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It wasn’t like Stiles was in love with him or whatever. Besides, it wasn’t even the time or place to be in love, and it’s not like he knows Derek well.

Okay, he needs to back up and explain things. So, Stiles is just your average Anthropology/Chemistry double major at a normal, D1 basketball school (suck it Harris). Freshman year his best buddy Scott decided he should try to walk on to the school’s basketball team. It wasn’t like they were awful or hurting for players, but Scott wanted to. Scott hadn’t even played basketball in high school!

But Allison from across the hall was trying out for the cheer and dance squad, so Scott needed to try out as well.

It was Stiles who called the assistant coach, a woman who went by ‘Morrell, it’s easier than Coach’, it was Stiles that explained what was up, and it was Stiles that got the both of them to meet Morrell, then to the first open practice. It was just their luck that three of the junior players had been suspended (with their scholarships) because of some coke that had been found in their dorm. This lead Scott to becoming a benchwarmer (and Allison’s boyfriend) and Stiles to … well, being a student manager.

It wasn’t glamorous, but Morrell had pulled him aside after Scott’s first practice (that he had stayed for with Scott’s inhaler in his pocket) and asked him to step in as a student manager. She had been impressed with his promptness with replies to her phone calls and emails and how he had herded Scott to the gym early and had made him stretch out. He had argued that he had been prompt because he would have forgot to if he hadn’t right away with his ADHD, but she didn’t care. She introduced him to Coach Finstock, who was batshit crazy but seemed to like him, and the rest was history.

Including the next practice, where he met Derek Hale.

Stiles had spent the two days between the first and second practice going to classes, working on labs with Lydia (who had demanded they be partners in Chemistry II, the only freshmen in the class), and doing research on his team. The team. Whatever.

They were a relatively young team, and so they had relatively young players, mostly sophomores. It seemed as if they had built up a strong team of seniors the year before, only to have all of them graduate. The sophomores had all had barely any playing time the year before, but had good high school records. One had redshirted – Hale. He was also the only one without a picture. However, his older sister was the star of the women’s team, so Stiles had some idea what he looked like. Hale’s profile picture on Facebook was oddly of a wolf, his header a basketball going into a net. It was also locked down.

Otherwise, they looked like they had potential – Whittemore, Boyd, Lahey, Mahealeani, the Carver twins, a few juniors like Jordan Parrish who were going to have a good year, and Scott. He was sure Scott was going to toast by the end of the season, if not the year, but that was why Stiles had to be there.

The second practice, Stiles dropped Scott off then went and had a serious conversation with the team’s medic, Deaton, about Scott’s asthma. It had become better as Scott had aged, but Stiles still wanted Deaton know every single detail.

Deaton asked Stiles to not speak to him again unless something was wrong after that.

It wasn’t until the third practice that Stiles finally met Hale, Derek. Sophomore. 6’0”. Power Forward. Stiles had been getting his own custom shirt from the wardrobe people – “This isn’t the theatre department, Stiles, I’m an outfitter” – and was changing out of the uncomfortably tight khakis that Lydia had purchased for his little uniform and back into his jeans when he heard a locker slam near his head.

He promptly fell over. Thankfully he fell the other way, so he had his head his the weirdly colored carpeting instead of the hard lockers. He looked up to see an Adonis with an impressive frown on his face. His mind scanned through all of the pictures of players on the website and the ones he had met before his mind hit it. “Hale!”

Hale cocked his head.

“You’re Derek Hale. I’m Stiles!” He offered Derek his hand. Derek looked at it, then back at Stiles’ face. “I’m one of the new student managers?”

Derek scanned his body. “You probably need to finish putting on your pants.” He then turned and exited the locker room, his ass showcased by a pair of basketball shorts.

It was at that moment Stiles knew Derek Hale would never like it. It was also the moment Stiles fell in love (with his ass).

Later on, he fell in love with Derek too.

And now it was four years later, Derek’s super senior year and Stiles’ actual senior year, and something had changed.

