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It's Insanity, but...

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It's Insanity, but...

The doorbell interrupts what had turned out to be quite the epic shoe hunt but, really, he’s grateful for the break. Or at least, he is until he heads down the stairs to grab the door, trips over a stuff animal of some kind, bashes his head on the wall and barely manages to catch himself from falling down the entire flight of stairs.

As with all things, Stiles would like to state, for the record, that this is Scott’s fault.

It was Scott who found out that the work of rogue hunters such as Kate Argent and the Calaveras had left many werewolf children orphaned. It was Scott who discovered that many of them had difficulties finding adoptive families or even stable foster homes due to their quick tempers, tendency to hear things they shouldn’t, propensity for smelling everything, and the small issue of sometimes turning into tiny werepuppies.

Yeah, apparently most foster parents are a bit freaked out by that.

But, still it is Scott’s fault. Because it was Scott’s idea that they had to help and it was Scott’s blend of resolve and puppy-eyes that had somehow convinced the over-worked social worker to allowed two unmarried 22-year old recent college grads to be foster parents.

That had been four years ago.

“Corey!” Stiles yells, stabilizing himself and grabbing the stuffed animal he’d nearly died on. “If you want to see your giraffe again, you better come save him!”

From the living room, there is a gasp and then a eight-year old werewolf flashes to Stiles’ side and snatches the toy from Stiles’ hands before Stiles can even blink. And then he is gone. Also quickly. Too quickly.

“And no shifting in the house!” Stiles calls after him. Honestly, he needs a recording of him saying those words. “Go outside and help Scott!”

Of course, it wasn’t just Scott’s fault, Stiles tells himself as he heads for the kitchen. There is Lydia, who eventually took over dealing with Child Support Service and seemed even more adept at bullying them into letting Scott and Stiles break all the rules. There is Mrs. McCall, who had moved in with hisfather and left them the house so they had more space. There’s Deaton, who had hired Scott and allowed him to work only during school hours as there was no way they could afford after school help. There’s Danny, who had convinced the company he worked for to hire Stiles remotely. Hell, he even blames Greenburg, who now works at a furniture store and gives them crazy discounts whenever they go in to buy yet another set of bunk beds.

The point is, none of this had been Stiles’ idea and so on days like today, when the house is in chaos (well, extra chaos, the house has been in a permanent state of chaos for four years now), he is completely within his rights to grumble about Scott’s stupid “saving the world” ideas and his stupid puppy eyes that had somehow roped Stiles into it.

He rubs at his forehead absently, opening the freezer. They don’t have any ice packs (the benefits of raising children whose bumps and bruises will heal in five minutes) but they always have frozen bags of French fries and that works in a pinch. A glance out of the glass doors tells him that Scott is already outside, setting up. Or, at least, he is supposed to be setting up. From what Stiles can see, their mighty Alpha is busy inhaling helium from balloons and singing to Lucy and Mato.

Stiles would go yell at him but it is Lucy’s birthday and Mato is smiling softly and even after almost a year, Mato’s smiles are rare. Besides, it looks like Ellie is spreading out the plastic table clothes and Stiles is completely confident that she will straighten Scott out in a minute.

Ellie had been with them for three years now but it had taken the ten-year old all of one week to start bossing the others around (Scott and Stiles included). There was no way to know, but Scott suspects that she had once been in line to be Alpha. Lydia is looking into it. Lydia loves her.

“Mr. uh- S-Stiles?”

Stiles jumps, tells himself that he hadn’t been smiling fondly out the window and turns to the two five year olds staring up at him, abandoning the fries as he does so.

“Just Stiles,” he says, squatting down. “How can I help you?”

Both take a step back as he moves, nervously glancing outside.

“Do you want me to get Scott?” he asks. Scott claims that all the kids adore him instantly but Stiles is, as always, more realistic. He loves them, but he’s better with the older ones, the ones who can understand and appreciate sarcasm. Scott is the master of small children. He is the one who could have them at ease within five minutes. Even young, traumatized five year olds who have only been here for a week.

“No,” Adam says, softly. “But Vonna says there’s someone at the door.”

Oh. Right. The door. He’d completely forgotten about that. He watches as Levonna shifts closer to Adam, almost hiding completely behind him.

“Oh,” he says. “That’s probably just the Sheriff and Melissa. You remember them, right?”

Dear god, he hopes it is them. This birthday party has all the kids wound up. All the kids and Scott. He needs backup.

Levonna shakes her head, leaning forward to whisper in Adam’s ear. So far, it seemed she would only talk through him. That’s okay. Given what happened to her, Stiles is surprised she talks at all.

“No,” Adam reports dutifully. “She says the smell is wrong.” His eyes had narrowed. Behind him, Vonna tenses further, eyes wide.

“Okay,” Stiles says, nodding. “I’ll go see who it is. Why don’t you two go see if Scott needs help? I think he’s setting up the balloons.”

Levonna will be comforted being around an Alpha. It won’t be as good for Adam, who actually isn’t a werewolf (just the best friend of a werewolf and the social worker had nearly cried with relief when Scott had assured her that they would take both of them) but he will be happier when she is happier. Apparently, they’d spent their three months in the state home in Nevada completely inseparable.

Stiles heads back to the door, idly tidying as he went. It is insane. They had had Pack Cleaning Hour just yesterday and the house is already a wreck. Not that he really minds but guests might cut through here and it’s as he reaches for the door that he realizes that Lucy’s version of cleaning is to put all her nerf guns behind the coat rack and-

He opens the door to the hottest man he has ever seen. He has dark hair and dark jeans and his eyebrows as big as they are, cannot hide the beautiful green-blue-gray-something eyes and his muscles are bunching as he holds an overly large black bag.

“You have the wrong house,” Stiles says, already mourning the loss of this gorgeous, gorgeous man. He and Scott had never formally given up on dating but essentially running a werewolf orphanage just doesn’t lend itself to the dating world. It’s been months since he has even been able to sneak away to the Jungle for a night and hook up with someone. Hell, even pleasuring himself is basically a stealth operation now that the kids are all home for the summer.

Again, Scott’s fault. All of it.

The man frowns at him.

“Uh, I don’t think so,” he says. “520 Maple Lane? 10th Birthday party for Lucy?”

“Oh!” Stiles says, surprised. “Oh, that is us!”

He is still completely confused what the man is doing here but he knows the details so he must be… something.

“I’m Derek Hale,” the man offers. Stiles shakes his head. Derek sighs. “The entertainer?”

“Oh, the clown,” Stiles says. “Right! Scott told me about you. Sorry, I thought you weren’t coming until 4.”

“Not a clown,” Derek says, glaring. “And I need an hour to get set up. It’s on the website.”

“Right,” Stiles said. “Makeup and stuff.”

“I don’t wear makeup,” Derek all but growls and Stiles can’t help but roll his eyes. This is just his luck. The first hot man he sees in months and he is apparently some form of child entertainer who seems to be the ultimate grouch. “Why are all the kids already here?”

Stiles blinks at him in confusion.

“What kids?” Looking around, he assumes that all of them have migrated to Scott. Good. Maybe Ellie has them finally doing some work. Though, that probably means that all the chips are already gone. He should not have put them out so early.

Derek looks at him like he’s an idiot.

“The kids for the party,” he says. “They’re all outside. I thought the party wasn’t until 4? I usually perform outside and set up. But if kids are already here, it kinda ruins it.”

He sounds very upset. Upset and a little judgmental.

“Don’t worry about it,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “Those aren’t the guests. Those are all ours.”

“What?” Derek says and he shoots Stiles a surprised look. He cocks his head to the side in the way that Stiles now recognizes. Scott had said he was a werewolf. It was good to confirm. “But there’s at least five of them.”

“Seven,” Stiles corrects absently. He knows it’s insane. Even Scott admits it’s insane. But neither of them have figured out how to say no. Not since they’d found Nate at only three months old wrapped in a blanket in the woods by their college campus, pack dead around him and crying and he’d stopped the moment Stiles picked him up and then they’d gone to turn him into Child Services and Scott had asked all the questions and hated all the answers and-

They are up to seven.

Really, maybe Stiles should blame Nate for all this. And he would if Nate weren’t quite honestly, the cutest and coolest little –

“Nate!” Stiles says aloud. “Oh fuck, I was letting him play in my room while I got ready!”

Nate’s four. It means he has learned to partially shift and likes chewing on things and-

“Scott’s out back,” Stiles says, waving a hand in the general direction. “He’ll set you up!”

When he gets back to his room, Nate has found his shoes and has started chewing on them.

Stiles blames Scott.

*^*^*^

Derek is confused.

The man who opened the door – Scott’s husband presumably – hadn’t bothered to introduce himself before seeming to remember one of his seven children and running away.

Though, Derek supposes, they must not all biologically belong to the two men. They can’t. Not just because the man barely looks old enough to have fathered one child, let alone seven, but because as Derek cautiously opens the door to the backyard, following more his sense of smell rather than any waved directions, he sees that none of the six children present look anything like each other. Or really anything like the man he barely sees behind a mess of balloons.

There is absolutely nothing to connect them. Nothing except…

They are all werewolves.

It’s as Derek is making this realization, eyes flitting from one child to the next that Scott finally notices him, a stranger, and his eyes flash red for the briefest instant and Derek takes a step back almost instinctively.

“I’m Derek,” he says quickly, noting that the children have all seemed to notice their Alpha’s moment of concern. “Hale- from the-”

“Dude!” Scott says and then he is beaming and shaking Derek’s hand. Derek follows his lead woodenly. Werewolves aren’t common but he’s worked a few parties for packs before. Letting another wolf on your property was a big deal. There are normally subtle tests of strength and less-subtle threats and – “So glad you could make it! Did Stiles let you in then?”

“Uh, yes,” Derek says. Scott’s ridiculously handsome husband with the moles and the hands that he waves around. Stiles. He blinks and stops that line of thought immediately. Just because this Alpha so far seems like the friendliest person Derek has ever met doesn’t mean he won’t freak out about Derek, a Beta, sniffing around his mate. “He did.”

He never should have let Laura talk him into this job. Yes, he loved magic tricks and making balloon animals was oddly soothing and he’d always loved kids but… Christ, handling the adults was the worst.

“Awesome,” Scott says. “Let’s get you set up. Do you need help? Mato and Ellie can totally help. Or Corey. He’s stronger than he looks. Ellie! Where should Derek set up?”

“Over by the swing set,” the oldest girl says, not even glancing up from where she is setting the table.

“Do you need help?” Scott asks again and it’s not normal for an Alpha to be so friendly. No wonder he has such a hot-

“No!” he practically yelps. “No, I got it.”

“Okay,” Scott says easily. “Just give a shout if you change your mind!”

But Derek doesn’t. He focuses on setting up his equipment and definitely doesn’t look over when Stiles comes outside a few minutes later with an adorable toddler on his shoulders. He definitely isn’t a little bit turned on by how effortlessly Stiles moves through the mass of children and he doesn’t find it adorable when Stiles orders Scott around even though Scott is the Alpha and Stiles is a human and he is not jealous when Scott obeys easily and pats Stiles on the shoulder as he goes to grab things from the kitchen.

He is not any of those things.

Eventually the party starts in earnest and a pack of other ten-year olds arrives (not many, but given that the youngest – Nate – seems to be in a perpetually half-shifted state unless Scott is within eyesight, Derek is guessing the party is limited to very, very close friends only) and he is relieved.

Because then he can focus on the kids and he actually does like this part of the job and in two hours or so, he can be out of here and he can put this whole thing behind him.

*^*^*^

This is a disaster.

Stiles has been in enough disasters in his life to know when something qualifies. He had been there when Scott was bitten by a werewolf and had coached him through learning to control his shifts. And then there was the whole kanima disaster and hunters and True-Alphaness and that was before they even went to college. Stiles is pretty much a disaster expert.

And this is a disaster.

Because Derek Hale is not only the hottest thing he has seen in years, but he is also amazing with the kids. There’s no paint and he’s not overly bubbly but somehow his slightly disgruntled face and scowling takes on a humorous tone and though everyone knows he is messing up on purpose, that just seems to make it funnier.

He lets the kids pick how he makes balloon animals and they are truly terrible until he somehow magically makes them awesome. He loses things by sitting on them and glares when the kids try to tell him where it is. He is grumpy and funny and impressive and he keeps the kids entertained for a whole hour nonstop and, really, it shouldn’t be surprising that Stiles is can’t stop staring.

And then Derek makes a flower and offers it to Levonna and she blushes and Adam still grabs it for her, but she snatches it the next moment and offers Derek the smallest of smiles and, holy shit, Stiles is in love.

He is in love and it is a disaster.

Because their backyard is full of kids (well, more full than usual) and Lydia is over and his father and Melissa and so he tries to play it cool. Tries not to notice when Derek finishes, but hangs around and starts teaching Mato card tricks.

Thank god that living with a house full of werewolves has thoroughly disguised his scent. Scott has assured him on more than one occasion that all Stiles really smells like anymore is pack. Stiles isn’t too surprised. He’s noticed that all the kids are more touchy feeling after he takes a shower. And when he has to actually go into work every other month or so, his return is always heralded by an excessive long pack-hug.

So, he doesn’t have to worry that he is smelling like raw lust and he might actually be pulling off something other than “crushing so hard I want to die.” There’s certainly enough to distract him. There’s grilling and cake and presents and time flies. Eventually parents start to pick up their children, and, as usual, Scott handles that particular brand of social interaction (if Stiles is being honest, they try to have it so Scott handles most brands of social interaction. He can handle the questions about their life with much more tact than Stiles, only occasionally getting firm. Meanwhile, Stiles hears the beginning of the sentence “So, you two just foster-” and the sarcasm is already pouring from his mouth.) Even though these are the parents of kids who know their family and who they trust, Stiles doesn’t doubt he will somehow offend someone.

So, Scott is dealing with the goodbyes and Stiles is just starting to clean up a few things, when suddenly Derek is standing in front of him.

For the record, his shirt is a little sticky with sweat and his hair is standing up and, really, it’s love. Eternal love. Or at least enough love that Stiles promptly loses his train of thought.

“I have to go,” Derek grunts at him. God, he should not be allowed to sound so grumpy and still so hot.

“Oh, right,” Stiles says. It has to be almost seven by now. He wasn’t even sure how long Derek was supposed to stay. “Let me just grab my wallet.”

He leads the way and Derek follows him silently.

“It’s, uh, it’s three hundred, right?” he asks, throwing dishes into the sink as he makes it to the table they keep by the phone. “We went over the budget a few weeks ago but… I mean, I have the list somewhere.”

“No, it’s three hundred,” Derek interrupts, scowling.

“Right, good,” Stiles says. He wishes he didn’t feel like a teenager again. He had graduated high school eight years ago! He was raising seven children! He was an adult! “That’s how much I got out so… yeah, that’s good.”

He pulled out the bills of his wallet and idly starts counting, just to make sure he doesn’t screw Derek over. He’s pretty sure the man has stayed longer that they hired him for anyway.

“You could totally stay and hang out,” he hears himself say. “I mean, not as a clown-”

“Not a clown.”

“Right. But I mean, if you just wanted to chill,” Stiles tries again. “I mean, they all loved you. You even got-”

His throat closes unexpectedly and he makes a point of frowning down at the bills as if he’d lost count. He hadn’t (he was raising seven children, multitasking is now his specialty) but to sell it, he starts over.

“You got Vonna to smile,” he says, finally risking looking up. “She’s only been here a week and- and it’s- she likes you.”

It’s a lame statement to make. Especially to someone who doesn’t understandwhy he and Scott have all these children, what they’ve all been through. He blushes and looks away and-

“She’s cool,” Derek says and his voice has lost its edge and gone lower. “She’ll be okay.”

He doesn’t say it like it’s just an assumption. He says it like he understands. Stiles actually does lose count.

“You’re really good with them,” Derek says and Stiles shakes his head.

“Nah,” he says, shrugging. “Scott is the magic. I just… shit.”

“What?” Derek asks. Ignoring him, Stiles counts again.

“Shit, I’m sorry,” Stiles explains. “We’re short. Fuck, I think Scott grabbed money to go get more ice cream. He’s always doing that. Hold on.”

Stiles can feel his face burning. He hates this, hates that it happens more than he likes to admit. It’s why he tries to plan out exactly what he’s going to buy before going to the grocery store. There’s just such a look of judgment and pity from people and also, of course, concern for whatever children Stiles is toting around with him that day. Like he’s the dumb kid who can’t budget and-

Being unable to pay Derek would be the worst thing to happen at this moment. Derek was somehow fooled into thinking Stiles was a good parent and now he’ll see that it’s all just a ruse and probably notice how all the kids’ clothes are worn or poorly patched and-

“Hold on,” Stiles repeats. “I think I’ve got sixty bucks in my room. Just give me one second.”

“It doesn’t-” Derek starts but Stiles is already heading upstairs. Going to Scott while he’s saying goodbye to other parents would be even worse and he’s pretty sure he has some twenties lying around… somewhere.

“One second,” Stiles repeats. “Be right back. Don’t worry.”

*^*^*^

Derek stares after Stiles, still trying to find the words to tell him that he reallydoesn’t care. He doesn’t even need the money, he just charges it because, as Laura pointed out to him, volunteering to go play with children is creepy and weird.

He’s already stayed an hour later than he’s supposed to.

And, it was totally worth it. Both because it has been a long time since he’s been around so many young werewolves and he’s forgotten how much fun that is and because he and Stiles had had this conversation. Where Stiles invited him to stay. Which he wouldn’t do, obviously, because Stiles was married and-

“Derek!” Scott says, entering the kitchen and Derek immediately flushes. He is positive he hadn’t picked up anything more than politeness from Stiles but it still feels… wrong. Like he has been caught. “Hey, did you decide to stay? We’d love to have you! We could even attempt to keep the kids away- we could have Stiles’ dad give them rides in the police car for a while.”

“Umm,” he says. “No, Stil-” suddenly he is very uncomfortable saying Stiles name aloud. His attraction might somehow come out as his mouth curves around the syllables. “I mean, your husband had to run to get money.”

“Oh, yeah, shit,” Scott replies, looking guilty. “I took some from his wallet this morning. He’s gonna kill- Wait. He’s not my husband.”

“Ah, sorry,” Derek says. “Partner?” He doesn’t know anything about preferred terms. Werewolves would use “mate” but Stiles isn’t a werewolf and-

“No,” Scott says, laughing. “No, I mean we aren’t together.” He looks thoroughly amused by this. Derek, once again, is confused.

“So you’re…”

“Just two bros raising kids,” Scott finishes. “It’s a long story. But, here,” he digs into his back pocket for a wallet and pulls it out. “How much do we owe you?”

It takes Derek a moment to answer because he feels like he’s just been slapped.

“You’re not together,” Derek repeats.

“No,” Scott says slowly. “But… the money?”

“Oh, uh, just twenty,” Derek says. It’s not true. But… well, it’s what comes out of his mouth. They are apparently two friends who have taken in seven – well, six – orphaned werewolves and… well, if he and Laura hadn’t been old enough to take care of themselves when his family died… “Twenty’s fine.”

“Cool,” Scott replies, pulling a crumpled bill from his wallet. “Here you go. Thank you so much! The kids really loved you. Even Vonna smiled!”

“Uh, thanks,” Derek says and he just knows he is blushing. Alphas shouldn’t be so lenient with their praise. And they shouldn’t just drop bombs like ‘The incredibly hot man living with me is actually not my husband and so…’

So, nothing. Derek is still a grouch and Stiles is still perfect (and maybe heterosexual) and there’s really no reason for him to still be here. Not after he takes the twenty from Scott.

“Sure you don’t want to stay?” Scott asks, tilting his head towards the back. Most of the kids have gone home but the party seems to be in full swing. With seven kids in the house, there must always be a party.

“No,” he says, already hating himself a little. “But thanks anyway.”

Scott nods.

“And, uh, tell Stiles I said bye,” he blurts and then turns bright red and then runs away.

“Will do!” Scott calls after him.

*^*^*^

The night ends as every night ends: in a werewolf pile on the couch.

They used to have two recliners and a loveseat but after the addition of Corey, it was decided they needed to upgrade so Greenburg had hooked them up with one of those insanely large U-shaped sectionals that seemed unnecessary until suddenly it wasn’t.

Stiles was never one for too much physical affection but he’d had to compromise when Scott became a werewolf suddenly obsessed with hugging (and it had gotten worse when he became an Alpha) and then he’d abandoned it completely when they’d started raising werewolf children. Now, the only thing he demands is a place in the corner so he has at least one free arm. So he is pressed against the left side of the couch, feet stretched into Mato’s lap, who claims he hates them but never moves them. As per usual, Scott sits in the middle, the others crowded around him. Even Levonna has tentatively chosen to sit so that she was in between Adam and Corey, rather than on the end.

It’s only 8:30 but it feels later. All the kids are quiet – Nate is actually dozing against Scott’s chest and Corey seems to be barely winning the fight against sleep and in a minute, Stiles is going to start the process of getting them all to bed.

“So,” Scott starts. “Lucy, did you enjoy your birthday party?”

“Yes!” Lucy says and somehow she is still bouncing with energy. “Yes! I liked Derek! Can he come back every week?”

“We’ll have to see,” Scott says, which is as close as Scott gets to a “no.” Lucy frowns at him. “He’s probably very busy.”

“I don’t know,” Ellie pipes up suddenly. “I think he may want to come back.”

Stiles frowns at her. She sounds like she knows things. Ellie knowing things is never good. But he’s too tired to interject.

“Why?” Corey asks, twisting his head to look at her. Oh god, the information is waking him back up. Stiles tries to catch Scott’s eye but Scott is watching Ellie was unconcealed interest.

Scott is the worst.

“Because I think he likes Stiles,” Ellie croons as only thirteen year olds can croon.

Stiles groans.

“Where do you come up with these ideas?”

“Do you like him too?” Lucy asks. She sounds thrilled. She sounds like her birthday has just been made. Stiles regrets everything.

“Children of the corn,” he mutters, a favorite saying of his. “No!” Scott and Mato look over at him. Stiles glares at Mato. Fifteen might be old enough to be able to hear when someone’s heart skips a beat but it is not old enough to start ratting out your foster-dad. Luckily, Mato keeps his thoughts to a small smirk and looks away.

“You don’t like Derek?” Corey asks.

“No,” Stiles says. “I mean, I like him just… not like Ellie thinks I do. And I’m sure he doesn’t like me either.”

“He does!” Ellie declared. “I heard him when Scott told him you guys weren’t married! He was excited!”

“Ellie!” Stiles says, going for strict. “What have we told you about eavesdropping? No using werewolf powers in the house!”

“I don’t know, dude,” Scott suddenly says. “He did smell a little excited.”

Stiles glares at him. Scott is the worst. First backing up Ellie and then admitting to smelling people. What ever happened to their no werewolf powers in the house rule!?

“Scott,” he growls.

“Sorry, sorry,” Scott says, sounding only half-contrite. “Never mind. Ellie, no using powers in the house. Especially to butt into Stiles’ life.”

“But he said to say bye to Stiles!” Ellie says. “You forgot.”

Scott blushes.

“He did say to tell you bye,” he admits. “I forgot.”

Scott is officially the worst Alpha ever.

“He looked at you a lot too,” Adam suddenly said and as everyone was staring at him in wonder (it was the first time he had contributed during the nightly wolf pile), Levonna pulled him over to whisper in his ear. “And Vonna says he smelled sad when he looked at you.”

“See!” Stiles says. “Sad! Not good!” (Yes, a part of him knows that he should not be arguing with seven children. But… this is his life now. He can’t escape it.)

“Probably because he thought you were married to Scott,” Mato notes and Stiles drops his head in a sigh. He’s lost control of this conversation. It’s time for bed. Bed and maybe just a little alone time before his memory of Derek briefly lifting his shirt to wipe his face while packing up fades.

“Alright,” he says, starting to extract himself from the pile. “It’s time for-”

The werewolves’ heads all tilt in practical unison an instant before the doorbell rings.

“It’s him,” Levonna says and it’s only because the room has gone quiet that everyone hears her but still… Stiles beams at her. And then frowns at the door. And then at Scott.

“Go!” Scott says and he sounds just as excited as when Stiles finally worked up the courage to ask out Lydia in sophomore year. Stiles still doesn’t move. Levonna may be wrong. Or he’s probably just- “Go!”

Scott manages to reach and arm over and shove him a bit and Stiles playfully slaps his arm away but stands anyway.

“Ugh, fine,” he groans. “I’m going. Put the kids to bed, Scott. And no one even think about eavesdropping. I’m sure he just forgot something.”

As much as he says it, his heart is still beating rather quickly as he opens the door.

Yup, Derek is still insanely hot. He’s changed into fresh clothes, a black t-shirt and is it possible to somehow get hotter in only two hours?

Stiles is suddenly very aware that he has not changed or showered and Nate had spilled ice cream on him and his hair is probably sticking up in a thousand directions and –

“Hi,” Derek says.

“Hey,” Stiles replies. And then they are silent for a minute both just staring like fucking weirdoes and-

“Um… you’re not married to Scott,” Derek says, so quickly that Stiles almost misses it.

He didn’t think it was possible but Stiles’ heart starts beating faster.

“Uh, no,” Stiles says. “Just two bros raising kids.” It’s their tagline. Their saying.

Their fucking warning label.

Stiles sighs. He can’t do this. They hadn’t meant to when they found Nate but these kids had become his life and as much as he complains and jokingly blames Scott in his head, he-

He fucking loves it.

He loves every second of running after half-shifted children and yelling at people who dare to look at their little mixed family the wrong way and waking up to let kids having nightmare sleep in his room or letting them drag him to Scott’s room because Corey often required both of them and watching youtube videos to learn how to do the girls’ hair and stumbling through a version of “The Talk” with Mato and-

He’s twenty-six and father. Of seven. It is the most ridiculous thing he’s ever heard and if you’d told him four years ago, he would have laughed in your face.

But, now-

“It’s a long story,” he says. And it’s not that he doesn’t want it, but-

“Could I come play with your kids again next weekend?” Derek asks.

“Oh,” Stiles says, a little thrown aback. Goodness, he really had bought Ellie’s little story more than he thought. “Oh, uh, we can’t afford-”

Derek takes another step forward, close enough that he could now be considered in Stiles’ space.

“Not for work,” he clarifies. “Just for fun. And then, I’d-”

He stops, looks down, blushes.

“I’d love to hear that story. Your story.”

From inside the house, there is a short cheer and then crash and a yelp.

There is absolutely no doubt in his mind that his whole family is listening to this exchange.

For some reason, it makes him smile.

“Okay,” he says. “Okay, yeah, that would be good. Great.”

This time there’s more than a few claps.

“I’m sorry in advance,” he says, rolling his eyes.

That’s why he misses it as Derek leans in and gently kisses him on the cheek.

“Don’t be.”

  End (for now)

Chapter Text

It’s Insanity, but… First Date

 

            “Alright, buddy,” Stiles says, unbuckling Nate and plopping him on the ground next to the car. He does a last glance: keys, wallet, shopping list, Nate’s stuffed tiger and then shuts the door.

            And then squats down so he’s looking his son in the eye. Because this is a mission that must be handled with the utmost delicacy and with every passing trip, he is worried that Nate is going to forget the meaning of the words “secret mission” and blurt it out.

            “Okay, Nathan,” Stiles says. “What are the rules?”

            “I…” Nate looks at the sky. He seems distracted. Stiles sighs. This is what happens when your partner in crime is barely four years old. Still, he waits. Nate’s been helping him pull operations for almost two years now. He can do this. “I tell you when things smell… bad.”

            Then he makes a fart noise.

            “Okay, yes,” Stiles says, nodding encouragement. “But remember, it all smells sorta bad. So you have to tell Daddy when it smells really, really bad.”

            “Exta, exta bad!” Nate repeats, waving his arms.

            “You’re a genius,” Stiles assures him. “And what is the most important rule?”

            “Reeeallly bad,” Nate says. Now he appears to be humming. And dancing.

            Stiles really needs a better system.

            “The Number 1 Rule above allllll other rules is…” He makes his voice exciting, tries to sell it with his eyes, throws in jazz hands for good measure-

            “Nobody fines out,” Nate says. He looks a little unsure but Stiles still fist pumps. It’s close enough.

            “Perfect,” Stiles tells him as he straightens. “Let’s do this.” He holds out a hand which Nate grabs but then doesn’t start walking.

            “Not even Papa?” Nate asks. He sounds concerned.

            “Papa knows,” Stiles assures him. Scott is an integral part of the process.

            “But… but I can’t tell anyone else,” Nate says. He is outright frowning now. “But, I thought secrets were ba-ad.”

            Oh god. Stiles knew this day was coming. The day when Nate inherited some of Scott’s stupid moral compass.

            “Think of it like a surprise,” he tries but he’s not sure he can win a war of logic against a four year old and he has to delay this moral awakening for at least another week. So he does what any good father would do in this situation.

            He picks up Nate, blows a raspberry into his stomach to distract him, and dashes into the Goodwill.

            See, the thing with raising seven children is that they need clothes. And the thing with raising seven werewolf children (Adam hangs out with them enough that Stiles has decided he counts) is that they all grow like weeds and specialize in destroying clothes, be it with claws, super-strength, or general outdoor shenanigans.

            And the start of school means that all seven of them have to be wearing clothes that don’t make them look like they are homeless, neglected, or undergoing some sort of strange psychological abuse. Lydia strong-arms the Foster system into letting them get away with a lot but making a good impression on new teachers is important. Plus, there’s the other students and their parents and, frankly, he and Scott get enough looks just on the merit of their age and presumed orientation and that’s before people even find out they aren’t together, and that knowledge usually just makes it worse.

            Gay dads are in. Two bros raising a gaggle of kids for unknown reasons isn’t. Though Scott tells him not to stress, every year Stiles tries to give the world as little ammo as possible.

            So, the point is the kids need clothes. And the secondary point is that clothes are expensive and money will literally always be tight because even more necessary than clothes is food and honestly, it’s a wonder they aren’t all 500 pounds with the amount they consume and-

            Goodwill is the answer.

            Well, Goodwill plus Nate plus Scott plus an herb mixture that Stiles invented himself to kill of smells of all kinds.

            Because the other problem with raising werewolf children specifically is that werewolves hate wearing secondhand clothes. Apparently they can smell the previous owners or some such.

            Hence, Stiles’ system. Nate tells him which clothes smell only “bad” rather than “really bad,” (when Nate wasn’t talking yet, Stiles based it on facial expressions), he washes them once with his magic herbs, then Scott sleeps with half of them for a few days and Stiles sleeps with the other half, then they switch, then he washes them again (sans magic herbs) and then, if money permits, he mixes them in with some actual new clothes and boom!

            The result is beautiful, cheap, unscented clothes and werewolf children who remain happily unaware of their origins.

            Or at least they will as long as Nate remains in the moral gray area with Stiles.

            Luckily, Nate seems thoroughly distracted and even more luckily, is still at that age where getting to ride in the shopping cart is considered a fun experience. He is totally gonna get away with this.

            “Alright, Cap,” he says, pulling out the piece of paper he had printed this morning. “Let’s go over the mission parameters.”

            “Para-ra-ra-ra-ra!” Nate chirps.

            “Exactly,” Stiles replies and, of course, it’s at that moment, when Stiles is taking a deep breath and preparing for the battlefield that is Goodwill, when he is already starting on the mental math puzzle that is buying as many articles of clothing with only $125, when his son has decided that repeating the syllable “ra” is entertaining enough to continue for an undisclosed amount of time, it is then when a hand gently taps him on the shoulder and Stiles jumps to see Derek Hale standing in front of him.

 

*^*^*^

            Derek doesn’t even really think about it. He walks out of the grocery store, still on the phone assuring Laura that yes, he got the right kind of ice cream, and no, he’s not going to read the label again and as he swings the bag into his trunk, he hears a laugh that pricks on the edge of his awareness and he turns.

            And it’s as he thought. There’s Stiles and Nate and he watches as Stiles swings him up and then dashes into the store and-

            “Gotta go,” he tells Laura, hangs up, and follows them.

            Again, without really thinking about it.

            And it’s really only as he walks through the automatic doors that he realizes this might not be the best course of action. In fact, it may be considered a completely creepy course of action.

            Because Derek has hung out with him a grand total of two times and one of those times he had been working and the other he was essentially crashing one of their last barbecues of the summer and both times had been dominated by seven children.

            These facts should stop him but Derek thinks he already knows everything he needs to know about Stiles.

            He knows that Scott and Stiles had found Nate when Nate was only a baby and therefore, Nate is the only one who calls them Papa and Daddy respectively. He knows Stiles got to name Nate and that he claims he’s not ashamed but blushes the slightest bit when Scott mouths “Nathan Fillion” at Derek from across the table.

            He knows Stiles calls Lucy “Lu-lu” or “Lucifer” and it makes her giggle. He knows Stiles calls Corey “Coretisopher” when he is being mock serious and he knows both Stiles and Scott sometimes bow and say “Yes, my queen” when Ellie bosses them around and she blushes a bit when they do it in front of Derek but nods regally anyway.

            He knows Stiles insists on everyone eating with some form of utensil at dinner (Lucy prefers chopsticks) and isn’t afraid to smack Scott on the shoulder when the Alpha tries to sneak a bite of steak with his claws. He knows that Stiles eats slowly and gives Corey half of his steak as the boy finishes first and stares mournfully at his empty plate. He knows that Scott caught the movement and glared and Stiles glared and the glares must’ve meant something because the next moment, Scott was cutting his remaining meat in half and giving it to Stiles.

            He knows that Scott and all the kids help with cleanup and Stiles is not allowed to help because he cooks. He knows that Stiles watches Nate during the day while the other kids are at school while attempting to get some work done. He knows that Stiles rolls his eyes when Derek tries to tell him that his job sounds interesting but blushes when Derek tells him his kids are awesome.

            And, really, what else do you have to know about a person?

            So he follows and then remembers that Stiles isn’t a werewolf when Stiles doesn’t so much as glance up from the list he is holding so Derek goes for tapping him on the shoulder because he’s an idiot and he realizes that as Stiles jumps three feet in the air, yelps, and drops the piece of paper he is holding.

            “Sorry!” Derek says. What was he thinking? Who tapped people on the shoulder anymore? “Sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you!”

            “Fucking-” Stiles says, clutching his chest. “I mean, hey! Hi, Derek!”

            “Sorry!” Derek says again. “I just saw you from the parking lot and thought I’d come say hello.”

            He frowns. Said aloud, that seems even worse.

            Hurriedly he looks for something to do so he can avoid the face of horror which he knows must be all over Stiles’ face.

            The paper! He bends down and grabs it.

            “Here,” he says, shoving it towards Stiles. “I- um- you dropped this.”

            Stiles doesn’t take it right away, still staring at him as if he can’t quite believe Derek fucking stalked him into a store and Derek feels himself flushing.

            “Oh!” Stiles says finally, blinking and reanimating. “Yeah, uh, yeah, I need that.”

            Derek nods. Tries to think of something to say. Has never been more grateful when Stiles continues to babble.

            (That’s another reason Stiles is perfect. Stiles can always talk. Even when all Derek can do is sort of stare at him like a freak because Stiles is wonderful and Derek is an idiot.)

            “It’s not that important,” Stiles is saying, a bit too quickly as that seems to be his standard speed. “I mean, well, actually it is because it’s my attempt at keeping what colors every kid likes to wear straight because you know, they should wear what they want to school. And in life. And Adam and Vonna need like tons of clothes but you can’t buy them right away because then you don’t know what they like.”

            “Oh,” Derek says when Stiles finally stops. “Um… yeah.”

            “Yeah, like when Corey first came to live with us, we bought a bunch of blue and green stuff but then it turns out Corey hates green and loves orange and neon colors and – so, you know,” he waves the piece of paper. “Best to wait and try to figure out what they actually like.”

            Stiles comes to a stop and Derek finally notices that he’s not the only one blushing and Stiles only smells like his pack but if he had to guess, Derek would say he might be a little embarrassed. Even though that makes no sense because Derek is the creeper.

            “That sounds like a good idea,” Derek says, not because he has any idea about anything but because he’s sure Stiles is right. And because he had admittedly been slightly distracted by Stiles’ waving his hands around again. He is going to have to learn to control that. And control his tendency to track Stiles’ flush as it spread across his cheeks. “Do you want help?”

            “No, no, no” Stiles replies. “I know werewolves hate the smell. Scott practically cried in relief when I told him he didn’t have to come.”

            “I don’t mind,” Derek assures him. Honestly, he’s only noticed it in an offhand way.

            “Really?” Stiles says.

            “Yeah,” Derek says and then starts down an aisle at random just to prove it. “Where is Scott?”

            “Last minute training session,” Stiles replies. “School starts on Monday so it’s all practicing control this week. Except for Nate, who is stuck with me for another year, aren’t cha?”

            “Cha! Rawr!” Nate agrees.

            Derek ends up having to buy another carton for ice cream for Laura. The one in the car melts.

            Idly, he wonders if this counts as a date.

 

*^*^*^

 

            It doesn’t make any sense, but sometimes when they manage to carve out a few hours for “bro-time,” which they try to do at least once a week, Scott and Stiles opt to sit on the ground in front of the couch rather than on it. It just seems fitting, a throw-back to their days of playing video games in Stiles’ room when they were supposed to be asleep or their college days when the ground was actually more comfortable than the futon they had pulled off the side of the street. Or their days in their first apartment when Nate would literally cry if they left the room, so they pulled the TV into what once was Scott’s room and had since become Nate’s, sat with their backs to his crib and played with the volume on mute until they thought he was deeply asleep enough that they could sneak out. Or until they fell asleep and woke up the next morning groggy and in various amount of pain.

            It’s late and they should probably both be asleep (especially since school had officially started which meant that the process of waking up werewolf children at 6am had started) but after putting the kids to bed, Scott had wordlessly headed to the basement to grab two beers and a bag of Doritos (yes, they had their own secret stash) and Stiles had moved the coffee table and hooked up the old Game Cube and-

            Now they are enjoying sitting and playing and breaking all their own rules about no eating or drinking in the living room.

            There is only one rule during Bro-time and that is: No Talking about the Children. Four years ago, in their near-frantic consumption of any and all parenting/baby books and articles, Scott had read one book about keeping your relationship alive after children and though Stiles had told him not to bother with it, Scott had ignored him. So, after a few strange weeks when Scott tried to give Stiles a compliment every morning and night and a stranger period when Scott took funny pictures of himself and sent them to Stiles throughout the day, they had eventually settled on just that one rule.

            (At least, Stiles thinks it has been reduced to just this one. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which little quirks are Scott’s and which come from the strange variety of parenting and self-help books he goes through phases of reading. Scott is a weirdo.)

