The London Bridge Hospital was a private hospital for privately insured patients with a supposedly high quality Critical Care Unit. Stuart didn't care. One hospital looked the same as the next to him, and all he knew was that he would rather be anywhere else on earth than at the London Bridge Hospital Critical Care Unit. By the time he got there, Tom was out of surgery, and although they had stopped the internal bleeding, it had been a long and extensive surgery to repair a ruptured bowel. The head injury was a whole other story. He had swelling around the brain and was in a coma. Even with the treatment, he was declared stable but critical. Stuart had absorbed the information given to him on some level, but he couldn't process it. It was like trying to mix oil and water, his brain just couldn't take it all in. Corinne had accompanied him to the hospital and she was able to use her position to get Stuart access to the Critical Care Unit. He wasn't family. He was more than aware of that right now. The only reason he even knew that Tom had been in an accident was because of the case. What the fuck would have happened without that? Officially and legally, Stuart was nothing to Tom and that cut deeply.
He now pushed his way into the unit alone. One brief stop in a corridor after getting off the elevator when he felt like everything was going to engulf him. He nearly crumbled to his knees to just sob, but managed to clutch onto the small sliver on composure he had left. Instead, he had pulled out his mobile to called Gee, getting her voicemail. As he listened to her message, he blanked on what to say, floundering and stammering a little at first before the tears came again and some words came out in a rush. He couldn't remember now what he said. It was gone completely and he couldn't even remember if he ended the call. It was the least of his worries, though. He just stood in the reception area of the ward, numb as he heard the beeping of life support machines in the near vicinity.
"Can I help you, sir?"
Stuart blinked and found a nurse standing beside him, probably around his own age. "I... uh..." he began and then wet his dry lips, frowning a little at her as he tried to remember what to say. The unit was apparently aware he was on his way up, they knew to let him in. Was he even in the right place. "Hunt. Thomas... Hunt. I'm... um... Stuart. Constable. Fuck." He fumbled in his pocket, his hands shaking and as he produced his badge. "DC Evans."
Ethan was exiting Tom's hospital room, his hand on Sophie's back as he led her out, when they caught sight of the nurse with the man in the reception area. They were close enough to hear and Ethan frowned a little, sharing a concerned look with Sophie, whose eyes were damp from crying in shock at what had happened to Tom. Ethan, on the other hand, had reacted by slamming an emotional wall up around him. He had hardly spoken, hardly even reacted and externally it could come across like he was stoic or indifferent to the situation. It was the opposite. He knew once he reacted, broke down, it would be difficult to stop. He just felt numb and knowing how to react was difficult. Sophie understood. She even understood when Ethan angrily threatened the hospital staff when they nearly didn't let them in to see Tom. It was in their best interest to, or he could have, ironically considering who they were there to see, sent a team of lawyers swooping on them in the blink of an eye. Anger seemed to be the only emotion he had the ability to tap into, and sheer protectiveness. He had hardly left Sophie's side since he picked her up from work when they news came. If anyone so much as looked at her wrong right now, he would probably tear their head of with his bare hands.
But now they were faced with a whole new scenario. Tom's other half, his new boyfriend, who looked terrible. Sounded terrible. Ethan lifted his head a little and strode over to the poor guy. "Stuart?" he asked quietly. Of course this wasn't the ideal scenario of meeting the bloke Tom had fallen for, but it was all they had. "I'm Ethan. Ethan Williamson.Thommo's best mate. This is my wife, Sophie..." He held his hand out, though he wasn't sure if it was to shake the guy's hand or just reach out for him in general. This wasn't easy. It wasn't fucking easy on anyone.
Stuart had frozen when he was addressed and looked between the guy and his wife, almost as if he hadn't heard. His badge was sitting loosely in his hand and he just didn't even know what to say. The shame and guilt burnt through him again and he feared if he spoke, he would just burst into tears again, so all he could manage was just to look at them, wondering why they weren't tearing him a new one after what he put Tom through.
