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Diamonds Are Forever (but flowers are cheaper)

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His name was Stiles Stilinski. He was older than 21, but younger than 25. His dad was the sheriff and he was a student at Beacon Hills Community College. He came into the shop every couple days; always after three, but never past five. He always said hello to Laura, always bought one bouquet, and always spent five minutes trying to make Derek smile with as many puns as he could come up with by the time Derek handed him his receipt.

Derek may or may not be in love with him.

Most of the time.

“Why so down, sourpuss?” Stiles grinned, taking the receipt from Derek and shoving it into his pocket while Derek angrily wrapped up the bouquet, snapped the rubber band at the base, and handed it over. “You look like someone ate your bunny.”

Derek made a face, one that had a myriad of intense, emotionally driven expressions on it that Stiles couldn’t possibly decipher, and slammed the drawer shut on the register. Stiles’ eyes went wide, a long, loud noise of understanding escaping him.

“Laura put you on watering duty again, didn’t she?”

“Get out of my store,” Derek snapped, feeling his ears burn. It wasn’t that he hated watering duty--it was just that the hose they had for the plants was old and rusted on the end so that when Derek turned it on, he always got a mouthful of stale water. Stiles snorted, digging around in his pocket and waving a $5.

“Well here. Thistle make you feel better,” he said with a smirk, shoving the bill into Derek’s pathetically empty tip jar. He was already halfway out the door (with his godforsaken bowlegged stride) before Derek mustered up any sort of response.

“Your puns are terrible!”

The door shut, cutting off the warming sound of Stiles’ laughter.

“Wow, Derek,” Laura called from the other end of the store, popping her head out from behind a carnation display. “I don’t think I’ve seen you this pathetic since that time you tried to get mom to buy you a puppy when you were five.”

Considering Derek was 28 and Laura was 30, he hadn’t the slightest clue how she could recall such a memory. She was probably making it up. Derek was never pathetic. Ever.

He came out from behind the register, pulling the top half of his apron back over his head and viciously grabbing at the nozzle for the hose. “Too bad you look pathetic all the time,” he grumbled under his breath, knowing his sister could hear him loud and clear. She scoffed and then tutted in that pitying way that meant that Derek’s comeback was so miserably below par that she didn’t feel it dignified a response.

He headed into the back room, hooking up the nozzle to the hose and going through the process of getting completely soaked before he could actually water any of the flowers in the greenhouse. Derek didn’t even know why they owned a flower shop. Apparently Laura thought the best therapy for dealing with your entire family burning to death because of faulty stove wiring was to take their insurance earnings and buy a ramshackle building that was halfway to condemned and then open up a flower shop.

The worst part was that Derek didn’t actually mind tending to the flowers. He liked flowers. They didn’t judge him, or ignore him, and they would wilt and die without his care. They were a constant in his life--especially after 10 years of working with them--and he would never admit to Laura that he fully intended to take over the shop if she ever married her bum of a boyfriend and decided to settle down.

Besides…who else would Stiles buy flowers from, if not Derek?

Though, if he did take over the shop, the first thing he would do would be to change the name. To this day, Derek swore up and down that Laura had roofied him before getting him to sign the damn paper that officially labeled their shop as ‘Plant Parenthood’.

It would also help the poor, misguided teenage girls who came in, often seeking advice on what to do after their boyfriend forgot a condom and leaving with directions to the actual Planned Parenthood and a free bouquet of lime blossoms and rue. The free bouquets were mostly because Derek couldn’t resist abusing his knowledge of flower meanings, even if the girls didn’t know they were holding a handful of fornication and regret.

Despite Laura’s claims of his repressed sexual frustrations being the reason why he passive aggressively dealt with customers through flower meanings, Derek was positive it was because he was destined to die a crabby old man. He had no problem dying a crabby old man; it meant that there was no one around to judge him for peeing on the toilet seat in the early morning, or farting too loudly if he was feeling particularly gassy. There were a few things he missed, sure. He missed the feel of a warm body pressed in close to his, of kisses and someone to hold in his arms…

But all the affection in the world wasn’t worth the pain that came from a relationship. Derek had learned that the hard way.

That didn’t seem to stop his heart from fluttering a little every afternoon when Stiles sauntered in through the door-- sometimes wiggling it right under the stupid bell that Laura had bought during their second year in business to make sure they heard him come in.

Derek sprayed irritably at the azaleas, one hand on the hose to move it around so that it didn’t fold or get caught on some of the potted trees they had. There were two parts to the greenhouse. The first was the potted area, with the smaller plants that needed constant care and attention to make sure they kept healthy and flowered right on time. Then there was Derek’s favorite section--the section that he’d come up with himself. It was an indoor garden that spanned over half of the back room. He’d spent countless hours building his own attachment to the store, putting up new walls, adding in windows on the roof that he could open with the flick of a switch.

It had taken Derek five years to build it, but it was his own sanctuary. Laura rarely came back into the garden section--not unless she needed some of the plants there for special order bouquets. He’d poured through a few catalogues before settling on sapphire st. augustine grass for the most part, with a few patches of zoysia planted here and there that mingled in with the St. Augustine. It made for a perfect napping ground on days that Derek didn’t feel like dealing with the general public. His favorite thing to do was to sit and watch butterflies flit from plant to plant, pollinating as they went. He had special-ordered each of the species, choosing a variety from monarch and swallowtail, to painted ladies and red admirals.

He sometimes wondered why he cared so much about the butterflies, considering they had a depressingly short life span, but then he remembered how uncomplicated they were.

