The Beacon Hill Diner was the only 24-hour restaurant in town and was easily the most rundown. The booth Stiles was nervously bouncing in had holes in the seat cushions and coffee stains on the tables that were older than any of its patrons. The bathroom always smelled like a dull combination of cigarettes and cheap pine-scented air fresheners. Granted there were other, worse smells that it could be known for. Despite the fact that the ancient diner was nothing to write home about Stiles had always had a soft spot for it.
Some of Stiles’ best memories of his mother had taken place in the diner. Every Friday afternoon she’d pick him up from school and they’d head straight for the decrepit restaurant. They’d take the corner booth and order banana walnut milkshakes. Stiles would prattle on about his week – usually his antics with Scott – and his mother would sip her milkshake and just listen.
It was their secret place. Something special for just the two of them to bond over. All these years later and Stiles still hadn’t told his father about the weekly snack. Not that the Sheriff would have minded the sugary treat. In fact he probably would have joined his family just to get a milkshake for himself. Even back then the man had made poor dietary decisions.
After his mom died Stiles had a tough time keeping the tradition alive. Scott had only put up with spending Friday night at the rundown diner until they hit eighth grade. After that the bowling alley or the movies were the hot spot for kids their age. Fortunately for Stiles, his father’s job had the oddest hours ever. Which is why, every Friday night at midnight –when the lawman’s shift ended – Stiles and his father met at the Beacon Hill Diner for a very late dinner course.
A dinner date that the Sheriff was already 20 minutes late for.
Stiles drowned a fistful of fries into his banana walnut milkshake before shoving the entire dripping mess into his mouth. He moaned loudly at the orgasmic blend of salty and sweet assaulting his taste buds. While his tongue eagerly lapped up the ice cream that had landed on his wrist and arm, his eyes checked the time on his wristwatch.
22 minutes late.
Stiles started to feel his panic creep up. Not for the first time he wondered if regular kids – ones who didn’t have a cop for a parent – worried over tardiness. Stiles wondered if he was doubly paranoid because he’d already lost one parent. Logically he knew it was true but this was a special kind of panic. One that not even logic could appease. No, he needed to see his dad walk into the diner to put that particular monster back under the bed where it belonged.
“I’m sure he’s just finishing up at the office,” the waitress comforted him, dropping off his second order of milkshake.
Stiles grinned up at her in thanks, beads of ice cream leaking out of the corner of his mouth. He wiped them away and shouted a quick apology to her retreating form for apparently grossing her out and scaring her away. The middle-aged waitress waved a hand over her shoulder, the offense already forgotten. Stiles had eaten at the diner one too many times for her to be effected by the mess. Now if only he could remember her name…
The bell above the door let out a short jingle. Stiles’ eyes whipped over to focus on the entrance. He remembered to swallow his mouthful this time before smiling at his father. The Sheriff eyed him warily as he made his approach, folding his uniform jacket over his arm.
“I’d ask if cavemen raised you but I wouldn’t want to insult myself,” the Sheriff joked as he slid into the long booth seat across from his son. “Please tell me you won’t eat like this at college?”
The waitress was back and pouring the lawman his usual coffee order. “Already applying for colleges? Seems like just yesterday you were starting at the high school.”
“The applications went out last month,” The Sheriff informed her proudly. “Now we just have to sit back and wait for the acceptance letters to pour in.”
“You mean rejection letters,” Stiles muttered into his straw.
The waitress gave his arm a quick squeeze with her non-coffee carrying hand. “You’ll get in somewhere good. I’m sure of it.”
Stiles tunes them both out. The last thing he wants to talk about is college. It’s been the dark cloud hanging over Stiles and his friends since the beginning of the year. For the rest of his classmates it’s an exciting time as they eagerly plot their escapes into new lives far, far away from their parents.
It’s not that simple for The Pack.