---
It wasn’t like Derek was in love with him or anything. Derek had a life before Stiles Stilinski tripped over his pants in the locker room, and he has had a life after. He’s dated, though he could say the same for Stiles. However, it was some sick pleasure Derek had in knowing that Stiles had exactly three dates with Jordan at the end of Jordan’s senior year and five dates with some crazy artist before being thrust back into the single sphere the beginning of Stiles’ own junior year.

Derek had Jennifer when he and Stiles had first met, and then Braeden on and off over the past two years. She was more of a friend with benefits, but every party and team event she was there smiling.

But over the years, it was Stiles’ smile that haunted his dreams. Stiles’ laughter that he looked forward to hearing on the long bus rides to and from games. Stiles he foolishly wished he would get roomed with, though he knew Boyd would kill him if they switched and Stiles would probably steal into any room McCall was in and sleep under his bed or something. Stiles he wanted to be seated near during team dinners and formal events.

But anyway, it was nothing. Derek would be graduating this year (as would Stiles) and they would go their separate ways and nothing would change. Derek would be going to whatever law school accepted him (with his two degrees, 4.0, and probably the SEC player of the year three years in a row) and Stiles would probably go on to get his PhD in something and end up teaching some undergrads somewhere.

At least, that is what kept Derek up at night.

Until their last semester of college.
---
Stiles loved Lydia, he really did. He understood why she had transferred over to MIT to finish her masters in the same time it would take him to finish he two degrees, but it had made his capstone in chemistry something to be nervous about as opposed to excited. He had spent his junior year and half of the first semester finishing up his anthro degree, and this semester was two capstone classes, a blow off discussion class on the Great American Novel, and a random chemistry class he had to take for requirements.

The anthro capstone was easy – he had finished up his thesis over winter break. The team had been on a hot streak, and so he had ample mounts of time on the bus, between games, during practices and in hotel rooms to finish. It was his second draft too – Lydia had edited it in her free time, so he was confident that it would be a breeze.

Chemistry, however, had him sweating. He had no idea what to do for his capstone and hadn’t even bothered to check who was in his Gen Chem class. It would probably be a bunch of sophomores who would already know each other and he would be stuck with someone like Greenburg, who is the equipment manager and kind of freaks Stiles out.

It would’ve been fine if he hadn’t known the dude in high school and he had not been this weird. The only saving grace about Greenburg is that Finstock was weirdly obsessed with him, so any vitriol or odd comments got directed at Greenburg over him.

So, at 10 AM on a Monday morning, Stiles walked into his 300 level chemistry class to see Derek Hale fiddling with his school notebook. Derek looked up and Stiles swore that Derek gave him a smile. He was sure he had been given a head nod though.

Stiles took a deep breath and sat in the seat next to Derek. “Hey.”

Derek turned solemnly. “You’re my lab partner.”

Stiles’ eyes widened. “Sure.” He squeaked out, then he cleared his throat. He knew Derek, they were … acquaintances. While Stiles admired him aesthetically (and mentally, he had such a mind for the law and it was so sexy to listen to him argue with Boyd about invasion of privacy and the level that the media should have on celebrities’ lives), Derek wasn’t interested in anything about Stiles. Except maybe being his lab partner. “Of course man. Yeah.”

“It’s a requirement. This class.” Derek added on.

“This is an upper level chemistry class?” Stiles replied.

“I have a minor in physics. Did it all my freshman year. Most of it.” He corrected.

“Oh, cool. My second degree is in chem, obviously. Well, I think obviously because, you know, you’ve probably heard me bitch about it on the bus at least once…”

His rambling was cut off by the professor entering the room.

---
Derek was relieved to have Stiles and his babbling next to him in this chemistry class. His advisor for his minor had insisted he push himself a little and only gave him an override for this class instead of the sound of physics class he wanted. So here he was in analytical chemistry.

Admittedly it did make sense. He was going to be challenged, and the rest of his schedule was laughably easy. He had finished his political science requirements the semester before, and this semester was full of drama classes. He had fought hard to have it as a second major. He thought it added something, the performance side of politics that the other degree lacked. It was a strong department but at the same time, he wanted to be different.

Plus learning about lights and how to make chairs was interesting to him. A way to blow off steam that wasn’t shooting a ball at a basket. Sometimes he got tired of basketball and wanted to do something analytical and precise by himself. He was an introvert and sometimes team time was just too much. It was why he lived with Boyd.

