorable. Where did you find it?”

“Mom took me to a craft thing yesterday. It’s why I wasn’t here. She felt like we aren’t connecting anymore since I’m growing up. So had me trailing after her at a thing. I was bored, and I wasn’t allowed to read. I didn’t like it, but she didn’t care. She was happy we were spending time together. She didn’t even say anything to me unless it was telling me to carry something for her. I was her pack mule.”

“That sucks. At least when my mom wants to do something with me, she does something I’ll enjoy instead of just having me sharing her space.”

“Sharing space is nice,” Eddie said.

“Yeah, but sharing space is more about being in the same place. You both have to be having fun doing what you are doing, like the other day when we were both reading after eating lunch. I enjoyed that, and you did as well. That’s what sharing space is all about.”

Eddie nodded. He knew Shannon was right. He just hated that his mother didn’t see him. His father didn’t care outside of making sure he was the kind of man his father thought he should be, even if that kind of man wasn’t someone Eddie wanted to be. He hated it. It was just a few more years before Eddie could escape.

“I’m not going to college,” Eddie said.


“I’m going to sign up for the military.”

“To escape your parents?”

“To make sure that I can pay for college that way. I want to stand on my own two feet. I’ve been thinking about it since my sisters started applying to colleges. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I have no idea, so I thought about joining the Army, figuring myself out on their dime instead of moving degrees three times like Adriana. I can learn a lot there and then come out with a plan in place and still be young enough to make a family.”

“You have been thinking about this.”

Eddie shrugged his shoulders. He was young right now, but he knew what he didn’t want, and he had no idea about anything that was close to what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

“I want to be a teacher,” Shannon said.

“You’d be good at that.” Eddie had seen her helping a few kids learn how to go off the diving board. It had been really, really cute to watch.

“Thanks. It’s all I have wanted to be. My mom is happy for me to try. My dad’s life insurance went into a trust, and it’s been gaining money to allow me to attend college. I want it so bad. I want to be so much out of high school and in college.”

Eddie nodded. He understood wanting to get away. Last few weeks, it was all he had thought about. Not being under his parents’ thumbs anymore and becoming someone he liked for more than just being a copy of his father.

“Together?” Eddie asked.


Evan heard the sound of a vehicle pulling up, and he gasped as he saw it was Maddie. She wasn’t supposed to be here. She was supposed to be at college. She had taken summer classes and was supposed to stay at college. The last time she had called, Evan hadn’t been allowed to talk to her.

“Maddie!” Evan took off running to Maddie, who crouched and hugged him tightly. Evan had missed her a lot.

“You’ve gotten so big, Evan. Just one more year, and you get to talk to your soulmate.”

“I know.” I’m excited.

“Good. I’m glad. Hey, let’s go get lunch.”

Evan nodded his head, and he looked back at the house. His father was still at work, and his mother had told him not to come inside until dinner. “I want burgers.”

“Burgers sound good. Let’s go.” Maddie got up and walked around the Jeep to get into the driver’s seat.

Evan got into the passenger seat and buckled in. Being twelve, he was happy about it.

“How has your summer been so far?” Maddie asked.

Evan shrugged his shoulder. It was going good enough. His mother kept him home more and more, now allowing him to have as much fun as he had.

“Mom said you were sick.”

“I caught a stomach bug at school, and it hung around for a while. She’s kept me home a lot since then. I’ve not been allowed to go to Greg’s all that much.”

“Well, Greg’s not a good influence on you, so I’m happy about that.”

“What?” Evan asked.

“He only has one parent, Evan. He’s wild and crazy.”

As they flew by, Evan rolled his eyes and looked out the window at the streets. Greg talked him out of more things than he talked Evan into. Maddie just didn’t like Evan having anyone outside of her, even if she didn’t want him around that much. It was like Maddie wanted him to be a doll that she set on the shelf, and no one got to play with him unless she wanted to play.

Ever since Nathan had said that, Evan hadn’t been able to get it out of his head. He wasn’t sure what Maddie wanted from him, but he knew she was upset. Maddie changed hands on the wheel, and Evan noticed she had one of those wraps to block people from seeing her arm. She had never worn that before after starting to talk to her soulmate. He also knew that some people wore them, so they couldn’t see what their soulmate said either.

“Why is your arm covered up?”

“My soulmate and I are taking a break. He’s too needy,” Maddie said.

“Needy? What’s that?”

“He wants to talk all the time, and I don’t. He got upset when I was out on a date with someone else, even though we hadn’t discussed meeting in person yet. He wanted more from me than I wanted to give him.”

“You are dating even though you have been talking to your soulmate?” Evan asked.

“Yes. I met Doug at the start of this year. He’s got one more year here before he goes to med school in Boston. I plan to follow him to Boston; we will get a place together there.”

Evan wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Maddie had been all about her soulmate before this. She was so in love with him. She had chosen to spend more time talking to him than spending anything with Evan, even though Evan was stuck here and her soulmate moved around with her.

Nathan talked to his still, but he never went back on promising to do something with Greg or even with Evan the few times Evan wanted to do something Greg didn’t want to do. Nathan was a good brother.


“Because I love him. My soulmate is unknown. I can’t just go with him. Doug’s here right now, and I love him. His soulmate rejected him when he was thirteen. She never wanted anything to do with him. He’s never had a mark on his body that was from her.”

Evan knew what that was. Maddie had given him the talk about what adults did when they loved each other. How they would do things while naked and what sex was. Evan did not want any of that. He had heard a few other kids around his age talking about kissing boys and girls, but Evan was still firmly in the belief that kissing a boy or a girl would give him cooties.

“So you want to marry Doug?”

“Yes. We will go to Boston, and when he gets out of medical school, he will marry me, and we will be happy for the rest of our lives.”

Evan looked at his naked arm, and he thought this was why when his soulmate started to talk to him, he would make sure they got to know each other as friends first. He didn’t want some stupid lover who didn’t like him for anything other than being his soulmate. He wanted someone who would be his friend first and his soulmate second. If his soulmate wasn’t willing, he would just keep them as friends and find someone else to love like that.

Lunch kind of sucked as Maddie didn’t want to do anything but talk about Doug and how he was. It sounded like Maddie was trying to talk herself into him being better for her than anyone else in the world.

“I’m still working on my degree, but I changed my track to finish it out at the end of next year, and then I’ll apply to nursing school in Boston as it’s what I want to do.” Maddie parked the Jeep at the curb outside of the house, and she looked at Evan.

“You’ll make a great nurse.”

“Well, I only know that because of taking care of you the last twelve years,” Maddie said.

Evan nodded, and he opened the door, slipping out. He waved at Maddie, and instead of going home, he went to Greg’s. Greg wasn’t home right now; he was at soccer practice and happy to be there. Nathan was home, though. He would be all summer.

Nathan was on the couch when Evan let himself inside. He had a notebook out in front of him and a pen lying on it, and a different pen in his hand as he wrote on his arm.

“What’s up, squirt?” Nathan asked.

“Maddie’s giving up on her soulmate,” Evan said.

Nathan wiped what he was writing on his arm off and then used his shirt to dry his skin before writing something else. He capped the pen and closed up his notebook.

“You don’t-” Evan stopped when Nathan glared at him. He swallowed and ducked his head down.


“Yes, please.”

“Then let’s go to the kitchen. I made some of that green shit you and Greg like.”

“Hey! It’s good.” Evan took off for the kitchen; having been good for Maddie meant he felt like he was going out of his mind. He waited for Nathan to get in before he opened the fridge to find the pitcher of green tea and another black tea. He grabbed both while Nathan got down two plastic cups. Evan didn’t even try and pour the tea as he was too hyper for it.

“What’s up, buttercup?”

“That makes no sense.”

“It’s okay; just ignore it.”

“She loves Doug, some guy I have never met. She didn’t even bring him home. She said that her soulmate was too needy and she didn’t need someone in her life like that. She seemed to be happy, but I don’t know.”

“She’s gotta make her own choices. I know you are looking forward to talking to your soulmate.”

“I want a friend. I want someone who won’t ever leave me behind, but if Maddie can just…stop with her soulmate, my soulmate isn’t even promised to be with me forever.”

“It’s just one thing. We all see our soulmates differently. Remember that Greg will bring home all the stuff you won’t be seeing because your parents don’t want you to take the classes. I talked to Miss Hannigan, and she’ll send along extra stuff on some things so you can have your own copy of things. You’ll learn it all, Evan. You’ll learn it, and things will be great. Your soulmate will be perfect for you, but sometimes it’s just a friendship. Sometimes that’s what each of you needs. Your soulmate will figure things out.”

Evan nodded. He knew it.

“Look, why don’t we take these into the backyard, and we can see about getting some of that energy off.”

“Yeah. I like that. Then we can play games with Greg when he gets home.”



Evan opened his eyes. He didn’t want to wake up, but something was pushing at him. He remembered what day it was, and he flung his hand out to turn on his lamp. He just clicked it once, so it only came on a little.

He was thirteen today.

The pen was tucked inside his notebook, and he pulled it out and the wipes from under his pillow. He had to hide them as Greg’s mom wouldn’t be happy if he got them taken from him, but she would buy him more.

Hi, my name is Evan, and I’m really excited to be able to talk to you.

Evan looked at the words. He had spent the last week making sure what he said wasn’t too stupid. Nathan had laughed when Evan asked for his opinion.

Looking at his alarm clock, Evan sighed. His soulmate could be anywhere, and it was three in the morning. He put the cap on his pen and tucked it back safely before getting under the covers again. He tucked his arm to his chest and ensured it couldn’t be seen outside the covers. He didn’t want his mother to be mad at him for talking to his soulmate.

It wasn’t hard to get back to sleep, and he slept until it was time to wake up. It was summer, so he was left to get up on his own. He would eat breakfast in the kitchen and then go out for the day. He hoped his parents didn’t remember it was his birthday. It would be better if he wasn’t forced to play nice with them. They would make him go out to dinner with them at some place for show. Where he would have to wear a tie and would leave hungry.

Evan dressed for the day and packed up his bag of items. He didn’t want to have to come home for anything. He looked at his cell phone. He was left alone a good bit of the time, and with getting himself to and from school, his parents had bought it for him. Maddie had one since she was away at school. There was no message from Maddie about wishing him a happy birthday. He rolled his eyes. Maddie was all about Doug right now. He knew they were getting ready to move to Boston so Doug could be settled before he started school in the fall to become a doctor.

The kitchen was empty, which wasn’t unheard of for a Monday. His mother would be out gossiping with other neighbors about things that happened over the weekend. His father would be at work.

The cereal boxes were slim on the pickings, so he grabbed the one that was the least full. It would make his mother buy more when she was out shopping later in the afternoon. He ate as fast as he could, washing his bowl when he was done. The milk was nearly gone, so he snagged the jug and finished it off as well. If it made his mom mad, all the better.

Greg’s kitchen door was open as it normally was at this time of the morning.

“There he is,” Grace said.

Evan looked at her and smiled. She had a cupcake in her hand with a candle lit. He stepped up and made a wish before blowing it out. She pinched his cheek as he took the cupcakes to get the candle out and lick the icing off.

“Anything?” Grace asked.

“No. Nothing.” Evan held up his arm with his words on them, and that was it. “But they could still be asleep. It’s like six on the west coast. Or they could be in Hawaii.”

“Well, Greg is up in his room talking to his. His name is Tommy, and he lives in LA. They are chatting and have been for two hours.” Grace was smiling at that.

“Why so early?” Evan groaned. Greg would be a bear since he woke up so early after being up so late.

“You’ll have to ask Greg that. Nathan’s in his room.”

“Wait, so Tommy’s birthday is today?”

“No, he was in a car accident, and his arms were in casts. He didn’t want to talk to his soulmate until they were out of them. I guess he wrote on them last night, but Greg didn’t see them until this morning. Go. He’ll tell you everything.”

Evan kissed Grace’s cheek and then took off.

“I’ll have pizza delivered for lunch, and we still have plans for dinner, right?”

“Yes. I want that steak place!” Evan yelled before he ran up the stairs.

Grace would leave for work in a few minutes, so they would have the house to themselves for the rest of the day.

“So, Tommy, huh?” Evan asked as he slipped into Greg’s room. Nathan was in there, sitting on the floor while reading a book.

“Mom blabbed?” Greg asked. He turned his arm to show the words there.

“So he wrote there last night, and it just happened to be on my birthday, you see it? I’m glad one of us got something.”

“Blank?” Nathan asked. He closed his book and held out his hand.

Evan walked over and sat on the edge of the bed before handing over his arm.

“You look elsewhere?”

“Yeah, when I got changed. They could still be asleep, so I’m leaving my words on my arm.”

“Well, we have the whole day planned. Mom will order pizza, and we will head out to the arcade after lunch. So movies this morning and fun in the afternoon. Mom will meet us for dinner when she gets off work, so the ice cream party will be right after lunch.”

Evan nodded his head. He agreed to that. He pulled money out of his pocket and handed it over. Nathan sighed, but he took it. Grace made good money at her job, but Evan liked to pay for himself whenever possible, so for his birthday fest, if he paid for this, he wouldn’t feel as bad about Grace paying for dinner at a place Evan loved, but his parents didn’t take him to anymore as it wasn’t high brow enough for them.

Eddie groaned as he woke up. He felt a little hungover from the party the night before. Schnapps was no joke. He wasn’t sure if he would ever drink that much again. He laughed to himself and rubbed his face. He needed to get some juice into him and then head back to bed if he could. He really hoped his mother didn’t have a huge list of things for him to do today. He would try and get out of anything she wanted him to do.

A glass of water was by his bed, so he drank that down. He was happy that last night he had thought about it. He needed to pay more attention. His mother wouldn’t be happy if she figured out he was hung over.

Eddie looked at his body and stopped when he saw the words on his skin.

Hi, my name is Evan, and I’m really excited to be able to talk to you.

Eddie blinked as he looked at the words. He wasn’t sure what he felt about them. Before Shannon, he had wanted it, but Shannon was here right now and loved him. He did the math in his head. His soulmate was three years younger than him, and his birthday was today. That was in 1991. June 21, 1991, was the birthday of his soulmate. He wasn’t sure what he felt about it. He looked at his arm again and sighed. He would need to cover that up.

Getting up, Eddie went to his closet and snagged an A-shirt to put on and then a thin long sleeved button-up. He left that open, but at least his arm was covered up. He hoped his soulmate learned to let go easily. He wasn’t going to respond. He didn’t need to. Shannon was his future.

Deciding that he did not want to deal with his mother, he checked his money in his wallet and decided that breakfast out was a good idea. He walked over to his computer and checked his email, smiling at the message Shannon had sent him before bed. He sent a message about where he would eat breakfast and where he would hang out afterward. He packed his backpack in case Shannon wanted to hang out at the pool. He packed his book, and the next, he was going to read as well. He had started the Dune series, and while some of it was a little too much, he liked the idea and wanted to know where it was going.

The pool was still the place to hang out in the area, so Eddie was more than willing to hang out there. Shannon in nothing wet and stretched out on a towel in the sun.

Eddie groaned as his cock stirred. He had been jerking off more and more to thoughts of Shannon. He had condoms he had bought a few weeks back. They hadn’t done more than just touching each other but were getting closer to full-on sex. Eddie respected her, so he would never push, but he looked forward to the day he lost his virginity to her.

The sound of the vacuum in the living room had Eddie sneaking out the back and making his way between houses toward the area of town he liked to spend the day. It was close enough that he could get there and back easily but also far enough that his mother never looked for him.

The restaurant was mostly empty, with a few stragglers who didn’t need to be anywhere sitting around. Eddie took a table in the back so that his mother wouldn’t see him if she came into this part of town.

“What can I get you to drink?”

“Um, apple juice, please.” Eddie didn’t touch the menu and slipped it onto the table. It was someone new, or the menu never would have been set down. He had been coming here for a long time. The regular staff knew better than to do that kind of thing.

“I got you, Eddie,” Sasha said as she breezed by the table with a glass of apple juice and a glass of water. “I told her I had you, but I think she thought I was trying to scoop you up to flirt with you. He’s fifteen, Ellie.” Sasha huffed and walked to the other table to take an order.

Eddie got his book out of his bag and settled in to read. Ten minutes later, Eddie moved his book as a second glass of juice was set down and then his food. He picked up his fork and started to eat.

“I don’t know how you do it,” Shannon said as she sat down.

“Try having two older sisters who live to make your life hell. I got used to ignoring things.” Eddie held up his hand when Sasha started to walk past him. “Same, but with orange juice and sourdough toast.”

“Sure thing. Give me two shakes.”

Eddie closed his book and looked at Shannon. “Glad you came to meet up with me.”

“I wanna do the pool today. Thought we could go and make out somewhere and then head to the pool after breakfast has settled. You can lotion me up.”

Eddie agreed to that with a grin. He poked his fork through a bit of onion from his eggs before getting more potato on the fork.

“Mom’s going out of town for her job in three days. I was thinking about maybe just staying home then.”


“Maybe you can come over, and we can try some of those things we were talking about. Oral things.”

Eddie nodded his head to that.

“She goes again in July, the week of your birthday. I hope maybe we could make sure to do something then as well?”

Eddie nodded his head. He would love that.

The next morning, Eddie saw the same words on his arm.

Evan looked at the date and sighed before turning off the screen on his phone and flipping it closed. It had been a month. He looked at his arm and picked up the pen before pushing himself up on the bed. He flipped his arm over and looked at his wrist. He pulled the cap off with his teeth before putting the tip to his wrist. He drew a symbol he had seen in a book the day before. It had been a book Nathan had bought for him for his birthday, but he had gotten so many books as presents from Grace and Nathan it had taken a month to get through them.

The symbol was all about the past, present, and future. Evan didn’t know what it meant, but he felt in the depths of his gut that his soulmate was older than him and was ignoring him. He wasn’t sure what to think about it, but he was going to make sure his soulmate knew he wasn’t giving up on him, not yet.

