It had been five minutes since his son had told him that werewolves existed and Scott had flashed his fangs, claws, and brightly colored eyes, and the only thing he could think was that it explained an awful lot if it could possibly be true. He had always prided himself on accepting the evidence in front of him, following patterns that didn't make sense at first, pushing for answers even when he wanted to pull back out of self-preservation. Scott, now looking as human as ever, sat with Stiles on the couch as they waited with poorly hidden apprehension for his response.
He took his hand away from where he'd been pressing it to his face and looked at Stiles. "Is it just Scott?" he asked, feeling a little guilty at the small part of him that was practically begging for his son not to have changed like that.
Stiles' lips quirked up in a small smile of relief. "I'm not a werewolf, dad, but about half of our pack is human."
"Pack?" he asked, feeling his stomach do that strange little flop it had done when Scott had given a low toothy growl. "How many?"
"Ten in our pack including me and Stiles, six werewolves and four humans," Scott said and then nudged Stiles with his elbow. "Stiles is our second in command and believe me, you do not want to know how that came about."
He thought that Scott was probably right and he probably didn't want to know how his precocious and enthusiastic son had become tangled up in a werewolf pack. "How long has this been going on?" he asked, still wavering with incredulity. He still wanted one of the boys to laugh, to grin at each other, and for this whole thing to be an elaborate prank with bonus stage make-up - he'd watched Scott's features change, but there could still be a rational explanation, somehow.
Stiles and Scott looked at each other, silent communication with eyebrows and glances, and Stiles looked a little sheepish when he turned back to face him. "A little over a thirteen months now. Scott was bitten in the woods right before school started our sophomore year. Kinda my fault, actually."
In the end it was the way that Scott shrugged and smiled fondly at Stiles that convinced him. He had watched the boys become close friends, practically joined at the hip, for nearly a decade now and he knew both what honesty and automatic forgiveness between them looked like. He sighed and leaned back in his chair, a strong feeling that he'd failed his son worse than he'd ever imagined pressing down on his chest. He had known that something was wrong for a long time now, at least eight months, but he'd never managed to get past Stiles' defenses to find out what it was.
"Scott, does your mom know?" he asked and grimaced when Scott shook his head and looked away. "Do any adults know?" he asked next, getting the uncomfortable feeling that the rest of their 'pack' were probably teenagers as well.
"Dr. Deaton, my boss does. He helps us when he can," Scott said quickly.
"And?" he asked, hoping that the town veterinarian wasn't their only source of help for the past thirteen months.
"Derek Hale, he's our Alpha," Stiles said. There was a pause and another silent communication with Scott in which Stiles' emphatic head tip was the deciding factor. "And Allison Argent's family, but they were kind of on the other side of things."
It was almost too much to process at once. "Other side? Derek Hale? How did this even happen?"
"We were in the woods that night Laura Hale's body was discovered and I was bitten by Peter Hale-" Scott began, speaking quickly like he was trying to rush through without getting into any details.
"Peter Hale, as in the unresponsive burn victim who disappeared from the long term care facility last December and was never seen again?" he asked, his eyes widening when Scott just nodded grimly. "I think you boys need to go through this with me a step at a time."
Scott and Stiles glanced at each other again and seem to come to an agreement. "So, it happened like this..."
Three hours later and he had a massive headache and the strong desire to go find a bottle of whiskey so he could get the mental image of his son nearly dying a dozen times in the past year out of his mind. He could have lost his son and never have known why. It was a horrifying explanation that they gave, but one that made a good portion of his major cases in the last thirteen months make a lot more sense. He had a strong suspicion that they'd left out a lot, with glances and shakes of the head when one of them would pause in the middle of an event that started to get more and more terrifying just in telling.
"So, uh, dad," Stiles said, his hands moving in an anxious percussion against his knees. "Can I get you anything? Do you want us to give you some space?"
He wanted to ask why they didn't tell him sooner but he had a pretty good idea of why they hadn't. Already he can't imagine ever trying to explain it to anyone else. "What do you need?" he asked, knowing that more than anything else he wanted to be there for his son when he hadn't been allowed to be in so long.
