"Weighting" by Henabrey
Summary: Yes, that's a deliberate misspelling. Post-Stalker. Scotty waits in the hospital. Could be seen as LS, or LS friendship only. Your choice.
Disclaimers: Definitely not my characters. If they were my characters, you'd be able to go out to your friendly department store and buy them on DVD already, dammit.
Spoilers: duh, "Stalker".
Author's Note: this has been sitting half-finished on my computer for a couple of years now. I found it recently, liked what I'd written, and finished it off. I hope you like it too.
It had all looked good at first. He could hear her voice, calling out to him. You wanna shoot me? Shoot me now. Then do it already. Shoot me! Do it now! Talking to Ed, and to Scotty where he crouched under the two way mirror waiting for her signal, cursing the glass that blocked his view of what was happening in the room beyond. Do it now! He was up, shooter's stance like he'd been taught at the academy, arms stiff and legs firmly planted. Those sweet days at the academy, when it had all seemed such a game. He'd been playing at being a cop, thinking maybe one day he'd get to play the hero and save someone's life with what he was learning. Now he was playing the hero, trying to save his partner, and it wasn't a game at all, and all he could think was that he'd give anything if it would mean she wasn't in danger. Anything.
He was up, in position, and he squeezed the trigger. Such a little movement; just a flexing of the index finger, bringing it in to kiss his palm, and it produced such big results. The sound of the gunpowder igniting was deafening in the small space, like a bomb going off, and the two way mirror exploded into a thousand shattered pieces. Then he could see into observation, and just as he wanted Ed had his back to him. He could see Lilly, white-faced and scared, over Ed's shoulder before he brought the gun down and around, pulled the trigger again. Ed fell to the ground.
So it all looked good. Ed was dead, hostage was saved, partner fine. He'd played the hero and won the game. Drinks all round. And then Jefferies spoke, small and shocked. "Lil?"
He'd never forget it. Not as long as he lived would he forget looking up and seeing the blood on the wall in front of him, sprayed in a dripping starburst pattern, startling as an abstract painting. And Lilly slumped on the floor underneath it. His heart stopped as his eyes took it in. He managed to get out her name in a strangled, fear-choked gasp, scream at Jefferies to stop standing there and call the paramedics, and feel his way through Lilly's slippery, soaked clothing to the hole in her skin and place his desperate fingers over it, holding her blood in with nothing more than hope. His heart beat a hammering staccato rhythm in his chest and panic grabbed his throat in a vise, rendering him mute and unable to offer any words of comfort and reassurance, to her or to himself.
Then the paramedics were there, fussing over her and giving her oxygen and swabs and fluids and pushing him out of the way like he was last year's puppy, leaving him diminished and useless in a corner, unable to leave.
And then she was gone, wheeled out like an empress to her awaiting chariot, and the only things left in the shattered observation room was a dead body and an accusing blood stain on the wall.
The corridor smelled of death.
Some janitor had spent hours swabbing it with antiseptic and bleach, but under the pine-y too-clean clinical smell there was another one, darker and deeper and awful. Death. Pain. Blood. Fear. It was the smell of anguish, and it permeated the air around Scotty like the stink of last night's dinner until he was just about retching with it.
It came off him in waves, too. From the blood stain on his tie to the tremor in his hands to the burning, prickling feel of unshed tears in his eyes, he was drowning in anguish.
The others were doing the sensible thing, sitting slack-faced and numb in the hard plastic chairs
in the waiting room. What loved ones were supposed to do while waiting for news. Scotty couldn't sit still. He paced the linoleum floor of the corridor like a caged lion, feeling dangerous. The place was like an anthill, an endless maelstrom of frantic activity as ambulances screamed at the entrance doors and patients were wheeled to other mysterious parts of the hospital and nurses bustled from one curtained-off alcove to another. From where he was pacing the hallway, Scotty could hear several different muted, serious conversations overlapping each other in waves, creating a background hum that joined the ringing in his ears the gunshots had left behind. Someone, a man, was sobbing and repeating the same phrase over and over in what sounded like Polish. A prayer, perhaps. Scotty sent one of his own upwards in a silent whisper. Por favor. Por favor, Dios.