Waiting as the class disappeared so he could give the professor his approved absence schedule, he noticed Stiles wasn’t leaving either. “What are you doing?”

“Giving her my schedule? I travel too, you know.”

Which was true. Derek hadn’t considered that Stiles had to turn in forms just like he and Scott did. It was kind of right though. Games without Stiles weren’t the same – he always kept a spare pair of socks in his travel bag for Derek because Derek hated sweaty socks, he always led sing-alongs on the bus when people needed to get pumped, he knew every person’s name and had the respect of the cheerleaders. He was the one who made wakeup calls for the players, the one who brokered for tutors and private study spaces.

“Do you want to just give her yours with mine? It’s the same schedule.” Stiles offered.

“It isn’t.” Derek said shortly. He chided himself for that remark. “Drama stuff I have to tell her about.” He was a member of the technical club and they were going on a conference right after basketball season. It was the first time in five years he could go – it was in mid-April – and he was club president so he wanted to go and show how talented he was with his hands.

He wished he could tell Stiles that he was good with his hands in all kind of ways. But Stiles never really seemed interested in being his friend – Derek had never made an effort either but everyone was his friend. Even Boyd, who talked less than Derek. Boyd said it was because of Stiles’ dressing down of a notorious racist in the anthro department.

“Oh, okay. I’ll just give her this and skedaddle. See you this evening!” With that, Stiles fled. Derek sighed and pulled himself from the desk slowly.
---

Skedaddle? Could Stiles be any more of a nerd? Come on Stilinski, he told himself, you can be cool around Derek and his everything.

Stiles meant his everything. Derek did so much and Stiles and his creepy stalker ways knew all about them. His presidency of the technical theatre club, his stints at local summer community theatre, his membership in the Alliance community. Derek wasn’t perfect – he had a temper, he was a sore loser – but he had a lot going for him, and he had calmed down a lot since they first met.

It also helped that Laura graduated and took a coaching job for the UConn women’s team and their uncle Peter had transferred somewhere far, far away from Stiles and his everything. And Lydia and her everything too.

The first two weeks of chemistry were normal. Derek and Stiles interacted as normal, with blabbering from Stiles and silence from Derek unless it was to ask Stiles to read a number. Derek recorded every single detail in his fastidious handwriting and then scanned Stiles copies so he could actually read what he was writing. This wasn’t for courtesy, Stiles knew, but because Derek hated his handwriting after a day his sophomore year when Stiles had taken all of the socks to the laundromat and Derek had left his socks in his locker. He thought someone had stolen his socks and had Isaac and Boyd help him go through every corner of the room, only to have Stiles come back an hour later with a finished textbook and a cornucopia of folded socks.

Stiles still maintains that it wasn’t his fault.

It wasn’t until a travel game that things began to go sideways. Stiles had been sitting in his room, eating his supermarket sub and doing an outline for his capstone when a knock came at the door.

It was probably Scott, who had gone out drinking with the team and probably didn’t think about Isaac and Allison shoving their tongues down each other’s throats in front of him. Isaac had graduated but was ‘local’ to the team school they had played, so he had shown up. Scott and Allison had gone down in flames at the beginning of the school year, and over winter break Scott had checked Allison’s Instagram on Stiles’ phone and saw a picture of the two of them kissing. Stiles had never loved Isaac, so shit talking him had been easy while he fed Scott Cheetos on their apartment floor.

He sighed and got out of bed and opened the door to find Derek. Derek, in a tank top, sleep pants and glasses, tapping a bare foot against the carpet of the hallway.

“Hey Derek.” Stiles said, leaning against the doorframe.

“Hey. I need your help with this.” Derek gestured to the books in his hands. “I know the homework isn’t due until Wednesday, but we have that big home game Tuesday night and I don’t want to forget or do a bad job.”

“Uh, yeah, sure I can help you. I did it during the bus ride here.”

“I saw.” Derek intoned. “But thanks, Stiles.”

“Of course, man! That’s what friends do.”

Derek grinned at him. “Thanks.”

