“I need you to watch Henry for a couple of days.”
Stiles looked at Derek Hale, dark and always intense. He hadn’t seen Derek in about two years. Those two years hadn’t changed the charge that went through him at just being in front of Derek.
Then Stiles looked at the bundle in Derek’s arms.
“Probably for about a week,” Derek amended.
Stiles looked between the baby and Derek, trying to will this situation to make sense. Stiles wanted to say that their relationship didn’t warrant favors like this anymore.
But he knew better than that.
“This is student housing,” Stiles said finally. “The guy upstairs got put on probation for a goldfish. I definitely think babies are not allowed.”
Derek glowered, as did Henry. The baby’s expression was just like his father’s. The kid didn’t even have eyebrows yet, and he was still fairly imposing.
Stiles knew about Henry, of course. Three years ago, there had been a fairly violent interaction with the neighbors. Derek did as he usually did and threw himself on the proverbial sword. He was werewolf hand fasted, for the sake of packs and territories. Stiles had actually hammered out that deal, the question ‘are you sure’ on the tip of his tongue the entire time. Derek really had been through enough in his life, he didn’t need to be the pack martyr. Everyone tried to talk him out of it.
Everyone except Stiles. Stiles didn’t really know what to say. It wasn’t as if something like unspoken feelings should interrupt the peace talks and treaties.
Stiles helped with the archaic proceedings and then gotten out of Beacon Hills, he hadn’t really been back. He didn’t question his motives, didn’t look deeper. There was just too much to think about it.
Stiles had hoped, somewhere deep down, that werewolf hand fasting wouldn’t lead to anything more than peace. He wanted to think of it being as asexual as he saw his grandparents' marriage, but Henry had happened. Stiles liked to tell himself that he didn’t care. He told himself he really didn’t care. He hadn’t ever seen the kid. It allowed him that sense of internal fiction that said he wasn’t carrying a torch for Derek Hale.
He really was over that. He was over Derek Hale’s years of looking for redemption, looking for family, trying to grow up. He was over being caught in the wake of the constant drama Derek Hale drew to him.
He liked to tell himself that, but he really wasn’t good at fooling himself.
The phone still worked, and people still called and filled him in on the latest gossip, so he knew plenty about life in Beacon Hills, and that life included Derek. With Stiles at school, Derek was Scott’s right hand man.
Stiles generally tuned out Scott as he rambled on and on during their phone calls, but for some reason, Stiles had always listened to the parts about Derek. Scott had always been overly polite about Henry’s mother. In Scott speak, that meant that he didn’t like Meg much. Stiles tried not to feel victorious about this. It meant that Derek probably wasn’t in love. Stiles wanted Derek to be happy, just not with Meg.
The Sheriff was always complaining about Meg speeding and her blasé behavior. Allison tried very hard to find positive things to say. Those she did find included the fact that Meg was very well groomed and that she could tie a knot that was very secure. Overall, Stiles got the impression that she wasn’t the most popular girl in Beacon Hills. Stiles felt a little sorry for her.
Still, Henry happened, with all the implications therein. He couldn’t really manage to feel too sorry for her.
He hadn’t told anyone that he had called Derek on those nights that he thought that he was going to go insane from overworking, stress, and loneliness. He wanted to believe that the occasional phone calls from Derek were much the same.
There were two things clear from these phone calls. The first was that Derek did not talk about Meg. The second was that Derek loved Henry. In fact, there was nothing in the universe that Derek loved more than Henry.
Which was why Stiles was startled to find Derek barging into his graduate student housing with an abundance of bags and the little chubby infant, telling Stiles that Henry was going to stay with him for a bit. Stiles was mostly sure that Henry hadn’t been out of his father’s overprotective sight since he had entered the world.
“I…” Stiles began
“They’re back,” Derek said quickly, putting down the seven bags. “This time, there's no amount of hand fasting that will solve this problem. They have Cora; we need to go in.”
Derek’s voice didn’t break, which was a testament to the fact that Derek had gone through too much shit in his life.
Stiles swallowed and looked at the tiny human. He had absolutely no idea why Derek would think he was qualified for this.
“I need him safe with you while we sort it out.”
Stiles’s eyes snapped to Derek. The haggard look on his face declared the pack intent to use claws for the final answer. This was going to be a fight for keeps, for territorial rights. The look on his face was so guarded that Stiles knew that Derek was in pieces.
Derek cupped his son’s head, held him close. The blood in Derek’s nail bed made Stiles’s breath catch.
“I’m your safe house?” Stiles said, because he had to say something quippy to lighten the mood. “I appreciate the surprising gender norms shake up, but I don’t know anything about children.”
Derek looked at him, and Stiles felt like he was missing something. Derek was giving him the expressive eyebrows. Stiles really wished that Derek would learn his words some day.
“Yeah, our girls are much better in the field, and you probably need Nanny Isaac in wolf fighting form,” Stiles said with a sigh, reaching out for Henry. “So yeah, I guess I’m the only one left.”
Derek held his son to him.
“No, Stiles,” he said, his voice two octaves lower, full of an honesty that cut to the bone. “You’re the only one of us who can hold his weapon and not put Henry down. You’re the only one I trust to watch him.”
Stiles thought of the guns and ammo in his closet and swallowed.
Derek stepped forward and repeated, “I trust you.”
He kissed his son on the head and handed him to Stiles, and Stiles awkwardly took him. Derek leaned forward into Stiles’s neck and breathed deeply.
Stiles knew what Derek was doing, making his son more comfortable. Being in his presence, mixing scents. Stiles looked over at Derek for a second. His eyes were closed, and he seemed to be blissful. He seemed to be trying to catalogue the two of them in his memory.
Stiles tried to will away his pounding heart and growing erection. Both seemed inappropriate at the moment.
Stiles couldn’t stop staring at the curve of Derek’s neck. They had never crossed this line, no matter what had gone down. Touching had been off the table, but now Derek’s hands ghosted over him. Stiles leaned into this, taking the little piece he could get. He tried not to shiver, but he was sure that Derek could hear his thunderous heart.
“I dictated a list of instructions to Isaac,” Derek said, pulling away. Derek looked like he was trying too hard to maintain composure. “He has the best penmanship. If it isn’t there, use the internet, don’t call any of us. Emergency protocol only.”
Stiles swallowed and looked at Henry. He really wasn’t going to voice again how much he didn’t know how to do this. Derek was well aware of his qualifications. It seemed like Derek had more pressing issues than his protestations right now. Stiles knew that he was going to cave anyway.
“Come back,” Stiles said through the lump in his throat. “Make sure everyone is there when I get back.”
Derek looked at him. His green olive eyes held so much feeling that Stiles was almost ready to believe that this wasn’t Derek Hale. This had to be a dream.
“I’m leaving everything I have here,” Derek said softly. “There are too many years of things I need to be around for. I will do everything in my power to come back.”
With that, he left.
Stiles didn’t move. That had felt like something he should think about.
But then Henry started crying, and Stiles put aside the thoughts about Derek, about the pack in mortal danger, about the fact that he had to write roughly fifty pages and edit in the next week and then prepare for his defense.
He couldn’t deal with any of it.
Not that it had ever stopped him before.
Henry was inconsolable after Derek left.
Stiles tried to bounce and soothe Henry while fishing out the guns in his closet and loading them. It wasn’t easy one-handed, with a screaming baby, and shaking a bit with nerves, but Stiles had always been able to perform complex tasks.
He had gotten valedictorian because Lydia had been distracted in one class. He could help werewolves with their feelings, fight off errant trolls, and ace his classes.
This was a snap.
He loaded two of the handguns and placed one near the bed and the other at his desk.
“I expect that you won't touch the guns,” Stiles said to the screeching baby. “Guns are bad, and you need to leave them to the adults.”
Henry choked on his sobs and then began yelling again.
Which was expected for a little baby who had been separated from everyone he had known for his few months on earth. The little thing didn’t know Stiles from a hole in the wall.
Stiles picked up the very long list in Isaac’s perfect handwriting and skimmed it. A quarter of the way down the list he found his answer: ‘Derek’s shirts are in the blue bag.’
Stiles sent up a silent thanks to Derek’s overprotective nature and Isaac’s anal retentiveness. He rummaged in the bag and found five identical shirts. He looked at the wailing Henry, wondering if he should wear the shirt or just wrap Henry in it. He went with the latter.
Henry looked at the shirt and calmed down immediately. His chubby hands grabbed the black cotton and immediately put it in his mouth. Stiles was so relieved that he didn’t even question if Henry should be chewing on the shirt. He just made a mental note to make sure that Henry didn’t choke on it.
Stiles looked at the rest of the bags and the list. He was a little too overwhelmed to go through it all right now, although he should be prepared. Instead, he sat down at his computer and opened a book. He began to read out loud to Henry, who seemed to be enthralled by his voice, even though Stiles himself couldn’t focus enough to find meaning in the words. His mind was too focused on the fact that very soon, Scott and Derek would be going after Henry’s mother’s pack.
He kept speaking, though, words flowing into the room. Henry chewed on the shirt and watched him with Hale green eyes. He looked serious, but it seemed as if Henry had found him acceptable. Later, Stiles was going to have a talk with Derek about Henry’s proclivity to accepting strangers so easily, but right now, he was so grateful for it.
Reading went well for half an hour. He got a few pages done, and then Henry cried. Stiles stood up immediately and went to the bags and list.
Using his highly tuned process of elimination, he guessed that Henry was hungry. There was a bottle for that. Stiles knew he was going to have to figure out how to make the formula, but for now, he appreciated the prepared bottles. He really hoped there was no breast milk; for some reason, that just seemed weird. There was, however, solid food, which was going to be an interesting experiment.
He fed Henry and then tried to read out loud again. He got a few more pages done before Henry cried again. Stiles looked at the list. He was hoping that it was colic or maybe even chicken pox. In the sake of keeping Henry off the radar and not in the hospital, he lifted Henry up so that he could smell Henry’s diaper. It was one of the rankest smells he had ever encountered, and that was saying a lot.
Stiles looked at Henry as if pooping was the greatest betrayal anyone had ever done him. Stiles had been around monsters for a long time, and he had seen some pretty awful bodily excretions, but he did not want to do this.
His first ever diaper change took almost an hour. It had involved Isaac’s step-by-step directions, messing up the directions three times, gagging, Henry both laughing and crying, and far too much baby powder. Stiles was never going to recount the incident to anyone. It was a miracle that Henry found himself in a diaper that was not duct taped to him.
Stiles had been with Henry for almost two hours and he was exhausted, but his paper wasn’t going to write itself. He tried to put Henry down, to very little success. Every time Stiles tried to work, Henry would start to bawl again.
Stiles had absolutely no idea how he was going to get all of his work done. He really didn’t have any idea how he was going to function. Henry was clingy and seemed to want constant attention.
Stiles sat down at his computer and tried to type one of the last chapters. He had put Henry in a little pillow fort on the bed and had arranged the little nest so that Henry could move a little, but not roll off.
“What are you going to do with seven pillows, Stiles? Are you going to start dating seven little men?” Stiles mimicked Scott, as his voice had been when they had done the pre-school Bed, Bath, and Beyond run. Scott had thought that Stiles was wasting money and acting like a diva with the purchase of so much bedding. “Take that. You can never make fun of me now.”
The pillow barricade placated Henry for a grand total of four minutes before he was crying again.
With a sigh, Stiles went to pick him up, and he quieted. Stiles just plopped Henry on his lap and continued writing. The clacking of the keys on Stiles’s almost ancient laptop seemed to soothe Henry into quiet. Finally, Henry began to drift to sleep.
Stiles had written two pages and had almost forgotten about the dozing baby and the impending doom occurring in Beacon Hills when his Skype popped up.
He accepted the call, and Lydia’s face came on the screen. Typically, her face was calm and cool, but now her hair was out of place, and she wasn’t wearing lipstick. Her eyes were a little crazy.
“Allison called me two days ago with some really cryptic but sweet things to say,” Lydia said, speaking very quickly, instead of her usual carefully constructed sentences. “Then yesterday, Jackson, Jackson of all people, called to tell me some very personal things that absolutely sounded like a good bye. He told me that he had a phone conversation with Derek Hale for the first time in eight years, and all of a sudden he’s off, going back, and…”
She trailed off and leaned to look at the screen in front of her.
“And you have a child,” she said, her voice taking on control. Then she pulled back and was once again composed. “And if anything I learned in basic biology is true, then that is Derek Hale’s child. That would explain the voicemail I just listened to from Scott.”
Henry woke up and smacked his lips together at the sound of his father’s name.
“I swear to god, Lydia,” Stiles said in his most singsong voice, his fingers going to Henry’s hands that were flailing about. “If he starts crying again, I’m going to come to Boston and let you take care of him.”
Lydia flipped her hair.
“Do you know I don’t think Scott has ever called me?” Lydia whispered.
“Really? With all the making out you did in high school, I would have thought there would have been some late night booty calls,” Stiles whispered back.
“Low blow, Stilinski,” Lydia said as her eyes narrowed.
“I call ‘em like I see ‘em,” Stiles said leaning back. Henry’s eyes opened sleepily. Stiles tried to pat him reassuringly.
“What are you doing with the littlest Hale?” Lydia asked.
