It was mid-afternoon when the Sheriff arrived at home and stepped out into the slightly chilly air. He didn't see any cars belonging to pack members parked outside as he retrieved the mail, so it came as a little bit of a surprise when he opened the front door and could smell something baking. There was music coming from the kitchen and as he hung up his jacket and set the mail aside he recognized the song as Jingle Bell Rock and picked out the sounds of someone singing along.
"What a bright time, it's the right time," Erica sang, her voice clear as she stood at the counter with her back toward the door, swaying her hips ever so slightly in time to the music, "to rock the night away."
The Sheriff leaned against the door jam and watched for a moment, knowing Erica would know that he was there, and he took in the ingredients set out and a pan of snickerdoodles cooling on pot holders next to the oven. Erica was dressed down in tight jeans and a red top that revealed glimpses of her pale shoulders and arms through the lace. He'd noticed that she tended to dress more casually when she was here as opposed to when he saw her out and about with the pack. He didn't profess to know much about teenagers and their clothing habits, Stiles had to practically be bribed to go clothes shopping, but he thought that her more relaxed style of dress around the house maybe meant that she was comfortable with all of them.
Erica looked over her shoulder as she reached for a measuring cup. "Do you want to help or are you here to taste test?"
He glanced around and realized that her jacket and backpack were the only ones on the kitchen table. "Where's everyone else?" he asked as he went to the kitchen sink to wash his hands.
"Stiles said you wouldn't mind if I baked here, since all the stuff was already here?" Erica asked, standing slightly more rigidly even as she focused on getting peanut butter to stay inside the measuring cup.
"I don't mind at all," the Sheriff said, though his thoughts flashed briefly to the peanut butter brittle the pack had tried to make last week. The cookies that had already been baked seemed alright, at least. "I'm just curious since usually I see all of you in groups of twos or threes at a minimum."
Erica shrugged and pushed the paper with the recipe over to him. "Scott and Jackson made the lacrosse team stay late for practice, even though theoretically they're winding down for the holiday break. I don't know what they're so worried about, almost half the first line are werewolves and they have two humans in-the-know who can assist. If they can't win with that much of an advantage..." she trailed off as she shook her head.
The Sheriff went over to the fridge to find two eggs. "What about Lydia and Allison?"
"Christmas shopping at the mall," she answered, standing to the side of the bowl so the Sheriff could crack the eggs. She smiled as she looked up at him. "They invited me, but I just didn't feel like dealing with crowds of people today. The pack is great, but sometimes it's just nice to have a little bit of peace and quiet. Before you ask, Derek's off doing whatever it is he does when we're all at school. He'll show up when he finds out there are cookies, but not until all the clean up is done."
The Sheriff smiled back at her. "Do you want to measure the dry ingredients or stir all of this together?"
"I'll measure," she said decisively, handing the Sheriff the spoon she'd been scooping peanut butter with. "How was your day?"
"My day?" he asked, a little surprised. Usually he was asking about what was going on with the pack and it felt odd to have the tables suddenly turned.
Erica looked up from where she was scooping flour, the white powder settling on her blouse when she let it fall into the bowl a little too vigorously. "Sure. Being the Sheriff has to be more interesting than high school."
The Sheriff wasn't so sure about that after he'd heard a little about what went on with the pack at the high school. "You'd be surprised," he told her. "Mostly I did paperwork. I covered the dispatch line for the lunch hour since our regular dispatcher had a baby a few months back."
"That's depressing," Erica said, her spoon resting on the edge of her bowl. "If high school is the most exciting thing that ever happens, that's just sad."
He chuckled and finished blending the peanut butter with the rest of the batter. "Your high school career has already been a little more exciting than most, but I wouldn't worry. I don't think any of your are destined for a quiet life. And, some days, being the Sheriff is very-" he scrambled for something accurate yet not horrifying, "enlightening."
Erica snorted, catching his pause and probably filling in a few choice words of her own.
"So, what made you decide to bake cookies?" the Sheriff asked after a lull, the radio on the windowsill switching over to White Christmas.
Erica concentrated on the bowl as she stirred the two mixtures together. "Well, my mom and I used to bake a lot cookies together at Christmas, when I was little. She used to do fundraisers and use them as gifts for the neighbors, you know. I mean, I didn't really bake, but she let me help mix the dough and stuff like that. I was seven when I had my first seizure, and after that things were really different. It was like, she didn't really so much do stuff with me anymore, but she felt like she had to do stuff for me. I don't know."
The Sheriff nodded, feeling a pain of regret at remembering Stiles helping his wife in the kitchen when Stiles had been little. He hadn't really baked with Stiles, before or after her death, though they both wound up becoming much more proficient in the kitchen due to necessity. "What about now?" he asked. He'd been told that being a werewolf hadn't completely cured Erica, but it kept her from having seizures under most circumstances.
She shook her head. "She's not really around so much. She's a flight attendant, so she travels a lot, even more so now that they think the medication I'm on is working really well. Before, she and dad would kind of trade off, but now he'll call and ask if I'm okay for the next day or two, and she'll call and let me know she's picking up another flight." A beep from the oven caught her attention. "Would you get those out and put the next sheet in?"