            They’ve been playing in peaceful silence for about fifteen minutes, when Scott breaks it.

            “So…” Scott starts, not taking his eyes from the television screen.

            Stiles nods to show he is listening and then waits for him to finish his thought, in part because sometimes Scott needs the extra time to finish his thoughts and it part because the majority of his brainpower is focused on trying to not let Bowser shove him off Rainbow Road.

            After all these years, their go-to game of choice when they manage to squeeze in a bit of bro-time is still Mario Cart.

            Of course, seven kids doesn’t allow for as much gaming time so they’ve gotten rusty. At least, that what Stiles assures himself as he misses a turn and flies off the map. He is positive Luigi used to have better handling.

            “So what?” he asks, glancing over now that it’s clear Scott has been distracted.

            “So… Derek,” Scott says, lifting one eyebrow and looking over quickly.

            Stiles blinks, then flushes, then tells himself it is ridiculous to be blinking and flushing about Derek.

            Derek, who stayed with him and Nate for almost an hour in Goodwill, who seemed even more concerned with finding the right pieces of clothing for every child than Stiles was, who at one point claimed that his werewolf vision meant that he could see colors better than Stiles and so he was quite positive the red shirt they were arguing over was too pink to give to Lucy (who hated pink). Derek, who had come over for dinner last Thursday and had enough sense to not mention Goodwill when telling the story of how he ran into Stiles, and who apparently smelled of raw excitement and “something grown-ups smell like” (as Vonna had reported via Adam) whenever he looked at Stiles.

             Seriously, though, if he were allowed to talk about children at this point, he would mention how freakishly good Levonna's sense of smell is. She hadn't said anything but Stiles is positive she somehow knows about the entire Goodwill conspiracy. Stiles is beginning to think she can smell whenever he so much as thinks about Derek nowadays. Thank God she is still too shy to report to Ellie.

            “What about him?” Stiles says, going for casual even though that is a ridiculous strategy.

            Scott had never bought his casual tone of voice before he was turned into an all-sensing, lie-detecting Alpha werewolf.

            “Well, are you ever gonna go on a real date?” Scott asks.

            “We’ve gone on dates,” Stiles protests. Just on Thursday, Derek came over for dinner. That technically made three dinners that Derek had eaten at their house! Plus fighting the battle of Goodwill!

            It is now Monday night and they hadn’t done anything this weekend as Derek had an out of town party on Saturday and Sunday was Grandparent night but… dinner on Thursday counted!

            “Dude,” Scott replies. “I mean a date without any children or your… me.”

            Stiles scowls and purposefully aims a green shell at Mario.

            (Yes, that’s right. He plays Luigi and Scott plays Mario. It has been that way since they were eleven. No amount of protesting could get Scott to stop.)

            “They are unconventional dates for an unconventional family,” Stiles parrots. It’s what he had told Danny when they teleconferenced for work this morning. Danny had also seemed skeptical. He hadn’t risked pulling out the phrase when Lydia asked for an update.

            “Bro,” Scott says. “They are not dates. Not that they’re bad! But not dates.”

            For a moment, Stiles pretends to be enthralled by the game. Because he knows they’re not real dates. Of course he knows.

            Aside from Goodwill, he and Derek barely manage to talk directly to each other and there is absolutely no hope for romance with seven children vying for constant attention and Ellie giggling every time they so much as look at each other and aside from the kiss on the cheek that first night, Derek hasn’t dared to try anything else, doubtless because, you know, seven children but-

            “I don’t know,” he finally mutters. “When would we even go? The kids need to be put to bed and Adam is having nightmares and school just started – we have Parent-Teacher night next week by the way – and-”

            “Hey,” Scott interrupts and then he is pausing the game to look over. And he looks serious and earnest and Stiles feels his face heating up. He is totally about to get slapped with some old fashioned Scott-caring. “Stiles. We can manage without you, you know? I mean… probably not dinner. But we can order pizza and I can get ‘em to bed and handle Adam if you’re not home yet. You can go on a date.”

            “I know,” Stiles says, hunching his shoulders. “I know you can, I just…”

            He just can’t really imagine it. Going on a date. With another adult.

            He’d had a few boyfriends in college but nothing ever serious and then Nate happened and then Ellie and Corey and Lucy and-

            “I dunno,” he finishes lamely.

            “What did you tell me when I dated Allison?” Scott prompts.

            Stiles sighs. For someone who never manages to remember to buy milk, Scott has a freakishly good memory for recalling everything Stiles has ever said that may now serve his own purposes.

            “Stiles?”

            “Ugh,” he says, fiddling with his controller even though it won’t do anything. “That you deserved a relationship and that I could take care of the kids and that we would make it work somehow.”

            “Exactly,” Scott says, looking satisfied with himself.

            “But you guys broke up,” Stiles says, though he feels a bit guilty playing that card. Scott and Allison had been blissfully happy for almost eight months before calling it off. “So…” There it is. Proof that it just doesn't work. That he shouldn't bother to really get his hopes up.

            “Allison and I broke up because we weren’t right for each other,” Scott replies. “And because she wasn’t ready to raise a baby and a ten year old. She- she wasn’t ready for kids, Stiles. But that doesn’t mean Derek isn’t ready.”

            Stiles’ mouth twists. He’s pretty sure he isn’t ready for seven kids. No one is ready for seven kids.

            “At least, I know that Derek is the one who gets to decide,” Scott says, picking the thought from Stiles’ brain. And then he un-pauses the game as if he knows he has won. “You can’t make that decision for him.”

            Stiles is silent for a time, not because he thinks Scott is wrong but because he has to at least try to prove Scott wrong before he gives in. But he’s distracted enough by the conversation replaying in his head that he quickly runs into a fake item dispenser thing and a banana peel and-

            “So?” Scott asks. He looks expectant. “You and Derek?”

            “Okay, okay,” he grumbles. He hates when Scott has a point. And he hates when Scott beams at him after he admits it. Really, he hates Scott. “I’ll call him and ask him on a real date.”

            Scott grins at him and then also has the audacity to win the race and-

            “Should we bother attempting to go to sleep?” Stiles asks, glancing at the clock. It’s almost eleven, but Adam’s nightmares have only gotten worse and more frequent and chances are he’s going to wake them up by midnight anyway.

            Scott frowns but shakes his head. “Nah,” he says. “Not worth it.”

            “If these keep up, we’re going to have to consult with someone,” Stiles says and senses more than sees Scott’s shoulders droop as he nods in agreement. Then because that one sentence came dangerously close to breaking the rule: “Wanna switch to balloon battle?”

            “Yeah,” Scott replies, nodding and sitting up straighter. “But no trying to kill me first! Remember, we go after the computer first!”

            Stiles just grins.

            “Set it up,” he orders. “I’ll get us more beer.”

           

*^*^*^

 

            Derek has taken to scowling at the clock simply because time is not moving fast enough and if he stops scowling, he finds himself with what he’s sure is a stupidly wide grin on his face.

            He’d caught it a few times in the mirror since Tuesday. He knows it looks pretty dumb. But he hadn’t been able to stop it from popping up ever since he’d looked down at his phone to see Stiles in the Caller ID and answered it too quickly to be casual and-

            “So I was thinking,” Stiles says and is it weird that Derek can already picture him pacing around his house as he talks? “I was thinking we should go on like a real date. Like not in this house. Or Goodwill. Or with any children.”

            “Uh,” Derek says, feeling a bit like he’s been hit with something. “Um, uh, yes! I mean, yes, that would be great.”

            It would be fantastic. It would be the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

            “Cool!” Stiles says. “Uh- I was thinking maybe Friday? If that’s okay with you?”

            “Yes!” Derek says, again, too quickly to be cool. “You wanna do dinner? And a movie?”

            “Oh,” Stiles sounds unsure and Derek is already telling himself he’s an idiot, that idea is unoriginal and stupid when Stiles continues. “I – uh- I’m actually in charge of cooking around here since Scott is likely to poison everyone so I can’t really do dinner but maybe a movie? And drinks after?”

            “Perfect!” Derek says, relief coursing his veins. “I mean, yes, that would be great. Er- I can pick you up around seven? Or is that too early? Eight?”

            “Seven’s good,” Stiles replies and Derek tells himself that it’s not just his imagination. Stiles sounds just as excited as he is. His stomach flips.

            “Okay,” he says. “I’ll pick you up at seven.” And then promptly hangs up before he can make a bigger ass of himself somehow.

            Looking back, he should have asked more questions. Like what movie Stiles would like to see or if by “date,” he meant fancy date or whether or not Derek was supposed to bring something. Like flowers? Did guys do flowers for each other?

            God, he has been trying to convince himself that their Goodwill adventure counted as a first date, even if they ended up spending a large amount of time arguing over colors and whether or not Derek should buy a clown shirt to wear during his act but clearly it didn't count as a date, which meant this one had to be perfect, absolutely perfect so- 

            Stop thinking, Derek tells himself firmly. It’s finally 6:57. An acceptable time to pull up to Stiles’ house and head to the door.

            Derek manages to knock just once on the door before it is pulled open.

            He blinks at the air in front of his face before looking down to see Nate staring up at him. The toddler is missing a shirt and one shoe and has pretty much the entirety of his left hand is shoved in his mouth but his eyes are wide and serious.

            “Daddy’s asleep,” he tells Derek, removing his hand for just a moment. “Papa says we aren’t supp’sed to wake him up.”

            His hand goes back in his mouth and Derek is still considering how best to respond to that message when the door starts closing again and Scott’s voice comes from behind it, an urgent whisper.

            “Nate!” Scott says. “What have we said about opening the door?”

            Scott is still behind the door but Derek can still see as Nate turns and blinks up innocently.

            “But it’s Der’k.” Nate doesn’t bother removing his hand from his mouth this time.

            “Okay, but you didn’t know that before you opened it, did you?” Scott replies.

            “Ya-huh,” Nate answers. “Vonna told me.” He turns back to Derek, seriously. “Vonna has the best nose. Papa said so.”

            “Good lo-” Scott starts and then opens the door all the way to smile at Derek. “Go play with your siblings,” he orders Nate ineffectively. “Hey, Derek.”

            For a moment, Derek can only stare. Scott looks… well, exhausted is the only word for it. His smile is still friendly and welcoming but his eyes are tired and his shoulders are drooped and Derek didn’t even know it was possible for Alphas to get bags under their eyes but Scott… Scott looks ready to drop.

            “Hi,” Derek says, a beat delayed. “I’m just here to – um…” Stiles had outright laughed in his face when Derek had risked asking if they needed Scott’s permission to date but… Scott is supposed to be an Alpha and Stiles is his Second and-

            “Pick up Stiles,” Scott finishes for him. He waves Derek in and starts leading him towards the living room. “Dude, yeah, he’s totally excited. He just – uh-”

            “He’s sleeping!” Nate pipes up, peeking out from behind Scott’s legs. “You’re not allowed to wake him up.”

            Scott sighs and scoops up Nate. “I meant no children are allowed to wake him up,” he clarifies and then turns another one of his megawatt smiles on Derek. “I’m sure Stiles would be okay if Derek woke him up. They’re going out for a special night, remember?”

            Nate frowns, looking at Derek with total judgement in his eyes. Derek feels his insides clench nervously. He needs these kids to like him.

            “Even Corey is being quiet,” Nate mutters and then squirms enough that Scott puts him back down and darts towards the back.

            “Is Stiles okay?” Derek asks. He wants to take Stiles out on their first real date, obviously, but if Stiles is sick-

            “No, no,” Scott says, shaking his head. “He’s just… Adam’s been having some sleeping issues. Nightmares. It’s all good though.”

            “Oh, I’m sorry,” Derek replies. “It doesn’t sound good.”

            “Nah,” Scott says, stifling a yawn. “It’s good because he’s waking us up almost every night.”

            Derek raises his eyebrows in question.

            “I’m sure he was always having them,” Scott explains. “Now he’s comfortable enough to wake us up. So, good thing.”

            “Oh,” Derek says and he is positive he is flushing. He should have figured that out, must’ve sounded like an idiot, god, how did Scott and Stiles even do this-

            “Of course, if Adam is up, Levonna is up and she has trouble falling back to sleep,” Scott continues as if he hadn’t even noticed Derek making an idiot of himself. “Plus, you know the first few weeks of school are always crazy so…”

            At this point, they make it to the main area of the house and Scott heads unerringly over to the couches and Derek doesn’t mean to stop walking but he does because-

            It is the cutest thing he’s ever seen.

            Stiles is pressed against the left side of the couch, left hand propping his head up, right hand curled around a stuffed giraffe. His mouth is open slightly and his hair is sticking up in the front and there are no less than three different blankets covering him haphazardly. And another two stuffed animals on his stomach.

            “Stiles,” Scott says softly and one hand is already reaching towards him when Derek finally comes to his senses.

            “Wait,” he whispers and Scott halts obediently, blinking over at him. “Maybe you shouldn’t-”

            “No, no,” Scott says, but he’s whispering. “He really wants to go out with you. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s been waking up early to get his work done so he has tonight totally free. I prom-” Scott has to stop as a yawn seems to erupt from his chest without warning and then he is blinking as if he has forgotten what he was talking about.

            “I mean,” Scott recovers after a beat. “He only meant to sit down for a second, really. Under the blankets, he’s wearing his good jeans and everything. Ellie and Corey made him cycle through three different outfits.”

            “Well, there’s another movie showing a bit later,” Derek says, trying to hide a smile at the thought of Stiles being bossed around by his children for him. “He can sleep for another half hour or so.”

            “Dude,” Scott says, tilting his head and looking up at him. He looks thrilled. Derek can’t help but think that he passed some kind of test. “That would actually be awesome. He’s been kinda worn out. Here, I can-”

            “Why don’t you sit down too?” Derek interrupts. Scott looks about ready to drop, though he shakes his head immediately.

            “Gotta watch the kiddos,” Scott says. “They’re outside and seem calm now but they’ll kill each other. And we try to get homework done on Friday nights.” He sounds firm but his words have started to slur together slightly, as if even the thought of maybe getting a break is enough to cause his brain to shut down.

            “I’ll watch ‘em,” Derek promises. “Just relax, okay? Twenty minutes.”

            “You sure?” Scott asks, but he’s already grabbing one of Stiles’ blankets and sitting down. “I mean, you don’t have to, really.”

            “I’m sure,” Derek says. “Don’t worry about it.”

            “Don’t let Corey an’ Mato cheat off each’ther,” Scott mumbles. “Wait, no, mean Lucy.”

            “Got it,” Derek says, even though he doesn’t.

            It doesn’t matter, Scott is asleep the next moment.

            When he goes outside and explains that both Stiles and Scott are taking naps, Nate nods at him approvingly and he doesn’t feel comfortable enough to tell the kids what to do but Ellie seems to have them well in hand and he manages to help Lucy with math when he’s not keeping the younger ones occupied and when he goes in forty-five minutes later to grab Nate a glass of water, he doesn’t even think about waking them up.

 

*^*^*^

 

            When Stiles wakes up, it’s because he’s insanely hot, sorta has to pee, and can’t shake the notion that he is not supposed to be asleep.

            His blinks twice, looks down at the feet in his lap – Scott’s, who is stretched along the couch, butterfly blanket pulled around his shoulders, dead to the world – and for a moment, he had no clue what is happening.

            The house is oddly quiet so maybe the kids are with Melissa and his dad? But, no, Stiles doesn’t remember-

            “Scott!” he yelps, flailing his arms and dislodging three stuffed animals and a tangle of blankets. “Scott! The children!”

            It is not fully dark yet. He and Scott should not both be asleep at the same time. (Really, with the way the nighttime has been going, he is starting to think that he and Scott should never be asleep at the same time.)

            “Scott!” he tries again, pushing at the feet on his lap to no avail. At least the panic in his voice finally wakes Scott up.

            In an instant, Scott is sitting up, his eyes bleeding red as he looks around.

            “What is it?” Scott asks. “What’s wrong?”

            “We both fell asleep!” Stiles says, standing. “Where are the kids?” Seven kids could not be kept quiet for extended periods of time. He isn’t sure what time it is but he knows something terrible must have happened.

            “Oh, no, it’s okay,” Scott says. “Derek is-”

            “Derek!” Stiles says, his voice raising despite himself. “Oh my god, Scott, what time is it? I’m supposed to be on a date with Derek!”

            “It must only be 7:20 or so,” Scott says, rubbing his eyes. “Derek said he would wake us up in twenty minutes.”

            “You mean he’s already here,” Stiles yelps. Oh god, this is-

            “He said he would watch the kids just for a bit,” Scott said. “Don’t worry. It hasn’t been that lon-”

            “Scott, it’s eight o’clock,” Stiles hisses, finally grabbing at his phone to see the time. “He’s been here an hour!

            “Oh my god!” Stiles sees the moment when Scott finally panics. “The kids! They must’ve killed him!”

            Scott grabs his arm and uses his werewolf strength to haul Stiles over the couch and, luckily, Stiles is used to this maneuver and remembers to keep his feet moving and so when they burst through the screened door to the outside, they both manage to stay standing (if only just).

            “Derek!” Stiles yells, a part of him already accepting that this is going to be like that time when he arrived home to discover that Scott had somehow gotten tangled in blankets and Nate, Corey, and Ellie were using him as target practice for their nerf guns. (Ah, the simple days when they only had three…)

            But apparently, his fear is entirely misplaced.

            Because Derek is alive. And the kids are okay. And no one is dead.

            Derek is sitting on the swing set, good-naturedly letting the little ones twist him until the chains can’t go any further and then screaming as they let him go and he twirls. Mato is doing Lucy’s homework, as he tends to do if not watched, but at least she is sitting next to him, watching, so she might still be learning, and Ellie is actually the only one to look up and greet them with a grin.

            “You’re awake!” she says and that’s enough to get Corey and Nate to start sprinting over and Derek stands but can’t seem to walk straight and-

            “Oh my god,” Stiles breathes. This is the worst thing that’s ever happened to him. Derek came to pick him up for a date and ended up babysitting.

            There it is. Stiles’ relationship. Over before one real date.

            It’s a new record. Even for him.

            “I’m sorry,” Scott says, all wide-eyed apology even as he picks Corey up with one arm and Nate up with the other. “It was only supposed to be for twenty minutes! I wasn’t really thinking straight! Maybe he won’t mind.”

            “Dude,” Stiles says. Scott has the grace to look embarrassed.

            “Alright, kids,” Scott announces. “Everyone inside to help clean up the kitchen. Grab your homework too and, Lucy, that worm better stay outside.”

            Scott puts enough Alpha authority into his voice for once that no one questions him and Stiles finds himself grateful even though it means he actually has to talk to Derek, which is going to be just…

            “Oh my god,” he says, walking closer and offering Derek a hand up the steps. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. This is- I can’t believe-”

            “Hey,” Derek says, frowning and blinking in an attempt to focus his eyes. “It’s totally okay. I had-”

            “I can’t believe I fell asleep!” Stiles continues, well aware now that he has never blushed so hard in his life. Really, he might be on the edge of straight up panicking. “I promise, I was really excited to go out. It’s just Adam has been having these nightmares and I can’t believe you got stuck babysitting and they made you play twisty swing of all things and, oh god, this is the worst date of all time! I’m so sorry. You can totally go. I mean, I can’t even imagine what the devil-children put you through and so, really, I completely understa-”

            Stiles stops because he has to.

            Because Derek is kissing him.

            On the mouth.

            Stiles is too shocked by the turn of events to react so after only a heartbeat, Derek is pulling away, looking red and embarrassed and grumpy and-

            “Sorry,” he says, eyes focused on his feet. “I’m sorry. That was stupid. Your kids are right there. I just- uh-”

            “Oh my god!” Stiles says, grabbing Derek and yanking him over so they won’t be seen from the indoors. “Shut up and do it again!”

            Derek blinks at him but then seems to move to obey and-

            “No!” Stiles says, changing his mind in a heartbeat. “No, we are going on a real date. We are leaving this house. Scott is on his own.”

            He grabs Derek by the hand and pulls him to the car and-

            Well, they don’t actually make it to a movie and they only get as far as the parking lot of a bar but, still…

            Not a bad first date after all.

 

End (for now).

Chapter Text

It’s Insanity, but… Panic

(Outsider POV)

 

            “Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod-”

            The voice starts at a fairly regular decibel but grows louder as it continues.

            Triss sighs. She has no doubt that whatever is about to happen to her life will not be worth the nine dollars an hour Target pays her. It is two pm on a Tuesday – it is supposed to be dead enough that she can get some reading done.

            Still, she can’t afford to get fired so she looks up enough to locate the source of the panicked mutters. Maybe they’re lost and she can tell them to go away.

            “I can’t believe this,” the voice continues. “This is- we are not ready- this is-”

            Triss rolls her eyes.

            It’s two guys who look like maybe they are a few years out of college, if that, and she suddenly has no doubt that whatever they are stressing out about does not matter at all. They are both cute, but obviously together (judging by the way they are all but hanging off each other, hands tangling in shirts and gripping arms as they spin around, looking for whatever it is they need.)

            “Okay, okay, Scotty-boy,” the taller one says, pulling out his phone. “Let’s just remain calm. This is not the end of the world.”

            Triss nods in agreement and tries to turn back to her book.

            “It is the end of the world,” the shorter one- Scott – declares. “Oh God, Stiles, she’s- it’s- I think it’s like a big deal.”

            “Not a big deal,” the one called Stiles replies. “I mean, it can’t be a big deal. Tons of people- holy shit!

            “What! What is it?”

            “There are like a thousand articles on this,” Stiles says, waving his phone in Scott’s face too quickly for him to actually read anything. Triss sighs. They are definitely not lost. “I can’t- have you ever heard of Von Willebrand’s disease?”

            “There’s a DISEASE?!”

            “Oh my god,” Stiles continues, not looking up. Triss really needs both of them to move away from the main entrance. They are going to scare off other costumers. Not that she really cares but it’s the principle of the thing. “There is also one called-”

            “Don’t tell me anymore!” Scott begs. “Let’s just- let’s just get what we need and get out of here. I got the text ten whole minutes ago, Stiles!”

            “Right,” Stiles says and then they both do a last spin, still clutching to each other before dashing off.

            A moment later, they are back and dashing the other way.

            Triss frowns after them. Then, looks back at her book. Blinks at the pages. Squints. Attempts to focus.

            Aw, hell. Now her curiosity is piqued. There’s no way reading about French glass-stained windows is going to be as interesting as figuring out what these two boys are up to. Even if she is positive it is probably something stupid.

            So she heads in their general direction, stashing her book behind a row of scarves as she goes.

            She hears them before she sees them, over in the personal hygiene section.

            “- medical professional! You should know this!” Stiles sounds almost as panicked as Scott now.

            “Why would I know this?”

            “You have a mom!”

            “We did not talk about this,” Scott sounds horrified. Considering Triss is pretty sure they are in the condom aisle, she doesn’t blame him. “And what about you? Your dad is the sheriff. He must know things!”

            “That literally makes no sense and you know it,” Stiles replies. “Now just- just help me look.”

            “Look for what?” Scott cries. “There are a million things here and you aren’t even helping. You’re on your phone again!”

            “Researching!” Stiles declares as Triss walks past the condom aisle and doesn’t find them. They are one over in the- “Did you know these things can last for seven days?”

            And then Triss sees them.

            And she doesn’t announce her presence right away because she just barely manages to stop from bursting out into laughter because the two guys are standing in the women’s hygiene aisle.

            Stiles is furiously typing into his phone and Scott is already holding four boxes and trying to read the back of them all at once.

            Oh, god, boys are hilarious.

            “Can I help you find anything?” she asks, coming into view. The one called Stiles goes from sort of pale and terrified to bright red before she is even finished the sentence.

            “Oh, n-no,” he says, holding up his phone as if that proves he is somehow okay. “Um, we’re-”

            “YES!” Scott yells over him, dashing to stand in front of her. “Our daughter just texted and she got her period for the first time and we don’t know anything and you have to help us. Should we just buy one of everything?” He puts his arms out as if to show her what he’s acquired already.

            Triss stares. There is no way these guys have a daughter old enough to be starting her period. Or texting.

            “Um,” she starts. “How old is your-”

            “She’s thirteen,” Stiles interrupts. “Is- is that too early? Oh my god, that’s too early isn’t it?”

            “What does that mean? Should we take her to a doctor?” Scott takes the concerned question and turns it into full-blown panic.

            “It’s the chicken, Scott,” Stiles says, turning to his partner and waving the phone around. “I told you the government is putting chemicals in the chicken!”

            “Oh my god, we’ve poisoned her!”

            “No!” Triss says. “No, guys, wait!” Stiles looks ready to keep talking but Scott obeys instantly and throws one of the boxes of tampons at his boyfriend’s head to stop him.

            “No, she’s not too young, I just,” Triss hesitates, suddenly aware that what she is about to say may come across as rude. Still. “You guys look very young to have a daughter that old, that’s all.”

            “Oh, thank fuck,” Stiles breathes. “No, we adopted her when we was ten. She’s thirteen now though. That’s normal, right?”

            “Yes,” Triss nods quickly. “Totally normal!”

            “Okay, so one of everything, got it.” Scott says, holding up his stash of feminine products again. He looks particularly proud of it. “Or two of everything?”

            “They last for up to seven days,” Stiles repeats, nodding back at his phone. “We probably need two of everything. Get the jumbo pack, Scott.”

            “Um, no,” Triss starts but Scott is already grabbing things and muttering about needing a cart and Stiles is frantically typing into his phone.

            “Wait,” he says. Scott freezes. “Wait, no tampons. Tampons lead to death! There’s a whole website on it- Toxic Shock Syndrome!”

            “Death!” Scott yelps, dropping the box of tampons as if he’s been burned.

            “No, guys, that's-,” Triss tries again.

            “Nothing scented either,” Stiles continues. “And it looks like maybe there’s also cups?” He turns to her. “Are these cups a thing? Should we be buying them?”

            “This is gonna be expensive,” Scott says. He is now holding six packs of pads in his hands.

            “STOP!” Triss says, using the voice she pulls out when her admittedly hyper friend group starts talking over each other. “Just- just let me help you. Just silence. Give me five minutes.”

            It takes much longer than five minutes.

            She suggests they start out with pads since that is the least stressful and directs them to ultra-thin panty-liners to wear on days their daughter thinks she might get her period (“Or all the time. Some girls just wear them all the time.” “Okay,” Stiles nods, passing three packs to Scott. “We’ll tell her all the time.”) Then she goes onto explain about tampons (and that, no, they do not lead to death), at which point she has the most frank conversation she’s ever had with people not of the vagina-owning variety. Scott asks her eager clarifying questions while staring at her as if she is the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Meanwhile, Stiles grabs a pen and paper and starts taking notes. And drawing diagrams.

            They’re not the most normal people she’s ever helped – at one point, Stiles starts asking about the effect the moon has on periods, all the while throwing nervous looks at Scott – but they both look so grateful that she finds herself smiling at them. Without forcing herself to. It’s a step in the right direction when it comes to her customer service abilities.

            She doesn’t even mind when she mentions that they might want to pick up some Advil for cramps and that launches them into a strange side-conversation about whether Ellie (presumably their daughter) will even get cramps and if Advil is “appropriate” for her or if they should just rely on Scott and-

            “Maybe you should try a heating pad instead,” she offers, cutting in when Stiles finally pauses to take a breath. “That’s more… all natural if that’s what you guys are into?” She makes it a question because honestly, it’s the 21st century but… oh well.

            Scott nods furiously and Stiles whispers “Genius!” and then she is following them around the store, attempting to direct them from behind as they tear through different aisles seemingly at random. Scott is particularly prone to wandering off and returning with unnecessary objects but she manages to get them to the candy aisle.

            Both their faces light up when she tells them that they should pick up some chocolate.

            “Finally a good excuse!” Stiles cries. Scott is already grabbing bags with reckless abandon.

            Triss thinks that there is no way these men should be responsible for raising children.

            But she seems to have a soft spot for them anyway because she opens her own lane to ring them up instead of sending them over to Steve. They pay and the Scott wraps her in a hug that makes her feel like she’s been swallowed by the sun, even though he is roughly the same height as she is. Stiles tells her that if she ever needs anything, she should call him and then hands her his number (and, okay, yes when she tells her friends this story, she may separate it into two parts and conveniently leave out the part where the first guy to give her his number in forever is gay, married, and raising at least one kid.)

            Still, she waves at them as they leave and squints in confusion when Scott declares he will “run the supplies to the school as that will be faster than driving” but, in the end, returns to her book feeling much, much better about life.

End (for now)

Chapter Text

It’s Insanity but… Choices

 

            Stiles is on top of him, sinking down slowly, bottom lip trapped between his teeth, eyes screwed shut in focus when the phone rings.

            “Fuck,” Derek mutters but he’s already reaching for it, because Stiles is the one who always has his phone nearby on the loudest setting. Stiles hums in agreement but doesn’t stop moving and Derek’s hand misses it on the first try (and the second because Stiles is still moving) but eventually he finds it and-

            “It’s Scott,” he says.

            And just like that Stiles’ eyes open. He freezes and snatches the phone.

            “Scott?” Stiles answers.

            “Hey, Stiles,” Scott says and Derek would try to be polite and not eavesdrop but he’s a werewolf and he is also still inside Stiles so it’s not like he can help it. “I’m sorry, dude, I know you guys are having a date night-”

            “It’s fine,” Stiles says, his voice surprisingly level for their current position. “Just- uh- what’s wrong, man?”

            “It’s Lucy,” Scott replies. Stiles freezes. “Uh- she’s alright now but she smells… I think she may have one of her… episodes later tonight. Been really quiet and I- maybe it’s an anniversary?

            “Fuck,” Stiles says and Derek hears his heart stutter a little in his chest. “Fuck, let me check- gimme- gimme a minute, Scott.”

            “I can hang up or-”

            “No, no, just hold on,” Stiles replies and then he is rising himself up and off, pressing the phone to his chest to hide a gasp and sitting back down next to Derek. He doesn’t take his eyes from the phone, frantically typing away. He’s still naked and covered with sweat but already down to half-mast.

            “Fuck,” Stiles mutters, holding the phone up to ear after a moment. “You’re right. Brother’s birthday. Last year, we watched Godzilla – his favorite movie – but I don’t know if that actually helped or not.”

            “Okay,” Scott says and Derek can practically picture the accompanying nod. “Okay, I can do that. Though, uh- I think, I mean, you know she is always better when-”

            “Dude, I’m already on my way,” Stiles says. “Be home in twenty.”

            “Awesome. Tell Derek I’m really sorry,” Scott says. “If it were any of the others…

            “I know, it’s totally fine,” Stiles replies, waving a hand. “See you soon.”

            Derek hears Scott mutter a “Love you, bro,” into the phone and then Stiles hangs up.

            “Dude, I am so sorry,” Stiles says, tossing his phone next to Derek as he rises. And then he is already stumbling around looking for his clothes.  “I- I have to go. Lucy- she has these panic attacks sometimes and I used to have them so I’m good with them and-”

            “Stiles,” Derek tries, pulling the blankets around his waist. Stiles doesn’t even seem to hear him, too busy pulling up his underwear and pants in one motion.

            “And, of course, Lucy lost her family to other goddamn werewolves so Scott doesn’t help that much so- I’m so sorry. It has to be me. I have to go. I’m sorry.”

            “Stiles, it’s okay,” Derek says, watching as Stiles struggling to throw a shirt on as he shoves his foot into a shoe. “Really, I’m-”

            “It’s just- I should have checked, you know?” Stiles mumbles, pausing in his pursuit of getting dressed to wave a hand. He’s still talking mostly to himself, not even looking at Derek. “I keep this whole extra calendar full of important anniversaries and dates and weird habits and I just completely forgot to check it. Like an idiot!”

            Stiles continues ranting for a moment and Derek doesn’t interrupt. Because Stiles isn’t listening to him and, yes, he’s a little disappointed that Stiles has to run out but, as always, he’s more amazed. They’ve been dating for three months and it seems like every little thing he learns about Stiles just impresses him even more. He knows Stiles combats his ADHD by writing everything down, though he is constantly losing the lists he makes. Still, he really shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a secret master calendar designed to make sure all his kids are okay.

            “I really am sorry,” Stiles says when he’s fully dressed. He comes closer and glances down where Derek is covered by the sheets of the bed. “I mean, are you still close? I could- uh- quick blowjob?”

            “No,” Derek says, frowning. That’s not- that doesn’t matter to him. He’s a little offended that Stiles seems to think it does. “It’s really fine, Stiles. Just go home.”

            “Okay,” Stiles replies, pressing a quick kiss to Derek’s lips. Derek barely manages to reach a hand up to Stiles’ face before Stiles is pulling away.

            “I’ll make it up to you!” Stiles says as he snags his phone off the bed. “Promise! A great blowjob! Two orgasms at least!”

            “Get out of here,” Derek groans and Stiles laughs as he leaves.

            Derek already misses him.

 

*^*^*^

 

            A week goes by before Stiles manages to find the time to see Derek again. Because Lucy does have a panic attack and they decide she can stay home the next day and take a mental health day, which means all the work Stiles was supposed to complete on Friday is done after the kids are in bed on Saturday and Sunday. So he has to cancel the tentative plans he’d made with Derek earlier.

            And then the thought comes to him early on Tuesday and he tries to avoid it that day, but then obsesses about it all Wednesday, and now, he’s realized he has to tell Derek.

            So it’s Thursday and he’s early for once and-

            “Hey!” Derek says, greeting him with a smile. “Where’s Nate?” It’s lunchtime and Derek’s gotten used to Nate being around whenever they manage to meet up for a lunch date.

            “Uh- with my dad,” Stiles replies, feeling slightly sick. “I dropped him off before I came.”

            Derek’s smile drops and Stiles just knows that his voice came out all wrong. He doesn’t look up from his hands but he sees Derek slowly sit down out of the corner of his eye.

            “Stiles,” Derek starts, shifting on the bench until they are facing each other. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

            “It’s, um, it’s,” Stiles says, flustered. He might be sick. He stops. Swallows. Tries to find a more comfortable position even though that’s impossible. They are outside on a park bench. There are no comfortable positions.

            “Is it Lucy?” Derek asks and oh god, he sounds concerned. “Is she okay?”

            “Yeah, no,” Stiles says, waving a hand. “She’s fine. Everyone’s fine. It’s- it’s about us.”

            Next to him, Derek goes very still. Stiles takes a deep breath. He can do this. He has to do this.

            “Look, Derek, I think that maybe…” He looks up even though he doesn’t want to have to look at Derek’s face while he does this. Derek deserves that much. “Maybe we should- uh-”

            “Are you breaking up with me?” Derek asks and his voice has gone flat. Carefully emotionless.

            “I- I don’t know,” Stiles admits and he doesn’t. He just knows he can’t get these thoughts out of his head and he has to give Derek options and this is all- “Maybe.”

            Derek drags in a deep breath.

            “You… you don’t want-” Derek starts and Stiles’ heart twists because Derek sounds hurt. “Stiles, what’s going on?”

            “Okay,” Stiles says, attempting to re-focus. He can do this. Derek deserves this. “Look, just- uh, just let me get this out.”

            Of course, Stiles says that and then makes the mistake of looking at Derek’s face again and that derails his entire thought process. So he just sort of stares and then-

            “Is- is it me or-”

            “God, no,” Stiles says, his hands making a move towards Derek. He barely manages to stop them in time. “Of course, it’s not you, Derek. You’re- you’re perfect and hot and funny and it’s just… I just think that maybe you should be with someone who can really be with you.”

            Derek looks confused. Stiles scrambles to keep going.

            “I mean, you deserve someone who can put you first, you know? Someone who doesn’t have to cancel plans on the weekend because they have work or keep their phone on all the time just in case someone calls or- or fucking leave in the middle of sex because their kid is about to have a panic attack. You just- I mean, I can’t… I think it’s too much. There’s too much I can’t give you.”

            “Stiles,” Derek starts, frowning. “I told you, I don’t- I don’t care about any of-”

            “No,” Stiles says. He stands up because sitting is impossible at the moment. Besides, he needs to move. Needs to make sure he doesn’t just throw himself at Derek and stop this whole thing. “No, wait. Just- hold on. I just want to be really clear about this because- because I really like you and the kids already like you and I know it’s only been a few months but… I don’t know. I think this could get serious and before it does, I think- I think you should know things. About… stuff.”

            Derek’s eyebrows are almost a complete line across his forehead, but he re-settles back into the wooden bench.

            “Um, uh, here’s the thing,” Stiles starts, again probably ineffectively. Because, dammit, he doesn’t want to do this. He wants to just move on from this and take advantage of the fact that he is currently sans-Nate and go to Derek’s apartment and finish what they had started a week ago.

            A week ago. Before they were interrupted by a phone call from Scott and a panicking child.  

            “So, I- I have kids, Derek,” Stiles says. “I mean, they’re not biologically mine. Obviously. Only two of them are even a little bit white but, uh, but they’re mine. And, so the thing is that they are always going to come first. And there’s seven of them. So that’s not… that’s just not very romantic, I think. I can’t be romantic.”

            Stiles flails his hands a little. He doesn’t think he is explaining this well. He wasn’t very romantic even before he took in seven children. His favorite restaurant is a dinner down the street that makes the best curly fries. He likes playing video games to unwind and laughs entirely too much during sex.

            “Which, I guess you already knew. But, what I mean is,” he tries. “It’s just not fair to bring you into this without, uh, without knowing that I won’t always be… available. To you.”

            “Look,” Derek says, standing now as well. “Plenty of people have kids that are always going to come first. That’s not a-”

            “It’s not just the kids,” Stiles interrupts. “I mean, I can’t- I can’t even promise you 8th place, Derek. Because Scott is always going to come first too.”

            Derek blinks in what Stiles has to assume is surprise and his heart sinks. So this is it. The angle that not even Derek had considered. The angle no one talks about.

            “I know it’s weird and it doesn’t make sense and we’re not supposed to put friends above relationships but… but Scott’s not just my friend, Derek. He’s- he’s the fucking father of my children, you know? He- I-

            “I will always have to answer that phone,” Stiles says, hoping this is making sense. It’s not going exactly as he’d imagined it. “I can never just… be with you. And it’s not that I don’t want to be, because I do, I really do and I would try and we could try but at the end of the day, it’s just not- it’s just not that simple. I have to choose Scott.”

            It’s true. It’s a deep, fundamental truth that they had both know but never really acknowledge. But it’s there. To all outsiders and even when they spoke of it aloud, Scott said the reason for his breakup with Allison was that she wasn’t ready for kids. But Stiles didn’t miss Allison’s frown of part-confusion, part-annoyance whenever Scott had to prioritize Stiles over her. She had never quite understood why Scott had to be with Stiles the entire time he was in the hospital getting his tonsils removed. She’d openly expressed annoyance when Scott always had to pick up when Stiles called, even when they were the ones watching the kids.

