The call comes in on a slow Thursday, when John is staring at his computer screen with his fourth cup of coffee in his hands, willing the dialup connection to move just a little faster. Please. He'd like that arrest record while he's still young, here.
The speaker over his desk crackles to life, and their chain-smoking secretary rumbles, "Deputy Stilinski, line one. Deputy Stilinski, line one."
Grateful for the distraction, John snags the receiver and punches in the hold line, leaning back in his chair as far as the cord will stretch. "'llo?"
"Mr. Stilinski?" The voice on the other end sounds pretty and young, and John smiles at the crime scene diagrams tacked to his wall, thinking of Shannon.
"Last time I checked," he jokes.
The caller's voice chills considerably. "Mr. Stilinski, this is Beacon Hills Elementary calling."
"Oh God, Stiles," he breaths, sitting up abruptly. "Is he alright? Is he sick?"
"Your son has been in a fight with another student, and has been suspended," the voice informs him in clipped tones. "You or your wife will need to come collect him as soon as possible."
"Wha—?" John sputters. "He's in kindergarten!"
"Violence is not permitted on this campus at any age," the voice says primly. "We have a zero-tolerance policy for physical infractions."
There's a gag in there somewhere about schools and prisons, but John isn't laughing. "I understand, ma'am. I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Thank you, Mr. Stilinski. He'll be waiting for you in the principal's office."
"The principal's office," John mutters as he rolls into the small, weedy parking lot of Beacon Hills Elementary and parks in the very last row, furthest from the door. "You're in kindergarten," he says to the air as he slams the door and stomps towards the cheery front entrance, where he'd dropped off his little juvenile delinquent just that morning. "This is your second week of school ever. What the hell, kid?"
Shannon couldn't get away from the bank so it's just him, slinking into the front office with the same guilty reluctance he remembers from his own days as a student. It's quiet, and empty but for the receptionist and one tired-looking man, sitting with his legs stretched out and his head propped up on a hand. He blinks and his eyebrows arch high when he sees John's uniform.
John gives him a tight-lipped nod and comes up to the desk, and it's a good thirty seconds before the receptionist glances up.
"Uh, hi," he says with an uneasy smile. "Deputy Stilinski, here for Stiles?"
She doesn't smile back. "Please have a seat. The principal will be with you shortly," she says dismissively, and John reluctantly turns and chooses a seat to the right of the other man.
The man is still staring at him, and when John gives him an inquiring look he says, "I apologize, deputy, but you had me very worried for a moment."
It takes John a minute to realize that of course, there would be another side to this story. "I knew Stiles was in a fight, but— are you the other parent? I mean," he starts, but the man is chuckling and shaking his head.
"No, no, I'm fairly sure mine acted alone. He's not exactly the most social kid," the man says, and his smile is rueful but warm.
"Mine's a little too social, if what they tell me is true," John says, settling back in the narrow, uncomfortable chair. "He's such a sweet little kid, for God's sake, what's he doing getting in fights?"
"When you find the answer, let me know," the man says wryly, and it makes John laugh.
"Deputy John Stilinski," he says, and lean over the chairs to offer his hand. "Father of Stiles Stilinski, suspended for fighting."
"Peter Hale," the man says, and takes it. "Uncle of Derek Hale. Suspended for what I suspect is a rather long list of charges, and probably includes fighting." He sighs. "Derek's a good kid, really, but—"
At that moment, a door is thrown open at the far end of the room with enough force to dent the wall. "—and die, old man!" someone yells, and then a kid stalks into the room, hands in fists and face screwed up in a baleful glare.
Jesus, John thinks, they don't make preteens like they used to. The kid is skinny and gaunt-looking, wearing a black leather jacket three sizes too big and the barest beginning of stubble along his lip. His eyes, when he meets John's stare, are hard and angry, and he juts his chin out defiantly at whatever shocked expression the deputy has.
Then those eyes slide past John to Peter, and the kid freezes.
"U-uncle Peter?" he says disbelievingly.
