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Puppy Separation Anxiety

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Derek dreads Nayeli’s first day of pre-k more than he dreads wolfsbane-poisoning, being impaled by a metal pole, and giving birth to an elfin like baby with the disproportional head of a giant combined.

He’s been there, done that on all three counts, so he knows what he’s talking about.

“On behalf of my darling angel daughter and her beautiful and proportional noggin, I feel like I should be outraged that you just compared the miracle of her birth to being tortured by a pack of power-crazy Alpha werewolves and the traumatizing experience that was you asking me to cut off your arm,” Stiles muses thoughtfully, looking up from fiddling with Nayeli’s home-made first-day-of-pre-k-celebratory candy cone, and Derek huffs, frowning at the excessive use of glitter all over what he assumes is an Elsa-shaped blue blob.

“Miracle is one word for it,” Derek mutters, fully aware that Stiles is not buying it one tiny bit when the human barely stifles a small chuckle.

And alright, he’d do it again in a heartbeat because the end result trumps just about all, even if he distinctly remembers a lot of blood, sweat, tears, curses, and, by the time Nayeli’s head had finally breached the birth canal, just plain wanting to die himself.

Proportionate head his ass, though, thankfully, not in the literal sense … not that Derek had angsted over having to defecate his precious little miracle for months before Deaton, to his equal relief and outrage, had rather casually thrown in the words ‘by the way’ and ‘temporary birth canal’.

“Still,” Derek continues, returning from his trip down memory lane and stilling his fingers where they’ve been rubbing his once more flat stomach in fond remembrance, “separation anxiety is a very serious issue for baby-werewolves and I don’t want to unnecessarily traumatize our child before we’ve even managed to give her the talk and ruin her teenage years!”

Stiles sighs, abandoning his crafts project for good and plopping down next to Derek on the couch.

“You know, I think there was a passage about dealing with separation anxiety in one of the roughly ten thousand leaflets they gave us at the school. They actually had some pretty great ideas. Would you feel better if we read them once more?”

“As if they had the slightest clue about baby-werewolf separation anxiety,” Derek mutters, frowning when Stiles shrugs.

“You and me are pretty much burned toast to our daughter the second literally any member of the pack shows up to take her for an overnight visit, I really don’t think it’ll be that much of an issue to her,” he says and Derek shakes his head grimly, his expression grave.

“That’s right. Pack! It’s hardwired into her instincts that she’s going to be safe with them! When we drop her off at Kinder Beacon tomorrow it’ll be the first time in her entire life that she’ll be without a member of her pack and who knows how she’s going to react!”

“Well, how did you and your sisters react?” Stiles asks and Derek flinches, his cheeks heating just the tiniest bit.

“Laura lasted a full week at Kinder Beacon before my parents gave up and waited another year. I spent half my time there crying for my mother for the first two months, and Cora cried on the way to and from Kinder Beacon for almost half a year and no one had any clue what that was about. In short, not so great,” the werewolf remembers, raising his eyebrows when Stiles winces.

“Uh … maybe the Hale patented wolfy separation anxiety skipped a generation? Or maybe it was watered down by her Stilinski social butterfly genes? I hear I was so talkative during my first week at Kinder Beacon that the teachers there actually asked my parents to consider enrolling me in school early because I kept asking them too many uncomfortable questions,” he tries and Derek shakes his head mournfully.

“She definitely got the Stilinski social butterfly gene, but she’s still a werewolf-baby, Stiles. She has never been away from the pack and she’s never really been around other kids her age, what if she …”

“Exactly! She’s never been around kids her age! It’s about time that changes, don’t you think?”

Derek sighs, the wind taken out of his sails in an instant because he knows, and Stiles sighs, too, wrapping one arm around Derek’s shoulders and pulling him in.

“I love you for being such a Worry Wolf about our daughter’s well-being, I do, but Nelli-Pup needs to spend more time with kids her age! Scott and Allison keep saying they’ll have one and then Scott adopts another dog from the shelter, Erica has vowed never to have kids unless she figures out how to impregnate Boyd, and Lydia’s twenty-year plan includes adopting five kids only after she’s been awarded a Nobel Prize, so it’s not like our daughter has a bunch of playmates just waiting around the corner!”

Derek sighs once more, resting his hand on his belly wistfully.

Deaton had used words such as “remarkable” and “incredible” as he’d stared at the frozen ultrasound image – a reaction that, in hindsight, Derek considers much more befitting for their miraculous – and very unexpected – baby than her daddy’s shell-shocked “Holy frick-frackity fucking shit!” – but he’d also cautioned them how rare it was for a male werewolf to conceive.

Derek knows how lucky they were to have her at all … enough to resolutely forbid himself – or resolutely try, at least – from feeling a pang of sadness every time he thinks about the fact that she’ll likely be their only one.

Still, werewolf children need to be around other children, heck, children need to be around other children, and with the laws on same-sex adoption being what they are and their pack mates dragging their feet on the whole procreation issue – Derek likes to think the Great-Morning-Sickness-Crisis of 2018, the Great-Hemorrhoid-Crisis of 2018, the Great-Bladder-Crisis of 2018 and, lest he forgets his all-time favorite, the Great-Morning-Sickness-Recurrence-Out-of-Nowhere-in-the-Middle-of-the-Third-Trimester-Crisis of 2018 had nothing to do with Allison’s reluctance or Erica’s steadfast refusal to get pregnant now or ever, but he knows better – it doesn’t look like his daughter’s playmate situation is going to change anytime soon.

“Would it … would it make you feel better if we waited another year?” Stiles asks all of a sudden, catapulting him back to the present, and Derek immediately shakes his head.

