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Title: bonfires burning bright (room in my coffin tonight)
Author: januarylight
Recipient: blue_eyed_1987
Pairings: derek/stiles
Rating: nc17
Word Count: 12k
Warnings: none
Summary: Stiles may hate Halloween, but he loves working at the Haunted House -- at least until the new girl steals his cushy job in the office. But she also introduces him to the guy he's had a crush on for years, so he supposes she can't be a total witch.



Stiles' favourite thing about working at the Haunted House is that he never has to be scared. Every year he sits in the booth and makes change and hands out boxes of Hot Tamales with tickets. When the line is short he can barely even see Scott slinking down the crowd, creeping up on people until he looms out of nowhere, scaring the crap out of them.

So he's a little startled when he goes over to pick up his official tshirt and Dan tells him he's in the Blood Pit.

"But I'm the Booth-Babe!"

"That was sarcasm," Dan tells him. Dan is a twenty-eight year old college dropout who always wears the same Jane's Addiction tshirt, reeks constantly of weed, and has somehow managed to parlay six weeks of business management classes into an extremely profitable seasonal event company. The reindeers will arrive next week. "Allison is the Booth-Babe. See? Sarcasm, no sarcasm. Learn it, live it, love it."

"I love working the booth," Stiles insists.

"Too late, babe," Dan says. "Allison's already trained up."

"You just called me babe! That wasn't sarcasm! And we can switch, I'm sure she wouldn't--"

"Wouldn't look terrifying holding a saw, right. Do you know how to use a chainsaw? I'll run you through it, get here five minutes early Friday."

"Maybe I could work the line with Scott," Stiles offers, though he's dubious about even that.

It doesn't matter anyway; Dan isn't listening. He blusters, "I don't have time for this, I have to make sure this year's hayride kid isn't siphoning gas," makes some kind of imaginary military signal that he believes swears everybody to secrecy on pain of death, and launches himself across the grass, following the tyre-tracks.

"Helpful!" Stiles yells after him. "Thanks!"

Dan actually stops to call back, "Sarcasm!" at Stiles in an approving tone. He gives Stiles a beaming thumbs-up as he sprints away.

"Glad somebody's happy," Stiles mutters, and trudges back to his Jeep.

*

Scott makes him go to the indie theatre that evening, because they're showing a different modern classic every night this week, and Scott loves foreign horror with a fervour Stiles appreciates even if he doesn't quite understand.

"They don't even do butter," Stiles complains disconsolately, same as every time they come here. "Paranormal Activity 6 is on at the multiplex, you know."

"You shouldn't even have popcorn," Scott says critically. "REC will make you choke to death on your popcorn. Don't say I didn't warn you."

"Is this like Pan's Labyrinth?" Stiles asks hopefully, because he knows better than to ask if it's going to be as good as Hellboy II. Again.

Scott ignores him. "Tomorrow is REC 2," he says. "We're coming back. The manager says it's too soon for the others."

"Have you met the new girl yet?" Stiles asks.

"How long do you think something has to be out before you can call it a classic?"

"Because I hate her. Man, I hate her so much."

"Because I say instant. Sometimes you just know." There's a snort from the other side of Stiles. "What'd she ever do to you?"

"Stole my job."

The girl beside him leans forwards to look past him into Scott's face. "REC 3? Really?"

"Underrated!" Scott protests. "Man, Stiles, did you get fired?"

"No," Stiles admits sulkily. "If I'd gotten fired could I claim unemployment?"

"If you're talking underrated," the girl says, "how come this place is playing all of the Screams but no Cabin in the Woods?"

The girl is really pretty, but Scott's interest wanes with her movie choices.

"Cabin in the Woods isn't real horror," he says. "It's a deconstruction of the--"

"Hah," she interrupts. "Tell that to Evil Dead II."

Scott's eyes flare as he rebuts, "Evil Dead II is in no way comparable--"

Stiles slumps back in his seat and tunes the conversation out, same way he always does whenever those damn trees come up. The trailers are playing, but the lights are still on, so Stiles has a clear view of the couple two rows in front when the female half loudly announces, "I know you'd rather be watching Hocus Pocus, but some of us here are grown-ups."

