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After two years as a deputy for the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department, not to mention a lifetime of being the kid of an officer of the law, Stiles had seen some things in his time. Some weird shit happened in Beacon Hills, really. However, no amount of animals mauled in the woods, people going missing, psychotic teenagers going on killing sprees with their trained pet mountain lions (or so the official report stated; Stiles didn’t trust his dad’s account of that night back when he was in high school) could prepare Stiles for the sheer ‘what the hell?!’-ness of waking up at six in the morning for his shift, pouring himself a cup of coffee, and then noticing that outside the back window, there was a little girl playing in his flower beds.

A little girl. In a princess nightdress. Digging around with her bare hands as if there was absolutely no reason in the world a little kid should be outside a stranger’s house at six in the morning. Stiles thought about going to wake Scott or Isaac (his housemates) up to make sure he wasn’t absolutely losing his mind, but he then remembered Isaac had already left for work at the coffee shop and Scott had the day off and would probably murder Stiles if he was imagining the little girl.

Instead, Stiles simply put on his belt – better safe than sorry – and went out the kitchen door, walking around the corner of the house. When he rounded the big shrub at the corner, sure enough, there was a little girl with her dark, wavy hair falling out of her ponytail and a muddy pink princess nightgown. There was dirt on her bare hands and feet and spots where she’d rubbed her hands on herself, but otherwise she seemed unharmed. She was happily digging a hole between shrubs and burying sticks, it seemed. “Uh… hello,” Stiles said cautiously, stepping closer.

The little girl looked up and Stiles was absolutely entranced by her big, wide, startlingly green eyes in the early morning light. “You’re a policeman!” she said brightly, pointing at his badge on his uniform.

Stiles offered a smile. “Yeah, I am. And you’re making a mess of my pansies. My best friend Scott worked hard planting those, you know,” he said and she looked at the dug up flowers, then frowned.

“I’m sorry,” she said and he was taken aback by how sincere she looked. Stiles heart melted when she grabbed an uprooted flower and stuck it back in the hole she’d just buried a stick in. “Better?”

Stiles squatted down and nodded. “Yeah, it’s okay,” he said, then looked her over for signs of injury. “What’s your name, sweetie?” he asked gently. “I’m Stiles,” he offered, holding out his hand.

She eyed his hand, then grabbed one of his fingers, shaking his hand with a far too serious expression. “I’m Lauren,” she said and Stiles couldn’t believe the adorable.

Stiles nodded. “Hi, Lauren. So, why are you in my back yard?” he asked. “Where do you live?”

She looked around then shrugged. “I dunno.”

Stiles wasn’t expecting much so it wasn’t a letdown. “Alright, well why don’t you come to work with me and we’ll see if your parents know you’re missing yet, okay?” he asked, then frowned. “Nobody was after you, were they? Were you running from a bad person?”

She shook her head. “No, Mr. Stiles,” she said and he smiled brightly at her cute little serious face.

“Alright, well.” he patted himself down. “I’ve got everything I need, so let’s go, alright?”

“Okay!” She stood up and Stiles cringed when she wiped her hands off on her nightgown and then held her hand up. Stiles took a second to realize she was waiting for him to hold her hand. He took her little hand in his and was once again struck by the ridiculous urge to smile until his face broke, because it was absolutely adorable.

“Alright, sweetie, let’s go,” he said, leading her around to his squad car.

~

He had radioed in that he had found a child wandering around, but nobody had reported her missing yet. When they got to the station, Stiles picked Lauren up and carried her across the parking lot on his hip since she was barefoot and he didn’t want her to get hurt. When he walked into the station, he was immediately met with some funny looks by the deputies lingering at the front desk. Erica Reyes, his partner, came to through the door leading to the main office and shook her head. “No calls yet,” she reported and he nodded.

“More than likely she wandered out in the night and her parents haven’t woke up yet,” he said, bringing Lauren with him. He walked to his desk and sat her on the edge of it. “So, Lauren, what’s your last name, Sweetie?” he asked.

She was looking around wide eyed until his question brought her attention to him. “Hale,” she said.

Stiles nodded. “Alright, and how old are you?” he asked. She held up four tiny little fingers and he gave her a smile. “Alright, well, Ms. Erica is gonna talk to you for a minute and I’ll be right back, okay?”

Erica sat down at his desk and rolled the chair closer. “Hey there. Lauren, right?”

Stiles left them and then left, going to the Sheriff’s office. He knocked on the door and leaned in. “Yo,” he said, and his father rolled his eyes.

“That’s worse than ‘Old Man’, Stiles,” he said, and Stiles grinned.

“Well take your pick, dude!” He walked over and knelt down in front of his dad’s mini-fridge. “So, still no calls about the missing kid?” he asked.

John yawned. “Not yet. Hopefully that means she just snuck out and they haven’t noticed yet. If not, chances are she escaped from whatever her parents were doing to her,” he said and Stiles’s gut twisted at the thought of that little girl being hurt.

Stiles stood up and saluted with the juice box in his hand. “Good job, keep me posted.” He headed out and saw Erica was surreptitiously looking the little girl’s arms and legs over for signs of bruising and disguising it by wiping her clean with a wet cloth. “Hey Lauren,” he said, coming back. “Do you like apple juice?” he asked, and she nodded, eyes lighting up. “Alright, what about apple slices?” he asked, then held up a juice box and a little pack of apples.

“Yay!” she said, clapping as Stiles opened the apples and sat them on the desk beside her so that he could handle the juice box and straw.

Erica shot him a look. “Where did you get that?” she asked with a surprised look.

Stiles smirked. “I raid my dad’s office for snacks and soda twice a week. He’s allowed juice boxes and single-servings of fruits and vegetables for snacks.”

She grinned. “You’re evil,” she hissed, then turned to Lauren, who was eating an apple with a happy look on her face. She lowered her voice. “No sign of injuries. No old bruises. Nothing suspicious. A few little scratches on her feet and legs from walking round barefooted, but nothing else.”

Stiles sighed in relief. “Good,” he said softly. He looked at the clock and saw it was almost seven. “Well, her parents will probably notice her missing soon-“

Stiles was cut off by his dad coming out of his office. “Stiles, we just got a call from a guy frantic cause his daughter was missing. He’s on his way now,” he said and Stiles grinned.

“Well, Sweetie, looks like your daddy is coming to get you,” he said and Lauren looked up with wide eyes.

“Daddy will be mad,” she cried, putting a hand on her head. “Oh no!”

Erica smiled sympathetically. “Awww, it’s okay. I’m sure he’ll be really glad you’re okay so he probably won’t be too mad,” she said and Stiles nodded, petting her head soothingly.

“Yeah, my dad used to have trouble keeping me in one place for very long and he was always really relieved when he found me again that he didn’t even yell,” he said and she gave him a suspicious look.

“Really?” she asked, frowning. “Your daddy didn’t get mad?”

Stiles grinned. “Well, he got mad, but he was always worried I was hurt so when I wasn’t hurt, he was just really happy I was okay.”

“You swear?” she asked, and Stiles nodded, then gestured to John.

“You can ask him yourself,” he said and she looked up at John then back at Stiles.

“Your daddy is a policeman too?” she asked.

John chuckled and crouched down beside the desk. “Yeah, I’m his dad,” he said, then made a face. “Even if he is a pain in the neck.”

Lauren giggled. “My daddy said I’m gonna give him gray hairs. Is that what happened to your hair?” she asked, patting at his head. Stiles and Erica both choked on laughs when John gaped, then glowered at them over her head.

“You bet it is,” he said, narrowing his eyes at Stiles. “Lauren, were you at home with your daddy before you got lost?” he asked her, watching her face for how she reacted. Stiles knew that he had a lot of practice getting the truth out of kids and knowing when they were lying. Stiles had been the victim of that knowing set of eyes many times as a kid. He’d also seen his dad get the truth out of Isaac when he was fifteen and his dad’s abuse escalated to leaving bruises where they were visible. Stiles really hoped that wasn’t the case with Lauren.

Lauren nodded. “I just wanted to play outside,” she said in a tiny voice, looking up at John through wide, guilty eyes.

John smiled. “Was your daddy awake?”

She shook her head. “Daddy was running with me outside but then he said he was tired so we had to go inside but I wanted to play more.”

John patted her head. “I understand. Daddy’s get tired easier than little girls,” he explained. “How did you get outside?”

She pulled at her nightgown. “I- I got the shoebox so I could open the door and then I just went outside to play.”

John started to ask her more, but they were all distracted by a disturbance out front as a guy ran in, stumbled over the mat, then caught himself on the front desk, a wild look about him. He was also, in Stiles’s opinion, kind of stupidly hot. He glanced at Erica, and she seemed just as awestruck as to how someone in sweatpants and a paint-stained tee-shirt with no shoes on and mad-terrible bedhead could look so hot. “Where’s my daughter?! Where is she?” he demanded, then turned, his eyes landing on the desk. “Lauren!” John stood up and gave the young man a smile as he practically leapt over the nearest desk so that he could get to them. “Lauren, oh God!” He swept her off the desk, knocking a few things over as he pulled her into his arms. He held her close, pressing his face into her hair. “Lauren, where were you?! Shit- I mean crap,” he mumbled, deflating some as he held her close.

John pulled a chair over from a nearby desk. “Wanna sit down, Son? You look a little pale,” he said, and the man looked up, then nodded, sitting.

“Sorry about- well, you know, I’m kinda freaking out, sorry, Sir,” he said, looking away from the Sheriff as soon as he got out a stumbled apology, pulling Lauren back to sit on his lap, looking at her face. “Lauren, what happened? Where were you? Are you okay?” he asked, hands holding the sides of her head. “You scared me so much,” he said, looking her over, hands running over her arms and legs, clearly looking for injuries. “God, don’t ever do that again, do you hear me?” he gritted out, tears in his eyes as he swallowed rapidly, clearly trying his best not to start crying in front of strangers.

Lauren whimpered, then predictably, burst into tears. “I’m sorry, Daddy!” she wailed and Stiles cringed when the dad looked panicked, then pulled her close again.

“Shhh, no, it’s okay. I’m not mad, it’s okay,” he said, shushing her. He looked up at the others guilty, almost like he was worried they would judge him.

John just reached out and patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry, I know that kids make you crazy,” he said, and the guy nodded. “Sorry, I didn’t introduce myself, I’m Sheriff Stilinski,” he said and the guy freed one hand, holding it out.

“I remember you, Sir. I’m Derek Hale,” he said, and Stiles and Erica both froze, sharing a quick glance.

John’s smile slipped and he hummed. “I thought you looked familiar,” he said, then nodded. “I remember you too,” he said. An uncomfortable silence fell over them and John nodded at Lauren, who was curled into her dad’s chest, still sniffling. “She seems fine. From what she says, I think she just got outside and got lost. Nobody took her or anything, I don’t think.”

Derek nodded. “Where did you find her?” he asked, voice brittle like he was exhausted even if he’d clearly just woke up.

Stiles raised a hand. “Luckily, she apparently got lost and decided playing in my roommates flowerbeds was a good way to start the day.” He grinned. “I was drinking my coffee and looked out and thought I was losing it cause there was a little kid playing in my flowers at six in the morning.”

“Where do you live, Derek?” John asked, and Derek looked back to him.

“The preserve.”

John gave an interested look. “I didn’t know you were still around here. Did you and your sister rebuild the house?”

Derek flinched, looking away. “I- I just came back a few months ago. I had the house knocked down and another one built there. It was- there wasn’t anything to save really.” He kissed Lauren’s head, jaw clenching. “My sister- She died,” he said, and John heaved a sigh, shaking his head where the young man couldn’t see him.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Derek,” John said, and Derek just cleared his throat.

“Couple years ago,” he said in a closed of voice. “We were living on the east coast and after Laura…” He trailed off and shrugged. “Just couldn’t really stand being out there anymore. I decided to rebuild here so Lauren can have a home, you know?”

“Is it just you?” Erica asked and he looked over, surprised. “Sorry, I’m Deputy Reyes,” she introduced. “This is Stiles,” she added. “I’m just asking because even if it isn’t anything serious, I need information for the official report,” she said, nodding at Lauren. “She told us she got a shoe box and opened the door, but we need to just get a timeline. We have to make sure there’s nothing going on, I’m sure you understand,” she said gently.

Derek nodded, running a hand through his short hair. “Yeah, of course. I- I went to bed around midnight, she was in her room then,” he said awkwardly. “Then I woke up around seven or so this morning and she was gone. When I called the dispatcher connected me to the Sheriff since someone had already found a little girl so I came straight here.”

Stiles nodded to Erica. “If their house is where the old Hale house was in the woods, that’s about a forty-five minute hike from the tree line behind my house. Take into account a little girl wandering around, it’s totally reasonable she could’ve got out sometime after midnight and made it to my house at least a good thirty minutes before I found her.” He grinned at Derek. “She’s got a future in landscaping if nothing else,” he joked, though he didn’t even get a smile in return. He figured it had been a rough morning so he didn’t mind rudeness.

John patted Derek’s shoulder. “I’ll let Reyes finish this up. I’m glad you got her little girl back okay,” he said, turning to head back to his office.

Stiles stood up. “Hey Lauren, how about we let your daddy talk to Ms. Erica for a minute okay?” he asked, holding out his hand. He looked at Derek, who narrowed his eyes. “It won’t take long then you can get Lauren and go home, I promise.”

He reluctantly let Lauren go and she took Stiles’s hand, smiling up at him. “Be good,” Derek said gruffly and she nodded.

“Yes, Daddy.”

Stiles melted at how adorable she was. “Alright, let’s go arrest somebody, huh?” he asked and she grinned.

“Yay!” she said, letting Stiles take her along to the front desk where he made a show of pointing out Deputy Walker as a ‘bad guy’ so that Lauren could ‘arrest’ him. They managed to handcuff Walker and read him his rights as well as get a confession out of him before Erica walked Derek out. Lauren looked up, smiling. “Daddy, Daddy! We got the bad guy!” she said, pointing at Deputy Walker.

Derek offered a tiny but absolutely breathtaking smile before scooping Lauren up. “You did good,” he said seriously, then nodded to Erica. He turned to Stiles and gave him a sharp nod. “Thank you,” he said softly, and Stiles shrugged.

“Just doing my job,” he said, waving to Lauren when she waved over her dad’s shoulder as he carried her outside. Stiles wasn’t at all surprised when three deputies all rushed to the window, peeking through the blinds to watch the mysterious and handsome man buckling his daughter into a booster seat in the back seat of a sexy black sports car.

“Good God, look at that ass,” Erica groaned, staring at his bent over form.

Stiles sighed dreamily. “Did you see his eyes?!” he asked, earning a snort.

“This explains so much about the differences between us, Stiles,” Erica said, slapping him on the back. “I look at his ass, you look at his face,” she said, then smirked. “Not that he had a bad face, but still… that one is all body.”

Stiles turned and poked his tongue out at Erica as she walked back to her desk. “Men aren’t just sex toys, Erica!” he called after her, then turned back just in time to watch Derek Hale’s car pulling out of the lot. All in all, it had been an eventful morning.

~

Stiles was debating the merits of fresh peas versus frozen peas and whether the fresh would get eaten before they went bad when he heard a high-pitched cry of his name just before a weight collided with his legs. “STILES!”

Stiles startled for a moment, flailing to keep his balance, then looked down to see Lauren hugging his knees. “Oh hey you!” He patted her head and squatted down so they were closer to level. “Didn’t expect to see you again so soon,” he said, then looked around. “Is your dad here, Sweetie?” he asked.

Lauren nodded. “Uh-huh.” She looked at Stiles with wide eyes. “I smelled you and wanted to see you!” she said and Stiles raised an eyebrow.

“Um, cool?” he tried, tugging at his shirt to see if he really wore deodorant that smelled that strongly. “Did you run off from your dad again?” he asked and she gave him too wide-eyed of a look. “Uh-huh, thought so.” He looked around. “Are you just here with your dad or is your mommy here too?” he asked, trying to spot someone looking for her.

“I don’t have a mommy,” Lauren said as if Stiles had said the most absurd thing ever. “I got Daddy, why would I have a mommy?”

“Lauren, this isn’t funny!” Stiles looked back towards the end of the nearest aisle to the produce section and chuckled in amusement when he saw Derek Hale looking under shelves. “I know you’re nearby-“

“Here she is,” Stiles called and Derek looked up, eyes wide, only to settle into a suspicious frown. Stiles held his hands up, leaning back against his shopping cart. “Don’t look at me, dude, she nearly tackled me,” he said, smiling down at Lauren, who gave her dad a puppy-eyed look.

“I wanted to see Stiles, Daddy,” she said, reaching out to grab Stiles’s hand. “Stiles is cool.”

Stiles flushed awkwardly at the kid’s praise and her father’s obvious glare. “Um, you’re pretty awesome too, but didn’t we talk about running away without your daddy knowing where you went last time?” he asked and she frowned and then looked up at her dad. “I think you should probably tell your daddy that you’re sorry.”

