Stiles loves, loves, loves playdates. The very best are when Danny and Jackson both come over, like today, and then can play and play for hours.
They can get pretty loud so Daddy and Jackson’s Daddy and Daddy’s Mommy usually talk about grown-up things in another room while the boys play. They have their super wolf hearing so if the babies start fighting or need something they can come running super quick.
Today Jackson wants to play hide-and-seek. They’re not allowed to go up the stairs so there aren’t a lot of places to hide. Daddy walks into the kitchen and sees Stiles trying to wedge himself into the cabinet under the sink. He smiles. “I don’t think you’ll fit there, little boy.”
“Sh, Daddy, I’m hiding!”
Daddy pretends to zip his lips. Stiles gets in and shuts the cabinet door tightly. It’s kind of dark in here and it smells yucky. He tries to ignore it but he forgot he doesn’t like small spaces. After a few minutes it starts to get unbearable. Winning this round doesn’t matter, he wants to get out. He tries to move but the space is too small, he’s stuck!
His heart starts to race and he draws in a breath to scream for Daddy, but before he can Daddy opens the cabinet and pulls Stiles out. He hugs Stiles tightly, kissing his cheek. “Okay,” he murmurs soothingly. “Daddy’s got you.”
Stiles sighs and relaxes into Daddy’s arms. Of course Daddy would know he needed help. “Thank you, Daddy.”
“Daddy has a much better hiding spot for you.” Daddy carries him into the living room and puts him on the couch, then puts a blanket over him. Stiles giggles as Daddy sits down on top of him. “No little boys in here,” Daddy says loudly. “Oh, but I’ve got such a nice, cozy seat, I think I might take a nap.”
Stiles can’t stop giggling, even when he hears Jackson run into the room. “Alpha Hale, is Stiles here?”
“Stiles? Hm, I don’t think I’ve seen Stiles in a long time. I’m just enjoying this cozy couch.” Daddy wiggles on top of Stiles, making Stiles shriek with laughter. Jackson pulls back the blanket and grins. “I finded you!”
Stiles wriggles out. Danny’s already been found, that means Stiles is the winner. Daddy gives him a kiss and goes back to talk with the other grown-ups.
“There aren’t enough good hiding places,” Danny complains. “We should play outside.”
Stiles perks up. It’s nice outside, and he knows just where to find a good hiding spot: behind the big tree in Uncle Boyd and Aunt Erica’s yard. “Okay!”
He doesn’t even think about telling Daddy, because sometimes he forgets that Daddy is in charge and little boys don’t make decisions for themselves. He runs to the front door with Jackson and Danny and opens it. The sun feels nice and warm on his face, just as nice as it felt this morning when Daddy took him for a walk in his stroller. He closes the door quietly because Daddy said it’s not nice to slam door. “Hide on thee,” he says. ‘One…two…three!”
They split off and run. In their excitement about being outside, they forget that they didn’t decide who was “It.”
Stiles finds his tree and hides behind it. There’s a caterpillar on the ground and he watches it, enthralled, so absorbed it takes him a second to realize that the shadow of the tree is changing. He looks up and realizes the whole yard is going dark. Uh-oh. The sun must be going down.
Jackson better find him soon. Or wait…maybe Danny? Stiles’ heart sinks. Oh, no, they never decided who was it. Danny and Jackson must be waiting for Stiles to find them!
He shoots up and looks around frantically, but he can’t see them anywhere. He looks towards the woods, feeling sick to his tummy. What if they went to go hide in there? Little boys aren’t supposed to go into the woods alone!
“Danny?” he calls in a whisper. He doesn’t want to be any louder and have Daddy hear him, his friends will get into trouble. “J-Jackson?”
There’s no answer. Stiles doesn’t know what to do. If he goes to get Daddy, Jackson and Danny will be punished and maybe they won’t be able to come play anymore. He has to find his friends and sneak back into the house before Daddy even knows they were gone.
He has to go into the woods.
He’s been scared of the woods ever since Theo took him there, but he reminds himself that the Nemeton is in the woods and knows he’s Daddy’s little boy. It’ll keep him safe, maybe it’ll even help him finds his friends. He hurries into the woods, hoping with all his might Daddy hasn’t realized yet that he’s gone.
