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When Stiles Stilinksi steps foot onto Court 8 at Roland Garros, it's everything he's been dreaming of for the last nine years, and everything his life has been building towards since the first time he held a tennis racquet in his hands fourteen years ago.

The crowd, with several pockets of what Stiles can only assume are fellow Americans (based on their enthusiastic cheering and flag painted faces), welcomes him and his opponent onto the court. Stiles does a quick turn, a 360 degree view that assaults his senses, and favors the audience with a brief but sufficiently awkward wave. His own crowd is starting to quiet, but he can hear the games being played on adjoining courts.

The sun beats down heavily onto his skin. His feet glide across clay, so much redder than it ever looks on television. When he makes his way to the player's seat and collapses into it, he pulls a bottle of Gatorade from his bag and takes a swig (he actually hates the taste of it, but his coach makes him drink it anyway). He pulls his racquet from his bag, does a quick check on the grip and string tension, before he's up and meeting the umpire and his opponent at the net.

It's kinda funny, Stiles thinks, that his first game in a Grand Slam (that's right, he's playing in a freaking Grand Slam) is against a fellow American. Hell, he's a fellow Californian. Derek Hale is slightly taller than him, his face is stubbled and just as grumpy in real life as he's seen in numerous photos and video coverage. And yeah, in any other circumstance Stiles might admit that the stubble and general sense of 'stay the hell away from me' totally works for him. But right now it's just intimidating as fuck, and it makes Stiles approach him gingerly.

Stiles has never met Derek before, at least, not officially, either on or off the court (he doesn't think accidentally and literally bumping into him at the ESPN awards after party last year counts). But of course he's seen the man play, on more than one occasion actually. Derek has an amazing serve, a strong forehand, and a killer volley. His backhand is probably his weakest stroke, although given that Derek is ranked in the top thirty, weak is a relative term. Still, it's something to show he's just human, and Stiles endeavors to remember this.

The umpire gets Derek to call it, and he wins the toss, unsurprisingly electing to serve. Stiles chooses his side, and the three of them part, Derek and Stiles to the baseline and the umpire to his chair.

A ball boy tosses Stiles a few balls, and okay, this is really happening. He's really about to play his first Grand Slam match. The nerves are ricocheting around his body so loudly they almost drown out the noise around him. Blood pounds in his ears, and his throat goes dry. His racquet, which is usually like an extension of his arm, feels heavy and foreign.

He looks up into the stands, and finds Scott's smiling face. Scott gives him a thumbs up, and it helps lessen the pounding in his chest.

He bounces the ball a few times, and looks up just in time to see a neon yellow ball fly past him in a blur. He knew Derek's serve was powerful, hell, most commentators agreed it was one of the best in the game, but being on the receiving end of it is something else entirely. It's overwhelming.

Stiles looks away, bounces the ball a few times, and there is a toss then a swing. His first practice serve is, in a word, pathetic. It hits the center of the net and starts rolling back towards him before being scooped up by a ball girl.

Great start, Stiles. Just awesome.

He closes his eyes for a moment, takes a deep breath, repositions his stance, and serves. Right on the service line. Stiles grins briefly, and happily notes the way Derek seems to have startled at his near perfect serve.

He gets a few more practice serves in before they start hitting the balls to each other in warm-up, Derek moving to the net half way through. The ball flows back and forth easily enough, but all too soon the umpire calls the one minute mark, and the crowd cheers as they make their way to their belongings for final drinks and preparations.

Stiles hears the umpire make an announcement in French, then he repeats the same in English as Derek and Stiles make their way across the court, into position. "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a first round singles match, best of five sets. To the left of the chair, Stiles Stilinksi, and to the right of the chair, Derek Hale. Monsieur Hale won the toss and elected to serve. The score is love all. Begin play."

The crowd cheers with excitement until the umpire calls for quiet. Finally, silence descends. Stiles swears he can hear his heart beating in the lull before the game starts. He's always nervous before a game, but this is nerves like he's never experienced. Derek starts bouncing the ball, and Stiles gets into position. Derek tosses the ball, and hits it with a power Stiles can do nothing but envy.

It's an ace.

The umpire calls fifteen-love and Stiles finds Scott in the stands as he crosses the baseline to the backhand side. He can see Scott mouth, "It's okay," at him.

Okay, so not a great start. But it's just the first point. And now he's playing, now that the game has started, he can just concentrate on playing instead of focusing on the fact he's playing in an actual Grand Slam.

Derek serves again, and Stiles returns the ball. The rally is short, and Derek wins the point. It sets a precedent that doesn't let up, and just under two hours later the game is over. Stiles loses in straight sets.

He's disappointed, of course he is, but he's nothing if not a good sportsman, and he gets to the net before Derek does. Derek finally meets him there, and shakes his hand.

"Good game," Derek mutters roughly, not even looking at him, before he stalks off to shake the umpire's hand.

"Yeah," Stiles says, kinda bereft and confused. "You too."

 

Roland Garros - Men's Singles - Round 1

D. Hale             USA     6   6   6
S. Stilinksi         USA     1   4   3

 

*

 

Stiles really wants to go back to his hotel room, throw himself on his bed, and mope forever.

Intellectually he knew it was a long shot at best. Derek has a good five years of experience on him. He's ranked in the top thirty, and from all accounts he's going nowhere but up. This was Stiles' first Grand Slam, his first time in Paris, and clay was undoubtedly his weakest surface. The odds were never really on his side.

But still, you don't play without the hope that you can beat your opponent, and it wasn't just like every other game. The Grand Slams are what every tennis player dreams of. He thinks he's entitled to feel crappy about losing his first ever Grand Slam game.

Scott, however, needs him more than he needs to wallow. So as much as he really wants to just go back to his hotel and pretend today never happened, instead he's back on a court, being the best damn practice partner he can be.

Stiles met Scott McCall at a USTA tennis camp when they were both ten years old. Despite the fact that they lived at opposite ends of the country they became firm friends, and thanks to the wonders of technology (thank you, Skype) managed to remain the best of friends over the intervening years. When Scott turned eighteen (less than a month after Stiles did) he moved from West Virginia to San Francisco and they started training together.

That was two years ago now, and over that time they've both grown into equally talented players, though their strengths are completely different. Scott has a strong forehand and serve, and prefers each point to be as short as possible. Meanwhile Stiles has a backhand that is almost unparalleled amongst his age group and amazing stamina, actually preferring the rallies to go as long as possible.

They are completely different players, and that makes them perfect practice partners. Facing someone with different strengths than you can be intimidating, and playing every day with someone like that not only desensitizes you to the power of their game, but helps you improve on your weakest strokes.

This is Scott's second Grand Slam after competing in Australia at the start of the year, and he's desperate to make it past the second round he made there. And Stiles wants to do everything in his power to help.

They train for a few hours under the watchful eye of Andre, their coach. Scott is going up against Jean Dupond, who is also relatively new to the game, but has the advantage of a home court (and a home crowd). This will be a mental game more than anything else, and once they're done practicing, Stiles tells Scott that he's gonna kill it.

"Seriously man," Stiles says between gulps of a disgusting sports drink. "It's all you. Just stay focused and you'll be fine. Dupond's not gonna know what hit him."

Scott smiles at him. "Thanks, Stiles. You'll be there, won't you?"

Stiles just scoffs. "Of course. Cheering you on every step of the way."

Scott grabs his towel and wipes his face with it. "I'm sorry about your game," he says tentatively.

Stiles shrugs. "Freaking Hale, man. The guy's a machine. But if nothing else I'll be able to say I once played in a Grand Slam."

Scott looks at him, confused. "Stiles, this isn't going to be your last Grand Slam, you know that right?"

Stiles doesn't know that, not really. Yeah, he really fucking hopes this wasn't his first, last, and everything in-between. But tennis is much more competitive than people realize, and nothing is guaranteed. "I was a Lucky Loser, Scott. And after losing in straights there's no way I'm qualifying for Wimbledon."

"Still, even if you don't make Wimbledon, you're still on the circuit. You're only just twenty, Stiles. It's too early to give up."

Scott just looks so earnest, like a puppy wrapped in sunshine, and Stiles can't help it. He smiles, because Scott's optimism is one of the things he loves most about his best friend. He knocks their shoulders together. "I haven't given up. Promise."

 

*

 

There's nothing Stiles can do to ensure a place at Wimbledon other than play like he's never played before at the Aegon Championships. So he does, and makes it to round three before crashing out at the hands of the world number two. But he held his own better than he anticipated, so he was proud of himself for that.

He doesn't qualify (Scott does though, and Stiles screams down the phone in excitement when Scott calls to tell him) and there's no way he's getting a wild card. His only chance is the qualifying tournament in Roehampton. He trains harder than he's ever trained in his life, and becomes convinced someone up there likes him when he actually qualifies.

It's an opportunity he's determined not to squander, and before his first game he calls his dad and tells him so.

"I'm just about to head to court," Stiles says. "Just wanted to check in. Tell you how awesome I am and that I'm not going to bomb out like at Roland Garros."

"I'm sure you're gonna be great, kiddo. How are you feeling?" John asks, in the exact tone he uses whenever he already knows the answer to whatever question he's posing.

"Oh, you know, great, apart from the near crippling anxiety," Stiles jokes, only it comes out much too real.

There is a pause, maybe a sigh, before John replies softly with, "I'm sorry I can't be there, Stiles."

And wow, Stiles does not want his dad to be feeling guilty about this. His father is a Sheriff; he can't be following his son around the world to watch him play. Stiles understands this. There is absolutely zero resentment there. Yeah, of course he wishes he had his dad here, to hug him and tell him to go kick ass, but he has Scott for the former and Andre for the latter. He's okay.

"It's okay, Dad," Stiles tells him earnestly. "Honestly. Don't worry about it. I know you're cheering me on over there."

John chuckles. "Crossing fingers and toes and everything I have."

"Well, how can I lose?" Stiles laughs. "Look I gotta go."

"Break a leg."

"In the figurative and not the literal," Stiles smiles, a joke between them as familiar as breathing. "Love you."

"Love you too, son."

Stiles hangs up, putting his cell into his locker and locking it up. He hefts his bag over his shoulder and heads out to Court 11. He's playing Claude Marinos - former top ten player who has been sliding down the ranks for years. Stiles is younger and fitter, but Marinos has the experience, and in this game you can never tell which will win out.

He steps onto the grass court and takes a deep breath. He's going to win. He just knows it.

 

*

 

Stiles wins his game. And the next one. And the next one after that.

When match point is declared in his third round game Stiles screams, looking up to the stands to see Scott jumping and screaming for him. He shakes his opponent's hand, shakes the umpire's hand, and then heads back out onto the court, waving to the crowd before heading back to his seat.

Fuck, he's actually through to the fourth round of Wimbledon. How is this happening?

He manages to stumble through the on court post-match interview by heaping praise on his opponent and deflecting whenever the interviewer compliments his game. It's probably strange, how much he hates interviews, given his near pathological need to fill every silence and his desire to be well liked by everyone. But interviews always make him feel awkward, and as much as he enjoys having attention on him, this is taking it to a whole new level. But apparently people are finding his bumbling endearing (according to the links Scott keeps sending him to gifsets on tumblr) so he's not too phased by it.

After the interview he heads off court and back to the locker rooms, just managing to shower and change before Scott comes bounding in.

"Dude!" he exclaims, practically leaping into his arms. "You were amazing."

Once Stiles manages to get his breath back he huffs out a, "Thanks, buddy."

A minder (Stiles is terrible at names, he thinks it's Graeme or Garry or something) pops his head into the room to remind Stiles he's due at the post-game press conference.

"Okay, be right there," he tells him. He turns back to Scott. "Well, gotta go. Good luck tonight."

"Thanks, man."

They share their patented BFF handshake (there are jazz fingers and shoulder bumps and it ends in a hug - it's awesome) before Stiles heads out, making his way through the building to the press room. There are definitely more reporters here than last time. His stomach rolls with nerves as he sits down in front of everyone. He greets the room with a general "Hey" and there's that brief pause while everyone waits for someone to go first. And then, it starts.

"Stiles, this is a career best for you, you've never made it this deep into a tournament before. How are you feeling physically? Do you think you have enough in you to hit out in the second week?"

"I certainly hope so. This is what I've been training for my whole life. If I can't physically make it through to the second week at my age I probably should've picked a different career. But hey, I'm still young, if this whole tennis thing doesn't work out I guess I could find something a bit more sedentary. Anyone know any good job options that involve sitting around all day? No?"

"I think you'll be okay with tennis for now."

"Well thank you, kind sir."

"You're known for your backhand stroke. Everyone says it's one of the best in the game. Can you break that down for us a bit? What are the keys to your backhand?"

"I don't know, it's always felt very natural to me, an extension of my personality if you will. But footwork, man. It all starts with the footwork. I have a pretty quick reaction time, so being able to quickly get into the right position, it's a key factor in my backhand."

"So, have you thought about a strategy for your next game?"

"Not at all. I don't even know who I'm playing."

"It's Derek Hale."

The name seems to echo around the room for a moment. He can see everyone looking at him, waiting for a response, but he doesn't have one.

Derek Hale.

He's going up against Derek Hale again.

Fuck.

 

*

 

It's the fourth round, and their game is scheduled to be played in the No. 1 Court.

Like he wasn't nervous enough, he's just graduated from outside courts to an actual stadium.

He paces the locker rooms, having already sent Scott and Andre off to the stands. But the room is too bland, too white, and he can feel himself getting too worked up. So even though it's still early, he grabs his bag and heads through the corridors to wait in the tunnel just before the players entrance.

He can hear the hum of the stadium, feel the warm summer breeze, and he's still nervous but there's something else too, a feeling almost like being home, like something that's meant to be.

"Hey."

Stiles startles - okay, startles implies a small shock, let's be honest, it's Stiles, he flails - with surprise. He turns to see Derek Hale standing right there, tennis bag over his shoulder, looking as grumpy (read: stupidly attractive) as ever.

"Hi," he replies, a little cautiously, because his interactions with Derek so far haven't been terribly friendly.

"I, uh, I saw your game against Marinos. You played well. That twenty-three shot rally was incredible."

Stiles just looks at Derek, completely confused. Derek talks to him like it physically hurts him to do so, words stilted and tone rough, and yet he still keeps talking. Stiles doesn't know what to say in return. He wants to ask if Derek's trying to play mind games with him, throw him off before their match. He wants to tell Derek how killer his serve is, how amazing a player he is. He wants to wish Derek good luck. He wants to talk in a way he so rarely wants to, not just because he wants to fill the silence but because he wants to engage the other person, open them up and hear what they have to say. But the surprise and intensity of the moment overwhelms him, and when he finally manages to untie his tongue to reply, they're called out onto the court.

The noise is deafening, and Stiles smiles and waves and tries not to get too overwhelmed. As is his habit he immediately searches the stands until he sees his people, Scott and Andre cheering him on. He grins at them, before heading to his chair and preparing for the game.

Later he will lose so many of the details; that he won the toss, how quickly the warm up went, how he could hear Scott screaming encouragement every time he won a game. But he will always remember the way it felt to break Derek's serve early in the second, to actually win the set. He'll always remember the fourth game in the third set, where between them there were eleven game points before Derek finally won the game. He'll never forget his disappointment when he lost, or the way Derek beat him to the net, their sweaty hands when they shook, the way Derek clapped him on the back, or the way they murmured together as they approached the umpire, Stiles telling him how amazing he was and Derek pressing his mouth close to Stiles' ear so he could be heard over the din of the crowd when he replied, "You weren't so bad yourself."

 

Wimbledon - Gentlemen's Singles - Round 4

D. Hale             USA     6   4   7   6
S. Stilinksi         USA     3   6   6   4

 

*

 

"Seriously?"

Andre nods solemnly.

"Seriously?" Stiles repeats, because he can't believe this.

"Yes, Stiles."

Stiles just keeps gaping at him.

"This is a good thing," Andre tells him. "It means they believe you have the capacity to play both at the same time, that you can handle the physical and mental pressure. It means they believe in you. Why aren't you flailing for joy?"

"Um, shock," Stiles admits. He keeps rolling it over in his head but it still won't make sense. "They want me and Derek Hale to play doubles?"

"Yes," Andre insists, sneaking in a subtle eye-roll which Stiles absolutely notices.

"Uh, okay." He takes a deep breath. "How..."

"Derek's base is in New York, but he's flying out here. I'm still your coach, but Woody will be training the two of you for the doubles. You've got five weeks until the Rogers Cup."

Stiles nods absently. Andre steps forward and puts a hand on his shoulder. "Are you sure you're ready for this?"

Honestly, Stiles isn't sure, and for more reasons than he can count. He can't wrap his head around the fact that when the USTA needed to find a new doubles team for Montreal after Bolton and Spicer couldn't play they looked at their entire roster of players and chose Stiles and Derek.

But this is an amazing opportunity. He'll get to play with Derek as opposed to against him for once. He'll have the opportunity to gain more points and earn more prize money. And if he proves himself, it will do wonders for his career.

"I'm ready," Stiles says, voice calm and even.

He can totally do this.

 

*

 

Two hours into their first training session Stiles begins to regret ever picking up a tennis racquet.

Derek is relentless. He's gruff and demanding and taciturn and Stiles feels dizzy from it all. Woody started by trying to make them aware of each other on the court because neither of them were used to it, but Stiles accidentally hit a tennis ball into Derek's back and it all went downhill from there. He gets short tempered when Stiles doesn't move across the court while he's at the net and Derek's at the baseline, because Stiles, big surprise, actually doesn't have eyes in the back of his head.

It's just not working. Stiles has never walked off court mid training session, never once, but he does it now, throwing his racquet to the ground and stalking off. He collapses onto the floor against the wire fence and silently seethes.

This isn't easy for him. He hasn't played doubles in four years, and Derek is just so freaking good at everything that he feels like an incompetent idiot when pitted against the power and precision of Derek's game. He'd been hoping that Derek might be able to teach him a few things, that he might be open to the possibility of an actual friendship, because the truth is, despite how little he knows Derek, he still likes him, admires him. The only friend he has on the tour is Scott, and he loves his best friend, he really does. But Stiles is, at heart, a friendly person, and he could definitely use another friend to hang with and vent to and cheer on. And there's something about Derek that intrigues him, that makes him want to know more.

Of course, when they're actually on the same side, it's all fumbling and mistakes and Derek thinking he's an idiot.

A shadow comes over him, and he looks up to see Derek standing over him. Derek is holding Stiles' drink bottle, and he holds it out to him.

"Thanks," he mutters, accepting the bottle before immediately looking away.

Derek sits beside him on the concrete, close enough that their arms brush when Derek lifts his own drink to his lips.

"So you want to tell me what's going on?" Derek asks, like they're actual friends as opposed to two strangers who have barely exchanged three sentences.

"What are you talking about?" Stiles asks, even though he thinks it's just asking for more berating.

"You're better than this, Stiles. You're a better player than this. I've never seen you this ... unfocused."

Stiles doesn't know what to respond to first: Derek basing his opinion of Stiles' skill level based on the two games they've played, or the aspersions he's casting on Stiles concentration.

He scoffs. "First of all, you've only seen me play twice, so I'm not sure that's enough of a basis for comparison. And second of all, I am focused."

"No, you're not," Derek insists. "What is it? Are you nervous or something?"

"Of course I am!" Stiles exclaims. Derek actually startles at Stiles' outburst, but he keeps talking. "Of course I'm fucking nervous. You're a million times better than I am. How the hell am I supposed to keep up with you? I mean, sometimes you serve so fast I can't even see the ball and your volley is terrifyingly good and the way you move so quickly around the court... How the fuck am I supposed to keep up with you?"

Stiles realizes exactly what he's said as soon as he stops talking, and his mouth hangs open for a moment before he turns away, completely exhausted and more than a little mortified by his outburst. He takes in a deep breath before taking a swig from his drink. When he finally gathers the courage to face Derek, he's unprepared to be faced with the man looking at him like he's pained and confused.

"You think you're not good enough," Derek says, like he can't comprehend such an idea. Like it's offensive to him. Stiles' mouth is dry and he can't find any words to reply. "Stiles, you made it to the fourth round of Wimbledon. You have the most raw talent I've ever seen. But most importantly, you never give up. You're more than good enough for this."

Stiles just stares at him, can't look away from those large hazel eyes. Derek keeps his gaze, like he wants Stiles to understand, to believe. He stands, holding a hand out to Stiles. "Ready?"

Stiles just grips his hand, lets the older man pull him up.

"And for the record," Derek says as they head back onto court, "I've seen you play more than twice."

 

*

 

Stiles settles into his new routine pretty easily. He'll do a session with Andre in the morning, and then do some playing with Scott in the afternoon. The next day is doubles practice with Derek and Woody in the morning, and then a gym session in the afternoon. Rinse and repeat.

Stiles can definitely see an upturn in his singles game in the weeks he spends playing with Derek. Not that he in any way wants to minimize what Andre and Scott have done for him over the years, because he knows without those two he'd be nothing. Absolutely nothing. But Derek, there's something about him that just pushes Stiles to be better. It's not a conscious thing - Derek isn't great with the verbal encouragement or advice - he does it just by being him, by being the frankly badass player he is.

So over the weeks Stiles' serve gets faster, his forearm stronger, though his volley and drop shot are still shit. His smash, though. His smash is awesome.

Vernon Boyd, Derek's practice partner, comes out to visit during their last week in California before they fly out to Canada. Stiles and Scott are just finishing up their session with Andre when Derek and Boyd appear on the next court over. He can see them playing from the corner of his eye, and Andre calls it a day when it becomes apparent Stiles is more interested in watching Derek and Boyd than he is in his own training.

Seeing Derek and Boyd play is really something else. He knows they're both only playing at about eighty per cent capacity, and it's still a sight to behold, the way their bodies glide across the court, the fluidity of their movements. It's clearly something that comes with experience, because Stiles knows he doesn’t look anywhere near as graceful when he plays. At least, he hopes it comes with experience, because he doesn't want to look like an ungainly sack of limbs for the rest of his career.

Derek notices him watching (okay, staring, whatever), and he smiles, waving Boyd over to his side of the court so he can introduce everyone. Boyd shakes Stiles and Scott's hands, and the four of them chat amiably for a few minutes. Boyd is, unsurprisingly, pretty awesome and Stiles likes him immediately.

"Nice shirt by the way," Derek says as Scott and Boyd are discussing serving techniques.

Stiles looks down to his t-shirt. It’s light grey with white block letters across the chest saying YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS. He looks up, grinning.

"Hey, we should have a doubles game," Stiles suggests excitedly, getting Scott and Boyd's attention. "Me and Derek against you two."

Scott looks at him warily.

"Please. We need all the practice we can get before next week."

Stiles turns his puppy eyes to Boyd, because Scott has built up an immunity over their half a lifetime of friendship. Boyd chuckles warmly and says, "Fine, but I'm not sure we'll be much competition for you."

Stiles scoffs. "Please, you and Scott are both ranked so much higher than me. Poor Derek will be picking up my slack while you two wipe the floor with us."

Scott rolls his eyes, but agrees. Boyd and Scott head to the other side of the net.

"We're gonna kill it, right?" Derek says as they position themselves on the court.

"Totally. 'Rip their throats out with our teeth' type carnage," Stiles grins, holding up his fist, and Derek returns his grin, bumping his fist with Stiles'.

They play a set, and even though it's just a practice no one even pretends like they aren't trying to kick the other team's ass. Stiles and Derek win 6-2, and when Stiles hits the winning shot he throws himself at Derek, who huffs out a laugh when he catches him.

 

*

 

It's a relief, flying into Montreal and knowing he doesn't have to fight for a spot in the tournament. After his performance at Wimbledon his rankings have gone up enough that he doesn't have to worry about it, and thank fuck for that, because between training for his singles game, training for his doubles game, and attempting to ignore the ever increasing feelings he has for his doubles partner, he wouldn't be able to handle the extra pressure of qualifying.

His first match is a doubles against some players from Poland, played on the morning of the opening day. Derek has his first singles game scheduled for later the same day, while Stiles somehow managed to luck out with his game being the next day.

Derek's quiet as they prepare in the locker room. Woody comes in and gives them a last minute pep talk, somehow feeling the need to remind them about playing as much of their game at the net as they can, and to watch their opponents, not each other.

He leaves them alone after that, and Stiles changes and checks his bag to make sure everything's in there.

"You nervous?" Derek asks.

Stiles shrugs. "No more than usual."

"So a lot, then," Derek smirks.

Stiles can't help but laugh at that. "Yeah, pretty much. What about you? Do you get nervous?"

"Not really," Derek shrugs. "I used to, until I realized that the nerves didn't help. You know your game, you know your strategy, and you play the best you can. Nerves just get in the way of that."

It's been amazing, getting to know Derek these last few weeks, getting glimpses of the man beneath all the layers of distance and mistrust. And he's gotten some real ones, enough to make him want more, to want to be able to know the real Derek. But when Derek says stuff like this, it reminds Stiles that he's still that stoic and single-minded man, the one who doesn't let anyone in.

When Stiles doesn't reply Derek turns from his locker to look at him. He looks confused by Stiles' silence. More than that, really. It's like he's concerned by it.

"Stiles?" he says tentatively.

Stiles just wants to break down every wall Derek has. He wants Derek to be real, to be more than the grumpy-ass and detached player everyone knows he is, to be the person he's certain is in there somewhere. Stiles wants to be the person that Derek opens up to, the one he lets his guard down for.

But Derek's been playing at this level for nearly six years now. He doesn't let his emotions get in the way, not like Stiles does. Maybe with time Stiles will be like that too, but right now, he can't put aside his feelings like they don't exist. That's just not who he is.

"How do you do it?" Stiles asks, still not entirely sure he wants an answer.

"Do what?"

"Act so … detached."

Derek's eyebrows quirk in confusion. "You think I'm detached? That I don't care?"

He sounds slightly offended, even hurt, and Stiles doesn't know what's happening. "Shit, no, I just…" he stumbles, completely thrown by the direction this conversation is going. He crosses the room and, without even thinking, grips Derek's arm. "I didn't mean it like that. I know you care about your game. I just, I'm not as good as you at ignoring all the emotional stuff…"

"I don't ignore it, Stiles," Derek says softly, looking away. "I just try not to let it overrule everything else. Because if you do, it never ends well."

There's something about the way he says it that makes Stiles thinks he's not just talking about during the game. It's one of those rare glimpses of the real Derek, and, like always, it's done nothing but make him more curious and intrigued.

"Sometimes it does," Stiles insists, voice too low and rough to be anything but completely earnest. Derek looks at him, and Stiles can't read his expression. He's never seen it before, has no idea what it means, all he knows is that Derek is right there, so close, and it should really be the last thing on his mind but all he can think about is how much he wants.

But before he gets the chance to do anything stupid (like leaning forward and hoping Derek meets him halfway) Derek steps back, out of Stiles' grip. He grabs his bag and says, "Come on, we need to get to court."

Derek walks from the room without looking back, and Stiles, still slightly dazed, picks up his bag and follows.

 

*

 

It's honestly one of the most flawless games Stiles has ever played.

He and Derek move as one, anticipating each other's moves, getting a handle on their opposition's weaknesses fairly early on in the game and using them to their advantage. When they win (in straight sets) Stiles just turns to Derek and grins, his whole face lighting up with joy. He doesn't even hear the noise of the crowd, not when Derek meets him at the net and gives him a brief man hug.

They shake hands with their opponents and the umpire, sign a few tennis balls for fans in the crowd, before slipping back to the stadium. There's a buzz between them as they walk down the labyrinthine hallways. Derek sticks close to Stiles' side, and Stiles feels like he's vibrating out of his skin. When they make it to the locker room Stiles throws his bag down and dances with excitement. Derek just stands there, staring at him, and when Stiles notices he freezes, feeling like all the air has gone from his lungs. Derek just keeps looking at him. Stiles doesn't even realize that he's licked his lips until he can see Derek's gaze shift down to his mouth.

