Author: aethre
Category: Hood/Rachel UST, humour
Rating: PG
Summary: A simple stop for a late breakfast doesn't quite go as planned for Hood and Rachel.

"Rachel?" Hood asked, his head propped up on one hand. His voice was soft, just loud enough to be heard over the quiet radio, and his gaze was unfocused as he stared out the window at the passing foliage.

"Hmm?" Rachel replied. The blonde was focused on the car in front of her going fifty-five on the bloody highway and really wasn't paying too much attention to man her passenger's seat. She pressed down on the accelerator, inching closer to the old Cavalier and silently cursed the car alongside her blocking the passing lane. While Rachel by no means had a lead foot, she preferred to be going a few miles over the limit, not a couple under.

"Could you take the next right?"

"What? Hood, why?" Rachel groaned, "If you need another pit stop, you can hold it. We're half an hour from D.C. and I told you not to buy an extra large coffee."

"It's that turn right there," Hood ignored Rachel to point out a dirt road that didn't even warrant a deceleration lane.

"You've got to be kidding me," Rachel sighed, but, nevertheless, she flicked up her turn signal and took her foot off the gas pedal, "Where are we going, Hood?"

"I saw a sign for a diner a little ways back," Hood explained.

"A diner. Hood, I told you to grab some breakfast from the hotel," Rachel rolled her eyes. Men. They never listen to good advice.

"None of it was particularly appetizing. The muffins were clearly stale," Hood pointed out. Rachel couldn't argue with that – her own breakfast was abandoned halfway through. "Besides, I wanted pancakes."

"Oh c'mon Hood. We're almost home; couldn't you have just made your own?" Rachel turned onto the grid road, wincing as the SUV bounced as it left the smooth highway. She eyed the suspiciously level surface with trepidation – no heavy tire tracks.

"Not exactly. All my groceries expired last week and I haven't had the time to go shopping," Hood admitted with a small grin.

"Living off of takeout?" Rachel looked over at Hood and smiled back.

"Don't tell me that you're not!" Hood shot back. Rachel shrugged and smiled. She turned back to navigating the twisting road and Hood unashamedly turned his gaze towards Rachel. The late morning sun lit her hair in a blaze of platinum blonde glory and Hood was briefly captivated by the play of light. As the SUV slowed to a stop, Hood redirected his gaze out the window and his eyes widened in surprise.

"Oh," Hood said.

"Wow," Rachel agreed.

Scottie's Diner was a complete and utter dive. The paint was both fading and peeling, the windows were smeared with dirt and there was only one car in the patchy grass that apparently served as a parking lot. An equally dilapidated building was partially blocked from view by a handful of overgrown bushes and a beat up old pickup was parked beside it, its bed filled with an assortment of junk and, Hood squinted, was that a broken chair?

"Um… isn't there an IHOP on the way to the Hoover Building?" Hood asked.

"Yes, yes there is," Rachel lied and shifted the SUV into reverse just as the front door of the diner banged open and a large woman with flaming red hair tumbled out.

"Customers, Scottie! Customers!" The woman, with a speed unexpected from her size, rushed over to the Tahoe and tapped on Hood's window.

"So what'll you two be havin'?" The woman had pressed her face way too close to the window and Hood and Rachel took in the makeup caked face, the hair so red that it was a faded crimson and the wide, nicotine-stained smile in mute disbelief. Rachel reached over to the window commands and the glass slowly slid down. The older woman casually rested her arms along the now open window.

"My, you are a cute one," the bottle redhead eyed Hood. Hood's eyes were very wide and very green as he subtly shifted towards Rachel, still mute but now with shock. "M'name's Lizzie. Y'folks from 'round here?"

Rachel had to resist rolling her eyes as Hood stared dumbly at Lizzie. For a genius, the man sure wasn't good at thinking on his feet. Rachel leaned forward and cleared her throat, "No, we're just passing through. Actually, we need directions. Could you tell us how to get to Piscatawny Creek?" Rachel was sure she had passed a sign for the place recently.

Lizzie's watery blue eyes narrowed craftily as she replied, "Well, I'm not entirely sure of the route, but I know Scottie can tell you. Come in, come in! I'll get you some coffee!"

Rachel eyed Lizzie's death grip on the Tahoe and realised that there was no escape. She sighed, shoved the car into park and turned off the engine. "I suppose we could stop for coffee." Lizzie smiled gleefully, eyed Hood again and let go of the window. Hood quickly hit the command to roll up the glass and the two got out of the car, Rachel locking it as they walked towards the diner. Hood and Rachel purposefully slowed their steps and let Lizzie get ahead of them.

"I don't think they get very many customers, Rachel," Hood leaned down to speak quietly in Rachel's ear.

"I don't think so either – the road didn't have deep enough tire tracks," Rachel murmured back, "I figured that that wasn't a good sign."

Lizzie looked back and eyed her two unwitting customers slow pace, close stance and quiet conversation critically, "You two been involved long?"