Stiles shrugged. Bad things were not things discussed on Skype or the telephone, pack rules. Her face fell.
“You know I don’t know,” Stiles said. “I’m off territory.”
Lydia closed her eyes. That was what they had come up with when pack members went to school. There were to be no calls, no interaction in times of crises, unless strictly needed. If somebody connected the dots, the outside person wouldn’t be able to give up the pack. In turn, the pack would protect them. The only calls that would go through at that time would be through the Sheriff. He was the innocuous switchboard. It had worked for six years.
Lydia closed her eyes. Stiles would think everything was normal if it weren’t for the tremor in her lip.
“How's the thesis?” she asked, resolutely dropping the subject.
Stiles groaned, and Henry leaned into the computer. He drooled a little over the shift key and then started bouncing and grabbing for Lydia.
Lydia made a face of revulsion that made the moment seem normal.
“Aww,” Stiles said. “I remember when you used to look at me like that.”
Lydia sniffed. “I didn’t even notice that you were alive.”
Stiles smiled and pulled Henry back from the laptop. Henry started to grab at his shirt and attempt a very uncoordinated attempt to climb Stiles.
“How are you going to do this?” Lydia asked. “I don’t imagine your temporary guardian duties lend themselves to studying.”
Stiles shrugged. “I figure I have the easy job. I just have to watch one child.”
Henry stilled. He stuck his hand in his mouth and turned his multifaceted green eyes to Stiles. Henry looked up with all innocence. Stiles narrowed his eyes. He didn’t trust that expression on anything with some version of Derek Hale’s face.
Then Henry’s face scrunched up, and the smell of baby poop filled the room.
“Lyds,” Stiles said, trying not to breathe. “I’ve got to let you go.”
Lydia was laughing. “Good luck with that.”
Stiles had underestimated how hard having a child was, and he had set the bar very high.
The first two days were nothing short of hell. He hadn’t slept, couldn’t figure out how to shower, had half eaten pizza dying in the corner, and had written sixty words on his thesis. Only two of those words were recognized by the English dictionary.
Stiles was ready to break all of their rules and call Derek, call Melissa, drop the baby off at a fire station. All he knew was that he was not prepared for fatherhood to be thrust upon him. Thank god he had always used protection and mostly dated guys.
Stiles wanted to call his father and thank him for keeping him long enough to live past infancy. Stiles wanted to sleep, but little Henry just wanted attention. The child was seriously needy.
All that Stiles could do was lay was on the bed watching Henry Hale suck on his bottle. Henry was always eating or pooping. Then there was food preparation and diaper disposal. Stiles couldn’t keep up. He had decided that there was nothing else he was going to be able to do but take care of Henry.
When there was finally a noise that wasn’t Henry-related, it took Stiles far too long to figure out what it was. He looked around his room, dazed.
He finally figured it out. It was a knocking on his door. Stiles got up and picked up Henry.
Stiles thought that he was hallucinating when he opened the door. On the other side of the door was the impeccably dressed Lydia Martin.
He was sleep-deprived and stressed. All of his friends were probably dying, he had a master's thesis to finish, and baby Hale was screaming again. He should have expected her, but that would have required thought, a function he could not do at the moment.
He really had never been happier to see her in his life.
"You shouldn't have come," Stiles said, moving to give her the baby. "But I’m so glad you're here. I have so much work to do. If you can just..."
"Stiles," Lydia interrupted, making no move to take Henry and actually stepping backwards away from Henry, who seemed to share her sentiments. "I didn't come here for the child."
Stiles was confused.
"I came here to help you with your thesis,” Lydia said resolutely. “I’m done with all my work this semester and started on next semester, so I’ll help you write yours.”
Stiles shifted as Henry tried to climb him. The kid was tiny but tactile and grabby and had a too strong grasp on Stiles’s ear. Stiles reached out for one of Derek’s shirts that was thrown over the back of a chair. Henry let out a little squeal and made grabby hands, and Stiles gave him the shirt.
Lydia looked at Henry, who was happily slobbering on the shirt and looking at her with great curiosity.
“We’ll stick to our strengths,” Lydia informed him.
Stiles laughed despite himself. “I’m pretty sure baby-sitting is not my strength.”
Lydia shrugged. “Well, school is mine, and being the last minute hero is yours, so we’ll do that.”
Stiles smiled. Lydia nodded and looked at the computer.
“You tell me where you are and what you're thinking, and I’ll help you write words,” Lydia told him.
“I’m so in love with you,” Stiles laughed.
“That ship sailed so long ago you might as well call it the Mayflower,” Lydia replied, looking again at Henry.
Stiles held him a little closer.
“Criminal Intent and Morality of Folklore and Mythology.” Lydia sighed. “That doesn’t even sound like school.”
They had been plotting out Stiles’s final chapters. Lydia would take notes and give commentary. Stiles would try to keep Henry from screaming or putting things in his mouth. He had four little sharp teeth that Stiles had come to know and hate.
Stiles was sprawled on his bed, while Henry was playing with toys and then throwing them over the bed when he got tired of them. When he ran out of toys he would start to make noise until Stiles handed him one. The bed was littered with toys, and Stiles could barely make himself sit up. He really thought that children slept more.
Stiles’s mind wandered to think about Derek playing these games with Henry.
“Stop thinking about Derek,” Lydia said.
Stiles looked up, startled.
Lydia rubbed her temples. “Don’t pretend you aren’t telegraphing. Can you stop feeding into the myth that book smart people are stupid about reality? You’re really a shame to us all.”
“Do you really want me to outline how many indicators there are,” Lydia said.
“No,” Stiles said. “I’m not stupid.”
“You avoid each other, until something is going on, until the big things come. That's when you're the first call.” Lydia sighed. “You were drunk for a week after the blessed child was born. Did you know that his glower reached epic proportions when you showed up to the hand fasting molesting Fisher?”
“Lydia, no means no.” Stiles sighed.
He wasn’t going to go there. He wasn’t delusional, just practical.
Lydia rolled her eyes.
“Don’t we have work to do?” Stiles asked.
Lydia looked at the computer. “I really don’t think that this counts as work. This is kind of fluffy.”
“I was going to do it on comic books,” Stiles informed her. “But I figured it would be good to at least relate it to something that I would be doing for the rest of my life.”
Lydia looked at him, the baby crawling across his chest.
“You’re going back there?” Lydia chastised.
“Of course,” Stiles said as Henry moved to maul his face. “What else would I be doing? That's my pack.”
“So your master’s in criminology is going to be Beacon Hills' gain?” Lydia asked.
Stiles shrugged and moved Henry towards a few of his toys instead of his face. Little werewolf Henry didn’t have any concept of his strength with normal human people.
“You’ve got to make a move at some point, Stiles,” Lydia said.
“Yeah, maybe,” Stiles said sitting down on the bed and pulling out a set of plastic keys to jangle above Henry. Henry laughed and reached for them.
“He’s a happy baby,” Lydia said, flipping her hair and going back to the computer. “He lives with Derek Hale, and he seems like a happy, well-adjusted child. You’re smart, you can get the implications on that one.”
There was nothing that Stiles wanted to think about less than the fact that Derek Hale, who was the picture of glowering and badly adjusted, had a household that fostered a happy loving child. It was like saying a kanima had a flourishing vegetable garden. Derek had layers under his eyebrows. Stiles knew those layers; he missed those very subtle layers.
Stiles gave a long sigh. “Get those fingers typing, Lydia Martin.”
She rolled her eyes. “Tell me what to say, big guy.
“This is actually pretty good,” Lydia said.
“Don’t sound so surprised,” Stiles said, now upright on his multitude of pillows, feeding Henry and leafing through a book. “You should have seen my paper last year on the emergence of serial killers as a result of the industrial age. It was so golden.”
“I’m a little shocked about how easy you make that look,” Lydia said, looking at Henry.
Stiles shrugged. “I still nearly puke when I have to change his diaper."
She just watched the two of them for a second before snapping out of it.
“So is there a place that we could order something marginally edible?” Lydia asked. “I’m going to need food and coffee if we’re going to keep this up all night.”
“That’s what she said,” Stiles intoned, looking down at his shirt that was covered in baby bodily fluids. He really should shower at some point, it was only sanitary.
“I’m going to take us for a shower,” Stiles said, looking at Henry. Stiles wasn’t exactly sure how showering would work with an infant, but he would figure it out. He just wanted to be clean again. He just hoped it wasn’t something that would put him on some kind of watch list or get child services involved.
Lydia raised an eyebrow.
“Unless you want to watch him,” Stiles offered.
Lydia shook her head vehemently. “No. I’m good. He smells. It might be a good idea.”
Stiles lifted the baby up and sniffed his stomach. Henry didn’t smell like anything but baby and Hale.
“Besides, he would just be crying his face off if you left,” Lydia said. “Just like when you went to the bathroom. If you ask me, he has attachment issues.”
“Well, his dad is off with everyone he has ever known in his young life, and we don’t know if any of them are coming back,” Stiles pointed out. “I’m going to give him a pass.”
“Whatever,” Lydia said. “Make it snappy, I’m starving. If you’re quick enough, I’m also paying.”
“Deal,” Stiles said, grabbing his shower gear and going to the bathroom.
The bathroom only had a small stall shower. Stiles looked at it for a second and decided that there probably was no other way to deal with it than shucking off his clothes and just going for it.
Stiles began to see a flaw in his logic when he got in the shower. Henry seemed to be excited about the water and the whole shower thing, if his squeals were anything to go by. However, adding water to a baby made the baby slippery. Stiles ended up sitting on the floor of the shower, legs outside of it. He was getting the tiles plenty wet, but he was also getting himself and Henry clean. The soap smelled and felt wonderful. He actually couldn’t ever remember feeling this good.
Henry played on the bottom of the shower, and Stiles hoped it had been cleaned recently and that Henry had the powerful werewolf immunity genes. Mostly, he was too tired to care.
Stiles made quick work of soaping them up. He didn’t realize how gross he had been until this moment. He groaned in happiness. Henry hopped on his butt, splashing.
For just a second, Stiles let himself just think about it. It wasn’t just Henry who was co-dependent. Stiles couldn’t imagine letting Henry out of his sight. His one trip to the bathroom without Henry had almost caused him to have a panic attack. Derek had entrusted him with this child, while Derek was off doing god knows what to make the world safe with Scott and the pack.
Death was always somewhat imminent with them; it had been a constant companion for the last eight years. It wasn’t something that seemed frightening or real any more. Until the moment that he realized that death could be happening right now.
And there was a good chance that he was going to be left behind.
Stiles wasn’t ready to let go of Henry because he was really the only thing that Stiles had. He didn’t have Scott or Derek or the rest of the pack. Henry was his responsibility, and like hell he was going to let some thing ruin all that.
What was between him and Derek wasn’t something that he could explain. It was an odd, strange story, and it was something between just the two of them. It worked for them. When it was tough, they had someone to go to.
That meant something; that meant everything.
Stiles picked up Henry and toweled them both off to the best of his ability. He walked back into his room wearing only a towel and carrying Henry. Lydia took a photo and then rummaged through her bag.
“I’m going to go get ready. Have clothes on and know where you want to take us when I get back,” Lydia informed him.
Stiles laughed and put naked Henry down on the bed. Henry reached for his own feet and began sucking on his toes, watching Stiles get ready.
“This is probably one of those things we’re going to laugh about later,” Stiles told him. “But right now, this is insane. I want to believe everything is okay, but I’ve never been that kind of optimist.”
Stiles reached for his clothes and hurriedly got in them.
“For your future reference,” Stiles continued as he began to dress Henry. “Allison is the one of us you want to go to when you want comfort. She’s like a Disney warrior princess, and you should always go to her when you want to feel better. She is the most positive one I know. I really wish she was here because we need that right now.”
Henry was looking at him seriously.
“I’ll remind you when you get a little bigger,” Stiles said. “And you can understand the English language and all.”
Henry laughed and started hopping, reaching his hands up for Stiles to pick him up. Stiles obliged, and Henry burrowed into him and seemed to be sniffing Stiles.
Stiles cupped Henry’s head and held him close, breathing in Henry.
“I miss your dad,” Stiles said quietly. “I might have been distant the last couple of years, but I know that he’s always going to be there for me. Derek Hale is frustrating and never where you want him to be, but he’s always there when everything is going down.”
Henry looked up at him seriously, those green eyes a mini version of Derek’s.
“I swear I was going to come home,” Stiles said quietly. “I was always going to come home. I always thought there would be time.”
In reaction to that, Henry hiccupped.
Stiles looked up, and Lydia was at the door.
“You’re a wuss,” Lydia said.
Stiles squinted at her and decided that sarcasm would be the best avenue for this situation. “I’ve faced down pretty much all the monsters that have ever scared people. My best friends are werewolves. I faced off against Gerard Argent.”
Lydia sucked in a long breath and looked to the sky as if something out there would give her strength.
“Let’s go get food,” Stiles said. “There's a great place for burgers that's within walking distance.”
Lydia made a face.
“They also have a kick ass white bean burger that even Scott liked,” Stiles added. “I need French fries and milkshakes.”
Lydia made another face.
Stiles continued. “They have organic smoothies and kale salads. This is Stanford; everything has a hippy organic edge to it.”
