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We Are All Works In Progress

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Stiles plays the memory over and over in his head, not because he hopes he can gain anything from it, but because it feels like the last time he was him, and he wants to cling to that.

He was in the woods with Scott, tracking a werewolf that Scott guessed was newly bitten and definitely volatile. It had been a long night and Stiles’ attention was waning. He didn’t need his wits about him when Scott was leading the way. Stiles would follow him to the ends of the earth. He should have watched his footing though because he stepped on a branch, the crack echoing through the trees and spooking the werewolf.

He bolted, Scott giving chase, and Stiles had no hope of keeping up but he tried regardless. He lost sight of Scott, his legs starting to slow, and that’s it, that’s when he stopped being him, when everything turned into present tense in this nightmare he can’t escape.

He’s grabbed from behind, smashed against the ground, and at first he thinks it must be the werewolf. He flails, managing to flip himself over before he’s pinned against the earth. It’s not the kid.

“Scott!” he yells at the top of his lungs.

The man clamps a hand over his mouth and Stiles twists himself, biting down on the flesh of his palm. The man yelps, pulling his hand away.

“Little fucker.”

“You’re making this very messy,” another voice says critically.

Stiles sees a second man lean over the first, reaching down and stabbing something into Stiles’ neck. He feels himself fading fast, the trees starting to blur around him.

“Scott,” he says weakly, knowing that Scott will be tuned into his voice, knowing that he’ll hear him, but he’s already afraid it’s too late.

When he opens his eyes again, he’s inside a blacked-out van. The road is uneven beneath him and he wonders if he’s still in the woods, wonders how long he was out. Can Scott still track him? His head is pounding, his face tender. He reaches up a hand, touching his temple and feeling a graze from where he was slammed into the ground. It’s damp and he wonders if it’s still bleeding.

There’s not enough light to see, he can’t even tell if he’s alone in here. After a while he hears voices in the cab, a conversation back and forth. He takes a chance, crawling to the back of the van and trying the door but he can’t find a handle. He kicks at it, slams his body against it. Falling out of a moving vehicle has to be better option than letting himself be taken wherever they’re going.

The van stops abruptly and he thinks they must have heard him, that they’re coming to subdue him again. He shuffles backwards, getting as far away from the door as he can. When it opens, he’s blinded by a bright light shined directly into his eyes. He tries to put his hand up to shield himself but one of the men is on him, putting a hood over his head.

He’s grabbed by two sets of hands and dragged roughly from the van. He can’t see, can’t breathe, but he’s pulled along, feet scraping the floor. It feels gritty under his sneakers, dirty. He’s taken into an elevator that feels and sounds industrial, jerking downwards in a way that makes his stomach lurch. He’s walked down corridors, turning this way and that before he’s finally tossed forwards, a door clanging shut behind him.

He pulls the hood off, spinning around to see the men walking away. He’s in what looks like a holding cell, rusted bars separating him from the corridor. There’s no windows, just a dull electric light in the hallway that buzzes.

He doesn’t know how long he’s there. Sometimes they bring him food that always seems like stale leftovers but there’s never any clue what time of day it is. He hears voices from the end of the echoing corridor and he’s never sure if they don’t realise he can hear them or if they just don’t care.

“We can’t keep him here much longer.”

“You’re the one who messed his face up. We won’t get full price for him looking like that.”

“I’m ready to cut my losses and get rid of him.”

“We wait. He’ll heal. I didn’t go to all this trouble to not get what he’s worth.”

Stiles is tempted to claw at his own face, to make himself worthless to them. He doesn’t know who he’s being sold to but he doesn’t think any good can come of it. He picks half-heartedly at the scabs on his face but it makes him squeamish and he’s already weak enough. He tries to work out the thing that will help him survive this. To sell him they’ll have to move him. That could be the best chance he’ll get.

When the day comes, both men stand at the door, braced for him.

“Turn and face the wall.”

“No,” Stiles says defiantly.

“Don’t make us do this the hard way.”

“You can’t hurt me,” Stiles says. “You won’t get full price.”

The man produces a flip knife, revealing the blade. “That’s only if we do it where they can see.”

Stiles considers his options. They’re limited. He eyes the man and then turns around, facing the back wall. He listens, the clanking lock turning, and as soon as the door releases he spins, rushing the two men. He knows his chances are slim but he can’t do nothing. He slams full body into the first man, no give, and then he feels a sharp pain in his neck, the needle going in. He sinks helplessly to his knees, feeling himself lifted as it all fades away.

When he comes around again, he’s aware of movement beneath him, the van, but when he cracks his eyes open everything is bright. He hears a heavy door shutting and struggles to sit up, trying to get his bearings. As his eyes adjust to the light he sees that he’s on a gurney in a clinical looking room. The men are gone but there’s a younger man with a clipboard wearing some kind of uniform.

“Oh good, you’re awake,” he says. “I was worried they’d given you too much. The risks of working with amateurs.”

“Where is this place?” Stiles asks.

“This is intake,” the man tells him.

“Intake for what?” Stiles demands.

“For the Foundry,” the man says calmly. “My name’s Nick, I’m your handler.” He considers Stiles for a moment. “You probably want to get cleaned up before I take you to your room.”

“No,” Stiles says, swinging his legs off the side of the gurney, the panic rising up in him. “I’m not supposed to be here.”

Nick looks at him, bemused. “You think I don’t know that? I just had to fake your paperwork.”

Stiles stares at him, unable comprehend the magnitude of what that means for his future. Nick sighs, putting the clipboard down.

“Look, we don’t get as many orphans and runaways as we used to,” he explains. “We’ve had to get a little more creative in our recruitment process.”

“So you kidnap people?” Stiles asks incredulously.

“We accept donations,” Nick responds. “No questions asked.”

“Well I’m not supposed to be here,” Stiles insists.

“I know,” Nick agrees, something like sympathy in his voice. “But the thing is, you’re a third class citizen now, so no one’s going to listen to you.”

