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No One Ever Said Parenting Would Be Easy

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Stiles yawns and rubs at his eyes, “Tali, please go to sleep.  It’s way past your daddy’s bedtime.”  His daughter pays him no mind, she simply gurgles happily and gums at his finger.  “Come on baby girl, it’s not playtime.  It’s bedtime.  That’s the time that daddy gets to do this awesome thing called sleep.”  Stiles watches his beautiful daughter and fights to keep his eyelids open.  He startles awake at Talia’s happy squeal and scoots down in the bed as he adjusts the baby across his lap.  She coos up at him, tugging on his finger.  Stiles whines softly, “Tali, please go to sleep.”

A soft knock on the bedroom door makes him sit up straighter, “I’m fine, dad.  You can head home.”

The voice that comes through the wooden barrier isn’t his father, though.  “Your dad already went home.”

“Derek?  What are you doing out of bed?”

Stiles looks over and watches the shadow of Derek’s feet shuffle underneath his bedroom door.  The answer he gets is slightly bitchy, “I’m allowed out of bed, Stiles.”

A tired laugh bubbles up and he agrees, “Yes, you are.”  Talia babbles up at him and Stiles calls out, “You can come in, you know.  There’s no need to loiter in the hallway like a creeper wolf.”

Derek opens the door and looks in, “You sure?”

Stiles nods at him and pats the bed, “C’mere.  Maybe you can convince our daughter to go to sleep.”

Derek crosses the guest bedroom and tentatively climbs onto the end of the bed, his eyes on Talia the whole time.  The infant catches sight of him and her face lights up, tiny hands reaching for him.  Stiles grins, “Who’s that, huh?  Who is it?  Is that papa?”  When Derek doesn’t reach for her, Talia’s expression changes.  She turns to look at Stiles and then back to Derek.  One chubby hand waves in Derek’s direction and when Derek still doesn’t respond, her face crumbles.  Stiles gets a split-second warning, in the form of a tiny lip quiver, before an ungodly scream erupts loud enough to cause Derek to wince.

Stiles sits up and lifts Talia up against his chest.  He stands up and starts pacing the room, “Tali, sweetheart, please stop.  You were doing so well.”  Stiles rubs a hand over his daughter’s back and crosses the room, bouncing gently.  He kisses the top of her head and whispers, “Papa just needs time, baby.”  Stiles moves back towards the bed and sighs when he sees Derek curled up in an effort to make himself as small as possible.  “I’m gonna go make her a bottle.”

Derek nods but doesn’t move from his spot.

Stiles makes his way to the bedroom door, patting softly over his daughter's diaper-covered bottom in an effort to calm her.  He turns at the last minute, “You can stay.  If you want-“ His words trail off at the sight of Derek standing by the bed with one hand pressed to his abdomen.

Derek looks up and awkwardly crosses both arms over his chest when he notices Stiles looking at the wet patches on the front of his t-shirt.  “I thought you were going to feed her?”

Stiles gapes at him and nods, “Uh, yeah.”  He takes a step towards the bed and gestures to Derek’s chest, “You okay?”  The closer he gets to Derek, the quieter Talia becomes.  He smiles and rubs a hand over her back, “She likes being close to you.”

Derek winces and takes a step backwards, “Yeah?”

Stiles nods, “Of course she does!  You’re her Papa Derek.”  He sits on the edge of the bed and pats the mattress, “Hey, c’mere.  Sit down.”  Derek looks at him suspiciously.  “You don’t have to feed her.  Not if you don’t want to.  Just watch her for a minute?”

Derek swallows hard and nods, carefully lowering himself onto the mattress.  “What do I have to do?”

Stiles turns to set Talia on the bed and stands up, “Just make sure she stays there.  She can’t do much yet so you should be fine until I get back.  Okay?”  Derek nods.  “I’ll be quick.”

“We’ll be here.”  He’s is a little surprised that Derek gives him a tiny smile before stretching out on the bed, forming a barrier between their daughter and the edge of the bed.  Stiles watches them for a few seconds and then heads downstairs to prepare Talia’s bottle. 

