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Special Delivery (subway edition)

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The last thing Derek wants is to return to New York and be assaulted by the memories of Laura and their last moments of peace together before she left for Beacon Hills and everything went to hell. But when he gets a call from an irate storage building owner that says the place is getting torn down and if he wants his stuff he better come get it, Derek decides to suck it up and deal with the piles of their things that he’s been ignoring for close to four years. Derek hates planes, but he hates driving in New York traffic even more, so he takes a few days off work and suffers through the recycled air of a flight up there.

Derek throws out the entirety of it, and expects to be on a flight back to Beacon Hills the following day. He makes a snap decision to ride the subway back to his hotel, and through the noise of people clamoring off the subway car, he hears the sound of a distressed baby. Everything after that is a rush of his wolf jerking to attention, Derek pushing through the crowd toward the sound, calling 911 and giving his statement to the officers as he watches the baby girl disappear into an ambulance. The officers take his contact information, says they’ll be in touch if there’s any questions, then he’s left alone on the sidewalk and watching the police cruiser disappear into traffic.

He’s antsy and irritable the entire flight back to Beacon Hills.

Derek gets a call from a judge’s office three weeks later. They want him to repeat to the judge how he found her, for official record, so he flies back to New York. He dresses appropriately for it, leaving his new leather jacket at his hotel room because he knows how to be a grown-up, despite what Stiles teases.

The judge turns out to be an older woman with sharp eyes, and Derek feels the hair on the back of his neck stand up when he steps into her chambers. She shakes his hand and smiles at him like she knows he can feel the witchcraft magic curling around her like a feline curls around its owner’s ankles. He gives her the same edited version he originally gave the police, because it’s not as if he could tell the officers he heard the distinct whimper that only baby weres make through a noisy crowd. She takes notes down on the papers strewn across her desk while he talks. When he’s done, she doesn’t give any indication that he’s allowed to leave, so he stays seated and tries not to feel awkward. He wishes he had his jacket, so at least he would have some semblance of armor between them.

Retelling the story stirs up the memories of that day, and Derek can’t stop himself from thinking about how tiny the baby had been when he scooped her up and wrapped her in his old jacket. How she’d gone silent when she sensed he was like her. Not a parent, but at least familiar. A human baby would have succumbed to the freezing January weather. There was a splash of blood on the scrap of sheet she was left in, and he assumed it had to be the mother’s. It wasn’t the same scent as the baby’s, but close enough to be a relative. He’d somehow found the presence of mind to call the police through his wolf howling danger, because there was no way a mother would leave her child willingly, especially not a werewolf mother. Then paramedics took her from his arms, leather jacket and all, while he gave his statement to the police and that was the last time he saw her. He tried to stress to the officers that she needed to have protection, but it wasn’t as if he could tell them it was because hunters might try to hurt her.

He never told Stiles that he called the hospital a couple times a week to see if she was okay. They never gave him any information, no matter how much he threatened, or, eventually, begged. He found her; he should be allowed to know she was okay.

Derek might still be a little irritated about it.

The judge clears her throat, and it jerks him back to the present. She is staring at him, looking contemplative, and he forces himself to not show his discomfort at being caught unaware.

“Something wrong?” she asks, not unkind.

Derek shakes his head, but when her expression doesn’t change he asks, “Did any family come forward?”

“I made inquiries. People go missing every day,” she says carefully, knowing he’ll read between the lines. Derek wants to ask if it was hunters, if she knows who, if they know they missed a baby.

“She’ll at least be put in a family that… understands, won’t she?”

“Unfortunately no,” She says with a sigh. “She's in the system like a normal unclaimed baby."

Derek’s eyes widen. “Will her adopted family know she’s…” He trails off, unsure how safe they are with specifics, even if they are alone in her chambers.

“Special?” she offers.

Derek nods.

“Likely not. We just don’t have the support system in place to take care of orphans with this kind of special need.” She stares over her glasses at him. “Unless someone that understands steps in.”

Derek knows immediately what she’s implying. But it’s a baby. Derek doesn’t know the first thing about taking care of a baby, and Stiles just started his second year of college. If Stiles would even want to help. Derek knows Stiles loves kids, but they’ve never had the children talk. Or even the marriage talk.

But Derek remembers what it was like to have his entire family reduced to only two people. This baby doesn't even have that, but he could give it to her. The pack is strong now, and the Hale territory is safe again. He learned how to be a good alpha, he can learn how to take care of a baby.

“What would I have to do?”