“My dad’s a sheriff,” Stiles tells him. “He’s going to find me, find out what you’ve been doing, you’re all going to rot in jail.”

Nick looks disinterested, picking up his clipboard again. “Your old life is gone. No one’s going to find you. Do you want a shower now? Because it could be a while before anyone asks you again.”

Stiles swallows uncomfortably, looking at the floor. He’s filthy, covered in sweat and grime, and he knows that he must reek. He’s been craving a hot shower but not here, not like this. The thought of being that vulnerable makes his skin crawl.

Nick huffs, clearly impatient. “There’s a lock on the door and I have no interest in watching,” he assures Stiles. “No one here is going to hurt you or use you or be inappropriate. We look after the merchandise. That’s the golden rule. You’ll be well fed, you’ll be comfortable, and if you’re good, you can earn privileges.”

Stiles closes his eyes, taking a steadying breath. He has to admit, being here feels like a significant improvement to the cage he’s been stuck in, but he knows what this place is, knows what happens next. Companions is their official title but everyone knows they’re sex slaves. No one pays that much money just for someone to cuddle and make them dinner. They buy them so they can live out all their fantasies that no self-respecting person would entertain.

“Get up,” Nick tells him.

Stiles opens his eyes, tensing as he shies away. Nick crosses the room, opening a door.

“Didn’t I just say I wasn’t going to hurt you,” he says wearily. “Get over here.”

Stiles stands cautiously, going to join Nick in the doorway. It’s a bathroom, white and clean.

“Shower,” Nick says, gesturing towards it. He reaches around the door. “Lock,” he says, demonstrating it. “No hidden cameras. We’re not voyeurs. You’re only going to be thought of like that by the person who buys you. We’re just running a business.” He turns to look at Stiles. “Take a shower. Trust me, you’ll regret it if you don’t.”

Stiles steps into the room, Nick moving away from the door as Stiles pushes it closed. He clicks the lock quickly into place and lets himself sag. He turns, looking around the room for anything useful. Soap. Shampoo. No razors. He knows it’s a lost battle already, even if he could get past Nick, there’s no way out of this complex. He knows how these places work. Everyone knows how they work. And they all just let it be a part of their world.

He strips self-consciously, not doubting Nick’s claim that no one is watching, but not wanting to expose himself anyway. It feels wrong. He doesn’t feel safe.

He turns the shower on, stepping under the hot stream of water, and he instantly begins to shake. The relief at such a familiar, needed sensation mixed with the terror of where he is overwhelms him. He can feel the tears sliding down his face, but maybe if they all go straight down the drain he can pretend they’re not real.

He washes himself quickly, efficiently, always keeping himself guarded, angled in a way that he can hide himself easily. He wraps a towel around his waist as he steps out, looking at the clean, folded clothes on the shelf. He guesses he’s supposed to put them on. As much as he doesn’t want to comply, he can’t stand the thought of putting on his own dirty clothes again. They’re coated in sweat, blood and anxiety.

He towels himself dry and pulls on the clean clothes, considering himself. It’s like the uniform of some kind of private school but he has to admit it’s at least comfortable. It will do. Maybe if he blends in, he’ll have more chance to plot his escape.

He takes a deep breath, trying to steady himself before he unlocks the door. Nick is sat on a stool, looking idly over the clipboard.

“You look better,” he comments, getting to his feet. “You ready to go to your room?”

Stiles shakes his head, crossing his arms over his chest.

“It’s not so bad here,” Nick tells him, leading the way towards the door. “You’ll see.”

Nick takes him down a series of corridors, every door they go through requiring two-point security - an access card and a fingerprint. Nick notices him watching and smiles at him.

“The fingerprint only works if it’s body temperature,” he says. “It’s a bitch when it’s a cold day out and you’re trying to start your shift, but it means a severed finger doesn’t work.”

“It’ll work if I warm it up,” Stiles counters.

Nick looks amused. “I think it’s going to be a while before you get any privileges.”

He unlocks the next door and Stiles can see that they’re in a more residential area of the building. Each room has a window and Stiles can see people sat at desks, people laid on beds. Nick stops outside an empty room, using his access card and fingerprint to open the door.

“This is yours,” he says.

Stiles steps inside. It’s the same as all the others, reminiscent of a dorm room. There’s a bed, a desk and chair, a lamp, one long window that’s too high up to see anything but sky through. It’s dark outside now. He looks through the adjoining door and sees a toilet and sink, no shower. He guesses that’s one of the privileges. As he turns back into the room he sees that the window he looked through before is a mirror on this side. Two-way glass. He wonders why they bother when they have to pass it to get into the room, but maybe being faced with your own reflection makes you forget that you’re being watched.

“Get settled in,” Nick tells him. “I’ll bring you some dinner.”

Stiles feels a shudder go through him as the door closes, the electronic lock clicking into place. He looks around again. There’s a TV on one wall but no remote. Maybe that’s a privilege too. There’s no books, nothing to stimulate his mind, but he has to admit that Nick is right, it is comfortable at least. It’s a step up from the underground cell he’s been in, even if the need to escape feels more urgent than ever.

Nick brings him dinner, meat and fresh vegetables, delicious and filling and everything he’s been lacking. He tries not to feel grateful. He’s not being treated like a person; he’s being kept in saleable condition.

That night he has to watch his first video about being a Companion. It starts on his TV without warning, giving him an introduction to the history of the role and what an honour it is to serve. Stiles loses count of the amount of times he rolls his eyes. He’s worried for the people in here who actually buy this bullshit.

It is nice to climb into a real bed at the end of the day though, even if it’s not his own. It’s nice to have a real toilet with a door he can close. There’s no mirror in there so he assumes they can’t see him but he’s not going to take that for granted. It’s nice to have clean clothes and the ability to at least clean up a little in the small sink. But he’s not grateful. He refuses to be grateful.

