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Friendship Is Shallow. Pack Runs Deep.

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He was so tired of being invisible.

Stiles parked the jeep in the driveway and trudged up into his empty house. He briefly considered doing something responsible, like housecleaning or homework, then climbed up to his room instead and flopped in front of his desk.

The summer had seemed so promising... An uneventful respite after a much-too-exciting year. And grade eleven started out on a wave of hope — this year he would have a group of friends, close bonds forged through hardship and danger. Right?

Wrong.

Scott and his romantic drama was still overshadowing everything. It'd been months! You'd think he was grieving a marriage of at least half a decade. And yeah... Maybe Stiles was being uncharitable, but he had never gotten to have even a day of someone returning his affections so he honestly could not find an awful lot of sympathy. Better to have loved and lost, right?

God, such a shitty mood to be stuck in.

He set up his laptop and tried to distract himself with pointless crap on the 'tube. Depth-impaired kittens and swearing parrots could only hold his attention for so long against the day's depressing evidence that he didn't really have friends. Once the danger was past and Stiles wasn't needed anymore, they'd drifted away back into their own little groups.

Over the summer everyone had their own plans and, hey, at least he got to see them at the pack den... He had told himself it was fine. Friends didn't need to be constantly together. Except now they spent all day at school, often in the same classes, and Stiles felt like he was just being allowed to skim the edges of the group. Nobody turned to talk to him first, they responded but did not include him; after classes everyone drifted away without him — even mopey Scott was actually invited to hang out with them.

Stiles wasn't pack.

That burned. That fucking burned because he'd turned down the bite out of spite. He'd wanted to prove to these men who'd been manhandling him and forcing him into things that his human self was just as good as them, that him and his bro had a true friendship stronger than any so-called pack.

Instead his friendship had proven awfully one-sided, his human body not quite enough to impress any of them and his mind useful but apparently not desirable over the long term. He brought up the dashboard and clicked on the Photo Booth icon, posed and turned — that seemed like a perfectly normal face and body, nothing repellent at least.

Why were they excluding him?

Or was he excluding himself? They did keep drifting back to Derek's loft as pack den. Nobody had invited him to anything after school but maybe everyone assumed after a bit they'd all be there anyway. Somewhat hopeful, he stuffed the laptop in his backpack and took off.


The creepy building Derek had found to live in had an underground parking lot. No problems with restricted parking — there were a lot of empty spaces at all times of the day. Possibly the rent in such a run-down place attracted people who could not afford cars. The pack tended to park in a cluster around Derek's chosen spot... And right now only Peter's black Audi was in.

Normally, Stiles would have parked far away from him even if he was legitimately a pack member now. Today, he was feeling excluded and clingy so... In a fit of pique he parked beside Peter's luxury sedan, instead of on the other side of Derek's spot.

Scott's lime dirt bike usually took the spot to the right of Derek's silver FJ Cruiser. Before the summer, Allison's car had taken the spot to the right of that, and Stiles had parked nose-to-nose with her.

He was tired of always being the one trying to hold their friendship together.

Grabbing his backpack, locking up Roscoe, and trotting up to the elevator took only a couple of minutes, but the ride up was long and slow. Quite frankly, with such old machinery, Stiles preferred that it took its time and didn't strain itself; he'd much rather it deliver him safely to the fifteenth floor.

It gave him plenty of time to second guess his decision to come here. What exactly was it he was looking for?

On and off throughout the summer they'd been in and out of the space that Derek had set up as pack den and training area. The loft and the terrace above it had hosted a lot of fun pack nights; was Stiles missing the parties? Boredom was far too shallow a sentiment for this thing that had crawled up in his bonnet and died.

The elevator reached the top and Stiles took life and limb into his hands once again to manually retract the scissor gates. For someone as clumsy as him these things were a deadly trap; they weren't the kind of risk he enjoyed taking.

He walked through the giant hole in the wall and beheld the large, dusty den — empty. Well, Peter did enjoy sitting out on the terrace on sunny days.

Stiles climbed the stairs numbly, steps dully rattling the metal grid. It wasn't until he stepped up to the door out to the terrace that he realized what he was doing. Seeking company, yes, he knew that but... He was seeking Peter's company.