The chore is a familiar one by now and Stiles could probably do it without turning on the kitchen light.  He grabs one of the pre-measured bottles of powdered formula and pulls the fridge open to retrieve the gallon jug of distilled water.  The first time his father had brought home a box of the things, Stiles had laughed.  He never would have thought that he would be buying gallons labeled ‘baby water’ but here he is…pouring said water into his daughter’s bottle.  Stiles screws the nipple onto the bottle and shakes it gently as he puts the gallon back into the fridge, not even realizing that he’s humming as he warms the bottle under the faucet. 

A few minutes later and he’s jogging up the stairs.  He makes a detour to Talia’s nursery for a burp cloth before heading to the bedroom and nearly drops the bottle when he walks in.  Derek is leaning over Talia, fangs bared.  Stiles rushes forward and is about shove Derek off the bed, when he hears Talia coo joyfully.  Derek shifts back to human and when Talia waves her hands up at his face, he shifts once more.  Stiles watches as Derek noses at her chin and just barely holds himself back when Derek growls at her.  Talia squeals and kicks her feet contentedly.  Derek looks up and sees him, eyes widening at being caught.  He sits up too quickly and promptly falls off the edge of the bed with a brutal thud.

Stiles runs across the room and crouches next to him, “Oh shit!  Derek, are you okay?”  Derek nods, but refuses to look at him.  “You sure?”  Talia chooses that exact moment to express her displeasure at no longer being the center of attention.  Derek whines in response to her cries and Stiles presses his lips together, “Here, let’s get you up.”  Derek sits up slowly and Stiles lifts his chin, “Tell me the truth…how long has this,” he points to the fresh wet spots on Derek’s t-shirt, “been happening?”

Derek ducks his gaze, “A few days?”

Stiles sighs, “Baby, why didn’t you say something?”

Derek shrugs, “You have enough to worry about.  It’s not like it happens a lot…just when she cries.”

Stiles cups Derek’s jaw and opens his mouth to speak, but Talia screeches loudly.  Derek’s face twists in pain and Stiles huffs angrily as he stands, “Oh my goodness, Talia!  We’re right here!”  Stiles scoops her up and the infant instantly quiets.  “You’re such a drama queen, Tali.  Now hush.  Here.”  He offers the bottle to her and takes a frustrated breath when she turns away from it.  “Not now, Talia, please.  Just take the dam-”

“Maybe she doesn’t like that one?”

Stiles turns around and backs up a step when Derek is right there.  He takes a breath and snaps, “You want to try?  Be my guest.”  Stiles hands the bottle to Derek and thrusts the infant out towards him.  “You think you can do better, go right ahead.  I’ve had it.”  Derek is staring between him and the baby.  When Derek doesn’t take her, he sets her on the center of the bed.  “I’m tired, it’s been three days since I’ve had a shower and god knows how long it’s been since I had sex, so if you think you can do better, have at it!”  Stiles makes ‘go ahead’ motions with his hands and waits.  He’s more than a little surprised when Derek climbs onto the bed.

Stiles watches as Derek holds a finger up to his lips and tries to shush the infant.  Talia only cries louder and after a split-second of visible indecision, Derek shifts.  Instantly, their daughter quiets, eyes wide.  Derek’s voice is quiet when he asks her, “You hungry?”  He tries to offer Talia the bottle but she makes a face and refuses it.  “No?”  Derek sighs, “You don’t want that, huh?”  Stiles sees Derek glance up at him and quickly away before sitting up to strip his t-shirt off.  His hands are trembling, but human, when he reaches to pick her up.  Derek quietly tells her, “Okay, um, well, I should tell you I’ve never done this.  So…try not to move okay?”

It takes Derek a few tries but he finally picks her up, one hand under her head and the other cradling her butt.  Stiles takes a deep breath and moves around the other side of the bed, listening to Derek’s nervous rambling, “Oh.  Uhhh…hmm…not sure how I’m supposed to…”

“Here.”  Stiles scoots next to Derek and covers the hand on Talia’s butt with his own, “Move your hand, I’ve got her.”  Derek slowly does as he asks and Stiles tucks her in towards his chest, “Now, you have to hold her like that so you can see her while she eats.  Got it?”  Derek nods, adjusting his hands.  “Okay now, lift her up a little.”