Evan knew some wouldn’t know the symbol and its meaning, but he didn’t care about that. He just wanted to talk to his soulmate and tell them all he cared about was making a friend. Even if they never did anything but talk over their bodies. He wanted just that.

Evan packed his bag for the week; he had already packed up everything else. His parents were going on vacation to celebrate their anniversary, so Evan would stay with Greg. He was happy about it. He was also pretty sure his parents didn’t know he was going there. They just assumed he was going to stay at home alone. Evan wasn’t against that, but he would rather stay with Greg.

His parents were going to be going on a cruise but coming back after a week, but Evan was sure they would actually stay the full two weeks. He wouldn’t be shocked if that message was left on the answering machine. He would have to check it out daily to ensure he didn’t miss anything important.

“Evan, here is our card and some cash,” Phillips said as he entered Evan’s room.

The cash and card were tossed onto the bed; before Evan could say anything, Phillip was gone from the room.

“Thanks,” Evan said, knowing his father wouldn’t hear him. He slung his bag over his shoulder and looked at the money. He pulled out a couple hundreds and tucked them into his wallet along with the card before slipping the rest into the bag. The card was his, but it was tied to their accounts, and he was given it when he did something without them.

Leaving was easy since his parents were focused on getting stuff together for the cruise.

Greg was on the couch with a book in hand when Evan stepped into the living room. The sounds of Grace getting ready for work upstairs filtered down the stairs. It was a good day, so there was no cursing.

“What’s the plans?” Evan asked.

“Well, when does your sister arrive to check on you?”

“Today sometime, I figure we can stay here and wander around tomorrow. I have plans, and they include the arcade.”

“Evan, honey, that you already?” Grace called down the stairs.

“Get up here so we can talk.”

Evan didn’t roll his eyes like he would if it had been his parents, but he pulled the money from the bag and set it down before heading up.

Grace was putting in earrings and looking at Evan in the mirror. “Your parents give you money?”

“Yes. I have yours right here.” Evan held the money up.

“Okay, give me half, and I use that for our meals, groceries, and such. Give the other half to Nathan so he can pay for things that all three of you do. Might as well use their guilt money for something fun.”

Evan swallowed, as he had never told Grace that. He had only told her that it was from his parents to pay for him.

“I’ve known for years, Evan. Don’t worry about that. Just you guys have fun and don’t do anything too stupid. If you need anything, have Nathan get a hold of me at work. I’ll pick it up. Your sister is coming by today?”

“Yes. She’s getting ready to head to Boston with Doug and wants to see me before they leave.”

“Well, she’ll not be happy you are here.”

“Yes, she doesn’t think you are a good parent because you don’t have a husband. Which is stupid as you do better with your two kids than my parents do with me, and they are married.”

“She’ll understand one day, don’t worry about that. I don’t care that she doesn’t like me. Now, you’ve stayed here before but never for this long, so you will try to sleep in the guest room, at least for tonight. I know you and Greg normally share, but both of you are getting so big.”

“Do I have to?” Evan asked. He liked sleeping in bed with Greg. It was nice to not be alone. He hated being alone.

“I said try. If you can’t sleep, slip in with Greg. I’m not worried about the two of you doing something you aren’t allowed to.”

Evan felt he should cover his ears and start singing, so he didn’t have to hear this. He knew that he really should have a long talk with someone, but Grace had covered it pretty well, and Nathan had already told him he could go to him if he needed anything.

“You know how to do laundry, right?”

“Okay, nope. Not today. Nope. Nope.” Evan covered his ears, and he ran out of the room. He didn’t want to talk about his waking up with a wet spot bed with her. When he got to the first floor, Evan took his hands off, and he heard Grace and Nathan laughing at him.

Greg was still reading on the couch.

“What’s for breakfast?” Evan asked.

“Nathan’s going to teach us how to make pancakes,” Greg said.

“Oh, cool. I love his pancakes.” Evan was looking forward to that. He moved his backpack to safety and split up the money to give to Nathan and Grace.

“Where are we?” Evan asked as he looked at the house they were parked outside of.

“Well, we used to live here. You were still a little baby, so you don’t remember.”

“We used to live in Harrisburg? Why did we move?”

Maddie picked up her cell phone when it made a sound.

Evan rolled his eyes and looked away from Maddie and back at the house.

“He checks in a lot.”

“He loves me, and he worries about me. You’ll understand one day. Your soulmate will love you to pieces and not want to leave you alone.”

“Doug’s not your soulmate.”

“He’s as good as. My soulmate was selfish and not good for me. Doug is who I need and who I love.”

“He’s not your soulmate, Maddie. You loved your soulmate once.”

“And we weren’t anything more than friends, and he refused to accept that. You’ll understand one day, I promise. You and your soulmate will figure things out, or you won’t. You’ll fall in love one day, and I hope the person is worthy of you.”

“My soulmate doesn’t respond,” Evan said.

“Evan,” Maddie started, but she stopped. Her phone was ringing. She picked it up. “Doug.” Maddie made a face. “No, of course, I’m just heading to drop off Evan now. I’ll be home as soon as I can. Don’t worry about me.” Maddie smiled, and there was something there.

Evan wasn’t sure that Doug did love Maddie. He was young and didn’t know much about love, but how Doug acted, just from what he had seen, wasn’t the best. Maddie wasn’t nearly as happy as she had been when she had been talking to her soulmate.

“Yes, of course, I love you.”

“He doesn’t love you,” Evan said.

“What?” Maddie demanded as she turned the key on the Jeep.

“He doesn’t love you. You don’t love him. You just think he loves you.”

“You know nothing, Evan. Just shut up.”

Evan didn’t say anything during the half-hour trip from Harrisburg to Hershey. He didn’t want to upset her anymore. Maddie didn’t even tell him goodbye when they got there.

“Just get out,” Maddie said as she stopped at the curb.

“Goodbye,” Evan said.

Maddie sped off, her tires making a screeching sound on the road.

Evan ran into the house and threw himself on Nathan’s bed. Nathan was sitting at his computer desk in the corner and didn’t turn around to face Evan at all.

“Hungry?” Nathan asked.


“You can go to the bathroom and jerk off,” Nathan said.

Evan grabbed a pillow and pulled that over his head. He really didn’t want to talk about that.

Nathan pulled the pillow off Evan’s head.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“My soulmate still hasn’t said a thing to me. There is so much I want to say.

“Okay. How about this?” Nathan got up and walked over to his desk before picking up something and coming back. He dropped a book on the bed. “This is a journal you can keep. Write down everything you feel about your soulmate.”


“Elizabeth thinks it might be a good idea.”

“You talk about me to your soulmate?” Evan asked.

“I do. You and Greg come up a lot. It’s the way it should be. You are both important to me, Evan. Why wouldn’t I talk to you? Why wouldn’t she be invested in you and Greg?”

It sounded like an honest truth, but Evan just thought about everything to do with his family. Maddie had latched onto her soulmate as soon as he started to talk to her. Who then dumped him for Doug. His parents didn’t even talk to each other like they loved each other. It was all just so much more than Evan wanted to deal with.

“It’s okay. You’ll be fine. Look, you are my brother, no matter what anyone else says. So don’t even think about doing something stupid.”

Evan let Nathan lift him into a hug before Nathan shoved him out of the room. He heard the beeping of the phone in his room being dialed and slipped into Greg’s room before he could do something stupid. Evan dropped onto Greg’s bed. Greg was playing on the X-Box and kicking ass at it as well.

It looked like he was involved in that, so Evan looked at the book given to him by Nathan. He snagged a pen off Greg’s desk, settled into it, and started writing things down.

Half an hour later, Greg tossed the controller at him, so Evan closed up the book with the pen holding his place. This had turned into more than just a vent at his soulmate but more about venting about his life. He had no idea what he was going to do about it. He would keep on. He just needed a plan for what to tell his soulmate.

Nathan didn’t like to draw, but he sometimes liked to crochet, so he needed more yarn. Evan and Greg had piled into the car with him to head to the craft store. Evan was just bored enough that he thought about asking Nathan to teach him how to crochet. It was raining, and unlike the fun summer showers, these had thunder and lightning attached, so Evan wasn’t going to play in the mud.

The craft store was full of people, so Evan wandered up and down the aisles. He stopped as he looked at a notebook that was propped open. It wasn’t like most journals. There was a huge space at the top for drawing something and then lines underneath to describe it or something.

Evan picked up the book and flipped through it. There were enough pages for a drawing a day in there. Evan looked at his arm and thought about the symbol he had put on there the other day. He thought about just doing that from now on. A simple drawing about whatever was going on in his life. He could write a little bit under there and keep it short. He would have a year to see if he liked it. He really liked that idea.

“What do you have there?” Greg asked.

“Well, that journal Nathan gave me was more for just putting all my thoughts out. I thought about this. I put a drawing on my wrist the other day. This could allow me to put the drawing there and then write out some stuff under it.”

“That’s good. I like that. You’ll be able to get all of your thoughts out in the big book, and this would just be for your soulmate if they ever respond.”

“Yeah.” Evan touched the cover. It was pretty. He would have to keep it all from his parents, but that wouldn’t be that hard. They only cared about him when he was there and being in their way.

“Nathan’s headed to the checkout. So let’s get this and maybe a set of good pens for you to use in this.” Greg tugged on Evan’s arm.

“I’m hungry,” Evan said, but he allowed Greg to drag him away. “I want hot dogs.”

“We can go to that one place with the burgers and dogs and then get ice cream there. One stop for it all.”

“Sounds good.” Evan wasn’t sure about it all, but he was about making Greg happy with things. Greg would repay him in other ways. They were close like that.

Eddie rubbed at his face again as he saw the drawing on his wrist. He was that his soulmate had just started to do that, but it was still annoying that it was there all day. The way the ink in the pen worked, it only came off with the wipes. So even washing hands didn’t make it fade. It was great for those who wanted it, but it was shitty for those who didn’t.

There were cuffs he had seen being sold, leather things that were kind of in fashion for the area, at least. It wouldn’t be out of place for him to wear it. The drawings were on his arm every morning and gone before he went to bed. He knew the size of them. He would be able to make sure no one ever saw them again.

Eddie grabbed the normal clothing he had been wearing. Thankfully they were in a cool phase at the moment. It wouldn’t be too hot today. He was looking forward to heading to the pool for the morning before heading to Shannon’s house once they were sure no one was going to go looking for them. Her mother was out of town, and while they had been wary of spending too much time in her home alone, they were going to risk it today.

It was Eddie’s birthday, and while he had celebrated with his mother and sisters last night, his father was out of town working again. Thankfully, his mother agreed that him spending today with his friends was better than being forced to be with his family. It had hurt his mother a little he didn’t want to have a huge party that had was mostly about her looking good. His sisters had also wanted to be with their friends on their birthdays. His father had stepped in and told his mother to let him do what he wanted.

Eddie looked at the time on his watch and got out of bed. Before heading to the pool, he would have time to get to the shop to find a cuff to wear. He checked his backpack again to ensure he had everything needed for what he and Shannon had planned. He had picked up new condoms as he didn’t want the heat of them being at the pool day after day to have done something to them.

He wasn’t going to be one of those people with a kid out of wedlock under the age of majority. He didn’t want a kid right now at all. He had enough of school and trying to keep his parents from finding out he was planning to go into the Army as soon as he finished high school. He was going to have to play an idiot from when he graduated high school to when he was able to apply unless they changed their mind that they might let him join when he was seventeen.

There was a lot of time between now and then, so Eddie pushed that from his head. It was his birthday, and he was finally sixteen. He could have a lot of fun and do what he wanted today. He just hoped that part of the fun was getting naked with Shannon.

Eddie found a little cash sitting on the kitchen table for him with a note from his mother for him to get breakfast where he wanted since he didn’t want to be home with his family. Eddie rolled his eyes as he took that in. His mother was trying to get him to go back on what he wanted, and he wasn’t going to do it. He would just keep on going and do what he wanted. His mother wouldn’t be able to keep him away from growing up, no matter how much she wanted to.

By the time he got to the pool, Shannon was already stretched out on her towel with her friends all around her. There was a spot for him next to her. Eddie made his way there carefully before he laid out his towel and took off his shirt. None of his friends had said one word about his writing on his arm or the drawings over the last week. Most of them had words and things all over them. There was one guy he saw at the pool every day with writing all over him. Eddie was sure his soulmate would be an author one day.

“There you are.” Shannon sat up and waited for Eddie to sit down before she crawled into his lap. She ground down into him and kissed him.

Eddie felt his cock stirring, and he wasn’t sure he wanted her to stop. He could go and rinse off in the locker rooms. He wouldn’t mind it at all. He wrapped his arm around her to keep her right there, wiggling a little in his lap. He loved it and wanted her to keep on doing it, but she stopped when she pulled out of the kiss.

“Happy birthday. The rest of your present will have to wait until we are alone at my house.”

“Then we are leaving here after we eat lunch,” Eddie said.

Shannon nodded before she slipped off his lap and laid down again, turning onto her back so her breasts were thrust up and her bikini bottoms were showing off her legs. She was beautiful, and Eddie loved her so much.

“Hey,” Eddie said, drawing Shannon’s eyes to him. “Love you.”

“Love you too,” Shannon said.

There were calls and coos from their friends around them. Eddie laughed as he shoved at Enrique as he leaned over and made kissy faces at Eddie.

“What’s this?” Shannon asked as she tapped at his wrist.

“Oh, my soulmate has been drawing images there, so I bought the cuff to cover it up. It’s tooled and made to where I can wear it all the time, even with swimming. I’ll take it off when I shower and clean it then, but I have the care instructions. I bought a second one as well, grey. I like the black better, but there was only one.”

“Cool. I’m glad you are doing something about that since you don’t want them. The drawings made you upset,” Shannon said.

Eddie nodded his head. He tapped the leather. “This makes me a lot happier.”


October in El Paso kind of sucked for Eddie. Work was shit, and he was trying his hardest to do right by himself and Chris, but he felt like everything was going to shit. His mother wanted to talk to him later that day. He knew it had to do with him applying to be a firefighter in Chicago and Los Angeles. He knew it. He wondered what kind of guilt she would heap on him to keep him in El Paso when it would be better for him to move to one of those two places for Chris. Without the military helping him anymore, he needed to be closer to a bigger city for Chris and better doctors.

There was something to be said for big cities regarding that. LA had the better doctors, but Chicago was further away from El Paso, and it would be harder for his mother to just drop by. There was a draw to LA that Eddie wouldn’t admit to anyone in the world. He looked at his covered wrist and snapped the cuff off. Even after nearly two years, it was strange, even after two years of trying to get used to the cuff again. In the Army, he hadn’t been able to wear it, and no one cared about soulmates there. His files were correct on Shannon not being his soulmate, but the Army didn’t care about that. They only cared about him doing what they wanted.

The drawing today was something Eddie never thought he would see. It was a cartoonish version of the LAFD logo. He knew his soulmate was in LA based on a few of the drawings over the past two years. Before that, he had been outside the US based on the images. Despite covering them up, Eddie looked at them each day. He looked at them and thought about him.

Since Shannon had left, Eddie had been thinking about finally responding to the messages on his arm. Maybe once he was in LA with Chris, he could do that.

It felt like the LAFD badge on his arm meant something more than just his soulmate wanting to draw it. Maybe he was in the academy, or he had just gotten out. Eddie had felt like it was the right choice when he thought about becoming a firefighter. He had debated it and even going to nursing school. He hadn’t felt as drawn to it, though. Being a firefighter would give him the part of being a medic in the Army he wanted without the part of dealing with patients for long. He didn’t feel like being a nurse was what he was meant to be.

“Dad?” Chris asked.

“Hey, buddy. Ready to head to Grandma and Abuelo’s?” Eddie asked. He fastened the cuff on his wrist and got up off his bed to pick up Chris and hold him. Chris wrapped his arms around him and held on tight.

Eddie would do anything for his son. He would live and die to make sure Chris had the best life he could.

“Yeah, you looked sad.”

“Just thinking. So, have you made the list of things you wanted about where we will live in LA?” Eddie had been saving up to make sure he could get his stuff moved to LA, at least the stuff he cared about.

“Yes. So you picked LA?”

“I did. Today. I picked LA today. We will stay with Abuelita until we can find a place.”

Abuela had offered as soon as Eddie commented about maybe picking LA. It was one of the draws, and it helped him hide the fact he was going to LA to follow a soulmate he had never said a word to. There were moments when Eddie regretted it, but the worst had been after being shot and saving his team. He had been flown back to base, and on the way, he only thought about how his soulmate would never know if he was alive at all. Then when faced with his family, he had been stuck with how much going after his soulmate would give his parents what they wanted. They hated Shannon when Eddie had married her, they hated Shannon when they had tried to get pregnant, and they blamed Shannon for Chris’ Cerebral Palsy.

“I like Abuelita,” Chris said.

“Good. So do I. And you can get to know Tía Pepa better. I think you’ll love her. She’s excited to see you.”

Eddie would never admit to everyone that he kind of wanted to hide being Pepa and Abuela in LA. They would protect him from his parents as Pepa had always been the person behind him, supporting him through everything.

“When are we leaving?” Chris asked.

“Two weeks. I am putting in my two weeks’ notice today, and I’m not going to leave them in the lurch at my jobs.”

“And we don’t need more money? I have my piggy bank.”

“No, we are good. You can use that to save up for going to Disney. Abuela has a job for me between now and when I can attend the academy. I’ve been accepted, but it’s not for a little while. I want to be out of here and get you set up in school as soon as possible. I’ve already made your school aware you will be leaving. You are already ahead, so we don’t have to worry about that too much.”

“I like school.”

“I know you do, buddy.”