"Derek…" Stiles whispers, completely drowning in the tension between them.

Derek doesn't say anything. He heads to the door, and Stiles lets out a shaky breath, mentally berating himself as he watches Derek leave. Only when he gets to the door he doesn't walk through it. Instead Derek closes it, locking it behind him.

Stiles doesn’t even think, just moves on instinct, and when Derek walks back into the room Stiles meets him halfway, reaching out to grab Derek's polo as their mouths crash together. It's wild and urgent, Stiles opening his mouth and actually moaning at the first touch of their tongues.

Stiles pushes Derek, who goes willingly, back across the room until he is pressed between the lockers and Stiles' body. Derek's stubble is rough against his skin, a delicious contrast to the smooth slide of Derek's hands as they slip under Stiles' tee, gliding up his ribs. Stiles pulls back so Derek can quickly strip off his tee, and he grabs haphazardly at Derek's polo, getting it off his body as quickly as he can. Stiles' fingertips slide down Derek's chest, over his abs. They're both still hot and sweaty from the game, and it should be gross but it's really not. Derek's fingertips press into the bone at his hips, pulling their lower halves flush together. Stiles can feel Derek's hardness against his own, and a small, "Oh," escapes Stiles' mouth.

He chances a look up at Derek to find the older man looking at him under hooded eyes. Derek grinds himself against Stiles and he doesn't even think, just starts pushing Derek's shorts down, needing to get his hands on Derek's cock more than he needs to breathe.

Derek stills when Stiles wraps a hand around him, and Stiles can't help the uptick of his heart as panic floods through him. But then Derek closes his eyes, head falling back to the hard locker behind him as he moans, and Stiles grins and starts moving. He presses his mouth to Derek's neck, all salt and skin, wanting desperately to mark him but knowing somewhere in a distant corner of his mind that it's probably not a good idea.

He removes his hand just long enough to push his own clothes out of the way. Before he even has a chance to press their cocks together Derek's fingers wrap around him, tentative at first but growing more assured every second, and Stiles cannot be held responsible for the choked sob that escapes his throat.

Derek kisses him, tongue licking at his lips, mouths moving in perfect sync, a continuation of the flawless form they exhibited on court. Stiles' body, already hot and flushed, feels like it's on fire as the arousal builds. He wants to get Derek off right the fuck now, wants to feel him come apart under him. They stop kissing, but Stiles refuses to move away, pressing their foreheads together so he can feel every exhale Derek makes on his skin.

"Stiles."

Derek's voice, rough with arousal, should be illegal. Add that to Derek's hand on his cock, his palm moving up and down with the exact right pressure and speed, like Derek's hand was made for two purposes - holding a tennis racquet and wrapping around Stiles' cock - and Stiles is done.

"Derek, I -" is as far as Stiles gets before he comes with a gasp. Even through the orgasm he doesn't stop moving his hand on Derek's cock. He thumbs at the head, adds a bit more pressure, and Derek's body has a moment of stillness before he comes, thick stripes landing on Stiles' stomach.

Stiles kinda collapses into Derek, like they're keeping each other upright, and they both stand there, dripping with sweat, breathless, Derek's hands firm around his hips.

 

*

 

Between playing his single games, his doubles games, practicing, and cheering on Scott whenever their game times don't overlap, Derek and Stiles don't really have a chance to talk about what happened.

Not thirty seconds after it was over there had been a knock on the locker room door, so they'd separated and dressed and he'd headed off to shower so Derek could prepare for his singles game and Stiles could go have a hit with Scott before his game. The only time they've seen each other since has been on the court, and despite how desperate he is to know what's happening between them, even Stiles isn't stupid enough to bring it up during a game.

Stiles wins his first singles match, but loses the next to Boyd. He and Derek actually make it to the doubles final, but end up losing to the current world number one doubles team, so he isn't too discontent.

It's his first ever final on the tour, and the whole thing is completely surreal, and having Derek by his side makes the pain of losing bearable.

After everything - the game, the awards presentations, the speeches, the press conference - Derek pulls him aside, in some random and bland corridor, and after a quick check down the hallways to make sure no one is listening, asks, "Will you have dinner with me tonight?"

Stiles grins. "Yes."

 

*

 

It's a small and out of the way restaurant, and when Stiles arrives, Derek is already there. He stands when Stiles approaches the table, and Stiles almost stops dead in his tracks at the sight before him. Derek's wearing dark jeans, a light grey Henley, and a leather jacket that's too big for him, sleeves covering most of his hand.

Derek smiles shyly at him, and Stiles can't help but return it, sitting down at the table.

"Nice place," Stiles comments, looking around the room, because Derek was the one who chose it.

"I came here last time I was in Montreal. The food's good, relatively healthy, and it's under the radar so no one will see us."

Stiles nods, his mind going into overdrive at that. He doesn't want anyone to see them together, at least, not like this. On a date.

"Stiles?"

Stiles snaps back into focus. Derek's looking at him, brow knitted together. He really wants to ask what the hell is happening between them, what it is Derek wants, but given that he's brought them here under the pretense of having no one see them, he figures now is probably not the best time.

"So, have you spent a lot of time in Montreal?" Stiles asks instead, because small talk is easy, and he thinks it's all he has in him right now.

So Derek tells him about his last tournament here two years previous, and they talk about the tour and the players and coaches they know, which somehow evolves into an impassioned review of the latest Arcade Fire album and a debate on werewolves versus vampires and their complete agreement that pretty much without exception all movie remakes suck. The implication that they're hiding is lost in a haze of familiarity. It's crazy, but though Stiles knows that they've really only known each other for about six weeks it feels more like six years. He's never felt like this before. The closest thing he can compare it to it how he felt when he met Scott, but they were kids then, kids who believed that a shared love of Goo Goo Clusters and the Lemony Snicket books meant they were destined to be best friends forever. Stiles isn't a child anymore, and he doesn't readily believe in happy endings or that just because he wants something that means it'll happen, but this…

He's finding it difficult to believe that he's feeling this way for no reason.

Derek talks more than Stiles has ever seen, including in his interviews, where it's literally his job to sit and talk about himself. He thought he'd have to pry Derek open, to cautiously manipulate him into talking, but Derek talks so openly, like it's completely normal, and Stiles can't help but think that anyone watching them might not even recognize Derek from the amount of times he smiles alone.

When the food arrives, Derek slips his jacket off and puts it on the back of his chair.

"I like your jacket by the way," Stiles says. "Very badass."

Derek chuckles. "Thanks. It was, uh, it was my dad's actually."

"Oh." Stiles knows about Derek's family. Everyone does. He lost his whole family in a house fire when he was a kid. Derek never talks about it, flat out refuses to answer questions whenever a journalist stupidly decides to ask about it. He's never mentioned his family to Stiles before.

"When I was a kid I thought it was the coolest thing ever. But he never let me wear it. And then, before my first juniors comp, he gave it to me. Packed it in my bag when I wasn't looking. When I found it when I arrived in Boston I realized he put it there so I knew that even though he couldn't come, he was there in spirit. It was a gesture of love and luck. Two days later an electrical fire ripped through my house."

"Jesus," Stiles breathes. He doesn't even think, reaching across the table, hand resting on Derek's wrist, thumb idly stroking the back of his hand. And Derek, so clearly lost in the haze of memory, doesn't move away.

"It's really the only tangible thing I have left of my family. The fire destroyed everything. So even though I spend three quarters of my life in a perpetual summer, I bring it with me wherever I go. Since it's so unseasonably cool today I thought I'd wear it."

Derek smiles sadly, and Stiles returns it.

"How old were you?"

"Fifteen."

Stiles squeezes his hand, before letting go, pulling a pendant out from underneath his button-up shirt. It's a pewter sword, the blade etched with elvish writing, and it's attached to a long, thin silver chain. "My mom died when I was nine. Cancer. This was the last birthday gift she ever gave me. I was going through a Lord of the Rings phase, was completely obsessed, and I'd seen this Sting pendant and begged her to buy it, never actually thinking she would..."

"I'm sorry, Stiles," Derek says. Stiles has heard the expression a multitude of times over the years, but this is the first time he's ever heard it without a trace of pity.

"Thanks," he replies, just as sincerely. "It was the most difficult thing I've ever gone through. I can't even imagine what it was like for you."

"It wasn't easy, far from it, but you survive because you have to. There's no other choice."

"How did you manage to keep playing?" Stiles asks incredulously, because he can't imagine how he still kept going with the memory of his family's death inexorably tied to the sport he loved.

"I didn't. I stopped playing for over six months."

"What made you go back to it?"

Derek looks pained, more pained than he has throughout this entire conversation. He looks away, clearly uncomfortable. "How did you start playing tennis?" Derek asks, an unequivocal change of topic, and Stiles is happy to go along with it if that's what Derek wants.

"When I was a kid I was, well, a handful. Never-ending well of energy, couldn't focus on just one thing, had an insatiable curiosity for everything. My parents took me to a doctor who suggested they get me into a sport. It would help burn the energy in an appropriate way, and it was something I could research, with the rules and statistics and strategies. So my parents gave me a list of options based on what was available from a logistical standpoint - basketball, lacrosse and tennis - and for some reason, still don't know why, I chose tennis."

"Huh. I'm surprised the doctor didn't just prescribe you Adderall and send you on your way."

"With the benefit of age and hindsight, I am too. But I'm grateful. Who knows where I'd be if he had."

"Not here," Derek points out, with a small smile.

Stiles can't help but smile in return. It's true. A few small decisions and seemingly innocuous choices have all lead him here, sitting in a restaurant opposite Derek Hale. And he can honestly say that there's nowhere else in the world he'd rather be.

By the time he gets around to having a bite of his meal, the food is cold. Stiles profoundly doesn't care.

 

*

 

After dinner, they decide to split a cab. They're staying at different hotels, and they're both flying out to Cincinnati first thing in the morning (and playing singles matches later that same day), so when the taxi arrives at Stiles' hotel he really should just say goodnight and go to his room and go to bed. But he's not ready for this to be over, not yet.

Somewhere deep inside Stiles knows this isn't like any other first date. There's something about Derek, the way he distances himself from everyone in order to protect his heart, how his gruff demeanor is nothing but a shield (admittedly, a very effective one) to deflect the fact that he's someone who loves so deeply that the loss almost ruined him. He's like no one Stiles has ever met. And Stiles wants to see the real Derek. He wants to know everything, beyond all the gossip and standard PR, and yeah, it’s probably waaaay too early to be thinking this, but he can’t help but think (or is that hope?) that maybe this is going to be the last first date he ever has.

So instead of saying goodnight Stiles turns to Derek and says, "Feel like going for a walk or something?"

It's dark in the car, but Stiles can still see Derek's smile. "Sure."

Stiles pays the driver and they climb out of the car. Stiles is staying near La Fontaine Park, so they head in that direction, following the path as it winds through the park. It's a clear night, not too warm and not too cool, and it's quiet, barely another soul in sight.

Stiles breaks the not uncomfortable silence with, "Did you know we grew up twenty minutes away from each other?"

Derek looks at him with a raised eyebrow. "You're kidding."

"Nope. You grew up in Placerville, right?"

"Yeah."

"Born and raised in Beacon Hills, baby," Stiles beams with pride.

A look of realization crosses Derek's face.

"What is it?"

"Nothing. I just - your dad's the Sheriff, right?"

"Yeah," Stiles smiles, surprised. "How did you know that?"

"I think I met him once."

"Really? When?"

"After my family..."

Shit, of course. In what other circumstance would Derek have met his dad? Stiles goes to reach over and take Derek's hand, but, as though sensing this, Derek slides his hands into his pockets before he gets the chance.

"You moved away after that?"

Derek nods. "Patrick, my coach, he took me in. We moved to New York. Been there ever since."

"I've only been there a couple of times but I liked it. I can't wait to go there again for the US."

Derek stops walking, turns and looks and Stiles with a smile. "Maybe while you're in town I could show you around..."

"I'd like that."

Stiles really wants to kiss Derek. How could he not, when Derek is right there, looking at Stiles like he's the one that can't believe they're standing here together. Stiles licks his lips, and slowly inches forward.

But Derek steps back, doing a furtive glance around them, as if to check to see if anyone has seen them (they haven't, Derek and Stiles are completely alone). Stiles' heart plummets in his chest. His disappointment and confusion must show on his face, because Derek steps back into Stiles' space, even closer than before, and Derek's fingers wrap around his wrist.

"I like you, Stiles. I really do. But if we're going to do this, no one can know."

Stiles isn't completely surprised, and to be honest, the relief that he feels finally knowing that this isn't just a one-sided thing overwhelms any other emotions he might be feeling at Derek's pronouncement.

"Is this because-"

"No. Yes. I don't-" Derek takes a deep breath, seemingly trying to gather his thoughts. "Honestly, I've never been with a guy before, barely even thought about it until I met you. I'm not sure I'm ready to deal with this in a public capacity. But even without all that, even if you were a woman, I'd still want to keep us secret. I can't have a relationship in public. Not again."

Stiles knows about Jennifer, that they broke up a year ago in a high profile split. But if there's anything he's learned about Derek these last few weeks, it's that he's a complicated guy, and Stiles is getting the sense there's more to the story. But now is not the time to ask. This should be about them, about their future.

The fact that Stiles is bisexual is public record. He's never hidden it, and, apart from one or two incidents, it's never been too big of a problem. He figured out he was attracted to guys and girls when he was a teenager, and he didn't want to hide who he was. Life was short, his mom's death had taught him that, and he figured that if people didn't like who he really was then fuck 'em. It was probably a naive frame of mind to have, thinking that his honesty would have no bearing on his career. It probably has. Stiles can't know for sure, probably never will, because if his sexuality has impacted on his marketability and endorsements then Lydia, his awesome agent, has managed to shield him from the truth.

Stiles was honest about who he was right from the start, which had the benefit of people not being able to have pre-conceived notions about him which would later be destroyed, or having to hide and find 'the right time' to come out. He knows he is definitely the exception, that the majority of gay or bi athletes stay closeted for years, decades. Stiles doesn't judge them for that. Whatever people need to do because it's what's best for them is a-okay with him. And yeah, having to hide is going to suck. He very purposely came out before going pro so he wouldn't have to worry about being in a situation like this. But if the options are having Derek behind closed doors and not having him at all, well, he'll pick the former every time.

"Okay," Stiles breathes.

Derek's face breaks out into a slow but bright smile. His whole face seems to light up, and Stiles can't help but return in. And this time, when he leans in to kiss Derek, Derek meets him halfway.

 

*

 

"Dude, we should be practicing, what are we doing here?" Stiles asks.

They both have matches scheduled this afternoon, so they should be warming up, but instead they're making their way through the crowds of the Western & Southern Open until they reach Court 2. Scott doesn't answer, and Stiles, because he loves a good intrigue, shuts up and follows.

It's midpoint when they get into a position to see the players. Stiles doesn't recognize either, and he looks between the court and Scott a few times. Scott has a dopey look on his face, and when the umpire announces, "Game: Argent" Scott grins.

Stiles has never seen Scott look like this. He can't help it, laughing as he asks, "Scott McCall, are you in love?"

Scott looks over at him, still grinning. "Maybe."

Stiles turns back to the match, this time taking particular note of the object of Scott's affection. Allison moves stealthily across the court, and her serve and drop shot are seriously amazing. She wins the set easily, and when Stiles looks at Scott he half expects to see actual hearts in his eyes.

"So, what's the story?"

"I met her at Wimbledon. It was her first tournament, so I showed her around."

"Conveniently omitting the part where it was your first time at Wimbledon," Stiles grins.

Scott laughs. "Anyway, we hung out for a bit, before her crazy coach slash manager slash father dragged her away."

"Ugh, dude, that sucks," Stiles commiserated. It was an unspoken rule in tennis that anytime your parent was also your coach or manager it basically meant they controlled your life. Having them be all three, well, Scott is definitely in for a rough time.

"Did he warn you off?" Stiles asks.

"Yup."

"Do you care?"

"Nope."

Stiles slaps Scott on the back. "Good man."

 

*

 

Stiles opens his hotel room door to see Derek standing on the other side.

"Hey," he smiles, opening the door in silent admittance.

"Hey yourself," Derek replies, stepping into the room.

As soon as Stiles closes the door he finds himself pressed against it, Derek's mouth hot and insistent on his. Stiles reciprocates in kind, fisting his hand into the material at Derek's chest.

When they arrived (separately) in Cincinnati, Derek called his hotel from the cab as it left the airport, cancelling his room and then booking one at Stiles' hotel. Sneaking around was definitely easier when they were in the same building and didn't have to waste time crossing the city to see each other (especially because time was a rare commodity right now). Even so, this is the first time they've seen each other since the first day of the tournament, and they're determined to make up for lost time. Stiles extracts himself from Derek's hold, throwing a grin over his shoulder before stripping off his t-shirt as he walks to the bed.

Using the speed he's known for on court, by the time Stiles turns back around Derek is right there, his shirt mysteriously gone, hands reaching over to trail down Stiles' chest while he latches on to his neck. Stiles moans at the scrape of stubble and teeth, arms wrapping around Derek's waist, pulling him closer as they tumble onto the bed.

Derek moves down Stiles' body, leaving a trail of hot kisses on his skin. "Sorry about your game today," Derek whispers against his stomach.

"Thanks." He runs a hand through Derek's hair. "But don't worry about me. Just focus on your match against Liao tomorrow."

Derek pulls Stiles' sweats and underwear off, and Stiles uses the respite as Derek sheds the rest of his own clothes to scramble up the bed, grabbing a condom and lube from the bedside table. Despite the angles of his body, all hard bones and firm muscles, Derek is surprisingly soft and warm when he covers Stiles, kissing him deeply. Stiles places the supplies in Derek's hands, freeing his own up to roam over the smooth plane of Derek's back.

When Derek eases a slick finger into him he breaks the kiss with a gasp, pleasure and surprise mingling into one. Derek presses idle kisses to Stiles' face, so light they almost tickle, and the complete contradiction between the gentleness of Derek's kisses and the strength of his fingers as they move in him should be completely ridiculous. In reality, it's just hot.

Derek lifts his head to look at Stiles, who can do nothing but grin dopily in return. Derek kisses him, just once, before pressing his mouth to the center of his chest.

"Any chance you could make the game tomorrow?" Derek asks with forced nonchalance, before shifting his head and sucking on Stiles' nipple.

"Fuck," Stiles hisses. He tries to catch his breath as Derek's tongue swirls around him. "Uh, I'll try. I promised Scott I'd cheer him on, and I think your games are scheduled at the same time."

"Okay," Derek says easily.

He pulls back, sitting on his haunches as he rips open the packet and slides the condom on. Stiles half sits, runs a palm up and down Derek's thigh.

"Are you mad?" Stiles asks.

"Of course not," Derek says, and Stiles thinks it's the truth. Derek kisses him, easing him back down to the bed, falling between his open legs. Derek sneaks a hand between them, lines himself up and slowly pushes in. Stiles' moan is swallowed by Derek's mouth on his. "Yes, I'd like you there. But it's probably best we're not seen together too much anyway."

"Good - point -" Stiles manages between each sharp intake of breath, perfectly in sync with Derek's thrusts. He lifts his legs to wrap around Derek, his body arching off the bed as Derek pushes in deeper at this new angle. "Fuck," Stiles moans. "You feel incredible."

Derek's answer is to keep rolling his hips, driving Stiles completely wild with each movement. He's assaulted by the sounds of their bodies, all panting breath and slapping skin. His body feels like it's on fire, cresting higher and higher every moment.

But then Derek stills, suddenly and completely. Stiles looks up at Derek, concerned, but Derek looks nothing short of fiendish. He grins, rising up, hands firm on Stiles' thighs, and then he's sitting back on his ass, pulling Stiles body down the bed, so Stiles is spread before him, and it's all too easy for Derek to curl forward, slipping Stiles' cock in his mouth.

"Jesus," he breathes, fingers slipping into Derek's hair. "How are you even real?"

Stiles doesn't know if Derek has spent every spare moment for the last week and half researching gay sex (aka watching porn) or if he's just naturally gifted, and honestly, he doesn't fucking care, not when he makes Stiles feel like this: revered and desired and so unimaginably whole.

Derek bobs up and down, all tongue and suction, and it's too much. It's so much sensation, Derek in him, Stiles in Derek, a never-ending cycle of pleasure. Stiles has never been more desperate for release.

"Fuck, Derek. Please."

Derek pulls off, grinning at Stiles. "You like that?" he asks, voice low and amused, like he already knows the answer.

Stiles tries to move, wants friction from Derek's cock in his ass, wants movement and release. He thrusts against Derek as much as he's able, pulling a surprised moan from Derek's lips. Stiles grins, rolls his hips again, and with a frustrated groan Derek goes down on him again, tongue playing at his head.

"Derek - you gotta -"

Derek gives him one last suck before he lets him go, scrambling forward in a completely undignified manner so he's back to lying over Stiles and moving in him. Stiles meets his thrusts, every one, and when Derek slips a hand between them to wrap around Stiles it only takes a few quick tugs before Stiles comes with a cry, Derek following immediately thereafter.

Derek manages to pull out before he collapses on the bed beside Stiles. Their chests rise and fall in near perfect unison, and Derek allows himself a moment to catch his breath before turning away to dispose of the condom. When he's back he drapes himself over Stiles' chest, resting his head on his shoulder, and Stiles' hand idles up and down his back.

"I was thinking..." Derek says softly, minutes (or is that hours) later.

"Yeah?" Stiles prompts.

"When you come to New York for the Open, did you maybe wanna stay with me?"

Derek's tone is all nerves and hope, and Stiles heart beats heavy in his chest for reasons that have nothing to do with their physical exertions. He trails light fingertips down Derek's arm before picking up his hand, bringing it to his mouth so he can press a soft kiss on his palm. "I'd love to."

 

*

 

When Stiles lands at JFK he gets snapped by a few paparazzi, but they're pretty blasé about the whole thing, and he suspects they're actually there for someone else entirely and are alleviating their boredom by photographing him.

It's a little surreal, this side of his work. Sometimes if he's bored he'll google his name, still surprised every time when there are actual results. When he introduces himself to someone new, more often than not they already know who he is. Waiters fawn over him and baristas leave their cell numbers on his coffee cups and random people approach him on the street asking for a photo.

How is this his life? How did a kid from a small town, friendless and weird, spending all his time either with his head buried in tennis books or playing on the only (and vaguely rundown) tennis court in Beacon Hills, end up famous enough to have his photos taken just so they could be sold to the highest bidder?

He puts the thoughts away when he gets in a cab, giving the driver an address he'd memorized from the handwritten scrawl on a scrap of hotel paper Derek had pressed into his hand their last morning in Cincinnati. The drive isn't too long, not really, yet it feels like a lifetime before they're pulling up to a non-descript brick building in Brooklyn.

The driver gets out to help him unload his bags, and Stiles gives him a wad of cash and a thankful smile. He manages to sling his bags over his shoulders, audibly sighing with relief when he enters the building and sees there's an elevator. Derek's apartment is on the top floor, so he rides the elevator up, whole body thrumming with excitement.

It barely takes any time for the door to swing open after he's knocked on it. Derek stands there in jeans and a rumpled tee, smiling brightly as he opens the door wider.

Once inside Stiles drops all his bags and kisses Derek, wrapping his arms around his shoulders.

"Good flight?" Derek murmurs against his lips.

"Mmmhmm," Stiles replies in a sigh.

Stiles kisses him once more before pulling back. He's looks at the apartment, realizing the first thing he needs to do is stop calling it an apartment because it's actually a loft.

"So, I guess a tour's not really necessary, huh?" Stiles says with a smile, stepping into the space.

It's large and bright, sun streaming in through generous windows. The walls are exposed brick, and a quick scan of the room reveals a small but streamline kitchen (with completely barren countertops), a large bed, a wardrobe, a television and couch and not much else. There's also a door which Stiles assumes leads to a bathroom, and a spiral staircase in the back corner of the loft, which appears to go nowhere. Stiles doesn’t know what to comment on first.

"Uh, babe, your place is kinda empty."

Derek chuckles. "Yeah, I know. It hardly seemed worth the effort, filling it with random stuff, since I'm never really home anyway."

Stiles wonders how much of his reluctance to fill his home with tangible possessions comes from having lost everything in the house fire, but he knows better than to ask.

"And you have a staircase going nowhere," Stiles adds, face upturned to look at the length of the curved steel.

"The person who lived here before me left it. I don't know why they had it in the first place, or why they left it behind, but I liked it, so it stayed."

Stiles turns back to him, smiling. "I like it too."

"Are you thirsty?" Derek asks, heading to the kitchen. "Hungry?"

"Starved. Airplane food is the literal worst. I never eat it."

"What do you feel like?" Derek asks, opening the fridge and surveying the contents.

"Seriously, if you're actually going to be the perfect boyfriend and cook me dinner, I'll eat whatever you put in front of me."

Derek smiles, pulling some vegetables from the fridge.

 

*

 

"Fuck."

Stiles can feel his heart pounding so hard he thinks it might break free from his chest. He closes the laptop but remains sitting at the kitchen counter. He starts gnawing at his thumb nail, a nervous tick he hasn't exhibited in years.

He's still sitting like that half an hour later when Derek comes back from his run. Stiles looks up at him, knowing his distress is going to be shining like a beacon but unable to care. Derek smiles at him in greeting, a smile that immediately falters when he gets a good look at Stiles.

He crosses the room, hand outreached so he can place a comforting touch on Stiles' shoulder all the sooner. "What's wrong?" he asks with obvious concern.

"They released the draw for the US Open today."

"And?"

Stiles takes a deep breath. "I'm playing Scott in round one."

Derek squeezes his shoulder before sitting down opposite him. "I'm sorry."

"How the hell am I supposed to go up against Scott? He's my best friend. How am I supposed to go out there and try and beat him knowing that by doing so I'll be killing his dream?"

"Better than the alternative: letting him kill yours."

Stiles rubs a hand over his face. "I don’t know that I can do this," he admits weakly.

"You can," Derek insists. "It's going to be hard, but Stiles, this is what we do. This is your job. I know it doesn't feel this way right now, but it's really not personal. You go out there and you do everything you can to win, regardless of whether it's your best friend or worst enemy on the other side of the net."

When Stiles drops a hand to his knee, Derek covers it with his own. "I knew it would happen eventually, that sooner or later Scott and I would go up against each other. But first round at a grand slam on home soil..."

"I know," Derek says. "But Stiles, you can't think about this. You can't let it get to you."

Stiles takes a deep breath. He knows Derek's right. If he's going to have any chance of winning then he needs to forget all about their friendship and just focus on beating him. He needs to bring every advantage he has to the game, including his intimate knowledge of Scott's weaknesses. It might be callous, but distancing himself is going to be the only way he survives this game.

Derek stands, wraps his arms around Stiles, who buries his face in Derek's chest. Derek presses a kiss to the top of his head. "You can do this, Stiles. I believe in you."

And Stiles thinks that, with Derek on his side, maybe it's possible.

 

*

 

"So, this is weird," Stiles says.

Scott laughs. "Yeah."

Stiles has been trying to put the fact that he's going up against his best friend out of his mind for the last four days, even though he hasn't been terribly successful. He feels nervous and awkward standing beside Scott, and the feeling sits uncomfortably in his stomach. Scott is his brother; he's never felt like this around him.

Scott bumps their shoulders together when the sound of the announcer filters throughout the stadium. He says their names and they walk out onto the court.

