Melissa is right; it does take hours before John is allowed to see his son again. Eight, to be exact. Eight hours of the worst kind of torture imaginable.
Left to his own devices, John now knows the exact pattern etched into the tiles of the ER floor. He's walked the halls enough to know that he'll never, ever have that pattern in his own home, that's for damn sure. It's too clinical, too sterile for his liking and now he'll always associate it with that one time his only son may or may not have been paralyzed.
Eventually Melissa put him up in an empty waiting room and about 6 hours into his eight-hour vigil, the pack finally shows up. It's Scott who pushes in first looking as defeated and world weary as John's ever seen him. Lydia and Malia are right behind him and when their Alpha stops in the middle of the room, they unconsciously take up position beside him. Any other time John would have marveled at how much like a pack they really are, but tonight he's having a hard time getting over the fact that Stiles' "pack" left him unprotected.
"How is he?" Scott asks in a small voice and John can feel his head beginning to shake from side to side in bewilderment.
How is Stiles… now isn't that just the question of the night. Or is it early morning now? He's too far gone to remember. The fact of the matter is, John doesn't know how Stiles is because, despite the fact that he's been reassured by countless people that his son's internal injuries will heal, there's still the chance that his boy may never walk again. John wants to dump all of this and more onto Scott. Wants to shock the hell out of the teen standing in front of him with the cold, unforgiving truth of it all: that he is to blame for what's happened to Stiles because Scott wasn't there. None of them were there, and now look what's happened.
But when John looks up to deliver the 50 lashes he has ready to go, sharp and destructive at the edge of his tongue, the looks he gets from the kids standing before him stop him cold. Lydia has those large, lamp like eyes of hers turned on him. They're saucer-wide and filled to the brim with barely checked panic and unshed tears. Malia is trembling slightly behind Scott and the alpha reaches a hand back for her to take, instinctively sensing the rise in her agitation before he even sees it. Scott stands in front of them both trying desperately to appear strong, but failing miserably. Even though his jaw is set in a hard, slightly off center line, John can see the muscles at the side of his face rippling feverishly. He's puffed up slightly like he's anticipating a fight, but it's the eyes that give him away. They're filled with a child like innocence; a begging, pleading entreaty for John to just wrap this arms around the kid and tell him that everything is going to be okay. That Stiles, his best friend in all the world, is going to be just fine.
Christ, they really are just children, aren't they?
Whatever anger-fueled inferno was trying to work itself up in his gut quiets at that realization and all the wind goes out of his sails in an instant. John rakes his hands over the rough and unshaven skin of his face and sighs heavily.
They're just kids.
Kids that haven't even graduated high school yet and here John sits, beyond pissed that they were unable to pull off the impossible tonight. He's the friggin' Sheriff of Beacon Hills and even he couldn't have protected Stiles from this. So how can he stand here and pass judgment on Scott when, for the past 5 years, the teen has done nothing but try and keep the people of this town safe?
In the end, John does tell them everything about what's happened to Stiles, but not in the accusatory tone he had prepared. No, he takes them through what little he does know in a voice he normally reserves for victim's families, which, he realizes with a sudden jolt, is exactly what Scott, Malia and Lydia are to Stiles. They're his family, as much as John is, and they take the news of Stiles' condition exactly as he expects. Scott gets angry, but tries to hide it. Malia walks over to the chair beside him and curls herself into a little ball of standoffishness like she's not quite capable of processing what he's just told them. Lydia's eyes somehow manage to get wider (if that's even possible) and she falls into a shocked silence John is kind of relieved to hear... because at least she's not screaming.
John glances down at the knees of his pants and wipes his sweaty palms across them. The fabric is light so the moisture leaves behind a dark spot, but it doesn't linger long. Scott doesn't linger for long either and disappears with Lydia a few minutes later to go in search of his mother. Melissa has been giving John regular updates on Stiles' surgery, but she wasn't able to get out of her shift entirely or wait with him. There was some kind of emergency down in the ER and Scott leaves with Lydia to go and see if they can track her down. The three teens have been exchanging worried glances ever since they arrived and John suspects that there's more going on here than just what's happening to Stiles. Maybe it has something to do with their business at the high school tonight, but he doesn't get the chance to ask. Scott and Lydia take off to go and find Melissa, probably to talk to her about things they can't disclose to John just yet, and he suddenly finds himself alone with Malia. At first John doesn't know what to say to the girl and the tension is palpable in the room around them.