“But he knowed I was here,” she said like it was the simplest thing ever.

Stiles squatted down beside her, squeezing her little hand. “I know, Sweetie, but I’m sure your daddy has told you about how there are bad people sometimes, right?” he asked and she nodded with a tiny frown that matched her father’s. “Well just because most people are alright, sometimes there are mean people.” He gave her a serious look. “What if you had got caught by a mean person who wanted to hurt little kids instead of running into me?” he asked her. “Most people are nice, but sometimes there are bad people who do bad things. You can’t be too careful and if you aren’t careful, your daddy can’t keep the bad people away from you.”

Lauren nodded, biting her lip “Okay,” she said, then turned to Derek. “Daddy, you won’t let bad people get me?”

Derek snorted. “No way, Pup, there isn’t anybody gonna get my girl,” he said, picking her up smoothly. He put her on his hip and kissed her forehead. “Don’t run off, please,” he stressed, looking her in the eyes. “One time was bad enough, but if you keep it up I’m gonna start carrying you around like a football,” he warned and she giggled.

Stiles snickered. “You could always buy a leash,” he joked and Derek shot him a wide-eyed, half-offended-half-frightened look that had Stiles throwing his hands up. “It’s a joke, dude! You know, the little kid harnesses you see people talking about? I wasn’t actually suggesting you put your kid on a leash and harness,” he defended.

Derek just grunted, a glare fixed on Stiles, and turned to leave. Lauren waved at Stiles over her dad’s shoulder. “Bye Stiles! See you later!” she said, and Stiles waved, watching them walk away. He was more than a little annoyed at Derek Hale’s grumpy attitude. It wasn’t like Stiles was a child molester, he was an officer of the law. He should be grateful his kid was running up to Sheriff’s Deputies, not random strangers. Instead, Derek seemed more suspicious of Stiles than anything.

~

Stiles knew it was a misuse of resources, but after two days of wondering what Lauren meant about ‘didn’t have a mommy’, he decided to look up Derek Hale’s records. He didn’t bother googling since the idea came to him while he was at work. He went straight to law enforcement records, since the death certificate would be in the database, only instead of finding a death certificate, Stiles found something that made him spew his water all over his screen, choking loudly enough to draw Erica from her desk one over.

She rolled over to him and patted his back firmly. “Don’t die in the station, too much paperwork,” she said, then frowned. “Whatcha doin?” she asked, looking at the screen.

Stiles flapped a hand. “Okay so I ran into Lauren Hale, the little girl from a few weeks ago? She and her dad were at the store and long story short, she said she didn’t have a mom and I was too curious to let it go and I figured I’d see when her mom died since she seemed to think I was crazy for asking about it and HOLY SHIT!” He twisted the screen to show her. “Dude, her mother was sentenced to seven years in Bedford Hills for manslaughter one after she was convicted of cutting the brake lines on Derek’s sister’s car,” he hissed.

Erica whistled, eyes wide. “Whoa, holy shit, she’s been in for three and a half years. She had to have done it like… right after she had the kid.”

Stiles nodded. “She only got seven years and manslaughter one instead of murder because she pleaded out on the grounds of post-partum depression and she didn’t have any priors.” He pulled up the picture of a very pretty woman. “Katherine Argent,” he read softly.

“Kate Argent? What about her?” Stiles and Erica both jumped, looking up at the Sheriff. “Something come up?” he asked.

Stiles shook his head. “No, nothing,” he said. “Just- just came across an article about women in Bedford Hills in New York and one of them was from here and her name says Katherine Argent.”

John looked suspicious but nodded. “Family used to live around here long time ago. Back when I was first starting out,” he said, then wandered off.

Erica let out a small chuckle. “Thank God you’re a good liar. Your dad or not, you’d have been in trouble,” she said, pecking his cheek before wheeling back to her own desk.

Stiles just stared at the blank screen, itching to look into the file once more.

~

Stiles knew Beacon Hills wasn’t the smallest town around, but he knew it was small enough that he shouldn’t be so surprised to be interrupted from dinner with Isaac and Scott by a squeal, followed by, “Stiles!”

Stiles turned just in time for Lauren to jump into the booth beside him and hug him. “Oh, hey Lauren,” he said, giving her a pat on the back before she let go of him, on her knees facing him. “What a surprise to see you again, Sweetie.”

“Lauren Hale, you know better than to run and jump on someone!” Stiles looked up as Derek stalked over. “Lauren,” he said sternly and she pouted up at him, eyes wide.

“But I wanted to see Stiles,” she said innocently.

Stiles chuckled, shrugging as he smiled up at Derek Hale’s increasingly annoyed face. “It’s okay, I’m not that bothered,” he said, then glanced over at Scott and Isaac. “Oh, sorry, Scott, Isaac, this is Mr. Hale and this is Lauren,” he said, giving Scott a halfhearted shrug.

Isaac smiled and nodded to them both but Scott threw on his widest smile and held out his hand across the table. “Hey Lauren, I’m Scott,” he said, shaking her little hand.

Lauren smiled brightly. “I’m Lauren and this is my daddy,” she said, reaching out to tug on Derek’s jacket. She looked up at Derek and narrowed her eyes. “Be nice to Stiles’s friends, Daddy!” she demanded in what Stiles assumed was her idea of a whisper.

Stiles bit back a laugh and didn’t miss the way Derek’s mouth turned up slightly, clearly amused by his kid. “Derek,” he said simply, nodding to them.

Lauren rolled her eyes and Stiles bit his fist to stop from laughing. “Daddy’s nice, I promise, he just doesn’t like anybody but me,” she said matter-of-factly and Stiles couldn’t help the squawk of laughter that burst out before he could slap a hand over his mouth.

Stiles shot an embarrassed smile at Derek, whose scowl had reached slightly frightening levels. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I just- I can’t help-“ He took a breath then smiled down at Lauren. “You’re a funny girl, Lauren,” he said and she smiled widely.

“You’re funnier! Your daddy is funny too! I like funny things,” she said brightly. “Like when Daddy’s eyebrows go away!” she said, and Derek made a choking noise.

“Alright, time to let these nice men have their dinner, Pup, C’mon,” he said, holding out his hand for Lauren. “Time to go. Now,” he added and she pouted.

“Bye Stiles, Bye Scott, Bye… other man,” she said, waving at them. She gave Stiles another hug then took her dad’s hand. Derek didn’t even look at them before turning and leading Lauren away to the door.

Stiles watched them go outside before turning back to see amused and searching looks on his friends’ faces. “What?” he asked defensively.

Scott snorted. “You made friends with the little runaway kid?!”

Stiles huffed. “Hey, I like kids, what’s wrong with that?” he asked, crossing his arms over his chest defensively.

Isaac smirked. “Sure her hot father had nothing to do with that?” he asked, wiggling his eyebrows.

Stiles blushed and spluttered, then threw a balled up napkin at him. “I hate you, Lahey, you suck!” he groused, pouting when Scott and Isaac both burst into laughter across from him.

~

Stiles was pretty sure that Derek Hale hated him just on principle after two more encounters in which Derek’s offspring wanted to talk to Stiles – one of which ended in Derek following them around the mall since Lauren had declared Stiles had to help her pick out new shoes and Stiles hadn’t had the heart to tell her no – and he didn’t really blame him. He was kind of goofy over the little girl. She was pretty much the cutest child he’d ever seen and he could tell Derek wasn’t good with people and hated having to talk to Stiles just because Lauren and Stiles were halfway to being friends.

It was the certainty that Derek hated him at least some that let Stiles know something was wrong right away when Derek came around the end of the aisle in the frozen foods section carrying Lauren in one arm and pushing a cart with the other and immediately rushed over to Stiles when he spotted him standing there in uniform. “Don’t ask questions, just talk to us,” he said brusquely and then sat Lauren down, pushing her towards Stiles. “Remember what I said, Pup,” he whispered, kissing the top of her head.

Stiles looked down at Lauren then fixed a big smile. “Hey Lauren, haven’t seen you in a little while. How’s it going?” he asked.

She glanced up at her dad, then smiled at Stiles. “I got a new pony!” she said brightly. “Her name is Sparkles and she has a pink mane!” she said, then pointed at her shirt. “She kinda looks like this pony but without the polka dots!”

“Really? That’s awesome!” Stiles said brightly, though he looked up when he saw Derek tense. He forced himself to focus on Lauren. “What other ponies do you have?” he asked, then watched Derek while she rattled off a list and some descriptions. He saw Derek close his eyes with an almost panicked set to his jaw when a group of guys turned the end of the aisle. Stiles wouldn’t have noticed anything odd if it wasn’t for the fact that none of them had any groceries or carts. He kept his focus on Lauren for the most part, though he saw how – though most of the men in the group of six didn’t glance their way – the old man leading them looked right at Derek, who just stared at Lauren as if he couldn’t feel the eyes on him.

Stranger still was how Lauren faltered mid description of one pony named Princess and sniffled, then glanced up at the backs of the men who were walking away, eyes trailing after one of the middle-aged men, before she continued on. When she finished her list, Derek had relaxed and Stiles looked up to meet Derek’s eyes. He raised an eyebrow and Derek glanced away quickly. “Alright, Lauren, let’s leave Stiles alone, okay?” Derek said, though Stiles could hear the worry in his voice.

Stiles shook his head, giving Derek a pointed look. “How about you guys walk with me? Just to give you some more time.” Derek gave him a glare, but Stiles could tell when he finally nodded that he seemed begrudgingly grateful.

~

Stiles wanted to ask Derek what the situation was about that night in the grocery store, but he didn’t want to just go up to the man and start asking him things that weren’t his business. He put the night aside for almost a week until one day, the problem followed him to work.

Stiles was sitting with Erica having lunch at her desk instead of taking off for lunch when the Sheriff’s office door opened and out came the old man who had looked at Derek, as well as one of the middle-aged men that had been in the group of suspicious people. Stiles frowned when the old man spoke up, “Alright, Sheriff, you just let us know if there are any strange animal attacks start happening. The beast we’re tracking came this way so we hope to catch it before it moves on.”

John shook the man’s hand. “Like I said, we haven’t had any yet but if the cougar takes out a deer near town we’ll definitely call you up and get you in touch with animal control.”

“Thank you, Sheriff,” the younger of the two said, shaking his hand.

John nodded. “Not a problem, Mr. Argent,” he said, walking the two men out to the front room before coming back. Erica and Stiles shared a look, clearly trying to remember why that name sounded familiar, before Stiles jerked.

Kate Argent,” he whispered and Erica nodded in understanding.

“Maybe the in-laws came to visit?” she asked. Stiles thought about the night at the grocery store and dread filled his stomach.

Stiles jumped up as soon as his father went to his office and headed in after him. He shut the door and walked over. “Who is Mr. Argent and what did he want?” he asked in a low voice.

John raised an eyebrow as he sat down. “Those two?” he asked, nodding at the door. “Gerard Argent and his son Chris.” He shook his head. “They’re hunters just coming through. They used to live around here and they hunt animals that have gone dangerous. They’re after a cougar that’s been heading outside of its territory and attacking pets and getting into people’s yards. Said it might be rabid and they don’t want it to attack a human.” He shuffled some papers and shrugged. “They were just asking if we’d had any reports. That’s all. Why do you wanna know?” he asked suspiciously.

Stiles sat down across from the desk and crossed his arms, thinking. “Something’s just off,” he said, then looked up. “A few nights ago Derek Hale came up to me with his daughter looking really spooked and asked me to just stand there talking to them. I was in uniform so I worried maybe something was wrong. A minute later, a group of at least six men came around the end of the aisle and Derek looked like he was trying his hardest to be invisible.”

“Stiles, what does this have to do with Gerard Argent?” John asked with a sigh.

Stiles waved a hand. “That’s just it, he was leading the group and he was the only one that looked at us. He looked at Derek with this really evil looking expression. The other dude, his son, he was in the group too.”

John shrugged. “Maybe Hale just didn’t want to talk to them?”

“It seemed more like he was afraid of them,” Stiles argued. He took a breath and bit his lip. “You mentioned Kate Argent was from here. She related to them?”

John raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, she’s Gerard’s daughter. Didn’t you say she was in prison?”

Stiles nodded. “For murdering Derek’s sister,” he said and John made a face.

“Well damn, no wonder Derek didn’t want to run into them.” He rolled his eyes. “Stiles, if your sister was murdered, would you want to talk to her brother and father-“

“Kate Argent is Lauren Hale’s mother,” Stiles interrupted. “Why would Derek seem afraid of his kid’s grandfather and uncle?”

John hummed, clearly thinking. “Maybe a custody battle? You never know, Stiles. There are a dozen reasons for them to not get along.”

Stiles narrowed his eyes. “Good enough ones that he’d feel worried enough to come strike up a conversation with a uniformed deputy for the safety?” He flapped a hand. “And really, what are the chances that just a few months after Derek comes back into Beacon Hills the other relatives of his child who clearly scare him would happen to wander into town looking for a wild cougar that we haven’t had any reports of being spotted?”

John sighed. “Okay, it’s suspicious, but most likely it’s nothing. Maybe they want to be involved in the little girl’s life and Hale doesn’t want them there? It’s not like they’re dangerous.”

Stiles sighed, rubbing at his face. “I guess you’re right, but I keep getting stuck on the fact that the family of the woman who killed Derek’s sister are the same people that Derek looked afraid of. Especially when the only one to even glance at Derek was the old man and none of them glanced at Lauren.”

John smirked. “So, since when is that a thing?” he asked and Stiles frowned. “You, hanging out with Derek Hale and his daughter enough to know that kinda information?”

Stiles spluttered. “DAD! I’m not- that’s- What do you even-“

John’s smirk slid off and he narrowed his eyes. “Otherwise, that means you were misusing our resources to stalk a guy.”

Stiles fixed a smile on his face. “Derek’s daughter really likes me so we spent an afternoon shopping one weekend,” he said quickly, scrambling up from the chair. “Good talk, bye!” he squeaked, rushing out of the office.

~

Stiles got distracted from thinking about the Hales or the Argents by a sudden onset of reports of trespassers with strange lights in the woods at night all around town. He and Erica were going out to investigate at least two calls every week from neighborhoods all over the place. Stiles had three reports in one week of people hearing loud explosions in the forests around Beacon Hills. It was more than a little disconcerting to the Sheriff’s Department.

They took turns searching the woods at night in teams. Some teams were on ATVs, some were on foot in full silence, and some of them were with tracking dogs. Stiles heard one of the explosions while out with one of the teams with dogs, but by the time they got to the area where the explosion came from, there was nothing left but the faint scent of gunpowder in the air. Back at the station, Stiles, Erica, Deputy Boyd, Deputy Barnes, and Deputy Walker sat around eating late night Chinese and discussing the gunpowder scent along with the explosion.

Stiles waved a chopstick. “I’m telling you, it’s poachers. There are fewer bears this year than ever before. Poachers are out there killing them off.”

Erica hummed. “Personally, I think it’s teenagers.” She pointed at Stiles with the toe of the boot she had up on the table. “I remember senior year. You and Danny Mahealani got drunk at Lydia Martin’s birthday party and talked too loudly about wondering if you could build remotely timed fireworks of your own and then she helped you blow up half her back patio because in his drunken state, Danny primed two charges, not just one.”

Stiles groaned, hiding his face. “Don’t remind me.” He sighed. “And to think. Five years later and look at where the three of us ended up. I’m enforcing the law instead of breaking it, Danny’s a consultant for various security companies, and Lydia is getting her fourth doctorate.” He made a halfhearted fist pump. “I’m still the single one with the least impressive resume.”

“Well you know what they say,” Barnes said, poking at Stiles with his fork. “The kids breaking the law often end up in law enforcement.” He nodded at Erica and Boyd. “Look at Reyes and Boyd. I busted their asses so many times when you all were in high school,” he said and Erica grinned.

“Last time you got me, I had hotwired Stiles’s jeep,” she said, and Stiles laughed at the memory.

“Man, I never did ask why the hell you stole my jeep instead of Jackson Whitmore’s Porsche,” he said and Erica smirked at Stiles.

“Cause I had a huge crush on you,” she said and Stiles choked on his noodles, making her laugh. “It’s true! I thought you were really cute and funny and smart, but you weren’t a bully like a lot of the cute and funny boys,” she teased.

Stiles sighed dramatically. “Damn, just think! If I’d known, we could’ve had kids by now!” he said, earning laughs. “But no really, I thought you and Boyd had been dating since like… birth.”

Boyd shook his head. “We didn’t get together until… sophomore year? Junior year? I don’t know,” he said, and Erica shoved at him.

“Wow, great job there, don’t even know how long we’ve been together,” she said flatly, the paused. “Well shit, I don’t remember when we got together,” she realized, and Walker laughed at her.

