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i just thought it didn't rain in california

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It’s one of those rare dark and stormy nights in LA. They’re coming off a fairly easy 24-hour shift, and Eddie’s thoughts are tending in the direction of a nice hot shower and a movie with Christopher. He settles in behind the wheel of his truck and is about to turn the key in the ignition when there’s a knock on the window. 

He rolls it down. Buck gives him a little wave, dripping wet in the rain. 

“Miss me already?” Eddie jokes. “What’s up?”

“Any chance you could give me a ride home? My car won’t start and I don’t really wanna try and fix it in this weather.”

“Sure,” Eddie agrees, unlocking the doors. Buck walks around the car and slides into the passenger seat, flashing him a smile even though he’s absolutely soaked. There are raindrops on his eyelashes and his hair has gone slightly curly from being damp. Not that Eddie is paying attention to that sort of thing. Definitely not, he tells himself, starting the engine. 

The drive to Buck’s place is slower than usual, thanks to the frankly torrential storm. There actually isn’t a ton of traffic this evening, but with how slowly everyone is driving, the roads are backing up quickly. Finally, though, some of the traffic starts to thin out, and Eddie can drive at a more respectable speed as they begin to approach the river. 

“Wow,” Buck says quietly, his face pressed to the window, breath fogging up the glass. Eddie takes a quick look and finds himself staring down at the usually calm and fairly shallow Los Angeles River, now absolutely roaring along, the water dark and angry and dangerous. “Lucky we didn’t get any calls about people falling in,” he remarks, hitting the brakes a bit as the person in front of him slows down. 

“Other stations might have,” Buck points out. “I haven’t seen it this bad in years.”

“Let’s just hope nobody gets hurt tonight,” Eddie says. It’s a futile hope and they both know it, but it gives him some peace of mind to put the statement out into the world. 

An especially loud clap of thunder makes the both of them jump. Buck huffs a laugh, and Eddie can’t help joining in. A sudden, unexpected wave of happiness washes over him, simple and pure, and for a second he thinks this is it, I’m going to say it, I’m going to do it - 

And he opens his mouth, maybe to say it, maybe to abort at the last second, but never gets the chance either way. Seemingly from out of nowhere, a car slams into them, pushing Eddie’s truck straight into - and then over - the guardrail. The truck flips. Buck shouts. Eddie hits the brakes, as though that’s going to do anything. They hit the water head-on, plunging into the roaring current with enough force to knock Eddie’s forehead against the steering wheel. The blackness swallows him faster than the water swallows the truck. 

--

He wakes quickly, to a sharp tap on his cheek. He experiences a single second of confusion, rapidly replaced by the need to get into action. The truck is sinking and getting tossed around down the river at the same time, the headlights bouncing crazily through the dark water, which is steadily filling the truck. It’s only beginning to cover the seats, so Eddie knows he hasn’t been out too long. 

“You good?” Buck asks. It’s extremely relative, but he’s alive and not hurt, so Eddie nods. “You?”

“Fine.”

They don’t have a lot of time. Eddie tries the windows, which refuse to open. 

“We’re gonna have to break them,” Buck says, opening the half-flooded center console and finding one of the three bright orange glass breakers Eddie keeps in his truck. “Can you get your seatbelt off? I got mine but yours wouldn’t unbuckle. Might be the angle.”

Eddie tries his seatbelt and finds it stuck. Buck wordlessly hands over the glass breaker, grabbing a second one from the glove compartment. Eddie uses it to cut through his seatbelt, the process taking what feels like years. When he’s finally free of it the water has risen to chest level, and he can feel himself starting to panic. 

Buck must be able to tell, because he says, “it’s gonna be fine, we’re almost out.” Eddie forces the panic down. He knows Buck’s right. They’ll be fine. They’re together, aren’t they? There’s safety in numbers, safety in Buck…

“Eddie?”

He shakes his head, willing his mind to clear. He might’ve hit the steering wheel a little harder than he’d thought. “I’m good. We breaking the windows?”

“On three,” Buck agrees. They both raise the pointed ends of the glass breakers. “One, two, three!”

Buck’s window shatters with a crash, and water begins flooding into the cab. Eddie’s tool, on the other hand, has somehow managed to bounce off the glass. He raises his arm to strike again as the water reaches his chin.

“Eddie!”

“Go, Buck, I’m right behind you!”

There isn’t time for Buck to do anything except nod and push himself out the window. He disappears almost immediately. Eddie takes a deep breath as the water fills the rest of the truck, completely submerging him. 

He isn’t panicking now. Maybe he should be, but he just isn’t. He tries the glass breaker again, but his speed is hampered by the water, and the tool again bounces harmlessly off the window. No problem, he’ll just go out Buck’s window instead. 

