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Milk and Stew and Hearth

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Some things, it seems, don’t change after having kids. Stiles still falls on his ass more often than not, he’s still constantly hungry, and Chem is still a bitch.

The new teacher really isn’t helping. Stiles would have thought anyone would be an improvement over Harris, but as it turns out, he’d have thought wrong.

“Stilinski.” Mr. Grills spears him with a glare. “Are you late for any particular reason?”

Well, my kid kept me up till 4AM, Stiles doesn’t say. Just mumbles, “Sorry,” and sits down.

His new parenthood will probably not be a secret for long, not in a town as small as Beacon Hills, not when his dad’s position makes gossip both likely and extra gleeful. If there’s one thing Stiles regrets, it’s exposing his dad to this kind of bullshit.

Well, when he’s not furious with his dad for not—something. Acknowledging that he has a grandson, helping out with Ben, talking to Stiles. Whatever.

Grills frowns at Stiles, clearly not pleased. “This is the second time this week. See me after class.”

“Sure thing.” Stiles plasters a false smile on his face.

Covalent bonds don’t make much more sense when running on four hours of sleep, sad to say. Stiles sticks it out through the class on a combination of willpower and - when that fails - viciously pinching himself. At the end of class, he’s barely awake, moseying zombie-like to the door when Mr. Grills’ pointed cough draws him back in.

Right. Time to face the music. Stiles squares his shoulders and plasters on his best authority-pleasing smile.

“Sit down, Stilinski,” Grills says, which isn’t the start Stiles was hoping for. “I’ve noticed your distraction in my class, and it’s unacceptable. Is there anything you have to say for yourself?”

Stiles is opening his mouth to answer when, in a fit of irony, Mr. Grills’ phone rings. Grills pulls it out of his pocket, glares at it, gives Stiles the one minute finger-lift accompanied by a menacing look and leaves the class while whispering intensely into it.

About thirty seconds pass before Stiles is all over Grills’ papers.

There’s nothing much of interest there. Stiles squints at next week’s lesson plans. Precipitation of… something; Stiles is 100% sure he used to know what AgNO3 is, but his tired-out brain can’t piece it together just now. Lesson after that is extraction of nepaline. That, Stiles really doesn’t have any idea about.

Something else is niggling at the edge of Stiles’ attention - about the way Grills is walking, or something like that - but he can’t quite make out what it is before Grills comes back in with an extremely sour look on his face. It’s only when Stiles leaves the class (after a healthy chewing out) that he realizes what was bugging him.

Living with the Beacons Hills sheriff has accustomed Stiles to people who keep firearms on their person, but why would a school teacher need a gun - and even if he did, why bring it to school with him? Stiles has a hunch Grills doesn’t exactly have a concealed carry permit.

Stiles has one hand on the phone, intent on messaging his dad, before he remembers they’re not exactly on speaking terms right now. His hand goes limp. He purses his mouth and shakes his head. Guess he’ll be figuring this one out on his own.

~~

Gas is expensive, so Stiles takes the bus from school now. It means a slightly longer walk from home to the station but hey, exercise. Plus he gets to read on the way.

Or, more accurately these days, nap.

He's stumbling slightly, in the weird half-sleep mode that seems to be his default recently, when something in the back of his mind makes him pull up and pay attention. Stiles halts, straightens and looks around uncertainly, thinking blue quick left, shakes his head to sort it out into police on patrol.

Stiles relaxes minutely, still wary. He's pretty much hard-wired to associate cops with safety, but there's no getting around the fact that he and his family are technically squatting.

The officers are just making the turn into the little alley where the carpenter's shop is. Stiles furiously rakes his mind for a quick diversion when one of the men turns to look at him. "Oh, hello, Stiles. Been a while since we saw you around." He raises his eyebrows minutely.

Stiles fidgets, offering a crooked smile. "Hey there, officer Jemison. How's your wife?" Better than asking how things are at the station. Too easy to get from that to asking about his father, to Jemison wondering why Stiles doesn’t know.

"Fine, fine." Jemison's not young, but he's sharp. His eyes flick over Stiles and likely miss neither the small hole in Stiles’ left sneaker nor the circles under his eyes. He's distracted, though, when his partner makes to go on into the alley. Where Stiles’ current residence is. "Davis! Going anywhere?"

Davis is new - or at least, Stiles doesn't recognize him. It's not really a surprise. After that mess with the Kanima, half the Beacon Hills force had to be replaced, and Stiles doesn't hang out in the station entire afternoons like he did when he was a kid. Stiles nods at him cordially, which Davis ignores. "We're supposed to patrol in there," he says with slight irritation.

Jemison smiles, slow and considering. "I think we may as well skip it today." He glances at Stiles. "You take care now, son."

Stiles nods, waiting until the officers amble away to sprint home.

He unlocks the door with shaking hands. Derek raises his head as Stiles enters, brow furrowed. “They didn’t come in here,” Derek says. Stiles sags into a chair.

Derek’s got the baby in a sling, and he’s stirring a pot of stew - yesterday’s reheated dinner, by the smell. Ben babbles quietly to himself as Derek leans to taste the stew, lips pursing. The rest of their dishes lie on a towel to Derek’s left, light reflecting off their crappy cutlery and catching in Derek’s messy hair.

Apparently, fatigue does nothing to discourage Stiles’ less savory thought about Derek’s mouth. Or the rest of him. What Stiles needs is a distraction. “Let me hold him,” Stiles says. “Hey,” he croons, reaching to take Ben out of the sling as Derek’s holds the fabric in place for him. “Hi there, Ben-ben. Missed me?”

“He doesn’t have object permanence yet,” Derek says, frowning at the soup. “He can’t miss you when he thinks you don’t exist when out of his sight.”

“Lies,” Stiles says lightly, wincing when Ben manages to get a hand in his hair and pulls. Damn, Stiles needs a haircut. “Stilinskis never forget a thing. Also, that’s totally not how object permanence works.”

“So, that time when I sent you to get milk and you came home with eggs…”

“I meant to do that,” Stiles says, and yelps when Ben kicks him. “Hey! Whose side are you on?”

“The right one,” Derek says smugly.

It’s good, it’s fine; they’re joking about the baby, and then they’re eating. A full mouth always worked to distract Stiles. But then they’re done, and Ben is fussing.

“Hungry?” Derek asks, and takes off his shirt like it ain’t no thang. There’s sparse hair growing just over Derek’s sternum, branching to cover his pecs (Stiles suspects that before Ben, Derek used to wax regularly). His nipples are hard and just starting to glisten.

Stiles finds it deeply worrying that his reaction to Derek breastfeeding shifted from wait, what to gimme. He’s not sure which one is worse from the “trying to be a good co-parent” angle. “How did you even know that object permanence thing,” he asks faintly, mostly to distract himself.

