Chapter 1: Change of Plans
The shrill ring of a cell phone roused Derek from a deep sleep. One eye open and squinting, he was hit by a glint of early morning sunlight peeking in from the only gap in the floor to ceiling curtains. On the nightstand opposite his side of the bed, he saw the flashing display on his fiance’s cell phone. “Babe, your phone’s ringing.”
“Too early. ‘s my day off,” Stiles groaned into his pillow.
Derek gave him a good, hard shake. “Wake up.”
Without removing his face from where he’d buried it, Stiles reached out an arm to fumble at his bedside table, pawing at the top until he found the offending device. “H’lo,” his voice, still thick with sleep, answered with a rasp.
Derek tried to fall back asleep, but the voice on the other end of the line was loud and clear enough to pique his interest.
“Sorry to wake you, Stiles, but can you come into work today?”
“Whhhhhhy?” Stiles whined, making him sound far younger than he actually was. “I have plans today.”
“We’re short three doctors, and down four nurses. Seems that bug that was going around finally hit our department. If you come in today, you can have the next two days off.”
Derek heard Stiles grit his teeth and knew he’d agree to work, thus ending their planned day off. He rolled over and, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, sat up. The chill of the hardwood floor made him flinch as soon as he got his feet on it.
From his bed in the corner of the bedroom, their black greyhound, Nightwing, picked up his head and whined. As soon as Derek stood, the dog was hot on his heels, following Derek into the bathroom.
“Uh huh. Yeah, see you in an hour or so.” Stiles’ phone clattered against the table. “I don’t wanna go to work on my birthdayyyy.” Again with the whining. “I’m old now. I need my days off.”
Shaking his head as he walked back into the bedroom and dressed so he could take Nightwing for a walk before he got too antsy and began pawing at the front door, Derek leaned over Stiles’ prone form and kissed his forehead. “Twenty-nine is not old.”
“Yes, it is. I feel ancient,” he said, stretching his stiff limbs after he sat up. When he reached his arms above his head, a loud crack filled the room. “See? Even my back agrees.”
Derek ruffled his hair. “If you’re ancient, what does that make me?” Four years older than him, he’d love to hear Stiles talk his way out of this hole.
“Uh huh. Save it. I’ll stop at Foxfire Cafe on the way back and pick up one of those ginger scones you love so much.”
Stiles yawned, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand. “You see, this is why I agreed to marry you.”
“Because I remember your love of breakfast pastries?”
Stiles stood and kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t underestimate the depths of my devotion to baked goods, mi amor.”
Derek patted his thigh as he left the room, and Nightwing followed, the tags on his collar jingling a happy tune. “Little excited, Buddy?” He grabbed the winter coat and harness off the peg, clipping it around the eager dog. The leash made a thud as it hit the floor, and then a clatter as Nightwing ran the rest of the steps to the door. “Okay, come on,” he said, once he had his own coat and sneakers on.
The whole ride down from the 22nd floor, Nightwing’s tail bobbed back and forth. “You’d swear we never walk you,” he grumbled under his breath. When the bell dinged and the doors opened to the lobby, Derek could hardly keep up as his dog started running. Well, fine then. Derek guessed they’d be running instead of walking.
Derek sipped from his espresso con panna, the steam from the cup resembling the fogginess of his breath on the late November morning air. In front of him, Nightwing’s tail bobbed back and forth with each person they passed. His dog was what you’d call a real people person...er- dog. A real people dog. Nightwing was the friendliest dog Derek had ever met, which naturally made him a wonderful pet and terrible guard dog. He loved everyone.
Except for Kate.
Maybe that should have been Derek’s first indication that their professional partnership was doomed to go down in literal flames. Whereas his fiance was a big proponent of ignoring a problem until it went away, Derek was more of the growling it into submission type. However, Detective Kate Harris was not the type to be swayed. Being adopted had given her the largest chip on her shoulder that Derek had ever seen, and he’d had the unfortunate pleasure of going through the academy with her brother Adrian. They were both headstrong and opinionated to a fault. So he did what any civil person did, he endured, and that was exactly how he got to be in this position, returning to Manhattan with his proverbial tail between his legs…
FOUR MONTHS AGO
Most of the lights were off in the Detective’s department of the station as Derek sat finishing up the arrest report on an armed robbery suspect from earlier in the day. On the far side of the office, sat Detective Dunwoody, an old timer on the force who had shown him around town when Derek first arrived in Steel City. For all the bad press cops got because of the bad apples, and Derek had heard of a lot of bad apples, Det. Dunwoody was one of the good guys. Married to his high school sweetheart with three children and two grandchildren, he joined the force twenty years before after his mother was killed in a hit and run, and he’d dedicated his life to the ‘Protect and Serve’ motto. “Hey Hale, I’m going for a coffee. Can I bring you back something?”
“No thanks. I’m good.”
“You work too hard sometimes, you know that?” Det. Dunwoody said as he left.
Derek read his write-up aloud, mumbling the words under his breath. “Suspect was apprehended with stolen goods around 13:30. Mirandized and taken into custody. Upon arriving in interrogation, lawyered up.” He sighed. “That sounds so robotic.” Time was, he’d put a bit of eloquence into his reports, but he just didn’t have the verve for it anymore.
“Still working late, Handsome? You are too young and far too pretty to do this to yourself.” He cringed at the sound of his partner’s voice. It was a Pavlovian response at this point. Kate spoke, and he cringed, looking for a quick exit.
“What is it to you whether I work late?”
“Making me look bad.”
He wanted to tell her that, no, she made herself look bad all on her own, but he held his tongue. As his father would say, ‘If you can’t say something nice…’
“So, what do you say,” she started, leaning across his desk so that he could see right down her blouse if he wanted to (he didn’t), and grabbed the file from him, “you call it a night, and we get out of here? Maybe grab a few drinks?”
Look, he may have had no sexual attraction to women, but he knew flirting when he saw it. “Is this a professional request or a personal one?”
“So ‘by the book’, Hale. Personal.”
He tightened his jaw, forcing himself to take a steadying breath. “No.”
“What’s the harm? One drink. Don’t tell me you won’t allow yourself one...little...drink.”
“I will drink whatever I want, just not with you. Kate,” he pinched the bridge of his nose, “how many times do I have to say this? I’m.not.interested.”
She walked around to his side of the desk where she promptly sat in his lap. “I like a man that plays hard to get.”
“Get off me. Now.”
She obliged, but only slightly, choosing to sit on his desk in front of him. “So bossy. We could get up to so much mischief. I dunno, Derek, I think it could make our working relationship that much stronger.”
He stood up, feeling far too small with her looking down on him slightly. “I have been explicit about this. I’m in a happy and committed relationship, and even if I weren’t, there is no scenario in which you or I would ever be compatible in the way you want.” He squared his shoulders and focused on his breathing. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t tried to get himself a new partner. In fact, on more than one occasion, he’d gone to his supervisor to plead his case. However, his concerns were not taken seriously. In Captain Clark’s words, the Hale and Harris team closed too many cases, and surely Derek could handle his wayward partner.
Sure, he could handle her just fine… when everyone else was around. She saved her really vulgar and aggressive advances for when they were alone.
She flipped her hair off her shoulders. “Oh yes, how could I forget?” Turning, she grabbed the framed photo of his and Stiles’ engagement off his desk. “Your precious little Stiles.” The way her voice lingered over his name, disdainful and whiny, made Derek’s skin crawl.
He snatched the picture back from her hands before she could puzzle out a way to defile it.
“You know,” she said as she stood and stepped into his space, resting her palm against his chest. If her voice made his skin crawl, well then her touch made his skin feel like she’d burned him, “I think if you just had the right partner, you’d see what you’ve been missing out on. Nothing like a woman’s touch to sort you out,” she said, her voice husky, as she walked her fingers down his stomach.
