Derek stood outside the small coffee shop, eyeing the wooden sign as the wrought iron hinges creaked in the breeze. The sign was painted dark blue and looked newish, not yet weather worn or peeling, and the writing was far from professional. In the center was a roughly drawn coffee cup bubbling over like a cauldron, and surrounding it in bronze colored paint were the words The Leaky Carafe.
Any other day, maybe he’d be amused at the odd little shop sign, which looked kitschy and out of place on the quiet and boring streets of Beacon Hills, but his nerves chased away his sense of humor. He’d been told to stop here before his shift began, and Derek wasn’t willing to question orders with his uniform still unfamiliar on his frame, the creases stiff and perfect.
He stepped into the shop, unsure what to expect but hoping the service was at least quick. The place was empty, unsurprisingly, as it was still just after six in the morning and this town didn't keep New York hours.
The lighting was unexpectedly soft, beams of morning light just creeping through the spaces between the surrounding buildings to find their way through the large picture window at the front of the shop. There was a charming exposed-brick interior, with shelves stacked with eclectic decor -- everything from old Star War figurines to odd shaped bottles and jars. It was about as far from Starbucks as it could get, really.
Derek was pleasantly surprised. Maybe, on another day, he'd be tempted to look around, and try to get a better look at whatever was in those jars that was making his nose itch and fangs throb beneath his gums.
He tamped the thought down, however, when his phone chirped its reminder that his shift started in fifteen minutes.
When he finally approached the counter, the girl behind it didn't immediately look up from filing her nails. He cleared his throat and her eyes lifted to him, her gaze flickering blandly over his face, then his uniform.
"Stiles!" she yelled, flipping her long blond curls over her shoulder, before going back to her nails as if he wasn’t a paying customer.
Another moment passed with nothing happening other than his temper rising. He cleared his throat again. “Excuse me.”
“Stiles will be right out to help you,” she said, the words transitioning into a curse at a particularly stubborn cuticle.
Derek stared at her, his ears going hot. His shoulders straightened, and he puffed out his chest, emphasizing his shiny new badge. He would have thought himself above such petty displays of authority if anyone had asked him before today, but he was also going to be late, dammit.
His display had all of zero effect on her anyway. Then again, this place was only two blocks away from the sheriff’s station and uniformed customers were probably their bread and butter. Hell, the daily caffeine runs to The Leaky Carafe had been one of the first things he’d been told about, when he’d been hired.
The woman who had handled his new-hire paperwork had talked about this damn place with such fondness, that Derek had been afraid to mention the fact that he didn’t actually like coffee. She hadn’t signed his paperwork at that point.
He had never fit in with the coffee-obsessed culture that seemed to be the norm these days. Caffeine did nothing for him, his werewolf metabolism processing through the drug before he could benefit from any of its perks, and while the scent of coffee was pleasing, the taste disgusted him.
He’d been equal parts dismayed and resigned when he’d been told that the joy of the early --early-- morning pre-shift coffee run, would be his for the foreseeable future. “Perks of being the rookie,” Deputy Parrish had told him with a wink, as he’d handed Derek a list with everyone’s orders the day before.
Derek still wasn’t sure if Parrish had looked pleased or disappointed to be passing the job along. He had a feeling he knew the answer though, if Blonde and Bitchy was any indication.
Just as Derek's annoyance prickled into outright anger, the door that led to the back swung open, blurting a cloud of pale smoke, the scent of burning something, and a kid who appeared to be the engineer of whatever natural disaster had taken place in what Derek presumed was a kitchen.
The kid was tall and lanky, with long limbs and the burgeoning confidence of someone who had only just grown into them. The sleeves of his plaid shirt were haphazardly rolled up past his elbows, and there was a smear of what looked like batter across his cheek. Derek couldn’t help but focus on it, and then couldn’t look away, more than a little distracted by the blotchy splash of color beneath it.
The nametag perched at a haphazard angle on his shirt was covered in flour, but not enough that Derek couldn’t see where someone had written “Stiles” in sparkly pink marker, and then placed a little gold star sticker over where the dot for the “i” should have been.
“Hey, uh…” Stiles trailed off. He blinked and wiped his palms on his jeans, leaving a streak of flour behind. “Not Jordan. You’re not Jordan.”
The first instance was a statement of fact, albeit a slightly confused one, but the second definitely sounded like an accusation. Like it was Derek’s fault that he was standing in the damn coffee shop at -- he checked his phone, dammit, he was definitely going to be late -- dealing with a clearly inept staff.
