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if i built you in miniature

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The problem isn’t that Train Guy is hot. Stiles knows hot. Intimately. Half of his friends could be models (Jackson actually is one), and it’s not like he’s never dated a smokin’ guy or gal. He’d thought himself well and truly desensitized, was thrilled at this because it meant he was finally able to be charming, at least some of the time.

No, the problem is the sweaters.

Listen, Stiles appreciates a cut man in a suit, in a tight t-shirt, in tight jeans, in loose sweatpants, in nothing at all. But a guy in a cashmere pullover with stripes or—heaven for-fucking-bid—tiny little knitted reindeer? Stiles’ body is ready, is all he’s saying.

“You’re out of the Mountain Tunnel.”

Stiles jerks on his stool behind the counter and nearly falls over onto the little Christmas village display he’s been working on when the shop is slow—which is nearly always. He grabs the counter and slowly levers himself back upright on two legs on the stool while convincing himself that it’s actually Stiles who Train Guy is talking to.

Stiles has been working in Reyes’ Cards and Curiosities for the year he’s been back in Beacon Hills avoiding his thesis. Train Guy comes in a few times every week, browses the model train stock (hence the genius nickname), and sometimes buys tracks or little trees or whole trains. But never, not once, has he ever actually spoken to Stiles. Unless he counts the little grunts he makes when Stiles checks him out.

Checks out his items. That is.

“Uh—what?” Stiles says, blinking up at Train Guy. Who is wearing the most adorably soft Christmas sweater that Stiles has ever seen. Damn it. Stiles is a professional. A professional cashier, but a professional nonetheless.

Train Guy makes an abortive gesture, more of a twitch, really, towards the two short aisles that comprise the model train section. Stiles peers around him and, yup, there does appear to be a little space where something mountainous and tunnely could conceivably go.

“Huh. Weird.” Because there’s only like three people in Beacon Hills who actually build model trains, which is probably a pretty high concentration given that it’s not the most popular of all possible hobbies and Beacon Hills isn’t the most populous of all possible towns. Train Guy, though, frowns like Stiles is making fun of him.

No one should look so glaringly hot while frowning. Stiles is personally offended.

“Do you want me to order one for you?” Stiles asks, pulling up the relevant form on the ancient desktop behind the counter. “I can get it express delivered before Christmas, if you want, but it’ll be a little extra.”

Train Guy stares down at the counter, blunt nails gliding over the flyers trapped between the corkboard and the thick plastic sheeting. The silence stretches out to uncomfortable levels. Train Guy’s hands pause over a garishly green flyer advertising Hale’s Miniature Holiday Village. Stiles’ dad says it’s the best Christmas event in town other than the community Winter Fest on Christmas Eve.

A thought strikes him, because Train Guy sure has been buying a lot of Christmas-y train pieces lately, even though it’s like, November. “Hey, are you helping with that?”

Train Guy’s gorgeous eyes twitch up at him, wide and startled. “What?”

Stiles taps the glass over the flyer.

“Oh.” Train Guy’s eyes drop back to the counter and stay there. He laughs, quietly and a little brittle. Stiles feels bad for making the poor guy uncomfortable, but this is the first opportunity he’s had to actually talk to this guy! This Adonis! This sweater-wearing Adonis Train Guy! “Yeah, uh. It’s mine, actually.”

“You’re Hale?”

Train Guy—Hale? apparently—frowns up at him. “Yes.”

Stiles flushes. “Oh. Um. Sorry. I just—was expecting you to look a little more like Santa. I guess. You know? Because you own a Christmas Village.”

“Are you—it’s really more of a holiday village. My sister—she doesn’t celebrate Christmas. She wants to make sure it’s inclusive.” This is definitely the most words the guy has ever spoken in Stiles’ presence, and he’s beet red by the time he’s done.

“Oh! Sorry! That makes sense. I’m all about inclusion.”

“It’s alright,” he says softly, as Stiles swivels back to the computer out of a sudden overwhelming feeling of self-preservation. He might die of awkward if this conversation continues. “You can…uh, you can put Derek Hale on the order.”

“Sure thing,” Stiles says, flashing a grin at Derek—God, he’s in over his head—and Derek flicks his eyes everywhere but at Stiles’ face. Stiles ignores the little twinge of hurt that stabs through him at that, because it really is unfair of him to expect anything out of Derek. “It’ll be in on Tuesday, probably. You can just swing around whenever, I’ll have it behind the counter so you can just ask whoever’s working for it.”