Stiles and Scott turned to each other in, seeming surprised by his reaction. "We're good if you're good." Stiles said, relief coloring his voice. "I mean, if you're not forbidding me to be with the pack, we're really good."
He stood and motioned for Stiles to come over, not wasting any time before wrapping him into a tight hug and just holding him for a long moment.
Stiles relaxed into his grip after only a few seconds. "I'm sorry for lying. Every time. I hated it every single time," he whispered.
"I know," he said because he'd seen that pain and frustration in Stiles' face each time and hadn't known what to do with it. He released Stiles when he started to squirm and then motioned for Scott to stand up.
Scott did, hesitating before stepping closer. "You're not afraid of me?" he asked.
He shook his head and pulled Scott into a quicker but tight hug. "Scott, I bandaged your scraped hands and knees when you fell out of the tree in the backyard when you were eight. I've made you and Stiles' popcorn and hot cocoa and fixed the zipper on your sleeping bag when you've had sleepovers. How could I be afraid of you?"
Scott gave him an intensely grateful and slightly embarrassed smile in return.
"If you want someone there when you tell your mom, I'd be happy to come over," he said, not missing Scott's small cringe. "Because you are planning on telling her, right?"
"Maybe?" Scott asked, exchanging a pained look with Stiles when Stiles squeezed his shoulder.
"She should know, Scott. She'd feel a lot better knowing what was going on with you, just like I do," he said. He'd had more than one conversation with Melissa McCall about what was happening to their boys and why they couldn't seem to make any headway with either of them. The topic of werewolves had never come up.
"Your mom is cool," Stiles said, his arm slung over Scott's shoulder in the same way he'd stood with Scott for years and years. "She'll probably think your claws are awesome."
Scott smiled and ducked his head. "At least it will explain the gouges in the hallway floor."
"Just let me know if you want me, or if there's anything I can do," he said and he couldn't resist squeezing Stiles' arm one more time just for the reassurance that his son was alive and right beside him. He let the boys take off, their heads bent in quiet discussion, and then went to his office with the intention of pulling case files and making separate coded notes about what he now knew. There would be a lot to go over.
It wasn't until a week later that he first saw the pack. He had come home early since he was unexpectedly going to be covering a night shift for his most senior deputy and paused inside the front door when he heard the murmur voices from his kitchen abruptly cut off. Curious more than anything else, he hung up his jacket and purposefully locked his gun in the safe before he walked toward the kitchen. Stiles and Scott had left out the identities of most of their packmates when they'd given their original explanation and he half expected for most of the group to have scattered by the time he rounded the corner.
There were nine people gathered in the kitchen and his original fear that the pack was comprised of teenagers - teenagers thrown into horrifying situations that even he hadn't encountered in his twenty-five years in the sheriff's department - was readily confirmed. Stiles was seated in front of his laptop at the head of the kitchen table with Lydia, the object of Stiles' affection for years, and Danny, the lacrosse team goalie, at either side. Jackson was sitting next to Lydia, and he couldn't help but feeling surprised at his presence considering the frankly insane history between Jackson, Scott, and Stiles.
Scott and Allison were sharing a chair, Scott talking in eager tones to another member of the lacrosse team next to him. Boyd, he recalled vaguely, remembering Stiles sitting with him on the bench more than once at a lacrosse game. A girl with long blonde hair who he didn't recognize was sitting across the table, listening intently while playing with a strand of her hair. The last member of the pack currently present he recognized instantly, though the leather jacket was new. Isaac was one of those kids that made him feel like he'd failed as a law enforcement officer in his duty to protect the vulnerable members of the community. Isaac didn't look up from where he was leaning against the back of the blonde girl's chair, but he could still see the lines of tension in Isaac's shoulders.
"Dad!" Stiles said, looking up from where he'd been intently reading.
"Stiles," he said evenly, watching the pack watch him in return. He wondered who was a werewolf and who wasn't, and was somewhat impressed when apart from Scott and Stiles he hadn't the slightest clue. At least they seemed to hide themselves well.
