By the time the Sheriff was up, dressed, and downstairs - his body awake and in the process of getting ready for the day before his mind caught up enough to remember the date - Stiles and Isaac were already up and waiting in the living room. Stiles had his cellphone out, Isaac crowded against his shoulder to watch whatever it was Stiles was doing, and the Sheriff noticed that they were both dressed a little nicer than typical for them. Stiles was in beige pants that actually fit and the sweater Melissa had given him last Christmas, while Isaac was dressed in dark gray slacks and a collared shirt that was an inch or so short at his wrists. They both looked a little too solemn - and in Stiles' case twitchy - for Christmas morning, but the Sheriff was used to Stiles being oddly quiet until their Christmas morning ritual was out of the way.
"Are you just about ready?" the Sheriff asked, the boys looking up in unison.
"Yep," Stiles said as he shoved his cellphone in his pocket, Isaac standing a half step behind him.
"Jackets," the Sheriff reminded them when they went to the door without stopping at the front closet, and he only raised an eyebrow when the pair exchanged put upon glances before they grabbed their jackets. It was fifty degrees outside and as far as the Sheriff was concerned that was jacket weather.
They piled into the Sheriff's patrol car, Isaac and Stiles both climbing in the back, and the drive across town to the cemetery only took ten minutes in the near non-existent traffic. The Sheriff scanned the area as soon as they stepped out of the car. He didn't typically wear his holster when they came to the cemetery, his wife had never been anything but supportive of his career though it felt wrong nevertheless, but at this point he felt safer armed when he was in open spaces - particularly spaces that bordered the woods. With the lack of activity from the LA Pack the Sheriff thought they'd likely returned to their own territory for the rest of the holidays, but he wasn't going to take any chances.
The trio stepped onto the cemetery proper and when they reached a fork in the path Isaac glanced at the Sheriff before looking down. "I'm going to, uh," Isaac said, waving a hand toward the eastern section of the cemetery.
"Of course," the Sheriff said, watching for a moment as Isaac hurried down what was clearly a familiar path. Stiles turned to down the path leading further to the north, the Sheriff a half step behind him, and after walking for three minutes they stopped next to a very familiar headstone.
He hadn't meant to turn this into a ritual, not at all, but the first Christmas after his wife had passed on neither of them had been particularly functional. The hole in their family had been too big to work around, too fresh to put aside for more than a few minutes, and he'd finally asked Stiles if he wanted to go to the cemetery for a little while. Stiles had agreed readily, a surprise at the time since Stiles had avoided the cemetery after having a panic attack there two months earlier, and they'd visited for fifteen minutes without mishap. The next year the Sheriff had found Stiles waiting for him and when Stiles had asked if they were going, the Sheriff hadn't the heart to say no.
Stiles knelt, brushing a bit of long grass away from the headstone before running his hands over the top of the cold granite. His fingers briefly passed over her name, ending on the date of her death, and then he pushed back to his feet and rejoined his father at the base of the grave. "I think she'd be okay with this, don't you?" Stiles asked.
The Sheriff looked at his son, thinking that only a year ago he'd had to look down a little and now they were almost on eye level with each other. "With the pack?" he asked, wanting to make sure.
"Yeah," Stiles nodded. "I think she would have liked them. She'd have doted on Isaac, and she'd think that Erica is hilarious. I bet she'd love Allison and be really happy for her and Scott. She'd talk to Boyd about poetry and music, and she totally wouldn't be afraid to tell off Derek when he's being all stubborn."
"I think you're right," the Sheriff said around a lump in his throat. This was a conversation he and Stiles never could have had a year ago, and not just because he hadn't known the pack in order to speak about them. Last year, and the years before, Stiles hadn't said anything as they stood in the cemetery. He put his hand on Stiles' shoulder and swallowed hard before he spoke again. "She'd be so very proud of you. Just like I am."
