"I'm sending a dude to you," Erica says when Stiles picks up the phone.
Normally, Erica texts, stuff like, you serious about wanting pineapple on your half because that's ducking disgusting stilinski and fuck you autocorrect. In the entire time Stiles has known her, she has never once actually dialed his number. Erica is a child of the nineties; she does not use her phone for a phone.
"My body is ready?" Stiles says tentatively. He's in line at Starbucks, inching toward the cash register; it's the first day of pumpkin spice this fall, so the place is mobbed and out of pumpkin cream cheese muffins already.
Erica sighs. "Professionally, asshole. I'm referring someone to you. His sister dragged him in today and he's really uncomfortable with chicks. Also, werewolf."
"Ah," Stiles says. "Yeah, that's—grande extra whip pumpkin spice frappuccino for Stiles, please?"
Werewolves are always really into natural home birth: they rarely have complications during pregnancy or delivery, and trying not to wolf out in front of mundane medical professionals during labor is at best a challenge. Add alpha and omega biological instincts to the mix, and Stiles and Erica do steady business as the only supernaturally qualified omega midwives in five counties.
"He's twitchy as hell," Erica says as Stiles juggles his phone and his wallet, digging out a five and a few ones to hand to the cashier, who's glaring daggers at him. Stiles mouthes an apology and points to the tip jar when the guy tries to hand him the change. "And super pregnant, too. He's twenty-five weeks and he doesn't have anyone lined up, and I know that's short notice, but—"
Stiles groans. "Christmas, Erica."
"I felt bad for him," Erica says. "Also, I told him you were free on Tuesday."
"That's my day off," Stiles says.
"Too bad, so sad," Erica says. "Come on, you sent me crying dryad lady last summer, I got splinters delivering that kid."
"Grande no whip pumpkin spice frappuccino for Tyler!" the barista says, shoving a drink onto the handoff point.
Stiles sighs, eyes the crowd milling around for potential Tylers, and grabs his drink. "Fine," he says. "I'll do an initial appointment, see how it goes."
Stiles did three years of med school and weird sexist bullshit and advisors who kept trying to steer him out of oncology and into pediatrics or family practice before he dropped out and went into nursing. He was still the only male omega in his year on the CNM track at UCSF, but at least his classmates weren't weird about it. "It's San Francisco," Kira, a second year, told him during orientation. "You can't imagine how much dick you're going to see in this business. Bathhouse quantities of dick."
Erica had been practicing as a direct entry midwife for a year when they met; her husband Boyd was the sous chef at the restaurant where Stiles's stepbrother Scott was a line cook. "She's really cool, okay," Scott said when he introduced them. "She's a werewolf, and you have a lot in common—"
"Ugh," Stiles said. "Are you bro matchmaking for me? Is that what's happening?"
"Yes," Scott said solemnly. "As your bro."
These days, Stiles has a standing coffee date with Erica on the weekends, and every other Monday night, he watches Violet and Vernon V so Erica and Boyd can have a kid-free night out. They live two blocks apart in Berkeley. Scott and Erica and Isaac the pastry chef run around Mt. Tam on full moons. Midwifery's turned out pretty well for Stiles, all around.
The twitchy werewolf's name is Derek Hale.
Derek's a few years older than Stiles, does web dev for a living, and this is his first kid. His sister Laura brings him over to the office Stiles shares with Erica, and sits next to Derek on the couch that's covered in the ugly crocheted afghans Erica's dad gives her every year for Christmas. She's putting out killer Alpha wolf vibes and alpha lady pheromones that flood Stiles's magical and biological radar; Derek is hunched under the protective arm she has thrown over his shoulders. Stiles can see why Erica felt bad enough for him to dump a Christmas baby on Stiles: the guy clearly hasn't shaved in weeks and has opted for an oversized hoodie and baggy sweats instead of actual maternity wear.
"Hey" Stiles says, sitting down on the chair across from them. "So, I like to do a consultation first before we ever get started, like, pants on, shirt on, let's talk about your feelings and your birth plan and your medical history, that kind of stuff. Derek, do you want Laura here? Whatever you're comfortable with, that's totally fine. Birth is a pretty intense experience, and it's really great that you have such good support."
Laura looks over at Derek expectantly. "Um, yeah," Derek says. He clears his throat. "I'd—if she can stay, that'd be—that's be good. She can—explain some stuff?"
Stiles nods. "Sure. We can go from there."
"The kid's mom is out of the picture," Laura says bluntly; she squeezes Derek's shoulders. "It was not a good situation. She was a—" She pauses for a long moment. "A—I don't know if you—"
"I'm a spark," Stiles reminds her. "I've delivered babies with scales, fur, and the ability to throw lightswitch raves from the womb. Last week I did a waterbirth for a beta naiad in a running stream. Whatever you've got to throw at me, I'm on board."
Laura sighs. "Jennifer became a darach. She's—"
"She got arrested by the druid council," Derek interrupts, staring down at his clasped hands. "The kind of arrested where you're arrested permanently."
"Ah," Stiles says. "Do you have concerns about the pregnancy? Did you go into heat under—no, the last lunar eclipse was—"
"Derek thinks he's pregnant with Rosemary's Baby," Laura says.
Derek's eyes flash; he elbows her side and growls. "No, I don't, I just—"
"I delivered a demon last year, and he was blue and had twelve tiny toes and perfectly adorable," Stiles says in what he hopes is a reassuring tone. "I've got pics on my phone."
"Our emissary said she's fine," Derek says. "Werewolf, probably. But…"
"It's just us and our sister," Laura says. "Our pack—"
Derek closes his eyes. "I just want her to be healthy. That's all."
"I'll pencil you in for appointments every week on Tuesdays," Stiles says, dragging his planner off the desk. It's earlier in the pregnancy than he usually starts with weeklies, but emotional trauma and the supernatural are more than he's willing to compress into less frequent appointments this late in the game. "Same time, same place, same bat channel. That work for you?"
"You didn't tell me his babyalpha was in magic jail," Stiles hisses into the phone.
Beep, says Erica's voicemail.
Stiles slurps down the rest of his tragically whip-free frappuccino before he ducks into the bakery around the corner for cupcakes. If he has to suffer, Erica's going down, too.
"CAKE!" Vernon says, grabbing the box out of Stiles's hand in lieu of a greeting. He pauses with his hand halfway slid between the side and the lid's flap and adds, politely, "Thank you, Stiles."
Erica comes up behind him and ducks down to snatch the cupcakes out of his hand. "Very good, honey," she says to Vernon as she glares at Stiles. "I bet these are going to be great after we have dinner. We're going to have carrots now."
"Cake, Mama," Vernon says with big, sad eyes.
"In with you, tell your sister to take a break." Erica puts a hand on his shoulder and gently steers him back down the hallway. "Carrots and peanut butter. Lots of carrots."
"His babyalpha is in magic jail," Stiles repeats as soon as Vernon is out of sight. "He looks like the Unabomber."
Erica rolls her eyes. "He just needs to shave. And he's a wolf; aside from the nerves, it'll be a cakewalk."
"Uh huh," Stiles says. "You were in labor for two days with Verne."
"Vernon is a special snowflake," Erica says, standing back to let Stiles step inside the house. "You can stay for dinner if you order pizza and let Violet beat you in Super Smash Brothers after."
"So generous," Stiles says; he stays.
They'd been friends for two years when Stiles delivered Vernon in Erica and Boyd's living room. He'd attended and assisted at waterbirths before, but it was his first time flying solo, and he was nervous until Erica started cussing him out and threatening to ban him from picking pizza toppings for the next decade if he pussied out. Stiles's fingers and toes were wrinkly as hell by the time he got out of the kiddie pool they'd set up on the tarp covering the wood floor, and he fell asleep face-first on the couch for five hours after Erica delivered the placenta and Stiles checked her over for tears, then helped her to the bathroom. Aside from the inexplicably endless labor and Violet peering eagerly over the lip of the pool every five minutes and sloshing water over the side, it was an easy birth. Vernon screamed happily as soon as Stiles pulled him out of the water, scratched at him with soft, translucent claws, and blinked up at Erica when Stiles put Vernon into her arms. "This is so cute, I'm going to die," Stiles said, hazy with sleep deprivation and the tears pricking at the corner of his eyes.
"Yeah, sure," Erica said. "Babe, did you get this on video?"
Boyd knelt down to kiss Erica's cheek and wrap his arms around her from behind, cupping Vernon's feet and head with his broad palms while water spilled over the edge of the pool and soaked his t-shirt of the night. "Yes," he said. "You were beautiful. You were amazing."
"If you don't get this placenta out of my ass in the next thirty minutes, Stiles, I'm going to drown at sea and leave this child without a mother," Erica said without taking her eyes off Vernon. She nuzzled his head, soaking up his sweet beta-baby scent, and covered Boyd's hand over their son's feet with her own.