-

Derek waits until he gets back to his hotel to call Stiles.

“You’re what?” Stiles yells.

Derek jerks the phone away from his ear and waits a few beats before putting it back. “I’m adopting the baby I found on the subway last month,” he repeats.

"Are you pranking me?" Stiles sounds more surprised than angry, at least. After being through so much together, Derek knows every variation of his angry voice by now. He collects everything he can about Stiles, has every smile and tone of voice tucked away in the space beneath his breastbone for safekeeping.

“Stiles,” Derek says softly when Stiles doesn’t continue. “She doesn’t have anyone.” Stiles stays quiet and Derek hopes that his silence means Stiles is thinking it over instead of considering the easiest way to dump him. They’ve been officially together since Stiles graduated high school, and he knows Stiles loves him, but Derek still wonders sometimes when Stiles will wise up and move on. Maybe this is the final straw.

Derek drops to the end of the bed and closes his eyes while he waits. He can hear the sound of Stiles breathing and the tap tap of his socked feet hitting the wood flooring as he paces around their living room. He’ll understand if Stiles tells him to fuck off. He has a full college course load that’s already taking up almost all of his time, and the last thing he needs is another distraction.

“Okay,” Stiles says after two full minutes. (Derek counted.) “Okay. We can do this.”

We.

Derek can barely breathe around how much he loves this man. He falls backwards on the bed and stares at the peeling paint on the ceiling.

“Are you sure?" he asks.

“Well, I expected to have the kids talk sometime, just not like this,” Stiles says, and Derek can hear the grin in his voice, can picture it in his mind. “I'm just having to rearrange everything in my ten year plan. Literally everything, and it’s kind of a big deal. I didn’t expect the kids talk to happen until after I graduated, at the earliest."

"Sorry," Derek manages to choke out while he tries to calm the butterflies that are rampaging through his stomach. Stiles thought about them having children? He thought about their future together that far ahead. Derek carefully pushes the implications of it aside and boxes it neatly to be thought over later.

"Don't even start being sorry about adopting a homeless werebaby. Did you get to see her?"

“Not yet. The judge said I’ll get a visit by the weekend.” Derek hears the sound of computer keys. "What are you doing?"

"Coming up there, duh. I'm ordering the plane ticket. My flight leaves in the morning."

"You don't have to—"

"Uh, yes I do,” Stiles interrupts him. “I want to meet our new baby, and the judge probably needs me to sign papers or something. I'll research that tonight. Where are you staying?”

Derek gets stuck on “our new baby” for a second, then the rest of Stiles’ words register. He sits up and wrinkles his nose at the room. “Not here.”

“Okay. Then where?” Stiles laughs.

“I’ll send you the address when I find it,” Derek says as he grabs his jacket and duffel bag. He hadn’t even bothered unpacking it. This motel would be fine if it was just him --he’d stayed in worse when he traveled with Laura-- but if Stiles is staying too then he’s definitely switching to somewhere better.

-

Stiles pulls Derek into a lingering kiss the moment he’s in range, because he’s an asshole that knows how weak Derek is to Stiles staking his claim in public. Stiles grins knowingly against his mouth, then Derek finds himself carrying Stiles’ luggage and being towed toward the airport exit. "Come on, papa. Let’s go get us a subway baby."

"You are not calling her that."

"She's half my kid, I'll call her whatever I want." Stiles grins at him. It turns to something softer, with a hint of concern when Derek laces their fingers together and holds on tight. “Derek, you okay?”

“Yeah.” Derek gives him a reassuring smile. And he means it. Derek’s more okay than he’s been in a while. “How long are you staying?”

“As long as I need to. I emailed my professors that I have a family emergency, which isn’t technically a lie. The emergency is we’re abruptly adding to our family.”

-

Stiles handles the trip to the foster parent's house better than Derek does. He radiates excitement and Derek tries to mimic him so Stiles doesn't see how nervous he is. The judge practically handed baby girl to him, but Derek's had days to worry about what could go wrong. Could the foster family somehow keep him from adopting her? What if he offends them somehow and they convince the judge to change her mind? What if he drops her?

The foster house is in the suburbs, and Derek appreciates how the air is cleaner. The city is no place for a baby werewolf that’s barely 3 months old and doesn’t have practice handling the assault of scents and noise. Derek finds himself getting tenser the closer they get. He rented a car for the short trip and Stiles is comfortable in the passenger seat, reading a handful of papers he printed out at the hotel.

