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After the Fires, Before the Flood

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Peter never planned on keeping the boy. Partners were always more trouble than they were worth; if he'd learned anything from the fiasco with Derek, it was that. At first, Peter thought maybe he'd found a kindred spirit in Derek - after all, his poor nephew was almost as damaged as he was. For a while it had worked. They'd taken comfort in one another, looked out for one another, urged each other on through each new challenge. But Derek's lust for blood had waned while Peter's only grew stronger. Derek became suspicious and withdrawn, started pulling away from Peter's touch. The gangling teenager Peter knew was disappearing, and in his place a darkly handsome man was emerging. Peter could tell that the time had come for him to dispose of Derek like he had with all the others.

It wasn't easy. Derek knew almost all of Peter's tricks by then. But in the end, it was as simple as coaxing Derek back to the old family estate and then waiting for the smell of smoke and rotten wood to sink into Derek's heart, rekindling that yearning for vengeance. Derek's face was streaked with tears when he came back to Peter, his eyes stormy with grief, still just a little boy longing for home. All Peter had to do was open his arms and Derek walked willingly into them, pressing himself desolately to Peter's chest. He made no sound as Peter plunged the knife into his gut.

It was a mercy, really - to put Derek out of his misery. Derek was broken, and there was nothing more Peter could do for him.

After that, Peter resigned himself to working alone. He crisscrossed the country, lingering when circumstance allowed it, his journey guided by nothing more than whimsy. He made a point of staying away from Beacon Hills. In fact, he hadn't planned on ever going back, content to let the dead rest there in peace, until a close encounter with the state police in Georgia left him hungry for familiar territory.

He first spotted Stiles on a crisp fall afternoon a few weeks after his return. School had just let out for the day, and as Peter glimpsed Stiles loitering by himself outside the school parking lot, he knew instantly that he'd found what he was looking for. From behind the tinted windows of his car, Peter studied Stiles's body: his long, sinewy limbs, his pale skin, his plush, pink mouth. He followed Stiles from a safe distance, observing as the boy meandered home, making frequent stops to inspect various window displays and cracks in the sidewalk. Though there wasn't anything especially unusual about the boy aside from his good looks, Peter still felt as though this one might be something special. His pulse rose as he began to conjure up images of the various ways he could tease and torture that perfect young flesh. Peter had to have him.

The abduction itself was fairly straightforward. Stiles struggled initially - they always did - before going limp in Peter's arms and allowing himself to be dragged off. In Peter's experience it was the smart ones who stopped struggling; they realized more quickly how futile it was.

The first surprise came when Peter removed Stiles's blindfold.

At first, the boy's eyes darted around the cell, taking in the concrete walls, the reinforced doors, the hooks on the ceiling, and the drain in the floor. It had been long enough since Peter last used the basement of the old estate for one of his projects that the smell of bleach and lye wasn't as pervasive as it was in some of his other hideaways, but there could still be no doubt in Stiles's mind as to the purpose of all this - and yet he didn't seem afraid. He looked Peter in the eye as Peter approached, kneeling down to check the knots that bound Stiles's feet and arms to the chair.

The second surprise came a moment later when Peter loosened the boy's gag.

"What's your name?" Peter asked. He liked knowing their names. It helped to keep them distinct from one another in his mind. After all, there had been so many over the years.

"Stiles," the boy replied, with no quaver in his voice. "What's yours?"

"Stiles," Peter said, tasting the name on his lips and finding it unexpectedly satisfying. "What kind of a name is Stiles?"

"It's a nickname," Stiles explained. "You didn't answer my question."

Peter didn't suppose there was any harm in telling Stiles his name - after all, he'd be dead in a few days - but the sheer audacity in the boy's tone made him hesitate. Could it be that he'd misjudged this one? Maybe Stiles was simple or slow or something; why else would he be showing such casual disregard for his own safety? But no - how could Stiles be slow when there was something so keen in those undeniably arresting gold-brown eyes?

Peter chose to ignore Stiles as he gave him a quick pat-down to make sure he wasn't hiding any sharp objects. (One of Peter's first kills had been a frustratingly resourceful boy scout who'd palmed a loose nail and used it to cut through his restraints. It was the closest any of them had ever come to escaping, and hadn't that been a nightmare? Not a mistake Peter was eager to make again.)

