Derek finds out about the blog because Cora is a little shit and likes to mock him at every turn.
She emails him a link and the words: tumblr cooking fandom wants you to step on all the legos, lol.
Derek doesn't know what any word in that sentence means, but he follows the link anyway out of sheer curiosity. What he finds is...a lot of people hating him. He's not really sure what Tumblr is or how it works, but about fifteen people have added commentary on a link to an article about Derek. None of it is nice and, yes, there are many a mention of Legos, which Derek still doesn't understand.
He clicks to the article and is met with a giant headline: Chef Derek Hale Sends a Cease and Desist to a Popular Cooking Blog. Whoever wrote the article is also not a fan of Derek's, though there's no mention of Legos, just about a dozen variations on snobby and pretentious.
When Derek meets up with his management team a week later at a fro yo bar, he brings it up.
"I don't understand."
Laura rolls her eyes. "Our lawyers sent out the C&D because the blogger was using your name in one of his blog segments, Cooking Derek with Stiles."
"It's nice that the issue was my name and not the cannibalistic overtones," Derek says drily.
"It's a branding thing," Cora says from next to him. She's focused on her phone in between shoveling fro yo into her mouth and hasn't looked up during the entire conversation. "You know, your name is part of your brand, which is how you make your money."
Derek understands branding, thank you very much. He pinches Cora's thigh; she digs her knuckles in a soft spot in his side in retaliation.
"I don't understand why we threatened legal action against some ridiculous blogger," he clarifies. "It's not like he's profiting."
Laura buries her face in her hands and Cora sighs like Derek is utterly hopeless.
"I'm embarrassed to know you sometimes," Cora says. "Do you realize how many book deals bloggers on Tumblr have gotten? There's a potential financial gain. Not that Stiles would take a book deal; he's turned down a couple, says the magic would be lost in print form."
Laura lifts her face from her hands and narrows her eyes in the same way she did when she told Derek that Uncle Peter could go fuck himself and declared herself Derek's manager/PR person even though she'd never done either of those things. "I would totally represent Stiles," Laura says.
"I'd disown you if you wouldn't," Cora says.
Derek feels like he's lost the plot. He's still not even sure what the hell a Stiles is.
It turns out that a Stiles is a twenty-something year old kid who makes a total disgrace and tragedy out of Derek's recipes.
He butchers them. And it's the fucking point of the blog.
This ridiculous kid makes Derek's recipes with the worst equipment and the worst ingredients and it's like ripping the soul out of everything Derek holds dear.
Okay, it's not just Derek's recipes. He actually tackles some really high end recipes from some of Derek's contemporaries and mentors, too. Going by the list of chefs in the index, or whatever it's called, Stiles' segments focus on about fifteen different high-level chefs.
At the next "management" meeting, which takes place while Derek, Laura and Cora are playing Putt Putt, Derek says, "Why is his blog still up? We sent a Cease and Desist."
Laura snorts. "And he did. He changed the name of the segments with your recipes so that there's not a legal issue."
"Make it stop."
Cora looks up from her ball and spins her mini-putter threateningly. Derek steps back because even though Cora is six years younger and a hundred pounds lighter, she fights dirty and wins.
Then he takes another step back when Laura folds her arms at him.
Sometimes Derek wishes his sisters were a little less terrifying.
"His knives," Derek says to them, pleadingly. "They're dull and rusty! And he buys four dollar olive oil!"
Derek brings up Stiles and his massacring of Derek's hard work and good name three "management" meetings in a row (held at a bowling alley, a movie theater, and Laura and Cora's salon).
Finally, Cora has enough and shoves her phone in Derek's hand with a growled instruction to, "Watch it, dickface."
Derek watches. It's apparently the first video on Stiles' blog—called cookwithwhatyougot—and from the title it's clear that he's going to be focusing on a very old and early recipe of Derek's. Derek built his first restaurant on the back of that recipe, to an extent.
The Stiles in this video is younger than in the ones Derek's already watched, and wearing an NYU sweatshirt. He's also extremely more awkward and stiff, and keeps accidentally moving out of frame.
