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Tangled Webs

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Stiles wakes up with a jolt as he hears a car door open and shut. For a few moments, he’s flailing, disoriented. His head hurts. A lot of things hurt, actually, but his head is the worst. It throbs, and his vision fades in and out with the point of his pulse. He’s not sure where he is or even what woke him at first.

Gradually, bits and pieces of memory return. Running for Lydia on the field, being dragged away by Peter, using the computer to find Scott’s phone. Peter asked if he wanted the bite, and he said, “I don’t want to be like you.” Peter told him that he was lying to himself. That’s the last thing he remembers. Everything after that is fuzzy and then black.

Stiles takes a deep breath to try to reorient himself and looks around. He’s slumped in the backseat of a car, not belted in. He raises a hand to his face and feels some swelling in his cheek where Peter had slammed him against the trunk. There’s another lump higher up, this one more tender. He presumes that’s the blow that knocked him out.

Since nobody is hovering over him to watch his progress, he assumes that he wasn’t rescued. He sits up cautiously, and then holds back waves of nausea as his head pounds. There’s a noise to his left, and he looks over to see Peter, standing there in his black leather jacket, just as impeccable as always, putting the nozzle of the gas pump into the tank.

He doesn’t know where he is or exactly what’s going on, but he’s sure of one thing: he isn’t sticking around. He carefully slides backwards across the seat and eases the car door open, keeping his gaze glued to Peter. The alpha doesn’t look up as he inches out of the car. He shuts the door most of the way behind him, but doesn’t let it latch. He doesn’t want Peter to hear it.

Cold hits him immediately. He can see his breath. It’s dark, and the gas station is deserted except for them. But the convenience store attached is still open. Stiles cautiously backs across the station, slides between the pumps, and goes inside.

Behind the counter is a man who isn’t much older than Stiles, dressed in a shirt with the company logo, thumbing through a battered paperback. He glances up as Stiles comes in, but doesn’t show much interest in him. Stiles darts another gaze over his shoulder. Peter is still at the car, so he goes up to the counter. “Call 911,” he says, keeping his voice low. “I – I’ve been kidnapped.”

“You – what?” the clerk blinks at him. He sees the bruise and his eyes narrow. “Dude – ”

“Don’t ask questions, just do it,” Stiles says fiercely. “He thinks I’m asleep in the back of his car and the instant he realizes I’m gone – just call, or if you don’t want to call, let me use your phone.”

“Uh, yeah, okay,” the clerk says, and reaches for his phone. But before he can get all the way to it, the door opens with a cheerful jingle.

“Here you are, Stiles,” Peter says, and Stiles freezes in place. “Do you want a drink? We’ll be on the road another hour or two.”

Stiles forces himself to squeeze out, “Coffee.” If Peter doesn’t realize he had a chance to say anything to the clerk, they can leave and then the clerk can call 911. The store probably has surveillance in case of drive-offs. The police will be able to track down the car and someone, anyone, will get him away from this psychopath.

Peter makes a ‘tsk’ noise. “It’s late,” he says. “You shouldn’t be having caffeine.”

“Sprite then,” Stiles says, as Peter heads for the drink cooler. He looks back at the clerk, desperation in his eyes, and mouths the word ‘please’.

The fear and panic on his face must be genuine, because the clerk just gives a little nod. He doesn’t say anything else about it. Peter comes up to the counter with a twenty ounce bottle of Sprite for Stiles and a Pepsi for himself. The clerk rings them up in silence. “Oh, you know what else would be good,” Peter says, his eyes scanning the things behind the counter. “One of those packs of cigarettes.”

“Which ones, the – ” the clerk turns slightly to see what Peter is pointing at. Peter reaches out with both hands, seizes the man’s head between them, and gives it a brutal twist. His neck breaks with a crack and he falls to the floor like a marionette whose strings have been cut.

Stiles lets out a hollow little cry, stumbling backwards and into a shelf, knocking over a display of chips. “You – ”

“I don’t actually smoke,” Peter says, picking up the drinks. “But thanks anyway.” He turns back to Stiles. “Come on.”

“Why did you do that?” Stiles stammers.

“You didn’t leave me much choice, did you?” Peter asks, his eyebrows going up. “I couldn’t allow him to report us to the police.” He shakes his head a little and then reaches out with his free hand, caressing the bruise on Stiles’ cheek. Stiles flinches away. “I don’t enjoy hurting people, you know. Well, not people who haven’t hurt me. So don’t make me, Stiles. Okay?”

