Kaylee hiked up her bookbag with a huff; the strap was digging into her shoulder something fierce.
She wanted to resent Professor Hale for it—why couldn’t they have gotten each work separately, instead of the entire works of Shakespeare in one volume?—but she couldn’t manage it. He was and always would be her favorite professor, and not just because he was unreasonably easy on the eyes. He just really loved his subject. It was obvious in the way he discussed it, how deeply he dug into it, the easy way the language flowed when he read a passage aloud to them. His passion for it was infectious.
No other English teacher had ever made Kaylee look forward to reading Shakespeare, but here she was dedicating her entire Friday afternoon to it. She would admit, to herself if to no one else, that she was hoping to do well enough on this next essay to get Professor “Call me Derek” Hale to read an excerpt to the class. He had done that with a few so far and there was something special about being on the receiving end of his praise. He had a way of making a person feel like they were the only person in the world.
Okay, so Kaylee would cop to having a bit of a crush on her professor. He was gorgeous and brilliant and passionate, of course she did! And most of the rest of the class, too. But Kaylee, at least, wasn’t stupid enough to think anything could come of it. He was their teacher, for one, obviously. And for another, there was Stiles.
If Shakespeare was Derek’s passion, then a new word was needed for his feelings about Stiles. The way the man lit up when talking about his husband was, quite frankly, the most adorable thing Kaylee had ever seen in her life. All his sharp intensity would disappear in an instant, taken over by something unbearably soft and sweet and almost bashful. Usually Derek was very good about keeping them all focused and on topic, but the one surefire way to derail the class discussion was to ask about Stiles, because he just couldn’t help himself then.
Kaylee shouldered her way through the café door, fighting a chuckle. Derek had been in fine form today, halfway through a glorious explication of the dynamics between Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, until one carefully crafted question from Jesús about the parallel between their relationship and Derek’s own had had Derek ducking his head and smiling helplessly. They’d never gotten back on track—thank you, Jesús—so Kaylee was going to have to actually read the supplementary article to catch up, but it was worth it for that smile.
There were plenty of open tables, so Kaylee snagged one and dumped her bag out on it. She hadn’t brought all her books today. She really was intending to dedicate most of her afternoon to Much Ado and its related assignments, but she also had an essay due in Professor Stilinski’s class on Monday that she hadn’t started yet, and so she reluctantly dragged out her criminal justice theory textbook alongside the enormous tome of Shakespeare’s everything.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like Professor Stilinski. She did, honestly! He was a great teacher and she’d never expected to be pulling an A+ in a subject like his, but she was and she loved it. It was just…
Well, he was sort of a hardass. Completely no-nonsense, tie always neatly tied, suit jacket buttoned up, ready to call people out by name if they got off topic in discussion. It made for a very efficient and productive class period, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun as Derek’s class. Kaylee didn’t even know how to pronounce the indecipherable first name Professor Stilinski had on the top of his syllabus, much less if he had a family or what he did in his spare time.
It was hard to imagine their strict, tight-laced, facts-and-figures-only Professor Stilinski having a personal life at all. Kaylee sort of imagined him powering down after class and storing himself away in a box under his desk.
That mental image had her pulling out her phone. She shot a text off to Jesús. If anyone would get the appropriate amount of amusement from this, it would be him, and that was why he was her best friend.
With that taken care of, she got herself a frappuccino and a cookie, settled down with Willy Shakes, and started reading. Somehow it helped to imagine it all in Derek’s voice, letting the words wash over her, smooth and easy and confident.
Maybe that’s why it took her several minutes to realize that she was hearing his voice outside her head too.
Beatrice was just insisting that Benedick avenge Hero’s slander by Claudio via duel to the death when it finally dawned on her. She unglued her eyes from the page to find Professor Hale leaning against the counter, near where the drinks were handed out, still dressed in the slacks and button-down he’d been wearing in class earlier. He was still wearing the same soft smile too, his super special Stiles smile, but—
Kaylee almost dropped her frappuccino all over her stupidly expensive textbooks.
There was somebody leaning into Derek’s side, an arm around his waist and chin hooked over his shoulder, but there was no way it could possibly be who it looked like. Kaylee had to rub her eyes and squint to make sure, and even then she had reason to doubt her senses, because there was no fucking way.
She had never seen Professor Stilinski in jeans before. He always wore a crisp suit to class—which everyone agreed was a little overdressed, though nobody actually complained because he looked really, really good in it—and his face looked way different without his thick-rimmed glasses. Was he wearing contacts or something?
That wasn’t the point. The point was that hardass Professor Stilinski was wearing a graphic tee with plaid and hanging all over Professor Hale, who was most definitely married, and Kaylee had never been more confused in her entire life.
She almost texted Jesús to tell him that Professor Hale was a cheating bastard and they weren’t allowed to like him anymore. But then the barista called for “Stiles”, and Professor Stilinski let go of Derek to take the frothy monstrosity of a coffee from her, and now Kaylee was even more confused because his name was definitely…something complicated that started with an M.
But that was the Stiles smile on Derek’s face. It was a very specific one that not even the most brilliant Shakespeare passage could bring out of him, and there it was as he reached out to wipe the froth off of Professor Stilinski’s upper lip, his other hand hooking fingers through the belt loops of Professor Stilinski’s jeans—fucking jeans, what the hell—to pull him in close.
Derek tugged Professor Stilinski to a nearby table and got them both situated with their drinks and their muffins, all without ever losing contact between them. Professor Stilinski—Stiles—was barely paying attention. He was talking, enthusiastically and long-windedly, his hands flying through the air like Kaylee had never seen them do in class. He nearly whacked Derek in the face with his gesticulating, but Derek just caught hold of his hand and dragged it down to the table, threading their fingers together to make sure it stayed put.