"My dad is the sheriff. Just so you know," Stiles said, his voice still steady. "Or maybe you already know that."

Peter hadn't known. Normally he was so fastidious about these things, but he'd been too caught up with excitement. He should have known something like this would be lurking in the details.

"Maybe that's - is that why you're doing this? For revenge or something?" Stiles continued. "Like my dad arrested you once and now you're... out to get him? Hey, if you're doing this for ransom money, I should warn you that we're not exactly rolling in dough. Also I'm pretty sure kidnapping for ransom never works out. At least, it never works on TV. But I guess this isn't TV."

"It certainly isn't," Peter agreed mildly, careful not to let any distress show on his face.

Then, confident that Stiles was securely bound, he shoved the spit-soaked rag back into the boy's mouth and left.

He needed time, needed to regroup, and make sense of these new developments. He retreated to the cell next door. He'd decided upon his return that the house was uninhabitable, but the basement was relatively intact, and so he'd done his best to cobble together some suitable accommodations, including a few concessions to some of his more genteel sensibilities. He poured himself a finger of whiskey and sipped it slowly as he mulled over the situation.

The sheriff's son. Interesting. No doubt there would be a full-scale manhunt launched by the next morning. But Peter was quite sure that no one had witnessed the boy's abduction, and the estate was sufficiently remote that it could be days, maybe even a week, before the search led them here. Nevertheless, best to make this project a quick one. He would just have to enjoy himself as much as possible in the time available.

Stiles was still looking around, squinting into the dark corners of the cell when Peter returned. He watched curiously as Peter approached him.

Peter propelled Stiles to his feet and ran a chain between the boy's wrists, hooking it to the ceiling so that Stiles's arms were stretched above his head, forcing him almost onto his tiptoes. It wasn't until Peter pulled out a knife that Stiles showed any signs of fear. Even then it wasn't much - just a slight flinch as Peter approached him with the blade.

Peter began methodically cutting away Stiles's clothing, and with each layer of fabric he removed, the blush in Stiles's face and neck grew more pronounced. It made Peter wonder if perhaps this was the first time Stiles had ever been naked in front of another person. The thought sent a spike of arousal through Peter's bones.

Stiles grew increasingly agitated as the process continued, and by the time Peter tugged free the last pieces of his boxers, he was whining breathlessly through the gag. Peter realized that Stiles was trying to get his attention.

"Are you going to rape me?" Stiles asked the moment the gag was gone. This, apparently, was the burning question that he'd been so anxious to communicate.

"What do you think?" Peter asked.

"Well, I can't imagine why you'd want to, but I also can't think of another reason you'd need to me to be naked, so..." Stiles trailed off, shifting his weight from foot to foot. "Speaking of which, that was one of my favorite shirts, and I'm kind of pissed that you cut it off. Like, you could have just asked me to take it off, you know? I would have done it, I'm not an idiot."

"Do you always talk this much?" Peter was normally a very patient man, but he was working under a deadline here, so to speak, and Stiles's jabbering was breaking his concentration.

"Yeah, it's a bad habit, sorry. I have pretty much zero brain-to-mouth filter most of the time."

"Duly noted," Peter said. Maybe he'd end up gagging the boy again - but the noises they made were always so exhilarating for Peter, and he had a suspicion that Stiles would be particularly vocal as Peter slowly reduced him to a begging, whimpering, incoherent mess.

After inspecting Stiles carefully from all sides, Peter was more than pleased with his new acquisition: Stiles's naked body was trim, angular, and speckled with beauty marks. He had firm buttocks and lean thighs faintly covered in dusky fuzz. Peter couldn't resist running his fingers up and down the velvety flesh of Stiles's soft, plump cock a few times before he picked out a knife with which to begin his project.

He started with Stiles's torso: a milky expanse of goose-pimpled skin, stretched taut by the unyielding chains. At first Peter just traced the blunt tip of his knife down Stiles's sternum, circling the boy's rosy nipples, ruffling the sparse hairs around his belly button. It couldn't have felt like more than a tickle. Stiles shivered and Peter grinned.

Then he pressed the blade's edge to one of Stiles's ribs and was rewarded with a hiss of pain. A thin line of blood welled up underneath it, and Peter bent down to lick it away, smiling at the familiar coppery tang. From state to state blood always tasted the same, that's one thing he'd discovered.