"Are we going to eat it, Mama?" Violet said, hurtling herself bodily into the pool. She'd managed to pull last year's swimsuit on by herself, for values of "on" that included the bared-breast Amazon look, and Stiles didn't have the heart to keep her out anymore. "You said—"
"The placenta is for grownups," Boyd said patiently. "Someday, you'll have a baby of your own, and you can decide what to do with it."
"Let's not put the cart before the horse," Stiles said, staring down into the water between Erica's thighs.
The next week, Laura stays in earshot, flipping through back issues of Real Simple in the waiting room, but Derek comes into the office on his own. He's still shaggy and unkempt, but at least he's traded in the ratty sweats for yoga pants with a stretchy waistband. They go over Derek's prenatal care so far (none aside from werewolf ears and noses, it's depressing) and get to the point where Stiles usually asks the expecting party in the room to hop up on the padded table he uses for exams. "So," Stiles says, fiddling with his pen. "This is usually the part where I check up on you and the baby and you pee in a cup. But I'm not getting the vibe that you feel great right now, and I'm not going to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe."
Derek nods. He's got one of the hideous afghans draped over his lap, and he's been weaving his fingers through the crocheted roses for the last half hour, sliding in between the hot pink petals and beneath the forest green leaves. "I…" He clears his throat. "That's—I don't feel good right now. Not—it's not you, just…"
"Things have been tough," Stiles says. "With your partner, who should be here for you and your kid."
"That's what we planned," Derek says, jamming his fingers into another flower.
Stiles holds in a sigh, but just barely. Jesus. "Normally, I do a physical exam, a magic once-over, and a urine sample, but I'm not going to do anything unless you're comfortable with it. Delivering your baby means that I'm going to have my hands all up in your birth canal in a few months, and also, you know, on your kid. We both need to feel safe with each other."
"I need to trust you?" Derek says sharply.
"I need to earn your trust," Stiles says. "That's different."
Derek's quiet for a minute, his hands stilling. "Could we talk about—the birth? How we'll do that?"
"Sure," Stiles says, relaxing. "You have any plans for the placenta?"
In the waiting room, Laura lets out a loud cough that sounds suspiciously like laughter.
Stiles holds out a full ten days before he googles Jennifer druid SF bay on his phone while Vernon runs a Brio train up his leg and over his butt. "CHOO CHOO," Vernon says. "CHOO CHOO, says Thomas."
"That's James," Violet calls from over where she's doing her second grade homework, which seems to consist of endless addition and subtraction problems. "I told you that five times."
"Vernon can decide who his train is," Stiles says, scrolling through the search results. Even on the mundane internet, there's no shortage of news coverage of the magical community, although half the time it's on LiveJournal blogs with colored text that have reverted to Plus accounts. There's a stilted mod post in sfbaywiz from May announcing that jennyjules3 has been banned from the community with extreme prejudice; if that's Derek's Jennifer, she used to be an environmental activist, but her relationship to a certain redwood in Marin County turned out to be more Odin than Julia Butterfly Hill. No wonder Derek's so freaked out.
After two more appointments—Derek's at twenty-nine weeks, close to where Stiles starts weekly appointments for most pregnancies—they've added some more green vegetables and protein to Derek's diet, tweaked his exercise routine toward yoga and away from lifting, and ironed out a birth plan detailed enough to rival the D-Day invasion. Derek's starting to look a little more comfortable in the office, although he always brings Laura along. They have twenty minutes left in this appointment when Derek says, "If you want to—check on her—that's okay. No magic, just—"
"Got it," Stiles says. "Are you okay with undressing? Just on top for now."
Derek nods, unzips his hoodie and shrugs out of it before he pulls his t-shirt over his head. Beneath the layers, he's hairy and more built than Stiles expected, with sharply defined biceps and swollen pecs that were probably toned before pregnancy. His belly stands out on his narrow-hipped frame, the skin taut and unmarked. "Where do you want me to…?"
"Couch is fine," Stiles says. The office has one of those folding massage tables to pull out for internal exams, but the only furniture that's regularly in use is the couch, a few chairs, the desk, and the bookshelves that flank the window with its glamorous view of the parking lot behind the building. He and Erica have done their best to make the place feel comfortable and homey, painting the walls a warm brown and filling the space with potted plants, comfortable pillows and blankets, and the weird knick-knacks Stiles always ends up buying at yard sales. The couch is new, plush but supportive, with an easy-to-launder cover that they take home every few days to wash in deference to sensitive omega noses.
Derek kicks off his shoes before he lies down. He's been rocking athletic socks and Birkenstocks for the last few weeks, a sartorial choice that Stiles has nobly resisted commenting on, but since they're talking bodies, that's probably on the table.
"Are your feet hurting you?" Stiles scoots his chair over to the couch. "It's normal for some swelling to happen, and you might want to buy a pair of shoes or two to accommodate that unless you're preparing to go embarrassing dad a few decades early."
"Yeah." Derek winces. "I—it's been—I don't like going out without Laura. I haven't really bought anything."
That one, Stiles is not touching today, especially when he's about to get up and personal with Derek's belly. There's a reason that despite the smaller proportion of alphas and omegas in the population, there's a substantial midwife community that supports them. Most omegas have an intense drive to protect themselves and their pregnancies that ranges from a need for engaged and personalized care in most cases to anxiety and fear in more extreme ones. "So," Stiles begins, bracing his hands on his thighs. "Here's what I usually do during mundane physical exams. I'm going to touch your belly to check her position, listen to her heartbeat, and then I'll have you stand up so I can measure your belly. How does that sound to you?"
Derek is quiet for a few moments. "That's okay," he says eventually. "Just—slow?"
"No sudden movements," Stiles says. "Got it."
He checks in with Derek before he begins each part of the exam, carefully feeling Derek belly before warming the stethoscope in his hand to move onto that part of the exam. The baby is head down, kicks in protest when Stiles jostles her, and her heartbeat is a steady flutter in Stiles's ears when he hooks the stethoscope in his ears. Derek accepts a hand up when he gets to his feet so Stiles can wrap his measuring tape around Derek's middle, which Stiles counts as a win.
"You've got a perfectly healthy kiddo in there," Stiles says while he coils the measuring tape around his hand and Derek tugs his shirt back over his head. "Her heartbeat's a little on the quick side, but that's normal for babies who are going to howl at the full moon."
"I don't howl," Derek says. It takes Stiles a moment to register the way Derek's mouth has ticked up at the corner, curving his lips into a barely-there smile.
"Well, she's a baby," Stiles says, returning the smile. "She will."
The bar that the kitchen crew at Toast likes to hit up after they close is a few blocks away in Union Square, that elusive joint open past midnight. Spindrift's a dive with has unisex bathrooms and Rogue Dead Guy on tap; it has a certain charm, and Stiles drops in a few times a month. He's not going to cab it back to Berkeley if he stays past the last BART train, but Boyd and Isaac are always werewolf sober at the end of the night and don't mind giving Stiles a lift.
Tonight, they're already wedged into a both when Stiles comes in. Isaac has his head dropped on the narrow table and an empty pint glass in his hand, and he whines when Stiles shoves him into Scott's side to make room. He stinks of oncoming heat and suppressants. "I hate you," he says to Stiles. "I hate everything."
Whitney the saucier reaches across the table to plant her hand on Isaac's forehead and gently push him upright. "There's nachos coming in like five seconds, stop PHSing."
"Hey," Stiles says. "Not cool."
"Fine, fine," she grumbles, cheeks pinking when Boyd shoots a stern look her way.
Boyd and Paige the head waiter are the only alphas on staff at Toast, and Isaac's the only omega in the kitchen. They're not weird about it, but they don't let anyone pull any shit, either. If anything, Scott's the overprotective one. He looks like he's about to say something, but Isaac kicks him under the table and he subsides.
"Tell me about those nachos," Stiles says. "I'm on call tonight so I can't drink anything but coke."
"Yeah?" Boyd says as Whitney slides out of the booth in search of nachos. "Anything exciting?"
The release Stiles's clients sign frees him to talk to Erica about their care, but Stiles has to keep things general out of the office. "Human," he says. "She's way out on Taraval, so I'm crashing at Scott's tonight. Speaking of that—"
"Yeah, Allison told me." Scott reaches across Isaac's back for a fistbump. "She's making up the futon."
"You're the best," Stiles says, letting his arm drape across Isaac's back when they've bumped knuckles.
The nachos aren't as good as the beer, but Stiles is glad he loaded up on them when his phone rings at 3AM and the Nyan Cat song fills the air.
Stiles has been on suppressants since his first heat when he was seventeen. He was a late bloomer, almost thought it would never happen, wishful thinking that his plumbing might be out of order, that he could get through college and medical school without people constantly shoving it in his face. His parents were betas, Scott was a beta, Lydia was a beta; Stiles just wanted to be normal.
Ha, ha. Right.
Caitlin's on her hands and knees on the sheet they've draped over the kitchen floor, panting, sweat beaded on her brown. She bears down again and says, "Fuck, motherfucker, I think this kid is stuck, he's not coming out, Em, I just—"
"You can do it, honey, you're doing so good," her wife says, raising her hand to pull back the hair that's sheeting Caitlin's face and then letting her hand drop to her lap again. Caitlin hasn't wanted them to touch her since she went into labor. "I know you can, you're so strong, you're so good."