“Sold,” Lydia said with a smile.
The downside to eating in a small college restaurant was that they didn’t have high chairs. Henry sat on Stiles’s lap and gnawed on a carrot that the waitress provided. Lydia took another picture.
“Derek is going to kill you for making his son a bunny,” Lydia said, but her voice was a little bit softer than she had previously used. Henry smiled and held out his gnawed slobbery carrot to share. He showed her his four teeth and scooted closer.
The look on her face was melting.
Stiles buried his face in his free hand. “The world is doomed. He's going to be that Derek, expecting to get whatever he wants on the rare occasion that he manages to smile.”
Lydia laughed. Stiles looked at her through his fingers.
“You’re so gone," Lydia prodded. "Just once admit that you’re gone and that you can try for it?”
"Really, Lydia," Stiles scoffed. "In what world am I Derek Hale-adjacent?"
Lydia looked him for a long moment. He was pretty sure that she could read his mind and see right through him. She was Lydia. He was actually pretty glad that he wasn’t on her bad side very often, because she could be scary.
"Your inability to wear anything but plaid and t-shirts aside, I'd say in every one," Lydia finally pronounced.
Stiles looked at her, gaping. "I’m pretty sure that he’s rich. He’s become well respected in the werewolf circles, probably due to a huge family legacy. He’s like a big deal. He’s a werewolf and always keeps his secrets to himself. He's a grownup with a house and a kid. Then there's the fact that he's so hot, I'm surprised the Weather Channel doesn't dedicate an hour every day to him. His face and his body and his hair and his eyes. I'm just a skinny graduate student who will soon just be an unemployed slacker."
Lydia raised an eyebrow. "Well, that's confirmation that maybe you have noticed him. Also, you know none of those are actual reasons that have value.”
Stiles chose to eat a handful of fries instead of answering her.
Lydia leaned forward. “I will never repeat this and will deny it forever, but I'm fairly sure you're the only one who doesn't see the magnitude of yourself. Seriously. You are the only one who believes that you don't stand a chance. You think you're still the geeky freshman who got shoved in lockers."
Stiles swallowed and answered weakly. "You knew about that?"
"Beside the point," Lydia said slowly, as if she were talking to an idiot. "You still see yourself as a dorky spaz. However, Derek Hale doesn’t see you that way. I don’t know if he ever did. You did things like tread water for two hours to keep him alive. That is how he sees you. He gave you his child to watch over—you’re important to him. Not because you’re Scott’s pack, not because of anything but the fact that you are Stiles. You’re the smartest of them, you figure things out, you’re their brain, and they do need one."
Stiles raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like I'm almost too good to be true."
Lydia rolled her eyes. "You also live like a pig, need to work out more, and have the tendency to whine too much to the girl who crossed the fucking country so you could finish your thesis and not have a mental breakdown while all of our friends go off to god knows where to do god knows what."
There really was nothing to say to that.
"Seriously?" Lydia continued, obviously on a roll. "People may die, you may not finish your thesis, and there's a good chance that you're going to become a 24-year-old single father, but what we're talking about is if Derek Hale could ever become aroused in your general presence? Let me answer that by absolutely without a doubt—yes. I know, by the way, that he's always looked for you in a room, watched you suck on everything because of your extreme oral fixation, turned to you for the answers. I know things, Stiles Stilinski, and I say yes.”
Stiles opened his mouth, but Lydia held up her hand. “So let stop the pity party."
He cocked his head, stood up, and walked over to her, shifting Henry to his hip. Stiles secured the child to him, his hand cupping the small head. Stiles gently put his other hand on her shoulder and kissed her forehead.
"I'm worried about them, too," Stiles said against her forehead. He didn't move. He knew she would need a moment, and he was more than willing to give it to her.
She sniffled a little, and he just held onto her neck, fingers gently applying pressure and reassurance.
“They called Jackson,” Lydia said in a small voice.
Stiles went back to his seat and sat down. Henry reached out for a fry. Stiles tried to extricate it from his fingers, but Henry looked like he was about to cry, so Stiles handed him a jelly packet that went immediately into Henry’s mouth. Stiles thought about taking it away, but he looked so happy ferociously gnawing at it.
“So maybe we should switch from my pining to yours,” Stiles said, trying to be gentle and teasing.
“I've barely seen him since he got the bite,” Lydia said.
“Well, that hardly makes any kind of difference,” Stiles said, looking pointedly at Henry. “Things happen, but sometimes it doesn’t matter.”
Lydia made a face. “I know that I was encouraging this, but I don’t know if your newfound emotional awareness is really helping.”
Stiles grinned and bounced Henry on his knee.
Lydia’s eyes got that unfocused look again. “Stiles,” she said softly.
“No,” Stiles said. “We can’t do anything. We’re not going to worry until we have to.”
Lydia shrugged. “If you figure out how to do that, let me know.”
“Seriously?” Lydia said. “That doesn’t even sound like it makes sense. Are you trying to write fiction, or are you trying to get your master's?”
Stiles heard a knock at the door. Lydia stilled. Stiles scrambled for the gun on his bedside table. He motioned for the one in his desk drawer, and Lydia reached for it.
Henry was sleeping on the bed. As Stiles moved, Henry woke up and looked around. Stiles scooped him up and took the safety off of his gun.
“Bad guys don’t knock,” Lydia whispered.
Stiles glared at her, and so did Henry. “That's what people say before they’re maimed to death.”
Lydia rolled her eyes and reached for the gun in the desk. Stiles prayed she was right. He really didn’t want to start a firefight in the student housing in the last weeks of his college career. He wanted to make it out unscathed, under the impression that he had a normal life, that he chose to go back to the supernatural out of choice, not because normal chased him away.
Stiles cracked the door and saw the house manager on the other side. The guy was over thirty, getting a second PhD in math, and never seemed to leave his room. He was also a stickler for rules.
“Carl,” Stiles said with fake enthusiasm, sticking his gun in the bathrobe that hung on the back of the door. He motioned for Lydia to hide her gun, too.
Carl was looking at the baby in Stiles’s arm. The look on his face was not one of surprise or joy. He looked like he was going to be an asshole.
“I’m sure that there is a story behind that,” Carl said with a judging face.
Henry looked up at Carl with the Hale family glare. Stiles bounced him a little. He had no idea if Henry could shift at his age, but he didn’t want Carl to think anything else was off.
Carl held up a hand. “I don’t want to know why or how. I just want you to know that it is not allowed to be here.”
Stiles’s mind scrambled to figure out which lie could be big enough to cover this whole mess. Fortunately, Lydia came up behind him. Stiles looked at her. Her hair, which had just seconds ago been in a messy bun, was now flowing down her shoulders, and she had two more buttons undone than she had had when it had just been the two of them.
Her smile was so wide and fake that Stiles wanted to hide. Henry seemed to be trying to burrow into Stiles’s chest. Lydia in full force was something indeed.
“Hi,” Lydia said, putting so much in such a tiny word. It was like she created a vortex of attention with just a little tiny combination of sounds.
Carl was blinking at the power of her stare. Lydia just cocked her head and smiled more. Then she looked at Stiles expectantly.
Stiles startled as he realized that Lydia was waiting for an introduction.
“Carl, this is Lydia,” Stiles said, keeping it brief. He had no idea what kind of plan or lie was going through Lydia’s head. He wasn’t going to do something stupid like ruin a Lydia Martin plan, Lydia wasn’t someone to be trifled with.
“Hi, Carl,” Lydia said charmingly, stepping into Carl’s space. “I hope you don’t mind. I’m just here to help Stiles write his thesis.”
Carl raised his eyebrow. He seemed skeptical that a girl like her would deem to talk to Stiles, never mind have the brains to help him with this master’s thesis. Stiles was offended on behalf of Lydia and maybe on behalf of himself.
Then Carl’s face took on extreme skepticism as he looked over at Henry. Stiles opened the door further. Carl could deal with Lydia on his own, god rest his soul.
“He’s not mine,” Lydia laughed, swatting at Carl. “Henry belongs to Stiles’s boyfriend. His boyfriend had a family emergency, and Stiles is taking care of Henry.”
Carl looked critically at Stiles. “He has a boyfriend?”
Stiles was now prepared to be just generally offended. Henry seemed to be growling a little against Stiles's chest. Lydia threw Stiles a look that he assumed meant ‘keep Henry from shifting into a baby werewolf because I can’t explain that’.
Lydia pulled Carl into the room, laughing. Stiles didn’t want Carl to be in his room and this close to his things. He also didn’t want to be Carl under the scrutiny of Lydia’s razor sharp smile.
Lydia pulled Carl to the wall of pictures that Stiles had hung up. Stiles had done it in a fit of drunken homesickness for the family he had attempted to avoid for two years.
“See,” Lydia said, pointing to something. “The dark hunk of man in all those pictures, the one with a permanent scowl who is never looking at the camera? That is Stiles’s boyfriend.”
Stiles realized that he should feel more uncomfortable with ‘Derek’ and ‘Stiles’s boyfriend’ in the same sentence. He was also a little surprised to find that Derek was actually in all of the pictures. That in itself should be more shocking. It wasn’t something that he had purposefully done. He noticed that he had a few of Derek in nearly nothing.
Maybe he had meant to do that.
Carl turned to Stiles. “Your boyfriend looks like a serial killer, which is to be expected, I guess.”
Stiles resisted the urge to shoot Carl with the gun he could see that Lydia had hastily concealed.
“Thanks,” Stiles told him with fake sweetness. “I’m sure he and his young son, who will undoubtedly look just like him, appreciate it.”
Henry was currently staring hostility at the man, doing what his little baby self could do to protect the honor of his father and also the face he would probably grow into.
Stiles decided that Henry might be his favorite person right now.
“It needs to get out of here,” Carl decided.
Henry started growling, and Stiles was pretty sure that he was getting little baby claws embedded into his chest.
Lydia reacted and moved forward, giving that evil-too-full-of-teeth smile. “Let’s talk in the hall for a minute.”
Lydia pulled Carl out of the room.
Stiles went back into his desk. He was sure that having Henry here would be fine. He murmured little words of comfort and ran his hand soothingly over Henry’s back. The little claws disappeared, but Henry’s death grip didn’t let up.
He typed a few words on the computer before Henry became insistent and he was forced to play airplane with him. To be fair, it wasn’t too hard. Stiles would much rather play airplane with Henry than finish his work.
Lydia came back in with a triumphant look.
“You’re all set,” she said.
“You’re a goddess among the manipulations of the fairer sex,” Stiles told her.
Lydia smiled and yawned. Stiles looked at the clock on his dresser. It was four am. “So maybe a couple of hours of sleep?”
Lydia looked at the full-sized bed.
“I can take the floor,” Stiles offered.
Lydia snorted. “With a baby? Don’t worry, your virtue is safe with me.”
Stiles sighed. “Thank god. I don’t think I could have stood sleeping on the floor.”
Lydia grabbed a shirt and boxers and went to the bathroom to change. Stiles stripped off his shirt and found pajama bottoms. He and Henry were in bed and mostly asleep when Lydia came to bed.
“Try not to smush the baby,” Lydia said as she got into bed.
“Pretty sure that he can bench press me,” Stiles murmured.
Lydia snorted. “I’m pretty sure I can bench press you.”
“Try not to molest me,” Stiles replied sleepily.
Lydia yawned and muttered. “And risk the ire of the Hales? No thank you.”
Stiles woke up to the sound of a gasp. He was instantly awake, since years of late night visitors had made him sensitive to small noises. He could sleep through his alarm like no one’s business, but something quiet, like a whisper or the slide of a window opening, would take him from dream to reality in a flash.
Stiles opened his eyes. Lydia was sitting up on the other side of the bed, breathing hard. Her eyes were wide as she looked around the room.
She looked like she was about to cry.
It was Henry who beat her to the punch. He let out his mouth and let out a howl that Stiles hadn’t heard yet. When he managed to find the baby amongst his sheets, he saw that Henry was wolfed out. He had fluffy little sideburns and a few baby wolf teeth. His little green eyes glowed yellow. There was an almost ferocious growl emanating from his little chest.
Whatever Lydia was reacting to had Henry on high alert. Stiles scooped him up and began making soothing noises.
“It’s okay little guy,” Stiles said, noting where all of the guns in the room were. “We’re safe. Lydia and I will keep you safe.”
Henry’s growling went down, but he didn’t shift back. Stiles rocked him quietly and looked at Lydia.
She swallowed and tried to calm. Stiles tried not to let his heartbeat go too quickly.
He was well aware what that look from Lydia was, what it meant when Lydia was scared of a place. Death would happen here if they stayed.
“How quickly can you be ready to leave?” she asked.
Stiles looked around his room, full of books and baby items. It looked like a bomb went off in it. He had quite a few things that he would need if he had to go anywhere, but he could survive without most of it. He had his guns and an emergency stash of cash that he always kept because he had been doing this for a very long time. He judged the room and considered what he could fit in his Jeep.
He looked back at Lydia and then got out of bed, propping Henry up on the pillow. He took one of his guns with him and put in in the back of his pajamas. He grabbed the keys off of his dresser.
“There's a twenty-four hour Wal-Mart three blocks away,” Stiles finally decided. “Take my Jeep, get a car seat. I can be packed by the time you get back.”