They are two American rising stars playing against each other in round one, so their game is scheduled for Arthur Ashe stadium. It's hands down the biggest venue Stiles has ever played, and stepping out onto this court, seeing it with his own eyes and not through the filtered lens of a television screen, actually standing where so many greats have stood, is indescribable.

The noise the crowd makes when he steps onto the court is like nothing he's ever experienced. He finally understands why people put so much emphasis on the home crowd advantage. He wants to wrap the feeling around him like a blanket, luxuriate in the warmth and support he feels.

Stiles wins the toss and elects to serve. They warm up, Stiles serving easily, hitting the balls back and forth to Scott, and he has a sudden flashback to the first time they played opposite each other, two little ten year olds, already better than most kids their age, but just playing for fun, flailing with delight whenever either of them scored an ace.

When the umpire calls time, Scott is at the net for his volley. He turns to walk back to the baseline, but before Stiles even thinks about he calls out, "Wait!"

Scott turns back to him, confused and concerned. Stiles hustles to the net, and Scott's standing close enough that he can pull him into a hug. The stadium roars with sound, but Stiles doesn't care, just squeezes tight, whispers in Scott's ear, "I love you, buddy. No matter what."

Scott replies with "Ditto" and when they separate they smile at each other before both heading to their baselines.

 

*

 

When Scott hits the ball long and the stadium erupts with sound, Stiles is so shocked it takes him a moment to grasp the concept that the applause he hears is because he has just won the game. He can't help it, looking back to the scoreboard for confirmation, but there it is in writing: Stiles has just won in straight sets.

He meets Scott at the net, Scott unhesitatingly pulling him in for a congratulatory hug. When he tries to pull away. Stiles doesn't let him go, just hugs him even tighter. Scott chuckles against him, lets Stiles hold him a moment longer before they both break away.

Stiles shakes the umpires hand, then returns to court, acknowledging the crowd with a wave. Still in a daze, he packs up his bags and then heads to Pam Shriver for his post-match interview.

"Congratulations, Stiles. Your first ever game at the US Open, you must be pretty happy with the outcome."

"Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this was hands down the hardest game I've ever played. Scott is my best friend, training partner, occasional roommate. Beating him was no easy feat."

"Looking just at the final score you'd never know."

"Well, we all know games are more complicated than the final score. It was definitely a lot closer than the score indicates. A few points here or there and you could be talking to Scott right now."

"What was your strategy going into today's game?"

"You mean other than 'don't lose'?" Stiles grins, and the crowd laughs lightly. "Well, I obviously know Scott's game pretty well, so I just tried to remember where our strengths and weaknesses differ and use it to my advantage."

"And you certainly did that. Talk us through the second set, there were some pretty close calls."

"Yeah, it got pretty scary there for a while. I knew what I was trying wasn't working, and I had to change it up a bit, do something even he wouldn't expect. I went for the body a bit more, made some slower second serves, basically just tried to keep him on his toes as best as I could."

"Well, it definitely worked for you. Congratulations Stiles, and good luck."

"Thanks."

Stiles gives the crowd one last wave before heading off court, stopping to sign a few balls and programs for some fans. When he gets back to the locker room he immediately showers, and is just dressed again when Andre finds him.

"Great game, Stiles."

"Thanks. How's Scott?"

"He's doing okay. As well as you'd imagine, anyway. I think Miss Argent is cheering him up as we speak."

Stiles can't help but grin. Good for you, buddy.

"How're you feeling?" Andre asks.

"Uh, weird."

Andre chuckles. "Well, I have a surprise for you."

Stiles barely has time to wonder what the hell he's talking about before his dad walks into the room. Stiles beams, crossing the room and throwing his arms around John's shoulders.

"Great game, kiddo."

"I can't believe you're here," Stiles mumbles into his shoulder. "How-?"

"I got someone to cover for me. I couldn't stand the idea of watching your games online, not being here."

Stiles finally pulls back. He's totally not crying, there's just something in his eyes, which he wipes at. "I'm so glad you're here."

"Me too."

They spend a few minutes catching up before Derek walks into the room. Clearly surprised to see Stiles isn't alone, he just freezes mid-step. Stiles and John look up at his entrance, and when Stiles looks at him he can see Derek has no idea whether to stay or flee, so Stiles makes the decision for him.

"Dad, this is Derek Hale. We played doubles together in Canada."

John chuckles. "I know who he is, Stiles. Believe it or not, I do follow all your games." He steps forward and shakes Derek's hand. "Nice to meet you."

"You too, sir," Derek says, and he knows he shouldn't, but Stiles just wants to burst out laughing. Derek looks terrified, like he's worried he's about to get the old 'hurt my son and I'll make sure no one finds your body' speech.

"Well," John says amiably, turning back to Stiles. "I'll leave you two to it."

"Dinner tonight?" Stiles asks, walking him out of the room.

"I'd love to," John says warmly. He reaches over, squeezes the back of Stiles' neck briefly before leaving.

When Stiles turns back to Derek he looks vaguely unsettled, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why.

"Dude, calm down, it's just my dad," he says warmly, stepping closer.

"Not how I thought about having our first meeting," Derek admits wryly.

"You'd thought about meeting my dad?" Stiles asks, warmed up with affection.

Derek smiles, that slow and secret one Stiles loves. "Maybe." But then he sobers. "I at least thought I'd have more warning to prepare though."

Stiles chuckles. "Seriously, Derek, don’t worry about it. It's not like he knows who you really are. He just met my doubles partner. That was a completely fine first meeting for a doubles partner."

Derek's eyebrows knot together. "You haven’t told your dad the truth about us?" he asks, like he's both confused and surprised by this information.

"Of course I didn’t," Stiles tells him, like it's completely obvious. "We agreed not to tell anyone, and I haven't. Not even Scott or my dad."

Derek looks at Stiles like he can't believe Stiles is real. "What did I do to deserve you?" Derek murmurs, so low Stiles can barely hear. Stiles wants to tell Derek that he's the lucky one, that he doesn't deserve Derek, that he keeps waiting for something to go wrong because he's not sure he's allowed to be this happy, but he can't form the words.

But that's okay, because Derek doesn't seem like he needs a reply anyway. He straightens slightly, voice normal and completely lacking the intimacy for moments past, when he says, "Congratulations on your game."

"Thanks. Did you see any?"

"I was training, but I caught the last set. You were amazing."

Stiles grins. "I still can't believe I'm really here."

"Well, believe it. Anyway, I've gotta get to my game, and you have to get to your press conference."

"Good luck," Stiles tells him.

"Thanks." Derek steps closer, lowers his voice in case anyone passing by the room hears. "See you at home tonight."

Stiles nods, briefly squeezes Derek's hand before he walks out of the room.

 

*

 

Through a combination of awesome playing and a highly ranked opponent becoming injured mid-match in the third round, Stiles makes it through to the second week of the Open. His next game is the quarter finals of a Grand Slam.

Where his opponent is going to be Derek.

He has less than two days to get used to the idea, and the first thing Stiles realizes is that he can't stay at Derek's during that time. So he packs a bag, and waits for Derek to get home.

"Hey," Stiles says, trying to smile warmly at Derek when he walks in.

"Hi," Derek replies hesitantly, like he thinks Stiles' civility is a lie, like he's waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Congratulations."

"Thanks."

It's so awkward. It reminds Stiles of before, when they didn't know each other, when any communication between them consisted of rough sentences and nothing more.

Stiles takes in a deep breath. Derek is keeping his distance, clearly unsure how to act. This is different from all the other times they've faced each other on court. They haven't played opposite each other this deep into a tournament, and it would be difficult enough if they were just friends (hell, it would be difficult enough if they were complete strangers) but going up against someone you have a relationship with, it can mess with your head.

"I'm going to go crash somewhere else until the game," Stiles says.

Derek visibly deflates before him. "Oh. Okay," he says, like the words were ripped from his throat without his consent. Derek turns and heads to the couch, in the opposite direction from Stiles, and it's him pulling away. So when he collapses on the couch, Stiles gets up and crosses the room to him, sinks down onto Derek's lap, forces Derek to stay in the moment with him. Stiles cups Derek's face in his hand, thumb moving back and forth over his the arch of his cheek.

"Do you remember what you told me when I found out I was playing Scott?" Stiles asks gently.

Derek nods.

"You were right. It shouldn’t matter who is on the other side of the net. But Derek, I can't pretend that this isn't complicated, and I don't want to ruin either of our chances. We need to prepare as best we can, but we can't do that sleeping in the same bed. I need to try and do everything in my power to kick your ass on that court, and you do too. This isn't permanent, it's not a break up. Win or lose I am coming back here Thursday night."

Derek seems reassured, and Stiles presses their mouths together in a tender kiss.

"I'll see you Thursday, okay?"

"Okay," Derek murmurs, and this time he's the one to lean in for a kiss.

Stiles lingers for a moment before climbing off Derek and heading back towards the kitchen, picking up his bag from under the counter. He hesitates at the door, smiling at Derek, because it's not a goodbye, and he doesn't want it to feel that way. Derek returns the smile, and Stiles turns and leaves the loft.

He checks in to a hotel in Manhattan, and sleeps fitfully without Derek beside him.

The next day he trains extra hard with Andre. Scott, being the awesome best friend that he is, even cancels plans he has with Allison to help him prepare. He goes over Derek's stats, looks for weaknesses to exploit, prepares as best as he can, trying to ignore the whole time how emotionally anguishing this game is going to be.

He eats dinner with his dad, and halfway through the meal John just sighs and says, "Okay Stiles, spill."

"What?" he cries, a little too indignant, completely giving himself away.

"I've seen you before every game you've played this week and you've never been this nervous, not even when you went up against Edward Ramsey, who is ranked even higher than Derek. I know there's something else going on here."

But Stiles can't tell him. He promised Derek he wouldn't, and honestly, even if he wanted to now isn't the right time anyway. But trying to deny it at this point is futile, so he settles on some version of the truth.

"You know Derek's become a friend. It's just going to be hard going against him tomorrow. I mean, you didn't see me before my game with Scott. I was way worse than this."

"Son, I know you're nervous. But you can do this."

Stiles looks at his Dad, feeling pathetic for wanting the validation but needing it too much to care.

"I knew, from the second I saw you play your first game, that you were destined to be a great player. And I think you did too, even if you were too scared to admit it to yourself. I still remember the first time I saw you win a game. I just knew one day you'd end up here, playing in a Grand Slam. I'm not worried about you, Stiles. Because I know you can do this."

There aren't enough words in the world to convey how much Stiles loves his dad, how much his support means to him. All he can do is manage a weak but sincere smile and an, "I'm so glad you're here, Dad."

The next morning dawns clear and bright. He goes through his paces in the gym, does a warm up session with Scott on the practice courts, gets a hug from his dad and best friend, and then all too soon he's inside the stadium, preparing for the game.

He doesn't see Derek until they're both waiting in the tunnels to be called out onto court. There is the light pressure of a hand on his back for a moment, and he turns and sees Derek beside him. He can't stop himself from smiling at him, and Derek returns it.

"Feeling okay?" Derek asks.

"Yeah. You?"

"Yeah." Derek takes a breath. "Good luck, Stiles."

"You too, babe."

Derek smirks at the term of endearment, and then they're walking out onto court.

 

*

 

It's a grueling game of four long sets, and Derek wins on an ace.

Stiles moves automatically to the net, where the traditional shake turns into a brief hug.

"Congratulations," Stiles says with complete sincerity.

"Thanks," Derek smiles.

After shaking the umpires hand Stiles grabs his stuff and quickly leaves the court, the crowd applauding loudly for him when he waves goodbye. He finds Scott, Andre and his dad in the stands, all on their feet applauding him, and he smiles weakly at them, hand on his heart in a silent expression of love and gratitude.

When he's in the relative privacy of the stadium tunnel he stops, leans against the wall for a moment to catch his breath. It's a weird feeling, the internal war between being happy for Derek and disappointed for himself. He sucks in a few large lungful of breath, and is just about to head back to the locker room when he hears Pam congratulating Derek on his game, and Stiles decides to stick around and listen.

"Congratulations, Derek. How're you feeling?"

"Yeah, good. Excited to be going forward to the semis."

"How are you feeling about the game?"

"Uh, well, this was a difficult match for me. Stiles and I played doubles together at Montreal and we've become good friends, so playing against him today wasn't easy."

"And he certainly didn't make it a walk in the park for you, either."

Derek laughs lightly. "No, he didn’t. He's an amazing player. Future number one right there."

"You think so?" Pam asks, clearly surprised by Derek's proclamation.

"Absolutely."

"Well you could well get to number one first if you keep playing like this. You fought back when Stiles was up 4-1 in the third - how did you get the game back in your favor?"

Derek starts talking about his strategy during the set, and Stiles figures he's heard enough for now, heading back to the locker room as Derek's voice becomes a quiet echo down the hall.

 

US Open - Men's Singles - Quarterfinals

D. Hale             USA     6   6   7   7
S. Stilinksi         USA     4   7   6   6

 

 

*

 

Stiles uses his key to Derek's loft, surprised to see Derek already home.

He's sitting on the couch, book in hand, but he immediately closes it and stands when Stiles steps into the loft. Stiles doesn't move beyond the landing, he just stands there, looking uncertainly at Derek.

"Are we okay?" Derek's voice is tentative as it carries across the space between them, and something in Stiles breaks at his uncertainty.

"Of course we are," Stiles tells him, dropping his bag before crossing the room and kissing him deeply. He then proceeds to show Derek just how okay they are.

 

*

 

Derek's semifinal match is a close call, but he makes it through. Stiles watches from the loft, not wanting Derek to be distracted by his presence on the grounds. When he makes it home he looks completely dazed, like he still can't believe it happened.

The night before the final, the two of them curled up together in Derek's bed, Derek presses a kiss to Stiles' forehead and asks, "Will you come to the game tomorrow?"

Stiles tilts his head to look up at Derek properly. A smile slowly lights his features. "Really? You mean...?"

Derek nods. "Patrick and Boyd will be there. It would mean a lot if you were too."

Stiles kisses him. "I'd love to."

 

*

 

Stiles has never been to a Grand Slam final before. And even if had, he would never have sat in the players box for it.

The stadium is abuzz with anticipation, and he doesn't even make it all the way down the stadium steps before he's stopped for some photos. He takes a few pictures with a group from Ireland, and another with a couple from Texas, before finally making it down to the box.

Patrick and Boyd are already there, and they both stand in greeting.

"Hey, man," Boyd says, shaking his hand. "Good to see you again."

"You too," he returns with a smile. Stiles then turns to Patrick. "Hi, I'm Stiles," he says with an outstretched hand, because they've never actually met before.

Patrick smiles as he shakes his hand. "I know who you are, Stiles."

"You do?" Stiles exclaims, eyes wide with disbelief.

Patrick and Boyd both laugh good-naturedly at him, but Stiles doesn't care enough to be embarrassed. He was a massive fan of Patrick's growing up. The idea that someone he idolized as a kid knows who he is seriously blows his mind.

"Of course I do. You're on great form at the moment. I hope it continues for you."

"Thanks."

"This is my wife, Mia, and our son, Henry."

Stiles shakes Mia's hand, and waves at Henry, who is already sitting on his chair, waving a small American flag and looking excitedly at the empty court, clearly waiting for the game to begin. Derek has spoken about Mia and Henry before, and Stiles almost feels like he already knows them. He and Mia strike up a conversation, chatting amiably as the stadium quickly fills up around them.

Soon enough, it begins.

Stiles can't help but think that Derek looks perfect as he strides out onto court. He looks calm and confident, like this is where he belongs. His outfit is simple, his shirt and top both in a solid block of purple. He should look ridiculous - because purple, really? – but Derek has a face and body that looks good in anything and he totally pulls it off. He looks fucking delectable, but Stiles tries not to think about how much he wants to run his tongue over the length of Derek's body for fear of it showing on his face.

During all the pre-game activities Derek looks completely closed off and focused, barely even smiling for the traditional pre-game photo with his opponent, Isaac Lahey. When he crosses court for the warm up, Derek looks up to his box, and when he meets Stiles' eyes, Stiles gives him a reassuring smile, and, just for a moment, he gets a brief smile in return.

Stiles has never felt this nervous watching someone else's match. The energy of the stadium is amazing, and the noise the crowd makes is deafening. Stiles is right there with them, shamelessly cheering Derek on, screaming whenever Derek wins a game and getting to his feet with uncontrollable excitement when he wins a set. Derek on court is a fearsome thing to behold. Stiles has never seen him play in person, not when he wasn't also on the court with him, and it's incredible; his utter concentration, the way he moves across the court, all speed and instinct. He's completely in the moment, doesn't even look up into the crowd between points. It's like there's nothing in the world outside of him and Lahey.

During the fifth set Stiles thinks he might pass out from tension. It's a fight right until the very end, but despite Derek's best efforts, Lahey wins.

Stiles applauds politely, internally plotting ways to destroy Lahey, even though it's actually hard to hate on someone with hair that curly, who is so openly weeping over their hard earned win. Derek holds himself together as he approaches the net, but Stiles knows him too well now, can see beneath his mask to the ache beneath. Stiles just wants to run over and hold him, tell him how remarkable he is, remind him how incredible it is that he made it this far.

The officials set up for the trophy ceremony but Stiles doesn't notice, just tracks Derek's movements across the court, watches as he towels himself off and changes shirts (hey, it's not like he's the only one staring at his abs, not if the general hum that emanates from the crowd when Derek pulls his dripping shirt off are anything to go by). Stiles watches him stand there awkwardly like he doesn't know what to do with his limbs when he's standing on a tennis court but not playing.

Once the trophy ceremony starts, during the MC's speech, Stiles can see Isaac lean in and say something to Derek. It makes Derek laugh lightly, eases the tension in his shoulders slightly. He makes a quick reply, and when his name is called he looks much more relaxed. He accepts the trophy, the crowd applauding loudly as he holds it up. He's smiling, finally real, photographer's flashlights exploding like mad. A minder holds the flat trophy as Derek steps up to the microphone for his speech. He runs a hand through his hair, clearly nervous.

"Uh, I wanna start by congratulating Isaac," Derek says, voice sounding slightly warped to Stiles' ears with the multiplication as it reverberates around the stadium. He looks back to Isaac, who nods in acknowledgement. "Obviously it's disappointing to lose a match like this, but it was such an honor to be playing for this trophy, and to fight against someone who clearly deserves it. Isaac was just too good out there today. Congratulations, Isaac." Derek pauses as the crowd applauds. "You know, this has been my dream since I was a kid, and although I wish it ended differently, I'm still grateful to be standing here. But I wouldn't be here right now without everyone standing right there." He points at his players box, and Stiles flushes under the sudden scrutiny of half the stadium. "Boyd, my practice partner, who makes me better every day. Stiles, my doubles partner, who has taught me more about my game and myself than I ever imagined was possible. And Patrick, Mia and Henry, you guys are my family, and I wouldn’t be standing here without you. Thank you for everything." The crowd applauds again, and Stiles feels like his heart might burst from affection. "Finally, I wanna thank everyone who comes out to the games and supports us. You guys have been amazing all tournament, and I think all the players would agree that your support is invaluable. Thanks everyone."

Derek steps back from the microphone as wild applause envelops the air, and when Derek catches his eye, all Stiles can do is smile at him.

 

*

 

There are parties and events Derek is expected to attend, so after the game Stiles sends him off with Boyd and Patrick and heads back to the loft. It's nearly two am by the time Derek gets home, and Stiles is still awake, lying in bed waiting for him. As Derek approaches the bed Stiles gets up, throwing himself at Derek as soon as he's close enough, wrapping his naked body around Derek. Derek's hands go to his ass to support him, a laugh quickly turning into a groan when Stiles attacks his neck with wet kisses.

"Stiles..."

Stiles kisses him, wasting no time in deepening the embrace. He grinds slightly against Derek, and Derek edges forward so they can collapse onto the bed.

"I wish you'd have come out with me," Derek says, forehead pressed to Stiles', his whole body moving against him. The feel of Derek's suit on his bare skin is incredible.

Stiles kisses him briefly. "This was your moment, Derek. You deserved to enjoy it. Plus, I'm not convinced I'd be able to be out in public with you and not grope you, thereby completely giving away our secret."

Derek lifts his head so he can look at Stiles, his face nothing but sincerity when he says, "Still, I wish you were there."

"Well I'm here now," Stiles grins, tightening his legs around Derek's waist

"Yes, you are," Derek grins, hand trailing down Stiles' side before slipping back to his ass. He slides a finger to Stiles' hole to find it's already loose and slicked. "Fuck," he groans, rutting more urgently against Stiles. "If I'd known what you were doing I'd have been home much sooner."

Derek kisses him, tongue sweeping through his mouth quickly, before he pulls back to strip all his clothes off. Stiles grabs the lube and condoms from where he had conveniently hid them in the sheets, leaving them at the foot of the bed for Derek before turning so he's on his stomach, legs spread in invitation.

Derek drapes over him, pressing open mouthed kisses on his neck, down the curve of his spine. It's incredibly sensual, but Stiles doesn't want that, not this time. He wants Derek, wants to feel him through every inch of his body, wants to feel complete the only way he can, with Derek joined with him.

"Now, Derek."

Derek doesn't need asking twice. Stiles can feel his hands ghosting over his ass before he slowly pushes in. Stiles exhales in relief as Derek starts moving, short and sharp thrusts that makes Stiles cry out. He rolls his hips in countering thrusts. Derek's holding himself just above Stiles, and he can hear every exhale Derek makes. He whispers Stiles name, and he's never heard anything like it, all the layers of lust and want and adoration he can hear in that one word. Derek's palm is pressing into the mattress just by Stiles' shoulder, and he lightly wraps his long fingers around his wrist, a point of contact that's surprisingly intimate.

"Fuck. Stiles."

"Talk to me," Stiles says before he can stop himself. Derek's pretty monosyllabic during sex, which is totally fine, hell, Stiles takes it as a compliment, that he doesn't have enough brain function to form whole sentences. But Stiles wants to hear him now, wants a peek inside his mind, wants the sound of Derek's voice as another layer of sensation.

"You're incredible," Derek says. He presses his forehead to the nape of Stiles' neck, and Stiles can feel his breath on the slick skin of his back. "I've never wanted anyone the way I want you."

"Derek..."

"I thought about this ... before it ever happened. I thought about you after Paris."

Stiles rubs down into the bed, desperate for friction. Derek's thrusts become erratic, he's getting close, they both are. He hooks a hand over his shoulder, fingers tugging on Derek's hair.

"I'm yours, Stiles. I'm – fuck – I'm so yours."

Stiles comes with a guttural shout. Derek thrusts a few more times before he comes with a strangled moan, collapsing onto Stiles, sweaty bodies sliding together. Stiles is hot and breathless but doesn't care about Derek's warm weight atop him, not when he's so happy and sated. Derek presses a few lingering kisses to his shoulder blade. Stiles turns his head and Derek kisses him, slow and deep and Stiles can feel it all the way down to his toes. He moans into Derek's mouth, and it tastes like happiness.

 

*

 

Stiles decides to stay in New York for another week. He's played three tournaments in five weeks, and he figures he deserves a break. Plus, he's not really ready to go back to California, to have a three thousand mile distance between him and Derek, doesn't know how he's going to leave and so childishly decides to put it off for as long as possible.

Their time together is overwhelmingly perfect. It's all lazy breakfasts and curling up on the couch and Derek reading to him and Stiles making them dinner, and Stiles would be nauseated by the sheer cliché romanticism of it all but he's just too content to care.

Derek makes good on his promise to show him around the city. They go jogging in Prospect Park. They check out the Museum of Natural History. But then on their third outing, when they exit Rockefeller Center after marveling at the views from the observation deck, they're photographed by paparazzi.

By the time they make it back to Derek's loft the pictures are already online.

"Modern technology for you," Stiles says, not a little bitter that his beloved medium has betrayed him so.

Derek looks at the photos over his shoulder as Stiles scrolls through them on his iPad. They aren't compromising pictures; they aren't holding hands or kissing or anything like that. They're just walking down the street, talking. And at this point it's basically public record that they're friends, so they can be easily explained. But because Stiles has been so open about his bisexuality, whenever he's photographed with anyone, male or female, there's always someone who implies that whoever he's with is his new significant other.

Derek walks away and collapses onto the couch. Stiles can't help but stare at the pictures of them. He can't get over how happy Derek looks, all hazel eyes and wide smiles. While Stiles knows that Derek's happy with him, to see it from an outsider's point of view, completely detached and unbiased, to have tangible proof that Derek smiles like that, just for him, is a powerful thing.

But then he turns and sees Derek, slumped into the corner of the couch, and he can practically feel the older man retreating from him. So he heads across the room, sits beside Derek on the couch, links their fingers together.

"I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault," Derek tells him. He brings their joined hands to his mouth, presses a kiss on the back of Stiles' hand.

Stiles knows that that's it for them exploring the city. It was a stupid risk, one they shouldn't have made. He'd been an idiot, thinking that they'd be able to just be like any other couple in the world, hoping that they could just spend some time together without their exploits being discovered and published for all and sundry to see.

Still, despite the outcome, Stiles can't find it in him to regret it either. Spending these days with Derek, it felt right like few too things in his life did. And he's not gonna give this up for anything.

"I have an idea…" Stiles says, and Derek turns to him, intrigued.

Stiles doesn't want to lie, but a bit of deception is necessary for them to have any chance together. So, first step in his plan is to send out a tweet saying how awesome a wingman Derek is (the reasoning is twofold: it acknowledges that they've been in contact and hanging out, which gives context to the photos, and it implies Derek's been helping him look for love, so no one knows he actually doesn't need to). His second step is to go out in public, alone, and pick up.

Derek completely blanches at the idea, and Stiles kisses him urgently, promises he won't let anything actually happen. He just needs to be seen out there, living the single life while he's here in New York, like any other single twenty year old would.

So the next night Stiles goes clubbing, alone. He meets a group of college kids and insinuates himself in their circle. One of the girls, Keira, has just been dumped by her boyfriend, who just happens to tend bar at this very club. Seizing the opportunity, Stiles volunteers his services to make him jealous, and she happily agrees. He buys them some drinks and dances with her in his direct eye line (and internally flails for joy when he sees someone filming them).

A few hours later, when she's ready to leave, Stiles discovers she lives in the same neighborhood as Derek, so he offers to split a cab with her. When they make it outside the paps are there, and Stiles holds her hand as they cross the sidewalk to the cab, photographers flashbulbs lighting the night sky. Keira finds the whole thing terribly amusing, and once the cab has rounded the corner she asks, with an insight Stiles didn't think anyone who has downed two rum and cokes could possess, who he was trying to make jealous.

"What makes you say that?" he asks, genuinely curious.

Keira shrugs. "I don't know, I just get the sense you normally aren't a fan of the paparazzi, and yet when we left the club and they were there you didn't hurry up and jump in the cab, if anything you slowed down so they had more time to take photos. Just wondering if you're hoping someone out there will see them…"

Stiles laughs. He can't help it. She's completely right yet completely wrong, and of course he ended up going for a girl as smart as she is pretty. Never let it be said he didn't find a pattern and stick with it. "It's complicated," he tells her, hoping she won't call him out in his vague answer.

She nods. "Love usually is."

They ride the rest of the way in silence, and when they get to her building Stiles hugs her goodbye and tells her that she's too good for that douche bartender, but that he totally stared daggers at him the whole time, so maybe there's still hope. She smiles, kissing his cheek before slipping out of the cab.

Once she's safely inside the building he gives the driver Derek's address, and when he gets home he strips off everything he's wearing before sliding into bed, curling around Derek and pressing a light kiss to the nape of his neck before falling asleep.

The next day they go out for brunch, and when the pictures of them inevitably turn up online, most of them go with the angle of Stiles telling his new BFF all about his exploits at the club with his latest fling.

