Derek is going to kill Cora. He’s going to kill her numerous times. One death is not enough punishment for what she’s making him do.
Cora’s making Derek take baking classes.
He sits in the back of the room, at the end of a long table, glaring at anyone who approaches. A woman comes up, all smiling politeness and soccer mom cardigan, and pulls out the stool beside him. When she starts speaking to him, he glares at her, and she stumbles on her words, her smile faltering, until she finally walks away.
But she’s not the only who tries to talk to him. Five women come up to him, and almost all of the women in the room eye him with interest. Eyeing is probably not the right word; eye fucking is more like it. Of course, he’s the only guy in the room.
God, Cora’s never hearing the end of it.
He’s glaring at the light brown of the countertop, his arms crossed snugly over his chest, when the door opens and someone comes in. From the sounds of it, they’re having trouble walking. A loud clang echoes through the room, and all the women titter. Derek groans and glances up at the commotion.
There’s a guy at the front of the room, tall and slender with disheveled brown hair. He’s scrambling around to retrieve various utensils and dishes from the floor, muttering to himself. “First rule of cooking ladies,” he says, “Don’t drop the dishes. And if you do,” he pops up, giving the room a grin, “Wash them.”
He drops the armful of dishes into the sink unceremoniously, then straightens his hoodie as he turns to survey the room. When his eyes land on Derek, glaring at him, his cheeks color. “Oh, ladies and gentleman,” the man says. “I shouldn’t assume anything. That’s rather sexist of me. It’s just, I’ve never had a man in the class before so, um.” He laughs uncomfortably as he runs long fingers through his hair. “I’m sorry?”
Derek just glares harder. Was Cora for real? This is the cooking class she decided to waste her money on? Derek’s pretty sure it’s a scam. The guy looks about twelve, and he’s wearing a t-shirt. A t-shirt with a big smiling muffin on it with the word STUD above it.
Derek really hates his life. More than usual today.
“Riiiiiiight,” the guys says awkwardly, then turns to class. “I’m Stiles Stilinski. I co-own Taco Green, an organic gourmet and vegan taco and burrito restaurant on Main Street. I graduated with a degree in…”
Derek tunes out the guy’s useless information about why he is the right guy to teach them how to make burritos and souffles. Derek just really wants to go home. He feels uncomfortable being around this many strangers, and it’s starting to get to him.
He’s glowering at the floor when someone says, “Can’t really make much of a cake without a bowl and some flour.” Derek flicks his eyes up, and Stiles is standing there, rocking back and forth on his heels, fingers drumming along the countertop. “I guess you can make a flourless cake, though I don’t recommend it.” He scrunches his nose.
“I don’t want to cook.”
Stiles bites his lip, and nods as he studies Derek. Then he says, “All right. Watching is learning, and this is all about learning, so embrace your learning style. I can accommodate.” Stiles winks then walks away to another student, leaving Derek there to brood in peace.
Cora and Kira are waiting in the parking lot when Derek leaves the cooking class. As soon as he gets into the backseat of the SUV, Cora asks, “How was the class? What did you make?”
“Nothing,” Derek replies curtly.
“What do you mean nothing?”
“I didn’t make anything.”
Cora sighs. “Derek, your therapist said - “
“At least you got out,” Kira interrupts. She twists in the seat and smiles at him encouragingly. “That’s a big step.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “I’m not going back.”
“Why?” Cora exclaims.
“It’s stupid. The guy is an idiot, and all the women were looking at me like I’m some walking piece of meat. Plus, why do I need to learn how to cook?”
“First off, Stiles Stilinski is one of the best chefs in northern California. And the point is to get out of the house, interact with people, learn a new hobby.”
“I’m aware of what my therapist said,” Derek snaps. “I’m perfectly fine sitting at home and - “
“You’re not perfectly fine!” Cora yells.
Kira covers Cora’s hand and squeezes. Gently, she says, “What Cora means is that this is a good thing, Derek. To push you out of your comfort zone. It’s...you’ve been out of the world for too long.”
Derek frowns and stares out of the window.
The next week, Derek is back in the cooking class. He does the same thing as the week before: he sits with his arms crossed over his chest, glaring at the countertop, and ignores Stiles when he tries to encourage him to make raspberry cream cheese muffins.
As soon as class ends, Derek makes a beeline for the door, but Cora and Kira enter before he can leave. Derek curses to himself, then strides over to them. “What are you doing here?”
