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The Care and Keeping of Emotionally Manipulative Cubs

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Slamming the door of his Jeep behind him, Stiles sprints up to the door of the Hale house. He just barely catches himself from falling when his toe catches on the top step, and he slumps against the door for a minute to collect himself before turning the knob.

“I’m here!” he calls out breathlessly as he lets himself in. “I’m so sorry, man, I was over at my dad’s when Scott called, then he texted me to tell me they were leaving her with you, and I came over as fast as I could.” He blinks, taking a minute to catch his breath as he looks around. Is anyone even here?

That question’s answered for him when he hears a quiet gurgle, followed by a soft cry. He whirls around to see Derek glaring daggers at him from the living room, where he’s cradling what looks like a small bundle of blankets and rocking from side to side. His pissed-off expression looks so out of place that Stiles almost laughs, but he decides self-preservation is the better part of valor.

“Sorry,” he says instead, wincing in the direction of little Cara, who’s very obviously awake now. “Did I wake her up?” Derek just rolls his eyes.

“It’s fine,” he says gently, and Stiles is a little weirded out until he realizes that the gentle tone is for Cara’s benefit, not his. “It was almost time to get her up, anyway.”

“Okay, good,” Stiles says, standing awkwardly in the foyer. Derek finished restoring the house a few years ago, but there’s still a squeaky board that Stiles manages to step on every time, and sure enough when he shifts he can hear it creak underneath him. He hisses quietly, shooting an apologetic look Derek’s way.

“It’s fine,” he says again, and this time a little exasperation makes its way into his voice. “Here, take her while I warm up her formula.”

“Huh? Oh, huh, okay,” Stiles says as Derek rearranges Stiles’ arms one-handed before carefully depositing a bundled up baby into them. “Should I…” but Derek’s already disappearing into the kitchen. “Okay, cool!” he says. “I’ll just hold the baby. The beautiful tiny werewolf baby.” That last bit is said in a hushed tone directed at Cara, who just blinks at him owlishly. He spends the next two or three minutes in a staring contest with her, and he’s more than happy to call it a forfeit when Derek comes back in and scoops her up.

“You know,” Derek says as he sits down, “when you enter a house that might have a baby in it, you could try to sound a little less like a herd of elephants.”

“Got it,” Stiles says, giving him a little salute. “One elephant maximum in the presence of potential babies.” He’s pretty sure he can hear Derek rolling his eyes this time. “So did you talk to Scott? Is everything okay?”

“It’s fine. They took her dad to the hospital, but Scott says they think it’s just kidney stones.”

Stiles makes a sympathetic face, even though Derek can’t see him. He and Mr. Argent have had their differences, but his dad had those when he was younger, and Stiles wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

After a minute, Stiles trails after Derek and sits next to him on the couch, watching him in uncharacteristic silence for a few minutes. He can’t be blamed, though; Derek is like a whole different person, quietly coaxing Cara into taking the bottle. While she eats, he rubs absently at her toes with the pad of his thumb. It’s the cutest thing Stiles has ever seen, and he has to bite his tongue to keep from saying so.

“You’re really good with her,” he says instead, and Derek flicks his eyes up to look at Stiles before huffing.

“I know how to take care of a cub,” he says defensively.

“Hey, I never said you didn’t! It’s just the whole ‘scary Alpha wolf nurturing helpless cubs’ thing, I’m not used to seeing it.” But that’s not true, not really, because Stiles remembers how much time Derek put in with his pack in that first year after they were turned -- with Isaac, especially. He bites his lip, watching as Derek shifts Cara onto his shoulder and starts rubbing her back.

“What?” Derek asks sharply, and Stiles realizes he’s been staring.

“What are you doing?”

Derek fixes him with one of his patented are-you-really-that-stupid looks.

“I’m burping her, Stiles.”

“Oh! I know what that is. I mean, I’ve heard of it. It’s definitely a thing I have heard said in relation to babies.”

