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(this isn’t exactly) where you’d want me

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i.

It was supposed to be really, really good. Ridiculous amounts of good. So good that Jackson would have bitched about it, because he hadn’t dared to do it himself. Scott would have whooped and fistbumped him, and both he and Stiles would have screamed, “In your face!” at Jackson. Isaac would have just be glad his car hadn’t been damaged. Stiles would have bragged about that vine video that had a shitload of likes. It was supposed to be superb.

Stiles groans in pain wiping his fingers through the blood on his forehead. There’s a sharp ache cursing through his body like he hadn’t just hit his head but got a full frontal from a truck too. There are black and white blotches dancing in his vision and he’s pretty sure Scott’s speaking a language that is a weird mix of English, Russian and Afrikaans. He isn’t sure. He can’t place the accent.

“Stiles, dude, you still in there?” Scott asks. His face is hovering sideways upside down above Stiles’, and he looks panicked. He’s cradling Stiles’ head in his lap, looks up to snap at Isaac to go faster. Stiles vaguely registers Isaac bitching about red traffic lights and speed limits.

“‘m peachy,” Stiles manages, holds his hand up and stares at his bloodied fingers. There’s a weird sensation bubbling inside him, adrenaline, he tells himself. Stiles reaches up and smears a red dot on the tip of Scott’s nose, laughing. “You’re Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer.”

It’s a testament to the strength of their friendship, Stiles realizes later, that Scott doesn’t even so much as blink while Stiles rubs his blood on Scott’s face.

Scott catches his hand gently. “We’re almost at the hospital, buddy, you’re gonna be fine.”

“Dad’s gonna rip us all a new one,” Stiles says, hiccups really, after laughing for five minutes straight. Scott’s face contorts.

“It’s not my fault!” Jackson bitches from the passenger side. “You shitheads desperately wanted to try this. I’ve nothing to do with it.”

“You laughed like a lunatic before you realized shit hit the fan,” Scott points out. Stiles is drawing a red dot on his own nose. He indistinctly remembers Jackson’s hysterical laughter, at first, until he hissed curses under his breath. It seems very far away now, like it happened in a dream.

“It’s still not my fault.”

“Your presence there is enough for Dad,” Stiles states gleefully and twists to look over to the passenger seat. Scott holds him in place, though, shushes him even and tells him not to move. It’s kinda sweet. “You are so going down.”

Stiles snorts out another laugh, tugs at Scott’s hand and says, “This is the point where he should say, ‘Wait till my father hears about this!’”

Scott doesn’t laugh, just pats his head very gently.

“Man, he really hit his head, didn’t he?” Isaac asks from behind the wheel. Scott exhales deeply, frowns down at Stiles with shocking concern etched onto his face.

“Hey,” Stiles looks up at Scott, raises his eyebrows. “When are we going to try this again?”

“Shut up, you idiot,” Jackson snaps. Scott glowers in his general direction and Stiles reaches up to pat his cheek.

“‘s cute, Scotty, ‘m fine, though,” Stiles mutters smiling widely. “You don’ need to protect my honor.”

The car comes to a halt shortly after. Stiles hears doors opening and falling shut and then Isaac is hovering over him.

“Can you get up?” he asks as he slides his hands under Stiles’ arms and pulls him up. They somehow get him out of the car.

Stiles can stand, barely, but Scott is plastering himself to his side before Stiles has time to blink, and drapes Stiles’ arm around his shoulder. He feels himself coming down from his adrenaline high a little, pain resurfacing after the short time that it seemed numbed by his laughing fits. There’s a vicious pounding in his head, getting stronger with every second he’s vertical, but Scott drags him along and past the doors to the emergency room.

There are people sitting in the waiting area but that’s about everything Stiles notices.

Now that the short-lived adrenaline kick receded, everything seems strange and out of place. The pain in his head makes it difficult to form thoughts, to process what happened. He can see Scott, Isaac and Jackson, hears them talking increasingly impatiently, but they’re blurry around the edges and Stiles barely understands what they’re saying. It feels like he’s dreaming; like this is a bad dream and he keeps telling himself to wake up.

“Please,” Scott is saying, sweetly pleading—and he’s laying it on thick—to the nurse at the registration. Stiles knows from experience that it’s most probably accompanied by the puppy eyes. “He’s my best friend.”

Jackson snorts somewhere on his left. “Like this is going to make the nurses any less busy with other patients.”

Stiles can’t manage an outwards eye-roll but he feels like doing one. Jackson just can’t handle the unbreakable broship Stiles and Scott have going on.

“Look,” Jackson says then, “he has a head injury. Doesn’t this count as a priority thing?”

“I’m dying,” Stiles helpfully supplies, in a surprisingly whiny tone, and that’s about how he feels too. Somebody needs to shoot him full with pain killers or else he’s gonna die for real. From pain only.

The nurse sighs put-upon, and seriously, Stiles is lucid enough to be indignant about it. He’s dying, okay, he deserves medical treatment, like, yesterday.

“Fill this out,” the nurse orders with pursed lips. “I’ll find you somebody.”

“Paperwork?” Isaac hisses as soon as the nurse leaves, and Scott maneuvers Stiles over the chairs in the waiting area. “It this a joke?”

“Standard procedure,” Scott replies with impatience in his voice. Stiles feels him loosening his grip until he completely lets go and leans over to fill out the form on a little table in front of him. Stiles lets his head loll back against the wall, slouches in his chair, and he’s so exhausted. Maybe if he closes his eyes—

Scott slaps his cheek, not forceful but enough for it to be unpleasant, and it sends a new wave of pain through Stiles’ head. “Stay awake,” he orders in this authoritative voice, the one he gets sometimes, and it makes Stiles always hot and tingly. Except for when he’s, you know, dying.

“‘m tired,” Stiles mumbles and attempts to close his eyes again.

“Dude, I’ll totally punch you in the dick if you don’t try to stay awake now,” Scott threatens, and he sounds dead serious about it.

“And my head hurts.”

Jackson is standing in front of him with his arms crossed over his chest. “Your head won’t hurt if he punches you in the dick.”

Stiles can’t even come up with a witty response. It’s frustrating. Stupid head injury.

Before he can conjure a halfway smart response, a distinctly annoyed sounding voice calls out, “Stilinski.”

For a moment, he wonders how they now his name, because the paperwork is still in Scott’s hand. He says so much.

Jackson rolls his eyes. “Your stupidity precedes you.”

Stiles is about to hurl a good one back at him when Scott drags him off into the direction the voice came from. That doesn’t stop him from pulling a face at Jackson, though.

There’s a guy standing at the other end of the waiting room. Impatiently, he rips the form out of Scott’s hand and sticks it to his clipboard looking it over. He studies the sheet for a second before he eyes sweep over Stiles. His eyebrows look explicitly angry. Stiles has never seen such expressive eyebrows in his life, it’s fascinating.

“Dude,” Stiles says and squints at the guy. “How much time do you spend on your stubble?”

The guy, the nurse, looks at him, one of the angry eyebrows lifting and changing to sceptical mode.

“Seriously. It looks very artful. I tried the stubble too once but it looked like a bush. Share your secret?”

“I can see he hit his head,” the nurse says—and that’s sarcasm, definitely sarcasm; Stiles will detect sarcasm in any given state he’s in. “This way.”

The nurse guides them into the acute treatment area and Scott deposits Stiles on the bed, hand steady on his arm; ready to catch him if Stiles’ body decided to go boneless and just drop off the bed like a sack of potatoes. The nurse glares silently at Jackson and Isaac who shuffle around the bed—and Stiles is a little bit surprised that they are still sticking around at this point—before he shifts his eyes back to Stiles.

“Can you tell me what happened?” he asks, directing it at Stiles, while he gets a small flashlight. He shines the light into Stiles’ eyes, and it’s harsh, really harsh. Warn a guy, Jesus. Stiles blinks against the white spots in his vision.

“Uh,” Stiles says intelligently, tries to think past the pain throbbing in his head. “I hit my head.”

The nurse rolls his eyes, hard. He pulls out a wheeled stool and sits on it, grabbing for a pair of gloves. “Take these first,” he instructs Stiles holding out a little dish that has two Tylenol on it and a glass of water in his other hand.

“Tylenol?” Stiles complains and rolls his head back. “That’s all? Aren’t you going to give me the good stuff?”

The guy lifts his eyebrows. It’s kind of impressive how he manages to convey several different expressions with just that: hard judgement, the Dear God What Did I Do To End Up Here and impatience, all wrapped in this little set of eyebrows. Or not so little.

“It’s either these or nothing,” the nurse simply says. “Take it or leave it.”

Stiles groans in frustration, sniffs for dramatic effect and reaches for the pills. It’ll probably take forever until their effect kicks in.

The guy starts cleaning the wound on Stiles’ forehead carefully.

“One of you?” the nurse prompts then and casts a look towards Scott, Isaac and Jackson. “Tell me what exactly happened?”

Isaac and Jackson seem very busy staring into the distance suddenly, and Scott gets this look on his face that speaks of shame and unease.

“We, uh,” he starts, licks his lips. “He tried to jump onto the hood of a moving car,” Scott explains in a rush. “But Isaac braked too early and Stiles’ feet caught on the hood and he kinda...fell. Cracked his head on the windshield.”

Stiles would have dissolved into giggles at the sight of Scott, still with the red nose, explaining what happened if the nurse hadn’t taken out a syringe. Instead of laughing, Stiles grabs Scott’s hand and leans away from the nurse and into his best friend.

“That’s a giant needle.”

The guy looks more than a little put-out, the expression on his face caught between impatience and incredulity. “It’s not a giant needle, and I can leave it if you prefer to be stitched up without anesthesia.”

“It’s not a giant needle,” Scott affirms, squeezing Stiles’ hand gently.

Stiles lets out a whimper and gets a snort from the nurse in response. A little bit more sympathy would be in order but the guy doesn’t look like he feels anything other than annoyance and impatience. Seriously, empathy. The dude’s lacking a lot.

Injecting the anesthetic happens a lot faster than Stiles has thought and he can feel it’s numbing effects almost instantly when the pain from the wound fades away. There’s still a dull ache in his head, though.

“You have blood on your nose,” the nurse casually says to Scott while he threads the needle, and Scott wipes the back of his hand over his face. It doesn’t help at all.

“Stiles, can you—”

“No,” Stiles says clinging to Scott’s hand. “You can’t leave me here with these needles.”

The nurse sighs dramatically and looks like he’s holding his breath and inwardly counting to ten. Stiles wishes Melissa would be here to stitch him back up. She’d be pissed about this, probably, but she wouldn’t act like this is the worst thing that has ever happened to her.

“What are you, five? It’s not like you’re gonna see any of it anyway,” the guy says while he pulls out a sterile cloth. “I’m gonna put this over your face. You won’t see anything, you won’t feel anything.”

Scott wrenches his hand from Stiles’ grip and backs away before Stiles can grab for him again. “I’ll be right back, buddy. Hang in there.”

Jackson and Isaac, the chickens, follow him out of the area, leaving Stiles alone with his passive-aggressive nurse. He reclines the bed into horizontal position before draping the cloth over Stiles’ face. Carefully, he moves it around a bit, asking, “Can you breathe easily?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, closes his eyes, feels his lashes brush against the fabric. It’s oddly calm now, almost peaceful. Stiles feels himself relax a little. His head has cleared a bit.

“What kind of idiot tries to jump onto the hood of a moving car?” the nurse asks right when Stiles feels the first tugging at his forehead. Apparently, the guy has already started stitching him up.

“I totally could have done it,” Stiles replies indignantly. “If Isaac hadn’t chickened out and hit the brakes too early, I would have done it.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Pretty sure it’s inappropriate to call your patients idiots.”

“Not if they are, in fact, idiots.”

“Oh, and you’re such a genius.”

“Gotta balance out all the stupidity somehow.”

“I’m sure you’re the patients’ favorite around here.”

“I get love letters and proposals on a daily basis.”