"I can see his head," Stiles chirps from from behind them. "He's almost here, okay? He's on his way."
"Never letting you knot me again, motherfucker," Caitlin growls.
Emily just grins at her, ducking her head so she can look Caitlin in the eye. "Oh, I will be."
"Baby coming, focus," Stiles says, scooting in place to catch the kid even though he wants to laugh forever. "Keep pushing, Caitlin, he's almost—"
"I'm not a plow," Caitlin says. "I'm not—"
Timothy Edward weighs seven pounds, six ounces. "I want another one already," Caitlin says while he's dozing on her chest after Stiles has cut the cord. "God help me."
A few days later, Stiles goes into heat. He can function, sort of, through the haze suppressants provide: he gets out of bed, makes it through a few checkups, gets back in four hours later with his toy box and gears himself up for some self-love until he can sleep again, rinse, repeat. Erica checks up on him at the end of the second day and has Violet bring over chicken soup and Gatorade later. By the time Tuesday rolls around, Stiles mostly feels like he has a tequila hangover and he never wants to touch his ass again. So, business as usual.
Derek crinkles his nose when he comes in—by himself, which is weird—and it's definitely a werewolf nose crinkle and not an omega one. "Do you have kids?" he asks while Stiles is wrapping the measuring tape around him. "—sorry if that's—"
"No," Stiles says. "I mean, it's fine, and I don't. Unless you count Erica's kids, they think I'm their personal property."
"Oh," Derek says. He's quiet while Stiles finishes up and writes down the measurement in his notebook. "I thought—that you all did. I don't know why, I just—"
"Thought the baby-fu was learned instead of natural talent?" Stiles looks up and bats his eyelashes.
Derek flushes all the way up to the tips of his ears that peek through the shaggy mess of his hair. It's weirdly adorable.
"Actually, I was afraid of babies before," Stiles says. "I just—wanted to work with other omegas, and when I dropped out of med school, UCSF already had a CNM program, so…" He nods toward his diploma on the wall. "They grow on you, though, babies. Like a fungus."
"That's encouraging," Derek says flatly.
Stiles shrugs and caps his pen. "You can cultivate fungi. Technically, kombucha—"
"Are you comparing my kid to kombucha?" Derek says, staring at him.
This probably isn't time to get into the fascinating world of mycology that Stiles has learned so much about from late-night Wikipedia binges. "Why did you want to see me and not Erica?" he says, changing track. "Is it a dude-to-dude thing? I get more supernatural pregnancies than guys, most of the time, but—"
"Erica's—" Derek sits down on the couch again, folds his hands beneath his belly in his lap. Most of the omegas Stiles knows have progressed to using their bellies as handrests and tables by this point, but Derek seems overly cautious of his, treats it more like an inconveniently placed soap bubble than part of his body. "She's a werewolf. Not pack. I can't turn off… it's hard to be around anyone but my sisters already. I work from home, so…"
"So you can hide?" Stiles says.
Derek shrugs, sheepish. "Laura says I'm nesting, she says it's—normal."
Stiles mulls that over for a minute. "How do you feel about it?"
"I can't do this after she's born," Derek says all in a rush, like he's been holding this in all of those times Laura was here. "She's a kid, she'll have friends, she'll go to school, she'll be—she doesn't have to be messed up like me or her mom. I don't want to fuck everything up for her."
"You seem to be doing a pretty good job of taking care of her so far," Stiles says. He wants to reach over, put a hand on Derek's thigh—it's always his instinct, contact, to soothe and reassure—but he doesn't know if that's what Derek wants, and he doesn't want to derail their conversation to ask. "Everything that's happened—that would pretty intense anytime, let alone when you're pregnant and suddenly about to be a single parent. But you're using your family—your pack—for support, and you're seeing me even though it's hard. You don't have to magically feel safe everywhere with everyone overnight."
"I feel safe here," Derek says after a moment.
"Well." Stiles is not going to get all weird and teary on this dude, roiling hormones be damned, he's just not. "I'm glad. That's great."
"Oh my god," Erica says when Stiles gives her the abbreviated version over a pot of chamomile in her kitchen. "This is like a Lifetime movie, except he'd be way hotter and cry pretty."
"Did he cry in front of you?" Stiles says with interest.
"No," Erica says. "He was all stoic behind the Alan Moore beard."
Stiles sighs. "He could be hot under there, you don't know."
"He could be Snow White," Erica says, pouring them another round. "Vin Diesel. Peter Dinklage."
Sometimes on date night Erica and Boyd just go over to Stiles's apartment and catch up on Game of Thrones away from prying eyes and sensitive werewolf ears. Stiles doesn't have a problem with that except when his DVR queue backs up because they haven't been over in a while and he doesn't have room for Hoarders or Say Yes to the Dress. "I like him," Stiles says. "He's just—I don't know. He grows on you."
"You have to stop using that kombucha analogy with clients," Erica says. "It's disturbing."
Stiles has no secrets from Erica. He's okay with that. "You're disturbing."
"You worm compost, buddy," Erica says. "Don't even try with me. My child ate worms out of the dirt under your sink."
"STOP TELLING THAT STORY, MOM," Violet screams down the hall. "YOU'RE EMBARRASSING AND I HATE YOU."
"Yeah, Mom," Stiles says.
Erica rolls her eyes. "Someday, you're going to have kids, Stiles. I am waiting for this day. I will be there. I will take them from your womb and I will document every moment of their lives making your life hell. I will make Boyd get it on video. I will feed them Sourpatch Kids."
"I hate Sourpatch Kids," Stiles says reflexively.
"I will give them Mountain Dew," Erica says. "I will let Violet babysit them without supervision."
"No," Stiles says, right as Violet yells, "MOM, VERNON IS PUTTING LEGOS IN HIS MOUTH AGAIN."
On Friday, Stiles runs into Derek in Berkeley Bowl.
Erica and Boyd are at a parent-teacher conference for Violet, so Vernon's sitting in the cart placidly munching grapes while Stiles eyes the grocery list in hand skeptically. Stiles has embraced the bachelor diet of frozen food and takeout supplemented with enough orange juice to prevent scurvy, but Erica won't feed the kids anything unless it's organic and she shoved two twenties into his back pocket earlier along with the list in question. Time and friends in food have taught Stiles basic grocery store survival skills, like how to identify several types of squash and tell if melons are ripe, but he's never progressed to the advanced shit, how to tell apart fennel and leeks.
The fennel and leeks are next to each other in Berkeley Bowl, because this is Stiles's life. Fucking leeks.
"Swear jar," Vernon says, popping another grape into his mouth even though his cheeks are already bulging like a squirrel's.
Stiles confiscates the plastic baggie from Vernon and shoves it into his messenger bag. "I owe you a quarter," he says. "Sorry, Verne." Then he pulls his phone out of his pocket, because this is a problem that Google Images can solve. He's waiting for the leek results to load when someone clips his ass with their cart.
"Excuse me," a familiar voice says when Stiles turns around, and it's—Derek.
"Hey, Derek, nice to see you, uh, outside," Stiles says, because Derek lives in Sausalito and leaves his house, like, twice a week max.
Derek notices Stiles looking at his cart, which is overflowing with greens and tubers, and his cheeks pink. "They—I wanted kale," he says. "And Laura's got a big case right now, so—"
Stiles nods, because that does make a weird sort of pregnant food craving sense, if he stretches the meaning of sense really far. "Well, you've definitely got kale there. Lots. Very good, tons of iron—"
"Is there a baby?" Vernon says from behind Stiles, leaning forward with his hand outstretched. "I want to touch the baby."
"Hey, hey," Stiles says, taking Vernon's hand. "You know what you're supposed to do. If you want to touch, you have to ask first."
Vernon wrinkles his nose, but complies. "Can I?" he says, looking up at Derek.
Derek looks uncertain for a moment, but then he nods and moves closer so Vernon can put his hand on his belly. "Sure," he says. "She kicks, you might be able to feel it."
"Wow." Vernon leans his whole head against Derek's belly, tipping so far forward that Stiles has to put a hand on his shoulder so he doesn't fall out of the cart entirely. He's always fascinated by babies; whatever maternal instinct there is in Erica's family has skipped Vernon's omega sister to rest on his beta shoulders. "I can hear her, she's swimming."
"This is Erica's youngest, Vernon Boyd V," Stiles says to Derek's raised brows and pointed sniff. "Vernon, this is Derek. I'm going to deliver his baby like I delivered you."
"In a pool?" Vernon says.
"No," Stiles says.
Vernon pulls back, sighing with disappointment. "Pools are the best," he says. "Everybody should have babies in pools."
"I'll keep that in mind." Derek smiles, which changes his entire face—the curve of his lips and faint squint light him up like trumpeting angels descending from on high while the sun rises from the clouds. His shaggy hair and lumberjack beard seem more endearing than sketchy, like he's some jolly, unkempt Santa in Birkenstocks. And Stiles probably needs caffiene, because his brain has fallen into an endless pool of analogies and can't get out.