Derek loves taking care of Stiles, but sometimes it’s nice to have a break and enjoy some grown-up talk. The boys are playing happily in the other room. He hasn’t heard any little voices for a few minutes now so whoever is “it” must be counting.
Jordan is talking about Jackson’s regression period, which ended about two months ago; how he’s been such a perfect little boy ever since. Derek is engrossed— he’s been dreaming about regressing Stiles for a while now— and doesn’t even realize when the sun starts to set.
“Oh,” Danny’s mommy says in surprise, having been just as enthralled. “I guess it’s time to head.” She raises her voice. “Danny! We’re going home, sweetie.”
There’s no answer.
“Jackie!” Jordan calls. “Come here.”
Nothing. Derek frowns and tries to find Stiles’ heartbeat, realizing with horror that there’s nothing. The babies aren’t in the house anymore.
“Shit,” Jordan says, coming to the same conclusion as Derek. “I wasn’t even paying attention—”
Derek runs to the front door and yanks it open, hoping against hope he’ll see Stiles in the front yard. The entire block is completely silent. “Stiles Hale!” he thunders. “Daddy wants you to come here right now!”
There’s no response. Derek can’t believe it. Things had been going so well, Stiles had been fully regressed. Derek hadn’t even imagined he might run away. “They ran,” he says softly.
“It can’t be,” Danny’s mommy, Cecelia, says. “Danny’s been here for almost three years. He wouldn’t have. He’s fully regressed, he loves me, he wouldn’t dream…”
“They must have gone into the woods,” Derek says tightly. “If they get to the border fence, or if there are any wolves hunting out there—” The words choke off. He doesn’t even want to think about it. He should have taken a few extra minutes with Stiles this morning, given him a bigger cuddle after his diaper change or let him have pudding after his lunch like he wanted. Who knows what gets into the mind of a little boy like him and subtly undoes all of Derek's hard work?
Jordan looks just as sick as Derek, as if the thought of Jackson running away had never even occurred to him before. “Jackson!” he roars. “You come to Daddy this instant!”
Just then they hear a tremulous, “Daddy?”
Derek whips his head around, but it isn’t Stiles. It’s Jackson, looking tiny and terrified. “I’m sorry, Daddy!”
“Jackson,” Jordan groans, rushing to the little boy and grabbing him up in a hug. “Where were you? What on earth were you thinking?”
“W-we were playing hide and seek and Danny said let's go outside and Stiles said yeah and we were hiding but nobody ever came to find me and I thought I was winning so I didn’t come out— ”
“You never should have gone out of the house without telling me!” Jordan looks at Derek and smiles, still looking pale. He hugs his little boy close. “It’s fine. They were just playing. The others must be hiding around here somewhere.”
Derek isn’t convinced. Maybe Jackson and Danny are just playing, but Stiles has been here a much shorter time than they have. He might be on the run alone. “Stiles!” he shouts again, hearing his voice echo.
Cecilia joins him. “Danny!”
Derek tries to focus as best he can and hears a human heartbeat. “I’ve got one of them.” He tries to track without shifting, moving with his eyes closed until the heartbeat is nice and loud. Cecelia is behind him, focusing too. “Here,” Derek says, coming to a stop and turning a circle. They’re next to a car and he drops to his knees, peering beneath it to see Danny, curled up on the ground under the car and sound asleep.
“Oh, thank God.” Cecelia pulls him out, making him squeak in surprise as he wakes up. “Daniel, you are in so much trouble, young man!”
“Mommy?” Danny yawns sweetly. “Did I win?”
Derek feels a thick, ugly panic in his chest. Where is Stiles? He can’t have been foolish enough to go onto Deucalion’s territory, surely, but if he was trying to run away he wouldn’t go towards Carol’s land, either. The only place he would run…
Derek’s gaze falls on the woods and his heart sinks.
Stiles thinks he might be in trouble.
He’s been wandering around out here forever, calling for his friends over and over. Nobody answers. He thinks maybe they aren’t out here anymore. He’s all alone in the woods, and he doesn’t know the way back.
He sniffles and pressing the backs of his fists to his eyes so he won’t cry. He wants Daddy. There has to be some way out of here. He tries to remember the path Daddy takes him on when they visit the Nemeton.
