The Sheriff had only been home for the past thirty minutes and he was already developing a theory about werewolves and sugar; they didn't mix. Or maybe that was just teenagers and sugar, because the handful of humans racing around his house seemed just as rambunctious and noisy as the wolves. He'd sent them outside after the second time he'd heard thumps and crashing coming from somewhere in the house and now they were in the backyard playing a game that didn't seem to have rules other than tackle someone to the ground.
Occasionally he peered out the window and watched for a minute or two, noticing how alliances shifted easily and no one person remained knocked down for more than thirty seconds. Stiles, Danny, and Lydia were sitting on the back porch, all huddled close together due to the cold wind that had been blowing all day, and they shouted out encouragement and advice. He winced when Derek knocked Boyd to the ground with more force than was probably necessary. Then again, considering that Boyd used the momentum to roll them another few feet and leap back to his feet, maybe not.
"Sorry I'm late," Melissa called as she walked into the kitchen laden with plastic bags. "I got off my shift thirty minutes late and the grocery store was insane. If I thought I could get away with it I would have brought Scott and let him growl to clear the aisles."
The Sheriff took some of the bags from Melissa. "You could have texted me. I could have sent some of the kids out to pick these up," he said as he cleared a place next to where he'd been setting out everything for sandwiches and chips.
Melissa shook her head. "I had a couple of last minute things to pick up anyway. There just aren't enough days this month."
"I hear you," the Sheriff agreed. It felt like the last month had slipped by faster than he could remember. "You're joining us for dinner tomorrow night?"
"That's the plan. Stiles is still picking up Scott sometime in the morning?" she asked, emptying the bags and opening the veggie tray she'd brought. "I can drop him off here if that's easier."
"Don't worry about it. It takes us a while to get moving in the morning," he said as he picked up one of the stacks of chocolate bars. "Are you sure it's wise to give them more sugar?"
Melissa walked by the window and then glanced to the Sheriff. "Wise? No, probably not. But it's Christmas Eve. And if we were wise we wouldn't be feeding nine teenagers."
The Sheriff laughed. "True. Did you want tea while we still have run of the kitchen?"
Melissa sat at the kitchen table and smiled. "Please. That would be a god send."
Five minutes later they were both at the kitchen table, steadfastly ignoring the shouts coming from the backyard as they sipped at their coffee and tea. It was nice, and a little strange, and the Sheriff had an odd feeling that it was somehow familiar; sitting at the kitchen table with his mind planning and scheduling, occasionally glancing and smiling at the person sitting across from him, all the while the shouts of the kids playing in the backyard filtered into his consciousness. It felt easy and right, and at the same time like a kick in the chest that it was so easy to find this place again.
Melissa looked up from her tea at a particularly loud series of shouts from the back yard and shook her head even as she smiled. "At least they're getting it out now, I suppose. Is it bad that this is kind of a relief? That this is our lives now?"
The Sheriff didn't even have to think before he answered. "No. All things considered and as strange as it seems, after everything that happened last year, I think this might have been the best possible outcome. It was never what I was imagining, but..." he trailed off with a shrug.
"But at least we still have our kids," Melissa finished as she set down her cup.
"Exactly," he said, thinking that they had their kids and somehow a half dozen extra as well. He couldn't bring himself to complain though, and he didn't want to even when it meant that his house was almost never quiet anymore.
The backdoor opened and Stiles, Danny, and Lydia came tumbling in with their cheeks red from the cold. "Dinner?" Stiles asked hopefully. Lydia had cupped her hands to her mouth and was blowing on them, and Danny reached over to cover her hands with his own.
"Dinner is when no one is covered in grass and dirt and when someone puts out plates and silverware," the Sheriff said, figuring that would buy them about five minutes.
"Awesome," Stiles said and went to the backdoor and stuck his head outside: "Guys, clean up and we can have dinner!"
"And s'mores!" Scott shouted from somewhere in the backyard.
The Sheriff met Melissa's gaze and they both smiled at the resulting werewolf stampede to the back porch. Lydia and Danny had made their way over into the kitchen and were setting out the requested silverware and plates, Lydia glancing over everyone before she started counting out sets of forks and knives.
The werewolves started to trail in, most of them pulling off their shoes on the back porch, all of them flushed bright and laughing and smiling. A chilly breeze ran through the kitchen and the Sheriff looked over to see if they'd forgotten to shut the back door. Stiles and Isaac were standing in the doorway, Isaac ducking his head slightly while Sties picked dead leaves and grass from Isaac's curls.