Derek opens his mouth, lips parting on what Stiles is sure are some vital and interesting words, but his face goes all pinched and drawn and he flees, the little bell over the door jangling behind him.

Stiles, for some reason, feels awful.

“Scott, I’m a social vampire.”

They’re in the downtown diner for Stiles’ lunch break, because Scott can never resist cheeseburgers and Stiles’ drama. Scott chews thoughtfully on a curly fry and slurps at his tall and skinny Oreo milkshake before saying, “I don’t think I really understand that metaphor.”

Stiles groans and drops his forehead onto the table with a rattle. “He looked like I was stabbing him in the eye the whole time! And I wasn’t even flirting with him.”

“That’s Derek, I guess.”

Stiles shoots upright so fast that the booth shakes. “You know him?”

“Not really. But, I mean, he’s got that show, right, and he just always seems sort of, you know, shy and awkward, a little. Which, dude, I’m not judging or anything, but I didn’t even think shy and awkward was your type.” Scott gestures in a definitely judgmental way with a curly fry.

“Okay one, hot is my type. Eye-meltingly hot wrapped in a soft cashmere and stubble package is definitely my type. And two, what do you mean, show?”

Scott looks very unimpressed, and Stiles regrets ever teaching him that facial expression. “Dude, History Laboratory? Derek’s show?”

“He’s on TV?” Stiles hisses. And then—“Wait, that sounds like a kids’ show.”

“Uh, that’s because it is.” Stiles feels like he’s been shot. Derek is on a children’s show? Derek, who wears awful, soft, tacky sweaters that stretch tight over his awesome biceps? Derek, who buys tiny trees and candy-striped locomotives and little polymer elf figurines? Stiles is so, so fucked. And not in the sexually satisfying way.

And then, and then, as if that wasn’t enough, Scott keeps talking.

“Yeah, okay, so it’s about science and history, obviously. Basically there’s these two scientists, Professor H and Doctor M, and every episode they start to do an experiment in their laboratory, but something always goes wrong and Professor H ends up back in time. Doctor M has to use science to save him, while Professor H talks to important historical figures. It’s pretty cool, for a kids show.”

Stiles pushes down his urge to curl up on the ground and coo. “You seem to know a lot about it.”

“Uh. Well, Allison’s cousins watch it a lot. So.” Scott shifts around. Shiftily. “Whatever, you can’t say anything. I know you’re just gonna go home and look up all the old episodes and drool over Derek.”

Stiles’ words dry up, because yeah, that was pretty spot-on, actually.

Scott grins at him. “Whatever, man.”

***

The next time Derek walks into Reyes’ Cards and Curiosities, Stiles can’t get the image of him chatting with Benjamin Franklin, wrapped in a white lab coat, out of his mind. Stiles wishes he’d never searched History Laboratory on Youtube.

In an effort to allow Derek to avoid any sort of interpersonal interaction, Stiles ducks behind the counter and retrieves the Mountain Tunnel, sliding it across the counter as Derek approaches, looking surprised and maybe cautiously pleased. His mouth doesn’t really curve up, but it does curve down a little less.

He hadn’t frowned at all on History Laboratory. He’d grinned this really cute little grin, head tilted self-deprecatingly, eyes lit up like a thousand Christmas trees and—

“Hey!” Stiles chirps hurriedly, because just because Derek is shy doesn’t mean that Stiles can’t be friendly. “I didn’t know you were on TV!”

Derek freezes, the smile dropping off his face.

“My friend Scott mentioned it,” Stiles says cautiously. “His girlfriend’s cousins watch the show.”

“I—oh.” Derek edges a little closer to the counter. “You haven’t seen it?”

Stiles shrugs. “Just a few episodes.” Try every episode, he thinks, mentally flinching.

Derek’s face seems torn between paling and blushing. It would be adorable—lickable, even—if he didn’t look so damn uncomfortable. His clear discomfort is really warring with the sparkly polar smiling out from today’s sweater.

“Hey, dude, ain’t no thang. I promise not to ask for your autograph on behalf of all eight-year-olds everywhere,” he says, winking. He thrums his fingers against the counter, Derek’s eyes locked on them rather than his face. “Besides, your co-star, Lydia, used to go to school with me. I’d harass her before you, don’t worry.”

“You—oh.” Derek looks even more pinched and miserable. “Right.”

Maybe Derek doesn’t like people to know what he does? But then, he’s on television. What does he expect?

“So, just this?” Stiles says, wiggling the Mountain Tunnel box, feeling severely off-balance.