Stiles' isn't the only head that turns, but he's the only person who bolts upright.

"I don't see any," the guy mutters.

"Hey!" Stiles whispers, interrupting whatever the girl beside him had been telling Scott about patriarchal assumptions and breaking jigsaw pieces. He's pretty sure he's heard it before anyway, maybe even from Scott. "Hot Guy from Costume Store!"

Scott's head comes around. "Where?" he asks, almost as loud as Hot Guy's girl.

Stiles slouches fast, dragging Scott with him, keeping his eyes trained on the guy's head. The Hot Guy works in the only real costume store in town, the place that fits all Dan's employees for their uniforms. The store is only open one month a year; Stiles has no idea who Hot Guy is or where he goes the rest of the time. Stiles hasn't had genuine reason to go there since he started working for Dan, but he goes back every year; the memory of the guy's hands dragging over Stiles' back as he'd pulled the cape into place always lures him in, despite the memory of the guy glaring at him in the mirror that always follows on its heels.

So Stiles goes by the store every year to pick out a costume for the afterparty at work, even though everybody else's is homemade and Stiles is always too embarrassed to go up to the counter and buy anything anyway. The stalking isn't even worth it, because he hasn't gotten the guy's hands on him again, and he always gets the glare.

"There!" He jerks his chin in the guy's direction. "Who's that girl?"

"Derek?" the girl beside him asks. "Where?"

"I don't think he's a hot guy!" Scott bleats. "Stiles does!"

"You know Derek?" Stiles asks incredulously. "You know Hot Guy? Hot Guy's name is Derek? What kind of name is Derek for such a hot guy? I don't believe you!"

"He said he was coming to this thing with his sister. He told me about it."

"Sister!" Stiles hisses triumphantly. "Yes!"

"I'm sure he is hot," Scott says earnestly. "Or Stiles wouldn't talk about it so much. But I just don't find guys hot. You know?"

"Gotcha," the girl says, mouth twisting with wry amusement, eyes warming as she looks at Scott.

Stiles fifth-wheels his way back into the conversation. "How do you know Derek?" he asks, trying to suppress the incipient jealousy. He doesn't think he does a very good job.

"He fitted me for my uniform this afternoon," the girl says, and holds out her hand. "For my job at the Haunted House. I'm Allison. I'm--"

"New girl!" Stiles blurts angrily, and watches Allison's fingers curl back into her palm, watches Derek's face turn to him just as the lights dim.

He settles in to watch the film, pretending he isn't upset and grumpy, pretending he hasn't just made things really weird.

Scott pokes him in the side. "Switch seats!" he whispers into Stiles' ear.

"No," Stiles mutters back. "No switching allowed."

He ignores Scott's pouting, and manages to ignore Allison entirely until he catches her eye and can't help letting out the question that's been preying on his mind since the last time she spoke.

"So Derek isn't a vampire?"

Her eyes widen, and she leans in. "What?" she asks quietly.

"You know. He only works nights. We've never seen him during the day. I've never seen him when it wasn't October. It makes sense."

It was Scott's theory, and it may not, in retrospect, make sense. Not that Stiles is admitting that to Allison.

"No," she says slowly, "Derek isn't a vampire."

"Just checking," Stiles tells her, and determinedly attempts to ignore the wide eyes she's throwing him.

"So, you want to come over and watch Audition?" Scott whispers, because he's an idiot. "You'd like it."

"Seen it," she says brightly and brusquely. "No thanks."

"What about--"

"This one? Yeah, I am trying."

She's smiling, but Scott shuts up. Stiles feels like he should apologise for possibly freaking her out and blowing Scott's chances, but he's too distracted staring at the back of Derek's head, and then by staring into Derek's sister's amused face as she grins at him.

"Shit!"

Stiles, Scott and Allison dive out of the sister's sightline as one, so maybe Scott's chances aren't totally blown.

"I guess he is hot," Allison mutters, "but I'm kind of weirded out that you didn't even know his name."

