The night wasn't easy. The pup's getting stronger, which means he can stay up longer crying, and his whimpers are growing into outright howls. Derek sort of prefers it that way.
He can't speak for Stiles, though, who leaves the bed shaky and blinking come morning. "I could call in sick," Stiles mumbles, clutching the bedpost. Derek shoves him out. Stiles can't afford to start skipping school now. He no longer has access to the second chances he had before.
Even so, Derek feels a hint of guilt when Stiles comes back from school swaying on his feet. He seats Stiles down, puts a reheated bowl of chili in front of him.
Stiles shovels into it with alarming speed, pausing only to say, "Scott grabbed me. He wants to talk to me this afternoon. Us," he amends, shoving another spoonful into his mouth.
Derek frowns, but doesn't answer.
The pup starts fussing. Derek pushes Stiles down by the shoulder, getting up himself.
"You can let me do it. I was at school all day."
"Exactly." Derek moves his shirt aside, but the pup doesn't seem interested in nursing. Instead his small hands bat at Derek's chest, like he's excited about something. "He calmed down after you left. I spent the entire morning napping."
"Okay, so, don't take this personally or anything, but I hate you." Stiles pushes away the now-empty bowl, standing up and motioning at Derek. "Now give him over, I haven't seen the kid for a whole six hours. I think I'm going through withdrawal."
Derek eyes Stiles' shaking hands doubtfully. "You'll drop him."
"Will not," Stiles says, and the bowl slips from his hands to the floor. Stiles stares at it, dejected. "Um. Whoops."
Derek resists a smile. He sits on the bed. "Come here."
Stiles lands beside him, a moving tangle of limbs on the bed. Derek waits for him to still before plopping the baby unto Stiles' chest.
"Hey, wolfcub," Stiles croons as the baby's tiny fists hit him in the face. "Hey, little man, were you good for your Alpha while I was gone?" His fingers brush down the cub's neck, soft and shaking, like he's afraid to touch. "Bet you were, you save all the crying just for me."
"He's just excited you're home, probably." Derek moves closer, only thinking better of it when he's pressed close against Stiles' side, feeling Stiles’ skin warm through the thin cover of cloth. Stiles doesn't seem to mind, though, his head drooping to lean against Derek's chest.
Stiles' hands wrap around the baby's ribs, a little more sure now. "I don't know, isn't he too young to recognize people yet?" Stiles’ mouth stays half-open between words, his breath hot on Derek’s neck. Derek gives a noncommittal grunt. "Oh hey, look, I think he's falling back asleep."
He's not the only one, Derek doesn't say. Just gets up to remove Stiles' shoes and push his legs all the way on the bed before piling back in beside his sleeping cub and sleeping... Stiles.
Something is yelling. Derek gropes around for the source of the noise, grabbing Stiles' phone and managing to fully wake up just before he smashes the stupid thing. "Hello?"
"Um. Derek?" That's Scott, and he doesn't sound happy. "Can I speak to Stiles?"
Derek holds the phone back, frowning at the time display. "You said you wanted to meet us."
"Yeah. At the Hale house—uh..."
Derek hangs up and prods Stiles' shoulder. Who groans and turns over, nearly rolling over the cub before Derek shoves him again with more force. "Stiles. Get up."
"Don't wanna." But Stiles sits up, rubbing at his eyes and looking extremely grumpy. "Ugh, fine. But I'm not wearing the sling."
It's not just Scott waiting for them at the Hale house. It's the entire pack, adjuncts included; even Allison and Lydia are standing at the sidelines, probably judging Derek's sling.
Scott approaches, moving slowly with his hands raised. He stares dumbly at the pup for about a minute. "He's yours." There's disbelief in his tone, but not an actual question; his eyes flickering from Stiles to Derek and back again show that the you was meant to be plural.
Stiles just nods. He takes the baby from Derek. "Wanna hold him?" he asks Scott. Derek curls his fingers into loose fists, shoulders tensing as Scott handles the baby. "Keep his head supported," Stiles urges.
Scott rolls his eyes and moves his hand to the back of the pup's head. He smiles slightly when the cub blearily opens his eyes, meeting Scott's. "He smells like you."
The words are like a signal, bringing the rest of the pack closer. Isaac's the first in line to hold the baby, followed closely by Boyd and Erica. Allison hovers but doesn't ask to hold the pup, while Jackson manages to both radiate aloofness and loom over Lydia as she presses a careful kiss to the baby's cheek.
Lydia dances back after that. "And now, the important part." She brandishes several bags. "Clothes!"
"We thought the pack should bring some things," Scott says. "To. Symbolize. I don't know."
"There's a baby," Boyd cuts in. "It needs stuff." He pushes a huge, heavy bag at Derek. "That's a pump, since Stiles says you breastfeed."
"Thanks," Derek mumbles, sour.
"Boyd's mom volunteers for this New Mothers' Collective thing," Isaac says. "I, uh, didn't have anything to bring, but I helped Boyd choose."
A small smile makes its way to Derek's face, unbidden. "Thank you," he says, this time with more sincerity. He glances around to include Boyd in the gesture.
Boyd shrugs it off. "There's more stuff. If you come over with a car, I might be able to get you some furniture too."
"Ooh, do let me come along," Peter says from some distance away. "Don't let Derek choose, he'll do it all in black and depressing gray."
Almost too fast for even Derek to see it happening, the pack forms a protective circle around Derek and Stiles, the baby held in Stiles’ arms. Scott's at the head, facing Peter. "We didn't invite you," Scott says.