"Good as we're going to get, I think," Stiles said after a moment.
Isaac reached up to run his fingers roughly through his hair before looking hopefully at Stiles. "Better?"
Stiles' lips twitched and he reached up again to pluck another piece of grass from near Isaac's ear. "You're good."
Isaac looked doubtful but brushed his shirt off once more before he stepped into the house and pulled the door shut behind him.
Before long the kitchen table was crowded, everyone squeezing close as they brought their plates over. Scott paused by Melissa and set a plate down in front of her. She reached up and squeezed Scott's hand, both of them pausing in the middle of the chaos to be mother and son.
Stiles dropped down in the empty chair next to the Sheriff and pushed a sandwich in his direction. "Thanks," the Sheriff said, and Stiles nodded with his mouth already full of food.
Their early evening dinner was consumed in record time, eager conversation filling the room, and then the kids disappeared in a whirlwind as they bounded towards the living room. Derek trailed behind, running a hand through his hair and glancing back with a look that was a cross between amusement and a plea for rescue from the teenaged insanity that came along with Christmas Eve.
Melissa picked up her empty plate as she moved to the kitchen counter. "I'll go help with the fireplace before Scott and Stiles decide that they should start without us," she said, the amused flicker of her eyebrows adding 'again'.
"I'll be along with everything else in a minute," he told her as he searched through the cupboards for where they'd stashed the paper plates from last time. Having s'mores in the fireplace on Christmas Eve was a McCall family tradition, one that Stiles had been joining the McCalls in for the past eight or nine years. Usually Stiles went over to the McCall's house and stayed the evening there, but since the Sheriff had taken an early shift at work and Melissa had worked into the evening, he'd suggested that it might be simpler to have everyone at his house instead. He finally found the paper plates stashed in one of the bottom cupboards by the thermoses and gathered everything they needed to make s'mores on a tray before going to join everyone in the living room.
Melissa had started a fire in the fireplace, Scott and Stiles kneeling next to her as they 'helped', while the rest of the kids were either sprawled on the couch or gathered around the Christmas tree. Derek was watching Melissa and the fire closely and the Sheriff was almost certain that Derek was hovering closer to the pack than he usually was.
"Can I help?" Erica asked, pointing at the tray of chocolate bars and graham crackers.
"Yep, you can start snapping them in half," the Sheriff told her, setting the tray down on the coffee table. Boyd reached over to the bag of paper plates and napkins and started passing them out without having to be asked.
"We need sticks!" Stiles said, leaping to his feet.
"In the trunk of my car," Melissa said as she stood up.
"I'll get them," Scott said, and he raced from the room.
Melissa stepped back and joined the Sheriff towards the side of the room. "I almost feel obsolete sometimes, with how much they've grown up," she said as she brushed her hands on her pants.
The Sheriff looked to where Erica had half abandoned her task and had joined Isaac and Stiles in seeing how many marshmallows they could fit in their mouths. "I'm not sure I can agree with you on that," he said. He smiled as Derek reached over to grab a handful of marshmallows as well, not joining their competition but eating them in one go nevertheless. A minute later Scott returned with an armful of thin metal sticks and he speared a bunch of marshmallows, some of those marshmallows winding up in his mouth as well, and he passed out the sticks as people made grabbing motions towards him.
With the couch mostly abandoned the Sheriff motioned Melissa over and they sat and relaxed while watching the kids crowd around the fireplace. Someone had turned on a local radio station playing Christmas music and while there was no snow in sight it still felt cosy and warm in the living room with the light from the fireplace flickering on the walls. "Stiles," the Sheriff called after a while.
Stiles looked over with his mouth full of his second s'more and his hands sticky. "What?" he asked, or at least that's what the Sheriff assumed he'd asked.
"Roast some marshmallows for me and Melissa, please," he asked.
Stiles swallowed and grabbed two of the free sticks. "On it," he said, and this time he could be clearly understood. Lydia joined Stiles with another two sticks and leaned in to whisper in his ear for a moment, Stiles nodding.
A few minutes later the Sheriff, Melissa, and Derek all had s'mores on their plates, and Derek gave Lydia a grateful nod when she handed him the plate without saying a word about him not joining them around the fireplace. The second round of food seemed to wipe the kids out instead of winding them up again and most of them sprawled on the floor talking and playing games on their phones.
"Danny," Melissa called, and Danny turned from where he was sitting between Jackson and Scott. "Before we go I want to look at your arms and see if it's time for your stitches to come out."