"What? No, we–" Hood cut himself off as Rachel's hand slid into his. Automatically, Hood shifted his hand and laced their fingers together. Rachel suppressed a territorial smirk and tightened her grip on Hood.

"We're just married," Rachel said then squeezed her eyes shut. That was so not what she meant to say. Married? Really? What was she thinking saying that they were married? Rachel flushed slightly, resolutely avoiding Hood's gaze. She didn't particularly want to know what Hood was thinking, especially since she was encouraging him to move things forward with his dog sitter a month or so ago.

Lizzie's eyes focused on their clasped hands and made an interesting discovery – "No rings?" Rachel's blush deepened, her embarrassment countering her usual quick wits. Surprisingly, Hood rescued them.

"We wanted to get married as soon as possible," Hood smiled down at Rachel, who finally met his gaze. She was surprised to see a smile on his face and a warm look in his eyes. Rachel's blush showed no signs of abating as she broke eye contact with Hood.

Lizzie stared at them for a few moments more before clapping her hands together and exclaiming, "So, whatcha waitin' for? C'mon in!"

Hood and Rachel stepped into the diner and shared a quick look. The inside was just as bad as the outside – a light layer of dust covered most of the surfaces and the floor was grey with grime and sticky in places from long-ago spilled pop.

Rachel stretched up to whisper in Hood's ear. "It's no wonder that they don't have many customers." Hood grinned and huffed out a small laugh.

"Just take a seat there, I'll bring you your coffee in just a sec," Lizzie gestured to a booth by the windows. Hood and Rachel approached cautiously and quickly noticed that one of the benches had a long rip in the vinyl. By silent mutual agreement, they both slid into the side without the rip. After settling in, Rachel discretely ran a finger over the tabletop, grimacing when her finger came off with a bit of a grey coating. Hood leaned over, curious, and she showed him her finger.

"With so few customers, how is this place so dirty? What else could you do all day but clean?" Hood asked quietly.

"Sudoku," Rachel nodded at the open book near the old-fashioned cash register, "And probably soaps." Hood eyed the small tv placed at a perfect viewing angle from the till.

"Have a favourite soap, Rachel?"

"Are you kidding me? I don't even have enough time to regularly watch primetime shows!" Rachel rolled her eyes.

"I dunno, Rachel, you do tend to disappear for an hour in the afternoon every now and then," Hood teased.

"Ah, yes, you've caught me – I need my weekly Days fix," Rachel grinned at Hood.

"You watch Days too? It's pretty good, but General Hospital is better, if you ask me," Lizzie plopped down two small cups of coffee in front of Hood and Rachel, then sat across from them, "Cream or sugar?"

"No thanks," Hood said, pulling the small cup towards him.

"Both please," Rachel waited until she got her sugar fix before taking a sip… and then promptly tried to hide a gag. "Maybe a bit more sugar."

Curious, Hood took an experiment sip from his cup and nearly choked. The brew was quite potent and far more bitter than even Hood preferred. To add insult to injury, it also tasted faintly burnt. "On second thought, could I perhaps have some sugar as well?"

"Of course," Lizzie said, laying a hand overtop of Hood's. Rachel narrowed her eyes at that display and scooted closer to Hood, who, had also shifted closer to Rachel while carefully removing his hand from under Lizzie's. The two were pressed together close enough to be uncomfortable so Hood slung his arm over the back of the bench.

After a few moments of uncomfortable silence in which Lizzie continued to eye Hood, Rachel, impatient to leave, spoke. "So… about those directions?"

"Ah, I had Scottie whip you two up a late breakfast. You're both so skinny – you need meat on your bones," Lizzie grinned, "It's difficult to cook and write at the same time, y'see?" Hood and Rachel exchanged horrified looks. If the coffee was that bad, how terrifying would breakfast be?

"I hope you're hungry for pancakes!" Lizzie slapped her hands on the table and then slowly pushed herself up, "how about I bring you folks a fruit platter?"

"Well," said Hood after Lizzie left, "at least she got the order right."

"I just hope the contents of their kitchen are at least fresher than either of ours," Rachel sighed.

Hood grinned and nudged Rachel gently, "So you have been living off of takeout!"

Rachel grinned back, "Well, if your exploits didn't generate so much paperwork…."

"My exploits!" Hood exclaimed, "Who was the one to shoot at another car yesterday?"

"Riiiight. And your little demonstration in that borrowed lab was nothing," Rachel laughed.

"It was only a little explosion!" Hood protested.

"An explosion?" Lizzie asked, clomping towards Hood and Rachel.

"He's a scientist," Rachel said as if that explained everything.

"Who explodes stuff," Lizzie said flatly.

"It wasn't me, it was the undergrad!" Hood declared.

"We were the only ones in the lab, Hood," Rachel pointed out.

"Rachel, Rachel, Rachel… Undergrads exist to blame things on. I didn't get a PhD just to be blamed for a minor lab accident," Hood explained.

"Caused a few 'accidents' back in your wild and crazy college days, Hood?" Rachel grinned.

