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Down to a science

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Becca deeply regrets the decision to live off-campus because it means that she has to fend for herself with no meal plan. The school food wasn’t great, but it beats having to buy groceries by yourself. Everything is expensive when your mother is not there to differentiate between cheap but good foods- because who really wants to pay $7.99 for five slices of ham?

She’s still grumbling to herself as she rounds a corner into another aisle (6: energy bars and protein shakes) and almost crashes into a canned food pyramid (what the hell is that doing there?) when she catches sight of one Professor Hale comparing protein bars.

The same professor who is supposed to be away on a 12-week paternity leave. The same scowling and stoic professor who had received a phone call in the middle of lecture and had told the class in a shaky voice, I’m going to be a father (Becca might’ve teared up a bit at his happiness, but she hadn’t been the only one).

And said professor is now supporting the baby carrier around his upper body with one hand- Becca thinks her brain needs to reboot just from that image. It’s not only about finding the (hottest) history professor in Walmart of all places, but the fact that said professor is carrying around a less than 3-month old baby- it’s just too much.

She chooses to hide around the aisle until her heart can stabilize itself. It’s one thing to fantasize about the gorgeous professor but switching fantasies to DILF? She needs to calm down, he’s just become a father.

Now there’s two things she can do: calmly walk away into another aisle and continue her shopping or….

Becca rounds up the corner again, trying to appear nonchalant as she walks closer to the professor still looking at Special K bars. Technically, she doesn’t need anything from that aisle, but energy bars are a good snack when you’re on the run, so if Professor Hale just happens to be there….

“Professor Hale?”

The history professor startles slightly, his hand instantly going to the baby carrier to soothe the suddenly jostling. Becca herself is surprised that Professor Hale even reacted, in class and outside lecture practically nothing gets past him.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you.” Becca says hurriedly. “I’m Becca Morris, I’m in your class this quarter.”

“Its fine,” Becca doesn’t swoon at the small smile on Professor Hale’s face, she’ll save that for later. “How is Ben doing?”

Since Professor Hale was away, he had his head TA, Benjamin, teaching the class. Occasionally, the history professor would be online in the class website’s chat room to answer questions or clear things up that Ben hadn’t explained thoroughly.

“He’s good, the discussion sections help a lot.” Becca says. “It’s not the same as having the professor though.”

Professor Hale looks a bit flattered, like he thought maybe Ben was better than him. Sure, the history professor is sometimes impassive during lecture, but he’s more open in office hours. Becca thinks it might have to do with the 400-odd students in his class, it can be a lot to handle.  

“I’ll be back in three weeks.” Professor Hale promises. He’s absentmindedly rubbing his hand on the cloth carrier.

Becca figures she’s hold off enough on asking about the baby, who’s starting to squirm a bit. “How old is your baby?”

At the mention of his child, Professor Hale adopts a proud look. It’s the happiest she’s seen him look, right next to when he got the call. “She’ll be two months and one week tomorrow.”  

“She’s so small.” Becca gushes, looking at the tiny bundle nestled against Professor Hale’s sweater.

“Yeah…” Professor Hale looks down at his daughter, a smile on his lips.

Becca’s about to ask for her name when something- someone- skids next to them. “Hah! Found them, see I told- oh, who’s this?”

Becca turns to the young-looking guy holding Huggies Little Snugglers and staring at her with one raised eyebrow. “Hi, um I’m Becca, one of the many students in Professor Hale’s class.” She extends her hand to the guy, who quickly shakes it.

“Professor Hale.” The guy snorts in what Becca guesses is amusement. “Never gonna get old.” Professor Hale glares at him, but there’s no heat behind it. “I’m Stiles, proud father of that bundle of joy.” He grins down at the baby and lets out a grunt when Professor Hale elbows him. “Oh, and Derek’s significant other.” He waves his hand dismissively, but Becca catches the matching silver ring on his long fingers (and Derek? It’s so odd hearing Professor Hale’s name).

“Oh.” Becca knew there were rumors circling around about Professor Hale’s partner, but she never thought he’d actually look so young. He’s cute though, and can’t be that much older than her. “Nice to meet you.”  

“Likewise.” Stiles says promptly. “So, does the class miss the doom and gloom that is Professor Hale?” He dodges an elbow to the side and continues to grin at her.

