"Derek, babe, this is it . This is the start of the quick descent of our son into teenage angst," Stiles crows into his cellphone. He's at the kitchen window, leaning against an island table that puts distance between him and his son while still letting him oversee the boy's play time.
"Alex is five , Stiles, " comes Derek's tired response.
"Time is a cold-hearted bitch who betrays!"
"Stiles! He can hear you!"
Stiles' eyes widen as he claps a hand over his mouth, snapping his gaze to the toddler playing (if gnawing at a toy was considered playing) with a Spiderman action figure that he inherited from Stiles' own superhero collection.
"Hey, bud," he says brightly, locking eyes with the boy staring curiously up at him from the living room, "You didn't hear Tata say a bad word, right? You're a super baby who has cuss-filtering ears!"
"He absolutely does not."
Stiles rolls his eyes. "Daddy doesn't know what he's talking about. Daddy has no faith in leaving you and I alone. This is why I'm your favourite, right?"
Alex scrunches his face up in distaste, scooting his butt to face his back to his father.
Stiles sighs despondently and turns back to the phone.
"Derek, you know how much I hate admitting I'm wrong. With a passion , in fact. So I will only beg once: please come home and tell your kid to not hate us anymore. I can't take the mini-cold shoulders! And his shoulders are adorable and tiny."
"I know, I know, it's stressing me out, too," he hears Derek take a sigh of his own. "But I swear to you, we're doing good. We're great parents. Alex is just having trouble adjusting."
"No, he isn't!" Stiles exclaims and almost knocks a roll of kitchen paper towels with his flailing hand. "He's taken over this house and he knows it. Alex is my perfect little overlord, his territory is well and truly marked. We've got the pee stains on the carpet to prove it! This is an entirely different kind of c-r-a-z-y !"
"Why did you spell that out?"
"That's not a vocabulary word he's going to be learning until we teach him about contextualization. Anyway, dude, Derek, my other half, light of my f-u-c-k-i-n-g life, I am not equipped to handle the wrath of a toddler. I don't know how you made me think otherwise."
"Yes, you are. Because I have work, and if I come home without the biscuits Alex likes he's going to ignore me for the rest of the night, too."
Stiles gasps and clutches at his neck for the pearls he doesn't actually have. "You traitor. You dirty, dirty traitor. You're using sugary treats to get leverage over me. We're not actually in this together, are we? You're gonna let me suffer these - these little child-sized glares - which he totally got from you by the f-r-e-a-k-i-n-g way -"
"You didn't have to spell that out, that wasn't a bad word."
"Oh s-c-r-e-w you, I was the title holder for spelling bee master all of elementary, that needs to be put to use somehow . How dare you save yourself from this. I don't think I like you so much anymore."
"You're an idiot," Derek deadpans.
"And you are not helping your case here!"
"Stiles, I'm buying the biscuits for the both of our sakes, okay? Once he gets his snack, we can sit down with him and, I don't know, try our best to explain to him why it isn't our fault he wasn't there for our wedding. Again."
As if on cue, a series of sniffles and low whines reach Stiles' ears as his eyes zero in on his son's shaking shoulders.
"Oh shit - crap. Der, not the 'W'-word!" Stiles berates as he scrambles swiftly out of the kitchen and into the living room to swoop Alex into one arm, tucking him tightly against his torso. The toddler squirms in his hold and bats uselessly at Stiles' chest, which actually makes him feel better since for a werewolf baby to pull their punches, it must mean Alex doesn't actually want him to let go.
Alex lets out a few mournful sobs, biting at a wobbly lip and refusing to look at Stiles.
"Hey frowny dude," he says softly, "you're okay, I love you. Daddy loves you, too. Derek tell your son you love him ," Stiles orders, balancing an armful of Alex and a phone trapped between his cheek and shoulder as he starts bouncing him soothingly.
"You know we love you, Alex. I'll be home soon, and you're gonna have biscuits first thing when I get there. Sound good?" Derek's voice croons, sounding small and far-away to Stiles' human ears but knowing it reaches Alex's loud and clear.
The little boy's jaw trembles his unsounded sobs as he lodges a thumb in his mouth. He blinks away heavy tears and Stiles' heart aches at the way his son's wet eyelashes clump together.
"Tata," Alex starts slowly, "no dinner?"
Stiles breathes out a relieved laugh. "Biscuits then dinner buddy, how about that? Compromise?"
Alex's eyebrows crowd close together, an expression he most definitely got from Derek, and he says decidedly, "Al'ight. Comp'mise."