John likes Malia, he really does. She's a sweet kid and seems to be one of the only members of the pack who actually gives a damn about Stiles' safety. She's protective of him, and it's a trait John can't help but find endearing. Their relationship has been good for his son and that in itself is enough to earn the girl his trust. So they sit in silence for a long while and when a tired looking surgeon finally enters the waiting room, pulling a scrub cap from his head, it's Malia who notices him first. She perks up in the chair beside John and he wonders if its because she can smell blood. He's not quite sure how all these wolf-y powers work or if they're even the same for Malia, being a werecoyote instead of a normal wolf. Perhaps he'll ask her about it someday. Right now though, he only has eyes for that doctor.
Being the Sheriff of Beacon Hills, John has gotten to know some of the doctors at the hospital on a first name basis, George Wilson included. So when he pulls himself up out of his chair and meets the physician halfway, the ageing trauma surgeon doesn't greet John like the anxious parent he is, but rather as an old friend. John is both unnerved and relieved when it happens.
"John, he's pulled through just fine!" George smiles brightly, putting out a hand for John to shake. The doctor's grip has a powdery dryness to it like he's just taken off his gloves.
"Has there been any change?" John fires off, no longer in the mood to be handled. "Is he still paralyzed?"
These are the questions that have been battering against him incessantly for the past eight hours and he's tired of waiting around for the answers. Wilson runs a hand down the side of his weary face and thinks about his reply.
"Too soon to tell," the ageing surgeon finally sighs. "The x-rays all came back clean, so there's nothing broken. We're not really going to know the full extent of his injuries until the swelling goes down and he wakes up."
It's the same answer Melissa gave him… and the initial ER doc who came out to give him an update… and the other trauma surgeon that was going to help George with Stiles' internal injuries. They've all said the same damn thing but John doesn't think he can play this game. He wants his answers now. He wants to know if he needs to go out and commit justifiable homicide, because who ever did this to his son isn't going to get away with it. They're going to pay with their lives and whether or not that they get to keep their limbs while John delivers his justice, depends entirely on whether or not his son ever walks again.
Wilson, as if sensing the sudden dark turn to his thoughts, claps a hand on his shoulder. "He's a tough kid, John. He'll pull through! And if not, they've come a long way with therapy these days."
The doctor's words are meant to comfort him but all they manage to do is make him feel worse. He's not ready to start thinking about what happens if Stiles isn't all right… Stiles is always all right. He always pulls through shit like this with a grin and a 'oh come on, dad!' when John spots the blood.
John tries to return the reassuring smile Wilson flashes him, but it falls flat, and the doctor leaves him then with a vague promise that John will get to see his son soon. He's completely forgotten about Malia and by the time he turns back around to head for his chair, he finally remembers she's there. The teen is sitting ram-rod straight up in her seat and fighting with everything she has against unshed tears.
Stiles has shared a little of what Malia is going through with John, so he knows all of this must be completely overwhelming to her. Stiles hurt, while seemingly commonplace anymore, is out of her wheelhouse and the evidence of that fact is clearly painted across her face. She clutches the armrests of her chair in a white knuckled grip and he worries for a very real moment that she might wolf-out right then and there in the waiting room.
John quickens his pace and eases himself back down beside her. "Malia?" He tries quietly and the girl looks over at him with slightly glowing eyes.
"Malia, kiddo, you have to calm down," he pleads, turning in his seat and putting a reassuring hand on her back. "He's okay. Stiles is going to be okay."
"I could smell it," she announces unexpectedly and John stiffens, dropping his hand.
"Smell what, kiddo?"
"His blood," she replies and looks away.
"He's going to be okay, Malia," John tries to state definitively, but he can tell right away she's not buying it. She doesn't believe it any more than he does because they both need proof; actual physical evidence that Stiles is alive and can wiggle his goddamn toes before they ever do.
John pushes out of his chair again, frustrated at all the ineffectual waiting and has half a mind to go and find the first nurse he can and demand to be taken to see his son. He'll use force if he needs to, threats of a night in the slammer if he thinks it will help, but thankfully, he doesn't have to result to either. Melissa shuffles in a few seconds later with Scott in tow and beckons for John from the door. Malia gets up to follow but Melissa stops the girl with a gentle hand on her shoulder when they reaches the threshold.
"Just his dad for right now," the nurse murmurs gently, brushing Malia's bangs back away from her face in obvious affection. "He's still in recovery and I'm not even supposed to let the him in." She inclines her head at John as she says it. "Scott will wait with you."
