The eyes, Stiles decides.
If he’s really going to attempt homicide with the knitting needles in his hands, he’s probably best served going for the eyes. The jugular would just be a mess and he doesn’t know enough about anatomy to get any major organs. So. The eyes.
Except… damn it.
He promised his dad he wouldn’t kill anyone way back in high school, didn’t he? They put it in writing and everything. I will not murder anyone, even if they have pissed me off, hurt Scott, or otherwise deserve it, blah, blah, if I do, my father, the Sheriff, will not help me hide it but prosecute me to the full extent of the law.
What? Stiles was an angry kid.
“Ma’am,” he tries for the approximately sixty-seventh time to interrupt her monologue.
“… and do you have any idea what kind of allergies these fibers can cause? The chemicals in the dyes alone do more harm than a year of…”
What if he aims for a non-vital area? It’d shut her up, but not kill her. Leave witnesses, though. Plenty, since the store is pretty crowded at the moment. With other customers. Who have questions.
Which he can’t answer because Yuppy Super Mom is still. Fucking. Talking.
He gets it. Most people don’t like artificial fibers for their kids. They prefer natural ones. That’s okay. It’s fine. There’s a whole damn wall dedicated to cotton yarns and an extra shelf with yarn specifically marketed toward making stuff for babies.
Because artificial fibers might be bad for your kid. Personally, Stiles spent his early days swaddled in blankets made from acrylic yarn because there wasn’t money for fancy ass shit, and he grew up just fine. But whatever.
This lady wants to swath her kids in silk and satin? More power to her. But it’d really help if she stopped yapping!
“Ma’am,” he starts again and this time when she just keeps rambling on about toxic dyes and her fragile baby’s skin, he gets louder. “I’m not forcing you to buy anything you don’t want to. We have all kinds of natural fibers. I’m sure you’ll find something there. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have other customers.”
He leaves her there, gaping, fully aware that he’s probably just lost a customer for good, but he’s got no fucks left to give. This day has already been way too long.
Unfortunately, his grand exit is ruined after barely three steps by something small and fast barreling into his legs and almost taking him down at the knees.
He’s all set to rail at whoever brought a fucking dog in here when he looks down and is met by the most adorable, two-toothed smile he has ever seen.
“Huh,” he manages. The toddler giggles, wraps her arms around his legs and vibrates in place. Once again, almost taking him down. Which would be a little bit embarrassing.
So he tucks the needles into a pocket, bends down, undoes her death grip on him and asks, “Who do you belong to, button?”
She looks young. Really young. So young he’s surprised she’s walking. Bouncy brown curls, matching eyes and freckles all over. “Christ, you’re cute,” he tells her before hauling her up onto his hip and standing. “Now, who do you belong to?”
A split second later, a harried looking man in his early thirties comes shooting around the needle display, two older kids on his heels. He does a visible double take when he sees Stiles, then reigns himself in surprisingly quickly and hurries to pull the girl into his own arms. “Cora, damn it,” he chides, still sounding a bit panicked.
She giggles and bats her hands against his cheeks, making squeaky noises.
Stiles watches the whole spectacle with an inner ohmigawd, because Stressed Dad has very blue eyes, is wearing two parts of a three piece suit, collar undone, cuffs rolled up to his elbows and that neck is a crime against decency, okay? Holy shit.
Also, baby on hip?
If Stiles had ovaries, they’d be exploding.
“Sorry about her,” Dad apologizes with a charming smile and fuck. Him. This isn’t fair. Stiles smiles back with a baby’s reflex. “She hasn’t figured out steering or braking yet.” He jostles his kid higher on his hip. “Or walking for that matter. One speed only.”
That voice. Oh god.
Stiles shrugs and tried to come up with something better than ‘pretty, me like’.
“She’s too cute to be a bother,” he finally manages and then sternly orders himself to stop staring. At Dad. At the baby. At the whole damn picture.