Derek works as a deputy at the Sheriff station and Stiles writes horror novels, having successfully turned the gruesome experiences of his teenage years into a well-paying career, so the decision of who would stay home with Nayeli was relatively easy … once Derek had determinedly strong-armed the more paternal part of his wolf into being ok with leaving his pup for a couple of hours, that was.

It had been the right decision for them, allowing Derek to go back to a job that he truly felt made a difference in their hometown and allowing Stiles to bond with their daughter in a way he’d been worried he could never achieve, neither having carried her nor being a wolf himself.

Stiles had gotten a fair amount of writing in when Nayeli had been a baby, shameless exploiting the fact that their little girl had quickly earned her nickname by needing as much sleep as an actual canine puppy. Once she’d learned how to walk, however, the idea of working during the day had become pretty much a fantasy, leading to a worn-out Stiles shoving a giggling werewolf-toddler into Derek’s arms literally the second he’d gotten home from work and nearly running to get to his study.

The older she’d gotten the more energetic their daughter had become and when Stiles had started collapsing into their bed at night without even thinking about trying to get some work done Derek had made an appointment with Kinder Beacon, leading to their current predicament.

Well … it isn’t an actual predicament, not really, not by Beacon Hills’ standards, at least, but Derek can remember the river of tears that had accompanied his first weeks in pre-k with almost painful clarity and the idea of his own daughter crying for him like that is almost making him physically nauseous.

“I don’t want to wait another year. She needs to be around other kids, I know that. It’s just … it’s hard,” he finally says, a big part of him shaking his head at himself for he moisture he can feel in the corners of his eyes, and Stiles lets out a soft sound, his nose nuzzling against Derek’s cheek.

“No one said this whole parenting thing was going to be easy Worry Wolf. She’s going to be ok though, I promise,” he says gently and Derek nods.

He knows she’s going to be ok eventually, he just … worries.

A lot.

 

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Derek spends five blissful days thinking his worries were unfounded.

When they drop her off at Kinder Beacon on her first day Nayeli’s almost buzzing with excitement, her Frozen candy cone forgotten in the car at the sight of the other children, and Stiles gently nudges against Derek’s shoulder, affectionately whispering, “Told you,” and completely ignoring the growl Derek can’t quite get through the lump in his throat.

He has the morning shift for the next four days and drops Nayeli off on his way to work, giving Stiles the opportunity to get some work done and needing to reassure himself that his baby is adjusting to the new situation, even as he has to remind herself that she’s definitely not a baby anymore.

Derek watches her closely during the weekend, looking for any signs of anxiety, pack-withdrawal, perhaps even repressed trauma – not that he’s being dramatic or anything – but Nayeli is her normal happy, bubbly self, chattering away about all the fun things she learned at Kinder Beacon and all the new friends she’s made.

When Derek tucks her in Saturday night she holds her arms up to demand snuggles, gives him her best version of a Hale glare until he gives in and lies down with her, and when Stiles checks in on them half an hour later she’s out cold, little fists tangled in Derek’s shirt and her face smushed against his belly.

“She seems fine to me, don’t you think so?” Stiles says gently and Derek nods, pretending to roll his eyes when his mate takes out his phone to take a picture for the pack.

The next evening, Derek gets called in for an unscheduled night shift and by the time his shift ends and he stumbles back into their home he’s almost dead on his feet, barely manages to crack open one eye to acknowledge Stiles when he shoves his head under Derek’s pillow, kisses his nose and informs him he’s taking their daughter to school.

Kinder Beacon offers classes from 8 am to 3 pm, with an additional afternoon program until 5 pm for all the kids whose parents both work regular hours, and when Derek wakes up around noon to the sight of his baby snuffling next to him in her sleep and his harried and utterly exhausted looking mate lying right next to her Derek is … confused.

“Wha …” he begins, sitting up quickly and wincing when his vision grays at the edges for a second in his sleep-dopey state, and Stiles hushes him instantly, looking down at Nayeli like she’s the world’s cutest bomb and any sound might lead to an explosion of epic proportions.

“Stiles?” Derek tries again, increasingly shifting from sleep-confused to full-on-papa-wolf-alarmed, and Stiles winces, getting up from the bed as gingerly as he can to avoid waking up Nayeli and motioning for Derek to join him.

Derek’s alarm once more turns into confusion when Stiles whirls on him the moment they are standing in the hallway, his face screaming with indignant accusation as he pokes Derek’s chest.

“You could have warned me, you know?” he huffs and, when Derek continues to stare at him in confusion, adds, “I swear I could actually feel my heart breaking when she started freakin’ howling, why didn’t you tell me she had such a hard time saying bye when you dropped her off? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate your attempts to shield me from emotional distress, really, I do, no doubt about it, but it really, really would have been nice to know what kind of meltdown I was cheerfully walking into!”

“She … meltdown? What?” Derek exclaims, stunned, and Stiles deflates instantly, looking even more confused than Derek feels.

“What do you mean, what? I’m talking about the fact that I’ve actually got tiny baby claw marks in my calves right now because our baby-girl attached herself to me and refused to let me go when I tried to drop her off at Kinder Beacon, wailing so loudly that I’m pretty sure the principal seriously thought about calling you so you could come arrest me for child abandonment or something!”

“But … she never cries!” Derek argues, finally catching up to what Stiles is telling him, and Stiles shakes his head immediately, his eyes taking on an almost haunted look.

Crying would have been harmless! I could have dealt with crying, I have a three-year old at home and a pack that keeps metaphorically bruising its knees, I’m the cry-soothing master, seriously! What I couldn’t deal with was the heartbroken howling! I swear, she sounded like she’d been left alone by the entire world, it was horrible! That’s why we’re home so early, they can call me a push-over all they want, I’d never …”

Derek swallows heavily, feeling nauseous all of a sudden, and Stiles stops his ranting, his eyes narrowing with concern.