"I do now," Stiles says. "Thanks, friend."

Allison opens her mouth, shuts it. "Can we pretend I didn't tell you that?"

"Only if we're pretending I knew it all along."

Allison seems dubious about this, but then someone is dying onscreen and people are screaming, and Stiles is briefly afraid he's one of them, but no, he's just clutching Allison's arm, trying not to scramble behind her.

"Oh," she says awkwardly. "Not a fan?"

"There's a reason I work in the booth," he admits.

"Right," she says. "Sorry about that."

And Stiles isn't quite ready to forgive her, but she makes a pretty solid human shield, and he's forged relationships on much less.

By the time the movie is over, Allison is ready to check out Audition with Scott. "Or maybe just the Buffy movie," she adds hopefully, before noticing Stiles' face.

"He was my ride!" he tells her, outraged, realises he's outraged at the wrong person, and turns to Scott, repeating in an even more outraged tone, "You were my ride!"

"Yeah, buddy," Scott says. "But--"

He doesn't finish the explanation, evidently feeling that none is necessary in the face of Allison.

"Scott will totally drop you off, right?"

"But you drove yourself," Scott protests. "You were supposed to follow me right home."

Allison looks vexed, but she's making noises about google-mapping it when there's laughter behind them and Derek's voice breaks in.

"You're blocking the aisle."

Stiles spins around, panicked, finds himself looking into the sister's amused eyes, and almost swallows his own tongue while trying to avoid Derek's flat stare.

"Hi," he manages, because his stupid friends have gone mute, and somebody has to say something.

"Hi!" Allison says, a decade too late, and elbows Scott until he lets out a high, pained grunt.

"Hello," the sister says, smile scarily wide, and leans on her brother until he introduces her to Allison. Then she reaches out and takes Stiles' hand. "I'm Laura Hale. Do you want a ride?"

And that's how Stiles ends up being driven home by Derek Hale and his sister. Well. By Derek Hale's sister, but that's not the part that's preoccupying his mind right now.

He catches Laura watching him in the rear-view, and grimaces out an attempt at a smile.

"I should have made Derek sit back there with you," she says. "That was rude, I'm sorry."

"Uh, no," Stiles says. "That would have been weird."

But his skin starts to flush at the thought of Derek so close, right beside him in the dark car, miles of empty seat between them fading to nothing in his mind. He sees Laura's smile grow in the mirror.

"So, you work for Dan, right?" she says, apropos of nothing.

"Laura," Derek says. "Please."

"Does he ever mention me?"

"No," Derek says churlishly.

"Uh--"

"Or Derek? Does he talk about me or Derek?"

"No!" Derek says. "How many times do I have to tell you--"

"No!" Stiles says. "He doesn't!"

"Oh," she says, disappointed. "Wait, neither of us?"

"Mostly he talks about Jamie Lee Curtis," Stiles tells her. "Sometimes Anthony Perkins. And sometimes the mom from Miracle on 34th Street, but that's too weird for me. I check out once the reindeers arrive."

"You don't like reindeers?" Laura asks, car swerving as she tries to turn around and gape at him.

"This guy is such a freak," Derek mutters. "I don't get why you're into him."

"Ditto!"

They glare at each other furiously. Stiles is kind of glad they aren't glaring at him, and he kind of wishes Laura were glaring at the road instead of her brother, but mostly he wishes he weren't hearing this.

"Dan?" he asks pathetically. "Really?"

"Yes, Dan!" Laura snaps.

Derek is way too hot for Dan, but Derek is way too hot for Stiles, too. Laura is also significantly hotter than Dan.

"You look a little bit like Jamie Lee Curtis," Stiles offers glumly.

This mollifies Laura somewhat, but the rest of the ride is spent with each occupant of the car sunk into their own separate glooms, silence keeping them further apart than the small distance between them.