"I didn't think you'd be home this early. Just, you know, pack business," Stiles said, waving his hands to encompass the mess of papers on the table and the gathered group. "We can go?"
He shook his head and smiled wryly at them all. "Nope, you're fine. Just clean up when you're done. Do you want a couple of pizzas? It's moving on toward dinner time."
Stiles did a quick visual survey of the group surrounding him before turning back. "That would be great. Plain cheese and meat-lovers should cover everyone here. And a veggie for you; you shouldn't even be eating pizza."
"When you pay the bills you can order whatever pizza you want," he said and rolled his eyes as he pulled out his cellphone and retreated into the hallway, just a little bit unnerved. He stood quietly for a minute, listening as conversation slowly picked back up over whatever 'pack business' they'd been discussing. It had been oddly fascinating to see the way the others in the group had responded to him and to Stiles, particularly how they all seemed to be watching Stiles for their cues on how to act. As soon as Stiles had relaxed, when he'd been told the pack could stay, the tension in the room had reduced dramatically. Scott had told him that he didn't want to know how Stiles had become the second in command in their pack, which made him think that it was probably a tale that involved Stiles nearly dying, but he found that he was actually intensely curious how his son had wound up with the implicit trust of a pack of werewolves.
He gathered himself and walked two doors down to his office, first calling in for six pizzas - he was well versed in feeding hungry teenagers - and then sending a text message to Melissa McCall to let her know Scott was here with their pack. In the end Scott had declined his offer to be there when he told his mom, but she had called him later and they'd spent an hour expressing their sheer disbelief at how this could be happening to their children, and then another hour trying to make plans to ensure as much safety and communication as they possibly could with teenaged werewolves running around. He looked up when he heard the sound of conversation from the kitchen, easy laughter and the occasional voice rising playfully, and smiled to himself. Scott had been a good friend to Stiles for all of these years, but it was nice to see that Stiles had an entire group surrounding him when there were forces far more dangerous than he'd ever imagined lurking in the nearby shadows.
Not long after making it clear that the pack was welcome in the house he started to see them more and more often. Usually it was in groups of two or three rather than the entire pack at once and he even caught a glimpse of Derek Hale lurking around from time to time. He was still interested in talking to Derek, the only time he'd had much interaction with him had been when he'd arrested him on suspicion for Laura Hale's murder, and at those times Derek had mostly exercised his right to remain silent along with a disinterested glare. There was a lingering wariness but he mostly trusted the combined judgement of Stiles and Scott, and while they hadn't been singing Derek's praises, they seemed to at least work well with the man they called their Alpha.
By combining his efforts with Melissa McCall, they'd managed to institute a very basic tracking system for the pack so that they would know everyone was alright on the nights they were out. Both Stiles and Scott were under orders to send texts with their approximate location and how many of the pack were with them at midnight and every two hours after that if they were out of the house, along with their status. He had arranged a simple system of code words that could be either spoken or texted that meant anything from 'send help' or 'keep your deputies out of the woods right now' to 'we're fleeing the area'. It had only taken a few hours after hearing about werewolves for the first time to decide he would do anything he could to keep his son and the rest of the kids in the pack alive.
After a small amount of deliberation he had offered to take Stiles and the rest of the pack to the shooting range. After the stories he'd heard, and was still getting in bits and pieces, he figured it was best that at least the humans in the pack knew how to handle a handgun. Stiles had smiled and shook his head, explaining that they all knew how to shoot with handguns, rifles, and that Allison was teaching them crossbow skills. When he'd expressed his disbelief, Stiles had only shrugged and said that the pack had spent their few weeks without any crises over the summer doing crash courses in all kinds of training, thanks to Derek. Stiles proceeded to demonstrate his proficiency with a handgun the next day at the shooting range and he had reminded himself that it was probably a good thing that these kids were essentially a teenaged supernatural militia.
