He’s only out tonight at all because Stiles had insisted, because Stiles, in all his twenty-two years of wisdom, has suddenly decided that his father sitting at home watching TV alone after work is sad. Not only sad, but possibly one of the symptoms of being a serial killer, since an introductory psychology class Stiles’s freshman year at UC Berkley apparently qualifies him to make these diagnoses now. The Sheriff has manfully refrained from arguing that sitting at home and watching TV after work is the same thing he did in his free time when Stiles was still at home too, because he knows Stiles will just say it’s different when there’s someone else there with him. (It is different for the record, in that now he can actually hear the TV over the absence of his son’s endless chatter.)
Either way, he is out tonight because of Stiles, on the first Friday night he’s gotten off in a long time. Originally, he’d been planning to watch a basketball game and go to bed early, maybe wake up and go for a run before noon. Instead, he’s currently standing in a redecorated gym with a plastic cup of punch in his hands and a ridiculous nametag sticker on his chest that’s working under the false assumption that everyone in Beacon Hills doesn’t know who he is already.
The Beacon Hills Community Center is buzzing with quiet activity, the basketball court furnished with a long row of round, cloth-covered folding tables, each sporting a small flower display and a single, burning candle that is clearly just there for ambiance, because the gymnasium lights are on and blinding.
Barb from dispatch beams at the Sheriff from across the room and waves at him, absolutely thrilled that he could come tonight and fill in for their last minute dropout after all. “Stiles told me you were free and interested, and it will be no problem to put your name on the roster, sir. In fact, you’d be doing me a huge favor by coming,” she’d chirped brightly at him this morning at work, killing the lame excuse he’d been planning on giving her about how he couldn’t attend her event because he was going to be too busy organizing his tackle box for his spring fishing trip. Stiles’s diligence had thwarted him obviously, and now he’s here instead, preparing for a night of speed dating.
Stiles may not be in town right now, won’t be again until summer, but the simple fact of the matter is, the kid still has his nose in everyone’s business, somehow. The Sheriff wants to blame Scott, but truth be told, it’s probably more Derek’s fault, because Derek is sneaky and makes it his job to know everything that’s going on in his territory. Scott is just an easier (and slightly less intimidating) target for the Sheriff’s frustration, and Scott reports to Derek anyway, so there is that. The fact that Derek also seems to report to Stiles isn’t something the Sheriff wants to think about in any great detail just yet.
“It will be perfect, dad,” Stiles had crowed to him over the phone earlier that afternoon. “I’ve heard the ladies at the PTA bake sales, you know. Apparently to other old, er, mature people, you’re a catch. I knew that already of course, but I mean, it’s basically a widely known thing in Beacon Hills. The very single Sheriff is hot.”
The Sheriff had frowned down at the phone in bewilderment when his son had said that, like somehow, he could communicate his expression of confused disdain over the connection to Stiles without actually having to use a single word.
“Don’t make that face,” Stiles had berated after a moment, proving that maybe he could after all. “It’ll make you look less attractive to all the single ladies.” Pause. “Though probably not enough to throw them off the scent. Go get ‘em, tiger. Make me proud!”
And then he’d abruptly hung up, ostensibly to head out to some sort of history department mixer, leaving his father with a dial tone between them and no chance to make his arguments as to why he was clearly beyond the age of dating anymore, speed or otherwise. But then a text message had come chiming in to his cell a second afterwards, saying all the things Stiles couldn’t over the phone, that maybe he’d been too afraid to voice out loud.
“I don’t mean you should replace Mom. I just mean you should be happy.”
The Sheriff’s arguments had kind of dried up in his throat at the sight of that, and with a sigh, he’d gone upstairs to shower and change.
Which is why he’s standing inside the Community Center wearing a blue button down he’d dug up from the very back of his closet, mostly wrinkle free. It’s old but serviceable, kind of like how he feels about himself in general, and now he’s drinking sparkling punch while a group made up of thirty or so middle-aged singles mills around, chatting and flirting and not approaching him at all just yet because he is still the Sheriff and he knows where they all live. His perpetual frown probably isn’t helping.
He sighs and stands off towards the corner a little bit, automatically keeping an eye out for trouble while he waits through the mingling portion of the evening that preludes the dating rounds. Part of him is absolutely certain that this is going to be a disaster. Stiles’s ideas tend to swing towards extremes like that, going from either absolutely brilliant to absolutely horrible with no room in between for mediocrity. The fact that Ms. Hennesly, the owner of the local flower shop, had looked at his nametag in slightly drunken surprise and exclaimed, “My! I always thought your first name was just Sheriff, Sheriff!” out loud earlier had kind of been a sign that this plan is leaning towards the bad times end of the spectrum, as far as he’s concerned.
At least there are finger foods though. Meaty, greasy, fatty ones too, which Stiles can’t yell at him for eating later, because Stiles is the one who sent him here in the first place.
Buoyed by this, the Sheriff makes a beeline for the buffet table, weaving through the crowd of townsfolk in the hopes of getting to the catering line before the last of the pigs in a blanket is snatched off the serving plate.
He’s not the only one.
Because when he goes to grab the very last crescent-wrapped beef sausage, his hand bumps right into someone else’s.
It belongs to Chris Argent.
The two of them end up blinking dumbly at each other for a second when they each realize who, exactly, it is they’re currently standing across from. The Sheriff takes his hand back first, quickly, and lets it idle awkwardly at his side. “Argent,” he says by way of wary greeting, eyebrows lifting high on his head in question. Seeing the werewolf hunter here makes the Sheriff wonder if something foul is afoot at the Community Center. Part of him kind of hopes there is. Not because he wants anyone to die a gruesome or horrible death, but because killing a monster right about now seems infinitely preferable to trying to sum up what his hobbies and interests are in three minutes to fifteen different people. Mostly because he’s pretty sure work doesn’t count as a hobby, and fishing will probably make him sound about sixty years old, which he is not yet, thank you.
Argent, similarly, withdraws his hand from the plate and looks strangely embarrassed under his usual calm facade, which doesn’t bode well for the Sheriff’s hopes of getting out of here in order to save the world from crazed Mermen or anarchist Vampires or something. “Sheriff,” Argent greets back after a beat, shifting his weight backwards just a bit. He reluctantly takes the sausage with a small nod of thanks after the Sheriff gestures at him to go ahead, and when the Sheriff looks Argent over, he finally sees Argent’s own ridiculous sticker sitting prominently on his chest as well, name etched out with black sharpie in Barb’s neat handwriting.
Eventually, Argent sighs when he realizes what the Sheriff is gawking at, and sounds kind of defeated and a little bit wry when he murmurs a quiet, “Allison’s idea,” by way of explanation, and gestures with his free hand at his nametag. “She thinks I’m…lonely.” The ‘now that she’s not here anymore’ need not be said.
The Sheriff feels his lips curl upward in vague amusement when he hears that, because he knows that feeling exactly, knows what it’s like to have your college-aged kid try to babysit you in your dotage from afar even when they should be worrying about themselves, about growing up and broadening their horizons and spending some time away from their very old, very tired, very single parents. “Stiles is the same,” he admits eventually, and grabs a mini-quiche for his plate instead, maybe just to give his hands something to do. “Except he added a really long list of how being a loner leads to serial killing.”
Argent huffs in soft laughter. “If monsters count, we’re technically already serial killers,” he says dryly. The Sheriff will drink to that, and raises his cup of punch in Argent’s general direction to acknowledge the fact. He hasn’t kept count over the past five, almost six, years exactly, but he’s pretty certain he’s got at least three rogue werewolves, a vampire nest, and two incredibly surly chimeras on his kill list. He’s not counting the fairies because technically Derek and the pack had killed them. He’d just been the one driving. Argent, on the other hand, has been doing the whole monster-slaying thing his whole life, and probably has a kill list numbering in the thousands.
And yet here they both are on a Friday night, trying to speed date, like normal sad, lonely people. Sometimes life is ridiculous.
As proven by the fact that while Argent and the Sheriff are standing there making quiet, probably inappropriate jokes about killing things, Barb stands up on a chair at the front of the room to make an announcement, face grim enough that it looks like she’s at a funeral. And here the Sheriff had been promised a good time.
“Well everyone, it looks like Amy and Alisa Wheeler can’t make it anymore. Their cat Thomas had to be taken into Dr. Deaton’s emergency room a few minutes ago, after he swallowed a marble,” she says, and pauses to wring her hands. “I’m afraid that means we’ve got a few more gentlemen than ladies tonight, but it’s okay! We’ll find a way to work around it, with your cooperation, of course.”
It is, a far as the Sheriff is concerned, a ridiculous light at the end of a very ridiculous tunnel. No offense intended to Thomas of course, whom the Sheriff hopes has a swift and painless recovery (Stiles had once done the same thing at the tender age of six, and the Sheriff is relatively certain that the cat, like his son, will survive the whole marble eating ordeal). In the meantime, he aims to take advantage of the cards he has been dealt.
And he’s not alone in that feeling either, because Argent suddenly has something a lot like hallelujah written in his sharply observant eyes.
They come to a wordless conclusion approximately two beats later. The Sheriff steps forward to raise his hand. “It’s okay, Barb,” he says amiably, but with a note of the authority in his voice that the town pays him to intimidate people with. “Mr. Argent and I are perfectly fine with sitting tonight out. You know, to keep the numbers even.”