Lydia jumped out of bed and threw herself at Stiles.
“You really are the most amazing,” she whispered.
Stiles hugged her close. “I have to make a quick stop by the library because we are finishing this thesis wherever you decide we need to go. I’m so graduating.”
Lydia went to her bags and pulled out clothes. Stiles turned his back and checked on Henry, who seemed to be about ready to start bawling. He picked up the baby and held him to his naked chest.
“Really.” Lydia sighed. “You’re making me regret not taking you up on your offers back in high school.”
Stiles turned around, and she was dressed and looking at him and Henry.
“You’re really like domestic porn,” she told him. “Half naked, with that baby.”
Stiles shrugged. “Isn’t this when we have sexy times, on the lam, full of worry and emotion? In the movie version of this event, this is totally when we’d be having sex.”
Lydia laughed shakily. “You wish. Besides, you’ve got claws in you so deep, nobody else stands a chance.”
It was then that Lydia walked over and seemed to look at Henry for the first time. She reached out a perfectly manicured nail and touched his little hands. He looked at it for moment, then he grasped her finger and changed back into a human-looking child again.
Lydia nodded, small smile on her lips. Then she went to the desk and picked up her purse. She took out her phone and took a picture.
Stiles rolled his eyes.
“What?” Lydia shrugged. “I’m pretty sure daddy is going to be very interested in this picture when he gets back. Parents love that stuff, pictures of their kids and the loves of their lives.”
Stiles raised his eyebrow. “So this really is going to be a thing.”
“Pretty sure this has been a thing for a really long time,” Lydia said with a wink. “Hurry up and pack, we have to go.”
Stiles knew where the books that he was looking for were. Nobody in college really focused on the big books of fairy tales. Stiles had spent so much time looking through them during the course of writing his thesis. He walked through the stacks, feeling a little nostalgic for his college career. He knew that it was ending. It was time.
After this, he was going home. They were all going to be all right and alive, and he was going to go home. He missed them so much it ached. He wanted to know that they all were okay.
“I’m walking through the library with a baby in a Bjorn and a loaded gun,” Stiles said.
“You really are a man of the modern age,” Lydia replied.
Her eyes were scanning the room, watching Stiles and Henry avidly. Stiles resisted the urge to ask her if she saw death around him. He wanted to ask every five seconds, but he managed to only ask every other minute.
“I am a skinny white boy from Beacon Hills,” Stiles sighed. “I’m getting a graduate degree from Stanford. How did this happen?”
“You decided to go see a dead body. Life went downhill from there,” Lydia commented absentmindedly. “Really, all of this is your fault.”
Stiles made a contemplative noise. “I choose to think that everything that has happened in our lives since I was sixteen is a direct result of something that Gerard Argent did.”
“Still, you entered into everything when you followed your father into the woods,” Lydia pointed out.
Stiles stopped and smacked himself in the head.
Lydia nodded, getting it at the same moment. “You need to call your father and talk about baseball.”
Stiles turned to her. “I really don’t want to.”
He didn’t want to ask. He didn’t want to know if his Beacon Hills family wasn’t going to make it to Christmas dinner. He wasn’t ready to know if anyone had died while he was gossiping with Lydia and writing his thesis.
Lydia slipped her hand into his and rested her head on his shoulder. Even Henry seemed to burrow deeper into him.
Stiles felt their weight. He knew he wasn’t alone. No matter the outcome or the potential loss, he wasn’t alone.
He silently thanked Scott and Derek for that much.
Lydia was at the door, very carefully not touching anything. Stiles was trying to clean Henry, who wouldn’t stop crying.
A woman approached the rest stop bathroom.
“It’s out of order,” Lydia informed her, with no room for argument.
The woman looked warily at Lydia, but she walked away.
“This is ridiculous,” Stiles said, getting another wet wipe. “I’m going to write a strongly worded letter to the state of California. It's stupid that rest station bathrooms don’t have changing tables in the men’s rooms. There are single fathers, there are gay fathers, there are male fathers! I thought that California was more liberal, that they knew better than this.”
Lydia looked at him with amusement, it was the first thing time since they had woken up that she didn’t look haunted. The sunshine and the wind seemed to do her good, as well as getting farther away from the place of doom and death.
“Motherhood has already made you want to change the world,” Lydia remarked.
Stiles shot her a look of death. He picked up Henry, who was once again in clean diapers. He tried to clean up the area as best as possible, but it really was a lost cause.
“If I never see another rest area bathroom again it will be too soon,” Lydia prompted as they walked out of the rest area. “Why do you end up always in rest station bathrooms?”
“Because abandoned buildings and rest stop bathrooms are my mecca. Where are we going, Lydia?” Stiles asked, shifting Henry, who was still fussy.
“We’re going to the most luxurious suite that I can find in San Francisco,” Lydia replied.
Stiles raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that a little conspicuous?”
Lydia looked at him as if he were insane. “I think that if anyone comes looking for us, they'll be looking in some dirt bag motel. We will be in a luxury suite so you can write and have Wi-Fi and so we can get room service and a pool. Also, there's security in those cheap kinds of places. We can sign in under an assumed name, and no one will be any the wiser until we get back to Beacon Hills.”
They reached the car, and Stiles opened the door to put Henry in the back seat. It had taken him and Lydia an hour to put the seat in, and between them, their IQ was around 300. They agreed never to tell anyone about it.
It only took him fifteen minutes to put Henry in the car this time. When he was done, he turned towards Lydia.
“Can we afford that?” Stiles asked. “And by we, I mean, I know that I cannot afford that whatsoever.”
Lydia shrugged. “I’m keeping my receipts. Derek will pay me back.”
“He will?” Stiles asked surprised.
“Of course,” Lydia said. “I have receipts.”
Stiles snorted. “Good luck with that.”
Lydia pursed her lips. “I’m keeping his son and you safe, and he owes me. He will be grateful. It’s all about timing.”
Stiles rolled his eyes.
“Call about baseball before we leave,” Lydia prodded.
Stiles got into the driver’s side, and Lydia jumped in the passenger side. With a sigh, he pulled out his phone and called his father.
Lydia pulled out a pen and paper.
“You’re gonna translate for me. I wasn’t there when you constructed secret code,” Lydia whispered.
Stiles rolled his eyes. “It isn’t that hard.”
Stiles grabbed the pen and tried to sound normal.
“Hey, pops,” Stiles said.
I AM ALERTING HIM TO THE FACT THAT WE’RE USING CODE.
Lydia smacked him.
“Hey, sport,” his dad replied.
HE IS ALERTING ME TO THE FACT THAT HE UNDERSTANDS.
Lydia began to poke.
“How is school going?” the Sheriff asked. “You almost done with your thesis?”
“Yeah, Lydia showed up,” Stiles replied. “She’s going to help me with the tricky stuff.”
“You taking some time off? Maybe catch a game to give your brain a break?” the Sheriff asked.
“Dunno,” Stiles said. “It looks like lots of away games.”
TOLD HIM EVERYONE IS IN DEEP SHIT.
There was a pause.
“I haven’t heard anything about it,” the Sheriff responded.
HE HASN’T HEARD FROM THEM YET.
“I heard even the Yankees might play,” Stiles said.
THEY CALLED JACKSON.
There was a moment of pause.
HE’S TRYING TO REMEMBER WHO IS THE YANKEES, WE’VE NEVER REALLY TALK ABOUT JACKSON.
Lydia grabbed the pen.
Why didn’t you call him the Mariners?
Stiles grabbed the pen.
I HAVE NO IDEA. WE SHOULD RENAME HIM.
“You’re kidding,” the Sheriff finally said.
“If that doesn’t work, I might go see the minors play,” Stiles said.
I’VE GOT THE KID.
“The Dodgers' minors?” the Sheriff said.
Lydia grabbed the pen again.
What other kid would you have?
Stiles just shrugged and grabbed the pen.
“Yeah, dad,” Stiles said.
“I don’t know the schedule,” the Sheriff said. “I guess I can see if the Commissioner’s website has any information.”
HE’S GOING TO CALL CHRIS.
“I’m gong to be busy,” Stiles said. “Don’t call unless it's important.”
HE NEEDS TO CALL ME THE SECOND HE KNOWS ANYTHING.
“Son,” his dad asked. “Who are your top picks this season?”
HE WANTS TO KNOW WHO IS INVOLVED.
“Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, Rockies, Twins, Blue Jays,” Stiles replied. “I think that the Cubs are out of commission.”
JACKSON, DEREK, ALLISON, SCOTT, ETHAN, AIDEN, ISAAC, CORA WAS TAKEN.
“Jesus,” the Sheriff swore. “Kid, get yourself to the Diamondbacks or the minors. See a game. Buy yourself some hot dogs and ice cream.”
TAKE CARE OF LYDIA AND HENRY. PREFERABLY IN NORMAL SITUATIONS.
“No worries, dad,” Stiles replied.
“Are you going to get front row seats? You should really try to get box seats,” the Sheriff asked.
“Right, dad,” Stiles replied as he began to tap the steering wheel. “I’m going to try to see if I can sit on the benches.”
Stiles hung up. He knocked the phone against his lip and then looked at Lydia.
“What was that last part?” Lydia asked.
“He’ll call us when there is something to tell. No updates,” Stiles replied. “It’s safer that way. He also wants me to work on my thesis.”
Lydia smiled. “Same old Sheriff. You can have all the werewolf bloody disasters you want, but you better do well in school.”
Stiles smiled and looked back towards the road that he had driven from Stanford.
“Well, it worked,” Stiles commented and then looked forward.
Stiles pulled out of the rest station.
“Stiles,” Lydia said after they had traveled a bit.
“Lydia,” Stiles replied, looking straight ahead.
“If anyone were listening in, would that conversation even come close to making baseball sense?” Lydia asked.
Stiles snorted. “No, but if they know enough to listen in on the conversation, they know enough that we’re not normal people.”
Lydia closed her eyes and leaned back into the thrum of the Jeep on the road.
“Thank god,” she said. “Normal people are so boring.”
“That doesn't even make sense!” Lydia yelled, pushing away the books that Stiles had carefully piled. “Can you shut him up for two seconds?”
Henry was fussing. It wasn’t anything new, but they were a little on edge.
“He’s not being that loud, and it makes perfect sense,” Stiles yelled back, looking through the metal high hats of their latest round of room service. “To those of us who have spent the past two years doing this. Why can’t you trust me?”
“I’m a thousand times smarter than you,” Lydia said. “If you can’t make me think it makes sense, then it doesn’t make sense. It means you are making shit up. I know these things. I have a real degree.”
“You do number theory!” Stiles yelled back. “You do nothing but make things up.”
“Fuck you, Stiles Stilinski,” Lydia yelled.
Stiles opened his mouth to reply, and suddenly, Henry shifted in his arms. The little yellow eyes came out, the sideburns appeared, and his four little teeth began to snap. He let out a howl.
Both Stiles and Lydia stared at him.
“I’m not a kid person,” Lydia said.
“I hadn’t noticed,” Stiles said, still staring at the mini ferocious werewolf.
“But seriously, that is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” Lydia said in awe.
Henry looked up at Stiles, his little mouth pursed in a howl.
“Seriously, Stiles,” Lydia said, calm again. “I want werewolf babies right now.”
She looked at him, her eyes wild. “We've been in this room for three days. We need to leave. Like now.”
“Leave like we’re gonna die, or leave like we need sunlight?” Stiles asked.
“Anything that stops my sudden surge of maternal instinct,” Lydia said. “Or I might be the death thing we were talking about.”
“Better?” Stiles asked.
Lydia was lying on the lounge chair, her sunglasses on, her eyes presumably closed. She looked like relaxed bliss, like everything wasn’t going crazy around them.
Stiles was in the pool next to her. It had taken an hour to coax little Henry out of his wolf and back into baby, but the three of them had gotten the concierge to bring them suits and sunscreen. Then they went to the back patio.
Stiles was swinging Henry through the water. Henry was giggling and squealing. They were getting some looks from the more elite clientele. Stiles ignored them; he’d bet Lydia against any of them.
“So much so,” Lydia said, sounding relaxed, then she pushed her sunglasses up and looked at Stiles. “A Hale in a pool. Perhaps you should be closer to the shallow end.”
“You’re hardly funny,” Stiles said, but he held Henry close and made his way to the shallow end’s stairs. He sat and let Henry splash to his heart’s content. Stiles leaned back and let the sun shine down on him.
Someone came into his sunshine. Stiles opened his eyes and looked up. There stood a tall, dark-haired man. Stiles shielded his eyes. The guy was well muscled and wearing a little red bathing suit and had a spark in his eyes. This was the kind of guy that Stiles would have taken full advantage of.
“Hey, cute kid,” the guy said.
A week ago, Stiles would have smiled back and seen what happened, but this week was different. In the past, part of Stiles knew that people he was involved with had expiration dates. Now Stiles was going home, and this guy didn’t hold any kind of interest.
“Thanks,” Stiles said easily, falling into the lie that was beginning to feel more like truth. “It’s my boyfriend’s kid.”
The guy sat down and gave Stiles a smile, not seeming to be put off by that. “So where’s the boyfriend?”