The best part about his garden was the weeping willow. Derek had spent days digging up the ground and getting it planted. He’d spent almost an entire year’s savings just to get the half-grown tree imported. In the end, it was worth the hours and hours digging and installing and and underground pipeline just for the tree to get the water it needed. The low hanging branches kept him shaded, swaying in the wind that came through the glass doors that he often kept open to keep the air moving in and constantly circulating through the windows.

Sometime the year prior, a cluster of dragonflies had found their way in through the open doors, and now Derek housed a family of the buzzing insects. He’d felt bad enough about the lack of water that he was in the process of constructing a natural pond in the corner. The pond had an added bonus of being another water supply for the tree that would cut back on the cost of running water through the underground pipe.

It wasn’t like he had anything better to do.

“Derek! We’ve got an L.O.L coming in!” Laura called from the shop, because her least favorite thing to do was deal with little old ladies who were extremely particular about their flower choices. It seemed they looked down their noses at Laura because she was a young woman who couldn’t possibly know as much about flower care as they did.

Laura was more than happy to send them Derek’s way. Apparently Derek’s muscles (half of them toned from hours of planting and rustling around on his knees in search of weeds that might have snuck into his garden) were a worthy adversary against the scrutiny of an elderly woman.

Derek sighed, flicking off the nozzle and hooking it over one of the fern bushes that was hanging up near the west side of the greenhouse. He shut the water off on his way into the store, pulling the top half of his apron off and folding it down so that they would see a plain, clean black tee instead of a dirt and grass stained apron. Catching Laura’s stink-eye, Derek forced himself to grin as he approached the older woman who was talking quietly with a young redheaded girl.

“Hi there,” Derek dusted his hands off on his pants, knocking away bits of dirt that had stuck to the pads of his fingers during his watering. The girl turned, frown quickly transforming as her eyes dragged up and down Derek’s body. A grin spread across her face and she flicked her hair over her shoulder, nudging the older woman.

“Hi,” she chirped, grin going sly, “You know… I should shop for flowers more often. You guys seem to have a great selection…” her voice dropped into a purr and the elderly woman huffed and squeezed the girl’s arm.

“Lydia, that’s no way to talk to an employee,” she chastised, turning to give Derek a very calculating stare. “We’re looking for something to bring my daughter. She’s having surgery tomorrow. Would you be able to help us?”

Ah, a ‘get well’ arrangement. Those were Derek’s favorite. Mostly because they got enough people coming in for them that there was always a fair supply of the necessary flowers. He nodded, gesturing to another section of the store. “Yeah, right this way,” he turned, heading towards the section

“Oh yeah, totally worth the ten minute drive out of town,” the redheaded girl breathed. Derek could hear Laura snort from somewhere behind a display of gladiolus and he suddenly missed Stiles--even though he’d seen the guy not an hour prior. Stiles may have been a dweeb in every aspect of the word, but at least he could care less about Derek’s build.

Sometimes, though, Derek wondered what it would feel like if Stiles noticed Derek as someone other than the flower shop guy who never smiled. Then again, he also sometimes wondered what it would feel like to show Stiles his garden, teach him about all of the plant life, and then shove Stiles up against the willow and kiss him breathless.

In his defense, Derek had a lot of free time to think.

“There’s a few here. Most of them have some meaning of good will, if you’re big on flower meanings. Then there’s a few that are just meant to look pretty and smell good. If you want the lower price range, I’d go with this one,” Derek snagged a poppy and sweet briar bouquet, brandishing it almost like a sword. The elderly woman reached out to take it, but the redhead named Lydia crinkled her nose and pushed it away.

“Euch, no. Sorry, grams. I think I had five of those stuck in my room when I sprained my ankle last year.”

Lydia’s grandmother frowned. “You mean the ones that boy gave you?”

Derek set the display back, and tried not to think about how Stiles had been adamant in buying the same arrangement of flowers with his normal purchase for an entire week straight.

“Yeah. I mean, seriously? He‘s kind of cute, but he was annoying about it.” Lydia gestured to a pricier arrangement filled with honeysuckle, plum blossoms, and protea. “We’ll take that one.”

Derek pulled the arrangement down, trying not to crush the stems in his grasp when Lydia turned to her grandmother and said, “besides, who names their kid Stiles and expects him not to be a total weirdo?”

He could feel a twitch growing in his eye as she started to bicker with her grandmother about the situation, ringing up the bouquet and wrapping it in paper. They chose a small glass vase to go with the display, and Derek may have shoved the flowers into it a little too roughly and broken a couple stems. If he purposefully forgot to staple the complimentary ‘flower food’ packet to the receipt, nobody needed to know.

Derek couldn’t get them out of the store fast enough. It took all of his self control not to inform them very firmly that kids named Stiles were usually ten times more entertaining than pretentious redheads who wore too much lip gloss.

He had a sinking feeling this was the same exact redhead that Stiles once sang praises about for months before he came in one day looking like his entire world had been shattered, only to spend hours shadowing Derek around the shop. Finally, after the fifth time he had bumped into Derek’s back, Stiles quietly bought three red tulips and proceeded to rip them up just outside of the store before climbing into his jeep and driving off.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Stiles had done it with the knowledge that red tulips often symbolized undying love.

As soon as Derek was sure they were gone, he tore off his apron, crumpling it up and tossing it onto the counter. “I’m running out to the store!” he called out to Laura, completely ignoring her protests and heading for the break room to grab his jacket and wallet. Maybe while he was out, he’d swing by the local plant nursery and see what sort of palms they had in stock. He wouldn’t mind adding a bit of tropical flare to his garden--even if it meant a higher level of maintenance.