Before she could reach his belt, he snapped and pushed her away from him. “Keep your hands off me! Get it through your head. I am not, nor will I ever be interested in you.”
“We’ll see,” she snickered.
His stomach churned as he watched her saunter off. Swaying a little on his feet, Derek placed his hands on his desk for support while he calmed down.
“You okay there, Hale?” Det. Dunwoody asked, setting his cup of coffee on the desk. Derek hadn’t even heard him return. “You look like you’re about to strangle something.”
“Not something. Someone.”
“Ah. Det. Harris? I passed her on my way back in. What did she do this time? More of the same?”
“Look, Hale, if Captain isn’t going to give you a new partner and her attention is making you uncomfortable, go to IAB.”...
....Well, he had followed Detective Dunwoody’s advice. Fat lot of good that did. Kate took his Internal Affairs complaint in the worst way. Though her Molotov cocktail had gone through the wrong window, sometimes when he and Stiles were asleep he'd wake up to the smell of phantom smoke, sweating at the thought of what he could have lost.
Instead, all he gained was a mile high stack of insurance paperwork, an inability to live any lower than the fourth floor, and department ridicule. Apparently, a man filing a sexual harassment and assault charge against his female partner was just ridiculous. So here they were, and thank goodness Emissary Medical Center sought out Stiles and extended that position to him. Derek couldn’t imagine returning home with Stiles and his nearly two hundred grand of student loan debt in tow if his fiance hadn’t found a position.
It wasn’t like he hated New York. God no. He was born and raised here, but he wanted to spread his wings, learn to stand on his own feet out from under the shadow of his family’s name. It was hard to be taken seriously when your mother was the police commissioner. No matter how hard you might work, words like “nepotism” always seemed to be directed your way.
The sad thing was, he had been doing that, making his own name for himself. He had begun building a life with Stiles, and yeah, they were probably going to be relocating anyway once Stiles passed his boards, but that would have been a move on their own terms. Now, he felt like a rookie again, fighting to establish himself. Even though he was a twelve year veteran on the force already.
He felt the leash go slack as Nightwing stopped to sniff at a storm drain. “Oh come on! You stop here every time.” He groaned as he watched his dog take a piss onto the sidewalk right beside the drain, “You do that every time, too. You’re a weird dog, Nightwing. I don’t know what you and Stiles got up to before I came into the picture.” He scratched between his ears, and they continued the few blocks back to their building.
“You’re a lifesaver,” Stiles said when Derek returned about thirty minutes later, waving the cup of coffee under his nose just as Stiles packed his backpack for work. Why couldn’t his hospital have its own laundry service? He grabbed the stack of eggplant colored work scrubs off the counter and shoved them into his pack, along with the monster sized ziploc bags he brought his clothes home in every night.
Derek sidled up behind him, wrapping his arms around Stiles’ waist, and nuzzled at his neck. “Have I told you lately how good you look in purple?”
“Well, you do. I wish you had said you weren’t available. Like out of town unavailable.”
“I know. I could use a couple more hours of sleep, and I will probably be there forever and a half today.”
Derek kissed the back of his neck. “I’ll still make dinner, and hopefully you’ll be home a decent hour to eat it. I’ll make that panna cotta you like.”
“Mhm.” Stiles turned in his arms and kissed him. “You’re the best, and I don’t deserve you.”
“Love you, too, and Happy Birthday. What else would you like for your birthday, since our plans today got cancelled?”
He looked around the room. “You know… we have had sex on practically every surface of this condo, except here,” he said pointing to the table.
“So you want me to take you on the kitchen table when you get home?”
“No,” he rolled his eyes, “I want to take you on the kitchen table.”
Derek shrugged. “Okay. I can do that. Now go; save lives.”
He kissed him again. “See you tonight.”
Stiles smiled and headed for the door, patting Nightwing’s head on the way out. “Stay out of the garbage today, Wingman.”
The 6 was packed when it pulled into 86th Station, and there was barely enough space for him to squeeze into the car. He found himself wedged in between the doors and a guy who reeked of pot. The train rustled along the tracks, as he sipped his cinnamon latte (he had proudly polished off the scone in the eight minute walk from his building to the station).
How had he ended up here? Never in his life did he see himself a big city doctor, but then life had a way of throwing curveballs at you every chance it got. Growing up, when he got it in his head that he wanted to be a doctor after finally getting over his squeamishness over the sight of blood, he’d intended to return home after college. So, he worked hard, taking every AP class he could so he could graduate high school a semester early. He’d worked even harder, busting his ass, to graduate Stanford in three years, before hauling himself across the country to medical school.
Pittsburgh had been a shock when he first arrived. Until he started at University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, he’d never actually seen snow. Well, he had seen it on TV, seen it capping mountains in the distance, but he had never personally experienced it. Damn near froze to death that first winter.
His plan to hightail it back to California with Nightwing as soon as his residency ended was derailed by the best curveball life had thrown him to date: Derek.
Halfway through his first year of residency, Detective Derek Hale came into the Emergency Room with a broken ankle he’d sustained while chasing down a perp. As cliched as it was to say it, the sight of him took Stiles’ breath away. Though he’d patched him up and sent him on his way, Derek hobbled into the ER on crutches three days later for the sole purpose of giving Stiles his phone number, which was, frankly, amazing, because the only thing the two of them talked about the entire time, other than the necessary exchange of medical information, was baseball. But apparently, a shared love of the Mets was enough to warrant Stiles a second look.
After that first phone call, which left Stiles giddy like a teenager, he found his life vision changing a little. A month into the relationship, he could see himself staying in Pittsburgh for someone like Derek, and even told his dad as much on their biweekly phone call...
FOUR YEARS EARLIER
“How have you been? You know I worry about you all alone out there and all the hours you work.”
Stiles sighed. “Not like I have a choice, Pops.”
“Are you at least remembering to take some time for yourself where you don't worry about work? Go on a date or two.”
“About that… I met someone.” He could hear the smile in his voice.
“Uh huh. Go on.”
“I know that tone of voice. I'm not making this up to make you feel better about me being out here alone. His name is Derek, and he's a detective with the PBP. He's thirty and originally from Manhattan. Loves the Mets.”
“You sound happy.”
“I am, really happy.”...
… By their first anniversary, they’d moved in together, or more accurately, Stiles moved out of his hole in the wall apartment and into Derek’s place, but semantics. He’d met the whole Hale family that Christmas, found himself thoroughly afraid of Mrs. Hale, who was better known as Police Commissioner Hale to the city of New York. The intimidation factor soon wore off, and now Derek liked to joke that his mother loved Stiles more than him.
They got engaged eight months ago at a Mets/Pirates game. Life was going great: They had a dog, a condo, joint loan on a car. He finished his residency and spent countless hours studying for his boards. And then…
The announcement for the approaching 103rd St Station snapped him from his reverie, and he ascended the stairs before walking the four blocks to work. He waved and greeted Mary at the front desk as he walked into Emissary Medical Center.
“I thought you had the day off.”
“Story of my life.” He made pleasantries with her for a few moments before heading to the locker room to change into his scrubs. To his surprise, several balloons had been taped to his locker, most of them with ‘Over the Hill’ written on them. “Ha, ha. Very funny guys.” He shucked his street clothes and changed into work attire.
“Isn’t it. When Martin said you’d be filling in today, me and Lahey thought you needed balloons,” Boyd said from where he stood at his locker, packing his bag for home. “Oh, before I forget. I got you a present.” He grabbed something out of his locker and walked over to Stiles. “There we go.” He pinned the button to Stiles’ lab coat.