Stiles didn't respond to that but he leaned into his father's touch, and the Sheriff could feel that Stiles' breaths were slightly quick and uneven. The Sheriff nodded to the place of his wife's resting place, a silent acknowledgement that he was doing the best he knew how and that he'd do whatever he could to take care of their family. When he couldn't quite bear to keep his gaze on her headstone any longer he looked out across the cemetery and saw someone winding smoothly through the graves. It took him a moment to identify Derek, coming from the Hale plot at the south eastern corner of the cemetery, and he followed Derek's intended path to where Isaac was standing alone in front of a small grouping of graves. Isaac's head was bowed, his shoulders hunched and his hands shoved in his pockets, and he didn't look up until Derek came to a stop by his side. With almost half of the pack gathered in the cemetery early on Christmas morning the Sheriff couldn't help but wonder if they would have been bumping into the Argents as well if Chris hadn't taken Allison out of town.
A buzzing noise caught both of them by surprise - Stiles visibly jumped - and a moment later Stiles pulled his cellphone out of his pocket and checked the screen. "Erica," he murmured with a frown before he quickly answered and brought his phone to his ear.
The Sheriff frowned as well, a dozen possibilities coming to mind of what could have happened, and he listened to Stiles' half of the conversation while watching as Derek and Isaac hurried across the cemetery to join them.
"We'll be right there. It will be about fifteen minutes, okay?" Stiles asked, shaking his head when Derek held out his hand for the phone.
Derek raised his eyebrows, his expression darkening, while Isaac only folded his arms and tipped his head slightly in the direction of Stiles' phone.
"Okay, we're on our way," Stiles said, hanging up and putting the phone in his pocket with an aggrieved look at Derek. "Surprise, Erica's dad is a no-show. Can we swing by and pick her up before we pick up Scott, or can you drop me at home so I can go get her in my jeep?"
No one looked particularly surprised that Erica's dad hadn't shown up, and the Sheriff didn't miss the very quiet growl that came from Isaac. "We can pick her up now, if everyone is done here?" the Sheriff checked.
Isaac nodded quickly and Stiles moved toward the parking lot after a glance at Derek, everyone trailing behind. The Sheriff hadn't expected Derek to join them on the ride back but he wasn't about to object either. It made things easier, especially since they wouldn't have to wonder if Derek was going to show up at all that day. He opened the back door of the car for Derek and Isaac, his mind catching slightly on the fact that he'd had both boys back there for far less pleasant reasons before, and a minute later they were off while Stiles read directions to Erica's house from the GPS in his phone.
The drive was mostly quiet, Stiles texting on his phone with his jaw set, and when the Sheriff glanced in his rearview mirror he saw Derek and Isaac looking grim and just a little dangerous. Most of the time when he was around the pack he saw them devouring whatever they might find in the kitchen or playing around in the living room; it was still a little unnerving to see the transition from teenagers to potential weapons, and even more unsettling when they didn't even need to have their claws and fangs out to do so.
"Turn on Maple, third house on the left," Stiles said, restlessly fidgeting with his phone while he leaned forward to get a better look out the window.
The Sheriff slowed and turned, his frown deepening when he saw Erica sitting on the front steps of the third house on the left, her backpack slung over one shoulder and her phone clutched tightly in her hands. She stood as soon as she saw the car and bounced on her toes, not waiting until he came to a stop in the road before she came racing down to meet them. Isaac opened the door and got out, letting Erica slide over to the middle of the seat before he climbed back in.
"Seat belts," the Sheriff called as he pulled away from the curb. The kids shuffled around in the back and he made a U-turn to get back to the main road.
"Did he at least call?" Stiles asked as he twisted around in his seat.
"No," Erica said, her voice slightly muffled. "He texted, said some important business came up at the last minute and he couldn't make it. I bet whoever he's with doesn't know he has a kid. Or a wife."
The Sheriff gritted his teeth as he peered in the rearview mirror. Erica had her face pressed against Derek's shoulder and her hand was clinging to Isaac's in a death grip.
