Derek had been sitting in that waiting room forever. A doctor had come out to give him updates twice. The first time to tell him the initial prognosis, what injuries Stiles had actually sustained, and what they were going to do in order to repair the damage. That was okay. That gave him hope. The second update was to tell him there had been some complications retrieving the bullet and that the surgery would take much longer than expected.
Laura was having trouble finding someone to take her shift, Maria was out of the country on business, and Cora didn’t need the added stress. So he’d spent all of the time waiting with Chris, who tried to help him compartmentalize, to no avail. Two hours ago, his mother had called with the news that Stiles’ dad and stepmom were on their way. She’d snagged the last two seats on a non-stop flight out of Sacramento that was due into LaGuardia around seven.
He found, that the longer he sat, with Chris trying everything he could to keep Derek’s mind off the worst case scenario, the more he came to trust him. If something good had to come out of this tragedy, well, then a working detective partnership was a pretty nice thing.
“How long has Allison been married?”
“Almost five years. I know,” he said with a scoff, “I can’t believe it either. Seems that just yesterday I was teaching her how to walk. I know you said your work schedules didn’t leave room for it, but kids...is that something you want?”
Derek shrugged. “Dunno. We talked about it a couple years ago and decided we could wait. It’s not like we have a biological clock to go against. Besides, Nightwing is a big baby anyway. When it snows, he won’t go outside without a coat and dog boots. He’s afraid of lightning and the toaster of all things. And it wasn’t like he was a rescue or anything. Stiles got him as a puppy. Frankly, I don’t know how he had the time for a dog in med school, but he made it work.” He rubbed his chest, the memory stirring up emotions, and took a deep breath. “He was all alone out in Pittsburgh, said he needed something to take care of since his dad was two thousand miles away. Thing is, he has taken care of me more than any one has since I was a teenager.” Leaning back in his chair, Derek stared up at the ceiling. “The month before I transferred here, was...rough. Don’t let anyone tell you there will be no backlash if you file an IAB complaint against a fellow officer. As if the constant sexual harassment, borderline assault, arson and attempted murder weren’t bad enough.”
“Your ex-partner sounds like a real peach.”
“Yeah Kate...was something else. I’m sure if it were the other way around, me going after her, her complaint would have been taken seriously.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and looked up to see a doctor walking out of the double doors that led to the operating rooms.
Standing, he balled his hands into fists while he tried to steady his breathing as he waited for what he hoped with everything he had would be good news.
“I have some good news. Though the damage was extensive, we were able to stop the bleed and repair most of the damage. It appears the bullet entered his abdomen through his left oblique muscle and continued on a slightly upward trajectory, most likely because he was falling when he was shot. Unfortunately, there was no way to save his left kidney. So, good news, barring any further complications, we expect him to make a full recovery. Now, because of the increased workload to the remaining kidney, there is a chance the other could fail. It happens sometimes, but we’ll hope for the best. We’ll keep him in the ICU until we can be assured there will be no further complications.”
He was going to make it; Stiles was going to be okay. “Um,” Derek said, rubbing his forehead, “ICU, does that mean I have to leave? Visiting hours and all?”
“No. Once we feel confident that there are no problems with him coming out of anesthesia, we will get him situated in his room. They will give you a wristband as his primary support person. So, you’ll only need to leave the room for certain medical procedures. The rooms don’t have a lot of extra space.”
“Thank you. Thank you so much for saving him.” As he walked back to Chris, he sat down and buried his face in his hands, overwhelmed with joy.
Derek nodded into his hands.
Stiles blinked, his mouth once more like cotton. His head had this fog of confusion, and his throat felt raw. Beside him, he could hear the beeping of monitors. There was a pulse oximeter clamped to his left index finger, and….
He hurt everywhere.
There was a warm weight next to him, and he turned to see a head of black hair resting on the bed next to his thigh. Stiff with disuse and remaining anesthesia, the movement of his fingers was spastic as he reached out to ruffle them through Derek’s hair.
