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Maggie May

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Mid-February, 2011

“Hey, Maggie May,” Stiles softly greeted the wailing baby. He’d never needed to raise his voice to be heard over her squalls. It was almost as if she recognized his presence before he even spoke.

Maggie gave a little hiccup as her sobs wound down at the sight of Stiles. Stiles reached into the dresser drawer they’d resorted to using as her crib the first night Laura didn’t show to pick her up. He cuddled Maggie close, and she gave a little sigh as she settled against him.

Stiles didn’t need an enhanced sense of smell to know that her diaper was full. “Why don’t you ever leave gifts like this when my dad takes a turn changing you, huh?”

Maggie made a sound of protest when Stiles drew her away from his warmth and laid her on the pad at one end of the dining room table, which had, of necessity, become their changing area. It was littered with boxes of wipes, scattered diapers, and tubes of Desitin. As well as those scented blue bags that were supposed to contain the smell of dirty diapers. One of which Stiles was definitely going to use now.

Maggie stopped fussing when Stiles handed her a tiny stuffed penguin. They’d quickly realized that the harder toys weren’t a good idea when she lay on the changing pad because, for some reason, she liked to smack herself in the face with them. Stiles had panicked once when he thought she’d poked out her eye with a large plastic key.

Laura had laughed at him on more than one occasion, assuring him that babies (especially Maggie) were more resilient than he thought.

Stiles buckled Maggie into her car seat while he fixed a bottle and warmed it just a little bit. Laura had told him that she’d take the bottle at room temperature, but the idea of drinking room temperature milk made Stiles grimace. If she couldn’t have it ice cold, the way Stiles usually enjoyed milk (especially if it was accompanied by chocolate chip cookies. Or those peanut butter blossom ones), it had to be warmed a little bit so Stiles could at least pretend he was making her a bottle of yummy hot cocoa.

Maggie forgot all about the penguin and started making hungry noises when she saw what Stiles was doing. It always made Stiles smile to see how excited she got over a bottle. He figured it was similar to how excited he got over pizza. While the bottle was warming for a few seconds in the microwave, Stiles marked down the time of this early morning change and feeding on the schedule he’d started keeping to make sure they were doing everything right.

Maggie’s hands flailed and her feet kicked as Stiles unbuckled her. He plucked her out of the seat, then grabbed the bottle and an old kitchen towel that was now one of her spit up cloths, and carried them into the living room. Stiles sat in the rocking chair that they hadn’t used since his mom died and settled Maggie in the cradle of his arm.

As soon as she had the nipple in her mouth, Maggie settled down to suckling it while Stiles rocked her. She protested loudly when Stiles popped the bottle out of her mouth to check how much she’d drank. Stiles draped the towel over his shoulder, and then set Maggie against his shoulder and patted her back firmly.

She fussed at first, but Stiles persevered. He’d learned the hard way that giving in and letting her finish the entire bottle before attempting to burp her only ended with both of them miserable. They’d both been crying before the gas bubble finally released and Maggie was her happy, smiling self again. It had taken Stiles longer to recover from his little breakdown. Neither of them wanted to go through that again.

Eventually Maggie belched like a sailor and Stiles fed her more of the bottle. Maggie was just drifting off to sleep when Stiles’ dad came down. She roused a little bit when he bent down and dropped a kiss to the top of her head, and then to Stiles’.

“How’s it going?” his dad said, rubbing his hand over Stiles’ head as if to ruffle non-existent hair.

“Good,” Stiles said. “She left me another present,” he groused to his dad’s soft laughter. “I don’t know why it’s always me.”

“Just lucky, I guess. You hungry?”

“I could eat,” Stiles said.

Stiles rocked Maggie until he was sure that she’d fallen asleep. He’d discovered that trying to put her down before she was completely out was akin to giving her a second wind. He laid Maggie on her stomach in the makeshift crib and pulled the yellow baby blanket over her. He held his breath until he was certain she wasn’t going to stir, and then tiptoed out to the kitchen.

Stiles’ dad stood at the stove. He glanced at Stiles over his shoulder. “She down?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said, holding up his crossed fingers.

“Sit. This is almost ready.”

Stiles sat. His dad was already dressed in his uniform. He didn’t usually work Sundays, but he’d switched days with one of the deputies, Carl Stafford, so he could stay home with Maggie on Monday when Stiles had to return to school. Scott’s mom worked the late shift, so she offered to come over in the afternoon to give Stiles’ dad a break. She also had Tuesday off, and agreed to watch Maggie then.

After that they’d be playing it by ear. Stiles would offer to home school himself before he let social services take her. As it was, they were walking a very fine legal line. It didn’t hurt that social services were overworked and couldn’t have found a better home in which to place Maggie than that of the local Sheriff, but right now everything was very unofficial, and it wouldn’t take much to tip things into the official purview. Like the fact that Stiles going back to school now that winter break was over meant that there wouldn’t be one single person available to care for Maggie full-time.

“Have you heard anything?” Stiles asked, even though he already knew the answer. If his dad had received any new information, he’d have told Stiles right away.

“No,” Stiles’ dad said apologetically.

“Do you think she’s dead?” Stiles asked, staring listlessly at the scrambled eggs his dad had placed in front of him.

His dad hesitated, then said, “I don’t think Laura would’ve left Maggie, not if she had any other choice.”

Stiles nodded. He’d already known the answer to that question, too, though he’d been afraid to voice it before. Maggie had been the one thing that never failed to put a smile on Laura’s face, no matter what kind of mood she’d been in before. Of course, Maggie had that effect on everyone. Stiles had even seen his dad perk up after a long shift when Maggie gurgled at him.

After they ate, Stiles’ dad started clearing the table.

“I’ll get this,” Stiles said. “You go on to work.”

“Okay, thanks.” His dad touched Stiles’ head and stared at him strangely.

“What?” Stiles said.

“It doesn’t seem that long ago that your mom and I were trading off the midnight and 3am feedings.” His dad shook off the memory. “Enjoy your last day of break.”

“Gee, thanks,” Stiles said dryly, trying to ignore the soft expression that had taken over his dad’s face for a moment there. “Scott’s coming over later.”

“I’m shocked,” Stiles’ dad said as he headed for the den to get his service weapon out of the safe.

Stiles stacked the dishes in the sink and then went out to the hallway to watch his dad put on his coat and hat. “Be safe,” he said.

“I will,” his dad said. “You, too.” He grinned.

“Thanks.”

After the dishes were rinsed and stacked in the dishwasher, Stiles went back into the living room to check on Maggie. She was sleeping soundly. Stiles resisted the temptation to reach out and touch, rub her back or rearrange the blanket around her shoulders, lest he wake her. Stiles considered his options – he could take a shower while she slept, or he could use the opportunity presented to take a nap of his own. Stiles eyed the couch. Nap won out easily.

Maggie woke Stiles up a couple hours later for another change and feeding. They’d both fallen asleep in the rocker when the doorbell rang. Stiles carried Maggie, now wide awake, with him to let Scott in.

“Hey,” Scott said, eyeing Maggie a little wildly.

“Hey,” Stiles said back. “Great timing.”

“Yeah? Why?”

“You can hold Maggie while I go shower.”

Scott looked skeptical at that suggestion. “The last time you left me alone with her I had to change her diaper.” He wrinkled up his nose. “It stunk.”

“I’ve already changed and fed her,” Stiles assured Scott, biting back a grin at the memory of Scott’s expression when Stiles had found him trying to hold up Maggie’s kicking legs with one hand while wiping her tiny bottom clean with the other. Especially since she’d somehow managed to get poop on her heel when Scott hadn’t caught her flailing feet fast enough, and Scott had gotten it on his fingers.

“Are you sure? Because that was gross.”

Instead of answering Scott, Stiles plopped Maggie into his arms, raised her shirt so he could blow a zerbert against her belly, and then ran up the stairs while she giggled in Scott’s arms.

~*~*~*~

Aside from the time Scott’d had to change her, babysitting Maggie didn’t interfere with the two of them hanging out. They had to turn the video games down when they played, and keep the trash talking and cheers low, but they’d discovered that Maggie could sleep through almost anything.

Scott had gotten Maggie to sleep while Stiles was showering, but he’d been afraid to move to put her in the crib. Stiles thought about leaving Scott trapped in the rocker, but his big brown doe eyes won the day. Stiles slipped his hand beneath Maggie and lifted her out of Scott’s arms.

Maggie gave a little stretch, but her eyes stayed closed. Stiles lowered her into the padded drawer and covered her. Both he and Scott stood looking at her for a little while, and then they realized that precious video game playing time was being wasted.

They got in a couple hours of playtime before Maggie stirred. Stiles handed the controller to Scott and scooped Maggie up before she could exercise her lungs. She gave Stiles a dopey smile that Stiles couldn’t help but return. Scott stayed put while Stiles changed her diaper and traded her formula stained undershirt for a clean onesie. He tossed the pajamas she’d been wearing into the laundry basket sitting across two of the dining room chairs and dressed her in a fresh pair.

Scott joined them in the kitchen, so instead of putting Maggie into her car seat, Stiles handed her to Scott. Scott sputtered, but reached out reflexively to take her. He sat down and bounced Maggie on his knee, and before Stiles had the bottle ready Scott was already baby talking at her.

Stiles draped a towel over Scott’s shoulder and set the warmed bottle at his elbow. Scott’s eyes widened, but before he could protest, Stiles said, “Feed her while I make us lunch.”

Stiles could see that Scott was torn between having to feed Maggie and getting his stomach filled. Finally he gave in and picked up the bottle. Stiles turned away and stuck his head in the refrigerator to hide his smile. Scott had started out afraid to even touch Maggie in case he break her. They were making progress.

After all their bellies were full, they ended up back in the living room. Maggie stayed awake for a few minutes this time, so they took turns holding her and playing. Finally Maggie fell asleep. Stiles put her down while Scott picked out a movie. They’d set a goal of getting through Stiles’ entire movie collection this break. They were close, but even if they stayed up all night they weren’t going to make it.

Between movies, Stiles went out to the kitchen to rustle up some snacks. While he was out there, Stiles heard some chatter on the scanner. They’d turned it down in deference to Maggie, so it didn’t wake her by suddenly going off. Curiosity won out and Stiles turned it up now so he could listen to what was going on. Beacon Hills was normally pretty quiet, except with those wild animal attacks, and now Laura missing.

Stiles’ hand froze in the process of pouring Goldfish into a bowl when he finally heard what all the activity was about. A couple of hikers had found a body in the woods and the Sheriff’s Department was out there now, searching the Preserve. Stiles set the bag onto the counter and sat down hard, his legs no longer able to support him.

Scott showed up moments later. “I got the movie set up, what’s taking so long with the snacks? What’s wrong?” he said when he caught sight of Stiles’ face.

Stiles couldn’t speak, so he just pointed towards the scanner. Scott sat down across from Stiles and they listened together. Finally Scott said, “You don’t think it’s Laura, do you?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles said. “I hope not.”

But he couldn’t deny to himself that he feared the worst. He needed to call his dad. Stiles had left his cell upstairs, so he grabbed the handset off the base sitting on the counter and speed-dialed his dad’s cell.

“Stiles,” his dad said when he answered. He sounded weary. “How did you hear?”

“The scanner.”

“Of course.” His dad sighed, and Stiles could picture him tiredly rubbing his hand over his face. “I didn’t call you because I didn’t want you to worry. We don’t know who it is, yet. It might not be Laura.”

But Stiles could hear the doubt behind his dad’s assurance, and knew that he was expecting the worst as well. A loud shout went up, and Stiles could hear dogs barking in the background.

“I have to go, Stiles,” his dad said. “I’ll call you as soon as I know anything.”

“Okay.”

“I love you, son.”

“Love you, too,” Stiles said, but he was speaking to the dial tone.

“Well?” Scott said when Stiles disconnected and lowered the handset to the table.

“He doesn’t know anything yet. He had to go. I think the dogs found something.”

“Oh. Do you . . . ?” Scott indicated the scanner.

“Let’s watch the movie,” Stiles said. He couldn’t just sit there and listen to the scanner for the rest of the afternoon. At least the movie might take his mind off the horrible possibility filling his head.

Stiles turned the scanner back down, finished filling the bowl, and poured juice into glasses. Scott carried the bowl and napkins to the living room while Stiles got their glasses. The movie, normally one of Stiles’ favorites, was unable to hold his attention. Still, he stared at the screen and pretended that the image of Laura, dead in the woods, wasn’t swirling through his mind.

When Maggie next woke, Stiles changed and fed her with a sadness he couldn’t shake laying heavy on his heart. Scott stayed until Stiles had Maggie fed, played with until she fell into an exhausted sleep in his arms, and placed back in the crib. Since he’d ridden his bike over, Scott had to be home before sunset or his mom would kill him. Normally Stiles would’ve driven him home later, but he had to stay with Maggie.

Stiles’ dad called after Scott left to tell Stiles that they’d found the body of a female, but they hadn’t been able to identify her yet.

“Does that mean it’s not Laura?” Stiles said, almost afraid to hope.

“We can’t rule her out at this point,” his dad said.

“Why not?” Stiles said. “You know what Laura looks like. Unless . . . they didn’t mutilate her, did they? You know, remove her fingers and her head, or something, so you couldn’t identify her?” Stiles wondered if he spent too much time watching the ID channel.

“No!” Stiles’ dad said. “No, that’s . . . not exactly.” He sighed. “We’ve only been able to recover a partial body.”

“A partial body,” Stiles repeated in fascinated horror. “Was it . . . like the others?”

“I don’t know yet,” his dad said. “Listen, I’ve got to go. I’ll be home as soon as I can. I love you.”

“Love you, too,” Stiles answered by rote, his mind unable to stop worrying over the fact that the body had been torn apart. “It’s not Laura,” Stiles said out loud in the silence of the house. “It can’t be.”

The rest of the evening loomed in front of him. Stiles wished he hadn’t already read the book that was assigned over break (and the next two on the syllabus) and written three essays on it, covering all the aspects on which he thought Longmire might concentrate her questions. It was his least favorite class after chemistry, but the only other textbook Stiles had brought home so he could get a head start on the essay that would count for one quarter of their grade, so Stiles brought down his history book and two highlighers (pink and yellow, because he liked to organize his highlights into main conclusions and supporting evidence) to the living room and started reading ahead.

Stiles hoped his dad would come home soon, and that he had good news.

~*~

Stiles’ dad had not come home with good news. First, they still hadn’t identified the body, nor had they found any evidence that could exclude Laura. Secondly, his dad had to go back into work the next day because of the new case.

“Don’t worry,” his dad told Stiles. “Pamela offered to stay with Maggie until either I or Melissa can get here to relieve her.”

“Pamela?” The image of a red-head who had photos of her own grown children on her desk came to mind.

“Yes, Pamela.”

“What does she know about babies?”

Stiles’ dad raised his eyebrows. “Aside from the ones she raised?”

“That was a long time ago,” Stiles pointed out.

Pamela was the grandmother of two now, but her own children had moved away from Beacon Hills so she rarely got to see them. Stiles knew this because she complained about it to him when she showed him the latest photographs of her grandchildren on almost every occasion he dropped by the Sheriff’s Department to see his dad.

Stiles had given up the argument only because he knew he wasn’t going to win. His dad couldn’t stay home, and there was no way he’d let Stiles skip the first day back. Besides, it was also the first day of lacrosse practice and Stiles really didn’t want to miss that. Scott was determined to make first line, but Stiles was pretty sure they’d both be sitting the bench again this season.

When Pamela arrived Monday morning Stiles was in the middle of feeding Maggie. Pamela offered to take over the feeding so Stiles could get his own breakfast, and so the two of them could get acquainted while Stiles was still there. Stiles reluctantly agreed and handed Maggie over.

By the time Stiles had eaten and finished getting ready, Maggie had been fed and tucked back into the makeshift crib.

“We didn’t get the big crib out of storage because we expected Laura to come home any minute,” Stiles said.