He hears baby girl crying before he even gets all the way to the house, and she only seems to get louder when he pulls into the driveway. Stiles grips his hand and it grounds him like nothing else has ever been able to.

"It'll be fine," Stiles says.

"I can hear her,” Derek grits out. “She's upset."

"Then let’s go fix it."

The caseworker opens the door and invites them inside with a smile. The foster mother, a small woman with red hair pulled back in a frazzled bun, is cradling baby girl in one of the living room chairs. She introduces herself as Pam, and she has a calming air about her, despite the crying baby in her arms. Derek likes her immediately.

"She's a discontent little girl, I'm afraid,” Pam says as she stands and sways her gently side to side. “The only time she's not crying is when she's eating or sleeping.”

“Can I hold her?" Derek’s fear of dropping her or appearing rude is overshadowed by his wolf needing to be in contact with the future member of his pack. Needing to know that she’s okay.

“Of course.” Pam doesn’t seem offended and hands her over with a gentle smile. Derek holds her close and baby girl's crying slows to the whimpering he remembers from the day on the subway, then she quiets completely.

“Wow, this is the first time she’s been quiet for more than a few minutes,” Pam says with a little bit of awe. “Looks like you guys are meant to be.”

Stiles leans against his shoulder and touches the tuft of pale downy hair on the top of baby girl's head. Derek knows he’s probably eager to hold her, but he can’t hand her over just yet.

“Does she have a name?” Stiles asks Pam.

“We’ve been calling her Caroline.”

Derek isn’t fond of it, but he nods along to be polite. He decides to keep calling her baby girl in his head, and get Stiles to help pick out a name later.

They all sit and Derek lets Stiles make small talk with Pam and the caseworker, tunes them out and focuses on the baby in his arms instead. Baby girl squints up at him, and her eyes flash gold, instinctively recognizing her alpha. Derek stops breathing in surprise, knows his own turn red in response. He’s thankful that his head is tilted downward and Stiles is here to take the attention away from them, because the last thing he wants is to deal with either of the women freaking out on them. They seem completely in the dark about werewolves, and Derek wants to keep it that way. He already has no idea how he’s going to manage leaving baby girl. His wolf howls at the very idea, and it takes every bit of control to keep himself from standing and walking out with her right then.

Stiles picks up on the shift and nudges his shoulder to get his attention, then holds out his hands. “My turn. Stop hogging our baby.”

Handing her to Stiles, part of the pack, is far easier than it would be to hand her back to Pam, and Derek’s grateful again that he’s here. Baby girl makes an upset noise, but quiets back down when Stiles coos at her and rocks her side to side. Derek swallows and tries to ignore the way his stomach flips at the image of them together.

-

Backing out of the driveway is one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do. She starts crying by the time they reach the 20 feet to the road, and Derek can hear her for far longer. She’s too young to understand that the separation from the pack is just temporary. She only knows that she’s being left alone.

His wolf is clawing to get out and protect the new defenseless member of his pack, and they’re halfway back to the city before he gets himself under control. He’ll have to pay damages to the car where his claws come out and dig into the leather of the steering wheel, but that’s the least of his concern. Stiles is uncharacteristically silent, and Derek realizes that he has one hand curled over Derek’s knee, grounding him. Derek makes sure his claws are retracted, and grips Stiles’ hand.

“How’re the instincts?” Stiles asks softly.

Derek grunts, and Stiles is well versed in Derek-speak, so he just twines their fingers together and doesn’t ask for any more confirmation.

-

At the hotel he makes the mistake of browsing the paperwork Stiles printed out and he keeps seeing months and his wolf snarls at the idea of waiting months of knowing she's unprotected and away from the pack.

Stiles carefully pries the papers out of his hands and sets them aside. They're crinkled around the edges and Derek didn't even realize he was holding them that tightly. Stiles sits beside him on the bed and pulls him into a hug, holds him tight until he sighs and the tension sags from his shoulders. Stiles smells like home and pack and he wants baby girl to know this too. It’s going to be a long couple of months.

The following Monday morning, Derek gets a phone call from the judge’s office asking if they would be okay with moving up the date to that afternoon. There is an opening in her schedule and Derek immediately says yes because the sooner they can get the adoption process rolling the better. Stiles goes with him, and the judge gives him a once over, then smiles in what Derek assumes is approval.

"Now I understand your pack’s reputation, Mr. Hale." She doesn’t sound disappointed, though he can’t imagine any reputation that would have spread through gossip would be good.

