“Do you remember when summer vacation used to mean being on a break and not having to do anything?” Stiles asks anyone who will answer.
“I always worked during the summers,” Boyd answers, nose in a book.
Stiles snorts and raises an eyebrow. “Really? How about middle school? When you were in middle school you worked?”
“Paper route. Baby-sitting. No time to slack off,” the wolf answers with a grin.
“Well, I for one miss middle school. Didn’t have to do anything all day, could sleep late and then watch TV or play video games.” He sighs loudly and runs a finger down the page of the book in front of him. “First year of high school, too. Did a few chores and stuff, but didn’t have to do summer reading lists or this…stuff.”
Lydia looks up from her laptop and replies, “Some of us like taking summer courses, Stiles. It means we’ll graduate sooner. And in your case, since Chico State doesn’t offer courses in being an emissary, it means you have to study during the summer.”
“Hmm,” he snorts. “I didn’t think emissary training would be all reading. I thought that I’d get to do some spell work or something.”
“Deaton probably doesn’t want you to blow anything up, even yourself. Theory then practice,” Boyd says ignoring another snort from Stiles.
Stiles’ phone rings and he jumps to answer it. “Hey, Dad, what’s up?”
“You busy, Stiles? I need you down here as soon as you can,” his father answers and Stiles can hear the worry in his voice.
Boyd and Lydia both look up, hearing the Sheriff and seeing Stiles’ posture stiffen.
He shuts his book and shoves it in his backpack along with the shirt he removed earlier. “I can be right down, I’ll leave now. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Stiles, it’s…can you bring someone with you? Like Scott or Derek?”
Stiles looks around the room and says, “Like Scott or Derek? They’re not around, does it have to be them or just someone like them?”
“Whoever’s available is fine.”
“I’ll see who’s around,” he answers, looking at Boyd with an eyebrow raised. “See you soon.”
“Can’t, man.” Boyd shakes his head. “Scott’s orders, I’m supposed to stay here and wait for Isaac and Erica to report back on whatever was down at the train station.”
Stiles sighs and picks up his phone, ready to call one of the other pack members when there’s a hand on his shoulder.
“Is there something you need, Stiles?” Peter whispers in his ear.
“Jesus, do you have to do that?” He rubs his chest and mutters about heart failure and zombies while digging his keys out of his pocket. “You coming?” he calls over his shoulder and sees Peter smirk.
“As you wish,” Peter replies. He smiles at Boyd and Lydia on the way out, ignoring the glare from both of them.
“Okay, you’re here to be helpful, so behave yourself, because you know my Dad has lots of wolfsbane bullets,” Stiles says over his shoulder when they’re walking into the Sheriff’s department. He stops when he sees Peter’s stopped, looking around the lobby and subtly sniffing the air. “What? What’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure; it’s odd. Let’s go find your father.”
“He’s okay?” Stiles asks quietly, stepping closer to Peter.
Peter runs a quick hand down Stiles’ back and smiles before he says, “He’s fine, Stiles. And he has company.”
Stiles knocks as he enters his dad’s office, Peter following close behind. His father and Deputy Parrish are standing by the desk, looking at a baby. A crying baby, sitting in a car seat.
“Hey, Dad,” Stiles says, giving his dad a one-armed hug while he looks at the baby. “Who’s your friend?”
“I was hoping you could tell me. Or you’d bring someone who could tell me,” he says, giving Peter a skeptical look.
Peter scratches his neck and shrugs. “It looks like a baby. It’s not my baby, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
The sheriff and Stiles both turn and look at him. “No one thinks that. But he is …” he whispers, “he’s something, isn’t he?”
Stiles steps forward and looks at the baby. “Why do you think that? Where did he come from?”
“Melissa McCall brought him over. Someone left him in the ER this morning, just like this, in his seat and with a bag of some supplies.” Parrish pulls a small diaper bag off the Sheriff’s chair and hands it to Stiles. “It’s just a few diapers and some baby formula. And a stuffed toy,” he says, holding up a stuffed bunny. The baby reaches out and whimpers, stuffing the bunny’s feet in his mouth when Parrish gives it to him.
“And a note,” Andrew says, picking up a piece of paper from his desk and handing it to Stiles.
“’I can’t do this,’” he reads. “’Please take care of him. I can’t keep him safe.’ Okay, so why’d she bring him here and not send him to social services or something?”
“One of the nurses who found him said that his eyes looked weird in the light. Melissa says she saw them flash, so she tried to call Scott and couldn’t get him, so she brought him here,” Andrew says and looks at the baby, who is chewing on the bunny’s ears. “What do you think?” he asks Peter.
Peter steps forward and leans over the desk, studying the baby. He cups the boy’s cheek and then flashes his eyes, a cold, bright blue. The baby makes a noise like a giggle and flashes his own hazel eyes back at Peter. “Interesting. I’d say he’s a fox.”
Stiles turns white and croaks out, “A fox? That’s a fox?”
“Don’t worry. He’s not a kitsune or a nogitsune, just a simple werefox.” Peter looks back at the baby and pokes him gently with a finger, getting a smile and gurgle. “You don’t see a lot of werefoxes; they’re solitary. They don’t live in packs, just with their immediately family.”
“Sure, if you say so,” Stiles says and looks at the smiling baby suspiciously. “So Dad, what are you planning on doing with him?”
Andrew shakes his head and shrugs. “Honestly, I don’t have a lot of ideas. I just know that he can’t go into regular foster care. It wouldn’t be safe for him and I’m thinking it could come back to the pack. So until we figure out what to do with him long term, we need to figure out the short term.”
“What’s your short term plan then?”
His father smiles and picks up the diaper bag, handing it to Stiles. “Well, kid, you’re off school and decided you don’t need a summer job, so until we figure out what to do with him, I think your job is baby-sitter.”
Stiles sighs and looks at the baby who gives him a toothless grin. Other than the way he’s chewing on his bunny, he looks harmless, but nothing in Beacon Hills ever really is. “Really? Me? How old is he?”
Andrew shrugs and says, “A couple of months? I’m trying to remember what you looked like when you were a baby. So far, he’s quieter than you were.”
“That age seems about right,” Peter says and waves a finger in front of the baby, watching as he reaches out to grab it. “Weres develop faster than human children, so probably two to three months.”
“You’ve babysat kids before, Stiles, you know what to do. And there’s some of your baby stuff in the attic – crib and a high chair, stuff like that.” Andrew scratches his head and nudges the carrier closer to Stiles. “You’ll both be safer if you’re tucked away at home.”
“We’ll look through the tapes from the ER and see if we can determine who dropped him off, but it was crowded this morning.” Parrish studies the baby and then looks towards Stiles, shaking his head. “Not sure what we’ll get, with the crowd. Plus, do we give a supernatural baby back to someone who abandoned him in the first place?”
Stiles looks down at the giggling baby and says, “You really think I’m the best bet for this kid? I didn’t babysit any real babies.”
Andrew says, “For right now, I think you’re available and you’ll keep him safe.” He looks over at Peter and asks, “Will you be around? Or maybe Derek’s available?”
“I’m not sure of his schedule, but he’s not one for children, especially not babies. I’ll be able to help Stiles get the little one settled in. I know how to take care of a child,” Peter answers, picking up the baby’s carrier and handing it to Stiles. “Meet me out back, I’ll pull the car around.”
Stiles snorts and pulls the carrier closer to him, looking at the little shifter. “You taking care of a baby? Like that’s safe? You shouldn’t be around adults, let alone a harmless little baby. Like a baby’d be safe with you…”
“Stiles. Stiles…” Andrew says, trying to interrupt.
“Maybe I can find Scott or Erica. Or Allison, she seems kind of maternal or something. More than me or Peter at least.”
Peter shrugs and quietly says, “I’ll be outside. Hurry, please.”
“Dad? Really? Peter and me and a baby?”
Andrew sighs and says, “Stiles, Peter had a child. He had a two year old who died in the fire. He does know about babies and maybe you should try to remember that.”
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t know that. Believe it or not, Hales aren’t really chatty about the fire.”
“This won’t be long, I promise. And you’ll be okay?” Andrew asks his son, using his chin to gesture towards the wolf walking out the door.
Stiles shrugs and puts the baby’s bag over one shoulder as he picks up the carrier. “Not sure how helpful he’s willing to be, but he won’t hurt us. If only out of fear for what’ll happen to him if he does. Just get home soon, will you?”
Andrew checks to be sure the back hall ways is empty and escorts him to the door. “I’ll do my best, kid,” he says.
Peter’s waiting in the car by the back door of the office and throws open the passenger door. “Come on, get in and hurry up.”
“What’s the rush? It’s not like we’re stealing this baby, we have official permission,” Stiles says, wiggling to buckle his seat belt. “Although I’d feel a lot better if we had a real car seat.” He settles the carrier on his lap, diaper bag at his feet. “Try to avoid a car accident, okay?”
“I’ll feel better once we get him to your house and off the street,” Peter says, pulling off the main road and taking side roads to Stiles’ house. “You saw the note, it said to keep him safe. Which means she felt she wasn’t able to keep him safe from something, meaning there’s something out there that’s a danger to shifters. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but that includes your pack and me.”
