“Der, did you know Mr. Stilinski has a boyfriend?” Rather than placing his steak carefully and slowly, Derek drops the whole thing into the pan and the hot oil jumps to burn his hands. Cora isn’t fazed about what just happened, still coloring her book with her markers and completely oblivious that her attempt at being conversational caused him at least a dozen of tiny minor burns.
“Really? Did you ask him?” He wouldn’t be surprised if she had. Kids and their inconveniently personal questions. He covers the pan and grabs a kitchen towel to clean the oil from his hand and arm; it hurt and his skin still feels prickly, but the slightly reddened spots are already starting to fade.
“No. Der, what was the name of this flower?” She asks, pointing at the blue mess she’s been working on for nearly ten minutes.
Derek looks over at her paper and despite the incorrect color, he can still tell which flower it is. “Those are poppies...which tend to be red.”
“Well, this one’s blue.”
“Yes, I can see that.” He continues to watch her color for a moment longer, cringing when she moves on to a daisy and begins to color its petals with a bright orange marker. “So, how do you know he has a boyfriend?”
“He came to the classroom while we were working on our math assignments.” He chuckles, math assignments , more like drawing something that attempt to resemble numbers. “Mr. Stilinski was really happy to see him. He handed Mr. Stilinski his lunchbox and Mr. Stilinski gave him a kiss,” she finishes her story with a bright smile. Derek tries to return the smile, but it’s slightly bitter.
So, it seems someone beat him to it.
For months, since his parents left for a job overseas and left Cora to his care, he’s been meaning to ask Cora’s teacher out. To a point he was starting to believe Laura’s words, saying that he was being ridiculous for not asking him out already because sometimes, even to him, it was painfully obvious that Mr. Stilinski—‘just call me Stiles’ was flirting with him, but Derek kept telling himself to wait for the right time.
And now he missed his chance.
“Der, I think your steak is burning.”
The next morning, Derek considers calling Laura to ask her if she could drive Cora to school, still feeling a little dejected about the news of Stiles’ boyfriend. During dinner last night, Derek didn’t know what got into Cora that she couldn’t stop talking about it; how Stiles had introduced him, Scott , to them, how he was an animal doctor and how cool he was. Scratch little dejected, very dejected. But even to his sleep riddled brain it seems unlikely that Laura is going to buy whatever excuse he manages to come up with, and it’s still too early to have her lecturing him and abusing the use of ‘I told you so’ and ‘you should’ve listened to me’.
And ‘you’re a fucking idiot, bro’.
Thus, he gets out of bed and gets started with the routine he’s been following for the past four months, and by eight he has Cora ready and seat-belt secured in his car. He knows his mother would frown upon his decision of letting Cora sit on the passenger seat at the front, and that’s why Cora has agreed to keep it their little secret. She feels cool about riding shotgun (she’s mentioned with derision how some of the kids in his class still use kids’ car seats) and Derek feels less like a chauffeur.
The seven minute drive is quiet like usual, Cora still a little too sleepy to comment on his choice of radio station, and when he parks near the school, he hesitates for a moment before getting out of the car. He could tell Cora to go in on her own; she knows her way around the kindergarten she’s been attending for the last three years, but he knows she’ll notice something is off.
And it’s not her fault he’s a fucking idiot.
Cora seems to have woken up considerably by the time he opens the car door for her and is increasingly chattier as he walks her to her classroom. He only nods along as she tells him, just like she did the day before when he went to pick her up, about what Stiles said they’re going to do today.
He wonders if he ever was this excited when going to school.
Then she completely forgets about him and runs the remaining distance to her classroom. Normally, he finishes the path to the classroom and waves at Stiles, who in return waves back and gives him a huge smile that has him grinning like an idiot until noon.
But this time he just turns around and returns to his car.
Derek is grateful about his Friday half-day schedule.
For some odd reason there was an influx of customers at the greenhouse, and rather than their usual clients that came with a list and a clear idea of the supplies or plants they wanted, too many seemed very interested about his input and a few even asked for price quotes on complete garden renovations. Which, technically, is part of his job as a landscaper, but it was unusual. And so, he is glad when it’s five minutes ‘til noon and he has to leave the lady with extravagant ideas about an indoor zen garden in Boyd’s very capable hands. Boyd looks very unimpressed, but Derek has a little sister to pick up from school.
It takes him about ten minutes to reach his destination and Derek experiences a deja-vu moment, when he questions whether he could stay in his car and wait for Cora to get in. He can see Cora right from the place he’s parked; all he’d have to do is wave at her to come over, although she seems to be too preoccupied talking to a girl from her class.
Guess he has no other choice.
He gets out of the car and he’s only taken three steps away from his car when an arm wraps around his. And he really wonders what he did to deserve such a bad day. “Laura.”
