Chris tightened his grip on Derek’s arms, holding him upright. He took in the damage around him, the chaos, and shifted his hold on the kid. “Can you walk?”
“I’m fine.” His words slurred, the exact opposite of fine, and he listed dangerously to the side. Chris had to get the glass out so he could start to heal, and he couldn’t do it here, on the floor of the destroyed sheriff’s office.
“Come on. One foot in front of the other.” Chris couldn’t risk an arm around Derek’s back, unsure how far the shards had penetrated, and had to settle for a two handed grip at Derek’s elbow.
Nobody noticed them moving away from the waiting bench. Too many people were injured, and Chris caught sight of Stiles’ signature plaid flying into the building through the blown out door. He hesitated.
Scott was tight on Stiles’ heels, and Derek swayed against Chris, making his decision for him. Chris drew Derek away from the blood and destruction, towards the showers.
He sat Derek on a bench in the locker room just outside the small shower stall. The power was out, and only the emergency lights glowed. Chris couldn’t see the extent of the damage to Derek’s back, but he could see it was bad. Blood dripped from the leather jacket he wore, splashing to the concrete floor.
“Derek, I have to cut it off,” Chris said. He kept his voice low. The werewolf’s hearing was probably still reeling from the concussive blast. And every second that he didn’t act, Derek bled out.
Derek nodded, mumbled something that sounded like consent, and Chris stripped off his outer shirt. The knife in his upper arm sheath had escaped the pat down, and he set the blade in the cloth at Derek’s waist. He slowly sawed through the jacket, up to Derek’s shoulder. He did the same to the other side, and then he cut across Derek’s shoulders.
The worst of the glass was concentrated there. He had taken some shrapnel to the arms, but his back was by far the worst off. “Derek, I’m going to take the jacket off. Do you need to lie down?”
“Do it.” Derek panted hard, and Chris didn’t like how hard he was shaking. Shock, possibly.
As gently as possible, Chris started to peel the jacket from Derek’s back. Derek gripped the edge of the bench so hard the plastic cracked. Chris murmured, low and soothing, as he worked. They could both hear the glass tinkling against concrete was it pulled free of Derek’s flesh. The leather jacket had taken much of the impact. It was good he had been wearing it.
The leather revealed damaged, bleeding skin underneath. Derek’s shirt was not unsalvageable, but it was torn up something awful, and blood soaked his entire back like macabre tie dye. Chris grunted in frustration. He dumped the leather strip on the floor and stood.
His hand settled on the back of Derek’s neck, warm and grounding. Derek glanced at him, caution simmering beneath the pain. Chris crouched, bringing him to eye level. “I’m going to get a fresh shirt. I’m coming back. Don’t move. Do you copy?”
Derek nodded, his brows furrowing together. He stayed exactly in place as Chris got to his feet and went over to one of the lockers. He cracked the handle off with the grip of his knife, and yanked it open. Jackpot. Chris tugged out the duffel at the bottom of the locker and unzipped it. Fresh shirts.
Chris snatched one and returned to Derek’s side. The kid hadn’t moved, his eyes sluggishly tracking Chris’ actions in the room. Chris crouched in front of Derek. He cupped Derek’s shoulders gently, mindful of the seeping wounds and Derek’s fine trembling. “I’m going to pick the rest of the glass out with the knife. And then I’m going to wash the blood away. Okay?”
Derek stared at him, uncomprehending. Chris shook him, carefully, just enough to force him to focus. Derek nodded, his hands flexing where they gripped the bench.
Chris kept one hand on Derek’s shoulder as he moved behind him. Chris made quick work of Derek’s shirt and eased it away from torn flesh. Some of the wounds were already closing, but glass still protruded from many of the cuts.
He didn’t have the tools for precision work, and they didn’t have the luxury of seeing a nurse. It would have to do.
Ignoring his protesting knees, Chris crouched at Derek’s back and slowly worked his way along the slices. He used the knife as a lever to pry shards from Derek’s muscle tissue, and then dropped the blood-coated glass onto the floor. Derek bit down soft noises of pain, and Chris smoothed a hand along his shoulder. “You’re doing fine. We’re almost done. You’re already healing. Hang in there, kid.”
Like he actually cared.
But that was the thing of it. Derek had saved his life. After Chris’ family had destroyed the Hales. Derek had been orphaned in the fire. And looking at the damage to Derek’s back told Chris exactly how close Allison had been to becoming one herself.
Age, for a werewolf, was a fickle thing. Derek could have been Chris’ age, for all he knew. But here, under the dim lights, he looked so young. He could have been Chris’ kid.
Derek glanced at him, curious to his hesitation. Chris set the knife on the bench and scrubbed his bloodied hands on his jeans. Without a word, he took a towel from a rack near the shower stalls, and ran some warm water. When the towel was sufficiently damp, he returned to Derek and smoothed the towel over the blood.
The red wiped away, sticky and hot, and Chris was relieved to see healed skin under the mess. Hopefully he had gotten everything. It was good enough for now, until they got the whole- arrested- situation taken care of. When the worst of the blood was gone, he dropped the towel on the ground and sank onto the bench next to Derek.
“Does it still hurt?” Chris asked.
Derek closed his eyes. “I’m okay.”
Chris clamped down hard on his irritation, and touched Derek’s shoulder. “That wasn’t what I asked, Derek.”
When Derek opened his eyes, they were clear, guarded. “Why?”
That single question reoriented Chris’ entire world. Derek Hale, werewolf, whose childhood was destroyed when one of Chris’ kind murdered his family. Who hadn’t known safety or comfort in almost a decade. Who had his youth, his innocence, his trust, ripped away from him at such a young age.
Who, without hesitation, had thrown himself over the man once sworn to destroy him.
Christ. He was just a child.
He had been Talia’s child. If Allison had gone through what Derek went through-
“Okay. Okay.” Chris reached for him, and Derek shied. Chris froze, arm outstretched. “I won’t hurt you. Thank you, Derek. Thank you. You’re okay. Shh.”
Derek tipped forward, his forehead hitting Chris’ shoulder. Chris wrapped him in a fierce embrace, pressed his cheek to blood-matted hair, and just held on. Derek fisted a hand in the fabric of Chris’ shirt, and he trembled.
“I am so very sorry for what happened,” Chris said. His voice was hoarse. “I’m so sorry, Derek. I can’t make it right. Nothing will ever make it right, but it wasn’t your fault. I’m so sorry-”
He loosened his hold and leaned back enough to let him catch Derek’s eyes. “If you need anything, you come to me. Do you understand?”
Derek stared blankly at him, as if he had gone into shock again.
“If Allison lost me, I would want to know someone was looking out for her,” Chris said. “I know you’re not a minor anymore, but I have your back, Derek. I swear to you. I will help you.”
“I don’t… understand,” Derek managed.
Chris sighed. He pushed a hand through Derek’s hair once, and stood. He held the fresh shirt to Derek. “Put it on. You need to rest. I’ll watch over you.”
Derek took the shirt and slid it over his head.