Eddie kissed his son’s head and started to make plans for what he was doing today. He was working two of his jobs and would be visiting the third between the two to make sure he put in his notice. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen. He hoped none of them would let him go on the spot. He would deal with it if they did. He had the money for the move; he would just have to tighten the belt once they got to LA, even if it meant upsetting Chris by not allowing him to do everything right off. He might have to be the mean dad a little, but he would stick to his guns on that.

“Daddy, will Grandma and Abuelo still love us if we live in Los Angeles?”

“Of course, they will.” Eddie closed his eyes as he hugged Chris again. It wasn’t good that Chris thought their living in the same city was the only reason his grandparents loved him.

The next day, Eddie woke up and looked at his wrist. He had taken off his cuff the night before and hadn’t put it back. There was nothing. Even though things had changed with his soulmate waking up at different times. Unlike before, his soulmate didn’t wipe off the drawing from the day before until he was drawing the new one. Eddie was only without it for minutes at a time. Yet, there was nothing.

Eddie looked at his wrist and waited to see what was going on. There was nothing.

The morning was a blur as Eddie fed Chris before heading out to his first job. Today Sofía was watching Chris instead of his parents. She liked to get a few days in with him when she could.

Even when Eddie went to bed that night, his wrist was blank. There was nothing on his body anywhere. Nothing.

Eddie hadn’t thought his soulmate would give up on him, but he wasn’t shocked. Shannon had given up on him as soon as he had gotten home. He had been discharged from the hospital and shoved into a new battlefield, where his wife hadn’t wanted to deal with him, and his parents just wanted to hold him up as a hero when he felt like anything but. He had left Shannon and Chris because he thought he was doing his best for Chris. Chris needed the kind of medical care that could only be gotten with the military with the degree Shannon had and the education Eddie didn’t have.

It wasn’t worth what Eddie had gone through.

And now his soulmate had given up on him, and Eddie didn’t know if he had the balls to message something back. It had been years of silence from him. The thought that his soulmate might be dead crossed his mind, but he wasn’t going to let that trickle through until he was sure. They might just need time.

The sun came in through the windows, and Evan really wanted to just roll over and cover his eyes. He had someone on either side of him, and he wasn’t sure who was who. Then Greg moved and rolled to wrap his arm around Evan’s stomach. So it was Tommy on his other side.

“How are you feeling?”

“Like I want to sleep forever,” Evan said.

“Ah, the first shift does that to you. It’s about ten minutes before we have to get up, or our sleep will be fucked up for shift tomorrow,” Tommy said.

“If the calls hadn’t come all night long, things would have been better. But damn. I couldn’t even get an easy first shift.”

“I heard about the call with the house full of cats that were attacking everyone.”

“That was crazy. We thought the call was a joke at first, but no. We were called to help take care of the other first responders, and it was so messed up. One of the cats went for the eyes of the guy at the 133. It was wild. I was responding to a call where cats were attacking humans.”

“Yeah. It made the news,” Greg said.

“It’s nothing they trained me for in the academy.”

“No, they can’t train for everything.” Tommy sat up and moved to lean against the headboard. “I planned on making breakfast, but my shift wasn’t that great either. So why don’t we head out and get something to eat.”

“Yeah, I’ll get dressed, and we can go out. I’ll finally take you to that place I’ve wanted to.”

Evan nodded. He lifted up the wrist he had drawn on for years. It was blank for the first time. He had promised himself. On his first day at the LAFD, he wouldn’t do it anymore. He had wiped off the logo he drew there the night before and hadn’t put anything back.

“You did it,” Greg said. He reached out and touched Evan’s wrist.

“Yeah. It was harder than I thought. I’m okay.”

Tommy pulled Evan into a hug. It was a good hug, a wonderful hug. Greg glomped into him and hugged him from the other side.

“Regret moving in with us?” Tommy asked.

“No, not at all. I’m used to this lug just holding on to me. He’s a good egg, though,” Evan said.

Greg laughed before letting go. Evan stayed in bed even after Greg and Tommy had gotten up. He felt a little sore from working like he had, so he needed to work through that at some point. He had a shift the next day but was ready for it. He figured that more than a few people at the 118 were rooting for him not to return.

The one paramedic guy had seemed like he was upset about Evan being there. Like him being there was hurting him in some fashion. Evan didn’t know what the hell to do with that. He had just done his job, and he endured being treated like an idiot by the paramedic. The rest of the shift had seemed to try to counteract it like they were used to doing that kind of thing.

“Hey, Evan, did you forget to tell me that Makepeace was coming by today?” Tommy called out.

“No. I didn’t tell anyone at the 118 where I live.”


Evan grabbed a T-shirt from the top of Greg’s drawer and headed to the living room. Tommy was just sitting down with Makepeace on the couch. Tommy held up a hand but kept that hidden from Makepeace. So Evan leaned on the doorway behind Makepeace.

“What’s up?” Tommy asked.

“You were always good with the probies, and I think I need your help with the guy who is replacing you at the 118. He’s great. Headstrong and a little stupid, but all probies are who haven’t seen military action. Han’s acting like the guy is not worth the air he is breathing and is actually treating him worse than he was treated when we had that racist son of a bitch as our captain.”

“That’s kind of hard to do, be worst, I mean.”

Greg came through with two mugs of coffee in each hand. He passed one to Evan before heading and sitting down in Tommy’s lap.

“Thanks, Greg,” Makepeace said.

“So, are you worried about him?” Tommy asked.

“I am. I wanted him to have someone to talk to about all of this. He was tight-lipped about his family and if he had any friends. It was not exactly something I could normally do, but he needs someone, and I am afraid to offer if he’s painted me with the same brush.”

“Well, don’t worry about that,” Evan said as he pushed off the wall.

Makepeace turned his head around and looked at Evan with a look of shock.

“I told you I had a best friend growing up?”

Makepeace nodded his head.

“That’s Greg here. So, I’m pretty good about having someone to talk to. However, I would love a friend at work who is not Tommy. Captain Nash wants to know what kind of extra training I want to follow a path beyond just being a firefighter. I was thinking about doing stuff like you do.”

“Of course you do,” Greg said. He huffed and took a drink of his coffee, making a face as he did. “Anything to get adrenaline in your body and drive me nuts.”

Evan grinned at him. He sat down in the chair he had pretty much taken over when he had moved in here.

“Well, at least you care,” Evan said. He cringed when he realized what he had said. Before arriving here in LA, he had never broached the subject of what Tommy knew about Evan’s life.

“At least I do. So, we can just put that to rest now. I’m never going to stop you from doing what you want. I’ll worry about you like a mother hen should, but I will not stop you.”

“I’ll talk to Cap when I get in tomorrow morning. Have you put with me for training and make sure that everyone knows you will be reporting to me and that if they want to give you a job, it has to go through me. That’ll save you from having to follow Han’s orders that have nothing to do with teaching you a damned thing about the job and just repeating the bullying he was put through by the racist.”

“Do you know what’s wrong with him?” Tommy asked.

“I honestly think he’s treating you like the bullies treated him because you are young, white, and pretty.”

Evan had no clue what to say to that. Brian Makepeace was a handsome man, and if it wasn’t for Evan meeting his wife, Evan would have flirted with him for fun. There were few people Evan couldn’t get into his bed, and while he loved sex, he didn’t find himself craving it as much as he had before arriving in LA. He figured it was because he was back with Greg, which meant a lot of touches. It was the kind of thing he craved a great deal of the time. He just wanted to feel something, and sex was usually the only way.

“Do I need to throw my weight around?” Tommy asked.

“No, not right now. I’ll make sure he’s good.”

Evan wasn’t sure that Han would survive this with any kind of grace.

“Probie, you are going to do what I say,” Han said.

“No, I’m really not. I was given an order already by Captain Nash, and I’m going to do what he wants.” Evan snagged the rope he was told to get and turned to walk back to where Nash was along with Brian.

“Get back here, or you will be fired,” Han yelled.

Evan kept on going. He handed the rope off to Nash and then started to follow Makepeace’s words about how to do this. The last few weeks had been interesting as hell. He had been pulled between Han and Makepeace; only Makepeace was winning because Nash was always backing him up.

“How does it feel?” Makepeace asked as he finished his harness and reached out to ensure Evan’s was set.


“You ready, Buck?” Nash asked.

Evan nodded his head. Still getting used to the name. He had been given it in the academy, and while he hadn’t fully embraced it at the 118, he had introduced himself with it. Makepeace called him Evan more often than not, but Han called him Probie. Nash and Hen called him Buck most of the time.

“Captain Nash, need more hands?” Tommy asked.

“Sure, you want our probie or Makepeace?” Nash asked.

“I’ll take Evan,” Tommy said.

“Oh, you have met him?”

“Something like that. Athena just arrived. She’s fit to be tied, and her new little tag-along is making her life hell.”

“She hates training, and she pissed off someone who thought it was time for her to train someone again,” Nash said. He smiled before leaving.

The rescue was simple, even with Makepeace and Tommy yelling at him as he did everything. They were both good at what they did, which was a good way to learn.

The cop named Athena was right there when Evan made it topside from the cliff. Beside her was Greg.

“I don’t think I ever want to be called to a scene and see you dangling from a cliff without knowing it beforehand,” Greg said.

“Don’t take that tone with anyone, ever, please,” Athena said.

“I’ll take the tone with this fucking idiot if I please.”

“You said your soulmate was a firefighter. Is this him?”

Greg started to laugh, and Tommy followed along behind.

“No, Greg’s just my best friend from childhood. I followed him here when he headed this way to be with his soulmate after years of being friends.”

“He’s my soulmate, Sergeant Grant,” Tommy said.

“This all feels like one of those things where people film for jokes,” Nash said.

“No. I mean, Greg knew he wanted to be a cop after he got his degree. I didn’t want to be. I liked firefighting a lot from the few times I talked to Tommy about it when Greg was busy with something else.”

“Is that why you pushed for him to be placed with me?” Nash asked.

“No, I just knew you were a good captain for him,” Tommy answered.

“Cap, I need to talk to you,” Han said as he walked up to them. He glared at Evan and then looked at Tommy and Greg before dismissing them.

“Does this have to do with Evan?” Nash asked.

“Yes, it does.”

“Everyone else, clear out. Evan, stay with me, please.”

Evan nodded his head, and he rolled his eyes when Han huffed.

“I can’t work with him. He refuses to do what I tell him.”

“Chim, we talked about this. When we are on rescues, he is not taking part in paramedic parts of the call unless we are only needed for that. He was doing what I told him to: get a new set of ropes as there was fraying on this other set. Makepeace is teaching him to take his place. He wants to do less of the heavy rescue aspects, and training Evan to take his place is a good idea. In about a year, I’ll be able to add another heavy rescue asset to the team. Makepeace is nearly done with the paramedic courses he’s been taking on his days off.”

“He should still give me more respect.”

“That’s debatable because you are not showing him respect. He tells you he’s doing something that Makepeace or I have told him to do, and you still try and pressure him to ignore us when we are his direct supervisors. When we are on calls, you are a paramedic. You are not my second in command, and I’ve told you time and time again that you can’t be slotted in unless you give up being a paramedic. When I have to be off, and you step up, we always have a temp paramedic.”

Han’s face twisted in disgust, and he looked upset. Evan just hoped that whatever this was wouldn’t make it, so he had to move out of the 118. He liked Nash as his captain. The man had talked about taking him to a concert to help him learn about things he had missed growing up. It was easy to talk to Nash.

“Yes, Sir,” Han said. He spun on his heel and left.

“I’m sorry. I’m going to keep working on him. This station had many problems before I was brought in to help it.”

“Growing pains are expected with any job,” Evan said.

“You are right about that. Let’s get this cleaned up while we figure out how the hell this happened. I want to hear your thoughts on it.”

Evan knew that things wouldn’t get better overnight but would be better overall. He could do it. He just had to endure the growing pains.


Eddie didn’t like moving so close to him, starting at a station, but the house he had been planning on buying had fallen through. The house in El Paso had sold a while back, and he had put that money on the down payment on a new place. Abuela hadn’t minded them staying with her for longer than they thought. Eddie figured she was lonely in some ways.

The U-Haul was full; Chris was in his bedroom working on getting some of his things unboxed and on shelves. Eddie had brought over all of Chris’ things the day before. So Chris could do something while he was working on getting the rest of the stuff into the house.

“Got money for pizza and beer for three?” a man asked.

“Huh?” Eddie asked. He turned to see a man standing there looking at him with a smile on his face. There was another man behind him who had his hand over his face.

“Greg, that is not how to do that. I expect something like that from Evan’s mouth but yours? I swear there are days you and Evan are more like brothers than you and Nathan. What my idiot boyfriend is saying is that for beer and pizza, we will help you. Evan’s getting dressed, and he’ll be right out.”

Eddie took in the LAFD shirt the who spoke was wearing. “Firefighter?”

“Yeah. I am. Greg, here’s a cop. He just finally decided to start there, so while I’ve been a firefighter for a while, he’s only been a cop for a year. Tommy Kinard.”

“Eddie Diaz.”

“No shit. You are at the top of the academy, aren’t you? There was a lot of pull for you to go places. I never did hear where you were accepted.”

Eddie shrugged. He didn’t want to say until he learned more about these guys.

“I work out of the 217. I used to be at the 118 until a spot opened up at the 217 I couldn’t turn down. Evan’s at the 118 now. He just passed through his probation year.”

“I’ll be with him tomorrow then,” Eddie said.

“Awesome. We can have someone else watching his idiot self.”

“Talking about me?” a man asked as he stepped up.

Eddie swallowed at the sight of him. The man was beautiful. He had a smile on his face that lit it up. Eddie had heard all kinds of stupid shit from people’s mouths about meeting someone who just felt right to them, but he had never felt anything like it. Even what he felt for Shannon had paled in comparison to this. Eddie wanted, and he had never felt it before like this. He reached down and covered his wrist where his soulmate used to draw.

Evan’s eyes drafted down, and his eyes narrowed.

“Evan Buckley, this is Eddie Diaz. He’s just moved in, as you know. I saw a boy earlier,” Tommy asked.

“My son, Chris. I moved his stuff yesterday so he could stay in his room and put up what he could while I did the heavy lifting. I have a fair bit of beer in the fridge. A few members of my family were supposed to help me move in today, but a bigger thing happened with an exploding water heater at my aunt’s house. So they are doing that. They will be here later, but I think we can all get this done. Her house and mold are a bigger threat than this. So, I’ll call in pizza for lunch, and we can take a little break then and finish later. I have a case of water in the fridge as well. I have other beer, but it’s warm; we can stick some of it in the fridge if you don’t like what is there.” Eddie waved the three of them into the house and described each area.

“This beer will work,” Evan said as he looked in the fridge. He grabbed out four bottles of water and passed them to everyone. “Drink up before we do anything.”

Eddie shook his head, but he did it. He drank half of the bottle while watching Evan with Greg. There was something there that Eddie found calming. The way Evan was with Greg.

“I see you see what I see with those two, huh?” Tommy asked as he leaned into Eddie’s side for a second before straightening up.

“Are they really just friends?” Eddie asked.

“Yes. I don’t think they ever even thought about doing anything more than maybe kissing a few times when learning to kiss. There was nothing there the first time I saw them together as soon as Evan came to live here in LA. You have a soulmate?”

“I do. I think. They stopped talking to me about a year ago. Well, talking at me. I never responded. I got up the nerve to say something, but by then, they were not talking to me anymore.”

“Ah.” Tommy looked at Evan and then started to head into the living room. “So what’s first on the U-Haul?”

“Boxes. I did heavy stuff first to have it be last off, so it wasn’t in the way of anything.”

“Cool. We are all good so let’s just start getting the boxes in. You have the guest room; want everything from the bedroom in there until we get the bed in there?”

“Sounds good.”

The four of them worked hard for two hours before Chris came out of his bedroom. He stopped and watched as the last of the boxes were taken off the truck.

“I forgot how quick this goes with people who don’t like to talk a lot and gossip,” Eddie said.

“Our primos in El Paso talked more than anything else. It was exhausting.”

“A little drama king, huh?” Evan asked.

Chris nodded. He walked closer to where Evan was and looked at him.

“What’s your name?” Chris asked.

“Evan Buckley. What’s your name?”

“Christopher Diaz,” Chris said.

“Christopher, nice to meet you. What kind of pizza do you like?”

“Daddy hates my pizza. It’s pepperoni, green peppers, onions, and pineapple.”

“Well, that’s right up Evan’s alley. I like just pepperoni,” Tommy said. He leaned over close to Chris. “Greg likes his with pepperoni and cauliflower.”

“Oh, that sounds good. Daddy, can we get that to try it?” Chris asked.

“Sure, mijo,” Eddie said. He followed Evan to the kitchen. He grabbed the pile of pizza places he had take-out menus for. He flipped through to find one that had cauliflower as a topping or at least had a salad with it in it so it could be added.

It wasn’t the hardest, but he had four different ones that had them. He had no idea of most of them.

“Any of these a preference for you three?” Eddie asked Evan.

“Sure. The one with the heart in the logo is the best in this area. I would throw away the other three. They kind of suck. The sauce at one of them is so sweet, I think that I have had dessert.”

“Sounds good. I will toss those out.” Eddie scooped them up and tossed them into the trash. He had been collecting menus for local places for a while. He would have Evan go through them at some point.

“Cool. I like breadsticks too. Get like two orders, and I’ll give you a tip. You offered pizza, not breadsticks.”

“Nah, don’t worry about that. I can get that if you and your housemates stay and help me unbox some of this stuff. Linens are in bags in my truck. I’ve been washing them up at Abuela’s house after being in storage for like a year.”

“So, when did you guys move here from El Paso?”

“Last October. Tommy said you weren’t here all the time?”

“No, moved here in 2015. Before that, I bounced around the country after finishing up two years at college.”

“Anywhere else?”

“Why?” Evan asked. He looked confused.