            She wasn’t ready for kids, but she wasn’t ready to come in second place to another adult either. And Scott had understood that. There wasn’t any blame. Not between him and Allison. Certainly not between him and Stiles. Maybe they didn’t know what they were signing up for when they started four years ago, but they know it now. And Stiles knows that neither of them would change it.

            That’s what Derek deserves though. To know what he’s signing up for. To change it if he wants.

            “Stiles,” Derek starts but then stops. And Stiles has to get this out.

            “I just don’t think it’s fair,” he mumbles, looking away for a second. “I think you should be with someone who can put you first.”

            “Yeah, well, you don’t get to make that choice for me,” Derek says and he sounds a little angry and that’s okay. Maybe that’s for the best. “You don’t get to break up with me just because you think you know what I want.”

            “I know,” Stiles says, and his face his too hot. He is not going to cry right now. “Look, I’m not breaking up with you. I just… I need you to know what you’re getting into. Really getting into. I’ve got seven kids and a weird platonic life partner and I know it’s your choice but I- god, Derek, I can’t even promise it will stay at seven! I mean, we said no more after Mato but it just- Scott can’t say ‘no’ and I never say ‘no’ to Scott and-”

            He takes a breath and forces his voice to come out steady. Firm.

            “I- I need to you to take time. To really think about it. About being in a family that spends most of its time spinning out of control. About being with-” he stops and swallows but this is no time to sugarcoat it. “About being with someone who can’t always chose you. I just need you to be sure. So take… I dunno, at least a week or- or more. However long you need but… This isn’t something you should just jump into, okay?”

            Derek doesn’t look happy. But eventually, he nods.

            “Okay,” Stiles says, more to himself. “Umm… just call me, I guess. Or- or don’t, you know, if you decide-” He can’t quite make himself say it, even though he is literally giving Derek an out if he wants it. “I’ll just-”

            “I’ll call you,” Derek says and, fuck, Stiles wants to hug him. Or kiss him. He wants to throw his arms around Derek and he wants Derek to tell him that it’s all okay, that of course, he’s okay with all of it but that’s not fair. It’s not fair and more than anything, he wants Derek to be happy.

            So he jerks his head in a nod and goes for some sort of smile because he’s awkward like that and doesn’t really know what else to do with his face and then he leaves.

            And he tells himself it’s going to be okay, that Derek will still chose him, that he can have it all, but he doesn’t go pick up Nate right away.

 

*^*^*^

 

            Despite all his claims that he is going to keep this information to himself, Stiles ends up telling Scott everything. He doesn’t even make it to the end of the day, which is fair because Scott has probably known something was wrong since Wednesday. But Scott calls him to ask him if they need anything from the grocery store and, well… Stiles ends up telling him the whole story while helping Scott to give a dog a flea bath.

            Predictably, Scott is unhappy. He is unhappy, but can’t exactly argue with Stiles’ reasoning. And though Stiles only gives him the barebones, focusing mostly on the children instead of their strange situation, he knows Scott can read between the lines. So Scott disapproves in his quiet way, but he doesn’t outright say it was a bad idea. And he doesn’t try to tell him Derek is going to call, which Stiles appreciates because, really, he doesn’t want to think about his chances right now.

            More importantly, Scott agrees that there’s no need to tell the kids until they know for sure, especially seeing as it’s not exactly rare for them to go a few weeks without seeing Derek. (Really, Stiles is surprised they made it this long before having this conversation.)

            The only one who is likely to notice the lack is Nate, since he sees Derek whenever Derek swings by in the mornings before a job (he does school shows as a science entertainer/educator combo.) But luckily, Nate is four and as such, is unlikely to ask too many questions. Or tell the older kids who are likely to be more upset.

            Talking to Scott helps as it always has and by the end, Stiles admits that he had literally been smack dab in the middle of sex when Scott called and Scott tells him that had happened to him and Allison. That once Corey got ahold of the phone and called before dropping it and breaking it. Scott had raced home, believing everyone to be dead only to find Stiles reading a book peacefully and all of the kids taking naps.

            Maybe it’s not a funny story in light of the current situation but they laugh anyway.

            Unfortunately, the plan not to worry the children is a bit harder to carry out.

            The moment he meets Levonna at the bus stop, she frowns at him, dark eyes wide and knowing and Adam might not sense Stiles’ distress, but he sure as hell notices when Levonna looks worried.

            “Just adult stuff,” he tells Levonna, hoping his scent somehow conveys Please don’t say anything around the others! “Nothing’s wrong.”

            Thankfully, Levonna seems content with that answer and Stiles manages to say that Derek is busy with parties this weekend and can’t come over when Corey asks. He tries to smile and act normal and eventually just stops keeping his phone nearby when he’s home because he’s taken to staring at it entirely too often and-

            It’s getting a little bit harder with each passing day. Because, yes, he told himself to just stop thinking about it until at least a week goes by but… but part of him expected Derek to call immediately. Or maybe Derek just isn’t going to call. Ever. Sure, he said he would but people say lots of things and-

            When Thursday comes and goes without a word, Stiles tells himself to just forget about it. He knows his mood is starting to affect the kids, accepts that it’s probably time to casually mention at dinner that he and Derek aren’t together anymore. Ellie has started to give him looks and Lucy has now asked twice if he’s sick and even Corey seems oddly subdued.

            And now it’s Friday afternoon and the kids should be keyed up for the weekend, but instead there’s this tenseness in the air that Stiles has come to learn means that his usually peaceful pack of children are close to erupting in arguments as only children can.

            He heads out as Scott pulls up both to warn him and to let his smile slip for a moment.

            “Anything?” Scott asks as he gets out, his face a picture of optimistic hope. Scott hasn’t given up yet. Probably won’t until Derek calls to confirm.

            “Nah,” Stiles says, glad that Scott has only started asking as of yesterday. “It’s- it’s fine. No big deal.” He shrugs and reaches for the bags of grocery in the back seat.

            “Stiles,” Scott starts.

            “Not now,” he says. Maybe not ever, but definitely not now. “Fair warning, the kids are-”

            He doesn’t finish because Scott has cocked his head to the side and his face dims.

            “Fighting,” Scott finishes for him, mouth twisting. “Corey and Adam in the backyard and Mato and Ellie in the office.”

            “You take the little ones,” Stiles says. “I’ll see what Mato and Ellie have butted heads about.”

            Scott nods and peels off towards the back and Stiles drops the groceries and moves.

            And then moves faster because they are yelling and fights happen but there is rarely yelling and-

            “-so goddamn annoying,” Mato is saying as Stiles enters the house.

            “I am not!” Ellie fires back but her voice has gone shrill as it always does when she is on the verge of tears and-

            “That’s enough,” Stiles says, stepping into the room. It’s possible Scott should have taken this one but there’s no time to get him now.

            “Mato wouldn’t let me-”

            “Oh shut up,” Mato snarls and Ellie flinches back but then goes red and-

            “Ellie, clear out for a second,” Stiles says because he knows what it looks like when a teenage werewolf is about to snap.

            “But-” her voice is a whine bordering on a sniffle.

            “Ellie,” he says. “Mato will come talk to you in a minute.”

            He hears Ellie slide away, stomping up the stairs to her room but he doesn’t take his eyes off the fifteen year old boy he has in the tiny room he calls his office. Near his computer.

            “Mato-” he starts.

            “Of course you’re going to take her side,” Mato hisses. “Because she’s the fucking spoiled little brat and we all have to do what she wants all the time.”

            “I never said anything about taking a side,” Stiles replies, keeping his voice level. “But you need to calm down.”

            Unfortunately, that is apparently the wrong thing to say.

            Because Mato’s eyes, which have until now been merely titled gold, flash and-

            “Don’t tell me what to do,” he snarls, the words coming out mangled because his teeth have lengthened. “You’re not my-”

            Stiles sees the claws pop out and Mato’s muscles bunch and he’s moving before he really thinks about it, his own temper fraying just a bit. He is not about to have his computer destroyed because of some overblown temper tantrum of a hormone-driven werewolf.

            “Hey,” he snaps, taking a step forward and then-

            Then Mato’s entirely too close and there’s a searing pain across his stomach and Mato’s eyes widen in surprise and-

            Scott is between them in an instant, eyes glowing red and growling.

            Mato’s already cowering in the corner by the time Stiles looks up again and-

            “What the hell are you doing?” Scott snarls, his own words not entirely smooth. “How dare you-” Scott breaks off into a growl again when Mato dares to look up.

            “Scott,” Stiles says. He sorta needs Scott to stop letting his Alpha-instincts run amok right now.

            “It’s unacceptable,” Scott snarls, not glancing back at Stiles yet. “In my house, in-”

            “Scott!” Stiles tries again. “You- you have to calm down.”

            “Calm down?” Scott sounds bewildered by the idea and when he glances back, his eyes are still red. “You’re mine and-”

            “Yes,” Stiles grunts. Stupid werewolves and their stupid territorial instincts. “You have to calm down, Scott. Because I think-” he looks down at his hands again and, yup, the bleeding is worse now. As is the pain. Fucking- “I think you need to take me to the hospital.”

            The world goes gray and there’s a whimper and Stiles can’t tell if it came from himself, Mato, Scott, or all three of them.

 

*^*^*^

 

            Derek goes home Thursday furious that Stiles had tried to break up with him, that Stiles thinks he needed time to “think” about things, that Stiles thinks he is telling Derek things Derek doesn’t already know. He is angry and he thinks about just calling the whole thing off because… well, because he’s mad and it seems like Stiles should know he is mad but instead he goes for a run and then, well, then Friday he calms down.

            He calms down and thinks about it from Stiles’ point of view and realizes that Stiles is trying to be a good person and he almost calls then and there to tell Stiles that they are still on. That he is going to stick around until Stiles was truly sick of him. That he can’t see himself ever being sick of Stiles.

            But Stiles had told him to wait a week and think about it and-

            And so he does. He spends Saturday and Sunday turning it over in his head. And realizes that Stiles was right. That there is a lot to think about.

            There is the fact that he will probably never raise a child from infancy, not even partly his own or even his own adopted child. There is the fact that he doesn’t know exactly how close he will get, but he will never fully be a dad. That he will always be just an add-on to an already working family unit. It is all strange and uncharted territory and there are seven kids whose approval he has to win if he and Stiles were ever to get truly serious and-

            And then there is Scott.

            He had been surprised when Stiles mentioned it openly, as if it were a bigger deal than even the kids, and then he thinks about it and… well, next he types in some random google searching on step-parents and the relationship between divorced people with kids but he quickly realizes that that’s not really the situation. Scott and Stiles aren’t a divorced couple with children. They are… they’re more like a married couple with children. Except they aren’t together. Or married.

            They’re… they’re something new and Derek quickly realizes that looking for answers in the advice columns of the internet isn’t going to help his situation. So he closes the computer and just… thinks for a while.

            He and Scott aren’t that close. Scott is alarmingly nice and always seems excited to see Derek but most of the time, Derek is just picking Stiles up for their date or is coming in for dinner with the whole family and is perfectly content to sit back and let the conversation flow around him. Everything Derek knows about Scott he likes, he just… he’ll need to know more, he realizes.

            That’s the real question. Is he willing to get to know Scott? Is he willing to accept that Stiles and Scott will always be a unit of their own? Can he accept that it is Scott and Stiles who will probably be making decisions about the family?

            He thinks about it all weekend and then for while on Monday wonders if this was just Stiles’ way of saying he didn’t like Derek that much and then realizes that is crazy, that he is driving himself crazy and so he gives in and calls his sister.

            And she drives right up and they talk and in the end, he isn’t surprised.

            He arrives at the answer he always knew he was going to make. And talking through all the points with Laura helps and she plays Devil’s Advocate for a while before breaking and smiling and telling Derek that she agrees with him. She thinks he can do it. She thinks he should do it.

            Which, of course, just leaves telling Stiles. But he didn’t want to just call and he can't just abandon Laura and maybe he should plan something romantic and-

            And now Laura won’t get out of his house. Derek doesn’t want to say that he is getting impatient for his sister to head back home, but it’s Friday afternoon and he needs to talk to Stiles and to do that he needs her to leave.

            Which, of course, isn’t fair because she’s cancelled three appointments in order to drive the four hours up here and so the least he can do is be gracious.

            But, seriously, she shows absolutely no signs of leaving. Her car keys are just sitting there on the coffee table but she hasn’t so much as glanced over at them.

            He suspects she’s doing it to annoy him. She does that sometimes.

            “Laura,” he says, trying to keep his voice casual. “Um, I really don’t think you should drive when it’s dark out. And if you don’t leave soon, the last part of the drive will be at night.”

            “Derek,” she replies, matching his tone and not bothering to turn around. “We’re werewolves. We have practically perfect night vision.”

            Dammit, she’s right.

            “And I was thinking about just staying until tomorrow,” she adds, her serious tone breaking into something playful and playful or not, Derek is going to kill her when-

            The phone rings. He looks down at it, ready to hit the ignore button and focus on getting his sister out of his house but it’s-

            It’s Scott’s number. The number that called him three months ago to set up a birthday party for a ten year old girl named Lucy and changed his whole life.

            There is no reason for Scott to be calling him.

            Unless… oh god, Stiles had probably told Scott that Derek would be calling yesterday because he’d promised he would and Alphas didn’t take lies to their Seconds well and-

            Fuck, he is going to have to explain to Scott that his answer is yes, that he just wanted to do it in person, that he-

            He turns away from Laura and answers, already bracing himself for some angry yelling.

            “Hello?” he asks, wincing. He should have just called yesterday, romance be damned.

            “Hey, Derek?” It’s Scott but he doesn’t sound mad. He sounds… frantic?

            “Yeah,” Derek replies. “How are you?”

            “Oh, fine, fine,” Scott says but quickly continues. “Listen, this is really awkward and I know you and Stiles are… taking a break or whatever but- uh, but we’re in a bit of a bind at the moment and – Mato, keep his head still – and well, this is should not impact your decision at all, which I guess is no – which I think is stupid, for the record- but, uh-”

            “Scott,” Derek says, straightening. Scott is sounding more and more desperate and Derek can feel his heart starting to race and- “Just tell me. What is it?”

            “There’s been an accident,” Scott says, taking a breath and sounding a bit more in control. “Nothing major, er I think at least, but I’m taking Stiles to the hospital and Mato is with me and I need someone to swing over and watch the kids.”

            “Okay,” Derek says, already reaching for his keys and telling himself that panicking will help no one. Scott is still talking.

            “My mom is at work right now and Stiles’ dad is at a crash almost forty minutes away and he can’t leave and- yeah, I’m sorry. This-”

            From the background there’s a groan and Scott curses softly and – “Give me his hand, Mato” and when he next talks, his voice is tight as if he’s taking pain.

            “Yeah,” Scott continues. “So, if you wouldn’t mind just- I mean, I know this is kind of-”

            “Scott, I’m heading out the door now,” Derek says. “Don’t- don’t worry about anything, okay?”

            Scott’s sigh of relief is audible.

            “Okay, okay, thank you. I think we left the door open and I told Ellie to lock it but she’s- she probably forgot so just-” There’s a pause and then. “Okay, we’re here. I gotta go. I’ll call you as soon as I know something. Thanks so much.”

            Scott hangs up and Derek almost leaves before realizing that Laura is still here and-

            “I gotta go,” he tells her, wondering briefly how to explain this. “Um- Stiles is-”

            “I know,” she says, waving a hand. “Werewolf ears, remember? I heard the whole thing. Go.”

            Derek nods and then turns to leave but then she is standing in front of him somehow. And hugging him.

            “Go get him, Der,” she says, sounding more sincere than she has all day. “And next time I’m in town, I’m meeting him.”

            “Alright,” he says, blushing, and then he heads for the door.

 

*^*^*^

 

            It is absolutely no surprise to Stiles that when he swims back to consciousness, blinking away the too bright light of the hospital, Scott’s concerned face is the first thing that comes into focus.

            “Stiles?” Scott asks, leaning further even more and squeezing Stiles’ hand a little harder.

            “H-hey,” Stiles says, waking up fully to look around. His mouth is dry but other than that he doesn’t feel too bad. They’ve probably drugged him up to his eyeballs. Well, that and Scott is probably sitting there leeching away more pain than he should be. “What’s up, bro?”

            Scott huffs a laugh that sounds mostly like relief. Stiles grins a little wider.

            “What’s the damage?” he asks. He would love to say that he and Scott aren’t used to this situation but the truth is… well, their high school years had been a crazy time and college calmed down a little, but only just. He struggles to find the button to sit up and is relieved when Scott finds it first and hits it. He hates lying down in hospitals.

            “Nothing major,” Scott reports dutifully. “They poked around inside you for a bit because they were afraid he nicked your… intestines? Or stomach? Kidney? I dunno something like that but they think everything’s fine. Though, they are keeping you overnight just in case.”

            Stiles makes a face.

            “Are you sure we can’t-?”

            “No, Stiles,” Scott says, frowning in that way he has. “And no strenuous movement for a few weeks. He cut through some muscle that needs to heal.”

            “Oh, you’re no fun,” Stiles grumbles. “Remember that one time we snuck out of the hospital after disguising ourselves as doctors and then crawling through the trash chutes?”

            “Stiles, that was because the witch was still trying to kill you,” Scott sighs. But he sounds amused. “Besides, my mom switched around shifts to work tonight and she will kill you if you try to sneak out.”

            “Fine, fine,” Stiles says. “How are the kids?”

            “I got someone to watch them,” Scott says. “Haven’t gotten a chance to call yet- the forms took forever to fill out- I only know the important answers.” Stiles takes this to mean that Scott knows his blood type, complete medical history, and that he is allergic to peanuts but has no idea what insurance they even have or what papers he is supposed to fill out as Stiles’ registered foster partner. “Now that you’re awake, I’ll probably run home to be with them, if that’s okay.”

            “Of course,” Stiles says, waving a hand. “That babysitter must be costing us a fortune. And I don’t know what the co-pay is for ‘poking around’ in my stomach.”

            Scott sort of blushes at that- probably because he thinks he should have known the more technical term for pseudo-surgery but Stiles doesn’t mind.

            “And Mato?” Stiles asks because he hasn’t noticed Scott’s omission. Scott’s face darkens.

            “He’s outside,” Scott says, his voice a little tight. “I told him he had to wait to see if you wanted to talk to him.”

            “Scott,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “Don’t be stupid.”

            “He basically stabbed you, Stiles,” Scott grunts, frown growing. “It’s-”

            “It was an accident and you know it,” Stiles replies, voice going a little firm. “You can’t be mad at him forever.”

            Scott scowls but doesn’t say anything. He’ll get over it though, Stiles knows. Scott is the most forgiving person in the entire world. It just… he tends to get a little overprotective when it comes to Stiles. Pretty much the only rule Scott enforces with an iron fist is ‘Don’t hurt the squishy human.’ If Stiles so much as yelps when playing with the kids, Scott is rumbling in warning and pulling kids aside for a strict talk on werewolf strength when interacting with humans.

            It’s not that Stiles is against the rule, especially now that another squishy human has been added to the mix, but it seems to be Scott’s one blind spot when it comes to good parenting. Scott has been known to hold onto his anger for a beat too long when it comes to accidents involving the injury of Stiles. (Luckily, there have been no problems with Adam so far.)

            And Stiles is also well aware that some of this anger is misplaced guilt for incidents that occurred when Scott first became a werewolf.

            “You could have been really hurt,” Scott finally grumbles. “All the doctors were worried about-”

            “Scott, you know you’re not supposed to eavesdrop on doctors,” Stiles says, sighing. “They always freak you out.”

            “They never explain all the possibilities!”

            “Probably so they won’t freak people out,” Stiles says, laughing a bit and then regretting it as a spike of pain goes through his abdomen. Scott’s eyes flash red again.

            “Go home,” Stiles orders, batting Scott away when he goes in to latch on and take more pain. “Make sure the kids are okay, use the emergency money in my desk to order some pizza for dinner, save me at least two pieces for tomorrow, and send Mato in on your way out.”

            “Fine,” Scott says. “But he’s grounded and stuck doing extra control practice for at least two weeks.”

            “Not arguing with that,” Stiles replies. “And he can run home.”

            “Okay,” Scott says, rising and stretching. “Your dad gets off his shift at 9 tonight and he’s already said he’ll watch the kids for the rest of the night. So I’ll be back then.”

            “Oh, excellent, you can sneak me in pizza!”

            “My mom will kill us,” Scott says but Stiles knows that he’ll bring the pizza in anyway. That’s what platonic co-dads are for.

            Scott gives his shoulder a careful pat and then he is gone and a moment later, Mato is hovering by the door. Stiles shifts himself up a little more, carefully keeping the grimace from his face.

            “Hey, kiddo,” he says. “You gonna come in or just linger by the door?”

            Stiles and Scott don’t usually use names like “kiddo” with Mato because Mato is only eleven years younger than them and has a whole fourteen years’ worth of memories of his own family. So it’s a much more tentative and careful balance than with the younger kids, or even with Ellie who has been with them since she was ten. But… Stiles figures in this case, Mato won’t mind it. He doesn’t exactly get a good look at Mato’s face since the teenager is looking carefully at the ground, but he catches a glimpse of red, puffy eyes and a pale face. He comes in slowly, his breath a hair too steady to be natural.

            “Grab a chair,” Stiles tells him, nodding towards the one Scott had just vacated. “How are-”

            “I’m sorry!” the teen blurts, looking up and he’s not crying, exactly but his breath hitches as if he could be and- “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to- I just- I just lost control and I didn’t even really know it was you and I forgot and y-y-you could have died and I just-”

            He still isn’t crying but he is hyperventilating enough to seem on the edge of true panic and, good lord, whatever speech Scott had given him was clearly a bit overboard because there is no way a stomach wound is taking Stiles out. And he not sure he’s ever heard Mato talk so much in one breath.

            “Hey,” Stiles says, taking full advantage of Mato’s sudden need for air to wrap a hand around the base of his neck. “Hey, calm down, Mato. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Deep breaths.”

            “I-I’m really sorry,” Mato stutters again. “Please don’t-”

            “Dude,” Stiles cuts him off smoothly before Mato can sink into a panic again. “Dude, relax. I know you’re sorry. It was just an accident, okay?”

            “I didn’t mean to,” Mato says, sounding at least a little calmer. “I promise I didn’t-”

            “I know,” Stiles repeats. “I know, it happens sometimes, okay? You’re a teenage werewolf. It’s not okay but it’s not the end of the world. I’m fine. I could probably go home right now if Scott wasn’t such a worrywart.”

            Mato flinches and Stiles realizes a beat too late that he probably should have eased into the topic of Scott. Werewolves were sensitive about their Alphas.

            “He- he’s really mad at me,” Mato admits softly. There’s a touch of fear in his voice because to a werewolf, angering your Alpha was wrong on a deeper level than Stiles can ever hope to understand.

            “Yeah, he is,” Stiles agrees because Mato can hear lies now and because there is no point in hiding it. It’s a good thing Scott is usually happy because he still can’t hide his emotions for shit. “But, he’ll get over it. Just give him a few days, okay?”

            Mato shakes his head, twisting his hands together.

            “No, I mean, he’s… he’s really mad at me.”

            “Mato,” Stiles says, ducking his head so he can meet his son’s eyes. “Look, Scott knows it wasn’t your fault. He does. He just… he’s a werewolf too and sometimes it takes those crazy instincts of his a little while to fully accept that this was just an accident. You know he gets overprotective.”

            “The doctors said it could have been really bad though,” Mato insists. “Like there are a bunch of internal organs right there and if I-”

            “But you didn’t,” Stiles says. “Look, I saw your face the instant it happened. You were just as surprised as me, kid. You were already pulling back as soon as you realized what happened. So, really, it’s okay. Scott will calm down too. Don’t worry about it.”

            Mato nods and then there’s silence and Stiles thinks that that might be it. For now, at least, obviously there is going to be more talks with Scott and probably with the other children who might be inclined to echo the Alpha’s anger and blame Mato for Stiles’ injury as well but he can’t handle that from his hospital room. So it will have to wait until he’s home.

            Give him a week and he can have his family running smoothly again. Though, really, he still doesn’t know what Adam and Corey were fighting about, so he needs to check on that. Of course, the fact that Adam is now comfortable enough to get in fights is probably a good thing. Silver lining. And now they know Mato needs some extra control practice. Probably Ellie too if this is what the teen years are going to be like. More silver lining. Though, god help them when all the other little ones grow up and-

            “So…” Mato’s voice is soft and questioning and almost desperate and he doesn’t quite look up. Stiles blinks and refocuses. “So, you guys aren’t gonna- uh, you’re not gonna send me away?”

            Stiles freezes.

            He has been ready for all the other parts of this conversation – for the guilt and the self-blame and the concern over Scott’s temper – but this… he wasn’t expecting this.

            And this is important. Because Mato was in the foster system for a year before Lydia got word of him, was in it for longer than he had been with them and had been kicked out of foster homes often and- and Stiles should have seen this coming.

            His surprise takes a moment to recover from and then his heart sort of breaking takes another moment and he watches as Mato’s right knee jumps up and down and that has to be in terror and-

            “Hey,” he says, his voice softer than before. And then he attempts to kick the blankets off, gasping a little when that pulls on his new stitches. “Hey, Mato, take a look at my left leg for me. Halfway up my calf.”

            Mato blinks in surprise and his eyes don’t lose any of their terror but he obeys, folding the blankets of the bed over until Stiles’ leg is exposed.

            “Do you see it?” Stiles asks. Mato shakes his head. “There’s a scar that looks sort of like a half-moon. Kinda gross looking.”

            “Oh,” Mato says. “Oh, yeah, I- I see it.”

            “Yeah,” Stiles says. “That’s from Nate. When he was two, he bit me. Bit me and then yanked a chunk of flesh right off. He was just trying to play but… yeah, twenty seven stitches. It was gross.”

            “But he was a baby-” Mato starts.

            “Okay,” Stiles interrupts. “Now the other leg, above the knee.” Mato frowns, but moves to the other side.

            “This one’s smaller,” Stiles grunts, sitting up a bit more. “See, small little line- yeah, yeah, right there. That’s when Ellie thought she werewolves were automatically very good at throwing knives. She had the strength but not quite the aim. Four inch blade right into me. Couple inches over and it would have hit an artery. Scott was beside himself.”

            “Okay, but,” Mato protests.

            “And here,” Stiles says, pushing up the sleeve on his hospital gown to reveal his left shoulder. “What does that look like to you?”

            Mato stares at it for a while.

            “Claws,” he replies softly.

            Stiles nods. “And who do you think did that?”

            “I guess… Corey?” Mato says. “He’s next in order.”

            “Nope,” Stiles says. “That was Scott.”

            Mato jerks in surprise.

            “One of the first times he shifted,” Stiles says. “Scott was a bitten werewolf, you know. Completely out of control. He was trying to kill people and I was trying to stop him and-” he nods to his shoulder. “Had to wait until morning to do anything about it obviously and then we had to drive to a free clinic two towns over to get stitches in it since at that point neither of our parents knew what had happened and- I’ve never seen Scott so upset.”

            Mato hasn’t stopped staring at it. Stiles watches his face rather than his arm. He knows what that looks like. He’s even come to like it a little bit. At least, he likes what it represents.

            “And he wanted me gone,” Stiles continues. “I mean, he had these crazy plans to run away to Mexico and lock himself up on his own and- and you know what I said to him?”

            Wordlessly, Mato shakes his head.

            “I said, ‘Scott, you’re stuck with me. I don’t care what happens, or where you go, I’m going with you.’”

            That wasn’t exactly how it happened. Actually, Scott had spoken about killing himself and Stiles had gone ballistic and there was a little crying and a much longer speech that involved much more cursing, but… but that was the conclusion. That was what mattered.

            “So, look, I’m gonna tell you the same thing,” Stiles says and then waits until Mato is looking up at him. His eyes are filled with tears but that’s okay because Stiles thinks maybe his are too.

            “Mato, you’re stuck with us. I don’t care what happens, or where you go, or how old you get, we’re going with you. Okay?”

            Mato sniffles and then looks down and that’s fine. He’s a teenager. He’s allowed to attempt to hide the fact that he’s crying. As long as he gets the message.

            Which… hopefully he gets it. Stiles blinks in sudden concern. Because, god, he had not signed up for all this. Scott is the one who is good at the heart-to-hearts.

            “O- okay,” Mato finally manages. Stiles wants to hug him but Mato’s never been big on hugs and honestly the movement might kill Stiles so he settles for grabbing Mato’s arm. “Th-thank you.”

            “No thanks necessary,” Stiles says. And then goes for a smile because this has gotten all too much for him. “Though, I would take it as a personal kindness if you didn’t stab me with your claws again.”

            Mato’s wet laugh tells him he hit the mark. Thank god. Teenagers are impossible to predict. He is positive he and Scott were never so all over the place. They were quite calm teenagers.

            “Can- can I?” Mato asks, inching his hand closer to Stiles’ wrist. “Scott showed me how on a cat the other day.”

            “Absolutely not,” Stiles says, voice dipping. Honestly. Teenagers. “Scott showed you on a cat that had a sprained paw. Taking pain from a person is completely different and you will not be attempting that until you are at least 17. And Scott does it entirely too much anyway.”

            “Sorry,” Mato says, ducking his head down as if Stiles had yelled at him. “Sorry, I just thought-”

            “I know,” Stiles says. “But you don’t need to do anything, okay? Well, except go home and apologize to Ellie.”

            “Okay,” Mato mumbles. “Okay, I’ll do that.”

            “And I’m afraid you’re stuck running home,” Stiles adds. “Scott took the car. And you’re grounded with extra control practice for two weeks.”

            He would feel a little better if Mato complained a little bit about his punishment, but the teen nods silently. Oh well, Mato tends to do most things silently so maybe it’s not a horrific sign that Mato still feels unnecessarily guilty.

            “Alright,” Stiles says, reaching over to give Mato a gentle cuff on the head. Sometimes with werewolves, it is all about body language. “Get outta here. You’ll miss the pizza.”

            Mato shoots him a rare, grateful smile and Stiles settles back, content to maybe catch up on sleep as his son leaves.

            But then the door opens again and Stiles is already wincing at the thought of a doctor poking around in his stomach area (doctors love to poke, Stiles knows) and-

            “Hey,” the voice says and-

            Oh.

            It’s Derek.

 

*^*^*^

 

            When Derek arrives at the house, it is in chaos. Maybe Ellie was holding it together for the little kids before he got there, but she takes one look at Derek and bursts into tears, wailing about how it was her fault, that she was the one who had made Mato so mad and Derek eventually manages to calm her down but the moment she stops sobbing, Corey starts.

            And those two are the easiest to handle. Because Lucy is trembling in a way that doesn't look naturalor entirely safe and Levonna and Adam are white-faced and silent on the couch and it takes him twenty minutes to find Nate, who ran away and buried himself in Stiles’ bed the moment Ellie dropped his hand.

            He loses count of how many times he assures them that Stiles is going to be okay, that Scott is sure to call as soon as he can, that everything is going to be completely fine. Eventually he gives up and puts on a movie and he’s not sure how much the kids are actually watching, but at least they are quiet and still and he gets Lucy to drink a glass of water.

            He gets a call from Scott after over an hour and he takes it outside just in case it is bad news but-

            “Everything’s fine,” Scott says the moment Derek picks up. He sounds tired “Let everyone know I’m on my way back now, okay? They’re just keeping Stiles overnight to be sure everything is okay. But he’s fine.”

            “Sure,” Derek says, feeling himself relax for the first time in almost two hours Or eight days. “Drive safe.” Scott hums it what must be agreement and then hangs up.

            “Scott is on his way back,” he tells the kids who aren’t even pretending to watch Robin Hood anymore.

            “But not Stiles?” Corey asks, his voice tilting dangerously.

            “Wh-why isn’t Stiles coming back?” Lucy echoes and Derek sees her breathing start to increase.

            “Hey, no,” he says, wondering how he has managed to screw this up. “Stiles is okay, they are just keeping him a little longer to be sure. Everything’s fine.”

            “And where’s Mato?” The question comes from Adam, who hasn’t spoken a word yet.

            “Um, Scott didn’t say,” Derek admits. “I assume he’s keeping Stiles company in the hospital.” The others seem to accept this answer, but Adam just pales further.

            Nate starts crying.

            Derek picks him up, but he can’t really do much about Nate’s tearful pleas for his Daddy and it is a relief when Scott shows up ten minutes later, still wearing his vet clothes but smelling like the hospital.

            Derek doesn’t want to say that he throws Nate at Scott the instant the Alpha opens the door but Nate squirms hard enough that Derek almost drops him and he is desperate to make the kid feel better and-

            “Shhh, shhh, buddy,” Scott says, catching Nate easily. “It’s alright.”

            “Want D-Daddy,” Nate stutters.

            “He’ll be back in a bit,” Scott promises. And then looks down at the gaggle of kids who have met him at the door. The only two who have lingered in the living room are Levonna and Adam. “Everyone, Stiles is gonna be just fine.”

            “But why isn’t he here?” Lucy asks.

            “He’s coming home tomorrow morning, okay?” Scott says. “Look, kids, could you give me just a second with Derek here. Then I’ll come and explain everything. And we’re ordering pizza tonight so everyone decide what they want!”

            None of the children look particularly happy to be leaving, but Ellie herds them all out except for Nate, who is clinging to his father and doesn’t appear to be moving any time soon, though his cries have diminished to quiet whimpers. Dimly Derek hears tentative pizza toppings start to be discussed.

            Scott sags once they are out of earshot.

            “Dude,” he says, a tired smile flashing across his face. “Thanks so much for watching them. I know it must’ve been a handful.”

            “No problem,” Derek says honestly and then because it’s all he really cares about- “How’s Stiles?”

            “Fine,” Scott replies, his mouth twisting. “I’m sure you heard that Mato lost control and there was an… accident.” Scott’s eyes go dark red for a moment but quickly he glances at Nate and takes a deep breath. They clear to almost their normal shade. “His ab muscles got a little torn up. But, he’s okay. They did some exploratory surgery just to be sure but it’s just stitches. He’s already awake and planning escape attempts.”

            Scott rolls his eyes in an entirely fond way.

            “Anyway,” Scott says. “I don’t want to hold you up anymore. I know that you and Stiles are, uhm,” he waves a hand. “You know. I didn’t even tell him you were here. So you can just… you should really let him know though.”

            Scott is slightly frowning at him and this is not how Derek planned it exactly and it feels like maybe this is happening in the wrong order but well, if he’s going to be getting closer to this family, he figures maybe it’s best to start doing things out of order.

            “Just so you know,” he says, hoping he seems sincere. “I was always going to- I mean, my sister was over and that’s why I didn’t call cause I wanted to do it in person but, I mean, if it’s okay with you, then-”

            He stops because Scott is beaming at him.

            “Knew it,” Scott says, looking entirely too proud of himself. And Derek. He also looks like maybe he wants to hug Derek but can’t because he’s still holding Nate. “Beacon Hills Hospital down the road. He’s in Room 216.”

            “Okay,” Derek says and then he goes.

            And it’s ridiculous because if anything the last hour and half spent with panicking children who clearly don’t trust him fully should have turned him off the whole idea. He should be scared that he’s never going to fit in, that Nate is always going to cry for Stiles or Scott and Levonna and Adam are going to stay practically mute but…

            But it doesn’t scare him off.

            If anything, it makes him more certain he’s made the right choice.

            And then he hears the tail end of Stiles’ and Mato’s conversation as he waits outside the door and he is positive.

            “Hey,” he says, once Mato has left and he gets his first look at Stiles in over a week.

            Stiles looks pale and there’s a line between his eyebrows that signifies he’s in pain and his face is a picture of shock for just a moment before he blinks and confusion takes its place.

            “Derek?” he asks and Derek watches as he pushes himself up with his hands in an attempt to sit up straighter and then sort of gasps and-

            “May I?” Derek asks, his hand hovering about Stiles’ own. “Promise I know how to do it.”

            “Umm,” Stiles says, clearly still thrown. It might be the only reason he agrees so easily. “Uh, yeah. Sure.”

            Derek threads his fingers between Stiles' and pulls and sits down in the chair a tad harder than he meant to.

            “Sorry,” Stiles slurs, Derek’s veins still running black. “Mrs. McCall always has them give me only half the good stuff since Scott is always here taking it away. And we’ve found that even if I’m drugged up, he can still take it but I can’t really tell him when to stop and so- so this is easier.”

            Derek nods without speaking and then a moment later Stiles is pulling away.

            “No passing out on me,” Stiles says, a nervous smile on his face. “Not until you tell me what you’re doing here?”

            Derek flushes. Because all his thoughts have suddenly flown out of his head and-

            “Well,” he starts, looking up at Stiles. “I told you I would tell you my decision and so… here I am.”

            He listens as Stiles’ heart skips. It makes him smile.

            “So…?” Stiles asks. “So it’s- it’s okay? All of it?”

            His voice is slow and disbelieving and Derek’s heart is skipping plenty of beats of its own.

            “Yeah,” he says and he’s positive he had a longer speech than that planned, positive he was going to say something about Stiles being wonderful and his family being awesome but- but Stiles is pulling him into a kiss and smells of raw relief and maybe a touch of joy and- and so this seems like enough.

            “You can change your mind any time you want,” Stiles says, pulling away for a second. “Really, just let me know, I can-”

            “Oh, shut up,” Derek grumbles and then they kiss.

            They kiss until Stiles whimpers and clutches his side and Derek backs away and Stiles immediately starts complaining loudly about how his wound is going to negatively affect their sex life and Derek says they’ll manage and Stiles mutters that Derek isn’t the one with torn abdominal muscles so of course, he’ll be fine.

            Derek can’t stop grinning like an idiot and Stiles keeps laughing until he’s groaning in pain and-

            For the first time in eight days, everything feels right.

 

End (for now)

Chapter Text

It’s Insanity, but… Full Moon

 

            “Okay, okay,” Stiles says, feeling a headache coming on. “So that’s three turkey sandwiches, one without cheese, two ham- one without onions, and then- wait, Levonna and Adam, I don’t know what you want!”

            If he could find a pen, Stiles would totally write this down. As it was, the kitchen island is covered in sandwich supplies and his desk is covered with work things and at least two book bags and he doesn’t have the time to spare.

            “Whatever is easiest,” Adam says softly from the corner. Stiles frowns. It’s been almost four months and generally they’re at the point where Levonna and Adam are comfortable with making requests but in chaotic situations, they seemed to revert. Or if they aren’t together. Levonna must be in the bathroom. He should-

            “Wait, is one of those turkeys for me?” Ellie pipes up before Stiles can say anything.

