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You'll Grow Into Your Skin

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“You’re leaving.”

Derek freezes from where he’d been meticulously folding all of his clothing into a suitcase. There’s not that much to fold, he hasn’t had the habit of hoarding personal effects since his house burned down and he lost everything he ever owned or cared about.

“Yes,” it wasn’t a question but Derek answers it anyway, avoiding Stiles’ eyes as they track his every movement.

Stiles sees him and not a lot of people do. Mostly what they see when they look at Derek is the pretty face, the aggression, the monster. Stiles sees beyond that.

“Why?”

“You know why.”

Stiles steps further into the loft, footsteps heavy and dragging. He can hear Cora stealthily jumping out of the top floor’s room’s window to give them some privacy.

“Have you even asked them what they want?”

“I almost got them killed, Stiles. They don’t want to hear what I have to say. They don’t want me near them and that’s for the best.”

“You’re a moron.”

Stiles climbs on Derek’s bed like he’s already made a habit out of it, sitting cross-legged and intently watching his movements.

No one ever gives Stiles enough credit for how much he sees. Derek certainly didn’t at first, but he knows better now.

“If you asked, they would.”

Derek nods, acknowledging the words. He won’t follow through them. Erica and Boyd are better off here, under Scott’s clumsily black and white leadership than with him, wherever he’s going to go.

“I’m not their Alpha anymore. I’m not even an Alpha.”

“You’re a moron,” Stiles restates. It has become a little bit of a thing. When Derek says something idiotic Stiles will point it out. He won’t argue with Derek. It’s not even that they grew out of arguing, it’s just that in some cases Stiles has learned how to yield.

He stops folding another of his Henleys. The red one he loves with the thumb holes.

“I’m not good for them.”

“That’s your opinion.”

“That’s their opinion too. The only reason Deucalion got to them was because I couldn’t be a good Alpha.”

“You were never made to be Alpha,” Stiles reminds him.

“I wasn’t.”

“But you could learn how to. You could help Scott learn how to.”

Stiles isn’t looking at him anymore, eyes trained on the soft fabric between Derek’s hands. Derek feels like this is going to be a big declarations talk. So he starts it with a big declaration.

“Scott doesn’t want me to. He doesn’t trust me.”

He throws the Henley at Stiles, watches for a second as he fumbles with it, eyes wide when he realizes.

“You trust too much,” Stiles returns, says it like he’s spewing off facts just before a big test. Things he knows without a doubt.

Derek grabs his next Henley and starts folding it, shoves it in the suitcase.

There’s a beat of silence between them and Derek feels like he should say something.

“I would,” he says quietly, “if you asked.”

Stiles gives him this little rueful defeated smile.

“I know.” Another fact.

It would be as simple as that. Stiles saying one single word and he’d drop everything and stay.

“But you won’t.”

Stiles nods, busies himself with folding and refolding the shirt in his hand, “I won’t. It’s not good for you here.”

Derek takes a steadying breath. Convinces himself that they’d be horrible for each other.

“And they call you selfish,” he tries to joke. He hasn’t been good at jokes for years. Stiles smiles anyway.

“I am. Just enough.”

Derek folds his last shirt and Stiles catches his wrist.

“I need to ask you for something.”

“Okay,” he says. What he really wants to say is “Anything” but he won’t because that still feels too big and Stiles is only seventeen.

Derek was younger than him when he was ruined by absolutes.

(Anything you want. Yes, for you everything. I love you. I’m yours, whatever you want to do I’m yours.)

“It’s not going to be fair to you,” Stiles warns him.

He’s giving him an out. His hand his loose on Derek’s wrist, barely even holding it. Stiles was always careful about the way he touched Derek. He doesn’t know if that was because he figured it out or it was just Stiles’ instincts kicking in.

“Okay.”

“It’s not going to be fair to me either.”

Derek pauses. Stiles gives him that wrong smile that makes Derek want to poke at the corners of his eyes until they crinkle properly, until it becomes the real thing.

“What is it?”

There’s something to be said about the effort Derek is trying to make to be more careful with others’ hearts.

Stiles smooths a thumb over Derek’s wrist, “You know.”

Derek takes his hand away, “I can’t do that to you.”

Stiles sighs, weary already from having this discussion, “I don’t trust anyone else to.  I don’t want anyone else to.”

“Stiles.”

“Derek.”

Derek closes his eyes. He’s about to cave in. He knows for a certainty he will, because he’s leaving and Stiles is asking him this.

“How about Lydia or Scott?”

Stiles makes a face, “Scott is like my brother. It’d be… weird.”

“And you don’t trust him,” Derek says what Stiles doesn’t dare to.

While on paper Scott is a very trustworthy person it’s been twice already that he went behind their backs and that’s not what pack is about.

Stiles has a better concept of pack than Scott ever will, and while that makes him worry about the betas he also knows that Scott will be stubborn enough to try and do everything the way he sees right, correct. Scott has always been very correct.

Stiles doesn’t answer to that. He couldn’t.

“And Lydia is my friend now. It wouldn’t be right.”

“You’re in love with her.”

“I was in love with her,” he tells Derek.

He knew that this would be a big declarations talk.

“Since when?”

He’s the one being selfish now.

“A while. Her Disney love thing with Jackson opened my eyes. Or maybe the beating I got just before that did.”

Derek flinches, opens his mouth to apologize but Stiles cuts him off with a little hand wave like that’s not even important enough to discuss.

He doesn’t think anyone ever told Stiles that he was important enough to pay attention to. Not in a long while.

Derek could change that.

Derek could fuck him up even further.

“Why now?”

“You’re leaving. You’ll be gone for a while. I hope.”

Derek could take his last words as something mean and twisted. Instead he takes them for what they are: a true wish for Derek to get out of this hell hole and get better.

No one ever gives Stiles enough credit for caring too much. No one ever will until it’s gone and for everyone’s sake Derek hopes it’ll never be gone.

Derek closes his suitcase and sets it beside the bed. Moving to sit on it would be giving up to Stiles.

He sits.

“Are you sure?”

He’s so incredibly selfish. Taking this for himself. He can’t very well decide if Stiles is being selfish by offering it or not.

“Yeah I’m- I just don’t want this to be another thing that people can use against me. Against them.”

Derek nods, because that’s reason enough, but Stiles continues, “And you’re leaving. I don’t want to only remember you blood soaked and angry.”

“We’ve lived some peaceful moments,” Derek knocks their shoulders together. Stiles takes it as an invitation to lay on him.

“Not enough.”

“Not enough,” Derek agrees.

They’re quiet for a moment. He thinks Stiles is coming to terms with the fact that Derek said yes and Derek is trying to will himself not to fuck this up.

“I think you should kiss me,” Stiles suggests.

He’s not entirely sure what Stiles was waiting for him to do, but if he goes by the little startled pleased noise he makes he certainly wasn’t expecting Derek to cradle him with the care he deserves and touch their lips together. Slow and easy at first, every time Stiles’ body twitches to quicken it, Derek slows him down with his hands.

It’s a completely new dynamic between them.

They’re used to riling each other up not calming each other down. They’re not used to this kind of intimacy.