Stiles doesn’t notice how much time passes as he gets caught up in his own dark musings about college. It seems like seconds before the Waitress is sliding a hot plate under his nose. Stiles doesn’t even recall his father putting an order in. He jumps, startled at the sudden appearance of the food, and his elbow ends up in the little container of ketchup that comes with his fresh order of fries. The sheepish look he offers his father does nothing to stop the older man’s teasing.
They settle into a familiar rhythm as they eat. Stiles keeps the salt on his side of the table so that his father can’t take it. The Sheriff quizzes him about classes. Stiles leverages embarrassing stories about his friends for information on whatever case his father is working on. His dad laughs at the prank Danny and Stiles played on Scott and Jackson that landed all of them in detention for the rest of the week. No one ever told the boys that beta wolves didn’t react well to being doused in animal pheromones. Part of their penitence had been fixing the damaged lockers and benches in the locker room. His father tactfully avoids asking about Derek and his son’s relationship.
Both Stilinski men use generic code words to talk about Pack business, not wanting anyone to overhear anything that could jeopardize the safety of the group. Even a year after including the Sheriff in on the big secret Stiles still hasn’t gotten used to the fact that his father is totally chill about discussing werewolves. The teenager only wished his father understood the pack dynamics to not get flushed and embarrassed whenever he walked in on a puppy pile. It wasn’t Stiles’ fault that the combined body heat, especially with the walking furnaces that were werewolves, was just too much to cuddle fully clothed.
By the time their waitress – whose name Stiles still can’t remember – is taking their bare plates away they’ve tackled all the usual subjects. Stiles feels bloated from all of the greasy food but refuses to blame the milkshakes. The minute his father starts lecturing him about lactose intolerance Stiles puts his fingers in his ears. He raises his voice so that his babbles about how bananas – even in milkshakes – are good for him, overpowers the Sheriff’s argument.
His father rolls his eyes before pointing behind Stiles’ head. The only thing at the rear of the diner is the bathroom so Stiles doesn’t bother to look for what the man is indicating. He refuses to take his fingers out of his ears until the Sheriff has vacated the booth. Stiles slowly drops the appendages, his arm muscles tense in case the bathroom is just a ruse to get him to lower his guard. By the time his palms reach the tabletop Stiles is satisfied that the Sheriff really did have to go to the bathroom.
The bells jingle again to announce new customers.
Stiles lazily glances at the door and isn’t impressed with the newcomer. The man’s jeans are covered in holes – not the kind made by designers – and the heavy sweatshirt isn’t even close to being the right size for such a thin frame. The baseball cap is dirty and the lighter colors have turned yellow from sweat. The man can’t be more than a few years younger than his father. Though the salt and pepper colored beard might suggest otherwise.
The waitress is unfazed though. She tells him to take a seat wherever and motions to the empty diner. The man’s eyes track her hand movement, sweeping over the vacant booths. His gaze pauses briefly at Stiles’ table so the teenager holds up a fry in greeting. The man doesn’t acknowledge him back.
“Something wrong, sweetie?” the waitress asks, cocking her head to the side.
The man wets his lips with a quick swipe of his tongue. Stiles recognizes the action. It’s the same thing he does when he’s nervous. Before a pop quiz Stiles has been known to lick and gnaw on his own lips until they’re practically raw. That uneasy paranoia has settled in Stiles’ gut for the second time that night.
The gun is out before he can voice his concerns. Not that there had been an appropriate warning to give the waitress. Stiles wasn’t Spiderman. No one would have reacted if he had announced to the diner that his super special spidey-senses had been tingling. Well… they would have but just not in the way Stiles would have wanted. More likely they’d have called men in white lab coats to take him away.
“Give me all the cash in the register! Now!” the man orders, moving the gun with each overly annunciated word. Stiles knows it’s meant to be commanding but the robber’s voice is hoarse and strained from lack of use. Even from the nearby booth Stiles has to struggle to hear the words. He doubts the cook in the back can hear what was going on over the hissing of the water and the hum of the refrigerator.