“Derek? What’s wrong?”

“She …” Derek begins, clamping his lips shut and taking a deep breath when the nausea gets even worse, taking a few seconds before he trusts himself to continue, “Stiles … she never cries when I drop her off! Never! I promise I didn’t keep any secrets from you, she … she just doesn’t cry.”

“With me,” he adds, barely a whisper, and Stiles doesn’t seem like he heard him, frowning in confusion as he stares back and forth between him and their daughter’s sleeping form in the bedroom, looking like the gears are turning in his head at full speed.

There is a hollow feeling growing inside Derek’s chest, now, getting worse with every second that Stiles is silent, and when the human lets out a triumphant “Huh!” he barely stops himself from wincing, his eyebrows rising when Stiles sighs.

“She stayed up really late last night until I finally convinced her that a night-shift actually takes an entire night and you wouldn’t be home in time to give her a goodnight kiss … maybe she was just extra cranky today and that’s why she acted out.”

Stiles lets out a breath, looking deeply relieved, and Derek nods slowly, turning towards the bedroom and watching Stiles climb back into the bed, muttering softly as he tries to wake up their daughter.

Nayeli lets out a sleepy baby-werewolf growl when Stiles gently shakes her shoulder, rolling around and promptly attaching herself to her daddy, burrowing into his side and mumbling contentedly.

Stiles grins at Derek sheepishly and Derek grins back automatically, hoping that Stiles won’t notice how forced it is.

Stiles’ explanation makes sense.

It definitely makes sense and Derek’s want to believe it so badly, he does … but the hollow feeling inside him is still growing, alongside the sneering, horrible voices inside his head that still sound like Kate, even after all these years.

Derek swallows heavily when bile threatens to rise in his throat, telling himself not to be an idiot.

It doesn’t mean anything.

Everything’s fine.

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“Bye Papa!” Nayeli chirps happily, plastering herself against his chest for the briefest of moments and rubbing her head against his chin, her soft toddler-smell clear and free of any anxiety.

Then she’s off, jumping with delight when she notices her new best friend hanging out at the swing set and leaving Derek kneeling on the pavement without even so much as a backwards glance, making his heart thud almost painfully in his chest.

This time last week Derek had been deeply relieved, his heart filled with joy and pride as he’d listened to Nayeli’s happy giggles all the way to the car.

Now, the sight of his daughter disappearing into the school makes the hollowness in Derek’s chest grow even further and it only gets worse when he notices a little boy who’s about Nayeli’s age tearfully clinging to his father just a couple of feet away.

“I’m glad she’s feeling better!” a cheerful voice says right next to him and when Derek turns he comes face to face with Gloria Van den Falk, mother to the twin boys in Nayeli’s class and, according to Stiles, a witch in hiding, because “Seriously, she’s got three year old twin boys, a four months old infant, an eight year old boy, and another set of 13 year old twin girls that I believe I just saw bitching at each other in the car and she’s still looking like she just stepped out of a Vogue spread and just volunteered to become President of Beacon Hills’ Parent-Teacher association? Witches!”

“I beg your pardon?” Derek asks politely, momentarily distracted by the angel-faced infant in the baby-carrier who, if Nayeli’s second-hand-accounts are about to be believed, “looks really cute but really only screams and poops and we wanted a doggie!”

Gloria Van den Falk nods towards the swing-sets, where Nayeli seems to be having the time of her life, and when she continues to speak her voice is sugary sweet.

“Poor dear was so upset yesterday when your charming husband tried to drop her off, I almost thought she was going to faint from all that crying. She always behaves so well with you, I was really surprised that she struggled so much yesterday. She really didn’t want to let go of her daddy, they must have such a special bond!”

“They do,” Derek agrees, only realizing his defensive stance when Gloria’s eyes shimmer with amusement.

“Oh, don’t worry Mr. Hale, it’s completely normal! My boys went through a phase where all they wanted was their daddy back when I was heavily pregnant with this one, but the moment she popped out of me it was suddenly mommy-central and they’ve been fighting for my attention ever since. Of course I breastfeed exclusively, so I don’t have as much time for them as I’d like, but my wonderful husband has really stepped up, so we’re doing perfectly. It was a drug-free home-birth, by the way. I didn’t need a c-section with either set of twins, so there wasn’t any high-risk factor involved. Four hours and two pushes later she was there, it really is true as they say, it gets easier with every birth and it was such a beautiful bonding moment for me and my husband, in hindsight I really wish I had had a home-birth with all six of them! Of course we saved the cord-blood and I ate the placenta, which is the responsible thing to do, don’t you think?”

“Uh,” Derek says, confused how they went from yesterday’s meltdown to eating placentas in under a minute, and Gloria chuckles, nodding towards the swing set once more and then patting Derek’s shoulder comfortingly.

“I’m sure she loves both you equally, as I said, this is just a phase. Don’t worry too much about it. Oh dear, look at the time, I must be going to drop off my other children at their schools. It was so nice talking to you Mr. Hale, you have a nice day!”

She saunters off before Derek can reply, although Derek isn’t quite sure what one could possibly say to that, and it isn’t until he’s sitting in the car with his fingers tightly gripping the steering wheel that he mutters, “Of course she loves me just as much, who’s even questioning that!”, studiously not thinking about the voices in his head that have been asking that very same question ever since Stiles brought her back from Kinder Beacon yesterday.

Especially the voice that sounds so much like Kate.

