Title: Picking Up Strays (And Other Important Things)
Universe: Teen Wolf
Theme/Topic: N/A
Rating: PG
Character/Pairing/s: Stiles, Sheriff Stilinski, Isaac
Spoilers/Warnings: Through S2
Word Count: 12,255
Summary: Stiles has an idea named Isaac and the Sheriff has to deal with it.
Dedication: Sonia- in case SPN still sucks this year (I want to believe it won't).
A/N: I don't know, I blame Isaac's stupid adorable puppy face.
Disclaimer: No harm or infringement intended.

When Stiles gets an idea in his head, he can be very, very persuasive.

It's a trait he inherited from his mother, this stubborn, obsessive nature of his, this penchant for being so enthused by the thought of something that he drags everyone around him into it, makes them believe like he does, makes them agree with him helplessly. There's an inevitability to Stiles when he's latched on to something that makes it impossible not to be pulled along by the sheer, overwhelming force of him.

No one knows this better than his father, who has been the one sucked into the whirlwind that is Stiles – that is Stiles's contagious enthusiasm and restless energy and unwitting brilliance – a thousand times before. Stiles has been intent on turning the Sheriff's life topsy-turvy since the moment he was born and has never stopped for a moment thereafter.

Consequently, the Sheriff has slowly built up something of a resistance – because there's no such thing as immunity - to Stiles's erratic way of getting ideas, making him less susceptible to his son's whims and fancies than the average Joe. Particularly because most of his son's whims and fancies tend to be out of the blue, half-cocked things that aren't always out and out bad ideas per se, but that are sometimes simply not fully formed or thought all the way through properly. It's the Sheriff's job to question Stiles at every turn, to poke holes in his theories and make him realize where he might have stopped just short of one goal or completely overshot another. Stiles is the dreamer in their family and his father is the realist. Together they manage to keep each other grounded, but not too grounded.

Occasionally though, Stiles gets passionate enough about something that, even as a half-formed idea, comes out startlingly perfect, that knocks the Sheriff over with how much there is there and how strong the feelings behind it are. This is when Stiles is at his most dangerous, at his most convincing, and all his dad can do about it when it gets to that point is stand silently by and let himself be washed away in the waves of it, usually while being thankful that his son only ever tries to use his power for good. In general.

Stiles's latest great idea is Isaac Lahey.

And as is typical of Stiles when he gets an idea, it turns the Sheriff's life upside down all over again, in all the best possible ways.

"He has nowhere, Dad," Stiles rants when he comes home from school one day, looking troubled and hurt in a way that makes his father want to reach out and ruffle his hair, to tell him not to take on burdens that aren't his own. He knows better now, because Stiles's heart has always been ten times bigger than anyone else's. Telling him not to worry, not to care, would be the same as telling him not to talk. Frankly, impossible.

Instead, the Sheriff sits quietly in his armchair as the baseball game plays on in the background. He waits for Stiles to elaborate on who 'he' is, and why 'he' has nowhere.

Stiles pauses in the doorway, takes in his father's expectant expression, and realizes that he's babbling out loud just to hear himself talk. He won't make sense to anyone but himself (if even that) until he can stand still long enough to string semi-coherent sentences together. "Isaac," Stiles explains, eventually. "We were taking a practice SAT today in English. That I totally forgot about and probably failed, by the way so heads up. Can you even fail those? Anyway, we were emulating the whole test taking environment like it was the real thing because the department head believes in immersive study and it was the scariest thing ever. Those bubbles are the worst bubbles I've ever had the pleasure of meeting because they're trick bubbles that are trying to get you to fill them in with their evil bubble ways and screw you up on purpose. How can people ruin something as fun as bubbles? That's not right."

"Stiles," the Sheriff interrupts gently, and with a look, reins his unruly son back in. He's good at it. All the practice has made him almost-perfect.

Stiles looks sheepish as he drags his hand over his close-cropped hair and focuses again. "The point is, the proctor was going on and on about where they would mail the scores out during the real thing, and how we'd you know, be able to send it to our schools of choice and home too, obviously," he explains, shoulders slumping. "But then Isaac just raised his hand and asked what to do if they don't have an address."

He sounds completely mystified by the idea of it, of not having home, and something about the image of the Lahey kid, with his sad, scared, eyes, calmly asking about what you do when you don't have a place to live anymore is the epitome of heartbreaking.

"Where has he been staying?" The Sheriff asks, because he knows the house had been sold after Mr. Lahey's murder, and that there's paperwork – just piles of it – sitting in some office somewhere downtown, trying to sort out who gets what and who goes where. Even if the house hadn't been sold, he's sure Isaac wouldn't have wanted to stay at that place, not after what they'd found there, not after what he'd lived through there, and definitely not all alone. The last the Sheriff heard about it, social workers were trying to get in touch with an aunt not too far away, maybe in Oregon or something. But this is the first time he's heard about Isaac directly, in the weeks following the chaos that were Matt's murder spree and subsequent suicide.

"Er…a friend's couch?" Stiles admits reluctantly, like he knows he has to give something away in order not to give everything away. "I think. Maybe multiple friends' couches."

Something in Stiles's tone immediately raises the Sheriff's parenting hackles, but the news that Isaac is turning into another one of those kids who falls into the cracks of the system is what really alarms him. The kid is still going to school, which is good, but apparently only because he wants to be there. Who the hell has been looking out for him since his dad was killed? Heck, who the hell has been looking out for the kid at all, since, well, ever?

Stiles seems to share the exact same sentiment as the one written on his father's face. "I know, right?" he enthuses, making am emphatic gesture between a shrug and a flail with his arms. "I mean…" he pauses then, looks a little broken, "…we lost Mom and it nearly killed us. What's it like to lose everyone?"

"Do you want me to call someone down in social services for him?" the Sheriff asks after a breathless moment of silence between them, where they'd both clearly been contemplating the possibility of dealing with what Isaac has to deal with. Of not having each other either.

Stiles quickly shakes his head, as if he has a physical need to dispel his disturbing thoughts. "What could they do?" he says, resigned. "I mean, if his aunt cared she'd have gotten back to him by now."

The Sheriff isn't sure what else to do in the face of his son's distress. He tries to think of something to say about how Stiles can just be there for his friend maybe, but when he looks at Stiles's eyes again, he can already see that the kid is a million miles away all of a sudden, his brow furrowed and lips pursed in that way he gets when he's having the beginnings of an idea. The only thing the Sheriff can think at that point is, 'uh oh.'

"Hey, Dad," Stiles begins, clearly without really thinking through the details, "Why doesn't he stay with us?"

The Sheriff tries not to groan. "Stiles…"

"No, no. Hear me out." Stiles puts his hands out in front of him in a placating gesture, eyes alight with inspiration as his epiphany crashes in to him. "My old nursery," he says. "We could clear it out, and he could crash there. There's all this stuff up there and you're always complaining about how it's just sitting there and now we'd have an excuse to just clear it all out."

