It probably said something about the recent developments in Sheriff Stilinski's life that he was infinitely happier when he parked in the driveway at seven in the evening after a very long day at work and saw the familiar groupings of cars on the street in front of the house than he was coming home to an empty, quiet house. At the very least it meant he probably wasn't going to be checking his phone into the night as he waited for updates on whatever monster they were chasing around in the woods. He hung his jacket in the closet and kicked off his shoes, listening to the sound of voices chattering over each other in the living room, and smiled when he poked his head in and found most of the pack sitting in a circle on the floor occupied with a game of cards that somehow involved what looked like all the spoons in the house. Stiles was nowhere to be seen, and neither was Derek, though he double-checked the corners to make sure he hadn't just missed Derek.
The teens all said hello, pausing briefly in their game to wave before they went back to cheerfully bickering over the rules of whatever it was they were playing, and he left them to their fun. The kitchen was quiet and mostly dark. He neatly dodged the sprig of mistletoe that had been sneakily placed next to the refrigerator, and found a sticky note on the counter let him know there was dinner in the oven. He found a covered plate and peaked at the contents - whole grain spaghetti with soy meat balls and veggie sauce - before he set the oven to reheat the food. He'd just gotten a drink and was moving to examine a tray that had been left out on the counter when he heard voices that weren't coming from the living room.
A quick glance around the room revealed that the back window had been left open and there were two people standing on the back porch in the dark as they conversed.
"You said you'd be here," Stiles said, though it came across as an observation rather than an accusation.
"Here I am," Derek said, his silhouette moving out of sight from the window before stepping back again. "I was here when we decorated."
Stiles nodded so clearly that even his dad could make it out from the kitchen. "Yes, you were. Which is good. But being here involves more than showing up late and lurking in the corner of the kitchen and growling whenever anyone comes near."
"I didn't growl," Derek said, though now his voice nearly was a growl.
"Uh huh. Then why did I hear what distinctly sounded like a growl and Allison never came back in the kitchen after that?" Stiles asked, and then continued on without pausing for an answer. "Look, I get it. Christmas is hard. There are people that should be here that aren't, and every time something reminds you it just feels worse. But, newsflash, you're not the only one dealing with that here, not by a long shot. There are enough dead and absent parents in the pack for a whole collection of Disney movies."
Derek remained silent but his dark form paced out of sight again.
Stiles was quiet for a moment but perked up immediately. "Ah ha, I've got it. You have to participate in Christmas stuff because it sets a good example for the betas. Isaac says he's too old for Christmas, so if you're doing Christmas things with the pack then clearly Isaac can't be too old to do them too."
"Isaac said that?" Derek asked.
"Exactly," Stiles said as though that proved his point. Which, in some respects, it almost did. "Look, I promise you will get plenty of time for brooding alone in the woods, but at least make the effort to be there for your betas when we're together as a pack. Just like in the summer; pack means you too. So, wolf-up, go inside, eat some of the peanut brittle Erica and Boyd tried to make, and then go play a game of Spoons with the pack. That simple. One day at a time," Stiles instructed, stepping forward to clap Derek on the shoulder.
Derek seemed like he was having trouble picking just one thing to respond to, which the Sheriff could completely understand, but he finally just asked, "Tried?"
Stiles nodded vigorously. "You're a werewolf, it won't kill you - though I'm not sure I can say the same for the rest of us. Just tell them it was good and maybe get Erica a recipe book for Christmas or something."
The Sheriff pulled his hand away from the contents of the tray he had been about to examine because it looked and smelled nothing like peanut brittle should and was probably responsible for the lingering hint of smoke in the air. The beep of the timer called him back to the oven for his dinner and by the time he'd retrieved his plate and located silverware, though there were no spoons left in the drawer, Stiles and Derek were coming in through the back door.
Derek gave the tray of peanut brittle a wide berth but walked through the kitchen and down the hallway, nodding at the Sheriff as he went.