Derek thinks it’ll be harder to leave than he anticipated.

Derek makes his hands be slow on him, everywhere on him.

Stiles’ hands are not slow. They’re a frantic search for something he’s already lost. They cling and flutter down Derek’s torso, up to his face and down his neck to his shoulders. Clever fingers mapping him out like no one had taken the time to before.

He gets Stiles on his back. It’s still too much for him to be the one on his back and showing his belly, even if he trusts Stiles like he doesn’t trust anyone else. Down that road lay too many mines too easily triggered.

“Are you sure?” he asks again. He’ll keep asking, because he needs to know. He needs that kind of reassurance.

He’s sure this is nothing like the first time Stiles had envisioned, he almost hates himself for the way he’s taking this away from him too, the way this life took this away from him.

The only thing standing between him and the wave of self-hate that threatens to drown him are Stiles’ hands on him and Stiles’ lips on him and Stiles’ big eyes, too honest in moments like this always giving everything away without him meaning to, on him.

Stiles tries on one of his little smirks, “It’s not like you can get me pregnant.”

“Stiles,” Derek warns.

Stiles soothes him by rubbing his thumb over his cheekbone, face going serious, “I’m sure. I promise, I’m sure.”

“Okay,” Derek breathes out, “okay.”

He leans down and takes Stiles’ lips again, allows himself to be selfish to indulge, to hurt afterwards when he’s in his car and miles away from here with no clear intention of turning back.

“You could’ve stayed,” Cora tells him, fiddling with the radio station and pretending she doesn’t care.

“I could’ve. I didn’t want to.”

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not. I don’t want to stay in that town. It’s not- It’s not good.”

“You could’ve stayed for him.”

Derek grips the steering wheel until it creaks under his palms.

Cora rolls her eyes and settles the radio on something loud and angry, “But of course he wouldn’t ask you to. And you wouldn’t offer to.”

“I did. He didn’t.”

“You’re both morons.”

Derek speeds up in the highway headed towards nowhere and tries not to think about it. He knows that he’s still close enough to turn back, that he will if Stiles even breathes the first letter of the word.

But Stiles is allowing Derek to be selfish, to be a coward and run away, even if the way Stiles sees it he’s allowing Derek to heal.

“Do you think you’ll ever go back?” Cora asks, head turned to the rapidly passing trees around them.

“I don’t know.”

“If you don’t go back, he’ll come to find you, eventually.”

Derek takes a deep breath, cracks open his window and sets one hand on the roof, lets his car slide into a smooth glide across the asphalt, “I know.”

Cora sighs again, louder, “You’re a complete moron, and stop in the next gas station I need to pee.”

«»

He’s been gone barely two weeks before Erica and Boyd track him down and demand Derek lets them come with.

“I didn’t think you would-“

“We would what?” Erica says defiantly, “Want to go with our Alpha-“

“I’m not your-“

“You are,” Boyd tells him with absolute certainty in that calm tone that leaves no space for argument.

Erica aggressively cuddles against his side in the motel room’s bed and sighs, “It’s not like we would let McCall be our Alpha,” she sniffs primly.

Derek looks wide eyed up at Cora who smirks at him in her I’m-always-right way.

“Okay,” he gives up a little too happily, letting himself just enjoy the warmth of pack around him.

“Oh, and Derek. Stiles says and I quote: I told you so, you moron.”

Derek lets a smile quirk his lips because of course, of course Stiles did.

They don’t talk much. They’re both smart enough to know that it’d be too easy to give in, one misplaced word and Derek would quite possibly literally run back to Beacon Hills.

“How- how is he?”

“Moping,” Erica snarks. Boyd gives her a warning look.

“He’s doing just fine. He’s planning on finishing high school early and taking a gap year.”

“That’s- good.”

Cora rolls her eyes at him and joins the puppy pile.

«»

They travel for a while and it’s- it’s good.

Derek has enough money to stay in proper hotels, if he really wanted to he’d have enough money to live in one for the rest of his life and still have plenty to leave as inheritance for his non-existent kids put themselves through an Ivy League college ten times over.

They visit places all over the United States, jump borders a couple of times to Canada or Mexico. Erica loves Mexico a lot, takes to the Spanish language so easily that she makes Derek promise her they’ll visit Spain someday so she can test her skills out.

He takes her on a one month trip there for her birthday and loses count of how many broken hearts Erica leaves behind there.

Boyd likes Canada the best and falls a little bit in love with the French they speak there, takes to it easily enough, so when they visit Europe for Erica’s twentieth birthday they just hop over to France the next month and travel around for three weeks before they head down to Italy.

The Hales used to take a trip every year there. It was be a mess, he’s pretty sure his family was blacklisted from a few airlines, but then again a family of just a little under twenty werewolves in a tiny little metallic tube would never be a good idea.

Cora still loves Italy. Derek falls in love with it again, sitting on little cafes in his khaki shorts, nice shirt and aviators, eating his weight in ice cream.

Somewhere between France and Italy Boyd, Erica and Cora fall into their little triad thing.

Derek can’t say he was expecting it exactly, but he never put it outside the realm of possibility. He just wishes that he didn’t have the knowledge of how his sister’s sex noises sound like.

He gets sexiled a lot, gets used to spending his nights wandering around the most beautiful parts of whatever town they find themselves in just so he can see it come to life and then slowly go back to sleep as people come and go.

He never needed much sleep anyway.

After Italy they hop over to London and track Jackson down. It’s been a long time since they saw him; it’s been about two and a half years since Derek left Beacon Hills and the only contact he has with Stiles these days are through snapchats Erica or Cora will show him sometime.

Jackson was entirely his fault, every single death the Kanima caused was also on him. Derek just wants to make sure that everything is as it should be and Jackson still has claws and fur opposed to scales.

He’s mildly surprised to see that he’s doing more than okay, having found a pack that agreed to take him in and feeling right at home with other pretentious preppy boys and girls, too rich for their own good.

Cora falls in love with London and considers staying there to study. Derek is more than happy to let her do what she wants, to keep her happy even if he’ll miss her something fierce if she stays.

In the end she decides London is not worth her pack and comes back to the states with them.

They end up settling in New York.

Derek still has the apartment he shared with Laura there. It’s big enough for all of them and Cora immediately zeroes in on Laura’s room and calls dibs on it. He thinks she feels closer to her big sister like this.

The apartment still smells like them from way back then, even if it’s just faintly so.

Cora, Boyd and Erica go to college pursue what they want.

Derek gets a job in a little bookstore run by a nice little witch couple that argue half the time and are thoroughly indulgent for the rest of it.

He also gets a therapist, makes the rest of his pack go to one or two consultations as well because you don’t come out of Beacon Hills with at least a few traumas on your back.

It’s a slow process. It’s years of slowly and painfully working at every single one of Derek’s issues before he starts feeling a little lighter, smile a little easier, be a little more playful.

It’s five years after he left Beacon Hills when he starts approaching the issue of visiting.

He doesn’t say Stiles, never dares to, even if that’s what he means when he says go back home. Beacon Hills stopped being his home long ago.