“I bet they’re all high on pain meds and have no idea what they’re doing.”

“You would know.”

“I’m serious. You’ve got these judgemental, broody bitch-eyebrows going on, who in their right mind wouldn’t run away from you screaming?”

“You didn’t,” the nurse points out casually but Stiles can hear the smugness in his tone.

“Well, I am not in my right mind right now, in case you haven’t noticed, genius.”

“I guess that’s an everlasting condition of yours.”

“Rude.”

The guy pulls the cloth off Stiles’ face with an infuriatingly smug smirk tacked to his face. He pulls the gloves off his hands, saying, “Wait here.”

He gets up and walks out, leaving Stiles to sulk for himself, and Stiles curses his stupid head for not coming up with something better than rude. Seriously, that’s like admitting defeat. He grumbles quietly. Scott isn’t back yet which is a bummer, really, because it’s torture to leave his injured best friend with a stupidly sarcastic and unsympathetic nurse like that.

By the time his nurse comes back, Stiles is seeing patterns on the white ceiling and it’s mildly disturbing. He’s probably damaged his brain, like, a lot and now he’s gonna see things, terrifying things. So, really, he has an excuse for startling and letting out a tiny—tiny—little yelp when the guy pats his shin to get his attention. Stiles didn’t even hear him coming.

The guy’s other hand is closed around the handlebar of a wheelchair. “Come on,” he says while Stiles props himself up onto his elbows.

“I can walk,” Stiles answers stubbornly. It earns him another judgy eyebrow lift.

“You smashed your head in and your friend practically carried you here. Get in the chair.”

They stare at each other for a moment but then Stiles sighs deeply and heaves himself off the bed and into the wheelchair. Moving around so much, he notices begrudgingly, makes him a little woozy.

It takes him awhile to realize that the guy isn’t wheeling him back out into the waiting area but down a corridor and into an elevator.

“Where are we going?” Stiles asks, uneasy, and wonders again where Scott and the others are. The nurse pushes a button.

“You’re getting a CT scan,” he explains and shrugs. “I told your friends to wait downstairs.”

Stiles is dumbfounded for a moment. “Why am I getting a CT scan?” he asks confused. He catches the guy rolling his eyes when he tips his head back to look up at him.

“Because you brained yourself on a windshield and you might have internal injuries,” the nurse elaborates. “It’s standard procedure to check for internal bleedings upon head trauma. I’d rather find out now than risking you blacking out hours later and dying from a hemorrhage.”

“Awwww, you care—”

“If you die and my superiors find out I didn’t check you for internal injuries I could lose my license.”

“—only about your career.”

Stiles keeps staring up at him. Seriously, he always thought pissy nurses and doctors like that only exist in TV shows. He was so wrong.

The elevator bings quietly and the doors slide open. His nurse—Stiles is squinting at him trying to come up with a name since the guy didn’t introduce himself and doesn’t have a name tag—pushes the wheelchair out and down another hallway. It’s rather quiet here, a little spooky even, but Stiles isn’t a huge fan of hospitals in general.

McPissy, he thinks but discards the idea. McStubble. Hm. Seems appropriate but kinda lame. McEyebrows. Very fitting, too obvious, though.

The guy casts a look at him, frowns when he notices Stiles staring at him. McScowly. No, McFrowny. That sounds a little like one of Snow White’s dwarves.

“What?” the guys snaps narrowing his eyes at Stiles.

Stiles grins widely. “I’m having a stroke.”

“That would explain a lot,” his nurse counters without missing a beat.

“You’re not a people person, are you?” Stiles wonders out loud, grumpily. “Where have you been when they told you you had to work with people a lot in this branch?”

The guy clenches his jaw for a second, like he’s physically restraining himself from doing or saying something stupid. He exhales deeply. “I was out stealing candy from children,” he answers broodily.

“I wouldn’t put it past you,” Stiles acknowledges and nods, serious. The guy rolls his eyes again and pushes a door open before wheeling Stiles inside a room.

McBroody, Stiles decides.

There’s the CT scanner in the middle and Stiles can feel goosebumps rising on his skin. He isn’t scared of narrow places but last time he heard about CT scans was when his mom got one. And they didn’t get good news after, back then.

“You have to undress,” McBroody says matter-of-factly. He pulls out a papery hospital gown. “You can keep on your underwear.”

Stiles starts peeling his clothes off without protest. He feels oddly exhausted by the time he’s down to his boxers and the nurse helps him stand. The gown leaves a strange sensation on his skin when he pushes his arms through the sleeves, and Stiles stands motionless while McBroody ties chords on his back.

“Why can’t I get an MRI instead?” Stiles asks when he sits down on the couch. “You know exposure to radiation is—”

“It’s faster and provides clearer images,” McBroody answers before Stiles can finish, in a tone that clearly indicates he’s not going to discuss this any further. Stiles slouches but moves to lie down.

McBroody moves to stand next to his head, hand already on one of the buttons on a panel. “Lie still,” he instructs, “don’t move around. I’ll come back for you when it’s done.”

The couch starts moving until Stiles is faced with the white surface of the tube. It’s even less space than he thought there would be. He feels a little itchy, like he needs to move, and lying here is uncomfortable. The bright whiteness hurts his eyes, makes him flash back to when he spent almost all of his time in a hospital; when his whole world was just hospital white and the only smells he knew were antiseptics.

Time flies by when he struggles to keep himself from launching into a panic attack and when McBroody carts out the couch, Stiles relaxes his hands, feels the sting of his nails on his palms and it’s weirdly anchoring.

McBroody wheels him back into the acute treatment area, deposits him on another bed and pulls the curtains close while Stiles wriggles back into his clothes.

“Your scan looks good,” McBroody informs him. “Congrats, you don’t have internal bleedings.”

“Hooray,” Stiles says listlessly, even though he heaves a sigh of relief.

McBroody gives him a once over with narrowed eyes. He shakes himself out of it. “Just avoid a lot of excitement for a day or two and don’t try to jump onto moving cars again. You can go.”

He pulls the curtains back and saunters away and out of sight. Stiles touches his head and takes a deep breath. Dad’s probably gonna kill him the second he finds out about this.

Scott, Isaac and Jackson are waiting for him in the waiting room when Stiles sees them, and Scott rushes in to pull him into a tight hug.

“You scared the crap out of me, Stiles,” he says quietly. Stiles hangs on for a moment.

“I—uh—I’m gonna go to the bathroom for a sec.”

He finds the men’s restroom and walks over to the sinks to wash his hands, dab his face with water. When he looks up into the mirror, he realizes that he has still his own blood on his nose.

 

 

ii.

Slow days at the hospital are the bane of Derek’s existence. The fact that it even is a thing is mildly off-putting. He never thought it would be like that when he was still in med school. Laura never even mentioned slow days, which Derek came to realize is because there’s nothing to say about them. They’re boring. It’s not like he doesn’t have anything to do, though, there’s always paperwork he can sift through but it is aggravatingly unrewarding he doesn’t even consider it an option.

Anyway, slow days are awful. Slow nights, on the other hand, outright make him want to get high on pain meds to pull through. He’s finished the sudoku Boyd allowed him to solve; he almost threw a rage-fuelled tantrum halfway through the next Candy Crush level and decided to postpone playing until he was in a less observed area, and the only thing left to do was either paperwork or listen to Erica tell him in great detail the latest sexual experiment she had tried out with Boyd. It is a testament to the bore that is paperwork that he actually leans toward listening to Erica’s sex stories.

“Seriously, Derek, at least you’re living vicariously through Boyd and me,” she tells him with a grin that’s way dirtier than it should be.

“Yes,” he answers, dry. “It is just like the real thing. I will never want anyone else.”

Erica smirks. “And why would you? We’re the real deal.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “Do you even do anything else except have sex all the time during your time off?” he asks.

“Do you mean to tell me that...there are other things we could do?” She gasps and clutches her chest in mock surprise.

Derek flicks a tiny paper ball at her head, and she laughs.

“You guys have been together for years. How is it you act like it’s still a new thing?”

Erica shrugs. “I told you, we’re the real deal, and when it’s real it’s always exciting. No matter if you’ve been together for a week, a month or a year.” She smiles fondly and stretches to pat his knee.

Derek looks at her, smiling. “I know what you mean,” he says. “That’s how I feel about Netflix.”

Erica kicks his chair, and Derek gets up smirking. He’s only a little jealous of their relationship. It’s not like he is unhappy or yearning for a partner or even missing sex. Derek is content with his life: he’s doing what he loves, he has great friends, Laura is a pain but she buys that super expensive, super fancy coffee that Derek would sell his soul for otherwise, so it’s fine; and he has enough time to get his endorphin kick working out. Only occasionally he feels like he’d be happy to have someone to come home to (other than his sister), who he could share stuff with that he wouldn’t share with anyone else.

“I can’t talk about romance with you,” Erica complains as she gets up to follow him.

“That’s ‘cause you never do.”

She sticks out her tongue at him just as the head nurse of the night shift sweeps in to inform them about two incoming hypothermia cases.

“It’s seventy-seven degrees out,” Derek points out. “Did they lock themselves in a freezer or what?”

Joanna, the nurse, snorts. “Better,” she says, and Derek raises his brows. He refrains from asking, though, he thinks he’s not braced for being confronted with so much stupidity. It’s too late and he’s too tired of people’s bullshit.

Derek motions to Erica to take the first patient one of their EMTs in carting in, before he turns to Luke, the second EMT, wheeling in the other one.

“—no, please, you don’t understand,” the guy on the gurney is saying to Luke; his speech slightly slurred. “My dad will freak—”

“What do we have?” Derek asks, interrupting the guy babbling.

“Male, twenty-four,” Luke answers and wheels the stretcher into one of the trauma rooms. “He’s responsive, didn’t lose consciousness. Body temperature is at 90, BP’s 159-95, he’s tachycardic and shows shortness of breath, but he’s stable. Wrapped him up as best as we could on the way over here.”

Derek takes a look at the guy. A pair of familiar honey-coloured eyes stare up at him, though he can’t remember the name. He does remember what he treated that guy for, though.

“Guess you hit your head harder than I thought last time, huh?” Derek asks, and the guy blinks.

“You know him?” Luke asks.

Derek rolls his eyes. “Treated him a while back.”

Luke steps aside to make room for the incoming nurses while Derek checks for pupil reaction. The guy is shivering uncontrollably, his face pale, paler than normal, and his lips are slightly tinged blue.

“What’s your name?” Derek asks as one of the nurses hooks the guy up to an IV.

It takes a moment until he answers. “Stiles,” he says, slow and deliberate, like it takes him concentration to actually get the words out. “‘m Stiles.”

The name does ring a bell, and Derek nods at him. “Can you tell me what happened?”

Stiles frowns, teeth clattering, and then his eyes narrow. “No,” he snaps then, suddenly, almost startling the nurse, Kelly, next to him. “You’re only gonna make rude comments again.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“‘What kind of idiot tries to jump on a moving car?’” He lays the air quotes on thick.

“That one must have cost you loads of sleepless nights if you can remember what I said months ago.”

Stiles opens his mouth, scowling—what Derek thinks is supposed to be furiously but is actually pathetically—and the shuts it again with a snapping sound. It shouldn’t be as hilarious as it is, because Derek’s not supposed to laugh at how pitiful Stiles looks right now. At least not as long as other staff is in the room.

The door to the room flies open with a bang that almost makes Derek jump. Melissa looks like she’s ready to shoot lasers out of her eyes, eyebrows drawn together in anger that makes Derek want to find shelter in one of the supply rooms. She reamed him out once, pretty early on in his training, when he was still an intern, and it was ugly. Derek will forever deny feeling pinpricks of tears in his eyes.

“S-Scott’s ‘n the other room,” Stiles chatters out, burrowing into the blanket that’s been put over his body. He looks like he just might pass out, but not because of the cold.

“Oh, I will get to Scott, don’t you worry,” she snaps, coming to stand next to the gurney. “How is it that between the two of you, you apparently only have one brain cell?”