Derek says, “I read,” with a little twitch of eyebrow that just melts into contentment as Ben latches on to a nipple and starts sucking. Derek’s looking down at Ben, the corners of his mouth curling slightly upward, Derek’s chest hair getting wet from leaking milk and alright, Stiles has had enough.

“I’m going out,” Stiles says, voice at least an octave higher than it should be. “For a walk.”

“Take the crib back while you’re out,” Derek says, gesturing at the cracked baby bed he brought home from Boyd’s kid charity thing.

Only it’s not cracked anymore; it seems to have acquired a new headboard, plain wood where the rest of the crib is painted white. The wood seems really smooth, though, asymmetric in a way that captures the eye.

“Sure thing,” Stiles says, hefting up the crib and calling Boyd.

~~

It’s not Boyd who meets him at the warehouse, though. It’s Allison.

“I got the key from Boyd,” she says, handing it to Stiles. “I needed to talk to you.” Stiles nods at her to continue as he unlocks the door. “There’s hunters in town.”

“Uh, yeah,” Stiles says, glancing at Allison.

She rolls her eyes. “Not my dad, dickhead. New guys, out to make a name for themselves. My dad was grumbling about them all day yesterday. Apparently nothing makes trouble like an inexperienced hunter with something to prove.”

Stiles locates an empty space and puts the crib down. “Thanks for letting me know,” he says, slightly at a loss for anything else to say.

Allison catches his confusion. “We’re not expecting you to take them on or anything. Not with, um.”

“The baby,” Stiles supplies.

Allison flushes slightly. “Yeah, that. Just. Stay safe?”

“Sure,” Stiles says easily, locking the door behind him and twirling the keys in his hand once before he hands them back to Allison.

His fingers drum against his thighs, restless, all the way back to the car.

~~

“You should’ve told me you’d be here,” Stiles says when he gets home to find Boyd there. “I gave the keys back to Allison.”

Boyd shrugs. “I’ll get them back at the pack meeting.”

“Huh. Scott’s been keeping those up?”

“He’s the alpha now,” Boyd says, sounding a little discomfited.

Ben is awake, pounding his little fists against the mattress. Stiles goes to scoop him into his arms, cooing at him. “Been a good boy?” He kisses the top of Ben’s head, extremely careful of his fragile skull. “Where is Derek, anyway?”

“Gone to get wood,” Boyd says, rolling his eyes when Stiles cracks up. “Man, to think I thought parenthood would make a person mature.”

“Nah, nothing’s ever gonna do that,” Stiles says with a chuckle. “Anyway, thanks for babysitting. I’m good now, unless you wanna stick around for dinner. There’s venison stew. It’s good, Derek hunted the deer himself.”

Boyd shakes his head and lets himself out. Stiles gives him a halfhearted wave before focusing on the all-important task of making Ben grin.

~~

“I think he’s smiling,” Stiles says when Derek comes in the door hauling what looks like several tree trunks. “What’s this?”

“Ben still needs a crib.” Derek stacks them on the floor of the workshop, a good few yards from the bed. “None of the furniture at the co-op was sturdy enough.”

The amount of wood Derek brought seems enough to construct a whole log cabin, but it’s not like Stiles knows anything about woodcraft. Speaking of which: “You do carpentry?” Stiles asks.

“I helped around at a shop in New York.” Derek sits on the bed besides Stiles, leaning over his shoulder to sniff Ben. “He’s too young to smile. This is just gas.”

“Ugh, spoilsport.” But Stiles still leans back without even thinking, into Derek’s warmth, and Derek – lets him. Wraps one hand around Stiles’ hip to position him close, resting his face against Stiles’ shoulder so he can nose at Ben’s cheek. Ben responds with a cheerful gurgle. “At least he doesn’t have your disposition.”

“Cubs are always playful,” Derek says. He lets go of Stiles. “Let me have him.”

“He’s not hungry yet,” Stiles says when Derek pushes his shirt off again. With the heat of Derek’s skin still fading away from him, it’s easy to just look, let his body yearn for what he can’t have.

“I need to feed him.”

“Sure,” Stiles says. He collapses on the bed rather than look straight at Derek.

The idea of Derek needing stirs unfortunate memories in Stiles. Even though Derek closed the door on that topic of conversation, Stiles can’t forget how Ben was conceived. Can’t let go of the knowledge that once upon a time, Derek gripped Stiles’ shoulders hard enough to bruise, stared at him with frantic, unseeing eyes.

Took Stiles inside his body, making urgent little noises and oh God Derek is right here, Stiles cannot be having these thoughts. “I’m going to sleep,” he says, burrowing in the blankets, willing his unfortunate hard-on to subside.

~~

Stiles is already seated in class when he remembers that he forgot entirely about Grills’ probably nefarious intentions. Under the cover of his desk, he texts Lydia. Any idea what nepaline is?

Barely a second passes before he receives the return message. Why?

Grills wants us to extract it for next lesson, Stiles types quickly, just pushing send when said teacher walks into class.

“Today,” Mr. Grills says, “we’re going to precipitate silver nitrate.”

So that’s what AgNO3 is, Stiles realizes belatedly.

The class eyes one another. Scott in particular is looking at Stiles like a puppy about to be kicked. Stiles soundly ignores him. If Scott wanted a partner who knew what he was doing, he should’ve teamed up with Stiles to begin with rather than sitting next to Isaac like a friend-ditcher.

Lydia speaks up. “We already did that last year.”

“And today we’re doing it again,” Grills says. “If you have any difficulties, I’m sure someone in the class can help you through the process. Any volunteers?”

Stiles quickly raises his hand, scooting next to Lydia to whisper, “I’m pretty sure we didn’t, actually.”

“Idiot,” Lydia whispers back. “Remember what happened when I asked Scott to set the table at my place?”

Oh. That dinner at Lydia’s house. Where the silverware made Scott’s hands blister and peel, since it was made of actual silver. That, Stiles reflects guiltily, puts Scott’s panicky expression in a whole new light.

“Shit,” he mutters while Grills details the experiment on the board. “Now what?”

Lydia ignores him, staring fixedly ahead. When Grills asks for someone to pass the experiment materials around, Lydia practically throws Stiles’ hand up in the air for him. “Get NaOH,” she whispers fiercely, pushing him forward.

Given that Stiles has to carry a whole bunch of supplies anyway, that he drops the NaOH container was practically a given. That he manages to get the powder all over Mr. Grills’ shirt is just exactly his luck.

Lydia gasps. “Oh no, let me get that off you!” She uncaps her water bottle and pours it over Mr. Grills.

Who promptly starts screaming.

“I’m sorry!” Lydia calls out as Grills tears off his shirt, buttons popping out, and runs to the emergency shower. The class descends into chaos.

Under the din, Stiles asks Lydia, “Was this really necessary?”

“Given his plans for next lesson? I’m guessing yes.” Lydia walks to the teacher’s desk, nimbly dodging the steady stream of students escaping the class now that Mr. Grills is indisposed. Nobody seems to be paying attention as Lydia, completely at ease, flips through Mr. Grills’ notebook.