The last person Derek expected to see at the hardware store was Stiles. He’d only run in to look at pumps for the pond in his garden, and had maybe ended up following the sound of a familiar laugh until he found himself hovering by the kitchenware section. Stiles was chatting with a gorgeous young woman with dark, wavy hair and a grin on her face as Stiles gestured wildly. Derek’s heart gave an aching thud when Stiles tripped over his own feet in a mad dash to show the woman one of the display stoves.

“Gotta go with a gas stove, Allison. I mean, come on. How am I supposed to make that stir fry you love if I have to rely on inadequate cooking supplies?” he asked, patting the stovetop and tapping his nose like he was sharing a secret with the woman named Allison. Derek clutched to his basket handle as Allison shrugged and tilted her head with a smirk. It was no surprise that Stiles had managed to land such a bombshell--especially one who seemed to enjoy his energy.

“Who says I’ll let you do any cooking?” she asked, laughing when Stiles gaped and pressed a hand over his chest with a dramatic hurt noise. Derek dragged in a low breath, trying not to hiss it out and realizing he was just torturing himself by watching Stiles and his girlfriend.

Turning on his heel, Derek took exactly two steps before he froze when he heard Stiles shouting his name, “Hey, Derek!”

Derek hunched his shoulders and tried to keep walking, but he recognized the squeak of sneakers jogging in his direction. “I didn’t know you ever even left your store!” Stiles exclaimed, circling around Derek and walking backwards as Derek continued to attempt to escape. He stepped to the left, only for Stiles to block him, and then again with a shift to the right. “How much did Laura bribe you?”

Frowning, Derek finally stood still, resting his basket on his hip and giving Stiles the most irritated glare he could muster. “Laura didn’t bribe me with anything,” he said, feeling particularly irritated that Stiles would even walk away from his girlfriend to talk to Derek, of all people. Things like that could get a person’s hope up. “Contrary to popular belief, I actually have hobbies.”

Stiles seemed shocked for just a second, watching Derek with his mouth flapping for just a second, and then he jumped on the chance for a conversation. “Really now? Besides scaring children and hiding behind rose bushes?”

“I don’t hide behind rose bushes,” Derek snapped, “they have thorns. That’s a terrible idea.”

He might have gotten a little defensive, but with the way Stiles was still grinning at him, he probably sounded like an idiot. Suddenly, Derek felt unbearably flustered. Stiles had this annoying habit of turning Derek’s head around until he was saying things without thinking. It drove Derek out of his mind.

“So then…what do you hide behind?” Stiles ventured, shoving his hands into his pockets and looking genuinely interested, albeit amused. Derek lifted his basket, shoving it at Stiles to show him the pond filter, new gardening gloves, a spade, a cheap hummingbird feeder with some powdered mix to go with it. “My job.”

Peering into the basket, Stiles plucked out a small wooden wind chime that Derek had snatched up on a whim. He poked at the butterfly weight, flicking it and making the wood clack gently together. Derek snatched it out of his hand without thinking, stuffing it back into the basket as Stiles blinked owlishly.

“Are you adding wind chimes to the shop?” he asked, sounding more excited than Derek would expect. His girlfriend came up, pushing a cart filled with stuff that one would buy when getting ready to move into an apartment. It didn’t take a genius to figure out she must be the one Stiles was always buying flowers for--she was pretty enough to deserve constant affection from a goof like Stiles. The fact that they were taking the next step in their relationship made something bitter rise up in Derek’s throat.

“No,” he bit out, shoving past Stiles and heading for the registers. He could get everything else at the nursery on his way back to the shop. Stiles called out after him twice before he finally gave up, letting Derek make his escape.

He ended up not getting a palm like he’d hoped, in the end. The nursery’s selection hadn’t been what Derek was searching for, and so he’d merely loaded some discount ferns into the back of the truck before heading back to the store. Once he got the pond up and running, he’d probably look into some fish to add into it. He did have a habit of getting ahead of himself. He hadn’t even finished setting up the waterfall and filter system, let alone actually getting it filled with water and all of the rocks situated the way he wanted.

Laura didn’t spare him a second glance when he came into the shop with his arms full of things that weren’t even for the store itself. She sighed, flicked a page in her magazine, and tutted at him like she pitied his existence. Derek had a hunch that she thought he was going through some quarter-life crisis and was afraid of pushing him lest he fall into a psychotic break or a deep depression. The look on her face when Derek had mentioned his distaste for alcohol had been rather priceless, though.

He was covered in dirt and sweat by the time night started to settle. The circumference of the pond was finally starting to look presentable, with the freshly planted ferns doing their job of hiding the pump from view. All he had left to do was to buy a few more rocks for the waterfall and he could start filling it with water. For now, though, Derek was content enough with it that he was happy to flop onto his back with a sigh, staring up through the open roof at the half-moon shining down at him.

When he opened his eyes again, his back was killing him and there was a layer of early morning dew sticking to his shirt and hair. Groaning softly, Derek rolled onto his side and then pushed himself up into a stand. He stretched, back and shoulders popping loudly before he shook his body out and ran his hand through his hair. Laura had probably taken the camaro back to her apartment under the assumption that Derek would have woken up sometime in the middle of the night and gone home. It was too late to head back to his own apartment, not when their shop was so far outside of the city that it would take him over an hour just to grab a shower and some breakfast.

Luckily, they had a small showering station installed in the back of the greenhouse. It was really meant for rinsing dirt off their hands and feet, but there was a hook for the hose to be set above eye-level. It wasn’t the first time Derek had fallen asleep and forgotten to go home.