Derek can’t help the snort escaping. Stiles’ eyes flicker over to him, but he keeps his mouth shut and purses his lips.

“‘m sorry?” he offers meekly, blinks up at Melissa with big Bambi eyes. Melissa runs a hand over her forehead, sighing as if she’s an immortal witnessing the same thing happening for the thousandth time. She turns to look at Derek.

“Get him out of these clothes and warm him up,” she orders walking to the door. Before she leaves, she locks eyes with Stiles. “I’m calling your father,” she says pointing at him.

Stiles makes the sound of a wounded animal but doesn’t protest.

“You got off easy,” Derek tells him as he removes the blanket. Stiles tries to hold onto it and Derek has to pry it from his hands. “We need to get you out of these clothes. Come on.”

Stiles whines pitifully, surprisingly less vocal than the last time he was in the ER. He lets Kelly help him get out of his shirt, his pants, and they get a fresh gown on him.

“You go-gonna get me some awesome pain meds?” Stiles asks, accepting the hot water bottle Kelly gives him with grabby hands.

Derek huffs. “You in pain?”

“N-No.” Stiles is still shivering, but it’s lessened. Kelly directs the bottle into Stiles’ left armpit, puts another one in the right one, and then gently places a third on his groin. Derek has a hard time biting back a smirk watching Stiles’ eyes get comically wide.

“Then you’re not getting pain meds,” Derek says.

“Please. I need to be out like a light when my dad gets here.” Stiles burrows into the blanket Kelly places over him and blinks up at Derek. He’s gaining color again.

“Buckle up then,” Derek suggests, and Stiles narrows his eyes.

“How has nobody complained about your horrible bedside manner yet?”

He’s getting his snide back. It’s a good sign, Derek figures. He shrugs. “Who says I have horrible bedside manner?”

“Uh, Exhibit A,” Stiles says, jutting his chin out and moving it in a half circle. Derek glances at Kelly who quirks an eyebrow. Stiles follows his look.

“Buckle up, honey,” she tells Stiles as she pats his covered foot.

“We need to get his head warm,” Derek says to her and eyes the tufts of wet hair sticking up from Stiles’ forehead. She nods and leaves the room.

“So, what happened this time?” Derek asks Stiles as he checks his heart rate again.

“I attempted to die of exposure hoping to land back here to annoy you some more.”

“Mission accomplished, I’d say.”

Stiles is about to counter when the nurse returns with a hair dryer. Derek feels like he might pass out from glee at the look on Stiles’ face as Kelly plugs it in and starts drying his hair.

The door to the room flies open and a man Derek vaguely recognizes hurries in. Derek can see the tension leaking from his body as he spots Stiles awake in the bed, covered and being warmed up.

“Stiles,” his father says in a tone that is both exasperation and worry as he comes up to stand next to his son. “What was it this time?”

Stiles squirms. He points at Kelly, who’s still drying his hair, and his father sighs in much the same way Melissa did earlier. It’s then that Melissa pops her head in, takes a look at Stiles and then waves at his father to come out. He follows her wordlessly but glances at Stiles before he leaves the room. Derek nods at Kelly before stepping out as well to update Stiles’ father on the situation, although he guesses Melissa is going to do it for him.

She has her arms crossed in front of her as Derek walks up to her. There’s a furrow between her brows broadcasting worry and anger, but the lines around her eyes only make her look incredibly tired.

“They’re both stable and only have a mild case of hypothermia,” she tells Stiles’ father. “They’re warming them up now and they should be fine by tomorrow.”

Stiles’ father sighs, deep, pinching the bridge of his nose. “How did they even get hypothermic?”

Melissa shoots him a look. “It was a bet,” she answers in a flat tone. And something clicks in Derek’s head then. Scott, the other guy who got wheeled in with Stiles, is her son. He remembers her talking about him, even remembers him being there the last time Stiles was in the ER when he’s brained himself on a windshield. It makes this hospital visit so much less surprising.

“A bet.” Stiles’ father’s voice is—impressively—even flatter than Melissas. She quirks an eyebrow at him as they share a look between them that seems like they’ve been in this together for far longer than they’d like. Stiles’ dad heaves out a heavy sigh and rubs a hand over his head.

Melissa fixes Derek with a look and tells him to keep “these morons overnight for observation, just to be on the safe side,” and Derek doesn’t dare argue. He passes the info on to Erica and directs the nurses to get both Stiles and Scott into a patient room.

Derek enters their room a little while later to check up on them. He finds Scott already sleeping whereas Stiles has his hands curled around a cup with what Derek assumes is hot chocolate, by the looks of it.

“Why aren’t you sleeping?” Derek asks him, coming up to take a look at his stats. “You still cold?”

“‘m fine,” Stiles says. “I just feel really bad about Scott. I goaded him into doing this.”

Derek snorts quietly. “Why am I not surprised?”

“It’s probably because you’re unable to feel any kind of emotion,” Stiles offers with a huff and smirk.

“I’d say it’s ‘cause the last time you were here you cracked your head open on a windshield for some stupid video.”

“I still say I would’ve done it if Isaac hadn’t chickened out,” Stiles insists, spluttering.

Derek raises an eyebrow. “Maybe we should check your head for long-term damage,” he muses and Stiles squawks.

“You have long-term damage,” Stiles mutters, bringing the cup to his lips. His bottom lip is jutted out a bit, his eyes not meeting Derek, and it makes Derek flash back to when Cora was a petulant little brat.

“I might as well have considering I have to deal with so much stupidity every day,” Derek remarks.

“I can’t be the worst you’ve had to treat,” Stiles says, looking up. “You work in the ER. Come on.”

Derek shrugs a little. “You’re definitely in the Top Five, though.”

“At least I made a memorable impression.”

“A stupid memorable impression.”

“An impression nonetheless,” Stiles says smirking, a gleeful glint in his eyes as he takes a sip from his cup, fixing Derek with a glance over the rim. “Which means you’re gonna remember me and my stupid shit, and it’s gonna annoy you every time you think about it.”

Derek is horrified to admit that Stiles is right. He doesn’t do it out loud, of course, but the shit-eating, infuriating smirk on Stiles’ face is enough to tell Derek that he knows anyway.

“It’s bold of you to assume I’m thinking about you at all,” Derek manages. It’s probably weak anyway. He usually has better composure but he’s on the night shift, on a very slow night shift, and it shows. “You on the other hand…”

“What makes you assume I think about you?” There’s a look on Stiles’ face that’s somewhere between embarrassed and indignant, and Derek relishes it, the faint flush of color in his cheeks.

“You’re the one that remembers what I said to you last time you were here,” Derek points out. He crosses his arms over his chest and raises his brows, unable to keep the smirk off his face as Stiles’ mouth falls open.

Stiles’ closes his mouth and opens it again but nothing comes out. “Don’t flatter yourself,” he finally says with a huff.

“Oh, I’m not,” Derek answers, unable to keep the glee out of his voice. He pats Stiles’ shoulder. “You’re doing it for me.”

“Oh my God,” Stiles says, smacking the back of his head into his pillow and stares up at the ceiling. “I think I liked you better when you were McBrooding all over the place.”

“McBrooding?”

“Yeah, you know, McBroody. The eyebrows? It’s a thing.” Stiles gestures at his face, waggling his finger between his eyebrows.

Derek hears a snort behind him and turns to find Kelly walking in, attempting—and failing—to hide her grin. He’s so not going to hear the end of it.

“If I’m McBroody, you’re McInsufferable.”

“That…” Stiles makes big eyes at him. “That...I mean that was really pathetic. At least pretend to even try.”

“What—?”

“I mean,” Stiles starts and rolls his eyes. “You could’ve gone with something more creative ‘cause that was weak. McInsufferable. Please. I’m so close to tears at how sad this is.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “This isn’t an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.”

Stiles quirks an eyebrow at him. He turns to Kelly pointing a finger at Derek, and asks, “Is he always like that?”

Kelly quickly looks up from where she’s checking up on Scott. She’s biting her lip, not saying anything, but that’s just as good as any words. Stiles is snorting with laughter and covers his mouth when Kelly shushes him.

By the time he gets back to the ER, Erica has made him a new name tag that reads McBroody, and there is a set of thick eyebrows drawn above the M. He knows already Laura will probably die of asphyxiation laughing so hard she forgot to breathe tomorrow when she hears about this.

Sometimes Derek wishes he could rage-quit his life, much like he does with Candy Crush.

 

 

iii.

There’s a second while he’s in the air, flying, when he thinks his life is going to flash before his eyes. He connects with the ground before anything but OH SHIT can cross his mind, and right after that the only thing that’s preoccupying him is the pain. Stiles isn’t sure if it’s coming from his back or his head or his little toe because the world is spinning a little and his brain has very little time to catch up with what just happened.

Scott’s face shows up in his field of vision, features sick with worry as he bends over him. There’s a blinding light surrounding his best friend’s head.

“Scott,” Stiles whispers, raising a hand to his face. “Am I...am I dead?”

“No, dude, you’re not dead,” Scott answers, hands flying over Stiles’ body but not touching anything.

“But you’re basked in light. Like an angel.”

“It’s the sun, buddy.”

Stiles groans. His head is spinning a little but seems fine otherwise. At least there’s no blood when he touches the back of his head where it connected with the concrete. Slowly, Scott helps him sit up. Stiles hisses when there’s a sharp pain in his lower back. He grits his teeth against it and gets up on his feet. At least he can stand, he thinks, taking a tiny step. The pain recedes a bit now that he’s standing, a dull ache now. Stiles can’t help the panic he can feel rising in his chest; can feel the onset of an attack incoming as his lungs start feeling like they’re not getting air.

Scott grabs his hand. “Stiles?”

He guides him back down, carefully, and Stiles winces as he sits, with the pain coming back full force again. “I’m gonna call an ambulance.”

While they’re waiting Scott continues to hold his hand. People have gathered around them and Stiles shuts his eyes to block out the amount of phones directed at him. Some people ask and offer their help, shooing away onlookers. Stiles concentrates on breathing.

The paramedics quickly assess the situation once they get there, ask Stiles a couple of question that he answers as truthfully as he can. They get him on a gurney and strap him in while Scott recounts what’s happened. Stiles would like to know, also. One second he was minding his business riding his bike, the next he was flying over the handlebars. Apparently, there was an unmarked hole in the ground big enough to stop his front wheel and send him soaring. Stiles didn’t even see it, and he can hear Dad’s voice in his head already, telling him to be more watchful of the road.

As he gets wheeled into the ER and the paramedic recites his stats to one of the nurses, Stiles turns to Scott. “Call my dad please? And make sure to exaggeratedly stress that I’m okay and in no dire condition.”

He hears an incredibly sarcastic huff that is way too rude to be allowed in the ER. Stiles doesn’t even have to turn to figure who it belongs to, and sure enough it’s McBroody who’s looking over his chart as Stiles is being wheeled into a room.

“You not being in a dire condition might be a bit of a stretch,” he muses. “No threat of dying, might be more accurate. Prospective permanent damage, most likely.”

“Do you even have any nice and soothing words in your repertoire?” Stiles asks, holding still while McBroody shines a light into his eyes. “Or is it only me who they let you loose on?”

“I actually just downloaded a new set of comforting phrases to use on patients this morning but I haven’t had a chance to listen to and internalize them yet. I do know how to say, Good news: you’re not dead, and We only need to take off one of your legs, though.”

“You need to work on those inflections. The way you said it no one will believe you,” Stiles remarks, wincing when the bed is set upright.

McBroody smirks. “Good news,” he says, enthusiastically, and the tone of his voice paired with the open, huge—most likely fake—smile on his face makes Stiles almost go into cardiac arrest. “You’re not dead.”

“‘m about to be,” Stiles mutters, ignoring the inquisitive quirk in McBroody’s eyebrow as he goes over Stiles’ chart once again.