“What,” Stiles says. “Extracting nepaline?”

Lydia huffs in disgust. “Yes, nepaline. Also known as pseudaconitine, also known as—”

“Purified wolfsbane.” Allison cuts into the conversation. “Not to mention that he’s carrying a gun.”

So Stiles wasn’t the only person to notice that.

Lydia says, “There’s no useful high-school experiments you can do with pseudaconitine. Trust me, I’ve been trying to get the school to order some.”

Stiles stares at her. “Uh, why?”

Lydia narrows her eyes at him and says, “Research.” Stiles throws up his hands. “It’s poisonous to humans, too, which means Mr. Grills was taking a good risk of hospitalizing an entire class for something with zero educational value.”

“So, hunter,” Scott says, joining in.

“Yes, Scott, hunter.” Lydia rolls her eyes. “You may have a small cookie. Question is, what do we do now?”

“How hard did you hit him?” Stiles asks slowly. He’s looking at Scott, who’s already whipping his phone out. “Bad enough to necessitate a hospital trip?”

“Probably, once he’s done with the shower. Should still take him a good twenty minutes,” Lydia says.

“Great,” Scott says, then his voice changes. “Uh, mom?”

Allison looks at Stiles with a hint of a smile. “So, I take it it’s hospital policy to deposit your weapon on entering?”

Stiles grin. “It is if Mrs. McCall says so.”

~~

To Stiles’ dismay, Mrs. McCall phones him when he’s nearly at his doorstep. No way Derek doesn’t know Stiles is there, and he probably heard Stiles’ phone vibrate, too. He answers. “Um, hi, how are things?”

Unfortunately, Mrs. McCall isn’t one to beat around the bush. “I switched Grills’ bullets like Scott asked me to,” she says. Stiles opens the door to a sleeping baby and Derek’s extremely disapproving expression.

“Great,” Stiles says faintly. “I’ll come by to pick them up later.” If possible, Derek’s expression becomes even more thunderous at this. Stiles winces. “Listen, thanks, okay? Really. But I gotta go now.” He hangs up without waiting for her reply, squaring his shoulders against what seems like an inevitable fight.

True to expectations, as soon as the call is finished Derek is up in Stiles’ face. “What the hell he’s going on?” he hisses, quiet, probably trying to keep from waking Ben up.

“Hunters.” Stiles grimaces. “Look, I was going to tell you—”

“When? After they attacked?”

“Um.” Stiles swallows. “I mean, if you count making werewolves do class experiments with silver solutions….”

“Damnit, Stiles,” Derek snarls, fists clenching. “This is my territory. You have to tell me these things.”

His eyes flash red, and Stiles is momentarily distracted. “Whoa,” Stiles says, aborting a touch mid-reach. Derek narrows his eyes at him, and Stiles says, “I thought you weren’t the alpha anymore. I mean. Isn’t Scott—?”

“Not the subject,” Derek says, but the fur that sprouted over his face recedes. “Stiles. Why didn’t you tell me?”

A hundred answers go through Stiles’ mind at once, from I didn’t have time to I forgot. As soon as he thinks of them, he knows they’re not true. “I didn’t want you going after them,” Stiles says slowly. It’s not the entire answer, but it’s as close as he’s got right now.

Derek rubs at his eyes. There’s pale bags under them, and Stiles hunches a little, reaching out again, hesitant. Derek doesn’t stop him, and soon Stiles’ hand is tracing Derek’s jaw. “If you don’t trust me to handle it,” Derek starts to say, and Stiles has to cut him off right there.

“No! No no no. That’s not it at all.” Stiles’ brain is spinning even as he speaks, questioning his own motivations. He trusts Derek, he does. There was something else, another reason.

Derek crosses his arms and glares at Stiles. “In that case—”

“Wait.” Stiles raises his hands. “You're right – whatever you're going to say, I agree with you. But take two things into account, first.”

Derek eyes him, wary, but remains silent and still.

That meager hint of cooperation has no business turning Stiles' insides to goo, and yet. “First, if you hurt the hunters? That's a werewolf spilling human blood, and a legitimate reason for them to attack us. Foul, but legit.” Stiles watches Derek's face carefully, the tightening of his mouth and the flare of his nostrils. Stiles nods in sympathy. “No, I get it, I do. But you know I'm right.”

He waits for Derek's acknowledging nod before continuing. “And second, you're the heavy artillery, man. I need you here with the baby.”

Why Stiles didn't start with that, he has no idea; it's clearly an instant winning move. Derek doesn't deflate, exactly, but he's not tensed for a fight anymore.

Ben chooses that moment to fuss. Stiles goes to him, glad of the distraction, picks Ben up to occupy his arms. Between these cramped quarters and perpetually running on not enough sleep, touching Derek is becoming too easy. One of these days, Stiles will cross a line, and who knows if Derek will even tell him?

That’s the trouble, isn’t it? Stiles trusts Derek in just about anything - except taking care of himself.

“Fine,” Derek says. “I won’t get involved.” Stiles gives him a skeptical look, and Derek returns a half-hearted glare. “But at least tell me what’s going on.”

Stiles sits on the bed, rocking Ben gently as he gives Derek the run-down. “We’re not sure what to do next,” Stiles says. “According to Allison, these guys probably aren’t following the Code, but we don’t know for certain. Unfortunately being an asshole is perfectly okay with the Code.” Derek snorts. Stiles gives him a rueful grin. “Killing them’s a bad move, no matter how we look at it; that’s likely to start a war with every hunter on this coast. We need to drive them out, without killing them or any werewolves getting in on the action, and do it in a way that serves as a warning to other hunters.”

“No pressure or anything,” Derek says drily.

Ben looks up at Stiles, blows a spit bubble and, okay, this time it’s definitely a smile. Stiles grins back with his whole face, probably his whole body, helpless to do otherwise. “Oh my God, look at him.” He buries his face in Ben’s stomach, smelling sour milk and baby soap, soaking it up. “God, kid, you’re amazing. He smiled at me, did you see that? Actually smiled.”

Even Derek isn’t enough of a dick to deny him this time.

~~

With hunters at the doorstep, Stiles needs to marshal his allies and his resources. His first stop is at the hospital, where he picks up the bullets Mrs. McCall, er, acquired for him.

“Oh, thanks, gotta go,” he says, grasping for the box in her hand and nearly falling on his face when she yanks her hand away.

“Not so fast,” Mrs. McCall says, grim-faced. “I could lose my job for this, you know.”

Stiles exhales. “It’s for Scott. Well, for all the—” he looks around, and adds in a whisper, “werewolves.”

“Including your infant son. I know.” Mrs. McCall’s expression softens minutely, but her grasp on the box of bullets remains firm. Damn.  “Even so, I’m going to need more of an explanation than please, mom, just do it.