Derek nods. “Have you ever been to…?” He taps on the Hale Holiday Village flyer, voice quiet in the empty store.

“Hm? Oh, no. This is my first Christmas back where I don’t really have to slave over reading.”

Derek pays silently, gets the box in his hands, walks all the way to the door, and pushes it open before turning around, face set in something like determination. “You should come.”

Stiles does fall off the stool this time.

“Excuse me?”

“To see the trains. Lydia will be there,” he adds in a rush.

Stiles thinks about seeing Derek explaining how he puts together a tiny locomotive to a group of enthralled kids, warmth unfurling in his stomach. It would be rude to refuse, but he clearly makes Derek uncomfortable and that won’t get any better if he accidentally waxes poetic about his fucking sweaters. Still, he supposes he’s already pretty far gone. “Yeah, okay. I guess it’d be good to catch up with her. Hey! She can tell you the story of how I proposed to her in third grade!”

Derek makes this weird high-pitched noise and exits so fast the door slams like thunder behind him.

Weird.

A week later, he’s made the firm decision that he’ll go to the Village if his dad mentions it, but otherwise he’ll just, well, not, and tell Derek he had to cook or something. That sounds plausible, right?

Then his dad calls him.

“You work today?”

“Nice to hear from you too, father mine.”

“We’ve talked about your jokes, Stiles.”

“That they’re awesome and I should make them all the time?”

“That you’re not as funny as you and Scott think. Anyways, do you work today?”

Stiles looks around his apartment, where he’s sprawled in his pajamas, his laptop and a jar of Nutella balanced on his stomach, and thinks about lying. The deputies like to call his dad the Human Polygraph, though, and Stiles isn’t exactly a uh, great liar. As it were.

“Yeah, no, I don’t work.”

“I hired you out.”

Stiles squints at the ceiling and casts around for his jacket. “Dad. Prostitution is illegal.”

“I think the Sheriff will overlook it, this time.”

“I feel that you have only yourself to blame for my amazing sense of humor.”

Stiles zips up his hoodie and locks the apartment door behind him. He knows better than to argue when his dad sells him off on the black market, now. It’s always baking for Mrs. Thompson next door, or helping Mr. Garcia walk his dog after he’s broken his leg. It’s not like he was doing anything, anyways.

“So where am I off to, pops?”

“You know where the Hale house is? Out by the preserve?”

Stiles freezes on the apartment steps. “Um…Not sure that’s such a great idea, dad.”

“What? Laura Hale tried to take off today to help her brother set up the model trains that they do. She says he’s having some sort of breakdown. They need all the help they can get, Stiles.”

“Dad…” Stiles isn’t sure if there’s a good way to say “Derek Hale tries to claw his own eyes out whenever I’m around.” So he just lets the silence fill up the line.

“It’s a Beacon Hills tradition, Stiles.”

“Ugh, fine. But I’m coming over and searching the house for junk food tomorrow.” He hangs up before his dad can protest, and sighs heavily as he unlocks the Jeep.

The Hale house is up in the woods, not quite remote but not close either. By the time the woods open up around the mile-long drive, the sun is high in the sky and Stiles has mostly been able to push his panic down. Derek can get over it. He’ll realize, eventually, that there’s no reason for a beautiful TV star to be shy around Stiles.

The door to the huge main house is slightly ajar when Stiles jogs up the front steps, and he can hear faint voices inside. He knocks, softly, and a girl about his age opens the door, breathless.

“Oh thank God. You’re the Sherriff’s kid, right? I’m Cora. I promise we’re not as crazy as we’re about to seem. Well, one of us is about to seem.”

“Derek?” Stiles guesses.

Cora sighs. “Crazy.” Then she waves him inside and shuts the door firmly behind them. It feels pretty final.

The voices are coming from the back of the house, so that’s where Stiles goes. He tries not to be freaked out when Cora basically sprints upstairs and slams her door behind her. He thinks he hears it lock.

“…trees? Deciduous trees? Are you serious? We can’t have deciduous trees in a winter village, Isaac, they’d be fucking dead!” There’s a contained crash, and then a voice, Derek’s obviously, shouts, “Shit! The fucking candy factory!” Which doesn’t make any sense, until Stiles pokes his head through the shutter doors and sees a large porcelain miniature cracked in half on the floor.

“I’m going to disembowel you, Isaac!” Derek shouts, whipping around towards a lanky guy with a mop of curly hair. He freezes when he sees Stiles. “What the fuck!”