Cora ignores him as she walks further into the room and over to Stiles. Derek glares at Kira, and she shrugs and gives him a small smile.
“Oh, hello!” Stiles says when Cora approaches. “Can I help you?”
Cora smiles. “I’m Cora, Derek’s sister.” She motions behind her, to where Derek is glaring.
“I’m Stiles,” he says. “Do you want to join the class, too? We’ve completed two weeks already, but I can give you a prorated price.”
She shakes her head. “No, but thank you, that’s very kind.” Stiles beams at her. “I actually was hoping we could talk about Derek.”
“Cora,” Derek growls.
She spins around and glares at him, pointing her finger. “Not a word.”
“I don’t - “
“Kira, take him outside.”
Stiles is looking between them awkwardly, but remains silent. Kira tugs on Derek’s arm and pulls him towards the door. He turns and stomps out of the room, Kira following behind him. When they’re outside the building, Derek drops onto a bench and stares angrily at the concrete.
“She’s really worried about you,” Kira says quietly after a few minutes. “She doesn’t want you to know. Sometimes it keeps her up at night.”
Derek twists his hands. “I don’t like being forced to do things.”
Kira lays her head on Derek’s shoulder, and he sighs, softening. He’s never been able to resist Kira. Sometimes he thinks that’s what makes her and Cora such a great couple. “We love you, Derek. We’re both worried about you. We just want you to get better.”
“I don’t think baking classes are going to fix me.”
“You don’t need fixing, Derek,” Kira says, reaching out to grab his hand. “But hiding away? Only leaving the house to go to the gym or the store? Only seeing me and Cora?” She shakes her head. “It’s not going to bring them back.” Derek frowns, the old, familiar pain threatening to overwhelm him. “They’d want you to keep living.”
Derek doesn’t feel like living. He feels like dying from the guilt.
They stay like that until Cora comes out of the building. She smiles when she sees Derek and Kira on the bench. They follow her to the SUV, and they’re back on the street when Cora says, “Stiles agreed to give you private baking lessons. That way, you’re getting out, learning a hobby, and socializing, but on a smaller scale.”
Derek sighs and presses his head against the window. “Fine.”
Derek didn’t expect the baking lessons to be at Stiles’ house. He lives in a nice but modest house in an upscale neighborhood. Kira whistles as they drive up to the house. “Guess Chef Stiles is doing pretty well for himself.”
Stiles meets him at the door with a wide grin. He’s wearing another stupid graphic tee and a plaid shirt, and Derek has to hold himself back from rolling his eyes. Stiles leads him into a large kitchen. Derek turns around, eyes wide.
“It’s a bit excessive, isn’t it?” Stiles says, abashed. “I figured splurging on the most epic kitchen in the world might not be the worst thing to do with my money.” He shrugs. “I am a chef, after all.”
Derek gives him a clipped nod, and Stiles tilts his head as he looks at him. “Are you ever going to talk to me?”
“I’m,” Derek starts. He clears his throat and shoves his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. “I’m not good with people.”
Stiles shrugs. “That’s cool. Don’t need to be good with people to cook. That’s the beauty of it. It’s just you and the ingredients. No pressure, no outside bullshit.” He smiles at Derek. “Nothing is more therapeutic than whisking together ingredients.”
Derek raises a dubious eyebrow.
Stiles laughs, turns to the items he has set out, and starts going through what he wants Derek to do. Derek takes off his jacket, pushes up the sleeves of his Henley, and reaches for a bowl.
Stiles is a good teacher. He’s patient when Derek doesn’t know what he’s doing, which is all the time. “How in the hell do I get egg whites?” Derek asks, staring at the egg in his hand. “It’s connected.”
Stiles chuckles. “I use a separator, but not everyone has one, so I can show you how to do it with the shell.” He carefully takes the egg from Derek’s hand, cracks it on the edge of the small bowl, then barely pulls the shell apart. A white gel-like substance starts to seep through as he tilts it to the side, moving all the contents into one edge of the shell. Derek watches as Stiles slowly shifts the egg back and forth until all the gel is in the bowl, the yellow yolk left in one side of the shell.
“I can’t do that,” Derek states.
“Sure you can.” He hands Derek an egg. “Just do what I did.”
Derek cracks the shell on the edge of the bowl and tries to gently pull the shell apart. He shatters the shell and the entire egg plus the part of the shell dumps into the bowl. “Fuck.”