"Mom thought he was going to be there, and she wanted to work the holiday because they pay her extra, so she won't be back until Sunday," Erica continued. "She called from the Chicago airport, wished me Merry Christmas and told me that I could find my presents in her closet."
Derek made a low noise, but it was Isaac who finally spoke. "At least we're together. They might have kept you from us if they were here."
"Yeah," Erica said, regaining control of her voice. "I'd rather be with all of you anyway."
"Hey," Stiles said, checking his phone again and then looking to his dad. "Scott said he's going on foot through the woods and he bets he can beat us home. Want to step on the gas and prove him wrong?"
"No, I most certainly don't," the Sheriff said, giving Stiles a pointed look before returning his attention to the road. He might have sped up ever so slightly, but only because he knew it would lighten the mood a little. They were pulling in the driveway when Scott came tumbling out of the backyard with leaves in his hair and a triumphant grin.
"Doesn't count, dude!" Stiles shouted as soon as he was out of the car.
Scott laughed, his face brightly flushed as he threw his arms around Stiles. "I totally beat you. Admit it."
The two continued to rough house and verbally spar as everyone else piled out of the car and the Sheriff took a moment to put his hand on Erica's shoulder. She leaned in for a quick hug before they all went inside, everyone shedding their jackets in the hallway.
"So, breakfast first or presents first?" the Sheriff asked while he still had everyone in one place. He very nearly chuckled at the torn expressions on their faces and after a long moment of collective indecision he decided to save them from themselves. "How about this: we'll put cinnamon rolls in the oven and by the time they're ready to eat we should be done with presents."
"Yes!" Stiles called, seconded by the other kids pretty much immediately.
"Go get the boxes from my bedroom and bring them downstairs, without peeking into any of the presents, I will know if you do," the Sheriff said, Stiles and Scott racing up the stairs without waiting for any further instructions. "Isaac and Erica, why don't you two help me with the dough. Derek, you're on hot cocoa duty."
Derek raised his eyebrows but followed the group into the kitchen without complaint and went straight for the cupboard with the mugs without needing further directions. With Erica and Isaac's help - Isaac was surprisingly handy in the kitchen though the Sheriff had only ever seen him helping out when the other kids were cooking - he had three pans of cinnamon rolls in almost no time. He covered them so they could rise, informing the room at large that bread dough didn't taste good raw so that no one would try to sneak any before the pans went into the oven. Derek finished with the last of the cocoa and by then Stiles and Scott had resurfaced.
"Presents now?" Scott asked, and the Sheriff decided that becoming a werewolf had only enhanced Scott's natural puppy dog eyes.
"Yes, presents now," the Sheriff said, setting a timer on the cinnamon rolls and following the kids into the living room. Scott and Stiles had already placed all the presents around the base of the tree and turned on the lights, and the Sheriff settled himself into his chair with his cup of cocoa and vowed to put on a pot of coffee when he went back to the kitchen to put the rolls in the oven. "The three envelopes first," he instructed.
Stiles dug around under the tree until he found the envelopes. He passed one to Scott, one to Isaac, and kept the third. "Money?" Stiles asked as he opened it and pulled out a gift card.
"Mhmm. From me and Melissa, for a very specific purpose. The three of you need new clothes that fit and haven't been shredded by claws or stained by God knows what," the Sheriff said, ignoring the slight groans from Stiles and Scott. "Melissa and I expect to see the outcome. I'm sure the pack would be very happy to help you shop."
Erica smiled. "We will. You have no idea."
The Sheriff thought he had some idea, but he and Melissa had collectively decided that this was the best way to get their boys into some new clothes without having to actually drag them to the mall.
"Better than getting socks," Scott pointed out as he examined the gift card before pulling out his wallet to put it away.
"But it's something you could buy socks with," Stiles said, pulling a face as he put aside his envelope on the couch arm.
"But I need new socks," Scott said, and Isaac nodded from where he was sitting and the Sheriff caught Derek rolling his eyes.