Curse Scott and his inability to provide exposition in Stiles’ place. Stiles glances around them and leads Mrs. McCall into the empty break room. There he says, “Give me a bullet - just one, please. I need to show you something.”

She does, albeit reluctantly. Stiles fishes out his multitool and pries the bullet casing open, carefully tipping the powdered wolfsbane into his palm. “This? Is werewolf poison. But, as with a lot of other poisons, it can also serve as a cure. If one of our furry friends gets hit with one of these bullets, burning this powder and putting it into the wound is the only way to avoid permanent damage.”

Mrs. McCall’s face turns thoughtful. “I’m keeping half of them.”

Her voice brooks no argument, not that Stiles would dare disagree. “You’re the healthcare professional,” he says with a shrug.

“That I am.” She takes a handful of bullets and gives them to Stiles. While he reaches for them, she grabs his shirt collar with her other hand. “Stiles. Listen to me.”

Stiles does his best to stand up straight and look attentive.

“I’ve seen a lot of teenage parents, okay?” She gives his collar a little shake. “And I have some experience raising a child without a family to help, too. You don’t get by without letting go of your pride and taking advantage of help when it’s being offered.”

“I. Thanks, Mrs. McCall.” Stiles swallows. “Scott is—”

“Scott’s a sweet kid, but he isn’t a parent. You’ve got my number, right?” She gives him a penetrating look until he ducks his head and nods. “If anything seems wrong with your kid, if you need help, or just to vent because God knows parenthood isn’t easy, you give me a call.” Her mouth twitches a little. “And for goodness’ sake, call me Melissa.” Her voice gentles. “Look, I know your dad must’ve—”

Nope, not a conversation he’s having. “Yes, Mrs.— um. Melissa,” Stiles says, and runs away as fast as he can.

~~

Visiting Deaton seems easy as pie after that, especially since it’s a two-for-one deal. Stiles deposits a couple of bullets at Deaton’s for safekeeping, then sits on a cabinet in the back room waiting for Scott to finish his shift. Deaton has his glasses on, frowning at the binder full of receipts in front of him.

Finally, Scott washes his hands and comes bounding back to Stiles. “So, what’s up?”

Stiles doesn’t waste time. “Can you do the wolf-eyes for me?”

Scott frowns but obliges, eyes momentarily shading red and back into their accustomed brown. “Huh,” Stiles says, kicking his legs against the cabinet door. “Right now, both Derek and you are alphas.”

Deaton looks up and raises his eyebrows at them. “That makes a great deal of sense,” he says. “Normally, when the alpha has young, their mate can, ah, pick up the slack for them. But given a human mate—”

“Okay, understood,” Stiles cuts in, feeling his cheeks heat. Mate. Yeah, right.

“This is far from ideal, mind you.” Deaton glances from Scott to Stiles. “As well-meaning as both of them are, two unmated alphas are wont to divide the pack’s strength. Especially in the face of a threat.” Deaton stands up, binder under his arm, and smiles beatifically at them. “Please close up, Scott.”

“I hate it when he does that,” Stiles says once Deaton has cleared the premises.

“Drop advice and go?” Scott shrugs uncomfortably. “It’s a pain, but I get it. We’re not his pack. There’s only so much handholding he can do.”

“Dude, when did you get mature?” Stiles socks Scott in the arm.

Scott grins at him. “I hear being an uncle does that to people.”

“Ugh.” Stiles collapses against the wall. “I wish fatherhood did the same.”

When he straightens back up, Scott is giving him a determined look.

“What?” Stiles says, wary.

“You need some you-time,” Scott says decisively. “C’mon, go get your kit. You and I are playing some lacrosse one-on-one.”

~~

In spite of all Stiles’ protests, he finds he’s enjoying getting out on the field. It’s good to feel the burn in his muscles, run and shout at Scott like there’s nothing more important to do than toss a few balls around.

Of course, the minute that thought comes to him, all of Stiles’ good cheer flies out the window. He stands still just in time for Scott’s thrown ball to catch him in the stomach.

“Fuck,” he says, doubling over. Scott comes to him, grasping Stiles’ arms to keep him from tumbling to the ground. Stiles is about to wave him off when he hears the distinctive sound of a shotgun being loaded.

“Shit,” Stiles and Scott hiss in unison. Then Scott throws Stiles down on the ground - Stiles appreciates the sentiment, but ow - and growls in the general direction of the darkness fast descending around them.

“Dude. Not subtle,” Stiles mumbles. He ought to know.

“Look at you, defending your friend,” says a voice out of the darkness. “So sweet. One would almost think you cared.”

“Hey, fuck you!” Scott yells.

“If you do,” the voice continues undeterred, “I suggest you let him go and we’ll sort this out amongst ourselves. Like men.” The sneering emphasis on the last word is unmistakable.

“Like hell am I,” Stiles starts, but Scott turns around to glare at him and say, “Ben.”

Stiles… can’t really argue with that. He crawls away because hey, fuck dignity, right? Who cares about that, since he’s already willing to abandon his best friend. Tries to find some miserable cover in nearby bushes while watching Scott grow fur and teeth.

“Don’t draw blood, if you can,” Stiles whispers. “Don’t let this turn into a war. We can’t afford a war,” not sure if he’s speaking to Scott or just to the universe in general.

Apparently someone was listening, because Stiles hears the whoosh! of a loosed arrow, and a thud like a body hitting the ground. Stiles is way too familiar with that sound. Then Allison is there, hovering and pulling Stiles up. “Smeared the arrow with Kanima venom,” she tells Stiles. “I just grazed him. We’ve got a few minutes to get away before he’s moving again.”

~~

“I’m almost sad Jackson’s a werewolf now,” Stiles says as he limps to the bus station, Allison and Scott walking at his side like concerned guard dogs. “We’re going to run out of Kanima venom eventually, and that stuff’s useful.”

Scott gives Stiles the stink-eye. Allison says, “Actually, I think Lydia is working on synthesizing more.”

That is a topic Stiles would like to give much more attention to, but he’s interrupted by a car pulling over. “Need a ride?” says the driver, and no, forget it. There is no way Stiles is getting into an enclosed space with Peter Hale.

Except then none other than Chris Argent pokes his head out of the back seat window, looking pissy. “Get in,” he says, glaring at Allison. “Young lady, you have some explaining to do.”

~~

If the situation is dire enough to get Chris and Peter in the same car, Stiles figures the least he can do is get in with them. Allison hops straight for the shotgun seat like it’s her birthright, so it’s Stiles who ends up scooting next to Chris, serving as a meager human buffer zone between him and Scott.

After that, sitting on the Argents’ couch is a relief. Even though Allison and Chris are yelling at each other, and Scott and Stiles have to sit on the sidelines and do their best to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

“This was privileged information,” Chris says.

Allison blinks. “Excuse me? You can’t tell me this doesn’t concern them.”

“I’m telling you—”

“They have a child, and he’s in danger!” Allison yells. “A baby.” Her voice cracks a little bit on the last word.