"Sick," Stiles muttered. When Peter caught his eye, he took it as an invitation to continue. "What if I had a disease or something? I could have AIDS."

"You don't have AIDS."

"I could!"

"But you don't."

Stiles looked as though he wanted to continue arguing, and Peter had had enough of that. He decided to put the gag back in. Stile resisted - for the first time, Peter noted - pressing his lips together and turning his head back and forth so that Peter had to set aside his knife and hold Stiles's jaw in place to do it.

Once Stiles was effectively silenced, Peter returned to his examination of the boy's skin. It was so smooth and unmarred that he could hardly decide where to puncture it next. In the end, he made a series of cuts, long and thin, at random angles up and down Stiles's torso. He tried to avoid symmetry. It always ended up looking so artificial, as thought it were mechanical rather extemporaneous. What Peter did was more like art. Precision was important, but so was the spontaneous aspect of it.

Stiles remained surprisingly still throughout the initial experience, and although his breathing became more labored, he made no sounds of pain or displeasure through his gag.

Peter's breath was starting to quicken as well, but that was from arousal rather than fear or discomfort. Palming himself through his slacks did little to stifle the ache. His cock had been twitching since he'd spotted Stiles earlier that day, and each step of the process had just intensified his excitement. Now Peter was done building the anticipation.

He let some slack into Stiles's chains and the boy sagged with relief. His muscles were probably aching from the strain by now. Peter retrieved the lube from his stash of supplies, and then guided Stiles into position: chest parallel to the floor, elbow by his ears, hands clasped around the chain above his head. When Peter removed the gag, he expected that Stiles would immediately start chatting again, but apparently the practical application of Peter's knife had sapped away some of the fearless energy that the merely theoretical threat hadn't.

The boy let out the faintest of whimpers as Peter slipped a slick finger inside him, but didn't put up much resistance. Peter wondered if maybe Stiles had done this before. Maybe Stiles was one of the ones who'd explored this particular avenue on his own. Those boys were some of Peter's favorites, because so often he could use that little tidbit against them, to convince them that they'd brought this upon themselves, that they wanted something like this to happen, and now Peter was giving them exactly what they deserved.

Somehow he didn't think Stiles would be that easy to manipulate.

The second finger took more work. Stiles clamped down tight and it took Peter several long moments of gentle, insistent stretching before he was able thrust his fingers shallowly in and out.

"Please," Stiles mumbled as Peter began nudging in a third finger.

Just the sound of that word was enough to make Peter's heart pound.

"What was that?" he asked. He wanted Stiles to say it again.

"Please," Stiles repeated, "don't do this."

Peter grinned.

"It's a little late for that, don't you think?"

He shoved the third finger in with no finesse, using his other hand to grip Stiles's hip so he couldn't squirm away. Stiles cried out, a pitiful, helpless noise that shot straight to Peter's cock.

"Please," Stiles said again, "stop, please."

The sound was like music to Peter's ears. He knew he must look like a lunatic, his face split wide with a smile as he forced his fingers deeper into Stiles's hole, but he honestly couldn't help himself. Stiles continued to beg as Peter fingered him roughly, and then went quiet as Peter unzipped his fly and slicked up his cock.

As he pushed in, Stiles let out a sob.

Don't be such a baby, Peter wanted to say, but the head of his cock was breaching Stiles's hole, and the tight heat was incredible, so good Peter could barely think.

"Stop - it hurts - "

"Of course it hurts," Peter gritted out. "That's the whole point."

And Peter knew how it felt. He knew exactly what it was like to be ripped open like this, to feel stretched beyond capacity. He also knew that a little more preparation might have made it hurt less, and that the most important part was to stay relaxed. The first few times, he'd tried to make his victims understand that they were only hurting themselves by resisting. But they never fucking listened, did they? Stupid. Stubborn. Weak. If it hurt, then it was their own fault.

After all the build-up, it didn't take long for Peter to come. Stiles was crying softly when he finished, and he took a moment to admire the boy, tilting Stiles's chin up so he could watch the way the tears dripped down Stiles's red face, the way his long lashes clumped together, the way his eyes glittered in the dim light from the bare bulb overhead.

