Chasing Stars


Story Notes

Title: Chasing Stars
Series: Written in the Stars 
Fandoms: 9-1-1, X-Men Universe, The Sentinel
Relationship: Evan “Buck” Buckley/Eddie Diaz
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Romance, Shifters, Mutants, Alternate Universe, Fusion
Warnings: None
Tags: Genderfluid Character, Alternate Universe – Shapeshifters, Gender Identity, Gender or Sex Swap, Alternate Universe – Different First Meeting, Alternate Universe – Fusion, Alternate Universe – Sentinels and Guides Are Known, X-Men References, Alternate Universe – X-Men Fusion, Alternate Universe – Mutants
Word Count: 8509
Author Notes: Written for Big Moxie 2022 – Quarter 1: Canon Divergence; Inspired by a prompt from the Malec Discord server.
Link to AO3: Read the story on Archive of Our Own here or on Story Posts.
Summary: Buck is a shifter who is literally genderfluid, both physically and in terms of identity, looking for a long-term relationship. When Buck and Eddie meet, they’re instantly drawn together and Eddie seems like Buck’s perfect match.

Author Notes

Written for Big Moxie 2022 – Quarter 2: Fusion/The Sentinel.

I’m handwaving a lot of things with this. One, because if I think about it too long, I’ll start to fall down a rabbit hole of social ramifications, so we’re just going to assume that most of the mutant rights stuff happened decades ago. At the point this story begins, mutants are supposed to be treated equally in society, but there is still a segment of the population that are prejudiced bigots and mutants are no exception to negative treatment by them.

But there is no segregation of mutants from non-mutants or any special registry singling them out. We’ll pretend that, in this AU, humans actually learned something from history.

I’m blending facets of The X-Men universe and Sentinel fanon into this story, but the backbone is 9-1-1.

This feels like a lot of narrative/exposition at the start, but this is going to kick off a series of fics across Rough Trade in July and my Big Moxie Quarter 3 story.

I’m personally somewhere on the genderfluid spectrum, but I lean more towards gender-neutral. I identify as she/her because that’s what matches the outer packaging, but I’ve never felt super-feminine or super-masculine, so I never really thought about using any other pronouns until just recently. I’ve been she/her for more than 40 years, so it’s comfortable. This story is about a character that is truly fluid along the spectrum and is also a shapeshifter with the ability to change to match the outer packaging to the inner self.

Gender and sexuality are such personal experiences and no two are alike.

Story Posts

Buck has a secret.

His birth family knows.

There’s a reason he hasn’t spoken to any of them in years. It’s the same reason he was essentially discarded after he’d served his purpose. Daniel was whole and healthy again. Maddie was the only daughter.

Kind of.

In all of their sciencing, building a baby made to order for spare parts, his parents hadn’t bothered to make their preferences known regarding the mutant X gene as long as everything else they needed for the perfect match for Daniel was right. Whether it was because they didn’t realize it was a possibility in their own DNA or not, it hadn’t occurred to them that they needed to be concerned about it. Their family had a history of Sentinels and Guides rather than mutants, so it hadn’t been a top worry for them.

Buck had no memory of his earliest years. He had no real way to know if his parents had loved him before he manifested his mutation the first time. Maddie had always tried to convince him that they loved him, but he never really believed her. Daniel didn’t lie to him, at least, but he was so busy being a Sentinel these days that it didn’t surprise Buck to not hear from the Buckley middle child.

By the time he was three, Buck had manifested his gift for the first time. Margaret Buckley refused to have any further contact with the abomination they’d built.

At first, she’d thought someone was playing a prank, replacing Buck with a kitten. But then he’d shifted back right in front of her, and she’d understood. After that, Buck rarely saw his mother or father. It had been a nanny taking care of him. He’d been isolated from his siblings for the most part; between going to school and the age difference between the two oldest and the youngest, they rarely saw each other. Buck didn’t really know them, though he did have some hazy memories of playing with them in the grass.