"I'm sure you'll all get what you need. Now, for the communal gift there is a group of boxes in green wrapping paper. Pass them out," the Sheriff instructed as he took another sip of his cocoa and watched the kids reach over each other to eagerly shake - and sniff - the presents. "Go ahead," he said when everyone had one of the boxes.
"Sweet!" Stiles shouted as he held up a controller for the Xbox 360, Erica leaning over to show him the game she'd unwrapped. All in all they now had enough controllers to keep everyone occupied plus three more multiplayer games.
Scott looked up from the game he was holding with a grin. "You know what this means?"
"Game marathons for the rest of winter break!" Stiles said and there was a complicated mess of the teenagers giving each other high fives while Derek examined the back of one of the game cases with interest. "Thanks dad!" Stiles called, a chorus of agreement rising from the others.
The Sheriff wasn't the slightest bit surprised that the video games were better received than the news that they needed to get new clothes, and he smiled as he watch the kids launch into discussions about the different games and about strategies and plots, the conversation moving so fast that it almost sounded like a language he was familiar with but not quite fluent in. Hearing the kitchen timer beep he excused himself from the room long enough to put the cinnamon rolls in the oven and set another timer. He took another few minutes to set up the coffee maker, patting it fondly when the familiar aroma reached him. By the time he returned to the living room Stiles was standing and had an envelope in his hands and held it in the Sheriff's direction. "What's this?" the Sheriff asked as he turned the blank envelope over in his hands.
"From all of us, the whole pack," Stiles said with a bit of a nervous smile.
He glanced at where everyone, including Derek, was looking up at him expectantly and then moved over to sit back down in his chair. The contents of the envelope was a series of pages printed from the computer and it took him reading the last one before he understood what they'd given him. "Should I be concerned that you're trying to send me out of town?" he asked, but he was smiling.
"No!" Stiles exclaimed. Scott, Isaac, and Erica all started to giggle and before long Stiles was smiling too. "We just thought it might be nice for you to get away from all of this, and you haven't taken an actual vacation in forever, and I already checked with the Sheriff's Department and scheduled your days off, and the ticket for the LA Kings vs the Anaheim Ducks is bought. No excuses not to go!"
The Sheriff thought the fact that he'd be leaving his town unguarded when he was the only person in the department who knew about werewolves was a pretty big reason not to go, but he also appreciated the thought. And the fact that it was the best ticket he could have imagined receiving. "I'll put it on my calendar," he told them. "Thank you."
"There's one other thing from all of us," Stiles said, and then he nudged Derek's shin.
Derek stood and handed over an oddly shaped present with a bow on it. "Stiles insisted that it had to be wrapped," he said, sounding mystified.
The Sheriff unwrapped the gift and then eased the dagger out of its sheath. He recognized it as being very similar to the one Danny had been wearing the night the LA Pack had attacked, and as being a smaller variant of the rune etched short swords that had been set out on the kitchen table that same night.
"It's more from Dr. Deaton than it is from us, but we all thought it was a good idea for you to have one just in case," Erica explained.
"The runes act as a type of werewolf repellant, we think it might actually be where the werewolves are allergic to silver myth could have started," Stiles added as he knelt back down next to Isaac and the Christmas tree. "The metal of the blade doesn't matter so much, it's the runes are the important part - they make the inflicted wounds heal slower and the dagger can potentially kill if it's used right. We were going to go with one of the short swords like we have, but we figured a dagger might be easier for you to conceal than a sword. If you want a sword we can arrange to get you one of those too, it will just take a little while because the etching has to be done by hand. That's why Deaton gets all pissy when we lose one in a fight."
"Right," the Sheriff said as he examined the runes closer before sheathing the dagger. It was a thoughtful gift, practical and useful, but a little frightening to receive nevertheless. "Thank you."
Isaac perked up suddenly, his eyes locking on the front windows. "Jackson's car just turned off the main road," he said, pausing for a minute before adding. "He's got everyone else with him; they must have picked up Boyd on the way."