On nights that the pack stayed out late Stiles tended to bring a few members home with him. It hadn't taken much to deduce that these were the kids that would either have difficulty sneaking back into their homes or didn't have a reason to go back. More than once when he came in from a late shift he'd find two or three teenagers wrapped in blankets and sleeping on the living room floor. He'd gotten to know the pack better now, knew who were the werewolves and who were the humans. The werewolves were more likely to sleep at the house than the humans, though he'd found Danny on the couch one morning with an ice pack over an impressive black eye. When he'd expressed his concern, Danny had just grinned and said it would be easy enough to explain as a lacrosse accident, not so easy to randomly show up to breakfast with a black eye.
It was almost four in the morning when he returned home after being called out to a domestic dispute that had turned into a non-fatal shooting. Stiles had texted him only an hour earlier to let him know that he and a few of the pack were back at home and everyone in the pack was fine after a minor confrontation with a rogue Olitiau - whatever that meant. He poked his head in the living room as he double checked the locks on the the doors and windows, expecting to see a couple of sleeping teenagers. There was no one there, though two blankets were at the end of the couch in a bundle, and he wondered if maybe whoever had been there had decided to go out again.
He had once suggested to the other members of the pack that they might consider informing their parents, hoping to create some type of safety network for the kids, but he'd been met with quiet scoffs and shaken heads. Allison had pulled him aside after that non-conversation and politely told him that it was best if he didn't contact her father. The pack apparently had an uneasy truce with the remaining members of the Argent family, but it could be shattered by something as simple as them telling more humans about the existence of werewolves. He had gently asked if Allison wasn't a member of that family and she'd only tilted her head to look him squarely in the eyes while she told him that the pack was where her loyalties lay. She had left shortly after that with Scott and Stiles had told him with a grimace that the less said about the Argents the smoother things would go.
He finished checking the downstairs, poking his head out to check that Stiles' jeep was at the house, and then he went up with the intention of making sure Stiles was home. It was just past four now, which meant that it was check-in time if he was still out. Stiles' bedroom door was cracked open and he pushed it open far enough to see that not only was Stiles in his bed, there were at least two more people squished in as well. It took him a moment in the dim light to identify the other two individuals. Isaac, sleeping with his knees almost to his chest, was on Stiles' left side near the wall, and Erica, the blonde girl who favored low cut blouses and heavy makeup, was on her stomach with Stiles' right arm resting over her back. Erica turned, her eyes open and aware like she hadn't been asleep at all. She waited, watching him with a curious yet wary gaze.
He had the feeling that she was keeping watch over Stiles and Isaac while they slept and he only nodded and stepped out of the room, pulling the door back to its original mostly closed position. He should probably object to his son being in bed with two teenaged werewolves, but he hadn't seen any hint of impropriety or that they were doing anything other than drawing strength from having a person sleeping beside them. He missed that feeling too much to begrudge his son the same comfort from his pack. Pack was still an uncertain notion for him, what it meant exactly, but he figured he'd learn that more from watching them than he would by asking.
It was a short walk from the hall closet to his office, his big toe peeking through the small hole in his left sock was he walked, and he paused at his safe to lock away his gun. After that he tucked away whatever files had made their way home with him, mindful of Stiles' curious eyes and propensity to go looking for something interesting when he got bored. He sat down behind his desk for a moment, listening because he could hear the voices and footsteps of at least six different people coming from the kitchen and the smell of something with marinara sauce cooking on the stove. For a moment, if he closed his eyes, he could imagine that this was seven years ago and it was his wife making dinner in the kitchen while her sister and brother-in-law and their two teenaged children milled about catching up on what had happened in their lives over the few weeks.
He forced his eyes open and back to the present because following that path led to nothing but pain. Not only had he and Stiles lost a wife and mother, they'd lost most of their extended family when his wife's sister had tried to convince him that Stiles would be better off with them instead of being raised by a widower who worked full-time, and then some, in law enforcement. He knew that if they had wound up going to court, which he would do a million times over if he'd had to in order to keep his son, they wouldn't have taken Stiles from him. It didn't matter that there had been no custody battle and no courtrooms, the damage had already been done and it wasn't long before his now deceased wife's family ceased to have any contact with him or Stiles. Sometimes he got the impression that he had unintentionally made the entire topic of the loss of their family taboo, something never to be spoken about, but by the time he'd realized that Stiles wouldn't talk about his mother it was too late to reverse the effects. He had tried, only to be rebuffed time and again, until he'd finally let the memory of his wife rest in pieces inside everyone who had lost her.