He left Stiles like that while he went to clean up and plan out the next few hours.

When he returned, he was surprised to see that Stiles seemed to have recovered whatever composure he'd lost before. He was standing up straight, his face dry, looking as unaffected as anyone could while stark naked and shackled at the wrists.

Peter was pleased. Nothing gave him greater satisfaction than watching a stubborn spirit break down again and again and again. He knew he'd picked Stiles for a reason.

"Feeling better?" he asked as he went over to his tools and tried to decide which he'd use next.

Stiles shrugged.

"You're going to kill me, aren't you?" he asked.

Peter glanced up from where he was testing the tensile strength of a bamboo cane. It wasn't the first time someone had asked him that question. Most of them said it with a quiver of fear in their voice. In their eyes, death was still something to be afraid of. The rest of them, the smart ones (and Stiles was definitely one of the smart ones, Peter was sure of that now) usually realized after a day or two that death was the least of their concerns. When the smart ones asked Peter if he was going to kill them, they weren't asking whether or not it was going to happen. They were just asking him to get it over with.

But Stiles was different. He didn't sound hopeless or scared. He sounded curious.

"That's the plan," Peter confirmed.

Stiles nodded, chewing on the inside of his cheek.

"I sort of figured. I mean, if you were planning on keeping me alive then you're going about it all wrong."

"Is that so?" Peter murmured, his lips curling with amusement.

"Well, yeah. For one thing, I've seen your face, so I could easily describe you to the police or pick you out of a line-up. And you fucked me without a condom, so I have your DNA," Stiles said reasonably.

"Very compelling," Peter said, duly impressed with Stiles's resilience. "But if I may point out a few things you've overlooked: in order to pick me out of a line-up, you'd need to have eyes."

He stepped forward and pressed a knife to the delicate skin under Stiles's eye socket. The boy inhaled sharply, his eyes widening in alarm. Perhaps he hadn't quite grasped the depth of Peter's depravity before now.

"And," Peter continued, "they'd have to catch me first. My DNA won't be of much use if I'm not in any criminal database."

Stiles might have had more thoughts on the matter, but Peter wasn't inclined to hear them. He was more interested in finding the most effective way to get Stiles to scream.

---

On the third day of Stiles's confinement, Peter decided it was time to introduce Stiles to the Game. He didn't normally resort to the Game unless he'd exhausted the reserves of his imagination, but Stiles was still showing a remarkably Sisyphean persistence of spirit, and Peter knew of no more effective way than this to really break a person.

The rules of the Game were simple, but very strict: he would tell Stiles what he was going to do next. When Stiles sobbed and begged him not to (as they always did), Peter would offer an alternative. For example, if Stiles could take Peter's fist up his ass without crying, then Peter wouldn't use a butterfly knife to carve the alphabet into Stiles's thigh. Peter was a fair man, and he'd abide by whichever option Stiles chose, but he would not tolerate hesitation or disobedience, and the punishment for not following the rules were always far worse than the original choice. ("I'm not mad," he'd often found himself saying to various boys as he flayed the soles of their feet, "I'm just disappointed.") It was Peter's favorite game, and he always won.

But Stiles wasn't playing by the rules.

Instead of whimpering or pleading, Stiles carefully considered the options Peter presented and then suggested something else - some variation on Peter's idea, some diabolical twist, some new form of depravity that hadn't occurred to Peter. ("If you're going to whip me with a metal rod, you could try heating it up first. Do you have a blow torch?") More often than not, the suggestions were irresistible, and so Peter would follow through with them, relishing every gasp and wail that broke from Stiles's mouth. He wondered if the pain was more or less acute for Stiles when it was exactly what he'd asked for.

Stiles' insolence was grating, and took some of the fun out of the whole endeavor, but Peter couldn't help himself from wanting to know more. It was a new game they were playing, with new rules, and he didn't want it to stop.

Time and again he thought maybe he'd pushed Stiles too far, but the boy continued to surprise Peter with his refusal to give up -- and with his refusal to stop talking. Peter was fairly certain that Stiles talked more than anyone he'd ever met. By the end of the fourth day, Peter knew more about Stiles than he'd known about any of the boys that came before him, and vice versa. It was hard for Peter to resist responding to such a compelling playmate.

