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feel like i win when i lose

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"You've got to be kidding me," Derek mumbled to himself, staring in horror as he put the car into park.

This was the problem when it came to agreeing to help Stiles. One of the problems, really—there was Stiles' fascination with asking questions that really had no good answer, his tendency to charge into confrontations armed with little more than a baseball bat and a fistful of mountain ash, and the fact that he thought that a Big Gulp was an appropriate thing to bring on an all-night stakeout. Having to interrupt a hunt for pixies because Stiles needed a bathroom break was just so undignified.

But one of the biggest problems, the one that Derek was facing right now, was the way Stiles frequently failed to give him all the information about what was going on. When Derek had checked his phone after leaving his therapy session, it had been to a series of texts which said

found w/ ghosts r cmin frm, need ur help 2 smite cos scott on date

bring bag of rock salt & something iron

did u kno john & abigail adams hd a dog called satan btw??? nt relevant jst funny

224 w beacon ave @ 7

Not one of those texts had mentioned that 224 West Beacon Avenue was the address of the historic Beacon Hills courthouse, built back when the city was still called Calico and was a rest stop for people drawn west by the Gold Rush. Derek remembered driving past it sometimes when he was a kid, the roof sagging and the walls covered in graffiti, long since abandoned for a larger and more modern facility. Laura and Rob had tried to freak him out every time with talk of how the courthouse had done double-duty as a jailhouse, with convicted criminals hanged out front and then buried in a mass grave out back.

"They say that if you come up here on moonless nights," Laura had said in her best stage whisper, "you can still hear the moaning of the condemned men about to make a short drop and a sudden stop."

"Ghoooosts," Rob would moan, clutching at his neck, until Derek said, "Mooom, tell them to stop," and their mother had threatened to turn the car around.

It looked like Laura had been right about the place being haunted, though you wouldn't guess to look at it now—at some point while Derek had been away, the courthouse had been renovated and a big sign out front now proclaimed 'Beacon Hills Community Arts Centre.' The roof was repaired, the walls had been painted a bright and uniform white, and over the front door there was a huge sign that said 'ABBA REBJÖRN: Tribute Concert, One Night Only.' There were already people streaming in through the doors, wearing more sequins than Derek could ever remember seeing in one place, and he'd once gone out clubbing in the Castro.

Derek sighed and checked the pockets of his jacket to make sure that he still had the salt and the small iron ingot before he climbed out of the car. Jeans, a leather jacket and a t-shirt were fine to wear to a therapy session, but he stood out like a sore thumb when he was surrounded by people reliving the high points of 1974. It'd be just his luck if someone had already called the sheriff to report him for suspicious behaviour. He really should find Stiles and arrange for them to come back the following night.

As ever, Stiles wasn't hard to find—he was sitting on a low wall that ran up one side of the entrance steps, wearing one of his seemingly endless collection of brightly-coloured hoodies and chewing on a Twizzler. "Derek, hey," he said when he caught sight of Derek, "awesome. You ready to do some supernatural smiting to the soundtrack of some of the best music of the 70s and 80s?"

"We're coming back tomorrow," Derek said.

"Greetings, salutations, hail-fellow-well-metses," Stiles said, getting to his feet. "We've been working on these, dude, you'd been doing so well with the whole social interaction thing."

Derek rolled his eyes. "Hi, Stiles."

"And it's tonight or the ghosts keep murderating people. They have to be exorcised on the night of the anniversary of their death or no deal."

"Murderating isn't a word," Derek pointed out. What were his life choices, that he'd majored in English lit at Columbia and now spent most of his time hanging around with Stiles Stilinski, someone who had once spent an entire afternoon speaking in Pig Latin 'ecausebay itsway away anguagelay ofway underappreciatedway oetrypay.'

"Nope," Stiles said, making finger guns at Derek, "it's totally a creepy ghost action."

Derek sighed—he was finally starting to learn that some battles just weren't worth fighting—and looked pointedly over his shoulder at the crowds heading into the building. He thought he recognised one particularly loud group of a dozen or so as nurses who worked with Ms McCall; one of them was already hollering 'Can you hear the drums, Fernandoooo' in a singing voice that made Cora's sound good. "It's not exactly going to be easy to break in through a service door on a night when there's a concert on here. You realise that, right?"