Stiles will go into the costume store and start test-driving potentials tomorrow, he decides, while Derek still remembers who he is. There isn't a chance Derek will do anything Stiles wants him to: he won't remember Stiles' name, or touch his skin and bones and hope through slippery black fabric, or lean in too close to change the reflection in the mirror, the way he once had. He won't smile. He probably won't remember this at all, Stiles thinks, sadness creeping up on him while he stares furtively at the back of Derek's neck, the stubble on his jaw when he turns his head to glance back at Stiles.

Stiles' eyes dart away. He hopes Derek won't remember catching Stiles staring at him like a freak.

When Laura pulls up in front of Stiles' place she raises a hand in farewell as Stiles slides slowly across the seat towards the door. Derek doesn't acknowledge his departure until Stiles is climbing out of the car.

"See you tomorrow," he says quietly, and Stiles trips over his own feet and almost concusses himself on the door as he closes it.

"Sorry?" Stiles stares at Derek's shadowed face, forgetting he hadn't wanted Derek to see him doing that.

"At the store." Derek leans forward slightly, and the streetlight catches on the lines of his face through the open window. It's a good look for him. "For your uniform. Blood Pit, right?"

"Uh," Stiles says, mind blank.

Derek blinks at him, waiting for an answer Stiles doesn't have, and then Laura whacks him on the back of the head.

"Stop talking to Dan!" she says angrily. "You know he only sends those kids in because he wants to give me the business."

"You're the only place in town that doesn't think slutty princess is a legitimate costume," Derek says. "I don't think you can take the patronage of the proprietor of the Haunted House as a declaration of undying love."

"Can too!" Laura huffs. Her eyes flicker to Stiles like she's just remembered he's still listening to this. "It's no less ridiculous than your little--"

"I'm telling mom about--" Derek starts, making a futile attempt to match Laura in volume, but Laura peels away before Stiles can find out what threat might be awful enough to make an impact.

"...Bye," Stiles says vaguely, and goes into the house.

*

The next morning, there's a text from Dan waiting for him when he wakes up, instructing him to get his ass over to Laura's for a uniform fitting.

"Great," he says. "Thanks, Dan."

Despite Dan's doubts, Stiles is entirely au fait with the application of sarcasm. He chooses to resent Dan for forcing him to deploy it so often, because he doesn't want to dwell on the other things he resents Dan for right now.

Stiles rolls over and goes back to sleep, and when he eventually gets out of bed he has other things to do, he swears, like clean the stove, he's been meaning to do that for whole minutes. So it's purely coincidental that it's after dark when he makes it to the costume store, and Derek is slumped behind the counter, a surly, silent, dominating presence that stops Stiles dead for a second, as if Derek is a revelation, a surprise of any kind.

Seeing Derek is always a shock, though, a shock to his system, to his washed-clean mind.

Derek is watching him, had watched him come through the door, and Stiles' brain doesn't have the chance to complete its reboot, because when Derek flashes a brief, blinding smile at him and murmurs a low greeting, Stiles is moving towards him without a thought, choice not an option, or maybe just long past.

"Hey," Stiles says. "Guess you know what's on my schedule better than I do."

"Dan always sends his employees over for a new uniform when they change roles," Derek tells him.

"And he discusses the minutiae of his workday with you."

"Dan thinks everybody's interested in his stuff," Derek says, sounding bored, "But no. He calls ahead to tell us what he needs since that time he sent someone over for a Chainsaw Massacre and they came back as the Bride of Chucky."

"Can I have a Hellraiser?" Stiles asks hopefully. "I want a Hellraiser."

"No," Derek says, getting to his feet and strolling away through the racks. "Sorry. You're an insane, homicidal medical practitioner--honestly, the costume isn't much. That one isn't even in the make-up, it's in the expression."

"Can you stop talking?" Stiles says abruptly.

"Okay," Derek says, blinking once before turning away.

"Because this is not a reassuring conversation for me," Stiles continues. "I was nervous enough before you told me that I would need expressions." Derek is staring down at him, mouth slightly open. "I don't think I can do expressions," Stiles decides mournfully.

"I think you'll manage," Derek says dryly, licking his lips and shutting his mouth firmly. Stiles isn't staring, or anything. He just notices. He notices when Derek frowns, too, but he doesn't like that as much. "How come you never came back?"