 

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“Read me a story, Daddy?” Nayeli asks after dinner that night, batting her eyelashes at Stiles in a way Derek’s going to have a very stern conversation with Erica about, and before Stiles can answer Derek already says, “I can do it, Nelli-Pup,” aware that Stiles is at a crucial part in his novel and had been hoping to get more writing time in after dinner.

Stiles looks relieved, mouthing a ‘thank you’, but Nayeli isn’t having it.

“No Papa, you need bedtime!” his daughter rejects the offer, almost but not quite managing to raise her eyebrows at him the way Derek does when she’s being stubborn about something.

“You did yawn an awful lot during dinner, I’ll give her that,” Stiles says in resigned amusement, snaking his arms around Derek’s waist from behind and kissing the shell of his ear, whispering, “Well, you tried,” before he motions for Nayeli to go upstairs.

Derek is left standing in the kitchen, aching and angry at himself for feeling so hurt at the same time, and even though he really is exhausted it takes him a long time to fall asleep that night, reminding himself over and over that he’s a mature, reasonable adult and Stiles would punch him if he could listen in to his thoughts.

Nayeli’s fine when he drops her off at school the next day, as well, and she’s so tuckered out from all the playing that she doesn’t even manage to finish her weekly allotted cartoon time, curled up on Derek’s lap with one thumb stuck in her mouth and the other hand grasping his shirt, her face smushed against his belly and fast asleep halfway through the Looney Tunes.

Derek carries her upstairs and she growls in her sleep when he tries to detach her fingers from him so he just lies down with her for a bit, smiling fondly when she mutters something incomprehensible in her sleep, the voices in his head momentarily silenced.

He gets called in on an emergency on Thursday morning, once more making it necessary for Stiles to take her to Kinder Beacon, and Derek pointedly doesn’t think about it right until the moment his mate shows up at the station around 10, flopping down into the chair across Derek’s desk with a box of donuts and the expression of a father who has stared down into the abyss of everything horrible.

“How did it go?” Derek asks at the same time as Stiles exclaims, “God, I hope she won’t need abandonment therapy!” and Derek clamps his lips shut, listening carefully as Stiles once more describes big, fat werewolf tears, tiny arms wrapped around his legs, and heartbreaking little howls.

“I feel like the worst parent ever for leaving her there like this, but I couldn’t well take her home with me again, could I? And you’re one hundred percent absolutely not lying to me to spare my feelings, she really doesn’t do this with you?”

Derek shakes his head, feeling numb, and Stiles lets out a frustrated noise, biting down so viciously into a donut that the jelly filling drips all over his chin.

“What the hell am I doing wrong, then? Surely there’s a reason for why she’s fine with you and acts like the world is coming to an end with me! Am I too much of a pushover? Fuck, Derek, do you think she’s throwing tantrums with me because I’m not her Alpha and she knows she can get away with more?”

“No … that’s ... no!” Derek replies quickly, hoping he doesn’t sound too bitter when he adds, “You’re not doing anything wrong,” trying desperately to once more drown out the almost deafening cacophony of sneering inside his head.

“What else could it be? Do you have a better idea?” Stiles sighs, grabbing a second donut and offering the box to Derek with a grave expression.

Derek shakes his head, both in response to the question and the offer of donuts, suddenly too nauseous and miserable to even entertain the thought of eating.

“I don’t. But we’ll figure it out.”

 

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Derek doesn’t need to figure things out, the hollow feeling inside him bigger than ever as he lies next to Stiles later that night, barely resting the urge to claw at his aching chest.

The thing of the matter is, Derek can’t even begrudge his affectionate, bubbly little baby-girl for feeling closer to Stiles than she does to him.

Stiles’ love for her is unconditional, carefree, and joyous, his eyes shining with inner peace and happiness as he soaks up every little moment with their daughter.

Derek’s love for her is just as unconditional, but where Stiles’ heart seems to burst with happiness Derek’s heart seizes in something that comes close to desperation, filled with an almost breath-taking yearning for family, mine, cub, ours.

Stiles tickles her soft tummy to get her to giggle, snuggling her, and playfully growling at her when she tries to flash her Beta eyes, cracking jokes about baby werewolf teeth and not even blinking an eye whenever she accidentally claws the couch in excitement.

Derek’s breath catches in his throat whenever Nayeli develops a new werewolf trait or skill, the weight of teaching her control and – most importantly – self-defense against those who seek to harm their kind feeling impossibly heavy on his shoulders.

Stiles used to rock her in his arms, humming his mother’s old lullabies long after she’d fallen asleep.

Derek barely dared to breath for fear of disturbing her peaceful slumber those first few months, clutching her to his chest so tightly it was almost a miracle she didn’t wake.

Stiles chose her middle-name Lynn to honor his happiest memories with his mother, eyes soft as he’d shown Derek the pictures of his family camping at the lake, explaining how Lynn came from the Welsh word llyn for ‘lake’ and recounting how he and his mother used to beg the Sheriff to build a little cottage at the lake, his voice as gentle as the expression in his eyes as he’d traced their unborn daughter’s movements under Derek’s skin with his fingertips.

Derek chose her first name Nayeli in memory of his paternal grandmother, a strong-willed, tiny little woman who’d been perfectly fluent in English but refused to speak anything other than Spanish to him and his siblings, a woman who’d given out exponentially more time-outs than cookies and scolded her adult son and grandchildren equally … and also the woman who, as he’d found out from his little sister many years later, had wrapped a crying, terror-paralyzed Cora up in her arms and walked through the fire with her, shielding her against the flames all the way to the first story window, making no sound of pain even as she’d burnt alive and whispering “Te quiero, mi corazón,” into her ear before dropping her into the grass, the flames engulfing her right after.

