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Lean on Me

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Stiles glared at the squat cement building as his dad pulled the rental car up in front of it. He knew this was the right thing to do, if only because his dad was hoping that it would help. His therapists, both his regular one and his physical one were hoping it would help. He had researched for weeks, months actually and he was hoping that it would help as well. But some tiny part of his brain still thought that it wouldn't, that there was no way that this would work.

Because how was a dog supposed to make life better after everything that had happened?

“You alright kiddo?” His dad asked. Stiles realized that he'd been staring at the building for awhile and quickly moved to unbuckle his seat belt.

“I'm fine.” Stiles said. There must have been something in his voice though because his dad reached across the console and placed a hand over his shoulder.

“You don't have to do this if you don't want to Stiles.” His dad reminded him.

“I know, Dad.” Stiles reassured him.

“We just want to see if it would help. If it doesn't, we'll find something else. Okay?” Tom Stilinski gave his son's shoulder a gentle squeeze before letting go.

“I want to try. I have to at least try.” Stiles muttered, unbuckling his seat-belt.

“Alright...Then lets go get you checked in.” Tom said before stepping out of the car. Stiles grabbed his crutches and slipped out of the vehicle.

His dad made sure that he was balanced correctly and waited patiently for him to move so that he could lean into the car and grab Stiles luggage.

Stiles glared at the bags that Tom slung over his shoulder and the suitcase that he dragged behind him.

He remembered once packing for a weekend camping trip that he and his dad had taken a couple years ago, and he hadn't needed half as much stuff as he needed now. Then again this was for two whole weeks and not just a weekend, so maybe all the extra luggage he had to haul around now was partly due to that and not so much all the extra medical supplies that he had to bring. But he couldn't help but think that his braces took up quite a bit of space in the bags, as well as the cane that his dad insisted he bring, his dad had also made him pack some extra clothes. “Just in case.” He'd said, but what the just in case was for Stiles wasn't particularly sure.

On a camping trip that made sense, just in case you fall in the lake, or just in case it rains and we get soaked. Stiles was glad that he only had one set of crutches or else his father probably would have insisted that he bring an extra pair of those as well.

Stiles was suddenly hit with the thought that this was going to be the first time since the incident that his father was going to be too far away to come and get him if something went wrong.

Stiles forced himself to breathe past the sudden lump that had formed in his throat as they moved towards the building. He tried to tell himself that he would be perfectly safe, that nothing would happen to him or his dad but he couldn't shake the sudden unease at the thought of staying away from his dad for two weeks.

“You okay kiddo?” Tom asked, somehow sensing Stiles sudden nervousness.

“Yeah...Guess I just realized that after you drop me off and go home...you're going to be pretty far away.”

Communication is very important. His therapists had stressed over and over and over again. If something is bothering you, talk to someone about it. Maybe they can do something, maybe they can't but talking about it will help.

“If you're not ready for this, we can go home. Right now.” Tom said, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk and turning so that his son could see how serious he was. “Four hours is a pretty long way away... But if you need me, I can put the lights on on the cruiser and be here a lot sooner than that.”

“Dad!” Stiles gasped, shocked but not entirely surprised that his father would resort to such options.

“I'm serious kiddo.”

“I know, that's what worries me. I don't want you getting in trouble because you were driving down the interstate with your light and siren blaring for hours. If I need you...I promise I'll call but, I really really want to try this. We were on the waiting list for six months, I'd hate to see how long they'd make us wait if we ditched now and tried again later.” Stiles said, knowing full well that a six month waiting period to get a service dog was actually a really short time to wait. He'd heard of people who had to wait years to be able to even qualify.

Once they were inside Stiles was a little surprised to see that no one was at the small reception desk. But only seconds after they walked through the door, someone came bustling out of a hallway, a dog by her side.

She had extremely frizzy black hair that was pulled into a big bun that was coming undone, dark skin that did nothing to hide the hundreds of freckles on the bridge of her nose and scattered across her cheeks. She was smiling broadly as she and the dog quickly crossed the room to them. The dog was a beautiful golden retriever wearing a dark blue vest with a badge proudly declaring it as a service dog, and requesting that no one pet it because it was working.

“Hi guys, I'm Misty and this is Peaches." She greeted them cheerfully, "She's one of the dogs were hoping to place with a handler this month. We just finished today's training session and I was about to go and put her in her kennel. I hope you haven't been waiting long, our receptionist got sick and our replacement just had a baby so, I'm basically trying to do my chores and be close to the desk today.” She rambled as she moved behind the desk.

“Peaches, down, stay.” She said as she threw herself own into a desk chair. Peaches laid down on the floor and settled in, resting her head on her paws and huffing out a deep sigh. “Okay, welcome to Canine Companions for Independence. Are you here for a tour or are you here for training and to hopefully be placed with a dog? Because I think we have a tour scheduled for today as well as people coming in for handler training and dog placing. Or the tour could be tomorrow...I'm not entirely sure.” She said with a laugh.

“I”m here to get a dog. Hopefully.” Stiles added, shifting slightly so his crutches would stop digging into his arms and he could move into a slightly less painful way of standing. He wasn't successful with the latter but that was hardly a surprise. With the amount of nerve damage that he had in his legs and spine finding a comfortable position to stand in (or sit in, or lie in, or do anything in really) was practically impossible.

The next thirty minutes flew by in a haze of paper work, and then there was a quick tour where Misty showed them around the facility. Stiles struggled silently to keep up with Misty and Peaches fast pace as she showed them the cafeteria, training areas and then finally the dorm rooms.

“You'll be staying here, Stiles. I'll leave you to get settled in and say your goodbyes.” She said, beaming brightly before she turned, hurrying away, Peaches easily keeping pace beside her.

Tom watched Stiles pace around the carpeted room, and tap the dog bed that was in the corner with the foot of one of his crutches.