“Try again.” Derek manages to crack the egg and get the yolk into one side with some of the white in the bowl. But when he tries to slide the yolk into the other edge, the yolk breaks and oozes into the bowl.
Stiles makes him practice until he’s successfully separated five eggs. When Derek manages to get the fifth egg white into the bowl, he turns to Stiles and smiles widely. “I did it.”
“Wow,” Stiles says, shocked. “You actually smiled. I don’t even know what to say right now.” Derek rolls his eyes. “You look like a completely different person.”
“Don’t be a dick.”
“I’m not,” Stiles says. “I didn’t think it was possible for you to smile. I thought maybe your smile muscles were broken.” He nudges Derek with his elbow, and Derek wants to hate him, but he just can’t for some reason.
“So,” Stiles says, turning to their mess. There are multiple bowls filled with eggs and shell parts. “Now we - “ He stops talking when he hears a knock on the door. He glances at his cell phone. “Man, we’re out of time.” He glances at Derek and smiles. “Time flew.”
Derek washes his hands while Stiles goes to the door. Derek slips on his jacket as he heads through the living, where Stiles is standing by the door talking to Cora. Stiles gives Derek a wide smile. “So, I’ll see you on Thursday?”
Derek shrugs. “Yeah, sure.”
“Goodnight!” Stiles waves before he closes the front door.
Cora reaches out and squeezes Derek’s arm. “That looked like it went well.” Derek grunts. “What did you make?” Cora asks after they get into the SUV.
“Nope,” Derek replies, “I learned how to separate an egg.”
Thursday, Stiles has ingredients set out again when Derek walks into the kitchen. “So, we’re gonna finish what we started Monday,” he explains. “Starting with you separating eggs for the cake.”
Derek doesn’t speak as he concentrates on separating the eggs. His hands are shaking when he works on the first one, and he ends up breaking the yolk. Stiles puts a hand on his shoulder and squeezes. Derek tenses, but Stiles is oblivious. He keeps his hand there as he says, “It’s okay. Try again. You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, right?”
“I don’t think that really applies here.”
Stiles squeezes his shoulder again. “Go with it, Derek.” Stiles’ hand remains on his shoulder, and Derek tries to ignore it. But no one has touched him or even been near him aside from Cora and Kira in so long. Derek doesn’t even know how to act.
He takes a deep breath and cracks the egg. This time, he manages to separate the egg whites. Stiles squeezes his shoulder again. “See? Knew you could do it.” For some reason, Stiles’ praise makes Derek feel good.
“Now we’re going to actually bake the cake,” Stiles says. Stiles makes Derek sift together ingredients, then beat the butter. “Gradually add the sugar,” Stiles instructs. Derek pours in sugar, and Stiles wraps his fingers around his wrist. “Whoa! Gradually, dude. That means a little.”
Derek turns to glare at him. “I know what it means.”
“Sure doesn’t look like it. Just dumping it in there all crazy Ivan style!” Stiles flails his hands around, and a chuckle escapes from Derek’s mouth. Stiles looks as surprised as Derek feels, then he grins widely. “All right, crazy Ivan, gradually.”
Derek beats in egg yolks, then chocolate. He adds flour and milk, but then Stiles tells him to beat the egg whites until foamy, then until they’re stiff. “I don’t even know what that means,” Derek says.
“It’s not hard,” Stiles says.
“Just put the mixer on low.”
“This is stupid,” Derek says, getting irritated.
“Hey,” Stiles says, placing a hand on Derek’s back. “It sounds harder than it is, I promise. Look, I’ll show you.” Stiles grabs the mixer and starts beating the egg whites. “See? Not hard.” He leaves the hand mixer on as he hands it to Derek.
Derek successfully completes this, then increases the speed. Stiles keeps encouraging him as he watches the egg whites change consistency. Stiles shows him how to check if the egg whites are stiff enough, and when they are, Derek turns off the mixer.
“Now fold them into the batter.”
“This is really complicated,” Derek says as he stares at the batter. “How do you fold something?”
Stiles explains, and Derek tries, but he starts mixing. “No, fold it over, not mix it.” Derek tries it again, but he still does it wrong. Derek throws the spatula down and grabs his jacket as he storms out of the kitchen. “Derek!”
Derek yanks the front door open and walks across the yard. He’s just angry at all of this. It’s stupid. Making a fucking German chocolate cake isn’t going to do or change anything.