Laura hadn’t come in yet, which meant it wasn’t quite time to open. Derek snagged a stale snack bar out of the break room and then stared forlornly at the only spare shirt they had available, sitting by itself in the small dresser they propped the TV on. He really hated the fact that Laura had decided their logo needed to go with the store’s name, because it was incredibly awkward to have a giant picture of a stick figure cradling a plant inside of a baby blanket.

Really, if Stiles were gay and at all interested in the idea of dating Derek, he and Laura would get along horrifically--more than they did already.

He showered quickly, spending more time picking dirt out from under his nails than anything else, wrapping one of the towels around his hips and tying it off. Technically, he was supposed to open the store every morning, even if Laura was usually there for it. Since it was already eight and she’d yet to come by, Derek figured it wouldn’t hurt to open a few minutes late if it meant he had time to scour the store in search of his spare pants, hoping desperately that they’d just been misplaced and that he hadn’t forgotten to bring them in after laundry day.

He was rummaging around under the register, one hand clutching his towel to his hips, when he heard frantic tapping on the door. He popped his head up, just enough to see who was there, and almost dropped his towel when he realized that Stiles had his face smashed against the glass and as rapping his knuckles frantically. Why the hell anyone would be trying to get inside a flower shop at the crack of dawn, Derek had no idea. He sighed, brushing his hair back and shaking off the water that clung to his fingers, and stood up.

Instantly, Stiles froze. His eyes widened, the size of saucers as Derek padded his way to the door, unlocking it and poking his head out, dripping water all over the welcome mat.

“Do you need something?” he grunted, frowning more when Stiles did nothing but continue to stare. Knowing him, he probably assumed Derek had only robot parts underneath of his clothes or something. He quirked his eyebrows, lips thinning when Stiles didn’t answer right away. It seemed to be enough to turn Stiles’ brain back online because he was talking a mile a minute.

“We have an emergency,” he cried, arms flailing wildly, “a wedding emergency!”

Derek‘s heart skipped a beat when Stiles reached out to grab his shoulders tightly, but then his words registered. “What?” Was Allison his fiancee, not his girlfriend? Derek didn’t recall seeing a ring on Stiles’ finger, but maybe he was someone who didn’t wear jewelry because he had a tendency to lose things.

Stiles forcefully turned Derek around, palms shoving against his back to push him into the store. “No time for talking! We’ve got a bridesmaid with a chrysanthemum allergy and I need to get eight replacement bouquets and nine boutonnieres before Allison has a coronary and runs away to Vegas!”

Derek let Stiles push him all the way back to the small cooler that held a display that Derek and Laura had been putting together in anticipation for the upcoming high school prom. “We don’t have that many--” Derek tried to protest, but Stiles was already scrambling around him and stacking the variety of boutonnieres into his arms. Derek could feel his towel slipping, the knot coming loose as Stiles dashed for the pre-arranged bouquets nearby.

“They don’t even have to match! As long as we have flowers!” Stiles cried, whirling around with a handful of snapdragon and rose arrangements when Derek felt his towel flutter to the ground. Less than a second later, the bouquets shared the same fate as Stiles threw his hands up to cover his eyes.

“Why aren’t you wearing pants!?” he cried, his neck and face flushing right before Derek’s eyes. Derek couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that Stiles hadn’t even tried to get a free show, setting down the boutonnieres and picking his towel up to re-tie it.

“I just got out of the shower,” Derek said slowly, walking towards Stiles and bending down to pick up the fallen bouquets. Just the idea of Stiles at the altar, dressed to the nines in a suit and his face bright and teary-eyed as he watched the love of his life walk down the aisle…

Derek swallowed against the bitterness rising up inside of him. The least he could do was ensure Stiles’ happiness, if nothing else. “What time is the wedding?”

Cracking two fingers open, Stiles dropped his hands with a shaky exhale when he realized Derek was no longer standing in his birthday suit. “It’s at eleven,” he said, hand coming up to stare at his watch. “I have like, three hours to make sure this isn’t a complete disaster.”

Derek took a second to mentally assess how many flowers they had in the shop, and then he nodded stiffly. “We’d better get to work, then.”

“Huh?”

Derek turned, gesturing for Stiles to follow him back to the greenhouse. “I’m not letting you ruin your big day just because you panicked about a bunch of flowers. We’ve got plenty in the back to make a whole set.”

“My big day?” Stiles echoed, trailing off with a yelp when Derek dropped his towel again. This time, it was to shuffle back into his pants from the day prior, foregoing boxers entirely. “Dude, do you understand the concept of modesty?”

He contemplated Stiles’ question for half a second before shrugging. “No one to be modest for,” he said dismissively, turning and snagging two aprons from the hook next to the hose. He tossed one to Stiles, throwing the other over his head and cinching it at his waist. Hopefully no one would try to come in the store before Laura got in.

“I find that hard to believe,” Stiles said dryly, tying off his own apron and following Derek like a puppy as they wove in and out of the aisles until Derek stopped in front of where they kept most of the plants that produced little to no pollen.

Once he gave Stiles a quick, basic explanation of how to prep fresh flowers for a bouquet, it was easy going. Stiles took to it like a plant to water, clipping each flower with great care and dropping them into the bucket that Derek set up that was filled with a type of solution made to help keep the flowers alive longer. With Stiles’ approval, Derek picked out arrangements comprised mostly of hibiscus, lilies, irises and tulips.

The longer they worked together, the more Derek couldn’t help but want to sabotage the wedding in some way. He could put something in the flowers that could make everyone break out in hives, could charge Stiles so much there was no way he could afford it all, could…could..

There really wasn’t anything Derek could do without drowning in his own guilt about having taken away Stiles’ chance at happiness.