Peter huffs. "Please. It's my own nephew's baby shower." He raises his hands in an ugly parody of Scott's gesture from before. "Would I harm a baby? Really? Infant blood is so hard to get out from under one's fingernails."
"What are you doing here." Derek can't help the snarl.
Peter's soft, mocking tone isn't helping at all. "Offering interior design advice, of course. Or other kinds of advice, should you choose to accept them."
"We don't need your advice," Stiles says, but it rings hollow when he glances aside, mutely asking for Derek's confirmation.
Derek can't give it. He looks at Peter, his faint smile and clear eyes, and grits his teeth. Peter is untrustworthy, but he almost always tells the truth - twisted and with important omissions, but still. They can’t afford to make mistakes now, and they can’t ignore advice being offered. However unpalatable the source.
Stiles closes his eyes tightly. He hands Derek the baby. "Go," he says softly. "Take the jeep, take Boyd and Isaac. Scott and Allison can stay here with me and see that Peter doesn't do anything untoward."
"It's me he wants," Derek says, and Peter laughs.
"Actually, it's your lovely mate I'd rather speak to."
Derek tenses. "I'm not leaving you alone with him."
"Not alone." Stiles rolls his eyes. "With Scott and Allison. Erica can stay too, if you think we'll need reinforcements."
Stiles doesn't suggest Lydia or Jackson, and no wonder. Derek doesn't have to look to know they disappeared the moment Peter showed; Lydia won't stay near Peter, and Derek doesn't blame her.
"Take the baby," Stiles says, wrapping a hand around Derek's arms. "Go shopping. I’ll call you when we’re done, Allison can give me a ride back home." He shrugs. "You never know, this might come in handy."
Derek regrets every step he takes out of the clearing. Boyd and Isaac keep glancing back, as well.
Stiles can take care of himself, though, especially with backup. The most important thing has to be getting the pup away.
They're in the car halfway across town when Derek hears the howl, long and mournful. He pulls into the side of the road and brakes, shivers crawling up his spine, barely keeping in the answering howl that wants to emerge from his throat.
"Are they in danger?" Isaac says. His mouth is open, eyes a little glassy. He doesn't understand, but Derek suspect he might get it on some other, subtle level.
"That wasn't danger," Derek says, starting the car again. "Just Peter. Remembering." That howl had in it the echoes of years ago, of a pack once large and thriving, now diminished almost into nothing.
Almost. Derek steals a glance in the rear view mirror, sees the cub's hand wildly flailing, small chubby fingers clutching at the upholstery.
They don’t have the funds for actual shopping, but Boyd has keys to the Mothers’ Collective’s store room. Derek walks inside, careful not to disturb the precarious pile of plush toys sitting just by the door.
Loath as Derek is to admit it, he and Stiles probably do need a crib. It’s only a matter of time before Stiles either smothers the kid or gets disemboweled by infant claws in his sleep, and neither of these are an attractive option.
Still. “This won’t hold,” Derek says, gesturing at a painted-white wooden crib. “The kid is—strong,” Derek substitutes at the last minute, glancing at the open door. “We need something durable.” He grabs the headboard for emphasis.
He doesn’t expect it to crack in his hands. Derek looks at it as though a sufficiently heated glare might weld it back.
Isaac raises his hands in surrender. “Point made.”
Derek shoves his hands in his pockets. “I could try and fix it,” he offers, sullen.
Isaac and Boyd cart the useless crib to the car, glaring daggers at Derek when he tries to help. “This was received as a donation,” Boyd mutters, slamming the car’s door with more force than strictly necessary. Derek hugs the pup and glowers.
Isaac gets the text from Stiles, since Derek still hasn’t arranged for a new cellphone since returning to civilization. “He says to get our asses over to Deaton’s,” Isaac says, tapping at the device. “You and the kid apparently need a check-up.”
Derek rolls his eyes. If there was anything wrong with the pup he would have smelled it, and he himself feels fine, but Derek’s got a hunch this isn’t an argument he wants to get into with Stiles if he wants to win. Or live.
He doesn’t need to look over to see that Isaac is grinning. He drops Boyd and Isaac on the way; this doesn’t require an audience.
The pack apparently left Stiles to his own devices, too. Derek lingers in the doorway to Deaton’s clinic, wincing when he realizes Stiles is asking about the more intricate mechanics of werewolf pregnancy, especially as it manifests in males. Derek tries to tune it out, but such phrases as incubating in the abdominal cavity and clawing their way out still make an impression. He’s finally had enough, and he coughs pointedly as he walks in.
When Stiles turns to look at Derek, his eyes practically go luminous, the human brown shining almost Beta-gold. It’s for the pup, Derek knows, not for him, but it’s glorious all the same.
“Let’s take a look at this,” Deaton says, motioning them over. He reaches out for the pup, whose eyes glow blue, lips moving back in a toothless snarl. The pup’s tiny claws dig into Derek’s hand.
“Well, that answers my first question,” Deaton says, placid as ever. “Please keep holding him, Derek. Does he have a name?”
Derek’s about to reply No when Stiles says, hesitantly, “I thought maybe Benjamin.” He darts a quick look at Derek.
Derek keeps his eyes trained on Deaton, who shows no sign of recognition. Even though, since he knew Derek’s mother, he must have known Derek’s father, too. “That’s a good, strong name,” Deaton says. “The tribe of Benjamin was affiliated with the wolf, in Jewish tradition.”
“Huh.” Stiles flashes Derek a pleased, private smile. Derek answers with a small nod. “Guess Benjamin it is, then.”
Derek cradles the pup – Benjamin; Ben, like Derek’s father. Meaning son of the right hand, or just plain son. Derek kisses Ben’s forehead. “Guess so.”