Strawberry surprise starkissed smoothie recipe
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- Dish type
- Strawberry smoothie
We had a competition at our school to see who could make the best energy drink. We called it "strawberry surprise!"
Aberdeenshire, Scotland, UK
5 people made this
- 225g strawberries
- 1 whole strawberry, for decorating
- 60g milk chocolate buttons
- 240ml milk
- 240g vanilla ice cream
- 45g caster sugar
- 3 ice cubes
- whipped cream
MethodPrep:5min ›Cook:5min ›Ready in:10min
- First chop the strawberries and then put all the ingredients (except one whole strawberry) into a blender.
- Blend for 1 to 3 minutes till smooth, except for some small chocolate lumps.
- Add whipped cream on the top and finish it off with one whole strawberry.
Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(1)
Reviews in English (1)
I have a recipe called ''Strawberry Surprise'' and it is ALL my family's favourite dessert. I made this smoothie and made my strawberry smoothie, they weren't the same...-28 Apr 2013
Archive of Our Own beta
Home from college for the summer to keep an eye on his father's health, Stiles takes a job babysitting for one of the Sheriff's new deputies. While taking care of five-year-old werewolf triplets is a challenge in its own right, it’s their dad that really has Stiles tied up in knots. Hired specifically with the Hale family reunion in mind, he only has the summer to decide if he can survive the trip to the end of the road and back.
Chapter 1: Stop Stalking my Deputies
But damn, did it feel right.
Stiles Stilinski had only been home from his sophomore year of University for two weeks and he was already bored. A double major in Social Work and World Mythology, he was used to a schedule that kept him running between opposite ends of campus and reading until well into the night, but Beacon Hills was an entirely different world.
He didn’t regret moving home for the summer. His dad had suffered a mild stress attack just before Stiles’ final exams, and immediately upon finishing the last of the seven, he had thrown his duffel bags into the back of his rusty blue jeep and driven the four hours back to his hometown without a single stop, pulling in just after nine o’clock. He spent the next three days corralling the man around the house, keeping him in a chair and restricting him to rest and serious health food until Melissa McCall, his best friend’s mom and nurse extraordinaire, put her foot down, assuring Stiles that his father would be fine as long as he took it easy and didn’t overtax himself at work.
Stiles had made his own demands at that point, taking a quick (and completely illegal) tour through the city’s budget before demanding that his father hire no less than two new deputies within the next month in order to insure he wasn’t spreading himself too thin. Much to his surprise the Sheriff had complied, and quickly too, coming home eight days later to inform his son that both positions had been satisfactorily filled. Placated, Stiles had spent his time sacked out on the couch playing hours and hours of video games and nomming on his hidden snack stash, but after a few days he was thoroughly through with being a slob. Showering off three days of lazy-funk, he’d dressed in a pair of black skinny jeans and chucks, along with his lucky white button-up with the green plaid print before climbing into the jeep and driving over to the station to check out the new recruits.
Because after all, they were there because of his insistence.
He was essentially the whole reason they’d been hired.
This time, the trouble he was in was entirely his fault.
Because he was in trouble.
Holy, sweet hell, was he in trouble.
Slouched down low in the driver’s seat, he rested his cell phone on the steering wheel pretending to play a game of Candy Crush while surreptitiously peering through the windshield at the small group of cops gathered in front of the police station. He’d parked next to his dad’s cruiser and was just about to jump out of the jeep when they’d emerged from the building, two older men that he’d known since he was a kid and two he’d never seen before, their black uniforms and heavy utility belts giving them away as the new deputies. Stiles’ eyes had gone wide and he’d flailed down beneath the dash, popping back up almost immediately for another look.
Daddy done good this time.
The first of the two was young, probably older than he looked, but sandy blonde and fresh-faced, with a perfectly bite-able lower lip. As the group paused in front of the station before splitting off to their respective cruisers he had turned away, and even from a distance Stiles had no problem checking out his ass in his fitted cargo pants. Still, if he was a nice eyeful the other was totally drool-worthy, dark-haired and a little pale with a sharp jaw covered in a heavy five o’clock shadow. He was standing with his arms folded over his broad chest, his feet widely spaced on the pavement, displaying a lovely set of biceps, and even if he looked just a little bit grim and grumpy, Stiles couldn’t stop his eyes from running over and over the man from head to toe.
His dad’s new deputies were gorgeous.
And he was totally screwed.
The thought had only just flitted through his head when the second deputy, the one with the thick, black hair that Stiles suddenly wanted to drag his fingers through, snapped his head up and looked directly into the jeep, looked directly at him as though he could hear the pounding beat of Stiles’ heart against the wall of his chest. It was all he could do not to jump, to just sit still and keep on with his lost-cause game of Crush, his muscles locked until the man’s mouth twisted in a frown and he turned away, back to the conversation. Letting out a silent huff of a breath he hadn’t know he was holding, he practically melted into his seat, his eyes going right back to his perusal of Beacon Hill’s latest rookies.
His staring was cut short when his cellphone chimed.
Yelping loudly, Stiles jerked in surprise, sending the phone bouncing off the dash and onto the floor. Swiftly retrieving it, he thumbed over the screen and scanned the text.
Stop stalking my deputies.
Scowling, Stiles deleted the message and stuffed the phone down into his pocket, squirming to get his hand into his one-size-too-small jeans. Jerking his keys from the ignition, he leapt down onto the pavement and slammed the door, jogging the three steps up to the sidewalk leading to the doors of the station.
“All right there Stiles?” one of the older detectives asked, and he felt his cheeks flush as he realized they had probably all heard his unmanly yip through his open driver’s window.
“Sure thing Detective Lapland,” he grinned, flashing a pair of thumbs up.
Moving quickly before he could be introduced, he bypassed the group and ducked through the doors into the lobby, ignoring the way the hair on his arms stood up as he slipped by the new deputies. He could feel curious eyes on his shoulders but he steadfastly ignored it, instead waving to Tara behind the desk and heading straight back to his dad’s office, catching him in the act of stuffing a package of M&M’s into his desk drawer.
“Thought I had more time,” the man grumbled, slapping the pack into Stiles waiting hand. “What with the spying and all.”
“I wasn’t spying, I was… observing,” Stiles insisted, closing the office door and taking a seat across from his dad. “Besides, you’re one to talk, creeping on the parking lot through the blinds.”
“Please.” The Sheriff rolled his eyes. “I could hear that jeep coming from a mile off. When you didn’t come in I had to start wondering if you’d gotten yourself hung up in the seatbelt again.”
“That happened one time!” Stiles moaned. “And the thing jammed you can’t blame that on me!”
His dad chuckled, tapping a few papers together on his desk. “So Stiles,” he began with half a grin, “Why are you here again?”
Stiles squirmed in his seat. There was no way he could tell his dad that he had come to check out the new deputies now, not unless he never wanted to hear the end of it. He’d been caught red-handed checking said deputies out, and that was bad enough.
“Can’t a son take his dad to lunch? Gotta monitor your breaks and your junk food intake somehow,” he said finally, shaking the M&M’s at his dad like a maraca.
The Sheriff narrowed his eyes speculatively, made a harrumphing sort of noise as he stood and began to lock his files away into a cabinet.
“Stiles, I’ve been a Sheriff for the last ten years,” he said, moving to the window and using a finger to press a gap in the blinds. “And I raised you for the last twenty. I know your methods kid.”
Stiles scoffed, rolled his eyes exaggeratedly. “Are you really going to pass up lunch to make fun of me?” he whined.
“Nope,” his dad replied. “I’m gonna do both. Let me talk to Tara and radio out to the boys and we can go.”
“Cool,” Stiles answered, getting to his feet and pouring a couple confiscated M&M’s into his hand. “Meet you in the car?"
The Sheriff nodded distractedly and went back to locking away the last of his paperwork. Slipping out of the office, Stiles waved to Tara once more and stepped back out into the sunshine, popping a couple pieces of candy into the air and doing a neat little staggered jog down the sidewalk in an attempt to catch them in his mouth. Unfortunately, he hadn’t entirely outgrown his clumsy streak, and so it was understandable that crashing into a slim, toned body sent him completely askew, racing his chocolate towards the sidewalk.
Stiles had just braced himself for impact when a hand shot out and grabbed him by the elbow, ending his careening collision course with the pavement and hauling him upright again.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I… shhhhiiiii….”
He cut the curse off mid-way through, drew it out trying to get away from the strong, slim fingers of the blonde haired deputy he’d been casing earlier.
“Oh god,” he groaned, scrubbing a hand down over his face. “Why my life?”
Cracking his fingers, Stiles peered out between them, practically blinded by the bright, easy grin of the deputy still holding him upright.
“Yep,” he replied. “Great. Wonderful. Completely mortified, but it’s fine, I’ll just…”
“Easy there Stiles,” Officer Burns chuckled behind him. “I only just got the new deputy I don’t need you taking him out so soon.”
“Right,” Stiles answered, his cheeks heating up again. “Sorry, again. Really.”
“That’s ok,” the deputy smiled. “No harm done. Stiles, right?”
Stiles nodded, accepting the firm handshake that was offered to him.
“Stiles is the Sheriff’s son,” Burns explained, clapping a heavy hand down on Stiles’ shoulder. “This here is Deputy Parrish.”
“Kyle,” the young man offered, and Stiles felt himself crack a grin of his own.
The older officers were sticklers about their titles, and to be honest he wasn’t really calling them by any other moniker, having grown up running around the station with hero-worship in his eyes for all the hot-shot cops his dad had worked with.
“Kyle,” he reiterated, and the blonde’s grin widened. He was cute, Stiles had to give him that, and he seemed totally willing to forgive Stiles’ earlier bulldozer impression. “So you’re one of the new deputies?”
Kyle laughed, tapped the narrow brass plate on his chest that declared his surname. “Yep. Third official day on the job.”
“Thanks for that by the way,” Burns acknowledged, bumping Stiles with his shoulder. “We’ve been trying to get some fresh blood in here for a while. Thought I was going to be stuck on traffic detail forever.”
“Oh man,” Stiles groaned, turning back to the young deputy. “They’re putting you on speed trap duty? Marsh Road?”
Kyle laughed and it made Stiles' belly feel warm and tickly. Swallowing hard he reigned himself in, telling his libido firmly that the only reason he was so interested in his dad’s new employees was because he hadn’t been laid since he broke up with his semi-serious boyfriend five months ago.
Because honesty was a thing.
“Nah,” Kyle replied, jerking Stiles back to attention. “They’re actually thinking about training me for dog patrol.”
“We’re getting a K9?” Stiles asked, suddenly excited. “That’s awesome!”
“Yeah, I’m pretty excited,” Kyle admitted, ducking his head and rubbing the back of his neck. “I grew up on a farm just outside of town, and we always had dogs, so…”
“No man, that’s great,” Stiles replied. “We totally have the budget to bring in a dog if dad doesn’t hire anybody else. It’s just you and the other guy right?”
Kyle opened his mouth to answer but Stiles felt a hand clamp down on his shoulder, shake him gently, and this time it wasn’t Burns.
“Stiles, what did I tell you about hacking my work computer?” his father asked, making Kyle shift nervously.
“His methods may be questionable Sheriff, but his results are undeniable,” Burns spoke up. “We should have gone to him in the first place.”
“They really should have,” Stiles agreed sagely.
“Burns, don’t encourage my son’s delinquency,” The Sheriff sighed. “Or I’ll put you back in the speed trap out on Marsh.”
While the threat made the older officer go a bit green it elicited a short burst of laughter from the new deputy. Stiles’ dad cocked an eyebrow, shook his head before pushing his son away towards the jeep.
“Bye Stiles,” Kyle called, causing him to fumble his keys in surprise.
Casting a nervous little wave in the deputy’s direction, he climbed into the jeep and cranked the ignition, catching sight of his father’s silently shaking shoulders as he twisted in his seat to back out of his spot.
“Always nice to have you back son,” the traitor choked.
Chapter 2: Life in the Slow Lane
They went to the little diner around the block from the station, the one where Stiles had always gone on bad days for curly fries and strawberry milkshakes, and where all the waitresses knew better than to serve the same to the Sheriff. He had done a thorough job of bribing or threatening the town into compliance with his dietary plans before heading off to school, and he had spies located on practically every corner of Beacon Hills. Seemed it was Detective Lapland he was going to have to have a chat with vending machine duty was his particular responsibility.
Sliding into a red vinyl both, Stiles hands immediately found the sticky, laminated menu and began flipping through it even though he already knew what he was getting he tended to be a creature of habit when it came to these things. Flipping the booklet shut, he pushed it away before dragging his fingers through his hair. It was getting a little bit long now because he hadn’t bothered to buzz it during finals, but he rather liked the new length, and now that summer was here he wasn’t sure what to do with it. His dad noticed his fidgeting, casting him a short glance over the top of his own menu, one eyebrow cocked.
“Spit it out Stiles,” he recommended, “Before you vibrate right off your seat.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Stiles fronted, looking off towards the kitchen where the sounds of sizzling and the scent of grilling onions made his stomach rumble.
The Sheriff hummed, turned a page.
“So.” Stiles took a minute to beat out a tune against the table top with his fingers. “Um…”
Sighing the sigh of exasperated parents, his dad dropped his menu and steepled his fingers, peering at Stiles speculatively.
“Let me go half salad, half fries and I’ll tell you anything you want to know,” he said finally.
Stiles narrowed his eyes, debated playing stupid before quickly caving. “Seventy-thirty,” he haggled.
“Fifty-fifty. Take it or leave it kid.”
Stiles frowned, but stuck out his hand and shook with his father firmly. “You drive a hard bargain old man.”
The Sheriff chuckled. “Curiosity’s got a price son. You of all people should know that by now.”
“Is that a gay joke dad?” Stiles teased with a grin, well aware that his dad was comfortable with and supportive of his lifestyle choices, ever since he’d caught him in a raid at the Jungle his sophomore year of high school.
“Ouch,” the Sheriff huffed, slapping a hand against his chest. “That was a brutal comeback Stiles. Your best yet.”
“Cut me a little slack,” he insisted. “I’ve only been back two weeks. I’m off my game.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that son. You seemed to be doing just fine with Parrish.”
Stiles head snapped up, a sarcastic comment on the tip of his tongue but he was cut off by the arrival of the waitress, who plunked down two glasses of iced tea before quickly scribbling down their orders and fluttering away again. It was funny really, because both Stiles and his father asked for the same thing that they always did, and he had no doubt that Josie, the lunchtime chef, had started both plates as soon as they’d walked in the door. Their food would be delivered within minutes of the order slip being turned in. Sipping at his tea, his eyes wandered around the diner, taking in all the same old fixtures, all the same old patrons. He nodded to a few, smiled to a few more, slouched in his seat and threw his feet up onto the bench across from him next to his dad’s hip.
“You’re already bored,” the Sheriff observed.
“No I’m not!” Stiles denied vehemently. “I love hanging out with my pops!”
The Sheriff snorted, grinned wryly. “I meant in general Stiles. I know you weren’t planning on coming home this summer and I know Beacon Hills isn’t exactly as… exciting as campus…”
“Woah, woah.” Stiles threw up both hands in a motion of surrender. “Dad, you don’t… I mean, you’re not doing the guilt thing are you?”
His dad frowned, opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out, and Stiles was about to take the lead on the conversation when their waitress came back and interrupted once again, bequeathing him with a massive cheeseburger and his dad with a grilled chicken breast tossed in a healthy version of Josie’s famous barbecue sauce. He waited until she turned the last plate in its arbitrarily proper direction before trying again, speaking around a mouthful of curly fries.
“Dad I don’t want you to feel like you put me out by having a stress attack,” he garbled as she walked away.
The Sheriff just harrumphed, avoiding his eyes as he used a knife and fork to flick half his Caesar salad disparagingly onto Stiles’ plate while at the same time trying to save his fair share of the curly fries from his son’s greedy fingers.
“Seriously,” he added, picking up his burger, “It’s not like you planned it. And I think I would have come home anyway. Finals week was dark, and I could definitely use a few months in the slow lane.”
“But you’re still bored,” his dad replied, finally looking up at him as he started in on his chicken.
Stiles’ quirked his mouth around a huge bite, contemplated. “I think I just over did it,” he decided finally. “Too much too fast, you know? Should’ve eased into it. I’m sure I can get back into the groove.”
“So that’s your plan?” he asked with half a laugh. “Video games and junk food?”
“Pretty much,” Stiles grinned. “Scott’s gonna be around, so I’ll have him to hang out with too. That is if him and Allison ever come up for air.”
“Those two still going strong then?”
“Yep. It’s cute, in a… grossly co-dependent kind of way. But Deaton will be keeping Scott busy at the clinic and Allison’s helping her dad teach weapons safety classes, so…”
His dad hummed contemplatively, chewed and swallowed. “You might think about that yourself,” he said, pointing his fork at Stiles before flicking through the lettuce on his plate.
“What, taking a weapons safety class? Why? You taught me to respect guns right around the time I learned to tie my shoes.”
“I meant a summer job,” the Sheriff corrected, rolling his eyes. “Be something to keep you occupied and you’d make a little money on the side.”
“Hmm. No promises,” Stiles offered. “I’m not sure how I feel about spending my time off working.”
“Unless of course you’ve got an opening down at the station?”
“What did I tell you about stalking my deputies?” his father groaned, raising his eyes to the heavens.
“Time to ante up then,” Stiles grinned, popping the last of his burger into his mouth. “Tell me all the things.”
“Not all that much to tell,” his dad said, smirking at Stiles low whine of complaint. “Two new deputies, both rookies. Parrish you met. Twenty three, a little too… chipper in the mornings if you ask me. Always got a smile on his face, eager to please. I’ve been thinking about bringing in a K9 Unit for a few years, and the kid’s got a lot of experience with dogs. Born and bred local, his family raises Shepherds on a farm up near Lancaster.”
“Three years older than me,” Stiles commented, stroking the thumb along the corner of his mouth as he thought. “How come I don’t remember him?”
“Home schooled apparently,” the Sheriff replied, finishing the last of his salad and crossing his silverware over his plate. Their waitress had been hovering nearby the last few minutes and swooped in to remove their plates, leaving the bill at the edge of the table. “But he’s seems to be a good kid. It’s only been three days and the whole station loves him.”
“Yeah, he seemed nice,” Stiles replied automatically.
“Oh god, don’t look at me like that,” Stiles groaned, sliding down into the booth until his chin was level with the table. “It’s not like I’ve got… designs on the guy. I’m just…”
Stiles scowled, pulling himself back up and dragging the bill towards his chest before wiggling his wallet out of his back pocket. Folding it open, he riffled through it before sending his dad a sheepish grin.
The Sheriff sighed, rolled his eyes once again before fishing out his own wallet, sticking a twenty and change underneath his half-empty glass.
“Sure you don’t want to rethink that summer job idea?” he asked smugly as they stood, waving to Josie behind the counter before heading for the door.
“Being a poor college student is an art form that I have perfected,” Stiles replied. “But you might be right. So about that opening down at the station…”
“No. I’m not paying you to sit around and ogle Parrish.”
“That’s cool,” Stiles replied as they climbed into the jeep. “I’ve got my own game.” Grinning, he popped the collar of his shirt cockily before backing out. “I don’t need your help landing a date.”
“And thank god for that,” The Sheriff muttered. “But I’m serious Stiles. I want to get this K9 Unit off the ground I can’t have you scaring him off.”
“Your confidence in me is baffling,” Stiles deadpanned. “Am I that bad?”
“Have you forgotten your seven year obsession with one Lydia Martin?”
Stiles scoffed. “Please. I was totally subtle. At least, I was before I hit puberty. And that turned out great Lydia’s my best friend.”
“Her boyfriend took out a restraining order against you.”
“Which he later withdrew!” Stiles yelped in indignation. “Besides, Jackson was a total…”
“The point,” his father insisted, “Is that you can be… persistent, Stiles.”
“Not exactly a bad thing,” he whined in self-defense.
“No, it’s not. And I love you, don’t get me wrong. I love having you here. But so help me God Stiles, if Parrish has to take out a restraining order against you…”
“They’ll never find my body?” he guessed, pulling up in front of the station.
“There’s my boy,” the Sheriff smiled, reaching over to squeeze Stiles’ shoulder before climbing out of the jeep.
“Yeah, well,” Stiles grinned through the window, “Wouldn’t want the Sheriff put under suspicion in a missing person’s case now would we? And I’m not exactly looking to be brought up on harassment charges either. Life in the slow lane, remember?”
The Sheriff nodded, knocked twice on the jeep’s hood and headed inside. It wasn’t until he’d pulled halfway out of his parking space, his dad disappearing through the lobby doors that Stiles realized he hadn’t gotten anything on the second deputy.
Chapter 3: Google King
The next afternoon, Stiles found himself sunk down in the couch cushions once again, three seasons into Futurama and sucking Dorito dust off his fingers. He was shirtless, dressed only in the athletic shorts he’d worn to bed the night before, and there were crumbs sprinkled all down his chest, video game cartridges scattered at his feet. He felt heavy and a little too warm, and when his computer chimed with a notification from Netflix asking if he was still watching, he was suddenly personally offended by his state of slob. Sticky and gross, adjectives that wouldn’t have bothered him in his high school years, now seemed the worst of all the things he could be.
It might have been because his dad had so helpfully pointed it out the day before, or it might’ve been because Scott had cancelled on their lunch plans at the pizza place over on Fifth, but regardless of the cause Stiles was feeling the boredom, and it was only the end of the first week of May. School didn’t start up again until September, leaving him with four long months of nothing stretching out endlessly before him, and if today was any indication, he wasn’t going to be able to count on Scott as much as he’d been planning to. He had a pretty heavy schedule interning with Deaton at the clinic for the summer, trying to get in as many hours as possible as he worked towards his vet tech’s degree, and Stiles had learned that Allison’s status as the girlfriend was going to trump his own as the best friend every time.
Groaning loudly, Stiles rolled off the couch and gathered up the trash littered around him, carrying it into the kitchen and stuffing it into the bin beneath the sink. Wetting a cloth from the cabinet, he returned to the room and wiped down the coffee table, pulled out the rarely-used vacuum and sucked up all his crumbs. He felt better having cleaned up the little hazard area he’d created and decided to give himself a quick rinse too, jumping in and out of a cool shower, almost cold. He could feel a backed-up energy buzzing beneath his skin but he tamped it down, popping two Adderall to make up for the one he’d skipped that morning. He was facing options now, different ones than he’d expected, but options none the less, and having cleaned himself up a bit, cleared his head and brushed his teeth, he could choose between them with the cutting intelligence and clarity that a double major had forced him to develop.
He couldn’t do this. This summer full of nothing. He knew himself and he knew his nature, and he knew he couldn’t do this. Boredom was Stiles’ Kryptonite it had the potential to land him either in a pair of handcuffs or a straightjacket.
But Stiles knew the truth as well.
Research could set you free… and he was the Google King.
Carrying his laptop to the dining room table, he poured himself a glass of ice water and settled into one of the wooden, straight-backed chairs, ready for an hour or two of down and dirty work in the cyber classifieds.
He’d known when he started that he was going to have to weed through a ridiculous number of pages and sites just to find something in the area and he wasn’t wrong. He had transportation, true, but the jeep was a gas guzzler, and he didn’t want to spend all the money he earned getting to and from said job. Beacon Hills was way too small to pinpoint itself, but once he set his search bar to look in surrounding areas he got better results. From there it was on to more important things finding something that was going to hold his interest, something that he wouldn’t have him flipping burgers or counting back cash all day. That would be worse than doing nothing at all, leave him open to all kinds of messiness when he inevitably quit three weeks in.
No, he needed something more than your typical summer job.
And so he searched, opening up any and every ad that caught his eye, though that probably wasn’t the best strategy. He had to dish out mad props for some of the subject lines though the scourge of the internet were a creative bunch. It was amazing really, the cleverness of some people, their way with words. He was certain that he could never disguise a sex add so neatly, even with his extensive knowledge of world mythos. Still, as prolific and high-paying as many of said ads were, it wasn’t quite the type of challenge he was looking for.
So back to Google it was, for a new search with closer parameters and different key words.
House Boy had certainly been a mistake.
What the hell was he thinking? There were so many better ways to say jack-of-all-trades.
An hour and a half later Stiles was a little disappointed with what he’d found. He’d only bookmarked five job postings so far, none of which he was particularly interested in. The most promising one was a magazine looking for someone to write essays for them, but that wouldn’t get him out of the house and after his recent finals he really wasn’t looking to write any more papers. Glancing at the clock, he tapped his fingers anxiously against the table. His leg had been bouncing for the last fifteen minutes and he knew he needed to take a break or else he was going to do something stupid, like reply to a request for a sugar baby or offer to write a high school student’s statistics final.
Deciding on one last try before he gave it up for the afternoon, Stiles clicked through his search engine one more time and ended up breaking into a loud, disbelieving sort of laugh.
Because there it was, finally. Right at the very top of the page, a subject line that jumped off the screen and shouted at him with abandon.
Summer Sitter Needed for 5 Year Old Werewolf Triplets
Now that sounded like a challenge.
And what do you know, it was listed out of Beacon Hills.
Interest and something like excitement sparked in Stiles’ chest and he found himself leaning in towards the screen as he opened up the full ad. He loved kids it was one of the main reasons that he’d followed in his mother’s footsteps and gone into social work, and he knew from experience that no two days were the same when you were working with five year olds. Pushing down the tingling in his stomach, he read through the ad carefully before slumping back in his chair with a huff.
Sitter needed for three high-energy boys Monday through Friday from 9:30AM till 8:30PM. Tasks will include some minor shopping, cooking, and cleaning, but your primary responsibility will be looking after the kids. Lunch and dinner, bath and bed included, as well as games, exercise, and generally keeping them occupied.
Creativity is going to help you here!
You must have your own transportation. Experience with children is also a must, and any experience with werewolves will be well looked-upon. Background check, references, and interview required.
**Must be available on the weekend of August 25th to travel out of state for a pack reunion, returning on the 28th**
Reply to [email protected]
Keeping up with three little boys all week would easily be enough to whip him into shape, and there was no doubt in his mind that if he were to get the job, he would never be bored. In fact, this seemed to be right up his alley. A student of social work, home only for the summer, whose second degree in mythology left him with an endless wellspring of bedtime stories to plumb…
Fate… or some serious search skills.
Stiles broke into a huge, self-congratulatory grin, clicked REPLY, and crafted a carefully structured response in which he briefly outlined the internship at the children’s shelter he’d completed in his third semester, how he’d helped Scott learn to cope with being a werewolf after being bitten by a rogue Alpha in highschool, and a bit about his own personality that he felt might make him a good match for the ad’s requirements. Expressing his hope for the opportunity to interview for the job, he detailed his contact information and signed off, sending the missive into the ether with a feeling of supreme satisfaction.
Closing his laptop, Stiles deposited his glass in the sink and trotted up to his room to change, whistling a jaunty tune as he went. He felt good having accomplished something, having a vague plan in mind for the days to come, and he wasn’t going to let the fact that none of it was certain dampen his mood. He thought briefly of going back up to the station to see if Deputy Parrish - Kyle - was around, but a quick check of the clock told him that his father would be ensconced in his office for at least the next forty minutes catching up on his daily mountain of paperwork and putting a wrench in his stalking plans.
Still, some burn-off needed to happen here, so he swapped his sweats for a pair of athletic shorts and a burgundy-colored Beacon Hills Lacrosse t-shirt, laced his running shoes tight, and pocketing his cellphone and his keys before heading out the door.
The run started off easy, a light jog down the sidewalk, but it only took him ten minutes to reach the head of the trail that led down into the Preserve and it was there that he found exactly what he was looking for - sweat and pain and a hard, pounding pulse. The terrain was rough and varied, and the sun was beating down on Stiles’ shoulders, but the stretch and burn of muscle felt amazing after days of slothful behavior, and so he continued to push himself to greater and greater speeds along the trail.
After putting on his freshman fifteen, he had gone back to the cross country training program his old coach had always insisted upon, shedding the weight and slowly toning his body until he was hard and lean with muscle, enough that he could leave the adjective ‘gangly’ behind and grow a little bit of self-confidence. Maintaining that regimen was to his benefit- the running helped to slow his thoughts down, strangely enough helped him to breathe. Stiles knew the trails like the back of his hand, so he could follow them purely by instinct and memory, his mind occupied with a calm sort of hum that let him fully experience the beauty of the day and the uncivilized depths of the Preserve around him, the sun and the breeze and the smell of the loam around him.
Before he knew it he’d run the whole of the trail he was on, round and through the back of the park and up onto the main road again. It was only the change to asphalt beneath his shoes that brought him out of his non-thoughts and made him aware of the traffic winging by. Stopping for half a minute to catch his breath, he decided to head in the direction of the station. If he caught his dad before he left for the day he could tell him about the job, make sure that the Sheriff was ready to provide him with a good reference. Trotting along at a much more sedate pace, he nevertheless made good time, hitting the lobby at about a quarter till six. His dad got out a little early on Wednesdays if it was slow, which meant he had fifteen minutes to make his case and bum a ride back to the house.
Which was a good thing, because he was a mess. It had been almost three weeks since he’d run and he could already tell that the pleasant burn in his muscles was soon going to give way to a dull ache. His hair was damp, scraped straight back from his forehead, and there was a dark v of sweat running down from his collar, plastering his thin t-shirt to his chest and the small of his back. He had no doubt that his face was flush red - he was too pale to escape that kind of consequence to any physical exertion - so he took a quick detour through the back hallway where the vending machines were housed. He hadn’t brought any money with him but he knew exactly where and how to kick the ancient thing to make it cough up an ice cold bottle of water without coinage. Pressing the bottle to the side of his neck, he swung upright again and stepped back, only to get knocked into hard and sent careening towards the floor, where he landed on his ass with a loud yelp.
“Ow!” he complained loudly from his position on the tile. “Dude, what the hel…lo!”
It was Deputy Tall, Dark, and Handsome, scowling down at him with a look like murder, as though he were dreaming of snapping Stiles in half. His eyes took a quick vacation, scanning the man from boots to biceps, and decided that he could accomplish that dream with ease. Wetting his lips, Stiles swallowed nervously and put on a smile, one that he hoped wasn’t as wildly untethered as he suddenly felt.
“Uh, hi,” he tried again, waiting for a hand up off the floor that never came. “Sorry about that, I…
“Civilians aren’t allowed back here,” the man interrupted, and Stiles frowned.
Not the reaction he was looking for.
Besides, he knew the rules.
If this guy wanted to pull rank, Stiles had bad news: he had about twenty years seniority over this rookie.
“Really?” he heard himself deadpan, pulling his knees up to his chest and draping his arms over them as he cracked his water bottle and took a few long pulls. “Not even when they’re being interrogated or thrown in the tank?”
Stiles saw the man’s upper lip tug in an aborted sneer and he was suddenly reminded of Summanus, the Roman god of nocturnal thunder. It fit him well, all dark power wrapped up in a sinfully attractive package, and he felt a bolt of heat shoot through his belly.
“Which is it you’re here to volunteer for again?” the deputy ground out.
Stiles arched an eyebrow. Huh. Pretty good comeback. He hadn’t been expecting that.
“Neither,” he replied with a grin, ready to play his trump card just to see how the man would react. “Perks of being the Sheriff’s kid.”
Stiles had never seen a person go so pale so fast.
The man lost all the color in his face, going a pasty white, and Stiles swore that he heard his breath catch in his throat. Panic flared in his eyes, a lovely grayish-green, but then it was gone and he was swallowing, his shoulders straightening like he was preparing to face down a firing squad. It was the look of a man ready to defend his job, and Stiles was about to raise his hands in supplicating motion when his father rounded the corner, headed back to his office with a stack of files in hand.
“Why are you on the floor?” he asked, Stiles saw the deputy flinch minutely as he half-turned to face the Sheriff who had appeared behind his shoulder.
