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Chapter Seven

Even though the burns on Stiles' extremities aren't as terrible as they could have been, watching the nursing staff change the bandages is still one of the hardest things he's had to endure thus far. They file in twice a day, a grim little band on loan from the burn unit a few floors below, and always ask him if he wants to step out before they start in on their work. Every day they ask him and every day it's a struggle for John to say that he'll stay. He can tell by the looks they give him that they wouldn't judge him if he decides to flee, but if Stiles is going to be expected to endure this torture once he wakes up, then the least John can do is man up and stay by his son's side through the worst of it. So he never does take them up on their offer but stays instead to watch as they carefully unwrap the burns and set into their work.

The skin they uncover is red and raw and still moist from the gunk they spread over the burns at each redressing to try and combat infection. Sometimes the affected areas bleed and sometimes bits of Stiles' skin slough away with the gauze and it's nearly unbearable to watch. He's learned the hard way never to eat before a dressing change and is reminded of why a few minutes later when his stomach gives an almighty lurch that nearly sends him sprinting towards the bathroom. Stiles' injuries aren't even that bad, so John can't even begin to fathom what it must be like for burn victims who have to endure so much more than this.

When John first arrived on scene at the clinic that night he'd half expected the burn unit to be the place Stiles would end up if he somehow survived everything. The raging inferno that had engulfed his son's jeep was so intense that it's a miracle they're not down in that unit right now, dealing with something more terrible than just the possible partial paralysis from a neck injury. That realization is enough to set John to wondering if perhaps his pleas to the universe that night really had been heard and answered.

When the nurses begin uncovering a particularly nasty burn to the side of Stiles' leg, John sucks in a breath through clenched teeth and has to look away on a wince. Melissa, who has been helping the nurses, abandons her post and slips a gloved hand into his, squeezing lightly. The entire procedure is tortuous; a nearly unbearable thing to watch, and it's only a matter of time before Stiles wakes up and has to endure it himself.

Just like Melissa promised, the docs have already begun to slowly reduce Stiles' sedation to wake him up and get him off that damn vent for good, but John almost doesn't want them to do it. He wants nothing more in this world than to see his son's eyes open again and to hear his voice, but not if it means those eyes will be creased in pain or that his voice will be bent around a scream when the bandages come off. Stiles in pain is not something John has ever been particularly able to handle.

"John," Melissa whispers at his side, her warmth the only thing anchoring him in place at the moment, "they're finished now." John nods and collapses back into his usual chair as the staff gathers up their equipment and leaves. It's mid-morning and for once the blinds covering the room's only window are open. Sunlight streams in through the blades and casts pattered shadows over the blankets covering Stiles' lower half. The light is warm and John closes his eyes and turns his face towards it as the room slowly settles back down.

"When's the last time you ate?" Melissa asks him when his stomach gives a grumble, but it's just because it's still unsettled from earlier.

He keeps his eyes closed and his face turned toward the warm light when he answers. "I'm fine."

"John…" her voice has an edge of warning to it so he smiles at her when he finally opens his eyes.

"Seriously, Melissa. I'm ok."

She looks anything but convinced. "You're no good to him half dead. He's going to need you, especially if he wakes up and…"

"Yeah, I know," he interrupts a little shortly and pinches the bridge of his nose trying to chase away the headache developing right behind his eyes. "I'm well aware of what might happen once he wakes up. I just wish he would do it already."

Melissa glances back over at Stiles. "There's no exact science to this. He'll come out of it when he's good and ready." John thinks back on the dressing change and nods absently. It's a good thing Stiles is still out of it as far as he's concerned.

"Hey, I've noticed the kids haven't been around much in the past few days. Everything okay?" He asks, eager for a change in subject. The more he thinks about what could happen to Stiles in the coming days, the more that headache of his builds up steam behind his eye sockets.

"They're… okay," Melissa replies cautiously and John waits for her to go on, unwilling to give her the out she's so obviously fishing for.

"Parish said the same thing and quite frankly, I don't believe either of you." He expects her to glare over at him but she only shifts in her seat, looking anywhere but in his direction. Melissa is dressed in pink scrubs today and picks at a piece of dark fuzz stuck to one of her pant legs. "Come on, what's with everyone lately? Why wont anyone just tell me what the hell's going on?"

"Because it's being taken care of," she responds icily and John looses it.

"My kid might have just given up any semblance of a normal life to help with those damn Dread Doctors and now you guys are trying to cut us out? I think I deserve to know what the fuck's going on here, Melissa!"

She does look over at him this time, eyes flashing in anger. "Did it ever occur to you that maybe we're just trying to help you?"

"Help me?" He snorts derisively.

"Yeah, help you," she fires back. "John, your son is in the hospital! No one wants you to have to deal with anything more than you already are. That's why they're 'cutting you out' as you so judiciously put it."

"Oh please! I don't need protection…" John starts, but Melissa interrupts him before he can finish.

"No, you don't, but he does!" She points an angry finger over at Stiles. "Scott and the pack feel responsible for what's happened to him, John! They're doing everything they can to try and make up for it by keeping him safe and if that means keeping you in the dark about certain things, then so be it!"

John opens his mouth to argue the flawed logic behind that one, but an unexpected movement caught at the corner of his eye stops him. He's up and out of his seat in a flash - Melissa right behind him - and wraps one of Stiles' wandering hands in his own.

"Stiles?" He whispers, hardly able to believe what he's seeing. "Oh my god, son. Can you hear me?" There's erratic movement beneath his eyelids like Stiles is trying to come round and John threads the fingers of his free hand through the hair lying limply against Stiles' forehead.

"Stiles, baby, it's dad. Can you open your eyes for me, son?" The hand he has pressed to his chest jerks a little in his grip and it's the sweetest thing John's ever felt. "That's right kiddo," he coaxes with shining eyes, leaning over so that if Stiles is able to come round, John will be the first thing that he sees, "that's it, boy. Open your eyes."

John can feel Melissa standing just behind him and the anticipation in the room is so great, it's almost too much to bear. He wills those honeysuckle eyes to open; those same brown eyes that look just like his mother's. The ones nearly too large for his still boyish face, and holds his breath as he prays. And when they eventually flutter open, John lets his head fall forward on a choked sob of utter relief when he's finally able to look into the eyes of his son.

"Shit Stiles," he gasps and the teen's bleary eyes light up with recognition. He seems sluggish. It takes him a second or two to process anything, but there's no question he recognizes John. There's also no question of the exact moment when Stiles realizes he can barely move and that there's a tube shoved down his throat.

"Don't do that, son," John sooths quietly, grabbing for the hand about to paw at the ventilator tubing. "You were in an accident, Stiles. The jeep flipped and they had to put you on a respirator. You're going to be okay, but you can't pull at the tube, okay?" Stiles looks terrified, even through a heavy haze of grogginess, and John looks over to Melissa for help as the heart monitor goes haywire. But the nurse is already gone, presumably off to let Stiles' doctor know that he's finally awake.

Ok, he can handle this.

"No, no, no, you're okay, kiddo," he promises when Stiles' eyes fill with confused tears that plead silently with John just to fix it all. "I swear to god kid, you're going to be fine, but you gotta calm down!"

Stiles does try to comply, he really does, but the fear never quite leaves his eyes and only seems to intensify as his room begins to fill with people he doesn't know.

"You're going to be fine, Stiles," John calls out again, even as he's pulled away from the bed, and prays that what he's just told his son is true.

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