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“Chris, you coming back?” Buck called from the Diaz’s couch, where he was already slouched down, watching the movie menu play over and over while Chris worked on something in the kitchen.

“Almost done, Bucky!” Buck heard the light shuffle of Chris approaching. “No peeking, okay?”

Buck obediently closed his eyes, a small grin pulling involuntarily at the corners of his mouth. God he loved this kid. “Is this something I’m gonna have to make explanations to your dad for later?”

Something plastic was thunked onto his lap and his eyes opened. A popcorn bucket filled to the brim. Dripping down the freshly popped kernels were the melty remains of a box of M&Ms. “Dad said you liked them.”

“Your dad is right.” Buck turned and pulled Chris in for a one-armed hug, snuggling him in as he pressed play with his other hand. “Thanks, buddy.”

“Mm hmm,” Chris murmured, eyes already turning toward the screen to watch.

Buck hoped the young alpha would always stay this kind and thoughtful. Too often the alphas he’d grown up with had become domineering, thoughtless and belligerent as they grew older and stronger. Then Buck shook his head. There was no reason for Chris to take that path, since he was being raised by Eddie, who was himself an alpha and one of the kindest people Buck knew under that dry veteran exterior. 

And Buck would help too, he resolved, arm tightening slightly around Chris as he settled in and focused on the movie. He and Eddie weren’t mated, and Chris wasn’t his child, but they were best friends. Buck could still remember the look Eddie had given Buck at the station, when Buck told him no, it’s okay, go take that extra shift, I’ve got Chris. Eddie trusted Buck and the feeling was mutual. Buck wouldn’t let them down, would show Chris what it meant to grow up strong and gentle, to learn how to be there for others and to respect others, no matter their orientation.

Chris, unaware of the thoughts going through Buck’s head, still obliged to being snuggled extra, sighing contentedly. Then Buck felt Chris stiffen slightly in his arms and start sniffing along Buck’s neck.

“Hey little guy!” Buck giggled at the ticklish feeling of Christopher’s chilly nose in his neck. “What’s up?”

“You–” Chris began, before clicking his tongue and giving up, nosing into Buck’s neck again, until he found what he was looking for. The spot right at the hinge of Buck’s jaw. Chris took one sniff and his eyes glazed over, his whole body going limp. “Home. Smells like… home.”

Buck felt all the blood rush to his head. Home? I smell like– but it couldn’t be. Buck and Eddie weren’t mated, didn’t…

Ah! Before Buck had left, Eddie’s hand had cupped Buck’s jaw, removing a piece of fluff from his curling hair. His thumb had pressed in right where Chris’s nose was buried now. It’s not you, Buck, he’s smelling Eddie. You know, his dad? Idiot.

Buck sighed, telling himself it wasn’t in disappointment before focusing again on the movie, Chris snuggled into him, taking deep breaths. If it helped Chris miss his dad less, Buck would allow him to burrow into his neck all night.

***

“Bucky!” Buck had all of three seconds to drop the cupcake carrier he’d been holding before his arms were full of Chris plus crutches. “You’re late!”

“Got held up at the station, what’d I miss, buddy?” Buck squeezed Chris tight before letting him down and picking up the carrier again. 

“Is that dessert?” Eddie’s voice came from behind him as he was pulled into a backwards hug, strong arms holding him in a firm grip before letting go and turning him around to meet Eddie’s smile.

“Yes it is! Pretty quiet at the station today, so Cap taught me how to bake red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing and I figured that would be popular with a bunch of ten-year-olds, right?”

“You would figure correctly.” Eddie grinned ruefully. “I’d eat one of those now if I were you, there won’t be any left in about five minutes.”

Buck chuckled. “Do you really think I didn’t eat like five of them at the station before even getting here?” He paused, considering. “You want me to save you one though?” It was such a banal question, yet Buck suddenly found it difficult to meet Eddie’s eyes, his instincts suddenly waking up. Quiet down hormones, this isn’t providing or anything, I’m just saving the poor man a cupcake!

Buck’s hormones ignored him. Eddie’s warm answering grin went a ways toward not helping on that front. “I’d appreciate it, Buck.” Eddie’s hand pressed lightly between Buck’s shoulder blades before his eye caught on something behind him. “We’d better get busy if we want to stay ahead of this bunch. Dessert table’s over there!” He called, already running back toward an overwhelmed looking magician who was quickly getting weighed down by children.

It was another three hours of running around before Buck flopped facedown on the grass, garbage bag in hand, exhausted. “Ugh, never again, Eddie. The next time we throw a party this big, it’s for Chris’ wedding,” he groaned.