“Counting the tiles,” Stiles replied seriously, the answer rolling smoothly off his tongue. “There are fewer than there were last week. I have a theory… inter-departmental conspiracy.”
“Right.” His dad rolled his eyes. “And you think Derek’s involved?”
Stiles felt a wicked-sort of smile tip at the corners of his mouth. Derek, was it? Interesting.
“I was just on my way out to the Buchannan’s, Sir,” the deputy cut in as he edged slowly for the door, and Stiles snorted.
The Buchannan sisters called in almost weekly to report that someone had been trespassing on their property, but no one was ever caught because they refused to provide the information the police needed to do anything about it. As any high school student could tell you, the old biddies cultivated a mean strain of Mary Jane, and they kept authority access to the property strictly limited. Was actually rather cruel of his dad to send a newbie out there alone to take statements… considering.
But the thunder god was glaring at him again, confusion and relief warring in his eyes, so Stiles just grinned and tossed the man a wink.
“Later Deputy Derek,” he said cheekily before taking pity on him and tossing out a piece of advice. “Beware the goat dude.”
Derek’s eyebrows, which Stiles had already gathered were his main mode of communication, dropped low on his brow as the man scowled, nodding to the Sheriff before turning on the heel of his boot and striding away towards the lobby. Stiles looked at his father disapprovingly and clicked his tongue.
“How could you not warn him about the goat?” he asked, referencing the one-hundred pound boar goat that the sisters kept in lieu of a guard dog. “That’s just wrong.”
“Everybody’s gotta learn son,” the Sheriff replied with a touch of laughter in his tone. “Besides, how do you know I didn’t warn him?”
“Did you see how fast he ran out of here?” Stiles asked, taking his father’s hand and getting hauled up off the floor. “Everybody drags their feet when they get called out to the Buchannan’s.”
“Maybe he was just trying to get away from you,” his dad responded simply, and Stiles slapped a hand to his heart in mock offense.
“My company is delightful!” he declared as they stepped into the Sheriff’s office. “Exactly what are you implying?”
“I’m not implying anything,” his dad stated, dropping into his chair and turning towards his computer. “You reek.”
“Aw crap!” Stiles groaned, taking a quick sniff under his arms. “Seriously?” Sure, he was sweaty from his run, but at least it was nice, clean, male testosterone sweat. Eau de manly Stiles. “It’s not that bad is it?”
He looked up just in time to catch his dad rolling his eyes.
“If I think you reek, Derek probably feels like he got hit in the face with a baseball bat,” he mumbled, fingers typing away at his keyboard. “Pretty big downside to all those heightened senses if you ask me.”
“Woah, woah, wait,” Stiles reeled, “Back up! Heightened senses? What…”
“He’s a werewolf Stiles. Did you really not notice?” His dad, turned away from his computer to face him, suddenly concerned. “That’s not like you. Are you feeling all right?”
“Yeah,” Stiles muttered, his brain running away at a hundred miles an hour. “I’m fine. So he’s a werewolf too huh? Beacon Hills is really moving up in the world.”
The Sheriff raised an eyebrow. “Too?”
Stiles shook his head. “Never mind. Tell me about Deputy Derek! You neglected him the other day, you still owe me half my information.”
His father huffed a ‘why me’ sigh, dragged a hand over his face before leaning back in his chair.
“Derek Hale, twenty six, only just recently moved to town. Beta in a fairly large pack – they used to hold territory here in California but they’ve moved east now from what I understand. His mother is their Alpha, rather well-known too, apparently. She’s a True Form.”
“Wow,” Stiles murmured, impressed. “That’s super rare.”
“Well?” Stiles demanded when the narrative didn’t resume. “What else?”
“Nothing else,” his dad answered, spreading his palms. “He just moved to town about a month ago, don’t know why or from where exactly. He needed a job, we needed another deputy… you do the math.”
Stiles humphed, somewhat disappointed with his source, but his father quickly distracted him.
“So why did you come down?” he asked, turning back to his computer once more. “I assume it wasn’t to count the tiles.”
“Oh yeah!” Stiles grinned, suddenly remembering his original purpose and feeling another flood of excitement surge through him. “I took your advice. You know, about the summer job? I made Google my bitch and found the perfect one!”
His dad cocked an eyebrow, unimpressed with Stiles’ pause for dramatic effect.
“Somebody needs a sitter for a bunch of werewolf kids!” he revealed with a flourish. “How awesome is that? So you have to write me a good reference and make sure my background check goes through.”
“Would it not?” his dad asked in his ‘I am the Sheriff’ voice. “That’s a huge commitment Stiles. A huge responsibility. Someone else’s kids…”
“Dad, I know,” Stiles said seriously. “Believe me. But this is what I want, you know? It’s why I’m studying social work…”
“I know son,” his father replied quietly, and a heavy silence abruptly enveloped the both of them as the image of the late Claudia Stilinski swam from the mists of memory. “Your mom would be proud of you Stiles,” he father said, his voice thick. “And I am too, even if I… don’t say it as often as I should.”
Stiles blinked away hot tears that suddenly filled his eyes, swallowing around the knot in his own throat. “Thanks dad,” he murmured.
“Yeah, well,” the Sheriff replied gruffly, breaking the tension stretched between them. “You’re still walking home. You stink, and I don’t want you in my cruiser.”
Chapter 4: What the Hell is a Stiles?
“Go order me a caramel macchiato,” Erica demanded. “Oh! And a blackberry muffin!”
“Why don’t I just get you a five pound bag of sugar and a spoon?” Derek grumbled, squeezing past her to get out of his seat and head towards the counter. It was way too early and the coffee shop was too crowded for his tastes, and the reason he was there wasn’t helping his attitude any either.
The curvy blonde just grinned, aware that he couldn’t say no to any request she put to him, no matter how much of a bad mood he was in. And he wouldn’t - not after everything she and her husband Boyd had done for him in the last three months. They had been invaluable in half a dozen ways, beloved friends and a source of pack when his own was so far away. Comfort, stability, not just for him but for the boys, who needed it so badly.
Waiting in line in the front of the coffee shop, Derek felt the heavy weight of responsibility come down on his shoulders again, the crushing fear that he wasn’t doing the right thing. It had been his constant nightmare ever since he’d moved down to Beacon hills from Colorado, that this wasn’t what was best for the triplets. Probably not for him either, but it was the only thing he could think of, the only way he knew to keep them… safe. Swallowing hard around the knot in his throat, he placed Erica’s order and headed back towards the booth near the window, this time sliding in across from her instead of at her side.
“Remind me why I’m here again?” he sighed heavily, scrubbing one hand down over his eyes.
“Relax,” Erica replied, flipping open the manila file folder on the table top in front of her. “Please? We’re early, so you’ve got a few minutes to get your grumpy face under control.”
Looking up from where he was idly tossing a creamer cup back and forth between his hands, Derek glared at the top of her curly golden hair and his eyes flashed a jeweled blue.
“That’s the one,” she muttered, pointing a finger at him without even bothering to glance at his face. “Seriously, I don’t want you scaring off another applicant.”
“That wasn’t my fault!” he growled indignantly, slouching back in the booth and crossing his arms over his chest.
He and Erica had interviewed five people so far, all women, but as soon as they’d had two minutes to run their eyes over him the whole thing had gone out the window. The three teenagers he could almost forgive, but the two house moms going through their mid-life crises he could not. Erica would have given one or two of them a chance but he’d shot that down, a shiver tripping along his spine at the thought of having any of them in his house, watching his kids. It must have shown on his face too, because as the interview had progressed they had all gone from smiles and flirtation to a nervous, withdrawn anxiety, and had practically run out the door upon dismissal, casting mixed looks of fear and lust at him over their shoulders.
“It was your fault,” Erica deadpanned.
“Then why am I even here?” he snapped. “You wrote the ad without my help, you can do this too.”
“Because, Derek,” she explained in a voice that clearly said she shouldn’t have to be doing just that. “You know I love the boys, but I can’t handle them full time any more. And I’m…” Here she paused, a sad little frown on her face, and guilt flared in her scent. “I’m sorry about that, but…”
“Erica,” he interrupted, reaching across the table to squeeze her fingers, “God, I’m not… I’m not mad. You know that right?” Cupping her chin in his hand, he lifted her face to meet her eyes, soft and anxious with guilt and worry. “I promise,” he urged. “And I get it, believe me. You and Boyd have your own kids, your own life - one that you put on hold for me when I needed you. But we both knew that couldn’t last forever, true? You’d go nuts taking care of all five of those kids every day by yourself, hell, anybody would. And now you’re starting a new job. ”
At the mention of her recent acceptance as a writer for a well-known werewolf mommy-blog Derek finally got a smile out of her, and the confidence that usually glowed around her came flooding back.
“Still,” she replied softly, closing the file in front of her, “I know this is hard for you. Finding someone you can trust to take care of them… I know how hard it is for me.”
“And that’s why we’re here,” he sighed, leaning back in his seat again.
“Exactly. I wrote a pretty good ad if I do say so myself, and everyone who’s replied meets those requirements, but we both know you’re going to want more than that, so…”
“I can’t help it Erica,” he mumbled, slumping his shoulders. “After everything we’ve been through, everything…” He frowned and looked away out the window, his throat tightening again. “It has to feel right. Has to feel safe.”
“And safe isn’t some high school cheerleader more interested in playing with you than your kids.”
Derek rolled his eyes. “No,” he replied flatly. “It’s definitely not.”
“And I get that,” Erica replied, scooting out of the booth as her name was called from somewhere behind the counter. “Really. But Derek…”
Derek abruptly regretted having gotten up to follow her as she linked her arm through his, pulling him in close to her side, even if it was nice - the nearness and the physical contact he’d missed so much lately since leaving his pack.
“And have to arrest myself for statutory?” he asked. “No thanks.”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” she scolded gently, bumping him with her shoulder as they slipped into line to pick up her coffee. “Going on a date once in a while wouldn’t kill you.”
Derek huffed a silent, derisive sort of laugh, causing Erica to blush heavily.
“Bad choice of words,” she admitted quietly. “But at least you can talk about it now, right? That has to mean something. Maybe going out…”
“I’m all right,” he promised. “We’re doing well, or as well as we can be I guess. But the kids are still adjusting to all of this, and I’m just… not looking right now, ok? And definitely not for teeny-boppers or empty-nest moms.”
“Fine,” Erica chuckled. “I’ll let it go. Besides, we’ve got someone a little different lined up today. A whole twenty years old, home for the summer from college. He’s studying social work and mythology…”
“A guy?” Derek asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“Is that a problem?” Erica asked, breezily enough because she knew it wasn’t.
“Just… different,” Derek replied. “Did he pass the background check?”
“With flying colors. This is our last chance Derek, and I think he’ll be a good fit. I mean, he lives in town, has a clean driving record. His name’s Stiles, I think he’s actually…”
“What the hell is a Stiles?” he interrupted. It was a weird name, but he was sure he’d heard it somewhere before…
“Oh, hey, that’s me!” a voice chirped, and Derek looked up to see the last person standing between them and the counter swinging around, a to-go cup of black coffee in his hand. “I’m a Sti…. Wait, Deputy Derek?!”
“Oh my God, you two know each other?” Erica grinned.
Derek just stared, apparently unable to find his tongue. It was the kid, the one from the station, the Sheriff’s kid. The one he’d crashed into and then snarled at, annoyed and confused by the way his wolf had immediately reacted to the boy, snuffling after the clean sweat that had soaked his hair and his shirt, devoured the flush that lit his cheekbones and dripped down the column of his throat beneath his collar. He looked calmer today - less frazzled, less smug. He was dressed in a pair of khakis and a navy button-down, the sleeves rolled up over his forearms, but there was still a crackling sort of energy to him, a strong, clean scent that tickled in his chest.
“Um, yeah,” the boy answered watching Derek nervously as he turned to Erica and offered her his hand. “We bumped in to each other at the station a few days ago. I’m Stiles… Stilinski. And you must be Mrs. Deputy Derek.”
Erica finally released Derek’s arm to return the handshake, all smiles as she laughed and shook her head. “Erica Boyd,” she corrected. “Derek’s a good friend of my husband and me. It’s nice to meet you Stiles.” Reaching around the young man to grab her coffee and muffin from the counter, she gestured towards their window booth. “Shall we?” Aiming a less than discreet kick at Derek’s ankles, she led Stiles back to the booth, leaving him to trail along behind.
“So Stiles,” Erica began, opening up the file folder she’d left on the table and taking a sip of her macchiato as Stiles slipped in across from her, “You’re background check and your driving record came back clean that’s wasn’t your dad’s doing was it?”
Derek’s eyes went wide as he slid in next to her, shocked by her forwardness, but Stiles just laughed, a full, pleasant sound that was calming on his nerves, still jangled by the surprise encounter.
“Nah,” he answered easily. “Beacon Hills is in good hands their Sheriff isn’t one for falsifying records.”
Erica smiled back but Derek felt frozen, unsure why he couldn’t seem to shake himself out of his shock. He sat silent as stone on the red vinyl bench, his hands gripping his thighs beneath the edge of the table, and his silence seemed to be taking its toll. Erica was glaring at him, waiting for him to speak, and Stiles was turning his coffee cup nervously between his hands, opening and closing his mouth as though he weren’t sure if he should speak at all.
Derek had just made up his mind to let the quiet reign when the young man across from him swallowed, frowned, and looked up to meet his eyes.
“Look, if this is weird I can go,” he said finally, jerking a thumb back over his shoulder at the door. “I mean, my dad’s your boss that’s gotta be weird.”
“No!” Erica yelped beside him, practically lunging across the table. “It’s fine, really.”
Neither Derek nor Stiles spared her a glance.
They were too busy locked in their own little staring match.
And that was something different for him. Something that his wolf took great interest in. He wasn’t used to his gaze being held so strongly – he maintained a fairly high position within his mother’s pack, and so Stiles’ steady amber contemplation was challenging in a way that put a spark of excitement in his belly. It reminded him of the rare glass of honeyed aconite-whiskey he indulged in, deep and warm but with a strong bite hiding underneath it, and it made him wonder… The others had shied from his cold dismissal but so far Stiles hadn’t, and in a perverse little push Derek flashed his eyes, eager to note the boy’s reaction.
It wasn’t the one he expected.
Stiles cocked an eyebrow, smirked before lifting his coffee cup and taking a sip, grimacing and reaching for a packet of sugar.
“Should probably apologize before I go,” he said casually, tearing open the little pink package and swirling the cup around. “Didn’t mean to freak you out the other day.”
Derek frowned, opened his mouth to protest but Stiles cut him off.
“Dude, you looked like a man headed for the firing squad.” He paused, his cup halfway to his mouth and grinned. “Hah! Firing squad. Anyway. I’ve got some sway down at the station, true. Happens when you grow up there. But I don’t have that much. My dad’s not gonna fire you just for threatening to throw me in a holding cell. Hell, he’d probably promote you if you managed to pull it off.”
“You threatened your boss’s son?” Erica hissed.
“What? No!” Derek protested indignantly before turning on Stiles with a scowl. “And don’t call me dude! If you’ve got the power to get me hired, you can get me fired too!”
“Please,” Stiles snorted, taking another sip of his coffee before apparently giving up on it and pushing it away. “I just told you, that’s not going to happen.” Placing his hands flat on the table, he moved to stand, sliding from the bench to his feet. “You’ll see. It’s a pretty good group down there.”
“Stiles wait!” Erica pleaded, placing her hand on Derek’s shoulder and shoving as though she wanted out of the booth, wanted to be able to grab the kid and hold him back. “Please? We’d still like to do the interview, and you’re kind of our last hope here.”
Surprise flitted over the boy’s face but he masked it quickly, aiming a look at Derek that clearly asked the question. Huffing, he frowned but waved a hand all the same, watching silently as he sank back down into the booth, folding his hands together on the table.
“Kinda showing your hand there,” he said calmly, looking between the two of them, but Erica just shrugged.
“I won’t say we’re desperate,” she answered simply. “But we’re kind of desperate.”
“Your kids then?” he asked, his eyes flicking over to Derek again and running over his Deputy’s uniform. “And you’re here to, what? Scare the new nanny?”
“They’re my kids,” Derek snarled, and he could feel his teeth sharpen in his mouth.
It was a touchy subject - sue him.
Stiles didn’t respond, just nodded, tapping the middle fingers of his right hand against the table top.
“Like I said, my husband and I are friends of the family,” Erica said, clearly attempting to smooth the tension between them. “I’ve been watching the boys for the last few weeks, but I’m starting a new job soon, so I’m helping Derek find a sitter. If you get the job I’ll be helping you get situated as well, show you a few of the ropes. And I’ll be working from home, so I’m an easy emergency contact if you ever need any help.”
“Should I be anticipating a lot of emergencies?” he asked.
Erica’s mouth quirked but Derek thought it was a good question, one that hadn’t been asked yet by any of the other applicants.
“That depends,” Erica replied. “Tell us a little bit about yourself. What kind of experience do you have with kids and werewolves?”
“Well,” Stiles began, settling back into his seat. “I do have a lot of experience with kids. I used to watch my younger cousins a lot, and I’m getting my degree in social work, so I’m doing the academic stuff. We’re also required to do field work and service learning projects, so I’ve worked with kids in schools and in hospitals, anywhere from six months to thirteen years old. You have my letters of recommendation?”
“I do,” Erica replied, shuffling some papers before sliding the file over in front of Derek. He hadn’t read any of it yet, trusting her to do the preliminary legwork in his stead, but he was still intrigued.
“Why social work?” he asked, sure that it was unusual for a young man’s major even though he’d never gotten the chance to go to college himself. “Not a job that a lot of guys go in for.”
Stiles chewed on his lip for a minute, apparently debating whether or not to answer, and it put Derek on alert.
“I’m not a perv, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Stiles finally answered back before tapping his hand against his chest. “No lie, right?”
Derek frowned but shook his head. His heartbeat hadn’t skipped a note.
“My mom was a social worker,” the young man blurted suddenly, and his cheeks flushed as he looked down at the tabletop. “She helped a lot of kids, so…”
Derek noticed the past tense but didn’t quite understand it. The Sheriff still wore a wedding ring, but the scent of sorrow was hanging heavy in the air around him. Erica noticed it too, and was quick to steer the conversation forward.
“Any experience with werewolves in particular?” she asked, and Stiles immediately brightened, a grin lighting him up.
“Yeah, definitely,” he smiled. “My best friend, Scott, he’s a werewolf. He was turned by a rogue alpha in high school, so of course he didn’t have a pack. I pretty much did all the work.” Here he snickered, running his thumb along the edge of his lower lip - a movement Derek’s eyes followed intently. “I did a ton of research, one of my many hidden talents, and basically taught him how to be a werewolf. I remember, this one time, I spent the day pelting him with lacrosse balls to teach him how to control his…”
Trailing off, his eyes went wide as he paled, throwing up his hands.
“Not that I would ever…”
Erica was laughing but Derek just watched him grimly, his face dark until Stiles swallowed and began bouncing his knee under the table.
“Derek, stop it,” Erica scolded, smacking him in the ribs.
“Anyway,” Stiles continued. “I learned a lot from him, from helping him. We’ve picked up some friends along the way too – one of them lives in town, Isaac Lahey?”
“Oh, we’ve met Isaac!” Erica smiled, and Derek nodded.
He’d come across the young beta on a run just a few days after moving in, and they’d spoken a few times since, gravitating towards each other as wolves without pack were wont to do.
Stiles nodded, tapped his fingers on the table and continued.
“So I’ve got my own car. Um… I’m a pretty good cook, so I’m cool with the shopping and stuff. No plans for the summer, so I can do mornings or nights, whatever you need. And I’m clear for August… you need help with a family reunion right?”
“Road trip,” Derek corrected, heaviness flooding his chest as he thought about the ordeal scheduled at the end of his summer. “It’s… hours up to Colorado, and flying’s out, so we’re driving. The pack is all coming in, and it’s loud and crazy and pretty much just a mess, so I need another pair of eyes.”
“That’s not a problem,” Stiles said, looking contemplative. “I could do that.”
“Sounds like you’d be a pretty good match,” Erica said confidently. “Do you have any questions for us?”
“Yeah, one.” Stiles frowned, chewing his lip again, and Derek could hear his heart pick up. “Where’s mom?”
Derek felt like ice water had been poured into his lungs, locking up his airways and sending a shiver down his spine. His hands had tightened around the edges of the table and he knew his eyes were glowing but he couldn’t pull it back, any more than he could pull back the low growl that was somehow clawing its way out of his chest. Erica was looking at him anxiously, hissing his name but he ignored her, spitting out his answer through clenched teeth.
“She’s not in the picture,” he snarled. “Understood?”
“Easy dude,” Stiles responded in a low, smooth voice, his spiking pulse belying the force behind his calm tone. “I’m not asking to be a dick, ok? Sheriff’s kid here. I just need to know what kind of contact she’s allowed to have.”
“None,” Erica answered for him, stomping the spike of her heel into his boot and giving him another five seconds to get himself under control. “Derek has full custody and a restraining order against the boys’ mother. She’s not allowed within five hundred yards of the kids, ok?”
“Not necessary,” Derek growled, eyes still bright blue. “She’s in prison, and that’s not about to change.”
“Heavy,” he said seriously. “Anything else I should know?”
“We haven’t scared you off?” Erica asked warily.
“Shit happens,” Stiles replied diplomatically. “And I get that you don’t really want to talk about it, but if anything changes… just don’t leave me out of the loop yeah? I like to know who my bad guys are.”
And that, that simple statement of acceptance, had all the anger flooding out of him. This kid, who he hadn’t even hired yet, was already taking possession of Derek’s past mistakes, already standing up as a shield between his kids and the shadows that haunted their steps. None of the others had given even the slightest signs that they might come to eventually care for his boys, none of them had ever even gotten so far as this. Erica was saying something to Stiles but Derek couldn’t hear anything but a dull ringing in his ears. Shaking his head minutely, he pushed down the wolf inside him, shook the strange warmth that had settled along his spine and dragged himself back to awareness, just in time to hear Erica issuing the invitation that would set the rest of Derek’s summer into motion.
“… come over tomorrow and meet the kids?”
“That’d be awesome!” Stiles replied, and his excitement was as evident in his voice as in the wide grin splitting his face. “I mean, I’m going to have a ton more questions, so that’ll be perfect.”
Taking the file back from Derek, Erica pulled out a notecard that she’d apparently prepared ahead of time and slid it across the table.
“Here’s mine and Derek’s number, our email addresses, and directions to the house,” she explained, pushing Derek out of the booth and getting to her feet to shake Stiles’ hand. “We’ll see you at two!”
“Absolutely, I’ll be there! Thanks again Erica, it was nice meeting you.” Shooting Derek a smile, he aimed a pair of finger guns his way. “Later Deputy Derek!” he grinned, clicking his tongue, and then he was gone, pushing out the door of the coffee shop and climbing into a heavy blue jeep before roaring off down the street.
Derek exhaled for what felt like the first time in hours, suddenly drained outside of the oddly-electrifying presence of the other man. He was… alert, and intelligent, and unafraid. Honest. And he seemed to have a good heart. More than that, his wolf was attracted to the boy, the scent of him and the way he flushed.
“So that’s a Stiles,” Erica said at his side, the both of them still staring out the window after the boy’s exit. “I like him.
Chapter 5: Challenge
He’d said it before, and he was going to say it again.
When he’d headed for his interview that morning at the little corner cafe, the last person he’d expected to be waiting for him was the dark and hunky Deputy Derek. He’d almost dropped his coffee all over his shoes when he’d turned at the sound of his name and practically crashed into the man. Heat had flooded through his body all the way down to his toes, and he’d had to bite back a hum of delighted interest before his brain had caught up with the excitement spiking in his blood. An awkward beat of silence had killed the sparkler that had been lit in his belly, that and the fact that he’d dragged his eyes away from Derek’s long enough to notice the beautiful, curly-haired blonde tucked in close to Derek’s side, her elbow linked with his.
He was ashamed to think of the relief he’d felt when the two had pulled apart with casual ease and Erica had introduced herself as a family friend. Moving forward on the assumption that it was her and her husband’s children he was interviewing as a sitter for, he’d followed them to a booth in the back of the café with significantly more nervousness than he’d felt getting dressed that morning. It wasn’t that she’d called in a cop friend to vet the new nanny – he had plenty of practice charming cops and his references were sparkling. No, it was the fact that she’d brought this cop. His physical attraction to the man aside, they hadn’t really gotten off on the right foot, and he didn’t want any misunderstandings between them to taint Erica’s opinion of his suitability to the job.
To his immense relief, the interview had started off pretty basically, and he’d both admired and enjoyed the straightforward, almost aggressive way that Erica had driven right in. A smile had softened the killing edge of her questions, enough that Stiles was able to laugh and ease off his nerves just enough to focus on firing right back with a professional yet easy-going attitude instead of just making googoo eyes at the lump of broody stone sitting next to her. That hadn’t lasted long though the heavy, silent scrutiny had
quickly become so uncomfortable for Stiles that he had offered to leave, despite truly wanting a real shot at getting the job. Caught in a staring contest, he hadn’t really heard Erica’s plea for him to stay it was the challenge Derek put to him that had him sinking back into the booth with a grin and just a little bit of cockiness. There were few things as difficult as a challenge for Stiles to resist, and the gorgeous sapphire blue Derek had flashed him was like the toss of a gauntlet, a red cape in front of a fighting bull.
Tapping the steering wheel in time to the beat of The Arcade Fire, Stiles bit his lip and considered what he thought to be the most important points of his interview namely that the triplets in question were Derek’s. He seemed… touchily possessive of that fact, and Stiles didn’t necessarily blame him. There was definitely dark water there, and though he’d made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t interested in discussing his custody arrangement, it was a conversation that they were going to have to have. Mom in prison, no visitation, a restraining order… and unless he missed his guess a hell of a lot of anger.
Stiles himself had a long history of carelessly waltzing his way into the middle of a dangerous situation, true, but this time it wasn’t only his hide he had to worry about. This time there were going to be three little werewolves relying on him, and to a similar extent, their dad.
And man, if they looked anything like their dad, Stiles was going to be completely screwed. He was already a sucker for a pair of puppy-dog eyes, a fact he was well aware of thanks to Scott and Isaac. Throw in Derek’s thick, dark hair and sharp bone structure and multiply it by three? Those kids would be getting away with murder, because Stiles would be putty in their hands.
Pulling onto Main Street, he hunted up a parking spot that would fit the jeep and killed the engine, leaping down to the curb and heading across the sidewalk to the local ‘everything-you-need-and-more’ store. Even if half his attention was still stuck on the deep blue of Derek’s wolf’s eyes, or the way his black deputy’s uniform clung to his shoulders in all the right ways, the other half was fully engaged, totally non-distracted.
He was so totally distracted.
Having learned that Derek was a werewolf, he wouldn’t have necessarily been bothered if the guy knew Stiles had a jones for him – heck, the way he saw it, that was one hell of a time saver. But now Derek was going to be his boss, he was going to be taking care of the guy’s kids… it would just be weird. He was going to have to keep a serious chain on his libido because he never wanted to have to explain to the triplets why he started to smell funny whenever daddy was around. Just the thought of that conversation had his cheeks flaring and his eyes sticking themselves to the floor in embarrassment. No thank you.
And anyway, Derek was apparently into chicks. Maybe not exclusively, but with Stiles’ luck he would turn out to be straight up hetero and none too impressed by any flirtation he was weak-willed enough to let slip over the summer.
Of course, that was probably presumptuous in either case, thinking he’d gotten the job. Heck, he might even be jinxing himself. But the Boy Scouts got one thing right – he’d rather be prepared than not.
Locating the crafts aisle, Stiles was quick to find a pocket-sized notebook with a heavy cover and a package of plastic tabs. Over-organization was a tool he’d learned to use his first year of college, and color-coordination had become an exceptionally good friend. Assigning a color to each kid would help him keep favorite foods and movies straight, help him remember who had allergies and who needed a song instead of a story to get to sleep.
He could only pray that the kids weren’t identical.
He didn’t have a super-sniffer to help him tell them apart.
Still, that gave him an idea.
Poking around the aisle some more, he located the stickers over by the scrapbooking kits, and hey, there were superhero ones! Jackpot! Stiles executed a little fist pump before snapping those up, and if he grabbed a set for himself too that was his business. Judge him all you like, but if he could buy a little good will with presents while at the same time gifting the kids with something that would help him to tell them apart, it was a total win-win.
Stiles tapped his notebook against his thigh with a barely contained excitement as he moseyed through the aisles, browsing and waiting for inspiration to strike. He considered crayons and coloring books, really had to hold himself back from splurging on a set of three plastic, moldable dinosaurs that were quite possibly the coolest toys he’d seen in a long time. He didn’t have a problem shelling out a little bit of cash, but he had no idea what kind of toys the boys already had, what kind of toys they liked or weren’t allowed to play with. He wasn’t sure if five year olds still chewed on bits and pieces, but he figured werewolf kids probably chewed a little more than normal. More research for later then. Plus, Erica had promised she’d give him a ton of tips when he came for a late lunch the next day to meet the kids.
Heading towards the grocery section, Stiles allowed himself a grin. He was actually really looking forward to meeting the boys tomorrow, maybe even more so than getting to know Derek a little bit better. He hadn’t lied he loved kids and he loved working with them, probably because he could relate to them so well. He was still kind of an awkward, gangly kid himself most of the time, and he definitely knew how to play that to his advantage. He knew he was going to have to do the question and answer thing tomorrow and that he was probably going to push some buttons and quite possibly stick his foot in his mouth, but even that couldn’t dampen his spirits. He was excited to meet this family and learn some more about them, to see their home and share a meal with them.
For a small town, Beacon Hills still did pretty well as far as getting good produce in was concerned, and Stiles had just zeroed in on fresh blackberries, fat and juicy and ripe. He may not be hosting, but his mother had always told him that you never went to dinner empty-handed, and she’d passed on a deep love of cooking to her son along with a folder full of family recipes, one of which happened to be a blackberry crumble. It was pretty safe as far as allergies went, low in sugar and of course full of fruit, so it seemed like the perfect option. Selecting two cartons of the dark, glossy berries, he tucked them under his arm and headed for a few more staples that he knew they were running low back at home.
He was headed for the registers when he got the zap of inspiration he’d been waiting for.
He’d decided to cut through menswear in order to avoid old Ms. Planchett, who he’d spied at the end of an aisle lecturing an employee about the way the spaghetti-o cans were stacked, and he was glad he did because this was a good idea. Clever, if he did say so himself, and it could very well be his saving grace in the coming weeks. Pretty simple though, and easy to execute, a pack of three cotton t-shirts, solid grey with a shallow v-neck. He had to guess the size, but he’s ogled Derek’s chest enough in the last couple days that he was fairly confident he’d gotten it right. It wouldn’t really matter anyway Stiles wasn’t looking for him to get up on the catwalk and model the damn things.
If that was what he was going for, he’d have grabbed the Batman briefs…
‘Stop,’ he told himself, rolling his eyes.
Stiles wasn’t surprised that his brain kept coming back around to crushing on Deputy Derek. He had a terrible history of going in for torture, case in point one Lydia Martin. He had a hard time letting go of what he couldn’t have, didn’t know when to quit.
He definitely knew when to quit.
What was it that Alice had said? ‘I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it?’
Yeah. That sounded about right.
At least he wasn’t as clueless as Alice. He knew what his problem was.
Couldn’t walk away from it.
Lydia had been a challenge until she wasn’t anymore, and then she’d become a dear friend. Now Derek was presenting in the same way - pushing, testing him with a dare. More than that, Stiles was… terribly attracted to him and knew he couldn’t have him. That was going to nip at him constantly – he just knew it.
