Running towards the hospital entrance, her daughter on her hip crying her eyes out and squirming because she doesn’t understand why her mama is crying and mumbling, Tess stumbles into the emergency department. Her feet feel like anvils, pulling her down and she almost faints yet manages to calm herself enough to kiss her daughter’s tear-stained cheek and caress her silky hair, regretting bringing her along.
Barely catching her breath, Tess starts begging the nurse at the reception desk to tell her where officer Walsh is, her voice growing loud, words becoming incoherent as more tears start running down her face she can hardly see in front of her. Body shaking, Tess isn’t even sure she’s in the right place, not until the nurse takes her hand and pleads with her to calm down.
“Ma’am, ma’am, calm down. You’re scaring this pretty lil baby of yours.”
Glancing at her daughter, Tess feels bile rise in her throat at the thought of her baby losing her daddy. She kisses her cheek, presses her little head against her shoulder as Sylvie sucks on her thumb, sobs escaping her tiny body. She's mumbling mama, mama making Tess’ heart almost burst with anguish.
“M-my fiancé, Sha- Shane,” voice cracking at the mention of his name, Tess’ body tenses and she hugs her baby tighter, “Shane Walsh. They told me he was admitted here, he-he’s a police officer.”
Nodding, the kind nurse tells her to wait a moment until she checks on her computer.
Meanwhile, Tess is cooing to her daughter, mumbling how much she loves her, how much her daddy loves her and that everything is going to be fine because it has to be. Sylvie probably is not even aware of the fright her mother is going through, too frightened herself. The poor child is just traumatised by Tess’ reaction. Tess hates herself for doing this to her baby, but she wasn’t thinking at all before she left the house.
It was half an hour ago that Tess received a call from Rick that Shane was shot during an attempted robbery. She was feeding Sylvie at that moment and the bowl she was holding dropped from her hands, splattering the floor, the kitchen cabinets and Tess’ leggings with its content.
Tess doesn’t remember how the rest of the conversation went or how she found herself in the car driving down to the hospital with Sylvie in the back seat. There was only one thing on her mind then – they couldn’t lose Shane.
The nurse looks up from the computer and informs her that “Deputy Walsh” was indeed admitted, but that it wasn’t anything serious. It doesn't calm Tess at all. Nothing will, not until she see with her own two eyes.
The nurse leads her to one of the curtained areas as Sylvie's sobs subside and she’s only hiccupping, and when she pulls back the curtains, Tess almost falls to her knees - from relief, happiness, even great shock, she doesn't know.
Shane's sitting on the bed, a doctor stitching up a gash on his arm that to Tess’ already scattered brain seems much deeper than it is. There's blood smeared on his cheek, his uniform but he seems eerily composed.
When their eyes meet, Shane is on his feet immediately, not caring about the doctor or his wound or anything but the woman and the little girl wrapped around her.
"Tess, Sylvie, what're you-" he breathes out their names, air being knocked out of his lungs when Tess lunges at him, burying her wet face in his neck. She's holding Sylvie with one arm, the other wrapped around him, holding him so tight it starts to hurt.
"Darlin', hey, hey," he's trying to calm her but Tess doesn’t hear him. She's clutching the back of his shirt, sobs escaping her throat, words coming out broken and jumbled. Sylvie, looking confused at first, starts crying again, her face all read and puffy as her arms reach for her daddy.
He’s hugging Tess and Sylvie at the same time, wanting to comfort them both as his heart tattoos against his rib cage seeing his family in this state.
"Tess, sweetheart, baby, come on. Calm down, please. Hey," she's finally looking up and it's only the third most terrifying look in her eyes, the first two having witnessed before Sylvie was born.
Lips quivering, Tess barely says his name before her knees give out. Luckily, Shane catches her under her arms, pulling her towards the bed so she can sit down. He takes their daughter in his arms as the nurse who witnessed her reaction hands Tess a cup of water.
Her hands are shaking as she takes the cup, slowly drinking, eyes never leaving Shane’s. A few minutes pass before she's composed herself and in the meantime the doctor stitched the wound on Shane's arm and instructed him what to do to prevent any infections.
Sylvie is quietly huffing into her father's neck - she's somehow fallen asleep amidst Tess’ breakdown and the doctor tending to her dad, Shane’s soothing voice acting as her lullaby. Kissing her forehead, Shane mumbles sweet words to her and she stirs in his arms which he interprets as Sylvie having heard him.
“Ri-Rick called, told me you were hurt and I... God, Shane, I thought...” Tess starts after she’s calmed down slightly, but she still has a panicked look in her eyes.
Shane kisses her temple, pulls her into his side and Tess cuddles against him, entwining her hand with his on her hip.
“I’m fine, sweetheart. See, it’s nothing serious. But I’m gonna kill Rick.”
“No, it was my fault. I didn’t even stop to listen to him. I just heard you were hurt and I assumed the worst.”
She sniffs and clears her throat, then her eyes land on their daughter and she feels more tears welling in her eyes. “I scared her, my poor baby. I was out of my mind.” Tess gently pats Sylvie’s back, trying to come up with a way to redeem herself.
“She’s gonna forget all about it one she wakes up, you’ll see,” Shane assures her, putting on a smile for her. “You okay now?”
Nodding Tess gulps the rest of water then takes Sylvie from Shane so he can go sort some paperwork. He tells her to go back to the car instead of hanging out around the hospital. They go back to the car and Tess puts Sylvie in her seat and settles against her still sleeping form, running her hand through her locks.
Shane comes ten minutes later and starts the car to drive his family home.
Back home, Tess puts Sylvie in her crib then joins Shane in their bed. He’s already taken off his uniform and taken a quick shower to wash off the grime and blood, and talked to Rick. He got the rest of the week off which was more than he hoped for.
When she settles against him, laying on the other side of him so as not to disturb his wound, Tess places her hand on his chest, right over his heart. They are both quiet and Tess succeeds in not crying, but the thought of what could have happened today still lingers over them. It’s a horrifying, blood-chilling thought and Tess knows it’s the risk of his job. She has known about from the start, but this is the first time she faced it since they mended their relationship, the first time since Sylvie was born.
King’s County is a fairly peaceful town and rarely anything worth mentioning happens. From time to time though, there are some situations and events that are dangerous; she chooses to shut them all out most of the time to avoid exactly this kind of reactions.
Sensing her inner turmoil, Shane just hugs her tighter and tells her everything’s alright until she believes him, until his presence in their bed chases away her fears.