"You want to get a snack with us after you've stocked up?" Stiles says. He jerks his thumb at the vegetables behind him. "One condition: you have to tell me which one of these is a fucking leek."
Vernon tuts like he's someone's grandmother. "Swear jar," he says. "I want more grapes."
Leeks acquired, they make it through the rest of Erica's list with a minimum of fuss. Stiles puts the groceries in their canvas bags in the car—it's all produce and Newman-O's, nothing that can't sit for an hour—and heads to the tea shop around the corner with Vernon on his shoulders. "I'm driving," Vernon says, pulling on Stiles's ears. "We're going to ice cream."
"Haha, no." Stiles tugs on Vernon's foot. "What does your mom say about ice cream?"
Derek has a table already when they get inside, with menus for the grown-ups and a coloring mat for Vernon. Vernon promptly digs one of the waxy crayons out of the box and starts gnawing on it; Stiles is deep in contemplation of the merits of various green teas when Derek clears his throat. "Should he, um, be—"
Stiles looks up and mouthes werewolf. "Verne's going through a toothy phase," he adds. "It's better for him than LEGOs. Just let him be. Hey—can I get a pot of genmaicha?"
"I'll take a pot of Earl Grey and a slice of lemon pound cake," Derek says when the waitress looks to him, passing her the laminated menu.
"How are you doing?" Stiles says when she's gone. Derek seems more relaxed here than he did in Berkeley Bowl; at midday on a Friday, it's mostly omega and beta parents with kids in slings, plus a sizeable gray-haired contingent in organic denim keeping Northern Sun alive one shirt at a time. The shop has a homey scent like Erica and Boyd's house, earthy and sweet above the astringent ghost of vinegar on the freshly-wiped tables.
Derek shrugs, taps his fingers on the table. "I'm—it's a lot," he says. "It's good to be out, though. The house—it smells fresh out here."
Berkeley always smells fresh to Stiles in the fall, when the air grows cool but the flowers still bloom, teeming around the arbor he ducks through to get to his apartment building and spilling out of the containers on Erica's front porch. It's not like the chill, salty snap of the air on the coast, out by Scott and Allison's apartment or where Derek lives, probably in one of those modest bungalows that cost half a million dollars with their sweeping views of the water below them. "I know what you mean," Stiles says, taking the crayon out of Vernon's mouth so he can peel off the paper and returning it before Vernon can protest. "It's nice to be around stuff that feels alive."
Stiles spends the weekend down in Mountain View with Erica, because he's not going to deal with three Alpha wolf egos and deliver twins at the same time, he's just not, okay. Erica does most of the physical work, encouraging Deucalion to walk around and sit on a birthing ball during his labor; Stiles wastes hours running interference between Kali and her partner Ennis, who are making Deucalion anxious with their but micromanaging and supernatural emotional bleed. Kali's an alpha, Ennis is a beta, and Deucalion's acting as their omega surrogate, which probably sounded great back when they were talking pack alliances, but in reality has proved to be a constant clash of egos and bruised tempers on all parts.
Ethan and Aiden are red-eyed and squalling and surprisingly unattractive for werewolf spawn, but maybe that'll get better as they age. Ennis can't stop cooing over them, touching their tiny fingers and toes; Kali hovers awkwardly, uncertain, until Erica drops Aiden in her arms and leaves him there. Stiles has to wake Deucalion up to get him to go to the bathroom before they can leave.
"Never again," Erica says, gripping the steering wheel of Stiles's car while his fingers fumble on the seatbelt buckle on the passenger side. "Fucking Alphas."
Stiles doesn't know much about the Alpha who bit her, but there's a reason that the informal Beta pack that she and Scott and Isaac comprise has sustained itself for five years and counting. After he finally gets his buckle seated, Stiles reaches over and puts his hand on her shoulder, rubs gentle, soothing circles. "If we get an Alpha couple—I'll take them, or we'll find someone else, Maybelle will come down from Redding. You don't have to."
Erica turns the keys in the ignition. "That was like Mean Girls if they all decided to have a baby together and made Karen carry it."
"I don't know," Stiles says as they back out of the garage and onto the winding drive that leads back to the gate and the main road. Kali and Ennis aren't just Alphas; they have a successful startup and own like a million shares in Apple. "Deucalion can't tell the weather with his tits."
Back at Erica's, they dip the rims of the sippy cups that were in the dish strainer in iodized salt, top off the tequila with Cointreau and Welch's grapefruit juice, and drink with bendy straws in the living room while Erica flips between House Hunters and a showing of Ferris Bueller's Day Off that they missed the first half hour of. Boyd comes out of the bedroom at noon, freshly showered, and says, "So your dad is watching the kids a little longer, then."
"Have fun at work," Erica says, beckoning Boyd over so she can give him a sloppy kiss.
"I went to the beach with Cora," Derek says at their appointment the next day. He's thirty weeks now, and he's started lowering himself onto furniture more cautiously, off-balance. "On Saturday."
Stiles sits down on the chair across from him. "How was it?"
Derek shrugs. "Cold. Cora took some pictures." He looks down at his belly, covered by an oversized maroon hoodie today, kangaroo pocket barely visible beneath the swell. "For—I guess she wants to make a scrapbook, or something, I don't know why. I look like hell."
"Is that bothering you?" Stiles says.
"You're the only one who never says anything about it. Laura's always—" Derek grips his splayed thighs. "She just wants me to be—normal, I guess."
"You're taking good care of yourself and your baby," Stiles says. "Normal's relative, and it's still not a test I would pass."
Derek snorts. "You seem really—" He gestures broadly, at Stiles's cords or his Adventure Time t-shirt, maybe. "Together. I don't know."
Stiles can't help but roll his eyes. "Yesterday, the only things I consumed were grapefruit juice, tequila, and Hawaiian pizza. I woke up on Erica's couch at 6AM this morning because someone was trying to put my hand in a glass of water to see if I'd piss myself in my sleep, and that's why I don't normally drink at Erica's house."
"Um," Derek says.
"I brought it on myself," Stiles says; he let Violet watch that episode of Mythbusters. "Why don't we check on your future demon child before I destroy any more illusions?"
The baby's flipped over today, butt down in breech position, but that's no big deal this early in the game. Her heartbeat is strong and quick, and she kicks hard against Stiles's hand when he touches Derek's belly. She's healthy and strong.
After his afternoon appointments on Thursday, Stiles goes into Berkeley Bowl for coconut water and comes out with kale and organic microwave mac-and-cheese instead. He's standing in front of his oven, debating whether to make kale chips or just bring it to Erica's for Vernon to chew on, when he thinks about Derek and his kale problems and his leaving the house problems and digs his phone out of his pocket.
would you like to get tea again tomorrow? continue your leaving the house adventures? nbd if not
His phone vibrates a moment later, but it's just Allison asking him to commit to bringing green bean casserole for Thanksgiving. Stiles always gets stuck with green bean casserole; he suspects it's because no one thinks he can fuck up dumping cream of mushroom soup, canned green beans, and fried onions in the same container.
Derek's actual response doesn't show up until Stiles is halfway through his dinner of mac-and-cheese, kale chips, and beanie weenies. Sure. Same place at 4 ok with you?
it's a date, Stiles texts back after he sucks the cheese sauce off his thumb.
Stiles gets to the tea shop first this time and grabs them a little table in the window. When Derek shows up a few minutes later, his brow wrinkles for a moment before he says, "No Vernon today?"
"Nah," Stiles says as Derek settles in. "I'm watching him and his sister tonight for a few hours, but I'm free from kid duty until then."
"You take care of them a lot," Derek says after their waitress takes their menus. "I thought—I smell them on you all the time. Are you pack?"
That's a loaded question. "Sort of?" Stiles says. "Erica and some of our friends run together, but there's no alpha. It's more of a wolf collective."
Derek makes a face like someone just offered him a handful of banana-flavored Runts.
Stiles fiddles with the artfully folded napkin on the table until it collapses enough that he has to put it on his lap. "They're my family. My dad's all the way up in Beacon Hills, and it's—far, you know?"
"My family's from Beacon Hills, too," Derek says slowly.
Derek. Derek Hale. Hale.
Most of the Hale family died in a fire when Stiles was ten, while his mom was sick, and then there was a big trial after she died. The summer before sixth grade, Stiles was numb and miserable and spent long hours curled up with Allison and Scott on Allison's big bed, watching the Disney Channel until it seemed like an endless ouroboros of sassy teen girls, Brenda and Miley and Demi and Selena, bright and smiling and immaculately laugh-tracked. Allison's aunt was a murderer, Scott's dad was gone, Stiles's mom was dead. He can't think of the fire without thinking about Allison's dad crying downstairs or the endless packets of Capri-Sun they drank, piled together in their grief.
