Stiles is dying. Stiles is dying, gasping, he is fairly expiring from thirst, the lack of caffeine in his bloodstream actively trying to murder him, making his hands shake and his eyes blur, and he has three meetings this morning that promise to take all of his mental capacity and then some. The fact that his brain is barely even working at all right now is nothing less than a recipe for disaster. He needs coffee, and plenty of it, stat, or it will be the end of Stilinski Consultancy. His little firm will disappear in a roar of flames, and Stiles is adamantly not prepared to concede defeat just yet, not now when things are actually looking up. This morning could be the making of them, and he is not going to squander it -- he's going to own those meetings, whatever it takes.
What's worse, the worst, is that since Mr and Mrs Meyers retired about a month ago, the best coffee shop in town has been woefully, depressingly out of commission, windows dark and door remaining firmly closed. Stiles desperately misses their mule's kick of an espresso, the old behemoth coffee machine that used to sputter and moan and make absolutely the most delicious coffee that Stiles has ever had the blissful pleasure of tasting. He misses the mouthwatering smell of Mrs Meyers' chocolate and stem ginger cookies, her peach cream cupcakes, the plum crumble that used to taste like sunshine. He can only hope that the new owner knows what huge shoes they've got to fill--
Hang on. Stiles' sleepy thoughts rumble to a screeching halt, along with his beloved Jeep, right in the middle of the thankfully-still-empty street. It's six-thirty in the morning, but there are warm lights behind the floor-to-ceiling, de-boarded windows, and the 'For Sale' sign on the door has disappeared along with Stiles' memory of where he'd been headed just moments before. The coffee shop is, apparently, open for business once more.
If it's still a proper coffee shop. Stiles might actually break down and cry if it turns out that the monster of a machine is gone and it is being turned into just another generic Starbucks.
After a moment he gets a smidgen of his wits back and steers his Jeep off the street, throwing it into Park a few meters from the front door. There is a shadow moving behind the bar, when Stiles sidles over and surreptitiously peeks inside -- or, okay, surreptitiously doing anything this early in the morning? He'd like to see you try that one on for size. It's not his fault that his feet are still adjusting to being made to walk straight again. The bump on his forehead where he smacks straight into the polished windowpane is painful enough without the excruciating embarrassment of being glared at by--
Oh, boy. Oh, boy.
The man behind the bar is. He's. Uh. Pale green eyes bore into Stiles' through thirty feet of space like he's right in front of Stiles, heavy black eyebrows scrunched over them to give him a menacing air not unlike that of a grumpy, growly bear. The man has a day's growth of dark stubble over his jaw, generous lips pressed together disdainfully, cheekbones that Stiles could cut his fingers on if he tried to touch them--
Not that he would. No. Nooooo, that way madness lies. Stiles has enough on his plate without a wholly inappropriate, ugly-laughing in the face of his self-preservation, little boy crush. Or not so little. Not so little at all--
Oh god, he's coming over. He prowls down the length of the shop, dark jeans hugging lean hips, a gray Henley clinging to shoulders that make Stiles swallow fitfully, a chest that... Uh.
He did mention his antagonistic relationship with early mornings, right? Stiles wonders whether it's worth explaining to this
Greek God chiseled hunk of manhood perfect specimen of a walking daydream guy that Stiles is... not at his best during the early hours.
He could always run away and get Lydia to explain...
--Yeah, how about no. She mocks him plenty even without Stiles handing her ammunition of this caliber.
The man is standing right in front of Stiles now, on the other side of the glass. He's... tall. And broad. He could probably lift Stiles with those arms alone, prop him against a wall and...
Stiles shakes his head, wondering when his usually reliable perception of reality decided to take a nap on him. A guy looking like that would never. Not that Stiles is bad-looking, or anything, he doesn't lack in self-confidence, but someone like that, yeah. Dream on, Stilinski.
The guy is still standing there, arms crossed over his chest making it bulge in extremely interesting ways that Stiles is not going to think about, compelling eyes narrowed on him. Stiles feels like they're seeing right through him and out of the other side. He blinks, throat feeling dry and sore. He lifts a hand, like some complete idiot, and wiggles his fingers. Oh god, the guy is going to think he's an absolute moron. Three sandwiches short of a picnic. Stiles did mention the early morning thing, right? He may have forgotten to take his Adderall before hightailing it out of the door, now that he thinks about it. Oh god, he wants to call his dad and ask him to drive over and shoot him now. It will be a mercy.