“Here,” Derek says, passing her across to him. How Stiles keeps ending up with a baby in his hands without agreeing to it, he doesn’t understand. “Just rub her back, and pat it a little. It’ll keep her from being gassy.” He takes the towel he’d had slung over his shoulder and reaches around to lay it across Stiles’. Stiles sucks in a breath at how close their faces are before Derek pulls away again.

“Oh, cool, drool-catcher. That’s good thinking.” Derek just snorts, so Stiles starts patting Cara lightly on the back. He’s afraid to do it too hard, because she's so tiny and fragile—

“You’re not going to break her,” Derek says, and Stiles is pretty sure there’s a smile in his voice, even if he’s too scared to look up to confirm it. He just nods and pats her a little more firmly, and he’s rewarded with an adorable little burp and oh. Oh man, gross.

And Derek, that asshole, is laughing.

“You knew that would happen!” he hisses quietly, careful not to disturb Cara where she seems to be dozing off. He doesn’t want to move, because there is puke on him, baby puke, baby werewolf puke, and Cara might look cute but for all he knows it’s got the bones of tiny woodland creatures in it.

“I did,” Derek says, grinning. “That’s why you got the… what did you call it? The drool-catcher.”

“Oh, ha,” Stiles says, pouting a little. “Is it a lot?”

“No, you idiot, the towel caught most of it. Stay put, I’ll get you a clean shirt.”

Stiles just sits there, frowning and reprimanding Cara (albeit in a very sweet, cooing voice) until Derek comes back and his hands are suddenly empty again. He takes the towel from his shoulder carefully, rolling it up before carrying it into the laundry room. He starts the washer and throws it in, then he strips his shirt off and tosses that in, too.

He wanders back to the living room and grabs the shirt Derek left on the back of the couch, groaning when he gets a good look at it.

“The Yankees? Seriously? If I didn’t know better, I’d say you own this solely to torture me in the unlikely event of this exact situation.”

Derek chuckles, but when he glances back at Stiles from where he’s setting Cara in her baby seat, it seems to die in his throat.

“Are you not a fan?” he asks, and his voice sounds weird. It’s not just the obviously fake innocent tone he’s taking, either.

“You,” Stiles jabs a finger in his direction, “are a bad, bad wolf.” When Derek keeps staring at him, he yanks the shirt over his head self-consciously. “I know I’m in sore need of a tan, but you don’t have to gawk,” he says.

“It’s not…” Derek shakes his head, frowning, but not before Stiles catches the way he keeps looking from Stiles’ face to the shirt and back again. It’s a little big on him, and now that he really thinks about it, it smells like Derek, and oh. Is this a thing?

“What is it?” he asks, as calmly as he can when his heart is thumping in his chest. There’s really no point trying to play it cool when he knows it’s got to be coming through loud and clear to Derek.

“What?” Derek asks, his eyes widening a little, and you know what? That’s it. Five years of pretending he doesn’t have it bad for a big, grumpy werewolf, and it all gets unraveled by a baby. He blames Allison; this is obviously her too-clever-for-her-own-good genes at work.

He doesn’t say anything, not willing to let his mouth get ahead of him and ruin this moment –- and, oh god, they’re having a moment. He just walks across the room until he’s standing right in front of Derek, and he knows his intentions have to be beyond clear. Derek isn’t moving away, though, he’s just watching Stiles and looking a little startled, so he figures that’s the closest thing to an invitation he’s going to get.

When Stiles stretches up to kiss him, he’s not expecting the little broken noise Derek makes, or the way he drags Stiles in and kisses back like it’s the most important thing in the universe. It totally is, though, it’s totally the most important thing because that’s Derek’s tongue, and Derek’s hand is splayed across the small of his back, and okay. That wasn’t a moment, that thing a minute ago. This is a moment, it’s the moment, and he curses his inadequate human lungs when he has to pull back to gasp for air.

Derek just grips him tighter, though, presses their foreheads together, and Stiles feels a little vindicated when he hears how heavily he’s breathing.

“Oh,” Derek says finally, lips curling up, and Stiles knows he’s beaming back at him.

“Yeah,” he says, “oh.”