Stiles looks at Peter and back at the baby dozing off in his lap. “Oh shit. Then drive, Peter.”
Getting ready to take care of the baby. Peter and Andrew bonding. And a little bit about the baby's mom.
Oh, to me, the Sheriff's name is always Andrew.
When they get into Stiles’ house, Peter goes directly into the kitchen as though he’s been there a hundred times before. He glances over his shoulder and asks, “Why don’t you go get whatever baby things your father mentioned? Upstairs or the attic or something?”
“Yeah, okay. What are you going to do?”
Peter sets the baby’s seat on the kitchen table and starts to unpack the diaper bag, ignoring Stiles until the boy shrugs and walks away, muttering under his breath.
Access to the attic is through stairs in the hallway, and Stiles pulls them down from the door in the ceiling. As far as he knows, no one goes up there much, not since moving some of his mother’s things up after her death. There’s a light at the top of the stairs, and Stiles is happy to find that it still works. There’s less dust than he expected, so maybe his father has been up here, hopefully just to use the room for storage and not for moping.
It takes only a couple of minutes for Stiles to find the baby stuff his mother had tucked into a corner a million years ago. There’s not a lot, just a high chair and crib and a small box with a few pieces of clothing that must have had some sentimental value. He doesn’t let himself stop for too long, thinking of his parents keeping these things, back when they thought they had time to have another child. It takes a couple of trips to get the items by the stairs, wiping a thin layer of sweat off his forehead.
“Hey, Peter, can you give me a hand with this stuff?”
“No, not really,” Peter answers, not raising his voice too much, as though everyone has freaking werewolf hearing.
Once a dick, always a dick. “I can’t get this all down by myself, you know. Help would be good!”
Peter shows up at the bottom of the stairs, with the baby resting over his shoulder. “I’m a little busy right now; just did a diaper change and I think a feeding is due soon. I can’t just dump him on the couch and forget about him.”
“Why not, he’ll be fine – it’s only for a couple of minutes, and he’s not going to walk away,” Stiles says, heaving a sigh as he brushes his dusty hands off on his leg.
Peter rolls his eyes and clicks his tongue, turning away. “You obviously know nothing about babies. You can’t just leave them someplace, not until he has the crib. He could roll off the couch.”
Stiles takes a turn rolling his eyes and thumps down the stairs, carrying the box of clothes. “Well them I’ll take him and you get this stuff down.”
“Fine, you hold him and I’ll carry the stuff down. It’s right by the stairs?” Peter bounds up the stairs as Stiles holds the now squirming baby. “Just these two things? Such a lot of fuss,” Peter snorts and comes down the stairs, an item under each arm.
“Yeah, well good for you, Superman. How do I feed him?” Stiles looks at the baby and says, “Or you can feed him. And what’s his name, do we know that?”
“I’ll feed him and show you how to do it; you’ll need to know how to take care of him.” Peter stacks the baby’s items by the front door and says, “Fox. We’ll call him Fox.”
“Fox? I thought we’re trying to keep him hidden? Not really subtle is it?”
Peter quickly fixes a bottle, using the formula that was in the diaper bag. He sits at the kitchen table, holding the bottle in front of the boy, grinning as the baby reaches out for his food. “Good boy, so hungry,” Peter murmurs to him. “It’s called hiding in plain sight. No one who is trying to hide a werefox would call him Fox, would they? Besides, it’s a real name, a fairly popular one, I’d think.”
“I can’t believe you sometimes,” Stiles says watching how expertly Peter feeds him. Fox, apparently - he’ll get used to calling him Fox. It’s actually kind of cute.
“Your father’s home,” Peter says quietly, resting Fox against his chest, and gently rubbing his back until Stiles hears a tiny burp. “He’ll need to be changed again. We’re going to need to get some supplies on our way back to my house.”
“Well, let’s just wait and discuss that…”
“Hey, it’s me,” Andrew says, entering the front door and looking around. “You guys look comfortable, is he okay? And why’s the baby stuff by the front door?”
“We’re all fine, thank you,” Peter answers before Stiles can say anything. “He’s been changed, he’s napped and he’s eaten. Did you find anything from the surveillance tapes from the hospital?”
Andrew shrugs out of his jacket and gets a soda out of the fridge, coming back to the kitchen where they’re still sitting. “Yeah, we found her, not that it’ll do much good. She’s kept her face well hidden.”
“Are we able to look at it? See if we see anything different?” Stiles asks, pulling his laptop towards them.
“I figured you’d want to,” Andrew answers, digging into his pocket and handing Stiles a flashdrive. “Here you go; Parrish copied it for you.”
Stiles logs in while Andrew checks on the baby, tickling his chin and getting a large, gummy yawn.
“I’ll go put him down so we can watch,” Peter says, putting the baby on the couch, surrounded by a wall of pillows so he won’t roll off. “Take a nap, Fox.”
“Fox?” Andrew asks, looking at Stiles.
Stiles shrugs and says, “We don’t know his name, and Fox seemed like a good idea. It’s kinda cute, you know.” He moves back so the others can see and the video starts playing.
“Here she is coming in.” The tape starts just outside the ER and they watch a small figure in a dark jacket look around and enter the door to the emergency room. She’s carrying what they recognize as the baby’s carrier.
“And she takes a seat in the ER away from most people,” Andrew continues. The woman keeps the carrier on her lap, keeping the hood of her jacket over her head, obscuring her face. They watch as she stays for about ten minutes, and it looks like she’s talking to the baby, occasionally wiping her eyes.
“Oh, she’s crying,” Stiles says, pointing at the screen, where they can see her shoulders shake as she strokes the baby’s face.
Finally, she stands and puts the carrier on her chair. Then she kisses her fingers and touches the baby’s head. She turns and quickly walks to the front door, head bowed.
“This is the best picture of her, unfortunately,” Andrew says. They can see just the top of her face, and from the black and white recording, it looks like she has blonde bangs. She has a hand over her mouth, so there’s really just the hair and her eyes, which are squeezed shut as she rushes out the door. The picture freezes and the three men stand and look at her.
“Not terribly helpful to identify her,” Peter says quietly, scratching his neck. “Short? Can’t get much of a weight with the coat, but assuming she’s a were herself, she’s probably fit.”
Stiles looks over at the baby and then the woman on the screen. Without thinking about it, he moves closer to his father’s side and sighs. “Peter was saying the note said she didn’t think she could keep him safe. And she sure didn’t look like she was dumping him to just get rid of him. She looked heart-broken.”
“But she was thinking enough about how to keep him safe,” Peter says, looking up from the screen. “She could have brought him to a church or directly to the police station for safe haven laws. Of course he’s too old for that, but you understand what I mean.”
“No, not really. What do you mean?” Stiles asks.
Peter turns back to the computer and backs the recording up to the beginning. “She came to the emergency room where the mother of a true alpha works. She knew that Melissa would recognize Fox as something different and that Melissa would know where to go. Andrew, if you worked at a gas station, Melissa would have called you there; that you’re the sheriff is just a happy coincidence.”
“So she wanted to be sure he got with someone who knows about shifters? Maybe.” They all watch the video again and Andrew says, “She looks around before she goes into the ER. Looking for what?”
Peter shrugs and says, “To be sure she wasn’t followed? Perhaps. Was Melissa working yesterday?”
“No,” Stiles says, shaking his head. “She was off yesterday and the day before, too. Today’s the first day she’s in and today’s the day mom brings in her baby.”
“Okay, so she wants him to be safe, not only safe like any baby, but safe as a were-baby. Now what?” Andrew asks.
The wolf walks over to the couch and picks up the sleeping infant, who yawns and reaches for Peter’s face. “We take Fox to my house. He’ll be safe there.”
“Your house? Sorry, but I’m thinking keeping him at the sheriff’s house is a pretty good idea,” Andrew says, unconsciously reaching for his gun. “Especially if Stiles is going to take care of him, too.”
“If someone is looking for him, they might expect he made his way to the sheriff. Also, you have what – a front door, a back door, an entrance into the house from the garage? Windows all around the main floor and we know your upstairs windows don’t keep out those who want in.” Peter sits and cups the baby’s head; Stiles knows he’s scent marking him, making him smell more like pack.
“I live on the 14th floor of an apartment building; if you’re not a resident, you need to be cleared by the doorman, who’s there twenty-four hours a day, every day. There’s the front door into my apartment with an alarm system. Not to mention, a werewolf lives there,” he finishes with a smile. “While there is a balcony, again – 14th floor.”
“Have you been there?” Andrew asks Stiles. “Does it feel safe and are you okay with that? You’ll have to be there sometime; we can’t expect Peter to take care of a baby alone.”
“It’ll be fine, I guess. I mean, I do have studying to do, it’s not like I’ve just been goofing off,” Stiles says, snorting softly. Peter raises an eyebrow, but says nothing about Stiles’ pounding heart.
“You can study at my apartment; there’s a guest room you and the baby can share, if you want to stay over sometime. Or of course, you’re welcome to study in the living room or whatever.” Peter smiles as he says this, looking like the most cooperative person around.