When Scotty first joined the force, his fellow officers warned him that he may end up in a hospital some day. Philadelphia was a rough city, after all, and if a cop wanted to make a difference he had to go in and get his hands dirty, and sometimes you'd come off second best. There was a wall up at the tavern they all drank at that was full of pictures of the fallen, quietly saluted after a hard day's work. And, they said, there wasn't a cop in Philly that couldn't not think about it every time they went out on the beat, every time they went out to interview a suspect, every time they got their gun out of its holster. Was it today? Was today the day they'd end up in the hospital? Not the other, more final place they might end up, just the hospital. The other place wasn't talked about, and a cop tried not to think about it. Nobody wanted to think about ending up in the morgue while they were doing up their shoelaces and eating their bowl of morning Corn Flakes.
What Scotty wasn't told is that one day he might end up in the hospital because it wasn't him that had been shot but his beautiful, blue-eyed and dazzlingly blonde partner, and he'd be there in the hospital waiting for her to be okay and that he couldn't have left if his life depended on it. Nobody had told Scotty about that particular big bag of fun.
They hadn't told him that one day his partner might be in the hospital because he'd tried to save her life.
The ADA who'd handed them the case had been in earlier, offering a tentative hand on Scotty's arm as comfort, and Scotty hadn't been able to look her in the face. He couldn't look at anyone who was whole and healthy and not Lilly. The ADA - and for the life of him right then he couldn't even remember her name - had passed over to the others, who were more accepting of her condolences, before leaving. Scotty found himself full of resentment towards her, because she'd been able to leave, and towards the others, who were able to sit calmly waiting for news, and towards Stillman in particular, who'd been shot the same as Lilly had yet was sitting up in the hard waiting room chair sporting a bandage and a pale complexion while Lilly was...Lilly was...
Most of all, he was resentful towards himself. Because he'd had the fucker in his sights and he hadn't been able to pull the trigger fast enough to save Lilly.
Because he was alive, and unhurt, and he'd failed.
It had been several centuries of waiting, Scotty pacing the corridor, feeling like he was drowning in air that had become thick and choked with muted grief, before a doctor had appeared. If the doctor had got any of Lilly's blood on him, he'd managed to remove any evidence of it. His scrubs were slightly crumpled but clean, and his face washed clean of any emotion save a serious benevolence. The others joined he and Scotty in the corridor, faces identical in their fearful anticipation.
"She'll pull through," was the first thing he'd said, and Scotty couldn't take anything else in past the sudden rush of blood to his head, the relief. His ears were blocked with it. His legs barely held him upright. Judging by the others' expressions, though, the news was all good. They were all smiling. Someone gripped his shoulder and squeezed.
The next thing Scotty could hear was the doctor telling them they should leave, that 'the patient' was still asleep and needed rest. Fuck leaving, Scotty thought. "I'm stayin'."
"Scotty," Stillman said. "She's sleeping. You can come back -"
The hand was still on his shoulder, and Scotty shook it off angrily. "I'm stayin'." His tone was final, murderous, and promised death and destruction to anyone who tried to force him to leave. A voice that nobody dared argue with.
So the hand had come back to his shoulder, squeezed again, and they'd left him to follow the doctor's directions to Lilly's bedside.
She was too still. It was unnerving.
A nurse with a kind smile and a bad dye job had showed Scotty into the room Lilly lay in, hooked up to what seemed like a million machines and looking like a porcelain doll. He'd pulled a chair closer to the bed as the nurse beat a tactful retreat, leaving him alone with his sleeping partner.
It was difficult to know where to touch her. They didn't touch much, as a rule; she was as separate and aloof as the moon sometimes and didn't take signs of affection easily. The hand he'd laid on her shoulder that morning was probably the most contact he'd made with her in the four years they'd been working together. Now she was unconscious, and he could touch where he liked without her knowing, but he hesitated. He wanted to take her hand, to draw it up to his mouth and hold it there in an endless kiss, but he was sure she wouldn't like it, wouldn't know what to make of it, and he didn't want to take liberties with her hand on top of everything else he'd accomplished that day. There was a strand of her hair falling over her eyes. He had a reason for touching that, and his hand stole out and brushed it aside, enjoying the silkiness under his fingers. He'd never touched her hair before.