The Sheriff glanced to Derek and raised his eyebrows as the kids scrambled to their feet to go meet the rest of the pack like they hadn't just seen everyone the night before. Derek gave a one shouldered shrug, as if to say 'what can you do?' and stood as well. The Sheriff motioned Derek to go with him to the kitchen and checked on the cinnamon rolls while he considered what he wanted to say. "They're all very attached to each other," he finally observed after pulling out the pans and setting them on oven mitts to cool.
Derek had already started to pull out the ingredients for the frosting and he didn't look up as he measured out the sugar into a bowl. "They're pack," he said. When the Sheriff handed him a spoon to stir with, his expression indicating that he wanted a little more information than that, Derek sighed and stepped over to the oven. "Under most circumstances packs live and travel together. It's, instinctual, to sleep near your pack and they're doing what they can to mitigate their circumstances during the day."
The Sheriff was tempted to point out that as far as he was aware Derek didn't typically sleep near his pack, but thought better of it for the moment. "So you're saying that this is normal behavior?"
"I wouldn't exactly say that," Derek said, and the Sheriff could have sworn he saw the corner of Derek's mouth twitch. "It's just not unexpected."
"I see," the Sheriff said, which he thought he somewhat did. Before he could press further the rest of the pack came tumbling into the kitchen, all of them eagerly eyeing the pans of cinnamon rolls. "The frosting is almost finished, be ready with plates and forks."
The kids scrambled around in the small space and when Derek set the bowl of frosting next to the pans there was a small content smile on his face as he observed his pack. The Sheriff shook his head at how natural it had become to think of the kids as a pack, even if in his mind it was still closer to a pack of teenagers than a pack of werewolves, and he supervised the pans of cinnamon rolls to make sure everyone had some before anyone took seconds. When he had four left over he looked around and realized he was missing Erica and Boyd, Derek seemingly coming to the same realization.
"I'll get them, you go eat," the Sheriff said as he set aside his plate on the counter. He poked his head out into the hallway but didn't have to go far before he saw Erica and Boyd on the stairs under the mistletoe. Erica was standing on the step above Boyd, her arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders, and Boyd was holding her delicately, one of his hands smoothing her hair.
The Sheriff cleared his throat and waited until they looked in his direction - Boyd a little sheepish but Erica was clearly trying not to smile. "Breakfast is ready, I'd come eat soon before someone takes the fact that there is still food in the pans as an invitation," the Sheriff said before he turned and went back into the kitchen. When Erica and Boyd didn't come in for another few minutes he didn't worry about it too much; he was mostly just happy to see that Erica was in better spirits than she had been earlier.
When it seemed like everyone was almost finished eating he went upstairs to get a box from the linen closet, one he'd purposefully left hidden because he knew the urge to peek would prove too much for Stiles. He brought it downstairs into the living room and organized the stockings on the floor in front of the fireplace and then called the kids back in. "I'm assuming you want to finish unwrapping presents," he said, smiling at the eager nods from Stiles and Scott and the surprised expressions from most of the rest of the pack. "Come get your stockings and open them up."
There was a few minutes of chaos as everyone scrambled around to find the stocking that had a label with their name on it, Derek looking shocked and a little confused when Stiles placed one in his hands as well. The stockings were mostly filled with odds and ends; candy, an orange, and other small useful or fun things. He saw several of the kids using their phones as cameras to take pictures of each other and decided that he was going to ask for copies of the pictures from Lydia and Danny later on.
"There's a few more presents under the tree," he told them, settling back in his chair with a fresh cup of coffee and watching with a sense of contentment as they passed out the last of the gifts. He and Melissa had gone shopping during the week and picked out two or three things for each of the pack members, using their combined knowledge and a few subtle questions to figure out what everyone wanted or needed. There were books, a handful of hats, gloves, and scarfs, and some gift cards for music and downloads when it seemed like the most reasonable option.
"Thank you!" Erica called, her new hat on her head while she examined the book she'd been given. The rest of the pack called out their own gratitude and the Sheriff took the moment to look around the room.
