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Chapter Three


John would like to be able to tell people that he remembers exactly what happened on the ambulance ride over to the hospital, but it would all be a lie. The truth is, the memories are nothing but a confusing, disjointed blur inside his brain anymore. What he does remember is that Stiles' condition got worse en route, and that the clammy hand John had somehow managed to capture in his own when he first got into the ambulance, was wrenched from his grip at some point during the ride. Now all he knows is that the men maneuvering his son's gurney through the ambulance bay and into the ER are moving fast and he gets left behind near the front intake desk without so much as a backwards glance from the paramedics.

The place they take him, it's not somewhere John can follow, but a piece of his soul tears itself away from his center and follows after his son as he disappears from view.

"Sherriff?" A tentative female voice sounds from behind his elbow, and he knows just from the tone and the formal use of his title that it's not the nurse he was hoping for.

"I need Melissa McCall," he states without emotion, not even bothering to turn around.

"Now."

John isn't even sure Melissa is working tonight but he can't do this on his own. If the doctors come out from those doors to tell him his only son is dead, it'll be over. There won't be any reason to keep going, to get out of bed in the mornings. There won't be any reason to brew coffee or cook meals. No reason to go to work or to sleep or to even breathe. That's what Stiles' death will do to him.

Melissa is thankfully working at the hospital tonight and she arrives at his side a few minutes later on a breath of sterile air thats filled with the just the faintest hint of her favorite perfume.

"John?" She whispers, touching his arm, and he turns his tear-moistened eyes in her direction.

It's been years, decades really, since he's cried, but that doesn't stop the tears from coming on hard and fast.

Melissa McCall, mother, advocate, friend, gathers him up in her arms and somehow manages to help him contain the heavy sobs that wrack his frame before he can even stop them. He doesn't know the full extent of Stiles' injuries, but he cries like he's already lost him. Melissa absorbs it all with her silent and resilient strength until he has nothing left to give and she deposits them into the cold, uncomfortable seating just inside the ER doors.

"Have they told you anything?" She asks when he finally manages to get himself back under some semblance of control.

John shakes his head. "Only that he wasn't breathing on his own."

"Ok," Melissa nods, "I'm going to find out what's going on. Wait here for me," and disappears from his side just as quickly as she arrived. For a moment, John is lost and doesn't know exactly what to do with himself. Normally, this would be the point when he'd call in the cavalry, but he's not really sure who to call or who could come. The rest of the pack is busy with their plans at the school and it isn't like he can just pick up the phone and call Claudia. No, he really is alone in this, just like he's been alone in every crisis since his wife died.

Even though he's pretty sure it won't do any good, John does eventually call Scott on his cell. Someone should know what's happening to Stiles but, as expected, the call goes straight to voicemail. He leaves a message anyway letting the teen know that he should get over to the hospital as soon as he can. After that, it's just a waiting game.

The rules of the waiting game are relatively simple. They mostly involve Sheriff Stilinski pacing up and down a little stretch of ER floor trying not to snap at the well-meaning nurses who stop by every so often to ask if they can get him anything. It also involves wondering if the next doctor who breezes out through those double doors is going to give him some news about his son. Melissa has been gone for a long while and John can't help but invent all manner of horrors that could keep her away. Eventually, though, Melissa does push through those doors and John doesn't miss the blood speckling the lower half of her scrubs.

"He's alive," she promises with hands held up in placation when he shoots up and out of his seat. He'd believe her, if it weren't for her eyes. They just don't back up the rushed reassurance.

"He's alive, John," she repeats when she can see that he's not buying it, "but he's not out of the woods just yet."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" The question comes out angry and harsher than he intends but Melissa takes no offence. Her features soften and her eyes round in sympathy as he steels himself to hear the worst.

"He's got some internal injuries from when the jeep flipped so they need to get him into surgery right away. Do we have your consent for that?" John nods numbly, knowing she's not finished yet.

"Okay," she replies with a gentle smile and reassuring touch to his forearm, easing him back into his seat.

"So, Stiles also has a few superficial burns on his arms and legs, but those should heal just fine in a few weeks. He's really lucky. From what the paramedics told me, it could have been a lot worse."

John thinks back on the fiery inferno that had been Stiles' jeep and wonders if it was Theo who pulled his son from the burning vehicle.

"But there is something else that has us all a little worried," Melissa continues, going serious and John almost laughs at himself for thinking that he's heard the worst of it.

Oh here we go.

"Stiles suffered some spinal trauma up near his neck, probably from when the jeep flipped." She reaches her hand up around her neck to show him exactly where. "Now they can't confirm anything without running more tests, but the swellings bad enough that he's not able to breathe on his own and..."

"Wait a second," John interrupts, brain finally processing what she's just said and coming to its own swift and awful realization in the span of only a moment, "are you telling me that my son, my Stiles, is paralyzed?" It doesn't seem right that a word like 'paralyzed' should exist or that John should use it in the same sentence as his own son's name. But it does exist and he does use it and Melissa looks away as her eyes turn sad. When she neither confirms nor denies what he's just put into words, John collapses bonelessly back against the chair, coming to his own conclusions.

"Oh my god!" This can't be happening. "Jesus christ, what do I do?"

"Hey!" Melissa interrupts as the doomsday thoughts start to form in his head almost instantly. She turns her body towards him and captures his face in her hands so that he has no choice but to meet her eyes. "Nothing, and I mean nothing, is certain at this point. For all we know, the swelling could go down and he'll be perfectly fine once he's had the chance to recover a little." The pads of her thumbs gently caress the sides of his face. "Your son is stable and he's alive and they're going to do everything they can to help him get through this, so don't you dare give up on him yet." Her gaze is imploring, searching, and he looses himself in it for a moment. "This is hardly a death sentence, John."

She drops her hands away from his face and takes his trembling hands in hers. The grip is bone-crushing and he senses its safe to believe what she says. Melissa was in there with the doctors, she saw first hand what happened, so he'll let her talk him away from the ledge.

"So what now?" His voice sounds broken and cracked when he asks it and Melissa releases her grip to put a hand on his knee.

"As soon as he's out of surgery, I'll take you back to see him."

"Any idea how long that will be?"

Melissa looks away thoughtfully. "I'm no surgeon, but judging by what I heard in the trauma room, it could be a while. Whoever performs the surgery will be out to give you more details and I'll make sure that happens sooner rather than later."

It's kind of nice to know he's got someone on his side in all this and he tries not to feel the loss so keenly when she leaves him at last to go in search of more answers.

"Melissa?" He stops her one final time, before she can disappear back behind those damn doors.

"Yeah?"

"Thank you."


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