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House Call

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When Walter woke up, he didn’t exactly remember how he’d ended up on the floor, or where he even was- a cursory glance around told him that he had made it home, thank goodness. But why he was on the floor was the better question.

The answer to that came as he sat up, a soft gasp escaping him as a knife of pain jerked through his side. He dragged in a slow breath and stifled a groan as his ribs protested. He pressed a hand to his side, and was relieved to find that there was no blood- a few cracked or even broken ribs was something he could handle, but an external fracture would have been far more serious. He could taste blood in his mouth, and there was a dull ache throbbing behind his eyes. 

Taking a few moments to collect himself, Walter struggled to his feet, supporting himself using the wall and stumbling toward the bathroom, knowing he needed to take inventory of his injuries and gauge just how severe they were. Part of him wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for as long as he could manage, but if he did that, he risked an attempt on his life. 

He let out a sigh of dismay as he caught his reflection in the mirror. His nose didn’t appear to be broken, but there was a copious amount of blood that was still crusted on his lips and chin. With still-trembling hands, he took a washcloth and started to scrub the blood off of his face. He didn’t bother with gentleness, nearly scrubbing his skin raw as the blood flaked away. 

As he looked himself over, he noticed the blood on his hands. He wasn’t really sure if it was his or someone else’s- that is, until he noticed the dark, ugly gash in his forehead, that was still slowly oozing blood down his face. He blinked and felt his vision tilt, catching himself on the sink. His first reaction was to swear quietly, and his second was to fish his phone out of his pocket, searching through his contacts for anyone, literally anyone who could provide assistance- something about this genuinely scared him. 

Barbara Lake. He paused at the sight of her name- she was a doctor, after all, but... No, he couldn’t call her, because her son was the Trollhunter, for god’s sake. And she seemed to have romantic interest in him, she couldn’t be seeing him like this... There was no way she would care if she knew how careless he had been, god forbid if she found out what he had been doing. 

Walter pressed call before he could stop himself.

One ring, he considered hanging up. Two, he... continued to reconsider- and he hung up. He would sound like an absolute asshole if he called her absolutely out of the blue. There was no way she would be willing to drop everything and just come see him. He was an absolute imbecile for even thinking of calling her- god, FUCK, maybe he really didn’t deserve to be fixed at all. He considered it a punishment for his hopelessly reckless behavior. He hadn’t checked the time, maybe she was at work, or sleeping. Part of him ached for her to call back. Another part of him begged her not to.

The phone rang. He let it ring, once, twice, three times- he hit the “accept call” button on the last one. 

”Walt?” Barbara Lake’s voice was soft and a little scratchy with sleep as she answered, and he felt a soft fluttering in his chest that had nothing to do with his broken ribs. “It’s... a little late, but I saw you called, and I’m always glad to hear from you. I had a really good time on the last date,” He smiled softly and inhaled, wincing and trying to collect himself so she wouldn’t immediately know something was wrong. 

“Barbara, good evening. I, ah, I misdialed, I’m sorry-“ he stumbled over his words. 

“Walter, you sound off, is everything okay?” She asked.

“I’m afraid I have a favor to ask of you, my dear.” Walter said, his voice staying somewhat steady as he spoke. 

“Oh? What is it?” 

“I, ah. I’m afraid I’ve been in a bit of a... conundrum, I suppose, and I need your help. I think I may have a mild concussion,”

”Oh jesus, Walter, are you okay? Do you want me to take you to the hospital, get you checked out?” Her voice went very soft, and she sighed. 

“It’s nothing too bad, really. I cannot go to the hospital- I won’t,” He said firmly, the idea making panic flare in his chest. “I just thought that perhaps you would be a good person to call...” He floundered a little, his words failing him.

”It’s okay, Walter, I’ll be right there. Do you have your own first aid kit, or should I bring a proper one?” She asked. Walter thought for a moment.

”I think you ought to bring a proper one, please...” He murmured.

”Alright. I’ll be right there, hon. I’m gonna hang up now, ok?” She said, and he nodded, almost protesting- but he didn’t want to seem weak.. 

“Okay. Thank you, Barbara.”

”Of course.” There was a click, and she was gone. Walter sighed, and his shoulders slumped. He took a few slow steps toward the door and gasped out loud as he inhaled, fire sparking beneath his ribs. He coughed and felt something shift, enough to elicit a pained whimper. He stumbled towards his living room, hoping to rest for a while and appear a bit more put-together than he actually was once Barbara got there. God, he couldn’t believe he had actually called her.

One particularly painful wrench in his plan was the continual tilt of his vision, and he drew in a sharp breath as he hit the floor suddenly, his vision swirling, and a hot burst of pain in his side had him letting out a sob- His vision went white, and his ears rang.

When he came back to himself, he was still lying on the floor, shivering in the chill of the room. His vision was still blurred, but he could hear someone speaking, and there was a blurry shape in front of him-

“Walt, hey, hey- take it easy,” Barbara’s voice filtered through the haze, and he groaned softly. “Take a deep breath...” She ordered, and he drew in a slow, long breath that wheezed a little. He let out a whimper as his ribs burned. “Can you tell me what hurts, honey?”