Barb looks like she’s going to protest. Some of the other women in the crowd look like they’re going to protest too, and when the Sheriff uses his incredible crime-solving mind to put the puzzle together as to why that might be, he suddenly remembers Stiles’s ridiculous comment about the PTA bake sales earlier and realizes that both he and Chris Argent are what one might consider eligible bachelors. They work out, after all. It’s a necessity of both their careers.
Stiles told him he’s a catch, and maybe he is. On the other hand, maybe he doesn’t want to be caught exactly, either.
From the way Argent tenses minutely at the sight of all those eyes suddenly looking at him so hopefully, the Sheriff would bet good money on Argent feeling the exact same way as he does about it. It makes sense. Argent also has a business empire on top of all of his muscles, which, objectively speaking, probably makes him more desirable prey (and more constantly hunted) than the Sheriff. Argent is Bruce Wayne to the Sheriff’s Clark Kent, or something. Maybe not Clark Kent, maybe Wally West.
“But Sheriff,” Barb begins, hastily, “It would be unfair for you and Mr. Argent to just leave. I mean, after you’ve taken the time out of your busy schedules to be here and to end up not having a single date at all?” She laughs like the idea is absurd.
“I’m sure we’ll be okay with it,” the Sheriff says again, reasonably.
“Not a problem at all,” Chris adds, as amiable as anyone has ever seen him.
Barb shakes her head. “Gentlemen, I insist!” She crosses her arms for emphasis. A general murmur of female agreement follows her bold declaration. “You have to have a date tonight! Otherwise, what’s the point?”
Barb is usually calm and sweet and completely unintimidating, especially since she makes everyone in the department gingerbread men for Christmas and cries every time that sad SPCA commercial with the Sarah Mclachlan music comes on. Right now though, she is being strangely threatening, despite everything. The Sheriff feels himself taking a wary step back at the whole unexpectedness of it, just like he had the first time Erica had wolfed out on him. Argent, in perfect werewolf-hunting tandem, does the same. It makes the Sheriff feel better about being kind of terrified by a woman barely five feet tall in a flower print dress clearly from the 80s. To be fair, the additional air of menace radiating off some of the other ladies at Barb’s back is adding to the whole atmosphere of general terror she has going for her.
The Sheriff can only marvel, because the transformation really is a lot like Erica, now that he thinks about it. Unexpected and scarier than anything any of the boys could ever do. Apparently the town’s single women really want the Sheriff and Chris Argent to start dating tonight.
The Sheriff blinks suddenly.
Well. That certainly is an option.
Before he can think about it too much, the Sheriff finds himself blurting, “Mr. Argent can be my date.”
Argent makes a noise in the back of his throat that sounds a lot like startled laughter at that, but disguises it as a cough convincingly. He doesn’t punch or kick or scowl at the Sheriff either, which is a good sign, but then again, they’re both adults and not Stiles. To be certain either way, the Sheriff turns back to Argent and asks, loud enough for everyone else in the room to hear, “So, you want to maybe get out of here and get a drink?” His voice doesn’t waver. There’s that at least.
Argent is a better actor than he is about it. He just nods, very seriously, and says, “I would love to, Sheriff,” with a startling sort of gravity, like he is being conferred the greatest honor of all time.
Everyone in the Community Center is too shocked to respond at that point, or, thankfully, to try and argue anymore. From there, the Sheriff and Argent manage to walk out of the gymnasium side by side without another word of protest from anyone.
Afterwards, in the parking lot, they both spend a good five minutes laughing quietly about how ironic it is that speed dating is infinitely more terrifying than any monster of the week they’ve ever faced in their lives.
“That,” Argent says some time later, over drinks at the local sports bar, while a game of college basketball plays on in the background, “was rather inspired, Sheriff.”
The Sheriff frowns back at him over his third bottle of beer. “You sound like you’re surprised I can be inspired.”
Argent’s lips twitch minutely, in a way that makes the action difficult to see in the dim light of the bar. The Sheriff is beginning to realize most of Argent’s expressions are like that, completely subtle to the point that if you’re not looking for them, you’ll probably miss more than half of them. Even when Argent laughs it’s silent, just a crinkling of the lines around his eyes and the barest upward turning of his lips as he breathes. The Sheriff thinks it must be a werewolf hunting thing. Or growing up with a psychotic father thing. He’s not judging though. It’s clearly useful in crisis situations.
“I don’t mean it that way, Sheriff,” Argent says after a beat, with a vague, apologetic wave of his hand. “I just didn’t think you’d go with that particular plan of escape, given the options.”
The Sheriff blinks. “I wasn’t aware there were other options.”
Argent’s very even, very white teeth gleam in the dim light of the bar. “When you got that look like you do when you get an idea, I thought you were going to arrest me. I was preparing for that.”
The Sheriff snorts. “Would you have preferred that?” he inquires, eyebrows arched, because the Argents are one weird family. Also, he might be a little insulted, because like Stiles had intoned over the phone earlier, he’s a catch.
Argent huffs in quiet laughter at Sheriff Stilinski’s put out tone. “I have very good lawyers,” he says, and waves at the bartender for two more beers. “No one would have been surprised if they had me out of your custody within the hour.”
Well, that makes sense too, he supposes, and in retrospect, figures he maybe should have tried that first. To be fair, he hadn’t had his handcuffs on him.
The Sheriff takes the offered beer from Argent with a small salute. “I’ll keep that in mind for next time then,” he says, and the two of them clink their bottles together in manly solidarity. They watch the rest of the basketball game without saying another word for the remainder of the night, and the Sheriff wonders if this counts as enough human interaction outside of work to keep him from turning into (more of) a serial killer. He’ll ask Stiles about it tomorrow.
And if nothing else, he can also tell Stiles he went on an unexpectedly decent date after all.
The Sheriff is at the gym as per usual Sunday morning, stretching his back out and preparing to brutalize an innocent sandbag when Argent walks in for his own morning workout, the hunter moving with his usual purposeful stride through the gym’s doors at exactly the same time as he had last week. The Sheriff has always noticed him, more out of a need to be wary than anything else, especially in those early days of their acquaintance, when Sheriff Stilinski was still getting used to the existence of werewolves and monsters and monster killers in his life. He knows that Argent always comes in to the gym on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and that he goes to the very back corner all by himself and quietly wails on a punching bag for an hour like it’s personally offended him. He never speaks, never loses focus, and definitely, definitely, never smiles while he does it. The Sheriff supposes it’s part of the job, or the training, or maybe just because training to hunt supernatural creatures for a living is a joyless existence. In either case, he’s used to Argent brushing past him like nothing else in the world exists save for his singular vendetta against whatever punching bag in the back is currently unoccupied and threatening the lives of innocent civilians.
Except today, something changes. The Sheriff thinks it has to do with Friday night, and how a couple of beers, a college basketball game, and running from your life from rabid middle-aged singles tends to bond people. Because today, Argent sees him in the gym – like he always does – and actually stops. The Sheriff pauses mid-stretch, looking on curiously. “Morning, Sheriff,” Argent greets, a little stiffly, though with obvious good intentions.
The Sheriff feels himself smiling in return reflexively, even as the other muscleheads in the gym all stutter a little in their rhythms to side-eye them, because the Beacon Hills gossip mill has apparently breached what the Sheriff considered to be the last bastion of masculinity in suburbia. Everyone here already seems to know all about the Sheriff’s date with Argent on Friday and is probably judging them for it. The thought about making them all incredibly uncomfortable for the rest of the morning makes his grin even broader.
“Argent,” he greets back, and sees it when the werewolf hunter feels the shift in atmosphere around them as well. He doesn’t acknowledge it beyond a slight arching of his eyebrows, and the Sheriff figures between the two of them, if anyone wants to start any trouble, they can subdue them and throw them in lockup for a while. Friends in high places, and all that. Plus Argent has a gun in his glove compartment.
The Sheriff tugs on his first glove and then taps Argent on the shoulder with it. Friendships, he knows, can start with just the smallest incident, but need constant attention to grow and thrive. With his kid gone and monsters constantly popping up in town, the Sheriff thinks he should be cultivating all the friends he can. He clears his throat. “I know you usually lurk in the dark corners when you come in here, but seeing as to how you bought the beer last night, I’m inviting you to hop in the ring with me and punch me in the face a couple of times over the next hour,” he offers, in a light enough way he hopes Argent knows he can decline if he wants to.
But Argent just smiles, very slightly, and his eyes kind of look like they’d love to punch the Sheriff in the face. “Sheriff,” he answers, voice a rumbling chuckle, “it would be my genuine pleasure.”
The Sheriff laughs right back, because that’s the spirit. “Okay then. Loser buys smoothies.”
He heads for the ring first to warm up, and when Chris moves to follow, eyes dark with promise, the Sheriff thinks this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
As it turns out, Chris is forced to buy the Sheriff a smoothie after their sparring match, when the Sheriff ends up winning by sheer luck and a very secret past as an almost-famous kickboxing prodigy. The fact that he’s still got some moves despite also having twenty extra pounds and more than twenty extra years on him is gratifying, to say the least.