At least the Buckleys had lost the malpractice suit against the doctor that had created him. The courts had ruled that the doctor had fulfilled the contract, which had stipulated a baby genetically compatible with Daniel Buckley. The doctor delivered that. It came out in court, though, that the doctor also had a habit of…doing a little more manipulating than was strictly necessary. The doctor was from a family filled with mutants, and there was something about underlying resentment towards the rest of so-called “normal” society that he had a vendetta against. It ended with the doctor losing his license due to unethical practices, but they hadn’t gotten a penny from that lawsuit because he’d met the terms of the contract with the Buckleys.

As soon as they’d been able, Buck had been shipped off to boarding school, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters – for “people like him” – and hadn’t heard from his parents since.

It had been a devastating loss to child-Evan, but Buck had long since come to terms with his parents’ inability to love him. Boarding school had probably saved him from a lot of family trauma, honestly. Of course, he’d had to deal with growing up with a bunch of kids, sometimes cruel kids, but he’d also developed some long-lasting friendships that had seen him through his wanderings.

Buck had done his best to keep in touch with his siblings, but they weren’t close. Once Daniel had been fixed, there hadn’t really been a place for him in the family. His brother and sister wrote to him when he was away, but they were nearly a decade older, and they just didn’t have that much in common.

The kids he’d grown up with were more family than the one he’d been born into. Even the ones he hadn’t really gotten along with, Buck would still help them if it was needed, and he knew the reverse was the same.

The mutant community was generally like that. When you made bonds with others, you had each other’s backs, regardless of how long or how far apart you had grown. There had been too much societal upheaval over the last 50 years for that not to be the case. Things had settled down, thanks to the actions of people like Dr. Xavier and his team. While mutants were fully equal under the law, there were still prejudiced bigots everywhere, and it wasn’t always obvious who they were. Coming out as a mutant could still be dangerous, so many still chose to hide their gifts. Sadly, it had become something of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation in most circles.

Buck had always felt that contradicted the efforts to eliminate the bigotry, but he would be a hypocrite if he gave anyone else a hard time about it, considering his own choice to keep things secret from most people. He had only informed HR, and it wasn’t something that was disclosed unless he chose to do so.

After all his wandering, he’d finally found a place to call home in Los Angeles. He’d decided to keep his ability quiet because he didn’t want to create any situations he couldn’t easily avoid. At least until he knew whether or not he could trust the ones he thought he might tell. And now, here he was. A firefighter for the LAFD. He hadn’t felt so at home since graduating from high school. And he still hadn’t told them his secret.

Maybe one day soon, though, because his inability to be all of himself in front of others was starting to cause problems.

Buck had been feeling the itch to shift under his skin for days. He’d almost missed something on the last call of the day because he was distracted by the need to shift. To touch and be touched. He hadn’t been with anyone in a while, and it was getting to him. The others teased him for how many encounters he’d had, but they couldn’t understand. He knew that was because he hadn’t let them in, but he just wasn’t ready. The last time he’d told someone in the hopes of building a relationship, it had gone so poorly that it had damaged something in him.

After he got home, Buck stripped and took a shower. Midway through, he shifted, feeling the water sluice through hair that was suddenly longer and over breasts that jutted out and away from her body.

As the water washed away the remnants of her more masculine self, Buck reached for the razor and quickly shaved her legs and armpits. As always, she was amused that all of her hair shifted over – and then some. Why her hair grew as it did when she shifted forms was a mystery to her. It always seemed to come back to the same length.

Quickly finishing, Buck dressed in the midnight blue dress that had finally arrived the day before. She loved how feminine it was, perfectly suiting the way she felt at the moment. She was usually more androgynous in both of her human bodies, neither overtly masculine nor feminine despite her physical appearance. It had taken her a very long time to find a way to describe herself.

Genderfluid, both inside and out.

Sometimes, she felt like a boy.

Sometimes, she felt like a girl.

Usually, she felt indifferent, neither masculine nor feminine, regardless of the skin she wore.

She was even indifferent about pronouns. From the start, she’d been comfortable with either set or the more gender-neutral ones. People usually defaulted to the physical appearance of whichever form she wore, which had always suited her just fine. It’s not like she usually walked around thinking of herself in the third person.

