It didn’t start bothering Stiles until one americano and two cappuccinos after the customer was gone, and, to be really honest, Stiles didn’t get the popularity of their cappuccino. It was pretty normal; not all that difference from the other ones he tried in his life but fine, that was not the point. The point was the customer that came in three customers ago.
It didn’t bother him right away but once it started, Stiles couldn’t just turn it off. His mind was fixated on the issue and there was no moving on (his dad’s suggestion), letting go (Scott’s suggestion) nor forgetting it (his own plea to his brain). He accepted his fate, this was his life now. It wasn’t even something worthy of being obsessed over, but here he was and it was clear that was where he was staying.
It had been bothering Stiles for weeks now, but the customer hadn’t come back. It was a man, about the same height as Stiles, with clear blue eyes and dark hair who his father had assured him was not the description of any wanted criminals before reminding Stiles he was not supposed to listen in to the calls. In his defense, this time Stiles didn't listen in but there was something about that man...Stiles knew he knew that face or something.
It was definitely something.
He had brought the subject up with Scott instead of pressing his father about the issue.
"Come on, Stiles, new people come into coffee places all the time," Scott said as he pushed his books into his locker. Then he paused and looked at his best friend. "He didn't do anything weird, did he?"
It was not exactly that the man did something. Truth be told, the man who showed up at Cafe 80's didn't do anything wrong or weird or out of the ordinary and Stiles had no reason to be suspicious of - obsessing over - him, but there was something about him. It had everything to do with his latte or with how he ordered it in a quiet voice and then left or how he kept looking out of the Café and Stiles could barely see his whole face.
"It’s something he is," Stiles countered and rubbed is hair with his palm a couple times, making a mess of his hair. “I don’t know. There is something.”
Scott had given him a weird look at the time and Stiles knew his best friend well enough to know it was time to drop it.
“He may not even come back,” Scott offered as consolation after the bell rang, but that would only make things worse for Stiles.
It was like an itch on his brain and Stiles needed to scratch it more than he wanted to ignore it until it went away but maybe Scott had a pointed.
“Yeah…Yeah,” he said anyway and asked about Allison as they made their way back to class.
Stiles had started working in a coffee shop in Hill Valley after the freshman fixated Scott and Stiles’ places on the bench forever in their junior year and both Scott and Stiles agreed to quit the team because really, there was nothing to be done when at least one of them seemed super-humanly good and Scott had his priorities sorted out with a few more hours at the vet clinic and his word of the day calendar anyway. It was all very boring for Stiles and there was only so much time they could hang out after that because either his friend was very busy – and so should you be, his father would remind him often – or because his own mind would start wandering when he just couldn’t take the normalcy of their lives. Usually he used Allison as a distraction for Scott since Scott had been smitten by her since their junior year, and he kept coming up with odd but sweet ways to try to impress her because asking Scott about Allison was always a sure-proof way to change the subject.
All in all, there wasn’t much going on with Stiles and it was almost as if something was missing in his life. He figured he was just done with high school and never getting a shot at lacrosse or at dating Lydia or at not having Harris breathing down his neck.
Heather had been the one to tell Stiles about the Café 80’s because she worked there and, at the time, he was so bored he told her finding a job was all he could think about to keep himself from going insane. She offered to get in a good word on his behalf if he was interested and the extra money wouldn’t hurt one bit so Stiles accepted it. His father seemed to relax if only because he knew Stiles wasn’t getting into trouble now that Scott was increasingly busy. His dad halfheartedly complained about it being out of town and pointed out Stiles could find something just as good in Beacon Hills, but he didn’t press the issue and Stiles knew it wasn’t an actual issue. Hill Valley was close enough to drive down there and be home in time to make sure his father was still eating healthy when it mattered and, no matter what, he could be home pretty fast if his dad or Scott needed him.
There was still something missing in his life and trying to figure out why he was so curious about this stranger had been more fun than expected. Even so, there was nothing to be done unless he was willing to become a stalker so he took Scott's advice and let it go.
Two days after Scott convinced Stiles that pretending all the customers were a stream of more of the same faces that didn’t stand out and make him want to know why he was so weirdly fixated in a particular one, the man came back. He ordered a mocha, speaking on the phone and looking lost enough that, at first, Stiles thought he wandered into the shop by mistake.
Stiles stared and listened to the man's conversation in that quiet but annoyed voice of his until the guy noticed his barista seemed very confused.
“I’ll drink it here,” he clarified and gestured towards the tables, waiting to be charged.