“Scott owes me for life,” Stiles muttered under his breath after they’d tied off the last bouquet and started in on the boutonnieres. “He owes me for afterlife, too…and his first born,” he snatched an iris out of Derek’s hands, viciously twisting a wire around it to attach it to the fern stems Derek had previously set aside for him.

“Who?” Derek couldn’t help but ask, mostly because there was a tiny glimmer of hope coiling in his gut that maybe this wedding wasn’t for Stiles, but this Scott person.

Stiles glanced up, frowning more and then holding the boutonniere up to squint at it. “The groom? My best friend? The douche bag who woke me up at the crack of dawn crying about flowers?”

Derek wanted to cry. He wanted to fall to his knees and throw his hands up in the air in a dramatic Kirk-esque fashion while letting the heavens rain glory down upon him.

Instead, he cleared his throat, tugging another iris out of the bucket and shaking it gently. “So, it’s not your wedding?”

Stiles barked out a laugh, looking at Derek like he’d just sprouted a pair of cat ears or something. “What? Did you think I was getting married to Allison?" He asked, chuckling to himself like the mere idea was completely impossible to fathom.

“You were stove shopping!” Derek protested, shoving the flower at Stiles a little more roughly than necessary. Stiles took it, pinching the stem gingerly between his fingers and then giving Derek an odd look.

“Well, yeah. Scott doesn’t even know how to cook, so it’d be dumb to bring him along.”

Suddenly feeling incredibly stupid, Derek threw himself into finishing the last of the boutonnieres, the tips of his ears burning. Stiles frowned, taking the next flower with a bit of reluctance. “You okay?”

Derek didn’t even get a chance to tell Stiles that no, he was not okay. He was having an internal battle between relief that Stiles wasn’t getting married, and mortification for being a total drama queen over the idea that he might be getting married. Even before a proper response could come to mind, the door was jingling with the sound of someone walking into the store, followed by Laura’s voice calling out.

“Derek? Did you sleep here the whole night again?”

Stiles turned, giving Derek an amused look, mouthing, ‘again?’, and then laughing when Derek shoved the next lily into his mouth and made him sputter and choke on the petals. He brushed by Stiles, heading out into the main room and signaling his sister down.

“Derek, put a shirt on!” Laura hissed, scowling and stomping over to give him an annoyed poke right in the sternum. Derek jerked, swatting her hand away and gesturing to the store.

“I’m busy. Can you watch the floor?”

“Busy? What the hell are you--oh,” Laura peered over Derek’s shoulder, and Derek looked behind himself to see Stiles standing there with a tulip in hand and a tilt to his head. Laura’s fingers gripped to his wrist, wiggling his arm as she leaned in to hiss, “good going, baby bro. I knew you’d man up eventually.”

Derek jerked his hand out of her hold, frantically glancing back to make sure Stiles hadn’t heard her and then pushing her towards the register. “It’s not like that. His friend’s wedding is today and they had a problem with the flower arrangements. I’m helping him out.”

The sly look on Laura’s face fell into an annoyed frown, hand coming up to flick Derek on the forehead so fast he could only blink stupidly while Stiles snorted behind him. “You’re a dumbass, and I refuse to be related to you,” she hissed, turning on her heel and stomping towards the register to set it up for the day.

Derek stood there for a second and then turned back to help Stiles finish up the flower arrangements. At least one person in the store wasn’t going to judge him--even if it was because Stiles was relying on him and wasn’t allowed to judge lest he lose the only chance he had at saving his best friend’s wedding.

“Your sister is intense,” Stiles said quietly, attaching a safety pin to the back of the boutonniere in his hand. Derek rolled his eyes, snorting under his breath.

“You mean she’s hellspawn,” he grumbled, scooping up all of the bouquets and carrying them for the plastic vases he’d put out earlier.

Stiles shrugged, setting down the finished boutonnieres on the tray next to the vases. “I’m an only child, so I can’t sympathize.”

“Lucky,” Derek went to snag some extra wire at the same time Stiles did, their fingers tangling before Derek jerked away as if burned, his skin electric hot as Stiles laughed sheepishly, grabbed the wire, and tossed it onto the tray.

Turning and leaning against the counter, Stiles peered at Derek with narrowed eyes and a thoughtful expression. “Not always…it can get lonely.”

Well now Derek just felt bad. It must have read on his face, because Stiles rocked forward and mock-punched him in the shoulder. “You look like I killed your puppy. It’s no big deal. That’s what having friends are for, right?”

“Yeah,” Derek nodded, chest still tight, and moved to start transferring everything onto the rolling cart they usually used to tote large displays. “Why don’t you pull your car around back?”

Stiles nodded, reaching up to clap Derek on the arm. “Dude, you really are the best. I’ll make sure they give you a huge tip when you send us the bill, you hear me?”

As much as Derek wanted to claim that it was ‘on the house’, there was no way to give away almost half the greenhouse without suffering some serious verbal lashing from Laura--and probably castration. It would also be entirely too obvious of his big fat crush on Stiles if he didn’t charge at least the bare minimum.

So Derek just smiled thinly, nodding at Stiles to hurry up and bring the car around. “Considering you only have an hour to get the flowers there and change into your suit, I wouldn’t thank me just yet.”

“Shit,” Stiles cursed, flailing and tripping over himself as he scrambled out the back door--knocking over a stack of empty plastic pots on his way out.

They got the jeep loaded with time to spare, leaving Stiles clambering into the driver’s seat and fumbling with his phone as he tried to dial Scott and let him know the wedding had been saved. Derek hung back, stepping towards the door when Stiles brought a hand up and gestured him over. Given how unpredictable Stiles could be, Derek had absolutely no idea what he could need now that the flowers were loaded and ready to go.