Derek shifts Talia slightly and looks at him for guidance, “Like that?”

Stiles nods, “Yeah, now…” he clears his throat and rubs at the back of his neck, “Fuck, this is awkward.”  Derek blinks at him in confusion and Stiles mumbles, “I um…I have to touch you.”

Derek’s eyebrows lift and he looks down at Stiles’ hand, “Okay.”

Stiles moves closer and cups a hand under Derek’s pectoral.  Derek sucks in a breath and his eyes flutter shut.  “You okay?”  Derek nods.  “Does it hurt?”  Stiles gets a quick shake of the head.  “Look at me, please.”  Derek opens his eyes slowly.  “Now, when she opens her mouth, lift her up so she can latch on, okay?”

“Okay.”

Stiles teases Derek’s nipple over Talia’s lips and she instantly opens her mouth wide.  Derek lifts her up and groans softly when she latches on.  Stiles turns to speak against Derek’s ear, “It might hurt for a little bit, but it shouldn’t last long.”  Derek nods and leans in towards him.  Stiles moves his hand and smiles.  Talia’s gaze is locked on Derek as she nurses.  A few minutes pass and Derek still hasn’t moved away from him, so Stiles presses a kiss to the shoulder closest to him.  “You doing okay?”

Derek nods.  “Yeah.”  He turns to look at him, “Will it always feel this weird?”

Stiles shrugs, “I don’t know.  I guess you get used to it.”  He reaches to trace a finger down Talia’s forearm then cups a hand on the side of her head.  Her eyes are still focused on Derek’s face and Stiles is surprised by the surge of jealousy that comes out of nowhere.  He sits back and just stares down at his hands in silence.

“She stopped.”  Stiles looks up and follows Derek’s gaze down to their daughter.  Talia is still latched on, but her little jaw is no longer moving.  Derek looks at him, brows furrowed, “Stiles?”

Stiles leans forward and slips the tip of his finger into the corner of Talia’s mouth, twisting it gently until she releases her hold on Derek’s nipple.  He drapes the burp cloth over his shoulder and takes Talia from his arms, lifting her up to gently pat over her back.

“I guess I’ll leave you two alone, now.”

Stiles reaches out to stop him, pulling his hand back when Derek looks down at it pointedly.  “She’s not done,” he explains gently, “she just needs to burp before we switch her over.  Remember?”

Derek sits back down, “Oh.”  He nods, “Yeah.”  Stiles goes to pat Talia’s back and Derek asks quietly, “Will you show me how to…” he points toward Talia, fingers gesturing vaguely.

Stiles nods, “Sure.”  He shifts Talia and lets Derek take her, hands ready to catch her if need be.  “Put her up on your-” he prompts gently, “yeah, like that.  Now just pat her back until she burps.”  Derek touches his hand to Talia’s back and Stiles pats his forearm lightly, “Like that.  Just a little pat.”

“What if I hurt her?”

“You won’t.”  Stiles gives him a smile and offers up his arm, “but if you want to try on my arm first, go ahead.”  Derek taps his forearm and Stiles nods encouragingly, “Yeah, just like that.”  Derek reaches up and after two back pats, Talia burps softly.  Stiles grins, “There, see?  Now, hold her with your other arm and feed her the same way, just…backwards.”

Derek carefully shifts Talia in his arms, taking time to make sure she’s balanced before lifting her up slightly.  Stiles feels his heart melt when Derek whispers down at their daughter, “You still hungry?”  Talia reaches up to grab Derek’s pinky as he tries to mimic Stiles’ actions from earlier.  “Is that a yes?”  Derek’s motions are jerky but he manages to get Talia to latch on with minimal struggle, “There you go.  That what you wanted?”