            “Yeah,” he says, spreading out the bread. “The one without cheese. Like always.”

            “No,” she replies, tossing her hair over her shoulder. “No, remember, I told you I want ham this time! Turkey is gross!”

            “Seriously?” Stiles says, risking looking up to glare at his daughter. “It’s been three years! You can’t just switch this up on me!”

            “I’m growing up,” she tells him, raising her chin. “My palate is getting more refined.”

            Then she nods and walks away. Stiles blinks after her. Palate getting more refined?

            He needs to call the school. They have clearly been teaching the wrong vocabulary words.

            “I didn’t hear a ‘please’ in there!” he yells after her, already dragging ham onto another sandwich.

            In an instant, she is by his elbow, eyes glittering up at him, bottom lip pouting out slightly. “Pleeease?” she asks, blinking slowly.

            Good lord, she is learning from Scott. Her head even tilts just like his.

            “Oh, go away,” he tells her. “And stop pulling the puppy eyes. And no shifting in the house!”

            She grins at him as she saunters away again, giving him a little wave before she turns the corner. She had learned that trick from Lydia. Son of a- Lydia and Scott were never meant to mix.

            “Make sure everyone is packing a spare change of clothes!” he calls. At least she can't claim to not have heard him. And she may be the worst child but she'll get all his other monsters in line.

            He can do this. Two turkey, two ham – or maybe it’s up to three now? Fuck it, he’ll just make three and he or Scott can eat one if there’s an extra and-

            “Levonna!” he cries as she walks in, mouth twisting in concern as she looks for Adam. Stiles would tell her that he’d wandered outside, doubtless to get away from this insanity, but with her nose, she’ll find him in a minute. “Go ahead and raise your left hand if you want a turkey sandwich. Right if you want ham. Uh, both if you want chicken, okay?”

            He is afraid for a moment she is going to shrug, but then she puts her left hand in the air.

            “And for Adam?”

            Same answer.

            “And cheese is okay?” A nod.

            “You’re the best,” he tells her because she’s quiet and sweet and because she needs to hear it and-

            “ELLIE SAYS TURKEY IS GROSS!” Corey screams as he runs into the room, careening into the far wall.

            Stiles nearly gives up then and there.

            But he doesn’t because it’s the full moon. And even before there were kids involved, he and Scott headed to the woods so that Scott could fully shift and run in peace. And then they had made it a picnic since Scott said that being hungry when you shifted was awful and led to eating forest animals and Stiles did not need that information, thank you very much.

            And then the kids had arrived, making shifting in the woods absolutely necessary because control during the full moon isn’t achieved until at least ten years old and the picnic is also a necessity because Corey had once thrown up a squirrel the next morning and there is no way Stiles is living through that again. He doesn’t think he ever recovered from the first time.

            But he really should learn to start this process sooner. It always takes so much longer than he thinks to shove enough food for a pack of werewolves into a cooler.

            Next month, he tells himself firmly. Next month, I am doing this the night before. And all the kids are making their own sandwiches. Even Nate.

            He nods. It’s a lie that he tells himself every month. But this time he means it. At least, that’s what he assures himself as Corey continues voicing his concerns over lunch meat and his headache racks up another notch.

            By the time he’s convinced Corey that there is no reason to think turkey is gross and cram almost all the sandwiches in a bag, it’s almost five. That’s bad because they generally try to leave by five thirty so the kids can run around and burn off energy and-

            “I’m home!” Scott calls, dashing into the room, and even Stiles can smell the animals on him. “Sorry, I’m late. A lady came in with a dog who had broken his leg and we had to set it and- I’m sorry. I’ll be ready to go in a minute. What do we need?”

            “Make sure all the kids have packed a change of clothes,” Stiles tells him. “And Mato is with Nate but someone needs to-”

            “Wait,” Scott says, taking a deep breath. And then he is going in for a hug.

            “Ugh,” Stiles says, arms pinned to his side. Of all the times for Stiles to apparently not smell like pack enough. He isn’t even sure how that’s possible – he’s been surrounded by the ragamuffins for the past two hours. Of course, full moon means that all werewolf instincts are especially strong, including the scent marking but- “Scott, maybe you could wait until-”

            Scott’s hand comes into contact with the back of Stiles’ neck and Stiles is about to let out a defeated groan when suddenly his headache is fading. It comes out as a sigh of relief.

            “There,” Scott says after a moment, pulling away and looking entirely too proud of himself. “Better.”

            Stiles glares at him as much as he can. “You’re supposed to ask permission first,” he grumbles. It’s a rule that Scott has never followed. Predictably, Scott grins at him.

            “You worry about the food,” Scott tells him. “I’ll handle the rest.”

            And then the man is letting out an honest-to-god howl which turns into a bark of joy and Stiles rolls his eyes even as he puts all three kinds of meat on Scott’s sandwich.

            He deserves it.

 

*^*^*^

 

            Stiles isn’t even sure he’s come to a complete stop when the doors of their Suburban open and kids start pouring out of the car. Stiles opens his mouth to protest but Scott is already out and grabbing the cooler and the tent from the back and at that point there’s really nothing for it but to hop down and start the monthly tradition of making sure they don’t lose anyone.

            Well, that and the monthly tradition of keeping close with a fully charged laptop on hand because although the most they’ve come across since the kids have arrived is a pack of pixies, neither he nor Scott have forgotten their high school adventures. Stiles isn’t going anywhere far with Scott and his kids running around a forest in varying states of werewolf control.

            “Nobody start eating until we’re all together!” Stiles orders as he moves to close all the doors they’ve left open.

            He isn’t really paying attention, merely glancing inside to make sure no one has left anything important, when he notices that the car is not empty.

            Adam is sitting in the second row back, staring at his lap, his small face dominated by a frown.

            Immediately, all Stiles’ senses go on alert.

            “Hey,” he asks, softly, already preparing to call Scott over. “What’s wrong, buddy?”

            “Nothin’,” Adam replies, keeping his head down.

            Stiles keeps his face neutral but doesn’t say anything. It’s an old interrogation technique he’s picked up from his father but it works on small children just as well.

            Hey, he takes advice from where he can find it. He and Scott used to purposefully sit close to groups of young mothers in restaurants and eavesdrop in increasingly desperate attempts to figure out what to do with Nate.

            “I’m not hungry,” Adam pouts, crossing his arms.

            “Still gotta come out and sit with the pack, dude,” Stiles replies, glancing over. At this point, Scott has straightened as is looking at them in confusion.

            Adam mumbles something that Stiles doesn’t catch.

            “What’s that?”

            “I’m not pack,” Adam says, louder and there’s a touch of anger in his voice that means this is more than a temper tantrum. Stiles blinks. He and Scott started using pack because Ellie used to burst into tears at the mention of “family” and it seems like a good compromise. They can never replace what these children have lost but they try.

            “What are you talking about?” Stiles says. “Of course, you’re-”

            “Do you think Scott will turn me into a werewolf?”

            Adam asks the question quietly but he finally looks up and he looks somehow both completely serious and openly worried and-

            “You guys can start eating without us,” Stiles calls and predictably Scott starts walking over, confusion turned to concern. Wordlessly, Stiles waves him back, hoping Scott knows not to interrupt.

            “Can I come in?” he asks. Adam had started trusting Scott and Stiles when he had nightmares but he still doesn’t like being too crowded by anyone but Levonna. Thankfully, he nods and then Stiles slides in, climbing over the seat with about as much grace as he’s ever had.

            Which means it’s not good when Adam doesn’t even crack a smile at Stiles’ antics. All five year olds laugh at Stiles’ flailing. It’s the one thing he’s counted on in his life.

            Stiles sits next to Adam, takes a deep breath, and calls himself an idiot because, really, he should have seen this coming.

            They’ve always let Adam go to the training sessions with the other werewolves, mostly because Levonna and Adam have made every indication that separating is unacceptable. And, of course, Stiles uses most of those sessions to get shopping done and while he totes Nate around sometimes, they’ve assumed Adam will have more fun hanging around outside with the others. And the last three full moons, Levonna had shifted but opted to stay in the tent with Adam and Stiles and both had been asleep within moments.

            But Levonna has been getting more comfortable with the others, even if she still prefers not to talk whenever possible. She now actually participates in races and other games that Scott sets up, she grins a little whenever she wins a tracking contest (which is almost always even when Mato is involved) and Stiles suddenly doesn’t doubt that she is willing to go out and roam with the pack tonight.

            Which leaves Adam alone. The only human in a pack of werewolf children.

            Yeah, he really should have seen this coming. They’ve never had to worry about this before and obviously Scott wouldn’t think of something like this, which means it was Stiles’ ball to stay on top of and he’d dropped it.

            He takes a deep breath and pushes his frustration at himself down. Right now he had to fix this. He can bemoan his failed parenting to Scott later.

            “Okay,” he starts slowly. “So, you wanna be a werewolf?”

            “Yes,” Adam replies. And he says it decisively. Like he’s thought about it. Something in Stiles’ gut twists. That’s going to make this so much harder.

            “Well, why?” Stiles asks and he sees Adam blink in surprise. It’s clear that he hadn’t thought he would get this far.

            “I dunno… I- werewolves are better than people.”

            “Who told you that?” Stiles asks, already frowning. He’s has to admit that their house does tend to talk about werewolves quite a bit and the discussion of ‘what would a werewolf do’ has been applied to many of the movies seen by his children, but he hadn’t thought it was too bad.

            Fuck, though, maybe it was. None of it bothered Stiles who had seen the downside of being a werewolf first-hand and had long since made his decision to forego any magical enhancements but… but to a little kid-

            “No one,” Adam replies, shrugging. “No one. It’s just true.”

            “I don’t think that’s true,” Stiles says. “I like being a human.”

            Adam glares at him like he is being deliberately obtuse. Stiles shrugs at him, raising his eyebrows in a silent question.

            “Werewolves can’t get hurt,” Adam says. Stiles stills.

            “Is this about what happened with me and Mato?” That was almost a month ago and Stiles had thought that the Pack Meeting they’d had about the incident was enough but maybe they should have talked to Adam alone and-

            “No,” Adam sounds frustrated in the way that five year olds do when they aren’t being understood. Stiles tells himself not to ask any more leading questions. Five year olds hate when you guess wrong.

            Scott really should be the one doing this. Scott always guesses correctly.

            “Sorry,” he says. “You tell me why then.”

            “Werewolves can’t get hurt,” Adam repeats. “And they’re faster and stronger and they can smell everything, even like… danger so no one can hurt them and- they’re just better and I can’t keep up and-”

            Adam cuts himself off and his eyes flick to the window where Scott is leaning down to talk to Levonna, who is doubtless freaked out that Adam is still in the car and-

            Okay, Stiles had just told himself to stop guessing but he thinks he got this one.

            “Hey,” he cuts in as Adam takes a few deep breaths, maybe to stop from crying. Adam does that. Even after the worst nightmares, he always tries to avoid crying, to avoid making noise. It’s upsetting because it’s unnatural and Stiles doesn’t like to think about the reason why Adam thinks he has to be quiet.

            Unlike the others, Adam is not an orphan. His mother is alive somewhere. Which means he was in Foster care for a different reason than the others and Stiles-

            Stiles can’t think about that right now.

            “Do you think me and Scott are a good team?”

            Adam blinks. Stiles waits.

            “Yeah,” the kid says it slowly. Almost like it’s a trap. Fair enough, it sort of is.

            “Yeah, I think so too,” Stiles says. “We work really well together, kind of like you and Levonna do.”

            Adam nods.

            “See and I think Scott and me are good together because we balance each other out,” Stiles continues. “Scott is definitely stronger than me but he can be a little distracted by all the sounds and smells of things. And it took him a long, long time to get that good at staying in control.”

            “Sometimes his eyes still flash red,” Adam adds softly. Stiles nods. He's not sure how many of the other kids bother keeping track of Scott's eyes unless they are the ones being warned away from something but Adam is always watching.

            “Exactly,” Stiles agrees. “Remember when we were went on that hike and those bikers came up really fast?”

            “He got really tense,” Adam finishes.

            Stiles nods. It had been a calm Saturday hike when three bicyclists came around a curve of the trail way too quickly and almost hit Corey and even though they swerved out of the way in time and Corey didn’t even seem to notice what had happened, Scott’s control had slipped. He was half shifted and poised to go after them in the two seconds it took Stiles to grab him. Even after blinking and nodding along as Stiles calmly reminded him that everyone was fine and it was not a threat, Scott scowled in their direction, eyes shining red.

            After a few more minutes of Scott jumping at every noise and glaring around almost continuously, Stiles had ordered him to go to run ahead and make sure the path was clear so they wouldn’t be surprised again. Not that he thought they would be but the run would let Scott blow off some steam.  

            “Totally,” Stiles says. “And he had to go for a quick run too. Just to calm down.”

            “Yeah,” Adam says.

            “Now imagine if both of us were werewolves,” Stiles says. “Then maybe both of us would have been a little overprotective. That wouldn’t have been good.”

            “No.”

            “See, that’s why I think humans and werewolves work so well together. Different strengths. We’re good at different things.”

            Hesitantly, Adam nods.

            “So Levonna can always warn you who’s coming because she has a really good sense of smell,” Stiles says. He’s fully aware that she still does that even with him and Scott. She watches and smells and senses and reports everything to Adam. Keeping him safe. “But you are always brave enough to talk for her when she doesn’t want to.”

            “Yeah,” Adam says. “And- and even on the full moon, I can tell what she wants to say.”

            “Exactly,” Stiles says. “You couldn’t do that if you were also shifted.”

            Adam looks down again, clearly thinking and Stiles takes the opportunity to frown a bit. As usual, he isn’t sure if this is coming out correctly or if he’s somehow enforcing the idea that Adam has to always do things for Levonna. Which might be encouraging codependence. Which is supposed to be bad (though, really, Stiles does not have a leg to stand on there because he had turned down Stanford to go to college with Scott so…)

            “It’s about balance,” he says, hoping this will get the real point across. “Werewolves aren’t better than humans, just different. They’re good at different things and bad at different things. So it’s better if you have both. That way you can work as a team.”

            “Okay,” Adam says slowly. “But, if I got to be a werewolf then-”

            He stops. Swallows. Doesn’t look up.

            “Then what?” Stiles asks, something sinking in his stomach.

            Adam is silent for a beat longer. Then,

            “Nevermind,” he says and Stiles doesn’t have to be a werewolf to know that he’s lying. “Forget it.”

            Stiles frowns at him. A large part of him wants to push, wants to know what it was that Adam was going to say before clamming up but pushing too hard with Adam can still make the kid shrink back a little, and Adam is already twisting his hands together.

            “Adam,” Stiles says seriously. He knows he’s not working with the full picture but it will have to do for now. “We can’t let you become a werewolf right now. It’s dangerous, first of all, and it’s just a really big decision to make.”

            Adam doesn’t look particularly happy but he nods.

            “So for now, you gotta stay a human,” Stiles says. “But, I promise you, once you get older we can talk about this some more, okay?”

            And that talk will include Scott. And Stiles will be more prepared. And hopefully Adam will explain exactly what he’s thinking.

            “Promise?” Adam says, glancing up.

            “Promise,” Stiles repeats. “But by then, you might not even want to be a werewolf.”

            He considers it a victory when Adam’s face doesn’t immediately twist into disbelief at that statement. Instead, it goes thoughtful.

            “Okay.”

            “Cool,” Stiles replies. That can be his new goal too. To make sure that Adam feels like being a human has its perks. To make sure the werewolf talk of the house doesn’t get out of control. He can do that.

            They sit in silence for another moment and then Stiles gently nudges Adam in the shoulder.

            “Dude, we better get going,” he says, nodding towards the window. “Vonna is looking pretty worried about you.”

            It’s true. Levonna is staring at the car, her hands clasped in front of her and though Scott must have told her that Adam and Stiles just needed to have a quick chat, the concern is all over her face. Adam smiles a little when he sees her.

            “Okay,” Adam says, nodding a bit to himself. “For now, we’re gonna be like you and Scott.”

            Stiles firmly tells himself that his heart doesn’t get a little warm at that. Scott would be all out grin-crying with joy but not Stiles. Stiles is the one who keeps his shit together when kids say adorable things. So he settles for pressing his lips together, nodding seriously, and holding out his hand for a high five.

            “Sounds like a plan, buddy.” He climbs up and over the seats first, smiling a little to himself when Adam laughs as he manages to hit his head on both the roof and the side of the car. See? Slapstick humor. Always a winner.

            “You know what else is great about being a human?” Stiles asks as he helps Adam down. Adam shakes his head.

            “While all those crazy wolves are running around tonight, tiring themselves out,” Stiles continues. “We can stay up late, eat the secret stash of candy I brought, and watch the new How to Train Your Dragon movie.”

            It’s blatant bribery but Adam’s face flickers into a hopeful smile.

            “Really?” he asks. “I thought we were waiting til Thanksgiving!”

            “Well,” Stiles says, bending down to grin at Adam. “We humans gotta stick together. And if all the werewolves are gonna be busy and you can keep a secret…”

            Adam only makes it through the first half of the movie before falling asleep but he smiles the entire time.

            Stiles figures that’s enough. For now.

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s Insanity, but… Pianos

            “We’re so close,” Stiles mutters to Derek, risking leaning over and pressing a quick kiss to Derek’s cheek. “We’re totally gonna make it!”

            “You sound surprised by that,” Derek replies. His mouth is in its familiar half-smirk that Stiles loves and there is a slight blush spreading from where Stiles’ lips made contact that Stiles adores.

            “Dude, we took five kids to the mall,” Stiles says, gesturing around. “And so far, they haven’t broken anything or thrown a tantrum and we haven’t lost any of them!”

            Derek snorts a laugh. He clearly doesn’t understand what a feat this is. But Stiles knows that guiding a proverbial gaggle of werewolves aged 4 to 10 through the already-existing chaos that is the mall is a recipe for disaster. One time, it had taken nearly two hours just to run through to the Life Uniform store and grab Scott some scrubs for work. Nate had cried the whole time and Ellie and Corey kept playing tag and getting lost for fifteen minutes stretches. That’s not even including the fact that Stiles had managed to knock over an entire display while trying to find them.

            And this time they’ve really done the impossible because it is a Saturday morning in December. That’s right. This isn’t just regular mall-shopping. This is Christmas shopping. Which means that Nate, Adam, Levonna, Corey, and Lucy all had fifteen dollars to spend on their Secret Santa and that they had willingly taken the kids into a toy store and-

            Yeah, Derek is not appreciating how ridiculous this situation really is. By all rights, he should have avoided this trip like the plague it was. Stiles is pretty sure that’s what Scott is doing. Sure, he claims that both Ellie and Mato need a bit of Control Practice but Stiles sees right through that lie. The teenagers needing “Control Practice” is getting to be an awfully convenient excuse these days.

            Luckily, Derek had gone to his sister’s house for Thanksgiving (for a whole week and half), returned last night and was, for some reason, totally willing to help Stiles take his kids Christmas shopping.

            Stiles would kiss him more thoroughly if they weren’t in a mall. And if they weren’t in front of his children. And if Nate wasn’t wrapped in a piggyback position around his neck. And if Derek’s hands weren’t full of all the shopping bags that he had volunteered to carry.

            “Kids! Turn left!” He calls. Through the last department store and then it’s just a matter of making everyone hold hands and walk to the car and then setting up a present wrapping station in his bedroom for all the kids to use at different times so as not to give away who they have and-

            Corey’s shoelace comes undone halfway through the department store. He can tie it himself but it takes him a while and Stiles is put on “Am I doing this right?” check but still, not bad, only a few minutes lost and he had been very firm on the No Playing Tag/Hide and Seek/Any Game in the mall rule so this should be okay.

            1-2-3… Stiles blinks. Counts again. 1-2-3. And Nate is still on his back. That’s 4. Oh thank g-

            Wait, no, he should have five.

            He should have five kids.

            He blinks. Nate is swinging his legs idly. Corey is bragging to Lucy about his shoe tying. Lucy is eying a rack of clothes like she wants to be wedged in the circle hidden from view but she’s still only in the “Thinking About It” phase and Adam is, as usual, calmly standing nearby which means Levonna is-

            Levonna is not next to Adam.

            Derek looks over at him, doubtless because his heart has just done a little stop-start-at-a-faster-pace action. Because if it were Lucy or Corey or even Nate, he would assume they are off playing but this is Levonna and she should not be-

            “Kids,” he says, keeping his voice level and thanking the werewolf rules that werewolves do not start hearing heartbeats until they are much older. “Does anyone see where Vonna has wandered off to?”

            He’s still craning his neck, trying to see everything without looking like he’s panicking when Adam wordlessly points.

            And there she is. Walking determinedly away from the group towards-

            Towards the piano in the middle of the store.

            “Vonna!” Stiles says, attempting to get around his own kids while not letting Nate’s limbs kick any of them in the face. “Wait, Vonna, don’t!”

            He really doesn’t need to get kicked out of Macy’s because his child starts banging on the piano. He likes Macy’s. Sometimes the older people working there during the day give him 20% off even though he doesn’t have a Macy’s card.

            Really, he should have known. It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Because Levonna doesn’t even break stride. Her eyes are locked on the piano and Stiles isn’t going to be able to stop her not without causing more of a scene and it’s loud in here, maybe they won’t even notice a kid banging around on their grand piano?

            At least she doesn’t start smashing keys down right away. No, as Stiles tries to wordlessly communicate to Derek that he should stay here and make sure the other kids don’t wander off, he sees her look down at the keys as if considering for a moment and then she is lining up her small hands and then she’s-

            Stiles stops trying to get to her.

            Because she’s playing.

            Like, she’s playing a song.

            It’s not Mozart or anything (not that Stiles would really recognize Mozart) but there’s definitely a tune which sounds vaguely like an Irish Jig and her right hand is carrying the melody while her left thumps down chords at the right time and she’s playing.

            Her eyebrows are drawn together in concentration and she’s chewing on her bottom lip and she wrinkles her nose when she hits a wrong note but when she gets it, she smiles, just a little, the same flash of happiness that crosses her face when Stiles remembers to put chocolate sauce on her ice cream and-

            Stiles is dimly aware that he’s frozen, that he’s just staring, that’s Nate’s legs stop swinging and then start again in time to the music but it’s just… Levonna can play the piano.

            After a moment, a man returns wearing a suit, clearly back from his bathroom break and he smiles and waits for her to finish before leaning into her field of vision.

            “Wow!” he says, grinning at her in a clear attempt to be friendly. “You’re really good! You wanna take over for me?”

            Stiles takes a step forward as Levonna practically flinches away and run towards him, all but hiding behind his legs.

            “Sorry,” he tells the dude, who looks a little startled. She may have put some werewolf speed into that exit. “Sorry, she’s a little shy. And, uh, sorry she just started playing, she uh-”

            Stiles fades away, something in his stomach sinking, positive he is bright red by this point. He hadn’t even known Vonna could play piano and she has lived with them for over four months. Fucking piece of-

            “That’s okay,” the man replies and Stiles appreciates the fact that he only looks confused about their relationship for a moment before schooling his face into politeness. “I used to be pretty shy too.”

            Stiles nods even though that is probably a lie. Points for the nice old man.

            “You play beautifully,” the man says, bending down. “Keep up the practicing!”

            Levonna nods but also wraps her hand around Stiles’ wrist and squeezes. She wants out of here.

            “She will!” he lies, shooting his own overly-wide smile at the man. “And thank you! Have a nice time with the- uh- piano thing!”

            He turns and walks away, Levonna keeping step beside him, relieved that Nate has enough Scott in him to turn around and flail his hand at the man in an overenthusiastic wave that Stiles knows is adorable. Hopefully it makes their retreat look less awkward.

            “Hey, you gotta let me know before you run off like that, okay?” he tells her, looking down. “I nearly had a heart attack.” She looks up at him and nods, her mouth twisting to the side.

            It’s her version of I’m sorry and I will but it doesn’t make Stiles feel any better.

            Because, damn it all, she plays piano.

            And she loves it.

*^*^*^

 

            As is becoming more and more common, Derek doesn’t even get a chance to knock on the door Sunday morning before it is being thrown open.

            This time it’s Corey who is already grinning widely at him.

            “Vonna told me it was you!” he says, bouncing up and down. “We’re playing outside! Will you push me on the swings?”

            Derek smiles. “Let me go let Stiles know I’m here first, okay?”

            Corey scoffs at him, but is gone the next second. Derek has his mouth open to tell him that there’s no shifting in the house but he closes it.

            He’s still not quite sure if he’s allowed to say things like that. He’s still not sure about a lot of things. Like if it’s okay that he is dropping by on a Sunday morning unannounced.

            Derek isn't exactly sure what he was expecting after his conversation a month ago about being onboard with this relationship. It has still only been about four months so he obviously didn’t expect any grand announcements or- or anything like that but… but from what Derek can tell, nothing changed too much after their week long break. He is still invited to the house for dinner every other week or so and he and Stiles still meet-up for lunch dates or sometimes for dinner and a “movie” when Stiles manages to have the time but Stiles seems to mostly save any and all displays of affection for when they are alone. Which isn’t a bad thing but sometimes he wishes… well, he just wishes he could have more.

            When he risks mentioning it to Laura, he gets a very firm talking to about how Stiles has to go slow and how he has kids to worry about and how he needs to stop being so selfish and, for god’s sake, Derek, the kids have to get used to him.

            And that’s fair. Because he’s not quite sure what the kids think of him.

            It’s not that they don’t seem to like him. It’s that he’s not sure if they like him being with Stiles. Especially now that it seems to be long term. Maybe he’s just reading into it but some of them seem to be getting more suspicious of him rather than less. None of them have been outright rude (he knows that Scott would never allow it) but Lucy in particular has taken to giving him the side-eye and he can’t help but wonder if sometimes Ellie and Corey’s insistence that he come play with them is partly to get him away from Stiles.

            So, Laura’s right. Of course she is. He has to be patient.

            That doesn’t quite stop him from dropping in on a Sunday morning for a quick visit before his driving north for a party. Not that he’s trying to force anything, he just missed Stiles for the eleven days he’d been away and going to the mall yesterday was just fun and- and this is how he wants to spend his Sunday morning. If he’s overstepping the boundaries, he can just apologize and leave.

            But he does have to tell Stiles he’s here. Going straight back to play with the children would seem like an even bigger line to cross. So he takes a deep breath, focuses just a little and then heads towards the sound of twin heartbeats a few rooms away.

            And then it’s not that he means to snoop but he’s a werewolf so walking silently is sort of a thing and then he hears their voices and-

            “-just walked over and started playing?” Scott says.

            “Yup,” Stiles replies and Derek can’t see him but he can already picture the head bob that accompanies the word. “And Scott she is like… good at it.”

            “Like a progeny?” Scott’s voice is amazed.

            “Prodigy, Scott,” Stiles says, then- “And, no, not like playing Beethoven or whatever but she knew a real song. And she was smiling.”

            There’s a beat of silence and Derek knows that this is his chance to make enough noise to announce his presence but it seems like an important conversation and he doesn’t want to interrupt so-

            “Where will we even put a piano?” Scott asks, sounding concerned. “I mean… we already converted the dining room into another bedroom and I don’t think there’s room in the living room. Maybe they have outdoor pianos? Is that a thing?”

            “Not a thing,” Stiles replies. “I mean, I think the only space is in the office. I think if I crammed my desk into that back corner, it might fit-”

            “But the office is your quiet space,” Scott says. “We don’t even let the kids in your office. Does the garage count as outside? It’s semi-dry, except for that small leak in the corner but-

            “Scott,” Stiles interrupts smoothly. “That’s not even the problem.”

            “It’s not?” Scott asks.

            “Nope,” Stiles says and he sounds defeated. Derek tells himself he should walk away. This is a private conversation. He should move. He doesn’t. “The problem is that pianos are like a billion dollars. Like, honest to god, the cheapest I found are like $1,500. And that’s pre-owned on Craigslist.”

            A beat.

            “Well, did you-”

            “Dude, I searched for like three hours last night,” Stiles says and there’s no hiding the disappointment from his voice now. “And Levonna looked frankly horrified when I tried mentioning an electric keyboard. Not that I think she wouldn’t play it but- her whole family used to play piano, Scott. She was learning from her mom.”

            “Fuck,” Scott breathes. “Stiles, we don’t have $1,500.”

            Stiles laughs but it’s bitter. Almost dark. Derek hates it.

            “Tell me about it,” he replies. “Shit, we need my Christmas bonus to come in before we can even go get the kids their one present each this year.”

            The moment of silence is longer this time.

            “Maybe I could put out a tip jar at Deaton’s,” Scott suggests.

            “We could cut down the food budget,” Stiles offers.

            “No,” Scott says, his voice going flat. “That just means you stop eating breakfast and lunch.”

            “We should take advantage of the Adderall side-effects, Scott!” Stiles says but even Derek can tell he’s not serious. “I’ve been saying that for years.”

            “I’ve been trying to get you to an acceptable weight for years,” Scott mutters. Stiles laughs again and this time it’s more genuine.

            “So, you don’t have a secret stash of $1,500 lying around somewhere?” Stiles asks after a moment.

            “Nope,” Scott sighs. “You?”

            “Nope.”

            Derek does. He has more than that. He has plenty. He has half of the wealth that the Hale family had made over generations and he barely spends any of it because he hates the fact that he has it and he wants to just go in there and give it all to them. They can have it. All of it.

            But he still doesn’t move. Because he’s not supposed to be listening. And because he knows Stiles is sensitive about money. He’s finally accepted that Derek will always pay for him when they go on dates, just the two of them, but he still insists on paying for himself and Nate when they met up for lunch. Derek only sometimes gets away with paying when Stiles gets distracted by his own stories.

            “Max out the credit cards?” Scott suggests.

            “That’s a bad idea and you know it,” Stiles replies.

            “Ugh,” Scott groans. “When are we done paying off our student loans?”

            “Never,” Stiles sighs. “Literally never. And eventually, you’re going to officially go to Vet school.”

            “So stupid,” Scott mutters. “Thank god we don’t have to worry about that until the kids grow up.”

            Stiles hums in something like agreement.

            “It had to be a piano,” Stiles says and Derek can picture his eye roll. “I mean, a piano.”

            “Seriously!” Scott cries. “Why couldn’t it have been like… a flute.”

            “Or a kazoo!”

            “I’m pretty sure we have a kazoo lying around somewhere,” Scott says. “I bet I could find it.”

            “We don’t need a kazoo,” Stiles says. “We need a fucking piano.”

            Both boys let out twin sighs.

            Derek decides it’s time. He backs up a little and then tries to walk loudly and calls,

            “Stiles?”

            “In here!” Scott answers for him and Derek opens the door to find both of them sitting on the ground even though Stiles’ desk chair remains empty.

            “Derek?” Stiles asks and Derek is pleased to see that his face breaks immediately into a smile. Scott’s mouth follows suit. “What’re you- Is something wrong?”

            Scott straightens at that.

            “No,” Derek says quickly, still hovering at the edge of the door. “No, I just figured I would… drop by before heading north for a party.”

            Well, that sounds even more stupid than he thought it would. He frowns at himself.

            “Dude, that’s awesome!” Scott says, rising to his feet. “Stiles, I’ve got the kids for a bit. You two go hang out!”

            “Wait, no,” Derek says. That’s not what he meant. He wasn’t here for some weird morning booty call.

            It’s too late. Scott has pulled Stiles to his feet and then practically shoved him into Derek’s chest and-

            “You’ve got to do this,” Scott whispers even though Stiles is standing right there. “His abs are fully healed and he’s been complaining about things that no bro should have to hear.”

            “Oh my god, Scott,” Stiles says but he sounds more amused than embarrassed.

            “Sorry!” Scott says, already walking away. “But you know it’s true. See you later!”

            Stiles chucks a shoe at him as he leaves. But then turns and looks Derek up and down in a way that only communicates one thing.

            “My room?”

            “Uh,” Derek says, not that it matters because Stiles grabs his hands and all but pulls him up the stairs.

            Derek loves Stiles’ room. He loves it because Stiles’ personality is everywhere- from the gray-blue walls and dark furniture and bookshelves that are literally stuffed with books. He loves how the huge corkboard that takes up almost a whole wall is covered partly with pictures of the kids, partly with movie stubs, and partly with what appears to be trash but Derek knows probably has some sort of significance. He loves that the top of Stiles’ dresser is littered with hot wheels cars and stuffed animals and a jewelry box that looks out of place but somehow isn’t because there are army men set up along the top of it. Mostly though, he loves that though Stiles himself smells almost entirely of his pack, the scent that is purely Stiles is a little bit stronger in this room. Strong enough that when Derek inhales, it surrounds him.

            For a moment, Derek is almost derailed, both by the smell and the feel of Stiles’ lips on his own but then he… well, he has to admit what he heard. Because it would be wrong not to. And he wants to help.

            “Stiles,” he says, pulling away. “Stiles, wait, I-”

            Something in his voice must carry because Stiles leans away instantly.

            “What’s up?”

            Derek shifts. This is so bad. He shouldn’t have listened.

            “I sorta… I sorta heard a little bit what you and Scott were talking about,” he says, quickly, just to get it over with. “About needing a piano.”

            Stiles steps back and his frown is more confused than angry for now so Derek barrels on quickly.

            “I mean, I didn’t mean to overhear I just did and I- uh,” Derek takes a breath. “I could help. With the-”

            “No,” Stiles is already shaking his head. “No way, dude.”

            “But-”

            “Look,” Stiles says. “That is… it’s really nice of you to offer but that’s- that’s way too much, man. Like… no. Absolutely not. That’s not-”

            “Stiles,” Derek tries. “We- you know I have- I mean, you know I don’t even want-”

            He fumbles for another moment and then stops. Because he and Stiles had had this conversation. Stiles knows about what happened to Derek’s family and obviously they hadn’t talked about specific numbers or anything but Derek had admitted that he only worked because he loved it and-

            “Doesn’t matter,” Stiles says, frowning “Derek, it’s… I just can’t accept it, okay? We’ve been dating for like four months and that’s just… No.”

            A touch of annoyance enters his voice and Derek quickly backs down.

            “Okay,” he says, wishing that this weren’t so awkward. “I’m sorry. I just thought I’d… offer.”

            Stiles blows out a breath.

            “Yeah, I know,” he says. “And it was nice, it’s just… we’ll figure it out, okay? We always do.”

            Derek nods and a moment later Stiles is stepping back into his arms, eyes twinkling, mouth pulling into a smirk and-

            Okay, if Derek can’t help with money, at least he gets to do this.

            Patience.

 

*^*^*^

 

            Stiles spends the next week staring at their budget spreadsheet and running the numbers, desperate to find $1,500 from somewhere. There must be some loophole or corner he can cut or- or something.

            The problem is there’s really not.

            Most of their income is tied up in freaking nonnegotiable shit. Paying off the small mortgage they still have on the house, paying back their student loans, paying the electricity bills and the water bills and the internet bills, paying for the car and insurance and the fucking boatload of food they need every month. And as much as Stiles always threatens to cut into the food budget, it wouldn’t actually make much of a difference as he and Nate are the only ones who eat lunch anyway. All the other kids’ lunch money comes directly from the money the State gives them and there’s always talk of saving money by packing lunches every day but that’s just frankly more time consuming than either he or Scott has.

            Maxing out the credit cards also isn’t an option. They’d already fallen for that trap once, when Nate was still crapping his way through diapers, Stiles didn’t have a job yet, and they for some reason convinced the system that Ellie could come stay with them and she had showed up with her possessions in a trashbag. It had taken almost a full two years to dig themselves out of that hellhole and neither of them had any intention of diving back in.

            Stiles knows they can’t even ask their usual backup systems. His dad and Scott’s mom always help out any way they can but Stiles and Scott know that they are both planning for retirement sooner rather than later and it’s just not fair to ask them for more. And asking for $1,500 dollars isn’t even possible. Not when doubtless, they will be buying all the kids presents for Christmas. Scott can sometimes ask for an advance from Deaton but they always save that for real emergencies (like unexpected hospital bills or that one earthquake last year that caused a tree to fall down in the backyard).

            There doesn’t seem to be a solution until there is one. And Scott isn’t particularly happy about it, which is fair since Stiles would be lying if he said he was particularly happy about it but he talks it over with his Dad, who agrees that it’s what has to be done and it’s okay and-

            “Stiles,” Scott says, frowning. He had clearly expected the sheriff to talk Stiles out of it.

            “Dude,” Stiles says, flicking his face into a smile. “It’s really okay. I mean… it sucks but it’s what she would have wanted.”

            At least, he hopes so. It’s what he’s counting on. It’s what he keeps telling himself.

            Scott studies his face for a while longer. Then,

            “Okay,” he says, moving towards the bottom cabinet of the TV stand. “Then you’re taking this too.”

            Stiles opens his mouth to say no and then closes it.

            They go together.

            They go together and it’s not a great moment for Stiles but Scott stands next to him and then actually pushes him out the door for the actual bargaining and Stiles would normally be worried that Scott got ripped off but Scott had gone about as Alpha as a person can be without actually shifting and-

            And even with all of it, they are still $300 dollars short.

            Fucking fuck.

            It’s not like he can give up now. They’re so fucking close and yes, Stiles’ realizes that they can’t exactly afford piano lessons at the moment, but his dad and Melissa have already agreed to make Levonna’s Christmas present a set of Beginner Books and youtube was basically invented so that Stiles can learn random shit for his kids and if he can learn how to French braid hair, he can sure as hell learn how to read music and so he just-

            He has to do this.

            He probably even knows how to do it. He just doesn’t want to admit it. So he keeps staring at the spreadsheet in front of him as if the numbers will magically change.

            “Daddy?” Nate pops his head in, confusion all over his face.

            “Yeah, bro?” Stiles says, leaning away from his desk. He frowns. “Did you have a nightmare?”

            “No,” Nate says, still hovering at the doorway. They really do have a strict “No kids in Stiles’ office” rule. It’s the only way he gets any work done. “No, I think I’m done naptime.”

            Stiles blinks. There’s no way it’s been-

            Yup, it’s been forty minutes. Thank God productivity as his office drops during the month of December anyway. He stretches and closes his laptop. No need to save anything. He hadn’t made any changes.

            “Alright, dude,” he says, heading over and catching Nate as he jumps up. “Midafternoon snack? Or a game?”

            Nate considers.

            “Ground is lava?” He asks.

            Stiles grins. One of his favorites.

            He can deal with the rest of it later.

*^*^*^

 

            Okay, so it’s slightly embarrassing but when Stiles meets him at the door, tells him that Nate is down for a nap, and then leads Derek to his bedroom, Derek makes a small assumption about what it is they are going to be doing.