Nick brings him his three square meals a day and he has to watch two videos on his TV about the various roles of a Companion and what to expect when you get taken home by your new Master or Mistress. They explain how to behave when you’re alone with them, when you’re in company, how to show your respect. It all makes Stiles’ skin crawl. No one ever asks him if he’s taking any of this in, if he’s understanding it, if he’s going to go along with it. That’s not really how brainwashing works though. He guesses he’ll be sat here with these videos until he internalises it and then he’ll be sold off to the highest bidder.

After three days, Nick tells him he can take a shower. He leads him down the corridor to a tiled room with separate stalls. He’s the only one in there. Nick waits outside while Stiles closes the door to his cubicle, using the soap and shampoo provided to get clean. He’s given fresh clothes and taken back to his room which feels more and more like a cell.

The next day, Nick comes back for him again. “You didn’t do anything dumb yesterday. That means you can have exercise today.”

Stiles doesn’t know what that entails but he’s going stir crazy so he’ll take any distraction. He follows Nick through the corridors until they make their way outside. He’s disappointed to see it’s completely walled in, no chance to get a look around. He’s tried looking out of his window but even when he climbs on the bed and gets up on his tiptoes he can’t see the horizon. He could be anywhere.

He looks at the space in front of him, like a prison yard but eerily empty. Aside from the people he saw through the windows when he first got taken to his room, he hasn’t seen another Companion.

“We’re not sure you can play well with others yet,” Nick tells him. “You’re in solitary until you prove we can trust you.”

“So human contact is a privilege too?” Stiles asks.

“I’m human,” Nick points out.

Stiles rolls his eyes, looking away.

“You have thirty minutes,” Nick tells him. “Use them wisely.”

Stiles starts to pace. There’s nothing really to do out here, but it does feel good to get some fresh air, to be moving. He speeds up to a jog, moving in circuits around the outside of the yard, trying to shift the restless feeling that only fuels his anxiety. He goes faster and faster, sweat dripping from him, and the release is close to euphoric.

“Time,” Nick calls out to him. “Let’s go.”

Stiles looks at him, pleading. “Can I do a cool down?”

“Time,” Nick says again. “We have a schedule. You need to clear out so the good boys can play.”

Stiles nods, not daring to argue. His blood is still pumping too hard as he’s taken back to his room.

“You can’t have a shower until tomorrow but I can bring you some fresh clothes,” Nick tells him.

He leaves and Stiles goes through to the washroom, stripping off and cleaning himself up in the sink. He hears the door to his room open and sticks his head out to see Nick placing some clothes on his desk along with a couple of books.

“Thought you might appreciate something to read.”

“Thank you,” Stiles says earnestly and he realises too late that he’s grateful.

Life falls into a routine. He gets to shower every other day, is allowed to exercise twice a week. He now has to watch three videos a day telling him all about how fulfilling being a Companion can be and how much joy can be gained from serving others if you let yourself surrender to it. Stiles groans every time they come on.

When the door opens, he doesn’t bother looking up, just waits for Nick to tell him what it’s time for now.

“Do you want a book?”

Stiles looks up sharply, jumping off the bed. It’s not Nick. In his whole time here, he’s never met anyone but Nick, has never seen another Companion or handler or guard in the corridors or common areas. Solitary really does mean solitary. Everything is so perfectly choreographed and timed that he’s always moved around without seeing another person.

But here in his doorway is someone else in the same private school-esque uniform as him, wheeling a trolley of books. Stiles peers out into the hallway but the kid’s not with a handler, he’s not being supervised. He must have opened the door himself.

“Your fingerprint opens the doors?” Stiles asks.

“I have the highest privilege level,” the kid tells him. “And I’m going to have to report you for asking that question.”

Stiles frowns at him. “What?”

“Curiosity is not encouraged,” the kid says. “And you’re never getting out of solitary with that attitude.”

“This is not attitude,” Stiles says incredulously. “Under the circumstances, I think I’m being pretty damn reasonable.”

The kid shakes his head. “Spirit is not encouraged either.” He looks down at the trolley. “Do you want a book?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “Thanks.”

He browses through the collection, pretending to make his mind up, desperate to buy some time to find out something actually useful. He picks up a book, reading the back cover.

“So the highest level is grounds privileges?” he asks casually.

“I can’t get out of this corridor,” the kid says. “I can get into the library, if they let me out of my room, and I can get in the other rooms. I can’t even get as far as the showers.”

Stiles nods, considering his options. That’s not enough but it would be a start. Maybe once he’s in the system he can work out a way of opening up the other locks to his fingerprint.

“And I have to report that you asked me that too,” the kid adds.

Stiles gives him a weary look. “Oh, come on. I’m just trying to figure out how it works. I keep getting told I’ll get privileges if I’m good but I don’t know what it means.”

“Well, I have to report you,” the kid says. “Sorry.”

“And then what happens?” Stiles asks. “I get punished?”

“You’ll get a note in your file,” the kid says. “Maybe I won’t be able to come see you for a while. You don’t have much though, I don’t think they’d take away more than that.” He shifts on his feet. “I have to go. Do you want a book?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, putting down the one he’s holding and picking one out that looks interesting.

“Step back,” the kid tells him, his tone official.

Stiles moves fully back into his room and the kid closes the door, head bowed down to avoid eye-contact. Stiles raises his eyebrows, tapping the book against his palm. His next move has to be getting these people to trust him. The more privileges he has, the higher his chances of finding a loophole to get out of here.

Nick doesn’t say anything to him when he brings him his lunch so Stiles can’t tell if the kid really reported him or not. He eats at his desk as he’s played a video about respect and how to honour your Master or Mistress. You should always be available, always pleased by their attention, always eager to do whatever you’re asked. It’s like they’re brainwashing people to forget that consent exists.

He paces his room, wondering if he’s going to be allowed any exercise today. He’s restless, his legs heavy, and all he can think about is running through the woods with Scott, lacrosse practice, being in the world. It feels so distant already and that scares him.