 He blinked, and her face came into focus. Her brow was creased with worry, and her hands were gently grasping his shoulders. 

“My- my ribs, and my head- I believe I fainted,” he realized. 

“That’s not too good, but I’m gonna fix  you up, okay? You’re going to be just fine.” She soothed, and he wanted to tell her to drop the calming front and tell him whether he was going to die or not. But he didn’t, because he liked the gentle tone in her voice, how it felt to be so close to her. 

“Okay.” He struggled into a sitting position, detachedly noticing that she had managed to get him onto the couch. He felt like he’d been hit by a truck, or perhaps a very dedicated fifteen year old. Pathetic.  His eyes fluttered closed for a moment in his exhaustion, and then opened again.

”I’m going to need to get this off to check you over, is that okay?” Barbara’s hand trailed gently over his chest, and he blushed, letting out a quiet breath. 

“That’s alright with me,” Walt murmured. She nodded, and started to undo the buttons of his shirt. Her hands were warm against his chest, and she slid his shirt off. They made eye contact for a little too long, and he felt his cheeks flush, his face go hot. “You know, under better circumstances, I would be rather enjoying myself right now,” He murmured, smirking wryly. Barbara let out a soft laugh. 

“You’re well enough to joke, at least,” She teased, and opened up her first aid kit, snapping on a pair of medical gloves. “Just a precaution, don’t worry too much,” Barbara gently started to run her hands over his sides, probing at his ribs with gentle presses of her fingers. It didn’t hurt- if anything, it tickled, until she got about halfway down, where he knew the break had occurred.

His vision went white as she pressed in, and he screamed, feeling something shift in his chest. He coughed wetly and groaned, feeling sweat starting to slick his forehead at the pain that flooded his torso. “Okay- okay, Walter, breathe, honey, it’s okay-“ She had long since removed her hands from his side, and he felt tears dripping down his cheeks. “Fuck, hold on, you’ll be okay..” He heard the snap of an ice pack, and felt the ice-cold press against his side. The rough scritch of bandages fluttered against his skin as she secured it, the moment of pressure a catalyst for another explosion of pain. He whimpered, and suddenly her hand was pressed against his cheek.

”Barbara?” He exhaled, and suddenly she seemed very close to him, her lips inches away from his. His heart was pounding in his ears, matching the ache behind his eyes. With one thumb, she brushed away the tears forming. 

“You’ve got at least two fractured ribs, and I think one might be broken. Your lungs are safe, everything else is in good condition too- but you’re going to need a lot of rest, and I think you may have a mild concussion,” She murmured, and he thought for a moment. 

His mouth was dry, and his hands were still trembling. The blood on his forehead was sticking in his hair, and even the dim lamplight in the living room was making his head pound. A concussion seemed about right. “Do I need to give you something for the pain? You’re getting paler by the second, I don’t want you passing out again.” 

Walter sighed, the movement sending a jolt of pain through his side. “I... I don’t know..” He murmured. Barbara was treating his head injury now, and the stinging swipe of antiseptic felt like nothing compared to before. 

“Okay, well, I’ll get this head wound treated, and we’ll see.” Barbara frowned and applied a large, sticky bandage to the cut on his forehead. As she did, she combed her fingers through his hair with the antiseptic, the blood coming out easily. “This should be alright, head injuries usually look worse than they actually are.” She assured, and pressed a quick kiss to his forehead. He felt his face go hot, and she smiled. 

“I think I might need some of that analgesic you mentioned,” Walter managed, his voice sounding like it had been filtered through a box of rocks. Barbara nodded, and rifled through the kit once again, pressing two tablets into his palm and handing him a glass of water from the coffee table. He managed to take the pills without issue and noted that a bit of water made him feel a little better. 

“So, you never told me exactly how you ended up this way...” she probed, and he closed his eyes, massaging at his temples and sighing. 

“Barbara, I don’t see how that’s of any importance,” He muttered. She couldn’t know, especially considering her son was the one who had done this to him. 

“It’s important because you’re in pretty bad shape, and I don’t want you going off and getting yourself hurt like this! Or worse-“ She sighed and dug her nails into her palm, the look in her eyes one of dread. Walter kissed her before she could finish speaking, his hands finding her waist as she melted into the kiss. Her mouth was warm and soft against his, and at that moment he knew that this wasn’t just a ruse anymore. “Walter,” She gasped softly, blinking as he pulled back. 

“Trust me when I tell you that I’m keeping you safe by withholding that information.” He said, averting his eyes. She nodded. 

The two of them stayed in that position for a little while, his hands on her waist, her hands cupping his jaw, and just watched, just existed in the same space. Soon, though, the medicine began to kick in, and Walter found himself settling back against the couch. Barbara guided his head into her lap, and he closed his eyes. “Please stay,” He murmured.

”I wouldn’t dream of going anywhere.” She leaned down to kiss his forehead, still caressing his hair. With that, Walter started to drift off, hoping no dreams would follow him.