Becca blushes, unsure of how to respond to that. “I- he’s a good professor. But yes, um the class is better with Professor Hale.”

“See, I told you your students missed you.” Stiles says, tugging at Professor Hale’s sweater. “Although I think it’s more they miss looking at you.” He reaches out to pat his cheek affectionately, but the history professor looks ready to bite off Stiles’ hand.

Becca knows that’s partly true though, Professor Hale is very easy on the eyes so that’s certainly something to miss.

They’re saved from having to reply to Stiles’ statement when the baby begins to whimper slightly and shuffle around in the baby carrier.

“She’s hungry.” Professor Hale mutters to Stiles, and Becca watches as Stiles drops the diapers into the shopping cart next to them before rummaging through the diaper bag to take out a thermos. He quickly and deftly transfers the milk contents into a bottle.

Stiles turns to her and holds out the bottle. “Here. Hold it.” Becca takes it more out of surprise than actual obedience.

Professor Hale is already undoing the straps on the carrier and Stiles helps him take the whimpering baby before maneuvering her expertly into his arms. Becca gives him back the bottle when he holds out a hand to her and neatly places the tip into the baby’s waiting mouth.

“Whoa, you got this down to a science.” Becca says, unable to stop the comment when the baby (who is dressed in a sheep-patterned onesie) instantly begins sucking down the milk greedily.

Stiles winks at her. “Between the two of us, I’m the better dad.”

Are not.”

Becca raises an eyebrow, a smile on her face at the childish comment from the professor, not to mention the petulant look on his face. “How’s parenthood?”

Stiles gets the same dopey and proud look on his face as Professor Hale. “Terribly exhausting-”

“You sleep just as much as Liz.”

“-but so, so worth it.” Stiles finishes, sticking his tongue out at his husband (Becca is still processing that).

“I can see that.” Becca says honestly, taking in the happy expressions on their faces and the fact that they’re both glowing. “Is Elizabeth her name?” She’s been wondering about the baby’s name, and Professor Hale just dropped Liz so it seems like a good assumption.

“Laura Elizabeth Hale.” A look passes between them, Professor Hale seems half loving, half wistful- she figures there has to be some meaning behind the name.

Becca smiles at them. “It’s a beautiful name.” She looks back down at the baby in Stiles’ arms, watching in amazement as the last drops of milk slowly vanish. “And she’s beautiful too.” Liz has a small red bow attached to her dark delicate locks- she looks absolutely adorable. 

Professor Hale smiles at her as he takes his daughter back, a towel already thrown over his shoulder as he brings Liz up to his chest. She looks even smaller in his broad arms, one of his hands almost as big as her back.

Becca gives them one last smile before deciding she’s intruded enough on their outing. “It was really nice to meet you.” She says to Stiles, who returns a salute. “And your daughter.” Professor Hale hums in response, his lips curving up into a blink-and-it’s-gone smile. “I should go though- have to finish shopping.” She lifts her basket slightly.

“Ah, the joys of surviving on instant noodles and energy bars.” Stiles says dramatically. “Those were the days.”

“You still do that.” Professor Hale mutters as he removes the soiled towel and cradles his daughter. “I don’t know how you’re still skinny.”

“Excellent metabolism.” Stiles says, grinning. He reaches out to grab Liz from Professor Hale, sitting her on one arm while wrapping the other around her stomach so that her back is against Stiles’ chest. Now that Becca gets a good look at her (adorable, oh my god) face, she can see that Liz’s eyes are the same startling green as Professor Hale’s.

Stiles grabs a tiny fist and waves it at Becca. Liz seems busy making saliva bubbles. “It was nice to meet you too. And don’t worry, you’ll have your professor back soon enough.”

Becca smiles at that. “I hope so.” She tries not to blush when she turns back to Professor Hale, it can be difficult to look at him straight in the eye sometimes. “Have a good day professor, you too Stiles.”

After they return the sentiments, Becca gives them one last wave and a so cute to the baby before quickly leaving the aisle in a blissful state- she can’t believe she just met Professor Hale’s baby.

She finishes her shopping wondering if it’d be too creepy to give Professor Hale a stuffed animal for his daughter when he comes back- maybe a wolf to go with the sheep onesie.

(Professor Hale let out a startled laugh and muttered Stiles is gonna love this when she gave him the plush toy for Liz.)