As he stands before her marble replica, the blood of the vestal virgin cooling and growing tacky on the plinth, he thinks he has failed. A journey of 100 days made on foot with no supplies except those that he had begged for, offerings of bulls at every shrine and temple that he encountered, and libations of only the finest Falernian. All for naught.
“Wine and blood may be enough for those infants on Olympus but that will not gain her favour”.
The torches lining the walls of the cave alight instantaneously. His eyes had grown used to the cool darkness of the cave, and the sudden light disorientates him. The shadows thrown against the wall twist and dance, and when they finally settle she stands before him. The priestess of Ananke. Taller than any man, wearing silk styled in a fashion that he has only every seen on oenochoe. He averts his gaze to the ground, as he bows his head in deference.
“Domina, I apologise for any offence I have caused-”.
“Then you should be on your way before she decides to take offence.” The priestess begins to walk towards the cave’s entrance, ushering him along. “I should not have to warn you that she will show no mercy.”
“They were not offerings,” he replies. The priestess pauses for only a moment but it is enough to encourage him to continue. “I simply wished to gain her attention. I would never offer such lowly items. No, I offer a sacrifice the likes of which have never been seen. A sacrifice awful and immense as befits the Mother of the Moirai.”
“Speak then of what you desire.”
Regret is foreign to Peter. He learnt pragmatism early on, that any missed opportunities would eventually come around again if one was patient enough. The Argent Bitch being the perfect example. He could have easily killed her that fateful night, even with Talia’s Alpha command to take Cora and run reverberating in his bones. It was only Cora’s choking cries as the smoke filled her lungs that stopped him. Even as he lay broken on that damned hospital bed for ten years, he knew that Kate would eventually return. Although he had to entice her first.
When she did, he took great joy in in stalking the streets of Beacon Hills under the full moon, savouring the stench of her fear, delighted when it soured into panic with every new kill. Despite all those years of brutal training under Gerard, she couldn’t hide her scent completely. Not from an Alpha.
He let the madness take over him once more, let it consume him entirely. Nothing could stop him. He would destroy everything and anyone who stood in his way.
Except the the pale boy on the field.
As the boy kneels, his heart pounding like a rabbit’s but with eyes full of rage, the perfect picture of submission and defiance, something inside him stirs. A memory from a dream, it slips away as soon as he’s grasped it. It’s tempting, so tempting, inhaling that addictive scent, new and familiar at the same time, to simply bite down and take. Yet something warns him that if he does so, he will lose the boy forever. And that cannot happen so he leaves him, alone and shaking in the garage. He has his name now; he can deal with him later.
It isn’t until his nephew’s claws are at his throat that he remembers. All those lives lost, all that devastation he caused just so he would not have to walk this earth without him. The one who the Gods so cruelly cleaved from him. He would die again having only spent a few moments with him.
Regret has been foreign to Peter but in that moment it overwhelms him.
He thought he had known love. The initial excitement, where even a single glance could set your heart pounding, the secret smiles, the lingering touches that would eventually dampen down into the warm affection he felt for Poppaea. The deep fondness and almost compulsory devotion he still felt towards his departed mother. The warmth he swore he could physically feel on the many nights Lucius and Sextus would stay with him, confiding secret hopes until Aurora spread her rosy fingers, bringing light to mortal and immortal alike.
All of these paled in comparison to the moment he looked upon the face of the slave serving him during the secunda mensa. As their gazes met, he thought ‘there you are’ immediately followed by ‘I would do anything for you’. It frightened him. He knew, down to his core, that he no longer belonged to himself; this boy that he had only known for a few seconds had claimed him, heart and soul.
He cannot say anything, not now whilst he is surrounded by friend and foes. Instead he takes one of the honeyed lemon-cakes from the platter offered by the boy, and takes a bite. He then extends his arm so that the cake almost touches the boy’s rose petal lips. Any other slave in this position would demurely take a bite. Yet his boy boldly meets his gaze as he bites down, his amber eyes dancing with delight, and then he slowly licks his lips. He grasps the boy’s jaw and asks for his name.
“Sporus”, the boy breathes.
Later that night, he takes great pleasure in worshiping the boy’s pale thighs; adorning that silk soft skin with violet and indigo blossoms. When he finally, finally enters him, he feels strangely fragile as though he may shatter at any moment. His skin is burning and the room is filled with the sound of his ragged breaths and his boy’s sweet gasps.
“You are mine, now and always,” he whispers between hot kisses.
“Swear it. Swear on all the Gods.”
How could he refuse his boy when he begs so beautifully?
Contrary to what most would think, Peter has very little fondness for bygone days. It still rankles him that despite him sacrificing almost everything he had, including his sanity, to ensure that a crumbling empire not only survived but thrived he is only remembered for his depravity and cruelty. He much prefers this age where selfishness and greed are not only accepted but celebrated. The mos maiorum where reliability, duty, discipline, and self-control were the ties the bound society together, is obsolete. Peter is free to serve himself, and himself alone.