Stiles raises an eyebrow and says, “I’m sharing a guest room with a baby?”
Andrew’s smile is tight as he answers, “Until we figure out what happened, you’re sharing just about everything with a baby.”
“And you’ll be looking for the mom?” Stiles asks his dad, glancing back at the frozen picture of the mother on his laptop.
“I think Derek and Scott should work on searching for her, too. They can do the less conventional methods,” Peter says, and rubs a finger against Fox’s stomach, making him giggle. “And check with Deaton as well. He might have heard of someone new in town.”
“If you think it’s hunters, maybe someone should check with Mr. Argent?” Stiles asks. He’s watching Peter play with the baby, amazed at how natural and calm he looks. And how content the baby looks, smiling and giggling like Peter’s not a known psychopath.
Peter stops and considers Stiles’ suggestion for a moment before he says, “Actually, that might be a good thing for Derek to do. He and Chris are getting along remarkably well, and I certainly won’t comment on that mess. And Scott can deal with Deaton, they have some type of bond.”
“Well maybe we can get someone to help with the baby here,” Stiles says. “I don’t know, maybe Lydia or Allison? I’m sure they can take a turn babysitting.”
“Lydia is hardly maternal, but she could possibly run errands. I’d trust her to get some clothes for Fox. In fact, I’m sure she’ll pick out some very nice things for him. And I don’t want Allison in my home; that’s non-negotiable. Besides any maternal instinct she has is probably wrapped up in taking care of Scott and Isaac.”
Andrew looks from Peter to Stiles and back again before he asks, “Allison and Scott and Isaac? What’s that about?”
Stiles shrugs and shakes his head, not meeting his father’s eyes. “Nothing really, she’s just friends with both of them and they both like her.”
“Just friends?” Peter asks, raising an eyebrow. “Is that what it’s called now?”
“You mean the three of them are…”
“Dating is a nice term, I think,” Peter says. “Whatever they’re doing, it seems to work, they keep the huntress occupied so she’s away from me. And there’s been no killing recently and I’m in favor of that.”
Stiles snorts and raises an eyebrow. “You say that now, where was this guy a few years ago?”
“In a hospital, if I recall correctly. At any rate, they should be able to do some research and try to find if there’s been any unexpected shifters in the area.”
“And Derek and Chris Argent? Was that some kind of code?” Andrew asks Peter, pushing Stiles back, with a gentle hand to his chest, before he can say anything.
“My nephew is strangely attracted to hunters; I’m hoping this time it’s partly to keep track of their plans, but I doubt that’s true.” Peter puts Fox back in his seat, tucking blankets and the stuffed bunny next to him. “Believe me, this time, I’m keeping an eye on him. There’s only so many times I can catch on fire.”
“I think I’ve learned more in the last ten minutes than I have in the last six months,” Andrew says, glaring at his son, while Peter smirks.
“I tell you stuff you need to know, Dad. I don’t keep things from you that might be dangerous,” Stiles says. “Weird, personal stuff, you probably don’t want to know about.”
“You do tell him the important stuff though, right?” Peter asks. “Like about the vampire that was in town a couple of months ago?”
Stiles hopes that Peter feels the bullets he’s trying to shoot from his eyes, but in true Peter form, the man just smiles smugly. “No. No I did not, because it wasn’t any big deal.”
“Vampires?” Andrew asks, his voice rising. “There were vampires in town and you didn’t think to tell me?”
“Vampire. Just one. He was just passing through town, we probably wouldn’t have known about him, except he crossed the Hale territory and so the wolves smelled him,” Stiles explains. “No harm, no foul.”
“Unless you were that dog he snacked on,” Peter says quietly, stroking Fox’s hair. “We’ll need to get him a hat, it’s getting chilly and foxes aren’t as warm as wolves. Especially not ones this young. Remind me to ask Ms. Martin when she’s shopping.”
Andrew turns to Stiles, with his face getting red. “Dog? Mrs. Miller’s dog that went missing? Is that what happened to him? She’s been in my office at least weekly asking what we’re doing about the dog thief!”
“Well, yeah, but really it wasn’t bad. It was just one dog and no people were hurt,” Stiles says and shuts down his laptop, putting it in his backpack. “We should get going to Peter’s house now.”
“That would be good, I don’t want to travel too late at night,” Peter says, glancing at his watch. “Could you and Stiles carry the furniture out to his jeep? We’ll get him home and then Stiles can go out for supplies.”
Peter can smell the sudden burst of panic when Stiles says, “Me? You’re going to give me a list, right? I don’t know what to get. Maybe you should go…”
“You’d rather stay home alone with him while I shop?”
“Oh, man,” Stiles says, as he joins his father and picks up the crib. “This is the worst idea ever.”
“I’m sure you and your pack will work it out,” Andrew says, getting ready to take the high chair out to Stiles’ jeep. He turns and points at Peter. “We’re going to start meeting for coffee so you can fill me in on what’s going on around here. You know, since my trusted son doesn’t.”
Peter thinks for a moment and says, “Does going for coffee include firearms?”
“Yes, yes it does,” Stiles jumps in, “all meetings with Stilinskis include weapons.”
“Well, your family does know how to have fun,” Peter answers and picks up Fox’s seat and makes his way to Stiles’ jeep so they can go home.
Stiles moves in and everyone starts getting used to Fox, while looking for his mother.
And a bit of Chris/Derek, because.
Oh and feelings. Yeah, feelings.
It’s not difficult settling into Peter’s apartment.
First of all, holy shit, Peter’s apartment is fabulous. Stiles is used to the Stilinski three-bedroom, two-bath suburban house. The same that most of his friends have. Some have larger houses, if their parent’s income allows it (see Lydia and Jackson) but most are the basic three-and-two. And if the kids double-up and share rooms until the older ones go to college, that’s the way it goes.
Peter’s apartment is four bedrooms and three bathrooms. Peter’s bedroom, from the brief glances Stiles has gotten, is as big as the living room in Stiles’ old house. Stiles never thought of himself as an architecture geek, but he’s learning a lot about himself. For example, the bathroom is a religious experience.
The guest room he’s sharing with Fox is larger than his bedroom at home, plenty of room for a full sized bed and a crib placed at the foot with room in between. Peter says that it’ll be more convenient for Stiles to get up during the night if the crib is closer to the bed. Stiles isn’t so sure
And the pack is willing to help with the baby because, duh, baby. Or as Erica puts it, when she has her face buried in Fox’s fluffy hair, “Did you hear that noise? That was my ovaries exploding.”
Even those without ovaries become protective of the abandoned little kit. Derek’s over at least every other day, bringing more food, diapers and the softest stuffed toys that Stiles has ever seen. Everything immediately goes into Fox’s mouth and ends up covered in baby spit, but for some reason that’s also deemed adorable. Probably because of his cute, usually toothless grin.
As planned, Lydia shops for baby clothes and with Peter’s credit card in hand, Fox becomes a very well dressed baby. Lydia picks up basic onsies, little footie-pajamas and tiny t-shirts along with teeny-tiny sailor suits and little pants with coordinating vests that he can wear once, for his photo sessions, before he outgrows them.
Isaac’s favorite thing is to flash his eyes at Fox and watch Fox’s eyes flash back, tiny teeth breaking through his gums. When he turns back into his baby human self, the teeth go back into his gums with a quiet squish that makes Isaac snort with laughter. Since it doesn’t seem to hurt Fox, Peter’s willing to let them play together, repeating this trick until Fox grabs Isaac’s arm and bites him hard. After that, Isaac makes sure to have an expensive stuffed toy at the ready for when Fox needs to chew. As far as Stiles is concerned, Fox picked the right beta to munch on.
“Chris doesn’t know anything? Anything at all?” Peter asks, leaning against the kitchen counter where he’s been mashing cooked carrots into a paste as part of Fox’s lunch.
Derek shakes his head and shrugs. “Nope. He’s checked with communities nearby and everyone claims no knowledge of hunting in his territory.”
It’s been just under a month and while Fox is certainly settling in, it’s still strange that they can’t find anything about him. No noise from hunters, nothing from the Sheriff’s investigation and nothing from the mother. Perhaps she did really mean to abandon him for the long run.
“You’ll keep checking?” Peter asks, tasting the smooth orange paste off the end of a claw.
Derek smiles and looks away, remembering Peter making baby food years ago for another little boy. “Of course,” he answers.
Under Peter’s tutelage, Stiles has become an expert at diapering a squirming baby. Which doesn’t mean he likes it, just that he’s getting good at it. He’s learned to cover him up when changing him so he doesn’t get a pee shower and he’s learned that sometimes you just need to wash him in the bathroom sink because honestly, baby poop gets into all the crevices and those pudgy little legs… yeah.
In spite of that bit of nastiness, Fox is a really sweet baby. He laughs at everything and tries to grab anything that comes within his line of site. The girls have learned to watch earrings and necklaces and Isaac knows to keep his curls out of Fox’s face. Derek keeps his scruff short so Fox’s tiny fingers can’t latch on. Peter’s goatee is too short, but Fox has grabbed Stiles’ hair. For such a tiny thing, he’s got a good grip.
