1. Slight Breeze and Sunny Skies
“Why can’t I play with them, mommy?” Buck asks for the millionth times since he’s seen humans for the first time and learned to communicate his enthusiasm about them.
They’re floating above a beach full of happy people in bathing suits and kids building sandcastles, and Evan feels sad that he can’t go down and play with them. Being a wind is nice but being a human looks even better.
There's this one kid barely older than him (in human years, at least) having fun with his sisters building a tower with a drawbridge, and Evan wishes he could sit beside them and put sand in boxes and pile it on top of even more sand and watch the ocean’s waves lick at it bit by bit until it destroys it. And then laugh and do it all again.
“You could create a sandstorm,” his mother suggests. “Scare them a little.”
“I don’t want to scare them, I want to play with them,” Evan answers with the greatest determination in his voice.
“Sweetheart, we’ve talked about this, you know it’s not that simple. You’re a tornado wind, like your father and me. Tornadoes don’t play with humans that way.” She swirls around him in comfort, drying his tears before they can become rain.
“But I want to make sandcastles too, mom.”
“You don’t have a human body, honey, you can’t sit and play with them,” his mother says.
“Then maybe I could move the sand for them. With my winds. We could make a giant castle, all the way up to the clouds!”
His mother sighs, a breath of wind that spreads sand all around and into the kids’ eyes. “They’re too fragile, honey, look,” she says as the boy starts crying and rubbing his face. “Now, what do you say we go watch the ice melt on the mountain tops? I know you love waterfalls…”
Evan nods and sniffs, sending a small breeze over the ocean. “Okay.”
I will figure out how to have a body, he thinks as they flow away amidst the clouds. I promise.
2. Clear Skies and Record Heat
There’s a whole world for Evan to explore after he graduates Summa Cum Laude of his EF3 class. A world full of skies, shores, lakes and mountains where he can roam freely and see how each part of the landscape reacts to him. A world full of humans he still dreams of meeting, one day.
Until he figures out how to do that, he stays above them, observing their ways, learning their languages. Beaches are still his favourite place. Everything feels better there, happier. They smile all the time and dance in the clubs on the beach, barefoot on the sand. He wonders how that would feel, the sand under his feet.
He learns to make the perfect waves for surfers to ride safely, finding the right amount of wind to send over the ocean.
His favourite city has a street called Calle de los Cócteles and at the end of it, right in front of the ocean, there’s a bar he likes to come back to every night. He turns into the softest breeze he can be and sits above it, sometimes blowing on the little umbrellas they put in the drinks. He has no idea what those are for, but there's always amazed laughter when they start twirling slowly. He likes being the one to make people laugh.
They call it magic and he wishes he could tell them that it’s not, that it’s him trying to play with them, but he’s not bold enough to speak their language yet; and maybe it’s fine, anyway, to be someone’s magic.
Once he’s catalogued everything about the place, the colors of every sunrise and the shades of every sunset, every day starts to feel the same and nothing amuses him anymore. He decides it’s time to leave South America and go explore somewhere else.
That day he looks at the people leaving town and picks one at random, letting chance decide where his next adventure will lead him. The man is riding a bike and Evan loves the sound of its engine, like a tiny thunder on wheels. It’s the sound he would make if he turned into a tornado again, but he hasn’t done that in a while now.
It reminds him of his family, too, and maybe after this, after following this man, or the next, he could go visit them for a little while.
3. Unforeseen Turbulence
“You should be an EF4 by now, son.”
Evan remembers now why he was so happy to go explore the world on his own and put a little mileage between himself and home.
Maybe visiting his parents wasn’t that good of an idea after all, but he’d been getting lonely, and he missed them. Sure, he’s met a few nice friendly winds on occasion, and they shared trajectories for a while, twisting and twirling, making rooftop tiles fly away here and there. But it always ends up the same way, with them moving on and leaving Evan behind.
He misses the days where he would come home and share stories with his sister, about the people he’d seen, and the animals, and all the new words he’d learned that day. But Maddie’s not here anymore, gone a decade ago to follow a hurricane she’d fallen for, and even watching humans isn’t as fun as it used to be.
“Maybe I don’t want to be an EF4, ever thought of that?”
“I knew you’d be a disappointment.” His father sighs loudly, sending swirling winds into the forest they’re floating above, making the trees shake. “I shouldn’t have let your mother raise you, she made you too soft.”
“I didn’t come back to fight, dad.”
“The day you refused to turn into a tornado because there were humans underneath us, I knew you were never going to make us proud.”
Evan only ever wanted to make his parents proud. He wanted to master turning into human form so he could be the first of his family to play with humans, and he always hoped they’d be proud of him for that. But he was nowhere near turning into a human, and if he were being honest, he was disappointing himself.
“I’m sure Evan wants to make us proud,” his mother intervenes, ignoring the snarky comments of her husband. “Right, honey?”
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” his father says. “But if he doesn’t want to be an EF4, how am I supposed to believe he can do well with the Thunderstorms?”
Evan’s mother smiles. “Your father used his connections to get you an interview with them, since your grandfather was one of them. Maybe you could think about it?”
The Thunderstorms. Rumors say they're able to take whatever shape they want, that they're strong enough to even take human form. The training is said to be brutal and very few recruits make it through and actually become one of them. But taking human shape? That was worth enduring the hardest drills, and Evan would do anything if it meant getting closer to his goal.
“I will, mom. I’ll make you proud.”
She smiles and he smiles back, pretending he didn’t hear his father snort again.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he says. Then watch and learn, Evan thinks.