Stiles was a little impressed with the bravado, but not enough that he was going to smile back. Instead, he pulled Henry to him and tried to think of a really good way to make his lack of intent perfectly clear.
“His boyfriend is off killing some really awful people who were threatening his family.”
Stiles looked up, and Lydia was standing there, her hands on her hips and her predatory smile on her face.
The guy looked between the two of them. Stiles went to pick up Henry.
“His dad is a bit possessive,” Stiles said with an easy smile, but it held just as much warning. “It was nice meeting you.”
The guy didn’t so much get up as scramble away. Lydia took his place and leaned her head against his shoulder as they watched Henry splash and laugh.
Everything that Stiles had been trying his damnest to push away came back in full force—all of the emotion, all of the want and longing, everything he had tried not to feel for the last eight years came flooding back. He hated himself for ever leaving.
“I want Scott to be here, trying to impress Allison and Isaac with his epic cannonball skills,” Stiles said in a far away voice.
Lydia let out a little noise and put her hand in Stiles's.
“I want Allison to be laughing with you, you two whispering together,” Stiles continued. “I want Isaac to be wearing some kind of ridiculous almost speedo. I want the pack here throwing each other in the pool, seeing who can do the most flips. I want my father and Melissa to be rolling their eyes in endearment. I want Derek.”
Lydia was biting her lip and blinking. Stiles swallowed the lump in his throat and continued speaking.
“I want to go home. I want them okay. I want to see if Derek wants to date me,” Stiles finally said.
His voice was so small, he wondered if it was audible.
Stiles cleared his throat. Henry began climbing on his legs, his little eyes full of worry. He was babbling in his nonsensical way, but it seemed as if he was trying to be comforting. He was just months old, but he was drooling over Stiles and trying to be soothing.
Stiles picked up Henry and held him close he began speaking again in a normal register.
“And we’re going to put a pool up on the Hale property, and it’s all going to be okay,” Stiles stated.
Lydia reached down and took one of Henry’s hands. He held onto her finger and gave her a very charming smile.
“I just want them to all be okay,” Stiles said.
Lydia swallowed and leaned further into him. They sat like that for a moment, letting themselves feel the weight of their predicament.
“Wanna go finish your paper?” Lydia asked.
“Nope,” Stiles said.
They just sat by the pool and watched the remains of the day.
Lydia was dressed in a white fluffy bathrobe. Stiles was still dripping while toweling off Henry.
“Your conclusion is still weak,” Lydia said, trying to get them back on track, but she made a funny face at Henry. He started giggling at her.
“Derek is probably the most morose guy I know,” Lydia said when she noticed Stiles looking at her, straightening as if that never happened. “But he sure makes one happy little baby.”
“I’m sure that nobody is more surprised about that fact than Derek,” Stiles said, a small smile on his lips.
She breathed deeply and closed her eyes.
“What are you doing?” Stiles asked.
Lydia sighed. “I’m preparing for the long months ahead.”
“Will you be consoling me or trying to dig out information about just how awesome the sex is with Derek, if he looks as good without the clothes?”
“We’ve seen Derek in so much undress that I don’t have many questions on that front,” Lydia said dryly. “So you’re going to try?”
Stiles shrugged. “I’m going to go home. The rest is going to happen the way it should.”
“Hallelujah, the head comes out of the ass,” Lydia said with a grin. “So we can dress the kid and maybe finish your conclusion, and then you can go ride into the sunset with the dark and broody werewolf.”
“That is the plan,” Stiles said, shifting Henry on his hip and looking over at his phone.
He nearly fell off the bed grabbing for it.
“What's going on?” Lydia asked.
“I have forty-three messages,” Stiles said. His voice sounded panicked and high-pitched.
“Fuck,” Lydia said, crossing the room.
She looked over his shoulder as he scrolled through the messages.
“I think everyone that I have ever known has called,” Stiles screeched. “Derek called twenty times. Fuck. Fuck.”
“Language. There is a child,” Lydia said, equally freaked out. “And don’t listen to his messages, just call Derek.”
Stiles looked at the phone as if he had never seen it before.
“Call Derek,” Lydia said through gritted teeth. She looked like she was going to jump across the room and do it for him if he didn’t get in gear.
Stiles was still for a moment. Then he snapped back in his body and pressed the keys with lightning fast speed. It rang one ring and then was picked up.
“Stiles,” Derek said, his voice that cracking ambiguous voice that meant that he was just about to lose his shit.
“Derek, it’s me,” Stiles said in a rush. “I’m sorry I didn’t pick up, we were taking a break, we were swimming, we didn’t want to worry about bringing the phones to the pool, because that is how phones get ruined. So I left it here. I swear it wasn’t that long.”
“Stiles, shut up,” Derek growled.
“Shutting up,” Stiles muttered.
“Where are you?” Derek said in a tone of voice that was pretty much ground glass. “Just tell me where the fuck you are.”
“San Francisco,” Stiles answered, fumbling for the phone to put it on speaker.
“Damn it,” Derek said. There was the loud squeal of tires in the background.
“I’m on my way, Chris and Isaac are following me,” Derek went on.
“Okay,” Stiles said.
Lydia’s eyes got wide. She looked around.
Derek was quiet, but Stiles was pretty sure that he was grinding his teeth to dust.
“Tell me what's going on,” Stiles demanded. “I can’t do anything unless you tell me what's going on.” He tried to sound soothing but failed completely.
“We got the pack,” Derek said. “Except for Henry’s grandmother. She escaped. She had a scryer, but we got there and destroyed the setup. Your dad put the scryer in prison, but Henry’s grandmother had already been told where you are. She’s going to find the scent. She’s going to find you. You have to get out now. Take Henry and every single gun and wolfsbane bullet, and get the fuck out of wherever she thinks you are.”
Lydia was up like a shot across the room. She was calling the front desk.
“Hi this is Ada Lovelace,” Lydia said in a rush. “Gordon and I have an absolute emergency. We need someone to pack up the room and send everything to Beacon Hills for us. We are leaving right now.”
Lydia struggled out of her suit. She was naked in the middle of the room, and all Stiles could think was that he didn’t know what to do first, guns, find clothing, or just run. None of his thoughts gave a moment’s notice to the fact that Lydia Martin was naked in the middle of the room that they had been sharing.
He wanted to get dressed, get Henry’s stuff, and get the hell out. They weren’t safe here.
Lydia came over, fully dressed, and took the baby from Stiles.
“Get dressed,” she said, then effortlessly and gracefully began to dress Henry.
Stiles followed her lead and began to clumsily get into his clothes. It would have been easier if he hung up, but he couldn’t.
“Tell me about her,” Stiles said. “I need information.”
“She’s a bitch,” Derek ground out. “You met her at the hand fasting negotiations.”
Stiles searched his mind and tried to pull up his pants before realizing that he had both feet in the same leg.
“Old lady, crafty as hell, beta,” Stiles remembered.
“Yeah, that's her,” Derek replied. “Don’t ever underestimate her. She absolutely will not stop until she has everything she wants.”
“And she wants Henry?” Stiles asked, going to his guns and methodically loading them.
“Yes,” Derek grit out.
“Derek, talk to me,” Stiles said, checking the guns and then reaching for ammo. “See, the very big implication of this all is that she’s going to take Henry. In that scenario I’m pretty sure that I’m dead, I’d like not to be, so do me a favor and tell me…”
“She killed Meg,” Derek said.
“Fuck,” Stiles said, stilling.
“We broke their pack,” Derek continued. “Stiles, keep loading those guns.”
“Stupid werewolf hearing,” Stiles muttered.
“She killed Meg, and it was bad,” Derek said. “We did a lot of damage, and there aren’t many people left in their pack. We’ve omegaed anyone who was left. Grandma doesn’t have anything left except for the child you are holding. She’s coming after you, and she is going to take him.”
Lydia had two bags packed. One was guns, the other was a diaper bag. Henry was looking up with wide eyes from her arms, startled but quiet. She grabbed the phone.
“If I remember correctly, Evil Granny is a tracker?” Lydia asked, putting the phone on speaker.
“Yes,” Stiles could hear Derek say.
“So we need to get somewhere that she can’t track us?” Lydia asked.
“Do you have an idea?” Derek said.
“If she knows we’re at this hotel, she’s going to come here and catch our scents?” Lydia asked.
“I don’t suppose that burning the hotel down is an option?” Stiles muttered.
“Tell him that's Plan B,” Derek said.
Lydia raised an eyebrow. “Not time for jokes, Derek Hale.”
“Not a joke,” Derek told her.
“There is a tannery on the edge of town, by the water,” Lydia said. “Tanneries smell so bad with chemicals and all of that, so we’re going to go there and hide out. It isn’t big, so we can only hide for so long in there, but it will give you time to get there.”
“Is it safe?” Derek asked.
“Is anywhere safe for us right now?” Stiles countered.
“Okay, so we’re going to the tannery,” Lydia said. “We’re going to hide out among the chemicals, and you’re going to find us.”
“I’ll be there in half an hour,” Derek said.
“Just how fast are you driving?” Stiles asked. “This plan is no good if you crash.”
There was the sound of sirens, and then Derek was back.
“Did you steal a police car?” Stiles asked.
“Your dad let me steal it,” Derek said.
“We’re going to let you go,” Lydia said. “A horrible car crash because you're talking on the phone would be counterproductive to this rescue that we’re expecting.”
“Lydia,” Derek growled.
“Yeah, Derek, they’ll be all in one piece when you get here,” Lydia said softly, as she hung up the phone.
Stiles looked at her,
“Lyds,” Stiles said weakly.
“No,” Lydia said with absolute certainty. “You are not going to make this the second that you think that we’re not going to make it. You are not going to momentarily consider that we might not make it out of here alive. There will always be time. We will always have more time. You’re going to take this as a moment of fucking carpe diem, and we’re going to fight our asses off to make it out of here. All three of us are going to be perfectly okay.”
Stiles nodded and handed her a gun. He put two more handguns in the ammo bag.
“We’re stocked?” Stiles said.
Lydia nodded. “Shotguns are in the car?”
“Let’s go,” Stiles said, moving to go. Then he stopped and turned around to her. “Do you see death around me?”
Lydia cocked her head. “Nope.”
“I can’t tell if you're lying to me, or if you're sure,” Stiles said.
Lydia opened her mouth. Stiles held up his hand.
“Don’t tell me,” Stiles said.
Lydia nodded. “Good plan, let’s get out of here.”
“Is this supposed to look like this?” Stiles asked, squinting in the setting sun. “It didn’t feel right in the library, but I think we want to be sure now."
Lydia adjusted the Bjorn on him.
“How do I know?” Lydia said. “I’ve never even babysat before.”
Stiles shimmied, and Henry clung to him. Stiles wasn’t going to let go of him, not until he put the baby in his father’s arms.
“Please just don’t start crying,” Stiles said, cupping Henry’s butt and grabbing the bag with the other. He slung the bag over his shoulder, then tucked a handgun in his pants and grabbed another.
Lydia grabbed a shotgun and cocked it.
“So the plan is to break into the tannery and hide out,” Stiles stated.
“In the delightful olfactory odors,” Lydia agreed.
“It’s sad that breaking in is second nature to us,” Stiles remarked.
Lydia snorted. “You knew how to do this before werewolves even entered your life.”
“True,” Stiles said, breaking into the back door of the tannery. “Hanging out in the police station with criminals has taught me some great things. You should see what I can do with handcuffs.”
Lydia snorted. “Save it for Hale.”
Stiles grinned despite himself, but moved on from that conversation. “Not my fault that the security in this place sucks.”
The door opened.
“Oh, great, a storeroom with tons of raw hides,” Lydia said, breathing in her last bit of clean air. “At least it isn’t another abandoned building.”
They entered the dark room. Stiles locked the door behind them and moved some pylons to jam the door shut. Henry grasped at Stiles, and Stiles tried to comfort him, tried to keep himself calm. Henry didn’t start bawling, so Stiles thought that he was doing something right.
“We’re waiting to be attacked,” Lydia muttered.
“Let’s call it taking a stand,” Stiles replied
Stiles looked around and let his eyes adjust to the dark. Lydia came into his space. Stiles checked the entrances. They were safe and surrounded by half cured hides.
They sat in silence for a while, just waiting. Stiles clicked at the safety on his gun nervously. His ADD had calmed down, but in times of great stress, it came back in full force.
“Do you know why I came?” Lydia asked quietly, her hand covering his, where he was fidgeting.
Stiles shrugged, not knowing if he wanted to know that answer. “Scott called, and you knew something bad was going down?”
Lydia shook her head. “Nope.”
“Because you didn’t want to be alone while our friends went off to their potential deaths?” Stiles offered. “You were worried about me?”
Stiles could see Lydia now. Her wide eyes were serious and luminescent.
“I knew something bad was going to happen,” Lydia whispered into the room. “I knew when Allison called me. I knew when Jackson called me. I got that chill at the base of my spine, but I couldn’t do anything. It was just a tingle. Death was around them, but that night when you Skyped me, I saw something. It was like a ghoul was hanging over you.”
Stiles took a deep breath and Lydia touched his arm.
“Am I going to die, Lyds?” Stiles asked, a knot in the back of his throat.
There was a banging at the door and a low growl.