Stiles came and leaned on the back of the chair next to where his dad was sitting. "I see you found dinner."
"I did, thank you," the Sheriff said, taking a bite and deciding that soy meatballs weren't quite the travesty they sounded, if he coated them in enough sauce first. "Everything okay?"
"Well, it's a good thing that werewolves can smell when something is burning before it actually burns," Stiles said conversationally before he lowered his voice and added, "We might have spooked Derek a little with the smell of smoke. There really wasn't much smoke, but it smells stronger to the wolves."
"Good to know," he said, side-eyeing Stiles. "I don't need to make rules about the oven, do I?"
"Nah, Lydia already took care of it," Stiles said with a shake of his head. "Oh, did you want in on the Secret Santa? We're drawing names tonight but we decided to hold off to see if you wanted to join in."
"You don't want it just to be among you kids?" he asked, a little surprised to even be asked.
Stiles grinned. "Nope. Scott and I asked Dr. Deaton and Mrs. McCall, but they didn't want to. So, it's optional, unless your name is Derek, in which case it's a requirement," Stiles said, directing his voice towards the living room for the last part. "But, it will be fun and you want to have fun, right?"
"Sure," he said, not entirely positive that this was the best idea, but if Derek could set a good example for the pack, he could as well. "I'm in."
"Awesome, I'll add your name to the hat," Stiles said, pushing away from the chair and racing out of the kitchen. "Come into the living room when you're done eating," he shouted from down the hall.
He shook his head and ate his meal, listening to the occasional shouts coming from the living room. It sounded very much like any ordinary party, even though a few months ago he never would have predicted having most of these kids in his living room for any reason. That only got stranger when he took into account that a good number of them were werewolves, something which he accepted when he could and turned a blind-eye to when he couldn't quite get his mind around it yet. At the very least he was slowly becoming inured to the sight of teenagers with glowing eyes and fangs sneaking around his house in the middle of the night.
When he'd finished eating, wondering how the kids knew exactly how much food to leave him, he put his dishes away and considered the peanut brittle one more time before deciding that it was better to leave that tray alone until someone else made it disappear. The kids had already wrapped up their group game when he went into the living room, the cards now being used in what appeared to be a game of slapjack between Stiles, Erica, Scott, and Allison. Danny, Jackson, and Lydia were sitting together on the couch, Jackson and Lydia leaning in to watch whatever Danny was showing them on his computer. Isaac and Boyd were sitting in one of the armchairs, Isaac on the edge of the arm and leaning in to talk to Boyd about something, and Derek occupied the other armchair.
Boyd hopped out of the armchair, Isaac following too quick to be seen, and the Sheriff took the seat and put his feet up. "Thanks," he told them, smiling as they sat near the slapjack game on the floor.
"No claws!" Stiles called as his hand darted in to slap the cards and take the discard pile.
"Like we would," Erica said, using her human fingers to making a clawing motion at Stiles as they resumed the game.
Over on the couch Danny and Jackson started laughing hysterically at whatever they were looking at and Lydia rolled her eyes and got to her feet. "I don't even know why I like you," she told them, though both of the boys were grinning at her unabashedly as she stepped away. "Stiles, where did you put the hat?" she asked.
Stiles looked up from the game. "On the shelf in the hallway," he said, squawking when Allison took the opportunity to slap down on the pile of cards while Stiles was distracted.
Lydia left the room and returned a moment later with an actual black top hat. She caught the Sheriff's raised eyebrows and smiled knowingly. "It's Danny's," she explained, passing the hat to Derek when Derek stood and held out his hand, and then took the opportunity to sit in the chair he'd just vacated.
"Rules," Stiles said, bouncing to his feet to join Derek. "Gifts must remain under twenty dollars. Don't tell anyone who you've drawn or what you're getting them. And, you only get to put a name back in the hat if you draw your own name, and your Alpha will know if you're lying."