Still, he cannot help but reminisce sometimes. How simple it was for him to point at his boy and declare that he now belonged to the Emperor. Now, he must tread carefully. Though this life may have offered Stiles freedom and luxuries that he could never have imagined, it has also damaged him. He is full of jagged edges, suspicious of everyone until proven otherwise. Peter must earn his trust but he cannot be hasty. If he moves too fast, Stiles will immediately suspect an ulterior motive and all of Peter’s work will be undone.
They are both different now, changed by circumstance. Peter spends most nights learning everything he can about Stiles. He lies for hours in the tree outside the Stilinksi household, his scent blocked by magic so no pesky teenage werewolves can discover his nocturnal activities. It reassures him to see that his boy is still desperate to please the ones he loves; the way he spends so much of his free time ensuring that his father returns to a clean home, and a healthy meal cooked from scratch, or the way he drops everything to aid Scott with whatever petty issue is bothering him.
There are times when Peter struggles to remain hidden; when the Sheriff fails to notice how much Stiles does for him, when Scott ignores Stiles in favour of Allison or Isaac and Stiles’ disappointment and hurt permeates the air with its bitter stench, it takes everything he has to not leap into Stiles’ bedroom to comfort him, worship him like he deserves, and ensure that no one ever hurts him again. On nights like those, Peter has to remind himself continuously to wait, eventually Stiles will come to him.
And once he does, Peter will never let him go.
From the moment he met the boy, he knew that Poppaea would have to die. She was blameless, guilty of only the fact that she was not his twin flame. His boy deserved to be adored, to rule at his side. But there can only be one Augusta.
Under his instruction, Locusta had prepared for him a vial of poison that would cause no pain or discomfort. She had assured him that it would feel like falling asleep. A dignified end for the ruthless woman who had fooled so many ambitious men and tricked her way into becoming Empress. He admired her, and would continue to do so after her death.
His plans go awry the moments he enters her apartments and smells that mixture of myrrh, rose, cinnamon and saffron.
“Now where did you manage to obtain susinum? As far as I’m aware we’ve received no shipments from Egypt”, he asks.
She continues to watch her reflection in the polished bronze mirror and applies kohl to her eyes as she answers.
“Oh it wasn’t too difficult. We should order more, it’s divine.”
He moves closer to her dressing table and spies a familiar bottle; shaped like a bird in flight, made of blue glass, and small emeralds for eyes. The same bottle he had commissioned and filled with susinum for Sporus. He had presented it to him only a few days ago, had applied it to his boy’s pale throat and the delicate insides of his wrists. His boy had been delighted, having never received such a luxurious gift.
“Where did you get this?” He asks, lifting the perfume bottle for her to see. Poppaea turns on her stool, lifting her chin, and meeting his gaze. Still, she cannot fully mask the small tremor in her voice as she answers.
“In the slave quarters, of all places! I should have had that boy whipped but I decided against it; I wouldn’t want your bed warmer being in too much pain to perform his duties.”
He breathes, slow and heavy, fighting the rage growing inside him.
“You have no right to take this away from him. I can shower him in jewels, grant him titles and lands, or even make these rooms his apartments if I so wish.”
“You’re a fool!” She shouts. “Do you not hear the whispers? Ever since you had your mother murdered they say the Kindly Ones caught you and have driven you mad. You are fixated on this slave, while those you consider friends are plotting your death!”
“If I am guilty of matricide, then you share at least half the blame. Or have you forgotten how you begged me to have her killed? As for the boy, he is of now a slave no longer. I declare him a freedman.”
“Do you not hear yourself? Fuck the boy as much as you want but remember that you have a duty to serve Rome, and a duty to me as the woman who birthed your child!”
“I titled you Augusta and let you keep that title even after Claudia died, an honour that you are no worthy deserving of. You have until sundown tomorrow to vacate these rooms.” He begins to exit the room, having already laced her wine cup with the poison whilst she was distracted by their quarrelling. She’ll be dead before she finishes her nightly drink of Surrentinum.
You think I would let some tart take my place! Let’s see how much you care for him when I ruin that pretty face.”
He cannot entirely remember what happens next. All he knows that when the red mist of rage lifts, Poppaea is lying on the ground, her neck twisted to an unnatural angle.
He calls the guards to remove the body. He barely notices as they enter and they know better than to ask questions. His mind is preoccupied with how he will redecorate these apartments.
After all, his boy deserves only the best.
“That smells familiar, what is it?”
The previously quite clearing is now filled with the sound of Stiles’ erratic heartbeat and his careless footsteps trampling the undergrowth. Peter remains kneeling in front of the small shrine. Almost half a year of slowly gaining Stiles’ trust on the many nights they were left alone together whilst the runts faced off another threat, the careful planning and manipulation has paid off. Just before the last full moon, he had mentioned to Stiles that he has his own way of spending time during the full moon, in the preserve away from that poor excuse for a pack. When Stiles had failed to appear, Peter had not been disheartened. He knew the boy’s curiosity combined with the way the others neglect him until they need something would eventually drive him towards Peter.
He hides the triumphant smile on his face.
“Les Larmes Sacrees de Thebes. Though you’re probably confused, I doubt you’ve ever come near this scent in your life.”
