Derek huddled under the awning of Claudia’s, pulling the woolen hat from his head and whacking it against his thigh to shake the snow off. In a practiced ritual, he turned his back and Shep shook from head to tail, sending snow flying in all directions. Derek turned back around and brushed the snow off his own coat, stomping as much slush from his boots as possible. Stiles was pretty vocal on the subject of people who tracked muck onto his pristine floors.
Derek pushed open the door, taking a deep breath as a rush of warm, fragrant air swept over him. It smelled like bacon and coffee and syrup and underneath it all, the warm and comforting scent of Stiles. Derek carefully closed the door behind himself, the bell tinkling merrily. Then he and Shep wove between the tables toward Derek’s usual stool at the far end of the counter.
Stiles didn’t even look up from the coffee he was pouring, reaching left-handed into his apron pocket and throwing a doggie treat that Shep casually snatched out of the air.
“Should that dog be in here?” a woman at the table Stiles was serving asked.
Derek slid onto his stool, hunkering down and pretending to examine the menu that he knew by heart. He could feel his ears turning red, and Shep whined softly as he sat at his side, resting his muzzle on Derek’s thigh.
“That dog is a regular,” Stiles answered easily. “Did you want white, wheat, or rye toast?”
And just like that, the potential confrontation was averted. Derek felt the tension bleed from his shoulders and he pulled in a relieved breath, letting the comforting scents fill his lungs.
Picking up on his mood, Shep let out a satisfied huff against Derek’s thigh and then settled down at his feet, body curled around the legs of the barstool, ears pricking from side to side as he kept a vigil for any dropped pieces of bacon.
Stiles finished up taking his table’s order, topped off a few more coffees, and then dropped the order slips off at the grill before making his way around the counter. He set a mug down in front of Derek and filled it from the coffee pot still in his hand, tugging the menu out of Derek’s hands at the same time.
“Don’t even front,” Stiles said. “It’s Wednesday, so...blueberry pancakes, bacon on the side?”
Derek scowled. “Am I really so predictable?”
“Dependable,” Stiles corrected, with a smile so warm it seemed to flare an answering spark in Derek’s chest.
“Thanks for that, by the way,” Derek said, with a small nod of his head toward the woman who had taken issue with Shep.
“Any time,” Stiles said, leaning both elbows on the counter, the vivid colors of his forearm tattoos bright against the pale skin. “Hey, I heard you had quite a time getting the Reyes’ sheep outta that stretch of broken fence —”
Derek broke his gaze away from Stiles’ warm amber eyes, looking down at the little girl who had appeared at his side to tug on Stiles’ sleeve.
“Yes?” Stiles said, straightening up. “Marisol, right?”
The little girl nodded solemnly, her pigtails bobbing with the movement of her head. “Can I make a wish?”
“Sure thing.” Stiles moved along the counter, the little girl following on her side of the counter, until they bracketed the large snow globe that stood in a place of honor by the register.
“Now, this is very serious magic,” Stiles said, and not for the first time Derek admired his endless patience with the superstition of the townspeople. There wasn’t even a hiccup in his heartbeat when he told the tale. “Put both hands on the globe. Here, I’ll help you shake it up.”
Marisol steadied the globe from the front, while Stiles shook it carefully from the back, making the white flakes swirl around the replica of Beacon Hill’s town square, the courthouse tall and proud in the middle.
“Now, close your eyes, and say your wish nice and clear,” Stiles instructed, with a soft smile.
“I have to say it out loud?” Marisol asked, her eyes wide.
“Yep. Doesn’t work if you don’t say it out loud.”
Marisol nodded. She closed her eyes, and said, “I wish — I wish Emily an’ Annamarie would stop picking on me. I’m not dumb just ‘cause I don’t read as good as they do. I wish they would just — just cut it out.”
She let go of the snow globe and opened her eyes. “Did it work?”
“Only time will tell,” Stiles said, but Derek could see his eyes wandering over to the table in the corner, where Isaac was finishing up an omelette. Isaac taught kindergarten, but Derek was sure that once Stiles tipped him off, Emily and Annamarie would be getting some pointed comments about kindness from their own teacher.
Stiles fished out a butterscotch candy from the big jar by the register and held it out toward the little girl. Marisol grabbed it with a gap-toothed smile before bouncing back to her table.
Stiles’ eyes met Derek’s again, and Derek realized that he had been staring. He looked down at his coffee with a scowl.
“I’ll — I’ll put your order in,” Stiles said.