“Girl, if my husband didn’t remember how long we’d been together I’d be pissed!” she said and Erica shrugged.

“We were bad kids. We spent more time drinking and breaking the law than making out.” She pointed at Boyd. “I do know we’ve been together almost eight years.”

Walker cooed. “Awww it’s so sweet to see high school sweethearts make it,” she said, earning a bashful eye roll from Boyd. “What about you, Stiles? You seeing anybody recently?”

Stiles sighed dramatically. “Alas, my heart is still searching,” he said dramatically. He pouted at Erica. “Share your sexy husband?” he asked and she snorted.

“Get your own big, sweet, sexy husband,” she said and Stiles smirked.

“Oh if only.” He sighed. “The eight months I dated Danny in high school and before he went off to college was the longest relationship I’ve ever had. The ladies and gentlemen just can’t handle dating an officer of the law around here,” he said with a dramatic shrug.

Erica batted her eyelashes. “And not all of us can marry our high school sweetheart-“

Stiles snorted. “Danny wasn’t a ‘high school sweetheart’, he was just really nice and had bad luck with men and I treated him well. It wasn’t love, it was just friends who got a little closer than usual.” He pointed at her. “I’ll have you know, we still hang out at least once every month cause he’s an awesome friend.”

Erica shrugged. “I don’t really have exes. I have people I led on when I was totally head over heels in love with Boyd but didn’t want to risk him not liking me,” she said and Stiles let out a loud ‘awwwww’ at the smile Boyd sent his wife.

“Eurgh, you make me sick. You’re still disgusting like you were as teenagers,” he said.

Erica smirked. “Jealous?”

Stiles sighed. “Extremely,” he said, pouting. “Although, I do get to say that, in high school, I dated the hottest dude in school. It’s just since then I’ve had trouble finding someone who isn’t insane.”

Boyd gave him a smug look. “You should’ve dated Lahey before your stepmom adopted him,” he said and Stiles scoffed.

“I wish Melissa McCall was my stepmom,” he grunted. “Scott and I have been trying to set her and my dad up for nearly seven years now. They just won’t freaking bite,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s madness. Neither of them have done more than a date here or there in all these years but they just won’t get it together!”

Stiles jumped when his father’s voice interrupted. “Stiles! You telling them how you keep trying to set me up with Scott’s mom?” he asked from his office door and Stiles shot him a glare. John just smirked. “I keep telling you, Kid, Melissa’s a lovely woman, there’s just nothing there.” He nodded to Stiles’s desk. “Anyways, Isaac’s on the phone. He said he needed to talk to you about a problem at the house.”

Stiles wheeled back over to his desk without standing up and grabbed his phone, pressing the flashing light. “Yeah, dude?” he asked.

“Stiles! Oh my God, Stiles, I think there is a hurt dog in the woods behind the house and Scott isn’t home and I would go out there, but I heard gunshots so I don’t want a hunter to mistake me for a deer!”

Stiles looked at the clock to see if anybody from animal control would be on call to get there before Scott would get home and go searching for the hurt dog, then cursed. “Crap.” He sighed. “Alright, look, I’ll be there in half an hour. I need to go requisition a spot light. I don’t need the hunters not seeing me if I carry a normal light,” he said. “How did you know there’s a dog there?”

“I heard howling. It isn’t a coyote because it’s too small of a howl,” Isaac explained. “I tried calling Scott, but he and the doctor must be busy.”

Stiles stood up, grabbing his jacket. “Alright, I’ll be there soon. Don’t go outside and get yourself shot,” he said as he hung up.

“Something wrong?” Erica asked, leaning back to look over.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Isaac says he heard a hurt dog in the woods behind the house but there are hunters hunting in there so he doesn’t want to go try and find it and get shot on accident.”

John frowned. “Hunters? At this time of night?” he asked, and Stiles shrugged.

“If I see anything, I’ll call the game warden. It’s definitely too dark for them to be shooting, that’s for sure,” he said. He grabbed his hat and passed his dad. “I’ll be on call if you need me,” he said and John nodded.

“Alright, just be careful,” he said, clapping Stiles’s shoulder as he passed him.

~

Stiles told Isaac to stay in the house as he trudged into the woods. He didn’t hear any gunshots or howling, but he went looking for sign anyhow. He heard some voices in the distance and started towards them. He heard the motors of ATVs and started to walk faster, hoping to stop the hunters and make them go away so that, if Stiles couldn’t find the dog in any reasonable amount of time, Scott at least wouldn’t get shot when he spent all night looking for the dog to try and help it – it was Scott’s thing, helping animals – at least.

Stiles was stopped just as he saw lights in the distance by the sound of a soft whimpering, sniffling sound to his left. He stopped in his tracks and turned his light. It sounded almost like a puppy at first and Stiles really hoped it wasn’t a hurt puppy. However, as he crested the top of a little ditch, what he saw at the bottom made his heart stop.

It looked like a little girl crying.

Stiles stumbled down the ditch, sliding on loose leaves. “Oh God, are you okay?! Are- Lauren?” he asked, recognizing her hair. “Lauren, is that you?” he asked, only to yelp and fall back when the girl turned to face him. Her eyes were gold, her face was twisted in a horrifying manner, and the hands rubbing at her face had long, terrifying looking claws. “Oh my God, holy HELL!” Stiles cried, only to slap a hand over his mouth when he heard the people in the distance start whistling and coming his way.

“Stiles?” she asked in a tiny little voice and Stiles knew immediately that it was, indeed, Lauren Hale. Even with her face looking different, he knew it was her. “Stiles! You gotta help me!” she cried, scrambling towards him, almost like an ape on her hands and feet. “Stiles, they’re gonna get me! I gotta find Daddy, Stiles!” she cried, then burst into tears. “I want my daddy!”

Stiles heard the ATVs coming closer and saw lights, then looked back at Lauren and nodded. “Okay, stay hidden, okay?” he said, putting his finger to his lips. “Stay down here, hide behind those rocks,” he said, pointing to a little pile of boulders in the ravine with them. “I’m gonna go talk to these people and they might freak out if they see your… fangs,” he said, shaking his head. “Stay quiet,” he whispered, then scrambled up the side of the ravine. He got to the top and stumbled out into the clearing just in time to be dodged by an ATV.

He lifted his light and put his hand on his gun, undoing the clasp. “Hey, stop right there!” he said, walking up to the Ranger. “Do you folks not know this is a nature preserve? You can’t be joyriding at night out here,” he started.

His light hit the driver and he recognized the younger of the two Argent men. He held up a hand. “Sorry, Deputy, but we’re hunters.”

Stiles narrowed his eyes. “It’s awfully late at night. I’m pretty sure the game warden would have something to say about that.”

“You misunderstand,” a voice said and Stiles turned his light to the man sitting in the front beside Chris Argent. Stiles recognized Gerard Argent automatically. “We spoke to the sheriff about a wild cougar we’re after. He gave the go ahead to try and take it down before it started attacking here.”

Stiles narrowed his eyes. “I know all about that, but I also know there haven’t been any strange attacks. I do know, however, that something’s scaring off the bears. It’s probably poachers,” he said, shooting them both a look. “You wouldn’t know anything about poaching, would you, Men Who Hunt In The Middle Of The Night?”

“Look, we’re just doing our jobs-“

“And I’m doing mine,” Stiles cut him off.

A third voice startled Stiles, who hadn’t seen anybody in the back. “Awww, don’t be like that, Dad.” Stiles lifted his light and his blood ran cold when he saw a woman slipping out of the back and walking around. He knew automatically who she had to be, calling Gerard Argent ‘dad’. “This cop’s just doing his job,” she said, walking around to face Stiles. “My my, do cute cops grow on trees or what?” she said, smirking at him. “Now, I know how this looks, but we really are just doing our job, Adorable-“

Stiles held up a hand. “Ma’am, first off, you’re still breaking the law no matter what,” he said, then shot her a look. “And trust me, honey, you’re barking up the wrong tree,” he said, nodding at the ATV. “You three get out of here before I call the game warden and let them come check your hunting permits,” he said and the smile fell off the woman’s face, replaced with an angry look.

“Well then,” she said, turning on her heel, going to hop in the back.

“Now go home and resume your hunt some other place and some other time,” Stiles ordered, then stepped aside, watching them turn around and drive away until he could only hear the motor in the distance.

Stiles immediately rushed back to the ditch, sliding down. “Lauren?!” he hissed, stumbling over, only to deflate some when a little head popped up over the rocks.

“Are they gone?” she asked, scrambling over the rocks on all fours, only walking upright when she got back to him.

Stiles looked at her and then began to do the math. Fangs, claws, twisted face, the small howl Isaac had heard, and ‘wild animal’ hunters who happened to be the mother, uncle, and grandfather of the very child in front of his eyes. It didn’t add up to anything good at all. “Sweetie,” he whispered, kneeling down. “Can you turn back?” he asked, gesturing to her face. “I need to take you somewhere safe, but I can’t- People wouldn’t-“

She nodded solemnly. “Daddy says you’re not supposed to show anybody your wolf,” she said softly. Stiles watched as her face changed back and her hands went back to normal. “I’m sorry if I scared you,” she said and Stiles laughed weakly.

“Oh Sweetie I’m not scared of you,” he said, pulling her into his arms.

It was only on the walk back home that he realized that he was telling the truth.

When Stiles got home, he carried Lauren into the house and was relieved that Isaac seemed to be asleep in his room. He took her to the kitchen to clean her up some and pulled out his phone. “Lauren, do you know your daddy’s number?” he asked and she pouted, then shook her head. “Okay,” he said, pulling at his hair. “Lauren, I need you to tell me exactly what happened, okay?”

Lauren whimpered, wiping at her eyes. “Daddy got scared and- and he made me stay inside while he went to look outside, but- but then he ran back inside and told me to run out the back door and hide and then he ran out the front door and howled real loud and I ran the other way and hid, but I heard him howling more and more then I heard loud noises and scary men yelling and I ran away and- and I lost daddy!” she cried. “I want my daddy!” she sobbed, kicking slightly. “I want my daddy, I want my DADDY!”

Stiles shushed her, or tried too, but yelped when her face popped back into a wolf-like face and her claws grew out again. “Shhh it’s okay, it’s okay, Lauren,” he said, careful of her claws. “It’s all going to be okay, I promise.” He picked up his phone and walked into the next room to call Erica.

After a ring she answered quickly. “Stiles? You need something?” she asked worriedly. “I thought you were going off shift after you finished up at home-“

“Erica, I can’t explain and I am sorry, but I need Derek Hale’s number. Did he give it to you when you asked him questions about Lauren disappearing on him?” he asked softly.

There was a pause and Erica came back. “Yeah, I got it right here, but what could you possibly-“

“I can’t talk now, maybe later, just give it to me,” Stiles said, then memorized the number. “Thanks,” he said and hung up, typing in the number quickly. The phone only rang twice before it was answered.

“You bastard! You evil fucking bastard! Give me back my daughter you stupid piece of-“

“Whoa, whoa, hey, Derek!” Stiles cut him off. “Derek, it’s me, Stiles-“

“Stiles? How did you- what are you calling me at- fuck it, I don’t have time, not-“

Stiles cut him off. “I have Lauren, she’s safe.” He took a breath at Derek’s silence. “Derek… Derek, I don’t know what the hell is going on, I don’t know what the hell you are, and I don’t know why I had to scare predator hunters away to get Lauren home safely, but all I know is I came home to see about a possible hurt dog in the woods behind my house and found Lauren about a quarter of a mile in only about three minutes before having to run off the cougar hunting father-son duo that have showed up in town and now I’ve got a terrified four year old on my hands because she can’t find her dad and- OH YEAH!” he snapped. “That four year old is a fucking wolf girl!” he hissed.

“Shit,” Derek whispered and then the line went dead.

~

Stiles was holding Lauren while she cried, rocking her in an attempt to keep her quiet to keep from waking up Isaac when headlights lit up the front window and tires squealed outside. Lauren looked up, sniffing suddenly before squealing. “DADDY!”

Stiles carried her on his hip to the door and opened it just in time for Derek to stumble up the steps. “Lauren!” he choked out and Stiles handed her over before Derek could even grab for her. Stiles felt his chest tighten when he saw tears slipping down Derek’s cheeks as he clung to his crying daughter. “It’s okay, it’s okay Pup, I promise,” he growled. “I’m fine, you’re fine, it’s all okay,” he kept repeating, rocking her. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” he whispered, blinking up at Stiles. “I- this- we-“

Stiles nodded for him to come inside. “You two can crash here for the night,” he said, making it clear it wasn’t a request at all.

Derek looked uneasy, but nodded. “Thank you,” he muttered, passing him with Lauren held tight in his arms.

~

Stiles made grilled cheese sandwiches and got Lauren a glass of milk with hers, then sat down across from her and Derek. “You should eat some,” he said to Derek, sliding the plate towards him. “You’ve had a rough night too,” he said, giving him a small smile before looking back to Lauren, who was eating her sandwich like she was starving. Derek picked at one, eating a few bites, but mostly he just sat with his chin on Lauren’s head, holding her close like he was afraid someone would take her away the second he let go of her. Stiles did the dishes after Lauren finished and when he came back, Derek was on the couch, rocking Lauren as she slept in his arms. Stiles stood in the doorway for a moment, then went upstairs. He came back with a blanket and gestured for Derek to lay her down. He gave Derek the blanket and Derek tucked Lauren in carefully. He kissed her face and rubbed his cheek over her head before standing up to follow Stiles back into the kitchen.

Stiles finally took off his belt and his jacket, laying them on the counter behind him before turning to face Derek. “I need to know what happened tonight, Derek,” he said softly. “I’ve got a pretty good idea but I need the truth.”

Derek eyed him guardedly. “How do I know I can trust you?” he asked and Stiles smiled weakly.

“How about the fact I hid a four year old with claws when I heard people coming because I didn’t want her to get hurt? I didn’t know what the hell she is. I still only have crazy ideas about it,” he admitted. “But believe me when I say I’d never let that little girl get hurt,” he said seriously. He nodded to Derek. “And that means protecting you, too. She needs her father.”

Derek deflated some, leaning against the counter. “Did Lauren say anything?” he asked.

Stiles nodded. “She said you went outside then came in and told her to run while you ran the other way. She said she got scared and got lost. It’s lucky she just went general downhill again towards here.”

“Did she say what we are?” Derek asked, and Stiles hesitated.

“No but I’ve got a good idea,” he said, looking at him. “She had claws and fangs and she howled. I’m thinking wolves?”

Derek nodded. “Werewolves,” he confirmed.

Stiles nodded. “Did you bite her to make her one?” he asked and Derek rolled his eyes.

“We’re born this way,” he said, then hesitated. “Although you can be bitten and turned. I just didn’t. She was born this way. I was born this way. Most of my family was born this way,” he explained. “I had a few human cousins, but most of us were born werewolves.”

Stiles paled. “Shit- that- was it-“

Derek nodded, face dark. “The fire was to kill us,” he said and Stiles shook his head.

“Gerard Argent?” he asked, and Derek shrugged.

“Probably? I don’t know,” he admitted. He tugged at his short hair. “I don’t know how-“

“They lived here,” Stiles said and Derek’s head popped up, eyes wide. Stiles winced. “You didn’t know that? The Argents... they lived in Beacon Hills.” He tapped the counter. “It’s just guessing, but rational sense suggests that Gerard Argent and his buddies burned down the Hale House and then when you and your sister got away, his psycho daughter went after you two.” He shrugged. “I’m guessing she was using you to get close enough to kill you both and then when she got pregnant, she figured she’d wait it out. Maybe she didn’t want to risk homicide while pregnant,” he said, making a face. “Maybe she thought Lauren would be a werewolf too and wanted to-“ He stopped and Derek put his face in his hands.

“She did. I didn’t know they were from here, and I didn’t know about the fire until earlier,” he admitted and Stiles’s heart dropped. He swallowed hard, looking up. “But I knew when she tried to kill us that she had waited until she had the baby because if it was a werewolf, she wanted to get all three of us in one go,” he said in a tight, angry voice. “Lauren was only a few months old when she showed signs and two weeks later, Kate cut the brake lines on Laura’s car when she was coming to pick me and Lauren up for Lauren’s checkup. She just- the lines bled faster than Kate had expected and Laura died on the way to get us. She came after me and told me what all happened but the police got there to arrest her before she could do more than fight me.”

Stiles reached out and grabbed his hand, squeezing. “Derek, when you say you found out about the fire ‘earlier’…”

Derek flinched, glancing at Lauren. “I knew the Argents were Kate’s family when they came into town so I got really nervous. I’ve been on high alert since. I heard them coming through the woods and went outside to see who it was, thinking there were just a few of them, but there weren’t just a few,” he said in a frightened tone. “There were easily a dozen men. I ran in and told Lauren to run out the back door and I changed and led them away from the house so she could get away. While they were tracking me, Gerard Argent kept shouting out things and one of them was ‘I’ll burn you like the rest of them’.”