Derek doesn't know what to say, and Stiles looks curious. "We have a reputation?" Stiles asks.

She just nods like she's satisfied with his question, even though she doesn't answer it. Instead she slides a stack of papers across her desk toward them. Derek sees X's placed beside the lines he assumes they're supposed to sign, and picks up a pen.

“Is Wednesday too soon?” She asks.

“Too soon for…?” Stiles returns.

“For her to be transferred into your custody as her legal parents,” She says patiently.

Derek almost snaps the pen in half in surprise.

“But it’s Monday,” Stiles sputters. “There’s home visits and paperwork and… that fast, really?”

She leans back in her chair smirks at him. "You run with a pack and you doubt my abilities?"

Stiles squints at her, the look he gets when he's concentrating, then he elbows Derek in the side and hisses, “You didn’t tell me the judge is a witch.”

“You didn’t ask!” Derek hisses back and scribbles his signature everywhere he’s supposed to, then offers the pen to Stiles.

“I shouldn’t have to ask if authority figures are witches,” Stiles says as he signs his own name. “We’ve been over this conversation. This is called relevant information, Derek.”

She watches the exchange like they’re the most amusing thing she’s seen in a while.

Afterward, Stiles directs him to the closest baby store and they come out loaded with tiny clothes, three kinds of diapers, a car seat, and a dozen toys. Derek puts a stuffed wolf toy back on the shelf while Stiles isn’t looking, but he still sees it appear on the checkout counter. Stiles sees him narrow his eyes as it disappears into a bag and smiles innocently at him. The car gets switched out for a minivan at the rental place so there’s enough space for them and all the stuff Stiles insists they need. Derek doesn’t argue about it. He would buy Times Square at this point if Stiles said baby girl needed it.

Once they’re back at the hotel, Stiles Skypes Scott and sends him into a panic that has Derek snickering offscreen until his own phone starts pinging with texts in caps from the rest of the pack. They spend the rest of the night and all of the next day directing who should pick up what from where and how much, then what should be moved to make room for the baby things. Erica takes charge from the other end with a single-mindedness that startles no one, with Isaac right behind. Derek is thankful for the distraction of it all, because otherwise his wolf would have him rattling anxiously around the hotel room. When Isaac texts about getting a crib, Stiles goes quiet, then looks askance at Derek and says “I think Mom put mine in the attic? Unless you would rather she have a new one.”

Derek tugs the phone out of his hands and kisses him, swallowing his protests, and turning them into moans instead. Stiles eventually finds his phone where it fell beside the bed and texts Isaac back a few hours later while Derek noses at the back of his neck.

-

Wednesday morning Derek paces in the hotel lobby, waiting for the social worker. There’s apparently some procedure even with a witch judge and they’re not allowed to just go pick up baby girl from the foster family. Stiles watches from his place on the sofa because according to him, someone has to be the calm one. Derek has scared two fellow guests and fully unsettled the employees working behind the counter by the time he hears the faint sound of baby girl’s cries through the traffic outside.

Stiles appears at his shoulder and grins at him. Derek is caught for a moment by how it reaches all the way to his eyes, no hesitation at all.

The social worker carries baby girl through the front doors and Derek tries to put on a smile that doesn’t look like he’s about to rip her out of the woman’s hands. Stiles handles everything like a pro and within an hour they’re checking out of the hotel and Derek is grumbling under his breath about New York traffic and glancing back at Stiles where he’s sitting by the baby seat to keep her company on the long ride home. Werewolf babies’ ears tend to be overly sensitive to pressure changes and neither of them are willing to put their new baby through something potentially painful, so driving it is. Derek doesn’t mind driving, and he’d rather be the one in control of the vehicle that’s transporting the most important part of his pack.

He can tell by her heartbeat that she falls asleep just on the other side of the Pennsylvania border, and he lets himself settle into the sounds of hers and Stiles’ heartbeats filling the car until the noise of the highway fades into the background.

He chances a glance into the mirror once, and Stiles is adjusting her blanket, the look on his face so soft that Derek jerks his eyes back to the road and swallows around the lump that’s trying to choke him.

-

"What are we going to call her?" Stiles finally asks after a few hours. "We can't just keep calling her baby girl."

Derek hasn't thought about it since the visit to the foster parents, too concerned with getting her home as soon as possible and under the protection of the pack.

"I don't know."

Stiles sighs. "Okay, I'm going to start calling her Martha."

"Ugh," Derek says before he can stop himself. "She's not a kid from the Brady Bunch."