Stiles read it and cocked an eyebrow at him. “This Cowgirl is 30. Really, Boyd? I’m not thirty.”
He stuck out his tongue. “Best I could do on short notice. Wear it with pride, my man. Wear it with pride. Anyway, I’d love to stick around and see how badly Reyes razzes on you because of it, but I am coming off a double shift...sixteen hours of pure hell. Don’t work too hard today, Stilinski.” Boyd patted him on the shoulder and left the locker room.
No sooner than he arrived at the admitting desk and picked up his tablet, Erica filled him in on his first patient of the day.
“You have a forty-nine year old construction worker in Exam 2 with a left forearm laceration. I have the suturing tray waiting for you on the exam cart. No allergies to lidocaine.” She looked at his coat and burst out laughing. “Oh that’s beautiful. Who did that? Lahey?”
“He and Boyd were in cahoots?”
“Well, go knock it out of the park, Cowgirl.”
He rolled his eyes at her. “Shut up.” She was still cackling as he walked to his patient. “Good morning, Mark. I’m Doctor Stilinski.” Carefully, he pulled the gauze away from the wound and hissed. “Oh, that looks nasty. How’d you manage that?”
Mark laughed, despite his obvious pain. “One of the new guys was a bit careless. Wasn’t watching what he was doing and ran into me. I stumbled backwards and whacked my arm on the saw. Luckily, it had been turned off and was slowing down.”
Stiles nodded and pulled the table over to the bedside. “I’d say! We could be looking at a missing arm right now otherwise.” He glanced down at the chart. “I see you had a tetanus shot just last year, so we won’t need to update you on that. Well, good news,” he said, opening up the tray. “So, this is going to hurt, but the effects of the anesthetic should begin to take effect in a couple minutes.” Mark groaned as Stiles injected the medication around the wound. “Yeah, I’m sorry, Mark. There really is no way around that one. But, by the time I’m done cleaning it, you shouldn’t feel a thing. How’s that sound?”
“You do a lot of these?”
“Suturing up construction workers?” He chuckled, sensing Mark’s question had more to do with his age than his possible skillset. “Don’t let the youthful face fool you. I know I look barely old enough to drink, but I’ve stitched up countless wounds by now. You’re gonna heal up great.” Positioning Mark’s arm on the table, he took the draping--a towel with a cutout in it--and laid it carefully over the wound. Next, he cracked the seal on the sterile bottle of saline, using it to irrigate and cleanse the wound. Once he was pleased that he had the laceration as clean as he could possibly get it, he tore open the suture needle and picked up with the medical tweezers. “Ready? Here we go.”
Stiles went to work closing the wound with little x’s, cutting the filament after each stitch until a row of twenty-four perfectly lined up sutures were all that remained of the open wound. “Look at that. Some of my finest work, Mark. That will be a scar you can definitely use to get a drink out of a lovely sympathetic person. Play up the pain and you’ll have them eating out of your hand.” When Mark laughed at him, Stiles smiled. “That’s better. Now,” he said, covering the wound with gauze pads before wrapping the arm with a roll of Kling gauze, “keep this dry for at least 48 hours. After that, you can clean around the wound with cool water and soap. Use a paper towel to pat it dry. Change the dressing daily, and after four days, you can remove the bandage. It’s important to let the wound breathe. See your primary physician in ten days to have the stitches removed, or sooner if the wound reopens.” He handed Mark an information sheet. “This goes over wound care and warnings signs in more detail. If you see any signs of infection, see your doctor or come back in immediately.” Stiles stood. “I will get you discharged and out of here as quickly as I can. Take it easy, Mark.”
Stiles walked back to the nursing station.
“Heads up, Stilinski,” Erica said, “we have a pedestrian victim of MVA on route. ETA 3 minutes.”
Chapter 2: No Little Black Book
Bored at home and behind on paperwork at the station, Derek walked into the precinct around nine.
“Go home, Hale. It’s your day off,” Detective Graeme sassed him as soon as he sat down at his desk.
“Changed of plans, Tara. I got bored.” He took a sip from his coffee, his third cup of the day. Derek might not talk very much, but over the years his reticence had turned him into someone who noticed the subtle changes in facial expressions and body language; he could read both quite well. So, when Tara tapped her pen on her desk, when her lip twitched, he knew, just knew she was itching to tell him something. “Spit it out.”
“A little bird told me that a certain little sister of yours is expecting again.”
Derek plucked one of his case files out of his file cabinet. He and Argent had been working on a triple homicide for the past few weeks. They had a difference of opinions on it. His partner was convinced it was mob related, and Derek, having little experience with organized crime, was not itching to jump to that conclusion before he was sure. “And by little bird, you mean my mother was in here waving the sonogram picture around again, don’t you?”
Tara smirked. “Yep.”
“When was this?” He studied the crime scene photos carefully as he waited for her answer. There was definitely something ritualistic about the murders, but when you started throwing the words ‘serial killer’ around, people tended to interfere. On that count, both he and Argent agreed.
“Yesterday. You should have seen it. So happy. You know...”
Without looking up, he knew he’d see her wide-eyed expression as she hoped he’d pick up on her line of conversation. “Spit it out.”
“When are you going to give her some grandchildren?”
With a groan, he sat back in his chair and tossed his head back. “Between Maria, Laura, and Cora there are plenty of grandchildren.”
He looked over to see his partner, Chris Argent, flop down in his chair at the desk across from him.
“Oh, but your mother could always use one more, Hale. I must say, I think you’d be a radiant mother-to-be.”
“Shut up, Argent.”
Tara smiled. “I’m just saying, it’s your job to carry on the family name.”
“I’m fairly certain being a good parent requires actually being home to take care of the kid, Tara. Sixty hour work weeks don’t really lend themselves to raising a child.”
“You’re telling me,” Argent said, rolling his chair over to look at the case file with him. Now, Derek did not particularly like people in his personal space, Stiles excepted, but he begrudgingly admitted that a certain level of space invasion was necessary when solving crimes. “My biggest regret from when Allison was younger was that I worked too much. I mean, now she’s an adult, and we hardly see her.”
“What does she do again, Chris?” Tara asked.
“Competitive shooter, training for her second Olympics. We’d love to have grandchildren by now, but Allison is very career focused. Hale here is clearly cut of the same cloth, dedicated to his job. Besides, you have to have someone to have children with first.”
“Who says I don’t?” Derek grumbled into his coffee.
“What was that?”
“I asked if we could talk about something else. I don’t really like to talk about my personal life.”
“Yeah, why is that? Closet full of skeletons? Moonlighting as a masked vigilante?”
Derek glared him. “Not really any of your business either way is it? Look, I didn’t like my last partner. Please don’t make me hate you as well.”
“Fair enough.” Argent rolled back to his desk to pick up a case file, before coming back to let it fall onto Derek’s desk with a clap.
Derek pushed it off the crime scene photos with his pen. “What is this?”
“So, I did some digging yesterday, and these three murders are a bit similar to another three from eighteen months ago. Made some calls to some of my informants around town, and I’m telling you, Hale, this is mob related.”
Derek flipped through the report, eyes hovering over a name that kept popping up. “Who’s the Darach?”
“Best I can tell through my research is...a hitman. Thankfully, I don’t think we’ll need to call in the feds just yet, I mean, not until we can definitively say it’s the result of organized crime, because when I searched on these parameters, I only got hits in the city. So that’s good. I ever tell you how much I hate the Feds? With their cheap suits and entitled attitudes- Anyway, it’s a theory I think we should pursue.”
Derek nodded in agreement. It was a sound theory, and they didn’t have too much else go on. So, the two of them continued pouring over the files, seeing if they could find anything. At one point, because it was clearly a slow day for her, Detective Graeme rolled her chair over and joined in.