He lies down on the floor with his pillow under his head, his legs propped up on his bed. The stretch in his muscles grounds him, and more blood to his head can only be a good thing. His braincells need all the help they can get. He reads the book he got from the kid, happy for the fresh distraction. He’s a third of the way through, wondering if he should try and pace himself, when he hears voices in the hallway. His heart speeds up. He’s never heard voices before. He was beginning to wonder if his room was soundproofed, but the place is so eerily quiet even when he’s walking around.

“I think you’ll be quite pleased.”

“What about this one?”

Stiles tilts his head back, looking upside down at the mirrored glass, but of course he can’t see anything. He swears that’s where the voices are though, which means they can see him.

“He’s not ready yet. We haven’t finished breaking him in.”

Stiles looks away, staring at the pages of his book. That’s a good thing, it means he’s not going to be taken away to some new prison he’s going to have to work out all over again, but it also means he’s a long way from any privileges that might get him a way out of here.

“I’m perfectly capable of breaking things myself. Bones. Spirits.”

Stiles freezes. Staying here indefinitely is looking like a better and better option.

“I’m sure you could handle him, sir. I would just hate to see you leaving with inadequate merchandise. After you made such a generous donation…”

“After I made such a generous donation, I don’t expect to have to repeat myself. I want him. Bring him to me.”

Footsteps retreat and Stiles swallows uncomfortably, not daring to move. He hears the lock on his door beep and brings his legs down, rolling over to see Nick with a tight expression on his face.

“Well, little piggy,” Nick says. “Looks like you’re going to market a little earlier than anticipated.”

“Who is he?” Stiles asks, getting to his feet.

“A wealthy benefactor,” Nick tells him. “And probably your new Master. Congratulations.”

His voice is flat which just makes Stiles feel worse. There’s a knot in his stomach that tightens with every electronic door he watches Nick open, a sense of foreboding that he won’t be coming back. He never formulated any plans for what would happen if he was actually bought, he didn’t think it would get this far. Running has to be his only option. He can do that better from somebody’s house than he can from here, right? Maybe this could be a good thing.

Nick stops outside a door with no lock on it, turning to face Stiles. “Don’t make me look bad.” He opens the door and gestures for Stiles to enter.

Stiles steps forward cautiously, peering into the room. On a couch sits a man who’s not as old or repulsive as Stiles was afraid of. He assumed the only people that really used this service were dirty old men. This guy is probably still twice Stiles’ age, but he seems youthful, tight jeans and a V-neck sweatshirt, relatable at least.

When he looks up at Stiles, a slow smiles spreads across his face that looks nothing short of predatory. Stiles tries to step back but then the door slams behind him, making him flinch.

“Well aren’t you a sweet little thing.” He pats the seat beside him. “Come sit me.”

“No, thanks,” Stiles responds, looking around the room. He spots a window and moves closer.

“I think you might have mistaken that for a request,” the man says.

Stiles looks back at him. “Huh?”

“Sit,” the man says firmly. There’s something in his tone that makes Stiles comply. “That’s a good boy,” the man praises.

Stiles leans into the back of the couch, looking out of the window over the man’s shoulder. He can see greenery. He doesn’t know what he hopes to gain from knowing that.

“I suppose it’s been a while since you’ve seen the outside world,” the man comments. Stiles looks at him again. “It would be nice if you could muster your undivided attention though. I don’t tolerate rudeness.”

“I’m not trained,” Stiles says, hoping it might put him off. “I haven’t been here long. I don’t know the rules.”

“Good,” the man says, that slow smile coming over his face again. “I have my own rules. Always a pain to retrain. I think I’d be perfectly happy to take you just as you are.”

Stiles feels bile rising up in his throat. He looks to the door and then surveys the room again. There’s no mirrors and he can’t see anything that could be a camera. “I’m not supposed to be here,” he confides. “My dad’s a sheriff. He’s looking for me. I got kidnapped and taken to some basement and then they sold me to this place.”

“That’s adorable,” the man says earnestly.

Stiles feels his face fall. “That’s not adorable. I was kidnapped. Are you paying attention?”

The man looks amused. “Sometimes families don’t like having to explain to their children that they’re getting sold into slavery. It makes for an awkward conversation. There are companies that specialise in faking kidnappings as a way to move kids to the Foundry. It can be the least painful way for all involved.”

“My dad would never do that to me,” Stiles insists. “I’m all he has.”

“And he’s never had money problems?” the man prompts. Stiles frowns but he’s not about to admit it. “Everybody has a price.”

“He wouldn’t do that to me,” Stiles repeats.

“Well, regardless, here we find ourselves,” the man says. “And now I’m going to take you home and find out what other adorable traits you have.”

Stiles feels a shudder go through him, a hopeless, empty feeling.

“What’s your name?” the man asks.

“I’m not telling you,” Stiles responds. It feels like giving away too much and he doesn’t want his old life tied to this. He doesn’t want it to be real.

The man purses his lips together. “I suppose I could think up a name for you. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. Although, if this law enforcement father of yours is really trying to find you, you’re not leaving much of a trail for him.”

Stiles grits his teeth. He knows he’s being played, even as the word comes out of his mouth. “Stiles.”

The man smiles. “Hello, Stiles. My name is Peter. You’re going to call me Daddy though.”

“I’m definitely not,” Stiles tells him, his stomach flipping over. This is exactly the kind of pervert he was afraid of.

“Not right now,” Peter allows. “It’s going to take a while, I appreciate that, but you absolutely will.” He turns towards the door. “I’ll take him!” he hollers.

He gets to his feet as the door opens, nodding at Nick as he exits the room. Stiles sits on the couch, still reeling.

“I asked you not to show me up,” Nick says, clearly unimpressed.

“I don’t want to go with him,” Stiles says desperately.

“Well, that’s not up to either of us now,” Nick tells him. “Time to get you processed. Let’s go.”

He follows Nick out of the room and around the corner to a front desk where Peter is already signing some forms. He opens up his leather satchel, taking out some bound stacks of cash and placing them on the counter. Stiles’ eyes widen.