Eddie walked over and grabbed a water bottle and beer each. He popped the caps on the beer and handed Evan one before he braced his hands on the counter.

“I…I can’t understand what I’m feeling for you. My soulmate used to draw me images, and I know he went somewhere outside of the US in late 2014 and early 2015. I…”

Evan turned his wrist over and showed the place where Eddie’s drawings used to be. “Here?”


“Then yes, that was me.”

“Shit,” Eddie said. He dropped his head down and took a deep breath. The next day he started work with his soulmate.

“Well, that’s one word for it. So, if you have cash, they can order the food, and we can talk.”

“Sure. Um, wallets in my bedroom on the nightstand we took in there. I…” Eddie kept his words to himself when Evan smiled at him.

Eddie picked up his phone and looked at the message he had from Shannon. Since arriving in LA, they had been talking. Shannon had been writing Chris letters, and he had been dictating them to Eddie to send back to her. Things had been horrible, but once Shannon got out of therapy, she reached out and was honest about how much she regretted running from Chris when she had been running from El Paso and Eddie. Things were not the best, but they were better.

They had been so wrong for each other but refused to admit it. Teenage Eddie had loved her with all he was but mostly because she seemed to be his way of escaping everything. She had been someone who would love him forever because he was dedicated to her. She saw him as the ticket away from the life she saw herself leading.

“I’m sorry,” Eddie said when Evan returned to the room.

“For what?”

“For ignoring you. I was a stupid kid who wanted a girl who was right there in front of me. I saw her as the way to be happy in my life.” Eddie walked around the island and took up a spot in front of Evan. He picked up the pen on the counter; he had picked up a pack of the pens a week before and had planned on writing to his soulmate. He took the cap off and rolled his arm over.

Hi, my name is Edmundo Diaz; I’m excited to finally be talking to you.

Evan smiled as he watched the words appear on his arm. He touched them and his lips quirked up in a bigger smile. He rubbed his thumb over the words a few times before looking at Eddie again. “I can’t…friends. It’s all I wanted from the start. A friend. Greg and Nathan were friends, but sometimes I wondered if it was just because they felt sorry for me. I love him like a brother. They are both my brothers in all the ways that mattered.”

“Friends. I can be that. I think I need a friend more than I need a lover. I can’t keep this from Chris. Chris is learning about soulmates right now. His school is pretty progressive, and soulmates are tied to everything he learns. Shannon and I picked Durand, and we ensured he could get in here at the end of last school year. He was happy to move there.”

“Yeah, Durand is a school I hear good things about. We’ve got a few people with kids on the 118. Harry is Athena Grant’s son, and Denny is Hen and Karen Wilson’s. Hen and Athena are good friends, so those two are close. We can see if Chris likes them. I had Harry and Denny over for a game day the other week. I could do something like that. 118 is like a family. Greg said the 118 is like the family Stitch gets taken into. A little broken but still good. I agree. We have our ups and downs. A few more downs.”

“I heard about the guy who died after causing a huge accident. I saw the news about it as well.”

“Road rage. We all had to go through a few things after that. We all took a ding a little on that since he was lying to his girlfriend, and all of us supported that. I didn’t realize how deep the lies went.”

“It was crazy. Seeing a firefighter killed on the news, and then a reporter getting the footage for the stretch of the road. Seeing that on the news.” Eddie picked up the beer and took a drink before chasing it with water.

“I have a sister. She’s…not really in my life. She…it’s a lot, but it’s the biggest issue I have in my life. My parents are not in my life either. They tossed me out when I turned eighteen and never looked back. I don’t miss them. I was pretty much a burden to them.”

“My mother didn’t want me growing up. She thinks I can’t raise my own son and tried to talk me into giving him up to her before I came up here.”

“So we have fucked up families,” Evan said.

“Yes. Something like that.” Eddie laughed and took another drink of his beer.

“Whatever you want to tell Chris, that’s fine with me. I would never try and control what you do with your kid, man. My parents were not in my life at all. I would kill for a parent who even showed an ounce of the love I have seen you showing Chris, Eddie. I watched when you dropped off the truck and left Chris here with your aunt; I think it was. You are just gone on him. I would never want to be someone who comes between the two of you for any reason.”

Eddie nodded his head. He wasn’t sure that Chris would understand Eddie ignoring his soulmate for years, not with how entranced Chris was with the whole thing. Eddie would have to have that talk with him sooner rather than later.

Evan lifted the beer up to his lips and then looked at where Eddie was sitting with Chris in the backyard.

Tommy and Greg were talking, and then they started to bang their fists on their hands. Evan knew whoever lost would come over and poke and prod him on why he was acting strangely. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to say.

Greg lost, as he always did when it came to rock, paper, scissors, so he walked over but huffed when Eddie came over as well.

Eddie laid a hand on Buck’s shoulder and leaned in close. “Tell him whatever you want. I’ll take the hit.”

“Don’t tell me you have hooked up with him,” Greg said.

“No, but I kind of wish I had, as it would be better than this.” Evan pulled the marker out of his pocket and drew a smiley face on his wrist.

“I thought you had stopped that?”

“Here,” Eddie said as he laid fresh beers on the table along with more food for the both of them in the form of the open pizza box, the smiley face on his wrist noticeable.

“Well, shit. I think I would have rather had you hooking up with him before this as well. It’s easier. What are you going to do?”

“I’m still here, aren’t I?” Evan asked.

“You are.”

“Friends. We are going to be friends. Then see where that goes. As to telling people, I have no clue. There are no rules in the LAFD about having to give over who your soulmate is, even if you work together. So I am not sure what I want to do about that. We will play that by ear, I guess.”

“All of that hurt. I was there for it.”

“Yeah, the thing is, you have hated him for years, and I never have. He made a choice, and he has to live with it. I have to as well, but I can see where I might have never wanted to contact my soulmate. Where I would have been one of the ones who did this kind of thing. We still met. He’s here right now and hasn’t gone off running. There is something to the magic of this whole thing. No one really questions it. Some try and fight it, but I’ve seen the reports that they still end up together, even if they are just friends.”

Greg nodded his head and sighed. “Well, just don’t do anything stupid.”

“I won’t. We will be working together. I don’t want to have anything happen while we are working.” Evan got up with a slice of pizza in his hand and walked over to where Tommy was. Tommy gave him a weird look but said nothing. He did eye the mark on Evan’s wrist but just kept his thoughts to himself.

Evan stepped out of the house and stopped when he saw Eddie standing outside, leaning against his SUV.

“Chris wants to know if you want to carpool to work today.”

“He just wants to talk to me while I’m a captive audience.”

“Something like that. He’s also on a big save the earth kick. I told him carpooling for us isn’t going to do much, but he just glared at me.”

“Kids and wisdom don’t go hand in hand too much. But sure, yeah, I’ll join you in the carpool. So, we are going now?”

“Yeah, he’s in the truck already. Do you need anything else?”

“Nope. I just gotta grab my bag from the SUV.” Evan unlocked his vehicle and grabbed his work bag out of there. He sent Greg a message so the man didn’t worry about Buck’s SUV still being there.

Chris took up all of the conversation until he was dropped off at school. Evan loved it because Chris didn’t feel like he couldn’t speak up at all; Eddie was doing a good job raising him.

“What does he know?” Evan asked once they were on the road again.

“Nothing yet. I’m still thinking about it and trying to figure things out.”

“Okay. I just don’t want to mess up or say something before you are ready. Has he asked about your soulmate before?”

“Yes, I told him I hurt my soulmate, and they were still trying to figure things out. I never hid things like that from him. He knew his mother and I wasn’t soulmates. He knows that sometimes people don’t love their soulmates.”

“Or people are really messed up and fall in love with someone who is manipulating them and convinces them to stop talking to their soulmate.”


“Sister. She and I aren’t on good terms even after all of this time. She’s not happy about much at all. She’s finally getting help and cutting off our parents. I did that when I left. Well, they didn’t make the biggest, but I think they expected me to come crawling back.”

“You didn’t?”

“Not with Greg and Nathan by my side.”

Eddie nodded his head. The rest of the drive was silent for only a few minutes.

“So, what are we going to say?”

“That we are neighbors. No one will be shocked that I’m all talkative with a neighbor. Given it’s Tommy and me, our jobs would come up at some point. So I don’t think anyone is going to have an issue. Hen tells me I can make friends with a homophobe.”

Eddie laughed. He put the truck into park and shut off the engine. “I’m nervous.”

“Eh, don’t be. None of us bite. Well, not unless asked.” Evan winked at him before getting out.

“One of your lovers dropping you off?” Makepeace asked.

“He would only be so damned lucky to get me in his bed after a day of moving his butt into his place. Brian Makepeace, this is Eddie Diaz, the new recruit. Eddie, this is Makepeace. Greg and Tommy call him my work husband.”

“Welcome to the 118, Diaz. How exactly did you meet those three?”

“I live down the street from them. They helped me get my stuff off the U-Haul and into the new place for pizza and beer. Charmed my son into wanting to move in with them.”

“Hah, my son did move in with him for like three weeks last year. He was an adult, though, not a kid. How old is your boy?”

“Seven,” Eddie pulled out his phone and showed off the picture of Chris.

Evan stayed back and let Eddie introduce himself around.

“You charmed the new guy already?” Hen asked.

“Eh, his kid did all of the charming needed. The kid is like sunshine. Happy as fuck, and it’s contagious. He’s already looking forward to a game night with Harry and Denny. I’m looking forward to driving Greg up a wall with the games. It’s a win-win.”

“And he’s okay with you kidnapping his kid?”

“Not sure yet; I guess we will have to find out. I’ll coordinate with Karen about game night. Then we can see what works for Harry and Chris. Denny has a more robust social circle. Harry has three different people to help me get things going on that.”

“I would love to see Bobby’s face when you approach him for a playdate with Harry.”

“Oh, no. I don’t mean like that. We all know they are hiding that. Just even if Michael and Athena are working, Bobby could be the one to shuttle Harry to me.”

“When do you think they are going to fess up to dating?”

“Not until it’s forced in some way.” Evan smiled at Eddie when Eddie smiled at him.

“You got a crush,” Hen said.

“Not really. I just…he’s so good with Chris.”

“Ah, your mommy and daddy issues make you like him.”

“Well, not just that.” Evan held out his arm where the message from Eddie wishing him good morning was. “We are taking it slow.”

“Your soulmate never…and then you…he moved in across the street from you?” Hen hissed.

“Something like that. As I said, we are taking it slow, like I said, and getting to know each other as friends. We discussed most of the things, and I can see why he did it. It’s not uncommon. I also know my issues are massive, and I could see myself doing something like it. So yeah. Slow and steady.”

“Well, I’ll have to see if he’s worthy of you.”

“Please don’t be at work. I’ve already got Greg eyeing him for any traffic violation, and Tommy’s gonna be Tommy if we are on the same call.”

“I would never be mean, Buck. I just also know you’ve got the biggest heart.”

Evan shrugged at that.

“Look, I know how Chim was with you, and God rest his soul; he had his issues, but you stepped up, and you grieved him. You made sure I was taken care of. You were the bigger man after he died from the rebar. You have the biggest heart, and everyone here would agree with me. So don’t let any of us do a damned thing to stop this. The rules for soulmates working together are pretty lax as long as the relationship is declared. Since there is none so far, I don’t think anyone will get bent over the axle about it.”

“I haven’t decided on telling anyone. Hell, I hadn’t planned on telling you. It just…happened.”

“Well, pretty much no one here is going to have an issue with it. So just settle in and learn from him. You two are being paired, right?”

“He said something like that. Bobby hasn’t yet. I don’t think Eddie is lying, so I figure Bobby just forgot he didn’t tell me. It’s good that Greg and Nathan made sure I was not as neurotic as I could be, and I don’t worry about being replaced or this could go bad.”

“The sight’s not too bad.”

Evan looked to see Eddie putting on a shirt, and he had to agree.

“I feel like that woman in The Nutty Professor, but instead of saying what she said, I wanna be all ‘do it again, do it again’ while clapping my hands.”

“I don’t get that,” Evan said.

“Ugh. I wish Greg and Nathan had turned you into a pop culture person.”

“Well, I read more than anything, and the movies we watched tended more towards science fiction and fantasy than anything else. So Star Wars but not whatever that movie you said was.”

“I’ll get you into popular culture one of these days.”

Evan laughed and shoved at Hen’s shoulder before he pushed off to head to where Eddie was coming out of the locker room.

“What do you think?”

“Everyone seems nice. A few are a little less nice than I would like, but I also understand that another person is coming out to replace a guy named Chim.”

“Yeah, that’s the guy who died on the surgery table after he got a piece of rebar through his head. He was a good guy. A really good paramedic. Been here a long time. I think a few are afraid that with the whole army medic thing, you would replace him.”

“Nah, I don’t mind filling in, and I took a little extra training to cover that, and I’ll keep working on my paramedic classes when I can, but mostly I want to be in the action, not as much in the medical part of it.”

Evan nodded, and he looked to the side as someone came up to him.

“Eddie, I see you’ve already gotten a tour and changed.”

“Yeah, we treated him well, Cap,” Hen said as she approached Eddie and held her hand for Eddie to shake. “Henrietta Wilson. Do not call me Henrietta.”

“Tommy already warned me of that. Then Evan, then Greg. So don’t worry about that, Hen.”

“Smooth talker. Let’s go up and introduce you to everyone who is upstairs and wants to be down here but doesn’t want to seem that nosy. Spoiler alert: they are.”

Eddie and Hen walked up the stairs and left Evan with Bobby.

“So, your soulmate is talking to you?” Bobby asked.

Evan looked at his wrist. He rubbed over the ink on his skin. It was still strange to have the words there. Someone was bound to notice that they had matching words, especially with Eddie’s print being pretty easy to recognize once he started to fill out paperwork. Still, Buck didn’t want them to leave. Or at least he wanted something else to show up there instead.

“You look smitten.” Bobby smiled at Evan, getting his attention.

“He’s good. We’ve talked some.”

“Well, as soon as it becomes something I need to know. Let me know.”

“I will. I promise.”

Evan felt that before long, he would be head over heels in love with Eddie before he knew it.

Eddie picked up the book Hen had been looking at, and he cocked his head to the side as he looked at it. It was about medical school.

“Fun reading?” Eddie asked.

“Thinking about applying to medical school. I keep putting it off. I finished off my last course and got my degree not too long ago.”

“You like the idea of being a doctor?”

“I think so. I’ll never know until I do it, but I think I’ll be a good one. I love learning about it, and I love what I do here, but I want to do more.”

“I know that feeling. That’s why I wanted to become a firefighter. I did a lot of crazy shit being a combat medic. I thought this was as close as I would get to being that again without the worst dangers and the guns going off as much.”

“Well, the as much part is right. When we go into calls that have guns, we are safe until it’s all cleared by the LAPD. You learned about that at the academy.”

“I did. Did a few things under simulated fire. It wasn’t anywhere near like being in the military. I froze the first time, but then they worked me through it. Immersion therapy of sorts with someone on hand to help and deal with it. I got through. One instructor stayed with me for a few nights to ensure I was good to go before the final tests. I passed everything at the top due to people helping me.”

“The training can be hard, but it’s all for a good reason. It’s best to know it all before being sucked in,” Hen laid the book she was reading off to the side. She looked at him. “He told me about the…” Hen raised up her arm and showed off the writing that was there. “He’s happier today than I have ever seen him. It’s nothing big but just a kind of happiness that he’s been accepted.”

“I know I hurt him. I don’t plan on doing it again.”

“I didn’t think so. It’s not my place to tell you about what will happen if you hurt him. I don’t think even Greg will do that. He’s had a life, and I probably only know five percent of what he has been through.”

“He’s told me a little about his sister.”

“Ah, that’s something he’s never talked about with anyone. He keeps a lot of his childhood to himself. Outside of Bobby, everyone here has fucked up parents in some way or another. Bobby doesn’t talk about his parents too much, but it’s always good when he does. He’s got a brother but doesn’t talk much about him again.”

Eddie nodded his head and looked over where Buck was working on something with Bobby.

“Food menu for the next few shifts so they can go shopping. Bobby’s been teaching him cooking.”

“He and Chris talked about a few things he likes to make. Chris says that Evan is his best friend.”

“Hmm, best friends already?”

“Chris hasn’t had a lot of friends. His grandparents kind of made sure of that. I never realized how isolating everything was for Chris and my ex-Shannon. It was horrible when I realized it. I started to plan the move as soon as it all fell on me. I got us out of there. My mother freaked out. She was still freaking out, but she didn’t know where I was for a long time. She’s not happy. She still thinks I can’t raise Chris on my own. She thought the same of my ex as well. I’m not shocked Shannon left.”

Eddie shook his head at how much he was telling her. “You are not good for secrets.”

“No, I’m really not. Buck tells me that all the time. I feel like someone he can just talk to for hours. He told me to never become a cop. I would be a curse on the idiots of the city.”

Eddie laughed. He flipped open Hen’s book, and he nodded. “So you have anything else you want to do?”

“I don’t want to give this up unless I get to do that. I want to take a few more classes, just to pad out my resume before I take the MCATs and apply.”

“Well, I’ll help you study if you need. Just ask.”

“Will do. Now go over there and ensure they aren’t buying that weird vegetable pasta.”

Eddie tossed the book back at her and walked over to where Evan was looking at a food list. Eddie leaned over his shoulder and enjoyed being in Evan’s space.

There were a hundred ways this could go wrong, but Eddie didn’t want to leave him.

“Shit,” Eddie said as he looked at his truck. Since it was all hands on deck for the next shift before A-shift had returned to the station, Eddie was now blocked into the spot.

“I’ve got you. We gotta get Chris, right? Just get in there and get what you need from the truck. We can see about getting it moved later.”