“I know, dear,” Pamela said, sliding a hand over Stiles’ shoulder and squeezing gently. “Your father said you might have some instructions for me?” Pamela prompted with no sign of sarcasm.

“Oh, yeah,” Stiles said.

He led Pamela back to the kitchen. The first thing Stiles handed her was a blue binder that Stiles had filled with color coded tabs and instructions on baby care that he called Baby 101. He’d spent the entire night researching the care and feeding of babies the first time Laura had approached him to ask if he’d mind babysitting for her.

“I know you’ve done this before,” Stiles told Pamela, “but just in case you need a refresher.”

It had certainly come in handy for Stiles.

He then handed her a list of instructions he’d drawn up last night that were specific to Maggie. Every thing from how much to feed her to how she liked to be held. There were 48 points. Stiles didn’t think that was excessive at all.

Pamela didn’t bat an eyelash, just tucked the sheet under her arm with the binder and assured Stiles that she’d read it.

Lastly Stiles pointed out the schedule on the side of the fridge. “We keep track of her feedings.”

“That’s a good idea. I’ll make sure to fill it out. Now, don’t you worry,” Pamela said. “We’ll be fine. And you can call anytime you want to check on her.”

They exchanged cell phone numbers so Pamela didn’t have to answer the land line and field any personal or private calls. On the way to school Stiles received the first of many reassuring texts from Pamela: a photograph of Maggie in her crib. The message said, Still sleeping soundly.

~*~*~*~

Stiles hurried home after lacrosse practice. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust his dad or Melissa to take care of Maggie, but he might’ve become a bit . . . overprotective since Laura went missing. It had only been a couple of days – Laura had dropped Maggie off Friday morning and then just never came back for her – and Stiles knew it was unhealthy to form such a strong attachment to her since they wouldn’t be able to keep her.

Either Laura would return soon with a perfectly reasonable explanation for where she’d been these past few days, or Maggie would go to Laura’s next of kin. Stiles’ dad had already put in a call to Laura’s brother, Derek Hale, just to see if he’d heard from Laura, but so far Derek hadn’t returned the call.

Instead of slamming into the house like he usually did, Stiles had learned to enter quietly and to close the door softly behind him. His welcome home was anti-climactic because he found his dad asleep in his recliner with Maggie drooling onto the shoulder of his uniform. Stiles shouldered out of his backpack and duffel bag as quickly and silently as he could, then tiptoed closer so he could get a picture of the two of them before either woke.

Stiles added the photo to the folder that already contained dozens of pictures of Maggie, including the ones Pamela had sent him that day to assure him that Maggie was doing just fine. Stiles sat down on the couch, phone held loosely in his hand, and dropped his head onto the back. He needed a shower, and now that school had started up again, he had homework to do.

Just trying to figure out how he was going to balance school and homework and lacrosse with caring for Maggie gave him a headache. There really was no other feasible option but to rely on others to help them out. Who would be able to babysit Maggie on a regular basis, though? Pamela had worked out today, but she had a full-time job at the Sheriff’s Department.

Stiles’ stomach growled, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten in a while. When he glanced up, his dad was stirring. Stiles raised a hand in greeting when his dad finally blinked his eyes open and settled a bleary gaze on Stiles.

“Stiles. When did you get home?”

“Just a couple minutes,” Stiles said. “Long enough to get a picture of the two of you,” he added with an evil grin.

His dad groaned. “Please don’t send it to everyone you know.”

“Nah,” Stiles said. “Just everyone you know.”

Stiles’ stomach growled again before his dad could reply. “I think I’m going to start dinner.” If he could find anything. So wound up about turning Maggie over to a virtual stranger, at least to her, he had forgotten to get something out of the freezer. “Any preferences?”

“Actually, Melissa made macaroni and cheese and stuck it in the fridge before she left. She said we just need to heat it for an hour or so.”

“I love Scott’s mom,” Stiles said. “She’s my new favorite.”

Stiles’ dad snorted. “Anyone who offers you food is your new favorite.”

“You know me so well.”

Stiles put the pan in the oven to heat and then went upstairs to take a shower, leaving his dad and Maggie in the recliner. After he got dressed, Stiles brought his math text downstairs with him. He figured he’d use the rest of the time while the macaroni and cheese was heating to get a start on his homework. He normally did it in the quiet of his room, but Stiles wanted to be near Maggie, even if she was sleeping. It felt strange not having been there all day with her.

Stiles found his dad and Maggie in the kitchen. Maggie, soft snores issuing from the tiny ‘O’ of her mouth (and the occasional louder one that made Stiles have to cover a giggle), was asleep in her car seat. His dad had set the table, and now sat with a file open before him.

“We have so little to go on with these damn animal attacks,” he said, sounding frustrated. “And what we do have is contradictory.” He sighed.

“You’ll figure it out,” Stiles said.

“How do you know that?”

“Because that’s what you do.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence, kid,” Stiles’ dad said with a wry smile.

The ate, enjoying the meal all the more for not having had to prepare it themselves. Stiles’ dad offered to do the clean up, give himself time to process everything that had happened the last couple of days on top of the two unsolved murders already on the books.

When Maggie stirred, Stiles leapt up. “I’ll take this one,” he offered as he pushed his homework aside and pulled the car seat closer.

Stiles waited until Maggie blinked her eyes open before speaking softly. “Hey there, Maggie May. Did you have a busy day?”

Maggie smiled when she heard Stiles’ voice. She kicked her feet and flailed her arms as she squirmed like an excited puppy in the seat.

“Did you miss me?” Stiles said. “I missed you. Especially during Chemistry when Mr. Harris threatened to take away my phone because I was showing Scott pictures of the cutest baby ever.”

Stiles had unbuckled Maggie while he was talking, and now he picked her up. He placed Maggie against his shoulder and she squirmed against him, her cute little butt raising up like an inch worm, as if she was trying to give him a full body hug. Stiles kept one hand under Maggie’s bottom and rubbed her back with the other.

“You’re probably hungry, but you need a diaper change stat. I can tell you’ve been saving up for me to come home.” Stiles wrinkled his nose at the smell.

“I can promise you that she hasn’t,” his dad wryly commented.

By the time Stiles had Maggie changed, his dad had her bottle ready. They all trooped into the living room. Stiles sat in the rocker and his dad took the recliner. He turned the news on low, but it was more to have background noise because they both only had eyes for Maggie.

After Stiles had burped a disinclined to cooperate Maggie, he bit the bullet and broached the top he really didn’t want to discuss. “So, Pamela worked out well.”

Stiles didn’t need to see his dad’s raised eyebrows to know they were there.

“I thought you didn’t like the idea of anyone else watching Maggie.”

“I don’t,” Stiles admitted without questioning his own reluctance to let anyone else care for Maggie. “But we don’t really have a choice, do we?”

“Unfortunately, no,” his dad said. “Not until we hear from Laura. Or Derek.”

“If we don’t,” Stiles said, the words like shards of glass in his throat. “If Laura doesn’t come back, and Derek doesn’t call. Could we keep her?”

His dad didn’t answer right away. “We’re not really set up to care for a baby long term,” he finally said. The words sounded as heavy in his mouth as they felt on Stiles’ heart.

“I guess,” Stiles said, not wanting to admit that his dad was right. “She likes it here,” he added, as if that made all the difference.

“Of course she does,” Stiles’ dad said with a fond smile. “She’s got you wrapped around her little finger.”

“Like I’m the only one,” Stiles snorted, not even attempting to deny it.

“You know,” Stiles’ dad said thoughtfully. “Your mom didn’t want to go back to work after you were born. She didn’t want someone else to raise you, to hear your first word, see your first step. It was tight on just my deputy salary, but she was willing to go without fancy shoes and T-bone steaks to be able to spend time with you.”

“I didn’t know that,” Stiles said.

His dad smiled at him, but Stiles could tell that he was still back in that memory.

They rarely spoke of his mom. Not because they didn’t think about her, but because they both still missed her so much. Stiles remembered that his mom had stayed home with him until he’d started school, and even then she’d only returned to work part-time so she could be there when he got off the bus after school.

“She was the best mom ever,” Stiles said, voice thick with emotion. “And I will be, too,” he assured Maggie. “Er, best dad, I mean. When the time comes,” he added for his own dad’s benefit. “Not right now. Now I’ll be the best Uncle Stiles ever, right?” he addressed Maggie again.

Maggie gurgled around her bottle and hit Stiles in the chin with her tiny fist. Stiles took it as an affirmative.

~*~

On Tuesday, Stiles handed Maggie over to Melissa with much less trepidation. When Stiles got home after detention (Mr. Harris hadn’t thawed even when Stiles showed him the photos of Maggie, which meant he was clearly inhuman) and lacrosse practice, his dad was already home. He and Melissa were sitting at the kitchen table talking softly while Stiles’ dad held a sleeping Maggie cradled in his arm.

Scott came traipsing into the kitchen behind Stiles. “What smells so good?”

“Not the two of you,” Melissa said. “That’s for sure. Go shower while I put on the spaghetti.”

“Your mom made homemade spaghetti sauce,” Stiles said as they raced up the stairs, belatedly remembering that Maggie was sleeping. “We’re keeping her.”

“We can share,” Scott said affably. “She’s got to come home sometimes to cook for me, too.”

“Deal,” Stiles said, and they bumped fists to seal it.

Scott and Melissa left after dinner clean up and Stiles settled down to do his homework until Maggie woke for her next feeding. Stiles was playing with Maggie on a blanket on the floor when the doorbell rang. Stiles and his dad glanced at each other. His dad’s phone hadn’t rang, so it most likely wasn’t a work-related emergency.

Stiles’ dad got out of the recliner where he’d been watching Maggie and Stiles more than the tv, and went to answer the door. Stiles listened with one ear while he continued to play with Maggie.

“Hi,” Stiles’ dad said. “Can I help you?”

“Sheriff Stilinski?” said a voice Stiles didn’t recognize.

His dad must’ve indicated that he was, in fact, the Sheriff, because the rough, sexy . . . er, unfamiliar voice went on. “I’m Derek Hale. You called me about my sister Laura.”

~*~*~*~

The hand tickling Maggie’s belly froze. Derek Hale, Laura’s brother, had shown up. No matter what he’d told his dad, Stiles had been living in a world of make believe where that never happened. Where he and his dad raised Maggie together and they all lived happily ever after. Stiles had to tamp down on the instinct to snatch Maggie up and run. This was her uncle, and Stiles had no right to do that in any case.

“Derek,” Stiles’ dad said. Thankfully his voice held a hint of disappointment along with the relief, as well. “I hope you don’t mind if I confirm that you are who you say,” he went on in his Sheriff-voice.

“Not at all,” possibly-Derek said, and there was a moment of silence when Stiles presumed he was pulling out his wallet and showing his driver’s license to Stiles’ dad. Stiles crossed his fingers that ‘Derek’ wasn’t really Derek, but his hopes were dashed a moment later.

“Thank you, Derek. Please, come in.”

“Thank you, Sir,” actual-fax Derek said.

Stiles scooped Maggie into his arms, then slowly stood up and turned to face the doorway. Moments later his dad and Derek appeared. Stiles took in the dark hair, stubble, black leather jacket, and the scowl that eased when Derek saw Maggie.

“Maggie,” Derek breathed, the relief clear in his voice.

Maggie squirmed in Stiles’ arms and looked towards the voice as if she recognized it. Stiles swallowed with difficulty and indicated Maggie.

“Would you like to . . . ?”

Derek took a step forward, and then hesitated. Stiles moved forward to meet him. Derek took Maggie from Stiles, holding her awkwardly. Not as if he’d never done it before, or was afraid to hold something so much smaller than himself, but as if he hadn’t done it very often and wasn’t used to it.

Derek drew Maggie close and pressed his face into her neck, breathing in the baby scent of her just like Stiles liked to do. When Derek placed Maggie against his shoulder, uncaring if she drooled on his leather jacket, she did that scrunchie thing with her entire body that Stiles had only ever seen her do with Laura or himself.

Stiles tried not to be jealous – this was Maggie’s uncle, for heaven’s sake! – but knowing that didn’t keep Stiles’ heart from feeling like it was being squeezed in his chest as he watched Derek’s large hand cover Maggie’s back protectively.

“What happened to Laura?” Derek asked, his voice low in deference to Maggie resting against his shoulder.

“We don’t know,” Stiles’ dad said, and Stiles could see him change from dad-mode to Sheriff-mode right before his eyes. “She’s been missing since Friday.”

Derek’s jaw worked, but he kept his hands gentle on Maggie. “Have you found any leads?”

“No,” Stiles’ dad said. “Her motel room had been cleaned out and her rental car returned to the agency. There was no sign of foul play, but there was also no indication that she’d bought a bus, train or airplane ticket out of here. But she either left of her own accord, or someone went to great pains to make it look like she did.”

“Who reported her missing?”

“We did,” Stiles piped up. He squared his shoulders instinctively when Derek turned his intense gaze onto him. “She, uh, didn’t come back for Maggie. That wasn’t like Laura.”

“And how long did you know Laura?” Derek scoffed.

“A couple weeks,” Stiles said, ignoring Derek’s sarcasm.

“Are you saying that behavior is like her?” Stiles’ dad asked.

Some of the belligerence bled out of Derek. He shook his head. “No. That’s not like her at all.”

Derek ducked his head to rub his nose against Maggie’s face. Stiles couldn’t tell if he was comforting her, or himself.

“When was the last time you heard from Laura?”

“Friday,” Derek said. “She . . . she called and asked me to consider moving back to Beacon Hills.”

“What did you say?”

Derek sighed. “I told her I’d think about it. And then I hung up on her. I tried to call her back on Saturday, but she didn’t pick up. Or return my call. I got worried, so I threw a duffel bag in the car and started driving.”

“Why were you worried?” Stiles’ dad asked.

“I don’t have great memories of Beacon Hills,” Derek said. “And Laura sounded worried about something. I never gave her a chance to tell me what it was.”

Stiles’ dad nodded as if he understood. “Did you get my message?”

Derek looked embarrassed. “Uh, yeah, but not right away. I was in such a hurry that I forgot my charger. I stopped to pick one up on the way when I wanted to try Laura again and realized I couldn’t. When I did get your message, well, I wanted to put off the bad news as long as I could, I guess.”

“Bad news?”

“The Beacon Hills Sheriff wouldn’t have been calling me looking for Laura if there wasn’t bad news. I stopped by the Sheriff’s Department and they said I should come here. For Maggie.”

“Yes. And true enough,” Stiles’ dad admitted.

“Can any further questions wait?” Derek said. “I’d like to get Maggie settled in.”

“You’re taking her?” Stiles said, the words spilling out of his mouth before he could stop them. He gave a little laugh. “You’re her uncle, of course you’re taking her. Ignore me.”

“Where are you staying?” Stiles’ dad asked.

“I got a room at the motel for now,” Derek said.

“The motel . . . !” Stiles broke off and mimed zipping his lips when both his dad and Derek turned to look at him.

But seriously, the motel? Granted, that’s where Laura had been staying, but that had been different. Maggie was used to their house now, and having her own crib – well, drawer – to sleep in.

“Stiles, why don’t you pack up Maggie’s things?” his dad suggested in a voice that let Stiles know it wasn’t really a suggestion.

Stiles wanted to protest the unfairness of it all, but he said, “Fine,” and let them both know he wasn’t happy as he stomped off towards the dining room.

Stiles stuck his nose in Maggie’s clothes before packing them into the diaper bag. He added the wipes and the Desitin, and then went to the kitchen for the formula and bottles. He placed the box of diapers they’d had to buy near the diaper bag, along with a gallon of distilled water.

Through his own distress Stiles heard his dad telling Derek about the female body they’d found in the Preserve on Sunday. He explained that they hadn’t been able to identify her yet, and asked Derek to come to the station to give them a statement about Laura, and any identifying marks she might have. Derek agreed.