If Stiles hadn’t been gripping the doorframe, he might have swooned.
---

It wasn’t even that the homework was difficult, Derek scolded himself as he walked into Stiles’ room, it was that he couldn’t understand the fundamentals of this chapter. They normally did the labs before the follow up homework, but the professor’s wife had taken a tumble on some ice so class had been canceled. But they did had to do this dumb homework.

Derek looked between the two beds and sat on the tidier one. He had assumed it was McCall’s, but when Stiles sat down next to him, he figured maybe he had sat on the wrong one. Stiles made no motion to ask him to get up, and Derek slid up against the headboard.

They did the homework methodically and surely, and by the time they got to the last problem and Stiles had wandered off on some tangent, Derek was exhausted. He had napped before starting his homework, but he was still wiped from the best game he felt he had ever played.

He was listening to Stiles go on about how Lydia had sent him the SportsCenter clip where they showed Derek’s three pointer from midcourt when Derek finally nodded off.
--

Derek Hale was asleep.

Derek Hale was asleep in his bed.

Derek Hale was asleep in his bed with his head on Stiles’ shoulder.

Derek Hale had spent at least two hours with Stiles, interacting and working really hard on his chemistry homework, and was now sleeping with him. Stiles could go sleep in the spare and then share with Scott when he got back, but that would involve moving, and Stiles was pretty drowsy himself. He snapped a picture and sent it to Boyd with the caption ‘he’s in my room’. Boyd had red-shirted the year before due to a nasty shoulder injury and was Derek’s roommate. Boyd would worry if Derek was gone, even if it meant he could have Erica sleep in their room.

After he did his civic duty, he slid down into the sheets, Derek following him. He had brushed his teeth before Derek had come over, and sweet sleep was calling his name.

---

He woke up when Scott came in around 3, but only waved at him before falling back asleep in his warm bed. He didn’t even think twice about the warm hand covering his stomach or the bare foot between his own socked ones.
-----

Derek woke up to the smell of coffee and Stiles. It wasn’t bad, he mused, as he rolled over in his bed.

Then he remembered why it smelled like Stiles and sat up.

Stiles had ESPN on mute and CC, sitting next to him in bed. There were no artificial lights on, so his skin was cast in a warm golden glow from the slightly parted curtains, his eyes reflecting technicolor out at the world. He had been fiddling with his laptop, and when Derek moved he turned and smiled at him. “Morning, sleepyhead. There’s coffee in the pot and an extra toothbrush on the sink. Don’t worry,” he added, “it’s cinnamon toothpaste.”

Derek merely grunted and went into the bathroom to do his business. It was kind of sweet that Stiles remembered Derek hated mint toothpaste, he said as he brushed his teeth and splashed some water on his face.

Derek managed to get a few sips of coffee in before Scott woke up coughing. Derek had seen Scott lose his breath, and on the court the day before he hadn’t coughed until they got in the locker room after the game. Even then, Derek had thought it had been from the water that went down the wrong way when he saw Isaac.

Stiles groaned and tossed something at Scott. Scott took it and put it up to his mouth. Inhaler. “I told you, smoking bars are going to bring the asthma back.”

Scott gave Stiles and Derek the finger and Derek cracked up.
--------

Things changed after that. January moved into February, and every time the team traveled Derek would stay back and he and Stiles would work through their homework together. Stiles was glad because Derek was the one who gave him his capstone project idea, and it was easier to go into class and have a partner that got where he was coming from.

Stiles loved it, because he and Derek were maybe actually friends now? He also hated it, because he saw the softer side of Derek, in his glasses and his favorite sweatpants, getting annoyed with his little sister who was taking gen chem and bombing. He knew Derek’s favorite coffee drink, that he liked doing his workouts in the morning not because he was a morning person but because it meant he could go to sleep earlier. Derek actually thought Stiles was funny and brought up a joke that he had made almost two years ago and how it will pop into his mind spontaneously and have him in stitches.

Valentine’s was on a Sunday this year, and practice ended earlier in the afternoon than normal, but Derek still booked it out a half hour earlier than everyone else. Stiles had one of the younger managers handle after practice projects and bugged Boyd into telling him where Derek had gone off to.