4. Enhanced Risk of Severe Weather
The training with the Thunderstorms lives up to the rumors, but it feels great, being around others after such a long time on his own. It’s noisy and cramped, with clouds and storms always rumbling around him, but it also feels lively and joyful. Evan becomes Buck as they all quickly get nicknames, marking the start of their new identity as Thunderstorms, even if they’re only trainees for now. He feels powerful as Buck, invincible and closer than ever to his goals.
Every day is hard, every test harder than he ever imagined, but he likes the feeling of getting stronger with every lightning he manages to ignite, every downpour he releases upon the ground. He’s in charge, and he’s good at it.
“This is not a drill, boys,” their captain says one day. “This is your final test. Today we’re finishing your training on land. Tonight, you become Thunderstorms”
The orders are simple. “Destroy it all.” Buck knows he can do that, this is what he’s been getting ready for.
As soon as they get on location, he starts by messing with the sign on the side of the road, his team next to him as they enter the first town in their path. “Welcome to El Paso” the sign still says when it lands in the nearest front yard, scaring a man on his lawnmower.
The man runs away to hide inside his house and Buck feels proud. Scaring people can be fun, as long as they’re not hurt, so he continues moving, ripping tiles off rooftops, one house after the other. It’s different from the exercises they did at boot camp, with abandoned towns and empty buildings, but it’s fun.
There’s thunder and lightning all around him and when he looks up, he sees his teammates being reckless, taking rooftops away completely and tearing down walls, demolishing every protective barrier until the humans inside have nowhere to hide anymore. He watches his team envelop people in their harshest winds and make them fly. It’s not gentle, nothing like the practice they did with old furniture and Buck doesn’t like the sounds the humans make. He doesn’t like to see them land miles away from their homes, and he certainly doesn’t like when they don’t move anymore. Humans are not furniture, they’re supposed to move.
There’s one sound, sharper than the others, that draws his attention. He knows that sound. Screaming and crying. Looking down into the house he’d started to wreck, Buck sees a big human, holding a smaller human in his arms.
“I’m scared, dad,” the tiny human says, sobbing.
People are scared by so many things, Buck thinks. His mother was right, they’re really fragile creatures. He could act like his team and make them fly but he doesn’t think he’d like to see them crash to the ground.
“I know, mijo. Just hold on to me, okay? The tornado will go away soon, we’ll be safe,” the man says, and those words stop Buck in his tracks.
He calms his updraft flow, stabilizing the winds he’s creating above the house, and takes another look at the humans pressed against each other under a staircase.
They’re afraid of him. He’s the one making the little one cry, the one scaring them. That’s not what he wanted, that’s not what he wanted to do at all.
Scaring humans can be fun, but this is just scary scary. This is not him.
He stops his funnel altogether, wrapping his winds around the house like a bubble, shielding it from whatever turbulence his teammates are throwing around.
“Dad, where did the tornado go?”
The man looks up, then around them, without letting go of his son. “I’m not sure, Chris, but I think we need to stay here a little longer, okay? Until we’re sure it’s gone for good.”
Buck doesn’t want to go for good, he wants to stay and watch them and tell them he’ll protect them. But he’s supposed to destroy everything, those are the orders. He’s supposed to become a Thunderstorm tonight, and take one step closer to being able to have a human form.
“Okay,” the little one says, tears still running down his cheeks.
Suddenly Buck’s not so sure he’d do anything to have a human body anymore. Not if that means making humans cry and fear him.
“You coming, Buck?” Wrath asks, barely interrupting his destruction vortex. Of all of Buck’s teammates, he’s probably the most ferocious, leaving places destroyed beyond recognition.
“I think I’m gonna stay here a little longer, dude. Have fun with those two,” Buck says, hoping it comes out as fierce and badass as he intends it.
Wrath rumbles with laughter. “Enjoy!”
“I’ll catch up with you guys, don’t wait for me.”
And with that, Buck finds himself alone again, watching the entire team leave him and the devastated town behind to pursue chaos and destruction miles away. He never liked being left behind, but at least this time it’s his choice.
5. Peeks of Sunshine and Southwest Winds
Buck regroups his currents around him, forming a stratus over the house, watching the father and his son slowly get out of their shelter and take in the damage done to their home.
“Is it safe now?” the kid, Chris, asks, tightening his grip on his father’s hand.
“I think it is.”
“Do you think grandpa and grandma are okay?”
A sad look passes over the man’s face as he takes out the phone in his pocket. “There’s no service.” He puts his phone away with a sigh and crouches down to his son’s level. “How about you and I take a quick trip to their house, see how they’re doing?”
The kid seems worried. “I lost my crutches. When you said hide I forgot them, I’m sorry, daddy.”
“Hey, no, it’s okay, Christopher. You did good, you did really good, okay? You were really brave in there, don’t worry about the crutches, okay?”
The kid nods.
“I’ll carry you, come on.”
“On your back?”
The man smiles. “Like when you were little, remember?” His son nods again and finally smiles. “Okay, hop on, Superman.”
Buck watches them make their way out of the house and follows them through the streets. The Thunderstorm rookies left debris everywhere, but the pair finds a way to move forward until they stop in front of the ruins of what must’ve been a pretty white house with a vegetable garden. Buck can see uprooted tomatoes scattered on the ground. Not even the old oak survived the torments of Buck’s team.
“Dad?” the man calls out, moving carefully amidst the ruins. “Mom? Where are you?” He puts down his son and tries to push a sofa out of their way.
Buck recognizes the distress in his voice, and he can’t help but feel guilty. His kind did all this damage; they probably killed the man’s family, and not an hour ago he was about to do the same, without even questioning it.