Like it was his fault that he’d had to roll himself out of bed a half hour earlier than he would have needed to, just so he had time to find this place-- which hadn’t even shown up on Google Maps street view, for fuck's sakes-- wait for all the various coffee orders to be filled, and still be in to work on time.
“Not Jordan,” Derek confirmed, fighting to keep his voice neutral.
“I see that.” Stiles didn’t look impressed, although he did take a second to give Derek a considering once over.
Derek had to fight the urge to fidget under the unexpectedly intense scrutiny. He covered by making a point of unfolding his list of drink orders, setting it on the counter in front of him, and placing his index finger on the paper.
He slid it pointedly toward Stiles. “I need all those. Quickly would be nice.”
“A please would be nice,” Stiles said, although he didn’t sound particularly offended.
He was already moving, not bothering to even glance at the list. His big hands were quick and certain as he measured out the coffee for the espresso machine, which he petted as it grumbled to life, espresso finally spurting out in angry starts and stops.
The scent of it was immediately hot and thick in the air.
“Rowena can be a little temperamental first thing in the morning,” Stiles explained when he noticed Derek’s worried stare, and then he added, “So you’re new, huh?”
“Yes, Rowena. Don’t judge.”
Derek rolled his eyes. “At least you didn’t name it Godric,” he finally conceded, then frowned when Stiles stopped what he was doing to blink up at him. The sudden absence of motion was jarring compared to the frenetic energy that had followed Stiles into the room.
“Yeah. Too obvious,” Stiles said, voice a little breathy as he continued to stare motionlessly up at Derek. It was like he’d short-circuited, with his mouth hanging slightly open, and his hands halted mid-motion. They shared a look for a moment, Stiles’ eyes a golden caramel in the morning light that streaked, much brighter now, through the front window.
They both jerked at the loud click of nails on Formica, and Derek looked over to see the blonde unapologetically staring at them. Her nail file was gone, and she was sipping something from a large mug, eyeing them over the rim in blatant amusement.
“If you don’t hurry, our new deputy is going to be late for work,” she said, as if she were explaining a particularly difficult concept to a young child. The blatant superiority in her voice would've made Derek bristle, but it did the trick for Stiles. He immediately whirled back into motion, like a switch had been flipped.
“You could actually, you know, help, Erica,” Stiles said, but she just shrugged and hiked herself up onto the counter instead, her gaze still firmly fixed on Derek. He was immediately nostalgic for the few precious moments when he’d been beneath her notice; he had the sudden insight that her attention was going to prove far more infuriating than her dismissal earlier had.
It didn’t take long for Stiles to finish with the drink orders all by himself though, carefully writing names on the outsides of each cup. Done, he settled them into a large box that had “Sheriff's Station” scribbled on each side in black sharpie.
When Derek peered down into it, he saw that someone had lined the bottom of the box with cups from a typical cardboard drink holder, cutting each out individually, before gluing them in place to hold the dozen or so orders. Derek hadn't considered how he was supposed to get all the drink orders back to the station, and he was a suitably impressed with the innovation.
“Someone’ll bring it back to me for the afternoon order,” Stiles explained. “It’s about the only way to get everyone their coffee. Lord knows that no one in that damn building can make a decent cup.”
Derek hummed, non-committal, and subtly checked his watch. A weight lifted from his shoulders when he realized he still had about five minutes before he was late. Finally Stiles moved to the register to ring up the order, shooing Blonde and-- Erica -- out of the way in the process.
“If you take the receipt to Linda, uh, the secretary? She’ll make sure you get reimbursed.”
“Thanks,” Derek said, although he’d already been told to do that.
“No problem.” Stiles smiled brightly at him, before helping to get the box settled securely in Derek’s hold. “I’ll get the door for you.”
The early morning spring air had a bit of a chill on it when Derek finally stepped outside, careful of jarring his precarious hold on the coffee.
“You never did tell me your name,” Stiles said, his arm extended to hold the door open as Derek slid past him.
Derek looked back over his shoulder, and he was momentarily transfixed by the way the direct sunlight burnished Stiles’ hair into strands of copper and auburn. “It’s Derek.”
“Well then, Deputy Derek,” Stiles said, winking in a way that came across both self-deprecating and flirty. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Derek gave Parrish a grateful smile when he rushed forward to pull open the employee door to the sheriff's station. He held it for Derek with one hand, his other clamped over his mouth to stifle a yawn.