“Sure,” Eddie said. He unlocked his truck, grabbed the secondary bag inside, and tossed that at Evan before getting the seat out for Chris. He slipped out and locked the doors before shutting the door.

There was not a lot to talk about. They had been together all day and while they were off-shift early due to the hazards of the job. He wasn’t that upset about it. They would be covering another shift for the C-Shift team at some point later. It wasn’t too hard to do. Same hours just split up a little weirdly. There was not a lot of thinking that had to go into it. Bobby and the other captains would handle it when the time came. So they just had to show up when they were told to. Eddie was okay with that as he was too tired to do a damned thing beyond going to bed.

Eddie was damned glad Evan was willing to drive. He felt like he could fall asleep even as they pulled up to the school and Eddie got out. He saw the teacher standing inside with Chris. The only thing that kept Eddie going was the thought of holding his kid tight. He got on his knees and held tight to Chris. He heard Evan moving behind him, talking to the teacher. Eddie knew he should be caring more about that. About thanking the man, but he just wanted to hold onto Chris.

When Eddie stood up, Evan ushered him toward the SUV. Eddie settled Chris into the backseat but not into the seat. “How are you doing?”

“I’m good. I talked to Abuela, and she said I needed to stay here, and you would come and get me.”

“Yes. I knew I would be getting off in time to get you before bed. Though I didn’t expect to be this late. Are you ready to head home?”

“Yes. I want to sleep in my bed. I finished my homework for today and the rest of the week in a few classes.”

“That’s good.”

“Why are we in Buck’s car?”

“My truck got blocked in. So I went with Evan so we could get home. The other shift is out on calls. No one was there to move the vehicles out of the way.”

“I like his SUV. It looks fun.”

“Well, we can enjoy it while heading home. Get up in your seat.” Eddie waited for Chris to hand over his backpack and then crutches before he stayed there while Chris got into the booster seat.

Eddie glanced at where Evan was getting into the driver’s seat, smiling at him. Evan smiled back.

The trip home was full of Chris asking questions as he slowly fell asleep, which was adorable.

“He out?” Evan asked.

“Yeah. He’s up past his bedtime, but I know the streets are chaos, and I didn’t want Abuela out in them. Or Pepa. Pepa’s office closed down, so she spent the day with Abuela. I think most of the family settled in at Abuela’s for the day. It might have been better for Chris, but…”

“Aftershocks and the schools being better set up than anywhere else other than government buildings or hospitals.”

“Yeah.” As Evan pulled into Eddie’s driveway, Eddie laid his head back on the seat. “Can you..stay tonight? Not in my bedroom but in the guest room. I just…I don’t want to be alone.”

“I can do that. I’ll head over and make sure I check in with Greg and check on Tommy. Then I’ll come back over. I’ll bring stuff for pancakes. Does Chris have school tomorrow?”

“I have no clue. I have emails from the school, so I’ll look through those in the morning. I have no will to do it now. I guess it depends on if the school needs to be checked out. The gym where Chris was is set up as a shelter, so it might have only been the only building checked over.” Eddie looked at Chris for a few seconds before he looked at Evan. “Ready?”

“Yes, I’ll get the bags; you get Chris. I’ll drop yours off and then head over to do what I need. Do you think you’ll have a nightmare?”

“I never know. Maybe yes, maybe no. I don’t know.”

“Okay, we can talk about what to do if you do wake up with a nightmare.”

“Yeah, I didn’t even think about that.” Eddie got Chris out of the SUV and followed Evan to the doorway. Evan dropped Eddie’s bag inside and held the door open before heading to his place.

The house had a few nightlights on that allowed Chris to move around the halls and living room without turning on lights if he needed something from the kitchen. Eddie used it to get Chris into his bedroom. Then he was left with getting his kid into his pajamas and then under the covers. Chris was so out of it that he didn’t wake up.

By the time Eddie was done, Evan was back and dropping his bag into the guest room.

“I’m gonna go get some water. I’m thirsty, and I will be all night.”

Eddie followed Evan to the kitchen. “Don’t wake me up by touching me. Just say my name or throw a pillow at me. I sometimes come up swinging.”

“I can do that. I’ll make sure to not touch you. I’m near passing out, though, so I’m going to head to bed.”

Eddie grabbed his bottle from the fridge he had kept in there for nights. Eddie never knew how much he would want to drink, so he always took a good bit with him. Evan grabbed a glass and filled it up from the fridge before drinking most of it and filling it again.

“What does Chris do?”

“Usually shakes the bed with his crutch.”


“It can be, or sometimes he can’t do it enough to get me up, so he screams.” Eddie waved Evan out of the kitchen and followed him back to the bedrooms.

There were no other words as Evan slipped into his bedroom and Eddie walked to his. He shut the door to get changed before heading to sleep. He opened the door when he was done. Evan’s door was still shut; Eddie noticed when he looked.

Laying down, Eddie was asleep almost before his head hit the pillow.

Eddie woke up the next morning with the sun in his eyes. He groaned and rolled over, pulling his pillow to him. He buried his face in it for a few seconds before looking. Chris was in the doorway smiling, but it was the smell of bacon and coffee that was drawing Eddie out of his sleep.

“Ten more minutes,” Eddie said.

“It’s what you said ten minutes ago and ten minutes before that. Up or no bacon. That’s what Buck said. No bacon if you aren’t out of bed now.”

“Meanie,” Eddie said.

“I’m hungry, and we are not waiting for you.”

“I see how it is!” Eddie yelled as Chris walked away from him. He pushed himself up after a few seconds and made his way out of the bedroom.

There was a cup of coffee on the counter near the coffeemaker, and it looked like it was prepared for him. Evan was by the stove, flipping an egg while sipping at his own cup of coffee. He looked to be much more awake than Eddie felt, and it was horrible. Eddie knew he was still kind of adjusting to this life, and the academy could only do so much when getting used to working 25 hours straight and not getting enough sleep. Evan had been doing it longer, but it was still making Eddie jealous.

“You look way more awake than you should be.”

“Ah, I’ve already showered and everything. Slept like a baby all night long.”

“No wonder you are so chipper.” Eddie sniffed the coffee and found it wasn’t his normal kind. He looked to the side to see a small bag of coffee there. “You didn’t like what I had?”

“No, not really. Tommy’s a huge coffee snob, and I want the good stuff if I’m drinking outside of work. So I threw that in my bag last night. If you hate it, I can make you something else, pour this over into your carafe and make it fresh.”

“I drank Army coffee; I promise you, this won’t be worse than that.”

“Well, I guess that all depends on what you like. I hate dark roast coffee. I hate dark roast espresso beans. It’s why I only go to the shops that have more than one type or don’t have just dark.”

“There are different kinds of roasts?” Chris asked.

“Yeah, bud, there are.” Eddie sat down at the island, eyeing where Chris was sitting, and then just relaxed into the seat. Evan had to have helped him up, and he was sitting pretty well on the stool. So everything was good. “I like medium and dark roasts. Blondes just don’t do it for me. Doesn’t even seem like I’m drinking coffee.”

“Well, that’s a medium roast, so I’m glad you like it. I do have a blonde, but it’s flavored, so that helps. I don’t go for blondes too often.”

Eddie snorted at that and darted his eyes up to look at the fringe of hair he could just see.

“Wow, I see,” Evan said, but he was smiling.

“Do I have school?” Chris asked.

Eddie checked his phone and found the emails from the school that gave everything out; he focused on the last one sent.

“No, you don’t. They hope the school survey can be finished today so you can return tomorrow. However, I wouldn’t be shocked if you don’t go back tomorrow either. Only so many can do that, and checking for gas leaks is the biggest issue. I have the access portal for things for you to work on, so I’ll get you set up on my laptop later, and you can see if your teachers added anything today.”

“Okay. Then can Buck and I play Mario Kart once we are done eating?”

“If Buck wants to, yes.” Eddie picked up his coffee and took another sip. It wasn’t bad. Honestly, it was pretty good, but he wasn’t going to say that.

The smug look on Evan’s face when he turned around to hand off the second set of eggs was enough to let Eddie know he wasn’t hiding it from him.

Breakfast was the lowest-key breakfast he had ever had in his life. Chris was entertained with smack talk about how he would beat Evan at the Mario Kart. Eddie was left to just drink his coffee and eat his food, maybe make a grunt or two of noise. It was good. Eddie enjoyed it more than he should.

“I’ll clean up while you play,” Eddie said.

“Sounds good to me,” Evan said. He rinsed off his dishes and put them into the dishwasher but left the pans in the sink.

Eddie ran the dishwasher for the small stuff but left pots and pans to be done by hand. The dishwasher was usually run at night after dinner with the two of them. There would still be enough room for extra dishes, so there would still just be the simple stuff to do by hand.

As Eddie stood at the kitchen sink, he imagined that the sounds coming from the living room were ones he would have in his life from here on out. It wasn’t going to be possible for a while, but he was committed to showing Evan he was sorry for what he had done.

“So, does he know?” Evan asked.

“No. I was going to tell him tonight after dinner. We can tell him this afternoon if you want. Or I can still do it later when you aren’t here if you don’t want to be.”

“No, I don’t mind being here for it. I just didn’t want to say something off and get him upset or allude to it and him not understand what I am talking about. I am not trying to get you and him into a fight.”

“I know. What’s he doing now?” Eddie couldn’t hear him at the moment.

“Oh, he went to the bathroom. He said he would be like ten minutes.”

“He takes his time and reads a book he’s got in there. It’s an excuse sometimes to just relax, but he gets lost in the words most of the time.”

“He has a book in the bathroom?”

“It’s a joke book of sorts. We found it at the library one day, so I went out and bought one for our bathroom. It’s literally got the word bathroom in the title. It’s meant to be read in there. It lives in the little basket in front of the toilet.”

“Huh, I’ll have to look at that the next time I’m in there. I just usually play on my phone, but I get he doesn’t have one.”

“No, he doesn’t. You aren’t letting him win, are you?”

“Letting him? No. We are about half and half, I think. I never go out to beat a kid, but I’m also not going to just let them win. Maddie used to do that kind of thing with me, but I never liked it. I want to win fair and square. You don’t even know how much that upset me once I figured it out when I got older. Greg and I beat each other a lot, and Nathan never let us forget he was the king of Mortal Kombat.”

“It’s been years since I played that. I’ll have to see about getting it on a system.”

“We have one over at the house and the newest Mortal Kombat on it. Greg and I still play the shit out of it.”

Eddie nodded his head. He would have to see about an adult’s night sometime to play that with Evan.

“Hello,” a man said as Eddie sat down in the chair that overlooked the kid’s area of the library. He looked up at the man with a frown on his face.

“Can I help you?” Eddie asked.

“Oh, I guess…well, shit-shoot.” The man rubbed his hand over his face. “Greg’s a nosy asshole, and I just assumed that he had shared my picture with you like he did you with me. Nathan Wilson, Greg’s biological brother, adopted in all the ways that matter for Evan.”

“Ah,” Eddie said. He stood up and held out his hand. “It’s wonderful to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you. I wasn’t aware you lived in the area.”

“I just moved into the area and hadn’t told them, actually. Been staying with another friend of mine. Move to Byrne Memorial from San Francisco. I wanted to surprise them next week. Running into you means I don’t want you to have to keep it secret.”

“You are Buck’s brother,” Chris said as he walked over with his book bag slung over his shoulder.

“How did you know that, but I didn’t?”

“Buck showed me a picture of him yesterday when you were griping in Spanish about how pretty he is.”

“Christopher!” Eddie said.

“Buck knows, Daddy. He can understand Spanish better than me. His ears turned pink, and he told me you could tell me everything when I was older and had the sex talk.”

Nathan laughed a little, keeping it down because they were in a library.

“I’m going to kill your Buck,” Eddie said. He rubbed at his eyes and shook his head. “Do you have your books?”

“Yes, I do. I found a lot of them. I really like this time. I hope that’s okay.”

“It is. Here. I’ll go and check them out for us, along with mine. Nathan, you okay watching him?”

“I’m sure Chris can keep me entertained while you are gone. Did you guys drive here?”


“Well, I will follow you back to Evan and Greg’s place if you don’t mind.”

“Don’t mind at all.” Eddie took the bag from Chris carefully.

Chris turned his full attention to Nathan as Eddie walked away. He snagged his stack of books and headed to check out. The librarian behind the desk was helpful and smiled as she helped him. It wasn’t a long process, and Eddie was used to it. If he bought his son every single book he wanted, they would be out of a house. So the library was the best place for new books from authors Chris hadn’t read before or a new series he wasn’t sure he would like. They had a system, and it was great.

“Ready?” Eddie asked as he returned to where Nathan and Chris were standing and talking. Chris was swaying on his feet like he liked to do. Using the crutches to make sure he didn’t fall down.

Nathan looked like he was ready to just jump in and grab him. Eddie understood that fear. He knew what it was like to be afraid of the bumps and bruises Chris could get if he fell over. After getting out of a temporary wheelchair after his last surgery, Chris refused to go back into one, even when he was tired. Eddie didn’t mind all that much since it usually meant that Eddie got to carry him when he got too tired. It wasn’t the best option, but it worked for them.

“Yes, Daddy. Mister Nathan said he would make dessert tonight if we let him.”

“Well, we are eating at Evan’s house, so that will be up to him. I don’t see why not, though. It’ll be a mad house in there with all of us.” Eddie was looking forward to dinner with Tommy, Evan, and Greg. Now Nathan was going to be there, so it would be even better.

Chris loved Tommy and Greg, but his favorite was Evan by a long shot. Eddie was pretty sure Evan was his favorite as well.

“How come you don’t look at Dad like Greg does?” Chris asked as they headed to ward the door.

“What do you mean?”

“There are days I think Greg doesn’t like Daddy.”

“Ah, well, I’m the older brother, so I don’t have to hate people who hurt Evan. I can be wise and know when to back off and let Evan live his life. I get to be the one who reins in Greg when he gets to be a helicopter brother.”

“Ah, like Aunt Adriana when Aunt Sofia gets out of hand when it comes to telling Daddy about his life.”

Nathan laughed. Eddie reached out and ruffled Chris’ hair as his son turned to head out the door. The walk outside was slow and steady, the way Eddie was used to living his life in the slower lane, and nearly every single day, he was okay with that. He liked it. His job had him going fast; his life in the military was fast. This was like heaven to him. He settled in and smiled as Chris carefully got to the truck.

“He’s a great kid. He was interrogating me about Evan. He likes calling him Buck, huh?”

“Yeah. He latched onto it. I think he’s working up to calling him Bucky. Bucky’s one of his heroes, post getting his memories unscrambled and such. He likes pretty much everyone, but I honestly think Groot and Rocket are his favorites.”

“They are fun. Evan’s not seen too many of the Marvel movies. It’s nothing he’s been big on. Greg kind of hates it, but he never read the comics and never really got into them. I don’t think they had enough meat for him.”

“Well, it’s not the worst reason to not read comics. I read them a lot to get out of doing other things, but I was mostly into DC. Chris isn’t as big into DC, but he loves Wonder Woman. Which I think is really cute. He likes the lasso, but then I think most of that is because he wants to be able to make people tell the truth.”

“Well, it’s a noble cause.”

“It is.”

Eddie opened the truck’s door, picked up Chris, and put him in there. Chris scooted over into his booster seat and settled in there, allowing Eddie to get him strapped in. Eddie moved the crutches to the side to ensure they didn’t fall over into Chris’s legs.

“Love you, mijo,” Eddie said.

“Love you, too, Daddy.”

Eddie shut the door and looked at Nathan, who was getting into his car.

The drive home was pretty easy, so Eddie took his time to make sure h didn’t lose Nathan. Eddie just hoped that nothing happened on the way there, and Evan and Greg were as excited as Eddie hoped they would be to see Nathan. Eddie knew that he would be happy if his sisters came for a surprise visit as long as nothing else was going on. It seemed like Nathan was on the up and up, and it wasn’t like he couldn’t find where Greg lived. He had to know.

Evan’s SUV was in the house’s driveway, and he wasn’t in it. Eddie was glad of it. Nathan followed Eddie to his house, and he laughed. He parked and waited for Nathan to pull in before he unlocked the doors. Chris unbuckled his belt and waited for Eddie to open the door. Chris got himself over to where Eddie could snag him.

“Strong legs.”

Chris stood strong for the few seconds it took Eddie to get the crutches out and to him. Chris headed to the house.

“He’s got an eye on something.”

“Yeah, grabbing stuff and getting over across the street. How do you want to do this?”

“Well, I’ll hang out here. You don’t need to have me in your space. We can head over together.”

“Sure. Um, ten minutes. Shouldn’t take long.”

Getting Chris ready didn’t take too much time. So they were outside again before the ten minutes were up. Eddie picked up Chris and carried him across the street. Eddie didn’t trust people to not speed down the street, so he often carried him.

“Picked up a straggler, did you?” Tommy asked as he leaned in the doorway as soon as Eddie set Chris down in the grass.

“I latched onto him at the library when I was done signing up for a card. I freaked him out a little. I assumed that someone had shared an image of me with him. I was wrong. So I had this guy looking at me worriedly and thought I was hitting on him.”

“Are Buck and Greg cooking?”

“Yeah, Chris, you can head on in. I’m sure you will hear them fighting over if there’s enough spice in the salsa. Make them make you try it. You be the judge. Greg always thinks Evan will put in too much, and Evan calls him a spice hater.”

“I will.”

Tommy moved closer to where he could snag Chris if needed if he had trouble with the two stairs into the house. Eddie wasn’t sure what he felt about how close Tommy and Greg were to Chris already. He wasn’t worried that they would do something, just worried about how close they all were. Yet, it felt right.

“So, when did you get into town to live?” Tommy asked.

“Last week. The earthquake set my plan behind, the hospital has been busy, and I’ve gotten too much overtime, but it was needed. I had plans, but then I saw Eddie, and I thought he would recognize me. So I didn’t want him to feel like he should keep it.”