The Sheriff shifts in his seat a little, baseball game long forgotten on the TV behind him. Stiles's old nursery had never really been cleared out after he'd first outgrown it, maybe because back then, the Stilinskis always thought they'd have a houseful of kids one day, that maybe the best way to keep their hyperactive firstborn busy would be to be to have a slew of hyperactive younger siblings for him to scamper after. It had been a nice dream all those years ago, but one that had died with Stiles's mother. After that, the nursery became a room where things they don't need or don't have space for anywhere else go. Even still, the Sheriff isn't sure it's a place he wants to clear out for a stranger. It feels like stepping on the memory of the dream that had blossomed there, like ripping apart something he had built with his wife in their hearts, planning for the future. That dusty old boxed up room is something the Sheriff doesn't think about a lot these days, but when he does, it feels like something he wants to keep for himself and in honor of the memories of better times spent there.

But Stiles doesn't seem to feel that way, and the Sheriff knows it's because his son isn't petty like he is, that Stiles doesn't have a selfish bone in his body. The way he's lit up now, with the idea of helping someone, is testament to it, and to how like his mother he really is.

"We could have a garage sale, you know, make the space, then use the proceeds to get him a bed, and maybe a desk, though I don't think he's the kind that does his homework upright, he seems loungy. Like he'd just lounge and do it, right? I mean, if he was comfortable. But he'd be comfortable here, I'm sure he'd be comfortable here."

Stiles starts rubbing his hands together in anticipation now, like he wants to get to work right this second by moving out all the boxes from the spare room and setting them on the front lawn. The Sheriff feels a strange tightness in his chest at how easy this seems to be for his kid. His kid is amazing.

The Sheriff however, is still the realist here. "Stiles, I don't know if we can just do that," he begins, gently.

Stiles pauses, and his face is an open book of confusion clearly demanding 'Why not?'

Because to him, this is the easiest solution he's ever come up with. Stiles giving things up for someone else has always been incredibly easy for him.

The Sheriff sighs and gestures helplessly with one hand. "He's a ward of the state right now. I'm not sure how it works, but I'm pretty sure we can't just take him in like a stray puppy."

Something about the choice of words makes Stiles's face look funny for a second, like a mixture of him wanting to laugh really hard and cry at the same time. But then it's gone, and Stiles says, "Dad it's been months and no one's come knocking, looking for him."

"That doesn't change the fact that they will come. Eventually." California budget crises aside, the Sheriff is relatively sure it will happen soon.

Stiles frowns. "Well, okay. I mean, can't he just tell them he's staying with us?"

The Sheriff feels something like a headache burgeoning in the back of his skull. "It's not that easy. He'd probably have to become legally independent for that to even be a possibility."

Stiles shrugs. "Then he'll do that. Why can't he stay with us in the meantime? It's better than sending him someplace new, with people he doesn't know and who obviously don't want him, right? He's sixteen, dad, uprooting at this point in his life would seriously suck. Can you imagine being the new kid junior year?"

Stiles's eyes are pleading now, and the Sheriff has to look away, because when the kid does that his arguments always suddenly seem to sound at least 50% more sensible than before. Even to those who have managed to build up some form of resistance to him over time.

Then Stiles's eyebrows dart up again, like he just had another realization. "Is this about money?" he asks, completely indelicately.

This rips the Sheriff's eyes back to his, along with a sputter of indignation. "What?"

Stiles doesn't seem to think it's an odd question. "I mean, I know we don't make much on a public servant's salary, but Isaac's not exactly in need of cash at the moment," Stiles points out, sensibly. On seeing his father's arched eyebrow, hastily adds, "Not because he's doing anything shady! They sold the house, right? Theoretically the proceeds of that are eventually going to end up with him, once the banks and the state sort out all the paperwork, right?" He doesn't pause for a confirmation. "Plus he has a job that is the creepiest after school job of ever, as I'm sure you know, so he's not exactly the freeloading type like yours truly." This time, he does stop, to grin lovingly at his father. The Sheriff groans helplessly, because this is all starting to feel like a conversation he's not actually taking part in. He's superfluous at this point. Stiles is good at having conversations entirely with himself. It makes the Sheriff wonder about his parenting sometimes, that his kid has learned, maybe out of necessity, to have completely in-depth and mostly coherent conversations all alone.

"I mean, really, all he needs is a place to get his SAT scores mailed to. And you know, to stay. A place to stay that isn't wet and dank and smelly and overrun with rodents…"

"I thought you said he was staying on friends' couches!" the Sheriff interrupts, when he hears Stiles's description of Isaac's current living conditions.

Stiles backtracks quickly. "Well I don't know how those couches are, Dad," he says reasonably. Maybe too reasonably. "They could be…dank. And you know, cockroaches are everywhere. I bet they can live in couches."

The Sheriff huffs in exhaustion. Somehow, an entire day of catching speeders and searching for lost pets in the woods is less stressful than arguing with Stiles when Stiles has an idea. And while he's still incredibly suspicious of that night when Isaac broke out of jail and they'd found that creepy fake deputy dying in the holding room, the Sheriff also knows that he trusts Stiles's judgment (for the most part), and if Stiles thinks Isaac is the kind of person he wants to share a house with, then Isaac probably is. Also, it's not worth fighting at this point, because the Sheriff knows he'll just blink one day and by the time he opens his eyes again Stiles will have found a way to make it happen without his knowing how. At least this way he gets a say. Kind of.

"Fine," he relents, and rubs his temples with his fingers, trying to massage away the tension there. "We start cleaning out the spare room in the morning. He's welcome to stay if he wants to. I'll ask Child Protective Services about the paperwork."

Stiles blinks back at him like he hadn't expected it to be this easy. "Seriously?"

"Yes, seriously. But you better not complain to me about all the work moving that stuff is going to be when we're doing it."

"Not a word! I'll call Isaac. He can help. It's going to be his room anyway."

Plans thus made, Stiles turns and heads into the kitchen like they hadn't just had a completely life altering conversation five seconds ago. "What do you want for dinner?" he asks, to the sound of the refrigerator opening, "TJ's has these new Tofu Edamame nuggets that look promising. Soy protein, mmmmmm."

And that, apparently, is that, because now his son is preheating the oven to make him soy nuggets with soybeans in them, like it is his new most important idea in the world. Maybe it is, at this point.

The Sheriff finds himself cupping his mouth in both hands and breathing helplessly into his fingers.

The next morning, when Sheriff Stilinski sees Isaac at seven am sharp, the kid is standing on his lawn in a baggy maroon hoodie looking lost and apprehensive, brow furrowed and staring at his phone screen like he's waiting for it to magically give him answers to the myriad questions written all over his expressive face. Which probably means he is calling Stiles. But Stiles is snoring away upstairs because it's Saturday and Stiles is somehow convinced that no one gets up early on Saturdays unless it's for cartoons.

The Sheriff sighs around his coffee and goes to throw open the front door. Isaac twitches at the sound slightly, like he's fighting a full on flinch, and the Sheriff feels his heartstrings get yanked on violently when that curly mop of head whirls in his direction and the most alarmed eyes he's seen in his life are staring back at him. The eyes are quickly averted again though, instinctively maybe, and turned back towards the phone, and then to the ground, when nothing on the phone changes. "Good morning?" Isaac offers, after a beat.

"You might as well come in and have breakfast while you wait," the Sheriff says. "Stiles won't be up for another hour at least."