"Oh." Stiles puts his hands in his lap because it's that or making sand art with the sugar packets. "Oh, I—"
"Don't say you're sorry," Derek practically growls. "Don't—"
"Hey," Stiles says, leaning forward. "All I was going to say was, I should have remembered, and I'm pretty sure Cora and I were in the same kindergarten class."
Derek blinks, looks at the half-filled cafe around them, and hunches in.
"Do you want to get our stuff to go?" Stiles says.
They walk to the park a few blocks away, where Derek picks out an empty bench in the sun and sits down, putting his cup in the space between them. "I knew that," he says. "Laura did a background check on you and Erica, before. I know you're—your stepbrother is married to—"
Stiles raises his eyebrows. "And you still came to me? There are other people who deliver babies. Totally competent, totally mundane people who deliver babies."
"I have to take care of her," Derek says, shaking his head. "That's—it didn't matter. She's the most important thing in the world to me."
"I know," Stiles says.
Derek exhales slowly, deliberately, like he's counting his way down to ten. "I trust you," he says. "You know what it means to be pack, and you—you care about her, even though you don't—it's just your job, I know—"
Stiles puts his hand next to Derek's on the bench; close enough to feel the heat coming off Derek's skin, but not quite touching. "I care about both of you," Stiles says. "Of course I do."
"I need to go home," Derek says. He casts a sheepish glance at Stiles as he pulls away. "I mean, I—"
"It's okay," Stiles says, although he's weirdly disappointed. "Take a nap. Eat some kale. I'll see you Tuesday."
The days between Friday and Tuesday seem really long.
Stiles goes over to Erica's on Monday and lets Vernon use him as a dummy while Erica is talking one of her clients through some breathing exercises over Skype. "You're Gully, and I'm elves, tying you up," Vernon whispers, running yarn over him and lacing it between the coffee table legs on one side and the spindles of the rocking chair on the other. "You've been really bad and I'm going to eat you."
"Did Wishbone do an episode with Jonathan Swift?" Stiles asks the ceiling.
"I think Dad let them watch TV on their own." Erica shuts her laptop. "Violet's obsessed with the Home Shopping Network now, I can't get her to turn it off."
"Next you're a giant and you put me in a box," Vernon says, brandishing a battered pair of plastic safety scissors.
Erica puts Vernon down for a nap with minimal wailing and gnashing of teeth, then makes a pot of coffee. "What happened?" she says after she starts the drip brewer, resting a hand on the back of Stiles's neck and stroking the scruff at the edge of his hairline. "You seem pretty on edge."
Stiles hesistates. He doesn't want to betray Derek's confidence, and Erica doesn't know the story of Allison's aunt Kate, either, just that the Argents used to be hunters and they're not anymore. "I miss my mom," he says, finally, because that's the truth. "I can't stop thinking about how she was, when she was sick, how she—"
"Oh, honey," Erica says, taking the chair next to his, scooting closer so Stiles can put his head in her lap until the brewer dings.
Tuesday, Stiles is composed again. Totally composed. He's together. He'll get through his appointment with Derek without crying. Just because they both have dead moms and Derek is having a baby all on his lonesome, that doesn't mean Stiles needs to get overly invested, overly attached, nope. Stiles is a professional.
"I don't think I should see you anymore," Derek says. He doesn't even sit down on the couch, just hovers in the doorway, looking at his feet. "I think—maybe I should work with Erica? If I can—?"
Stiles drops his notebook on the floor, and the dozens of paper scraps he has wedged in there scatter around it like sad confetti. "Are you—what did I—are you okay?" He feels like he's been punched in the gut.
"It's not you," Derek says. "It's me."
"This isn't a romantic comedy, you can't just use that line on me," Stiles says, and wow, his verbal filter is gone today, isn't it. "I mean—um, hi? Can we talk about this?"
"No." Derek droops into himself like a sad basset hound. "There's nothing you can—it's not, I just—it's me. I mean it. You're—"
Stiles gets up from his chair to come over to Derek. "Hey," he says gently. "If you want to work with Erica, that's fine. I'm not going to make you stay with me. If you're comfortable with it, I'd like for you to hang out for just a little longer today and we can talk about how that would work, but if you're not—you can go home, and I'll have Erica call you. If you change your mind, just let me know, anytime. I'm here for you."
"That's it," Derek says, ducking Stiles's gaze. "You just—you're like this, you'd do this for anybody, you don't mean it."
"I wouldn't do it for just anybody," Stiles says. See: Maeve the crying dryad. "For you, though—sure."
"You don't understand," Derek says seriously. "I like you, it's not—appropriate. I just—I like you. And I don't know why you'd…"
"Let me clarify something," Stiles says after a pause. "You like me as in, uh, sharing-your-pudding, photo-in-your-locker, ask-me-on-a-date 'like'?"
Derek winces. "I should go, I'll—"
"You could just ask me," Stiles says with bravery he doesn't quite feel. "See what I say."
There's a long moment before Derek looks up and meets Stiles's eyes, and, yeah, they should probably call Erica, because Stiles is officially no longer capable of being professional about this.
Erica makes them come over to her house because she's doing laundry.
"Hi again," she says to Derek at the door, looking him up and down. "You sure you want me to deliver your kid? I have claws. I bite."
"Erica," Stiles hisses. He's standing behind Derek and a little to the side; letting him and Erica have this conversation, and also maybe keeping Derek from running away, just a little bit.
Derek just nods, though. "I—that's what I want. Stiles trusts you."
"Oh boy," she says. "Come in."
Stiles walks to work, so he hitched a ride with Derek over here, sneaking nervous looks the whole while. He barely knows Derek, really, although he's had his hands all over what's most precious to Derek in the entire world, listened to Derek share confidences that—would he ever have shared them with Stiles, in the normal course of things? Stiles can't fuck this up. He can't. His palms are sweaty, his heartbeat thuds in his ears, he doesn't know whether he's going to have a panic attack or pass out or—
"Have some cookies." Erica thrusts a plate into Derek's hands. "My husband made them, so they're lemon with basil glaze, but they're good, promise."
"Thanks," Derek says, holding it out like a cocktail waitress while he scans the cluttered foyer for somewhere to sit it.
Stiles takes the plate from him, trying to ignore the shiver that runs up his spine when their fingers brush. "Living room," he says. "Watch your feet, I had a close encounter with Lincoln Logs yesterday."
Derek sits down gingerly on the couch next to Stiles, spine straight like he's expecting Erica to start cleaning a shotgun instead of going over his birth plan. "Hmm," Erica says, standing over them. "I was going to review where you're at today, but now I think I'm going to have Derek come into the office later this week."
"Um," Stiles says, raising an eyebrow.
"And you two can go on a date right now," she continues. "Babysitting my son. You'll have something to distract you from your emotional turmoil and you won't have to have any important conversations with another adult. He's sacked out right now, move the towels over to the dryer in ten, I'm going to Trader Joe's. Have fun."
They sit on the couch for a few minutes, listening to Betsy the cat run up and down the hallway because she's a cat and who knows. Eventually, she stops to hack up a hairball. Derek cracks first. "I don't know why—" he says, stops, starts again. "You're—I'm a mess. You know that. You've only seen me at my worst."
Stiles shifts on the couch so he can watch Derek's face, the minute movements half-camoflaged beneath his shaggy mop and mountain-man beard. "You've only seen me being all competent and together, dude. I am not—" He huffs out a deep breath. "There's a lot we both don't know about each other. But I want to find out."
"Is this the couch where someone tried to make you wet your pants last week?" Derek says, mouth twitching up.
"My life is real glamorous," Stiles says. "If the cat pukes while you're here, I'll clean it up. I'm a gentleman."
Derek makes an abortive movement toward Stiles with his hand; Stiles holds his out, palm up, for a few seconds before Derek takes it. "I'm still all—I'm going to have a kid, Stiles, I'm—"
"So?" Stiles says, squeezing Derek's hand. "I know that. I like kids. I like how much you love her already."
"I'm—" Derek waves at his beard, or his nose, maybe.
"It's not like I shave my legs," Stiles says. "Though the mustache might get in the way."
Which is when Vernon clambers up into Stiles's lap, smacking Stiles in the chin with his stuffed triceratops. "I'm hungry," he whines, winding his arms around Stiles's neck.
In the kitchen, Stiles finds one of those spinach-and-apple squeeze pouches to give to Vernon for a snack. Derek perches precariously on a stool next to the counter while Stiles makes them a stack of peanut butter and apricot jam sandwiches. "So—" Derek says while Stiles is cutting the crusts off Vernon's and then splitting it into quarters. "So—are we—is this is a date, then? Are we—dating?"
Stiles looks up from Vernon's sandwich. "Yeah, if you—I mean, yes."
The first time Stiles kisses Derek is in Derek's living room, on the big leather couch that's surprisingly comfortable for looking like it came from Design Within Reach. Apparently, his uncle's a decorator. The house is, as predicted, a Craftsman bungalow with breathtaking views that Stiles should probably appreciate more than he does, but he's wedged up next to Derek on the couch, drinking peppermint tea and sort-of-watching Arrested Development, and all he can think about is Derek's sweet, tangy omega scent, and how strong he is beneath his new softness, and Stiles has to tilt his head back on Derek's shoulder and say, "Can I—um?"