Stiles nods, feeling numb. “Okay.”

He tries not to look at the body of the clerk on the way out.

“You can sit in the front, if you like,” Peter says, as they head back to the car. “Make sure to close the door you left through.”

Stiles does as he’s told. He sits in the front not because he really wants to, but because he suspects it was more of an order than a suggestion. “Where are we going?” he asks, as Peter pulls back onto the road. There’s still hope. Someone else will stop for gas sometime, and find the body of the clerk. They’ll still be able to use the surveillance footage to get a look at Peter, at his car. By tomorrow, every cop in the state – whatever state they’re in – will be looking for them.

“You’ll find out,” Peter says.

Stiles swallows hard and tries to take a sip of his Sprite. His throat is tight and aching, and he has to choke it down. “Why . . . why am I here?”

Peter gives a little shrug. “I like you. I think with time we could be great friends. And I am going to need to build a new pack, after all.”

“What about Scott?” Panic seizes Stiles. “Is he okay, did you hurt him? What happened while I was unconscious?”

Peter glances at him sideways, looking more amused than anything else. “Scott’s fine, except for the fact that he’s as useless a beta as I’ve ever met. I don’t want him. He can stay in Beacon Hills and play Romeo and Juliet with the Argent girl all he likes. And before you ask, I don’t want Derek, either. I needed his help with Kate, but after that he’s on his own. He would never accept me as his alpha after I killed Laura.”

“Is Kate dead, then?” Stiles just wants to keep him talking, gather some information, figure out who will be looking for him.

“Oh yes,” Peter says, with a happy little sigh. “I tore her throat out with my bare hands. All those people who say revenge isn’t healthy? I think they’re wrong. I found it extremely liberating. Everyone who helped kill my family is dead. And now I can move on.” He takes a turn and gets on the highway. “We’re going to need to change cars soon,” he says, as if reading Stiles’ thoughts. “They’d be looking for this one even if you hadn’t pulled your little stunt at the gas station.”

Stiles glances around and realizes that they’re in the nurse’s car. He wonders if her body is still in the trunk, and gives a completely unfeigned little shudder. “Look,” he says, “I’m not going to be a good werewolf. Really. Wouldn’t it be easier to just start fresh somewhere? Rather than trying to, I don’t know, convince me to be in your pack after everything you did?”

“A man has to have a hobby,” Peter says, smiling at him. “I think you’ll make an excellent one.”

Stiles goes quiet then. There’s no reasoning with Peter; he should have known that from the start. He’ll just have to wait for a better chance to escape. So he says nothing, watching the darkness outside the window, sipping his Sprite, until they pull off the highway and into a little seaside town. He can’t see the ocean, but he can smell it as they get out of the car. There are half a dozen little motels along the strip of road. Peter parks at the second one in, but then makes Stiles walk with him to the last one in the row.

“We’ll have time to get a few hours of sleep before they issue a . . . what is it called, Stiles?”

“BOLO,” Stiles says automatically. “Be on lookout.”

Peter nods. “It will take some time for them to find the car.” He walks up to the night window of the hotel. “You, stay there,” he says, pointing to a spot that will leave Stiles out of sight of the hotel clerk but still close enough to Peter that he doesn’t dare try anything. “You know you can’t run.”

Stiles nods. “I know.”

Peter turns back to the window and rings the bell. A sleepy looking middle-aged woman gives them a room. He pays in cash, and she takes a copy of his ID. “My nurse has been doing me many favors lately,” Peter says, as they head to the back of the hotel. “One of which was to get me some good fake identities. I knew that after I killed Kate, I would be leaving Beacon Hills for good.”

“Sounds like you two had a great relationship,” Stiles says. “Up until you killed her, anyway.”

Peter gives a shrug. “She knew my plans. I couldn’t allow anyone to question her about it.”

Stiles has to take another breath to steady himself as Peter lets them into the motel room. “No, really, dude, you don’t want me. I’m not going to just roll over for you, you know, I’m going to make your life miserable. I make my dad’s life miserable. I’m kind of a little shit. You should really just let me go, because kidnapping a cop’s son is a terrible idea in all sorts of ways.”

“Noted,” Peter says. He points to the bed. “It’s time to sleep.”