Peter smirks as he catches him looking. “You’re going to be very well looked after,” he assures him. “If you’re a good boy.”

He finishes up his transaction with the desk clerk and then Nick is guiding Stiles closer. Stiles tries to dig his feet in but it doesn’t do him any good.

“Do you want him restrained for travel?” Nick offers.

Stiles turns to give him an incredulous look. It’s not like he ever really thought Nick was on his side but he can’t believe he’s dismissing him as easily as this.

Peter leans in close, making Stiles shy away. “Do we need restraints, dear?”

Stiles takes shaky breaths, the thought of it making tears prick at his eyes. He has to run. He has to run now.

Peter looks at Nick. “I think we’re going to be just fine.” He turns his attention back to Stiles, clicking his fingers. “With me.”

He takes a step, clearly waiting for Stiles to walk to heel like a dog. Stiles stands there, frozen, everything seeming to stand still. He can feel the tension in the room, not just his own but the staff, waiting to see if he’ll do the right thing, waiting to see what will happen if he doesn’t. He can tell he’s on very thin ice. He looks at Nick, imploring, but Nick just gives him a look full of anger like he’s fucking it all up and Stiles realises that even if he can somehow miraculously get out of this sale, he won’t be safe here. He’s not safe anywhere. Worst of all, he doesn’t even have a choice.

He moves forward, his legs shaky, and Peter smiles at him, encouraging. “There we go.” He walks towards the door, Stiles going with him. “Thank you, gentlemen,” he calls back. “Spend my money wisely.” The door buzzes, the lock releasing, and Peter opens it, gesturing to Stiles. “After you.”

Stiles steps through, out into the parking lot, and he’s struck by how big everything looks. It’s been so long since he’s seen anything but walls around him. It’s liberating for a moment before he realises what comes next. Peter steers him towards a flashy Mercedes and Stiles wants nothing more than to run, but now isn’t the time. He wouldn’t be able to get far enough fast enough and the staff would just help hand him back to Peter. Then he’d be in trouble. He knows instinctively that he doesn’t want to be in trouble with this man.

Peter opens the passenger door for him, a gesture that almost seems chivalrous and not possessive. Stiles climbs inside, Peter closing the door after him and walking around to the driver’s side. Stiles eyes the ignition, wishing he knew how to hotwire a car, he might just be able to make it in time before Peter can climb in. He thinks about reaching over, locking him out, but he has the keys in his hand, it would only buy Stiles seconds and possibly a lot of pain.

He clasps his hands in his lap as Peter climbs into the car, trying to stop himself from fidgeting. He has to play along, at least until he can work out how to get away.

“Seatbelt,” Peter prompts as he pulls his own on.

Stiles reaches for it, Peter watching him, waiting until it’s clicked into place before he turns the keys in the ignition. It seems like a caring gesture, or maybe he just spent too much money to watch his new investment fly through the windscreen. Peter gives him a little nod of approval and then starts the car.

“Let’s go home.”

The words don’t sound comforting to Stiles, they sound like a threat. His heart beats harder in his chest, feeling like it might bruise his ribcage. He’s too hot, he feels sick, but he has to hold it together. As they drive, he tries to get his bearings, looks for anything he might recognise, but they’re definitely not in Beacon Hills. Instead he looks for landmarks, tries to trace a route he could find again, but if he ever escapes, the Foundry is the last place he wants to make his way back to. If nothing else it gives his mind something to do, a job to keep it busy, to keep the panic at bay.

“You don’t have to be nervous,” Peter tells him, that smooth voice, like he’s in charge of not just Stiles but the whole world.

Stiles swallows. “I’m not,” he says. He doesn’t want Peter to see him as a flight risk. He doesn’t want to be punished for something he hasn’t even done yet.

“No,” Peter agrees. “Terror would probably describe it more accurately.”

Stiles looks at him. Hearing it out loud shouldn’t make it more true or powerful but it’s like Peter is creeping inside his head.

“I can work with that,” Peter continues. “Fear shows me who you really are. It’s unnecessary though, I assure you. I’m not going to force myself on you. I’m not going to hurt you. Not unless you make me.”

Stiles wraps his arms around himself, looking out of the window, but everything is getting increasingly non-descript. They’re on a long stretch of road, nothing but trees either side. He looks for a road sign, a rock, anything, but there’s nothing he can latch onto. Nothing that can tell him where the fuck he is in case he can somehow get a message out. I’m in the woods. Help. He could have sent that five minutes from his own front door.

They turn down another road, narrow and winding. There’s only room for one car, if they come across anyone else they’d be in trouble. Stiles gets the impression it’s a private road though. The isolation makes him go cold. Anything could happen to him out here and no one would ever know.

It’s five minutes until they come to a clearing at the end of the road, a house sat proudly like it has every right to be in this place. The arrogance of it seems fitting for Peter. As they pull up outside, Peter turns to face him, killing the engine.

“Stay.”

Stiles nods, watching as Peter gets out of the car, walking around to Stiles’ side. He opens the door, gesturing for him to get out, and Stiles gets caught in his seatbelt in his blind attempt to comply, remembering too late that he needs to take it off. He avoids looking at Peter, not wanting to see the smug look that’s doubtless on his face. He looks up at the house instead. It’s made of stone that looks like it could have been dug out of the earth around them but it’s not some quaint little cottage. It's impressive.

“I want to show you something before we go inside,” Peter tells him, closing the car door. “With me.”

Stiles clenches his teeth, shoving his hands into his pockets. He really doesn’t appreciate being spoken to like a dog. He walks with Peter around the house though, to the lawn at the back that reaches out into the seemingly endless trees.

“I don’t have any neighbours,” Peter points out. “I like the quiet.” He looks at Stiles. “If you try to run, I will catch you before you get back to anything resembling civilisation. I have been tracking and hunting things my whole life. You cannot get away from me and if I have to go chasing you through these trees I am not going to have much patience left by the time I drag you back here. Do you understand me?”

