It is a universally-accepted truth that witches suck. Throughout his life, Derek has never once heard anyone challenge this fact or express a different opinion. No, every other supernatural creature he's ever encountered, even the less-than-civilized ones, has agreed that witches are by far the most aggravating beings of them all.
Derek had always hoped that he'd never have to personally experience just how aggravating they can be, but apparently, life has other plans for him. Or, rather, witches really are just that shitty.
He stares numbly at the pup - infant, he mentally corrects himself, for it's a human and not a werewolf - as it hiccups at him from its place sprawled on the ground. Its eyes dart everywhere, unable to focus on anything at once, instead attempting to take in every nuance of the forest surrounding it as quickly as it can. And that, if nothing else, is proof enough that this child is most definitely Stiles, through and through.
“Fuck,” Derek says bluntly, and the baby shrills at the sound of his voice.
It really is Stiles' fault, he reasons as he treks back to the house, the infant clasped in his arms. If he had just stayed put like Derek had told him instead of following him into the woods, the witch wouldn't have used him as a target. A target for what, exactly, Derek isn't sure. Because if her plan was to emotionally cripple him in order to make him easier to kill, turning Stiles into a baby probably wasn't the best course of action on her part. If that had been her goal, it would've made more sense for her to cast a curse that would invert the teenager's organs, or fill his throat with razor blades, or —
Derek cuts off that train of thought before it goes any further. Unconsciously, he holds the infant just a little tighter, and, okay, perhaps this isn't as bad as he first thought. It certainly could have been much, much worse. He could be holding a Stiles who's bleeding out and gasping for air, instead of one who may or may not have just spit up all over his leather jacket goddammit.
He almost tells the baby what a little shit it is, but on second thought, he doesn't want to give it any ideas.
Even though Stiles can't talk, he's certainly not quiet by any stretch of the imagination. He screeches and hollers and blabbers in baby-speak at an almost incessant rate, falling silent only when he's sleeping. Otherwise, it's a constant stream of blubbering and usually results in spit bubbles, since Stiles' mouth can't keep up with his brain.
At least some things haven't changed.
And Derek knows it should annoy him, he knows the unending noise should make him want to drive a fist through the wall or give into the morally-apprehensible urge to punch a baby, but god, he loves every second of it. He spends hours listening to Stiles ramble, attention rapt, every nonsense word and gurgle a miraculous sound to his ears.
For the first several nights, he does nothing more than lay on the couch with the infant pillowed on his chest, simply talking, and the low rumble of his voice makes Stiles grin toothlessly and squeal at him until gradually, slumber takes him, and he falls asleep with his tiny fists scrunched in the material of Derek's shirt.
No, some things haven't changed at all.
It quickly becomes clear that the curse isn't going to wear off any time soon, so Derek goes to the store and stocks up on supplies. The colorful pastels and chubby cartoon animals look ridiculously out of place in the Hale house, which hasn't seen such youth in many, many years. Dimly, Derek is grateful that he'd at least started renovations earlier in the summer, since the burnt, dilapidating structure hadn't been tremendously baby-proof beforehand, what with all the rusty nails and rotting floorboards.
The rest of the pack comes by after Derek informs them of Stiles' whereabouts, which he probably should have done immediately, but he tells himself he needed time to acclimate to the situation, and that it absolutely had nothing to do with him feeling overprotective or nervous about letting anyone else near Stiles while he's so defenseless. And it's absolutely not why he's on a hair-trigger the entire time that they're in the house, even if everything goes smoothly and Stiles suffers nothing more than a pinched cheek or two, courtesy of Allison.
“He's just so chubby!” she exclaims, sending a delighted look towards Scott, who only gives an awkward laugh in response.
Derek can tell that he's beyond freaked out by seeing his best friend like this - or, at least, that's what Derek thinks it is at first. But after a while, he catches Scott wandering out onto the porch, and the kid's muttering to himself about Allison and pack and pups and oh my god what is wrong with me we can't even legally drink yet, and Derek can't help but grin.
Erica and Isaac elected not to come, the former for her general dislike of small children, and the latter for what he claimed to be “personal reasons.” But Boyd is there, and he takes to the infant like he takes to everything: naturally. At first, the sight of such a large, looming figure holding Stiles makes Derek's adrenaline spike and his wolf pace anxiously, but Boyd proves himself to be every bit the gentle giant, and soon, Derek's able to relax.
