Six months after the Pack returns to Beacon Hills, Stiles pulls up to his Dad's house for the monthly family dinner. None of the others are there yet, and Dad's car isn't in the drive, but Chris Argent is lurking in the shadows of the porch.
“I know what you’re doing,” Chris says. There's something vaguely ominous in his tone.
Stiles grins. “I'm here for dinner, after spending the day toiling in the bowels of hell, which in this case is teaching high school History.” Chris is extremely unimpressed. Stiles grins wider and leans forward. “I know what you’re doing, too—you’re waiting for me like a creeper.” He claps his hands together, like the world's loudest exclamation point. “And now that we both know what the other is doing, I’m going to head inside and grade tests while I wait for everyone else.”
Chris’ face clenches in annoyance. “Jackson is running for Mayor, and Allison is Sheriff. Danny’s turned his company into the cornerstone of employment in the county, and Lydia is using her talents to lift BH College into the ranks of mathematical infamy.”
All true, though the last part is a huge underestimation of Lydia’s work for the Pack. Not that Stiles is going to tell that to Chris.
Stiles shakes his head sadly. “I know, it’s sickening how overachieving they are. I feel like a lazy slacker in comparison. But, hey, what can you do, right?”
“I’m not an idiot, Stiles,” Chris snaps. He stands up straight, back tense. “You have a presence in the high school, and Scott is head nurse for ER triage and assistant to the coroner.” He grimaces in disbelief. “And Derek has fashioned himself into some kind of avant garde artiste--”
“That was actually a hysterical accident,” Stiles says, because it's the truth, and it will never stop being funny. Ever.
“--which makes his erratic and antisocial behavior acceptably eccentric. You’re insinuating yourselves into vital areas of the town, and you’ve done it for a reason.”
Stiles laughs. Loudly. And a lot. “Yeah, I'm sure you think it's all sinister or something. You know what your problem is? All your years of dealing with werewolves, of dealing with us, and you still don’t get it. We have the same needs you do, man.”
Chris’ breath whistles through clenched teeth. “You’re not a werewolf, Stiles. You’re human.”
Stiles waves his hands dismissively. “The point, man, you’re totally missing it.”
Dad's car pulls up then, and Stiles and Chris go silent to watch him park and exit. He strides up the walk, in the casual clothes of his retirement, and pulls Stiles' into a one-armed hug.
“How's it going, kid? Where's the rest of the Pack?”
“I'm good, and you know how it is, they'll be here thirty seconds before dinner's served.”
Dad pulls a face that speaks to the awkwardness of these dinners, and lets go of Stiles with a parting squeeze. He steps up to Chris and gives him a light kiss on the lips in greeting, and then all three of them enter Stiles' childhood home, which Dad shares with Chris, his husband of two years.
The weirdness never really stopped coming after Stiles learned about werewolves.
Stiles has seen, done and been subjected to some horrifyingly violent and bloody things over the years, and he'd rather relive any one of them than keep attending these dinners. Sadly, that's not an option.
Stiles told his father about werewolves in his freshman year of college, when the Pack was gone from Beacon Hills, Stiles was a legal adult, and Derek promised to help pay for college if Dad cut him off or something. It went about how one would expect a revelation like that to go, meaning that after a roller coaster of emotional reactions—which included talk of having Stiles literally committed—his dad grudgingly accepted it as truth. Things between them were tense for a long while after that, until his father eventually processed all of it and came to grips with the fact that Stiles' involvement wasn't going to end.
When the Pack returned to Beacon Hills, his father immediately instituted the dinners. Stiles thinks that, at some point, Dad recognized the significance of family situations in the formation of the Pack. There's not much Stiles can do to ease his misplaced guilt over working so many hours after Mom died, but he can show up every month, and get the others to come, too, so he does it.
The dinners are stone cold proof that Stiles comes by his tenacity honestly. Anyone else would have given up and stopped after the first two, but not Dad, despite how nightmarishly awful they are.
Derek won't let them discuss Pack business, which includes so much more than Chris suspects, and Dad won't let Chris talk about Hunting, which is a blessing because Stiles thinks he wouldn't be able to help himself from jumping across the table and stabbing Chris with a spoon, and that reduces the conversational topics to almost nothing.
