“Does he know?”
“Stiles,” Scott sighed in frustration. “Don’t play stupid, you’re the furthest thing from it. Does Derek know?”
Stiles thumped his head against the table they were sitting at, and he huffed out an almost laugh.
“Please Scott, enlighten me on how I was supposed to tell him when I had zero ways to contact him. Please tell me how he’d know when he’d vanished off the face of the Earth and was dead for all we knew. Tell me how I would know if he knows when I haven’t heard his name or had news from him in years.”
Scott sighed, and he patted Stiles’ back.
“Sorry man, I had to ask,” he said. “He’ll know the moment he steps foot into town, you know that, right?”
“Trust me Scotty, I’m aware,” Stiles grumbled, lifting his head from the table. “But is there anything I can do? We can’t tell him he’s not welcome, we can’t hide…”
“Daddy, daddy, look!”
“Hey Dine, what is it?” Stiles responded to his daughter who interrupted him by darting into the kitchen, waving a sheet of paper around.
“A wolf, like uncle Scotty, look,” she thrust the sheet in Stiles’ hand.
The wolf on the page was barely distinguishable as the animal, but the black color was unmistakable, same as the blue eyes in the middle of the darkness.
“Well, you’ve got a sticky situation here,” Scott muttered from behind Stiles, leaning over to see the drawing.
Stiles sighed, and then chuckled as Claudine climbed into his lap and put her small hands on his arms, smearing what felt like jam on his skin.
“In more ways than one,’ Stiles grumbled as he looked down on his daughter and her jam-covered hands.
“She knows,” Scott said, not even trying to make the words into a question.
“So it seems,” Stiles said with a sigh. “I used to tell her stories, when she was smaller, I didn’t think she’d remember.”
Stiles shifted in his seat, moving Claudine who managed to fall asleep somehow. Her head was heavy on his shoulder, but he barely noticed, the impending catastrophe that was Derek’s arrival in town keeping his mind spinning in all directions.
“Well, she knows you’re a werewolf, so I told her about shifters,” Stiles spoke quietly, slumping against the backrest of his chair. “I told her about hunters, when she asked for scary stories, and how some of them are bad guys.”
“That doesn’t explain this.” Scott waved at the drawing.
“I mentioned him, in passing, since there’s a chance she will be a shifter,” Stiles said. “She’d ask eventually anyway, and this way I’d just tell her that the stories were true. Kind of.”
“That maybe wasn’t your best idea,” Scott told him quietly. “The kid has your brain, there’s no way she’d forget.”
“Yeah, I’m getting that,” Stiles groaned and glanced at the drawing again. “Do you think she’ll know? When he gets here, I mean.”
“I don’t think she will, she hasn’t developed her senses yet, though I do think she’ll be a wolf.” Scott looked at Claudine with a fond expression. “Derek will though.”
“Yeah,” Scott said with a nod. “Though she’s been around you and has the base markers of your scent inherited, and the pack’s notes are all over both of you, there’s no hiding the other half of her DNA.”
“Damn,” Stiles said in defeat.
He’d known it, from the moment he saw the test flash the plus sign at him. There had been no one else but Derek. Stiles hadn’t known that -- as a rarity in a male human -- he had just the right spark to make this possible, so they hadn’t been careful.
“Maybe I should…” he started saying, but Scott put a hand on his to stop him.
“Stiles, even if you leave town now, your scents are all over the pack’s homes. He’ll know ,” Scott said.
They stopped talking then, since Dine started fussing in Stiles’ lap, and got a little too heavy for him to hold her the way they were. He woke her gently, and they moved to the den, where she spread out across Stiles’ lap on the beanbag that he settled on. Scott left soon after, a phone call from Kira pulling him away from Stiles and Claudine, and Stiles fell asleep despite his mind whirring with all kinds of worst case scenarios.
The next day found him pacing the den after his Dad picked up Claudine to bring her to the ballet class she was enrolled in at her own insistence. He cursed himself for having given up all his usual ways to calm his nerves -- nail biting, alcohol, several rounds of CoD with Scott or some random online game. It left him with nothing but shaking hands and an urge to run. He almost did when the front door slammed in a way that Scott used to do but hadn’t in years.
“I thought it was a lie.”
The words floated into the den from the hallway, the voice familiar even after all the years. Stiles heard them, but he couldn’t figure out what emotion was behind the sentence. He braced himself for anger coming in his direction though, just in case.
Derek walked into the den slowly, his nostrils wide as he took in the mix of various scents. Erica and Boyd’s, Scott’s, Isaac’s, and Kira’s strong due to their frequent presence. There was a faint hint of Lydia and Jackson underneath them, and then a few others too, members of the pack whom Derek didn’t meet yet.
He stopped right in front of Stiles, who was preparing for yelling, for a physical attack, braced himself for the inevitable slam against the wall. It didn’t come.
Derek started and then paused again, taking in another deep breath.
“Yours,” Stiles let out with a breath.
He watched as Derek’s eyes moved to the photos lining the wall above the fireplace, and how his features arranged into a look that couldn’t be qualified as anything other than fondness. Stiles’ knees gave in and he fell onto the beanbag by his side. He continued watching Derek who couldn’t seem to tear his eyes away from the pictures, at least until he reached the last one in the row.
“I shouldn’t have left,” he whispered, still not looking at Stiles.
“But you did, and you’re back now,” Stiles said quietly. “Are you back?”
“I’m not just visiting, if that’s what you mean. Well, I was going to, but…”
Derek finally turned around and walked the few steps from the fireplace towards the beanbag and couch. Stiles clenched his fists, still waiting for the anger that he figured was inevitable, but Derek didn’t even raise his voice.
