It starts with a banana. And Stiles is pretty sure that’s how all great stories should start.
He’s studying for his chemistry final when his eyes glaze over the word ‘potassium,’ which draws up Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, which draws up bananas and how much he would really like one. He has bananas, in his kitchen, on a stand that his freakishly anal roommate bought. A banana stand. Stiles hadn’t even known those existed but he did get to say, ‘I’ll make your banana stand,’ to Brian – his roommate and the most boring person on the planet with the judgiest face in existence – and that was a mega-plus.
The problem with that is that he’s perfectly stretched out on the not-quite-big-enough couch he found behind a dumpster at the Dunkin’ Donuts down the block (Brian refuses to even look at it too long let alone sit on it. Has Stiles mentioned that Brian sucks as much as anal rot?) and the bananas, as noted, are in the kitchen.
“Brian! I’m dying, I think.” Brian’s a med student who always seems to be hoping Stiles has some kind of rare disease that he can treat. Stiles had choked on a strawberry last week – not his finest moment, he can admit – and Brian had insisted he was going into anaphylactic shock and that he had to pump him full of epinephrine. “My bronchus is, um, penetrating my C-spine.” He watches Grey’s Anatomy but not, like, religiously, okay?
There’s no rushing sound of Brian’s feet from down the hall or the silent sound of his thundering annoyance and disapproval so he must not be home.
Stiles sighs and resigns himself to not having a banana. And now that he’s identified what he wants, it’s like a desperation to eat one but it still can’t compete with the level of his laziness. No, lethargy, that’s a prettier sound-gasm. The level of his lethargy. So. Right. No banana. He’s resigned himself to his fruitless fate even as he’s actively hating science and chemistry and NASA – because why not? – for not Wonkavating this shit and making that teleporter-thing a reality when a banana pops up on his abdomen.
Stiles blinks down at it, holds it up and says, “Um.”
“I made something out of nothing,” he’s excitedly telling Deaton ten minutes later in his kitchen. Because there are the same amount of bananas there were before, which means Stiles made one. (He knows because Brian counts them and keeps a tally on the fridge – for the bananas, the yogurt, the apples, the bread… basically everything in existence. Did Stiles say ‘anal rot’ because what he meant was… poisonous anal rot. [Okay, so he can’t think of anything worse than anal rot. Sue him.])
The first thing Deaton told him was, ‘Don’t eat it,’ with a very put-upon sigh.
To which Stiles had said, ‘Uh, and if I already did?’ They’d gone from there.
“This is far beyond what I would have thought you to be capable of when—”
“Constantly underestimated, this guy,” Stiles interrupts in a mutter, only semi-seriously.
“Stiles, as a Spark, this is quite unusual. This takes years of study, usually collective power and intense concentration.”
“Are you asking how I got to be this badass, doc? It sounds like you’re asking me how I got to be this badass. And I gotta tell you, it’s a combination of natural talent, sleeping hard and eating a potentially unhealthy amount of Slim Jims.”
“I’m asking: what the hell did you do, Stiles?”
Deaton was no fun. As no fun as Brian with his whole ‘doubting Stiles’ innate awesomeness.’ Unlike Brian though, he was infuriatingly right most of the time. “So, there was a thing with a witch about a week back.”
“Did you tell Derek?”
And Stiles is glad that he’s not having this conversation face to face so no one can see him fumble the phone or his cheeks go hot, because he’s not seventeen anymore. He’s in college and he’s awesome and he has the sex that is casual and Derek Hale is a nonentity in his glamorous Los Angeles life. He saw the back of Kevin Costner’s head once so, yeah, he’s a little bit too busy for Derek. That doesn’t explain why he has to choke back the words, ‘Does he ever ask about me?’ Because he doesn’t care. There is no caring here, caring is for those bears and he is not a bear of the were- or stuffed variety.
“Stiles?” Deaton sounds impatient now.
“Huh? No, I didn’t call him. It was nothing and I handled it. Vi helped and we’re all good.”
“Clearly something happened.”
Stiles sighs mulishly. “Okay, so she sort of zapped me. She was aiming for this transformer, not me, and I kind of got in the way and—whatever, I was fine afterwards. Vi even took me to that emissary of yours down here, uh, Catherine, I think you said her name was and she agreed that I was undamaged.”
“Undamaged and unaffected are two very different things,” Deaton notes calmly.
“Yes, agreed, different words have different meanings. Thanks for that lesson, Elmo.” Stiles snorts, picking an apple up out of the fridge and tossing it up in the air. “Wouldn’t I have seen the effects before now if something had happened?”
“Obviously not. I’m not being flip or dismissive when I tell you that, on your own, you are not capable of this kind of magic.”
“Cool,” Stiles says with a shrug. “I got a power booster. I’m an Italian plumber with a rose, look out. I’m gonna totally start spitting flames now.”
“This is a popular culture reference that I’m not getting, isn’t it?”
“Ouch.” Stiles winces sympathetically. “You’re not even hip enough to say ‘pop culture?’ My dad is hip enough to say ‘pop culture.’”
“Well, I don’t know what you want me to do about it. Even if I did level up magically, I don’t really think that’s a bad thing. Besides, thinking about fixing it, I’m getting all these terrible flashes about bloodletting and drilling holes in my skull to release my ‘humors’ or something.” There’s a weighty pause between them and Stiles says, “Brian keeps leaving his med school textbooks around.”
“I can see you’ve been reading them thoroughly,” Deaton says with that pinch of sarcasm a human person can barely detect.
“Whatever. What I’m saying is that this is awesome, right?”
Deaton doesn’t say anything.
Deaton sighs. “Not awesome,” he parrots and he says ‘awesome’ weird. Not exactly unexpected, that. “You haven’t been trained for this. I have no idea what you might do because you don’t know any better, you have no idea what you might do. This is serious, Stiles.”
“You, sir, are a buzzkill.” Stiles huffs, flops down on his dumpster-couch and bites into the skin of his – Brian’s, whatever – apple. “Fine, so, what do I do then?” he asks around the crunch. “How do we magic-drain my extra special banana-making power?”
“Your finals are over this week, aren’t they?”
Stiles can tell where this is going and he groans loudly. “No, no, no. Vi and I are using this break to go to Cancun and we’re going to do beach-things and tequila-things and probably get parasites, because that’s our luck, and we’ve been planning this for months. Do you understand the kind of dedication that takes with a brain like mine? To stick to something for months?”
“As soon as you get into town, and visit your father, you can meet me at the clinic. Text me when you reach the county line.”
Stiles feels like this is the perfect moment for feet-stamping but their downstairs neighbors already hate them. Stiles may have played Dance Dance Revolution with a visiting Scott for over 82 hours. He doesn’t blame them for calling the police. Twice. Or stealing his mail in retaliation. (Brian does.) “I hate you. I hate witches. I hate my Mario firepower. I hate Beacon Hell.”
“It’s a reason to come home, Stiles. A compulsory one.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Stiles hangs up the phone, grabs another sticky for the fridge and traces Brian’s handwriting for all of the tallies – only changing apples from eight to seven, using the seven on the end of the bread’s seventeen. He carefully shreds the original sticky and flushes it.
Then he marches back to his room, grabs a sticky from his own identical pad and meticulously adds it to the one from the kitchen, perfectly aligning the edges. (Yeah, Brian counts those too.) Stiles would buy his own apples but this was just way more fun.
“But Cancun. Tequila. Parasites. I was going to get wicked thin, Stiles. So thin people were going to worry about my health, they were going to see me and want to hospitalize me. It was going to be amazing.”
Stiles stares up at the slow turn of the blades on the ceiling fan and sighs in the most exaggerated fashion he can manage. “I know. Okay, I know. Do you think that wasn’t my plan?”
Vi glares at him.
“Okay, not the unhealthy-thin part, but I had beach plans. I was going to find a hunky lifeguard who didn’t speak a word of English and fake-drown – or, hey, real drown knowing our track record – and he was going to rescue me with his muscles all a-glistening and I was going to swoon and have a lot of foreign sex that my brain couldn’t even comprehend of until it was actually happening. We are all on the sad side of this turn of events. Don’t I look sad? Because there is all the sad over here.”
Violet sighs and flops down next to him on her bedspread. It’s pale pink and her room is vibrant pink and there are butterflies. Stiles has discussed the decor with her on multiple occasions and there’s been no change. He stopped trying after she punched him in the kidney. “Is this a reinforcements kind of thing? Am I a reinforcement here?”
“What?” Stiles squawks. “No! Freaking go to Cancun and get your parasite. Hell, steal my lifeguard, I know you want to.”
Vi frowns at him. “You’re going to see Derek of your drunk dialing hall of fame,” she points out. “I think you need reinforcements.”
Stiles holds up a pointed finger. “You forget, I already have them there. Pretty much no one but me and Lyds moved out of the Hellmouth because everyone else I know is stupid and death wish-y, which means I’ll be all right. Scott will have my back simply out of habit, since he spent thirteen years doing nothing but looking at the thing, and I’m Pack. So, yeah, Isaac, Jackson, Boyd, Erica, Allison – all kind of douche-y in their own unique ways but also contractually obligated to make sure I’m not miserable enough that they can feel it. It’s, like, a blood oath I swore when I was way too young to understand the magnitude of what a blood oath was.”
“None of this is making me feel better. Seriously, never become a doctor. I know you keep saying that Stiles Stilinski, M.D., sounds fierce – and I’ve fucking told you about ‘fierce’ so many times that I’m not even going to mention it again – but I’m imagining it now and no. ‘You’re kind of dying, but it’s cool because, beforehand, I’m going to get to do some really neat procedures on you.’”
Stiles grins, rolling over and popping up on his elbow. “Was that supposed to be my voice?” he asks about the voice she did not modulate at all to imitate him. “It was good, all low and mannish.”
Vi punches him in the shoulder.
“You are violent and psychologically scarred due to your orphan past, I always forget that. You could’ve gone a whole different way so easily. I’m seeing… innovative serial killer.”
Vi grins darkly. “Oh, are we doing this? Because you are still afraid to go home because a guy there rejected you three years ago.”
“Okay, I don’t like this game. It’s too honest and you know how I feel about that.”
Vi rolls her eyes. “It’s the worst policy in the history of worsthood and only people who are the worst do it,” she quotes.
Stiles grins at her approvingly. “Now say something super liar-y to me so we can even out these honesty scales. Prevaricate, baby, prevaricate.”
Vi hitches the most plastic smile Stiles has ever seen onto her face and says brightly, “I think this is going to go really well, Stiles. You have nothing to worry about.”
Stiles glowers at her. “Thanks.” He rolls off her bed, lets his eyes flick over her and says, “You know, your ass looks really big today,” and then flees before she can attack him.
Vi asks him three more times, over text messages that get increasingly more capslock and swear-y, if she should come with him. Stiles finally texts back: ‘If you come to Beacon Hills instead of going to Cancun and getting a sweaty Mexican lifeguard to lick tequila out of your belly button I will mock you forever.’
That solves it.
He calls his dad and pretends not to hear the pure joy in his voice when he tells him he’s coming home for break. So what if he hasn’t been home in a while, he Skypes, he calls, he avoids Derek – he does everything he needs to do to stay mentally fit. His dad doesn’t need to act like he just parted the Red Sea. It is not that level of momentous. And, besides, it’s not really avoiding Derek as much as it is not seeking Derek out. They were never friends anyway so it even makes sense and it certainly has nothing to do with him kissing Derek on the mouth and having Derek break Stiles’ hold on him with a horrified look and a, “God, no, Stiles, what were you—no.”
Yep, Stiles has forgotten all about that. Water under the bridge. And it’s a little bridge, a nothing bridge, like a twig over a gutter basically. He’s fine. He doesn’t relive that horribly, horribly embarrassing moment in his sleep ever.
He taps his hands on his steering wheel, aggressively sings along to Taylor Swift and pulls out his impressive vocabulary of swear words about the mothershitdamningfuck construction on I-5. There’s got to be an alternative route and he’s fishing around for his phone, half-heartedly staring at the brake lights in front of him with a bored expression on his face, and waiting for—“Ho shit!”
Stiles actually rears back, foot pulling off the brake automatically before he slams it back down, stopping himself from rolling into the car in front of him. His windshield is now a detailed map of California and that is so far from okay.
“Hey, stop that,” Stiles says, low and panicky. “Your job is to be all transparent, not map-py. I have a phone, okay, I do not need to step back in time like this with a paper, er, glass map. Thank you, map, but no. Dora says no bueno. You are not the map, you are a windshield and I need you not to multi-task, please. Can’t I just have another banana?” he whines.
The map stubbornly stays put and there’s honking now so he can move up probably the car-length that’s cleared ahead of him and these vultures can just freaking cool it.
Stiles’ hand closes on his phone and he pulls up his navigation app. “Okay, seriously, you can cut it out. I have it, I’ve got it, I’ve even got an English dude who sounds like James Bond to guide me through it so, yeah, stop. Done. Make with the windshield-ing.”
And, surprisingly, it does. That works.
Stiles’ fingers unclench from the steering wheel and his knuckles start to get pink again. He lets out a shaky breath and moves up the two feet of space that cleared so the cars behind him will chill. He eyes his windshield darkly. “Okay, let’s never do that again, shall we?”
The road trip only remains tense for another hour or so before he forgets all about the windshield incident and he’s singing along to Young Volcanoes at the top of his lungs. He’s not strong, okay, and Fall Out Boy is amazing and he’ll high-five all the preteen girls out there who think so too.
He pulls off at a rest stop just inside the county line and texts Deaton and his dad the same message:
Beacon county, woo
Deaton’s gets a period, his dad’s gets an exclamation mark. He knows how to play to his audience and it’s all about punctuation, folks. He also texts Violet:
Gorrito – which is Mexican slang for ‘condom’ so you’ll sound cool while being smart. Have safe and consensual fun, slutbag.
Vi texts him back a picture of Lady Gaga giving him the finger and an emoticon of a kissing smiley face. Sounds about right. He shoves his phone back in his pocket, stretches his legs and gears himself up to pretend to be an emotionally stable adult. It’s going to take some serious prep work.
“I might have half been expecting a wind-up,” his dad says, bursting with happiness in his gruff sheriff-y way, and giving Stiles a rough hug that’s a little on the tight side.
Stiles pats his dad’s back, giving him a grin so wide that his cheek muscles are ill-prepared for it. “Who says ‘wind-up?’ I know you’re a sheriff, but you’re not a sheriff from the 1950s.”
“Double Indemnity’s been playing on TCM a lot,” he says unapologetically. He steps back, holds Stiles by the shoulders and says, “Hell, kid, it’s good to see you in the flesh.”
“Yeah, yeah, hometown nostalgia, malted milkshakes, diners and jukeboxes, tears and laughter.” Stiles waves his hand, racing past his dad and into the house. “I have to pee like a monkey’s racehorse,” he calls over his shoulder, not bothering to close the bathroom door behind him.
He strides back out with a happy sigh and meets his dad’s less than impressed expression. “I know you pulled off to send me that text because I know you would never text and drive—”
“I still have nightmares about that slideshow you showed me when I was fifteen. Yes, you ingrained that lesson, old man.”
“Good,” he says with a smirk that reminds Stiles of where exactly he gets his devious side. “Which means you were probably at a rest stop and you didn’t bother to take advantage of that because you wanted me to get your bags while you sprinted inside.” He holds up the duffel in his hand like it’s damning evidence.
Stiles smirks right back. “It was two bags, and it’s not like it’s going to give you a hernia or I would’ve done it myself. Maybe. Besides, you didn’t have to fall for it.”