Argent, for his part, takes the loss graciously, and as the two of them drink their smoothies and catch their breaths at the little juice bar at the front of the gym, the Sheriff is compelled to explain. “I almost became a professional kickboxer, once,” he says briefly. “A long time ago.”
Argent’s eyebrows dart up as he turns his plastic cup of strawberry banana in his hands. “Oh?” Thankfully, he looks like he believes it more than thinks it’s unbelievable.
The Sheriff almost doesn’t believe it sometimes, if not for the fact that he’d lived it. Or almost lived it, as the case may be. He leans back, thinking about himself all those years ago, and how much the him of now wouldn’t have liked that guy if they ran into each other on the street today. “The plan of my twenties was to go around the world to tournaments, kick ass, take names, and become famous.”
Now Argent looks vaguely skeptical, which makes the Sheriff laugh. “No really,” he says. “I was good. Enough to make me think I was on the path to superstardom.”
“What changed?” Argent asks.
The Sheriff is almost embarrassed to say, because it’s so obvious. But then again, he should be too old to be embarrassed about these things anymore. “There was this girl,” he admits, and can remember the exact moment he’d first seen his wife, the flash of her eyes, the curl of her smile. “And she told me I wasn’t as amazing as I thought I was.” He sighs and leans back and shrugs. “She was right.”
Chris nods knowingly, like maybe he’s been there himself before, rash and young and completely cocksure. The Sheriff amuses himself trying to imagine the solemn Chris Argent he’s known for the last few years being some sort of wild rogue hunter, traveling the country in a muscle car, listening to rock music, and killing things. It doesn’t quite compute. “Well. For someone so domesticated,” Chris offers eventually, wincing slightly as he runs a hand along his side where the Sheriff had landed a pretty solid blow earlier, “your footwork is still surprisingly excellent.”
“Practice,” the Sheriff says waving absently at Argent like it isn’t a big deal. “And probably my opponent underestimating me. You’ve got some mean footwork yourself, but I expected it from all the werewolf hunting.” Argent has probably been fighting longer than he’s been able to speak.
As if to confirm, Chris smirks a little and nods. “My father started training me since I could walk,” he admits. “But even still, after all that training and all the practice, I learned that sometimes, raw talent is what makes the difference.”
The Sheriff detects a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste of those words, but not anything too sharp, too sad. It’s like an old wound being prodded at maybe, and when Chris’s eyes dart to the Sheriff, he shakes his head like he realizes he’d been doing it and knows it’s just a bad habit from days long past. “I was never the strongest in my family,” Chris clarifies, sounding mild again. “And far from the best.”
The Sheriff had nearly gotten his ass handed to him back there on the mat, several times. He whistles at the thought of Chris not being the best fighter in his family. “I’d hate to see who was the best then. That’s actually a little scary.”
“Victoria, mostly,” he answers, a slight twinge in his voice that the Sheriff knows too well. It’s the twinge that comes with the way your heart stops for just a moment, whenever you stumble over the name of someone you love that isn’t there anymore. Argent’s eyes are fond though, and maybe that means it’s not as bad anymore. It will never be good, but if anything, the Sheriff knows that time has a way of making it not as bad as it had been. “Victoria was always stronger than me,” he says distantly, momentarily lost in a memory.
“They always are,” the Sheriff says simply.
They finish the rest of their smoothies, and before long, Chris is looking at the Sheriff again, and politely asking for a rematch next week.
“You’re on,” the Sheriff agrees, and figures next week, without the element of surprise on his side, the smoothies will be on him.
“So I hear you’re dating Chris Argent now,” Stiles sing-songs over the phone without so much as a hello, amusement evident in his voice.
The Sheriff sighs. “Derek?” he asks.
Stiles snorts. “Barb told me,” he answers. “She thinks it’s very sweet, by the way. Some people go their whole lives hiding who they are and…”
“Stiles,” the Sheriff warns, and on the other end of the line, his son bursts out into helpless laughter.
“Sorry, sorry. It was weird hearing about it at first, but when I thought about it you guys have like, loads in common.”
The Sheriff supposes that’s true.
“Anyway,” Stiles sums up, and the Sheriff can almost hear him absently gesticulating to himself about it over the phone, “I’m just glad you have a friend, I guess.”
“What can I say, we bonded over our nosy kids,” the Sheriff says, around a sideways smile. Then adds, more gently, “And maybe some beer and UCLA basketball too,” because he still loves his nosy kid.
“Really? Because Allison tells me it was beer and crescent-wrapped wieners. Which is kind of like, Freudian or something, isn’t it?”
“Stiles,” the Sheriff huffs. “Don’t you have homework to do?”
“This is college, dad.”
“When I went to college there was homework.”
“There also wasn’t electricity or indoor plumbing, so…”
The Sheriff feels himself smiling despite himself. “I’m turning your room into a game room and selling your bed,” he warns, however facetiously. “You’ll have to sleep on the couch when you come back.”
“Dude, my room’s got an Xbox in it. It’s already a game room. There’s nothing to change.”
“Smartass,” the Sheriff mutters. “I thought you’d have something important to say when you called today.”
“Wow it’s like you don’t know me at all,” Stiles quips lightly, and the Sheriff knows that they don’t have to say anything important at all in these conversations to feel comforted by them. Stiles is only a couple of hours away at best, but even still, the distance feels a thousand times that on some days, particularly after long ones at work where horrible things happen and the Sheriff is forced to return to an empty, silent house to nurse his wounds alone, both physical and otherwise.
“You keeping yourself fed all right?” the Sheriff asks after their next pause. “Easy Mac doesn’t count.”
“I made pot roast in the slow cooker Derek got me,” Stiles reports, sounding proud. “I think he was as worried about me getting scurvy as you were.”
The Sheriff supposes that means he’ll have to find Derek and thank him sometime soon. If anything, he does take care of his own. How, exactly, Stiles factors into the pack hierarchy is something the Sheriff has never tried to figure out though, possibly for his own mental health. “Good,” he says to Stiles, simply. He misses his kid sometimes.
Then, to remind him of the times when he doesn’t miss him, Stiles inexplicably blurts, “So when’s your next date with Chris? I’m thinking you should do dinner, a movie, maybe some flowers. You know, be classy about i…”
The Sheriff hangs up on him.
Their next “date” actually involves hours spent in a decrepit tomb at the old cemetery, decapitating a family of ghouls that have taken up residence there. It’s hard because ghouls, as Alan had so helpfully pointed out earlier, have the ability to take on the forms and memories of the people whose remains they ate last. Chris comes out of the ordeal the worse of the two of them for it, with a tightness around his eyes and a rigid set to his shoulders that reeks of guilt, because the ghouls had been wearing the faces of a couple of his men, both of whom were killed by ghosts two months ago. The hunters had been young, much younger than either Chris or the Sheriff, and the Sheriff knows what that’s like, to have the lives of other people in your hands, to be responsible for them and fail them in the end. He still wakes up in cold sweats sometimes, remembering the long line of corpses Matt Daehler had left in the Sheriff’s Department all those years ago.
“It’s worse when they’re young,” Chris murmurs as they dig tiredly in the dirt of the graveyard, putting the desecrated graves of the hunters to rights after burning the bloody bodies of the imposters. “I had to call their parents. I had to tell them ghosts killed their sons under my watch and there was nothing I could do about it.” Pause. “The worst part is, none of them yelled at me. No one blamed me. They should have.”
The Sheriff nods wordlessly and pours another shovel full of cold, dark earth over the disturbed graves.
They both know that being the ones left behind is a terrible, lonely thing.
When they’re done reburying the dead, the Sheriff looks at Chris, at the bleeding, ugly gash along his arm from the fight, and says, “Let me take you home. Derek and Scott will take care of the rest.”
Chris nods, and when they arrive at the Argent house, the Sheriff follows Chris inside and helps him clean and patch up his arm. They drink a beer together at Chris’s kitchen island and don’t say anything for a very long time.
When the Sheriff wakes up it’s on Chris’s couch, from where he’d slumped into unconscious exhaustion after the ghoul hunt. His phone is ringing in his breast pocket and he fumbles numbly for it, picks it up, and hears Derek’s voice on the other line, sounding winded at the crack of dawn. “Got the runners,” he says simply. Then, after a brief pause, adds an annoyed sounding, “It wouldn’t have taken so long if Scott hadn’t fallen off a cliff.”
The Sheriff only manages a grunt in acknowledgement before Derek is hanging up.
The Sheriff shakes his head a little and sits up on the couch, scrubbing at his face. He should have gone home last night, but after the mixture of beer and exhaustion, he’d wanted to sit for a little bit and calm down before driving back. Looks like he’s getting too old for these late nights. He’d passed out cold before he even hit the cushions.
Sometime during the night, he’d been covered up by a warm gray afghan with a simple flower pattern on it, something soft and feminine and old looking. It reminds him of a well-worn sweater of his wife’s that he keeps at the back of his closet, in a small pile of her things that he’d never managed to donate or throw away, even after all this time. He grunts to himself groggily and carefully pulls the afghan off and folds it up, settling it neatly to the side of the couch, just beside a pair of fat, unmatched cushions. Then he rubs at his eyes and grunts a little, shifting slowly to get the kinks of sleeping on an unfamiliar couch out of his limbs, his neck, his extremities.