Derek was on the couch holding his own gifts, his stocking sitting next to him, and he looked rather uncertain. Jackson and Danny were also on the couch, Danny trying on his new gloves while Jackson dug into the candy from his stocking. Lydia and Erica were on the floor next to the couch, Lydia showing off the skirt she was wearing with a bright smile while Erica opened the package of hair clips that had been in her stocking. Boyd and Isaac were sitting next to the tree, Isaac looking a little overwhelmed while he stroked the soft throw blanket he'd been given. Boyd seemed a little uneasy as well, the Sheriff had seen before how Boyd withdrew when he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do, but Boyd shifted slightly so that his knee was resting against Isaac's leg and Isaac seemed to hunch his shoulders a little less. Stiles and Scott were kneeling by the other armchair where the video game stuff had been set out of the way, deep in conversation about what they wanted to play first.
All in all it was the most chaotic Christmas morning he'd seen in years, but also one of the best in recent memory. It did him a lot of good to see that Stiles was genuinely happy, or that Stiles could at least set aside the worries about what might be waiting for them in the future to relax and enjoy the holiday. He cradled his coffee mug and watched as the pack playfully bickered about how they wanted to spend the rest of the day before it was time for dinner, feeling some odd tension in his chest release as he let the sounds of general contentment wash over him.
"I've got it," he said as he stepped forward to take the bulging bag of pies that was slipping from her grasp.
"Thanks," she said as she set all the other bags on the counter. "I'm just glad you're hosting dinner here because I would not have been ready to have a dozen people in my house today."
The Sheriff chuckled. "You're imagining things if you think I am. Though I did have Lydia and Derek to help me with preparing the ham and the turkey. It's gotten to the point where I almost think I need another refrigerator."
Melissa grinned. "See, and I thought that when I just had one teenaged boy. I'll be right back, the ice cream needs to get into the freezer," she called, unbuttoning her jacket as she left the kitchen.
The Sheriff found the bag with the ice cream and after a minute or two of playing food-Tetris he managed to squeeze the cartons inside and still be able to close the door when he was done.
"Merry Christmas," Melissa told him when she returned, extending a package in his direction.
"And Merry Christmas to you," he told her, taking a square package he'd set aside earlier and handing it to her.
Melissa quirked her eyebrow as she looked over the package. "You didn't?"
"Only if you did," the Sheriff said as he felt his gift, already with a good idea of what was inside. When Melissa started to open hers, the Sheriff did the same. He felt his eyebrows rise as he took in the bottle of Merlot she had given him and he was glad he'd gone with the gourmet chocolates that he knew she liked.
"I'm not sure whether to thank you or to file a complaint," Melissa said, but she was smiling as she looked down at the box.
"I'll just go with thank you and then put this somewhere the kids aren't going to find it. I suggest you do the same because I know for a fact that they tend to sniff out any food they can find," the Sheriff said. He set the bottle aside when the thermometer in the turkey beeped and he went to the stove to peer inside. "Another twenty minutes or so should do it, don't you think?"
Melissa walked over and looked inside at the turkey and checked the thermometer. "Looks good. Smells good too."
The Sheriff stood, suddenly aware that Melissa was right next to him, and he felt himself smile awkwardly when Melissa met his gaze. They'd been spending more time together lately in their efforts to keep their kids safe and he realized that it was the most time he'd spent with another adult outside of his co-workers in seven years. That probably said something about his life, but between his work and trying to be there for Stiles, he just never found the time for meeting other people. Before now he hadn't even wanted to, but Melissa had kind of snuck up on him.
She seemed to guess what he was thinking because she dropped her gaze and stepped away to open one of the bags of bread rolls. "Did everything go smoothly today?" she asked, accepting the serving bowl that he pushed in her direction.
"For the most part," the Sheriff said with a quick flicker of his eyes to where most of the werewolves were gathered upstairs. He didn't think it was likely that they were listening, but he couldn't discount the possibility either. "Erica's father sent a message saying he couldn't make it today, so we picked her up this morning. A few of them have been a little unsettled, but that's about what I expected."