A knock on the doorframe shook him out of his thoughts and he looked up to find Erica watching him with a thoughtful expression. He gave a small smile and when she smiled back he realized she looked far more like an ordinary teenaged girl dressed in jeans and a Beacon Hills High School hoodie instead of decked out in leather and sultry makeup. "Can I help you with something?" he asked. He had let all of the pack know he was available to help if they needed anything; so far no one had taken him up on the offer but he still held out hope.
"Dinner is just about ready," she said, glancing around his office with what almost seemed like curious wonder. "We cooked and it's pretty good. Well, Lydia cooked and we helped. Apparently her chemistry skills apply in the kitchen too."
"I'll be right there," he said, watching as Erica finished looking at everything she could see from the doorway before she bounded away with the grace of a dancer.
He scratched his head ruefully, wondering if Stiles had decided to do a pack dinner here because he was supposed to be home, or if Stiles had thought that because he was supposed to be home for dinner that he wouldn't be. Unfortunately that was the case more often than not, despite his best efforts. He stood and went to the next stage of his coming home routine, stopping in the hallway bathroom to wash his hands and face and check that his uniform was clean of any blood that might have been shed that day. His clothes were clean but he considered going upstairs and changing anyway, mostly because he didn't want Stiles' pack to see him as just the Sheriff. In the end he left his clothes as they were, he was in his uniform more than anything else these days and that wasn't something he could change just by changing his clothes for dinner.
The final part of the routine had been painful for a long time and the associations hadn't changed despite the passage of time. He stepped into the kitchen, breathing in the smell of freshly cooked food, and for the first time in quite a while he wasn't confronted by the sight of Stiles eating dinner alone while standing at the counter with his laptop.
Lydia was still at the stovetop, slowly stirring a pot of red sauce with an expression of concentration curving her lips down ever so slightly. She waved Jackson over and picked up one of the extra spoons on the counter, scooping up a small amount of the sauce and guiding it up to Jackson's mouth. Jackson smiled and nodded, remaining by her side to brush a strand of her long hair away from her face as she turned back to the pot. Across the kitchen a card table had been set up against the regular dining table and Boyd and Isaac were setting the table while Scott threw silverware at them from the drawer. Allison and Erica were at the fridge, filling glasses with ice and water, and Stiles was bringing the full glasses to the table while narrowly avoiding the flying utensils. Danny was apparently responsible for the spaghetti noodles and was pouring them into a colander in the sink. The final member of the pack he noticed was perhaps the most surprising and he smiled as he watched Derek using a spatula to remove breadsticks from a baking sheet. From the hints of flour on the counter and the powdery white smudge on Derek's shirt, it was a pretty good guess that the breadsticks were made from scratch.
"This is quite the operation," he said when there were no more utensils being thrown across the room. Werewolves or not he didn't think it wise to accidentally startle anyone when forks had become projectile objects.
Everyone in the kitchen looked to him in a single motion. It was a rather eerie side effect of being pack that he'd encountered a few times before. It reinforced his suspicions that there was some kind of low level mental link between all of the pack, even the humans, and once again he silently marveled at how strange his life had become in the past few weeks.
"We thought it would be nice, to have dinner. Together," Derek said, his words strained as though he wasn't sure what he should say. "With you."
He smiled and stepped into the kitchen, getting the picture that everyone was waiting for his reaction. "Well it smells delicious and I think that's a great idea."
Derek nodded, his mouth not quite forming a smile but not a frown or a neutral expression either. "Good."
He moved through the small crowd of bodies, letting the pack finish their preparations as he found a chair and observed. The more he had seen of Derek the more he understood that even though Derek was nearly seven years older than most of the pack, he was socially and emotionally closer to being a teenager than an adult. He hadn't worked the arson case on the Hale house the first time around, he hadn't been the sheriff of Beacon Hills County at the time, but he still remembered seeing Derek and Laura, teenagers both, huddled together in shock as they were given news of the fire and the murder of their entire family. Now, he had no doubts that Derek had the potential to be one of the most dangerous men in the entire county, but he also knew that Derek was just as lost as most of the kids in the pack.
