Peter wasn’t a caring person, but he was a great caregiver. He was the favorite uncle to a football team of nieces and nephews, the one who stayed behind to take care of the sick when he felt his enforcer skills weren’t needed. By virtue of his position in the pack he never married or had children. The Alpha's Second couldn’t allow for distractions to get in the way of protecting the pack.
Talia, like the meddlesome older sister she was, had attempted to arrange a mating for her brother. For his happiness, she claimed. Peter had put a swift and brutal end to that by moving out of their family home. When Talia persisted, because the Alpha just couldn’t not get her way, Peter stopped going to family and pack events.
Peter liked his life, and he refused to believe that getting mated or married would change that. He had an amazing apartment in a quiet part of downtown Beacon Hills, why would he want to share that?
“It’s not natural for a werewolf to be alone like that Peter. It’s in our nature to pair up, make the pack bigger.” Talia couldn't speak to Peter without sounding like she was lecturing. She picked the habit up when they were kids. Around the same time, Peter figured out how to get away with anything right under their parents' noses.
“I’m not alone and I think the pack is big enough.” Peter said evenly. This was a common argument between the two of them.
Ever since Talia found her husband James she’s been on a matchmaking spree. Their spring wedding ended with three of Talia’s bridesmaids marrying or mating members of James’ former pack. Their younger sister Anna found her mate through Talia too. Now whenever she and her monstrous twins came to visit Talia gets this smug look on her face.
Peter’s the thorn in her side that won’t bend to her will.
“Why wouldn’t you even meet that McCawley girl? She was nice!” Talia continued on like Peter hadn’t said anything. A tactic she picked up when she figured out Peter barely listened to her anyway.
“She was an imbecile and can’t even pronounce ‘scintillating’.” Peter had been insulted that Talia even introduced them. Luckily Peter insulted her before they sat down to dinner or he’d have spent the whole meal restraining himself from tearing his eyes out.
That’s another thing he hated about Talia’s matchmaking. She thought she knew best about everything and everyone. In the beginning, there had been attempts at finding him an actual match. But as the revolving door of matches kept turning, Talia began scraping at the bottom of the barrel. The McCawley girl had been his last straw.
“Well if the people I pick for my only brother because I care about his happiness and well being are so awful,” Talia lays it on thick and Peter immediately knows where this is going.
“Why not sign up for a Companion?”
Peter pretends that the cell connection is bad. Talia lets him go only because she’d gotten her weekly guilt trip out of the way.
Why not sign up for a Companion? As if the process was that simple. Peter himself had never wanted one for the same reason he never wanted children; they weren’t worth the hassle.
He loved being an uncle. All the joys of parenthood only you can give them back at the end of the day. Companion’s were worse because you couldn’t accidentally end up with a Companion. There was a rigorous application process that took six months to a year, minimum, to process.
That was just to get your foot in the door. Once you got passed that then there was the interview process. You meet a slew of Companions and if one liked you great, now onto step three. If not, you go through the Companions in your city, then your county, then your state. Peter didn’t know how far it went after that because it was taboo. It wasn’t unheard of, just rare and sad.
Peter didn’t see the point personally. If he had a dire need for a pet he’d get a cat, or adopt. His refusal to find a mate or a wife frustrated Talia to no end, but she usually saved Companion talk for when he was really annoying her. The idea of him getting one was as foreign and laughable to her as it was to him.
That would probably be the only way to shut his sister up for good. You couldn’t marry a Companion, but apply for the right one and you could have a couple of kids with one. If Talia’s goal was to see Peter set up with someone to take care of him a Companion would be perfect.
However, Peter showing up to the next family reunion with a Companion on his arm would probably mess with whatever matchmaking plans his sister had concocted. He’d suspected for some time that she was gunning for another pack alliance through him. Peter was the ultimate bargaining chip for interpack relations. It would be pretty hard to marry him off if he had a Companion.
The idea of a Companion suddenly became very appealing to Peter.
Peter had more patience than most, but even he didn’t feel like going through the long song and dance of applying for a Companion. His impatience aside the family reunion was this November. Four months was not a lot of time to acquire a Companion that would keep his sister out of his business until the next family gets together.
He called a contact he knew had gone through an expedited path to getting a companion a few years ago. Last he heard Deuc had gone somewhere cold with his Kali. If anyone could get him what he needed it was Deuc.
“Peter Hale as I live an breathe,” Deuc spoke in that carefully accented way he always did when surrounded by other weres’. Peter appreciated the warning.