“Don’t sound so excited, Der. It’s only been two weeks with barely any texting. If it can even be considered texting when all you reply is ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
“I’m sure there were a few ‘leave me alone’s.”
“Aw. Well, lucky for you, I’m not here for you. But we’re having drinks sometime soon. When you least expect it.” She makes it sound like a threat, and Derek just rolls his eyes at her. “Then you can tell me all about your exciting adventures as a glorified gardener and the never-ending saga of pining after the cute kindergarten teacher.”
Derek almost tells her that the never-ending saga of pining after the cute kindergarten teacher is actually came to an end, but then Cora spots them and doesn’t hesitate to start running towards her sister.
“Laura!” Derek tries to not feel jealous; Cora never hugs him like that anymore. “What are you doing here?”
“I thought I’d drop by and have a girls-only day with my favorite sister.” Derek feels the childish impulse to point out how she’s the only sister she has.
“Yay!” Another pang of jealousy. Well, it’s not like he can compete with the cool older sister that will most likely take her to the mall on a small shopping spree. The only place Derek takes Cora to is the greenhouse and, after four months, spending the afternoons surrounded by pretty flowers has lost its charm. “Can we go to the mall?” Derek almost doesn’t notice that Stiles has come closer and is holding Cora’s forgotten backpack. He takes it, offering a tight smile because boyfriend .
“Absolutely! We’ll go shopping, eat ice cream, talk about boys…”
“I don’t like boys.”
“Oh, you just give it a few years, right, boys?” Laura winks at Derek. “But for now, ice cream. I could use a double anything with fudge and whipped cream. And fries. All those things together, even.” She takes the backpack from Derek’s hand and swings it over her shoulder. “I’ll return her tomorrow, that alright, Der?” He nods, even though he really doesn’t have any say in the matter. Laura does what she wants. “Maybe you can go do something fun tonight.” Derek wants to strangle her for not being even a little bit subtle when giving Stiles a look.
“You can watch those boring movies with the monsters and people that talk weird.”
Laura shakes her head disapprovingly. “Hopefully he can find something more exciting . Anyway, let’s go.” She takes Cora’s hand and Cora doesn’t hesitate to walk with her. “Bye, bro. Bye, Stiles. It was nice seeing you.”
“It’s nice seeing you too. See you next week, Cora!” Cora waves goodbye at him and at Derek, which makes him feel less rejected. Derek watches them go, and grins when she sees Cora pout because Laura won’t let her ride shotgun. At least he can still be cool about something. “So...monsters and people that talk weird?”
Crap, he should’ve left with them. “Lord of the Rings.”
“Ohh. Funny, my roommate holds the same opinion as Cora about the movies. So yeah, I can never monopolize the TV and entertainment center, and in the end I just watch it on my laptop, but it’s just not the same thing, you feel me?” Before Derek could reply, Stiles pulls out his phone which is currently vibrating. “Oh, talking about tyrannical housemates, Scott, hey.” Derek immediately perks at the mention of the name. The boyfriend . But why did Stiles refer to him as his ‘roommate’? Well, technically he can be his roommate and boyfriend if they live in the same space and...well, do boyfriend things. “Great, you know where my classroom is.” He rolls his eyes at whatever Scott says. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll start getting my things ready. See ya.” He takes a moment to put his phone back in his jeans’ pocket. “Sorry about that. Anyway, I do have to start getting my stuff ready. Scott's kind of in a hurry.”
“Hey, maybe sometime we could do a Lord of the Rings marathon? You look like the kind of guy that wouldn’t object to the extended editions.” And Derek knows that’d be perfect …but now it’s too late.
“Yeah, maybe.” Even to his own ears his response is cringe-worthy and awkward, and he doesn’t blame Stiles for offering him a not-so-bright smile. He made things awkward. But what else was he supposed to say? The guy has a boyfriend. A boyfriend that is going to be picking him up shortly and he shouldn’t even be flirting with Derek. Yes, Derek is doing the right thing by discouraging Stiles. “I’ll see you next week.”
“Yep. Bye, Derek!”
The next morning when Derek joins Laura and Cora for breakfast, Laura shoots him the biggest disappointed look ever when he tells her he did spend the night watching movies.
Despite the little hiccup from Friday, his plan, ‘Avoiding Mr. Stilinski’ is still a go and effective from, well, that instant and until...well, Derek still hopes for a chance to ask him out. And he knows it makes him a bad person to wish for Stiles and Scott’s relationship to crash and burn.
His plan is quite a success, actually, especially since Stiles appears to get the hint after Friday and the fact that he doesn’t stay to chat when he goes pick up Cora on Monday.
