On the First Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
Working in a mail room was a lot like working in an assembly line. Stamp. Shuffle. Sort. Stamp. Papercut. Deliver. Stamp. Shuffle. Coffee break. Sort. Coffee break. Computer solitaire. Sort. Stamp. Stamp hand. Play basketball with crumpled paper. Computer solitaire. Sort. Lunch. Repeat.
He had aspirations, and they certainly were not to work in the mail room. He wanted to work as an editor, and working his way up was the best way to do that. At least, that’s what he had been told. He’d been told the job market was currently terrible in total, but specifically for new graduates with a BA, and he was lucky to get a job.
With any luck, he thought, the application he had in with Howl Publishing, Hale’s subsidiary, might lead him a step closer. It couldn’t come soon enough, because now that it was Christmas, Hale Publishing was doing some kind of 12 Days of Christmas shtick and Stiles was the one who got to shove on an elf hat after completing his regular duties and deliver parcels that were so obvious in shape it was almost painful.
“Oh, a pen with Hale Publishing written on it for the First Day of Christmas. Again. It’s going to be the same this year as it was last, isn’t it?”
Stiles couldn’t really speak to that because he’d only been working there since April, but he’d seen the pens around the office. Once, a pen-chucking fight had broken out between two copy editors that had ended with one of the pens bursting all over Derek Hale’s crisp white shirt as he came in from a meeting.
So not only were the pens unoriginal, they were also cheap.
Of course, for a publishing house that had a branch solely devoted to the science fiction and fantasy genre, Hale Publishing lacked imagination. The walls were white, the cubicals were boring, and the carpet was so obviously designed to hide coffee stains that sometimes Stiles wondered if it had been another colour, once, and the thankless job of working with primadonna authors had resulted in many of spills.
“You could set your clock by Hale Junior. Good with business, not with creativity.”
Stiles sometimes felt sorry for his boss. The guy seemed like an ass most times, but he’d taken over the family business out of duty, and all Stiles ever heard about it was that he wasn’t as good as his father had been, and for a while before Derek took over, as good as his sister had been.
That kind of legacy probably really did suck.
He was thinking that as he finished making the rounds with the presents, each one with the employee’s name on it. It was on standard Human Resources card stock, and Stiles got a bit more satisfaction to know that at least someone had a more thankless task than he did. Wrapping that many presents, one for each employee, for twelve days, was not Stiles’ definition of fun.
It was really a labour of love.
Probably a love for getting paid overtime.
“He brought back the pens!” Garrison yelled to someone walking into the work area just as Stiles finished delivering the last present. There was only one left on his cart, and it had his name on it. He knew because he had to put it aside so it didn’t get in the way of his delivery system.
Only, no one in Human Resources had thought to give Mr. Hale one.
If any of them deserved a cheap pen, one that had probably been symbolic at one point of the work done at Hale Publishing, but now was just symbolic of being a cheap pen, it was Derek Hale.
Stiles was a great planner, no one would accuse him otherwise, but sometimes the choices he made spur of the moment were questionable.
Like the one that had him slipping the nametag off the present and knocking on Hale’s door.
Something must have poked his Christmas Spirit. It might be the way Hale was watching the proceedings with a scowl on his face, unable to hide what was clear derision. Earlier, his eyes had lifted when Stiles entered the work pen with the presents, and Stiles had been under the impression he had been vaguely pleased. The only thing Stiles could think of that would make someone such a gloomy grump was not getting a gift.
“What?” Hale asked, staring at him through the glass wall that made up the part of his office facing the work area.
“I’ve got something for you!” Stiles said, waving the small rectangular present as he walked in.
“That’s not mine,” Mr. Hale said, staring at the box like it offended him. Then he stared at Stiles like he was offending him more. “You’ve made a mistake.”
“No mistake, sir. It’s a special delivery from magical Hale Holiday Elves.” Stiles gestured to his head. “See the hat. A man wearing this hat makes no mistakes.”
Hale opened his mouth, and for a moment Stiles thought he actually had a sense of humour and was going to call Stiles on the very obvious opening he had left there.
But Hale didn’t say something like ‘the hat is a mistake’ or any of the countless responses Stiles had left for him to make. Instead, Hale said, “If you didn’t want the pen, you were under no obligation to keep it. Giving it to me is a pointless way to report a grievance for something that was free and willingly given.”