Isaac's expression turns questioning, like he's not sure being around the Sheriff without Stiles as a buffer should any weapons get drawn is a good idea. The Sheriff almost wants to be indignant about that, except it's kind of how teenagers in general feel about lawmen. Also, the last middle-aged man Isaac ate breakfast with apparently locked him in a freezer in the basement when he was mad at him. Christ.

He sighs. "You don't have to if you don't want to, Isaac," he says plainly, then adds, "but if you get in here before Stiles is up that means we can have bacon for breakfast." Pause. "You do like bacon, don't you?"

He thinks Isaac lights up a little then, all shy hope and curiosity at the prospect of a homemade breakfast. It kind of reminds the Sheriff of how Stiles had looked when he was five and his mother was telling him about Santa Claus for the first time.

"Yes, sir," Isaac says eventually, finally looking up from the ground like he can't quite believe his luck, like he thinks he'd better enjoy it while he has it because it's going to get ripped away from him any second now.

It isn't. The Sheriff is pretty damn sure he's not going to let it come to that, if he can help it. Everyone should get to have a decent breakfast every now and again.

So he holds open the screen door to his house in invitation – more than just an invitation for bacon – and the moment Isaac smiles back at him, small and relieved, is the moment he thinks he kind of falls in love with the kid.

It takes them no time at all the clear out the spare room. Isaac looks kind of thin and reedy under his too big hoodie, but underneath it all is a surprisingly strong young man. He lifts twice the weight either Stiles or his dad can lift in any one trip and doesn't seem to tire at all, engrossed in his work, content to be doing something. Stiles calls him a freak in a good natured sort of way while the Sheriff can only think that Isaac must have still managed to love his father somehow, despite everything. Kids that strong don't just let an angry old man just wail on them and not fight back without a good reason.

It kind of sucks the air out of his lungs when he thinks about it like that, and Stiles seems to know exactly what the Sheriff is thinking, because before he can dwell too long on it, the room is empty and Stiles is announcing that it's lunch time, which he will be preparing, because cheating cheaters eat bacon while he's asleep and it's bad for their cholesterol.

"Veggie burgers and salad wraps and I don't want a word of complaint!" he announces, marching out of the now empty room, leaving Isaac to share a pained look with the Sheriff.

"Veggie burgers?" Isaac says, and it almost sounds like a whimper.

Sheriff Stilinski can't help but smile a little bit at his forlorn tone, even though he shares Isaac's fate. "Aren't you glad you ate breakfast with me now?" he says, and startles a tiny, choked off laugh from Isaac's throat.

Isaac looks kind of surprised to hear it, and the Sheriff only barely manages to resist reaching out to ruffle those ridiculous curls. Instead he leans in a little closer and whispers, "I've got a stash of beef jerky in my study. We can sneak some afterwards."

"Oh thank God," Isaac murmurs back, completely serious and looking as grateful as ever.

The Sheriff laughs and they follow Stiles downstairs to set the table for lunch.

Isaac sleeps in a sleeping bag his first few weeks at the Stilinskis' and doesn't have a word of complaint about it even though the carpet isn't exactly comfortable. It's been more than a decade since it was last steam cleaned. At least.

Stiles complains for Isaac. Stiles has all the words where Isaac doesn't. "Dude, we need to get you a bed," he says over dinner, when he passes Isaac the surprisingly tasty veggie lasagna he'd picked up at the Trader Joe's in town during grocery shopping last week.

"I've slept on worse than your floor," Isaac answers innocently, like it's just a fact of life and he doesn't hold any of it against anyone at all. He deftly scoops an extra large portion of lasagna out of the pan, enough that the Sheriff boggles over, because seriously, where does the kid put it?

Stiles snorts and says, "I know," in this completely unimpressed way. "And you can theoretically drive with your feet but that doesn't make it okay," he adds, as Isaac passes the lasagna to the Sheriff. Isaac chuckles a little, a quiet puff of air through his nostrils as he picks extra chicken breast bits out of the salad bowl because it's the only meat they're getting with their meal tonight.

"We'll get you a bed on Saturday," the Sheriff says, instead of asking what worse things Isaac may have slept on. His mind goes back to that bleak looking freezer that used to be in the basement of the Lahey house and part of him shudders inside, enough that he doesn't complain about Isaac taking all the chicken for himself.

Isaac pauses at that, swallows his mouthful of lasagna and says, "Sir, I won't get paid until next week and…"

"Saturday morning, bright and early," the Sheriff insists. "Since I know you can actually get your ass out of bed on the weekends."

For a second, Isaac doesn't know what to say, fidgeting awkwardly in his seat.

Stiles fills the quiet for him. "Hey! Normal people sleep in on weekends," he complains – without any real malice behind it because he's simply incapable of it – and grabs the salad bowl to finish picking out the last of the chicken. "Just for that, no dead animal for you."

"Like hell," the Sheriff says, and reaches across the table to stab his fork onto a chunk sitting on Stiles's plate. Stiles bats back at him with his own fork, and the Sheriff grins and evades, popping the chicken in his mouth in a manner that can only be described as gloating.

Isaac's eyes are crinkled with laughter even though no sound comes out, while Stiles scowls dramatically and looks at his friend in utter betrayal. "Not you too. Man, you were supposed to make it two-to-one in my favor here."

"I like your dad," Isaac says with a shrug – like it's just another simple fact – and looks back down at his plate to keep eating, an intense aura of peace around him.

"Yeah, I guess I do too," Stiles grumps, and then grins at his dad from across the table when Isaac isn't looking, his expression incredibly proud.

The Sheriff returns it, but not before stealing more of Stiles's chicken.

Saturday morning, he takes Isaac and Stiles out for pancakes at the diner before they drive to the mattress store thirty minutes outside of town. Isaac picks something simple and utilitarian while Stiles raves about orthopedic mattresses, memory foam, sleep numbers, and pillow tops. He stayed up doing the research, apparently.

Isaac ignores him professionally, and they're back at the house installing the bed before lunchtime.

Isaac plops down on the mattress after it's set up in the back of the room against the window, so that when he lies down, he can see across the hallway through his open door into Stiles's room. It's still a little bare inside, but Isaac seems content enough with just that, with something so small and simple and his that it makes the Sheriff start thinking about bookshelves and desks, a throw rug or two, a couple of lamps to make it feel more like home.

They go out for those on Sunday.

Isaac is very good about following all the ground rules in the house. Better than Stiles even, but the Sheriff starts to wonder if it's because Isaac is too scared to break them, maybe because of the consequences that used to come with crossing his own father in the past.

It drives him a little bit crazy thinking about it, wondering if Isaac is afraid of him, or of something, and then he can't believe he's sitting at work worrying about what it means when a teenage boy doesn't disobey him at every possible opportunity.

He gets a little beat up by a couple of drunk college kids one night, breaking up a brawl at a bar, and when he heads into the hospital to make sure he's not concussed, he manages to waylay one of the psych evaluators in the waiting room. He kind of just grabs the guy and asks what it means when a sixteen-year-old kid follows every letter of the law in your house. It can't be normal, right?