But five years is a lot of time to be gone. Five years is a lot of time for Stiles to regret Derek even if neither of them really gave the other quite enough to regret.

“You could just call him,” Erica suggest, pretending she’s not itching to visit Beacon Hills again. Even if the last years have been really good she misses her parents and maybe even the other pack members.

Derek has no idea what’s been happening since he left. Scott never calls him for help and somewhere along the line Stiles changed numbers and Derek wasn’t brave enough to ask for his new one.

“I can’t.”

“Surprise visit then,” Cora suggests, “we can go over the summer when the school year is over.”

Derek takes a deep breath and sighs out, “Okay, we can do that.”

«»

“M’am,” Derek starts calmly, “we just don’t have that book in the store. As you can see children’s books aren’t exactly our niche.”

The lady in front of him sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose, “Look, do you know how difficult it is to find a book that shows wolves in a positive light?”

“I don’t-“

She flashes her eyes beta gold at him.

Derek’s not exactly surprised since New York is neutral territory a lot of supernaturals settle down here, it’s not exactly uncommon for them to pass by the store.

Please. It’s sold out in every single other bookstore in the city. I just want my children to have a story where they aren’t the monster.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” he promises, scribbling the name on a little post-it and tapping it on the monitor.

“Thank you,” she says sincerely, paying of her crime novel and leaving.

Derek darts a quick glance at the book title and the ridiculous pseudonym the author is using. Spark Lightning. It’s silly enough for a children book’s author. It sounds like something that Stiles would appreciate.

The little bell above the door jingles cheerily and Derek turns to look at the newcomer, being met with Mrs. Levi’s smiling face as she carries a heavy looking box. Derek quickly reliefs her off it and sets it on the counter.

“What’s all this?”

“A finding, my boy!” she enthuses, “Even better than when your pert little ass walked into our store looking for a job.”

Derek rolls his eyes at her and grabs a pair of scissors, expertly cutting the tape off and opening the box.

A pile of cheerfully illustrated books stares back up at him with a dark wolf on the cover towering huge and protectively over three little piggies.

The Three Little Piggies Who Could: a fairytale re-telling is written in bright letters on top. Derek picks one up and flips it in his grip, being confronted by more brightly colored images.

“It’s a new thing. Fresh on the market and it’s so lovely. You must read it,” Mrs. Levi demands, “The wolf quite reminded me of you,” she says with a wink just before going into the backroom to get her things in order so she can relieve him from his shift.

He flips the book open and starts reading.

“Once upon a time, there were three little piggies. They were called Curly, Bomb and Quiet and they were terribly alone, fated to wander the lands without ever finding a place they really belonged to.

“The first little piggy, Curly-“

“You’re reading children’s books now,” he hears Erica snort, ripping it out of his hands and turning it in her grip, inspecting it critically.

Derek snatches it back and puts it in the right place, “No,” he denies, closing the box back up and heading towards the backroom to let Mrs. Levi know he’s about to leave.

“Have a nice holiday, sweetheart.”

Derek smiles kindly, “Thank you.”

“And take one of those books with you. Read it, I swear you won’t regret it.”

Derek nods, snatching one up on his way out the door. He’s fallen in the terrible habit of indulging Mrs. Levi.

Erica looks at him over her sunglasses, a happy grin on her face, “Get in loser, we’re going on a road trip!”

Derek rolls his eyes at her and gets in the car, making Erica hop off the driver’s seat.

“Ready?” he asks them, just to be sure no one forgot anything or left anything behind.

“Ready!” Erica responds excitedly.

Derek suspect that after him she’s the one who misses Stiles the most.

Boyd gives him a nod and Cora sighs loudly as an answer.

“Okay then,” he mutters, slowly coaching the car into starting and heading towards Beacon Hills.

«»

There’s something to say about how little Beacon Hills changes over the years. He was surprised by it the first time he came back, chasing after Laura, and he’s still surprised by it.

The streets are still the same, the people are still the same except a little bit older. Some stores change locations, some upgrade, some go out of business and are replaced for new ones but nothing truly changes.

Derek thinks that might be one of the toxic things about this godforsaken town.

They reach Beacon Hills’ territory in the early hours of the morning, too tired to do anything but go straight to Derek’s old loft and collectively collapse on his bed in a tangle of limbs.

“Does it smell like fae to you in here?” Cora mumbles against her pillow.

Derek drove for so long he’s beyond caring, so he responds by shoving his head under another pillow and closing his eyes to go to sleep.

He wakes up to Scott’s angry face staring down at him even as he hears Erica and Boyd squealing somewhere with Isaac. Well, Erica and Isaac are squealing, Boyd is silently exhuding happyness.

“Scott,” he greats, wiping the sleep off his face and sitting up.

Scott flashes Alpha red eyes at him, and Derek only blinks lazily back. It seems like Scott already got Alpha posturing down.

“You can’t be here,” Scott tells him.

“What?”

He came to expect a lot, but Derek can’t say he would ever have expected an aggressive welcome from Scott McCall. But then again the kid that he left here five years ago isn’t the man he’s coming back to.

Alpha powers and time change a person drastically.

“Scott!” Lydia walks in, chastising him, “Stiles told you to leave him alone.”

“He can’t just-“

“He didn’t know. You can hardly fault him for Stiles’ stubbornness.”

“How can you be so relaxed about this?” Scott demands righteously.

“I’m not,” Lydia says reasonably, “I’m pissed as hell. But it’s not his fault. It’s no one’s fault. So, leave. Him. Alone.”

“What’s happening? Is Stiles okay?” Derek demands, “Did something happen? Why didn’t you call me?”

“He’s fine,” a soft voice comes from closer than he’d expect. He looks up to be a pretty girl with black hair and a kind smile and dimples, “Hey, I’m Kira.”

“Derek,” he introduces himself.

“I know, I’ve heard loads about you.”

Derek opens his mouth to answer, but is interrupted by a familiar heartbeat walking within hearing range, accompanied by another one that’s almost weirdly in sync.

Derek snaps his head towards the door.

“This is a terrible idea,” another girl who’s leaning against the counter and eating the snacks there were left in Derek’s bag says.

“Shut up, Malia.”

She raises her hands, shrugging carelessly, “Just saying.”

“Like in the books?” a slightly high pitched voice asks excitedly.

“Yeah, baby just like the books.”

“Awesome,” the same little voice says, sounding a little bit in awe, “Can I ask him questions?

“You should ask if you can ask first,” Stiles voice flutters through the elevator shaft, incredibly close to Derek.

He gets up and moves towards the door.

“You never ask before you ask all the questions, papa.”

“I don’t, do I?” Stiles laughs a little, just as the elevator is coming to a halt.

The elevator doors ping open and Stiles steps out.

Derek breathes out in a rush, taking him in. He’s still the same, has barely changed and he looks beautiful just like he has always looked.

Cute little upturned nose and a constellation of moles, hair kept longer than when they had first met.

The only difference Derek can specifically point out is how he seems to fill out his clothes better, fit better into his own skin.

“Stiles,” he whispers.

Stiles head snaps up at him and he smiles, a welcoming quirk to his lips that he accompanies with a little wave of his hand. Derek can feel Stiles’ eyes tracking up and down his body, analyzing, assessing in that particular way of his.

