Stiles paces back and forth, bouncing slightly with each step as he tries to soothe the crying infant in his arms, “Shhh, shhh.” He brushes his lips over his daughter’s head, looking up as his father walks into the room. Stiles takes the bottle from his hand, “Thanks, dad.” He shifts the baby in his arms and nudges at her lips with the nipple, “Here you go, beautiful. You hungry?” His daughter instantly latches onto it and starts to suckle, “That’s my girl.”
The second the words are out of Stiles’ mouth, his daughter spits the nipple out of her mouth and resumes her squalling. Stiles’ squeezes his eyes shut, frustration surging up inside him. His father comes up next to him and rubs a hand over his shoulder, “Here, let me try.”
Stiles turns away from his father and snarks, “She’s my daughter! How the hell am I supposed to raise her if I can’t even feed her?”
“Stiles, I know she’s your daughter. I’m only trying to help, son. You’re doing your best. Believe me when I say that.” His dad cups a hand on the side of neck and smiles, “I know you’re frustrated. I wish there was some magic way for me to make it all better, but for now? Let me help.” His father holds both hands towards his granddaughter. This time when his dad reaches for her, Stiles lets him take her. His father croons softly, “Hey, pretty girl. Why you giving your daddy such a hard time, huh?”
While the baby still won’t take the bottle, she does quiet in the sheriff’s arms. There’s nearly inaudible snuffling and an occasional whimper as she settles. Stiles stares at the pair of them, voice awestruck, “How do you do that?”
His dad shrugs, “I don’t know actually.” Stiles chuckles when he sees that his daughter has a death-grip on her grandfather’s pinky. “You decide what you’re gonna name her?” Stiles shakes his head. His father gives him a look and whispers to his granddaughter in a falsely cheerful voice, “You need a name, don’t you? Yes you do. Tell him, princess. ‘Daddy, I’m nearly a week old. I need a name, don’t I? Yes I do.’”
Stiles rolls his eyes and huffs, “I can’t name her without Derek’s say so, dad.”
“So ask him.” Of course when his dad says it, it makes sense. “Go up and talk to him. Besides, it’s dinnertime anyway.” His dad brushes a kiss over the baby’s forehead and prods him gently, “I made two roast beef sandwiches for him and we have enough for more if he’s still hungry.” Stiles nods and makes his way into the kitchen. His father calls out after him, “Don’t forget to take him something other than water to drink.”
Stiles shakes his head with a laugh when he opens the fridge to see his dad has made a pitcher of the iced jasmine tea Derek likes. He pours a glass of it and adds it to the tray sitting on the kitchen table. Next to the plate of sandwiches, there’s a smaller plate with a rather large cookie on it. Stiles picks up the tray and heads towards the stairs, pausing to tell his father, “Don’t think I don’t know the real reason you bought these cookies ‘for Derek’ when you went out today."
He hears his father telling the baby, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, daddy. No idea at all.”
“I’m on to your tricks, grandpa! Don’t think I’m not.” The sound of his father’s laughter follows him up the stairs. Stiles’ footsteps slow as he gets closer to the bedroom door. He balances the tray on his hip and knocks softly, calling out, “Derek, you awake?” There’s a lack of response from the other side of the door and Stiles opens it slowly. He peeks in to see what kind of mood Derek is in, “I brought you your dinner.”
The mound of blankets doesn’t move and Stiles crosses the room to set the tray down on the nightstand. He sits on the edge of the bed and there’s a faint growl from under the covers, “Leave the tray and get out.”
“Hey, come on, now. Don’t be like that, Der.” Stiles rubs over what he assumes is Derek’s leg, “Will you please come out and talk to me?”
The bed shifts as Derek pulls away from his touch, “Leave me alone, Stiles. I just want to sleep.”
Stiles stands up, only to pull the covers up to slide underneath them. He’s surprised to see Derek facing him, half his face obscured by the pillow. “Hey you, it’s been a while. How you been? Sporting the rugged look I see.” Stiles reaches to lightly scritch his fingers through Derek’s beard.
It’s no surprise that Derek pulls away with a scowl, “Don’t touch me!”