The second Derek was in arms reach, Stiles--chattering on the phone with one hand--reached out and shoved something into the front pocket of Derek’s apron before waving and mouthing ‘thank you’ as he shifted the jeep into gear and pulled out of the loading bay. Derek watched him go, mind reeling for a second, and then reached into the apron to see a business card for ‘S&S Games’ and a crumpled $20 had been stuffed in there.

Well, now he knew who to send the bill to.

Slipping back into the shop, Derek ignored Laura’s suggestive eyebrow wiggling and went about cleaning up the total disaster he and Stiles had made of the greenhouse. The business card burned a hole in his pocket, leaving Derek’s mind buzzing. He couldn’t help wondering if it was Stiles’ personal business card, or if it belonged to his friend, or if he could possibly use the number to get in contact with Stiles if, say, Derek were to have some trouble with charging their accounts and Stiles needed to come in personally to get it all straightened out.

As much as he thought about it, Derek ended up doing nothing with the business card. When he told Laura about the wedding, she practically wrenched it out of his hand and went off to get everything done herself, muttering under her breath the whole way.

Things went back to their usual routine quickly enough, except that Derek had taken to slipping out into his garden for an afternoon nap around the same time Stiles was always expected to come in. Sure, he only showed up every two or three days, but it was always at the same time. It wasn’t that Derek was avoiding Stiles, per say… it was more like he was taking a precautionary measure as to avoid the temptation to do something stupid like give him free flowers or ask if he was available for coffee and possibly the rest of eternity.

That was probably why Derek was currently hunkered down at the base of his willow as the afternoon sun peeked in from the roof. He was covered in sweat, shirt rolled up as a pillow and dirt lining his arms. He’d finally finished up his pond just a few hours prior, and took great pleasure in listening to the new waterfall trickling just a few feet away. His nose crinkled when a dragonfly flew too close to his face, and he threw an arm up over his head to try and block out some of the sun.

Today was a nice day to relax.

“Holy God,” a familiar voice breathed, causing Derek to jerk his head up. Stiles was standing near the door leading into the shop, mouth open and his hands slowly dropping to his sides like he’d been jogging only moments prior. He pushed himself up onto his elbows, dragging one knee up and then letting it fall to the side when he realized how utterly exhausted he was.

“Can I help you?”

Stiles blinked dumbly, a sound escaping him that was half squeak, half sputter, and then he snapped his head over to the pond. “Did you make that?”

Derek stood, brushing his pants off and then grabbing his shirt to shake it out and start wiping sweat from his chest and stomach. “Yeah. I made all of this.”

“You look really hot,” Stiles blurted.

Derek jerked, almost dropping his tee and snapping his head up to stare at Stiles as his stomach fluttered and his heart skipped a beat. “Come again?”

Stiles’ eyes went wide, brain seeming to catch up with his mouth. He threw his hands up, waving them at Derek and then stumbling over sounds that could have been words. “I mean, hot. No. I mean you look sweaty. Lots of sweat. All…over your body,” Stiles trailed off with a wince, biting the corner of his mouth and peering up at Derek like he was waiting to get his teeth knocked in. It made Derek wonder how many times Stiles said things to people that were misinterpreted as come-ons, and how many times he’d gotten beat up for his lack of verbal filter.

Derek, however, was starting to understand the way Stiles talked. He snorted, shaking his head and swinging his shirt onto a shoulder. “That’s what happens when you’re in a garden for three hours,” he said, biting back the urge to grin fondly.

For a second, Stiles looked sad, and then he ducked his head. “I used to help my mom with her garden, before she died,” he said quietly, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “That was a long time ago, though.”

Derek understood exactly what Stiles was feeling--and he also knew that sometimes it was nice to live in nostalgia. The words were out of his mouth before he could think about it. “Are you busy today?”

Head snapping up, Stiles gaped at Derek, mouth breaking into a grin as he shook his head. “Not really, no. Why? Are you?”

With a glance around the garden, Derek’s focused zeroed in on the packets of sunflower seeds that he hadn’t gotten around to planting, as well as the weeds that had started to sprout up in various spots of the garden. “Do you mind getting dirty?”

“Whuh?”

Derek gestured at his surroundings. “I could use some help?” If Laura could see him now, she’d be screaming her praises for all the world to hear, telling anyone and everyone of the day that Derek finally ‘grew a pair.’ Luckily, she was still in the shop, unable to witness the myriad of expressions flickering over Stiles’ face before he shrugged and grinned.

“Sure, why not? I’ve always been a fan of getting hot and sweaty.”

If Derek didn’t know better, he’d have thought Stiles was giving him bedroom eyes as he spoke. He was well aware, however, that his imagination liked to take the simplest thing and run with it until he was constructing mental shrines to the way Stiles’ forehead wiggled when annoyed, or his lips would purse in a pouty frown.

The first thing Derek did was get Stiles a pair of gloves from the greenhouse. Stiles was already in a set of cargo shorts, which hugged his ass nicely--not that Derek was going to tell him that-- and would keep him cool. Derek showed him the difference between weeds to pull and weeds to keep (he was fond of the dandelions. Derek blamed Alice in Wonderland for that) and how to pull them out so they were less likely to grow back.

Stiles, surprisingly, wasn’t talkative when he was focused on a task. Derek had noticed it during the wedding fiasco the week prior. He would concentrate wholly on what he was doing, only to snap out of his thoughts every now and then to ask Derek a question or blurt out a random thought. It was nice. Too nice. It made Derek remember why he’d been trying to avoid Stiles in the first place. Every time he managed a dry remark that had a laugh or snicker coming out of Stiles, Derek could feel his heart ache just a little bit more.