"Okay," Stiles says. He claps his hands together and reaches out to manually adjust the camera.
Derek blinks and realizes Stiles is in a dorm room. He's got a hot plate and a cluster of ingredients that Derek thinks are dollar store purchases crammed onto a desk alongside a dull and slightly rusty paring knife, a fork with mangled tines, a spoon missing half its handle, and a pair of splintery wooden chopsticks. There's a plastic drop cloth hanging over the desk.
Derek closes the video because he can't. He just can't.
The Hales are legendary. When Derek was young, they were known as a family of gourmands, restauranteurs, and chefs of all specialties. They also had really fantastic business sense, which is why Derek grew up with refrigerators and pantries full of high-end excellent quality basics, and organic gardens and orchards on their property.
Cooking was a family affair in his household, a process that was neither quick nor simple. Nothing took a single pan, and they didn't actually even own a microwave because his mother had a thing about them that Derek to this day doesn't understand.
Derek's mom was a brilliant pastry chef, his father a world-renowned chocalatier, and his grandmother had practically pioneered the organic trend years before anyone else gave a damn. Everyone in the family had a specialty, a focus.
Everything changed when Derek was sixteen. He used to think it was his fault, the fire that killed almost everyone, but Laura forced him into therapy and raised all sorts of holy hell until Kate Argent was eventually convicted.
With Uncle Peter in a coma, Laura took control of the small but profitable empire. Along with custody of Derek and Cora. The years following the fire were hard on everyone, but most so on Laura who was struggling to keep all the various and sundry parts of the Hale Family machine in place while running the fusion restaurant that was her baby, on top of caring for Derek and Cora.
They got through it, though. Derek practically raised Cora, while Laura parented Derek. They had to sell off a couple of business interests for practical reasons, but things were good.
Then Uncle Peter woke from his coma six years after the fire and everything changed again. Derek's still unsure of the chain of wills and probate that was responsible, but all the Hale family assets were technically Peter's. Laura, as the only remaining relative of his over eighteen, had been running things in his stead.
When Peter recovered, he took hold of the reins and pushed Laura and Derek out. Cora too, but she was only sixteen at the time.
Peter owned everything, including the fucking Hale name. They had a choice, Laura, Derek and Cora: lie down and take it, or push back with everything they had. They chose the latter.
It's Derek's face, and Derek's name—his first name only, fucking Peter—at the forefront of the fledgling empire they're building, but Laura is the one in charge, and Cora is fast on her way to standing at Derek's side in the public eye, rather than a bit behind him.
The three of them have fought hard to get where they are, harder than three kids who grew up in the family they did should have, and there's no way he can deal with some shitty kid belittling what they do.
"Belittling," Cora repeats, in that flat droll manner she's perfected. It's different to Derek's pseudo-pleasant-sounding but edged sarcasm, or Laura's superficially-polite but cuttingly-sharp tone.
Derek curls his lips. "Yes."
"You didn't even watch it," Laura says around a mouthful of funnel cake. They've been in line for a roller coaster for two hours already and figured they might as well hold a meeting.
"Yes, I did." He doesn't know why he tries lying. The three of them always know when one of the others is lying.
Derek ends up with a pile of powdered sugar blown in his face courtesy of Laura, and a glob of fake cheese sauce rubbed into his scalp thanks to Cora, for his trouble.
"Just watch it, okay?" Laura says quietly as they're being strapped into their seats an hour later; she presses a kiss to his cheek before all the restraints are in place.
Ahead of them, Cora is in the front row and Derek sees a feral grin on her face when she turns slightly.
Derek steels himself and watches that first video. It's...not at all what he thought it would be.
"Okay," Stiles says. He claps his hands together and reaches out to manually adjust the camera. "So usually I have a kitchen when I make this, but I decided not to let that hold me back. I've been experimenting for, like, weeks and I think I've got it."