Things are going smoothly...until he arrives at school on Wednesday, a little later than usual because he was held up at work, and he doesn’t see Cora outside, waiting for him. Or Stiles, for that matter. He tries to not panic as he enters the school building and heads for Stiles’ classroom, telling himself that maybe she was the last to be picked up and he decided to take her back to his classroom. It’s happened once before. And he remembers he also panicked that one time.
However, the classroom is empty. Except for Stiles, who is typing on his laptop with half a cookie stuffed in his mouth.
He doesn’t have time to find it cute. “Stiles, where’s Cora?”
“Laura didn’t call you?” He leaves his half-bitten cookie on his desk. “She came to pick her up fifteen minutes ago.” And that immediately relieves him. “I’m sorry if I wasn’t supposed to let her take Cora. I know you are the one assigned as her guardian, but I just thought—”
“No, don’t worry about it. I’ll talk with Laura, though. She can’t just do this and not tell me.”
“I’m sorry. Chocolate chip cookie?” He grabs the container that is next to his laptop and waves it in front of him. “I know, I know. Cheap apology, but my roommate and his girlfriend made these yesterday and they’re heavenly.”
“Your roommate, Scott?”
“The one and only.” He shakes the container again and what else can Derek do? They do look more appetizing than those cookies he packs for Cora’s lunch box.
He takes one that has a generous amount of chocolate chips and pretends to contemplate its uneven surface, the perfect shade of brown. It does look like a good cookie. “I know it’s none of my business but, Cora told me he was your boyfriend.”
“ What ? Why would she...oh. I see.” Derek takes a bite from the cookie and carefully looks up at Stiles, who seems very amused with the situation. “You see, I had forgotten my lunch that morning. And it was good lunch, like, sure, leftovers from the day before, but still so damn good. Scott’s an awesome cook, it’s hard to believe when you first look at him but god, he has a gift for Italian and anything Mediterranean.” He gives Derek a look, one that clearly says god, you have no idea . And maybe he does since the cookie is good. “Anyway! I was in a hurry so I left my tupperware in the fridge. I was so mad about it, even a little depressed, but then Scott showed up and I was really happy and stuff. Then I introduced him to the kids as the lifesaver he was.” He makes a long pause and frowns. “I did say he was my friend, so how did Cora get that idea?”
“Well, she said you kissed him.” He tries to sound nonchalant about it as he stuffs the rest of the cookie into his mouth.
“Oh. I thought they were all too busy drawing numbers to see that.” Derek gives him a judging look, after all, Stiles had been the one to say it was mean to refer to their math assignments as such. Stiles isn’t affected in the least. “Well, kissed . It was just a peck on the cheek. So yeah. I don’t have a boyfriend.”
“That’s good,” Derek says without thinking and he instantly regrets it when he sees a teasing smirk begin to form on Stiles’ lips. “I mean—”
“Don’t worry about it. I mean it is good, but it just gets a little boring after a while. And very lonely.”
“Yeah, I get it.” Because he sure knows about that.
Stiles nods slowly at him, the smirk still in place. “Cookie?” He offers the container and Derek doesn’t need to be prompted twice this time.
“They’re too good,” he says as he picks another, this time the bigger of the ones that are left.
“They are. You know how people say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach? I’m that man. Seriously, cook me anything delicious and I’m yours,” he says as he picks another cookie for himself. Derek knows Stiles was most likely saying that conversationally, just to stress the extent of his love for food, but it just sticks to Derek’s brain.
It’s silly, and definitely a bad idea because his culinary knowledge is very limited and the only reason he doesn’t stick to just add water meals or microwaveables, is because he has a growing little sister that needs healthy food and doesn’t complain much if something is too overcooked or burnt.
Cooking for Stiles might actually be a terrible, terrible idea that could even harm his chances with him but Stiles just strikes him as the kind of person that’d appreciate that kind of gesture.
As awful as it might turn out.
“ Derek, it’s past midnight, something better be burning. ”
“Mom, I need the recipe for grandma’s beef stew,” he says into his phone as he rummages through the glove compartment of his car for something to write with. He doesn’t have anything to write on, but he can always just write what he needs on his arm.
There’s a long pause and he fears his mom fell asleep on him. “ I’m hanging up ,” she says tiredly, and there’s a finality to her words that has Derek almost panicking.
“Mom, I’m serious. I. Need. It.”
Another long pause. But the groan lets him know that he won’t need to start begging. “ Okay, fine. Got a pen and paper? ”
“Ready.” He rolls his sleeve and waits for it.
“ Hold on. Do you know how to make it? ”
Yeah, that’s a little detail he’s trying to ignore until way later. “No…”
Another groan. “ So, you’re also going to need me for a step by step. ”
“ Okay...okay! God, your father just kicked me out of our room. Okay, this is what we’ll do. I’ll email you a shopping list because, knowing you, you’re not stocked in fresh vegetables .” Which is actually not too far from the truth. He does have a few frozen things.