Stiles' grin turns impossibly wide down at him, pressing the boy closer to his person. "Hear that, babe? He's learned to use his vocab word of the week! Such a smart super baby. And daddy said compromise was too big of a word for you. Daddy is a doubtful daddy, yes he is!"
Alex does something incredible and visibly preens at the compliment, burrowing further into his father's embrace, and it makes Stiles straight up want to fucking cry because, see, Alex hasn't been affectionate with either him or Derek for three days already, and that's just something his heart can't take , okay. Belatedly, he realises the phone carrying Derek's voice on the other line has slipped from his shoulder and took a quiet dive down to the couch. It isn't until Alex pulled his nose away from his father's jaw to tell him seriously, "Daddy said he - he has t'go. You got to let'm go, Tata."
Stiles only hums as he presses his cheek on top of Alex's red hair, swinging his torso side-to-side slowly in mindless bliss.
His son doesn't hate him!
His son is willingly being cuddled!
His son used a vocabulary word from the grammar calendar they bought last month!
" Tata, " Alex repeats with a smacking fist to Stiles' nose.
His son has werewolf baby strength. Ow.
Alex continues sagely, "Dada needs to go now. You let him go now."
Stiles looks over his shoulder and reaches down for the discarded phone, putting it back to his ear.
"Der, prepare to turn green with envy. I'm getting Alex cuddles and you're not. So you know what, take your time at whatever crime scene you're at. This little dude and I are gonna be just fine!"
"Glad to know. I'm at the station, actually. Dad says hi and that this is the revenge he's getting for raising you. Alex, wanna say hi to grandpops?"
Stiles was zero percent prepared for the scream that erupted from his son's body and shot straight into his left ear.
" Woah, " Stiles staggers to the side, " Inside voice , baby. Seriously, we've talked about this. Tata can't be deaf in one ear, Auntie Lydia needs these ears to transcribe interviews for her."
Alex, not fully understanding the train of thought, nearly vibrates in excitement at the mention of his favourite Aunt's name. He sucks in a large breath in preparation for his next battle cry, but Stiles pinches his two lips together with a thumb and forefinger. Alex places him with another glare.
"Ask dad for parenting tips for me," he says into the phone and continues in a rush before ending the call, "Love you both, bye!"
He grins at his surly-looking son. "Wanna play Barbie versus Batman again?"
And for the next half hour, Stiles and Alex get along famously .
Stiles could have sworn it was only yesterday when they brought Alex home. He was a chubby thing, olive skin and wide brown eyes that shone a brilliant gold the day Derek and Stiles first laid eyes on him. His shock of red hair paired gloriously with the miniscule red hoodie he had on that day, and Stiles didn't even know they made hoodies that small!
It was a match made in heaven, he decided right then and there.
Alex was all of three years old, pushing four by only three months, and he didn't quite understand yet what being adopted meant. Miss Romilda from the orphanage told them all Alex knew was he got to play with his two new visitors at least once a week. By the third visit, Stiles had already hired Lydia to help him with the legal aspects of the adoption and called up the Sheriff to inquire if he was ready to be a grandfather.
"Did Derek or Scott make another werewolf again?" The Sheriff had first asked completely unironically. But Stiles did not mean another Beta, and yes Erica you're still the least favourite grandchild for as long as you're still going 60 on a 30 road. He meant a little werewolf bundle of joy. He meant the first grandchild to be small enough for his dad to lift up in his arms.
He meant the first baby he and Derek were ever going to have.
( And yes, Isaac, you can be a big brother-uncle. No, you're still not the favourite child, no one is. Boyd help us out here.)
The adoption process was a long and tedious time in Stiles' life, but every Sunday of every week he and Derek diligently turned up at the orphanage, an entire bag of toys in hand each time (one for every kid in the facility because Miss Romilda doesn't encourage creating a sense of favouritism and envy amongst the kids), and Stiles fell heart-first for Alex's button nose and chipmunk cheeks.
The day they found out what happened to the child was a dark one. Miss Romilda told them she had found him behind the orphanage's dumpster bin three years ago; not even at the doorstep, not even inside the dumpster, but behind it. Nested in a shoebox, no name and only a single blanket coddling his body, Alex was left to fend for himself in Sacramento's only supernatural-friendly orphanage.
But the day Derek and Stiles finally gained custody of the boy was a joyous one, and it only took a year and two months later for the state to get him recognised as Alex James Stilinski-Hale, named after Derek's late father. Alex came home with them, got snot all over the dashboard of the Camaro, and it was quite frankly the single most incandescent day of their lives.