He asks Stiles a couple of questions, runs some non-invasive checks that have Stiles worry for a moment he might actually be in danger of paralysis, but McBroody doesn’t appear to be worried about that. Oddly enough, it helps Stiles not freak out.

“Where does it hurt?” McBroody asks, handing the chart to a nurse. He’s leaning over Stiles now, hands resting on the rail on the bed, eyes fixed on his face.

“Uh…” He swallows against the sudden dryness on his tongue. Well, that’s weird. “Lower back, mostly. My head, a little.”

McBroody nods. “Turn on your side,” he instructs, and Stiles shuffles around in the bed until he’s lying on his side, with his back to McBroody whose hands are unexpectedly gentle as they hitch up Stiles’ shirt. His fingers travel down Stiles’ vertebrae until they reach the waistband of his pants.

“That hurt?” he keeps asking in between, and Stiles can only shake his head. Stiles sucks in a breath as McBroody carefully pushes down his pants a little. As his fingers skid over Stiles’ tailbone, Stiles winces against the feeling.

“That hurt?” McBroody asks again.

“Yeah,” Stiles admits.

McBroody’s fingers leave his back then. “You seem to have injured your tailbone,” he says, motioning to the nurse in the room with them. He gets to work and prepares a couple of things, one of which is a syringe that makes Stiles want to hide somewhere. “I’m going to inject a local anesthetic. If it really is the tailbone, you should feel instant relief.”

He’s glad he doesn’t actually see the needle but he feels it pierce him just fine. McBroody was right, though, because the pain subsides right away, and Stiles can feel his body go lax.

“We’re gonna take some x-rays to make sure nothing is broken or dislocated, and you’re getting your head scanned,” McBroody says as he strips off his gloves. “Make sure you really don’t have brain damage.”

If Stiles wasn’t feeling so comfortable with the pain from his back being gone, he’d probably kick him. As it is, he rolls onto his back and throws McBroody the dirtiest glare he can muster. McBroody is smirking as he scribbles something in Stiles’ chart. He hands it back over to the nurse and turns to leave. Just as he’s about to step out, he looks back at Stiles with a gleeful hint in his eyes.

“Oh, I also know another one,” he says, smirking like he can’t wait to aggravate Stiles some more. “Do you want a lollipop?”

Stiles is left hanging with a comeback at the tip of his tongue because McBroody ducks out immediately, and Stiles can hear him cackling outside.

Stiles can feel the need to retort something itching under his skin, but there’s nobody there to lay it on. Except the nurse, but he is an innocent bystander and actually nice to him, so that would be unfair. But still, it might just make him explode if he doesn’t let it out.

He turns to the nurse. “Does he not get enough love?” he asks him as he puts the rail on his bed up, preparing to wheel him out, probably to get the x-rays done.

“You know these professional care AIs they want to add to the staff to help out?” the nurse says in return, smirking as he pushes the bed outside. “He’s the prototype. He’s still learning.”

“I heard that, Boyd!” McBroody’s voice sounds from somewhere in the ER, out of Stiles’ vision, followed by delighted laughter by another person.

Stiles sniggers all the way to radiology. He’s done with the x-rays rather quickly, but the head scan takes longer. It’s a good thing he’s blissfully painless the whole time because of the anesthetic McBroody injected him with, so he doesn’t mind too much. The pain in his head has mostly subsided, and is now a dull throb that’s more annoying than actually hurting. During the scan he has more than enough time to think about his dad and what it’ll do to him having to come to the hospital again—the third time in only a couple of months. The guilt almost makes him tear up because his father is stressed enough as it is; he doesn’t need the strain Stiles is putting on him by ending up in the ER every couple of weeks.

Dad and Scott are waiting once the nurse, Boyd, wheels him back. Stiles winces at the look on his father’s face, full of worry and helpless frustration.

“I’m fine,” is the first thing Stiles says, and to his own ears, his voice sounds choked up. “Really, Dad, I’m fine.”

“They got x-rays of your back,” Dad says, rushing to stand beside his bed, grabbing his arm.

“It sounds worse than it is,” and it’s true, although it’s hard to sell it on his father. “It’s only the tailbone, nothing serious, and they wanted to check if it’s broken or dislocated. That’s it.”

“That’s it,” Dad echoes, tone flat, and repeats, “That’s it.” He huffs out a humorless laugh. “Stiles, do you even hear yourself?”

Stiles winces, trying to burrow deeper into the bed. Scott looks like he’d rather be anywhere else.

“The doctor didn’t seem too worried,” Stiles tries, unsuccessfully, by the look on his dad’s face.

Stiles only just manages to keep him from going down the What If route of all the things that could have happened, or the scans could reveal, and the guilt of it all is overwhelming. Something in his gut roils, blood pounding in his ears, and he hopes to everything and anything that there is no What If; that it’s only a bruised tailbone and nothing else. He’s holding onto his father’s hand tight, squeezing it every now and then. Maybe it’s enough to keep him calm for now.

It takes a while before McBroody returns, a file with his results in hand.

“The head scans are clear, as are the x-rays. The tailbone isn’t broken or dislocated, but it is definitely bruised and going to be a pain for at least a couple of weeks. For now, there isn’t much you can do but let it heal on its own,” he explains, showing the scans to prove it. “You’re gonna need a doughnut cushion for when you sit down so as not to aggravate the tailbone any more, but best to avoid sitting down for longer periods of time.”

Dad audibly exhales, tension leaking from his shoulders. Stiles squeezes his hand one more time.

“As for the pain, you can go with ibuprofen or aspirin, they will also help with reducing the inflammation,” McBroody continues. “You can put some ice on the bruise four times a day for up to fifteen minutes to help with the pain as well. If the pain gets worse or persists longer than about four weeks, you should go see your doctor.”

Stiles winces at the prospect of being in pain for four weeks.

“Thank you, doctor,” Dad says, getting out his phone. “I'll call into work, and then we'll get you home,” he directs at Stiles.

“I can take him home,” Scott offers. “If you drop me off at your place, I can get the jeep.”

Stiles could kiss Scott all over. Dad rubs a hand over his forehead, clearly uncomfortable with it, but then he sighs and grabs Scott's shoulder to give it a squeeze.

“Thanks, Scott,” he says with a warm smile.

McBroody nods. “We'll finalize everything on this end. He should be good to go when you come back.”

Stiles watches his father and Scott leave, talking quietly, and he sighs, wishing he could start this day over. McBroody collects the scans before he disappears, too, leaving Stiles to his thoughts. Now that the initial rush is over and his mind settles, his limbs start to feel heavy, his body exhausted. It’s not just the injury, it’s the added bonus of always dragging Dad into it, have him worry and try to balance his accident-prone son, his work, and his own nerves when Stiles has, inevitably, run into trouble again.

McBroody returns with a doughnut cushion in his hands, and Stiles almost chokes on air because the thing is big and pink and it glitters. McBroody presents it with some flourish and a smirk that actually looks more like a good-natured grin. He motions to Stiles to lift his butt, which he obediently does, and places it underneath him.

“Where the hell did you get that?” Stiles asks, wiggling a little to get a more comfortable position.

McBroody shrugs. “I have my sources. You can keep it.” There’s a pause. “Do you need some pain meds?”

Stiles can only gape at him. It takes a moment for his brain to kick back in, and then he says, “Uh, I’m good, thanks. Did you manage to read over and internalize that new set now?”

“No, this is the standard protocol, actually,” McBroody simpers. “Had to memorize that before I could start working.”

“That must be the bare minimum.”

McBroody smirks. “Come on, you need to get dressed.” He points at the pile of Stiles’ clothes at the foot of the bed.

Stiles finds he can still move and it’s even fine. He isn’t dying of pain, but his best guess is that it’s the lasting effects of the anesthetic.

“Hey, so, on a scale from having to listen to What’s New Pussycat twenty-one times to the cancellation notice of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, how painful is this going to be?” Stiles asks as he leans against the bed to step into his pants.

There’s a thoughtful crease between McBroody’s brows as he seems to mull it over. “I’d say it’s along the lines of stepping on a lego and then stubbing your little toe on the table leg right after.”

“Oh my God.” Stiles can’t help but groan at his prospects. “I hate pain.”

McBroody kinks an eyebrow at him, looking thoroughly unimpressed. “Your multiple hospital visits with varying degrees of injury and pain beg to differ.”

“Ha ha,” Stiles grumbles and almost falls over as he balances on one leg to get the other into the pants. McBroody steadies him with a hand on his upper arm. “Contrary to popular belief I don’t actually enjoy being in hospitals, or pain, or...your sassy eyebrows.”

“Your hospital visits would be a lot less tolerable without my sassy eyebrows,” McBroody counters with way too much confidence and self-satisfaction, quirking his brows for good measure, and dammit Stiles hates that he’s right.

“You give yourself way too much, like, way too much credit,” Stiles says with an eyeroll and grabs his shirt.

“I try,” McBroody answers, smirking shit-eatingly, eyes crinkling at the corners, and Stiles honestly doesn’t know if he wants to whack him or climb him or—

“You know what, I’ll take those pain meds, just to get high off them so I don’t have to suffer through your witty responses,” he grouches, jokingly.

“You shouldn’t,” McBroody says, face suddenly serious as he gazes at Stiles with intense eyes. “Addiction to pain medication is a serious problem.”

Stiles stares. He did not anticipate that, but it also kind of warms his heart a little that McBroody doesn’t take this stuff lightly. It’s his job, yeah, yeah, but still. So he only nods in return, gathers his newly acquired doughnut pillow in his arms and follows McBroody to the reception desk of the ER.

“Wait here,” McBroody instructs and vanishes.

The nurse at the desk hands him a form to sign. McBroody returns, puts his signature on the same form. Stiles tries to read his last name, but it’s an awful scrawl and the nurse retreats the sheet before Stiles gets the chance to decipher it. He gets a package of ibuprofen wedged between his arm and his side, where he’s holding the pillow.

“Don’t take more than what the leaflet says,” McBroody tells him. “And see your doctor if the pain doesn’t get better.”

Stiles looks from the package of pain meds up to McBroody. Stupidly, he says, “My doctor doesn’t have sassy eyebrows.”

“In that case, you know where to find me,” McBroody answers. He looks at Stiles with something that might be a genuine smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Without waiting for a response, he strides away, and Stiles watches as a nurse puts another chart in his hand, for a new patient.

He leaves in a daze, wondering if it’s still the anesthetic or something else entirely.

 

 

iv.

Derek is really glad he’s about to go on break because this day has been disastrous from the start. His alarm clock flunked out, so he almost came in late for work; he only didn’t because Erica agreed to pick him up and her driving style is less being mindful of the traffic and more along the lines of the traffic having to be mindful of her. He might have been a little green in the face by the time he got out of her car, and very near cardiac arrest.

His shift starts with a young woman who is brought in high on meth. She’s tripping hard enough to not even realize what’s happening to her, that she’s been picked up off the street and brought into the ER. It is by far not his first drugged patient, but when she splays out on the bed, screaming, “Fuck me harder, daddy,” at the top of her lungs, at no one in particular, while moving as if meeting someone’s thrusts, Derek knows this is going to be etched into his mind forever.

The next patient is a middle-aged male with agoraphobia who’s brought in by his daughter. She’s made sure to give him his meds, and her father seems to do fine as they wheel him into the ER. Derek can’t make out any obvious injury, figures maybe the daughter wants him to be treated for the phobia. It turns out that isn’t the case at all. The man reveals that he hasn’t washed his feet or taken his socks off for two years, and Derek has a hard time not groaning outwardly. The patient’s feet are gangrenous, and Derek ends up ordering x-rays that reveal that there are close to no bones left. When he tries to remove the socks from the patient, what little of his feet is left crumble into his hands, and Derek has never been more thankful for gloves.

Derek’s next patient ends up throwing up on him, the vomit covering his entire chest and dripping down; but is otherwise easily treated. Even Erica takes pity on him, refraining from joking about this shitshow of a day. It’s barely even noon.