“It looks like a hotel room.” Stiles said, eyeing the microwave and small fridge that were on a low cabinet near the bathroom. The very handicap accessible bathroom, Stiles thought as he peered in and ran a critical eye of the safety bars and the spaces between the toilet, tub, and sink that left plenty of space for someone in a wheelchair or who was navigating the world with crutches. Tom hummed to show his agreement as he dropped Stiles luggage in front of the dresser.

“Why do all the drawers have a bit of rope on them?” He mused aloud.

“So the dog can grab onto it and pull the drawer open.” Stiles replied and then hauled himself to his feet so he could help his dad unpack all the luggage.

Stiles noticed that his dad was unpacking very slowly, he kept folding and refolding the clothes that Stiles was just trying to jam into the drawers.

“Dad.” Stiles said, when he saw him fold a shirt for the third time, place it in the drawer then grab it and shake it out again. “Dad!” he shifted so that he could reach out with a crutch and poke his father in the side.

“Its fine, okay? You keep folding that thing over and over again you'll wear it out.”

“Alright.” Tom quickly folded it and then jammed it back into the drawer, glanced around the room, checked for the tenth time that Stiles had his pillow and sighed heavily.

“I guess I should start heading home, huh?” He said rubbing a hand over the back of his head.

“Yeah, but you better give me a hug before you go.” Stiles said, leaning heavily on one crutch and leaning the other against the wall so he could hold an arm open for his dad to come and give him a hug. Tom wrapped his arms around his sons shoulders and sighed softly, “You're getting too tall. I think you might be taller than me someday.”

“That's the goal.” Stiles said pulling back slightly, the sheriff let him go but ruffled his hair slightly as Stiles leaned past him to grab his crutch again.

“Remember, if you need me-” Tom started only to be interrupted by a slightly exasperated Stiles.

“Dad, you've told me this like twenty times now. Trust me, if I need you I will call.”

Tom ruffled his hair again and headed toward the door.

“Love ya kiddo. Behave, alright?” Tom said lingering by the door.

“I'll do my best.” Stiles promised. “Stay safe on the drive back.”

“I'll do my best.” Tom said with a small laugh. “I promise that I'll call you when I get home.”

 

*

 

Tom got five miles away from the facility before he had to pull over because his hands were shaking too hard to grip the steering wheel.

He had tried his best to put up a good front for Stiles and not betray how nervous and anxious he was about leaving his son alone for the next two weeks. He'd practically been glued to Stiles side for the last year. He'd been there since he got the call saying that Stiles had been admitted into the hospital.

That whole night was practically seared into his brain. The call from one of his deputies saying he needed to get to the hospital, that something had happened to Stiles and then the frantic drive to the hospital were not something he could ever forget.

He hadn't even the slightest clue as to what had happened until he'd slammed through the hospital doors and found Melissa McCall waiting for him, wringing her hands.

“He's in surgery right now.” Were the first words out of her mouth. “They think he got attacked by a mountain lion.”

“What the hell? How the hell did this happen? Last I knew he was in his room doing his homework! I got a call about a body in the woods and had to leave. He- he was in his room! He told me he was going to bed!” Tom ran a shaking hand through his hair as Melissa gently grabbed his elbow and steered him towards a private waiting room.

“I don't know exactly what happened but whatever it was, Scott got involved too.” She whispered shakily.

“What?” Tom froze and stared at Melissa in astonishment.

“He's unconscious. Um... it's- it looks like he hit his head on something, a tree or possibly a rock. His shoulder got clawed as well and he has bite on his side but he hasn't woken up yet and the doctor doesn't know if-” She broke off and pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes. “Whatever happened Stiles took the brunt of it and... and I knew that it'd probably help to have someone familiar tell you how he's doing and keep you updated.” She said brushing tears off her face and visibly pulling herself together.

“You should be with Scott.” Tom said, reaching out and gently squeezing her shoulder.

“I will. But first I want you to sit down and let me tell you what we know so far.” Tom had taken a seat even though he wanted to pace back and forth, even though he wanted to run through the hospital until he found his son.

“Stiles injuries are very severe." Melissa warned him before continuing, "He was clawed up quite a bit and it looks like he got thrown around some too.” Tom had pressed a hand against his mouth, feeling bile rise in his throat. “He has deep lacerations to his side, legs, hip and back. His right arm is broken in about five places. Right now, they're worried about blood lose and possible organ damage from where he was clawed in his side. Also there's some worries about spinal damage.”

“Spinal damage? Like- Is... Is he paralyzed?” Tom whispered, horror filling his veins like ice water.

“We won't know how bad the damage is until the swelling goes down and he wakes up.” Melissa informed him calmly.

“Oh God,” Tom rubbed shaking hands over his face. “Okay... What-what else?” he asked dreading the answer.

“Three broken ribs. That's about the extent of the damage.” Melissa concluded.

“He's gonna make it right? He's not dying is he?” Tom had to force the words past his lips.

“He's young and was healthy before the attack so he's got a really good chance of making it through surgery, barring any complications.” Melissa grabbed his hand and squeezed it gently. “I'm confident that he'll pull through this Tom.”

“Alright. Thank you.” Tom gave her hand a small squeeze and then pulled his hand away. “You should go and check on Scott. See how he's doing. When he wakes up I'd love to ask him what the hell they were doing out there.”

“Me too.” She said, rising to her feet and brushing the wrinkles out of her scrubs.

Tom sat in the waiting room for what felt like an eternity. Waiting for a doctor or Melissa to come and tell him how his son was doing.

“Mr. Stilinski?” A doctor entered the room, hours later and smiled at him. “Your son is out of surgery. He pulled through fantastically.”

“Oh thank God.” Tom breathed out heavy sigh of relief.

“He's still under sedation but if you want I can take you to him.” She said. “He's in the ICU right now.”

“Yes, God yes!” Tom quickly rose to his feet and eagerly followed the doctor “How is he doing?” he asked when they stopped in front of one of the rooms.

