Melissa had the trauma team waiting for them.
Scott opened the car door, and strangers slipped Stiles from Derek's blood-slicked hands. As they arranged him on a gurney, Derek kept pressing between people trying to make contact with bare skin.
"What happened?" Melissa demanded of her son.
Scott just stared at her with wide panicked eyes.
"Derek?" She turned to him.
"One of them had a sword," he said, sounding distant and dull to his own ears.
Melissa grimaced. "Honey, you have to let him go."
Shock jolted Derek into looking at her. "What?"
She tugged at his wrist. He'd managed to lock his hand around Stiles's arm.
"You have to let go," she said again.
"He hasn't felt it," Derek rasped the words out, pitched so only she could hear. "I've taken the pain the whole time. He doesn't know."
All her compassion seemed to focus in on him. "I understand. We'll give him something. You have to let go."
He did, and left a bloody handprint. Stiles arched and moaned, and Derek had to look away.
People swarmed as they wheeled him into the ER, taking measurements, attaching tubes. Derek and Scott kept pace. "You have to watch his feet," Derek heard himself say. "They burned him." As though that were the greatest of their worries. Melissa touched his arm and nodded at him, then joined the mass of nurses and doctors.
The gurney never stopped moving. They went straight from the ER doors up to the OR. Chris managed to find them and followed them up. At the last possible moment Melissa turned.
"Scott, you have to stay."
"Honey, you have to stay." She touched his face and kissed him on the forehead.
Scott's voice shook. "Don't let him die." Her face crumpled, but she didn't make the promise. "You saved Danny, mom, you have to save Stiles."
There weren't words, so she pulled him into a hug instead. A few paces back, Derek stood, blood-soaked and silent, watching and surrounded by ghosts. Melissa exchanged a look with Chris, and he went to take a seat in the little waiting area. As she let Scott go, the elevator door opened and the rest of the pack emerged.
Sheriff Stilinski clung to Isaac's arm in a way that made it clear he was being led. Scott turned, and Melissa rushed forward.
"How bad?" He turned toward her voice, eyes searching.
She frowned at him and looked at Isaac for an explanation.
"He can't see."
"Temporary problem. How's—"
"I don't know yet. They just took him into the OR. The cut was deep. There's a lot of blood, and a lot to repair. But the surgeon's just having a look now."
John's face flooded, and he reached in her direction. She took his hand in both of hers and squeezed.
"I'm gonna go in. And I'll be back when I have news."
He bit the insides of his lips and nodded, squeezing her hands hard before letting go. Isaac brought him to the chairs in the waiting area and kept a hand on his arm while they waited. Allison and Aiden took chairs on either side of Lydia.
“He’s going to be fine,” Lydia stated in a calm voice, looking at Allison with wide eyes. “I can tell.”
Allison’s face crumpled a little with doubt. “Lydia . . .”
Lydia sniffed and extracted her hand from Aiden’s to wipe her forehead, smearing soot. “We didn’t just find bodies,” she said in a husky whisper. “I know.” Allison took her other hand, quieted, and tried to look convinced.
Ethan held his aching ribs and sat alone.
Scott turned to watch his mom jog down the hallway and through the double doors. And that's where he stayed. Rooted in the middle of the hall, staring at the closed doors that had swallowed his brother. He didn't cry. Didn't feel much of anything except the conviction that he was right where he should be and that moving might shatter everything. That if he moved or cried or spoke, it would be a curse that took Stiles away. He didn't respond to Allison touching his hand. Or notice when Derek slipped away and returned an hour later no longer soaked in blood.
What he did do, however, was pray. He didn't even really believe in God, but he said it over and over—the only word his mind could form. Please. Please, please, please, please, please.
The nursing staff stopped asking him to take a seat.
Three hours after they had wheeled Stiles through the doors, Scott saw his mom's face weaving in and out of view through the small glass window. She looked tired, and his heart started to race.
She pushed through the doors and tore the cap off her head with heavy exhale.
Oh God. Oh, God . . .
And then they locked eyes, and she slowly, wearily smiled.
Without warning, Scott collapsed. His knees went weak, and he just dropped to the floor and started to cry with crystal, clear relief.
All John heard was sudden sobbing, and he started and paled. A small "No" escaped him, but Isaac shook his arm. "No, it's okay."
"Melissa?" John called her name and stood up, fear and hope fighting in his expression.
She touched Scott's shoulder as she passed by him and went straight to the Sheriff to pull him into a hug.
"It's okay," she said, crying a little herself. Everyone crowded in close around them, and she pulled back, just holding his arms. "It's okay. The surgeon was able to patch everything up. We've treated and wrapped the burns. He's in recovery now."
John laughed once and pulled her back into a hug. "Thank you," he said with a warble of tears before letting her go.
Scott joined the circle, wobbling a little. His face was still red and wet. "Can we see him?"
She gave him a serious look. "In a few hours. The anaesthetic will take awhile to wear off."
"He doesn't have to be awake, I just . . ."