Stiles grits his teeth in frustration and sits down on the edge of the bed to toe off his shoes. He’s about to just get under the blankets when Peter says, “Don’t sleep in your good clothes. You’ll wrinkle them.”

“Seriously?” Stiles says, looking down at the dress shirt and slacks he’s wearing. It’s difficult to believe that less than six hours ago, his biggest worry about the evening was what Lydia would think of his tie. “What do you care?”

“I don’t,” Peter says. “But you’re going to have to learn to do as I say, now aren’t you.”

Stiles swallows and begins to unbutton the shirt. He strips to the T-shirt and boxers he was wearing underneath the dress clothes and then folds them neatly, setting them down on the table. Then he crawls underneath the blankets. Not that there’s any way he’s going to sleep. No, he’s going to lie here and stare at the ceiling until Peter is asleep, and if Peter thinks being undressed is going to make Stiles less likely to slip out of the motel room and go for help, he’s going to be disappointed.

He rolls over and faces the wall in sullen silence, listening to the rustling noises of Peter getting undressed or changing into pajamas or whatever he’s doing. Stiles doesn’t know and he doesn’t want to know. He didn’t see Peter carrying any luggage, so he can’t have much with him.

The room is a double, with two beds, so he’s surprised a moment later when Peter lifts the blankets up and slides into the bed next to him. “Dude, what – ” he begins, rolling onto his back so he can – he’s not sure what, actually, but he isn’t just going to lie there and accept this.

Peter gives him those raised eyebrows again and drops an arm over Stiles’ chest. He, too, has undressed, and is wearing only underwear. They’re almost the exact same height, so he’s staring right at Stiles, which is intensely unnerving. “Problem?” he asks.

Stiles feels his stomach squirming and twisting. He tries to say something nonchalant like ‘no, I cuddle with psychopaths all the time’, but what comes out is a thin, reedy whisper. “Are you going to rape me?”

“Do you think it’s going to be necessary?” Peter asks, still giving him that steady look.

Stiles’ voice wavers a little. “No.”

“Well, then,” Peter says. “There’s your answer. But I don’t want you sneaking off as soon as you think I’m asleep, and this is the most efficient way of making sure you don’t. You’ll just have to deal with it.” He wraps his arm more firmly around Stiles and closes his eyes. “You’re not my type. I had a wife, you know. She died in the fire. I watched her die. I could probably muster up the required physical reactions, though, if I thought it might convince you to behave.”

Stiles lets out a breath, some of the tension draining out of him. It’s a threat, but he thinks it’s one he can avoid, and he can handle that as long as it isn’t inevitable. He tries to think of what he should say. He needs Peter to trust him, if he’s ever going to get a chance to escape. “What was her name?”

“Olivia,” Peter says.

“Pretty name.”

“Well, it certainly beats ‘Stiles’.”

Stiles doesn’t know what to say to that. “I’m going to roll over, okay? I sleep on my side.”

“Sure,” Peter says, loosening up on his grip until Stiles has managed to get as comfortable as he’s going to when he’s in bed with the crazy asshole who’s kidnapped him. Then he reaches over and turns off the lamp, leaving them in darkness.

Stiles is sure he won’t sleep. He lies stiff as a board, staring at the wall, feeling the rise and fall of Peter’s chest behind him. Peter seems to fall asleep right away. The deep sleep of the avenged. The motion of his breath is almost soothing. Gradually, exhaustion sets in. He’s not going anywhere. He might as well get some sleep while he can.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Sheriff Stilinski has had some exciting nights in his tenure as the Beacon Hills county sheriff, but he knows that the night of the winter formal is one he’s never going to forget. After Lydia is hurt on the lacrosse field, he calls Stiles twice, trying to locate him to see if he knows anything about who did it. But Stiles doesn’t answer his phone.

He’s about to go down to the school to see if he can find him, despite two of his deputies having come up empty-handed, when he gets a call from Chris Argent. His sister has been murdered, he says in a dry voice that cracks when he talks, and he needs to talk to the police.

Stilinski doesn’t know what to think of the body of Kate Argent, which looks like just another animal attack, and although Chris doesn’t tell him very much, it’s enough for him to start putting the pieces together. He’s just getting to the heart of the story when Scott bursts in. The secretary is behind him, saying, “I’m so sorry, Sheriff, I tried to tell him you were – ”

“It’s okay, Sue,” Stilinski says, waving her off. “Scott. What is it?”

