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In All the Corners of Your Heart

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I've known Jeff since we were 16, probably best friends since we were 18.
-Mike Richards

 

Jeff wakes up slowly from his nap. He's on early practices today, which means the only thing he has to get to now is dinner. He opens his eyes at a slight chuckle to find Richie sitting cross-legged on the bed across from him.

"Hey."

"Hey." Richie slips off the other bed and crosses the room to stretch out next to Jeff.

"Dude," Jeff says. "What?"

Richie sort of shrugs. "I just wanted-" And then he frowns at Jeff. "I thought- Jeff didn't tell you?"

Jeff's still waking up, so it takes him a minute to realize Richie means Jeff Richards, not him. "Tell me what?"

Richie lets out a frustrated growl that wakes Jeff all the way up, because he knows that sound. That's a werewolf sound.

Jeff sits up, folding his legs under him, and looks down on Richie, who takes it for just a moment before he sits up too.

"You're a werewolf."

"Wolf," Richie says. "Not werewolf. Werewolf is-" He shrugs. "It's not the wolf word."

Jeff doesn't know what to say for a moment, a very long moment, where Richie, who is always so sure of himself, looks uncertain.

The moment breaks when Richie stands up and heads for the door.

"Okay," Jeff says, before Richie can leave.

Richie stops, but he doesn't turn around.

"Hey, we're cool, right?" Jeff says.

Richie says, "Yeah, we're cool," but when Jeff makes it to the dining hall, Richie's at a full table and won't even look at Jeff.

He sure fucked that one up.

*

Richie disappears after dinner, and still won't look at Jeff the next day, so after late practice and a shower, Jeff goes to Richie's room. He can't really sneak in, not if Richie's a wolf, but he can get in while Richie's asleep and let Richie wake up to Jeff sitting on his bed.

Richie sits up and scowls at him.

"Don't be a dick," Jeff says, before he remembers he needs to apologize. "Sorry about yesterday." He shrugs. "I don't know a lot of wolves."

Richie nods, and his scowl lets up, but he's still holding himself tight, like he's watching someone else take a playoff overtime faceoff.

"That was a wolf thing," Jeff hazards.

"We're not meant to be solitary creatures," Richie says.

"Okay," Jeff says, and he breathes evenly, because Richie will hear it if this is freaking him out. "So, you want to?" He gestures at the length of the bed.

"It won't be too weird for you?"

Jeff shrugs. "I've roomed with goalies. A little wolf contact isn't going to freak me out." When Richie doesn't move, Jeff takes the initiative and lies down.

Richie huffs out a noise that isn't quite human and lies down behind Jeff. He hooks his chin over Jeff's shoulder and turns so his nose is against Jeff's neck and Jeff can feel his breath. "Okay?"

Jeff says, "Sure." It's a little strange, but not so strange he won't do it. It's a little enough thing to do for Richie. "Don't sleep through dinner."

Richie's laugh is only half human, and Jeff feels it as much as he hears it. "We might be late, but we won't miss it."