A muscle ticks in Chris’ jaw. He glances at Stiles, and his eyebrows draw together, mouth in a sour twist. “Alright.” He takes a deep breath. “Now that everyone knows, we need to figure out how to deal with this.”

He then turns to glare at Peter, who is laying into a stash of jellybeans he apparently found in one of the side tables. “Yes, indeed,” Peter says.

“Those are gourmet,” Chris hisses at him. Peter beams and tosses one in the air, catching it with his mouth.

Stiles had better provide a distraction before the guns and claws come out. “So far we found one,” he says. “Our chemistry teacher - and okay, seriously, what is up with this position? Is Beacon Hills High secretly Hogwarts and chemistry is actually Defense Against the Dark Arts?”

The joke falls flat. Stiles should have seen that coming.

“And then there’s the guy who shot at us,” Scott says. “Allison, did you get a good look at him?”

Allison shakes her head. “I didn’t want him to get a good look at me.”

“He didn’t sound like Grills,” Scott says. “So that means two of them, at least.”

“Great.” Stiles rubs his eyes. “Is there at least an upper bound to how many hunters we’re dealing with?”

“Won’t be more than five,” Chris says. “Probably three at most, and I’ve already sent one packing.”

Everybody in the room stares at Chris.

“He was in my territory,” Chris says, and Stiles vows never to tell anyone how much like Derek Chris sounded at that moment. “The others haven’t defied the Code outright yet.”

“What does the Code say about making werewolves who haven’t hurt anyone handle silver?” Stiles snaps.

Chris looks at Stiles with eyebrows raised. “Nobody died yet.”

“So that leaves us two,” Allison says, glaring at her father. “We need to deal with them, and the wolves can’t do it.” She spares Scott an apologetic little smile. Scott grins back at her, wide and infatuated.

“Not outright, at least,” Chris says, glancing at Peter, who stands up.

“I’ve spoken to some of the neighboring packs,” Peter says. “The hunters at large don’t want an outright war anymore than we do, not against more than one measly pack. So far I’ve gotten a… somewhat lukewarm response.” He waggles his hand. “The other packs are hedging their bets. I judge they’re likely to promise us protection once we’ve ousted the threat. But until then, well.” He smirks. “A pack that can’t deal with a little hunting problem like that, maybe they deserve to die out.”

Scott’s claws flash and retract, so quick Stiles barely even notices.

“You shouldn’t get involved,” Chris tells Allison, raising a hand when she begins to protest. “However you may feel about it, outright assaulting other hunters will only get people to question where your loyalties lie.”

Allison’s shoulders hunch. “So who does that leave?”

Everyone turns to look at Stiles. He grins awkwardly, tugging at the collar of his shirt. “Hey, sure, I’ll just mock the hunters to death.”

~~

Stiles takes the last few steps from the bus stop at a near-run. The sun has set already; he’d spent the entire afternoon away, longer than he thinks he spent away from the baby since leaving home. He meets Isaac at the doorstep, who grunts at him, “Somebody took his time.” Isaac doesn’t look too displeased, though.

Stiles grins at him. “Don’t even front, man, you love babysitting.”

Isaac shrugs with one shoulder. “He’s an okay kid,” he allows. Stiles punches him in the shoulder, discretely massaging his fingers while Isaac laughs and does that leaping-away thing all werewolves do.

“Are all werewolves show offs?” Stiles asks, getting in. He dumps his coat on the kitchen chair. “Is it like, genetic with you guys?” He flops on the bed beside where Ben is lying, rubs his soft little belly and gently smooches his cheek. “You wanna show off for daddy, kid?”

Derek seems to be tuning Stiles out. He’s sitting on the floor in the part of the shop that’s dedicated to actual woodwork and appears to be communing with a log. Then in a sudden burst of speed his claws flash out and dig into the wood, cutting sections out of it, movement so smooth Stiles is left blinking and uncertain he saw Derek stir at all.

“You said something?” Derek says, coming out of his timber-inflicted trance.

“Nothing important,” Stiles says with a soft, awed grin. “Man, when you said you fixed the crib I thought you used, like, power tools.”

“No better tools than these,” Derek says, flexing his claws. His face has gone all furry, but he’s smiling at the same time. Stiles throws a pillow at him, both as a distraction and just on principle.

Soon Derek gets back to work. Stiles entertains himself by holding Ben and attempting to narrate the process to him. “Now dad is done making the basic parts,” Stiles says. “It looks like he’s smoothing them over. Wouldn’t want you to get a splinter in your squishy little feetsies, would we?” Stiles jiggles Ben’s foot, to give him an idea of the relevant body part. “And then he’s going to fit them together… Somehow,” Stiles says, surveying the definitely nail- and glue-less work environment.

“It’s not hard,” Derek says. He glares at one of the boards he just smoothed. Stiles is about to ask whether Derek is trying to drill a hole in it with his eyes when Derek’s claws come out swift and sure, gouging a small hole that’s so precise it seems machine-tooled. Then Derek picks up a stick-like piece and slots it into place before giving the joined pieces to Stiles. “Go ahead,” Derek says, picking Ben up and moving a few steps back. “Try to pull it apart.”

Stiles does. It’s hard to get a good grip on the wood, which is so smooth it’s nearly slippery. How Derek managed to get that effect using nothing but claws and furry skin, Stiles has no idea. Even once he gets a good hold, the wood acts - not even like it’s stuck together; like it was carved in its entirety from a single log.

“Magic werewolf carpentry skills.” Stiles shakes his head. “Will wonders never cease.”

The smile Derek gives him in reply is a small, private thing, gone almost before Stiles even notices. Stiles has to squash a ridiculous urge to try and catch that expression, make it hold. Maybe with a butterfly net and duct tape.

Watching Derek work is meditative. Stiles knocks off the commentary for a while, content to hold Ben and hum something suitably lullaby-like. He doesn’t even notice his eyes are closing until there’s a blanket being draped over him and, more incongruously, hands digging in his pocket.

“Wha’,” Stiles mumbles. He hears the shutter-sound of a picture being snapped.

“Someone ought to show Boyd what a real crib looks like,” Derek says and turns off the light.

~~

The next day at school, Boyd’s hand lands heavy over Stiles’ shoulder.

Stiles tenses. “Before you eviscerate me, I want you to know that it’s all Derek’s fault.”

“You mean, how my mom stole my phone and proceeded to send those crib pictures to all her friends?”

Stiles is momentarily torn between hilarity and horror. “She didn’t.”

Boyd nods grimly and raises his phone in mute witness; there’s a gushing text message there about beautiful quality woodwork. It doesn’t strike Stiles as the kind of thing Boyd would write, to say the least.

“Interesting,” Stiles says slowly, and grabs Boyd’s phone.

It has to be out of sheer surprise, but he actually manages it with his fingers intact. Boyd growls, poised to leap, and Stiles yells, “Scott! Intercept!”