“No, I didn’t,” he admits easily. “But I did because I wanted to capitalize on the small sliver of guilt I know you feel over making your father do the heavy-lifting to con you into picking up the food I ordered to go from Farley’s.”
“You’re pure evil.”
His dad laughs. “Forgot where you get it from, didn’t you?”
“Only momentarily, sir. Only momentarily. This injustice will be avenged.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Bring back a handful of spicy mustard packets with it too,” his dad adds, practically pushing him out the door.
“Some homecoming,” Stiles mutters, and it doesn’t sound half as sarcastic as he meant it to.
Stiles decides to walk rather than take the Jeep and texts Scott:
In town. No, you’re not being Punk’d because this isn’t 2003 and, yes, you are that predictable. Walking to Farley’s. Lycanthropic company is always appreciated.
He slides his phone back in his shirt pocket just in time for it to be crushed by a pair of arms wrapping around his chest from behind and hefting him off his feet.
“Dude,” he chokes out, “how fast are you now?”
Scott puts him down, spins him around and he’s got that stupidly endearing smile on his face. “I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar.”
“Aw, man, my heart hurts now,” Stiles says, completely seriously.
“Dude, I missed you so freaking much, you have no idea.” Scott can’t stop grinning and even if Stiles didn’t have enthusiasm to match, Scott’s has always had an infectious quality to it. “Last I heard you were trying to make Brian live out the plot of Harriet the Spy. How’d that go?”
“Fucking bust, dude,” Stiles says, kicking a rock as they knock shoulders and fall into step with each other. “He is not half as gullible as he should be.”
“So, Allison, pregnant? Are we still excited about that or do I need to continue stockpiling for when we move to Romania, grow mustaches and assume new identities? Ya ne govoryu na etom yazyke.”
Scott stops and perks an eyebrow at him, laughter bubbling up behind his words as he says, “Dude, what the hell was that?”
Stiles shrugs, unembarrassed because he’s never, ever been embarrassed in front of Scott. That’s kind of the beauty of Scott. “I don’t know, and I’m pretty sure it was Russian anyway.”
“You know the weirdest fucking stuff, man. And, no, no stockpiling. We’re still excited.”
Stiles grabs Scott by the shoulder, wide-eyed. “Did you just say the ‘F’ word? Scott, who is making you into a potty mouth? You need a better social circle if you’re going to get more hardcore than ‘crap’ on me. I feel like I don’t even know you anymore.”
Scott takes in a deep breath of air, wafting it up to his nostrils. “Ah, the smell of sarcasm. I’ve missed it, man.” He knocks into Stiles’ shoulder as he picks up the pace again, no wolf-strength behind it. “Allison insists we need to get it out now because she doesn’t want us cursing in front of the baby.”
Stiles makes a faux-pondering sound. “They do retain so much at that age.”
“Shut up. She’s reading basically every baby book ever written and pretty much you shouldn’t touch or speak or look directly at the baby and also do all of those things because that’s the only way it’ll grow up to be psychologically undamaged.”
“Oh. So… totally doable?”
Stiles agrees to brunch with his engaged, knocked up best friends and that will never not be scarily adult to him and shoves food in his face as fast as he can so his dad won’t get to it first and then stops off at Deaton’s.
He looks up from giving a shot to a scruffy-looking canine, only half-interested in Stiles’ arrival. “Did anything else happen since the first incident?” He sounds like he already knows the answer.
Stiles crosses his arms over his chest, leans up against the counter. “I made my windshield into a map. I talked it out of that though.”
Deaton frowns. “I should have foreseen that,” he says under his breath. “You shouldn’t have driven here on your own,” he sighs, “but what’s done is done. However, I am grounding you – literally. Nothing with wheels until we’ve removed the witch’s power from you.”
“You’re my least favorite veterinarian ever, you know that?” Stiles shifts uneasily. “I never got hard agreement that we’re not drilling into my skull to do that, by the way. So, we’re not drilling into my skull to do that, right?”
Deaton bitchfaces at him in that blank way he does.
“Just making sure, all right?” Stiles says, holding up his hands. “So, how are we doing it?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t even know power transfers like this could happen. While I’m researching this, I suggest you try to stay out of trouble and leave the untapped potential for disaster brewing inside of you alone.”
Stiles’ nostrils flare in amusement. “This is going to be a swell vacation,” he tells the ceiling sarcastically while he rolls his eyes. He kicks off the counter and turns on his heel.
“Try not to run into a witch or a wendigo or an intulo nest on the way out,” Deaton tells him before he can take so much as a step out. And Stiles really needs to stop giving the man dirt on him.
It’s closing in on eleven fifteen when he gets outside the Animal Clinic, which means if he walks fast he can see his dad off for his shift. There’s a light drizzle happening, really only visible in the street lamp and the sheen quickly building on his skin. He pulls his hood up over his head with a grumble and drops his fingers down to his jacket’s zipper, which is doing a good job of pretending to be broken.
“You are stupid and not broken because you have no reason to be broken. I’ve been nothing but good to you and this is how you repay me, you stupid fracking—ow!” His thumb slips off the zipper and the nail bites into his index finger hard enough to draw blood. “Oh freaking awesome.”
Stiles’ toes feel frozen at that voice, which is such a strange thing to have happen. That his toes feel like immobile blocks of ice and it’s got to be a precursor to it spreading up his legs and keeping him from running. It’s like he’s right back in high school, out of his depth and whole body betraying him and pathetic over a guy who couldn’t care less about it. He hears Violet’s voice in his head saying, “You are still afraid to go home because a guy there rejected you three years ago,” and he decides it’s time to put an end to that. That he’s, er, probably better than that, or at least can fake that he is.
“Derek, hey, hi. You’re here and that’s awesome.” Or, you know, he can’t.
“Are you, um—What are you doing back?” He looks as uncomfortable as Stiles feels and that’s some small consolation. He even takes a step forward and back like he can’t figure out how to act normal around him and Stiles feels a stab of vicious glee before it sours, because Derek doesn’t deserve that. All the shit he’s been through and he did nothing to Stiles that Stiles didn’t know was a possibility long before he ever tried to plant his lips on him.
He needs to not be awkward because Derek deserves to not have to be awkward back. And that reasoning actually works. He shrugs easily. “You know, the usual. Witches, I’m the highlander now, magic bananas.”
Derek’s lips twitch slightly before the smile flitters away from him and he frowns. “Witches? Are you—You’re not hurt, right?” His nostrils flare and then he’s right in Stiles’ space and his eyes are flooding red and he growls out, “You’re bleeding.”
Stiles blinks, trying not to breathe in because Derek is close and Stiles is not… sensorily prepared for that at all. “Huh?” he gets out breathily and only half as indignant as he means to be. “No, I’m—oh.” He holds up his finger. “It’s the equivalent of a paper cut, dude, so you can put the eyes away. You’d have to go after me to avenge me anyway since I nailed myself.” Stiles’ eyes go wide. “Uh, I mean I stabbed myself with my own nail. Obviously that’s what I meant. Obviously.”
Derek’s smirking now and he backs up a few steps. “It’s good to have you back, Stiles.”
Stiles’ mouth pulls up slightly at the corners. “I’m not, like, back-back but, yeah, it’s nice to, uh—it’s nice to be home.”
Derek’s eyes go soft and warm, delighted if Stiles had to name it, and Stiles coughs and jerks his thumb over his shoulder before turning and walking back to his dad’s. He tells himself that he can’t stop shivering when he gets inside due to the weather. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it, for his mental health.
“Derek stayed up half the night pacing,” Isaac tells him from across the counter the next morning. It’s seven a.m. and Stiles wants to smack him for existing, let alone speaking. Isaac takes a sip of his coffee and says with eyes that are crinkled at the corners, “I think he’s excited.”
Stiles glares at him. “You’re here at seven in the morning,” he croaks out, voice all hoarse and weird. “Seems like you’re the excited one.”
“I brought you a crumbly muffin,” Isaac says archly, “you’re polite to me or I crush it into your hair.”
Stiles grins. Fuck but he’s missed Isaac. He will never, ever tell him so. Stiles shrugs, sinks down into a seat at the table and says, “The Pack’s all back together for the first time in years, sans Lydia, I can’t say the guy doesn’t have reason to be excited.”
Isaac scoffs. “Yeah, because that’s why he’s excited.”
Stiles knows that. That’s why he just said it. Isaac is so stupid sometimes but Stiles can forgive it because it’s early and words shouldn’t even exist now, especially not whole conversation-type words. Stiles lays his head down on the placemat in front of him and starts snoring three minutes later.
“I hate you,” Jackson tells him when he opens the door of Derek’s loft.
“Aw, I hate you more,” Stiles holds out his arms, “come here, Scaly, bring it in.”
Jackson rolls his eyes, looks down like he’s considering kicking Stiles in the shin, and then leans into him, pats him on the shoulder and pulls back. He stares at Stiles like if he so much as mentions the half-second hug thing that just happened, he’ll rip out Stiles’ pancreas and make him watch while he eats it.
Stiles heeds stares like that. He does.
He only gets a few steps past Jackson before Erica’s bounding into his arms and all he’s aware of is a mane of frizzy blonde hair in his face and arms and legs octopused around him. He squeezes her back and then his arms are trapped by someone else’s chest and both he and Erica are being squished and lifted up.
“Hey, Boyd,” Stiles says with all the lung capacity he has left, spitting out Erica’s hair when it gets in his mouth.
Boyd sets them back on the ground and Erica unravels herself from him and he stumbles away only to be scooped up by the shoulders by Scott and plopped down on a sofa Stiles doesn’t recognize between him and Allison. He turns to Allison and immediately places his palm on her belly. “Oh my God, you’re so big now. You must feel like a rampaging rhinoceros, especially with the moles and the leathery skin.”
Allison does kick him in the shin. She stands up just to make sure it’s a good one. “I’ve gained four pounds. I’m still in my first trimester, you—you Stiles,” she says, as though that’s the best insult she could come up with. She sinks back down on the couch next to him and sniffs. “I’ve really fucking missed you.”
“You and Scott with this language of yours, I swear, it’s like I’m best friends with the Aristocrats.”
Allison snorts. “You should see my dad about this. He tears up just about every time I walk into a room. It was really sweet at first and now I kind of want to punch him.”
Stiles pats her on the arm. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about how gross this miracle is and how it’s likely to wreck your vagina, skin and life permanently.”
Allison smiles at him. “I hate-love you. You’re my least favorite-favorite person.”
Sounds about right.
Derek clears his throat and Stiles has been pretending not to notice him. This makes it harder, when he stands directly in front of them and basically calls everyone to attention. The wonderful-horrible thing about him – and, frickazee, his subconscious already sounds like Allison - is that Derek looks exactly the same as he did the last time Stiles saw him. He’s still all muscled and has that perfectly proportioned face that scientifically spells out beauty and maybe when Stiles had been dreaming up his Mexican lifeguard he’d thought of a Latino version of Derek and it sucks that he’s not half as over this as he thought he was.
He’s going to pretend otherwise. He’s going to pretend it hard.
“We have selkies.”
Jackson leans back in the armchair he snaked out from under Isaac and raises his lip in a sneer. “Is that like a venereal disease? Because in that case it should be, ‘I have selkies,’ and you should be telling a healthcare professional and letting us sleep in on a Saturday.”
“They’re shape-shifting seals. What do I win, Pat?” Stiles looks up at Derek with enthusiasm and holds out his hand.
Derek rolls his eyes and keeps his arms firmly crossed over his chest. Scott slaps him five and Isaac puts a Twizzler in his palm when Stiles keeps holding it out. That’ll do. He sucks on it idly, knowing it’s just going to turn his tongue red and not caring and says, “Aren’t they, you know, peaceful shape-shifting seals?”
Derek tightens his jaw. “This territory is spoken for, peaceful or not.”
“Well that’s not very neighborly,” Stiles says.
“Yeah, but they’re not neighbors,” Boyd says simply, “they’re basically burglars who never heard that they’re not supposed to still be at the crime scene by the time the owners get back.”
“Your analogy is flawed and hard to follow,” Stiles tells him. It’s early and that was near-impossible to decipher. “Wouldn’t you rather use bad roommates as an example? I mean, all that’s happening here is that they’re using all our shit without asking permission first. And, in that case, we should just start licking stuff. No one wants to touch things that other people have licked.”
“Brilliant,” Jackson says snidely. “I don’t know how we’ve gotten by without you, Stilinski, honestly. And roommates implies that we’ve both agreed to the living arrangement, which is why Boyd’s was better than yours. Clearly your brain damage has progressed while you’ve been away.”
Stiles just got mentally one-upped by Jackson. He opens his mouth to salvage this somehow, smack him in the face with a genius comeback. Instead he smacks him in the face with his drool-covered Twizzler. Totally saved face.
Jackson looks like he might wolf-out and Derek steps back into the fray. “Peter and I are going to approach them about their intentions this afternoon.”
Stiles wrinkles his nose. “Peter?”
Scott nods and steals one of Isaac’s Twizzlers, chewing on it messily. “We send Peter on all the things since no one cares if he lives or dies. Derek’s just stupid.”
That sounds about right, too.
In the end, Stiles isn’t terribly surprised when Scott shows up on his doorstep and says, “Hey, so, instead of brunch, let’s go make sure Derek doesn’t get himself killed.”
Stiles shrugs into his jacket and says, “Okay,” and it’s kind of disturbing how easy it is to fall back into all this.
“Awesome. I usually have to take Isaac and there’s this barista girl that he angry-likes.”
Stiles snorts. “I totally forgot about the angry-likes. Did he tell this one that her dimples make him want to punch things?”
“Not yet. I think he’s at the, ‘the blonde-brown streaks in your hair make me want to throw up,’ stage.”
“Has he ever gotten laid? How can he be in his twenties and not know how to speak to people he’s attracted to?”
Scott raises his eyebrows at him. “Careful there, that superior step you’re standing on is wobbling.”
Stiles scowls. “I will stop speaking to you. I will sit cross-legged on this ground right here and stop speaking to you for a whole day.”
“If you silent-treatment me then I will cry on you.”
Stiles swallows. There is little worse than a crying Scott. And there’s nothing that makes his stomach shrivel up faster than seeing tears in his best friend’s eyes. “Okay, or neither one of us will do either of those things and you also stop mentioning the thing you were mentioning.”
“Fine.” Scott shoves his hands in his pockets, awkwardly rocks his torso back and forth and breaks the deal that quick. “He’s been pining for you though! He heard your voice over the phone once and his heart just, Stiles, it jumped. He wants you, I know it.”
Stiles stops and takes a deep breath in, closing his eyes. He doesn’t open them again until he’s sure he won’t lose it on Scott. He hitches a smile onto his face but he knows Scott can hear the ominous quality of his tone that says, quite clearly, ‘step the fuck off.’ “One, you’re stupid. Two, and oblivious. Three, do you not remember the few weeks before I left and how horrendously awkward and awful they were? We could barely be in the same room together. This is better so just—I’m going to go back to L.A. in less than two weeks and Derek is going to go back to doing whatever Derek does and that’s where we’re going to leave things, okay?”
“Okay,” Scott says, because he knows when to push. And he knows when not to. He holds off for a second and then says, “Allison wants to name our kid ‘Brent’ if it’s a boy and I can’t tell if she’s joking or not. If she is, it’s hilarious. If she isn’t, I might have to break off the engagement.”
“I have a Romanian dictionary,” Stiles reminds him.
Scott smiles at him. “Dude, you’re the best.”
They’re kicking a rock back and forth by the time they reach Beacon Lake at a decided mosey. Derek’s already there and Peter’s leaning against a tree off to the side and watching the proceedings with flinty eyes.