 

*

 

Stiles knows something's wrong.

Derek's been quiet, distant, since yesterday morning. At first he thought it was just the photos thing, but when Stiles asked if he was still mad about the photo Derek just blinked at him, confused, like he'd completely forgotten they even existed. He then wondered if this was some kind of post-Open slump, or if he was just having a crappy day, but whenever he tried to ask Derek changed the topic or literally walked away before he could open his mouth. Stiles might not be the smartest person on planet Earth, but he can read the very obvious signs, so he left him be.

Things aren't any better today. In fact, they’re worse.

Stiles doesn't know what to do, so he makes Derek breakfast and kisses him with everything he has in him.

They're sitting on the couch, Stiles scrolling through his twitter feed and Derek just staring into space, and out of nowhere Derek says, "My older sister, Laura, today was her birthday."

Stiles feels the words like a strike to his solar plexus. He literally tosses his ipad aside, inching closer to Derek on the couch. He lifts his hand, runs his fingers lightly through Derek's hair for a few minutes, a silent touch of comfort.

"I'm so sorry," Stiles whispers through a closed up throat.

Derek turns to look at him, completely wrecked. "Stiles, there's something I've never told you. Actually, I've never told anyone..."

Stiles takes in a slow and deep breath. He doesn't know what this is, but he knows it's not going to be good, and Derek putting his trust and faith in him means the world to him. He puts his hand on Derek's thigh, rubs his thumb back and forth a couple of times, a simple point of contact that screams I'm here.

"My whole family didn't die in the fire," Derek says on a shuddering exhale, his words strangled under the weight of their meaning. "My older sister and our uncle survived. Laura was seventeen, I was fifteen, and Peter was our only living relative, so he became our guardian."

Stiles can feel the surprise on his face, and he has a million questions, but remains silent.

"Do you remember our first date, when I told you after the fire I gave up playing and you asked how I started again? Laura was the one who got me back on the court. I'd felt so guilty, that I wasn't there when it happened. Kept thinking that maybe if I was then I could've saved them. And every time I tried to play afterwards I couldn't, because all I could think about was how when I was playing tennis my family was dying. But Laura, after six months she'd had enough. She sat me down and told me in no uncertain terms that there was nothing I could've done, and that mom and dad were so proud of me for playing, for finding something I loved and pursuing it. She told me they'd want me to keep playing, that if they knew I'd stopped because of them they'd be, and I quote, fucking pissed." He chuckles, but it's a hollow sound. "Laura always did have a way with words. Anyway, she gave me the strength to go back, to keep playing. When I was seventeen, I came home from school one day to find them both in our apartment, dead."

Stiles inhales sharply before he can stop himself, the noise loud in the silence of the room.

"I don't know exactly what happened. I'll never know. But Peter, he killed Laura and then himself."

He sounds so detached, like it's something that happened to someone else. Stiles supposes it's the only way to cope with such a traumatic loss, and he doesn't blame him for that. He squeezes Derek's hand as a tear falls down his own cheek, and he just lets it fall, won't let go of Derek for the world.

"I was three months away from turning eighteen, and given the fact I was touring with my coach and making money to support myself, I didn't have to worry about having a new guardian. When I turned eighteen and went pro, Patrick and I knew that people would inevitably ask me about my background, but I couldn't - I couldn't talk about it, didn't want people digging into it and telling me their theories, couldn't handle the idea of the questions following me my whole career. So we told people that Laura and Peter died in the fire and he was my guardian from the start. No one's dug too deep and found out the truth, at least, not yet."

Stiles can feel his heart fracturing for this man before him. He's been through enough for three lifetimes, and it's not fair, it's not fair that someone as good as Derek has had to go through all that.

Stiles shifts into Derek's lap, cupping his face in his hands and kissing him gently. Derek looks exhausted from his confession, eyes closed as Stiles strokes his face.

"You kept playing, even after…"

Derek nods. "Laura would never have forgiven me if I didn't. I love tennis. It makes sense to me. For a long time, being on the court, it was the only time I felt at home, happy. But not anymore."

The words are significant, and despite the heaviness of the conversation Stiles can't help but smile softly at Derek's declaration. Derek looks at him, nervous and shy, like between his confessions about his family and his telling Stiles that Stiles makes him happy, he's still expecting him to run. But Stiles isn’t going anywhere, not ever. And he tells Derek so.

"I'm not going anywhere," he says softly. He kisses Derek, keeps their mouths close, whispers, "You make me happy too."

Derek inches forward, slides their mouths together, a slow burn of a kiss that slowly deepens. Derek pushes Stiles' t-shirt from his body, before allowing Stiles to repeat the action on him. Stiles winds his arms around Derek's shoulders, presses their bodies close, and he can feel Derek's fingertips exploring his skin, everywhere, from his back to his hips and ribs and stomach and then back again. When Derek gets his arms around Stiles he shifts them down onto the couch, Derek over Stiles.

They kiss for a long time, every touch of their tongues holding a different message. I want you. You deserve every good thing in this world. I think you're amazing. You make me happier than I ever thought I could be.

Their bodies gently roll together, and it's Stiles who gets a hand between them, undoing his jeans and pushing down Derek's sweats until they're pressed together. Derek quickens his movements, his mouth sliding down Stiles' neck, teeth lightly grazing the skin. Stiles hands grip at Derek's hips, a constant and reassuring presence, silently urging him on.

It doesn't take long, and they both come on a deep exhale.

Derek collapses onto Stiles, head resting on the center of his chest, listening to his quickened heartbeat. Stiles runs a hand along the damp center of his back, traces the bow of his spine.

This is probably not the best time for this question, but Stiles can't help but think that this is a turning point for them. Derek trusted Stiles with something he'd never told anyone, and it speaks volumes about how far they've come in so short a time. But there's something Stiles still doesn't know about Derek, something important, and he thinks if he asks now they can have a conversation and then never talk about it again.

So, Stiles clears his throat and tentatively asks, "Derek, what exactly happened with Jennifer?"

Derek sighs.

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to," Stiles adds quickly.

Derek lifts his head from Stiles' chest to look at him. "Long story short?" Stiles nods. "I couldn't see it at the time, but she was only with me because I was a 'rising star', and she liked the fame that came along with being with me. I loved her, but she didn't love me. She cheated on me; I found out, it ended badly."

Stiles takes Derek's face in hand. "I would never do that to you," he says earnestly, desperate for Derek to understand, "you know that, right?"

Derek looks at him for a moment like he's looking for a lie, then slowly nods, like he honestly does know that Stiles is different, that he'd never betray him, and he's completely overwhelmed by the fact.

"I'm kinda crazy about you," Stiles admits in a whisper.

Derek smiles softly. It's the first smile he's seen all day.

"I'm kinda crazy about you too."

 

*

 

Stiles leaves New York two days later.

He doesn't want to go, and when he admits that to Derek as they linger by his doorway, Stiles' bags at his feet, Derek says, "So stay."

Stiles laughs lightly. "I wish I could. But I imagine Andre's getting pretty antsy over how long I've been gone. I should go. But I'll see you in Beijing in a few weeks, okay?"

Derek nods, kissing Stiles once more. Stiles clings on for as long as he can, reluctant to leave, trying to commit the feeling of Derek against him to memory. When he pulls away he gives Derek one last smile before picking up his bags and walking away, feeling like he's leaving a piece of himself behind.

 

*

 

Stiles is more excited for the China Open than he's been for any tournament so far, because it means he gets to see Derek again. It's their last tournament of the year, the last week they’ll both be in the same city, and Stiles is determined to make every moment count (while simultaneously ignoring what it means for their relationship that after the tournament, they are going to be separated by an entire country).

They each have rooms in the same hotel, and Derek's barely gets used. Days are long and spent at the National Tennis Centre, training and competing, and they both crash out at the semi-final round, Stiles to Boyd and Derek to Scott. Stiles and Allison are front row when Scott plays in the final, cheering as loud as they can, but Scott doesn't win.

The week is gone in the blink of an eye. On the last night, Derek and Stiles get back to the hotel as soon as they can, falling quickly into bed together, and there's a frantic quality to their movements. It's intense and intimate like nothing he's ever experienced, each desperate to make this moment last.

Derek presses his mouth to every mole on Stiles' body. Stiles spends long moments tracing his fingertips over Derek's skin, his mouth following the trail soon after. There are touches that linger, kisses that go from soft and idle to deep and desperate, and when Derek slides into Stiles their eyes are fixed on each other, never moving away.

Afterwards, Derek doesn't move away, just stays on top of Stiles, sweaty and breathless, a warm weight Stiles can feel down to his bones. He wraps arms and legs around Derek, clings desperately, wants nothing more than to press as close as he can. He swears he can feel Derek's heart beating against his own. Derek buries his face into Stiles' neck and Stiles just holds on and breathes.

Stiles presses a kiss to Derek's temple and says, "This isn't the end."

Derek makes a vaguely non-committal noise, so Stiles shifts and cradles his face and makes Derek look at him.

"I'm serious, Derek. I don't want this to be over. Do you?"

"Of course not. But we live three thousand miles apart. Do you really think we can make this work?"

"I do." He kisses Derek, licking at his bottom lip, refusing to move away until he can feel Derek kiss him back. "I'm not giving up. It's going to suck, and I'm going to miss you like crazy, but it's only three months. We can get through this. As long as you want to try."

"I do," Derek says, pressing his body closer. "I want you. Always."

His hand wraps around Stiles' cock, making Stiles arch and moan, and he proceeds to show Stiles just how much he wants him.

 

*

 

Stiles still lives with his dad in his childhood home. He could really afford to move out if he wanted to, but he's not ready yet. He's not ready to leave his dad. They are the only family they have left and he isn't ready to lose that.

When Stiles returns from China he collapses on the couch and spends the day watching action movies with his dad. It's a rare day off for the Sheriff of Beacon Hills, and Stiles is feeling jetlagged and slightly fragile over Derek, so spending the day doing nothing sounds like the best idea in the world.

John makes Stiles his favorite stir-fry for dinner, and when they eat it in the lounge as Speed starts playing, John turns to Stiles and asks, "Are you okay?"

"Of course," Stiles responds without even thinking.

There's no reply from his dad, so Stiles turns to look at him, immediately regretting this decision when he can see the look of disbelief coloring his face.

Stiles is suddenly overcome with the desire to tell his dad everything. He has this vision of himself just blurting I met this guy and I think I might be in love with him only he lives on the other side of the country and I miss him already and I'm scared of what the distance will do to us. I'm exhausted because we spent all last night talking and fucking before flying out this morning, so I've only had a couple of hours sleep for the last forty-eight hours. I'm glad to be home because I've missed you but part of me just wants to say 'fuck everything' and fly back to New York. But instead he just gives his dad his best smile and says, "I'm fine, really. Just tired from all the travelling."

John gives him this look like he doesn't believe him, but he mercifully lets the conversation drop anyway and Stiles feels a surge of affection for his father. He's never been very good at lying to his dad (even if he didn't know Stiles better than anyone, he's a cop, he knows when people are lying) but the thing is, it happens so rarely, his dad knows that if he's hiding something he probably has a good reason for it.

So they watch the movie in silence, and then Stiles goes to his room, collapses on the bed, and sleeps for nearly twelve hours straight. He still feels wrecked, so after a light breakfast he goes for a walk. The fresh air does him wonders, and about halfway through he starts running, pounding the pavement with his ipod blasting in his ears. No one disturbs him, no one even notices him. And when he gets home, thirsty and sweaty, he can hear his cell ringing from his bedroom upstairs. He races up the staircase two steps at a time, just managing to answer the phone in time.

"Hello?"

"Hey," Derek says, voice soft and warm.

Stiles smiles, collapsing onto the end of the bed.

"Is this a bad time?" Derek asks, and Stiles realizes he's been panting into the phone.

"No, it's fine, just got home from a run." Derek doesn't reply straight away. Stiles furrows his eyebrows. "Derek?"

"Sorry," Derek coughs. "I may have gotten slightly distracted imagining you sitting there all flushed and sweaty."

Stiles chuckles. "Well, as long as you don't tell me you're sitting there naked or something we might be able to continue this conversation."

Derek doesn't answer, and Stiles' mind races. "Oh my God, did you seriously call me naked???"

Derek laughs. "Gotcha."

"Okay, ha ha, very funny," Stiles grumbles, but he's still smiling. "Alright, I think now would be an appropriate time for a change in topic. How was your flight?"

"Good. Slept for the first half of the flight and then started reading Wolf Hall the rest of the way."

"What's Wolf Hall about?"

"It's the events of the Tudor time period in England through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell."

"Sounds ... interesting."

Derek chuckles, like he can see through the lie. "Well I think so. Anyway, how was your flight?"

"Yeah, okay. I couldn't sleep though."

"Even in First?"

"I don't know, I think it might be something to do with the enclosed space or compressed air or something. Even with the space to spread out and lie down I can't really switch off enough to sleep."

"You must've been exhausted."

"Understatement. I think I got like three hours sleep in two days."

"Sorry," Derek mumbles, and Stiles can't figure out why at first, but then he realizes it's because they spent the night before leaving together, too busy to sleep.

"Hey, babe, don't be," Stiles says gently. He smiles, adding softly.  "I wouldn't trade that night for anything."

There's a pause before Derek says, "Me too."

Stiles misses Derek so much it's a physical ache sitting in his chest. But he doesn't want to linger in the moment too long, scared that if he does he'll do something stupid, so he takes a deep breath and asks brightly, "So what are your plans for tonight?"

"Nothing much. Boyd was talking about going out tonight, he wants me to come."

"You should go."

Derek seems to hesitate, and Stiles thinks he knows why.

"Look, I know you're not a massively social guy, but you shouldn't shut yourself away. Boyd's a cool dude and he cares about you. Go, have fun. And if you're feeling guilty about going out and partying when I'm not there, don't be. This is just how it needs to be right now, but I still want you to live your life without me there."

"I'll think about it," Derek tells him. He doesn't know if he actually will, or if he's just saying it to shut Stiles up, but either way, hopefully he's gotten the message. Stiles doesn't want him to put his life on hold just because they aren't together right now. Derek deserves better than that. They both do.

"Look, I should go. I have to go jump in the shower before I completely stink up the room."

"Okay. Talk soon?"

"Of course," Stiles grins. "Bye, babe."

"Bye, Stiles."

 

*

 

Stiles gets back into the rhythm of training surprisingly quickly. Tennis makes sense to him, it helps him focus, it lets him forget about everything other than trying to get that little yellow ball to go over the net as accurately as possible. And he's determined, now more than ever, to be the best tennis player he can be. He wants this to be his life. He wants to keep playing every tournament, every grand slam, wants to keep travelling the world and playing the game he loves.

He gets into a routine pretty easily. It's different, training for extended periods compared to training during tournaments. But he settles back into it. He trains with Andre, practices with Scott, spends more time than he'd like at the gym. He and Derek text every day (usually several times a day), never go more than two without talking, and Stiles discovers a whole new use for his Skype. He spends time with his Dad whenever he can, and sometimes when he knows John is going to be working overnight he crashes at Scott's. He has a room there (technically it's a guest room, but Stiles uses it pretty regularly, and despite Scott's protests he always refers to it as his room) and Scott never minds him staying.

The first time he spends the night at Scott's his BFF isn't even there when he arrives. He lets himself in (he has a key, see, it's totally his second home) and collapses on the couch. When Scott doesn't arrive home straight away he pulls out his cell and sends two texts: one to Scott - i'm at your place, where r u?, and one to Derek – i decided to crash at scotts and have bro-time but he's abandoned me :(

Derek is the first to respond. Where is he?

who knows. probably w allison

Well in that case you should be glad he's not there. Nothing more awkward than walking into a friend's place to find them 'otherwise occupied'.

omg did that happen to u???

Maybe. ;o)

details. now.

So Derek begins telling him the story over several messages, and he's halfway through when Scott gets home.

"Hey, man," Scott says in greeting, dumping his bag by the front door.

"Hey," Stiles replies, putting his phone aside. "What's happening?"

Scott falls onto the couch next to him. "Man, I'm wiped."

Stiles grins evilly. "Good session at the gym I take it."

"If I never see another barbell it'll be too soon." He grabs Stiles' drink from the coffee table and takes a sip. "You staying?"

Stiles nods.

"Hey, me and Allison are going clubbing tonight. You should come with."

"I'm good thanks."

"Come on, dude," Scott pleads, adding the puppy eyes for extra effect. "You need to get out there and meet someone."

Literally the moment Scott stops talking Stiles' cell beeps into indicate a new message. Stiles can't help it, glancing at the phone before looking back at Scott, biting his lip. It's like Stiles can literally see a light bulb go off over Scott's head.

"Unless ... you're already seeing someone?"

Stiles takes a deep breath, runs a hand through his hair. It's getting long now, he probably needs a trim. "Let's say, hypothetically speaking, I was seeing someone but we were keeping the relationship secret..."

"I'd say that’s bullshit. You're awesome Stiles, you shouldn’t have to hide."

"We're not hiding because they're ashamed of me," Stiles laughs. He loves his friend for being so indignant on his behalf though. "It's just - it's complicated."

"Complicated," Scott says disbelieving. Stiles nods, and Scott says "Well, I still think it's bullshit."

A flicker of doubt sparks in Stiles' mind. Is it bullshit? Is it unfair that they have to hide, that Derek's making him hide? Scott's looking at him like he can see Stiles' inner turmoil, a vaguely gloating expression coloring his face. But Scott doesn't get it. He can't know how hard it is, for both of them, to deal with their sexuality in a public forum. He doesn't see how Derek is visibly more relaxed when they are alone together, how he carries a slight tension in his shoulders whenever they're seen in public. He doesn’t hear the affection in Derek's voice when they speak for the first time after a few days, he doesn't feel the reverence in Derek's touch, like Stiles is something that's sacred to him, like he wants to protect and safeguard Stiles against every evil the world possesses. He doesn't see Derek's broken expression whenever they have to part.

Stiles knows it's not bullshit, it's necessary. And he's okay with it.

"Well, lucky it's all hypothetical isn't it?" Stiles says dismissively.

"Stiles -"

"No, Scott, it's fine. I appreciate it, but it's fine. Go, have fun with Allison."

Scott just looks at him for a moment, and Stiles knows he really wants to keep pressing the topic. But then he squeezes Stiles' shoulder and heads to his bedroom, leaving Stiles feeling raw and exposed.

 

*

 

Stiles is lounging on the couch, watching television, still in his pajamas, when Allison walks into the lounge.

She halts across the other side of the room, smiling shyly. She looks embarrassed, like she's been caught out, as if Stiles isn't the least surprised he's ever been in the history of always that she stayed the night.

He sits up, giving her some room on the couch. She sits a little awkwardly beside him.

"Scott still asleep?" Stiles asks.

Allison nods. "Like a log."

"What time did you guys get in?"

"Um, about three, maybe."

It's barely seven, so Stiles knows Scott will probably be out for a few more hours. The two of them watch the TV in silence for a while. It's not awkward, but it's not terribly comfortable either. He likes Allison, as much as he knows her at this point. He thinks she'll be good for Scott. But the only times they've seen each other they had Scott there. This is the first time they are really spending any time alone. And the thing is, Stiles gets the sense that maybe Allison will be around for a while. So he thinks he should probably make an effort to get to know her.

"Scott's probably gonna be out for a few hours. Did you maybe wanna go grab some breakfast or something?" Stiles asks, feeling strangely nervous, like he's asking her on a date instead of to a friendly meal because she's dating his best friend.

But Allison turns to him and smiles brightly, and Stiles finds himself returning it. "Sure."

So they go to a cafe Stiles and Scott have frequented a few times after the very occasional big night out (they were athletes – it was honestly a rare occasion). It's cozy and casual and no one bats an eye at them. It's a beautiful October day, so they sit outside, basking in the sunshine.

Stiles has never met an awkward silence he couldn’t fill, and they talk about anything they can think of: Scott, the tournaments they've played, favorite movies, Scott, training techniques they find useful, Scott, Allison's dad being her coach/manager and how she loves him but sometimes she feels suffocated by him, plans for Halloween, mutual acquaintances, embarrassing stories from Stiles' youth, Scott...

They get to know each other over the two hours they spend together. Stiles can see why Scott is so crazy about her.

She's smart and funny and has the brightest smile Stiles has ever seen. If he wasn't already head over heels for Derek he might be in danger of falling for her too. She's just so damn likeable.

They walk back to the house, Stiles regaling Allison with the tale of Scott's crush on his eighth grade math teacher, and when they arrive back at Scott's they fall through the front door in peals of laughter. Scott's sitting on the couch, and he looks between them, confused, and it makes Stiles and Allison laugh all the harder.

 

*

 

Stiles swipes at his sweaty brow. Scott tosses the ball, serves, and Stiles crosses to the middle of the court as the ball hits the center service line, returning it with a powerful backhand. Scott runs across the baseline to get to the ball, arm outstretched in desperation, but he doesn't make it in time, the ball hitting his racquet more than the racquet hitting the ball, and Stiles wins the point.

"Okay, I think that's enough for today," Andre calls from his position in the umpire's chair.

Stiles nods, heading over to the bench and collapsing onto it. He pulls out a towel and wipes his face, neck, and arms before grabbing a drink and trying not to down it too quickly (because that's a mistake you don't make more than once).

"You're playing well," Andre tells him as he sits down beside Stiles.

"Thanks," he beams. He feels like he's playing well. Every game, every session, he feels stronger, more fluid, more powerful. He normally has a difficult time getting perspective on his own game, relies on others to tell him what they think. But it's different now. He's getting better, and he knows it.

"I don't know what's gotten into you the last couple of months, but your game is improving exponentially."

Andre looks at him with a tilted head, like he's trying to puzzle out the truth behind the sudden uptick in Stiles' game. But Stiles doesn't say anything, just smiles, and rightly guessing that if Stiles knows the why of it all he's not telling, Andre claps Stiles on the shoulder before heading off court.

Stiles knows exactly why he's improving. He can feel it to his core, a new sense of purpose, a fire within that was sparked by a certain someone.

He honestly never thought this would happen to him. He never imagined falling so completely for someone. Growing up the way he did, going through the loss of his mom, being the weird kid who no one liked, it didn't exactly give him much hope for his romantic future. And even if he could've hoped for something, he would never have imagined this. He had no idea how transformative it could be, knowing that someone out there was completely invested in your happiness and well being. He didn't know how someone opening up and trusting you so completely could feel like the greatest gift and most important responsibility. He didn't know how the support of another person could give you the courage to try and the determination to be better.

Stiles pulls his cell from his bag and texts Derek. I miss you

About ten minutes later, as Stiles heads out to his car, he gets a reply. I miss you more.

 

*

 

Stiles is man enough to admit that he normally puts off his meetings with Lydia for as long as possible because he's just so damn intimidated by her. But when the only other alternative is sitting around at home and mooning over Derek, well, he figures seeing Lydia is probably the less depressing option.

So he drives into the city and has a meeting with Lydia Martin, Agent Extraordinaire.

He always feels so out of place in her offices, sitting there in his jeans and t-shirt while young men and women flutter about in designer clothes, looking like they are just stepping off a runway instead of handling the careers of some of the most well known athletes in the country. Her firm is small, but it's powerful and well connected, and walking through the front doors is surreal no matter how many times he does it.

He honestly still has no idea how he ended up with someone as amazing as Lydia Martin as his agent. She handles the careers of people famous enough to have their own perfumes and sporting clothes lines, while he's just a nobody trying to do his best at the sport he loves. He honestly doesn't care about endorsing products he never even uses, doesn't want his career to end up being all about the money. At the end of the day, he just wants to play tennis.

When Lydia approached him after his first ever match in a World Tour series just over a year ago it was love at first sight. She was beautiful and decisive and kinda terrifying, and he liked her immediately. He thought it was some kind of joke at first, her wanting to sign him. He had just lost, rather spectacularly, his first ever Masters game. Why the hell would she want to sign someone who at that point in time had zero prospects? But she told him she had a feeling about him, that there was something about him, and she started pitching him ideas for his career and endorsements. If he's honest he signed with her more because he thought she was the most stunning person he had ever met in real life than because of her sales pitch (yes, he knows it was shallow and not exactly his finest moment, but he still ended up with one of the best agents in the industry, so, whatever) and he hasn't regretted the decision once yet.

When he finally makes it past her assistant and into the office he's taken aback, like he always is, at just how beautiful she is. Don't get him wrong, Stiles is completely crazy about and committed to Derek, but Lydia will always take his breath away. She greets him with a peck on his cheek before motioning for him to sit. He does, slouching awkwardly in the chair before she elegantly folds into her chair on the other side of the desk, smiling brightly at him. He waves away her offer of a beverage and then it's all business.

She compliments his recent form before diving headfirst into how she intends to capitalize on it. She talks about his brand (whatever the fuck that actually means) and his appeal to the 16-30 year old demographic (Stiles gets lost when she starts rattling off amazingly specific statistics) and he basically just nods along and pretends to know what she's talking about.

"Stiles, are you listening to me?"

Lydia's voice cuts through the white noise of his mind and Stiles physically startles. "Of course!"

"Really? What was I just saying?"

Crap. Stiles honestly has no idea. There was possibly something in there about cereals or senators or sunshine and, okay, obviously he just wasn't listening.

When he doesn’t answer Lydia tilts her head slightly, her eyes fixed on his with laser point precision, clearly searching for something. He feels naked under her scrutiny and seriously considers the good old babbling as a diversionary tactic option, but even if he could get away with that with Lydia (which he wouldn't, because she's never once fallen for it) he can't find any words anyway.

"What's wrong, Stiles?" she asks, not unkindly.

"Nothing," he insists, sitting up straighter in the chair. "I'm fine."

"Something's different about you..."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"I don't believe that for a second." She continues to regard him. "Whatever it is, you can tell me."

Lydia might be his agent, but she's also a friend. Not in the 'go to the movies, call each other for no reason' type way, but she's looked out for him way above and beyond her duties, accompanying him to a fundraiser ball when he couldn't find a date, doing some career management and PR for him at no cost (and even though she'd grumbled about how he needed an actual manager and that he was wasting her time, the words were delivered with a fond smile so he knew she didn't mean it). There's an affection there, on both sides, more real and meaningful than when he mentally wrote their wedding vows the moment they met. And it's tempting, to tell her the truth, to pull out his phone and show her the only picture he has of him and Derek, the two of them tangled up in Derek's bed, sleepy soft as dawn light filtered into the loft, Derek's eyes closed as he nosed at Stiles' temple. His fingers twitch with the desire to reach into his pocket and pull out his cell, so he folds them into his lap instead.

"What are you doing for Halloween?" he asks instead. He doesn't think for a moment his attempt at deflection isn't painfully obvious, but she thankfully let's it go.

Lydia arches a perfect eyebrow and asks, "Why?"

"My friend Allison invited me to a party, thought you might want to come."

"Allison?"

"Allison Argent. French born and American raised tennis player, currently ranked number 56..."

"Huh," Lydia replies, clearly intrigued. She has that look on her face, like her mind is running a million miles an hour as she stares into space. But then she snaps back to focus, looking at Stiles with a shrug. "Sure."

"Uh, okay, great," he manages, because he honestly thought she'd either already have other plans or would just turn him down. He never actually expected her to say yes.

"It's a date."

Stiles splutters in a very unbecoming way and just stammers, "Lydia, uh, it's okay, we don't-"

"Ohhh," Lydia says, eyes wide. She grins. "Not a date. Okay. Got it."

Stiles feels flushed with embarrassment and worry. Not that he thinks she has any idea of the truth (or that she'd tell anyone even if she did), but his and Derek's relationship is a secret for a reason and he doesn't want the truth to get out. "Lydia-"

"It's fine, Stiles," she says, waving him away. "If you don't want to tell me, you don't have to. I know you well enough to know that if you aren't singing from the rooftops about it it's probably for a good reason."