He looks around in the meantime, to the pictures on the walls and the tables, where little glimpses of the Argents’ family life sit on display. Something about them feels old when he looks at them, like they must all be remnants of Victoria’s touches, to make the place look homier. Either that or to encourage the façade of hominess, if what Scott has to say about her is true. The Sheriff is struck by how much Chris’s living room looks like his own had during the first few months following his wife’s death. There is the same sense of the space undergoing a concentrated attempt to stay exactly as his wife had wanted it, untouched by the lives slowly moving on around everything she’d had a hand in here. It’s kind of amazing that Chris has managed to keep it so pristine, so untouched, after all these years. The Sheriff’s attempts at keeping his home frozen in time for the sake of his wife’s memory had been quickly quashed by a hyperactive child who lived and breathed change whether he wanted to or not. Stiles had been constantly underfoot, tripping over himself and into everything, disrupting what would have otherwise felt like a carefully preserved tomb of a house with his insistent, intense need to move.
The Sheriff lets his eyes linger on an old family photo of the Argents over the mantle, an image of Chris and Victoria and Allison at thirteen or fourteen. He wonders if there are any newer pictures anywhere, anything that hints at the life that has been lived in this home after Victoria. Stiles had haphazardly insisted on it happening at the Stilinski home, had put pictures of just the two of them up on the walls after his mother’s death, stubbornly squishing as many new memories and moments into every nook and cranny that he could. The Sheriff still doesn’t know if it had been for his own benefit or for his father’s, and as much as it had stunk in the beginning, as much as it had hurt not seeing three people in their family photos afterwards, it ended up helping later, mostly because in hindsight, the moments that happened after his wife’s death hadn’t been all bad. There had been, in fact, a lot of good things that happened too, and the Sheriff is grateful now, that his son had insisted on living through those good things, and remembering them, and not letting the shadows of things past ruin or lessen or taint them. Not for the first time, the Sheriff finds himself thinking ‘thank god for Stiles,’ in the quiet of his own head.
The Sheriff eventually tears his eyes away from the old family photos on the table and stands up, stretching the last of the aches out of his back before he quietly heads to the door and lets himself out.
He drives through the empty streets of Beacon Hills as the sun comes up, and once he’s standing in front of his front door, pauses to text Stiles, because he can’t help it.
“Took out a nest of ghouls last night. Just a few scratches, no big deal,” the text reads. It ends with, “Study hard.” From there, he goes to brush his teeth, which feel gritty, before stumbling tiredly into the shower to wash the dirt off.
When he climbs out of the bathroom ten minutes later, the light on his phone is flashing green with a new message.
It simply says, “Miss you too, Dad.”
“Seriously?” Stiles demands over the phone that evening, around a very obvious snicker. “I heard you did the walk of shame out of Mr. Argent’s house yesterday, dad. Tell me, is it serious? Have you called him since? Does he still respect you?”
The Sheriff almost rolls his eyes. “Tell Derek he’s creepy.”
“Oh he knows he’s creepy,” Stiles answers without missing a beat. “But I actually heard this from Allison.”
The Sheriff blinks. “What?”
“She heard it from Scott,” Stiles explains, which doesn’t make this whole thing better. Plus, Scott better not have called it the walk of shame. “Who might have heard it from Derek, but whatever. Technicalities.”
The Sheriff has a headache.
“Scott didn’t call it the walk of shame, if you’re wondering,” Stiles clarifies, because he knows that his best friend is at BHCC and that the Sheriff can drive over there right now if he wants and make Scott’s life miserable. “I’m calling it the walk of shame, because seriously, it’s hilarious and adorable.” Pause. “Except where it kind of suggests old people sex. Oh god, I just Nights of Rodanthe’d myself, that was a mental image I did not need. Ugh. And now I can’t stop thinking about it.”
The Sheriff sighs heavily into the phone. “Stiles, did you take your medication today?” he asks.
Stiles pauses. “What time is it?”
“Five,” the Sheriff says, when he looks at the clock hanging on the wall.
Stiles inhales sharply. “That explains so much about my day,” he mutters.
“I’ll bet,” the Sheriff answers. “Goodbye, Stiles.”
“Take your medication.”
The Sheriff hangs up shaking his head. It is kind of nice to know his kid still needs him for some things, though.
By the time their sparring matches on Sunday mornings become a regular thing, Sal, the owner of the gym, starts reserving the ring closest to the door for them as a foregone conclusion. “Got the best light, chief,” he tells the Sheriff when the Sheriff looks surprised that he’d be willing to give them such a prime spot when there’s classes to be taught and young people to inspire through the windows.
He figures maybe it has something to do with his standing as a town authority, or Chris’s standing as some sort of billionaire Tony Stark equivalent. Whatever the reason is doesn’t matter, because it means the Sheriff doesn’t have to go through the trouble of making the reservation every week when it’s a standing order from the owner. Chris, ever placid, doesn’t mention anything about the change of venue from the back of the gym to the front of it at all. Sal is a friendly guy, and the lighting really is better near the front, where the east-facing windows let in the morning light at just the right angle from beyond the sanctuary of the Beacon Hills Methodist Church across the street.
It isn’t until three weeks after the fact that the mysterious reasoning behind Sal’s sudden generosity suddenly starts to make sense.
Eventually, they both notice the faces. In the windows.
Well, the Sheriff notices them first, and gets a glove to the face for his efforts, when he freezes long enough to let his guard down and Chris shuffles right on through his lowered defenses with a well placed jab.
Chris withdraws immediately at the uncharacteristically easy hit. “Sheriff?”
The Sheriff shakes his head, wipes sweat from his forehead with his forearm, and suddenly wishes he was wearing a shirt. Or that one of them was, really.
Following his gaze, Chris turns around, only to come face to face with every single member of Mrs. Pickett’s Sunday Bible Study in the Park group, staring at them through the window like they’re the last fresh baked blueberry muffins from Starbucks.
Chris’s eyes widen marginally, and then he very slowly turns back to face the Sheriff. The ladies twitter at one another and wave at the Sheriff over Chris’s shoulder. “Don’t mind us!” Julie Chow, the pediatrician who has treated Stiles since he was two shouts at him, and grins. “Just enjoying the beauty of the sport, gentlemen!”
Chris and the Sheriff share another look, in between heaving breaths and complete mortification. “Draw?” Chris offers after a beat, with a wary look sideways at the window again.
The Sheriff nods hastily. “Draw.”
They spring out of the ring and quickly grab shirts. Sal tsks at them in disappointment and asks if anything is the matter, looking completely innocent. Chris gives him a hard look, the same kind he gives all the man-eating creatures he’s about to kill, and the sight of it is enough that Sal quickly takes a step backwards, shrugging helplessly as he drops the innocent act. “Female membership is up twenty percent since you two started your thing,” he explains with a vague gesture in their general direction, like it’s something any honest businessman would have taken advantage of if they’d been in his shoes.
The Sheriff wipes sweat off of his forehead on the sleeve of his old BHSD T-shirt. “Back ring next week, Sal,” he says, voice ringing with authority. And maybe some warning too.
Sal manages a sheepish smile, clearly thankful for being let off the hook so easy. “You want the back, you got the back, chief,” he swears, and Chris huffs something a lot like disbelieving laughter as they head back to the locker room to shower and change.
“I forgot how strange small towns could be,” Chris admits after they’re cleaned up, towel drying his hair absently and looking over his shoulder like he expects Mrs. Pickett and company to be right behind him, still leering.
The Sheriff shrugs back. “At least they’ve stopped asking us to go to speed dating.”
Chris’s answering expression is incredibly unimpressed.
On the anniversary of Victoria Argent’s death, Sheriff Stilinski is kidnapped by dragons.
It’s almost perfect timing except for where it’s not, because Sheriff Stilinski is kidnapped by dragons like some sort of fairytale princess. On the other hand, it will give Chris something evil to take out his frustrations on (hopefully) given that the entire week leading up to today, Chris had been withdrawn and something akin to surly, insofar as someone so stoic can be surly. He’d shot Derek in the leg the night before, ostensibly by accident, but when Derek hadn’t mouthed a single word (or even a growl) of complaint, the Sheriff suddenly remembered what date was almost upon them.
He’d tentatively asked afterwards, if maybe Chris wanted to do something on Saturday, remaining purposefully vague because he hadn’t been sure if Chris was the kind of guy who wanted to go out on the night and completely forget, or if he was the opposite, and was the kind of man who would sit at her gravesite all day and make himself remember.
He still doesn’t technically know, to be perfectly honest, because Chris had only grunted back noncommittally, and, well, the Sheriff has since been kidnapped. By dragons.
Who don’t look anything like dragons. In fact, they look like regular people, except they breathe fire and have a stockpile of stolen gold jewelry from various heists across the county stored in the sewers under Beacon Hills Community College. The Sheriff is starting to wonder if they’re were-dragons and can actually transform into huge, scaly, fire-breathing flying lizards at will. The thought is kind of terrifying. More rationally, he wonders if maybe they’re hopped up on drugs and just think they’re dragons, which makes more sense in the real world. Especially because that would also explain why they seem to think the Sheriff of Beacon Hills is a princess and needs to be kidnapped and kept chained up in a dungeon next to their piles of gold.