“We've got him on oxygen but that's more of a precaution than anything. He's receiving antibiotics and he's been given a rabies and tetanus booster. He's on a lot of painkillers right now, so when he wakes up he's probably going to be more than a little loopy.” She glanced over her shoulder at the closed door and sighed softly. “I'm going to be honest with you Mr. Stilinski, he has a long recovery ahead of him. He's lost a lot of blood and there is most likely nerve damage from where he broke his arm as well as where his legs were clawed but with his spinal injury... Mr. Stilinski, quite frankly it will be a miracle if he can walk again.”

“Oh God,” Tom gasped, pressing a hand against his mouth.

“I know this is disheartening news, but quite frankly, there is a lot to celebrate and be joyful about. He has no major internal injuries. All his major organs are fine. He was hemorrhaging and had started showing signs of advanced hypovalemic shock. We got the bleeding stopped and he's getting a blood transfusion and fluids. He is going to recover Mr. Stilinski.” The doctor squeezed his shoulder gently and then opened the door. “I'll give you two a few minutes and then someone will come and tell you what's going to be happening over the next critical twenty-four hours.”

Tom had crept into the room on shaky legs, holding his breath at the sight of his son stretched out on a hospital bed. He'd tried not to think of the last time he'd seen his wife and failed.

Slowly, on legs that shook and trembled beneath his weight he'd crossed the room to stand beside Stiles. He was covered in wires and tubes and his face was extremely pale, nearly the same shade of white as the sheets beneath him, dark shadows beneath his eyes. Tom slowly sank down into the chair that was beside the bed and gently griped the hand that didn't have an IV embedded in it, careful of the cast on Stiles arm he mostly wound up gripping his fingers. He watched Stiles chest rise and fall and the oxygen mask on his face fog over with every exhale.

“Oh, kiddo.” He whispered, he reached out and stroked a hand over Stiles short and bristly hair. “You're gonna be okay. I got you.” He refused to let go of his hand all night. He held Stiles hand while the doctors came in and ran more tests, while they explained that Stiles might need another surgery, he held Stiles hand while they talked about the therapy he was going to need and he held his hand when Melissa came in with coffee and some burritos.

“Figured you might need a little pick me up.” She whispered, setting them on a small table and dragging it over beside him.

“Thanks Mel.” Tom took a small sip of the coffee and sighed as the bitter liquid hit his tongue. “How's Scott doing?”

“No change.” She whispered, her eyes roving over Stiles monitors. “How's Stiles? The doctors aren't telling me much anymore now that you're here. Saying that you should decided who gets that information. They're all insisting that I stay with Scott too but... I need to know that Stiles is gonna be okay as well, you know?”

“Yeah... The amount that he's over at your place your practically his...” Tom trailed off, unable to say that she was practically his second mom and sighed heavily. Melissa seemed to understand what he meant though cause she smiled gently and whispered “Thanks Tom.”

“He might never walk again, Mel. The doc said it'd be a miracle if he did.” Tom scrubbed a hand over his face, fighting back tears.

“Oh God.” Melissa cupped a hand over her mouth and shook her head frantically. “No. No, he's going to be fine. He's going to walk out of this hospital and Scott's going to wake up and we are going to ground them both until their a hundred and five.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Tom said taking another sip of his coffee and squeezing Stiles hand a little tighter.

Melissa sat with him until he'd finished his coffee and burrito then she gathered the trash up and brushed a gentle hand over Stiles hair.

“You should probably try and get some sleep Tom. Between the painkillers and the anesthetic, I'd be surprised if Stiles woke up tonight.”

“You gonna sleep Mel?” Tom asked, raising an eyebrow. Melissa snorted and didn't bother replying beyond that. “Didn't think so. Don't be a hypocrite Mel, neither one of is sleeping tonight. Let me know when Scott wakes up.”

“Alright, same thing for Stiles.” Tom nodded, his gaze fixed on Stiles face once again, waiting as patiently as he could for Stiles to open his eyes.

Despite the caffeine in his system, he'd eventually leaned back in the chair, made sure he wasn't pulling on Stiles arm, and dozed off.

He was roused when he felt something squeezing his hand. He'd jolted upright and looked down, seeing Stiles fingers twitch weekly against his.

“Kiddo?” He'd turned to face Stiles and saw his eyes fluttering weakly. “Hey, hey kiddo I'm here. I got you. Can you open your eyes for me?” Stiles had scrunched his nose and mumbled weakly, the words incoherent.

“Come on Mischief. Open your eyes.” Stiles had mumbled some more and turned his head towards his dad's voice and Tom had squeezed his fingers tightly. “Come on Mieczyslaw, you can do it.” Stiles eyes finally slid open and Tom had beamed at him.

“Hey kiddo.” He whispered. “Hey buddy, you're okay. I got you. You're gonna be okay.” Stiles had smiled weakly before his eyes slid closed again and moments later a small snore slipped past his lips. Tom bit back a laugh and pressed his forehead against Stiles fingers. Ecstatic that Stiles had roused even that much he could feel a small weight lifting off his shoulders.

He was going to be okay.

They were both going to be okay.

The next morning however, when Stiles fully woke up and started to panic because he couldn't feel his legs, Tom thought that maybe he'd been a little bit too optimistic.

Once he'd gotten Stiles calmed down and the doctor had come in and explained Stiles injuries to him, Stiles had surprised him by saying that it didn't matter if he couldn't walk again.

“I'm gonna live, right?” He'd asked the doctor, when the doctor reassured him that he was out of the woods and that, yes he was going to live, he'd sighed softly,

“Then everything else is secondary. There was... There was a-a moment while I was out there that.. I was sure I was ever going to see you again.” He whispered squeezing his fathers hand as tightly as he could. Tom had sniffled and wiped his face harshly, trying to banish the tears that refused to stop sliding down his cheeks.

“Besides, there's thousands, or I dunno, millions of people who live with disabilities every single day. They still live normal lives.” Stiles pointed out.