The wolves all flash their eyes at him, laughing when he shows his tiny claws and flashes his eyes back. So far, that and the teeth are as far as he’s gotten and Deaton doesn’t have the experience with werefoxes to know when he might be able to do a full shift. Of course, all this foxiness means that he doesn’t go out too often in public with anyone except Peter or Stiles.
“I saw the strangest thing at the grocery store today,” Chris says, helping himself to the container of yellow chicken curry sitting on the coffee table in front of them.
Derek smiles and nudges the brown rice towards him. “Care to share?” he asks, putting some food on his plate.
“Peter was there, with Fox, buying produce. The redheaded woman from the coffee shop downtown who always flirts with you…”
“Emily,” Derek interrupts him, grinning around his shrimp.
“Emily, of course. Emily was talking with him about how cute Fox is and all that and asked what relation he is to Peter.”
Derek snorts and reaches across Chris for the bottle of chili paste. “What did my beloved uncle say?”
“He told Emily that Fox is a foster child he’s taking care of and he’s in the process of adopting him.” Chris takes a shrimp off Derek’s plate, peels it and pops it in his mouth. “Damn, you use too much hot sauce.”
“So don’t eat my food, you wuss.” They eat quietly for a few minutes, the only conversation requests to pass the take out containers. Eventually, Derek asks, “So still nothing on the hunter front regarding Fox? Isn’t that a little strange? No one knows anything? I’d think some bragging would be in order.”
“Nothing,” Chris confirms, resting his chop sticks in his empty bowl. “I’ve asked everyone I can think of and asked them to ask anyone I missed. Total radio silence. It’s almost weird.”
Derek looks down in his bowl, avoiding eye contact as he asks, “Would they tell you if they knew? Maybe you’re no longer trusted?”
Chris studies Derek carefully, looking to see if he’s joking. “Of course they’d tell me. Why wouldn’t they?”
Derek grins, putting his empty bowl next to him on the couch. He takes Chris’ bowl and in one fluid movement, puts it on the table and deposits himself on Chris’ lap. “Gee, I don’t know. Have you been obeying all the hunter’s rules?”
“I don’t think there’s actually rules about this. And if there are, fuck ‘em.” He leans forward and kisses Derek, then pulls back with a frown. “You eat way too much hot sauce.”
“Ah, stop being a baby. You ready to go again?” he asks, shifting forward so there’s just the slightest friction between them.
“Again? I think you forgot the last time about…” Chris looks over Derek’s shoulder, trying not to squint at the digital clock flashing on the cable box.
“It’s been over an hour,” Derek supplies, glancing at the clock. “And we’ve rested and been fed, so…” He rests his head against Chris’ and whispers, “Back to bed?”
“Sounds good, but remember, I’m only a human and not a twenty-year old one either. Besides, I’m stuffed, so you need to give me a few.” He kisses down Derek’s neck, humming quietly as the wolf turns his head, letting Chris drag his teeth down his throat.
“You’re better than a twenty-year old. Twice as good in fact,” Derek says, wrapping his hand around Chris’ head, tugging gently at his hair. Chris can feel him grinning as he says, “I like the bit of gray in your beard, too.”
“Here I thought I was the superficial one,” Chris says, nuzzling Derek’s shoulder. “Well, I’m here for your looks and your money.”
“I’m here because you’re a dazzling conversationalist. Oh, and for your money,” Derek says, letting his head fall back, shuddering as Chris sucks his Adam’s apple.
Chris pushes him back, keeping his hands on Derek’s shoulders as he leans in and catches a nipple in his teeth. Derek moans, freeing Chris’ erection from his sweat pants and whispers, “Looks like you’re not so old after all.”
“Well, that’s your fault. And I’m still way too full from dinner,” he says, watching emotions play on Derek’s face as he continues to stroke him.
Derek pushes the coffee table back and slips to the floor between the hunter’s legs. “If it’s my fault, I guess that means I’ll do the work,” he says, smiling up at Chris.
Later, when they’re lying on the couch, a soft throw pulled over them, Derek says, “You’ll keep checking on Fox, right?”
“Of course,” Chris whispers, kissing Derek’s head as it rests on his shoulder. “We’ll figure it out.”
“Thanks. I’m not sure that Peter and Stiles should be raising a baby.”
Chris chuckles, shaking his head. “I don’t know that anyone does.”
So maybe Stiles misjudged Peter, at least as far as taking care of Fox. And taking care of him as well. Probably just to be sure he’s got back-up for Fox, but Stiles will take it, no matter the reason.
When he gets home from the library, dinner’s cooking and there’s often something freshly baked on the counter. Peter takes care of cleaning the house and he even does Stiles’ laundry, including it in the daily load that Fox needs.
“I can take care of him for a bit, if you want to go out,” Stiles tells Peter as the full moon approaches. Peter’s in control, obviously, but Stiles recognizes an antsy werewolf when he sees one. “Go for a run through the woods, chase some bunnies, live a little.” When Peter comes back just before dawn, he’s much more relaxed, scenting both Fox and Stiles before he takes Fox with him for a quick shower.
He’s getting used to a lot of things about Peter. Peter doesn’t sleep much, he’s usually still awake when Stiles goes to bed and he’s always up, coffee mug in hand, before Stiles stumbles out of his room.
He’s not exactly a germaphobe, but he does like things clean. You’d think this wouldn’t go with a baby in the house and maybe it’ll change when Fox can walk (if Fox is still with them at that point) but for now, Fox and everything around him is always clean.
Fox moved into Peter’s room after a couple of weeks, when Stiles learned to sleep through his morning whimpers. Or more accurately, Peter can hear Fox almost before he wakes up, picking him up and starting their morning early. And since Peter doesn’t seem to mind getting up with him during the night, Stiles tries to do his part during the day when he’s home.
For college he’s taking some online courses to start, until the whole Fox thing is settled. Peter hasn’t asked about his classes and Stiles isn’t sure he’s even aware of his schedule. The rest of the pack aren’t as available as they were previously, so Stiles is in charge of grocery shopping and picking up more clothes as Fox outgrows them practically overnight.
“Honey, I’m home!” Stiles calls out, entering the apartment with bags from the butcher in his arms. He dumps things into the fridge and goes into the living room where he hears talking and a familiar laugh.
“Hi, son, just checking in on you,” Andrew says. He’s sitting on the couch with Fox on his lap and Peter looking calm and casual on the other end of the couch. “You guys look like you’re still doing okay.”
“Sure,” Stiles says, shrugging. “How long have you been here?”
Peter laughs and says, “Don’t worry, he’s only been here a few minutes, I haven’t been telling him all your secrets.”
Andrew’s in his off-work outfit, a buttoned down shirt tucked into relaxed jeans with a pair of old running shoes that he’s never run in. He looks totally relaxed as Fox yawns and makes a lazy grab for his buttons before he settles into a nap.
“Are you staying for dinner? I picked up chicken; Peter’s got a good recipe to roast it. And it’s low fat, too.” Stiles goes back into the kitchen to pour himself a soda and try to settle himself down. It’s weird that his father and Peter are getting along so well. Then again, it’s weird that he and Peter get along so well, the three of them acting like their own little pack – or a little family.
Andrew ducks his head and gives Fox a small kiss on the head. “No, but thanks, I’m bringing Melissa dinner at the hospital and we’re going to check through some older records and see if maybe Fox’s mom brought him in earlier. Probably nothing will come of it, but we’re running out of options.”
“He brought Fox a present,” Peter says, with a smile Stiles recognizes as genuine. No snark, not a bit of smirk. It’s one Stiles is starting to get used to, one that Peter’s giving to him along with Fox.
“Gee, it’s not a big deal,” Andrew says, passing Fox to Peter, who promptly scents him, but just a little. He doesn’t feel the need to wipe out Andrew’s smell, Andrew’s a part of their pack. too. “It’s for teething. You had something similar when you were little and it was the only thing that kept you quiet sometimes.”
Peter looks at Stiles and raises an eyebrow. “Maybe we should pick up one for you then?”
Stiles takes the ring of plastic bubbles, and squeezes one. “We’ve seen these,” he says, ignoring Peter’s comment. “You can put them in the freezer so he can chew on them when his mouth’s hurting. Is he old enough to need this?”
Andrew pushes himself out of his chair with a small shrug. “Probably won’t hurt him and from what I’ve heard about him gnawing on Isaac, might be time to give him something else to chew on.” He looks at Peter, who’s moving the baby to his shoulder so he can get up. “Don’t bother getting up, Stiles’ll see me out. Nice to see you both,” he says and pats Fox’s head once more. Peter gets a pat on the shoulder as well, and Stiles watches the satisfied look on his face at the acknowledgement from his pack.
“Things still okay?” Andrew asks, taking Stiles arm and pulling him into the hallway.
“Yeah, things are fine, no problem. Got an A on my paper last week, have another due on…” he stops and thinks for a minute before saying, “Tuesday. So yeah, it’s all good.”
Andrew studies him in that way he has, like he’s looking into Stiles’ soul. “And you two are okay together? You’re looking kind of cozy together.”