He has to shower because the vomit has soaked through his shirt and some of it slipped under the collar. Derek very fastidiously keeps himself from thinking that this day couldn’t possibly get any worse. It’s a jinx waiting to happen and during his first year he was stupid enough to say it out loud a couple of times only to end up slammed with some of the most mind-boggling, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping cases he has ever seen. It’s not like it’s gotten any better, though. Such cases keep coming in, regardless of him jinxing his day or not.

His next patient is a motorcyclist in full gear and his helmet on. The EMTs refrained from taking it off due to the unknown extension of the injuries to his head and spine. He doesn’t have a pulse and he’s bleeding profusely, and Derek’s doing chest compressions to keep the heart moving when the patient’s head rolls off the gurney. They all look at it for a second. Derek stops the compressions, strips off his gloves, calls it and leaves the trauma room.

He’s about to go grab Erica and Boyd when he spots Stiles lying on one of the beds. Derek frowns walking over the reception.

“Bed nine?” he asks, and Caroline looks up at him, clicking away at the computer.

She hands him a chart, saying, “Checked himself in. Abdominal pain.”

“How long has he been here?” Derek continues.

Caroline shrugs. “Three hours, give or take.”

Derek looks around the room. It’s a busy day, so he’s actually not that surprised that nobody’s gotten to Stiles yet. As he walks over to the bed, he looks at the chart which is still mostly empty aside from what the triage nurse wrote down.

Stiles is fiddling with his phone, eyes fixed on the little screen. There isn’t any color to his cheeks or lips, his eyes unusually subdued. Derek frowns deepens as he steps up to the bed.

“You again?” he says, trying for a sarcastic tone, but it comes out laced with worry.

Stiles’ eyes snap up to him immediately. He stares at Derek, startled, and then a faint grin stretches across his pale lips. “Aw, miss me?”

Derek rolls his eyes. He should’ve known Stiles would catch up on the tone and be a little shit about it, but then again, it’s not like Derek really minds. Plus, he is worried. Last time Stiles looked this pale was when he’d hit his head on that windshield, and the thought about that much stupidity still riles Derek up. Given the fact that Stiles checked himself in and didn’t come in an ambulance, this might not be a traumatic injury but still. Stiles is potentially a walking disaster waiting to happen.

Derek puts away the chart, pulls up a chair and sits. “So, abdominal pain.” He fixes Stiles with a look.

Stiles sighs, putting away his phone. “Yeah.”

“Pull up your shirt a little,” Derek instructs as he pulls on gloves. He starts probing at Stiles’ abdomen, and gets a wince and a jerk as he inspects his right side.

“Only the right side?”

Stiles nods.

“When did the pain start?”

Stiles seems to think about it. “About a day and a half ago,” he answers. “It hurts like a bitch. At first I thought it’s only a stomach ache, so I put on a hot water bottle, but it didn’t get better. Now only the right side hurts.”

“Any vomiting or nausea?”

“Nausea yes, vomiting no.”

“Have you been eating?”

“Not really,” Stiles says. “Dad made me eat crackers, at least, but that’s it.”

Derek grabs the chart again and scribbles down the info. “Did you experience any trauma to the abdomen before the pain started?”

“I know it’s a shocker, but I didn’t,” Stiles says, grinning, clearly teasing Derek. “I managed to not hurtle myself down or against something for once.”

“It’s a miracle,” Derek remarks, and Stiles seems to enjoy this, despite the pain. “We’re gonna do an ultrasound to see what’s going on.”

He asks Boyd to bring one of the machines over and instructs Stiles to pull the waistband of his pants a little lower. “This going to be cold,” he warns before he squirts some of the gel onto Stiles’ skin. “Here we go.”

Derek moves the sensor over Stiles’ abdomen. He can see Stiles out of the corner of his eyes, straining his neck to watch the monitor as well.

“It’s my appendix, isn’t it?” he asks as Derek starts clicking at the picture. Derek shoots him a quick glance, and Stiles rolls his eyes. “You’re gonna have to tell me anyway, so might as well do it now. I’m not stupid. Lower right abdomen pain is guaranteed the appendix.”

Derek raises his brows at him. “And you came to a lowly doctor the likes of me to get diagnosed properly, Dr. Stiles?”

Stiles grins at him, but winces right after when Derek moves the head of the ultrasound again. “Figured it’s a learning experience for you.”

He is right, though, it is the appendix, and it doesn’t look good. He grabs another screenshot and turns to Boyd.

“Page general surgery,” he says to him, before he turns to clean up the gel. “I need a consult, stat.”

When he looks up, Stiles’ gaze is fixed steadfastly on him. Although he is pale and a bit feverish, there isn’t any other sign that he appears to be in a lot of pain.

“Is it bad?” he asks, voice quiet, but face steady. Derek pulls his shirt down. “You can tell me. I was there when Scott had appendicitis and they had to take it out, but the doctor didn’t look as grave as you do. But then again, nobody ever looks as grave as you. You have resting bitchface. I’m immune, but you really should smile more, otherwise you’ll scare away other patients.”

“Smiling gives you wrinkles,” Derek says, deadpan. “Resting bitchface keeps you pretty.”

Stiles snorts. He mutters something under his breath that Derek doesn’t catch and then, louder, asks, “Can you even smile? Like, did you read up on it? How it works?”

Derek pushes the corners of his mouth up with his fingers. Stiles chortles, half laughs and half cries, grabbing his stomach. He’s in some serious pain, and Derek almost feels bad for making him laugh.

“You’re the worst,” Stiles breathes, heaving in breaths between tiny noises that sound like giggling.

“You seem to like it,” Derek retorts with a tiny smile, shrugging.

Laura swoops in just as Stiles is about to respond, and the words seem to die on his tongue. He glances between Derek and her with wide eyes.

“Oh my God, there’s another one of you,” he whispers, loudly, and Laura beams, apparently (or willfully) unaware that it most likely wasn’t a compliment. Stiles chokes. “I take it back. She can smile!”

Derek rolls his eyes so hard he might pull something, and Laura cackles. She sticks out her hand to Stiles.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Hale,” she introduces herself. “The one that doesn’t lose ten years of her life whenever a smile crosses her face.”

“Yes, but look, she has wrinkles,” Derek says, pointing at her face, and Laura swats at him.

Stiles groans, arching off the bed, face twisted into something that’s caught between amusement and pain.

“Okay, okay, enough,” Laura says, stepping closer. She puts a hand on Stiles’ shoulder, gently pushing him onto the bed again. “What do we have?”

Derek frees up the stool for her, and she sits, skirting closer to the monitor of the ultrasound. “Here,” Derek says as he points to the marked area, and Laura zeroes in on it, brows knitting together.

“Mmh,” she makes, looking at the images. “Yeah, we need to get you up to the OR right away,” Laura directs at Stiles, and then tells Derek, “Call up and tell them to prep for a laparoscopic appendectomy.”

Derek takes a look at Stiles who stares back at him with big eyes, seeming, if possible, paler than before. He quickly squeezes Stiles’ leg before turning around to call the OR. Stiles is in good hands with her, and since she’s the operating surgeon it’s her task to explain what’s gonna happen.

It’s only an appendectomy, Derek thinks, attempting to reassure himself. Stiles’ appendix isn’t ruptured, so the success rate is high. However, the images don’t look good, and the fact that Laura agreed doesn’t particularly make him feel better. He’s taken aback by how much Stiles’ condition worries him since he’s diagnosed appendicitis before, and it’s never affected him as much.

His day continues to be wonderful.

When he returns, Stiles already has the consent forms in his hands, shakily signing them. Laura is giving instructions to Boyd on how to proceed with pre-op. Derek sits on the stool that Laura has vacated and gingerly touches Stiles’ arm to get his attention. Stiles’ eyes snap up to him, uncertainly.

“Do you want me to call your dad?” Derek asks as Boyd takes the consent forms and starts fiddling with an IV.

Stiles heaves out a deep sigh and scrubs a hand through his hair. “Call him when I’m out of surgery.”

“Are you sure?”

Stiles purses his lips. “It’s not like he can do anything right now, anyway, or when I’m under.”

Derek nods then. He doesn’t necessarily agree with Stiles’ decision, but he also understands it.

“Huh,” Stiles says then, flicking the ID on Derek’s chest, and Derek looks down. “Dr. Derek Hale. And here I thought your name was actually Dr. McBroody.”

Derek rolls his eyes, and Stiles smiles lazily at him. Boyd is giving him a look as he prepares to attach a drip. Apparently, he’s also given him morphine, considering the way Stiles’ body visibly relaxes.

“Dr. Derek Hale is prettier than McBroody,” Stiles simpers, blinking up at him. “Although it still fits.”

Derek scowls at him. He still has that name tag Erica made for him, and she continues to make new ones to plaster them across his ID every once in a while. “It doesn’t,” he insists, but Stiles grins at him.

He motions at Derek’s eyebrows. “They look like two furious caterpillars.”

Boyd is silently smirking, and Derek wishes he would’ve waited with the morphine.

“So, the other Dr. Hale…” Stiles starts then, gazing intently at Derek. He doesn’t finish his sentence but it clearly sounds like a question.

“She’s my sister,” Derek answers. “She grew up high on something. I think it might be called love.”

Stiles snorts laughing. “No, but seriously.”

Derek shrugs. “Seriously, she doesn’t see the same amount of stupid I do everyday, so she has way more faith in humanity than me.”

“Maybe you should reconsider your specialty then,” Stiles suggests.

“My life would be so dull without all the stories I could tell,” Derek deadpans. “Plus, I have witnessed way too much already for it to change my view.”

“You still want to help all the stupid,” Stiles points out, watchful of Derek’s face. His eyes are brighter than when Derek has started treating him, so the morphine is working fine enough which settles Derek a little. At least Stiles isn’t in too much pain any more.

Derek hitches up a shoulder. “It would leave me all alone on the planet eventually if I didn’t, and I thrive on other people’s stupidity.”

Stiles raises his brows at him, making his eyes look even bigger, and Derek ducks his head. “You get mad at people’s stupidity,” he says. “If anything you’re going to die because someone else did something so mind-shatteringly stupid it’s gonna launch you into a rant that’ll blow all of your arteries.”

Boyd snorts really hard at that, and Derek just knows he’ll be hearing about this from Erica later.

Derek huffs. “I resent that.” It comes out way too defensive. Honestly, it’s not his fault people are so dumb that they get hurt over things that could’ve been easily avoided.

“It really does take ten years off your life when you’re being nice, doesn’t it?” Stiles smirks at him, and Derek’s never felt as understood in his life.

“It could literally put me in an early grave,” he confirms, nodding, and Stiles grins.

“Taking him up now,” Boyd says, putting up the rails on Stiles’ bed. Stiles’ grin fades from his face, and Derek gently squeezes his shoulder before Boyd pushes the bed towards the elevator. Stiles’ case is out of his hands now, but he almost follows them up, just to make sure he gets through surgery okay. He doesn’t, though. There’s nothing he can do now anyway.

His stomach growls, reminding him that he didn’t take his break after all. Derek turns to grab some food, shooting Laura a text on the way to inform him as soon as Stiles is out of surgery.

Laura texts him a little later. Derek checks his watch and finds that the surgery didn’t take longer than anticipated which probably means that everything went swimmingly.

He’s out of the OR now. Sending the appendix down to pathology; it was a really close call. Everything went without a hitch, though. He’s gonna be as good as new.

Derek ignores the fact that she’s given him more info than he’d asked for, unwilling to dive into the why behind it. Instead, he calls Stiles’ father and quickly and calmly explains what’s happened before giving him the details of where to find his son.

Derek waits to go see Stiles until his shift is over. By that time his father’s been there and left again, and Stiles checks on Stiles’ vital signs as he slips into the room. Stiles blinks at him, a goofy smile on his face as he watches Derek move around.

“You’re still here,” Stiles unnecessarily points out.

“Yeah. Just wanted to make sure you’re doing okay.”