"Of course not! I just didn't prevent a few of them," Hood grinned back, unrepentant. "I think your college days were far more interesting than mine, Rachel. I tended to spend my spring breaks in either in the library or the lab."

"What? No trips to Tijuana? Just a trip to the stacks?" Rachel teased.

"Hmm, it's not like a trip to the stacks was… boring," Hood smirked.

"You didn't!" Rachel exclaimed. Hood just kept his smirk and Rachel leaned forward, "You did! Did you ever get caught?"

"There were a few close calls, but, no, I was never caught in flagrante delicto," Hood turned to face Rachel fully, his smirk turning into a full toothed grin. Lizzie cleaned in closer, her eyes wide in fascination. Unfortunately, her perusal of the agent and the scientist was cut short by frantic motions from the kitchen – Scottie was demanding her attention. With a heaving, melodramatic sigh, she pushed herself up from the booth and slowly made her way over to her business partner.

"What?" She hissed at Scottie. "Can't you not see that ah'm busy?"

"Lizzie, please. Stop crowdin' the customers or they'll ne'er come back." Scottie rolled his eyes. "Here, take this here fruit and come straight back to the kitchen, y'hear me?"

Lizzie rolled her eyes right back and snatched the fruit platter from Scottie's unresisting hands. She floofed off back to her precious customers.

For their part, Hood and Rachel hadn't even noticed Lizzie's departure.

"Ha!" Rachel had exclaimed. "What would they have done if they caught you in the act?"

"Honestly? I have no idea," Hood shrugged. "Probably banned me from the library."

"And then what would have you done? Failed all of your classes?" Rachel teased, eyes bright with amusement.

Hood let out a small huff of laughter. "Unlikely. If necessary, I would have bribed my friends to get me the materials that I needed."

"Friends that require bribery?" Rachel arched an eyebrow.

"I had the best fake ID on campus – everything was a reason for bribery back then." Hood said gravely.

The tray clattered against the table as Lizzie set down the fruit. "Here you are, loves." She moved to sit down across from them but froze when a throat was cleared quite loudly from the kitchen. "Ah'll be back in a few with yer pancakes. Eat up!"

Hood and Rachel eyed the fruit dubiously. All of the, thankfully meagre, pieces seemed strangely off colour. Hood reached out a tentative finger and pushed the fruit around in a haphazard inspection. "Doesn't seem to have any mould," he murmured to Rachel.

"Well," she said in reply as she picked up a piece of watermelon. "Bottom's up, I guess." She chewed briefly and hastily swallowed.

"How was it?" Hood asked.

"Overripe," Rachel replied. "You try the next one."

Hood carefully selected a strawberry and hesitantly popped it into his mouth. Frowning, he chewed and swallowed thoughtfully. Rachel eyed him impatiently.

"Well?" Rachel asked.

"Underripe." Hood stated solemnly. Rachel groaned. "You next."

Rachel didn't bother to carefully inspect the next piece of fruit – ignorance was bliss, she figured. As it turned out, that particular adage didn't hold true. "Bruised."

The two managed to clear the entire platter in that manner – one would eat a piece of fruit and comment on it and the other would follow suit. Whilst Rachel's complaints stayed well within a normal range, Hood's had grown more and more esoteric with each bite. He had finished the platter with a hastily cut off "prunus necrotic ringspot virus" when Lizzie stepped forward with two heaping plates of pancakes. She plunked them down in front of the two investigators and grinned.

"Eat up, dearies! And ah better not be seeing no leftovers!" Lizzie's inane grin grew wider as Scottie placed syrup and butter onto the table before dragging the redhead off again.

"Oh god." Rachel said, eyeing the six inch stack in front of her with trepidation. "How many miles do you think I'll have to run to wear off these calories?"

"I can't eat all of this," Hood said. "You have less than me – take some of my pancakes."

Rachel glared at him and her voice came out in a low, dangerous growl. "You're the one who got us into this mess – eat your damned pancakes."

On the counter by the till, Lizzie leaned over, resting her chin on her fists. "Aren't they not an adorable couple, Scottie? A bit odd, to be sure, but cute."

Scottie just nodded the nod of a browbeaten man.


"Yes Rachel?"

"I won't be coming in to work today."

"Me neither – there must have been something in those pancakes we ate yesterday."

"I hate you, you know that?"

"On the bright side, if your symptoms are the same as mine, you won't need to run those extra miles."

"I really hate you, you know that?"

"…I'll call Frank."

A/N: So apparently it takes me a year and a half to write a 2700 word fic. Good to know. As ever, thanks are due to Sarah (ObsidianJade) for many, many reasons (the least of which is putting up with me), though this time it is primarily for betaing and pointing out that I owed this pancake fic. Me being me, I remembered that I had written some of it already and was pleasantly surprised to discover nearly 2000 words already in the file and an amusing stopping point. So I finished it, despite it not being on my fic list. Rejoice. As well, I'm pretty sure that this was a prompt from Travis/monoclelad, but it's highly unlikely that he'll even read this fic anyway. He keeps telling me that he's waiting for the audiobook version.