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There's a clock that sits on top of a dusty old file cabinet in one corner of the Sheriff's office. The cabinet itself is filled with the moldering remains of old personnel files; fossilized remnants of a bygone age when his people used to fill out the forms by hand rather than enter the data into computers. No one's been in the cabinet for years, which is probably why John has never thought to just unplug the clock and throw the damn thing away. It's an unattractive, plastic throwback to misguided 1980s taste and he's pretty sure no one would miss it. It isn't even digital and keeps its time with little white numbers painted onto brown plastic leaves that clack against each other each time the minute flips.

For 20 of those clacks Sheriff John Stilinski has been standing in his office with arms loosely folded, listening to one of his deputies' air his grievances over a recent scheduling snafu. He's been trying his best to appear as though he's actively listening and empathizing with the red-faced Deputy Bara, nodding when appropriate and looking properly affronted when expected, but his eyes keep flicking over to that damn clock. It's edging its way towards a number he's very familiar with, and one that has haunted his life for years.

Ever since John lost his wife to a type of dementia only talked about in research books all those years ago, the number has followed him everywhere. It's shown up so many times on death certificates and incident reports that it's changed him. It's turned him into one of those people who believes in signs and omens. That's what Beacon Hills and its supernatural infection has done to him. It's burrowed into his life so completely that when the clock lingers for a moment on 11:10 then flips idly over to 11:11, Stilinski can't help but flinch. And to make matters worse, Bara picks up on it, and stops talking just long enough to glance over his shoulder at the clock.

"Everything alright, Sherriff?" He asks apprehensively, one eyebrow raised as he turns back around.

"Yeah, it's fine," John shrugs it off easily enough. "You were saying?"

But Bara doesn't get the chance to launch back into his tirade. A dispatch comes over the airwaves then that crackles across every radio in the precinct and shuts his deputy up for good. It's a call John suspects he has subconsciously been expecting to get for a while now, but one he never let himself believe would actually come.

He's not entirely sure how it happens, but Stilinski doesn't become aware again until he's pushing out through the front doors of the precinct and into the unexpected air of an unseasonably cool Beacon Hills summer night. He's got his keys to his cruiser clutched so tightly in his hand that they slice into his flesh, nearly drawing blood. Bara's hot on his heels yelling at him from a few feet back to just slow the hell down, but John barely registers any of it. He's too busy processing, too preoccupied with tripping over words that should never be linked together. Words like fire… and ambulance… and Stiles.

"Sheriff, for the love of god, STOP!" Bara finally catches up with him in the middle of the parking lot and somehow manages to halt him with a heavy hand on his forearm. John shakes it off immediately and continues on until Bara slips in front of him, blocking his path.

"Get out of my way, Deputy," he growls dangerously, and while a little of the fight drains out of Bara then, he doesn't move or stand down.

"Give me the keys and I will." Bara surprises the hell out of him by jutting an expectant hand out into the electrified space between them. John stares at it for a moment, stunned. Bara isn't exactly one of his most aggressive of officers so the blatant display of defiance is throwing John through a loop.

"And what the hell makes you think I'll do that?" His voice doesn't even sound like his own and a little of the color drains away from his deputy's face when John looks back up at him.

"Because, Sir," Bara answers back thickly but still managing to emphasize the word like maybe reminding John of who he is might somehow calm him down (it doesn't), "you're in no condition to drive so just give me the keys and I'll take you there myself."

John's first instinct is to refuse, to do whatever it takes to retain his right to recklessly barrel down the city streets and towards his son who could be dead at this moment for all he knows. He tightens his grip on the keys and Bara puts his hands out further.

The kid just doesn't know when to quit.

"John," he begs quietly, coming in close so that the handful of deputies passing them by on their way to the call can't overhear. "Please."

John knows that he's being irrational and that Bara is just trying to help, but it still feels like his deputy is trying to insinuate himself into a situation where he's not wanted and certainly doesn't belong. This is Stiles, they're talking about. Stiles. John's own flesh and blood and there's nothing he won't do, no lengths he won't go to make sure his boy is made safe. If that means running into burning buildings, then so be it. But if Bara is there, if John gives up the keys and lets the young deputy in, then he's going to try and stop him. He's going to try and hold John back from doing whatever it takes to get to his son.

"Sheriff, all I want to do is drive you there," he states, as if picking up on John's internal struggle. They stand in stalemate beneath the weak light of the parking lot lamps, neither man willing to back down.

"You don't understand…"

"But I do," Bara interrupts, taking another step forward. "I do, boss. It's Stiles. Just let me get you there in one piece."

It's the eyes that do it, those pleading yet determined eyes begging him to see reason. John knows in that moment that nothing he says or do will get Bara to back down now, so he begrudgingly shoves the keys into his still outstretched hand, looking down at the pavement as he does. Its wet like it's just rained, only he doesn't remember the storm.

Shaking off the awkwardness of the moment as best they can, both men climb into John's cruiser without comment and Bara peels them out of the parking lot on the screech of dry tires against wet pavement.

While his deputy focuses on careening them down the thankfully empty city streets, John gets on the radio to dispatch and tries to get more information on what's going on. The initial call involved a single vehicle incident with injuries, but other than that, no one can tell him anything. All units are still en route to the scene but Cyndi at the dispatch desk relays what she can in short bursts of communication meant to keep the frequency open as much as possible. What she has isn't much, but it's something. Some kid called it in. Could have been Stiles, but maybe not, she's still too new to recognize his voice. Ambulance is minutes out and the fire department is right behind them because now there are reports trickling in from the neighbors of full on flames coming from behind the clinic.

"Floor it," John mutters, glancing over at Bara whose white knuckling the steering wheel with hands at ten and two. His deputy obeys instantly and John is pressed back into the seat.

He has no idea what he's going to find, what chaos they'll pull up on when they eventually reach the clinic, but his brain is more than happy to supply him with all manner of theories; most of them dark. They usually end with him on his knees, covered in blood with Stiles' name on his lips, and nothing he tries can make the images stop. He's defenseless against the pressure they exert and as Bara hurtles them towards the clinic and the unknown, he grabs hold of the safety bar above the window for something, anything to anchor him in place.


Chapter 2

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October 2015

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