The hell with it. She was in the hospital because of him, and he might not be able to fix that, but he needed to feel he was helping in some small way. His hand found hers and curled around it, offering the unconscious form any ounce of comfort he could give.
But she was too still. He was too used to seeing her fire and drive when he looked at her; the fierce intelligence in her eyes, the passion for her job. Now...if it weren't for the rhythmic bleep of the heart monitor and the rise and fall of her chest, she could be a corpse. Could have been a corpse, he told himself, and his fingers tightened on hers unconsciously. Could have been so easily, if Ed's bullet had only hit her a little to the right, a little higher, a little lower, she could be in the morgue right now and Scotty would have been at the bottom of a bottle. Or the bottom of the river.
The longer he sat there, the more useless he felt. He'd never been one for sitting still as a rule; he got too restless too quickly. Strange then that he was so at home with the cold jobs rather than being out on the front line busting down doors. What he'd pictured himself doing when he joined the force. He supposed it had a lot to do with Lilly that the cold cases felt like home. Had everything to do with Lilly.
He'd never told her that.
He felt stupid just sitting there, not doing anything, silent. Like holding her hand was doing any good. Like it could make any difference to how she'd feel when she eventually woke up. Like she'd even know he was doing it! Maybe he should be speaking to her. He'd read somewhere that people in comas - not that Lilly was in a coma, he told himself firmly - could hear people that spoke to them. Maybe she'd feel better if she heard his voice. He cleared his throat.
"Hey," he said. He kept his voice soft, but it still sounded stupidly loud in the quiet room. He softened it further. "Hey, uh, Lil. It's me. Scotty." There was no response. Not that he expected one, but he paused as though waiting for her voice anyway. "Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I'm, uh, well..." He trailed off, feeling ridiculous. It was as if he was leaving a message on her voicemail, for Christsake. Just a casual hello. But he couldn't find the words to give her anything more, to put the lead weight of his horror and guilt into sentences that could even begin to convey his sorrow and regret. Maybe if she were awake and looking at him he could, but right then he felt as though he were speaking to a corpse, like a character in a daytime soap and he just couldn't stand it.
He lapsed into a brooding silence, unable to think of anything else to say. They said that people in comas could hear what you were saying, but nobody told you what you were supposed to actually talk to them about. Should he be discussing the latest box scores with her? The weather? Politics? He and she had never been ones for smalltalk, anyway. They'd been working together for years and he had no idea what her favourite movie was, her favourite colour - although she wore blue a fair bit - or what kind of music she listened to. He could discuss work, of course; they were always good at that, but talking about the job that had landed her in the hospital seemed a little tasteless. Not to mention the fact that even thinking about Ed made Scotty nauseous. So what did that leave? Should he be pouring his heart and soul out to the unconscious form in front of him as though she were awake and listening to him? Even if he was pretty damn sure she wouldn't want to hear what he had to say? Stupid idea. Stupid. His guilt, anyway, had robbed him of words and rendered him mute, and he was about as useful here as a snow making machine in Antarctica.
He ran a cold hand over his face, feeling the rasp of his stubble under his fingers. He should go home. It had been a long time since that morning's shower. And he still had his tie on, the one stained with her blood. He fingered it, scratching at the stiffening gore with his thumb, scratching harder when it wouldn't come off, scratching and scratching and scratching until finally with a muffled oath he roughly tore it from his neck and flung it into a corner of the room where he wouldn't have to look at it. Lilly didn't move.
"Sorry," he said, apologising for the sudden noise. As if he was disturbing her nap or something. Jesus. He couldn't help the wry grin that spread across his face. "Sorry," he said again. And then he was laughing silently and without humour, unable to hold it in. "Sorry...yeah, that...that just about covers it." Like that stupid little word could even begin to make up for what he'd done to her. And look at him, he couldn't even sit by her bedside and wait for her to wake up without fucking things up. Without failing her. What a sorry sack of crap he turned out to be.
