When the Sheriff stepped in the front door late in the afternoon one of the last things he had expected to hear was his son and Derek arguing in the living room. Argument may have been too strong of a word, particularly since Stiles was doing most of the talking, but the Sheriff knew well what his son sounded like when he'd been upset by something. The Sheriff went about his business, removing his gloves and jacket, and going into his office to unarm himself and set aside the files he'd brought home with him. By the time he returned to the doorway of the living room Stiles had segued into superhero comparisons, which was never a good sign.
"Look, if it makes you feel better you can come be Spiderman and lurk in the rafters of the gym and wait for danger to strike," Stiles said, pacing restlessly from the Christmas tree to the windows and back. "I mean, you're not really a Spiderman type, more like Batman, but you can't have Batman because I'm Batman. I'd say Wolverine, but he didn't really lurk from high places."
"No," Derek said flatly, his arms folded.
Stiles sighed. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't think we can sneak you in as a high school student. It's not that you're too tall, because frankly Danny and Isaac are taller than you, but it's probably the facial hair," he said, motioning around his face while raising his eyebrows at Derek.
Derek stared in disbelief.
"But, if you want to try it, we can rearrange. You can go with Lydia instead of me, and I'll go with Isaac or something," Stiles offered.
"That's not the point. It's not safe. What if they try something while you're all trapped in the school?" Derek asked, and the Sheriff saw a glimpse of the worry and fear that Derek was trying to keep concealed.
"First, it's not like we haven't been trapped in the school while being chased by werewolves before," Stiles said, grimacing when Derek looked less than impressed. "Second, we're going to be surrounded by most of the school, people who don't know anything about werewolves. There's no way the LA Pack would attack, it would be a death sentence for them. Allison said that the Hunters will have some of their number stationed around the area of the school, because unfortunately they know that most of the pack goes to the high school."
Derek moved from where he'd been leaning against the wall and peered out the window. "That's not helping your case," he said, tension radiating from his taut neck and shoulders.
The Sheriff was about to step in and try to defuse the situation, maybe offer to chaperone the dance even though he'd already sent two of his deputies over to the high school for the night, when Stiles went to Derek and put his hand on Derek's forearm. "I get that you're worried. Believe me, we're all freaking out about this. Jackson won't let Danny out of his sight, Scott and Allison keep looking at each other like they're about to reenact Romeo and Juliet, and Lydia's been channeling her nerves by going on the cleaning spree from hell," Stiles said, pausing to press his lips tight. "But, this is something we all want to do, even if we spend most of the night worrying about being attacked by Hunters or the LA Pack or some threat we haven't even thought of yet. We need to do this."
Derek didn't say anything but it was clear to both Stiles and the Sheriff that he'd given in by the way his shoulders sagged when he met Stiles' gaze.
"It's not going to be like last year," Stiles promised. "We're all armed, we're operating on the buddy system, and we'll be back by ten to do Secret Santa stuff. You and my dad are just a howl away and everything is going to be fine."
If Stiles could make everything fine just through sheer willpower the Sheriff didn't doubt that he would do so and have extra willpower to spare.
Derek shook his head. "Go finish getting ready, Scott, Boyd, and the girls are supposed to be here in fifteen minutes."
Stiles tightened his hand on Derek's arm, smiling before he stepped away. "Hey, dad. Tell Derek how fast you can get to the high school from the house with your lights and sirens on," he said as he hurried up the steps, his untucked and unbuttoned shirt flapping behind him.
The Sheriff stepped into the living room and looked to where Derek was checking his phone and then looking out the window again. Derek glanced back to him and seemed distinctly uncomfortable, and the Sheriff couldn't help but think of when he'd questioned Derek a little over a year ago regarding the death of Laura Hale. At the time Derek had been quiet, but clearly on edge and he'd looked ready to snap at any second. Seeing Derek now, he had that same edge of being constantly on alert for danger, but he also had that tremble of near exhaustion. If the Sheriff had to guess he'd say that Derek had been waiting for bad things to happen, probably ever since the fire at the Hale House, and he hadn't been disappointed if this last year was any indication. Still, and the Sheriff knew from experience, there became a point where being that afraid and hunted all the time just lead into a complete cessation of functioning and Derek had received a hard shove towards that precipice with the threat from the LA Pack.
"Stiles is right," the Sheriff said as he joined Derek at the windows. "They'll be okay tonight. I have deputies posted at the school and we'll be there at the first sign of trouble. There's no way the LA Pack would attack the school directly, not with the Hunter presence in Beacon Hills."