The guy gives him this completely weirded out look and says, "Well that depends on the kid," before Melissa shows up and takes the Sheriff into a room to get his head examined. She has an ice-pack and a strange look on her face as he presses it against the knot forming on the back of his skull. "You okay?" she asks, and he can immediately tell she isn't talking about the head injury. It must mean there's a look on his face that is related to child rearing in single parent households. She knows the look well.

He laughs a little and says, "Figuring out teenagers is tough."

She snorts and goes to get him some Advil. "Tell me about it."

He doesn't have a concussion after all, which is good news. He does get sent home early to rest though.

When he arrives back at the house two hours earlier than scheduled and goes to check on the boys, he almost feels relieved when he peeks into their rooms and finds them both gone, clearly out three hours after curfew.

Then he realizes that his life is ridiculous and sits down on the edge of Isaac's bed to wait them out.

They crawl in through the window ten minutes before he was originally supposed to be off shift, trying to be sneaky about it. They stop the minute they see the Sheriff sitting on Isaac's bed waiting though, looking sheepish, slightly bruised, and covered in dirt and leaves. He stands when he sees them, and crosses his arms.

"Uh, hi, Dad," Stiles begins, like he's about to start chatting about the weather and those crazy Dodgers. He pauses though, to give Isaac this look that clearly blames him for this, like Isaac somehow should have known he was there, waiting for them. "So you're home early."

Isaac just shrugs helplessly back at Stiles, dirt smeared on his face and across his nose. He's frozen mid-crouch in the windowsill like some kind of animal.

"Boys," the Sheriff says, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers. "Do I even want to know what you've been up to at this time of night?"

They share another look, side-eying each other like they're trying to come up with some sort of consensus on how to approach this. It's almost endearing. Isaac sheepishly picks a leaf out from where it's tangled up in his ridiculous hair.

"No?" they both offer at exactly the same time, hopeful and full of feigned innocence.

The Sheriff is tired because it's late, and he got the wind knocked out of him by an inebriated twenty-something that he should've been able to handle without a problem. On top of that, both of his boys are alive and whole and maybe a little scraped up, but nothing like Stiles had been after the championships, or after Matt.

Isaac, he realizes, just kind of has his lips turned upwards in the corners, like he knows, knows, the Sheriff is tired, and that he's probably going to let them get away with this mostly unscathed.

It's a big relief somehow, to know that Isaac knows that he can do wrong sometimes and still come home afterwards, that there won't be repercussions for his actions far beyond the price of what they're worth.

The Sheriff points at Stiles, then Isaac. "Since you both seem to have all sorts of fun scrambling around on the rooftops… tomorrow. After school. Gutters."

Stiles makes a face. Then pauses, when his mind clicks off of the fact that he's in trouble and on to the fact that his father is home early. "Are you okay, Dad? Did something happen?" he asks, and crawls forward on the bed, to get a better look at the Sheriff.

"I'm fine," he says by rote. "Just a fight that got a little out of hand downtown."

"What happened?" Stiles pushes, and he knows that tone. That tone means he's not letting go until he knows, even if it means calling Margie in dispatch and getting the whole sordid tale from her because she likes his cute face and thinks it's adorable how he babies his dad.

"Just a brawl, Stiles," the Sheriff answers, because he might as well save the cell phone minutes. "Some drunks at the community college got into it with some out-of-towners. We just broke it up."

Stiles isn't buying it, and even though Isaac's expressions are slightly less telling than Stiles's, it's clear he doesn't either.

"I may have gotten punched once or twice," he allows with an offhanded wave. "Nothing big."

"What? Where?" Stiles yelps, and he scrambles forward to grab hold his father's face between both hands, clearly checking the focus of his eyes. The grip he has on the Sheriff is strong enough that he can't move his head at all, not even when he hears something a lot like a growl come from Isaac's corner of the bed, and sees a flash of something in his periphery that's yellow and haunting. He blinks, and wonders if that blow to the head earlier might have been a little stronger than he'd initially thought.

When he does finally wrench his face from Stiles's grubby paws, he turns and sees Isaac looking as perfectly serious as ever, eyes wide and worried, the little smile he'd been harboring earlier completely gone.

"It was nothing," the Sheriff says again, more gently this time.

"Dad," Stiles presses, and the Sheriff holds up his hands.

"Why don't we make a deal?" he offers, because his patience is running out and he still needs to hit the shower. "I won't give you the sordid details of my night out, and you two don't give me yours?"

Stiles looks like he's going to protest some more, but after a moment, snaps his mouth shut and considers it. He side-eyes Isaac again, who gives a small nod, and eventually, throws his hands up in defeat.

"Fine. Deal!"

The Sheriff nods at that, tiredly, and turns to go. "You're both still cleaning the gutters though," he points out from the hallway. Stiles's cries of "Aw, man!" and Isaac's quiet huff of laughter follow him all the way to his own room.

Two days later, the Sheriff drives out to the edge of the woods on a call and finds all of the rowdy drunks who'd accosted him at the bar tied upside-down from trees in their underwear. They smell like booze and like urine from when they'd pissed themselves, and they're crying and apologizing incoherently for something (no one knows what). The Sheriff tries to be a responsible adult by cutting them down and taking their statements and not laughing at them at all. To their faces, anyway.

He thinks those out-of-towners really must have been something.

Sometimes, when he comes home from work for the night and finds Stiles and Isaac sacked out in front of the TV together – a mess of snacks scattered between them while they watch cheesy horror movies and laugh – the Sheriff remembers the dream that he thought had died with his wife, the one he'd boxed up with all of the old things in Stiles's nursery all those years ago. He realizes that maybe that dream isn't dead after all, just here in a completely different and unexpected way.

In the living room, Stiles yelps when the monster suddenly rips out of the dark and paws at one of the nubile young things trying to survive the night, Isaac laughs at him for screaming like a puppy, and the whole situation dissolves into the two of them throwing popcorn kernels at each other and making a mess of the room for the next five minutes.

Isaac has way better aim than Stiles but Stiles is sneakier, luring Isaac in close by playing helpless before springing up and cramming a handful of popcorn down the back of Isaac's sweatshirt.

The Sheriff stands in the doorway watching them and thinks, 'Yeah. Living the dream.'

He shakes his head at his kids and goes to get a broom.

Sometimes the Sheriff thinks he's seeing things, that his vision is getting strange with age or that the lack of any significant animal protein in his diet is giving him hallucinations due to a sudden and debilitating iron-deficiency. He knew not eating meat on a daily basis would ruin him.

One Saturday afternoon he returns home from a double shift to find the kitchen covered in blood smears, trailing from the door, all along the floor and up the stairs. One of them looks like a handprint. Naturally, he has his gun out and is combing his way through the house without a moment's hesitation, voice only slightly quavering as he calls out the boys' names. He finds Isaac upstairs in the bathroom washing his arm under a heavy flow of water, looking kind of bruised and tired. Isaac's eyes dart up when the Sheriff shows up in the bathroom wielding a gun, and when he sees it's just Isaac, he quickly holsters the weapon and lunges forward, grabbing the kid's arm to see the extent of the damage. His pulse is pounding in his ears in a dull roar and his mind is trying to remember that basic EMT training all of the Sheriff's department staff had to take last year. But when he looks down, he sees absolutely nothing. Not even a scrape. The skin is smooth and pale and unblemished, just like it had been this morning.