Stiles nodded and the guy paid in cash. It was all very unsettling because he couldn’t figure out what it was about this man that bothered him so much and he just kept adding things to the list because he heard the guy say at least one meme that was ancient. He passed the order on to Heather and moved on to the next client waiting to pay, but he kept stealing glances at the guy who was making himself comfortable in one of their tables.
Despite his clean appearance, the man looked somewhat feral. Stiles thought he knew him from somewhere. Maybe he was on the news. Maybe his father just didn’t want Stiles meddling with police business and he totally knew who this fucker was. Stiles could totally see mocha guy being a wanted criminal.
Heather elbowed him on the side.
“Stiles, you’re staring,” she told him and handed Stiles the tray to be taken to his table. He looked back at her in confusion for a moment before she pushed him out of the way and took his place.
Stiles glared at her for good measure and took the opportunity. The man had turned to him before Stiles had even made his way to the table area but that was when Stiles noticed the burn scar covering a huge part of the man's face. He wasn’t sure how he missed that before, and sure, it didn’t look terribly deformed, but Stiles wondered if the guy was getting skin grafts. He placed the tray on the table, thinking about how big the fire would have to be to cause that.
"You are Peter Hale," Stiles blurted out when the realization hit him.
It was an inconvenient moment for an epiphany as he was placing the coffee cup on the table in front of Peter Hale from the Hales that died in a fire about ten years ago and couldn't really appreciate the fact he figured it out.
"And you must be Stiles," the man said in return, sounding amused. Stiles stared because even the sweet realization of the reasons his brain insisted there was something about this guy wasn’t enough to distract him from that stalkerish implication that Peter Hale knew his name. "Your coworker," Peter explained.
“My coworker told you my name.”
“You could say that.”
It wasn’t a good enough explanation but Stiles was actually working and the group of freshmen coming in was more alarming at the moment. He did narrow his eyes at Peter, looking him up and down just to be sure he would recognize the man before he walked back to the cash register. He did message Scott about how maybe Peter Hale was stalking him but Scott only asked if the guy wasn't in a coma.
After that, Peter came back every few days until he settled into a routine of drinking his coffee in one of the tables with his back to the wall and his scar mostly visible to the employees at the counter while the rest of the room was met with the rest of his face. It was a very nice face and Stiles thought Peter was probably a beautiful man before being burned alive. He usually showed up when the shop was almost empty so Stiles thought the guy wasn't really comfortable around a lot of people. He ordered different coffees whenever Stiles was around and, from what Stiles heard from his coworkers, that was an habit he showed all the times he came in, but from times to times, he ordered a mocha and sat quietly on his table, looking angrier than usual.
One day when Peter ordered a cappuccino, Stiles mindlessly included Peter in the conversation he was having with Heather about driving all the way here and he learned that Peter, too, lived in Beacon Hills.
"Coming here is something like getting away from Beacon Hills after so long?" Stiles asked, not realizing how invasive his knowledge probably was. Peter frowned and nodded.
"I was just released from the hospital a few months ago."
“So, your family visits a lot?” Stiles asked as he handed Peter his change.
“My family is dead,” came the cold answer and Stiles could feel the embarrassed blush on his own cheeks.
“I mean, the other ones? The report said not everyone died?” he waved a hand as if that would make the explanation easier. “Your nephew?”
“Are you stalking me, Stiles?” Peter snorted and made his way to the table as if their conversation had naturally ended.
Stiles made a mental note of charging him more the next time he came in. He didn’t but the next time Peter came in after that, he ordered an americano and Stiles told him about how he was not charging him extra.
“I’m too good-looking to get charged extra anything,” Peter said and Stiles rolled his eyes before handing Peter his change.
"My dad is the sheriff," he told Peter with no context to help him place that information, but somehow he believed Peter understood it. It was comfortable.
There wasn’t anyone else in line, so Peter hung out by the register, talking softly with Stiles. It always surprised Stiles how quietly Peter spoke. It was as if his vocal chords were still healing or something and the thought distracted Stiles enough that he zoned out from the conversation and when he focused again, Peter was telling him about how his nephew and his niece were considering visiting for the holidays. He seemed distraught by the idea and Stiles wondered if he missed something important.
“They are probably worried about you, man,” Stiles offered but it only seemed make Peter more upset.
Stiles had no idea what was wrong with his statement but Peter disappeared for a couple weeks after that and it was disconcerting enough that he brought it up with Scott. It briefly occurred to him he was crossing and had crossed some personal boundaries with Peter and that he was probably bored with his job. Peter made it more interesting but Peter shouldn't be the reason he looked forward to his shifts.
"You could quit and focus on school, right?" Scott had said. "Your father wouldn't be mad or anything."