“Some of her clothes are still in the laundry,” Stiles said, indicating the basket, as he watched Derek buckle a bundled up Maggie into her car seat. “I’ll wash them and get them to you.”

“That’s fine,” Derek said.

Derek carried the car seat and the base Laura had left with them in case of an emergency out to his car. Stiles’ dad carried the diaper bag and bottle of water. Stiles carried the box of diapers and binder. When Stiles caught sight of the Camaro he was horrified.

“You’re putting her in that death trap?”

“It’s perfectly safe,” Derek said, unperturbed.

His dad just gave Stiles a look as he took the car seat from Derek so Derek could buckle the base into the car. He had to push the passenger seat up all the way and crawl into the back to manage it, but he finally got it done. And without the swearing Stiles expected.

Stiles did not notice that Derek had a very fine ass. Because that would be wrong, since he was determined to not like Derek (or anything about him, even if it was just the shapeliness of his butt) for taking Maggie away from them. It was the principle of the thing.

Derek locked the car seat into the base, then packed the diaper bag, diapers and water into the car. Stiles’ hand shook when he drew the blue binder out from under his arm and handed it to Derek.

“There’s a list of the things she likes and her feeding schedule in there, too.”

Derek took the binder from Stiles and nodded solemnly, almost as if he knew how much Maggie’s leaving was killing Stiles inside. He set the binder carefully on the front seat.

“Thank you,” Derek said after he closed the door and turned back to them. “For taking care of Maggie.”

“It was our pleasure,” Stiles’ dad said.

Stiles was glad, because he didn’t think he’d be able to speak. His throat ached and felt like it was swollen closed.

“Do you have someone to help you with her?” Stiles’ dad asked.

“It’s just me and Maggie now,” Derek said tightly.

Stiles felt a pang of empathy for Derek, but pushed it down.

“Well, if you ever need anything,” Stiles’ dad said. “We’re happy to help out. In fact, half the Sheriff’s Department would be happy to help out. I’m pretty sure I saw a sign up sheet on Pamela’s desk this morning. You’d have been impressed,” he told Stiles. “It was divided into shifts and color-coded by experience.”

“Thank you,” Derek said. “I’ll keep your offer in mind.”

Stiles blinked back tears as he watched Derek back out of the driveway and drive off down the street. He had a sick feeling in his belly that he might never see Maggie again. Stiles’ dad put his hand on Stiles’ shoulder and they walked into the house together. It felt so empty without Maggie’s presence there. It was awful.

~*~

Stiles was woken at 3am by the doorbell. He swore because it seemed like he’d only just gotten to sleep. After Derek left with Maggie, Stiles had thrown a load of her clothes into the washing machine to wash while he did some homework, but he hadn’t been able to concentrate on it, which meant it had taken him twice as long to finish half as much. Stiles buried his head under the covers when he heard his dad’s footsteps outside his door, presuming that it was a work-related emergency.

Stiles was drifting back into his interrupted sleep when he heard his dad’s surprised voice. “Derek?”

Stiles bolted out of bed and down the stairs. Derek stood just inside the now closed door with a pained expression on his face.

“Is everything alright?” Stiles’ dad asked.

“She just wouldn’t go back to sleep,” Derek said as Stiles brushed past his dad to get to Maggie, who was still crying softly, as if she’d given up on the wails Stiles was used to. Stiles knelt on the floor so he could bring his face close to hers.

“Hey, Maggie May,” Stiles said softly, reaching out to wipe away a tear. “What’s got you so worked up, huh?”

“She slept fine for a while,” Derek said. “But after I changed and fed her, she just wouldn’t settle back down.”

“Did you miss me?” Stiles asked Maggie when her eyes teared up again and she reached for him. “I missed you, too,” Stiles assured her as he unbuckled her.

“The neighbors complained,” Derek said in disbelief. “Though I don’t know how they could hear her over the headboard banging against the wall.”

Stiles’ dad choked. “Yes, well, you’re welcome to spend the night here. Come on in.”

Stiles’ dad took the empty car seat out of Derek’s slack hand after Stiles removed Maggie from it, and slipped the diaper bag off his shoulder. “Why don’t you go sit down? You look, uh, like you should get off your feet.”

Derek followed Stiles into the living room. He plopped onto the couch while Stiles took the rocker.

“What’s wrong, baby girl?” Stiles asked as he rocked Maggie. He used the hem of his t-shirt to dab at the tear tracks on her cheeks. “You don’t need a diaper change, do you?” Stiles raised Maggie up and pressed his nose to her butt, sniffed. “Nope, you smell like roses. Well, baby powder, anyway.”

Stiles did not miss Derek’s grimace. “What?”

“I can’t believe you put your nose so close to that end of her.”

“Sometimes it’s the only way to be sure without, you know, looking.”

“Not for me,” Derek muttered.

Maggie was asleep within fifteen minutes. Stiles held her a little longer – just to be sure that she was going to stay asleep and not because he didn’t want to put her down. Finally he laid her in the crib, knowing it would be a toss up whether hunger woke her up sooner, or exhaustion made her sleep later.

Stiles’ dad had looked in on them, and announced he was going back to bed. He’d offered Derek the guestroom before heading up. Derek had thanked him, and then promptly fallen asleep sitting up on the couch. Stiles covered him with a blanket, tucking it around his shoulders like he did for Maggie.

“Thank you,” Stiles whispered before heading up to bed to get another couple hours of sleep before school.

~*~*~*~

Derek was sitting in the kitchen with Stiles’ dad when Stiles came down the next morning. He hadn’t gotten nearly enough sleep the night before, but knowing that Maggie was back in their home (where she belonged, Stiles couldn’t help thinking) made it bearable. Maggie was lying in Derek’s arm suckling at her bottle when Stiles entered the kitchen, but her eyes sought him out immediately and her feet kicked harder against Derek’s stomach when she saw him.

“Morning, Sunshine,” Stiles said. He bent over so he could give her a kiss.

Maggie’s hand slid over Stiles’ head, fingers ineffectually trying to grab his hair.

“I knew there was a reason I kept my hair . . . ow, ow, ow!”

Stiles rubbed his ear after he managed to break Maggie’s grip without hurting her. “You’re stronger than you look,” he told her.

Derek made a sound, but when Stiles glanced up he was looking back at him completely straight-faced. Still, there was a hint of amusement in his eyes that Stiles would’ve been glad to see if it hadn’t been directed at him.

“Wait ‘til she gets her fingers in your hair,” Stiles said with a glance at the hair sticking up all over Derek’s head. “We’ll see who has the last laugh then.”

It wasn’t until fifth period that Stiles realized they’d left a virtual stranger alone in their home. Granted, Derek was Laura’s brother, and Maggie’s uncle, and if he left he’d be taking Maggie with him, but they knew nothing about him. He could run off with the family jewels, or the silver. If they had family jewels or silver. Still, Stiles would cry if he got home and his laptop was missing, but that would be nothing compared to his dad’s reaction if his beloved flat screen tv had been stolen.

When Stiles got home after practice Derek and Maggie were still there (as were the tv and laptop). In addition, there was a pot of chili simmering on the stove.

“You cook,” Stiles said, surprised.

Derek gave him a look. Stiles thought that might be the only answer he got, but then Derek said, “I had no choice but to learn. Laura would’ve poisoned us both.”

Stiles smiled at that. Laura had commented once that she couldn’t boil water without burning it, but Stiles had thought she was joking. Or at least exaggerating. His smile faded a bit when he remembered that Laura might very well be dead and never have the chance to burn water again.

“And there are some casseroles in the refrigerator,” Derek said.

“Casseroles, plural?” Stiles said. “You’ve been busy.”

“I didn’t make them,” Derek said. “Some ladies dropped them off.”

“Really,” Stiles said.

There was always the chance that the ladies in question were helping out the two single Stilinski men, but Derek had stopped by the Sheriff’s Department yesterday before coming to the house. The better bet was that word had already gotten around and they were stopping by to check him out.

“See any you like?” Stiles said, grinning.

“The spinach one didn’t sound appetizing, but there was a chicken broccoli one that . . . . What?” Derek said when Stiles burst out laughing.

“Nothing,” Stiles said, but he couldn’t stop laughing. “I’m just going to go take a shower now.”

Derek’s eyes narrowed. He didn’t know the cause of it, but he knew that he was the reason Stiles was laughing. “You do that.”

~*~

“Derek met some of Beacon Hills’ eligible ladies today,” Stiles told his dad over a dinner of chili and cornbread. “And probably some very ineligible ones.”

Stiles’ dad raised his eyebrows in lieu of speaking since his mouth was full.

“Several ladies stopped by today to drop off some casseroles.”

“That was nice,” Stiles’ dad said.

Stiles snorted. “That’s one word for it. We’re not going to be able to eat them fast enough. How much room do we have in the freezer?”

“Are you suggesting that the fine ladies of Beacon Hills might have had an ulterior motive?” Stiles’ dad said.

“No, I’m flat out saying it,” Stiles said. “The draw is sitting right here at the table, and, sad to say, it isn’t one of the Stilinski men, no matter how adorable we might be.”

They both turned their gazes onto Derek, who glared at his bowl of chili as if it might’ve done him some horrible wrong, and shoveled a spoonful of it into his mouth so he didn’t have to respond.

After dinner Derek left them alone in the kitchen. Stiles hadn’t missed the look that passed between his dad and Derek before he left, which meant that his dad wanted to talk to him, and Derek knew why.

“What?” Stiles said.

His dad gave him a look. “Help me clean up.”

They spent a few minutes cleaning up dinner – storing leftovers in the refrigerator and stacking dirty dishes on the counter – before Stiles’ dad spoke again. “I’ve offered Derek a place to stay as long as he needs one.”

“Okay,” Stiles said. Aside from the fact that Derek moved silent as a cat and rarely spoke, Stiles didn’t have a problem with that. Especially since that meant they got to keep Maggie around.

As if he’d read Stiles’ mind, his dad went on. “Derek doesn’t know how long he’ll be staying in Beacon Hills, so we have to be prepared to say goodbye to Maggie one day.”

“I know,” Stiles said. And he did, on some level, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.

“Or that he’ll want to stay here once he gets his feet back under him. He might be more comfortable in an apartment.”

“Okay, I get it, dad,” Stiles said. “He won’t be here forever.”

“Maggie’s not ours, as much as we care for her.”

“I know that,” Stiles said, instead of arguing that Maggie felt like theirs.

His dad sighed. “There’s something else.”

“What?” Stiles said, stomach turning over with dread at the tone in his dad’s voice.

“We’ve made a tentative positive ID of the latest victim. With Derek’s help. We’re pretty sure it’s Laura.”

Stiles felt the sting of tears behind his eyes even though he’d been expecting the news. He’d felt as if something was wrong the moment Laura hadn’t shown up Friday evening. Maggie had been especially fussy that night, as if she’d sensed that something was wrong, as well.

“We took a swab from Derek and Maggie this morning so we can run a DNA test to confirm the identity.”

Stiles nodded. His dad reached out and squeezed his shoulder.

“Why don’t you go do your homework. I’ll finish up here.”

Stiles stepped out into the hallway, still feeling a little bit numb. Instead of heading upstairs, though, he went into the living room. Derek sat on the couch watching Maggie as she slept.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles said.

Derek turned his head to look at Stiles.

“About Laura. I liked her. She was really nice.”

Derek nodded. “Yeah, she was. Thanks.”

Derek went back to watching Maggie and Stiles took it for the silent dismissal it was. He did his homework upstairs at the desk in his room. It felt strange, not being downstairs with his dad and Maggie, but Stiles knew he wouldn’t get anything done there. All he’d be able to think about was Laura. At least up here he could call Scott to take his mind off the news. Even if it was just confirmation of something he’d already known.

Stiles told Scott about Laura, and about Derek maybe staying with them for a little while. He changed the subject to something lighter and told Scott that Derek was being checked out by the female population of Beacon Hills. Scott then asked Stiles if he’d seen the new girl in school, and went on and on about her smile.

Stiles cut Scott off. “Hasn’t she already been assimilated by Lydia and Jackson?”

“She seems really nice, though,” Scott said.

“They’ll burn that out of her,” Stiles said. Not bitterly at all.

He’d been in love with Lydia Martin since third grade. She was beautiful and smart, though she tried to hide it, but one thing she wasn’t was nice. At least, not where anyone might see.

Between bouts of conversation, they actually managed to get some homework done. When he heard noises in the hall, Stiles went out to investigate. His dad and Derek were moving Maggie’s makeshift crib into the guestroom. The bed had already been made up with clean sheets, and Maggie’s drawer now lay on the floor at the side of the bed furthest from the door. Derek’s duffel bag already sat on the foot of the bed.

“If you decide to stay,” Stiles’ dad was saying, “we’ll get Stiles’ old crib out this weekend and clean it up. It’ll probably need a new mattress and bed sheet. We can set it up in the corner there.”

~*~*~*~

The next few days went pretty well as they all settled into a new routine. Derek stayed home with Maggie during the day while Stiles and his dad went off to school and work respectively. After dinner of one casserole or another (Stiles had been right, they kept coming), Derek went out for a few hours to get some fresh air. Running, he claimed when Stiles asked once, but he never looked winded or sweaty when he returned. Not that Stiles needed to know what Derek looked like all winded and sweaty. His imagination was bad enough, than you very much.

Stiles would’ve thought that Derek would sleep much of the day away now that he’d taken over the nighttime feedings, but stuff that Stiles had left lying about the house invariably found its way back to this room, and when Stiles came home early on Thursday (they’d had their first morning practice, which had been a bitch to get up for), he caught Derek doing push-ups in the living room.

Derek didn’t stop even when Stiles plopped down on the couch to watch, mesmerized by the play of muscles in Derek’s back and shoulders. Turns out, Derek did sweat. Which wasn’t something Stiles needed to know.

Derek pushed himself to his feet, all lithe and grace. He used his t-shirt to wipe off the aforementioned sweat as he glared at Stiles. (Derek didn’t talk much. At least, not with words. He did a lot of speaking with glares. Though mostly they were directed at Stiles.)

“It wouldn’t hurt you to do some of those,” Derek said as he looked Stiles over.

And clearly found him wanting. “Hey! We can’t all be . . . .” Stiles indicated Derek’s arms and pecs and abs.

“If you built some upper body strength you could knock that Jackson kid on his ass.”

“How do you know about Jackson?”

Derek shrugged. “I heard you talking to Scott about him.”

“Okay. And why do you even care?”

“I don’t,” Derek snarled. “I’m going to take a shower,” he said, leaving before Stiles could question him further.

Maggie made a sound just then, distracting Stiles from everything else. Stiles changed her – all of her stuff, including the blue binder and feeding schedule, had made its way back into the house – and then fed her. Derek came down while Stiles was burping her. He stood watching them, his gaze intense.

“What?” Stiles said, wondering if he was holding her wrong or something.

“Nothing,” Derek growled, and then stomped (on silent cat-like feet) out to the kitchen where he threw (literally, if the sounds filtering into the living room were any indication) a couple of the casseroles into the oven to heat for supper.

~*~

Maggie fussed Friday night. Derek paced the floor with her, and then allowed Stiles to take over. She wasn’t hungry or wet, and not in the mood to play. She just couldn’t get comfortable, and wouldn’t let either of them comfort her.

While Stiles took his turn walking the floor with Maggie, Derek stood looking out the window. Back straight, arms crossed over his chest. Stiles walked up behind Derek and peered out the window over his shoulder.

“Must be the full moon,” Stiles joked.

Derek turned his head to stare hard at Stiles, then turned away and grunted in reply.

~*~

They got the crib out of storage on Saturday and cleaned it up. Stiles dusted it and then his dad wiped it down with an anti-bacterial cleaner while Derek sanded little bits of rust off the metal pieces and then oiled them.

“Why don’t you guys go pick up a new mattress and sheet?” Stiles’ dad suggested after they had the crib reassembled.

“Us?” Stiles said, pointing to him and Derek.

“Yeah. I’ll stay here and watch Maggie.”