But no one in her current life knew both sides of the coin that made up Evan “Buck” Buckley. They knew a hot firefighter either at work or interested in a moment of her life.

And that had always been fine, but she couldn’t deny that she longed for something more.

Buck wanted a relationship where it didn’t matter what side of the coin was showing; the love and desire would be the same. It was a pipe dream, nothing more than an undeserved fantasy.

Buck’s own parents hadn’t been able to stand the duality of her nature. Why would anyone else?

Maybe if she’d been able to stay in the male skin she’d been born in…maybe then they wouldn’t have sent her away. But even that didn’t ring true. There had been other shifters at her school, shifters that had multiple animal forms and other human forms, but Buck was the only one he knew of who had a form of a gender different from their prime form. All of them were still at the school of mutants with Buck, away from their families in the same way. Being a single gender hadn’t mattered for them, so there was no guarantee that anything would have been different for Buck.

Plus, then she would have been trapped in her male form all the time, never able to express the feminine side of her being fully. She wasn’t sure having her family in her life was worth it if it meant giving up this gift.

With one last glance in the mirror, Buck slipped her feet into the strappy heels that went with the dress and grabbed her handbag before strolling out the door.


Buck leaned back against the bar, sipping on the beer she’d ordered and letting the bar’s atmosphere sink into her skin as she relaxed. The music at this place was good, which was always one of the main appeals for her. So far, she’d had a variety of men and women try to chat her up, but none of them had really sparked for her yet.

She wasn’t sure that anyone would actually spark tonight, not with her current mood. Sex had always been something that Buck enjoyed, whether she was male or female, and regardless of the gender of the person she was with.

Tonight, her thoughts kept coming back to the same problem. She wanted a long-term relationship with someone where she could be candid about all the layers that made her up. Since that was unlikely to happen, Buck decided to go with the flow and see how the night went. If she found someone, that was great. Otherwise, she was just going to enjoy herself.

Tossing the rest of her beer back, she put the empty bottle back on the counter and started weaving through the crowds. It was time for a dance.

The music pumping through the room sank into her bones, and Buck deliberately brushed away all the thoughts she couldn’t do anything about at the moment. Right now, the music was her date. Slowly, the rest of the tension she’d been feeling all week leeched away as she let the music wash through her, dancing in the crowd alone. This was precisely what she had wanted.

Time passed. People joined her briefly and then flitted away as they didn’t find whatever it was they were looking for. When her eyes opened again, Buck saw a truly beautiful man watching her from the bar. His dark eyes burned into her as she continued dancing, and she sent a small smile his way before letting the music take her into the dance again.

When she opened her eyes again, the man was gone, and Buck felt a pang of disappointment, wondering if she should have gone over to him instead of letting him disappear.

Her disappointment disappeared a moment later when the man slipped into the space in front of her with his own smile. He held a hand out to her, asking without words for the dance. She placed her hand in his and let him pull her close as they moved to the music together. It had been a very long time, if ever, since she’d felt so drawn to someone she hadn’t even exchanged a word with.

The next couple of songs passed without conversation, but their eyes kept straying back to each other. There was something almost magnetic about the man, and her skin tingled beneath her dress where his hands lingered. He hadn’t made any move to grope her, but he had definitely not shied away from touching her.

Finally, he jerked his head towards the bar and raised an eyebrow in question. Buck had to hold herself back from running her hands through his floofy hair as a section draped over his slightly glistening forehead. It was ridiculously appealing, including the sweat he’d worked up in the press of bodies dancing. She nodded instead and took the hand he held out, letting him lead her through the crowd towards the bar.

For a few moments, they said nothing, both working on catching their breath as they waited for the bartender to notice their arrival.

“I’m Eddie,” he said, still looking at her with bottomless brown eyes.

“Evan,” she replied, leaning a little closer. “It’s very nice to meet you, Eddie.”

The bartender came over and took their orders for drinks. Their attention turned back to each other, and Buck looked at Eddie up close in the bar’s dim light. The music still thrummed through them, and the lights from the dance floor flashed against his skin in fascinating patterns that kept her looking longer than was perhaps polite.