Parrish nodded, still mid-yawn as Derek walked past.
“Not gonna lie. It was nice to sleep in a little this morning. Stiles give you much trouble?” Parrish asked, following Derek inside.
“He’s… interesting,” Derek admitted as they walked together into the station. He still wasn’t entirely sure he knew what to make of the events of the morning so far. “But he’s not the one I’d be afraid to turn my back on.”
Parrish didn’t even pretend to hide his laugh. “I take it you met Erica. Don’t mind her. She’s all bark. Mostly. Just... ”
Derek turned to look back when he realized Parrish had stopped walking.
“Probably best not to piss her off. She’s friends with Lydia, and the last person they decided to vent their righteous anger on… well, let's just say it wasn’t pretty. I heard the hospital bill was outrageous too.”
Derek didn't know Parrish well enough to know if he was being jerked around or not, but he hadn’t detected a lie. He simply nodded and took note.
Parrish continued to look serious for a moment, and then his face split into a shit-eating, and devastatingly handsome, grin. He stepped around Derek to head to his desk, patting Derek on the shoulder as he went. “Put the coffee in the break room. Everyone knows to look there.”
Derek stared after him for a minute, but finally shook his head in tentative amusement. He had the distinct impression Parrish was inwardly laughing at him, but Derek was used to that feeling. Growing up with Laura as a sister definitely had that effect. At any rate, he was pretty sure there wasn’t a malicious bone in Parrish’s body.
The quick tour after he'd signed his papers had mentioned a break room to the left, and Derek went to seek it out. When he found it, he set the box of coffee down on the counter beside a very dusty-- someone had drawn a fingerprint frowny face on the top-- percolator that might have been from the 70s.
He was just on his way back out when his phone rang shrilly from his pocket. He frowned, looked over his shoulder to make sure no one had noticed, and ducked back into the room, fumbling his phone out of his pocket. He stared down at Laura’s name.
He had learned from long and painful experience that ignoring her always ended up being more trouble than it was worth, so it was with some resignation that he answered.
“Hello, Laura,” he said as he checked over his shoulder again to make sure he was still alone.
“Derek!” Her voice was gratingly chipper. “Soooo, how’s your first day at work? Everything you thought it would be? Arrest any bad guys yet?”
“Oh yeah," Derek said, rolling his eyes even though he knew she couldn't see. He assumed she was probably envisioning the gesture anyway. “I’ve arrested all the bad guys in Beacon Hills in the… oh, five minutes that I’ve been here.”
“Touchy, touchy,” Laura said, and this time it was Derek who envisioned her rolling her eyes.
“Laura, I probably shouldn’t be on my phone.”
Laura huffed, and when she spoke again, her voice was a serious. “Okay, fine. But first, how are you doing, really? I worry about you, Derek. Especially being back there. Have you met anyone? Made any friends? Why haven’t you called me?”
“Laura, I swear I’m okay. Despite what you seem to think, I am actually a grown up. I even have an apartment and a job and everything."
“I still don’t believe it. I keep having these nightmares of you like, squatting in some warehouse or something.”
“Yeah, you know, I did think about it. Unfortunately, I had to have an actual local address in order to get my job, so I was forced to take the plunge and find a real place to live. Ikea furniture and all. There are throw pillows, Laura. You'd be proud.”
She snorted, but he could tell in the way of siblings who were as close as they were, that she was satisfied.
“I really should go.” He looked over his shoulder for the third time. He didn’t know what the cell phone policy was around here, but today was not the day to test it.
“Okay, fine. Yeah, I guess I should get back to work, too. The boss is in fine form today. We just got a new vamp in our East End house and she's not adjusting as well as we'd hoped. Call me tonight.”
“Maybe,” he said, smiling before ending the call because 'maybe' made Laura nuts. He made sure it was set to vibrate this time, and slid it back into his pocket.
He was just stepping foot out of the break room, when he reared back quickly, narrowly missing being elbowed in the face by Sheriff Stilinski who was trying to walk and cover a yawn.
"Sorry," the sheriff mumbled, blinking a few times before recognition showed in his eyes. “Ah, Derek,” he said, smiling and patting a hand warmly on his shoulder. “Good to see you. First day, huh?”
“Well, we’ll try not to scare you off too bad.”
“I’m pretty sure I’ll survive,” Derek said, voice deadpan.