Handing over the last of his cash, Stiles grabbed his purchases and headed back outside to the jeep, cranking the engine and heading for home. He was already thinking up a list of Google search words to start his research – he wanted to be well-prepared going into lunch tomorrow. He needed to get a handle on what being five meant so that he could write up a list of questions that would help him translate what being a five year old werewolf meant. Get himself nice and organized, start dinner, maybe nap…
Stifling a yawn, Stiles found himself grinning widely as he cranked the radio. He’d gotten up way too early and all the emotional self-scolding had exhausted him, but he hadn’t felt this good in a long time eager, excited, a little nervous but in a good way…
This was gonna be awesome.
Chapter 6: Glare
“You’re cleaning,” Erica said with significant surprise when she stepped into Derek’s house the next afternoon. “Oh my God, you’re cleaning!”
“It’s not the second coming Erica,” Derek snarled under his breath, giving the kitchen counters one last vicious swipe before wringing the rag out with a nasty twist and dropping it over the lip of the sink to dry. “Christ.”
“This from the man who tricks his kids into collecting the dirty laundry every weekend,” the blonde smirked, taking a seat at the island bar as she watched him turn toward the little closet in the corner. “And don’t think Charlotte didn’t tell me about how you bribed her into… Wait, why do I smell lemon?”
Derek just glared at her over the top of the mop bucket, tossing the seldom-used bottle of pine sol back into the cabinet before starting in the far corner between the counters and backing his way towards the open dining room.
“You can tell Charlie she owes me three dollars,” he grumbled as he watched the mop swish back and forth over the linoleum. “Her fee got doubled for silence.”
“She’s seven Derek, what did you expect?”
Glancing up when she fell eerily silent, Derek caught the glint in Erica’s eye and wished he’d kept his own on the floor.
“You like this guy!” She accused with relish.
It was an out of hand denial, one he didn’t think about too much, and as such it passed the muster of werewolf lie detection, but he could tell from the blatantly disapproving look on her face that she didn’t believe him.
“Please,” she scoffed, flicking a curl back over her shoulder. “You don’t clean Derek. And your house smells like…” Here she paused, closed her eyes and breathed in long and slow and steady. “Well, like three five year olds and their bachelor dad don’t live in it.”
“And that’s a bad thing?” he asked, lifting the bucket of dirty water and pouring it carefully down the drain. “Should I have left socks and toys and dirty dishes all over the place instead, scared the kid off?” Shoving the mop into the closet with more anger than was warranted, he turned to brace his hands against the edge of the counter, looking her hard in the eye. “You were right when you said he was our last chance,” he said firmly. “I can’t put you out any more than I already have.”
“Don’t do that,” she warned, suddenly all fierce insistence as her eyes flashing gold and she pointed one long, ruby-painted fingernail in his direction. “Don’t you do that. We talked about this.”
Huffing a sigh, Derek looked away. She was right and he knew it, but it was still hard. He was living on a tight wire, always in a state of hyperawareness, rethinking every decision, certain that his best wasn’t enough and it was exhausting.
“You aren’t doing anything wrong Derek,” Erica insisted quietly, and he wasn’t surprised that she’d practically read his mind. “It’s ok for you to feel this way, to be nervous. It’s normal. You love the boys, and need this to feel right. Feel safe. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Maybe not,” he murmured. “But I need to get over it. I can’t do this by myself…”
“And you don’t have to,” Erica asserted, getting to her feet and rounding the counter so that she could run her hand down his arm and squeeze his wrist reassuringly. “Boyd and I are more than happy to do anything we can for you and the boys. I know it’s hard for you… asking for help, but…”
A low whine escaped her throat and she pressed her forehead to his shoulder, unable to express with words what she wanted to say, but Derek heard her loud and clear. A purr-like rumble rolled out of his chest as he turned towards her, halfway drew her in to his side by curling one hand around the back of her neck in a gesture of comfort. He was no Alpha, but Beacon Hills had been without for a long time and he was the closest thing to it that any of the random scattering of wolves had. Having held such a high position in his mother’s pack, grown up inside a tightly-knit family of wolves, he knew the importance of keeping others close. A wolf’s strength was its pack, and he needed strength now.
“Don’t worry about me,” he mumbled into Erica’s hair. “I’m all right Erica. I promise. I can’t thank you and Boyd enough for what you’ve done for us the last few months, but if you can just help get me through this…”
Erica’s laugh tinkled like bells and he felt the belt around his heart loosen as she pulled away and slapped him playfully on the shoulder.
“It’s gonna be fine,” she promised. “Just… try not to glare so much this time ok?”
“I don’t glare,” he muttered under his breath, but he knew from the smirk that this time Erica had heard the uptick in his heartbeat.
“Besides, it’s more important for the boys to like him than me,” he continued, watching Erica dive into the refrigerator after the box of sandwiches she’d advised him to pick up that morning. The position only muffled her derisive snort so much.
“Where are the boys?” she asked as she emerged. “Upstairs?”
“Outside,” he replied, his eyes moving automatically to the French doors that opened out onto the small patio and the sprawling expanse of green lawn ringed by the Preserve. They gave him a clean, clear view of the backyard but he didn’t need it to know that all three of the boys were playing in the sandbox he’d built for them beneath a large, spreading Canyon Live Oak. His heightened senses were perfectly attuned to each of them, the individual cadence of their voices and their heartbeats, the scent of them and their emotions, that last, unidentifiable feeling that told him when something wasn’t quite right…
He’d sent them out to play about five minutes before Erica had arrived, desperate to get them out from underfoot as he dashed around gathering up the scattered bits and pieces that somehow accumulated no matter how hard he tried to keep things organized. Regardless of the defense he’d thrown to the blonde beta, it was damned hard keeping a clean house when he had three little wolves running around. Harder still, when they sensed that something was up, squinted at him with suspicious faces and dogged his steps when he’d told them that company was coming later that day, someone new that he wanted them to meet. As necessary as it was for Derek, his wolf to accept Stiles, to trust him, it was just as vital that the boys accept him too.
Scrubbing his hands down over his face, Derek grumbled with frustration.
It wasn’t the first time that he was hit with the desire to know Stiles better.
As far as he was concerned, it was a desire that came out of left field, simple curiosity directed at the strange, gangly boy with the pale skin and whiskey-colored eyes. The boy he’d first seen falling out of a rusty blue jeep, and then again heading for his boss’s office, soaked in a clean, musky sweat that was all male and made his wolf want to snuffle at the curve of his neck, even as his job was threatened by his own stupidity. It was maddening, especially when his hackles were still up, his teeth still bared in warning at the stranger stepping into his den. The boys’ senses weren’t even close to fully-developed, but calling Stiles a friend in an attempt to ease his way would be too big a lie to hide, even from them.
“Stop thinking,” Erica commanded flatly, her eyes on her hands as she worked on putting together the little lunch they’d soon be having. “You glare when you think.”
Derek frowned, directing said glare in her direction before glancing at the clock.
Oh god, what was he going to do with ten minutes? He’d drive himself crazy sitting here thinking.
“Go outside Derek,” Erica said with an annoyed sort of pity as he drummed his fingers anxiously against the countertop. “It won’t do any good for you to be a twitchy mess when he gets here. Take the boys for a quick run, work it off. I can answer the door.”
“What would I do without you?” he breathed in relief, already up from the stool and on his way to the door.
Erica’s happy chuckle followed him out.
“You can do this, you can do this, you can do this!” Stiles chanted, quickly and quietly under his breath.
But he was excited, anxious, determined not to mess this up.
Unfortunately, Stiles knew himself well, and the chances of that happening weren’t great. He was fully prepared to put his foot in his mouth, make some serious goof ups, because he only trusted Scott and the internet so far. His knowledge of wolf rules was limited to what he knew of his friends and what he could find on the computer, but Derek came from a large, well-established pack, and Stiles imagined that his expectations of behavior would be very different from Scott or Isaac’s.
Heck, when he went to Scottie’s the beta greeted him by bounding down the hall towards the doorway with all the exuberance of a puppy, leaping on him and grabbing him round the neck to rub their cheeks together.
He couldn’t see Derek doing that.
He was betting more on the glare-of-death than a welcoming party.
Jumping down from his jeep he crossed to the passenger side, grabbing his backpack off the front seat and shrugging into it before carefully lifting the travel dish he’d wrapped in a fluffy bath towel to keep warm on the drive over. Slamming the door, he turned to face the house, a newly built two-story tucked neatly into trees along the far side of the Preserve. It was nicely painted with a bright red door and a little porch along the front, small pots of yellow flowers at either end that Stiles would name as house-warming gifts if he had to, but all the same the little house still seemed to loom above him, just a little bit shadowed and doom-holding.
Stiles huffed, shook his head at his own musings.
Not of a bunch of little werewolves, and definitely not of the intimidatingly gorgeous Deputy Derek.
Gathering his confidence he strode up the steps of the little porch and used his elbow to hit the buzzer to the left of the door, frowning when his eyes found the peep hole that was actually a cleverly disguised security camera. Beacon Hills didn’t run to that type of thing and he had to wonder at the reasoning behind it. A cop lived here, a werewolf cop at that, so the extra measure was something that he took note of.
Snapping back to attention when he heard footsteps on the other side of the door, Stiles swallowed, a tingle rolling down over the back of his neck and shoulders.
He was about to walk into a strange wolf’s den, and given the way Derek had glared and flashed his
eyes the morning before in the coffee shop, he wasn’t sure that he was entirely welcome.
Rocked with the sudden urge to run, Stiles bit his lower lip and almost turned, but then the door was being pulled open and Erica was there, all bouncy blonde curls and a wide, almost suspicious smile.
“Hi Stiles!” she smiled, pushing the door wide and gesturing him inside. “Come on in!”
“Um, thanks,” he grinned back nervously, shuffling sideways past her as she closed the door behind him. “I wasn’t sure…”
“If I’d be here?” she asked, leading him down the short entryway past a large family room. “Admit it, you were happy to see me on the other side of that door.”
Stiles made a hesitant sort of sound, unsure of how to respond, but Erica just laughed.
“Promised I’d be here to help, didn’t I?” she tossed over her shoulder with a smile. “Derek would be lost without me anyways.”
“I just…” Stiles began, but then his feet stopped moving and his eyes went wide as saucers. “Holy KitchenAid!”
“Hmm, disgusting, isn’t it?” Erica hummed, her own eyes flitting around the airy, open kitchen, separated from the dining area by a long, slender island bar. “He doesn’t even cook.”
“Don’t blaspheme,” Stiles answered in a reprimanding tone, having finally collected his jaw from the floor. “It’s a live-in nanny I’m applying for, wasn’t it?”
This got a full, happy laugh out of the werewolf. “You’d move in to a house full of five year old werewolves for a kitchen?” she asked, a smile still in her voice. “You’re insane.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Stiles muttered distractedly, still looking around. “Seems like it would have its perks.”
Her tone had Stiles jerking back to attention, abruptly aware of what he’d just said, and he fought to keep himself from blushing like a twelve-year-old. Clearing his throat awkwardly, he avoided Erica’s piercing gaze and lifted the dish he was clutching like it could shield him from her intense interest.
“Oven?” he asked, heading around the island.
“All yours,” she replied, following close behind him and leaning over his shoulder, uncomfortably close as he turned on the pilot light and tucked the dish inside to stay warm. “What is that, it smells incredible! I didn’t want to creep you out but wow…”
Leaning in close, Erica inhaled a huge lungful of air from the vicinity of his neck, making Stiles jump.
“It’s um, blackberry, it’s blackberry cobbler,” he yipped, swaying a little bit away from her, trying to make it look natural and failing spectacularly.
“Yeah, I told you, I cook a little…”
“Nu-uh,” Erica denied, “No way are you passing that off as a casual hobby. I can smell it on your skin. Kinda makes me wanna…”
“Dessert after veggies!” Stiles yelped, darting away from the werewolf who was licking her lips, a ring of gold around her pupils. There was a wicked, flirtatious sort of edge to her but he was getting the feeling that this was just how Erica was, playful in her own way, and while he wasn’t entirely at ease with her behavior, he supposed he could adapt.
She had promised to help.
“Fine,” she huffed, crossing her arms and sticking her lower lip out in a pout. “But just so we’re clear, I think you’re a tease, Stiles Stilinski!”
Stiles spluttered, his cheeks flaring warmly as he looked down, automatically rethinking the worn, dove-grey jeans and black t-shirt he’d layered with a red, black, and grey checked flannel, the sleeves of his red zip-up hoodie pushed to his elbows. Erica rolled her eyes, came round the island to his side and grabbed him by the shoulders, steering him towards a pair of open French doors.
“Come on,” she grumbled good-naturedly, “The boys are outside with Derek.”
Grabbing on to his composure as his heartbeat fired up, Stiles stepped out onto the flagstone patio edged on either side by curving, cushioned benches, reaching up to shield his eyes from the afternoon sun. The house had evidently been built in a natural clearing, the heavy wood of the Preserve ringing a wide, grassy yard, a large, spreading oak off to one side shading a little swing set and sandbox. All of this was a fleeting observation because a few yards off in the middle of the lawn Derek was on his hands and knees, wrestling with three fuzzy-cheeked little boys who bounced and snarled and swarmed all over him.
Stiles felt a smile threaten to crack his jaw, felt his tension melt away as he slowly sank down on the edge of the patio, resting his elbows on his knees as he watched. He could feel Erica standing behind him and wondered if he should’ve gone down to introduce himself but he was content at the moment just to watch as Derek roughhoused with his kids, teeth flashing in a grin as he sat back on his heels, hanging one little boy upside down from each arm as the third clung to his back. He was smiling, really smiling, and the two kids he’d turned over were shrieking with giggles, and Stiles couldn’t help but break into a laugh of his own.
Three little heads immediately turned in his direction but it was Derek’s flashing blue gaze that snapped over to his like the crack of a bull-whip, eyebrows dropping over the increasingly familiar sapphire death-glare.
Chapter 7: Smells Good!
Call it whatever you want, it was one of the greatest and brightest things in Derek’s life - crowding together with pack, running roughshod over each other, bumping shoulders and nipping at flanks, fur on fur trading scent until you weren’t just you anymore, you were family. Up in Oregon with his mother’s pack, as a pup and later as a teenager lanky with youth, it had been the very best of times to shift with brothers and sisters and cousins on every side, to run through the forest with abandon, hunting and howling together until the moon had fallen again and the sun was pushing up above the treetops. It was all bonding and instinct and family and very near to his heart, and it still was.
Three little boys, three tiny werewolf pups.
It was their favorite game too, and he indulged them as often as he could.
Having been firmly ordered from the house by Erica, Derek had gone immediately for the sandbox where the boys were playing and caught all three of them up, flashing his eyes in an invitation to come and play. They immediately leapt to the challenge, blinking bright golden eyes back at him and letting their shift shiver over their bodies, little gapped teeth sharpening in their mouths and chubby cheeks growing fuzzy with downy sideburns. They darted through the trees around the edge of the yard for a bit, playing tag with each other as they yipped and squealed, but he kept them in close to the house, unwilling to wander too deep into the Preserve even though his own muscles were tingling with pent up energy that he desperately wanted to run off.
Herding them back into the center of the wide, green lawn, he dropped to his hands and knees and growled playfully, prouder than words when all three of the boys showed their teeth and growled right back. It was all pretend really but it was good to see them challenge him, even if they had no realistic hope of triumph. Only just turned five, their instincts were barely starting to develop, and yet they still knew when to submit, when they needed to heed a warning and when it was ok for them to be frisky and snarly and forward. It gave him hope for the future, for the dreaded teenage years, and for now it made him feel… safe.
Derek made a few chuffing sounds deep in his throat and all three of the boys came charging at him, growling like puppies and showing him their teeth as they piled on top of him, and for a few minutes he just buffeted them gently back and forth, letting them roll him over and over in the grass until he reached out and began to tickle whichever belly he could reach, and then they were shrieking and giggling and turning tail, darting away in three different directions. Feeling his wolf surge forward in his chest, he set his sights on one of the triplets and gave chase, scooping the little boy up with a roar voiced in a human tone. The results were immediate, drawing the other two back like filings to a magnet as they came running to their brother’s aid.
Little hands tugged on his belt and the pockets of his jeans as they pulled at him, bringing him down to his knees again so that they could climb him like a jungle-gym, wrestle and swarm as he grabbed first for one and then another, never quite able to win out against all three small, squirming bodies. As soon as he got hold of two the third was pinching at his sides or nipping at his sleeves, leaving tiny holes in his cotton t-shirt. Keeping up a steady stream of gentle growls and lovingly gruff play-words, he tumbled them around and rolled them back and forth, sitting back on his heels to throw one pup each over his shoulders, smiling widely when they squealed and laughed at the thrill of being tipped upside-down. He darted a quick glance around the yard having temporarily lost sight of his last little charge, but he was braced and ready for a sneak attack when the tiny werewolf leapt onto his shoulders and slurped a wet doggy lick up the side of his neck behind his ear, the only ticklish spot he had.
Ready, but not for the smooth, deep laugh that chimed clearly and cheerfully from the direction of the porch.
Derek felt all three of his boys go stiff as they turned toward the sound, felt his eyes flash as his instincts drove in hard to the front of his mind, demanding he stand and protect, find the one intruding into his territory and this moment of happy, easy play and fight but he reigned it in, biting down hard on his control. To his surprise, that feeling drained away almost immediately when his gaze landed on the young man in the red hoodie sitting on the steps of his porch. He hadn’t heard Stiles’ jeep in the drive, hadn’t heard Erica let him through to the backyard, but that didn’t worry him nearly as much as the way his wolf instantly settled, calm a gentle weight low in his belly. Frowning, he lowered the boys slowly to the ground and scented the air, cocking his head when he caught the sweet, juicy smell of fat, ripe blackberries. It was strong and abrupt, made his mouth water and his fangs prickle, and for the space of a heartbeat he saw himself lapping at a smooth expanse of pale skin stained dark with the fragrant crush of the rich fruit before the image sank like a stone into the dark place inside his psyche where he pushed all the things he didn’t want to deal with.
He didn’t like this kid, couldn’t like him.
He didn’t even know him.
And he supposed that was the point of this, so…
All three boys were crowded around him, each with a hand reached back to clutch at his shirt even as they strained forward, noses quivering as their curiosity warred with their caution. He was quick to place a light, reassuring touch on the backs of their necks, his own tension dissipating when he saw their little shoulders drop with relief, fuzzy sideburns retreating and ears rounding out as they reeled in their wolves.
“Come on,” he said, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen over the yard as he climbed to his feet. “I want you guys to meet someone, ok?” A trio of affirmative little noises met his request, and a hand found each of his while a third hung on to his jeans as they crossed the yard.
Derek was surprised when Stiles made no move to get to his feet, instead just shifting to lower his knees and sit cross-legged in the grass at the bottom of the steps, his posture loose and open. It was a smart move, one that kept him on the kids’ level, kept him small and non-threatening, and it was… impressive. Erica caught the look of surprise on his face and sent a smirk in his direction before disappearing back into the house, and he had to swallow down a whine and grit his teeth to keep from begging her not to go. Gathering his composure, he glanced down to find Stiles smiling up at him cautiously, tentatively, but he couldn’t seem to force a smile back, so instead he just lowered himself slowly to the ground across from him, mimicking his pose as all three of the boys tried to pile into his lap.
“This is Stiles,” he explained while they jostled for position, stroking their spines in an attempt to calm them, to ease away the last of the anxiety that had them twisting and kicking at his legs. Eventually they stilled and he felt it safe to move on with the introductions. Placing a hand on top of each of their heads in turn, he watches Stiles carefully as he named them off.
“This is Benjamin, Angus, and Sebastian.”
Aww crap, Stiles was totally screwed.
Seriously freakin’ adorable.
And identical. Like, identical identical - three perfect copies with chubby little faces and dark, dark tawny hair, and wide hazel eyes that looked remarkably like Derek’s. For now he knew which was which but as soon as they shuffled he was going to be completely lost.
“Hi,” he smiled, trying to inject all of his excitement and delight at meeting them into his voice while at the same time tamping down the nerves and confusion that had hit him when Derek couldn’t deign him with a proper hello or any sign of welcome. Shoot, he would have settled for neutral tolerance if he was honest. He got it, he did – he was intruding on a werewolf’s territory, the guy didn’t know him, he was going to have to trust Stiles with his kids, yada yada yada, but dang!
The man might be gorgeous but he was way too broody, and Stiles didn’t know him well enough to know if the eyebrows of doom were just his natural resting expression or if he only brought them out for special occasions.
“My name’s Stiles,” he repeated, mostly in an effort to shake himself back to the situation at hand. Still, he was well aware that the boys hadn’t been paying that much attention when Derek had introduced him. “It’s good to meet you guys - I was really excited to come have lunch with you today!”
Two of the little wolves just blinked at him owlishly, still clutching at Derek’s shirt, both silent while one of them stuffed his fingers in his mouth, but the third had let go and was leaning forward, wrinkling his nose and sniffing the air as he tilted his head to one side like a puppy. “Your name’s funny,” he frowned.
Taken by surprise, Stiles momentarily froze, his eyebrows shooting up to his hairline, but then the tips of Derek’s ears were going pink and the kid just looked so damned serious that he was barking out a laugh and grinning wide enough to hurt his cheeks.
“Angus,” Derek admonished in a warning tone, giving the little boy a jiggle by bouncing the knee he was perched on.
“That’s ok,” Stiles cut in, smiling at the little wolves. “My dad calls me Stiles ‘cause my first name is even funnier.”
Three pairs of eyes lit up with a child’s curiosity, but once again it was Angus who braved the question. “What is it?”
“It’s a secret,” Stiles mock-whispered. “Such a big secret, nobody remembers what it is anymore.”
“Do you ‘member?” Benjamin asked around his mouthful of fingers.
At least, he thought it was Benjamin.
“I do remember,” he acknowledged seriously, “But it’s really really hard to say. I even get it wrong most of the time.”
This last bit was directed at Derek with a grin, but he just stayed his silent broody self, only giving him a half of an eyebrow-quirk.
“It’s ok though,” he continued, turning back to the kids and ignoring his internal desire to declare war on the werewolf, hit with the sudden, strong determination to make him show some kind of positive emotion. “It was my great great great grandpa’s name, and my mom picked it out for me, so it’s pretty special.”
The statement was so quiet, so shy that Stiles almost missed it, Sebastian huddled in close to Derek’s chest halfway beneath his arm, his face turned in to his father and his eyes downcast. It almost broke his heart the little guy seemed inordinately anxious, his fingers fisted in the cotton of his Dad’s t-shirt, and Derek was frowning down at the top of his head with some serious concern in his eyes.
“That’s pretty special too then huh?” he asked quietly, and it must have been kind of the right thing to say because boy raised his eyes for just a minute and seemed to sag inward, his small body unable to maintain its tension any longer. His relief appeared to be contagious too, because Angus and Benjamin both smiled and reached out to pat their brother, pressing in close on Derek’s lap so that they rubbed shoulders, bunched up in the tactile comfort Stiles was so used to seeing in his wolfy friends. Some of the steel even went out of dad’s spine when the kid finally released his death grip, squishing around so that he was better facing Stiles, though he still leaned back into the protective circle of his family.
The half-awkward minute of silence that fell after that was broken when Erica stuck her head out the open French doors and called them in for lunch. Stiles held himself back, looking to Derek to move first. Rolling to his knees, he dumped the boys off gently into the grass before rising smoothly to his feet, a movement Stiles tried and failed to emulate as neatly.
“I hope you guys are hungry,” he said, flashing Derek another grin as they headed toward the house before whispering conspiratorially. “I brought dessert!”
“Smells good,” Angus smiled brightly, darting up close to his side for a sniff before he fell back and away from him again.
“Wow, you can smell it from here?” Stiles asked brightly, genuinely impressed. Half the time Scott couldn’t even tell what a given smell was. “That’s awesome!”
“It’s blackberries,” Benjamin added, clearly not to be outdone and excited by both the prospect of the dessert and his own chance to impress the new guy.
“That’s so cool!” Stiles grinned. “I put it in the oven, you guys are good!”
Stiles jumped, almost tripping over the door jamb as they stepped back into the cool of the house and turning towards the Kitchen of the Gods. He hadn’t said anything in so long, he had almost forgotten that
Derek actually did use words.
“It’s you,” the wolf repeated, giving Sebastian a little push down the hallway where the other two boys had disappeared to the sound of running water. “They can smell it on you, not in the oven.”
“Oh.” Stiles rubbed the back of his neck, felt his face flush. “Yeah, Erica said as much, earlier…”
That wasn’t all she’d said either…
Clearing his throat, he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans and followed Derek back around the long, slender dining table that ran down pat of the wide hall parallel to the kitchen island.
“Anyway. I brought a cobbler,” he continued. “I figured it was pretty safe. I didn’t know if the kids had allergies or if you were a sugar daddy or not…”
Stiles did an internal fist pump and bit back a grin at the way Derek jumped and turned back to glare at him.
“A sugar daddy,” he reiterated, and just beyond Derek’s shoulder he saw Erica’s head jerk up and a wicked grin curl over her mouth. “You know, whether or not you‘re one of those terrible parents who don’t let their kids have any sugar at all, tell them that yogurt is the same thing as pudding…”
“I’m not a monster,” Derek growled, grabbing two plates of sandwiches, carrot sticks, and yellow cheese, all cut into bite-sized pieces from the counter. “A little sugar isn’t going to kill them. And don’t call me dude!”
Too busy watching Derek retreat over to the dining table with a satisfied smirk, Stiles jumped when Erica appeared at his side and offered him a gentle hip check, two more plates balanced carefully on her hands. “Don’t worry,” she smiled, and he didn’t like the way her eyes flashed gold at him. “The boys like dessert as much as any other five-year old, but Derek’s the one with the secret sweet tooth. He’ll deny it till he drowns in those gross protein shakes he chugs, but if you wanted to butter him up you’re off to a good start.”
Unable to think of a proper response, Stiles just stood there stupidly until Erica snapped a command back over her shoulder.
“Grab those other two plates Stilinski! Tip number one – never keep a werewolf waiting on lunch!"
Chapter 8: Smacznego!
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Erica wasn’t kidding when she warned him about late lunches.
After placing one of the two remaining plates down in front of Derek and saving the last for himself, Stiles learned just how important it was to take Tip Number 1 to heart, making a mental note until he could scribble it down in his color-coded notebook. All three boys ate voraciously, tucking in to what was apparently PB and J with relish, smearing goop all over their cheeks. Stiles himself was pleased to recognize roasted turkey clubs from the deli in town, the one that made a house garlic-aioli, and dug in with a wolfish appetite of his own.
Erica was decent enough to fill the gaps with idle chatter about nothing in particular, none of it important, and it gave him the opportunity to watch the kids surreptitiously and organize a few of his thoughts. They were mostly quiet, watching Stiles right back with careful reservation, lined up across the table from him in a little row. Only two of them ever piped up to answer Erica’s questions or add their bit to the conversation, and true to his prediction, he had no idea which was which. He guessed that the silent one sitting closest to Derek at the head of the table was Sebastian, but in all reality he couldn’t even pretend that he knew.
Derek was watching him as well, he could feel it, his gaze cool all along his side as he judged him, gauged the way the boys reacted to him and Stiles interacted with them in return. And that was ok, he got that - mostly. The guy was obviously pretty picky when it came to babysitters but he didn’t doubt for a second that there was something more to it than that. There was picky and then there was picky, and Derek was definitely the latter, reacting to something else, some underlying thing that said trust was something not to be dealt out lightly. Outside from that sunny, rough and tumble moment out in the yard with his boys - that protected, unsuspecting moment - the deputy seemed rather closed-off, his emotions wrapped up tight in his chest so that he could look at Stiles and analyze him completely intellectually, completely objectively. He only gentled, only let his gaze soften and a smile tip at the corners of his mouth when he was talking to the boys, telling Benjamin to finish his carrots and reminding Angus firmly not to rock in his chair.
It was. nice to see. Nice to see him relax, just a little bit.
Stiles spent a little time questioning the triplets too, asking them easy questions about their favorite colors and games, careful not to overwhelm them or cause them any anxiety with his prying. He also made sure that he included Sebastian in the conversation (he was almost sure it was Sebastian anyway), gentle with his words and with his tone even though the little boy continued to stay quiet, staring back at him with huge, hazel eyes and letting his brothers answer for him. For their part Benjamin and Angus, began to slowly warm towards him - one brash and loud, the other more still and thoughtful - as their excitement and curiosity got the better of them.
Before he could think better of it he was telling the only non-offensive werewolf joke he knew, the one about the werewolf that swallowed the alarm clock and got the ‘tick-ups,’ and was rewarded for it with a chorus of grins and giggles. Even Erica was laughing prettily, but Derek just cocked an eyebrow, his mouth quirked in a way that suggested to Stiles he was doing his damnedest not to give in to a smile of his own.
The guy needed some serious sweetening up, and Stiles had just the sugar to do it.
Rolling his eyes at all the ridiculous, dorky double-entendres his mind was reeling through, almost too fast for him to even get a laugh out of them, Stiles pushed back from the table and picked up a couple of plates.
“You guys ready for dessert?” he asked, and all three little boys nodded eagerly, eyes lighting up with anticipation.
“I’ll help,” Erica announced, grabbing the last of the empty plates herself and following Stiles back through to the kitchen, waiting until he’d gotten the serving dish from the oven before going in for the kill. “Well?” she asked, opening a drawer full of scoop spoons for him to choose from while she took down a stack of bowls from a cabinet. “What do you think?”
“Honestly?” Stiles laughed easily, “Telling them apart is gonna be a challenge. I mean, I could guess, but I would have no confidence in doing it whatsoever.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Erica reassured him, watching as he ladled the warm cobbler into bowls. “They may look alike, but they couldn’t be more different. It’ll take a while but you’ll figure them out.” She paused for a minute, then amended the statement. “Just be careful. Sometimes they get into a mood and the next thing you know they’re trading personalities and dressing all the same… They’re clever. If they think you’re being unfair to one of them, they rally and you won’t be able to tell them apart until you apologize to all three.”
“Thanks for the warning,” Stiles chuckled. “That’s impressive though, for five year olds. Smart, manipulative…”
Erica hummed, looked contemplative. “They are their father’s sons…” She murmured quietly, her eyes far away.
Shrugging, still turning that slip of the tongue around in his mind, Stiles started scooping the last of the cobbler into a small Tupperware dish Erica had set out. The next thing he knew she was handing him a Sharpie too, waiting patiently at his side. Cocking an eyebrow, she nodded toward the dish of leftovers before grabbing up an armful of bowls, taking a deep, appreciative sniff before humming delightedly and heading for the dining room. Twirling the marker around his fingers, Stiles contemplated the container, sure that Erica meant for him to do more than just label it.
Uncapping the marker, he scrawled a quick message across the lid, finishing it off with a winking smiley face.
Short, simple, to the point.
Sticking it in the back of the refrigerator for Derek to find later, Stiles grabbed the last two bowls his and Derek’s once again, and if the latter’s had an extra scoop inside he was the only one to know. By the time he got back to the table the boys had already dug in, purple stickiness smeared all over their faces as they nommed happily on their spoons, working their dessert with single-minded delight. Grinning at their obvious enjoyment, Stiles waited until he crossed around the head of the table behind Derek’s chair to reach down over his shoulder and deposit his bowl in front of him, the minute jolt of his surprise worth missing the look on his face.
“Smacznego!” he hummed in the traditional Polish, taking his own seat. His mother had always said that half the work of feeding someone was wishing them good eating. The rest was easy as long as you put your heart into it.
“Holy shit Stiles!” Erica moaned lasciviously, distracting him with her first bite.
“Swear jar!” three little voices chorused immediately, spoons dropping long enough for hands to clap.
“Totally worth it,” Erica replied, digging into her jeans pocket and pulling out a dollar to lay on the table top.
“Oh man,” Stiles groaned, “You guys have a swear jar?”
“It mostly stays empty unless Aunt Erica comes over,” Derek replied, shooting a
glare Erica’s way.