Stiles snorted. “Sleep, you mean.”

Stiles was horrified at the thought of being stuck in a small enclosed space with Derek. Derek just looked horrified at the entire prospect of shopping. When they were parked outside Target, Derek staring with trepidation at the building through the windshield, he finally spoke.

“I don’t like people.”

“That actually explains a lot,” Stiles said.

Derek glared at him, and Stiles had to bite back a grin. “Crowds. A lot of people,” Derek clarified.

“Don’t worry,” Stiles said. “I’ll protect you.”

Stiles heard what he thought was a growl as he got out of Betty, but when he saw Derek’s face again there was no sign of it. They picked out a mattress after much squeezing and touching, and that turned out to have been the easy part. There were so many cute designs on the bed sheet to choose from that Stiles had half a dozen in his arms before Derek said, “One.”

“But what if one’s in the laundry?”

“Fine,” Derek snarled. “Two.”

Derek paid for three without complaint by pretending that he didn’t notice Stiles adding another to the pile. But it was covered with cute baby animals and Stiles couldn’t resist. He was certain that Maggie would love it.

~*~

By Sunday Stiles was so sick of casserole that he would’ve pulled out his hair if he could’ve gotten hold of it. When he opened the refrigerator to get out the orange juice that morning and saw the leftovers sitting on the shelf, he put his foot down.

“No more casseroles,” he told Derek.

Derek and Maggie just stared at Stiles as if he was nuts.

“I’m not nuts. I’ve just had it up to here.” Stiles raised his hand above his head. “With casserole. I want meat. Burgers. Or steak. I’d even settle for chicken or fish, so long as it wasn’t in a casserole.”

So they went grocery shopping.

“We can’t both go!” Stiles said when Derek proposed going with him. “What about Maggie?”

Derek’s look told Stiles that he was a sad, sad man. He gave Stiles the task of getting Maggie dressed for the outside while he moved the car seat from the Camaro to the Jeep. Stiles had never driven so slowly or carefully before in his life. Not even when he’d taken his driver’s test. Stiles expected Derek to complain, but he kept glancing at the speedometer as if he thought Stiles might still be going too fast.

Maggie (and Derek) were big hits at the Nugget. Stiles expected there to be a lot more casseroles in their future. To head that off, Stiles started dropping hints that Derek loved apple pie, and chocolate cake, and those peanut butter blossom cookies. The only thing that made it bearable for Stiles was knowing that Derek was even more uncomfortable than he was.

Derek asked if they could stop at the park on the way home. It was a cool February day, so the park was pretty much deserted. They sat on a bench with Maggie’s car seat between them, the cold of it seeping into their jeans.

Derek tipped his head back and breathed in the fresh air as if he’d been cooped up without it for far too long. He glanced down at Maggie, whose eyes had opened. She looked more alert than she should for someone woken up in the middle of a nap.

“We’ve got this covered,” Derek said softly. “Go back to sleep.”

Maggie looked at him as if she’d understood every word he’d said, and then she closed her eyes. Before Stiles could question it, Derek tipped his own head back, closed his eyes, and just breathed.

~*~

“Are you sniffing my shirt?” Stiles said.

“No,” Derek said with a glare at Stiles despite the evidence he held in his hand.

Even after they’d washed the new sheets Maggie had refused to sleep in the crib until Derek had snapped at Stiles to take off his shirt. Stiles’ body had immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion (made even more wrong, so very, very wrong, by the fact that his dad was standing right there).

Derek snapped his fingers impatiently and Stiles took off the flannel shirt he’d been wearing over his t-shirt and handed it to him. Derek folded the shirt and gently lifted Maggie to place it beneath her. Maggie snuffled into the shirt and promptly fell asleep.

“Huh,” Stiles said, and then went to his room so he could get all emotional in private.

“I was just checking to see if it needs to be washed,” Derek said now.

“By sniffing it.”

Derek threw the shirt at Stiles. It hit him square in the face.

“It does need washing,” Derek said. “Give me the one you’re wearing.”

Stiles pulled the shirt away from his face and dropped it onto the bed so he could shrug out of the shirt he was currently wearing over his t-shirt and hand it over to Derek. “You know, I always imagined it would be a lot more sexy if some hot guy was telling me to take off my clothes.”

Derek’s face did something then, a grimace, but Stiles didn’t think it was in disgust. It was more like he was annoyed, which was an expression Stiles was very familiar with. But annoyed at what? Stiles’ inappropriate comment? Getting caught in the act of sniffing Stiles’ shirt?

“You can leave now,” Derek said before Stiles had a chance to figure out what was going on.

Stiles held his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “Alright, I’m leaving. I just brought up a load of Maggie’s clothes.” He indicated the basket of folded clothes he’d set on the end of the bed. Stiles had to tamp down the urge to reach out and touch them again before he left, because Maggie’s clothes were so tiny and cute.

~*~*~*~

Things went downhill after that. Derek spoke less, if that was even possible, and his glares increased in proportion. Mostly they were directed at Stiles in particular. Sometimes the universe in general. Only once at Maggie, but that was the one that broke Stiles’ own silence on the matter. He could take the glares, but he’d be damned if Derek was going to start turning his irritation from whatever bug had crawled up his ass onto Maggie.

“What the hell is your problem?” Stiles hissed at Derek.

Derek transferred his glare from Maggie, where she lay sleeping in her crib, to Stiles.

“That, right there, is what I’m talking about,” Stiles said, pointing at Derek’s face. “You have done nothing but glare at me for days now, and you know what, I don’t like it, but I can deal with it. What I can’t deal with is when you start glaring at Maggie.”

Derek frowned. “What?”

“Stop glaring at Maggie.”

“I wasn’t glaring at Maggie,” Derek said.

“Were too. Right there.” Stiles gestured towards Derek’s face. “Glare.”

Derek gave Stiles a look like he couldn’t believe they were even having this conversation. “That’s just my face.”

“That’s what you’re going with?” Stiles said. “Really? Then maybe you need to change your face, hmm?”

Before he could stop himself, Stiles reached out and tried to maneuver Derek’s lips up into a smile. Derek, unsurprisingly, slapped his hands away.

“Stop that. What are you doing?”

“I’m trying to fix your face,” Stiles said. “Put a smile on there. You know, smiling takes less of an effort than frowning. You’re wasting a lot of energy on those glares.”

Derek continued to glare at Stiles, then suddenly he sighed and looked away from him. Stiles took the opportunity to surreptitiously wipe his hands on the seat of his jeans, hoping he could wipe away the sense memory of Derek’s stubble on his fingers.

“She bonded to you,” Derek said.

Stiles felt a momentary surge of pleasure at Derek’s comment before it was overcome by the realization that Derek was clearly unhappy about that.

“Is that really so bad?” Stiles said, trying not to let on that he’d been the slightest bit hurt by Derek’s attitude.

“Yes,” Derek snapped.

“Then why don’t you just take her and leave?” Stiles said, unable to restrain himself. The last thing he wanted was Derek to actually take Maggie and leave.

“Don’t you think I would if I could?” Derek growled.

Stiles couldn’t believe he was still breathing with all the stabs his heart was taking.

“I hate it here,” Derek said.

Suddenly Derek looked up at Stiles as if just realizing how much his words might be hurting him. Stiles furiously blinked back the tears, because Derek seeing him cry would absolutely be the last straw.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Derek said. “It’s just . . . this town. I never thought I’d be back here. And now I’ve got Maggie to take care of, to protect . . . .”

“Why can’t you just take her and leave?” Stiles asked. Derek had said he couldn’t, but Stiles didn’t understand it. As much as it hurt him to say it, Stiles added, “She’ll forget all about me soon enough.”

“No, she won’t,” Derek said wearily. “First Laura chose you, and then Maggie. You’re pack now; Maggie would never leave you. Like it or not, I’m stuck with you.”

Derek excused himself with a gruff, “I’m going out for a run,” and left Stiles alone with Maggie. She’d woken during his and Derek’s argument, but she hadn’t fussed. Stiles picked her up and she stared at him with wide eyes that seemed to see everything.

“That wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement,” Stiles told her.

Maggie’s face crinkled up and a wail broke free.

“Alright, alright,” Stiles said. “I get it; pay attention to the princess.”

~*~

Even though it killed him to be apart from Maggie so much, Stiles started spending more time away from home the next few days. When he wasn’t at Scott’s doing homework or playing video games, he was hiding out in his room under the guise of doing homework. He’d gotten so far ahead in some of his classes that he’d started researching tangential and random topics, such as the use of iridium and the death of Meriwether Lewis. He wrote reports for his Geology and History classes to turn in for extra credit. Not that he needed it.

Finally, Stiles’ dad cornered him in his room one night several days after his argument with Derek. “What’s up?”

Stiles shrugged. “Just doing homework.”

“You’ve been spending a lot of time at Scott’s the last few days. Or up here alone in your room.”

“It’s quiet up here; I can get more done.”

His dad glanced at the computer screen. He winced. “On forced female circumcision in third world countries?”

“It’s for Health class. Extra credit.”

“Okay. I think Maggie misses you,” Stiles’ dad said, getting right to the point.

Stiles’ heart felt like it was being squeezed. “I miss her, too. But I should probably get used to it. She won’t be here forever, right?”

Stiles’ dad studied him with concern. “I think Derek’s worried about you.”

Stiles snorted derisively. “Yeah, I don’t think so. I have it on pretty good authority that he doesn’t like me very much.”

“Did he say that?” Stiles’ dad asked, sounding surprised and angry.

“Not in so many words,” Stiles admitted. “But I can read between the lines.”

Stiles’ dad sat on the edge of the bed and looked into Stiles’ face. “Did he say, or do, anything to hurt you?”

“No,” Stiles said, then, “No!” when he realized what his dad was implying. “Nothing like that, geeze.” Stiles shrugged, staring at his fingers where he was picking the skin around his nails. “I don’t think he meant to, it’s just . . . he hates it here. In Beacon Hills.”

“Who can blame him?” Stiles’ dad said gently.

“Yeah. Anyway, I’m just . . . preparing myself, I guess. For the day they leave.”

Stiles’ dad stood up. He squeezed Stiles’ shoulder. “Ah, kid. You can never prepare yourself for that.”

His dad left, and Stiles turned back to stare sightlessly at his laptop. A few minutes later he was roused from his catatonic state by a knock at his door.

“Yeah?” Stiles said, expecting to see his dad again.

When the door was pushed open, though, Stiles was met with Derek’s familiar glower. “She’s been extra fussy these past few days,” Derek said. He set Maggie in Stiles’ arms. “I’m going for a run.”

Derek was gone before Stiles could say anything. He looked down at Maggie, who had thunderclouds forming behind her eyes. Wearing a mini-glower, she looked just like Derek.

“Oh my god, you really are related.”

Her lower lip trembled.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles told her.

He drew Maggie close and pressed his nose into her neck. He breathed in the soft baby scent of her and felt his world realign.

~*~

Stiles stopped hiding, and Derek made more of an effort.

“It’s not that I don’t like you,” Derek said once.

Stiles waited for him to finish the thought, but instead he looked like he’d bitten into something sour and disappeared for a couple of hours.

~*~

“Can I use your laptop?” Derek asked one evening.

Stiles was surprised by the request, but said, “Yeah, sure.”

“Can I use it sometimes when you’re not here?” Derek said. “Or should I ask every time . . . ?”

“No, that’s fine,” Stiles said. “Whenever.” Stiles had a thought. “Just promise to stay away from my porn folder. Less embarrassing for everyone that way.”

Derek looked like he wanted to dig a hole and throw himself (or maybe Stiles) into it. “Not a problem,” he choked out, and then went out for another run even though he’d just gotten back from one.

Stiles left the laptop on Derek’s pillow before he went to bed, with a sticky note that said, if you make a mess, clean it up. Just for shits and giggles he included a smiley face at the end.

Stiles smiled to himself when he heard Derek’s low growl later that night, and then he rolled over and went to sleep.

~*~

“I just hate this whole situation,” Derek said one night.

Again Stiles waited for Derek to say something else, but that was apparently it.

~*~

Stiles was playing a video game when Derek came down from taking a shower after his run. He watched Stiles for a few minutes, then said, “Do you have another controller?”

Stiles crashed and burned on the tv screen while he stared at Derek in surprise. “You know how to play?”

“Not this particular game,” Derek said. “But how hard could it be?” Derek raised his eyebrows, and Stiles read the challenge in them.

“Oh, it is on,” Stiles said as he scrabbled for the second controller. “I’m going to kick your . . . butt,” he finished in deference to Maggie. “You are not even going to know what hit you,” Stiles said.

He handed the other controller to Derek and reset the game. Stiles did kick Derek’s butt. The first time. The second game was closer. Derek won the third and fourth games.

“No way!” Stiles said. “I’ve been playing this game for months! I am the king of this game! Are you cheating?”

Derek’s eyebrows told Stiles that he didn’t need to stoop to cheating. “I’m a quick learner. And I have really good reflexes.” Derek smiled.

Smiled!

“Tie breaker?” Derek said.

“Oh my god!” Stiles said. “Are you flirting with me to throw me off my game?”

“What? No!” Derek denied.

“Uh huh. Fine. But you are going down,” Stiles said.

Derek choked and proceeded to lose spectacularly while he glowered darkly at the tv screen.

~*~

Stiles walked in on Derek sniffing one of his shirts again, this time in the laundry room just before he tossed it into the machine.

“You don’t have to do my laundry,” Stiles said, ignoring the whole sniffing thing because trying to figure out why Derek did what he did only broke his brain.

Derek jumped as if he hadn’t heard Stiles’ approach. Which was odd, because Stiles had never been able to sneak up on Derek before.

“I didn’t have enough for a full load,” Derek said. “Maggie spit up on my favorite t-shirt.”

“The black one, you mean?” Stiles said, fighting to keep a straight face.

Derek glared over his shoulder at Stiles anyway as he added detergent to the washer. “Yes.”

Stiles snorted at the seriousness of Derek’s expression, then went back into the kitchen to raid the refrigerator, which was the reason he’d come down in the first place.

~*~

Stiles came up short when he stepped into his room and felt the cool air. He turned on the light and noticed the window had been thrown wide open. Stiles shivered and pulled his hoodie closer around him as he walked over and peered out. Derek sat outside on the porch roof.

“What are you doing?” Stiles asked.

“I just needed some fresh air,” Derek said, otherwise not reacting to Stiles’ presence.

“On the roof,” Stiles said. When Derek didn’t respond, he went on, “We have a patio. There are even chairs.”

“I like it up here,” Derek said. “It’s quiet, and I can see the sky better.”

“Okay,” Stiles said, shaking his head. “Maggie sleeping?”

“Yeah. I’ll hear her if she wakes.”

“Good ears?” Stiles asked.

“Yes,” Derek said. “Also, this.” He waved the baby monitor Melissa had brought over at Stiles.

Right on cue they heard Maggie murmuring nonsensical words to herself over the monitor. Stiles stepped back as Derek turned and crawled back through the window. He rolled his eyes when Derek left without a word, and then closed and locked the window.

~*~*~*~

The sun shone brightly the Saturday of their first home match. It was a balmy seventy degrees, so Derek agreed when Stiles’ dad asked if he wanted to attend the game. Given Derek’s ready agreement, he didn’t even need the added incentive of Derek getting out of the house for a while, but Stiles’ dad threw it in there anyway.

Stiles and Scott were already warming up on the field with the rest of the team when Stiles saw his dad’s cruiser pull into the parking lot. “Be right back,” he told Scott after passing off the ball to him.

Scott glanced over to where Stiles was looking, shrugged, and then tossed the ball to Isaac. Stiles met his dad and Derek before they reached the sideline. “Hi,” he greeted them, and then immediately turned his attention to Maggie in her car seat. “Hey there, Miss Maggie May,” he said.

