When the scent hit him, somewhere between his claws extending and his fangs descending, Derek’s bag slipped his from his hand. Almost against his will, his wolf reared forth, eyes flashing their dangerous electric blue and a roar burning for release in the back of his throat.
“What…” He breathed deep, filling his lungs with the scent at was wrong wrong very wrong. “…is that?”
“I don’t know, Derek,” Lydia said, unimpressed. “Looks like a baby.”
Stiles stood on the other side of the loft, completely heedless of Derek and Lydia who stood in the doorway. Under the dappled light of the overcast day, he paced the length of the ceiling-high windows, cooing to the swaddled bundle cradled in his arms. From the fuzzy blanket, a tiny hand reached, and Stiles let the…the baby grip his finger. Though his face was pale and drawn, marks like bruises beneath his normally bright brown eyes, Stiles grinned, utterly overjoyed, when the baby gurgled happily in response. Obvious exhaustion aside, Stiles was happy; Derek could smell it even across the loft.
But something was wrong; Derek could smell that from across the loft, too.
“He found her three days ago somewhere out in the preserve,” Lydia explained. “Hasn’t let anyone near her and smuggled some of his old baby stuff from his dad’s to take care of her.”
“My boyfriend adopts a randomly abandoned baby and no one thinks to call me?” Derek growled. He rolled his shoulders the way a wolf shook out its ruff, forcing down anxiety on both human and animal fronts.
Lydia shrugged. “We tend to stay out of your relationship.” She patted Derek on the shoulder. “Good luck with this. Let me know if you need a couch to sleep on.” Then she left, closing the loft door behind her.
Stiles looked up from the baby when the door closed. “Derek,” he said, and his smile changed. Just as pleased, but his happiness didn’t smell wrong the way it did when he looked at the baby. “You’re back.” He met Derek half-way through the loft, and moved the baby so he could kiss his boyfriend. “This is Sylwia, spelled the Polish way,” he said, his attention, again, taken by the cooing baby. “Sylwia, this is Derek.”
So close, the off-scent of the baby, of Stiles-and-Baby, of everything, came into razor focus. It was sour, vile, something tainted and dark, but Derek couldn’t quite identify it. The notes of iron and pain were easier for him to recognize, and when Stiles shifted the child, the sleeves of his hoodie rucked, exposing a swath of bandages that no doubt wound up his arms.
“Something’s wrong with her,” Derek said.
Stiles snarled, suddenly viciously angry. “She’s perfect, Derek. What the fuck is wrong with you?” He stepped back, angling the baby out of his reach, as if worried Derek would snatch her from him. It was one of the most defensive moves Stiles had ever made against him.
Derek’s heart sank. “She doesn’t smell right,” he explained, his voice gentle.
“The fuck does that mean?”
The baby took a series of stuttering, gasping breaths, shaking in Stiles’ arms, then sneezed, wet and messy. And with the sneeze came glowing, amber eyes, extending claws, and puppy-sharp fangs. Fluffy wisps of hair framed her face, and her ears shot up into points.
“She’s a werewolf…” Derek murmured.
But she didn’t smell like one, not really.
Perturbed with Stiles’ sudden outburst, he left with a parting kiss to his temple, and unpacked his bags. In the space serving as their bedroom, he found a bassinet beside the bed, and a changing table tucked away in the corner beside Stiles’ dresser.
Derek didn’t mention again how wrong the baby smelled, because Stiles seemed happy. Derek kept quiet, because he came from a big family, and ultimately wanted a big family with Stiles. True, they were living together, and had been dating for a few years. True, Derek had a ring stashed away, waiting for the perfect moment. And maybe he shouldn’t question the universe when it, basically, gave him what he wanted. Stiles, with him. Stiles, holding a werewolf baby.
Be grateful, he scolded himself. So he forced himself to be.
The day after Derek’s return, he awoke suddenly, before dawn, when the bed shifted and fear and sickness slammed his sinuses like twin bricks. The baby—Sylwia, he reminded himself—was sleeping soundly in her bassinet. Her heartbeat was steady, as was her breathing, but Stiles’ wasn’t. He watched his boyfriend stumble into the bathroom and flail for the light switch.
Stiles took a shuddering breath and unzipped the soft, worn hoodie he’d fallen asleep wearing, staring at his reflection with wide, terrified eyes. With tender fingers, he touched the space were his neck met his shoulder, near his clavicle, and winced. “Fuck,” he hissed. Then he shrugged out of the hoodie and draped it on the counter. The bandages wrapping up his arms, just as Derek suspected, were stained red with fresh blood.
Derek climbed out of bed and joined Stiles in the bathroom. He tried not to let Stiles’ startled jump twist his stomach. He swallowed hard to alleviate the pressure in the back of his throat, the kind heralding violent nausea, as he studied, then treated Stiles’ wounds.
“She’s just a baby,” Stiles said, laughing weakly as Derek changed his bandages. “She doesn’t know what she’s doing with those claws, ya know?”
