Title: Visiting Hours
Timeline/Spoilers: Post-episode coda for 3.22, with spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it.
Word Count: 875
Summary: “I thought somebody better remind you who saved your life.”
A light is flickering in the hospital lobby, above the elevators. It’s an inconstant stutter and Stella closes her eyes to it, but it follows her, blinking red against her eyelids. Down the hall in emergency, a man is screaming at the charge nurse. A trolley passes by and a Dr. Brooker is paged. Two doctors and a female with an indeterminate job join her in the lift, but Stella’s alone by the time she reaches the fourth floor.
It’s late, way past visiting hours, past most people’s bedtimes, but vigilante shooters don’t really care about bedtimes, and it took them until well after dark to find their man.
“It’s after visiting hours,” the nurse on the reception desk tells her disapprovingly, “Nobody can see him.”
Stella flashes her badge and her most winning smile. “Please? He’s my partner.”
“Second room on the left.” The nurse presses the magic buzzer, and Stella pushes through the heavy door into intensive care.
The curtains to his bed are open and another nurse – young, blonde, so Michael will be happy – is writing notes by lamplight.
“You can’t be here,” she begins, whispering, but Michael wakes.
“Stel?” he slurs. He’s having trouble focusing on her. “Stel, is...”
“It’s me, I’m here.” She steps up to the bed, young blonde nurses be damned. She takes his hand and leans in close until his eyes focus on hers. “There. See?”
“Thought you wouldn’t come.”
“I thought somebody better remind you who saved your life.”
“You have to go,” the nurse tries again.
“No, she’s my...it’s.” He squints. “She’s Stella.”
“And she can visit you tomorrow...”
“Look, no more spear,” Michael whispers, craning his neck to look down his body.
“Don’t do that,” the nurse immediately admonishes, “He can’t move.”
“I’ve got handcuffs,” Stella says. She waggles her eyebrows, tries to smile, but can’t. There’s nothing amusing about where they are, and suddenly her eyes are wet.
“Hey...” He squeezes her hand weakly, but it’s something. “Hey, I’m...”
“You were stabbed with a spear gun and nearly died,” she says, voice wobbling.
“That too. I’m also okay.”
“Stop moving,” the nurse repeats.
“Can you give us a minute?” Stella asks, pointed, loud, hoping volume will make the woman disappear. She makes a face, but does as Stella wishes.
“I’m going to tell Josh you cried.”
“I’m not crying. And I’ll kick your ass.”
“You’d beat up an injured man?”
“In a heartbeat.”
Stella sits on the bed tentatively, trying not to disturb the frightening number of tubes taking things out and putting things into Michael’s body. She settles by his hip. “Have they got you on some serious drugs?”
“The best. Wanna share?”
“How will I drive home, officer?”
“Don’t. Stay here.”
“Not allowed. Nurse Ratched over there won’t let me.”
“I don’t care.”
“You will when she gives you an unnecessary enema,” Stella says.
Michael lifts their joined hands and presses her knuckles to his cheek. He’s warm, and his skin is clammy and he looks like a man who nearly died. Stella can’t look at her hands; she keeps seeing blood, although she scrubbed herself clean at base when their shift was finally over. If she closed her eyes she would feel it again, blood spurting hot and fast from his body, a river of it, Michael’s life flowing out of him while she tried to keep him alive with her tiny hands and her iron will.
“Stay,” he says again. “With me. Until they kick you out.”
Stella toes her shoes off and shrugs her jacket onto the floor before she thinks twice and talks herself out of it. She stays on top of the covers, but arranges herself against Michael’s good side so that she’s pressed against him. He keeps their hands together, even when she tries to let go.
“Better,” Michael exhales.
Suddenly Stella is crying the way she wanted to this afternoon except that she couldn’t. “Michael...”
He tucks her head into his neck. “Not better?”
She cries until she can’t anymore, exhausted and ruined. She knows their job has risks, but not like this, not for Michael. Her own life she can risk; Michael’s she can’t.
“I’m here,” Michael says, when her breathing evens. “I’m right here.”
Stella presses kiss to the side of his neck. “You almost weren’t.”
“Mm. But then a gorgeous woman kissed me...” She takes her cue and reaches up to press her mouth to Michael’s. “And now you have.”
“Hey!” But she’s smiling.
He kisses her again, sloppily, his mouth clearly not co-operating with his brain. He falls asleep not long after that and Stella listens to the steady beat of the monitors and the slow song of Michael’s breathing until the world begins to fade away. Her last thought is that she’s glad she stayed.
In the morning, there’s a different nurse, and Stella’s neck hurts and Michael’s breath stinks and her bladder is bursting and the lights are too bright, but when Michael opens his eyes, she doesn’t care.