Except that people who are incredibly high would probably be less good at procuring so much gold for themselves without getting caught. Also, this is Beacon Hills, which is only real world adjacent on its best days.
The Sheriff sighs as his own logic comes back to bite him in the ass. So these guys are actually dragons who can transform into humans and who are in complete possession of all their faculties, however evil they may be.
Which means, at the very least, that they don’t actually think he’s really a princess.
“Argent will come to save him right?” the shortest of the three dragons murmurs to a gangly one with bright red hair. “I mean, the rumors said one thing, but they don’t actually smell like they’re…” he trails off, wrinkling his nose in confusion.
The Sheriff rolls his eyes because there is no such thing as friendship between men anymore, even to mythical fairytale creatures that are traditionally evil.
“Just shut up and watch the entrance,” the redhead snaps back. “He’ll bring the sword unless he wants the Sheriff torched.” The redhead turns to offer the Sheriff a leer as he says that, gray smoke curling through his nostrils in a threatening way.
The Sheriff tries to look unimpressed. He is currently handcuffed with his own handcuffs to a railing, which is embarrassing, but at the same time, kind of comforting, because he’s dislocated his own thumbs before, and he knows if he makes himself bleed just enough, it’ll be all the lubrication he’ll need to pull a hand through. Like hell he’s going to sit here and wait for Chris to walk into an ambush. Though knowing Chris, he probably won’t, and there will be werewolves with him, but all the same, the Sheriff is not actually sure how one goes about killing a dragon (even with werewolf help), short of what he’s seen in Disney movies.
It sounds like Chris is bringing a sword with him though, so that seems promising. The Sheriff manages to hold back a wince as he dislocates his left thumb.
The dragons pace around their little basement keep impatiently in the meantime, and through the haze of his pain, the Sheriff focuses on them, studies them, and makes notes, because even when he’s fighting supernatural baddies of every size and shape, his cop’s instincts don’t just turn off. The short one seems nervous, but excited, walking purposefully back and forth around the floor while the redhead breathes in, patrols a little more carefully, eyes alert like he’s actually nervous about what’s coming. They circle close to the gold mostly, keeping greedy eyes on it.
A bolt clicks from the top of the staircase and they both still instinctively, before catching the scent of something familiar and relaxing. An older-looking man wearing a janitor’s uniform strolls down the stairs, eyes flashing yellow in the dim light as he passes into the Sheriff’s line of vision. “Gird yourselves, boys,” the newcomer announces jovially, accented and gruff. “Argent is coming. Flew over his car on the highway. He’s not got the pups with him either, if you believe it.” Both young dragons react positively to this.
“It’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel,” the redhead snorts, relaxing back against a boiler.
The short one looks jubilant. “Then we’ve got it, boss. This is the end of it all.”
The leader’s eyes sparkle dangerously in response, and the Sheriff swears he sees fang in the old man’s grin. “That’s right. No more hunting that fake garbage across the damn continent. If they say Argent has it after all, then Argent has it.”
The Sheriff has no idea what they’re talking about, wincing marginally as he works on rubbing his wrist along the edge of the cuffs in order to break the skin and start bleeding. Why Chris would do something so irrational as not bring their werewolf pack to a monster fight makes him angry for a second, before he remembers, suddenly, what tonight is, was supposed to be, for the man. Seeing the pack would probably be the last thing on his agenda for today. Being irrational is also a necessary part of that same agenda. For all the Sheriff knows, Chris is headed here half drunk and out of his mind.
Jovial, the old dragon grasps his two underlings fondly by the back of their necks. “Last one boys. We get this last sword in our hands and we’re unstoppable.”
The Sheriff absently wonders if Chris has Excalibur hidden in the depths of his family’s old weapons cabinet or something. It wouldn’t be a far cry from what he’s come to expect, considering, but then again, the Sheriff isn’t sure he’s ready for Merlin and Arthur to be real either.
His breath only hitches a little as he manages to slide his first hand free. His wrist oozes blood and the skin is scraped raw and painful, but he can still move it mostly normally after popping his thumb back in place, fingers wrapping around the gun that the dragons hadn’t even bothered to divest him of when they’d jumped him in his own damn driveway earlier. That probably just means his gun can’t hurt them, but having it makes him feels loads better. It’s like a security blanket that kills things (some things).
He hisses in a sharp breath as he starts on his right hand, this one going more quickly now that he’s half free. For now, all he can hope for is Chris storming the castle (so to speak) in a truly spectacular and distracting manner so that when he suddenly pops loose, a dragon won’t kill him instantly. Then they can share knowledge on how one kills dragons-that-look-like-humans and go from there.
But what feels like only moments later, all the Sheriff’s hopes and dreams are shattered by a firm, but not very spectacular or distracting, knock on the door.
The Sheriff groans as the short dragon goes to open it. He hears footsteps descending again after that, and before he knows what’s happening, the dragon is hauling Chris downstairs by the arm. Chris has a scabbard in his hand, old looking and cracked. Inside of it is a rusty old sword.
The Sheriff looks at Chris incredulously. The dragons grin.
“As I said on the phone, we trade the sword for the Sheriff, Mr. Argent,” leader-dragon prompts.
Chris looks pissy and tired, and a little bit like he’s spent the entire day curled up in a ball of self-pity on his couch before he’d gotten the call from the Sheriff’s phone, courtesy of the dragons. He tosses the sword, without any preamble, down on the floor at the leader’s feet. “Done,” he says, and the curtness of his response is enough to even make the bad guys falter a little bit.
“The last known sword forged with the blood of a dragon, and you give it to us so carelessly?” the leader whistles, almost disbelieving. “When they said house Argent was falling down around itself they weren’t lying, I suppose.”
Chris’s eyes harden, sharp like diamonds at the words. “The Sheriff,” he says, voice frigid.
The leader picks up the sword instead, examines it with some strange mixture of awe and fear. “No, you don’t get to make any demands now, child. This is the last known weapon that can kill us. What do we have to fear from you or your kind anymore?” he hisses, fingers of his free hand stretching and shifting, turning scaly in the light and glinting with obsidian talons. “You gave it over so easily, without even a fight.”
“Are you complaining?” Chris asks, sounding amused.
The leader snorts. “We’ve all known since you took over for Gerard that you have always been the weakest link, boy. Your father, your wife, even your mother, were so feared by our kind. Your sister too, was respectable as a warrior. But you? I look at you know and all I see is you’ve grown soft and fat and tired with the years.” He grins and his teeth begin to morph as well, human skin peeling back to reveal a bat-like creature with a long snout and a flickering forked tongue. “And now we slay the last of the great monster slayers.”
Chris’s jaw twitches. “It’s true,” he admits eventually, and the Sheriff slips his other hand free in the meantime. “I let us get to this.” He puts his arms out, palms facing the leader, ostensibly in surrender. “Because I can’t fight like the rest of them did.”
The leader snorts, unimpressed. “This is the family that nearly wiped out Clan Buccleuch a hundred years ago?” he scoffs, and eyes Chris like Chris’s name is about as intimidating as well, the Sheriff’s is, in whatever ancient clan wars they’re talking about. “I will give the clans your head and tell them there are no dragon slayers left in the Argents,” he says menacingly, and takes a step forward. The Sheriff’s heart rate ratchets up and he reaches, hastily, for his gun.
Chris doesn’t move. “To be fair,” he begins, a bit of a nasty glint in his eye and no fear to speak of, “My family was mostly known for the werewolf hunting.”
And then he smiles, and there is a swift thwipping sound as two very sleek, very long knives are suddenly shooting out of Chris’s sleeves and imbedding themselves into the leader’s throat.
The dragon gives a surprised gurgle, the sound of sizzling filling the room as his throat begins oozing blood that looks a lot like molten lava. The leader flounders in shock, too stunned to move, and Chris takes the advantage by striding forward in two quick steps and grabbing the sword out of the dragon’s dying hands as the light fades from his eyes. The short dragon and the redheaded one stare in surprise for a moment, at the sudden and brutal death of their boss, and it’s just enough time for Chris to pull the sword from its scabbard and drive it hard into the redhead’s chest with another sizzle. The scent of burning flesh fills the basement as the bodies of the dead and dying dragons burn away to nondescript piles of ashes. The short one hisses and leaps back before Chris can pull the blade from the chest of the redhead though, arching its neck and transforming in front of them, wings sprouting from its shoulders, eyes glowing red and teeth elongating in its mouth as an armor of scales starts to appear on what was formerly pale, freckled skin.
A handful of talon-tipped claws makes a hastily, angry swipe at Chris’s chest, ripping fabric and drawing faint lines of blood. The Sheriff finds himself instinctively lurching into action at the sight of blood, of someone else’s, of a friend’s. He drops his gun to the floor with a clatter and dives for the ashes of the leader, digging through the still smoldering embers and burning the skin on his already much abused hands. He hisses and quickly pulls the ends of his sleeves down over the palms, even as Chris and the dragon go head-to-head a few feet away, all darting fangs and swinging blades. A moment later the Sheriff comes up with one of the long, needle-like daggers that had been in the leader’s throat, and stumbling back to his feet, takes a moment to close his eyes and mutter a silent prayer before shifting sideways, along the dragon’s blind side. Chris sees him in his periphery and the two of them nod at each other in silent acknowledgement, almost imperceptibly.