“Well, come on in. We can make our way into the back. Evan made strawberry daiquiri, and it’s in the freezer. There is some in the freezer for Chris as well, without anything in it. Don’t worry; even the ones for adults are light on alcohol. He doesn’t do heavy pours most nights. So, we can drink and have fun. He doesn’t plan on making any more with alcohol. If we want more, it’ll have to be a virgin.”

“Well, that’s okay with me,” Nathan said.

“Evan’s worried about something, and I have no clue what it is. I hope that Chris being here will push him to talk about it or get over it. Sometimes it is just all in his head. He doesn’t like to talk about either, but he sometimes will if pushed.”

“You,” Evan said.

Eddie looked to the side to see him looking at Nathan with a glare on his face.

“Me,” Nathan said.

“You had been dodging my calls for a week and telling me you are working too hard and you are too tired to talk to me more than in a text.”

“Well, I couldn’t run the risk of you hearing something or seeing something.”

“So that was you I saw on that ER run two days ago.”

Eddie remembered that run. Evan had come back from it upset a little, but everyone had assumed it was because they had lost their patient en route and couldn’t revive them. Yet it seemed it was something else on top of that. Evan had gone with Hen and was the one doing the driving. The normal driver had been needed due to their small body frame.

“You are on dessert duty, you asshole.”

Nathan nodded his head and stepped forward. Evan glomped into him and held on tight as he did. Eddie could see how Nathan’s body relaxed as Evan held onto him. The love between the two was evident, making him feel much better. After a minute, Evan let go and stepped back to look at Tommy.

“Hey, I stay out of the drama between you all. I don’t need to get into the middle of that. I get enough drama herding my firefighters.”

“Did you know he was in town?”

“No, I didn’t. Not until I noticed Eddie had another vehicle in his driveway. So I looked and found it was Nathan.”

“BUCK! HELP!” Chris yelled before he started to laugh.

Eddie followed Evan, Tommy, and Nathan into the kitchen, where Greg had Chris blocked from getting to whatever Chris was helping with.

“This little boy told me there isn’t enough spice!” Greg called out.

“Well, you tend to go light on that,” Nathan said.

Greg turned around and pointed the spoon in his hand at him. “You shut your pie hole. Assholes who don’t tell their brothers they are living here now don’t get to have an opinion. Eddie, man, come and help me. I don’t want to burn the kid’s mouth off.”

“I doubt you could make it that hot.” Eddie trotted over and grabbed a chip before scooping up some of the salsa to eat it. “Yeah. You can add more like half as much more. The kid loves heat, and while there are some he can’t always handle, he can do that one just fine.”

“Told you,” Chris said.

Greg sighed, and he picked up the jalapeños and added more.

“Dessert,” Evan said with a glare at Nathan.

“And me?” Eddie asked.

“You and Tommy can do whatever you want outside of the kitchen. Chris can go where he wants, but it’s the brothers in here,” Greg said. He gave Eddie a smile and shrugged his shoulders.

Eddie understood wanting to have that time, so he allowed Tommy to pull him out of the room. Dinner did smell wonderful, so he was looking forward to that.

“Mortal Kombat?” Tommy asked.

“Hell, yes.”


Evan wasn’t sure that waking up was the best idea, but he did it anyway. His body ached in ways it hadn’t since he had gotten into a wreck when he was sixteen.

“Hey, calm down,” Nathan said.

“Nate?” Evan asked.

“Hey, it’s okay. Just wait. You’ve got the little man in bed with you, and Eddie’s asleep on your other side. Your leg is hoisted up in the air.”

Evan had no memory of what was happening; he was in a bed with his leg up, and Chris was in bed with him. He slowly opened his eyes to see his leg up in the air, and he remembered the feeling of pain. He remembered the weight of the truck on his leg.

“Everyone else?”

“A few minor injuries, the worst beyond you is Makepeace’s broken arm. It’ll all be fine. I promise.”

Evan nodded and tried not to think the worst of what was happening to him.

“I’m going to get the doctor, and he’ll talk to you about what is going on.”

“Where is everyone else?”

“Well, I tossed Maddie out of here.”

“Maddie? How the hell did she? Where was she?”

“I guess she was here in LA. She saw the news and realized it was you. She came and demanded access. I had her ass tossed out. I promised her I would text as soon as you were out of surgery, and I left the rest to you to worry about.”

“Thanks.” Evan blinked and got his eyes open. The room wasn’t as bright as he thought it would be and the first thing he did was reach out to the unit that would give him another dose of medication. He didn’t press it, but he put it right where it needed to be for him to use it in a few minutes.

The doctor and nurses arriving woke up Eddie, who got his son out of bed without waking up. Evan wanted Eddie to bring Chris back to him, but he knew that he needed to be checked out. There was a second bed in the room, so Eddie sat down there with him. Nathan moved back.

“Press that when you need it,” the nurse said as she left the room.

“What time is it?”

“After three,” Eddie said. He carried Chris back over, and this time, Chris woke up.

“Shit, you should all be asleep.”

“No, we are right where we need to be. Greg just went home to get clothes for everyone. There is a waiting room he and I will sleep in for a little while. I’m going to head there soon. You two need to stay together, and there is no getting Chris from his Bucky. So just live with this.”

Evan made sure Chris wasn’t looking at his hand and flipped Nathan off.

Eddie started to laugh and got Chris settled on the bed again with a blanket over him.

“I don’t want to sleep. Bucky’s awake,” Chris said, but he yawned as he spoke.

“I will be going to sleep again in a few minutes. As soon as I press this button, I bet. My whole body feels like that time I was riding with your butt, and you got T-boned.”

“You were tossed around with that as your belt snapped out of the casing from the damage. You doing okay?”

“I am so far. I’ll know more when I wake up and the heavier drugs are worn off. I’ll probably not want to wake up with that.”

“No, I bet not.”

Evan reached out and pressed the button before pulling Chris closer to him. He wanted to just wake up and have this be over with, but he would have a long time to get himself over this.

Morning and the morning rounds came way too early, but at least it came with Bobby and Athena bringing food. Evan slipped back to sleep when they were gone, and he woke up to find Hen and Karen sitting in the room.

“Where is Nathan?” Evan asked.

“He got Eddie and Chris to go home and get a meal together for you for lunch. We said we would sit with you two. The hospital had to have Maddie thrown out again,” Hen said.

“She…” Karen shook her head, and the look on her face said it all.

“I found out yesterday from a letter she sent me that her soulmate refused her. Which I wasn’t shocked about. She denied them a long time ago. I guess he’s some high-powered executive of a Fortune 500 company, and Maddie would never have to work a day again in her life. She didn’t say it, but I’m pretty sure he made sure that his life was full of money to be able to rub it in her face.”

“Well, that explains something,” Eddie said.

Evan looked at the door, and he saw Eddie there. Last night had been about Chris and Nathan more than anything else. At one point, he remembered the feeling of Greg kissing his forehead. There had, however, been the knowledge that Eddie had been there the whole time.


“Well, one of the nurses said the room was covered when I asked why you were put in here. This is for VIP people, Evan. Then the second bed was wheeled in. Whatever your insurance isn’t covering, which it won’t cover this room, is being taken care of.”

“Wow, by who?”

“We weren’t sure at first, but then there was a big thing. Athena was the one to respond to the call about Maddie. Given everything, no one wanted to come and deal with it since it’s all about you and you from her husband’s unit. Athena said that sometimes spite was horrible, but sometimes it felt right.”

“Eddie,” Evan said.

“I don’t know more than that. Only Maddie and Athena know the whole thing. Nathan and Chris have food, and they are on their way up. Nathan might be able to get more information about this from someone, but I am unsure of that.”

“I don’t want to talk to Maddie, but I want to know who is paying for my stuff.”

Evan didn’t like not knowing things.

“I’ll text Bobby to have Athena come over and talk to you. She might have gone to figure out more.”

Evan smelled the food as Chris came into the room with a grin on his face.

“How are you feeling, Bucky?” Chris asked.

“Good. Really hungry. You bring me something good?”

“I did. I brought you a lot of really good stuff. Daddy helped me, and Uncle Nathan supervised.”

“What about that lazy bones Greg?”

“He’s at work. He didn’t take the day off, saying that you would be upset if he took off along with Nathan. Uncle Nathan is needed here more than anyone else.”

“Well, he’s going to be one of the reasons I stay where I am.” Evan closed his eyes.

“Well, it’s good that I’m your next of kin on things. Everything looked good, and once you are not as drugged up, I’ll let you know what to expect, but also make sure you know what to expect.”

“Food?” Chris asked.

“Fine,” Nathan said. He laid the food down on the bed where Evan’s foot and leg would have been if it wasn’t up in the sling. He started to pull out containers and hand them to everyone.

It didn’t take long for everyone to start to dig in. Chris sat down with his food in his lap on the bed. Evan laid his in his lap. His bed thankfully allowed him to mostly sit up.

“Ah, sorry, I didn’t realize you were eating,” Athena said.

“It’s fine,” Evan said after he swallowed his bite. He waved her inside.

“I have extra,” Eddie said. He pointed at the one container on the bed.

“No, it’s fine. I just got done eating myself. You okay with everyone here hearing this?” Athena asked.

“Yes. I would probably tell all of them.”

“Okay, your sister’s soulmate doesn’t want contact with her ever but as soon as he realized it was on the news. He wanted to make sure you wanted for nothing.”


“She used to talk about you a lot to him from the interview I had with him. He’s worried about you making it. He made me swear that if you needed anything, someone would tell him. I guess that getting a little brother who loved like you did was the biggest highlight for him beyond finding the love of his life.”

“Does he…Never mind.”

“When you are up for it, he gave me his number to pass to you for texts. He doesn’t want thanks. He said it what he would have done if he were with Maddie. That’s all he cares about.”

“I had a summer where our parents were being idiots, and Maddie came home for a visit. I talked to him for two hours as she slept. Didn’t even feel me writing on her arm. I was trying to understand why she didn’t want him anymore. He was kind. I stopped before she woke up. I found out later that she had drunk herself to sleep. I’m glad she didn’t kill herself. It was one of the first times Doug had been angry with her and slapped her.” Evan picked up his fork and started to eat again. He knew he needed to eat to keep himself going with his healing. “What else?”

“Nothing much, really. Just that he will make sure that Maddie stays away from him. She burned that bridge by following the call of the man she married. He doesn’t want her and hopes to just keep the memory he had of her before she broke things off with him.”

“Doug was an abuser.”

“And sometimes you can still break things you can’t ever fix when you follow someone and leave behind your soulmate. I fell in love with my soulmate, and he liked me and bowed to pressure to marry me. I would never want to give up our two beautiful kids, and Michael will be my best friend. I’m just lucky that we were able to salvage that. I love Bobby so much, and I would never want to give him up. I could have seen us hurting each other a lot with that. So I understand where Maddie’s soulmate is coming from.”

“Yeah,” Evan said. He looked at Eddie and gave Eddie a big smile. “I still have to say that just never hearing from your soulmate is probably better than whatever he went through. We can discuss the number when I get home and I get settled. Thanks for stopping and telling me. Can you make sure that Maddie doesn’t come here at all?”

“I will make sure the hospital calls when she comes here unless it’s for a visit for herself. She admitted yesterday that this is not her hospital, and it’s across town. The only reason she would be coming here is an emergency: the ER, not the rest of the hospital, and not this floor.”

“This is pretty good,” Hen said as she waved her fork over the food container.

“Thanks,” Eddie said. He looked smug at that.

“How come you never cook like this at the station?”

“Well, parts of it can’t be done in a single day, and I don’t have enough stores of that in my house in the freezer that would feed everyone at the station. I’ve talked about doing the before work sometimes and then making it, but I would have to be the man behind for like three hours before the meal time, and thankfully it holds well.”

“Damn, that much work goes into this?” Karen looked at the food with a critical eye.

“Well, not with the frozen stuff, but to make it on the scale needed for the station? Yes.”

Evan snagged the lid. He was full, and he was sure he would be hungry later. He didn’t mind eating it at room temperature later. He laid the bed back and yawned. He waved when Hen opened her mouth. “Stay and finish eating. I’m just gonna go to sleep again.”

Eddie wasn’t sure what was going on, but he wanted to know who had the idea for Evan to move in with him. He understood the whole thing about the bedroom and bathroom and Eddie’s place being set up already for Chris, so Evan on crutches was going to be an issue thing. It was the opposite of what Eddie thought would happen and what was being planned.

Chris was happy as hell. He was so hyper that Eddie thought that Chris assumed this was a little more than what it was. Eddie planned to talk to him about it a little better to ensure he knew this wasn’t forever.

The friendship between them had a good and solid foundation. Over the last two months, things had been a little different, but Eddie wasn’t sure what it meant, but they hadn’t talked about it yet. Eddie felt like they had been building to something a little more than friends, but that had only hit him in the hours before they had started their shift that day.

Then the bombing happened, and Eddie found that he had gone and fallen in love. That was the whole point of everything, but he hadn’t realized how far gone he was. He wasn’t going to push anything with Evan, as Evan had enough to deal with.

“Okay, to just crash on the couch?” Evan asked.

“Yeah. Go ahead if you want. I changed the sheets; so you can take a nap in the bedroom.”

“Don’t want to nap, just want to relax out where everyone else is. Don’t worry about being quiet or anything once I’m asleep; you know I’m asleep.”

Eddie snorted at that and then sobered up. The post-op unit had all kinds of alarms the afternoon after Evan’s surgery. Eddie had marveled at it, but Greg had pointed out he was used to sleeping through a lot when he wasn’t at work. Now, here he was, getting ready to drop onto Eddie’s couch and be there for the next few weeks at least.

“Okay, so what else do you need at this moment?” Greg asked.

“Just drinks and my cuddle buddy,” Evan said.

Thankfully, he had been discharged on a weekend because even with Eddie keeping Chris out of school the day after the bombing, Eddie knew that he would have a fight on his hands with Evan’s first day here. Chris was already sticking to him like glue, including hovering as Evan had been directed into the house.

“I can get the drinks,” Eddie said. He had made tea that morning before going to get Evan with Greg and Nathan. Tommy had stayed to help get the guest room worked around to make room for Evan in there.

Evan loved tea, and he would be drinking a lot to help with his medications, so Eddie had made two pitchers of it, one was black, and the other was the green stuff that Tommy brought over that Evan loved. The pitchers had also come from there. Eddie had a few pitchers, but with how much he was probably going to go through, Eddie had been happy for them. There was also a pitcher of water in the fridge.

Once in the kitchen, Eddie took a deep breath. He took a step but stopped when he found Nathan in the doorway from the back of the house.

“I can talk him into going home,” Nathan said.

“No, it’s fine. I just have to watch myself.”

“Eddie, you don’t. Evan knows. He’s known for weeks about how you feel about him. He’s not fully there, but he talked to me about it. I might be breaking a confidence, but he would hate for me to keep it if it’s hurting you. He feels something, but he doesn’t know what it is. Give him time.”

“I would give him all the time in the world. I just don’t want to hurt him by being here.”

“He’s not going to be hurt, and if he knew what you are thinking, he would worry about you being hurt more than him.”

Eddie agreed with that. Evan was all about other people. He would endure the worst things just to make someone happy. It was why giving up on Maddie had shocked him a little bit. He also understood that there were limits. There were times when it was enough when someone was just done. Eddie knew it well with his own parents, even if he was having issues getting his parents to understand his limits.

“Get him tea, and I’ll see about a snack. As soon as he sates his thirst, he’ll want something.”

“Abuela sent over some of that salsa he likes. It’s close enough to lunch that I don’t think it will be out of order. He seems to be eating a lot of smaller meals anyway.” Eddie walked to the fridge, grabbed the salsa container, and handed it over to Nathan before he grabbed the tea and the water. Eddie was going to take a glass of each into the living room for Evan.

No more words were said as they worked through what they were doing. Eddie was done first, but he snagged the bag of chips as Nathan worked on warming up the queso dip.

“What’s that?” Evan asked as he eyed the bag until Chris snagged it from Eddie as he leaned forward from where he was sitting at Evan’s side on the couch. There was not a lot of room for him normally. Evan had to be sitting, so there was more room. It made Eddie fall in love just a little more with him.

“Chips. Abuela sent salsa you love and that queso dip I love, so we had snacks today.”

“Lunch will be in about two hours, so don’t eat too much, Chris. Evan’s been working on many small meals, so his stomach doesn’t hate him. That doesn’t mean you get to eat a lot at each.”

“I know. Tía Pepa already explained that he will eat at odd hours with the medications Bucky’s on. She also said something not kicking him out of bed for eating crackers.”

Eddie really wished his Tia had kept her mouth shut on that. Eddie knew exactly what his soulmate looked like. He had also seen the way everyone looked at him on calls. How many numbers he would throw away after they had been stuffed into his hands and sometimes even his pockets. How Hen and Makepeace ran inference a lot of the time. It was the issue with being not only as beautiful as Evan but also as loving. It wasn’t hard to know how much he loved the world and cared for it even after just a few minutes around him.

“I have snacks. What do we want to watch that won’t matter if Evan falls asleep during it?” Nathan asked. He handed Chris the small bowl of warmed-up queso.

Evan was handed a bowl with a chip area attached. Eddie had bought those for when they were snacking while watching games, but it worked well for this. Evan wouldn’t have to try and juggle too many things while his newest round of pills was working on him.

Hours later, Chris was down for a nap, everyone else had gone home, and it was just Eddie and Evan in the living room. Evan was dozing after his latest pills, and Eddie was reading a book.

“Hey, Eds,” Evan said.

Eddie looked up from his book. His eyes went to the glasses that were still mostly full after Eddie had filled them up last. Eddie looked at Evan’s face to see him crooking a finger at him. Eddie closed up the book and stood up. He sat down in the spot Chris usually sat in, bracing himself on one leg to ensure he didn’t slip off.