It’s really fascinating how instantaneously Derek can turn the brightest shade of red in existence. Stiles had thought he had a blushing problem, but he didn’t really have anything on Derek.

“Um, Cora let me in. My dad sent me.”

Derek stares at him, mouth open, before swirling and retrieving the porcelain candy factory from the floor. He kicks the remaining shards under the table and sets the miniature gently on the counter, big hands gentle on the glass.

Derek doesn’t turn back around, and Isaac clenches his jaw and rolls his eyes at Stiles. They grin at each other, Isaac making increasingly crude gestures towards Derek, until Derek sighs and says, “No deciduous trees. Go pick up some more pines if you need to. The store’s still open, right?”

That must be directed at Stiles, so he says, “Uh, yeah,” because it’s noon on a Friday, of course a shop in the historic downtown of Beacon Hills is open. “I’m not the only one who works there, you know.”

“…Right.”

Isaac shrugs and walks out, clapping a hand on Stiles’ shoulder as he goes. Stiles already likes him. “My dad guilted me into this. Sorry if I’m a surprise,” he says, awkwardly, when it’s just him and Derek.

“You don’t have to be here.”

“No, I know.” He awkwardly studies his shoes, because that sure as hell sounded a lot like “I don’t want you here.” Stiles doesn’t really know Derek, after all. There’s not a lot he could offer in this situation, no matter how much he wants to stay and ogle Derek’s stupid snowman sweater. He’s pretty sure there’s tinsel woven into the sleeves. “It’s kind of stupid that I work in a store that sells model trains but I’ve never actually seen a set, though, right? Not that I think it’s necessary, I mean, there are like three people who buy train sets, and actually, I think one of them might be your sister. Not exactly a hot item.”

Derek huffs something that might be his awkward version of a polite laugh. It’s halting and quiet, and he stares at the floor afterwards, smile pulling a little at his mouth like a grimace.

“I can…go, though, if you want me to?”

“No, that’s—no. I could use the help.” He sets the candy factory on the kitchen table. “If you could glue this back together, that’d be…nice.”

Stiles reaches for the superglue. “Nice? Try awesome.” Derek glances at him, eyebrow raised, and Stiles wiggles his hands. “Magic fingers.”

Derek chokes and walks out of the room, Stiles grinning after him. There’s a certain appeal to poking fun at Derek, even if it does kind of make Stiles feel like an awful person. He cackles as he carefully slots the two halves of the miniature back together.

Later, after he’s glued a few more busted pieces together, he wanders out back to get some instructions, feeling lost. When he opens the back door, he gasps, because he just walked into Munchkin Land.

The whole huge area between the back porch and the woods is a sprawling winter wonderland on raised tables, little Styrofoam mountains and shimmery rivers with real water bubbling through them. The village nestled between the mountains is insanely detailed, with streets and cars and people and stores and trains and trees. Everything probably moves; the trains obviously do. There’s curving paths between the tables so that people can amble around, the edges of the walkways lined with tiny strands of lights that glint in the afternoon sun. Off in the northeast corner there’s Santa’s workshop in some snowy rolling hills, a glossy sleigh hanging from a wire track above the whole expanse.

Given all of that, though, on closer inspection Stiles can see why they might need some extra hands. There are a few glaringly blank spots on the tables, a few crooked buildings set on their sides, and one whole mountain is upside down.

It doesn’t really diminish the impressiveness of the endeavor, though.

“Woah.” The word escapes him on reflex, and he smiles widely when Derek’s head pops up from underneath one of the tables, screwdriver caught between his teeth. Derek takes one look at him and grins back, ducking his head back under the village.

Stiles is pretty sure he’s going to have to go hunting under the tables for Derek, when he rolls out and tosses the screwdriver onto a collapsible workbench off to the side. “This is so amazing,” Stiles says. “I had no idea what it would be like.”

Derek just stares at him for a while before turning to survey the village. “Yeah,” he breathes. He sounds helplessly proud. “I like it too.” He smiles at Stiles from the edge of the tables, and his face doesn’t even turn the deathly pink color. “But there’s a lot of work to do in the next couple weeks.”

“Sure. You don’t have to film anytime in there?”

“Just for an afternoon or two,” Derek says, suddenly shifty. “It doesn’t take a lot of time, usually.”

Derek gets shifty when Stiles mentions the show. Probably a normal person would just avoid talking about their respective jobs, but this is Stiles, staring at Derek, looking awkward in his sky-blue snowman sweater. Stiles likes Derek, okay, and if he was being honest he’d say that he desperately wants Derek to like him too. It’s such a tangible want, sharp through his chest when Derek glances up at him with his beautiful green eyes.