Abruptly, Chris swings the sword in a broad, clumsy arc that the dragon dodges, and the weight of the blade on the follow through leaves Chris open to counterattack, his side bared to a dragon’s mouth full of glinting teeth. The dragon sees this, and taking the bait, darts its head forward triumphantly, stretching its neck towards Chris’s unprotected flank. In the course of doing so, it unwittingly exposes itself to the Sheriff.
The Sheriff takes a flying leap forward and drives the blade of into the dragon’s back, throwing his entire weight into it until it pierces the leathery skin and slides easily into the soft flesh underneath, point coming out where he expects a heart to be.
The creature gurgles in pain, and reaches up to clutch at the Sheriff, drawing a long line of bloody claw marks down his forearm.
Chris very professionally lops off its head before it can take the Sheriff’s hand off.
The scent of burning flesh assaults the Sheriff’s nose in the same way a skunk spray overwhelms any sense of smell, becoming overpowering to the point where there isn’t actually any odor to speak of anymore, just a painful burning sensation along his sinuses.
The body melts into ashes as the Sheriff takes an unsteady step back and tries to get his heart rate to slow down again.
Chris, ever courteous, gives him a good five minutes to catch his breath. “You okay, Sheriff?” he asks eventually, eyebrows raised in concern as his own hand flutters over the claw marks on his chest, just to test the amount of blood oozing out. From his expression he doesn’t find the severity of the wound particularly worrying. Then again, Chris never seems to look like any of his injuries are worrying, even when they really, really are.
The Sheriff stares at him, bewildered. “I thought,” he began, and gestured vaguely to the little long-bladed dagger, now sitting atop a fresh pile of charred dragon bits. “I thought only the sword could kill them?” The dragons certainly seemed to think so, for all they’d gone on about it being the last weapon that could harm them.
“Only blades forged with dragon’s blood can actually slay a dragon,” Chris answers, and bends to pick up the dagger. “For a long time, there were only a handful of weapons in the world that fit the bill.”
The Sheriff’s eyes flicker to the old, unimpressive sword. “Which you’re supposed to have the last of.”
Chris’s smile is small, but sharp. “They were right, Sheriff,” he says after a moment, “I’m not the same kind of hunter my father or my sister were.” He examines the dagger’s blade in the dim light of the basement, looking satisfied when his eyes catch a hint of red blood gathered along its edge. He spins the weapon in his hand carefully, so that all the remaining liquid on its edge collects on one side. “The last time an Argent killed a dragon,” he continues conversationally, “I was fifteen and in charge of cleaning my grandfather’s weapons.” His smile broadens slightly at the memory. “It’s hard to come by dragon’s blood, because it has to be extracted from the body before the creature dies. Once it’s dead, it all becomes ash.”
The Sheriff is suitably impressed. “So you found dragon’s blood on your grandfather’s sword.”
Chris nods, reaching into his pocket for a small vial, which he uncaps with his teeth before collecting the blood he’s gathered from the dagger into it. “And used it. The dragons don’t need to know the exact number of things I have that can kill them,” he admits. “If they think the sword is the last, it’s a tactical advantage.”
The Sheriff barks in laughter. “And they say the women are the strategists in your family,” he whistles, in a moment of carelessness. Then he winces when he remembers himself, and what tonight is. He used to wonder sometimes, where Stiles got his foot-in-mouth syndrome, but at times like these, he has to admit that he knows exactly from which side of his family it hails.
Chris’s smile does dim slightly, but his expression doesn’t turn morose, just thoughtful. “Oh Victoria was much better than me at this too,” he says quietly, and wordlessly goes to collect the other blade from amongst the ashes. “But she’s not here.” Chris pockets the vial. “We work with what we have, Sheriff. That’s all.”
The Sheriff, cowed, silently gathers up the pile of stolen gold to be cataloged and returned to its proper owners down at the station at a later time.
Afterwards, when they are walking through the commons of BHCC side by side to the odd looks of all of the students currently taking up residence in the campus coffee shop, the Sheriff catches a glimpse of himself in the reflection of a window. There are bruises in the shape of a hand on his neck from where he’d been choked outside his car earlier, bloody scrapes along both wrists, and a cut right over his eyebrow that is oozing blood lazily down the side of his face. Chris for the most part, looks fine with his jacket zipped up to hide his wounds, though he’s still a little singed and his hair is a windswept mess on his head. The Sheriff sighs.
“Problem?” Chris asks.
The Sheriff shakes his head and puts his hand on Chris’s shoulder. “Lemme buy you a beer tonight, Chris,” he offers, because that’s what he’d been planning to do all along, before his stint as damsel in distress to a bunch of unimpressive dragons.
Chris studies their reflections in the window. “If we go out looking like this, people might talk, Sheriff.”
The Sheriff grins broadly and slings his arm companionably over Chris’s shoulders. “Let ‘em,” he says brightly, because tonight is still the night and that is all that matters here. “Besides, I have it on good authority that we’re both catches, so they can eat their hearts out.”
Chris shakes his head in quiet laughter but allows the Sheriff to steer him out to the parking lot.
The Sheriff finds out that Chris is both the kind of guy who goes out on days like these and the kind of guy who makes himself remember all at the same time. By the end of the night they’re both a little bit drunk and the Sheriff knows several stories about Victoria that have him believing Chris was one of the luckiest guys in the world.
The scandalized looks they get from their bartender for the state of the Sheriff’s wrists are totally worth it.
“Rumor has it you guys are into some hardcore BDSM,” Stiles brings up casually over the next weekend, while the sounds of keys clacking in the background tell the Sheriff that his son is probably frantically putting a term paper together at the last minute. “You really skeeved out a good population of Beacon Hills Community College with the aftermath of your bondage night out on Saturday, dad.”
The Sheriff rolls his eyes. “Dragons,” he explains. “I was kidnapped by dragons.”
Stiles stops clacking. “What, like a princess?” he blurts automatically, then pauses. The Sheriff can practically see his kid hastily backtracking. “You’re okay?”
“Nothing worse than what happens after a little hardcore BDSM apparently,” the Sheriff drawls.
Stiles physically recoils on the other side. “Okay, you can’t say those things. I can say those things when I’m making fun of you, but anyone over the age of forty cannot say those things out loud. Ever.” The clacking resumes.
The Sheriff agrees, but doesn’t say so in lieu of humming absently in noncommittal response. Stiles gets it anyway, and shifts the phone from where he’s obviously bracing it against his ear and shoulder. “So, fishing trip. You invite Mr. Argent to go with you this year?”
The Sheriff starts a little at the reminder that their annual fishing trip is coming up, and that Stiles won’t be there for it for the first time because the week the trip is scheduled for also happens to overlap with this huge opportunity Stiles is getting, where his department is actually paying for him to go to Eastern Europe and tour places famous for vampires for a History Channel documentary. Apparently it’s a big deal. The Sheriff has had some time to get over his disappointment and be happy for the kid, because apparently the head of the History Department at Berkley thinks Stiles’s papers are really something (they are, and the Sheriff is proud, and the deposit he put down on the cabin they were going to stay at is non-refundable and non-transferable).
“I was just thinking of going alone, to be honest,” the Sheriff admits, after a moment. Stiles makes a sound of protest.
“Look, I can call off going on the trip. I hear it takes like, a day for the plane ride alone, and who wants to go to Romania anyway, no one vacations there, they go to like France or Fiji…”
“Stiles,” the Sheriff interrupts, before they can go backwards in time and rehash this argument again.
Stiles takes a deep breath. “I just don’t think you should be alone.”
“I’m used to it,” the Sheriff blurts, without thinking.
“Liar,” Stiles chides, calling him out on it immediately. “You haven’t been alone for months,” he points out next, sounding completely reasonable. The clacking of the keys in the background resumes with impressive intensity. “You have an honest to goodness BFF now.”
The Sheriff hates it when Stiles is right.
He doesn’t actually end up asking if Chris wants to come with him after all, but only because Chris shoves a smoothie into his hand after their weekly sparring match the following Sunday and says, pointedly, “I don’t know how to fish, so you’re going to have to show me. I can gut things decently.”
The Sheriff blinks. Then says, “Allison?”
Chris smirks. “Scott.”
“This town is too damn small sometimes,” the Sheriff declares, and Chris just laughs at him.
He takes Chris to the sporting goods store on fifth after that and buys him a life-preserver jacket and a goofy hat. The girl behind the counter, Christie, who used to go to school with Stiles, smiles at them and calls them adorable more than once. The Sheriff, upon seeing Chris in his fly fisherman’s hat, supposes that for this one time, he can’t really disagree. He snaps a picture for Stiles to forward to Allison while Chris looks back at him in slightly belligerent confusion.