Stiles pulls his hand back and quickly apologizes, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I forgot. No touching.” He licks his lips and whispers, “I miss you, ya know.” Stiles attempts a smile and fails. From somewhere downstairs comes the sound of their daughter screaming. At the sound of the infant’s cries, Derek’s eyes briefly flash red, fading to blue before returning to their normal green. “I can bring her up, if you want. All you have to do is ask.”
Derek snarls, “I want nothing to do with that…thing.” He bares his teeth menacingly. “You keep it away from me.” His nostrils flare and he snorts angrily, “If you bring it up here…”
Stiles holds up a finger to silence him. “Don’t.” He clenches his jaw, his whole body shaking as he speaks, “Don’t. You. Dare!” Stiles throws the covers off and stands up, turning to face Derek, “You threaten my daughter and starving yourself won’t be necessary, I’ll kill you myself.” With that, Stiles turns and heads towards the door, pausing to look over his shoulder one last time, “Hate me all you want, Derek, but don’t you dare take it out on that innocent little baby down there. It’s not her fault you can’t deal with,” Stiles gestures around the room, “all this.”
He pulls the door open and Derek sits up to throw a pillow at him, “Get ouuuuuuuuut!” The end of the word stretches into a howl and Stiles shakes his head when his tiny daughter answers the howl with one of her own. The mournful little sound breaks his heart and Stiles pauses halfway down the stairs to sit. He leans forward to rest his forehead on his knees and just gives in to the urge to cry.
Stiles snaps awake, rolling onto his back as he tries to figure out what woke him up. And then he hears it. A tiny whimpering whine coming from the baby monitor on his nightstand. He sits up, rubbing at his eyes and yawing as he stumbles out of the guest bedroom and down the hallway to the nursery. The door is open and he’s speaking even as he crosses the room to the crib, “Heeeey, whatcha do-“
Stiles stops mid-sentence and just stares. Instead of his raven-haired baby girl, there’s a wolf pup in the center of the crib. The pup sees him and whines, shifting in place as if trying to stand. Stiles takes a step back and his daughter whines louder. A tiny yelping howl makes him rush forward and before he even thinks it through, Stiles is scooping the pup into his arms. She wriggles in his grip and licks at the underside of his chin, a happy little yip escaping her.
“Hey, pretty girl, what happened?” Stiles shifts his daughter in his arms and walks out of the nursery and down the hall to the master bedroom. “Why you all wolfed out, huh? Did something scare you?” He nuzzles into her enthusiastic licks and whispers, “It’s okay, daddy’s here.” Stiles murmurs soothingly into her fur, “Daddy’s here. It’s okay, baby, daddy’s here.” He takes a deep breath and his daughter whines, letting loose a scared yelp as he opens the door at the end of the hall. “Hey, Derek? I know you-“
Derek is coming out of the master bathroom when Stiles comes in. His green eyes widen when he sees them and Stiles smiles nervously, struggling to keep the squirming wolf pup in his arms. Their daughter wriggles and turns, finally noticing Derek standing there. They both startle at the sound of their daughter’s excited bark. Derek’s eyes flash red and he mutters, “Get out.”
“Derek, she needs you. You haven’t been in the same room with her since she was born.” Derek scowls and backs away from them, climbing back into the bed with a huff. “Will you just look at her?! She’s wolfed out and I don’t know how to get her to turn back.”
“I don’t care.”
Stiles sighs and tries again, “Babe, I have no idea what I’m doing and I know you’re scared, but I’m scared too. I’m terrified actually.” He swallows hard and tries to ignore his daughter’s eager whining when his steps bring him within a few feet of the bed. Derek visibly cringes and moves to the other side of the mattress. “I…” Stiles fights back his tears and whispers, “I can’t do this without you, Derek. We’re supposed to be-"
Derek snarls, “I’ve told you over and over, I don’t want that thing in here!”