“Hey, man,” Stiles starts, because that opener always works on Scott. “I totally don’t mean to make you uncomfortable about the show. It’s your call not to talk about it, but for the record I think it’s really awesome. You’re a good actor, and good with the kids. Aaaaaand I’m done talking about it now!”

Derek stares at his feet and says probably the last thing that Stiles would imagine. “You could probably drive up with me, and—and watch us film, if you wanted to. I don’t know when you work, but…”

“Uh…are you sure you’d be cool with that, big guy? Because it sounds kind of like you’re taking me to a root canal. Or a model train burning party.”

Derek stares him dead in the eye and says, “My two biggest fears.”

Stiles falls down under the weight of his own shocked laughter.

***

Stiles is super impressed with Derek’s social improvement over the next week. His sweaters only get more hideous, but Stiles finds himself happily stuck in longer and longer conversations with Derek as they work over the village. Derek acted a lot in college, apparently, and has a freakishly large collection of historical fiction novels and books about Akkad. He tells Stiles about different track widths and various engines, about last year’s overhaul of all of the dated wiring in the mini cars. He even mentions the show, a little, around his general skittishness whenever the topic comes up. He understands Stiles’ thesis research for his Master’s in anthropology, understands why he took the winter more or less off so that he wouldn’t go insane.

Derek’s sisters help, along with Erica, Boyd, and Isaac, Derek’s terrifying friends. His parents—apparently it’s their house and Derek just crashes there during December to work on the village—mostly avoid the stressed mess that is Derek except to feed him and drag him away from the backyard. His mother, Talia, is thrilled to find another semi-permanent fixture to feed her husband’s famous winter stew.

He doesn’t know why he keeps going back. Derek could probably finish the village without him, and it’s not like they’re friends, after all.

But then Laura pulls Stiles away from the village one afternoon when Derek is laying more track. She pushes him into Talia’s study, which, oddly, still contains Talia, who blinks up at the two of them. “Derek won’t like this,” she mutters.

Laura ignores her and locks the door, peeking out of the blinds before twitching them shut. She whirls on Stiles, and he belatedly notices that Derek isn’t the only one to have a weird ugly sweater collection. Hers has a Santa head on it with real pompoms and looks about two sizes too big.

“You,” she hisses, so vehemently it’s like a gale force wind. Stiles falls back against the door to avoid it. “You are a godsend.”

He stares at her, and then at Talia, who’s rolling her eyes. “What?”

“Do you have any idea how much of a pain he is with the trains every year?”

“Not…really?”

Laura ignores him, which is probably a character trait of hers, throws up her arms, and launches into a pretty impressive Derek impression. “It’s all ‘we have a reputation to uphold,’ ‘Laura, do you think evergreens group like that in nature?’ ‘There’s not enough tinsel, Mom, don’t you understand we need tinsel,’ and the ever-timeless deciduous trees argument.” She suddenly grabs Stiles’ shoulders while her mother smothers laughter in the crook of her elbow.

“Stiles, we’ve only had the deciduous trees argument once this year. And do you know why?”

Stiles never gets to find out why, because suddenly the door behind him is jiggling and opening and then he’s falling backwards and hitting another wall. A wall covered in cashmere. A wall that is grunting and staring down at him with wide eyes. Derek growls, sets him upright, and mutters, “Stop trying to kidnap him, Laura. I found him first.”

Stiles laughs and ignores the way he can feel his face heating up.

“I’m going to lock him in a tower, Derek, just you wait!”

Stiles kind of loves Laura. He’s at least 60% sure she’s joking.

The next time Derek’s parents drag him away from the trains after a five-hour binge, he sticks his hands in his pockets and sidles towards the front door. He’s slightly sweaty from running around the tables, hair damp and cheeks flushed. He’d stripped off his red and green argyle sweater earlier, and even though it’s back on now, Stiles can still see the faint outlines of his many and varied muscles through the fuzzy material. “I should probably go. Filming starts in an hour.”

“Oh, yeah! I should probably head home then. Do you want me back over here later?” Stiles pauses while reaching for his keys, though, because Derek is staring at him with the big eyes of a wounded animal.

“I actually thought…you could come with me?”

Stiles’ entire body is on fire. He’s pretty sure he’s red to the roots of his hair. “Wait, really? I totally thought you were just being polite, dude!”

Derek eases almost instantly, rolls his eyes and pulls him down the front porch. “I’m not polite. And don’t call me dude.”