“Just wanted to ask about your Kali, it's been a year now hasn’t it. Are you still in the honeymoon phase?” Peter could care less about the barefoot Companion. She didn’t care for him, didn’t trust him. He preferred that she stay in her place while he met with Deuc. There was a saying that went something along the lines of, “A good companion is a quiet companion”. Peter took express pleasure in reminding her of that.
Peter felt more than heard the shifting of Deuc’s attention. Peter listened patiently as Deucalion excused himself from his guests. The closing of a most likely sound proof door was all the warning Peter had before Deuc returned to the phone, the amused lilt in his voice now gone. In it’s place was the voice Deuc used when conducting business.
“You’ve never asked about my Kali before,” Deuc mused humorlessly, “What brought this on?”
Peter weighed his options before speaking. He could tell Deuc the truth, they weren’t exactly friends but old colleagues. They had an intimate knowledge of each other’s less than savory affairs and had worked together when their packs had needed it. Then again, Deuc wasn’t pack, and he certainly wasn’t a friend. They had enough information on each other to ruin lives, no reason for Peter to add to that already long list.
“I think it’s about time I got myself a Companion,” Peter said. Unlike Deuc, Peter could be guarded and observant while still putting on airs in the face of a potential enemy.
“I’m sad to say that the facility I got Kali at is no longer running, I’m not sure how I can help you there.” Deuc had returned that charming, genial facade. Peter guessed he’d probably realized that he wasn’t there to threaten him and Kali. Which meant he had absolutely no reason to help Peter.
“That sure is convenient Deuc,” Peter chuckled. Deuc matched his laughter easily, but there was that tension in his voice again.
“I never thought I’d see the day that Peter Hale wanted to settle down. What brought this on? Is Talia still setting you up with the rejects from other packs?” Deuc teased.
Peter let the jab roll off his back, and answered with as much levity as he could, “After seeing how Kali cares for you in your fragile state I began to think about what I would do once I started getting on in years like you.” He took joy in the sound of Deuc clenching his jaw.
It was no secret that Talia had been trying to marry Peter out for years, just like it was no secret how Deuc lost his eyes. There had been whispers questioning how Deuc would continue to be the head of his pack with such a grave injury. With Peter’s help Deuc had recovered stronger than ever. And if had to move to a new state and start a new pack to do so that was between the two of them.
“I think I still have the number of the parent company that owned Kali’s old facility. Tell them I sent you. Oh, and be prepared for a few administration fees, of course.” Deuc read off the number and Peter jotted it down. That done and over with they had really nothing else to say to each other but Deuc lingered on the phone anyway.
“I’ll be looking forward to my invitation to your Collaring ceremony in the mail.” Deuc managed to make the threat sound like a pleasant farewell between old friends. Peter knew better. He ended the call without bothering to respond and immediately called the number Deuc left him.
When he called the person who answered the phone rudely asked for the name of the person who’d recommended them before rattling off a series of numbers and dates Peter was expected to remember. There was the service fee, two thousand dollars, and then the application fee, three thousand. For an extra six he could go straight to the interview part of the process, otherwise, he’d have to wait two weeks for them to forge the appropriate paperwork.
Peter didn’t mind waiting, and the two weeks would give him time to drop hints to his sister about what he was doing. The legit version of course. His sister was the governor of California and while she overlooked some parts of his business practices he couldn’t imagine her letting this slide. Companions were one of the most protected citizens in America, just the mistreatment of one could send you to jail and put you on a list barring you from ever getting another Companion.
Talia had spearheaded the bill that forced owners to allow their Companions to pursue higher education if they so chose, and eventually get jobs. If she even caught a whiff of the scheme Peter had cooked up she’d bury him. Luckily Peter had perfected the art of duping his sister and lying to his Alpha.
Peter paid his fees in cash that couldn’t be traced back to him and showed up to his first appointment dressed impeccably. The address given to him by that same brusque voice over the phone turned out to be more legit than he’d imagined. Unlike most facilities that resembled soothing hospital with glass facades and calming green insides, this facility looked like an old boarding house. The building itself was an old Tudor style house, with rolling green lawns and lush landscaping.
When he approached the front door and raised his hands to knock, he sensed more than felt the mountain ash embedded into the wood of the door. The black knocker was made of pure iron, a choice he himself would have made if he wanted to protect his home from Fae. Peter studied the house and listened intently for the hum of security technology behind the door. There was nothing. It was like all the noise from the house had been silenced. Behind him, he could hear the delighted shrieks of young children playing in a pool, the blaring of daytime television in another house down the street, and mediocre sex from the house on the corner.