"Sure," Derek says, blinking down at him.
That's all the encouragement Stiles needs to straighten and press his lips to Derek's. They're as plush and welcoming as the rest of him, parting with a sigh when Derek tugs at Stiles's waist, pulling Stiles closer, pulling him in. The angle is awkward with Derek's full belly between them, but Derek's mouth is hot and wet and wanting, and Stiles kind of really, really doesn't care. He throws his arm around Derek's chest, accidentally brushing his nipples, damp beneath his shirt; Derek almost sobs into his mouth, and, god, Stiles can't— "Maybe we should—" he says uncertainly, pulling back. "I don't want to, um, push you. Go too fast. I know you just—"
Derek's face wobbles for a moment. "I—are you—"
"I don't expect you to put out on the second date," Stiles clarifies. "Which I totally would, by the way, but I need to—back off, if you're not—"
"I can barely jerk off," Derek says, leaning in. "I can't—fuck myself with anything. No one's touched me in—and I want you, it's not about that, I just—"
"You smell really good." Stiles half-whimpers when Derek puts a hand on his thigh. "I just—you're—I always wanted to touch you, but I didn't want you to feel—"
"You wanted me to feel safe," Derek says. "I know. You just—made me feel other things, too."
"In your pants," Stiles says, just to check.
Derek rubs his cheek against Stiles's. "You can take them off," he says, breath hot on Stiles's ear. "They're—"
Stiles is already there, hand slipping easily beneath the elastic waistband of the sweat pants Derek has on. "I respect your life choices," he says, and goes in for another kiss.
"This green bean casserole is suspiciously good," Allison says, spooning seconds onto her plate.
"I made it from scratch." Stiles taps her on the wrist with the sweet potato casserole serving spoon. "What's suspicious about that?"
"Everything," Dad says from the head of the table.
Stiles sniffs. It's true that while he lived at home, Stiles never progressed beyond insisting all of the frozen dinners they bought be Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine, but he's learned a few tricks since then. "I had help," he allows.
"Erica?" Melissa says, passing the rolls down the table to Isaac.
"Uh," Stiles exchanges glances with Scott and Allison. They know about Derek—it wasn't really negotiable for Stiles, mentioning that he's banging a werewolf in another pack—but they haven't met him yet, and Stiles really doesn't want to bring it up with his dad, who was at the scene of the fire. "Yeah. She's been showing me some really great ways to cook brussels sprouts, too."
Dad sighs and pushes his chair back from the table. "Stop while you're ahead, son. Isaac, you want to put on the game?"
They wind up with an extra pie at the end of the night, which Stiles claims on account of having the biggest sweet tooth. Then he drives through the city and across the Golden Gate into Sausalito.
"Hello again," Laura says with a sharp smile, taking the pie from Stiles. "It's nice to see you, Stiles."
Stiles has seen Laura exactly once since those first few appointments, when Laura walked into the living room while Derek and Stiles were basking in fully-dressed but definitely post-coital glow, blanched, and walked right back out. "Happy Thanksgiving," he says, trying to give off nonthreatening vibes.
"Oh, is this is the ex-midwife boyfriend?" someone behind Laura says. "I want to see him, is he—"
"Cora." Derek shoulders past Laura to meet Stiles on the doorstep. "You want to come in for a while?" he says.
Stiles glances between Derek and his sisters—Cora's joined Laura now, arms crossed over her chest and vintage-looking Star Wars t-shirt. "I wouldn't be intruding?" he says.
"You ever killed anyone?" Cora says.
"Uh, no," Stiles says. "Is that a house rule?"
"We have whipped cream for the pie," Laura says, turning on her heel. "You can warm it in the oven."
Derek gives Stiles what is probably supposed to be a reassuring glance, but Stiles doesn't feel too enthusiastic until Derek reaches out and twines a hand in his. "I'm thankful," he says.
"For the pie? I bet," Stiles says.
He stays until Laura kicks him out.
Pregnant sex is kind of awkward this late in the game. Stiles knows this, between clients and Erica's belief that there is no such thing as TMI between friends, but he's not operating from personal experience. Stiles spends the first few weeks exchanging mutual handjobs with Derek whenever they get a chance, but he can't really get his head in a comfortable place to blow Derek, and Derek is shy about taking more than a finger or two inside him. It seems rude to push for more when Derek can't reciprocate, but Stiles pulls out his toy box afterward sometimes; okay, a lot. He is ridiculously hot for Derek, gets wet and slippery between the thighs just thinking about him, and it only gets worse the more time they spend together, reading comic books at Derek's house or getting friendly in bed at Stiles's apartment.
So, Stiles isn't really expecting it when Derek comes straight to his apartment from an appointment with Erica the week after Thanksgiving and says, "I want to fuck you."
It's noon on Tuesday, Stiles's day off sacrosanct once more, so he's still in the boxers he slept in and his hair is sticking out on one side and the look Derek is giving him, like they're about to engage in some Little Red Riding Hood roleplay, is a little boggling. "You sure?" Stiles says.
"Very," Derek says, dropping his messenger bag next to the door.
One of the things Stiles has discovered in the past month is that beneath the morass of nerves and insecurities, Derek is perfectly confident about some things, like his ability to get Stiles off three times in one afternoon, leaving Stiles so sensitive and undone that he's shaking and crying by the end as Derek strokes him through the aftershocks with a spit-slick palm. He also makes the best pancakes Stiles has ever eaten and is perfectly willing to change tires at thirty-four weeks pregnant, the kind of thing Stiles would describe as magic were he not actually a magic worker and Derek a werewolf with supernatural strength and a surprisingly extensive workshop in his garage.
Derek puts his hands on Stiles's shoulders and starts steering him towards the bathroom. "Shower first."
Underneath the spray, Derek scrubs Stiles's ass clean, working him open with three fingers until Stiles is so wet and aching he's dizzy with it, like he's in heat. God, he can't wait to have Derek fuck him like this then, when he's burning up with need for it, and he's—"Derek," he groans. "I need you, I need you to—"
Derek dries them off, thorough but gentle, and pushes them toward the bed with its rumpled, stained sheets that Stiles should have washed the other night but can't bring himself to take off, because he's so gone on Derek that he wants to roll around in the scent of him every moment he's not around. Maybe that's omega instinct, just as pushy and territorial in its own way as the instinct that propels alphas to hunker in on their mates while they're carrying, but Stiles isn't so sure. Regardless, Derek doesn't seem to mind, and he's a werewolf, anyway. If he had his way, he'd probably keep Stiles covered in jizz at all times.
"Get out of your head," Derek says, pushing Stiles down onto the bed, onto all fours, so Derek can sit on the edge of the bed behind him and—oh. That's—
Derek slips two fingers back into Stiles and licks around them, tongue just teasing Stiles's rim, and fucks him like that until he's got four in and Stiles is sloppy and wet and pleading, "Please, please, Derek, I can't—" This is an itch Stiles hasn't scratched in ages; he hasn't fucked an alpha in years, and there's nothing that's not delightful about other kinds of sex, but there's nothing like being filled up, either. Stiles has to clench his eyes shut, barely able to breathe, when Derek pulls his mouth away to suck a bruising kiss onto the tender inside of Stiles's thigh just as he shoves five full fingers in.
There's a long moment when it's almost too much, but then Derek dribbles a cool trail of lube over Stiles's asshole and everything gets so smooth and slick, Derek's fingers moving in him with less resistance. Stiles is already shuddering and keening when Derek pulls them into a fist and knots him, his clenched hand pressing right up against the sensitive place inside, and Stiles comes right then, easy as that, groaning and sobbing and collapsing onto the bed, head pillowed on his folded arms and his ass barely up in the air as Derek twists his hand and just fucks him right through it and into another one, until Stiles's thighs and the sheets are covered in come and slick and his own natural wetness, and his cheeks are dripping with tears. Then Derek tugs Stiles into his arms and ruts against his thigh until he comes, too, trembling and flushed, head thrown back against the pillow, gorgeous, wrecked.
"Wow," Stiles says, later, surfacing from their nap and stretching. He feels sore and amazing and well-fucked, like he'll be walking funny until next week and Scott will give him a serious side-eye if he makes it over to Spindrift before then. So worth it.
Derek stole all of the pillows and most of the comforter while Stiles was asleep, but as he is pregnant and the giver of multiple orgasms, Stiles can't begrudge him.
"So, problem," Erica says, pulling Stiles in from the waiting room. He hasn't been involved in Derek's care for over a month, and he's only here at all today to take Derek out for a picnic lunch and then hopefully nail him back at the apartment instead of a dessert course. Derek is biting his lip when Stiles comes in, arms crossed over his belly and radiating nervous unhappiness. "The kiddo has dropped and it's flipped back to breech. Baby's not due for another two weeks, but I'm not sure how comfortable I feel delivering breech at home."