Stiles idly wonders if they knew each other in a former life. Not that he's entirely convinced reincarnation is a real thing, but if it is, he wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that he and Lydia were married or siblings or something equally close. Lydia seems to get Stiles in a way not many people do. He supposes it's what makes her so good at her job, that crazy intelligence and amazing intuition.

"Thanks, Lydia," he says genuinely.

"Any time."

 

*

 

"What do you think about Lady Gaga?" Stiles asks.

"I have no strong feelings," Derek replies neutrally.

"Really? Because most people either love her or hate her."

"Well, some of her songs I like, some I can't stand. Most of the time I think she's completely insane, but it's kinda hard to hate on someone when you've met them and know them as more than just an image on your television or a voice on the radio."

"Whoa, back up a second. You've met Lady Gaga?" Stiles asks, after picking up his jaw from the floor.

"Sure," Derek tells him, and he could not sound more nonchalant if he tried. "It was only for five minutes, but she seemed nice enough."

Stiles isn't really capable of speech, and the phone line is silent but for the sounds of their breathing.

"Stiles? You still with me?" Derek sounds completely amused.

"Who are you?" Stiles says, part accusation and part wonder.

Derek laughs. The sound is warm and open and Stiles smiles. He makes it his new mission in life to make Derek laugh every day.

"Okay, so how do you feel about Taylor Swift?" Stiles asks.

"Hate her with the passion of a thousand suns," Derek deadpans, and Stiles cracks up laughing.

 

*

 

Allison's Halloween party is, hands down, the most insane party he's ever been to. Okay, granted, the twelve year old in him will forever think that any party where people are drinking and dancing is insane because as a kid he got invited to exactly zero parties, but still ... it's crazy.

Stiles isn't an idiot, he knows Lydia only agreed to go with him so she could have the chance to get around Chris' stronghold on Allison, taking the opportunity to meet Allison alone so she can try and sign her. He doesn't mind. It's not like when they first met and he had an elaborate plan to woo Lydia, so he's not hurt by her using him as a means to an end. And besides, he likes Allison, and Lydia could do amazing things for her.

What he doesn't expect is for them to hit it off like long lost sisters. They barely leave each other's side all night long, and Scott and Stiles can do nothing but just leave them to it.

The party is full of familiar faces, people he's seen around the California tennis scene, even if he doesn't know who they are or what they do. But he gets some alcohol in him and by the end of the night he's made a lot of new friends. Scott doesn't drink much, or, the alcohol doesn't affect him as much as it does Stiles, and Scott spends most of the night laughing at him.

The music is loud, and the girls pull them onto the makeshift dance floor. For all the rhythm Stiles has on the court he cannot dance, at all, and just ends up flailing around and trying not to hurt anyone. But by this stage everyone is so drunk people find it amusing more than anything else, and Stiles exaggerates his movements to make his friends laugh.

He commandeers a random party goer, shoving his phone in their hands and asking them to take a picture. The four of them throw their arms around each other and smile for the camera. Stiles is dressed up in a navy blue cop uniform, Scott's in a Giants baseball uniform, Allison is dressed as a 20s flapper and Lydia looks resplendent in her mermaid outfit.

He tweets the picture to his followers with a succinct Happy Halloween!!!

And then, a couple of hours later, when the party is starting to thin out, he snaps a blurry picture of himself, his handcuffs hanging from his lips, and sends it to Derek with a winking emoticon.

 

*

 

Stiles has just put some vegetables into a pan of boiling water when there's a knock at the door. He automatically looks to his dad, who's sitting at the dining table and drowning in paperwork, and asks, "You expecting anyone?"

John shakes his head.

Stiles wipes his hands on a tea towel before heading to the front door. He thinks he's dreaming when he opens the door to see Derek standing on the other side. He just stares at him, waiting for the image to make sense. Derek's just standing there, smiling shyly at him, and when his brain finally kicks into gear Stiles reaches out and grabs the open front of his leather jacket, urgently pulling him inside. Derek kicks the door closed behind him, dropping his bag and then kissing Stiles desperately, like a man who's been lost in the desert and is having his first taste of water. Stiles clings to him, returning the embrace enthusiastically, too lost in the moment to care about anything else.

But then he pulls away, dizzy and breathless, because as much as he'd like to just kiss Derek until the world crashed down around them, his dad is in the next room and there's no way to bullshit the truth of their relationship if he catches them making out in the entryway.

"My dad's here," Stiles says, voice low, when Derek looks slightly bereft at his pulling away. "What are you doing here?"

"I had to fly out to LA for some meetings. But I couldn't be in the same state and not see you. So I thought I'd come up and surprise you."

Stiles' heart is still thudding from shock and desire, and he chuckles. "Well, mission accomplished."

"I've missed you," Derek whispers. The honesty and longing in his voice makes Stiles' stomach swoop, and he rushes forward, throwing his arms around Derek in a tight hug.

"I've missed you too," he whispers in Derek's ear.

And then Derek is kissing him, slow but deep, mouth and tongue moving with an unabashed certainty. Stiles doesn't think, just surrenders. He's missed this so much. It feels like forever since he's been able to touch Derek, to feel him real and solid beneath his fingertips, and he never wants to stop.

The sound of a throat being cleared is like an electric shock. Stiles pulls away, an ice cold chill running down his spine as he turns to see his dad looking at them. Fuck. He's overwhelmed by the guilt, can feel it pressing on him from every angle: his dad discovering them and obviously realizing that Stiles has been lying to them all this time, Derek wanting to keep their relationship secret but them being caught out.

"Dinner's nearly ready," John says. "Why don't you get Derek settled and then come in to eat."

John gives them a swift and soft smile before heading back to the kitchen. Stiles doesn't even look at Derek, just heads up the stairs, trying to listen over the blood pounding in his veins to make sure Derek is following.

When he gets to his room he walks in, leaving the door open, and only when he hears the sound of Derek closing the door behind him does he turn and face him.

"I'm so sorry," he blurts quickly.

Derek arches an eyebrow, dropping his bag and taking a small step forward. "What for?"

Stiles makes a vague motion with his arm. "My dad. I know you didn't want anyone to know, and I-"

"Stiles," Derek says softly, closing the gap between them, hands gently cupping around the back of his neck. "It's okay. I knew that if I came here your dad would probably figure out the truth."

Stiles' lips quirk into a small smile, hope filling his body. "You mean..."

"I'm okay with your dad knowing, yes."

Stiles kisses him, pressing their bodies together. He wants heat and skin, and his hands slip under Derek's t-shirt, gripping urgently. Derek moans, but then pulls away. Stiles tries to chase after him, but Derek steps back too far, giving him an evil smile.

"That doesn't mean we should stay up here having sex while your dad is waiting downstairs for us though."

"Ugh, you're the worst," Stiles grumbles.

"Come on," Derek smiles, completely unconcerned.

"Yeah okay."

Stiles takes a few deep breaths, tries to get his body's urges under control before they head back downstairs. When they walk into the kitchen John looks up at them from his position at the stove.

"You hungry, Derek?" John asks.

"Starving," Derek admits.

"Good. Stiles always ends up making too much and forcing me to eat it again for lunch the next day. Maybe if you help me polish this off I can buy my own lunch tomorrow."

"Not on my watch, mister," Stiles insists, poking John's arm for good measure. "No burgers and fries for you."

John looks to Derek for sympathy, maybe even support, but Derek just says, "Sorry, Mr. Stilinksi. If you're trying to get out of eating healthy food you probably shouldn't look for a co-conspirator in a professional athlete."

John just stares at Derek, and Stiles can practically see his father's train of thought. He can see the exact moment John decides he's amused and maybe even somewhat pleased that Derek stood up to him instead of placating him just to get in his good graces.

John smiles at Derek and says, "Fair enough," and Stiles feels relieved for a multitude of reasons. John steps back from the stovetop and says, "Why don't you two finish this while I clear the table for us."

Stiles nods. John heads to the table to clear away his paperwork, and before Stiles can move Derek steps forward and takes over stirring duties. Stiles grins, a feeling of contentment like he's never experienced sitting in his chest. He steps forward and kisses Derek, just because he can, before crossing the kitchen and pulling some plates out of the cupboards.

 

*

 

When Stiles wakes the first thing he becomes aware of is that he's not alone.

He's lying on his stomach, arm resting on Derek's chest, his leg thrown over Derek's so they're slotted together, and he smiles, pressing his mouth to Derek's bicep in a soft kiss.

"Morning," he mumbles against Derek's skin, voice hoarse from disuse.

"Good morning," Derek returns.

Stiles lifts his head and looks at Derek. He looks adorable like this, a sleepy soft smile and messy bed hair. "I've missed waking up with you," Stiles confesses.

Derek's answer is just to kiss him. Stiles shifts on top of him, the sliding of skin feeling like heaven. Derek's arms wrap securely around him, a solid weight on him as Stiles presses his body to Derek's.

"How long are you staying?" Stiles asks as he begins sucking on Derek's neck.

"Just until tomorrow."

Derek's words are like a cold bucket of water, completely killing the mood. He lifts his head, completely aware that he's making a face like a petulant child but not caring enough to stop. "Ugh, that sucks."

"I know," Derek agrees.

"Well, I'd suggest I could show you around Beacon Hills today. Everyone pretty much leaves me alone because I grew up here and I was a nobody when I was a kid. They pretty much still see me that way. But I can't guarantee that if we went out we wouldn't be photographed together."

Derek shrugs. "I don't care what we do. We could spend the day watching movies on the couch and I'd be happy as long as I'm with you."

"Good plan. May I suggest one minor revision?" Stiles asks with a wicked grin.

Derek raises an eyebrow, prompting him to continue.

Stiles presses his mouth over Derek's nipple, tongue flicking quickly back and forth over the nub, and Derek arches beneath him. "How about we spend the day in bed instead?" Stiles asks as he trails light kisses across Derek's skin, down his stomach, and as soon as Derek answers "Good plan," Stiles slips Derek's cock into his mouth.

 

*

 

Stiles has never actually done the 'staying in bed all day long' thing before.

When they were kids and went out to visit each other, he and Scott used to stay up late talking, so they'd spend all morning in bed, half asleep but still talking. He's had a couple of one night stands that lingered to the morning after, but it was purely physical. But this, it's perfect, the best of both worlds. They spend a few hours talking. They fuck. They watch a movie on Stiles' laptop. They fuck. They order a pizza and Stiles dresses in shorts and a tee to answer the door, stripping everything off when he gets back into bed and complaining when Derek spills tomato sauce on his sheets. Derek placates him with a kiss, which of course leads to more fucking. They stay wrapped up in each other's arms, talking about nothing, the light from a nearly full moon streaming through the windows.

It's past midnight when sleep claims them, after they'd both been fighting to stay awake, and the last thing Stiles remembers before falling asleep is telling Derek that today was a perfect day.

 

*

 

Stiles is woken by the shrill sound of Derek's cell ringing. Either that or Derek jerking awake and leaning over Stiles to grab his cell from the bedside table.

"Hey, Erica," Derek says, sitting up and rubbing a hand over his face.

Stiles doesn’t mean to listen in, but he doesn't really have much choice. Derek is rather taciturn, answering Erica's comments with grunts and the occasional murmured uh huh and you're kidding and really?

The conversation ends with him obviously scheduling an appointment with someone, and when Derek hangs up the phone he just sits there, cell still in hand, completely frozen.

"Everything okay?" Stiles asks with concern, sitting up and placing a comforting hand to the center of Derek's back.

"Um ... yeah."

Okay, so that doesn't sound too definitive. "What is it?" Stiles presses, because clearly there is something going on here.

Derek swallows thickly. "Nike wants me for a three year endorsement deal."

Stiles flails with excitement, bouncing on the bed. "Are you serious? That's awesome! How are you not more excited?"

"I can't believe they actually want me," Derek says softly, voice thick with wonder and disbelief.

Stiles shifts so he's sitting in front of Derek, making him look at him. "Are you kidding? With your face and those abs and your fucking brilliance on the court, I'm surprised they didn’t snap you up sooner."

Derek rolls his eyes like he always does whenever Stiles compliments his body, but then Stiles is kissing him, hands cradling his face as they fall back onto the bed, so he can't protest further.

 

*

 

Stiles hates it, saying goodbye to Derek. He lingers at the doorway, still dressed in his pajamas despite the fact that it's mid afternoon, and when Derek puts down his bag and turns to Stiles he throws himself into Derek's arms.

He doesn't say anything. He really wants to, wants to tell Derek how much he means to him and how much Stiles misses him when they're apart and he wants to beg Derek to stay. But he's scared that if he starts talking he'll never stop, so he bites his tongue and tightens his hold and kisses Derek for the millionth time.

"Get home safe," Stiles says.

Derek squeezes his hand before letting go. He picks up his duffle and says, "I'll call you when I land."

Stiles nods, and with one last sad smile, Derek opens the door and walks through it.

 

*

 

Stiles loves his dad. He loves Scott. He loves Andre. He loves California. He's never thought about leaving.

But he still finds himself browsing online for apartments in New York.

They've never talked about it, which is probably a glaring oversight on their part, but they're both on the road so much and often playing the same tournaments it hadn't seemed like a big deal when they first got together. But he can't keep doing this, saying goodbye to Derek, trying to subsist on texts and phone calls. It's too hard.

He'd never planned on leaving California. But then, he'd never planned on meeting Derek Hale either. And they've never really talked about their future or their options. Maybe Derek would want to come back here. He was born and raised on this side of the country after all.

It's probably too soon. He shouldn't be thinking about leaving his family and moving across the country. That doesn't stop him from falling in love with a one bed apartment on the corner of 85th and Broadway though.

 

*

 

Even as a kid, Thanksgiving was Stiles' favorite holiday.

It probably had something to do with the fact it was his mom's favorite holiday but he's completely okay with that. It was always a big deal in the Stilinski house, and the only time they didn't celebrate it was for the first Thanksgiving after she died. Stiles basically spent that particular holiday curled up on the couch, watching cartoons and just pretending the day didn't exist. But by the following year he looked at it as a way to connect with her, to keep her memory alive, so he forced his dad into the kitchen and together they made a truly average Thanksgiving meal.

Over the years it's become tradition for Scott and his mom to come over for the weekend (Melissa's work permitting, but she usually negotiates the weekend off in return for working New Year's Eve at the hospital – aka the worst night of the year - and she flies over from West Virginia for the long weekend), and this year their little party of four is expanding by two, with Allison and Chris joining them.

Stiles spends a good portion of the day before preparing all the desserts, so he just has to worry about the main meal on the day. He's preparing the traditional roast turkey with cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, carrots and green beans. Simple, but classic.

Once the turkey is in the oven he has nearly an hour until the next phase of cooking. So, because he knows he's basically going to eat more than any athlete ever should (it's the one day a year he allows himself to completely indulge) he changes into sweats and goes for a run.

The streets are quiet, and he wishes he'd brought his iPod. He runs for about half an hour, pushing himself as hard as he can, before heading back home.

When he walks into the house he can hear his dad talking, so he follows the sound and discovers John in the kitchen, talking on the phone. John's voice is warm and jovial, and he's clearly been talking for a while if the way he's lounging in his chair is any indication. Stiles tries to get his dad's attention, but John is too busy telling whoever he's talking to about his new deputy, who is so overly enthusiastic (read: naive)  that he not only volunteered to work Thanksgiving but offered to help with everyone's paperwork while he was at it. Stiles tries to catch John's attention to see who's on the line, but his father either doesn’t see him or purposefully ignores him, so Stiles shrugs, figuring it's probably his uncle or something, and heads upstairs for a quick shower.

Less than ten minutes later Stiles pads back downstairs, clean and refreshed, and heads to the kitchen, putting an apron on over his clothes. John is still on the phone, and Stiles is about to start work on the corn when he hears his dad say, "Yeah, he's finally back. Okay, I'll talk to you later. Take care." There's a silence, and Stiles looks up to see John holding the phone in mid-air, waiting for Stiles to take it. Stiles furrows his eyebrows. His uncle is a great guy and all, but they don't really talk much on the phone. Stiles looks between the phone and his dad a couple of times, and when John just continues to silently hold the phone out Stiles takes the receiver in hand, pressing it to his ear and saying, "Hello?"

"Happy Thanksgiving, Stiles," Derek says, voice warm and full of affection.

"Derek?" Stiles asks disbelievingly.

Derek chuckles. "Of course, who did you expect?"

"Uh, not you," Stiles admits. "Maybe my uncle."

"Why would you think I was your uncle?"

"Because I didn't expect my dad to be talking to my boyfriend for half an hour before handing the phone over to me," Stiles laughs.

There's a pause, then Derek's hesitant, "Is it weird that we talked so long?"

"What? No, of course not," Stiles quickly assures him, because he sounds scared, like he's done something wrong or crossed some invisible line. And Stiles knows how solitary Derek's life is, that he doesn't connect to people easily. If he's connected with his dad then Stiles is nothing but happy. "Granted it's probably not particularly common, but it's cool. Awesome even. I love that you clearly get along with my dad."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Good, because unfortunately we talked longer than anticipated and now I have to go."

Stiles laughs. "Of course. You heading to Patrick's?"

"Right now."

"Well, say hello for me."

"Will do."

Stiles really wishes they were together. He wants to know what it's like to spend a holiday with Derek, to create those kinds of special memories. He longs for future years, when they are settled together, creating their own traditions while keeping some from their own families. "Happy Thanksgiving, babe," he says wistfully.

"You too. And Stiles..."

"Hmmm?"

"This year, I'm thankful for you."

 

*

 

Derek leans forward, squinting slightly at the monitor. "Is that a new shirt?"

Stiles looks down at his blue and grey shirt. "Yeah. What do you think?"

"I think it's plaid," he deadpans.

Stiles laughs. "I know you have an aversion to anything that isn't a solid block of one color, but some of us actually like wearing more than one color at a time."

"It looks good on you," Derek says, voice low and lascivious, like he's really only thinking about taking it off him.

Stiles feels a primal need in his soul to see Derek, and not through the wonders of technology. He needs to touch him, to feel him real and solid beneath Stiles' hands. He doesn’t want to wait any longer.  

"What are you doing for Christmas?" Stiles blurts.

"I spend the holidays with Patrick and his family."

"What about New Years?"

"Nothing planned."

"You're playing Sydney before the Aus Open, yeah?" Stiles asks, an idea forming in the chaos of his mind.

"Yeah, why?"

"What do you say we go to Australia early? Rent a house, hole up there for a few days, spend New Year's Eve together…"

Derek looks intrigued, but then his face sobers. "It's only a few weeks before the Open. Do you really think it's the best idea to go on vacation that close to a Grand Slam?"

"I think spending a few days alone with you will do just as much for my game as training every day away from you will," Stiles tells him with complete honesty.

Derek smiles indulgently at him. "Well then how can I say no?"

 

*

 

Stiles immediately starts making plans for their vacation.

He looks for a house to rent, expanding his search to the areas around Melbourne and Sydney. He wants to find something nice but secluded, preferably away from the city to reduce the possibility of them being spotted together. He'd like the house to have a tennis court, because even on vacation they'll both still need to keep playing, and also a pool, because if he's going to go on vacation with his boyfriend to Australia over New Year's then he's going to do it right.

With such specific criteria and not much of a lead in time, his options are unsurprisingly limited. He finds a couple of possibilities, and immediately zeroes in on one particular house. The photos look stunning. The house is modern but warm, spacious but not overwhelming, and it's on a large block of land, ensuring them seclusion. It's located in a town called Daylesford, about seventy miles from Melbourne, which is apparently well known for two things: being a spa town, making it a popular tourist destination, and being one of the most LGBT-friendly towns in the state. It's literally perfect, and Stiles figures the only reason it's still available is because of the exorbitant price (which he is more than happy to pay).

Stiles sends the details to Derek, who replies with enthusiastic agreement. He books the house online, and then starts organizing everything else he needs.

He puts off the necessary conversation with Andre until his flights are booked, and then tells him after one of their training sessions. To say that Andre isn't exactly thrilled about his plans is putting it mildly.

"You want to what now?" Andre asks, his tone a mixture of disappointment, anger and disbelief.

Stiles sighs. "I want to take a week off over New Year's."

"Just so I understand you here: you want to take a week off from training, a fortnight out from a Grand Slam."

Andre says it like it's the most ludicrous thing he's ever heard. Stiles gets it, he really does. He knows, intellectually, it's probably not a great idea for his training to be put on hold so close to the Australian Open. And maybe one day he might end up regretting stopping his training. But right now, he needs this more.

"Remember after the US, you said you didn't know what had gotten into me that my playing was so much better? Well, the reason I started playing better and me going on this trip are interlinked. There's a tennis court where I'm staying, I'll still be playing every day, but I just need a break before the new season starts."

Andre lets out a sigh. "I can't stop you from going, Stiles. I don't think it's a good idea, but I won't stop you. I just hope you know what you're doing."

"I do," Stiles reassures him.

 

*

 

December flies by with his days filled with training and Christmas shopping and planning their vacation and organizing the Stilinksi family celebrations. Stiles, Scott and Allison have their own little Christmas dinner on the 21st, before Scott flies back home to spend Christmas with Melissa.

On Christmas Eve night, Stiles gets on Skype and calls Derek.

"Hey," Derek grins in greeting.

Stiles angles his head, trying to see around Derek to his loft. "I can't believe it's Christmas Eve and you haven’t decorated," Stiles replies indignantly.

Derek rolls his eyes, but the gesture is softened by the smile tugging at his lips. At every opportunity since Stiles found out a few weeks back that Derek didn't decorate his loft for Christmas he'd objected loudly and strenuously. How the hell does one not decorate for Christmas? That's like not having turkey on Thanksgiving or not dressing up for Halloween. It's just not right.

"I'd explain it to you, again, but you'd just call me a Grinch, again, and we'd end up talking in circles, again."

Stiles cracks up laughing. "Okay, I surrender. I'll never mention it again."

"Until next Christmas, you mean," Derek guesses.

"Until next Christmas," Stiles confirms with a nod, still smiling. "Okay, did it arrive?"

Derek reaches off screen, coming back with the Christmas present Stiles mailed him in his hand. Stiles lifts the present Derek sent from where it's resting in his lap so Derek can see, but says, "You first."

He slowly unwraps his present. It's out of frame, so Stiles can't see the box, but he can tell the exact moment Derek sees what's inside by the way his face softens, breathing out a reverent, "Stiles."

Stiles flushes, dipping his head slightly before looking back up to see Derek pulling the book out of its protective layers, fingers reverently gliding along the cover. He opens the cover and sucks in a deep breath. "It's a first edition," he says in wonder, glancing back up at Stiles as if seeking confirmation.

Stiles nods happily at him, and Derek goes back to looking at the book. It's a first edition of The Velveteen Rabbit. Derek told him once about how it was his favorite book as a kid, that he can still hear his mom's voice in his head from when she read the story to him every night. He obviously lost his copy in the fire, and like everything that he'd lost he hadn't replaced it.

"Thank you," Derek says earnestly, eyes locked with Stiles'. "I love it."

"I'm glad."

Derek gives his book one last glance before he puts it aside. "Okay, your turn."

Stiles opens the card first, because that was always the rule in their house, and he finds a beautiful hand scrawled message inside a Christmas card with a snowman on the front. Underneath Derek's name is a silver key, taped to the card. He holds it up to the monitor so Derek can see, and Derek says, "It's a key to my loft. I wanted you to have something that was actually mine, you know..."

Stiles pulls it from the paper, holds it tight in his palm. This key has been used by Derek, every day, to let him in and out of his home, the one place in the world that's just his, that he feels safe. He's letting Stiles into that part of him, telling him that he's welcome, that Derek wants him there. He looks back up to Derek, smiling. "Hopefully I'll get to use it sometime soon."

Derek grins in return. "Okay, other present now."

Stiles opens the small box (it's not even a Christmas box, just a plain metallic blue) to find ... another key. Stiles looks at Derek in confusion, and Derek just laughs at Stiles' reaction.

"Go to your window," Derek tells him.

Stiles looks suspiciously at Derek, who just makes a shooing motion with his hands in response. Stiles gets up and walks to his window, opening the curtains and looking out on the street. There's a classic blue jeep in his driveway with a large red bow on the hood.

Derek bought him a fucking jeep.

Stiles stumbles back to his desk, and when he falls back into frame Derek looks like the cat that got the cream.

"How did-?"

"I know you've wanted one ever since you watched Roswell. I found the car online and I roped your dad into helping me out."

"It's perfect. Thank you so much."

"You're very welcome."

"I kinda wanna ditch you and take her out for a spin," Stiles grins.

Derek smiles. "Well if that's what you want by all means."

"Nah," Stiles says, inching forward in his chair. "No, I think I'll stay right here."

They grin stupidly at each other for a moment. "Maybe we could take a road trip or something," Derek suggests. "I could fly out and then we could just get in the jeep and drive for a week."

Stiles' mind automatically points out the problems with such an idea (like finding the time now that the tennis season is starting again, or the fact that taking a cross country road trip together isn't a good way to hide their relationship), but it's Christmas Eve, so despite the fact that Stiles knows it will never happen (at least, not for a good long while) he just nods and says, "Sounds good to me. So, are you going to Patrick's tonight or tomorrow?"

"Tonight. Henry's right at that age where he gets the concept of Christmas and Santa, he's completely excited over the whole thing, so Patrick suggested I stay over tonight so I could be part of Christmas morning with them, instead of just being here by myself like any other day."

"Sounds fun. Christmas must be totally different with a little one running around."

"It's definitely fun, but it's also a lot more exhausting," Derek chuckles.

"Do you want kids?" Stiles asks, not even really thinking about it, but then his mind catches up with what his tongue has just said and he winces internally. This is not a conversation to be had on a whim while they are across the country and have only been together a few months. It's too early, too serious, but Stiles can't take it back now.

"Uh," Derek stammers, clearly surprised and unsure how to answer. "Well..."

"It's okay," Stiles says urgently, "you don't have to answer, let's just pretend I never asked."

"No," Derek insists, "let's not. I was surprised, yeah, but we can talk about it."

Stiles' heartbeat quickens in anticipation. He doesn't know what's coming, doesn't even have an idea of what he thinks he wants to hear, but for better or worse he's about to find out.

"Honestly, when I was a kid, I really didn't. Obviously, after what happened with my family I couldn't even consider it. But lately I've been thinking I might've been wrong. Henry is amazing, and he's definitely opened my eyes to the idea. And now, the thought of creating a family with someone that I Io-" Derek stops mid-sentence, glancing away shyly. He clears this throat before turning to look back at Stiles. "I've never been able to picture it before but I can now. So yeah, I guess the answer is yes."

Stiles is suddenly overwhelmed with an image of the two of them, lying in bed together, a tiny and perfect bundle of life sleeping between them. The vision is completely vivid; Stiles can feel the warmth on his skin from where the sun streams through the window, he can smell their daughter, all baby powder and formula and that perfect baby aroma, he can see the sparkle in Derek's eyes, the look of incredulity and exhilaration when he looks away from their daughter to meet Stiles' gaze…

It feels like a promise.

"What about you?" Derek asks, his voice tentative, clearly unsure how his confession has been received since Stiles is uncharacteristically silent.

Stiles licks his lips nervously. "Well, I'm only twenty, and obviously with the training and touring it's not really a viable option now. But yeah, some day, absolutely I'd want kids. I may already have a fifteen year plan that involves having children at some point."

"Am I part of that plan?" Derek asks, tone half teasing and half hope.

Stiles grins. "Most definitely."

Derek just looks at him like he's never been more enthralled by anything in the whole world. "I miss you," he says, softly.