Stiles flinched. “Jesus Christ,” he muttered. “That fire wasn’t even ruled an arson was it?”

Derek shook his head. “I didn’t know it was but that- it makes more sense now. It makes sense why- why nobody got away.” He looked at the hand Stiles was still holding, then looked up.

Stiles blushed. “I’m sorry, I just-“ He started to pull his hand away but Derek shook his head, squeezing it.

“It’s okay,” he said, looking up at Stiles’s eyes searchingly. “Why are you okay with this?” he asked with narrowed eyes. “We’re monsters. How are you not afraid right now?”

Stiles glared. “You’re not monsters,” he chastised. “The Argents are monsters, Derek. You’re just a person. Your daughter is just a child.” He shook his head. “Why would I be afraid of you?”

Derek rolled his eyes. “You saw her teeth and claws, imagine mine,” he said with a pointed look. “I could kill you right here, right now, before you could even glance at the gun over there, and even if you did shoot me, I’d just heal,” he said in a slightly predatory tone.

Stiles, just grinned. “Yeah, but you wouldn’t cause it would make Lauren sad,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows at Derek. “I know your weakness, and she’s got big green eyes and the cutest little claws ever.”

Derek actually laughed. “You’re insane! Stiles, what the hell? I’m a horror-movie monster. How aren’t you afraid?”

Stiles just shook his head firmly, tightening his hold on Derek’s hand. “You’re a person and my job is to protect people.” He tilted his head. “Would you really just heal if I shot you?”

Derek nodded, an amused tilt to his lips. “Unless it was a wolfs bane bullet, then yeah. I’ll just heal. It’ll hurt like hell, but I’d just heal.”

Stiles bit his lip, eyeing Derek closely. “Will you show me your face? You know, the whole…” He flailed his free hand for a second then took both hands back and made fangs and went ‘grrrr’.

Derek rolled his eyes at Stiles, but nodded. “Don’t scream,” was his only warning before he shifted.

Stiles squeaked some, stumbling back a little, more from surprise than anything, as Derek’s face grew kinda bumpy, his eyes turned red, his fangs grew out. “Wow, yeah, way scarier than Lauren’s,” he said, though he stepped closer. “Can I?” he asked, raising a hand absently. Derek hesitated, but nodded. Stiles reached out and touched Derek’s face. His skin felt a little rougher, more like a hand than a face. His scruff was more like a beard and he had sideburns like an Elvis impersonator. “Dude, you totally look like you stepped out of the seventies,” he teased, his eyes meeting Derek’s. It was hypnotic. They were a deep red, almost like blood instead of pigments in his irises. “Why are yours red when Lauren’s are gold?” he asked softly, finger swiping below Derek’s eye across one of his amazing cheekbones.

“I’m her alpha,” Derek said, voice a little deeper than usual. “The leader is called the alpha. The rest of the wolves in a pack are betas. Laura was the alpha, but when she died I became the alpha.”

Stiles nodded. “Is it just you and Lauren?” he asked, frowning.

Derek nodded. “It’s safer. I’m not as strong as I could be with a pack and it’s a fight every full moon because my instincts tell me to bite people, but I’m good enough like this.”

Stiles nodded, then blushed when he realized he was still holding Derek’s face. “Oh, sorry,” he said, stepping back, letting his hands drop. “I get distracted,” he defended with an innocent shrug.

Derek changed his face back, a small smile on his lips. “You’re very strange,” he said, and Stiles glowered playfully. “I don’t mean it in a bad way… but you are weird,” he said pointedly.

Stiles laughed tiredly. “You have no idea, Derek.” He hesitated. “Shit, I didn’t even ask, but why the hell is Kate Argent out of prison already?” he asked. “I know she was in prison for manslaughter one. It’s been less than four years-“

Derek’s head snapped up. “What do you mean she’s out?!” he asked.

Stiles frowned. “Tonight? Wait, you didn’t see her?” he asked and Derek paled.

“Oh God, that’s why they came back now,” he said, then turned to look into the living room. “Shit, shit, shit, she’s here?!” he asked.

Stiles grabbed his shoulders. “Hey, hey, Derek.” He pulled him around and looked him in the eyes. “Relax, okay? She’s not going to get to you. I promise.”

Derek turned to him. “Stiles she’s insane!” he hissed. “She’ll do anything to kill us! Fuck, she’ll try to get to Lauren.”

Stiles shook him slightly. “Derek, calm down.” He met his eyes. “I promise, it’s okay. I’m a sheriff’s deputy. Trust me, nobody is going to get away with going after you and Lauren.”

Derek snarled. “And what am I going to do?! Report that my psychotic ex and her family are trying to kill me and my daughter because we’re werewolves?!”

“No, but you can file a restraining order,” Stiles said calmly, resting his hands on Derek’s upper arms. “She just got out of prison for a class B felony. She killed your sister. That’s grounds for a restraining order.” Derek started to interrupt and Stiles shut him up with a glare. “Then, you let me get a friend to come install a security system at your house. You keep me and 9-1-1 on speed dial. If they come for you, you’ll be known around the station to be at-risk, so nobody will hesitate to rush to your house if they come for you again. The advanced warning from the security system will give you more time for a car to get there before they can do anything to you or Lauren. They can’t do jack shit if they go to prison for attempting to break into your house with weapons like that.” He rubbed at Derek’s arms. “You’ll be okay. Trust me, my dad’s already a little suspicious after I told him about how you reacted in the grocery store that day around the father of the woman who killed your sister.”

Derek frowned. “Your dad?”

Stiles nodded. “He’s the Sheriff,” he said, then tipped his head. “Family business, I guess,” he said, and Derek nodded. Stiles squeezed his arms. “Just let me help you, okay?”

Derek nodded, looking less panicky. “Alright,” he said, then shook his head with a small smile. “I still think you’re crazy,” he said.

Stiles shrugged. “I’ve been called that before,” he said, then nodded at the door. “C’mon, you can sleep with Lauren so you won’t worry about her.”

Derek nodded, then caught Stile’s wrist when he passed him. “Thank you,” he said softly.

Stiles just rolled his eyes. “Oh my God, stop it, is it crazy for someone to want to help you?” he asked, but Derek actually smiled.

“It kind of is,” he said and Stiles’s heart flipped at the warm look in Derek’s eyes.

~

The next morning, Stiles woke Derek and Lauren early to get out before Scott or Isaac woke up and wanted an explanation. Derek and Lauren followed him to the station and came in to wait with him for his father to get in. He didn’t want to talk about the situation with anybody else before he and Derek spoke to the Sheriff himself. Erica wasn’t in yet, but Boyd was and almost immediately, he came over and knelt down beside Lauren to talk to her.

“Hey there,” he said, smiling at her. “What’s your name?”

Lauren shot Derek a look and Derek nodded to her. She turned and smiled. “I’m Lauren,” she said and Boyd shook her hand.

“Hi Lauren, my name is Vernon, but most people call me Boyd,” he said and Stiles dramatically clasped at his chest.

“Oh my God,” he fake whispered. “Boyd never says his actual name!” Derek shot him an amused look, but watched Lauren talking with Boyd for a little while before Lauren said she was hungry and Stiles pointed Derek to the break room so he could find her something to eat. As soon as they were gone, Stiles turned on Boyd. “You! You’re good with kids?!” he asked in surprise.

Boyd rolled his eyes, but shrugged. “Kids are honest and don’t know how to stab you in the back yet. They’re easier to deal with than adults.”

Stiles grinned. “Sooo when are you and my partner having kids then?” he asked and Boyd chuckled as he headed over to his desk. “No really, you’re not too young still! Probably about as old as Derek was when his kid was born.”

Boyd sighed as he leaned back in his chair. “Does my wife strike you as the maternal type?” he asked and Stiles tried to imagine Erica with a baby.

He hummed, tapping his chin. “Well, you could always quit your job and be a stay at home father?” he suggested. “Maybe you should start with a dog for now,” he added, earning a grin.

“Why do we need a dog?” Erica asked, coming in with a bag and a tray of coffees. She handed one to Stiles, then carried one over to Boyd. “Do you want a dog?” she asked Boyd curiously.

Boyd shrugged. “We’ve got a snake already, we don’t need a dog really,” he said, tipping his head at Stiles. “Stiles was suggesting I could quit my job and be a stay at home dad if we had kids.”

Erica smirked, walking over to her own desk on Stiles’s other side. “You two been talking out of school?” she asked and Stiles held up his hands.

“Boyd was just being adorable with Lauren and I never knew he liked kids so much before,” he said.

Erica shot him a look. “Boyd has like six younger siblings, of course he’s good with kids,” she said, then smiled. “We’ll have kids someday,” she said confidently. “Just not until I’m promoted high enough I don’t get to go out and tackle purse snatchers in my down time just for fun,” she said and Stiles snickered. “Plus, if we ever got a fun drug raid or anything, you can’t really fit a bulletproof vest over a pregnant belly so I’d be totally left out of the running in and making criminals piss themselves stuff.”

Stiles cackled. “Your violent side frightens me and I’m the one who used to blow things up for fun,” he confided, shaking his head. “It makes sense your first arrest on your record was for inciting a bar brawl.”

“Are we interrupting?” Stiles leaned back to look behind him at Derek, only to yelp and topple out of his chair when he came face to crotch with Derek.

Lauren giggled when Stiles flailed and jumped up quickly, cheeks flushed. “You’re funny, Stiles,” she said, and he gave her a ‘ta da’ pose.

Erica grinned and winked at Derek. “Well hey there, good lookin’,” she said, and Derek gave her a slightly alarmed look.

Stiles waved a hand dismissively. “She’s just messing with you,” he explained, then sat down in his newly righted chair as Derek and Lauren sat in the chairs beside his desk again. “Don’t worry, she’s all shameless flirting, no actual mauling,” he said and Derek gave him an amused look. Stiles bit back a grin when he realized what word he’d chosen.

“So last night you were hopelessly single,” Erica pointed out. “What gives?” she asked, gesturing to Derek.

Stiles flushed. “Wow, not whatever you’re thinking,” he said, subtly nodding at Lauren. “We’re just waiting on the Sheriff to get in so we can talk.”

She pouted. “Awww, I was hoping it was some ‘one-night-of-passion’ elopement deal. You’re no fun,” she said, poking he tongue out at him.

Stiles just shrugged. “Sorry Charlie, my love life is still horribly empty. The only men in my life are those toddlers I call friends who share a house with me and my dad.” He looked up and saw his father coming in, then narrowed his eyes when he saw him eyeing the box of donuts on the front desk. “Speaking of my dad,” he said, then stood up. “John Stilinski, if you eat that donut I’ll shoot you in the foot!” Stiles shouted halfway across the station. The Sheriff groaned, but pulled his hand away from the box, trudging into the main office space with a glare.

“You can be arrested for threatening to shoot a Sheriff, Deputy Stilinski,” he warned and Stiles just smirked.

“And a son could go home and raid the secret stash of bacon his father hides under the lettuce, Sheriff Stilinski,” he pointed out, then sobered some as he saw his dad glance at Derek. “We need to talk,” he said, then stood up.

Derek stood, then hesitated, looking down at Lauren. Boyd just rolled his chair over. “Hey Lauren, your dad needs to go talk with Stiles for a little while. You wanna draw with me?” he asked, grabbing for the legal pad on Stiles’s desk and a pen. Lauren nodded and took the pen, not even looking up when Derek followed Stiles towards the Sheriff’s office.

When they got inside, John shrugged off his jacket and slung it across the back of his chair before sitting. “Mr. Hale, I wasn’t expecting to see you again in here,” he said and Stiles sat down, gesturing for Derek to sit beside him. “Something wrong?” he asked.

Derek bit his lip, looking uneasy and Stiles reached out and laid a hand on his forearm comfortingly. Derek took a breath and let it out before speaking. “I need to get a restraining order against someone and- and Stiles said I should talk to you so it’s taken seriously,” he said, glancing at Stiles, who nodded supportively.

John looked at him, then leaned forward, nodding. “Okay, does this have anything to do with Gerard Argent and the run-in Stiles says you had at the grocery store?” he asked.

Derek cringed. “It does, but he’s not the problem,” he said, shuddering slightly.

Stiles slid his hand to the inside of Derek’s wrist and Derek slid his arm until he could take Stiles’s hand on his knee, holding his hand for strength. “It’s okay, Derek, he’ll understand,” he soothed.

John eyed their hands and shot Stiles a look, but didn’t bring it up. “Mr. Hale, I can’t help you if you can’t tell me what’s wrong.”

Derek nodded. “It’s Kate Argent. His daughter.” He nodded at the door. “She’s Lauren’s mother. My ex,” he muttered. “She’s here.”

John frowned. “Stiles said she was in prison.”

“She was,” Derek said. “She- she killed my sister,” he stressed. “I don’t know why she’s out already, it hasn’t even been four years, but she killed my sister and last night she came to my house.”

John nodded. “I understand that scared you, but it’s likely she just wanted to see her daughter. I don’t blame you for not wanting her around at all, but this isn’t a restraining order matter, it’s a custody matter-“

“No, you don’t understand,” Derek pushed on. “When she killed Laura, she intended to kill me and Lauren too,” he explained. “They only charged her with manslaughter for my sister’s death and didn’t even charge her for attempting to murder me and Lauren, but she cut her brake lines when she was coming to pick me and Lauren up. Kate wanted to kill all of us, Lauren included! And now that she’s out, she’s going to come after Lauren again. She could very easily be intending to kill us now and I can’t-“ He took a breath. “Lauren is all I have,” he said in a tight voice. “I can’t let her be hurt or lose me if Kate only wants me dead.”

John sat up, reaching for his pen. “If she threatened you, we can bring her in right away,” he offered, but Derek shook his head.

“I didn’t answer the door. I just took Lauren upstairs and stayed there until she left.” He bit his lip. “I don’t want that woman around my child. I don’t want her around me. I want to keep her away from me.”

Stiles squeezed his hand. “Dad, it’s serious,” he said gravely. “They stayed with me last night they were so scared of knowing she was back in town,” he lied.

John nodded. “Alright, I get that,” he said, then hesitated. “But this has to be more than coincidence. You and your sister left Beacon Hills just before the Argents did. You had a kid with Kate Argent. Kate killed your sister and went away for it. You come back and they show up a few months later,” he said, narrowing his eyes at Derek. “What else is there to it?”

Stiles and Derek shared a look Stiles took a breath. “Derek has reason to believe that- that Gerard Argent may have been behind the Hale Fire,” he said and Derek closed his eyes.

John froze, going a little pale. “How long have you thought this?”

Derek shook his head. “Just last night. Something- Something Kate said sounded like she came to New York and seduced me just to get close enough to ‘finish what my father started’ by killing me and my sister. I guess- I can only assume their family had some sort of argument with my family I didn’t know about. My mom was big in the community around here so it could’ve been anything. I mean, she got pregnant and waited until my daughter was born before trying to kill the last Hales,” he said, voice weak. “It can’t just be coincidence.”

John nodded and sighed. “But without any proof it’s just hearsay.” He rubbed at his eyes. “Alright, we’ll start with the restraining order. I’d also suggest getting yourself a dog or something to keep her from coming around the house regardless of the restraining order.”

Stiles nodded. “I’m calling in a favor and getting a good security system put in at Derek’s,” he said. “One with cameras so that if he sees anything suspicious on the property, he can call 9-1-1 before she even gets to the door.”

John nodded. “Good thinking,” he said, then turned to Derek. “I believe you, Son. Just look out for yourself and look out for your little girl, and if any of the Argents give you any trouble, you call. Don’t risk it, just call.”

Derek nodded, shoulders relaxing some. “You can bet your ass I will,” he said in relief. “I’ve lost too much for a dozen lifetimes. I am not losing my baby. I cannot lose my child.”

John glanced at Stiles, who swallowed hard, and nodded. “I know the feeling far too well,” he said to Derek before turning to his computer. “Let’s not take any longer than we have to,” he said simply, ignoring the way Stiles laced his fingers through Derek’s and stroked his thumb along the back of Derek’s hand.

~

After taking care of the restraining order, Derek and Lauren left, planning to meet Stiles for a late lunch since he and Erica had patrol duty. He and Erica parked to check speeds at an intersection and Stiles let her check the speeds while he called in his favor. “Danny Boy! How’s it goin’, my favorite genius if you don’t tell Lydia?” he asked as soon as Danny’s secretary connected him.

“What the hell do you want from me while I’m working, Stilinski?” he asked. “We’re not supposed to meet up for another two weeks.”

Stiles smiled. “So you know how you still owe me about a billion times for various favors?” he started and Danny groaned.