"What?" Stiles asks blankly. Derek's lips are parted again as he waits for an answer, which is preventing Stiles from being able to give him one. It's distracting.

"You never came back for a new uniform," Derek says, and Stiles means to reply, but his brain stutters to a stop, and his vocal cords get tangled up in the threads of his disbelief. "People get fired or they come back. You never came back."

Stiles is still trying to process the fact that Derek knows that, that Derek noticed his presence and his absence, noticed him at all, when Derek plucks a tattered, bloodstained doctor's coat off a rail.

"I never needed a new costume," Stiles says, surprised at the hoarseness of his voice. "I never switched roles."

"Huh." Derek doesn't comment, just holds the article of clothing out. Stiles doesn't need the direction; he's already staring at a tarnished button, world beyond the dirty white cloth blurring and fading. He blinks, trying to keep focus.

"Can I have a stethoscope?"

"Not in the budget," Derek says impatiently. "Come on."

"Budget?"

"Thirty bucks," Derek tells him, and when Stiles makes an outraged face he adds, "Your last one was twelve."

"Twelve dollars!" He's worn that stupid costume for years. All twelve dollars of it.

"Allison's was ten," Derek says blandly. "Recession."

Stiles gives a reluctantly mollified humph, and takes the coat. Derek takes it back, undoes the single fastened button, and holds it out, ready for Stiles to slip his arms into the sleeves.

Stiles does it, but he feels really awkward until Derek's hands settle on his shoulders; then he just feels like he's about to jump out of his skin. Derek's hands turn Stiles to the side, and then his eyes are on Stiles in the full-length mirror on the wall, on the buttons of the coat as he does them up.

Stiles' eyes are on Derek's hands, but he doesn't really see them, isn't aware of much beyond the warm pressure of Derek's knuckles as they drag up his torso.

"Wrong size," Derek decides, startling Stiles into actually looking at his own reflection.

"Oh, but--"

"Next one down."

"But my uniform is supposed to be baggy!" Stiles protests in dismay.

"Not your lab coat." Derek is already holding out the replacement size.

"And black," Stiles continues. Objections are occurring to him faster than he can spill them out. "Nobody ever noticed when I spilled coffee down my uniform. Because it was black!"

"Did that happen a lot?"

"Yes," Stiles answers, though he doesn't think Derek expects a reply. "Because I drink a lot of coffee! What am I supposed to do if I can't drink coffee?"

"Stimulants are bad for you," Derek says critically, and Stiles gapes at him in the mirror, cranks his head around to stare at the real thing.

Stiles says stuff like that to other people: other people do not say stuff like that to him. "Man, that is annoying," Stiles says, and then, outraged, "Why did nobody ever tell me how annoying that is before? I would've cut that crap out!"

"No you wouldn't," Derek says, "but can you cut it out now?"

"What?"

Derek makes an exasperated noise low in his throat, flings the outfit he's holding over the top of a railing of child-sized Frankenweenie costumes, and starts unbuttoning Stiles' coat. The process goes more quickly this time, Stiles thinks, but he's too distracted to be sure. The coat gets caught on Stiles' elbows, and Derek spends a couple seconds working it off. Stiles spends those few seconds trying to catch his breath, though he knows it's ridiculous to have lost it.

The movements of Derek's hands are less impatient when he's helping Stiles shrug into the second size, when he's buttoning Stiles back up, settling the material onto Stiles' shoulders with minute, businesslike adjustments, when he's smoothing the fabric down with broad, long sweeps of his palms over Stiles' body.

"Yeah," Stiles says, still breathless, mindless now, though there's no reason for it. He hasn't looked at his reflection, though he doesn't notice that until Derek puts his hand on Stiles' jaw to turn it towards the mirror, away from Derek's face over Stiles' shoulder, away from Derek's mouth, right beside his, and once he's let himself notice that, he isn't really capable of noticing anything else. "Yeah," he says again, all his attention on the warmth of his back where Derek's chest is lightly pressed against it, on the warmth of Derek's fingers where they're curled around his hip.