He’s nearly there when something happens - he doesn’t know what, exactly. There’s a horrible, distorted screeching of metal, and the truck shifts and tumbles in the water, Eddie tumbling right along with it like clothes in a washing machine. 

When the movement stops, he’s so dizzy he can barely see straight and his leg has gotten wedged beneath a seat. He pulls on it, expecting it to come free. It doesn’t. The panic returns now, in full force, and he strains desperately against the confines of his own truck, feeling his leg get scraped and cut but still not moving. It’s no use. He’s trapped and he knows he can’t hold his breath much longer. He thinks of the well. This is somehow better than that. He’s been through this once in real life already (and hundreds of times in his dreams). He knows it. And Christopher - Chris will be okay because he’ll have Buck, who will also be okay because he’ll have Chris. Eddie is grateful, above all, that Buck has gotten out. Buck is safe (Buck has to be safe) and this means that his two favorite people, the two people he loves the most in all the world, are going to be okay. He’d rather be with them, of course, but it’s enough knowing that they’ll have each other. He tries one more time to free himself. His leg still won’t move. His lungs lose the battle with his brain, and he breathes. 

--

A moment or so earlier

Buck’s head breaks the surface of the water. He coughs, sucks in a deep breath, then looks expectantly around for Eddie. There are flashing lights and shouting voices, but no sign of his best friend. 

“Eddie!” he screams, as loudly as he can. “Eddie!” 

Nothing. He swims against the current, looking below him into the inky black water for any sign of the truck, of Eddie. 

Nothing. “Eddie!” Water splashes up into his mouth and he coughs. He’s shaking, he realizes, somewhere in the back of his mind. From cold or fear, he doesn’t know. “Eddie!”

Nothing. It’s sickeningly familiar. He can almost feel the impossibly heavy weight of Christopher’s glasses around his neck. Not again, he thinks, pleading with the universe. Please, not again. 

Someone grabs him. He opens his eyes - he’d closed them? - and asks, “Eddie?” because who else can it be?

But it isn’t Eddie. “Are you okay, sir?” asks a firefighter from the 144, pulling Buck into a rescue boat. 

The familiarity of the firefighter, the boat, kicks Buck’s brain back into action. “Evan Buckley, 118. I’m fine. My partner, Eddie Diaz, he’s still in the water. Maybe still in his truck, I don’t know. I should have - he said he was right behind me, but -”

“We’ll get him,” says the other firefighter. 

“Let me help.”

“You know I can’t let you do that. Let our paramedics check you out. We’ll find him, Firefighter Buckley.”

They’re already at the edge of the water, which has risen so high that it’s getting close to the top of the channel - they can’t be more than 5 feet below the road. Dimly, Buck recognizes that he doesn’t really have another choice, and he lets himself be hauled up out of the boat and onto dry land. 

What feels like an eternity later, he’s sitting on the back of an ambulance with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders and a paramedic looking him over. She isn’t talking to him except when necessary. Buck can’t decide whether he appreciates this or hates it. 

Suddenly there’s a flurry of activity. He shoots up from his position, nearly bowling over the unsuspecting paramedic. He searches frantically until - there, just where he’d been hauled over the top of the channel, someone else is being pulled up. 

He’s there in a second, the paramedic close on his heels. She gently moves him aside and joins her coworkers, surrounding an unmoving body lying on a backboard. 

It’s Eddie. There’s a livid bruise on his forehead and the left leg of his pants is all but gone, the skin underneath red and raw and bloody. He’s way too pale and he isn’t moving.  

Buck stands there, blanket still around his shoulders, soaking wet and shivering fiercely, staring down at the paramedics as they administer CPR. He looks at them, at Eddie, thinks I should be doing something but doesn’t know what. Absurdly, he thinks that he should push them all aside, perform CPR himself, as though this will make a difference. But he doesn’t move. Just stands there and watches as someone else breathes for Eddie, as someone else breaks his ribs in the hopes of keeping him alive. 

Someone needs to call Christopher, he thinks suddenly. Chris and Carla, and Tía Pepa, Eddie’s sisters, Abuelita, maybe his parents, the 118…too many people to think about all at once. Chris is the most important, of course. Someone has to call Chris. 

Just then a firefighter - the one who’d rescued him, Buck recalls - comes up and stands next to him. “We’re doing everything we can,” he says. Buck knows. “Is there anyone we should call?”

At first his voice is barely a whisper. “Ch - his son, Christopher. He’s with Carla, his caregiver.” He rattles off her number from memory. “Is he -” he starts to ask, even though he knows the answer the other firefighter has to give. 