He shuffles some things on the desk until everything is onscreen, and Derek dies a little inside. It's a travesty. The quality of Stiles' ingredients is...subpar isn't even the word for it. It's like sub-sub-sub par.
"I'm a shit poor college student in New York City," Stiles says. He's waggling his fingers at the ingredients. "So I hit every bodega and dollar store in a two mile radius to get all this."
Derek whimpers in real actual extreme pain so intense he has to close out the video. He pulls it back up five minutes later because Cora is evil and terrible and he doesn't even want to think about what she'll do to him if he doesn't watch the whole thing.
"First up—blanching the bacon."
Stiles has opened three packages of something that doesn't even deserve to be called bacon, and what should, according to Derek's recipe, in fact be lardons because Derek is a traditionalist in some things and Coq Au Vin is one of them. Stiles bypasses the knife and uses his fingers to tear away most of the excessive amount of fat from the "bacon".
"You can leave more of the fat on if you want, but I'm used to watching out for my dad's cholesterol. I mean, we only do this--" Stiles fumbles a piece of bacon onto the drop cloth and turns his head away from the camera. "I only make this once a year, but I still like to tone it down a bit for him, you know?"
Derek frowns, feels himself tense for no reason he's sure of right now, then is overtaken by outrage when Stiles pulls a tiny little dented pot with a wobbly handle into view.
"Hopefully you have larger pans. I don't, so I'm doing this in stages."
Derek watches in horrified fascination as Stiles blanches four pieces of "bacon" at a time, on a hot plate, in the tiny pot with water from a gallon jug. In between batches, he dumps out the water into a giant bucket on the floor. Derek's glad Stiles has edited the video to skip through most of it, because there's only so much Derek can take.
"If you're wondering why I'm blanching the bacon," Stiles says during batch number four, "it's because of the salt. Seriously, if you don't do this you might as well suck down a half pound of salt and then call an ambulance."
Once all the "bacon" has been blanched, Stiles slowly and with great difficulty uses the terrible awful "knife" to cut it up. Derek's mildly impressed he can actually make any cuts at all, and then is more than mildly impressed that the results are pretty uniform.
Stiles works in batches again, browning the "bacon" in the tiniest sauce pot ever and then scooping it out with his "fork" to sit in a large glass mixing bowl. He distributes the remaining fat into another bowl as he goes. There are more jumps and cuts in the editing.
Then it's time to brown the chicken, which should actually be duck, per the recipe, and Derek has to hide his face because what Stiles is doing can't be watched dead on. Derek looks at the screen around the fingers pressed against his face and whimpers some more. Those are the worst cuts of chicken he's ever seen and they're eighty percent fat, and Stiles is using a pair of re-purposed (hopefully) office scissors to cut away the fat because the "knife" is useless.
Derek gets a six pack of beer from the fridge during the browning, which is edited since Stiles has to do one piece at a time in portions of the drained off "bacon" fat, and when it comes time for Stiles to haul up an ancient and garish colored crock pot, Derek is suitably numbed. It's easy, then, to watch Stiles dump in the browned chicken and a portion of the "bacon" fat.
"If you've got a pan that'll fit everything, and an actual stovetop that will cook shit safely, you can do this without the crock pot, and you probably don't need this tutorial." Stiles rolls his eyes and gestures at the desk. "Since I don't have any of that, crock pot it is."
Stiles steps out of frame and then comes back with another bowl, this one filled with "vegetables."
"If you're fortunate enough to have fresh veggies on hand, well, why are you watching this? Just follow the damn recipe yourself. If, like me, you're going the canned route—"
Derek would weep if not for the beer.
"—then you need to rinse this shit off. I did it earlier in the dorm bathroom. So, I've got carrots. I've got mushrooms. I've got pearl onions. And I have garlic!" He fumbles his hand to the side, almost dropping the bowl, and comes up with the saddest little bulb of garlic Derek has ever seen. It's small, malformed, and discolored in some places.
"So the real recipe makes you cook up some of the veggies with the duck for a bit, then take them out, then add others. It turns out delicious, seriously, it's like a mouth orgasm. But I'm working with what I've got, and after some really terrible experimental results, I figured out the best way to do this."