Danny nodded and glanced at the time on his phone. "I'm supposed to be home in about thirty minutes for family stuff, do you want to do it now?"
Melissa stood up and waited for Danny to join her before she walked from the room. "They should be ready to come out if everything is healing as it should. How have they been feeling?" she asked as they left.
The Sheriff glanced at Derek and managed to remain seated for about a minute before he stood up and moved under the guise of taking some of the empty plates back to the kitchen. Derek picked up the empty candy bar wrappers and followed, though they both stayed back a little as Melissa examined Danny's arms at the kitchen table.
"Nothing looks swollen or infected," Melissa said as she gently turned Danny's right arm to follow the worst of the wounds. "I have a cream that should reduce the scarring, but these are deep enough that there's going to be visible scarring that won't fade after a few months."
Danny nodded. "I figured as much. At least they'll match the set on my ankle. I can tell people they're body art."
"The tensile strength seems to be good enough to keep the wounds closed without the aid of the stitches, so lets go ahead and remove them before they start pressing into the new scar tissue," Melissa said as she opened her kit and reached for her gloves. "You'll need to keep them covered and use the ointment until they've closed up so you don't get an infection.
Derek walked over and placed his hand on Danny's shoulder, looking down at the wounds with a deep frown. Danny leaned into Derek's touch and shook his head. "It's okay. They don't even really hurt."
Derek's frown deepened but he didn't respond.
The Sheriff stepped closer and got a better look at the gashes. They were still slightly red, the skin puckered, and while they looked a lot better than when Danny had been on the living room floor shaking and bleeding, they were still painful to look at. "How did you explain these to your parents?" he asked.
Danny looked over and then his gaze fell to the ground. "I didn't. I figure by the time it's warm enough to wear short sleeves the scars won't be very noticeable."
The Sheriff nodded and met Melissa's gaze briefly before she turned her attention to carefully clipping the dark threads lining Danny's arms. He didn't have to be told that all of the kids, particularly the humans, had probably hidden wounds from their parents in the past year. After speaking with Allison he knew why it probably wouldn't be wise to inform the rest of the kids' parents, and after hearing from some of the kids exactly how infrequently their parents were around, he understood that it was probably for the best. At the same time he couldn't help but wonder how many times Stiles had snuck in hurt and bleeding and had to bandage himself without letting him know anything about it. He knew it was more times than he wanted to believe and at his core he didn't want any other child, or parent, to have to go through that.
He was about to motion to Derek that they should give Danny and Melissa some privacy but he noticed how Danny was still leaning into Derek's hands and realized that Danny was gaining comfort from the Alpha's presence. The Sheriff slipped away, knowing that Melissa had everything under control, and he went towards the living room with his armchair in mind. He passed Lydia in the hallway, who was carrying the marshmallow sticks, and he could have sworn he saw the mistletoe being held sneakily at her side. Deciding that ignorance was bliss he continued on to his armchair without saying a word.
"I'm staying with Danny for the next few nights," Jackson was saying as he typed something on his phone. "Lydia is with her dad for the rest of the week, and his apartment is like on the fifth level, so I don't think we need to worry about her tonight. We'll pick her up on our way over here in the afternoon as soon as Danny's family is done with stuff."
Scott looked up from his phone with a nod. "Allison says that she and her dad arrived safely in Virginia. She's not happy, but she says the Hunters are keeping things pretty low key at the moment and it could almost be any other really awkward family gathering. I really miss her."
"We know. We do too," Stiles said as he sat next to Scott, his arm around Scott's shoulder. "Boyd, you and Erica are coming over in the afternoon also, right?"
Boyd nodded, tightening his arms around Erica where she was sitting in his lap. "Yep. My house is usually done by noon."
"My dad is coming home tonight," Erica said, and she smiled nervously as she ran her hands over Boyd's arms. "It shouldn't take us that long to eat and do presents and everything. He says we're going out for Christmas lunch, anywhere I want to go."
Boyd held her closer but the Sheriff couldn't miss the way he glanced over to Stiles and Scott with concern in his eyes, and how Stiles and Scott seemed equally doubtful.
"And Isaac and I are here with my dad," Stiles added finally, Isaac looking up briefly from where he was sprawled on the floor next to the tree. "Derek has once again refused to stay over, but other than him, I think that covers everyone."
"I'd try to get him to stay with me, but I think my dad would have something to say if he came home and found Derek there," Erica said with a wry smile.