He doesn’t get a chance to answer, anyway, because suddenly Eddie is back. He’s coughing up mouthful after mouthful of water and starting to shiver so hard it looks painful and Buck shoves himself in between two paramedics, dropping to his knees next to Eddie, still choking up all the water he’d swallowed. Buck wants to say something but finds he can’t speak. He grabs Eddie’s freezing-cold hand instead, holding on for all he’s worth. The paramedics kindly work around him, loading Eddie into the back of an ambulance and beginning to check him over, Buck never once letting go of his hand.

Neither one of them has stopped shaking when they reach the hospital, though Buck is feeling marginally warmer thanks to the three blankets the paramedics had piled atop him in the ambulance. Eddie is still largely out of it, but fully conscious. He walks with Eddie and the paramedics to the doors and for once doesn’t stop and turn around when he’s met by a delegation of doctors and nurses.

--

Half an hour later, he’s sitting beside a sleeping Eddie, the both of them fully dried off and warm. Eddie is okay - he has a mild concussion, some scrapes and bruises, and two broken ribs. He’ll have a sore throat for a little while, but otherwise shouldn’t feel any lasting effects from his drowning. Because he’d drowned. Buck can’t get that one word out of his head. He can feel the guilt settling down on him like a heavy, familiar blanket. He’d almost lost Eddie, just like he’d almost lost Chris, and again it’s his fault. If he’d just stayed in the truck with Eddie when his window hadn’t broken, if he hadn’t listened when Eddie’d told him to go…

Then we might both be dead, pipes up a voice in the back of his head that sounds suspiciously like Eddie. 

Maybe, Buck allows. Or maybe we’d both - 

“Quit thinkin’ so hard. ‘S giving me a headache.”

Buck nearly falls out of his chair. “Eddie!”

Eddie gives him a smile, tired and small but genuine. “You okay?” he asks, then coughs, then winces. Buck passes him a paper cup of water, which he eyes warily before slowly drinking. 

“How are you feeling?”

“Think I asked you a question first.”

“Of course I’m fine,” Buck says. Because you’re fine, he doesn’t say. “How are you?”

Eddie seems to seriously consider the question, for once. “Sore,” he says, eventually. “Tired. But okay. Where’s Chris?”

“He and Carla are on their way. Technically visiting hours are almost up, but lucky for you I can be very convincing,” Buck says, finally allowing himself to smile in return. “The doctor says you should be good to leave tomorrow, by the way. They just wanna observe you overnight.”

Eddie doesn’t look too pleased about the second piece of information, but his smile widens at the mention of Christopher, and for a few seconds they lapse into a comfortable silence. Eddie lets his eyes flutter closed, though Buck can tell he’s not asleep. Buck, for his part, stares at Eddie and hopes that he’s not being too obvious about it. He thinks, now, that he might stare at Eddie forever, half out of a desire to make sure he doesn’t get hurt again and half out of a desire that he’s not quite brave enough to name.

Eddie’s still just a touch too pale, though he looks a good deal better than he had before. His hair has dried messily, sticking out in every direction. The bruise on his forehead is a deep shade of purple, and if Buck looks close enough he can see the bumply texture of the steering wheel on it. The ghost of his earlier smile is still on his face, soft and open. Even here, or perhaps especially here, beneath the hospital’s harsh fluorescents with the raw feeling of fear still buzzing in the air, Eddie is beautiful.

You love him, says the voice in the back of Buck’s head, sounding like Maddie this time. 

I know that, he thinks. He’s my best friend.  

You know what I mean, Maddie’s voice insists. 

He does know, of course - it might be Maddie’s voice but it’s his head - but what exactly is he supposed to do with that now? He can’t very well tell Eddie, hey, I think I’m in love with you while Eddie is in the hospital because Buck couldn’t do enough to stop him from getting hurt, again. 

“Hey.” Eddie opens his eyes, and Buck snaps himself out of his thoughts. 

“Do you need anything? How are you feeling?”

Eddie actually laughs. Rarely has Buck heard a better sound. “I’m alright, Buck. I promise.” He pauses for a second before continuing, his voice turning serious. “Look, I just wanted to say I’m sorry, okay? I made you think I was right behind you and then I wasn’t, and I know how bad it must’ve been for you to get out of there and see I wasn’t with you. I just -”

“Eddie, stop, it wasn’t your fault. It was mine, I should’ve stayed with you until you got out too, I should’ve tried harder to get back to you -”

“Hold on, no. Buck. If you had stayed with me we might both be dead. It was my decision. That’s not on you.”

“Eddie, you almost died.”

“I didn’t. And neither did you. That’s all that matters.”

Buck can see the logic behind this, at least. “You’re alive,” he agrees. 

“You’re alive,” replies Eddie. 

I love you, Buck thinks. 

“I’m in love with you,” replies Eddie.