"Tonight," Derek said after a long moment. "Tonight, and maybe tomorrow, and the next night. But what about after that? The LA Pack won't attack the Argent house, which will protect Allison, but Jackson can't stay with Danny forever. Erica's been tagging along with Lydia when they're not here, and Isaac helps guard you and Stiles. But, really, if their entire pack came, a single beta wolf and an armed human isn't much of a defense."
The Sheriff considered this, a rush of fear washing over him. "It won't be forever. We'll take care of the situation, sooner rather than later. All of us together. You're not doing this alone."
Derek shook his head. "Not alone, but they're stronger than us. They expected an easy fight, which is why we were able to drive them back. Next time we won't have that advantage."
"Then we'll find another advantage," the Sheriff insisted. "Or we'll do something other than attack. Because if you think I'm going to sit back and let someone hurt my kids - your pack - well, that's not going to happen. Not ever. Understand?"
Derek nodded, his attention fully on the Sheriff for the first time in a long while. His lips parted and he seemed on the verge of saying something important when a thump from upstairs drew their attention. They both glanced to the ceiling and then to each other with expressions that communicated a combination of mild concern and exaggerated resignation.
"You'd tell me if they were dismembering each other up there or something, right?" the Sheriff asked when a second thump followed the first.
"Yeah," Derek said unconvincingly as he bobbed his head from side to side.
"I suppose I should go take a look," the Sheriff said and he found himself patting Derek on the shoulder when as we walked by, like Derek was any other person he knew and not an Alpha werewolf. He shook his head as he went upstairs and paused in the doorway of Stiles' bedroom, raising his eyebrows at the sight of Stiles with his head tipped back as Jackson retied Stiles' tie.
"Quit squawking. If you're going to the dance with my girlfriend you're going to look good," Jackson said as he finished with the tie and smoothed the shoulders of Stiles' jacket.
"You can still go with your girlfriend. I don't need you to go with me," Danny said from where he was sprawled on Stiles' bed with most of his attention on his phone. "I can find my own dates you know."
Jackson scowled. "I know, but not with that pack out there. You're going with our pack, and that means you're going with me. Up, let me help you with your jacket."
"And I can dress myself, unlike some people," Danny said, though he swung his legs off the bed and stood.
Jackson didn't even respond, his focus on buttoning the cuffs of Danny's shirt and gently adjusting the fabric over the bulky bandages. "Okay, just hold you arms out and we can slide this right over."
"Stiles, do you know-" Isaac cut himself off abruptly as he came out of the pack bedroom with his suit jacket open and a tie in his hands.
Stiles leaned past his dad into the hallway. "Yeah, come in here."
"Don't even touch it," Jackson called, and then started muttering something about how did he even know these people.
The Sheriff stood back far enough that Isaac could slip into Stiles' room, and Jackson nabbed Isaac as soon as he'd finished settling Danny's suit jacket.
"You're going with Lydia?" the Sheriff asked Stiles as they watched Jackson help Isaac with his tie.
"Hmm?" Stiles asked, and then nodded. "Yes, because Jackson insisted on going with Danny and then insisted I go with her because he didn't want anyone outside of the pack near us. He's getting as paranoid as Derek."
"I heard that," Jackson said.
The Sheriff eyed the way the fabric at Stiles' left ankle bunched slightly and he didn't have to make much of an intuitive leap to know that Stiles' had an ankle sheath there. "Try not to get caught with weapons at the school. I don't want to have to book any of you tonight," he said. He wasn't about to ask them to go unarmed, not when he knew of the threats waiting for them, but he couldn't help but worry what it would look like if Stiles and his friends were discovered armed to the teeth.
"Most of our heavy duty stuff is going to stay in the cars and we, uh, enhanced our vehicles to allow for the concealment of supernatural related weapons," Danny said, touching his forearms through his jacket and wincing slightly.
"Our arsenal would make the Winchester brothers jealous," Stiles said, sounding a little bit smug before turning to the Sheriff with a look of alarm. "In a good way?"
"Uh huh," the Sheriff said, reminding himself that it was a good thing his kids could handle weapons. It had to be a good thing because otherwise he was going to have one of those silent panics that he tried to confine to when he was alone at night.
"They're here," Isaac said, both he and Jackson standing straight and then tipping their heads towards the front of the house in unison.
Jackson popped over to the mirror one last time and nodded. "Let's do this," he said, and then offered his arm to Danny.
Danny rolled his eyes but accepted Jackson's arm and the Sheriff stepped back and watched Isaac and Stiles follow them out, Stiles shrugging his shoulder in a check that the Sheriff was all too familiar with and he was glad the suit jacket wasn't showing the outline of the holster Stiles was wearing.