Chris breaks his leg during a fight with a revenant (Beacon Hills is always full of such new and exciting things) two nights later, and while Scott and Derek are dealing with it as the only remaining werewolves of the Hale pack in Beacon Hills until summer, it leaves the Sheriff to carry Chris out of the woods while two of Chris’s obedient underlings race ahead to get the car. The Sheriff calls Melissa on the way when Chris absolutely refuses to go to the hospital, and when the Argents’ ubiquitous black SUVS pull into the McCall driveway, Melissa opens the door and just stares at them with what can only be considered a judging look before inviting them in. “I’m not a doctor,” she says, looking the Sheriff and Chris over like they’re children, or at least, much older and far more pathetic versions of their own offspring. The Sheriff suddenly feels all of twelve years old again, getting scolded by his parents for playing too rough with one of his friends in the yard. Chris looks similarly sheepish around the eyes, but only murmurs, “I know, Mrs. McCall,” at Melissa contritely. He winces when she very expediently sets his leg, and through the pain, even manages to thank her properly. She pats him on the shoulder and goes to grab the Percocet from the first aid kit in her closet that she usually only saves for Stiles, Lydia, or Allison after werewolf shenanigans leave them grumpy and broken.
Alan shows up about twenty minutes after that, while Chris is passed out on the couch, and between the three of them, they get him wrapped up and in a cast before Derek and Scott show up to give the all-clear, their clothes and hair a gruesome mix of blood and something that looks a lot like ectoplasm. Scott fusses apologetically at Chris (probably because he’s going to have to tell Allison what happened in the morning). When Chris assures him it was his own fault and no one else’s, Scott still fusses, but looks less doom and gloom after that, enough that he lets his mom usher him upstairs to bed while he complains about not having time to study for his organic chemistry test. Derek just looks grudgingly concerned for Chris from the shadows, not in a way that means he cares for Chris as a person or anything, but that means he feels Chris’s injury as a statement regarding his inability to protect his territory and all the people who live in it. Stiles is right, Derek is troublesome.
Eventually the Sheriff waves them both off and is the one to drive Chris to his door, while the two sheepish young hunters who were supposed to help them tonight (but didn’t really help them so much as get thrown into trees a lot), open the door and watch the Sheriff carry Chris inside. The Sheriff dismisses them both directly thereafter, while he gently props Chris’s injured leg up on the coffee table and asks the groggy hunter if he wants anything to eat.
“Not really,” Chris answers grimly, relaxing back into the couch like he’s been through this particular injury a thousand times before. “Painkillers are going to kick in any minute now.”
The Sheriff nods because modern medicine is truly a wonderful thing, and exhausted himself, sits down onto the couch next to Chris, careful not to jostle the leg.
“We are too damn old for this,” he breathes, and can already feel the beginnings of what is going to be a massive backache tomorrow.
Chris’s lips quirk upward in amusement. “Retirement does look better and better.” Allison graduates in the summer from NYC with a major in business, a minor in French, and a super-secret degree in how to run the Argent Empire from the lessons she’s been taking in their east coast headquarters. The Sheriff would bet good money that graduation is also the date of Chris’s impending retirement.
They go quiet after that, just coming down from the adrenaline high of the hunt. Eventually Chris fumbles for the remote and flicks the TV on. The Sheriff furrows his brow when he focuses on the screen and sees a bunch of people in uniforms running from screeching aliens.
Chris looks sheepish. “I like sci-fi,” he admits, after a beat.
“Who doesn’t?” the Sheriff answers.
“Victoria,” Chris says eventually, as the guy who played MacGyver runs through a forest with a P-90 machine gun, hunting something glowy-eyed and evil. The Sheriff can tell that the glowy-eyed thing is evil because of all the eyeliner it’s wearing. “Victoria hated aliens,” Chris adds after a beat, somewhat drowsily.
The Sheriff blinks and wonders if that means the painkillers are starting to kick in, because for all he’s talking about his dead wife, Chris seems perfectly at ease about it, not even bothering to look away from the screen as that guy that played the psychopath in the second season of Burn Notice screams a lot.
“I guess I could see why,” he admits, when an evil-looking snake thing shoots out of the water and burrows into another guy’s neck. It’s kind of gross.
Chris’s eyes start to flutter a little as he nestles deeper into the couch. “She liked to be prepared for everything. Know an opponent’s weaknesses, have a plan, execute it perfectly. She didn’t like aliens because they weren’t in our bestiary.” He pauses then, to make a vague gesture with his hand at the screen. “She’d have to figure out how to kill them on the fly.”
The Sheriff is completely amused trying to imagine people as serious as the Argents arguing about why aliens are unacceptable monsters. “That is kind of troublesome,” he agrees, then pauses to eye Chris again. “But you like aliens.”
Chris chuckles. “Yes. Because I don’t have to understand them,” he murmurs, voice getting softer as the aliens on the screen start fighting another guy who is also, presumably, an alien. “All the other monsters I have to understand. Not aliens, because they’re not in the bestiary.”
Which makes a lot of sense too. “Isn’t this show kind of old?” the Sheriff asks abruptly, switching tracks.
Chris yawns. “I never got to choose what we watched,” he says simply, and then, with a groan and a frown, seems to realize that the Sheriff isn’t moving to leave. “You staying?” he asks, surprised.
The Sheriff nods. “Yup.” He doesn’t elaborate, and Chris doesn’t ask him anything else or protest. He just nods kind of blearily and says, “Thanks.”
The Sheriff says, “Don’t mention it,” and likes to think Chris doesn’t argue because he’s already heard all the stories about what it means to have a Stilinski as a friend.
Their freshman year, Stiles once drove Scott to the hospital after Scott vomited on him. Three times. Some of it, according to Stiles, had gotten into his mouth. It had ended up just being food poisoning in the end and not Ebola like Stiles feared, but even still, the Jeep had never smelled quite the same afterwards. Stiles hadn’t said one word of complaint about it until after he’d known Scott was going to live.
Basically, being friends with a Stilinski is the same as going all in at the high stakes poker game of life. The Sheriff has learned this from his son.
Five minutes later, after several aliens have been blasted to kingdom come with these really awkward looking staff weapons, Chris yawns once, his head lolls a little to the left, and then he’s out like a light.
The Sheriff sits next to him for a good thirty minutes after that, silently finishing the episode of the incomprehensible alien show that is old enough to only ever play in the middle of the night on Sy Fy now. It’s kind of interesting, and he definitely doesn’t understand the aliens or any of what is going on. That lady scientist with the boy’s haircut is kind of hot though.
Eventually, Sheriff Stilinski goes to rummage around in Chris’s kitchen and comes up with enough stuff that isn’t expired to make a decent sandwich. He hangs out in the armchair while he eats in case Chris needs anything, because he’s Stiles’s dad and as such, has had a lot of firsthand experience with nursing someone who has broken bones but who also doesn’t want to see the doctor or stay still at the same time.
Sleepily, he texts his kid around four in the morning.
“I think my ‘BFF’ is as troublesome as yours is.”
Stiles texts back less than thirty seconds later, which means he’s pulling another all-nighter to get a paper done.
“Impossible, unless you decided Derek is your new BFF. Mr. Argent will be heartbroken.”
The Sheriff huffs in laughter and supposes that yeah, he could probably do worse than Chris.
Even BFFs fight sometimes. The Sheriff knows this well from years and years of listening to Scott and Stiles bicker over little things, like who ate the last of the spicy Cheetos or whose farts were the grossest, and then bigger things, like the best way to trap angry Leprechauns in circles of iron and who got to act as bait.
The Sheriff discovers that his first fight with Chris is a little bigger than all of that.
“He has to die,” Chris says grimly as he stalks into his garage, in search of the right type of gun to get the job done.
The Sheriff grabs him by the shoulder, spins him around. “It was an accident. He didn’t know what he was doing.”
“Two people are in the hospital,” Chris reminds him, making the Sheriff wince enough that Chris can shake his hand off of his arm and go to the cabinet full of firearms. He unlocks it methodically, hand drifting up and down the rows of deadly weapons while he looks for the one most appropriate for killing a teenager, which is, really, a phase in their lives the Sheriff had thought they’d gotten past, back when their own kids had been teenagers.
Chris’s eyes are grim as he pulls out something that looks a lot like the M40 standard issue sniper rifles the Sheriff used to see when he’d trained in the service. It’s the kind of weapon that means no messing around. It’s the kind that means no second chances. He’s going to kill a teenager with it.
William Chen is freshly thirteen and already an honors/AP student at Beacon Hills’ high because he skipped two years in school. He volunteers at the hospital and is concert master of the orchestra. He also plays second string point guard on the overlooked, underfunded basketball team, and he lives alone with his elderly grandmother because both of his parents died in a car accident when he was seven. He and Mrs. Chen moved to Beacon Hills two years ago from San Francisco. Mrs. Chen owns a small café in the strip mall next to the video store and serves the citizens of Beacon Hills amazing fried chicken and decent coffee. She always makes the Sheriff a fresh pot when he stops in during his late shifts to get a drink. Her grandson is her pride and joy.
Last week, Mrs. Chen bragged to the Sheriff about how she’d gotten William tickets to see the Warriors versus the Clippers for his birthday on Friday. The Sheriff remembers telling her that thirteen is when things get tricky with boys, remembering his own less-than perfect experiences with Stiles. Puberty certainly isn’t fun for parents, and he’d offered to help talk to William for her if she thought he needed another guy to ask about, well, man-issues. She’d laughed and said she’d already raised one son past puberty and could do another no sweat. “Boys are simple,” she’d said, pouring him fresh coffee, “Girls are much harder.”
It’s Friday now, William’s birthday, and despite being a boy, William’s puberty is going to be a lot harder than his grandmother (or anyone else) could have imagined.