Stiles walks up with his hands in his pockets and a selkie woman’s eyes shift to him and Scott before refocusing on Derek as though unbothered by their appearance. “Your territory does not extend to the ocean, lake, or sea. We will stay off your land, you stay out of our water.”
“Oh my God, is that a baby seal? That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.” Stiles is pretty sure he didn’t mean to say any of that out loud, especially not in the middle of important inter-species negotiations, but it is totally the cutest thing he’s ever seen.
“Stiles,” Derek snarls at him but the woman selkie has turned to look at him with an encouraging smile.
See, selkies can appreciate him and Derek can’t. That is so messed up.
Stiles takes a step closer and indicates the infant seal that’s loping up onto the rock next to her. “Can I?”
She nods, looking amused, and Stiles decides he likes the crap out of selkies and Derek’s just being a territorial asshat. He’s making up a Team Selkie shirt just as soon as he gets home. He scrubs under the chin of the wittle seal after it’s eyed him warily for a few minutes and allowed him closer and it noms at his fingers curiously. It’s seriously the most adorable thing he’s ever seen and his heart might explode into rainbows any second.
“Who knew you were so fond of the young and cuddly?” Peter says distastefully from over Stiles’ shoulder.
Stiles doesn’t bother to look at him, rubbing the seal’s belly now while it makes odd, but happy, snorting noises. “What are you talking about, I’m nurturing as crap,” Stiles snarks back.
Derek snorts so loudly that Stiles suspects it might’ve hurt.
Fuck him. Stiles is totally fucking nurturing. He’s loving and responsible and—and that’s how Stiles magics a baby into existence.
“I told you to leave the untapped potential for disaster brewing inside of you alone.”
Stiles blinks, impressed despite the situation. “Dude, do you memorize everything you say? Do you have, like, some kind of auditory memory? Or would it be aural memory? Is that a thing?”
“It’s this radical notion of listening when people talk.” Deaton actually sounds upset with him and, okay, yes, popping babies into reality because he’s trying to prove he can nurture things is not a good but it was also a total accident. Which he does not seem to be taking into account.
Stiles keeps his arm wrapped around the baby’s front so he can’t scoot around the table and the kid pulls one of Stiles’ fingers into his mouth and bites down.
“Ow, you little—darling child,” he finishes through gritted teeth. The kid laughs and pounds happily on his own knees while Deaton tries not to smirk too obviously at him.
Stiles leans in and says gravely, “We do not bite things unless they deserve to be bitten. As your creator, I’m giving you the inside skinny: I do not deserve to be bitten. That guy poking you with stuff, yes. Me, no.”
The baby smiles at him and reaches out for his hand again while Stiles scowls at him. He makes a happy sound, opening his mouth and Stiles recoils. “Holy fuck, are those fangs? He just bit me! I’m a serpentine-vampire-wolf now, aren’t I?”
Deaton rolls his eyes. “He’s only a beta. With a drama queen for a father.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s not start picking out ‘#1 Dad’ mugs over here. That’s a magic baby and magic babies don’t count.”
Scott snickers from the corner and Stiles hadn’t heard him come in from the waiting area. “All babies count and, after that comment, you’re totally a #4 Dad anyway.”
Stiles is still standing a good foot away from the exam table after he flinched back and the baby seems to realize he’s not playing a peek-a-boo-esque game with him and his face screws up and he starts wailing. “Oh my God, make it stop.”
Scott strides over and pushes Stiles back towards the table with a roll of his eyes.
Stiles automatically places a hand on the kid’s back again and he quiets down slowly, putting Stiles’ finger back in his mouth as though that’s as good as a pacifier. “Can you, uh, make it stop being a thing now?” he tosses pleadingly at Deaton.
“No,” Deaton says, exasperated. “I have no idea what you’ve done or how you’ve done it but it seems like this one is on you. How did you get rid of the map?”
“I told it to ‘F’ off and it did, um, after I found a replacement for it using the GPS on my phone.” He shoots a stricken look at Deaton. “Tell me I don’t have to find a replacement baby?”
Deaton looks amused again, the asshole, but he says seriously, “I’ll keep looking for a way to reverse or drain the power the witch gave you. That should undo all the magic you’ve performed.”
Stiles sighs and looks down at the baby that’s staring up at him with gold eyes and chewing on his hand almost absentmindedly, the fangs tiny pricks of pain at fairly random intervals. “Well, I guess it’s just you and me for a while, bud. Might as well embrace it, right? I’ll get a bumper sticker that says, ‘my werecub can eat your shih-tzu,’ and we’ll call it a day, huh?”
The baby releases his hand and giggles. Stiles’ heart melts into goo.
He’s got the kid over his shoulder, rubbing his back, as they step into the waiting room of Deaton’s office. Stiles’ brow furrows and he turns back to look at Scott. “Where’s Derek?”
Scott’s body language goes from ‘relaxed’ to ‘shifty as fuck’ in a millisecond. “He went for a walk. To clear his head.”
“Wow, lie. So much lie,” Stiles calls him out, eyes narrowing. “What’s going on?”
“Dude, you want to drop this now.”
Stiles watches him for a half-second, gauging, before he nods once. It’s not a promise to leave it where it’s been dropped but it is one that he won’t immediately pick it back up.
Magic baby interrupts the moment by spitting up on him. Awesome.
His dad runs both hands through his hair again and he’s doing a really awesome impression of Chris Farley freaking out in Tommy Boy right now. It’s not a good thing. “Run through it again,” he says tightly.
Stiles sighs, bouncing the baby on his knee since he starts sobbing whenever Stiles stops. “The witch that I never told you about hit me with some zap-py spell that I never told you about and things started to appear whenever I wanted them, which, yes, I never told you about and for a fleeting half-second I wanted to prove I was a nurturing soul and I got the lifetime commitment of baby-raising in return. Because magic is too stupid to know any better, and kind of sycophantic besides. I mean, I basically asked for a square of chocolate and it built me a palace out of it à la Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
His dad finally looks as exhausted with being told as Stiles does about the telling and he sinks into the chair closest to him at the kitchen table. He rubs at his forehead. “What are you going to name him?” he asks after a long silence.
Stiles stares. “Do I do that? I mean, getting attached seems—”
“Stiles,” his dad says gently, “it’s a baby. You’re going to get attached.”
His dad’s a smart, smart man. “Right you are, daddy-o. So. What about Zooey?”
His dad looks shocked for a moment before a slow, shaky smile spreads across his face. There’s a battered copy of Franny & Zooey on the nightstand in his dad’s bedroom, on Stiles’ mom’s side of the bed, that’s never been moved. Stiles knows that thing forwards and backwards and he could read it every day for a year and still not know it as well as his mom did. His dad leans in and pokes Zooey softly in the belly while he giggles. He’s still looking at him when he says, “That’s a keeper.”
“Okay, mister, you bite me again and I start biting back.”
Zooey blinks wide, golden-brown eyes at him while chewing on Stiles’ fingers. He’s looking at Stiles curiously and it’s an expression, a color he recognizes perfectly.
“You are so my magic little kid.”
Zooey’s nose wrinkles like he might sneeze and then he bites down as hard as he can.
“Ow, you little candy corn vulture! This, sir,” he eyes Zooey gravely, “means war.” Stiles slithers down onto his stomach, picks up Zooey’s hand and carefully closes his teeth on it without any real pressure. Zooey giggles hysterically.
“Candy corn vulture?” his dad parrots, walking into the living room with his eyebrow raised.
“He needs to learn what to really be afraid of, and he also does not need to hear the word,” Stiles picks Zooey up and plops him down in the space between his legs, back to Stiles’ front, and covers Zooey’s ears with both hands while Zo pattycakes with the carpet as though uninterrupted, “M-O-N-S-T-E-R,” Stiles uncovers his ears, “in a negative fashion because when he grows up someone might call him that because they’re adjusting and not as cool as they should be and he needs to be like: well, at least they didn’t call me a vulture.” Zooey is pattycaking on the hand Stiles has held in front of him now, keeping him sitting still.
His dad frowns. “When he grows up?” he says sadly.
Stiles’ chest goes tight but he corrects easily, “Okay, so maybe this Zooey won’t grow up but some Zooey I have someday is going to and so… practice magic baby, you know?”
His dad snorts. “Okay, kid.”
Stiles pretends not to see the sparkle in his dad’s eye at such a certain mention of future grandkids, he pretends he doesn’t want to sparkle right back. Zooey pattycakes as hard as he can on Stiles’ hand and Stiles lifts up his chin with his finger so Zo’s eyes are pointed at the TV screen. “Okay, that is Courage the Cowardly Dog and we love him. That’s Muriel, we love her too. And that is Eustace and we do not love him, except we also kind of do.”
Zooey laughs delightedly when the weremole pops up and opens a mouth full of fangs, clapping uncoordinatedly, using Stiles’ open-faced palm as much as his own.
Stiles looks back over his shoulder at his dad in the armchair behind him and crows victoriously, “And you said this show was inappropriate for children, pshaw.”
Zooey crawls across the carpet a little, as interested in the pattern as he seems to be in Courage and his happenings.
Stiles lays out flat, cheek pressed to the floor, and watches Zooey’s pudgy, tiny baby limbs motor him around. “That’s a pretty baby, right? That’s, like, the prettiest baby you’ve ever seen, huh? He’s perfect.”
“Yeah, kid,” his dad says, kind of wistful, “that’s a perfect baby.”
Zooey crawls over curiously and sticks his hand on Stiles’ lips, and then his nose, and then tries to touch his eye. Stiles opens them again when the coast is clear and Zooey is tugging on his ear. “You are the smallest, most perfect little baby,” he says into jet-black hair. “Like a little protozoa. Ha! Protozooey.”
Stiles clambers back upright and scoops Zooey up into both hands and holds him out in front of him. “Protozo, Protozo, Protozo.” Stiles pulls him in each time he says his name and rubs their noses together. Zooey grabs for his nose the last time and Stiles lets him. “Do you see how smart this kid is? He’s going to be a nuclear physicist.”
“The nuclear physicist is going to need diapers and onesies, Stiles.”
“Oh crap, right.” He eyes Zooey sternly. “That was not an invitation, by the way. What’s he, like, a small?”
“They do those by ages, months old, you know,” his dad says rather smugly in the face of Stiles’ obliviousness. Which is just rude, and a lot like laughing at his pain.
Stiles holds Zooey out in front of him again. “Magic baby, how old are you? Zo-zo, help me out here. How old?” Stiles settles him down on the carpet and presses his nose to Zooey’s belly. “Think there are rings somewhere I can count?” he asks conspiratorially before blowing a raspberry on Zooey’s stomach.
Zooey bangs on his head and giggle-snorts.
“You are usually so terrible with kids,” his dad points out, and he sounds like he’s grinning too.
“Apparently it’s different with kids I make,” Stiles says happily, tugging up Zooey’s diaper and letting him scoot off while he watches him, missing the heartbreaking smile his dad shoots at him. Stiles’ eyes are still on Zo when he asks, “So how old do you think the little asparagus-eater is?”
“Maybe around a year,” his dad guesses.
Stiles scoops Zo up and stands. “I’ll just take you with me, Protozooey, and we’ll dress you to impress.” He looks at Zooey seriously, cradled in his elbow and resting mostly on his forearm and looking up at him with heavy eyelids. “You’re potentially a year-old and that’s old enough to start carrying your own weight. I’ll get you an emergency credit card, a tie and a calculator and you’ll be set for life.”
Zooey bites the button on Stiles’ shirt pocket.
Stiles swats him away without actually touching him. “Choking hazard, bad. You’re never going to work at Google with those kinds of instincts, son.”
His dad mutters something into his mug that sounds a lot like, “at least five buttons outta you,” and Stiles glares at him as he passes.
“I don’t know what size you are and nothing here is named, ‘Zooey’s size,’ so never, ever do this, it’s bad and wrong and obnoxious simply from a retail standpoint but we need these.” Stiles rips open the package and holds the onesie up to Zooey while he tries to eat the plastic it came in. Stiles pulls it away from him. “Seriously, stop it, do you just have no survival instincts down there? I’m surprised you’re not trying to put the bag over your head.”
He places the packaging on the shelf and holds the outfit up against Zooey. “Yes!” Stiles picks the packaging back up and shoves the clothing back inside it while wrangling Zooey into the Boba Fett onesie.
Stiles spends the rest of the trip explaining why Zooey wants to be a badass bounty hunter. He seems to take the lesson very seriously, eyes wide and unblinking. He’s also going to learn about Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader when the time comes because it came in a three pack.
“I totally get why people have babies now, you look like you could freeze me in carbonite at the drop of a hat. Keep up the dark staring, buddy.” Stiles pulls the hood made to look like a helmet over Zooey’s head and leans in to smile at him. “You, my needy little Protozooey, are going to bankrupt me and it is going to be worth every penny.” Zooey kicks him in the chin, probably accidentally. Stiles tsks. “Oh no, do not get all soccer star on me. Oh! Unless you’re planning on being a Keeper and I hate to break that one to you, bud, but Quidditch is sadly fictional. And, besides, I’m not sure how on board I’d be with the flying sports anyway. That’s broken bones waiting to happen. We can have that argument when you’re older but, fair warning, I’m going to win. Your dad’s a champ and, also, not above using fake crying to make a point.”
“He’s an intergalactic bounty hunter!”
“Wait, I know this.”
Stiles puts on his most exaggerated frown and bounces Zooey in his arms. “Scott, let me and Zo in or we’ll freeze to death out here waiting.”
“It’s, like, eighty degrees out there.”
“I’m saying it will take until winter, Scott.”
Scott’s brow furrows and clears. “Oh. Sick burn.” He punches Stiles in the shoulder. “Ass.”
“He’s Boba Fett,” Isaac says happily, swooping in and stealing Zooey from him. He glances around at everyone staring at him and shrugs. “My dad beat and locked me in a freezer for a lot of my childhood. Sci-fi was a big escape, I even read some of the books,” he adds a little defensively.
Stiles eyes him seriously. “Dude, the X-Wing series?”
Isaac rolls his eyes. “Duh, and everything Zahn did, obviously.”
Stiles sniffs, gauges him. “I like you twenty percent better now. Well done, Isaac. You can be co-Thorian parent to Zooey along with Scott. I’ve got to make sure this kid learns something if I die being awesome and amazing somewhere.”
“Um, ‘Zooey,’” Erica says uncertainly from behind him, already sounding judge-y.
“My mother would have loved it,” Stiles says softly and that ceases the questions about it.
He steps away into the main room and Derek’s there like a rain cloud no one asked for. “You shouldn’t get attached,” he says gruffly, not meeting Stiles’ eyes, hands shoved as deep into his pockets as they’ll go.
Stiles narrows his eyes. “It’s a baby, I’m going to get attached,” he quotes his dad. He angry-drops the diaper bag onto the couch next to him and side-eyes Isaac with his kid, but he’s holding him right according to the books Stiles has downloaded to his e-reader. He’s only gotten through four of them and he downloaded about four hundred (or has them in queue to).
“What did Deaton say?”
“The experiments are failing,” Stiles says with his voice low and gravelly. Everyone just blinks at him. “I was being Doctor Doom when—Never mind. Every conduit he keeps trying to use to transfer the power to ends up shattering or warping or, in one memorable instance, ricocheting around the room. Nothing’s strong enough to hold even the practice energy he’s throwing at it.”
Derek’s eyes half-flick over to Zooey but he forcefully redirects his gaze before it reaches him. “Fine,” he grinds out.
So, Derek hates Stiles’ kid. Not surprising.