Stiles nods his head, dread sitting heavy in his stomach. “Yeah.”

“Good,” Peter says. “I do not enjoy losing my patience. I don’t think you’ll enjoy it either.” He smiles at Stiles, like he hasn’t just threatened him. “Let’s go inside. I’ll give you the tour.”

He leads Stiles in through the back door. Everything is much more sleek and modern than Stiles was expecting from the rustic exterior. The kitchen is big with a granite island and high-end appliances as well as a solid wooden dining table that looks like it’s been sculpted from the trees outside. The living room has a large open fire and leather couches that look incredibly cosy. There’s a bookshelf that spans one wall, filled with well-worn paperbacks, reference books and artefacts. Stiles takes a step closer, intrigued, but Peter catches his elbow, directing him elsewhere.

“This is my study,” he says, gesturing to a closed door. “You are not permitted to go in here. Not that it matters right now, you’re not permitted to go anywhere, but I just want to make that clear.”

“Okay,” Stiles agrees.

“I do my work in here, I don’t need distractions, and I can’t stand people touching my things,” Peter tells him. “Everything is in order, it needs to stay that way.”

“Sure,” Stiles says, trying not to look at him like he’s crazy. The last thing Stiles intends to do is get in the way. He wants to be invisible and then he wants to be gone. The insistence does make him curious what Peter’s hiding though. Stiles is very good at evoking horror stories, but hopefully the guy is just OCD. He’s definitely a control freak.

Peter gives him a curt nod, turning away. “Follow me.”

He leads Stiles up the wooden staircase and past some strange artworks hung along the landing that Stiles wants to stop and study. They look South American and old. He trails after Peter to the end of the hallway, into a bedroom. The large bed dominates the room, wooden and carved, luxurious blankets draped over it. There’s a bay window with a bench seat built in, strewn with cushions. There’s built in wardrobes, some shelves with more books, and a door leading to what looks like a bathroom. The whole house feels like a labour of love but this room especially. Stiles wonders if Peter made these things or if he commissioned them. He’s clearly rich enough to not flinch at the price tag.

“This is our bedroom,” Peter says. “You’ll be spending most of your time here while I get you settled in.” He moves over to the bed and lifts up a leather cuff. It’s attached to a chain which in turn is attached to the bed. Stiles shies away. “I’m sure you understand I have to take precautions to protect my investment.”

Stiles shifts uncomfortably on his feet. He doesn’t like being spoken about like that. He doesn’t like anything about this.

“It’s not going to hurt you,” Peter assures him, as though he’s being pathetic. “And the chain is plenty long enough that you can comfortably go to the bathroom or sit in the window seat or pace around wearing a hole in my carpet if you so wish.”

Stiles hesitates, not moving out of the doorway, but he can tell by Peter’s face that he doesn’t have a choice in this, it’s happening one way or another, and the survivalist part of his brain is telling him that compliance now might buy him the chance he needs later.

He steps forward, Peter gesturing to the bed. He sits, clasping his hands together in his lap as Peter bends down, securing the cuff snugly around his ankle. Once it’s buckled into place he threads a padlock through it, clicking it closed. He gives a little tug for good measure and then looks at Stiles smugly as he gets to his feet, making a show of sliding the key into his pocket.

“Safe and sound,” he says. “I’m going to give you some space, go and cook us some nice dinner. You make yourself at home.”

Stiles watches as he leaves the room, listening to his footsteps on the stairs before he lifts his foot up onto the bed, examining the cuff. There’s no give in it and the lock is secure. Why didn’t he learn to pick locks? Why doesn’t he have more illegal skills in his repertoire?

He follows the chain to where it’s attached to the bed and finds that it’s not simply hooked around a handy piece of the existing bed, it’s looped through a metal casing set into the solid wooden bedframe. This was custom made to ensure the chain couldn’t wear away at the wood through friction. The thought of someone putting that much thought into keeping their slave locked up in their bedroom, that they anticipated this in advance and hired someone to fit this contraption, it’s more than a little sinister. He can’t imagine the kind of person who would do that, but of course he can, he’s right downstairs.

Stiles drops the chain, fighting to keep calm. Nothing bad has happened to him yet. He can still get out of this unscathed. He just needs a plan. He gets to his feet, investigating the room. The chain feels lighter than he expected, not weighing him down. He can get a foot out into the hallway if he pulls it taut put he can’t reach anything from there. It’s not a way out.

He goes over to the window instead, pulling at the handle, but of course it’s locked. Even if he got it open, what was he going to do, dangle himself out of it? He looks through the wardrobes, the drawers, the bookshelves. Everything is neat and ordered but incredibly mundane. He heads through to the bathroom, looking through the cabinet. There’s no razors, no drugs except for a couple of aspirin. There’s two toothbrushes in the holder though, one new looking, and Stiles thinks again of the planning that’s gone into this.

He opens up the cupboard finding expensive fluffy towels that all match, as impersonal as a hotel. He moves things around, discovering a travel bag that’s still partially packed from some trip. He opens it up and right in the bottom he finds a pair of nail scissors. The blades might be small but they look sharp. He feels a little flutter of hope.

He takes them through to the bedroom, sitting on the bed so he has a clear view of the open door, listening for any noise from Peter. He brings his cuffed ankle up onto the bed with him and picks at the stitching with the blade of the scissors, trying to get it loose. The stupid thing is high quality but there has to be some give in it. If he can keep these hidden somewhere then maybe he can keep working on it when he’s alone. He’s seen Shawshank Redemption. He can be patient.

He has his head bowed, so focussed on what he’s doing that he doesn’t hear Peter coming into the room.

“I must have missed those.”

Stiles jumps, gripping the scissors in his fist and holding them up defensively, blade pointed threateningly towards Peter.

“Do you really think you’re going to kill me with a pair of nail scissors?” Peter asks, not in the slightest bit concerned.

“If I get your carotid artery,” Stiles responds. “Right here,” he adds, touching it on his own neck with his free hand.