Sophie touched her hand against Ethan's back to let him now she was going to move away briefly. She hadn't argued when he'd stuck to her side like glue. If there was one thing she had understood from the beginning it was that once you were let in behind Ethan's guard, he was fiercely protective, and in her case, also possessive. She had a possessive streak of her own, but it was nothing compared to his. She would never be able to tearsomeones head off with her bare hands, but she did make it clear to all his former lays that he was hers now. And not just because of the wedding ring.
She moved in close to Stuart, and without asking, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders in a hug. He just look like he needed one. She could only imagine his pain, and while Tom hadn't shared the full story with Ethan about his questioning, she hadn't believed it to be at the fault of anything to do with his new boyfriend. "I'm so sorry, love," she murmured as she held him.
Stuart didn't even know what was wrong with him, but the moment he felt her arms around him, he lost it. A sob caught in his throat before he could stop it and the floodgates opened. He hugged her back loosely, even if it felt weird hugging a complete stranger. But there was no one else here, and she knew Tom, so that seemed like it was enough. All the stress he had been carrying around since he discovered their victim was Tom's paralegal rushed to the forefront and he felt like he wasn't ever going to feel okay again.
Ethan rubbed a hand over his mouth. He didn't know half of the story. Less than half. A brief phone call to Tom regarding the lawyer, and then another call after the questioning where Tom filled him in on the brief facts. He just felt ill knowing that within moments after that call ended, that fucking bastard of a driver had Tom ploughed into a van and nearly killed. It felt like tears threatened at the backs of his eyes, especially having just stood by Tom's bedside and seen the terrible condition he was in. But he sucked in a breath and swallowed back the emotion so he could step over to where Sophie was with the copper. He hesitated at first, but he had to say something... even if there wasn't anything that really could be said. "Listen, mate..." he began hoarsely. "You don't have to worry about the... medical side of anything. We've got it in hand. Tom always had me as his medical proxy if somethingmight've ... happened. But you just... fuck... it's alright, okay? He's tough, and stubborn, and a fucking pain in my arse. He's not going to sign out yet. He's still gotta pull the piss out of me for being married. He was only getting started..."
Sophie rubbed Stuart's back, not minding in the least that he was falling apart. She couldn't blame him. All she had to do was think about Ethan in that hospital bed instead of Tom and she was nearly losing it. Tom being the one lying in there was bad enough, but to think about her husband was killing her. He wasn't about to be let out of her sight any time soon. "Shh, love, it's okay. Let it out. And we're here for you as well as Tom. I know you don't know us yet, but you will. Tom loves you, and that's enough for us. He wouldn't give up when he knows you're waiting for him."
"No, no," Stuart sobbed, pulling back a little to rub his palms over his face to try and push away the tears. "He doesnae know! He doesnae! He doesnae know I'm there for him at all! I couldnae look at him and he thinks I wanted to hide it, but that wasnae it at all. I just wanted to be able to do what I could to fix this, but I told my boss. I did. She knows. He doesnae know that, though... I-I didnae have the time to tell him. I was waiting, but I didnae have the time and now he's... he's..." He looked around helplessly, at a loss to even know what Tom was.
Ethan hooked his hand in under Stuart's elbow to try and get him to calm down. "Hey, mate... mate... I spoke to him. Just before the accident, okay? He doesn't blame you for any of this, he knows your hands were tied. Why would he want you to risk your job for any of this? It's not your fault his ex... whatever... has shown up dead, you're just doing your job. He doesn't blame you, he just... he just wanted to be able to be with you after it all. He was bummed over that, for sure, but he got it, mate. Don't beat yourself up, alright, because going in there, it's... he's in a really bad way." Ethan's voice caught on the last comment and he choked up, having to drop his head to look down at his feet to try and clutch hold of his composure.
Sophie was torn between comforting the two men when she noticed Ethan start to weaken. She shifted so that just one arm was around Stuart, and she reached out to take Ethan's hand, and slipped her fingers between his and gave his hand a tight squeeze. She trusted that when they were alone he'd let himself break down, even if he was terrified he'd never pull himself back together. He had her now, and Sophie would gladly help him pick up the pieces. "See?" she asked Stuart softly. "He knows you're here. I'm sure he'd want to hear your voice too, but you really do need to brace yourself. I don't know how much you know about the injuries, but they're..." she trailed off and glanced at her husband before looking back at Stuart. "Do you want us to back in with you?"