Finally, over an hour later, Derek’s eyes fell on a detail from the most recent case. “I think we need to go talk to the neighbor again. She mentioned seeing the same person on the block several times in the days before the murders, and that they looked out of place. Something about having a good memory for faces and not recognizing this one. Maybe she remembered something else.”
Argent picked his coat up from the back of his chair. “We got no other leads.”
On their way out of the building, Derek’s phone rang in his pocket, and he pulled it out, answering it without looking. “Detective Hale here.”
Stiles’ bright voice soon filled his ears. “I love it when you sound so official. Really turns me on.”
Before he could stop himself, the corners of his mouth pulled up. “Hey. How’s it going?”
“Oh my god, Der...why did I agree to come to work today? It’s been a madhouse. I just finished up on a hit and run. We...he didn’t make it.”
Derek could picture Stiles’ face. As with most, probably all doctors, Stiles hated when he lost a patient. There would be a furrow in his brow, a bit of sadness in his eyes. “Aww, I’m sorry.”
“What can I say? He was brought in with massive head trauma. I’m surprised he even made it to the hospital. Anyway, Dr. Martin has given me a long lunch because I came in on my day off. I would kill for a margherita pizza from Bobby’s. Wanna be my lunch date? Since I can already tell you I won’t be home for that beautiful dinner you planned. I have two more patients on my rotation before I can get out, but…” Derek could hear him tapping at something. “They look pretty straightforward. Should only take me another hour. Whattaya say?”
“Sure. We’re heading out to talk to a witness again. So… how about noon? Sound good? I can get there a little early and get the order in before you get there.”
“You are...you’re the best, Derek. I love you.”
“I know.” He heard Stiles chuckle at his deliberate choice in words.
“Go on solve crimes, Mr. Solo.”
“See you in an hour or so.” Derek ended the call and looked over at Argent as he climbed into the passenger side. “What?”
Derek gave him a little smile. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Just make sure you don’t use the wrong name. I hear women hate when you do that.”
The smile dropped off his face faster than a speeding bullet. “Excuse me?”
“Well, someone who looks the way you do has bound to have a little black book the size of the yellow pages.”
Derek scowled at him, anger set deep in his features. “Yeah, well you couldn’t be more wrong. I have no little black book, and have an excellent memory for names. Shut up and drive.”
Stiles had just finished up the cast on a broken arm and was on his way to the vending machine when someone stopped him. He spun around to find Isaac. “What can I do for you, Nurse Lahey?”
“I know you were hoping for a breather, but you have a sixteen year old female, in exam 3. Brought in after falling down on a patch of ice. Suspected concussion. Vitals are steady, and patient is stable.”
Isaac looked at him. “Ah, I see you were a good sport about the button. Fantastic. Dr. Boyd picked that one out. I wanted one that said ‘Birthday Princess’.”
“Gee thanks.” Before walking to Exam 3, he familiarized himself with his patient. Seemed pretty routine. “Good morning, Amanda. I’m Dr. Stilinski. I’ll be taking care of you this morning.” From the pocket on his lab coat, he pulled out his penlight and used it to check her pupils. “I understand you fell at the bus-stop.”
She looked at him and, though a bit out of it, gave him a dopey grin. “I got the hot doctor. Best injury ever.”
He could feel the flush spreading up the back of his neck and tried to laugh it off. Her mother, however, felt the need to apologize for her daughter.
“I am so sorry. She’s not usually-”
He waved her off. “It’s okay. Thank you.”
“Aww, it’s your birthday. I hope someone’s giving you lots of birthday kisse-”
Stiles followed her gaze to his left hand and his engagement ring (his Batman engraved engagement ring, because that was the sort of geek he was, and that was precisely the kind of geekery Derek fell in love with and encouraged).
“Lucky guy.” He corrected and continued with her initial neurological exam. “Or at least he seems to think so. If you ask me though, I’m the lucky one. Can you push up against my hand? Now, look down, then up. Any dizziness?”
She stared at him, swaying on the bed. “Wow, you have the prettiest eye-. Oh crap.”
Stiles didn’t even have time to react before Amanda emptied the contents of her stomach, all over him.
He shrugged it off. “Don’t worry about it. Not the first time it’s happened. Your initial neuro exam looks good, but I’m going to put in the order for a CT scan just in case. Concussions, even minor ones, can cause brain injury, and it is much better to be safe than sorry. Depending on what that tells us, I’m going to recommend they keep you today for observation, but that can get changed as needed. I’ll also get Nurse Lahey in here to get you some pain medication. I don’t see any allergies listed here. Is that correct?” he asked her mother.
“None that we know of.”
“Okay, Amanda. How about you lie down?” He dimmed the light above her bed. “This should help with the nausea and light sensitivity, and we’ll get you feeling better as soon as we can.”
Stiles grimaced once he was out of the exam area. He knew this kind of thing came with the territory, but it didn’t mean he had to like it. Well, at least she missed his shoes when she threw up. So there was that. Small victories.
“Blech! You smell like a bar bathroom, Stilinski. What the hell-”
“Happy Birthday to me,” he said. “You look awfully happy today, Dr. James. How’s my favorite surgical resident?”
Heather gave him a playful punch in the shoulder. “I am happy because I had the best first date yesterday. Also, I get to assist on a repair of an atrial septal defect at one. Super excited. Happy Birthday.”
He held open the door to the locker room for her, and she went over to her locker to grab a granola bar. “Thank you. I was supposed to have the day off. Just couldn’t help myself.” He shucked his soiled scrubs and stuffed them into one of the zipper bags he’d brought from home. “I have about twenty minutes before lunch. You want me to bring you back some pizza from Bobby's?” He pulled on clean clothes.
“That would be awesome. Two slices of the six cheese.”
Even with clean clothes, Stiles could still smell the faint hint of vomit. It was not his favorite cologne.
Chapter 3: 745837
Outside the hospital, the elusive head of the Deucalion crime family stood in front of the main entrance, his gaze trained on the doors. His eyes, though, saw little more than a hazy outline of his surroundings. He hid his ailment well, using sunglasses that he insisted were entirely form and little function. A ruse.
Don Deucalion turned to his right hand, Kali. “Follow my lead. She’s in here somewhere.” He removed his sunglasses and cleaned them with his shirt. Just like his perfectly pressed suit, he had to keep up appearances. If his enemies knew of his predicament, they’d send their best to take him out. It was bad enough that his former consigliera knew. She had gone rogue, carrying a vendetta a mile wide against him. Her rage had begun to leave a trail of bodies behind. It was only a matter of time before-
Never mind that. “They’ll have her under a pseudonym, naturally.”
“Then how do we find her?” one of his young lieutenants, Aiden asked. Thank God the kid and his brother were so efficient at carrying out orders, because he found the sound of their voices particularly irksome.
“Look for the door with protective custody in front of it.”
“Remind me again why we're here and didn't send some peons to whack her?”
“Because, Ennis, if you want something done right, you do it yourself. Let's show this traitor how we punish disloyalty. Make her regret she ever learned the words ‘State's Evidence.’”
“How are we supposed to do that? It's not like they're going to just let us waltz right in.”
“Over the years, I've found guns to be rather effective means of coercion. We do not leave here without her dead. Do you understand?”
“And if they put up a fight?”
“Shoot everything in your way.”
“So go over this again, Miss Singh,” Chris said, “the mysterious person you kept seeing had scars on his face? Scars like how? Burn scars, knife wounds?”
“No, they were more like…” Miss Singh wrung her hands, before her eyebrows rose and she pointed at him, “fingernails. Scratch marks but healed over.”