“Oh don’t frown at me,” she replied easily as she licked her thumb, clearly not cowed in the least. “Stick that spoon in your mouth, try a smile on for size.”
Rolling his eyes he did as she said anyway, and Stiles had to focus on his own bowl so that he didn’t stare at the guy’s stupidly pretty mouth wrapped around his spoon like a total creep.
“Yeah, yeah, I got it,” Derek grumbled good-naturedly, pulling out his own wallet to add a dollar to the pot. Flicking his gaze in Stiles’ direction, the tips of his ears pinked just a little. “It’s good Stiles.”
“You’ve got a gift kid!” Erica agreed, carrying the moment on just a second further so that Stiles could answer back without any shy awkwardness that would speak to the attraction he felt for the man beside him, attraction he was trying desperately to stamp on with the power of professional conduct.
“Thanks,” he smiled, his tone soft. “I’m glad you guys like it. It was my mom’s recipe she’s the reason I like to cook so much.”
The little boy sitting next to Derek was staring at him with wide, solemn eyes and then he was tugging on his father’s sleeve until Derek leaned down close to his side.
“Daddy, he smells sad,” the little boy murmured, but he wasn’t quite so quiet that Stiles didn’t hear.
He saw Derek swallow, saw the uncertainty on his face as he stroked his son’s hair and he understood it – they were new to town, they didn’t know the Stilinski sob story. His father still wore his wedding ring with a single-minded devotion but didn’t like to talk about his late wife, not even with Stiles, so he decided to take pity on the guy and explain himself.
“My mom died when I was little,” he explained, addressing all three of the little boys carefully since he wasn’t sure how much they understood about this kind of thing. They were just kids after all. “She got sick, and then she went to heaven, so I get sad sometimes when I miss her.”
“Our momma got sick too,” one said, and from the corners of his vision he saw Derek flinch and Erica’s face go pale.
He hadn’t thought this one through had he?
“She didn’t go to heaven, she went to jail!” the third little boy countered, and Stiles could almost hear the silent dummy tacked on to the end of the sentence. Sensing a fight, watching the boy next to Derek start to cower and crumble in on himself, he hurried to fix what he’d fucked up.
“Sometimes there’s different kinds of sickness,” he tried, and even if it wasn’t the perfect thing to say, it seemed to get their attention enough that they stopped focusing on each other. “And it’s ok to miss the people we don’t have anymore, right?” Two little heads bobbed, the third just watched with silent eyes. “But it’s important to be happy with the ones we do have. You guys have your dad, and your brothers, and your Aunt Erica…”
“Right,” Stiles nodded with a smile. “And your cousins?”
“And maybe if it’s ok with you guys, I can come back and we can be friends too.”
All three looked at him speculatively, cocking their heads like curious little pups, and for the space of a heartbeat dread settled in his stomach as he was sure they were going to tell him in no uncertain terms to take a hike.
“Are you gonna bring more dessert?”
The air came crashing out of Stiles’ chest in a loud, light laugh, a smile cracking his jaw wide, and Erica even joined in with a quiet chuckle. At his side he could feel a little bit of the steel go out of Derek’s spine and it was calming, reassuring enough that he was able to answer back with a little more certainty than he felt.
“Sure,” he replied, “And maybe I can show you guys how to make some stuff too. You can tell me what your favorites are ok?”
“All right, line up little soldiers!” Erica grinned, interrupting eager smiles. “Get over to that sink you need a serious scrubbin’!”
Stiles chuckled, unsure which of the boys had complained, but all three were frowning and looking terribly put out at the prospect of a wash, so he supposed it didn’t matter.
“Just did!” one groaned – Angus, he thought.
“Well you need to do it again,” Erica chided. “Look at you three Stiles will think
you were raised by wolves!”
This got a giggle out of two them, and they all darted quick, sly glances in his direction before climbing down from their booster seats and dutifully carrying their bowls into the kitchen, even though Erica had already started threatening them with naptime. Abruptly left alone with Derek, who was sitting terribly still at his side, Stiles felt an electric tingle trip down his spine and he leapt to an apology before he could cut him off.
“Oh my god dude, I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to…”
“Don’t,” Derek bit out, and his voice was so cold and flat that Stiles almost swallowed his tongue he shut up so fast. Growling quietly, the deputy raked his fingers through his head and rested his elbows on the edge of the table, hanging his head in his hands. “Just…”
Heaving a sigh that set his broad shoulders rolling, he lifted his head to meet Stiles gaze and tried again.
“You just explained that to them better than I ever could,” he rasped, his voice thick and rough. “And you don’t even…”
Shaking his head, he pushed back his chair and got to his feet, turning down the hallway.
“Come on,” he called over his shoulder. “I need to show you something.”
Swallowing hard to force his heart back down into his chest where it belonged, Stiles got to his feet, feeling like a man going to the gallows.
The sight of Derek’s empty bowl gave him a hope.
If the wolf had the kind of sweet tooth Erica said he did, maybe he’d let Stiles live…
*Nobody* had anything to say about the kids' names? I agonized over those you guys, *agonized!* Haha just kidding (: But not really, it was actually a process. Review me!
Chapter 9: Deputy or Dad?
Stiles practically whimpered when Derek led him through the living room to a short back hallway. The door he stopped in front of would have been fairly unassuming if it weren’t for the complicated-looking lock near the top, bolting it closed against the jamb. A twist and a flip had the door swinging open to reveal a dark, descending stairwell, but when Derek stepped back in an obvious gesture for Stiles to lead the way, his feet nailed themselves to the floor.
“Oh man, please don’t kill me,” he whined, clasping his hands together in a pleading motion that was half joking, halfway deadly serious. “My dad knows I’m over here you won’t…”
“Shut up Stiles,” Derek huffed with a roll of his eyes, reaching past him to flick a switch that flooded the stairwell with clean, yellow light. “It’s just a basement.”
Not bothering to look and see if he was being followed, the werewolf trotted quickly down the carpeted steps, his fingers trailing lightly along the wooden railing anchored to the wall. Swallowing, Stiles let his eyes trace the lines of the lock at the top of the door before telling himself to pony up and heading down himself. The stairs landed him in a bright, open room with a floor that felt soft under his feet, like it was padded underneath with foam, and in one corner there was a sort of industrialized, kid-sized jungle-gym secured to both the wall and the floor. There wasn’t much else – no toys or furniture – and Stiles got the distinct feeling he’d stepped into a rubber-room.
Stiles jumped at the sound of Derek’s voice, turning away from the climbing apparatus to face the wolf who had crossed the room and was waiting near another door, this one also locked at the top just like the other.
“For full moons,” he continued, “When we can’t get out of the house. I get the night of and the night after off work, so you won’t need to be here for it, but you need to remember this.”
“Why do I feel like this is a warning?” Stiles asked cautiously, eyeing the wolf up and down.
“Because it is. They may be kids, they may be cute, but they’re still wolves, and you’re a human. We’re working on their control, but they’re young and they haven’t found an anchor yet, and technically my mother is their alpha… chances are good they’ll shift on you at some point.”
“Ok,” Stiles acknowledged, straightening his shoulders in an attempt to show he understood the seriousness of what was being said. “Ok, I can deal with that. I helped Scott find his anchor, so I should be able to talk them through a shift too.”
“You should,” Derek agreed, nodding even though Stiles could feel a caveat coming. “They’re pretty tame, all things considered, but if they ever get out of control, one or all of them, get them down here and shut the door. They only unlock from the side they’re locked on in the first place, so just get one of them between you and call me immediately.”
“Right,” Stiles swallowed, a little shakily. “Can do.”
Derek frowned, tilted his head in a way that reminded him of the kids doing the same. “Relax,” he said finally. “They’re not gonna try to eat you. They know humans are… squishier than they are. I just want you to be prepared.”
Stiles just nodded. He appreciated the heads-up, he did, and really it was pretty decent of Derek to acknowledge his 147 pounds of pale skin and fragile bone. He didn’t have to give him this escape hatch, could have just left him to battle it out with three little mouths full of sharp teeth, but he did it anyways. And apparently there was more, because he was going at the second lock and opening yet another door, stepping into what at first appeared to be a small office but quickly gave up that ghost. The room was dominated by a long, narrow table over which powerful UV lights were hanging, four large pots of big, green plants flowering a bright blue spreading wildly along its length.
“Dude, what the hell?” Stiles muttered, stepping forward to rub a leaf between his thumb and forefinger. “This is wolfsbane!”
“Aconitum,” Derek confirmed with his back to Stiles, crouching down to pull open a dented filing cabinet. “Leopard’s Bane… Blue Rocket. ” Rolling the drawer closed with a bang, he rose to his full height and turned to face Stiles with a manila folder in his hands. “Devil’s Helmet.”
“No, no, please, continue,” Stiles urged in a sarcastic tone, crossing his arms. “It’s not like you’re growing leafy death in your basement or anything…”
Derek cocked an eyebrow. “It’s poisonous to us, yes, and to you too, but like lots of things it’s also medicinal. If you burn it, the ash will counteract the effects of the living plant.”
“So…” Stiles tried again, turning back to pull a dark petal and twist it between his fingers, “This is, what? First aid?”
“Exactly,” he replied. Stepping up to the table, his hands lighted on each pot carefully, one after the other. “These are the four most common strains of wolfsbane in the US,” he explained. “It’s harder to come by than you’d think. Having my own is… security. The boys all know how to recognize it, to stay the hell away from it, so God forbid you ever have to come down here, but…”
“Better safe than sorry,” Stiles concluded. “Smart.”
Hooking his foot around the leg of a stool sitting beneath the edge of the table, Derek dragged it out and pushed it toward him.
“Sit,” he demanded, and Stiles was curious enough about what was coming to do it without a fuss.
A minute passed while Derek watched him closely, tapping the edge of his file folder against his palm, but Stiles decided to wait, staying still and quiet even as the wolf grew agitated and began to pace. He didn’t have much room for it but he was turning on a dime, and his anxiety made Stiles want to scratch. He was just about to break his silence, throw the guy a bone when he spun on Stiles with stormy eyes, his face hard and closed off.
“They like you,” he said, and Stiles almost laughed with surprise. It wasn’t what he was expecting, but the tone in which the compliment was delivered suggested worse was on its way. “They like you, and I’m out of options. I can’t shuffle them off on Erica anymore, and you seem like you might actually…”
Stiles raised his eyebrows, hoping that the look on his face was one of encouragement.
He might actually what?
“Never mind,” Derek grumbled. “Look, you’ve got the job if you want it, but I wouldn’t ask you to take it without knowing what you’re getting yourself into…”
“The security cameras,” Stiles said knowingly, and Derek drew back like he was surprised Stiles had noticed at all. “The locks.”
“I said I’d tell you and I will,” he said grimly, twisting the file in his hands as though he wanted nothing more than to tear it right down the middle. “If that’s what you want. But there’s… plausible deniability at play here…”
“Plausible. Jesus!” Stiles choked. “Did you kill somebody? Oh god, did you kill your old babysitter?”
“What?!” Derek barked. “No! Christ, what’s wrong with you?”
“You’re being kinda cryptic here dude, you’re not helping!” Stiles yelped, flailing his arms wildly.
“Just… shut up and listen,” he ordered. Flipping the folder open, he drew out two sheets of paper and a glossy 8x6 photograph, hesitating for the space of a heartbeat before handing them over.
Stiles looked at them with trepidation, like they might burn them if he accepted, but when he looked up at Derek’s face only to see the man’s gaze locked on the papers, to see him swallow hard, he reached out and took them into his own hand, if only to save them both the embarrassment of seeing them shake when the wolf’s fingers inevitably began to tremble. Turning them round, his gaze quickly scanned the first page, a face sheet of demographics that he recognized from a national prison database. The next was more official, signed and sealed, declaring that Katherine Delacroix wasn’t to come within five hundred yards of Derek, the boys, or their place of work or residence.
“So this is mom?” he ventured carefully, turning the photo over to take the measure of the woman who had thrown away three perfect little boys and what he suspected might be a perfect man.
“Biological DNA donor,” Derek sneered, and Stiles didn’t contradict him. “She’s no mom. Never was and never will be.”
“Understood.” Turning the picture over so that he was no longer looking at the blonde with the cold eyes, he returned the pages and watched Derek place them back into the folder, filing
them away again before he leaned back against the metal cabinet with his arms crossed over his chest. “Why are you telling me this?” he asked. “I mean, yesterday…”
“I didn’t trust you yesterday,” Derek rumbled. “I still don’t. But if I’m gonna leave my kids with you I need to start… trying. And Kate is dangerous.”
“I thought you said she was in prison?” Stiles distractedly before cueing in on the threat behind Derek’s words. “Wait, why is she in prison?”
“She got sick. And she went to jail,” Derek said, slowly and seriously, mimicking his son’s words in a voice that sent chills down Stiles’ spine. “And if I have anything to do with it, she’s going to stay there. That’s the story the boys got, and that’s the story you’re getting. I don’t…” Here he shifted nervously and Stiles was reminded of just how young he really was, only a few years older than Stiles himself. “I don’t like talking about her,” he continued, all the anger and tightness gone from his voice. Now he just sounded small, and maybe even a little bit broken. “Remembering that part of my life. But…” Here he sighed, letting his arms fall to his sides as his shoulders slumped dejectedly. “The only good that came out of it was those kids. So if understanding will help you keep them safe…”
“I told you,” Stiles said, his own throat sore with emotion. “I’m not asking to be a dick. I’m not trying to drag anything up, I just… I want what you want, ok? I know you don’t trust me and that’s fine, hell that’s normal. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, so I’m not going to ask you to throw up your guts here.”
Derek raised his head, his pale, hazel-colored eyes wounded and cautious.
“You told me about the locks,” Stiles continued, reaching out with his words because he didn’t think the wolf would accept him reaching out with his hands. “Told me about the cameras. You showed me her picture, and I get that that’s big for you.”
“I don’t…” Derek growled, shifting on his feet as his mouth twisted in a frown. “I don’t understand what you’re saying to me.”
“Thanks, I guess,” Stiles shrugged. “For not just leaving me in the dark.”
“Sure,” he grinned, getting to his feet and clapping the other man on the shoulder now that the mood had lightened. The wolf raised an eyebrow and looked rapidly, almost comically, between Stiles’ face and his hand, until he removed it from his person and held them up in surrender. “I’m taking my hand away,” he mumbled, looking off to the other side of the room. “Anyway, my dad always did say I had no sense of self-preservation.”
“Obviously,” the wolf muttered, and Stiles chose judiciously to ignore it, his attention caught by something else on the other side of the room.
“Ooo, what’s in the safe?” he asked, crossing over to run his fingers down the heavy matte finish of the khaki-green door. “Please tell me there’s a briefcase full of cash in here! Pearls? Gold? Rubies?”
“Really?” Derek asked with a quirked eyebrow, prowling slowly over to Stiles’ side and quickly spinning the dial. “Buried treasure?”
“Dude, what else do you keep in a safe?” Stiles grinned.
Swinging the heavy door open, Stiles was disappointed to find that the only thing inside seemed to be more papers, stacks of them, and at the very bottom a flat wooden box with gold hinges.
“No fun,” he pouted, stepping back, but Derek just grinned.
“Probably worth more than your jewels and gold bars though,” he answered, reaching out to ruffle the edge of a stack like it was a deck of cards. “Stocks, bonds… insurance policies. There’ll be three full college funds in here by the time the boys need them.”
“Damn,” Stiles whistled. “Not scared I’m gonna lift a few?”
“Not scared I’d come after you if you did?” Derek snorted.
“Besides,” he shrugged, “They’d be no good to you anyway. Everything in here’s got a name on it.”
When Derek paused, Stiles looked away from the safe to find him unnervingly close, only inches away and staring at him intensely with eyes flaring sapphire blue. Taking a careful step back, he decided to play it safe and apologize.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I’m a curious little shit I shouldn’t have…”
Derek shook his head, blinking away the blue before reaching into the safe and gently sliding the box from beneath a sheaf of papers. Carrying it over to the table, he set it down carefully and lifted the lid, turning it in Stiles direction and stepping back. Raising an eyebrow, Stiles stepped forward, relief rushing through him when he looked inside to find a Colt Python lying in a bed of dark blue velvet, six inches of gleaming nickel with a burnished wooden handle. It was a beautiful .357 revolver, rarer than the 9-millimeter Glock that was standard issue down at the station, but easier to make your own munitions for.
“Backup piece?” he asked, resisting the urge to reach out and lift the pistol, to test its weight and try the sights. It was a natural reaction – cop’s kid, he’d grown up knowing and respecting guns, learning the responsibility of taking one into his hand. Both he and his father were firm in the belief that when you knew something you understood it, and when you understood it, you could better control it.
“More than that,” Derek murmured across from him, and the darkness had come back to haunt his face, black in his eyes and the shadow that played across his jaw and cheekbones. “I told you Stiles. Everything in that safe has a name on it – this does too.”
Stiles’ head snapped up hard, and he stared Derek down with apprehension, his whole body going cold. “Whose?” he demanded in a quiet voice, even though it wasn’t the answer he wanted.
“Whose do you think?” Derek snarled, his teeth showing sharp beneath his lip.
“You’re a fucking cop,” Stiles hissed, anger suddenly boiling up in his chest. Was this guy a complete moron?! Striding forward, he planted his hands flat on Derek’s chest and shoved hard, only succeeding in rocking the wolf back on his heels. “My dad’s the god damned Sheriff!” he spat through gritted teeth. “Why the hell are you telling me you’ve got a bullet with your ex’s name on it? That’s premeditated shit, we could both go to prison…”
Before he could draw the breath for another go he was being whipped around and slammed hard against the wall, the werewolf pressed in close as he held him down with a forearm across his chest, fingers gripping him tightly at the shoulder. He was close, way too close, all blue eyes and white fangs and snarl, and for the first time Stiles felt a tiny spark of real fear light on the back of his neck.
Of course, he’d be a liar if he said half that heat wasn’t arousal.
Because this was a little bit hot.
Oh god, this should not be turning him on…
Sucking in a sharp breath between his teeth, Stiles felt his skin tighten as Derek’s scent hit him hard, all peppermint and coffee and clean, pale sawdust, and above it the deep, musky smell of pure, raw, male…
‘Not a good time!’ he subconscious screamed.
“…paying attention!” Derek snarled in his face. “I’m trying to make you understand this!”
“Well you’re doing a shit job!” Stiles snarled right back, shoving at his chest ineffectively. “Put. Me. DOWN!”
Startling, Derek looked down at his arm as though it weren’t his own, jerking back so that Stiles dropped down to his feet again with a stumble. The wolf had gone pale and drawn, like he had that day in the station, and Stiles sniffed huffily as he readjusted his red hoodie, frowning at the tight wrinkles on the shoulder.
“Oh for god’s sake, don’t look at me like that,” Stiles snipped, hating the sick, fearful sound in the wolf’s voice, hating that he had to reassure him. Christ, he preferred the eyebrows of doom and the death glare to that. “I’m not so breakable. Besides, I hit you first, so just… try again.”
Swallowing hard, Derek nodded once before crossing his arms over his chest and clutching his elbows, like he didn’t trust himself not to lash out again.
No biggie in Stiles’ book – guys tussled, and it wasn’t like he’d gone for his throat.
“I’m not planning her murder Stiles.”
Derek’s voice was quiet and firm, insistent, but Stiles still wasn’t sure he believed him.
“I offered you an out but you wanted to hear it, and now you’re not listening…”
“Fine!” Stiles enunciated slowly, emotionlessly serious. “I’m all ears!”
And then he snapped his mouth shut, waving one hand in an elegant continue gesture while still tapping his foot exaggeratedly with impatience.
Son of a bitch better have a damned good explanation…
“I’m not planning her murder,” Derek said again. “Despite the fact that you appear convinced I’m planning yours. And despite the fact that I… didn’t just give you a great example of self-control…”
Well hell, at least the guy had the good graces mumble and to look ashamed.
“But understand this Stiles,” he continued, colder and harsher now. “She’s sick, and she is dangerous. Like I said before, God forbid you should ever have to come down here, but…”
“Better safe than sorry,” Stiles sighed resignedly, repeating his words from before. “Ok. I get that, alright? I’m on board. So are we cool?”
“I’m not hugging you,” Derek said by way of an answer, eyeing him warily as though he might try for a sneak attack anyways.
“Sourwolf,” Stiles chuckled accusingly. “Your loss. The Stilinski’s do the best hugs.”
“I’m not hugging your dad either.”
Stiles snorted, laughed out loud this time, accepting it as the peace offering it was meant to be. “Anyway,” he continued, jamming his hands down into the pockets of his jeans, “You want me to have the com then?”
“Not really,” Derek sighed, dragging his hand through his hair again. “Hell, I don’t want any of this. But I want them safe, I need… them safe. And you too, so…”
Grimacing, he closed the box and flicked the latches, tucking it under his arm.
“We’ll head over to the station, use the range,” he announced, stepping out of the room and locking the door once Stiles had followed. “If you can hit the target eight times out of ten by the time we’re done I’ll give you the com.”
Stiles bit back a derisive chortle, almost mouthing off and reminding him that he was a Sheriff’s kid and could probably outshoot half the human cops on the force, all of whom had contributed to his education in one way or another over the years. He contained himself, however, when a better idea came to mind. Filing it away for later use, he followed Derek up the stairs, treated to a nice view of his ass on the way.
“Listen,” he said as they emerged into the hallway on the first floor, watching while Derek again locked the door carefully behind them. “You know I’ve gotta ask…”
Derek turned, looked at him while trying to mask a sudden, significant anxiety.
“That,” he continued, gesturing towards the door, “All that. Was that you being a deputy, or a dad?”
“Wish it were that easy,” he murmured. “I wish I knew if I’m being realistic, or if I’m just being paranoid, over-protective… but I don’t. That’s why I told you, why I…”Here he paused, laughing bitterly as he rubbed the back of his neck. “Why I’m gonna understand when you step out of this house and head for the fuckin’ hills and never come back.”
“I told you,” he ground out, irritation putting a bite into his words. “I’m on board, all in. No self-preservation right?”
“What… seriously?” Derek asked, and surprise was warring with suppressed hope in his voice. “You…”
Stiles rolled his eyes, turned to head back towards the kitchen with a little extra swing in his step.
“You haven’t scared me off yet, Deputy.”
Chapter 10: Hot Shot
Stiles was caught by Erica on his way back to the kitchen as she descended the stairs with frustration written all over her face. The look quickly turned to one of relief when she spotted Derek on his heels.
“I tried to get them down,” she said apologetically, “But they’re practically climbing the walls up there.”
Behind him Stiles heard Derek sigh and he turned just in time to catch him running a hand exasperatedly through his hair.
“I’ve got it,” he grumbled, shooting Stiles a glare before placing the gun box carefully on the side table against the wall.
Stiles scowled right back, watching him take the stairs two at a time until he disappeared onto the second floor. Sure, it was probably partially his fault that the boys weren’t going down for their nap easily, but any little kid would be excited by someone new. So technically no, not his fault. Rolling his eyes, he set his sights on his original purpose, heading through to the kitchen to collect his bags so that he could follow Derek over to the station. Erica shadowed him the whole way, dangerously silent in a way that reminded him of the leather-clad Catwoman stalking her prey along the rooftops, in a way that made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end.
Best defense is a good offense.
“Are they usually hard to put to sleep?” he asked, grabbing his bag off the bar stool he’d left it on and working it open before she had a chance to sink her teeth in.
“No,” Erica replied, “I mostly just wanted to get rid of Derek for a few minutes. He needs to talk to them and you need to talk to me.”
“Why would I have anything to say?” he asked flatly.
Erica arched an eyebrow and crossed her arms, leaning back against the counter.
“You were down there a long time,” she accused, and Stiles summoned all his cool to stay silent and look unaffected by her words. “What was in the box?”
“Yeah that’s not my place to say,” he replied, catching the way her eyes glinted gold with annoyance. “Retract the claws. He just… wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting myself into, ok? So now I know, and my decision’s informed, and we can get on to more important things.”
Erica made a speculative humming sound but didn’t attempt to grill him on it any further, just watched closely as he took out his notebook and began marking down the dozen or so little things he’d learned so far that he didn’t want to forget. He’d flagged three different sections near the center, one for each of the boys, and he labeled the first page ‘STILES’ RULES FOR WEREWOLF SITTING’ in big, bold, block letters. Not too clever, but straightforward enough, and he was hoping that Erica was still willing to share with him even if he didn’t return the favor. He wasn’t really sure why he felt so defensive about what had happened in the basement, but he thought it might have something to do with trust.
Well, he’d think about it later. He’d left the back of the book blank on the suspicion that he might need extra space for taking notes on Deputy Dad - a suspicion that was clearly well founded.
Frowning, Stiles turned a page and began writing his list of unwritten rules.
1. Never keep a werewolf waiting on lunch.
- Seriously. They may be cute, but you won’t think so when they’re all staring at you like little sharks with hunger in their eyes.
“What are you doing?” Erica asked, leaning over his shoulder.
“Taking notes,” he mumbled, chewing on the end of his pen. “I had ADHA growing up so it helps me stay organized. Focused.”
“That’s actually kind of smart,” Erica said, reaching out to grab the edge of the notebook and turn it towards her. “Hey, is it all right if I steal this?”
“My new job,” she explained, turning a few pages back and forth. “Monday I’m starting a column on a werewolf mommy-blog. This could be really cool – have a little section that’s just quick tips for raising werewolves, gear it toward inter-species couples…”
Stiles cocked an eyebrow, watching her face.
“People would wanna read that?” he asked, honestly curious.
“Oh sure!” she grinned, returning the book to his possession once again. “You’d be amazed how many human moms and dads write in for help because they’re not sure how to approach raising wolf kids. It’s usually less awkward than going to their partners with it.”
“I guess that makes sense,” he conceded.
“Hey this’ll be great!” Erica grinned, and the light in her eyes instantly cued him in to trouble.
“Relax, I won’t use your real name,” she shrugged, brushing of what must have been a serious look of nervousness on his face. And wait, what? When did he become a part of this? Taking out her phone, she began tapping away, apparently taking her own notes. “But you could be my like, muse. Every week, do a little story about how you’re getting on, match it up to whatever rule fits…”
He was saved the effort of trying to blink his way out of his half-amused shock by Derek’s appearance from the hallway, his gun tucked under his arm once again.
“You ready to go?” he asked, sparing Erica a glance. The blonde werewolf ignored him for all of a second, still tapping away at her phone before she snapped back to attention, her head jerking up as she narrowed her eyes.
“You’re leaving?” she demanded.
“Just going over to the station for an hour,” Derek replied. “The boys are all asleep they wanted to know when Stiles was coming back.”
There must have been some surprise on his face because Derek frowned at him.
“I told you they liked you,” he said, staring at him like he was a puzzle the wolf couldn’t figure out.
And yeah, he did say that, but Stiles hadn’t quite believed it. They’d only known him for an hour or two, and they certainly weren’t the most effusive kids he’d ever met.
“Come on,” the werewolf huffed. “It’s my day off, I don’t want to spend the whole afternoon at work.”
“Sure,” Stiles replied, stuffing his notebook back into his backpack. “Oh hey, before I forget.” Reaching into the bottom of the bag, he pulled out the pack of white t-shirts he’d bought the day before and tossed them down the length of the counter. “Do me a favor and wear these tomorrow?”
Derek jerked back, the eyebrows of doom making their appearance as he glared at the stack of tees like they were going to jump up and bite him. “What? Why?” he demanded, blue flickering briefly in his eyes as he turned his scowl on Stiles.
He was halfway through a laugh when he realized that the man was completely serious.
Stiles felt his jaw drop for all of a second as he found himself at a loss for words, but then he reeled in the disbelief, not without some small effort.
“Wait, seriously?” he asked with an awed sort of chuckle, a grin tipping at his mouth when Derek’s grimace turned to one of uncertain embarrassment. “Wow, uh… you know, I’d… make an underwear sniffing joke right now but I’m still not sure you have a sense of humor Deputy Derek.”
To his left Erica let out a snort before cackling raucously and this time Derek definitely blushed, but Stiles’ face was feeling a little bit warm too - it wasn’t a joke he’d planned on making. Stupid mouth, always running ahead of his brain.
“Never mind,” the werewolf grumbled over Erica’s laughter, turning to leave, obviously ready to go with or without Stiles.
Slinging his bag of his shoulder, Stiles scrambled to follow, tossing a grin over his shoulder at the blonde who was grinning and holding her sides.
“See you later Catwoman!” he called, and then beat feat to catch up.
Less than fifteen minutes later, Stiles was pulling in to the station behind a sleek black Camaro, scoffing at its tail lights like the poor sport that he was, because of course the man drove a fast, pretentious, gorgeous piece of metal…
Stiles patted the dash of his jeep affectionately, murmuring a quick word of praise. No hot little sports car was going to steal his heart. No, he was made of sterner stuff.
Besides, he found a delighted sort of consolation in knowing that as the newest member of the force, Derek was relegated to one of the clunky old Crown Vic cruisers when he was on duty, leaving the single, shiny new Dodge Charger to the Sheriff.
Pulling his keys, Stiles unclipped his belt and was halfway to the pavement when he stumbled, just catching himself on the door.
Oh God, they were driving to Colorado.
Hours, packed into that tiny little car, with three hot, cranky, five-year olds stuffed into the non-existent backseat…
Then and there Stiles vowed to tell the good deputy exactly where he could stick his bad boy werewolf image because that was never going to happen. He didn’t care how good he looked in the dark leather jacket he’d slipped over his broad shoulders on the way out of the house – no – he could just suck it up and rent the soccer-dad van because Stiles was not going to be able to survive that. How had Derek survived that? It had to have been hell on his super-sensitive nerves, moving down here in the first place.
He didn’t care how Derek did it, as long as he didn’t have to.
“So what exactly is it that you have against nice cars?”
Stiles turned slowly to face the man who’s stepped up to his side, felt a muscle beneath his eye twitch. Letting go of the edge of the window from which he was still hanging awkwardly, he set himself onto the ground proper and slammed the jeep’s door, arching an eyebrow primly.
“You’re sneering hard enough to melt the paint,” he pointed out, ducking his chin towards the Camaro. “And you drive a…”
“I’m gonna stop you right there, Deputy,” Stiles jumped in, sweet enough to give even a werewolf diabetes. “I’m a big boy and ready to suffer grievous insult and injury both, but there will be no insulting my wheels, understand? Make that mistake and I’ll teach all your kids to sing nursery rhymes in Polish.”
Satisfied with his threat, Stiles sauntered into the station, waving at Tara behind the desk and heading down into the basement without getting so much as a second glance. He was a regular around the place and had practiced at the range on and off over the years since he was twelve, and it really should have tipped Derek off, but apparently the man was preoccupied with other things because before they had even set up in one of the five stalls he was reading Stiles the riot act, all stone-faced seriousness as he explained the responsibility of guns and the reality of firing one.
It took all Stiles had not to laugh.
His dad was the Sheriff.
Of course, Derek must have been repressing that fact…
He didn’t really blame him for it it was weird, for both of them, but he really didn’t need to give him such a thorough explanation on how to load and unload the Python, to show him where the safety was and then to tell him where not to point the thing.
Stiles was a hot shot, he had this.
Not bothering to wait for the end of his schpeel, Stiles donned the mandatory safety goggles and plugged in a pair of noise-canceling earphones, cutting Derek off mid-speech before he turned the dial on the side, letting his voice back through in a fuzzy, watery burble. Scowling nastily, the Deputy spun the chamber of the pistol, snapping it back before placing it on the bench in front of him. Pinning up one of the paper targets, he punched the button on the side of the stall with his fist, activating the zip line that carried the target eleven yards down the line where it stopped in front of the heavy backstop.
Stepping back, he slipped on his own safety gear and gave Stiles a grim nod, crossing his arms over his chest.