“Derek!” Stiles jogs up behind him as Derek hurries down the sidewalk. “Hey, Derek. Stop!”
Derek spins on his heel and glares at Stiles. “What?”
“What’s wrong? You were doing great in there!” Stiles looks genuinely confused.
“This is all pointless,” he yells. “The baking classes, this whole charade.”
“I don’t understand,” Stiles says.
“It doesn’t matter,” Derek says. “I can’t do this. I can’t even bake a fucking cake.” He turns and continues down the sidewalk, and Stiles doesn’t follow.
He can’t handle texting Cora, so he texts Kira and tells her to pick him up at the diner a couple miles from Stiles’ house.
Cora doesn’t make him go back to the baking lessons. She doesn’t say anything to him about it. Derek shuts himself up in his room and ignores them for almost a week.
He’s flipping through the channels one night and sees someone baking a cake on a cooking show. He watches it, thinks about Stiles and the unfinished German chocolate cake. It wasn’t the cake, Derek realizes. Stiles was a good teacher. Hell, he’d taught Derek how to separate egg whites from the yolks.
It’s Derek. He isn’t stupid. He knows he’s broken and probably will never be okay.
He raises the remote to turn the channel, but he can’t. He sits there all night watching cooking shows. Around three in the morning, he admits to himself that he wants to get better. And he thinks that maybe, just maybe, learning to separate eggs may have helped.
At least, it is something worth trying again.
Thursday night, Derek hesitates on the end of Stiles’ street. He told Cora and Kira he was going to the gym, and they didn’t say anything about it. Derek thinks Cora has given up on him, at least for now.
Derek’s nervous. He finally drives the short distance, then pulls into Stiles’ driveway. Lights are on inside the house, and Derek thinks maybe he should have called first. But if he’d have called, he never would have ended up at the house again.
Derek waits nervously after knocking. When Stiles opens the door, his surprise is visible. He doesn’t say anything, though, so Derek takes a deep breath and forces himself to speak. “I,” he stops. He shifts on his feet, and Stiles waits. “I’m sorry.”
Stiles smiles at him and opens the door to let him in. “Really?” Derek asks.
“You’d be surprised how many times I’ve had baking-related meltdowns,” Stiles says as he makes his way into the kitchen. “It’s nothing until you throw eggs against the wall and dump whatever you just took out of the oven on the floor and stomp on it.” Stiles smiles, and Derek wonders when Stiles became someone that he actually gave a damn about. His smile does funny things to Derek.
“I don’t,” Derek starts, trying to find the words and force them out. “I’m not good at this.”
“Anything,” Derek says. “My sister forced me to do the baking lessons.”
Stiles walks over to the cabinet and starts pulling things down. “I gathered as much.” He pulls out a pan from underneath. “I don’t have anything planned for tonight, but I can show you how to make the best burrito you’ll ever eat.”
Derek nods. “Okay.”
“Come over here and watch.” Derek stands behind Stiles, close enough that his chest is touching Stiles’ back, as Stiles throws things into pans.
“Why did you open a burrito place?” Derek asks.
Stiles shrugs. “Why not, right?” He throws a handful of spices into the pan. Derek’s not sure what he’s doing, but he’s more interested in Stiles anyway. “I graduated from culinary school and worked in a fancy restaurant in San Francisco. It was way too constricting, you know? And I didn’t want to make other people’s food anymore. So, I moved back to Beacon Hills, and my best friend Scott and I decided to open a restaurant. My friend Lydia is vegan, so that’s why I decided to include so many vegan options.”
“I’ve never eaten there,” Derek admits.
Stiles shrugs. “That’s cool.”
“I don’t get out much.”
Stiles turns and smiles. “It’s okay. I’m making you the best thing we serve, and since I’m making it personally for you, it’s gonna be even better.”
When Stiles has rolled it up and placed it on a plate, he sets it on the kitchen island and watches Derek carefully as he takes a bite. It’s amazing. “Oh wow,” Derek says. “This is - “
“The best burrito you’ve ever had, right?” Stiles interrupts excitedly.
Derek nods. “It really is.”
Stiles’ smile is blinding, and Derek hides his own smile as he takes another bite.
Derek starts going back to baking lessons twice a week. Cora and Kira drive him at first, but after a couple of weeks, Derek starts driving himself. He actually finds himself looking forward to them.