Chris fought not to groan and instead bobbed his head intently. However, beside him, Hale seemed to either be hanging on the young woman’s every word or deep in thought. Knowing his partner, it was the former.
Hale rubbed his chin. “Fingernails. Like,” then, he mimed clawing down one side of his face, ”that?”
“Yes, exactly. It was like they got in a catfight. Literally. I mean, they wore a hoodie, so I couldn’t see anything else, but definitely scarred.”
Hale smiled at Miss Singh. “Thank you. That was a very big help.” From his pocket, he pulled out a business card. “If you remember anything else, anything, give me a call.”
Once outside, Chris put on his best Hale impression, stoic face, murder eyebrows and all. “If you remember anything else, call me.”
True to form, Hale rolled his eyes at him with a huff.
“So the man in black had scars. For all we know the guy was stalking his ex-wife who was not any of our victims. What purpose did this trip possibly serve?”
Hale opened the driver side door of the cruiser and stopped before climbing in, drumming his fingers on the roof of the car. “So a couple years ago, Pittsburgh saw an uptick in organized crime, and the Feds, they sent an agent in from Virginia. She was good at her job, great undercover agent. Braeden got in with this group that was apparently an offshoot of a family in New York. Then, I don’t know, she got too close, got careless, whatever. But the head of that group attacked her, and now Braeden looks like she got fucking mauled. She said the head was a woman she only knew as La Bella Lupa whose MO was to go for the face, not with nails, but with sharpened metal caps on her fingers. Braeden seemed to think it might be the family signature or something. Sounds an awful lot like this. I mean, what if this is related? Just seems likes something we should look into. Don’t you think?” Hale didn’t give him time to answer, and instead folded his frame into the car.
Chris opened up his notebook and went over his notes as he waited for Hale to start the engine. Nowhere in his pages of possible theories, especially the ones regarding possible mob connections, did he see anything about La Bella Lupa, but it was a plausible connection.
It was also the first thing his partner had said about his time on the force, his life or anything before coming back to New York, other than the fact Derek and his former partner didn’t get along.
Not for a lack of trying on Chris’ part. He had tried everything he could think of to form some kind of rapport with him, but it was like pulling teeth. Look, he wasn’t looking for Hale’s life story, just something to connect with. All he knew about him was that the guy was thirty-three, his mother was the commissioner, and he lived somewhere on the Upper East Side. That was it. Working alongside him for three months now, and he knew next to nothing. “So…”
Hale looked over at him, brows questioning him with every minute movement.
“You and Braeden have a thing?”
Hale scoffed and put the car into gear.
“I take that as a yes.”
Here we go again. Chris tapped out a beat on the window. “Hale, if we are going to work together, to trust each other, you need to give me something. It’s like working with a robot.”
The car turned down 67th street, and Hale waited a few blocks before saying anything. “I have a dog, Nightwing. He’s six. I like the Mets and the Islanders.”
“Mets? Really? I don’t know if this partnership is going to work out,” Chris laughed; he could tell by the eye roll Hale gave him that his joke was well received. “But I can work with the Islanders. What breed?”
“Huh? Oh, Nightwing? He’s a greyhound.”
Chris took a sip from his coffee. “Had you pegged for a Rottweiler fan.”
Hale’s jaw tightened, and Chris knew the conversation was over. Well, he’d learned more about his partner in two minutes than the months before. It was a start.
Deucalion approached the front desk, wearing his most charming smile. “Excuse me, Ma’am. I’m here to visit a dear old friend of mine. She was admitted this morning.”
“The last name’s Morrell.” He watched the medical assistant’s fingers tap on the keyboard.
“I’m sorry, Sir. There’s no one here by that name. Are you sure you have the right hospital?”
The woman was quite striking, it would be a shame to kill her. So, he tried again. “You know, she was married recently. Told me she had no intention on changing her name, but perhaps she changed her mind. Could you check under Deaton?”
Behind him, he could practically feel the anticipation to just get on with it radiating off Kali and Ennis. His young soldiers, not so much. He’d been advised against taking them on, and they had better not let him down. He wasn’t entirely ruthless; he could be reasonable when the situation called for it. But he did not suffer disappointments lightly.
He could tell, by the faint quiver in her voice and the change in her posture, that he’d just been lied to. Well, that just would not do. Not one to make the first move, preferring to leave the initial action to his lieutenants, Deucalion stepped back, giving a slight nod to Kali
As his right hand leaned forward, demeanor full of menace--she always was the most bloodthirsty among them--and slashed her fingers down the whimpering woman’s face, he removed his glasses to wipe away a spot of blood.
And with no more than a glance to Ennis, the lobby filled with the harsh crack of a gunshot.
Stiles walked out of the locker room, with Heather right beside him. Finally, he was able to duck away from lunch, and not a moment too soon, as his stomach protested the lack of food in it. “So, I am pretty sure I am missing Derek’s famous lasagna for dinner.”
“Oh yeah. He won the department cook-off with it last year. Two words: ah-mazing.”
Heather smiled, then opened her mouth as if to say something, but her words were cut off by their pagers both going off at once. Stiles fumbled at his waistband to free it, and at first, he didn’t believe what he read. He’d never had to look down and see 745837 on the display. Had to be a drill. Had to be.
“Code Silver in admissions, Code Silver in admissions, Code Silver in admissions.”
For as level headed as he was attending to patients, even in hectic situations, Stiles had never actually been in this situation. He froze, coming back to reality as Heather shook his shoulder.
“Stiles! We have to move.”
He nodded, swallowing repeatedly as he agreed with her. “Yeah.” They moved to the patient rooms nearest them and began closing all the doors, offering a brief warning to the persons therein to remain where they were until an all clear had been sounded. The ER had turned into a flurry of activity as staff followed procedures as quickly and efficiently as they could.
However, they weren’t fast enough to close the doors to the unit.
As the sound of gunshots and screaming filled the air around him, people ran for safety. Stiles reached down and grabbed Heather’s hand to pull her back towards the changing room. Between the two of them they could move a row of lockers in front of the door. He turned around to try and spot the shooter when he saw Heather get hit.
He didn’t even have time to process what happened before her falling body collided with him, and pain ripped through his side. The momentum threw him to the ground where the side of his face smacked into the tile.
Everything went black.
Chapter 4: La Bella Lupa
Stiles’ mouth felt like cotton when he opened it and tried to speak. HIs words came out little more than a weak rasp. There was a dense weight settled over his back; it made breathing difficult. He could feel a bruise forming on his left cheek. A black eye maybe. From where he lay, he could see that he’d hit the ground face first. All around him, the emergency lights flashed.
With great effort, he managed to turn his head just slightly when something wet and sticky fell off his shoulder and into his face. He spluttered, wiggling to free his arm enough so he could move whatever it was out of his eyes. To his horror, he pulled his hand away to find it covered in blood and matted blonde hair.
The events before he lost consciousness came back to him in an instant, and he felt bile rise up in his throat. It was then that he realized what the weight was that had him pressed to the tile. It was Heather.
“Hey,” he croaked out, keeping his voice low, “Heather, can you hear me? You okay?” When he received no answer, he stilled, holding his breath as he tried to feel whether or not she was breathing above him.
One of her arms lay splayed out on the floor beside him, and though it was an awkward position, he was able to check for a pulse.
There was none.
He struggled to pull himself out from under her, but his fingers couldn’t get purchase on the floor. A pool of blood surrounded him, and he couldn’t be sure if it was just Heather’s, a mix of hers and someone else’s, or even his own. All he knew, was that if he remained underneath her, he’d probably lose consciousness again. He wasn’t sure if that would help or hinder his chances of survival.