While Scott keeps Boyd away, Stiles makes a quick phone call. “Hello, Mrs. Boyd? This is about that crib picture Vernon received yesterday…”

“Don’t call me Vernon, asshole!” Boyd yells in the background.

~~

“It’s a bad idea,” Derek says when Stiles is home with a list of names and prices.

“It’s an awesome idea,” Stiles counters. Derek’s arms are crossed and he’s scowling, but Stiles is a man on a mission, and that mission is being able to afford new sneakers. He’s inspired. “You’ll be able to work from home, set your own hours…”

“There’s no way I’ll be able to make enough.”

Stiles grins. That’s actually more compliant than he expected. “It took you, like, a day to make that first crib. Even if you work slower now, take a week for each one, they’re specialty orders. Luxury items. Your clients are going to wait.”

“Clients,” Derek says with disgust. “What are we going to charge for these things anyway, sixty bucks? That’s not a living.”

Stiles splutters. “Yeah, try six hundred.”

Derek’s eyes look about to pop out of his head like a cartoon character. He opens his mouth, but no sound comes out.

Stiles raises a hand. “Don’t even. I’ve already asked three prospective clients about this today and they all agreed to that price.”

“Already,” Derek repeats, giving Stiles a dirty look.

Both of them freeze when the familiar sound of Ben’s crying starts to fill up the room.

Derek sighs. “You get him changed,” he says, a little meanly. “Apparently I have to cut down more wood.”

~~

Derek comes back from his wood-gathering expedition with what looks like half the forest and a bitchy attitude. Stiles sits on the bed, attention divided evenly between Ben’s slumbering form and the flier he’s designing on his laptop. When Derek takes a break and starts taking off his shirt for Ben’s meal, Stiles beats a hasty retreat, citing the need to print and hang the fliers.

He’s at the Beacon Hills community center, trying to judge the best placing for their fliers amid the offers of guitar lessons and rental ads when he’s addressed by a man in police uniform.

“Hi, um,” Stiles rakes his memory, and manages to attach a name to the face, “officer Davis.”

“You do carpentry?” Davis nods at the flier.

“No. My, uh, boyfriend.” Stiles flushes. Not the word he’d rather use, but saying co-parent would just lead to so many awkward explanations.

Although on second thought, Stiles could very well have said it was for a friend, or even just someone who paid him to do it. Stiles tries to cover his embarrassment with a smile, but he suspects it comes out weak.

Davis certainly catches his hesitation. “Anyone give you trouble about that?” He narrows his eyes.

Stiles shakes his head, a little too rapidly. “No. It’s fine. We’re fine.”

Then Davis hesitates, glancing aside before saying, “You’re the sheriff’s kid, aren’t you? I know he doesn’t live anywhere near Ashside.” Of course he doesn’t. That was one reason Stiles and Derek chose Ashside to live in. “That where your boyfriend lives?”

Lying about that would just get him into more trouble. Stiles nods stiffly and waits for Davis to get in his business.

But Davis just smiles. “Thanks. You take care, now.” He turns and walks away, whistling.

~~

About a block from the community center, Stiles acquires an escort. Erica falls into step with him, and if Stiles isn’t mistaken, that’s Jackson walking behind him. He can feel Jackson’s eyes boring holes in his back; Stiles is something of a connoisseur of angry glares, these days.

“To what do I owe the honor?” He elbows Erica lightly in the ribs. “I haven’t seen you in ages.”

Erica tosses her hair. “Had to stay away unless I wanted to get sucked into babysitting.” She makes a face. “And now I’m stuck babysitting you, I guess.”

Stiles halts, so sudden that Jackson almost walks into him. “Are you kidding me? I thought we agreed you guys are staying out of this.”

“Who’s we?” Erica rolls her eyes. “His Alpha-ness decided the squishy human shouldn’t be out on his own, and there we are. Trust me, nobody asked for my input on this.”

“Ugh.” Stiles scowls. “Derek put you up to this?”

“Scott,” Jackson says. Still behind him, like he doesn’t want to be seen with Stiles.

Stiles grins. Jackson sounds so disgusted, he can’t help but take advantage of the situation’s innate hilarity. “Lay off the teeth-grinding, man,” he says. “Werewolf or not, those molars are going to take some real damage soon.”

“I wouldn’t be,” Jackson says, faux-sweet, “if someone didn’t decide I need to be guarding your pasty human ass, Stilinski.”

“Hey, this human ass is fair perfection!” Stiles says.

As last words, that leaves something to be desired. This is a problem, since the moment Stiles closes his mouth, a shot rings through the air.

“Shit,” Erica hisses, and before Stiles realizes what’s happening his back is flush against an alley wall, Erica standing before him like a human shield. She’s shorter than he is even in her heels, slimmer, and Stiles has to fight the urge to push her away, to shout and distract the hunters from her.

Then he hears a shotgun going off, louder than the handgun that just fired. Melissa may have disarmed one hunter’s weapon, but he’ll probably have others. Erica’s not safe, either. Stiles tries to remind her of this, and gets an elbow to the gut for his trouble.

“Derek will flay me if you—” Erica’s words are cut off with a gasp as she takes a hit, the force of the bullet throwing her back against Stiles. She chokes, a horrible gurgling noise.

“Erica,” Stiles whispers, maneuvering out from behind her, heedless of the shots still being fired.

Erica lets him, but only because she’s busy digging her claws into the wounds, digging bullets out and tossing them down on the sidewalk. Stiles breathes a sigh of relief, both at the sight of her healing wounds and at the knowledge that at least one weapon is de-wolfsbaned.

“Motherfucker,” she snarls. “I liked that shirt,” and she’s running, Stiles trailing helplessly behind.

The hunter’s running, still taking pot-shots at Erica that she ignores utterly, letting bullets buzz past her like flies. She leaps, howling, and tackles him.

Mr. Grills looks up at Erica with an expression halfway between hatred and disdain. His lips move, but Stiles can’t make out the words. Erica pins Grills to the ground by the throat with one hand, other raised up, sharp claws revealed.

“Erica!” Stiles yells. Erica turns to look at her. Stiles holds her gaze, steady, until the gold in her eyes fades back into brown. “You can’t spill any blood, that’s—”

Erica growls, picks up a nearby rock and hits Mr. Grills hard on the head. He goes limp.

“—but hey, why don’t you brain the guy,” Stiles continues faintly.

She looks up, sniffing. “Jackson’s hurt.”

Jackson’s lying on the ground a few yards from them, twisting and gasping. Stiles looks at him, wincing at the blood pouring away, bright. “Don’t try to take the bullets out,” he says, when Erica seems about to do the fingernail-tweezer trick. “They’re poisoned, no knowing what it’ll do to either of you.”

“So what,” Erica snaps, ”I should just let him bleed to death?”

“Take him to Deaton.” Stiles takes a deep breath. “Wait, on second thought, take him to the hospital. Look for Scott’s mom, tell her I said it was wolfsbane. She’ll know what to do.”