Peter turned back to the door and leaned in, he strained his ears to hear anything, anything at all behind the stained wooden door.
The door opened suddenly, revealing a pretty woman in her thirties with gently curling brown hair and a scowl on her pink painted lips. “You’re trespassing,” she said. “Leave.”
Peter hadn’t even said anything yet she already seemed tired of him, annoyed by him. He flashed his most charming smile and soften his eyes until he looked kind, caring, “I actually have an appointment.” he said.
She rolled her eyes then, “Oh alright, and I’m just supposed to let you in because you say you have an appointment?”
Peter had a hard time keeping that charming smile on his face. The smile didn’t work, nor did the subtle flexing he did to show off his fit physique. He tried professionalism, “Deucalion recommended me.”
Her eye twitched, but she moved so he could walk into the foyer. Wood floors and wood-paneled walls were the first things Peter noticed. There was floor to ceiling bookcases along all the walls of a room Peter could only just barely see into. There were pocket doors with stained glass windows obstructing his view of another room. Peter was sat on a plush, richly upholstered bench with explicit instructions not to touch anything. The brown-haired witch, Peter was sure she was a witch, left to fetch the person who would be handling his case.
Inside Peter couldn’t hear much beyond the rooms surrounding him. The feeling was disorienting, even in his family home Peter could still hear the common areas. Kitchen, living room, dining room. This place was as silent as a crypt, with only the gentle creaking and tick-tock of the grandfather clock at the top of the stairs to break up the silence.
“Beta Hale?” A voice called. Peter stopped trying to listen to the sounds inside the house and focused on a bald black man with a blank face and a manilla folder under his arm.
Peter rose to his feet and extended his hand, “Please, call me Peter.”
The other man did not take Peter’s hand. His expression didn’t change but Peter thought he detected amusement in his dark eyes, “I’m Druid Deaton, the owner of this facility. You’re here to interview for a Companion?”
Deaton’s words didn’t sound like he was asking a question and he didn’t allow Peter anytime to answer. “I’ve looked over your case and pulled the files of the Companions I think will be most suited to you and your needs.” he said, “We do ask that you hold off on making a decision until you have seen all the Companion’s we have to offer. After that, you will choose three Companions you like and those three will then decide if they like you back.”
Deaton leads him up the stairs and down an ornately carved wood-paneled hallway. All of the doors up here were closed and eerily silent. He went on to explain that, should all three Companion’s decide they wanted Peter, he would have to make the choice to take one or pay for all three.
“Has that happened before?” Peter asked it was the first thing he’d said during their walk through the house.
Deaton’s face gave nothing away as he said, “I don’t like to discuss other patrons of our facility.” He pointed at a closed-door, “If you would please wait here, the first Companion will be brought to you.” He handed Peter the stack of manilla folders, “Read through these and once you’re done we can begin the interview process.”
Deaton turned and left. Peter stared after him. He had questions and concerns, but he didn’t call out after the druid. Something told him that the man wouldn’t be very forthcoming anyway. The room he was to wait in, housed two chairs, an antique-looking wooden desk, and a mishmash of instruments and scientific equipment. Peter sat in one of the chairs and opened the first folder.
This place was more legit than he was expecting. He’d expected a breeding facility, a glorified warehouse with emaciated and drugged Companions purchased on the black market or stolen from deceased owners. Then again, knowing what he knew about Deucalion he wouldn’t expect the man to get his Companion from anyplace else.
All Companion’s receive a pretty basic education in government-run facilities. It’s an unspoken assumption that if an owner wants their Companion to have specialized skills they will pay out of pocket themselves to teach them. There are facilities that specialize in Companion’s good for housekeeping or business management, but those facilities have an even more stringent application process.
Peter suspected that this facility also dealt in specialized Companions, but ones too rare to have on the open market. As he flips through the files he notices that next to their gender there’s a species marker. There are quite a few werewolves, which explains how Deucalion found Kali, but also witches, psychics, empaths. Next to their education is their specialties. There are master bakers and proficient cooks, painters and writers, even a girl with genius-level IQ.
How Deucalion had looked at such a selection and then ended up with Kali, Peter would never understand.
It didn’t take Peter very long to pick out the most interesting of the bunch. He had his eye on four promising-looking Companions. A werewolf with proficiency in dead languages, another werewolf who looked like a promising bedmate, a werewolf with chef-quality skills in the kitchen, and a banshee. Just for the fun of it.