            And he is totally down for that because Stiles has been busy with Christmas shopping and he knows the kids are about to have two weeks off and he is going to Laura’s for Christmas (Stiles’ hasn’t invited him to stay with them which is totally reasonable) and his shirt may be almost halfway off when-

            “Wait,” Stiles sputters. “Uh, hold on. Wait. I actually- I actually need to ask you something.”

            Derek flushes with embarrassment because, holy shit, that was a hell of an assumption to make and he sort of wants to die but when he looks up, Stiles looks… sick. He’s pale and jittery and twisting his hands together.

            “What is it?” Derek says, feeling his body prepare to shift even as his heart sort of sinks. The last time Stiles had looked like this, he had sort of broken up with him.

            “Umm,” Stiles starts, shifting his weight. “Uh, look, I just need to ask about… something. And you can totally say no, okay? Like just, uh- just tell me if you don’t want to-”

            He cuts off, one hand rubbing the back of his neck and his mouth is twisted as if he’s in pain and Derek watches as the other hand threads up through his hair and kind of pulls, like it does when Stiles is particularly stressed out. Derek frowns. It’s not his favorite of Stiles’ habits.

            “What’s wrong, Stiles?” Derek asks slowly. “Ask me what?” Instinctively, he checks his surroundings but there doesn’t seem to be anything immediately wrong, though something pings at the edge of his awareness, but-

            “It’s about the piano,” Stiles says, so quietly that Derek almost doesn’t hear it. Derek freezes and something like warmth starts to fill his chest as Stiles rushes forward. “It’s- um- we have- well, we have most of it but we’re still a little short and, fuck, this is awful but, uh, but you said that… that you wouldn’t mind and so, so, um…”

            He manages to give the whole speech while looking at some point on the ground, eyes only flickering to Derek occasionally. It’s probably why he misses Derek’s slow smile of joy.

            “Nevermind,” Stiles says, shaking his head so hard it’s almost a flinch. “Just- uh- forget it. This is- this was a bad idea and, uh, let’s just-”

            He moves towards the door, his face almost scarlet, and Derek doesn’t hesitate for a moment to reach out and grab him by the shoulders. Not harshly, but firmly enough to stop him.

            “Stiles,” he says, running his thumbs against Stiles’ arms in a way that he hopes is soothing. “How much do you need?”

            Stiles inhales a deep breath and then answers at the tail end of the exhale.

            “300,” he says, cringing a bit. “We, uh, we have all of it but the last 300.”

            “Okay,” he says and then because Stiles is still too tense, he reaches one hand up to cup Stiles’ jaw and pull him closer and he doesn’t know how Stiles didn’t see the kiss coming but he still makes the little oof sound of surprise that Derek is crazy about when Derek’s lips meet his. The kiss is soft and sweet and only last a heartbeat before Stiles is pulling away.

            “You really don’t-” Stiles starts.

            “I know I don’t,” Derek interrupts. “I want to. Are you sure you only need 300?”

            The number seems low to him. Maybe Stiles is just giving him the lowest number and is planning on fucking starving himself or something like that.

            “Yeah,” Stiles says and Derek unabashedly listens to his heartbeat for a lie. “Yeah, just 300. We got the rest.”

            His whole face dims for a second, one shoulder coming up in a shrug that isn’t quite intentional. Derek can’t help it. He follows the movement of Stiles’ shoulder and looks over it because something’s not right and there was that quick flash of wrongness when he looked around the room before. A werewolf has to trust his instincts and-

            There.

            The jewelry box is missing.

            The jewelry box that never quite made sense because guys don’t normally have jewelry boxes but Derek already knew what happened to Stiles’ mom and so he suddenly knew what must have been in that box and $1,200 dollars doesn’t just come from nowhere and-

            “I swear, I’ll pay you back,” Stiles says, looking back up to see the frown on Derek’s face. Quickly, Derek tries to school it into something else. One thing at a time.

            “Oh, no you will not,” he says. That’s not how this is working. This isn’t some sort of business deal. This is Derek helping and he is not letting Stiles save up money to somehow pay him back. “This is a gift, Stiles. You’re not allowed to pay me back.”

            He goes for another kiss before Stiles can protest. It only works for a second.

            “Okay,” Stiles is pulling away but nodding and his next smile is slower and smaller and somehow more genuine than any smile Derek has seen previously. “Okay, thank you.”

            Derek smiles and kisses him again because what else is there to do? They’re alone in Stiles’ bedroom and Nate is asleep and Derek is just pressing forward a bit more firmly, catching Stiles’ bottom lip between his teeth when-

            “But you’re not allowed to get me anything else for Christmas then,” Stiles says, his mouth almost forming a pout. “If this is my present then that’s it. Nothing else. And nothing for my birthday either.”

            “Stiles,” Derek groans. He has absolutely no plans to follow that rule but he doesn’t really feel like arguing at the moment. “I would appreciate it if I could just kiss you for a while.”

            It’s the wrong thing to say. Stiles’ grin goes positively wicked.

            “Oh, so you do want me to pay you back?” Stiles asks, arching one eyebrow in a way that shouldn’t be legal.

            “No!” Derek yelps. He wasn’t implying… that. Good lord, that made Stiles sound like some sort of prostitute. “No, I didn’t mean it like- You don’t have to-”

            It’s too late. Stiles is already mouthing at his neck and the sweet kisses of before are replaced with something else entirely.

            “You got me for another twenty-five minutes, babe,” Stiles says and Derek isn’t sure what his accent is supposed to be but he does know that it sounds downright ridiculous. “Make ‘em count.”

            Derek laughs.

            And they do.

 

*^*^*^

 

            When Derek thinks to ask Stiles why they pick up the piano before Christmas, Stiles tells him it’s because Levonna will pick out the scent of something new right away anyway and so they might as well just give it to her early. Which still doesn’t quite explain why they don’t wait until closer to Christmas but Derek doesn’t question it. He just happily agrees to help Scott and Stiles pick it up from the secondhand piano store (Stiles claims that all the Craigslist people were too sketchy even for him).

            He and Scott get the piano into the Suburban while Stiles distracts the salespeople by paying and then practically throwing Nate at them. The man still looks completely confused by their ability to lift the piano on their own, which… fair enough, it should be impossible for two humans to lift an entire piano on their own. But Scott and Stiles seem to have dealing with suspicious questions down to an art. Stiles talks much too fast about health supplements that Derek is 99% are completely made up and Scott blushes and makes such a strong version of an “Aww, shucks, me?” face that he avoids the question completely.

            Derek settles for simply staring. It works well enough. Scott and Stiles nearly die laughing about it in the car. Nate giggles along and Derek blushes.

            They manage to fit the piano into Stiles’ office – barely, but they manage it and then it’s just a matter of waiting for all the kids to get home from school.

            It’s impossible to say who is more excited. Scott keeps pacing around and checking the window. Stiles keeps telling him to stop but he is flushed and happy and his voice comes out an octave too high. Derek has offered to leave like five times but they both yell at him in unison and so he can’t help but be excited, both because it’s happening and because he’s allowed to be there and, well, Nate is clearly feeding off the energy and hasn’t stopped bouncing for hours.

            Technically, the high school gets out first, followed by the elementary school and then finally the middle school, but Adam, Levonna, Corey, and Lucy stay in afterschool care so they can all come home together. Derek doesn’t remember the last time the clock has moved so slowly. Probably when he was waiting to pick Stiles up for the first real date.  

            Still, when the kids finally burst through the door, suspicious the moment they see that Scott is already home from work and catch a whiff of the smell, Derek forces himself to hang back. He hangs back and watches.

            He watches as Scott tells all the kids to go put their bags down and then they have to have a brief pack meeting. He watches as Levonna inhales slightly and then frowns in the general direction of Stiles’ office before following the others. He watches as Scott takes a knee and explains to everyone that Levonna is getting her Christmas present a little bit early and grins when that doesn’t seem to diminish the other kids’ excitement in the least.

            He watches as Stiles leads her down the hall to his office, listens to the whispers of “But we’re not allowed in Stiles’ office” break out, only to be hushed by Scott and then when Stiles flings the door open and everyone’s attention goes to the obvious addition to the room, Derek keeps his eyes on Levonna.

            So he gets to watch as her eyes go huge and her mouth forms a small ‘O’ of surprise and she blinks twice as if it can’t quite be real and her hand snakes out to clutch Adam’s hand hard enough that he winces a little but doesn’t stop smiling for an instant and-

            “F-for me?” she asks and it’s only because the entire pack is holding their breath, waiting for her response, that you can hear her very well because her voice is soft with wonder and it’s Levonna.

            “Yeah,” Scott says, grinning. “It’s all yours.”

            That leads to a round of gasps and That’s so cool from the other kids, who all congratulate Levonna more than once before seeming to understand that she may need a moment alone. Or at least, they gradually all clear out, loudly speculating about what their own Christmas present might be. Even Adam goes after a Levonna releases him and nods. The entire time, she alternates between staring at the piano and at Scott and Stiles as if she can’t quite believe this is happening.

            “Do you wanna try it out?” Scott asks as all the sound from the other kids fades.

            Levonna nods and then Derek watches as she slowly approaches the piano and then slowly presses down one note. And then she sits. Presses a few more. Pauses.

            “Is it- is it okay?” Stiles ask. He and Scott had followed Vonna into the room and now are standing next to each other, sporting identical frowns of concern. “Like does it sound alright? We didn’t have time to get it tuned so-”

            He doesn’t get a chance to finish because the next moment, Levonna launches herself from the bench and is hugging both of them, one tiny arm wrapped around each of their legs. Derek sees the relief pour off both of them. They both sag, foreheads tapping against one another’s briefly as if they were honestly worried the piano wouldn’t be good enough.

            Derek is going to die. He can’t stop smiling and then his heart practically stops completely when Levonna leans back enough to lift her arms up in the clear child sign for “Pick me up!” which, of course, Scott obeys instantly. She throws her arms around his neck and he spins her just once before she is leaning away and into Stiles’ arms and then-

            “You’re very welcome,” Stiles says because Scott appears to be a little busy blinking back tears. “But you have to thank Derek too because he helped get it for you.”

            Derek freezes, already trying to shake his head and step away because no, that’s not what this is about, that’s not why he-

            But Levonna lifts her head from Stiles’ shoulder and her happy grin lands on him and-

            “No, that’s okay,” he tries, waving a hand at Scott and Stiles. “Really, I-”

            Stiles glares at him, but more importantly, Levonna detaches her left arm from Stiles’ neck and holds it out and there’s really no option but to take a step closer. Scott waves him forward as well.

            He’s not sure what he’s expecting. Because it’s Levonna and she doesn’t trust people and she doesn’t really like to be held and generally, things handed to her still go through Adam. But when he steps close enough, she waves her hand again and so he takes it gently. He goes for a polite handshake but her grip tightens and she takes a breath and-

            “Thank you,” she says, quietly but clearly and there is no doubt in Derek’s mind that it is sincere.

            It’s absolutely ridiculous but he blushes from the tips of his ears to the bottom of his feet. It only gets worse when he looks over to meet Stiles eyes, which have gone impossibly soft and next to him, Scott looks like he could start crying again.

            “You- you’re welcome,” Derek says and his voice is a little rough. He’s grateful that she releases him almost immediately and then must give Stiles some secret sign because he’s putting her down the next second.

            “We’ll let you practice on your own for a bit,” Stiles says. “Stay as long as you like.”

            “Yeah,” Scott says, nodding. “Yeah, we’ll be right outside.”

            Derek thinks that he could stay and watch her smile down at the keys all day but the room is small enough that Scott and Stiles can’t get out without him moving so he does, walking a little bit down the hallway, and then suddenly Scott is between him and Stiles, his arms thrown over both of them.

            “Dudes,” he says, apparently unashamed of how red his eyes are. And not in the Alpha way. “We did it!” Derek opens his mouth to say something but Scott is already bounding through the house, letting out a happy howl that Derek would echo if he thought he was fully functioning at the moment.

            Stiles’ hug hits him hard and he relies on instinct to get his arms wrapped around Stiles’ waist.

            “Thank you,” Stiles tells him again, unnecessarily. “She- she really likes you.”

            Derek smiles.

            One down. Six to go.

 

*^*^*^

Chapter Text

 Aggressive Niceness

“- and then he told me-”

“Wait! Hush!” Kim interrupts as she hears the heavy doors to the school creak open. She throws a hand over her mouth to stop the laughter which had already been bubbling out of her chest. “Someone’s here!”

Nancy frowns but stops. Which is for the best. Because, really, they aren’t gossiping as they sit and sell tickets to the elementary school’s annual Christmas Performance but both their oldest children are in 4th grade and they both have two girls in kindergarten together and Christmas is a crazy time so they haven’t gotten a chance to catch up in a while and-

Okay, so they are gossiping. There’s really no other word for hearing about Nancy’s latest adventures in the dating world. (And, honestly, Kim is just happy that Nancy seems to be finding these stories funny instead of disheartening because, good lord, the things men say on dates with moms are ridiculous.)

Regardless, they’ve been careful to stop every time someone comes into buy their ticket for the show.  By the time the young girl swings around the corner, they have their best ‘We are Responsible Mothers’ faces on.

Not that she’s looking. The girl – who would have to be in 7th or 8th grade if Kim had to guess – is still staring over her shoulder, impatiently waving to someone.

“Come on,” she says, her voice a bit panicked. “We’re late.

“We aren’t late,” another voice responds, sounding completely calm. “We’re twenty minutes early!”

“The flyer said to get here half an hour early!” the girl replies. The man following her has yet to come around the corner. “What are you even doing?”

“I may have forgotten my wallet,” he says and Kim had assumed he was her father from their conversation but as he appears in their line of vision, it’s clear she was wrong.

The man coming forward, still digging through his jean pockets, is nowhere near old enough to be the girl’s father. They also look absolutely nothing alike. The girl is fair, blond hair artfully braided down her back and the man- boy? – following her is olive-skinned, dark hair flopping almost into his ears.

Maybe brother? Well, half-brother?

Kim shares a glance with Nancy, who raises one eyebrow up and down before looking forward again.

“Yeah, no,” the guy says, grinning sheepishly at his sister. “I definitely forgot my wallet.”

“Oh my god,” the girl groans, a hint of an edge to her voice. “Scott!”

“Don’t worry,” he replies, reaching up and pulling gently on her braid. “Stiles will be here any second.”

“That’s assuming he won’t forget his wallet,” the girl says, but her voice sounds fond again.

“Stiles never forgets anything,” Scott replies. And then looks suitably embarrassed when the girl stares at him in disbelief. “Okay, well, only sometimes. I’m sure he’ll remember.”

“We shouldn’t have come right from the Vet,” the girl says, glancing towards the door. “We should have met up first!”

Scott just laughs at her and slings an arm around her shoulder, pulling her forward.

And that’s when he finally focuses on them. And by “focuses on,” Kim means looks up, blinks, and then suddenly directs a truly ridiculous smile right at them.

For the record, Kim has been happily married for almost ten years and this boy can’t be a day over twenty-five but-

Next to her, Nancy is suddenly sitting up straighter, flipping her hair behind her shoulder.

Kim can’t blame her. It’s that kind of smile. Even if they both are in their mid-thirties.

“Hi!” he says, beaming at the both of them. “How are you doing?”

There’s a beat of awkward silence. Kim had been planning on letting Nancy to do the talking this time. Nancy is apparently planning to sit and stare.

“We’re uh- great!” Kim says when it’s clear Nancy isn’t ready to talk quite yet. “How many tickets do you need? They are three dollars each.”

The boy blushes. Somehow that makes it all even worse.

“Well, I sort of forgot my wallet,” he admits. “So-”

“We can still get them all counted for you!” Nancy interrupts, suddenly bursting back to life. Kim kicks her under the table. Nancy should not be flirting with youngsters in front of their possible-sisters at an elementary school Christmas pageant. Nancy takes a moment to glare at her and then continues, albeit in a slightly lower pitch. “So you don’t miss the show.”

The smile is back. Somehow even bigger than before. It’s an impossible smile.

“That would be great,” Scott gushes. “Ellie here has been freaking out.”

“I am not!” the girl says. “I am just saying we should have left earlier!”

She wrinkles her nose up at him and he sticks out his tongue at her.

Definitely siblings.

“Anyway, we’ll need nine,” he says, turning back to them.

Kim had already been pulling out the tickets, prepared to rip off three or four but-

“Nine?” she says, surprised despite herself. Even with grandparents, most people max out at five or six.

Scott starts nodding, but-

“No,” Ellie says, flashing Kim and Nancy a smile as if to apologize for her brother. “You don’t need to pay for the kids in the play.”

“Oh!” Scott says, surprised. He turns back to them. “Really?”

“No,” Nancy says, with a laugh that Kim suspects is genuine. “No, kids who are performing don’t need tickets.”

“Awesome!” Scott exclaims. “Then we need- er, wait-”

He turns towards the door, head cocked as if listening for something and Kim shares another look with Nancy because what is going on here? But then-

“Papa! Papa! Papa!” a little boy comes barrelling around the corner and he seems to be moving too fast for Kim’s eyes to follow but Scott bends down and scoops him up easily. The boy stops shouting in favour of bouncing up and down, pausing only to bury his face in Scott’s neck.

Kim blinks. Okay, this child does look like Scott a little bit and could be his own but that doesn’t –

“Hey!” Another too-young looking twenty-something boy comes into view next. He seems a mixture of relieved and overwhelmed. “You made it.”

The babysitter?

“Mato?” Scott asks, shifting his son into one arm so one hand is free.

“He’s getting the video camera together,” the man says. He must be Stiles. “I put him in charge of recording for the grandparents.”

Kim is still completely confused as to their relationship but then Scott gestures forward with his free arm and, though he is glancing behind to look for whoever Mato is, the other man steps easily into his embrace.

It lasts only for a moment, but Scott’s hand swipes at the side of the Stiles’ neck in a practiced motion.

Oh.

“And, dude,” Stiles says as they separate, pulling something from his pocket. “Do you know that you haven’t had your wallet all day?”

“Daddy said you would be lost without him!” the toddler crones from his perch.

Scott nods as he accepts his wallet and shoves it in a back pocket. “He’s probably right.”

“Alright,” Stiles says, stepping forward. He takes the time to pull gently on Ellie’s braid as well in a silent hello. “How many of you rascals do we have in this show?”

“Four,” Ellie answers. “So we need five tickets.”

Four, Kim thinks and that’s when she finally completely puts together who these two are and-

“That will be fifteen dollars,” she manages, hoping her face is somewhat neutral. She can’t believe that it’s them. That they are here right now. Coming to a school event!

Stiles hands her a twenty and thanks her when she gives him the change and then another even older teenager is there with a camera bag and he gets a shoulder grasp from Scott and then they all pile into the auditorium.

The two wait a beat, as if to make sure the door is completely closed, then,

“Oh my god!” Nancy whispers. “That was them!”

Nancy punctuates the sentence by hitting her shoulder and Kim can’t even blame her.

“I can’t believe we met them!” she agrees, twisting her head to look in the direction they’d gone. “The gay dads!”

Now, obviously, Kim knows that people should not be defined by their sexual orientation and it is entirely wrong to gossip about people but –

But the Gay Dads are legendary at Beacon Hills Elementary. They are the too-young, adorable gay couple that foster an incredible amount of children. Two of them are now in kindergarten with Kim and Nancy’s children and so Kim at least knows what they look like. Though, both are very shy and the parent-volunteers are usually there for naptime so she hasn’t gotten much of a chance to talk to them.

And she does want to talk to them. Not for gossip reasons, obviously, just to be friendly.

Okay, maybe also she would like to know why none of the fostered children seem to be particularly involved in school and how exactly the gay dads – Scott and Stiles – afford all these children or why they have so many.

Really, the why is the key question. Because sometimes Kim feels like having two is an impossible task and she and Tim having been talking about having a third, but neither have come out strongly in favour and-

She can’t imagine having seven. Especially not when she was still in her twenties. God, her twenties were a crazy time. Sure, Tim had been around, but their dates nights seemed to consist largely of drinking or spending time in a whole group of people who were all drinking and –

“They were so cute,” Nancy gasps. “And they came. To the show!”

Kim nods. It shouldn’t be a big deal but it is. The gay dads – Scott and Stiles, she should really start calling them Scott and Stiles – never attend anything. Their kids don’t participate in afterschool sports and they never volunteer to be a parent chaperone for field trips or contribute to the bake sales that happen every so often. Linda claims that she saw them on Parent-Teacher night in September, but no one else had seen them at the Welcome ceremony.

“You know,” Nancy continues. “I’ve heard that they aren’t even together. Like… together together, I mean. Apparently, they are just friends who are raising kids.”

Kim raises an eyebrow.

“Please,” she says, eyes flicking to the door. “Where did you hear that? Those two were 100% in love. And I’m pretty sure they don’t let you foster children together if you’re just friends.”

“It’s what Vicky Gooding told me. Apparently, her brother-in-law did some construction at the police station. Sheriff Stilinski is Stiles’ father and everyone there says that Stiles and Scott aren’t actually together.”

“Yeah, right,” Kim replies. “More likely, Stiles just isn’t out to his father yet. Or it’s all a lie. Vick is the worst gossip.”

Another family comes into buy tickets and Kim opens her mouth to tell Nancy to continue her terrible date story from before, but Nancy looks over with a familiar glint in her eye.

“We’ve got to find out!” she says, grinning.

“Find out what?”

“About the gay dads!” Nancy says, sounding only slightly exasperated. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!”

Nancy,” Kim says. “We are not prying into their personal relationship! That’s rude!”

“I didn’t mean about their relationship,” Nancy says (though, Kim is not sure that is true.) “I just meant about them. The kids. Why they have seven of them.”

“We cannot do that!”

“Don’t think of it like prying,” Nancy says, glancing at the clock and starting to close the box of money they have. “Think of it like being welcoming!”

“Welcoming?”

“Yes, welcoming! Maybe they aren’t involved because they don’t think they are welcome! Maybe they think we’re all,” Nancy pauses and looks around. “You know, homophobes.”

“We are not!” Kim says.

“Of course not,” Nancy replies. “But they have five other kids in different grades. Maybe a parent in one of those grades was rude to them and that’s why they are never around! Maybe they think they’re not welcome. You said yourself you don’t invite them to the parent outings.”

“That’s because they never gave me an e-mail address!” Kim protests quickly. Good Lord, Nancy is making it sound like she’s excluding them on purpose. “I sent all the kids home with a letter asking parents to provide an e-mail address if they wanted to be included in Kindergarten Parent Events and they never responded!”

Or,” Nancy says, holding up a finger. “They did respond and their kid-”

“Kids,” Kim corrects. “They have two in kindergarten - Levonna and Adam.”

“Oh my gosh, those are theirs,” Nancy says, briefly distracted. “They are adorable.”

“Right?” Kim agrees. “So sweet.”

“But, anyway” Nany continues. “Maybe those adorable children lost the return letter and now they think you hate them. On the basis of their sexual orientation.”

“I asked Levonna whether they’d filled it out,” Kim says. “She said no!”

Actually, she’d taken two steps back and then frantically shaken her head, but the message was conveyed.

“And,” she continues before Nancy can pile on another ridiculous accusation. “I called them. Two nights later. No one answered.”

“Did you leave a message?”

“No, I didn’t leave a message,” Kim says. “I’m not a stalker.

“And now they think we’re bigots,” Nancy says, sighing.

“They do not think we’re bigots!”

“Well, they won’t after tonight,” Nancy replies and then she’s standing. “Let’s go.”

“We can’t go!” Kim says. “There’s still ten minutes before the show starts. We’re selling the tickets!”

“More important things to do,” Nancy replies. “Time to go be aggressively nice.”

“Aggressively nice?” Kim repeats. Nancy has left the money box on the table. Kim goes to snatch it. “Nance! We can’t just-”

It’s too late. Nancy has already opened the doors to the auditorium and grabbed Tim from where he was waiting in the back and –

Oh, hell.

 

*^*^*^

 

Luckily, there is not much time to be aggressively nice before the show starts. Nancy quickly explains the situation to Tim, who appears fairly confused but, as always, more amused and perfectly willing to go along with Nancy’s latest plan.

(He’s always willing to go along with Kim’s crazy friends. That’s why she married him.)

Unfortunately, this means that Tim is also willing to use his superior height to scan the crowd and find where Scott and Stiles are sitting and Nancy strolls forward so that the three of them are sitting directly behind the gay dads. Scott and Stiles are sitting with the littlest kid between them, Ellie on Scott’s other side. The teenager – Mato – is not with them but based on their conversation, Kim figures he must be in the back with the camera.

And, she is positive Vick must have been lying because Scott and Stiles are grinning at each other over their son's head, whispering to each other quietly. Or at least, they are quiet until Stiles suddenly throws his head back and laughs and Scott’s warm chuckle bubbles out of his chest.

Yeah, definitely together.

Guys,” Ellie says at the noise. Scott and Stiles turns matching grins to her. “It’s gonna start soon!”

“Of course, my queen,” Stiles says, bowing his head. It comes out playful, but not sarcastic. Then leans over to smack Scott. “You’re gonna get us in trouble!”

Beneath them, the youngest starts laughing.

Kim yelps as Nancy pokes her in the side. She doesn’t need Nancy to tell her this is the cutest thing that has ever happened to the world. She already knows.

Of course, when she looks over Nancy isn’t shooting her a “Oh my gosh, that’s adorable” smile. No, Nancy is giving her the “We should say something” eyebrow waggle.

Kim shakes her head. Tim shrugs.

Thankfully, the play starts.

It provides a well needed distraction because no matter how cute the gay dads are being with their son alternating between Scott and Stiles’ laps and every so often pointing to the stage and chanting “Vonna an’ Adam! Vonna an’ Adam!” before they shush him, they are still not nearly as cute as Clara and Bianca, Kim and Nancy’s daughters respectively, who are standing next to each other. They seem to be giggling to each other rather than remembering any of the lines to Jingle Bells but that just makes it even more adorable.

At the end of the kindergarten song, there is a smattering of polite applause from most people in the audience – except, of course, her husband, her best friend, and the two dads sitting in front of them. Those four rise right out of their seats and Kim feels a moment of kinship with their daughter, Ellie, who is furiously yanking on Scott’s arm to try to get him to sit down. It doesn’t do much good because Stiles has their other kid up on his shoulders and they seem to be under the impression that this is some kind of sporting event.

Tim is no better.

Kim manages to pull her two down right before the first grade walks onto the stage and the dads in front settle soon after.

Then she gets poked in the side again. This time by her husband.

He’s grinning at her, eyes flicking back and forth between the dads and They seem cool, his excited face says. We should talk to them. Nancy has the right idea.

Kim frowns. Her husband and Nancy need to stop dragging her into these ridiculous plans. Tim probably just wants more guys he can invite over when they have dinner parties.

The first grade finally manages to get set up and they sing two songs, quickly followed by the second grade.

Then, intermission.

Nancy waits approximately zero seconds before surging forward and tapping Scott on the shoulder.

At least she went for Scott. He seems friendly. And Stiles is busy putting their sons shoes back on, which had someone been kicked off during the performance.

Kim watches as he turns around, a bit confused before he recognizes both of them.

“Oh, hello!” he says, apparently unconcerned that his son seems to be chewing on his ear. “You sold the tickets!”

He says this like it is an accomplishment they should be proud of. Or at least like he is proud of them.

“Yes,” Nancy says. “I’m Nancy Baker.”

“Scott McCall,” he replies, shaking her hand.

“And I’m Kim,” Kim says. “Kim Rei. This is my husband, Tim.”

“We’re the Homeroom Moms for the kindergarten,” Nancy says.

Oh god, Kim thinks. They should have said Homeroom Parents. Parents is neutral. What if he-

“That’s so cool!” Scott replies. “I tried to be Homeroom Mom once!”

Tried to be, Kim thinks, horrified. Hell, Nancy was right. There has been discrimination right here in Beacon Hills! She should offer him her spot. It’s only fair. His daughter, Ellie, is glaring at her like she knows what happened.

“It’s a lot of work, though!” he continues. “I didn’t realize you had to go in like every week. My boss would’ve killed me.”

It strikes Kim as such a young person thing to say. Even as she breathes a sigh of relief that it wasn't discrimination, she can feel her motherly instincts transferring to him. She wants to make sure he's okay. That his boss isn't too mean to him. She sort of wants to mother those big earnest eyes and that open smile, even though she knows he is currently raising seven children and is only ten years younger than her. This is a disaster.

“Well,” Nancy says, not to be deterred. “There are lots of ways to get involved. For example, we’re putting on a bake sale in January to support the…”

She stalls out and looks over at Kim. Nancy has never been good with details.

“The field trip,” Kim supplies. “To the zoo.”

“Yes!” Nancy continues. “A bake sale for the zoo. So if you wanted to donate some baked goods…”

“Oh, well, I can’t really bake,” Scott says, looking incredibly embarrassed by this fact. “But, maybe…”

He leans over to rap his husband (?) on the shoulder. Stiles is still struggling with the shoes.

“Stiles!” Scott calls. “Can you bake?”

“What?” Stiles has clearly been paying no attention to this conversation. Scott appears unconcerned with his lack of interest, even though Kim hates when Tim spaces out when she is talking to her friends. She expects him to pay attention!

“Baking,” Scott repeats. “Can you bake things?”

“Jeez, Scott,” Stiles breathes, still glaring down at his son's feet. “Right now I can’t even get Nate’s freakin’ shoes on so if you could hold up on your random sugar craving, that would be-”

He finally looks up then and Kim has never seen someone turn so red so fast. His mouth closes with a snap and then opens before he settles on glaring at Scott.

“Um, no,” Stiles says as Scott jerks as if he’s just been kicked.

“Darn,” Scott says, turning back to them with a fond smile. “Sorry, neither of us can bake. Stiles is a really good cook though. He learned when Nate came along.”

Stiles flushes an even deeper red and then covers on face with his hand.

He shouldn’t be so embarrassed. It’s adorable.

“Well!” Nancy says brightly. “A bunch of us actually get together a few nights before to all bake together if you’d like to come learn!”

 

“That’s right!” Kim says. This is perfect. Welcoming and casual and useful! “I think we’re meeting up January 8th – that evening – to do some baking, if you’d like to come!”

Scott glances at Stiles. “Well, that sounds, um,” he says, still looking towards his husband. Stiles appears to be silently counting something and-

“Tim will be there too!” Kim adds, even though he’s never gone before. Tim raises an eyebrow at her and she glares at him. She doesn’t want them to feel like they are the only guys there!

“Oh,” Scott says, eye flicking over to Stiles again. Stiles shakes his head minutely, drawing a tiny full circle with his finger as if that means something and a frown crosses Scott’s face before he wipes it off. “Um, well, we’ll have to see. Thanks, though! That’s really nice of you to invite us!”

It’s a fairly firm rejection, and there’s a beat of awkward silence where Kim can practically see Nancy regrouping for a counterattack and then-

Then Scott suddenly straightens, glancing past them, eyes seeming to glint a strange color in the poor light of the auditorium and-

“Derek!” he says, rising. “You made it!”

Kim watches as Stiles blinks up at him, face a picture of confusion and then he twists without standing and his confusion turns to delight.

And Kim cannot blame him.

Because approaching the gay dads is one of the most attractive men Kim has ever seen in her life. He looks older than them by a few years, though that may be because of his perfectly full and perfectly trimmed facial hair. His eyebrows are big enough that he should look angry, but his mouth is twisted into an adorably self-aware half-smile and his hands are crammed in the pockets of his leather jacket as if he’s unsure if he’s allowed to be here and—

Kim hears Nancy swallow next to her.

“Dude!” Stiles says and his flush hasn’t gone away, but it appears to have changed shades. A moment later, he is pulling Derek into a one-armed hug and Kim watches as Derek’s hand darts out of its pocket to clutch to Stiles’ lower back. “I thought you said you had a job way up north today!”

“Got out of it early,” Derek says, looking over and tilting his chin up at Scott who waves hello. “I was still a little late though, so I stood with Mato for the first half.”

His hand is still idly pressed to Stiles’ lower back. Kim doesn’t know what that means. It doesn’t seem casual. Or, it does, but more like… casually romantic?

“Hey, Ellie,” Derek says leaning around to wave at the girl. She smiles to see him, looking pleased for some reason and then-

“Der’k! Der’k! Der’k!” Nate chants, lifting his arms up.

“Awesome,” Stiles says, reaching and pulling the toddler up and passing him off to Tall, Dark, and Handsome. “Here. Maybe you can get his shoes on.”

Derek laughs as he releases Stiles to grab Nate and Kim turns to Nancy because maybe Vick had been right but at the moment the lights flicker off again and intermission is over.

And, okay, look, the kids on the stage are cute, but in front of her there is now a mystery.

Not that it is any of her business whether or not Scott and Stiles are together or not together or if Stiles is with this new guy, Derek, or if they think they are managing to hide it from Scott or maybe they are just friends or maybe all three of them… there’s a term for that, she knows, though she can’t think of it right now. And, of course, that would be fine too because she is not a bigot and it is certainly not her fault that they never sent in their e-mail address.

Scott and Stiles’ ridiculous cheering for the third grade’s rendition of Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer shakes her out of her thoughts (Corey must be the name of their son in the third grade) and she’s a little tickled to see that Derek looks like he can’t decide whether to be embarrassed by them or join them.

Kim and Nancy are both too busy trying to keep track of their children as the fourth grade performs to worry about the maybe-gay dads. Then the fifth grade goes and there’s a huge round of applause for all the students (particularly for Lucy from the group in front of her) and then it’s all over. Another successful Christmas Performance.

(Kim tells herself she doesn’t get teary-eyed. She just can’t help but think that next year will be Donny’s last year and Clara will already be in first grade and maybe she and Tim should think about having another and-)

Nancy at least waits for the audience to stop clapping and settle back, everyone content to settle in until the kids are released and the madness of trying to find them begins, but only just.

“You know,” Nancy says, leaning forward again. All three men turn to her, their faces pictures of confusion. Which is fair. They probably didn’t spend the majority of the second act thinking about how to continue the conversation from earlier. Kim had no doubt that is exactly what Nancy did. “I was thinking, we do have a Career Day coming up too.”

Scott and Stiles blink at her, glancing at each other as if to check whether the other knows what’s going on. Their daughter, Ellie, is sort of glaring at her and Nancy again and Kim has no idea why. Nancy doesn’t seem to notice.

“It’s for the kids,” Nancy explains. “We try to get a bunch of different parents to come in and just talk about their jobs. Maybe one of you could join us then!”

Kim can’t help but be impressed. It’s not a bad way to find out more about them.

“Oh,” Stiles says. “Well, I’m actually in corporate research so… not quite interesting for kids. Scott is a vet though!”

“Vet Assistant,” Scott corrects and for once, he’s the one blushing. “But, uh, it depends on the day, I guess. I mean, maybe Deaton wouldn’t mind? Though, we really need… uh…”

He fades out, looking at Stiles who also looks supremely uncomfortable.

Right. They both work full-time. They are kids in their twenties raising other kids. They can’t afford to take off to talk to kindergarten children. Maybe this was why Ellie was glaring. Maybe she knew both men would just feel bad about not being able to do it.

“No problem,” Kim says, regretting Nancy’s ‘aggressive niceness’ plan. Being aggressively nice is impossible. “Some other time, then!”

She thanks every possible god in the universe that the children are released right then. There’s a mad rush to find parents and cries of congratulations in the air and Kim relies on Tim to pick Clara and Donny out of the crowd. Instead, she watches as a young black boy zooms up and he must be Corey because he is already jumping up and down about did they see him? and how awesome was his song? and did they notice he got to be in the first line? Scott and Stiles both assure him they saw him and then Scott stays focused to listen to the play by play as a girl who must be Lucy arrives to receive a fist-bump from Stiles.

“You were awesome, dude,” Stiles says as Lucy beams at him. She accepts Derek’s congratulations with a slightly smaller smile, then,

“I’m gonna go find Mato!” she says. “He filmed the whole thing, right?”

“Sure did!” Stiles assures her. “Ellie, go with her. You three meet us at the car. Don’t make Scott have to howl!”

Kim has no idea what that means, but she doesn’t have time to think about it. Donny arrives, looking like he’s pretending to be above all this, but really quite pleased with everything. Kim has to roll her eyes. He’s just like Tim that way.

As he and Tim talk it over, Kim sees Levonna and Adam finally make their way through the crowd. Levonna looks overwhelmed and Adam looks like he’s ready to kill anyone who touches her. Scott strides forward to meet them and then, even though they’re both five, he plucks them up – one in each arm – and carries them back to the others, whispering something Kim can’t catch to both of them, though Vonna’s face is already pressed into the crook of his neck.

Of course, Clara and Bianca are last out, probably because they got distracted talking to each other. But before Kim really starts to worry, her daughter turns up.

“Congratulations, sweetie!” Kim cries as Clara walks up. Her daughter grins happily, accepting the flowers that Tim had brought and then allowing herself to be lifted up. No offense to the other parents or children, but Clara’s dress is by far the cutest. “You were wonderful!”

Mom,” Clara says, ignoring her and twisting to stare at something else. “Mom!”

“What?” Kim asks, frowning. Usually her daughter is very big on thanking people. “What is it?”

“It’s him,” Clara says. “The Science Clown!”

Tim looks just as confused as she does. Clara starts to look annoyed.

Derek,” she explains. “The Science Clown who came to our school who said he wasn’t a clown and he held a bowlin’ ball over his head and- Derek.”

That’s when Kim finally puts it together. Derek. Scott and Stiles’ Derek.

That was Derek the Science Dude that Clara had ranted about for weeks? The man with the dark hair and the stubble and the muscles and the eyes and-

Her daughter had left out some key information when telling this story.

“BIANCA!” Clara yells, swinging her legs until Kim puts her back down. “Bianca, look.”

Kim sees the moment Bianca sees Derek because her face breaks into a smile and then she goes bright red and-

“He’s here,” Bianca whispers, but as Kim watches, Derek looks over anyway. And then flushes.

Derek the Science Clown who wears a leather jacket is blushing. And then it becomes obvious that both Stiles and Scott are aware of the situation and Stiles mutters something to him that Kim can’t pick up and he flushes harder.

Kim can’t help it. She scoots so she’s closer. Not to eavesdrop! But, she was blocking the pathway before so…

“-famous!” Stiles is saying.

“Am not!” Derek mumbles. “It’ just… little kids get excited about anything, Stiles. Let’s get out of here.”

“Before more of the children recognize you,” Stiles teases, still grinning. “Maybe you should stick around and sign autographs.”