Turning back to the target, Stiles looked down at the shining silver pistol resting on the bench and contemplated his options.
He didn’t think he was going to get anything out of a bet – that would probably be pushing his luck. And he did need to eventually prove that he could hit a target, because he was sure the guy would feel better knowing that he could protect his kids, and himself, if he had to.
Well hell, he’d get what he could out of it then.
“Wait, so…” he mumbled, picking up the gun and holding it limply with loose wrists, still careful where he was pointing it. Moving his feet together, he turned half towards the deputy, raising the pistol towards the target with his elbows bent. “How do I…”
A growl broke out of the deputy’s chest, his gaze sharp on the gun as Stiles let it list to the side as he turned, still making sure he didn’t aim it anywhere close to anything but the backstop.
“Not…” he snarled, but then seemed to think better up it and stepped up close behind him, exactly what Stiles had been going for.
God, it was so easy, it almost wasn’t even fun.
Putting a hand on each of his shoulders, the werewolf shoved him roughly to set him at the correct angle, pushing one heavy boot between his feet and kicking his ankles apart. It was rough maneuvering, but he was quick and efficient about getting Stiles into what he knew was the proper position, the one all cops were taught to use – square to the target, weight balanced, dominant foot slightly back. Then his arms were coming up around Stiles to adjust his hold and his body was all breadth and heat at his back, held a judicious inch away but Stiles still squirmed.
“Hold still,” he bit out into his ear, straightening his elbows and changing the grip of Stiles’ left hand to better support the other. “Keep your right arm straight, don’t let the barrel jump.” Tapping his foot again, he took a step back. “The recoil’s not so bad, but lean into it. This is how you stand, pay attention and do it right.”
Stiles rolled his eyes, adjusted just a little to compensate for his own size and strength. He knew how to stand to get the most out of his slender build, to calibrate his shot for accuracy. The Python was a larger gun than he was used to handling, at least in the length of the barrel, but he’d spent one summer a few years ago practicing with a visiting detective’s snub-nosed .44, a compact little Bulldog from Charter Arms, and that thing had had one hell of a kick to it, so he wasn’t especially worried. Trilling his fingers along the butt of the gun to loosen up his grip, he narrowed all his focus down to his sights and the target beyond.
“Breathe in as you sight,” he heard Derek rumble quietly behind him. “Then pull the trigger on the exhale.”
You never pulled a trigger. That was too hard, too jerky, and it threw off your aim. No. No you squeezed a trigger, tightened your finger to touch it off.
Letting out a long, smooth breath, he sighted in and unloaded six perfect shots into his target’s forehead.
Chapter 11: Think About It
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
That… had been one hell of an afternoon.
Flopping onto his bed, Stiles threw an arm across his eyes and mulled over everything he’d learned throughout the course of the day.
After destroying three separate targets down at the range, which had gotten him labeled lucky at first and then a smartass, Derek had led him upstairs to the little annex at the back of the station where he shared limited desk space with the second recently-acquired rookie, the friendly, fresh-faced Kyle Parrish. Said deputy was out so Stiles had commandeered his chair, taking diligent notes while Derek talked about his schedule. It was a little bit open given his status as a werewolf the station was required to give him the night of the full moon and the night after off, as he’d already explained, but he also got every Sunday off and alternating Saturdays. That was mostly just a fluke – every officer got one day off a week and then another twice a month, but which was all a game of chance or trade.
He’d hired in to work days, ten in the morning till seven at night even though the ad had requested Stiles be around from 9:30 till 8:30, and Derek was hoping to keep that timestamp. It would give himself an hour or so to get home, shower, and take care of anything else that needed his attention before Stiles took off again, a little bit of time to breathe without the triplets climbing all over him – if they weren’t in bed already. He was open to being flexible though, something Stiles appreciated and which he returned by pledging to be available as much as possible outside of the set schedule. He knew that Derek would sometimes get called in to work nights or stay late, and then there would be other days when he got sent home early – the pains and perks of being on the police force of a small, sleepy town. All in all the werewolf didn’t have too many requests, and none that were entirely unreasonable, so he and Stiles had parted on the awkward but acceptable terms of new acquaintances pushed into closeness just a little too quickly for real comfort.
As Derek had pointed out, he was trusting Stiles with his kids, the most important and beloved parts of his life, of himself, so it was kind of important that they get along.
And obviously none of these were things that came easily to Derek. Not without good reason, sure, but lord did the man have issues.
Still, it took two to tango, and wouldn’t Stiles love a nice tango of a different color with his new employer.
Of course, that was half of his side of the problem right there.
He enjoyed the bickering and the back and forth that already seemed to come so easily between them, and didn’t doubt that with time they could probably become a kind of friends. He liked the guy for some reason, despite his eyebrows of doom and quite possibly against his better judgment, and he hoped to hold on to that, to what was simple between them without letting baser attractions cloud his focus or fuck it up.
Because yes, the guy was hot - anybody could see that - but Stiles wasn’t stupid. He was distracted by Derek’s looks because he’d just met him and they were still at that stage where you took things at face value, literally. Since he was going to be working for him Stiles was already shifting into second gear, and it seemed like Derek was at least doing his best to try and keep up because to his credit he had told him about the deadly dangerous ex, but Stiles was still a little put off by the attitude. The guy was grumpy and – let’s be honest – kind of aggressive, and he was hauling around enough baggage to sink a battleship.
Groaning, Stiles scrubbed his hands through his hair and stared at the ceiling.
Taking this job necessitated that he snap to attention and start learning everything he could about the deputy, not just for self-preservation but to simply make his own life easier. They’d begun that today when Derek had told him about Kate, giving more away than just what he’d said. It was obvious that there was a hell of a lot more than that to the story, and Stiles wasn’t naïve enough to think that none of it would ever come in to play.
Still, that mess aside, he wondered if maybe putting some effort into making the dad happier would translate over into making the kids happier. Moving was never easy, and the little family had lost a pack and an alpha in the process. That had to have taken its toll, on all of them, without even considering the fact that they certainly had to have moved for an actual reason. He’d seen a little bit of that already, just in the short bit of time he’d spent with them.
For three young boys, Derek’s kids were awfully quiet and withdrawn, especially around him. Oh they’d opened up a bit eventually and the few minutes that he’d been able to watch them unobtrusively from the back steps had been a real gift. In that time he had seen what they could be, what they should be, happy and playful and utterly carefree, and it pained him to know that they had only managed it in such a close, protected moment. Otherwise they all three had an air of reserve about them, an inner stillness that he recognized, especially the one who’d clung to Derek so closely all afternoon.
He’d been much the same himself, after his mother had died - wild, energetic, always into things he shouldn’t be, but inside still and quiet, just trying desperately to feel something that wasn’t pain or fear or sadness. Doing everything in his childhood power to put on a happy face and wear it like battle armor.
Well, it was something to work on.
He had all summer with these kids, a whole summer to watch them learn and grow, to foster wonder and confidence and happiness.
Rolling over, Stiles reached out to the picture of his parents on the nightstand and touched his mother’s face reverently. She was the reason he’d gone into the social work arena, the reason he wanted so badly to make a difference in the lives of kids like the one he had been.
He was going to make her proud.
He was the Sheriff’s kid for Christ’s sake, of course he knew how to shoot! Should’ve expected him to be able to hit the target.
Never would have expected him to be a damned near perfect shot of course…
Muttering under his breath, Derek got out of the Camaro with a conscious effort not to slam the door and let himself into the house. A second’s pause inside the doorway told him that all three of the boys were still asleep upstairs and that Erica was on the couch watching some sort of reality show with the volume set low. Taking advantage of the quiet stillness that the house so rarely saw, he went straight down to the basement, locking his revolver back into the safe in the corner with another bitter grumble.
“Moron,” he accused as he reset the combination and checked the seal.
Shaking his head, he locked the door and headed back upstairs, detouring into the kitchen for a bottle of water. He supposed he did feel better knowing that Stiles could use the gun if he had to, though really if he had anything to say about it, things would never come to that. He hadn’t been lying when he said he intended to see Kate die in prison. Unfortunately, he knew her far too well to duck the warning that constantly hovered just behind his shoulder, the one that said he’d better stay on his toes if he wanted to keep the boys safe.
A loud crackling sound pulled him out of the fast, downward spiral into dark thoughts that the specter of Kate always brought on, and he blinked himself back into awareness to find that he was standing in front of the fridge with the door hanging open, a half-crunched bottle of water in his hand. Snarling to himself, he pitched the thing into the sink and snagged a towel off the counter, dropping it to the floor to mop up the puddle his claws had made. He was about to take his irritation out on the fridge door when a splash of purple caught his eye, a Tupperware dish tucked onto the top shelf next the butter bowl.
Sweeten up, Sourwolf )
God dammit. What the hell, he didn’t…
Derek dragged his fingers roughly through his hair, tossing the dish onto the counter before slamming the fridge vindictively. Planting his hands on the counter he hung his head, staring down at the note inked onto his storage container with an infuriating sense of confusion bubbling around in the pit of his stomach. This was half the problem and he didn’t get it and he wasn’t sure he liked it and at the same time…
He’d been halfway ok with hiring Stiles in the first place because it meant that he wasn’t hiring one of the soccer moms or the sugar-coated high-schoolers that stared at him like they wanted to eat him alive.
Now Stiles was sending him mixed messages all over the place and it was making the hair on the back of his neck stand up.
He was… god he was good with the boys, and it had shocked the hell out of him when Sebastian had been the one to ask in a quiet, trembly little voice when the other man was coming back. And he’d… explained about their mom in a way that made sense, and he hadn’t freaked out or… judged when he’d read Kate’s face sheet or the restraining order. And no, he shouldn’t have shoved him up against the wall and that was probably a huge mistake – he’d lost control and lashed out and it was embarrassing and horrifying and he’d immediately regretted it, but the kid had snarled right back at him and demanded that he be put down, stood up to him and then immediately somehow put them both at ease again, moved on without a flinch like nothing strange had happened.
And yet there was no way he could have missed that little spark of interest, that flare of arousal that cut him like a knife before it was shut down…
And he had no idea what to do with that.
His wolf had leapt forward far too eagerly, a predator who’d scented blood and was snuffling after its trail with hunger in its belly, and that scared him. He didn’t want… that was bad, really, really bad, and he’d almost panicked but Stiles had reigned it in and shown no other sign that it had ever happened, and that was…
Christ he couldn’t even think straight.
“Get it together Jackass,” he muttered.
Shoving off the counter, he yanked open the silverware drawer and grabbed a spoon, popping the top off of the Tupperware container and heading towards the living room. So what if his wolf liked the kid, he was a damn adult and, all evidence to the contrary, had some small measure of self-control. And apparently the kid did too, even if he had pulled that stupid stunt down at the range. Just one more thing he didn’t understand. It had been close, way too close, the deep, sweet blackberry scent of him flooding Derek’s nose as he roughly corrected the kid’s stance.
Advice he obviously didn’t need.
Flopping down onto the couch next to Erica like so much dead weight, he jammed a giant spoonful of blackberry cobbler into his mouth with a huff.
“How can you frown with that stuff in your mouth?” Erica asked, lifting the remote to fast-forward through a cat food commercial. “God, it’s orgasmic. Oh wait…”
Turning to him with a wicked glint in her eye, she smirked, her teeth showing sharp and white out of the corner of her mouth.
“That’s the probably the problem right there.”
“Shut up,” Derek mumbled, licking his spoon clean before scooping up another delicious bite.
“Well?” she demanded, crossing her arms and turning towards him on the couch. “Do you like him? Wait, don’t answer that!” she yelped before he could reply, throwing up her hands wildly. “That was a stupid question. Here, I’ll try again - Are you willing to try to like him?”
Shooting her an unimpressed look, he stuffed some more dessert into his mouth.
Hey guys! Hope you enjoyed this chapter - I know it's kind of short and transitory, but I wanted to give you an idea of what Derek and Stiles are both going through. Drop me a review and let me know what you think, and if you want, head on over and check out my new one shot, 'The Curious Case of the Tea in the Nighttime!'
Chapter 12: A Little Excessive, A Little Over the Top
Stiles spent all of Sunday doing research, making lists of games and activities, and trying to get everything dancing around in his head out onto paper. It probably would have been smart to go back to the Hale house and spend some more time with the kids while their dad was there, get them used to him in a safe environment with a trusted adult nearby. But he hadn’t thought about it yesterday and he got the feeling that calling Derek and asking if he could come over for a few hours was something that the Deputy wasn’t ready for. Maybe something he wasn’t ready for either…
Which didn’t make any sense when he thought about it, but it had put a weird, rolling tingle in the bottom of his stomach when he opened up a text message so he decided to leave it alone. Derek seemed pointedly uncomfortable around him - though Stiles suspected that he might be uncomfortable with any type of social interaction at all - and he knew himself well enough that he could guess forcing his presence on the guy too hard and too fast would be a bad idea.
And yes, he’d face-palmed hard when that thought crossed his mind because yes, he could make a really, really horrible innuendo out of it, but he was trying really, really, really hard not to.
He’d seen his dad for a few minutes that morning when the Sheriff swiped a cup of coffee on his way out the door, and he’d gotten good and scolded for embarrassing one of the new Deputies down on the range. Good news traveled fast in Beacon Hills, even faster through the town’s tiny police department, but Stiles had learned a long time ago how to work the grapevine to his advantage. He’d spread his paper targets out over the front desk and signed them with a flourish before leaving them there the day before, and he didn’t doubt that Tara had tacked them up for all the cops to see. She’d call it motivation, because who wanted to be outshot by their boss’s kid, but Stiles knew better and so did everyone else. She was proud of him, hell most of the force was they were a family and they’d all had a hand in making Stiles the impressive shot he was, but it was the rest of it that would fuel the fire. They’d ask her when he’d been by, and she would tell them that he’d come up from the range with a smug smirk on his face and a scowling rookie behind him, and they’d fill in the rest themselves.
He hadn’t really thought about that when he’d pulled his stunt - the ribbing that Derek would take afterwards - but the thought of him with a grumbly grimace on his face and a blush reddening the tips of his ears cut any guilt that Stiles was dealing with at the quick.
That and it had been totally worth the few minutes of being held awkwardly between his arms, tucked in close to his chest as he shoved at him to get him into position. That had been the point of the whole thing of course, mostly a joke, a test of the werewolf’s wherewithal. Just to see how he could push him, mostly for his own amusement and just a little bit to test his limits. Stiles was the type who liked to know just exactly what he could get away with, so his game had served that purpose as well.
The guy might be completely awkward in a way that was too adorable for words, but he didn’t seem like the type to fire Stiles over some mild flirtation.
If that was even the way he decided to go.
Checking the clock in the corner of his computer screen, Stiles blinked in surprise, shocked at how quickly the day had passed. Yawning so wide his jaw cracked, he scrubbed his hands through his hair, leaned back so that his spine popped as he scratched his stomach lazily. It was already late afternoon, and even though he had his window open, the early afternoon sun had kicked up the heat in his room, and the old air conditioning unit downstairs in the living room nowhere near powerful enough to push the cool air through to the upper level. Now that he’d pulled himself far enough out of his work to actually remember that he had a physical form, he realized that not only did he feel hot and sticky and grimy, he was starving.
Abandoning the tornado mess that had consumed his desktop and all of the surrounding floor space, he headed down the hall to the bathroom and stripped off, jumped into a cool, cool shower. He took his time, luxuriating in the relief it provided, the way the water washed away the fog that lingered in his brain after having been bogged down in his project for so long. He’d bought some special, scent-canceling soap and shampoo the night before, specially made for those who lived or worked closely with werewolves and cared enough to use it. To Stiles’ nose it just smelled like unscented shower gel, maybe a little bit chemically, but the label and the commercials all claimed that it would help dampen any spikes in his natural scent as well as prevent other external ones from sticking so much.
And after the comments and the bouts of intense sniffing the day before, he thought it might be smart to start scrubbing down.
Granted he had spilled syrupy blackberry-goodness all over himself but Erica’s molestation had been a little much, even for him.
Still, it was the flare of arousal he’d been unable to control that had him following the rinse and repeat rule for the first time in his life.
Stepping out of the shower, Stiles toweled off, gave himself a quick shave and finger-combed his wet hair, leaving it to drip down the sides of his face and the back of his neck. Climbing reluctantly into a pair of shorts and a tank-top with an irritable grumble, he headed downstairs, standing in front of the AC for a solid three minutes until his damp skin was chilled to ice before wandering into the kitchen. He was still starving but there was no way he was going to fire up the oven or the stove, so he poked around the fridge until he found the makings of an epic sandwich, stacking it up to triple decker height and adding a handful of potato chips and a dill pickle to his plate before collapsing on the couch and grabbing the remote, flicking rapidly through the channels until he settled on an old Mets game.
He was trying to distract himself - he knew that.
Stiles sighed huffily, stuffed a massive bite of turkey and tomato into his mouth with a frown.
He liked the guy, liked flirting with him. He hadn’t really experienced that after getting dumped by his last boyfriend, hadn’t really found interest in anyone, but this dark, surly werewolf had something sparking in him. And it felt… good, to smirk at him, to tease and see him grumble.
But that looped him right back to the start of this - not only was Derek his employer but it was pretty obvious that people, and maybe Stiles in particular, made him uncomfortable. Half the time he seemed like he was holding his own just fine he’d been cool with slamming Stiles up against the wall of his basement even if he didn’t panic right after, but there was at least a little bite in him. And maybe a little bit of play too, because he’d been able to chuckle and make terrible jokes that were really just half-assed sarcasm, even if it didn’t come close to Stiles’ level of champion smart-aleck. He’d taken his lumps at the shooting range with decent grace and didn’t show any particular aversion to touching him…
Mostly it just seemed like social awkwardness and a weird sort of unsure professionalism that was making this whole thing uncomfortable.
Well that and the distinct possibility that Derek was either straight or
Not to mention that fact that he was way out of Stiles’ league.
Stiles snorted, rolled his eyes and clicked off the television.
There was a litany of crap there that he had no desire to work through whatsoever. Quite frankly, he’d rather deal with the kids. He wanted to… wanted to make them happy. Really that was it. He just wanted to make them happy.
And maybe that was a part of his own complex.
Dragging himself up out of the couch, Stiles dropped his plate into the kitchen sink and headed back upstairs to his desk, warmer and warmer with every step up he took.
Someone had told him once that he had a savior complex, and at the time it had hit him like a ball bat upside the head because of how much crazy-stupid sense it made. He couldn’t believe that had never clicked for him before someone else spelled it out, but in the end he guessed that it was mostly ok. He could deal with that, he could channel that. It got him through the organization of the ridiculous amount of information he’d pulled up from his old classes and research, the internet and a couple of books he’d picked up over the years. It was a little excessive, a little over the top, but at least he could say that he’d drawn the line at creating a Pinterest account.
Settling into the center of his mattress with his work all categorized in neat stacks around him, he dropped his notebook into his lap and did his best to sort himself out - games, activities, notes, possible solutions to any problems he thought he might run across with room to scribble in what worked and what didn’t. He’d even gone so far as to poke around in kid-friendly treatments for anxiety, attachment issues, and trauma. And maybe that was going way too far, but there was something off about how quiet and still and observant the little Hale boys were, how reserved. They might not be traumatized per se, but it felt familiar to him in a way that said something might have happened, and it was always better to be safe than sorry. He always like having a full toolbox at his disposal.
An hour and a half later he’d finished with the lot of it, got himself as ready as possible, even if he was sure tomorrow would be the hardest day of the whole summer. The kids didn’t know him yet, their dad didn’t trust him yet, and he had no idea what kind of experience they had with being separated from each other. But he was ready, ready for the crying and the pleading and the arguments, and if he was preparing for the absolute worst he could only be pleasantly surprised.
Derek spent all day thanking his stars that Boyd took Sundays off from managing his ice skating rink, because that meant that Erica was busy micromanaging her own household and not puttering around his doing the same. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her, love her like family and pack, and it wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate her help right down to whatever depths of his soul he had, but he thought he might’ve actually died of sheer embarrassment if she’d come around at all that day.
There was no way she’d be able to resist teasing him into the ground for the
way he was acting.
And maybe it was a little excessive, a little over the top, but he couldn’t help it.
He’d woken up that morning with a strange sort of calm in his chest, something he hadn’t truly experienced for some time. There was always something, some small thing always in the back of his mind, always worrying him, haunting him, and lately it had been knowing that he was going to have to leave his kids with a stranger. But somehow knowing that that stranger was Stiles…
Without really knowing why he’d slept through the night in one of the white cotton t-shirts that Stiles had left, switched into another when he’d finally dragged himself out of bed. They were a little tight across the chest but he still intended to change into the last of the three that night, and there was something a little like stupid accomplishment in him. He’d been given a task and he’d done it, even if he didn’t understand. Half of him knew that he felt the way he did because it was just how his biology worked, pack sentiment, being a beta…
Either way he’d done it, whether he should’ve or not, and he’d gotten on with his day, deliberately ignoring the stretch and pull of the material across his upper chest and biceps. He’d made a massive stack of pancakes, one of the few things he could cook, and the boys had all come thundering down the stairs to attack his legs as he stood at the stove, clambering up onto bar stools after he’d ruffled their hair and hugged them. He served up breakfast and almost immediately regretted letting them pour their own syrup, washed them down right along with the island countertop before they all crashed onto the couch for a half hour of the heinously colorful cartoons the boys loved so much. After that it was up and dressed and outside, into the sunshine for a long romp through the woods.
He spent the whole of the day spoiling them, coddling them, scent marking them, hovering, and it was excessive and over the top but without Erica there to make fun of him for it he couldn’t care. They soaked up the attention like little love-deprived sponges, even though he was always careful to make sure they got everything they could ever need from him, every day. He would’ve thought they’d sense something was different eventually, start to squirm halfway through the afternoon - especially Benjy - but they had either figured it out or they had simply decided to take what they could get without wondering at its source.
And really, either worked for Derek.
After a late lunch they piled back onto the couch to watch The Lion King, where Derek found himself at the bottom of a veritable puppy-pile. The boys crowded into his lap, draping themselves all over him as they giggled and pointed at the TV, singing along with Simba in sleepy voices until they started to drift off. For the next hour he settled back into the cushions and let himself go drowsy too, surrounded by warmth and the sweet smell of green grass and sunshine and sticky cherry popsicles, the smell of his kids, his boys. His hands ran over them absently, constantly moving, stroking down Angus’ spine when he kicked, pushing Benjamin’s hair back from his face when his nose wrinkled, curling protectively around the back of Sebastian’s neck at the sound of a tight little whimper.
God the way he loved them.
It made his breath stick in his throat sometimes.
It was going to be hard to leave them tomorrow, he knew that. He’d done it before - he’d always worked, except for that first year and a half, when he’d been in and out of the courts and the hospitals, his wolf too anxious and tightly wound to even consider leaving his babies. He’d hardly been able to let them out of his sight before their second birthday. He’d managed to get himself under control after that, to reign in his fears and leave the boys so that he could go back to work, leave them with Laura or Cora or his mom, and then after they’d moved with Erica or Boyd.
But it had always been pack he’d left them with.
This would be the very first time he left them with what was essentially a
Derek liked to think that he knew himself fairly well. He knew his strengths, even if they were often hard for him to acknowledge, and he knew his weaknesses too, no small thanks owed to his sisters for that fact. He knew that he was often over-protective of boys regardless of whether or not he had a good reason. Subsequently he had expected that he’d be nervous when it finally came down to the line. Hell he had been nervous, nervous when Erica had written up the ad, when the calls had started coming in and all of the interviews had made his hackles stand on end.
It felt ok, and that was probably what was freaking him out the most - the
fact that he wasn’t freaking out.
And yes, that was completely confusing and twisting his brain up into all kinds of knots so he figured the only thing he could really do was go with it.
Protect himself and his kids as well as he could and go with it. And yeah, he’d do good on his promise to Erica and try to at least get to know the kid, even if it was just to soothe his wolf.
“Hey there, little guy,” Derek rumbled lazily, blinking himself fully awake and pulling Benjy up onto his chest to press a kiss down onto his forehead.
“Have a good nap?”
The boy made a little growly sound in the back of his throat, pushing up to rub his head beneath Derek’s chin as his brothers began to stir.
“ ‘M hungry,” Angus whined, sitting up to rub his eyes, and Derek chuckled because it was the first thing the little werewolf said on any given day after waking up.
“No you’re not,” he answered with a smile. “Come on, I want to talk to you
guys. This is important, ok?”
Suddenly Derek found himself being stared down by three pairs of wide, bright eyes, all curiosity and caution and trust, and it put an ache so sweet in his chest that he had to swallow hard before he could talk again.
“So you know how I got a new job right?” he started, going for the easy stuff that they’d already gone over.
“Fightin’ bad guys,” Angus mumbled, warm and rumpled and yawning.
“Right. And I told you about my boss, the Sheriff? And how he’s a good guy that helps keep us safe?”
The boys nodded, and Derek still wasn’t really sure how much they understood about what he did or if he’d explained it in a way that made sense to them. The thought flicked through his head that Stiles might manage it better.
“Well the Sheriff is Stiles’ dad.”
“Like you’re our dad,” Benjamin said knowingly, and Derek smiled, ruffled his hair.
“Right. And you know how Aunt Erica is starting her new job tomorrow?”
Three little heads nodded.
“Well that means that Aunt Erica can’t watch you guys when I go to work tomorrow.”
The strike of fear that locked up three little bodies, the bitter oranges scent of it that he’d been waiting for.
“Easy,” he murmured, reaching out to touch them all, trailing fingers round the back of their necks in reassurance as they crowded closer, desperate to be marked with the scent of their father, their stand-in Alpha.
“It’s gonna be ok,” he said, forcing his voice and his heart to be calm and steady. “You guys remember Stiles?”
Three nods, and a little nervous snuffling as they rubbed their faces against his t-shirt.
“And you guys liked him right?”
“Smelled yummy,” Angus hummed, apparently still thinking with his stomach.
Benjamin mumbled some kind of agreement too quiet to hear.
Sebastian just stayed silent.
“So do you think it would be ok if he came over tomorrow and stayed with you guys while I’m at work?”
“Not forever,” he answered quietly. “I’ll come home at night just like I always do. And I can maybe come home for lunch and check on you guys.”
For a while it was quiet, the boys just holding themselves close, absorbing his heartbeat and mulling things over as well as their little heads could. He just hoped they didn’t give themselves a headache.
It was Sebastian who finally spoke up, small and quiet and too scared for Derek’s liking, but it didn’t surprise him. It made sense when you considered what had happened to him, to them.
“It’s just something to try,” he replied, pulling him in closer and watching with a hot, swelling sense of pride as Angus and Benjamin reached out to lay a hand on their brother, relaying the comfort of pack and family. “If you don’t like him that’s ok. I want you to tell me if you don’t like him, all right?
“Good boys,” he rumbled. “We’re just gonna try it ok? And I think you’ll like him - you guys are probably gonna have a lot of fun,” he smiled, pepping up his voice to lighten the mood, and if he was lucky, maybe even get them a little excited for their new babysitter. “More fun than me at work. You guys get dessert.”
That got a giggle and the boys started to squirm, ready to get down and run again.
“All right, come on,” he said, rolling onto his feet and heading towards the door. “Let’s go outside and play.”
Chapter 13: Word of Warning
Stiles hadn’t had such an anxious morning since his first day of fifth grade, the first time he’d had to head off to a new school year without his mom. His stomach was tight, breakfast totally out of the question, so he spent the extra time showering again with his scent-blocking soaps. He’d picked out his clothes the day before, draping them neatly over the back of his desk chair, but just as he’d predicted they didn’t seem as appropriate as they had the night before, so another twenty minutes went by way of a frantic raid through the back of the closet.
He eventually settled on an outfit similar to the one he’d worn to meet the Hale boys in the first place a pair of worn black jeans, a burgundy-colored BHH Lacrosse tee, and a long-sleeved white flannel striped to match. He chose his clothes mostly for the softness of the material, everything having been washed with scentless detergent over the last two days. It was probably over-cautious, but he didn’t want anything about him to be too harsh on the senses of the little werewolves.
He’d packed up the night before too, but he double checked everything twice before he got all the way downstairs. He had his notebook and colored pens, his super hero stickers, a set of coloring books and crayons, and a full set of clothes that he planned to stash inside the Hale house for emergencies. He’d found the time somewhere to make a batch of oatmeal cookies the night before, so he grabbed the Tupperware container from the counter on his way through the kitchen too. Juggling his bag and his keys, he snatched his hoodie from the hook near the door, and stepped out onto the front porch, locking up and heading for his jeep.
He knew that before he even turned the engine over.
He hadn’t planned for that, but with the way he’d been zipping around the house in an over-charged frenzy, there wasn’t much he could do, even when he could guess at how much an early arrival might suck - and he was one hundred percent sure that he couldn’t handle seeing Derek in his pajamas, no matter what the guy wore (or didn’t wear) to bed.
So coffee it was, and luckily for him the only good coffee shop was on the other side of town, the one where he’d first met Derek and Erica. The drive to and from would kill a little bit of time.
Ten minutes later he’d placed his order and he wasn’t messing around with any of that black coffee nonsense like he had last time. He didn’t need the caffeine and he could allow himself the sugar, so he ordered his regular, an iced butterscotch macchiato with triple whip and a drizzle. After half a second’s thought he caved to his earlier resolve and sprang for a large black coffee - sweet tooth or no, Derek looked like the kind of terrible person who enjoyed his coffee without any cream or sugar at all. He hadn’t seen a coffee maker on the spotless countertops, but he could guarantee the Deputy would need it today and he knew what kind of mud was brewed up behind the counter down at the station.
Best to get off on the right foot.
He’d felt fine leaving the coffee shop, even smiling around his straw as he attempted to lick the cream off the end of his nose, but the drive flew by all too fast, and before he knew it he was parked in front of the house in the woods, it’s smart red door mocking him from across the little front yard. Stiles sat with his hands tight around the steering wheel, chewing on his bottom lip, his heart suddenly hammering in his chest. He could feel his palms start to sweat so he peeled them from the wheel one finger at a time and wiped them on his jeans, muttering a pep talk under his breath.
“Relax dude, you’ve got this,” he murmured as he grabbed his hoodie and wriggled into the straps of his bag within the confines of his front seat. “They’re just little kids. Little wolf kids. Adorable, identical little wolf kids…”
Balancing the steaming coffee cup on the lid of his Tupperware, he climbed carefully out of the jeep and headed for the door, chasing his straw for a sweet, bracing sip as he ‘knocked’ with the toe of his Converse. The screech that sounded from inside the house in response had him flinching backward, falling into a neat little drop-step to save his precariously balanced handful. He didn’t doubt that it would have been ear-splitting had the door not stood between them to deaden the sound, and a swoop of heavy dread suddenly curled up in the pit of his stomach.
He was half-seriously considering a bolt for his car when the door was jerked open, revealing a frazzled looking Derek with a half-shifted baby-wolf clinging to each of his legs like little Velcro sock-monkeys. His uniform was only half done up, the shirt hanging open over a white wife-beater, and his hair was a little mussed, like frustrated fingers had been dragged through it a few times. Stiles had to bite back a smirk at the look that darkened the man’s face - it could only be termed a glower and he didn’t think that the humorous approach would be appreciated.
“Morning!” he blurted, gulping hard when the older wolf flashed his eyes. “Um, here.”
Thrusting the coffee cup into Derek’s hand really seemed the safest route at that point, so he shoved it at his chest and counted on his wolfy-reflexes to catch it without a spill. Grinning widely down at the two boys hanging off of the man’s pant legs, he shook his Tupperware at them with a wink before ducking past their dad and slipping down the hallway. Confidence would get you everywhere, so he headed straight for the kitchen, listening for the sound of the front door closing behind him.
By the time he deposited the box of cookies on the counter there was a thundering little patter of feet running after him and he couldn’t help a grin. He’d never claimed to be a good person - he’d buy his way into this if he had to. And everybody knew that a way to a wolf’s heart was through his stomach.