"Josephine."

"No."

"Abigail."

Derek considers this for a minute, then shakes his head. "No."

"Belle."

Derek glares at him through the rear view mirror.

"Fine, fine, no Disney," Stiles says wryly.

Derek expects him to continue, but after a few minutes there's still silence and when he glances back, Stiles is staring out of the window. The cheer is gone from his face and Derek rewinds the conversation in his head, trying to find what he could have said wrong to cause it. They still fought sometimes, but he thought they were just teasing each other.

"Mom’s name was Claudia.” Stiles says quietly, and oh.

Stiles doesn’t expand on it, and Derek knows he’s waiting for a yes or no. He still barely talks about her. Derek’s knowledge of her comes from whispered stories under the covers on the anniversary of her death, or a fond comment on Christmas morning. He doesn’t know anything more than what Stiles has revealed over the years. It feels like he would be treading on fragile new grass to go looking himself.

"I like it," Derek says softly. He does. It's a pleasant, comforting name. If Stiles wants to give it to their daughter, he would consider it a gift to be named after someone so obviously still loved and missed.

He hears Stiles take a long, shaking breath, and when he chances a glance back, he gets a small smile in return.

"Baby Claudia,” Stiles says softly. “What about a middle name?"

Derek thinks about it for a few minutes. This feels like something they should be discussing at home, not on the interstate while semi-trucks pass them.

"Do we have to decide now?" He finally asks.

"Of course not. We can take our time, find the best one for her," Stiles says.

Derek hmms.

-

They make it in record time back to Beacon Hills, mostly due to Derek's ability to drive with minimal sleep. They stop overnight three times so Stiles can stretch out in a bed and Claudia can have a break from the noise of the van. They sleep bracketed around her on the bed, and Derek scoops her up before she can wake Stiles when she whimpers in the night to be fed or changed. He makes a mess of the formula the first time, and he’s grateful that Stiles sleeps through that ordeal. It’s hard to make one handed while holding a hungry baby and that’s the story he’s sticking with.

The whole pack, minus Lydia who’s still at MIT, is waiting on the porch of the house when they pull up. Stiles is the one that picks her up out of the seat and carries her into the house, and everyone crowds around them until Derek growls at them to not overwhelm her or he'll throw them outside.

"Dibs on holding her first," Scott calls and the rest of the pack complains and grumbles as Scott sits on the couch and Stiles transfers her into his arms. The change in noise and scents fully wake her up and she blinks at Scott. When he makes googly noises at her, Derek is proud that she seems unimpressed.

-

He doesn't realize the fatigue from the past few days is catching up to him until he jerks awake when Stiles touches his shoulder. He just meant to sit down on the couch for a second, but it’s dark outside now, and a glance at the clock says he was out for about two hours.

“Hey sleepyhead,” Stiles says fondly and leans into his side.

Stiles doesn’t have Claudia. Before he can ask, Boyd wanders out of the kitchen with her in his arms, holding a bottle for her and looking smug.

"I think Boyd's her favorite," Stiles grins. "He got her to smile while you were napping."

She hasn't smiled for either of them yet and he feels a curl of jealousy, then stomps it down because it’s ridiculous. They’ve barely had her a week; she’ll be here for the rest of their lives. There’s plenty of time for her to smile at them.

He hears Erica and Isaac moving around in Claudia’s room above them. “Scott left?”

“Yeah, he has an early class.”

While they were on the road, Stiles did whatever homework he could in the car on his laptop. But he would have to work around a baby now. Derek plans on staying with her as much as he can, and the pack would make sure to fill in any time they would need. But Derek still worries. He wants Stiles to do well in college. He's trying to get his degree a year early, thanks to some ridiculous bet with Lydia.

Stiles pokes him in the nose and brings him out of his thoughts. He looks concerned. "What's wrong?"

Derek shakes his head. "Nothing, just tired."

Stiles knows him well enough to tell it's a lie, but he lets it slide. "Okay."

-

Stiles shoos him toward the door the next day and tells him Claws will be fine for a few hours. (”Damn it, Stiles.” “What? It’s a great nickname!”) Isaac is there and playing with her in the living room, holding a set of colored plastic links over her head for her to look at. She seems content enough.

Stiles physically pushes him through the door and kisses his cheek. "I'll have the house cleaned and dinner on the table when you get home, dear."

Derek rolls his eyes but can't stop the smile on his face. "Call me if there's a problem okay?"