Derek rolled his eyes but offered the hat to Stiles, who made a big production of closing his eyes and rummaging around in the pieces of paper before pulling one out and reading it. He groaned dramatically and showed it to Derek. "Did you rig this?"
"Just put it back and draw another name," Derek said, waiting semi-patiently as Stiles dropped the paper back in and picked another one.
"Huh," Stiles said, reading it and then stuffing it in his pocket with a furtive glance around the room.
Derek continued around the room, offering the hat to Boyd and Lydia before he offered it to the Sheriff. The Sheriff reached into the hat, feeling a little silly, and drew a paper. It read 'Boyd' in Stiles' handwriting and the Sheriff nodded thoughtfully before he tucked the piece of paper into his shirt pocket. That would definitely be a challenge, though he supposed it would be easier than if he'd drawn one of the girls.
The room had gone mostly quiet as people received their names, though Erica and Allison were whispering and giggling from the floor. Derek finished his rounds, taking the last piece of paper for himself with a single quirk of his eyebrow, and then he handed the top hat back to Danny. Danny flipped the top hat in the air and it landed neatly on his head, but it only got to stay for a moment before Jackson flicked the brim.
"Okay," Allison said, jumping up from the card game on the floor. "Are we doing Monopoly in teams or Pictionary?"
"What happened to Twister?" Scott asked.
"Never again!" Stiles, Danny, and Lydia all shouted at the same time, leaving the entire room in a shocked silence before everyone started laughing and arguing about what they should play.
The Sheriff got to his feet and edged toward the door, shooting an amused and partially pitying smile at Derek who looked like he very much wished to make his own escape. About two hours later, from where he had been kicked back in his office doing some reading that wasn't related to work nor to werewolves, he heard the sounds of the kids leaving. A glance at the clock told him it was past time for him to make his way to bed if he wanted to be thinking on his feet when he went to work at five the next morning, and he checked his cellphone one last time before he got up and meandered into the kitchen.
Stiles and Isaac were there, Isaac munching on the peanut brittle without regard to his health, while Stiles was finishing off a bag of potato chips that must have been squirreled away somewhere else in the house. "The best part," Stiles was explaining, "is that you have to guess who your secret santa is at the end. So you have to be devious because otherwise they'll know who you are."
"Most of us will be able to tell just by smelling the gift to see who handled it," Isaac pointed out, reaching past Stiles to take another piece of the peanut brittle.
"Well, with werewolf ears and the complete inability of almost anyone to actually keep a secret around here, I'm guessing everyone will know within a week anyway. But it's still fun to try to be devious, that's the whole point," Stiles said, sadly examining at the inside of the empty bag of chips before sliding off the counter. "Hey, dad! Who did you get?"
The Sheriff shook his head. "I ate my paper, like all good secret agents do."
Isaac's eyes went wide and he glanced to Stiles to check whether or not the Sheriff could possibly be telling the truth.
Stiles just laughed. "I'll figure it out. I always do. Besides, unless you got me or Scott you're probably going to have to ask to figure out what people want. Unless you got Derek, in which case, you're on your own."
He raised his eyebrows, careful not to give anything away, and smiled in amusement when they both turned and left the kitchen. He relaxed for about thirty seconds before he heard Stiles shout, "Damn it!"
Curious, he stepped into the hallway and found Stiles and Isaac next to the staircase, both glaring up at the mistletoe that was now hanging right at the bottom of the stairs.
"Can you smell it and figure out who moved it?" Stiles asked, still looking up.
Isaac wrinkled his nose. "No, it smells weird. Like the woods, but wrong. Besides, most of us have handled it in the past few days."
Stiles rolled his eyes and leaned in, placing a swift kiss against the side of Isaac's jaw. "Come on, we still have that history project to start on and we can probably catch Scott online." They hurried up the steps and the Sheriff chuckled to himself as he reached up to move the mistletoe somewhere out of the way.