So, with a deep breath, he writhed and shifted, pushing himself up off the tile as much as he could, and finally breathed a sigh of relief when Heather’s body rolled off him. It hit the wet tile with a sickening splat. Turning his head towards her, he was met with a cold, lifeless stare.
Realizing he’d lost a friend, he whimpered, too afraid to make a noise any louder than that, but God, how he wanted to. He screwed his eyes shut in hopes he’d forget the way her eyes were hollow, that he could forget the sight of the bullet hole above her temple. It was a futile effort, as the image was burned into his memory.
He lay still as stone, listening intently for any sign of movement nearby. He could still hear gunshots, but they sounded like they were on the floor above him, maybe outside of the Emergency Unit, but wherever they were, it was not close to him at the moment. He needed to move now. Yet, now that the weight of her body had been lifted, and the pressure had been taken off his side, he became aware of his pain.
Holy hell did he become aware of the pain!
His side felt like someone had taken a white-hot fire poker and stabbed him with it. If the realization his face was covered in someone else’s blood wasn’t enough to make him lose his lunch, the agony in which he currently found himself in certainly was. He only managed to roll onto his side before what little remained of his breakfast forced its way out of his stomach. Panting with exertion and shivering from-hell, probably shock, he flopped onto his back and lifted his head to stare down his torso.
While purple scrubs were good for hiding bloodstains acquired from day to day duties, they were horrible for hiding his own wounds. Still, he could see the fabric clinging to his torso. So he knew it was at least wet, and with trembling fingers, he gingerly peeled the material away to see blood pooling out onto his skin from a decent sized hole in his side.
And he could have gone his entire life without knowing how it felt to be shot.
The whine he made at the sight of it was probably the least intelligent thing he’d ever done, but he couldn’t have stopped the noise escaping from his throat even if he tried.
The sound of a chair being pushed against the floor and the squeaking of sneakers that followed made him freeze. Or at least he thought he froze, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t calm his breathing. His chest rose and fell in a hurried and stilted fashion. Adrenaline you can get your ass in gear anytime now.
The footsteps stopped mere feet from him. That was it, he was dead. He screwed his eyes shut as tightly as he could. There was no way he was watching himself die. Nope. None.
“Oh my God, Stiles.” In that moment, Erica’s panicked voice was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard.
He tried to speak, to say anything, but he didn’t even manage a weak smile.
“Hold on, okay? I’m gonna find something to get you out of the hallway.”
He was pretty sure he blacked out for a second, because the next thing he noticed was the way his abdomen screamed in protest as towels were pressed up against the wound. He screamed too, and Erica clamped her hand down over his mouth.
“Shh, I don’t know where the shooters are, but you need to be quiet. Now,” she whispered, “I’m going to roll you onto your side, and put a sheet under you.”
Easier said than done, and it took everything he had not to scream again. Even still, his whimpering sounded like it was coming from a small child, not a grown man.
“There’s no exit wound, Stiles.” That was definitely fear in her voice. Shit. When she had him settled once more on his back, he felt her tugging the sheet to another location.
Tug. Drag. Stop. Breathe.
Tug. Drag. Stop. Breathe.
Tug. Drag. Stop. Breathe.
It became a predictable rhythm, one easy to get lost in. Better to focus on that than how badly everything hurt. Every few steps, Erica would step away to try a door, but as he expected, they were all locked. Finally, when he was sure he was going to pass out again, the harmonic sound of a moving latch made them both sigh in relief.
“Okay, Stiles. I need to go find supplies. Don’t die on me while I’m gone. I’m coming back; I promise.”
As the door swung shut behind her, he found himself plunged into total darkness save for a sliver of light from under the door. He could no longer hold back tears as the reality of what happened became too much for him.
Derek scowled as Chris, once more, asked another question about his personal life. What the hell was with the inquisition today? “Okay, I am not answering anymore questions about myself. I’m cutting you off. You’ve reached your quota for the day. Try again tomorrow.”
In the passenger seat, Chris chuckled. “See that? That bit of dry humor, no one would know that just looking at you. Makes me wonder what kind of person you are outside of the office besides a baseball and hockey loving dog owner who likes Newcastle and hot wings.”
Derek deadpanned. “In my spare time I knit sweaters for the elderly and sing baritone in a barbershop quartet.” That ought to shut him up. Please, let it shut him up.
He rolled his eyes. “No, not re-”
His words were cut off as a call came over the radio. “We have a 10-34S at Emissary Medical Center. Reports of multiple assailants and possible hostage situation. All available officers, SWAT and HNU report to location. Command post has been set up near main entrance. I repeat 10-34S Emissary Medical Center with possible hostages. All officers requested. Over”
Derek slammed on the brakes, and the squad car came to a stop less than a foot from a parked car. Even though he was white-knuckling the steering wheel, his palms were clammy. Inside his chest, his heart hammered against his sternum, beating so hard he could feel his pulse pounding in his thumbs, heard it in his ears. There was a slight trembling in his limbs, and his mouth hung open, trying to form words but nothing came out.
“Don’t tell me this is your first hostage situation or multiple shooting.”
His chest felt tight; he unfastened his seatbelt and staggered around to the passenger side. “Drive,” he rasped out. Thankfully, Chris didn’t argue with him. Derek supposed his appearance made a strong enough case for his current mental status. As soon as he sat back down, he could feel his stomach rolling. Multiple shooters, how many? Were there casualties? Injuries?
His mind kept going over the worst case scenario, because that’s just the sort of traitorous bastard his brain was.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed his partner watching him. “You okay over there?”
The city streets passed by in a blur as Chris sped towards the hospital. No matter how fast he drove, Derek felt for sure it wasn’t fast enough. Seconds turned to minutes, and he couldn’t tell one from the next. He just tried to breathe and not let his mind think the worst.
“Still with me?”
And he could hear the concern in Chris’ voice. He licked his lips. “Not my first hostage situation. I- can you drive faster?”
From his left, there was a sharp intake of breath, like the sound of realization. “Miss Hot Date a nur-”
“Please, don’t do this right now.”
When the car screeched to a halt outside the hospital, Derek could see dozens of squad cars, two SWAT vans, news crews, ambulances, fire engines- the works, and there, at the command post, stood his mother, overseeing it all. As soon as she saw him exit the vehicle she rushed over to him and took his face in her hands.
“Before you ask, we know very little so far. The initial call said at least three shooters, one confirmed fatality.”
Derek’s eyes widened. “What if-”
His mother looked him right in the eye. “It’s not him. Okay?”
“But- What if- It was his day off...Mom, I-” He couldn’t breathe. Just seeing the convergence of emergency vehicles outside was enough to have him reeling, because they knew nothing. “I, I can’t lo- I need him.” The scenery spun around him. “I ca...I can’t breathe.” He felt his mother guiding him towards the back of an ambulance. She said something to the paramedic, and he found a paper bag being pressed over his mouth and nose.
“Deep breaths. There we go. Keep breathing, Honey. Now, we have about ten officers on site who have loved ones either as staff or patients of the hospital. Given the emotional connection, we can’t have you working on this. You’re all too close.”
He nodded, feeling himself begin to calm down, even though the fear had lodged itself in his stomach like a stone and refused to budge.
“Argent, can you take him over to O’Reilly? Watch him, okay?”
Oh great. There was no way he got out of talking about this now. Still, because even at thirty-three he couldn’t disobey his mother, he followed Chris, but kept his eyes trained on the ground. He sat down on the curb, and to his surprise, Chris sat down next to him.
“So...not just a hot date then?”
“No. My fiance, he’s a doctor in the ER here. He wasn’t even supposed to work today. The two of us were supposed to be doing stupid touristy things today for his birthday.”