“I hate you,” Derek says but even Kim can tell he’s lying. Even pretending to glare, Derek is staring at Stiles like he’s the most wonderful thing in the world. She hopes he knows that Stiles is happily married. Or she hopes Stiles’ isn’t married and they are dating.

“No you don’t,” Stiles replies. “C’mon, I’ll save you. Scotty!”

Derek is already cutting his way through the crowd in his haste to get out. Stiles grabs Nate and follows.

“Nice meeting you!” Scott says, still holding his two children like it is nothing. Kim can almost feel Tim start to ask about his workout regimen. But the next moment, Scott is gone. Alone with his maybe husband and Derek.

“They left too quickly,” Nancy complains as she walks up. “I had three other openings!”

“Nance,” Kim says. “They clearly didn’t want to be roped into school events!”

“The scars of discrimination,” Nancy replies. “We’ll make them see they are welcome!”

“Nancy!” Kim tries. “You can’t- Nancy!”

It’s too late. She’s already marching away, herding her children forward and explaining the necessity of aggressive niceness.

Kim sees no choice but to grab Tim and the kids and follow her.

She has a bad feeling this isn’t going away any time soon.

End Chapter 7.

Chapter Text

It’s Insanity but… Conspiracy

“Scott,” Stiles says, still looking over his shoulder down the hall as he enters the study. He takes care of almost all the finances, but about once a month, Scott goes in and adds his exact paycheck amount and any other expenses he might have. His lips are pursed in standard Scott-concentration and he doesn’t look up when Stiles enters. “Do you ever get the feeling our children are conspiring against us?”

“Hmm?”

“The kids,” Stiles repeats. “The hooligans running around our house. I think they are conspiring.”

“Okay.” Scott is still not listening.

Scott takes his additions to the Spreadsheet of Life too seriously. He is always so careful not to mess up any of the calculations and even though Stiles has told him literally thousands of times that the column addition thing on Excel cannot be wrong, Scott still goes and adds it all on a separate calculator anyway. Just to check.

And when he does have something he thinks he needs to add as an expense, he searches for like four hours to make sure he gets the cheapest one, then convinces himself he doesn’t really need it, and then Stiles comes in and they argue about it, and then Stiles buys it anyway.

(Really, he has taken to just going through Scott’s closet and replacing things. One time Scott’s shoes had had holes in them. And the idiot still refused to admit he needed new ones.)

Scott’s Finance day is the perfect time to plan a conspiracy.

The children are definitely conspiring.

Scott,” Stiles puts a hint of whine in his voice. “This is serious.”

That does it. The hint of a whine always does it.

He watches as Scott blinks and finally looks up at him.

“What? Seriously?”

“Yes,” Stiles assures him, stepping into the room completely and closing the door. “We have a situation.”

“What is it?” Scott says, head tilting in concern. “What’s wrong?”

“Our children are planning something,” Stiles says. “Like an attack.”

“An attack?”

“Something like that. Whatever it is, it’s going to be a coordinated effort, that’s for sure. Imagine it, Scotty, all seven of them coming at us at once…”

“Stiles,” Scott starts slowly. “What are you talking about?”

“I think our children are conspiring. Probably about something evil.”

He takes Scott’s very slow blink to mean that he is going to have to provide evidence.

That’s okay.

He has evidence. Lots of it.

“Alright, just hear me out,” he says and then sticks a finger in the air. “One. It is Saturday, Scott. Saturday morning. What do you hear right now?”

Scott frowns and concentrates.

“Nothing?”

“Exactly!” Stiles says. “It is Saturday morning; the first Saturday morning since school started back up and our house is silent. Our house. A house of seven children. Silent.”

He pauses. Watches as Scott mentally shrugs.

“Maybe they’re tired from school?”

Stiles scoffs.

“When in the past four years, have our children ever been tired at the same time?”

Scott does tilt his head at that. Even nights can be a bit dicey with seven different children dealing with seven different forms of trauma. Mixed in with just regular little kid nightmares.

“Two,” Stiles continues, sticking up another finger before waving them both at Scott. “Use your Alphaness. Where are the hooligans right now?”

Scott sighs and looks like he would very much like to tell Stiles to get to the point, but he doesn’t because he is a good platonic co-father.

“Upstairs,” Scott says after a moment. “Sounds like Ellie and Corey’s room.”

“Right,” Stiles says. “And do the youths ever hang out in their bedrooms?”

“Uh,” Scott says. “Well, I guess not usually.”

“Not ever, more like,” Stiles notes. The kids are werewolves. They are always outside. Always. This isn’t normal. “AND, if anyone is leading this conspiracy, it’s probably Ellie. Ellie and Lucy, working for the same side, gathering the forces of darkness in secret-”

“Stiles!” Scott interrupts. “I’m sure they are just catching up. Or playing a game. Or-”

“Or plotting how to take over the house, leaving us nothing but figureheads used for food and clothing while they run amok! Tell me the truth, Scotty, is there another way for a Beta to take over the Alpha’s powers? I don’t think they would kill you but some sort of coercion-”

“Stiles,” Scott says, his voice dropping into something more serious. Stiles tenses. He had been 100% joking with that last part. He wouldn’t put it past his kids to plan some epic prank or playful nerf gun sneak attack but he didn’t think they would actually—“Do you need to go work a case?”

“What?” Stiles says, blinking. “No, I-”

“It’s okay if you do,” Scott says. “It has been a few months.”

The worried look around his eyes reveals his true feelings about the situation because Scott has never really liked that sometimes Stiles feels… itchy and needs to go find a way to go toe-to-toe with the forces of the supernatural. Since he and Scott have started taking in children, Beacon Hills has been quiet and issues rarely came up but Stiles still has all his connections from when they were in high school and college and…

Sometimes, Stiles has to use those connections to get back in the game. Not that he doesn’t love Scott and his kids and his life and his job is fine, it is, but sometimes he just feels trapped and antsy and going out and researching and helping is his way of relieving tension. Plus, it keeps him sharp. Ready.

“We could manage without you for a few days,” Scott continues, glancing at the huge white-board calendar Stiles tries to keep up to date. “If you waited until after the full moon on Tuesday, at least.”

“Scott, I do not need to go work a case!” Stiles says. He is honestly too exhausted from balancing the kids all home from break, Christmas, school again, and work. Besides, his contacts know to call him if anything really interesting comes up. And he doesn’t really feel like dealing with what is probably a stupid pack of pixies again. Unless it was a pack of enchanted pixies. That was actually sort of fun and he actually hasn’t called to check up for a while and- No. No, this isn’t the point. “I’m telling you that something fishy is going on!”

Scott relaxes, turning back to the computer screen.

“I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough,” he says. “Don’t worry about it.”

Scott. Always so trusting. He’ll never see it coming.

Stiles will though. And he does not need to go work a case.

He already has one.

*^*^*^

He goes to Lucy first. Because obviously, he loves all his kids equally and all the weird parenting books that Scott brought home and read aloud (and made freaking flashcards for at one point) were absolutely correct in that you do love all your children differently but just as strongly as all the others, but…

But he and Lucy are a team. She had arrived about a year and a half ago, angry and mistrustful of werewolves and Scott’s warm smile did nothing but make her glare, but Stiles… Stiles got her right away. His sarcastic jokes made her smile and her suspicious half-questions impressed him and—

She should tell him. The last time the house broke into a nerf gun fight, he had taken a bullet for her in the side. She owed him.

“Hey, Luce,” he tries that night as they work together to serve up nine different bowls of ice cream. “What was going in Ellie and Corey’s room this morning?”

She freezes for just a second before reanimating and shrugging one shoulder and ducking her head. It’s a smart strategy because it means her long black hair is then covering most of her face.

It always was her favorite tactic for when she needed a second to think.

“Nothing,” she says. “We were just hanging out.”

Ah, going for innocence. Classic Lucy.

“Really?” Stiles says, aiming for casual and knowing Lucy is going to see right through it. They both know each other too well for this dnace to work. “You guys were pretty quiet for just hanging out.”

“Tired from school, I guess,” Lucy says and then she’s grinning up at him and- “Can I eat a whole spoonful of chocolate sauce since I helped?”

“Absolutely not,” Stiles says. She bats her eyes at him. For the record that does not work on him, but she did use her werewolf strength to get to the ice cream when it was still fresh out of the freezer so-

“Half a spoon,” he says. “And don’t tell the others. And get one for me too.”

Lucy might have been a dead end but he still has six other kids. Surely, one of them will break.

*^*^*^

He tries Corey next, since often the kid is too hyper to ever remember to keep a secret and Stiles tries to insert the question in between pushes on the swing set, but ultimately fails. Corey looks at him, clams up, and then literally runs away.

Out of Nate he only gets: “Boring! Boring! Boring!” and he can’t quit tell if that’s a clue to what was happening or directed at his line of questioning. Either way, he has to admit that maybe the four year old wasn’t his best bet.

His attempt at “Humans before Wolves” with Adam falls short and ends with Adam raising an eyebrow at him as if he knows how desperate Stiles is getting; he tries to guilt Mato by calling “Remember when you stabbed me!” as the teen walks away after simply shaking his head at his question but all that earns him is a short laugh (which, rude but also he can’t help but be a little pleased Mato is so comfortable); and he does end up trying Levonna, sliding in to grab her alone while she is practicing piano but, predictably, that fails spectacularly. She looks at him when he asks if she knows anything, blinks twice, and then goes back to playing “Go Tell Aunt Rhodey.” He’s not sure what he was expecting.

So, basically, it’s a disaster. His kids have bonded together, his platonic co-dad thinks he’s a little crazy, and he hasn’t actually managed to gain any new information than that which he knew on Saturday morning.

He has never been more convinced something is going on.

*^*^*^

Finally, five days later, he gives in and goes to Ellie. For her, he goes blunt.

“I know you’re up to something,” he says, looking her in the eye just as he would any Alpha.

She smiles. The smile of a thirteen year old girl who is one thousand percent up to something and knows that she somehow has the rest of her siblings locked down in a vow of silence proven entirely effective.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says, pursing her lips exactly like Lydia does when she is blatantly avoiding the truth.

“I don’t even have to be a werewolf to know that is a lie,” he replies. “C’mon. Just tell me. I’ll help you. You know I’ve never been particularly attached to Scott.”

She laughs. “I’m telling him you said that.”

“He’d never believe you.”

Ellie shrugs as if she knows that’s true, just as she knew Stiles was obviously joking. If it’s one thing he and Scott have managed to do, it’s always show a united front in front of the children. Mostly because they are a united front. The few times they’ve actually disagreed have been rare and far between and they don’t discuss it unless the kids are at school or with their parents so there’s no chance of any one overhearing them.

“Seriously, though,” Ellie says, her smile fading to something more earnest. “Nothing’s going on, Stiles. Stop worrying.”

She reaches up to give him a quick hug, tilting her head at him as if he is the silly kid and she’s the responsible adult.

It does not make him feel any better.

*^*^*^

“Dude, you gotta let it go,” Scott says when he comes in to say goodnight and finds Stiles pouring over his Master Kid Calendar that he uses to store all the dates of anniversaries, birthdays, moves, past breakdowns, and thousands of other things. It’s a week later and he hasn’t let up. Hasn’t really had any clues either. There just must be something. There must be. Something out of place or something he’s missing or-

“Stiles,” Scott says, reaching forward to shut his computer screen. “Just put it down.”

“But… something could be wrong,” Stiles tries, though he doesn’t bother to fight Scott’s grip on his computer. In an instant, Scott has it closed and on his desk. Out of reach.

“They have all been acting completely normal,” Scott says. Stiles opens his mouth. “Okay, except for Saturday morning. But they’ve all been the same, Stiles. They’re playing and happy and they all smell fine, I’ve been checking so… I think they’re okay. Really.”

Stiles’ mouth twists. Because Scott is right. He knows it. Sure, they are all lying to him but it’s just as likely that Lucy has decided it’s funny to watch him squirm and, if he thinks about it, it is a pretty good prank, making him lose it a little like this.

But at the same time…

“I just think I’m missing something,” he admits, sighing. He’s not sure when this became something other than funny. “I just-”

He feels a step behind. Off-balance. There are clues somewhere, he knows there are, he just can’t see them.

“Okay,” Scott says, his eyes going earnest in that way they do. “Okay, Stiles, I promise we’re going to figure this out. But, not tonight. Tonight, you’ve got to get some sleep. We have the full moon tomorrow and then after you get a few good night’s rest if you still think there’s something going on, I’ll handle it.”

Stiles takes that to mean Scott will go Full-Alpha on the pack of kids and basically tell them in no uncertain terms that they must explain last Saturday morning and he’s grateful, he is, he just-

“Okay,” he says, taking a breath. Scott is right. He’s been staring at that screen too long. “Sorry. You’re right. They seem fine.”

“They do,” Scott agrees. “But your instincts have never been wrong either so… you’ll figure it out, Stiles. Probably when you least expect it if I know you.”

Stiles snorts. Scott is right on that front. For all his planning, the solution seems to come at random times.

“But for now,” Scott continues firmly. “There’s nothing more you can do.”

Stiles frowns. But nods. Because short of going snooping through his kids’ rooms, there is nothing more he can do. And he would never do that. Ever. Werewolves aren’t very private by nature but kids who have been trapped in the foster system certainly are and Scott and Stiles decided day one with Ellie that they would not even ask to see any pictures or artifacts any of them might have of their old families unless they are offered.

So, snooping is out and he is pretty sure the answer isn’t on the calendar so…

“Alright,” he sighs. “You’re right. I’ll let it go.”

“Awesome,” Scott says. “And when does Derek get back from visiting his sister?”

“Not til next week,” Stiles replies, frowning but not arguing as Scott grabs his phone and puts that out of reach as well. Three weeks is too long for Derek to be away. Stiles has decided that that’s unacceptable. He doesn’t care if Derek and Laura did decide to fly back to New York and see old friends from when they lived there. It’s too long.

“So by the time he gets back, this will all be sorted,” Scott says and he’s flicking off the lights and Stiles is well aware he’s gone into that soft lilting tone he uses when he is trying to put Nate asleep but… well, it’s working anyway. “Get some rest, bro. You’ll have a breakthrough before you know it.”

*^*^*^

As with all things, Scott is right. The breakthrough comes when he’s least expecting it. It’s 3AM on Wednesday (10 days after the conspiracy started) and Stiles is making himself a fifth cup of coffee because work has started back up in earnest and he needs to be done these reports in three hours and he had the full moon yesterday, and okay, yes, he might have lost some time earlier in the week due to obsessing.

So he’s exhausted and his brain is doing that thing where it is counting how many hours until he has to wake up and get kids out the door and so when he opens the trashcan to throw away the filter, he ends up sort of staring inside.

At the hot pink flyer at the top of the pile.

‘BEACON HILLS AQUARIUM,’ the top line reads. ‘CLASS TRIP PERMISSION FORM.’

Stiles frowns at it. There are more details underneath and a quick scan tells him it’s for Corey’s class but he doesn’t remember actually looking at that. Or throwing it away. He wouldn’t have. Either he or Scott would have signed it. Maybe this is an extra. Still. He grabs it.

But when he lifts that out of the trash, there is another brightly colored flyer underneath it. Yellow this time and it’s talking about a bake sale for the Kindergarten class and he does roughly remember those moms from the Christmas play talking about that but—

Under that is another one. Blue and it appears to be calling for fundraising to help build a new gym for the high school and Stiles barely looks at it because there is another one and, fuck, it’s a whole stack and—

He has to finish this report. He has to.

But he grabs what turns out to be a sizeable pile of papers to look at later.

He thinks maybe he’s finally found a real clue.

*^*^*^

He gets the report done and the kids out the door and then grabs a couple hours of sleep and thank god, it’s his dad’s day off so he can drop Nate with him. Because then he gets to work.

And-

“In here,” he says as he hears the front door swing open and closed. He’d called Scott with the plan to just tell Scott over the phone but whatever his breathing had done as he tried to take a breath and plunge into it must have been strange enough that Scott said he was on his way home before Stiles got the first word out.

Scott whips into view a second later, glancing at the dining table that is covered in paper, but ultimately ignoring it in favor of focusing on Stiles.

“What’s wrong?” he says. “Stiles, you – what happened?”

“I figured it out,” Stiles repeats. He knows his voice is small and flat. “What they were doing on Saturday. What they’ve been hiding.”

Scott sits down then and pulls a piece of paper towards him. A green one. Announcing a PTA bowling night. Scott frowns at it, seeing it but not putting it together.

“What is this?”

“It’s all the school events that teachers announced for the spring this January,” Stiles says. “Class trips and bake sales and – Mato is supposed to go on a camping trip in May that they are already fundraising for, did you know that? Parents are invited to chaperone if they want.”

Mutely, Scott shakes his head.

“I found all the flyers in the trash last night,” Stiles explains. “And then I looked up the school calendar online. We missed fourteen events last semester. And I’m pretty sure every single one of our kids has a class parent phone-chain that we aren’t on.”

Stiles hates that Scott sort of goes pale at that. Hates it but also can’t help but feel better. Because at least he’s not alone.

“That’s what they were doing on Saturday, I think,” Stiles says. “Gathering all this stuff and making sure we didn’t find out about it.”

He doesn’t say anything more. He can’t. He’s too tired. So he just watches as Scott looks out and scans the table full of bright colors and the few that Stiles had printed out. Watches as he realizes the implications and watches as his mouth drags down into a rare frown and-

“They- they don’t want us to go?” Scott asks. “To anything?”

Stiles shakes his head. A few of the events were for parents only. The kids wouldn’t even be there but they still didn’t want Scott and him going or talking to anyone or knowing about classroom activities.

“But, I- I thought we were doing pretty good,” Scott says softly. He glances at Stiles and Stiles wills himself to try to look calm. Or at least okay. “I mean, all things considered. I thought they-”

Scott looks around helplessly and Stiles’ throat closes and he tries to swallow to open it up again.

He thought they were doing pretty good too.

He knew there was no replacing what these kids had lost but he thought they were happy and the kids saw them as a semi-decent alternative and he thought they were a family, even if they stick to the word “pack” out of respect but-

But none of their kids wanted them involved in their school. At all. All his kids would rather lie than have him and Scott even aware that there was an 8th grade meet up in the park next Saturday and that all kids, parents, and siblings were invited.

“I,” Scott starts up again after a long moment. “I mean, I guess… I guess it is embarrassing.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees, trying to sound casual. This is what he’d been trying to convince himself too. “We are… it is weird. Having just two guys act as your par- guardians. That’s probably tough to explain. To other kids. If we showed up on Spirit day to run a booth that would- that would be weird.”

Scott nods, swallowing. Stiles tries to continue, tries to make it better somehow.

“We do live in Beacon Hills,” he continues. “So most of this stuff just says Parent, you know, not parent or guardian so… it’s- they-”

“We’re not actually their parents,” Scott says, his finger tracing the edge of a purple flyer inviting parents to send in their favorite song so the health teacher could make a Retro Playlist for while their students were playing in the gym on the few days it got cold enough.

“Exactly,” Stiles tries. “It’s fine.”

Scott nods even though they both know that’s a lie.

It’s not fine. It’s… Stiles hurts in a way he didn’t think was possible and he knows that this was their decision so he can’t get mad and he’s not mad, he’s just…

He’s just sad. And he’s not sure there’s a way to fix it.

Even Scott sliding his hand across the table and wrapping it around Stiles’ own doesn’t help.

There isn’t anything to say, so for a long time, they sit in silence. Looking out at all the things their kids don’t want them involved in.

“Do we tell them we know?” Stiles finally asks. “I mean… it’s okay if they don’t want us to go to their stuff. They don’t have to hide it anymore.”

“I- I don’t know,” Scott admits and his eyes are a dull burgundy. It hits Stiles hard. At least one of them always has a plan. With this kind of problem, usually it’s Scott. “I guess? I’m not sure-”

“Let’s not,” Stiles decides. “Telling them would just be… let’s not. Let’s just,” he stands and starts sweeping all the papers into a pile. “We’ll just ignore it.”

As usual, Scott takes a beat longer to spring into motion, but when he does he works seamlessly with Stiles in collecting the flyers. They are both careful not to crumple them, though Stiles isn’t really sure why.

“Yeah,” Scott agrees. “that’s a good idea. We don’t need to tell them. It’s fine.”

“I’m sure tons of parents don’t go to these things,” Stiles adds. “I mean-”

He can’t really think of anything to add though so he just shrugs and tries to look like he’s not miserable as Scott hands him the last of the papers. He should probably just throw them all away. He should.

“We’re gonna have to do something,” Scott says, sounding like he’d like to do anything but. “About the smell. We smell… There’s no way the kids won’t know something is wrong.”

“Right,” Stiles says. Werewolf children. Nearly impossible to keep things from. “Let’s do it then.”

By unspoken agreement, they head for the door and Stiles goes to put the pile of paper in the trash and ends up cramming it into his bottom drawer instead.

He’s not sure why.

*^*^*^

They end up out in the preserve with their old lacrosse sticks and manage to idly pass the ball back and forth while occasionally spouting things like: “It’s really not a big deal” even though neither of them believe it for a second. When that clearly doesn’t work, Stiles tries bringing up different topics in the hope that he can distract both of them enough that they at least don’t smell too strongly of negative emotions.

By the time they head back to the house, Stiles is quite positive they feel just as bad as they did before, but they are considerably more sweaty and he’s been over all the different reasons and sometimes he thinks he’s even managed to convince himself that it really isn’t as terrible as it first seemed. At least, he’s repeated it often enough.

He knows he still doesn’t smell completely right because Scott is all over him- knocking their shoulders together and draping his arm over Stiles’ shoulder and swiping at the side of his neck more often than usual. Though, he realizes, all this can just as easily be for Scott’s benefit.

He makes a point to nudge into Scott when they hear the bus pull up.

“They do like us,” he offers Scott. It’s become a common theme of the past few hours. “They just don’t want us around the other students and parents. That doesn’t mean they hate us.”

“Of course,” Scott replies, nodding. “Of course. We’re fine.”

They both pull on fake smiles and Stiles yells at Corey to slow down just as he always does and Scott is telling everyone to grab their homework and Stiles want to go hide in his office and pretend he still has work to do but Levonna is practicing piano (which is probably for the best given her super smeller) and he can’t just leave Scott out here so-

He stays and helps Lucy with her homework (aka makes sure she actually does it) and he’s so focused on trying to seem fine and laugh at all Scott’s forced jokes that it’s somehow a surprise when all the kids get more and more quiet and Ellie finally just looks at the pair of them and asks:

“What’s wrong?” She sounds soft and almost scared and-

“Nothing!” Stiles tries, going for a grin. “What- why would you ask that?”

“Everything’s fine,” Scott adds, quickly. Too quickly.

Ellie can’t hear lies yet, but she’s shaking her head.

“Is- is someone sick?” she asks.

“Did someone die?” Corey sounds terrified. This is not working. Stiles can feel his heart starting to beat too fast and loud and he can’t decide where to look because if he catches eyes with any of his children, he worries they’ll be to see right through him.

A glance at Scott tells him that Scott isn’t doing any better. He is standing oddly straight and still, head cocked to the side like it does when he’s worried about a threat.

“Just, give us a second,” Stiles says, grabbing Scott and pulling him away from the kitchen/living room area and up the stairs. They need a plan. A better one than ‘Act natural.’ That ship has clearly passed. “Though, it’s nothing. Promise everyone is fine. No one is dead. Just- one second.”

They need a new idea. A semi-believable lie or a big enough distraction or-

Ellie is following them. She is not bothering to hide it either.

“You smell hurt,” Ellie says, glaring at the pair of them as they enter Stiles’ room. “Both of you. I want to know what’s wrong.”

Her voice is stubborn. Stubborn and worried and she’s lived with them for almost four years. There is no lie or distraction that she will believe.

Stiles glances at Scott. Whose eyes are in fully hurt-puppy configuration and it does nothing but remind Stiles about how terrible he feels because, god, maybe he should have tried to just keep what he found out to himself.

Though, that wouldn’t have worked. Lying to Scott was impossible even before he got werewolf powers.

“Look,” Stiles says, accepting that there is no way they are going to get away with actually hiding it. Even if the kids weren’t werewolves, he’s not sure their acting skills are up for seeming completely okay. “We found- I mean I found all the flyers in the trash. The ones for all the school functions.”

Ellie’s eyes widen in a universal display of guilt before she frowns, clearly unhappy.

“So,” Stiles continues, aware that Scott has inched slightly closer. “We, um… It’s-”

“We understand that you don’t want us going to any school events,” Scott picks up for him. His voice isn’t quite steady but at least it’s not as flat at Stiles’. “We understand that it’s… well, it’s weird having two guys who aren’t even actually together and that’s-”

“We know it must be embarrassing,” Stiles jumps in as Scott fades out and looks at him. Ellie is looking between the two of them and Stiles can’t quite make out the emotions on her face. It might be dismay. “But you don’t have to worry about hiding it.”

“Wait,” Ellie says. “Wait, what-”

“We would never go to something where you guys didn’t want us,” Scott clarifies. His voice drops lower. “You didn’t have to hide them all.”

“But, no, that’s not-” Ellie tries. She’s growing paler by the second.

“Don’t worry,” Stiles says. “It’s really okay. Do not feel bad. It’s completely understandable. We just, uh-”

He doesn’t think foster parents are allowed to say that their kids hurt their feelings. Not about stuff like this. They are the supposed to be the adults. The stable ones. And, besides, the kids were probably just trying to respect their actual parents and it would be wrong to try to come between that and- he looks back towards Scott.

“Just give us a few days,” Scott finishes. He sounds stronger now. Like an Alpha. It’s a relief. If Scott says it will be okay, it will be. “We’ll be fine.”

“Exactly,” Stiles says. “It’s no-”

He was going to say “problem.” He was going to say problem and then maybe expand a bit more on how he and Scott didn’t expect to be seen as parents since they were so young and were just happy that everyone was happy and safe and, mostly, he was going to try to get her to at least go back down stairs so he and Scott could take another moment alone.

But-

“No,” Ellie says, interrupting. She is pale as a sheet. “No, that’s not—We—that’s not what I-”

She seems to be on the verge of tears, eyes still flicking back and forth between the two of them so Stiles throws an arm around Scott and reaches for her. Group hugs always help werewolves.

“Look, kiddo, you can’t stress out about this,” Stiles says. Scott nods next to him. “It’s not your fault. Really-”

“No, that’s not why we lied,” Ellie says, her eyes briefly flashing gold in distress. “We’re not embarrassed by you, we- I- I just thought it would be easier!”

Stiles blinks. Easier? Luckily, she keeps talking, voice sliding into a higher register as she doesn’t bother to take a breath.

“You two are always so busy and stressed about money and so I thought if you didn’t have any stupid school stuff to worry about it would be better and may-maybe Stiles would gain weight since Scott, you always say he needs to do that and- and-”

Stiles feels a little frozen. A step-behind again, but he’s pretty sure he’s just heard good news. Or it would be good news if he could process it. Next to him, Scott apparently isn’t doing any better. His eyebrows are drawn in confusion and his mouth is starting to slide up into a smile, but it’s not there yet. Stiles doesn’t even know what his face must look like.

“And the school stuff is dumb anyway. Everyone knows that,” Ellie keeps talking. “We don’t even need all that stuff. Not when you already let us-”

She sucks in a deep breath then, apparently trying to keep it together.

“You… you aren’t…” Scott starts. “I mean you don’t- you’re not embarrassed?”

Stiles is glad Scott takes the time to clarify. He’s not sure he’s putting it together either.

No,” she says, twisting her hands together. “No, we just decided it would be less stressful and you wouldn’t feel so guilty about not being able to go to things or pay for things and this way you wouldn’t have to work so much and we don’t hate you. We’re not embarrassed!”

The tears win out then. She sniffles hard and keeps trying to talk and-

“I’m so sorry,” she says. “You both smell so hurt and it’s my fault and you have to believe me! I’m-”

Scott and Stiles get to her at the same time and Scott is the werewolf so he picks her up and then they both sit down on the bed, their daughter squished between them.

Their daughter who doesn’t hate them. Who isn’t embarrassed of their strange family situation. Who probably wouldn’t be mad if they volunteered to chaperone her upcoming class trip to some train museum.

“Ellie,” Scott says. “It’s okay. Really, we just-”

“You are so sad and it’s all my fault and I just wanted to help but- but-”

“We were just confused!” Stiles tries. “We just didn’t know why you guys were hiding things from us and we came to the wrong conclusion, okay. It’s not your fault.”

“I’m sorry,” Ellie says. She appears to be calming down a little. That’s good. A hysterical Ellie is very hard to get through to. “I’m so sorry. D-Don’t hate me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Scott says, letting his eyes shine red. “We could never hate you, Ellie. That’s why we- well, we went bit nuts today, I think.”

“Leapt to the wrong conclusions,” Stiles admits. He feels like an idiot. But also like dancing for joy. Or something. “We shouldn’t have panicked.”

Scott nods next to him.

“But,” Scott says. “You- you can’t worry about stuff like that, Ellie. Those aren’t your problems.”

“But… aren’t they?” she says. “I mean, you… you took all of us in and that’s why you didn’t even get Christmas presents this year.”

“What are you talking about?” Scott says. “We got plenty of presents this year!”

“All home-made,” Ellie says, directing a glare at him. “From the kids. Nothing from each other. Not even those silly video games you play at night sometimes.”

She sounds so much like Lydia again that Stiles has to smile, even as he is morally offended by her dismissal of video games.

“Well, we do don’t really want those things,” Scott says. “We want you guys to happy. And get to go on class trips. And help your homerooms raise the most money for… what was it?”

“Breast Cancer research,” Stiles parrots. He had spent a lot of time staring at those flyers and working up the courage to call Scott and tell him the news.

“And, for the record, Scott is joking when he says I need to gain weight, Ellie. No one is starving here, dude.”

“Well, you could stand to gain a litt-”

“Bro!” Stiles interrupts. “Not helping!”

Except maybe he is because Ellie giggles a little bit at them and Stiles makes a point of scrunching his nose at the pair of them.

“Look,” Stiles says. “It is not your job to deal with money stuff or try to help us out, okay? You’re not the Alpha yet. We’re fine. We got this. You be the kid. We’ll be the guardians, alright?”

Ellie nods and when she bends down to wipe her eyes, Scott and Stiles share a smile over her head. It’s a little more relieved than their normal victory smirks, but it still counts.

“Except – parents,” Ellie says firmly, looking back up at both of them. “You be the parents.”

Stiles feels himself flush and twists his mouth to the side so he doesn’t end up grinning helplessly like Scott.

“Deal,” he says. Scott nods and they rise, ready to go back downstairs. Doubtlessly, all the children have ignored the “no eavesdropping” rule and already know exactly what happened.

“I go through and delete messages off the home phone too,” Ellie admits. “And Mato learned to forge your signatures.”

Stiles laughs then, even as Scott gears up to give a speech on honesty and integrity and-

They must have been right.

They must be doing pretty good.

End (for now)

Chapter Text

It's Insanity but... Protection

 

Derek doesn’t remember falling asleep. All he knows is that he’s comfortable, safe, and warm. Almost too hot if he’s being honest. Which means that Stiles is probably there. Which means it must be a rare night when Stiles actually stays over. Which means it must be Saturday.

What is a bit unclear is why the wolf part of him is dragging him towards consciousness. He frowns a bit, drops his nose into the back of Stiles’ neck and takes a deep breath because he has the feeling it is too early to wake up. So whatever stupid bird or whatever has pinged his wolf is going to have to wait because he’s thinking at least another hour of sleep and then maybe pancakes before Stiles has to run off. This is a good plan. He is a genius. He does not want to go on a long vacation back to New York ever again. Not if it means depriving himself of this.

The door opens and Derek snaps awake and next to him, Stiles lurches up, sitting up as if he hadn’t just been asleep and Derek’s eyes flash as he throws an arm over Stiles and pushes him down and he's ready to attack because who is in his house and then looks around and--

“Stiles?”

Corey.

Derek has a moment of supreme confusion, did Scott bring the kids over to pick Stiles up? Was there an emergency? Was the--

He’s at Stiles’ house.

"Dude," Stiles says, shoving at the arm that Derek is still using to pin him in place. "Get off me." He sounds a bit annoyed. Which makes sense because that is... that is Stiles' kid. Corey. Who is here. Because Derek is in Stiles' house.

While he’s still processing this information -- the fact that he had fallen asleep at Stiles’ house -- he realizes he’s naked. Oh god, he’s naked and in Stiles’ house in front of his children and one of them is right there. Staring at both of them. Probably scared out of his wits because Derek had just flashed his eyes at him and basically growled and it’s the middle of the night and Derek is naked.

He lets out a sound suspiciously like a yelp and yanks his arm away from Stiles.

Stiles is already swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, rubbing a hand across his eyes as if this is not a big deal at all. He is… not naked, Derek realizes with something akin to the purest joy he’s ever felt in his life. Stiles has underwear on. Underwear and maybe basketball shorts.

Stiles is handling this so much better than he is.

“Hey, buddy,” he says, voice a little rough from sleep but already completely aware. “Did you have a nightmare?”

“Uh huh,” Corey says but his eyes are pointed at Derek. Derek cannot move away. Because he is naked. He is clutching the blankets pooled around his waist like a lifeline.

“Is that… Derek?”

“Sure is,” Stiles says, like it’s no big deal.

“Stiles, I-” Derek isn’t sure where he’s going with that statement. I’m sorry? I’ll leave? I can’t believe I somehow fell asleep at your house and screw up this badly? I seriously wish I was wearing clothes? It works out when Stiles puts a hand on his chest, pushes him down, and interrupts him.

“No worries, Der,” Stiles says. “Try to grab some more sleep. We’re gonna go crawl in with Scott. Right, Cor?”

“Yeah,” Corey says, though he still seems alarmed by Derek’s presence.

“Bad dreams can’t get you if you’re with the Alpha,” Stiles explains seriously. Derek does not understand how he is so calm about this. He’s not even herding Corey away while frantically waving a hand at Derek trying to get him to leave. Or at least put on clothes. “That’s the rules.”

“Yeah!” Corey says, this time with just a touch more enthusiasm. And then Stiles holds out his hand and Corey grabs them and they are both gone.

Derek doesn’t literally dive for his clothes, but only because he’s afraid it will make too much noise.

The last thing he needs is another kid waking up and walking in.

*^*^*^

It’s really not so bad, Stiles thinks as he lets Corey sort of pull him towards Scott’s room. Sure, it’s 5:47 in the morning and, sure, he’d usually like to sleep in a bit more on a Saturday but 5:47 is better than 4:47. He and Scott will probably stay awake, but Corey will be able to grab a few more hours.

He should probably make sure Derek isn’t freaking out too much. Stiles didn’t have to be a werewolf to hear how fast his heart had started hammering when Corey opened the door. He probably should have at least had Derek throw back on his boxer briefs before falling asleep but there had been giggly, trying-to-be-quiet sex (a new thing for them since usually they were at Derek’s) and then Derek had just looked so cute, curled up and passed out, that Stiles hadn’t wanted to wake him.

Ah, whatever, that’s what blankets were for. Corey hadn’t seen anything. And he’s just had a nightmare. It’s not like the kids weren’t going to see Derek at breakfast anyway.

As usual, Scott wakes up the moment they push open the door. He didn’t used to be like that-- High school and college Scott could sleep through anything but once they had Nate, he became a light sleeper. Stiles doesn’t bother explaining, simply lifts Corey up on the bed and crawls up next to him.

“Hey, guys,” Scott says as if it is not 5:47 in the morning. “What’s up?”

“Here for a party,” Stiles says. Scott takes a breath. Glances at him. Stiles refuses to blush just because he might smell a bit like Derek. He’s a grown man. It is not his fault that Scott has an enhanced sense of smell.

“Alright, dude,” Stiles says now that Corey is safely tucked between him and Scott. “Wanna talk about your dream?”

Corey is frowning and Stiles is going to take this to mean that this is one of those nights where Corey would rather curl up between them than talk, but after a few long seconds, he starts.

“Why was Derek here?” His voice is an odd mixture of confused and concerned. Stiles winces a little but otherwise stays fairly calm. He’s ready for this question.

“Well, you know how sometimes kids like to have sleepovers?” Stiles says, waiting for Corey’s nod. They doesn’t usually have kids over to spend the night at their house (too little space, too many nightmares, too many kids who break the “no shifting rule” in the house) but Corey has gone to a couple at his friend Louis’ house. “You guys have fun right?”

“Yeah,” Corey says. “We watched movies and stayed up late and played video games. It was awesome.”

“Well, sometimes adults want to have sleepovers too,” Stiles says. There. Simple. Easy. No need to get into the mechanics of any other activities that usually happened at an adult sleepover. “Now, about that dream--”

At 8 years old, Corey is now having a mix of “regular” nightmares and “my parents died in a car crash with wounds that not even they could recover from” nightmares-- it’s helpful to know which he had the night before because that way Scott knows to run him to school rather than have him take the bus.

“So you and Derek had fun?” Corey says. He appears to have forgotten he had a nightmare at all. Stiles glances up to frown at Scott over Corey’s head. Scott shrugs.

“Yeah, we did,” Stiles says.

“Huh,” Corey replies and then goes quiet, face falling into an unfamiliar frown.

“Hey,” Stiles says, nudging Corey. “You okay, dude?”

“Is Derek going to sleepover again?”

Scott ruffles Corey’s hair before standing. “I’m gonna go make coffee,” he says.

This is all you, his eyes say as he glances at Stiles one more time.

Oh, hush, I know, Stiles replies. Or thinks he does. Scott huffs in what could be a laugh so Stiles will assume he did.

And he does know. He knows that having Derek stay over was his decision and that the kids were bound to notice. He just didn’t think they would particularly care.

He and Derek have been dating for almost six months. He comes over for dinner once or twice a week. He honestly didn’t think that they would be upset to see him in the morning. All of them like Derek. In fact, Corey seems particularly insistent that Derek come and play with him the minute Derek walks through the door. Stiles barely gets to say hello some days. But maybe...

Maybe he’s done this all wrong. Maybe sitting everyone down and having a Pack Meeting about future-Derek sleepovers was the way to go. He just… he figured the less-intense, more-casual method would be better. No chance for older kids to make innuendos. No chance for younger kids to ask about the aforementioned innuendos.

Ugh. Parenting is the worst.

“Okay,” Stiles says, turning his full attention to Corey as his parent-partner leaves him to his fate. “I think probably yes. Derek is going to sleep over again. We had a lot of fun.”

Corey frowns.

“Is… is that bad?” Stiles says, confused. Derek and Corey run around together all the time. Stiles has even seen Derek actually tire Corey out. Which is really nothing short of a miracle. “I thought you liked Derek.”