Maggie flailed her little hands and gurgled a greeting around her pacifier. After letting Maggie curl her tiny fingers around his larger one, and squeeze like she would never let him go, Stiles had to return to the field. He rolled his eyes at his dad when Coach Finstock called out, “Bilinski! Would you care to join us?”

It wasn’t until Stiles saw the women practically lining up to coo over Maggie and introduce themselves (or their daughters) to Derek that Stiles became aware of the fatal flaw in their plan. They’d only just thrown out the remains of the last casserole, and still had dishes that needed to be returned if only they could figure out to whom they belonged.

Stiles sent a silent thank you to Scott’s mom, who’d snagged the seat on the other side of Derek so at least none of the women were inclined to plop themselves down next to him. After the last woman was sent off, Derek raised his eyes and pinned Stiles with the glare he’d been wearing the entire time. Stiles wasn’t surprised that the glare hadn’t worked to dissuade the women. He grinned at Derek and waved.

After the match, which they lost 3-1, Stiles met his dad and Derek on the sideline.

“I’m going to drop Derek and Maggie off at home and then go in to the Department for a couple of hours,” Stiles’ dad told him. “Are you going over to Scott’s?”

Stiles glanced over to where Scott was talking to the new girl he’d developed a crush on, Allison Argent. “Yeah. And probably get to hear him tell me again just how lovely Allison’s smile is. But I’ll be home early.”

“Good,” Stiles’ dad said. “I have a feeling we’ll be having casserole for supper.”

Stiles snorted. He glanced at Derek to see his reaction, but Derek wasn’t paying any attention to them. Instead he was looking past Stiles and staring at Scott and Allison. No, Stiles realized, staring at Allison’s dad.

“Everything alright?” Stiles said.

“Fine,” Derek growled.

“Glad to hear it,” Stiles said, giving Derek a comradely slap on the arm and earning himself a baring of Derek’s teeth.

“I’d ask if you were raised in a barn,” Stiles said as he pulled his hand back and glanced at it just to make sure it was still attached. “But I’m afraid of the answer.”

Stiles bent down to speak to Maggie, who yawned, but continued to fight to keep her eyes open. “I’ll see you at home later,” Stiles promised her.

Stiles straightened. “Be careful,” he told his dad.

“I will. You, too.”

“I’m just going over to Scott’s; what could possibly happen?”

“For someone who believes so strongly in the jinx, you sure do tempt fate a lot,” Stiles’ dad said. “And don’t think Melissa didn’t tell me all about your Jell-o wrestling venture.”

“I . . . wha–? That was a long time ago!” Stiles said.

Stiles’ dad raised his eyebrows. “It was last summer.”

“I can’t believe she told you about that,” Stiles muttered as his dad and Derek walked away.

Derek smirked over his shoulder at Stiles.

~*~

Sunday afternoon, after cleaning (one of Stiles’ least favorite chores, as evidenced by how long he put it off), they got ready to go to the grocery store. (Stiles hadn’t missed that someone had added ‘Jell-o’ to the list, but he was being the bigger man here and didn’t mention it.)

Stiles carried the car seat and the reusable shopping bags out to the Jeep while Derek carried the base that he’d taken out of the cruiser yesterday. Derek stopped walking suddenly and Stiles ran into him with an ‘oof!’

“Dude,” Stiles complained. “Did you forget something?”

When Derek didn’t answer, Stiles peered around him. A man Stiles had never seen before lounged casually against Derek’s Camaro. Derek put his arm out as if he thought Stiles might attempt to go around him.

“You’ve taken good care of her,” the man said, sliding his hand obscenely over the Camaro’s hood.

“What are you doing here?” Derek snarled.

The man tut-tutted. “Now, Derek, is that any way to greet your uncle?”

Stiles’ heart hammered in his chest at the tension he could feel building in the air.

“Go back inside,” Derek told Stiles.

Stiles opened his mouth to argue, but Derek anticipated that and forestalled him. “Now,” Derek growled.

“Why don’t you introduce me to your friends?” the man said with a glance behind Derek. His gaze took in Stiles, quickly dismissed him, and then slid to Maggie.

Stiles gripped Derek’s arm, and for once he didn’t get the shake off he’d expected. “Be careful,” he said.

Stiles wasn’t sure what exactly was going on, but he could tell that Derek wasn’t happy to see his uncle. And Stiles had to admit, the man’s smile creeped him out a little bit. For the first time in a long time, Stiles did what he was told without further argument. As curious as he was, Stiles realized that Derek didn’t need the distraction of having to protect Stiles and Maggie from whatever danger he thought his uncle posed. Besides, Stiles didn’t like the way he’d looked at Maggie.

“I just wanted to welcome you back to Beacon Hills,” Derek’s uncle said.

“Like you welcomed Laura back?” Stiles overheard Derek ask as he fumbled with the normally cooperative lock on the front door.

“Laura was an accident,” Derek’s uncle said just as Stiles fell through the door and closed it behind them.

Stiles leaned against the door, breathing hard, as if he’d just run sprints instead of having walked the few steps back to the house and gotten himself and Maggie back inside. Stiles tilted to the side and peeked out the small window to the side of the door. He jerked back when Derek’s uncle deliberately turned his head and stared as if he knew that Stiles was right there behind the door looking at him.

“Shit,” Stiles breathed softly.

Stiles didn’t know this guy, but Derek’s concern was infectious. He had to find someplace safe to hide Maggie. Stiles couldn’t figure out why her great uncle might want to hurt her, but Derek’s reaction to the other man had been the catalyst to trigger some primal instinct within Stiles to protect Maggie at all cost.

As soon as he had Maggie hidden, Stiles hurried back to the living room so he could peer out the window. Stiles lifted the edge of the curtain and watched the standoff between Derek and his uncle. Stiles wished he could hear what they were saying. Wished he’d paid more attention to learning how to read lips. Derek’s uncle glanced towards the window once, but Stiles refused to run and hide, no matter what his hindbrain was screaming at him, or how his knees threatened to give out and his bladder to let loose.

Derek’s uncle finally left, moseying off as if leaving had been his own idea and he and Derek had just been having a friendly chat. Derek remained on the sidewalk, though, as if making sure that his uncle was really gone. Stiles waited with him, eyes darting out to the street and then back to Derek.

 

As soon as Derek moved, Stiles did as well. He hurried out to the foyer, getting there to open the door for Derek before he had to knock. Stiles peeked out before closing the door and engaging all the locks.

“Oh my god, who was that?” Stiles said as he threw the deadbolt.

“Where’s Maggie?” Derek asked as he dropped the base for the car seat in the hallway.

“I hid her,” Stiles said, following Derek into the kitchen.

Derek continued into the laundry room and retrieved Maggie’s car seat from inside the dryer. Stiles’ mouth dropped open.

“How . . . ? I thought . . . . Is that the first place people look now?”

Derek didn’t answer. He carried Maggie into the living room, set her car seat onto the coffee table, then dropped like a rock onto the couch.

“I should’ve taken her away from here,” Derek said.

Stiles alighted on the other end of the coffee table. “Who was that?”

Derek leaned forward and, elbows braced on his knees, dropped his head into his hands. Stiles reached out and curled his fingers around Derek’s wrist. Derek jerked his arm away from Stiles and raised his head to glare at him.

“Dude. I thought we were past that.”

Derek didn’t respond.

“Okay, fine, I get it,” Stiles hissed. “You still don’t like me, but I don’t give a shit about that right now. I deserve to know what’s going on!”

“You think I don’t like you?” Derek growled.

“Gee,” Stiles said. “I can’t imagine why I would.”

Derek’s hand snapped out and he grabbed Stiles’ wrist and jerked him forward. Stiles fell off the coffee table, landing hard on his knees. He didn’t have long to contemplate the pain, though, because Derek grabbed him behind the head with his other hand and lifted Stiles up enough to slam their mouths together.

To say that Stiles was surprised would be an understatement. He’d never been kissed before, never expected that he might be kissed by Derek. But he wasn’t one to let grass grow under his feet when opportunity came knocking at his door. Stiles curled his fingers around Derek’s forearm and pushed into the kiss, parting his lips when Derek’s tongue sought entrance.

Almost as quickly as it began, it was over. Derek released Stiles and threw himself back into the corner of the couch as far away from Stiles as possible.

“That shouldn’t have happened,” Derek said.

Stiles licked his lips. They felt hot, swollen. He brought his fingers to his mouth and touched them. “You don’t hate me,” Stiles said, stunned.

Derek glared at Stiles as if that alone would be powerful enough to shut him up. Derek should really know better.

Stiles grinned. “You the-opposite-of-hate me.”

Derek rolled his eyes and turned his face away from Stiles. Out of sight, out of mind really wasn’t an option here. Still, they had more important things to discuss.

“But that’ll have to wait,” Stiles said.

Some of the tension bled out of Derek’s shoulders.

“Because you’re going to tell me what’s going on with that . . . that man,” Stiles said as he pushed himself back up onto the coffee table.

The corner of Derek’s jaw worked.

“Who is he?” Stiles said, ignoring the metaphorical steam coming out of Derek’s ears. “He said he was your uncle.”

“Yes,” Derek said. “My uncle Peter. Peter Hale.”

“What did he want?” Stiles asked.

Derek’s gaze slid to Maggie. “He was looking for me,” Derek said. He didn’t look away from Maggie. “But that’s only because he didn’t know about Maggie.”

“Does he want to hurt her?” Stiles asked, unable to comprehend the notion. “Why?”

“Power,” Derek said.

“I don’t understand,” Stiles said. “Maggie’s just a baby.”

“Maggie’s not just anything,” Derek said.

“Well, yeah,” Stiles said, reaching out to draw the blanket off Maggie now that they were back inside. “Of course she’s special. Aren’t you?” he asked Maggie.

“I’m going to tell you something,” Derek said. “But you have to promise me that you won’t tell anyone else.”

“Like, pinky swear?” Stiles said.

“I’m serious, Stiles, it’s important,” Derek said. “Keeping the secret is the only way to keep Maggie safe.”

“Okay, fine,” Stiles said. “I won’t tell anyone.”

Even decided, it took Derek a few minutes to begin. Finally he bit the bullet. “I’m a werewolf.”

Stiles waited for the punch line, but it never came. “Huh. You know, I believe you, but only because I’m not sure you have it in you to tell a joke.”

Derek snarled.

“And actually, it explains a lot.”

Derek averted his gaze and went on. “I was born a werewolf. Most of my family was. My mother was our Alpha. When she . . . died, the power passed to Laura.”

“Because she was the oldest?” Stiles asked.

“Because she was female,” Derek said. “The power passes through the female line. Unless there are no females left.”

“What does it do then? The power, I mean.”

“It goes to the next male in line.”

“Which would be you?” Stiles asked.

“It would’ve been Peter, now that he’s no longer in a coma,” Derek said. “He was my mother’s brother.”

“But he didn’t get it . . . .”

“No.”

“So he came looking for you. Because he thought that somehow you must have gotten it?”

“Yes, that’s what it looks like.”

“But . . . you don’t have it either, do you?”

“No.” Derek looked at Maggie.

Stiles looked at Maggie, too. “But that means . . . .”

“Yeah. Maggie’s the Alpha now.”

~*~*~*~

“So . . . what exactly does that mean?” Stiles said.

“It means I have to protect her until she’s able to protect herself,” Derek said. “And even then she’ll be my responsibility.”

“And mine,” Stiles said. At Derek’s look he added, “Hey, you said she chose me. She must’ve chosen me for a reason.”

“Yeah,” Derek said doubtfully.

“Wow, you really can be a prick sometimes,” Stiles said.

Derek looked away, but not before Stiles saw an expression of guilt cross his face. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Then how did you mean it?”

“You’re not strong, or fast . . . .”

“I don’t have cool werewolf superpowers, you mean?”

Derek gave Stiles a look that he ignored.

“Then she chose me for something else. I’m more than just a pretty face, you know. Shut up,” he added when Derek raised his eyebrows. “You totally think I’m pretty. In a manly way.”

Derek blushed. That was something Stiles had never thought he’d see.

“I have . . . assets,” Stiles went on. “Like . . . my ability to lie. That’ll come in handy. And I’m good at research. And planning. Though I usually don’t stick to them.” Stiles laughed. “I just figured it out!” he said.

Derek frowned.

“My brains! I’m the brains to your brawn.”

Derek did not look amused. “I have brains.”

“Not like my brains,” Stiles said distractedly as he unbuckled Maggie from the car seat. She stopped her fussing when Stiles picked her up.

“No offense,” Stiles added. “No one has a brain like mine. My ADHD means I can’t concentrate on one thing for very long, or I concentrate on one thing to the exclusion of all others, like protecting Maggie, but I have become the king of thinking outside the box. Haven’t I?” Stiles asked Maggie.

Maggie gurgled what Stiles was certain was an affirmation, and then her face wrinkled up.

“Are you hungry? You probably need a change, too.”

Stiles raised Maggie up so he could sniff near her diaper, and then he gagged. “Oh god, I wish I hadn’t done that,” he said.

“I could’ve told you from here that was a bad idea,” Derek said.

Stiles’ eyes narrowed and he glared at Derek over the top of Maggie’s head. “Then why didn’t you?”

“More fun this way,” Derek said, almost smiling. “I’ll go fix her bottle while you change her.”

“Why do I have to change her?” Stiles whined.

“You break it, you bought it,” Derek said.

“What?”

“Possession is nine-tenths of the law?”

“You suck,” Stiles muttered at Derek’s retreating back. “He totally does,” Stiles told Maggie. “And you’re not much better,” he added as he carried her out to the dining room. When he opened the diaper, Stiles wondered if hosing her down was a better option than the wipes.

~*~

Stiles let Derek feed Maggie because he figured they needed the connection after what had happened earlier. Stiles wanted to be near them both, though, so he sat on the floor in front of the rocker. He reached out and curled his fingers around Derek’s leg above his work boot. Derek raised an eyebrow, but he didn’t say anything or kick Stiles’ hand off, so Stiles considered it a win.

“Do you really think he wanted to hurt her?” Stiles asked, still unable to really comprehend it even though he’d seen Peter with his own eyes.

“Let’s talk about it after she’s asleep,” Derek said, though not angrily.

“Okay,” Stiles agreed. Because Derek was right. Who knew what kind of emotions a baby could absorb. Especially a werewolf baby. Baby werewolf?

Stiles was silent for a moment, thinking. “Why do you think Laura chose me? I mean, she did choose me, right? Before you said . . . .”

“Yes,” Derek said patiently as he put Maggie against his shoulder to burp her. “Laura chose you. Probably for the same reasons Maggie did. With the added bonus of knowing you’d be a pain in my ass.”

“Ha!” Stiles said, then shook his head. “Maggie probably would’ve chosen anyone who changed her and fed her and played train with her.”

“Not true,” Derek said. “It’s partly that, but it’s more than that. It’s instinct.”

“But Laura would’ve known I couldn’t protect her,” Stiles said.

“Not with strength,” Derek said. “Laura was the strongest person in town, so she must’ve been looking for something else.”

“Like what?”

“Someone who could think outside the box, maybe?”

Stiles huffed a laugh.

“All I know is that she trusted you to take care of the most important person in her life,” Derek said.

Tears burned the back of Stiles’ eyes. “Okay, yeah.”

~*~

They’d kept the drawer downstairs to use as a pseudo-basinet during the day, but Derek put Maggie down for her nap in the crib upstairs so they could talk without sending negative energy her way.

“We’re going to have to start thinking about putting her on cereal soon,” Derek said when he returned.

Stiles blinked, thrown by the non sequitur. “What?”

“Cereal,” Derek repeated. “I was reading your notes,” he went on, looking uncomfortable at the admission. “It said . . . .”

“Right. Cereal,” Stiles said. “We can do that.”

Stiles watched Derek pace the living room for a few minutes. Finally he reached out and grabbed Derek’s arm. Derek gave a perfunctory tug, but Stiles didn’t let go. Derek didn’t try again to get free, which Stiles took as a win. Even without any werewolf powers, Derek was stronger than Stiles and could easily break his hold. Which meant that he didn’t really want to.