“Stop it! Just stop it! Stop calling her that!” The pup in his arms yelps in surprise at the tone in his voice and Stiles takes a calming breath, rubbing his cheek over his daughter’s furry head, “Shhh, Tali, it’s okay. Daddy’s sorry he raised his voice. I didn’t mean to scare y-”
“What did you call,” Stiles glares and Derek finishes the question softly, “her?”
They stare at each other for a few tense seconds before Stiles answers, “I called her Tali. You know, short for-“
Derek finishes his thought for him, “Talia.” He presses his lips together and looks away, “You named her after my mom?”
Stiles shakes his head, “No. I just needed something to call her. She’s almost two weeks old and she still doesn’t have a name. I wasn’t going to keep calling her ‘the baby’ indefinitely.” He sees Derek’s nod, but most of his attention is focused on the pup in his arms. Stiles tickles her belly, “Isn’t that right, sweetheart?” His daughter responds to the attention and shifts to playfully snuffle at his bare skin. She grunts softly and starts nosing at his chest, tongue lapping at his skin. Stiles pets along her back and sits down on the edge of the bed, pulling her away with a hiss, “Tali, no!”
Talia falls back onto her haunches and whines softly. Derek looks up curiously, “What happened?”
Stiles mutters, “Nothing.”
Derek’s eyes move to where Stiles is rubbing at his nipple and then to the wolf pup, “She bit you?”
“No, she didn’t bite me, you ass.” Derek smirks, but it’s gone quickly. If Stiles hadn’t been watching, he’d have missed it, “It’s just her trying to nurse. She doesn’t understand that I, well…don’t have the equipment.”
Derek nods silently, his hand rubbing at his own chest. Talia struggles to stand and takes a wobbly step towards Derek. Stiles holds his breath and watches as she slowly makes it across the bed to her father. Derek is tense, his eyes locked on the small pup and when he reaches a hand out towards her, Stiles sits forward, ready to rescue her if need be. Scared green eyes flick up to his and Derek hesitantly asks, “She’s hungry?”
Stiles snorts a laugh, “Dude, she’s a baby. She may be a pup right now, but yeah, she’s hungry.” He moves closer, musing aloud, “She’s pretty much always hungry.” Stiles reaches for her, “Come on, Squeaker, let’s go get you a bottle.”
He’s standing up when Derek’s question stops him, “Can I…?”
“Can you…?” Stiles tilts his head and frowns, “…what, Derek?” He looks down at him, then at his daughter and back at Derek. Stiles belatedly realizes what Derek is asking. His eyebrows lift, “What? You want to,” he gestures towards Derek’s chest, “nurse her?”
Derek opens his mouth and shuts it, face twisting. He slouches down in the bed and mutters, “Never mind, it was a stupid idea anyway.”
Stiles shakes his head, “No. It’s not a stupid idea, babe. If you want to feed her then yeah, I’m all for it. Totally on board, trust me.” He climbs back onto the bed and sets Talia down on the mattress, “You have no idea how hard it is to get her to eat.” Stiles watches as Derek sits up, rambling in his nervousness, “She won’t take the bottle half the time. Deaton’s been helping us; trying out different formulas to see if we can find one she likes. So far, it’s been kinda hit or miss. Sometimes she’ll eat and sometimes she won’t.”
“How do I…?” Derek makes an aborted gesture towards Talia and swallows audibly. “I don’t know how to feed her."
“Well first things first. You uh,” Stiles clears his throat, “first you have to take off your shirt.” Derek pulls his t-shirt off and Stiles pats the mattress, giving him a reassuring smile, “Now just lay down on your side and let her do the work.”
Derek stretches out, head pillowed on one of his arms. Talia trips over her forepaws in her rush to get closer to Derek and Stiles reaches out to right her, giving her a tiny shove on the behind. She yips softly and bounds forward, her tiny snout lifting to sniff at Derek’s chest. Talia’s making cute little snuffling noises and Stiles chuckles. His daughter turns to look at him and barks before turning back to nose at Derek’s armpit. “Stiles, I don’t think she knows what to do.”
“Oh trust me, she knows what to do.” He smiles and waves his finger under Talia’s nose, pointing it at Derek’s nipple when he gets her attention. Talia noses at Derek’s nipple and sneezes, promptly falling on her butt. “Silly pup, I thought you were hungry.” Talia yips and chews on his finger, “Were you just wanting to play? Huh? Is that it? Silly girl, fingers are not for eating.”