"Unfortunately," Peter says dryly, and the kid deflates like a punctured party balloon.
"I, uh, I can explain," he says to the ground, voice small, and Peter makes a short, choppy gesture and stands.
"Not interested. Just c'mere," the man says, and his nephew shuffles obediently forward.
Peter looks back at John with a sardonic grin. "Nice to meet you, deputy. Keep an eye on your kid, or," and here he reaches for Derek and tugs him under his arm, "he could come out like this!" He squeezes tight, making the hug a headlock, and Derek yelps and laughs and flails as Peters pushes the door open and pulls him outside.
"Ow, owwww, Uncle Peter, it's not funny, it hurts, let go, let me go...!"
Bemused, John watches them stumble into the parking lot. They separate, but Peter keeps a hand on Derek's shoulder. He says something, pointing back towards the school, and Derek ducks his head and nods.
They climb into an old, rusted-out truck just as minivan spins on two wheels to make the turn in, squealing to a stop half-in, half-out of a handicapped space. A harried-looking woman all but leaps out of the driver's seat and jogs for the door, which she flings open.
"I'm so sorry I'm late," she begins, striding up to the desk. "Melissa McCall, here to see—"
"If you'll please have a seat, ma'am," the receptionist says, but at that moment another door in the far wall opens and a young woman John recognizes as Miss Mallory, Stiles' teacher, gently pushes two little boys into the room.
"Dad!" Stiles says as soon as he sees him. He has the other boy by the hand, and yanks him along as he runs up to John, bright, excited smile taking up the whole of his face. "Dad, this is Scott, an' he 'n me are gonna go to his pond and look for turtles!"
"Turtles," Scott confirms in a soft, shy whisper, looking up through his bangs.
John looks at Miss Mallory, who shrugs. "Sometimes they work it out on their own," she says with a fond smile.
"Scott, sweetie," Melissa, who must be Scott's mother, says. "I was so worried. Are you okay?"
Scott nods, leaning into Stiles' shoulder.
"Good, because if you ever do something like this again I'm selling you to the gypsies!" she snaps. "Did you apologize to—"
She glances at John, who mouths Stiles.
"— to Tiles?"
"It's Stiles," Scott says, lisping a little, with the overwrought exasperation of young children everywhere. "Yeah, I said sorry."
"I did too Dad, honest," Stiles says, before John can ask.
"They did," Miss Mallory confirms, and sets down two backpacks. "But they're still suspended."
"Which means no turtles," Melissa says swiftly, and Scott gapes.
"No. You're in so much trouble, mister," she says, grabbing his backpack and then him, lifting him into her arms.
Stiles turns to John. "But—"
"Gonna have to go with Ms. McCall on that one, kiddo," the deputy says, and Stiles pouts hugely and stamps his foot.
"But we were gonna—"
"Nope," John repeats, and crouches down to help Stiles put his backpack on. "Maybe, if you're good, you can play this weekend."
In the parking lot, he and Melissa exchange contrite smiles and phone numbers, hers on the back of a grocery receipt, his on his official deputy's business card, which makes her glance down at her adventurous choice in parking spots and give him a sheepish look.
"I think I'm willing to let it go this once," he says lightly, and tips his hat to her. "Evening, Ms. McCall. Scott."
"Bye, Stiles!" Scott lisps, wiggling his fingers through the thin gap above the window.
"Byyyyyyyeeee!" Stiles says, standing on his toes and waving with both arms, and they both giggle.
"Your mom was really upset, you know," John tells Stiles as they walk to his car, his son wrapping his tiny hand around John's fingers. "I hope you're ready to grovel."
"What's a grovel, Daddy?" Stiles asks, swinging their arms in wide arcs. "An' what's a gypsy?"
John snorts, and Stiles whines, "Daaaaad, tell me, tell me," and instead of answering John picks him up and spins until neither of them can breath for laughing.
Shannon cries, then grounds Stiles for a week. There's never been any question as to who's the disciplinarian in this family.