Chris hummed in approval. “Was that why you didn’t want to talk about yourself? Thought I wouldn’t want to work with you? Because Allison is married to a woman, you know. It’s okay with me.”
A pained chuckle escaped his lips. “No. I couldn’t care less if you approved or not. You’re not my dad. I didn’t say anything because in Pittsburgh, everyone knew about my personal life. Knew my hobbies and crap like that, and my partner used it against me. So sue me if I didn’t feel like trusting anyone at work with that information this time.”
Chris scratched his chin. “I get that. I hope you’ll give me a chance to earn your trust. You don't wear a ring?”
Derek shook his head. "I proposed to him, and I didn't even think about getting one for me. I asked him about it, whether he'd like me to wear one, and he said it wasn't necessary unless I wanted to. Never got around to buying one, I guess.
Shades drawn and lights off, the room was as dark as SA Maroney could make it. This was not what Braeden had signed up for when she agreed to take on personal security detail for this case. She had simply wanted to finally take down the Deucalion crime family and get justice for the countless victims (as well as revenge for her face) once and for all.
It had taken almost a year of endless digging to trace La Bella Lupa to New York, to this syndicate. No way in hell was she leaving this up to someone with no knowledge of the case. The US Marshalls were fast when it came to Witness Protection, but not that fast. Six hours. Marin Morrell, former consigliera for the family, had been in this hospital for six hours since arriving in a cab, beaten and broken, but alive and in full possession of her mental faculties. Braeden and the other Agents of her task force had been leaning on Morrell, trying to get her to flip on Deucalion for months, and for months, Morrell had resisted. Something had happened last night that made her change her mind, and she’d called up Braeden, asked to meet in a secure location.
She agreed to turn State’s Evidence in exchange for immunity and a new identity. Done and done. But on the short notice of her hospital admittance, the best they could do was set her up with an alias. Braeden figured in less than four more hours, Morrell would have had a brand new name and personal history. Four fucking hours.
But no. Deucalion had eyes and ears all over the city. Hell, as charming as the man was rumored to be, he probably had moles in law enforcement. That explained a lot, actually, about how they came to be in this predicament.
When she first heard the shots, she wondered if the two plain clothes officers stationed outside the room and herself would be able to get Morrell out of the hospital before the shooters found them. There were a lot of machines to unhook, and she wasn’t sure which one did what.
Her question was answered less than five minutes later when the sound of gunshots grew close enough for her to know they were in the Emergency Unit. The officers outside the door gave their best description of the two shooters they could see, then told her to lock themselves in, and they would try to draw the shooters away. She hadn’t heard back from them.
So there she sat, huddled in a recovery room, the door locked and barricaded anything she could find. Hopefully, they’d be all the better for it. Somehow, she managed to silence the beeping of the monitors, and tried her best to keep Morrell comfortable, though she longed to be able to help take the shooters down.
It had been at least fifteen minutes since the shots began to move away from them, and though she knew it was a risk, given her suspicions about a leak within the NYPD, the longer Morrell stayed in this room, the higher likelihood that Deucalion found them. The sad thing was, she wasn’t even sure if they were the assailants or not. Call it a hunch, though.
She padded into the bathroom and closed the door, anything to further muffle the sound of her phone call.
“9-1-1, what is your emergency?”
“My name is Special Agent Braeden Maroney requesting an immediate extraction of a VIP from Emissary Medical Center.”
“Agent, tactical teams are working as quickly as possible to breach the hospital. Please sit tight.”
Braeden gritted her teeth. “I understand that, and I understand you are giving the standard response. The protective detail identified at least two shooters. One male, white, at least six feet tall, large build. The other female, dark skin, 5’8” to 5’10” tall. Given the identity of the VIP, there is reason to believe the assailants are affiliated with the Deucalion crime family. Once again, I am requesting immediate extraction.”
“We will get there as quickly as we can. What is your location?”
Braeden weighed the risks of telling them versus keeping the information to herself. “Can you patch me to a secure line? Put me through to the person in charge of the rescue situation?”
Braeden waited with bated breath for her call to transfer and prayed that it was a name she could trust. There were a few names of officers she’d worked with in New York. Maybe she’d get lucky.
“This is Det. Parrish.”
Thank God. “Parrish, it’s SA Maroney. Your line is secure?”
“I’m in room W415 with a VIP. Relay my location to SWAT and get her out of here. I think the shooters are looking for her.”
“I’ll let my chief know. Hang tight, and stay safe.”
As Detective Parrish ended the call, she would have loved to say she felt some relief, but that would have been a lie.
Erica stalked down the hall with her bag of supplies. Her heart was beating out a cut-time march in her chest. At any moment, the gunmen might come back, and the thought had her scared to death. She tried the handle to the dispensary, fully expecting it to be locked given the street value of what the room contained, but the door hadn’t latched over when the last person left it. Or fled it, more likely.
She tripped over something in the doorway as she fumbled for the light switch. As soon as the lights were on, she wished she’d never hit the switch. Swallowing back the bile her throat at the sight of two of her coworkers’ dead bodies, she stepped over their still forms, searching the shelves as quickly as she could for what she needed. Once her hands closed around the medications and syringe, she fled the room as fast as she could.
More shots echoed from just beyond the Emergency room, so before she returned to Stiles, she grabbed a spare towel and scrubbed at the drag marks the sheet had left behind. It wasn’t perfect, but at least this way, there wasn’t a trail of blood leading right to their location. She heard a soft cry for help. The voice sounded young, and she knew Stiles would hate her if she ignored it.
Crouching underneath the desk in the nurses’ station, was a teenage boy.
“Are you hurt?”
“No.” He stared at her with dark eyes the size of dinner plates.
“I need your help too. Come on.” They hurried into the janitorial closet where she’d left Stiles. “Okay,” she said, flipping the switch on, “Take this blanket and tape it to the door frame. I need it to block out any light in here.” She knelt down and shook Stiles.
He came to after a few moments, confused, and shaking. He was pale, too pale.
“Oh my, God. Is that...was he shot?”
“What’s your name?”
Erica handed him the small oxygen tank and mask. “I’m Erica. Now, turn that on and put it over his face. I have it on the right setting. Just,” she pointed to the top, “right there. Good.” She pulled a unit of blood from the bag. It was the only unit of O-Neg left in the warmer. It would have to do. Before she started the transfusion, she changed out the dressing and repacked the wound. “Put these on,” she said, giving him a pair of gloves, “and take this towel. Keep pressure on the wound.”
No sooner had Mason pressed the towel to the gunshot wound in Stiles’ abdomen, than Stiles screamed, body writhing in pain.
“Shh,” she hissed, rolling up a clean washcloth she’d grabbed. “Bite down on this.” She placed the rag in his mouth, and though she felt bad for him, his continued screaming would get them killed.
She took the bottle of morphine and drew the dose into the syringe and plunged the needle into his deltoid. “Your pain should start to lessen.” While she waited for the pain medication to take effect, she ran an IV line of saline. Soon, the rigidity in his body as he fought to breathe through the pain lessened, and she went to work on the blood transfusion.
Chapter 5: Triage Red
Talia rubbed her temples. Though they'd only been outside the hospital for less than an hour, it felt like ages. She tried not to let her emotions get the best if her, to keep them in check. After all, Stiles was important to her, too, and not just because he was the center of her son’s entire world. She liked Stiles, had ever since Derek had told her about him. Any man that could make him sound that happy was important to her. The fact Stiles understood the grueling nature of the job, having grown up the son of the sheriff, gave him even more points in her book.
She was just lucky someone else was calling the shots today, because she wanted to rush in full force, even though she understood that plan to be foolish at best, laden with casualties at worst.
