Stiles Stilinski darted across the street, giving a twitchy wave as a car slowed to let him pass. He bounced deftly up the gutter on the other side, slowing to a walk as his sneakers hit the pavement. The chilly autumn wind kicked up and scattered crisp brown leaves underfoot, and Stiles pulled his woolen hat further down over his ears. He scanned the shop fronts as he walked, peering in windows and reading signs, looking for – ah.
He smelled it before he saw it; a tantalizing combination of fresh coffee and straight-from-the-oven baked goods. Inhaling deeply, he following the scent as best he could until he reached a small shop between a convenience store and a fashion boutique. It was so out of place it almost looked like it had been wedged in by force. The door was painted a glossy black, with a glass pane and a brass doorknob; the front window was edged with flyers advertising exhibitions, bands, and lost pets. The small sign above the door simply read ‘Main St Coffee’.
Stiles walked towards the door, hand outstretched as he reached for the knob. He turned it and pushed, his momentum carrying him forward and straight into the glass with a thud. His head snapped back, and he winced, lifting a hand to rub gingerly at his forehead. Ow. Frowning, he looked down at the traitorous doorknob. Pull, advised a small plaque above the brass. Ah. He cast a surreptitious glance over his shoulder, but there was no one around to witness his embarrassment. Sighing with relief, he pulled the door open, releasing a fresh waft of that oh-so-good coffee shop smell as he stepped inside.
He made a beeline for the counter, heading for the register sitting between an assortment of cookie jars and an electric warmer full of pies. The barista had his head down, but as Stiles approached he looked up with a small, amused smirk that made Stiles think his little problem with the door hadn’t gone entirely unnoticed.
‘What can I get for you?’ The barista asked, one hand hovering over the register.
Stiles took a moment to consider, eyeing the chalkboard menu on the wall behind the counter. He also cast a few furtive glances at the barista, taking in his dark hair, sharp jaw and heavy brow. He didn’t have the usual ‘I’m-here-to-please-how-may-I-help-you?’ barista smile, but as far as Stiles was concerned the bored impassivity suited him just fine.
‘Large Americano,’ Stiles said decisively, ‘and a brownie. Please.’
‘Yeah,’ Stiles nodded.
The barista pulled a cardboard cup from the top of a stack with one hand, and a sharpie from his apron with another. ‘Name?’
Stiles guessed this was more out of habit than necessity, as there were only a handful of people in the shop, all already served and seated. His mind immediately began to race, ticking through various pop-culture references until it settled on the brick of a book that was in his backpack at that very moment.
‘Jean Valjean,’ he replied calmly.
The barista’s hand stilled, point of the sharpie hovering over the surface of the cup. He looked up at Stiles, raising one thick black eyebrow in silent question. Stiles looked back innocently until the guy gave a minute shake of his head and began to scrawl on the cup.
So sue him, Stiles had a stupid habit of giving out goofy names at coffee joints. He started doing it forever ago, as a joke, and now it was just second nature. Sometimes the baristas laughed, sometimes they struck up a conversation, but more often than not they didn’t get it, or didn’t react at all. Harmless fun.
‘Three-ninety,’ the barista announced when he was done, holding his hand out expectantly.
Stiles handed over the money - and dropped a little extra in the tip jar by the till - before moving to stand near the lid-slash-napkin-slash-stirrer station to wait for his coffee. He chewed absently on a narrow straw as he looked around the coffee shop at the various bric-a-brac on the walls and shelves. It was a pretty cool place, he decided, definitely a contender for his go-to coffee joint; nice feel, close to his new apartment, hot barista…
Catching movement in the corner of his eye, Stiles turned to see said barista sliding his coffee across the counter along with a the brownie in a brown paper bag. Stiles reached for the coffee, slipping a travel lid around the rim with practiced ease.
‘Thanks,’ he smiled at the barista, who gave him a nod in return before turning back to the register. Stiles took a careful sip of the coffee and sighed in satisfaction. It wasn’t until he was opening the door – with a push – that he glanced down at the black sharpie scrawled across the cup.
24601, it read.
Stiles smiled broadly with delight, casting a parting look over his shoulder to where the barista was studiously wiping down the counter. Oh yes, Stiles thought, definitely a contender.
Stiles didn’t go straight back to Main St Coffee. He had an obligation – nay, a duty – to check out the other coffee shops in the area. Maybe, by some miracle, there was an even cooler place, with even better coffee, and an even hotter, nerdier barista. But alas, no. So it was two days later that Stiles firmly pulled the door open and stepped out of the cold and into the warm, welcoming, coffee scented haven.
He shuddered as he unwound his scarf, pulling off his hat and scrubbing a hand through his hair. He stripped off his fingerless gloves, reaching to pull his wallet from his back pocket as he approached the register. Hot Barista was there, bent at the waist with his elbows braced on the counter, his forearms bracketing a book. Whatever the book was, it must have been engrossing – the barista hadn’t so much as acknowledged Stiles. Then again, without the thud of Stiles’ head whacking into the door to alert him, perhaps he just hadn’t heard Stiles come in.
Whatever the reason, Stiles took the opportunity to study him, uninterrupted. The man had broad shoulders, his black tee shirt stretched taut between his shoulder blades in a way that Stiles appreciated. A lot. Large biceps bulged from beneath his sleeves, and Stiles’ gaze grudgingly left them behind to move on to solid forearms, covered with a scattering of fine, dark hair. The tee shirt had a shallow v, through which Stiles could glimpse a defined collarbone, leading up to a long, delicious neck, which ended in one of the most distracting, stubble-covered jawlines Stiles had ever seen.