And by that time Alex was already four, ridiculously observant and astute. There was a phase in which he referred to himself as 'baby' as a result of Stiles and Derek openly and nearly exclusively calling him that. It was devastatingly adorable the first few times he did it, like the time he picked up on the question he was always asked, "Does baby want a hug?" and confidently took this in stride by periodically exclaiming "Baby want hug!" at either of his parents.
And Alex was a pudgy little creature with big, sparkly eyes so you fucking bet Stiles and Derek dropped everything they were initially doing to give Alex a goddamn hug. It was law.
It eventually dawned on them how confusing it would be for Alex to identify with the moniker, as Stiles and Derek alternately call out to each other with the name as well. Stiles found it downright endearing when one afternoon, during one of his research binges, he had started with a single "Hey baby," and both Derek and Alex looked at him from where they were snuggled up on the couch. If moments could be filmed and captured live, he'd pick out that one to have it framed.
They had to switch back to calling Alex by his actual name when he was about to start kindergarten and Melissa advised them as much when she babysat Alex. Their son had almost completely relied on being called 'baby', and Stiles wasn't about to let his kid inherit the same curse he himself had all throughout his academic career just by having a peculiar name. No siree, that bridge was burning on his end.
Another surprising problem they encountered all thanks to the combination of their child's observational skills, Erica's penchant for calling him 'hellcat', and the life-saving channel, BabyTV, was that at age four and a half Alex had started meowing.
Stiles seriously couldn't make this shit up.
"No, dude, I'm telling you, it was breakfast time and High-Five had a guest cat over," he had told Derek after they put Alex to bed one night, "And we're focusing on our oatmeals right, Kathleen's losing her shit in cabinets and Jup-Jup's teleporting things all over the place. They had an orange cat on the show, and Alex meowed at it. Which, don't get me wrong, was cute! But he kept doing it again, Der, even after Kathleen's segment was over and Kellie was singing about the wonders of pickles. He just kept meowing! It was unnerving. "
"I don't see why we should be panicking over this," Derek had said placatingly, "He probably saw a cat episode on Baby TV and liked it too much."
But see, Stiles at the time was solidly not placated at all, because, " Dude , you weren't there. Alex's cat noises were A- plus , like, so very weirdly spot on. I stopped to check if there was a cat out the window three times . Why aren't you more worried your half-canine kid sounds like a cat?"
And Derek, because he was a dubious wolf who lived to downplay the drama in Stiles' life, had only rolled his eyes and tugged him into an embrace. And Stiles wasn't easy, he wasn't! But! Hear him out: they had a California King memory foam mattress and his husband was a furnace. An amply-muscled, comfortable, attractive furnace. And it was Winter. So, sue him if he folded like a house of cards.
There was only so much protesting he could have done.
Later, just when they've finally figured out why Alex developed a knack for making incessant feline noises (Erica - it's always something to do with Erica), their child had once again gotten the drop on them and transitioned into entering nudist colony territory after over-hearing Stiles proclaim too-often-than-he-probably-should-have that Derek in specific should never again wear clothes; that clothes being worn by Derek was bad and constant nakedness was good.
On the plus side, Alex learned the meaning of that week's vocab word : constant .
On the far other end, Alex streaked naked around the house for two weeks - and that one inopportune time at the station - because Tata kept saying he loved Dada better without clothes on and Alex was simply not to be upstaged.
Christ on a fucking bike.
So, he presents to you their offspring: a genius!
Way too observant for Stiles and Derek's own good, that's for sure. But as Derek has expressly said, they're good parents. They righted Alex's self-identification, indulged his cat phase and maybe even meowed back a few times while he weaned off it, and they had created a quick-clothing system for their toddler during the dark ages of Alex's strike on bodily coverings in general.
But nothing could have prepared either of them for the day Isaac had volunteered (nay - comandered) to babysit Alex and decided showing the boy the pack's home videos was the next greatest idea since sliced bread.
According to Isaac, Alex was enjoying the slice-of-pack-life clips with an incredible amount of enthusiasm at seeing his dads on the screen along with two versions of Uncle Isaac - next to him and inside the TV at the same time ! That was, up until they got to the wedding videos.
The first of many was a bunch of B-rolls from Scott and Allison's wedding, and Isaac was dutifully exercising Alex's loose grasp on that weeks' vocab word, which, what do you know, was ' wedding'. Isaac had regaled the PG-5 ¼ version on what happens at weddings - the frosting on the cake, the colours in the reception, the sound of the very small neck guitar with the stick, the special love.
Alex had reportedly become distraught.