"Me too. But I'll see you in a few days."

Derek grins. "Can't wait."

 

*

 

The flight, which would be long under the best of circumstances, feel interminable, each moment passing so slowly Stiles wonders if they are even moving in a forward motion. He just wants it to be over. Each minute feels like a slow torture, keeping him and Derek apart, when they are finally so close to being together again.

Knowing that Derek is in the same boat as him - well, same situation, where they're both sitting in planes soaring through the skies (flying to Australia takes long enough, boating would just take forever) - is of little comfort. He wonders what Derek is doing to pass the time. Maybe he's reading one of his historical books. Maybe he's watching a movie. Let's be honest, he's probably sleeping, a trait Stiles never envies more than halfway through an endless sixteen hour flight.

It feels like he's aged a year by the time he touches down in Melbourne, but stepping foot off the plane and into the terminal is like getting his second wind. Suddenly wide awake with excitement, he collects his bags and is happily surprised by how quickly and easily he gets through customs. The airport is pretty small, so it's easy to locate the car hire service, and literally only after he's put his bags in the trunk does he realize that the driver's seat is on the right hand side of the car, not the left. How he'd managed to not think about the fact that he'd be driving on the wrong side of the road until now he has no idea. But he's faced with the reality now.

He slides cautiously into the driver's seat, and puts off the inevitable by familiarizing himself with the dash and inputting his destination into the GPS. When he can't really delay any longer, he starts the engine and gingerly makes his way out of the car park. It's completely bizarre, and he feels like his sense of space and dimension are completely out of kilter, but he makes it out of the car park okay, and from there it's a drive of about an hour and a half of all freeways. By the time he's driving into the actual town, with stop/start traffic and intersections and roundabouts (driving left around a roundabout is freaky) he's gotten a bit more used to the car so he manages it fine. The house is about a five minute drive from the center of town, and he finds it easily enough, a smile lighting his face when he finally pulls into the driveway.

He takes a tour of the house, checking out all the rooms, before unpacking his things in the master bedroom suite. Once that's done he explores the grounds. The pool looks cool and inviting, and the tennis court appears well maintained. They have a neighbor on one side, but large trees shelter them from view, so they have total privacy as most of the house is surrounded by green paddocks.

Stiles knows that if he stops to rest then he'll completely conk out, so he gets back into his car, driving back to the main street, parking with only a minor struggle. He wanders aimlessly down the street, popping into a couple of shops that look vaguely interesting, grabbing a coffee that is fucking delicious from a cute little chocolate shop before heading back to the supermarket just near where he parked. He grabs a trolley and strolls down every aisle, getting them supplies for their five nights here. Despite the fact there are only two of them, it's surprisingly easy to fill up the cart, since the house came with only a few basic staples like sugar and salt and tea. Once done, the bags are loaded into the car and he heads back home, unpacking the groceries in the modern kitchen. He bought a couple of magazines on impulse at the checkout, so he sits on one of the bar stools at the counter and flicks through them. He should know better than to contribute to the paparazzi culture and the invasion of privacy of people whose only crime had been making their living in the public eye. Although his own experiences with that side of the job have been relatively tame, he knows how quickly things can escalate, how vicious and inappropriate the photographers can be, that ninety per cent of what he's reading in this glossy magazine is completely false, yet he still reads it from cover to cover. Blame it on the long flight and his lack of sleep.

Derek's flight was scheduled to land five hours after Stiles', which means that if there weren't any delays his plane should be touching down any moment now. He needs to find something to do for the couple of hours it'll take for Derek to clear customs and then drive here himself, because sitting there staring at the clock is probably the quickest way to drive himself insane. He makes himself a sandwich, his stomach growling in anticipation as he moves around the kitchen. He barely ate on the flight, and he gets this feeling when he doesn't eat for too long where he's so hungry he feels sick, so can't stand the thought of eating. It's a vicious cycle, one he knows he needs to break, because the longer he goes without eating the worse it is when he eventually does.

Just as he's plating the sandwich he gets a text from Derek. Have arrived safely in The Land of Oz. See you soon. :)

Stiles grins. They're finally going to be together again. The excitement and anticipation rushes through his body, but he still has a few hours to wait, so he grabs his food and heads to the lounge. He peruses the DVD collection and finds something he's never seen before, thinking if he has to actually pay attention it will lessen his chances of falling asleep and exacerbating his jetlag.

When the movie ends he tries to find something else to occupy him, otherwise he will literally just sit on the couch and stare at the clock until Derek arrives. He wanders the house aimlessly for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do. He ends up back in the kitchen, and figures since it's officially early evening maybe he could get started on dinner. So he pulls out some vegetables from the fridge and starts washing and peeling them, figuring they could just do a simple steak and vegetables for dinner. He's halfway through peeling the carrots when he hears the front door opening and closing.

"Stiles?" a voice calls, and Stiles drops everything in his hands, crossing the kitchen and poking his head around the corner to the hallway.

Derek is standing there. He's here, finally, and Stiles wants to laugh and cry all at once. Derek looks tired, but that melts away when he sees Stiles, his face breaking out into a smile that is like sunshine. Stiles doesn't even hesitate, running down the hallway and leaping at him, arms and legs wrapped around Derek's body as his mouth quickly finds Derek's. Derek's hands slide under to his ass, whether to support or grope is anyone's guess, and he stumbles forward, crowding Stiles against the nearest wall as their kisses deepen.

Derek's mouth slides down Stiles' neck, leaving his lips free to whisper, "Fuck, Derek, I've missed you."

"Likewise," Derek murmurs against his skin, clearly choosing the quickest way to reply so as not to stop the little nips and kisses he's busy with.

All Stiles can feel is the strong muscle of Derek's body. He grinds down against him, pulling a moan from Derek's throat. But it's not enough. He wants more, wants everything, needs to feel Derek throughout his whole body. He makes some kind of indistinct noise and Derek seems to understand perfectly, taking a step back, letting Stiles down from the wall (though he still keeps his mouth against Stiles' skin, not that he's complaining or anything).

"Bedroom," Derek says roughly, claiming Stiles' mouth once more, and Stiles couldn't agree more.

Being on solid ground doesn't do anything to settle their movements. It's still a tangled mess, trying to strip each other while moving through the house, all the while refusing to stop kissing. Stiles gets his hand caught in Derek's tee for a moment, and he can feel Derek's chest rumble in muted laughter before he rights himself and pushes the material off Derek's skin. Once Derek manages to remove his top, with much more ease than Stiles managed, Stiles cups a hand around the back of Derek's neck, fingertips idling through the short hairs at the base of his skull. Stiles does a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure they aren't going to crash into anything as they make their way across the lounge, and once he's assured the path is clear and he can lead Derek to the stairwell he turns back. He'd intended to crash his mouth against Derek's, but instead he's distracted by the utter serenity in his boyfriend's expression. He can feel Derek's large hands gripping at his hips, their lower bodies pressed together as much as they can without tripping over their own or each other's feet. Stiles uses his free hand to trail his fingertips reverently down Derek's cheek, over the sweet stubble on his skin. Derek just stares at him, and Stiles doesn’t look away, wouldn't be able to even if he wanted to. Who could look away from that, the way Derek's hazel eyes roam over his face with nothing but pure adoration?

When they manage to cross the lounge (without falling over themselves - bonus) Stiles presses a quick kiss on his lips before grabbing Derek's hand and guiding him upstairs. When they make it to the landing Stiles starts leading them to the master, but Derek can't wait, plastering himself to Stiles' back. His teeth graze along the curve of Stiles' shoulder before he mouths at the nape of his neck. A shameless noise makes its way out from the back of Stiles' throat, and when Derek's arms wrap around his torso Stiles covers them with his own, futilely attempting to get him closer, even though it's not physically possible.

Finally they cross the threshold of the bedroom, and Stiles turns, pressing his mouth to Derek's clavicle before trailing his tongue lightly up his neck. The stubble is rough on the tip of his tongue, and his licks over Derek's Adam's apple to claim his mouth. His hands open Derek's belt with ease, and from there it's just a few flicks of his hands to get his shorts pushed down his hips to pool on the carpet. He grips Derek's hips, steers him back towards the bed, luxuriates in their kiss for another brief moment before breaking away so he can push him down onto the bed.

Derek chuckles, arms out to reach for Stiles and pull him down too. But Stiles is too busy stripping Derek's shoes and socks, so once that task is complete and Stiles hands go to his own pants, Derek instead slides up the bed and grabs the lube and condom from where Stiles had thoughtfully left them in the bedside table drawer.

Derek turns back just in time to see Stiles crawling down the bed, hands and knees on either side of his body, before Stiles meets Derek with a bruising kiss, his whole body collapsing onto Derek's. Finally it's skin on skin, and Stiles moves without thought, grinding their groins together. Derek breaks the kiss in a sigh of pure pleasure, head arched back, the long line of his neck mere inches from Stiles' mouth, bare and begging to be marked. So Stiles does, latching on with tongue and teeth as he bites a hickey into Derek's skin. Derek is writhing beneath him, his hands gripping at the flesh of Stiles ass and digging in, pressing their bodies together.

Once his handiwork is complete, the red and dark patch of abused skin on Derek's neck like a brand Stiles never wants to fade, he shifts down Derek's body, sliding his mouth down his chest, tongue and lips tasting salty skin. Fingertips trail along in his mouth's wake, pressing into soft skin and firm muscle. It's too much and not enough all at once.

Stiles needs more, needs them together and connected, so he sits, straddling Derek's thighs as he grabs at the bottle of lube in the sheets beside them. Taking the obvious cue, Derek rips open the condom packet while Stiles coats his fingers, urgently reaching behind himself and slipping one in. He bites his lip to stop from moaning, keeps his eyes on Derek's hands as he prepares himself. Once Derek has the condom on his hands goes to Stiles' thighs, fingers splayed wide, the thumb on his right hand stroking softly back and forth.

He can't wait. Stiles inches forward, fingers wrapping lightly around the base of Derek's cock, keeping him in place as Stiles sinks down onto him. He lets the moan out this time, a sound that accompanies a deep exhale, a feeling of release and contentment that radiates from the hair on his head to the tips of his toes.

Stiles glances to Derek under hooded eyes. Derek's mouth is parted, lips wet, as he stares at Stiles. Feeling suddenly starved, Stiles leans down, Derek's mouth opening urgently in anticipation. Stiles' tongue finds its home in Derek's mouth as he starts to roll his hips, desperate for friction.

It's too much, too fast. There wasn't enough prep and the stretch of Derek in him is rough and intense. But he wouldn't change it for anything, not when Derek's fingers press into the flesh of his thighs and he can taste his sigh on his tongue. He braces his palms on Derek's chest as he breaks the kiss, gets at a better angle and increases his momentum, and Derek's skin is slick with sweat from the warm and stuffy air.

Derek moves in contrast to him, even though Stiles is really the one in control. He fucks himself on Derek's cock with a voracious desire, his hands scrambling for purchase as his thrusts quicken. Unable to stop himself, Stiles leans down for a quick kiss, but finds himself unable to pull away. Derek's hands travel to his hips to support him as Stiles tries to keep a rhythm, his tongue sweeping with Derek's while his hips move in a fluid cadence.

There are no words. Stiles is normally quite chatty during sex, but for right now there is nothing, no words or thoughts or anything beyond the feel of them together, skin on skin, mouths meeting in moments of ecstasy. Derek manages to sneak a hand between their flushed bodies, wrapping fingers around Stiles' cock.

Stiles breaks their kiss with a moan, and Derek uses the opportunity to press a kiss to Stiles' jaw before he murmurs, "Come on. Come on, baby."

The term of endearment, having never once passed Derek's lips before, completely does Stiles in. His mouth finds Derek's again, the kiss messy and rough. It doesn't take long after that, Stiles pounding on Derek and Derek pulling on Stiles, and Stiles cries out when he comes, their kiss breaking just enough that they can moan into the small space between each other's mouths, Derek spilling mere moments after Stiles does.

His lungs devoid of air, Stiles has enough presence of mind to gently pull off before he collapses onto Derek. Derek's hands are steady as they trail up and down his spine, their chests rising and falling against each other in quick succession. Stiles feels warm and sticky, it's really not comfortable, but he finds it difficult to care. He just wants to live like this, always, with everything wrapped up in Derek, the only thing that matters being the feel of their beating hearts.

Eventually Stiles finds the strength to lift his head. At the movement Derek opens his eyes, and Stiles smiles at him. "Hi."

Derek chuckles lightly. "Hi yourself."

Stiles presses a lingering kiss on Derek's lips before reluctantly pushing up, climbing off him and getting off the bed. The first point of business is putting on the air-conditioning, because only downstairs had the aircon on and it's fucking boiling up here, so he detours to the hall and turns on the upstairs cooling. Task complete, he heads to the en suite, wetting a washcloth and cleaning himself up. He rinses the material before returning to the bedroom. Derek hasn't moved an inch. He's still lying there, flat on his back, eyes closed.

"Uh uh," Stiles admonishes, sitting beside Derek on the bed and taking the condom off and disposing of it in the bin under the bed. He wipes down Derek's stomach as he says, "No sleeping yet, mister."

"I'm tired," Derek grumbles, still not even opening his eyes.

"You didn't sleep on the plane?" Stiles asks, lying down beside Derek on the bed. The cool air of the air conditioner tickles his sweaty skin.

Derek shakes his head. He finally opens his eyes, turning slightly onto his side to face Stiles. "I tried, but I couldn't."

"Why not?" Stiles asks, surprised.

Derek doesn't say anything, just looks at Stiles like he's silently begging him to not make him say it. The penny drops, and Stiles uses every iota of will he has not to gloat. Derek couldn't sleep because he was too excited, too worked up about them being together again.

Stiles grins, leaning forward and kissing Derek with everything he has. Derek takes the frantic kiss as his due, fingers curling around his waist.

"Okay," Stiles says once they've parted, "but still, no sleeping. Otherwise you'll be up in the middle of the night and the jetlag will be a bitch. Just another four hours and then you can sleep as long as you want."

Derek groans, like four hours is actually four days. "And what are we going to do to keep me awake for four hours?"

Stiles grins dirtily, wiggling his eyebrows at him, and Derek bursts out laughing. "Stiles, I've been on planes for twenty four hours and have been awake for nearly two days straight. Believe me when I tell you you've gotten all you can out of me."

"Ugh, fine," Stiles grouses, but the tone is too light to be anything but teasing. "Okay, so let's just talk."

"Talk," Derek says skeptically.

"Sure," Stiles shrugs.

"Okay then. So talk."

Stiles just looks at him for a moment, considering, and then says, "Hey, what's your favorite movie?"

Derek quirks an eyebrow at him. "That was random."

"I know. It's just, I was thinking about it before, about all the things I know about you - like how you think white bread is a special treat, and how you were a werewolf for your first Halloween, and that if you weren't playing tennis you'd have studied history in college - and it occurred to me that I don’t actually know your favorite movie."

"Well, it depends what mood I'm in, I guess. Ask me each day for the year and I'd probably give you a different answer each time."

"And if I asked you today?" Stiles presses.

"The Fifth Element."

"Good choice."

"Thanks. What about you?"

"Mortal Kombat," Stiles says instantly and with complete earnest.

Derek laughs. "Of course it is."

"Why do you say that?" Stiles asks, curious

He just looks at Stiles like it's completely obvious. "Random, obscure, cheesy film from the 90's that was based on a video game…"

"Yeah, okay smartass," Stiles smirked.

Derek grins, but obviously decides changing the subject is the best option, because he asks Stiles about what he's been doing since he arrived. Stiles tells him about the frankly terrifying moment he realized he had to drive a right hand drive car, about how he went shopping for them, and that he wandered the main street for a while. "… And you know what the best part was? No one recognized me," Stiles beams. "I had a couple of people ask me where I was from because of my accent, but there were no stares or photos or flashes of recognition. Not one, Derek. It was awesome."

Derek nods in agreement.

"And I was thinking… I know we're trying to lay low and all, but no one recognized me, no one even knows we've come out to Australia early. So maybe we could try going into town together, maybe have a meal out or something. See what happens…"

Derek just looks at him, and the longer the silence stretches the more anxious Stiles becomes. He starts freaking out that he's pushed too far, that Derek's going to be pissed he even suggested it, but instead when Derek does eventually speak it's the broken sound of Stiles' name and a rough and worried, "Do you resent me? For making us hide…"

Stiles lifts his head in shock.

"Honestly," Derek presses before Stiles has a chance to respond. "Do you?" he asks, voice bare and completely wrecked.

Stiles leans over and kisses him, lingers until Derek returns the embrace. When they break apart Stiles doesn't move too far away, laying his hand on Derek's cheek and lightly stroking his skin.

"No, I don't," he responds honestly. "I want to be with you in any circumstance. Is it easy? Not necessarily. But any inconvenience or frustration is completely outweighed by how happy I am when I'm with you. I promise."

Derek gazes incredulously at him. Stiles doesn’t know how to handle the intensity of his stare. He's not used to someone looking at him like they're waiting to wake up from a dream, like Stiles is something he's been looking for his whole life. Derek opens his mouth to speak, but to say what Stiles never finds out, because instead he's kissing him, pouring every ounce of adoration he has into that one embrace. Derek responds in kind, wrapping an arm around him when Stiles presses his body closer.

When their kisses finally slow to idle pressings of lips, when they eventually pull away and smile shyly at each other, Stiles asks Derek about his flights, his layover in LA, his drive to Daylesford, anything inane and ordinary he can think of. Because he knows if they keep talking about their feelings and relationship, if they keep opening up to each other in this moment, he'll say something, a very specific something, and though he knows he's ready to say it he's still not sure Derek's ready to hear it. So they stick to everyday stuff, chatting idly for a while, but all too soon Derek's responses become slow and sleepy, and he can tell the older man is drifting off again.

"Okay," Stiles says, sitting up on the bed. "You have two options: food or swimming."

Derek thinks about it for a moment. "Swimming sounds nice, but I'm not convinced I wouldn't fall asleep and drown."

"Come on," Stiles says with a grin, pulling on his hand until Derek sits. "You know I'd never let you drown in a pool of water. Swimming it is."

 

*

 

When Stiles wakes in the morning, Derek is still dead to the world. Stiles smiles indulgently at him, pressing a kiss to his lips but leaving him in bed to get his rest. They'd managed to stay awake until nearly eleven last night, but Derek was verging on zombie territory by the time they went to bed, despite the reinvigorating nature of their swim and a good meal.

Stiles pads downstairs and collapses on the couch. He turns on the TV but there isn't much on. He flicks through all nineteen channels, skipping half of them which appear to be either kids' cartoons or morning home shopping shows. The only thing that looks vaguely interesting is some random sport he's never seen before, so he leaves the TV on that for background noise while he goes into the kitchen and makes breakfast.

After eating his bowl of cereal and briefly checking sfexaminer.com on his iPad he gives his full attention to the TV. He's actively watching it by the time Derek comes downstairs, rubbing at his eyes like a small child before collapsing onto the couch beside him. It should look completely ridiculous but in a surprise to exactly no one, Stiles is nothing but endeared by it.

"Morning," Derek mumbles, still clearly half asleep.

"Good morning, babe. Sleep well?" Stiles asks with a grin.

Derek nods, easing back into the soft couch. Stiles can tell he's not really with it yet, so he turns his attention back to the television. After a few moments he can sense Derek looking back and forth between him and the TV, so he looks at Derek to see his face scrunched up in confusion.

"What are you watching?" he asks with bemusement.

"This, my friend, is called cricket."

"What the hell is cricket?"

"Only one of the most popular sports in Australia."

Derek watches for a few minutes. "How exactly does it work?"

"No idea," Stiles replies happily.

Derek chuckles. "Then why are you watching?"

"It's oddly hypnotic," Stiles insists.

They watch a few more minutes, and something happens that makes all the players scream at the umpire, one finger raised above their heads. The umpire just shakes his head at them.

"What the hell just happened?" Derek asks incredulously.

"No idea. Okay, let me get my google on and we'll see how it goes."

Stiles picks up his iPad and does some googling. He reads through the Wikipedia page, not even getting to the end of the introduction before exclaiming, "Holy shit, did you know this game can go for five days!?"

"I'm not watching this for five days, Stiles," Derek growls, like he's genuinely concerned that this is something Stiles would want to do. And to be honest, Stiles can hardly blame him. Stiles once spent three days straight watching all the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, then re-watching them with various commentaries. It's not an unreasonable assumption to make.

"Fuck no," Stiles readily agrees, as he continues reading. "Who the hell wants to spend five days playing one game? And, oh my God, sometimes they play for five days and it ends in a draw. Fuck this," Stiles puts his iPad on the coffee table, "we should just put on a movie."

"I have a better idea," Derek smirks.

Stiles raises an eyebrow, silently asking him to continue, but instead Derek slips off the couch, crawling over and kneeling between Stiles' legs. A thrill of arousal automatically runs through Stiles' body, and when Derek runs his palms slowly up his thighs before hooking under the waistband of his boxers and pulling them off Stiles is already starting to feel desperate.

"Derek," he murmurs, but the older man just grins at him before leaning down and swallowing Stiles down.

Stiles jerks as the wet heat of Derek's mouth surrounds his cock. It feels so fucking good that Stiles can feel himself hardening at a near record rate. Derek sucks him shamelessly, swirling his tongue around the head while idly fondling his balls. It's a cavalcade of sensations. Stiles cups a hand around the back of Derek's neck, threads his fingers through his hair in appreciative strokes. He collapses back into the couch, jaw dropped open as he moans at the feel of Derek's mouth and tongue. Derek pulls off, hand jerking him off for a few moments, fast and dirty. He presses open kisses along the shaft before sinking down again. Knowing the fastest way to get Stiles off is to focus on the sensitive spot on the underside of his shaft right below the head, Derek does exactly that, and it takes every bit of strength Stiles has to not thrust into Derek's mouth. Stiles mumbles a litany of incoherent words, the vast majority of which are either expletives or just Derek's name, over and over again. He knows he's close, can feel the heat pooling in his belly, his thighs pressing into Derek, his grip on the back of Derek's neck tightening as his body arches instinctively. He gives Derek warning, but Derek chooses to ignore it, keeps sucking until Stiles' body goes taut as he spills into Derek's mouth.

Stiles goes from tense and not breathing to a mushy pile of bones and muscles in zero point two seconds, falling back onto the couch with a contented sigh. Derek chuckles, pressing idle kisses to Stiles' thighs and stomach.

"Fuck, that was amazing," Stiles pants.

"I aim to please," Derek teases.

"As do I," Stiles replies. When Derek looks up curiously at him Stiles tilts his head and murmurs, "Get up here."

Derek gets up from the floor, sinks easily into Stiles' lap. They kiss deeply, achingly slow, and Stiles' hand sneaks into Derek's shorts.

"You don't have to-" Derek says, but Stiles cuts him off with a kiss.

"I know," Stiles says as his hand wraps around Derek's cock and he starts pumping. "But it's been months since I've gotten my hands on your dick and that is just unacceptable."

"An utter disgrace," Derek agrees.

Derek kisses Stiles then, keeps Stiles' face cradled in his hands, keeps kissing him even as he grinds into Stiles' palm, only breaking the kiss when he comes with Stiles' name on his lips.

 

*

 

The day idles by at a perfectly lazy pace. They do manage to get out onto the tennis court for a hit, because Stiles promised Andre he would be playing every day and he's not one to break a promise, but it's mostly just full of movies and swimming and talking about nothing.

It's exactly what Stiles had been hoping for.

 

*

 

"I told Patrick about us," Derek blurts.

Stiles stops mid step, grabbing Derek's arm. Derek turns to face him, but he avoids Stiles' eyes, like he's feeling guilty or something.

"Is that okay?" Derek asks tentatively, like he's honestly worried Stiles is going to be mad.

"Of course it is," Stiles insists fervently. When he opens his mouth again, he notices a family walking towards them. They're currently strolling around Lake Daylesford, a large and gorgeous lake not far from the center of town, rambling along the trail known as the Peace Mile walk. They had decided that they should really get out and see some sights, and a walk in the golden summer sun sounded perfect. But Stiles doesn't want anyone overhearing this conversation - it's too personal, too important. So he pulls on Derek's arm, leading him down the path to a nearby wooden bench. They collapse onto it and Stiles says, "My dad knows the truth, seems only right that yours does too. How did he take it?"

Derek idly runs a hand through his hair. "I think he was pretty surprised. But he said he just wants me to be happy, and he can tell I am," he grins softly.

"You must've been scared, telling him."

"Yeah," Derek admits on a deep exhale. "I was. It was terrifying."

"So why did you tell him?" Stiles inquires. "I mean, not that I'm not happy for you, but I know how insistent you've been about no one knowing…"

"I guess … I don't know. He's my family, you know - the most important person in my life apart from you. I hated that there was this big part of my life that he didn't know about. He didn't know me anymore, not really, and I wanted him to."

"I'm so proud of you," Stiles tells him earnestly. He really wants to lean over and kiss Derek, can feel the pull down to his very bones. He even starts leaning in before he remembers: they're in public, they can't do this here. Derek obviously notices Stiles' aborted movement, and he quickly glances around before swiftly leaning over and kissing Stiles, lingering for just a moment before pulling back. Stiles quirks an eyebrow at him even as he grins like an idiot, and Derek shrugs, says, "No one was looking. Seemed like a risk worth taking."

Stiles leans over and quickly pecks Derek on the lips before he stands, holding his hand out. "Come on, let's keep walking."

Derek takes his hand when he stands, and when they resume their walk he doesn't let go. It's silent for a little while, but neither minds. There is plenty to take in around them, and Stiles can't help but murmur, "It's so beautiful here."

"Yeah," Derek agrees. "Did you know this lake was manmade, built in 1929 and officially opened in 1930."

Stiles raises an eyebrow at him.

"I may have looked into the history of the town when you sent me a link to the house…."

Stiles laughs. "Of course you did. What else did you discover?"

"Uh, well, there's a trail not far from here called The Three Lost Children Walk. In 1867, about fifteen years after the town was founded during the gold rush in the fifties, these three young children went out to play on an adventure and never came home. The town searched high and low, hundreds of people joining in the effort, for weeks on end. They were found dead about three months after they went missing, about fifteen kilometres away from where they were last seen, two of them in a tree trunk and the third not far away."

"Oh God," Stiles sighs.

"But the town made sure they were never forgotten," Derek continues, squeezing his hand. "They created the trail, trying to get as close to where the boys would've walked as possible. There's a monument at the end of the trail in their honor. They were lost, but they were never forgotten."

They walk in silence for a little while as Stiles lets the story sink in. "Why do you like history so much?" Stiles asks. Derek has told him about wanting to study history at college, that maybe one day when he stops playing he eventually will, but he's never really said why.

"I don't know, I guess it's because when I was a kid I loved to read - my house was always full of people and noise and sometimes it could get a bit much, so I'd find a book and a quiet corner and read. I'd read about anything, but whenever I read about things in the past it just totally enthralled me: the different ways people acted and thought and behaved, how far we've come, how far we have yet to go. I want to understand why things happen the way they do. I know a lot of people say that history repeats itself, and that might be true, but sometimes I wonder if that's because we don't give enough credit or pay enough attention to everything that came before us. We can be a really self-centered species, now more than ever, and sometimes I think it's because our ego makes us dismiss everything that's already happened, like we are too smart or evolved to have ever done what they did. But then if we don't end up doing the same thing, we make the same mistakes but just in a whole new way. I think if you can understand the past, then you can have a better future."

"What's your favorite bit of history, the most random and obscure fact that no one knows?"

Derek thinks about it for a moment. "Well, I was always amused by the story of when Julius Caesar's army once split apart for a flanking maneuver and then spent hours in a standoff against each other."