The waitress hears the order perfectly. Little mascara-darkened tear tracks slide down her puffy cheeks as she rushes to open the cash register. Her hands are shaking so badly that she misses getting the key in the lock several times. The man with the gun keeps looking between her clumsy actions and Stiles in his booth. Forget growing up with a parent in law enforcement, Stiles has seen enough TV to know to keep both of his hands way above his head.
No threat here, buddy, Stiles tries to telepathically communicate.
All he wants is for the man to leave before his Dad comes out of the bathroom. It was one thing to worry about his father being the Sheriff but it was quite another to watch the man participate in a live stand off. No, Stiles is whole-heartedly hoping that the homeless man gets his money and runs. Preferably somewhere far, far away.
The universe apparently disagrees. They all hear the sound of the toilet flushing. At this point Stiles isn’t feeling butterflies in his stomach so much as full-grown bats feasting on his intestines. The waitress is shoving money into a take-out bag as fast as she can. He makes eye contact with her and tries to communicate his thanks for helping to get the gunman out of the diner as fast as possible.
“Who is that?” the hoarse voice asks suspiciously. The gun hesitates as the barrel trains on the bathroom door.
“Just another regular customer,” Stiles answers quickly. He’s happy that the stranger isn’t a werewolf because his heart definitely skipped a beat from that whopper of a lie.
The man jumps at hearing Stiles’ voice for the first time. The teen can’t decide whether it’s a good thing or not that the man is just as nervous as the rest of them. The way the gun keeps wavering has Stiles leaning towards the negative column. An amateur was even more dangerous than a professional armed robber. At least the experienced thief wouldn’t accidentally shoot the innocent witnesses.
The hand dryer starts in the bathroom and all three of them jump. Stiles sends a silent prayer to any deity that happened to be listening, thanking them for blessing his father with a cleanliness that had apparently skipped a generation. Anything to keep his dad in that bathroom. The last thing they needed was for a nervous gunman to spot his father, dressed in his police uniform, walk out of the restroom. The man was just jumpy enough to shoot on instinct.
“Hurry up,” the man snapped, already reaching for the plastic bag packed with money.
Stiles waited for the man to check over his goods before shifting in his seat. It was just his lower body so hopefully the gunman wouldn’t notice. His legs were angled at the booth opening. Stiles did his best to keep his top half in the exact same position. He wanted to be free to move if something went south.
Maybe Derek including humans in Pack training sessions wasn’t a stupid idea after all, Stiles thought randomly. Though I still wouldn’t admit it to him. Freaking Alphas and their massive egos.
“Please just take it and go,” the waitress begged, her mascara running heavily now. “That’s all we have. I swear.”
The gun trained on her and Stiles held his breath. There was no reason to shoot. It was only a dozen or so steps to the front door. He and his ill-gotten goods could be off into the night in an instant. But news reports were filled with accounts of witnesses who were killed for no logical reason.
Slowly the man lowered the gun. Stiles let out the breath he’d been holding. Everything was going to be fine. The relief was evident in the waitress’ posture. Stiles was even surprised to see a flicker of relief in the gunman. The teen was willing to bet that this might well be the man’s first robbery.
The gunman took one step back. Then two. The gun was moving between Stiles and the waitress just in case. Stiles tried to listen to the man’s instructions but he just kept counting down the number of feet until that damned gun was out of his life forever. At best he caught random comments about not leaving or calling the cops for ten minutes.
It was when the robber was only a few feet from the door that all hell broke loose.
The bathroom door opened wide. The Sheriff had a smile on his face and Stiles’ name on his lips. It didn’t take him more then a second to take in the panicked look on his only child’s face before he was looking around the diner. Stiles could see the moment his father spotted the danger. Stiles watched his face shut down and his eyes narrow on the gun.
There was a deafening pop as the gun went off and Stiles watched his world fall apart.