This was confusing. Stiles didn't have a rational explanation for why he'd driven all the way here just to not be alone, and then upon seeing only Peter was here still coming up to the loft. He would've said that he had just been planning to wait for everyone else to drift in, but then he would've stayed down in the den.

He was curious now, though. Did his subconscious know something Stiles didn't? Well, he wasn't going to get any answers from standing here in the dark staring at a closed door with glass so grimy it was opaque.

He pulled the door open and walked onto the terrace.

The autumn breeze ruffled his hair, mid-afternoon sun still keeping things warm enough for it to be comfortable. He pulled the door shut and looked around.

Oh.

Stiles took a deep breath and tried to figure out how he felt about the situation. Lounge chairs in various states of dilapidation littered the space around the skylights, as usual. Peter was sprawled out in the sun, pretending to be unaware of and uninterested in the intrusion into his vicinity as usual. A little less usual was their ratty terrace sleeping bag being rolled out in the middle of the day.

The neatly folded pile of expensive clothing over no-doubt expensive boots was definitely outside the norm. But what left Stiles standing uncertain and awkward was the brown-black furred form of Peter in full wolf shift.

He had seen it before, snoozing about the loft. Sometimes during the summer he'd woken up early after an all-night party with the pack and found Derek and Peter curled up in the den bed. Other times he'd rushed in late at night with news or to drop something off, found the den empty, and broken in to Derek's private loft... Only to find two dark furry shapes staring at him from a puppy pile on the bed.

So... Puppy piles were normal for werewolves. If anything, it was strange the rest of the new wolves never did that. It explained why Derek had left a bed in the den; beyond having infirmary space.

Maybe what Stiles wanted from the den was not what the new wolves offered.

Reluctantly, he stepped up to the sleeping bag. Since Peter did not seem to object, Stiles sat down on one corner of it. Admittedly, it was companionable to sit here together but the view was atrocious; mostly the grimy half-walls working as safety rails and the grimy furniture and... He laid down to look at clear blue skies instead. Got comfortable.

Wearing shoes seemed contrary to the goal, here. So he toed his sneakers off and scooted up the sleeping bag. Sweaty socks were pretty gross, though, so he toed those off as well.

Peter's enormous wolf head rose up to stare at him, probably unamused at all the squirming.

Stiles smiled smugly back, pretending it had all been a ploy to get Peter to acknowledge him.

With an eye roll —those looked strange on a wolf— Peter shifted position a little and laid back down.

Stiles wheezed, trying to get his breath back from about one third of a wolf landing on his soft human belly, shoving all air out of his lungs. Message received, no disturbing lead-wolf's beauty sleep.

Once he could breathe again, he did feel the anxiety of the day recede. He closed his eyes and just let the warmth of the sun and the caress of the wind lull him into a nap.


Stiles woke up outdoors, on cloth that felt somehow hard as concrete, his front plastered to some sort of extremely warm body-pillow he was clutching with an arm and a leg.

Considering how the last year had gone, he cautiously cracked open an eye to assess things. Oh. The terrace, Peter.

He rolled off an apparently sleeping Peter, thankful the embarrassment of such cuddling had gone unseen. But now he felt overheated and sleep-warm.

The sun had gone down below the edges of the terrace, though it was still daytime. Either nobody else had come to the loft, or nobody had looked for them up here. Well, if nobody was coming nobody would see him either — Stiles took off his shirt and t-shirt, draped them loosely on the floor to dry out, and sprawled back on the sleeping bag to cool off.

It felt awfully nice. He started to drift off again, moving a bit as he settled; his leg shifted to press all along Peter's lower back.

Better.


It was cold when Stiles woke next. His back was cold, so he curled more tightly around the plushie in his arms—

Wait. He... He was curled almost in half, wrapped around the wolf laying in front of him. The wolf's head was draped over the dip in Stiles' waist.

Peter had not left. Something about that nearly made Stiles cry. He blinked the tears away and saw a rose tinge staining everything on the terrace, the sky above an orange starburst. Maybe he should go home, but his house would probably be empty for hours yet.