“Oh no, I’m not going to another wedding with you, I refuse to be your plus one anymore. I love you to death, Stiles, but my boyfriend let me do that one time. He’ll lose his shit if I play fake-boyfriend for you again and I really love this one, so I’m not letting you and your ‘don’t let them know I’m single’ issues mess it up,” he said right off the bat.

Stiles rolled his eyes, shooting Erica a look when she grinned at him. “Shockingly, I don’t need your beautiful face this time, buddy. I need you for legitimate purposes but I kinda need your expertise as soon as possible, as thorough as possible, and really freaking cheap.”

Danny hesitated. “Stiles…” His voice got soft and Stiles smiled, remembering one of the many reasons Danny was possibly the greatest human alive. “Stiles, you’re not in any trouble are you? Or your dad? If something’s wrong, you’d tell me, right?”

Stiles laughed. “You know I would, man. It’s not me or my dad,” he said. “You can’t let anybody know I told you the full story, but I’ve got this guy who has had some really bad shit happen to him and now, without the gory details, his ex who killed his sister is out of prison and she’s more than likely coming after him and their daughter because when she killed his sister she meant to kill him and the kid too,” he said and Danny gasped. “Last night she went after them and they ran away from the house to come stay with me. This morning he filed a restraining order since that’s all he can do with no proof she intends to harm them, not just try and see her kid. But my dad seems to believe us about the situation. And where you come in, is that I need a serious home security system so he’ll have advanced enough of a warning if she comes to try and hurt him or his daughter so that we can get there before anything bad happens.”

Danny whistled. “Damn, you weren’t kidding about a big deal.” Stiles heard typing. “So how thorough are we talking? I mostly just consult on existing security systems, you know.”

“Yeah, but you have the tech knowledge to install everything for me. I don’t trust anybody but you with this, Danny.” He lowered his voice. “This little girl is four, Danny. Lauren doesn’t have any family but her dad and I just- I can’t let either of them get hurt. Derek doesn’t deserve all this crap. He just wants to live his life and raise his daughter. I trust you enough to help me protect them.”

“I can clear the day after tomorrow,” Danny said. “I should have enough time to get my hands on basic window and door security devices and a few cameras aren’t hard to deal with. What kind of house are we talking about?”

Stiles hadn’t actually seen Derek’s house, but he had described it as ‘a smaller version’ of the house he grew up in, and Stiles had seen the ruins of the Hale House before Derek had it bulldozed to build his house. “A decent sized family home deep in the woods. Which, I know, makes it even harder to protect. And his ex has an ATV so just putting up a gate on the driveway won’t do much.”

“Shit,” Danny grumbled. “No fences and too much nature for motion sensors. We could try electric fence?”

“No, they could just climb over it and one day won’t be enough for a high fence that they couldn’t climb over,” Stiles said. “My dad suggested they get a dog, but he’s got a four year old so that’s too risky. I think cameras and motion flood lights are all we can do. I’m sure he won’t mind the false alarms from deer if it means his ex can’t even get to the door before he’s called me.”

Danny chuckled. “So instead of the police, he’s supposed to call you, huh?”

Stiles blushed. “Well, either one works, obviously, but I’d be faster than dispatch. He’d call, say ‘she’s here’, and I’d radio it in to the station on my way there. No details, no addresses, no finding the nearest car and waiting to see if it’s a legitimate report before calling backup. I mean, if my dad’s on duty he’ll send in backup automatically but he can’t work all the time.”

“STILES HAS A CRUSH!” Erica shouted at the phone and Stiles shoved her with a glare.

Danny just laughed. “I figured so. So, other than a target, who is this guy? How much of a crush is a crush, Stiles?”

Stiles groaned. “His name is Derek. I met him a while ago cause his daughter wandered off in the night and got lost and ended up in my back yard before he woke up to notice her gone and I took her in to the station. I’ve seen a bit of him since then because Lauren is kind of the coolest kid ever so whenever I see them in public, she always wants to come hang with me for a little while.”

“Awww, Stiles, you’re dating a single father!” he teased and Stiles huffed.

“I’m not dating him,” he said, then bit his lip. “I’m not even sure he likes me. Not even a ‘likes me like that’, but in general. I mean, you should see this guy, Danny.” He groaned. “Erica, explain to Danny how gorgeous Derek Hale is,” he said, holding out the phone.

Erica grinned. “So you know how stupidly out of Stiles’s league you were? Multiply your face and body times about ten and throw in a dark, brooding sort of thing that is only interrupted by ridiculously protective ‘Papa Bear’ mushiness for his tiny little mini-me daughter.”

Danny laughed. “Wow, so Stiles is screwed, huh?”

Stiles slumped in his seat. “Monumentally. He’s kind of an amazing father mixed with a male model only more rugged like a firefighter or something. Seriously, he cried a little when he got Lauren back in his arms after she was missing and it was this seriously moving and emotional moment that made me want to have his babies and I can’t actually have babies!”

Stiles just pouted while Erica and Danny both laughed at him until Danny hung up and Erica wiped tears from her eyes.

~

Stiles climbed out of his old jeep he didn’t drive often – choosing to drive his squad car most days – and stood, waiting on Danny to pull up beside him. When Danny got out, he whistled at the house in front of them. “Wow, this is nice to be back in the woods like this,” he said, and Stiles had to agree.

“You should’ve seen the mansion before,” he said, thinking back to the old Hale House. “Derek’s family home was massive, dude. Three stories tall, huge windows, big front porch. I saw it when I was a kid. I’d run around in the woods with Scott,” he explained.

Danny smiled at him in amusement. “Trespassing as a child already,” he teased, elbowing Stiles. “C’mon, let’s get to work,” he said, and Stiles started up towards the porch.

Before Stiles could knock, the door opened and Lauren ran out. “STILES!” she cried, hugging him around the legs. She looked up at Danny then beamed. “Oooh!” She turned to Stiles and tugged on his shirt until he leaned down some. “Stiles, he’s pretty!” she whispered not at all quietly. Stiles grinned at Danny, who just blushed slightly.

“Lauren, this is my friend Danny.” He scooped her up and turned to Danny. “Danny, this is my very special little friend, Lauren Hale.”

“Lauren!” an exasperated cry came from just inside the house and Stiles grinned.

“And that would be her father,” he said, nudging the door open just as Derek reached out for it. “Say you’re sorry, Lauren,” he said, giving her a stern look.

Lauren rolled her eyes at her dad’s glare. “It was just Stiles,” she said matter-of-factly and Stiles saw Danny bite back a laugh.

Derek just let his head thump against the door. “Lauren, oh my God.” He took her from Stiles, holding her out in front of him like it was easy to hold a forty pound child in the air with his arms straight out. “Pup, remember that there are some bad people who are trying to get you? What if it had been a bad person?” he asked and she just frowned.

“Oh. But… it was just Stiles!” she said, then waved a hand at them. “And his pretty friend, Danny!”

Danny smiled bashfully but held out his hand to Derek after he put Lauren down. “Hi, I’m Danny Mahealani,” he introduced himself.

Derek shook his hand, looking tense still. Stiles figured he didn’t like having a stranger’s scent in his home. “Derek Hale,” he said, then tapped Lauren’s head. “Go play, Pup. Daddy’s got to talk grown-up things. You’ll get bored.”

Lauren seemed suspicious – Stiles suspected she was way too smart for her age – but skipped off into the next room over. Stiles just grinned. “Sorry she just ran outside after me,” he said and Derek snorted.

“She’s just a Hale,” he dismissed. “Even I can admit we are stubborn asses.” He turned to Danny. “So, what are we looking at?”

Danny glanced around. “Well, the house is new enough so a security system won’t be too hard to install. The doors and windows are all modern so the locks will be easier to wire up. Our biggest concern is going to be outdoor surveillance,” he explained. “Back in the woods, there’s too much nature for motion sensors. I’d suggest definitely motion activated floodlights though. Cameras too, so that if you have to call the police and your intruders escape, there’s proof to go on.”

Stiles nodded. “And calling the police is only an actual necessity for if you see them outside. The second someone sets off the alarm, it automatically goes to dispatch. This is why you call me,” he stressed. “I live a lot closer so if I’m home, I’ll get here before you need to wait on someone to get here from town.”

Danny smirked at Stiles. “Yes, because Barney Fife here is totally gonna scare off dangerous intruders,” he deadpanned.

Stiles elbowed him. “Hey, you totally think my uniform’s sexy,” he teased and Danny wiggled his eyebrows.

“Alright, Stripper Cop, come help me with my stuff,” he said, turning to head back out to the car.

Stiles gave Derek an apologetic smile. “Sorry, Danny’s an old friend, joking is our thing.”

Derek nodded, hands in his pockets, his entire stance screaming ‘defensive’. “So you and Danny…?”

Stiles blushed when he realized what Derek was asking. “Oh that ships done sailed,” he said, ducking his eyes. “Danny was my first boyfriend back in high school. Still the longest relationship I ever had,” he said, making a face. “Pathetic, huh?” He turned to head out to help Danny get his gear.

With his back turned, he missed the relief that passed over Derek’s face as he deflated some and went to go check on Lauren.

~

“So,” Danny asked Derek, who was holding a box of supplies while Danny stood on a ladder to install a camera and motion activated floodlight on the corner of the house. “How did you meet Stiles?” he asked, reaching into the box for a screw.

Derek shrugged. “Lauren got out of the house in the middle of the night and wandered off and ended up in his back yard or something like that. By the time I woke up and she wasn’t home, he had already taken her to the sheriff’s station. She really likes him so every time we’ve seen him in public since then, Lauren took off and ran to hang out with Stiles.”

Danny smiled, shaking his head. “Stiles and children, man. He’s like a big kid himself so he gets along with them so well.” He sighed, smiling as he fit grabbed the power drill. “He’s gonna make a hell of a husband one day.”

Derek raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t realize he was looking for a wife,” he said, then frowned at Danny. “Or do you mean for you?”

Danny snorted. “Oh no, we tried that one and it was not what either of us needed.”

“Why not? His partner made a crack about him being single but I’ve never noticed anything wrong with him,” Derek said almost defensively.

Danny looked down at him, leaning on the top of the ladder with a knowing smirk. “Stiles is a very special guy. He’s one of my oldest and best friends and I’ll love him to death until the day I die, but I know from experience dating Stiles is like riding a bullet train – and no I don’t mean that in a dirty way – in that he is loud, jumps from place to place with next to no stopping him, and even if he’s insanely reliable, he’s always trying to guide you along.” Danny sighed. “He’s a great guy, and maybe the right person could handle him, but I think the only reason he and I lasted so long is because we were really good friends and didn’t want to hurt one another by breaking it off until it became clear it was just friendship and sex, no feelings involved.” He smiled sadly. “Stiles is the kind of person who never sits still, wants to take care of everything for whoever he’s with, and is hyper and childish all the time. He’ll be a great husband because whoever he marries will have a veritable house-husband who will cook, clean, and, if need be, defend them to hell and back and will never be bored. It’s just going to take finding someone really special to be able to handle being smothered.”

Derek shrugged. “He just seems… nurturing. Not oppressive. I mean, he barely knows me and Lauren but he’s risked so much to help us. Even with some really scary truths, he didn’t back down, just started trying to plan how to help me keep my daughter safe. I mean, sure, we’re not even really friends, but I can’t really imagine how magnifying how helpful and dedicated to the right thing he is would be bad.”

Danny smirked. “Yeah well, you’ve got a child already, you can handle hyper and ridiculous,” he teased. “Not to mention, you got jealous as hell when you thought I was dating him,” he muttered and Derek flushed but looked away, simply holding the box over his head rather than reply.

~

When Danny finished, Stiles walked him to his car. “Seriously, dude, I owe you so big. So big,” he stressed, hugging him.

Danny laughed and patted his back. “It’s all good.” He pulled back and nodded at the house. “So, he’s hot,” he said and Stiles flushed and spluttered.

“Yeah, right, I know what you’re saying but trust me, just… no,” he said, then shrugged helplessly. “I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like me at all. He just puts up with me cause he’s grateful I’m helping and his kid loves me.”

Danny smirked. “Yeah whatever, he asked me about me and you and he seemed jealous.”

Stiles grinned. “Well can you blame him? You’re hot!” he said and Danny rolled his eyes.

“Not jealous of you, jealous of me,” he said, nudging Stiles. “You know what I mean. I’m saying he’s totally into you!”

Stiles sighed, leaning back against the car beside Danny. “I dunno, Danny.” He ducked his head some. “You know what I’m like. I’m obnoxious. Even I know that. I’m loud and annoying and I can’t really shut that off, you know?”

Danny grinned and shook his head. “So? He likes you so he must be okay with that. Besides, he has a four year old, loud and annoying is probably right at home to him.”

Stiles made an offended noise, hand on his chest dramatically. “Lauren isn’t annoying! She’s adorable and sweet and smart and totally my favorite person in this town besides like… my dad.”

Danny poked him in the side. “SEE! If you do not get your crap together and land that superhot dude, I’ll disown you!” He laughed at the shy smile on Stiles’s face. “Come on, there is no reason for you to not go for this one, Stiles. He’s gorgeous, likes you, and you like his kid. It’s ridiculous for you not to!”

Stiles thought about the Argents and werewolves and everything else Danny didn’t know and sighed. “Sometimes it’s just not that easy, Danny Boy.” He reached out and squeezed Danny’s hand. “Don’t worry about me, okay? I’m fine,” he said, and Danny sighed dramatically.

“Fine! God, it’s like you don’t want to have hot sex with tall, dark, and mysterious.” He tugged Stiles in and hugged him one more time. “I’ll see you later, Stiles.”

Stiles grinned when Danny pulled away and got in the car. “Later, dude!” he said, then turned to head back to the house and check in on Derek and Lauren one more time before he left.

~

Stiles had seen lights in the forest behind his house two nights in a row but Derek said they never came to his house so he didn’t worry too much. Things didn’t seem to need his intervention for almost an entire week before one night, late into his shift while he and Erica were both lazily watching for speeders, his phone rang, startling them. He didn’t get many calls while he was on shift so he answered quickly, startled to see Derek’s name flash when it was so late at night. He accepted the call and turned the key, starting the car quickly. “Derek?!” he asked, phone to his ear. “Derek, are you alright?”

“Stiles!” Derek shouted, panting and sounding frantic. “Stiles, she’s here. She’s outside. It’s her and I see lights in the woods from the camera behind the house so the rest are there! Lauren’s upstairs asleep and I can’t get her and get out. Kate’s out front and the others are out back and-“ Stiles was nearly deafened when suddenly Derek’s voice was overpowered by a loud alarm.

“IS SHE INSIDE?!” Stiles asked quickly, ignoring Erica’s stream of questions, wondering where the hell they were going. “Derek talk to me. Talk to me and tell me-“

“Oh God!” Derek gasped. “Not again!” he choked out and then Stiles heard a clatter and the line went dead.

“DEREK?!” Stiles cried, then threw the phone across the car when there was no reply. “Shit, shit, shit, shit!” he hissed and Erica grabbed his shoulder.

“TELL ME NOW!” she shouted and he cursed as he floored it around a corner. “STILES TALK!”

“It’s Derek!” Stiles snapped. “His ex is after him and Lauren and I’ve been helping him do everything he can to protect them without her doing anything. He called me because he saw her on the security cameras I helped get installed and then the alarm went off while he was on the phone. And he hung up. Or dropped it. Whatever, the point is, she broke in the house and she wants them dead-“

The radio crackled, interrupting them. “All units respond to three-one-five Beacon Pointe. Possibly a nine-zero-four S. All units, three-one-five Beacon Pointe please respond. Possible nine-zero-“

“Oh God,” Erica said, and Stiles pressed down on the gas just a bit harder. “She wouldn’t-“

“I think she did the first time,” Stiles said gravely, though inside he was panicking.

When they got to the preserve, Erica held on as they bounced up the long, uneven drive. Stiles didn’t feel like slowing to make the ride smoother. He let out a choked cry when he rounded a bend and saw flames through the trees. “Oh God!” They pulled up beside Derek’s car and they both rushed out, Erica’s hand flying to her radio.

“Zebra three on the scene at three-one-five Beacon Pointe. We need fire and EMT now!” she cried before following Stiles, who had drawn his gun as he headed towards the house. The fire seemed to be on the exterior of the house, the front porch up in flames.

“DEREK?!” Stiles shouted, rounding the side of the house. “DEREK?! LAUREN?!” he cried. He saw lights in the woods off behind the house and he hit his radio. “Pursuit of possible suspect, request backup immediately,” he rattled off before remembering to give his code. Erica responded that she was going around the other side of the house and echoed his call, so he continued. He dropped his hand back to his gun as he ran towards the light. “BEACON HILLS SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT! GET ON THE GROUND!” he called as he rounded a tree, only to stop in shock when he found a few flashlights wedged in a sapling’s branches, shining in opposite directions. He saw no sign of anybody as he searched the surrounding area.

“STILES!” He heard Erica shout and rushed back towards the house. “STILES GET OVER HERE!”