He hadn’t thought it possible to fall any harder than he already had, not until Stiles sat back from weeding around the pond, huffed, and wrenched his shirt off with a shout of, “sweet freedom!” as he tossed it behind his head. He watched it flutter to the grass before he gave Derek a bright, but hesitant grin.

“I’m not picking that up later,” Derek pointed out, almost dropping his spade when Stiles reached a hand into the pond and flicked water at Derek’s face.

“Don’t be such a sourpuss. I thought gardening was supposed to bring inner peace, not grouchiness.” Stiles teased, yelping when Derek grabbed his wrist and then pushed at his chest. He almost went toppling into the pond, but Derek remembered at the last second that he had just put fish into it, and there was no way he was going to risk their lives just to amuse himself at Stiles' expense.

Tugging on Stiles’ arm, Derek almost had a heart attack when he was suddenly knocked to the ground the second that Stiles landed on top of him. All of the air in his chest rushed out with a grunt, his entire body coming to life when he registered the feeling of Stiles’ hot, sticky skin pressing against his own. Stiles groaned, leaning back and rubbing at his chest with a wheeze. “You’re like a brick wall, man,” he said, completely red in the face from exertion. Derek shrugged, focusing more on keeping his dick under control than actually trying to get Stiles off of him. Now was not the time for a spontaneous erection.

Stiles leaned back, sitting on Derek‘s stomach and staring down in a way that made Derek wish they were in this same exact position, only in the bedroom and without their pants on. He brought a hand up, instinctively settling it on Stiles’ hip just as Stiles cursed under his breath and scrambled to his feet.

“As soothing as this was, I just realized I’m supposed to make my dad dinner,” he rushed over to grab his shirt, tugging it on with his back to Derek.

Panic rose up in Derek’s throat like a bile, bitter and acidic. Maybe he had gone too far? What if Stiles had noticed something? What if Derek was too obvious and Stiles was getting freaked out by him?

“It’s not even four yet,” Derek said quietly, floundering for an attempt to think of some reason why Stiles’ sudden desire to leave was obviously a lie. Stiles turned around, rubbing at his neck and shrugging.

“I still have to go grocery shopping, and if I’m not there when he gets home, he tries to sneak fast food into the house.”

Derek vaguely recalled Stiles mentioning his father’s heart condition, and deflated just the tiniest bit. “Oh, okay,” he said, reaching out to shake Stiles’ hand. “Thanks for your help.”

Stiles hesitated, but took Derek’s hand and gave it a strong, firm shake. “Anytime, buddy.”

He was gone before Derek could think about asking him to stay.

Despite Laura’s claims that Derek moped for the rest of the day, he totally didn’t. He spent the afternoon finishing up the weeding, feeding his new fish, and staring in awe as a few finches flittered in from outside and started to nest in the branches of the willow. What he didn’t do was stare forlornly at the unplanted sunflower seeds, or lie on the grass for an hour and wonder where his life had gone horribly wrong.

“Your angst is making all of the flowers wilt,” Laura snapped at him an hour before closing. Derek looked up from where he’d been sweeping some dirt out from under a display of gardenias, only to be hit in the face with his own jacket. “Go home and cry into a bottle of beer or something.”

“But--”

Go.

Derek didn’t bother arguing. He put the broom up, packed his things, and headed home to heed Laura’s advice. His first bottle was nursed with a rerun of Friends, but that left his stomach clenching unhappily to watch people having lives more productive and fulfilling than his own.

He spent his second beer puttering around his living room, tidying things up until he realized he was a 28 year old bachelor and that his apartment had no reason to look nice.

That brought him to his third, fourth, and fifth beer; all of which kept him company when he found a Lifetime movie about a person with a life more depressing than his own. He fell asleep somewhere between one sip and the next, only to wake up at the crack of dawn with a mild headache and a pang in his chest at a fleeting thought of how much he missed his parents.

He texted Laura, letting her know that he was giving himself a day off, and then went back to sleep.

The second time Derek woke up, the sun was high in the sky and his headache was mostly gone. He sat up, shuffling his way to the bathroom to shower and brush his teeth before making something to eat. The calendar on his fridge (courtesy of Laura) told him that it was a full moon last night--which would have explained his unusually high level of depression. His mother used to always say that full moons were full of energy, and that many people didn’t understand how to channel it; creating chaos and violence in some, while building love and courage in others.

His mom had always been a bit of an odd one…but Derek missed her more than anything.

Thinking about her reminded Derek that it had been a while since he’d visited his parent’s graves. He had nothing better to do than shuffle aimlessly around his apartment, he might as well bring them a few flowers and make sure their headstones were well kept.

After he’d finished eating and had tossed his plate in the dishwasher, Derek rummaged around his closet for come clothes and tossed on the first clean shirt and pants he could find. He swung by the shop on his way to the cemetery, ignoring Laura’s offhanded comment that Stiles had come looking for him, and grabbed a bouquet of forget-me-nots. He gave Laura a peck on the cheek for her troubles, and was out the door the second that he’d dropped some change in the tip jar.

The cemetery was rarely occupied during the afternoon. Most families came by in the morning or evening when it worked around their daily schedules. It made things easier for Derek to weave his way past grave after grave until he found the bench with his family’s name etched into it. Sitting down, Derek stared at the two granite markers just a few feet away. The bench had been put there back when his grandparents had died; his mother wanting a place for the whole family to sit and talk to them.