Stuart was looking between them both again, even if his stomach felt like it was it was stuck up somewhere between his chest and throat. "I, um... I-I'm sorry. I know thisisnae easy for you and I... this shouldnae be how we met..." He was shivering now, only just realising it. The shock was setting in and he was at a loss how to really deal with any of this. The sound of the beeping connected in his awareness again and he winced slightly. He didn't know if he could face this, he didn't know if he could see Tom in that condition and know that somewhere, deep down, it was partly his fault. Maybe if he had arranged to see Tom after work, he wouldn't have gone where he was going, and that van wouldn't have been there. Or if he had just spoken to him briefly, for a few more moments, he would have missed it.
Ethan could see the guy's turmoil, the internal battle was written all over his face. He waved his fingers a little. "It's okay, mate. There's no way to know how to deal with this. It doesn't matter, we're meeting now and we can stick this out together, haunt him until he wakes up. I'm already planning on launching spitballs at him so he gets shitty and wants to yell at me," he joked, even if the couldn't maintain the humour behind it. He squeezed Sophie's hand, more glad than anything that she was there. She could help the guy better than he could, and he was here alone. Maybe he didn't have anyone else to stick around and make sure he was okay? He was only new to London... at least, that's what Ethan could vaguely remember Tom saying. "Come and see him. You'll beat yourself up if you don't. It's okay. They've... they've taken good care of him," he coaxed and nodded his head in the direction of the hospital room where Tom was lying unconscious.
Sophie nodded in agreement with Ethan and gave Stuart an encouraging smile. "You really should see him, and we'll be here with you. You really can trust us, love. You're family now." Sophie kissed his forehead, and rubbed his shoulder. "Do you need someone here? Can we call someone? Are you going to be okay to get home?" Sophie looked between the two of them. "Are you even going to go home? Are we?" She raised an eyebrow a little at Ethan. "Maybe you should stay with someone? With us? Unless you have someone else."
Stuart was still at a loss why they were being so nice to him. Ethan's words about having spoken to Tom did help a little, on some level. Tom wasn't angry at him, even if he should be. "Idinnae have... I... I mean, I do... but she isnae ... she's busy... or something," he said, stuffing his badge back into his pocket. He could still feel tears dripping down his cheeks, even if they had slowed down a little. He hugged his arms around him now he had nothing left to do with his hands and ended up just folding his arms to try and stifle the shivering. "Isnae really anyone else... but I... it's okay. it doesnae matter. I'll just... I'll stay here. So he isnae on his own..." His eyes trailed in the direction Ethan had nodded and he felt a chill crawl over him and slip down his spine. He just abruptly walked away from them and into the room, even if it hadn't been confirmed to be Tom's. He couldn't have been prepared for the sight. Tom was flat on his back, bruised and broken, almost hidden under all the bandages and machines connected to him. It was difficult to even recognise his face from the ventilator in his mouth. Stuart was scared, terrified, but his legs suddenly felt too weak to hold him up. He dropped down to his knees beside the bed and cupped his hands over one of Tom's lying limp on the mattress. "God... please... just be okay," he said through another choked sob.
Ethan stood in the doorway, watching, but he had to put a hand over his mouth, squeezing his eyes closed as he turned his head away. This wasn't fucking fair! Tom had been his best mate since they were literally in nappies, this sort of shit shouldn't be happening to him. The murder suspicion alone, Tom wouldn't hurt a fucking fly. He always seemed so invincible. Always, no matter what, through the good, the bad, and the ugly, they had bounced off each other in a mix ofmateship and humour. How the fuck was he supposed to do that when Tom wasn't even conscious? Might not even live through the night? Isn't that what the fucking medical bastards were hinting at?
Sophie had waited a moment before coming up beside Ethan and slipping her arms around him as she hugged him tight, and watched Stuart kneeling by Tom's bedside. She could feel the tears start again, and her fingers curled into fists as they gripped the back of Ethan's shirt. She didn't know how any of them would be the same after watching Tom get hurt this way. Her heart broke for Stuart, and she just hoped that Tom really did understand just how much his copper loved him.
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