Stiles jumped, startled by the greeting that had come from the third little wolf whom he’d overlooked sitting at the breakfast table, garbled by the giant bite of cereal in his mouth. Reigning in the reaction, he grinned and waved, happy that the boy was at ease enough to speak to him, even before his dad had stepped back into the room.
“Benjy,” Derek rumbled in a light yet warning tone. “Chew and swallow first buddy, remember? No wolves at the table.”
Balancing his coffee in one hand, he shooed the other two boys back into their chairs, having managed to detach them both from his person on their way back down the hallway and coaxed them down from their shifts. Though they each climbed back up to the table and grabbed their spoons, they were both watching him closely, one with a careful and wary countenance, almost fearfully, the other boldly and openly and almost aggressively.
“Hi guys!” he smiled happily.
One of them - he was putting good money on Angus - smiled back around a mouthful of teeth, his eyes flashing, and Stiles go the distinct feeling that he should be nervous. That look was way too familiar. It was the one he himself wore when he had a good practical joke in mind. Narrowing his eyes at the wolf, he smirked before sending the quite one with the huge eyes a more gentle, encouraging smile.
“Late breakfast?” he asked, turning his attention back to dad while the boys went back to their semi-soggy Cheerios.
“Yeah, we’ve had a…” Derek huffed and carded his hands through his hair, finger-combing it into a more acceptable mess. “Rough morning.”
“I figured,” Stiles grinned, tapping the cup Derek had placed on the counter next to his elbows. “You forget to turn on the coffee pot on the worst mornings.”
“Right,” Derek rumbled, watching him out of the corner of his eye and shifting on his feet. “Thanks for…”
“No problem dude,” he replied, taking a loud slurp from his own drink. “Was on the way.”
“No it wasn’t,” Derek countered. “And don’t call me dude. What is that anyway, a cavity in a cup?”
“Oh, so it’s no sugar then?” Stiles asked sweetly, rounding to the other side of the counter and pulling his Tupperware towards him, cracking the lid. “I guess I’ll just…”
Stiles stifled a chuckle, watching Derek subtly scent the air from beneath his lashes.
“Oatmeal chocolate chip,” he corrected. “With my special twist. It’s cinnamon by the way. Got any Ziplocs?”
There was a pause long enough to have Stiles looking up and cocking an eyebrow, forcing Derek to blink and snap himself back from where ever he’d gone before, his gaze locked on Stiles’ hands where the curled around the edges of the container.
“Um, yeah, there,” he replied, nodding towards a drawer.
Stiles opened it up and grabbed the box, bagging up a handful of cookies and sliding them across the counter while Derek took a twitchy sort of swig from his coffee. Sitting the cup down, he started buttoning up his shirt and Stiles found it was his turn to watch strong fingers work the fastenings. He left the collar open, offering just a glimpse of a strong tanned throat, the fabric tight across his chest as he twisted to tuck it into his belted stripe-legged tactical pants.
Stiles swallowed, placed the box back into the drawer.
“Soooo,” he hummed, drawing the word out with a smile. “Any last minute advice? Words of warning?”
“No,” Derek huffed, somewhat irritably as he glanced at the clock above the stove. “My shift starts at ten, so I usually leave at about quarter to. Guess I’ve got time to give you a quick tour…”
“Cool,” Stiles grinned. “I’m already halfway to Vegas with your kitchen - I can’t wait to see the rest. Hey, you guys wanna help give me a tour?” he asked, calling to the little boys who’d finished their cereal and were getting a little squirmy in their chairs.
Angus (he thought), smiled widely and clapped his hands together, scrambling down and taking Stiles hand, tugging him towards the living room. Benjamin followed at a more sedate pace, while Derek had to reach down and scoop Sebastian (Sebastian, right?) up off his chair, holding him against his side easily with one arm as he followed silently behind.
“Dis is the living room!” Angus announced, leading him into a wide, open space across the hall from the kitchen.
The room was dominated by a long, comfortable-looking couch and a single, wide armchair against the back wall, a large flat screen hanging opposite over a small entertainment center. The floor was dark, raw hardwood polished and lacquered smooth, and there were matching, exposed hardwood beams on the ceiling above. A tall bookcase was stuffed full of well-worn hardcovers and paper backs, and there was a thick, fluffy rug covering much of the floor in a dark charcoal, contrasting nicely with the massive, pale blue throw pillows stuck into the corners of the furniture. Stiles got the impression of a close, homey space, a few toys scattered round, before Benjamin darted past and Angus pulled him through another arched doorway and further up the hall towards a set of carpeted stairs.
“Up!” Angus cheered, and Stiles could’ve sworn he saw Benjamin roll his eyes.
Oh, he liked these kids.
“My room,” Angus grinned, barreling through a doorway at the top of the stairs.
“Our room,” Benjamin yipped, his eyes flashing. “Right dad?”
Derek made a humming sort of sound, putting Sebastian down and stepping into the room beside Stiles.
“The boys all share,” he said, apparently by way of settling the argument. “There’s a full bathroom across the hall, and a half downstairs.” Nodding towards the door, he waited until Stiles turned to look. “My room’s the last door, at the end of the hall. There’s another full bath there but you shouldn’t need it. The kids’ has a Jacuzzi tub that they should all fit in for a while.”
Stiles nodded and wondered if that hadn’t all just been Derek’s way of telling him to stay out of his room. He wasn’t going to of course - he definitely planned on some minor snooping under the guise of cleaning - but there were more important things at hand at the moment.
“Look!” Angus demanded, pushing a fire truck into Stiles’ hands.
“Wow!” Stiles grinned. “That’s a great fire truck dude!”
He was ready with more but Angus galloped off again, leaving Stiles standing next to Derek turning the toy awkwardly in his hands. The room was long and open, much like the rest of the house, painted a light sage color with thick, dark green carpets. There were three little beds all lined up along the far end, hand-made quilts spread neatly over dark wood frames, and a short set of shelved benches beneath a long bay window facing the woods at the back of the house. Topped with soft cushions, it looked like a great place to curl up with a book, and three intricately carved toy boxes spilled all sorts of fun stuff across the floor. All in all it was an airy, sun-filled room in natural hues, a haven where three young wolves could grow and learn and be happy.
Stiles blinked, felt himself blush as he came to feel Derek’s gaze on him. He knew he was staring, looking around in wonder at all the little things that made this room special the running wolves cut into the toy boxes, the chime made of pale green sea glass that hung in the window and sent colored light splashing across the floor - all the little things that made it pure awesome.
Derek cocked an eyebrow and opened his mouth like he was about to say something, but nothing came and he shook his head.
“Come on,” he rumbled, glancing at his three boys, who were all playing contentedly in the center of the floor, paying the two adults little attention.
Stepping out into the hall, Stiles followed him along, poking his head into the bathroom where there was a tub the size of a small swimming pool taking up most of the space, and then further down. Stiles felt his heartbeat kick up a bit as Derek led him towards his room, and if he were honest it had nothing to do with any sort of sexy thoughts. It was far more than that. It was a wolf allowing a stranger into its den, its inner sanctum, a place that was supposed to be safe, where it could be vulnerable without worry. He didn’t expect to be welcomed into it, didn’t expect to be led there, so when Derek left him at the door peering in with a wait sort of hand motion, Stiles was actually rather relieved. Yes, he was planning on snooping when the wolf wasn’t there, that had already been established, but that was something totally different, doing something without permission that could very well get him snarled or snapped at. That risk was somehow far easier to stare down than the blind sort of trust Derek had just threatened him with.
Stiles shook his head, leaned back against the wall instead of leaning in to get a better glimpse inside.
The guy was leaving his kids with him for God’s sake, blind trust was the name of this game.
Stiles jumped a little when Derek reappeared, looming up over him from where he was slouched low against the wall. He’d shoved a stack of soft, folded cotton into his hands, and it took a minute for him to recognize the t-shirts he’d left on Saturday. The fabric was a little warm, a little thin, like they’d been well-worn and stretched out, and Stiles grinned.
“Cool, thanks!” he smiled. “These are gonna come in handy."
The look of confusion on Derek’s face had Stiles chuckling, holding the shirts out and away from him as they walked back down the hallway. He didn’t want to undo all the work the man had done over the weekend. Derek stuck his head into the boys’ room, murmured something that had them all tumbling out the door in a rush after them. He sent them off to put their bowls in the sink while he showed Stiles a small office at the front of the house, stepping inside to buckle on his utility belt.
“So I get off at seven,” he said while Stiles watched quietly, mentally ticking off the list he’d memorized a long time ago as Derek strapped in.
Handcuffs. Pepper spray. Glock. Badge.
“So I should be back by seven-thirty. I know the ad said 8:30 - I was hoping you’d stick around and help things settle before you take off.”
“Sure thing,” Stiles replied.
He’d planned on that. He fully intended to get this family running on a set schedule, one that included a hot family dinner and a father-son bedtime routine. He’d need a little time for that.
“Keys,” Derek said, tossing a ring towards Stiles, watching with judgmental eyebrows when he almost fumbled. “I’d rather you stayed here for a few days, let them get used to you before you take them anywhere.”
“Good. I’m assuming I don’t have to tell you not to let anyone into the house that isn’t me or Erica. Or your dad, I guess.”
Stiles grinned. Here were the nerves he was expecting, even if they were showing themselves in a weird list of do’s and don’ts. “Nope.”
Derek sighed, ran his hands through his hair one more time.
And now Stiles wanted to fix it.
“All right then,” the Deputy said, glancing around the room.
“It’s gonna be fine dude,” Stiles reassured him.
Stepping past Stiles, he headed to the kitchen, grabbing his wallet and stuffing it into his back pocket, swiping his coffee off the counter. Stiles didn’t miss how he grabbed the bag of cookies either, even though he tried to be sneaky and smooth about it.
“All right little guys,” Derek smiled, herding up the lot of little wolves who had suddenly surrounded him on his way back to the front door, lower lips suddenly quivering in matched pouts. “I’ve gotta got to work. Stiles is gonna take care of you for me until I get home.”
“Why do you gotta go?” Angus demanded, and Stiles smiled at the mock-bravery he was trying to cover fear with.
“Your dad’s gotta go be a superhero,” he smiled, and all three boys turned to him with a mix of surprise and confusion on their faces.
“I’m not a superhero,” Derek scoffed, and Stiles shot him a stern look.
“All cops are superheroes,” he insisted. “Especially single-dad cops.”
Derek’s mouth twisted to the side like he was going to protest, but Stiles arched a challenging eyebrow at him and the man conceded, nodding in a way that somehow said he respected Stiles’ opinion.
“He’ll be back,” Stiles smiled, going back to the kids. “We can have some fun till then, all right?”
He got two nods, one hesitant, one more confidant, and one look that was all uncertainty, but he could work with all three. Stepping back, he shot Derek a look that wasn’t needed at all, because he’d already crouched down and gathered the boys up in his arms, nuzzling them with his stubbly cheeks until they giggled.
“You’ll be fine,” he said lightly, before his voice went soft and low and gentle, painfully sincere. “Be good for me ok? I love you guys. To the moon and back.”
Stiles throat went tight at the sentiment, something warm and mushy squishing around in his chest as the little boys murmured ‘I love you’s’ back.
“All right then,” Derek grinned. “Go wash your hands you’ve all got sticky paws.”
The boys smiled toothily but ran off up the hallway towards the bathroom easily enough and Derek rose smoothly to his feet, turning on Stiles so fast that he sucked a breath in through his teeth. Taking a hard step forward, he crowded him against the wall, pressing him backward as he leaned in close, teeth sharpening beneath his lip.
“You have my number,” he said and his voice went rough and growly, his hand coming up to grip Stiles’ shoulder where it met the curve of his neck, firm but human as his thumb swept roughly over the curve of his throat. “If anything…”
“I’ll call!” Stiles squeaked, his heartbeat thundering in his ears as he fought the urge to bring his hands up to grab Derek’s wrist or push against his chest. “I’ll call, I promise. But it’s gonna be fine Derek, you just gotta trust me.”
Crap. He hadn’t meant to say that.
“Oh, I’m starting to Stiles,” Derek said softly, his fangs retracting as he released him and stepped back, pulling the door open and stepping halfway through. “Thanks for the
coffee,” he smirked, saluting him with the cup.
Stiles watched with a knot in his throat as the man grabbed the door, started to pull it shut but then paused, looked up with glowing blue eyes.
“Oh and Stiles? Screw this up… and I’m gonna rip your throat out. With my teeth.”
Chapter 14: Treasure Hunt
For a solid five seconds Stiles couldn’t breathe.
And apparently he still had a thing for being forced back against a wall and threatened because it wasn’t only fear making his heart hammer inside his chest. There was something like excitement there, and not even the sexy-times kind. He was… intrigued. There was something going on there, an undercurrent that he was going to get a good long look at if it killed him, and it only increased the burn in his belly to bring this family together and make it the kind of home he remembered, treasured.
Hmm, was that a lightbulb he sensed flashing above his head?
“All right little guys,” he smiled, turning to face the three little wolves who had come creeping cautiously up the hallway and were watching him from a close distance. “Let’s go in the kitchen for a minute, I got something for you.”
Leading the way, he was pleased to see that all three of them followed, albeit with different levels of enthusiasm. While he thought he could guess which one was which from their mannerisms, he didn’t want to make a mistake and give them an excuse to not like him right off the bat. They were all dressed alike today, little blue jeans and orange-and-blue striped polos, and he had to wonder if that was a test on their part or some kind of twisted joke on Derek’s.
Either way it didn’t matter - he was going to need some help.
“Ok,” he said, grabbing his backpack off the counter and lowering himself down to sit cross-legged on the floor. The boys followed, sitting across from him in a half circle, and he cast them an easy smile as he dug around inside his bag, coming up with his sheet of superhero stickers.
“So, do you remember the other day when you guys told me your names?” he asked carefully, and they nodded. So far so good. “And you guys know how you all look the same?”
“We’re triplets!” one of them said, beaming proudly, and he thought it was Angus.
“Right!” Stiles grinned. “Well, I don’t have a super good sense of smell like you guys. I’m just a human, so it’s a little bit harder for me to tell you guys apart. Especially when you all have the same nice clothes on.”
The wolf on his right quirked an eyebrow and Stiles almost laughed at how much he looked like his dad in that moment, speculative and maybe a little bit impressed, and it was then that he knew who’s idea the outfits were.
“So I thought maybe I’d bring you guys some stickers,” he went on, gesturing with the sheet in his hand, “And that way I don’t mess up and call anybody the wrong name.”
They three boys looked at each other but didn’t respond, so he took it as acceptance and pushed forward.
“Awesome!” he smiled. “So we’ve got some pretty cool superheroes on here - who wants which one?”
Leaning forward with a toothy grin, the one who’d declared himself a triplet pointed at his sticker of choice, clapping when Stiles peeled it off and stuck it on his shirt.
“All right, Superman goes to…”
“Angus!” he smiled, and Stiles returned it.
Score one for him, he’d gotten it right.
“How about you?” he asked the one on the right, who was looking just a little excited now too.
“This one,” he pointed, and Stiles handed over another sticker.
“Flash,” the boy replied simply, positioning the little cartoon hero on his shirt.
“Woah, you guys know the superheroes?” he asked, his turn to be impressed. “That’s awesome! So you’re Benjamin right?”
“And that makes you Sebastian,” he smiled gently turning to the last little wolf who was still sitting just a little bit tightly, a little withdrawn. “Do you know which one you want?”
The boy didn’t reply, just looked up at him with huge, wary eyes.
“Well, how about this one?” he asked. Peeling off one last sticker, he leaned forward slowly and pasted a little Batman on the boy’s shirt. “That one’s my favorite,” he said conspiratorially.
He couldn’t help the warm feeling in his chest when little fingers came up to trace the edges of the sticker, just the hint of a smile touching the corners of the little boy’s mouth.
“Perfect!” he grinned, rubbing his hands together. “So we’ve got Angus and Sebastian and Benjamin, right?”
“And I’m Stiles,” he said. “Now I know that your Dad just gave me a tour, but I think you guys can probably give me a good one too. Cause you probably know some stuff that he didn’t have time to
show me right?”
“What stuff?” Benjamin asked, suddenly skeptic.
“Well, I thought maybe we could have a little treasure hunt,” he explained. “I’ll ask where something is, and then you guys can all go find it for me. That way I can learn all the fun stuff that Dad doesn’t know, like maybe the best hiding spot for hide-n-seek.”
“That’s no fair!” Benjamin frowned, cutting off his brother who’d opened his mouth the spout the answer. “Then you’ll win.”
“Ok, maybe not that one then,” Stiles chuckled. “That’s probably a good secret to keep, huh?”
Pushing up to his feet, he waited until the triplets got up too, found his notebook and a pen and scribbled a quick list on a sticky note of things he wanted to be able to find.
“Ok, are you ready?” he asked, and he actually had three little grins facing him this time, even if one was shy and tentative and a little scared, another wicked and full of teeth. Still, another point to Stiles! At this rate he was going to have to start keeping a tally.
“All right, let’s get this treasure hunt started!” Running his pencil down the list, he decided to try and get the most important things out of the way first, just in case the game got boring. “Ok, where is… the first aid kit?”
“Med-cin?” a little wolf asked, and a quick check-in with Superman confirmed it was Angus.
“Right,” Stiles nodded, hoping they wouldn’t go for the Wolfsbane downstairs. “And the band-aids, and the…”
There he trailed off because to be honest he wasn’t sure what else a werewolf might need in a first aid kit, but all three little boys had taken off running, scrambling upstairs with a sound like thunder. Grinning, Stiles hiked up his back pack and followed after them, catching them just as they turned into their bathroom, pulling open one of the drawers under the sink. Inside there was a tube of antibacterial ointment and a box of Bob-the-Builder band-aids, and Stiles offered all of the boys a high-five while congratulating them. Sebastian held back but he was standing closer to Stiles than he had before, so he counted that as a win.
A quick peek inside the medicine cabinet behind the mirror, well out of reach of little hands, proved that Derek had stocked up a little bit more than what he suspected a werewolf might need - Tylenol, cough syrup - things that looked new and suggested he might’ve done it for his new human nanny.
“Ok, how about extra towels?” Stiles asked, and the boys were off and running again, down the hall past the small guest room Derek had breezed over awkwardly to a small, latticed door, pulling it open to show off a well-stocked linen closet.
Licking the tip of his pencil, he conducted another quick inventory - towels (bath and beach), washcloths, sheets and pillow cases. Satisfied with its contents, surprised even that a bachelor dad’s “tool kit” was so thorough, he made his notes and then pulled his extra clothes from his backpack, rolling them up tight and stashing them on a high shelf.
“What’s that?” Benjamin asked, tugging on the hem of Stiles’ flannel.
“Those are Emergency Clothes,” he replied, his brain already jumping ahead to build a foundation for their future road trip. “I get messy sometimes, so I wanted to make sure that I have extra clothes here!”
Benjamin’s little mouth quirked but then he nodded, accepting the premise.
“Let’s look for pajamas next,” he suggested, closing the closet and turning the boys back down the hallway, away from the tempting glimpse of Derek’s bedroom that he’d gotten through the door he’d left ajar. “That way you guys can show me some more of your awesome room!”
Angus smiled widely and grabbed Stiles hand, dragging him down the hallway, his brothers close behind.
“My room,” he declared as they stepped inside, and Stiles saw both Benjamin and Sebastian frown.
“Everybody’s room,” he corrected gently, sensing an old, long-standing argument. “Right?”
“Right?” the little wolf grumbled before running over to one of the twin beds and jumping into it, ruffling the quilt.
“I gotta tell you guys,” Stiles said, looking up as he spun in a slow, tight circle, “This room is soooo cool.” Wandering over to the toy chests, he sank to his knees and trailed his fingers over the intricately carved wolves that ran along the edges.
“Grandpa David maked ‘em for us,” Benjamin said at his side, and Stiles smiled at the thought, Derek’s father working long and carefully to create three perfectly replicated boxes for the boys. Those would be something to hold on to for the rest of their lives. “Grandma Talia maded that.” Blinking, he followed the boy’s finger up to the chime made of sea glass and stone that hung over the little reading nook.
“An’ pack maked these!” Angus announced loudly from the other side of the room, pulling up the edges of the hand-pieced quilt spread beneath him. “Before we hadda leave. ”
Stiles swallowed, watched the boys carefully as they each reacted to Angus’ words, falling in on themselves just a little bit, and that was heavier than he’d been hoping for on his first day. He didn’t know why they’d left their pack but if it had anything to do with their mother he would bet all of his summer paychecks that it had been a traumatic experience, and he didn’t think that any of the boys had been prepared for what they were feeling now. Angus words had been thoughtless and off-the-cuff, taking them all by surprise and hurting them all the more for it.
“You guys miss your pack, huh?” he said quietly, and all three little heads bobbed in silent nods. There was even a sniffle or two going around, and he was struck with the sudden need to haul all of them in to his chest and hug them until they felt better, cuddle them until he’d fixed it, but he didn’t think they were there yet.
“It’s tough missing people you love,” he murmured, working with his words instead. “But hey, you’re gonna go see them at the end of the summer right? Everybody will be there, and it’ll be a big party. That’ll be fun.”
“Are you gonna go too?” Angus asked, scrubbing at his eyes with his fists.
“Your dad wants me to come help,” he answered carefully. “You guys think that’ll be ok?”
“Well, maybe before then I can help you guys write some letters or make some pictures to send to Grandma and grandpa and your pack in the mail.”
Stiles heart swelled with the way three pairs of eyes lit up at that simple offer, delighted with knowing that he could do something so easy that would bring these little boys back to their family.
“Aunt Laura an’ Aunt Cora too?” Sebastian asked, his first words barely audible to the human as he stared resolutely at his socked feet.
“Sure,” he promised, getting to his feet again as he fought down a victory dance. “How about you show me your favorite toys, and then we’ll go find the craft stuff?”
Chapter 15: Learn a Little Bit More
The next hour flew by quickly as the boys dragged out almost every toy they had, showing Stiles what seemed to be every moving piece and every color of plastic truck on the face of the planet. Angus liked blocks - though Stiles suspected what he liked was actually knocking them down, Benjamin liked the action figures and stuffed animals which he commanded about like a miniature drill sergeant, and Sebastian was the one to shyly lift a pair of dinosaurs that had Stiles practically falling in love with the kid on the spot. At least until he noticed the teeth marks in the hard plastic necks and tails - that was… yeah.
Something to think about, he supposed.
They continued on with their treasure hunt, the boys cheerfully dashing about to show Stiles where they kept their toothbrushes and their pajamas, bath toys and socks. Then it was downstairs to find the coat closet, stuffed to bursting with jackets and rain boots, what seemed like a million pairs of little shoes, and the leather jacket that Deputy Derek had worn so well over the weekend. In the living room they showed him the bottom half of the bookshelf where the coloring supplies and board games were located, as well as a large glass Mason jar half full of coins and crumpled dollar bills which the boys proudly proclaimed their swear jar. The cabinets under the television revealed a wide array of children’s DVD’s Disney, Pixar, even a full set of Hallmark’s ‘Timeless Tales.’ He was vaguely disappointed when he couldn’t find any grown-up movies, and he had to wonder if Derek had his own set tucked away somewhere or if he just relied on Netflix when he needed to escape from the cartoons.
“Ok!” Stiles grinned, checking off the list of things he wanted to have knowledge of, “Let’s head into the kitchen for a little bit.”
All three boys went bouncing along ahead of him, attempting to climb up onto the high-backed bar stools at the island, and Stiles took the opportunity to casually take each of them under the arms and lift them up onto the seats. Angus went without a fuss, energetic and smiling, and Benjamin too went quietly, though he watched Stiles closely with narrowed eyes when he lifted an anxious Sebastian and deposited him carefully on his stool.
“Do you guys want a drink?” he asked, and all three nodded, so he asked them to point out where the cups were and found a set of kid-sized plastic tumblers inside a cabinet.
Filling each cup halfway at the sink, he took a few minutes to familiarize himself with the contents of the cupboards, the location of all the dishes and utensils while the boys rehydrated. Erica had warned him that Derek didn’t cook so he wasn’t too surprised by the generally poor range of implements, but it was decent enough for now, and if he really needed anything he could always bring it from home. He intended to make up a sort of menu so that he could plan out dinners two weeks at a time, things that the boys would actually eat, and that would help make grocery shopping ten times easier.
“So tell me what you guys’ favorite foods are,” he said over his shoulder while he poked through Derek’s frankly abysmal set of pots and pans. “What kinds of stuff do you like for dinner?”
“Pizza!” Angus cried, flinging up his hands and almost spilling his cup.
Stiles grinned before he reached for his notebook, making a quick note about water bottles and no-spill cups for their road trip. “I like pizza too,” he confided, turning to Angus’ section and scribbling it down. “What else?”
Tacos were added to the list and then hamburgers when Stiles told them how much he loved curly fries. He coaxed an answer out of Sebastian eventually, who mumbled that his favorite was chicken nuggets, and then refereed a brief spat between Angus and Benjamin about what was considered breakfast food and when you were allowed to eat it. It mostly seemed like Benjamin was defending Sebastian’s love of waffles and they worked through it eventually while Stiles rinsed out their cups and began poking through the fridge. Contents were good not great, but if he built up a base pantry it should do just fine.
Stiles intended to take full advantage of the kitchen opportunities he’d been gifted.
“What about snacks?” he asked idly, opening a cupboard and grimacing when he found himself face to face with a giant keg of MuscleMilk powder and way too many protein bars.
Was that what Derek was taking for lunch every day?
Turning around, he found all three boys had climbed down from their chairs and were sniffing along the edge of the countertop, eyeing his Tupperware hungrily.
“Not yet,” he chuckled, pushing the box out of reach and doing some quick calculations in his head.
They’d had breakfast at nine thirty if they did lunch at about one and napped from about two till four, they could do a snack around four thirty. That should hold them till dinner at seven thirty, giving Derek time to get home and shower before joining them.
Turning around, Stiles felt his heart jolt hard in his chest and he took a jumpy step back, the edge of the countertop digging painfully into the small of his back.
Three little werewolves stood all in a line in front of him, staring up with huge Puss-n-Boots eyes and pouty lower lips and Stiles practically melted through the floor. His resolve had never wavered so hard as it did in the face of the attack-of-adorable the boys were throwing at him now.
“Oh no,” Stiles warbled, slapping a hand over his eyes and faking a half-swoon. “No puppy-eyes that’s no fair! They’re far too powerful for me!”
Trying to buy himself a minute to recover - seriously, it was like Scott cranked up to ten, times three - he let himself crumble to the floor, flopping down onto his back on the lemon-scented hardwood and giving a few wiggles for effect. The boys were laughing and clapping at his antics, well distracted from the withheld cookies, and he tried to hold back a grin when he felt them thump down onto their butts beside him, little hands reaching out to tug on his shirt and poke at his ticklish ribs. Sitting up with a laugh of his own, he slowly went still as Angus clambered into his lap, sniffing at the curve of his neck while Benjamin and Sebastian leaned in carefully to do the same.
“Smell good,” Angus stated calmly, a reiteration of what he’d said when they first met, and Stiles was beginning to wonder just what it was he smelled like, because it was starting to make him curious. Scott and Isaac never said anything about the way he smelled unless he hadn’t showered in a few days.
Maybe it was just the baking that was doing it.
“All right, come on,” Stiles groaned, rolling to his feet. “We’ve still got some more stops on our treasure hunt!”
An exploration of the first floor had the boys pointing out the doors of Derek’s office and the basement, but showing no real interest in either, which was a relief for Stiles. Moving quickly on, he got a tour of the laundry room and the downstairs bathroom, as well as the garage, where he was shown three matching bicycles in red, green, and blue, and a chest freezer that held a box of popsicles in similar colors. He didn’t have much time to explore its contents further the boys were already tugging on little Velcro sneakers and then heading towards the door that lead out to the backyard.
It was as nice as he remembered it, a wide lawn of healthy green grass ringed by the tall, thick trees of the Preserve. The sun was shining down warmly and there was a light breeze blowing through, the sound as it moved through the leaves and the smell of the clean, wild air was calming in a way that Stiles hadn’t expected. He could see the boys’ reactions as they seemed to relax into the openness of the outdoor space, and he made a mental note to ask Derek if it would be all right to take the boys on walks into the woods.
Following them at a canter across the lawn, they spent some time romping around, playing a game of tag which Stiles somehow managed to lose spectacularly despite having much longer legs. He mostly went after Benjamin and Angus, making sure to include Sebastian but to be careful with the more tentative of the triplets. They all seemed fairly accepting of light, brief touches, and it was reassuring to know that they were opening up to him fairly quickly. Still, their energy seemed boundless and Stiles was almost ready to collapse when they finally got bored of the game and went piling into the sandbox.
The large Oak to one side of the yard provided a pleasant shade and Stiles plopped down on one of the small benches built onto the frame of the box, watching for a while as the boys created small castles and moats by digging down to the damp sand near the bottom, joining in eventually to create little flags from twigs and leaves to top off their creations. He smoothed out a track for their cars too, accepting a dump truck from Angus to race around the edges. Before he knew it he was on his knees careening around with all three of them, laughing and making sound effects for the bumps and crashes their respective vehicles suffered until he had to sit back and catch his breath, amazed that this already felt like things were clicking into place. He was basically a grown-up sized kid himself, so it was hardly an inconvenience to spend the day playing with the triplets.
Where he’d been afraid that his first day was going to drag by, wide expanses of empty hours that he was going to have to fill, he pretty much lost track of it entirely, just taking the time to learn a little bit more about the boys. They eventually abandoned their sand box for the swing set, climbing into the blue plastic seats and scrabbling little sneakers for purchase against the little patches of dirt beneath, their legs not quite long enough to reach. Taking turns with each, Stiles grabbed the chains carefully and pulled them back, pushing one and then another until they had a good rhythm, sitting down in the grass to watch them swing happily back and forth. After a good ten minutes of laughter and nonsense between the boys, Angus turned to Benjamin with a wicked glint in his eye before showing Stiles the toothy smirk he was already begun to dread.
“ ‘Tiles, watch!” he demanded, wiggling in his seat, and his chest immediately tightened as he shifted forward onto his knees. “Gonna jump!”
“No!” he yelped, shoving to his feet and running forward, entirely unready to deal with any broken bones of severe booboos, no matter how quickly the boys healed. Derek’s threat, low and gruff, rumbled in his ears and he had to swallow down a knot in his throat at the thought of having to tell the guy that his kid had gotten hurt the very first day that Stiles was there to watch him. “No, we’re not gonna jump.”
Coming forward, he caught the chains of Angus’ swing and pulled him carefully to a stop, lifting him down.
“Come on, let’s go in, ok?” he asked, but three frowns had him backtracking to soften the command. “Hey, do you guys have any balls? Like a baseball, or…”
“We gots a soccer ball!” Angus cheered, and then he was off like a shot towards the patio off the French doors at the back of the house, his brothers slipping down behind them as their disappointment was forgotten.
Jogging up the steps, he leant a hand when the three little boys had trouble hauling open the lid of one of the cushioned benches, revealing hidden storage underneath. Inside was a soccer ball and, to his surprise, a handful of heavy rubber lacrosse balls. There weren’t any sticks, and the balls all had teeth marks, so Stiles had to wonder exactly what kinds of games the good Deputy was playing with his sons, but they were all three off and rolling the soccer ball around the grass already. Digging around inside the bench, keeping half an eye on the kids, he was surprised to come up with a well-worn baseball glove. There was a ball tucked neatly inside the pocket, heavy rubber bands holding the glove closed around it, the leather oiled and clearly cared for.
Apparently somebody played - that was serious procedure right there.