It wasn't much longer until all of the food was brought to the table and everyone scrambled for seats in a babble of noise and banter. After a few bites of the spaghetti and a chunk from the breadstick, he realized that Lydia was watching with interest from her seat between Allison and Boyd. Derek was purposefully not paying attention to him as he ate and watched over his pack with a distracted gaze.
"Delicious," he pronounced. "My compliments to the chefs."
His sentiment was repeated around the table in a chorus of voices and Lydia flushed briefly with satisfaction before her smile became self-assured once again. "Well, honestly, what did you expect?" she asked, but her pleasure at their compliments was hard to miss.
"Do you bake much, Derek?" he asked when most of the conversation around the table had died as everyone dug into the meal with the enthusiasm of a horde of half-starved teenagers.
Derek seemed surprised by his inquiry and shifted his shoulders with discomfort. "From time to time."
It wasn't much of an answer, but it was about as much as he'd expected. He spent most of the rest of the meal enjoying his food and watching the pack. Several times places were exchanged and casual touch between pack members, the werewolves in particular, was frequent. He'd noticed this before too, how members of the pack would go out of their way to make contact with each other through a brush of hand against an arm or the nudges of a knee against the person next to them. Even Derek participated and he couldn't help but notice that everyone in the pack managed to touch both Derek and Stiles over the course of the meal.
The dinner was concluded with sugar cookies that had been baked earlier in the day, Erica proudly exclaiming that Isaac and Danny had made them under her direction. It was the best meal, and the loudest, that he could recall in his house for far too many years.
"Ow, damn it! Watch it with those things!" a voice demanded from the living room.
He left on his boots and his gun as he walked to the living room, resting his hand on his holster in preparation to draw his gun if there was danger. No one looked up when he came to a stop in the doorway and silently observed the messy scene. Only about half of the pack was present and most of them seemed to be in rough shape. He blinked at the small collection of broken and bloody arrows that had been dropped onto a cookie sheet and at the makeshift bandages that had been discarded. There was a massive first aid kit spread out on the coffee table and towels padding the floor where Jackson was on his back with blood coating his bare arms and chest.
"This would be easier if you would hold still," Stiles said with a scowl, his own hands bloody as he knelt at Jackson's side and held an equally bloody pair of tweezers. He paused to wipe his hands clean on one of the towels and returned to the wound without wavering in his attention. "There is one fragment left and I can't get it if you move. So if you want to heal, don't move. Erica, Isaac, keep him down."
"On it," Erica said, her hands pressing down on Jackson's arm near where the wound was bleeding sluggishly. Isaac was right next to her, all of his weight pressed down on Jackson's shoulder and chest so he couldn't shake them off.
He couldn't take his eyes away from what he was seeing, the noise in the room seeming to disappear entirely as he watched his son dig a bullet fragment from Jackson's upper arm while the rest of the gathered pack assisted him; Danny handing Stiles a water bottle to wash the wound and then gauze without being prompted, while Erica and Isaac continued to hold Jackson in place. None of them flinched away from the process and performing medical procedures was clearly not out of the norm for them. He didn't want to think about how many times they must have done this in order for Stiles, who used to look away when he was getting shots, to only seem focused instead of horrified. His hearing came back suddenly and it took him a moment to realize that it was Jackson's inhuman growl he was hearing as Jackson's eyes turned a bright yellow-green and his teeth sharpened and extended over his lips.
Stiles pushed Danny back in that same moment, but didn't back away himself. "Jackson, keep it down, now. You're not going back out there tonight and you will stay in control. Don't make me tell the Alpha that you couldn't control yourself around the human members of the pack."