Still, the volume of the music created a great excuse to lean closer to him so she could speak in his ear. His cologne filled her senses as Buck leaned in, letting her catch a whiff of the exotic scent that was definitely in agreement with his biochemistry.

“Just going to say it, you smell amazing for someone who’s been dancing for a while,” Buck said with what she hoped was a flirty grin.

Eddie grinned back and dimples added to the already appealing package he presented. “Thank you,” he said, glancing down.

He had an adorable blend of bashful confidence that Buck found endearing. How was he so compelling to her? They’d barely exchanged a handful of words. Their bodies had done most of the speaking for them so far. Apparently, whatever his body was telling hers was right on the money.

“You dance…really well,” Eddie said, then grimaced slightly. “Wow, all right. Small talk is not my forte if you haven’t guessed already.”

Buck grinned at him. “That’s all right. You’ve got more than enough going for you,” she said over the music, giving him a sly once-over from head to toe. “I think we’ll have to push through some small talk, though. I really want to get to know you better.”

She leaned back again as the bartender brought their drinks over and took a sip. Here’s hoping he wouldn’t think she was coming on too strong. But she did want to get to know him better, both his personality and physically. The physical attraction she felt to him was powerful, and she hoped that getting to know his personality would only strengthen that attraction. It would be nice to meet someone who was all-around great for a change.

Eddie took a sip of his drink and leaned closer to speak in her ear. “Should we head out to the patio for a bit? We’ll be able to hear better.”

Buck nodded and picked her drink up, accepting the hand he held out as they weaved their way through the crowded floor.

The change in atmosphere when they stepped onto the club’s patio was almost too abrupt, and Buck stumbled slightly as the pressure in her ears abated. Eddie’s hand drifted up to her elbow to offer a bit of stability, and he left it there as they moved over to one of the high-top tables along the railing that had just emptied. The pair stood next to the table, sipping their drinks and letting their ears reacclimatize to much quieter sound levels.

Moments passed, and Buck leaned forward. “Have you been in LA long?” she asked.

Eddie shook his head, leaning forward as well and resting his elbows on the table. “Not too long, actually. I just moved here a few months ago for work.” He huffed a slight chuckle before saying, “I’m staying with my Abuela at the moment while I finish training. Don’t think less of me for that, all right? I’m in the process of looking for my own place now that I know the area a bit better.”

Buck just laughed. “I think that’s very smart. Los Angeles is such a large city, and it’s hard to know which areas are worth living in until you’ve been here and had a chance to explore.”

“Where do you live?” Eddie asked, then cringed. “Sorry! I didn’t… I’m not asking for your address, just the general part of town?” he clarified.

Buck laughed again, charmed by his awkwardness. Gods knew she had her own brand of awkward that he would see eventually. She grinned. “I’m close to Echo Park. I really like the area.”

Eddie leaned forward again, smiling at her, eyes soft in the soft light of the patio. “So, how long have you been here?”

“Going on two years, now,” she said and sipped at her drink again. “I wandered the country for a bit before ending up here. It’s my favorite place so far. Where’d you come from?”

“Texas. El Paso, specifically. My parents moved there after my sister was born and had the rest of us, but most of my dad’s family is still in LA, which is why I decided to head here,” Eddie rambled.

They continued with very generic getting-to-know-you talk while they finished their drinks, then Eddie looked at his watch and frowned at the time.

“So, I need to get going. I have a very early start tomorrow morning,” Eddie said, and the disappointment on his face made it clear how much he didn’t want to leave. “Can I give you my number? I’d really like to see you again.”

Buck smiled softly. “I’d like that, too. Give me your number, and I’ll text you,” she said. Her time with Eddie so far had been one of the best interactions she’d had in a very long time. Perhaps ever, if she looked at all of her past relationships honestly.

What was it about this man that so drew her in? He was magnetic, and Buck was glad to know he seemed to feel the same way.

Eddie grinned at Buck, and the way his face lit up at the simple statement made Buck’s heart flutter. He was such a beautiful man.