“We need to decide what we’re going to do about the selkies,” Derek tells them, still speaking through a clenched jaw, when they’re all settled.
“They seemed pretty chill,” Stiles says, popping a pretzel into his mouth while Isaac gives Zooey Cheerios.
Peter slinks out from a corner Stiles had no idea he was hiding in, never one to pass up an opportunity to look like the villain oozing out of the shadows. That guy is trying to fill out an archetype rather than live a life and it’s kind of pathetic actually. Stiles suspects he has no idea how he would even begin to go about the latter. Can’t exactly kill a family member and expect to be invited to bring potato salad to the reunion picnic. “That was before you created a human life out of thin air.”
Stiles swallows. “Come on, who doesn’t like a magic trick?” he tries a little desperately. “They delight and amaze and tickle the senses, right?”
“Selkies would disagree with you,” Derek bites out.
Well. That bums him out. Hard.
“Now they believe we’re unsuited to the territory. They want us to leave while we deal with the sorcerer we’re harboring.” Derek looks like his jaw might snap off with how hard he’s clenching it.
“Okay, one, who still says ‘sorcerer?’ Selkies are clearly not the cool kids of the supernatural world so no one’s going to care if we blow them off because they’re already sitting at the corner lunch table that wobbles and sounds like it has rickets with only their own social group to keep them company. Second, ‘harboring?’ Poor choice of words. I have yet to do anything besides make a baby, a map and a banana and all of those are happy things that require no ‘harboring.’” He holds up Zooey as proof and Zooey starts to screw up his face like he might start wailing again because Stiles took him away from the Cheerios.
Stiles quickly sets him back down and places a Cheerio in his hand. Zooey throws it at his face and seems much happier. Crisis averted.
“You touched one of their children,” Derek reminds him, eyes shorting out between red and green. He’s like a really intimidating Christmas reminder.
“Pet! I pet one of their children and called it cute. I refuse to be ‘harbored’ over that. Maybe if I just talked to—”
Peter scoffs. “Did you think the subliminal message of this meeting was, ‘yes, please, Stiles, make it worse?’”
“I hate you and you say subliminal weird.”
Peter actually looks taken aback by that. When in doubt, go after pronunciation, it makes people all weirdly self-conscious. Point for Stiles.
“You’re staying out of this and staying indoors with your—with it.”
Stiles stands up, eyes narrowing and fists clenching. “He has a name and I know you know it. Don’t you ever call him an ‘it’ again, okay?”
“It’s not a real child,” Derek snaps back. Their faces are barely a foot apart and yet he still won’t look Stiles in the eye.
“You’re not a real Alpha but you don’t hear everyone reminding you about that, do you?” There’s a collective wince around the room and Derek actually backs up a step and Stiles really should not have said that. It isn’t true and he only said it because he knows it’s a complex Derek still has. He reaches out a hand, grabs onto Derek’s elbow and yanks when he tries to avoid his grip. “Hey, that was a shi—crappy thing to say and I said it to hurt you, not because it was true. I just. I don’t like to be reminded that my super awesome kid who is super awesome and dressed like Boba Fett today is also just some random and temporary act of magic and impulsivity on my part.”
Derek shakes his head, says with his voice low, “You’re willfully making this more difficult for yourself. You always do stuff like this, Stiles.” Derek actually looks pissed at him and the vein in his neck is getting more and more pronounced. “You take care of everyone else without any consideration as to how it might affect you. It’s about time you learned how to look after yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.”
“I have a baby, Derek. And, guess what, that’s not the time to learn to be selfish, okay? You can give Zooey as much weight as you want, it doesn’t matter if he’s real or not at the end of the day because he’s still completely dependent on me and he gets to come first and if that means I’m miserable in a few weeks, fine.”
“It’s not just him you do it with, you—” Derek breathes out through his nose as though trying to calm himself down and his gaze flickers to the side. He swallows and Stiles looks too. Everyone is unapologetically staring at them and then Stiles hears Zooey start to sniffle like he’s gearing up for a real sobfest.
“You know, in a plane, they tell you to put your mask on first and then assist others,” Derek says softly, talking only to Stiles and ignoring everyone else. “You never learned to do that. You throw yourself into anything and everything if it means you can take a hit for someone else and you deserve better than that.”
Stiles scoffs, lowering his voice too so they no longer sound like they’re on the verge of screaming at one another. “You’re using aviation policies to argue your point? They can’t even afford peanuts. And I’m still pretty sure they make an exception for babies without the manual dexterity or necessary height to reach the friggin’ mask.”
“You are so damn stubborn,” Derek growls, “you know what I’m—”
Derek stops cold and Stiles blinks because, on the counter next to Derek’s elbow, a mason jar with the plaque ‘Swear Jar’ has popped up.
“Er,” Stiles says. He winces. “You don’t swear in front of a baby and the ‘D’ word has got to be, like, what?” He looks back over his shoulder at Scott.
Scott shrugs, not looking in the least bit surprised or uncomfortable. He and Allison are actually eating chips like they’ve been enjoying the show. “My mom had it at seventy-five cents but considering the times I’m going to say inflation probably has it at a dollar now, at least.”
Derek rolls his eyes, shoves a hand into his back pocket, pulls out two twenties and frowns. “Can anyone make change?”
“Put the twenty in,” Stiles says happily. “We’ll start a college fund for Protozooey. He’s going to a fancy Ivy League school, obviously, because with a nickname like ‘Protozooey,’ he’s going to be interested in science right off. From there we draw him into physics and then astrophysics and then, boom, before you know it, he’s Neil deGrasse Tyson.”
Derek shoots Stiles a somewhat sad look but shoves the twenty in. Stiles starts to step away and the noise in the room picks up again now that everyone’s not focused on them but Derek slips a hand around his forearm before he can leave. “You’ve got to stop talking like there’s a future in this. You should be trying to compartmentalize it, to find some way to do this without completely giving yourself over to it.”
Stiles lets out a long sigh and realizes Derek is just trying to protect him in his own weird way. He’s not trying to be an asshole, he’s trying to be an Alpha to his Pack. “That’s the thing though, Derek. You don’t compartmentalize a baby. There is no doing things by half when it comes to a kid. It’s all or nothing and you know that only gives me one option, right?”
“I just don’t want to see you get hurt,” he says softly.
Stiles squeezes the hand on his arm. “This isn’t something you have to protect me from, big guy.” His eyes flick over to Zooey. “This, here, this one is gonna be a good hurt.”
When he looks back, it’s to find that Derek is staring at Zooey too, as though contemplating something.
“Zooey, get the door, your pops commands you.”
Zooey smashes two blocks together and Stiles’ dad gets down on the floor with him while Stiles groans.
“Seriously, I feel like this is indicative of how he’s going to handle his teenage years, all laying on the floor and combative and ignoring me. This will not stand, sir.” Stiles rolls onto his stomach and pops up just as whoever’s outside knocks again. “I accept your giant check, Ed McMahon,” he says as he opens the door.
Derek stands there, looking confused. “Uh, what?”
Stiles blinks at him. “Oh, uh, nothing.” He pokes his head out the door, checking for who else might have tagged along, and Derek actually backs up a step to let him do it. Stiles pulls his head back in and blinks at Derek, who is alone, some more. “Whatcha doin’?”
Derek thrusts out a plastic bag at him.
Stiles raises an eyebrow.
Derek looks at him, exasperated. “It’s for, um—It’s—Just open it already.”
Stiles stares at him for another moment or two before opening the bag. “Oh dude, awesome! This is so freaking awesome.” He reaches out and drags Derek inside and tugs him along back into the living room. His dad looks up at the both of them and Stiles hands the plastic bag back to Derek so Zo can’t get his hands on it and then does the same with the packaging. “We are changing you right now, mister man, because Uncle Derek secretly loves you and wants you to have nice things. Oh, and you need a change anyway because you are a gross poopbag. You are a bag of poop is what you are.” Stiles keeps talking to him all the way back to the changing table and dresses him in his new outfit.
He’s pretty sure he appreciates it enough for the both of them.
When he comes back out, Derek is awkwardly sitting in an armchair and Stiles’ dad is watching him with sheriff-eyes. Stiles holds Zooey out like he’s Rafiki on Pride Rock. “Look at him.” Stiles nuzzles into his back. “Your Yoda, he will be.”
His dad laughs, stands and pulls the hood up where the Yoda ears poke out like antlers.
Stiles smiles warmly at Derek. “Seriously, this is so perfect. Thank you, Derek.”
Derek shrugs, looking uncomfortable. “I saw it and I thought you might appreciate it.”
Stiles just keeps smiling because Derek is a terrible liar. Werewolves simply never learn to do it right since they assume everyone will know anyway. Stiles knows, from going to every store in a twenty mile radius of his house that sells baby stuff (often multiple times), that it tends to be in its own little section set away from everything else. You can’t just ‘happen upon’ baby stuff. You have to go looking for it. And Derek did, probably to make up for the day before. Stiles appreciates the crap out of the peace offering, and not just because it’s Yoda-shaped.
Stiles plops Zooey down in Derek’s lap and Derek stares at him wide-eyed like he might be attacked and Stiles says, “I’m going to make sandwiches, you want anything?” Then he leaves before Derek can say ‘no.’ Which he definitely would do.
When he returns with three peanut butter sandwiches and applesauce for Zo, Derek’s on the floor with Stiles’ dad and Zo is crawling between them. Stiles sets it all down on the far end of the coffee table so Zooey can’t pull it down onto the carpet, which he has done before – more than once, meaning he nearly misses it.
Zooey’s crawled after him and Stiles sees him take two steps before he wobbles and he’s going to fall right back into the coffee table. Stiles lunges for him but Derek catches him easily, despite having been on the other side of the room and seated.
“Whoa, nice reflexes, bud,” Stiles chokes out, trying to swallow his heart back down into his chest.
Derek hands Zooey over in an instant and says gruffly, “Just look after him, Stiles, Jesus.”
Stiles narrows his eyes. “I thought you didn’t even care. It’s all temporary and I’m too involved anyway, right?”
“Yeah, so I want the kid to brain himself on the end of a table,” he says sarcastically. “I’m not a monster, Stiles.”
Stiles covers Zooey’s ears. “Don’t say that word. We’re re-appropriating it.”
“Fine,” he huffs, “I’ll go before I can fu—mess anything else up.” Derek stands up from his crouch like he’s going to leave.
“I didn’t say you had to leave, I just.” Stiles makes such an intense frustrated sound that he actually strains his vocal cords before he stands up too. Why does talking to Derek have to be so friggin’ impossible? His voice comes out hoarse and kind of squeaks. “I’m actually glad you were here because I know Zo’s a werewolf and he could heal from it but he’s only around for a short time and I would like that time to be devoid of traumatic experiences, so, thank you. Again.”
Derek dips his chin and that’s all the acknowledgement Stiles gets.
“I, um, I wanted to ask you, he doesn’t shift much, is that—I mean, could that be a bad thing?”
Derek starts absentmindedly rubbing his thumb back and forth through Zooey’s hair. He doesn’t even seem to realize what he’s doing as he shakes his head. “No, it’s a good thing. It means he feels safe with you, with the Pack too because we carry your scent. He might inadvertently shift when he experiences a swift change in emotion, surprise or fright or excitement, but mostly this is how it should be. Calm in places he feels safe.”
Derek’s looking right into Stiles’ eyes, gaze warm, and he’s stroking Stiles’ kid’s hair and that is so massively unfair. Stiles clears his throat and looks down at Zooey, bouncing him a little, because looking at Derek is impossible and it makes him want things that he knows better than to want. “Good, that’s—yeah, that’s good. Thanks.” He focuses all his attention on Protozooey and smiles. “Who took his first steps and almost certainly gave daddy an aneurysm? Zo did. Yes, he did. You’ll regret it later when it blows and you crack my ribs trying to give me CPR like one Ms. Summers but, for now—Wow, that’s morbid. Buffy was morbid as hell,” Stiles realizes, shooting his dad a cross look. “Dad, why did you let me watch that? Fail parenting.” He looks back down at Zo. “You can watch more Courage the Cowardly Dog and forget that anyone ever mentioned death ever.”
Stiles plops Zooey down in his dad’s arms, despite the glower now directed at him. Stiles sticks his tongue out in retaliation, because he’s an adult. He walks Derek back to the door because he’s not sure what else to do and he seems determined to leave.
“So, I’m glad you, uh, came around on him.”
“I haven’t,” Derek says bluntly. “I still think you’re an idiot. I just,” he licks his lower lip and shrugs. “It matched is all.”
Stiles smirks but curbs it quickly. “Sure. Well, thank you.”
Derek pulls his shoulders up further and says slightly darkly, “Don’t mention it,” before striding away.
“What was that all about?” his dad calls from the next room.
“Derek’s completely in love with my kid and can’t deal, you know, the usual. He’s the perfect little Pack member and it cannot be denied,” Stiles adds with a huge grin, making the words kind of sing-song.
“He’s going to get venom on my kid, Scott,” Stiles whines, looking forlornly at where Zooey is clearly enjoying being whisked around by Jackson. “Your rough skin had better not be giving my child weird rashes, Lizardface!”
Jackson stops rocking Zo long enough to flick Stiles off.
Scott pulls out his mediator face and holds out his hands for Zooey. “Maybe it’s time for the favorite uncle to get some time with the little sprout.”
Stiles snorts from where he’s laying upside down on the couch, head hanging down over the cushion and knees over the back of it. “Vetoing sprout.”
“What’s wrong with sprout?” Scott says with a frown.
“He’s not a plant. If you’re going to use some kind of ‘sapling’ terminology then it has to be relevant to things Protozooey is actually made from. Like, how’s my porous little cartilage today.”
“There is something so wrong with you,” Isaac notes from the kitchen, dropping a handful of food in his mouth. “And the fact that magic made you a baby makes me seriously question magic’s judgment. I’ve totally softened on it.”
“You’re eating frozen corn directly out of the bag. I’m questioning your entire life,” Stiles snarks back.
Isaac shrugs unapologetically and crunches down.
Zooey starts wailing and interrupts his rejoinder and Stiles rights himself with a groan. “Who let Allison back in the room?”
Allison’s sneakily creeping in, hiding behind Erica’s frizzy mane and she pouts when she realizes she’s made. She throws a hand out towards Zooey, who is sobbing into Scott’s shoulder. “Stiles, your not-child hates me.” She’s scowling and Scott carefully waves her over. She hitches on a tense smile and says awkwardly, “I’m going to be a mom,” she rubs her stomach absentmindedly and frowns, “you little… fangface. Come on, like me.”
Stiles snorts. “Do not try to guilt my child into pity-liking you.” Erica pulls Zo from Scott’s arms and he immediately starts chewing on her hair. “You’re going to give yourself a fuzzy teratoma doing that, kiddo.” Erica shoots angry gold eyes at him. Stiles ignores her and swings back to Allison. “You’re better than this.”
“I’m really not,” Allison admits, completely without shame.
Stiles eyes her carefully and asks, “You really want him to like you? Really, really?”
“Yes,” she all but strangles out.
Stiles gets her half in a headlock and rubs his armpit on her hair.
Allison’s nose wrinkles and she looks torn between laughing and vomiting as she forces him off. “Ugh,” she says, voice shaky, “Stiles, you are absolutely—”
Zooey makes grabby hands towards her and tugs on either side of her hair, sniffing intensely.
Allison stops mid-sentence and moves closer, looking awed as she pulls a giggling Zo into her arms.
“He does bite and the hair-pulling is how he shows his love.” Stiles winks at her. “You’re welcome, new mom.”