"Totally," Stiles said, rummaging around in one of the pockets of his hoodie for a moment before brandishing something with a triumphant grin. "Which is why I bought us tickets!"

"To an ABBA tribute show," Derek said, "so that we can be in the audience while we vanquish the ghosts of some long dead nineteenth century cattle rustlers," because he felt that it was important to be as clear as possible about the surreal train wreck that this evening was turning into.

"Now you're getting into the spirit!" Stiles said, looking in his other pocket for something. "Glad you're singing a new song, Chiquitita."

"What the hell," Derek said, staring as Stiles produced a long, platinum blonde wig and tugged it on. "Do you actually like ABBA?"

"For once," Stiles said, trying in vain to smooth down the cheap, plasticky strands, "these are some murderous ghosts with fortuitous timing. ABBA is fucking awesome, dude, I will fight you on this. I brought this"—he pulled out a sad, crushed thing from the depths of his pocket which looked like a dead tarantula but which Derek realised with horror was probably originally a brunette wig—"if you want to be the Anni-Frid to my Agneta."

"I'm going to be arrested tonight," Derek said glumly. There was no way around it. Someone was definitely going to call the sheriff to say that a suspected murderer was hanging around with his eighteen-year-old son while cross-dressing.

"That's no way to talk about a night of reminiscences and fun sing-alongs!" Stiles said, spreading his arms wide. "Where else in Beacon Hills are you going to see this many people dancing in platform boots, huh? Or hear catchy pop songs commemorating a Napoleonic battle, stadium concert lights, colonial explorers or the Mexican Revolution, huh?"

"Nowhere," Derek said, and who would have thought he'd be saying that most of this town had something going for it.

"Dude, come on, there's no need to be such an Eeyore about this! It'll be fun—a little music, a little dancing—then we linger when the audience starts to leave and boom: Ghostbusters time! It's like the perfect work-life balance thing we've got going here."

Derek was on the verge of saying no and walking off when he was caught by the look on Stiles' face—he was trying to come across as blasé, but there was a weird kind of tension there, an odd kind of hope. Derek blinked. "Is this a date?"

"It isn't… not a date," Stiles said, looking resolutely over Derek's shoulder. "Schrödinger's tribute concert, kind of thing."

Derek hesitated for a long moment. There were so many reasons why he should walk away—starting with the fact that Stiles had a future while Derek was only just beginning to come to terms with his past—but Stiles was holding himself so still that he almost seemed to vibrate with it. Derek couldn't remember the last time he'd mattered that much to someone.

When Derek still hadn't said something, Stiles blurted out, "Just, my mom loved their music and we sang it a lot even when she was really sick because it made her happy. I liked seeing her smile and I thought, you know… I thought maybe you could do with some more smiling." Stiles shrugged, pulled off the wig, shuffled his feet. "Or you know, we could just set off the fire alarm, do the exorcism thing, call it a night, no big."

Derek took a deep breath and then held out his hand to Stiles. "Voulez vous?"

The smile that broke across Stiles' face was glorious to behold. "Oh my god, you do like them! And me, you like me, right, quoting ABBA songs at me and initiating hand holding means we're having a total love connection here, right?"

"I'm not going to wear the wig," Derek warned him.

"That is so, so not the deal-breaker here," Stiles said, and he was still grinning when he reached out to take Derek's hand.

(Inside the auditorium, they shared a row of seats with Stiles' drag queen friends from Jungle, Derek surprised himself by remembering all the lyrics to 'Mamma Mia', and they were able to sneak out into one of the service corridors to exorcise the unexpectedly repentant ghosts during the intermission.

Stiles pressed him up against the wall afterwards and said, "Hey, we've got five whole minutes before the show starts back up again. That a lump of iron in your pocket, Mr Hale, or are you just happy to see me?" He waggled his eyebrows in a way that should have been irritating; the fact that it wasn't let Derek know that he must have been falling for far longer than just tonight.

The hell with it, he thought, and wrapped his arms around Stiles before launching into, "Honey I'm still free, take a chance on me."

Stiles let out a belly laugh. "Oh my god, you dick, you've been holding out on me, how did I not know you can sing?" he said, before pushing his hands up under the hem of Derek's shirt and kissing him until they were both panting, until the music started up again and Derek could feel the vibrations rolling through him, right down to the soles of his feet.

The lifetime ban from the Beacon Hills Community Arts Centre was worth it.)