Scott is looking at Chris Argent, and now he begins to squirm. “I, uh, I can wait – ”

“No. Sit. Have you seen Stiles? I’ve been trying to reach him.”

“What? I, no. He was at the dance with Lydia – ”

“Lydia’s at the hospital. She was attacked.”

Horror dawns in Scott’s eyes. “Peter,” he says.

Now they’re getting somewhere. “Peter Hale,” Stilinski says, his voice tight. He looks between Scott and Chris. “Would someone here like to tell me the entire damned story?”

Scott does. Chris snaps at him to stop, to be quiet, but Scott doesn’t even seem to hear him. He babbles out a wild story about werewolves and magic bullets and the Hale house fire. It’s completely, truly insane. Sheriff Stilinski believes every word, even before Scott shifts forms to prove it.

“What would Peter want with Stiles?” he asks, trying to stay calm, trying not to think about the fact that his son could have been abducted by a madman. They don’t know that’s what happened yet. Stiles vanished before the showdown at the Hale house. Where had he been while that was happening? If he had gotten away, he might just not have resurfaced yet.

Chris clears his throat. “Peter was at the dance. He probably intended to find Scott there, but . . . he left early. Maybe he thought Stiles could help him find Scott.”

“And what happened at the Hale house after Peter killed Kate?”

“This is off the record?” Chris asks, and Stilinski nods. “He went after my daughter. Scott . . . intervened and saved her life.” He throws Scott a look that’s altogether too nasty given the words that accompanied it. “There was a fight, and he took off. Derek followed him. Scott stayed with Allison, but when I approached her . . .”

“I ran,” Scott admits, looking somewhat ashamed of himself. “I just . . . didn’t want to stick around.”

“Do you have Derek’s number?” Sheriff Stilinski asks Scott.

“No,” he says. “Stiles does, though. It’s in his phone.”

“Well, Derek can’t help us find Stiles if we need Stiles’ phone to help us find Derek,” Chris says, somewhat sarcastically.

Sheriff Stilinski has to bite his tongue. After the third try, he manages to moderate his language. “Sir, I appreciate that your daughter was in danger tonight and you’re obviously tense, and that you came here of your own volition. But your attitude is not helping the situation.”

Before Chris can explode, Sheriff Stilinski’s radio crackles. “Go ahead,” he says into it.

“Sheriff, it’s Officer Burrell. We found your son’s Jeep. It’s in a parking garage downtown. Nowhere near the dance.”

“Shit,” Stilinski says, despite himself. “Give me the address.” He jots it down. “Stay with the car, I’ll be right there.”

“Can I come with you?” Scott asks, and he looks too puppyish to say no, so Sheriff Stilinski is about to agree when his radio goes off again. Another officer, down at the dance. The kids are leaving now, it’s almost ten o’clock and the dance is over. A jacket left draped over the chair turned out to be Stiles’. His phone is in his pocket.

“Do you have a car?” Stilinski says, and Scott shakes his head. “Okay. You come with me, then, and I’ll have one of my officers bring the phone to us.”

Scott nods and trots after him. The ride to the parking garage passes in tense silence. Sheriff Stilinski keeps thinking that there’s something he should say, something that will make Scott feel better about all this, but nothing comes. Scott did the best he could, and he’s clearly drowning in guilt over Stiles’ disappearance. But Stilinski won’t be able to make either of them feel better until he’s got some solid evidence that Stiles is okay.

As soon as the exit the car, Scott immediately sniffs the air and says, “He was here. Peter was. I can smell him.”

It’s weird, but it’s confirmation, and that’s what they need. “Stiles, too?” he says, just in case Peter just took Stiles’ car. Scott gives a little nod. “Can you tell where they went?”

“I don’t . . .” Scott ranges around the parking garage for a minute while Sheriff Stilinski talks to his officers. He comes back a minute later and shakes his head, frustrated. “I can’t tell. I guess that means Peter probably had a car here, right? He had Stiles drive him here and then they left in Peter’s car.”

Sheriff Stilinski nods. It makes sense, except for the part where Peter Hale has been a catatonic invalid for the past ten years. He gets back on his radio and asks one of his deputies to check and see if there are any vehicles registered to Peter Hale. There aren’t. He turns back to Scott. “Is there anything you might be able to tell me about where he might have gone, what car he might have used. Did you ever see him in a car? See him drive anywhere?”