Stiles huffs, and Peter can guarantee that he’s rolling his eyes. “And how would you know that? I could be a budding aromachologist for all you know.”
“That may be, but this costs more than $1500 for a quarter ounce.”
“Dude! That’s enough money to buy curly fries everyday for like a year, and I’d probably still have some money left over!”
Peter wrinkles his nose in displeasure. “Don’t call me ‘dude’ again.”
Stiles moves to sit down beside him. The small marble statue at the centre of the shrine glows under the full moon. The wine Peter had poured at the plinth appears almost black.
“I seriously didn’t picture you as a pagan. I have to say this is kinda destroying your image, I’m picturing you dancing naked in the woods with your coven.”
Peter can’t help but leer. “Do you often spend time imagining me naked Stiles?”
Stiles splutters. “What- why would you even say-. I’m not even into guys- “
“Do I need to remind you that I can hear when you lie?”, Peter asks. Stiles let out an exaggerated sigh.
“Whatever. Also Deaton laughed when I asked him if werewolves worshipped the moon or something like that. Well, he just gave me a blank look but I know he was laughing at me on the inside. So either he lied, which wouldn’t surprise me, or is it something us mere mortals can’t know about?”
Peter had been enjoying the delicate flush that had slowly creeped up Stiles’ neck and the delicious scent of his embarrassment but he decides to have mercy on his boy and answers his clumsy deflection.
“It’s highly likely that in the past, they did worship Selene. After all, she is the moon and without her we would be nothing. But werewolves are creatures of magic, so they cannot practice it. Even if they tried, nothing would happen.”
“So what are you doing?”
“What I’ve done since I was young. Offering the best wines and perfumes to Selene in the hope that I may gain her favour.”
“But like you said, it won’t do anything so what’s the point?”
“I wasn’t always a werewolf.”
Stiles had been listening but at this point his mindless fidgeting ceases. Peter waits for his response but when he remains silent, he continues.
“I was born human. The first human, in fact, to be born into the Hale pack in 17 generations. The only thing that stopped my father from trying to turn me as a baby was Deaton declaring that I had a Spark and would train under him.”
“What happened? And wait if Deaton was...Deaton when you were born, how old is he?”
“As far as I know, Deaton has served our pack since my great-grandmother was Alpha. Maybe that's why he was so slow to teach me anything practical, he preferred method of spending a great deal of time on theory. My father was never a patient man and shortly after I turned 10 he decided to give me the bite; I suppose to him it was a win-win situation, either the human runt died or the pack gained a new werewolf.”
“But magic! You could have been like Merlin or something, weren’t there enough werewolves already?”
“A Spark is just that, a spark, a possibility. I could have been great sorcerer, or I could have just ended up having a particularly green thumb. I am in no way justifying what my father did, but all I could have done for the pack was create wards, use location spells…Services that Deaton was already providing.”
“Do you miss it?” Stiles asks.
“For a few years, I felt as though I would never be complete again. But then circumstances arose when I was a teenager that made me realise that the bite hadn’t destroyed my Spark, that it had simply been lying dormant. After that I studied the old magic and chose Selene as my guardian. I’ve had her favour to this day.”
Stiles snorts. “No offence dude but you’re not exactly the luckiest person I know.”
“Mountain ash surrounded our home and blocked the exits of all the tunnels, even the accelerant for the fire had been mixed with wolfsbane to weaken us. There is no explanation for how I survived. Yet here I am. Not to mention the little matter of me coming back from the dead. Something that those who practice magic have tried and failed to attain for thousands of years. Catch”
Peter throws the pyramid shaped bottle of perfume to Stiles. He flails, but unexpectedly manages to catch it with only minor injury to himself.
“You can keep it.”
Stiles is busy removing the stopper and in the process almost spills the perfume.
“Agh, this is pissing me off. I’m like 99% certain that I’ve smelt something like this before but I can’t remember where or when. What is it made of?”
“Amongst other things: myrrh, rose, cinnamon, and saffron.”
Peter doesn’t think that Stiles is even listening. He’s too busy inhaling the scent. In a small, unsure voice that Peter has never heard from him before he says,
“I think…I think someone gave me something like this before. But-No wait that’s crazy, who would give a kid perfume? It probably just smells like something my babcia wore.”
Peter stills. It’s too early, if he even hints at their connection Stiles would run. No, he needs to handle this delicately.
“You clearly have a Spark, a rather powerful one from what I’ve observed. I could train you, teach you how to harness your potential.”
“Whoa, really? Wait, how do I know you’re not going to sacrifice me for my power or something? Or that you’re even teaching me legit stuff?”
Peter sighs before answering, “You can’t gain someone else’s Spark. Once the vessel is dead, the Spark is gone forever. And you could always double check everything I tell you with Deaton.”
“Well why don’t I just get Deaton to train me? Cut out the middleman and all that.”
“Your far too impatient, but more importantly you don’t trust Deaton. You have good instincts, don’t ignore them.”
“I don’t trust you either.”
Peter smiles, slow and sure and this time he makes sure that Stiles sees it. “Like I said, you have good instincts.”