“What?” Stiles asked, backing up. “No, I love my pen. I haven’t been working here for years, so this is totally the first time I’ve gotten one and I’m going to put it in my cup holder of pens and cherish it and not use it because I hear they’re streaky and sometimes burst and that’s not the point, the point is that that’s not my pen. That’s your pen. Merry Christmas.”
Then he took his cart and bolted.
On the Second Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
An accidental allusion to Dick in a Box.
He was standing in Mr. Hale’s doorway, just finished coughing from someone spraying an aerosol can right in his face, and wasn’t paying attention to where he was holding the present HR had addressed to him, but that he was giving to Mr. Hale because the man seemed crankier than ever, watching out his wall-o-windows with his arms crossed and a glower on his face as his employees opened their mugs and mocked them.
Stiles felt really bad that he wasn’t able to participate in the Hale Publishing Gift Fail hate.
“Special delivery,” he said, but his voice was a little dry from coughing, and the moment the words were out of his mouth and Hale turned a very specific colour of puce, Stiles took stock of where his hands were, where the gift was, and grimaced in horror. “I hear it’s a mug!” He continued in a higher pitch.
“This again?” Hale asked in an unimpressed tone.
“What do you mean ‘this again’?” Stiles questioned, pushing the wrapped box, this time more cube in shape, into Hale’s hands. “There are ten more days of this, buddy. It’s the Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Hale raised an eyebrow.
On the Third Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
A Hale free desk!
Stiles was able to leave the present and retreat back to his work area.
It was a Christmas miracle.
“What is this?” Mr. Hale questioned with a snarl, causing Stiles to jump. He was lucky he didn’t have his coffee yet, or he’d probably be wearing it.
“The socially acceptable waiting area for Starbucks orders, unlike over there,” he waved towards the person standing too close to the line, who would have to round the entire counter to pick up their order. Starbucks n00b. “Which is not.”
“What. Is. This.” Mr. Hale emphasized, gesturing emphatically to the still-wrapped present in his hand.
“A gift,” Stiles said in his best deadpanned delivery. “Says it’s from Hale Publishing. Huh. Imagine that.”
Hale gave him eyebrows which said ‘are you really sassing me right now.’
Stiles found it hard to believe too. He tried to dig for his self preservation so he wouldn’t lose his job.
Nope, not there.
“You are familiar with the way one opens a gift, aren’t you? You see, the shiny outer layer is just a front to what lies inside.”
Hale’s eyes narrowed and then he very clearly looked at his watch. “Your break was over a minute and a half ago.”
“The line was brutal...” Stiles gestured, and it really was. It seemed like someone had gotten Starbucks giftcards, probably another office, because Hale Publishing was all about leading up to the expensive gifts, such as the $25 Starbucks gift card everybody in line seemed to be cashing.
“Two minutes,” Hale reminded him, clearly unimpressed with Stiles’ work ethic. “And you better lose the hoodie.”
“Oh come on!” Stiles said, looking down at the hoodie he threw on over his professional button up shirt. The mail room was chilly and no one ever came in to glare disapprovingly at him, and... “I’m not even in the office right now.”
“No, but you are on work time rather than personal time.”
“Eugh, fine,” Stiles huffed, stripping it off. He considered for a moment the eternal question of if he would look too much like a loser if he tied the arms around his hips or his neck, just to see the scowl deepen on Hale’s face.
And what was wrong with him, seriously?
“But if something happens to my favourite hoodie, you owe me a new one from Society6.” He loved his I’m a Leaf on the Wind Watch How I Soar hoodie. It was inspirational and got him through many-a-day working at stamping incoming mail.
And great, he was threatening his boss now.
“Stiles!” The barista finally said.
Hale moved forward to grab his drink. “I’m confiscating this for your tardiness,” he said, hand closing around Stiles’ coffee.
Stiles narrowed his eyes.
“This way there’s no chance of you spilling over your esteemed hoodie,” Hale sneered, walking towards the elevator and clearly expecting Stiles to follow.
Stiles did because Hale was still his boss and he might be able to get away with being late if he was with him, but without him or his coffee, he was just late, and Hale knew it.
They were standing side by side in the elevator, Stiles perilously close to sulking, when Derek took a sip of his drink and made a clear choking sound.
Oh yeah. Stiles smirked.
Enjoy your free drink, asshole, he thought. Out loud he filled in the silence with “Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha.”