Giggles behind him were all the warning he got before Chris and Denny both flopped sideways onto his back. Buck mock groaned again and wiggled back and forth, as though trying to shake them off. “Help! I’ve been attacked! Eddie!”

“You’re on your own Buck.” Came a groan from a few feet away. Buck turned his head slightly to find Eddie flat on his back, Nia tucked into one arm, eyes turned to the sky. “I don’t have enough energy to think, let alone rescue you.”

“My hero,” Buck teased, settling down. Denny wiggled until he was next to Buck, snuggling under one arm, while Chris stayed where he was, adjusting, sniffing. 

This had become a habit ever since that first movie night, Chris sniffing the landscape of Buck’s chest, neck, or back before finding the perfect spot and settling in. It was always somewhere Eddie had recently touched him, and Chris seeking it out made Buck all the more aware of how often Eddie did it, which was very not useful, as he tried to make every effort not to think about Eddie in such terms. He’s my friend, he’s my friend, he’s my friend. Get a grip, Buck.  

Chris’ nose stopped between Buck’s shoulder blades this time, and he settled in with a mumbled “Home,” like he always did. And again, Buck hardened his emotional reinforcements. It was Eddie Chris was smelling again, nothing to do with him. He’s not my kid, he’s not my kid, he’s not my kid! 

But I wish to God he was.

But if Chris was seeking out Eddie’s scent, why didn’t he just go over to his dad?

“You can move to your dad if you want, buddy, I know he smells like home to you.”

Chris made a tired sound and pressed his nose further into Buck’s shirt. “Home,” he insisted sleepily, before his eyes closed and he fell asleep.

***

It had been a tough day at the station. They’d almost lost someone, an omega suffering from domestic abuse. Buck had been first on the scene and his desperate efforts had saved the man’s life. After the victim had been carefully placed in a gurney and rushed to the hospital, it had been Eddie who took Buck’s bloodied hand and guided him to the truck, pulling him up and tucking Buck’s nose into his neck where his alpha pheromones were strongest. He’d held Buck there, gasping deep breaths and struggling to re-center, to calm, as Eddie murmured calming nonsense to him all the way back to the station.

It was Eddie who, on a single look from Bobby, pulled Buck away from the others and toward the locker room, sitting him down and helping him undress. Buck’s hands were shaking, he could barely think, he was so wired, so panicked, so aggrieved at what he’d seen. Eddie had gently folded Buck into a kneeling position, Buck’s nose pressed into his own knees in a child’s pose as Eddie placed his hand carefully but firmly on Buck’s neck, grounding him. Then he’d pulled Buck into the showers, carefully sponging away all the blood, holding a nude Buck against his still uniformed body as he rinsed him off, his uniform soaking up water and Buck’s tears. He’d carefully brought Buck back into the locker room and toweled him down before folding Buck back into the child’s pose while he changed and pulled out a spare pair of his own sweats for Buck to wear, soaked in his scent.

Then he’d brought Buck home. It was home, their home, Buck’s fragile heart insisted. His mind pushed and pulled, trying to shut that thought down before it could take root, sowing Buck with false hope, but it was no use. 

My home. My Eddie, my alpha, his heart sang as Eddie pulled the couch out into a bed and lay down, pulling Buck in against him and tucking Bcuk’s nose back against Eddie’s neck, stroking his back softly while he murmured to him in Spanish, words of comfort and care.

A knock sounded on the door and Buck whimpered, but Eddie shushed him quietly and held tighter, calling “It’s open.”

Carla appeared at the door with Chris holding her hand. He took one look at Buck trembling in Eddie’s arms before calling “Buck!” In a small voice. He made his way over as quickly as he could, crutches hitting the ground as Carla quietly left, closing the door behind her. 

“Bucky, are you okay…” Chris’ voice trailed off as he sniffed the air, and his eyes glazed over, gaze pulled to every place where Eddie and Buck were touching. “Home.” he whispered, leaning down to scent them.

Oh. 

Chris wasn’t picking up Buck’s scent alone. It wasn’t Eddie’s scent alone, either. It was the two of them together that Chris smelled, that Chris’s instincts recognized as his happy place, his safe place.

Buck felt tears slide down his face and he gasped loudly on a breath.

“Shhh.” Eddie soothed, hands moving up and down Buck’s arms. “I’ve got you, we’ve got you.”

Chris nodded and snuggled in between his father and his father’s mate, snuffling happily. Buck felt some of the cracks in him begin to smooth and close as he was held by his family, and with a small shuddery sigh, he closed his eyes and slept.

He was home.