Stiles watches and after a few minutes, lays back against the pillows, eyes drifting shut.  He’s half-asleep when the bed shifts under Derek’s weight, but his eyes immediately snap open.  Derek is pacing the bedroom with Talia up on his shoulder, hand pat-rubbing over her back.  His partner is speaking to her in a low voice, but Stiles can’t make out what he’s saying.  A smile lifts his lips and he shuts his eyes once more, half-listening to the sound of Derek’s voice.

He wakes up two hours later to the sound of Talia’s happy noises.  Stiles looks around and finds Derek reclined against the headboard next to him, Talia resting on his bent knees.

“Did we wake you?”

Stiles shakes his head, “No.”  He rolls onto his side, “How long has she been awake?”

Derek shrugs, “A few minutes.” 

“And she didn’t cry?”

“Nope.”

Stiles’ eyebrows lift, “Wow.  I’m impressed.”  Derek shifts uncomfortably and something occurs to Stiles, “Wait…have you been holding her this entire time?”

Derek nods, “She woke up whenever I tried to put her in the nursery.”

“Oh my…here,” Stiles sits up and takes the baby from Derek’s lap, “Tali, you know very well that you go in your crib after you eat.”  He stands up and goes to retrieve the portable bassinet from the walk-in closet, “You sneaky little…you think you can just take advantage of your papa just because he doesn’t know any better?  I can’t believe you pulled that on him!”  He drags the bassinet to the end of the bed and sets Talia down, shaking a finger at her, “Bad baby…bad.”  Talia gurgles up at him and kicks her feet as she gums at her tiny fist.

“I don’t mind.”

Stiles looks up, “What?”

“I don’t mind.”  Derek shrugs and shifts against the headboard, face twisting in a grimace. 

“Derek,” Stiles climbs back into bed, “I can tell you’re in pain, babe."

“It’s fine, Stiles.  Really.”

Stiles lifts Derek’s chin and drags a thumb over the corner of his mouth, “Where does it hurt?”  Derek shakes his head and Stiles repeats, “Where?”

“My…” he blushes and drops his gaze.

“Tell me.”  Stiles presses a kiss to Derek’s forehead, “You can tell me anything.  You know that.”

“I know.”  Derek looks up at him and takes his hand, guiding it to his lower abdomen, “Right there.”

Stiles goes to lower the waistband of Derek’s sweatpants and looks up, “May I?”  Derek nods and Stiles slides his hand under the elastic band.  He splays his hand over Derek’s skin, “Right there?”  Derek releases a soft little sigh and nods.  Stiles rubs his hand in small circles, thumb lightly caressing over the line of Derek’s c-section scar, “How’s that feel?”

“Better.”

“How about you lay back and get comfortable?”

Derek fidgets, “I can’t.  This bed is too hard.”

Stiles nods, “I see.”  He sits back, “If you want, we…I mean, you…” Stiles swallows and tries again, “You can go back to the master bedroom.”

“You’re,” Derek looks up at him in shock, “kicking me out?”

“No!”  Stiles rubs a hand over his face, “Not kicking you out.  Just, if you’re more comfortable over there, you can go back to bed.”

“Oh.”  He nods and sits up carefully.  Stiles watches him go and swallows back the lump in his throat.  Derek peers into the bassinet and waves to Talia.  She makes a tiny raspberry noise and babbles at the sight of Derek.  “G’night.”

“Good night, Derek.”

Derek nods and heads out, pausing in the doorway, “Stiles?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you,” Derek turns back, his teeth worrying over his bottom lip, “Do you want to come with me?”  He looks towards the bassinet, “Both of you?”  Stiles can’t help the surprise on his face, because honestly, the offer isn’t one he was expecting.  Derek sees his hesitation and backpedals, “Never mind, it’s okay.  Forget I asked.”

Stiles rushes over to him and cups his face, “No, Derek.  No ‘never mind’ okay?  Yes.  We’ll come with you.  Just give me a few minutes.  I’ll bring her to you and then come back for the bassinet.”

Derek opens his mouth and frowns, “You don’t want me to carry her?”