It turns out Derek had done all of the technical work for the school’s production of The Vagina Monologues and his light board operator had mono so Derek had to step in and run the sound. It was a good performance, but it was even better to go up to Derek afterwards and tell him how much he enjoyed the show.

“Lights were just so amazing, when you used that lavender wash I just really understood-“Stiles said as he and Derek walked to their respective cars.

“Thanks.”

“What?”

“Thank you. For coming tonight. Boyd and Erica had plans and Cora and Laura are out of town with the women’s team and I figured no one would show up. So thanks Stiles.”

“No Braeden?”

“Nah, she and I – well, we weren’t anything serious. She doesn’t really like theatre anyway. Anyway, that’s me.” Derek said, gesturing to his black Camaro in all of its glory.

Then one of the best things ever happened to Stiles – Derek Hale hugged him in the middle of the drama department parking lot.

And then walked away.
-----

It was different with Stiles after that. Stiles was always physically affectionate with everyone, but suddenly it was like Stiles was everywhere. Rubbing his back when Derek was writing notes down in their lab notebook during chemistry. Giving him high-fives when tests and quizzes came back during chemistry. Knocking knees together when they were studying or almost laying on top of him when they were in hotel rooms studying.

If it had been anyone else Derek would’ve been really annoyed. But it wasn’t, so he wasn’t. It was comforting because they were on a winning streak going into the SEC Championship.

They were seeded second in the local tournament and if they made it they’d go to the Big Dance. They’d been close his junior year, but the loss of Parrish had set them back by a lot. Luckily, Scott had become really good at stealing it away from unsuspecting victims and Jackson had finally received that lobotomy everyone was waiting for him to get over the summer. Stiles had said it was because Lydia had found a serious boyfriend at MIT and Jackson wanted to prove he was worth her time. Again. For like, and Derek quoted, the seventeenth time since ninth grade.

The tournament had aligned perfectly with school’s spring break, and they were in coastal Florida for the tournament. It was nice, the tropical weather. It let him break out the shorts and flops whenever, and lounging by the pool right after practice was a great stress reliever. He had barely started to read a book he filched from Stiles, The Love of the Last Tycoon, when someone came up and blew on his neck.

He jumped, half because it was scary and half because that was a very erotic place for him. He turned to find Stiles & Scott standing behind him, their eerily matching smiles kind of creeping him out. “Come on, Derek, time to swim!” Scott cried as he dumped his towel on the bench next to Derek and jumped in the heated pool.

“Yeah, come on, Derek.” Stiles said nonchalantly, kicking off his slides and rubbing Derek’s dry hair with his towel. “Even Boyd is getting in.”

Derek turned to the pool and saw a very begrudging Boyd following Erica in.

“Don’t worry,” Stiles whispered in his ear while he wasn’t paying attention, “I’m not going to let them play chicken or anything. Just a little cool down from a hot practice.”

The only thing hot Derek was focusing on was the breath that Stiles was blowing into his ear, the sound of his words echoing in his eardrum. Derek sighed. “Fine.”

Stiles stood up and grinned. “Fine.” Stiles then proceeded to cannonball into the pool, getting anything in a five step radius wet, including Derek and his tank top.

“I’ll kill you.”
----

The games were going well, Stiles thought as he watched film of the last game from the final team they were playing. The dudes were all way taller than the average 6’ on their team and way bulkier. The only bulk that matched the ones on the other team on their own was Boyd, and even then it was equal to one of the tinier dudes on the opposition.

Stiles stayed up most of the night trying to work out a strategy, but by the time their 3 PM game came around, he still had nothing.

He was pacing in the locker room when Derek found him. Derek was always early, while Stiles tended to run on time.

“You okay?” Derek said as he changed shoes.

“Fine!” Stiles squeaked, almost echoing the first day of chemistry class. “I’m fine.” He calmed his tone. “I just – I really want to win.”

“Me too.”

“I just wish – I wish there was some lucky charm that we had. Like, all of the luck things people do never work for us, and I just wish there – there was something dumb to hold on to.”

“Something dumb?”

“Like a tradition? Going out in a certain order doesn’t do anything, we go out in the same order every game and we’ve lost three this season, our song has been the same song for at least five years, you all wear labeled socks and mismatching them would just drive me nuts, I don’t know what else there is!”