Stiles shook his head. "At least we don't have to worry about Hunters out in the woods tonight and I sincerely hope the LA Pack realizes that attacking anyone on Christmas Eve is just not on."
The Sheriff blinked as he realized that the kids hadn't just been arranging their schedules, they'd been making sure everyone would be as safe as possible during the night while still being where they needed to be. The LA Pack hadn't resurfaced since the attack a week ago, but he'd been combing through any violence, vandalism, and squatting reports for the past month hoping to come up with names or any ideas of where the foreign pack might be lying in wait. So far he had nothing and he'd found himself hoping that they'd decided the Beacon Hills Pack simply wasn't worth the effort.
"I could go with him," Isaac offered.
"He's not going to let this house not be guarded by a wolf," Boyd said before either the Sheriff or Stiles could object. "Not when it's so clearly a place where the pack gathers."
Danny came back into the living room, still tugging his sleeves down around his fresh bandages. "Melissa says I'm healing fine," he told everyone as soon as he realized he was being stared at.
Jackson just let out a short growl and motioned Danny over to sit with him. Lydia joined them both and Derek and Melissa came back into the living room a moment later. Derek ceded the armchair he usually sat in to Melissa and sat on the couch with Stiles and Scott instead. The Sheriff took a moment to look around and be grateful that they there together, though his mind worried briefly at the missing spot Allison had left behind. He'd grown accustomed to counting to ten when he was looking over the kids and during the past two days his mind had caught endlessly before he remembered who was missing and why. He could understand why Chris Argent had wanted to get out of Beacon Hills for the holidays, but at the same time he very much doubted that had been the best thing to do for Allison.
"Danny, you're going to be late," Lydia said after a while, nudging him with her knee.
Danny sighed. "Yeah, I guess we should get going."
"You too," Jackson pointed out to Lydia as he checked his phone, but he stood and helped Danny to his feet.
Lydia rolled her eyes. "My dad can wait. He's probably late anyway," she said, but she was already standing up.
"We should go too," Melissa said, checking her watch as she motioned to Scott to get up.
"I can drop off Erica and Boyd," Derek offered.
There was a general commotion as the kids swarmed around, gathering their things and saying goodbye.
"The last of the marshmallows are in the kitchen. There's like less than a fourth of the bag left," Lydia said, and the Sheriff chuckled as Scott and Jackson raced off to the kitchen.
"How can they be hungry already?" Danny asked, but the Sheriff saw considering looks on the rest of the wolves' faces as they obviously contemplated the prospect of more food.
"Scott, let's go!" Melissa called when neither Scott nor Jackson returned after a few minutes.
The Sheriff picked up the last of the empty boxes of graham crackers and looked at where Lydia and Danny were also just about ready to go. "I'll go shoo them out here," he said as he handed some of the trash to Stiles. He lead the way into the kitchen, aware that Lydia had tagged along, and a moment later he realized why Scott and Jackson hadn't returned. The mostly empty bag of marshmallows was sitting between them on the counter, but they were ignoring it in favor of staring at each other with folded arms. The mistletoe was hanging directly above them, the marshmallows a perfect bait for the trap.
"Come on Jackson, we've got to go," Lydia said, but she was smirking.
Jackson moved to leave but Stiles bounded forward to block his way. "Nope, mistletoe. Even Derek followed the rules. You two have no excuse."
The Sheriff once again prepared his speech about how no one had to kiss anyone and that mistletoe was not a binding contract.
"Ugh," Scott said, but then his mom called his name from the hallway. "Fine," he muttered and leaned in to kiss Jackson on the cheek. Unfortunately Jackson had leaned in to do just the same and they wound up lips on lips while they kissed for longer than what was strictly necessary.
"Blegh," Jackson said, and then he grabbed the bag of marshmallows and ran from the room.
"Hey!" Scott shouted and a few seconds later he was pelted with a handful of marshmallows. He caught all but one and seemed remarkably happier as he shoved one in his mouth and followed Jackson out into the hall.
"I'd give that a seven out of ten," Stiles said as he retrieved the fallen marshmallow and considered it briefly before eating it.
"A seven?" Lydia asked.
"On the lips," Stiles pointed out.
Lydia shook her head. "Your standards are pathetically low. I give it a four, but only because I'd expected Jackson to steal the marshmallows and run without a kiss at all."
"Lydia!" Jackson shouted. "Let's go!"
Lydia shrugged and leaned in to kiss Stiles on the cheek. "Merry Christmas Eve, I'll see you tomorrow. Merry Christmas Eve, Mr. Stilinski."