“No,” Scott says helplessly. Then his eyes light up. “But his nurse, his nurse was helping him. Stiles said that after he met Peter the first time. Maybe he’s using her car.”

“Okay.” He gets back on his radio. He’s making this official. Technically a missing persons report can’t be filed so quickly, but when his sixteen year old son was last seen in the company of a known psychopath, he’s pretty sure he’s allowed to bend the rules. Then he looks at Scott, who’s drooping with weariness and distress. “I’m going to have one of my guys take you home.”

“But – ” Scott protests.

“No buts. It’s going to be a long night, and your mother is wondering where you are by now, I’m sure. I’ll call you if anything happens.”

Scott agrees, but grudgingly, and Stilinski suspects that as soon as his back is turned, Scott is going to be out conducting his own, werewolf-oriented, investigations. He can’t do anything about that. He just hopes that Scott will be careful.

The nurse did have a car, and it isn’t at her house, and neither is she. With nothing to go on for Peter, he digs into her life, her financial records. She’s made some odd withdrawals lately. Large chunks of cash. He presumes that she was planning to go on the run with Peter – a Florence Nightingale thing – and was preparing to go off the grid.

“Damn it,” he says, “they were prepared for this. But why Stiles? It doesn’t make any sense . . .”

“Sir?” Officer Burrell is standing in his doorway. He looks stricken. Sheriff Stilinski’s stomach drops all the way into his shoes. “I thought you should know – I mean, it doesn’t prove anything but – the – the dogs got a hit. At the garage.”

Sheriff Stilinski blinks at him for a moment, a mixture of confusion and denial. “The dogs.”

“The – cadaver dogs, sir.”

It takes a moment for it to sink in. “I – I see,” he says. “Well. That. That’s discouraging, certainly, but. It doesn’t mean.”

“Of course not,” Burrell says hastily. “We’re still doing work at the scene. We’ll, uh, we’ll keep you posted.”

Sheriff Stilinski nods and Burrell backs out of his office. Then he just sits there with his head in his hands. There had been no blood at the garage. He reminds himself of that. Peter has a very specific MO for his murders, and they’re always bloody. Of course, he could have killed Stiles somewhere else –

He stops that train of thought as hard as he can. He still has work to do. Find the nurse, and they’ll find the killer.

Using Stiles’ phone, he contacts Derek Hale. The other man is taciturn and wary. Sheriff Stilinski merely tells him that he’s investigating Kate Argent’s murder, that he’s taken a statement from Chris Argent, and that Chris says when Peter took off, Derek followed him. “Did you catch up with him?”

“No,” Derek says. “He outdistanced me quickly.”

“Was he alone?”

“What? Yeah, of course,” Derek says, clearly puzzled by this question, wondering who else might have been with him.

“I need you to point me in the direction he went. I’ll be out at the Hale house in twenty minutes. Can you meet me there?”

“I’ll be there,” Derek says.

But the meeting is fruitless. Derek followed Peter about half a mile before losing him in the forest. They’re nowhere near any roads, and he has no idea where he might have gone after that. “He’d gotten his revenge,” Derek says, “so I assume he probably left town.”

Sheriff Stilinski nods. “He had a relationship with his nurse, right?” he says. “She’s been making large cash withdrawals lately. They were preparing to go on the run.”

Derek looks at him for a long moment, then says, “He didn’t bring her.”

Stilinski frowns. “How do you know?”

“I just know. I know Peter. He wouldn’t . . . make a connection like that with a stranger.”

“She wasn’t a stranger, she had been his nurse for years – ”

“She wasn’t pack. That makes her a stranger.”

“Well, she’s not at her house or her work, and her car is missing.”

“Then she’s dead,” Derek says. He shakes his head and walks away.

Sheriff Stilinski frowns thoughtfully after him for a minute, then radios Burrell. “Have the dogs check the nurse’s house.”

They get a hit there, too.

It’s near dawn, and he’s exhausted, and there have been no signs of his son, when another officer, Mark Thorne, finds him in the break room, drinking coffee and trying desperately to keep himself together. “Sheriff?” he says, cautiously. “There’s been a murder. In Redding.”

Sheriff Stilinski groans and resists the urge to ask ‘what else can go wrong tonight’ before the important part of the statement sets in. Redding is two hours away. It’s not in his county, and therefore not his jurisdiction. “That’s terrible, but why are you telling me?”