“Can I help you?” he asks instead and it comes out all professional and shit. He’s proud of himself. And while he’s on the Distraction Train, he checks to see if Yuppy Super Mom is still hanging out. She isn’t. Instead she’s taken her fashionable self over to the baby section. Huh. He turns back to the customers that are actually cute.
Dad’s eyes flicker down to his nametag and then back up to his face. “Actually, yes.”
He twists to one side, manages to get his free hand behind him and pretty much pulls a little boy out from behind his leg by the hair. For a shrimp, the kid’s got an impressive glower. He crosses his arms, buries his face back in his father’s slacks and makes a mewling little noise of discontent.
His sister promptly kicks him in the head.
The third kid, another girl, around nine or ten, rolls her eyes and elbows the boy. “Derek wants to learn to crochet,” she tells Stiles, the exact opposite of shy. “But he’s being a butt about it because he thinks only girls do craft stuff and he’s been whining about it for days, so Uncle Peter made us come here.”
To make her displeasure with the whole situation known, she frowns up at her uncle – not dad, whoops – and elbows her little brother again. At least Stiles assumes Derek is her brother. The boy’s got a different coloring from the girls – darker hair, lighter eyes – but they have the same nose, freckles and chins.
Stiles looks at Uncle Peter, who shrugs while leaning back to avoid the tot – Cora – who is trying to dig around his nostrils. Derek takes the chance to bury his face deeper into his hip and kicks out at the yet unnamed girl, who shoves him and the entire family pile almost goes ass over teakettle.
Uncle Peter barely catches them, shoots the girl a glare and then bites off a curse that sounds way too vile to be heard by anyone under twenty-one. Unfairly gorgeous or not, the guy looks frazzled. And the button on his hips picks up on it. Her lower lip starts wobbling threateningly.
Stiles holds up a fingers, closes the short distance to the register and leans over the counter to get at the basket of random projects he keeps below. He’s been making crochet balls all afternoon, between customers, and he plucks a bright yellow one out of the pile now, squishing it once and giving it a shake. Yup, that’s one of the ones with peas inside.
It rattles nicely and he waves it in front of Cora’s face, immediately catching her attention. She squeals, reaches for it and as soon as he lets her have it, she shakes it like mad, making bup bup bup noises.
Peter stares at her for a moment, then at Stiles, then at his niece again. After a few seconds he decides to trust the peace and sets her on the floor, where she stays sitting, banging her new toy against her knees.
“Laura,” he orders the oldest, “keep her leashed.”
Somehow, Stiles get the impression that man isn’t really very practiced in dealing with his nieces and nephew, but the kids seem to take his lack of skill with grace. Laura crouches next to her sister and starts talking to her.
Uncle Peter turns back around with his other barnacle still attached to him. “Why did you do that?”
Stiles hunches his shoulders a little. The guy sounds suddenly hostile. "Customer service?” he suggests. He should have maybe asked before giving the kid a toy to play with. Some people are particular about what their kids touch. Or maybe not-Dad thinks Stiles is questioning his parenting skills. Which he might, if it were his fucking place. God knows his own dad wasn’t ever a conventional parent after his mom died. But Stiles grew up fine. There’s probably a reason this guy is lugging around a bunch of kids that aren’t his with bags the size of Stiles’ yarn tote under his eyes and Stiles remembers that look from his own dad’s face and he knows better than to ask. He does. To distract himself from the family dynamic that isn’t his beeswax, he leans down to Derek’s level. He is so totally citing this momentous occasion the next time Scott calls him tactless.
“Hey there, little man. You wanna come out?”
“He’s shy,” Laura offers, taking Cora’s ball and throwing it from one hand to the other to distract the baby. “He doesn’t even talk in class, only to me and Uncle Peter and the kids at school all think he’s retarded or something.” She beams at Stiles and tickles her sister.
That one is going to grow up terrifying, Stiles can tell.
Derek comes out just long enough to glower. Again, impressive, for a kid.
Stiles derails the sibling-bitchfest train. “You really think crafting is for girls?”
Pause. A nod.
“You wanna look at me for a sec?”
A peek. Peter just stands there, watching intently, but letting Stiles proceed to school his not-kid.