Stiles bit his lip. Niiice.
As if sensing his presence, the barista looked up, his hazel – green? Hazel. Hazel/green – eyes found Stiles’. With a reluctant sigh, he let the book flip closed, straightening up and placing his hands on either side of the register as he watched Stiles approach.
‘Hey. What can I get you?’
‘Large Americano, to go,’ Stiles smiled amiably, fishing the money from his wallet.
‘Name?’ He stood with his sharpie at the ready.
‘Voldemort,’ Stiles answered without missing a beat.
The barista nodded once and began scrawling across the cup. ‘Two-forty,’ he intoned, putting the cup to the side.
Handing over his money, Stiles couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. The dude hadn’t batted an eye. Maybe the Les Mis thing had been a fluke? After all, it had kind of been everywhere since the movie came out. But even so, compared to Jean Valjean, Voldemort was a cakewalk. Hot Barista, Stiles thought sadly as he waited for his order, you had such potential.
The Barista handed Stiles his coffee without a word, just another nod before he turned his back. Stiles draped his scarf back around his neck, jammed his hat on his head and tugged on his gloves. He felt the coffee’s heat radiating through the wool as he carried it out the door. It wasn’t until he was halfway up the street that he looked down at the thick black marker strokes and let out a slightly hysterical giggle.
It kind of became a thing.
Aragorn, son of Arathorn.
One side of the cup said how about a challenge next time?
The other side had Crowley written on it in Hot Barista’s now familiar handwriting, but there were little horns above the ‘C’ and the ‘Y’, and the end of the ‘Y’ had been turned into a little pointed tail. Stiles couldn’t stop grinning down at his coffee. He didn’t know if it was a reference to Supernatural or Good Omens, but he realized that he really, really wanted to find out.
He still hadn’t had anything even closely resembling a conversation with his tall, dark and handsome bringer of coffee, but things still felt…different. Maybe he was imagining the little smile when the guy laid eyes on him, or overthinking the few times his fingers had brushed Stiles’ while handing over the coffee. It was entirely possible that baristas had legitimate reasons to stretch and flex that much while making a simple Americano. And the pink that rose in his cheeks as Stiles stripped off layer after layer of winter clothing; well, they did keep it pretty toasty in the shop.
Maybe Stiles didn’t have a hope in hell. But maybe it was worth finding out.
The barista paused, his eyes sliding up to meet Stiles’.
Stiles knew he looked nervous. He felt nervous. He’d run his sweaty palms through his hair so many times he probably looked like Einstein on a bad hair day. His face was almost definitely doing that awful splotchy red thing it did whenever he was embarrassed, and it was taking all his effort to maintain eye contact instead of letting his eyes flit around the room like crazy.
Hot Barista straightened up to his full height, his eyes narrowing almost imperceptibly as he regarded Stiles. ‘Okay; now you’re just making names up,’ he said at length. He sounded gruff, but not angry. Just kind of confused.
Stiles huffed out a nervous laugh, ‘Uh, no, surprisingly not.’
The barista’s brow furrowed, his mouth turning down. ‘Well, what the hell is a Stiles?’
‘Finally stumped you, huh?’ Stiles asked playfully, leaning in to rest one elbow on the till. He felt a little of his confidence returning; they were talking, and talking was something Stiles Stilinski could definitely do, yes sir.
‘No,’ he drew the word out as he twirled the sharpie between his thumb and forefinger, ‘you can’t stump me with a made up name. Which this is.’ He crossed his impressive arms over his broad chest with finality. ‘So.’
Stiles was definitely notimagining the teasing tone, or the barely perceptible crinkling at the corners of the barista’s eyes. He smiled, slow and broad. ‘Nope,’
He leaned forward, raising both eyebrows. ‘So what is it?’
‘It’s a me. That is,’ Stiles winced at his fumbled words, ‘I’m a Stiles.’ Oh my god. And it had been going so well. ‘My name,’ he gritted out, ‘is Stiles.’
‘Oh,’ Hot Barista said, surprise evident in his tone. He straightened up, and Stiles’ smile faded a fraction. ‘Okay. Stiles,’ his eyes flicked from the cup to Stiles, and back again, as he scrawled out the name. ‘Americano, coming up.’ He didn’t even wait for Stiles to pay, just ducked behind the tall coffee machine without another word.
Stiles was confused, and his nerves were back full force. Oh? What did oh mean? Good oh? Bad oh? Sandra Oh? Things felt like they had been going okay! Hadn’t they? Oh god. Stiles rubbed a hand through his hair in a slightly manic gesture. Exhaling long and slow, he left his money on the counter and walked, as casually as he could manage, to wait for his order.
He tapped his fingers on the counter impatiently, worrying the thumbnail of his free hand between his teeth. Why couldn’t he have just given a goofy name? Like The Doctor? He’d been sitting on that one forever! Were things going to be awkward now? Things were totally going to be awkward now. He was so –
‘Stiles,’ the barista called, even though Stiles was the only person waiting for coffee. He snapped to attention, almost knocking the coffee out of the guy’s hand in his haste to grab it. ‘Enjoy,’ the barista said, doling out another one of his small, careful smiles before turning away.
Stiles was almost afraid to look.
Slowly, he lowered his eyes to the cup.
On one side – Derek: 202 555 2871.
On the other – I get off at 4.
Stiles looked up to where Derek was busily tidying what appeared to be an already tidy counter. Stiles grinned. He couldn’t be sure, but it looked as though Derek was trying not to smile.
Stiles took a sip as he settled into an overstuffed armchair in the corner, one with a good view of the counter. Only three hours until four.