He almost wanted to smile at that, for it sounded very much like a parent scolding a misbehaving child and threatening to tell the disciplinarian in the family about the child's misdeeds. Instead he just watched as Jackson struggled against the transformation, seeming pained as he fought against Isaac and Erica's hold. Danny was at his side a moment later, tipping his head toward the hallway with a grim expression. He could tell Danny didn't want him to argue with him and while he wanted to stay near Stiles, he didn't want to distract them from keeping Jackson under control.
"It's best if we get a few rooms away until Jackson's back with us. Part of being human around here," Danny said with a wry smile as soon as they were a few steps down the hall.
"Stiles is human," he pointed out, half wanting to demand that Stiles get away from Jackson, but not willing to make the situation worse in order to do so.
Danny shrugged and then led the way back toward the kitchen. "Stiles is second in our pack. Jackson's wolf will recognize that instinctively, but he'll also recognize that Stiles is human and won't try to confront him physically. Isaac and Erica together are a match for Jackson, but for the sake of your living room I hope it doesn't come to that."
He reached out and grabbed Danny's shoulder, not squeezing tight enough to hurt, but enough that Danny turned in the small space of the hall to look at him. It took a moment to realize it wasn't just blood he could smell on Danny, but also gun powder residue from a recently discharged weapon. Whatever they'd been caught up in tonight had been bad. "Is Stiles in danger right now?"
"No, he'll be fine. Even when Jackson is wolfed out he knows that the Alpha will kill him if he hurts Stiles. Pack hierarchy and all that," Danny said, unfazed by the words he was saying.
He stared at Danny, trying to decide where he was supposed to put his foot down about this insanity and when was he just going to go along with whatever was normal for the pack. "Is the rest of the pack alright? Does anyone need to go to the hospital?" he finally asked. Keeping everyone alive took precedent over his objections about the possibility of Derek Hale killing a member of the pack.
"We took care of everyone who was injured here. Jackson will heal pretty quick now that the bullet is out. He also took an arrow to the side, but that's already started to patch over. Isaac took two arrows in his left leg, but he's alright now. Erica hit her head pretty bad, but she popped up just fine," Danny summarized as he stepped around him and into the kitchen. "Stiles and I managed to stay out of range this time."
He followed Danny into the kitchen with a sigh and watched as Danny went directly to the sink and started to scrub his hands and arms all the way up to his elbows to remove the smudges of blood. "What happened out there?" he asked, half wondering if he was going to be getting a call in a few days to let him know about bodies found in the woods.
"Derek sensed that our territory had been breached by a pair of nomad werewolves last night. We searched but weren't able to pick up their trail until this evening," Danny said, his voice matter of fact even as he kept his focus on his hands in the sink.
"Werewolves were shooting at you?" he asked incredulously.
Danny turned off the water and dried his hands on a paper towel before he turned to face him. "No. That would be the Hunters that followed them into our territory."
Stiles had always been a little bit cagey when he talked about Hunters and the lack of details other than the fact that Hunters included Allison's family made him more wary than usual. He didn't ask about them when Allison was around, but the rest of the pack had shown the same reluctance to discuss Hunters in more than very vague and general terms. "And these Hunters were shooting at everyone, including you and Stiles and the other humans in the pack?"
"We've allied ourselves with the pack, which makes us even worse than werewolves in the eyes of Hunters. Werewolves can't help what they are. Stiles, Lydia, Allison, and I, we're there by choice. Allison and Lydia stayed at Allison's house to prove that Allison wasn't involved in the battle. Her father is willing to pretend he doesn't know about her pack allegiances, but their family is well known in the Hunter community. If it became known that Allison is a collaborator, Hunters would descend on Beacon Hills and it would be a massacre," Danny folded his arms and stared defensively. "Are you still okay with the pack being at your house? If Hunters ever followed us, there is no way they wouldn't eventually link you to us."
"Stiles is my son and I'm almost positive there is nothing that I can do at this point to remove him from the pack. If I tried, I would lose him," he said, knowing in his heart that this was true. If he asked Stiles to choose between him and the pack, it would break both of them, and even if Stiles tried to walk the line in between he would eventually wind up with the pack. "Instead I'd rather help all of you survive. And Hunters are just humans, right?"
