When Stiles enters the mansion’s basement where he was told Derek Hale was, the guy is standing against the opposite wall, arms crossed, dressed in black as usual, calmly watching two of his men pummeling a man bound to a chair. They don’t really stop what they’re doing when they catch sight of him but they flash him a smile when they recognize him. Like he’s a friend or something. He’s not, so it’s disturbing.
Their victim looks at him with pleading eyes, in case he’s somebody coming to help him. When Hale glances at him, beams and says “Ben! To what do I owe the pleasure of having you in my humble house?”, the guy just slouches in the chair and gets an expression of pure hopelessness on his face. If Stiles could still feel regular emotions, the sight might have broken his heart and he might have done something for him. Unfortunately for the bloke, it’s not the case.
Stiles doesn’t answer, just raises an eyebrow and looks at Hale, his face blank. He then glances at the guy who is still being beaten up by McCall and Whittemore, two of Hale’s most trusted men.
“Oh. Don’t worry, you can talk in front of James here. He’s an old friend, he won’t tell anything about you to anybody outside this room. Right, James? Anyway, I don’t plan to let him actually leave the room so…” At that, the bloke – James apparently – whimpers and starts to sob. It doesn’t seem to move McCall and Whittemore, who just keep on punching him, relentless.
“Remind me not to become your friend, Hale,” Stiles says, nonchalant.
Throwing his head back, Hale laughs at that. “Ben, Ben, Ben. I would never hurt you, you know that. You’re the very best at what you do and you always make me laugh, which is not an easy task.” He then smiles his most charming smile, not the shark one he uses with his other business partners but the one he always has ready for beautiful women. Stiles has already seen him using it on ladies when he came to the mansion or when they had to meet in a bar or someplace else. Those women are easy; they just seem to need a smile from Hale to jump into his bed. He is not a woman himself but he is often on the receiving end of that smile. At first, he told himself one day Hale would tire and stop flirting with him like it’s his day job when he’d realize Stiles is not going to sleep with him but apparently no, it only seems to make him want him more. And Stiles knows men, is used to dealing with them in his two jobs, and he should have seen that coming. Derek’s the type of man who loves a challenge, who loves the chase, and Stiles just offered him the opportunity to entertain himself on a silver platter when he started to ignore his attempts at seducing him.
“Good to know. I actually came here to…” He’s cut off by the guy in the chair who just let out an inhuman scream. Glancing at him, Stiles sees that Mahealani, another one of Hale’s closest ‘brothers’ – yeah, in this organization, they are all brothers apparently; Stiles would give anything to never be invited to a family reunion, crazy bastards – has sliced one of the bloke’s fingers right off. Ouch. Stiles resumes talking, partly because he doesn’t pity the guy – if he’s here, in that position, he probably did stupid things beforehand – and partly because he doesn’t want to show any weakness in front of these guys. They’re like sharks; you don’t let sharks smell your fear or your unease. “I came to get paid.”
“Oh yes, of course, the Platt’s contract. How much do I owe you?”
“Right. Can you wait here for a second while I go ask Lydia to transfer the money to your bank account?” He asks, all charm.
He watches him cross the room and brush past him to get to the stairs. He gets a bit closer than necessary and Stiles tenses on reflex. Hale gives a deep chuckle and goes. He’s going to find Lydia Martin, his assistant/accountant/woman-who-seems-to-share-his-brain-and-is-as-evil-as-he-is-but-also-as-smoking-hot.
Stiles hopes he’s not going to be too long; he has plans with Kat, his roommate and best friend (his only friend, really). They’d like to have a calm evening together since none of them are working tonight – a rare occurrence – and they made plans to lock themselves up, order Indian, watch DVDs cuddled up on the couch and eat their own weight in Ben & Jerry’s. Stiles has been waiting for that all week. Yes, his life is that pathetic. No, he doesn’t mind; at least, he still has a life.
To pass the time, he looks around the room, which is weirdly clean considering the kind of activities that take place down here. In the middle, there’s that James guy, still bound on his chair but it seems like he finally decided to talk. It’s not a bad move considering how broken he looks already – busted lips, eyes too swollen to open, blood all over his face, his breathing labored, four fingers and some teeth missing – but it’s also pointless. They’re going to kill him when they learn what they want to. But once again, quick death might be preferable to what they have in store for him if he doesn’t talk. Stiles knows those guys; they’re the kind that only exists in your worst nightmares. It’s just that Stiles would never choose the easy option, he would never talk. That’s also why he’s good at his job. At both of them actually.
McCall and Whittemore are wiping their hands clean on a white cloth, detached, professional, while Mahealani is holding his iPhone, recording what the guy is telling them. McCall catches his regard and winks at him. He fucking winks at him. He’s being disturbing again. Stiles chooses to look elsewhere. He makes a show of appearing detached too, chilled out; he isn’t nervous to be here, with them all. He’s fucking bored, which actually is the truth. He should be worried about that, he’s becoming totally insensitive, and it should scare him. He just can’t bring himself to care.