“Alright dude,” Stiles says, grinning.

“You’re a twelve year old.”

“I guess that means you’ve been giving me illegal alcohol this whole time, then?”

Derek laughs and leaps into the Camaro, driving off before Stiles can even touch the door. He’s idling halfway down the long driveway when Stiles finally catches up. “I hate you,” he says, sliding into the car.

“Sure,” says Derek easily. “I hate you too.”

Stiles resolutely ignores the swelling in his chest telling him that he’s screwed.

***

“Derek! You’re fifteen minutes—Stiles?” Lydia’s perfect mouth parts on a perfect little o. Normally, Stiles would bemoan the fact that he never made her pause like that in high school, but right now he’s got bigger fish to fry.

“Lydia,” Derek says, grinning in a way he never really does around Stiles. “I’d introduce you, but I’m pretty sure you already know each other.”

Lydia snorts delicately and plucks invisible lint off of her lab coat. “We may still be engaged, I’m not sure. What are you doing here, Stiles? And why are you wearing that hideous sweater again, Derek? I hid all of your material last year.”

Derek crosses his arms and glares at her. “It’s Christmas, Lydia,” he says, in scandalized tones, and Stiles is feeling more and more unmoored because it doesn’t seem like Derek lacks social skills at all right now.

“Not for another few weeks, at least,” she says. “Though I suppose it’s just the mistletoe you’re excited for.”

Derek suddenly finds the floor very interesting and fast-walks away to makeup. Lydia stares after him critically, her strawberry-blonde eyebrows perfectly arched. “So. Stiles. Derek never brings anyone on set.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve been helping him with the Christmas—Holiday Village, and I think he brought me so I’d stop asking about the show.”

Lydia narrows her eyes. “Derek loves talking about the show. I took him to meet my parents and he spent the whole time talking about the reoccurring Cleopatra subplot and why it was important for kids to see a strong female/male friendship, especially one based on mutual respect but where the woman fills a more dominant role.”

Stiles blinks and tries to ignore the simultaneous stabs of fondness and hurt that wash through him at that.

“He doesn’t talk about it with guys he wants to date, though, because they usually make fun of him.”

Stiles is still sort of stuck on the whole guys he likes part, but he asks, “Why would they make fun of him?”

“Have you seen the show?”

Stiles frowns. “Yeah. I think it’s great.”

“Most guys make jokes about the Wiggles or Dora the Explorer.”

“It’s really more Bill Nye or Liberty’s Kids than that.”

“Hm.” Lydia glances over her shoulder to where Derek is chatting with a camera man. “You’re not wrong. It’s good to see you.” She doesn’t really sound glad to see him, but that’s Lydia. She’s probably bursting with joy somewhere in the depths of her heart.

Stiles sets up camp by the wall and watches the magic happen. The magic being Derek. Of course.

He’s really in his element here, doesn’t seem pained or shy or frustrated with all of the cameras and Lydia’s incessant cutting remarks and jokes. He’s still awkward, wouldn’t be Derek if he wasn’t, and he glances over at Stiles a few times, furtive, but doesn’t screw up his lines until he stumbles over a phrase and an innuendo slips out. He does his little huffy laugh, which builds until it’s this deep-throated thing, rich and loud, and Stiles finds himself helplessly laughing along. Derek glances at him when he gets himself under control and seems sheepish. He grins anyways.

Derek’s lab coat is pretty well-fitting for this being a children’s show, so much so that it might be a stab at a more peripheral audience, and Stiles curls his arms to himself and lets himself want, a little. He really shouldn’t, because he’s here as Derek’s maybe-friend, despite what Lydia had implied. Still, given the excellently tailored lab coat and his artfully tousled hair, and Derek’s easy joking with the few kids on set, Stiles couldn’t see how anyone would want to make fun of Derek for this.

No matter how tempted Stiles is to crack some amazing Dora the Explorer puns.

They only film for an hour or two before Derek is striding back towards him in his hideously perfect argyle sweater. He raises his eyebrows expectantly in a move probably learned from Lydia. It clearly says 'well?'

“That was so awesome, dude! Oh my gosh. I wish someone had taught me about Louis and Clark and geology when I was a kid.”

Derek smiles at him, really smiles at him, and it breaks his whole face in two. “Come on, let’s get lunch on the way back, or Dad will try to give us more old scones.”

After that, Derek seems more at ease around Stiles. He doesn’t even freak out when Stiles springs at him with a Sharpie so he can sign pictures of the show for Allison’s cousins. He actually just uses the marker to draw little snowmen and wolves on Stiles’ arms, and insists “they’re Christmas wolves” for half an hour.