“I know that kiddo.” Tom said gently. But none of those people are my son, he couldn't help but selfishly think.

“How's Scott?” Stiles asked suddenly, trying to push himself upright and then gasping in pain when the movement pulled at his many wounds. That gasp turned into a sharp cry and the doctor was quick to step forward and administer another dose of pain medications.

“Scott's alright.” Tom quickly reassured Stiles, rubbing a hand over his hair and trying to ignore the pained whimpers that Stiles was releasing. He was sure that Scott was okay because if there had been any change, he was sure that Melissa would have sought him out. So in this case he was taking no news as good news. Or at least, no change. “He's unconscious but he's gonna wake up any minute now, alright? You just relax kiddo. Just breathe. Everything is going to be okay.”

At that Stiles relaxed and had allowed the painkillers to drag him back under. Tom waited a few minutes, to make sure that Stiles was truly asleep before he sighed heavily and finally forced himself to let go of Stiles hand. He needed to use the restroom, get more coffee and maybe check on Melissa and see how she was doing. Stiles would be okay by himself for just a few minutes.

It took him a little while to find Scott's room.

Right as he was about to knock, the door wrenched open and Melissa stumbled out of the room and into the hall. Her knees buckled and she started to slide to the floor, it had happened too quickly for Tom to do more than reach his hands out before her knees had hit the linoleum.

“Mel!” He cried, throwing himself down beside her. “What's wrong? What happened?”

“He's okay!” She gasped and then laughed. “He's okay. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, it's fine! Everything is going to be fine!”

“You scared the crap out of me!” Tom cried in exasperation.

“Sorry, I've just been so scared.” Melissa whispered, clutching his hand tightly. “There was a moment there where... Where it looked like he wasn't going to wake up and I just didn't know what I was going to do. About an hour ago he just opened his eyes and asked me why I was crying. The doctors ran all their tests again and, he's only got a mild concussion. Maybe he moved during the initial scans? Or maybe his scans got mixed up with someone else? Tom, I don't understand how and I don't even care but.. he's going to be alright.” She'd beamed up at him, tears of relief in her eyes. Tom had helped her to her feet and she told him that it seemed like Scott couldn't remember what had happened.

“He thinks it's Monday, he just about flipped when I told him it was Saturday. That's quite a bit of time to lose but, it's fine. Everything else checks out. He's sleeping now. How's Stiles doing?” She asked gently tugging him down the hall back towards Stiles room.

“He...uh...He got worried about Scott and tried to jump out of bed despite the fact that he can't feel his legs, just about tore out of all his stitches in the process. His doctor gave him some more painkillers and they knocked him right out. So he's sleeping again.” Tom rubbed a hand over his face and sighed heavily. “When he realized that he might be paralyzed he said, “I'm gonna live right? Everything else is secondary.” Surprised the heck out of me not gonna lie but... I just, I just, I don't think it's really sunk in for him yet. I know it sure as hell hasn't sunk in for me yet.” Melissa sighed softly and stopped in front of Stiles door.

“I want you to know that I'm here for you both Tom. If you need a break I can sit with him, or if you need me to do a coffee run or anything like that, let me know. I have a feeling this place is going to be your home for a while.” She said, glancing around the hospital hallways. “I get to take Scott home later today but if you need me, for anything, I will be here, alright?”

“Thanks.” The word felt paltry compared to how grateful he was truly feeling, but he couldn't think of anything else to say to express his gratitude, so he just repeated it. “Thank you.”

And she had been there, her and Scott both. Through all the months of recovery and physical therapy.

They had helped keep Stiles cheerful and had been shoulders for Stiles to cry on when the pain was too much. Sympathetic ears for when Stiles couldn't sleep because of nightmares. Helping hands during physical therapy as well as helping Tom with the renovations that the house had to undertake so Stiles could come home.

They had been there when Tom said that he thought Stiles should start seeing a therapist and the arguments that had followed.

“You haven't really slept in like a week, dude.” Scott had whispered, reaching out and squeezing Stiles fingers.

“I'll start seeing one too.” Tom had declared. “I know there's some things that I'm gonna need help with, so I know how to help you and so I can move on from this. I'm struggling with this too kiddo and there's no shame in needing someone to talk to or needing a little help. We've probably told you that a million times already.”

“And we'll say it a million more times or however many times it needs to be said, until you really understand it Stiles. It's okay to need a little help. We're here for you, sweetie.” Melissa had reassured him, gently squeezing his knee.

Stiles had finally conceded the argument and had started seeing a psychiatrist. He started getting a bit more sleep but he was still plagued with nightmares almost every night. His doctors all agreed that a sleep aid should be added to his medications.

“They don't want me to get dependent on it, it's for when I've gone like, three days without sleep and am seeing pink elephants floating around the room cause I'm so tired.” Stiles told him with a small laugh.

Tom was surprised at how responsible Stiles was with all his other meds as well. He had asked Tom to hold onto them.

“That way, I have to really think about if I want a pain pill or a sleep pill. Cause I'll have to bother you for one.” Tom thought it was a pretty sound idea but he didn't like how Stiles would often wait until he was in so much pain he could barely move before he asked his dad for a painkiller.

“I don't want to reach for the big guns every time I start hurting dad. I worry that that would very quickly make me an addict and I don't want that.” Stiles confessed when Tom confronted him about it. “The pains most likely going to be chronic with the amount of nerve damage that I have. The fact that I can feel some parts of my legs means that there's a possibility of me walking again but it also means that I can feel where I got clawed up.” Tom didn't have the heart to remind Stiles of the doctors saying him walking again would be a miracle. He just nodded and asked Stiles to try and be a little bit more on top of his pain management. He shouldn't wait until he was crying in pain before he asked for a painkiller.

Even with a sleep aide and the therapy Stiles nightmares continued, Tom hated seeing Stiles wake up gasping or worse, wake up screaming.