"What the hell is going on?" the Sheriff demands, bewildered, while Isaac's pulse thrums strong under the grip of his fingers.

Isaac frowns and looks down at the ground. The Sheriff abruptly remembers himself and wills himself to loosen his grip on Isaac's arm. "Isaac?" he asks, lowering his voice a little bit. It shakes a little too, which is something that has only ever happened with Stiles and his wife – with his family –while he looks Isaac over for any other injuries that might explain the blood. "Isaac, are you hurt?"

"No," Isaac answers quickly, too quickly, and the way he says it makes the Sheriff tack on an unspoken 'not anymore' to the words somehow, automatically.

"There's blood all over…"

Stiles bursts into the bathroom then, looking a little wild. "Holy hell that was one heck of a nosebleed man!" he exclaims in dramatic accents, a roll of paper towels clutched under his arm. "Dude, did it stop? I didn't think it was ever going to stop! I thought I'd have to donate blood to put in you to make up for all the blood coming out of your face."

The Sheriff stares at Stiles. Stiles blinks as if he's just noticed his father's home. "Oh hey, Dad," he says a bit too casually, and takes out the roll of paper towels from where it's tucked up against his armpit. He thrusts it at Isaac, who takes it automatically and looks bewildered, like he doesn't know what to do with it. "Sorry about the mess," Stiles presses, without taking a breath, "Isaac got this monster nosebleed on the way back from Scott's and like, it's all over my car and everywhere. I wiped some of it up on the way back inside. Sorry about the living room rug though, that might have set. Hey, do you think maybe old lady Crabtree knows an old home remedy for getting blood out of things? I bet she does."

Isaac blinks a couple more times then adds, "Sorry about the mess," with absolute sincerity, and clutches the roll of paper towels in his hand free hand, eyes darting to where the Sheriff is still holding his arm gently, fingers rubbing it as if he expects to find some sort of major injury still, just under the skin. All the blood he'd seen downstairs couldn't have possibly just come from Isaac's face.

But then Stiles is grabbing him and pulling him out of the bathroom and asking if he can help him clean up the rest of the mess while Isaac finishes primping or recovering from anemia or whatever. "I'll bet if we scrub hard enough it'll come out of the carpet," he insists optimistically, and by the time the Sheriff lets himself get led down the stairs, the bloody handprints he was certain he'd seen on the way in are just little puddles of red that look like they'd been attacked haphazardly with paper towels.

He sighs in exasperation. "This is you wiping up?" he asks his son, taking in at the chaos with a clearer head now.

Stiles shrugs. "Dude, priority was my upholstery," he says like it should be obvious, though there's a tilt to his eyebrows that seems kind of sad about something, or maybe even guilty. He only ever gets that look when he's not telling the whole truth, and while the Sheriff calls him on it more often than not, he doesn't want to force the kid to tell him anything. He likes to believe that if it's important enough, Stiles will come clean on his own eventually.

He just has to clarify the important stuff and hope the rest rolls to even in the end.

"Stiles," the Sheriff presses, "is Isaac okay?" That is the important stuff. Just that.

The tilt of Stiles's eyebrows eases up at the question, and he smiles then, genuine and relieved and perfectly honest. "Yeah, Dad. He's totally fine."

The Sheriff will take that, because that matters. Isaac is part of his family now, he won't deny it, but at the same time, he doesn't want either of the boys to feel obligated to him simply because of that. His job is to keep them safe and happy and healthy. As long as they're that, he tells himself he can let the details go.

"Okay," he says, and goes to get another roll of paper towels from the cabinet in the hall. "Okay. And you're okay?"

Stiles nods.

That's all he needs for now. The Sheriff takes a deep breath and says, "Then let's clean this up."

Stiles grins. "Thanks, Dad," he murmurs, in a way that means more than just 'thanks for the help.'

The Sheriff nods back and five minutes later, a sheepish looking Isaac is joining them as they huddle around a bloodstain on the rug, trying to figure out if club soda or Resolve will work better at getting it out.

Isaac buys them a new rug on payday when the club soda and the Resolve both end up failing.

After that it's just little things that are strange about their lives every now and again, things like Isaac being able to instantly find the Sheriff's stores of illicit beef jerky no matter how well he hides them, or the way Isaac recoils like he's been shot whenever Stiles opens up the kitchen garbage to take it out. He also has this uncanny ability to shred two to five shirts a week. The ones he doesn't shred come back through the wash with lots of ominous stains, dirt and grass and mud and once, something just black and slimy and impossible to get out. It makes the Sheriff wonder what kind of horrible, inhumane labor that crazy old cemetery keeper is forcing Isaac do in the dead of night, three times a week for California minimum wage. He resolves to investigate the guy sometime in the near future, just to make sure no child labor laws are being broken. Other than the shirt thing though, and the fact that he eats enough for two Stiles, Isaac gets good grades and plays lacrosse well and is always up for sneaky, sneaky burger runs on the nights when they're both working late and the Sheriff can pick him up after his shift at the graveyard ends. Isaac only ever lets him have one patty though, with no cheese and no fries.

He's a good kid, even if he gets a little moody and pissy and sometimes even outright nasty for a few days out of every month, and the regularity of it worries the Sheriff, except that Stiles laughs and jokes about it being Isaac's male PMS.

They start finding bodies again in the middle of fall, two weeks before Halloween. They're horrible to look at, dry husks of victims that had been full of life and healthy just days ago, when they'd been reported missing. The coroner is boggled by the complete lack of internal organs inside the bodies they find, stating that the tissue must have somehow been liquefied and then completely sucked out of the person beforehand, like they'd been used as some sort of grotesque juice box. "There's just no way for all the insides to not be inside otherwise," she'd marveled, before pointing at two small holes on either side of each victim's neck. They looked a little like vampire bites from movies. "These are the only wounds that could have caused any bleeding," the coroner explains, still sounding mystified. "According to the lab in San Francisco, the samples we took the from first victim suggests that the residue we found on the wounds seems to be some sort of organic poison, but they can't tell if it caused the rapid deterioration of the organs and muscles or if it was simply the cause of death."

"That is freaking weird," Delaney, one of the Sheriff's new deputies, marvels. He looks like he's about to turn in his badge and his gun, which the department can't afford, not when they're already short staffed after Matt Daehler's horrific murder spree in the spring. Part of the Sheriff thinks he only got his job back because there hadn't been anyone left to fill it.

From the looks of things, they definitely can't blame the murders on a mountain lion this time, and after throwing out the impossible solutions (like vampires), he realizes the only rational explanation remaining is that there is a human being out there who does this to other human beings. The thought makes him want to vomit, but he holds it together as he ducks out of the morgue, and later, when he's putting together profiles of all the missing persons reported in the area in the last fifteen days, he suddenly realizes that all they are all male and anywhere between 15 and 29 years of age.

Discovering the pattern is like a punch to the gut, and when the Sheriff gets home the following morning, he corners Isaac and Stiles in the kitchen before school and makes them promise to come home early tonight, to stay in, and to have their friends stay in, until whoever is doing this is caught.