Something seems to distract Stiles, because his eyes shift focus from Derek to the little girl clutching at his hand and bouncing up and down on her toes excitedly.

“Can I, can I, can I?”

Stiles smiles indulgently, “Sure, starshine.”

The girl disentangles herself from Stiles’ fingers and runs towards Derek, standing tall in front of him and taking in a lungful of air like she’s about to recite something hard learned.

Derek crouches down and decides to give her his full attention. The girl beams at him like the sun and suddenly he’s knocked over with how she looks.

Dark hair tightly worked into braids and stormy green eyes, painfully like Laura’s when she was the same age. Cute little upturned nose and bows arch lips. She seems built solidly, not as scrawny as most kids her age seem to be.

When she smiles there’s just a hint of fangs poking over her gums.

“Hi, I’m Jacy and I’m four and I think you’re really really really cool and can you really punch through cement walls? Because Tata said you could but I tried once and hurt my hand really bad, but Tata doesn’t lie and he says you saved him all the times and oh!” her eyes light up like she just remembered something very important and the next thing he knows he’s got a lapful of four year old clutching at his neck, “Thank you for saving my papa, he’s really clumsy,” the girl clutches to him a little bit and Derek places a hand on her back, a little lost as what else to do.

“Stiles?” he asks confusedly, eyes traveling up to the other man in shock.

He’s breathing a little harsher now which means that he’s getting a lungful of Jacy’s sweet scent and it’s the most senseless thing because she smells like DerekandStiles, like Derek and Cora and Laura would all smell like both their parents inherently, alongside their own smell.

“So funny story,” Stiles winces, “Remember when I joked you couldn’t get me pregnant?”

Derek nods his head. He remembers pretty much everything from that day.

“Right,” Stiles bobs his head, stops himself and does a little ta-da gesture towards Jacy, “Surprise?”

Jacy pulls back and grins at him, looking a little excited.

Derek thinks if he was weaker of heart he would’ve fainted. As it is he settles for letting himself fall on his ass and blink stupidly at both of them, “What.”

He faintly registers Cora muttering between wheezes something rude about how he actually got Stiles pregnant, while Erica starts cooing at Jacy and Boyd stands keeping Derek company in his stunned silence.

“What,” he repeats.

Stiles sighs and takes Jacy’s hand, sidestepping Derek and walking into the loft, “Come on, honeybee, this looks like it might take a while.

Jacy sighs dramatically, “Can he punch through a wall for me after?”

“I’m sure he will if you ask nicely.”

Awesome.”

Derek tries to shake his head to get his thoughts straight, but it doesn’t really work.

“What?!”

«»

So, he’s a dad. A father. Half responsible for the birth of a child.

He’s Jacy’s father and after about three minutes with her he’s possibly completely smitten. Possibly. The wall he punched down just so she could see will answer that for him.

The place needed more open space anyway.

“I can’t believe you did that!” Stiles shakes his head, looking sadly at the wall Derek just punched down.

“She wanted me too,” Derek says defensively, eyes focused on where Jacy is precariously balanced on his knees and moving her little arms around as she talks excitedly to Isaac about spaceships and pirates.

Cora is sitting on the chair opposite to them, blinking widely and in wonder.

Derek thinks she never expected to see another little Hale running around ever. Not with how adamant she is about not having kids. Ever.

“I see how it is. You’re just going to be a dirty enabler who enables.”

Jacy overbalances and Derek’s heart trips over in a split second of panic. He quickly grabs her hips and rights her.

Jacy pats his head for not letting her fall and then seems to promptly get distracted by his hair.

“Tata I need scrunchies!”

Stiles snorts and takes a few off his wrist passing them over to her.

Derek doesn’t even blink when she starts tying up random tuffs of his hair with a critical look.

“As sweet as this is, Stiles and Derek really should talk,” Lydia starts, getting up and moving towards Jacy but Scott beats her to it, practically ripping the little child off Derek’s arms.

Derek bares his teeth at him, a growl starting low in his throat. The only reason why he didn’t grab her back is because he could’ve potentially have hurt her.

“Unca Scott stop,” Jacy complains loudly, kicks Scott in the gut with enough force for him to double over.

Derek might puff up a little bit with pride when Jacy gets herself on the floor and quickly sidesteps Scott.

She makes a quick move to get back to Derek but Isaac puts himself in her way with a nice kind smile, “Jacy, don’t you want to go to the playground with all of us?”

Jacy freezes and squints at him suspiciously, “Everyone?”

Isaac nods.

“Will you buy me ice cream?”

“Sure!”

“Awesome!” she squeals, climbing onto Isaac’s shoulder and pulling at his hair until he moves.

The loft clears out quickly after that. Erica, Boyd and Cora make sure to touch him on their way out and Scott has to stop to glare daggers at him and flash his eye before he closes the door.

“She loves Isaac,” Stiles says mutinously.

Derek still remembers how antagonistic Isaac and Stiles were towards each other, squabbling over Scott’s friendship. Seems like not much has changed in that department.

“Isaac seems to like her too,” Derek volunteers.

“No one can resist the Stilinski-Hale charm. The Haleinski charm.”

Derek quirks his lips and snorts, “That was terrible.”

Stiles sits down in front of him and Derek leans forward, allowing himself to take the time to really look at him, see how the years have been treating him.

“You look better,” Stiles starts. He sounds happy that he can say it.

“I feel better,” he confesses.

“I guess European air is good for you.”

“And therapy. That’s- that really helps too.”

Stiles seems a little surprised that Derek is being so open about it. It has been five years and things change. Except his feelings for Stiles.

Well, those changed too, somewhat. They become lighter, they’re not so despairing as they used to be. He reached a place he can even admit he has them.

“Good, I’m- glad,” Stiles says it like he means it.

“You look better too.”

Stiles looks less jittery, more settled, more comfortable in his skin. His movements are still a little spastic, his eyes still track every single little thing like focusing on just one thing would be too hard still.

“Don’t sugarcoat it. I know I look half dead.”

Derek smirks, “I never said you looked good.”

“Ass.”

Stiles looks mock offended for a minute before his face melts into a smile, one of the real ones that make his eyes crinkle at the corners and make Derek feel like the world isn’t such a terrible place after all.

God, Derek missed him. It’s a struggle not to stride across the room and just wrap him up in his arms and breathe him in. But he doesn’t know if Stiles would like that, he doesn’t even understand why Stiles isn’t yelling at him for leaving him alone to raise a kid.

“You look a little tired,” Derek ends up conceding, eyes catching on the dark circles under Stiles’ eyes and the slight drop of his shoulders, how his hands shake in regular intervals like they’re about to move but don’t have enough force to.

“You try raising a four year old werewolf.”

“Okay,” he concedes easily. It’s not even a question if he’ll stay or go.

Stiles’ mouth drops open and he blinks at Derek startled, “You can’t just- Don’t say stuff like that if you don’t mean it.”

“Stiles,” Derek breathes out, curls one hand on the knee of his pants and uncurls it, starts picking at a loose threat, “It’s okay if you don’t want me to be here. I- I understand why you didn’t call me in the first place.”