A few moments later, Buck had sent a text to his number, and he reached out for her hand. Buck had gripped his hand and then felt heat flush across her face in a blush as he lifted her hand to his lips, pressing a kiss to her knuckles. She’d never had someone do that for her before, and something about it sent shockwaves of delight through her body.

He grinned at her once again, squeezing her hand gently before backing away. Eventually, he had to break eye contact with her, so he didn’t run into anything as he left. Buck felt the loss keenly, but he did present a very attractive view for her to watch as he walked away.

The events of that evening were not at all what she’d expected when she’d left her apartment. It had turned out so much better than she’d dared hope. There was part of Buck that worried it would all turn into so much dust once she woke up, ephemeral moments of potential bliss slipping out of her grasp.

Reaching out, she picked up her glass and finished it before heading home. The club held no more appeal for her, and she also had work the next day, though not as early as Eddie, from the sounds of it.

As she unlocked her door, she felt her phone buzz with a message, and Buck felt a frisson of excitement at the idea that Eddie might already be texting her. Was it too much to hope that she could finally meet someone else who felt the same potentiality from their encounter that she did? Buck didn’t think so.

She kicked her heels off and scooped them up by the straps, trying to fish her phone out of the small cross-body handbag she’d carried that evening at the same time with mixed results. One of the shoes fell to the floor with a thump. She ignored it as she keyed her phone on to look at the notifications. Sure enough, Eddie had texted her.

Hi, Evan. I really enjoyed meeting you tonight and
I would love to see you again. Do you have any free
nights this week? We could get dinner.

Buck felt her smile stretch further across her face as she started texting back.

I have work for the next few days but we
could meet Wednesday at 7?

Great! Italian, Mexican, or Greek? I ’ll find a place
and make reservations.

Surprise me. I love all of those choices. 🙂

As you wish, my lady. 😉


Buck couldn’t stop smiling like a loon at her phone. Every time she looked, something else about Eddie struck her as endearing. He used legitimate punctuation in his text messages. It was adorable. Buck couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt so romanced, and she hoped with everything she had that nothing would make this all fall apart.

Her smile faded as she slumped onto her bed. If this thing with Eddie went anywhere, she’d have to tell him her secret before it got too serious. There was so much at stake, but Buck would sit with the giddiness for a minute. She deserved that much, at least, after looking for someone for so long.

Anxiety twisted her stomach despite Buck’s resolve to enjoy the moment. The fear of what could happen to wreck everything when she told Eddie about her status as a mutant and the gender of her prime form had her up and pacing across the room. Buck tried to practice the breathing exercises her therapist had recommended for when the anxiety spiked, and, thankfully, it did help.

The relationship was so new it was still an acquaintance. There was so much Buck needed to learn about Eddie before she could share her truth with him. But she would do it soon, that much she knew. Her feelings were already too stirred up to take a chance on getting too deep without knowing if it would all fall apart before it had a chance to really get started.

Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

The Tennyson quote popped into her head, and Buck nodded. “Yes. But within reason,” she said aloud and was glad no one was around to see her talking to herself. “Better to love and lose it, but I’m going to take all the steps I can to make sure I don’t lose it. Or if I do, that I don’t love too hard.”

With one last deep breath, Buck nodded firmly to herself and began stripping out of her clothes and putting them aside to be washed. The bed was next, and she pulled the covers off, moving them around until they made a cozy nest. She was going to sleep in her leopard form tonight. It would help give her some distance from the thoughts of the date and actually let her get to sleep.

She went to the kitchen for a glass of water and filled it once before draining it and filling it again. There had only been a few drinks, but better to get some extra hydration to ward off any possible hangover effects in the morning. The glass thunked gently on the nightstand, and she turned on the white noise machine in the corner before shifting and hopping gracefully onto the bed with four feet.

Buck nudged the covers around some more before settling into a ball, long tail wrapping comfortably around his body. He yawned, mouth opening far wider in this form to show off sharp feline teeth, and a quiet roary-growl noise rumbled from him as he settled back into the bed.

Thoughts of the night flitted through his mind as he slowly let the white noise draw him into slumber.