“Because it looks like Peter Hale was the murderer,” Thorne says. “And – well, you’d better watch the tape.” He ushers Sheriff Stilinski back into the rest of the station, hovering near him like he’s afraid he might just collapse. Burrell is setting up the television with the surveillance footage. “This video was taken at about eleven PM,” he says. “The precinct over there sent it over.”

Stilinski nods and takes another gulp of his coffee, eyes trained on the screen, and then the cup falls from nerveless fingers as Stiles pushes his way into the store. “Stiles,” he whispers. His son. Alive and whole, at least as of eleven PM. The cadaver dogs must have been smelling the nurse’s body, not his.

He’s clearly nervous, glancing repeatedly at the door while he exchanges a few quick words with the clerk.

“No sound?” Stilinski asks.

Thorne shakes his head. “Video only. What do you think they’re talking about?”

“If I know Stiles – and I usually do – he’s asking to use the phone.” On the screen, Stiles’ head jerks around as Peter comes in. “Jesus, he’s not even burned,” Stilinski mumbles. He thinks Scott had mentioned that, but it hadn’t sunk in. He tries not to look at Stiles’ face. It hurts to see that trapped, desperate look. But he sees just as clearly as the clerk does when Stiles mouths ‘please’, just before Peter comes up to the counter.

Moments later, the clerk is dead.

“Christ,” Thorne says. “I watched it once already, but . . .”

Stilinski’s jaw sets as Peter caresses the bruise on Stiles’ cheek, then gestures for Stiles to follow him out of the store, which he does.

“Why did he kill the clerk?” Thorne asks, staring at the screen.

“I guess to keep him from calling the cops,” Burrell says.

“But why? He had to know we would find the body, use the surveillance footage to identify him, identify the car, put out a BOLO – killing the clerk didn’t really gain him anything. Maybe a little time, that’s all.”

Stilinski shakes his head, thinking of the fear, the despair, on Stiles’ face in that moment. “It had nothing to do with that. He did it to show Stiles that he was willing to kill. To discourage further escape attempts.” He takes a deep breath. “That’s actually a good thing. It means he wants Stiles alive. I have no idea why, but now all we have to do is find him.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

Stiles wakes abruptly to Peter shaking him. The alpha is up and dressed, and dim light is coming around the edges of the curtain. “Time to go,” he says.

Stiles rubs a hand over his face. “I need to piss,” he says.

Peter just points to the bathroom. Stiles crawls out of bed and goes to do his business. When he gets back into the room, his stomach growls. He starts to dress and tries not to think about it, wondering if Peter intends to feed him. Probably, since he seems to want to keep him long-term. A quick glance at the clock reveals that it’s about six in the morning. He wonders how long he slept.

“Hungry?” Peter says, and smiles. “The human body is miraculously oblivious to its surroundings sometimes. Let’s go get some breakfast.”

“Sure,” Stiles says. “Sounds awesome.”

They walk two blocks to a McDonald’s. Peter gets him two Egg McMuffins and a large black coffee. Without his Adderall, he’s going to need all the caffeine he can get. A few doors down is a Hertz car rental. Peter goes in and gets a car with his shiny new fake identity. Stiles trails along behind him, feeling like a lost puppy. Every time he thinks about making a break for it, he sees Peter snapping the neck of the convenience store clerk.

“We won’t be able to keep this car very long either,” Peter says conversationally, as they head out of town, as if telling Stiles all about his plans makes any sense at all. “They’ll get on to this identity. That’s fine. I have more than one. But after your little stunt last night, my face is going to be all over the news, at least locally. We’re going to have a long day in the car today.”

“We should play I Spy,” Stiles says.

Peter makes an amused noise, but doesn’t respond. Stiles stares out the window and tries not to fidget. The caffeine can only make up for the lack of Adderall so much. He doesn’t even have anything to do with his hands. After the first few hours, he feels like he wants to crawl out of his own skin. It’s almost worse than pain.

Peter turns the radio on to a news station, and before long Stiles is indeed hearing about himself on the news. He’s pleased to find that they’ve gotten most of their facts correct. That’s good. “They make me sound so horrible,” Peter says.

“Well, you are a serial killer,” Stiles says. “Tough to make that play well on the news.” He thinks about opening the car and just jumping out. No. They’re going too fast. All he’ll do is injure himself, and then Peter will catch him. He has to wait. Has to be patient. It’s something that’s not really in his skill set.

