Dances With Wolves
? 13 / 25
Stiles’ dad has a heart attack and Derek is the only one not held up in school to keep Stiles company in the ER waiting room.
Derek hates how familiar it feels to go through those glass doors and just looking at the pristine white walls is giving him a headache. The smell is awful; all pain and agony mixed in with bleach and antiseptic. He clenches his jaw as he brushes the snow off his shoulders, reminding himself that he’s not here to see one of his own family members. None of them are withering away in a hospital bed. Sadly that’s only a small comfort.
He shuts out the noises of rattling wheels, beeping machines and the great amount of hearts beating throughout the building. Instead, he only focuses on one of them; a young and strong one whose sound is familiar to his ears and unlike the rest, it doesn’t stress him out. Quite the opposite. Despite knowing the way, he follows the steady rhythm of that heart up to the second floor to the ER waiting room.
Stiles isn’t sitting in one of the chairs with his head in his hands like Derek had feared. He’s standing in the middle of the room, hands on his hips and eyes lost somewhere on the ground. His backpack is lying in a corner, looking as if it’s been tossed there. Derek can’t decide if that’s any better.
His head shoots up when Derek walks through the door, and his scent changes from anxiety to surprise as their eyes lock.
"What are you doing here?" Stiles asks, voice weak as if his throat has gone dry.
Derek waits to answer until he reaches him, fingers itching with the uncertainty of whether he should touch Stiles or not.
"Scott told me you got pulled out of class," he explains. "He wanted to come, as did the others, but they weren’t allowed to leave school."
He shrugs lightly, as if to state that at least he could be there. Stiles swallows, his Adam’s apple bobbling.
"You didn’t have to come," he mumbles, almost sounding apologetic.
"Well, I am here," Derek points out and then hesitates. "But I’ll leave if you want me to."
Stiles’ eyes are a little too shiny as he looks between Derek’s eyes, considering. He doesn’t smell of surprise anymore, but only weakness and worry. Derek hates it. Eventually Stiles shakes his head slowly, dropping his gaze back to the floor. He walks over to the row of chairs and sinks down in one of them, arms hanging limp on his thighs. Derek follows.
"Is Melissa with him?" He asks as he sits down next to the slouching boy.
Stiles nods, pulling at loose threads on his jeans while staring absently in front of him.
"Yeah. She promised me she wouldn’t leave his side."
Derek nods, even if Stiles can’t see it. He’s not sure if Melissa will be able to keep that promise, but he figures she told Stiles what he wanted to hear. No one can blame her for that.
"Are you okay?" He asks further, once again considering reaching out a hand, but closes it to a fist instead.
"Yes," Stiles says with a heavy breath. Derek waits him out. Stiles bites his bottom lip when it starts to quiver. "No," he then mutters, sounding defeated. He stands up again, hands back on his hips. "No, I’m not okay, Derek!" He looks down at him, eyes glazed and Derek sees as well as smells the panic. "I almost had a freaking panic attack on my way here. This was not supposed to happen. Especially not now. It’s ruining everything.”
He’s practically spitting out the words, a wrinkle on his forehead and Derek knows it isn’t directed toward him but it still hurts. Stiles tries to laugh, but it’s hollow and only makes Derek’s stomach twist in discomfort.
"It’s Christmas and we–" He shakes his head in denial, fury turning into sadness once again. His voice loses its volume, too. "I can’t lose him just before Christmas," he mumbles.
Derek gets out of the chair as well, not taking his eyes off Stiles for even a second when stepping up to him. This time, he doesn’t hesitate to put his hand on Stiles’ shoulder, holding it firmly.
"You’re not going to lose him," he says steadily, hoping that it’s not a lie. "He’ll be okay."
Stiles stares at him, looking like he either wants to punch Derek in the face or break down crying. Whichever it is, Derek will take it; Stiles has already punched him in the face and Derek knows how that goes. He’s seen Stiles like this before, has seen him in tears over his dad. It’s one of the worst feelings Derek has ever sensed from another person.
In the end, Stiles just purses his lips and ducks his head. Derek lets his hand linger before squeezing lightly and sliding it off Stiles’ shoulder. He’s got no idea what Stiles needs, but he should at least try to stay calm. The last thing they need is him getting a panic attack.
Derek looks around the small and abandoned waiting room, spotting a coffee machine in a corner.
"You want coffee?" He asks carefully.
Stiles drags his sleeve across his face before looking up, avoiding to meet Derek’s gaze, but still unable to hide his red, swollen eyes.
"That one is broken," he says, lazily gesturing toward the machine.
"I can go and get you some from the cafeteria," Derek offers.