Turning to her Chief, she asked for an update. “Where are we with breaching the building?”
Chief Fujimoto pointed out the hospital entrances on the diagram. “So, these two doors back here and the one in the basement are the best options. If what that FBI agent said is accurate, then these perps would likely avoid these areas, because there are no patient rooms or beds here.”
“We're finishing up recon now. SWAT has snipers in these four buildings,” he said, indicating them on the map of the surrounding area.”
She patted him on the shoulder. “Keep me posted.”
On the curb, Derek sat with his head buried in his knees. The cacophonous chatter around him had his head swimming. He just wanted to find a Delorean and 1.21 gigawatts so he could return to that morning before he woke up and silence Stiles’ phone.
Someone poked him in the shoulder, and he lifted his head to see Chris holding a cup of coffee out to him. Though he didn't really feel like drinking anything--his stomach still churned with worry--he took the proffered cup from his partner with a mumble of thanks.
“I hope that's how you like it. I didn't actually know what your drink is called, just that it's a coffee drink with whipped cream.”
Derek took a sip, fighting back the wince at the cloying sweetness of whatever the hell Chris had brought him.
“I take it by that grimace on your face it's not it.” Chris sat down next to him.
“No, but thanks for trying.”
Chris seemed taken aback by his gratitude, not that Derek cared either way. Maybe on another day, a better day, he would, but not now. His mind was far off, worrying about Stiles.
“So earlier, when you said your partner-”
“I really don't want to talk about that.”
With a hum, Chris nodded and changed subject. “Your fiance, what's his name?”
“Stiles,” when Chris scoffed, Derek clarified. “It's a nickname for Miecesław. He says no one pronounces it right. Hell, it took me two years to get it right.”
“How'd you meet?”
“He set my broken ankle.”
Chris chuckled. “Not quite what I was expecting.”
Detective Parrish stood near the communications post as relayed audio of 9-1-1 calls came in. So far, the report of one fatality had been upped to seven with reports of at least twenty gunshot wounds.
In addition to the injuries were patients who had been in dire need of medical treatment when the shooting started, including a nine month old who'd been in the middle of a pre-op exam awaiting open heart surgery. He'd been tasked with sorting which injuries were the most critical and their location within the hospital.
The radio next to him came to life with a new call. “We need help. I’m at Emissary Medical Center. There's been a shooting with shooters still on premises. I have an adult male with an GSW to the abdomen. I've pushed a unit of O Neg and saline, but there is no exit wound. Pulse is 130, and despite pressure on wound and fluid intervention, BP is 76/60. Patient is critical. Triage Red.”
The dispatcher’s voice came over the radio, “What is your location within the hospital?”
“Emergency Room janitor’s closet.”
“What is your name?”
“Erica Reyes. I'm a nurse.”
“And the patient’s name?”
“Sit tight. We will have someone to you as soon as we can.”
Jordan added another tally to the current gunshot wounds. He was no expert on medical terminology, but he knew a triage color of red meant that Dr. Stilinski got moved up near the top of the list.
Erica looked down at Stiles whose head rested on her leg. She smoothed the hair out of his face with one hand, while the other kept pressure on his wound. His skin was pale, and though she’d done her best, he was still losing blood. Even if she’d managed to slow the blood loss a little with pressure, she didn’t have the tools or the training to correctly identify where it was coming from. Best case was a lesser vein, worst case was an organ. She’d had the stopwatch going on her phone since she found him.
They were up to an hour and fifteen minutes, and thirty-five minutes since she managed to get through to 9-1-1. She never thought she would receive a busy signal. Yet, with as many gunshots as she’d heard, she had no doubt the call center was overwhelmed with calls from inside the hospital.
“I’m so tired, Er’ca.”
“I know,” she tried to keep her voice level, but she was terrified that she was in the process of watching her friend die, “but you need to stay awake, though. Talk to me. How is the wedding planning coming?”
“‘m so behind. Can’t find venue. Der’k wants to get married at his parent’s. Says will be less hassle.”
“What do you want?”
His eyes went wide with fear. “I don’t wan’ die.”
“I know you don’t. I’m sure they’ll be here soon. Okay?” She wiped away the tears on his face with one of the washcloths she’d snagged.
“That would jus’ kill m’dad.”
“Well, then we need to make sure we get you out of here and patched up so he can see you marry that gorgeous fiance of yours.”
Stiles let out a pained chuckle, giving a little nod of his head. He went silent after that, save for the sound of his labored breathing. Erica, however, focused on anything she could hear outside the room.
They continued on like that for another ten minutes until the sound of radio chatter and squeaking boots met her ears. It was faint but growing closer, and as soon as she could make out any of the words that identified who was coming as first responders, she reached behind her and yanked down the blanket blocking the light from the hallway. “Help! We need help in here! Somebody please!”
In less than a minute, the door opened, and a SWAT officer had a rifle pointed in the room. It didn’t take him long to asses that the three people inside were not a threat and he radioed for help.
“Command. This is SWAT 12 requesting MedEvac for male GSW victim in Southwest Quadrant.”
“Officer Mahealani, what’s your 20?”
“Emergency room, just outside janitor closet about twenty feet south of Admissions Desk.”
“Roger that. Sending EMS unit to you. ETA less than three minutes.”
“Over.” The officer turned to her. “Ma’am, we have help on the way. What’s your name?”
“Erica, Erica Reyes. This is Mason. I’m sorry, I don’t know his last name.”
“Hewitt. I was visiting a friend of mine, Liam Dunbar.”
Erica pulled off her gloves and wiped her face. “This is Dr. Stiles Stilinski. I can’t pronounce his actual first name. It’s like Mitch-swaf something.” Her hands shook as the enormity of the situation finally hit her. “You, you, you… you need to notify Officer-”
Her mind blanked on her as she forgot Derek’s last name. “Derek. He’s...he’s family,” she stuttered as she pointed to Stiles. She watched the officer radio it in, and tried to calm her breathing, only letting out a sigh of relief when EMS appeared in the doorway.
When his mother came running over to him, Derek’s chest tightened once more in panic. Before he could say a word, she took his face in her hands. His stomach sank, because that grim look on her face could only mean one thing.
“No, no, no, no, no.” He could feel himself crumbling, but she shook him a little.
“Derek, he was shot-”
“Ssss...shot?” Breathe, Derek. Breathe.
“But he’s alive. They are bringing him out now, and they are going to do everything they can for him. Okay?” He nodded in her grasp. “Now, Chris is going to drive you to-”
“No, no. I want- I have- I need to ride with him, please.”
His mother nodded, her face full of maternal concern. “Okay. But Chris will follow the ambulance, and he is going to stay with you until I can get ahold of your sister.”
“You, you, I, I need to call his dad, and-”
“Sweetheart,” she looked him right in the eye, “I will take care of it.”
“Flying out here, that’s gonna cost them a fortune.”
His mother cupped his chin once more. “I.will.take.care.of.it. Now, go. Hurry.”
On shaky legs, he stumbled over to the ambulance just in time to see them loading in a gurney. At the sight of Stiles covered in blood, he almost collapsed to the pavement. “Oh, God.” Strong hands gripped him under the arms, and he looked up to see Chris helping him stand.
“In you go.”
Derek sat staring at the love of his life, barely conscious, wan, looking so fragile and broken, and it took everything in him not to curl himself protectively around him and break down in great heaving sobs. The back of the ambulance was a flurry of activity he didn’t understand. He only had eyes for Stiles, couldn’t even blink for fear he’d open his eyes and find him gone.
A numbness settled over him, eventually, his body too tired from prolonged heightened emotions, and the ride to the nearest Level 1 Trauma Center passed by in a blur
Chapter 6: There Goes My NFL Career
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.