Derek made a clear sound of derision.
“My drink is problematic,” he said to the man manning the reception desk, placing it out of each on the corner as he stalked towards his office.
Aw yis, Stiles thought, grabbing his drink back and bolting in the other direction before he could be called on stealing the boss’s garbage. It wasn’t until he got back to his chilly room with all the parcels that he realized that there was a very possible chance Derek Hale had just made a Firefly reference.
And, well, that was kind of really hot all things considered.
On the Fourth Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
Picture frames. Stiles didn’t care about picture frames, but he did care about the fact that HR still wasn’t including Mr. Hale despite the fact that he had left a little note in the head of HR’s mail delivery about it.
“Hey Zhāng,” he greeted, handing the head of Human Resources his gift. Zhāng would give it to him straight because Zhāng didn’t have a single dishonest or sarcastic bone in his body. “Why don’t you ever make one of these up for Mr. Hale?” It was a valid question considering HR used a sticker as a name tag and Stiles had to steal the kettle from the break room and then spend five minutes steaming it off in order to hide the evidence that the gift he was giving Derek had originally been his.
Avoiding that in the future would be awesome.
“Ask him,” Zhāng said. “He’s the one who organizes this.”
“What?” Stiles asked, almost dropping the next wrapped frame in his hand.
“Oh yes. Mr. Hale has stayed late every day this week wrapping presents for all twenty five employees here.” He opened his present. “Oh! A picture frame. Now I can look up and see my wife and kids as I work. Mr. Hale is a good man.”
Stiles was left there feeling kind of run over, because there went all of his assumptions down the toilet.
He entered Derek’s office almost angrily, entirely missing that Derek was in a meeting with Laura Hale, CEO of Howl Publishing and the woman he’d had a job interview with the week before.
“I’m sorry sir,” he said, holding out his box. “I have your Christmas delivery.”
“Peterson was too busy reaping the benefits of the holiday season to stop you?” Hale asked, and Stiles wasn’t sure if that was sarcasm or not.
He also wasn’t going to rat out a coworker who was currently in the break room with baked goods, bitching about picture frames and mugs. Apparently a few years before, while Hale Publishing was managed by Hale Sr., the entire office had gotten iPod Touches and each present leading up to Day Eleven was something hinting at an iPod Touch. No one could see a theme this year unless boring and generic office gifts was a theme.
“No one stops the mail,” Stiles said cheerfully, handing over the box. “Not rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor Personal Assistants. I’m a mail ninja.”
Derek gave his sister a raised eyebrow. ‘See? See what I deal with?’ and Stiles fled because he really wanted the job with Howl and mouthing off to Derek might have gotten habitual but doing it in front of Laura probably just shot himself in the foot.
On the Fifth Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
Derek Hale staring at him.
“I know what you’re up to,” he said, shaking the box.
“I know what you’re up to,” Stiles repeated. “All this,” he widened his arms. “This should be fun, and you’re not having it.”
“And you think giving me your gift helps?”
“It’s not my gift, it’s your gift.”
“Your. Gift.” Stiles enunciated like his boss was particularly slow.
“Not mine, my name isn’t on it.”
“Because you took it off.”
“You can’t prove that,” Stiles said smugly. “Take your present.”
“Enough of this!” Hale said. “Stop giving me stuff I’m trying to give to you.”
Stiles licked his lips. “Make me.”
On the Sixth Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
Derek Hale changing as Stiles walked into the office, his shirt half over well-defined shoulder muscles.
“Is this a power thing? Dominance in the boardroom? Looking good for the respect of your peers?” Stiles blurted out.
“I’m your boss,” Hale said, disapprovingly.
Yeah, and he was probably going to be fired after this. So he may as well make it worth his while.
“Yeah you are,” he said, clearly appreciative.
“HEY! SOMETHING WE CAN USE THIS TIME, AT LEAST!” Garrison shouted to his pal across the room.
Stiles winced, because shit. Shit, Hale had probably heard every comment made about everything. No wonder his face had been permanently etched into a frown for half of this. Stiles had just thought he had no holiday spirit.
Later, because apparently he hadn’t risked his job enough today, Stiles went back to Derek’s office. The official gift had been an iTunes gift card, and still there were complaints, because it was only worth $25 and the year Hale Sr. bought them they had been worth $100.
