Since joining the Haus, Derek found himself feeling more and more relaxed. He spent more time there than in his own dorm room. He had gotten used to Eric’s singing and dancing in the kitchen whenever he worked his craft. He liked when Shitty would go on rants about whatever hot take he wanted to share that day.
Chris and Will were in similar situations to him, having been adopted into the Haus. They each had paired themselves off unintentionally with upperclassmen. Chris and Shitty spent a lot of time together working through being an empath and dealing with all the stress and emotions that went along with it. Will spent a lot of time in Eric’s kitchen helping him fix whatever appliance had broken down that day and generally being there to help with Eric’s craft. He did, after all, provide most of the food they ate.
Derek had met Jack a few times but he spent most of his time in his gardens, both the basement and outside, or in his room. They never really interacted much but it was always pleasant when they did.
One warm fall afternoon Derek was lying in a leaf pile in the backyard reading a book. Jack had been harvesting produce when he spoke up. “Hey Derek? Do you think you could help me with this one? I’m having a little trouble keeping the vines out of my way.”
“Sure, man.” He rolled out of the pile. Derek jogged over and took over the vines that jack had been holding back. A particularly large zucchini had been underneath. Jack cut it off the vine and place it in a basket.
“No problem, bro. Want anymore help?”
“Uh, yeah, that’d be great. You can…” Jack paused. “You can pick some elderberries. Eric’s been want to make an elderberry pie for a few days. We can surprise him.”
“Chill.” He took one of the smaller bins and got to work. It didn’t take him long to fill the bin, or the second and third.
They worked well together. Jack directed Derek towards the right plants and soon enough they had enough produce to feed a village. They carried all the baskets and bins up to the haus where Eric would be able to sift through them, pulling whatever he needed for that night.
“What’s going to happen with all of this food?” Derek asked. He knew that not even all the men in the haus could eat this much.
“We’ll trade some of it. Sell some at the farmer’s market. Eric likes to preserve some for later in the winter too.”
“Thanks again for the help. It would have taken me a lot longer to do that on my own.”
“No worries, dude. It’s chill.”
They carried the elderberries into the kitchen, where Eric gasped in delight. He clapped his hands together, smiling from ear to ear. “You boys are just too sweet! Thank you! I’m gonna start a pie with these.”
Jack smiled fondly and nodded. As he went to leave the room he gestured for Derek to follow him. They could hear Eric continuing in the kitchen as went down the basement stairs, something about trying to get Betsy to turn on.
Derek hadn’t been in the basement yet. He didn’t really have a reason to go down there. It was brighter than he expected and so green. Jack laughed at the look of shock and awe on his face and gave him a light slap on the back.
“You see why I spend a lot of time down here.”
“Chyeah dude, this is amazing.”
Everywhere Derek looked there was a different plant. His eyes eventually focused on a door that had purple light glowing around the edges of the frame.
“What’s in there?” He gestured.
“Oh, these are some of my favorites.” Jack opened the door and warmth flooded the room. “Come on in.”
The room was dry and hot. Jack turned on another light but most of the room was still tinged purple. Much like the rest of the basement, every flat surface had a plant on it. These looked different than the rest, almost otherworldly. Derek saw a couple that looked kind of familiar.
“Are these all cactus?”
“They’re all succulents but some of them are cacti too. I want you to have one.”
“What?” Derek’s eyes were wide. “Why?”
“You really helped me out today. I want to say thanks.”
“Oh. Thanks, dude. This is really cool.”
Derek took his time looking at each of them. A cactus probably wasn’t a great idea, he might hurt himself on accident. He decided to stick with ones that didn’t have any spines. There were dozens to choose from. Several different colored rosettes caught his eye until one little plant tucked in the corner stood out. It was bulbous and the leaves looked almost clear. Light could easily shine through it, illuminating the striped veins that came up the sides of each leaf. He picked it up, cradling it in both hands.
“Can I take this one?”
“Haworthia Cooperi. Good Choice. It’s yours.”
Derek beamed. “Thanks, dude!”
Jack gave him some basic information so Derek could take care of his new plant. Lots of sunlight and only water it when the soil is dry. Derek thought he could manage that, and if not he knew he could always go back and ask Jack for help.
“You can hang out down here if you want,” Jack offered. “I’m going to be down here for a while checking on everyone.”
Derek nodded and found himself a place near the dryer where it was warm and bright. He set his new friend on a nearby shelf and pulled out his book and started to read.