He went to the oven and used an oven mitt to pull out the tray of snickerdoodles and put in the third, resetting the timer and then picking up a spatula to remove the cookies from the tray that had already cooled. "Your dad works out of town?" he asked as he removed cookies and peered into the bowl of waiting dough.
"Yeah. It wasn't supposed to be a permanent thing, but he likes the opportunities in LA," Erica said and then sighed, setting her spoon down on the counter with a snap. "And by opportunities, I do mean opportunities. He's good at hiding it, I didn't even know until I realized that he smelled like a woman I didn't recognize. Though, to be fair to him, my mom smells like a lot of guys, and I don't just mean in the 'trapped in an airplane for 6 hours' kind of smell. If they ever actually saw each other for more than a few hours in passing they'd probably get divorced."
"I'm sorry," the Sheriff said, setting aside the spatula and turning to face Erica, taking in her concentrated frown and the way she was plucking at one of her sleeves. He had figured that given the number of nights she stayed here instead of going to her parent's house that she'd been lonely, but he'd had no idea why exactly when for all he'd heard in the town was that the Reyes were doing fine.
Erica shrugged, not quite managing casual. "It doesn't matter so much anymore, not to me at least. I've got the pack, and Boyd, and you and Mrs. McCall. More family than I know what to do with."
The Sheriff understood that completely, particularly how strange it was to suddenly go from having one family member to having a dozen. "Speaking of Boyd," he said, very well recognizing that Erica desperately wanted a change of subject. "What are his interests?"
Erica giggled and walked over to start making more snickerdoodles from the waiting bowl of dough. "You're his Secret Santa?"
"I didn't say that," he said, accepting the ball of dough and dipping it in the cinnamon sugar.
"Uh huh. Don't worry, I won't tell," she said with a smile. "Let's see. Boyd plays the acoustic guitar and writes songs. He writes poetry. He obsessively watches period dramas, but don't tell anyone that because he will chase me through the woods for revealing his big secret. He likes Thai and Cantonese food, and he's been trying to teach himself Chinese because the school only offers Spanish and French as foreign languages."
The Sheriff tried to wrap his mind around all of that and connect it to the quiet, thoughtful werewolf he saw hanging around the house. "Wow," he wound up saying, pausing to remove the already baked cookies from the tray that was now cool enough.
Erica laughed. "Yeah, he's amazing. He'll never say as much, he doesn't really let many people in, but once you've gotten behind his wall he always has something interesting to talk about."
"I can imagine," he said, hoping that one day he'd get to see that side of Boyd. At least he had some ideas now, whereas before he'd been utterly stumped.
They finished the last of the snickerdoodle cookie dough, each of them stealing a couple of the raw pieces when they clearly didn't have enough to make another sheet. He figured that the raw eggs in the batter wouldn't do a werewolf any harm, and well, he hadn't gotten sick yet from sneaking pieces of cookie dough here and there when he'd had the rare opportunity over the years. He'd just walked across the kitchen and finished washing his hands when he heard the timer go off.
"I've got it," Erica called as she raced over from where she'd been finishing prepping the peanut butter cookie dough. "Ow!"
The Sheriff was across the room before he had time to register the clatter of the cookie sheet against the stovetop, immediately noticing the red skin on Erica's thumb and forefinger, already starting to blister, from where the pot holder had slipped from her hand. "Over here," he said, his hand around her wrist as he quickly guided her over to the kitchen sink and held her hand under a cool stream of water. "You're alright," he told her, turning to gauge how upset she was and surprised to find that she was giving him an uncertain half-smile.
"I'm fine," she said and gently dislodged her hand from his and pulled it out from under the water. The blisters were already gone and the skin on her forefinger and thumb was now only slightly pink. "You forgot."
He had forgotten, acting on sheer parental memory from all the times he'd seen Stiles or Scott accidentally burn or cut themselves on something in the kitchen. "I'm glad you're okay," he told her, a little shaken from seeing her heal right in front of him - knowing and seeing were always two separate things.
"You're sweet," Erica told him with a soft smile. She dried her hand and then placed it on his shoulder, leaning up and giving him a quick kiss on his cheek. "Mistletoe."
The Sheriff looked up, and sure enough the mistletoe had been placed above the kitchen sink.
"The peanut butter dough is supposed to chill in the freezer for about ten minutes, will you wrap it up while I get out the stuff for the chocolate oatmeal cookies?" Erica asked, returning to the stove and putting in the next tray of snickerdoodles.
"Of course," he said, drying his own hands and digging through the drawers to find where Stiles had stashed the plastic wrap this time, smiling as Erica danced next to the oven to Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree and sung along with the chorus. He joined in on the second chorus, getting a bright grin in return.
Two hours later they had just pulled the last tray of cookies from the oven, the kitchen warm and just about clean, when they heard the front door open and the telltale sounds of the pack thundering in.
"Mmm, cookies!" someone called, and Erica rolled her eyes dramatically.
"I told you'd they'd show up when all the work was done," she said, but she was smiling fondly as the pack poured into the kitchen.