Lydia cocked her gun. “You die, I die. So try not to.”
Stiles looked at his handgun. “That has always been the plan.”
He held Henry closer to him and pulled out the gun. He motioned for her as the clanging increased, and they went further into the building. They entered into the main floor. There were piles of dyed leather on the ground, reeking of chemicals from dyeing. There were hides hanging from racks, like a twisted parody of a laundry mat.
The odor was pervasive. Stiles held Henry to him. He was clinging to Stiles, his little fists nearly white, his face buried in Stiles’s chest. He had been quiet up to this point, but when they walked into the main floor, he started fussing.
“Shh,” Stiles comforted. “Please, Henry, this is important. I really need you to be quiet. Please, baby, just be quiet until daddy comes or until we start shooting, and then you can scream your head off.”
Henry burrowed deeper into Stiles’s chest. Stiles could feel his nails grow and see the tufts of his side burns. He still made little whimpering noises, but he didn’t get any louder.
Lydia lifted her gun and looked around. She motioned for Stiles to follow her up the stairs to the back. There was an office there, and she slipped in the door. Stiles looked back at the door from where they came. They could hear the clanging of the outside door. Lydia leaned against a wall, staring at the door. Stiles moved to stand next to her.
Stiles’s phone buzzed. He grabbed it quickly and silenced it and then looked at the text message on the phone.
“Derek is here,” Stiles whispered, cupping Henry’s head to his chest. He reached in the bag and handed Lydia ammo for her shotgun. They could hear a clanging of the door. Evil Grandmother Wolf seemed to not care about being quiet. Lydia took the ammo and double-checked the barrels.
“You should scream,” Stiles finally said
Lydia looked at him incredulously. “I’m not that girl in the horror movies. It will bring her right here.”
“It will also bring Derek,” Stiles said.
Lydia smiled. “You sure?”
Stiles thought about it. The past eight years had taught him a few things. It had taught him faith, even in the times that it was misplaced. It had taught him that no matter how things looked, it always turned out okay. It taught him that Derek, as cryptic as he could be, didn’t give up on those that he considered pack, that he considered family.
Stiles was sure.
“Scream, Lydia,” Stiles said, cocking his gun. “I’ve got you.”
Lydia grinned. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She opened her eyes, opened her mouth, and let out a scream.
To Stiles, it was just a normal scream. It was a bit piercing, but not a big deal. He could hear Evil Grandmother Wolf making a lot of painful noise before heading up the stairs.
Lydia steeled herself. “These are wolfsbane, right?”
“Yeah,” Stiles said. “But they take a little bit to work.”
“I bet three or four clips would make it act faster,” Lydia replied.
“You’re so bad ass,” Stiles told her.
“It’s just werewolf science,” Lydia replied.
It was at that moment that the gnarled werewolf jumped through the door. Her blue eyes glowed in the darkness.
Lydia and Stiles were momentarily stunned. They had their guns raised, but even after all this, they knew that this was Henry’s grandmother. They didn’t want to shoot her out of fear. Henry started screaming, and the wolf moved forward.
Everything seemed to go in slow motion.
Stiles scrambled backwards as the wolf leapt towards him. Stiles held Henry to him and braced himself against the wall. He pressed the trigger. Lydia fired the shotgun. Stiles could see her grin from the side of his eyes.
He knew at that moment that there was absolutely no doubt that there was death around Evil Grandmother Wolf.
Lydia ran out of bullets. She opened her mouth to yell again as she reloaded her shotgun. Stiles steadily fired at the wolf, giving her cover.
The noises were loud in the empty room. Stiles didn’t flinch. He had never felt so calm. He lifted his gun and fired again. He emptied the clip into the werewolf, putting as many of his bullets as he could into the wolf’s head. Blood sprayed everywhere. Stiles held Henry to him, trying to shelter the baby as much as he possibly could. Stiles breathed every time he pressed the trigger, sure and clean.
When the chamber of the gun was empty, Stiles held his breath, watching the wolf stagger forward. His hand fell, the gun suddenly too heavy. Stiles wrapped his arm around Henry, who was screaming now. Stiles couldn’t take his eyes away from the intruder to check on him. He just watched and attempted to figure out how he was going to protect Henry. He could hear Lydia reloading her gun as the wolf tried to draw herself forward.
Stiles had tunnel vision; he couldn’t look away from the nearly dead wolf. He wanted to let go of Henry, to reload his gun. He wanted to do more, but Henry was growling and terrified, and Stiles couldn’t let go of him. Stiles knew he would tear the wolf apart with his very human teeth if it came down to it. Henry was not leaving his arms.
The door exploded, and with a snarl, blue eyes dashed into the room. Claws grabbed the half dead werewolf and snapped her neck so hard, Stiles was pretty sure that the head nearly came off.
Derek stood there, wearing black and the leather jacket. Derek’s hands were covered in blood, splatters marked his face. He was breathing hard, staring at Stiles still braced against the wall, holding Henry close.
Stiles didn’t move. He could hear Lydia breathing next to him. She was fine, untouched. Stiles couldn’t shake the calm, the numbness.
Derek was in front of them in a flash. When he came into Stiles’s field of view, Stiles still couldn’t process anything. He could only look at Derek’s face. His stubble was overgrown—whatever had gone on in the last few weeks had not lent itself to personal grooming. Sharp fangs still protruded from his perfect mouth. His eyes were blazing blue, and Stiles couldn’t look away. He had never looked into Derek’s eyes when he was shifted. They seemed to be light, they seemed to glow with halogen light. Stiles wanted to paint the world in that color.
Stiles tried to focus. He knew that his thoughts were going off on a tangent that didn’t make sense, but he couldn’t seem to bring them back.
Then Derek’s face showed every emotion, every vulnerability that he had. Stiles could see the fear of losing everything again. There was worry and stark, raging fear.
One of Derek’s hands went to skim over his son’s head, but his eyes didn’t leave Stiles’s face.
Derek leaned in to breathe in their scents. Stiles couldn’t close his eyes. He had to see Derek’s skin, the hairs of his stubble, the curve of his ear.
Stiles couldn’t be delusional at this moment. There was a dead werewolf in the room. The live werewolf reached out and cupped Stiles’s face, looking it over for injury.
“Are you..” Derek rasped out through those gigantic teeth, blue eyes blazing.
Derek ran his hands lightly over Stiles, just like he had Henry. It seemed like reassurance to Derek, a sureness that Stiles was still there. His other hand stayed on Henry.
Henry was choking back sobs, calming slightly from his hysteria with every touch from his father.
“He’s scared,” Stiles whispered. “He was scared.”
Derek’s fangs retracted. His face was scared too.
“I’m okay,” Stiles rasped out. His entire need was to make Derek okay again.
Derek didn’t look convinced. He reached for the Bjorn. Stiles didn’t move his arms. He was trying, but his body wasn’t reacting to his mind.
Stiles let out a dry laugh, almost hysterical. “I just don’t think that I can let go of him right now.
Derek slid down, curling into them. His lips went to Stiles’s temple. It wasn’t a kiss, just a ghosting. They could hold to their line, to the fact that they were just friends.
“You don’t have to,” Derek replied hoarsely.
Stiles didn’t care, couldn’t find enough to want to. He slid the last little bit into Derek’s arms. He closed his eyes and breathed, because he knew he was safe.
“I’m fine, too, thank you very much,” Lydia said.
Stiles had forgotten about her about the time that Derek’s eyes had come into view.
Derek looked over at her. He took the hand off of Henry and reached out to her. She pushed off the wall and over to him. Derek pulled her into the protective circle of his arms. For a couple of minutes, they stayed like that, huddled together. Henry’s whimpering had abated to a low hiccup.
Lydia was the first to move from their little pile. Derek looked up at her. She was staring at the body. Derek stood up and gently pulled her towards the door.
“Let’s get out of here,” Derek said.
Derek put an arm around Lydia, and they walked around the body to the door. Stiles braced himself against the wall and pushed himself up to a standing position. He didn’t let go of Henry or the gun.
Derek waited until Stiles was in front of him before walking out. Stiles held tightly to Henry. Derek followed with Lydia under his arm, his eyes never leaving Stiles.
Stiles stopped and looked back into the room.
“Shouldn’t we do some kind of clean up?” Stiles asked, feeling like he was still in a daze.
Derek shook his head. “There is an abandoned cop car stolen from some killings in Beacon Hills outside. Your father already has it reported. Things will happen based on the best assumption. Although…”
Derek pulled out a phone. Stiles wished that he had given up on feeling guilty for his father’s involvement long ago. His father would move heaven and earth to protect him. He had done far and away more than he ever should have had to. Ever since he found out about Stiles, Scott, and the pack, the Sheriff had been unflaggingly, if not overprotectively, loyal.
Stiles looked down at Henry. He suddenly understood.
He looked up at Derek, who was just looking at Stiles, his phone call over.
Lydia was the one who cleared her throat and broke the moment.
“So somewhere out there is a Chris Argent and an Isaac Lahey in a car, almost here and turning back,” Lydia said, looking between the two of them. “So somewhere out there are lots of horribly embarrassing questions being asked. The ones that Scott and Allison don’t want to share about the relationship between the three of them.”
Stiles looked at her for a second. He felt his emotion return. He felt the feather light feeling of giddiness rise in his stomach. He felt the hysteria rise.
He looked at Derek, and it hit him full force. He had nearly lost everything. He had always thought there would be time, that there would be an opportunity to grow up and then one day see what these sparks were between him and Derek. He was twenty-four. He had always thought that there would be time.
He lurched forward, tearing the Bjorn from him, ignoring the startled noise from Henry and the tear of his shirt under his little werewolf claws. He thrust Henry into Derek’s arms and made it outside just in time to heave up the last of the room service all over the dusty grass area. He could feel the panic attack rise. He knew he was shaking, but he couldn’t stop.
Derek was next to him in a second, strong hand on his back.
He could feel the world closing in on him. The only thing that anchored him was the hand on his back.
“Breathe,” Derek said, hot against his ear.
Stiles focused on the presence of Derek and the air going in and out of his lungs. He focused on it and not the fact that his body was trembling.
Derek’s head popped up. “Sirens.”
Stiles lifted his head and saw Lydia holding Henry.
“Get in the Jeep,” Stiles said, lifting a hand to rub at his mouth.
Derek helped him get up, and they all stumbled to the car. Stiles fumbled in his pockets to get his keys and wordlessly handed them to Derek. He was well aware of his limitations at this point. Derek manhandled Stiles into the backseat, where Lydia had already strapped Henry into his car seat.
His face was still blotchy from crying, but he was back to human form, looking up wildly at Stiles. Stiles put a shaking hand on him and tried to breathe normally. He tried to focus on Henry. He put a hand on Henry’s chest, and Henry’s little hands grabbed his fingers and held on for dear life.
“On the way home, you will drive the speed limit,” Lydia was saying from some far away place. “There is a baby on board, you have blood all over you, and this Jeep will not go over seventy.”
“Hey,” Derek defended. “This Jeep will get us where we need to go.”
On the edge of his mind, Derek’s defense of his baby put the final nail in the coffin of his resolve about not admitting his feelings for Derek.
He was just going to close his eyes. It totally wasn’t putting anything off. He would totally deal with it tomorrow. When he could get his mouth and his brain working right. It wasn’t putting it off; he wasn’t going to do that anymore.
He was just going to take a little nap.
Stiles woke up to someone wiping him down. It really wasn’t the first time that someone else had been cleaning him. Which said something about his life.
Stiles opened his eyes a little; it was hard fighting the exhaustion.
Allison was leaning over him. It took Stiles far too long to figure out that Derek was holding him and they were sitting on the toilet in Derek’s bathroom.
Stiles yawned and blinked.
“Hi, Allison,” he said sleepily.
“Shhh, just let me clean you up,” she said, dimples appearing, but worry still in her eyes.
Stiles tried to sort through his brain to make conclusions.
“Hmmm,” he said as the cool rag got the sticky blood off his face. He looked down at Derek’s arms and saw the black veins there.
“M’not hurt,” Stiles said, trying to move.
“You’re exhausted, and you had a adrenaline crash, so shut up and let us take care of you,” Derek said gruffly.
Stiles made a grumpy face but let them do what they were doing. It felt warm and comforting. He was okay with letting it happen. He was okay with letting someone else be the strong one. That's what packs were for.
After a couple of minutes, he opened his eyes. “Scott? Cora?”
“Cora is okay,” Derek said from behind him, his voice rumbling through Stiles’s back. Stiles giggled because it tickled. “She’s sleeping with Henry. She’s really tired. I think she’ll sleep for a couple of days. Henry is zonked out with her. It seems like his adventure has taken a lot out of him.”
Stiles opened his eyes a little and looked at Allison. “He’s a good boy. Scott?”
She bit her lip. “He’s okay. They nearly tore off his arm.”
“What?” Stiles said, trying to get up.
Allison put a hand to his chest. “He’s okay, he’s healing and resting. Isaac is with him. He’ll be okay in a little bit.”
Stiles slunk back down, and Derek shifted. Stiles had often idly considered it, but finding out that Derek, mass of muscle and snark, was actually really comfortable to sit on was highly pleasing. Stiles relaxed and let Allison clean him up.