He followed them back downstairs, watching everyone greet each other and exclaim over their clothing like they hadn't seen each other for weeks instead of hours. After a moment he slipped into his office and dug out the camera from his bottom desk drawer, slightly amazed that the batteries were still good.
"Pictures, before you go," he called, getting several moans as he directed them in the living room over to the Christmas tree. "Come on, I see you guys dressed up about twice a year."
After a few minutes they managed to assemble themselves in some sort of order. Danny, Jackson, Lydia, and Stiles all grouped together, smiling brightly even though the Sheriff could see that Lydia in particular was nervous and was gripping Stiles' hand. Scott and Allison stood next to Stiles, Scott's arm wrapped around Allison's waist and Allison leaning back into Scott's shoulder. Isaac was next, Erica holding both his and Boyd's hands while she stood in front of them and she was grinning particularly brightly.
The Sheriff felt a strange sense of wonder and contentment wash over him as Derek moved to stand next to him, both of them looking over the kids. It was amazing how grown up they all seemed, in their suits and dresses, and yet so young at the same time. "Alright, on the count of three," he called.
"Wait! Werewolves close your eyes," Allison called. "With all of you there won't be any picture at all."
The Sheriff waited while the werewolves obligingly shut their eyes, and then counted down and took the picture. He waited for the camera to display the picture and chuckled at the slightly odd result. "Alright, now pose however you want, but stay in frame," he said, holding up the camera for a second shot. There was a lot of giggling and laughter as they all rearranged themselves; Scott and Allison now kissing, Lydia and Erica displaying their dresses, Isaac and Danny making a point of showing off their height by crowding around Jackson, and Stiles 'assisting' Boyd to give Scott and Isaac bunny ears.
"We'll be back around ten, we all have our cellphones," Stiles called as they all bundled out the door. "Call us if you need us!"
"Have fun," the Sheriff called back, shooing Stiles on his way when he hesitated for a moment longer. He joined Derek at the window and watched as the kids organized themselves into cars and drove away.
He stepped away from the window when they could no longer be seen and then paused, wondering if Derek was planning on standing by the window for the next three hours until everyone returned. "There's a game on, want a beer?" he offered, forcing himself not to smile when Derek jolted ever so slightly with surprise.
"Uh, sure," Derek said.
When he and Derek were both settled in armchairs, each with a bottle of beer as they half-watched one of the nearby college teams lose miserably to their rivals, the Sheriff counted it as a success - even though Derek had his cellphone in one hand and checked it every three minutes. The Sheriff didn't have any stones to throw, his cellphone was resting on his thigh and he found himself glancing every few minutes to make sure a message hadn't come in that he hadn't seen.
"We're going to go change," Erica said as she darted for the stairs, Allison and Lydia following. Stiles, Scott and Isaac chose to simply shed their suit jackets right there in the front hallway, about to dump them on the side table when Jackson intercepted them with a short growl.
"We'll be back in a few minutes," Stiles said with a roll of his eyes. "Don't go anywhere! Presents!"
The Sheriff shook his head and returned to the living room to reclaim his seat before the chaos started. Ten minutes later everyone had gathered in the living room, the kids all dressed down and most of them barefoot. He restrained his urge to make them go back upstairs for socks and smiled when Stiles stationed himself directly next to the Christmas tree for best access to the presents.
"Okay. Just remember, no extra senses are to be used when determining who gave you your gift. That means I shouldn't see noses anywhere near wrapping paper," Stiles said. He made a show of covering his his eyes with one hand and reaching under the tree to pick a present. "Erica!"
Erica reached out to take the package from Stiles and shook it dramatically before kneeling next to the tree and tearing into the paper. She squealed with delight a moment later and held up a cookbook and an apron. The apron was very clearly hand decorated and had the silhouette of a wolf in the center. Except the wolf was a cookie, and it was howling. "It's the best!" she exclaimed, and then looked around the group with suspicious eyes, pausing on Stiles for a minute before turning to Boyd and half-leaping on him.
Boyd grinned and pressed his forehead to hers. "How'd you know?"
Erica grinned back. "How could I not?"
"I call cheating," Stiles said, getting shouts of agreement from Danny and Lydia while everyone else just laughed. He reached back under the tree and pulled out another present. "Scott, get over here."
Scott wiggled far enough forward to grab the present without dislodging Allison from his side. He didn't bother trying to guess what it was, tearing into the paper with enthusiasm and grinning brightly at the pair of lacrosse gloves. "Sweet! My other ones still have holes in them from my claws."
"We know!" about half the room chorused before they laughed.
"And, I guess...Danny?" Scott asked.