It took a few moments, but eventually, he managed to rouse him. For as long as he lived, Stiles would remember the look on Derek’s face. It was one of pure relief, even though his eyes held deep exhaustion. He touched the worry wrinkle Derek often got between his brows, smoothing it out. “Hey, you.” His voice was hoarse, raspy, and broken like he’d been intubated...wait, why- Oh, yeah. The phantom echo of gunshots rattled around in his head.
Derek’s face grew damp with tears. “Hey.” He was on his feet in an instant, kissing Stiles’ forehead. “I was so afraid I was gonna lose you,” he mumbled against his skin. “I almost crashed the squad car when the call came over the radio. I haven’t left since you came in. Took you a while to wake up. The doctors were worried.”
“Let me give you a piece of advice. Don’t ever get shot.” Stiles tried to chuckle. Big mistake. Attentive, Derek heard his whimper of pain and stood up to look him over. “Did they give me a pain drip? There should be a button.”
“Oh yeah.” Derek pressed the device into his palm, and Stiles breathed a sigh of relief after a couple presses, as sweet, sweet morphine dripped into his IV line.
“Here.” Derek grabbed the cup from the table, holding the straw to his lips so he could drink. The water felt like heaven on his tongue. “So...you lost a kidney.”
“Ugh...that blows. I guess my career in the NFL is over.”
Derek chuckled, but Stiles could hear the tears in it.
“Hey, I’m okay. I’m okay. You didn’t lose me.”
Derek moved his chair closer to the head of the bed where he could run his fingers through Stiles’ hair as he sat. “I should never have woke you up this morning. You should have slept in, and we wouldn’t be here.”
“Derek, babe, I became a doctor because I wanted to help people. I could have said no, but I didn’t. It’s just...I didn’t think-” He scrubbed his hands down his face, as images of the mayhem flooded his memory, and he found that he couldn’t fight the tears. “A hospital is a place of healing. This…” he whimpered.
“Hey, hey… you’re gonna heal, and I’ll go with you to therapy if you want. We’ll get you through this. Oh, your dad and Melissa went to get coffee. They should be back soon.”
“They’re here?” Stiles hated how young he sounded. “And Olivia?” he asked about his twelve year old sister that his father and Melissa had adopted when he was a freshman in college.
“She stayed behind with Scott. He couldn’t find anyone to cover the clinic for him.”
“That’s too bad. I sure could use hearing her laughter right now.” He looked up at the ceiling, trying to calm his breathing. The way his torso shook when he sobbed pulled at his stitches, and even with morphine, the pain was only dulled. Then, a thought crossed his mind. “How long have I been out?”
Derek looked at his watch. “It’s just after seven in the morning.”
“If you haven’t left, who’s taking care of Wingman? He’s gonna be so lone-” Derek pressed a finger to his lips.
“Relax; Maria picked him up. They’re going to watch him for us,” he reassured him and kissed his knuckles. “He’ll be fine.”
“But he’s gonna miss us. He’s such a baby. You know how he is.” Derek wiped his cheeks, dashing away the tears, and Stiles leaned into the touch.
“He’ll be okay. Just like you.”
He licked his lips and hissed as the chapped and cracked skin burned from the pressure of his tongue upon them. “Would you happen to have any chapstick?”
Derek checked his pockets. “No. I can go check the gift shop if you want.”
Stiles looked over Derek’s shoulder when he heard the door open. The sight of his dad made his heart swell. No matter how old he got, sometimes he just needed to see his old man. Now was one of those times. “Hey, Pops.” He gave him what he hoped was a wry grin, but he felt certain his face just looked like a grimace.
His father crossed the room in a flash so he could fold his son into a gentle hug. “Don’t ever do that to me again!” he said into his son’s hair.
Stiles patted him on the back. “I didn’t exactly plan on getting shot at work.”