Stiles lolls his head to the side to glance up at Derek, smile growing. “Awwww,” he coos. He raises his hands to make finger guns at him, squeezes an eye shut. “Your sister has me on these awesome pain meds, so I’m tooooooooootally peachy.”

Derek can see that, and he’s about to say as much when Stiles perks up a little, eyes round and huge. “Hey, do you lose ten years of your life, too if you show you care cos for, like, today, with me, that would cost you at least, like, twenty years.”

He smiles, unable to stop himself, and Stiles’ eyes grow even bigger. “Whoa,” he mock-whispers. “Thirty!”

Derek snorts and rolls his eyes. “It’s only when I smile, and since I’m not planning to go past ninety, it’s fine.”

“He,” Stiles says. “I’m the only one who makes you smile.” He seems very satisfied with this, snuggling into the blanket, eyes drooping.

Derek pats his arm. “Get well soon,” he says, quiet, and Stiles hmms at that, eyes closed.

 

 

v.

Stiles starts excitedly jumping up and down on the spot, singsonging, “He did it, he did it,” when he hears a shriek from inside the house. Lydia is throwing him a look caught between annoyance and confusion which doesn’t stop the huge grin from stretching across his face.

“Who did what?” Lydia asks, impatient, gripping his arm to stop him from hopping around.

“Wait for it.” Stiles stares at the door leading to the patio.

They’re all in Allison’s backyard celebrating her birthday, and Stiles is surprised how many people there are. He doesn’t know all of them, but they are her college friends, and Stiles has talked to a couple of them and they’re easy enough to get along with. Lydia keeps probing him about some of them, obviously fishing to find out who might’ve caught his interest.

Lydia narrows her eyes at him the same moment Allison and Scott come tumbling out the door, holding hands, and Allison is red in the face with happiness, matching the smile that seems to be cracking Scott’s face in half.

“We’re engaged!” Allison announces, laughing as she holds up her hand to present the ring, and the entire backyard erupts with applause, whistling, and congratulations.

Stiles starts bouncing up and down again, unable to contain his excitement. He throws his arms around Scott and squeezes him tightly, claps on this back. His voice is suddenly gone, choked up, so he just squeezes his best friend once more, and goes to embrace Allison who sniffles happily against his neck. Lydia looks like she’s one second from tearing up as she fastidiously purses her lips against the onset of, what Stiles assumes is, emotion. Her smile is blinding when it breaks through, though, and Stiles watches as Lydia cups Allison’s face between her hands, saying something to her that makes Allison cry-laugh.

Later, Allison sits down next to him and knocks her beer bottle against his. “You know about this?” She wiggles the fingers of her ringed hand.

Stiles grins. “Yeah,” he nods, laughing a little. “We drank a little too much the other day, and when he presented me with the ring I thought at first that he’d confused us in his drunken state.”

Allison chuckles and ducks her head, dimples showing. She takes a swig of her beer. “So, how’s it going with that hot doctor of yours?”

Stiles starts peeling at the label of the bottle. “I don’t know what you mean.” Even as he’s saying it, he thinks about the last time he was at the hospital, heat creeping up his face as he remembers McBroody dropping by his room every day for the remainder of Stiles’ stay.

You know you can just say Dr. Hale, right? Or...I mean, Derek’s fine too, I guess. If you wanted.

“Oh please, you didn’t shut up about him since the first time he treated you,” Allison teases, bumping her shoulder against his. “Granted, at first it was incessant bitching, and now it’s basically a love song, but you know.”

“He’s a dick,” Stiles says, lovingly, with as much aggravation as he can muster.

“I seem to recall that you’re into that.”

Stiles shoots her a glare, and she smirks around the mouth of her bottle. He sighs then, shrugging a little, going back to pick at the label.

“It’s very sweet that you’re rooting for—I don’t know, me, I guess, or—us… whatever, but I know for a fact it could never work out because he gets aneurysms on the regular from having to treat people who get themselves hurt by doing dumbass shit, and I’m one of those people who—admittedly—isn’t trying to get into the ER on purpose but who has, let’s tentatively call it, a mild tendency to—”

“Do dumbass shit that gets you hurt,” Allison finishes. She smirks as she looks him over, a raised eyebrow indicating that she doesn’t buy into his bullshit.

“Basically, yes.”

“The appendicitis wasn’t your fault,” she points out. “The bruised tailbone...wasn’t technically your fault, either, although you could’ve paid more attention to the road.”

Stiles shoots her an unimpressed glare. “Thanks.”

Allison rolls her eyes. “Okay, look, I distinctly remember you going on and on and on about how he told you he reduces his life by ten years every time he smiles, and how many times he smiled at you when he was visiting you. He must be down to, what, thirty years now, so you should probably act fast before all those smiles he’s given you kill him.”

Stiles can feel his entire body burning at her words because he barely recalls this conversation. The meds he was given were really good, but also got him high as a kite. It’s really not fair that Allison’s using this against him now.

“You know he was only kidding,” Stiles says lamely.

Allison kicks his shin. “What you’re doing right there,” she says, getting up and pointing at him, “is the sort of dumbass shit that gets you hurt, too.”

She leaves him be, and Stiles sighs as he scrubs a hand through his hair. He doesn’t want to think too closely about Derek because if he lets himself, his fantasy will run wild with it, and Stiles isn’t ready to tackle that yet. Honestly, he isn’t quite sure what to make of the fact that Derek kept dropping by after the surgery, but he did enjoy Derek’s visits, however brief they were.

Derek always came after his shift at the hospital ended, and most of the time he seemed exhausted. Stiles could tell: he knows what it looks like from his dad, and the way Derek flopped down into a chair with a tiny sigh escaping him wasn’t unlike Dad. Still, he took his time asking Stiles how he was feeling and what the nurses and doctors had said about the state of his incisions and the healing progress. Most of his visits didn’t last long, but two times he stayed and they ended up talking for two hours. Stiles had asked what Derek’s specialty was, which turned out to be a combined residency of emergency and internal medicine. Derek talked about working with his sister and why he decided against going into surgery like her; Stiles talked about his postgraduate degree in engineering and how he sometimes thought about trying for criminology after all because it was another branch that highly fascinated him. It snowballed a little after that, and Stiles asked Derek for his Top Five of most stupid injuries he had to treat and watched him get riled up as he recalled the cases. Derek had huffed and rolled his eyes after he caught on to Stiles who could barely contain his gleeful laughter. Turned out, Stiles wasn’t in the Top Five after all.

Stiles didn’t dare thinking about this than anything more than what it was. Derek was his doctor, they never met outside the hospital and Stiles barely knows the guy. For all he knows Derek kept coming to see him to make sure Stiles didn’t accidentally, with his tendency to do idiotic crap, hurt himself again. Scott continued laughing at him, and said maybe Stiles annoyed Derek into looking after him. Which Stiles would've have been offended by if it wasn’t so entirely unlikely.

When Scott calls out for him, Stiles decides to bench those thoughts until some other time. There really isn’t any point to keep trying to make sense of it when he can’t figure it out anyway. He’d have to talk to Derek, maybe, and that—that idea is so outrageous it almost makes him laugh.

Stiles sidles up to Scott who’s standing by the grill, making ravenous noises as he bites into a shrimp. “Dude, Stiles,” he says around a mouthful, “you have to try these. They are delicious.”

Stiles makes a face. He’s managed to get through life without having tried shellfish, and he feels perfectly justified with it. His mom had loved all kinds of seafood, but Stiles always kicked up a fuss when she tried to make him try it. This stuff is always squishy, squiggly, oddly wobbly—simply put: disgusting-looking. Stiles has a whole thing about foods that are weirdly gross and strange in shape, color or consistency, and shellfish kind of look...wrong.

“At least try it before you decide you don’t like it,” Lydia says with a roll of her eyes. She delicately pulls one of the shrimp off her skewer and pops it into her mouth.

“They’re so good, Stiles,” Scott moans, and yeah, Stiles might just eat all of the shrimp on Scott’s skewer, because those are his sex noises. It conjures up a mental image Stiles just does not need in his life. Admittedly, they have very few lines that they didn’t cross between the two of them, but that is one of them.

Normally, he’d say no. He loves food, he does, he could eat all day if anyone would let him, but stuff he doesn’t like he won’t touch with a stick. But every one of his friends are eating the shrimp, and they all rave about how tasty they are, so Stiles’ culinary interest is peaked, if only hesitantly. It’s enough to get him curious, so he asks Scott for one of his, squeezes his eyes shut imagining eating a burger, and takes a bite.

Turns out, they’re not so bad. The texture is wonky, definitely, but the taste makes up for it in full. They’re juicy, deliciously garlicky, and really, really, pornographically good. Stiles pops the rest of it into his mouth, turns to get a skewer for himself only to find that they’re all out. He makes a bunch of unhappy noises about it until Jackson of all people hands over the rest of his shrimp only to make him shut up. Stiles gladly takes it. He does have a habit of annoying people into giving him what he wants. It might not be he finest quality but it does yield favorable results.

Stiles doesn’t notice it at first as his skin starts itching. They’re in the middle of a round of Cards against Humanity and he’s laughing his butt off. The itch doesn’t let up though, and laughing gets harder too. There’s a weird sensation running through his body, his tongue starts feeling heavy and his heart pounds unusually quickly, considering he hasn’t done anything that would warrant it. It starts so quickly Stiles doesn’t realize what’s happening until Lydia is staring at him with wide eyes and pale cheeks as he tries to say something, and the table around him falls quiet.

“Dude,” Scott says, a worry crease between his eyebrows. “What the hell?”

He feels off. A little like he had too much to drink except he’s barely had anything tonight. His heart keeps pounding and there’s a lump forming in his throat, making it harder to breathe.

“Stiles?” Allison asks. She sits closest to him, puts a hand on his arm.

“Mmmh,” Stiles makes as he numbly realizes he’s starting to panic.

There’s a beat of silence.

“He’s having an anaphylactic reaction,” Lydia says then and gets up so quickly the cards scatter. “We need to get him to a hospital!”

It’s a blur from there. Between the blood pounding loudly in his ears, his apparent and unexplained inability to form any words, and the panic rising up, he only barely registers Scott holding him. He’s murmuring something, it sounds soothing, but Stiles has a hard time focusing on it. They’re in a car, he notices sometime in between, and that it’s moving.

Then, Scott gingerly grabs his face. “We’re at the hospital,” he says, voice calm and collected, but the tone insistent, as if he’s willing Stiles to understand. “You’re gonna be okay.”

Stiles squints against the harsh lights in the ER as he gets wheeled in. Scott is there, and Lydia too, and they’re following him, talking quickly about what happened. He hears a familiar voice and then Derek’s face pops into his field of vision, looking sick with worry. There’s Boyd by the gurney, Stiles recognizes him, and Derek is giving orders.

It’s a flurry of noises and colors. He gets an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth, and an IV that Stiles sees Boyd put up over his head. Derek has a needle in his hand again which Stiles would love to protest against but then he feels it pierce the skin of his thigh before he gets anything out. It doesn’t hurt as much as he thought it would, but then again, his brain is still too preoccupied with what else is happening, so that might be a reason.

Stiles doesn’t know how much time passes. He blinks as Derek’s inquisitive eyebrows reappear above him, a somewhat calmer expression on his face now. Derek’s still talking, though, but Stiles doesn’t think it’s directed at him. He couldn’t answer anyway; it’s as if this was happening to someone else, or maybe it’s a dream. Stiles can’t tell, but everything is surreal, like a vivid nightmare, one he can’t wake up from. Would it be a nightmare if Derek’s in it, though? He sucks in a deep breath, air coming easier now than just moments before. Maybe he’s daydreaming vivaciously; maybe it’s his subconscious’ way of telling him to talk to Derek, have him back in his life again, at least for a little while. They’ve only ever crossed paths in the hospital, so perhaps this is a not-so-subtle kick to go see him. Of course his brain would conjure up a dramatic scenario, as if Stiles could meet Derek anywhere else but the hospital. As if that’s all he could ever have: sporadic meetings in the ER, until either Stiles manages to successfully take himself out, or Derek gets brain damage from being so annoyed by Stiles’ proneness to stupid accidents.