“In here,” a muffled voice finally answers. It’s coming from underneath the rubble of crumbled walls and furniture. “In the basement, but I can’t lift up the trapdoor.”
The man reaches the spot the voice is coming from, pushing more debris away, but a fallen beam proves too heavy for him. “It won’t bulge, I think I need to find some help,” he says.
Slowly, Buck lowers himself to the ground and blows on the pile of debris, clearing the way.
“What the…?” The man takes a step back, surprised.
“Dad, I think the wind helped you,” the kid says, but before they can figure out what just happened, the trapdoor opens and a group of people gets out, hugging the man and his son for a long moment. There are tears, but Buck knows those are happier tears than the ones he’s witnessing all around.
While the man reunites with his family, Buck goes back to that first house. He can’t undo all the damage, but maybe he can fix some of it.
So he spends the night putting back every tile on the roof, and when morning comes he waits until the humans come back. There’s a man and a woman walking beside the man and his son, and Buck’s curious to know who they are.
“I swear, dad, the roof was gone. Completely gone,” the man says. Buck likes hearing his voice. It’s calmer now, and it sounds nice.
The man’s dad shakes his head. “Eddie, come on. Yesterday was chaotic, but roofs don’t rebuild themselves overnight. The tiles you saw probably came from the neighbor’s house.”
Eddie’s a nice name, Buck thinks, happy to finally know what to call him. His father is wrong about the tiles, but that’s okay; it’s the result that matters, and the result is, Eddie’s roof is back where it belongs.
“Dad!” Christopher walks toward the porch, interrupting the conversation. “Look, my crutches!”
“And… a bike? You don’t have a bike,” Eddie says, looking at all the objects Buck aligned on the front porch. Not knowing what crutches were he only had his imagination to help, so he did his best and rounded up what he thought could be crutches.
He has to admit, he’s very proud that he guessed right. He has no idea what the other objects are that he found scattered around the neighborhood, but that doesn’t matter, either. The crutches seemed important to the boy and he found them, so he’s happy.
“And Mr. Mendoza’s golf club,” Eddie adds. “A telescope, a pile of tarot cards, Mrs. Reyes’ stuffed cat… cats.” He holds up both animals, making Christopher laugh.
“That tornado has a strange sense of humor, if you ask me,” Eddie’s father says. “But your house seems in good shape, son, that’s good news.”
“Yeah,” Eddie says. “Or maybe that’s a sign I should take that offer in LA and leave.”
“Oh, Eddie, I’m not sure this is the right time to leave,” the woman says. “The family needs you, and you’re going to need our help with Christopher while we rebuild everything.”
“I don’t know, mom.” He shakes his head. “I don’t know.”
6. Clearing Skies with a Chance of Rain
“So are you gonna just hover there and watch him all day?” Maddie’s voice is a mix of kindness and teasing, just like she used to sound when they were tiny winds, barely able to pick a leaf off the ground.
“I’m starting to regret asking you to stay in LA with me,” Buck grumbles, pretending to be upset, his breath rattling the tops of the trees. The truth is, he couldn’t be happier, with his sister back in his life and his two favorite humans going about their life below them. And if he’s a little bit in love with the man, well, that’s no one else’s business.
Maddie had flown away from her hurricane and his destructive habits and tracked Buck across mountains and valleys, finding him in LA where he had followed Eddie and Chris. She seems more content as the days pass, enjoying the city, joining Buck in his adventures, though at first most of them consist of looking after the Diaz boys.
He loves watching Christopher play in Abuela’s backyard, and he often wonders if Eddie’s ever going to tell him if dogs know they’re dogs, because Buck would very much like to know, too.
He loves following Eddie while he works, watching him help people, work hard to save them, all of them. Firefighter, they call it. Eddie’s teammates are fun and kind and Buck wishes his former team was as great. He tries to help whenever he can, and sometimes it almost feels as if he's part of the 118, and that’s good enough for him.
Maddie tries to help too; with Buck always happy and talking at great lengths about the places he’s seen and the people he’s met, it doesn’t take a lot of convincing until she wants to join him.
Stopping someone from falling off a cliff, lifting a car up just enough so no one gets trapped underneath... They spend their days being useful, and Buck comes back to the Diaz house every night to watch over them in silence, listening to bedtime stories and every now and then putting out fires when Eddie tries to improvise in the kitchen.
“Hmm,” Maddie says. “You’re not answering my question.”
Buck glares at her, glowing with lightning sparks above the Diaz backyard. It’s a good thing that the whole neighborhood is asleep right now.
One day the earth growls and cracks and everything on it moves. Buck has seen earthquakes before, but he never had anyone he cared about trapped in one, so he tracks Eddie and Chris, with Maddie’s help.
Once he’s certain that Eddie can take care of himself, he stays beside Chris, catching a tree that was about to burst through the windows in Christopher’s classroom. He helps the kids retrieve crayons that fell under bookshelves so they can play and stay distracted from all the scary things outside, and he waits until Eddie comes to pick his son up that night, until they’re fast asleep, tucked together under the covers in Eddie’s bed.
Buck sees Eddie smile when Christopher’s mom comes to visit; he sees Eddie smile when she stays. They fight a lot at first, but she makes Eddie happy, Buck can tell, so he starts watching over her, too.
He helps her put the decorations on the highest branches of a huge Christmas tree. Buck’s seen taller trees in forests, but humans seem to have a different view on sizes. Buck thinks it’s fun how they want to put sparkly things on everything. Christopher has never been as happy as when she takes him in his arms that morning.
They sit on the lawn next to the tree as the little boy opens his presents.
“You know there are no tornadoes in California, Chris?” Eddie asks when his son gets the Storm Catcher Lab kit he’d put on his Christmas list.