“Yes?” Eddie asked.

“I was thinking the few hours before the bombing about maybe you taking me on a date sometime soon. What do you think about that?”

Eddie reached out as he turned a little more to face Evan. He cupped the side of Evan’s face and grinned down at him. He rubbed his thumb over Evan’s cheekbone and waited for Evan to settle down. He could see how nervous Evan was after that. His pulse point was jumping up and down on his throat.

“I would love to go on a date with you, but I think that’s going to be a while unless you are okay with me doing the heavy lifting and setting us up dates here, which is fine with me. We can save a big out-and-about date for after you are cleared to move around the world again as a celebration. I know you are being limited just in case right now to make sure that nothing else happens.”

“Yeah. Stupid leg. Kiss me.”

Eddie leaned over, and he did just that. It was a simple press of lips and then a few seconds of them staying there before Eddie pulled back. He smiled at Evan before he leaned over again to rub their noses together. The simple affection of it was more than enough to make Eddie happy.

“Call that a kiss?” Evan asked.

“With you on drugs right now that are messing with you? Yes. When you are down to the others, we will see about doing more in a few days. Now, why don’t you roll onto your side and try and nap? When he wakes up, Chris wants to watch that movie, and you promise him you would. So you need to get some sleep in.”

“Okay. one more kiss?” Evan pouted, and it was just as adorable as when he did it in tandem with Chris.

“Fine, but that’s it.” Eddie leaned in again, catching Evan’s hands as he did, pressing them to the side. He knew Evan well enough to know he would latch onto Eddie and not let go. It wasn’t like with Evan’s leg; Eddie would fight too much.

“Spoilsport,” Evan said when Eddie broke their kiss.

“I know. I’m just mean. Just like when I have Chris take a bath when he doesn’t want to.”

Evan laughed, but he wiggled his hands free of Eddie’s and got onto his side carefully, letting Eddie move his leg to ensure he didn’t do anything too horrible.

“You need the heavier blanket?” Eddie asked as he stood up.

“No, but can you cover my toes?”

Eddie did as he asked, as he had every time Evan laid down for a nap in the living room or in the bedroom. He didn’t like wiggling his good foot to get the covers over his bad foot.

Once Eddie was sure Evan was asleep, he slipped into the kitchen and shut the two doors. He looked at his phone and wasn’t sure what to do. He needed to talk to someone. He needed an ear, but he didn’t want to call anyone related to Evan, and outside of his family, he had no one who wasn’t connected to Evan.

He dialed a number he hadn’t been using that often on a whim. He put it on speaker as soon as it started to ring.

“Eddie, what’s wrong?” Shannon asked as soon as the call connected.

“I kissed my soulmate today,” Eddie said.

“Okay, you sound like you are freaking out.”

“I am a little. I just…what do you know of what’s been happening in the city?”

“Well, I don’t live too far outside of LA, so I know everything. I haven’t really watched the news, but I have read about it through the papers.”

“That was my shift at my station.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. I wasn’t in the truck. I was in the ambulance. It was my soulmate pinned under the truck.”

“I know you said you two would be taking it slow.”

“He told me today he had been thinking of asking me out on a date the day of the bombing. Then he asked me to kiss him. He was there enough to consent, and while drugged, he’s not that drugged. I realized with that truck on top of him that I loved him. It hurt so bad thinking he was going to die, but Shannon, if he had, it was just what I deserved.”

“No, Eddie, no,” Shannon said. There were a few strange sounds on the other end of the phone, and Eddie wasn’t sure what they were. “I was shutting my office door. You listen to me, Edmundo Diaz. We were both young and stupid and were afraid of what soulmates could mean to us. You wanted someone who wanted you despite it all. You want love, and you made yourself think you could only truly find that with someone who wasn’t your soulmate. I was afraid of loving someone that much. Ultimately, we were lucky enough not to mess up our lives. We made a wonderful kid, and we are happy. It took some time, but I…”


“I just pulled up the news footage, Eddie. Even from a distance, I can see just how fucking in love you are. You are holding his hand, and it looks like your world is breaking in part. I can’t look at you and not think you are so fucking in love with him. There was a small news report and an image from last year where he was giving an interview. He’s a cutie. He sounds like a wonderful man.”

“Thanks. The next time you are in town, Chris wants you to meet him. Even before I told Chris he is my soulmate, Chris claimed him as his best friend. The two connected on the first day. I can tell that Evan loves him a great deal. It’s honestly the best part of it. I can trust Evan with him.”

“Chris said his best friend is named Buck. Oh wait, I see Evan Buckley.”

“Yeah, he goes by Buck at work, and Chris likes to call him Bucky. I think Evan likes being called Buck by the rest of the station since he was given the name in the academy. I met him, and the people around me that day called him Evan, so I was as well. Evan introduced himself as Evan but then Buck to Chris, so I think Chris latched on. Evan has never asked me to call him Buck.”

“Buckley. My boss had me sending off stuff about a Maddie Buckley from Pennsylvania a few weeks before this happened. I talked to someone else, and she told me he’s done it a few times. Then there was something big that happened that had him leaving early.”

“That would be Evan’s sister, and I assume your boss is her estranged soulmate. I’ve never quite got the whole unadulterated story from Evan about what went on there. I have no clue other than your boss is paying for Evan’s hospital bills as a spiteful way of pissing off Maddie.”

“That’s…the best kind of spite.”

“That’s what the cop who told us about it said. She’s honestly a spartan when it comes to that kind of thing, so I wasn’t shocked. Then she ensured that Maddie knew Evan wanted nothing to do with her. We kept Maddie in the know that Evan didn’t die from the truck bombing, but he doesn’t seem to like his sister all that much. Nathan and Greg hate her guts, and I think either of them would kill her, given half a chance.”

“And who is that?”

“Ah, sorry. Greg and Nathan are Evan’s chosen family. Greg’s soulmate Tommy works for the LAFD; Evan actually replaced him at the house he was assigned to out of the academy. Nathan’s a doctor with privileges at a few around town, and Greg works as a cop with Athena Grant, the girlfriend of our captain.”

“That sounds complicated.”

“I’ve found the 118 is connected everywhere, which is good and bad. I would never even try and do anything stupid. Evan says Athena shows up at the worst times to end all of the fun.”

“Well, that’s not a shock,” Shannon said.


“Cause it sounds like Athena’s the mom unit of the station, and that means she is there to end all of the fun.”

Eddie laughed, and for the first time, it felt like he was light. Like the world wouldn’t end if he let himself want what he wanted. He looked to the side to see the door opening; it was slow, like Chris did when he tried to sneak into the room.

“I gotta go. Call tomorrow?”

“Maybe we can do Skype or something. See the three of you? Is Evan staying with you?”

“He is.”

“Hi, Mom!” Chris said.

“Hey, baby. We will talk more tomorrow. You be good for your father. I love you!”

“Love you, too!” Chris was grinning as he came forward. He looked at Eddie with a strange look. “Why were you talking to Mommy?”

“Well, she and I have been talking a lot more since your Buck made a point that time might have helped. Just like you are repairing your relationship with her a little at a time, I am as well. We are trying to become friends again.”

“Is Bucky still asleep?”

“Yes. I had him lie down so that you two could watch the movie. Based on his naps at the hospital, he’ll be awake in about half an hour.”

“Okay. I’ll go and read in the living room until Buck wakes up. He’s gonna be hungry.”

“Yeah, I’m going to make the sweet and salty kettle corn in about twenty minutes. It’ll hopefully be done by the time he wakes up.”

“That sounds good. I like it when you make it.”

“I like making it. So go read, and I’ll bring it when I finish it.”

Chris nodded, and he turned to leave the room. Eddie didn’t grab the door for him but instead turned back to getting what was needed for making the kettle corn.

It wasn’t long before Eddie heard Chris and Evan talking. He knew Chris didn’t wake Evan. Chris understood the need for sleep to heal. Eddie liked the gathering of ingredients. He liked how everything came together when it was done, even if it was something as simple as popcorn. He hadn’t liked cooking as a teenager, but then he had his mother hovering over his shoulder, second-guessing everything he did. When Abuela visited, Eddie was allowed to learn without his mother looking over his shoulder.

It was never harder to learn when his mother was at his back telling him he did everything wrong. Yet, he never learned anything. It had been hard and horrible, but he had learned well what not to do around his mother. He wanted to learn to be better. He wanted to learn everything, yet he learned nothing around her. It was the worst thing.

Eddie had books to learn from now. Simple ones, extravagant ones, even ones he had no hope of learning the whole thing. There were a few things in there he wanted to make, but he wasn’t fully ready yet. He had tried but failed.

Evan knew a lot about cooking; he had made sure he learned it while moving around the world. Eddie was sure he had fallen in love with Evan during one of those tales of him traveling around the country and down to Peru to find himself on, only to find himself in LA, where he had ended up. When Eddie had found him right after picking a house and moving into it after buying it. He had no clue what kinds of things would have happened if any little thing had changed.

Yet, Eddie didn’t think he would want to change a damned thing.

Evan groaned as he tried to get over the nightmare. The nightmares were the worst part of coming off the heavier medication. The nightmares were getting worse. He couldn’t sleep through the night without waking up with at least one. Eddie was at work, and while Carla was there to help take care of Chris, Evan hated asking her for things. She was there to take care of Chris, not Evan.

Grabbing his phone, Evan looked at the time. It was just after four. Eddie would be dead asleep or on a call. Evan decided that sleep wasn’t going to come again. He carefully sat up, ensuring his leg was stable, before reaching over for his crutches. He hoped he didn’t wake anyone up with them. He had gotten good at using them but tended to make more noise when his pain pills kicked in than any other time. He took a drink of water and emptied his bedside glass before slipping his phone into his sleep pants pocket.

Evan dropped himself onto the couch and grabbed the remote before getting comfortable. He looked through the recorded games from the week of soccer. Chris liked listening to them while he read or when it was during the school year, and he had the Premier League as well when he was doing his homework.

Finding a game that had already been watched, Evan put it on. He checked the battery on his phone. It was high enough that he didn’t need to worry about it going off on him. He found the latest bit of research he had been doing on his leg and started to read through the tabs he had opened on his phone. It wasn’t too hard, and while it freaked him out some, ever since Nathan had forced the blood thinners after finding the issue with the screws in some people and them causing clots, Evan had started to deep dive into everything over the last month and a half.

Evan heard the dropping of keys into a bowl, and he frowned. He looked over to see Eddie looking at him. Evan looked at the time. It was now just after five. Eddie was home way too early.

“Eds?” Evan asked.

“Hey, I wasn’t sure if you were asleep or awake there. You don’t normally listen to halftime.”

Evan looked at the TV to see it was halftime in the second game he had started up. “Wasn’t even paying attention to it, really. What’s wrong?”

Eddie held up a stack of papers, and he waved his arm that was in a sling. “Got a minor injury, but since it’s a burn, Bobby just sent me home for the next few hours after I got back from the ER. I might be able to stay as the man behind but burn hurt like fucking crazy.”

“What happened?” Evan tried to sit up, but Eddie came across and pushed him back down again.

“Hot pan on my arm. We were called to deal with a fall injury, but the teenage son has a disability. He thought we were hurting his mother. There was a hot pan on the stove, and he hit me with it. I put my arm up to block it, and the bottom burned me. It’s not as bad as it could have been. I wasn’t too worried about it until after we had his subdued. Hen made sure I went to the ER as it was beyond what she was willing to wrap up.”

“And the kid?”

“When he was calm, he was so upset with what he had done. He went in with his mother until his father got off work. He’s never alone at home. They work different shifts to have coverage of his care, as they don’t want him to be home alone. He’s more attached to his mother.”

“I hope he ends up okay after that.”

“He was pretty calm before we headed off together. I was in the front of the ambo with Hen in the back. We didn’t want to set him off again.”

“Let me see.”

“It’s wrapped right now. I’ve got the instructions on it and what to do with it. I tried to push that myself, my partner, and my nurse for my son, knew what to do, but the ER nurse and doctor kept pushing them on me. I do have the good cream, though.”

“Good. Just…don’t unwrap it but let me see it.”

Eddie rolled his eyes, but he pulled his arm out of the sling. It was wrapped, and it looked like it was still pretty upset, given the red around part of the gauze. Evan kissed the skin there and then looked up at Eddie.

“Let’s get you to sleep.”

“What are you doing out here?”

“Couldn’t sleep after the nightmare, so instead of tossing and turning and upsetting my leg, I just thought I would listen to the TV and settle in and read about the screws in my leg and a few other things.”

“How are you feeling?” Eddie asked.

“Tired, but other than that, fine.”

“Then why don’t we try to sleep in my room? I set a text to be sent to Carla at six thirty. It’s usually when she gets up when Chris doesn’t have school.”

Evan nodded. There had been a few nights when Eddie invited Evan to his bed, usually dealing with the nightmares. This would be the first time Evan was fully awake when he got into bed with Eddie. He wanted it even with their hesitance to do much beyond kissing on occasion. Part of that was worry over Evan’s leg and doing damage.

“I am not sure I can sleep.”

“Then you can lay in there and let me sleep on you while you play on your phone. I just don’t want to be alone right now.”

Evan wasn’t sure Eddie actually thought that, but he wasn’t going to push it and make Eddie tell him. He figured Eddie thought that Evan not being alone would help him sleep.

“Then let’s go. I showered at the hospital with a wrap on my arm, and then they cleaned up my arm and got me good on that. So I can go right to sleep once I change.”

Evan nodded. He looked at where the TV was showing the game. He wasn’t sure which teams were playing, and he didn’t care much. Chris hadn’t gotten him too into soccer yet. He figured it was only a matter of time. Eddie was into watching Liga MX stuff; Chris watched a little of that but also MLS and Premier League when it was airing. The early-assed start time for PL made it hard for Chris to watch live, but he would watch them through the day when he wanted. There weren’t a lot of issues with Chris watching when Evan was around; it was at least interesting to watch. There were other sports he didn’t care about at all.

“Trying to get into soccer?”

“I’m used to the sounds of it in the background. Chris loves listening to it, and it’s not bad.”

“He likes watching it a little, but he doesn’t care too much when it’s not his team. He’s not settled on his Premier League team yet, so I figure he will next season. MLS will be a fight, but I think LAFC will win since they are the new guys.”

“Hmm.” Evan stretched a little and then started to get up.

Eddie helped him, touching a little more than he normally would, but it felt good. The trip to the back was easy, and Evan settled on the bed while Eddie went to the bathroom to get changed. At least with Eddie’s arm only minorly injured, they didn’t have to worry too much about it.

Evan got himself comfortable on the bed and waited for Eddie to come out. He checked his phone battery and found it did need a charge. He reached over for the charger cord before plugging it in. Eddie came out of the bathroom a minute later, his sling in his hand and his arm looking even more stark with the white gauze without the sling.

“Does it hurt?”

“Not really. If I move it too much, yes. But the same can be said for your leg. I know it ached you before I went to work yesterday.”

“Yeah, that happens a lot lately, but it’s good. It’s not sharp, and It’s not like what I’ve been told clots feel like. They are still scanning for that all of the time. Nathan’s nuts about it. I don’t mind. He’s not hovering over me; just checking in. I’m happy with how much he loves me.”

“I am as well. He is good at it. Being good at making sure you are fine but not doing too much. My mother hovers too much, and she always did. I think hers is about control.” Eddie got into bed, moved to where he could lay his burned arm over Evan’s stomach and settled in there.

Evan wasn’t sure what to feel as Eddie started to slip into sleep like they did this all of the time.

A few minutes later, Evan thought he could also fall asleep.

Evan was happy to look at his leg with no cast on it. The newest surgery was fully healed, and things were going well. He had a brace to keep his leg stable, but he didn’t have to worry as much about hurting himself. He would be able to fully start up physical therapy on his leg soon. It was good. He was happy.

“Ready to go?” Eddie asked as he entered the room where Evan had been left to get dressed again after his latest scans on his leg.

“Yeah. I am.”

“That brace looks like it’s out of this world,” Eddie said.

“Yeah, but it’s easy to put on and does well at what it’s supposed to do. I knew I would pick one, and Nathan weighed in and let me pick after he did that.”

“And your ‘brother-in-law’?” Eddie asked.

Evan laughed. It was what they had come to call Maddie’s soulmate, who had texted Evan a few times but mostly just checked in to make sure he was doing okay with his healing and that he wasn’t hiding anything from him. It was easy to talk to him via text.

“Hey,” Evan said as he reached out and pulled Eddie to him. He gave Eddie a smile he had been giving him for a while, and Eddie knew what he wanted.


“I want a kiss.” Evan snagged Eddie’s hips to stop him from backing away. No one was going to come in, and Evan had a few more minutes’ time before someone would think he was not there anymore and come to clean it.

“Really? And who says I want to give you a kiss?”

“Well, you said you wanted to kiss me all the time yesterday when you got off work.”

“Well, yesterday I was sleep deprived.”

“Really?” Evan leaned back, bracing his hands behind him. He looked at Eddie and then smiled.

It took only seconds for Eddie to lean over and kiss him like he wanted. Evan let Eddie sink into that kiss.

“Wanna stop at the drug store on the way home?” Evan asked when Eddie pulled out of the kiss.


“Because you commented about how you were nearly out of lube. We’ve both been tested, and while I can only do it on my back right now. I think that we are more than ready for me to be cleared for full sex.”

“And you didn’t lead with this?”

“Well, I wanted to make sure you want me for me.”

Eddie started to laugh at that, given it was something Eddie had said to Evan two weeks before when he had been slightly drunk.

“You ready to go?” Eddie asked, now looking like it was all he wanted, to get out of there.

“Yeah, I am. Are you?”

“You drive; I’ll run in and get lube and condoms just in case we don’t want to do clean up.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“Nothing else you need?”