“He's going to need time.” Tom's therapist told him. “Time and knowing that you're there for him are things that will help.”

Finally, the day came that Tom was able to take Stiles home.

“I missed the way this place smells.” Stiles had said, taking a deep breath in when Tom pushed him up the brand new wheelchair ramp and through the front door. “That probably sounds really weird, huh?”

“Nah, dude I totally get it. I've felt that way after having to stay at the hospital for a few days after a really bad asthma attack or my nearly yearly case of pneumonia.” Scott said, pushing past them with a bag of some of the things that Stiles had collected over the course of a two month long hospital stay slung over one shoulder. “Come and check and make sure I got your room set up right, dude. Let's check the bathroom too, I think there's like three grab bars too many but maybe there needs to be more?”

Tom watched Stiles slowly push his wheelchair down the hall and went to the kitchen to grab a glass of water.

“This is only the start you know? There's going to be rough days ahead, Tom. Being in the hospital and realizing some of things that he can't do anymore and actually being home and being confronted with all the things that are going to be different now, are two completely and totally different things.” Melissa informed him as she joined him in the kitchen.

“Yeah, I know. I've been talking to a therapist as well and that was one of the things I was warned about. But even so.... I'm glad he's home again.”

“You know he's gonna have a lot of catching up to do in school as well right?”

“Scott's been bringing his homework by and was recording the classes. He got permission from the principal and all the teachers to do so. Except Harris of course.” Tom said rolling his eyes.

“Of course.” Melissa chuckled softly and rubbed a hand over her face. “Totally rhetorical question but honestly, when is that man going to grow up and act like an actual adult? Anyway, you want pizza for supper tonight? I think Stiles being home calls for a celebration.”

“Better be veggie pizza!” Stiles hollered as he rolled by the doorway.

“You do know that I ate just fine while you were in the hospital right?” Tom yelled after him. Stiles rolled backwards just to raise an eyebrow at him before he pushed himself back down the hall.

“Pizza sounds great Mel.” They ate in the living room because Stiles had gotten comfortable on the couch and refused to move and quite frankly, Tom didn't have the heart to make him move. Stiles was so rarely able to find a comfortable position to sit or lay down in that didn't make his back spasm or hurt.

“You know Scotty,” Stiles remarked around a mouthful of cheese pizza “You haven't really been talking a lot about things at school beyond what's necessary for homework. Kinda feel like you're purposefully leaving me in the dark about something.”

“Well... There is something but I dunno... It always felt kinda selfish to bring it up while you were in the hospital.” Scott mumbled with a small shrug.

“Since that is no longer an applicable excuse, you better spill.” Stiles said throwing his pizza crust at Scott's head.

“Hey! Not cool.” Scott grumbled tossing it back.

“This is not a high-school cafeteria food fight you two, knock it off.” Melissa chided with a smile.

“Sorry mom. Anyway... I met this girl.” Scott rubbed the back of his neck, a bright blush lighting up his face.

“DUDE! There's a girl and you didn't tell me anything!? For shame Scotty!” Stiles cried, dramatically clutching at his chest.

“Her name's Allison.” And then Scott had been off, talking about how sweet Allison was and how nice and how pretty she was and how Scott couldn't wait for Stiles to meet her. The rest of the evening had passed by quickly and the McCalls had helped to tidy things up before they left for the night.

“Hey dad,” Stiles called from his room and Tom had to fight the urge to run into Stiles room and ask what was wrong. The only reason why he was able to refrain was because Stiles didn't sound like he was panicking or hurt.

“What's up kiddo?” Tom asked, poking his head into his son's new bedroom. It had previously been used as his office but since Stiles couldn't make it up the stairs now he'd switched the two rooms around with Scott's help.

“When do you think I'll be able to go back to school” Stiles asked, picking at a loosed thread that was on his comforter.

“That's kinda up to you kiddo. Whenever you're ready.”

“What if I'm never ready? What if I don't want to go back to school?” Stiles asked avoiding Tom's gaze.

“Mischief, what's brought this on?” Tom asked, sitting down on the foot of Stiles bed.

“Everyone's going to stare at me and they're all going to ask what happened. How can I explain being attacked by a friggin hell beast? I can't even explain it to myself.” Stiles angrily scrubbed his hands over his face.

“Hell beast?” Tom asked.

“It wasn't a mountain lion dad. I know what I saw and it definitely was not a mountain lion.” Stiles grumbled.

“Then what was it?”

“I don't know.” Stiles whispered. “I've never seen anything like it before. It was... monstrous.”

It wouldn't be the last discussion they had of what had happened that night. Stiles never called it a mountain lion, he always called it a hell beast, or the monster, or a nightmare creature.

Even after talking to his therapist about it and his therapist telling him that he simply might not be remembering it correctly, that his nightmares were of something that had hurt him so badly and so deeply that it must have been a monster, he still never called it a mountain lion.

When Stiles finally started going to school again, it became very obvious, very quickly that Stiles problems didn't stop at nightmares.

Loud noises, having his back turned to the busy hallway while he got things out of his locker, people coming up behind him, unexpected physical contact, all these things could send Stiles into a massive panic attack.

Anti-anxiety medication was added to his growing list of pills but it only helped so much. Stiles started to hate school even more than he had before the incident.

“I feel like a zombie half the time and the other half I'm an exposed nerve. It's like, take my anti-anxiety and feel brain fogged or constantly be panicking.” Stiles had complained. They'd tried different anti-anxieties until they found one that didn't make Stiles feel so zombified but Tom noticed that Stiles was getting more and more depressed as time wore on.

“I'm tired just from lack of sleep cause of the nightmares or cause I spent half the night trying to find a comfortable position.” Stiles said, trying to shrug it off. But Tom could see that Stiles was struggling.

Three months after the attack in the woods Stiles had been transferring himself into his wheelchair and had banged his foot against the dresser, his yelp of pain brought his father rushing into his room. Tom's concern only grew when he found Stiles staring at his feet incredulously.