"Derek," Stiles says and grips his shoulders, "We'll be fine. She needs to learn that we'll go away sometimes."

He can't argue with that, even though he wants to.

Derek still isn’t sure how he ended up with a job at the library. He’d wandered into the Beacon Hills Public Library one afternoon out of boredom and walked out confused and hired.

As far as jobs go, it’s nice. It's quiet and he enjoys filing books back in their proper spots, and reading when it’s slow. According to his boss, since he started, patronage has tripled. Derek has never checked out so many romance novels in his life. He never knew this many even existed. The fact that he might have read more than one is something that he’ll take to his grave.

He didn't tell his boss what he was going back to New York for, and when she finds out she smacks his arm and pushes him toward the section of the library that contains the books on baby care. He checks out a couple, both to please her and for his own peace of mind. Babies are babies no matter if they're human or werewolf, and parents usually have months to read about what not to do.

-

When he gets home, Isaac has gone to work and Boyd is slouched on the couch watching a rerun of Desperate Housewives muted with subtitles on. God help him that he can tell it’s a rerun.

Derek opens his mouth to complain for the millionth time about him bringing the devil's TV into his house, but it's derailed when he hears Stiles humming to Claudia above them.

Boyd smirks at him, knowing he's won this round. Derek just glares so Boyd knows this war isn't over and quietly goes up the stairs.

Stiles is standing with his back to the door, rocking Claudia back and forth. He smiles over his shoulder at Derek when he slips inside the room, and Derek can't stop himself from wrapping his arms around Stiles' waist and nosing at the space behind his ear. He smells like home and baby and things Derek thought he would never be worthy enough to have. From the sound of Claudia’s heartbeat she's nearly out, and Derek listens as she falls completely asleep. Stiles carefully puts her in the crib, then curls his fingers around Derek’s wrist and leads him out of the room. He waits until Stiles is done closing the door partway, then tugs him back into a hug because he can.

“Dad’s coming over in a few hours for a late dinner and to see his new granddaughter,” Stiles says and wraps his arms around Derek’s neck. “She’ll probably be up by then.”

Derek makes an affirmative noise and touches his forehead to Stiles’, lets his eyes close halfway. He can tell Stiles is trying to figure out why he’s even more touchy-feely than usual. Derek brushes their noses together and that seems to be enough to reassure him, because Stiles’ expression melts into a fond smile.

Derek refused to lay a hand on him until he turned of age, for a multitude of reasons. He didn't want Stiles to have regrets if he changed his mind after rushing into what he thought he wanted. Stiles was the Sheriff's son, and Derek wasn’t stupid; they would be found out sooner or later.

He couldn't stand being anything like Kate.

Stiles, a teenager run by his hormones, tested his wolf's self-restraint almost to breaking. The truth behind why he wouldn't let it go further than hugs and careful cuddling came out during an argument that went too far, and Derek won't ever forget the look on Stiles face when the words slipped out. All the fight drained out of Stiles and Derek was halfway out of the window when he grabbed the back of Derek’s shirt and held on.

"Don't leave, please. Jesus, I'm sorry. I didn't know."

Derek sighed and let himself be pulled all the way back inside, then dropped to the floor and rested his back against the wall. Stiles sat beside him and laced their fingers together, squeezed his hand until Derek tightened his own in response.

"You're nothing like her," Stiles said softly.

Derek didn't say anything. Stiles was barely seventeen and Derek was already so far gone over him that if Stiles regretted it later, he wouldn't know how to keep functioning. He’d only just been able to piece himself back together, and he didn’t know if he had the strength to do it again.

In the end, Stiles rubbed his nose against Derek's and said he could handle that being the only kissing they did for a while. Even after Stiles turned 18 and their relationship became official, it was their thing. Sometimes words were difficult and the gesture encompassed more than could be said.

-

Derek is aware that he’s possessive of Claudia. He’s the one that gets up immediately at the slightest sound coming from her room. It doesn't matter that they didn't get her the conventional way, she's still their child. He knows he’s letting his wolf go a little overboard, but he’ll be damned if another person is taken from him.

“Whazzit,” Stiles lifts his head and mumbles, eyes still closed, when he feels the bed shift. “She cryin’?”

“I’ve got it, go back to sleep,” Derek says, and Stiles drops his head back to the pillow. He probably won’t even remember waking up.

She's not a loud baby, but she doesn't have to be to get attention. Stiles is the only one that can't immediately hear any noise she makes, and ever since they brought her home, another member of the pack is always at the house to help out when Derek’s at work. Claudia has brought the pack even closer together.