Melissa nodded, obviously understanding who the Sheriff was talking about without needing any further clarification. "Well, everyone is with us now," she said after a moment, her eyes saying everything she wanted to about the situation without letting any eavesdropping werewolves know.
He smiled as he checked on the vegetables. "Interestingly enough, that's almost exactly what Isaac said."
Before Melissa could respond they heard what sounded like several people hurrying down the stairs. They both looked at each other, caught between a parental duty to check that everyone was alright and the desire not to know what had happened this time. Duty won out and they made their way to look out into the hall. The pack had gathered into the small space, crowded around where Lydia was holding a cellphone to her ear.
"Allison's on the phone," Stiles explained from where he was leaning over the stairway banister.
The Sheriff checked his watch and while he was relieved Allison had called he was also a little bit worried. It was later than he'd expected her call, particularly since she was currently two hours ahead of them on the east coast. A few days ago he'd seen a flight search page on Stiles' laptop, and he'd known that Stiles was trying to find out how quickly they could get to Allison if something happened. He also knew that if something happened, whatever that indefinable something might be when it came to werewolves and Hunters, that a six hour flight plus whatever wait time before a flight departed would likely be too long. That wouldn't stop them from trying and he'd be right there with them.
"I'm putting you on speakerphone," Lydia told Allison, holding up the phone so that everyone would be able to hear.
"Hi," Allison said, her voice crackling with static.
The pack burst into greetings and questions, all talking over each other until they undoubtably sounded like just garbled noise to Allison. The Sheriff brought his fingers to his lips and let out a short whistle. "One at a time," he told them as the werewolves brought their hands down from where they'd covered their ears at the sharp noise.
"How are you?" Danny asked before anyone else could speak.
"I'm okay," Allison said, and even with the poor phone reception the sadness in her voice came through loud and clear. "Sorry I couldn't call earlier, I had to wait until everyone was gathered around the game on tv to slip away. I probably have about ten minutes before someone comes looking for me."
The Sheriff exchanged a glance with Melissa, not missing the slight pull of her mouth, nor the obvious worry from most of the pack.
"We're keeping up the tree until you get back. You have a stocking and some presents waiting for you," Erica called from where she was standing in Boyd's embrace.
"I'm looking forward to being back," Allison said, the reception cutting out for a brief moment. "We're flying back into Beacon Hills on New Years."
"Are you safe?" Derek asked, setting his hand on Isaac's shoulder when most of the pack looked to Derek.
"Yes. Most of the clan is here, but things have been pretty low key." Allison paused and then added, "I miss all of you."
The pack started speaking over each other again in their haste to let Allison know that they missed her too and that they were worried. Melissa and the Sheriff waited until the speaker phone was turned off and the phone was being quickly handed around the pack, both of them assuring Allison that she could call them if she needed help, and then they went back into the kitchen to put the finishing touches on dinner.
"Allison is a good kid, but that family of hers," Melissa said as she started to vigorously whisk the gravy.
The Sheriff nodded, the phone call having done little to reassure him that Allison was safe. Scott and Stiles had reluctantly told them a little about when Scott was hunted by Chris Argent himself and how Victoria Argent had attempted to murder Scott using wolfsbane. Stiles had explained about Chris threatening him and Jackson, and about how the Argents were responsible for sending the impostor deputy that had tried to kill Isaac when Isaac had been in the custody of the Sheriff's Department. That wasn't even taking into consideration the comments he'd heard about the Hunters harassing and attempting to kill Derek. To say that he didn't trust Chris Argent was an understatement, he imagined Melissa felt even more strongly about the situation, and there was an endless worry turning in the back of the Sheriff's mind of what a man who had already tried to kill more than one teenager was truly capable of and what danger Allison might be in - either from her father or from the other Hunters.
"What's left to do?" Stiles asked, entering the kitchen with Isaac and Lydia right behind him.