* * *

By the time Wednesday rolled around, Buck was a ball of nervous energy. His shift at the station had finished at noon, and he’d been tearing through his closet trying to decide what to wear that evening. At times like this, he desperately wished he had a local friend who was aware of his genderfluid-shifter nature and could lend some moral support.

Alas, that was not Buck’s current life.

Instead, he’d pulled out half his stash of feminine clothes and flipped through them. He needed to go shopping, that was for sure. Nothing was quite what he wanted, but there really wasn’t enough time to go to the mall right now and get back and have enough time to get his head on straight before the date.

Maybe the problem wasn’t with the clothes, he realized and slumped onto the bed. Maybe the problem was his headspace. He’d felt so comfortable in his male form for the last couple of days. If they were further along in their relationship and past the point where Buck had already revealed his secret, he’d go on a date in his male form.

That was the problem.

He was trying to force himself into feeling female, and he just wasn’t there. If anything, he could see being neutral, but there was nothing super feminine in how he felt at the moment. Not like there had been when he’d met Eddie at the club.

Buck sighed and looked at the mess he’d made. He’d completely ignored the more neutral portion of his wardrobe, trying to find something pretty and fem that he could wear to their date. But that wasn’t who he was. At least, it wasn’t what he was feeling at the moment.

He could definitely handle a more gender-neutral approach, though. And this would be a good opportunity to start easing Eddie into the fact that Buck wasn’t a feminine being all the time. Standing, Buck moved back to the closet and slid the clothes over further so he could dig deeper into the recesses of the closet. There was a pantsuit that he thought might work, now that he’d gained some perspective.

Buck found the set he’d been looking for and pulled it out. Yeah. This was exactly what he wanted. He laid it gently on the bed and stripped, shifting as soon as his boxer briefs were off. She wanted to make sure it felt right on in this form. As soon as she pulled the white pants up and settled them at her hips, she nodded. This already felt like it was going to work.

The pantsuit was a three-piece set; slacks, blazer, and a waistcoat-style vest. She slipped on the bra she wanted to wear and pulled the white vest into place. It served as a shirt with this outfit. The v-shaped neckline dipped to just above her breasts while the hem flirted with the top of the slacks, leaving bits of her midriff showing. It wasn’t overly masculine, nor was it overly feminine, but it definitely hinted at being sexy. She hoped.

The jacket that went with the set was optional, but she would wear it. The navy blue brought out the color of her eyes, and at this time of year, it was going to be cool enough that she’d want a little more coverage after the sun set. It settled on her shoulders well and brushed her hips. Buck left the blazer unbuttoned and turned to check out the effect in the full-length mirror.

It felt good. And it looked good. Definitely the thing to wear tonight. She felt sexy and powerful in this outfit, and Buck was glad she’d remembered it.

With a quick nod, she stripped it off and hung it carefully before cleaning up the rest of the mess she’d made with the clothes strewn all over the bed. There was plenty of time before Buck needed to leave to finish getting ready. A quick shower, simple hairstyle, maybe some mascara, and she’d be ready to go.

Finding the outfit had settled something in Buck’s mind, and she grinned, suddenly looking forward to the date more than feeling anxious about it as she set about getting ready.

* * *

Buck settled in at the table Eddie had reserved and ordered a soda. She’d arrived just before their seven o’clock date, but Eddie still hadn’t arrived fifteen minutes later. He’d gone to the effort to reserve a table, and all of their texting had been fun and flirty for the last few days. They’d avoided heavier topics and focused mostly on getting to know each other’s favorite movies, music, and other innocuous topics.

If this evening went well, Buck had already decided to tell Eddie about herself before they went any further. She was already in deeper than she’d expected. If she waited much longer, she risked a lie of omission. She might have already crossed that line, but people always kept their most delicate secrets to themselves until a certain level of trust was reached.

Lost in thought, Buck startled slightly as the chair opposite hers was pulled out, and Eddie slid into the seat. He smiled at her with apology.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you or be late,” he said. “I had a slight family emergency to deal with.”