“Dad!” Stiles hisses, glancing back at the closed door. It’s not a guarantee of privacy, but Stiles has learned that Peter (and all the wolves, really) don’t try to listen in to conversations that don’t concern them. As Peter explained, being forced to listen to everyone’s words, and having to experience everyone’s emotions can be exhausting and most wolves try to avoid it.
“It’s okay, Stiles, if there’s something, I’m not mad. I’ve gotten used to Peter and now that I know the history, I can almost understand the whole revenge spree.” Andrew scratches his head and looks towards the closed door. “I can picture you doing something like that; you two are a lot alike, that may be why you butt heads as much as you do. But basically, I’m just glad you’ll be here for each other when we find Fox’s mom and he goes back home. Because you both need to remember, that’s the goal.”
After his dad leaves, Stiles leans against the door and looks into the kitchen, watching Peter work on their dinner. Peter’s dressed in black jeans that definitely are not relaxed and he’s wearing one of Stiles’ favorite shirts, a Henley that’s just a slightly darker blue than his eyes. He’s swaying to whatever Motown song’s quietly playing, and teasing Fox with a celery stalk, brushing the soft leaves against his face. Fox giggles and reaches for the stalk, shoving whatever bits he can get into his mouth and then promptly spitting out the bits of green. He gives Peter a look as though he’s been betrayed and flashes his foxy eyes at Peter who just chuckles.
“Stiles, will you peel the potatoes?” Peter asks, without bothering to turn around.
“Sure, give me a minute to clean up.” Stiles goes into his bathroom, and washes his face in cold water, but when he looks up, everything’s the same. He likes being here, he likes taking care of Fox and he might be having feelings for Peter. Yeah, he’s totally fucked.
Peter's content with his little pack. Chris has information. Melissa gets a visitor. Andrew hates his job.
“You know, Peter’s been really different lately. He’s like nice and relaxed and he’s fun to be around and he’s just…likeable. It’s weird.” Stiles pushes the bowl of popcorn towards Derek, as he pulls a piece out of Fox’s hand.
He takes a handful of popcorn and says, “Well, yeah, I’m sure. Maybe not likeable, but, yeah, he’s a lot more centered, a lot more stable, that’s for sure.”
“You see it, too? I thought maybe it was just wishful thinking.”
Derek shakes his head and glances from the movie on the TV back to the Stiles. He actually got to pick it, but of course with Stiles in the room, he probably won’t be able to watch it. “No, of course not. It’s ‘cause he’s got a pack. That stabilizes a wolf, and nothing stabilizes one more than having a kid. Or in this case a kit, I guess.” Derek grins like he’s amazingly witty and reaches over to run his fingers through Fox’s hair before he turns back to the movie. “You’re acting more normal, too.”
“What does that mean?” Stiles asks, eyebrows drawn together, genuinely confused. He’s always been normal, or normal for Stiles.
“It means that you’re not such a spazz lately. You have to have noticed that you’re studying more and you even look like you’re sleeping more.” Derek shrugs and eats more popcorn, turning back to the movie. “All that happy, healthy newlywed stuff, I guess.”
“Shut up, it’s not like that!” Stiles crosses his arms across his chest, pulling Fox close to him. They’re silent for a moment until Stiles says, “I am doing pretty well with classes. I added another on-line course and I think I’ll be at Chico State for the next term. Do you think that’ll be okay? I mean, it won’t hurt Peter or Fox will it? If they’re stable because we’re together.”
Derek reaches over and plucks the baby out of Stiles’ arms, holding him against his chest. Fox snuffles into him, and after a moment he relaxes. Derek gives Stiles a look of triumph and he says, “As long as you’re not out of their lives, you’ll be okay. You plan to call and skype and stuff? Visit on weekends?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” he says. He likes seeing Fox with other pack members, but there’s still a part of him that wants to take the baby back, so only he or Peter holds him. “We haven’t talked about it a lot. Peter knows I stayed back this term and he’s suggesting I do the classes on campus. We did talk about them both visiting or maybe staying closer – assuming we still has Fox. I mean, if his mom isn’t found yet.”
Derek sets Fox back on the couch and the baby crawls towards Stiles, pulling himself on Stiles’ lap. “Well, Chris thinks he may have a lead, actually. He’s talking with someone who’s talking with someone else… you know how that goes.”
“No, not really. We’ve had Fox for four months and now someone says they might know something? Sounds like bullshit to me,” Stiles says, breaking off a tiny piece of popcorn and giving it to Fox, watching carefully to be sure he gets it down. When Fox reaches to get more, Stiles picks him up and distracts him by blowing a raspberry on his bare tummy. “You’re a good little fox, aren’t you? Aren’t you? And ours now.”
Derek watches, trying to keep the smile off his face. “He’s a great kid and you’re really good with him. You’ll make a good dad some day.” He puts a hand on Stiles’ shoulder, and waits until he turns his head and says, “But you know, if we can find his mom, that’s what’s needed, right? Think of how you’d feel if you had to leave your son, you’d be wondering and hoping he was okay and that you could get him back, right? And think of how much he’ll miss his mom when he’s older and…”
“I know, I know,” Stiles snips back, pulling away. Cuddling Fox to his chest he walks towards the bedroom, saying, “He needs to be changed and put to bed. Peter’s going to be back soon if you want to hang out for a while.”
“No, I better get going. I’m on dinner duty tonight,” Derek answers, and grabs his jacket. “I’ll let you know what Chris finds out.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Stiles pauses in the hallway and looks over at Derek. “Hey, thanks. And I know you’re right, it’s just…”
Derek nods and says, “I know.”
Stiles hurries to Fox’s crib and scoops the boy up before he starts wailing. “Shhh, little one, I’ve got you,” he whispers, rubbing the boy’s back as he carries him from Peter’s room into his own. “You got yourself all stinky and woke yourself up, didn’t you? Little stinker, we’ll get you cleaned up and you can go back to sleep, okay? You don’t want to wake up your other daddy, he had a very bad day.”
After he’s cleaned up, Stiles takes him back to Peter’s room, settling in to the rocking chair next to the window. “We’ll give you a little bit to eat before you go back to sleep, okay? I know I shouldn’t encourage you, but sometimes I’m a stress eater and you just had your diaper changed.”
“Don’t give him too much,” Peter whispers from his bed. “He’s just getting used to not eating at night.”
“Yeah, I know,” Stiles whispers back. “This is pretty much for me, not him, right now. Go back to sleep, you had a tough evening.”
“I’m fine, Stiles, but thank you for your concern,” Peter answers. He leans back against his pillows and watches the boy (man, he thinks) feed the child they’ve both become so attached to. The moon isn’t full, but it’s bright enough, shining in the room, bright enough for Peter to see. Fox finishes eating, going from greedy slurps to quiet suckles. Stiles gently patting his back to get out any air bubbles. The baby yawns, and his grip on Stiles’ shirt gradually loosens as he falls back to sleep. Stiles stays in the chair, rocking gently for a few minutes until his eyes start to droop as well. Then he yawns and stands and puts Fox back in his crib, with a tender kiss to his forehead.
Peter’s not sure if he’s surprised or not when Stiles approaches his bed, pulls down the covers and gets in, pulling Peter’s arm around his waist. He presses his back to Peter’s chest and gives a small sigh. “I was worried about you today. That was…that was an ugly, scary thing.”
“No, ghouls aren’t pretty,” Peter whispers into his hair, rubbing his face into Stiles’ neck. Not kissing the soft skin in front of him, not certain of what’s wanted and what’s too far. And not at all sure he wants to hear the answer, not tonight. “But I’m okay and you’re okay, so let’s go to sleep.”
“I’m so tired,” Stiles mutters and pushes back into Peter, tilting his head so Peter can nuzzle him more. He turns his head a little further and finds Peter’s lips, just a quick, tired kiss before he turns back around. “Fox stood up today. He grabbed the side of the coffee table and stood up.”
“Amazing. Our child is a genius. I wish I was there to see it.”
“I videoed it; I’ll show you over breakfast,” Stiles whispers and Peter listens to his heart beat slow as he falls asleep.
Derek mutters a little when Chris gets into bed beside him. He wasn’t completely asleep, but when Chris told him he had to take a phone call and was gone for almost an hour…well, there’s no point in forcing himself to stay awake.
“You awake?” Chris whispers, as he rubs his hand down Derek’s arm.
“No,” Derek answers. He rolls over and curls into Chris’s side, resting his head on the older man’s shoulder, nose in his armpit. “I’m asleep, you were gone too long for me to stay awake.”
Chris kisses the top of his head and murmurs, “Okay, sorry. I just got a lead on Fox, and thought I should follow-up. But it’s not important, never mind.”
Derek shakes his head, trying to wake up, leaning on his elbow. “Alright, I’m listening.”
“You sure? It’ll wait ‘til morning. After all, it’s been what – five, almost six months? No, go back to sleep I’ll tell you in the morning,” Chris answers, grinning broadly.
“Asshole.” Derek leans forward and kisses him, then settles back on Chris’ shoulder, face turned towards him this time. “What did you learn?”