“What is it? What's wrong?” Tom had asked, rushing to his side.

“I hit my foot on the dresser,” Stiles whispered, “And I felt it. I haven't felt my toes in months. My hips and my thighs a little bit but not my toes.”

“This... this is good right?” Tom asked, his gaze now also riveted to Stiles pale and bony feet.

“Maybe?” Stiles leaned forward and jabbed his big toe harshly, gasping in shock when he felt it and saw his toes curl up a little.

“Holy sh- Stiles, wiggle your toes. Don't poke them again, just try and wiggle them.” Tom ordered, hope filling his voice. Stiles stared at his feet for another minute before he gave his toes a tiny wiggle.

“Oh my GOD!!” Stiles yelled, he gave his toes another tiny wiggle and then burst into tears. Tom wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him to his chest. “I can feel my toes!” Stiles cried happily.

“I'm gonna call your doctor, alright? And then Melissa. You should call Scott and tell him.” Stiles dried his eyes and beamed up at his dad.

“I'm gonna walk again.” He said, no, he promised. His eyes shining brightly he griped his dads hand and positively beamed up at him. “I'm gonna walk again.”

And he had. It had taken another two months of physical therapy before he was able to take even a couple steps, but he did it.

He'd never be able to walk without some sort of mobility device, and he'd probably always have to wear braces, but he was walking. He'd never run again his doctor informed him but Stiles had beamed and waved his crutches around happily, saying that he didn't care if he could run cause he'd never been good at it anyway.

“If I ever want to dance with somebody they'll just have to help hold me up!” Stiles had declared with a bright laugh. “Besides, you all said I'd never walk again and I'm walking! So maybe one day I will run again. But if I never do, that's fine with me.”

Walking again had definitely helped a little bit with Stiles depression. But it didn't help with his anxiety. It didn't help with his nightmares. And if anything, it just made his pain worse as he forced himself to keep walking, even after he'd hit his limit. Many times Tom found Stiles on the floor, biting back curses as he tried to pull himself to his feet on shaking legs.

Six months after the attack, Tom sat Stiles down to have a very serious talk.

“I've been talking with your therapists. Physical and psychiatric. We've agreed that this isn't working.” Tom started the conversation.

“What's not working?” Stiles asked, his expression nervous and wary.

“This: you going to school and missing half the day cause you locked yourself in the bathroom after something triggered you. You taking your xanax almost everyday for the past moth because you've been so stressed. You've only been to the grocery store twice since leaving the hospital and both times we had to leave because you had a panic attack so bad almost passed out. You don't go anywhere anymore unless Scott or I are with you. You've fallen down the school steps seven times now and you almost broke your wrist last time! The time before that you gave yourself a concussion!” Tom cried out in exasperation.

“It was only a mild concussion.” Stiles muttered under his breath. Tom chose to pretend he hadn't heard that or else he probably would have just wound up groaning for a half hour straight.

“So, I've been talking to your therapists about what else we can do and you're psychiatrist, Dr. Mulroney said that maybe we should think about a service dog.”

“A service dog?” Stiles had replied, clearly this was not what he thought his dad was going to say.

“A service dog. They have dogs for PTSD and for mobility assistance.” Tom informed him.

“But PTSD service dogs are for veterans.” Stiles had protested.

“Or they're for teenage boys who got attacked in the woods and have PTSD.” Tom said gently.

Stiles had frowned deeply and said he'd think about it.

Over the next few weeks they talked extensively about the pros and cons of a service dog and how one could help Stiles with his mobility as well as some of his other problems.

“Did you know that some dog's are trained so that the handler can have them search a house and see if there's a stranger there?” Stiles asked. “Also, did you know that some dogs are trained on how to unlock a door in case their handler jumps out a window and takes off? They'll unlock the door and go find their handler. That's really cool.”

“Not exactly something you'd need.” Tom had replied.

“No, I just thought it was cool. A lot of mobility dogs are trained to pick up things when the owner drops them or to go and get help if the handler falls over or has a seizure or passes out. That would be a great skill for if I fell over and knocked myself unconscious again.” Stiles had said, beaming up at him, seemingly unrepentant of all the worrying Tom was suffering through. “Also they're trained to help their handlers on uneven ground or on stairs. They can turn on lights and like all kinds of other cool stuff. PTSD dogs are trained to like, guard someone's back while they're in line or... I guess for me it'd be while I get stuff out of my locker.” Stiles mumbled under his breath.

About a month of intense research later Stiles had said that maybe a service dog would be a good idea.

“I mean, we can at least send in an application and see if we're even applicable.” He'd said with a small shrug.

They'd gotten their reply a week later. They were eligible, but they wouldn't be able to get a dog, or even be able to try to get a dog for six months.

“That's fine. I can wait that long.” Stiles had declared. The wait had been torturous but now Stiles was finally going to get his dog.

His life was going to be so much easier. He was going to get some of his independence back. Tom tried to reassure himself that he was doing the right thing by leaving Stiles for the next two weeks.

“There's trained medical professionals and there's a hospital two miles away in case something really bad happens. Everyone's got my number and I'm his emergency contact. But that's all unnecessary because everything is going to be fine.” Tom scrubbed his hands harshly over his face and took a deep breath.

“Everything is going to be fine.” He reassured himself once more. He sat back and just breathed for a little while, deep and slow and even until his hands had stopped shaking and he felt like he could safely drive again, then he started on the long trip back home.

END CHAPTER

Chapter Text

When Tom walked into the house, he was struck by how quiet it was.

He'd gotten used to the noise of Stiles tramping through the house on his crutches and clattering about. The silence was reminding him of when Stiles was in the hospital. So he went and turned the television on just so that he'd have some noise. Then he called Stiles to let him know that he'd made it home but Stiles didn't answer the phone.

“Must be busy with training.” He told himself, trying not to panic over a missed call. He left a message, letting Stiles know that he'd made it home safely and to call him whenever he got the time to do so.