“Maybe the reason she won’t eat is because,” Derek sighs, “maybe it’s me.”
“Hey, c’mere.” Stiles shifts closer and cups Derek’s cheek, “It’s not you, okay?”
“How do you know? What if the other two pups died because…” a pained noise escapes him and Stiles’ heart aches, “What if something’s wrong with me?”
Stiles leans forward and presses their foreheads together, “Oh, Derek, no. It’s not you, Baby. It’s not. “ He jokes softly, “Our daughter just happens to have inherited a bit of my ADHD. Once she remembers that she’s hungry,” Talia chooses that exact moment to latch on and Derek winces as she starts to suckle. “See?” He smiles at Derek and whispers, “You okay?”
Derek nods, “Yeah. It just feels weird.” His eyes drift shut and Stiles sits up, hand petting along his daughter’s spine as she nurses. He’s about to stand when Derek whispers, “Stay? Please?”
“I’m just going to the bathroom. I’ll be right back, okay?” Derek nods and Stiles makes a quick trip to relieve himself before heading back to the bed. He stretches out on his stomach and rests his head on both forearms. His eyes lift to Derek’s face and he’s surprised to find his mate watching him. He gives him a little half smile, “What?”
Stiles gets a dismissive shake of the head and a quiet, “Nothing.”
He nods and goes back to watching his daughter, who is now making these small grunting noises as she eats. Stiles tenses when Derek reaches a tentative hand down. He has to remind himself that his mate has every right to touch her but he still watches anxiously as Derek pets a single finger between Talia’s ears. Stiles laughs at the look on Derek’s face when Talia whines in her throat.
He’s quick to reassure Derek, “She’s fine. I call her ‘Squeaker’ for a reason. Little Miss Talia, once she starts eating, doesn’t like to be disturbed.”
Derek pulls his hand away and nods, “Oh. Sorry.”
“No need to apologize. You didn’t know, but it’s okay,” Stiles tickles along Talia’s back, “she needs to switch anyway.”
His daughter turns to look at him and yips irritably. Stiles keeps her from latching on once more. Derek’s brows lift and he asks, “What do you mean switch?”
“Um, yeah,” Stiles clears his throat and gestures to Derek’s chest, “With one pup, you need to split the feed time between both sides so you don’t get…sore?” He motions for Derek to roll forward until he’s on resting his weight on his elbows then nudges Talia to latch onto Derek’s other nipple. His daughter is quick to get with the program and eagerly resumes her feeding.
Derek makes a face, “How do you know all this?”
Stiles shrugs, “Research.” He smiles at Derek, “You know me; I love my research. Deaton put me in touch with a mated Alpha pair in St. Louis. Jennifer’s been really helpful, answering all my questions.”
The next few minutes are spent in relative silence; the only sounds are Talia’s little grunts as she eats. Stiles pets over his daughter’s back, the touch light so he doesn’t bother her. Talia stops nursing all on her own and Stiles turns onto his side as she stumbles awkwardly towards him to nudge at his hand. He scoops her up and settles her close to his chest. Talia yawns and looks around, seemingly confused. She whines and snuffles at his hand. Stiles shifts to bring his face close to her and whispers, “What is it, pretty girl?”
Derek looks over at them, brows furrowed, “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know.” His daughter gives him a few whining barks and Stiles sits up, worry unfurling in his gut. “Tali, baby, what’s wrong?” He scoops her up and cradles her against his chest, “Tell daddy what’s wrong, yeah?” Stiles is speaking into her neck fur and when Talia’s whiny barks get more urgent, he starts to panic.
“Stiles, I told you there’s something wrong with me!”
He looks up and opens his mouth to comfort Derek when Talia lets out a rather loud belch. Stiles looks down at her and a nervous laugh bubbles out of him. The wolf pup whines and then burps again, softer this time. “Silly girl, you scared me half to death!” He brings her up for a kiss to her nose and scolds her, “All that fuss because you had to burp?”