They share a strange look, like maybe they don't quite buy why he's so freaked out, possibly because he can't share the details of the case with them yet, and even if he could he's not sure he would, because they're terrifying and he loves them too much to scar them for life with that kind of knowledge. He hardly knows if he's ever going to sleep again.

Which is probably good, because he and the rest of the department are supposed to comb the woods over the next twenty-four hours, looking for clues and suspects and any sort of link that can tie these bizarre murders together. It's going to be a hell of a double shift, but hopefully with the remainder of the force out all night, it will deter whoever is doing this from trying to strike again.

Stiles and Isaac must sense his deep seated misgivings about his latest case because eventually, they nod and promise to stay out of trouble. Isaac even calls out of his shift at the graveyard that evening in front of him, and really, just hearing the kid say he's not going makes Sheriff Stilinski feel infinitely better about the whole thing. He hugs them both, maybe a little impulsively, and then turns and stalks upstairs to grab a shower and a three hour nap before he has to be back at work.

He doesn't see who or what hits him in the woods, and the last thing he remembers before blacking out is Delaney shrieking and the whole world exploding into stars as something slammed into him, knocking him to the ground and bouncing his head into the dirt rather painfully.

When he wakes up his head is pounding and he can't move a muscle, tied up from head to toe in something white and sticky and incredibly solid. He tries to shift around to see if he can find Delaney, but it's too dark to really see anything properly. He shakes his head a little to try and clear it of cobwebs while hoping it isn't a concussion.

He thinks he's probably been kidnapped, maybe because he'd been in the way, or getting too close to finding something, because he definitely does not fit the profile of the other victims. Delaney does, though.

"Delaney?" he whispers, keeping his voice low and sharp when he realizes. "Delaney, are you there?"

There's no answer. Cursing internally, the Sheriff tries to struggle out of his bonds because they don't look that strong. They look like those fake spider webs that come in bags from Halloween stores. He knows because they'd gone to one a two nights ago, shopping for candy to hand out to the trick-or-treaters. They'd also gotten a Batman costume for Stiles while they were there, because that kid will always be mentally twelve at best.

The cobweb looking stuff doesn't end up breaking under the Sheriff's impressive straining efforts; it just kind of stretches uncomfortably around him a little, like elastic pushed to its limit. His wiggling does manage to get him to roll a little though, which ends up being a mistake because he's suddenly falling, tumbling down a slope and into a pit filled with something wet and sticky and disgusting.

He does find Delaney though.

Or what's left of him. The poor guy is blinking vacantly from inside his cocoon of white threads, his skin leathery and gray and his face sunken in. There are two holes in his neck just like all the other victims, and a weird, bubbling sort of purple liquid is oozing out of the wounds. It reminds Sheriff Stilinski of the sizzling noises he'd heard back in high school, when they'd had to use hydrochloric acid in chemistry and it was busy burning through everything around it.

He shudders at the thought, and tries to nudge his deputy with a shoulder. "Delaney, we're okay," he insists, even as Delaney blinks at him in a manner that clearly says it's agony to move. His breathing comes out in wet sounding rasps, and the spit the gathers at the corner of his mouth has the same bubbly consistency as the ooze coming out of the purple wounds on his neck.

The young deputy manages to wheeze out a terrified sounding, "M-m-monster…" at the Sheriff. Which makes zero sense. Sheriff Stilinski is pretty sure Delaney's been poisoned. He doesn't know how long the guy has. They have to get him to a hospital. Now.

"Don't talk. Just… just keep breathing," the Sheriff soothes, and Delaney blinks again and nods, giving this rattling, stuttering sigh that causes more spit to bubble up grossly at the corner of his mouth.

The Sheriff starts looking around for something sharp, a rock or a tree root maybe, that he can try and cut himself free on. There are little sacs of something white and covered in a thin layer of the same stuff tying him up in the corner. He rolls towards them to see if there's something underneath that he can use, but his movements are clumsy and strained, and he ends up rolling onto one of them accidentally, feeling it pop into a wet, slimy mess under his weight. A white, viscous goop pours out from the busted sac underneath him, the insides looking like he'd just squashed one of those Cadbury Eggs Stiles likes to eat on Easter.

He feels sort of sick when he realizes that maybe it had been an egg of some sort, and the rest of them are probably eggs too, covered in a gauzy layer of what looks like spider webbing for protection. He realizes that it's like he's suddenly in the middle of one of the boy's cheesy horror movies, because maybe Delaney hadn't been entirely delusional just now, when he'd muttered about monsters. It's certainly where the Sheriff's head is going, despite everything. Then again, maybe he's just concussed.

Beside him, Delaney croaks and wheezes and underneath the horrible sounds of a good man dying, the Sheriff hears footsteps pounding towards them from somewhere in the distance, a frantic, heavy beat echoing off the stone walls that either means he and Delaney are about to be rescued by the rest of the department, or that whoever or whatever attacked them is back and looking to finish the job.

He turns to Delaney, and murmurs, "We're going to be fine," with the same stubborn determination he'd used to get from day to day with his crazy, hyperactive kid in the days while his wife was dying.

Delaney blinks once again, smiles softly like he believes the Sheriff implicitly, and then closes his eyes and stops breathing at all.

The Sheriff curses, just as the footsteps come to an abrupt halt, just above his head. Two figures kneel over the edge of the pit he'd fallen into, and he can't quite make them out, but he hopes it's Smith and Juarez and that they've brought reinforcements and EMTs.

"Dad?" Stiles's voice calls out, frantic and shrill and enough to make the Sheriff want to strangle something. That means the other figure is Isaac. Smith and Juarez and the rest of the department aren't here.

"Stiles, what the hell are you doing?!" the Sheriff demands, filled with so much red hot anger he can barely see straight. "Get out of here now! Go get help!"

"Help is already on the way," Stiles answers, even as he pitches himself over the edge of the pit and skitters down it without a second thought, Isaac not far behind him. The Sheriff would shout at him not to come closer, but there's a terrified, haunted look to the kid's face that makes him swallow the words whole. Isaac looks the same, except angry too, the kind of angry that makes him look grown up suddenly, and not like the lost kid who'd been staring forlornly at his phone on the Stilinskis' front lawn just a few months ago.

"Help me get him out of here. Holy crap this is disgusting," Stiles babbles, hands reaching out to touch the stringy white cords keeping the Sheriff immobile.

"Stiles, you need to leave," the Sheriff grits out, because he'd been worried before, but now, with the two of them here, he's terrified. He's not beyond begging at this point.

A skittering noise up above their heads keeps him from getting there, though. Isaac freezes and turns his head towards the sound, eyes closed as he takes in a deep breath, as he listens to something that Stiles and the Sheriff can't quite make out.

"The Arachne is coming back," he says softly, with an undercurrent of ice in his tone that is deeply unsettling simply because of how calm it is. He frowns a little, then seems to come to a decision. "I have to keep her busy until Derek and the others get here."

Before the Sheriff can protest what a horrible idea that is, Isaac's eyes flash yellow and fangs sprout from his mouth. Out of nowhere.

The Sheriff recoils in fear, immediately trying to knock Stiles out of the way or behind him, to safety.