And he does. He wouldn’t want himself in a child’s life. He wouldn’t want the broken and battered Derek, the royal fuckup that he was, still is, to be present, to be an influence in a child’s life. He can’t fault Stiles for keeping him away.

But he doesn’t think he can ignore the fact that he has a daughter – God, he has a daughter – and go back to his life in New York. He doesn’t think he could handle that.

Derek will respect Stiles’ wishes, of course he will, but he also wants to fight for her. Jacy. He doesn’t even know her and already he’s pretty sure that he would punch a hole in the moon if she asked him to.

“But I’m getting better. I’ll find a new therapist, I’ll-“

“Wait, whoa, hold up,” Stiles cuts him off, holding his hands up in the universal gesture to make Derek shut up, “you think I didn’t tell you about Jacy because you weren’t good enough or whatever.”

Derek tries to convey with his eyebrows that that’s exactly what he thinks. It must work pretty well because Stiles starts spluttering.

“You absolute, complete, gigantic moron.”

“Stiles, it’s okay, I get it.”

“You don’t get anything, Derek Hale.”

“Stiles-“

“No, shut up,” he says stormily, getting up and advancing on Derek, “You’re just as much of a moron as you were the last time I saw you and that was five years ago, Derek. Five years.

“I didn’t call you because I didn’t want to burden you with this one more thing-“

“She would never have been-“

“I know, shut up let me talk. I know okay. But I was young and stupid and fuck it, you had just gotten out. You had finally moved on from this God forsaken town and you were doing fine. Every time I thought ‘hey maybe I should call Derek to come rub my pregnant feet’ you’d text me about something completely stupid but that was making you happy.

“Or Cora would send me pictures of you and you seemed weightless and I wasn’t about to take that away from you and chain you back here. And I know, I know, okay. I was stupid. There were other options, but I wasn’t going to be the one to take something good away from you.”

Derek gets up, rises to Stiles’ height and steps close, sways there for a minute to see if the short distance between them is okay, but Stiles isn’t running for the hills so he goes for broke and loops both arms around him, hugs him tight against his chest.

Stiles folds like the remains of the burned out Hale house around him, hugs him back as fiercely as he does everything else.

It feels good. Derek’s been starving himself from this for five years.

“I’m sorry you had to make that decision,” he says lowly, it’s more a rumble of his voice than clear words, “But I think it’s time you stop being unfair to me and to yourself.”

Derek pulls back and looks him in the eye, lets him know how serious he is. He remembers Stiles saying something similar to him just before he asked for something so immeasurably big that it felt like he was asking for the moon on a platter.

It sounds balanced to invoke them now.

“Okay. I’m- I could use your help, but we need to be smart about this.”

“For at least once in your lives, right?” Derek offers him a rueful little smile.

Stiles snorts, reaches over to touch Derek’s arm like he can’t quite help himself, “Right.”

Derek reaches over and touches Stiles’ elbow and it’s such a weird thing to do. To stand in Derek’s stale living room from years of absence quietly touching each other like they’re the first piece of land after a long journey at sea.

It’s ridiculous, really. They’re just two morons, standing there, breathing the same air and looking at each other.

Stiles moves away first and it’s fair. It’s balance that he’s the one to break contact this time.

“You’re still a moron for thinking dumb shit about yourself,” Stiles tells him, letting himself fall into the couch next to Derek.

Derek sits calmly beside him.

“So are you.”

“What a pair we make.”

“What a pair,” he agrees easily.

They sit in silence, adjusting themselves to the other’s presence again. Letting themselves settle and breathe easier.

It’s nice- it’s peaceful. It feels like finally coming home. Derek feels like he can breathe in a way the New York air never seemed to let him.

“What’s that?” Stiles asking suddenly, leaning over to Derek’s duffel, half open on the floor where he had dumped it when they arrived, the contents precariously not tipping over to the floor in a physics defying way.

Stiles reaches down and pulls out that children’s book.

“Mrs. Levi, who owns the bookstore I work at, told me to read it.”

“Wait wait- hold up. You work at a bookstore?

Derek nods and Stiles beams, “That’s precious,” he coos.

“Your face is precious,” Derek mutters good naturedly, waiting for Stiles to laugh and flush and preening like the best of them when he gets the exact response he was waiting for.

Stiles turns the book in his hands and looks fondly down at it, “You should read it,” he declares, passing it over, “and when you’re done maybe you’ll get it.”

“Get what?” he asks a little confusedly, holding the book loosely in his hands. He’s honestly confused.

“Read the book, Derek.”

Stiles stands up with a slight grin on his face clearly pointing out that he’s preparing something.

“Meet us at the playground when you’re done.”

“Stiles,” he calls after him, “why do I have to read the book?”

Stiles ignores him and moves towards the door, leisurely walking out.

Derek sighs heavily and stares down at the thing in his hands, a little confused.

He opens it in the second page to be faced with a dedication. He normally jumps those in books, more interested in the story than in the author’s personal life, but the names in this one catch his eye.

For my moon Jacy and for the four ‘wolves that made this book possible: Erica, Isaac, Boyd and Derek.

“Oh,” he breathes out in awe and starts reading.

«»

“Once upon a time, there were three little piggies. They were called Curly, Bomb and Quiet and they were terribly alone, fated to wander the lands without ever finding a place they really belonged to.

“The first little piggy, Curly, was very kind and very gentle and very rough at the edges. He often tried to settle down and when he did he built a house made of straw and tried to make it his home, but, as soon as he felt safe and comforted by the walls around him, rough wind or the slightest blow would knock his house right back down leaving Curly to collect his hope back up and wander the lands until he set himself to do it all over again.

The second little piggie had a similar problem.

Her name was Bomb and everyone treated her like she was fragile but she was incredibly strong. She had a house made of wood she'd gathered in the forest and built on her shaky hands.

You see Bomb was very sick so any attempts to build a solid structure always failed and after a couple too many blows her house too would crumble and fall to the ground and she'd despair because every time she put her house back up she thought this time would be the time it would stick. She was very hopeful like that, but losing hope so many times made her hard and bitter.

The third and last little piggy was named Quiet and he had a house.

His house was made of brick layered with cement, no wind or blow could knock it down, but Quiet had been holed up inside for such a long time that his house became much too big for him and he was terribly lonely.

Sometimes people would pass by and he'd hope that they would stop and knock and give him a reason to open a door but none of them did so, and so Quiet kept living in his too big too quiet house all by himself, where no one could get him but no one could get him either.

The three piggies were very lost.

They often wandered close to each other but in their loneliness they didn't ever think about helping each other out.

Now all stories have a bad guy. In most stories the bad guy is big and wants to munch the heroes up. In this story, although they were very brave underneath their loneliness the three little piggies were hardly heroes and the loneliness itself was the bad guy and you cannot fight something you cannot see. Not when you’re so terribly alone.

There are also heroes in stories and in this one we have a Very Gentle Wolf with an impossibly strong armor, layers of metal and nails that were not to protect him from future scars but to hide the ones he already had.