Derek’s eyes are grey-ish blue, closer to his uncle’s than his siblings’. Pretty. Stiles smiles at him. “Do I look girly to you?” he asks.
The answer to which is no. He’s gangly as hell, but he also hasn’t shaved in two days and he’s rocking a lip ring an at least two visible tattoos right now along with skinny jeans and flannel. Isaac calls it his hipster uniform, but Isaac wears fucking scarves, so he can just shut up. It’s comfortable and what he’s worn since he was, like, twelve. He looks badass, if he does so say himself. And very far from what a first-grader might define as ‘girly’.
Derek shakes his head.
Stiles raises a finger in the air and twirls it. “You know who this place belongs to? Me. Because I love to crochet and knit and do all kinds of ‘girly’ stuff. Because it’s fun and it’s awesome and you, my friend, are gender stereotyping. Which is a big word, but it mostly means you think that there’s boy things and girl things, when really there’s just fun things and not fun things. You do whatever you want and f… forget anyone who doesn’t like it, okay?”
Peter’s eyebrows are up near his hairline, but his smirk says he’s more amused than pissed at the complete stranger schooling his kid in gender relations. And Stiles figures, hey, he took the kid here to get craft supplies, so he’s probably okay with the spirit of that speech.
Laura is staring at him, too, but with blatant adoration. Considering the fact that she’s wearing neon orange Chucks, grass-stained jeans and a Captain America shirt, Stiles figures she feels him.
Derek still looks unconvinced. Well, the portion of his face Stiles can see. Okay. Time for the big guns. Literally. He straightens, spins on his heel and hollers, “Boyd! Front and center!”
A few moments later, six foot four of pure, mean muscle come to a halt next to Stiles, a willow basket filled with all kinds of pastel yarns inside. Stiles cocks his head. “Baby blanket?”
Boyd nods, then asks, “You rang?”
“I need a sexism fight buddy,” Stiles announces and points a finger at his friend’s face. “Does he look girly?”
Headshake. Way faster than before. He doesn’t take it personally. In high school, the other lacrosse teams flinched when Boyd stepped on the field. Erica calls him her Chocolate Hulk, which is almost as cute as it is offensive.
“Boyd, my man, what’s that yarn for?”
Boyd catches on and answers evenly, “I’m making a blanket. My girlfriend is having a baby.”
Look at that, the kid has more than half a face. “Really?” he asks, skeptically. “Babies are stupid.”
And he speaks!
“You were a baby,” Laura shoots back before the adults can.
They fall silent. Boyd takes in the scene, considers his work done and disappears back into the pastel aisle. He’ll probably be here another thirty minutes and leave with his weight in yarn. At this point, Stiles is sure half the place actually belongs to Boyd, because he leaves so much money here.
He turns back to Derek. “So, you wanna try?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“I teach a kids class on Tuesday afternoon, if you want?” he looks at Uncle Peter as he says it, but Derek immediately interrupts. “No!”
“No class,” Stiles guesses.
“I can do it!”
For a kid who doesn’t talk, Derek is suddenly quite, well, talkative. Stiles bites his lips. “Is Derek allowed to use the internet?” he asks.
Peter frowns. “Why?”
“Because I have a bunch of tutorials on the store’s website. You could buy a hook and a skein and have him try at home. If he likes it, come back for more, if not, you haven’t wasted thirty bucks on a starter kit with a book that’s going to land in a corner somewhere and never be used.”
Peter considers, then looks down at his nephew. “Derek?”
He gets a nod.
“Awesome, follow me.”
Stiles leads the way with Derek on his heels, followed by Peter and then Laura, who is hauling Cora. They stop in front of a rainbow of colors. “Pick one.”
Derek chooses pale blue after almost two minutes of careful consideration and Stiles magics up the right size hook to go with it – big enough to not be fiddly, small enough for a kid’s hands - before leading them to the register, where he passes the boy’s uncle a business card with the web address on it. “There’s a link marked ‘tutorials’ in the sidebar. Click on ‘beginners’ and then ‘basic single crochet’ and you should be golden. If you have any problems or questions, just drop in, I’m happy to help.”