“I’m not going to ask why you didn’t tell me,” he said in a calm tone instead. “I know I made it impossible to find me. I needed the time away. I’m sorry.”
“Dude no, why are you apologizing?” Stiles asked, startled.
“I think I should have known this was possible,” Derek nodded towards the photos, and Stiles didn’t need to check to know which one Derek was referring to.
It was a picture he cherished a lot: Claudine with a plush Grumpy Bear, snuggled in Stiles’ arms, a little younger than she was now.
“How could you? Deaton didn’t know, neither did Satomi,” Stiles said, finally feeling his muscles relax, but he glanced down at his hands. “It was interesting trying to explain that to my Dad though.”
The chuckles from Derek carried more amusement than Stiles remembered ever hearing from the man. It surprised him enough to look up sharply and finally his eyes met Derek’s.
“She looks like you,” Derek whispered, his eyes wide open.
“It made for easier explanations,” Stiles said, the words spilling past his lips like they used to back in high school, the filter between his brain and mouth shattered to pieces. “It would have been harder to talk my way out of having a Hale lookalike with my last name running around Beacon Hills. Especially with neither you nor Cora anywhere in town.”
Derek nodded, but there was reluctance in his expression.
“I wouldn’t lie to you,” Stiles said, guessing what caused the hesitation.
“No, I know,” Derek said quickly. “It’s just really hard to wrap my mind around. I’ve heard stories of it being possible before, but it never happened in our family, nor any of the packs we’ve been with since Cora and I left Beacon Hills. Not even in New York…”
“Do you…” Stiles started, but his voice cracked as the thought settled in his mind. “Do you want to wait a while? Meet her?”
“Would it be okay with you? I’d love to,” Derek said. “I just got back, and… do you want me to?”
Stiles nodded, and he was surprised by the vulnerability in Derek’s voice and in his face. He never knew the werewolf -- any werewolf -- to be like that, waiting for approval from a human for anything at all. Not even Isaac or Liam ever showed that level of softness, and they were the least assertive members of the pack.
“Of course I do. I am sorry that you didn’t know earlier. If I’d known how to find you…”
“You’ve done all that by yourself,” Derek said with a wave towards the wall of pictures of Claudine at various ages. “I should’ve been there, helped.”
“And you would have if you’d known,” Stiles responded. “It’s not your fault, Der. Don’t blame yourself for that. I don’t blame you. Dine doesn’t blame you either.”
“Kind of,” Stiles said, and he chuckled before he reached for the drawing from the day before. “She knows her other father is a werewolf, and apparently she remembers enough of my stories from when she was smaller to do this,” he said, and he handed Derek the paper.
There was a moment of utter silence as Derek’s eyes focused on the sheet, and Stiles watched the expressions running across his face. There was surprise, amazement, a hint of sadness, and then something that Stiles barely remembered seeing: happiness.
“She’ll be back soon,” Stiles interrupted the quiet when it became too much and his anxiety kicked in again. “Do you really want to…”
“Yes,” Derek said, not waiting for Stiles to finish his question. “Yes.”
“Okay. Dine will be over the moon,” Stiles said with a grin, and then a chuckle when Derek lifted an eyebrow and his face conveyed the ‘seriously?’ more accurately than ever. “Pun not intended. Not this time,” Stiles added.
They stayed in the living room, Stiles still on the beanbag and Derek on the couch nearby, and fell into easy conversation about Derek’s time away. Stiles listened as Derek talked about the visits to various packs and about bringing Cora back to the South American pack she grew up with. They just circled back to how Stiles’ spark of magic enabled his pregnancy when the front door opened and the loud bang of it against the wall caused Derek to jump.
“Oh yeah, she’s got my energy and your rashness sometimes,” Stiles grinned.
“How did I not hear her… and Scott?” Derek asked incredulously.
“Scott’s not your pack, he can mask his heartbeat from outsiders,” Stiles explained as they both listened to the sounds of small feet stomping up the stairs and then thundering back down. “Apparently he can now extend it to those close to him,” he added with a pointed look to the living room entrance.
“Good to know it works,” Scott said from the door, smirking victoriously. “Though I was just hoping to test regular noise on a human. Hi Derek,” he added.
Derek barely got a greeting out in return when a pink blur flashed past Scott and right into Stiles’ lap.
“Daddy, ballet was awesome, Miss Ally says I’m getting better,” Claudine told him breathlessly.
“Ally?” Derek turned to Scott, mouthing the name.
“I’ll catch you up later,” he said, pulling Dine’s attention away from Stiles.
Her voice was high-pitched enough for Scott to cringe, and the words made Derek’s and Stiles’ jaw drop at the same time.
“That is Wolf Pa, right Daddy?” Claudine was already halfway between Stiles and Derek when she asked.
“Yeah,” Stiles said, snapping out of his surprise. “Yeah, he is.”
“Finally,” she blurted and threw herself into Derek’s lap the way she did with Stiles moments earlier. “Welcome home, Wolf Pa,” she mumbled into his neck as she buried her nose there in a wolf-like manner.
Derek returned the gesture, and he only glanced up from her hair several beats later. His eyes met Stiles’ across the room and the tears that fell from Derek’s eyelashes made Stiles relax from anxiety he wasn’t even aware was making him tense.
“Yeah, welcome home,” Stiles whispered.
He caught sight of Scott slipping away quietly, but then his eyes returned to Derek and their daughter, wrapped in a tight hug.
“It’s good to have you back,” Stiles said, and the smile he got in response made the long wait for Derek’s return worth it.