Stiles dumps the things masquerading as vegetables on top of the chicken and then breaks apart the garlic bulb and peels the cloves. He uses the "knife" to cut away some dark spots on the cloves, then sets them aside.
Derek's recipe calls for stock made from organic duck over the course of a day and a half. Stiles pulls a carton of processed chicken stock into view, along with a bullion cube. "I tried it with just the broth--" He shakes the carton. "--and just the bullion. Neither was quite right. Then I tried it with a bit of each, cut with some water, and it worked out perfectly. So, here, shave half the bullion cube into the stock and pour it in, then add a bit of water."
Derek drinks another beer, putting his grand total up to eight at this point.
"So, the wine," Stiles says to the camera. "Like, I usually use—my mom had this red that she loved. My dad gets it for me when I'm back home. But since I'm here and really not able to afford that kind of shit, I had to improvise. I'm not even gonna lie, this was the hardest part to figure out. But here we go."
Stiles pulls out some containers and proceed to concoct a mix of tomato juice, red wine vinegar and grape juice. If Derek were sober, he'd throw up all the beer he's consumed, but he's just buzzed enough to recognize the horror but not really feel it fully.
"—get the proportions right, okay? It won't work if you're off." He pours half the concoction into the crock pot and then turns it on. "Here we go. Set it to low, and let it go for, like, two hours. Then there's shit to do, so let's come back then."
Derek is glad to let the jumps and cuts pass in a haze of alcohol. When things come back to real time, Stiles is opening the crock pot.
"Time to put in the herbs."
Stiles measures out spoonfuls of cheap, dried spices. Derek maybe actually makes a noise like a dying whale. It should be fresh herbs. It should be thyme and parsley and basil. Not dehydrated bullshit flakes of terribleness.
"Just put these in now, and add in some more of the red wine substitute, since most of it has cooked down. Then let it go another few hours."
The video cuts back after an apparent jump,when Stiles comes back on screen. "Okay, so here we go. More spices. Because dried herbs and slow cooking, yeah. Need it at the end. Also, times for the garlic. Toss it in there and let it simmer down again."
Derek drinks another beer and at this point he's just into it, just letting it flow over him and around him. Whatever. Who cares.
By the time Stiles comes in at the end of the slow cooking, Derek's buzz is wearing down, but not enough for him to cry or whimper when Stiles comes into view to turn off the crock pot and serve up a portion of some perverted version of Derek's recipe.
Stiles digs into the portion with his mangled fork and his dull "knife" and—his eyes flutter closed, he inhales deeply, and then his mouth goes slack and he makes a noise that—well.
Oh, it goes right to Derek's dick.
And then Stiles says, "Happy birthday, mom," as he takes his first bite and Derek feels like a dirty creeper.
He feels something else, too. Something that crawls under his ribs and lodges itself in his chest.
A week later, Derek has watched another half dozen of Stiles' early videos, and been pushed far enough that he puts on a baseball cap, a pair of sunglasses and a hoodie, and hits up the dollar stores a few towns over.
He borrows a crock pot from his neighbor and then follows Stiles' recipe for Derek's own Coq Au Vin. Derek has a glower on his face the whole time, knowing he's wasting his time and not sure why he's going through with this, but it falls off his face when he takes the first bite.
It's not perfect, it's not the same, but it's close. So fucking close that the difference might as well not exist.
Derek replays that first video, watches the last line over and over again, and wonders if he could have done this. If he could have found a way to recreate his mother's favorite dish on a budget of $15 dollars and using only a hotplate and some second hand bowls.
He thinks the answer is no.
By the time the next management meeting occurs—around a roller derby game, what is Derek's life, seriously—Derek is...distracted.
"Do you think I should send him knives?" he asks.
"—second quarter profits, wait, what are you talking about?" Laura says.
"Stiles. Should I send him knives?"
Cora is staring at him like he's an alien. "What."