Derek thought quietly for a moment, lacing up his shoes and letting Stiles pace across the floor. He stilled himself, then grabbed Stiles by the shoulders and laid one on him.

It stopped the pacing for sure. In fact, it stopped everything besides the beating of both of their hearts for a solid half minute before Greenburg came in to do whatever pregame tasks he had.

“For luck.” Derek said, then went back to taking his things out of his bag.
---
Derek was not sure what came over him in the locker room as he walked out and warmed up almost mechanically. All they did was shoot before the game started and he could do that with the flu – had done it with the flu before – and so the shots were easy and practiced. It wasn’t until Stiles smiled at him when he went to take his warmup shirt off that he knew things were okay.

He went on the court and knew he was going to win this for them.
---
It was a blowout in Stiles’ books.

In fact, it was a blowout in SEC history. For a team that had only attended the NCAA tournament four times in thirty years, they had the best lead at both the half and at the end of the game ever. 120-55 with only five fouls total. No one was injured, no one got thrown out. Jackson didn’t even try to argue with the ref when he got called out for elbowing a guy.

It was a miracle.

He didn’t even care that it was awkward when he flung himself at Derek after the game ended and the teams shook hands. Derek, in return, hugged the daylights out of him and then took a hat that said winners on it and pushed it all the way over Stiles’ eyes. He then took the change of socks from Stiles’ hands and changed for the post-game interviews.

It was both hysterical and heartwarming. Stiles could literally feel the pull at his heartstrings as Derek walked towards the cameras.

----

Derek had scored 34 of the points tonight, a quarter in total, and he knew he would have to do interviews right after. He was named the SEC’s player of the year (again) and really wished it would have been Boyd or something. He didn’t mind the attention but he felt as if he had done nothing to deserve it. They were a team, y’know?

What he wanted to do instead of changing his socks, was kiss the shit out of Stiles. Instead he changed his socks, talked to a few cameras, and cut his own little string off of the net. They were the last conference to get called up, so they were then hustled back to the hotel and off to a plane.

It was Stiles that finally made time for them to catch up. He boarded the plane and gestured to Boyd to switch. Stiles held up his phone when Boyd made a silent argument. Boyd sighed and then went two rows forward to bother Scott.

“So, I emailed Professor Walters and she said we should be good with doing the labs when we get back as long as we keep up with the homework. Both of us have A’s and she doesn’t think our grades will slip during this, and I quote, ‘time of great excitement’.” Stiles cackled at the line, slapping his knee with amusement.

Derek took his hand and wrapped their fingers together. “Really is.”

“What?” Stiles said, a confused look on his face.

Derek squeezed his hand. “A time of great excitement.”

Stiles flushed.
----
Stiles wasn’t sure what they were doing, but Derek was over to do the homework the next day all the same. Texas was Texas, hot and sweaty, and Stiles didn’t like it at all. Instead, he and Derek sat comfortably in the conference room the hotel had set aside for players to do homework in it and dove into chemistry. They made a dent in their workload, attempting to hedge their bets and give them time to enjoy the city and the sights later. Or wherever they headed next, if they headed anywhere.

They were the fourteenth seed playing the third seed. They were really, really good and had played a lot more in round robins and that sort of thing. Their players were a variety of sizes and speeds and were a Big Name Team. Their mid-sized school from BFE, South Carolina wasn’t very promising in all of the pre-game numbers and Stiles kind of wanted to puke.

Derek had either ignored the nervous energy or was just as nervous himself because after the chemistry had been done for the day, he recited his monologues for his Shakespearean drama class to Stiles. All eight of them, two from four different plays, over and over again until a team member came into the room with a calculus book and the two ran to find some form of amusement.

Neither of them talked about the kiss, but that night at team dinner they sat next to each other, knees bumping, and no one said shit.
----
Derek wasn’t terribly worried. They wouldn’t be a Cinderella story if they won and no one really cared if they lost. Derek just wanted to play, and he knew deep down that this may be his last game ever playing college ball.

So he did what he had done the time before, called Stiles into the locker room before everyone else and planted one on him.