Stiles is a little broken. Derek practices his lines while they make sure all the train wires work. He picks Stiles up one morning with wild eyes, babbling about a work emergency that’s actually just that he forgot to pack up the cookies for the tech crew and he needs Stiles’ help. Stiles isn’t positive when he became Derek’s go-to Wintertime Celebration Assistant (as Laura calls it—it’s inclusive), but he’s not going to ask in case he gets fired.

Still, when Derek stumbles out to the Village one morning with two terribly-brewed cups of coffee and Stiles has to salvage their morning caffeine fix, he can’t help but ask, “Am I your assistant?”

Derek gives him a flat look over the coffee pot. “You’re my friend, idiot.”

“Oh. Yeah okay.” Stiles is both pleased and not with this. On the one hand: bros! Train village building bros! On the other: bros. Just bros. No-kissing bros. Sad.

Derek nudges him with a socked foot—fuzzy argyle again. Stiles thinks they might match one of his sweaters. “You okay?”

“What, did you major in psychology, or something? Gonna psychoanalyze me?” Stiles laughs, because he doesn’t want to word-vomit on Derek and deflection is clearly the best way to avoid this.

“History, actually,” Derek says, like it’s a surprise. “And acting.”

“Really? Here I thought you majored in lurking around tiny trains.”

Derek rolls his eyes and reaches for the coffee cup Stiles pours him. “I wasn’t lurking around the trains. Idiot.” Then he saunters out of the kitchen. His ass looks great in a pair of sweatpants, firm and—well, what was Derek lurking around for, anyways?

***

The weeks pass a little too quickly for Stiles, because after Hale’s Miniature Holiday Village is all set up, Stiles won’t really have a reason to hang around Derek and the Hale house all day. They’re friends now, of course, but that doesn’t have to mean anything other than two guys who occasionally run into each other in town.

Derek flicks the lights on as the sun sets, something that he’s never let Stiles see before. Stiles gets why, now. It’s a spectacular surprise. The lights twinkle in the darkness of the woods, the tall portable lampposts around the perimeter sending out a fine glow over the yard. It looks like the stars have fallen down from the sky. The trains and cars gleam, the water sparkles and glistens, and the sleigh overhead glides soundlessly along the line, pulled by eight tiny reindeer and leaving little trails of fake snow in its wake.

He’s speechless, and when he looks over at Derek, he’s breathless, too. He’s in the most hideous sweater yet, an evergreen tree and reindeer monstrosity with actual honest-to-God bells on it. It’s too big for him, and Stiles absently wonders if he wears the sweaters to make himself look smaller, or just doesn’t know how to shop for himself. It doesn’t really matter—he looks radiantly proud.

People start to arrive, families with kids from town who know Derek from History Laboratory. Entrance into the back is three dollars, and all the money goes towards expanding the village for the next year. Stiles can see how it grew so big so quickly. It’s only the first night, and the yard is busy from sunset to almost ten. Cora tells him over hot chocolate on the porch that a lot of people revisit a few times in the week leading up to Christmas, and then come on Christmas Eve to see the mini-light show that Derek’s been working on.

Derek smiles the whole night. Stiles father stops by to steal cookies and see what he volunteered his son for, and is caught halfway between pleased and terrified when Mrs. Hale pushes him into a porch seat with a hot chocolate and a conspiratorial grin. Scott even trips in, Allison on his arm, and makes Stiles give them a tour of the tiny village.

By the time everyone clears out, Derek’s family has disappeared and Stiles’ dad has told him not to do anything his mother wouldn’t, which is kind of pointless because his mother had been a very adventurous young woman.

Derek comes to stand beside him on the porch, soft blue strand lights strung over their heads and the village sparkling beneath them. “I feel a little like a king,” Stiles admits, looking over his miniature domain. “Watch out, my dad thinks I’m a megalomaniac.”

“Thinks? I’ve seen you rearrange the whole layout of the card store and laugh when people can’t find the soap. I know.” Stiles isn’t even sure how Derek is talking around the huge grin he’s sporting. He doesn’t seem to want to look away from Stiles, which is…a change. Though maybe not as much as it would have been in the beginning.

Stiles feels bold suddenly. It could be the soft lights, or Derek’s smile, or even all of the hot chocolate that he’s had, but it’s probably the enthusiastic helping of rum he’d poured into that last cup. “Can I ask you a question?”