Erica’s got Jackson in her arms - he’s not even bitching about it; now Stiles is really getting worried - and she directs a pointed look at Grills where he’s lying on the ground. “What about him?”

“Don’t worry,” Stiles says, taking his phone out of his pocket. “I’ve got it covered.”

~~

There are few scarier sights in the world than Lydia Martin smiling and holding a dripper.

Grills wakes up with a groan, muffled because he can’t open his mouth too well. Stiles would sympathize - he’s been in this position, and it sucked - but Grills came into Stiles’ town and threatened Stiles’ pack. So, with all due respect, fuck that guy.

“Oh, good, you’re awake,” Lydia says. “No, don’t try to move. I thought you might not mind helping me test my latest batch of synthesized Kanima venom.”

Probably Grills knows what that is, because his eyes widen, leaping to the dripper Lydia’s holding. She makes a small tsk. “Oh, no, that’s not it. This is just sugar water.”

Stiles waits as Grills realizes where he is - naked, on the ground in one of the more densely wooded parts of the Preserve, well out of hearing range from the town. The flies have found him already, and a few brave ants. The rest of the wildlife will probably take a while before digging in, but they’ll get around to it.

“How long does the venom take to wear off?” Stiles asks, half for their captive audience’s benefit, half for his own morbid curiosity’s sake.

Lydia purses her lips. “It’s fairly concentrated. It probably wouldn’t last a full day, but we can hope.”

Grills mouth tries and fails to move. His eyelids can’t shut as a wasp lands on the white of his eye. Something small and gray comes scurrying out of the greenery, darting to sniff at Grills’ belly before going back into hiding.

Stiles shares a look with Lydia. She crooks an eyebrow at him, as if to say, Want a go? He hesitates, and eventually nods, going to kneel close to Grills’ face.

“We don’t appreciate people messing with our pack,” Stiles says conversationally. “And if you were thinking about bringing in your friends, yelling about the Code, bear in mind that everything happening to you right now was done by fully fledged humans.”

“And we didn’t even spill any blood,” Lydia says, sounding almost sorry.

~~

It takes Grills less than an hour to break. Stiles is almost disappointed in him, but also kind of grateful. He doesn’t really have the constitution to look at guys being slowly eaten alive by bugs and small forest rodents. Lydia is radiating her usual coolness, perhaps mixed with a bit of scientific interest. Stiles simultaneously admires and fears her.

But eventually Grills’ mouth moves, and the first words out are, “Let me up, let me up,” high and frantic.

“What’s the magic word?” Lydia says.

“Truce,” Grills spits out.

“I knew you’d see it our way,” Stiles says, and brushes a trail of ants off Grills’ shoulder.

Peter shows up then, materializing out of the shadows like the physical embodiment of smug. “Oh, allow me,” he says to Stiles, heaving Grills’ still mostly immobile form onto his shoulder.

At the ruin of Hale house, Chris Argent is waiting for them, along with Stiles’ father. Stiles stiffens, instinct from years of trying to keep this side of his life from colliding with his dad. “What are you doing here?” he says, sounding young and unsure even to himself.

His dad’s mouth is a thin, disapproving line. “Keeping watch,” he says. His eyes flicker over Grills, who was never a pretty sight and is much less likely to be considered one now. “Didn’t want anyone getting trigger-happy.”

“I asked him to come,” Chris says with a joyless smirk. “Felt he had a right to be informed.”

Stiles automatically opens his mouth to protest this, then closes it because, actually, he agrees with Chris. It’s a really weird feeling. “Why are you here?” he asks instead, because this sudden team up of Chris Argent and Peter Hale is making his palms sweat.

Peter’s tsk comes right from behind Stiles shoulder. It’s only due to over a year’s exposure to asshole werewolves that Stiles doesn’t jump. “Dear boy, you didn’t think you could frighten the hunter off with a few insects and be done with it, did you? Chris and I are here to negotiate with other hunters and other packs, respectively.”

Stiles can’t help but glance over his shoulder. “Are they here?”

Peter sighs. “You’ve been hanging around my nephew for far too long.” He points to a laptop with a Skype window open.

“Oh,” Stiles says weakly. “I’ll just. Let you get on with that.”

Of course, that leaves him facing his dad. Stiles scuffs his shoe, wincing when he realizes he’s still wearing the pair with holes in it. His dad notes it too, Stiles can tell.

“We’re doing okay,” Stiles says in a low voice. “Not that you asked. But we are.”

His dad’s eyes narrow. The wrinkles at their corners are getting noticeable. Or maybe just Stiles pays more attention now that he doesn’t see his dad every day. “You know you can always come home.”

Stiles stares his dad in the eye. “It’s not home if my son’s not there with me,” he says, slow because he shouldn’t have to explain this to his dad of all people.

“Of course he can come too, that goes without saying.” His dad sounds exasperated.

That’s pretty much the last straw. “That’s not what you said when you kicked us out,” Stiles says, and he doesn’t care whether Peter or Chris or the entire fucking world hears him.

His dad shakes his head. “Stiles, you showed up with a baby that your boyfriend supposedly gave birth to, emphasis on boy. Even if he is a werewolf, what proof did you have it was your child? Or, hell, his?”

“I’m not having this argument with you,” Stiles says, hands curling into fists.

“I’m not trying to have it!” His dad throws his hands up. “I won’t say I haven’t reacted badly. I was… startled.”

“You told Derek you’ll arrest him for statutory rape!”

The look Stiles gets in return isn’t fatherly. This is the patented Sheriff Stilinski Hairy Eyeball. “Stiles, you’re a smart kid. Think about this for a second. In my place, what would you have done?”

Stiles’ jaw snaps shut. He grits it, thinking, trying to imagine himself in his father’s situation. Okay, yeah, maybe his dad’s reaction kind of made sense. “Why would Derek lie about that?” Stiles says, because that’s the one glaring flaw. “I mean, once it was obvious you wouldn’t let us mooch off you.”

This makes his dad flinch. Hah. Score one for Stiles.

“Derek does most of the childcare and housework. He’s got an entire pack’s worth of babysitters. He’s got money in the bank, he has a job now, and he wouldn’t even let me interview because I need to ‘focus on my studies’.” Stiles pulls up air quotes for the last one. “I mean, yeah, maybe he just latched onto me, but seriously. Why bother?”

“Yeah,” his dad says slowly, glancing to where Grills is lying limp in the corner. “Clearly he was getting a real raw deal there.”

A short-lived swell of pride warms Stiles, right up until he sees tentative hope rising on his dad’s face. Stiles scowls, crossing his arms; he’s outgrown his jacket, and it leaves his wrists exposed.

“You could still come back,” his dad says quietly. “You and your son both. For his sake, if not for yourself. Even if you’re angry—”

Stiles cuts him off with an abrupt shake of his head. His dad sighs and, thankfully, drops the subject; he turns and looks at Chris, who is stiffly pretending not to have heard anything, and Peter, who isn’t even trying to pretend. Lydia raises an eyebrow when Stiles looks at her. Stiles sticks his hands in his pocket, slumping.