Mickey and Donald, Hale’s two huge black Presa Canarios, are lying on the floor, looking straight at that James guy. And to be honest, if Stiles had to choose, he would rather go with Hale’s men than with his dogs. His crew is highly feared and they have the reputation to be the cruelest, most dangerous, organized, powerful and sadistic assholes around. But Stiles is not afraid of men, knows what to do if they attack him, knows where to kick and press to hurt or kill, but dogs like those? They’re unpredictable, they’re fearless. And that’s what makes them formidable killers, this lack of fear. Human killers, even great ones like Stiles, still have some kind of fear at the back of their minds, keeping them on their guards, keeping them alive, but it’s not the case with animals. It’s either flee or fight, and when they settle on fight, it’s kill or be killed.
The sound of somebody going down the stairs shakes Stiles out of his thought. He turns towards the sound, expecting Hale, but he sees Argent instead. She’s softly smiling at him, pretty, harmless, nice. Stiles saw how vicious she can get with a knife – she particularly likes throwing knives into the eyes of the people she doesn’t like; Stiles is kind of glad she likes him, or just pretends to like him, whatever – so he’s not fooled, but he still has to admit she’s great at playing the part of the girl next door. She almost seems genuinely happy to see him. He’s not comfortable, not really knowing, feels unbalanced by it. She’s disturbing.
“Ben, it’s so nice seeing you again, it’s been too long. How come you don’t visit more often?” She asks, pouting, brushing her dark hair out of her pretty face.
“I haven’t been needed as often these last two months. Ask Hale if you want more information about that. And I come when I have to.”
She seems sincerely upset by his answer and Stiles doesn’t know how to react or if he even has to react. He’s not good at human contact, not good at having long nice chats or serious conversations or idle talks. None of his jobs require him to either so he never had to improve his social skills.
McCall looks at them. He’s Argent’s boyfriend or fiancé or something, Stiles isn’t sure. They’re freaky together, it’s like they can communicate by telepathy, it’s like they can feel each other’s emotions, it’s creepy. He doesn’t seem to appreciate Stiles making his girl upset. Stiles doesn’t care.
“Anyway, you should come on Saturday, we’re having a party here. I’m sure Derek wouldn’t mind you coming…” She adds.
“I wouldn’t mind at all, au contraire,” Hale says, big grin on his face, flirting again. “Also, Laura will be so upset about being absent when you came by so it’ll give her the opportunity to say hello.”
And Stiles does not need to be in presence of more Hales – Laura is Derek’s sister, his actual sister, and she’s batshit crazy and very very fond of poisons of all sorts – but it might be rude to say ‘hell no’ to that.
“Come on, Ben, it’d be so nice! Please? Pretty please?” Argent says, all pouty lips and big pleading eyes, cutting off his refusal before he can even formulate it.
And a girl as dangerous as her should not be able to look like that, as if Stiles just threatened to kill her puppy. He’s not feeling guilty, not feeling anything really, but still he wants to tell her yes. Besides, he tells himself, it’d be good for maintaining cordial relationships with the Hale’s organization. It’s his biggest employer, after all.
“Fine, I’ll come. But no talking about what I do for a living or who I am to anybody, are we clear?”
“Of course! Great! It’ll start at 8pm. I’ll make sure your name is on the list. Err, just putting ‘Ben’ on the list might be a bit vague though.”
Stiles shrugs, uninterested.
“Right, I’ll put ‘Ben H. K.’ on the list then. You know H.K. for… What you do,” she continues, giggling. And, seriously, how can she giggle when there’s a man in a bloody pulp so close?
Anyway, ‘H.K.’ is for Hired Killer. Not really imaginative but then again, ‘Ben’ isn’t either. After several visits to the mansion, Hale had asked him his name. Stiles had looked at him in an ‘are you kidding me, do you really think I am going to give you my name’ fashion. Even giving him his nickname ‘Stiles’ would have been revealing too much. But Hale just kept on looking at him, as if he just wanted to know how to call him other than Mister Coins – a nickname Stiles hated but the press in Chicago was not really known for its creativity. Stiles had said “Ben” and Derek had looked at him all ‘seriously? You might be the best killer in the States and you want me to call you Ben?’ so Stiles had added “No one has a friend like Ben”. When he was young, Stiles was a big fan of Michael Jackson. Hale had looked shocked for two seconds before laughing again and again. ‘Ben’ had stuck.
“Fine,” Stiles says, concise.
“Ah Ben, it’s always a pleasure chatting with you,” Hale tells him, smiling. And Stiles has never met someone who smiles that much. It’s disturbing. “Anyway, the money has been transferred, but if there’s any problem, you can call me. Anytime. Day or night,” he adds, stressing ‘night’, his deep voice full of innuendos.
“Right. I’m leaving then.”
“See you on Saturday, Ben!” Argent says, waving at him when he turns to go upstairs.
“Yes, Ben, Saturday, don’t forget. And dress nice. Even if I’m sure you’d look nice in anything really,” Hale tells him.
And Stiles is pretty sure he couldn’t forget the invitation even if he tried. He likes being alive just fine, thank you very much.
When he leaves, he sees Hale’s men nod and smile at him, as if they’re happy he said he would come. And that? Also mightily disturbing.