Stiles blinks, still not looking at him. “You don’t have to,” he mumbles.
"No, but I’m going to anyway," Derek sighs, giving up on trying to catch Stiles’ eye and heads for the door he came from.
"It’s down the hall–" Stiles starts behind him.
"I know where it is," Derek assures, hating the fact that he does, and leaves the room.
It’s exhausting being able to hear and smell and sense so many people while walking down the hallways. Derek forces himself not to frown at it all; the sickness and the pain, the sound of too slow or too quick heartbeats echoing throughout the building.
Even with this much distance between them, he manages to pick out Stiles’ pulse among it all. He stays with it, listening to his breathing and the rhythm of his heart. It’s not even, but it’s the only thing Derek cares to hear in this place.
He doesn’t realize he knows Stiles’ coffee order until he’s on his way back to the ER floor with two paper cups in his hands; one plain black and the other with two sugars.
Stiles is sitting again when Derek returns, looking up when the door opens. His eyes are still a bit swollen, but there are no tears to be seen. The corners of his mouth twitch in an attempted smile when Derek hands him the cup. He doesn’t say anything, but that’s okay. At least he’s not yelling.
Derek sits back down by Stiles’ side, and they both remain quiet as they drink from their cups.
"I hate hospitals," Stiles says after a long silence, voice broken.
Derek swallows a big sip of hot coffee. “Me too,” he agrees with a soft sigh.
Coffee, as it turns out, doesn’t have the save affect on Stiles as most people. About half an hour later, he’s on the brink of nodding off. Derek figures it’s not all that strange, considering he’s been here for a few hours already, and he’s all worked up because of his worry.
Stiles is slumped back in his chair, the back of his head against the wall and sleeves resting on his spread thighs. Derek can only see him in the corner of his eyes because he’s looking at the big clock on the opposite wall. He’s not even sure whether Stiles’ eyes are open or not, but he can sense the tiredness on him. His breathing is slow and heavy and it’s strangely calming.
"They’ll get off school soon," Stiles murmurs.
"I know," Derek replies, sounding drowsy himself. Scott and the others always finish school at half past three and usually show up at the loft about ten minutes later.
There’s a pause.
"You’re gonna be late for practice."
His voice is even lower now and Derek isn’t even sure he would’ve heard Stiles at all if it hadn’t been for his good hearing being focused on the boy. Then the weight of Stiles’ head lands on Derek’s shoulder, but since Stiles’ heart doesn’t speed up nor skips a beat, Derek can’t tell if it’s intentional or not. It doesn’t matter; Stiles is sleepy and it’s not like Derek would pull away.
"No practice today," he responds simply.
Stiles just hums and doesn’t say anything further.
The silence roams for a long time after that, though Derek can’t really tell how long exactly because he’s not watching the clock anymore. Well, he is, but his focus is on Stiles’ breathing getting heavier and slower by the second. Eventually, he’s got no idea if he’s still awake or has fallen asleep.
Carefully, Derek tilts his own head to the side, resting his jaw on top of Stiles’ head. The only heart skipping a beat is his own. He swallows, closing his eyelids with a soft sigh, allowing himself to relax, too.
Derek’s eyes snap open at the sound of approaching footsteps. He blinks, not sure if he actually fell asleep or not until he looks back up to the clock and realizes it’s been another twenty minutes. Stiles is still sleeping heavily on his shoulder and Derek can’t help but notice the way his heart clenches at the sight.
Melissa appears as she rounds a corner, and Derek immediately jerks his head up. She’s got a warm expression on her face, however, so there can’t be bad news. Thank god.
"How is he?" He asks mechanically before remembering he’s not the one who should be asking, even less to receive the answer. He looks down on Stiles. "Should I–"
"No, don’t wake him up," Melissa hisses, waving her hands. "I don’t want to disturb him." Derek can’t help but to feel a little moved by how he’s obviously not the only one concerned about Stiles’ sleeping problems. "Just… tell him that everything is alright when he wakes up, okay? He’s ready to get out of here in a bit, he’s just getting some beta blockers right now." Upon Derek’s frown, she adds: "Pills. Those are pills, Derek."
Derek scoffs lightly, nodding. “Thank you.”
She looks as if she’s about to object, but just gives him a smile before disappearing around the corner again.
Once alone again, Derek looks back down to Stiles. His own arm has fallen asleep under Stiles’ weight; these chairs aren’t exactly the most comfortable kind and most of his muscles are screaming with the need to move, but that’s all fine. Unless Stiles is having a bad dream, he should remain asleep and calm as long as possible.