Allison still looks utterly delighted though and bounces Zo in her arms slightly. “He actually likes me,” she says, eyes wide.
Stiles snorts. “Of course he does. I figured it was just that you smelled the least like me, thanks to your territorial fiancé who scent-marks you within an inch of your life, but now you smell like me and armpit sweat and, well, the kid has good taste. Obviously.”
“I would stab an arrow into your pinky toe but look at how happy he is.” Allison actually looks like she might cry and Stiles backs away slowly, flopping down on the couch again. Though not upside down this time. He closes his eyes, ignoring the sounds of Isaac’s eating, which is making shivers snake up his spine every time he crunches down because who just bites into frozen stuff like that? Stiles’ shoulders shake because he can’t stop picturing it every time he hears the noise.
He puts one of the cushions over his head and starts mentally blasting the song Tongues because you can’t beat that kind of beat, no matter how loud someone’s crunching.
He’s on the third rendition, dozily and mentally singing the words, I hear their mouths making foreign sounds when it slips from a doze into a decidedly more heavy sleep.
He rolls over with a groan, cushion falling off his face and smacks his lips together. His eyes feel like someone’s poured cement into them and it takes a while to blink away the blurriness. When he does, his heart seizes painfully in his chest.
Derek’s laying on the floor on his back, head tilted back and Zooey’s leaning over him, looking like he’s planning on planting a kiss on him and this is just the definition of emotional torture. ‘Look at how pretty and perfect I am with your baby and how irresistible he is while I find you patently repulsive Stiles. No Love, Derek, kthnxbye.’
“I thought you didn’t like him,” Stiles snarls out and he didn’t mean for that to come out so harsh.
Derek startles, nearly knocking Zooey over and he scoops him up, holding onto him almost protectively. “I—” he stops, swallows, “I never said that. I just think you could do better than getting all wrapped up in this.”
Stiles storms off the couch and reaches for Zooey, bites back the ‘pot fucking kettle much?’ Derek hands him off with barely any hesitation. “Yeah, well, luckily for you it’s not your problem, is it?”
“You’re my Pack and—”
“Oh stop tossing that around like it means anything.”
Derek’s mouth tightens and he presses his tongue up behind his teeth, pushing his jaw forward. “It does mean something. It did to you once too.”
Stiles whips around, not having seen Scott come in. He’s looking between the two of them uneasily and he hitches a smile onto his face that’s a little uneven. “Hey, come on, I’ll walk home with you.”
He’s clearly trying to diffuse the situation and, honestly, it’s a welcome distraction. Stiles is only going to get meaner the longer this goes on until he says something that he’s not going to be able to undo because his mouth regularly works faster than his brain, and all because he wants to hurt a guy who never meant to hurt him. Stiles rubs a hand over his face, holding Zo in the palm of the other, his back to Stiles’ chest. He shoots Derek a contrite look.
Derek’s expression is inscrutable and Stiles decides to let it lie for now and follows Scott out.
They’re halfway back to his place when Scott says, “You need to go easy on Derek.”
Stiles sighs, feeling like an even bigger asshole now that Scott’s chastised him for it. “I know, okay?” He huffs out a breath. “That was not my best moment, I know.”
Scott stops walking, bites his lip and generally looks like he has something super shitty to say. “Stiles.” He pauses, pulls in a deep breath and he clearly doesn’t want to broach this but feels like he has to. And he’s usually right about these things.
Stiles stops too and Zo leans heavier on his shoulder, thumb in his mouth. “What?”
Scott lets his lip go slowly and his eyes flicker down to Zooey before coming back up to meet Stiles’ gaze. “Look at him, the eyes, the grin, that’s all you.”
Stiles glances down at Zooey, rubs his back and feels like he’s standing on the edge of a precipice. “Yeah, so?”
Scott rubs a hand through his hair, sands down his forehead with it. “He doesn’t look familiar to you for any other reason? Because babies genetically tend to have two parents.”
Stiles snorts. “I don’t think magical tiny children work by the laws of genetics.”
“I think they do.” Scott’s mouth pulls to the side and he bursts out, “Dude, put some stubble on him.” Stiles blinks at him and Scott waves a hand towards Zo. “He’s a werewolf with dark hair and a serious brooding expression and he’s—”
Stiles’ eyes widen and he finishes, falling back a step, “Derek’s.”
“Yeah,” Scott says softly. “He carries yours and Derek’s scents.” He pulls up a shoulder. “He’s your kid, but he’s Derek’s too.”
Stiles smacks a palm into his forehead and feels his emotions well up and start frothing. “Oh God, oh fuck. I didn’t—Derek knows I didn’t mean to do this, right? I didn’t mean to do this. Oh God. What the fuck is wrong with me? It’s been three fucking years and I still haven’t moved on from this to the point where I made a goddamn baby for us.” And speaking of said baby, Stiles’ own panicking is making Zooey’s heartbeat start to pick up and Stiles walks with him a little, hoping to calm them both down before Zo can really work himself into an upset.
Scott places a hand on his shoulder and stops him pacing. “Stiles, I don’t think Derek’s thinking that far into it. Mostly he’s just trying to keep his distance.”
“He must hate me,” Stiles says in a small voice, rubbing Zooey’s back because it’s soothing as much for him as for Zo.
“Stiles, come on, you didn’t do it on purpose.”
“That’s worse,” Stiles says, horrified. “That means it’s so far ingrained that my brain automatically thinks of Derek when trying to come up with: ‘hm, who should father my imaginary baby?’ I’m a complete mess.”
“I really don’t think Derek’s realized that aspect of it. He’s just… he’s dealing by avoidance mostly so, I’m just saying, you know, try not to beat him up too much.”
Stiles sighs. “Yeah, okay,” he says glumly.
Scott’s mouth tilts, then his head, then he’s saying, “I’m going to hug you now because I think you need it.” He wraps Stiles up carefully, Zo between them and Stiles hugs him back one-handed. Scott backs away after a minute, endearing smile firmly in place. “Hey, I could probably talk Allison into Romania if needs must.”
That actually gets a chuckle out of him. “I love you, man.”
“And yet I’m not the other parent to your magic baby.” Scott tsks.
Stiles bites his thumbnail on one hand and holds Zo’s stomach with the other, Zooey grabbing at his forearm curiously and halfheartedly while he’s kept in place. Stiles watches the dark computer screen, waiting for the ‘connecting...’ status to finally be satisfied.
Lydia’s face pops up a few seconds later and Stiles says, “I made a magic baby with Derek.”
Lydia sniffs, her hair pulled back from her face and curled in tight ringlets. She’s holding a pencil that she points at him with. “Did you mean to say those words in that order?”
“Lydia,” Stiles whines. He takes Zo’s hand in his and holds it out while Zooey grins happily up at him. “This is Zooey, I made him out of magic and fairydust and one-upmanship and, apparently, this werewolf I know let me in on the open secret that this little dude is mine and Derek’s.”
Lydia looks down at Zooey, up at Stiles. “How do you have that kind of magic?” she asks with narrowed eyes.
Stiles shrugs, of course Lydia would go after the how rather than coo at the cuteness. It was times like this that Stiles was reminded of the reason he’d been infatuated with her for so many years. He shrugs awkwardly. “It was something not so much borrowed as thrust upon me.”
Lydia taps her pencil on her desk, eyes cast off to the side like she’s doing something else in addition to talking to him. “So Derek knows it’s his,” she guesses.
“He’s his,” Stiles corrects. “And, yes, he knows.”
She makes a thoughtful sound. “So he knows you’re still in love with him?”
Stiles winces a tad, hasn’t heard it put so bluntly in years and, yeah, it sucks. He says self-deprecatingly, “Kind of obvious once you start making babies in the other person’s image, right?” He rubs Zo’s stomach and asks without really caring about the answer, “And how did you know that?”
“Because if you’d ever actually been in love with me, you still would be. You love deeply and you love forever, Stiles.” Her nose wrinkles. “It’s gross and unhealthy and part of your undeniable charm.”
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Gee, thanks.”
Lydia’s gaze lowers back to Zooey and she stares at him with her head tilted to the side. “At least the two of you would make cute babies.”
Stiles grins. “I know, right?”
“So, I have to ask, does Derek seem at all bothered by the whole baby-making extravaganza?”
“I think he’s mostly not dealing through avoidance and pretending what’s happening isn’t happening.”
Lydia’s eyes sparkle and she waits until Stiles is looking at her to say knowingly, “You notice that seems to be how he handles all the things he wants? Denial and avoidance.” Her lips curve into a slight smile. “Déjà vu, isn’t it?”
Stiles pretends to have no idea what she’s talking about. It helps that her supposition is so beyond wrong it’s laughable, so there aren’t any consequences to ignoring it.
“First off, it’s really fucking shitty that you didn’t give me a heads up about Zooey. How much effort would it have taken for you to fist bump me over how awesome our genes look smooshed together? Second, God, Derek, I am so fucking sorry. The last thing I would ever want to do is drag you into my, ‘hey, I poofed myself a baby,’ adventure. It was so fucking far from purposeful, I promise you.” Stiles slides the headphones off Zooey’s head carefully and puts them around his own neck. Since he thinks he’s done swearing, at least for the foreseeable future. Zooey’s lip starts to tremble and he reaches for them with grabby little hands. Stiles lets them wrap around his own fingers instead and offers Derek a tentative smile. “Listening to Wagner.” He indicates the headphones and waves their tangled hands at Derek. “Someone got a crash course in Bugs Bunny today and loved Ride of the Valkyries.” Stiles grins properly and says conspiratorially, “We have the weirdest little kid.”
Derek hasn’t had much of an expression since opening his door. He’s apparently channeling Oz, his werewolf brethren, and has gone with ‘stoic or die.’ At Stiles’ last pronouncement though, he can’t seem to keep his composure. “He’s a random act of magic, Stiles. He isn’t real, he’s nothing, so there was no point in telling you anything.”
“You called him ‘he’ instead of ‘it,’” is all Stiles says.
Derek’s jaw tightens and his gaze flickers away from Stiles’ face.
Stiles sighs. “Listen, main purpose of this visit? To apologize and tell you that I have no fu—effing clue how this happened.”
Derek’s gaze comes up slowly and there’s something vulnerable in it that Stiles really does not like the looks of. “Don’t you?” And the thrust of his chin gives it the appearance of being challenging but his voice makes it sound kind of leading.
Stiles tries to fight down the flush in his cheeks, plays it off as anger rather than embarrassment when he can’t. “It’s been three years, Derek. I’ve thoroughly explored all the other options out there, as I’m sure you could’ve extrapolated from what you know about it.” He’s not quite meeting Derek’s eye, looking at the fan of his eyelashes rather than his iris. “I’d have to be pretty damn pathetic if I was still hung up on—on that.” All of it is carefully scaled away from ‘outright lie.’ He has had plenty of one-night stands in his own personal, ‘getting over Derek,’ montage and he would have to be pretty damn pathetic to have gone through all of that and not actually accomplish the ‘getting over’ part. He is and only just implied that he wasn’t, which means it’ll read as the truth.
Derek’s hand tightens so much on the grip on his door that it creaks. “Fine,” he grinds out.
Stiles hefts Zooey up, because he’s like a ten-pound bowling ball without the finger-holds, and licks his lip. “I think you should hold him.” Derek stares at him like he’s lost his mind. “My best guess for this is that it’s your genetics because you’re the one who challenged my fostering skills and, maybe, I don’t know, if you participate it’ll satisfy what made Zo pop up in the first place?” Stiles shrugs. It’s bullshit mostly, but also the only explanation he could come up with that didn’t rely on, ‘yeah, I still want to bone you and bear your children.’ It even sounds semi-plausible. He was trying to prove himself to Derek at the time of Zooey’s appearance.
Derek seems to think so too. Or, at least, he doesn’t outright dismiss it.
Stiles holds Zooey out a little and Derek reaches for him, carefully maneuvering him into a Rock-a-bye baby position and Derek either read up on this or had little kids in his family once upon a time. Stiles smiles at the way Zooey immediately starts yawning, limbs already dangling off Derek’s large forearm.
“He’s perfect, yeah?” Because it can’t be denied. It just can’t. They made a definition-perfect baby together and there’s no way around it.
Derek’s eyes flicker up to meet Stiles’ and he swallows audibly. “Yeah.” It’s croaky but heartfelt.
“Ugh, who is that and why?” Stiles glares at the doorway from his position on the couch. He’d been dozing hard, Zooey having kept him up most of the night, when someone made the horrendous decision to knock on his door. His dad had reluctantly gone to work an hour or so earlier and Derek’s occupying Zooey on the floor, much more invested in playing papa now that Stiles knows the truth. Stiles squints blurry eyes at him. “If that’s another magic baby, you’re taking it.”
Derek snorts, a smile tugging at his mouth.
Stiles falls off the sofa and drags himself over to the door. He swings it open and feels his heart drop to his shoes.
Jordan lets out a shocked huff of breath and falls back a step. He gives a breathless sort of laugh and shoves the file in his hands into Stiles’. “So this is what your dad was hiding when he went for mysterious and said ‘someone’ would be home. Nice.”
He holds up his hands, good-natured smile curving his lips. “Hey, that shocked thing your face is doing? Pretty sure you’re just as much a victim of this as I am.”
“He means well,” Stiles tries awkwardly, because what exactly do you say to the guy you fucked to get over the guy who wouldn’t fuck you?
The muscles in Jordan’s cheeks tighten. “Yeah, well, I could’ve gone pretty much an entire lifetime without seeing you again.”
Stiles doesn’t really know what to say to that. He’s got no moral high ground here. He hadn’t even noticed Jordan back then so he’d had no idea the guy was invested in him, that he’d been waiting for Stiles to become legal, to approach him, that he’d been interested. Stiles had just been… in a sexual self-destruct mode following the two weeks after Derek had rejected him and before he left for school. “Yeah,” he says uneasily, “I suck hardcore.”
Jordan looks away, eyes crinkled at the sides and Stiles can’t tell if it’s in amusement or frustration. “You could try not to be charming when I’m trying to be pissed at you.”
“Dude, I’m charming, it can’t be helped. I’m an asshole, yeah, but a totally charming one.” Jordan meets his eyes again and Stiles swallows. “Is this a good time for an apology? Because I know it’s a shitty thing to do and it really only helps me out but there’s been, like, a burning desire to offer you one ever since I left.”
Jordan bites his lower lip, drags it back out and his eyes look tight again. “Let’s hear it.”
“Jordan, I had no idea that you had feelings for me when I approached you. I wish I could say that if I’d known, I never would have gone after you but, honestly, I’m not sure that’s true. I was in a really bad place when we got together and I used you and that isn’t okay, no matter what else was going on. I can tell you that I regret the way I treated you and I apologize for it.” Stiles works his jaw for a second. “You thought I was a better guy than I was and I’m really sorry that I wasn’t that guy.”
Jordan is staring up at the rain gutter and Stiles can’t tell if his eyes are wet because of the glare of the sun, the memory Stiles is dragging up or simply because he’s pissed as hell that they’re sharing the same space again. His throat rolls with a swallow and he says with a half-smile that seems forced, “See, that’s the thing, Stiles. You are that guy. You just weren’t for me.” He claps his hands together and points at Stiles with them. “For me, you were a dick.”
He starts to back away and Stiles hates that there’s no way to just fix this. “Hey, the sex was good though, right?” he calls a little desperately.
Jordan barks out a laugh that Stiles hasn’t heard in ages and his smile is the most genuine he’s gotten in a long time. “Yeah, Stiles, the sex was good. Really, really good.” He salutes with his first two fingers and then takes off for his cruiser. Stiles thinks that’s as close to ‘good’ as they’re ever going to get and it’s undoubtedly better than he deserves.