Chris shrugs and smiles. “But it helped me at school with the tree. And the crayons.”
Eddie doesn’t question it any more, and Buck watches them set up the weather station in their backyard, impatient to figure out if it could help him communicate with them.
He starts making wind blow every time Chris comes home from school and brings the lab out into the backyard. Small winds, little swirls, and one time the tiniest tornado funnel he’s ever managed to create. It spirals up and down and the look of awe on Christopher’s face is worth all those days of practicing for it.
Buck loves playing with Chris even if he can’t take human form, and Chris seems happy too, until one day everything changes.
Christopher’s never been as sad as when Eddie comes home one night, and Shannon doesn’t.
“She’s not coming home, buddy,” Eddie says. “Ever.”
Buck watches them cry in each other’s arms, and he can’t help his own tears from turning into rain.
“Flowers need some rain to grow,” Abuela says.
Some rain, but not that much, Buck thinks, trying to stop himself. He wasn’t there to stop the car. He should’ve been there. He should’ve protected her; now everyone is sad and it’s his fault.
7. Rip Current Risk is High
“I could’ve helped her, Mads. But I wasn’t there.”
“You can’t save everyone, little brother,” Maddie says. She does her best to comfort him and he loves her for that, but nothing can make his regrets go away, so he leaves.
He tries to stay away for a while. Maybe his mother was right, telling him to not get attached to humans. They’re fragile, they break so easily. He wanders around forests and over the ocean, away from the land, away from all of them, hoping he can learn to live without people.
He tries to stay away, but one day the ocean roars and starts moving in ways it shouldn’t and Buck worries about the humans on the shore. He worries about Eddie and Chris, so he goes looking for them, hoping they’re okay.
Eddie’s okay, climbing up a giant wheel in the middle of the ocean, saving people like he always does.
Chris is not okay, and neither is Carla. Buck likes Carla, she has a kind smile and she knows how to look after the kid, but the wave was so big no one could’ve done anything to protect them from it. Buck still does his best to keep them safe, blowing across the water to push them in the direction of a firetruck, hovering over them so the truck doesn’t move too much. Hoping someone will come rescue them in time.
It works, for a short time. Until whoever caused the giant waves takes all the water back to the ocean and not even Buck can stop the truck from drowning. Christopher disappears into the water and Carla can’t follow, but Buck can. Or at least he tries. Sloshing the water up and down, moving trees and every piece of debris in his way, he looks for the kid. He looks and looks until it’s dark outside, until Maddie comes find him.
“You did good today, Buck,” she says, and Buck thinks he probably didn’t, or Chris would already be back in his father’s care. “Look,” Maddie adds, “there.”
She tugs at him to fly with her across town and there they are, Eddie and Chris, and Carla, alive and safe with the 118 surrounding them, making sure they’re all okay.
“I didn’t do that,” Buck says. “I lost him to the ocean.”
“The tornado saved me, dad,” Christopher says, smiling.
“What tornado?” Eddie asks. He laughs and looks at Carla, who shrugs.
“The tornado from Texas, I think it followed us here, daddy.”
“There was some wind out there,” Carla says. “It did help us get on that truck.”
“See? I told you! It’s the tornado that found my crutches.”
“The same tornado? How do you know?”
The kid shrugs.
“Okay, mijo, why don’t we go home and get some rest, and maybe later you can tell me more about this tornado, huh?”
Buck is sure Eddie doesn't believe his son, but that’s fine. They’re both safe and that’s all that really matters. He watches them go home and slip into comfy clothes before Eddie tucks Christopher in.
“You know tornadoes don’t save people, kiddo, right? If you see one, you need to seek shelter, remember? People save people, and tornadoes and thunderstorms and tsunamis, they destroy everything they touch.”
“I know, dad. But not this one,” Christopher says.
Eddie doesn’t insist. He leaves the door half open when he steps out, giving one last look at his son before walking out into the backyard.
“Not this one, huh?” He sighs and looks up at the sky where Buck lingers, a cloud obscuring the moonlight. He shakes his head. “This is ridiculous.”
Buck wishes he could talk to Eddie. Tell him that Christopher’s right, and that he’s happy he was able to help today, but all he can do is pluck an orange off the lowest branch of the tree in the yard and send it right into Eddie’s hands.
“Wow, what the--” Eddie stares at the orange for a long while. “Okay, it’s just wind, Eddie, don’t-- yeah, just a coincidence.”
Buck’s tempted to throw another orange at Eddie to make sure he gets the message, but the man goes back into the house and Buck’s left alone outside.
“I’ll find a better way,” he promises himself.
8. Forecast Pending
Buck’s heard of Dorothys before, but he’d never actually seen one until today. Part of him always thought it was just a myth that winds and storms told their kids to make them behave and stay away from humans.
They’ll tear you apart, his father always said.
They can crawl inside you and poison you, his mother always added.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t leave now? Before they catch us?” Maddie asks, floating by his side and observing the visitors.
The strange machine is sitting in the middle of the Diaz backyard, with people Buck’s never seen before around it, talking about how they’re going to use it to analyze the tornado, to try and understand its behavior.
“I don’t think they’re trying to catch us, Mads. Just understand us. Well, understand me. You don’t have to stay, if you don't want to.”
“Oh, no, I’m definitely staying. I don’t want to miss watching you acting like an idiot just to impress your human,” she says before curling into a cumulus cloud, her favorite shape ever, finding a spot over the yard where she can observe it all.
Eddie’s parents arrived the night before, and if Buck was happy to see familiar faces, Eddie didn’t seem as pleased.