The Very Gentle Wolf saw the little piggies and he wanted to help, so he came down from his hill where he had his house, also crumbling and on the verge of falling apart but never doing so.

He first came down and stopped by the fragile house where little piggy Curly lived and knocked.

He said, "Let me in" and Curly was very scared because wolves are big and sometimes they eat piggies just like him  for breakfast, so Curly hid under his bed even if he didn’t like it much down there and said ”No”.

The wolf knocked again and said, “I want to help. I'll give you a home and strength so a little blow will never tear your house down again.”

The little piggie Curly didn’t know if the Big Wolf was lying but he had his house up once more and with that he had a little hope, so he opened his door and the wolf took him back to his very lonely, crumbling house on the hill.

He gave Curly a room.

It was a solidly built room that would never fall down and he knew that because years and years of abuse from nature had tried and failed.

The Very Gentle Wolf asked Curly if he'd like to be a wolf like him so he could stay forever in his room and they could rebuild it and make it better just for him.

Curly said yes so he was turned into a little wolf.

He stopped being a little scared piggy and started being a brave little wolf.

Next, the Very Gentle Wolf went to Bomb that was bracing herself on her shaky wooden house, waiting for the next person to tear it down. The wolf knocked on the door and the little piggy Bomb opened it because she was one of the bravest of the three little piggies.

She had to be very brave to always get herself up after falling.

The Very Gentle Wolf asked her if she'd like strength and to be cured of her very bad sickness. He told her that there was already a very brave little wolf on his a little less lonely house up on the hill and they could be friends and be brave together.

Bomb said yes and went with the big wolf. He made her into a little wolf and she stopped being a little scared piggy. She became one of the bravest little wolves the land had ever seen.

Curly and Bomb made the Big Wolf's house less lonely. They helped make it a home, they became family and slowly built his house back up. Very slowly though.

Still the Big Gentle Wolf thought something was missing so he let his very special senses lead him to a big brick house that smelled very sad.

He stopped before it and tilted his head and then he knocked on the door. He was the first person in so many years to knock on that door that it opened with great effort.

The big wolf said, “I offer you family” and the little piggy Quiet that was unbearably lonely accepted.

The Big Gentle Wolf in his big hard armor had a family and built his house back up from the ground, not like it used to be when he was just a little wolf and had no scars on him, but a home to the now three little wolvies.

This house could not be torn down no matter how many blows it took. This house was never big and lonely because the wolvies made sure they all loved each other, their own special brand of love, their own special brand of family, and, slowly, with time, the Big Gentle Wolf also shed his armor and stood among his family, showing his scars with no guilt and the big house up on the hill was never lonely again and everyone was happy.

The end.

«»

Derek stares dumbstruck at the large picture in the book, depicting the Hale house on a little hill standing strong with the barely distinguishable silhouettes of four wolves next to it.

It’s always jarring, he supposes, seeing yourself from another person’s eyes. Derek had done it a couple of times. He has been yelled at for every single flaw he has several times, people constantly making him see what he already knows to the point where sometimes he saw himself through other people’s eyes on the wrong side of a fist.

The others time he got a chance to comprehend how other people saw him was through leering and the scent of lust that always smelt acidic to his nose.

Every time he had done it, it was something violent, jarring, destroying.

Of course Stiles had to go and be the only exception to the constant in Derek’s lives. He has the annoying habit of doing it.

Derek takes a deep breath and closes the book, sets it carefully on the table, afraid his too big and too rough hands will thwart it, break it, rip it, even if it’s senseless. It’s a book, it won’t spontaneously combust.

But it’s also a good thing and good things do tend to spontaneously combust in Derek’s hands.

He gets up and moves towards the door, is already on the sidewalk before he really knows it, only hitting him then that no one had the decency to tell him where exactly this playground was.

Derek huffs, used to having his life made more difficult by miscommunication and decides to take the easy route, tipping his head back and letting himself inhale a lungful of air. It’s almost effortless to catch Stiles’ scent and track it down through town and into the playground.

The playground seems fairly new and fairly small. It certainly wasn’t here the last time Derek was in Beacon Hills.

He can easily and immediately spot Jacy perched on Isaac’s legs as he sits on the swing and carefully balances her back and forward. The rest of the pack is loitering around, making the few parents and nannies that are hanging around the park seem nervous and overly concerned, even if Boyd is letting a couple of the kids use him as a jungle gym passively and Kira is play sword fighting with others, looking absolutely delighted.

Stiles is leaning against the swing set, gracefully letting another child use the swing next to Jacy’s as he watches Isaac with his kid.

“Hey,” Derek calls, standing a bit awkwardly in the middle of a playground.

Stiles lifts his eyes to him with a small smile, “You read the book.”

“I did.”

“And?”

“And can we talk?”

Stiles’ face grows a little more serious. He nods, stopping to send Isaac a threatening look before following Derek.

They move to the outskirts of the park, far enough that any prying werewolf ears won’t catch their words but close enough that they can still keep a close eye on Jacy. Derek is distinctly worried about her penchant to perch on things mostly because her balance as a little ways to go still.

“So?” Stiles starts, getting the proverbial ball rolling.

Derek used to be good at ball games when he was a teenager. He’s lost practice since then.

He takes a deep breath.

“So.”

He lets it out and knits his eyebrows in confusion. He still doesn’t quite understand.

“Why?”

“Why what?” Stiles asks, throws back at him because he enjoys being difficult, making Derek work for it.

“Why did you write it?”

Stiles sighs, “I don’t lie to her you know,” he starts, “my mom was the same with me. She never lied about the big stuff. When she didn’t or couldn’t tell me she would say ‘I love you, kochanie and that’s all that really matters’.

“I’m- she was a good mother and I thought it’d be fair if I did the same for Jacy, you know. She deserves some truth and of course she wanted to know where she came from, why didn’t she have a mommy and a daddy or even another daddy. So I told her the truth.”

“That I had run away,” Derek concludes. Even if he hadn’t known at the time, couldn’t possibly have known that was what he had done; run away like a deadbeat dad that promises he’s just going to pick a pack of cigarettes from the drugstore down the street and never comes back.

Stiles throws him an annoyed look, “No, moron. That Daddy had to leave because he wasn’t ready yet. That she was too precious and Daddy wanted to be the best possible person he could for her.”

He throws Derek a look then, like he’s challenging him to say otherwise, to even dare break the little fantasy he created for his daughter.

Derek won’t. He couldn’t, especially because in a way it’s true.

“I do. I think I am.”

Stiles offers him a smile, the one where his mouth almost doesn’t even tilt up but his eyes light up. Stiles smiles with his eyes a lot when it’s an honest one.

“She understood it too, because she’s smart. I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been easy. There’s been tantrums, there’s been nights I couldn’t put her to sleep because she wanted to meet you, so I made up stories, twisted reality into fairytale just enough that she could hold onto them. She- she needed them. She needed a father.”

Derek nods because maybe he gets it now. Jacy had been crying and Stiles had made up stories for her, someone almost perfect to hold on to. Someone that’s a hero to Stiles.

“She needed a father,” he acknowledges, “so you gave her a hero.”