Stiles’ brain is a weirdo. He always knew it.

Derek’s looking at him now, eyes so intense Stiles feels like he’s being stripped bare. A large hand comes to rest on his forehand, gently, gently, carding hair away from his eyes, rubbing softly over his skin.

“You’re gonna be fine,” Derek’s saying, and Stiles sighs deeply. “Stiles, you’re gonna be fine, okay? I’ve got you.”

Stiles manages a weak nod, and his heart surges at the relieved little smile he gets in return. Derek looks up at that; at the monitor, Stiles thinks, hearing the beeping that tracks his heart rate. His heart doesn’t seem to be off, because Derek looks back at him, his hand still on Stiles’ head, still softly stroking.

He wakes up not remembering having fallen asleep in the first place. Stiles looks up and sees the machine tracking his vital signs, but other than the sound of it monitoring his heart beat, the room is quiet. It takes him a moment to realize that he’s feeling normal again: his breathing is even, his heart’s not pounding, the itching is gone and his tongue doesn’t feel wonky anymore either. Still, there’s a strange sort of exhaustion pulling at him.

He looks up when the door opens, and Stiles’ heart stutters and launches itself into his throat.

Boyd shoots him a look but otherwise doesn’t seem bothered. “Good to see you’re awake,” he simply says, walking over to Stiles. His eyes skim the monitor before they settle on Stiles again. “How are you feeling?”

Stiles pretends his face isn’t hot and red and that he wasn’t hoping someone else would come in. “Uh,” he says, “I don’t know. As if I’ve been hit by a truck, but maybe also as if I’d run a marathon unprepared. I can’t tell.”

Boyd nods as he inclines the bed a little so Stiles isn’t lying flat any longer. “It’s gonna pass,” he explains. He finishes up doing whatever he came to do and as he walks back to the door, he turns around and says, “I’m gonna get Derek.”

Stiles thinks he must really be transparent if even Boyd caught on to him, but Boyd rolls his eyes a little at Stiles’ face as if he could read Stiles’ mind. He leaves the room wordlessly, though.

Stiles can hear his blood pounding in his ears again, for a totally different reason now than before. He thought he was over the entire school-crush-losing-my-mind-when-I-see-you thing but evidently, he isn’t. The memory of the look on Derek’s face when he was bending over Stiles in the ER doesn’t help to make things better. Derek looked so worried but also so determined to fix him. Stiles swallows and tries to rein in his fluttering heart.

Derek practically comes flying into the room. There’s a stethoscope dangling around his neck and he has a pair of dark-rimmed glasses on, hair sticking up, and Stiles knows instantly that he is completely and utterly done for. A blinding smile stretches across his face as soon as he spots Stiles. He quickly walks up to the bed, pulls up a chair and sits, eyes going over the monitor first. Derek seems to be satisfied with the status of Stiles’ vital signs because he exhales deeply before focusing on Stiles.

“Hey,” he says with a smaller smile now that nevertheless, potentially, has enough power to send Stiles careening into cardiac arrest.

“Stop smiling or you’ll die very young,” is the first thing that comes out of Stiles’ mouth, and yeah, he should work on that brain-to-mouth filter.

Derek laughs softly. “I’ll be fine,” he assures, eyes crinkling at the corners, and Stiles could just...eat him up. “How are you feeling?”

“Better now,” Stiles answers, intently staring at Derek so he won’t miss any of the tiny quirks and expressions on his face. He’s sure he could look at Derek all day. Oh God, he’s such a loser, Derek can never know about this.

“You gave your friends quite a scare,” Derek tells him quietly. “Me, too.”

Stiles scowls. “What even happened? I was fine one second, and the next Scott and Lydia brought me here.”

“You had an anaphylactic reaction. Your friend Scott said it was probably the shrimp you ate.”

“Oh.” Stiles touches his hand to his forehead. Yeah, that...would make sense, kinda. “I’ve never eaten shrimp or any sort of shellfish before. They look so gross, so really...figures that I almost die the first time I decide to try something new.”

“You’re lucky your friend caught on to what was happening so quickly,” Derek says. His eyes are so incredibly soft Stiles has to swallow and look away.

“Well, yeah, she’s an amazing human/genius,” Stiles answers.

“I’m gonna keep you here overnight,” Derek starts. “You responded very well to the treatment, so I’m not worried anymore, but I’d rather be safe than sorry. It might be useful if you got tested for other shellfish if you plan on eating them. You might not be allergic to all of them.”

“Oh no. No, no, no,” Stiles says raising his hands. “I am officially done with shellfish. Not touching those with a stick from ten feet away.”

Derek huffs out a laugh.

“No, but seriously, do I need to be carrying an Epi-pen with me at all times?” Stiles asks. Even if, he’d probably wouldn’t be able to stab himself with it. He just really hates needles.

“You should be fine as long as you don’t eat any more shrimp or other shellfish,” Derek says with another huffed out laugh, shaking his head a little. “It’s different for everyone, though. Some people react to touching shellfish or the steam of processing them, so you might want to steer clear of that, too. You also need to be cautious of how other fresh products were stored, like, if they were prepared or processed near shellfish. And better to keep a keen eye on warning labels on food packaging.”

“Done.” Stiles nods. This is easy. Ugh, shellfish, he always knew they were disgusting, and now they tried to kill him.

Silence settles between them, and Stiles starts getting antsy. It doesn’t quite feel comfortable but it isn’t awkward either. He wants to say something, anything, wants to—he doesn’t even know. Derek clenches his hands over his knees, eyes going back to look at the monitor.

“I, uh, called your dad. He came in shortly after you fell asleep and has been asked to come back into work, but I called him when Boyd said you woke up. He should be here in a bit,” Derek says eventually.

Stiles smiles at him, grateful that Derek thought of that. “Thanks.”

They look at each other, and Derek too has a smile on his lips, and Stiles can’t tear his eyes away. He reaches out to awkwardly pat Derek’s hand.

“Thanks for taking care of me every time,” Stiles says, voice coming out a bit hoarse. “I really hope I won’t literally annoy you to death.”

Derek catches his fingers in his hand, squeezing lightly, but his eyes never leave Stiles’ face. “I’ve already told you that you won’t. You’re not in the Top Five, remember?”

Stiles purses his lips, his heart lurching again. He really wishes he wasn’t plugged up to a heart monitor because they can both see and hear it.

“Got any new stories for me?” Stiles asks.

Derek rolls his eyes so hard Stiles is momentarily afraid they’ll pop right out of his head. “Had a patient the other day who thought he had tapeworms and to confirm his diagnosis he shoved a camera up his colon.”

“Wait, are we talking like, the lens of a DSLR, or—?”

“Oh my God,” Derek groans, covering his eyes with his free hand. “That’s an image I really didn’t need in my life.”

Stiles can’t help smirking. He looks down at where Derek’s still holding his hand, though, thumb sweeping back and forth over Stiles’ knuckles.

“No, it was an action cam, I think. It wasn’t pretty either way,” Derek says. Stiles would give a lot to have seen Derek’s irritated face when the case had been brought into the ER.

“Have you ever been to the ER as a patient?” Stiles asks after they settle again.

Derek falls quiet, seemingly thinking it over. He sucks in a deep breath, scrubs a hand over his face leaving his glasses sitting a little askew on his nose, and says, “I’m only telling you this because I know if you ask Laura about it, she will tell you and make it sound way worse than it actually was.”

Stiles purses his lips trying not to seem too happy that Derek thinks he might have more contact with his sister. It is stupid, it probably meant nothing but it still makes Stiles’ heart flutter excitedly.

“Okay, I was, I don’t know, way too old for this to be happening at that age, to be honest,” Derek starts, sighing out another breath. “I had a painfully ingrown toenail,” he continues, looking, for all it’s worth, like he bit into a lemon. “It was, you know, I wasn’t happy, I was petrified and there were tears, but then the doctor came, and he—I think he’s the one who sparked the idea for me to go into medicine—he looked at me and he said, ‘Don’t worry about a thing. I just looked up how to perform this operation on YouTube.’”

Stiles smirks. “He sparked that desire? He was funny, you practically intimidate your patients into getting better.”

Derek scoffs. “Some people just bring it out in me.” He hitches up a shoulder.

Stiles reaches over to pat Derek’s shoulder. “Some?”

Derek huffs but doesn’t actually answer. His cheeks, however, turn a pretty pink shade and Stiles wants to rub his face on it.

“You know, compared to what I come in for, yours is pretty lame. It wasn’t even that stupid.”

Derek snorts, rolling his eyes. “It is so stupid,” he insists. “Like, it doesn’t take much to take care of your nails and if you spare them five minutes every two weeks or so—it’s basic hygiene and unless you don’t have access to stuff like this—” His voice grows louder until he snaps his mouth shut suddenly, and Stiles is glowing with glee. Derek raging about the stupidity of others—and in this case even his own—might have turned into the sole reason Stiles lives and breathes.

Derek takes a breath to calm back down, and says, “I wasn’t aware this is a competition.”

“It’s not. But I’m winning,” Stiles says, squeezing Derek’s hand. It feels so natural holding hands he almost forgets they’re doing it. There’s a warm and fuzzy feeling bubbling up in his stomach. He wants to keep it.

Stiles grins wide when Derek rolls his eyes again, but it’s so fond it almost makes Stiles’ heart ache.

“I really wish you weren’t,” Derek says then, quiet, looking down at their hands. “In fact, I’d be really happy if you stopped being brought into the ER altogether.”

Stiles’ breath catches in his throat.

“Not because—” Derek starts and stops, taking a breath. “I don’t want to keep seeing you hurt.”

Derek leans in closer, and Stiles swallows, heart stuttering again.

“I’ll try to be better,” Stiles whispers, staring into Derek’s piercing eyes, feeling hot and cold all over, in a way that feels indescribably good.

“Okay.” Derek’s voice is just as quiet, and he nods slightly, leaning closer still. He gets up then, stroking a hand through the strands of hair falling onto Stiles’ forehead. Derek leans down, and Stiles closes his eyes as he feels Derek’s lips softly touch his forehead. The machine beeps incessantly and Stiles can’t even feel embarrassed because he thinks Derek’s heart might be doing the same thing.

He looks up when Derek stands back upright, and they gaze at each other for a moment. There’s so much softness in Derek’s eyes, a fond curl at the corner of his mouth, Stiles wants to pull him back in, hug him, touch him, revere him, thank him, kiss him.

Dad walks in, sighs in relief as he sees Stiles and goes to give him a bear hug. Stiles holds onto his father’s shoulders, happy to see him, but looks at Derek over his shoulder, who sends him a warm smile before leaving the room.

Stiles closes his eyes, trying to calm his racing heart.

 

 

+ i.

“Wait, okay, hold on,” Laura says, putting down her sandwich. Derek’s already regretting this. “You’ve treated him five times. Every time you were your usual way-too-sassy-for-an-emergency-doctor self and he reciprocated in kind without wailing about talking to your superiors. He bantered and flirted with you and made you smile which never happens because your facial muscles are rudimentary. You were worried sick about him when he had to have surgery and when he came in for anaphylaxis. You also did an Olympia-worthy sprint to go see him when he woke up after treatment the last time he was here. You then proceeded to hold hands, you flirted some more, you could literally see his heartbeat as a reaction to you and you kissed him on the forehead.”

She’s ticking all the points off her fingers. “And yet you still failed to ask him out on a date and you didn’t at least ask for his number,” she finishes, disbelief coloring her voice as she raises her eyebrows at him, looking way too judgemental.

Derek crosses his arms in front of his chest. “He was my patient,” he says defensively, although he knows it’s a weak argument.

Laura snorts. “Semantics.”

“It’s weird,” Derek tries again. “I’ve been treating him all this time. We’ve never met outside the ER.”