When she was done, she gave them a little smile and kissed Stiles on the cheek. “I’m going to go. You shower when you get up, but take a nice long nap. I’ll have Scott come over when he’s up for it.”
Stiles gave her a sleepy smile. He stood up shakily, and Derek was up behind him, leading him out of the bathroom to Derek’s ginormous California king, which was more like a huge plateau of soft pillowy comfort than a bedlike structure.
Stiles pushed Derek away and proceeded to face plant on the bed. He wasn’t planning on moving again for a very long time.
Stiles woke up slowly, buried under a ton of blankets. He began to attempt to fight his way out and managed to pop his head out of the pigsty he was in. He braced himself for the mass amounts of light that pervaded Derek’s loft. It was bright and daylight, and Stiles hated it for a minute.
He blinked again. He listened and could hear Derek playing with some sort of rattle that Henry seemed to be appreciating. It was soft and like a home that he had never known.
Stiles closed his eyes and breathed in deep. Derek Hale was a cleaning Nazi. The room smelled fresh and like Derek. Stiles grinned.
He got out of bed, slowly stretching.
“Sweat pants and t-shirts are in the top right of the bureau,” Derek’s voice yelled to him from downstairs.
Stiles rolled his eyes. As if that was something that he didn’t know. This was hardly the first time that he had slept over here. Stiles listened for anyone else. Usually, there were two or three other people kicking around the house or around the bed.
There didn’t seem to be anyone here, though. There was only the rattle and Henry’s baby babble.
Stiles raised his eyebrow, but he pulled out the sweatpants and padded downstairs. He debated whether or not to put on a shirt. Most of the time, it was as if all the wolves were allergic to shirts. However, this morning, it seemed as if it were warranted.
Stiles entered the kitchen to find Derek sitting cross-legged in front of Henry.
“Where is everyone?” Stiles yawned.
Derek didn’t look up. “Scott, Isaac, and Allison are probably all curled up at their house,” Derek said, playing with one of Henry’s toys. “Cora is in her room sleeping. They knocked her out, and she's kind of woozy. The twins are off doing whatever it is they do wherever it is they do it. Lydia took Jackson when we got in. She said something about wanting to talk without the prying werewolf ears around.“
Derek sounded personally offended that he would use his superior hearing for something like listening in on a discussion between Lydia and Jackson.
Stiles mentally cursed Lydia. He was very sure that she was being her usual meddling self, leaving him with Derek. Or maybe she thought she was being a good friend.
Stiles was still up for confronting all of his feelings, but he figured that maybe it would be after a shower or at least after coffee.
Derek got up and went to the counter. Stiles couldn’t see what he was doing, but when he turned around, he had a steaming cup of coffee. Wordlessly and without looking up, he handed the cup to Stiles.
Stiles took it greedily. It was the perfect shade of peanut butter brown, and after a far too hot sip, it Stiles was happy to find that it had his perfect shot of sugar.
He made happy noises.
That got Derek’s attention. Stiles took the cup away from his lips and licked away a drop of the coffee. Derek watched the action
So that's where they were at. The look in Derek’s eyes was clear that he liked sleep-rumpled Stiles. Stiles took a sip of coffee to hide the huge grin on his face. Derek rolled his eyes and turned around.
“Your father stopped by,” Derek said, looking composed.
Stiles raised his eyebrows. “I’m surprised he didn’t take me home or sleep on the couch.”
Derek looked uncomfortable. “He tried, but I figured you needed sleep and he did too, he hasn’t slept much in the last few weeks.”
Stiles tilted his head and looked at him. “Thank you.”
Derek shifted. “And it was good for Henry. He seems to have gotten used to having you around.”
Stiles smiled and lay down on his stomach next to Henry. Henry rocked and clapped his hands. Stiles played ‘stole your nose’ with him. Henry scrunched up his nose and tried to grab for Stiles.
“If he bites you, I’m going to let him,” Derek said dryly.
Stiles looked at Henry, who looked slightly vicious and adorable at the same time.
“He’s just a bitty beta,” Stiles defended.
“It still hurts,” Derek pointed out, having poured himself a cup of coffee. He was sipping it, leaning against the counter.
“Don’t I know it,” Stiles said. “For a child with so few teeth, he can sure bite.”
“That’s my boy,” Derek said, not even bothering to conceal his pride.
Stiles swallowed at the ease of this morning. Derek had done a good job of making this place homey.
“Did she live here?” Stiles asked without thinking, looking around. There weren’t any traces of Meg anywhere.
Derek’s face went blank. Stiles realized there were probably about fifty-seven reasons that he could immediately think of that saying that probably ruined the morning and the good mood.
When Derek answered, his voice was cold and empty. “No.”
Stiles swallowed. Derek wasn’t telling him to get out, which was a good thing. Apparently now was the serious portion of their morning conversation. Stiles wished that he had more coffee to deal with this.
“Explain werewolf customs to me,” Stiles tried again. “Explain to me what I wouldn’t sit down for before.”
Derek just looked at him, his eyes closed and guarded. It was so much like the Derek Hale he had first met. Stiles bit back apologies.
“Hand fasting is a way of combining the packs,” Derek finally said. “It doesn’t always have to be sexual, a hand fasting can secure lineage or be a peace treaty. It’s always business, it’s almost always impersonal. I’m sure that you got most of that when you helped out.”
Stiles looked down at his hands. Derek sounded so clinical, not like it was something that he had done and had a child from.
“First, I didn’t ‘help out,’ I hammered out the agreement,” Stiles said. “I’m like the greatest werewolf lawyer in the world. Second, you all made it seem like some sort of twisted pre-nup.”
Derek shrugged. “I let you think that. It seems like what was in your head.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Stiles asked. “Why didn’t you make me understand?”
“Why didn’t you ask me to stop it?” Derek snapped.
It was so painfully honest, crossing all of their bullshit, that it tore something in Stiles. Derek waited until Stiles looked up.
“You wanted to go to grad school,” Derek replied as if that had never been said.
Stiles just stared at him. “I really wasn’t committed until after this scheme. You were getting hand fasted. I didn’t get it, didn’t want to get it, wanted to get away because I figured that I would take one look at you with her and go insane.”
Stiles shrugged. He was just going to ride the honesty train into the ocean.
“So what do you look for in a mate?” Stiles asked. “I mean, you looked for a hand fasting with a woman who had lineage, and you got a child who now doubles the McCall-Hale pack lands with his inheritance. So score on you for picking that, but what about the other half of it all?”
Derek just stared at him.
Stiles lay on his stomach next to Henry, hands on his chin. He could wait forever for this answer.
“Nobody says mate,” Derek said.
“I do,” Stiles replied, playing with the edge of the blanket. “Come on, Derek, you aren’t going to be alone forever. Ever thought what you’d want?”
Derek made a noncommittal noise. “I don’t have to.”
Stiles looked at him incredulously. “Do you really think that you’ll be one of those people who never fall in love and have something for yourself, something that isn’t pack politics?”
Derek got that look of discomfort again. He seemed torn between saying something personal and running away. Stiles just waited.
“I’ve been in love for a while now,” Derek admitted, looking straight at Stiles.
Stiles was going to take this on faith that this was going where he wanted. He could feel something here; he had to trust his gut and pray that it wasn’t going to turn on him.
“Did you tell this person?” Stiles asked lightly. “Did you think that maybe that would be a good idea? Maybe have a conversation.”
“I couldn’t,” Derek said.
Stiles played with one of Henry’s toys.
“Maybe he would have enjoyed knowing that you noticed that he wasn’t a child anymore,” Stiles muttered. “That you didn’t think that he was a stupid kid. You could have told him when you realized.”
Derek was quiet. Stiles looked up, and Derek was staring at him scornfully. Stiles tried to piece together what was going on. He wished that he had given up trying to figure out Derek Hale.
“Stiles,” Derek said slowly. “I’ve been in love with you since you were sixteen.”
Stiles could feel his eyes widening to what he was sure was a comical amount, but he couldn’t seem to care.
“What?” Stiles asked. “When? How? What?”
Derek looked very nervous. He couldn’t seem to look at Stiles any more.
“At the vet,” Derek finally confessed. “The night Kate shot me with the wolfsbane bullet.”
Stiles was glad that he was lying on the ground or else he would have fallen down. “You fell in love with me when I was about to puke while cutting off your arm?”
Derek looked at him again. “You would have. You would have done it to save me. Then, a month later, you kept me from drowning. I had never met anyone like you. You had this determination. I’ve met forces of nature, and you were more than most of them. It was ridiculous and wrong, and I couldn’t do a thing about it.”
Stiles scrunched up his face.
Derek swallowed, and his Adam's apple bobbed. “I wasn’t going to be Kate.”
Stiles watched as Derek shifted uncomfortably. Stiles felt the shock make his body feel sluggish.
“You wouldn’t.” Stiles said.
“I would,” Derek confirmed.
“You weren’t trying to destroy my life or my family,” Stiles replied.
Derek turned on him. “I think I could have done a pretty great job without even trying.”
Stiles swallowed because that wasn’t untrue. He would have been with Derek like he had done everything in his life, full force. If Derek had asked, he would have never left. It was fair enough to say that Derek hadn’t been the most stable back then.
“You could have said something,” Stiles said.
“There never seemed to be time,” Derek told him. “You were underage and then at college. Life seemed to be barreling on with more and more issues. There never seemed to be time.”
Stiles tried not to cringe. Derek wasn’t wrong.
“I always thought there would be time later,” Derek said. “If the feelings stayed. If maybe it looked like you were reciprocating.”
“You never noticed?” Stiles defended. “You never noticed how I was an extra special idiot around you?”
“Stiles, you brought a date to my hand fasting,” Derek growled.
“You were getting married,” Stiles defended. “That's what people do.”
“It was a hand fasting,” Derek told him. “It wasn’t a wedding.”
“I didn’t know that!” Stiles replied.
Henry looked between the two of him, his eyes wide.
“You could have asked,” Derek said between two clenched teeth, hands balled into fists.
He realized he actually did have some read on Derek. Derek was ready to take a runner, Derek was terrified. The man who had gotten beat by so many people, who had never backed down, was really ready to turn and run.
He nodded at Derek, then turned to Henry.
“I think I might be an idiot,” Stiles whispered conspiratorially to Henry.
Henry giggled and moved to molest Stiles’s face with his little chubby hands.
Stiles laughed and blew a raspberry on Henry’s face before standing up. He walked past Derek as Henry started to make fussy noises.
Stiles stretched. “I need food. I’ll make you a sandwich.”
Stiles left the room. He could hear Henry laughing and Derek growling. Stiles smiled to himself.
He busied himself making two sandwiches, listening to the other room. It was something warm and cheerful and so unlike Derek Hale’s surface. Stiles had to smile, it was like Derek had something happy inside of him that he guarded with his glower.
Stiles realized that he was being let in. He put the food on plates and walked into the other room.
He put the plates down and watched as Derek covered his face. Henry reached out for his hands to pull them down. Derek pulled his hands away, his face wolfed out. He growled at Henry.
Henry giggled, squealing and bouncing on his little bottom. He clapped his hands and reached for Derek.
“I’d keep him away from your teeth,” Stiles teased.
Derek turned around and growled. Henry giggled and lunged to Derek. Derek caught him and picked him up.
Henry was climbing up Derek, pulling on his sideburns. He was laughing and babbling.
Derek got Henry’s little chubby fingers out of his facial hair and placed him back on the ground. Derek offered the child blocks instead. Then he stood up and walked towards Stiles, his face once again just Derek.
“Really, the kid is going to have some serious issues when he grows up,” Stiles pointed out.
Derek looked at the sandwich. “Probably.”
Stiles took a long look at Henry. Henry was enthralled with blocks. He managed to stack two and then knock them down, making him laugh.
“Do you think that he’ll hate me one day for killing his grandmother?” Stiles asked finally, still staring at Henry who was happily playing.
Derek stopped mid-chew and then swallowed down a bite. “I think he’s going to be a little more pissed that his grandmother killed his mother. No matter what we all thought of her, she was his mother. Her people turned on her, and we protected her. She died trying to protect Henry from the trackers. In the end she chose Henry, even if she had never chosen him in life.”
Derek’s voice wavered. Stiles chose not to look up, giving Derek the moment that he needed to compose himself. Stiles hadn’t asked, not yet.
He knew the pack, knew that taking one of them was a declaration of war. He also knew that taking a Hale was paramount to starting an apocalypse. Stiles knew, but as he looked at Henry, he wondered what the kid would know of the fights that had been fought so that he could play in the pool.
Stiles looked up. “And you? What do you think of me now?”
Derek snapped up to his gaze, looked Stiles full in the face. Their gaze held. It was Derek who looked away first.
When Derek spoke, it was muttered and more to the sandwich. “Did you put mustard on this? Also, you didn’t talk back.”
“Yes and what?” Stiles said, confused.
“Talk,” Derek said taking a bite. “I talked. You’re supposed to talk back. That's how conversation works. I told you my thoughts. You’re supposed to tell me yours.”
“I really didn’t know if you knew how conversation worked,” Stiles replied.
Derek gave him the eyebrow look of death.
“I talked,” Stiles defended. “We just had a deep conversation about Henry.”