“I do!” Corey says, squirming to look up at Stiles. “Derek is fun! He pushes me the highest on the swing and always wants to play tag with me and he got me the coolest shirt for my birthday. It’s my favorite color!”

There. That’s better: Corey’s excited ramble that involves his love of his new neon-orange shirt. Stiles relaxes. Corey does love Derek. He knew it.

“Okay,” Stiles says. “You like Derek. I like Derek. Sleepovers with Derek can be fun for both of us. He got here late this time but sometimes I bet he’ll even watch a movie with all of us. Maybe Princess Bride!”

“We’re watching Princess Bride next week, I thought,” Corey says, smile fading. “He-- you’re gonna do it again that soon?”

“Alright,” Stiles says, twisting so that he is facing Corey completely. “I’m confused. You like Derek but you don’t want him to stay over? What’s going on?”

Corey looks down. It is probably unfair to interrogate him before 6 o’clock in the morning after a nightmare but Corey seems to have forgotten about that completely and Stiles has to get to the bottom of this. There’s something fishy going on here and it’s been lurking in the back of his mind for a while but he figured it was lingering “Hiding All Parental Forms” suspicion.

“I-” Corey starts and then stops.

“I promise I won’t be mad,” Stiles says. He won’t be. Corey is only 9 years old. Whatever his problem with Derek is, Stiles doubts it will be serious.

“It’s… I do like Derek buuut…”

“But what?”

“I dunno,” Corey says, kicking his feet and not meeting Stiles’ eyes. “Lucy said that--”

He stops. Stiles stills.

Again, he loves all his children equally but he and Lucy are a team. He… she talks to him about everything. And Stiles would have said that she loves Derek too. She's always dragging him away to--

Dragging him away to play away from Stiles. Suddenly things are clicking into place. Lucy and Corey are in on something. Maybe.

“Lucy?” he says. “What did Lucy say?”

“I dunno,” Corey repeats. “She just… I dunno. She said it would be… bad.”

“Bad? Bad how?”

Corey shrugs. “I dunno.”

Then he shoves his knuckle into his mouth and starts gnawing on it. An old werewolf teething habit and Corey’s number one method of avoiding any and all questions. Stiles isn’t going to get anymore out of him.

“Okay, bud,” he says, grabbing Scott’s blanket and throwing it over his son. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll talk to Lucy. But I can promise you that Derek staying over does not mean anything bad is going to happen, okay?”

“Okay,” Corey says, a bit muffled from under the blanket. A moment later, his head pops back out. “Promise?”

“Promise,” Stiles says. “Now, are you feeling brave enough to try to go back to sleep?”

Corey considers. He looks around, wincing just a little. “There’s no such thing as vampires, right?”

Awesome. A regular nightmare.

“Nope,” Stiles says. Then amends, “Not that I know of at least-- but certainly not in this house. Haven’t you read Twilight yet? Werewolves are like a million times stronger than Vampires.”

“Really?”

“Definitely. And I’ll sit here with you till you fall back asleep, okay?”

Corey nods so Stiles leans back against the headboard and let’s Corey snuggle into his side. He drops a hand to his son’s shoulder and forcibly does not think about his Lucy problem right now. Him being tense won’t help Corey sleep.

He’ll deal with that later. One thing at a time.

*^*^*^

Derek knows --has been told repeatedly by Stiles-- that traditional werewolf rules do not apply to their household. Scott wasn’t turned into a werewolf until he was sixteen, Stiles has been an active and equal partner since that time, and, sure, Scott may technically be the Alpha but he is not to be treated as such. At least, any time Derek has ever mentioned asking “permission” to date Stiles or anything, Stiles has frankly read him the riot act. About human rights and not trusting his judgment and how insulting that is.

In the moment, after Derek and Stiles had just been caught - when Derek was naked - by one of this children, all Stiles’ rants go out of his head. Because staying on another Alpha’s territory overnight without permission is… horrible. It is a blatant insult to their authority. And, even if Scott wasn’t a werewolf, staying over when kids were involved was just as bad.

Stiles doesn’t seem mad at him, but that does not mean that Scott won’t be. And Derek deserves it. He’s done this all wrong and, no, he doesn’t really remember making the decision to actually fall truly asleep but somehow he thinks that makes it worse. That he didn’t respect Scott enough to even have trouble drifting off to sleep when on his territory.

So when Stiles goes to try and tuck Corey in again, Derek strains his ears, eventually hears Scott downstairs in the kitchen, drags on clothes, and goes to apologize. Because what else can he do?

He moves silently down the stairs, feeling slightly sick to his stomach as he turns the corner and sees the stiff line of Scott’s back as he fills their old coffee maker. Scott obviously hears him coming, but doesn’t turn all the way around. He just glances over his shoulder and throws out a tight,

“Hey.”

Derek flushes. He’s never actually seen Scott annoyed before. The nicest guy on earth and yet Derek managed to find the line that you had to cross to piss him off.

“Hey,” Derek replies. “Uh, do you need any help?”

“No,” Scott says, still focusing on the coffee pot. “No, I’m good. You like coffee?”

Derek doesn’t. Not normally.

“Yes,” he says. “Please.”

He should offer to leave but he… he needs to at least apologize. He just can’t quite find the courage to actually start talking as Scott starts pressing buttons. They don’t seem to be working and Derek catches a low rumble that’s almost a growl emitting from the Alpha’s chest.

Scott catches himself.

“Stiles always starts the coffee in the morning,” he says by way of explanation. “I don’t know how to--”

Just as he seems to get truly angry, the pot starts making noises. Scott watches it for a beat or two longer, probably just to make sure it’s working and it’s in that moment when Derek finally says,

“I’m sorry.”

It’s the coward’s way out but it’s easier to say to Scott’s back. Scott turns and his eyebrows are drawn together in anger so Derek continues, flushing.

“About staying over,” he clarifies (probably needlessly). “I know that- that you and Stiles aren’t- but… staying over is a big deal and I- I should have asked.”

Scott blinks at him, shaking his head.

“I really didn’t mean to,” Derek continues. “I just-- fell asleep and that’s no excuse, I know, but I just - I mean, I hope-- I didn’t mean it to be like a… a challenge, you know? I just really didn’t-”

“Dude,” Scott says, just loud enough to break through Derek’s mess of an apology. “Dude, no.”

“No?” Derek echoes. Scott’s face isn’t its usual relaxed smile but it’s not openly glaring anymore.

“No, I’m not mad about you sleeping over,” Scott clarifies. It’s ruined by the fact that his eyes flash red as he says it. At least he notices it is this time, hastily closing them and then covering his eyes with his hands. The effect is comical enough to make Derek relax slightly.

“Okay, so my wolf isn’t happy about that,” Scott says, hands still covering his eyes. He waits another beat before lowering them. His eyes are brown when he opens them. “Look, sometimes I have all these crazy territorial instincts that just… happen but that doesn’t mean I can’t control them. And believe me, Stiles expects me to control them. And I want to. Because Stiles is not my property and so I am not mad about you staying over. That is his choice.”

“Oh,” Derek says. Scott nods at him but he still doesn’t seem settled. The Alpha busies himself with turning and grabbing coffee mugs from the shelf, putting them down with still a touch more force than necessary. It makes Derek more confident when he says, “But you are mad.”

“No,” Scott says again with a huff. “No, I’m not mad-- it’s just… you slept over. Like with Stiles. As his boyfriend.”

“I…” Derek starts, feeling lost.

“Look,” Scott says, glancing toward the stairs and cocking his head as if checking Stiles isn’t within earshot. “I’m not sure if I should be telling you this but I know… Stiles can be really bad with communication. About feelings and stuff. Which I’m sure you’ve already figured out. But you should know that if he wanted you to spend the night in our house, with the kids home and everything, then… he really likes you. I mean, he’s serious about this. Really serious.”

“Oh,” Derek says, feeling himself flush and hating it. “Oh, no, Scott. I- uh, I mean, we just fell asleep… after. I’m pretty sure it was an accident.”

Scott raises an eyebrow at him and there’s a trace of dark amusement along the curve of his mouth.

“Dude. Stiles hasn’t accidentally fallen asleep in years. Sure, maybe he’ll catch a nap on the couch if he’s surrounded by the kids but… in a bed? With another person? No, he…”

Scott takes a breath.

“He meant it.”

Derek’s heart starts beating very loudly in his chest. He thinks that maybe he’s started smiling. But before the smile can get too big, Scott’s face drops back into a frown.

“He meant it which means he’s serious about you,” Scott says, waving a hand at Derek. “Which means… you have-- you could hurt him.”

Derek opens his mouth to say that he would never but Scott continues after only the briefest hesitation.

"If you did, I'd kill you."

Derek blinks. Scott winces.

“Ah, shit. Shit, sorry,” Scott says, turning away again. “Look, I know you were serious before and you were probably always serious about him and this is just… Stiles is going to kill me if he finds out I basically threatened you in our kitchen but I’m not saying that an Alpha, you know?”

“Scott-” Derek starts. Scott turns back around and Derek can see that he’s blushing.

“I mean, I am. Because I am an Alpha but also I’m just saying it as his friend. I mean just don’t… He really likes you.”

“Scott,” Derek tries again. “I promise I- I really like him to.”

He is not going to drop the L-bomb to Scott first instead of Stiles. He’s not and he doesn’t but it’s a near thing.

“I know you do,” Scott says, nodding. “I know-- it’s just… This is serious.”

“It is,” Derek says. It’s been serious for him since the birthday party. Not Corey’s. Lucy’s. Which he knows sounds crazy so he doesn’t judge Scott for just figuring this out but it’s… it’s the truth. He’d been crazy about Stiles since the moment he saw him.

“Alright,” Scott says. “Well. Then you should come on Thursday.”

Derek blinks. “Thursday?” Scott raises an eyebrow at him.

“Full moon,” he says. “We camp out in the reserve by the waterfall hike. You should come.”

Derek’s heart skips a beat. This… shifting with a pack is a big deal. And “Believing in werewolf culture” or not, this is something that Stiles wouldn’t dare to invite him to without Scott’s permission. Because another wolf shifting in your territory on the full moon is a threat unless you are ready for it and Scott is the Alpha to seven children so his protective instincts must be on overdrive and he still wants Derek to be there.

“Scott, I-- I don’t… Are you sure?”

“You’re invited,” Scott says seriously. “If we’re gonna do this, let’s do it.”

The last sentence makes Derek grin-- not just because Scott starts smiling at him as he says it and not just because it is starting to sink in that Derek is invited to the full moon. But because he’s heard Scott and Stiles say that line at least a hundred times in the last six months. Before taking apart their grill to try and fix the ignitor as they tossed out the directions. When Scott is trying to go down a checklist to make sure they have everything and Stiles just pulls out of the driveway. Right before they Stiles sat (holding Nate) on the handlebars of Scott’s bike and they start down the huge hill over on Canter Drive.

It’s reckless and fun and--

“So, how did you actually decide to adopt Nate?” Derek asks as he and Stiles pull up to a red light. He doesn’t think that Stiles’ realizes he still has a faint indentation of couch cushion on his left cheek. It’s a detail he’s going to remember. During their first kiss on their first real date, Stiles had a dent along his left temple. They’ve just pulled out of Stiles’ driveway but the drive to the bar isn’t particularly long and based off Stiles’ scent, they must not get too much of a chance to talk once they arrive so Derek decides to skip the pleasantries and get to the real questions.

“Oh,” Stiles says. “Well, we…. You already know how we found him and then there was a loooong conversation with Child Protective Services and options and our friend Lydia did some research and--”

Stiles shrugged.

“We were going back and forth on it for hours, you know? Could we provide a good enough home? Would it be fair to raise a baby when we had just graduated college? And, dude, actually I had to take a summer class to finish up so like… It was a whole long debate of could we, should we, if not us, who else, blah blah.

“We’d been back and forth like a hundred times and I could tell Scott wanted to do it and, hell, I couldn’t really see a better option so finally, it was just like ‘Well, if we’re gonna do this, let’s do it.’ And we did.”

Derek has to force his eyes back to the road. Stiles is waving a hand as if that decision were nothing, a foregone conclusion, and as if all the other children they’ve taken in were simple, as if giving up his dreams to move back home and raise a pack of werewolves was something anyone would have done. He’s shrugging and smiling and still has an indent on the side of his face and--

If we’re gonna do this, let’s do it.

Privately, Derek wonders if that’s what they said before they brought in every single one of their children.

And now Scott is saying it to him. As if bringing him into the family is that simple too.

“Alright,” Derek hears himself say. “Thursday. I’ll be there.”

“Awesome,” Scott says, turning back to the coffee pot as it beeps. Then swings back around. “Also, uh, don’t tell Stiles about the whole… threatening thing, okay? I-uh…”

“It’s close to the full moon,” Derek says, mock-seriously. “You can’t be blamed.”

Scott laughs and Derek relaxes and, okay, Let’s do this.

*^*^*^

It takes Stiles two days to get Lucy alone. The weekends are never great for private conversation-- especially with their “Homework Gets Done on Friday Night” rule which means Saturday and Sunday are saved for big pack activities. Derek stays for breakfast on Saturday before heading to a party and then they go for a hike since the weather is perfect for werewolves (Stiles is stuck in a jacket muttering about werewolf heat and pointedly ignoring the fact that Adam also seems completely fine). Sunday is visiting the grandparents and trying to tire everyone out so that they actually go to bed on time and now it’s Monday.

Scott helped in that he called Mato down so help with lifting something or other so Lucy is alone in the room she and Mato share (there had been talk of splitting up the rooms by gender-- Ellie and Lucy in one; Mato, Corey, and Nate in the other-- but Ellie, Corey, and Nate had crammed into one room in their tiny apartment for two years before they moved into this house and had not wanted to be separated. For a while Lucy had her own-- which worked out since she was terrified of other werewolves-- and then they got Mato. After two weeks of crashing on the couch while they frantically tried to get their formal dining room converted into a bedroom, Lucy had invited Mato to share her room and look, Stiles and Scott weren’t going to look a gift horse in the face. Those two were as close as any real siblings and were quite happy splitting a room. Which left the ex-dining room open for Adam and Levonna. Besides, Stiles personally thought that if Ellie and Lucy tried to share a room, they would kill each other.)

“Hey,” Stiles says, knocking on the already-open door. “Can I come in?”

Lucy looked up and it’s a credit to her intelligence that she doesn’t bother trying to look innocent. Or confused as to why he’s there. Corey must have told her that Stiles knew about what she had told him. Or maybe she could just smell it. Or sense it. He’s still not entirely sure the multitude of ways that werewolves get their information.

“Okay,” she says and so Stiles crosses the room to sit on her bottom bunk with her.

“So,” Stiles says. “I think maybe you and I should have a talk.”

“Okay.”

“Well,” Stiles starts. “I can’t help but notice that you’ve been a little… weird about Derek recently. And I’ve heard through the grapevine that you told Corey Derek and me dating is ‘bad.’ I was just wondering what you meant by that.”

Lucy shrugs. Stiles holds in a sigh. Sometimes talking to children is impossible.

“Well, I thought you liked Derek?” he tries.

Another shrug.

“I mean… you were excited when you first met Derek. And when we first started dating.”

It feels a little bit wrong to try to catch his daughter in a lie but also… well he needs to start the conversation somewhere. He needs to figure out where this went wrong. And why. And how he can fix it.

“Am I wrong on that?” he presses when she still doesn’t say anything. Corey is so much easier to get information out of.

“No-oo,” Lucy says slowly. “I-- it was cool at first.”

“At first,” Stiles repeats. “But not anymore?”

Lucy shrugs. Stiles feels a stress headache looming behind his eyes. He wants this to go smoothly. He wants to solve this problem quickly. He wants Derek to feel comfortable but more important he wants his kids to feel happy and safe.

“Lucy, look,” he starts. “If you won’t talk about what’s botherin--”

“If I asked you to stop seeing Derek, would you do it?”

Lucy is firm and direct and Stiles is so surprised by the sudden shift that his mouth actually drops open.

Though then he doesn’t actually say anything. He… the answer is yes, he thinks. If Lucy came to him with a reason, he would believe her because he loves her and if there was no reason, he would still… she’s his daughter. He… But she’s ten. She’s ten and he is pretty sure there are like… rules? About the adult having their own life while parenting but he…

A quick scan of his mental catalog on How To Raise Children yields nothing. He is unprepared.

“I… I don’t know, Lu,” he finally says. He can feel his heart beating too fact. This seems like one of those Moments that is going to matter years down the road. Like if he says no, she’ll never trust him again, but if he says he would stop seeing Derek, that would be giving her too much power and she is going to grow up and move out someday and… “I don’t know the right answer here.”

“So you wouldn’t,” Lucy says flatly.

“Lucy, I know me and Scott like to present we know everything but I…” He takes a breath. Tries to regroup.

“Look, yes. I would. If you told me that Derek hurt you or- or touched you or made you feel uncomfortable, I would believe you. No questions asked. I would stop. Is that what you’re telling me?”

He doesn’t believe it for a heartbeat. Scott would know somehow. He would know somehow. But he still asks.

“No,” she says. And he’s a little relieved to see that she looks just as horrified by the idea as he is. “No, it’s not that.”

“Okay,” he says. “Then… why would you ask me that?”

She shrugs. “I dunno. I just… I just don’t like you dating him. Isn’t that a good enough reason?”

For a frantic moment, he wishes he could call for Scott. Surely Scott would know what to do about this. But the moment passes and he knows that this is between him and Lucy.

“I… he makes me really happy, Lu,” Stiles says, going for honesty. “I’m not understanding why you would want me to stop seeing him.”

“You were happy before you met him,” Lucy points out, eyebrows drawing together. “Weren’t you? When it was just us?”

“Of course I was,” Stiles says. “But it’s… it’s different.”

“It doesn’t have to be,” Lucy says and she slides closer as if to prove it. “Everything was great how it was.”

“Luce,” Stiles says. “Were you happy when it was just you, Nate, and Ellie?”

She frowns at him like she knows this is a trick question. He waits until she answers. “Yes,” she mutters.

“But you love Mato,” Stiles says. “You are probably even happier now that Mato lives here.”

Reluctantly, she nods.

“And Adam and Levonna?” Stiles says. “You like having them around, right?”

“Levonna broke my favorite nerf gun yesterday,” Lucy grumbles. Stiles knows she doesn’t really care though. Levonna had burst into terrified tears as soon as she realized what she’d done and Lucy had spent twenty minutes explaining why it was okay and didn’t matter and giving Levonna a different one and showing her how to properly aim.

“See,” Stiles says. “Adding new people is a good thing. That’s how our pack works. Because the bigger we make it, the happier everyone is.”

“Derek is different,” Lucy insists.

“Why?”

“Because… because Derek is just here for you!” Lucy says, leaning back.

“Do you really think that’s true?” Stiles says, a little sternly. Derek has been unfairly kind to all of the kids. And Scott. “Because I recall that it’s Derek who drove out to Greenfield to get you that new comic book you wanted. And Derek was the one who made sure Ellie had everything she needed for her science fair project. And it was Derek who watched you guys while I was in the hospital. I don’t think you’re being fair at all if you think Derek is only hanging around for me. He loves you guys.”

“Well… that doesn’t matter!” Lucy says, her voicing rising a little. “It doesn’t matter because it’s not safe, Stiles. It’s not safe!”

Stiles softens. Lucy’s only been with them for two years. Two years and then before that, she lived with her small pack before they were all murdered by other werewolves in some godawful, stupid land dispute that apparently still happened in some areas of the country. And she never really talked about it but he had done the research. Knew enough to know that the other pack had played nice at first-- welcoming dinners, subtle hints rather than blatant threats, the whole bait and switch.

“Lucy,” he starts but she shakes her head at him and barrels on.

“I know he seems nice now, Stiles, but-- but we don’t really know and even if he is nice, that doesn’t mean he’s not going to take you away from us because that’s what happens and I don’t want you to leave!”

Her voice breaks at that and then suddenly she is hurling herself at him. Lucy doesn’t cry. She’s not a crier but she is... it's almost a panic attack. So for the first time since this conversation started, he knows what to do.

He holds her and rubs his hand up and down her back and makes shushing noises until she’s calmed down. At least enough to hear him.

“Lu-lu,” he says. “Lucifer. Lu-baby. Hold up. Deep breaths, okay? In for five, out for five, okay? Here we go. You're okay. I think you're just a little confused.”

It takes her another few beats to calm down enough to listen to him. He would be concerned except he thinks he finally knows what’s wrong.

“I-I’m not,” she says, a little indignant. “That’s what happens. Y-You’re gonna fall in love and then move in with Derek and we’re only see you on the w-weekends and then--”

“Hey, hey,” Stiles says, cutting in when she takes a shallow breath. “Lucy. Hell no.”

“No?”

“Hell no. Fuck no. Though don’t tell Scott I used that word.”

That startles a bit of a laugh out of her. At least, she inhales sharply and then exhales more calmly. It's as close as she gets at this stage.

“Lucy, that’s not how me and Derek are going to work,” Stiles says. “I would never move out of this house. Me and Derek-- look, we’ve only been dating for six months so we haven’t talked about all this but I can promise you, that is not an option. Ever.”

“I-it’s not?”

“No. You really think I could move out? Leave Scott all by himself? You guys would starve to death!”

Another wheeze-laugh.

“C’mon, Lu,” Stiles says. “I thought you were the smart one. Where’d you get a dumb idea like that?”

“I… that’s what happens on TV!” she says. “Like… Chandler dates Monica so he and Joey can’t live together anymore and you and Scott are kinda like Chandler and Joey.”

“Okay, well Chandler and Joey aren’t raising seven kids together, dude.”

“They had that chick and a duck.”

“Are you saying you kids are comparable to a chicken and duck?”

“No,” she huffs a little but her breathing has evened out even more. Stiles takes it as a win. “No, I just… I thought that’s what would happen! That is what most grown-ups do!”

“Well, I think it’s safe to say that me and Scott are not most grown-ups.”

“Well that’s what I thought but then Cynthia said--”

“Ugh, Cynthia,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. Cynthia is a girl in Lucy’s class who they do not like very much. At least, Lucy doesn’t like her and Stiles hates everyone Lucy hates on principle.

“I know but Cynthia overheard me telling Madison about how you and Derek were dating and she said that once people are dating for a while, they want to live by themselves! And sometimes you do sleepover at Derek’s house, Stiles.”

“Look, Lucy, sometimes when two adults want to have some special alone time--”

“Ew. Stop,” Lucy says. “I know what special alone time is.”

“What?” Stiles says, alarmed. “How? You’re ten!”

“I made Mato tell me,” Lucy replies, looking smug.

“You did not.”

“Yup. He told me all about how adult like to kiss and like hold hands. And… cuddle just the two of them. It sounds gross.”

Stiles makes a mental note to buy Mato a fruit basket. Or whatever the male teenager equivalent is.

“It is,” Stiles says. “Super gross. You don’t want to do it until you are at least twenty.”

“Ugh, obviously,” Lucy says. Stiles nods and Lucy giggles and then--

“Does Derek know?” Lucy asks. Stiles raises an eyebrow. “That you aren’t going to leave.”

Stiles considers. He… well he and Derek have never talked about it. About who would be moving where in the event that anyone moved anywhere. But he assumed that Derek realized Stiles couldn’t leave.

He probably shouldn’t assume that.

“We haven’t talked about it,” he says honestly. “Lucy, we’ve been dating six months. I know it seems like a long time, but for adults who are as busy as we are that’s… I still don’t know if he’s thinking long term about this.”

Lucy frowns at him, eyes going judging and some of Stiles’ concerns must have showed up in his voice because the next moment, her eyes are flashing a bit.

“Why wouldn’t he be thinking long term?”

Stiles groans. Goodness, between Scott and the kids it’s a miracle Derek hasn’t run for the hills.

“He might be! I- I don’t know. But I’ll talk to him,” Stiles promises. “I’ll make sure he knows that moving out isn’t an option for me.”

“Okay,” Lucy says.

“Okay,” Stiles echos. “Okay, so, for the record, you didn’t want me to date Derek because you thought I was going to just ghost on all of you guys?”

Lucy nods.

“And now that you know I will never just leave you to starve here alone with Scott, are you… are you okay with this?”

Lucy hesitates, mouth twisting up into a bit of an uncertain grimace.

“I… it is going to be a little different though. If you guys go 'long-term.'”

Stiles ducks his head, makes eye contact, and nods.

“Yeah,” he says. “It will be different. But that doesn’t mean it will be bad.”

“I guess so,” Lucy says and he doesn’t think she’s fully convinced yet but that’s okay. She has plenty of reasons not to trust adult werewolves. Stiles isn’t asking her to love Derek right away. Just… be open to it.

“You’re still gonna be on my team during water fights this summer, right?” Stiles asks, bumping his elbow into his daughter’s. “I don’t wanna get stuck with Scott-- he’s got terrible aim. And I’ve been thinking, we haven’t really pulled a good prank in a little while. And never one on Derek.”

Lucy perks up. “I bet we could pull some old ones on him. Have you told him about the Mustard Mashup?”

“I would never tell someone about the Mustard Mashup,” Stiles says seriously. “I bet he’d fall for that one in a second.”

Lucy clears her throat. “Or we could… we could try the Tornado Salad.”

It’s a long-con. A prank that take almost four months to come to fruition. Stiles smiles.

“That sounds awesome.”

*^*^*^

A part of Derek thinks that, even though he and Stiles had been dating for six months, this is all happening rather fast. He’d been taking things slowly and carefully and sure, he’d wanted all this, he’d thought he was ready for it but now it was just… all happening at once. He’d slept over at Stiles’ on Friday night, been invited to spend the full moon with them early Saturday morning, and then Tuesday--

“Yo, Derek,” Stiles says as he bursts into their favorite lunch spot, Nate riding piggy-back as he often is. Derek frowns at his energy. It's a bit frantic and aggressive. More so than usual. Derek looks behind him for some sort of threat, feeling his muscles flex in readiness.

"Hey," Derek says, frowning. "Is everything okay? Are you safe?"

Stiles looks at him as if he has two heads. "Uh, yeah, duh," he says. Derek relaxes slightly and leans in to give Stiles a quick kiss. Stiles obliges and then continues: “You know I can’t move in with you, right?”

Derek blinks. It’s a hell of a non-sequitur since they have literally never talked about that ever.

“I- yes?” he says. Stiles can’t move in with him. Stiles has a family.

“Okay, that’s what I thought,” Stiles says, twisting so Derek can grab Nate who is reaching for him. “I can’t move in with you because I have a pack of kids and a Scott and I can’t ever leave them.”

“Obviously,” Derek says.

“Okay,” Stiles says “Just wanted to make sure we were on the same page because somehow Lucy got it in her head that you were going to steal me away at any second.”

Derek grins, mostly because Stiles hadn’t thought of making this a big deal and pseudo-dumping him like he had a few months ago; a little bit because Stiles looks so horrified by the thought that he’s grimacing a little bit. Derek drags him closer for a more thorough kiss.

“We’re on the same page,” Derek says. “No stealing you away.”

He wouldn’t want to even if he could. He can’t imagine Stiles without his family. And, again, wouldn’t want to.

“Perfect,” Stiles says, grinning back. “Knew you were a smart cookie. Oh! I want a cookie! Also, you should talk to Lucy. Just… man to man, you know? She was pretty freaked out. ‘S probably why she’s been acting a little weird.”

“Okay,” Derek says, nodding seriously. “I will.”

“Cool,” Stiles says and then starts trying to figure out what kind of cookie he wants and pouts when Derek tells him he has to set a good example and get a real meal too.

So Tuesday, he’d agreed to talk to Lucy and now it’s Thursday. It’s Thursday and the gang has all arrived to their campsite immediately after school to have time to set up the tent, eat, and hang out. And when Lucy wanders off by herself, Derek takes a deep breath, nods at Stiles who is watching him, and follows her.

She doesn’t go far, which makes Derek think that she is also under clear orders to find the time to talk to Derek. She sits on a fallen log and Derek plops next to her and tries not to seem like he’s so nervous he wants to throw up.

He’s hung out with Lucy plenty. He’s played with all the kids and they’ve obviously talked in a general way at the multitudes of family dinners he’s crashed. He just hasn’t… he hasn’t really talked to any of the kids on a serious level. He… it feels like a test.

He’d called Stiles freaking out about it last night and Stiles had been less than helpful. His advice had been the following: Just relax and talk like a normal person!, You probably won’t scar her forever, Derek., and Hell if I know, I’m flying by the seat of my pants basically always.

All very unhelpful. If Derek wasn’t so crazy about Stiles, he would hate him.

Any second now, Derek is going to figure out what to say.

Luckily, Lucy breaks the ice.

“I’m sorry I told Corey that bad things would happen if you and Stiles kept dating,” she says, not quite looking up. She doesn’t sound particularly sorry. “And I’m sorry that for the past few months, we’ve been trying to keep you away from Stiles by making you play with us all the time.”

Derek feels a flash of vindication that that wasn’t just in his head.

“Well,” he says. “I’m sorry that you thought I was going to take Stiles away. And I’m sorry I’ve been taking up so much of his time.”

Lucy glances up, probably to see if he’s telling the truth. He is. He’s not sure he would change it but he is sorry that there are times when he wants Stiles all to himself. They sit in silence for a bit. Derek wonders if that’s all they are going to say.

“I looked you up online,” Lucy admits. “Stiles always does that when he’s feeling suspicious about someone.”

“Find anything?” Derek asks, smiling a bit. Stiles had always mentioned that Lucy is the most like him. It’s still amusing to hear a tiny, ten year old, Asian girl sound a little bit like a police interrogator.

“No,” Lucy sighs. “I don’t think I know the right websites. I just found your clown website.”

“I’m not a clown,” Derek says automatically.

“You have two bad reviews,” Lucy tells him.

“Probably from people who thought I was a clown,” Derek mutters.

“One person thought you taught her child that being grumpy and sarcastic was funny,” Lucy reports. “She sounded a bit annoying. Her kid sounded like a brat.”

Derek nods agreeably.

“Another person said that your shirt was so tight it should have been considered obscene. They said you were unsuitable for children. They said you should go into a very different career,” Lucy continues. Then glances up. “That one might have been Stiles.”

Derek barks a startled laugh and Lucy smiles at him, pleased with herself. It only lasts a beat before her face smoothes once more.

“I’m not sorry for looking you up,” she says. “Even if I should be. I… you could be anybody.”

“You don’t have to be sorry,” Derek says, not sure if he should be promoting internet-stalking but not really caring. “That’s okay.”

“Okay,” Lucy echoes and then they sit.

And Derek realizes that in order to be a part of this family-- really, be a part of this family-- he’s going to have to open up. To more than just Stiles. Because they deserve to know him. Know what it is they are accepting into their pack.

“Has… did Stiles ever tell you what happened to my family?” Derek asks. Wordlessly, Lucy shakes her head no, like he knew she would. Stiles would never tell someone else’s history. Even Derek has only the bare bones of all the kids. Still, he feels a sudden pang of disappointment that he is going to have to explain it. He just… he hates talking about this. “They… they were all killed. Except me and my sister. When I was a teenager.”

“... by other werewolves?” Lucy asks quietly.

“No,” Derek says. “By a hunter. And it was… it wasn’t my fault-- she was evil but… I trusted her. She convinced me that we were friends and then used me to get information. She tricked me. I let myself be tricked so you… it’s good that you’re suspicious,” Derek says. “I would be too. It shows that you care.”

God, he wishes he had been more suspicious. He wishes that he hadn’t been overwhelmed and then flattered by an older woman’s interest. He wishes that he hadn’t believed her when she said they should keep it a secret. That it was sexy. That it would be fun. He wishes that he had thought to look her up online. Even though the Argents were probably too careful for that. He wishes he had at least looked.

“I’m sorry that happened to you,” Lucy says softly and it’s the voice of someone who’s been through the same thing. Someone who knows. It’s chilling to hear out of a girl who is so young. “I… I don’t think it was your fault either. It doesn't sound like it was.”

Derek nods. It has taken him a long time to get to the point where he can say that. A lot of time and a lot of conversations with Laura and he doesn’t know if he really believes it-- at least, not all the way but he’s at a point where he can accept it. It wasn’t his fault. He deserves to be happy.

Lucy looks up at him then. Sighs a little to herself as if this next part is going to cost her. “I never really thought you were a bad guy,” she admits. Derek blushes, just a little.

“Thanks.”

“But I’m going to be watching you,” Lucy tells him seriously. “If you ever hurt him even a little bit, I’ll... I'll get back at you.”

She is only ten. She weighs maybe 75 pounds. Derek does not laugh at her threat.

“Fair,” he says, nodding. “But I promise, I won’t hurt him.”

Lucy looks at him for a beat before nodding.

“And you can’t let anything else hurt him either,” she adds.

“Never,” Derek says. “Between you and me, we’ll keep him protected. Sound good?”

“Yeah,” Lucy says, her mouth a thin line. “That sounds good. I bet between the two of us, we could make sure he never gets hurt ever again.”

“No doubt,” Derek replies. “Does he get into trouble a lot?” It occurs to him that he is being dead serious. He does have to protect Stiles and if Lucy is willing to help him then he’s all for it.

“More than he should,” Lucy says. “Oh, and his night vision is terrible.”

“Right,” Derek says, making a mental note. Usually he and Stiles sleep through the night but that’s good to know, good to keep track of so--

“Oh that’s enough,” Stiles suddenly says from way too close by. Both Derek and Lucy jump. “Scott!”

“Stiles?” Derek asks. “What are you-- where did you come from?”

“Behind that tree, obviously. Had to make sure neither of you screwed this up” Stiles says waving a hand before grabbing both of them by the shoulder. “Let’s go. Back to the others.”

He’s a bit angry. Derek can smell that much. He’s just not sure why.

“What’s wrong?” he asks. He thought the conversation had gone rather well. Lucy looks just as confused as he is.

“What’s wrong,” Stiles says as they approach the others. Everyone stops to look as Stiles marches them into view. “Is that my boyfriend and my ten year old daughter are both treating me like I’m some damsel in distress who must be constantly protected.”

“We didn’t mean it like that,” Derek tries, flushing a bit. “We just meant--”

“You’re human!” Lucy pipes up. “We just meant that you need to be kept safe.”

Scott’s close enough to hear that. Derek watches as he winces. He still doesn’t get what’s gone wrong so he nods along with Lucy.

“It was supposed to be…”

“Be what?” Stiles says. He’s not a werewolf so his eyes don’t flash, but Derek knows they would have. “Be anything other than very condescending?”

“We--”

“No,” Stiles says. “You two can bond over many things. Lots of things. Anything, really. But you will not bond over how you are both going to look after your weak little human. Scott!”

He doesn’t really give them a chance to answer him and Derek is suddenly starting to understand how their conversation may have come across as… rude but Stiles is already striding towards the tent and Scott’s face has fallen into a resigned frown. The others are joining Derek and Lucy on the edge of their little clearing. They all look confused though. Derek takes solace in that.

“C’mon, Luce,” Scott grumbles softly. “How many times have I told you that--”

“Alright, Scott,” Stiles calls, emerging from the tent. He’s taken off his jacket and is holding a baseball bat. “Everything you got. Let’s go.”

Scott heaves another put-upon sigh and Derek has a vague idea that perhaps Scott is going to pull out a baseball or something but then suddenly Scott is shifting into his Beta-form, the form that most werewolves use for fighting and then, before Derek can really say or do anything, Scott lets out a roar and charges at Stiles.

Derek is too surprised to move and he knows that the kids must feel the same way (if not more frozen because their Alpha is attacking his Second) but in the end, that’s okay because Scott’s roar is suddenly cut off in a little yelp of pain where Stiles has managed to hit him with the small end of the baseball bat and then they are…

Well, Derek supposed they are fighting but it’s so fast and both of them are so graceful that it looks more like a dance. Scott has werewolf speed so he keeps darting away and attacking and different angles and Stiles is a human so he should be dead in a second but Derek cannot even follow where the bat is most of the time. And Stiles doesn’t move as much as Scott in terms of distance but he’s constantly bending and twisting and jumping when he needs to and--

Well, he was right.

It is an insult to think that he is the one who is going to be protecting Stiles.

*^*^*^

The thing is, Stiles loves fighting.

Sure, when Scott was first turned and suddenly the forces of darkness were trying to kill the both of them on a semi-regular basis, it was a terrifying experience. He mostly screamed, shrieked, and tried to run towards Scott. His first actual methods of defense were research, herbs passed out by Deaton, and, again, yelling for Scott. When it became apparent that some physical prowess was also required to be truly safe, Stiles hadn’t exactly been trilled. In his mind, learning any sort of martial arts would be like attempting to play lacrosse: frustrating, embarrassing, and ultimately fruitless.

And in the beginning, it was. But quitting wasn’t an option. Scott was frantic that he learn to defend himself at least a little and while Deaton said he could away with a lot with his knowledge of herbs and such, his one time moving mountain ash around hadn’t blossomed into the full-fledged Spark that they had originally hoped. Stiles was human, for sure, and that meant he would have to work a lot harder at not being completely defenseless..

So he’d kept at it, training in a multitude of different styles but taking his bat with him to each one. He’d gotten good at explaining why it was necessary that he have a weapon incorporated as much as possible into the workouts and watch hours of youtube videos and practiced moves with Scott and… Well, at some point, he got to be rather good at it. They didn’t really notice at first that Scott was having to save his butt less often than before, but Junior year of college, he successfully fought off two goblins on his own. He was officially good enough to survive. When they teamed up with some werewolves over spring break their senior year, they were all impressed. And that felt pretty cool. So he’d kept it up.

And then they adopted Nate. And Stiles had read all about protective instincts and too many studies seemed to link it back to the hormones of the mother or some caveman “my progeny must survive” type of fatherhood but the way Stiles saw it was that Nate was the cutest, coolest little guy he had ever met and he would be damned before Nate ever wound up alone in the woods, almost dead from the cold again. Scott had seemed to agree. Nate probably doesn’t remember it, but he had watched hours of the two of them sparring while he sat a safe distance away in his bouncy chair.

They don’t have as much time for it anymore and they don’t do it in front of the kids (Stiles is often busy and they are worried that it would upset the pack) but Stiles works out at least 4 times a week.

And, well, some of the tricks he had mastered over his five years he worked out for at least an hour (or more) a day are like riding a bike.

He knows when a werewolf swings wide, you twirl in and jab up under the ribs. He knows that they use their superior speed to almost always go for blind spots, but if you know that, you can head them off. He knows they can heal, but not as quickly as they like to believe and not if you can hit them in the same spot once.

Still, it’s been awhile since he’s sparred with Scott and Scott must’ve been practice with Mato so he takes a few hits.

Luckily, Scott holds back a little out of politeness so Stiles won’t break anything and knows not to stop out of respect so Stiles won’t kill him.

