Stiles was a happy child, always full of wonder and questions. So many questions, his father would say. But his mom, she never tired of answering them. Never failed to teach him something new and exciting, helping to regulate his hyperactivity and fixation with constant discovery. It helped that she owned a curios/antique store that had a constant revolving door of new treasures and mysteries waiting to be solved. Stiles loved nothing more than uncovering the history of a new piece, and even made it into the paper once for properly identifying and returning a locket belonging to a lower ranking member of the British Royal Family, who had given it to their secret lover before he left for France in 1942.
When Stiles lost his mom at thirteen, his mind went into overdrive. It was like she had been the dam that kept his flow of conscience in check and without her, he couldn’t cope. Luckily, his father, a local police captain, saw what was happening to Stiles and agreed to let him home school in the evenings, leaving him open to spend his days at the shop, keeping his mind busy and feeling closer to his mother.
Fifteen years later, Stiles is still running the store. His dad retired last year and is currently on the cruise Stiles and a few of his buddies got him as a retirement gift. At the time, Stiles hadn’t really considered what it meant that his dad would be gone for Christmas, those were just the cheapest tickets.
But he’s not alone, he has his shop, and his customers, and then there’s Will. Stiles pauses in his ribbon sorting to smile, thinking about the man who crashed into his life and proceeded to sweep Stiles off his feet.
It seems fitting that at that moment, Will comes crashing in again, this time dragging a giant tree behind him into the store. Stiles tries to play it cool, but he knows his face lights up because just yesterday he’d talked about wanting to go out and get a tree, a real one. One they had to chop down, and tie to the car, and bring back into the city, and now here is Will, making Stiles’ dream come true.
Will’s on the phone, talking about some contract or other, but Stiles has stopped trying to keep track of all the deals Will makes. The world of San Francisco realty moves too fast, even for Stiles.
“I’ll have it sent over this afternoon. Yeah. Okay, thanks, talk to you soon.” Will cuts the call and throws his arms out, clearly pleased with himself.
“I can’t believe you got me a Christmas tree. It’s beautiful!” Stiles tells him, coming out from behind the counter to kiss him.
“Isn’t it? It’s fake!” Will proclaims.
Stiles blinks and steps back. “Oh, um. Okay.”
“But, I know how important that fresh tree smell is to you, so I got a bottle of Blue Spruce scented deodorant spray.” Will pulls the bottle out of his pocket and sprays the tree liberally.
“Ha, don’t you just think of everything.” Stiles coughs, waving the fumes away from his face. He’s a bit disappointed, but not totally surprised. Will’s heart is in the right place, but his thoughtfulness always seems to land just short of the mark. Plus, he’s super busy, so when would he have had time to go cut down a Christmas tree? This is infinitely more practical.
“It’s perfect. Maybe even a little too perfect, don’t you think?” Stile examines the flexible branches.
“Well, you’re the expert,” Will tells him, moving behind the counter to poke at the new deliveries.
“Maybe I could cut a few of the branches off, thin it out a little. Make it lopsided.” Stiles mutters to himself.
“What’s this?” Will asks, pulling an old clock from under the counter.
Stiles brightens, rolling onto the balls of his feet in his excitement. “Oh! That’s a late 18th century replica of the Bernkastel Christmas Clock.”
“Are you kidding me?” Will crouches to get a better look. “It must be worth a small fortune—”
“Did you see all the hand-painted pictograms?” Stiles rambles on.
“How much does something like this sell for?”
Stiles waves his hand. “Oh, I don’t think I could ever sell this.”
“It’s just too beautiful,” he explains.
Will sighs and fixes him with an amused stare. “Remember when you asked me to tell you to stop doing that thing where you don’t sell things because of sentimental value?”
Stiles rolls his eyes. “I know, I know, but this is different. This is very special.”
“Stiles,” Will says, taking his hands to still him.
“Maybe you’re right,” Stiles laments, looking wistfully at the clock. It really is beautiful; his mother would have loved it.
Will pulls him into a hug, rubbing Stiles' back. “Being right doesn’t mean I’m not sorry.”
“Thanks,” Stiles mumbles against his shoulder.
“Hey, did that developer ever call you?” Will asks, pulling back.
“Nope,” Stiles tells him, migrating back to the clock.
“Hey, have I ever told you the story of the Bernkastel Christmas Clock?”
“No, but I get the feeling you’re going to,” Will teases from the other side of the tree.
Stiles rubs his hands together and launches into it. “Sometime in the early 17th Century, a young clockmaker fell in love with a peasant girl. She was the most beautiful woman in the village, but her parents had already promised her to someone else.”
“Philistines!” Will calls out.
“I know!” Stiles grins, tracing the tip of his finger around one of the clock’s arches. “But the clockmaker thought that if he were to make the most magnificent clock known to man, her parents would reconsider and break the arranged engagement. But the young woman’s suitor caught wind of these plans and he whisked her far, far away. The day before Christmas, a gift arrived for the young woman and when she opened it, she found the most amazing clock she’d ever seen. The clock was so beautiful she secretly carried it with her wherever she went from that day forward.” Stiles turns the clock as he speaks, following the pictograms as they illustrate the story. “On her wedding day, she wept over the clock, praying for a miracle, and just as she walked down the aisle, the clock stopped, freezing time. The woman ran out of the church, bursting through the doors into the town square, where all the townsfolk were rooted, stalk-still in the middle of their day. She ran right past them and into the arms of the clockmaker. They ran off together and they lived happily ever after, never to be seen again. Or so the story goes.”
Will makes a soft noise of agreement when Stiles stops talking and Stiles ducks behind the tree to see what’s caught his attention.
“I’ve been meaning to reorganize that shelf for weeks,” Stiles tells him when he sees what Will is doing.
“Yeah? Well, we make a great team.” Will smiles.
“We do, thank you,” Stiles agrees and pecks him on the lips.
”Hey, do you have the store’s books ready?”
Stiles shrugs, following Will back to the counter. “Nah, I haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
Will frowns at him.
“I know, I know it’s important, and I will do it, I promise.”
Will shakes his head and checks his phone. “What’s the square footage of this place again?”
“Ah, about twelve hundred or something. Why?”
Will phone rings and he looks up apologetically. “It’s Mike Harper, I’m meeting him for squash, I gotta go.”
“Listen, don’t forget, seven-thirty tonight, Earthworks.”
Stiles gives him two thumbs up. “Got it, I’ll be there.”
“Not in jeans, right?” Will checks.
“I’ll make you proud, babe, I promise.”
“You always do,” Will says and is out the door with a wink.
Stiles smiles after him, then dedicates the rest of his day to cleaning the clock.