“Come on, let’s sit down.”

Stiles pushed Derek towards the couch. He went without further resistence, then suddenly switched their positions so that Stiles was sitting furthest from the door.

“Wow, really?”

Derek just glared at Stiles, which was normal for him, so Stiles bumped his shoulder into Derek’s.

“We need to talk about it,” Stiles said.

“I know,” Derek snarled. Then, almost in apology, he picked up Stiles’ hand and . . . brought it to his face.

“Aha!” Stiles said. “You have been sniffing my shirts!”

“Shut up,” Derek said, but there was no heat behind it, almost as if he was relieved to be able to do his sniffing openly now.

“Is that a werewolf thing?” Stiles asked.

Derek shrugged. “You smell good.”

“Huh.”

Derek lowered Stiles’ hand, but didn’t release it. “To answer your question, your other question, yes. Six years ago I would’ve said, no, absolutely not. But he’s changed. We both have. His eyes . . . .”

“What about his eyes?”

“There was something missing. And when he looked at Maggie . . . .”

“What?” Stiles said.

“It was like he didn’t even see her, just the power she represented. Just like Laura,” Derek added, his voice almost too low for Stiles to hear.

“Laura?” Stiles said. He remembered Derek saying something about Laura when he was trying to get himself and Maggie back into the house.

“He admitted that he killed Laura,” Derek said, voice devoid of emotion. “Said it was an accident.”

“Do you believe him?”

“Laura wasn’t whole when they found her,” Derek reminded Stiles. “That didn’t happen by accident.”

“Is she safe here?” Stiles said. “Maggie?”

“He won’t need an invitation to enter, if that’s what you mean,” Derek said.

“Is there anything we can do to keep him out?”

“He can break locks, and doors, and windows,” Derek said. “He could even come through the wall if he wanted to badly enough, though it would take him longer.”

“Where’s force field technology when you need it?” Stiles said.

Derek looked at him.

“What?”

“I might know someone who can help.”

~*~*~*~

“But,” Stiles said, confused, “you’re a vet. Scott’s vet. Well, not Scott’s vet, because Scott doesn’t need a vet, but the vet Scott works for.”

“Yes,” Dr. Deaton said with infinite patience.

Stiles knew that Deaton had infinite patience because he worked with Scott, but also because Stiles had said something along those lines about a dozen times and he still hadn’t lost his patience. Derek, on the other hand, was another story.

“Don’t growl at me,” Stiles hissed. “I think I did really well not freaking out when I discovered that werewolves were real. Is it too much to ask that vets remain simply vets?”

“Learning that werewolves are real doesn’t freak you out, as you say,” Deaton said, “but learning that I also know about them does?”

“There’s such a thing as too much tilting of my world view,” Stiles said. “But tell me, did you become a vet because you know about werewolves, or did you find out about werewolves because you were a vet? I mean, do they need special care and handling?”

Derek’s growl was low and threatening. Stiles looked at Derek, and then started laughing.

“Oh my god, your face!” Stiles said. He tried to stop laughing when Derek’s expression remained all glower-y. It took him a few attempts to stifle his chuckles. “Sorry,” Stiles said. “It’s just . . . . Right, important stuff. So. Do you think you can help us?” he asked Deaton.

“Derek was very . . . brief on the phone . . . .”

That was an understatement. Derek had dialed a number from memory and when someone answered on the other end, said, “I need you to help me protect Laura’s child from another werewolf.” He’d given out Stiles’ address and then hung up.

“. . . but I believe I have what you need.” Deaton pulled out a small drawstring bag and held it in his palm.

“What is it?” Stiles asked.

“Mountain ash,” Derek said, lips curled up in distaste.

“Correct,” Deaton said.

“How does it work?”

“You create a circle around the house. It’ll keep the werewolf out; supernatural creatures can’t cross it.”

“What about Derek and Maggie?”

Deaton glanced at Derek. “They’ll be in the house, I presume?” At Stiles affirmative nod, he went on. “They won’t be able to cross the line, either.”

“So they’ll be safe, but trapped,” Stiles summarized. “That’s great for keeping Peter out, but what if he decides to throw a Molotov cocktail through the window, or something?”

“Will you be here to break the line?” Deaton asked.

“Not when I’m in school,” Stiles said.

“We’ll think of something,” Derek said, then added a grudging, “Thank you,” to Deaton.

Deaton looked like he wanted to smile, but wisely didn’t. “You’re welcome.”

“When can you do this?” Stiles asked.

“Oh, I can’t,” Deaton said.

“What do you mean, you can’t? Why did you bring the mountain ash if you’re not going to . . . ?”

Stiles’ words ran down when Deaton reached out for his hand and placed the bag in the center of his palm.

“You must do it.”

“Me?” Stiles said, his voice squeaking.

“You,” Deaton confirmed.

“But I don’t know anything about . . . .”

“You know all you need to know,” Deaton said. “You care for them, Derek and Maggie, don’t you?”

Stiles felt heat creeping up his neck. He turned a shoulder to Derek as if that would keep him from overhearing. “Yes, of course I do.”

The corner of Deaton’s lips twitched, but he maintained his neutral facade. “That’s the most important element of the circle.”

Stiles hefted the bag as he thought about that. He frowned. “Will this be enough to go all the way around the house?”

“There will be if you believe,” Deaton said placidly.

“Believe? Believe what?”

But Deaton was no longer paying any attention to Stiles. “Peter’s awake,” he said to Derek. “I hadn’t heard.”

“I don’t think it’s common knowledge.”

Deaton nodded. “And Laura?”

“Dead,” Derek said. “Maggie is . . . .”

“The Alpha now,” Deaton finished. “May I meet her?”

“She’s sleeping,” Stiles said distractedly, still staring at the small bag of mountain ash.

“Actually, she’s been awake for a few minutes,” Derek said. He hesitated, then said, “I’ll go get her.”

“Thank you,” Deaton said.

“That is so cool,” Stiles said, staring after Derek. He shook himself and turned back to Deaton. “But about this mountain ash,” he said.

“I have faith that you’ll be able to figure it out,” Deaton said.

“That’s . . . not actually very helpful,” Stiles said, but Deaton’s attention was already focused on Maggie as Derek carried her into the living room.

“She looks just like her mother,” Deaton told Derek. He touched his thumb to Maggie’s forehead and spoke something in a language Stiles didn’t understand, then inclined his head.

“What was that?” Stiles asked.

“Latin,” Deaton said.

“That’s not what I . . . .” Stiles broke off when he saw Deaton biting back a smile.

“I offered her a blessing,” Deaton said. “And my services,” he added, with a significant look at Derek.

“Thank you,” Derek said solemnly.

Deaton nodded just as solemnly in acknowledgment, then broke the moment by saying, “Well, I have to get back to the clinic.”

“Wait, what about . . . ?”

“Believe,” Deaton told Stiles, and then he was gone.

“He is almost as bad as you,” Stiles said, then noticed the sour expression on Derek’s face. “What? Oh!” he said with understanding when he got a whiff of what was in Maggie’s diaper. “Not it!”

~*~*~*~

Stiles was mesmerized by the sight of Derek making goofy faces at Maggie (and wondering if he could get a photo on his phone before Derek broke his wrist) when his dad came home.

“Hey, dad,” Stiles said. “I’m glad you’re home, because we’ve got to talk. Are you okay?” he asked belatedly when he saw how drawn his dad’s face looked.

“Yeah, I need to talk to you guys, too,” Stiles’ dad said wearily. “But you go first.”

“Okay,” Stiles said, and then spoke quickly so he could get it all out. “Derek’s a werewolf, and so is Maggie. Laura was the Alpha, but now Maggie is. Peter Hale woke up from his coma and he wants to kill Maggie for her power so we have to protect her,” Stiles finished breathlessly.

Only then did Stiles take note of his dad’s shell-shocked expression, and Derek’s low growl.

“What part of ‘secrecy’ and ‘don’t tell anyone’ don’t you understand?” Derek snarled, eliciting a whine from Maggie.

“It’s my dad,” Stiles told Derek, then turned to his dad. “Are you okay? Maybe you should sit down. Laura chose me,” Stiles continued speaking to Derek as he helped his dad to his chair. “That means she chose my dad, too. Maybe he was supposed to be the brawn to my brains ‘til you got here. Besides, it’s not like he’s not going to notice Peter lurking around outside, just waiting for a chance to get to Maggie. How much help do you think he’s going to be if he has no idea what’s going on?”

“I think you should start at the beginning,” his dad said when Stiles’ ran down.

“I don’t know what the beginning is,” Stiles said. “Peter woke up from his coma. He paid a visit to Derek this afternoon. We were on our way . . . crap! We never got to the grocery store.”

Stiles’ dad and Derek gave him matching looks of disbelief. “Right, right, not important! Until we starve to death, of course.”

“No more casseroles?” Stiles’ dad said.

“Bite your tongue!” Stiles told him.

“Derek,” Stiles’ dad said. “Maybe you should take over the explanation.”

“Would you believe me if I told you that Stiles was just joking?” Derek said.

“As much as I’d like to,” his dad said with a sidelong glance at Stiles, “no.”

“I didn’t think so,” Derek said. He reflexively pulled Maggie in protectively against his chest and steeled his shoulders. “My family are . . . were werewolves,” Derek said. “Maggie is also a werewolf, but more importantly to Peter, she’s the Alpha. Peter wants her powers for himself.”

“Just to be clear, how would he get these powers?” Stiles’ dad asked.

“He’d have to kill her,” Derek said.

Stiles sat next to Derek and patted his knee. Derek didn’t brush off Stiles’ hand, which he took as a good sign.

“You know that sounds fantastical, right?” Stiles’ dad said.

“Yes, sir,” Derek said. “I do know that.”

“It’s not that I think you’re lying to me, but I’m a cop. I’m going to have to ask for proof.”

“I understand,” Derek said.

Between one moment and the next, Derek changed.

“Oh my god!” Stiles said as he reached out to touch Derek’s face. “That was so cool!”

Derek’s head snapped around and he snapped his teeth at Stiles’ fingers. Stiles drew his hand back as quickly as he could. He darted a glance down to make sure all of his fingers were still there.

“You didn’t make Derek show you everything he could do the moment you found out?” Stiles’ dad said with disbelief and a heavy dose of sarcasm.

“Well, I would’ve, but I didn’t think of it!” Stiles said. “In my defense, I’d just been creeped out by Peter’s visit. Besides, have you ever known Derek to tell a small joke, must less pull a whopper of a prank like this?”

“Well, no,” Stiles’ dad said. “But this makes my news sort of anti-climactic.”

“What’s your news?” Stiles said.

“The DNA tests came back; it’s Laura. But you already knew that, didn’t you?” Stiles’ dad directed to Derek.

Stiles looked at Derek and could tell from his expression that his dad was right. “What? How did you know?” Stiles’ gaze fell on Maggie. “Oh. You’ve known the whole time.”

“Yes.”

“And you couldn’t say anything.”

“No.”

“You could’ve saved me a DNA test,” Stiles’ dad said wryly.

“I don’t think there’s a ticky box on the Coroner’s Report for ‘daughter inherited Alpha powers’,” Derek said.

Stiles’ dad shrugged. “True enough.”

“Besides, I take the ‘secrecy’ part of ‘secrecy’ seriously,” Derek said, glaring at Stiles.

“Okay, I get it,” Stiles said. “I broke the secrecy code, but I stand by my decision to tell my dad. The important thing now,” he went on before Derek could disagree, “is to figure out how to get rid of Peter.”

“Get rid of him?” Stiles’ dad repeated.

“Did I say ‘get rid of him’?” Stiles said. “I meant neutralize him?”

“No, we kill him,” Derek growled.

~*~

“There will be no killing,” Stiles’ dad said. “Of anyone.”

“Killing him is the only way to stop him,” Derek insisted.

“I’m the Sheriff. I can’t condone vigilante justice.”

“Prison won’t hold him,” Derek said. “And if you think he isn’t capable of going through you and Stiles to get to Maggie, then you need to think again. In fact,” Derek said, gaze shifting to Stiles as he shifted Maggie in his arms, “I should leave. It would be better for everyone if I take Maggie back to New York with me.”

“What?” Stiles said. “Won’t he just follow you?” he asked, trying to concentrate on Maggie’s (and Derek’s) safety rather than the fact that Derek was talking about taking Maggie and leaving them. Leaving him.

“Probably,” Derek acceded. “But as long as he doesn’t catch up to us before we get back to New York we’ll be fine. There’s a pack of werewolves there we’ve been staying with. They’ll help us when Peter shows up.”

“Help you commit murder, you mean,” Stiles’ dad said.

“He’ll be dealt with according to werewolf law,” Derek said.

“Murdered,” Stiles’ dad insisted.

“Executed,” Derek said. “We live among humans in peace, following human laws, but when one of us breaks the law, human or werewolf, he must be dealt with by us. Bullets won’t stop him, not for long, anyway, and prisons won’t hold him. It’s the only way.”

Stiles’ dad and Derek stared at each other for a long moment. Finally Derek broke off the stare and nodded. “I’ll pack our bags then. Thank you for your hospitality, and both of you for taking care of Maggie.”

Stiles felt cold all over. “What? No!” He grabbed Derek’s arm before he could stand up and leave the living room. “What if you don’t make it to New York before Peter catches up with you?”

“We’ll be fine,” Derek said. “There are other packs I can call on for help while I’m in their territory.” Derek removed Stiles’ hand from his arm, held it for a moment before letting it go. “Will you make sure that Laura gets buried next to the rest of our family?” Derek asked. “I’ll send you the money . . . . “

“No,” Stiles’ dad said.

Stiles and Derek were both brought up short by that. At their looks, he went on.

“I meant, don’t leave. Not yet. Let’s talk . . . options. And I’d like to meet your uncle before we . . . .”

“You can’t think of him as a person,” Derek said. “Not any longer. Think of him as a rabid animal. He may’ve been your beloved pet once, but now he’ll just rip your throat out.”

“Animal,” Stiles’ dad said thoughtfully. “Do you think he could be responsible for the other deaths?”

“The recent animal attacks?” Stiles said.

Derek shrugged. “It’s possible, but I don’t know much about the cases. I mean, I know why he killed Laura, but I don’t know why he would’ve killed anyone else.”

“I think I do,” Stiles’ dad sighed. “We found a connection between the two victims that we haven’t released to the public yet.”

“What is it?” Stiles said.

His dad glanced at Stiles, then held Derek’s gaze. “The fire. Both of their names were connected to the fire that killed the rest of your family. I’m sorry.”

Maggie made a sound when Derek squeezed her too tight.

“Are you okay?” Stiles asked.

Derek nodded, but he didn’t say anything.

“Here.” Stiles reached for Maggie and Derek relinquished her without an argument. Before Stiles could pull her in close, though, his dad plucked Maggie out of his hands. Stiles looked at his empty hands for a second, surprised by his dad’s stealthy move.

Since his hands were empty, Stiles slid one up Derek’s arm. “We’ll figure something out,” he said.

“You don’t have to pet me,” Derek said, sounding irritated. But he didn’t shrug off Stiles’ hand. “I’m not a dog.”

Stiles blinked away the image of him rubbing Derek behind his ears. “Oh man, why did you put that image in my head? I’ll never be able to get rid of it now.”

“Don’t even think about it,” Derek growled, and only then did Stiles realize that his free hand had moved towards Derek’s head.

Stiles stared at his own hand as if he’d never seen it before. He jumped when Derek clamped his own fingers around Stiles’ hand. He waited for Derek to squeeze, grinding the bones together and bringing him to his knees. Instead, Derek just held on to it for a moment before letting it go.

Stiles blushed, and then turned his head to make sure his dad hadn’t witnessed the moment. His dad, however, was too caught up with Maggie. They seemed to be staring meaningfully into each other’s eyes.

“Oh my god!” Stiles said. “She’s using her Alpha powers for evil! Bad Maggie! Bad girl!”