He closes the door and collapses back against it. He’s going to murder his father. He’s just picking himself up again when Derek walks into the room half-shifted and carrying Zooey, whose face is buried in his chest like he’s hiding from something. Stiles’ eyes widen, taking in the fangs and frumpy forehead and claws. “Jesus, what the hell happened?”
Derek’s eyes are red and he’s not looking at Stiles with them. “I can take him,” he says through fangs, words sounding like he’s sucking his teeth while he’s getting them out, “if you want time alone with your boyfriend.”
Stiles perks an eyebrow. “Jordan already left,” he says blankly, taking in the way Derek is holding Zooey. He’s sitting in the palm of Derek’s hand, and Derek’s claws are curving up and around his diaper, the other hand is pressed to Zooey’s back and holding Zo against Derek’s chest, claws resting against Zooey’s Jem t-shirt (a present from Erica, of course). Stiles says slowly, carefully, “Derek, I’m going to need you to get yourself under control around our son.”
Derek blinks, like he has no idea what Stiles is talking about and that’s when Stiles sees that Zooey is digging clawed little fingers into Derek’s torso.
Stiles swallows. “Is it because he’s grabbing onto you like that?” He nods his head towards where Zooey’s fists are bunched up in Derek’s shirt.
Derek follows his gaze and the shift slowly melts away. Zooey turns his face out from Derek’s chest and his eyes are glowing gold.
Stiles takes a gauged step closer. “Derek, what happened?”
Derek blinks again and the red glow in his eyes slips away. His hands are human and he’s staring at them like he’s never seen them before. “I didn’t even realize I was doing it,” he says blankly. “He must’ve,” Derek swallows. “He must’ve been feeding off my emotions.”
Stiles lets out the breath he’d been holding. “Well, I’m pretty sure the only thing in there is Spongebob Squarepants and he should not set you off like that.”
Derek’s jaw clenches. “It was—Deputy Parrish, I—”
Stiles still doesn’t know the history of that, only knows the aftermath he came in on at the sheriff’s station. Jordan’s fiery hands twisted up in Derek’s jacket, eating away at the fabric and trying to hold him off while Derek bore down on him, baring a mouth full of fangs an inch away from Jordan’s face and pressing a forearm over his windpipe.
Stiles drags a hand down his face. “Yeah, whatever that whole thing is, you’re going to need to get over it because my life is not Fatal Attraction and this is totally how the boiled-family-pets-thing starts.”
Derek pauses, cants his head, says, “What?”
Stiles moves his hand between them, back and forth, and says, “You are never on my wave-length. Have you noticed that? I’m up here being awesome and you’re down there, living in a cave and being confused by my noted awesomeness all the time. It must get tiring, that’s all I’m saying.”
Derek purses his lips and decides after a moment, “I help you make pretty babies so I think I more than make up for my pop culture deficiencies. Which I assume is what that was.”
Stiles grins at him, impressed, and lifts Zo out of Derek’s arms. “We do make pretty babies. Pretty, magical, stupendous babies who need all the naps.”
Deaton toes over the shards of broken pottery with his shoe and says, deadpan, “Well, that was fairly disappointing.”
It’s hard to hear over the sound of Zooey wailing and Stiles walks him in and out of the open doorway until he’s gone down to the occasional sniffle. Once Stiles is stationary again, Derek moves up to his shoulder and places his hand on Zooey’s back, rubbing soothingly between the splay of Stiles’ fingers on Zooey’s bum and the back of his head.
It’s an odd family moment that Stiles is doing his best to never, ever acknowledge. He distracts himself from it by stating the obvious. “So, that didn’t work.”
“No, Stiles, it did not.”
“And now there’s dead witch on your floor,” Stiles points out happily, indicating the smashed urn.
Deaton’s lip raises, cataloguing. “It would seem that way, yes.” He purses his mouth. “The theory was sound, however. Trying to return the power to a member of the witch’s clan. It simply doesn’t seem to work with already deceased members of that collective.” He fixes Stiles with a grave look. “We’ll have to contact them directly, perhaps even the witch that inadvertently cursed you herself.”
“Whoakay, no, we are not doing that. She may not have meant to give me the ability to create life out of wishful thinking but she definitely did mean to give me death, without even throwing cake out there as an option. Plus, her hair made Erica’s look like it was the height of good grooming so I’m thinking lucidity dropped her about three towns back.”
“What if you can’t fix it?” Derek asks bluntly, rushing through the words as though he might’ve lost his nerve if he didn’t get them out fast. His large hand tightens around Zooey. “What’s the sustainability of… all this?”
Stiles shoots him a meaningful look. “Derek, come on, we don’t want to do that to ourselves.” Stiles lets the hand supporting Zooey’s head against his shoulder drift down until he’s squeezing Derek’s. “This was always going to be temporary and we can’t lose sight of that.”
Derek shakes off his grip, face dark and closed off. “I know things are different now that you know he’s half mine but you could still pretend otherwise.”
Stiles opens his mouth, shocked, because he is the one who’s been trying to make the most out of every microscopic moment with Zooey since he showed up. Derek’s the one who couldn’t stand the thought of being in the same room with him, who didn’t even want to acknowledge Zooey’s parentage, the dicknose, and Stiles is about to really fucking lay into him when Deaton interrupts.
“It’s not a safe option,” he says carefully, words gauged. “Frankly, we have no idea what effect this spell is having on Stiles but I doubt the answer is none. I can’t think it’s not taking a toll of some kind. Right now, there’s an invisible tether between Zooey and Stiles. Stiles’ life force is fueling Zooey’s, through the magic he’s stolen and probably more. That could simply mean that should anything happen to Zooey while the connection is still active with Stiles, it will be inflicted on Stiles as well or it could be doing something as nefarious as overworking and damaging Stiles’ heart. I simply don’t know. When I said I’d never seen this before, it’s because I don’t believe it’s ever happened prior to this.”
Derek’s hand drifts away entirely and clenches into a fist at his side.
Stiles bounces Zooey slightly, at a loss for what else to do. Zo’s eyelids are fluttering and his thumb is back in his mouth and he’s clearly seconds away from sleep. “Awesome. So. So. What we’re saying here is that Zooey has to un-exist and sooner rather than later.”
“Yes, Stiles, that’s what I’m saying.”
Stiles can’t look at Derek. He feels like the shittiest person on the planet and he completely deserves to. “Well,” he lets out a heavy breath and pretends like looking at the sleeping kid on his shoulder doesn’t make him want to burst into tears, “best get cracking, doc.”
Derek’s looking at the floor, eyes glistening, and Stiles’ heart drops down somewhere around his knees.
This is really, really going to suck and there kind of aren’t words for how much.
“We’re letting him play with bullets now? Really?”
Stiles’ dad shrugs, Zo sitting in his lap and banging bullets into his desk hard enough to leave lasting divots. “There’s a plastic dinosaur, a bouncy ball, a salad and a box of bullets here. I’m just saying you might want to knock down those ‘nuclear physicist’ expectations.”
Stiles throws a plastic fork at his dad’s face.
Haigh pokes his head in the door. “Sheriff, have you got—”
His dad makes a gruff, straining noise getting up from his seat, which Stiles gives him a knowing smirk about. The sheriff draws his brows low, plops Zo down in Stiles’ lap and follows Haigh out. “Grandpa sounds like a tranquilized bear, doesn’t he, Zo?” Stiles holds Zooey’s tiny fists in his own while he bounces him on his knees.
The door opens behind him again and there’s a huff of disbelieving laughter and Jordan’s voice saying, “Of course you’re here, because why wouldn’t you be here?”
Stiles twists in his seat and offers Jordan a cringing sort of smile. “Yep, my ass is everywhere.” He’s still holding Zooey’s fists in his hands when Jordan comes around to his dad’s side of the desk, folder in hand. When he sees Zooey, his knees sort of give out and he sinks down into his dad’s abandoned seat.
“You’re, uh—you have a kid,” he says blankly.
Stiles bounces Zo, dipping his chin when his phone pings.
Jordan gets to it before he can and a genuine smile comes over his face, turning the screen around for Stiles.
Stiles grins too. It’s a picture of Violet, reclined, a dark head bent over her stomach and flash of a pink tongue near her belly button. Jordan looks at him with questioning eyebrows and Stiles snorts and points out almost proudly, “She stole my lifeguard. I had plans for him too.”
“Somehow I don’t think they related to lifeguarding.”
“This, sir, is why you’re a deputy in the finest sheriff’s department in all the land.”
“‘All the land?’” Jordan parrots with a smirk. “I don’t think you’re allowed to use that outside of Medieval times, either the era or the restaurant.”
“I’m a risk-taker and a rebel and Han Solo would totally be my bestie if he wasn’t fictional and intergalactically nomadic.”
“Like you wouldn’t be just as hard to nail down.”
Stiles swallows, looks down at a laughing Zooey. “I’m a family man now, Deputy.”
Jordan looks away, smile falling from his face and Stiles kind of hadn’t realized how amiable this had been until it was gone. “He’s Derek’s somehow, isn’t he?”
Stiles offers him a self-deprecating grin. “Apparently I don’t really know how to take ‘no’ for an answer. You reject me and I will make a baby bearing our likeness in response. You should count yourself lucky that you weren’t on the receiving end of this or we’d have a whole brood by now for sure.”
Jordan smiles in a way that doesn’t reach his eyes. “So, it’s Derek then. Still.”
“I’m a failure as a person,” Stiles admits. “But that doesn’t mean we need to draw attention to it.”
Jordan rubs at his lower lip with the side of his finger and looks at the dents Zo left in his dad’s desk, dipping a nail into one. “And yet somehow it seems like you’re getting everything you were after back then.”
“Fortune favors the bold, and apparently the baby-making,” Stiles says, instead of pointing out that he is in fact not because if he were then Derek wouldn’t hate him half as much as he did. Stiles jounces his legs for Zo a few more times and decides, “You can’t be mad at me anymore. I am the maker of adorable babies and, also, it’s sort of your fault for ever being interested in me in the first place. I mean, anyone with half a brain could tell you what a bad idea that was.”
“You might have a point there,” Jordan admits, biting down on a grin. “Brought it on myself and all.”
“I’m glad you can admit that, finally, after all these years.” Stiles casts around for something else to say, eager to keep the conversation running now that he’s declared that Jordan has to like him again. Maybe Stiles can snow him if he just keeps talking. “So, what’s in the folder?”
Jordan squints at him, like he’s not sure he should share. He seems to realize that someone’s going to tell Stiles or Stiles is going to break-in and find out himself. There’s no such thing as ‘keeping things’ from him. “A bunch of dead seals down by Beacon Lake and Peter Hale insisting that we ‘don’t want to know.’ I’m inclined to believe him.”
Stiles winces, feeling half-sick. “Probably smart, which is new for you, what with us just talking about your bad ideas and all.”
Jordan smiles and stands, pushing in the sheriff’s chair. “Derek,” he says again, circling back and shaking his head. “Don’t think I’m the only one with terrible taste.”
Stiles doesn’t watch him leave, instead reaching for his phone and pulling up Vi’s text again. He turns his phone around and takes a picture of Zooey sitting in his lap while he reaches towards the phone with one hand and chews on his other. He gets all of Zooey that was visible above the table and his chin in the shot and sends it with the caption: You stole my lifeguard and got him to lick things off you. I used Frizzy Furball’s magic to make a baby. Hard to say whose vacation is better. Kind of six of one right now.
It takes almost a full two minutes to get the response: ???
No. There is no better explanation than the one I just gave you. That’s the extent of my answers. Do with that what you will.
Stiles sets his phone down and holds Zo by the stomach, zooming him up and down while he giggles himself silly. He only stops when his phone pings again. It’s not Violet though, it’s Derek and it’s a mass-text with only four words:
Selkies taken care of.
And Stiles isn’t sure how he knows, but he can practically feel the anger behind it. Somehow he’s pretty certain that Peter’s plan hadn’t been green lit by the Pack or Derek. Stiles doesn’t get a chance to respond before Vi’s next text pops up.
As noted, since I’m letting strangers lick things off me, I’m clearly not of sound enough mind to discuss the infant-care situation you’ve gotten yourself into but, the second my brain is not swimming in tequila, we’re revisiting this rug rat topic.
Agreed. Also, I don’t know how you can come up with so many baby synonyms right now AND spell them correctly but I’m impressed and a little envious.
I’m a classy bitch, bitch.
Stiles snorts. Is that what you’re calling that? Need I remind you that recent photographic evidence I’ve acquired might contradict you?
I’m too drunk to talk to you. Assface.
Stiles laughs and shoves his phone back into his pant’s pocket. “That’s your auntie Violet,” he tells Zo. “If you’re very, very lucky, little man, you’ll never have to meet her.” His mouth tugs down into a frown as he realizes Zooey never will meet her and he totally just bummed himself out. Even watching Zooey throw a bouncy ball at Haigh’s head isn’t enough to pull his mood up from the dour depths it’s sunk to.
“Erica, you’re setting a bad grooming example for my son.” Stiles flicks his gaze over to Boyd and his shaved head. “You too, Boyd.”
Boyd flips him off and Erica ignores him, still holding Zo’s hands and helping him walk the length of Derek’s loft. Stiles grins after them, eyes falling to where Derek is sitting in front of the couch next to him. He’s smiling too, gaze warm and the realization punches Stiles in the gut. His own happiness slips away that fast.
Erica and Boyd have taken Zooey into Derek’s room and Stiles sits up, frowning slightly. “Hey,” he says softly, “I really am sorry about all this.”
Derek looks up at him, brow furrowed.
Stiles’ throat feels tight. “I know what this must mean for you. To have—For you to have family again.” Watching Derek with Zooey, the way he folds into the Pack, the way even Stiles – without the slightest bit of lycanthropy to lean on – can sense the way it all fits, and knowing it won’t last, it’s the worst thing he’s ever felt. And that’s not hyperbole. Stiles swallows. “I feel like—I feel terrible, giving you that only to take it away.”
Derek dips his chin and seems to struggle with the words before saying, “What was it you said?” He doesn’t wait for Stiles to answer, instead looking straight into Stiles’ eyes, gaze steady. “It’s a ‘good hurt.’”
Stiles’ mouth curves into a small smile. “Yeah?”
Erica walks back in with Zooey in front of her and both their gazes redirect to their giggling little kid.
“Zooey, don’t you get any ideas from that tumbleweed holding on to you, okay? You keep your hair all McDreamy-style fabulous.”
Erica bares a mouth full of fangs at him, eyes with a bit of unnatural glow to them but she’s smirking. “Why does it not surprise me that you watch Grey’s Anatomy?”
“Two words, miss: man candy. No, wait, would you hyphenate that? Potentially one word. Hold up, would you even count a hyphenated word as one word? You would, right? Whatever, I give up. English is impossible and I’m switching to German. Ik at uw eend.”
Boyd gives him an odd look. “That was, what? Dutch?”
“Yeah, that’s what I said. Taking up ‘broken record’ as a profession, Boyd?” Stiles says, exasperated to cover up the fact that that is nowhere close to what he said. “Zooey, mój chłopak, come here, say hello to your papież.”
“That was… nonsense?” Isaac guesses from the armchair.
“Polish, barfbreath.” Erica lets go of Zooey and he sinks to his knees and, to Stiles’ amazement, actually starts to crawl over. “Your daddy is of Polish ancestry, Protozooey, we have to teach your tongue to do the impossible early on otherwise you’ll never be able to pronounce half your relative’s names.” He lifts Zooey into his lap and slides a hand into Derek’s hair, tugging slightly. “For future reference, this is the kind of hair you want. Daddy’s hair, little man.”