His heart leaps. The Nemeton! It’s got magic that can show him the way home. He has to find the Nemeton. It’s his friend, it will help him. He just has to look for the green glow and listen for the hum.
He squints into the darkness and picks a direction.
Twenty minutes later he feels worse than ever. He can’t find the Nemeton and it’s so dark he can’t see. He’s shaking, both because it’s cold out and he’s scared. This is giving him bad memories to when Theo had him.
When that happened all he had to do was yell for Daddy and Daddy came right away. Maybe he should do that again. Daddy might be mad at him for going outside, but right now he just wants to go home.
Before he can decide he hears a loud sound, like a groan. “Stiles!”
“Daddy!” Stiles almost sobs with relief. He opens his arms and Daddy snatches him up, holding him tight. “I’m sorry, Daddy!”
“God, Stiles, what were you doing?” Daddy sounds funny, like his voice is all choked. “Why were you running away?”
Stiles is shocked. Running away? Why would he do something silly like that? “Wasn’t running away, Daddy! We were playing hide and seek and I couldn’t find Danny and Jackson, so I thought they ran into the woods and I just wanted to find them.” He shudders, horrified at the idea that Daddy thought he would be such a bad little boy and try to run away, he hasn’t done that for months and months. “Wouldn’t ever run away from my Daddy. Promise!”
Daddy stares at him for a moment, then relaxes and kisses his cheek. “You don’t ever go outside without Daddy,” he scolds.
“I know, Daddy. I’m sorry.” Stiles sniffles, he hates being in trouble. “Wanna go home, Daddy.”
“Okay, baby. We’ll go home. You have to spend five minutes in the naughty corner for breaking the rules and scaring Daddy so badly…but after that Daddy is going to cuddle you for about an hour.” Daddy nuzzles him, kissing him all over his cheeks. “My sweet boy, you scared me half to death.”
“I was scared too, Daddy,” Stiles says tragically. “It’s dark!”
“I know, my poor baby. Let’s go home.”
By the time they get back Danny and Jackson are sitting in the living room, chagrined. “W-we can still play together, right?” Danny hiccups.
“You can still play together,” Jordan answers sternly. “But no going outside without a Mommy or Daddy. Stiles could have been seriously hurt in the woods.” He frowns at Jackson. “We’re going to have to tell Mommy about this.”
Stiles is glad he doesn’t have a Mommy, then he’d get two punishments. He says bye-bye to his friends and then has to sit in the naughty corner for forever. He doesn’t like the naughty corner, he doesn’t get to take any of his toys there.
“All done,” Daddy says after a long time, lifting him back out. “Did you learn your lesson?”
“Uh-huh. No going outside without Daddy.”
“That’s right.” Daddy sighs. “I liked it better when you were only crawling. Give Daddy a kiss.”
Stiles gives Daddy a big kiss on the cheek. He feels funny, like he has something important to say. Little boys don’t say important things, he knows, that’s for grown-ups, but he has to try. “Wouldn’t ever run away from Daddy,” he says shyly, nuzzling against Daddy’s stubble. “Daddy always finds me when I’m scared. That’s why my Daddy is the best Daddy. I love Daddy lots and lots, promise.”
Daddy smiles at him and shifts him so he’s in his favorite spot, right in Daddy’s lap so Daddy can hug him to his chest. “And Daddy loves you lots and lots, baby boy. Daddy loves you the most. More than ice cream, or naps, or rainbows, or tickles…” Daddy tickles his tummy, making Stiles shriek happily. He loves tickles! “And Daddy will always find his little prince, no matter what.”
Stiles feels much better now. He snuggles into Daddy’s lap, deciding he’s tired and ready for his bedtime story. “Beddy-bye?” he asks hopefully.
“Oh my, asking for bedtime. Someone’s trying to be good as gold, isn’t he?” Daddy gives him one more kiss and stands up. “Beddy-bye it is.”
As he’s carried upstairs, Stiles spares one more thought to how silly it would be to try and run away from Daddy. Daddy gives him everything and takes such good care of him. Running away would be so silly. He giggles at the thought of it and closes his eyes, feeling safe and warm as Daddy carries him to bed.