Derek groans, and winces at the ringing of the bell hooked to the top of the door; everywhere else is closed, because it’s a holiday, and even though he’s far too drunk for the cheery bright atmosphere of the diner he’s stumbled into, he’s hungry as shit, and can’t remember if he’s even got any food at home. He blinks at the waitress, chewing gum and tap-tap-texting on her phone until she notices him. Then she puts on a unique and genuine smile and leads him to a booth in the corner, away from the other customers who are chatting.
Derek looks at the menu, words blurry and unable to pierce the drunken fog of his mind; he blinks again and suddenly there’s a large cup of coffee in front of him, and a disgustingly/invitingly large stack of strawberry pancakes set before him.
Hands that definitely don’t belong to the endearing waitress snatch the menu right out of his grasp and nudge the plate of pancakes closer.
He looks over when a fork is being fitted into his head. He looks up blearily. “What are you doing,” but it comes out slurred and the man who’s essentially manhandling the early parts of Derek’s morning just laughs.
“You look drunk as fuck,” and somewhere in the back of Derek’s mind, he knows that isn’t proper server etiquette. “We’re slow and I figure you couldn’t even read the ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service’ sign, let alone the menu.”
Derek grunts and looks down, realizing indeed that he’s shirtless. He swears under his breath because it means he left it either at the bar, which won’t open for another week, or in his car.
The man laughs. “Compliments of the chef, okay?” He pats Derek’s bare shoulder and motions encouragingly towards the food.
Derek eats all of it, plus two sides of bacon and another three cups of coffee before stumbling back out of the diner.
The next time Derek goes to the diner, he practically waltz in, hangover free and actually excited to be able to taste the food and not heave it all up two hours later outside his apartment. He nods to the waitress again, same girl as before, and she curls her finger in a cheery wave that brightens Derek’s day just a bit. He goes to the same booth as before, oddly comforted that it’s empty and open for him.
He sits down, and twiddles his thumbs because he didn’t grab a menu from the front, very purposefully. Even when the waitress catches his attention and waves one around for him, Derek shakes his head with a small grin. She shrugs, and mouths something that looks like ‘alrighty then’ and doesn’t question it.
Derek waits for precisely fifteen minutes before an ice-free Dr. Pepper is in glass on a coaster before him. He looks up and the same man as before has a plate in his hand and a grin splitting across his face.
“Good to see you again, although I would’ve been willing to bend that ‘no shirt’ rule for you again.”
Derek quirks a brow at that—forward, much?
But it’s appreciated, just as much as the plate that the man sets down for him. Criss-cross waffle fries and some sort of barbeque chicken burger that smells heavenly.
“Smells great,” he grunts, feeling awkward and too tight in his skin.
The man grins. “Tastes better,” he replies, equally stunted for Derek’s benefit. “Enjoy,” he nods and practically skips back to the kitchen.
Derek agrees, once his plate is clean, that it tasted even better than it smelled. He leaves some weird estimate of money on the table before he leaves.
The third time he comes in, he brings a friend.
Lydia is high class and seldom eats anywhere that doesn’t have a five-star review on a website that you have to pay to register for, but for Derek she’ll make an exception. She always does, like going with him to Target, or going to the one dime-theater in town that plays old classics like The Errand Boy and The Day the Earth Stopped.
She doesn’t huff or make a fuss when Derek leads her into the diner. He nods at Lila, the waitress who’s always got a grin on her face, even while she’s texting. She tilts her head when she looks at Lydia, but smiles all the same and nods to his booth.
“Wait, shouldn’t we grab—?”
“No.” Derek halts her, and lets her sit first. He’s oddly pleased when she doesn’t sit on his side. “Just wait.”
The wait for food is longer this time, but it’s all the more worth it. The man comes up—and Derek has yet to catch his name—with a tray in his hands, with two drinks and one large plate of food on it. There’s a vodka Shirley Temple for Lydia, and her face lights up at that, and the usual iceless Dr. Pepper for Derek.
“Nachos,” the man announces, and that’s a gross understatement. It’s more like a mountain of cheese, jalapenos, more cheese, beef and chicken and beans, and if Derek squints he thinks he can see bits of chips buried deep inside the orgy of toppings.
Derek grins. “You continue to impress.”
The man’s “thanks” is subdued and tossed over his shoulder as he hurries back to the kitchen.
Derek eats, but it isn’t as satisfying as the times before and he can’t place why.
Derek doesn’t bring Lydia back there. Or rather, he makes the resolution not to, since this is only his fourth time going, but immediately as soon as he walks in, things are different. Lila doesn’t look as pleasant, and the whole atmosphere is off. Derek walks up to where she stands at the little podium.
“Can I have a seat, over there, today?” He asks, voice quiet and unmoving as he points to the row of stools that are closer to the kitchen than his signature booth.
Lila gets this knowing smile on her face, and nods. “Go right ahead.”
Derek grins to show his thanks and hurries to a seat even though there’s no reason to rush. He sees the man as soon as he’s seated, slaving over a dish with a grin in place. When he rings the bell and puts the plate of for order, he sees Derek, and gets a sour look on his face.
Derek motions him over, and he complies.
“What, no Dr. Pepper?” Derek teases.
The man fights a grin and rolls his eyes. He turns around for a second and leans back through the window where orders come and go, and when he faces Derek again he’s got the soda in hand.
Derek can’t even pretend to not be astonished. He grins bright and wide. “So, what am I having today?”
The man shrugs, “what do you want?”
“Your name.” Is out of his mouth before he can stop himself.
The man laughs, fingers curling and smile coming out of hiding. “Stiles.”
It’s unusual, and Derek knows it’s likely a nickname, but he doesn’t press. “Alright, Stiles, what am I having today?” He asks again.
Stiles hums with thought, before nodding to himself. “You’ll see,” and with that he’s back in the kitchen, hard at work.
He doesn’t get dinner, which goes against everything his mother taught him since it’s precisely six o’clock in the evening, prime dinner time. Instead he gets a comically large sundae, and when he can’t eat all of it he certainly doesn’t mind Stiles pitching in to help.
One night, Derek comes in, well, at night, as opposed to his usual early afternoon. Stiles has a beer waiting for him, and Derek vaguely thinks it’s out of place for a diner to serve beer, but doesn’t care much. He accepts it gladly, and looks around while taking a drink.
“Slow night?” It’s oddly empty, a little eerie.
“We’re closed,” Stiles replies.
Derek’s eyes widen. “Shit—sorry—”
Stiles stops him with a simple raised hand. “I was about to send Lila to lock up, but you just marched right in.”
“It’s my day,” Thursday—Thursday is his day, and has been for about two months now.
Stiles smiles. “Yeah, yeah it is.” He just leans on the counter, leans closer to Derek. “So, after you’ve finished that, how about you help me clean up so Lila can head home early?”
“Gladly.” Derek grins back.
Stiles nods and excuses himself to the back; distantly, Derek can hear them talk, and then Lila’s cheer, and then Stiles is back. Derek nods as Lila rushes out, and she barely waves back before she’s gone.
When Derek finally does finish the beer—he enjoys savoring them, so sue him—Stiles is fiddling with the jukebox in the far corner.
The song rumbles along quietly, before “You better shape up, cuz I need a man,” is echoing in the diner, and Derek’s laughing before he can help himself.
Stiles swings his hips on his way over to Derek, and instead of cleaning they end up dancing around the tables.