It made Stiles a little sick, because yes the pens had been lame, but as a starting present for a 12 day campaign, they hadn’t been unrealistic, but complaining about everything and putting that scowl on Derek’s face was unforgivable.
“Stiles?” Derek asked from behind his desk, rubbing his fingers over his eyes.
“Fuck them,” Stiles said.
“Excuse me?” Derek asked, eyes lifting to look at Stiles in surprise.
“Fuck them,” Stiles repeated. “Fuck. Them.”
“You’re talking about your coworkers,” Derek reminded him.
“Yeah, and you should be giving them what they deserve: nothing.”
Derek actually looked tempted. “I can’t. The tradition...” he didn’t seem to have a conclusion to that sentence.
Stiles would never discourage someone from keeping up a tradition started by a parent. He understood enough about those.
On the Seventh Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
Stiles still had a job!
And Hale wasn’t at his desk!
Two for one.
Mostly because it was such a goodwrong for Stiles to want his boss, one Derek Hale, to do filthy things to him on that desk.
Or Stiles could do them to Derek. He wasn’t picky.
And the best part of the day? Hale had given his employees coal. Oh, it was actually lump of coal paper weights, but the message was clear and Stiles actually laughed as his coworkers opened the presents and frowned in confusion.
Well, maybe the best part of the day was Hale hadn’t fired him for overstepping his bounds. Twice. Whichever it was, Stiles still spent the rest of the day in a good mood.
Unfortunately, that meant he got to share an awkward elevator ride with Derek on the way out of the office.
“You’d rather work for my sister at Howl?”
“Scifi and Fantasy is pretty awesome,” Stiles answered. “I might miss your grumpy face. Why? Did she say something? Are you trying to get rid of me or is this news on whether I got the job I applied for?”
This was probably because he sexually harassed his boss. It was probably better than having Zhāng’s disapproving frown on him while he watched a badly acted video lecturing on the evils of sexual harassment in the work place.
Which he would never do.
Except he kind of did.
“Is this because I hit on you and it made you feel uncomfortable?” Stiles asked. “Because I saw that video too and I promise it won’t happen again.”
Hale raised an eyebrow. “When did you hit on me?”
“I’m just gonna go now,” Stiles said, bolting out of the elevator.
On the Eighth Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
“The Avengers and Cabin in the Woods? What do these even have in common?”
Stiles’ eyebrow twitched.
“Your employees are cretins,” Stiles railed, plopping the present on Derek’s desk. “They have no idea. No idea what these movies have in common.”
“New releases?” Derek questioned with a smug smirk.
But Stiles was on to him. Stiles was so onto him.
“AT LEAST IT’S SOMETHING FROM THIS DECADE!” Garrison yelled, his voice carrying through the building.
Stiles sneered towards the work area.
“Thank you for these, by the way,” he said, because he wasn’t sure anyone ever thanked Hale. There was a collection in the break room for a joint gift from everybody in the office. Everybody put in the requested amount of $10.
And a lot of pens.
But a joint gift was not the same as a simple thank you.
“No, I mean, for it all. Thank you.”
Derek gave him a penetrative gaze, one that said he knew that Stiles hadn’t even received any of the presents and had nothing to be grateful for.
On the Ninth Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
“A voucher for a Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha, that’s... really specific.”
It was really specific. He had put the DVDs down as being something Derek might be interested in, but this present made things a bit clearer.
Hale was definitely baiting him.
Stiles would not give in.
Of course, it was another day when Hale wasn’t in his office and Stiles ended up leaving the present on his desk. He wasn’t trying to avoid Derek, so of course he didn’t see him until minutes before the end of the day.
“Do you need help with the wrapping and stuff?” Stiles asked, sticking his head into Derek’s office.
“Go home Stiles.”
On the Tenth Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
“Society6 gift card for $100? What is a society6? Is that a porn shop?”
“This Christmas is the worst so far, and I’m including the year everything had nuts.”
Stiles was actually cheerful as he left the office on the tenth day because he had managed to say ‘my niece loves that store’ in the company of three of his coworkers who didn’t have younger family members or a secret interest in nerd culture.
Of course, Stiles didn’t have a niece.
But he did now have $300 worth of Society6 giftcard SWAG so he didn’t even feel bad about that. That could buy a lot of hoodies.