She nodded. "Technically, no, but I can get a couple of you in. The rest of you should probably go home."
Isaac slipped his hand around the Sheriff's elbow. "Do you want me to—"
John patted his hand. "It's okay. You can head home."
"I'll take him," Scott said, and Isaac nodded at them both.
Everyone else but Derek shuffled off, discussing the most efficient way to deliver everyone to the right house. Scott gave Derek a long enigmatic look but didn't say anything or question his presence. He followed silently when Melissa started leading them toward recovery.
"So, is anyone going to explain to me how you ended up blind?" she asked, bumping against John lightly.
He sighed, and Scott laughed a little. "I'll tell you tomorrow."
The room was dim, but not dark, and smelled of fresh antiseptic. Stiles looked small in the bed, tucked in tight as he was. They had him elevated, which Scott had learned years ago was to help people heal. Scott led the Sheriff to the chair right by the bed and scooted a second one up next to him.
"How does he look?" John asked as he moved his hands searchingly over the blankets. He found his son's arm and moved down until he could press those long fingers between his palms.
"Peaceful," Scott said after a slight pause. "He's got a bruise on his face." He inhaled through his nose. "Doesn't smell like infection. Although that'd be pretty fast if he did."
John nodded and rubbed his top hand in slow circles a few times before setting Stiles's hand back down. He sat for a minute saying nothing and then lifted his head. "Derek?"
"Sir?" Derek replied from the corner near the door, and the Sheriff turned in his general direction with a frown.
"Little far away, aren't you?"
"I. Umm . . ." Didn't know if you'd let me get closer? Didn't know if I was welcome?
Sheriff Stilinski cocked his head, trying to puzzle out the non-response, and then sighed. "Might as well pull up a chair," he said.
Derek's gaze flicked to Scott, and Scott returned a sad grin.
He moved the side table out of the way and placed the last chair in the room on the opposite side of the bed. He sat and tried to ignore the weight of unasked questions that squeezed down on his heart. After awhile, Derek touched Stiles's arm and started to siphon off some of the pain in his body, just to feel like he was helping. Even though Stiles couldn't feel it. Scott watched him and nodded like he understood.
Their silence struck like pins, a slow gathering tide of guilt and anguish. And he wished they would say something. Ask. Accuse. Anything to break the tension tearing him in two.
"You haven't asked," Derek said finally, when he couldn't stand it anymore.
John turned toward him, frowning a little.
"Asked what?" Scott replied.
"Why? Why him. You haven't asked." If he sounded a little desperate and incredulous, he didn't care.
Scott's brows knit together, while the Sheriff's evened out.
"Does it matter?" John asked softly.
Derek just stared at him, his whole being screaming that yes, yes it did matter.
John went on, "He's alive. What—what more could I need to know?"
"But it's my fault!" He didn't mean to yell and pulled his emotions back. "Why are you even letting me stay?" He couldn't look at them when he asked, instead focusing on Stiles's face, like it had been much longer than a day since he'd seen it.
Sheriff Stilinski drew a long, deep breath and sighed it all out. "You got ambushed and kidnapped, and neither of those things are your fault."
Sorrow burned in Derek's eyes. "I couldn't save him," he breathed. "Stop them."
Scott leaned forward, the motion enough to get Derek to look at him. "That doesn't make it your fault." Whatever strange blood may be between them, for that one moment, Derek could feel Scott's sincerity and struggled to take it in.
They fell back into silence and for a few hours dozed lightly. Stiles came to a little before sunrise, groaning before he managed to open his eyes. Scott elbowed the Sheriff awake, and Derek sat straighter in his chair.
"Hey . . ." Stiles said. He sounded hoarse and drowsy.
"Stiles." His father said it like a prayer and gripped his arm.
The corners of Stiles's mouth turned up, and he shifted his gaze. "Scotty."
Scott smiled like sunshine. "Hey, man."
And then Stiles glanced over at Derek, who hadn't said anything, and his grin broadened. Derek ducked his head a little and grinned back.
"Guys, if you don't mind giving me a couple minutes?" John asked.
Scott gave him a pat on the shoulder, and he and Derek cleared out. Not that they couldn't hear everything from the hallway, but the pretense mattered.
John traced until he could hold his son's hand between his own.
"You know I hate hospitals," he said.
"Yeah. Sorry about that."
John's voice grew thick, and his eyes filled with tears that he fought to keep back. "Can you please not make a habit of this? For me?"
He sucked in a breath and squeezed on Stiles's hand. "It almost killed me when your mother died, and if you—" The words caught in his throat. "If anything happens to you, it'll finish the job."
"Dad . . ."
"I just can't. I-I can't . . ."
A tear streaked down Stiles's cheek. "I know." The drugs made it difficult to form complex thoughts, so he just held on as tightly as he could.
John let go of his hand and patted his way up his son's body a few times until he had Stiles's cheek in his hand. He leaned over carefully to kiss his forehead just near the tips of his fingers.
"Still blind," Stiles muttered.