But Isaac, or whatever Isaac is, doesn't move. He just nods minutely in Stiles's direction, fangs and claws and hair making him inhuman and terrifying looking. Then he turns to the Sheriff and offers a small, regretful smile, like this is the end of something important, like he always knew it would come. In that moment, it's his eyes that remind the Sheriff that it's Isaac he's looking at, and that he's human somewhere in there still, underneath it all.

Before he can say anything, Isaac launches himself out of the pit in a single jump, a snarl on his lips that chills the Sheriff to his very bones.

Stiles is suddenly at his side again, hands reassuring on the back of his father's neck. "I know," he says, also looking regretful, "I know it's weird, Dad, but I promise, it'll be okay. I'll explain everything once we're out of here. We just have to get out of here."

And then he has his keys out and he's trying to cut through the bonds with the edge of one while the Sheriff tries to figure out what he'd just seen.

He can't. There's no way he can, and he thinks that it probably doesn't matter right this second. It isn't something that's important.

The minute he's freed he struggles to his feet and has his hand on his holster, where his gun still is. "Stay here," he growls at Stiles, and then starts to climb up out of the hole, because Isaac is up there and Isaac is fighting whatever an Arachne is, and Isaac is doing it alone, until Derek and whoever else is involved in this mess gets here.

Sheriff Stilinski is pretty sure he has three rounds left.

Stiles doesn't stay in the hole because Stiles is incapable of listening to his father, and by the time he and the Sheriff both crawl out of it, it's just in time to hear Isaac's pained whimper as he's tossed aside like a rag doll. He hits the side of whatever cave they're in with a thud that shakes the entire rock wall. Underneath it all is the sound of a crack that definitely means bones are broken.

The Sheriff sees what threw him then, in the faint moonlight leaking in through the entrance. A giant spider with the face of a woman and pitch black eyes stares back at him, her mouth a mess of fangs oozing purple venom. She shrieks when she sees them and skitters towards them faster than the Sheriff has ever seen anything move in his entire life. He manages to fire off maybe two shots before the thing is bearing down on him with deadly intent.

Isaac roars dully and springs up from the ground at the last possible second, tackling her sideways before she can sink her teeth into the Sherriff's face.

The Sheriff whirls and tries to aim his gun at the Arachne as it struggles with Isaac, but it's still dark as hell in here even after his eyes adjusted, and he doesn't want to chance hitting Isaac in the melee by accident.

An eerie howl splits the air in the distance, and the sound of it makes Isaac's lip curl upward as he and the Arachne circle each other warily, the kid looking like this fight is just about over despite the fact that his left arm is hanging limply at his side, broken, and blood is dripping from the corner of his mouth and leaking slowly out of his ears. An angry, purple bite mark is oozing out dark, bubbling blood from his side as well, but he moves like none of that matters, carefully keeping his body between the Stilinskis and the monster at every turn.

A second howl, and then a third and a fourth echo through the night air. They make the Sheriff wince, make him turn his gun towards the sounds. Stiles's hands are on his then though, and he shakes his head. "Help is coming, Dad," he says, sounding relieved for the first time all night.

The Sheriff has no idea how the sound of circling wolves is supposed to be a good thing, but he trusts his kid, dammit, and trains his gun back towards the Arachne instead.

The Arachne is clearly getting more and more nervous from the sounds of the approaching wolves and makes another crazy dash towards Isaac, fangs going straight for his throat in a bid to kill him and get out of here before reinforcements arrive. Isaac manages to keep her from sinking her teeth into his neck at the sacrifice of his right shoulder, and the Sheriff feels a stone cold hatred settle in his stomach at the sound of Isaac's pained whimper when her fangs sink into him. He fires the remainder of his clip into the Arachne's side and sends it skittering back with an annoyed hiss, long enough for Isaac to stumble backwards, looking dizzy and covered in blood while his shoulder oozes putrid smelling poison. Stiles and the Sheriff catch him before he hits the ground, and the Sheriff throws them both behind him as he reloads his gun, despite knowing now that all the bullets really do is irritate the creature.

He gets a single shot off before five sets of angry flashing eyes descend on the caves abruptly, a low chorus of rumbling growls echoing through the chamber as several shapes melt out from the shadows.

Stiles lets out a huff of relief. "About time!" he shouts at the forms, and those are all the words he can get in before one of them takes a flying leap at the Arachne from behind, followed by two from its flanks. One of the newcomers drops into a crouch in front of the Sheriff as well. And this one is familiar, mostly.

"Scott?" the Sheriff blurts, mind boggled when he takes in the familiar mop of hair that can only belong to his son's best friend, the kid hunkered low like a stalking lion in front of him.

When Scott turns to look at the Sheriff over his shoulder, he notes that Scott's features look morphed somehow, sharper and wilder on his face but clearly still him despite it all. Scott just nods at him once and murmurs, "It's going to be okay, Mr. Stilinski," as he stays between the source of the danger and the…well, the cavalry, for lack of better word.

The Sheriff watches, feeling somewhat numb, as Derek Hale charges to the forefront of the battle seemingly out of nowhere, deadly and graceful and ferocious as he avoids the Arachne's flailing, spiked legs and sinks his teeth into her throat. There is a wet ripping sound and then a spray of the Arachne's arterial blood against the wall of the cave. The blow sends the Arachne stumbling under the weight of its other attackers, all of whom are kids the Sheriff is pretty sure he's had over at his house at one point or another, whenever Isaac and Stiles wanted more epic than usual movie nights.

The Arachne stumbles and gives one last, long, earth-shaking shriek before it goes quiet again, completely still and quiet.


And then the Sheriff feels his knees buckle after a moment of unadulterated relief. He thinks he's going to pass out now, because he still has a head injury, and because the adrenaline keeping him upright is probably wearing off. Either that or the whole world has suddenly just shifted on its axis without warning and he can't keep his balance anymore. Stiles is there to keep him from falling down though, catching him even as he stumbles under the weight of his father's exhaustion and disbelief.

"Dad?! Hey Dad!"

As his vision starts to fade around the edges and Stiles's voice goes tiny and distant in the background, the Sheriff tells himself that he is grounding the boys for the rest of their lives.

When the Sheriff wakes up it is a few hours later and he is on the couch in his living room. His living room is also currently filled with people who are all watching him intently. Stiles is the face immediately in front of his own, crouched on the floor at the edge of the couch like he's been waiting there for him to wake up the whole time.

The Sheriff groans.

"Dad!" Stiles breathes, relief evident in the shakiness of his voice. "How do you feel, are you okay? Water. Can someone get him some water? Maybe food? I don't know. Is there food for a concussion?"

The Sheriff winces at the shrill volume of it all.

"Stiles," Derek mutters, from where he's lurking kind of uncomfortably to Stiles's left side, "Shut up."

The Sheriff thinks that maybe this means he and Derek can be friends, checkered past or no. It helps that he saw Derek rip out the throat of the monster that was trying to eat him and his kids for dinner.

He sits up on the couch with Stiles's hands hovering nearby and mutters, "So. It wasn't a dream, was it?"

Stiles manages a watery smile and shakes his head. "Nope, no dream. Not a nightmare either, even though it probably felt like one."

The Sheriff gratefully accepts a glass of water that Erica hands him, her features sweet and young and curious and not at all fanged out and dripping with the blood of her fallen enemies anymore.