“I was on the phone with Ron Barrett. His family has the Midwest territory and he spoke with the woman whose family has the Wyoming, Montana, Idaho territory. Her name is Phoebe. Anyway, so Ron says he spoke with Phoebe recently and she was talking about these new hunters in her area. Basically, it’s three guys who were small-h hunters – guys who go into the woods and shoot animals for food or fur or something.”
“Gross,” Derek says, brows drawn together. “I mean food, I get, but fur? People still do that?”
“Assholes do, I guess. So these three hunters told Phoebe that they were hunting around Yakima, Washington and they shot a fox, thinking they’d get some nice fur from it and when they tracked it down…”
Derek nods against Chris’ shoulder. “They found a dead human.”
“They found a dead man, yes.” They’re both silent for a moment, thinking about bodies found in the woods. “Well, one of the hunters looked at him and realized he knew who he was, so they take off to go find the man’s wife.”
“They just kill a guy and then decide to go see his wife?”
Chris nods and sighs. “Phoebe says they’re not rocket scientists. So they go to see the woman whose name is Valerie. And Valerie has a baby whose name is Randy.”
“Randy.” Derek falls silent for a moment and then tries it again. “Randy. Fox’s real name is Randy. Okay. Then what?”
“They don’t immediately tell her that they’ve killed her husband, which is probably smart of them, but they end up asking her all kinds of pushy questions and start pushing her around and Randy starts crying and he flashes his eyes at them…”
Derek sighs and says, “Oh, fuck.”
“Yeah. So they’re freaking out and they leave at least, or that’s what they told Phoebe. Or what Phoebe tells Ron they said.”
“You trust Ron, though?” Derek asks. He trust Chris’ opinion, the man may as well hear heart beats he’s so good at reading people. If Chris says someone is trustworthy, he is.
“Yes, with my life. I have literally. I don’t know Phoebe as well, but he says she’s telling him the truth, and he trusts her, so, yeah. I think this is right.”
Derek nods, wide awake now, but settling back into Chris’ embrace because he can. “And what happened?”
“According to them, they did some research and found out about shapeshifting creatures and figured out that’s what Rudy was – Rudy is the dad – not much research needed for that, I wouldn’t think.” Chris sighs and says, “Guy turns from a person to an animal, it’s pretty much gonna be a shapeshifter.”
“And they decided that Valerie had to be – what, killed?” Derek tries to keep calm, letting Chris tell the story, letting his scent relax him, but they’re talking about a family destroyed and a child without a mother. It’s not easy to keep a snarl in.
“According to them, they were just going to try to be sure she wasn’t dangerous and they started chasing her. At the same time, they’re researching Hunters – capital H Hunters, this time – and thought they could buy their way into a territory if they could prove themselves.” He rubs a soothing hand down Derek’s back, feeling how tense he is. He can’t make it better, but he can be here and be supportive.
“What they told Phoebe is that they kept a line on Valerie until she left Oregon where they lost her. As far as they know, she was okay and so was the kid. So was Randy.”
Derek’s quiet, just nodding into Chris’ shoulder. “So we have her name? First and last, I guess? Not sure if that’ll help us track her down, she’s probably still hiding if she doesn’t know they’ve stopped looking for her. They have stopped, haven’t they?” He sits up, studying Chris.
“Yes. Yes, they’re with Phoebe and she’s trying to figure out if she can turn them into Hunters or what to do with them.” He scratches his beard and gently encourages Derek to lie back down. Not that either one will be falling asleep right away. “Anyway, Phoebe didn’t realize they’re who I was looking for until Ron told her. And he said he’d call me about it.” Now that he’s done, he yawns loudly and tries to relax.
“So now what?” Derek asks, burrowing into Chris’ side, nose back in his neck, letting the scent soothe him.
“Gives Andrew something to look for, I guess. It’s something.” Chris rubs Derek’s shoulder, finally wrapping a hand around his neck.
“It’s something,” Derek agrees.
“Ms. McCall? Excuse me, you’re Ms. McCall, aren’t you?”
Melissa has her face buried in two files, her now cold lunch in front of her and patient records on her computer screen. With the noise of the ER, she barely hears the quiet voice from the other side of the emergency room desk. “Hmm?” she asks, finally looking up. “Yes, I’m Ms. McCall, can I help you?”
“I hope so,” the woman says. She’s small and blonde and looks anxious. Most people in the emergency room do, though, so it’s not a surprise. Melissa thinks she looks like she could use a good night’s sleep and maybe a meal. She’s thin, her face sharp and … A fox, Melissa thinks. There’s something about her face that reminds Melissa of a fox.
“Maybe we can talk someplace private?” the woman asks, glancing around. “I think…I hope you might know something about my baby.”
“Your baby?” She swallows hard and comes out from behind the counter. “Yes. Yes, we can talk in private. I’m glad you’re here,” Melissa says, smiling as she guides the woman to a small, private room. “You can call me Melissa. And I’m very, very glad to meet you.”
Later that day, Melissa, Deaton and Valerie are in Andrew’s office. He and Parrish had spent the last month trying to find any clues about Valerie or where to find her since Chris phoned with her name and information about where they were living. But she had learned to stay off the grid and there was nothing on credit cards or social media or any of the usual ways that she might be found. It didn’t seem right to ask Stiles, and selfishly, Andrew didn’t want to encourage his son to develop any additional semi-legal internet skills. It doesn’t mean he didn’t ask the boys’ friend, Danny, to see if he could find anything. But he said he couldn’t find what didn’t exist and the woman apparently dropped off the map almost nine months before.
Listening to her story, it makes sense. She was on the run, with self-professed hunters behind her for nearly two months. Some packs and shifters had tried to help her, but they couldn’t endanger themselves and Valerie said she wouldn’t want to be the one to bring hunters to any shifter’s town. So when someone suggested Beacon Hills and the Hale/McCall pack as a place rumored to be safe, with a secure pack and a true alpha, she had to take the chance.
“Leaving him…” she starts and her voice catches, tears pooling in her eyes. Melissa puts a hand on her shoulder and Andrew produces a box of tissues from his desk. She wipes her eyes and smiles at Melissa. “Leaving him seemed like the only way to keep him safe. I couldn’t shift with him, he’s too young to shift himself and I couldn’t protect him from other animals and…”
“So she dropped him off here, hoping – knowing that he’d be safe,” Deaton says. “I’m sure it was a hard choice, but…”
“It was! It nearly killed me, leaving him, but I couldn’t keep him in danger and I couldn’t think of what else to do and…”
“Of course, we understand. And I’m glad you came to us now,” Andrew says. “Parrish, could you get Ms. Fulton a cup of water?”
“Sure,” he says, glad to be out of the room. It’s been just shy of nine months that Peter and Stiles have been taking care of Fox. This isn’t going to be pretty.
Peter checks who the call is from and answers the phone, as he pulls a tray of cookies out of the oven. “Andrew! Glad you called, are we still on for dinner tonight? I’m thinking a lasagna with turkey, which should be tasty, but still pass muster with your son.”
“No, I think we’re passing tonight, Peter.” He pauses, not sure what to say, wondering why he decided to do this with everyone still in his office. “Peter… We found Fox’s mother and she’s here and anxious to take him home.”
There’s a moment of quiet on the phone and then Peter says, “Obviously. Of course she is. I understand. Ummm…let me call Stiles and then I’ll call you back, okay?”
“Sure, Peter, see you soon,” Andrew says quietly and smiles at the group sitting around his desk.
Andrew’s next call is to Stiles and it’s about as pleasant as he expected. At least this time, he made the call in private without an audience.
“I’ll go check on him, Dad, and get stuff ready, so Fox has things for tonight and tomorrow or whatever. I know Peter’ll be glad that Fox’s mom was found, it’s just a surprise,” Stiles says. His voice is without inflection, like a robot, Andrew thinks.
“Thanks. And I know this isn’t easy for either of you,” Andrew says. “Call me when you guys are ready, okay?”
“Sure, Dad.” He hangs up without saying goodbye.
It’s about thirty minutes later when Andrew gets a text from Stiles.
“Buy us some time. Peter and Fox aren’t here.”
It's time for Fox to go back to his mother.
There’s no reason to panic. Just because Peter and Fox aren’t at his apartment, it doesn’t mean anything. Andrew tells Valerie that Peter’s probably taken Fox out for a walk, it’s their normal routine. A bit of time out in the fresh air, with Fox in his stroller, and maybe Peter went to get a cup of coffee. Everything’s okay, he’s probably just trying to keep the boy happy. They’ll be reunited in no time, no worries.
And Andrew feels awful that she looks so guilty about making them look for Peter, as though she’s bothering them and making things difficult for them.
Meanwhile, Stiles is running around trying to find where Peter’s gone. He’s not answering texts or phone calls. Stiles has left messages, trying not to sound like everyone’s getting frantic. Peter’s no where in the apartment building or the coffee shops that he frequents. Stiles and Derek split up to check his other favorite locations and Derek confirms that he’s done something so his smell is masked. Stiles goes to the library and checks the children’s area where Peter picks up books to read to Fox at bedtime. He checks Peter’s favorite baby shop where Peter purchased most of Fox’s clothes, but the clerk says she hasn’t seen them in a few days. She does mention she has some very cute overalls that would look great on Fox. Stiles says maybe and thanks her, leaving and trying to figure out what’s next.