Wait. “What?”

All at once, all of the missing color, plus a lot more, floods back into Eddie’s cheeks. “Sorry, I - well, maybe I’m not sorry, I love you, I do, but if you don’t -”

“I do.”

Eddie looks at him (or maybe Eddie still hasn’t stopped looking at him). His face is still so soft and so open and so full of love and he looks exactly like he always does but somehow Buck hasn’t seen it before, not like this, not now that he knows and god, he really just wants to kiss Eddie and then pull him impossibly close and never let go. 

“How’s your breathing?” is what he ends up asking, which is decidedly not the most romantic way to ask someone if they’re up for a kiss. 

Eddie, however, gets the point. “Good enough for a kiss, I think,” he says. “Assuming that’s what you’re thinking?”

In response, Buck leans in, one hand pressing into the uncomfortably hard hospital mattress, the other cupping the side of Eddie’s face. The kiss is soft and gentle and fairly quick, but it leaves them both nearly breathless all the same. When they pull away Eddie is still smiling, and he leans forwards and rests his head against Buck’s collarbone. “I love you,” he whispers. “A lot.”

Buck rests his cheek atop Eddie’s hair. “I love you a lot, too.”

“Dad!”

Chris comes clattering into the room, Carla hot on his heels. “Hi, boys,” she says, as Buck and Eddie separate. If Buck’s not mistaken, there’s a hint of satisfaction in her voice. “I see you’re doing just fine.”

It’s Buck’s turn to blush. He sits back down in his chair as Chris and Eddie hug. Carla gives him that all-too-knowing smile. His face heats up even more, but he smiles right back. 

“Buck!” Chris has made his way around the bed and now flings himself into Buck’s arms. “I’m glad you’re okay,” he says, his face buried in Buck’s shoulder. Buck holds onto him a little tighter at that and mentally tells himself to keep it together. 

“Can we have a sleepover tonight?” Is the next thing Chris says, with all the slyness of an eleven-year-old who knows full well what the answer to his question is going to be but who is going to ask anyway. 

“Not tonight, buddy. Your dad has to have a sleepover here -” Chris pulls a face that is startlingly familiar, the same face Buck had used on the nurse to convince her to bend the visitation hours so Chris could still come by tonight “- but how about we have a sleepover tomorrow, once he can go home?”

Chris nods happily, then settles himself down into the chair next to Buck’s. “Are you gonna stay here with Dad tonight?”

Buck looks to Eddie, then to Carla. Both of them nod. “Yeah, I am.”

Chris looks satisfied with this. Just then, the nurse stops by and informs them that, with the exception of Mr. Buckley, they need to be going. Chris and Carla each hug Eddie and then Buck before making their way to the door. Just before they step out into the hallway, Chris turns around. 

“Hey Buck?”

“Yeah?”

Chris smiles at him, and it’s all Carla. “I forgot to give Dad a goodnight kiss. Can you do it for me?”

Eddie makes a very undignified sound. Carla looks a second away from doubling over and exploding in laughter. Buck, for his part, simply stands up, leans down over Eddie, and presses a chaste kiss to his lips. “Goodnight,” he whispers, resting their foreheads together for a brief second. He then turns back to Chris, raises his eyebrows. Chris positively beams.  

He and Carla leave the room for real this time. “Night, Dad. Love you! Night, Buck. Love you!” Chris calls. “See you tomorrow!”

“Love you, too,” Buck and Eddie return, nearly in unison. They watch Chris and Carla until they disappear around a corner, at which point Buck turns to Eddie and says, “perceptive kid.”

Eddie grins - Buck can’t remember the last time the both of them smiled this much - and says, “it’s one of his many strengths.”

“Such as persuading me into a sleepover,” Buck adds. “By the way, are you okay with that? Chris just seemed so excited, but if you’re not up for it -”

“Buck. I’m up for a lot more sleepovers than just tomorrow.”

“Yeah?”

Eddie nods. “Starting now.” He scooches over in the bed as much as he can. There’s still barely enough space next to him for even the smallest of people, but Eddie is determined. “Come on, you can fit.”

“I doubt that,” Buck replies, but he’s already wedging himself in, exceedingly mindful of Eddie’s injuries. 

They end up smashed together, one of Buck’s legs hanging over the guardrail, Eddie more than halfway on top of Buck, a little bit too warm, a little bit too aware of the way the bed creaks rather ominously beneath them. But even like this they fit together in a way that feels right, their hands clasped like they had been in the ambulance. 

“I love you,” Buck says, and it’s barely been an hour but he doesn’t think he is ever going to get tired of saying those words. 

“I love you too,” Eddie whispers back. “Goodnight, Buck.”

“Goodnight, Eddie.”