It’s not even that he’s angry. Oh, he definitely is, don’t get him wrong. But that’s not it.

Shitty as these last few weeks have been, Stiles can’t imagine going back to live with his dad. Stiles loves him, and now that his dad’s made the minimal effort to pull his head out of his ass, Stiles can’t deny he missed him. And it would be practical, getting a roof over Ben’s head where he wouldn’t have to worry about cops chasing them out. Derek wouldn’t even argue; hell, he’d probably argue for it, if he doesn’t just shove Stiles and Ben out to where he thinks they would be safest.

And… no. Just no. Fuck, even the idea makes Stiles tense up, suddenly longing to hold Ben, to have Derek glare at him. To go home.

When he hears the howl, long and bleak, it’s such a fitting sound that at first Stiles thinks he imagined it. But his dad’s looking up, frowning, Chris looks wary, and even Lydia seems distraught.

“It’s Derek,” Peter says. His face is completely blank.

Grills’ smile is horrible. “Got him,” he whispers, hoarse. “Good on you, Davis.”

His dad takes one look at Stiles’ face and says, “I’ll drive you.”

~~

The drive from the Preserve to Ashside is twenty minutes, even with the sirens on. Stiles spends it staring at the window and trying not to think of what might be waiting for him at home.

He’s failing miserably.

Coming back from the Hale house’s ruins isn’t improving matters any. The house itself, the silent warning it presents, is made all the worse now that Stiles knows what it looked like before.

Stiles wasn’t too enthused when Peter offered to share memories with him, to show Stiles what a healthy pack is like. But then Peter tilted his head and said, “If you don’t know what you’re working towards, how do you hope to get there?”

It was a good point, and so Stiles let Peter sink his claws in the back of Stiles’ neck, stared out at Hale house as it was before the fire, at Derek’s siblings and cousins running around playing hide and seek, the older werewolves looking on fondly.

He could see it now. Derek spoon-feeding his littlest cousin: Joyce, who was six months old, who had Peter’s eyes and her mother’s cloud of dark hair. Derek had been about fifteen. “I never got to hear her talk,” Peter said in a low voice, and the memory wafted and refocused into another image.

Stiles can feel his dad’s eyes on him. Thankfully, the sheriff is silent.

~~

Stiles is out of the car before it even reaches a complete stop, skidding a little against the sidewalk and running into the alley where the entrance is. His every sense seems heightened, scenting the air for smoke, for blood. He finds only car exhaust.

He can hear Ben crying, though, and that gives him courage to open the door.

Derek is tense, staring at the wall, holding – is that a nailgun? – pointed at a figure on the wall. Stiles walks inside, dazed, takes it in. Davis is literally pinned like a butterfly, outline of nails attaching his pants and jacket to the wall.

“Holy fuck,” Stiles says weakly, and starts to laugh. He can’t help himself.

“Not a drop of blood spilled,” Derek says, low and a little shaky.

Ben’s gone quiet. The absence of sound is worse somehow, a sudden pang in Stiles’ heart, but he turns and his dad is holding Ben, rocking and shushing him.

It’s— too much, Stiles can’t look at that, not right now. He tears his eyes away, facing Derek, who has red marks on his neck and wrists. Stiles reaches for Derek’s hand without thinking. “Shit, what happened to you?”

“Wolfsbane-laced rope,” Derek says. “He got me with a cattle prod,” Stiles winces just thinking about that, “tied me up before I could fight back.” Derek’s claws flash. “I think he wanted to get Ben first. I think he wanted me to watch.”

Stiles’ breath comes out in a long, ugly hiss. Maybe there are some people he wouldn’t mind seeing eaten alive by insects after all. Derek’s hand is warm, and Stiles stops himself just before touching the abrasion left by the rope. “How did you get out?”

Derek shrugs. “Pulled until it gave way. He was expecting me to be weaker than I am.”

Without Stiles’ volition, his hand tightens around Derek’s forearm. Deaton mentioned something like this, how werewolves who bore children grew stronger both to withstand the brutal birth itself and to protect their cubs from danger. Stiles can see the rope now, frayed bits littering the floor. Thinks of Derek tied up, watching the hunter, and Ben—

Derek grabs Stiles’ shoulders, jerking his attention back to the present. “Ben’s fine,” he says, turning Stiles physically around. Ben’s lying in Stiles’ dad’s arms, kicking up at the air. Stiles’ dad is whispering at Ben, smiling. Stiles’ breath sticks in his throat.

But Derek is still behind him, warm and solid, and Stiles can’t deal with this anymore. He turns so abruptly that Derek’s hands fall limp by his side, moves to press as close as he can to Derek’s front, and pushes their mouths together in the most awkward kiss in the history of ever.

Derek takes it, though. His hand wraps around Stiles’ waist and the other one cradles the back of Stiles’ head, and he opens right up for Stiles, warm and accepting. He tastes like home.

“Fuck.” Stiles retreats, panting, closing his eyes and resting his forehead against Derek’s. “Fuck.”

Instead of answering, Derek just pets the back of Stiles’ head some more.

His father’s gentle cough pulls Stiles out of his haze of relief. “I’m going to call Argent,” he says. “He’s going to take care of, um, this.” He jerks his head at Davis.

“Don’t feel the need to treat me like I’m in the room or anything,” Davis says. He’s given up wriggling, just hanging in there, sagging against the nails.

“We won’t, thanks,” Derek says with false brightness and Stiles cracks up.

“Here,” his dad says, passing Ben to Stiles.

Stiles has to restrain himself from hugging Ben into baby pulp. He just drops kiss after kiss on Ben’s face, unable to hold back. “Hey,” he says, helplessly, “hey, baby. Hey, Ben. Don’t scare me like that again, ‘kay?”

His dad shakes his head ruefully. “Yeah, good luck with that.” He gives Ben a look, like he wants to hold him again but doesn’t dare ask, and Stiles makes a decision.

“So, uh, dad,” he says. He doesn’t look at Derek, but somehow he doesn’t think Derek would mind. “The pack’s been helping us out a lot, but they’ve never been parents. So if you want to like, babysit every now and then…”

“Yes,” his dad says, not stopping to think about it. “I. I’d like that.”

Stiles holds a hand up. “I mean. I’m still pissed. Don’t think I’m not. But I love you, and I want you in my family.” He swallows. “And that includes Ben and Derek, now. So you can take that or leave it.”

His dad’s smile is a faded thing but full of comfort, like an old blanket. “I get that. I’ll take it.”

Stiles does look at Derek then. He’s smiling, bright and gentle, and something in Stiles cracks irrevocably and mends again, subtly different and weirdly right.

He passes Ben to Derek, sparing a moment to watch their silent communication before tackling his dad in a Stilinski-class hug.