“What?  No,” Stiles looks up as he scoops Talia out of the bassinet, “I didn’t say that, babe.  Here,” He comes up next to Derek and offers the infant to him, “take her.  I’ll grab the bassinet and be right there.”  Derek’s hands reach for her and Stiles carefully transfers their daughter into his arms.  Talia squeals in joy and reaches for Derek’s face, one fist clutching at his beard.

“Why are you so fascinated with my facial hair?”

Stiles folds up the portable bassinet and laughs, “Probably because I don’t have any.  She notices the difference, I guess.”  He comes up next to Derek and jerks his chin towards the hall, “Move it, Hales.  You’re both standing between me and a trip to the bathroom.”

“Oh,” Derek moves out of the way, “sorry.” 

Stiles mouthes, “It’s okay.”

Derek gives him a brief smile and heads to the master bedroom.  Stiles hears Derek tell their daughter, “You have to promise not to hog the covers, okay?  Stiles, that’s the man you know as daddy by the way, already does that and even though I’m a werewolf furnace, I still like the feel of blankets on top of me.”  Stiles chuckles and shakes his head, listening as Derek makes conversation with the baby as if she’s an adult.  “So yeah, here we are.  Remember this room?”

Stiles sets the bassinet up by his side of the bed and ducks into the bathroom as Derek walks around giving Talia the grand tour.  He can hear Derek’s voice through the open door and he smiles, “I know you didn’t get to see much of it the last time, but this is where your daddy and I sleep.”  Stiles hears Derek’s shaky inhale, followed by a quieter explanation, “Well, we used to…until you were born.  I didn’t…I’m not sure what happened, but…after you were born, I didn’t want anyone near me.  I think I’m getting better…a little bit anyway.  I don’t sleep nearly as much as I used to and I miss your daddy a whole lot.” 

Stiles flushes the toilet and washes his hands, pausing by the open door to listen as he dries his hands.

“He’s an okay guy, your daddy.  I’m glad he’s ours, you know?”  Stiles blinks back tears and chuckles when he hears Derek whisper to Talia, “Even though he’s kinda stinky right now…he doesn’t always smell that way.  Most days he just smells like home and that’s a good smell.”

Stiles hangs the towel up and teases, “I smell that bad?”

Derek shrugs, “Not bad.  Just…more.”

Stiles scoffs a laugh, “You mean to tell me I always smell?”  He bumps Derek’s shoulder and mutters, “Geez, Hale, tone down the charm will ya?”

“I didn’t mean it like that!  I just,” Derek’s face twists and he shakes his head, “You smell like you, only stronger…and there’s an undertone of sweat.  Plus you smell like formula and Tali and kinda…” Derek looks up and away.

Stiles hooks his chin over Derek’s shoulder and urges gently, “Go on.”

Derek wrinkles his nose, “You kinda smell like dirty diapers.”

“No way!”  Stiles pulls away and sniffs at his own arm, “I don’t smell it.  Is it bad?”  He looks up and sees the smirk on Derek’s face.  Stiles squints at him, “You jerk!  I don’t smell like diapers, do I?”  Derek shakes his head.  Stiles growls at him playfully and mumbles, “You ass.”

Derek tucks Talia tightly against his chest, “Watch your language.”

Stiles laughs, “So you think you can watch the impressionable youth while I shower?”  Derek looks down at Talia and then up at him before nodding.  “Well in case you need anything, I’ll leave the door open, okay?”

“Okay.”

Twenty minutes later, Stiles steps out of the master bath feeling refreshed and utterly relaxed.  Derek is sitting in the armchair by the window, both feet up on the ottoman as he nurses Talia.  Stiles drags the towel over his chest and smiles at Derek when he looks up, “Well, look at you guys.”

“You don’t mind that I’m feeding her, do you?”

Stiles is quick to reassure him, “Of course not.  You’re the perfect one for the job, Derek.”  He drops the towel into the dirty clothes hamper and joins his family by the window.  Stiles perches on the arm of the chair and scritches his fingers through Derk’s hair.

His partner looks up, “She was chewing on my finger and making these little smacking noises with her lips.  I figured she might be hungry, so I-“

“You’re doing great, babe.  I’m proud of you.”