She's hungry so he feeds and changes her. The house is quiet, the stillness that only comes in the early morning hours before the birds start waking up for the day.

Allison and Scott's contribution to the baby room was a rocking chair that’s one of the most comfortable things Derek's ever sat in. It doesn't squeak or creak when it rocks, an even better bonus when there's a baby with sensitive hearing.

Derek wraps her snug in a baby blanket like the book said babies tend to prefer while they're small, and rocks slowly in the chair. She doesn't seem inclined to fall back to sleep right away, but that's okay. He doesn't mind being up with her until she drifts off.

“I’m your alpha, and I’m the only one you haven’t smiled for.” Derek grumbles at her as he rocks, but there’s no heat in it. He lets his hearing zero in on Stiles, who’s still sound asleep, then sweeps the rest of the area, listening for anything unusual. When he’s sure everything is fine, he gives her his full attention. She obviously can’t talk back, but he’s found that talking quietly to her tends to calm her down. “I messed up a lot when I first turned into an alpha, you know that? I had no idea what I was doing.” She just stares towards the ceiling, her hands flexing like they want to grab something. He gently presses a tiny fist to his lips and sighs. “I’d like to think I’m a better alpha now, but you’re not helping my confidence any.”

She tilts her head to look at him and gurgles.

Derek can’t help the smile that he can feel stretching across his face, and he knows he probably looks completely smitten. He doesn't care.

Before the fire Derek remembered when a new baby was born, the family would throw a celebration of sorts on the following full moon. Outside of having extra energy, werewolf children didn’t react to the moon until they were at least a few years old, so the gathering was more for the adults to socialize and welcome the new part of the pack. The children and teenagers would run through the forest like wild things until the adults called them inside for a late dinner. Derek remembers falling asleep on Laura’s shoulder in the early morning hours, stomach full and body exhausted from playing tag with his cousins.

“Your first full moon with the pack is next week.” He bounces her just a little. “You’ll be an official part of this crazy train.”

Derek realizes he sounds like Stiles and rolls his eyes at himself.

Eventually, he gets her back to sleep, and then checks all the doors, makes sure they're locked even though he knows Stiles never forgets. He checks on Claudia one last time, then slips back into bed and lets the sound of Stiles breathing carry him back to sleep.

-

Stiles likes the idea of keeping the family tradition when Derek mentions it to him over breakfast.

“I could make your mom’s roast if you’ll pick up the stuff at the store,” Stiles says as he burps her. About a year into their relationship, Derek commented offhand that he missed the roast that his mother would make on special occasions. The pack lived on meat for a solid month and a half when Stiles took it upon himself to find a recipe and tinker with it until it was as close as possible to what Derek remembered his mother’s tasting like. Derek came close to being sick of meat for the first time in his life, but he couldn’t argue with the results.

A few days later they get a call from the California caseworker assigned to their adoption to schedule a home visit. They may be officially Claudia's parents, but there's still apparently more paperwork that has to be checked off to make sure Claudia's settled in fine. The first visit from their caseworker is scheduled for after the full moon and Derek tries not to stress over it. As far as he's concerned, the pack couldn't be a more supportive family. They can pry his baby out of his cold dead hands if they want her back.

-

Claudia’s first full moon with the pack goes about as well as his luck will allow. Claudia can feel the pull and refuses to go down for a nap, so Derek keeps her entertained while Stiles puts the betas to work in the kitchen. They grumble but do as they're told when Stiles says no meat until the trimmings are done, because he refuses to let them live like animals and get rickets from malnutrition.

Derek's never heard of a werewolf getting rickets, but he'd rather play with Claudia than argue with Stiles about it. They’ve had her barely over two weeks, and it hasn’t gotten any easier to leave her when he has to go to work. The smell of the roast is starting to permeate every room of the house, and Derek is content to stay curled on the couch with Claudia propped in his lap. A ridiculous stuffed amoeba showed up in yesterday's mail from Lydia, and he spends an embarrassing amount of time trying to get Claudia to smile at it. He can't even tell if he's holding it the right way up. Or if there's even a right way up. He thinks this thing would be funny enough for him if he were a baby, but Claudia isn't fooled.

Their baby is going to hate him and be smarter than him. He's already halfway a terrible father. Thank god he has Stiles to make up for it.