The strong eyebrows lift pointedly, and the guy looks at him down his long, straight nose. Stiles is absolutely not getting a little hard at that look. At all. And even if he was, it would be the most ridiculous delusion he has ever succumbed to, because yeah, he has a chance with that like he does with Lydia--
--Lydia. The meeting. Fuck.
"Oh, god," Stiles moans, staring down at the watch on the hand that's still held up in greeting, he is never going to be able to go inside this shop again without dying of mortification. "Sorry," he yelps, somehow resisting the urge to cringe at how insane he sounds, and trips backwards over his own feet, falling against the frame of his Jeep, still damnably undercaffeinated. He's going to have to chug down a whole pot before Lydia gets there and shakes her head at him in that despairing way of hers, like she's still wondering what possessed her to go into business with him.
He climbs inside, throwing one last look at the fucking delicious-looking man still looking after him in bemusement, and sighs, resigned to his fate of never, ever making the right impression, of always coming across as 'that clumsy idiot' to anyone who doesn't know him already, that isn't used to his ways. He closes his eyes for a second, feels his mouth droop in the corners. Well, at least that will nix his anxiety in the bud, knowing that he couldn't possibly embarrass himself any more in front of the first guy to have caught his eye in years. Now that he's taken care of sending out the correct Stilinski impression, he can just go in for coffee, without the fluttering, aching hope for the chance of... anything.
'Deep breaths, Stiles. It's not like you should have expected anything different. Besides, you have a meeting to go to,' he reminds himself, and if his grip on the shift is a little more white-knuckled than it ought to be, well. No one will ever know.
Because this is Stiles' life, news about the freshly-re-opened coffee shop is all over town by lunchtime. Stiles must have been the first person to have stumbled upon the new owner as he took stock of the place, and as such he is fairly mobbed when he mentions it.
"Damn it, I don't know a thing about him, I told you already," he grouses, throwing Lydia and Allison a betrayed look when they just prop their elbows on the counter by his desk and pillow their cheeks on them, batting their eyelashes at him. He doesn't even know why Allison bothers, she and Scott are practically engaged. "I only saw him for a minute, and all he did was glare at me."
"But is he hot?" Lydia wants to know, narrowing her eyes at him playfully. Stiles swallows.
"Uh. Kind of? In a 'I'm deciding whether or not to rip your throat out' kind of way? Sort of... brooding. And dark. Dark and brooding and menacing."
Allison and Lydia share a look that makes little goosebumps skitter down Stiles' spine. He knows that look. That is a 'conspire against Stiles for his own good' look that promises nothing good. The last time Stiles had been subject to it, they had tried to set him up with Jackson, which, a world of no, even two years later.
Footsteps sound around the corner, preceded by a smell that, no lie, gets Stiles half-hard all on its own.
"Jesus fuck," he groans, while Lydia and Allison's heads whip around. Danny falters in his approach, a large brown paper bag clutched in one huge hand, a strange logo on the side that Stiles has never seen before.
"Danny," he groans breathlessly, and Danny blinks at him.
"Uh, did I miss anything?" he asks, eyes darting uncertainly between them.
"Stiles is being unusually tight-lipped," Lydia announces, making Danny's eyebrows rise and his mouth twitch.
"It's true," Allison chimes in. "It's disturbing. See if you can't get him back to his usual motormouth ways?"
Danny lifts an eyebrow Stiles' way. Stiles just barely resists thumping his head down on his desk, over the towering mountains of research paperwork that he could be making his way through instead of being badgered by his heartless colleagues. He pouts. Danny's mouth twitches some more, which is ridiculously charming. Not for the first time, Stiles wishes that Danny found him attractive at all.
"What's in the bag?" he asks, possibly a little too loudly, not to mention pointedly, but he's desperate here.
Danny's eyes crinkle a little, which just tells Stiles that Danny knows exactly what Stiles is doing, but he's willing to play along.
"I," he declares dramatically, "have been scooping out the local happenings." He plops the bag on the one clear corner of Stiles' desk, untwisting the top.