Stiles looks over at Derek and nods, “Yeah. Guess she just has to get used to the difference between the bottle and um…” he presses his eyebrows together and clears his throat, “you.” Stiles hates that even after all he’s been through, he can still blush. He doesn’t even notice that he’s rubbing a hand over Talia’s belly as he speaks. “So…I uh…I guess we’ll go then and let you get back to sleep.” Stiles stands up and heads to the door, his fingers still idly rubbing over his daughter’s belly.
They are a few steps from the door when Talia shifts back to her human form. Stiles can’t suppress his small noise of surprise as he opens the bedroom door. He turns to pull it shut behind him and finds Derek watching him, an unreadable expression on his face. Stiles pauses to shift Talia up onto his shoulder and Derek’s eyes widen when he sees her. “She shifted.”
One hand is on the back of Talia’s neck, “That she did.” Stiles gives him a tight smile and steps out into the hall, “Good night, Derek.” He pulls the door shut and is about to turn away when his conscience gets the better of him. Stiles pushes the door open and steps into the room, “Thank you…for uh…for you know?” He gestures to the sleeping infant, “I appreciate it.”
Derek is just staring at him and Stiles presses his lips together to keep from running off at the mouth. With a nod, he turns to walk away. From behind him he hears a quiet, “You’re welcome.” He pulls the door shut and kisses the top of his daughter's head, murmuring to her under his breath as he makes his way to the nursery.
It's an hour later and Stiles is lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling when he hears the floorboards in the hallway creak. He sits up, tension running throughout his entire body. Derek's shadow is visible underneath the door. Stiles waits for the door to open, but it never does. The quiet footsteps continue down the hall and Stiles nearly falls out of the bed in the mad rush to get to the nursery to keep Derek from doing something stupid.
Down the hall, a door opens and Stiles trips over his feet on the way to the hallway. Over the baby monitor he hears the cranking of Talia’s mobile, followed by the tinny sound of Brahms’s Lullaby.
Stiles pauses in the hallway and chews his bottom lip, indecisive on what to do. His protective father instinct wins out in the end. He heads to the nursery and finds Derek standing over the crib. His mate looks up as Stiles comes to stand next to him and quickly backs away from the crib, “I wasn’t going to do anything. I was just-"
“Hey, it’s okay.” Stiles reaches for Derek and rubs a hand up his arm, fingers curling around his biceps. He smiles up at him, “You were just watching her sleep.” Derek nods. “I do that too sometimes.” Stiles tucks the baby blanket around the sleeping infant and muses aloud, “She slept in the guest bedroom with me for the first three days of her life. I wouldn’t let her out of my sight. Even with her in the same room, I was constantly going over to check on her, you know?”
Derek nods again, swallowing hard before whispering, “She’s so small.”
Stiles exhales a chuckle, “Yeah.” He’s thought the same thing many times over and has said as much to his dad. “I don’t think she’ll stay that small for long. People keep telling me that time will fly by.” Stiles shrugs, “Maybe that’s why I never let her out of my sight…so I won’t miss anything.”
Derek reaches into the crib and goes to cup his hand over Talia’s head, but stops just shy of making contact. “I’m afraid to t-touch her.” Stiles watches Derek’s face twist and he wishes he could take that insecurity from him. “What if I hurt her? Or what if she doesn’t like me?” His bottom lip quivers, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“And you think I do?” Stiles presses against Derek’s side and when his mate doesn’t pull away, he interlaces their fingers.
“You know more than me.” Derek snorts derisively, “I didn’t even know how to feed my own daughter.”
“I know what I know because I asked. If you were in my place, you’d have done the same thing, right?” Derek squeezes his hand in lieu of an answer and Stiles bumps his shoulder against him. “Don’t worry so much. You’ll learn. Trust me.”
Derek shakes his head and brokenly asks, “How can you so be so sure?”
Stiles turns and reaches up to push Derek’s hair off his forehead, “Because I have faith in you.” He watches Derek’s eyes drift shut and smooths a thumb over his eyebrows. “Always will.”