Yeah, Derek thinks he understands now. Stiles made up this entire persona for her. Built up a hero for his little girl to cling to at night.

“So I gave her you, you moron.”

“I’m not a hero,” he shoots, quick and brash and absolute, something he’s sure of.

“That’s your opinion,” Stiles tells him and it’s like that conversation they had so long ago, “Remember what happened last time you had one of those?” he grins.

Stiles,” he says, aggravated.

“Derek,” Stiles returns mildly, “You know I have the very annoying habit of being right. It’s one of my character flaws. I’ve embraced it, you should too.”

Derek huffs, already knowing he lost, still he won’t let Stiles win that easily. He just couldn’t for his own piece of mind.

“Oh, really?” he quirks an eyebrow, tilts his head meaningfully to where Malia is running around with little Jacy on her shoulders, letting out a mighty battle cry.

“That was one time,” Stiles huffs.

“Seems pretty significant to me.”

“Fucking fae,” he huffs, “at least now we know. Never be nice to fae so they think they owe you a favor and never let them catch you while you have a buttload of cum up your ass.”

Derek chokes on his own spit.

Stiles smirks at him like he just won a prize.

Derek feels the need to push him off the bench but the way Stiles’ face suddenly sobers gives him pause.

“I’m not- I won’t ask you to-“

“Then don’t,” Derek cuts him off, “I already made the decision.”

It’s that simple really.

“I won’t twist your arm into staying just because of her. I’m not forcing you-“

“You aren’t. Even if she hadn’t happened I-“ Derek takes a deep breath, “Look, when I came to visit I didn’t know what to expect. You could’ve moved, you could’ve been with someone, you could be happy and not… interested.

“When I made the trip I didn’t really plan but on the off chance that you were still- you were still, I’d stay. If you asked, I’d stay.”

Derek makes his eyes stay steady on Stiles. He feels like he can handle this now, he feels like maybe, just maybe he won’t absolutely destroy them, especially now that there’s Jacy who’s blood of his blood, somehow. Family.

Derek is chronically incapable of turning his back on family. He had once, when he was young and stupid and still grieving his first love. He knows better now. He hopes he knows better.

“You were waiting for me,” Stiles marvels, sounding a little awed, “Well that’s good, because I was waiting for your dumb butt to get your shit together too.”

“Stiles, language!” Isaac shouts snottily, covering Jacy’s ears even as he leads her closer to them, her little feet on top of his as they waddle together slowly towards the bench.

“Go eat broccoli, Lahey!” Stiles shouts, making Jacy gasp in horror before collapsing in a fit of giggles.

Derek looks on with a quirked eyebrow, already incredibly fond.

“We had to get a little creative with swearwords,” Stiles explains easily, eyes crinkling at the corners and Derek’s thankful for all the honest smiles he’s receiving.

He’ll  never stop being thankful for every time he gets to see Stiles smile.

Jacy slaps her hands on his knees and grins widely, “Come play.” It’s a demand if Derek has ever heard one.

He doesn’t even have to think about it before he gets up and offers his too big hand to her. Jacy wraps her tiny chubby fingers around two of his and tugs him eagerly towards the playground, babbling about how she wants to be a superhero and Derek needs to push her on the swing until her toes touch the moon.

“Does he know he still has scrunchies in his hair?” Isaac stage whispers.

Stiles loudly shushes him with a laugh.

«»

After the playground they decide it’d be a wonderful idea to visit the Sheriff, especially since Stiles was still living with him.

As soon as the Sheriff sees Derek at the door he punches him in the face and then proceeds to squeeze the life out of him in a hug.

To say that Derek’s a little thrown about this behavior would be an understatement.

“Dad!” Stiles yelps, “Not in front of Jacy. Come on! We have a no-violence rule.”

The Sheriff pulls back and claps a hand on Derek’s shoulder, looking intensely into his eyes like he can make Derek crumble and confess everything he ever did wrong in his life if he stares hard enough.

Never do that to my son and granddaughter again,” he threatens, “but I’m glad you’re finally back, son.”

Derek blinks confusedly, feeling unbalanced and unsure, “Okay?”

The Sheriff frowns, “You didn’t sound too sure there, son.”

“Okay, I won’t,” Derek says firmly, looking over at Stiles for guidance.

Stiles pinches the bridge of his nose and half glares at his father, “Was the punching really necessary. Was it?” he chides, “You know not calling him back was my choice.”

The Sheriff nods, not bothering to look even a little bit chastised, “You’re right. How could I forget,” he says and then he clips Stiles upside the head with a disapproving look, “You’re both idiots. Now where’s my little sunshine?”

Isaac finally lets go of Jacy and she immediately runs off crashing into her grandpa’s legs with absolutely no finesse and a squeal of delight.

“Hi, Popsy.”

The Sheriff picks her up and gives her an Eskimo kiss, looking absolutely smitten, “Hello, princess.”

At least Derek knows now he’s not the only one completely smitten for the little darling.

Dziadek, I’m not a princess. I’m a spywolf.”

The Sheriff nods along passively, “Obviously. My mistake, apologies.”

“That’s okay, Popsy.”

Sheriff dotes one more smile on his granddaughter before he turns on them and the little contingent behind them, “Care to come in?”

“Okay,” Derek says carefully, following the Sheriff into the house and expecting the others to follow. He’s a little surprised when only Stiles follows them inside, the door closing with a finality that indicates Stiles decided that this conversation was a personal one and all the other ‘wolves could just go frolic somewhere else.

The Sheriff sits in the living room, setting Jacy on his lap and giving her an indulgent smile before producing a tiny cupcake out of somewhere and presenting it to her.

“Dad!” Stiles chastises.

“What?” the Sheriff asks innocently, “Am I not allowed to feed my granddaughter?”

Stiles huffs, “I’ll let you take care of her when she gets sugar high then.”

The Sheriff makes a face, “No offense kiddo but she’s just like you when she’s on a high, and that is to say a force of chaos to be reckoned with.”

“Aww, Dad you say the sweetest things about my kid.”

Derek snorts and shifts a little in his seat, still uncomfortable in the Stilinski’s living room, a space that seems so private to them, so shared. He feels like he shouldn’t be interrupting their living space.

The noise he makes seems to catch Jacy’s attention and she gives him a chocolate covered smile, scrambling out of her grandfather’s lap and leaping into Derek’s who catches her easily and sets her as comfortably as he can on his own lap, focus immediately centering on her.

He smiles, can feel his lips quirking up on their own accord when Jacy dimples at him.

“Do you want cake?” Jacy asks dutifully.

“No that’s okay you can have it.”

Jacy beams but breaks a tiny piece of her cupcake off anyway to give it to Derek. He takes it solemnly and plops it into his mouth, making sure he makes a yummy sound.

“Thank you.”

“’S okay. Everyone deserves cake,” she says wisely just before shoving the rest of it in her mouth and chewing obnoxiously.

He can see where she’s Stiles’ kid alright.

“So, Derek,” the Sheriff starts, eyes flitting to his son for a second before settling severely on him, “how long are you staying?”

“As long as Stiles will have me,” he says quietly, a little too focused where Jacy is attempting to clean her mouth with her tongue and trying to get a piece of stray cupcake from the tip of her nose using the same method.