The Sheriff glances around the room as he takes a perfunctory drink. Then says, "Where's Isaac?" when he realizes someone is missing. Something a lot like dread starts to well in his stomach then, because the last he'd seen of the kid, he'd been beat to hell and poisoned with something that apparently liquefied people's organs so that crazy spider monsters could drink out their insides through their necks.

Isaac better not be liquefied. He can't be.

There's a moment where everyone sort of freezes, and the Sheriff feels his heart plummet into his stomach and his fingers go boneless, so that he's dropping the glass of water. Boyd manages to save it before it shatters against the floor. His reflexes are great.

The Sheriff swallows. "No. Tell me he isn't… that wasn't…"

Scott and Jackson look guilty and suddenly shift sideways, from where they're standing in front of the staircase. Their movement reveals Isaac, sitting at the base of stairs, kind of hunched over and staring down at his own hands nervously, like he doesn't want to be there at all.

The Sheriff looks him over from across the room, and Isaac looks him over back, slowly, like he's gearing up to be tossed out of the house and wants just one last moment to remember it all. Everyone else goes a little bit tense as they wait for the Sheriff's reaction to everything, and there's even a low rumble coming out of the back of Derek's throat, like he's ready to throw himself between Isaac and the Sheriff if he needs to, if it gets ugly.

The Sheriff ignores Derek's posturing and everyone else's tension. He gets up and hobbles over to Isaac so that he can crouch down in front of him, and stare him in the eye. "Are you okay?" he asks.

Isaac flinches a little when they're close like that, like the calm façade he'd been building up while waiting for this isn't meant to stand up under such close scrutiny. His lips curl up on one side, in a self-deprecating smile. "So I'm a werewolf," he admits after a beat, eyes flicking down at the ground instead of staying on the Sheriff.

The Sheriff huffs and fights the urge to roll his eyes. "That is not what I asked," he says, and reaches forward, rests a hand on the back of Isaac's neck, and forces the kid to look at him. "Isaac, are you okay?"

Isaac seems puzzled. "I'm fine."

The Sheriff lets out the breath he hadn't known he was holding, because now he knows all the important stuff is taken care of. They can worry about the rest, the details, later. "Okay," he says, and stands up again, groaning a little because his knees ache and his back is a mess. He's too old for this.

Everyone just kind of stares at him. "I'm going upstairs, and I'm going to bed," he says, and steps around Isaac to head up the stairs, but not before reaching out and ruffling the kid's hair a little first. "Tomorrow we talk."

"Tomorrow," Stiles and Isaac say at the exact same time, in the exact same dubious sort of way.

This makes the Sheriff smile a little, because Isaac may be a werewolf, but obviously he's more Stilinski inclined than anything else.

"Tomorrow," he says again, firmly, and disappears down the hallway, looking forward to collapsing into his bed and dealing with everything that remains in the morning. It won't be pretty, and he's fairly certain there will be yelling involved, but for now, the important stuff is handled, and he is tired as hell.

Back downstairs, he hears Scott's indignant cry of, "That's it?!" follow him to bed.

Apparently Isaac is a werewolf because Derek made him one. Isaac and Stiles both agree that Derek makes terrible decisions the next morning over a giant breakfast of pancakes and bacon. The Sheriff watches them both inhale food like perfectly normal teenagers while he sips his coffee and savors the two pieces of delicious bacony goodness that Stiles had magnanimously agreed to let him have this morning after his trauma the night before.

"And then he was kind of a douche for a few weeks, but then he got control of the power tripping, and then he helped Scott during the championship, and then we were dealing with the Alphas for a while, who were snobby douches until they realized that Derek makes bad decisions with good intentions, and then they left. That was around when Isaac moved in, and then you liked him, still like him, and then I researched the Arachne after that first body and when you didn't check in, Isaac tracked you like a freaking bloodhound, and we found you, and last night Boyd, Jackson, and Erica had to go back to the nest and smash the eggs and clean it all up. And so here we are."

Stiles sums it all up with an incredibly blasé twirling of one hand over his head while he grabs the syrup and drenches his pancakes in it with the other.

The Sheriff shakes his head, because werewolves, and Arachnes, and the fact that Stiles very obviously gleaned over the fact that the others cleaning up the nest might have also meant dealing with Delaney's body, which he's going to have some stern words with Derek about the next time he sees the idiot Alpha of this idiot pack.

Jesus. The Pack. The Sheriff is so lost in thought that he accidentally eats his last piece of bacon without even really tasting it, which is a damned waste.

Isaac is mostly quiet the whole time, concentrating on his food. The Sheriff notes that the injuries he'd sustained last night seem to be all but gone, Isaac's arm working perfectly and the scrapes and bruises from his impact with the wall completely missing. Apparently his shoulder is still a little sore as his freaky werewolf healing abilities work the last of the Arachne's poison out of his body, but it's nothing debilitating, and Deaton had assured him over the phone that werewolves were mostly immune to giant man-eating spiders.

Isaac gets all the extra bacon to help with the healing process just in case, and the Sheriff isn't even inclined to argue about Stiles playing favorites, because he agrees so much.

They finish breakfast and then the Sheriff soundly grounds them through Halloween, because it's only fair.

They both whine that it's not because Lydia is throwing a party, but after a few minutes of the Sheriff blinking back at them in a totally unimpressed sort of way, they give up trying to argue with him and go outside to rake the leaves because chores that they hate are just another part of the grounding process.

The Sheriff watches them tumble around in piles of leaves like idiots for the rest of the afternoon .

Once he's reassured that they're safe, that they're still happy and healthy and okay with everything despite their lives and the world being far scarier a place than they could ever have imagined, the Sheriff goes back upstairs and stands in the hallway between the boys' rooms like he doesn't quite know what to do with himself. He thinks that his kids are way stronger than he could ever be, because he is really, really freaking out right now.

Werewolves. Jesus Christ.

Two weeks after the Arachne incident, Erica and Boyd show up on the Stilinskis' front porch one morning, covered in mud and scratches and looking miserable. The Sheriff eyes them as he wordlessly holds open his screen door and watches them collapse, exhausted, right onto the rug that Isaac had bought to replace the one he had irreparably bled all over. They're probably ruining this one beyond repair too.

He silently goes to start breakfast, and by the time he's done with the first batch of pancakes, Jackson is there too, muddy and gross and curled up on the couch because he is still a little shit who doesn't care about anyone else's stuff getting gross so long as he's comfortable.

The Sheriff wordlessly sets another place at the table.

By the time he comes home one night in late November to find Derek rifling through his fridge like he owns it, the Sheriff has already resigned himself to Pack Dad status with a kind of fond equanimity. He just tells Derek not to drink directly out of the carton again or he's grounded, and then grins at Derek's sour expression as the big bad Alpha grudgingly goes to get a glass out of the cabinet like a civilized human being. Duty thus performed, the Sheriff trudges upstairs to go face plant into his bed until the next Beacon Hills crisis arises, supernatural or otherwise.

This is just his life now apparently. Werewolves, spiders, hunters, teenagers and all.

He smiles against his pillow as he falls asleep, and even though he doesn't ever say it out loud, he thinks Isaac was the best idea Stiles has ever had.