Stiles’ dad gave him a look. Derek smacked the back of his head.

“She’s not a dog, either.”

“She’s not using her little baby wiles to convince me to commit murder,” Stiles’ dad said.

“If you say so,” Stiles said as he rubbed the back of his head.

~*~*~*~

The options turned out to be pretty limited – kill Peter or somehow ensure that he remained incapacitated in a coma for the rest of his life.

“Killing him would probably be the more merciful option,” Derek said. “Not that he deserves anyone’s mercy. I’m just saying that locked inside his own head with the memories of the fire for six years is probably what did this to him in the first place. He wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, he was my favorite.”

Maggie had been put back up in her crib for this discussion, and Stiles’ dad had removed his service weapon from the holster. He hadn’t locked it in the safe like he usually did, however. The clip had been removed and it lay on the coffee table for ease of access just in case Peter paid them another visit. Stiles and Derek sat on the couch; Stiles’ dad paced the living room.

“I don’t suppose there’s any way to make him see the error of his ways,” Stiles’ dad asked.

Stiles and Derek just looked at him.

“Right. Didn’t think so.”

“Besides, he killed Laura,” Stiles said. “And probably those other people.”

“Worse,” Derek said. “He killed his Alpha. I couldn’t trust that he wouldn’t do so again. To keep Maggie safe, Peter has to die.”

Stiles’ dad dropped into his recliner and wiped a hand over his face. He sighed heavily. “I can’t believe I’m even thinking about doing this. And without any proof, even.”

“Peter admitted to killing Laura,” Stiles said. “Well, he told Derek it was an accident, but . . . .”

“He was lying,” Derek stated.

Stiles’ dad snorted. “I’ll say.”

There was a moment of silence before Stiles’ dad broke it. “I’m going to need a drink if I’m going to be planning a man’s murder. Stiles?”

Stiles retrieved a glass and bottle of whiskey from the hutch.

“Even if he is a rabid dog,” his dad continued as Stiles made his way back.

At the comment, Stiles couldn’t resist reaching out to scritch Derek’s head. Before Stiles knew what had happened, Derek reached up and grabbed his wrist, and flipped Stiles over the back of the couch.

“Oh my god!” Stiles said as he lay sprawled across the couch catching his breath.

“Just hand over the bottle,” Stiles’ dad said.

“I’m fine, thanks for asking,” Stiles said as he handed over the bottle.

Stiles blushed as he righted himself, only then realizing that his upper body had fallen onto Derek’s lap. He was grateful that his dad wasn’t paying attention to him and Derek as he scooted away from Derek, trying to hide the shiver that slid down his spine when Derek sniffed his hair as he sat up. Stiles glanced at Derek, who refused to look at him.

They explained about the mountain ash to Stiles’ dad. He was skeptical, but agreed to stay inside with Maggie while Derek went out with Stiles to stand guard over him as he created the circle. It was kind of lopsided because Stiles left enough room on one side of the house for them to escape should it be necessary. Though Derek and Maggie would still be trapped inside the circle itself unless Stiles or his dad was able to break it.

“This won’t keep Peter away for long,” Derek said. “Once he realizes what we’ve done, all he needs to do is have someone break the circle for him. The mailman, a dog.”

“So the circle’s useless,” Stiles said.

“It’ll give us a warning that he’s coming,” Derek said. “I’ll sense if it’s broken.”

On that note, they went back inside and made their plans.

~*~

The next morning when he left for school, Stiles broke the circle. He had to trust that Derek could protect himself from Peter. It was either that or leave them trapped inside with no way out. Neither option was good. Stiles spent the entire day worrying. And texting Derek. To his surprise, Derek replied to each and every text. It didn’t occur to Stiles until later that Derek was also keeping tabs on Stiles via the texts.

Stiles was only a little bit surprised when his dad showed up at practice, but only when his dad didn’t look at all surprised when Peter stepped out of the tree line did he realize that his dad had been expecting Peter to show. As his dad walked over to meet Peter, Stiles ducked out of the drill they were running and, ignoring Coach Finstock’s bellow, raced to intercept his dad.

“What are you doing?” Stiles hissed at his dad when he caught up to him.

This hadn’t been part of the plan.

“You’re missing practice,” his dad said.

Which wasn’t an answer at all.

“Dad!” Stiles hissed again.

When his dad didn’t answer, Stiles was forced to fume in silence as he followed him. Peter looked amused, which made Stiles want to smack him in the head with his lacrosse stick.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Peter said as they approached him.

Stiles’ fingers tightened around the stick.

“Want to hit me?” Peter said.

“You have no idea.”

“I wanted to meet you for myself,” Stiles’ dad said, ignoring their byplay and answering Peter’s original question.

“Why is that?” Peter asked.

“Derek says that you killed Laura, and that you intend to kill Maggie so you can gain her power, become the Alpha.”

Peter’s pleasant facade fell away as his face twisted. “It seems that Derek has said an awful lot.”

“Is it true?” Stiles’ dad pushed.

“What is truth?” Peter replied blithely.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Stiles’ dad said wryly.

“What are you going to do about it?” Peter asked.

“Nothing. Unfortunately. I don’t have enough evidence to bring you to trial – yet – and Derek’s assured me that prison wouldn’t hold you in any case.”

“Derek’s right about that,” Peter said. “Clever idea with the mountain ash, by the way,” he added, looking directly at Stiles.

“You came back to the house last night?” Stiles said, aghast. Derek hadn’t mentioned it.

“I’ll come back every night,” Peter said. “I have to make sure my nephew and grand-niece are doing alright, don’t I?”

Stiles’ dad clamped a hand onto his arm before he could do something he’d regret.

“Derek’s leaving anyway!” Stiles blurted out. “He’s taking Maggie someplace where you’ll never find her. And if you do follow them, he’ll kill you!”

“Is that right?” Peter drawled, seemingly unaffected by the announcement. “And when would my nephew be leaving?”

“After we bury Laura,” Stiles said.

“And when would that be?”

“I don’t think Derek wants you there,” Stiles’ dad said. “Given the circumstances. Stiles, let’s go.”

“Shit,” Stiles said as they walked away. “Shit. Peter was just as creepy and scary now as he’d been yesterday.

Stiles waited on the sidelines while his dad had a few words with Coach Finstock, telling him that he was taking Stiles out of practice for a memorial service. He left his duffel bag and backpack in the locker, and Betty in the student parking lot, and rode with his dad in the cruiser. Stiles started shaking as soon as he was sitting safely inside the car.

“How did you know he was going to be here?” Stiles asked.

His dad shrugged. “Something Derek said.”

It wasn’t according to plan, but they’d managed to put a bug in Peter’s ear.

“What have we done?”

“Stirred up a hornet’s nest,” his dad said.

~*~*~*~

Stiles and his dad stopped by the Coroner’s Office to pick up Laura’s body. She’d been placed in a special wooden box that Deaton had provided. They carefully loaded the box into the trunk of the cruiser, and then drove out to the Animal Clinic. Derek’s Camaro was parked in the lot. Stiles hurried inside, to where Derek and Maggie were safely ensconced behind the mountain ash barrier.

Derek had been nearly certain that Peter wouldn’t try publicly to hurt either him or Maggie. If he had any sanity left at all he wouldn’t want the secret of the existence of werewolves to get out. Still, that little niggle of doubt had made him agree to seek sanctuary at the Animal Clinic, at least for Maggie’s sake. Stiles knew that if it had just been Derek, he’d have been out looking for Peter. But he had to take care of Maggie now. The responsibility of it was a great and terrible weight on his shoulders.

Stiles looked at Derek to make sure he was alright (other than losing his patience, he appeared to be), and then rushed over to Maggie. She gurgled happily when she saw him. Stiles picked her up and held her to his chest. “You’re going to be okay,” he promised her.

“Are we ready?” Derek said.

Stiles put Maggie down and took the bag of mountain ash that Deaton held out to him. Deaton then offered a single bullet to Stiles’ dad.

“Just in case,” Deaton said smoothly.

Stiles’ dad hesitated, then took the bullet and loaded it into his back up piece. “How did you know what caliber I needed?”

Deaton’s only answer was an enigmatic smile. “Just try not to shoot Derek with it.”

Stiles’ dad raised his eyebrows. “I’ll do my best.”

“Good luck,” Deaton told them, and then the three of them trooped out to the cars. Stiles held a drawstring bag identical to the one Deaton had given him last night, his dad’s gun was loaded with a single wolfsbane bullet, and Derek carried the car seat.

Derek led the way out to the Hale house in the Camaro. It looked spooky and sad. Stiles didn’t say anything because he figured Derek already knew that. Once they’d parked, Derek carried the box containing Laura’s remains to the family plot while Stiles’ dad took possession of the car seat. That left Stiles to carry the shovel.

Derek gently set the box down and reached for the shovel.

“I can help,” Stiles offered.

“No offense,” Derek said, “but I can do it faster. Besides, you’ve got your own job to do.”

Stiles had spread the last of the mountain ash before Derek finished digging. He took a few minutes to admire the play of Derek’s muscles beneath his t-shirt. Until he felt his dad’s gaze on him.

“What?” Stiles said.

“Really? Now?”

Stiles blushed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He knew exactly what his dad was talking about.

Derek glanced over at Stiles without missing a beat with the shovel.

“I’d just like to state, for the record, that Stiles is sixteen. And I’m opposed to the idea of him having sex before he’s thirty.”

“Oh my god, Dad!”

~*~

Derek finished digging the hole without any further embarrassment on Stiles’ part. Stiles’ dad and Derek carefully lowered the box into the hole and then they stepped back. They all stood there for a few seconds, just looking at the box.

“Should we say something?” Stiles said.

“Derek?” Stiles’ dad said, allowing him the first chance.

Derek cleared his throat. “Yeah. Laura was, uh, she was a good big sister. Despite that one time she made my room smell like rotten fish for weeks.” His nose wrinkled up as if he could still smell it. Derek started to speak again, then paused, taking a moment to compose himself. “She was just learning how to be a good Alpha. I mean, we were young when she . . . and there was just her and me. But she was a great mom.”

“She was funny,” Stiles said when it appeared that Derek was done. “And nice. She looked at Maggie like she hung the moon.”

They all glanced at the car seat.

“And she smelled good,” Stiles added.

Both his dad and Derek looked at Stiles.

“What? She did! Like baby powder and lilacs.”

“She loved lilacs,” Derek said.

“She was kind,” Stiles’ dad said with a glance at Stiles. “I think she took pity on two lonely men and gave them someone to care for.”

Tears stung the back of Stiles’ eyes at his dad’s comment, and then he laughed when Derek said, “She swore like a sailor.”

“And burped like one,” Stiles added, remembering the time Laura had chugged an entire can of soda.

After a moment of silence, Derek picked up a handful of dirt and dropped it onto the box. Stiles glanced at Derek to make sure it was alright, and then he did the same. After Stiles’ dad followed suit, Derek began shoveling the dirt back into the hole. Stiles went over and stood beside the car seat. A moment later his dad joined him and they watched Derek bury his sister.

Stiles checked his watch. By the time they’d stopped at the Coroner’s Office and the Animal Clinic, and Derek had dug the hole and they’d held their short ceremony, an hour had passed. Stiles was just getting ready to comment that maybe their plan hadn’t worked when he saw Derek’s shoulders go tense. At least he’d had the decency to wait until Laura had been buried, Stiles thought.

At a look from Derek, Stiles closed the circle around himself, the car seat, and his dad just as Peter sauntered out of the woods.

“Do you really think that’s going to work?” Peter asked in a pleasant tone. “How long do you think you’ll be able to stay in there?”

It was almost as if he wasn’t talking about killing Maggie, his own grand-niece, a four month old baby, merely so he could steal her power.

“Long enough for Derek to kill you,” Stiles said.

Only then did Peter realize that Derek hadn’t been enclosed inside the circle with them. “Clever,” he said. “But what you don’t realize is that I can take Derek. I always could.”

Derek growled. “I’m not sixteen any longer. Uncle.”

Derek took a step towards Peter, and Peter instinctively took a step towards Derek in response. As soon as he did, the circle snapped closed, trapping Peter and Derek inside it. Peter tipped his head back and laughed.

“You’ve thought of everything, haven’t you? Nephew.”

“I’ve thought about the fact that I’m going to have to explain to Maggie that you killed her mother,” Derek said. “Why?” he asked, and Stiles thought he sounded like that 16-year old boy once more.

Peter shrugged. “She would’ve tried to stop me. And besides, the mantle of Alpha would sit much better on my shoulders.”

Derek looked shaken by that comment. Stiles had to tamp down the urge to go to him and offer comfort. As if he knew what Stiles was thinking, his dad reached out and held onto his arm. Stiles didn’t realize he was so transparent to his dad.

“What’s wrong, Derek?” Peter said. “Had you still been hoping it was all some terrible mistake?”

“Yes,” Derek admitted, and then he leapt.

Peter had been expecting it, though. He used Derek’s momentum against him and threw Derek into the barrier formed by the mountain ash. Derek bounced off and landed in a heap on the ground.

“Derek!” Stiles called out.

Peter glanced over at Stiles with a raised eyebrow. “Interesting,” he said thoughtfully. Peter looked back at Derek. “I never figured you for a . . . .”

Peter never got to finish whatever he’d been about to say. Derek kicked out with his legs, knocking Peter’s feet out from under him. Peter was up quickly, but by then Derek had regained his feet, as well.

They pummeled each other and Stiles winced with each blow. Peter was the first to draw blood with his claws, swiping them across Derek’s face and leaving three parallel furrows that filled with blood. Stiles couldn’t stifle his gasp, but he clamped his lips on saying anything that might distract Derek from the fight.

Derek appeared galvanized by the sight of his own blood on Peter’s claws. Derek kept Peter off balance for a while, but then Peter got in a lucky blow that stunned Derek. Peter took advantage of Derek’s momentary disorientation and kicked him in the stomach. Derek flew into the barrier again and had the wind knocked out of him. As soon as Derek landed on the ground Peter was on him.

“Stay here,” Stiles’ dad commanded in a low voice, and then he stepped outside the protective circle.

Stiles had to shove the heel of his hand into his mouth to keep from calling out his dad’s name and drawing Peter’s attention to him now that he was unprotected by the circle of mountain ash. Peter was still hitting Derek, not delivering the killing blow because he was having too much fun, apparently, telling Derek just how badly he’d screwed up, and who did he think he’d be able to protect Maggie from anyone?

Stiles would’ve liked to hit Peter then himself, but he had to rely on his dad, who’d snatched up the shove and now raised it above Peter’s head just as Peter raised his hand to swipe his claws across Derek’s throat. Peter must’ve sensed movement behind him, because he turned and grabbed the shovel out of the air as Stiles’ dad brought it down.

Peter’s smirk fell off his face, and whatever scathing comment he’d been about to make died on his tongue. His gaze dropped to Derek’s hand, which was shoved into Peter’s chest. Peter released the shovel, which clattered to the ground, and grabbed Derek’s wrist. He fell backwards, almost in slow motion, and Derek’s claws came out of his chest with a sickening sucking sound.

Peter fell onto the ground and Derek moved slowly to loom above him as whatever damage Peter had done to him healed.

Peter sneered at Derek. “Are you going to kill me now?” he rasped, blood dribbling from his lips.

“I am carrying out the sentence of death as required by law for the murder of your Alpha,” Derek said. “Your execution is by order of the Alpha’s Regent.”

Derek held out his hand without looking away from Peter. Stiles knew immediately what he wanted. Stiles reached beneath the blanket covering the car seat and withdrew the recorder that had been playing back the sound of Maggie’s even breathing and the beating of her heart.

Carefully staying outside the circle that enclosed Derek and Peter, lest Peter make a last ditch attempt to kill him, Stiles tossed the recorder to Derek. He snatched it out of the air and brought it to Peter’s face. Stiles watched Peter’s eyes go wide with the understanding that Maggie had never been there at all.