"I watched the video he uploaded last weekend, and he's got those things that aren't really knives even though he thinks they are. Should I send him real ones?"
Laura steps up next to Cora and her expression is the same as Cora's. "What."
Derek pulls out his phone. "I'm totally sending him knives."
"...I'm not sure what to make of your obsession with making sure Stiles has proper cooking implements," Laura says.
Stiles gives away the knives ten days later in a contest on his blog.
Derek doesn't understand it. "He needs real knives!" he tells Cora.
Cora rolls her eyes. "He kind of doesn't. I mean, he's made a name for himself as a popular blogger based on exactly not needing shit like real knives."
Cora has a point. Derek thinks it through and sends Stiles gift cards for the national chain dollar stores he goes to for his ingredients. Stiles is apparently still in college, maybe grad school, Derek thinks, and he could probably do with funding. Derek also sends him a spice rack filled with high end dried spices. Then he tosses in a free dinner to Derek's restaurant because Stiles is apparently in California now.
Derek stares at his phone unhappily and only looks up when Laura throws an air hockey puck at his chest. They're at Dave and Buster's for their current management team meeting.
Laura facepalms. "Oh my god, I can't."
"Check out the vid post right before the contest announcement," Cora says from their left where she's playing a boxing game.
Derek does. Stiles comes on screen looking mildly annoyed. "Okay, so this apparently needs to be said yet again, even though I've said it a thousand times and thought we had this shit sorted out. I don't take gifts. Not from restauranteurs, or chefs, or companies, or cooking shows, or networks, or even from anonymous strangers. Now, you can keep sending them, but then I have to keep running these contests to give them away, and these things take a lot of time and energy to run. So, yeah, knock it off, because I'm officially out of energy and future packages are getting tossed in the dumpster."
Derek swallows and his shoulders slump. "Oh."
Laura spins on her heel and glares at Cora. "Deal with this."
Cora makes a face and looks to the heavens for help. "God. Fine."
Cora's way of dealing with it, apparently, is to drag him to a shitty coffee house in Sacramento. It takes them an hour to get there, and the coffee tastes burnt no matter how much sugar Derek dumps in it. "What are we doing here?"
"Stop whining," Cora says flatly, eyes flicking around the shop. "And stay over here."
She leaves him at a table in the back corner, blocked by some fake fern-plant-tree thing strung with Christmas lights even though it's August, and takes her coffee to a table over by the window.
She just sits there, and after a few minutes Derek's about to stomp over to her and demand to know what's going on, but then the door opens and Stiles walks in. He goes right to the counter, where the barista greets him by name and hands him a coffee that was ready and waiting for him.
Derek doesn't know what to think. He just stares at Stiles. Watches him turn and head right for the table Cora's at. His steps halting when he sees her before he grins and keeps walking. "Didn't you cancel on me?"
Derek spills coffee down the front of himself. Cora knows Stiles? Stiles knows Cora?
Derek can see the two of them through the leaves of the fake shrubbery, and he puts down his cup, ignores the coffee soaking into his shirt, and stares unashamedly. Stiles is—he grabbed Derek's attention in a particular way when he moaned shamelessly in the Coq Au Vin video, and held it through countless others with his eyes, and his mouth, and his forearms, and his, okay, his everything.
In person, though, there's more. There's the play of muscles under his shirt when he moves, and the way he doesn’t twist enough to keep from bumping into a table, and the way he—oh, the way he kisses Cora's cheek and hugs her before sitting down. Well. Shit.
Cora's been seeing someone for a while but has refused to talk details, including a name. She plays things close to her chest sometimes, even more so than Derek and Laura. If it's actually Stiles she's dating, Derek isn't sure what he's going to do.
"My plans changed," Cora says as Stiles sits across from her.
Stiles arches a brow. "Your weekend plans with Boyd changed? Between yesterday and today?"
Cora's entire face twists in disgust. "Yes, and I'm not happy about that," she says, and the way her mouth is angled, it's clear she's directing that at Derek.