Their tables weren’t quite close enough together for Kaylee to hear their entire (largely one-sided) conversation, but she definitely caught “Spiderman”, “Othello”, and “Gilligan’s Island” in there. It did nothing to alleviate her bafflement.
Her phone buzzed with an incoming text, rattling loudly against the cover of her criminology textbook. She hastily swiped to dismiss the notification, but it was too late. She looked up just in time to see Professor Stilinski fumble his drink and almost fall out of his seat, wide, alarmed eyes on her.
Derek, apparently unphased by the clumsiness, glanced back over his shoulder and smiled at her. “Oh! Hey, Kaylee.”
“Hi, Professor Hale,” Kaylee said weakly. “…Hi, Professor Stilinski.”
Professor Stilinski looked like his brain had blue-screened. There was practically a flashing [brain.exe has stopped working] sign above his head. At Kaylee’s greeting, he made a strangled noise in the back of his throat and immediately started tugging on his plaid overshirt like that might somehow turn it into his usual suit jacket.
“Ms. Cheatham!” he forced out. “Uh, hello! Hi. Did you, uh, finish that…thing? For Monday?”
“It’s an essay,” she reminded him.
“Right. Right!” Professor Stilinski shook his head, a hand coming up to flutter around before finally landing on the back of his neck. “Yeah, I knew that, I totally knew that. I mean, of course I know that, it’s my class. I know all the things about my class! I teach it! Which you know, obviously, so it’s…cool. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool.”
Kaylee stared at him. Derek took a sip of his drink, eyebrows raised, clearly struggling not to laugh. He patted Professor Stilinski’s arm with his free hand.
Kaylee’s phone buzzed again. She ignored it in favor of saying, “So, Professor…where are your glasses?”
Professor Stilinski made another of those strangled noises, face flushing, which seemed like a weird reaction until Derek flashed Kaylee a bright smile and said, “Oh, he doesn’t need them. He just wears them to look more ‘professorial’.”
Stiles—and this was so obviously Stiles, with no trace of Professor Stilinski to be seen anywhere, that Kaylee couldn’t even think of him that way anymore—gave a full-body flail and burst out, “Oh my god, Der, shut up!”
Derek just laughed. “What, have I blown your cover now?”
“I have an image to upho— No, you know what, fuck you,” Stiles declared. Then, just as abruptly, “Actually, no, don’t fuck you! You’re sleeping on the couch tonight!”
“Sure I am,” Derek said, entirely unconcerned. “Our student is still right there, you know.”
“Fu—” Stiles caught himself halfway through the swear. It dragged out into a frustrated half-scream as he tugged at his own messy hair. “See, this is why I don’t talk to my students!”
“Well, she’s my student too, and I talk to mine just fine.” Derek turned back to Kaylee. “How’s your Much Ado essay coming?”
“I’ve got most of my outline done,” she told him absently, most of her attention still on Stiles, trying to wrap her brain around his apparent multiple personality disorder. “Just need to string it all together and make it pretty.”
“Making it pretty is the fun part of essay writing,” Derek said with a grin.
“God, you’re such a nerd,” Stiles said. It sounded automatic, like he’d said it so many times before that it was practically a reflex.
“You love it,” Derek shot back.
“That’s not the point.”
Derek hummed easily, leaning forward to kiss him. “Love is always the point.”
Stiles went bright red from the neck up, eyes flicking back to Kaylee, and he hissed, “Derek!”
His husband just kissed him again, noses nuzzling, and said, “What? She already knows I’m gone on you. Everyone does.”
Stiles whined and buried his face in Derek’s shoulder. Derek patted the back of his head comfortingly, the teasing edge falling out of his smile until it was just that pure softness that Kaylee was so used to seeing in him.
“I think you broke him,” Kaylee whispered.
Stiles whined again, but Derek just petted him again and said, “Don’t worry. You’ll have your regular uptight Professor Stilinski back by class on Monday.”
“I am not uptight,” Stiles mumbled into Derek’s shirt.
“You wear a suit and tie,” Derek pointed out. “Every single day. And glasses that you don’t even need.”
Stiles picked his head up to argue, a pout on his face. “I do too need them. I look twelve otherwise. The last time I went into the faculty building without them, Professor Blake asked if I needed directions to the Student Affairs office. We’ve been colleagues for three years! Three years, Derek, and she still mistook me for a student! And a freshman, at that.”
“And you got your petty revenge by giving her anti-aging cream in her Secret Santa stocking,” Derek said. “I think she got the message.”
Kaylee’s phone buzzed again, twice in quick succession. Her professors were so caught up in rehashing what sounded like an old and very fond argument that they didn’t even notice. Kaylee opened her notifications to find four texts from Jesús with promises of drama, the last of which was just the words “call meeeeee” and six steaming teacup emojis.
Rolling her eyes, Kaylee stuffed her textbooks and notepad back into her bookbag and swung it over her shoulder with a wince. When there was a break in her teachers’ bickering, she said, “Well, it was nice seeing you, but I gotta go.”
“Okay,” Derek said easily. “We’ll see you on Monday then. Good luck on your essays.”
“And don’t forget to do the readings,” Stiles tacked on, and there was a glimpse of the sharp, no-nonsense professor she was used to seeing. Then Derek’s hand was on the back of his neck and he immediately melted back into heart-eyes and teasing smiles. Like a whole different person.
Kaylee shook her head as she turned away. She had her phone in hand before she was even out the door. Jesús picked up on the first ring, already talking, but Kaylee cut across him.
“Whatever hot gossip you have, shelve it because mine is better. You will not believe what I just found out.”