“I would never put Maggie within your reach,” Derek said. “But I do want her heartbeat to be the last sound you hear.”

Derek placed the recorder next to Peter’s ear. He waited only a moment, just long enough for Maggie’s heartbeat to fill his ears. And then he slashed Peter’s throat.

~*~*~*~

Even though he’d been expecting it, Stiles jumped and had to look away for a moment. Then he ran towards Derek as he dragged himself to his feet, toe kicking across the line of mountain ash to break the circle as he crossed over it.

“Are you alright?” Stiles asked, touching Derek’s arm, his cheek. Stiles’ fingers came away covered with blood, but the skin beneath had healed. It was awesomely cool, but Stiles was too worried and relieved by turns to appreciate it.

Derek grabbed Stiles’ arms and just hung on. “I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine,” Stiles argued.

Derek didn’t deny it, but he only said, “Maggie’s safe now, and that’s all that matters.”

“What are we going to do with him?” Stiles’ dad asked.

Derek looked down at Peter’s lifeless form, and then over at the burnt out shell of his former home. “I’m going to burn him,” Derek said. “He’ll die where he should’ve died six years ago.”

“We can help,” Stiles said.

“No. You need to pick up Maggie and get back home. I’ll need an alibi for the fire.”

“Derek . . . ,” Stiles tried to argue, but Derek pulled out the keys to the Camaro and handed them to Stiles.

While Stiles was staring at the keys, Derek gently picked up Peter’s body and walked towards what remained of the house.

“Derek’s right,” Stiles’ dad said. “We need to be far from here when this place burns.”

“What about Derek?” Stiles asked as he watched Derek walk up the front steps of the house, Peter hanging in his arms, a weary slump to his shoulders.

“He’ll be fine,” Stiles’ dad said. When Stiles didn’t appear convinced, he added, “Derek’s not going to do anything stupid. He’s got Maggie to think about. Among other things.”

The tone in his dads’ voice told Stiles that a retreat was definitely in order if he didn’t want to be grilled about Derek. He picked up the recorder and went back for the empty car seat. He made sure the other circle was broken, and then headed for the Camaro. Any other time he’d be near to wetting himself with excitement at being able to drive it, but he was too concerned about Derek to relish the moment.

They picked up Maggie from Deaton, who said that she’d been a perfect little angel, and who appeared reluctant to let her go. Another conquest, Stiles thought as he returned the recorder to Deaton and buckled Maggie into the car seat.

Back home, they fell into their (new) usual pattern of changing and feeding Maggie, and then playing with her until she was ready to go down. Stiles didn’t have his books at home to do homework, so he stayed in the living room with his dad while they both waited for Derek to return. Waited for the call from the Department to tell them about the fire. His dad sipped at a glass of whiskey and stared at Maggie, sleeping in the drawer because Stiles didn’t want her out of their sight.

“Are you alright?” Stiles asked.

“I’m just trying to convince myself that we didn’t kill a man tonight, we saved a child’s life.”

Stiles figured his dad wouldn’t appreciate him pointing out that technically they hadn’t killed anyone. They were accessories before and after the fact. They’d taken part in a conspiracy to kill someone. But Stiles couldn’t bring himself to care, because Maggie was safe now. And as Derek had said, that’s all that mattered.

“We did,” Stiles said. “We did what we had to do. The same thing you would’ve done if it had been me.”

Stiles’ dad looked at him for a moment, then said, “When did you get so smart?”

“I’ve always been smart,” Stiles said. “You just never seem to appreciate it.”

“Way to ruin the moment,” his dad said wryly.

Stiles managed a grin for him.

~*~

“I’m back,” Derek said, startling them both.

“Je–ezum!” Stiles said, clutching at his heart.

The corner of Derek’s lips twitched, as if he wanted to smirk, but couldn’t quite manage it. He glanced over at Maggie, though he had to already know she was safe, but couldn’t resist the urge to see for himself.

“I’m going to take a shower,” Derek said, and then left just as quietly as he’d come.

Stiles’ stomach growled. Now that Derek was home, and he wasn’t preoccupied with worrying about him, Stiles realized that he was hungry. “We never ate,” he said.

Stiles’ dad looked at the empty glass in his hand. “Huh.”

They went out to the kitchen and peered into the refrigerator for leftovers they could heat up.

“I’d kill for a casserole right about now,” Stiles’ dad said.

“Seriously,” Stiles said. “Stop jinxing us.”

They decided on cheesy scrambled eggs and toast and had it ready by the time Derek came down from his shower. They ate in silence, the air still heavy with everything they’d done that night. Derek was the first to finish. He pushed his plate back and stared uncomfortably at the table.

Finally Derek said, “Thank you.”

Stiles reached out and brushed his fingers across the back of Derek’s hand. “I’d do anything for Maggie,” he said. He didn’t add that he’d do anything for Derek, but Stiles thought he might.

“It still doesn’t sit well,” Stiles’ dad said, “but I know we did what we had to. The only thing we could do.”

Derek nodded his acknowledgment of the point.

“Will you be staying in Beacon Hills now?” Stiles’ dad asked.

Derek looked like a deer caught in the headlights, unsure of the correct answer.

“Either way, the offer to stay here until you decide what you’re doing, or until you get settled still stands,” Stiles’ dad said. “But I will reiterate one thing – sixteen.”

Stiles wished for the floor to open up and swallow him.

“Well,” Stiles’ dad said as he pushed to his feet. “Card Sharks waits for no man. Stiles, you got this?”

“Yes,” Stiles squeaked, still trying to play invisible.

As soon as his dad left the room, Stiles said, “Sorry. About that.”

“It’s fine,” Derek said. “He loves you.”

“Yeah, I just . . . wish he wouldn’t embarrass me.”

“Laura used to love to embarrass me,” Derek said.

Stiles’ eyes shot up to Derek’s face. “Really?”

“Yeah. Maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime.”

“Okay,” Stiles said. He was dying to hear more, but he didn’t want to push. He reached out and touched Derek’s hand. “Are you alright?”

Derek shook his head. “No. Not right now. Maybe not for a while.” He turned his hand over and tangled his fingers with Stiles’ before Stiles could pull his hand away. “But I think I will be.”

Stiles swallowed hard. “Good. I’m glad.”

“Me, too,” Derek said.

They looked meaningfully at each other, and for a moment Stiles thought Derek might kiss him. And then Maggie let out a wail.

~*~*~*~

Epilogue – Early November, 2013

Maggie had outgrown her highchair, at least in her own mind, and hers appeared to be the only opinion that mattered. And this morning she wasn’t interested in the ‘big girl’ booster seat they’d gotten her, so she was perched on Stiles’ lap eating Stiles’ toast.

Derek watched Maggie over the top of the paper he was reading. “Are you enjoying that toast?”

“Yes,” she said emphatically, and then she gave him a raspberry-coated smile.

“I’m glad,” Derek said solemnly, raising the paper to hide his own smile behind.

Maggie used Stiles’ fork to stab at some cold scrambled eggs and then nearly poked her eye out getting it to her mouth. She growled a protest (she really had been hanging out with Derek too much) when Stiles tried to help her. She had reached the ‘I can do it myself’ stage in her development with a vengeance.

Stiles glanced around the kitchen. It still carried the sheen of newness, but it was slowly gaining that lived in feel. It had taken Derek less time to decide that he was staying in Beacon Hills with Maggie than it had for him to reach the conclusion that he needed to rebuild on Hale land. If for no other reason than Maggie would need the space as she grew up. Besides, it was her legacy.

(Actually, what had taken the longest was Derek giving in to the inevitable and putting the Camaro in storage. He purchased an SUV, though Stiles had kept trying to steer him towards a mini-van just for the expression it put on his face, which had been priceless. Stiles had the photos on his phone to prove it.)

Maggie had been thrilled about the new house and getting her own room until the day came to move in and she realized that Stiles and his dad weren’t coming with them. Stiles had seen (and heard) her throw tantrums before, but that one had been a whopper. Stiles promised that she would see him every day, but she could not be consoled. She eventually cried herself to sleep and they put her to bed in her new room while they all sat in the living room and felt miserable.

That night Maggie tried to run away. She was surprisingly determined. Derek shadowed her nearly to the end of their long driveway before her little legs gave out. He carried her back home and tucked her into bed, and then called Stiles to vent his pain. Stiles had shown up early the next morning and started breakfast while they were both still asleep.

Derek came down first, hair sticking up all over his head, and stared at Stiles as if he might be seeing a ghost. And then he gave Stiles a hug and buried his nose in Stiles’ neck while the bacon got extra crispy. Maggie squealed Stiles’ name when she saw him and a routine was borne. Even on school days, Stiles stopped by to kiss Maggie (and Derek) good morning and snag a piece of toast or handful of cereal before heading out.

Stiles liked the weekends best, when he didn’t have to rush off. When he could stay and cuddle with Maggie (and later Derek). When they could race around the backyard until Maggie (and Stiles) were both ready for a nap. (Stiles long before Maggie.) When Stiles could glance over and catch Derek staring at him with a hunger in his eyes that made Stiles trip over his own two feet and Derek duck his head to hide his smile.

Derek lowered the paper now and stared hard at Stiles. “What are you thinking about?”

Stiles gave Derek a cheeky smile. “You.”

Stiles noticed that Maggie was finger painting with a glob of jelly that had fallen off the toast and onto the table. “You done?” he asked as he reached for the ever present package of wipes.

It was a crap shoot whether Maggie would sit still while her hands and face were wiped clean, or squirm impatiently. Today was a squirming day. Except Maggie kept squirming even while Stiles had finished.

“What’s wrong?” Stiles said.

“Itches,” Maggie told him.

“Where?” Stiles asked, even as he raised his hand to scratch her back.

“Under my skin,” Maggie said.

Derek slowly lowered the paper and stared at Maggie with a frown.

“What is it?” Stiles asked him.

Before Derek could answer, Maggie arched her back and shifted. Stiles let out a (very manly) squeak when a wolf cub appeared in his lap. He jerked back in surprise violently enough to tip his chair back. Derek reached out and casually hooked his foot around the leg of Stiles’ chair, keeping him from cracking his skull open on the floor.

Maggie leapt off Stiles’ lap and whined when she was hampered in her movements by the nightgown that had gotten twisted around her body. She pawed at the nightgown until she managed to pull it off over her head. Maggie shook herself, and then trotted off to explore, one sock still on a back paw, and her pull-up hanging off one leg.

“What the hell,” Stiles said, torn between laughing at Maggie and making sure his heart wasn’t going to leap out of his chest. He looked at Derek, who looked kind of stunned himself, but not altogether surprised. “Did you know that was going to happen?”

“Eventually,” Derek said as he stared at the doorway through which Maggie had disappeared.

Both of them jumped out of their seats when they heard a crash from the living room.

~*~

Stiles and Derek sat on the back porch and watched Maggie gambol about the backyard. Stiles held the sock he’d rescued from her paw; the pull-up had been lost in the scramble down the hallway to the back door.

Stiles leaned against Derek. “Can you do that?”

“No. Only Alphas shift into the full wolf form.”

“Too bad.” Stiles grinned.

Derek glared at Stiles at the implication, but he didn’t really have a leg to stand on. Dog jokes aside, Derek loved it when Stiles rubbed his head.

“When does it usually start?”

“Normally the ability to shift comes with puberty.”

“Awesome,” Stiles said dryly. As if puberty wasn’t bad enough.

“But I’ve never heard of a werewolf becoming an Alpha so young, so . . . .”

Which meant there wasn’t any precedent. “I could do some research,” Stiles offered. That’s what he did.

Derek smiled at him.

“What?”

In lieu of a verbal response Derek hooked his arm around Stiles’ neck and pulled him in for a kiss. Stiles laid his fingers along the side of Derek’s neck and melted against him. They only drew apart when Maggie growled. Stiles laughed when he saw Maggie struggling to drag a branch that was almost as big as she was across the lawn.

Maggie eventually gave up on exploring the backyard. She dragged herself up the steps and collapsed across both their laps. Stiles scritched behind her ears and Maggie stretched, pushing her head into Stiles’ hand. A few minutes later Stiles had to stifle a laugh when she let out a snuffling snore.

“Don’t say it,” Derek warned as he gazed at Maggie as if she was the most precious thing in the world.

“When is she going to change back?” Stiles asked instead.

“When she’s ready,” Derek said.

“In other words, you have no idea.”

Derek glared at Stiles.

Stiles had long since become immune to the glare. “You can admit it.”

“Right now,” Derek said, holding the glare.

A moment later Maggie shifted back to her human form. She remained asleep.

“How did you know that?”

Derek smirked at Stiles, then gently lifted Maggie. “I’m going to put her down for a nap.”

Stiles sat on the step for a moment after Derek left, and then he rose and headed for the kitchen, retrieving discarded pieces of clothing along the way. He set the pile of clothes on a chair, and then carried their dirty dishes over to the sink. He was filling the sink with soapy water when Derek returned.

Derek stepped up to Stiles and dropped a kiss to the side of his neck. Stiles tilted his head in silent invitation. Derek gave a low growl and grazed his teeth along the tender skin. Stiles shivered, and then shivered again when Derek brought their bodies together and he felt Derek’s erection pressing into his ass.

As far as Stiles’ dad knew, Stiles and Derek only held hands and engaged in the occasional make-out session. Or maybe as far as he wanted to know, because let’s be serious, Stiles was a teenage boy with teenage hormones, and Derek was, well, Derek. There had been no way Stiles was going to wait a year and a half to get him some of that. To be fair, Derek had tried to hold off, but Stiles was nothing if not persistent. Still, there were some things they hadn’t done yet.

‘Yet’ being the operative word. Because Stiles had a birthday coming up and he expected to spend it doing all the things they hadn’t yet done, as well as some of the stuff they had.

As casually as he could, Stiles said, “So. My birthday’s in a couple weeks.”

“Really?” Derek said as he nuzzled Stiles’ neck and slipped a hand between Stiles and the sink.

“Yes,” Stiles gasped when Derek touched him. “And I hate to be the kind of guy who tells his boyfriend what he wants, but, oh! I, uh, I already know what I want.”

“Is that right?” Derek drawled.

“Mmm, yes,” Stiles moaned. Derek had unfastened Stiles’ jeans and shoved his hand inside. He gave Stiles a slow, teasing stroke.

“And what might that be?”

“Let me give you a hint,” Stiles said as he wrapped an arm back around Derek’s neck and thrust into his hand. “I’ve already bought the condoms.”

He’d gone to the next county over to do it, but he’d managed it with only a little blushing and stammering as the clerk gave him a bored look.

“I’ve already asked your dad to babysit,” Derek said.

Stiles groaned, turning in Derek’s arms so he could kiss him. “Great minds,” he panted.

Derek raised an eyebrow. “Indeed.”

Stiles laughed and prepared to rub them both to amazing orgasms (there was a reason he kept a change of clothes in a draw in Derek’s room) when a small voice proclaimed, “I’m hungry.”

“Hi, sweetie,” Stiles said, his voice coming out strangled. “Oh my god,” he mouthed at Derek, “you didn’t hear her?” Stiles turned away so he could do up his pants without traumatizing Maggie. Or himself.

“I was busy,” Derek grated out, then turned to Maggie with a smile. “How was your nap?”

“Good,” Maggie said, though the few minutes she’d been down barely qualified. “But I’m hungry now.”

“What would you like to eat?”

“We have yogurt,” Stiles reminded them.

“Yogurt,” Maggie agreed as she clambered into her booster seat while Stiles held his breath until she was safely seated.

Derek gave Stiles a hard kiss on his way to the refrigerator. “Later,” he promised.

Stiles went hot, and his deflated cock refilled. He quickly turned back to the sink and stuck his hands in the water.

Derek chuckled.

“What’s funny?” Maggie asked.

“Nothing,” Derek said, but Stiles could hear the laughter in his voice. “I’m just happy.”

“Me, too,” Maggie said.

Me three, Stiles thought.

The End