Her name means “I love you” and god, Derek loves her, would travel to the ends of the world for her, move mountains for her and, if it came down to it, kill for her.

There’s no doubt in his mind that Stiles’ love for their child is just as strong, but where Derek’s love is a river bursting from a crack inside a dam Stiles’ love is the soothing ripple across a lake, wrapping up their baby in a gentle cocoon of safety, warmth, and peacefulness as opposed to Derek’s agonizing fear of losing her, of someone coming to take her away from him just like they did with the rest of his family.

He managed to go on living after losing his parents, after losing Laura, managed to pick himself up after each blow and fight back stronger, even opening his heart once more to let people in: his co-workers, his pack, the man who’s become like a father to him, his mate.

Nayeli is his heart, however, and Derek knows that losing her would kill him.

She’s been his heart from the very first second he knew about her and every second since.

She’s been his heart from the moment he first heard her own little heartbeat, rabbity fast and strong, from the moment he first felt her move, a gentle fluttering that had reminded Derek of a beautiful butterfly, the moment she first pushed back against his hand from the inside, telling him in her very own way that she knew he was there, the moment he felt the first contraction radiating pain across his belly, her steady heartbeat a comfort to him even as his knees had buckled from the unexpected force of it all.

And yes, he’s been known to not-so-fondly reminisce about her large and definitely disproportionate head, the mixture of agonized howls and increasingly creative curses he’d let out during the ordeal saved for future mankind on Erica’s Iphone.

But he also remembers the part where he’d embraced the almost unbearable agony, each contraction bringing him closer to finally holding her in his arms, the part where he’d grabbed Stiles’ hand in sheer terror when he’d realized what that meant.

He’d tried his best to resist any and all pregnancy clichés, scoffing at the sight of pickles and keeping a tight reign on his hormones and temper out of sheer spite, but he’d been completely unable to stop himself from touching his belly.

As it had grown he’d moved on from caressing it with feather-light strokes of his fingers to cradling it with two large hands, ignoring the approximately one hundred thousand cell phone photos taken by his pack, and muttering “Where else am I supposed to put my hands? There’s no escaping it, it’s right there!” when they’d cooed at him about it.

“I love her, too.” Stiles had whispered later that night, his warm breath tickling Derek’s neck as he’d drawn him in, spooning him from behind with one arm wrapped across his belly, warm, long-fingered hands resting just above Derek’s own, forming an extra layer of protection in the quiet darkness of their bedroom.

It had taken Derek a long time to even look at his hands after everything that had happened, a surge of desperation coursing through him every time he’d felt his claws prickle under the surface of the skin, reminding him that, as powerful and strong as they were, they were in fact nothing but weapons, bringing death and destruction to whatever and whoever they touched.

Then Stiles had treaded their fingers together, had kissed each claw and sucked it into his mouth, sharp tip resting on the vulnerable soft skin on the inside, the smooth velvet of his tongue, trust shining from his eyes as Derek had explored every inch of Stiles’ body with them.

His hands had protected Stiles, caressed him, held him down, been inside of him, bringing pleasure and contentment rather than pain and devastation, and Derek had slowly learned to appreciate them once more, no longer viewing them as a threat but a valuable part of himself, one that was often able to express his emotions in a much more profound way than his words ever could.

Then he’d taken one look at a grainy ultrasound image in a veterinarian’s office and his hands had transformed into something else completely, an indestructible shield of protection mixed with the promise of unconditional love, instinctive and overwhelming at the same time.

He’d known that she’d been safe inside him, rationally, but he’d only been able to feel truly calm with his own hands – or Stiles’ – offering that crucial extra layer of protection, and even though no one had said anything about it Derek knew they’d gotten it, the pack’s gentle teasing a light-hearted alternative to the weight of their knowledge.

Stiles had understood it most of all, and he hadn’t even flinched when Derek’s grip on his hand had become almost bone-crushing at Melissa’s encouragement that he could start pushing, whispering, “She’ll be ok, we’ll always protect her, she’ll be ok,” over and over as Derek had been torn apart in the literal and metaphorical sense, his desire to finally see her clashing with the sheer terror of knowing that she’d go explore the world and leave the embrace of his protection sooner rather than later.

She’s not being taken away from him, now, she’s not even leaving him, technically, but there’s a part of Derek that feels like she is, that horribly hollow, bitter part of himself that always knew it was too good to last.

There’s a small part of him that knows he’s being dramatic, ridiculous, even, and it sounds suspiciously like Stiles, its voice warm and urgent and filled with everything Derek holds dear, yet drowned out by that sneering voice, the voice that tells him that of course his daughter has a hard time being separated from her daddy, her fun, loving, warm and protective daddy, that of course she’s relieved to escape from the desperate, crushing intensity of Derek’s love for her.

She’s too young to understand what she means to Derek, too young to understand that, to him, she’s also his mother, his father, his siblings, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles, too young to know that she’s filling a void that Derek thought could never be filled again.

She’s his heart, and everyone knows you can’t live without a heart, turning his love for her into a responsibility that’s too big for a three year old, too much weight resting on her tiny, fragile shoulders.

Derek knows this.

He knows, but he can’t stop himself, and even though she’s only three he knows that, subconsciously, her wolf realizes it, protecting her from the darkness inside her papa by making her draw away from Derek in a way she isn’t drawing away from Stiles.

He gets it … hell, does he ever get it, and he’s not going to make a big deal out of it.

He’s not going to sit her down and ask her “Why doesn’t it bother you to leave me behind?”, because she’s three years old and also because Stiles would kick him for it, but it hurts him deep to his very core, his thoughts making his stomach churning nauseously.

Somehow he makes it out of the bedroom without waking up Stiles, barely makes it to the toilet before he starts dry heaving.