"Sorry," he said again, still laughing, and then suddenly he felt more like crying and he couldn't just sit there laughing any more and he was standing up and wrenching his hand from hers and regretting the absence of her skin as he pushed the chair back with enough force to knock it over. He breathed loudly and carefully, struggling to keep his emotions in check. "Ah, Jesus, Lil, I'm sorry."
There were tears in his eyes, in his voice. He brushed them back angrily. Tears would do about as much good as sorry and holding her hand right then. No good at all. And she wouldn't want him crying over her anyway, wouldn't know what to do about it. He picked up the chair and set it back on its legs by the side of the bed, but found he couldn't sit back down in it. He gripped the back of it with both hands, trying to crush the hard plastic with the force of his grip, and bowed his head so he wouldn't have to look at her.
So he wouldn't have to look at what he'd done, at what he'd failed to do.
He left. Behind him, she breathed, asleep. Alone. He walked down the hall, the weight of his guilt all that stopped him from breaking into a run.
There was a chapel somewhere in the hospital, but he didn't think it would help. He'd prayed before, back in the emergency room corridor, and whether there was a God there listening to him or not those prayers had been answered. She was going to be okay.
Him, on the other hand...
The only thing he could pray for was to go back in time, to a time before he had failed her, and he didn't think there was a God out there who would grant him that particular desire. It didn't stop him from wordlessly wishing. He thought about going to find the chapel. It would be quiet at least, and what passed in this place for peaceful, and it would be full of people just like him. Grieving. Desperate. Guilty. But he couldn't quite bring himself to leave her vicinity altogether. He hovered at the end of the corridor just beyond the nurse's station like a bad smell, wanting to be there in the room with her and not being able to do it. Hating himself.
The nurses gave him looks from time to time, some furtive, some openly curious. All with a careful look of sympathy in place. There's that cop, whose partner got shot. They were obviously wondering what he was doing loitering in the corridor instead of prostrating himself at her bedside. He wondered himself but thought he knew the answer.
Because he was a failure.
There was a pretty brunette nurse who looked at him more than the others, and at other times he'd have been interested but right then he couldn't give a crap. She was looking at him again, and he could tell by the set of her mouth that she was trying to find the right words to say to him, some light word of comfort or empty encouragement, and Scotty found he couldn't stand the thought. He wheeled abruptly and set off back in the direction of Lilly's room, knowing without seeing that the pretty nurse was staring after him, disappointment at not being able to say the right words etched on her features.
He wanted to tell her there was no point, because there were no right words she could have offered him.
He stood in the doorway, watching the slow, measured rise of her chest, watching her breathe, couldn't go in.
He found himself locked in a cubicle in the men's bathroom down the hall, curled into a tight ball on the floor, tears leaking from the corner of his eyes, one fist jammed into his mouth to stop himself from screaming.
The coffee that sat blackly and smugly in the styrofoam cup Scotty's hands were wrapped around was the only part of him that was warm. Unable to re-enter the room where his partner lay sleeping, he'd used the excuse of caffeine addiction to take up residence on a row of chairs parked along the wall like a broken down car and now sat still and hunched, taking occasional slow sips from the cup in his hands. He was numb with shock and exhaustion and guilt. Almost glad that Stillman had taken his gun from him as part of the investigation into the shooting, because right then he'd have almost found it tempting.
He'd failed her. Utterly and completely. And the weight of it was crushing him.
In an effort to think about anything other than Lilly, Scotty cast his eyes around the hospital corridor in search of a diversion, and found it in the form of an approaching figure. He was an old man, bowed down by years, and he shuffled as though he would tip like a felled tree if he lifted a foot off the ground. One hand stayed glued to the wooden handrail that bisected the hospital corridor's wall, a life belt to keep his head above the choppy waters of hospital life. The other hand was jammed firmly into the pocket of a faded red bathrobe that was tied loosely over a hospital issue gown. Under eyebrows that looked as though they'd been electrocuted, a pair of faded blue eyes looked up at their quarry - the spare seat next to Scotty. Scotty watched him approach, not wanting to talk but not wanting to turn his thoughts inward to the dark horror of what had happened earlier.