Danny shook his head and then subtly pointed to Jackson, though everyone except Jackson saw and started laughing.
"Thanks," Scott said to Jackson as he shoved his hands in the gloves.
"See, Scott plays by the rules," Stiles said as he reached for another present. "Boyd!"
The Sheriff shifted so that he could watch as Boyd opened the gift, Boyd blinking in clear surprise as he examined his gift.
"It's guitar strings and a notebook that has lines for lyrics and for music composition," Boyd explained when everyone clamored to know what it was. "Erica?"
Erica grinned but shook her head.
Boyd looked around the room, the Sheriff doing his best to smile serenely as he had with the other kids while they were opening their gifts, but Boyd paused on him for a long moment. "Thank you," he said as he met the Sheriff's eyes.
The Sheriff nodded. "You're welcome."
"New rule, you can't listen to heartbeats either, though that actually follows under the old rule of no cheating," Stiles said as he reached for another package, but he raised his eyebrows at his dad. "Oh, uh. Me!"
Stiles examined the wrapping paper carefully, obviously looking for a clue as to who had given him the gift, and then finally opened it. "Oh, sweet!" he exclaimed as he opened the envelope that had been wrapped. "It's a certificate to have my jeep detailed and tuned up. She'll love it!"
'She'? several members of the pack mouthed, but they all looked amused.
"Guess," Lydia called, when Stiles sat for a moment to consider all of them carefully.
"Derek," Stiles said finally. "Because he's the only one here both practical enough, and who knows how much I love my jeep. Though, you should all know that by now."
Everyone turned to Derek expectantly, and Derek smiled and waved his hand, actually looking rather pleased.
Stiles tucked the certificate away and reached back under the tree. "Isaac," he said, passing the present over since Isaac was sitting next to him.
Isaac examined the present, tracing his finger over his name written on the front of the bulky package, and then carefully opened it and lifted out a blue hoodie. He ran his fingers over the fabric and smiled. "I have no idea," he said, not looking up from the gift. "Uh, one of the girls. Or maybe Jackson."
Everyone laughed but Lydia waved her hand from the couch. "It's made from bamboo fabric, which means it will stay soft and won't absorb any odors from washing detergent or anything," she said.
Isaac buried his face in the fabric and then immediately pulled it on over his t-shirt. "Thank you," he said, smiling brightly at her. Lydia quickly looked away but she was smiling as well.
"Danny," Stiles called and passed over Danny's gift toward the couch.
Danny opened it and pulled out what looked like a USB drive that was already out of its package and examined it for a moment before his eyes went wide. He looked around the room and then focused on Stiles. "Seriously?"
Stiles grinned. "Yep. But you don't know where you got it and you don't have it."
The Sheriff resisted the urge to cringe because that couldn't mean anything good. He figured that any protests that they should try to refrain from illegal activity when possible would be politely ignored and Danny had already pocketed the device and looked like he'd just been handed the entire world.
"Lydia," Stiles called quickly, talking over the speculations of what exactly he had given Danny.
Lydia accepted the box and carefully removed the ribbon before she opened it and pulled out two small bottles. She sniffed at each of them and frowned at the second one. "Allison?"
"Yeah, that one is a wolfsbane spray, I wouldn't use it in here. It has a W on the bottle so you'll know which it is. Who's going to take a bottle of perfume off a girl, right?" Allison asked. "The other one is just perfume though, I think you'll like the scent."
Lydia nodded thoughtfully and reached for her purse. "Sneaky, I approve wholeheartedly."
"This is a plea from all of us that you don't mix those up," Scott said, with nods of agreement from all of the other wolves, including Jackson.
"I won't," Lydia promised. "Not on accident, at least."
No one looked particularly comforted by that, but Stiles dug back under the tree in the dwindling pile of presents. "Oh," he said, and then laughed as he got to his feet. "Sheriff Stilinski," he said as he handed the present to his dad.
The Sheriff looked at the writing and smiled as he turned it over to open it using the tape. He opened the envelope first and was pleasantly surprised to find a gift certificate for the local bookstore where he dropped in from time to time. There was a second gift, this one wrapped as well, and he raised his eyebrows at the kids before he opened it and found a picture frame. Turning it over he found a collage of pictures of the pack, group shots taken at various times. Most of the time the werewolves had their eyes closed or had turned their faces to the side, but some of the photos were edited so the flash of their eyes was only slightly noticeable. He showed the pack what he'd received when they asked and he considered the handful of people who were left in the suspect pool. "Erica?" he finally asked.
She grinned. "Yep. Do you like it?"