Because see, it's with beaming pride that the Stilinski-Hales know they've raised Alex to only know love in all its forms during his earliest formative years. So they're not surprised that Alex had understood the magical love seen during weddings. Alex understood the unconditional love his parents had for him, and the brand of love Uncle-brother-Isaac, Alpha-uncle Scott, Teddy-uncle Boyd, and all his pretty aunts showed him. Alex also understood grandpoppy loves him with an extra amount of ice cream, because why wouldn't he? Alex was their little baby genius wolf, yes he was.
So Alex not being invited (this was his first vocab word on the grammar calendar - Stiles wants to sue) to his daddies' magical birthday party?
Very much no good and so bad. (They haven't started on Adjective Month on the calendar yet. He also doesn't know there are other types of parties outside of birthdays.)
So Alex had cried, well until the nighttime when Stiles and Derek returned home only to see the panic in Isaac's eyes and the red flush on their child's crying face. There were words exchanged, snot mopped up, children consoled, and parents accepting defeat to the temper of a child who believed he was robbed of a milestone he deserved to be in.
It's not like they didn't try to explain why Alex didn't get to attend either; boy did they ever try. But that kind of gap in the timeline was lost on their beautiful boy who hyper-focused on not being there to join the magic-pretty-dressed up-love. Stiles patiently explained to him the concept of time and how the wedding - cue the water-works - happened before they could take Alex home with them. They didn't discuss how they haven't even met the boy yet at the time because that topic was reserved for another traumatising conversation.
And so that's how they got here five days later, tip-toeing around the word wedding and honest-to-God getting frostbitten by a two-foot-nine child's cold looks.
It's been super, thanks for asking.
Thank fuck for those Tesco biscuits their toddler was obsessed with.
"Alex," Derek starts as he sets the platter of shortbread on his son's high chair, "Remember how you broke Aunt Ally's hair brush? And she didn't get upset because she knew it was an accident?"
Alex chews happily on a biscuit, sprinkling sugar all over his Captain America pyjama top before very politely swallowing prior to answering, "No."
Derek's hopeful expression falls.
Stiles clears his throat and tries, "Well baby, how about that time you scratched Tata's arms when you went wolfy?"
At this, Alex nods and responds, "You said it was al'ight 'cause it was a ac- acc'dent . No more saying sorry, Tata."
"That's right sweet pea, no more saying sorry! Because accidents happen all the time, and we don't mean to hurt people we love when we make them."
Derek adds to this, "Even adults hurt the people they love, Alex. Adults like Tata and me."
Alex blinks at his father. "What's a adult again, daddy?"
"Very big kids," Stiles supplies, "and we use the article 'an' before a vowel sweet cheeks."
"He doesn't know what a vowel is, Stiles," Derek reminds him, which spurs Alex to frown and protest, "Do too!"
Stiles only grins at this, placing a smacking kiss on Alex's downy hair. "No you don't, but that's okay, you make up for it with enthusiasm!"
They'll let the elementary teachers worry about that.
Derek brushes a large hand over the top of Alex's head, "Are you still mad at us, bud?"
Alex screws his face up at the both of them as if he were offended his pre-dinner dessert time was being interrupted. "Yeah," Alex declares.
"But do you get that it wasn't possible for you to have been there at mine and Tata's wedding?"
Alex rolls his dark brown eyes, looking like a carbon copy of Stiles for a hot second with this movement and responds, "But you always tell me anything is pos'ble. So you a- lyin', daddy."
Derek shakes his head, "That's not true, Alex. You can hear my heart when I lie, right?"
Alex considers this with an impressively dubious look. Yeah , that's all Stiles.
The older man continues, "And did you ever hear it skip when I told you we didn't mean to not invite you to our party?"
"No," Alex mumbles around a fresh biscuit.
Seeing an opportunity to swoop in with the way his son's expression grows more open, Stiles tells the boy, "You didn't get to be there when we got married, squirt, because time is a silly thing -" he punctuates this with a tickle to the neck - "and it didn't allow us to be a family yet back then. But now we are, and that's super cool, y'know?"
"But I wanna be at the bi'thday," Alex comments in a petulant tone, still not quite at peace with the fact that 'birthday party' wasn't necessarily the term for all kinds of parties.
"I know you do baby, but we can't go back in time with you now, can we?" Stiles implores bemusedly. "All we can do is -" he steals one shortbread biscuit, eliciting a tiny protest from Alex - "eat cookies, 'cause these are so totally cookies and not biscuits. Don't listen to the British. And we can play with dolls and build houses and go out with the pack when the sky balloon glows bright."