“You just did,” Derek says, grinning like he’s hilarious. He’s really not.

“Ha, never heard that one before. No but really.” Derek straightens up and stares at him, the smile melting off of his face as Stiles hesitates. “Why were you so nervous around me at first?” Derek’s face is a study in blankness, so he elaborates. “In the shop. You wouldn’t talk to me at all and then it was like…painful for you, or something.”

“It’s not painful for me to talk to you,” Derek says softly. He looks out to the dark tree line, before inhaling heavily and turning to face Stiles. “It’s not.”

“You sound an awful lot like you’re trying to convince yourself, big guy.”

Derek breathes again, deliberately. “I know.” Breath. “You,” breath, “make me nervous.”

“I make you nervous?”

Derek just nods.

“Why?”

“Stiles, I’m the thirty-year-old, openly bisexual star of a children’s television program. My hobbies include building model trains and knitting sweaters—”

“You make those?”

“—And I’m a pretty quiet guy on most days—”

“You knit?”

“—but I’m painfully shy on the worst so I’m pretty understandably freaked out when I see you—”

“How do you make them so adorably ugly?”

“—a devastatingly hot guy who I know all about from fucking Laura talking about her job and the Sheriff—”

“Why don’t you make them in your size?”

“Stiles.” Derek’s hands come up and settle on either side of Stiles’ face, like a warm little mini hug. “I was reasonably pretty nervous, when I saw you. It took me forever to be able to talk to you, and that was only because I really, really needed that Mountain Tunnel.”

It does serve as a pretty prominent feature on the…hold on… “Devastatingly hot?” Stiles squeaks.

Derek only nods solemnly, like he’s just informed Stiles that he has cancer. “And amazingly intelligent.”

“Me?”

Derek rolls his eyes and sways forward to plant a kiss on Stiles’ nose. “You.”

“You,” Stiles accuses. Like that makes sense. His brain is kind of friend right now, okay.

“I always saw you in the store, and you never made fun of me for the trains, and Laura would always talk about how great the Sheriff’s son was, how he was getting his Master’s in anthropology, how he brought the station Thanksgiving dinner. And when I walked in the store the first time you were working, of course I knew who you were, I just wasn’t expecting you to be so—so—well, you know what you look like.” And wow Stiles is floored. “And then I actually got up the nerve to talk to you but I was so nervous and you kept mentioning the show and guys always, always make fun of the show—do you know how many Wiggles jokes I’ve heard?”

“I reserve the right to make some Wiggles jokes at a later date,” Stiles says, and Derek head butts him.

“The point is you didn’t. And you thought my trains were cool, and you let me talk about them, and you think I’m a good actor and eat my dad’s cookies and…” Derek trails off, looking a vibrant shade of pink.

“Well,” Stiles starts, blinking, because that was a lot but he’s so, so glad that Derek said it. Derek’s looking a little skittish so Stiles wraps his arms around his back to hold him in place. It’s warm. It feels right. “This explains why your family kept making Love, Actually references. And pinning mistletoe on my jacket.”

“Fucking Laura,” Derek mutters.

“Actually that last one was Cora.”

“Fucking Cora.”

“No offense to your lovely kin, Derek, but I’d rather not think about fucking them while I’m wrapped up in your impossibly hand-knitted cashmere sweater.”

“Actually, it’s lamb’s wool,” Derek supplies, right before he darts in a kisses Stiles.

It’s—it’s—perfect might be a little much for a first kiss but Stiles can’t actually think of any other words. Derek’s mouth is warm and a little chapped, and when Stiles opens his mouth on an involuntary gasp he tastes like chocolate and peppermint. His tongue traces Stiles mouth slowly, dizzyingly, and when he pulls back and Stiles bites at his bottom lip he groans.

“There’s not any mistletoe,” Stiles says, after he’s caught his breath. Derek presses their foreheads together and hums. Stiles feels it through his whole body.

“I don’t actually need any excuse to kiss you, you know.”

“Not shy anymore?” Stiles grins, pinching Derek’s butt lightly just to see him flush.

“No.” Derek’s in his space again in a bruising, biting kiss that almost makes Stiles’ knees give out. “But you maybe should be.”

Stiles takes one look at Derek’s predatory, gleeful smirk, and bursts out laughing. “Don’t start what you can’t finish, man,” he says.

“Oh, I can definitely finish it.” Stiles is still laughing when Derek’s big hands find their way around Stiles’ thighs and heft him up. He sobers up pretty fast after that. “Want to see where I keep my sweaters?”