The third time he’s jabbed, Stiles decides it’s time to end this. He’s always been more ruthless than Scott when he needed to be and dragging a fight out gives werewolves the advantage since they don’t tire.

So he stops landing the easier body shots and goes for Scott’s limbs--wrists, mostly, they’ll crack and take longer to heal--and then it’s just keep moving and duck that desperation swipe and--

“Alright, alright!” Scott says, yelping from where Stiles has just hit him again in the ribs. “You win.”

Stiles grins, reaching up to break against his cheekbone where, undoubtedly, he’s going to have a hell of a bruise. He’s bleeding a little bit from taking a hard knee and his ankle is twisted.

Scott grins back at him though and Stiles knows he’s secretly happy to have the reminder that Stiles is perfectly capable of protecting himself. The next second Scott’s pulled him into a happy hug--in part, because the kids need to see that their Alpha and Second/parental figures weren’t actually fighting and in part, because he starts leeching the pain from Stiles’ various bangs and bruises right away. Stiles lets him for a bit and then leans away.

His family is staring at him. Nate does not look that impressed (but then again, he is only 4 so who knows if he was that invested to begin with) and Ellie, who has also seen this before, looks semi-calm. But Corey, Vonna, and Adam are staring at him with huge eyes and Mato is frowning a bit in that quietly surprised and a bit impressed way of his. And then of course there’s Derek and Lucy.

Both staring. Both looking a bit amazed and a bit ashamed.

Good. He doesn’t mind being one of the only humans in this werewolf pack but he’s not going to be treated like a weakling.

“Alright,” he says, glaring pointedly at Derek and Lucy though the flash of annoyance has been burned away. “No more talk of ‘having to protect Stiles.’ I hope everyone has learned their lesson.”

“I don’t see why you had to bring me into it,” Scott grumbles, holding his wrist. It will be fine in a few minutes but for right now it might be a little bit broken. “I didn’t think you needed protecting.”

“Uh-huh,” Stiles says, glaring good-naturedly at his best friend. “Like I don’t know you must’ve given the ‘Hurt Stiles and Die’ speech.”

“I meant emotionally!” Scott protests. “Emotional hurt!”

Stiles rolls his eyes and goes over to flop next to Derek.

“Corey, go grab the cooler,” Stiles calls. “Let’s eat!”

That’s enough of a distraction that the kids scatter-- Lucy gives Stiles a nod that shows she got the message loud and clear. He nods back. She’s only ten and she’s nervous about losing another family. It’s fair.

It was fair for Derek to worry too, Stiles allows. Still…

“I’m sorry,” Derek says and Stiles nods. “I didn’t…”

“You’ve been doing it for a little while, dude,” Stiles says, not quite letting him off the hook. “And I get that it’s werewolf culture and I get that you are just trying to show you care but no more, okay? No more always being gentle and careful when I don’t want you to be. No more insisting on lifting heavy things for me. No more talking about protecting me with my own kids. That’s not how it works. I protect them. And myself. And you.”

“I’m sorry,” Derek says again.

“It’s okay,” Stiles replies. And then shoves his hand into Derek’s in clear code for ‘Take my pain now because my ankle is killing me.’ Derek does without Stiles’ having to ask.

“So,” Derek says after a beat. “I guess… I guess you don’t need me to stick around tonight and guard the tent, do you?”

“So help me if I see you lurking around me and Adam, I’ll beat you off myself,” Stiles says, letting his eyes fall shut. “And I’ll use my real bat.”

He senses Derek’s eyebrow raise.

“Real bat?”

“My other one’s laced with wolfsbane,” Stiles says, smirking. “So are the four I keep hidden in the house.”

“Holy shit,” Derek says softly.

“Hey,” Stiles says, jabbing his elbow into Derek’s arm. “Watch your language in front of the kids.”

Chapter Text

The house that Derek is currently approaching is silent.

Which, honestly, makes him think that he has the wrong one. Because it’s a Tuesday in early March and not a Full Moon and he knows that the whole McCall/Stilinski pack should be home. Which means that as he walks up the front steps, he should hear Nate screaming or Corey stomping around the house or Mato and Lucy softly chuckling to themselves as Scott laughs and Stiles yells “NO SHIFTING IN THE HOUSE!” It’s… even in the middle of the night, the house is not usually silent. There’s kids waking up from nightmares and Ellie sleep mumbles and one time Derek had admitted he had to go to bed and fallen asleep to the sounds of Scott and Stiles playing video games.

Derek now sleeps over at the Pack house quite a bit. The thought makes him smile before his face falls back into a frown. Because he is now walking up the front steps. And still he can’t hear any noise.

For a moment, the thought throws him and he finds himself thinking back to the silence after the fire and when he realized and--

No. No. He’s not going to do that. Not today. This house is not burnt and he had said he wanted to do this and so, no, he’s not going down that road. He’s trying something new.

They must be gone. That’s what Derek decides as he knocks on the door once and then opens it. Stiles must have forgotten and they must be on a pack picnic or training or--

“Hello,” Ellie says, appearing in the entry way out of nowhere. Derek jumps so hard he almost shifts. “Welcome to our home.”

“What are you--” Derek starts but then Ellie looks behind him and her face falls into a frown. But… a small dignified frown. She’s acting like a pod person. Derek is scared.

“Wait, you’re alone?” Derek nods and Ellile slumps in relief.

“FALSE ALARM!” she screams. “HE’S ALONE!”

Noise suddenly erupts from the house.

“I think I almost passed out!”

“See! Vonna told us it was just him!”

“You’re allowed to breathe, Corey.”

“Breathing makes noise!”

“Mato was trying to tickle me the whole time!”

And Ellie runs towards the back and Derek remains standing, more confused than ever (but also relieved, if he’s being honest) and then Scott comes out, a smile that sort of looks like his usual, easy grin except it’s a bit too wide and sort of… tight. Around the edges. His movements are stilted too. But at least he’s trying to be normal.

“Well, it was a good practice run,” he is saying over his shoulder as he enters. “Ellie, you did great. Mato, no tickling. And, Corey, breathing is still one hundred percent allowed. Adam, make sure to finish setting the table please.”

“What is happening?” Derek says, in part because that was weird and in part because Scott is holding his hand out for Derek’s coat. Derek doesn’t like it much. It makes him feel like a guest. And he… he’s not really a guest anymore. At least that’s what Stiles claimed when he made Derek get him water in the middle of the night. And the kids agree when it means they can argue that Derek has to take a turn doing the dishes.

“We heard your car come up,” Scott says by way of explanation. “So we thought it was the big event. She’s coming separately?”

“Yeah,” Derek says, distracted. “She got caught in some traffic so I figured I’d come early to warn you guys and help set up. But… what’s with the creepy silence?”

“Do not let Stiles hear you call it creepy,” Scott says, putting Derek’s coat in the front closet that looks suspiciously emptier than usual. “He has worked hard to get it like this. He’s… he’s in a bit of a state.” Derek opens his mouth to ask but the next moment Scott is looking around, eyes tense. “But you didn’t hear that from me. Also, late? How late? When late? Oh this is not going to be good. I don’t know how long blackmail will last with this bunch...”

“Not that late, just 15 minutes,” Derek says. “And what blackmail?”

“The kids,” Scott says, shifting from foot to foot. “I mean, it could be bribery. Stiles didn’t say but… bribery doesn’t work that well with them. I’m pretty sure it’s blackmail.”

“Are you saying Stiles is… blackmailing your children?” Derek asks. “That’s… that’s crazy, Scott.” This is all crazy, is what he means. The weird silence (the kids have lowered to whispers right now) and the tension and good lord Stiles is ridiculous and this whole thing is nuts and he needs to go put a stop to this. Immediately.

“Of course,” Scott says. “I mean… I know it’s crazy. He just… you know, it is a big deal.” He wipes his hands on his pants again and Derek realizes--

“Holy shit,” he says softly. “You’re nervous too!”

“No cursing!” Scott says, again, looking around as if they are being recorded. “And no! No, of course not. I just… you know. Want it to go well. For Stiles. And you. For both of you.”

He is very obviously lying. Derek settles for one of his tried and true glares.

“Alright, look,” Scott says, shoulders dropping. “I-- I was turned at 15! I became an Alpha out of some weird rule that doesn’t really make any sense and I don’t actually know any werewolf culture even though Stiles gave me like four books to read this week, I only sort of got through two of them because I kept falling asleep and other Alphas… Other Alphas don’t like me!”

“Scott,” Derek says. “She’s going to love you. And everyone. This is all… everyone needs to calm down.”

Scott nods as if he completely agrees and then goes white. “I’m supposed to be watching the garlic bread!” he cries and then is running. “Stiles is upstairs with Nate,” he calls over his shoulder. “Go… calm him down! He’s in a state!”

Derek takes one step after Scott because clearly Stiles is not the only one “in a state” but Scott is usually more level-headed and he knows that Scott might be the most empathetic Alpha he knows. Especially with Stiles. Scott mirrors his Second’s emotions without even meaning to sometimes. So if Scott is acting like this, it probably means his boyfriend has worked himself into a full-fledged panic. Derek might as well go to the source.

In a house completely inhabited by werewolves, it is very difficult to pick out a particular person’s scent, even less easy to pick up on emotions but as he walks up the stairs and down the hall to Stiles’ room, Derek swears that the smell of anxiety increases. Not that he needs the added reminder because as he gets close he can hear Stiles all but chanting:

“Alright, little guy, you got this, bro. All American Family. That’s us tonight. All American family. We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna get this little bowtie on you and then we are gonna seem so normal and put-together. Yes we are, dude. So normal. The Most normal.”

Derek can’t help but grin a little before leaning into the doorway and tapping against the wall twice.

“Can I come in?” he asks, trying not to let the picture of Stiles’ furiously trying to get a bowtie around Nate’s neck with one hand while holding him on his hip with the other distract him from his purpose.

“Oh, hey, Derek,” Stiles says, not looking up. “Yeah, you can-- YOU’RE HERE!”

He drops the bowtie and almost drops his child (which wouldn’t have been a huge deal, because… Nate is a werewolf but still). Luckily, Stiles manages to sort of plop Nate on the bed. “I’m not ready. Oh my god. She’s here? Right now? What time is it? Nate, just unbutton that top one, my guy. Open collar look. No time for the bowtie.”

“Stiles!” Derek says. “She’s not here.”

“She’s… she’s not here? Why? Is she coming? Do you wanna go do your own thing? Is this--?” He sticks his head into his closet mid-sentence.

Derek ignores Stiles for now. Instead he squats to make eye contact with Nate. “Hey, bud,” Derek says. “You mind if I talk to your dad alone for a bit?”

Nate nods. “He’s bein’ weird,” he says, turning around so he can slide on his stomach to the floor. “But he says if I’m good, he won’ tell Scott I ate the last blueberry. An-and that’s why there was none for his cereal.”

“That sounds very fair,” Derek says, helping Nate down and guiding him to the door.

“But I don’ even like blueberries,” Nate says doubtfully as he exits. “I’m not sure--”

“Well, maybe Stiles is confused,” Derek says and Nate still doesn’t look certain but he heads off down the hall anyway.

Derek turns. Stiles’ head is still in his closet. He is also still muttering to himself.

“Stiles,” Derek says, hooking his arms around Stiles’ waist and carefully extracting him. “Babe, you gotta calm down.”

“Calm down?” Stiles says, standing and spinning so they are facing each other. His eyes are wild. His face is red. His hair is sticking up adorable all over in that way that means he’s been running his hands through it all day. “I am calm! Totally calm! I don’t need to calm down!”

Derek leans in for a kiss and Stiles allows it before twisting and trying to get to the bed. Which Derek is now noticing is covered in maybe all of Stiles’ wardrobe.

Derek doesn’t release his grip on Stiles’ hips. “Dude. You are blackmailing all your children.”

“Wha--” Stiles looks honestly offended in a way that says he knows exactly what Derek is talking about. “I am… I would never!”

“They are acting like pod people,” Derek says. “Ellie practically curtsied when I came in.”

“Well, we are raising polite children,” Stiles tries.

“Corey isn’t breathing because he thinks it makes too much noise.”

“Okay, well I didn’t tell him to not breathe,” Stiles mutters darkly. “I just… am implying that it is important to be on your best behavior tonight. As with every night.”

“And threatening them if they don’t?”

“Not all of them,” Stiles sighs. “... I had nothing on Mato. And he’s the teenager!” He stops fidgeting for a second to look a bit honestly perplexed. “He really needs to get out more. At his age, Scott and I were…”

“Getting bitten by werewolves and fighting the forces of darkness without bothering to tell your parents?” Derek says, pulling Stiles closer. “Or sitting at home playing video games?”

“Hey!” Stiles says. “We went to parties! We went to... one party.” Derek raises his eyebrows. “Okay, well, it did get dosed with a brand of wolfsbane that gave everyone horrific visions and then we had to… fight the forces of darkness.”

Derek nods. He’s heard enough stories of young Scott and Stiles to know that almost all their stories end like that. It… it stresses him out immensely and a part of him thinks its his fault because he and Laura left Beacon Hills after everything even though the Hales are supposed to protect it and they stayed in New York until three years ago and maybe if he had been here when the loose Alpha bit Scott, he could have helped and--

He takes a breath.

Everything worked out. The boys managed Beacon Hills just fine without them. He came back in time to meet Stiles.

“Maybe it’s for the best he doesn’t go out,” Stiles admits, squinting at a point past Derek’s shoulder and clearly unaware of the flash of guilt Derek just worked through. “Then again, he should be doing some old fashioned like… drinking, right? Regular dumb teenage shit. Wait. Stop. Stop distracting me!”

“I’m not doing anything,” Derek says.

“You got me worrying about Mato,” Stiles says. “You know I worry about Mato! And-- your thumbs! What are they doing?”

Derek shrugs. So maybe his thumbs had worked their way under Stiles’ shirt and were swiping at the skin along Stiles’ hip bones. He can’t be blamed. Stiles has very nice hip bones.

“Well that’s enough of that,” Stiles says and leans away and just like that the smell of anxiety in the room racks up again. “Now tell me-- this shirt? Or this one? Or do you think a sweater? Collared shirt and sweater? Scott convinced me v-neck but Scott is always going too casual and you know I don’t think he even read those books I gave him.”

“Stiles,” Derek says. “Relax. This isn’t a big deal.”

“No, no, no, no” Stiles says, shaking his head. “You don’t get to pull the ‘not a big deal’ card. This is a big deal! A huge deal! It’s-- she’s your sister, Derek.”

Derek opens his mouth, probably to say something about how Laura already knows all about Stiles and how she knows how Derek feels and she was the one to encourage him to go for it anyway but Stiles barrels on:

“She is your sister and she is coming here. To this crazy house because for some dumb reason you are dating a guy with seven children and a platonic co-dad and it is not normal and so this just-- It has to go perfectly, Derek. Because she is your sister. And if she doesn’t like us then everything is just-- ruined. It will be ruined. This has to go perfectly.”

Stiles has worked himself into a near panic attack by this point and Derek knows that if he doesn’t fix it soon, Scott will come running up, so he grabs Stiles from where he is pacing madly and pulls him into a tight hug.

Stiles lets out a soft oof against his chest. Then takes a deep breath. Derek feels some of the tension leave him.

“Stiles,” he says firmly. “She’s going to love you.”

“My family is crazy,” Stiles says, but it’s muffled against Derek’s shoulder.

“Your family is wonderful,” Derek says. “And she already knows all about it.”

“I- I’ve never met anyone’s family before,” Stiles says. “I really want her to like me.”

“She’s going to,” Derek says. “I promise.”

“And think I’m normal,” Stiles adds. “Like normal and cool and like… you know, good for you.”

“You are good for me,” Derek says, wishing just a little that Stiles was a werewolf so he could hear Derek’s heartbeat remain perfectly steady. Stiles has no idea how good-- when Derek set this up and asked Laura to come, Stiles couldn’t know what a big step he was taking. To do this tonight. To be able to do this tonight.

“I mean,” he continues thoughtfully. “I’m not sure we can manage ‘normal’ or ‘cool’--”

“Derek!”

“But she’s gonna like you anyway. Just like I did.”

“I did manage to seduce you rather quickly,” Stiles says, straightening and smiling at him before tucking his head into Derek’s neck again. “I’m just-- I’m just nervous.”

“That’s okay,” Derek says. “But it’s gonna be fine. I’ll be with you the whole time.”

Stiles nods wordlessly. They stand in silence for a bit. Then,

“She’s gonna love me, Derek,” Stiles declares confidently. His energy is still a bit manic, but that’s Stiles. At least his eyes are clear and he’s grinning. “I am going to put on this nice sweater and act like an adult and I made lasagna which is an adult meal and maybe I shouldn’t have done it, but I blackmailed the children so this is gonna go great.”

“Agreed,” Derek says, as seriously as he can.

“I’m going to make a great first impression,” Stiles says. “The best!”

Derek smiles back and then Stiles is changing and running from the room and Derek follows him down to the kitchen, where Scott gives him a thumbs-up when Stiles is doing a last inspection on the children and, for the first time, Derek allows himself to be really, really excited.

*^*^**^

Stiles is man enough to admit that he has maybe, sorta lost his mind. A little bit. Two weeks ago when he set this up, he felt pretty confident and thought it would be a nice thing to do and then Derek had said yes and moved the date up actually and, still, Stiles had remained calm.

Well. Calm-ish.

Sorta.

At first, maybe he was calmish. Then he started thinking about how she was Derek’s only sister and only family and, oh yeah, also Alpha. Which means that all those werewolf traditions that Stiles insists Scott doesn’t keep are things that she probably will care about and one of the books that Stiles found on the subject said that in olden times, Alphas had to give permission for members of the pack to date people and he had certainly never done that.

No, in the name of going slow with his own family, Stiles had also gone slow with Derek’s. Which means that they have been dating for over 6 months and he hasn’t even met her. So she probably hates him.

It was when he realizes this, about a week ago, that Stiles started to lose his mind.

Not anymore though, he decides as he walks back into the kitchen. He is going to be totally calm. He smiles at his kids, who seem a bit more relaxed now that he isn’t just running around like a crazy person. He flips the oven to low so the lasagna will be warm but not burnt and assures Scott that the garlic bread looks awesome and the kids are on their best behavior. He can tell.

Though, truth be told, he isn’t worried about them. His kids are awesome. Yes, sure, sometimes they are a bit hyper and they do tend to talk over each other and break all the rules that he and Scott try to set about when werewolf powers are actually allowed and, boy are they an unorganized mess 90% of the time, but they… his kids are awesome. Anyone who doesn’t like them is an idiot.

He’s not even worried about Scott. Scott doesn’t know any of the proper werewolf rules but the few times they had met up with other packs, Scott had smiled and the other Alpha… well, sometimes they didn’t love him but they always reached some sort of agreement. Scott is friendly and nice and unless Laura is a uptight traditionalist who cares a great deal about proper etiquette (which Derek has assured Stiles she is not), she’s going to love Scott.

The problem is he knows he is the weak link in the family when it comes to being nice to strangers. He’s always too loud and flails too much and he doesn’t take kindly to snide comments made by teachers or other parents or doctors or anyone, really, about their Pack. And most people can sense that, he thinks. That he doesn’t really trust them and if they want friendly, they should stick to Scott. And that’s how he likes it.

It’s just unfortunate that now, he needs Laura to like him. Not just Scott and the kids. But Stiles. Because she is Derek’s sister and Derek talks to her almost everyday and he…

He thinks maybe he loves Derek. Like… long-term love. Like he doesn’t ever want to break up ever and he’s been so happy for the past seven months that he can’t really believe this is his life and he knows that step one to making sure this can go on forever is that Laura has to like him.

“We are so ready for this, dudes,” he says as Adam proudly shows him their way fancier than normal table set-up. He didn’t quite go multiple forks, but the fork and knife are on opposite sides of the plates rather than thrown together. He’d even made sure the cups are actually cups and not cleaned out salsa jars. He’s maybe even feeling good.

The doorbell rings and he manages not to jump and Scott flashes him a blinding “You Got This Smile” and Derek grabs his hand and he is feeling confident that he can pull this off, that he can convince Derek’s sister that he is a mature, confident, organized adult who is worthy of her brother.

He, Derek and Scott walk to the door and, as agreed, the kids hang back so as not to bombard her with new people right away. Plus if there is any weird Alpha tension, the kids don’t need to be around for it.

Stiles pauses, takes one last breath, puts what he hopes is his most winning smile on and then reaches for the door.

“Hello!” He says, pulling it open and registering dark hair and cool intelligent eyes and a wickedly playful smile and that’s when his brain sort of goes offline because this is…

This cannot be Laura Hale.

This is Nike.

It’s not his proudest moment, but his first instinct is to close the door. He doesn’t quite do it but he doesn’t finish opening it all the way and doesn’t step back to let her in because Nike is here.

And if Nike is here that means there’s an issue, a breach in the network, or else something has gone horribly, horribly wrong and she needs his help, which is fine, but not here, not with his kids and Scott and--

Now that he knows to look for it, she really does have Derek’s eyes.

“Stiles?” Derek asks and he realizes abruptly that he has just been staring at her. At Nike. Who is Laura. At La-Nike. “What are you--?”

He feels slightly better in that she has not said anything either.

“Um,” he starts ineffectively and then Nike blinks and takes a confident step forward so there’s nothing for it but to step back and let her in.

“Dodger?” she says. “You-- You’re Stiles? You… Holy shit.”

At least she’s processing out loud. It makes her seem smarter. Stiles is… Stile was not ready for this one.

“Laura?” Derek asks, sounding tense and Stiles manages to look away from Nike long enough to see that Scott’s eyes are tinged with red probably because who knows what Stiles smells like at this point. “What is-- what is going on?”

“Nike,” Stiles says, just to be sure. “That is-- your sister is Nike.”

Oh god, Derek’s sister is never going to believe he is normal. He’s done multiple missions with Nike. They’ve camped out for days together in the woods of Maine and she’s heard him whine the whole time about the cold even though it was in the 50s and, holy shit, she has seen him eat an entire Family Size Bag of Doritos in one sitting.

“You two know each other,” Scott confirms. Stiles nods. Nike grins.

“Oh, yeah,” she says. She’s thinking about the time he got stuck in a tree after running away from what turned out to be a boar with rabies. He can just tell. “Me and Dodger go way back.”

He nods mutely and doesn’t really think about what that makes it sounds like until behind him Derek makes a strangled noise and--

“Oh my god. Have you two slept together?”

*^*^*^

It doesn’t help that immediately after his question, Scott turns to him with wide-eyes that say “OH MY GOD THEY DID!”, Stiles turns the brightest red Derek has ever seen, and Laura, his dear sister, bursts out laughing.

This would happen to him, Derek decides in that split second. Only to him. But it would. He would be the type of person to start dating an absolutely perfect human only to find that aforementioned perfect human has a history with his sister. He’s not even mad about it. Or sad. He is just… this is his life. They had sex. They even had weird kinky names for each other.

“Oh my god, no,” Stiles says waving his hands. “Why would you-- oh my. No. We have not--” He turns to Laura but she is still laughing. “Derek, we’ve worked together.”

“Worked?” Derek repeats. Laura is an interior designer. Stiles is a… well, it’s something to do with corporate research. He can’t see how they would have worked together.

“On the circuit,” Laura says, finally done chuckling to herself. “Your boy is part of the Network.”

“The… Network?” Derek says. It sounds vaguely familiar but he can’t quite put his finger on what that is or why Stiles would be a part of it.

“You know,” Laura says. “I told you about this a while ago. Supernatural badasses--”

“And human ones,” Stiles says and, god, they do know each other. Stiles is relaxing into this conversation now that he’s gotten over the shock, Laura accepts his interjection with a nod.

“Banning together to fight bad guys,” Laura finishes. “I joined years ago. Back when we were still in New York. You know this.”

Derek does remember now. It had been almost five years after the fire and for all intents and purposes, he and Laura were living essentially human lives. She was working at an interior design firm and he was taking some classes at school just so he had something to do and it wasn’t that he didn’t miss it, shifting and running and being outside on a full moon but he-- it was dangerous. To live like that was to accept danger and he wasn’t willing to do that. He didn’t think Laura was either.

Until one day she’d sat him down and told him she was joining this… this community that worked together to fight evil creatures who still popped up in areas of high supernatural activity. She had explained that she wanted to use the powers she had as an Alpha for good and that there was this network of people--people who did that. Who worked together.

She hadn’t been asking his permission, merely letting him know that this was her decision and he hadn’t been happy. Even less so when she wouldn’t let him go with her.

“Alright,” he says, wiping his hands on his knees. She is his Alpha and it’s her call and they probably should be doing something--something to make up for the fact that they had just disappeared off the face of the earth.

“Derek,” she says, voice soft and serious and she looks like his mother in this moment. He looks away just to stop seeing the resemblance. “Have you ever thought about fighting?”

His mouth twists but he doesn’t say anything. She knows the answer is no.

“Ever really missed the training sessions with Mom?”

He opens his mouth.

“Not Mom,” Laura clarifies. “Of course, I know you miss Mom. I mean the training. The martial arts and the tracking and waking up early to go on runs.”

“I like running,” Derek says stubbornly even though they both already know the real answer to her question. He’d… He’d never really liked that stuff. He’d rather hang out with his friends and read books and then when he did get into something, it was basketball which didn’t help his fighting skills at all. He was never a fighter. Teally, his mom had sort of quietly given up after dragging him through the basics.

He wasn’t like Laura, who loved it. She always wanted to train and loved learning all the different skills and the research and he just never really took to it. He knew how to leverage his strength and speed to his advantage and that was about it. Even now… even now that he does work out regularly, he… he’d never wanted to go back to boxing or anything like that.

“Hey,” Laura says, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Derek. I’m not saying this to make you feel bad. I’m saying this because I’m not gonna let you do something just because you think you have to. This is… this is something that’s important to me. That I miss. You shouldn’t do it unless you miss it too.”

He didn’t. He had enough of violence and bloodshed and death to last a lifetime. They both knew that. But--

“I’ll be safe, Der,” Laura says, reading his mind. “That’s the whole reason this group is set up. So it’s not just one pack or person going at it alone. Strength in numbers.”

Numbers don’t mean anything if you can’t trust those other people, Derek thought, if you don’t know who they are and people can lie.

“It’s a lot of work to even get in,” Laura says and Derek should really be concerned with how well she can read him. “Wanna hear about the process?”

In the end, even he had to admit that security was robust. There were codewords and codenames and it was all very secretive. Nowadays, the most he heard of it was a text from Laura saying some form of: “Out of town on a case. Should be back Tuesday. Love you.”

It’s not his favorite thing but it only happens every few months or so and she checks in daily.

And apparently Stiles is in it too.

“Oh my god,” Scott is saying when Derek tunes back in. “That is-- you two already know each other! This is hilarious! And this whole week, Stiles here has been freaking out about meeting you!”

“Scott,” Stiles grumbles but it’s more fond than anything else.

“Aw, you wanted to impress me?” Laura says. It’s syrupy-sweet and she throws an arm around Stiles with familiar ease.

“I can’t believe this,” Stiles says.

Derek still can’t either.

“I guess that’s why I haven’t seen you around these past few months,” Laura says. “Too busy raising all these-- wait, Dodger? Like with all the kids. Dodger from Oliver Twist.”

“It’s the first two syllable word that popped in my head!” Stiles says. “For the record, I’m a Mets fan. Derek can confirm.”

All three of them turn to look at him and he is supposed to insert himself in the conversation now, he knows that but he still… Stiles and Laura already know each other. They already like each other. Stiles is some part of a secret, monster-fighting network and he and Laura have worked together and, obviously, Scott must have already known that because he is taking this all in stride.

That might be Scott though. He takes most things in stride. The man is raising seven children.

“You two take a minute,” Laura says, patting him on the shoulder and linking arms with Scott, who still looks delighted by this whole turn of events. “I’m going to go meet the rest of this lovely pack.”

God, she really has known Stiles for a while. She isn’t even pretending to be anything but herself (and he had given her strict instructions to be nice!). Luckily, Scott is already laughing at something she mutters just to him as they turn and he knows she will get along with the kids.

“Hey,” Stiles says, drawing Derek’s eyes away from where Laura and Scott just were. “You okay?”

“What?” Derek says. “I mean… yeah. Yes. I just… how long have you known each other?”

“Umm… I think we first worked a case together...” Stiles scrunches up one side of his face as he thinks. It’s unfairly adorable. “3 years ago? Maybe less?”

Derek nods mutely.

“We haven’t worked that much together,” Stiles says, voice dropping into something serious. “Maybe 5 or 6.”

“Okay,” Derek says. They already know each other. They like each other. They are… they are going to get along even better than he’d imagined. This is…

“I’m really sorry,” Stiles says, hands twisting together.

“What?” Derek repeats. This is perfect. Why would Stiles be sorry? “Why?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles says. “That I already know her? You seem… upset. That it’s not just like I know her through you. I don’t… I don’t have siblings but I guess it’s like if it turned out you knew Scott from… a soccer league or something and then it’s like this other connection and--”

“I’m not sure soccer league is the best comparison,” Derek says, but he’s smiling now. Stiles is too busy pacing to notice.

“Ack! I know! It’s even worse!” Stiles says and his hand goes to his hair now. “It’s like… crime fighting badassery and--”

“Stiles,” Derek says. Stiles turns. He’s beautiful. “I’m not mad.”

“Disappointed?”

“I’m not disappointed either,” Derek says. “I’m very happy.”

“Your face does not look happy,” Stiles says suspiciously.

“You’ve told me my face never looks happy,” Derek says, raising his eyebrows. He feels Stiles relax.

“Sometimes it does,” he says, taking a step closer. “You promise you’re happy?”

“Yes,” Derek says. “I was just… surprised. I didn’t expect you two to know each other.”

“Seriously,” Stiles replies. “I almost had a fucking heart attack.”

“Language.”

“Oh shut up,” Stiles says. “So you’re… you’re really okay?”

“Stiles,” Derek says, slinging his arm around his boyfriend just as Laura has done (and if he pulls Stiles a little closer than Laura did because he can because Stiles is his boyfriend well, no one needs to know that). “The two most important people in my life already know each other. And like each other. And get along. That was the goal, wasn’t it?”

“I guess,” Stiles says, leaning even closer.

“It was,” Derek says. “So… we’re winning. So, let’s get back in there. See how that blackmail is holding up.”

“Alright,” Stiles says. “We can talk more about it later.”

Derek raises his eyebrows.

“About how you are freaked out I’m part of the network,” Stiles says, meeting Derek’s eyes. “About how it’s okay that you’re worried but it’s still something I have to do so we’ll set up a communication system that makes it okay for both of us.”

Derek needs to stop loving people who can read him like a book.

“So like what I have with Laura,” he says.

“Something like that,” Stiles agrees. Then sighs. “You know she’s never gonna think I’m normal. She already knows.”

“I think anyone who meets you figures that out pretty quick.”

“Rude.”

*^*^*^

Despite their banter in the doorway, it’s weird once they get to the table. In front of his kids. His family. There’s no way for it not to be because Nike, who previously Stiles knew only as a badass, Alpha werewolf who constantly makes fun of him for his taste in music (and really, it’s not his fault he is behind the times. He basically only gets to listen to Disney music!), that Nike is currently sitting at his kitchen table across from him, squeezed next to Derek and Corey who is staring up at her with absolute wonder on his face.

It also doesn’t help that there are rules when you’re on the circuit. And the codenames are not merely a fun tradition (though, for the record, having a codename is totally awesome) but serve a purpose. You aren’t supposed to know people’s real names or lives or where they live or what they do. In the supernatural fighting world there are too many creatures who can pull information from people’s brains, too many hunters who want to pump people for information on other agents rather than, you know, actual evil things because crazy human-only groups still exist. And with 7 werewolves waiting for him at home, Stiles is more careful than most to share absolutely nothing about his personal life.

Hell, he let’s people believe he picked his name because he is a Dodgers fan. If that’s not taking extreme precaution to avoid being discovered, he doesn’t know what is.

So, yeah, it’s awkward. He likes Nike, they work well together, she’s funny and always gets him extra curly fries when she makes the food runs but he can’t shake the feeling, at the beginning, that she shouldn’t be here. That he shouldn’t tell her anything.

Luckily, his platonic co-dad is on it. Scott asks some good questions and then the kids are involved, asking all sorts of questions about what Derek was like as a kid and laughing at her answers, and he keeps an eye on Lucy, obviously, because Lucy doesn’t like new werewolves but she’s not openly glaring. Maybe a little more quiet than normal, but she cracks a smile every once and awhile.

Nike is smart enough not to bring up any stories of the Network, though they do say that they know each other because the kids pick up on that right away. (“Oh thank god,” Ellie says. “So we can be normal? Please?”) He relaxes and she relaxes and Derek looks overjoyed and before he knows it dinner is over. The kids are already on to discussing dessert options.

“Kids are on dishes,” Stiles tells her when Laura moves to stand and help clear the table. “Derek has them spoiled with always helping but you are a guest.”

“I like doing dishes,” Derek grumbles and it’s been Stiles’ favorite part: seeing Derek revert ever so slightly to little brother in the face of Laura’s teasing and stories.

“No one likes doing dishes,” Stiles says.

“I do! I do!” Corey says, practically jumping up and down.

“Only when they let you use your powers to scrub off the hard stuff,” Ellie says.

“Well, that is the best part,” Laura agrees.

Corey practically knocks Mato over to get to the now caked-on lasagna dishes.

“Alright,” Laura says as the kids finish clearing the table. “It’s time for me to steal him.” The smile she gives Derek is all-wolf. Stiles would be more concerned except… she’s Nike. He knows for a fact that she cries whenever any TV couple gets engaged.

“Laura,” Derek grumbles, but she grabs Stiles and pulls him outside and though Stiles sends Derek pleading Help me! eyes, he doesn’t resist.

They only go as far as the deck out back and it’s cool enough without the sun that Stiles wishes he threw on a sweatshirt but Laura releases him and walks towards the edge to set her elbows on the railing and he knows inherently this is important. So he follows.

And he lets the silence stretch as they both stare into his yard. The two swings are twisted together and there are three frisbees on the ground and Corey hadn’t brought his bike in so Stiles should do that to try and avoid rust and the grass is basically ruined with how much they stomp around on it. Stiles doesn’t worry though. He doesn’t think the woman standing next to him is even looking.

“I’m glad it was you, you know,” she says and her voice doesn’t change exactly but something shifts and she is more familiar now. More Nike.

“You are?” Stiles says, relaxing against the railing. “Because last time I saw you, I seem to remember you being a little less than happy with me.”

“You had just gotten me slimed by some freakin’ snail monster snake thing.”

“I’m pretty sure I saved your life,” Stiles say, grinning.

“I was washing snail gunk out of my hair for days.”

“And it was a Lou Carcolh according to my research.”

“Ugh. Nerd. I can see why Derek likes you.”

“Intelligence is always attractive.”

She snorts but turns back to the yard and Stiles doesn’t break the silence. Nike-- No, Laura, Stiles is going to have to start calling her Laura in his head all the time-- Laura is like that. Playful and teasing and throwing marshmallows at him one moment, quiet and brooding the next. Not dissimilar to Derek but not really the same. With Laura, the switch happens fast, but her silences aren’t so dark. Merely thoughtful. Derek… With Derek he can see the dark moods coming and can usually head them off. Usually wants to.

This one, he lets linger.

“Did you know it was today?” she asks suddenly into the stillness. “When you set this up, I mean. Did you know?”

“Yes,” he says. Maybe he would have considered lying before but he knows she would never believe it. For better or for worse, she knows him.

“Did he tell you?”

“No.” He admits that too. “I looked it up. My dad’s the sheriff.”

He hadn’t even really needed the police reports, to be honest. If he’d wanted, he could have easily just used the newspaper. After all, six people dying in a fire is news anywhere. But especially in Beacon Hills.

He didn’t though. He knew the newspapers would make it… a story. There would be drama and theories and details and he didn’t want that. He just wanted a simple date and so he’d used his dad’s password and it was a simple search, really. Typing in the name “Hale” brings it up instantly.

“When?” Laura asks and he blinks at her, for a second, confused. “I mean when did you look it up?”

“A few weeks ago,” Stiles says, wishing it were a more romantic story. “I mean, I knew it was around this time so… just a matter of getting the exact date.”

Laura nods.

“I have this calendar,” Stiles continues, softer now. “For all the kids’ stuff. And some of Scott’s stuff, ya know. It’s just to keep organized. I just-- added it to that. So when I saw it was coming up, I figured… around now would be a good time to meet you. If he wanted. If you both wanted.”

“We always spend the day just the two of us,” Laura says, finally glancing over at him.

Stiles flinches. “I actually suggested sometime next week,” he starts. “I mean I didn’t want--”

“No, no,” she says, waving a hand. “I-- I’m glad he changed it to today. It’s… it’s a big step. For him. It’s good.”

She’s smiling a little but she goes silent.

“And for you?” Stiles finally says, both of them carefully looking into the backyard again. “Is it okay with you?”

He’s surprised when Laura laughs. More surprised when he looks over to see tears have gathered in her eyes.

“God, it’s… it’s amazing.” She takes a shuddering breath then. “I’ve… for almost fifteen years, all I’ve wanted was for Derek to be happy and now-- Sometimes I think if my mother saw how we usually spend this day, she would slap the shit outta both of us. She wouldn’t want… any of what we usually do.”

“She would want this,” Laura says, turning to glance back in the house. Stiles follows her gaze. The kids have clearly gotten tired of waiting and Derek and Scott are serving ice cream while Corey and Adam chase Lucy around the table. Levonna is standing on a chair, grinning, and Ellie and Mato are grabbing bowls and Nate is piggy back on Scott while poking Derek in the side with one leg. Derek keeps pretend gnawing on Nate’s leg as the boy squeals with laughter.

Stiles knows without looking that none of them need ice cream. He loves all of ‘em anyway.

“We’ll have to do it again next year then,” Stiles says, answering the question he knows Laura wants to ask.

Laura smiles at him, something not quite a grin, and holds up her beer. “Sounds like a plan, Dodger.”

He taps his beer into hers. “Nike.”

They drink and then turn back to the yard, staring out, and, later, Derek will come out and Stiles will say that Laura threatened him with bodily harm and Laura will grin and not deny it and later still, the kids will go to bed and Stiles and Laura will regale Scott and Derek with embellished stories of their own heroism, and Laura and Derek are spending the next few days together, Stiles knows that, and this year, Stiles won’t push, not about this, but he can see that someday Derek will tell him the story--the full story-- and he will listen.

But for now, for right now, he leans over to tap his shoulder into hers, a move he’s done before, and they stand in the stillness and drink.