He addresses the last to Derek, who smiles shyly, clutching his yarn and needle happily. Stiles rings them up and waves as Laura and Derek trot off toward the door. Peter hauls Cora back up and takes the ball from her to hand it back, slightly chewed on and damp.
Immediately, the baby starts wailing like a siren. Stiles shakes his head. “Keep it,” he tells the older man. “I make them out of boredom, it’s fine.”
He also usually sells them for two bucks a piece, but Peter doesn’t need to know that Stiles is considering his pretty self payment enough. Besides, the kid’s cute and he’s a sucker for cute.
For a moment, it looks like the man’s going to argue. But his niece is still screeching in his ear, so he helplessly hands the ball back to her and nods a quick goodbye to Stiles before turning to leave, hollering, “Stay inside, I’m not scraping you off the road, damn it!”
Stiles watches him go.
A day off.
That’s what got Peter into this goddamn mess. A day off, as a birthday present to Talia, because he flat out forgot her birthday until the last second. So he bought a bottle of wine on the way to Beacon Hills and scribbled a voucher into a cheap gas station birthday card.
A day off from the pests.
Seemed easy enough. Pick them up, take them to the zoo, feed them lots of sugar, drop them back with their parents.
Steps one through three worked out fine. It was after that they hit the snag. ‘Snag’ being code for ‘when we got there, the house was a smoking ruin and their parents were dead’.
Or as good as.
That was six months ago and damn it, Peter still hasn’t gotten used to them underfoot. To feeding them and drying their tears and helping them with homework and making Derek talk and getting Laura to stop talking and catching Cora before she runs into traffic again.
He sucks at this.
And his sabbatical was up a week ago, so now he’s juggling work at the firm on top of it and he hasn’t slept since Tuesday, isn’t even sure if it’s Thursday or Friday and he is done.
So fucking done.
If he wanted kids, he’d fucking have some of his own.
He cringes at his own inner monologue, because, fuck it, he loves them. All three of them. But Peter had a life. Swanky job, swanky penthouse, the occasional lazy affair and a lot of booze and good music. Peace.
Now he has a house in the suburbs stacked high with all the things he still hasn’t unpacked because the kids would ruin them anyway, a job he barely has time for, much less enjoys anymore, and three other, full time occupations depending on him to keep them alive.
Dear Talia, I fucking hate you, but I’m sorry for every time I made fun of you for being tired.
Peter raises his head from where he banged it against the steering wheel after buckling in. Derek is leaning over Cora’s car seat to look at him, brows scrunched up in worry.
“I’m fine,” he tells the munchkin. “Put your seatbelt back on, Nephew.”
Derek hesitates for another moment, then nods. “Okay.”
Combined with the conversation he just had with the clerk at the craft store, that’s the most Peter has heard him say in weeks. He watches Derek buckle back in in the mirror, studies Cora, happily sucking on the little yellow rattle the man gave her. Laura is sitting next to her, one hand curled around her sister’s ankle, but her mouth, her eyes, are closed for once. She looks exhausted, too.
He knows he’s been depending on her too much.
“Can we go?” Derek asks, obediently staying in his own booster seat this time. “I want to see the video Stiles said.”
Stiles. The name of the clerk. The one who got Derek to talk and made Cora content. The one who didn’t frown at Peter for talking to the children all wrong. Who looked at him with frank appreciation, despite his three sentient growths.
The one who had really very unfairly pretty eyes and lips.
Whatever. It’s not like Peter has the time for a twink to fuck. Much less the energy.
“We’re going,” he answers, far too late, forcing himself back to alertness and then pulling out into traffic. Dinner. Bathtime. Derek in front of the computer, Laura in front of the TV, Cora in bed. Three hours, four tops. Then he can finally pass the fuck out.
Right after he’s gone through the briefs for tomorrow’s meeting one more time.
Fuck his life.
And fuck you, too, Talia.