Derek doesn't care, because apparently it's not Stiles she's dating, it's someone named Boyd. Which still doesn't explain how Cora knows Stiles, or why she never said anything.
Stiles sips his coffee. "Sucks. How's the new menu coming?"
"It's fine, whatever, look, can you stop with the contests?"
"Um. What? No. You know my policy--"
Cora snorts and cuts a hand through the air sharply. "Derek's the one sending the stuff."
Stiles chokes on his coffee and has to turn to the side to spit it out rather than spew it in Cora's face. Derek would be choking similarly if he hadn't abandoned his cup.
"What? Why even—you told me he didn't know about the blog!"
"I told him a few months back," Cora says.
Stiles glares at her. "Oh my god, is that why I got the C&D?"
"No, dumb ass, you got the C&D for exactly the reason I explained the week before we sent it out. I told Derek after that."
"Why? Why would you do that?"
"It doesn't matter, because I didn't realize what was going to happen and now I hate my life and I missed a weekend in Vegas with Boyd because you're both so ridiculous it makes me want to vomit."
Stiles looks lost. Cora looks disgusted. Derek wants to die a little.
"You've had a fanboy crush on my brother for years, Stiles," Cora says. "And now, now I have to deal with his awkward attempts at courting you with knives and dried spices—do you know how much he hates dried spices?"
Derek feels the heat climbing up his face and wants to crawl into a hole.
"Courting?" Stiles says, his voice pitched two octaves higher than Derek's heard it before.
Cora leans forward and her glare could cut glass. "He made your version of his Coq Au Vin recipe!" She gets to her feet and crosses her arms. "I'm leaving. The two of you need to get your shit together."
After she storms out, Stiles sinks down in his chair and covers his face with his hands. Behind the shrub, Derek's whole body feels flushed with the power of his blush. He sits there, frozen, for a moment, struggling to breathe. Cora put him on the spot, but not really. She still left it up to him, and he's glad for that. It makes it easier to stand up—his red face and stained shirt be damned—and skirt the bush and shuffle over to where Stiles is still sitting by himself.
"Um, hi," Derek says.
Stiles almost falls out of his seat when he startles, and then he looks panicked when he recognizes Derek.
"I want to cook with you," Derek blurts out.
Stiles stares up at him, mouth dropped open, eyes wide, and then blinks. "Oh, um, really?"
Derek nods and rubs the back of his neck. "Yeah."
"But, wait, like my blog or like what you do?"
It takes Derek a moment to parse that. He thinks about cooking with Stiles in a tiny apartment with a galley kitchen that has no counter tops to speak of, and is filled with one travesty of a cooking implement after another. Then he thinks about bring Stiles to the restaurant, before it opens, cooking with him in a fully stocked industrial kitchen.
Derek's eyes glaze over. "Both. Just, yeah, both. A lot."
Stiles' surprised expression shifts into one of bright pleasure. "Yeah. Same. Too. Me too, I mean. For both."
Derek can't help but grin. "Okay. Good. That's good."
It's a few days later that Derek finds out Stiles' last name, realizes he's from Beacon Hills, too. It explains a lot. Like Stiles and Cora knowing each other—they're the same age, were in the same class right before the fire, and apparently she messaged him when she first saw his blog.
It also explains the timing, how Stiles' first vid was referencing having made that recipe for years even though Derek only introduced it into his restaurant a year before. Derek remembers Claudia Stilinski, remembers his mother asking if it would be okay to share the Coq Au Vin recipe with her when she got sick because she loved it so much. Derek remembers saying yes.
Derek tips across the shopping cart between them and kisses Stiles for the first time, right there in a weird smelling dollar store, right as Stiles plucks a bottle of three dollar olive oil from the shelf and turns to drop it next to a jar of dehydrated red pepper flakes.
"Oh, hey," Stiles says with a small smile when they pull apart. He licks his lips and Derek can't help but lean in again, lick the same path.
"Come on," Derek says against his mouth a few minutes later. "Let's get out of here. We've got beef bourguignon to cook."
"Can't wait," Stiles says.