Derek hears Stiles before he sees him, mostly because Stiles hasn't yet learned how to enter The Halemouth without half falling through the door. He doesn't let himself look up, instead surreptitiously taking down a mug from the shelf and adding a few pumps of hazelnut syrup. It's absolutely because it's the closest thing to hand and not because Stiles always moans a little bit around his first sip if Derek puts hazelnut in it.
"Dude!" Stiles says, and Derek looks up to find Stiles practically vibrating at the counter in front of him. "You gotta tell me about werewolf mating rituals!"
Derek fumbles hooking the portafilter, because Jesus. "What?"
Stiles uses his old, beaten laptop as an arm rest as he leans across the counter. Derek would feel sorry for the thing, but he knows it's been through worse. Stiles wrote his first best-seller on that antique and it's chugged on ever since. "Mating rituals," Stiles says giddily, like he didn't fry Derek's brain with it the first time. "I need it for the ending of the Roth Trilogy."
Derek leans over to grab a fresh bottle of milk from the fridge and when he straightens up, Stiles' cheeks are a distracting pink. Derek feels mildly satisfied that talking about fucking mating rituals seems to affect him like a normal human being.
Stiles clears his throat. "But yeah – I've decided Leon and August are gonna have to go undercover as a mated pair and-"
"Leon and August?" Derek says before he can stop himself, twisting the cap off the jug. "Really?"
Stiles grins. "Fuck yes, really – I've been planning this shit since halfway through book one," he says, and Derek has to swallow a little hard because that's around the same time he'd started picturing Stiles' two main characters as him and Stiles. "Speaking of," Stiles says. "Is knotting a thing?"
Derek sloshes the milk everywhere.
Stiles started coming to The Halemouth three years ago, back when he was an aspiring writer with a brand-new laptop and the Hales were mostly known for being the only established Pack in Northern California. These days, they're also known as the makers of the best espresso in Beacon Hills, which Derek feels rightly proud of considering he snarls at anyone who comes near the espresso machine without a thorough knowledge of the benefits of a conical burr over blade grinders.
But anyway, Stiles. Stiles had tripped through the door at speed only to stare up at the menu for a solid ten minutes like it was written in goddamn latin or something. Derek, while known for his fucking excellent coffee, was not known for his patience. Still isn't. And so he thinks he deserves a medal for waiting as long as he had to snarl at Stiles to get on with it.
What he hadn't expected was for Stiles to flail so hard he'd actually fallen over, right there in front of the counter. Derek had leaned over to make sure he wasn't dead only to be met with one of the biggest grins he'd ever seen in his life. And he lived with Laura.
"Holy shit, you're Derek Hale," Stiles had said, like Derek was the second coming or something. "Dude, I have like, a million questions for you!"
Which is how Derek had found himself the unofficial go-to for Stiles' werewolf research.
Derek turns the mug gently as he pours, slowing towards the lip so he can start the design. He'll never tell anyone, but this is probably his favourite part of the job - pouring little pictures into each cup, making sure each one's unique to the customer.
Speaking of, he's going to have to start researching new snake designs now that Jackson's stepped up his caffeine intake.
Derek smirks to himself as he finishes up the cup before calling over his shoulder, "I'm on break!"
"Roger!" Erica calls back and Derek rolls his eyes. The girl's lucky she can make an macchiato with her eyes closed.
Snagging his own, less decorative cup, Derek makes his way over to Stiles' seat. It's in the back, near the kitchen, and is probably the loudest part of the cafe. Stiles says the noise helps him focus and Derek doesn't argue because with him there, Derek has excuses to brush by and watch him type whenever he needs anything from the store room. Like syrup. Can never have too much syrup out front. Even if Laura does huff at him about overstocking.
Derek slides the mug over to Stiles before falling into the seat across from him. Eight hour shifts are a bitch.
Stiles doesn't look up, obviously on a roll and Derek takes the opportunity to just watch. He came to terms with the fact Stiles' fingers are his fucking kryptonite a long time ago, but it doesn't make watching him type any less affecting. Derek is painfully aware that grown men aren't supposed to fantasize about being keyboards as much as he fucking does.
Stiles hums slightly, tipping his head at his screen before hitting control-S and shutting the laptop. Derek shifts and hopes he's not as red as he feels.
"Agh!" Stiles says, dragging his cup towards him. "You are the wind beneath my fucking wings, man."
Derek tries and fails not to appreciate the delighted noise Stiles makes upon sighting the foam. "You always make me feel like an ass for drinking these things," Stiles says, grabbing at his phone to take a snap of Derek's latest creation. Derek is fully aware of how pathetic it makes him that Stiles taking a photo of a latte art dragon is the highlight of his day.
"So." Derek clears his throat. "Mating rituals?"
Stiles fucking lights up, and it's ridiculous how badly Derek wishes this conversation could be a tactile learning experience. "Yes!" Stiles sips at his latte and groans like Derek's killed him, eyes fluttering shut. "Fuck yes," he breathes and Derek has to look away, because Jesus Christ...
"What's this one?" Stiles asks. Derek's been making Stiles random concoctions for years. Ever since Stiles admitted to ordering things at random off the menu and hating fifty percent of them. He's never hated anything Derek's made.
Derek shrugs. "I made it up," he says. "It's got hazelnut in it."
"It tastes like an orgasm," Stiles says, licking foam off his top lip and Derek thanks the fucking universe that there's a table between them.