"You're kidding!"

"Nope," Derek chuckles. "One of his scouts mistook the army as the enemy, so he delayed the attack for hours until he learned the truth."

"That's hilarious," Stiles grins.

"Did you like studying history when you were at school?"

"Not really," he shrugs. "Although I once wrote a paper on the history of circumcision," Stiles beams, because let's be honest, it was totally one of his academic highlights.

"Your history teacher let you write an essay on that topic? The hell kind of high school did you go to?" Derek demands incredulously, though his words lack heat.

Stiles laughs, embarrassingly admitting, "Actually it was for Econ, not history."

Derek just looks at him like of course, why am I not surprised.

"What, I can't help the way my brain works," Stiles protests.

"Uh huh," Derek agrees absently. They've made it back to the start of the walking trail, and Derek says, "Did you wanna hang out here for a bit, or go into town and get some lunch?"

"You mean, go into town … together?"

"Yeah," Derek says with a small smile. "No one seems to have recognized us, and since we are in such a LGBT friendly place, maybe if someone does recognize us they'll be discreet and not send photos of us to TMZ."

Stiles steps closer to Derek, wraps an arm around the small of his back. "Are you sure about this?" he presses. Because Stiles is all for it, but if something goes wrong, if they get caught out… he doesn't even want to think about the possibility of that happening, but this is real life, and actions have consequences. Stiles just wants to make sure Derek is prepared for that.

"I'm sure," Derek says, kissing him briefly.

They drive back into town and grab a bite to eat at a small café. The food is delicious, if a little too heavy for Stiles' tastes, but the best part is that not one single person recognizes them.

 

*

 

Stiles knows he's in the minority (or, to quote Clueless, a traitor to his generation) but he really just doesn't get the hype over New Year's Eve. He never really has. It's probably a remnant from his youth, all those years he never got invited to New Year's Eve parties, so he ended up at home watching movies on the couch, completely alone (because his dad, as the Sheriff, was always working, and Scott was across the country). Plus, as a professional athlete, it's not like he can go out and drink or smoke or do something stupid like every other teenager out there. So he always spent New Year's Eve at home, watching a movie or fucking around on the internet, sometimes not even staying up until midnight.

It's really just like any other day.

Derek doesn't really care what they do either, so Stiles cooks them a simple but delicious meal, which they eat outside on the patio while Stiles' tunes to chillax to playlist filters through the speakers. After dinner they take a dip in the pool (Stiles insists on the requisite thirty minutes resting period). Swimming inevitably leads to nakedness, which inevitably leads to sex. Stiles has his arms and legs around Derek as they make out lazily. When he rubs his cock on Derek's abs Derek's hold on him tightens, his fingers digging in to the flesh of his ass. They brush against the wall of the pool and Stiles breaks away, nodding to the tiled edge, and Derek just goes with it, pushing himself out of the water and sitting on the edge of the pool, legs dangling into the water. Stiles pushes his legs apart and situates himself between them, swallowing Derek down.

Stiles will never get over the sounds Derek makes, the way he says nothing but speaks volumes. Sounds of ecstasy tumble from his lips, and his hand gently threads through Stiles' hair or cups the back of his neck or slides down Stiles' wet back. He never says any words, but he doesn't need to. Stiles knows.

Afterwards, once Derek has regained his senses after spilling noiselessly down Stiles' throat, he stands, crooking a finger at Stiles and grinning evilly at him. He doesn't even wait, just heads into the house, not even bothering with a towel. Stiles scrambles after him, and when they make it to the bedroom Derek pushes Stiles onto the bed, face first, before climbing on after him. His hands are firm and sure when they part Stiles' legs, and before Stiles even realizes what's happening, Derek's tongue is in his ass. Stiles cries out, a combination of surprise and pleasure, and Derek rims him so hard that by the time he comes Stiles can barely remember his name.

Stiles is breathless as he lies there, completely sated, his brain nothing but mush. Derek kisses up his spine, half drapes himself over Stiles' body. He doesn't say anything, just traces his fingertips over Stiles' hip, patterns that might actually be half written words. Eventually Derek kisses the nape of Stiles' neck and murmurs, "Come on."

He gets off the bed, holding out a hand to Stiles, and when Stiles reluctantly stands from the bed Derek leads them to the en suite to shower. They wash off the mess and chlorine, hands moving reverently over warm skin, and Stiles finds it difficult to extract his mouth from Derek's neck and jaw.

They towel off and fall into bed, naked, and are both asleep a good hour before midnight.

 

*

 

Stiles wakes the next morning to Derek's scruff on the back of his neck, his tongue and mouth on his skin. Stiles grins. This is definitely the way he always wants to wake up.

"Stiles?" Derek whispers, voice rough with disuse.

Stiles makes a sleepy "Mmm hmm?" noise.

"Happy New Year's," he says, sliding his arm over Stiles' side, palm resting flat on the center of Stiles' chest.

Stiles hums contently, closing his eyes and pressing back against Derek. He covers Derek's hand with his own, fingers sliding between his before they link together.

"I love you."

Stiles is suddenly wide awake. He turns over, barely registers the small smile gracing Derek's features before he's kissing him, desperately, pressing their bodies together as Derek's hand cradles the back of his neck.

"I love you," Stiles replies against Derek's lips. "I love you so fucking much." He kisses Derek for what feels like forever but it's still not enough, and when he pulls back he says, "I want us to live together, be together always."

"Me too," Derek agrees urgently, like he's just broken a stalemate, as if he's been waiting all this time for Stiles to go first.

"I've hated the last couple of months. I can't do that again."

"Me neither."

"So, New York or California?"

Derek shrugs. "Either. Both. I don't care, as long as we're together."

Stiles kisses him again. "We can decide later," he says simply. "There are other things I'd rather focus on right now…"

 

*

 

When Stiles' inbox suddenly explodes with google alerts, his first reaction is sheer panic.

The only thing he has alerts for is 'Derek Hale', and since Derek is such a homebody the alerts are rare and most often about any tournament he's playing or maybe, on one very rare occasion, an interview that's just been published online. But there have been no tournaments for months, Derek hasn't been seen in public for weeks, and Stiles can't help it, his mind immediately going to the worst case scenario. Someone saw them, someone photographed them, their secret is out…

Derek's doing laps in the pool (after their time on the court this afternoon Derek had just stripped off and dove straight into the pool while Stiles decided to come inside for a drink and some cool air, and he figured he should check his email since he hadn't yet today) so he's not here to see the utter dread flooding through Stiles' veins. He takes a deep breath. At least Stiles has seen it before Derek, he can ease him into it, they can figure out how to deal with this together, they'll be okay, oh God please let them be okay…

Stiles opens the first email.

The story is not about them.

Derek's Nike campaign has gone live, released for the New Year and as anticipation escalates for the Open. Stiles lets out a shaky laugh, his heart still thudding hard against his ribs.

They're okay.

Crisis averted, he clicks on the link and is taken to the Nike website to view the photo. The page takes forever to load (the internet speed has been really hit and miss here) but it is definitely well worth the wait. Stiles had never felt the urge to lick a photo before but he has now. Derek looks fucking amazing.

It's a simple shot, Derek standing in front of a black background. He's wearing white shorts and that's all, hands on his hips as he stares down the camera. Half his bare chest is covered in blue colored powder, though it must be noted that a good portion of his abs are still visible. There is an absence of powder in a V shape across his chest, and the slogan beside him reads: VICTORY IS YOURS FOR THE TAKING. JUST DO IT.

Stiles will never ever admit to how long he stares at the photo. Considering the real thing is within shouting distance, he really shouldn't be so affected by a simple image. But Derek looks powerful and intimidating and unbelievably striking, and given the comments filtering through various websites, Stiles clearly isn't alone in that opinion.

"What're you looking at?" Derek asks as he comes into the room, a towel around his waist and his tennis clothes in hand, water still dripping down his bare chest.

Stiles looks up from the iPad, eyes locked with Derek's as he tells him in all seriousness, "I'm going to fuck you so hard tonight."

Derek quirks an amused eyebrow at him. "Not that I object to the idea or anything, but anything in particular bring this on?"

Stiles holds up the iPad, and Derek steps closer, taking it from his hand before collapsing onto the couch beside him, water stains be damned.

"I didn't know they were releasing it today…"

"Have you seen this photo before?" Stiles asks.

"Well, I saw some of the shots they took when we were shooting. I didn't know which one they were going with or how the final product would look."

"And you couldn't warn a guy? Geez, you're just lucky I didn't see this for the first time when we were in public. Coz let me tell you, no one would be in any doubt of the true nature of our relationship if that had happened."

Derek chuckles, ducking his head in embarrassment. "It's just a photo, Stiles."

"And an amazing one at that," Stiles says sincerely, and Derek looks up to meet his gaze. His mind suddenly comes into focus, and he sees past the image to its full magnitude. "This is a big deal, Derek. I'm so fucking proud of you."

Derek leans over and kisses him, just a simple pressing of lips. But there's a fire in Stiles' veins just waiting to be quenched, so he immediately deepens the kiss, pulls Derek towards him, falls back onto the couch, bringing Derek with him so his body covers Stiles'. Their mouths move hotly against each other, and after Derek gets a hand on his towel and removes it, throwing it across the room, his hand slips under Stiles' tee. "Show me."

 

*

 

It's over too soon, and the next day they need to leave.

They stay in bed for as long as possible, not even fucking, just lying there together, murmuring into the stillness of the room, hands idling along familiar skin. With one last kiss, Stiles reluctantly gets out of the bed, heading to the bathroom to shower. When he returns to the bedroom Derek's already mostly packed. Derek moves into the en suite when Stiles exits it, and by the time Derek is done Stiles is downstairs, putting the last of his belongings in his suitcase.

Stiles is the first to leave. They have different flights, very purposely organized it this way, because being seen together in an airport would not be a good idea. Derek's flight is about six hours after Stiles', and he'd been thinking of taking the scenic route to the airport, seeing a bit more of the country before flying up to Sydney.

Stiles refuses to make a big deal of it. Yes, he's sad their vacation is coming to an end, is going to miss the closeness and freedom they've had here now that they're putting themselves back in the public eye. But there's so much to look forward to. It's a new year, they're both in great form, and they're going to be moving in together. Stiles chooses to focus on that.

They stand together in the hallway, and Stiles reaches up and runs a fingertip lightly over the hickey on Derek's neck from their first day here. It's faded but still visible. "Sorry about that."

He's certain Derek knows that Stiles isn't sorry for giving it to him, more about it still being visible when they're about to go out in public again. Derek covers his hand with his own for a moment before bringing Stiles' hand to his mouth and lightly kissing his knuckles. "It's okay, it's practically gone. It'll probably disappear before we start playing. No one will notice."

Stiles gives him a hug, and after pulling back he kisses Derek and gives him a bright smile before saying, "See you tonight."

"See you tonight," Derek affirms with a nod, and they kiss once more before Stiles grabs his bag and walks out the front door.

 

*

 

When Stiles gets to the courts for training he throws his arms around Scott, hugging his best friend tightly.

"Happy New Year, buddy," Stiles says.

"You too."

There's no time to chat, as Andre immediately appears on court. Stiles greets him with a hug, which Andre bitches about but returns when Stiles tells him he's not letting go until Andre shows him some love. Andre grumbles when he wraps his arms around Stiles, but when Stiles releases him and heads back across the court he can see Andre smiling indulgently.

It's a difficult session. Andre rides him extra hard to make up for his vacation, but Stiles doesn't complain, just works his ass off to meet every single one of Andre's challenges. He's exhausted by the end of it (he and Derek played every day, and it's not like they were just lazily hitting to each other - they played hard, but it's still nothing compared to Andre when he's in a punishing mood) but at the same time he's proud of how well he performed.

That night Stiles has dinner with Scott and Allison in their hotel room and the three of them catch up. Scott and Allison tell Stiles all about their Christmas and New Year's Eve, which they spent with Allison's extended family who were visiting from France for the festive season.

"So, how was your vacation with the mystery man?"

Stiles startles. "I never told you it was a guy."

"No, but I just assumed it was with someone who was closeted which is why you're keeping the whole thing secret, when you shouldn't have to."

"He's not closeted," Stiles objects. Scott raises a disbelieving eyebrow at him, and Stiles wants to protest. But he can't. Derek is in the closet. He runs a hand through his hair. "It's complicated, Scott," Stiles says imploringly. Scott is his best friend; he needs his support, for him to understand that this is just how things need to be for now.

Scott just stares at him, like he still wants to object, and he looks like he's on the verge of doing just that.

"Please," Stiles says before Scott can get there first. "Scott, old buddy old pal, can you please be okay with this. If you knew him, if you knew why…" Stiles' voice becomes hoarse, so he clears it, inching forward slightly where all three of them are sitting on the king bed. "I love him. He makes me so happy, Scott. Can't you just be happy for me?"

Scott visibly softens before him, but before Scott can say anything Allison reaches over and puts a hand gently on Scott's thigh. "Of course we can," she says earnestly. "Can't we Scott?" she says, her voice making it clear that it's not really a question.

Scott looks to Allison and then back to Stiles. "If you're happy I'm happy," he says, and Stiles grins, feeling a weight lift from his chest.

Stiles holds out his hand, and Scott smiles as they do the sitting down version of their BFF handshake (more jazz fingers and weird noises and less shoulder bumps and hugs).

"So," Allison says, tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Tell us about your vacation."

And Stiles does.

 

*

 

Stiles' first game in the Sydney International gets off to a shaky start, but he battles his way back from being one set down and wins the game. It's invigorating, and fuels him for the rest of the tournament. He plays hard, wining his next game without dropping a set. He makes it to the semi-finals, and if he wins he'll be going up against Derek in the final, but he ends up losing in a three set marathon against Aarón Fernandez.

After the obligatory press, he heads back to his hotel. He has incredible views of the harbor from his window, so he sits in the chair he'd pulled up to the window on his first day and checks his emails and twitter feed.

He's looking at the Australian Open website when Derek enters the room. He's staying at the same hotel, on this floor actually (they didn’t even ask for that, it was just a happy coincidence) and Stiles asked for a spare hotel door key card when he checked in, giving it to Derek so he could come and go as he pleased.

Derek had been off doing stuff for Nike, but he must've heard anyway, because he grips the club chair's arms and leans down to kiss Stiles reverently, saying, "I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Stiles says, kissing him again, before Derek pulls back and sits in the chair opposite him. "Saves us from having to play each other again. Speaking of…"

Stiles hands his iPad over to Derek, who takes it with a questioning eyebrow raise.

"The draw for the Australian Open was released today," Stiles tells him as Derek looks at the draw. "We're on opposite sides, so we won't be going up against each other. Thank God, because babe, as much as I love you, I'm not sure I could handle you kicking me out of a Grand Slam four times in a row."

"Maybe you'd win," Derek suggests.

Stiles laughs. "With you playing like you are now? Not likely. Look at my side of the draw. Personally I'm betting on another Hale/Lahey final."

"You never know," Derek says with a shrug, putting the iPad aside. "It's a Grand Slam. Anything can happen."

Stiles smiles. "Here's hoping."

 

 

Derek wins the Sydney International. Stiles had wanted to be there, but didn't think it was a good idea. He could get away with being in his players box at a Grand Slam, where they'd also have Patrick and Boyd as a buffer so the attention wouldn't be drawn to him, but the Sydney games are smaller, and they didn't want to risk it.

Derek wins in straight sets, and Stiles spends a good hour that night worshipping his skill and form. In bed. Naked. With his tongue.

Everyone flies out to Melbourne the next day. Scott and Stiles spend the whole flight playing 'the 30 card game' - a game that neither of them can actually remember how they learned (Scott insists someone at a USTA camp taught them forever ago, Stiles claims they made it up themselves) but it's their go-to game when they want to play something.

Melbourne is bright and clear when they land, and the first thing Stiles does after checking into his room is to then leave it and ride the elevator up three floors to Derek's room. The Open is starting tomorrow and time is going to be a rare commodity over the next fortnight, so they take advantage of the few precious hours they have free now (before Stiles has to go training with Andre and Derek has to do an interview in a restaurant downstairs). Stiles kisses Derek like it's been years and not hours, pulling at their clothes as they cross the room. When they get to the bed Stiles fall back onto it and Derek follows him down, pressing an open mouth to his stomach, rubbing his stubble along Stiles' skin.

"Fuck that feels good," Stiles moans. So stubble is a kink, who knew?

Derek doesn't respond, not that Stiles was really expecting him to, just wraps his hands around Stiles' ribs as he works his way up his chest, swirling a tongue around a nipple. Stiles arches up at the touch, panting heavily.

"Naked," Stiles manages after several moments of delicious torture. "Now."

Derek looks up at him with a grin, leaning forward and kissing him quickly before he sits, pulling Stiles' shoes and socks off. Stiles shimmies out of his shorts and underwear while Derek does the same, and then Derek falls between his open legs, mouths meeting in a bruising kiss.

It's easy now, instinctual, the way they can move together. Derek positions his body and starts rocking back and forth, their cocks rubbing together, and Stiles gasps at the sensation. Derek buries his face in Stiles' neck as he keeps moving, and Stiles wraps his arms around him, legs hooking over his hips, spurring him on. Their bodies slide together easily, damp with sweat.

Stiles cups his hand around the back of Derek's neck, squeezing lightly, and when Derek looks up Stiles kisses him, licking at his lips before pushing into his mouth. He rolls them over, Derek looking surprised (but not unhappily so) at his movement. Stiles repositions them so he's now between Derek's thighs, hands pressed flat to the mattress on either side of Derek's body as he realigns their cocks and starts moving. Stiles thrusts hard and fast, gazing down at Derek the whole time. Derek breaks their stare only to glance between their bodies, to see their cocks sliding together, and he whispers an expletive before returning his gaze to Stiles, eyes wide and wondrous.

"Are you close?"

Derek nods, and Stiles briefly ducks his head, kisses the side of his throat before pushing back up again.

"Come on," Stiles says, his thrusts becoming long and hard. "Come for me, babe."

Derek's hips move against his own, his breath becoming shorter and shorter, before he comes, mouth open in a silent gasp. Stiles can feel him spilling on his stomach and it's fucking amazing. Stiles keeps moving, his arms losing strength as he focuses all his energy on the way his body rocks against Derek's. He comes moments later, whole body flushed and muscled tense. He collapses with a heavy sigh, just taking a few seconds to catch his breath before he kisses down Derek's chest and abs, looking at Derek under hooded eyes as he licks at their come.

"Fuck, are you trying to kill me?" Derek groans.

"Now why would I want to do that?" Stiles smirks in reply, before going back to his task.

Derek slides fingers through Stiles' hair, traces his eyebrows and moles, idles his fingertips along Stiles' arm until he's done. Stiles grins at him, chin pressing into the skin just below his navel, and Derek rubs the pad of his thumb along the smile.

"I love you," Derek says, and Stiles grin becomes impossibly wider.

"I love you, too."

"Did you have a good flight?"

"Yup. Scott and I played cards the whole time. Since the flight was so short we only got in two games."

"Let me guess," Derek grins. "You won one game each."

"How'd you know?" Stiles laughs.

He shrugs. "Wild guess."

"What about you?" Stiles asks, briefly pressing a light kiss to his skin. "How was yours?"

"Good. I ended up sitting near Allison and Chris Argent."

"Yeah?"

Derek nods. "Yeah. She seemed nice."

"Did she talk about Scott at all?"

"Well, her dad was right there, so, no. He seemed a bit … hard core."

Stiles laughs. "Yeah, you could say that. He knows they're dating, but he refuses to acknowledge it in any way. But I gotta give Scott props - he hasn't backed down at all. I've no doubt he'll wear Chris down eventually. I mean, Scott's like pure sunshine. How can anyone not love him?"

"Not that you're biased at all," Derek grins.

"Never!"

Stiles' cell rings, and he groans, kissing Derek's hip as he reaches onto the floor to grab his shorts and pull out his cell. He looks at the caller ID and answers with, "Speak of the devil."

"Huh?" Scott asks.

"Nothing, was just singing your good praises is all. Were your ears burning?"

"Yes, but I'm pretty sure that's from the unadulterated sun coming through the hole in the ozone layer as I stand out here on court waiting for you, but sure, let's go with it being because you were talking about me."

Stiles groans. "Message received. On my way."

Stiles hangs up the phone and sighs sadly. "Gotta go," he says, leaning up and kissing Derek before sliding off the bed and redressing.

"Everything okay?"

"Yeah, I just might be late to practice because I wanted to come here and have the sex with you instead of heading to court."

"The sex? Really, Stiles?" Derek narrows his eyebrows at him and his juvenileness.

"Don't be like that. You're awesome at the sex," Stiles grins, and Derek can't help but laugh and return it.

Fully dressed (though with untied shoes) Stiles leans over and gives him one last kiss. "See you later, babe."

"Bye."

 

*

 

Stiles' first game of the Open is against Boyd. Stiles asks Derek for advice, so Derek tells him to try and hit to Boyd's backhand as often as possible and that Boyd's stamina isn't anywhere near Stiles' (at which point Stiles wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, which Derek ignores) so to try and keep the rally's going as long as possible.

Being on the opposite side of the draw, Derek and Stiles never play the same day, so Derek can attend the game. He's won his own first round game easily, and told Stiles he was going to sneak into the game to watch them play. Stiles greets Boyd with more warmth than is probably appropriate given that they are going up against each other in a Grand Slam, but he can't help it. Boyd isn't as openly genial, but Stiles isn't offended. He's clearly in game mode already, and wasn't seeing Stiles as anything more than his opponent.

They are playing on the outside courts, so the crowd is much smaller than when they played in the arenas, and it doesn't take long for Stiles to spot Derek in the audience, standing up in the back corner, trying to remain inconspicuous. Stiles briefly puts his hand over his heart, knowing Derek will understand.

Stiles is excited, but more than that, he's ready. This is going to be his tournament, he just knows it. A sense of ease and being in the exact right place at the exact right time washes over him, and when the game starts, the yellow tennis ball bouncing easily on the hard court before he serves, he takes a deep breath and hits the ball with all his might.

The match begins on an ace and ends after the longest rally in the game, Stiles winning in four sets.

When Stiles makes it back to the locker room there's a text from Derek waiting on his cell.

Congrats on your win. You were amazing. Have an early game tomorrow so probably won't see you tonight. Sleep well, Stiles.

Stiles grins, tucking the phone back into his bag before grabbing his hoodie and heading to the press room for his post-game interview. The journalists all focus on his tactics for drawing out the points for as long as possible, and Stiles rambles in what he hopes is a coherent way about his strategies and Boyd's valiant efforts until he can finally escape.

When his interview is over and he's heading back to the hotel he gets another text on his cell.

Don't think I told you how much I love your tournament outfit. Watching your interview I just wanted to rip that hoodie right off you.

He actually laughs, causing his driver to briefly look back at him. Stiles normally goes for outfits with lots of lines and patterns and at least three different colors, but his outfit for the tournament is a simple red shorts and white tee, and his hoodie is mostly red with just a few white accents. He doesn't look as good as Derek does in his blue outfit (it matches the Nike campaign, so his top is blue with a white v across the chest) but that's not the point. Derek likes it, that's enough for him.

 

*

 

Stiles' third round game (because he totally won his second game in straight sets, booyah) is against Samuel Plumber, the highest ranked Australian player in the game (and the only remaining male in the tournament), so it's being played at Rod Laver Arena in the evening. He spends his day with Andre and Scott like usual, preparing for the game (he and Scott have thankfully been scheduled on alternate days, so each day they can just focus on one of them). Derek finds him before the game, and they spend a few minutes making out in a locked locker room before Stiles needs to leave.

"Don't let the crowd get to you," Derek says before Stiles parts. "Just focus on your game and you'll be fine."

Stiles mouths I love you before grabbing his stuff and heading out to the court. It's always more difficult, playing against a home player, but Stiles blocks all that out. It's not that the crowd are rude to him or anything - they cheer when he wins a game or a set - but there is definitely a lot more volume for Samuel.

It's a mental challenge, and Stiles rises to the task, winning the game in straight sets. Stiles does a fist pump when he wins, looking up into the stands to Andre, who is on his feet cheering and applauding.

After grabbing a drink and packing his bag Stiles crosses the court to where Jim Courier is waiting for his post-match interview. Jim shakes his hand as the crowd applauds, murmuring his congratulations.

"Well, Stiles," Jim says, and the crowd quietens down, "that was a tough match against the home town hero but you pushed through and came out on top. How're you feeling?"

"Uh, yeah," Stiles stammers idiotically. He's momentarily tongue tied, and when Jim looks questioningly ay him Stiles says, "Sorry, I'm just freaking out a bit here."

"Why, because you made it through to round four?" Jim asks with a grin.

"No, because I'm talking to you, man. I'm so star struck right now."

The crowd chuckles appreciatively, and Jim does too. "I'm honored."

"Sorry, I know no one wants to hear me gush about you but seriously I'm such a fan. You're my dad's favorite player, in fact. When I started playing when I was a kid and wanted to watch old games the first ones he found for me were your Australian Open finals in 92 and 93, so this is a surreal moment for me, standing here of all places and talking to you."

"Well, Stiles, should we continue talking about me or should we go back to your game? I mean, I could totally keep talking about myself…"

Stiles chuckles. "Yeah, let's do that then. You're much more interesting than me."

Jim smiles at him, and the crowd laughs along. "Okay, so Stiles, back to you. You've had an incredible twelve months - this time last year you didn't even qualify for the Australian Open but since then you've played in round four at Wimbledon and made it to the quarter finals of the US Open. It's an incredible ascent for someone so young. So tell us, what's your secret?"

Derek, Stiles thinks but could never ever say. He chuckles instead, says, "I don't know - extreme good luck? It's been an amazing ride, one I'm so thankful for. My life has changed a lot this last year, all for the better, and to be standing here today is a great honor."

"What were your strategies coming into the game?"

"Well, I knew it would be an uphill battle. Samuel is a fierce player, and he's beaten me at our two previous encounters. I knew he'd have the crowd with him, and rightly so. I'm sorry for beating your last player in the game," he tells the crowd. "Please don't hate me," he adds, clasping his hands in a begging gesture and giving them exaggerated puppy eyes, and he can hear both chuckles of laughter and soft awwws in the layers of noise from the audience.

"I'm sure everyone here would agree that you deserved to move forward, Stiles," Jim tells him, and the crowd cheers.

"Thank you, everyone. I appreciate it."

"Good luck on your next game. Ladies and gentlemen, Stiles Stilinski."

The crowd screams and the cameraman slowly backs away. Jim shakes his hand, and before he walks away he leans in to murmur to Stiles, "Congratulations. I'm sure I'll be speaking to you again soon."

 

*

 

When he makes it past the fourth round his dad calls to tell him he's flying out for the rest of the tournament.

"No, Dad, it's okay. You don't have to do that," Stiles says, urgently. It's not that he doesn't appreciate the sentiment, or that he doesn't want his dad here, because he really does. But what if spends a day flying out here just to watch Stiles lose? The idea is too heartbreaking to even think about, but he can't help it. If he's going to lose, he doesn't want his dad to have flown across the world just to see it.

"Too late, kiddo," John says. "I've already checked into my flight."

Stiles closes his eyes, lets out a shaky breath. "Dad-"

"No, Stiles, stop. I know what you're thinking, and you can't worry about that. Win or lose, I want to see you play."

"Okay," Stiles says, somewhere between resigned and comforted. "I love you, like, really a lot."

John chuckles. "Love you too, kiddo. See you in a couple of days."

John arrives in Melbourne the afternoon of Stiles' quarterfinals match, his flight landing pretty much as Stiles wins the game. He meets Stiles at his hotel, Stiles throwing his arms around his dad and hugging him tightly in the middle of the lobby.