The old man arrived and settled himself with a wheeze into the seat next to Scotty, who averted his gaze and stared straight ahead at the corridor wall. He could feel the other man's eyes on him.
There was silence for a few minutes, while an overhead mechanical voice paged a Doctor Burke, and a trolley with squeaky wheels trundled past them, and then the old man spoke. "Frank."
"Frank. That's me. Frank Wyzinski." He extended a hand and Scotty shook reluctantly. "Don't ask me to spell it for you, I'm too damn old."
"Okay, I won't." Great. He was chatty. Just what Scotty needed.
"You gotta name, too, son?"
"Valens," Scotty told him reluctantly. "Scotty Valens."
"Nice to meet you, Scotty Valens."
"Yeah," Scotty said with a sigh. He didn't want to do this, exchange pleasantries and small talk with a total stranger, but the only other place in the hospital he could go was into Lilly's room, and he just couldn't face it. "You too."
Silence again, while Frank wheezed softly into his red bathrobe and Scotty eyed the rapidly cooling sludge in the cup before him. "The one you love," Frank said eventually. "They gonna be okay?"
The one you love. Scotty didn't bother to correct him. Hell, he wasn't sure it would be correcting him anyway. Did he love Lilly? Sure. She was his friend, his partner. But that wasn't what Frank was saying, was it? The one you love. The one who meant more to you than life itself. The one whose presence was as necessary to you as the air in your lungs. The one who gave you a reason to get your sorry ass out of bed in the morning. Scotty wasn't sure if he loved Lil like that, didn't really want to know and had carefully never thought about it because she sure as hell didn't feel that way about him, and being in love on your own was nothing but torture. "Apparently," he told Frank. "That's what the doctors say, anyway."
Frank nodded. "Wife?"
Apparently Frank was not only chatty, but nosy. Great. Scotty was too tired and numb to fight him. "Partner."
"You kids today, you gotta have modern names for everythin'," Frank said with a snort, and Scotty realised he thought Scotty had meant 'girlfriend'.
"Naw, my partner. I'm a cop. She's my partner at work."
Frank's electrocuted eyebrows rose about an inch. "Cop, huh? My brother was a cop. Terrible job."
A mirthless laugh escaped the bitter knot in Scotty's throat. "Sometimes."
Scotty really, really didn't want to get into it. What happened was that he failed her. Again. That's what happened, she got saddled with a loser of a partner who couldn't perform the most basic of his job requirements, that of keeping his partner safe. He happened. "Shot," he said, sounding gravely and fierce. "She got shot."
"And she's in surgery?"
Scotty could have kissed him, that he showed no curiosity about how the shooting had happened. Perhaps Frank was wiser than Scotty had given him credit for, had known there were some questions Scotty wouldn't answer. "No," Scotty said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of Lilly. "She's in the room back there."
"And you're out here drinkin' coffee?" Sounding incredulous.
"And that means you don't have to be there for her?"
Scotty fixed the wall opposite him with a steely glare, carefully avoiding Frank's eyes. "I just...needed some coffee."
There was a moment of silence, as Scotty felt Frank studying him. He stared at the wall, the corridor, the cooling cup of coffee in his hands. Finally Frank cleared his throat. "It ain't always easy, waitin' on a loved one when they're in the hospital."
Scotty said nothing.
"I remember when my wife...Mavis...she got sick back in ninety-three. She got the cancer. And all that waitin' around the hospital bed, waitin' to see if she was goin' to get better...it can give a man trouble."
"It ain't givin' me -" Scotty started to retort angrily, and then stopped. Because to say it wasn't giving him trouble would be lying, wouldn't it? It would be lying to say that being in that room with his too-still and too-quiet partner wasn't impossible for him, when being alone in the silence meant the crushing weight of his guilt robbed him of his thoughts and his speech and the ability to even breathe. He sighed. "She's sleepin'," he said again, eventually.
More silence, while the scurrying nurses eyed them with open curiosity, clearly wondering what a cop whose partner had been shot would have to talk about with an old man who...actually, Scotty realised he didn't know what Frank was there for. Some old-man affliction, no doubt. "You a patient here, Frank?"