"Yeah," Derek decides, and drops his hand, steps back.

Stiles is still reeling from the touch, so he doesn't have time to react to its sudden absence before Derek is back, holding out pants. "Try them on," he says, gesturing towards the store's fitting room, a piece of thick canvas attached to a railing that forms a tiny cubicle when closed. The coat reaches his knees, so he feels a little silly going inside to get changed, but he does it because Derek clearly expects him to; because he's afraid he's going to embarrass himself; because he needs a little space.

He feels twitchy once he's hidden behind the cloth covering, once he can't see Derek. He listens for Derek's breathing, for the sound of movement beyond the canvas, but he can't hear anything.

"You should take as many new uniforms as you can get away with," Derek says, and the unexpectedness of his voice, close and low, makes Stiles jump embarrassingly high. He flushes, though there's no way Derek can know. "Most people come in every year. Dan kind of trades in favours like that. Laura doesn't charge for it, but she makes him give her twelve family passes every year." Stiles isn't really listening, because he's getting ready to go out there again. "And maybe our family is big, but nobody's family is that big."

Stiles sweeps back the curtain and sidles out. Derek's mouth tightens as he checks his work over.

"You should come back next year. Get an upgrade."

"I might not make it through this year," Stiles admits miserably. "I hate being scared."

Derek is reaching out to touch again, to touch the coat, Stiles knows, but he still curses himself when Derek's hand stops in midair. He's looking at Stiles, mouth slightly open, and that's some compensation, but not enough. "You--"

"I hate Halloween," Stiles says. "I hate scary movies. I hate zombies, and I hate vampires, even the kissyface eternal virgin kind, and I hate werewolves."

"Ah--"

"I hate Gremlins, especially at Christmas. Who would want to ruin Christmas like that? What kind of a Christmas movie is Gremlins?"

"Almost as good as Die Hard--"

"And I hate Cujo. He is a bad dog. And that dumb car. And clowns. Not even just the murderous kind. And doctors that try to kill people."

There's silence when Stiles' outburst dies away. "The costume is fine," Derek says. "And you're supposed to be scaring other people. I think you might enjoy that."

"Wait," Stiles says. "What kind of doctor am I supposed to be? Because Dan said I'd have a bonesaw, right, so I should be a surgeon? But I can't have a stethoscope if I'm a surgeon."

Derek's eyebrow goes up as much because of Stiles' attempt to reel in the previously denied accessory as because of the change of subject.

"But who would even know I was a doctor without a stethoscope? I could be a scientist."

"Maybe you are," Derek agrees. "Maybe you're Frankenstein. We don't provide your character's work history, Stiles. Do you need shoes?"

He's looking at Stiles' feet, and Stiles feels his toes curl uncomfortably. He thinks Derek can probably see the spasm through the socks, so he tries to straighten them out, but they don't quite make it all the way. "I have shoes," Stiles says, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at the changing room.

"I mean do you have shoes that could reasonably pass as a doctor's," Derek tells him, mouth curving in amusement. "I wasn't asking whether you'd lost your Adidas somewhere in the five feet you moved away."

"I have shoes for church," Stiles suggests.

Derek hums, allowing it. "You have four dollars left," he says.

The stethoscope is eight, but Derek throws it in anyway.

*

Scott calls him the next afternoon.

"Why did Hot Guy from Costume Store mug me for your number just now?" he asks, sounding irritable.

"We're not calling him that anymore," Stiles informs Scott. "He's a real person now. Wait, what?"

"Yeah," Scott says.

"Did you give it to him?" Stiles squeaks, hardly knowing which possibility has him feeling so alarmed.

"He's pretty big," Scott says. "Plus sometimes his face gets pretty scary. Sorry."

"You don't sound sorry," Stiles tells him, properly indignant now that his heart is calming.

"I can pretend?" Scott offers. "But can you leave me out of it? Because I have another date with Allison tonight, and I don't want him weird-facing her. I think he was wearing something from the store, and man, it was freaky. Tell him to leave it at work."

Stiles' phone vibrates against his cheek as it receives a text, and he burbles something out at Scott and hangs up so he can read it.