"I can't believe you came all the way here just to watch me play," Stiles says, face buried in his dad's shoulder.

"Of course I did," John tells him, and when they release each other and head upstairs to Stiles' room (John hadn't thought far enough ahead to book one) John says, "Sorry I didn't make it in time for your game today."

"The joys of time zones," Stiles replies with a grin, and John nods ruefully. "Was your flight okay?"

"Yeah. I feel like I could sleep for a week, though."

"I get ya. You should totally try the Die Hard bare feet thing, works wonders."

"But what if thieves masquerading as terrorists storm the building?" John asks with mock seriousness.

"Then you learn from Bruce Willis' mistake and put your shoes on before you go kicking asses and taking names," Stiles replies with equal earnest.

John chuckles, collapsing onto a chair and kicking off his shoes.

"Hungry?" Stiles asks.

"Starved."

"Room service?"

"Sounds good. Will Derek be joining us?"

"Let me call him and see if he's free."

Stiles dials Derek's room number and he's there, so a few minutes later Derek walks into his hotel room. John stands and greets Derek with a brief hug, the two of them standing there exchanging greetings for a few minutes, and Stiles is happy. That's it, no flowery words or vivid descriptions to describe the feeling that sits in his chest when he watches his dad and boyfriend talk together, he's just incandescently happy.

Derek crosses the room when they're done talking and kisses Stiles hello. They check out the room service options, and the three of them eat dinner, talking for as long as John can manage before he starts to nod off.

"So, Dad doesn't really have a room," Stiles whispers to Derek, looking across the room to where John's sitting against the bed headboard, eyes closed. "If he stays here can I come crash with you?"

"Of course," Derek says, like he's surprised Stiles even feels the need to ask.

"I'll make sure no one sees me," Stiles reassures him, and Derek just nods vaguely. "Come on, we should let him sleep."

So Stiles packs a few things while Derek gently prods John awake enough to let him know they're leaving. John nods absently and when he's done Stiles crosses the room and presses a kiss to John's forehead. "Sleep well. See you tomorrow."

They make it back to Derek's room without being seen, and they take it in turns showering and preparing for bed.

"So, are you ready for tomorrow?" Stiles asks once they're in bed, tangled up together.

"I think so. You're going to be there, aren't you?" Derek asks, even though it's not really a question.

Stiles nods, and there doesn't seem to be much to say after that.

"Stiles-"

"No, Derek, we're not going to talk about it. You had to watch me do it in round one, now it's my turn. I get it."

Derek sighs, pressing a kiss to the back of Stiles' neck.

"Okay," he murmurs. "Okay."

 

*

 

"So," John says, looking around the stadium. "Who are we cheering for?"

"Either. Both," Stiles says, chewing on his thumbnail, legs bouncing rapidly up and down. John casts a sidelong look at him and Stiles sighs, putting his head in his hands. "I don't know."

"How about I cheer for Scott and you cheer for Derek," John suggests, wrapping an arm around Stiles' shoulders.

Stiles looks gratefully at his dad. "Good idea."

In the end they both end up cheering equally for Scott and Derek. Stiles feels tense the whole length of the game, never quite sure who he actually wants to win, but he can't deny the relief he feels when Derek wins the fifth set.

God, he's a terrible best friend.

Scott is gracious to Derek, beating him to the net to congratulate him, and they stand there talking for a few moments. When Scott leaves the court and Derek heads to Jim for his interview Stiles tells his dad he'll be back in a minute, flying up the stairs and pushing his way through the exiting crowds, finally making it into the inside of the stadium. He finds Scott sitting forlornly in his changing room.

"I'm sorry," Stiles says.

Scott looks up from where he's sitting on the bench, head in his hands. "Thanks, man."

"You played brilliantly," Stiles says, sitting down beside him.

"Not well enough," Scott says with a resigned sigh. But then he sits up straighter, knocks their shoulders together. "Don't worry about me. We need to focus on your game tomorrow."

Scott smiles brightly at Stiles and he can't help but return it.

Allison walks into the room, and Scott immediately stands, crossing the room and hugging her. She kisses him, hands cradling his face, and he already looks impossibly better.

"Hey," Allison says to Stiles when they break apart.

"Hey. Congrats on getting into the final," he says, because he hasn't seen her since her semis game, and Scott beams proudly beside her.

"Thanks."

"I should go. My dad's sitting in the stadium."

"You're dad's here? Why didn't you tell me before?" Scott asks.

"You had other things to worry about. But what are your thoughts on dinner tonight? You too, Allison?"

They look at each other for a brief moment, doing that silent communication thing where they discuss their plans and options and whatnot without speaking a word, before returning to Stiles and saying, "Sure."

"Cool. I'll text you."

Stiles pats Scott on the back as he leaves, and he heads back up to the stadium, finding John where he left him.

"How's Scott?" John asks.

"Okay, considering. He was mad I hadn't told him you'd come out to visit, so I tried to make it up to him by offering you up for dinner."

"Didn't realize Scott was a cannibal. Not sure I can endorse that."

Stiles rolls his eyes at his dad's joke but smiles anyway. "Come on," Stiles says, pulling him from the seat. "Let's go."

 

 

Stiles and Derek are sitting at the table in Derek's room, eating breakfast and reading the newspapers, chatting amiably, when Stiles says, "See, told you there'd be a Hale/Lahey final."

Derek puts down his spoon and flat out glares at him. "Why would you say that?" Derek demands, and Stiles shrinks under the words.

"I was only kidding," Stiles says, trying to dismiss the whole thing.

But Derek knows him too well now, and he doesn't believe him. "No, you weren't. Why are you being so cavalier about this, Stiles? Why are you acting like you've already lost?"

Derek just stares at him, and Stiles can't stand the scrutiny. He gets up from the table, taking a few steps away, running a hand nervously through his hair.

He couldn't sleep last night. He spent a good portion of the night just staring at Derek's face, serene and beautiful in sleep, and trying (not very successfully) to not freak out. It's a defense mechanism, the sarcasm and joking, the whole preparing for the worst case scenario so he's able to handle it when it inevitably happens. The truth is, he wants it so bad, feels the desire to make it to the final sitting low in his stomach. He wants to make all those weekends his dad spent driving him to different games around the state worth it, he wants to make his mom proud, he wants to be worthy of Derek. It's so close, closer than ever, and he's scared of not making it almost as much as he's scared of getting through. It's too much to cope with, and sarcasm is his only defense.

Stiles can't answer, just looks at Derek completely stricken, and Derek's face softens like he can read every thought Stiles has without him needing to speak it. Derek crosses the room to him and wraps his arms around Stiles. Stiles clings desperately, hands fisting in the material at Derek's back, and Derek cradles the back of his head and whispers in his ear, "I believe in you. Always."

 

*

 

So, the thing is, Stiles Stilinski defeats the current US Open champion and moves through to the final of the Australian Open.

Stiles isn't proud, he literally collapses onto the ground as the stadium erupts when Isaac's shot goes long, losing him the game. It can't be real. It just can't. How is this possible? Stiles feels shaky and he's not entirely convinced his legs will support him when he tries to stand, but he needs to try, needs to meet Isaac and the umpire and go through the motions and, oh fuck, he's made it through…

His body feels like jelly when he crosses the court to shake Isaac's hand. "Congratulations," Isaac says, and Stiles can just barely manage a thank you in return. He shakes the umpires hand before moving back to the center of the court, waving and bowing to the crowd. He finds his people easily, John and Andre and Scott and Allison all standing and screaming for him. He puts his hand over his heart as he looks at them, and then he stumbles back to his chair to try and pull himself together before the interview. He towels himself down and drinks his Gatorade on instinct, can hear the roar of the crowd as Isaac departs, and moments later he's still completely dazed when he crosses the court for the interview.

Jim greets him with a wide smile and a handshake, and nope, Stiles still refuses to believe this is real.

"Congratulations, Stiles. You've just made it through to the final, how are you feeling?"

The crowd roars and Stiles, still overwhelmed, can do nothing but laugh happily. But then the stadium quiets, all Stiles can hear is his breathing, and he runs a hand through his hair, saying, "Uh, is this a dream? I'm dreaming aren't I?"

The crowd laughs good naturedly, and Jim grins and says, "Definitely not a dream."

"Okay, so, wow, this is incredible. I'm completely floored. I'm - yeah…"

"I'm not going to get a coherent answer to any question I ask, am I?" Jim asks with a chuckle, and Stiles replies with one of his own.

"Nope, probably not. But oh, hey, my dad's here tonight. Where are you, Dad?" he asks, turning to look over his shoulder to his players box. John is standing there, putting his head in his hands, embarrassed. "There he is," he says, pointing to John. "Everyone give it up for John Stilinski, best Sheriff in all of California. He flew out here from home a couple of days ago and this is my first match of the Open he's been to."

The crowd screams and cheers, and John chuckles, waving to everyone before throwing a stern look in Stiles' direction. Stiles laughs. "He hates attention," Stiles tells them. "But I wouldn't be here today without him."

"He's clearly a man with fine taste," Jim jokes, obviously having remembered their first interview together last week.

"Indeed he is."

"So, Stiles, you'll be going up against Derek Hale in the final. Not only is he your fellow countryman, but you two actually played doubles together last year."

"Yeah, that's right," Stiles says, suddenly sobering. He swallows thickly. "At the Rogers Cup in Montreal."

"How are you feeling about going up against a friend in the final?"

"Uh, well, to be honest I'm trying not to think about it," Stiles replies with all the congeniality he can muster.

Jim chuckles, obviously assuming Stiles is joking. "Well, no time for that now. Congratulations, Stiles. We will see you here again in a few days. Ladies and gentlemen, Stiles Stilinski."

The crowd cheers, and Stiles waves and puts on a bright smile, but all he can think about is Derek, Derek, Derek

 

*

 

When Stiles walks through the hotel room door he's unsurprised to see Derek there, waiting for him.

Derek stands as soon as he enters the room, and they just stand there staring at each other across the length of the room. But then Derek's face breaks out into the biggest grin he's ever seen, and when he starts advancing Stiles meets him halfway, the pair throwing their arms around each other in a tight embrace.

"I knew it," Derek murmurs into Stiles' shoulder, pressing his mouth there. "I knew you could do it."

Stiles laughs. "You know, normally I'd hate being wrong but in this case I think I'm okay with it."

Derek pulls back, grinning at him, and then he kisses Stiles, his hands pressing firmly into his hips as they make out in the middle of the room. "I'm so proud of you," Derek says against his mouth, and Stiles doesn’t reply, doesn't want to stop kissing him. He walks Derek over to the bed and they collapse onto it together.

It's quick, the shedding of their clothes, the way their hands roam confidently and with purpose. They know each other's bodies so well now, and neither wants to take their time. They want it quick and dirty, so it is; Derek getting his mouth on Stiles' dick and swallowing down until he comes with a cry, Stiles pushing Derek flat onto his back and working his fingers inside him while Derek grips the sheets and worries his lower lip and he comes with a desperately muffled moan.

Afterwards, when they are sweaty and sated and tangled up together on top of the covers, Stiles traces his fingertips lightly over Derek's stubble and asks, "So are we going to talk about it?"

"You didn't want to bask in the afterglow a bit longer?"

"Don't get me wrong Derek, the sex was awesome, but not even your mouth can turn my mind off of this."

Derek chuckles. "Actually I was referring to the afterglow of your win, but if you're saying your mind was more on sex with me than winning a Grand Slam semi-final I'll take it."

Stiles smiles, leaning over and kissing him. "For the record, I'm pretty much always thinking about sex with you."

"I'll remember that."

Silence descends once more, but Stiles can't let this go. He gets what Derek's saying, that he should just be living in this moment, celebrating this accomplishment, but his brain doesn't work like that. It's always racing, usually going in five directions at once, but even now all he can think about is the inevitable.

"We're going to be playing each other in a Grand Slam final, Derek," Stiles says at last.

"I'm aware," Derek replies.

Stiles waits for Derek to elaborate, but he doesn't. He just lies there, his hand gliding rhythmically up and down Stiles' back.

"How are we going to do this?" Stiles asks, not a little desperately. This isn't going to be like any other game either of them have played. It will be the most difficult game of their careers thus far, for so many reasons, and Stiles isn't sure he can handle it.

"By doing what we always do," Derek tells him. "You go out there, knowing all your opponents strengths and weaknesses, knowing your strategies and backups, and play harder than you've ever played in your life, doing your best to steal victory - and I'll do the same."

Stiles takes in a deep breath. "I'm not sure I can do that," he admits softly.

Derek shifts, makes Stiles look at him. "You can," he says emphatically. "I believe you in, Stiles. You can do this. You can win."

"But if I win then you lose," Stiles says meekly.

"And that's okay. If I go down, you can bet I'll go down fighting like hell."

No one has ever believed in Stiles the way Derek does. He refuses to question his abilities and talents. Even his dad and Scott and Andre haven't been this emphatic. They support Stiles one hundred per cent, and believe in him wholeheartedly, but there have been moments they've insisted on pointing out his flaws or tried to make sure Stiles is realistic about his chances in a certain match. But Derek's never once been anything but certain that Stiles is meant for greatness. It means more than he could ever say.

"Okay," Stiles whispers, and he leans in and kisses Derek softly.

When they break apart Stiles is still looking at Derek with sadness, and Derek sighs and says, "You're going to move out until the final, aren't you?" Stiles nods. "Okay, but when we're living together that won't be an option anymore," he says, not unkindly. "This won't be the last time we play against each other in a Grand Slam, in fact, I'd bet everything I own there will be many more games to come. You won't be able to move out each time."

"I know," Stiles says. "I think by then I won't want to."

 

*

 

Stiles packs his bag and with one last kiss on Derek's lips he leaves the room. He calls Scott as he walks down the hallway.

"Hey, everything okay?" Scott asks when he answers, sounding vaguely sleepy, and it's then that Stiles realizes it's kinda late and he probably woke him up.

"Hey, sorry buddy, didn't mean to wake you. It's just, are you staying in Allison's room tonight or are you in yours?"

"I'm in mine. She said she wanted a proper night's sleep before her match tomorrow."

"Okay. So, do you mind if I come crash with you?" he asks, knowing that Scott got stuck with two beds in his room, although what had been annoying for Scott is now Stiles' savior.

"Of course not," Scott says, and Stiles steps into the elevator and hits the button for Scott's floor. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah, it's just, uh," oh crap, he hasn't told Scott about Derek yet so Scott thinks he and his dad have been bunking together the last few nights and how is he going to explain needing somewhere to sleep… "My dad, he's snoring like you wouldn't believe, and I'm desperate for an uninterrupted night's sleep."

"Oh. Yeah, not a problem," Scott says, but there's something halting about his voice that worries Stiles.

At any rate, he can't think about that now. He knocks on Scott's hotel room door, and when Scott opens it they both hang up their phones. Stiles hugs his best friend in gratitude.

"I appreciate this," Stiles says, crossing the room and collapsing on the spare bed.

"Mi casa es su casa," Scott replies, climbing back under his covers.

Stiles just strips down to his underwear and climbs into the bed.

"Big day tomorrow," Scott mumbles.

"Yup. Thanks, by the way."

"What for?" Scott asks, genuinely uncertain.

"For being my best friend and the best practice partner I could ever want."

Scott just smiles at him. "Don't mention it."

"So, you going to Allison's game?"

"Yeah. She said she'd love you there if you can make it."

"Tell her thanks, but I think I'll be focused elsewhere."

"Fair enough. Well, good night."

"G'night, buddy."

 

*

 

Scott trains with Stiles all day. The sun is vicious, it must be the hottest day of the summer, and he doesn't envy Allison having to play in 104 degree weather (thankfully a cool change is scheduled for tomorrow morning so he'll probably only have to deal with weather in the mid to low 90s).

He focuses on his training with Andre and Scott, and when Scott heads off in the early evening to Allison's game he and Andre talk tactics. It's not Derek they talk about, not really. It's not the man Stiles loves, the one he wants to settle down and grow old with, it's just some random stranger made up of numbers and statistics. He doesn't talk to Derek all day, and he only sees him once, early in the afternoon while he and Scott are playing on the practice courts and Derek crosses the area to get to his own court. The noise of the crowd who've gathered to watch him and Scott practicing suddenly becomes very loud, and he follows the movement until he sees Derek and Boyd, bags on their shoulders as they walk past. Stiles stops playing for a moment, the ball Scott has just served going past him with a whoosh, and Stiles just raises a hand in greeting. Derek smiles, barely quick enough to notice, before turning his attention away from Stiles' court and disappearing around the corner.

Stiles, John and Andre watch Allison's game back at the hotel. She doesn't win, and Stiles feels so horrible for her. She's amazing though, giving a great speech after her game and still smiling so brightly anyone who had just tuned in might think she'd actually won.

It casts a despondent cloud over Stiles as he heads back to Scott's room to go to bed. He figures he'll probably be sleeping in the room alone, and he sends a text to Scott: give Allison a hug for me.

He kinda desperately wants to call Derek, to see him or talk to him or hold him. But he knows it'll be better for him in the long run not to, so he showers and brushes his teeth and climbs into bed, hoping he'll be able to get a decent night's sleep.

 

 

The morning of the final dawns bright and clear. There are media obligations he has to fulfill today, interviews and photo shoots and recording promos for the game taking up a good portion of his morning. When he finally makes it to the practice courts Scott and Andre are waiting for him, but Stiles just heads straight to Allison, wrapping her in warm hug. "You were brilliant," he tells her earnestly. "Really."

"Thanks," she says, giving him once last squeeze before releasing him. "Now you go and you get that trophy," she grins, pushing him towards the court, and he smiles in return, saying, "I'll do my best."

He feels good as he warms up and trains. He feels strong, agile, ready.

It seems incredible that he's finally here, he's really actually going to play in a final. He's hanging in his locker room before the game, checking his racquets and towels and other supplies, making sure he has everything. He's feeling strangely calm, sitting there going through everything as his dad, coach, bestie and bestie's girlfriend all chat amongst themselves. It's these people, the love he has for them and they for him, that makes him better, faster, stronger.

(Great, now he has a Kanye West song stuck in his head. Perfect timing.)

"We should get going," Andre says, and the group seem to agree.

Stiles stands and embraces his coach. "Thanks, Coach."

"Play hard," Andre says, squeezing him briefly before stepping back.

Allison gives him a quick hug, kissing his cheek. "Good luck."

Stiles nods at her, and she steps back. John hugs him fiercely, and Stiles holds on just as tight.

"Break a leg," John says, voice thick with emotion.

"In the figurative and not the literal," Stiles automatically replies, grinning into his dad's shoulder.

"I'm so proud of you," John says lowly so only Stiles can hear, and Stiles just holds on tighter for another brief moment before his dad releases him.

"I'm gonna stay for a bit longer," Scott announces, and Stiles loves his BFF with every fiber in his being.

"Okay," Andre says. "We'll see you out there."

Stiles waves awkwardly as everyone departs, and collapses back onto the bench. The panic starts to set in as the minutes tick by, his leg bouncing up and down, and soon he's up and doing laps of the room. Scott sits in Stiles' vacated spot and watches as Stiles paces back and forth, stretching his hands by pressing his fingers back.

"So, do you want to be distracted before you get too freaked out or are you okay pacing the room like a mad person?" Scott asks with a grin.

Stiles laughs. "Distract, definitely. Talk to me about something?"

"Like what?"

"I don't care, anything."

"Anything?" Scott asks, and Stiles is too worked up to notice the heavy emphasis.

"Yes, Scott, anything," Stiles stops his pacing to flail wildly. "Geez, I'm freaking out here. Talk to me about how pretty Allison's hair smells if you want. Just talk."

Stiles goes back to his pacing, and Scott leans back on the bench, getting more comfortable.

"Okay," Scott says. "Should we talk about the fact that you're in love with Derek Hale?"

Stiles stops his pacing, shock flooding through his veins. "What? How did you know?"

"You're my brother, Stiles. Of course I know."

Stiles raises a disbelieving eyebrow at him.

"Okay, the whole 'my dad snores' thing kinda gave it away. Dude, how many times have I stayed at your place? Your dad doesn't snore. Which made me wonder why you'd need somewhere else to crash. Maybe you've actually been staying with your secret boyfriend the whole time, but then why would you need somewhere to sleep now? You came to me only after you made it into the final against Derek. Kinda confirmed my suspicions that it was him."

"Dude, who are you, Sherlock Holmes?" Stiles asks, only half seriously.

Scott chuckles, and Stiles joins in. He collapses on the bench beside him.

"I'm sorry I didn’t tell you."

"It's okay, I get it," Scott assures him. "I'm happy for you. But Stiles, just promise me that you'll remember that that's not your boyfriend out there. It's your worst enemy. You can't let your personal relationship get in the way, okay?"

Stiles can't help but remember Derek giving him the exact same advice before his game against Scott, and he nods earnestly. Scott lets out a breath, clearly relieved, and says, "Good. Because Stiles, you are gonna kill it. I just know it."

"Thanks, buddy," Stiles says.

"You're welcome. Okay, so they'll be calling you soon. I should go."

Scott stands, and Stiles joins him. They do their BFF handshakes, the hug lingering longer than normal, and Scott leaves the room without another word.

Time passes at what feels like a glacial pace, but eventually a minder calls to Stiles from the door of the room, and Stiles grabs his bags and follows him into the hall.

Derek's already there, bouncing on the balls of his feet, and Stiles has a split second where he wants to say something but then he sees the camera in the corner of his eyes, and he remains quiet. Derek silently picks up his bag and leads the way down the hall, Stiles trailing along, the camera crew in front of them capturing every moment.

It's a long walk down the Walk of Champions, large black and white photos of every Australian Open champion watching him as he makes his way through the hall. It's a daunting legacy, so Stiles barely looks at the photos, just stares at Derek's back. When they halt at the entrance to the court Stiles goes to stand beside Derek. They don't speak, don't even look at each other, but Derek's arm brushes his in a way Stiles knows would look accidental to everyone watching but he knows it was absolutely deliberate.

Derek's called out onto the court first, and Stiles can hear the crowd cheering. Less than a minute later it's Stiles' turn, and he waves as he walks into court, getting to his seat as quickly as possible. He strips off his hoodie, grabs a drink from the cooler just near his chair and takes a sip, before sitting down and pulling out his racquet and towels. The hum of the audience is a constant background noise, and when he's done he heads to the net, where Derek, a young boy no older than ten, and a suited official are waiting for him.

The official introduces them to Alex, the young boy doing the coin toss, and they wait there, Stiles and Derek bouncing on their feet to keep warm, as the announcer tells the crowd about the young boy. When the announcement is over and the crowds cheers for Alex, the official asks Alex who he would like to call it. Alex looks between them and then grins and says, "Stiles."

Stiles returns the smile, and says, "Why don't you choose for me, little man?"

Alex looks like all his Christmases have come at once, and he glances up to the official to make sure it's okay. The official nods, and Alex says, "Heads," before he tosses the coin. The official looks down at the coin on the court and declares that it's tails.

Derek elects to serve, and Stiles chooses his side, and the official reminds them of the photo they need to take. Stiles and Derek put their arms around Alex and have their photo taken, and then the official pulls Alex out for another photo without him. There is a quick flash between them before they shift closer, arms around each other with the net between them. Stiles imagines his smile would be a lot more forced if he didn't have Derek beside him, somehow managing to melt his nerves just by being there.

Official duties complete they head to their baselines for the warm up. Derek gets a couple of balls from a nearby ball girl, and when he looks across the court to see if Stiles is ready to begin Stiles very deliberately puts his hand briefly over his heart. He makes it look like he's just scratching an itch, and drops his hand moments later, but he knows Derek got the message, because he just pauses for a moment before nodding, and then he hits a ball over the net to Stiles, the warm up beginning.

Stiles feels the nerves return as the excitement ratchets up the closer the game gets. They spend several minutes warming up with each stroke, and Stiles gets his serving in first, vacating the court once he's done so Derek can have his turn, returning to his seat for one last drink, not to mention giving him the chance to have one last minor freak out.

From the corner of his eye he can see Derek over on his chair, taking a bite to eat of something, and then the umpire calls time.

The crowd roars as Derek and Stiles get to their feet. They're starting the game on the opposite side of the court to where their seats are, and when they pass each other to get to their sides Derek briefly brushes his hand against Stiles, a gesture of love and luck, and Stiles feels strangely calm when he gets into position.

The crowd is silent, Derek gets a few tennis balls from a ball boy, pocketing two and bouncing one, and Stiles feels a hush come over him before Derek serves and the game begins.

 

*

 

It's surreal, but when he looks over the net he doesn't see Derek, the man he loves and wants to spend the rest of his life with. The man across the court is a stranger, closed off and focused. He didn't think he'd be able to separate the two, but what surprises Stiles is how easily he detaches their relationship from the game.

The match is utterly grueling. Stiles wins the first set, Derek wins the second. The third set Stiles gets the momentum back, managing to break serve early in the set and winning the set easily.

The fourth set goes for what feels like forever, and Stiles can feel his legs starting to ache. He pushes through, gets his second wind, runs fast and hits deep but Derek keeps with him. Stiles serves in a game that, if he wins this game, he could win the match. It's the hardest game he's ever played, the air thick with tension and the blood pounding in his ears and his heartbeat beating at a million miles an hour. But Derek refuses to give up and he breaks back, wins the game. Stiles refuses to give up and the next game goes back and forth between deuce and advantage so many times that by the end of the game they have seventeen game points between them before Derek finally wins. The momentum swings Derek's way, and he wins the set.

It's two sets all, and the last set is an epic battle, one which Stiles inevitably loses when his ball hits the center of the net, giving Derek the game.

The crowd erupts with noise and Derek collapses back onto the ground like a starfish. Stiles drops his racquet and stands there with his hands on his knees, drenched in sweat and exhausted. He feels slightly numb for a moment as it all sinks in. He takes in a deep breath and then remembers himself, standing straighter.

Derek lifts up onto his elbows and looks at Stiles across the court. He's smiling at Stiles as he stands, and Stiles can't help but return it. Stiles doesn’t even think, he just runs forward, jumping the net to Derek's side of the court, and Derek has stood just in time for Stiles to crash into him, arms thrown around him in a fierce hug.

Stiles doesn't hear the roar of the crowd, just hears Derek whispering, "I'm sorry," in his ear as he clutches at the damp material of Stiles' tee at his back. And the thing is, Stiles is disappointed, of course he is. Winning a Grand Slam has been his dream since he was a kid, and to come so close but not make it, it's heartbreaking. But Derek deserves this too, and he fought like hell to get it. And really, if Stiles couldn't be the champion, there's no one he'd rather have beat him than Derek.

Derek doesn't deserve to have his moment ruined by Stiles' disappointment. Stiles will definitely have a bit of a cry and mope about it later on in private, but for now he just presses his mouth to Derek's ear and says, "It's okay". He pulls back, putting on his best smile, and says, "I'm so fucking proud of you."

And then Derek grins, taking his face in his hands and kissing him, right there on center court for the world to see. You'd have to be deaf to not notice the escalated noise in the stadium, the cheers and screams now rising to near deafening levels, and Stiles certainly isn't deaf, he just doesn't care. How could he, when Derek's mouth is warm and wet against his, insistently waiting for Stiles to kiss him back. So Stiles does, happily sliding their lips together. It's relatively chaste but definitely lingers for a long moment, and when Stiles pulls back, all he can see is Derek, flushed and smiling and so damn happy. He must look confused - and who could blame him? - but then Derek nods at him, imperceptible but definitely there, and Stiles grins, leaning in and kissing him again.

 

 

 

Australian Open - Men's Singles Championship

D. Hale             USA     4   6   2   7   6
S. Stilinksi         USA     6   4   6   5   4