“And your neck?”
“She nibbles sometimes, I guess.”
“Werewolves don’t do that,” Derek said.
“She’s just a baby.”
Derek just hummed. He didn’t want to fight, and until he knew what was wrong with Sylwia, he couldn’t bring it up to Stiles.
Two days later, Derek found Stiles, nearly catatonic, on the kitchen floor. Sylwia, somehow cradled safely in his arms, was latched firmly to the bruised and bloody mark on Stiles’ neck; like a vampire or a leech. Derek acted quickly, yanking the baby from where it suckled, and it wailed. Her high pitched screech roused Stiles from his stupor, and he scrambled to his feet in paternal panic.
He tried to take Sylwia from Derek’s grasp. To do so without hurting her further slowed his movements and made them awkward, easy for Derek to avoid. “Derek! Let go! You’re hurting her!”
“She’s not a baby, Stiles!” Derek growled, holding the screaming child out of reach. “I don’t know what she is, but she’s not a werewolf, and she’s not a child. She smells wrong, don’t you get it? You smell wrong because of her. Everything is wrong, Stiles!”
“Give her back!” Stiles shouted.
Sylvia’s scream pitched and drowned out their argument, and her claws sank deeply into Derek’s forearm. It was a minor sting causing wounds that quickly healed, but it reminded Derek how dangerous Sylwia was. It reminded him how he didn’t know what she was.
Then, Stiles sucker-punched him.
Stiles stood there, chest heaving in anger, and Derek froze, horrified Stiles hit him. He felt it physically, of course, but what it meant resonated with Derek far more strongly. Derek’s stomach twisted, but he understood what needed to be done.
Sylwia was not a child—neither werewolf nor human—and whatever in her scent unnerved his wolf had somehow clouded Stiles’ judgement. The Stiles Derek knew and loved wouldn’t let an unknown supernatural creature into their home without telling him, without waiting for him to return home. Stiles, Derek’s Stiles, would never strike him.
“Give her back,” Stiles hissed. He ignored the blossoming bruise on his hand.
“No,” Derek said. Then he wrapped his claws around the child’s neck and let her dangle from his deadly grasp. When she screamed, Stiles screamed, but no matter how the human threw himself at Derek, how matter how he pummeled Derek with balled fists or scratched him with impotent human nails, Stiles was powerless to save the child.
Good thing, too, because when faced with such immanent peril, the creature masquerading as Sylwia revealed itself. Its once innocent face twisted into a single, open mouth with rings of razor teeth. It hissed, a reptilian forked tongue lashing forth to swat at Derek’s face, before it lunged. Despite this, Stiles redoubled his efforts at freeing the creature, forcing Derek to fend off the monster in his hand, and his boyfriend at his back.
With a single, well-aimed kick, Derek buckled Stiles’ knee, and while his boyfriend lay stunned on the floor, Derek tightened his grip on the creature’s throat. His claws sank into supple flesh, but the tongue and the teeth continued their assault on his face and arms.
“Derek, don’t! Please!”
Stiles’ plea broke Derek’s heart, but he crushed the creature’s neck anyway. The resulting snap echoed through the loft, and Derek made sure to remove the creature’s head before carelessly dropping its carcass.
With its death, its spell was broken. Though the tainted scent lingered, it was quickly dissipating, much to the relief of Derek’s wolf.
Stiles froze, then blinked rapidly, and Derek recognized the exact moment his boyfriend returned to himself. “Holy shit,” Stiles breathed. He climbed to his feet and rushed Derek, throwing his arms around him in an embrace Derek was all too eager to reciprocate. “What the fuck happened?” Stiles asked. He pressed his face into Derek’s neck and heaved a relieved sob. “Did I hit you?”
“Yeah,” Derek said, rubbing Stiles’ back. “But it’s okay. You weren’t yourself.”
Stiles stepped back far enough to see the bloody corpse near Derek’s feet. “A changling? What the fuck is a changling doing in the loft?”
“You know what it is?”
“Well, yeah,” Stiles said. “Obviously. Look at its face. Yeesh.”
“You brought it home.”
“You brought it home while I was visiting Cora,” Derek explained. “You were…really committed to being its father.”
Stiles’ face paled a shade more, and he pressed his lips into a thin line. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t…I don’t know what…”
“It’s okay,” Derek said.
“Why didn’t you kill it sooner?” Stiles asked, and he looked like he was on the verge of vomiting. “You had to have known something was wrong. I mean, since it’s dead, I’m assuming it was you, and you weren’t affected by its pheromones and stuff.”
Derek stepped close and took Stiles’ hand, lacing their fingers. “No, you’re right. I knew something was wrong, but you were really protective and you were…happy. I didn’t—” He sighed. “—the first day or so, I thought I should just be grateful. That you were with me, with a baby.”
Without Derek having to explain further, Stiles seemed to understand. He pressed into Derek’s space and kissed him. “Love you, Sourwolf. Thanks for saving me.”