Derek blushes, “Yeah?”

“Mmm hmm.”  Stiles palms over the curve of Derek’s shoulder, squeezing gently, “I love how she stares at you while you’re nursing.”

“Me too.”  Derek leans into his touch, voice quiet when he admits, “It’s like she doesn’t care that I’m a fucked up, you know?”

“Derek…you’re not,” Stiles slides to the floor and kneels next to the armchair, “Baby, this wasn’t your fault.  Lots of mothers suffer from postpartum depression.  I think the reason you took it harder was because you’re an Alpha male…I don’t know, maybe the hormones were too much and…” he reaches to wipe at Derek’s tears, blinking back his own, “…losing Tali’s littermates wasn’t easy; on either of us.  I have no idea how much harder it was for you, but you have to know it wasn’t your fault.”

Derek sniffs softly and a small laugh escapes him, “You’re too good for me…you realize that?  Most mates would have taken off and left me to fend for myself.”

“Yeah well, I’m not ‘most mates.’  You should know that by now.  I happen to think we’re a perfect mated pair.”  Stiles smiles at Derek’s look of surprise, “We balance each other out, wouldn’t you agree?”  Derek ponders that for a second, nodding after a heartbeat.  “And just look at the beautiful kid we made.  We’re freakin’ awesome, dude.  She’s perfect.”  He leans forward and kisses Derek’s cheek, “Good job.”

Derek chuckles and carefully lifts Talia to his shoulder, hand rubbing over her back, He nuzzles into her neck and breathes deep.  His voice is thick with emotion when he says, “She smells like pack.”

Stiles stands up, “Well, good.”  He brushes a hand over Derek’s forehead and smiles, “You need anything?  Hungry?  Thirsty?”

Derek pats over Talia’s back and looks up at him, “Now that you mention it, I am a little hungry.”

“How about I see if there’s any meatloaf left or do you want something else?”

“Meatloaf’s fine.”  Stiles nods, pausing when Derek calls after him, “Stiles?”

“Yeah?”

“Will you see if there’s any mashed potatoes left?”

“Sure.”

“…and one of those corn bread rolls your dad makes?  If there’s any left.”  Stiles goes to leave and stops when he realizes Derek isn’t done, “And maybe some of the jasmine tea he makes?”

Stiles smiles, “Anything else?”

Derek opens his mouth and shakes his head, “No.  That’s it.”

“Be right back.”

Stiles heads downstairs and sets about preparing a plate for Derek.  He puts two pieces of meatloaf onto a plate and then adds a third one for good measure.  Stiles spoons the last of the mashed potatoes onto the plate and sets the timer on the microwave.  Sadly, his search for the cornbread comes up empty.  He’s in the middle of pouring Derek a large glass of tea when the microwave beeps.  Stiles carefully puts the food on the bedside tray and makes his way up the stairs.  Derek is setting Talia into her bassinet when he walks in.

Stiles puts the tray on the nightstand and joins Derek, “Go eat.  She’ll be there when you’re done.”

Derek moves to his side of the bed and picks up his tray.  Stiles is a little surprised when his mate returns to the armchair.  After briefly setting the tray on the floor, Derek lifts it onto the ottoman once he’s moved it closer.  Stiles sits on the edge of the bed and lies back with a tired groan.

“You’re not going to eat?”

“It’s almost three in the morning, Derek.”

“Oh yeah.”  Derek clears his throat and Stiles lifts his head, “I probably shouldn’t be eating this late, huh?”

“Babe, if you plan on nursing Talia, you can eat whenever you want.  Hell, even if you don’t, you can eat at all hours of the day.  You don’t need my permission.”  He smiles, “Now finish you food.  I worked hard on that.”

Derek’s brows lift, “You made this?”

Stiles nods and lies back down, “Well…I reheated it for you.”  Derek laughs and Stiles dozes off to the sound of clinking silverware.  He doesn’t even feel when Derek nudges him into the bed and under the covers, simply moves on autopilot and drifts to sleep with the warmth of his werewolf furnace wrapped around him.