“I know. It’s just…”
Wait a minute. Was his dad crying? Stiles could count on one hand the number of times he’d seen him cry. It was three times. The first time was when he and his mother told Stiles she was sick. The second was at his mother’s funeral. The third was apparently right now and was just as surreal as ever. His dad backed up so Melissa could hug him.
“You had us worried. Scott and Olli were wrecks when we told them. Oh, I have something for you.” She pulled out her phone and began to play a video.
Stiles smiled when his sister and step-brother’s faces came into view. Scott looked like he hadn’t slept in years, and Olivia’s brown curls were matted and messy, a sharp contrast to the perfectly coiled way she usually wore her hair. Even if Melissa hadn’t told him how worried they’d been, he’d have been able to see it clearly.
“Hey, Stiles. You need to get better as fast as you can. Christmas is coming soon, and you owe me a piggyback ride,” Olivia said on the video, her brown eyes wet with unshed tears.
“If you’re not up to it when we get out there, don’t worry about taking Kira and me sightseeing. Your health is more important. Anyway, get well, dude. We all need you.”
Olivia took the phone from Scott and kissed the screen just before the video cut out. If he hadn’t been still crying before he watched it, he would be now.
Derek seemed to sense the overwhelming wave of homesickness wash over him and wedged himself back to the head of the bed, pushing the hair out of his face so he could plant a kiss on his forehead. “I found you some lotion. Open up.” He waited for Stiles to part his lips before smoothing a layer of lotion over the chapped skin. “Is that better? I'll head down to Duane Reade and pick up some chapstick when you’re taking a nap.”
Stiles reached out and squeezed his hand. “Thanks, Babe. Can I eat yet? Cause I’m starving.”
John held up a brown paper bag. “Yeah. The doctor said you could order breakfast when you woke up but to take it easy. Mel and I picked you up a muffin and an orange juice.”
His eyes lit up. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Don’t thank me. Thank Derek. He’s the one that suggested we go get coffee in the first place. You found yourself a good one.”
“I know,” he said, looking down at their joined hands. “Hey, Derek?”
“Where’s my ring? Did they need to cut it off?”
Derek reached into his pants pocket. “No, you were so dehydrated it slipped right off. Here you go.” He slid the ring back onto his finger, and Stiles felt a little bit better.
He still had an uphill battle; he knew he did, but this was a step in the right direction. He was just about to suggest they turn on Sportscenter when Derek’s phone buzzed on the table.
Derek glanced at the caller ID. “I need to take this. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Out in the waiting room, Derek pressed the talk button. “Yeah, Chris, what is it?”
“Guess who I just spoke to,” Argent’s gruff voice said through the line.
“Your friend at the FBI.”
“Braeden? Why did she call you?”
“She didn’t call me. She just left the precinct. Seems she found La Bella Lupa. The woman is Deucalion’s right hand.”
“That’s fantastic. Why was she-”
“Braeden was the agent assigned to protective detail for the VIP at the hospital until they could get WitSec involved. Ol’ Duke’s consigliera flipped on him. Braeden seems to think he’s responsible for the shooting. SWAT scoured every inch of EMC and found no trace of him. Don’t ask me how the bastard made it out of the hospital without being captured. I have no fucking idea, but ballistics matched shell casings to an assault and attempted murder six years ago. Victim was Julia Baccari. She was left for dead and admitted to Nemeton Memorial with a GSW to the chest and knife wounds to the neck and face. Wounds are so similar to Braeden’s it’s uncanny. You were right.”
Derek had never felt more unnerved at hearing those words in his life. “Thanks for letting me know.”
“No problem. Take care of your man; make sure he rests up. Tell him I know from experience.”
“Yeah.” He ended the call with a nagging feeling pulling at his gut. This wasn’t over, not by a long shot, and as his father liked to say...things could always be worse.
That’s what he was afraid of.