A shiver trips up Derek’s back, shaking his shoulders and then he goes utterly still. And it dawns on Stiles what the hell he just did. He’s standing before he knows it, eyes wide.
“Unrelated to what just happened.” Stiles coughs. “I’m going to leave because I was, uh, planning to leave. All planned, all intentional and not at all fleeing this mortifying moment here.” Stiles hefts Zo further onto his hip and gets the diaper bag over his shoulder and is halfway to the door when Derek shakes off his immobility and chases after him.
“Stiles, you don’t have to go.”
Stiles chuckles awkwardly. “No. No, I definitely do because, see, I got caught up in the family moment here and forgot what exactly our situation was and—”
“I didn’t mind,” Derek says quickly.
“Don’t need werewolf-y superpowers to recognize that for the lie it is but, um, thanks for trying to make the mortifying moment less mortifying? You’re a decent lycanthrope, Derek Hale.” Stiles’ lips quirk with a half-smile and he offers a dorky wave that seemed like a much better plan in his head before turning on his heel and fleeing.
Stiles claps Zooey’s hands together in time with the beat from his headphones, swaying him while they sit on a blanket in the park. He’d been hoping to let Zooey scoot around but he’d been invested in eating worms and Stiles wasn’t exactly on board with that life plan, saying, “While I’m sure they’re high in protein, you’re never going to get the CEO position of a telecom conglomerate with that kind of diet.”
So now Stiles is teaching his kid how to get down and boogie instead.
“So come give me a hug if you’re into getting rubbed?”
Stiles definitely feels like his spine tries to exit his body and he whips around to find Derek’s shown up and sat down at some point, legs stretched out in front of him, arms behind him and propping him up. He’s smiling, properly, and his eyes are crinkled in amusement. Stiles sniffs, knocking his headphones off his head. “I’ll have you know that 50 Cent is a lyrical genius and ‘In Da Club’ still hasn’t lost any of its charm over a decade later.”
Derek’s smile becomes more of a smirk and he glances away.
Zooey fidgets in Stiles’ grip and Stiles lets him go so he can half-walk, half-crawl into Derek’s lap. Derek stares down at him with wide, shocked eyes. “There’s a swing set, you know,” Stiles says, “on the other side of the park. I couldn’t get him to stop eating grubs like a man down under and, yes, our kid outmuscled me.”
Derek just stares at him, looking lost and like he’s been gifted something too extravagant to accept.
“Derek, go push our kid on a swing before he starts eating worms again.”
That gets Derek’s ass in gear and he starts to stand, pausing only long enough to perk an eyebrow at him and say, “Again?” He picks up Zooey, holding him properly and everything, and starts to walk backwards. He stops, says, “Come with?”
Derek doesn’t push Zooey very high or very fast, hands poised on either side of the swing like it’s likely to careen out of control. Stiles would laugh if he wasn’t doing pretty much the same thing. It’s a bucket swing, basically impossible to fall out of but neither of them seem to be willing to take the chance.
“So,” Stiles says after they’ve been awkwardly silent for a good five minutes, “how’d you know we were here?”
“Your dad. I wanted to—yesterday—”
“Oh, wow, no. I escaped that mortification, thank you very much. I threw it out the window, braced myself for the blast and then hopped into a steel-plated helicopter that was waiting for me on the roof. It was all very ‘action hero’ of me.”
Derek smiles. “Okay.”
“Sorry about that though. I shouldn’t have—I mean, cutting down your time with Protozooey is not awesome of me so, yeah.”
“About that. I, uh, I actually wanted to—”
They’re interrupted by Zooey starting to growl. It’s the most adorable thing Stiles has ever seen but the peek of fangs over his lower lip and the claws are not going to be that easy to explain should someone else get clued into the adorablosity.
“No, no, Zo. Bad. We don’t shift in public,” Stiles hisses quickly, bending down and trying to soothe him. He darts a glance up at Derek just as Zooey’s eyes start to go gold. “What the hell is he reacting to?”
Derek dips his chin, indicating with his gaze and Stiles twists around to see a woman walking over with her little girl.
Derek snarls out, “Perfume.”
“Crap.” Stiles lifts Zooey out of the swing and hides Zo’s face in the hollow of his neck. Derek takes a step closer, chest pressing up against Stiles’ forearm where it’s wrapped around Zo, and he stares straight at Stiles, licking his lip, and says, “That’s smart.” He swallows. “Immersing him in your scent like that.”
Derek rubs his hand against Zooey’s back but his thumb keeps brushing Stiles’ skin until he’s softly stroking the length of his forearm, keeping his eyes locked on Stiles’ wide ones.
“Derek,” he says stupidly, no idea where he’s going with that.
“Stiles,” Derek says back, breathy.
And Stiles can’t remember how they got here really but Derek’s so close and Zooey is safe between them and it feels like this was where they were meant to end up. He shifts Zooey more to the side, leans into Derek.
“Oh my God, he’s so cute!”
Stiles jerks back a step, looks down at Zo and is relieved to see that there’s no trace of wolfitude in his features. He hitches a smile onto his face and turns to the owner of the shrill voice. A woman in a sports bra and shorts, iPod strapped to her arm, is jogging in place and grinning almost maniacally at Zooey, waving painted fingernails at him.
“It’s almost to the point where we can’t take him outdoors,” Stiles agrees. “He just shames all other babies because, I mean, really, this is not a face they can compete with.”
Her smiles kicks out a little wider and her gaze flicks over Stiles with something like interest. “That’s hilarious, and accurate,” she titters.
Stiles turns back to Derek, letting her know the conversation is finished, and finds him staring at the ground, fists clenched at his sides. Stiles touches his shoulder with a frown. “Hey, you okay?”
“Fine,” Derek bites out.
Somehow Stiles really doubts that.
“You’re saying you have one of Elektrastein’s cohorts in there?” Stiles gets a lot of blank stares at that. Even Zooey is looking up at him kind of glassy-eyed. Traitor. Stiles mumbles, “You know, she tried to kill Vi and I with electricity and then she had a frizzy, poofy do like the bride of Frankenstein and, whatever, it made sense and you totally ruined it. Congratulations, you’ve killed comedy here today.”
Neither Deaton nor Derek look particularly torn up about it. Zooey blows a spit bubble. Stiles tries and fails to think of it as anything other than an expression of his kid’s utter and complete genius.
He passes Zo into Derek’s confused arms. “Little wolf-man is not going in there with batsh—poo lady's bestie.”
Derek looks down at Zo and back up at Stiles. “What about you?” he demands.
“I can take care of myself. Unlike Protozooey here, who is still in the relying-on-us-for-opening-doors stage.”
Derek grabs onto his arm before he can follow Deaton. “I don’t like this, Stiles. What if something happens?”
Stiles shrugs. “She’s just taking back something I never should have had. If she tries to do more than that? I’m still a Spark and Deaton’s there. It’ll be fine.” Stiles steps close, presses a kiss to Zooey’s forehead while Derek holds onto him, Zo’s back pressed to his chest.
“Worry less,” Stiles tells him. “And if I get back out here and Zo’s gone? Try not to judge me too hard for the snot and the tears.” Stiles offers him a weak twitch of his lips and follows Deaton.
It’s all rather anticlimactic. The power stubbornly sticks to Stiles and the witch starts swearing up a storm before Deaton tosses her out.
“Huh.” Stiles flexes his fingers. “I’m clearly the chosen one. I will now only answer to Neo or Harry Potter.”
Deaton rolls his eyes. “It seems the only way to return this power is to give it back to the witch who first gave it to you.”
“Um. Sticking to my original objection of her whole intention being to kill me.”
Deaton gives him a long look. “We’ll find a safe way to make the transfer. It will take some time to arrange but I’m sure it—”
Derek bursts through the door, cradling Zooey to his front protectively. “What happened?” He sounds out of breath and Stiles is kind of touched.
He walks over, ruffles Zo’s hair. “Oh, you know, power is attracted to me like most everything else and witches are sore losers.”
Derek’s gaze flicks down over him. “You’re okay?”
Stiles grins, more relieved than he has words for that this isn’t his last day with Zooey in it. “Shipshape,” he says happily and Derek lets his muscles unwind for the first time since Stiles entered the room.
Derek is being epically weird. Stiles watches him do the whole dance again. He crosses behind the kitchen counter, touches the rim of his glass of orange juice, pulls his hand away. He dips his chin, places his fingertips lightly on the countertop and lets out a sigh. His eyes dart up to Stiles and Zooey sitting in front of the couch and playing with the Stretch Armstrong on the table. He licks his lip and starts all over.
It’s the fifth time Stiles has seen him make the circuit.
“Have you developed the OC Disorder in the past few hours?” Stiles asks, semi-seriously.
Derek stares at him like a spooked wolf cub. “What?”
Stiles purses his lips, ignoring him. “Or is this a routine I’m meant to be judging? Because, I’ve got to say, I’m holding up my two, maybe two-point-five score card over here. Mostly because you didn’t do any tumble-y stuff. Which is just rude, because I know how you werewolves love unnecessary acrobatics.” Derek swallows and Stiles frowns, amusement slipping away. “Derek, what’s going on?” Stiles watches Derek curl his fingers into his palms, like he’s afraid they might shake. “Am I making you nervous or something?”
“Yes,” Derek breathes out without hesitation.
Somehow Stiles was not expecting an affirmative there and he can feel his insides shrivel. “Oh,” he says blankly, getting to his feet with Zo. “Right, well, I can go so I’ll just—”
“No,” Derek growls, eyes flashing. He rounds the counter, standing between Stiles and the door. “I didn’t mean—fu—crap.” He looks up at Stiles, gaze sharp, and runs a hand through his hair. He swallows hard, breathes deep and says seriously, “I’m pathetic.”
Stiles almost snorts. “Oh, come on, it’s not that bad. The flustered look is kind of charming on you actually. You’re like an American Hugh Grant.”
Derek huffs, scrubbing at his hair harder. “No, you said—”
Stiles’ eyes widen. “Whoa,” he defends quickly, “never did I call you pathetic. At least not in a way I didn’t immediately retract because you know how my mouth tends to run ahead of my brain and—”
“Stiles,” Derek snarls. “Stop. Talking.”
Stiles does, watching Derek intently.
Derek sighs heavily and says, “You said a person’d have to be pathetic to still be hung up on what happened three years ago.” His eyes glint in the loft’s light and he licks his lip. “I’m pathetic.”
Stiles takes a step back, mouth wanting to curl into the happiest half-smile in the world because Derek is—he’s finally saying the right thing after three years of being an utter bonehead who couldn’t realize the pure awesome that is Stiles Stilinski and… it doesn’t make any sense. Because Derek isn’t interested and that’s not a guess. He’d said as much and he’d been pretty freaking clear about it too.
And then Stiles figures it out, hopes dashed, and he says, feeling beat up and bruised, “Okay, wow, no. I get it, this is—Zooey confuses things.” Stiles rubs the back of Zooey’s head as he talks about him. “I get that. I’ve confused things because we have this perfect little kid and it makes sense to want to try—for the two of us to become something for Zo’s sake but, Derek,” Stiles tries to catch his eye but Derek is resolutely looking anywhere but at him, “I don’t want to be the logical choice. That’s not what this is supposed to be and I can’t let you do that to yourself because you’re trying to be the good guy.”
“That’s not what this is,” Derek insists, lines around his mouth tight and fists clenching. He’s staring down at the floor between the toes of their shoes. “Stiles, I—”
“Listen, here’s what I have to work with, okay?” Stiles cuts him off. “Three years ago, I made it pretty clear I wanted you and you weren’t interested. Present day, magic little rug rat,” Stiles waves Zooey’s arms and he laughs happily – no concept of his surroundings, this kid, “who looks like us and smells like us and would be the product of an us in normal circumstances appears and suddenly you are interested. You get why I can’t bank on that, right?”
Derek laughs darkly. “So you think I’m too dense to know how I feel.”
“This isn’t—” Stiles huffs, “I’m not calling you stupid and you should stop believing that I’d jump at the chance to think the worst of you because that hasn’t been true for years. This,” he indicates Zo, “is enough to mess with anyone’s head and I just… I’ve taken advantage of people before and it’s not something I ever want to do again.”
“Fine,” Derek grinds out. That’s becoming kind of a theme with him.
And it’s obvious that Derek thinks he’s being blown off. Because he’s an idiot. “Derek,” Stiles says softly, seriously, “if you still—if after—tell me again. If you want to, tell me again after all this is over.” Derek’s eyes find Stiles’, gauging, and he nods once. Stiles rolls his lower lip into his mouth and starts awkwardly, “I should probably—”
“You should move in—” Derek blurts out while Stiles’ heart slams into his ribcage, “you and Zooey,” he clarifies. “Unrelated to the rest of it,” Derek says firmly, reaching out and taking Zo’s hand. His pudgy little fingers immediately curl around one of Derek’s. “I want as much time with him as possible and I know you do too so you should—I want you to move in here, with me.”
And everything in Stiles is screaming what a bad idea this is, but he can’t find a legitimate reason to deny the request other than, ‘living with you would be like kicking my emotions in the crotch repeatedly.’ Derek deserves just as much time with Zooey as Stiles and this is the logical solution. Stiles sighs, feels like he’s slamming the hammer down on his coffin’s final nail, and says, “Okay, yeah.”
He’s pretty sure it’s not like he could fall more in love with Derek so, really, it won’t up the terrible-awful-bad factor by all that much and Zooey will get to spend more time with his werwolf-y daddy. It’s a win-win-lose and Stiles is sadly used to being the loser in their scenario.
He’s wrong. He’s so laughably, pitifully, impressively wrong that Stiles can almost appreciate it. Derek wakes up at the ass-crack of dawn and—no, that’s misleading. Derek rolls out of bed at the ass-crack of dawn, snuffling and mussed, but he doesn’t really wake up until ten a.m. or until Zooey throws something at his head. His hair retains the shape of whatever side he’s slept on until he washes it and then he eats Mini Wheats like a champ. Either directly out of the box or with milk and he ruffles Isaac’s hair while he does the same with Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
It’s domestic and terrible and really drives home what an amazing dad Derek is going to be when he has babies that aren’t temporary. Or half-Stiles’.
He and Zooey then play hide-and-seek by scent, which is painfully cute, and Stiles is going to have to kill himself soon. Stiles has mostly taken to laying on the floor as his way of dealing and he’s doing that, Zooey sitting on his stomach and leaning back against his raised thighs, when Derek strolls over.
“I’m going for a run,” he grunts out.
Stiles tilts his head back to look up at him so Derek will know he’s listening. He’s wearing a tank top and the fucker that sold it to him should be ashamed of himself. Stiles gulps looking at it and he can’t quite tear his eyes away from his shorts-wearing, tank top-having, father-of-his-magic-child roommate.
This was a terrible, terrible idea.
He tries to smile but he’s pretty sure it comes off as more of a grimace and says, “Okily dokily.” Because he clearly has no self-respect.
Derek gives him a weird look and leaves.
Stiles waits until he’s been gone a few minutes to play Atlas SLV-3 with Zo (or as Derek boringly calls it: ‘rocket ship’) and mutter under his breath, “Of course you’re going for a run, because you’re not perfect and unattainable enough as it is.” He sighs and enjoys Zooey’s giggles as Stiles zooms him higher.
He’ll come back covered in sweat, chest heaving and hair dripping, and Stiles will still live in an environment where he can’t even jerk off. He groans to himself. Terrible, terrible idea he reiterates mentally.