“But…” He feels ridiculously helpless; he was actually hoping she would talk him through the shopping as well; after all, he’s not that great at picking vegetables.
“ No buts, you’ll get that stuff and I’ll go make myself some coffee. Then you’ll call me on Skype because I am not paying for your phone bill after this phone call is done. ”
Alright, she has a point there. “Fine. I’ll start driving to the supermarket, then.”
“ Start by getting a good piece of beef. Get the good stuff. Your grandma would get up from her grave if you dared buy the cheap stuff. ” And she hangs up, not giving him a chance to argue. Not that he’d argue about it, after all he’s doing this for Stiles and he needs to get the best for his plan ‘Wooing Mr. Stilinski’ to work.
“I’ve never seen you do more than fry an egg or boil pasta, so this is a must see.” He knew he shouldn’t have mentioned to Laura that he was trying to make grandma’s stew; he should’ve just yelled at her for taking Cora without telling him. But then, she would’ve known the moment she returned Cora anyway.
“He makes great sandwiches,” Cora adds, probably thinking that she’s defending Derek’s culinary abilities, but Laura only sees it as further proof that he’s completely useless in the kitchen. Which is not entirely true since he’s managed to live with his cooking all this time and he’s sure he knows how to make more dishes than her anyway. “Mom!”
“ Hi, sweetie. ” Cora briefly stands in front of the laptop and waves at their mom, then picks an empty spot on the kitchen table to dump the contents of her school bag. Derek isn’t surprised to see her sort out her coloring book and a few markers. “ Derek, show me those chopped vegetables. ” He carefully picks up the chopping board and tilts it in the direction of the laptop’s webcam. “ ...okay, they could look worse. ” Laura snickers, but Derek just ignores her.
“So, what’s got you making this herculean effort of cooking a family recipe?” Laura asks as she picks one of the chairs and brings it close to the laptop.
Derek pretends to be too busy chopping another carrot. “ It’s for that boy he likes ,” his mom answers for him and he groans. He needed a good reason to convince his mom to walk him through the whole cooking process and he found it harmless to tell her the truth. “ Stiles, right? ”
He should’ve said something else.
“That’s Cora’s teacher, ma. Mr. Stilinski. Der wants to bang him.”
“Laura!” Derek looks over at Cora, hoping that she’s too busy coloring, but she actually was listening to their conversation. And she looks very confused.
“What does that mean?” Derek gives Laura a pointed look, prompting her to take care of explaining that to Cora. “Do you want to kill Mr. Stilinski?”
“No. I just want to ask him out,” he says simply.
“Then why don’t you just ask him?” Laura shoots him a smug I told you so look. “Is it because of his boyfriend?”
“ Derek Hale. ” The edge in his mom’s voice makes him turn quickly towards the laptop, nearly knocking over a couple onions that are next in line to be chopped.
“He doesn’t have a boyfriend.” But his mom doesn’t look too convinced. “I asked .” He tries to not feel too mortified about it, but he was still able to hear the aborted snort coming from Laura.
“Good, keep going then. You’re ruining neither this stew nor your chances with that teacher.”
Derek is glad that Cora is very on-board with his wooing of her kindergarten teacher and doesn’t complain about being the one to deliver the tupperware full of beef stew. The stew turned out pretty well; Laura even said it tasted better than grandma’s, but he’s heard her praise Mac&Cheese before so he knows her opinion isn’t trustworthy.
He can only hope Stiles will like it and that hopefully he’ll have something to say about it.
When he picks up Cora that afternoon, after a very slow morning at the greenhouse where all he did was re-arrange plants and neatly pile up sacks of vermicompost and other types of fertilizers, Stiles is nowhere to be seen. The blonde teacher that is a friend of Stiles’ is in charge of taking care of the kids of his group, while their parents pick them up. He’s a little disappointed about not hearing Stiles’ reaction firsthand. So he asks Cora about it.
And his heart deflates a little when Cora tells him that Stiles said ‘thanks’ and that he ‘enjoyed the food’.
And that was all.
He returned the tupperware to her, washed and really, that was all .
He tries to not show how incredibly disappointed he feels as he drives them back to the greenhouse to finish his shift.
It isn’t until later, after he’s done working, after he’s re-heated the stew for dinner, after he’s sent Cora to bed and after he’s convinced Laura that she doesn’t need to have a talk with ‘that little kindergarten teacher, who does he think he is’, that he unpacks Cora’s backpack and takes out the tupperware he had sent to Stiles. As Cora had said, it was washed, but she didn’t mention the note.
Well, Derek couldn’t blame her since he only saw it when he opened the container.
The note begins with a short and simple ‘thank you’ that Derek overlooks in favor of the signature and number by the bottom of the paper.
(Thought it might come in handy since Cora said you wanted to bang me.)