Stiles is the one with the formal medical training who usually takes on the more complex pregnancies; he still recommends most clients presenting breech to the hospital, supernatural or no. Dr. Deaton, a beta ob/gyn who's faculty at UCSF, takes on most of those cases. But Derek's—shaking his head, breathing too quickly, saying, "I don't want someone else to touch her—I can't. I don't want to go into—"
"Hey, hey," Stiles says, coming in to sit next to him. "Can I—?"
Derek looks up at him, sniffling—Jesus, and nods, lets Stiles wrap his arms around him and the baby, holding them tight. It takes a few seconds before Derek goes limp and tucks his face against Stiles's neck.
"She's not coming out right this second," Stiles says, rubbing Derek's back. "There's nothing wrong with her. We just want to make sure she's safe on the way out."
Erica fills up the electric kettle with one of the water bottles from the big pack on the floor behind the desk and makes them all tea, rooibos for her and Stiles and chamomile for Derek. She gives Derek time to calm down and curl up as best he can on the couch with his head in Stiles's lap before she brings it up again. "We have a couple options," she says. "You can work on getting the baby to move on its own, try lying on an inclined plane, spend some time on your hands and knees. At the most extreme, we might consider an external version. You could still try to birth the baby breech if it doesn't flip, but I'm not okay with that unless Stiles can use his magic to monitor."
"Can I think about it?" Derek scoots closer against Stiles until his shoulder digs into Stiles's thigh. "I—I know you need to, but I—it's hard. I want to try stuff at home for now."
"Of course," Erica says. "Just check in with me, okay?"
Derek isn't up to driving home, so Stiles brings him back to his apartment, puts fresh sheets on the bed, and swaps out the comforter on his bed for a clean quilt. "You want to rest?" he says.
"Maybe," Derek says, peeling off his clothes before he climbs into bed. He shifts around the pile of pillows Stiles has acquired in the last few weeks until he's comfortable on his side. "I just—I don't know. Somehow it seemed like I might actually get through this without anything else horrible happening, I don't know why—"
Stiles climbs onto the bed next to him, jeans still hooked around one ankle. "Nothing bad's happened," he says. "She's a werewolf, she's a sturdy little kid, and plenty of people have successful breech deliveries. Erica just prefers to be cautious, and so do I. I won't use any magic unless you want me to."
Derek sighs. "I don't want to talk about it anymore."
"What do you want to do?" Stiles finally manages to kick his jeans off the end of the bed so he can press his feet to Derek's beneath the covers. "Sleep? Podcast?"
"You know," Derek says, sliding his foot between Stiles's. He sounds shy, as if this halcyon period of constant horniness before he delivers his kid is something to be embarrassed about. "I—"
Stiles lets his hand skim Derek's side, then tease at the soft skin of his thigh. "What do you want to do?" he says again.
Instead of using his words, Derek takes Stiles's hand and brings it up to his engorged breasts, places it flat over one nipple. Stiles has avoided touching him there before—Derek's colostrum came in weeks ago, and his nipples are always sensitive and wet, leaking at the slightest provocation. "I want you to, um," Derek says through downcast lashes. "It feels—I know, it's weird, I just—"
"No, it's not," Stiles says, scooting closer and shifting the arm beneath him so he can cup both of Derek's breasts, run his hands over his swollen nipples. "They're—I like you touching mine, you know."
"Yours aren't in use," Derek says. He whimpers and bites his lip when Stiles starts making lazy circles over the tips with his thumbs, thrusting his hips forward like that'll give him any friction.
Stiles slides one of his thighs between Derek's so he can grind down while Stiles's hands are otherwise occupied. His own dick is already getting hard, though that's going on the backburner until Stiles gets the job done. The job being: orgasms. He likes this job.
When he starts milking Derek's nipples, rolling them between forefinger and thumb, he's not really prepared when that's what he gets. Colostrum wells up between and over his fingers, a steady, clear trickle. "Um," Stiles says as his fingers get slippery. "Do you—is it weird if I—?"
Derek ruts his dick against Stiles's leg, pushing against him as hard as he can with his big belly between them. "Whatever you want," he says.
What Stiles wants is to get his mouth on Derek's nipples and suck, but there's no way to do it without pushing Derek on his back or crouching over him like a praying mantis or something. "Later—" Stiles promises, squeezing Derek's nipples until Derek's back arches and he lets out a low gasp, "later, I'm going to put my mouth on you, and later I'm going to put my dick in you, and I—fuck, Derek, you're so—"
Derek finally puts his hand on Stiles's dick and, well, that's it. Stiles comes as soon as he feels Derek start to pulse between them, his come hot and slick on Stiles's thighs like his milk on Stiles's hand. It's dirty and messy and those were clean sheets, and also Stiles might be a little in love.
Miraculously, the baby flips in the night.
do I want to know, Erica replies when Stiles texts her at 7 AM.
:), Stiles types with one hand. He's got the other splayed on Derek's belly, feeling Derek's daughter kick.
Later that week, though, Derek wakes up Stiles in the middle of the night, nudging his shoulder until he comes whining and snuffling into awareness. "Do you need company while you pee?" Stiles says, throwing an arm in front of his face to block the light streaming from the bathroom door.
"I already peed," Derek says. "I want you to do the thing. The—magic thing. For the baby."
Stiles is wide awake now. "Right now?"
Derek shakes his head. "No, it's—it can wait until Tuesday. I just wanted to tell you."
"Okay," Stiles says. He reaches up to help Derek down onto the bed, pull him close, his chest flush to Derek's back. Derek rebuilds his pillow igloo and shifts around for a few minutes until he's comfortable again. There's a warm, fuzzy feeling in Stiles's chest that's not just Derek's werewolf thermostat running a few degrees warmer than his own human skin. He leans forward and mashes his face against Derek's neck, nuzzling the soft hollow of Derek's throat.
On Tuesday, Derek's jumpy while Stiles smears sage paste from breastbone to pubic bone, sacrum to nape, and then vertically across his belly. "What is this stuff?" he says, eyeing the mixture.
"Burnt sage is not kind on sensitive noses," Stiles says as he draws the last arc toward Derek's hip carefully. "This is just crushed fresh sage and EVOO, it'll help me do a 3D view. I made it in the kitchen this morning. Everything else is just, uh, me."
"And me." Erica hovers by his side. "I'm your midwife. I get to read the signs."
Stiles wipes his hands off on a paper towel and gets to his feet. "They glow."
Normally, Stiles traces a few extra runes for safety, security, and easy delivery, but he's not doing anything but the basics for Derek today. "Head down, about eight pounds, placenta and cord are out of the way, amniotic fluid and circulation are good," Erica says, watching the runes appear. "Heart and lungs are fully developed, biological sex is female omega—"
"She's a girl," Derek says, looking up at the shimmering signs with wonder.
"Yeah, or whatever the kid wants to be, they're still inside you," Erica says.
"No, I've—" Derek places a hand on an unmarked part of his belly. "I've had this feeling the whole time, that she was a—she."
"I understand that," Erica says. She snaps a photo with her phone so Stiles can let go of his magic; the runes over Derek slowly twinkle out and disappear. "When I was pregnant with Vernon, I just knew he wanted to be named after his daddy."
"And how's that working out for you?" Stiles says, handing Derek a paper towel for the sage.
Erica shrugs. "He's three and a half. Last week he told me he wanted to change his name to Palmolive."
Way back in September when Stiles took Erica's call in Starbucks, he wasn't thinking farther than Christmas, and whether or not the four-hour drive to Beacon Hills was going to be feasible with a kid scheduled to drop so close to the day of. Everything since then has happened so rapidly that he forgets about Christmas entirely until three days before when Dad picks up the phone for their Sunday call and says, "Stiles, I think Melissa and I are bring the party to you this year."
"Uh," Stiles says, looking around his living room. Fuck, he forgot about shopping, he doesn't even have any white elephant gifts he can claim were chosen with love when he offloads them on his family. "Christmas. Right."
"We thought we'd stay with you, since you have that extra room," his dad continues.
Technically, Stiles does have a second bedroom, but it's not much bigger than a closet and he's used it as one since his last roommate moved out two years ago. He can clear enough space to put an air mattress in there and air out his own bedroom overnight. Probably. He scrubs his hand over his face and holds in a sigh. "This is kind of short notice, Dad, I—"
"I didn't want you to miss out this year, just because you've got a kid on the way to take care of," Dad says gently. "That's not what Christmas is about."
Stiles does not want to get into how literal that sentence is, so he just swallows down the lump in his throat and says, "Thanks, Dad."
After he gets off the phone, Stiles makes a trip to the natural toystore that Erica likes, the other toystore, and the bookshop around the corner, then calls it quits. Everyone over the age of seven is getting books for Christmas, and they're going to like it.
Derek calls while Stiles is airing out his apartment and says, "My water broke, and now I'm—" He has to pause for breath. "I've had a few contractions. They're not—close."
"Okay." Stiles pulls the window he's just opened shut; he's on the first floor, and better eau de fucking than robbed. "Have you called Erica yet? I'm just going to grab my bag, and I'll pick her up on the way."