Now, Derek was the only one who sat there, hands loose around the bouquet as he tried to think about what he could even say.

He opened his mouth, and then hesitated when he heard the faint sound of someone talking. It was a voice Derek knew quiet well, and he had to resist the urge to track the voice down and ask Stiles if he was in the habit of stalking boutique owners.

Derek bent down, setting the flowers between his mother and father’s grave and patting each of their names affectionately before he stood. He was a man on a mission--a mission to track down the location of Stiles’ voice. Derek was sure his parents wouldn’t mind. If they were watching over him, it was likely they already knew about Stiles anyway.

The louder Stiles’ voice got, the slower Derek walked until he stopped short behind a statue of an angel. He glanced around one stone wing, surprised to see Stiles curled up in front of a modest gravestone, chattering amiably to it.

“--sorry they’re not as nice as last time. He wasn’t in today and I felt bad telling his sister she doesn’t make them as nice, you know?” a laugh, and then a sigh, “I thought we were doing okay, you know? I totally screwed up yesterday.”

Stiles reached out setting down a bundle of flowers that Derek recognized as one of Laura’s own arrangements, and he felt his heart skip a beat. Stiles continued on obliviously. “I’m probably trying to hard. You always did tell me I‘d grow up to be a hopeless romantic.” Stiles sniffed, dragging a hand up and rubbing at his face. He cleared his throat, exhaling loudly.

“I miss you, mom. I bet if you were here…you could tell me how to talk to him. I think--I think I’m starting to get on his nerves.”

It hit Derek like a strike of lightning. Stiles didn’t come by the stupid shop to buy flowers (well he did, but that was likely an excuse; flowers could be bought anywhere). He came by to see Derek.

Stiles fiddled with some of the petals on the bouquet and Derek struggled to breathe, or to at least not freak out entirely.

“Maybe I should just ask him out. Wouldn’t hurt, right?”

“Probably not,” Derek blurted before he could stop himself.

If there had been a time that Stiles moved faster than he did in that moment, Derek had never witnessed it. He yelped, scrambling to his feet and then tripping backwards over the headstone, staring at Derek with a look of growing horror. Derek stepped out from behind the statue, digging his hands into his pockets and watching a bright red flush creep up Stiles’ neck and burn at his nose and ears.

“I thought they were for your girlfriend,” Derek said quietly, reaching out to help Stiles back to his feet. Stiles gaped, and Derek rolled his eyes, bending down to snag his wrist and drag him upright.

“Wha?” Stiles breathed, still in that shocked, deer-in-the-headlights state of mind. Derek shrugged, and gestured to the half-crushed bouquet at their feet.

“The flowers.”

“You thought the--oh!” Stiles gaped, eyes wide as saucers before he broke out into an ear-splitting grin. “Really? Did you really?” Stiles laughed, and Derek’s heart gave another painful thud, this one far different from all the others. He reached out, hand curving around Stiles’ jaw. That single touch was enough to cause Stiles to quiet, his breath coming in rapid, excited chuckles.

“In my defense…you’re just as oblivious as I am,” Derek pointed out smugly. Stiles rolled his eyes, hands coming up to fist into Derek’s shirt as he took a step into Derek’s space.

Stiles licked his lips, eyes searching Derek’s for a moment before he quietly said, “I didn’t want to get my hopes up.”

“You should have,” Derek murmured, stroking his thumb down Stiles’ cheek, memorizing the feel of it and trying to tell himself this was really happening.

Smiling, Stiles nosed his head forward, mouth brushing Derek’s. “Okay,” he breathed, and sealed their lips together in an achingly gentle kiss that left Derek feeling lightheaded. He dragged Stiles in close, returning the kiss and trying not to act too desperate, too needy, when all he wanted was to take Stiles apart and put him back together; to kiss every inch of his body and hold him and never let go.

Stiles dragged his arms up, fingers burying themselves into Derek’s hair while his other hand curled over Derek’s shoulder. Each kiss was followed up by another and another, until Derek wasn’t sure where he ended and Stiles began. It was everything he could have wanted and more. Where he thought Stiles might be shy, he was firm. Where he thought Stiles would give, he pushed. Derek forgot to breathe entirely until Stiles dragged his mouth away and sucked in a gasping whimper.

“Jesus,” Stiles breathed, dragging his hand up and holding Derek’s face. “I’ve wanted to do that for years.

Derek frowned, thumb brushing under the red swell of Stiles’ bottom lip. “What about Lydia? The tulips? That was just last year.”

Stiles nipped at Derek’s thumb, and then frowned as he registered what he was being asked. “Huh? The--oh. Wow.” Stiles rolled his eyes, lurching in and dragging Derek close for another, more frantic kiss. When they drew back for air, he smiled.

“My mom always used to make wishes by ripping up flowers. I might have been wishing for you to notice me after realizing that, well, Lydia hadn’t shown up in my fantasies in a long time.”

Derek stared, swallowing and rasping out, “why red tulips?”

Stiles shook his head, leaning in until their noses brushed. “Didn’t you know? As far as kisses go…tu-lips are better than one.” Derek shoved at Stiles’ face with a groan, biting down on the urge to laugh when he was rewarded with a whine and a puckered mouth.

“Oh, come on. That was funny and you know it.”

“No it wasn’t. I’m going home.” Derek groused, making it exactly two steps before Stiles barreled into his back, grabbing him around the waist and spinning him. He was still trying to register what had happened when he was being kissed breathless all over again.

Not that he minded...

In fact, if this was what he got for putting up with Stiles’ terrible puns, Derek didn’t really mind at all.