After a glance around the kitchen the Sheriff nodded toward the table. "You can set the table and start bringing over some of the serving platters. I think we'll need to leave the turkey and the ham on the counters, but everything else should fit," he said. The thermometer on the oven beeped again and by the time he had the turkey out and ready to be carved almost everyone was in the kitchen or getting settled at the table.
"Bring over your plates and let us know which you want," Melissa called to the kids and in no time at all they'd served everyone, Scott slipping into the kitchen at the last minute and stopping to give his mom a long hug before he collected his plate and squeezed in between Isaac and Boyd at the table.
The Sheriff collected his own plate after serving Melissa and they went to the head of the table where everything was a tight fit but at least they had some elbow room. The first half of the meal was mostly requests for food to be passed across the table, someone popping up every few minutes or so to get a new drink or get something that had been left behind in the kitchen, and the Sheriff found himself smiling fondly as the kids talked about the games they'd been playing or about what they wanted to do for their last week off of school. He met Derek's eyes from across the table and saw him nodding thoughtfully at something Jackson was saying, and although he couldn't be sure, he thought Derek seemed a little more at ease than he'd seen him so far this month. There was something relieving about the holiday season starting to come to a close and from Melissa's tired smile he would guess that she felt the same.
"Dessert soon?" Stiles asked as they started to clear dinner plates away from the table, the kids taking to the task while the Sheriff and Melissa remained seated.
A few people groaned in response but most of the werewolves perked up at the promise of more food. "Pie and ice cream, just leave some for those of us without supernatural stomachs," Melissa said, rolling her eyes when she glanced at the Sheriff but still smiling as the teens crowded over by the counter to look at the pies.
The Sheriff grinned back, shaking his head a little. "I don't know where they put it," he told her ruefully. They both laughed, more than the situation warranted, but he thought that was alright; after all, it was Christmas.
"We know," Stiles said, leaning against the banister. "Don't worry about us. We're just going to stay up all night playing video games and we'll probably raid the kitchen around three in the morning."
The Sheriff raised his eyebrows at Stiles, glancing briefly to where Isaac and Erica standing near the stairs before refocusing his attention on his son.
"Kidding," Stiles said, and then added. "Mostly kidding. We'll probably stay up for a while, but we'll let you know if anything pack related comes up."
The Sheriff nodded because that was about as good as he was going to get. "Alright, try to go to bed at a reasonable time." He was just turning to the front door when he was stopped by Isaac's voice.
"Mr. Stilinski?" Isaac asked, his voice a little uncertain. "I wanted to say thank you, for everything. Not just Christmas, but for letting me stay here with you, and, and everything. You didn't have to, but you did anyway."
The Sheriff suppressed a sigh and set his hand on Isaac's shoulder. "You're pack, and you're one of mine now. No thanks are necessary for that."
Isaac smiled, the corners of his mouth twitching up briefly, and though he quickly looked away, he didn't pull away from the Sheriff's hand either.
"Thank you for having all of us here," Erica added, coming up and wrapping one of her arms around the Sheriff and the other around Isaac. "Stiles, get over here."
"What is this, a group hug?" Stiles asked, but he shuffled over and stepped into his dad's open arm and rested his hand on Isaac's forearm. "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas," the Sheriff said, Isaac and Erica echoing him in one voice. It took him a moment to untangle himself from the hug and he felt a twinge of guilt at leaving the house and hearing Stiles lock the door behind him. He reminded himself that at least Stiles wasn't alone tonight and by the time he started his car and was on the way towards works he found himself settling automatically into his night patrol routine.
"Sheriff Stilinski, we have a possible 211 on 3rd and Main," the radio said with a crackle.
He frowned in the direction of the radio as he mapped the address in his mind. "A robbery at the bank?" he asked to himself, putting together the code with the location. "Responding to a possible 211 at the Beacon Hills Central Bank," he responded, adjusting his route. It seemed like he wasn't going to have a quiet Christmas night after all.