“Nope. No new scripts and nothing else needed.”

The drive home was one of the worst for Evan. It was like its own little elephant in the room, the thought of what was to come. The long romance between them had been good. They had their ups and their downs, but mostly they were good. There was no anger left between them, and nothing was holding them back. Ever since Eddie had burned his arm while working, they hadn’t not slept in the same bed when Eddie was home.

Evan and Eddie had revealed their relationship to Bobby when they had talked it all out after the bombing. When Evan had been cleared to handle steps again when he had moved out of the thick massive cast and into a smaller one after his second surgery, Evan hadn’t even thought of going home. Eddie’s place was home to him, and he was happy there.

“Let’s not strip each other. Just get naked ourselves so that you don’t fall over, or I don’t jerk your shorts off,” Eddie said as Evan parked the truck.

“Sounds good. I don’t…it’s been a while for me. I haven’t really had sex with another person. I used toys a great deal before all of this, and I’ve gotten myself off a lot since my sex drive came back as the pain went down.”

“Oh, I know. I heard you every single time you knocked off a bottle of something.”

Evan felt the blush creeping up his cheeks. He pulled the keys from the ignition and got out of the truck. He was afraid that if they touched before they got to the bedroom, they would end up just getting off on the couch, which they had done several times already, like teenagers coming in their pants.

Even though they were home alone, and it would be four hours before they left to get Chris, Eddie locked the door when he made it inside. The brace was going to stay, so Evan just shucked his shorts and underwear down. He sat on the bed to get the rest of his clothes off, eyeing Eddie as Eddie stripped as well.

There was nothing new with seeing each other naked. Eddie had been helping Evan get his leg wrapped for him to bathe for a while now, and their sex hadn’t all been clothed while out in the living room. It was the first time that things were so heated without them even kissing yet.

Eddie pulled the new bottle of lube from the bag, getting it out of the box and the cap off to get the seal clear. As Eddie did that, Evan scooted up the bed and got settled on his back to wait for Eddie. It was just seconds before he had his lover on top of him.

“I look forward to the day you can lift me up and fuck me against the wall. It’s all I have thought about with you, honestly.”

“It’s a fun position. I love it a great deal.” Evan pulled Eddie in for a kiss as Eddie snapped open the cap and slicked up his fingers. They had been waiting on this too long to get too much foreplay in before they did the dead. There would be time for cuddling and everything else afterward.

There were few words as they kissed, and Eddie got comfortable where he could slip fingers inside Evan. It felt good. Almost too good. He had been hard since coming into the house. It wasn’t that strange; he had been aroused since he had been told he was okay to resume normal sex as long as he was careful to not put pressure on his leg by kneeling to have it.

Eddie got two fingers into him, and Evan just wanted to roll himself up into Eddie, but he had to be very careful. This was why penetrative sex had been off the books. He never liked just laying there, but Eddie held him down, pressing his fingers inside as far as he could.

“Ready?” Eddie asked as he pulled his fingers free.

Evan nodded his head.

“Good. Then wrap your good leg around me.”

Eddie held himself in place right at Evan’s hole until Evan nodded that he was ready. The slow push inside was good. It had been so damned long. Evan closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling of being filled. He was enjoying the slow way Eddie slipped into him.

“Later, I’m gonna ride you, but I know you have wanted this, or I would have done that first.”

Evan nodded, grabbing Eddie’s head to pull him into a kiss again. Eddie held him as close as he could as they moved; heated kisses turned to lips pressed together as they breathed. Skin turned to slick stretches that were hard to hold onto but didn’t stop Evan from trying. Evan had never had sex that felt like what it did with Eddie. He wanted it all; he wanted more and everything to hold onto.

“Close,” Evan whispered before he sought out Eddie’s mouth.

Eddie came first, his arms bracing on the bed to stop him from just falling onto Evan. Before Evan could even work his hand between them to get himself off, Eddie was there, hand wrapping around him, slick with a little lube and just perfect. It took only a few pumps for Evan to come.

Clean-up was simple, with Eddie getting a rag for Evan and tossing it at him as he cleaned himself up in the bathroom. He snagged the sheet that would be stripped off and used it to dry himself off as he listened to Eddie. They would clean up better later, but this would be good enough for now. Evan draped the sheet over his groin and turned to where he could watch Eddie. He was glad there was a bathroom in Eddie’s bedroom.

“I think I want a nap,” Eddie said.

Evan laughed. They had not gotten to sleep early at all, so Evan was all for a post-coital nap. It was the perfect time for it. Eddie would have an alarm that would go off when they needed to get up, shower, and get ready to go. There was no picking up Chris from anywhere unless he was around as well.

“He’s gonna be happy to see you out of the cast,” Eddie said as he tugged the sheet off Evan. He balled it up and tossed it toward the dirty clothes. He grabbed a new one from his closet, unfolded it, and flapped it over Evan. He got into bed on the other side and didn’t turn immediately into Evan’s body, so Evan turned over and looked at him. He reached out for Eddie’s arm and laid it over his body.

“He will. Hell, I’m happy. It was good to get it off. There was so much dead skin. It sucked.”

“It was a little nasty, but not much could be done for that. How is your leg?”

“No pain, we didn’t hurt it.” Evan brushed his fingers over Eddie’s cheek. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“I used to think that the words were hard to say. I knew Greg and Nathan loved me. I knew that Maddie did in some weird way, but I think if I had only her, she would have loved me more. I met Greg, and things just never changed. She got upset that I didn’t look up to her the way I used to. She was jealous of me having someone else. She didn’t like being replaced.”

“Some people are like that.”

“She’s not a good person, not anymore, but I hope she can get back to being a good person. I hope she can heal that part of herself that caused so many issues.”

“She might never. You might end up waiting on that forever. She might not care to fix herself. What little I know, she needs therapy. If she doesn’t get it, there is no fixing her.”

“Nathan had me talking to someone when I was in college. During the short years I was there. It helped a lot.” Evan waited for Eddie to roll onto his back, moving in close, laying his head on his chest. It didn’t take long for Evan to start to slip into sleep.

There was something about coming home that made Evan happy, even if that home was somewhere he wasn’t sure he was really wanted anymore. He swallowed before stepping inside. He had his bag over his shoulder. He wasn’t sure of his welcome. He knew he was allowed back because he had been told to report there after he had passed the exam to come back.

There were changes at the 118, most of which were unknown to him. Eddie had been tight-lipped. It had caused a few fights between them, but nothing too big. Evan knew that Eddie was supposed to keep things to himself that were not his to be known.

“Who are you?” Makepeace asked as Evan finally stepped inside.

“Funny, Makepeace. You know exactly who I am.”

“I don’t know. You sound like Buck and look like Buck, but you don’t seem like Buck. You look a lot lighter than you used to look. Like you are happy and in love, and that’s the kind of shocking.”

“I told Bobby about it.”

“Oh, I know, but you are in your LAFD gear with Eddie’s words on your arm. So you look a lot different. Now, what has Eddie told you.”

“Very little.” Evan looked at where Eddie and Hen were standing. Hen looked happy despite everything.

“Well, how about we go talk about that? Diaz, take your smart ass into the captain’s office. Hen, you come with us.”

Evan wasn’t sure what to do. He followed Makepeace into Bobby’s office and stopped when he saw the nameplate that now read Brian Makepeace. He sat down in the chair and felt Eddie’s hands on his shoulders. Hen took the other seat while Makepeace took Bobby’s.


“Why what?”

“Why are you captain?”

“Well, no one else wanted it, and I had taken all of the needed classes. I didn’t want some stranger coming in, so I took over the spot with little issue.”

“And Bobby?”

“Well, your problem with him, on top of what he had already done that had him suspended at the time of the bombing, LAFD talked him into early retirement to save face. You told your union rep you didn’t want to know much of anything unless it directly impacted you. They considered this not to directly impact you since you were already working on returning and getting through everything. The set back you had with the idiot instructor and the blood thinners was an issue, but it was one that was internal.”

“After you went viral over saving Chris and the others during the tsunami, when some of them there heard you had been denied coming back due to blood thinners after doing all of that, LAFD started to feel the heat. It is being played that after the bombing, he just can’t do the job anymore. Bobby’s still being called a hero. No one knows what went on other than us here, the Union, and a few members of the brass at LAFD.”

“I got Bobby fired?” Evan asked.

“No, you didn’t get him fired. His actions did. If you had chosen to sue, you would have won. He let his feelings about you and did not want to let you do the job you were trained to do. You passed everything needed to make the LAFD happy to allow you to do the job. Everything your doctors said you needed to do. It wasn’t his place to say you couldn’t do it when you hadn’t even worked a shift. He had no idea of your actual mental state, and you had already jumped through hoops and were doing more than the needed visits to the department psychiatrist.”

Evan wasn’t sure what to feel about it all. He did not want this for his first day back, but he also understood why it had been kept on the down low.

“And if I didn’t want to stay here because of everything?” Evan asked.

“Then you can have your pick of where you want to go that has an opening. It’s not going to be hard. Everyone wants you, with or without Eddie. I hope to keep you, but I can understand if you don’t want that. I can’t make you stay, and unlike Bobby, I’m not going to make you do what I want.”

“I’ll stay. I don’t want to be anywhere but where I am.”

“Good. Now, things have changed a little. We have a pair of new paramedics. They are lively and make Hen laugh. Steven from the other ambo moved to work with Hen instead of us splitting up the pair.”


“Mia and Misha Stone. They will love having you around. They are a pair.”

Hen laughed at that, and Eddie’s hands tightened on Evan’s shoulders.

“They do love to have fun, but they keep it serious when it’s needed but also make sure that no one stays dragged down after a bad call,” Eddie said. He pressed a kiss to Evan’s head. “I look forward to them playing Mario Kart with you and me. It’ll be fun as hell.”

The alarms went off, and Makepeace jumped up, “Let’s get going. We can see how you do. Smithy is one behind. He was an idiot the other day. He’s gonna be staying behind until I feel better about him.”

Thankfully, the first callout was simple. A three-car accident and no serious injuries beyond broken bones and a simple concussion. It wasn’t anything that took a lot of concentration. Despite the new people and Evan being gone for so long, it was like he had never left. He fell into place with Eddie, and he was happy. There was nothing that was missed.

It was lunchtime when they got back, so Evan went right up to the kitchen to get something going for their food. Even there, it was like he had never been gone. He had helpers, the same ones as before, with Eddie sitting and laughing at him as he talked about what he did with Chris as entertainment over the last few weeks.

“So, I have one question,” Hen said as she sat down beside Eddie, but unlike him, she picked up a knife and started to chop the green peppers that Evan had set out to do next.

“I see showing me up, huh?” Eddie asked before he reached out for the carrots that were going to be sweat down with the peppers and onions.

“Well, if the romance is out of the relationship already, that’s not my fault.”

“Oh, the romance is not out of it, nowhere near it. I just hate chopping veggies.”

“Unless it’s for your own cooking.”

“Well, that’s different.”

“You are going to eat this,” Hen pointed out.

“Yes, that’s why I’m helping now instead of just watching my partner do all the hard work.” Eddie grinned at Evan before he turned his attention to what he was doing.

Evan was happy for the few minutes of just existing with the people around him. The Stones were sitting over and going over a few things with Makepeace about an issue with the ambulance. It was the same and yet so different.

“Hey, Bobby!” one of the others called out.

Evan looked up as Bobby came up the stairs. He was dressed in casual clothes, but he looked happy. Evan was afraid he would look horrible. Bobby came over to sit beside Hen, waiting for her to lay down the knife before giving her a side hug.

“How is your first day back?” Bobby asked.

“Good so far. Easy call out for the first, if long, with the car damage. We did well, I think. NO really issues.”

“No, it was like you had never left,” Makepeace said.

“Good. I’m glad.” Bobby looked at his hands before he looked up. “I’m sorry.”

“Bobby,” Evan started.

“No, no, let me get this out. I understand what I did, and I know why I did it, but I…If my father had done something like that to me. I can’t say that I would have handled it like you. I would have burned bridges and done stupid shit. I let my worry about you make me make decisions for you. You were right to go above my head, and I’m glad you did. You deserve to be here. I’m glad you had Eddie behind you, pushing you to take what was yours by right.”

Evan looked at his hands and settled into work on that. It was the only way he wouldn’t start to freak out.

“I mostly came by to say I was sorry but also to tell you that I don’t hold any ill will toward you. Athena threw me into therapy and made sure that I knew if I wanted to keep on sleeping in her bed, I would get myself sorted out. Given her thoughts on therapy and everything with her job, I wasn’t too happy, so she went in for some as well. We had couples therapy and aromatherapy, thanks to Hen.”

“Hey, you never know what’s going to work. So trying everything is best.”

“I still smell sage if I breathe too deeply. It’s burned into my senses. It’s never going away.”

Evan laughed and let himself just exist as everyone started to talk to Bobby.

When the alarm went off again, Evan handed his things over to Bobby to take care of, and he took over.

Even though things had changed over time, it still felt like home, and Evan was glad to be home.

Eddie grabbed his keys from his bag before zipping up the pocket and shouldering the bag. He looked at where Evan was talking to Makepeace. He looked like he was telling a story. He had been willing to move with Evan since their happiness was more important than where they worked. It was a happy place so far, with people more than willing to go with the flow because their fears were what if they were the one being held back from their job because of their captain’s personal feelings.

Eddie’s biggest emotion was anger after the tsunami, and they found out why Evan was blocked. He had been pissed off and more than ready to do his best to figure out who kept Evan from his job. The knowledge that it was Bobby holding him back, Bobby who made a personal decision that wasn’t based in fact. Eddie had nearly lost Evan and Chris that day, and he hadn’t even known until Evan got word to him through his arm.

Eddie was still shocked that the pen had somehow stayed with Evan through the first wave and everything that came with it.

“Going my way?” Evan asked.

“You idiot. Where is your SUV?”

“Tommy came and got it while we were out on that call that took forever at the end of shift. He dropped his off at the shop for a tune-up, and then he will have someone take him to get it later. Greg’s at work, and Nathan’s not back from visiting Grace yet.”

“Ah, I thought he was due back last night?”

“Flight was delayed by a few hours because of a thunderstorm over the area, making it unsafe.”

“That was in the group chat, wasn’t it?” Eddie asked. He tossed his keys at Evan, who easily caught them and turned to get into the driver’s seat.

“Yes. You still have it muted, don’t you?”

“I check it every few days. You are around to tell me the important stuff.”

Eddie dropped into his seat, and he did open up the chat as soon as he was buckled in. He did check it every few days. He just didn’t like how much chatter was in there. He wouldn’t bring down the tone with the chatter between the three brothers and Tommy.

“Wait, what about Nathan?” Eddie asked.

“What about him?”

“His soulmate. Who is it? Does he not want to be with them?”

“Oh, no. He does. He’s just friends with them. They actually talk a good bit. She’s in London or was the last I knew. A lawyer. They both settled on the asexual spectrum but never talked much about where. She flies here a few times a year, and they hang out and cuddle. I don’t ask too much as it’s pretty personal to them both. I think if she lived here, she would know us all better. She’s in the group chat, though, just keeping an eye on things. She says it’s to make sure none of us idiots do anything she needs to come over here and take charge of. She actually pushed me to file a case with the courts if the Union hesitated in any way, shape, or form.”

“I knew someone was pushing you on talking to the Union beyond us. You talked to someone a lot on the phone about it. Didn’t realize it was her.”

“Yeah. She gave good advice and didn’t charge me a single bit. Other than taking care of Nathan, which I have always done.”

Eddie let Evan tell him all about Nathan’s soulmate and how things were between them. There was nothing much about her that was personal. Still, she sounded perfect to Eddie, which was the crux of the matter, wasn’t it? Whatever magic picked soulmates did it well. They were always perfect, but when something kept them apart, a lot went wrong as well.

Soulmates made the world go round, but someone out there thought they knew better every day. Eddie was just glad in the end that Evan forgave him. Otherwise, Eddie would be half of who he was.

Loving Evan was easy, as easy as breathing.

The End

13 thoughts on “The Question of Fate

  1. Thank you.
    I love this. Love that you started so young and we watched them grow. Love that Evan had Nathan and Greg. Eddie kinda broke my heart for a while. Love your ripples. I can’t wait to read this again.
    Thank you so much


  2. This was a beautiful surprise. Thank you for sharing this. Eddie denying himself and Evan for so long hit right in the feels and I am glad the two of them took their time to get to know each other before turning their friendship into something more. It was a lovely read. ❤


  3. Not gonna lie, I was hella mad at Eddie (like, walk off making angry pterodactyl noises angry) for awhile there, I’m SO glad Buck had Greg and Nathan! They actually made all the difference in this entire scenario, didn’t they! Thank you so much for an amazing read on a day that felt a million years long. It was the perfect way to end it on a good note. xxx


  4. ❤️ A lot. 😻
    I loved that Buck had his found-brothers. It made all the difference.

    Maddie’s soulmate was the true shocker. I spent the entire story waiting for her to find out that “Howie” was dead and that he’d been with Buck (because oh the tears and screaming that would bring), and then this. It was MARVELOUS. “You suck so I’ll pseudo-adopt your baby brother” for the win.!


  5. I loved this, what an amazing read. I defnitely loved getting to see Evan grow up and foster the relationships that he did. Defeinitely loving Nathan and the positive and compassionate support that he was for Evan. Thank you so much!!


  6. This was an absolute delight. I love that they could get beyond, and find a happily ever after for themselves. Though I have to say Buck’s “brother-in-law” just made me CACKLE!!! No idea what Maddie saw in the feckless arsehole she married, but I’m glad that Buck didn’t lose yet another relationship because of her BS. Even if it’s only a now and again thing. Properly applied bits of spite are known to warm the cockles of my tired, dark heart.

    ❤ Loved this. THANK YOU FOR IT! ❤


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