“There’s no tornado stalking us, dad,” Eddie says, exasperation in his voice. “Chris is just trying to cope with everything we’ve been through since Texas. It’s his version of an imaginary friend.”
“Well, Christopher said a tornado was appearing every day in your backyard, Eddie, so forgive me for worrying about my grandson.”
“So you just asked a bunch of obscure experts to come invade our home and do what…? No offense, guys.” Eddie waves at the people around him.
“None taken?” the woman says, unsure.
“We’re not obscure experts, though,” a man with ginger hair says, smiling. “This,” he gestures at his colleagues, “is the team that recorded the first data from inside a tornado. First time. Ever.” He sounds very proud, and it piques Buck’s curiosity. “Jo there, and Bill,” he points at the woman, then at another man who’s bringing crates out of their van into the yard, “designed the very first Dorothy.”
Eddie sighs. “I have no idea what that means, but okay. If it can reassure my parents that nothing is threatening us, please, be my guests.”
“So, what we’re going to do, starting tomorrow,” Jo starts explaining, “is take measurements from inside the funnel, see how it behaves.”
“If it appears,” Eddie says.
“If it does, yes.”
“And until then? Are you just going to camp out in my backyard and wait?”
The strangers all make the same pout. “Yeah, pretty much,” Jo says.
“If that’s okay with you,” Bill adds.
Eddie sighs again and goes back inside the house.
“Ever heard about the suck zone?” Ginger Hair asks Eddie’s dad.
Buck doesn’t listen to the rest of the conversation, too focused on watching the humans set little trinkets and metal objects all around the yard. Some of them are making beeping noises, others have lights blinking on and off, and it all starts to look like a strange version of Christmas.
Maybe he should run away and hide after all; maybe it’s not a good idea to let humans study him and figure out how he works, but what harm could it do? They’re here to learn, which is something Buck loves doing too, and from what he’s seeing they can’t hurt him with those instruments.
So maybe, he wonders, he could use all of this to his advantage. To find a way to communicate with Eddie and Chris.
“Are you mad at me?” Chris asks his father that night, before bedtime.
“Why would I be mad at you, buddy?”
“I’m sorry I told grandpa about the tornado.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry for, Chris. I just don’t really like having all those people in our house, but it’s okay, you didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I don’t think the tornado wants to play with them anyway.”
Chris shakes his head no. “It’s too shy.”
Eddie smiles. It’s a sad smile, Buck can tell. He knows all the different smiles Eddie has; he’s learned to decipher them over time. He knows Eddie doesn’t believe his son and that makes sense, winds and tornadoes don’t usually play with humans the way Buck does. Eddie has no reason to believe this should be any different.
“But maybe I can ask it to show us, tomorrow?”
“Hmm, that wouldn’t be an excuse just to skip school, right?”
Christopher shakes his head again.
Eddie grins. “Okay, but only for one day. And remember that it’s fine if it doesn’t want to play. No one will be mad at you, okay?”
“I promise. Now, time to sleep, little man.”
9. Data Incoming
The next morning the backyard is crowded with people. The scientists are checking their equipment, and Ramon and Helena are watching from the sidelines while Christopher is the center of attention, with Eddie by his side making sure he’s still okay with the whole experiment.
Buck starts blowing leaves around, enjoying the buzzing noises of the machines and the intrigued looks on everyone’s faces. He lifts a soccer ball from Christopher’s toy box and makes it float across the yard towards the kid’s feet.
“I’m ready to play,” he tries to convey, before Christopher even has the chance to ask him to.
“Look, dad, it wants to play,” Christopher says.
Eddie’s face is doing strange grimaces that Buck’s not sure he understands. The man can still be a mystery to him, even after all this time. But a very sweet mystery that Buck likes a lot, so he picks a blossom from the neighbor’s rose bush and drops it into Eddie’s hands, more gently than he did the orange.
“I think the tornado likes you, dad!” Chris laughs, and Buck can see Eddie blushing in silence.
“Interesting.” Bill takes a few quick notes.
“More wind than tornado, though,” Jo says.
Buck recognizes a challenge when he hears one, so he focuses just like he’s done with Christopher before, readjusting his updrafts and downdrafts until he creates a small funnel, right under the orange tree. The sounds coming out of the machines and the humans are priceless, and bring him immense pride.
He changes into a gentle breeze, caressing the audience’s faces, then plays with his wind speed for a moment, ruffling the tree leaves and turning back into a tiny tornado. For his grand finale, he moves the ball on the ground and brings it to Dusty, who’s stunned at first but quickly shakes it off and kicks the ball towards Bill. Buck catches it mid-roll and redirects it into the kid-sized soccer net Eddie installed the previous summer.
“Did-- did the tornado just score a goal?”
Buck likes these humans. They’re funny, and they seem to like him back. They’re excited by his every move, taking notes and talking about grants and groundbreaking data and a no-bell prize or something.
“I still think this is a prank,” Eddie says to the empty yard after that first day of data collecting. There’s no one around so Buck’s not sure who this is addressed to. Not to him, as Eddie clearly still doesn’t believe. “A good one, though.”
Buck tells himself he’ll just have to do better the next day. To make it clear that he’s here, that he understands. That he cares.
After three days, Buck has shown the scientists and the Diazes every shape his funnel can take. Tiny rope, large wedge, everything to fit the space between the troposphere and the ground. They ask him to show them and he does his best to comply. He hears the neighbors starting to worry and talking about a conspiracy and aliens. He’s not sure what that means but Bill says they should keep it small from now on, so Buck does.
“Can you be a cloud that looks like a dinosaur?” Christopher asks when he joins them after getting back from school.