“Okay,” Stiles says to himself. He’s sitting in the jeep, fingers drumming on the steering wheel. “It’s Peter. Peter won’t just up and leave here, he wouldn’t do that to the baby’s mother. He knows what it’s like to be a parent who’s lost a child, he won’t do that to someone, no matter how much he wants to keep Fox. He wouldn’t do that to me. So he’s someplace…safe? It doesn’t have to be extra safe, because he’s not in physical danger. So he’s someplace…familiar. Comfortable. He just needs time.”
He sits in the jeep for a few more minutes just letting his mind wander. In the glove compartment, along with the owner’s manual and all the crap shoved in there, he knows there’s a scrap of paper with directions to a craft show in his mother’s handwriting. He doesn’t remember going with her, but he probably did. Along with that, there’s a couple of very old peppermints, wrapped in Christmas cellophane; they’re too old to eat, but they were in the jeep when he started driving it and he can’t throw them out. They’re a reminder and they’re home and family and safety.
Stiles puts the car into drive and heads for home.
The house is quiet when he gets home and the only light on is the one on the table next to his Dad’s chair. It’s on a timer, and goes on when it gets dark and shuts off at eleven-thirty when the evening news ends and it’s time for his father to go to bed. If his father’s at home, that is.
He goes upstairs and sees a faint light shining from under his bedroom door. “Peter?” he whispers as he enters.
Peter’s sitting on the floor, leaning against Stiles’ bed. Fox is sitting in front of him, chewing on a stuffed bear Derek bought him. “Da?” Fox calls out as he half crawls, half stumbles towards Stiles who catches him easily and sits next to Peter on the floor.
“Look at him walking like a big boy. How many words does he know now?”
After thinking a moment, Peter says, “I think we’re both Da, interchangeably. And he says eat. And of course No. And Up. So that’s four. I told you, he’s a genius.”
“He is.” Stiles sends a text to his dad that says, “Found them, will call shortly.” And then he shuts off his phone.
“His mother, did you meet her?” Peter asks. He has a hand out so Fox can pull himself up and toddle around. Fox finds his diaper bag, and starts digging through it, pulling everything out, looking at it and tossing it to the floor. Fox hands Stiles a tiny t-shirt from the bag and then crawls away.
“No, but my dad says she seems really nice. Worried about Fox and feeling bad about having left him.”
“Randy. I’m told his name is Randy. I’m supposed to give him back to a woman who named him Randy? What kind of name is that? Fox is a much better name.”
Fox grabs the t-shirt back and shoves it in his mouth. Then he smiles at them both and says, “Foc.”
“Excellent!” Peter exclaims, leaning forward to tickle him gently on his belly. “Although that could probably go either way. I’m saying it’s his fifth word; he knows his name.”
“Much better than sending him back telling his mother, ‘Hey, we taught him to curse!’”
They sit quietly for a few minutes, watching Fox crawl around the room. He uses Stiles’ desk chair to help himself stand and then stumbles towards the dresser, trying to pull open the bottom drawer.
“Hey, none of that, that’s where I hide my porn,” Stiles says, and grabs him. Fox starts to cry and pushes against Stiles. “Okay, be free my man.” Fox flashes his eyes at Stiles and crawls on Peter’s lap.
“He’s getting tired and it’s making him cranky. He needs to go to bed soon. He’ll want a story.” Peter cups the back of the boy’s head and kisses his forehead, mingling their scents, the way he’s been doing daily since day one. “We’ve had him for nine months, Stiles. His mother missed his first steps and his first words. If he hasn’t had his first birthday yet, he will soon.”
“Her name is Valerie. She said he was three months when she dropped him off, so yeah, any time now. I don’t think she said the exact date,” Stiles says. He moves closer to Peter and leans his head on Peter’s shoulder, reaching over to rub Fox’s back as he starts to doze on Peter’s chest.
“I can’t do it, Stiles. I can’t give him back. I mean, I know he needs to go back to his mother. He needs her and she needs him, of course I know that.”
Stiles nods. “I don’t want to. I know we need to…”
“I can’t be a good man just now and hand him over to her. I can’t lose another…”
Stiles says nothing, just wipes his eyes.
“Especially not to someone who would name an innocent child Randy.” Peter shifts a bit, being careful not to wake the baby, and pulls a handkerchief out of his pocket, handing it to Stiles. “So how do we do this? Because I’m guessing you don’t want to give him up either.”
“Hell, no,” Stiles says. He leans over and arranges Fox so he’s resting on both of them, head on Peter’s lap and his bottom on Stiles’. He doesn’t wake up, just snuffles a little and goes back to sleep, thumb tucked in his mouth.
“Your father? He’s the sheriff,” Peter says.
Stiles snorts. “He’s pretty attached, too. I think he’d cry like a little girl. How about Derek?”
“Please. He wouldn’t want to do it either. He’d cry like a big girl.”
“Deaton?” Stiles asks and immediately shakes his head. “No. Creepy fucker.”
“Thank you, I agree, he’d enjoy it too much. How about Scott? He wasn’t around Fox much and he is the true alpha. Let him do something useful.”
“Yeah, if he’s so tough and special, he can do it.”
They sit, doing nothing but watching the baby sleep across their laps. Finally, Stiles says, “I should call Scott, huh? Maybe…I’ll take Fox downstairs and let Scotty know to pick him up. Will that work?”
Peter swallows loud enough for Stiles to hear, but his voice is steady and his eyes dry when he says, “Yes, that sounds good. There’s a few things in the diaper bag that I thought he’d need for the first night or two. And we can pack up the rest of his things later. For where he’s going to go. Wherever that is.”
Stiles wipes his eyes again, and moves Fox back on Peter’s lap. He pushes himself off the floor, and picks up the diaper bag putting back all the items that Fox pulled out earlier. “Good, there’s some food and formula here, that’s good. Oh, and his favorite toys, good thinking.”
“A couple of changes of clothing and extra diapers, too. We should change him before Scott picks him up,” Peter says, but doesn’t move off the floor.
“I got it,” Stiles says, and takes Fox to the bed, making quick work of his wet diaper. “Nice and clean, baby boy.”
Peter stands and reaches out to take Fox again. “You should phone or text Scott,” he says, sitting on the bed, with the baby against his shoulder.
“Yeah,” Stiles says and takes a minute to send a text.
It’s not long before Peter says, “I hear his mother’s car; he’ll be here in a couple of minutes.” They both stand and Peter puts the diaper bag over Stiles’ shoulder. “If you’re okay, I think I’ll wait up here.”
“I’ll just take him down and put him on the couch. Surrounded by pillows, I know that now. I can’t…I don’t want to…”
Peter pulls him into a hug, baby in between them and kisses Stiles’ head. “Come back up then, he’ll be fine, I can hear him. And Scott will be here soon.”
Stiles nods, and swipes at his nose and eyes with the damp handkerchief. “Okay.”
“Good night, baby, sweet dreams,” Peter whispers, kissing Fox on the cheek.
Stiles is back upstairs, cuddled up to Peter on the bed when Peter says, “Scott just left. He said thank you. I guess Randy will be sleeping with his mother tonight.”
Peter visits Stiles at college and updates him on life in Beacon Hills.
After two months, Stiles is feeling pretty comfortable in his new home at Chico State. His summer classes are going well, and those and the online classes he took will put him right on schedule with his classmates come September, so that’s good. He’s got a small apartment just a couple of miles off campus, close enough that he rides his bike while the weather is still nice. And Roscoe will get him around when there’s snow in the winter.
His roommate, Justin, is from a small town outside of Fresno, so they bond over “my town was so small that…” stories. He’s got dark skin and darker hair and his family sends the best care packages ever and Justin’s willing to share. In fact, after Justin’s mother meets him, she starts including extra items in an effort to fatten him up. Best roommate ever.
The first month was hard and it was different, back to going to classes on a schedule that has nothing to do with feedings and naps. It took some time getting used to a set schedule of classes, along with being in a new place with new people and none of his old people. Most of the pack was gone with college last year, but now his Dad isn’t around and of course, neither are Peter or Fox.
But it’s good. It’s normal and a routine and god knows he needs that after the last year. School and getting together with new friends and skyping with the pack back home. Routine.
So it’s not routine to come home from the library and find Justin sitting on the front steps outside their building.
“Hey, dude, what’s up?”
“Hey, Stiles,” Justin says, standing and brushing off his butt. “Thought I’d give you a heads-up about a visitor you have. Upstairs.”
“Upstairs?” Stiles asks, hearing his voice rise unattractively. “You let someone in? Who is it?” The wolves would have a field day listening to his pulse jump.
“He said he’s a friend of yours from back home. And I’m guessing that means an ex? And I can see it; he’s kind of an ass and he’s completely your type -- a total DILF.”
“You’re picking out guys for me? And you’re telling me he’s a DILF?” Stiles asks, giving Justin a raised eyebrow.