Beyond that, there's also the fact that Derek goes mute the moment he walks through the door and doesn't regain the ability to speak until he's out of it, Lydia won't drop her pseudo vapid persona for even a second, and Scott is still upset at the fact that Dad chose Chris over Scott's mom, like, five years ago.
Fortunately, Stiles has no problem talking about absolutely nothing at all, though tonight he focuses on work, which offers an endless supply of adolescent ridiculousness guaranteed to draw everyone's interest, if not their participation. Dad spends a full half hour sharing Sheriffy wisdom with Allison, which she eats up with a spoon, and which distracts his Dad from the way everyone else is staring at their plates and eating as fast as they can. Allison is also the only one who speaks to Chris, and Stiles is grateful for that because it soothes the lines of tension around his dad's eyes.
As soon as Stiles and Allison emerge from the kitchen, having helped the parents clean up, the Pack is on their feet and ready to go. Stiles hugs his dad, tries to make it say a lot of things, mostly apologies about how Stiles' life choices have affected Dad.
Dad pulls back, hands on Stiles shoulders, and smiles tiredly. “Same time next month, Stiles.”
Stiles thinks that's his dad's way of telling him it's okay, and he loves Stiles anyway.
Outside, Lydia goes directly to Stiles' car, which makes him arch a brow because she rode over with Allison.
“I'm spending the night at yours,” she tells him.
Stiles nods his agreement and tosses her his keys. “Take my car, and I'll meet you there in a bit.”
Derek looks a question at him when he slides into the passenger seat, but Stiles shakes his head. They go to Derek's apartment, a small one bedroom he's staying in temporarily until he actually buys a house like the rest of them did in the first two months they were back.
Stiles looks around at the bare walls, the bland and sparse furniture that came with the place, and burned out bulb in the kitchen. He makes a conscious choice not to say, I love what you haven't done with the place.
“What happened?” Derek asks.
Stiles sighs and drops onto Derek's too-hard sofa. “Nothing unexpected, just Chris starting to get a clue.”
“How much of one?”
That's the question, isn't it, because Chris is not stupid, and that he chose to confront Stiles about it so early on is worrying. “More than we anticipated at this point, but...I don't know, maybe I'm just being paranoid.”
The fact that Derek plants himself on the sofa, right next to Stiles, and tips his head so that his cheek is pressed against the ball of Stiles' shoulder, isn't reassuring.
“Maybe we shouldn't have come back.”
Stiles shifts so that he can shove Derek's face into the crook of his neck. “That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard you say, and I'm counting that time you got high on werewolf-nip.”
Derek backhands Stiles in the ribs for the reminder of The Time When Derek Hale Giggled and Loved Everyone and Everything and Asked for Belly Scritches, then jerks the battered coffee table close so that they can prop their feet on it.
They sit like that for an hour, Derek mostly silent except for occasional grunts in response to Stiles' rambling monologue about Jackson's latest douchey hair cut. Eventually, Derek sits up and stretches. He kicks at Stiles' ankle. “I'll drive you home. Lydia's waiting.”
“She can keep waiting. It'll be a good growth experience or something.”
Derek cups the nape of Stiles' neck and shakes him gently. “She smelled anxious all through dinner.”
“Please, like we weren't all leaking horrible scents,” Stiles counters, but gets to his feet.
Stiles uses the bathroom before he goes, and he passes by Derek's bedroom on the way. The bed is made, mounds of decorative pillows covering half of the California king's surface in the same exact arrangement Lydia and Allison set them up in. He almost says something to Derek about it, but doesn't.
Lydia is lounging on the sofa in yoga pants and a loose t-shirt when Stiles gets home. Her face is free of make-up, her hair is damp and pulled back, and her hands are covered in ink stains. She puts aside a notebook filled with equations when he leans over the back of the sofa.
“What are you working on, Dr. Martin?”
“My next paper. It's on that algorithm I used to predict the probability of us getting into specific colleges. I'm going to clean it up, tweak some messy parts, and refine it.”
