Universe: Teen Wolf
Theme/Topic: shameless bromance
Rating: PG-13 for violence
Character/Pairing/s: Chris Argent, Sheriff Stilinski
Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers through S2. Also warnings for blatant self-indulgence.
Word Count: 15,365
Summary: The Sheriff and Chris Argent do their best impression of Scott and Stiles, except without the flailing (because they're too old to flail anymore).
Dedication: For Sonia (and the rest of us older fans, because we can recognize the hot dads).
A/N: This is more for my own amusement than anything else, because there is no story. I just really want the dads to be bros, and who needs actual plot for that, right? Right, I’m going to stick with that reasoning. Also, yes, those are definitely Stargate SG-1 and Mortal Kombat digs. Leave me alone, I am old like they are old, okay.
Disclaimer: No harm or infringement intended.
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.