Admittedly, he'd been more worried about letting Jackson inside, but the moment he sees the baby, he downright coos. And then he quickly threatens them that if they tell anyone, he'll kill them, his eyes flashing to slits and a vibrant shade of red coloring his cheeks.
Lydia informs him that she really doesn't think he has the qualifications - let alone the parenting skills - to be taking care of a baby, and that she's seriously concerned for Stiles' well-being. She spends the majority of the visit criticizing everything from the baby food he has stocked in the cupboard (”Well, at least you're not feeding him raw meat, I suppose”) to the onesie pajamas he'd picked out (”Really, Derek? Are those gender-stereotypical dinosaurs?” to which he'd vehemently retorted, “They're badass”).
At the end of the day, though, she pulls him aside while Stiles drowses on her shoulder, slobbering all over a mouthful of her curls, and she confesses that he really isn't doing too bad of a job, all circumstances considered.
“I mean, I'm sure it's all instinctual, since wolves have some of the most nurturing behaviors in the animal kingdom,” Lydia says, hitching Stiles up a little higher in her arms, “but you're actually good at this parenting thing.”
Something in Derek flares with pride at that, and he doesn't even try to stop his stupid, happy grin from showing for the rest of the evening.
Not even when Stiles decides to regurgitate mashed peas all over his face.
Some nights, Stiles has nightmares, and his shrieks are loud enough to raise the dead.
It wakes Derek up instantly every time, and he wakes up as the wolf, crouching over the baby and snarling at some unseen, invisible threat. The drive to protect is so overwhelming that it takes him several minutes to regain control, but when he does, he curls himself around Stiles and comforts him as best he can, tickling and soothing and murmuring soft, gentle things.
Only when Stiles' muffled, hiccuping cries fade away does Derek let some of the tension ease from himself, and he pulls the infant's tender body close to his, sheltering it from harm.
He stays awake for the rest of the night, watching, protecting.
The witch reappears after several weeks have passed. She arrives unannounced, materializing in the middle of the bathroom just as Derek's elbow-deep in suds and waving a rubber duck in Stiles' face.
That's witches for you, alright.
Derek spins around in the blink of an eye, placing himself between the intruder and Stiles, although the baby is relatively oblivious and far more entertained by the squeaking noise the duck makes when he bashes it against the side of the tub. The witch's stance isn't aggressive, her expression only amused and the slightest bit fond, but it doesn't stop Derek from growling at her. “Give me one good reason not to rip your throat out,” he demands.
“It would ruin your microfiber bath rug,” the witch says, and dammit, but she does have a point.
Frowning, he forces his claws to retract, although he doesn't move from his lowered stance. “What do you want?”
She shrugs, tucking a strand of mousy brown hair behind her ear. “I was in the neighborhood and just wanted to check in. We never did get to finish talking before you tried to eviscerate me,” she explains, before her gaze shifts to Stiles. “I'm a bit surprised to see that this little one hasn't changed back, though.”
That effectively stops Derek, and he blinks at her dumbly. “What are you talking about?”
“That curse wore off after one week,” the witch says, sounding equally confused. “I have no idea why he wouldn't have- oh. Oh.”
“What?” Derek snarls, and when she does nothing but laugh, he snaps his fangs in agitation. “What's wrong with him?!”
The witch doesn't answer, only cackles, and when he makes a swipe at her, she vanishes into thin air, leaving him fuming in the middle of the bathroom while, in the background, Stiles determinedly tries to fit the entire rubber duck in his mouth.
Another week passes. Then one day, Derek turns his back to spoon a jar of mushy carrots into a plastic frog bowl, and when he turns around, a fully-grown Stiles is balancing awkwardly on the high chair. He and Derek stare blankly at each other for several agonizingly long seconds, and Derek suddenly hopes that Stiles will have no memory of the past month, if only to save himself crippling embarrassment.
That hope is effectively obliterated when Stiles grins and says, “Dude, thanks for making me breakfast, but that baby food tastes like total shit.”
Derek's first inclination is to fling the bowl of carrot-mush at Stiles' face, but instead he grits out, “Why didn't the curse wear off when it was supposed to?”
Stiles carefully extricates himself from the high chair, brushing his thankfully-clothed body off. When he lifts his head, he's wearing a smug smile, and Derek's stomach drops.
“Oh, it wore off,” Stiles says, “I could've changed back whenever I wanted.”
Derek throws the carrots at him anyways, because seriously, witches suck.