"It's perfect," he told her. He stood and walked to the mantle of the fireplace and found a place for the frame near the middle. By the time he returned to his chair she had wiggled over and sat leaning her head near his knees with her legs resting in Boyd's lap.
"Jackson," Stiles called and passed a gift up to the couch.
Jackson opened the flat present, clearly curious, and then paused for a long moment as he considered what he was holding, Lydia and Danny leaning in to look as well.
"What is it?" Erica called finally and Jackson held up a black and white sketch of the ridge in the woods that overlooked the city.
"I have no idea," Jackson said as he brought the drawing back down to look at it more closely. "I didn't know anyone in the pack could draw."
"Uh," Isaac said uncertainly. "I sketched it. I mean, I noticed that when we're out there, you always stop to look, and, I thought you might like having it."
The entire pack looked at Isaac, clearly as surprised as Jackson was by this information. "Thank you," Jackson said, and Isaac nodded before looking down at his lap and playing with the strings of his new hoodie.
"Dude, you have to tell us stuff like this. You too, Boyd," Stiles said, getting a general call of agreement from the pack while Isaac fidgeted uncomfortably and Boyd kept his gaze on where his and Erica's hands were joined.
"Allison," Stiles called after nudging Isaac, and Scott reached forward so that he and Allison didn't have to move from where they were nestled together leaning against the bottom of the couch.
Allison opened the small package and pulled out a small computer chip of some kind. She twisted around to look up at Danny. "What is it?" she asked with a smile.
Danny shifted the way his arms were resting and gave the Sheriff a slightly uncertain glance before focusing on Allison. "It's a sim card for your phone. It will make it so that you can hop networks if you need us and can't get a signal. It will also allow us to remotely activate your phone and access the GPS chip if we need to find you. I've done the same with my phone, so that I'll always have signal so you have someone to reach if you can't get anyone else. Just in case. I'll show you how to use the settings before you leave tonight."
Allison gave Danny a slightly watery smile. "Thank you," she said, and she buried her face against Scott's shoulder for a long moment.
"And Derek," Stiles said when Allison had resurfaced. He pulled the last present from under the tree and brought it over to Derek.
Derek raised his eyebrows but opened the present and stared down at what looked like a fairly thick book that was hardbound. There was no title on the cover and he opened it and flipped through a few pages before he looked up with wide eyes. "Where did you get this?"
Scott leaned over so that he could see Derek better. "This kinda requires an explanation, and that explanation is that I had a lot of help with this. Dr. Deaton said that most packs have their own library of books about things that could help, information they needed, history that's not written down anywhere else. And that most of those books are written in languages that aren't commonly known. So, I thought having translations of some of those books might be a good idea. Lydia and Stiles did the translation, Boyd and Danny too, and we researched book binding and everything. The idea is that eventually we'll be able to have a pack library, but we thought that book in particular should go to you first."
Derek blinked a few times and closed the cover of the book. "Thank you," he said finally, looking around at his pack like he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing. His fingers were clamped tight around the book and he nodded instead of saying anything more.
"And, I think we're done," Stiles said quickly, clearly getting the idea that a few members of the pack had been slightly unsettled by their gift giving. "Time for food?"
"Yes," Scott and Jackson said immediately as they got to their feet. Everyone started moving around, the kids darting around to talk to each other and offer thanks for their gifts, and they started drifting in and out of the room as they cleaned up the wrapping paper and searched for food.
The Sheriff remained in his chair, watching and listening to the controlled chaos, content to let the sounds of the pack wash over him. Derek hadn't moved from his chair either, though he touched hands with the kids when they came over to him.
An hour later, when they showed no signs of winding down for the night, in part because they were all out of school for the next two weeks, the Sheriff stood and made his way into the kitchen. He decided that he was having a late night snack and then going to bed regardless of how many of the kids were still up partying.
He opened the pantry door, his heart set on the pretzels he knew had been stashed on one of the shelves, and then he cleared his throat politely. Allison and Scott jumped apart and Scott sheepishly pointed up at where the mistletoe was hanging from the air vent.
The Sheriff glanced at his watch and saw that it was well past eleven at night. "Should we be hurrying you home?" he asked.
Allison shook her head. "My dad extended my curfew until one because of the dance," she said, blushing brightly and not meeting the Sheriff's eyes.
"Alright then," the Sheriff said and pointed to the shelf next to Scott's head. "Pass the pretzels. Behave," he told them.
"Yes, Mr. Stilinski," Scott said as he passed the bag of pretzels.
The Sheriff shut the door before shaking his head and walking out of the kitchen. Surely one of the other kids would be rummaging in the kitchen before long and would drag the pair out of the pantry.