Frank snorted. "No, son, I just like walkin' around hospitals in my pj's."
Scotty had to smile at that, too. "Sorry. I guess I'm just -"
"Tryin' to find out what's wrong with me without askin' me direct, I know," Frank said. "It's my ticker."
"Don't be, I'm old." Frank eyed him. "Anyway, you just met me. What do you care what's makin' me sick?"
Scotty felt a moment's irritation. Ask a simple question, get your head bitten off. "Just bein' polite, is all."
"Or maybe you're just changin' the subject, so I won't keep askin' you questions about your partner," Frank said as soft as his rasped voice would allow. Scotty looked back at the wall opposite, avoiding the other man's gaze. "You want to tell me why you're out here talkin' to me instead of sittin' with her? And don't tell me cause she's sleepin'."
Scotty swallowed. Said nothing. Shrugged.
"I'm old, son. I ain't got all day." Doctor Burke was paged again over the hospital loudspeakers, and another trolley squeaked past. Still Scotty didn't speak. "Look," Frank said eventually. "I been around the block a few more times than you have. Maybe that don't make me an expert on what's troublin' you, but I can be pretty damn sure it ain't gonna fix itself if it just stays there inside you. Get it off your chest, son."
There it was, inside Scotty's throat, that awesome weight of guilt that was eating him alive. It fought and scratched against the walls of his mouth, forcing itself up and out into the grief-scented air of the hospital corridor. "It's my fault," he said in a ragged whisper, fighting against the sheen of tears that came unbidden to his eyes. "It's my fault she got shot."
Frank's electrocuted eyebrows rose so high they nearly disappeared into the thatch of his hair. "You pull the trigger?"
Scotty stared at him. "What? No. God no." If it had been his bullet that had landed Lilly in the hospital, he'd already be down in the morgue, on a slab, with gunpowder residue on the roof of his mouth and the remains of his brain congealing in his hair. No, thank Christ, not his bullet.
Scotty swallowed again. His mouth tasted bitter. Like guilt and bad coffee. The words refused to come, and it was several seconds before he replied. "Wasn't fast enough." He felt Frank's eyes on him, not accusing, merely waiting, and he felt something inside him shift and break. The next thing he knew the words were pouring out of him in a flood, washing over the man beside him who nodded and pursed his lips as the whole sorry story came out. He told Frank about Ed smuggling the goddamn gun into Homicide in the wheelchair, about Boss getting shot, about Lil talking Ed into Observation. And why in Christ had she talked him into Observation where they couldn't be seen? Why hadn't she stayed in Interrogation? And would he like the answer if she ever chose to give it to him? And then, the words falling over themselves like a litter of over-eager puppies, he spoke of what came next. Him sneaking into Interrogation. Him pulling the trigger. Him thinking he'd saved the day until he looked up and saw the starburst of blood on the wall.
Throughout it all Frank said nothing, until finally, when Scotty had finally purged all the words from his system and sat crumpled and empty and fighting back tears, he opened his mouth. "Seems to me like you're a hero."
Scotty shook his head, eyes on what remained of his coffee. "She's in here because of me."
"Well, yes, I guess you're right," Frank said, and that shook Scotty out of his torpor enough to look round at the other man in surprise. "She's in here because you killed the guy that was going to kill her. She'd be down in the basement level of this place weren't for you."
Scotty shook his head. Had the man not listened to a word he'd said? Okay, sure, she'd be in the morgue if he hadn't shot Ed, but she was in the hospital because he hadn't shot fast enough. How was that so hard to understand? "She shouldn't be in the hospital at all," he said finally, around the ball of angry guilt in his throat.
"Well, what are you goin' to do about it?" Frank asked then, and Scotty looked at him again. "I say you're a hero, you say you're a screw-up. Potayto, potahto. Either way, your partner's back in that room there all on her ownsome."
Great, remind me. "Yeah."
"So, she's goin' to wake up sometime soon. You goin' to let her do it all alone?"
Scotty's jaw worked, but he stayed silent as he watched Frank hoist himself out of the hard plastic seat and try to shake old age from his bones. Upright and stable, the old man turned back to face him. "This is how I see it. You think you got to make it up to her, here's where you start. Sittin' by her bedside, holdin' her hand and waitin' for her to wake up. The rest of it, well, you'll work it out as it comes along."