“They don’t mention that those murders were completely justified,” Peter says.

“Right up until you got to the nurse and the store clerk, sure,” Stiles says.

Peter just shrugs. “People are a means to an end, that’s all.”

“Spoken like a true sociopath. Can we stop?”

Peter glances at the clock. “Not for another hour.”

“No, I don’t mean stop the car, I mean, stop, stop this.” He gestures between the two of them. “This friendly banter. I want no part of it. I want nothing to do with you. I’ll do what you say because I don’t want to die, and that’s it.”

“You know,” Peter says, “you don’t seem very grateful that I let you live.”

“I’ll be grateful for that when I figure out why you did it,” Stiles replies.

It’s a horrible day, probably the worst of his life. They drive and drive endlessly, stopping every four hours or so to get gas and take a bathroom break. Peter doesn’t let him out of his sight. They get fast food. And they drive, and drive, and drive. He’s keenly aware that every minute they get further away from Beacon Hills, the lower his chances are of being found. He’s going to have to take care of himself.

By the time they stop for the night, he’s sitting on his hands and practically going out of his mind with boredom. “I want a shower.”

“I’m continually fascinated by the way you seem to think you’re in a bargaining position,” Peter says. “Get into bed.”

Stiles takes a deep breath. Be patient, be patient, he repeats to himself over and over again. Taunting Peter won’t do any good, although he supposes it might make him feel better. He’ll wait. A chance will come. So it’s another long, restless night of being aggressively spooned by a psychopathic werewolf. No problem. This is just his life now. He’s so blasé and nonchalant about it that he’s surprised when he wakes up and finds that he’s been crying in his sleep.

They get off to an early start the next morning. Peter heads to the Starbucks next to the hotel for sustenance. A middle-aged woman gives Stiles and his bruises a somewhat concerned look while she sips her latte in the corner. Stiles edges over to the bar with all the different kinds of sugar while Peter is perusing the pastries. Someone has left a pen there. He snatches it up and starts scribbling on a napkin.

Moments later, Peter’s hand is on his, gripping down like a vise. Stiles makes a strangled noise. “No, don’t scream,” Peter says, right in his ear. “We wouldn’t want anyone to realize something was wrong, would we?” He pries Stiles’ hand open and takes the note he was writing. He makes a tsk noise with his tongue. “It’s going to take some time to reinforce this lesson, I see.”

“You won’t kill anyone here,” Stiles says, trying to put confidence in his voice. “You’re trying to switch identities. You don’t want any chaos associated with the new identity.”

“No, I don’t,” Peter says, “but I will kill the people here, if you make me.” He lets Stiles’ hand go. “We’re leaving.”

Stiles follows. They get in a taxi and take it to the other side of the city. The Starbucks was good for one thing, at least; he was able to look at the newspaper and ascertain they’ve made it as far as Salt Lake City. The murder of a convenience store clerk and the kidnapping of a local sheriff’s son is two states behind them. No one will be looking for them here.

The taxi takes them to a long-term parking garage. Peter takes the elevator up to the third floor and heads straight for a car there. “You’ve been here before,” Stiles says.

“No,” Peter says. “Connie set it all up for me. My nurse,” he clarifies. “She bought the car months ago. Paid cash. No record. In a Los Angeles suburb. Nobody will connect it with me.” He gestures. “Get in.”

“So you knew you’d be on the run,” Stiles says, getting into the car.

“Yes, although I was more worried about hunters than law enforcement,” Peter says. “Still am, for that matter.”

“Well, my dad will find us,” Stiles says.

Peter gives him a crooked smile. “I thought you said you made his life miserable.”

 Stiles looks out the window. “Doesn’t matter. He’ll find us.”

“I had a son, too,” Peter says. “He’d be about your age, now.” He backs out of the parking space. “He was a lot like you. Kind of a smartass. Even as a little kid.”

“Is that why you’re trying to keep me?” Stiles asks.

“I suppose maybe it is,” Peter says.

It’s another long drive, although not as long as the day before, and at least the scenery is better. They stop in a Denver suburb. It’s late afternoon. The part of town they stop in is kind of seedy. The kind of ‘wrong side of the tracks’ area where everyone minded their own business and wouldn’t answer their doors if a kidnapped boy came knocking at night. Perfect.