Buck twists and turns and makes the best Apatosaurus he can, watching the boy’s face light up in awe. No matter how much he loves working with the scientists, he loves playing with this little human even more.
That night, Eddie’s back in the yard, alone, with a beer in hand. His face is closed off, his shoulders are tense, and he stays silent for a long time.
“I don’t...” he starts, instantly pausing. He rubs a hand over his face and tries again. “I don’t get it. At all. I don’t even know if you’re here right now, or if I’m just talking to myself.”
Buck blows on the bottle top, making it whistle, signaling that he’s here and ready to listen. He sees a small smile flit across Eddie’s face, and waits for him to be ready to talk.
But Eddie falls silent again, eyes locked on the bottle in his hands, taking a sip once in a while until it’s empty. “I can’t do this, I just... Not yet.” He stands up, looking at the orange tree. “I’m sorry,” he says, going back inside before Buck can figure out how to react.
After an entire week recording everything, the team announces it’s time for them to leave.
“So?” Ramon asks as they start packing.
The scientists exchange baffled glances before speaking, all at the same time.
“Okay, let’s be honest here, we have no idea what’s going on.”
“We’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“Straight out of a sci-fi movie, dude.”
“But is it dangerous?” Helena asks with concern.
“Not from what we saw this week, no,” Jo says. “Trust me, we’ve seen enough dangerous tornadoes and storms to know that this one here isn’t one of them.”
“And now we have a lot of data to analyse,” Bill adds, “so we’ll probably have more answers to give you after we’re done assessing it. We’ll let you know.”
“Good,” Eddie says, shaking the team’s hands as they all walk back to their cars. “We’ll wait for those answers, then.”
Eddie’s dad pats him on the shoulder. “Well, that’s a relief, son.”
“You’re okay with this? You, dad? The most down to earth person I’ve ever known. You just found out that winds can willingly create a tornado to play soccer with your grandson, and you feel… relieved?”
Buck watches the parents pack their bags and leave, like the scientists before them. He sees how Eddie sighs when the door closes behind them, how he stays there for a moment, head resting against the wood.
“Is he going to be okay?” Maddie asks, floating her way next to Buck on the Diaz house ceiling.
“I hope so. Maybe this whole week was a bit much? What if I pushed too far, Mads?”
Eddie pushes off the door and rubs his eyes, heading back out to the yard to sit beside Christopher under the orange tree.
“I’m sorry I didn’t believe you, Chris. You were right about the tornado and I should’ve trusted you.”
“It’s okay, dad. Jo and Bill looked at me funny too.”
Buck sees the tears at the corner of Eddie’s eyes, ones he’s trying really hard to contain.
“I don’t know why the tornado chose us, but I’m glad it did.”
“I think it was lonely,” Chris says, and Buck can’t help but sniff, making the grass shiver.
“They don’t know I have you now, sis,” Buck says, hoping she believes it when he says that her presence here means everything to him. Chris isn’t wrong, Buck had been lonely before.
“Well, it’s not alone anymore now,” Eddie says, “I hope it knows that.” He presses a kiss on his son’s head, gently ruffling his hair.
Buck plucks another orange from the tree, making it float very slowly in front of his friends before dropping it into Eddie’s lap.
“I think it means he knows, dad,” Chris says, smiling.
“Yeah. Yeah, I think it does.” Eddie laughs, tears finally running down his cheeks. Happy tears this time. “But we’re going to need a better system to communicate before we run out of oranges.”
10. Clear Night Ahead
Eddie walks around the yard, beer in hand, looking up at the night sky.
Buck just watched him tuck Christopher in his bed then step back outside their house, looking a bit lost. He makes the bottle whistle again, letting Eddie know he’s here. It’s not the most elaborate form of communication but it’s a start, he thinks.
“So this is real, huh?” He shakes his head and lets out a deep breath. “I’ll be honest, I still don’t understand half of whatever happened this week. Or before. But if you’re really there, if you were there since El Paso, it means you saved my son. That day, and then during the earthquake. The tsunami. I don’t think I can thank you enough.”
He takes another sip of his beer before putting it down on the ground.
“If someone had told me just seven days ago that I’d be standing in my backyard, talking to a… I don’t even know what you are. A tornado? A cloud?” He shrugs. “I think I’m starting to think of you as a real person, which probably sounds even more stupid…” He shakes his head and pauses. “Man, I really wish you could actually talk. Instead of just me blabbering to--” he waves at the empty backyard around him.
Buck never wished that he could speak more than in this moment, so he could tell Eddie that he doesn’t need to thank him. That meeting them changed his life for the better, reminding him how much he loved humans and how all he wanted was to play with them. That protecting them means everything to him.
But no matter how hard he’s tried these past months, his body’s still only made of air, and no matter how much he practices his supercells never resemble anything other than winds and storms and funnels. No face, no mouth, no words that humans can understand.
So all he can do is focus on taking another fruit from the tree, picking it the way he would with a hand and bringing it back to the swing bench where Eddie’s sitting. He puts it down, not letting it go yet. Wanting to say so many things, knowing that he has no way to convey them through this simple fruit offering.
“You know it’s not really a gift if it’s from my own tree, right?” Eddie laughs and reaches out, ready to take the fruit.
Buck can feel something tingle underneath his wind, something textured and round. He can feel the skin of the orange under… his fingers? Looking at the fruit, he watches as his molecules rearrange themselves into a new shape, into a hand.
He feels softness and cold as his currents slowly turn into a body. It’s pale and translucent at first and not very comfortable, but bit by bit, pink limb after pink limb, his new self feels heavier. He can feel his feet touching the cold damp ground, and his ass on the soft pillow of the porch swing.