The wall next to the Sheriff received a brand new hole. A white dust cloud erupted out of the ugly puncture. The waitress shrieked and dived behind the counter. Stiles watched, his heart pounding, as his father ducked behind the nearest booth.
The gunman aimed again and a second hole – this time much closer to the Sheriff’s hiding spot – slammed into existence.
Whatever fight or flight response had been turned on inside the robber’s head had clearly fallen on the fight response. The man was no longer looking to run for it. Instead he was stalking further into the diner, closer to the Sheriff. His face was set, determined to see the action through. The Sheriff was a threat he clearly meant to resolve. Stiles felt his own instincts kick into gear.
There may have been a time – some point before Scott had been bitten and turned into a werewolf – where Stiles would have chosen flight. Even then he wanted nothing more then to be able to climb under his booth and hide. But that wasn’t why he’d trained with Derek and the Pack all of these years. He wasn’t someone who ran. Stiles was a fighter now.
It was almost too easy to launch himself out of the booth.
Stiles felt his training click into place. Derek had taught him how to use momentum to his advantage. Lacrosse had given him the strength necessary to complete the maneuver. Stiles pushed off the seat with his feet and charged between the tables. In the back of his mind he heard his father shouting his name. Stiles couldn’t focus on the fear in his father’s voice. He had to focus on neutralizing the threat like Derek had taught him. He wasn’t going to lose anyone else.
The gun was still turning in his direction when Stiles tackled the robber. The gunfire was near deafening at that close of a range. His hands burned from where they gripped the hot metal of the gun. The man beneath him was shouting hoarsely as they fought for control of the weapon. Stiles used his bony knees to inflict as much pain as possible.
He felt a presence behind him a second before his father was helping him wrestle the man into submission. Between their combined efforts the gun was clattering across the cheap linoleum floor. Stiles’ ears were still buzzing from the sound of the gun but he swore he could hear the sound of the cuffs sliding into place. The gunman was weeping and moaning incoherently into the sticky floor.
Stiles might have felt bad for the man if he wasn’t so dizzy. He’d never felt so exhausted in his life, not even after one of Derek’s more punishing training sessions. Somewhere in the back of his mind he recalled learning about adrenalin in his freshman biology class. Stiles supposed he was just feeling the side effects of using so much adrenalin in such a short amount of time.
But that didn’t explain the wetness he felt on his shirt. It didn’t tell him why the waitress was shoving towels at him and crying hysterically. It didn’t help him understand why his father was shouting into his walkie-talkie. The Sheriff’s eyes were red and a tear slipped down his cheek. His dad never cried. He was the Sheriff. He was superman… but better because he had a badge.
Stiles let his father prop him against the side of a barstool. He used the last of his strength to hold up the damp towels that were pressed to his side. They were stained red with what Stiles was starting to suspect was blood. The teen wondered where all the blood was coming from. The waitress rushed forward to push the towels back into position. He gasped at the slight pain from all the pressure but a second later it was gone. Soon all he could feel was the sudden cold of the diner.
When did they get an AC? Stiles wondered.
The Sheriff’s face loomed closer. “Son, can you hear me? You’re going to be okay. Help is on the way.” His voice dimmed at the lack of response but he continued with his reassurances anyway. Stiles hoped they would help his dad feel better.
Stiles knew he should be more concerned about the slowly blurring world around him. But even when injured his mind kept drifting to odd things that shouldn’t matter as much as they did. Like how he still couldn’t remember the name of the waitress who was being so nice to him. Or why his Dad was slamming the guy in handcuffs’ face into the floor until more red stuff was pouring out of the other man’s nose.
But what really bugged him was the mess he’d made at his table. In his rush to go all Chuck Norris on the robber he’d knocked over his dishes. The left over food had made a terrible collage of greasy mush on the floor. His mug had shattered and the glass was twinkling at him through the growing fog that was his vision. Stiles’ face scrunched up to show how saddened he was to see his banana walnut milkshake spreading across the linoleum floor.
Such a waste, he thought.
Then the world went dark.