This was the nicest anyone outside his bloodkin had been to Stiles in weeks... So he stayed. He had slept a lot already and his top shoulder really was cold; it was nice to close his eyes and relax anyway. The wiry fur felt good against his chest, draped over his waist, in his hands. Stiles carded his hands through the fur a couple of times and then just lay there soaking in the closeness.

Long minutes later, the rose of sunset dimming to twilight purples, Peter's large ears perked alertly and the next moment the terrace door opened.

Stiles froze, caught guiltily snuggling into the wolf. Into Peter. What would they say? Make fun of him?

Footsteps approached slowly, calmly over the gritty cement of the terrace. Peter's head tilted slightly and a possessive lick ran over Stiles' bare bottom rib, daring the intruder to make an issue of it. A subtle tension thrummed in the shoulders under the thick fur.

Stiles resolved to not be ashamed and throw it in their faces if they started shit. His fingers sank and curled into the fur stubbornly. So what if it was Peter he was snuggling? Peter damn well deserved it for being available instead of shunning Stiles. Peter deserved that Stiles not be ashamed of him — because Peter was clearly not ashamed of Stiles.

It felt so good it actually kind of hurt, warm and low in his chest.

Fabric rustled behind Stiles, a pair of small but heavy things thumped down somewhere nearby. "They all came and went," announced Derek in a quietly unhappy voice.

Far too suddenly, the fur under Stiles' hands disappeared and he was left touching warm, bare, freckled, naked skin. As in, undressed. As in: there was a stark naked Peter on the sleeping bag with him — though really only Peter's chest and shoulders were touching Stiles' belly. And, well, Stiles' hands were for some reason staying draped over his back.

Inexplicable.

"Does it still look like Erica and Boyd are going to bail?" Peter asked evenly.

Stiles was a bit busy staring at his hands, as they uncurled and flattened against naked skin. It wasn't sexual, but it was staggering to think an actual human being was for the first time being naked and allowing him the intimacy of touch. This was nothing like being naked for just seconds near other people in the locker rooms.

"Yeah. They don't mind being 'wolves but they don't like it here; it's a small town. Scott is still fighting to be exactly who he was before. Physically, he's settled as a werewolf. Mentally... I don't know if he's going to adapt." More fabric rustling, a chair creaking.

"Hm. I see. And the skittish one?" Peter seemed to settle in, relaxing against Stiles' belly and somehow melting into his caresses.

Tiny, tiny caresses, as just the pads of Stiles' fingertips petted the bare skin under them. Slowly back and forth.

"Up in the air." Derek's voice changed as he stood up, walked closer. There were small tugs in the bedroll behind Stiles. "Right now Isaac wants to have friends more than family. Family hasn't meant much to him in a long time." Derek sat down heavily against Stiles’ back and sighed quietly.

Peter's head moved down to Stiles’ hip, his body turned and fascinating new skin was under Stiles' fingertips.

It took a moment, but Stiles finally clued in that what he felt against his back was Derek's bare skin! Whoah... Was this still companionable or too real? How was it possible that petting naked Peter in his arms was easier to accept than just sitting with skin touching if it was Derek?

The next second he realized: he was startled, but he never felt unsafe. Even being startled — that was just the human taboos talking. There was a sense that here and now, he was protected so well nothing could harm him.

Skin turned to fur and settled heavily behind Stiles, squirming and tucking in to cover most of his exposed back from the evening chill.

Oh. Derek had been naked, then.

And... The sky didn't come falling down. It was fine. It was almost like when he'd found the two Hales puppy-piled during the summer.

"One out of five possibles is actually not a bad ratio. Very few people are suited to being Pack, and even fewer to being Hales," Peter offhandedly consoled Derek, then shifted into his fur and gave one last lick to Stiles' waist before completing the turn and tucking his face right up under Stiles' chin.

Stiles lay very still and tried not to cry from... Some sweet sharp sentiment. He blinked rapidly to disperse tears before they fell and smiled ruefully. He wasn't a failure here — dismissed, unwanted, ostracized. He was actually the singular success so far.

This was where he belonged.

Sandwiched between two giant furry heaters, with his right arm trapped under Peter's neck and left arm hugging him close, with Derek's breath ruffling the hair on the back of his head — Stiles gave up on the idea of leaving at all tonight. Cold left shoulder be damned; he'd roll over later.

The Hale Pack slept united tonight.