"Mating rituals?" he says, hoping he doesn't sound as desperate as he feels.
"Oh!" Stiles says, putting his cup down to reopen his laptop. "Yeah, I've been researching and I wanted to run some stuff by you."
Derek slouches in his chair and sips his own latte as he watches Stiles pull up his notes. "So! Okay," Stiles says. "I've been reading up on all these, like, ritual things, only it seems like there are about ten million of them or something."
Derek snorts. As far as the world has come since the big supernatural creature-feature reveal, mainstream media still has a long way to go when it comes to accurate, freely available information. Stiles' face when Derek had first told him that Google is not, in fact, his friend when it comes to werewolves had been priceless. "There are about ten million because there are ten million," Derek says. "Mating rituals are less rituals and more...instinct."
Stiles taps his fingers against his coffee cup. It's almost more distracting than his typing. "Soooo, every pair is different," he says, and Derek can practically see him turning the information over in his head. "Because every werewolf is different?"
Derek nods. "It's about proving to a potential mate that you can provide for them," Derek says. "You demonstrate any skills that you have."
"You show off like a kid at the third grade science fair, is what you're saying," Stiles says, and Derek kicks him under the table. He realises a second too late that it's something a third-grader would actually do and Stiles must too because he's laughing so hard he has to put his coffee down.
Derek can't even pretend he's not staring, because Stiles laughs with his whole body and it's not fucking fair at all.
"So, like," Stiles says a few moments later, once he's calmed down. "A mechanic might fix up someone's car or something?"
Derek hums around his coffee.
"Huh," Stiles says, and Derek really should have learned to recognise that tone by now. "What would a barista do?"
The coffee cup in Derek's hand freezes halfway to his mouth as he snaps his eyes up to Stiles'. Because, oh fuck. Oh fucking FUCK. How had he not... He didn't... Jesus Christ-
He's glanced down at the cup in front of Stiles before he can think to stop himself and he knows the second he flicks his eyes back up and Stiles' mouth just drops right the fuck open that he's totally fucking screwed.
"Holy crap," Stiles breathes.
Derek's scrapes his chair back so violently he's probably scoured grooves in the floor. "I've gotta-"
"I'm off break," Derek says, even though he's got another fifteen goddamn minutes and Stiles knows it but fucking hell.
Derek slams into the back room and thanks the fucking heavens there's no one to snarl at for privacy because if he's going to have a fucking mental breakdown, he'd rather it go unwitnessed.
Derek leans against the stock shelving and tries to breathe because oh my god, this isn't happening. People do not engage in fucking mating rituals without realising what they're doing. That's stupid. He's stupid. Fucking hell, he's been courting Stiles! With coffee! Who does that? Failing that, who expects that to work?
Derek bangs his head once against the shelves, making the syrup bottles clatter loud enough he almost misses the sound of the door opening. "Fuck off," he snarls.
"Yeah, nope," Stiles says, and fuck-
Derek sighs, because there's only one person who would have let Stiles back here. "I'm going to kill Laura," he says.
Stiles snorts and Derek hears him shift closer. "Have you seriously been been peacocking me with your leet coffee making skillz?" Stiles says, and Derek wants to bury himself in the bags of coffee beans in the corner. "Because I gotta say, dude, you had me at latte Batman."
Derek blinks. When he turns it's to find Stiles just- okay, yeah, that's really close and- and something else, something really not important right now because Stiles' mouth is on his and they're kissing – this is what a kiss is and-
Stiles groans and Derek's brain switches gear. He turns them, pressing Stiles back into the shelves, which really can't be at all comfortable, but fuck it, Stiles doesn't seem to be minding. Stiles is doing the opposite of minding, actually, which is to say Stiles is hooking one leg around Derek's hip and making painfully hot noises as Derek licks hard into his mouth.
"Oh holy fuck," Stiles breathes when Derek breaks the kiss to get at his neck because he's been wanting his mouth on Stiles' throat for years. "You fucking asshole," Stiles groans. "I've wanted you forever and you never said- ah!"
Derek sucks harder, feeling a growl rumble out of him when Stiles bucks and swears, clawing at his shoulders before threading his fingers — oh fuck, his fingers — through Derek's hair. "Oh god," Stiles shudders. "Don't you dare stop."
"Wow – no, yeah – stop," a voice says loudly and Derek has just enough breath left in him to groan as he buries his face in Stiles' neck.
"Heeeeey Laura," Stiles says, and Derek probably shouldn't feel as smug as he does about how breathless he sounds.
Laura sighs. "As much as I'm really happy you've both pulled your heads out of your asses," she says. "Could you maybe not commit a health violation all over the merchandise?"
Derek licks a stripe across Stiles' collar bone and Stiles squeaks really satisfyingly.
"I'm taking the afternoon off," Derek says, not turning around. His family's tight-knit and all, but Derek does not need Laura seeing just how close he'd actually been to getting off in their family business' store room.
Laura snorts. "I figured."
"He's taking tomorrow, too," Stiles says suddenly. When Derek leans back to blink at him, Stiles shrugs. "You made me latte art Batman, dude. I'm gonna need to blow you at least five times for that alone ."
Derek hears Laura make a wounded noise behind him and slam out the door, but he's too busy hiking Stiles up the shelving again to care.
He's gotta work on his Spiderman.