He was just stepping onto the elevator, running a little late in getting home due to collecting all the information and money on the running pool about what Hale Publishing would give the employees on the eleventh day. Typically, it was something borderline expensive, and they all could appreciate the cost of a $100 gift certificate, even if they didn’t want it.
The pool ran from alcohol to new tablets. Apparently, one year, everyone was gifted with an office computer upgrade, and they were all hoping there wouldn’t be a repeat because that wasn’t something they could bring home.
He stepped onto the elevator without looking and ran into a brick wall. For a moment he thought maybe the elevator door didn’t work, but the brick wall had limbs, and the limbs looked to be holding an open take-away container.
“Oh my god is that a cup of chili?”
“It was,” Derek affirmed. His eyebrows were doing some kind of strange quirking thing, like they were dancing the wave across his forehead independent of his face. “Half of one, anyway.”
“Oh my god,” Stiles said, looking down at his hoodie. His precious hoodie. If he hadn’t cleaned up on those gift certificates today, he would be heartbroken right now.
“It’ll Wash,” Hale choked, his mouth now mimicking his eyebrows in the dance crusade as he walked away.
Stiles scowled after him.
And wait. That was definitely a Firefly reference.
On the Eleventh Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
“Tide Pods detergent,” was the unimpressed chorus.
“Sex Shop Gift cards.”
“A Coffee voucher.”
“Chris Pine movies.”
“Who is Chris Pine then?”
“AND A BALLPOINT PEN!” Someone yelled. “Worst Christmas ever.”
“You’re having fun with this, aren’t you?” Stiles asked as he burst into Hale’s office, closing the door behind him. He dropped the gift on the desk and leaned against it, wheezing with laughter. “Oh my God, you have no idea what you’re doing to your employees.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Derek ripped open the parcel. “You can use these more than I can.”
“Obviously. I wash my own clothes. I don’t have the luxury of a personal assistant who picks up my dry cleaning. Good luck figuring out how to use a washing machine.” He then made a rude gesture at Hale that involved a lot of tongue.
“God, you’ve got a mouth,” Hale said, staring at him.
“So does everybody,” Stiles pointed out, popping out of the office.
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas Hale Publishing Gave to Me
And Stiles couldn’t back out now.
“Stiles, that’s enough,” Derek said when Stiles slid the envelope across Derek’s desk.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said clearly, saying goodbye to all that money. He’d just have to live off graphic t-shirts this month, because the gift he bought his dad coupled with the money he was going to have to pay on gas to get home would pretty much break his bank.
Totally worth it for the glare Derek was giving him now.
“I thought you might visit,” Stiles crowed as Derek stepped into the mail room.
“This is for you.” Derek placed the Holiday Bonus envelop on the desk.
“Oh!” Stiles said in delight. “Oh man, I’m so glad I got you something in return.”
“For me?” Derek actually looked startled when Stiles shoved a gift bag towards him. “I... for me?” He ripped the tissue paper out, surprisingly eager, and pulled out an “I’m the BOSS” mug.
Stiles grinned at him.
Something strange crossed Hale’s face.
“Pack up your desk,” Derek grunted.
“I can’t have an employee here who has demonstrated a consistent inability to deliver mail to the proper recipient.”
“What?” Stiles stuttered. “You can’t... what? Why? What?”
“Are you deaf as well? I said I can’t date employees, so pack up your desk and report downstairs to Howl Publishing on January third.”
“You can’t date... what? Me?”
“I don’t know, can I?” Derek smirked.
“What?” Stiles sputtered. “Am I getting a new job and a date with you for Christmas?”
Derek raised his eyebrows. “I don’t know, are you?”
Stiles laughed. “You’re the worst.” Then he paused. “Wait. Am I getting transferred because you want to date me? Because that is unfair. To me. To everybody else who you don’t want to date.”
“You’re getting hired for a job you applied for,” Derek enunciated clearly.
“For Howl or for dating you?” Stiles questioned in confusion.
“Both!” Derek snapped.
“Oh, yeah, alright, good. Hey, you want to buy me a Peppermint White Chocolate mocha?” Stiles grinned. “I happen to know you have a voucher.”
Derek nodded. “Yeah, I could do that.”
“And supper? At one of those restaurants with over the top holiday decorations and the cheesy music?”
“Yeah, I could do that too.”
“And I hear a rumour there are a bunch of iPad Minis hidden in a supply closet that were meant for Day Eleven. Can I have one?”
Derek glared. “Don’t push it.”