There’s nothing coming up except a little bit of bile, probably because he’s been too nauseous to eat ever since Stiles came to the station and unknowingly shattered his heart into tiny pieces, and somehow that makes Derek feel even worse, his forehead feeling hot when he presses it against the cool porcelain.

His baby loves him, he knows she does, but his baby obviously also knows deep down that her papa is broken, that being around him means she’ll always run the risk of stepping on a shard of glass, and Derek loves her so much for recognizing the danger and protecting herself from it, is so proud of her for understanding that she has to be safe.

He just … wishes he wasn’t the one pushing her away from him.

 

======================

 

Derek wakes to Nayeli’s giggles and Stiles’ murmurs down in the kitchen and for a moment he basks in it, letting the familiar sounds run over him like a warm, soothing hand that’s infinitely soft to the touch.

Then he looks at the alarm clock and when he realizes that it’s almost time for school and work the horrible feeling of nausea once more curls up inside his belly, leaving him a little light-headed.

Derek hasn’t been able to oversleep ever since Nayeli got old enough to successfully escape her crib and crawl into their bed at the crack of dawn to demand snuggles and Derek can barely remember having gone a day without his baby’s over-enthusiastic wake-up calls at occasionally ungodly hours.

Stiles mutters something that sends Nayeli into a fit of giggling hysterics and Derek squeezes his eyes shut tightly, trying to control his quickening breathing as the panic washes over him, the realization that his baby-girl has forgotten about him sitting inside his stomach like a heavy brick.

He breathes shallowly, willing himself not to get sick as he gets up from the bed and starts getting ready almost mechanically, and by the time he shuffles into the kitchen Nayeli’s almost done with her breakfast, hopping up and down on her chair eagerly as she watches Stiles cut her lunch sandwich into something that Derek thinks was supposed to be a Disney character.

“Morning Sleepy-Head. Coffee?” Stiles asks, not looking up from his meticulous task to cut off the crusts to their daughter’s exact specifications, and Derek shakes his head, not even trusting himself to speak when the smell of the coffee makes him feel even more nauseous.

“Derek?” Stiles asks, finally looking up and doing a double take when he gets a good look at Derek’s face, sees how unusually pale he is.

“Derek? Are you ok?”

Derek doesn’t know what to say to that.

He feels like he’s failed everyone this week: his baby-girl for being so overbearing that he’s obviously pushing her away from him, his mate for not quelling the bitterness inside him that he hopes to god is not jealousy, and himself, for shattering what feels like all the progress he’s ever made to feeling good about himself again.

He knows his child loves him, that there’s no sane reason she shouldn’t, he shouldn’t have spent the better part of the week agonizing about it, but here he is, imagining her drawing further and further away from him the more she realizes just how incredibly broken he is, still, after all those years, and feeling so sick it’s taking all he has not to crumple to the floor.

He’s worried himself sick, literally, which shouldn’t even be possible for a werewolf, and it just drives his failure home even more.

And yes, Derek knows that Stiles would be devastated and angry if he said any of this out loud, in fact, the knowledge that Stiles has every right in the world to call him an idiot is almost maddening, but that doesn’t change the fact that his baby-girl cries like the world is coming to an end when she’s separated from Stiles but walks away from Derek without a moment’s hesitation … and that it wrecks his heart wholly and completely.

He’s not ok.

“I’m fine,” Derek says quickly, making a grab for his jacket and motioning towards Nayeli as he walks toward the door, needing to get some air and fast.

“You take her to today, ok, I can’t … I … I have to go to work!”

“Wait, you forgot to …” Stiles exclaims after him, but Derek’s already out the door, gulping in a lungful of air against the panic once more clawing at his chest as he makes his way towards the car.

He’s going to get used to it, he knows he will, he’s gotten used to a whole lot worse, but he can’t take Nayeli to Kinder Beacon today, he absolutely cannot watch his daughter walk away from him without a care in the world while he’s feeling so horrible already, sick to his stomach and angry at himself for feeling so sick, for allowing his godforsaken insecurities to make him feel so sick.

“Derek, you got a call from …” Sheriff Parrish begins when he walks into the station, but Derek just walks past him, in absolutely no mood to talk to his far too perceptive new boss and confess to him that he’s such a broken mess that even his three year old is already trying to escape from him.

Jordan doesn’t attempt to stop him, but Derek’s too caught up in his own head – and still too focused on not throwing up – to find that suspicious as he sinks down into his desk chair, for once grateful about the clutter of paper work on his desk.

Derek hates paper work, normally, but now the tedious task is a welcome distraction, effectively keeping him from thinking about anything family related … until exactly thirty-five minutes later, when his family walks through the entrance door, that is.

Well … only Stiles is walking, technically.

Nayeli, meanwhile, is clinging to her daddy, and Stiles is supporting her small body with one arm, his free hand rubbing her back just like he used to do to get her to stop crying when she was a baby.

She’s crying now, too, Derek realizes with a pang, misery wafting off of her in tidal waves, and Stiles’ expression is almost thunderous when he comes to a stop right in front of Derek’s desk.

“Did she …” Derek begins, intending to ask Stiles if their daughter once more suffered a bad case of separation anxiety when he tried to drop her off at Kinder Beacon, but before he can say another word Nayeli is literally launching herself from Stiles’ arms and right into Derek’s, slinging her arms around him and pushing her face into his neck with a heartbreaking sob.

“Papa!” she wails, the sound rather muffled because she’s still pressing her nose against his neck, the scenting gesture instinctual whenever she’s truly distressed, and Derek rubs her back a little helplessly, feeling steamrolled, confused, guilty, and horrible all at once.