Stiles rushed out of the woods and felt a flood of relief to see the backdoor hanging open and Derek kneeling on the ground with Lauren in his arms. “DEREK!” he cried. He holstered his gun and rushed over. “Derek, thank-“ He stopped abruptly when he saw Lauren limp in his arms. “Lauren?” he gasped and Derek looked up, eyes wild.

“She, she breathed in smoke and- and she stopped crying,” Derek choked out, coughing as he wiped at his red, streaming eyes.

Stiles grabbed Derek’s elbow. “Come on, I hear the sirens already, let’s get around front so we can get her help,” he said, hauling Derek up, slipping an arm around his waist to help him around the house. Erica ran ahead of them to flag down the first people on the scene. Stiles could see the lights from the fire truck trying to wind its way up the path from the road out through the trees, but there were forestry department trucks and police vehicles already pulled up around the yard. There were almost a dozen people with shovels throwing dirt on the fire, going for any small chance of quelling the flames as they waited for the water truck to get to the yard.

Boyd and Sheriff Stilinski weren’t the only ones who rushed towards them as they came around the house. “I NEED MEDICAL HELP NOW!” Boyd shouted towards some of the figures racing around in the scattered beams of headlights, flashlights, and the flames from the front of the house.

Derek stumbled to a halt, nearly dragging Stiles down when Lauren started coughing. “Lauren, can you hear me?” Derek asked, looking down at her fearfully. “Lauren, Pup, look at Daddy. Please look at Daddy,” he begged, watching her face as she continued to cough, though her eyes were shut.

John rushed over and put a hand on her head. “If she can cough, she can breathe,” he said to Derek. “Come on, we need oxygen on her,” he said, curling his arm around Derek’s shoulders to help direct him to the paramedics rushing towards them. Derek passed her off to one while the other immediately put a breathing mask over Lauren’s face. John turned back to Stiles, who ran a hand through his hair. “What the hell happened?!” John asked. “The alarm went off and the system reported a fire to the company and they called it in-“

“Derek called me as soon as he saw Kate Argent on the cameras,” Stiles said, rage filling him. “He called me and then when the alarm sounded he said ‘not again’ and dropped the phone,” he spat, eyes wide. “She lit his house on fire again,” Stiles stressed. “He and Lauren were unable to run out the back when she got to the front door because he saw lights back there and thought there were others-“

“Was anybody still there?” John asked, and Stiles shook his head.

“I went and saw the lights but somebody just stuck flashlights in a tree,” he said, gesturing to the forest behind the house. “I didn’t touch it so make sure someone gets fingerprints.” He shook his head. “They wanted him stuck in the house when they set it on fire.”

John just cursed and shook his head. “Alright, you gonna stay and help here our go with them?” he asked, and Stiles looked taken aback. John shot him a knowing look. “I’m not stupid. I know what they mean to you, Son.”

Stiles sighed in relief and nodded. “I’ll give my statement as soon as Lauren’s out of the woods,” he said, rushing to grab his car and head to the hospital after the ambulance with Lauren in it finally made it past the water truck that had finally arrived.

~

When Stiles got to the hospital, Derek was sitting in the waiting room with his head in his hands while a nurse knelt and spoke to him. “Derek?” he asked, and the nurse looked up, revealing it was Mrs. McCall.

“Stiles?” she asked in surprise, looking him over. “You’re not hurt- oh God, your dad-“

“No, no,” he said, shaking his head. “He’s still on the scene and he let me go,” he said, turning away to drop down on the bench beside Derek. “Derek, is she okay?” he asked, curling his fingers around Derek’s wrist gently, pulling it from his face.

Derek looked up and nodded, face blank. “They said- they said she was stable. She should be fine but I had to leave her so they could make sure,” he said, swallowing. “Mrs… sorry-“

“McCall,” Stiles said, and Melissa smiled at Derek sadly.

“She should be fine, Mr. Hale. However, I really do need information about her medical history,” she urged.

Derek shook his head. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you, she doesn’t have any! She’s never- she went to the doctor a few times when she was a newborn, checkups, but she’s never been sick and I didn’t know she even needed shots until you mentioned it. She’s never had any health issues. She was six months old the last time she went for a checkup.”

Stiles just squeezed his wrist. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” he soothed. He shot Mrs. McCall a look. “She’s not on any medications, she doesn’t have any allergies, she doesn’t have any medical conditions,” he said calmly. Derek carefully slid his hand over so that Stiles’s palm met his and Stiles leaned against him, twisting their fingers together. Mrs. McCall smiled at Stiles, who blushed, then nodded before standing up.

“Okay, I’ll be back as soon as we know something,” she promised Derek before turning to leave.

Derek sat rigid. “Kate tried to kill us the same way my family died,” he whispered and Stiles nodded.

“There wasn’t anybody in the woods behind the house. She wanted to scare you from running until it was too late,” Stiles muttered, leaning against Derek as he sagged. “I’m so sorry,” Stiles said, squeezing his hand. “I’m sorry this is happening to you. You don’t deserve it.”

Derek chuckled weakly. “I’ve never done anything bad in my life,” he muttered sadly. “Bad things just happen to me instead.”

~

After determining that Lauren was going to be fine and only had to stay the night to be sure the oxygen was getting into her system right and no lingering effects were left, Derek agreed to giving his statement at the hospital. Stiles went in to the station to give his statement and speak to his father, at which time he learned that the house wasn’t a total loss, but the front porch and much of the front exterior was burned completely. There was minor burn damage in the front hall from where the fire came in around the door, and there was smoke damage in much of the house, but for the most part things weren’t too bad to be salvaged with some simple construction and redecoration. For the time being, John invited Derek and Lauren to stay with him, which Derek had graciously accepted.

Stiles went to the grocery store to pick up a few things for Derek and Lauren for the time being – like toothbrushes – as soon as he clocked out, hoping to drop the stuff off at his dad’s house and go home to sleep a few hours until it was time for Lauren to be discharged. He got some toiletries and picked up some things he knew Lauren and Derek liked to eat before deciding that the floral department probably had a teddy bear he could get Lauren that didn’t say ‘get well soon’ or anything to remind her that she’d got hurt.

On his way past the freezer section, a call stopped him. “Deputy,” a voice asked, and Stiles turned back, only to still when he saw the younger of the Argent men – Chris Argent, his mind supplied – walking towards him. “Hi, I don’t know if you know me-“

“I know who you are,” Stiles said in a tight voice, earning a slightly amused look before the man continued.

“Yes, well, I can’t help but notice there was a lot of emergency vehicles heading towards the preserve earlier,” he continued. “Would I be wrong to assume there was an animal attack?” he asked. “If you know me you know we’re hunting a wild cougar that-“

Stiles couldn’t fight the rage as he grabbed Chris Argent by his shirt and slammed him into the freezer door behind him. “If you and your psychotic family ever come near that little girl again, you won’t have to worry about animal attacks, because I’ll put a bullet in every one of you,” he spat, body swimming with anger, fear, and exhaustion. “You are one sick family to put a four year old child in the hospital-“

“What are you talking about?” Chris demanded, going still in Stiles’s hold. “Look, guy-“

“Stilinski,” Stiles said, sneering. “Yeah, that’s right, my dad’s the Sheriff so you know nobody will ever charge me-“

“I don’t know what you think I did, Deputy Stilinski,” Chris continued. “But I’ve never harmed a child. I would never do that,” he urged.

Stiles stepped back, shoving him into the door before throwing his hands up. “You and your psychotic dad and your fucking insane sister, you set that fire!”

Chris frowned. “What fire? Where was there to burn in the preserve?” he asked, looking genuinely confused.

Stiles stared, unable to believe the gall he had. “Derek’s house! Your sister set it on fire last night with Derek and Lauren inside-“

“Derek who?” Chris asked suddenly, his skin going ashen. “Derek Hale?” he asked in almost a whisper. “He’s here?”

Stiles blinked. “What do you mean?! You’re the ones hunting him-“

“No,” Chris said, shaking his head urgently. “The Hale’s never hurt anyone. Kate- she was disturbed when she killed Laura Hale. She was suffering psychosis from medications she was taking for depression.”

Stiles scoffed. “Post-partum depression is hard to blame four years later!”

Chris just stared. “Post-partum?” he asked, looking shocked.

“Wait…” Stiles’s heart skipped a beat. “Shit you really don’t know?”

“What do you mean-“

Stiles cut him off. “Derek and Kate had a daughter,” he said and Chris’s mouth hung open. “Lauren she’s- she’s four.” He gestured to the little pink toothbrush in his cart. “You don’t even know that you’ve been hunting them?!”

Chris narrowed his eyes. “How do you know-“

“When you ran into me in the woods I was hiding Lauren,” he said simply. “She was making sounds near the edge of the woods and I thought it was a hurt dog. She was changed when I found her, and I thought you were just poachers who might accidentally hurt her before I saw who you were. When I took her home and called Derek, he had to explain why I had a werewolf child in my house-“

“Oh God,” Chris breathed, shaking his head weakly. “Kate and Gerard said it was a rogue omega. They never said- nobody told me it was an adult with a child!”

Stiles watched him for a lie, but saw no tells. “You didn’t have anything to do with Kate setting Derek’s house on fire with him and Lauren inside it tonight?” Chris shook his head and Stiles nodded. “What about the Hale fire? I thought Gerard did it but going by tonight, I’d bet Kate did-“

“I had no idea, I swear it,” Chris urged. “She- she tried to kill her own child?!” he whispered. “I didn’t know Kate HAD a child- God, she wanted to kill her because she’s a werewolf,” he realized and Stiles nodded.

“You’re werewolf hunters. What would you care what she was to you?” Stiles spat and Chris looked up sharply.

“I have a daughter and I would die before she got hurt, I don’t care who she was or what she did,” he denied. “And I’d never hurt a child, no matter what. And Derek Hale is peaceful. He never hurt anyone to my knowledge. Neither did his family,” Chris said and Stiles scoffed.

“Yeah well, tell that to your family,” he said, turning on his heel to leave. “If they come after them again, I’ll help Derek rip them apart,” he said in parting, not even looking back as he left Chris Argent standing frozen in the middle of the aisle.

~

Stiles brought Derek’s car to the hospital so that he would have it while he stayed with John. Lauren was sleepy still when Derek signed for her release early in the morning so he carried her to the car and put her in her booster seat in the back before taking the driver’s seat that Stiles had abandoned to climb into the passenger seat. “She’s good, right?” Stiles asked, glancing back at her, and Derek nodded.

“They said she’s fine. She’ll probably have a pretty bad cough for a few days but she’ll be fine with medication at home.” He inhaled sharply and turned to Stiles. “Why do you smell like Argent?” he asked as harshly as someone who was trying not to wake a four year old could.

Stiles suddenly became animated, gesturing in lieu of shouting things, before finally hissing at Derek, “I ran into Chris Argent and holy shit he didn’t know!” He shook his head. “I’m good at telling lies, Derek, and that makes me good at catching them. Chris Argent didn’t know Lauren even existed. He didn’t know the fire that killed your family was set by one of his own. He didn’t know there was a fire last night. He didn’t even know the ‘rogue omega’ they were hunting had a child. He said he knew you weren’t violent and had no idea that you were the one Gerard and Kate had him hunting.”

Derek bit his lip. “Are you sure he wasn’t lying?” he asked. “I mean, how could he not know Kate was pregnant?”

Stile shrugged. “If she didn’t want anybody to know she was pregnant with a werewolf baby, she may not have told her family. And if they didn’t live local, they probably didn’t hear too much about her arrest and jail time that wasn’t filtered by whoever is closest to her, right?”

Derek tapped the wheel. “It’s possible but I hate to think that Kate is good enough to trick her brother.”

Stiles gave him a sad smile. “She tricked you, Derek,” he pointed out and Derek winced.

“Shit,” he said, and Stiles nodded.

“Yep, that about says it.”

~

Stiles led the way upstairs at his dad’s house with a cheesy smile. “And on the left you’ll see a much younger, thinner version of Mr. John,” he said to Lauren, who giggled. “And if you look ahead, you’ll see the guest room!” He opened the door with a flourish. “Now, Madame Hale,” he said in an exaggerated and terrible accent. “You may take this room or you can share it with your lovely father.” He lowered his voice playfully. “Or you can kick Daddy out and make him stay in the other bedroom and let you throw wild parties in here after he goes to bed.”

Lauren laughed delightedly, bouncing in her father’s arms. “Stiiiiiles!” she said, making a face. “I don’t know anybody to have a party with!”

Stiles grinned as he hopped backwards onto the bed. “Well, you can always sneak some princesses and pony’s in here and have a crazy tea party!”

Derek chuckle and deposited Lauren on the bed. “Or Daddy will stay in here with you just in case the bad lady comes looking here,” he said and Lauren’s eyes widened.

“She- she might come here?” she asked, looking scared, and Stiles glared at Derek before sliding his arms around Lauren.

“Hey, c’mere,” he said, hugging her. “You know what?” he asked, smiling at her. “This house right here? This is the safest place you can be and you know why?” She shook her head at him. “Because my dad would never let anybody get in his house to hurt you.”

Lauren made a comical face. “Your daddy is the sheriff! He would shoot that mean lady!” she said and Stiles laughed.

“Yep, he sure would,” he said, kissing her head. “You’re safe here, Sweetie,” he murmured, holding her close. “Between your daddy and mine, there is no way that mean lady will ever hurt you again.” He rested his cheek against the top of her head. “It’s all going to be okay.”

Lauren looked at Derek and bit her lip. “Is he right, Daddy?” she asked in wide-eyed worry.

Derek leaned over with his hands on the bedspread and nodded, rubbing his face against Lauren’s head, neck, and shoulder. “Yeah, Pup. There is nobody who will ever hurt you again as long as I have something to say about that,” he promised, pulling away enough to look her in the eyes that were a mirror of his own. “I love you more than anything else in the whole world, Pup. The bad people have to know that I love you more than anything and I won’t ever let them hurt you.”

Lauren smiled and wrapped her little arms around Derek’s neck. “I love you, Daddy,” she said and Stiles had to fight back a loud ‘awwwww’ at the way Derek’s face erupted into a giant, happy smile that stayed even after he’d stood up and went to unpack his and Lauren’s bag while Stiles entertained Lauren.

~

Stiles came by most nights after work, if he wasn’t working too late, to check in on Derek and Lauren while they stayed with his dad. Sometimes his dad was there when he came to visit and sometimes he wasn’t. One particular night, Stiles came by and found John teaching Lauren how to play Go Fish while Derek sat in the chair reading a book. “So you ask me if I’ve got any sevens and if I do, I have to give it to you,” John explained, and she nodded seriously.

“And if you don’t I get a fishy?” she asked, poking the pile of cards on the table.

“Well at least it’s not poker,” Stiles said from the doorway and Lauren looked up and gasped in excitement so extreme she threw her cards in the air.

“STILES!” she cried, jumping up to run to him. He let out an ‘oof’ when she barreled into his legs. “You didn’t come yesterday,” she accused, glaring up at him.

Stiles grinned and squatted down. “Yeah, I know, but I worked very late. I’m sure you were in bed by then,” he said, pulling her into a hug. “You being good for your daddy?” he asked and Derek huffed softly into his book, clearly amused. “Uh-oh, what was that for?” he asked, picking Lauren up to carry over to sit on the couch, facing Derek.

Derek rolled his eyes. “Daddy nothing. She only has eyes for Mr. John,” he said, giving Lauren a fond smile.

Lauren rolled her eyes, tiny shoulders heaving in an over exaggerated sigh. “But Daddy, he’s cool! Mr. John is a POLICEMAN!” she cried excitedly. “He stops bad guys, that’s so cool!”

Stiles grinned. “Aww, come on, I’m sure your dad has a cool job too,” he said, then frowned. “Actually Derek, what do you do? You’re always with Lauren at home,” he realized.

Lauren scoffed. “Daddy writes stories. That’s not cool, it’s boring!”

Derek gave a playfully offended huff. “Hey, those ‘stories’ make it so that I can stay home and play with you instead of having to go to work. Would you rather me be gone all the time?” he asked her and Lauren looked horrified at the idea.

“Who would play with me?!” she asked, looking so confused.

Stiles chuckled. “Probably a babysitter. When I was little, my dad had the old lady next door come babysit me. She was mean and smelled like cigarettes and cat pee,” he said and Lauren looked offended at the thought of being left with such a person. He kissed her hair. “But not you, Sweetie. Your daddy’s got a cool job so he can stay home with you,” he said, then sat back, putting his feet up on the coffee table. “So what kinda stories does your daddy write?” he asked Lauren, grinning over her head at Derek.

Lauren groaned. “Stupid ones.”

Derek rolled his eyes, much like his daughter moments earlier. “They’re grown up stories, Lauren. You wouldn’t understand them. That’s why you think they’re dumb-“

“They’re dumb cause they’re boring! There should be dragons and princesses!” she exclaimed. “Or at least bad guys and policemen!” she added with an excited smile.