"Merry Christmas Eve," the Sheriff told Lydia when Stiles just gaped at her as she left.
They went back out into the hallway to say goodbye to everyone and watching as they drove away, leaving just the Sheriff, Stiles, and Isaac in the hallway when the front door was finally shut.
"Sandwiches?" Stiles asked Isaac. Isaac nodded enthusiastically and they both bounded back into the kitchen.
The Sheriff rolled his eyes and went upstairs to finish his last minute Christmas present wrapping. He had figured that Stiles was too busy this year to go snooping around the house for presents, but he'd decided that he was better off not taking any chances, particularly since he wasn't entirely sure Stiles would be above using Isaac like one of the Sheriff Department's drug dogs in order to sniff out hidden gifts. It was an hour or so later when he was finished and had packed everything back up to be brought downstairs tomorrow morning, and he went back downstairs with the intention of locking up the house and suggesting that the boys head to bed with a joke about Santa not coming while they're awake.
He heard quiet voices coming from the living room and he peered inside to see Stiles and Isaac gathered in front of the remains of the fire. Stiles had a blanket pulled around his shoulders, Isaac had one around his waist from where it had slipped down his back, and they were both leaning in so that they were only a few inches apart as they talked.
"One Christmas Eve, me and Cam tried to stay up and wait for Santa, and I don't think Cam even believed anymore, but I didn't know that at the time. And my mom stayed out on the couch with us and I remember falling asleep against her side, and Cam had fallen asleep before me. And she whispered in my ear that if I closed my eyes then Santa would be there sooner," Isaac said, one of his hands coming up to brush through his hair, his eyes focused on the fire.
Stiles made a soft noise and set his hand on Isaac's knee. "Yeah. My mom, every year on Christmas Eve she'd read The Night Before Christmas to me, even when I was old enough that I could read it myself. And even when I was too excited to sleep she'd sit with me until I finally drifted off. One year, this was a long time ago, we were doing a Christmas pageant at school," Stiles said, and there was a small smile on his lips even as his voice wavered slightly.
The Sheriff leaned against the doorframe as he listened to the rest of Stiles' story, remembering Stiles and Scott as shepherds racing around in their costumes and poking everything in sight with their shepherd's crooks and his wife having been volunteered to help with the pageant for the third grade. He slipped away after a while. It had been a long time since he'd heard Stiles speak of his mother and seeing the boys sitting together and talking about their missing family members had left him with a familiar ache in his chest. He finished tidying up the kitchen, though the boys had already taken care of most of it, and by the time he was done checking the doors and windows he heard their footsteps on the stairs.
The fire was almost out in the fireplace and he poked the remaining wood until it was gone completely. The blankets had been left in a pile and he tossed them onto the couch and unplugged the Christmas tree before he went upstairs and poked his head in Stiles' bedroom.
"Goodnight dad, Merry Christmas," Stiles said, sitting on the edge of his bed in his pajamas, his phone in his hands as he texted someone.
"Goodnight son," the Sheriff said. He paused for a moment then walked over to Stiles bed and sat next to him. He put his arm around Stiles' shoulders and pulled him in for a quick hug. "Merry Christmas."
They stayed like that for a minute or two, leaning together quietly, and then Stiles phone chirped with a new message. "Allison says Merry Christmas, because it's after midnight where she is. She says she'll slip away and call tomorrow afternoon so she can say hi to everyone."
"Sounds good. Tell her Merry Christmas from me," the Sheriff said, and watched as Stiles typed out the message.
Stiles set aside his phone and glanced to his window. "It sounds like everyone is settled for the night."
"Good," the Sheriff said and squeezed Stiles' shoulder one more time. "Tomorrow morning?"
Stiles nodded. "Isaac wants to come too, is that alright?"
"Of course," the Sheriff said as he stood. He pulled Stiles' bedroom door most of the way closed and a few seconds later the lamp from inside his room clicked off. The Sheriff paused by the pack bedroom doorway and peered in to find Isaac sitting in bed with his sketchbook on his lap and a pencil in his hand. "Goodnight Isaac, Merry Christmas."
Isaac looked up and smiled a little hesitantly. "Goodnight Mr. Stilinski, Merry Christmas." He closed his book and slipped it between the wall and edge of his mattress and his light was out before the Sheriff even stepped away from the doorway.
The Sheriff went into his own bedroom and was vaguely surprised when he fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit his pillow. He supposed it had something to do with chasing after werewolves and teenagers - which were not mutually exclusive categories - for the past month.