She rolls her eyes, hard. “Derek, we spend most our time at the hospital. You don’t even go out when you’re off, so of course you don’t meet people anywhere else. It’s not weird and you know it.”

Derek’s silent. He is really lucky to have met someone like Stiles in the ER. The people Derek usually meets if he ever cares to venture outside his comfort zone like him for his looks, not so much for his personality. Most of his last couple of dates couldn’t handle his sarcasm, either not recognizing it for what it is and getting offended, or not realizing the sarcasm and seriously going along with whatever he’d said. They were surprised at his opinions or insights, at his almost cynical outlook on most people, or the fact that he loves his job a lot regardless of all the whacky shit he sees everyday. Yeah, so most of his dates were really into his looks but didn’t like his attitude and snappy comebacks at all. Which is fine, really, Derek isn’t even offended. He’d rather know straight off the bat than find out about it later, and he prefers to have a partner who can give as good as they get.

Which Stiles can. Stiles, who so effortlessly keeps up with him, who meets him in snide and snark, and whose heart jumps at the sight of Derek, and Derek knows it’s not simply because of the way he looks.

Laura takes another bite of her sandwich and sighs. “I can see your inner turmoil happening,” she says.

“Stop talking with your mouth full,” Derek snaps, glowering at her tone. She smirks at him, completely unperturbed.

“Look, going by his rate, he’s going to come into the ER soon enough so you can ask him,” she points out, collecting sauce with her finger.

“God,” Derek says in a rush of air coming out of his lungs, feeling his heart lurch at the prospect of having Stiles back here. “I hope not.”

Laura smirks again in that I-looked-right-through-you way that makes Derek bonkers. “Awwww, look at you worrying about your boo, and he’s not even your boyfriend yet.”

Derek notices her saying yet as if she’s convinced they will be eventually. He appreciates her confidence and support, but he could do with a little less of...Laura.

She shrugs. “You can ask Melissa. From what I’ve gathered Stiles is best friends with her son, so she should be able to hook you up.”

“I don’t think I want her to know about this,” Derek says and covers his face with his hands.

“Derek, everyone knows about this.” Laura is giving him that look that makes him want to be buried under a pile of rocks; as if he’s so painfully oblivious that it’s hurting her. “You’re the equivalent of a grouchy grumpy grandpa around here. Everyone knows that. Of course it spreads like wildfire when Dr. McBroody starts crushing hard on a guy who keeps coming in. You two seem to find each other like magnets.”

McBroody has caught on, much to Derek’s everlasting dismay. He even had one of his attendings tell him “to lighten up, McBroody,” and yeah, Derek’s actually spent that afternoon looking for open residency spots at other hospitals.

Derek picks up his fork and pretends stabbing himself in the jugular with it, mimics blood shooting out of the wound, and dying.

“Quit being so dramatic,” Laura says smirking. “And that performance needs some serious work to be convincing.”

Derek crumples up his napkin and throws it at her head getting up. “Just promise me that when I actually stab myself someday you won’t try to save me.”

“The good or the bad kind of stabbing?”

“There is no good kind of stabbing, Laura.”

“There is according to some erotica novels,” she says as she quirks a brow and smirks, dirty, and Derek wishes someone would clobber him over the head with something big and heavy. To his shame, he can feel his face heating, and Derek grabs his tray and bolts, Laura’s dirty, mischievous cackle following him out.

Derek finds Stiles on Facebook but doesn’t send him a friend request. There isn’t anything to go off on from Stiles’ profile because it’s set on private and only visible to people he’s friends with. If hard pressed Derek will admit that he’s only mildly disappointed by that.

He doesn’t quite know what’s keeping him from contacting Stiles. While Derek might not be the best at reading people (at least outside of a medical setting), he is sure that what he got from Stiles was interest if not affection. Yet, Stiles doesn’t seem to be trying to reach out either. It leaves him somewhat stumped and hesitant to be the one to make the first step.

Maybe Stiles wasn’t clear about what was happening when he woke up after his anaphylactic reaction. Derek feels the color drain from his face at that thought; how it would mean that he took advantage of the situation. His hands get clammy, and he rubs them on his thighs. God, he—he can’t even think about what that would mean.

Derek’s shift is done. He rubs a hand over the back of his neck, feeling the exhaustion of the day, as he walks over to the reception to hand the patient chart to the nurse on duty. There’s some of his mother’s cherry pie waiting for him at home that he can’t wait to get to, and he’s thinking about his dinner options when he spots Stiles standing in the entryway of the ER, looking lost.

Derek’s heart launches itself into his throat immediately. He almost drops the chart on his way to Stiles.

“Stiles!” His voice comes out urgent and worried as he reaches him, grabbing him by the shoulders. “What’s wrong?”

Stiles blinks at him, eyes big and beautiful, and Derek quickly scans his body for apparent injuries. He doesn’t spot any. When he looks back up Stiles is smiling at him so fondly, Derek’s knees start to wobble.

“I’m fine, dude, I swear,” Stiles says, touching his elbow. He holds up a white plastic bag with his other hand. “I’m only here for a delivery.”

Derek stares dumbly.

Stiles shifts his weight from one foot to other, looking awkward. “For Scott’s mom? Uh, Melissa. I mean, nurse McCall. Scott is stuck at the vet clinic, so he asked me to bring her dinner.”

“Oh,” Derek says, releasing Stiles’ shoulders and stepping back. He both relieved that Stiles isn’t here because of some injury and disappointed that he didn’t come to see Derek. “Okay, good.”

He continues to stare, and Stiles is looking back at him, and Derek’s heart is pounding.

“I think she’s up on a ward,” Derek says eventually. “If you ask at the reception, they’ll be able to tell you.”

“Cool, thanks,” Stiles says with a smile. Derek nods, turning away, seeing a frown replace that smile on Stiles’ face from out of the corner of his eyes.

Derek needs a minute to calm down. Seeing Stiles in the ER just now made him go into overdrive and that—Derek’s unsure what to do about that. He takes his time to regain his composure and remind himself that Stiles is fine. That is one Pavlovian reaction if he’s ever seen one, and Derek groans. He scrubs a hand over his face before he gets up from where he sat down in the staircase.

He’s walking to the residents’ changing room when he sees Stiles walking toward him. The bag is no longer in his hand, so he must’ve found Melissa and given it to her. Why he’s here now, though, Derek can’t begin to fathom.

“Hey,” Stiles says pursing his lips and shoving his hands into the pockets of his hoodie. He doesn’t quite meet Derek’s eyes, glancing up and to the side, down at his feet, at something over Derek’s shoulder. There’s a smudge of color in his cheeks that Derek finds adorable.

“Hi.” Derek’s heart is doing ridiculous tumbles in his chest.

Stiles clears his throat and finally looks at Derek, really looks at him, and Derek finds himself out of breath, tongue dry, hands sweaty.

“Sorry if I freaked you out,” Stiles starts saying, “maybe—”

Derek grabs his arm and drags him into one of the on-call rooms on the floor. He shuts the door and presses Stiles up against it, wondering where the fuck this is all even coming from. He’s angry and worried and desperate—and Stiles doesn’t even realize

“You should be,” Derek finds himself saying, sounding oddly harsh and vulnerable at the same time.

Stiles is staring at him with wide eyes again. “What?”

Derek steps away from him and runs his hands through his hair. “I thought I was going to be sick when I saw you standing in the ER again.”

“You what?”

“God, you scared the fuck out of me.”

Stiles doesn’t respond, just tracks Derek’s movement across the room until Derek circles back to him, coming to stand in front of him.

“You scared the fuck out of me,” he repeats, voice hoarse. “And you don’t even know.”

Stiles leans against the door, still silent. Slowly, he reaches for Derek and cups his cheek with one hand, thumb sweeping over the skin beneath Derek’s eyes. It’s so soft and comforting Derek can’t help but lean into the touch, turn his head until Stiles’ palm covers his mouth and kisses it.

“I don’t know—you have to be careful, please, be more careful,” Derek says into his palm, closing his eyes and willing his heart to slow down. “I don’t know if I will be able to do my job right if you are brought in again, Stiles. What if you’re unconscious the next time or—”

“Hey, sssh,” Stiles says as he pulls Derek in, wrapping his arms around him, one hand cupping the back of his head. “I’m fine, Derek. All those times I came in where just excuses to see you again.”

Derek snorts into his shoulder. “Don’t joke about this.”

He can feel Stiles’ smile against his cheek. “Sorry,” he says quietly, gently carding his fingers through Derek’s hair. “I’m on a new agenda,” he continues then. “Trying to do less stupid shit that Derek would get an aneurysm over.”

Derek can’t help another snort, but he squeezes Stiles a little tighter. He relishes in the feeling of having him gathered up in his arms, his solid form against his own, and he’s fine; he’s uninjured.

“You might want to ease up there, Dr. Hale, or you’ll end up cracking my ribs and then I’m gonna be back in the ER,” Stiles says against his ear, voice sounding fondly amused.

Derek lets go of him then and slides his hands up to rest by Stiles’ neck, feels his racing pulse under his thumbs. Stiles’ cheeks are flushed and his eyes are bright and happy.

“Maybe you shouldn’t treat me anymore,” he suggests. Derek frowns and Stiles ducks his head in response, flushing further still. “I heard you’re not supposed to treat family members or, uh, y’know, people you, uh, care more than the, like, normal amount about.”

“And you think I care more than the normal amount about you?” Derek asks, raising his eyebrows. He only barely manages to hide a grin.

Stiles looks back up at him, scowling at Derek’s tone, thrown. The grin Derek tried to hide breaks out then, and Stiles relaxes, rolling his eyes.

“You’re such an asshole.”

Derek laughs at that. The look on Stiles’ face leaves him with a swooping sensation in his stomach, as if he’s freefalling, and it’s exciting, anticipatory, happy, all rolled up in one. As he calms down, he touches his own forehead to Stiles’ and closes his eyes to listen to Stiles’ breathing. All of this makes him lightheaded, and he would be worried of Stiles rubbing off on him but there’s a happy bubbly wave washing over him, so he’s fine.

Stiles’ fingers curl around Derek’s wrists. Derek opens his eyes to find Stiles gazing at him with a wondrous expression.

“I do care more than the normal amount about you,” Derek says into the tiny space between him, grinning broadly as Stiles rolls his eyes again.

“Shut up,” Stiles says, fists a hand in Derek’s scrub shirt and pulls him in for a kiss.

It’s slow and dry and sweet at first, just a soft touching of lips and Derek could get lost to the feeling. He pulls back a little, smiles when he finds Stiles chasing his lips. There’s a moment when they just dopily—yes, Derek can’t even call it anything else—smile at each other, and it’s perfect. Gently, he bumps his nose against Stiles’ before slotting their mouths together again.

The next kiss has Derek’s toes curling. It’s hungry, it’s sloppy, and Derek relishes in the feeling of his tongue sliding against Stiles’, who makes breathless, impatient little noises that Derek swallows right up. Derek registers Stiles’ other hand coming up, gripping his hair, and he groans softly, pushing Stiles more firmly against the door. He’s still cupping the sides of Stiles’ neck, feels his jaw move slightly and the racing of his pulse, and it’s intoxicating, the way Stiles reacts to him.

They both pull back panting. Stiles’ lips are red and a little puffy, and Derek wonders, enthralled, how far he could go with it.

“Do you want to go on a date with me?” Stiles asks, his eyes tracing laser-like over Derek’s face.

“Yes, I do,” Derek says, puncturing each word with a kiss. “Only if you promise me that it won’t end up in the ER.”

Stiles’ eyes go wide and innocent. “But—that’s our thing!”

Derek groans in exasperation. “It is not our thing.”

Stiles is smirking at him, sweetly, lazily. He leans in to draw Derek into another kiss, and Derek forgets.

Their first date goes without injury; however, Stiles does bang his head against Derek’s kitchen cabinet the first time they have sex. Derek has a remedy for that, though.