Glancing at the time he realized that he should start on supper. He thought about calling Melissa and Scott over for dinner, just so that he wouldn't be alone. But then he remembered that Melissa was working and Scott had been planning on hanging out with Allison. So he just had a quiet dinner by himself, watching the news and then a baseball game that happened to be on.

After he finished eating he loaded up the dishwasher and while that was going he realized that he hadn't done his laundry. He quietly puttered around the house, doing a few small chores and tidying up until Stiles finally called him around nine.

“Heyo daddio!” Stiles voice was bright and cheerful and Tom could feel a small knot of anxiety loosen at his voice. He didn't realize how tense he'd become until he heard Stiles voice and all the tension left him in a sudden rush.

“Hey kiddo, how are you doing?” Tom asked, sitting on the edge of his bed and giving Stiles his full attention.

“I'm doing alright. I want to introduce you to someone, so I'm gonna hang up and call you on Skype okay?” Stiles didn't even give him a chance to reply before he'd ended the call. Barely a minute later he had Stiles face filling the screen of his phone.

“Okay Dad, you remember the dog we saw when we first came in?” He asked, grinning widely.

“Yeah.”

“Her name is Peaches, in case you forgot, and apparently she's the dog I'm going to be training with!” Stiles grinned brightly and then turned the camera around so Tom could see the golden retriever sniffing around Stiles room. “She is so soft dad! It's like petting a cloud, I swear!” Tom smiled at hearing the brightness in his sons voice.

“Also, I met the other people who are here to get placed with a dog. There's only four of us but the trainer said something about how she works best in a smaller group, so she can really focus on the individual handlers and dogs. Anyway, they had us all get together in the rec room and introduce ourselves first. There's a lady here who is also getting a mobility assistance slash PTSD trained service dog like me, her name is Patty. She's a double amputee and a veteran. Then there's also guy who was a stunt double, apparently a stunt went wrong and now he's completely paralyzed from like, the armpits down, his name's Simon. And then there's Amanda, she has diabetes and epilepsy. Everyone was really nice and Simon said he'd look out for me like I was one of his nephews and Amanda was like “Same.” Anyway, we didn't do a lot of training today. It was kind of just an introduction to each other and to our dogs kind of day. We did some sit stays and down stays and then we had supper. Speaking of which, what did you eat? Did you finish off the spinach chicken Alfredo leftovers? That really needs to be eaten soon.” Tom listened to Stiles chatter and answered the occasional question that Stiles would randomly throw out. He watched as Peaches roamed the room because Stiles still had the camera trained on her, sniffing everything in sight before she eventually laid down on the dog bed in the corner.

“I think she has the right idea kiddo, you should get some sleep. You have a big day ahead of you.” Tom said, gently interrupting Stiles as he made guesses about what they might be doing for the next days training with the dogs.

“Yeah I know, honestly I'm really excited for it. Peaches seems really smart and I'm looking forward to working with her. You gotta try and get some sleep too, I know it'll probably be hard for you cause I'm not there, but ya gotta try. Or maybe you'll actually manage to get a decent nights sleep without my nightmares waking you up. Anyway, I miss you already, hell I basically started missing you the moment that you walked out the door.” Stiles confessed.

“Language, and I miss you too kiddo. We'll talk more tomorrow. You try and get some sleep, alright?”

“Alright. Love you lots dad, goodnight.” Stiles said turning the camera around so he could give his dad a big grin.

“Love you too, goodnight.” Tom hung up and stared at the phone for a long moment before he eventually pushed himself to his feet and started getting ready for bed. He knew that sleep was a long time coming, but he had to at least lay down and pretend to himself that he was going to get a full nights rest.

He was surprised when he got a text from Melissa when it was almost midnight.

How'd it go? The text read.

Not bad. The other handlers (people getting service dogs) like him I think. He replied.

Oh shoot. just saw the time, sorry, I just got a break and thought I'd check in. sorry if I woke you.

You didn't. Tom reassured her.

Alright, well I'm exhausted and you need to get some sleep tom.... stiles is going to be fine.

Goodnight Mel

Night Tom

 

*

 

Tom woke up to the sound of his phone going off, it was a good morning text from Stiles, which was a small surprise. Normally, during summer break Stiles wasn't awake until almost ten and here he was texting him at six thirty in the morning.

Unless he'd had a nightmare and just didn't bother going back to sleep. He'd done that a lot over the last year. Tom was tempted to ask him what time he'd woken up but refrained. He had to trust that if something was wrong Stiles would tell him.

Good morning. Tom stared at his phone for a minute, hoping that Stiles would tell him if something was wrong. He hated it when Stiles would try to hide things from him. They'd talked a lot about how Tom didn't mind being woken up if Stiles was having a nightmare. How, in fact, he preferred to be woken up over Stiles suffering by himself.

They are making us wake up early for training. Shoot me... this is not what I signed up for. Stiles dramatic grumbling made Tom burst out laughing, partially in relief and also because he could imagine the surly look that Stiles would be directing at whoever had woken him up.

You'll feel better after some breakfast. Tom texted him, chuckling softly.

Uuuuuuuuuuuuuggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh was Stiles only reply.

He didn't hear anymore from Stiles until his lunch break when he got a picture of Peaches. She was laying down in the grass, wearing a complicated looking series of leather straps with a rigid handle sticking up off the top portion of it.

She's so smart!! Was the photos caption.

Later that evening Stiles called him on Skype again, a big grin on his face despite looking exhausted.

“Today was a lot of work!” Stiles cheerfully informed him when Tom commented that he looked tired. “Waking up super early definitely didn't help either. But I think it will be worth it. Hey, so you got the picture I sent right?” Stiles asked.

“Yeah, she's a beautiful dog and it's a great picture.” Tom replied.