However, this one went a little further than the time before. Stiles reacted, his hands grabbing Derek’s waist and clinging on, nipping Derek’s upper lip before he pulled away. “For luck.”

Derek was a little dumbstruck. “For luck.”
----
They won.

They won by one point.

They won by one point that was a free throw after Derek had taken a knee to the groin.

They won by one point that Derek had scored.

The crowd had lost it, a lot of purple in the sea of grey for the other team. Derek was overwhelmed, so when Stiles came to hand him his socks, he gave the other man the world’s biggest hug, taking in the scent of Stiles before changing and going back out into the press melee.

When they got on the bus to go the airport from the hotel the next morning, Derek found himself seated next to Stiles again.

They didn’t talk about it.

Instead, they held hands and started a rewatch of Daredevil in preparation for the new season.
-----
They played the sixth seed in the next round, and Derek had managed a good ass squeeze and slap before he and Stiles had separated.

The adrenaline from that had him power them so far ahead in the first half that the second half had Scott change places with him.

Scott played, mostly in situations like this where they had a lead and wanted to rest Derek or, in previous seasons, Isaac or Parrish.

Scott murdered the second half. All of the shooting practice he did with people for defense had paid off, and he took the team that was already a little off by the power of the A-team the first half and smacked them into the ground. Even Stiles looked impressed at how mutilated Scott left them as he walked over to the bench after the buzzer.

“Scotty, man, hell yeah!” Stiles said, shaking him with excitement.

Scott laughed, and Derek realized this was one of those times where he needed to talk. “Seriously, Scott, good job. I’m surprised you haven’t been playing more often with shots like those.” Scott blushed and rubbed the back of his neck and suddenly it made sense. Scott really cared about what Derek thought and Derek had probably just made his performance matter a lot more. Scott really didn’t get praised at all by Coach, or by any of them besides Stiles, for his basketball skills and it was obvious that they had missed a chance for a good player to become great.

“Thanks, Derek.” Was all he managed to get in before Finstock had them both by the back of their jerseys and forced them towards the cameras.
---
They called it March Madness. What if it’s rubbing off on Derek? After that ass slap in the locker room, Stiles was beginning to reconsider this kissing Derek before games thing. Of course, this time it meant a good win AND Scott got to show off his mad skillz to both the media and to Coach. Of course, Scott also had to have a little oxygen straight from the tank when they got back to the hotel, but that was par for the course when Scott actually got to play.

It kind of sucked that Scott’s lungs were going out on him tonight though. It meant that Scott had to sit with Deaton, who was going to do his strange, silent mother henning all the way to Seattle where they were playing next. However, it led to Derek sitting with Stiles in the back row of the plane.

“Thanks, you know, for telling Scott he did well earlier. He really admires you, y’know, as a captain and as a player, and he’s worked really hard to get to this place where he can go a whole half without coughing or missing too many.”

Derek smiled at him. “Scott’s a good player. I think I’m going to ask Coach to sub him in second half next game. If he stops coughing. Aiden always loses momentum around the second half and I don’t want to be picking up the slack in a game against the number two seed in our division in the Sweet Sixteen.”

Stiles gave into the impulse to lean over and kiss his cheek. Derek grinned and grabbed for his hand. They slept like that, hands tangled, as they flew over the continental US. They spent the three days in between doing chemistry homework.

------
Admittedly the Sweet Sixteen game was a charm because the other team’s lead point guard went down hard on his knee two minutes into the game attempting a three pointer from half-court. After that his team went to pieces and couldn’t regroup in the second half when Scott came in and started to make threes while Derek defended him with his life.

They kissed before and after the game, huddled away in a small openfaced closet in the locker room. It was sweeter than before, a conversation more than a kiss of passion, of lust.

They were going to the Elite Eight, and every other team that had made it there were high seeds.
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The kiss before the Elite Eight was one that was rushed, more of a kiss that came with long time lovers as opposed to two people who still had no idea what their relationship status was and refused to talk about it until the tournament was over.