Stiles takes one look at the straightened logo, a stylised wolf's head with bright yellow eyes, and his brain decides to remind him just why it looks so familiar -- he'd last seen it etched onto the top stretched over the chest of the guy from the coffee shop this morning. The memory of that sight is still etched behind his eyelids every time he closes his eyes. He can grumble all he wants, but he can't deny that it had been one hell of a sight.
He's yanked out of his contemplation of vast, thickly-muscled shoulders by the smell. It's... It's like that smell is hard-wired to his salivary glands, because his mouth fairly floods with it, the rich, earthy smell of top-notch coffee weaving with the lighter scent of apple and cinnamon muffins.
"Holy god," Lydia moans, slim fingers darting inside the bag and pulling out a perfect golden muffin, bringing it to her nose reverently. "These cannot possibly taste as good as they smell."
The filthy smirk on Danny's mouth begs to differ.
"Try the coffee," he says slyly, and hands Stiles a cup with the same logo on the side.
The wolf stares at him soulfully, muzzle closed, looking... almost sweet. Stiles shakes himself, pops the cap and buries his nose inside, drawing the life-giving smell of it deep into his lungs. There's a curl of... something in his gut, almost premonition, almost like his life is about to take a sudden turn that throws him out of whack. There is absolutely nothing to cause the feeling, and yet...
He shrugs it off, and takes a sip.
Flavour explodes on his tongue, sliding like velvet against his palate, a hint of cinnamon and vanilla that makes his mouth want to keep the liquid inside it forever. He swallows almost defiantly, but it's a mistake, he knows that straight away, because the burst of taste at the back of his throat, the delicious sweetness, the warmth of it, it soothes him in a way that no mere drink should be able to do.
"What," he wheezes when he's done, staring at the innocuous caramel-brown surface in terrible suspicion.
"Good, right?" Danny says happily, so eager to share the joy of discovery that Stiles has no choice but to deflate.
"Magic," he says darkly, scowling at the delightfully warm cup in his hand. "Black magic."
"Hale magic, more like," Jemima says, dancing closer and nudging Stiles aside to poke her nose in his drink. Her skin is the same colour as the coffee, which is kind of surreal.
"No," Lydia gasps. Allison looks confused -- she only moved into town years after the Hales had left, after the nearly disastrous fire that took their house and almost cost them their lives. Jemima, on the other hand, is a born-and-bred Beaconite. She'd been in the year below them at high school, and she'd pestered and prodded Stiles, when he'd opened the Consultancy, until he'd agreed to hire her. He freely admits it's the best business choice he's ever made by himself.
Stronger men than Stiles would have failed to hold back their shocked inhale. "Hale? You mean that guy back there was Derek frigging Hale?"
Jemima lifts one perfectly shaped eyebrow that makes Lydia look at her with big-sisterly approval. "Well, yeah. I mean, it's been ten years, but I don't think I'll ever forget those eyes."
Something sharp stabs Stiles in the gut for absolutely no reason whatsoever. No reason at all. Nothing to do with a cold night ten years ago, when Derek Hale had found him miserably shivering in a cave in the woods by the Hale house, having lost his way, eyes bleary with unshed tears two days after he and his dad had buried his mother. Derek had glared at him (and now that Stiles thinks back, he honestly can't believe he missed that, that he'd seen the guy stare at him this morning and not put the dots together, given the fact that he still dreams of that night with distressing frequency), dragged him back into the open, pushed him inside his black growling muscle car, and driven him home with the heater blasting on full.
He sits there staring into the distance, a phantom chill making his shoulders lock, when a light, warm hand curls over the back of his neck, and Allison steps just a touch closer. She alone knows what happened that night, because she had been the only one whom Stiles had told, years later, after Allison's mother had chosen to die at her own hand rather than let the Alzheimer's ravage her mind. It had been exceedingly small comfort, but it had been all that Stiles had had to give, and Allison had seemed grateful for it -- they'd certainly been much closer after that talk.
Anyway. It's not like the others know, and it's not like it changes anything. So Derek Hale is back in town, and apparently he makes the most heavenly coffee. It doesn't change a thing. He's still the same quiet, taciturn guy that he was a decade ago; still has that thousand-yard stare, still manages, without even intending, to make Stiles feel small and inadequate and like there are foot-tall neon red letters over his head blinking 'hi, I like you so much'.
Stiles resolves to forget all about stupidly hot men that very likely don't remember him at all, and concentrate on work. This, at least, he can deal with.