“Stiles, what …” he begins, but Stiles shushes him instantly, jerkily nodding towards the Sheriff’s office for some privacy and striding away right after, shoulders squared tensely in a way that means he’s really, really pissed at Derek.

Nayeli’s been the station mascot ever since she’s been born, essentially, and Derek can feel the concerned stares of his colleagues on him and his sobbing daughter until Stiles closes the door behind him, wincing when Stiles whirls around to face him as soon as he’s sat down on the couch with Nayeli.

“So, here I was, having a peaceful breakfast with our daughter, who was completely happy and relaxed right until the moment her papa and Alpha came into the kitchen looking like death warmed over, didn’t even acknowledge her, and then just stormed off to work without even giving her a goodbye kiss! She’s been completely hysterical ever since, so tag, Papa Wolf, you’re it! Also, what the hell, Derek?” Stiles hisses and Derek gapes at him wide-eyed, then looks back down at his daughter, who’s still whimpering, her face pressed so tightly against Derek’s chest that he can feel her tears through his shirt.

“I …” he begins, only to be interrupted by Nayeli’s little hands patting at his cheeks, stunned by the genuine distress he can see in her face.

“Don’t be sad anymore Papa!” she whimpers, big, hazel eyes brimming with fresh tears, and Derek bites on his lips to stop the automatic “I’m fine” response from spilling out of his mouth, a lie that, he’s pretty sure, his daughter would not only detect but that would distress her even further.

Derek has never been too much of a crier, not even back when his hormones thought crying at things like Stiles forgetting to buy toilet paper was a completely reasonable thing to do for a heavily pregnant werewolf, but he can feel himself on the verge of tears now, barely able to stand the misery in his baby’s eyes.

He’s been an idiot to actually want her to cry for him when he drops her off, he should be grateful she’s not as attached to him, instead, because seeing her like this is making Derek’s everything hurt, especially considering he still has no idea how to help her.

“Hey, hey.”

Stiles is there, suddenly, still smelling upset but no longer quite as angry as he drops down on the couch, one hand grasping Derek’s shoulder and the other rubbing Nayeli’s back.

Derek swallows heavily, rapidly blinking his eyes to clear them, and Stiles lets out a sigh, his grip on Derek’s shoulder tightening.

“Derek, what happened earlier? Nelli-Pup was completely beside herself when you stormed out like that, and at first I thought it was because she held her arms up for a goodbye snuggle and you just rushed right past her, but then she kept talking about how sad you were and how that was really, really, really bad, and I tried to calm her down at first but she got so upset her eyes started flashing and she actually sprouted her baby-claws, so I decided I couldn’t do this without you.”

“I … I didn’t even see her do that, I didn’t think she …” Derek begins, trailing off as more guilt surges through him, and Stiles stares at him, looking incredulous.

“What? You mean … wait, do you mean the hug? Seriously? She hasn’t gone a day without hugging us goodnight or good morning ever since she figured out what arms are for, especially when it comes to you, so why would you ever think she … wait. Derek? Why did you just flinch like that?”

Stiles’ perceptiveness is a blessing and a curse, Derek thinks as he holds Nayeli tighter, the ache in his heart eased just a little by how tightly she clings back even as he studiously avoids looking at his mate, not sure how to put his emotional turmoil into words that he’ll accept.

“Derek?” Stiles asks again, wide-eyed, and Derek sighs, staring at the wall opposite of him.

“I didn’t think she’d mind. She hasn’t … she … she’s had such a hard time saying bye to you in the mornings whenever you dropped her off at Kinder Beacon, but she hasn’t had any problems saying bye to me at all, so I …”

“Decided to just skip it all together?”

Stiles’ tone is still incredulous but his eyes are sharp, his brow furrowed, and Derek can almost see the wheels in his head turning, so instead of facing him he buries his nose in Nayeli’s hair, relieved that she seems to be a bit calmer now that Derek’s no longer quite feeling like a wild Omega’s ripping his heart into shreds.

“Derek,” Stiles says after a long pause, and when Derek looks up at him his mate manages to convey both patience and his patented ‘I can’t believe I married such a dum-dum!’ expression.

“I have barely gotten anything done this past week because I spent the majority of it trying to figure out what in the world I have done wrong for her to obviously question whether or not I’ll come back for her and wondering just how crappy a daddy I am for her to already have trust issues like that … and you’re saying you actually want her to cry like that when you drop her off?”

“No! That’s not … I don’t want her to cry, of course I don’t want her to cry, I want her to be happy, but she … she … it doesn’t even seem to bother her at all when she’s separated from me and I thought that … I know that it’s stupid, don’t look at me like that, I just …”

“It is stupid!” Stiles says emphatically, nodding towards their still sniffling daughter with a serious expression.

“So stupid! Like, galaxies of stupid-stupid! I have never, ever seen our child as upset as she was when you left earlier, not even when I dropped her off at Kinder Beacon that first time. She was completely inconsolable at the thought of you being sad, Derek, so whatever you were about to say just … don’t!”

Stiles’ words are heated but his eyes are soft and Derek loves him, not just because he’s an amazing father to their daughter – and really, he’s got no place calling Derek stupid when he’s apparently been wondering whether or not their baby trusts him – but also because he loves Derek in spite of how broken he is, in spite of the insecurities that he’s probably never going to completely work through.

“She trusts you. You’re not just her daddy, you’re her pack, of course she knows you’ll always come back for her,” Derek says instead, not able to bear the thought of Stiles thinking lowly of himself and his parenting skills for even one more second and Stiles sighs, bending down to press a kiss to Nayeli’s hair.

“I just wish I knew why it’s so hard for her to let me go. There must be a reason for it that doesn’t have anything to do with … whatever dumb stupid things we’ve both apparently been losing sleep over this past week,” he says when he straightens up again, looking thoughtful.