It says, Dan owes you two years of uniforms.

"Oookay," Stiles says, adds Derek's number to his phone, and texts back, I'd rather stick with my old one.

You should come in, Derek replies. I'll fit you for more.

Stiles' fingers clench around the smooth curves of his phone. He can't think of a thing to say. He thinks about driving over there, but he doesn't think Derek is at work right now. Eventually, he sends back, You must really want more people to fit.

He doesn't even know what that means.

There's a longer interval before he gets, I hate fitting people.

Stiles remembers Derek's hands on the buttons of his costume, on his shoulders and chest and his hips, and he wonders how much adjustment a Halloween costume really needs.

He doesn't give himself time to consider, just sends over, Honoured, man.

He isn't sure what he's expecting--smirking agreement, maybe, or something more unkind--but the screen of his phone goes black, and nothing arrives to light it up again.

*

Dan makes him model his new uniform before he'll give it the thumbs-up, and then he gives it the literal thumbs-up while saying, "Awesome creepy old man shoes, dude. Very accurate. Did Laura give you those because she's into me?"

"These are my shoes," Stiles says.

"Oh," Dan says. "But she's into me, right?"

"I wear them to church."

"That would explain it."

"Do you know Laura?" Stiles asks. "I had no idea. She didn't mention you at all."

"But you did, right?"

"Why would I mention you?"

Dan's shoulders slump. The tee today is Foo Fighters; Dan is breaking his years-long streak of living in his own filth.

"Why do I even send you guys over there," he mutters, turning away dejectedly.

"Sell out," Stiles hisses, and ducks behind the oncoming crowd of assorted terrifying ghouls before Dan can grab him.

"One Hot Minute is--slightly underrated!" Dan yells over the heads of the people separating them. "And Navarro's work on the guitar is a thing of genius and joy!"

Stiles bumps into Allison once he makes it through the swarm.

"Hi, Stiles," she says brightly. "Dan says you're supposed to show me how to work the register."

"Fine," he huffs. "But I still don't like you." That's a lie, because Stiles has mastered lying too, much like stupid Dan, with his stupid lies about having trained Allison already. "Job-thieving dater of best friends."

"Just one," she says, dimpling as she slips her hand through his arm and drags him off to the office.

He's getting pretty fond of Allison, but he's still in a bad mood when he leaves her to run through everything one more time on her own, so he doesn't let himself think about what he's doing until he's parked in front of the costume store.

And then he goes in anyway.

Derek is sitting behind the desk again, watching him approach.

"Hey," Stiles says nervously, slapping his palms down on the counter, hoisting himself up and letting his arms support his weight, just so he has something to do.

"Coming over?" Derek asks, leaning back, utterly relaxed, gaze tracking down Stiles' body. The desk is only waist high, so there's quite a lot of it on display.

Stiles considers it, considers launching himself across the counter and into Derek's lap, wonders what that might do to Derek's controlled amusement. He sets himself back down instead. "Nah, just restless, sorry. What's your favourite scary movie?"

"In for another uniform?"

"Forgot to ask Dan," Stiles tells him. He hadn't forgotten, but he'd been too afraid that Dan would say yes, that he'd have to come back here and have Derek touch him again. That he'd get to do that. He breathes out. "Just looking for something to wear to the work party."

"The Howling," Derek says suddenly, and Stiles blinks at him until he remembers.

"Oh. Old school. Not that scary."

"What's yours?"

"Have you ever seen The Witches?" Stiles asks. "I couldn't sleep alone for a month. I never wanted to go back to school."

"You really don't like scary things," Derek says, thoughtful.

"Or maybe I Walked With a Zombie," Stiles offers. "I'm not sure."

"I've never heard of that."

"I've seen everything," Stiles says glumly. "Scott makes me watch 'em all."

"So don't," Derek says, rising, and when Stiles tilts his head back to look at him, his eyes are a bright challenge. "If you don't enjoy it you shouldn't do it."