"Very well armed humans who won't hesitate to kill someone in their sleep. They won't give you the chance to defend yourself if they can help it," Danny said. He didn't have to add that they would just as likely burn the house down around them, just like the Hale house seven years ago.
He nodded at Danny to let him know he understood, saddened that these teenagers had essentially become guerilla soldiers in an invisible war when they had been only worrying about homework and lacrosse and dating fifteen months ago. "Fortunately I am also well armed and I'm not afraid to defend myself from anyone who comes against me and my son and anyone who is allied with him," he said as he resettled his hand over his gun.
Danny gave him a short nod and his shoulders sagged with weariness at the understanding.
"Are there going to be bodies in the woods for some hapless hiker to find in the next couple of days?" he asked, just so he would have a heads up. Bodies in the woods surrounding Beacon Hills had become somewhat of a common occurrence in the past year, though most of them were barely recognizable as human when they were discovered.
"Shouldn't be," Danny said, wiping his hands on a towel and then checking them over again. "The Hunters took their wounded with them and Derek, Scott, and Boyd are escorting the werewolves off pack territory on the other side. Now that the Hunters aren't following them they might be able to settle somewhere."
That was something at least. He was about to press for more information about the Hunters, descriptions at least so he would know if they came through town again, but Stiles came in carrying the small bowl with bullet fragments and a handful of bloody gauze.
He pulled out the trashcan for his son immediately and got a tired and grateful smile in return.
"Jackson is back to himself and healing up just fine. I sent the wolves upstairs to shower and put on clothes that aren't bloody or full of holes. I'm going to run the towels through the washing machine, they should be fine. I googled blood removal methods and there shouldn't even be any stains," Stiles said, his now empty hands fluttering restlessly as he rambled. "Living room should be back in one piece before you know it. No one even bled on the carpet."
"Good to hear," he said, and he followed Stiles and Danny back into the living room to help them clean up. It looked like a temporary hospital had set up camp there and he set himself to throwing away the rest of the used bandages while Danny expertly put the first aid kit back together and Stiles gathered the towels from the floor. When Danny stepped out to go wash up the tweezers and other tools that had gotten bloody, he stood up and walked over to Stiles.
"Hey," he said, frowning when Stiles startled and dropped the towel he'd just picked up.
"Next time take the wounded somewhere else?" Stiles guessed, his mouth scrunching up unhappily.
He shook his head. "No, here is fine. Just come here for a second." He wrapped his arms around Stiles as soon as he'd stepped close enough and held him tight like he was that tiny child he remembered racing around the house and yard and falling and scraping his knees on the driveway. "You're alright? You're not hurt?"
Stiles shook his head but didn't move away from the embrace. "No humans were harmed in the making of this horror film," he joked, his tone just barely missing the mark.
"I'd forbid you from going into the woods if I thought it would help," he said, smiling when Stiles stepped back to pick up the towels he'd dropped.
"It wouldn't," Stiles said. "And I really like not lying to you about where I've been in the middle of the night."
"Me too," he agreed. He finished gathering up the rest of the bloodied garbage and took out the trash. He paused in his office to remove his gun, though he briefly considered staying armed that night in case the Hunters had followed them after all. Back in the kitchen he found three damp werewolves, all dressed in Stiles' clothing. Their bodies, slumped yet twitchy, were clearly trapped in that restless place where they were exhausted but way too keyed up to fall asleep.
"You kids look starved and I cook up a mean midnight stir-fry. What do you say?" he asked as soon as Stiles had returned from the basement where there was now the distant sound of the washing machine running.
"That sounds really good," Jackson said, his eyes now back to their normal blue-green.
Stiles and Danny simultaneously rolled their eyes. "Jackson wanted me to go through a drive-thru on our way back, even as he was bleeding out in the backseat," Stiles said pointedly with a glare at Jackson.
"I was hungry," Jackson said with a shrug.
Erica and Danny's laughter filled the room and everyone joined in. He went to the fridge with a smile on his face, the exhaustion he'd carried with him when he'd first come home just about completely washed away.