Peter raises his eyebrows a smile coming over his face. “I knew there was a reason I liked you.”

Stiles frowns at him, gripping the scissors tighter, his hand shaking.

“We both know you’re not going to do that,” Peter says calmly. “You’re smarter than that, Stiles.”

There’s something about hearing his name, a connection that’s been missing for so long, that makes Stiles give. He didn’t realise how close he was to losing himself and it’s like Peter’s handed him a gift. As Peter holds his hand out, Stiles almost takes hold of it before realising what Peter wants. He places the scissors down in his palm.

“Thank you,” Peter responds, examining them before sliding them into his back pocket. He steps forward. “Let me see.”

Stiles leans back, letting him look at the cuff. He didn’t manage anything more than superficial scratches.

“You know, I bought this with comfort in mind,” Peter says as he examines it a little more closely than feels strictly necessary. “Soft leather, padded interior, buckle never touches skin.” He stands up tall again, looking down at Stiles. “If I ever catch you doing anything like that again, I’m going to get some steel shackles and weld them to you. Is that clear?”

Stiles nods. “Yeah.”

“Good,” Peter says with a nod. He rearranges his face into something more welcoming. “Dinner is ready.” He takes the key from his pocket, unlocking the cuff and slipping it from Stiles’ ankle. “Come,” he says, turning and leaving the room, trusting that Stiles will follow, which of course he does. Peter leads him through to the kitchen, taking the scissors from his pocket and placing them in one of the drawers. “Take a seat,” he says, gesturing to the dining table.

Stiles sits at one of the places that have been set, a placemat and cutlery and a napkin. It looks like a date night and the thought makes Stiles uncomfortable. He knows how dates end. Peter brings two plates over, setting one down in front of Stiles and then sitting opposite him. It looks good. Peter seems irritatingly competent.

“Bon appetit,” Peter says in a tone of voice that suggests he knows just how pretentious it is and enjoys the fact.

Stiles stares down at his food, picking up his knife and fork and starting to eat. It tastes as good as it looks. Stiles isn’t sure what about that irritates him so much.

“You really are a poor conversationalist,” Peter comments. “I guess you didn’t pick up that lesson?”

“They mentioned social skills in some of the videos,” Stiles says, remembering the condescending instructions, how Companions should be bright and charming. “I tried not to pay attention.”

“What about your etiquette class?” Peter asks.

Stiles looks up at him. “They had classes in that place?”

Peter considers him. “You didn’t go to classes? What were you doing in there?”

Stiles shrugs, imagining all the things he had no idea he was being excluded from. “I was in solitary.”

“For what?” Peter asks.

“I hadn’t earned any privileges yet,” Stiles tells him, feeling somehow embarrassed about it. “They told you I wasn’t trained. Maybe you can take me back and get a refund.”

“All sales are final,” Peter dismisses. “Besides, I am definitely keeping you.”

Stiles isn’t sure what about that makes his face go hot. He stares down at his plate.

“My training probably wouldn’t have lined up with theirs anyway,” Peter says. “Better that I do it myself. There’s no confusion that way.”

Stiles chews on his lip, looking up through his lashes. “How does your training work?”

“All in due time, my boy,” Peter tells him, a joyful note in his vote. “You don’t need to worry about that right now. Eat your dinner.”

Stiles tries not to roll his eyes, shoving another forkful of food in his mouth. He hates being talked down to, treated like a kid, but then he remembers that Peter literally wants to be called Daddy and he fails to repress the shudder.

When they’ve finished eating, Peter collects the plates, placing them in the dishwasher. He has his back turned and Stiles is aware that he could run, there’s no restraints on him now, but he wouldn’t get very far. If he got free while he was upstairs he could have sneaked out the door while Peter was cooking, he could have gotten a decent head start before Peter realised he was gone. As much as every instinct in his body tells him to get out of there, he knows he has to wait.

Peter turns back to face him, making a show of looking at his watch before levelling his gaze at Stiles. “I think it’s bath time.”

Stiles eyes him warily, not moving.

“Let’s go,” Peter prompts, looking at him expectantly.

Stiles sighs, getting to his feet. He climbs the stairs, Peter behind him, his eyes falling on the cuff laying on the bed as he steps into the room. Peter doesn’t pick it up, walks straight through to the bathroom instead, turning on the taps. Stiles stands in the middle of the room, considering his options, but truthfully he doesn’t think he has any. He wanders over to the bathroom, watching as Peter puts a couple of drops of some essential oil into the water.

“We need to get the smell of that place off you,” he says, clearly sensing Stiles’ presence. He replaces the bottle and turns to face him. “It’s so clinical, I can’t stand it. Everything here is natural, wood and rock and earth, did you notice that?”

Stiles just shrugs.

“No, of course not,” Peter says, almost to himself. He turns off the taps, swirling a hand through the water before looking up at Stiles. “Take off your clothes.”

Stiles gapes at him. “No.”

Peter smirks. “Shy?”

“I’m not taking my clothes off,” Stiles tells him, edging backwards. “Not in front of you.”

“I already told you I have no interest in forcing myself on you,” Peter says calmly. “I’m not going to touch you until you want me to.”

“I’m never going to want you to,” Stiles insists.

“Then I guess I’ll never touch you,” Peter responds. “Either way, you’re getting in this bath.”

“I’m not taking my clothes off,” Stiles says again, wrapping his arms around himself.

“Look, you can either take off your clothes and get in the bath or I can lift you up and put you in there fully clothed,” Peter tells him, getting to his feet. “I know which one would be more comfortable, but either way you’re going in.”

Stiles clenches his jaw, shaking his head.

“Fine,” Peter says easily.

He steps forward, grabbing Stiles around the waist and lifting him effortlessly. Stiles flails but Peter doesn’t break stride, hefting him into the bathtub as water sloshes out. The guy is strong. Stiles sits there in the warm water, stunned, not quite able to process it as the wetness seeps into his clothes.

“Now you’re in the bath,” Peter says smugly, grabbing a towel and putting it on the wet floor before sitting down.