Buck smiled back. “Oh, it’s fine. I was just lost in my thoughts,” Buck said. “We could have rescheduled. I hope everything’s all right?”

“Yeah, all taken care of,” he said but didn’t offer any further details.

Inexplicably, that made Buck feel better. Eddie clearly had something he’d yet to share, as well.

“Glad to hear it,” she said and smiled at how he relaxed, obviously a little surprised at her lack of questions. “So, we’ve shared a lot of inconsequential things. Tell me something about you. Why did you move to LA?”

Eddie leaned back in his chair and took a sip of water. “Well, that is a little complicated,” he said with a wry grin. “My parents live in El Paso. I just finished a tour in Afghanistan, and they were beyond overbearing when I got home. Nothing I did was what they wanted. Living near them wasn’t an option. How about you?”

“That sounds like a challenging relationship. I’ve got some issues of my own with my family. Growing up, we weren’t close, and I eventually went to a year-round boarding school. I made some great friends there, but I’ll never have the relationship I always wanted with my parents.”

Buck stopped talking abruptly. She’d just said way more than she’d meant to. Eddie was looking at her with a sympathetic expression.

“That sounds difficult. Especially the part about boarding school. I can’t imagine any parent giving up that much time with their kid,” Eddie said.

Buck looked away, swallowing around the lump that formed in her throat at that thought. Her eyes landed on someone who had mutant genetics. The pale turquoise color of their skin made it obvious enough, but then they reached out and touched a finger to the glass of water on the table. The glass frosted over as the water cooled.

Looking back at Eddie, she realized she had the perfect opening. Buck gathered her courage and swallowed again before glancing briefly back at her fellow unhidden mutant.

“They had a reason,” she began. “Not what I’d consider a good one, but a reason all the same.”

Eddie looked confused as Buck cleared her throat and plowed ahead. “I am a mutant. Or metahuman, if you prefer,” she said in a rush, her eyes closed tightly to hide from Eddie’s reaction.

The gentle touch of surprisingly soft hands on hers a moment later had her eyes flying open. Eddie leaned towards her over the table, looking at Buck with a soft smile. “Thank you for telling me. I assume most people don’t know?” he asked.

Buck took a deep breath and blinked, trying to will the moisture away from her eyes. She nodded. “Yeah. My family knows. HR at work knows. The people I went to school with and a smattering of others that I’ve told over the years.” She sniffled. “You don’t mind?”

With a small laugh, Eddie shook his head. “As long as you’re not a criminal or something, not at all.” He paused and lifted an eyebrow at her with a teasing smile. “You’re not a murderer, right, Evan?”

Buck rolled her eyes. “Nope, no crime-ing from me.”

“Glad to hear it,” Eddie said, still holding her hand. He seemed reluctant to let it go.

“There’s more, but I’m not quite ready to discuss my abilities just yet. That okay?”

“Of course. Tell me whatever you want, whenever you’re ready,” Eddie replied, looking into her eyes with sincerity.

Buck cleared her throat as the server appeared with their order and began distributing plates. She wondered when to move on to step two as they started eating. So far, his reaction had exceeded her expectations, but would he take as kindly to a conversation about gender and sexuality? Only time would tell.

After a few bites and checking that they liked their food, Eddie leaned back and looked at Buck. “So, tell me something new about you,” he suggested.

Buck quirked an eyebrow and grinned. “I just told you something. I think it’s your turn,” she teased.

Eddie laughed and inclined his head in agreement. “Hmm.” He looked at her, face serious and contemplative as the silence stretched. Finally, he seemed to come to a decision and dug out his phone.

“I have a son,” he said, finding the picture he was after and flipping the phone to face her. “Christopher. He’s seven.”

“Oh, he’s adorable! I love kids,” Buck said, grinning as she looked at the boy that positively radiated sunshine.

“His mom isn’t around much,” Eddie said as he took back the phone. “She tries, but she travels a lot for work. By her own choice. She never wanted to be a mom.”

Eddie clearly had mixed emotions about his ex. Buck could understand not wanting to be a parent, but once you were, there was no excuse for not loving the stuffing out of your kids.