He sits up, settling Zo in his lap and letting him play with Stretch again. Stiles lifts up the cover of his laptop, bites his thumbnail and scrolls through his friends list. “Thank Jor-El,” Stiles bursts out, clicking on the highlighted pansybeauregarde so fast that he’s surprised it didn’t break something.
A dark chat window pops up and then, a second later, Violet’s face is filling it.
“So I live with Derek now and we play house with the realest pretend baby in the history of ever and it’s murdering me in gory and inhumane fashion.”
Violet doesn’t even look surprised. She holds up her index finger. “One, I so called how awful this was going to be from jump.” She mimes a bow before adding a second finger. “Two, that is literally the worst thing I’ve ever heard.”
Stiles points at her, as if to say ‘J’accuse.’ “False. Accusation: grotesque hyperbole. We both overheard Brian with that Sociology major.”
“Rebuttal: we swore to never speak of that again, which means one could argue it never occurred if it can’t be discussed.”
Stiles clicks his tongue and has to admit, “Nice rejoinder.”
Violet sniffs in superior fashion. “My high school debate team made it to the semi-finals.” She’s sitting on her pale pink bedspread, laptop in front of her while she leans cross-legged up against the wall behind her bed. She blows on recently painted magenta nails. “Stiles, seriously, what are you doing to yourself here?”
Stiles winces. “I’d call it torture-lite?”
Vi tilts her head with a sigh. “Stiles.”
“I know,” he groans back. He lays his head down on the coffee table in front of his laptop and squints up at Vi through his one open eye. Cancun agreed with her and she looks refreshed and relaxed while Stiles feels like road kill. He kind of wants to pinch her eyelid in response to all her happy. It’s just lucky for her that they’re separated by a few hundred miles.
He’s got his eyes closed and he’s listening to Violet hum the song Fancy softly when she interrupts herself with an awed, “Oh my God, you weren’t kidding. That would be total torture.”
Stiles’ eyes shoot open and he twists around to see Derek standing behind the couch, looking down at him and Zo fondly, tank top plastered to his chest with sweat and water bottle in his hand. He’s smiling slightly and says softly, like he thinks he might’ve just woken Stiles from a nap, “Stiles, do you know if—”
Violet makes an almost obscene sound when Derek lifts his tank to rub at his sweaty face with the hem and she breathes out, “Holy Abs-of-Granite, Batman.”
Derek drops his shirt and his face closes off when he sees Violet. He starts tightly, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize—”
Stiles grabs his hand before he can march off and pulls him around the couch as far as his arm will stretch and then trusts Derek to get the picture and do the rest. Which he does. He plops down next to Stiles’ shoulder, looking nothing short of surly. Stiles lifts Zo and Derek takes him, smile back as he bounces Zooey on his knee.
Stiles motions to where Violet is grinning almost maniacally at the both of them. “Derek, this is my best friend at UCLA, Violet. Violet, Derek,” he introduces.
“Hey,” Derek says gruffly because he’s Derek and he’s never going to be good at people.
Which is no problem with Violet, who can carry the weight of a conversation and make it look effortless. She leans closer to her screen, grin going sharp, almost predatory. “So, Derek, are you seeing anyone right now?”
Derek’s eyes widen and he says awkwardly, “Uh, no.”
Vi’s gaze darts between them. “But you are interested in someone, aren’t you?” she pushes, almost like she’s trying to convince Derek of it.
“Violet,” Stiles forces out through clenched teeth. “Remember, we discussed your tendency to ask inappropriate personal questions to literal strangers? We decided that wasn’t one of your best qualities, remember?” He glares her down and she leans back, unapologetic. Stiles turns back to look at Derek. “Forgive my friend here, she was dropped on her head repeatedly as a child and her fontanel never closed properly.”
Violet makes a scoffing sound and gets back at him not even a second later. She points a painted nail between the three of them and says sweetly, “You three make the nicest little family picture.”
Stiles feels Derek tense next to him before he says tightly, “Yeah, we do.” And then he’s leaving the room, taking Zooey with him.
Stiles flips off Violet and then picks up his laptop and carries it into the spare bedroom he’s been living in, kicking the door closed behind him.
To her credit, Vi actually does look somewhat chastised.
Stiles sets the laptop down on his bed, settling in front of it, and she says, “I get the feeling I said a thing that maybe made things worse.” Stiles glares at her as if to say, ‘no, really?’ and she holds up her hands. “But, to be fair, you have said so many of those things in your lifetime that you should definitely forgive people who are just following your example.”
Stiles rolls his eyes, dropping back against his pillow so they’re not actually looking at each other anymore. He says, muffled, “He thinks he’s into me.”
Violet sounds personally offended. “And yet you’re not celebrating in the streets? Um, are you determined to be miserable?”
Stiles rubs at the bridge of his nose. “It’s only because of Zooey. I think Derek wants him to have two parents so he’s convinced himself he’s actually interested in being with me but the timing is… a lot suspicious and, honestly, I’m fairly sure it has nothing to do with me.”
“That’s because your sense of self-worth is ludicrously skewed,” Violet says, bored. “You never believe the best about yourself and yet you trip all over yourself to believe the worst. As if I would be friends with someone who sucks as much as you think you do. I don’t think so.”
“I’m not imagining him rejecting me, okay. That happened. I have the emotional scarring to prove it.”
“Yeah, and then you immediately got scooped up by some super hot deputy who fell head over heels in love with you. Yours is not a rags-to-riches story, Stiles, so take it down a fucking notch,” Violet says, unimpressed. And she may have a point. “Not to mention, you’re attractive and not in a you-have-to-squint-to-see-it or be-emotionally-invested-first way. Derek is devastatingly hot, yes, but you’re… your looks have this kind of interest factor to them. You’re handsome in a way that draws people in and Derek is handsome in an obvious way. One is a lot more fascinating than the other.” She makes a thoughtful sound. “And you don’t suck, Stiles. You’re a little abrasive, you don’t make it easy to get to know you and you can be kind of mean at times but, once you’re in, you’re in. I mean, you’ve made lifelong friends right along for a reason and if I have to say one more nice thing to you, I’m going to mentally kick you in the dick so nut up, Stilinski.”
Stiles snorts and reorients so he’s looking at Vi again. He fake swoons. “Violet, you could’ve just said you were in love with me. I didn’t need the drawn-out declaration. Though it was awfully sweet.” Emphasis purposefully on the ‘awful.’
Vi wrinkles her nose. “We’ve both said the ‘L’ word,” she says, sounding nauseated, “and I know it wasn’t to each other but my skin is still all squirmy.”
Stiles can agree with that sentiment. Real emotion. Pshaw. Who needs it? He ponders the solution and then suggests as a way of canceling out the sap from the moment before, “Put on some Wolfmother and rock out hardcore?”
“Yes please,” Violet says, fiddling on her computer before Woman starts blasting from Stiles’ speakers. Stiles sets his laptop on his dresser, watches Vi set hers on her desk and then they’re both jumping on their beds – ankles and striped socked feet really all they can see of each other – and singing mostly the right words at the top of their lungs.
It’s cathartic and then some.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” Stiles whines, staring down at Derek asleep in his bed, Zooey snuggled up to his side – half in his armpit – and mirroring his exact position with an arm partly thrown over his face. It’s the most endearing thing Stiles has ever seen. Zooey’s snuffling slightly in his sleep and Stiles’ insides have turned to saccharine confections and gumdrops and sugary sweetness and he kind of hates them both.
He’s still staring three minutes later when Derek’s phone goes off and he jerks awake. It’s Isaac, checking that they have enough Totino’s to feed the both of them over the weekend.
Derek hangs up after confirming that they do and rubs at his eyes. He blinks up at Stiles, brow furrowed. “You all right?” he asks, voice rough and sleep scratchy and basically aural sex. “Your heart is—”
Stiles swallows, hating that he has to own up to why a phone call could make his heartbeat mimic a battering ram. “You get that the next time that Deaton calls, his plan is going to work, right? It’s the rule of threes and it never fails. He’s going to figure it out and he’s going to call and that’s going to be the time that Zo—”
Derek’s mouth twitches into a frown and he looks over at Zooey, arm automatically curling around him, but he doesn’t sound surprised when he says, “I know.”
It happens just like they thought it would. Time number three is the charm.
Stiles and Derek go to Deaton’s and they take turns hugging and nuzzling and holding and nomming Zo’s fingers while Deaton and two of Elektrastein’s coven keep the power-mad lady in check. Derek holds Protozooey in a corner of the room because he won’t be talked into leaving this time and his eyes are a dark, ominous red, fangs bared.
Zooey mimics him, half-shifted and chomping his jaws. It’s more cute than intimidating but no one tells him so.
There’s some Latin mumbo-jumbo, a crystal, Elektrastein calling them all idiots and then Stiles feels the magic leave him and he wants to look, to be there for Derek while Zooey disappears but he sees one tiny fist start to fade and he just can’t. He suspects there’s not enough air in the entire world for him but there definitely isn’t in that tiny fucking room and he bursts outside, leans up against the brick wall and tries to drag oxygen into his lungs even while his throat is clamping down.
His vision is blurry and his heart hurts and empty, empty, empty fucking fingers dig into his shoulders, pick him back up from hunching over himself.
“Stiles,” Derek says urgently, gripping him harder. “Stiles, calm down, take deep breaths, okay?” Derek leads him through it, making his own chest rise and fall evenly, breaths whistling through his nose.
Stiles is still half-sick, half-sobbing when he gasps out, “Derek, I—I’m so—”
Derek’s eyes flash red and he snarls, “I’m not.” And it’s so definite, so final, that it actually makes Stiles’ breath catch. He sounds so certain that Stiles is pretty sure he’ll believe whatever comes out of his mouth. “I’m not sorry. I don’t regret a minute of it and I wouldn’t change it, not for anything.” Stiles swallows carefully and Derek’s eyes are blazing. He pushes Stiles up against the wall, presses so close that Stiles’ head is resting on his shoulder. “As it is,” Derek says in a low tone after a minute or so has passed, “we got all the good parts, the perfect parts anyway.” Stiles’ lips twitch a little and Derek’s hand finds the back of his neck, thumb stroking his heated skin slightly. “He could’ve grown up a little more and decided he liked Justin Bieber. We would’ve had to disown him and you spared us that.”
Stiles barks out a surprised laugh, eyes still streaming. He pulls away and punches the heel of his palm into Derek’s shoulder. “You made a joke,” he breathes, almost disbelieving.
Derek smiles back tentatively and he looks less crushed now. “It took a lot of forethought,” he admits gravely, “research, intense planning, there were blueprints and I’m still not sure the timing was—”
Stiles hugs him, tight. “Thank you.” Derek hugs him back and Stiles asks softly, so much more vulnerability to his voice than he means to be there, “You really don’t regret it?”
“I really don’t. How could I regret a second of Zooey?” he asks seriously, obviously, like Stiles has lost a few brain cells. “For someone so smart, Stiles, you’re remarkably stupid sometimes.”
There’s a tissue half-shoved up Stiles’ nose when he answers the door to his dad’s house two days later. He’s not about to put on airs for anybody though. Derek doesn’t seem particularly put off by it, happily. He shoves his hands into the pockets of his jacket and says unassumingly, “Hey.”
“Hey,” Stiles answers back. He’s not really sure what Derek’s doing here, or how they’re supposed to talk to each other anymore, now that there’s an infant-sized elephant following them from room to room. He’s casting around for a topic of conversation when he remembers coming home after Zo—after Deaton’s and finding no evidence that a baby had ever been there. “Did you text my dad and tell him to—”
Derek nods. “Yeah. I thought that might be better.”
“It was,” Stiles says gratefully. “Thank you, for doing that, for thinking of me.”
Derek mutters something under his breath and then he’s squaring his shoulders, psyching himself up and looking straight into Stiles’ eyes. “You told me to tell you again, after.”
“No, this time you’re going to let me talk.”
Stiles swallows and says, “Okay.” He takes the tissue out of his nose and places it on the bar by the door. He kind of gets the feeling that he doesn’t want to have this conversation with really anything half-hanging out of his nose. He’s sure he still looks like hell in his ratty sweats and with the loose skin under his eyes but at least it’s some improvement.
Derek works his jaw. He asked to talk but he doesn’t look like he has any idea what to say. After a long while he blurts out, “I thought you were putting my mask on first.”
“What?” Stiles says before he can catch it, momentarily forgetting he’s not supposed to be speaking here. He squints and says, “Are you—Is this the airplane thing again?”
Derek glowers at him for interrupting. “I thought you wanted to help me or save me or something me, to your own detriment. I thought you wanted to put my mask on first.” He shrugs. “It was kind of your M.O. back then – still sort of is, just so you know – and I didn’t want to be a project to you.” Before Stiles can open his mouth to defend himself, Derek adds, “And by the time Erica convinced me you were serious about it, you were already with—”
“Jordan,” Stiles breathes with a wince.
“Yeah.” Derek ducks his head, swallows, and his eyes come up to track Stiles’ face, lingering on his mouth, his ear, his eyelashes. “I’ve been—It’s been you for a long time.”
“Oh.” Which is literally all Stiles can bring himself to say.
“Yeah,” Derek says back meekly, like he’s waiting for the inevitable rejection.
Because he’s an idiot. Stiles is pretty sure he’s mentioned that before. Stiles licks his lower lip and steps out onto the porch with Derek. “Listen,” he says earnestly, dropping his forearms down onto Derek’s shoulders, hands threading together behind his neck, “I think it’s been proven, by the universe and the law of cute babies, that we sort of have to be together for the future of infant guapo-ness everywhere.”
“This is a serious moment, Stiles,” Derek says sternly. Or tries to. He’s grinning too widely to pull it off and Stiles has never seen Derek grin like that. He didn’t know Derek could grin like that.
He can’t help but match it. “No, this was a serious moment, Derek,” he corrects. “Get your tenses right or I’m going to take away your English privileges. You can have Dutch though. Omistan oranssi.”
Derek’s arms pull Stiles in by the waist and he murmurs happily, “How do you even know Finnish?”
“Damn it.” Stiles brushes his jaw against Derek’s and says softly, seriously, “Hey. You get that I’m saying that I’m in, for all of it, right? The you and the—we can make another one. A proper Protozooey,” and it doesn’t hurt to say his name as much as it did yesterday, “however you want to. Whenever you want to. I’m in. For the good of the universe and whatnot.”
Derek agrees in the same soft tone, teeth blindingly white, “For the good of the universe.”
Stiles leans back and ruins the touching moment by saying, “You’re not going to tell me you love me, right?” Derek startles a bit and Stiles explains, “Your eyes are all warm and gooey and potentially L-bomb-y.”
“Do you want me to?”
Stiles’ nose wrinkles. “Absolutely no. You know what I do want you to do though?”
“Couldn’t guess,” Derek says, with something that’s kind of chuckle-ish. Which is weird.
Stiles leans in, mouth dragging against the curve of Derek’s ear. “I might’ve picked up an adult-sized Luke Skywalker outfit in addition to my other Star Wars paraphernalia and I might want you to fuck me in it.”
Stiles is close enough to feel Derek’s breath stutter in his chest and then he’s being lifted up by his thighs, Derek’s hands sliding down to cup his ass. He squeezes and says all badass-like, “I know.”
Stiles squawks. “You can’t Solo me! That was not an, ‘I love you,’ you scruffy-looking nerf herder!” He’s got at least a dozen more Star Wars references queued up and ready to go but they fly out of his head the moment Derek’s lips find his. Stiles parts his mouth and Derek’s tongue brushes his and Stiles can’t really think of anything except how much he wants to be exactly where he is.