The apartment is furnished, albeit sparsely, clean and bare. Peter looks around and nods in approval. “You wanted a shower?” he asks.

“Yeah. I feel grimy.”

“Go ahead, then.”

Stiles finds the bathroom. The water takes some time to heat up, but it works. There’s no soap or washcloth, but he scrubs himself off with his bare hands and regular water as he can. Of course, there’s no towel, either, and when he gets out of the shower he finds that Peter has taken his clothes. He pokes his head out of the bathroom and looks around. He doesn’t see anybody. “Peter?” he calls out, although not very loudly. Does Peter think he won’t leave naked? Hell, that would be a great way to attract attention. He could get arrested. He would love to get arrested right now.

So he creeps out of the bathroom, sliding his feet across the floor to avoid making the floorboards creak. He moves slow, looking around every corner. He’s just reached the door when Peter says, “Going somewhere?”

“Jesus!” Stiles says, and swears. “You fuckin’ suck, with your wolf ears and, and your ability to sneak up on people.”

Peter just looks amused. “Come in here and sit down.”

“Sure. Why not.” Stiles goes into the living room and is a little distressed to find that Peter has taken the time he’s been in the shower to tear his shirt and slacks to shreds. “What the hell, dude, now I have no clothes.”

“You barely had any, anyway,” Peter says. “I have to run some errands, and I don’t want you getting into trouble while I’m gone.” He gestures to the chair again, and Stiles reluctantly sits down. Peter ties him up thoroughly, using what’s left of his clothes. Then he stands back to admire his work. “Open wide,” he says, and gags Stiles with his own tie. “You just sit tight. I’ll be back in a few hours.” He pauses, then says, “Maybe if you’re good while I’m gone, I’ll bring something back for you.”

Stiles flips him off as best he can. Peter chuckles as he leaves the room.

He struggles valiantly against the bonds. It’s only cloth. He’ll be able to get free. It’s tied so tightly that he can’t really feel his hands. The knots are digging into his skin. But he’s got hours. He can do this.

When it becomes clear he can’t, he starts scooting the chair towards the door, one inch at a time. It’s a lot of work, strangely exhausting. But gradually, he manages to get the chair out of the living room and down the hall. Then he remembers the stairs. Even if he can get the door open – doubtful, given the way he’s tied up – he’ll never get down the stairs without falling.

If he falls, the chair might break.

Of course, so might a lot of his bones.

Frustrated to the point of screaming, he just stares at the door in an agony of indecision. It’s not his chance. He thought it was, but it wasn’t. And if he can get the chair back to the living room before Peter gets back, Peter will think he was good and didn’t move. The more Peter trusts him not to try to escape, the better his chances will become.

Slowly, he starts inching the chair back to where he started.

When Peter gets back, he’s laden with bags. He has to make more than one trip in and out of the apartment to grab it all. Stiles eyes the open door and thinks about shouting for help, but decides against it. In this neighborhood, nobody will show up. And if someone calls the cops, by the time they get here, he’ll be stashed in a closet somewhere. There’s just no point.

“You’ve been crying,” Peter says, stopping to look at Stiles.

“No, I haven’t,” Stiles says automatically.

Peter kneels down in front of him and thumbs the tear tracks on his cheeks. “Stiles, you don’t seem to understand what’s happening here,” he says. “This is a good thing. I’m not going to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt you. I want to make you part of my pack. It’s a gift. You should feel honored that I chose you.”

Stiles rears back involuntarily. “Don’t touch me,” he spits out. “And don’t think I’m fucking stupid. Do you think I don’t know how this shit works? The way you’re going to try to get inside my head? How about you ‘honor’ me by untying me and giving me some fucking clothes?”

Peter grabs the chair before Stiles can knock himself over. He sighs and gives a little shake of his head. “I can see this is going to take some time,” he says. “Yes, you’re smart enough to know that I’m trying to manipulate you. But that doesn’t make what I’m saying untrue, does it?”

“You tell me,” Stiles says. Peter just gives another shake of his head in what looks like disappointment. Stiles thinks back to the paper he wrote on Stockholm Syndrome in the eighth grade. They’re settling into patterns. Learning the rules. Now Peter’s going to untie him, give him something to wear, give him something to eat. Make him feel like he’s not a prisoner. But he is. And he vows he will never, ever forget that.

 

~ ~ ~ ~