A pan hits the kitchen floor and Claudia jumps. Derek hears an ‘oops’ from Isaac and Stiles’ sigh of exasperation, but his attention focuses in on Claudia because her face is scrunching into the most heartbreaking expression she’s made around him so far.

Derek does not panic. He is an alpha. He’s faced down more terrifying things than a tiny baby.

She starts to whimper.

“Stiles?” He calls, and glowers at himself when he hears the panic in his own voice. He stands and rocks her like he does during the night after a feeding, but it doesn't help.

Stiles tells one of them to keep stirring, then appears in the doorway. He’s flushed from hovering over the stove and Derek is pretty sure there’s a green bean in his hair. Any other time, Derek would want to pin him against the wall, but Claudia’s whimpers are edging on outright crying and Derek doesn’t know what to do.

"Shhh, don’t cry." Stiles says as Derek transfers Claudia over into his outstretched arms. It's the voice he uses when things will be okay, the one for times that only hurt for a little while.

"Isaac didn't mean to drop the green beans," Stiles coos at her. "You don't know what green beans are yet, but you will. They're pretty tasty."

Derek snorts and Stiles ignores him. The Green Beans And Other Vegetables Stiles Likes And Derek Hates argument is old hat.

Claudia wriggles as much as she can, but after a few minutes she calms down. Stiles wipes away the few tears that escaped, and smiles down at her. "That's better, yeah? It’s okay, Derek will keep you safe.”

Derek will be doing good and then Stiles has to say something like that, and Derek will have to breathe around his heart doing all kinds of acrobatics in his chest.

Stiles hands her back, and instead of saying something worthwhile like ‘thank you’ or ‘I love you’ Derek says, “You have a green bean in your hair.”

Stiles ducks his head and combs his fingers through his hair until he finds it, rolling his eyes as he plucks it out.

There's the sound of a car rolling up to the house and Derek can tell from the smooth sound of a well-kept engine that it’s the sheriff’s cruiser. He lets Stiles get the door. The temperature dropped over the past day and he doesn’t want Claudia to get a chill. Mrs McCall is with the sheriff and he lets her coo over Claudia. Derek appreciates that she doesn’t ask to hold her. Melissa counts as pack but it’s his child. They make small talk until dinner is ready and he eats with one hand. Stiles offers to take her but he spent the afternoon working on the meal and Derek doesn’t think it would be fair.

After dinner Stiles plucks Claudia out of his arms, kisses his cheek, and tells him he gets to clean up. Isaac is exiled with him to the kitchen while the rest of the pack gathers in the living room. The TV is turned on low to another reality show and Derek just sighs and fills the sink with hot soapy water to soak the roast pan. Isaac scrapes the leftovers into Tupperware containers to send home with the Sheriff while he grumbles that he didn't mean to drop the green beans and it's unjust punishment.

Derek ignores him and focuses on everyone else in the other room while he washes the plates.

The moon eventually gets to Boyd and Erica and they go for a run through the woods. They say its a run, but Derek wasn't born yesterday. He snorts when Isaac yells out the back door after them to use protection.

The Sheriff and Melissa head out after a few hours since its a week night and Melissa has an early shift at the hospital. Stiles spreads out his textbooks over the coffee table and studies, taking baby breaks every so often to get her from Derek and play with her for a few minutes.

“We haven’t given her a middle name yet,” Stiles says and pokes her nose. Her expression turns disgruntled, but smooths out when he coos at her.

Derek can only think of one name that would be fitting.

“Talia.”

“Named after two amazing ladies,” Stiles says to her. “You’ll grow up badass.”

“At least her name is pronounceable.”

“Har har, funny wolf.”

Claudia starts making hungry baby noises, so Derek warms up a bottle and takes her upstairs where there’s less stimulation in hopes she’ll fall asleep after she eats. He stands and looks out of her window while she slurps on the bottle like she’s starving. Erica and Boyd haven’t come back yet, but he’s not concerned. They’ll show up by sunrise. The moon is still visible through the trees and it’s comforting to have it casting light into the room. The sky cleared through the night and there are no clouds to obscure it.

Stiles hums to her sometimes, but Derek doesn't know any songs that would be appropriate. He improvises until he thinks he has a tolerable tune, and she doesn't look like she hates it, so he counts it as a win. Her eyes start to droop after she’s burped and changed, and he can't stop himself from smiling as she blinks sleepily up at him.

She gurgles and smiles back.

Derek’s breath catches. “Hi there.”

Then she burps up on herself. Derek sighs, but it’s fond. It’s a messy trade, but he’ll take it.