"Scott's my friend." Stiles can't look away. "It's no big deal." Derek breaks their gaze and sits back down abruptly, and Stiles deflates, stumbles a little as he takes the opportunity to back away. "I'm just going to look--"

"If you're scared of everything and everything you do is because you're scared," Derek says flatly, "that's a big deal."

"It would be," Stiles says furiously, "if it were true," and flings away into the animal suit section.

He thinks about storming out of the store, but then he realises he's holding a gorilla suit up like he's trying to hide behind it, and he drops it on the ground and storms back to Derek instead.

"You don't know anything about me," he says calmly.

"That's true," Derek says, staring at his computer. It's the first time Stiles has seen him look at it. "And I really shouldn't. This was stupid. You don't need to keep coming back this year. You never buy anything anyway."

"Great," Stiles says blankly. "Thanks for that."

"Good luck tomorrow night," Derek says to his back. Stiles keeps walking.

*

Stiles probably has a lot to do the next day, because it's his first night pretending to be a dead psychiatrist or a serial-killing veterinarian, or a postal particle physicist or whatever, but the only thing he makes time to do is swing by the costume store.

He slams through the door and he slams his hands down on the counter, and he yells, "What the hell is his problem?"

Laura smiles politely at him through every second of this, and then she grits out, "I will take your head off its neck. Children."

When Stiles looks around, a kindergarten teacher from Pleasantville is glaring at him, looking like she's ready to tackle him with the rubber knife in her hand, and several of the students from the montessori down the road look like they're going to cry.

"Aha!" he coughs out, wincing. "Sorry."

"You will be," the terror in the twinset says, and then Laura shoves him into the changing room and yanks the canvas closed.

Stiles has to listen to a truly frightening amount of low-voiced invective while the teacher makes her purchases, but the store is empty when Laura draws the curtain back.

"Oh my god," Stiles says. "I thought kids were banned."

"Normally we don't let anybody in a fairy costume past the door," Laura agrees, and Stiles almost whimpers when he remembers tiny Tinkerbell's trembling lips. "But Marlene is family, and her ideas on education are really kind of--"

"Okay," Stiles says.

"I wouldn't go that far," Laura says. "She isn't terrible, but--"

"What is your brother's problem?"

Laura stares at him. Her lips twitch. "You're going to learn not to give me an opening like that," she says, and strides to the front door to flip the sign around.

"That's--encouraging," Stiles says. Encouraging and befuddling.

"He's an idiot," Laura says, sitting down on the leather stool behind the desk, leaning against the wall, and pulling out a sandwich. "He's worse than Dan sometimes. But he says you're scared of monsters and you expose yourself to them anyway." Her eyes twinkle for a second, and then the merriment dies. "I can understand how that would be a problem for him."

"This isn't really helping me," Stiles says. "You sound like Yoda."

"Yeah," she says, barking out a laugh. "But I can't really explain, sorry. It's a shame, because little dude is so into you."

"Uh," Stiles says. "He is?"

"Man, he might as well be writing Mr and Mr all over his textbooks in pink sparkly marker," Laura says gleefully. "He is ridiculous. It's the greatest."

"He doesn't know me," Stiles says blankly. "He doesn't even know who I am. We met two days ago!"

"To be fair," Laura says, attention on the contents of her sandwich, one finger pushing an unruly onion into place, "You have been coming around stinking of sex at him for three years."

"Uh," Stiles says, "I have not!"

"Not actual sex," she corrects, sounding annoyed. "You know, your sex, like--desire," she finishes primly, rolling her eyes. "He was always going to notice." And then, oddly defensive, "It isn't his fault you didn't know he'd notice."

"Notice what," Stiles says, lost. "I didn't do anything, I barely even--"

She's shaking her head, putting the remains of her sandwich down on the counter, rising to her feet so she can take his arm. "This isn't a good scene for you. You should go home."

She's towing him along in her wake, but he tries, "I want to know what's--"

She's still shaking her head. "You really don't."

Stiles spins to face her. "I want to figure this out," he says, frustrated and honest.

"It doesn't matter," she says, "you wouldn't be able to handle it if you did," and shuts the door in his face.

On to Part 2

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