Justin smirks and says, “I have been your wingman often enough this summer that I can pick out a guy for you with no problem. This guy is totally your type. Older, seems kinda shady…”
“No homo, but really pretty blue eyes. Like the ocean.” Justin stops and looks up to the sky and says, “Okay, maybe a little homo. You should go upstairs before I start that experimenting that people are supposed to do at college.”
“Not with this one, but any time you want to go out…”
“Thanks,” Justin says. “And by the way, I’m going to stay at Cheryl’s tonight. Have fun.”
Stiles enters his apartment and yes, Peter’s sitting on his sofa, feet on the coffee table and Stiles’ computer open on his lap.
“Don’t you think you should have a password on this? It’s as though you left Beacon Hills and forgot everything you knew about paranoia.”
“Nice to see you, too,” Stiles says, grabbing the laptop and putting it back on the kitchen table. “And I’m not the one who let you in here.”
“Justin. He seems like a nice boy,” Peter says, looking at the stack of books on the table. “Platonic?”
“Yes, he’s my very straight, but open minded, roommate. Not that it’s your business, Peter.”
They look at each other for a moment and finally Stiles smiles and points to the couch. “Sit down, wolf. You want some coffee?”
“That would be nice, Stiles, thank you.”
Peter ignores Stiles instructions to stay on the couch, choosing to follow Stiles to the kitchen, looking around as he goes. “So how are you enjoying living here, Stiles? Enjoying the hustle and bustle of the big city?” At his first sip of coffee, he smiles because it’s exactly as he likes it.
Stiles grins and takes a large swallow of his own coffee. “Hey, don’t make fun of Chico, it’s a hip, happening town.”
“Really, I wasn’t aware of that,” Peter says, eyes open as though in wonder.
“We have a Costco,” Stiles answers, leaning back with a smirk.
“Goodness, it’s just like Manhattan. Now we’ll never be able to lure you back to the farm.”
“It is good here and I’m doing well. Looking forward to the fall semester when everyone’s around…but it’s good.” He stops and looks into his coffee cup, moving it around in front of him. “I’m sorry I haven’t really kept in touch. I thought maybe we both needed…”
“Space,” Peter finishes, nodding. “And time. A little bit of time apart after…”
“Yeah, some time so we could both get back some equilibrium.” Stiles takes a breath and says, “So tell me what’s going on back in the hills. Do you know how Fox is doing?”
Peter smiles, the genuine smile Stiles remembers from when they were taking care of the baby. “Randy. It’s been hard getting used to it, but he’s Randy.” He raises an eyebrow and says “Named after his father’s father, Randolph. Valerie thought Randolph was a little heavy to give to a child, so they agreed on Randy.”
“Ah, I understand being named after relatives, that’s for sure. But Randy’s not an awful name, not really.” Stiles gets up and pours more coffee, grabbing a package of Oreos from the cabinet, more for something to do with his hands, than because of any hunger. “So you’ve seen him?” he asks.
“Yes,” Peter says, nodding. “It was probably a week after you left, so almost a month after we gave him up. I was at the grocery store picking up a few things – dinner for your father, actually – and suddenly I heard him squealing and yelling ‘Da! Da!’ I went over and he practically leapt out of his stroller. So of course I grabbed him and he snuggled right in.” He goes quiet for a moment and eats a cookie before he continues. “Valerie was lovely right from the start. We ended up going up the block to get coffee and talk in private and she let me carry him. Not that there would be a lot of choice, he was just wiggling and his eyes were flashing until I flashed back at him and told him to stop it. Valerie said he’d been doing it at home a lot and she was nervous to even take him out.”
“So she’s cool with you around him?”
Peter shrugs and finishes his coffee, pushing the cup away. “Yes, completely. We spoke for almost an hour that first time. She’s decided to stay in Beacon Hills because she feels safe there and knows Randy is safe there. She’s working for Deaton now.”
Stiles snorts and eats another cookie, offering the pack to Peter before he closes it. “Deaton? What’s she doing for him?”
“She’s his office manager. She was an office manager for a physical therapist before everything happened and it’s not much different. Patients, appointments. And it’s good for Deaton, I guess, that he actually has someone who knows about supernaturals working for him.” Peter smiles and reaches into his jacket pocket. “Pictures of Randy; he’s gotten so much bigger since you last saw him.”
Stiles takes the camera, flipping through the pictures of Randy, Randy and his mother, Randy and Peter, more of Randy and a couple pictures of the three of them, all smiling and looking radiant.
“He looks…he looks great,” Stiles says and turns the phone over, sliding it back to Peter. “He’s so big.”
“He’s walking almost completely on his own now,” Peter says, smiling as he flips through the photos. “He uses furniture for support, but he’s pretty steady. And his vocabulary is increasing; it’s still only his demands for food or attention, but in words now.”
“That sounds great, sounds like you’re all doing well. Do you think maybe…when I’m back, maybe I could see him, too?”
Peter chuckles and says, “Of course! He’d love that. Sometimes when I come over, I swear he looks behind me and says, ‘Da?’ If I were more sensitive, it would hurt my feelings.”
“He remembers me?” Stiles asks and hopes he doesn’t look as pathetic as he feels.
“Of course,” Peter says, reaching over squeezing his hand. “I took one of your sleep shirts that you left at my house and turned it into a pillow case. When I gave it to him, he was so thrilled, he squeaked. And he loves looking at your pictures.” Peter opens his phone again and shows Stiles pictures of himself holding Randy and one of Stiles alone. “Valerie asks about you, too, I know she’d love to meet you and have you be in Randy’s life.”
Stiles sits quietly and Peter cocks his head, squinting at him. “What’s wrong, you got tense. And unhappy. I thought you’d want to hear about Randy.”
“First, stop sniffing me, you freak. Second, I am glad that Randy is doing well and yeah, I’d like to see him. And I’m happy for all three of you,” Stiles says. He pushes his chair back and takes both mugs, putting them in the sink and filling them with water.
Peter steps behind him, arms caging him against the sink. “You’re not happy; I know you when you’re happy. Talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Stiles says as he turns around, now facing Peter. He pushes against Peter’s chest until the wolf takes a step – a small step – backwards. “I guess I have been out of the loop; my dad didn’t mention that you and Valerie are dating and…”
“Whoa, what are you talking about?”
“Dating. You and Valerie and that’s great, good for you, guy.” Stiles punches Peter in the shoulder and immediately rubs his knuckles because it’s like punching a wall. Stupid werewolves.
“We’re not dating, you idiot. We’re friends. I babysit her child a couple of times a week while she’s at work. We go for coffee or dinner sometimes, like you do with your friends. Assuming idiots like you have friends.” Peter sits down at the coffee table again and shoves the opposite chair out with his foot. “Sit,” he orders.
Stiles makes a face, but sits and looks at Peter. Peter looks at Stiles, trying to keep a smile off his face. “You’re the idiot,” Stiles says sullenly.
“Very mature, Stiles. First, I’m definitely not dating Valerie. And I came out here hoping to ask you out. Ask you to go to dinner with me.”
“Maybe, yeah sure. I could eat and we’re friends. I guess,” Stiles says, looking around the kitchen, anywhere except at Peter.
“No. That’s not what I meant and I think you know it,” Peter answers and reaches for Stiles’ hand. “Why did you think I came here?”
Stiles looks at their joined hands and squeezes gently. “Because Costco has boneless, skinless chicken breasts at $1.99 a pound? And you need to feed my dad?”
Peter shuts his eyes for a moment and sighs. “Again, no. Although that is a good price. I’m here to ask you out. On a date. Finally doing it right and hopefully it’ll be the first of many.”
“Okay,” Stiles says, smiling. “Okay, I’d like that. We even have an Olive Garden. Unlimited breadsticks, dude.”
“That sounds like a nice place for me to take you and your roommate for a pity dinner sometime. I checked and picked out a few places that might be a little more…appropriate for a first date.”
Stiles pulls his hand back, raises an eyebrow and says, “What does that mean?”
“Quiet. Candles. Wine list. I do have an Italian options if that’s your preference.”
“Olive Garden has all of those, too, you know,” Stiles says. But he’s grinning and his smell is happy and excited. “You know we may need to make out for a while. I mean if that’s okay with you.”
“I’m fine with that actually. Before or after dinner?” Stiles’ stomach growls and Peter says, “Sounds like after.”
Stiles shrugs and says, “Sorry, it’s another week until my financial aid comes in and I’ve been living on ramen and…ramen. And whatever Justin’s mom sends us.”
Peter stands, pulling Stiles out of his seat. “So I’ve traded one helpless child for another?” he asks, dragging his lips along Stiles’ neck.
“Not completely helpless and definitely not a child,” Stiles answers, tilting his head back and pressing against Peter. “I can wait for a bit longer for dinner actually. If you want a tour of the house….”
“Lead on, please, if you’re sure you can wait for dinner,” Peter says, reluctantly moving away to take Stiles’ hand again and follows as Stiles leads him down the hallway towards the bedroom.
Stiles turns and says over his shoulder, “I can wait for dinner. We’ve both waited too long for this.”