Stiles liked the station’s rookie uniform with their stripe-legged tacticals, but the idea of Derek in a pair of baseball pants…
Stiles jumped when the demand sounded from directly beside his elbow, knocking him out of his fantasy.
“It’s probably lunch time anyway. Come on, let’s get you guys fed.”
Chapter 16: Whooped
Lunch was… well, it was a little bit bleak after the morning Stiles had had.
He should have expected it really there was no way things could go as smoothly as they did and not backfire at least a little bit. Interacting with the boys had been mostly easy, with only a few small hitches along the way. They’d seemed remarkably welcoming of his presence in what was essentially their territory - even Sebastian was tolerating him well. Quietly yes, warily yes, but he was tolerating him. They all three accepted light, brief touches and Angus was even bold enough to initiate them, though he seemed to surprise himself with the actions as much as he surprised Stiles.
Still, he’d thought giving them a second away from him might be a good idea, so he sent them off to the bathroom to scrub up their hands alone while he headed for the kitchen.
Lunch would have to be quick and easy today, probably for the rest of the week too. At least until Stiles took an inventory, figured out exactly what Derek had stocked and what he would need to get from the grocery store. Then he could start to plan and meal prep, make some good dinners for the little family to share together. Actually, that was a good idea too.
Drying his hands over the kitchen sink, Stiles grabbed his notebook and scribbled himself a reminder.
If he did the laundry one weekend, and then did the grocery shopping the next, he could make dinners ahead of time to stick in the freezer, either for nights when he didn’t have the time to do anything more complicated than preheat the oven or for nights when he wasn’t there at all. Erica had said that Derek didn’t cook, so if there were things that he could have ready with instructions for the guy, he could at least go to sleep at night knowing that the little boys and the hard-working deputy had been well fed.
Taking another look around the fridge, Stiles began pulling things out to build a sort of picnic lunch. By the time the three boys came trooping back into the kitchen, clambering up onto the barstools, he had ham and cheese rolled up in tortillas alongside sweet red grapes and broccoli florets, neatly arranged on sectioned, plastic plates with a tiny dot of ranch dressing for dipping.
“All cleaned up?” he asked, but none of the boys replied, just kept their eyes averted in submission while offering up their palms for inspection. Stiles felt his mood and his smile dim just a bit, bewildered by the abrupt change, but he brushed it off, hoping that it was just a fluke. “Good job! You guys want milk or juice with lunch?”
Pouring out three cups of apple juice, Stiles waited, hoping Angus at least would take the baton and run with it, but as he pushed the cups and plates across the counter, lined them up with each little wolf and watched them reached out hesitantly to toy with their food, nibbling here and there, he didn’t think that was going to happen either.
“Hey,” he said after a few minutes, pitching his tone low and soft. “What’s…”
“When’s dad comin’ home?” Angus blurted suddenly, loud and demanding with just a hint of a whine in his voice.
“Not yet,” he replied smoothly, digging into his pocket as his phone buzzed. Keeping an eye on the boys from the corner of his vision, he checked the new message flashing on the screen from an unknown number.
Stiles snorted, quickly saving the number into his contacts under the name Deputy Sourwolf.
Lunch time - he typed out, watching the boys chew. Checking in? I won’t tease you too much - they just started asking about you too.
“He’ll be home later, ok?” he reassured, keeping his phone in his hand as he waited for a response. “He has work to do, being a superhero, remember?”
“But when’s he comin’ home?!” Angus demanded, much more irritated this time as his eyes flickered gold.
Stiles opened his mouth to reiterate what he’d already said, to calm the little wolf when his phone buzzed with another message - What?! I’ll be there in ten minutes.
Stiles’ eyes widened and he practically lunged for the phone, even though he already had it in his hands.
No good Deputy - he rushed to type out, his heart thumping in his chest. All three of the boys had perked up, no doubt scenting his sudden distress, and they were watching him with dark, wary eyes. You need to be consistent here - you can’t always come running home! Besides, they’re fine. I promise.
Huffing out a heavy breath, he put his phone back in his pocket, taking a minute to center his thoughts and settle himself. Yikes. That had gone real intense real fast. He knew Derek had some pretty hardcore protective tendencies and not without good reason, but dang! That was a new definition of jumping the gun.
“He’ll be home at dinner time,” he promised, surveying the three almost-empty plates. They had been hungry! “You guys can all have a good dinner together and then maybe Dad can play with you for a little bit and read you a story before bed. Right now, though,” he said, collecting empty dishes and piling them into the sink, “It’s time for a nap.”
Turning back around, Stiles got punched right in the chest with three faces of absolute misery huge, round eyes bright and wet, a fat tear rolling down one little cheek, lower lips quivering in heartbroken pouts.
‘Ok Stiles,’ he commanded silently, roping in his racing brain. ‘You’ve got this. You were ready for this.’
“Hey, come on, don’t cry,” he murmured, rounding the island to lift all three boys down to the floor. “It’s gonna be all right. You guys have had a big day - you’ll feel better after a little nap.”
“But I… want… my… daddy!” Angus wailed, and then the dam broke and the little boy was sobbing like it was an Olympic sport.
Stiles smiled sadly, scooping the boy up into his arms where he buried his face in Stiles’ neck and proceeded to soak his collar. Sebastian was sniffling too though not outright crying yet, and Benjamin seemed to only be holding it together because he was comforting his brother, standing close to his side and holding his hand. Reaching out, Stiles stroked their hair lightly, pleased when they didn’t flinch away.
“Come on,” he murmured, reaching out to snag the stack of t-shirts he’d left on the counter that morning. “Let’s get you guys washed up, ok?”
Balancing the teary Angus on his hip, he herded the other two boys up the stairs to their bathroom where he washed hands and faces with a cool cloth, scrubbing away tear tracks and cleaning sticky fingers.
“I’ve got something for you guys,” he said gently, shaking out the first t-shirt. “These are special Nap Shirts. They’ve got special powers.”
“Like the super heroes?” Angus sniffled, rubbing the back of his hand under his nose and prompting Stiles to wash him down again.
“Kind of,” he amended, cautious lest they be disappointed. “They make it easier for you to go to sleep. I’ve got one for everybody, and they’re just for you. Maybe later we can decorate them with your names and stuff. Not today though let’s just…”
With a little bit of wrangling, Stiles slipped all three t-shirts onto the little boys, each of them swamped in the clothes their father had warn. The necks hung wide around their shoulders, draping all the way down to the floor and pooling around socked feet. And crap, they were way too adorable this way, especially as they suddenly realized exactly what ‘special powers’ the shirts had, their eyes lighting up and wide, toothy grins stretching across their faces. Wriggling around inside the t-shirts, they snuggled and cuddled themselves, burying their noses in the excess fabric, breathing in the scent of their dad.
“All right, come on,” he said quietly, his tone low and gentle, setting the precedent for a calm, easy transition into bed.
Placing a hand on two thin shoulders, he shepherded them slowly across the hallway and into their bedroom, where they each climbed into bed of their own volition. Stiles let them get settled, turning his back to them to draw the curtains across the window. The fabric was thin enough that the room didn’t go dark, just dimmed green, watery light filtering through and falling dappled onto the floor. A sweet hush fell then, so much like standing out in the middle of the preserve that it almost took Stiles’ breath away. Breathing deep, centering himself, he turned back around to find all three little boys cuddling up with their pillows, shirts bunched up around their faces as their eyes began to grow heavy and sleepy.
“Ok little guys,” he murmured, rounding all three beds to tug their quilts over the little boys. “We’ve had a long day huh? You guys have been so good. You’re dad’s gonna be really proud of you when he gets home.”
By the time he got to them, Benjamin and Angus were already half asleep and accepted his tucking them in and his quiet praises with wiggling feet and sleepy smiles. He wasn’t surprised - they had to be whooped by now. Sebastian though was another story. He watched Stiles carefully with wary eyes, the neck of his t-shirt lodged firmly in his mouth, and he shied a bit from Stiles’ touch when he pulled the blanket up around him. Keeping himself calm, he finished the maneuver before retreating, backing off and giving the little werewolf his space. He visibly relaxed with the distance, but Stiles didn’t think that he would be able to drift off while he was in the room, so he did one more visual check, murmured a quick go to sleep, and headed back downstairs.
Where he promptly collapsed onto the couch.
Little guys weren’t the only ones who were whooped.
Forget his once a year trip to the gym, his once a week run through the preserve - he was gonna be set for the whole summer with this gig. Chasing those kids around had been more of a workout than he could remember having in a long time. He was willing to concede that part of it was probably emotional weariness too… and on that note he should probably check his text messages. Derek hadn’t come barreling through the front door - yet - but he did want to make sure the guy wasn’t having a mini freak-out.
Sure enough, two new messages waited for him, blinking up from the screen.
Ok. Well. That was succinct.
But if they need me call me. I’ll come.
A little too intense, a little overly concerned, but mostly just nice. Good, to see how much he cared, that he was aware of the situation and willing to do what he needed to to make it work. To provide for the three little boys sleeping soundly upstairs.
Smiling a little bit, Stiles stuffed his phone back into his pocket and shoved himself up off the couch, because if he stayed there any longer he was going to take a little nap himself and he didn’t think that was cool on the first day. Maybe after a few weeks he’d be comfortable enough to do that, and Derek would be comfortable enough not to fire him for it. For now though he had more interesting things waiting for him.
First and foremost his own lunch cause he was starving.
Building his own rollups from the ham and cheese he’d left out on the counter, he washed another handful of grapes and began poking through the fridge for dinner ingredients. He wanted to show off tonight - he was totally willing to admit that - so he was really hoping he could find something that would go with the litany of his mother’s recipes scrolling through his brain. Resources were limited for anything really fancy, but there was a nice, plump eggplant and a lonely zucchini hanging out in the bottom of a crisper drawer that would do nicely if he could find a little ground sausage. He had seen a few jars of tomato sauce in a cupboard, and really that was sacrilege, but he could doctor it up a little with a few of the unopened spices tucked away in the back of an upper cabinet.
Lasagna would take a little bit of prep but then he would just need to tend the oven, and it would make a hearty, healthy meal he hoped would impress.
Stepping out into the garage, careful to leave the door open so he could keep one ear tuned to any sounds coming from upstairs, he crossed over to the chest freezer and pulled it open, quickly scanning the contents. Pretty standard really popsicles, some hot pockets, a couple of frozen pizzas, but mostly proteins, and duh - werewolves. There was some chicken and some fish in there but it was mostly his dad’s dream freezer, red meat as far as the eye could see. Beef, pork, lots of venison… this he could work with.
Nabbing the sausage he needed for his lasagna, he paused in pulling down the lid when he noticed that he’d unearthed a bag of Brussels sprouts that appeared to be open. Sitting down his prize, he picked up the bag with the intent of rolling it shut but a splash of bright orange had him freezing in place.
“Oh-ho, no way!” he grinned, pulling the bag open and peering inside.
It would seem that he’d stumbled upon the cop’s secret stash of frozen Reese’s.
Chapter 17: Good Guy
Derek jerked, felt the tips of his ears burn as he hastily shoved his phone back into the pocket of his tacticals.
“Fine sir,” he replied, nodding in affirmation since the words didn’t hold the conviction he’d meant them to. “Sorry.”
“Relax rookie,” the detective next to him grinned, clapping Derek on the shoulder in the confines of the cruiser’s front seat. “We’re not so formal around here.”
Derek didn’t respond. He knew that much to be true well enough - over the last three days he’d begun to get a feel for the Beacon Hills Police Department and he’d been oddly pleased to find that it was a fairly calm environment, full of good people and steady work. When he’d first taken an interest in law enforcement as a young wolf he’d been drawn to the adrenaline rush of it, the risk and the hard work, the rapid-fire action of televised police forces. Now, with three pups waiting for him to come home safe every night, he found the distinct lack of fatalistic danger in this sleepy little town a relief he hadn’t anticipated.
Indeed the closest he’d come so far to injury was when he’d been chased back to his car by that damned goat - and thank god no one had been there to witness that - a werewolf running from a goat.
But it was his own fault he supposed - he should’ve taken Stiles’ warning more seriously, though in his defense the little ass hadn’t been half as insistent about it as Derek felt he should’ve been.
Thinking of Stiles had Derek’s jaw tightening, and his hand twitched towards the phone in his pocket. The detective must have caught the aborted movement, because he started to chuckle in a deep, rough voice that spoke of a long history of cigarette smoke and shouting criminals into submission.
“Worried about those kids of yours?” he asked, looking away through the windshield intently, though the strip of road they were currently surveying was empty.
Derek made a non-committal sort of sound which made the man laugh full out.
“Course you are,” he grinned, shifting lower in his seat to rest his elbow on the ledge of the window. “What father wouldn’t be? I remember my daughter’s first day of kindergarten, dropping her off with someone she didn’t know, someone I didn’t know. Boy, did she squall her fool head off.”
Derek swallowed hard. His kids were pretty tough where it counted - they were werewolves after all - but they each had their own vulnerabilities that could lead to disaster under the right circumstances. And what with being in a new place, having just recently lost their pack and been forced to settle into Beacon Hills, states away without many friends at all…
“Breathe rookie,” the older man at his side chided, looking a bit ashamed of himself. “Didn’t mean to make you panic, Christ.”
Derek nodded distractedly, tugged at the collar of his shirt before rolling down his window for a breath of fresh, clean air. It was early summer, with just a bit of coolness still hanging on from a late spring, but a light breeze carried the scent of sun and the sweetness of lilac - the promise of warmer weather not far away. It helped to clear his head, eased his nerves enough the he was able to relax back against the cracked pleather seats of the cruiser where he hadn’t even realized he was so tense.
“And anyway,” Lapland continued, leaning forward as a small car turned onto their street, watching closely as it braked for a stop sign, “Stiles is a great kid. Always has been.”
This time Derek’s silence was pointed and must have held a great deal of disbelief because the typically jovial older man seemed to sober beneath it, sitting up straighter as his face grew solemn and serious.
“Yeah, I’ve known that boy since he was, oh what? Five, six? His dad was still a deputy back then, good man. And his son’s grown up just the same. Course, with half the station pitching in to raise him, how else could he turn out?”
Shifting awkwardly in his seat, suddenly flooded with tentative curiosity, Derek cleared his throat.
“Claudia,” his partner replied, and the mood suddenly became somber and heavy, the scent of sincere regret and sadness thick and cloying between them, and he was thankful he’d already lowered the windows because he thought he might’ve choked on it if he hadn’t.
“She was a wonderful woman. Young, beautiful, always smiling. Terrible thing, the way they lost her. And with Stiles so young, and John only just promoted… well.” Clearing his throat, the man shifted upright and clapped Derek’s shoulder once more. “Best not to mention her around the station though son,” he warned. “It’s still a hard thing, even after all these years.”
“Of course,” Derek acknowledged, but then suddenly the man was turning towards him with a look on his face that Derek didn’t like at all and that almost made him want to bail from the car. A look that said the detective was wondering whether his short, perfunctory reply meant more than it did, that of course Derek understood because he was the single father of three boys himself wasn’t he? Not a woman in sight and what else could that mean?
It had a rumbling growl rolling up out of his chest and he only just managed to choke it back down.
He’d yet to get the impression that anyone in town had a prejudice against his kind or were uncomfortable around him, certainly not among the law enforcement officers, but he had still been extremely careful not to flash his eyes or his teeth at any of them, not to flex his claws or show off his strength or speed. Snarling at the senior officer who’d been so nice to him, who’d been showing him the ropes without a hint of exasperation, didn’t seem like a wise or polite reaction.
“Anyway,” Lapland said gruffly, turning away again. “Stiles is a great kid. I remember when he was in school, he had a doozy of a crush on this girl, Lydia Martin? She had a boyfriend at the time but Stiles vowed to everyone that he was going to be the one to take her to their senior prom. We all laughed of course, she hadn’t once looked his way and he was just this jumble of lanky limbs and clumsiness.”
“Not much has changed then?” Derek muttered, not quietly enough because the detective boomed a laugh.
“No, not much,” he chuckled. “But the boy had a plan - a five year plan, if you can believe it, and he never gave up on that. Didn’t think I’d ever see the day that someone could wear down Lydia Martin, but Stiles did it. Took all five years, but he did it. Course, by that time he’d come out to everyone down at the station, most of his friends too, but he’d worked so hard to get her to say yes that he took her anyways. Went all out treating her like a queen, from what I understand. They’re still good friends, even though Lydia’s off at some Ivy League on the east coast."
Derek felt his heartbeat speed up a little at the overload of information, more than one emotion pinballing around inside his ribcage, and it was all way too confusing for comfort. Crossing his arms over his chest mulishly, he scowled to himself, irritated that he was reacting to the fact that Stiles had taken a girl Derek didn’t even know to a high school dance years ago, the fact that he was now apparently batting for the other team.
“Why are you telling me all this?” he bit out, a little more harshly than he’d intended to.
Lapland cocked an eyebrow in his direction but didn’t comment on his attitude, only answered the question in an honest, easy tone.
“Because the kid commits,” he explained, turning to look out the window at a 4x4 diesel truck that had just rolled through the stop sign at the end of the street and then intentionally gunned the engine with a loud belch of acrid, black smoke. “He’s one of the good guys. If he signed up to take care of your kids, that’s what he’s gonna do.”
Snapping on his overhead lights and setting the sirens to screaming, he shot Derek a grin before, pulling the cruiser out onto the street with a jerk.
“Now let’s go ticket this dick.”
That’s what Derek Hale’s kitchen was.
All of Stiles’ fantasy dreams come true.
Well, almost all of them anyway - but the man himself would be home in about thirty minutes, so the point stood.
Humming along with Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe, Stiles slipped a heavy pan of lasagna into the oven and shut the door with a satisfied grin.
The boy’s had woken up in much better moods than they’d been in when he’d put them down for their naps, and were now situated in the living room in front of an episode of Bob the Builder. They’d played in their rooms for a while, creating a little town of blocks for their cars and animals before heading downstairs for a snack where Stiles’ cookies had gone over splendidly with tall glasses of milk. Afterward they’d played some more, in the living room this time where the boy’s had discovered a delight for the game of hide-and-seek with a human who couldn’t immediately sniff them out. By the time Stiles had gotten them settled down in front of the TV he was ready for another break, thoroughly warn out.
But the last half hour in the kitchen had quite possibly been the most relaxing he’d had all day.
The first thing he’d done was search for an iPod dock, because really, without music in the kitchen you were just doing it wrong. He’d found a small radio mounted to the underside of a cabinet that he was able to rig his phone to, put his music on softly so that he could keep one ear out for the kids in the other room. He’d been quick to slice the zucchini and eggplant and spirit them away beneath a paper towel, unsure how the boys would react to his sneaking veggies into their dinner, but after that initial five minutes of wariness, calm had settled into his muscles as he moved smoothly round the kitchen. It wasn’t his, but it was well organized, and if he reached for something he usually found it to hand.
It made it easy, and by the time he had finished layering the lasagna into the pan and topping the whole thing off with the last of the tomato sauce and a heap of cheddar cheese, Stiles was struck by the distinct feeling of being at home.
Checking the temperature on the oven one last time, Stiles began putting away what was left of the ingredients and wiping down the counters. He’d dirtied a pile of dishes so he gave them all a quick rinse and began loading them into the washer, leaving room for the dinner plates that would come later as the music ticked over to Guns n Roses and three sets of footsteps came trotting up the hallway.
“Are you guys getting hungry?” he asked, closing the door of the washer and turning around to give the counter top a once-over with the dishcloth.
“Can we has a cookie?” Angus asked, and Stiles grinned because it was more of a demand than a question.
“Maybe tomorrow, ok?” he offered, coming around the counter to pick the boy up as a consolation prize. He’d already come to find that Angus was the most tactile of the three, eager for touch as he sniffed at Stiles whenever they got close, patting his neck with little hands. “We’re gonna have dinner with your dad in just a little bit.”
“Dad’s comin’ home?” Benjamin asked with skeptical eyes, and Stiles nodded.
“Yup, in just a little while. What do you say I set the table and you guys clean up your toys before he gets home, ok?”
Benjamin frowned but nodded, taking Sebastian’s hand and leading the way to the living room as Angus squirmed to be released and thunder after them. Stiles smiled after their eagerness, a little confused that they were so willing to clean up without any fuss but ready to take what he could get. He imagined that their compliance could be put down to the fact that it was only the first day, unlikely to last. Taking down a stack of plates, he left them on the counter, instead setting out place mats and silverware for five. Glasses followed, along with the salad he’d tossed together and a basket of oven-ready breadsticks he’d found hiding in the freezer and toasted up with a little garlic butter. A quick peek saw the lasagna turning brown and bubbly on the top - turning off the heat he left it inside to stay warm until it was time to serve.
Satisfied, he followed after the boys into the living room, where the cleanup was going quickly and easily, the three of them working together smoothly in the way that only triplets could. They’d collected up their scattered toys and were now each of them hunting down the socks that had been shed earlier in the afternoon, somehow migrating beneath the edge of the couch. For his part Stiles put away the stack of DVD’s he’d sorted through, removing the disc from the player that had been looping Bob the Builder’s main menu for far too long and clicking off the television. The boy’s had gone off to the hamper in the upstairs bathroom, but as Stiles crossed to the arm chair to put the remote back into the side-table drawer, they suddenly came thundering back down as though at the crash of a starting pistol. Grinning, sure they were reacting to the sound of a cruiser pulling in that he couldn’t quite hear, Stiles followed after them.
Rounding the corner of the hallway just in time to hear the deadbolt turn, he watched as the front door opened and Derek stepped inside, smiled at the triple chorus of Daddy! that rang out even as the man went to his knees, careless of anything else as his boys crashed into him like a force of nature, burying his face in their necks as he scooped them all into his chest like he would never let them go again. Leaning his shoulder against the wall, Stiles observed the happy reunion quietly. If he’d had any doubts they vanished now - Derek Hale was one of the good guys and the way that he looked over each of the boys with reverent eyes and small, scenting touches told him everything he thought he needed to know.
Chapter 18: Dinner and a Show
Stiles didn’t stay long in the hallway - it felt a little weird to intrude on the moment any longer than he did, especially since he was so new to the family - but he still kept an ear out as he retreated to the kitchen. As he poured glasses of milk and took the lasagna from the oven, he listened with half a smile as the boys told their father about their day in excited voices that clashed and overlapped each other in their eagerness. The positive feedback wasn’t necessarily meant for him but it was good to have it anyway, to know that they’d enjoyed the activities and the way the day had progressed. Angus even had some praise for Stiles himself, which was amusing but sweet all the same.
Eventually though Derek sent the boys into the dining room, in a voice loud enough that Stiles was pretty sure it was meant to be a warning for him. They came running in with beaming little faces, letting Stiles check their hands before climbing up into their booster chairs at the table. A minute later he heard the office door open and close down the hallway and then Derek appeared, minus his deputy’s jacket and his belt, his badge and gun both safely tucked away.
“Hungry?” he asked, tilting the dish carefully towards the wolf.
Derek lifted his chin and sniffed the air, circled around Stiles in a way that was almost wary towards his seat at the head of the table. His eyes had sparked subtly but he made no move to answer until his stomach rumbled loudly, setting off a round of hysterical giggling from his sons.
“Um, yeah,” he mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck before leaning his elbows against the edge of the table and shooting his kids a playfully scolding look. “Smells good Stiles.”
Stiles grinned - a little bit shyly but that was ok because the tips of Derek’s ears were pink - and began scooping gooey pieces of lasagna out of the pan. While he cut the boys’ pieces at the counter Derek quizzed them some more about their day, listening raptly while Benjamin and Angus described their treasure hunt and playtime in vivid detail. Sebastian was silently, chewing somewhat anxiously on the rubber-coated handle of his fork, and Stiles was intrigued by the boy’s behavior if not a bit concerned. But he supposed he shouldn’t have worried because as he picked up two brightly-colored plastic plates and carried them to the table, Derek reached out and wrapped one hand around the little boy’s neck, squeezed and gave him a rough jostle.
“What about you Seb?” he asked, in a louder, firmer voice than Stiles would have expected. “Did you do anything fun today buddy?”
Watching covertly as he portioned out salad and garlic bread for Sebastian’s brothers, he cursed his human hearing when the boy mumbled something around his silverware that only the other werewolves could hear.
“Hide and seek huh?” Derek asked a minute later, gently liberating the fork from the boy’s mouth before leaning back to allow Stiles room to serve their plates as well. “I thought you didn’t like that game.”
“Yeah, but Stiles couldn’t find us,” Angus grinned toothily, making his brothers nod in agreement. “You’re a better finder.”
Grabbing his own plate, Stiles laughed as he sat down, taking the salad bowl from Derek as he passed it.
“Yeah, between the two of us, dad probably has the better nose,” he admitted, shooting Derek a smirk over the breadbasket, “But I’ve got to give you guys props. Angus hid in the dryer,” he explained.
Derek chuckled gruffly, reached out to tousle the boy’s hair and picked up his fork. Stiles was fascinated by the way the boys watched their father, their eyes large and round and somehow quiet, their world set back to rights with the return of their father and Alpha stand-in. It appeared to go much further than the mimicking or modeling he’d studied in his early childhood courses it seemed instinctive, a wolf’s hierarchy deeply engrained into the way the three of them did everything. They waited until their father took his first bite before attacking their own dinner and Stiles waited too, something telling him to put himself lower than the boys because they were pups. He might be new to this little pack, might be a human, but he’d been given the position of caretaker and that was his job - to make sure the boys were fed and cared for.
Derek seemed to notice too.
He was watching Stiles with a considerate gaze, cautious but curious, and there even seemed to be a little bit of surprise on his face. Stiles twirled his fork between his fingers as the guy chewed slowly, awaiting his verdict anxiously even though the boys were scarfing theirs down happily enough. It mattered, this first time, felt like a proving ground, and maybe it was. He watched with nervous butterflies in his stomach as Derek swallowed, felt them lurch when the guy’s eyebrows climbed up toward his hairline.
“You did this just with stuff in the house?” he asked, twirling his butter knife in the direction of the kitchen.
“Um, yeah,” he replied, suddenly wary as he remembered the deputy’s words to him that morning about not taking the boys out shopping just yet. “Yeah, I mean, you had the noodles and the veggies and stuff so…”
Stiles froze, his eyes going wide as he realized he’d let the cat out of the bag as far the hidden eggplant and zucchini went, but the boys went right on eating like they hadn’t said a thing. For his part Derek just chuckled and went back to his own dinner.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, glancing around the table at each of the boy’s in turn. “They’ll pretty much eat anything you put in front of them.”
Pausing with his fork halfway to his mouth, Derek frowned.
“Including things that aren’t actually food,” he continued slowly, a slightly haunted look flashing over his eyes at some memory that flickered through.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he grinned.
The rest of dinner went smoothly and Stiles was pretty pleased when Derek practically inhaled a second, enormous piece of lasagna. The boys too cleaned their plates, waiting quietly in their chairs until their father rose and nuzzled his face into their necks, making them squirm and giggle at the tickle of his beard, heavier than when he’d left that morning. He murmured something that Stiles couldn’t quite hear from his position at the kitchen island but it seemed to be the magic word, releasing the boys from their chairs and sending them over to the counter with dishes balanced carefully in their hands.
“So I’m gonna…” he began awkwardly, cocking a thumb over his shoulder toward the stairs. “Shower.”
“Oh. Right, yeah,” Stiles stumbled, waving him off with one hand. He was sure that his heart beat had jumped there, that his smile was a little too bright, but that really wasn’t a place he needed to go right now so he’d immediately flipped his brain over to shut down. “We got this, right guys?”
“Help out, ok?” he said and all three boys nodded, Angus bouncing eagerly at Stiles’ side.
Apparently satisfied, Derek nodded and disappeared, his footsteps retreating up the stairs.
“All right, let’s take a look at you guys,” Stiles smiled, clapping his hands together.
Now would probably be a good time for baths or a shower for the boys, while their dad was doing the same, but he definitely wanted to check that with dad first. Some people were weird about bath rituals, so he figured better to be safe than sorry. A quick check showed him that the kids were doing all right anyway, so he wet a cloth with warm water and gave them a quick scrub - sticky fingers and saucy cheeks. After that they helped him to stack the dishes inside the washer and wipe down the table, resetting the chairs and putting away the extra food. It couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes, felt more like five in fact, but as Stiles turned around to deal with the leftover lasagna, he almost hit the ceiling he jumped so hard.
Having reappeared on the other side of the island, Derek cocked an eyebrow as Stiles flailed, clutched his chest.
“Holy crap!” he panted, trying to catch his breath as the boys giggled and his mouth went dry. “No fair!”
“What?” he asked flatly, and Stiles’ eyes narrowed at the sincerity of the confusion in his voice.
“Seriously?” he asked, and then pointed a finger. “Don’t make me get you a bell, dude. You’ve got a human in the house now - no sneaking around on quiet feet. Are you a wolf or a cat?”
That set off another round of giggles but instead of calling Stiles on what he now realized was probably an unprofessional and possibly-slightly-insulting outburst, he turned on his kids instead, his eyes flaring jewel blue and his teeth growing sharp within a wicked smile as a low growl rumbled up out of his chest. With his hair still damp and feathering over his forehead, he looked long and lean and wild in a grey, ribbed tank top and a pair of black sweatpants, and Stiles only had a second to feel the shock that tickled over his skin before Derek lunged, darting around him after three screeching little boys who scattered like billiard balls after a break.
What followed sounded more like a battle to the death than anything else, even from where Stiles stood in the kitchen. Yips and snarls, growls and rumblings and squeals, but he was able to watch with a grin and a light heart as the deputy chased his kids around the lower floor of the house, in and out through the hallway as they skidded around on socked feet. Searching through the cupboards for some decent storage containers, he watched through the doorway into the living room as Derek wrestled with the boys, tossing them, flipping them, and rolling them roughly, and at the same time with the utmost care. It was a pretty great show, all things considered, not just because it was a massive display of adorable, but because the rough-housing showed off the play of muscles in Derek’s arms and shoulders quite nicely, even at a distance.
Eventually though they all seemed to run out of steam, flopping onto their backs on the rug in one big pile where the boys snuggled in close to their father, sharing space and mingling scents. Stiles could hear the low murmur of voices and he thought maybe this was the time that he should be letting himself out, but he needed to talk to Derek before he left so he busied himself at the counter, grabbing a bar stool and pulling out his notebook. He worked quietly for some time until he heard the television click on and then Derek was standing silently at his side, no doubt ghosting up on him intentionally to see if he could make him jump again.
Stiles narrowed his eyes, sent him a suspicious glare as he fought the urge to stick out his tongue.
The burst of cartoon theme music had been sufficient warning to stop him from jumping out of his skin.
“So do you just not have good Tupperware?” he asked casually, marking his place and closing the notebook.
“What do you need Tupperware for?”
“Lunch!” Stiles grinned, patting the lid of the cheap plastic container he’d packed the lasagna into. Hopping up from his seat, he carried it over to the fridge and gave it pride of place on the top shelf. “If you’re gonna be out there protecting and serving, the least I can do is fuel you right.”
Stiles chuckled, turned around and leveled Derek with an accusatory look.
“Who’ve you been talking to Deputy Derek?” he asked, and he thought he saw a flush spread over the man’s cheekbones.
Laughing at his reaction, Stiles slapped the guy on the shoulder, but jerked his hand back when
Derek’s eyes flicked rapidly between his face and the point of contact.
“I’m takin’ my hand away,” he mumbled, stepping back.
“No, it’s…” Derek started, taking his own step back. “Sorry.”
“No worries dude,” Stiles replied awkwardly, grabbing his notebook and watching from the corner of his eye as Derek put the island between them again. One more thing to keep in mind then. Something told him that the werewolf didn’t necessarily dislike the contact but he had been surprised by it. Having lost his pack and his Alpha too Stiles might even go so far as to suspect that he might be feeling a little isolated and touch-starved, but that was a thought to dissect another day.
Way too heavy for the first day on the job.