“Did you see the harness she's wearing? It's a special mobility harness! The handle kind of reminded me a little of the handles on like, a seeing eye dogs harnesses but like, this one is rigid and stands straight up, it's for bracing on when I stand up or when I'm going up or down the stairs. It's made so that when putting weight on the dog it's not just like, directly on their spine or their shoulders but like behind their withers like how a saddle is on a horse. Which I didn't even know that dogs technically have withers, so I learned something new today! Anyway, it's really cool!! Another one of the handlers dogs has the same type of harness too. Uh... shoot... Patty! That's her name, Patty, her dog has the same type of harness. So today me and Patty...Patty and I? Anyway, we were taught how to properly brace with our dogs when their wearing the harness and when they aren't wearing it and how to put the harness on and take it off. Like, when you're looking at it all these straps seem super complicated but it's really not, it's designed to be easy to put on and take off, it's really cool.” Stiles informed him. “I tripped like five times today though and that was super embarrassing. Peaches walks kind of fast and I was trying to keep up with her and instead I just face planted. Really, really awkward but our instructor, Jaycee, she was just like, “You okay? You're not hurt? Okay go ahead and use the brace command and use your dog to get up.” So I guess I provided a teaching moment.” Stiles said with a sheepish laugh.

“You're okay though? You checked yourself over and made sure you didn't cut yourself or anything like that, right?” Tom asked, concerned. Stiles legs had never fully regained sensation, and so it was easy for him to acquire injuries without him noticing it. Stiles had had to learn to check himself over after he fell or ran into something. Things that he did quite frequently.

“A couple bruises, but they're not too bad.” Stiles reassured him with a shrug. “Anyway, how's your day been?”

They talked for a while longer, Tom talking about his day and Stiles talking about some of the training they were doing with their dogs.

By the end of their call Tom was once again glad that they had decided to go ahead with this, Stiles looked like he was enjoying the challenge and from the things he was talking about the dogs being trained to do it sounded like Peaches was going to be a big help.

“Alright kiddo, you've yawned about five times in the last three minutes. You need to get some sleep, you have another busy day ahead of you tomorrow.” Tom had to fight back a grin when Stiles yawned again.

“Yeah, you're right. Night, love you.” Stiles murmured sleepily.

“Good night, love you too.” Tom replied around a yawn. After hanging up and turning off the lights it didn't take long after his head hit the pillows before he was asleep.

*

The next morning Stiles once again woke him up by complaining about the early hour. Tom got through the day with a few texts from Stiles which were mostly pictures of Peaches or of the other service dogs and their handlers.

I feel so dumb compared to these dogs holy heck they're all so smart!! Stiles sent him at one point and Tom chuckled about that to himself for a little while.

Then after lunch Stiles sent a text simply saying, I don't know if this is going to work. He didn't say anymore for a good portion of the day and Tom's unease at that text grew and grew until it had formed an icy pit in his stomach. He'd texted and asked if Stiles was okay, if he needed Tom to come and get him, but there was no answer until it was nearly time for Tom to get off his shift.

I'm fine. Was all the text said and that did nothing to ease the icy pit in his stomach, if anything it just made it worse. Stiles only tended to say that he was fine if he was actually struggling or having trouble, if he was actually doing alright he'd say that he was good or that he was okay. He never actually said that he was fine and meant it.

What's wrong? He asked immediately after that text had come in.

I'll talk to you in a couple of hours, I'm fine you don't need to come get me. Was Stiles reply, it was also the last Tom heard from him until that evening as he was getting ready for bed and Stiles called him.

“Heyo daddio,” Stiles greeted the moment the call connected, Tom could hear the exhaustion lacing his voice and had a feeling that if he were to be doing a video call with his son, that he'd be able to see dark shadows under Stiles eyes.

“Hey kiddo, rough day?” Tom asked gently.

“Yeah that's pretty accurate." Stiles admitted with a sigh. "I had to take a couple painkillers and I fell a few times again. I just... I don't know.. I feel like I'm struggling to keep up with everyone else right now. They're faster than me and Peaches is so much faster than me too! She walks really fast! Sometimes I feel like I can't really keep up with her and when I try to I faceplant, so that's embarrassing. And she's so smart, so very, very smart. She is just constantly waiting for me to catch up to her and give her the next command or the next task and sometimes she hears what the trainers want and she's just looking at me like 'come on dude why are you so slow??'. And I just really feel like I've been struggling and maybe I wasn't ready to have a dog quite yet. Maybe I needed to recover for a little while longer before we tried this” Stiles ended his rant with a heavy sigh.

“Well, you've come a long way with your physical therapy and your doctors thought you were at a good point in your recovery to try and do this.” Tom reminded him. “I know you hate all the limitations that you have now and the troubles you have but you've definitely come a long way. Maybe you'll recover more in a year or maybe this is just where you'll be at for the rest of your life. I can't say for certain one way or another, you've already beat the doctor's expectations by being able to walk at all. But maybe there's something you can do with Peaches? Maybe you should talk to one of the trainers, see if there's a way to get Peaches to walk a little bit slower for you?” Tom suggested. “Or you can talk to them and tell them you're not quite sure if you're ready for a dog. That's up to you kiddo.”

Stiles was quiet for a while, obviously mulling over Tom's words carefully.

“I'll try to talk to Jaycee first, see if there's anything that can be done about Peaches walking my pace a little bit better.” Stiles finally decided.

“Alright, sounds like a good plan to me. Now, it's getting pretty late and I know you have an early start to your day tomorrow, so you should try to get some sleep. I'll talk to you more tomorrow kiddo.”

“Okay, good night dad. Love you.” Stiles said with a jaw cracking yawn.

“Love you too, good night.” Tom hung up the call and stared down at his phone. Despite the reassuring words he'd tried to give to his son, Tom was honestly a bit worried about whether or not they'd pushed a little bit too soon to try and get Stiles a service dog.

With anxiety churning through his stomach and doubts beginning to swirl through his mind, he turned off his lights and prepared himself for a restless night of sleep.