John chuckled. “You really like cops, don’t you, Sweetie?” he asked in amusement.

Derek shook his head. “She likes anything that involves getting the bad guys,” he said with a fond smile. “She has a lot of Scooby Doo DVDs my sister had back before…” He trailed off and Stiles’s heart clenched at the wave of pain that passed over Derek’s face.

Stiles glanced at John, who nodded towards the kitchen. Stiles shifted Lauren off his lap. “Hey, Derek, wanna come help me for a second?” he asked, heading towards the kitchen, stopping to snag Derek’s elbow and pull him along behind him. When they got to the kitchen, Stiles slid his hand into Derek’s. “Hey, you okay?” he whispered, ducking his head closer to Derek.

Derek nodded, forcing a smile. “I’m fine.”

Stiles nodded. “Good, now try lying better,” he suggested and Derek cringed.

“Sorry,” he muttered, rubbing at his neck absently. “I just… I miss my sister a lot sometimes. Lauren looks a lot like her and she reminds me of her,” he admitted.

Stiles sucked in a breath. “Well, I’m sure your sister was really cool, then,” he said comfortingly. He held Derek’s hand in both of his, looking down as he stroked Derek’s knuckle. “You know, my mom died when I was eight,” he explained. “I still miss her almost every day, even all this time later, you know?” He looked up at Derek. “My point is, it’s okay to miss your sister. It isn’t like a few years is supposed to make you not miss her anymore.”

Derek nodded, looking down at his hand in Stiles’s. “I guess you’re right” He chuckled softly. “You have no idea how long it was I’ve had an adult I could talk to like this,” he admitted, looking up to meet Stiles’s eyes. “Spending all your time with a little girl makes it hard to get your problems out.” He smiled. “I guess I forget I have to take care of myself too when I’ve spent the past four years being almost nothing but a dad.”

Stiles grinned. “Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that, it just means you definitely are due for a break,” he joked. “Not that I’m not sure Lauren’s a great friend, but your surly and distrusting attitude makes a lot more sense thinking about your ‘me and Lauren only’ bubble for so long.”

Derek made a face. “Yeah well, when you’re a werewolf, you learn to distrust strangers. Especially when you’ve suffered a lot of loss at the hands of strangers.” He looked at their hands. “I’m kinda sorry I waited so long to trust you,” he said in a gruff, shy tone.

Stiles smirked. “Oh yeah? I’m pretty awesome, I know,” he said and Derek shot him a look.

“I lied, you’re annoying,” Derek droned and Stiles rolled his eyes.

Lies! You think I’m hilarious,” he accused, smiling when he saw Derek’s lips twitching. “Aha, I see a smile,” he teased.

“Maybe,” Derek admitted sheepishly, ducking his head bashfully. Stiles grinned, looking at their entertained hands as his insides fluttered slightly.

“Hey Stiles-“ John stopped, blinking as Derek and Stiles looked up and backed away from each other in a rush, Stiles nearly tripping over his own feet as they both turned bright red. John just smirked. “Never mind, carry on!” he said, saluting Stiles mockingly before turning to head back out of the kitchen.

Stiles just groaned. “My father is an asshole,” he groaned, and Derek just glanced at the floor, his ears burning bright red. “So, hey, um… dinner?” Stiles suggested, not waiting for Derek’s reply to turn and start raiding his father’s pantry.

~

Stiles washed dishes while Derek put Lauren to bed and his dad settled in front of the television. He snuck upstairs, hoping to peek in on Lauren before he left, only to hesitate when he saw the door to his old room open. He turned right instead of left on the landing and headed to the door, only to raise an eyebrow when he saw Derek sitting at the desk with a book. “Don’t tell me you’re sleeping in here,” he said and Derek looked up, clearly unsurprised. Stiles realized he probably heard Stiles coming all the way from the stairs.

Derek shrugged. “I didn’t want Lauren to get used to sleeping with me. She had nightmares for a while there, you know, moving into a new house, and it was hard to break the habit. She needs to sleep in her own bed and since your father was nice enough to let us stay a while longer, I thought it was better she not get used to sharing with me.” He smiled a guilty smile. “I’ll admit, it’s nice having her right there so I know she’s safe, but I trust that nobody’s getting in this house without at least enough forewarning I’ll be able to get to her from the next room over.” Derek looked around. “Nothing wrong with this room,” he said and Stiles snickered.

“I’m just glad you didn’t stick Lauren in here,” he admitted, ducking his head. “Pretty sure there’s still things not for little eyes stashed around in here since my dad didn’t do much in here since I moved out.”

Derek chuckled. “I figured this was your old room. The posters have a very ‘teenage geek’ feel that I really didn’t think John would pick for a guest room,” he joked.

Stiles scoffed. “Hey, I’ll have you know this room saw some of the best video game marathons of my formative years!” he said, then headed over to the closet. “I bet my lacrosse stuff is still- yep!” he came out of the closet holding a dusty lacrosse stick. He smiled and leaned it against the wall, walking over to the bookcase. “Man, I haven’t been in here in a while.”

Derek smiled faintly, watching Stiles’s fingers sliding across the spines. “You have surprisingly upper-level reading for what I’m assuming was a seventeen or eighteen year old kid.”

Stiles looked back at him over his shoulder. “What, just because I’m a cop I can’t be intelligent?” he teased. He grabbed one of the books and flopped back onto the bed, laughing when he hung halfway off the side. “Man, this thing is so small. Years of a queen and this is weird.”

Derek smirked. “I noticed. In a room this big, I’m assuming the twin wasn’t a space-saving choice?” he joked.

Stiles snorted. “Pretty sure it was my father’s attempts to force abstinence before he realized my face did that job well enough,” he said, flipping through the book. He smiled fondly at the page and Derek tilted his head, trying to see what it was. Stiles looked up and saw, then sat up, patting the bed. “C’mere,” he said, holding up the book so that Derek could read the cover and see that it was a year book.

Derek went and sat on the side of the bed beside Stiles, who pulled his legs up under him, laying the book open on his lap. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen him, but this is my best friend,” he said, pointing out Scott. “He was seventeen here, but he still looks the same. Literally,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Never grew into his puppy dog eyes.”

Derek leaned closer to see and nodded. “You’ve mentioned him. You live together, right?”

Stiles nodded, flipping a page. “Yeah, with Isaac,” he said, pointing at the page. “Isaac’s the blonde-ish one here.”

Derek leaned over Stiles’s shoulder and chuckled. “Is that-“

Stiles slapped a hand over the picture, blushing. “No-“

“Your school yearbook put that?” he asked, pulling Stiles’s hand off a photo of him and Danny kissing.

Stiles huffed. “It was senior prom and we were the only gay couple there,” he defended. He laughed softly as he found another photo of him, Danny, Scott, Isaac, and Lydia together, arms around each other posing for the photo. “This is Lydia,” he explained. “She’s probably the most brilliant person ever born,” he added with a chuckle. “She doesn’t live around here anymore but we still talk all the time. She was one of my best friends after I stopped being pathetically in love with her.”

Derek chuckled. “You have a thing for smart people, huh?” he teased and Stiles elbowed him playfully.

Stiles huffed. “Two is only a coincidence. Need three to be a pattern,” he said and Derek nodded.

“So what, your ‘smart people’ thing only lasted in high school?”

Stiles chuckled dryly. “More like all of it only lasted in high school,” he said, touching the page with a sad smile.

Derek frowned. “What’s that look for?”

Stiles shrugged. “I loved Lydia from like seven to sixteen. Then I had a crush on Danny for a while and senior year we started dating and it was great.” He shrugged. “After that nobody really mattered. I haven’t felt the way either of them made me feel about anyone until recently.”

Derek tensed and Stiles froze, realizing what he’d said. Derek, however, seemed too curious to help himself. “You’ve had feelings for someone recently?” he asked, looking at Stiles, who kept his eyes on the book in his lap.

“You know I have,” Stiles mumbled, spots of pink on his cheeks.

Derek carefully laid his hand on Stiles’s. “I hoped. Maybe-“

Just as Stiles chanced turning his hand over, footsteps in the doorway interrupted. “Hey Stiles up here-“ John stopped, looking between Stiles and Derek and then gave Stiles a knowing smirk. “Well that answers that! Don’t mind me,” he said with a chuckle, turning to leave, only to step back and grab the doorknob. “Better shut this. Wouldn’t want a repeat of senior year,” he said and Stiles gaped.

“WHAT?! What do you mean- when- what even-“

John just snorted, making a pained face. “An open door does nothing to stop noises and I know more about the Mahealani boy than I ever need to know after coming home early one time-“

“OH MY GOD!” Stiles cried, covering his face with the book as he flopped onto his back. “Oh God, leave. Leave now!”

Derek shifted awkwardly after John left, shutting the door behind him. “So… your dad kind of sucks at timing-“

“My dad just sucks,” Stiles complained, voice muffled by the book laying over his face. “Oh God, I have to die now, even if it’s years later.”

Derek smirked and laid on his back next to Stiles, letting his head fall over the other side of the bed. “If it makes you feel any better, I walked in on my sister once. Way more traumatic from the side of the one walking in, especially since you didn’t know until now.”

Stiles snorted. “Okay that would totally suck,” he agreed, moving the book. “God, I cannot express how happy I am I learned this years later.” He sighed and glanced over at Derek, who just smiled. Stiles snickered, covering his face. “You were sitting there while my dad just pulled that. How are you not so uncomfortable?”

“Oh I am, I definitely am,” he said, cheeks showing pink. “But he’s not my dad, and since he’s gone, I can do this-“ Derek sat up on his elbows and twisted onto his side, sliding his hand out to cup Stiles’s cheek, tilting his face just enough so that Derek could lean down and kiss him gently. Stiles froze, and Derek pulled away, biting his lip. “Did I read it wrong or-“

“No,” Stiles said quickly, sitting up far enough to kiss Derek again, just as chaste and sweet. He waited, lips barely a breath apart, before Derek smiled and leaned in, this time kissing him for real. “I just wasn’t sure if you would want…”

Derek frowned. “Want to kiss?”

Stiles shot him a look. “Want me, you dumbass. No, I totally expected you liked me but weren’t into kissing,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Pretty Woman is totally your style.”

Derek scoffed. “How am I the dumbass? You’re the first person I’ve trusted since the mother of my child murdered my sister and tried to kill us. You’re amazing, and understanding, and good.” He shrugged. “How could I not want you?”

Stiles smiled softly, reaching up to touch Derek’s cheek. “Derek,” he said softly, then kissed him again, eyes shut even when Derek pulled away. Derek shifted, resting his head on Stiles’s shoulder, nuzzling against his neck. Stiles hummed, tilting his head. “What’re you doing?” he asked softly, sliding his fingers into Derek’s.

Derek hummed low in his throat. “You smell good.”

Stiles opened his eyes and chuckled. “Um, thanks?”

“Werewolf thing,” Derek clarified, sighing against Stiles’s neck. “You smell really good. I like it. It makes me want to roll around in your scent. Sorry if that freaks you out,” he said, picking his head up with a sheepish glance.

Stiles just snickered. “It should, but I’m getting used to this werewolf stuff.” He tipped his head up and pecked Derek’s lips. “However, as much as I’d love to totally curl up and let you be all sniffy and werewolfy, I’ve really got to get home soon. It’s pretty late.”

Derek nodded, sitting up. “I understand,” he said, letting Stiles stand up. He caught his hand and carefully tangled their fingers. “When can I see you again?”

Stiles grinned, ducking down to kiss Derek one more time. “I’ll probably be around tomorrow or the next day. I’m not gonna run off, you should know that by now.” He pulled away with clear reluctance and smiled. “Goodnight, Derek,” he whispered as he opened the door, and Derek nodded, smiling a pleased little smile.

“Goodnight, Stiles.”

~

Stiles was having lunch with Erica and Boyd when the bell tinkling caught his attention and he looked up, only to double take when he saw Chris Argent walking towards them. “Ah, crap.”

Erica looked up, the smile sliding off her face. “Problem?” she muttered, but Stiles didn’t get a chance to reply before Chris Argent stopped beside him.

“Deputy Stilinski, I was wondering if we could have a word,” he started, nodding to the others.

Stiles reached down and squeezed Erica’s hand, tapping it five times – their ‘give me five minutes’ signal they perfected as a joke more than anything – and stood, nodding. “Just a quick one, though. Gotta get back to work soon,” he said, following Chris Argent outside the restaurant. He kept his hand on his gun as they walked out towards Argent’s truck. He stopped, leaning against the bed, looking out rather than facing Stiles, who mirrored him at his side. “What?” Stiles asked tersely.

“Face me, make it look like you’re questioning me,” Chris said and Stiles did so. “Look, I don’t know who may be watching, but they’re not listening, so we can talk.” He tapped at the side of the truck. “I want to help you. I want to know what you know. If my father and sister are trying to hurt a child, I want to stop them, too.”

Stiles was taken aback somewhat. “Really? You? The werewolf hunter want’s to help the werewolves-“

“I want to help a little girl,” Chris urged. “Tell me what you know.”

Stiles shrugged. “Derek didn’t know Kate was a hunter until she went crazy on him and killed his sister in an attempt to kill all three of them. Our guess is that she was going to kill Derek and Laura. Then she got pregnant and waited until the baby was born so, if it was a werewolf, she could kill them all in one go. Clearly your father covered up the true nature of her murderous ways by keeping your family from knowing the ‘post-partum’ part of her claims of depression-induced psychosis.”

Chris nodded shakily. “Little girl?”

“Lauren Hale. She’s four. She’s just a baby, dude,” Stiles said hoarsely. “That fire? Put her in the hospital. Smoke inhalation. Apparently pre-pubescent werewolves don’t heal as fast as grown up ones. Derek nearly lost it. Swear to God, if she hadn’t made it, nothing would’ve stopped him from hunting your family down and killing your sister.” He looked at him. “Speaking of which, you know there’s a warrant out for her, right? You talking to me, I could take you in for questioning if I wanted.”

Chris nodded. “But if you did, you wouldn’t have someone on the inside.”

“You’re really gonna help?” Stiles asked skeptically. “This is your dad and your sister.”

“Blood is thicker when it’s innocent blood being shed, don’t you think?” Chris asked pointedly. “I’m a single father. My wife died in an attack years ago, so I have enough reason to hate werewolves,” he revealed. “But my daughter is twenty-three. She isn’t part of this life. She is off at college because after her mother I didn’t want this life for her. I remember when she was four,” he said with a cold, hard look in his eyes as he gazed across the parking lot. “I remember bedtime stories, and ‘carry me, daddy’, and that open innocence that a four year old has.” He turned and met Stiles’s eyes. “And I remember then and I know now what lengths I would go to to protect my daughter or get revenge on anyone who hurt her. Derek Hale may be a werewolf, but he’s not dangerous… yet.” He shook his head, almost fearful. “If his whole family is dead, I assume he’s an alpha. That saying about ‘never get between a mother bear and her cubs’? That has nothing on hurting or threatening an alpha werewolf’s pack. If his only pack is his baby daughter?” He shuddered. “If Kate had succeeded in hurting her and left him alive, he would have ripped apart the entire town to find her.”

Stiles narrowed his eyes. “And what makes you think I won’t anyways?” he asked and Chris shot him a surprised look. “I love that little girl as much as if she was my own kid. I haven’t known her long, but she’s important to me. If I had any inkling of where Kate Argent as, I’m not honestly sure I’d call in backup before I’d put a full clip into her.” He tipped his head. “Not just the alpha dad you have to worry about, Argent.”

Chris put his head in his hands. “She’s my sister, I want her alive, but if it came down to protecting the child and protecting my sister, I’m almost sure the father in me would win over the brother.”

Stiles nodded coldly. “Good.” He looked at his hands. “So, you gonna help?”

Chris nodded. “Give me a day to set something up. Do you have enough to arrest her on?”

Stiles nodded. “A person on the cameras. It may be a little blurry but she’s got a record for killing Derek’s sister and a restraining order against her. She magically showed up in town right after Derek and Lauren did. I caught you all out in the forest. You should be able to get off without a hitch as long as you weren’t involved but your father might go down too.”

“I would rather she go to jail than die and she deserves to pay for what she did,” Chris said, looking regretful. “It’s how it has to be.”

Stiles gave him an appraising look and a tight smile. “I’m glad you can recognize what needs to be done.”

“Well sanity had to get to one of us, I guess,” Chris said dryly, earning a chuckle as Stiles slapped his back then turned to head back into the diner.

~

Stiles hugged Lauren when he got to his dad’s house and she met him at the door. “STILES! Mr. John made hot chocolate!”

Stiles grinned, pulling her onto his hip. “Oh yeah? Did your daddy get some too?”