Maybe he should quit and focus on school, but he knew that already and he was curious. He was curious enough to not quit. He just waited until Peter came back.
He actually missed him.
“Hey,” he said as he put the cup of expresso in front of Peter the day Peter finally came back. His scar was almost gone and Stiles should do some serious reading on this treatment because it was doing wonders for this guy. It was also probably the reason he disappeared, but Stiles felt guilty anyway. “I got you a free cookie that is in no way a bribe for you to tell me what’s up with the disappearing act, but you should look at it as an encouragement to…” he trailed off, unsure what he was encouraging.
Encouragement to keep coming back?
Peter watched him and for a few seconds Stiles thought he really crossed all the lines here, but, in the end, Peter smiled.
“A bribe then,” he concluded and smirked.
“No! What, no. I just said it’s not a bribe,” Stiles insisted, gesturing for emphasis and causing Peter to roll his eyes. Stiles enjoyed watching because he moved his whole head to do it and it was somewhat unique. “Ok, fine. Give me answers.”
“And what would the questions be?”
Stiles chewed on his bottom lip, considering it. He was somewhat obsessed with the guy and no one could fault him on that because the story was as interesting as it was disturbing but he didn’t have a list of questions ready to go. He wanted to ask about the scar and the fire and if Peter would keep showing up.
He sat down in front of Peter.
“Why you drive all the way here just for coffee? It isn’t even that good.”
“Are you sure you should tell your customers to not bother coming in?”
He really shouldn’t but that wasn’t an answer.
“That isn’t an answer.”
“You’re clever, Stiles. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
He could figure it out but Stiles was sure he wouldn’t have bothered if Peter didn’t make it sound like a challenge. It made his job a little more interesting. Peter made his job a little more interesting.
He watched Peter and whenever the man looked at him and arched an inquisitive eyebrow, Stiles smiled sweetly and waved because it had been Peter’s challenge. He knew for sure there were some signs of trauma and really, it could simply be that he had to stop by on the drive back to Beacon Hills because their hospital couldn’t do the work he had done on his face in such a way that Stiles could barely believe how burned he looked back when he realized this guy was one of the Hales. Maybe it was plastic surgery. Maybe Peter came here because everyone in Beacon Hills knew him.
Stiles watched and watched, weirdly obsessed with Peter. Heather asked him if he fell for the guy at least twice, but the fascination didn’t seem to come from that. It could be, but it wasn't quite that.
"He has to ask me out or else my heart is closed," had been Stiles reply.
In the end, it took almost three months after Peter started showing up at the Cafe for another realization to hit Stiles. He had been playing a game this time and some of the quests depended on the phases of the moon.
“Just like Peter’s mood,” his brain provided.
It sounded ridiculous so his first reaction was to text Scott and tell him he thought Peter Hale was maybe – probably – a werewolf. Scott texted back a few minutes later and told Stiles he had too much free time which still seemed to be true, but wow rude. Stiles wanted to text Peter about that because they had been talking and he was sure Peter would think that was funny. He made a mental note of asking for his number the next time he came in.
“If he bites you during the full moon, I’m going to laugh at your werewolfy ass and leave you to fend for yourself,” Stiles threatened in a last text to Scott before getting up to look up werewolf legends and myths.
It was a weird conclusion, but, again, it was entertaining and the more Stiles read, the more it made sense. By morning, he was trying to figure out the least insensitive way to ask if someone’s whole family was burned alive because they were supernatural creatures with supernatural healing and decapitating would be a hell lot of work. When Stiles asked if there was anything odd about that fire, his dad told him to not be weird and to leave the poor man alone, Stiles, hadn’t he suffered enough. Stiles pretended to be offended his dad would assume he was being anything but sensible and thoughtful, but his father only sighed at that.
"Ask for his number, don't do anything illegal and just be normal," his father told him in a tired tone before heading to bed.
Stiles decided it was better to leave the subject alone, give it some time and maybe, a few weeks later tell Peter how haha he thought he was a werewolf, isn’t that funny. That was the plan until Peter made his way to the register and ordered a mocha. It wasn't even Stiles fault for not following the plan.
“I see you are repeating coffees now,” Heather joked when Stiles handed her the order. “It’s the moon.”
Peter smiled wearily at her and Stiles watched him as if he expected something to happen. He did expect something to happen, but he wasn’t sure what it was. Peter Hale was a man of mysteries.
“What?” he demanded when Stiles didn’t say anything and didn’t look away.
There was a plan but it didn’t mean Stiles had to follow it.