“That was pretty awesome,” Stiles says, because it was. She was 98% accurate in her outcomes, and that 2% was mostly because Scott and Allison broke up for a while in senior year and Scott's already poor grades tanked. Lydia accounted for the possibility of the breakup but seriously underestimated Scott's resulting sulk.
Without her work, Stiles isn't sure how they would have been able to only split the Pack into two groups for their college years. Especially since Lydia herself refused to attend any school but MIT.
Lydia sniffs, nostrils flaring, and eyes him. “What's wrong?”
“Huh? I'm fine.”
“Then what's wrong with Derek?”
Stiles tugs on her sloppy ponytail. “What makes you think something's wrong with Derek?”
“Oh, please, Stiles. His scent is all over you. If you're okay, then you didn't pile on him, which means he piled on you, and he never does that without a reason.”
Stiles waits, but she doesn't say anything else. He shrugs and climbs over the sofa back. “Maybe I'm just very cuddle-able.”
“You are,” she agrees, letting him get away with his non-answer, and then wraps herself around him like a monkey, face buried in his chest.
Stiles rubs one hand up and down her back, and tangles the fingers of his other one in her curls. “Want to tell me what's going on, Lyds?”
“Unlike Derek, I don't need a reason to cuddle you, Stiles.”
That's true enough, for sure. During the college Pack split, Derek moved near Stanford with Scott, Allison and Jackson, while Stiles went to Boston with Lydia and Danny. It was rough at first, because Derek made it clear that Stiles was in charge of the wolves, but they eventually settled really well into the new dynamic, and that included a lot of cuddling because, hey, werewolves live for that kind of thing.
“No, but I heard you had an odor of anxiety going on tonight, so this is me checking in on my Beta.”
Lydia's arms tighten around him. “You hardly ever call me that anymore. Yours.”
That's also true, and there's a lot of reasons for it, the main one being that, after undergrad, Stiles stepped down from his role of human-sort-of-Alpha to Lydia and Danny.
Despite that, there's a part of Stiles that sometimes still considers Lydia and Danny his, just like a small part of them will sometimes look to Stiles before Derek. Stiles rubs his cheek against her hair. “Come on, tell Alpha Lite what's up.”
“I want a baby.”
It takes a minute for Stiles to take that in and think it through, and then he falls into a headlong panic that he desperately tries to will himself out of because he doesn't want to be, like, rude, or hurt Lydia's feelings. She's pretty much his best friend nowadays, has been since Boston, and he knows better than anyone what her soft spots are.
“I'm not asking you to do it, so stop hyperventilating.”
“Oh thank Jesus,” Stiles gasps, then hurriedly squeezes her tight. “I didn't mean that the way it sounded, sorry.”
Lydia pushes away from him and favors him with a fond smile. “Dork. I know.” She looks away and bites her lip. “I mean, I did consider it, but--”
She doesn't have to say anything further, because her reasons for deciding not to are the same ones that were causing Stiles to freak out.
“No, yeah, I know. But, hey, look at me, would you?” She does, and she's nervous and shy in a way Stiles isn't used to seeing. He takes her face in his hands and touches their foreheads together. “This is awesome news. You're going to be the best mom ever, and we're going to be the best Pack Family ever, and your kid will be the best and smartest kid ever.”
Lydia's eyes gets shiny with a hint of unshed tears, but her mouth stretches into a beaming smile, so Stiles pulls her up and dances her around the room, chanting, “Baby wolf, baby wolf, baby wolf!”
Later, when they're settling down in Stiles' bed for the night, he asks her who's going to father her baby. “I'm not sure. At first, I thought about using a sperm bank, but that felt like a bad way to go.”
Stiles imagines Derek's reaction to the idea of some stranger contributing half of a Pack kid's DNA, and cringes. Bless Lydia for going with her gut, because Stiles never wants to deal with that kind of nuclear fall out. Ever.
“It would be best if it was someone from the Pack.” Stiles nods his agreement. “There's a lot to take into consideration, though.”
It'll be Danny, Stiles knows, but all he says is, “Whatever you decide, I'm in your corner.”