“Listen, I’m gonna put them to bed,” he said slowly. “If you wanna just… hang down here, I’ll be back down in a little bit. The TV’s on…”
“Sure,” Stiles answered, and that was a dismissal if he’d ever heard one. But it was fine he’d definitely expected the guy to want to hang on to at least one thing, one ritual, and all-in-all it was probably a good thing for him to be the one to tuck the boys in and read them a story, to make that a special moment at the end of the day to re-establish the connections his job would strain.
While Stiles’ brain flashed through the existential and theoretical importance of a bedtime story, Derek just nodded and went to gather up his boys. They were curled together in a sleepy pile on the couch, and Stiles watched as Derek reached in and came out with two of them, lifting them up to his chest where they slung little arms instinctively around his neck. A quiet murmur had the third little boy - Benjamin Stiles thought - climbing slowly to his feet, fisting one hand in Derek’s sweats and stumbling after him towards the stairs.
Filling a glass of water, Stiles made sure to grab a pen from his bag before heading into the living room, collapsing onto the couch with a huff. It seemed like it had been a ridiculously long day and he was exhausted, unsure if he would be able to drag himself out of the cushions again. Dang that couch was comfortable. Clicking on a lamp, he turned off the television and opened his notebook, flicked through the pages he’d filled. He’d gotten a pretty good snapshot of things today, felt a little bit like he’d been watching a play from the audience, but so far he’d liked what he’d seen and had enjoyed the show. Now he just had to wait for the review.
Chapter 19: Off Balance
Leaving the boys with Stiles for a full day was just as difficult as Derek had expected it would be. It made him twitchy, hyper-alert, sensitive to sounds and smells, and it was clearly visible in the way that had his colleagues watching him, half of them with nervousness, half of them with an amused sort of pity. Several of them made a point to drop by with silly anecdotes about the young man he’d entrusted his kids to, so that by the time he was finally able to grab his keys and clock out, he knew a lot more about the guy than he’d ever cared to.
He was sarcastic, clumsy, stubborn… but a good kid.
And Derek couldn’t do anything but sit still and listen silently, discomfort and even a little panic written all over his face as he tried desperately to send them away through nothing more or less than the power of astral projection. The Sheriff had watched on all morning with something like poorly hidden amusement on his face that clashed with a sort of terrible understanding, and then he’d sent him out onto the street with Lapland, which earned him just a little reprieve. It had felt good to barrel after the redneck asshole in the modified pickup, who’d been stupid enough to run from the town’s only werewolf cop and got tackled into the dirt for his trouble, but that had taken them back to the station to book the guy through, which landed Derek right back into the center of the Stiles Fan Club until his shift was over.
On his way out the door the Sheriff had clapped him on the shoulder and congratulated him on a day’s good work.
Derek wasn’t sure if the man had been referring to the collar he’d made or his simple survival as the day’s main source of office gossip.
The welcome he’d gotten after stepping through his own front door made it all worth it.
The boys had swarmed over him as soon as he’d gotten inside, though Derek could definitely admit to the same desperate need for physical contact. He vaguely acknowledged the fact that Stiles was standing at the end of the hallway watching but he couldn’t care, all his focus centered on the pups in his arms, holding them close and scenting each of them, re-establishing the bond and the security of pack. The babble started almost immediately, mostly from Angus but Benjy joined in too, so fast and jumbled that even with his werewolf hearing he could only pick out a few key words and phrases. It seemed like they’d all had a good day, no complaints for their activities or their babysitter.
For Derek that was only halfway reassuring.
Surprisingly enough, the rest of him was a little resentful.
He was certain that he hid it well though - it was something he was going to have to get over. It was a bit ridiculous really, his wolf bristling just a bit with jealousy.
Shooing the boys into the dining room, he’d gone into his office to hang up his belt, put his gun away in the little electronic safe. He took a minute to breath to, to compose himself and shake off the anxiety of the day. Trailing towards the kitchen, he followed a thick, spicy, tomatoey scent into the kitchen, his stomach growling loudly when Stiles took a pan of lasagna from the oven. The boys had giggled and he’d blushed, suddenly awkward and not sure why. He should’ve been paying attention to the kids, to Ben and Angus rattling away about a treasure hunt that Stiles had set up and the games they’d all played, but he felt just a little bit caught in his own head, his instincts all honed in on the young man who carried steaming, fragrant plates to the table.
Blinking, he forced himself to pay attention, to smile and nod and give the boys the feedback that they needed, and it certainly didn’t escape his notice that Sebastian was practically silent, gnawing on his silverware like a pup with a bone. It was a nervous habit, one that he often saw and one they were working on, but it concerned him that he was seeing it tonight. That concern eased when the boy relaxed under a firm yet comforting hand, talked about hide and seek in a small, quiet voice that was none the less accompanied by the scent of a mild, honest contentment.
He’d been surprised by the meal, not only that Stiles had managed to pull it off with just what he’d found in the cupboards but that he seemed to recognize the hierarchy of it, that he waited to eat until he and the boys had started in, and that was odd because it was something that a pack member did, joining a meal and serving in the correct order. It was too soon and he’d never even considered it, never wanted it and still wasn’t sure he did, and it struck him like a ten ton truck that it might be the inevitable conclusion to this thing.
But he’d laughed and joked and cajoled stories out of the boys, and it was… nice, not in the least because it had been a while since Derek had walked away from a table with that warm, full feeling you got from a good, home-cooked meal. The boys had enjoyed it too and he was pleased that their manners hadn’t escaped them this first night with a stranger in the house, that there were no saucy noodles flung or snarling spats over the last piece of garlic bread. They even waited to be excused from the table and carried their dishes to the sink, instead of running off shrieking into the house like they did sometimes to leave sticky handprints all over everything.
He thought about waiting until Stiles left but he needed a shower, needed to scrub the anxiety-sweat off his skin before he popped his claws and started scratching like he had fleas, so he made it awkward and acted like he didn’t notice the flush that spread across Stiles’ cheekbones before he made his escape. He showered quickly, kept his brain on neutral, and found himself surprised yet faintly pleased when Stiles practically leapt out of his skin at his sudden reappearance. The kid went off on a bit of a rant about it but indignation quickly turned to the malty, stale beer smell that reminded him of all the times reminded him of all the times he’d caught Cora sneaking his comic books when they were teenagers.
It was a bucket-load of sensory input being dumped on his head, not to mention a gallon of mixed signals, not from Stiles but from his own head, his own wolf.
So he did what he normally did and he shut it off, chased the kids through the house in a wrestling match full of snarling and squealing, growls and snapping teeth. Eventually they all ended up on their backs on the living room floor, huffing and panting like they’d run a marathon. The boys piled onto him like a mattress, snuggling close and taking comfort from the shared body heat, the way their individual scents began to meld back into one. They talked quietly, mumbled and murmured nonsense words as they began to grow tired, lots of love-you-miss-you mutter rumblings as he ran his hands over their heads, through their hair.
Eventually he got them onto the couch and turned on the TV, a few minutes’ distraction while he went back into the kitchen. Stiles had been writing in a notebook which he quickly closed, making an offhanded comment about Tupperware before showing him the lasagna he packed up into a single serving for the next day. It took Derek aback a bit - he expected Stiles to feed the boys and have dinner ready at the end of the day, but he hadn’t expected him to be packing lunches to send along to the station. He wasn’t complaining - he usually just took a protein shake or a power bar to hold him between breakfast and dinner - but it still surprised him.
He’d made some stupid comment, give away the gossip done earlier that day, but Stiles had laughed and clapped him on the shoulder, physical contact that had shocked Derek to his core. It shouldn’t have, it wasn’t like people didn’t touch him, but it felt like more, like what he had with Erica and Boyd and the boys, and that made him nervous. He’d apologize for his reaction without being sure why and Stiles had brushed it off, but the weight of the air between them had changed and so Derek escaped again leaving the kid at the counter as he scooped Angus and Sebastian into his arms and carried the sleeping boys up the stairs, Benjamin clinging sleepily to the leg of his pants as he followed after, wobbly and off-balance.
“Come on sleepies,” he cajoled quietly, managing to get all three of them roused enough to at least help with teeth brushing and pajamas. “Time for bed.”
Wrapping each of them into the quilts patched together by their pack back in Colorado, Derek tucked plump flannel wolves under their arms, stuffed toys they’d had since infancy before moving to turn out the light.
“Gotta read the story,’’ Angus mumbled, and Derek chuckled quietly.
It was something they did almost every night, a ritual they all enjoyed. He’d thought to skip it tonight because they were all wiped out, exhausted from the day’s excitement. He didn’t expect that they would be awake for more than a few minutes, but he was more than happy to indulge them. There was a worn copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the bookshelf, his place marked, and he settled against the footboard of Sebastian’s bed to read, listening to slow, gentle breathing and steady heartbeats as he relayed the terrible fate of poor Violet Beauregard. Not much of it though - it only took about five minutes before they were hovering right on the edge of sleep, and Derek quietly closed the book and stood to turn down the nightlight.
Making the rounds, he pressed a kiss to each toddler’s forehead, brushed their cheeks one last time.
“To the moon and back babies,” he murmured.
As he walked slowly back down the stairs he mused quietly on the fact that at one time, he’d never thought to have kids of his own, had been terrified of the responsibility placed on his shoulders when three tiny pups had been placed into his arms.
Now he couldn’t imagine life without them.
Stiles was waiting for him on the couch when he came back in the living room, his notebook in his lap and a glass of water on the table beside him. Derek sat on the other end of the couch, drew one knee up onto the cushions and turned to face him. The young man’s heartbeat was just a little fast, but steady, his scent leveled out, the yeasty alcoholic quality dampened down to something more reminiscent of baking bread loaves. He seemed calmer which was good, Derek’s own nerves soothed without the static-electric tingle of Stiles’ own brushing against his senses.
“Get them off to sleep?” he asked, and Derek nodded.
“Seems like you had them pretty well wiped out,” he said. “Usually takes a lot longer to get them down.”
One corner of Stiles’ mouth turned up a bit, nothing smug, just… affectionate, and once again Derek felt things tilt beneath him, sending him off-center.
“Yeah, I think we had a pretty good day,” he remarked, pulling his feet up onto the couch and crossing his legs beneath him, his notebook in his lap. “Best behavior all around.”
“Really?” Derek asked, surprised by the honest beat of Stiles’ heart. “That’s… good. I mean, they’re all good kids, but…”
“You were nervous,” Stiles chuckled, but it was more of an understanding sound than a mocking one. “Don’t worry dude I wasn’t expecting it either. I’m sure one or the other will get a good tantrum in before the week’s out, but that’ll be normal. This is new to them, so…”
“Right,” he replied, and there was relief in the knowing that Stiles was anticipating the same thing he was. It was kind of funny that the guy seemed less worried about it than Derek was. “I’d worry most about nap time,” he continued, “That’s their purgatory some days. But it seems like you’ve got that down. Smart, by the way. With the shirts.”
“Yeah?” Stiles asked, and then he was lighting up and grinning proudly, and Derek couldn’t help but feel an answering smile tug at his mouth. “I totally just guessed with that, I had no idea if it would work!”
“They liked them,” Derek admitted. “I don’t think they’ll need them forever, but for a few weeks…”
“Sure, sure,” Stiles, opening his notebook and making a mark there that had Derek curious. “I figured if it’s cool I’d grab groceries on Friday. Do the shopping and the laundry on alternating weekends, if you think that’ll be often enough.”
“You might have to do an extra load here and there depending on what kind of a mess they get into,” he said, “But that should be fine. I’ll end up doing some of the stuff around here too I’d rather have you watching the kids than the washing machine.”
“Noted, but I’m cool with whatever you need done. Anyway, I’ll send the shirts through at the end of the week and you can wear them around on your days off, power them up again for next week.”
“What was with the stickers anyway?” Derek asked, reminded of the little superhero figures stuck to the boys’ shirts, curling at the edges.
“Ok, yeah, let’s talk about that!” Stiles yelped indignantly, straightening up and leveling Derek with a sudden, intense glare. “Who dressed your kids this morning dude?”
“Don’t call me dude!” Derek growled defensively. “And they did. Why?”
“Because they all dressed exactly the same,” he snipped, narrowing his eyes. “That’s cruel man. But I didn’t want to make them wear nametags, so the stickers helped. Any tips there would be appreciated, by the way.”
“I wouldn’t cross Marvel and DC, but other than that…”
“Wait a minute, no way,” Stiles interrupted. “You speak comic?!”
Derek’s eyes widened, unnerved by the sudden hungry interest in the young man’s eyes.
“I had to read to Cora a lot when she was little,” he explained, pressing his body back into the couch to put as much space between them as possible as Stiles leaned forward intently, excitement crackling on his skin and he grinned at Derek wolfishly. “Comics weren’t as painful as anything else…”
“Cora?” he asked, the impassioned interest settling a bit with the question.
“You are seriously the coolest big brother in the world,” Stiles said, looking at him with something like admiration on his face, and Derek blushed, folded his arms and looked away as he slouched lower on the couch.
“How would you know,” he mumbled, his ears warm.
“You just told me that you read your sister comic books when she was little. She must be a total bad-ass I must meet this person.”
“Yeah and I just got the sudden feeling that that is something that should never happen,” Derek said with certainty.
“Right, well listen man, I’ve got a couple questions and then I’ll get out of your hair. As far as dinner goes, I wasn’t sure - was that too late for them? I mean, I thought it would be nice if you could all eat together…”
“No this was fine,” Derek answered, loosening up again. “Their metabolisms are fast, they’ll probably eat more than you expect them to. And more often. If they ask for something they’re usually hungry, so, best judgment kind of thing I guess. Like I said earlier, you can’t really go wrong there. They eat like…”
“Wolves?” Stiles snickered, looking up from beneath his eyelashes where he was scribbling something down. “Got it. We went over favorites earlier, but what about you?”
“Anything you like? Anything you don’t like?”
“Tuna fish,” he replied after some consideration. Maybe b…”
“I swear to god if you say bacon…”
Derek snorted. “Brussel sprouts,” he finished, “And those other ones, the stringy kind that go in sandwiches… what?”
Stiles was staring at him with raised brows, amusement and disbelief playing around his mouth.
“Who even comes across those on a regular basis?” he asked.
Derek shrugged, felt his cheeks warm.
“My sister Laura went on this health food kick in high school…” he mumbled.
“Right, I wanted to ask about that,” Stiles interrupted again, shaking his pencil in Derek’s direction as he flicked through the pages of his book. “I was wondering if I could get your pack’s address. Or your parents? I thought maybe I could help the boys send some letters or some paintings they seemed to like that idea…”
Derek felt his stomach go cold.
Stiles must have sensed the change in him, because his head came up in question, but something on Derek’s face, or maybe the sudden, stiff, stillness of his body gave away his feelings. Not all of them of course, how could he know all of them when Derek didn’t know himself? But enough. Enough to know that there was something there to hold him back, something to make him hesitate.
“I’m… not sure about that,” he said slowly. “Maybe… maybe Cora’s, but the rest…”
“No it’s fine,” Stiles said, obviously with great care. “Your call, totally. I just thought it might be a fun project - they seem…” Trailing off he, shook his head. “Never mind,” he muttered.
“What?” Derek asked, and his eyes flared a bit before he blinked it away. Stiles was eyeing him warily, but swallowed and lifted his head.
“I mean, it just seems like they miss them,” he said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. “But you already know that. And I said I wasn’t gonna pry and I wasn’t gonna ask about why you moved here or why you left and I meant it, I just…”
“Whoa, easy,” Derek urged, further unnerved by the sudden rush of babble out of the guy’s mouth. “It’s… It’s fine. Look…” Sighing, Derek scrubbed a hand over his face, swallowing down the ache building in his chest. “I’m flying blind here ok? I’m a beta, I wasn’t… meant to leave my pack. Didn’t ever want to. And the boys, coming here… That was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life and I’ve had to make a lot of them, and I’m… hell, I’m terrified that it was the wrong one.”
Stiles was staring at him with wide eyes now, and somewhere in the back of Derek’s brain he knew that he was the one babbling now, that he was saying things he’d never meant to say out loud, making himself vulnerable. But another part of him knew that this was important, because it was the boys, and they meant more to him than anything.
“Just…” he tried again, calmer now even though he had his claws out beneath his crossed arms and was digging them into his rib cage. “They should be with pack. I know that. But they can’t be, so we’re here, and I’m…”
“Doing the best you can for them,” Stiles said quietly.
For a minute silence held between them, until Derek sighed and got to his feet, collected Stiles’ water glass from the table and carrying it in to the kitchen.
“Just pay attention,” he said, aware that Stiles had followed on his heels. “You seem like you know werewolves well enough to recognize if something’s wrong. I don’t… I don’t even know what to tell you to look for, but…”
“No, I get it,” Stiles nodded. “Constant vigilance, go with your gut. You got it deputy.”
Shifting on his feet, Stiles lifted his backpack off the floor, fiddled with the strap.
“Well that got a lot heavier than anybody planned huh?” he chuckled nervously.
“Don’t worry about it,” he replied, waving off the apology as he shrugged into the straps of his bag. “Better to be prepared, right? Anyway, I’m gonna take off, let you get some sleep. Same time tomorrow officer?”
Derek swallowed, thrown by the sudden flash of heat he got from the teasing title.
“Sure,” he answered, voice rough, before he remembered and made a wait gesture with his hand. Ducking into his office he retrieved the copy of the house key he’d had made, grabbed a note card and scribbled down the code for the alarm system. “Here,” he said flatly, handing them over after Stiles met him in the front hallway.
“Memorize and eat?” Stiles asked with a grin, holding up the note card as he twisted the key onto the ring in his hand.
Derek forced a smirk since it was obvious the kid was trying to lighten the mood before he left.
“Guess I’ll see you tomorrow then,” he said, and then he was pulling the door open and stepping out onto the porch, the night air turning damp and cool.
Leaning against the doorjamb, Derek watched Stiles walk down to the rusty, blue atrocity sitting in the driveway, climbed in and turned the engine over. His face lit briefly in the flare of the dash lights, he offered Derek the barest wave before he twisted in his seat and backed down the drive, headlights receding until they faded entirely and the rumble of the exhaust disappeared, leaving him with the gentle night sounds humming between the trees.
Chapter 20: Get to Work
Stiles wakes up the next morning with the same smile on his face that he fell asleep wearing, even though he hadn’t gotten as much sleep as his inner college kid alarm clock would have liked. After getting home the night before he’d stayed up for a while with his dad, watched part of a ball game and shared a late night snack, trying to be at least a little careful (he drew the line at the word professional) about what he shared from the day’s exploits. Derek’s kids might officially be his charges, and freaking adorable ones at that, but their dad was still the Sheriff’s deputy, and it was a little bit of a weird line for Stiles to navigate. Growing up there had been very few boundaries that separated him from the precinct or the men and women who worked there, but these weren’t just his stories and secrets to tell, so he’d managed to reign himself in a little bit.
Not to say that it had been an easy feat, because man, when Derek had told him that his least favorite food was Brussel sprouts, unaware that Stiles had found the bag in the freezer hiding pilfered candy - it had been almost impossible not to crack up right then and there. The heavy turn their conversation had taken helped to tamp down his mirth but the somber mood hadn’t lasted - he’d almost had to pull the Jeep over halfway home he was laughing so hard.
The memory was enough to put just a little bit of a spring in his step as he brushed his teeth and and got ready to leave, dressed casually and comfortably once again in a pair of pale jeans and a black batman tee underneath his red hoodie. A little mismatched there, but he hoped he could relax the dress code soon - it wouldn’t be long before it was way too hot for anything but shorts. He hoped too that the yellow bat signal emblazoned across his chest might bring Sebastian out of his shell a little bit - he had no doubt that one day this week somebody was going to break down and cry for daddy, and something made him want fiercely for it to be one of the other two boys.
Not that particularly wanted it to be any of them of course, but Stiles was a realist with way to much education and experience revolving around kids to think any differently. They were young, separated from their dad for the first real time and left with a veritable stranger, and to top all of that off you also had to factor in their DNA. Equality aside, they were still werewolves, who Stiles had come to believe were actually closer to each other than humans were most of the time. All that pack hierarchy and familial instinct had to show somewhere, and he had not doubt that it would show in the Hale boys soon.
Rather, their lack of those things would show.
It was a scary thought for Stiles. Despite the man’s manic sort of babble the night before, he couldn’t imagine what it was like for Derek. What could possibly drive him to leave his pack, his family, his mom and Alpha and take three little boys, cubs, pups from the pack and family they’d known all their lives and drag them a full state away where they were alone and adrift in foreign territory.
It would’ve been far more concerning if he hadn’t been able to hear exactly how scared Derek truly was when he’d confessed to Stiles last night, if he hadn’t been able to see just how much he loved and cherished his sons. No trivial thing could have driven him to that decision, made him put his boys in the position he had. It was something serious, something dangerous, else it never would have happened, and while that, coupled with what he knew of the boys’ biological mother, was worrisome and plain messed up, it was also reassuring. He’d had the smarts and the nerve and the dedication to make the right decision for his family, even at his own expense, and in Stiles’ book that said a hell of a lot.
So yeah, maybe he was starting to like the guy, on top of liking the way he looked.
He’d liked stupider people.
Grabbing his bag from the corner of the desk, he quickly scanned the little note he’d left himself, a reminder of the bits and pieces he wanted to take with him. He’d found a few minutes between showering and passing out the night before to review and organized some of the things he scribbled down over the course of the day, and as always it had been remarkably helpful in straightening out his thoughts, even half-asleep. Tromping down the stairs he found his father in the kitchen eating a bagel against the counter, gesturing silently to the containers next to the toaster before Stiles could even open his mouth.
Stiles sniffed, but it just made his dad snort a laugh into his coffee cup, up a point for the moment in the never-ending battle of good food versus healthy food.
“Any big plans today, father-mine?” he asked, popping a bagel of his own into the toaster before heading for the fridge.
“Nope, been pretty quiet these last few weeks,” he replied, rinsing his coffee cup. “Be meeting with Parrish’s parents in the next couple of days, finalize the paperwork for the K9.”
“Don’t they have to like… come from a special school or something?”
The question was mumbled because Stiles had practically climbed into the refrigerator after the blueberries he’d stashed, but he was quick to hop back out once he laid hand on them. The prospect of a K9 on the force was exciting for him - he’d been lobbying it for years with the hopes of one day being able to slip a joint into the bottom of Jackson Whittemore’s gym locker in high school. Once he’d graduated it was more to do with lightening his dad’s workload - drug busts and vehicle searches were some of the most resource-sapping cases that crossed his desk.
And yeah, maybe the new handler wasn’t so hard on the eyes either…
Why had he pushed for new deputies again?
Just for the sweet, sweet torture of surrounding himself with attractive men all summer?
Let him just say, thank god he had no memories of his dad ever wearing those black rookie uniforms.
Ugh, at least they were both pretty much solidly out of his league - older, way hotter, employed by his father and employing him…
It was good, in a way - he could flirt and bat his eyelashes all he wanted, safe in the knowledge that it wasn’t going anywhere.
Still kinda sucked, but he would take what he could get.
“Usually,” the Sheriff replied, straightening the badge pinned to his shirt and grabbing the keys to his cruiser. “But Parrish senior has all the facilities and certifications to train his own - hasn’t opened up a full blown school out there but he’s been shipping out a handful of dogs every year for a while now. I’d heard about it, just never done much investigating. We’ll be cutting out the middle man this way.”
“That’s smart,” Stiles said, rattling around in the cupboards now. “Save you some money, might be good for future business too.”
“Sure. Alright, I gotta get to work kid, I’ll see you tonight.”
“You behave with those kids, you hear me?” he called in warning, but by the time Stiles had climbed out of the cabinet to glare - because rude - his dad was already gone, the front door slamming behind him minutes before the cruiser’s engine snarled to life.
Cramming the last bite of his bagel into his mouth to keep from muttering some rather unflattering thigs about his father, he found a plastic bag under the sink and stuffed in his loot the carton of blueberries, a container of vanilla yogurt, and the personal sports-bottle sized blender he’d gotten from high up in the dusty shelves, a relic from his failed attempts at getting his dad to ‘go green.’ Checking his watch, he grabbed his bags and his keys and headed for the door.
He had to get to work too - if he took Main Street he had just enough time to grab coffee.
Twenty minutes later he was climbing out of the Jeep in front of the Hale house with arms laden, once again balancing paper cups with just enough care to stop them from spilling hot coffee or iced mocha all down his front. There wasn’t as much shrieking when he rang the doorbell as there had been last time, but he could distinctly hear rummaging and the thunder of small feet on the other side. Despite the noise Derek was alone when he dragged the door open, once again only half dressed and a little bit mussed, but without any hangers-on this time. His gaze immediately honed in on the paper coffee cup and he liberated it from Stiles’ grip without a word, taking a long, appreciative gulp before turning away and heading off up the hall without a word.
“Good morning to you too sunshine,” Stiles chuckled, pulling the door shut behind him and smirking at the sub-verbal grunt he got in return.
Following the man into the kitchen, he was met with a loud cheer of his name and a little boy barreling into his legs, hugging him round the knees and making him stumble. He managed to catch himself but it was Derek who saved his coffee, turning with lightning fast reflexes - or maybe just werewolf fast - and catching the cup along with his plastic bags before his could drop them in a mess all over the floor.
“Angus,” he admonished, and Stiles did an internal fist-bump because he’d guessed right, “It’s not nice to trip people.”
“Din’ trip,” the little boy pouted, letting go of Stiles’ knees but keeping hold of his jeans with one hand.
Derek narrowed his eyes at his son, reached for him and shooed him off toward the breakfast table when he moved easily from Stiles’ side to his father’.
“Go finish your pancakes,” he scolded gently.
Watching him go, Stiles found Benjamin and Sebastian still seated, the first waving at him with sticky fingers as he dipped from-the-freezer mini pancakes in a puddle of syrup and that latter chewing thoughtfully on his plastic fork and watching him with large, wary eyes.
“So,” he started, slinging his bag off his shoulder and beginning to unpack. “Everybody ready to go this morning?”
Glancing up at him from where he was tucking in his uniform top, Derek gave him an appraising look before shrugging, finished buttoning up.
“They were excited you were coming back,” he said quietly, and a glance past him told Stiles the boys weren’t listening, but he was close enough to hear the warring emotions in Derek’s tone.
Relief, caution, concern, maybe even a little jealousy.
Made sense, but it only solidified in Stiles’ mind that he had more than three little boys to look after.
Drumming his fingers nervously against the counter top, he stopped when he caught Derek watching them, used the sudden, restless energy to pull out his blender and plug it on the island instead.
“I wanted to ask,” he said casually, moving to the fridge to grab orange juice and a bag of baby spinach, “Coffee. Does it actually do anything for you guys? Like, the caffeine?”
Swallowing slowly, Derek raised an eyebrow, glanced at the cup he’d raised to his mouth, looked back to Stiles.
Stiles stifled a smile, the answer so much more of a question of a statement.
“I mean, I’d have to drink a couple of gallons to get a buzz out of it, and even then our metabolisms burn through it so fast. My cousin likes it,” he admitted, putting the cup down and actually pushing it away. “He’ll be climbing the curtains for about twenty minutes before he crashes. It’s not nice to watch.”
“Yikes,” Stiles commiserated. “Right. Ok. So, here’s the thing.” Dumping fruit and greens into the blender bottle, he went to the freezer for ice cubes, considering his next words carefully. “We’re gonna try something different.”
Derek looked dubious, narrowed his eyes, first at Stiles and then at the handful of leafy greens in the blender.
“Relax, I’ll keep the coffee coming,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Since apparently you like the way black coffee tastes enough to suffer it without the rewards of a caffeine high - a character trait I find deeply disturbing by the way. But this is two days now your kids have been eating breakfast and you haven’t, and I’m guessing that’s pretty common. So.”
With a smart-assed smirk he flicked the switch on the blender, mouthing an apology at the three little boys who jumped at the loud, hideous grind of the blades. Two minutes later, he detached the bottle from the base, switched the blade attachment out for a flip-top, and pushed it across the counter.
“Smoothie,” he said flatly. “Tastes good, and it’ll get you through till lunch. I’m not sending one of Beacon Hills’ finest out on the streets with a bellyful of jelly donuts, which I know my father gets brought in on a regular basis so don’t even bother denying that one deputy.”
He was surprised how much the pink flush on the tips of Derek’s ears pleased him when he shot the man and grin and a wink, even though it was practically a confirmation of his suspicions - whole wheat bagels, pfft!
“Anyway, I’ll add that gross protein powder stuff if you want,” he said, going back to the fridge and pulling out the Tupperware full of lasagna and putting it into the now empty plastic bag. “But breakfast ya know…”
“Most important breakfast!” two little voices chorused, Angus and Benjamin clearly paraphrasing an oft-repeated proverb, as incorrect as it was, and Stiles smiled, raising his eyebrows at Derek who rolled his own in return and took a deliberate swig of his coffee in response.
“All done?” he asked as Angus climbed down from his chair again, quickly followed by Benjamin, and then again by Sebastian though much more slowly. All three carrier their plates carefully to the sink, Angus skirting quickly back round to climb the barstools and get a sniff of his father’s smoothie.
“Go wash up,” he rumbled, lifting the little boy back to the floor and herding the three little boys toward the hallway. Once they were off and moving, he gestured for Stiles to follow him with a jerk of his chin, heading for his office where he began buckling into his utility belt.
“Any second-day advice for me boss?” he asked, leaning against the door jamb with his hands in his pockets and Derek got his sidearm out of a small safe and checked it over carefully, holstering it at his side.
“Not really,” he replied, “Nothing we didn’t over yesterday. Or last night. Just that eventually one of them’s going to get upset so… be ready for it I guess. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what to tell you to help you deal with that. We’ve never really had that problem, but… I mean they know they have to behave, know they can’t gnaw on humans or scratch or throw hissy fits with humans like they do…”
“Relax,” Stiles said easily, not surprised by Derek’s sudden devolvement into the same nervous panic form last night, but still uncomfortable. He had a sudden, intense urge to squeeze the guy’s shoulder or wrap a hand around the back of his neck, a very wolfish instinct. The only thing that kept him from actually doing it was the strange, itchy sort of certainty that the other man might really enjoy it.
That they both might enjoy it.
“When it happens,” he continued, pitching his voice low and soothing, “And yeah, it’s a when, not an if… when it happens I’ll be waiting for it. I might not know how it’s going to go, but if you think about it they don’t either. This is new to them too. New to you. When it comes, we’ll figure it out. And besides,” he grinned, chuckling roughly. “I’ve been bitten before.”
And oh, man, that look of shocked surprise was absolutely priceless. Totally worth all the…
Stiles staggered to the side, hoping out of the way as three little werewolves came tumbling in through the door, circling round their dad and jumping up and down until he crouched, got down on their level and scooped them all in for a hung. It was an adorable sight, but Stiles also noticed how Derek angled himself to the side, kept his hip and his holster back while little hands stayed high around his chest and neck, not once wandering toward all the lights and toys on his belt. Taught then, not to touch, not to play. Good. He remembered those lessons from his own childhood.
“Be good today all right?” Derek rumbled, rubbing a prickly jaw against necks and cheeks, making the boys giggle. “I gotta go, so be good for Stiles. You’ll have another fun day, and I’ll come home for dinner. It’s gonna rain, maybe you can all play in the mud.”
Stiles narrowed his eyes, caught Derek’s smart assed glance and grin from amidst the tangle of limbs.
There were a few cheers, a few laughs, and then the deputy was climbing to his feet, shaking himself free.
“All right, come on,” he smiled down at them, “I gotta get to work.”
Whimpers, guttural whines, but they backed up, let their father lean down and plant a kiss on their foreheads.
“To the moon and back he murmured,” petting heads left and right, and then he was grabbing the coffee and the smoothie and the bag he’d set down on the desk and was heading out the door.