"Can you call her?" Derek says.
"Of course," Stiles says, checking his watch. It's 6 PM, she'll be home, although they'll have to get Danny next door to watch the kids; Boyd's still at work. "I've got it covered. Is anyone else home? Laura? Cora?" Cora lives in the Marina District, close to where she works at ILM, but it's the holidays; she's probably sticking close.
"Cora's watching TV, I don't want to bother her." Derek sounds small and nervous and scared.
Stiles grabs his already-packed backpack from the chair by the door and pulls it on over the shoulder he's not using to brace his phone. His wallet's still in his pants, his phone is—right—and his keys are hanging on the hook by the door. "Well, it's her job to be bothered right now," Stiles says. "Do you want me to stay on the phone until we get there? Erica can drive."
"I'm okay," Derek says, and hangs up. Great.
"Um," Stiles says into the phone while Erica drives them toward the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. "So, Dad. There's a minor wrinkle in the plan, the one where you come and stay with me tomorrow."
"Your apartment's a mess?" Dad says knowingly. "We can deal with it, son."
"No, actually, my boyfriend is having a baby," Stiles says. "Like, right now. Erica is—I used to be his midwife, for a little bit, but now Erica is? Anyway—can we reschedule Christmas?"
His dad is silent for several nervewracking seconds. "Stiles…"
"Please, Dad," Stiles says. "I can't—"
"Of course we can," his dad says. "Scott and Allison can come up to Beacon Hills now, and maybe Melissa and I will come down in a few weeks? I'd like to meet this baby. And your boyfriend."
"Sure," Stiles says, leaving aside the part where his dad and Derek have already met. "Thanks."
"You owe me so bad, Stiles," Erica says when he's off the phone. "A dryad baby and a Christmas baby. I'm going to give you every VBAC and multiple birth I get for the next year if I miss Christmas morning, swear to God."
Stiles eyes the clock on the dashboard and says, "We have 60 hours."
"Vernon will be up at 5 AM." Erica flicks on the left turn signal. "Try again."
They talked about it when Derek transitioned over to Erica, Derek constantly looking at Stiles for reassurance, like he couldn't believe it was really happening. "Sure, Stiles can be your birth partner," Erica said, glancing between them. "He's got plenty of experience. It's not weird."
"We've been dating for two days," Stiles said. "It's probably weird for Derek."
Erica flapped her hand at him. "Fine, I validate everyone's weird feelings, blah blah blah, it's cool. Do you still want your sisters in there?"
Now, Laura's changing the sheets on Derek's queen-size bed, putting down a waterproof mattress cover over one clean fitted sheet and then covering it with another. Derek's lying down on the couch in the living room while Erica checks him over, Cora holding one hand while Stiles holds the other, steadying him through a contraction. "You're at two centimeters." Erica pats Derek's knee as she sits up. "You're probably not going into active labor for a while. How do you feel about Stiles staying with you for now and me coming back when your labor progresses?"
"That's what you usually do?" Laura says, coming out of the bedroom. "Just—leave?"
"This is early labor," Erica says patiently. "It could be six hours, twelve—we don't know. Derek is doing fine so far, and nothing's going to progress so quickly that I can't get back in time. And Stiles is here—he's a professional."
Stiles squeezes Derek's hand. "I'm not going anywhere."
Derek hunkers down on the couch around 3 AM, lying on his side on the couch with a heat pack on his lower back and Enya undulating through his ears. Stiles heads to the kitchen for a glass of water. He's not sure if he can sleep until the baby gets here; this is worse than Vernon's birth.
Laura's already in the kitchen, putting a dish into the oven. "We're never going to get the Christmas baking done if we wait until the baby gets here," she says, answering Stiles's unvoiced question. "We've always had pie, and sugar cookies, and—"
"I get it," Stiles says. "You don't have to explain to me."
Setting down her pot holder on the counter beside the stove, Laura turns to face him. "You really care about Derek. I wasn't sure."
"Of course I do," Stiles says. "He's Derek." Awkward, adorable, grumpy, and sweet by turns; he's grown on Stiles like a—okay, Erica's right, that is a creepy analogy.
"Derek doesn't have very good skills in the relationship department," Laura says. "Or much of a sense of self-preservation. You understand my concerns."
Stiles shrugs. "I don't know about that. He's taking care of himself so he can take care of his kid."
"Fair enough," Laura says after a moment. "Do you want some coffee?"
Stiles does not sleep, which is why he is wide awake at 5 AM where Derek goes into active labor. NOW!!!! he texts Erica, and when she doesn't respond in the next ten seconds, BABY ENROUTE
calm the fuck down you could deliver this kid on your own in the back of a station wagon, she texts back.
"The internet says this could last for eight hours," Cora says, looking up from her phone.
Stiles glares at her from where he's rubbing Derek's back. "You want to take a shower?" he says to Derek. "Walk around a little, if you can?"
"I don't think I can stand up," Derek says, tears glistening on his face. "Is it really going to take eight hours?"
Laura crouches down next to them. "Cora's full of lies, she was switched with a fairy child at birth, you know that."
"Stop talking," Stiles says before Derek can start freaking out out about that.
The actual birth is almost anticlimactic when it happens at 10.53 AM. Derek's on his hands and knees on the bed, he's been pushing for two hours and Erica's checking on him when she says, "Aha."
And then, fifteen minutes later, there's the baby.
"Look, you have a werewolf!" Erica says as the baby draws her first breath and howls.
Stiles helps Derek turn over onto his back, props him up with pillows, and then Erica's coming to them with the baby. She's the most beautiful baby Stiles has ever seen, with a full head of hair and pointy ears and tiny claws because she's just come out into the world and it's so new and exciting. "Hi," he says, looking at her over Derek's shoulder as Erica puts her into Derek's arms. "Hello, baby."
"Nora," Derek says, touching her downy cheek, her little arms and thighs. She's long and skinny, but she'll plump right up with milk. "Nora Amy Hale."
"Are you fucking kidding me," Cora says from the doorway, peering between her fingers because she doesn't want to see her brother's junk.
"All good down here!" Erica says from between Derek's knees. "You just need to push that placenta out."
Derek curls Nora's little fist in his own, pulls her closer so she can mark him with her own omega scent. "She has a nice, normal name," he says. "That's what I want for her."
"Nora's perfect," Stiles says, and he bends down to press a kiss to Derek's head just as Laura starts taking photos.
Getting Nora to latch on is frustrating at first, but she seems to be getting the hang of nursing by the time Erica heads home. "Totally normal." Erica adjusts the pillow on Derek's lap, slaps Stiles on the back; he's perched on the end of the bed by Derek's feet. "Call me if you have any problems. Stiles has zero personal experience with getting a kid on the tit, but he's better than YouTube videos."
"Hey," Stiles says, but there's no heat in it. He can't stop looking at Nora dozing against Derek's breast, and Derek sleepily watching her, too, and he has them all to himself for a while now, since Derek's sisters have taken a break from baby-admiring to nap.
After a while, Derek lifts his head. "Do you want to have kids some day?"
"Um," Stiles says. "I was under the impression that you came with one. This one, in fact."
"Oh," Derek says, blinking up at him.
"I love both of you," Stiles says. "And I'm not just saying that because Nora is a really cute baby who hasn't had time for any quality screaming or pooping yet. I love you regardless of poop. You don't have to say it back, you probably love everyone right now."
Derek smiles sleepily. "I'm under the influence."
"Yeah." Stiles grins back. "I know what you mean."
Erica calls while Stiles is out getting Starbucks for the Hales the next morning. "Grande peppermint white chocolate mocha frappuccino, extra whip," Stiles says to the cashier before he picks up the phone.
"Did you seriously give my children Operation for Christmas?" Erica hisses.
Oh, it's Christmas, right. Stiles pulls a ten out of his wallet and shoves it into the tip jar before he hands the cashier his debit card. "Maybe," he says.
"I can hear the buzzing in the basement," Erica says. "I can hear it in the yard."
"I'm sorry," Stiles lies.
Erica snorts. "Just you wait," she says. "Five years. Your kid. It's on."
(five years later)
"Halloween is perfect." Erica pencils the date on the desk calendar. "Good job on getting knocked up on schedule, Stiles."
"On schedule?" Derek says, hovering over Stiles's shoulder as they both look at the calendar. Valentine's Day was last week, and Halloween seems both impossibly far away and way, way too close. "So you're not missing any major holidays, you mean."
"Oh, Vernon will never forgive me if I don't document every detail of the Sailor Jupiter costume he'll be wearing for the third year in a row," Erica says. "But I can work with Halloween. No big meals. I only need to put in an appearance for an hour."
Stiles holds up his hand; they high-five.
Nora pushes up on her toes so she can see the top of the desk. "I want to see the baby," she says. "Violet said she got to be there when Vernon was born. Is there going to be a pool?"
"We'll talk about it," Stiles says while Derek reaches down to pick her up. "Maybe I'll leave that part up to you."