Stiles makes him bake the German chocolate cake again, and Derek manages to fold in the egg whites without storming out of the house. “Progress,” Stiles tells him, smiling and squeezing his shoulder.
They make muffins and pies and more cakes. Cora and Kira eat so many of Derek’s desserts that they tell him he’s got to find someone else to give it to. “I think I’ve already gained five pounds,” Cora complains. “I can’t keep eating this stuff, despite how freaking delicious it is.”
When Derek asks Stiles what he should do with the desserts, Stiles shrugs. “Give them to your neighbors.”
“Do people still do that?” Derek asks as he frosts cupcakes.
“Does it matter? You can do it.”
So, Derek walks next door and offers Mrs. Franklin three cupcakes. Her face lights up. “Did you bake these, Derek?”
He flushes and ducks his head in embarrassment. “I did.”
“Aren’t you the sweetest?” she tells him. “Thank you.”
Derek gives her persimmon bread and half of a cherry pie, and he gives the Niederman family a coconut cake, and the Liu’s across the street pistachio muffins. When the Liu’s invite him over for dinner after he gives them a cream cake, he accepts and brings a banana pudding for dessert.
“Want to move on from desserts?” Stiles asks after Derek’s been taking lessons for a few months. “I think you might be able to challenge me with desserts now.”
“Hardly,” Derek says, though he knows he can make a mean cake now.
“I can teach you how to make burritos and tacos,” Stiles suggests.
“Really?” Derek asks. “You’d teach me your secret recipes?”
“Now, I didn’t say that,” Stiles responds, but Derek knows he’s teasing.
They stand side by side at the stove as Stiles walks Derek through everything involved in making burritos. It’s not too hard, Derek thinks, though he manages to burn the chicken and break the burrito shell.
“You didn’t storm out,” Stiles says as Derek tosses the shell into the trash. “Score one for me.” Stiles laughs, and Derek awkwardly leans forward and kisses him. It’s quick, really just a peck on the lips. Derek almost doesn’t believe he’s done it, if not for the tingling on his lips and Stiles’ surprised expression.
“I’m,” Derek stammers, “so, I’m so sorry. I’ll,” he turns to rush from the kitchen, but Stiles grabs his arm. “I’ll go.”
“Hey,” Stiles says, “you don’t have to leave.”
“I shouldn’t have done that.”
“Look at me.” Derek turns and looks at Stiles’ chest. He’s wearing another graphic tee, and Derek has grown to love those stupid things. Stiles taps his index finger under Derek’s chin and gently lifts his face. “Hey, look here.” Derek finally meets Stiles’ eyes, and he’s just staring at him warmly. “I didn’t mind so much, you know.”
Stiles nods. “You’re kinda easy on the eyes,” Stiles says, “and you’re funny, intelligent, and kinda awesome. And I like spending time with you.”
“Why?” Derek says.
“Why does anyone like anyone?” Stiles asks. “I just like you. I like how seriously you stare at the bowls while you mix ingredients, how angry you get when you don’t understand a recipe, the look on your face when you pull it out of the oven and the dessert turned out perfect.”
“None of that is important,” Derek says.
Stiles slides his arms around Derek’s neck. “Important to me.” He brushes his lips across Derek’s mouth again. “I like you, Derek. I’d like to get to know you better.”
“You really don’t,” Derek says. “I’m...I’m not whole. There’s a lot of baggage.”
“I know,” Stiles says. “I’ve got my own baggage. Everyone does. That doesn’t mean I like you any less.”
Derek nods. “Okay.”
“Okay.” Stiles smiles and kisses Derek more fully. “Okay.” He gives Derek one last kiss before pulling away. “Now, finish rolling that burrito. Because I fully expect you to cook me dinner tomorrow night on our date.”
“A date? Tomorrow?”
Stiles nods. “Yep. I expect you to dress nicely, come here, and cook me dinner before I take you to a movie.”
“Shouldn’t you cook for me?” Derek asks. “You’re the chef.”
“That’s why I want someone to cook for me,” Stiles says. “No one ever cooks for me.”
Derek nods, smiling as he ducks his head. “Okay. I’ll cook for you. Mediocre burritos with broken shells and a dessert.”
“Sounds perfect.” Stiles leans into Derek’s space and points to the burrito ingredients. “Now, finish the burrito.”
Derek grabs another burrito shell and rolls it. There’s only one small tear, and Derek stares at it proudly as Stiles kisses his cheek.