Malia looks like she wants to argue, but allows herself to be lead away by Scott and John follows Melissa out into the hall. "How are you holding up?" She asks, squeezing his hand as she leads him into an unfamiliar part of the hospital.
"Ask me that again after they tell me if my son is ever going to walk again," is all John replies with and Melissa lets his hand drop. He knows she just wants to help, but what he needs right now, she could never give… Not unless she can suddenly conjure up miracles.
"Okay look," Melissa says as she rounds on him when they finally reach the recovery ward entrance, "I'm not supposed to let you in here so keep your head down and don't you dare make me regret this. You get five minutes." He nods, hoping he can keep his promise, and she lets him onto the ward.
The recovery room is probably the one part of the hospital John has never seen before. There isn't much too it, just a few rows of neatly made beds cordoned off by curtains and a nursing staff that never seems to sit still as it constantly monitors the beds that are occupied. Stiles is in the bed farthest from the door and John has a hard time keeping that promise to Melissa when he finally sets eyes on his son.
For immeasurable moments, all John Stilinski can do is stand there and stare at his boy. Stiles, his perpetual creature of energy and life, lies pale and still against hospital sheets with half his freckled face obscured by ventilator tubes. His honey colored eyes are closed and his dark lashes seem to disappear into the bruised semi-circles that have formed beneath his eyes. What little skin isn't covered in bruises and scrapes his hidden by bandages and all of it is so utterly and incomprehensibly wrong, that his heart actually hurts. The realization that his son, his baby boy, is this sick has him reaching out for something, anything that might keep him from passing out. Melissa must sense his inevitable demise, because she somehow manages to get a chair under him just as he looses the battle with his knocking knees.
For a moment, John can't even bring himself to reach for his son; so afraid that even the slightest touch will send his child tumbling over whatever precarious precipice he's perched upon right now. His neck is still immobilized and he's carefully laid out on the bed, but these precautions just don't feel like they're enough. There should be steel bars and doors with locks on them protecting his son, not flimsy plastic braces and some angry head nurse who keeps shooting John disapproving glances every so often as he sits and shakes.
Yet even though he's terrified of hurting Stiles further, the yearning to touch his son is too great and John eventually reaches through the bars of the bed to capture one of Stiles' pale hands in his own. It's hot to the touch and the skin feels papery thin, but John holds on for dear life. He sits like that for a long while just watching the mechanical rise and fall of child's chest as he listens to the gentle beep of the heart monitor and the quiet commotion of the hospital around them as he slowly comes apart at the seams.
In the quiet of the recovery room, it's hard not to let the dark thoughts take over. They sneak in; little snippets here and there of how life is going to change irrevocably for the both of them should Stiles not be able to pull through this and make a full recovery. For his entire life it's always been about the physical with his son and John just can't imagine a life of stillness for the boy. It's unfathomable really… the worst possible fate that could ever befall him, and yet here they are, staring down that very real possibility with no guarantee that it won't become their new reality.
So what's does it all mean? No more lacrosse, that's for damn sure. No more riding bikes or fixing up that damn jeep. No more perpetual motion or fidgeting so much that it nearly drives John mad. No more incessant chatter, chatter that he would give anything to hear right about now in this moment, in this unforgiving quiet.
Life as they know it is over... Or is it? The Stilinski men haven't exactly had it easy over the years yet they've somehow managed to get through it all relatively unscathed. So what's to say they can't get through this thing, too? What's to say his imaginative and completely brilliant son wont find some way to spin this to his advantage? Why the hell does it all have to change?
John sits back in his chair and contemplates the little pep talk he's just given himself. The truth of the matter is, life will change for Stiles if his body can't heal from the trauma it's suffered. John might be able to see an eventual happy ending eked out of all of this chaos, but that happy ending sits at the end of a long, hard road paved with nothing but grief and despair. Stiles will mourn the loss of his life and John will be there beside him, making sure his son never gives up hope, but he'd be a fool to think that getting Stiles to a place where he accepts what's happened to him wont be the hardest thing John's ever done.
"Sweetie?" Melissa is beside him again, and a hand on his shoulder pulls him from his thoughts. "John, time's up." He looks up at her from his chair and whatever she sees painted on his face has her looking concerned and couching down beside him.
"It's just for a little while. They need some time to get him settled into a room. As soon as they're done you can stay with him for as long as you like," she promises and John makes himself nod.
He takes one last long look at his boy lying unconscious on the hospital bed, machines doing for him what his own body can't do for itself, and let's Melissa pull him away and back out into uncertainty.
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