Scotty nodded slowly. Frank was right. Dammit, he was right. He had a lot to make up to her, and sitting out here in the corridor feeling sorry for himself wasn't going to fix things. Being there for her, in whatever way she'd let him, that was how he started to fix things. "You're right," he said.
"Course I'm right," Frank said with a snort, as he started to shuffle down the hall, one hand still gripping the rail tight. "I'm old, I can hardly walk and I got a bad heart. God's gotta give me somethin' to make up for it."
Scotty, a half-smile on his face, watched Frank make his slow, painful way down the hall. "Hey, Frank," he called, just before the older man disappeared around the corner near the nurse's station. Frank turned back to look, resting with one hand on the rail and the other jammed back inside the pocket of his bathrobe.
"Thanks," was all Scotty said.
She was still asleep, and still too quiet and still, but this time Scotty didn't hesitate. The hard plastic chair creaked slightly as he settled his weight into it. He found her hand again, squeezed it lightly. Sitting here and holding her hand, waiting for her to open her eyes, it wasn't going to wipe his slate clean. It wasn't going to make up for the horrible, terrible thing that he'd done to her. But it was a start. Dammit, it was a start.
He sat in the silence, listening to the rhythmic bleep of the heart monitor, watched the quiet rise and fall of her chest, and he felt the crushing weight of guilt he'd been drowning under start to lift.
It was a start.
He'd lost track of time there in the quiet hospital room, with only a dim sense of the hours passing, and had no idea what time it was when Lilly finally opened her eyes. He'd been studying the translucent skin of the hand he was holding, marvelling at its softness, when he had the sudden feeling of being watched. He raised his eyes and found himself looking into her blue gaze. There was a moment of silence, while something that felt like a bird took flight in Scotty's chest.
"Hey," she whispered, her voice raspy and cracking like she hadn't used it in years.
"Hey," he said. He ran his thumb gently over her hand, watching her face carefully for signs that she didn't like the contact. There were none, but from the fogged and dazed look in her eyes he wasn't quite sure she was aware of what he was doing. He didn't stop. "How you feelin'?"
He watched as she took it all in, the beeping of the medical equipment, the beige walls of the hospital room as yet unbrightened by flowers, the thick bandages covering the hole in her skin. "Okay," she said, still raspy. "Feels like...I got hit by a car."
He smiled. It felt strange. "You remember? What happened?"
She nodded carefully. "Ed?"
"Probably in the morgue by now." Where she could have been lying on the next table over from her killer, although Scotty tried to push the image from his already tortured mind.
She nodded again. "Boss okay?"
Scotty had barely spared Stillman a thought in hours, and the idea that there was a world beyond the four walls of the hospital room seemed strangely alien. "He's fine. Wasn't even admitted. He was in the waitin' room earlier, but he went home. You know, when the doc said you'd be fine but you needed rest. The others went home, too."
There was a flicker of confusion that wandered over her face at his words, and he wondered at it. Didn't ask. "You're here," she said, sounding slightly doubtful.
He laughed, which felt even stranger than the smile he'd smiled earlier. "Yeah, well, you know how I am followin' orders."
He watched a slight smile spread over Lilly's face. "Noticed," she said faintly. Her eyelids were already fluttering and half closed, and he knew that within a few minutes she'd be sleeping again. He also knew that he may have fulfilled his duty and waited there for her to wake up, and that he may be able to go home and get some rest without feeling he'd abandoned her, but that wild horses wouldn't have been able to drag him from her bedside. Not just yet. She would wake again sometime in the future, and he'd be there when she did. And, if he was being perfectly honest with himself, he would have to admit he hadn't had long enough by her side, holding her hand and drinking in the sight of her. Not nearly long enough.
Her eyes had closed now, and a sigh that escaped her lips told him she wasn't far off sleep. Scotty leant down so that his face was on a level with hers, so that he could whisper in her ear. "I'm here," he said. "For what it's worth, Lil, I'm here."
And she smiled.
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