She shook her head, bouncing some. “He’s workin’ but Mr. John said when he’s done we can bring Daddy some hot chocolate too.” She shushed him at the stairs and whispered, “Daddy’s upstairs writing a story.”

“He is?” Stiles asked, then put a finger over his lips to mirror Lauren’s, carrying her through to the kitchen, where his dad had files spread out on the table. “Heeeeey, you’re supposed to take the day off,” Stiles said pointedly and John gave him a sheepish look.

“Trying to get some things done, Stiles. Lauren’s helping me out,” he said, winking at her when she giggled.

“Nothing that will give her nightmares, I trust?” Stiles asked, brushing Lauren’s messy, dark hair from her eyes. “I’m gonna go talk to Derek for a minute,” he said to John, who nodded.

“We’re good here, right, Pup?” he asked Lauren, who nodded, handing him his hot chocolate pointedly.

“Yep, we need more chocolate though,” she said, and Stiles rolled his eyes at the dopey look on his dad’s face at how adorable she was.

Stiles headed upstairs, stopping to knock on the open door to his old room. Derek looked up from the bed, where he sat with a laptop in his lap and reading glasses on his nose. Stiles felt a flicker of something red-hot in his gut. “You should wear glasses always,” Stiles said and Derek raised an eyebrow with a tilt to his lips.

“The glasses?” he asked, and Stiles nodded, leaning against the doorjamb with a smirk.

“Oh yeah, definitely.” He nodded. “Can we talk?”

Derek nodded, sliding the laptop off of the bed. Stiles shut the door and walked over. He kicked off his boots and pulled off his belt before sitting on the foot of the bed, crossing his legs under him. “What’s up?” Derek asked, reaching up to pull off his glasses, only to chuckle when Stiles reached out and pushed them back up his nose with a pointed smirk. “Fine, I’ll leave them.” He straightened them then nodded. “What’s up?”

Stiles reached out, picking fluff off of the knee of Derek’s sweatpants. “So… don’t freak out,” he started, and Derek tensed. “I spoke with Chris Argent today.”

“WHAT?!” Derek started to jump up, but Stiles grabbed his knees, stopping him.

“Stop.” He waited until Derek stalled and then shook his head. “Trust me long enough to listen before you run off to kill someone.”

Derek settled some, then quickly pulled Stiles’s hands into his. “Are you okay?” he asked worriedly, stroking at Stiles’s inner wrists gently with his fingertips.

Stiles shivered, then glared playfully, tugging his hands away. “I sure as hell won’t be if you do that,” he said, clearing his throat when Derek drew back slightly in surprise.

“Um… filing that away for later?” Derek asked, then snickered when Stiles’s cheeks showed spots of pink. “Okay, seriously.” He curled his finger around Stiles’s hand. “Chris Argent?”

Stiles smiled tightly. “He’s going to help us.” Derek gave him a disbelieving look and Stiles shook his head. “He didn’t know about Lauren. He didn’t know about you.” He shook his head. “He’s a single dad, too. His daughter’s an adult but he says he knows that if someone hurt his little girl, he’d have lost it. Knowing you’re a werewolf and she’s all you have, and knowing you’re a good man who never hurt anybody, he doesn’t want you to become a problem.”

Derek deflated some. “But it’s his sister and his father.”

“He says he would rather see them in jail than dead like they will be if they try to hurt your kid again,” he said bluntly and Derek raised an eyebrow. “Chris Argent isn’t a stupid man. Like I said, he’s got a daughter too. He knows what you’re capable of and he would rather see his sister and father in prison than dead.”

Derek nodded. “I’d rather see that too. I’ve never hurt someone. I don’t want to start,” he said earnestly. “But I would. If she came after Lauren, I would do anything to protect my daughter.”

“I know,” Stiles said softly, leaning closer to Derek. “I want them in prison because I don’t want you to be a killer, no matter how justified.”

Derek leaned forward bumping his forehead against Stiles’s. “I’m glad you told me when Lauren isn’t around. She’d have been scared by me freaking out a little there.”

Stiles reached up and cupped Derek’s scruffy jaw. “Hey, I’m not stupid. I’m not gonna traumatize a four year old.” He smirked when his nose hit Derek’s glasses. “Dude, the glasses,” he said with a groan, pulling back to look at Derek’s eyes, magnified behind the glass. “It works. It really works.”

Derek chuckled, then pulled them off, ignoring Stiles’s whine, before leaning in to kiss him sweetly. “Shhh, I can’t kiss you with glasses frames pressing into my eye socket.”

Stiles hummed, giving him an appraising look, before nodding. “Alright, I can allow it.” Derek huffed in amusement, but smiled against Stiles’s lips. “Mmmmmm, nice,” he said as the kiss broke. “Let’s go get some of my dad’s hot chocolate. He and Lauren have had enough.”

Derek groaned. “Lauren had hot chocolate? She’s going to be wired.”

Stiles grinned. “Dad’s giving you a dose of his early fatherhood years,” he said, pecking Derek’s lips once more before sliding off the bed, grabbing his boots and gun belt. “C’mon.” He led the way downstairs, Derek following behind him. When he got to the kitchen, he stopped in the doorway and bit back an ‘awww’ at the sight of Lauren sitting in his dad’s lap, handing him post-it notes when he needed one. Derek made a soft happy sound and Stiles looked up at him, smile softening when he saw the content displayed in Derek’s eyes knowing that he wasn’t the only one who wanted to protect Lauren anymore.

~

Derek glowered, edging slightly in front of Stiles when Chris Argent stepped up to them in the parking lot. They had agreed to meet in public, neutral territory, but Derek was still jumpy. Stiles rolled his eyes and ducked around Derek. “I’m the one that’s armed, don’t pull that ‘alpha’ crap on me,” he chastised, then rested his hand on his gun casually as Argent got to them. “Argent.”

Chris nodded. “Deputy Stilinski.” He looked at Derek and squared his shoulders. “Mr. Hale.”

Derek nodded. Stiles leaned closer to Derek than Argent to appease him. “You have a plan to help us take her down?” he asked, and Chris closed his eyes, but nodded reluctantly.

“She’s going after the ‘omega’ tomorrow night,” he said and Stiles felt Derek tense. “Kate and Gerard told me that we’re going after it in the preserve. Apparently they’re going to lure the omega into the forest and split up. Gerard is going after the omega and Kate is ‘circling around behind him’,” he said, giving them a pointed look. “Wherever you’ve been keeping the little girl, take her somewhere else. I’m pretty sure that’s what Kate plans to do. Gerard will take Derek and Kate will go after the child.”

“Like hell she will,” Derek growled, eyes flashing red. Chris stepped back some but Stiles reached back, stopping Derek with a hand on his side. “How will we do this?” he asked Stiles.

“You and Lauren will come with me to a safe place. We’ll hole you guys up. Get some deputies to go meet them in the woods.” He looked at Argent. “Permits for the weapons?”

Chris shook his head. “I have a license as a dealer, but they aren’t licensed.”

“Good. You stay out of it. Split up then make for your vehicle and get out of the woods. You won’t go to jail that way,” Stiles warned. He turned to Derek, who just nodded. “Guess we’re good, Argent.”

Chris nodded. “Good luck,” he said, turning to leave. Derek watched him leave then looked at Stiles, who nodded.

“Lauren’s going to be fine. Promise,” he said and Derek sighed, looking shaky.

“God I hope so.”

~

Derek smiled as he looked down at Lauren, who was asleep on Stiles’s couch. They had moved from his father’s house to Stiles’s house to keep Kate off their trail. Stiles’s roommates were in bed already, so Derek wasn’t worried about getting in their way.

Stiles walked back down the stairs, stopping to smile when he saw Derek watching his daughter sleep with a lovingly warm expression. Stiles walked closer and edged under his arm. Derek simply curled it around Stiles, holding him long enough to look down at Lauren a bit more before he shuffled and tucked his face into Stiles’s neck, breathing deeply. Stiles hummed, tilting his head back so that Derek could do so. “Are you worried?” Stiles asked softly.

Derek sighed heavily. “I don’t want to be. I want to believe everything will be fine. I just… I know what Kate is capable of. “

Stiles curled his fingers in Derek’s short, soft hair. “Hey,” he whispered, turning to press his lips to the space behind Derek’s ear while Derek nuzzled along his throat again. “I won’t let any Argent hurt either of you. Promise.”

Derek snuffled happily, nodding. “Good.”

Stiles nudged his middle gently, pushing Derek to standing straight. “Want to bring her up and lets all sleep in my bed, or do you want to stay down here with her?” He glanced down. “She’ll be fine alone down here, but I don’t want to see you trying to sleep with a floor between you two.”

Derek smiled. “I’ll stay here. You can go sleep upstairs.”

Stiles hummed tiredly. “Sure you don’t want me to stay?”

Derek nodded, prodding him towards the stairs slowly. “Yeah, you go sleep in your own bed.” He ducked in and pecked his lips. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight to you too,” Stiles whispered against his lips as he stole one last kiss before turning to head upstairs and to bed.

~

Stiles had only been asleep a short time when he heard the unmistakable sound of breaking glass and was jolted awake. He barely had time to sit up before he heard an earsplitting roar and knew immediately something was wrong. He worried vaguely about how the hell he’d explain that to Isaac and Scott when they tumbled out of bed, but he immediately slid into his slip-on sneakers and grabbed his gun, running down the stairs. He got to the bottom, gun drawn, just as Lauren collided with his shins and bounced off. “Stiles!” she cried, scrambling up and clinging to him.

Stiles scooped her behind his legs. “Run upstairs, run now!” he said, shoving her at the stairs before turning the corner at the hall and into the living room, freezing when he saw Derek staring down the barrel of a gun held by none other than that snake of a woman he feared the most.

“Kate.” Derek was trying to reason with her. “Think about this. You’re in over your head, don’t do anything stupid-“

“I realized your little plan when I found the Sheriff’s house empty, Der. I’d say I’m a little smarter than you planned on,” she said in a venomous tone. “Now, you’re gonna move out of my way and tell me where that little bitch is, or I’ll kill you.”

Derek’s eyes flared red. “You move a muscle and I’ll rip your throat out. You stay the hell away from my child-“

“That little mutt is mine, Pretty Boy,” she countered with a sneer.

Stiles clicked off the safety, catching her attention, but not enough to make her take the gun off of Derek. “Think you can move faster than a bullet, Argent?” Stiles challenged coldly.

“Awww the cute cop. I thought we had something, Sugar,” she goaded, but Stiles didn’t flinch.

“Put down the gun,” Stiles ordered, stalking closer. “Now.”

She seemed to think, then smirked. “I think I’ll just kill Derek-“

“PUT DOWN THE GUN OR I WILL SHOOT YOU!” Stiles shouted in his best ‘authority’ voice.

She looked at Derek, shifting her aim to his head, and hummed. “Yeah I think not-“

Before she could even pull the trigger before a shot rang out, incredibly loud inside the house, and she gasped, clutching her side. She stumbled to the floor and Stiles ran over, stepping on her hand and kicking the gun away, ignoring her scream of pain. “STILES?!” He heard the shout from upstairs and looked up at Derek, gun still trained on Kate.

“Go find Lauren, check on her, tell Scott to call the station. Intruder in Deputy Stilinski’s house, shots fired, suspect injured in need of ambulance. Hurry,” he instructed and Derek jumped for the stairs, pounding up them loudly as he called Lauren’s name. He looked down at Kate, who was glaring up at him as she lay still, hand on her side.

“Didn’t think you had it in you,” she growled out, and Stiles shrugged, gun still trained on her, her gun kicked halfway across the room.

“I’m a sheriff’s deputy, you should know better than to underestimate me,” he replied, turning his head at the sound of feet pounding down the stairs. Scott came out and stopped when he saw a woman on the floor.

“Oh shit! You SHOT HER, Stiles!”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Yes, Scott, I do remember doing that.” He looked at Scott. “Do you still have leftover gauze pads? I don’t want her to bleed to death before she can go to prison,” he said and Scott nodded, running back upstairs to get the first-aid kit. He looked back at Kate. “This time you won’t be getting out early, bitch,” he said tightly, not looking away as he heard the sirens approaching.

He wasn’t going to give her a chance to escape.

~

Stiles was finishing giving his statement at the station when he heard a squeal of his name. “STILES!” He immediately turned and let out a sigh of relief when Lauren ran down the aisle and collided with his legs, hugging him tight around the thigh. “Stiles, I thought you got hurt!” she whined, then looked up with big, teary eyes. “Daddy said you was okay but you were gone.”

Stiles immediately scooped her up, clinging to her. “I’m okay, shhhh, we’re both okay,” he comforted as she started crying. He kissed her hair, rocking her some. “Oh Pup, it’s all okay now.”

“I thought that mean lady was gonna get me,” she sobbed into his neck. “And I thought she was gonna hurt Daddy and hurt you and I was scared!”

Stiles shook his head, lips pressed into her hair. “No way. That mean lady won’t ever try to hurt you or anybody else again. Daddy and Stiles wouldn’t let anybody hurt you, I promise.” He looked up and saw Erica smiling sadly at them She winked at him and he smiled, still rocking Lauren. “Pup, where’s your daddy?” he asked gently.

Lauren whimpered, rubbing her face against his neck and shoulder. “Talking to policemen,” she grumbled, snuffling at his skin again. He chuckled in amusement as he realized she did the same thing Derek liked to do. Granted, Derek didn’t rub snot and tears all over him.”

“Alright, will you stay with Erica?” he asked, pulling her away gently. “I just wanna go check on your daddy, okay?”

Lauren looked unhappy to be pulled away from Stiles, but she let Erica take her and sit her on the desk. “Hurry back,” Lauren demanded grumpily and Stiles laughed and kissed her cheek once more before going to find Derek. He felt weird walking around the station in pajamas, and judging by his coworkers snickers, he looked pretty weird too. He found Derek in one of the conference rooms talking to his father.

“Dad!” Stiles cried, his heart skipping a beat. His father had blood on his uniform and his arm in a sling. “You’re hurt! Nobody told me you’re hurt. WHY didn’t people TELL ME you’re hurt?!”

“I’m fine,” John said sternly. “I already got that interrogation from Derek, so just let it go-“

“He got shot,” Derek said gruffly and Stiles glowered at his dad.

John rolled his eyes. “I got grazed in the shoulder. You had that psychotic woman in your house!,” he stressed. “How are you doing?”

Stiles shrugged. “I’m fine. She’s going to prison, didn’t die, and nobody else died.” He looked between them. “I hear we got Gerard Argent too?”

John nodded. “He’s the one that shot me. He and two other ‘fellow hunters’ are going to prison for shooting at law enforcement and planning a murder with Kate Argent.” He slapped Derek on the arm. “You don’t have to worry about them ever coming after your daughter again.”

Derek nodded. “Good,” he said firmly. He looked at Stiles then hesitated since John was right there, but Stiles snorted.

“Screw that,” he said, closing the last few paces between them to throw his arms around Derek’s neck, pulling him into a kiss.

Derek made a soft sound, arms curling around Stiles’s middle. When the kiss broke, he rested their foreheads together, eyes shut. “I thought she was going to get Lauren. I thought she was going kill me and get to Lauren and hurt her, too-“

“But she didn’t,” Stiles interrupted. He stroked a hand over the back of Derek’s head. “Lauren is safe. I told you I’d protect you guys and I did. You both have nothing to worry about now.”

Derek laughed softly, a brittle sounding laugh that matched his shaking hands. “I thought she was going to hurt you too,” he said, opening his eyes to meet Stiles’s. “Thank you for protecting my daughter. Thank you for- for becoming part of our lives. Even ignoring that you saved us tonight, you are exactly what was missing from our lives, Stiles.”

Stiles smiled and bumped their foreheads together. “I don’t know why you’re thanking me, I love you guys,” he said simply. Derek made a soft noise of surprise, then kissed Stiles hard and fast before crushing him into a hug. Stiles smiled and stroked Derek’s hair as he clung to him.

Derek jerked slightly, raising his head to turn to the side, and Stiles bit back a dog joke as he cupped his jaw. “What?”

“Lauren,” he said. “She’s asking your partner where I’m at,” he whispered, and Stiles grinned.

“Wanna go check on Lauren?” he said louder for his dad to hear. “Well, you’re done here, right?” he asked, looking over at his dad, who was studiously doing paperwork and ignoring them. “Right, dad?”

John snickered. “Yep, good to go,” he said with a smirk.

Stiles dropped his hand into Derek’s. “C’mon, let’s go take make sure Lauren’s okay.”

Derek, nodded, looking relieved as they started to go look for her. He tugged Stiles along and smiled. “She’s asking for you, too,” he muttered and Stiles grinned bashfully. “She really loves you, Stiles.”

Stiles met Derek’s eyes and nodded. “Good thing, cause I’m not going anywhere.”

Derek gave him a pleased little smile. “Good,” he said, lacing their fingers together more securely as they went to find Lauren to take her home.