Stiles’ hair is standing on edge, and Derek is pretty sure it’s his doing. Carefully he reaches over with his free arm to run his hand through the soft hair, evening it out somewhat. But even when there is no reason to, he repeats the motion, sliding his fingers over Stiles’ scalp while watching his eased face. He looks so peaceful. Careless. He looks like a boy, and by his age that should be normal. The sad truth is that Derek rarely see a boy when looking at Stiles. He see a man because he’s been through more than most grown-ups ever will. Sometimes Derek will feel guilty about that, but deep down he knows that this – this boy – is not his fault.
His hand stills inside Stiles’ thick hair when suddenly he realizes that their two heartbeats are in sync with each other, then Scott and Isaac burst through the door and Stiles jolts awake.
"Oh," Scott says, stopping when he sees Stiles shift into sitting up straight and receiving a glare from Derek. "We just– We wanted to come as soon as we could. Are you okay?" He asks as he and Isaac walk over to them.
"I’m fine," Stiles groans, voice thick with sleep as he rubs his eyes and the side of his neck. Derek can hear that he’s not lying this time. "I must’ve– I have no idea what’s going on," he says, and the stench of his worry is back.
"My mom won’t reply to my messages," Scott says, sitting down on Stiles’ other side. Isaac remains standing. "I mean, I know she can’t have her phone with her at all times, but still. I thought maybe–"
He doesn’t finish, just purses his lips.
"Your mom was just here," Derek informs, and suddenly he’s got all three boys’ attention. Stiles’ pulse quickens, and his fear as well as hope fills the room. Derek moves his eyes from Scott to look straight at Stiles. "Your dad’s fine. She said he’ll be ready to go as soon as he’s gotten some meds."
Stiles remain paralyzed for another moment, staring at him. Then he lets out a heavy breath, dropping his head in the process. Derek picks up on the overwhelming relief flooding through him, and can’t help but letting it become his own, too.
Approaching footsteps make all four of them look up, and as soon as the Sheriff and Melissa appear around the corner, they shoot up to stand. Except for Stiles, of course, who throws himself forward at his father. The man nearly stumbles as their bodies collide, but Stiles’ arms are preventing him from falling as they embrace.
"You’re okay," Stiles breathes, and Derek almost feels bad for being able to hear it when he probably wasn’t supposed to.
The sheriff lets out a light laugh, wrapping his own arms around his son and hugging back.
"Of course I’m okay," he says, and it’s nearly heartbreaking how convincing he manages to sound. "Jesus, Melissa shouldn’t even have called and gotten you out of school in the first place," he says, pulling back enough to give Stiles a reassuring look. "I’m fine. You know I wouldn’t miss out on Christmas, son."
It’s a lie. Derek can hear it loud and clear; the skip of the sheriff’s tired heart. He’s well aware of just how serious the heart attack had been, no matter how small or short-lasting, and that Melissa had every right to notify his son that he was on his way to the ER in an ambulance.
And even though Stiles just nods, Derek knows he’s smart enough not to be fooled.
The sheriff is eager to leave, saying he’ll probably vomit if he has to spend another five minutes in that hospital. Stiles doesn’t seem like he wants to linger either, and Melissa order Scott and Isaac to go home and start dinner, so they all get shooed out of the building.
It’s dark outside because it’s late in the afternoon in the middle of December. Derek realizes he’s spent most of his day in that waiting room with Stiles, but finds himself not minding it.
He doesn’t expect Stiles to stop in the parking lot and turn to him, but he’s happy when he does. Stiles offers a weak smile, digging his hands into the pockets of his jacket.
"Sorry I drooled on your jacket," he says, voice not really fitting the joke.
Derek returns the smile equally, wanting to point out that he didn’t drool anywhere, but he knows that’s not the point.
"Don’t worry about it."
Stiles nods, dropping his gaze to the ground. He pauses, as if he’s about to say something else, but in the end he just meets Derek’s eyes with a final small smile before turning around and heading for his dad’s cruiser. Derek remains motionless, still listening to his heartbeat as he walks away.
Derek actually flinches because somehow he never noticed the sheriff standing so close to him. He turns to face him with a frown.
"For staying with him," the sheriff responds.
Derek looks at him with a blank expression before closing his mouth, not expecting that. The sheriff gives him his own small smile, which is so similar to Stiles’ that Derek feels something inside him flip, before even he heads for the car. Derek catches Stiles’ eye from where he’s already sitting in the passenger seat, and maintain the eye contact for a few long seconds before dropping his gaze and heading into the shadow of the trees.
As the sheriff’s car drives off, the sound of its engine fading away as well as the throbbing of Stiles’ heartbeat, Derek actually laughs at himself. He wonders when exactly he started to feel like something is missing when that sound no longer is filling his ears.