“Good, then.”

“Does this mean Dewek is ready to be my daddy?” Jacy asks, eyes wide and hopeful.

Derek is pretty sure he has melted and is somewhere around the floor turned into a puddle. He feels like his heart is a little too full, that it might burst at any time and wouldn’t that be unfortunate.

He’s pretty sure he’s beaming, his heart in his eyes as he looks down at the tiny little creature he helped make. He knows it like an absolute that he’ll love her for as long as he breathes and perhaps maybe even after he stops.

“I am,” he confirms, seriously, ignoring for now the sharp intake of breathe from Stiles and the way the Sheriff seems to sigh in relief. He can’t even really process those reactions when he has a lapful of Jacy squealing happily and throwing her little chubby arms around his neck, hugging tight and rubbing her cheek against his.

“Yay. I waited a long time for you, Daddy.”

He settles one of his too big hands on her little back and hugs her to him, feeling something settle, the world tilting over on its axis to where it was supposed to be all along.

“You did. You were very patient, I’m very proud.”

Jacy is clutching to him with her grubby cupcake hands, “You’re gonna be the best daddy.”

Derek is not going to cry. He’s not. He might tear up a little bit. Maybe. He’ll neither confirm nor deny it.

«»

“We should date,” Stiles blurts out later, after Jacy is already mushed between the two of them sound asleep and the Sheriff has left for his late night shift.

Derek rolls his head on the back of the couch so he can look at him. It’s quiet, the heavy rollercoaster that was Derek’s day has seemed to have went down its final drop and is carefully slowing down to a stop.

The lights are dim and the TV is just background noise, static. Derek can hear Jacy – his daughter he still can’t quite believe it – breathing, her little heart beating a little too fast like Stiles’ always seems to, and of course he can hear the sounds of Stiles breathing too, his breath hitching when he’s about to start talking but thinks better of it and the way his heart beats irregularly. It has done that since he sacrificed himself for his father.

“We should, huh?”

Derek isn’t completely against the idea. It does sound nice. He never had the opportunity to date as an adult.

“Yeah. I birthed your child Hale, now I expect to be wooed as best as your little werewolf butt is capable of.”

“Alright,” he agrees easily, arranging his expression into one of complete seriousness, “I’ll start hunting deer to leave on your porch tomorrow.”

Stiles wide eyes him for a second, completely stunned and somewhat wary. Derek raises an eyebrow and quirks his lips and that’s all Stiles needs to curl in on himself with laughter, keeping it muffled behind his hand so he doesn’t wake Jacy up.

“I missed your humor,” Stiles grins at him and it makes Derek feel bold.

“I missed you.”

Stiles turns soft all over, “Yeah,” he agrees lowly, easily, “yeah I missed you too.”

«»

“This is my new Daddy,” Jacy presents him proudly to every single person they meet up with for the next three weeks, “He can make up my hair pretty like Auntie Lyds can and he sings to all the Frozen songs with me. His face is really soft and prickly you wanna touch it? It’s really, really cool.”

It’s normally received with an indulgent smile, or a roll of eyes or cooing. Except Scott, who’s still mad at Derek for leaving Stiles after impregnating him even though he didn’t know what he was doing at the time.

He never denies that it’s his fault that Stiles had to raise their child alone and that seems to appease Scott some.

It takes time though, it takes the entire summer of Derek and his little pack staying over at Beacon Hills for him to reconnect with everyone else and meet the new members of Scott’s pack.

It takes the entire summer for him to woo Stiles, taking him out to nice dinners and doing everything he possibly can to make up for time lost.

Stiles seems happy to be wooed. Lydia seems satisfied that he’s putting on an effort.

By the end of the summer they’re actually honest to God dating. And raising a kid together. Derek somehow convinces Stiles to move to the loft midway through the summer and to bring Jacy along because he’s lost enough time with his little girl. It’s still amazing to him that he has a little girl at all.

But by the end of the summer they also have to make real world decisions about what to do now, because Cora, Erica and Boyd are moving back to New York to attend college. Lydia is going to take a year and study abroad in Oxford (Derek suspects her decision was heavily influenced by their stories of Jackson when they went to visit) and all the rest of the McCall pack has a life to get back to. Even Scott, who’s now working at the vet clinic alongside Dr. Deaton.

Stiles doesn’t have a job. He’s living off the profits of his books and off his Dad, not having the time or the trust in anyone to look after Jacy while he’s gone. He didn’t finish college, has been taking it slowly, in little increments as time and his daughter allows and Derek knows that it frustrates him, knows that Stiles is smart enough to completely blow past college and secure a job in whatever he wants to do.

“You could always come back with me to New York, go to school there. I could watch Jacy while you were at school.”

Stiles sighs into Derek’s chest, hiding away from big decisions, “It’s too far away from everyone, but- it’s not a bad idea.”

Derek tangles his fingers in his hair and pulls him closer still, “We don’t need to stay there forever, just until you finish college, it could be good for all of us. We could come visit as often as you’d like.”

Derek has given this a good thought, and he honestly thinks it’d be for the best, because even now he can see how Beacon Hills and the Nemeton suck Stiles’ energy out of him daily and consistently. How sometimes he’ll have to sit down and take a deep breathe to stop himself from crumbling.

He hates seeing him like that.

“I’ll think about it.”

“That’s all I ask for,” he mutters and dotes a kiss on Stiles’ forehead.

«»

They end up doing it.

When Derek’s pack moves back Stiles and Jacy move with them.

It’s not easy at first, this is Derek’s life after all. There’s little arguments about money and kindergarten and there’s little arguments about adapting to each other in a place as foreign as New York.

It’s not easy but it works for them, it’s always worked for them one way or another. Stiles is stubborn enough to make it work even when it doesn’t.

And after all’s said and done they settle into a routine.

Stiles goes to school and Derek takes Jacy to work, paying close attention to her and her possibly turning into a werewolf in the middle of the day and then they go back home and just live.

Isn’t that extraordinary.

He’s living, not just surviving but actually making an effort and enjoying his life, even with all the loss and heartbreak and anger he still drags at his heels but he’s living.

Derek has his pack and now he has Stiles who is still spastic but older, more mature with a little more weight curving his shoulders but still as bright, still like electricity, like a hurricane, uncontrollable and beautiful.

And of course he has Jacy, who looks so painfully like Laura that his heart aches sometimes, but who’s so bright and smart, so full of life that it makes everything around her lighten up, slowly awakening from stasis and just progress.

Derek is happy. Derek is happy and living and it’s not perfect but it’s what he needs, what he has the absolute privilege to have.

“Tell me a story,” Jacy demands, kicking her feet back and forth wildly from her perch on the bookstore’s counter, “I’m bored Daddy, tell me a story.”

“I’m not as good at Tata at telling stories,” he warns, “but I do have a really good one. Do you want to hear it?”

“Yes!” she cheers, throwing her little fists in the air and eyes flashing in uncontrolled excitement.

“Okay. Here it goes.

Once upon a time there was a boy in a red hoodie and he was very brave and very smart and very reckless…”