The eyebrow look deepened. “About the thing.”
Stiles looked down at his sandwich and tried not to grin. He realized that it was all going to be okay.
“So does taking care of your son mean something underlying about werewolf dating?” Stiles prodded by way of answer.
Derek was silent. Stiles looked up to see Derek with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah, I said it,” Stiles said. “I want it. I might not go back as far, but I want this, if it's still on the table. You going to ignore it?”
Derek took a step forward. Stiles realized that years ago, he would have been prepared to be thrown in walls. Now he hoped that something like that was going to happen. He let himself want, and he wanted nothing more than Derek’s hands on him.
Stiles resisted a shiver as Derek’s crossed the space between the two of them. Derek’s hands were surprisingly gentle as they skirted up Stiles’s side, hands slitting up to Stiles’s jaw. Stiles watched, unmoving while Derek’s eyes followed his hands up Stiles’s body. Those pale olive eyes, settled on his lips, his hands cupping his head.
Derek leaned down and nudged into Stiles’ mouth, his nose and lips testing and finding the right fit. Stiles was a little too stunned to do anything but let Derek slot them against his.
When Derek finally went in to touch their lips together, it was like falling into each other. Stiles was kissing Derek back. It wasn’t gentle. They had too much unresolved sexual tension after eight years to be restrained.
Stiles was a little surprised to find out just how much finesse Derek had as he flicked his tongue into Stiles’s mouth. Stiles realized that he was whimpering a little bit and grasping at Derek. He was pretty sure that the counter was being imprinted into his back. He was also pretty sure that he didn’t care in the slightest. All he really wanted was to keep kissing Derek, possibly with less clothing.
That was when there was a little wailing howl. Derek pulled away with the instincts of a parent. He gave Stiles a sheepish shrug and went to see his fussy son. He scooped Henry up and looked back at Stiles.
Stiles glared at Henry.
“You’re really very obnoxious,” Stiles said.
Derek bounced Henry a little and looked at Stiles’s lips again. Then his eyes snapped up to Stiles’s face.
“Want to go on a date?” Derek asked in a rush.
Stiles had a little smile on his lips. He picked up Derek’s cell and dialed a number.
Derek just watched him with a puzzled look on his face. Stiles held up a hand.
“Hey, Scott,” Stiles said cheerfully.
“Hey, Stiles,” Scott said. He still sounded like he didn’t feel up to speed.
“How you doing?” Stiles asked.
“The arm is still healing,” Scott said.
“Oh,” Stiles said, almost regretting making this call. “I was wondering if you guys could watch Henry tonight.”
“I don’t know, man,” Scott said his voice honestly regretful. “I mean I miss the tyke and all, and I am going to come over when I’m healed. But I'm still kind of flat out. Allison and Isaac are not going to leave me alone. What’s up? You leaving? Is there something Derek has to do?”
“No, I’m staying in town for awhile,” Stiles said. “Derek and I have something to do.”
“Any chance that you can wait until tomorrow?” Scott asked. “We’ll totally do it tomorrow.”
“No, Scott,” Stiles said. “Tomorrow we’re probably going to get sneak attacked by Red Hats who want to drain us for our blood. Our entire future schedule is probably blocked for shenanigans from some kind of thing that want us dead, and I’d really like to try just once to go out with Derek.”
There was a lot of muffled scrambling.
Stiles pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at it.
“Scott?” Stiles said hesitantly.
“Oh, yeah,” Scott said. “Yeah. Yes. I think Isaac and Allison want to take you shopping. They’re texting Lydia right now. Do you need me to come over now? I’m going to come over now.”
Derek buried his face in his hands.
“You don’t have to,” Derek said.
“Tell him I’m coming over,” Scott said with too much glee.
“Tell him not to call your father,” Derek sighed.
“Tell him that is a great idea,” Scott cackled.
Stiles was trying not to laugh. He was very unsuccessful.
“Should’ve started dating you when you were sixteen. Jail and their general disapproval from everyone seem to be so much better,” Derek muttered, picking up Henry.
“I don’t think I liked you that way when I was sixteen,” Stiles told him.
The look on Derek’s face was a little crestfallen, and Stiles rushed on. “I was an idiot at sixteen. I'm really sure I still might be.”
The quirk of Derek’s mouth was definitely a repressed smile. “Tell Scott not to forget his mother.”
“She’s visiting her sister in Sacramento,” Scott called, still cackling.
Derek picked up Henry and left the room, and Stiles let out the laughter he was trying to contain. He had to lean against the counter.
“That was evil, man,” Stiles informed him.
“No, evil would be telling Isaac to look for a jaunty scarf for your date,” Scott said.
“Who says jaunty?” Stiles replied.
“The Alpha,” Scott said with a tone of superiority.
“My alpha and my father are going to see me off on my date with Derek,” Stiles said. “You know this isn’t the prom.”
Scott just laughed. “Do you remember how much you and Derek hazed the three of us when we got together? This is payback.”
“I’m going to stop by my dad’s house and pick up some clothes,” Stiles told him. “I’ll come by later and see your misery and condition.”
“I’ll start getting a list of embarrassing questions together,” Scott said gleefully.
Stiles hung up his phone to Scott’s continued laughing.
He picked up the plates and put them in the dishwasher. Then he climbed the stairs to Derek’s room. Derek was on the bed, staring at the ceiling. Henry was playing in the sheets.
Stiles leaned against the doorframe. Derek turned his head towards Stiles but didn’t move.
“When you left, after the thing with the Alphas,” Stiles began. “I thought maybe you’d be happy. I kept thinking that maybe you’d go off and wouldn’t be haunted by the burnt out shell of your past. I really hoped that you would be happy.”
Derek just looked at him. Henry came to his side and peered over at Stiles. Stiles couldn’t help but grin at the child.
“But then you came back,” Stiles continued. “You came back, and I was happy, and I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t feel guilty for not being able to stop. I thought maybe you could be happy here. Then I thought if I ignored the feelings, they would go away. I thought that if it was going to happen, there would be time, there would always be time. I want to do this, and I want to do this tonight because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”
Derek raised an eyebrow.
Stiles grinned. “I’m going to fight the evil that is Isaac and Lydia shopping, and you’re going to be bombarded with everyone else. Re-thinking that date thing?”
Derek’s lips curled up into a smile. Henry growled a little. Derek took one of his hands and pulled Henry closer.
“I think I’ve rethought and rethought it too many times,” Derek said.
Henry let out a squeal and lifted both hands to Stiles. Stiles went to him and picked him up.
“You protect your daddy,” Stiles told him. “He doesn’t do well with emotional conflict, so I expect you to run interference.”
Henry listened to this with a serious face as he chewed on a fist. When Stiles was done speaking, Henry offered him the fist.
“Thanks, buddy,” Stiles said, then handed Henry back to Derek. “But I’ll pass.”
Henry looked uncertain for a minute, and then he glared at Stiles. Stiles looked at Derek. There was a small smile on his face as he looked at his son.
“You should do that more often,” Stiles said.
Derek looked up at him, startled. Stiles just winked at him, and Derek rolled his eyes.
“I know you’re totally repressing a smile,” Stiles said. “You’re lucky that I find it charming. I am totally going to see everybody else. I’ll see you tonight, you wear the smile, I will not wear whatever scarf Isaac is going to thrust on me.”
Derek raised his eyebrows and put Henry down, nestled him in a pillow and crossed the room. Stiles stayed still and just watched him approach. Stiles was definitely sure that he was going to like Derek stalking towards him with the intent of doing something that involved lots of good touching.
Stiles sucked in a breath as Derek pushed into his space and slotted their mouths together. Derek’s hands were everywhere and his mouth was sucking the moans out of Stiles’s throat.
Stiles let himself touch Derek, burying his hands in his hair, tugging closer. Every inch of his body was vibrating at a very high frequency. When Derek’s chest began to rumble with a growl, Stiles nearly came apart.
Derek pulled away languidly. He looked at Stiles and ran a thumb over Stiles’s shiny bottom lip. Derek’s eyes tracked the movement of his thumb. Stiles nipped at it. Derek’s eyes moved up to meet Stiles’s.
“This is so going to be a thing,” Stiles said. “This is going to be our thing.”
Derek leaned in and nosed along Stiles’s jaw, there was a hint of a growl coming from Derek’s chest.
“There are going to be so many things,” Stiles said, eyes closed and head thrown back.
Derek pulled himself away.
“You should probably go,” Derek said, his voice full of contradictions that Stiles really wanted to take advantage of.
Stiles backed away from Derek and towards the door. He really couldn’t look away just yet.
“I’ll be back around seven,” Stiles said. “We can do that date thing and we can do that eating thing.”
Derek rolled his eyes again and made a shooing motion with his hand.
Stiles laughed and made his way downstairs.
“Your stuff is on the counter,” Derek yelled.
“Thanks,” Stiles yelled back, even though he didn’t need to.
Derek’s face appeared from the second floor.
“Henry says bye,” Derek said with a serious face.
Stiles grinned. “I will see you two soon.”
“Looks like you still have your arms intact,” Stiles said flopping down on the bed.
Scott rolled over and hugged him tight and spoke into his shoulder. “All the better to hug you with.”
Stiles tried to gently dislodge himself. “Don’t you have an arm that's about to fall off?”
“Don’t you have a date tonight?” Scott said rolling back on the bed.
“That doesn’t even make sense,” Stiles pointed out.
Scott started cackling again.
“I’ve been planning this for years,” he said. “There is so much torture to do.”
“Try to contain yourself,” Stiles intoned. “Derek is a little skittish.”
“Then he doesn’t deserve you,” Scott pointed out.
Stiles looked at him.
“What?” Scott asked.
“Are you trying to fight Lydia for the position of my best friend?” Stiles asked.
Scott sat up. “She is so not competition.”
Stiles didn’t say anything.
“Is she?” Scott said deflating and laying back down. “She’s so not.”
“Of course not,” Stiles said, taking pity on him. “You will always be my best friend.”
Scott’s responding grin could light the world.
“So I have to say something,” Stiles said, poking him.
“Speak,” Scott said, poking back.
“I need to talk to the Alpha,” Stiles said, looking at the ceiling.
Scott looked up at the ceiling too. “Alpha here.”
“Permission to return,” Stiles said. “Permission to be your councilor, like you always wanted.”
Scott looked over at him. “You never asked to leave. When did we get so formal?”
“I was eighteen then,” Stiles said looking over at him.
“And twenty-two the second time,” Scott pointed out.
“You need me,” Stiles said. “We hardly knew what we were doing then. It was like a game; we were playing werewolves.”
Scott stared up at the ceiling, as if it held the answers. “And now?”
Stiles returned to his vigil on the ceiling. “I think we’re at the adult table now.”
Scott let out a long sigh. “So unfair. You start dating Derek, and all of the sudden we have to grow up?”
They just stared at the ceiling for a moment.
“When I was out there,” Stiles began slowly. “It hit me. It took eight years, but it finally hit me. I was all alone out there, I was alone, and I didn’t want to be. I realized that there is more to it than just us—there's all of us. We have a responsibility, we have a pack.”
“Just so it's clear, you don’t have to be responsible for me,” Scott said. “I’ve told you a million times, just because you took me out in the woods, this isn’t something you're bound to. I don’t hold you responsible.”
Stiles looked over at him. “I know, and I choose this, you know. Your fight is my fight. I want to be here. I get the choice, and there is no choice because you are all here, you are all mine as much as I am all yours. You are my best friend. This is where my loyalty lies.”
Scott looked over at him, the edge of his mouth quirked in a smile. “I have a girlfriend and a boyfriend, you know. I really don’t know if I have enough room in my life for you now.”
“You will always have time for me. It’s bros over hos and other bros,” Stiles said snorting. “Besides, they will give you the sex. I will give you the loyalty.”
“We can hear you!” Allison yelled up. “Scott Alfred McCall, you are never getting laid again, and Stiles whatever-your-real-name-is, we are totally loyal.”
There was a loud squeak from somewhere in the house.
“Can Allison really hear us?” Stiles whispered.
“Nope, but Isaac is probably telling her,” Scott said with a fond smile on his face.
“I’ll give him the sex, too!” Stiles yelled out. “I mean, I don’t think I’ll get any joy out of it, but anything for him.”
There was a scuffle, then Allison and Isaac appeared and dive-bombed onto the bed.
“We’ve decided,” Isaac said. “You’re getting many scarves today.”
“I hate you all,” Stiles informed them.
Allison dimpled and leaned down to kiss his cheek. “Welcome home, Stiles.”
There was the sound of the door opening.
“Lydia,” Scott told Stiles and Allison.
“Where are you guys?” Lydia yelled.
“Lydia,” Allison called. “We’re up here.”
Lydia arrived with a flourish and looked at the pile on the bed.
“No Jackson?” Stiles asked.
Lydia rolled her eyes and nudged her way on the bed next to Stiles.
“We talked. We’re different people now. He’s on a plane back to London,” Lydia said.
Stiles rolled over and gave her a hug. “Do we need ice cream?”
Lydia snuggled into him. “Shopping will suffice.”
Stiles closed his eyes and breathed in her vanilla and lavender shampoo. The voices around him were chatting about shopping and schedules and home. This was his choice.
He was home.