“Nelli-Pup? Can you tell Papa and me why you’re always so sad when I drop you off at Kinder Beacon? Don’t you like it there?”

Stiles’ voice is gentle when he addresses their daughter and Nayeli dislodges her face from where she’d been pressing it against Derek’s chest, looking … surprisingly incredulous for a three year old.

“I like it there, I like it a lot because I have really nice friends, but … I don’t like it when you leave, Daddy! You’re all alone when you leave and I don’t like it!” she exclaims and Stiles frowns at her in confusion, mirroring Derek’s feelings perfectly.

“What do you mean, Nelli-Pup? Why am I alone when I leave?”

“Because you’re not with pack anymore! Papa goes to arrest all the bad guys and then you’re all alone at home without me, or Papa, or pack! I don’t want you to be all alone, Daddy! Pack should never be alone!”

“But … Papa doesn’t have the pack at work, either!” Stiles protests, looking even more confused when Nayeli shakes her head decisively.

“Papa’s not alone! Papa always has pack with him!” she insists, looking up at Derek for approval, and Derek just stares at her blankly, completely at a loss.

“Nelli-Pup, Papa doesn’t have the pack with him at work, you remember that Grampy retired last year, don’t you?” Stiles tries to reason and Nayeli lets out a little huff, looking impatient.

“I know Daddy! I don’t mean Grampy!”

“Well, which pack do you mean then, Nelli-Pup?” Derek asks gently, mentally going through the list of their pack-mates and wondering if she could have possibly seen one of them visit him at the station and drawn the wrong conclusions from that.

He’s not prepared at all when Nayeli unceremoniously tugs his shirt out of his uniform pants, pulls it up just enough to expose his navel and pats his belly, looking back and forth between him and Stiles like she’d call them idiots if she was allowed to use swear words.

“Here! Pack’s in here!”

“Uh … what?”

Stiles is staring at their daughter, wide-eyed and stunned, and Derek and meets eyes with him briefly before staring down at his daughter’s tiny palms pressed against his belly, the gesture affectionate, protective, and …

Derek’s world comes to a very screeching, very sudden stop.

“Can’t you hear them, Papa?” Nayeli asks, looking up at him curiously and as Stiles lets out a gasp next to him Derek closes his eyes to concentrate.

Incredibly rare, almost impossible, utterly astonishing.

Deaton’s voice rings through Derek’s head, but there’s another sound now, one that first overshadows Deaton’s warnings and then drowns them out completely, a sound that Derek had almost forgotten and that knocks the breath right out of him.

“Derek?” Stiles whispers, his voice frayed with emotion, and it isn’t until Stiles’ hand joins his that he realizes he’s got both of his palms resting against his belly, right over Nayeli’s, the three of them once more forming a shield of love and protection and Derek … knows.

“Stiles,” he whispers, overwhelmed, and then Stiles is kissing him, smiling against Derek’s lips like a mad-man.

“We’re having another baby?” Stiles asks after he’s pulled away, sounding like he doesn’t even need the verbal confirmation, and before Derek can answer Nayeli pats her daddy’s cheek fondly, her eyes sparkling with joy.

“Not baby, Daddy! Babies! Can’t you hear?”

Babies?” Stiles exclaims loudly and Derek closes his eyes once more to listen, letting out a gasp when he realizes that there are in fact two additional heartbeats deep down inside of him.

“I love you! So much!” Stiles whispers, beaming, and when he kisses him once more Derek can literally feel all the tension and unhappiness of the past week float out of him, replaced with an almost uncontrollable burst of happiness and wonder, and he’s so focused on his family that he doesn’t even hear the door to the Sheriff’s office open.

“Hey Derek?”

Jordan Parrish sounds amused, arms cross over his chest where he’s leaning against the door, and Derek barely has time to consider what they must look like – two grown men on the verge of crying, one toddler still a bit puffy-eyed from all the crying she did earlier, and all three of them patting Derek’s belly like it’s the most precious thing in the room – when Jordan smiles, his voice almost a bit too casual when he addresses them once more.

“Not that we were eavesdropping or anything, but Stiles’ little exclamation of ‘Babies’ did reverberate through the entire station, so we were just wondering: is this the part where we all once more pretend not to notice how you’re quickly outgrowing two sets of uniform pants and four sets of uniform shirts, secretly come up with a schedule that will stick you with desk duty and no night shifts somewhere between four and five months from now, dote on you to the point of being overbearing, get plastered with our former Sheriff when he shows up roughly eight months from now with a bottle of celebratory champagne, and pretend to be completely surprised when you return from your spontaneous three months vacation to parade a newborn all around the station that looks like the perfect mixture of you and Stiles?”

“Make that two newborns!” Stiles says proudly, seemingly not even surprised that Jordan knows – really, it would have been a surprise if he didn’t, Derek muses somewhat ruefully – and Jordan grins, crouching down in front of Nayeli so he can ruffle her hair.

“Congratulations, you guys! And congratulations to you, too, Nelli-Pup, you’re going to be the best big sister in the world! Your baby brother and baby sister are going to be so lucky!”

Nayeli beams, graciously taking the compliment with the air of someone who’s not hearing something that’s news to her at all.

“Not baby brother and baby sister … baby-brothers!” she corrects, grinning from ear to ear and bobbing her head so determinedly her pig-tails are flying everywhere.

Stiles lets out a joyous gasp next to him and Derek grabs his hand tightly, aware that there’s no way his daughter could possibly know … and trusting her instincts without a shadow of a doubt regardless.

Not surprisingly, her instincts turn out to be spot-on.