He can feel Eddie’s hand, enveloping his own as he tries to grab the orange.
He can see Eddie looking up and staring back at him, eyes wide and mouth open.
“You…” Eddie clears his throat, fingers still tight around Buck’s, and it’s the best first sensation Buck could ever have dreamed of. “Hand. You have a hand.”
“I have a body?” Buck thinks, hearing the sounds those words actually make outside of him.
“You can speak???”
Buck’s face does something strange, his cheeks puffing, bursting with happiness. “I can speak!”
Eddie puts his hand on the side of Buck’s face and that feels even better than it did on his hand. “You’re real. I can’t believe it, you-- You’re real.”
Buck feels his body buzzing, as if all the wind it’s made of is swirling inside him in all directions, unsure of how it’s supposed to hold itself together. On instinct he leans in and puts his arms around Eddie, wanting to feel him, needing to be sure that he can finally do it. Be human.
“God, you’re really here,” Eddie whispers into the crook of his neck, and his breath sends shivers down Buck’s spine.
Buck has a neck, and a spine, and so many other parts he’d love to catalog and rejoice in, but right now Eddie’s wrapping his arms around Buck and all Buck can think of is how warm and safe it makes him feel.
Eddie pulls away, staring at Buck, and his smile might be one Buck’s seen before but this time it’s for him; Eddie’s smiling at him and, without thinking, Buck leans in and presses his lips against Eddie’s, tasting that smile.
“I’ve wanted to do that for so long,” Buck says. His voice is raspy, a new surprising sound he’s never heard before yet knows belongs to him, and it feels right. Kissing Eddie feels right too, and Eddie’s smiling again. From what Buck’s learned observing humans all this time, that’s probably a good sign.
Eddie leans in and kisses Buck back, and that is definitely a good sign. His hand rests on Buck’s neck and it tingles, in a nice way.
It tingles until it doesn’t, until Buck’s sensations start fading from head to toe. He can feel his body dissolving, the wind getting weaker, not holding it all together anymore.
“I don’t think I can keep this shape much longer,” Buck says.
“Can you come back? Please come back,” Eddie pleads.
“I’ll try, I promise, Eddie, I--” Buck’s mouth stops working before he can tell Eddie that he loves him, that he’ll do anything to come back to him, to get a chance to meet Christopher.
“You know my name but I don’t know yours,” Eddie says, his arms flopping down, eyes tearing up. “You didn’t even tell me your name.”
Buck hears the sadness in Eddie’s voice so he pushes himself into accomplishing one more thing, gathering whatever remains of his energy to go through Christopher’s toy box and bring back four magnetic letters to the porch, placing them on the ground.
Buck, the letters spell out.
“Buck? Is that your name?”
Buck swirls around Eddie, ruffling his hair and watching him smile again as he picks up the letters. “Buck,” Eddie repeats, and with that Buck’s currents scatter into the atmosphere, unable to stay in one place any longer.
11. Sunny Days to Come
It takes days for Buck to regain enough energy to form even the smallest breeze. Maddie stays by his side the entire time he recovers, patiently waiting, encouraging him. He’s pretty sure she’s dying to say ‘I told you it was dangerous’ and ‘I hope it was worth it’, and he’s thankful that she seems to wait for him to be back at his full wind speed to do so.
“How’s Eddie?” is the first thing he asks her when he’s strong enough to communicate again, and it makes her burst into laughter.
“He seems a bit lost,” she says, turning serious again. “He’s spending a lot of time hitting that big squashy thing with his hands. The one in the firehouse, you know?”
“Boxing, it’s called boxing, Mads,” Buck says, a little concerned. Though at least Eddie’s hitting a punching bag, not people, so that’s good.
“He talks to you every night, in the backyard. Christopher too. Did you know that potatoes can tell the time?”
“What does that mean?”
“No idea,” she says, giggling, “but he looked very proud. You should ask him to show you, next time you, you know, take human form.”
“I’m not sure I can do it again, Mads. All the energy it took, for such a short moment. I don’t regret it, you know, but…”
“Don’t you want to kiss him again?” she asks, grinning. She knows him as well as he knows her, despite the time spent apart.
“Maybe he doesn’t want to. Maybe he was just overwhelmed and stunned by everything?”
“Maybe you should just ask him, little brother. Instead of imagining the worst.”
Buck huffs, wind swirling out of him and setting off an alarm on the weather lab he hadn’t noticed under the orange tree. Less than a minute later, Christopher comes out of the house, smiling and calling for his father to join him.
“What’s going on, kid?” Eddie asks, and his face and his voice make Buck feel like every molecule in his currents is dancing, spinning around in bliss.
The smile on Eddie’s face makes Buck feel even better.
“So, Buck,” Eddie says, sitting on the ground beside the Storm Catcher lab. “We’ve altered the weather vane a little, so you can answer with yes or no.”
“The green means ‘yes’,” Christopher explains, pushing the arrow towards a “YES” written in neon green letters. “And the red means ‘no’.” He pushes the arrow in the opposite direction.
“It’s not perfect,” Eddie adds, “but we figured it was better than nothing. In case we can’t talk for real again.”
Buck can hear the sadness in his voice. He sighs, making the arrow spin on itself.
“Is that really you, Buck?”
Buck tries to push the arrow but he can’t focus enough and ends up pushing the entire lab.
“Hmm, answer unclear, I guess,” Eddie says, helping his son put it back up.”Maybe he’s not ready yet, mijo.”
“Maybe it’s not him, dad.”
“I can’t even do this simple thing,” Buck tells Maddie.
