“Dad, you said you were ready to go when you called me for a ride,” Steve grumbled as he leaned against the nurse’s station, watching his father sort through files and charts on the other side. “This is the first time in years all of us have been able to wrangle Christmas Eve off together.”
Mark gave him an apologetic grimace. “I know, and I was, but that was before someone accidently smudged half of the whiteboard. We need to get the schedule back up based on the charts. I promise, just a bit longer. Why don’t you get some coffee – “
The nurse behind Mark began frantically tapping his arm, handing him the desk phone with wide eyes before hurrying away toward the emergency room entrance.
Steve frowned as he watched his father listen to the call, his stomach fluttering nervously as he knew that look. It meant they wouldn’t be going home anytime soon.
“Oh, no,” Mark suddenly said, glancing up at Steve with an expression that made him straighten up sharply. “Yes, thank you for the heads-up. We’ll be waiting.” He hung up the phone and gave a shaky sigh, running a hand over his face.
“There was a multiple car accident on the freeway, several injuries are coming in hot,” Mark told him, pulling himself upright and walking quickly out from behind the desk toward Steve. “Steve, that was one of the EMT’s…she recognized Jesse at the scene. They’re transporting him now.”
Steve felt his heart stutter, unable to breath. He stared at his father in shock. “No…”
Mark laid a hand on Steve’s shoulder, meeting his eyes steadily. “She told me he’s stable but unresponsive. Now, I want you to go to the break room and have something warm to drink. I’ll come get you once we’ve got a better idea of his condition.”
Shaking his head slowly, unable to fully process what Mark was saying, Steve stared numbly as the ER doors flew open and a flurry of activity surrounded the two gurneys being wheeled in. Steve caught a glimpse of blond hair stained red on the second gurney and he felt like he had been punched in the chest. Jesse….
A warm, solid hand on his arm jostled him, bringing his focus back and he turned to see Amanda next to him, giving him a tight smile. He belatedly realized that someone must have called her up from the lab. “Come on, Steve,” she said firmly. “Let your dad take care of Jesse.” Not waiting for a response, she led him toward the staff break room.
Staring blankly into his untouched cup of coffee, Steve finally broke the tense silence. “Jesse was on his way to the house to get a start on making dinner and…” he whispered. “This was supposed to be our first Christmas as a family.”
Amanda placed her hand on Steve’s wrist. “And it will be,” she told him in a tone that brokered no arguments. “It might not be where you hoped it would be and it might not be on the same date as the calendar says, but that’s not what matters. They said he was stable, we just have to wait and see. You know how these things go.”
Steve gave her a tiny smile, appreciating her words if not completely believing them. He slowly sipped at the rapidly cooling coffee, his mind drifting elsewhere in the hospital…wondering where Jesse was….
It was over an hour before Mark appeared, looking emotionally exhausted. But it was the relief in his eyes that had Steve standing quickly. “How – “
“Have a seat, son,” Mark held up a hand and waiting until Steve retook his chair before claiming one of his own with a long sigh. “Jesse will be fine,” he started, knowing what Steve needed to hear first. “He’s got severe bruising on his chest and left shoulder, but thankfully no internal injuries. We’ve done a CT scan and there is no sign of cranial bleeding or fractures. He does have a nasty bump on his forehead and a pretty serious concussion from hitting the driver’s side window. That’s why he’s been unresponsive.”
“So he’ll be okay?” Steve finally asked in a hesitant voice.
Mark leaned over, took his son’s hand and gave it a firm squeeze. “He’ll be just fine,” he assured Steve. “They’re just getting him moved to a room now. We’ll keep him under observation for a day or two, depending on his concussion.”
Steve released the breath he felt like he had been holding since Jesse had been brought in. His hand was shaking as he scratched the back of his neck tiredly. “When can I see him?”
“Just as soon as we’ve got him settled,” Mark assured him with a smile. “Let me go check on him and then I’ll have someone come down and get you.”
Steve sat in silence at his partner’s side, his thumb running absently back and forth across Jesse’s knuckles. His father had left them alone a while ago, ostensibly to finish his earlier scheduling project but Steve knew better.
Glancing at his watch yet again, he saw that it was nearly midnight. Almost Christmas and Jesse had been here for seven hours already, no closer to waking than the last time Steve checked the time.
At four minutes till midnight, Steve looked up and saw a pair of confused blue eyes looking back at him. He gave a startled, breathless laugh and squeezed Jesse’s hand. “Hey, ‘bout time.”
Jesse blinked slowly and grimaced as he shifted on the bed. “Ohhh…” he groaned so softly Steve almost missed it. “Guess I don’t need to ask why I’m here instead of home.”
Steve grinned and reached up with his free hand to brush his thumb across Jesse’s cheek, carefully not looking at the dark bruise or butterfly closures at the hairline. “That’d be a good guess. How do you feel?”
“Like a giant bruise,” Jesse replied honestly, his voice rough and quiet. “’M sorry,” he mumbled, closing his eyes.
“No reason to be,” Steve told him earnestly. “Not your fault. You’re here and you’re awake…you think anything else matters?”
Jesse gave a quick smile, looking at Steve briefly before shutting his eyes again. “Glad you’re here,” he whispered. “Even if looking at you makes me really dizzy right now.”
Steve leaned forward and brushed his lips against Jesse’s dry ones. “Merry Christmas, Jess,” he said softly. “Go back to sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
“…thanks,” Jesse managed before drifting off again. Steve watched as his breathing evened out into sleep. Laying his head down next to their joined hands, he was finally able to rest.