"Still blind," his father confirmed.
Stiles frowned up at him. "That sucks."
John huffed a laugh. "Yeah. I can't see and you can't walk. It'll be great." He dropped back into his seat and yawned.
"You should sleep," Stiles said, yawning himself.
The Sheriff smirked. "You shouldn't be so bossy."
"I'm sick. Get to be bossy."
John rolled his eyes and called in the direction of the door. "Scott? Come on back in."
The door opened a second later, and Scott led the Sheriff out into the hallway, then to the waiting area. "My mom's shift ends in a few minutes, so we can take you home. I just wanna—"
John waved him away, nodding.
Scott slipped back into Stiles's room.
"Mmm? Yeah. I think—I think they just gave me more drugs, cuz I . . ." He hummed happily.
Scott grinned at him. "Yeah. I think it's morphine." He sat in the closest chair.
"Thanks for saving us . . ."
Scott smiled. "Wasn't just me. It was everyone."
Stiles shrugged and smacked his lips. "Yer a good alpha."
"I don't know about—"
"Saved us! Makes you good."
Scott chuckled. "Well. Thanks for not dying."
Stiles nodded a lot and made a pleased sound. "You gotta take care of my dad, 'kay? With the—" He flopped a hand around in front of his face, and Scott laughed a little again.
Stiles's eyes fell shut, and for a second Scott thought he might have fallen back asleep, but then he frowned.
"What?" Scott asked him.
"Di . . . Derek leave?" He cracked open his eyes again.
Scott smiled fondly. "No. He's in the hallway." Stiles looked pleased at that. Scott nudged his shoulder. "I'm gonna go take your dad home."
"Mmhmm. Good Scott. Come back?"
Scott chuckled. "Tomorrow." He squeezed Stiles's shoulder and left. He found Derek leaning against the wall opposite the room with his arms crossed, staring at the floor.
"He wants to see you," Scott told him, even though they both knew Derek could hear the whole conversation.
Derek lifted his gaze from the ground, and Scott gestured with a nod of his head toward the door before going to find Sheriff Stilinski and rounding up his mom.
Derek stared at the door for a few seconds and then kicked himself away from the wall and went in, closing the door as quietly as he could in case Stiles had already fallen asleep. He slid into the close chair and listened to the slow but steady beat of Stiles's heart, the restful rhythm of his breathing. He closed his eyes and concentrated on listening to these signs of life. They'd come close to death a lot, the two of them. But this time—this time was different. This time had Stiles's blood slippery on his hands, caking his skin. This time he'd been tortured simply for being something—someone—Derek had accidentally cared about. Not even an action of his own. He existed. They tortured him for it. Because everyone around Derek gets hurt.
"Stop that," Stiles said, his voice a breathy creak.
Derek looked up at him. "What?"
His scowl deepened in confusion. "Stop my face?"
Stiles lifted his hand and managed to plant a finger on Derek's eyebrows, narrowly missing poking him in the eye. Derek took his wrist in hand and moved his arm back down to the mattress.
"I can't," he whispered.
His chest ached with the need to say it, for someone to be angry about it. "They tortured you because of me. To get to me. To upset me!"
Stiles turned his hand so he could hold Derek's fingers and tried to focus through the haze of pain meds. "They sucked," he said carefully, enunciating, and sagged from the effort.
Derek stared at him a second and then huffed. He settled his hands on Stiles's forearm and started to draw off the pain, wondering if it would make a difference. Stiles's hooded eyes flashed, and his whole body flexed.
"Whoa." He shivered and stared at Derek like he'd invented coffee.
"Dude." He took a second to search for words. "So much better." He laid back for a second, humming and blissful, and then rolled his head to the side so he could look at Derek without lifting his head. Without warning, he started wriggling, pushing toward the far side of the bed and trying to pull his bandaged feet through the tightly wrapped blankets.
Alarmed, Derek gripped his arm hard. "Stiles, stop! What are you doing? Stop!"
Panting, Stiles looked down at the expanse of open bed, up at Derek, and then back down. He patted the mattress.
"But I made space!"
"You need to rest."
Derek scowled. "They'll kick me out."
"Maybe. I don't care." He dropped his head to the pillow and gazed at Derek with drowsy, pleading eyes.
Derek sighed. "Fine. But I have to let go for a second."
Stiles grinned triumphantly and nodded, and Derek released his grip. Stiles groaned a little, but the grin never left his face.
Derek quickly undid the laces on his boots and kicked them off. Then he climbed carefully onto the bed and tried to find a way to wrap himself around Stiles without actually touching him. He settled for letting Stiles use his arm as a pillow and siphoning off his pain through their linked hands.
Stiles stared down toward the foot of the bed. After a minute, he started to convulse with what Derek quickly figured out to be restrained laughter.
"Ow." Stiles bit his lips to try to contain himself.
"What?" Derek insisted, a little concerned.
Stiles breathed out a few giggles, smiling to himself, and hummed in amusement. "You have socks."
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Lora FriedenthalWrite a Review