Stiles was funny. Stiles was quick, and clever, and creative. Stiles had a whimsical sort of wickedness that made Peter's fingers tingle. The longer he spent in Stiles's company, the more Peter found himself wanting to see what would happen if he let Stiles off his leash for a while -- if Stiles would give as good as he got.

He knew it was getting dangerous. Too much time had passed since he'd brought Stiles here, and the police had to be closing in. He knew he should have killed Stiles already, disposed of the body, and disappeared without a trace -- but God, he was having fun. It was the first time since the heyday of his partnership with Derek that Peter could remember enjoying himself this much. And not since Derek had Peter felt this strange urge, this yearning to allow someone small and tender to get close to him, to crawl into his lap, to press their body against his, to cry out with desire as they rode him to completion.

He studied Stiles carefully. The boy was curled in a ball on the floor, still twitching slightly from the series of electric shocks Peter had run through him not long ago. His back was a brilliant rainbow of multi-colored bruises ("Peaches and cream complexion," Stiles had said with a rueful smile, "Bruises like a peach, too") and the bruises were cut through in places with streaks of pink and red.

He's not Derek, Peter thought. He's not broken, not like Derek was. Maybe... maybe this was what Peter needed. Someone who'd delight in each step of the process the way he did. Someone who could keep up with him instead of just tagging along. A companion. A collaborator. A mate.

"What would you do," Peter said slowly, "if I untied you?"

Stiles uncurled enough to look up at Peter, and even at a distance Peter could see the steel in his eyes. "I'd kill you," Stiles said, his voice hoarse but resolute.

It startled a laugh out of Peter. Maybe because he wasn't expecting it. Maybe because he knew it was true. He knelt down next to Stiles on the dirty concrete floor and ran his fingers over the thick ropes around Stiles' wrists.

"Fair enough. How would you do it?"

"Knife. The hunting knife." Stiles licked his dry lips, forming the words slowly through the haze of pain. "Kick you in the balls - distract you. Grab the knife. Stab you in the stomach. Slash your throat once you're on your knees."

"And then? You'd leave me to bleed out?"

Stiles shook his head. "I'd wait. Until you were dead. Then I'd - take you apart." His eyes fluttered shut. "Cut off your dick. Flay you."

"That's disgusting," Peter said, undeniably charmed. "But wouldn't it be more fun to do it while I'm alive?"

"Yeah, but - too risky. Never tortured someone before. Might slip up."

"Good thinking," Peter agreed. "What a pity. If only... if only you had someone who could teach you how to get away with it. Someone with experience. Someone who knew the ropes, so to speak." He plucked ineffectually at the knots keeping Stiles' hands tethered together.

"That was a terrible pun. Can I have some water?"

Peter got a bottle of water and tilted Stiles' head so he could dribble it into his mouth. When half the bottle was gone, Peter set it aside, and stroked a hand gently over Stiles' face.

"I'd like to untie you, Stiles. But I'd also like to not be killed. I don't suppose you and I could come to some sort of an understanding?"

There was a long silence, during which Peter thought Stiles might have fallen asleep, or passed out. It happened sometimes. Then Stiles sighed.

"You'll take me with you when you go?" he whispered.

"Yes," Peter said without hesitation.

"Okay. Untie me."

"Ah-ah. What's the magic word?"

"Go fuck yourself."

Peter grinned. "Close enough," he said, getting up to fetch a knife to cut through Stiles' bonds.

Once he was free, Stiles let Peter help him sit up. Peter had a thousand thoughts running through his head as he wiped a damp cloth over Stiles' sweat-soaked face. It had been a long time since he'd had to worry about keeping someone else alive. Stiles would undoubtedly need a few days to rest and recuperate, and a course of antibiotics might be a good idea too. They'd need somewhere to lay low for a while, and then they'd need to switch vehicles and get out of state. Stiles would need new paperwork, at least one new identity, a new wardrobe...

"I might still kill you," Stiles murmured. He wasn't looking at Peter, just running his fingers gingerly over the abrasions on his wrists.

"And I wouldn't blame you one bit," Peter said. He kissed Stiles on the forehead. He didn't doubt that Stiles meant it wholeheartedly, but he could worry about that later. In the meantime, there was work to be done.