Alex snort-giggles, a rather complicated-sounding noise, "It's called moon , Tata, don't be dumb."
Stiles reels back and places a hand on his chest, huffing out a laugh, " Attitude check , little dude! You've definitely been spending too much time with Aunt Lydia. Next thing I know you'll be wearing Baby Gap and calling me 'obtuse', too . But hey, you get me, right, champ? There is absolutely no way you missed out on anything that's too special because you're the most special thing, like , ever."
Derek comes up closely at his side, weaving a hand around Stiles' back to press a wide palm on his hip. He's got this incredibly fond look on his face as his eyes flit in between Stiles and Alex, like he can't believe this is how his life actually looks like. He can empathise with Derek there. Their life looks pretty damn spectacular from this view.
Alex regards them both with wide eyes, never having been one to miss getting in on the affection, and reaches his arms towards them to be picked up from his high chair. Stiles plucks him out and wedges him between him and Derek, appreciating all over again how tactile werewolves can be. He gets twice the cuddles this way and he wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world.
"Tata I wanna go to the next bi'thday, okay?" Alex whispers. "I'm not mad anymo'. I'll go to the next one with you an' daddy, okay?"
Stiles chuckles mirthfully and tells Derek, "Hear that, daddy? We're forgiven as long as hellcat gets another wedding. You up for it?"
Derek grimaces, probably cringing at the memory of the five long months he spent planning their wedding a year ago.
"Having war flashbacks there, soldier?" Stiles says cheekily.
Derek nips at his nose. "Stop calling him hellcat or he'll start meowing again."
"That's not an answer!" He sing-songs.
Alex looks pointedly up at his Alpha-father, " Okay, daddy?"
"How can you say no to that face, Der? Seriously, there's two manipulative geniuses in this house now, and if you think you're any match for us, you are wrong ."
Derek sighs deeply through his nose and ruffles Alex's hair. "Okay, we'll have another party with you."
Alex squeals delightedly, and the sound rattles both his parents' ears as he squirms almost violently in his excitement. He announces loudly, "I have to tell Unka-Is'ac!"
"And I have to tell Dad," Stiles follows with a grin.
Derek rubs his chin with his free hand. "I'm gonna have to call Lydia in the morning, don't I?"
" That's the spirit, babe. Don't worry, there's obviously no venue reservations and tailor appointments this time," Stiles offers his husband's chagrined look helpfully, "we can have it in the backyard and bust out the old wedding garb. I know for a fact I haven't gained a pound since I got married, so you worry about yourself."
"Are you calling me fat?" Derek raises a playful eyebrow at him.
Stiles shrugs good-naturedly. "The Dad Bod is in right now, didn't the internet tell you that?"
Derek's retort gets cut with small limbs punching them both in their solar plexuses as Alex attempts to break out from the prison of his parents' embrace. They set him down to the ground and don't get another word in before Alex makes a beeline for Derek's phone that was left on the couch.
"DADDY I HAFTA CALL UNKA-IS'AC!"
Stiles laughs at the sight of his son pressing at the incorrect keys on the smartphone. "Your phone, your problem, dude."
"On the upside, if he locks the phone we'd have a valid excuse to not call anyone anymore."
Stiles grins at him. "You play dirty, Hale."
Derek tugs him closer, nosing at the lobe of his ear - a gesture he's done for comfort and affection for the past five years and counting. "Haven't you been paying attention, dude? It's been Stilinski-Hale for a year now. And will be again for the second time once Alex gets his way."
"Do you think we can get Deaton to officiate again?"
"Lydia can probably do something about that."
"Do we really have to?"
"Derek I do not need a repeat of Alex's wedding woes. Not even we had wedding woes. It was 'Tata's not fair, daddy doesn't love me, I want Uncle Isaac' on f-u-c-k-i-n-g loop. "
Derek chuckles and catches his mouth in a chaste kiss. "Fine. So, will you marry me?"
"Dude no fair, I was totally gonna ask you this time!"
"DADDY I BROKE THE PHONE!"
Stiles gives a grimace of his own and advises, "You should probably get that."
"If he breaks it, I won't have to call Lydia first thing in the morning."
"And prolong your suffering? When your kid starts accusing us of breaking promises, not even the British cookies can save you."
Derek huffs. "I should get the phone."
Stiles pats him on the shoulder. "Atta boy. I'll get dinner on the table."
" DADDY I CAN'T READ THIS!"
Ah, his life. A different circus act every week. But what's there to complain about, right? He's going to get married to the love of his life again and have their son along for the ride this time.
"TATA WE BROKE DADDY'S PHONE!"
By god, does he adore his life.