Stiles just stares at him, feeling so utterly powerless that it paralyses him. There’s something so humiliating, so degrading, about being tossed around with such ease, no regard for his feelings. He remembers Nick’s words, third class citizen. He’s not even a real person now.

Peter reaches over, swirling his hand through the water, making it move against Stiles. He flinches, an involuntary response. Peter’s hand stills but he doesn’t remove it, considering Stiles carefully.

“Are you going to lean back so I can wash your hair?”

Stiles doesn’t respond, isn’t sure he even remembers how words work. What’s the point in him speaking anyway? Peter doesn’t give a fuck what he has to say.

“Well, in that case, you might want to close your eyes because I’m about to dump some water over your head,” Peter tells him, reaching for a container.

Stiles bows his head, closing his eyes tightly. He tries not to splutter as Peter pours water liberally over him. It runs down the back of his shirt, making him shiver. He keeps his eyes closed as he hears Peter open a bottle and then cool liquid is rubbed into his scalp. Peter isn’t rough, he takes his time, works it in, massaging the suds through every strand. Stiles feels his body give, even as he tries to fight it, but it feels nice. It’s been so long since anyone touched him.

“Water,” Peter tells him as his hands slide away.

Stiles lifts a hand this time to stop the shampoo going in his eyes. Peter pours the water more gently, playing his fingers through the strands to get rid of all the bubbles. It’s gentle and caring and Stiles has to remind himself that he’s property, that this isn’t affection. It’s maintenance.

Peter moves away and Stiles can hear the container being placed down on the side of the bath. He wipes at his eyes, opening them to see Peter offering a towel out to him. He takes it, drying his face, and reminds himself not to feel grateful. This man is the enemy.

Peter reaches into the bath, pulling the plug out, the water draining around Stiles. He watches as Peter walks through to the bedroom, opening up the chest of drawers and taking something out before returning to the bathroom.

“You can put these on,” he says. “You have exactly two minutes, then I’m coming in here and putting the cuff on you and you’ll be stuck in whatever you’re wearing.”

He tosses down the clothes and then leaves the room, closing the door behind himself. Stiles climbs out of the bath, feeling the time limit as he tries to peel his soaked clothes off his skin. He doesn’t feel any cleaner. If anything, he feels worse. He towels himself dry though, putting on the T-shirt and sweatpants that Peter has left him. He’s barely managed to adjust them on his still damp body when the door opens. Peter steps inside with the cuff and Stiles stands obediently in place while he secures it, water dripping from his hair and soaking into the collar of his shirt.

Peter stands up, appraising him, and Stiles realises he’s shaking. He can feel it mounting, a panic attack or something worse. He wants to go home. The hopelessness crashes down on him and he bows his head, unable to even look Peter in the eye. Some sick part of him feels like he’s not worthy.

“All this goes in the hamper when you’re done,” Peter says, gesturing to the towels and clothes on the floor. Stiles nods. “Take as long as you need,” Peter adds, something softer in his voice.

He closes the door behind himself, the chain fitting neatly underneath, and Stiles feels certain that’s been meticulously planned out too. Stiles looks around at the mess, leaning down to pick up the towels, but his legs give under him and he crumples, slumping against the wall. He’s not strong enough for this. He thinks back to his last memory, in the woods with Scott, but it’s so worn around the edges that it doesn’t feel real anymore.

He’s been gone so long, Scott will never find his scent, they’ll never trace him here. The tears come and he sits on the floor and cries, trying to stay quiet, but soon he’s sobbing and he’s sure that Peter can hear him, will know just how much he’s broken him. He doesn’t know how to fight this. He can’t. The resignation feels worse than the dehumanising way he’s been treated through all this.

He cries himself out, feeling empty and weak and beaten, nothing left to give. He wipes at his face, the skin tight and heated, trying to scrub away the tears. He considers the cuff on his ankle, remembers he has a job to do. He gathers up the towels and soaking clothes from the floor, depositing them in the hamper before standing in front of the mirror. Part of him still expects Nick to be watching him from the other side.

He splashes cold water on his face but it doesn’t do much good. His eyes are damp, rimmed with red, his face blotchy. There’s no hiding it. He takes a deep breath, trying to psych himself up before he opens the door, but he just feels himself sag on the exhale. He shakes his head, easing the door open and peering out.

Peter is sat up in bed, reading a book. He looks up at Stiles with a casualness that’s bordering on disinterest. “You’re welcome to share the bed with me,” he says. “But if you’d prefer there’s extra bedding at the bottom of the closet. You can sleep in the window seat or on the floor or in the bathroom if you really want.”

Stiles considers him but Peter’s already turned back to his book as though it’s all of no consequence to him. Stiles opens the bathroom door fully, stepping onto the carpeted floor. He’s not getting into that bed, there’s no way he’s getting into that bed, but he finds himself eying it anyway. It looks so ridiculously comfortable and all he wants is comfort right now. He pads over to the closet though, finds a blanket and a pillow and takes them over to the window seat. It’s not quite long enough to stretch out on but it’s soft and he can snuggle into it.

He wraps the blanket around himself, facing the closed curtain and wondering why Peter isn’t taking advantage of his obvious vulnerability, isn’t trying to take him apart. Stiles already feels like he’s in pieces though so maybe Peter’s smart enough to realise he doesn’t have to. He’s good at breaking spirits, Stiles remembers. And bones. He squeezes his eyes shut tight. It won’t come to that.

He hears Peter moving in the bed and then the light flicks off. “Goodnight, Stiles,” Peter says.

“Goodnight,” Stiles murmurs back.

Once Peter has settled down, the air in the room is still and quiet. Stiles can’t sleep, but he listens to Peter sleep, listens to the little snuffles he makes and the way he shifts. It’s so achingly intimate, or maybe just claustrophobic.

Stiles doesn’t move all night, just stares at the bottom of the curtain in front of him as the light slowly starts to seep in, the darkness bleeding away.