Because apparently, no one informed poor William that his mother was a kitsune. The Sheriff supposes it wasn’t the kind of thing his mom had advertised to people in general.
What being a kitsune means, according to Stiles, is that sometimes, William’s teenage appetite will differ from that of his friends in that it will also involve wanting to eat some fresh pituitary glands out of people’s brains. William hadn’t known about this kind of craving until he’d suddenly found himself crouching over the unconscious body of one of Chris’s men in the middle of the night, when the poor guy had been routinely patrolling the woods in case of any werewolf shenanigans as per usual.
Luckily the man’s partner had returned from his snack run before William had managed to actually dig open any skulls, but the ensuing fight to survive had left both men brutalized before Derek had arrived on the scene and taken a bite out of William’s side.
They’d tracked him to the high school gymnasium and found him bloody and disoriented, mostly human with his head tucked between his knees as he’d tried to catch his breath. “What’s going on?” he’d demanded plaintively when the Sheriff and Derek had stumbled in looking for him. “What’s happening, Sheriff?”
“We’ll figure it out, William,” the Sheriff had promised, while Derek had glared at him and muttered, “There’s nothing to figure out. He’s a kitsune.”
Derek’s people skills haven’t really improved over these past few years. Like, at all.
So the Sheriff had put himself forward instead, trying to be soothing. “William, it looks like you’re going through some uh…changes,” he’d offered, earning a snort from both of the younger men in the gym. The Sheriff had ignored them, inching forward slowly, like he did whenever he had to try and pull Mrs. Peterson’s stupid cat out of wherever it has decided to trap itself this week. Except the moment the Sheriff had brushed his hand over William’s arm the kid had freaked, claws and fangs suddenly exploding from nowhere and slashing the Sheriff’s shoulder open. His eyes had flashed once, dangerously, before he’d skittered under the bleachers and out the other side, too fast to follow.
“You’re okay?” Derek growled, looking the Sheriff’s bleeding shoulder darkly, like the Sheriff was somehow, also his responsibility.
“Fine,” the Sheriff had breathed, because adrenaline was greater than pain, at least for the time being. “We need to get to William.”
“I’ll find him,” Derek promised, before darting off after the kid.
“Don’t kill him!” the Sheriff had managed to shout. Derek hadn’t answered.
Since then, the Sheriff hasn’t been able to do anything but comfort a distraught Mrs. Chen, who thinks her precious grandson has run off because he hadn’t wanted to see the Clippers destroy the Warriors with her tonight. “Lakers? Maybe Lakers are better?” she’d sobbed into his shoulder, while he’d haplessly patted her back.
Chris had met him after, grim-faced and angry about the state of his men. “Alive,” he’d reported, on their conditions. The barely had been understood.
Now the Sheriff is stuck trying to convince a career hunter to give a supernatural creature of the night a second chance. It isn’t the first time Chris has been swayed on that front, granted, but the Sheriff isn’t sure he can be as convincing to Chris as Allison had been. He’s not nearly as pretty.
Chris checks the M40 methodically as the Sheriff looks on, running a hand through his hair. “He didn’t even know what he was,” the Sheriff argues reasonably. “He’s just a kid. There was no one around who knew to teach him how to control himself.”
“He’s hurt people,” Chris reminds him, which is fair. “He drew first blood.”
“But,” the Sheriff manages, before Chris cuts him off with a hard look.
“He’s injured now, Sheriff. He’ll need to feed in order to heal properly. Which means he’s on the loose in a town full of potential meals.” He places the rifle in a case and then pushes past the Sheriff to another cabinet full of ammunition.
“Derek’s looking for him,” the Sheriff points out. “Scott too, by now.”
Chris digs past the rows of wolfsbane bullets he keeps handy and goes towards the back of the cabinet instead, reaching for something that looks a little less well used, if the fine layer of dust settled on top of the container is anything to go by.
“Is this about revenge?” the Sheriff asks, because he has to know.
Chris sighs. “It’s just my job,” he admits, and in that moment, the Sheriff sees the regret there, in the flicker of his eyes.
The Sheriff supposes that’s fair. He knows what it is to have to do a job as well, even if it’s hard, even if it’s the last thing you want to do. It’s always been his job to keep the people of Beacon Hills safe, after all.
This time, he does it by handcuffing Chris to his own garage door.
He ignores Chris’s shouts after him as he leaves the Argent house and tells himself it’s nothing personal. They’re both just doing their jobs tonight.
Later, when William is lying cold and unmoving on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance and the Sheriff is sitting on the front steps of the hospital where Derek and Scott had finally cornered William, the adrenaline finally wears off. The Sheriff lowers his head between his knees like William had back in the gymnasium because he can’t believe what’s happening.
This is how Chris finds him, storming up to him with a look of righteous fury in his eyes that the Sheriff really just can’t deal with right now. Right now he has to think about how he’s going to be the one to walk up the front steps of Mrs. Chen’s house and tell her that her one remaining family member killed himself in the back room of the hospital he used to volunteer at.
Chris must see the devastation in his eyes because after a minute, some of the anger fades from the little vee between his brows. He turns questioning instead. The Sheriff just shakes his head.
Chris opens his mouth to say something, probably some sort of platitude about how it’s for the best.
The Sheriff cuts him off, because it wasn’t. “He killed himself,” he mutters, and in that moment Chris’s expression goes stone cold with surprise. “When Scott was trying to tell him about what he was, and what it meant. He said he didn’t want to hurt anyone and then he stabbed himself.”
The air goes out of Chris’s sails completely after that, and instead of saying anything, he turns and plops down on the hospital steps next to the Sheriff and rests his chin in his hands in that way he does when he’s trying to find the right words to say.
There aren’t any, not now, and the Sheriff knows he should probably apologize for handcuffing Chris to the garage, but he’s not going to because he’s not sorry. “He was thirteen, Chris,” he says instead. “And he was all his grandma had.”
He doesn’t need to remind his friend of what that’s like, what it means to systematically lose the people you love until your whole world is narrowed into a single, precious point. It’s a terrifying thing, but neither he nor Chris has lost their kids. Mrs. Chen just did for the second time.
Chris doesn’t bring up the handcuffing incident again, and neither does the Sheriff, because they’re both adults and they know how to prioritize. It was, by far, the least horrible thing that happened tonight.
The Sheriff knows Chris forgives him when, hours later, Chris drives him home and wordlessly hands back his busted pair of handcuffs as the Sheriff is slipping out from the passenger seat of Chris’s black SUV.
The Sheriff face plants into his bed afterwards and spends the rest of the night trying to wash the image of Mrs. Chen hysterically sobbing into his shirt and beating her tiny hands into his chest out of his mind.
They still go fishing a week later.
Which is actually ideal for the two of them (despite what other people may think about timing) because it happens exactly when they both need a vacation from life in Beacon Hills most. More specifically, they need to forget about how they sometimes sit on different sides of the ideological fence when it comes to hunting things and take the time to remember why they’re friends in the first place instead. As it turns out, the fish practically jump out of the water for them the entire five days they’re there. And Chris is more than decent at gutting things, which just figures.
Allison texts the Sheriff in the middle of it, presumably because she’d gotten his number from Stiles. Or any one of the various and sundry pack members that all seem to pervade his son’s life.
“Thanks for taking him. He needs to get out more.”
So Allison is a worrywart like Stiles, only much, much classier about it. It kind of makes sense.
The Sheriff chuckles and shows Chris the text, and Chris’s mouth presses into a flat line that only makes the Sheriff laugh harder.
Chris flicks fish guts at him. The Sheriff dodges, snaps a picture of Chris frowning over the bloody remains of a rainbow trout, and sends it to Allison in reply.
They cook the fish they catch over the fire for dinner before packing up and heading to the cabin the Sheriff had rented. On the walk back, with the sun setting behind them, the Sheriff realizes that this the first time in the long time that the two of them have been out in nature together without something in nature trying to kill them while they’re at it.
And, more importantly, for all that this is his first finishing trip without his son since his wife’s death, Sheriff Stilinski is surprised by how not horrible it is. They spend the rest of the evening drinking whiskey and playing cards while Chris recounts some of the more hilarious hunts he’s been on in his lifetime, including one spent working with a couple of jokers named after firearms who managed to convince some truly stupid local authorities that their names were agents Plant and Page with the FBI.
“And people bought that?” the Sheriff guffaws, before asking if Chris has any twos.
“Go fish,” Chris answers, laughter crinkling the lines around his eyes. Then adds, mostly seriously, “People in this country don’t have any sense of culture anymore.”
“That’s just sad,” the Sheriff agrees, and pours them each another shot. “Any sixes?”
Chris sighs and hands over two cards.
The Sheriff takes them, along with the last beer, and hopes Stiles is having half as much fun in Europe.
Stiles does have fun in Europe as it turns out, and shares some creepy e-mails and photos about history’s vampires even though they all know firsthand that vampires are way lamer than all the old legends and new movies would have people believe. The Sheriff still remembers how Isaac and Jackson’s noses had wrinkled when they’d smelled vampires for the very first time. It had reminded him of puppies getting ready to sneeze.
Stiles, much to the Sheriff’s chagrin, also sends souvenirs from Romania in the form of two matching Vlad the Impaler T-shirts for his father and Chris. The note in the package simply reads, “For the lovebirds.”
His kid is hilarious.