“That must be hard for all of you,” Buck murmured, reaching out to rest her hand over the back of his.

“It hasn’t been the easiest, but we’re working on it.”

Buck smiled. “Well, I don’t have kids, but I’ve always wanted them. I have a brother and sister. Only one nibling from my brother, so far,” she said, smiling at the thought of Greyson.

The distance between the family, physical and emotional, meant that she mostly saw him only on social media, the occasional video call, and the rarer visit. She shook herself from the maudlin direction her thoughts were heading and tried to change the subject. “What do you do for work?”

Eddie grinned. “I’m just about to finish at the fire academy,” he said. “I never thought I’d want to run into burning buildings, but the minute I thought about it, I knew it was what I needed to be doing.”

Everything had frozen for Buck when Eddie said he was in the fire academy. The thought suddenly struck her that that popular song had the perfect sentiment for her relationship with Eddie.

So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames

She wondered if it was possible for one human to be any more perfect for her. It was challenging to see how there could be.

“Oh, wow,” she breathed.

Eddie looked at her with a slight frown of confusion creasing his forehead.

“That is amazing,” Buck continued quickly. “Being a first responder is such a calling. What made you go in that direction?”

A look of relief passed across Eddie’s face. “I was a medic in the Army.” He paused and looked away. “I miss the camaraderie of a team. One of my cousins is a firefighter, and he was telling me about it when I got back to the States. It sounded like exactly what I was looking for. Training has only confirmed that.”

He leaned forward. Buck wondered if he practiced the smile he was giving her for max appeal. “What about you?” he asked.

For a moment, she forgot what they were talking about because of that smile. She cleared her throat. “That’s …actually…um,” she mumbled and dragged her brain back. “It’s complicated.”

Eddie’s eyebrows shot up. “Now I’m really curious.”

Buck laughed a little. “It’s nothing mysterious or…illicit or anything,” she said. “Just…It’s sort of related to my abilities. I’d prefer to discuss it another time.”

Eddie smiled and held up his hands. “Not a problem. Like I said, whenever you’re ready.”

“How are you real?” Buck asked, voice gone breathy as she stared at him. He was too perfect. The other shoe had to drop some time.

Their date continued, both sharing tidbits about their lives and flirting outrageously as the night went on. Finally, they were outside and walking toward Buck’s car.

“I had a really great time tonight,” Eddie said, holding her hand as they walked.

Buck smiled up at him. “Me, too. We should do this again.”

“Absolutely,” Eddie said as they reached her car.

Buck turned to face him as he stepped closer.

“Can I kiss you?” he whispered, thumb stroking the back of her hand in hypnotic motions.

Lost for words at the spell they were weaving together, Buck nodded a bit and leaned towards him, lips parting as she tilted her head back to meet his. The first kiss was a chaste brush of lips, and their breath mingled together between them as they lingered.

Feeling almost drawn in like a pair of magnets, Buck tipped forward just enough to set off another kiss. This time, the kiss was more profound, still slow and intoxicating, but with a deep pull of passion that their first kiss had only hinted at.

Long moments later, they separated, eyes blinking open slowly.

Buck cleared her throat. “Well. That was…yeah.”

Eddie huffed out a small laugh. “It was very ‘yeah,’” he teased, grinning at her. He brushed his lips over hers once more as he stole another kiss.

“Let’s do this again very soon,” Buck whispered against his mouth.

Eddie nodded. “I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Yeah, soon,” she replied, still holding his hand as he began backing away. Neither one wanted the night to end just yet, but they both needed to get going. Buck tugged his hand and drew him back into one more deep kiss, enjoying the feel of his stubble against her skin before she stepped back and opened her car door.

“Very soon,” she reiterated firmly, answering the grin lighting up his face with one of her own.

She slid into the seat, buckled up, and started the car, waving at Eddie a little as she pulled out of the spot and drove away. She hoped that whatever was building between them was creating a foundation that would last forever.

Lights flashed on the other side of the street, and sirens broke the night as a ladder truck zipped past.

Hopefully, that was a better omen than it seemed.