“Let me do it,” she offers. Buck hums in disbelief. “What?” she adds, “I’ve been practicing, while you were out of it. I can’t let you be the only one communicating with humans, your ego would never recover.” She laughs and moves the arrow towards the green ‘YES’ written on the board.
Even if Buck feels sad that he’s not the one communicating with Eddie and Christopher, the smile on their faces and Maddie’s pride are worth it.
“Can I see you like daddy did?” Christopher asks, and it makes Buck so sad that he’s not able to do that for him.
Maddie pushes the arrow towards the red “NO”.
She waits for Buck to give an answer.
“Yes,” he says. “Yes, okay, I’ll try again.”
“I knew you wouldn’t resist his adorable little face.”
“No, you said I’d do it to kiss Eddie again.”
“Oh, that too!”
“Good,” Eddie says, and the smile doesn’t leave his face.”So whenever you’re ready, there’s a bag in the toy box, over there,” he points at said box, “with a pair of sweatpants and a shirt in it--”
“And socks!” Christopher chimes in.
“Yes, socks, how could I forget the socks.” Eddie laughs. “Anyway, if you come back--”
“When you come back,” Christopher interrupts.
“When you come back, like last time, you know, you might want to put those on. If you can.”
“Or we can teach you, Buck, it’s okay. Everyone needs help learning the first time.”
Buck blows on the arrow, making it spin and spin again, hoping to convey how impatient he is to be able to try the clothes on; to be by their side, and hold them as long as he can.
Putting pants on is actually way harder than it looks, Buck finds out when he tries and slips, ending up half covered on the dewy grass.
It’s taken him another few weeks to finally master the transformation again, and he’s so impatient to go in and wake up his favourite people, but it’s Buck’s yelp of surprise that actually makes Eddie come running into the backyard.
He’s not really looking at Buck, his eyes doing an awkward dance between Buck’s feet, his eyes and something further away behind him. Buck’s not sure what’s going on, he probably looks like an idiot with half a leg in the pants and no socks on. Socks seemed like the key to it all.
“Apparently I do need help to put on pants,” Buck says.
“Yes, yes, sorry.” Eddie clears his throat and walks towards Buck, eyes locked on Buck’s face. “Sorry, it’s just that last time I-- I didn’t realize you were naked until after you left, so it’s… hmm.” He shakes his head and helps Buck sit on the ground.
“How long do you think you’ll stay this time?” Eddie asks while he directs Buck’s legs into each hole of the pants.
One leg, one hole, Buck needs to remember that. “Longer,” he answers. “I practiced a lot, before coming back. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t vanish too soon like the last time.”
Eddie smiles. “Good.”
Buck stands up on his feet, toes in the grass. It feels nice. Clothes are a little strange on his skin but his skin is still a little strange itself, so he figures he’ll just get used to it all, with time.
“Can you explain the socks too?”
Eddie smiles. “I have a better idea, come on.” He holds out his hand for Buck to grab and leads them inside the house, then into Christopher’s room. While Buck waits at the door, Eddie sits on the edge of the bed, delicately running his fingers through his son’s hair, until Christopher opens his eyes
“‘Morning, Superman,” Eddie says.
“Good morning, dad!”
“There’s someone here to see you, kiddo,” Eddie says, helping him put on his glasses.
When he’s done, Eddie moves so he can see the door, see Buck standing there. “Christopher, this is Buck,” Eddie says.
“Buck!” The boy cheers, not even trying to contain his enthusiasm, and it makes Buck’s heartbeat speed up. It’s a very warm feeling, knowing that people are happy to see him as much as he’s happy to see them.
Buck walks towards the bed, holding out the socks. “I think I could use your help with these, if that’s okay with you.”
Christopher nods and pats on the bed next to him, and Buck joins him there.
Buck’s not sure he likes having his feet trapped like this. Sure, the socks are soft and warm but he likes feeling the air on his skin. He keeps it to himself for now, not wanting to sadden the kid who put so much effort into teaching him how to put them on.
“Okay,” Eddie says. “Now how about you go wash your hands and brush your teeth while Buck and I prepare breakfast?”
Christopher nods, and Eddie takes Buck’s hand in his again and leads him to the kitchen.
“Ever tried food before?” he asks, and Buck shakes his head no. “I’ll make pancakes, then, and we’ll go from there.”
“Okay.” Buck nods. He’s seen Eddie make pancakes before. He's seen him burn some, too, but he’d never thought he’d get to taste them himself.
“Just one more thing…” Eddie pulls Buck into his arms, looking into his eyes before pressing a kiss on Buck’s lips, and it feels even better than the first time. “I thought about doing this again every day since last time,” Eddie whispers.
Buck leans in to kiss Eddie back, deepening the kiss, his hands almost moving on their own to find Eddie’s waist, and his neck. It’s warm and comforting and exhilarating.
And he knows he won’t be able to stay with him all the time, that he’ll need to recharge every now and then. He’ll miss them an awful lot when he’s gone, but he knows they’ll miss him back. So when Eddie holds him tight against his chest, and when Christopher joins them, cheerful, Buck knows they’ll figure everything out. Together.
“Tornadoes don’t play with humans that way,” his mother said. He needs to tell her that she was wrong. That he found a way to play. A way to play, and live, and love.
“You know,’ Eddie says, not letting go of Buck, “I never believed in magic until that day in the yard, when you appeared to me.”
“It’s not really magic,” Buck says.
“It is to me. You are.”
The way Eddie’s looking at him, smiling and throwing glances at him even as he pulls away to start working on those pancakes makes Buck’s heart flutter.
The sensation is new but he knows what it means, without any doubts. He knows that Eddie and Christopher are his magic too, and he wouldn’t trade this for the world.