“You say that now,” he said, keeping the same flat tone. “But you haven’t met our dispatcher yet. Lydia’s… well. She could be an alien for all I know.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me, all things considered,” Derek responded, finally letting the beginnings of a smile quirk the sides of his mouth. The sheriff’s own face split into a grin as well, and he patted Derek’s shoulder again.
“All things considered,” he agreed, winking.
It was odd to have been winked at twice already today, and it was barely passed sunrise.
“Well, I better let you get settled for the day. I’m pretty sure we’re gonna partner you up with Parrish. Keep things pretty easy on you for now.”
“No problem, Deputy,” the sheriff gave him a loose salute, which transitioned into him motioning vaguely toward the interior of the break room. “Coffee.” And just like that, his attention moved away from Derek in a clear dismissal.
Derek shook his head and headed toward the small desk that had been assigned to him. Sitting down in his chair, he stared at his new workspace which contained all of three thumb tacks, a single pen, a stapler, and a computer with a post-it note stating his ID and password. There was also a shiny new name plate that simply read “Hale” in gold lettering over a black background. Derek couldn’t help but reach out and carefully adjust the positioning of it, a feeling of satisfaction and pride swelling.
It had been a long road to get here, living back in Beacon Hills as an officer of the law of all things, especially considering the the last time he’d been in town, he’d helped Laura kill their uncle. So he could understand her concerns. On the other hand, for the first time in years he felt sort of like he was where he was supposed to be.
New York had never been home. Beacon Hills wasn’t quite home for him yet either, but maybe it was his connection to the land, or something else entirely, because something was slowly starting to settle inside of him.
A few nights ago, he'd run through the preserve enjoying the first full moon since he’d been back, and it had only cemented the feeling. It was right for a Hale to be living in Beacon Hills.
Derek took a deep breath to center himself, and turned his computer on. He still wasn’t entirely sure what his routine here was going to look like, but it definitely seemed like a good start. Or at least it made him look a little busy, until someone came and told him what to do.
His email was just booting up when something was set down on the desk by his elbow. Derek looked up, surprised to see the sheriff again, standing there with an inscrutable look on his face. Despite the fact that the man genuinely seemed to like him, Derek hadn’t actually expected any further direct or meaningful contact that day, so he was a little surprised to say the least.
“I think this is yours,” the sheriff said, nodding down toward the paper coffee cup now sitting innocently on Derek’s new desk.
“I’m pretty sure I didn’t order anythi…” Derek trailed off when the sheriff raised an eyebrow and rotated the cup.
Derek had seen Stiles writing names on them, and though there wasn’t a name on this one, Derek knew instantly that arguing that this wasn't his drink was probably useless.
He narrowed his eyes at the crude caricature drawn on the side of the cup in black sharpie. The face had a scratchy beard and eyebrows as thick as his pinky, drawn down in a menacing frown.
“You were saying?”
“Uh,” Derek said, a little bewildered. The sheriff rolled his eyes and without saying another word turned his back and walked away. Derek stared after him.
It was turning out to be a weird day.
He picked up the cup carefully, bringing it to his nose out of force of habit, expecting the bitter tang of coffee to assault his nose. And then he blinked in surprise, pulled the lid off the cup off and took a tentative sip.
He took another sip, and then hummed contentedly, wrapping both hands possessively around the paper cup and hunching over to try and soak in the warmth and the tantalizing smell a little better.
Tea wasn't something Derek ever purchased from a cafe or restaurant. He flatly just didn't like other people's tea. Well, he hadn’t before. He'd never considered himself a snob or a connoisseur or anything. It was just that tea, to Derek, was something he made at home.
He liked using his own leaves from the specialty tea shop located a couple of blocks from his old apartment in New York-- and he’d have to rely on Laura to send him more from now on, he realized. He liked the ritual of getting the water temperature just right, and measuring out the perfect amount of leaves for his tastes.
This tea was delicate though, like the Baihao Yinzhen silver needle tea that was his favorite, if a little pricey for him to drink too often. It had the perfect balance of sweet and slightly floral, and the warmth of it as it hit his belly was welcome and perfect.
“I know that look.”
Derek shook off his daze to see Parrish standing at his desk, arms crossed and an amused look on his face.
“Can’t say I understand how he does it,” Parrish said. “But Stiles has a knack for getting it right. He knows everyone’s favorite drink, every time, like magic.”
Derek thought back to the not-so-subtle Harry Potter themes of The Leaky Carafe and wondered if they were meant to be ironic. “Crazier things have happened in Beacon Hills.”
Parrish laughed outright at that. “You have no idea.”
Only, he really did.