"I know what you are," he declared, laughing because it would be so much easier to pass that as a joke in the future. Peter looked mostly confused, but Stiles didn't miss the concern in is eyes. "Really? Twilight? No? Nothing?"
It was just common knowledge - a very common joke - but then, it was also common knowledge that Peter Hale had been in a coma for almost ten years. Stiles wanted to facepalm; the guy probably had other things to catch up. Peter made his way to the table, still frowning, and Stiles felt obligated to explain it.
"The book series was really popular a couple years ago," he called from his spot before turning to smile at the new customer making her way to the register.
Two days later, Peter came back, ordered a cappuccino to go and informed Stiles – who he cornered in an actual corner between the counter and the door to the employees’ room – in no uncertain words that he, in fact, was not a vampire.
It was funnier than it should have been and Stiles didn't really manage to convey that in the texts he sent Scott because Scott only asked what was Stiles's deal with this guy.
Stiles decided that, even if the whole thing was ridiculous, at least they could both have fun with it so when Peter showed up a couple days before the full moon and ordered a mocha, again, Stiles didn’t even hesitate.
“Is it a werewolf thing or just a personal preference?”
Peter froze in place, watching Stiles as if he had threatened to slip poison in his coffee instead of making a silly joke. He turned around and left before Stiles even had the chance to charge him.Stiles was left confused by the reaction but he supposed – hoped, really – that Peter would be back in a few days as usual.
Peter didn’t come back. Stiles found himself missing their interactions more and more but even after the full moon and a whole week after that, Peter still didn't come back. Stiles really regretted not asking for his number or some other sort of personal information because at this point he could either stalk the guy or let it go.
It was weeks later that Stiles saw Peter again.
Stiles drove past a coffee shop on his way back from school and saw the man sitting there, enjoying his coffee. It was absurd and he couldn’t really explain why the sight pissed him off so much and as he waited for the light to change but he considered going in and confronting Peter. His conclusion was that he said something very rude, outing Peter's potential werewolfiness like that, but can't the guy take a joke. He texted Scott instead.
“I had no idea you were so serious about your workplace,” Scott replied.
And that was the thing; Stiles wasn’t. Stiles had grown fond of the man despite his aggravating personality. It was…interesting.
He thought Peter had grown fond of him, too, which was a new and unsettling thought because it made his anger look a lot more like jealousy. Peter moved on to other coffee shops and fuck that. This place didn't have Stiles and interesting conversations. Stiles knew that and fuck Peter for not recognizing he was a delight to have around. Stiles parked his car and got out, slamming the door behind himself and marching into the place.
Peter looked up before Stiles could make a beeline to his table.
“This is cheating,” he accused.
Peter rolled his eyes.
“Actually, this is stalking,” Peter accused back.
Stiles narrowed his eyes, wrinkling his nose in annoyance and holding his tongue.
“It was a poor joke. You don’t have to find a new place to go."
“Maybe I’m here because it’s closer to home.”
“Bullshit!” Stiles glared. “And our cappuccino is better than this one. You know it, everyone knows it.”
Peter watched him and put his cup down.
“Are you actually upset about where I get my coffee?”
“Are you an actual werewolf who only drinks mochas near the full moon!?”
Peter smirked at him.
“You’re clever. Figure it out.”
Stiles rolled his eyes, looking away from Peter and even raising his hands because this was too much misplaced frustration and Peter deserved a few insults after this butit would be Stiles who would get in trouble for harassing him. Stiles knew, Peter knew it, everyone in the whole place knew it. He could, at least, storm out.
Peter stood up and reached out to touch Stiles’ arm. Stiles breathed out in annoyance and glanced at Peter just to see electric blue eyes watching him.
"Was that...Is that a hint?"
“Have coffee with me,” Peter asked still touching Stiles' arm in a very gentle request for him to stay.
Stiles watched him for a moment, unafraid and curious.
“Yeah. Okay, yeah. Maybe,” he paused, frowning. “Can it be something else instead? Dinner?”
Peter snorted and sat down again.
“Asking me out?”
“Weren’t you?” Stiles accused, suddenly self-conscious. “Yeah, why not, let’s have dinner. No offense to your very rusty dating skills but asking the guy who works in a coffee shop to go have coffee, it’s just…”
“Boring?” Peter offered, amused. Stiles nodded. “I like you, Stiles,” he finished his coffee and got up again.
"I have questions," Stiles added, watching Peter's almost completely unscarred face.
“You can tell me about yourself, I can tell you about myself," Peter took a step towards the door. "I hear I have a lovely voice."
Stiles looked Peter up and down again and then followed. "It's a date but you better admit I'm a delight."
Peter snorted. “Let’s go somewhere else.”