Those had been Stiles’ exact words, and they were echoing in Derek’s head as they went into second overtime. It was against a number one seed and they had been keeping it even for, by the statistician’s count, over thirty minutes of court time. It was a nail biter and when they went into timeouts it was what occupied Derek’s mind instead of Coach’s babbling. ‘I refuse to talk about this now, Derek. Wait until the tournament is over.’ Did that mean this was only for the tournament, only for show? Derek couldn’t handle that. He missed over half of his shots.

He wasn’t the only one messing up either. Jackson almost got thrown out due to a very violent knee lock with an opposing player, but review showed that the other guy had intentionally elbowed Jackson in the forehead right before the takedown. Aiden had rolled his ankle at the half and was now watching murderously from the bench. Derek himself had four fouls, the guys on the other team taking man to man way too seriously and had decided man on man meant men on Derek.

Derek only wanted one man on him, ever, and hopefully that one would be for the rest of his life.

In the end it was Scott who won them the game. Some guy elbowed him in the stomach, which sent him onto the floor and into a coughing fit. After the refs realized how bad it was, they stopped the clock, let Scott catch his breath and then gave him a foul shot for a personal foul. The two went into easily, knocking them over into winning territory, and then Scott stole it right out from under the other team’s point guard’s nose and made a three with a second left.

This time it was Stiles that grabbed Derek and shook him within an inch of his life, telling Derek how happy he was and how exciting it was to be going this far, how Derek was such a great player.

Maybe all of this freaking out was for nothing.
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Derek ended up sleeping in Stiles and Scott’s room the night before the Final Four. They had kept up with chemistry work, but Stiles needed someone that understood analytical chemistry to run his capstone by and Derek had easily volunteered to listen and critique. They both fell asleep on top of the covers to the dulcet sounds of a Cheers rerun.

“You know,” Stiles had said as they fell asleep, “I think you and Frasier Crane would get along swimmingly.”
Derek pinched him.
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The kiss before the game happened in the threshold of the locker room. The team was on their heels, all having hit traffic for the game and they were almost late, but Derek and Stiles had taken off running once they got off the bus.

It was one of those intense kisses, where you kept your eyes locked as well as your lips because you wanted to say something. Stiles got a ‘I’m serious about this, serious about you’ vibe from it; Derek got a ‘you can do this, baby’ vibe on his end.

Coach had already reamed Derek out for missing so many shots the game before, and the team they were playing had a center with a bad left pivot, so Derek and Boyd milked it for all that it was worth. They were always within five points of each other, but those five points sent them to the National Championship in Atlanta.

Derek cried on the phone with his parents that night, who were flying out from New York to watch the game. His parents sounded so excited over the phone, and Laura and Cora would be coming with them. No Peter either, thank God. He was probably pouting over the fact his team hadn’t even made it to the tournament.

Stiles’ dad and Scott’s mom were coming out from California, albeit right before the game and were leaving in the dead of night afterwards, but it was still a flying feeling. Lydia was coming as well, apparently having purchased a new outfit just for the occasion. At home Stiles and Scott would’ve celebrated a victory like this by playing COD all night, but instead they just watched Double Teamed (a favorite of theirs they admitted to no one, ever, under any circumstances) and went to bed early.

Boyd and Derek, on the other hand, stayed up all night talking about relationships. Namely, Boyd wanting to propose to Erica and Derek freaking out about him and Stiles and the distance that might come after the tournament or even after the semester ended and they both graduated.

“Dude, you like him, right?”

“Yes.”

“And he’s from California, which is where you want to go to law school, right?”

“Yes.”

“Then just let it happen.” Boyd suggested. “Just let it happen. I have a feeling it will anyway.”

This left Derek with a bright bulb of hope in his chest.
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In the end, they won. They won the tournament and Derek got MVP, but what was most talked about was the kiss that came right after the game, after a three pointer from Derek Hale, perfect and he wasn’t even looking at the hoop, Jon, did you see that? Hale sunk the basket, ten seconds later the timer ran down and Hale grabbed the student manager Stilinski and kissed the life out of the other guy in real time.

“We did it.” Derek said. “We won!”

“We did it, and we’re gonna do it eventually too.”

“I hate you.” Derek said, smiling into another kiss.

He didn’t. In the end, they were just two guys that were hit with March Madness that just never went away.