The first Companion brought to him was a human he hadn’t spared more than two minutes to look through their file. Just walking into the room seemed to be difficult for him. He tripped over a rug and the table leg before falling into his seat with an audible gulp. He introduced himself as Greenberg in a tiny voice Peter was already tired of. They sat in silence for an entire five minutes before Deaton reappeared and dismissed Greenberg with a kind upward tick in the corner of his lips.
Greenberg tripped all over himself just to get out of the room. Before leaving Deaton studied the room once more, ignoring Peter entirely. His eyes paused for the briefest second on the stack of manilla folders. Then he offered Peter another blank look and told him to wait a minute for the next Companion.
There were only twelve manilla folders, but after five meetings with people he’d already mentally decided weren’t worth his time, Peter was starting to feel overstimulated. His inner ear hurt from the last Companion, a fiery blonde, wanted to show off her guitar skills. His eyes were still stinging from the chemical fire started by a waif-like human boy with big amber eyes and an appealing scent.
Peter remained the perfect gentleman. Despite what his sister liked to say about his bad attitude he could be a good guy. When it benefitted him. If he had to sit through another pointless meeting with Deaton’s harem of strange Companion’s he might just pretend to go feral so they could kick him out. As he rubbed at his face in frustration Peter questioned why he’d ever thought getting a Companion was a good idea. No way was sitting through this tedious torture worth getting Talia off his back.
The door opened and Deaton ushered in a petite red-head. Like all the Companion’s before her, she was dressed in a white, scentless, cotton, and bare feet. Unlike her peers when she entered the room she sought out Peter’s eye and then held it. Her shoulders were drawn back and her chin high. She crossed the room with a grace Peter wouldn’t expect from one who smelled so human. Her hazel green eyes stayed on his until she sat, delicately, in the chair.
They sat in silence, sizing each other up. Peter subtly scented her, picking up the subtle scent of freshly turned earth and death mixing pleasantly with the cinnamon warm scent wafting off her creamy skin. Peter smiled for the first time that day, “A banshee, how interesting.”
The Companion, Lydia his mind supplied, narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously. Not an expression Peter expected from a girl bred to be the perfect Companion for a price. He could smell slight irritation souring her otherwise heavenly scent.
“You’re upset.” Peter cocked an eyebrow.
Lydia’s face managed to keep its haughty mask of indifference, but unlike Deaton Peter could read her easily. “You’re upset that you’re here with me?” He guessed.
Lydia huffed and glared at him, “No, I’m upset that I was taken away from important work for a wolf with bad manners.” She seemed to be finished but Peter waited her out. A pause the span of a heartbeat passed before she continued, “I’m more than just what’s between my legs and I won’t allow some Alpha who can’t follow the rules turn me into a glorified sex toy!”
Although she didn’t raise her voice the ferocity of her passion turned her words into barbed wire. Peter was fascinated, he’d never met a Companion who didn’t want to bend to the will of her owner. When going over her file Peter hadn’t bothered to look at her picture because he’d been interested in her species.
Banshees were a tricky bunch. They were stillborns who miraculously came back to life at birth. No one knows how it works and no one can humanely figure it out. They were also intensely private and hard to pin down so any information regarding their power and how it works is hard to come by. Even for a man like Peter.
“What are you working on?” Peter spoke into the silence between them.
Lydia’s face showed a quick moment of surprise before turning into a cool mask again, “I’m experimenting with the barrier between chemistry and magic and trying to find more efficient ways to create potions and spells.”
Peter was impressed. One of the things that had revealed the Supernatural to the Human World was idiotic humans playing with things that they shouldn’t have. Everyone knows how powerful a Nemeton is, you don’t go around dying to resurrect a dead one with dark magic. Peter had no sympathy for the now probably dead fools. Lydia’s studies could result in a patentable product to safely practice magic.
He studied her nails, manicured. Blush pink, short and neat. She didn’t smell of soil and he couldn’t imagine her getting dirt under her nails. He’d need to buy her gloves.
“Tell me of your experiments Lydia.” Peter looked into her eyes then. He hoped he could stare her into submission, reach that part of her that wanted to bend under the will of a worthy master. Peter didn’t think he was noble enough to be worthy of her, but she could be useful to him.
Lydia held his stare for a long moment, and then her scent soured again. She’d reverted to that haughty blankness again. Even when her scent smelled heavily of sour lemons, annoyance. “It doesn’t concern you and I doubt a knothead like you could keep up.”
Peter’s lips twitched, he wanted to bare his teeth at her and remind her of her place. The smarter side of him realized she was suspicious of him, and rightly so. To him, she was no more than a pawn, but if she became his Companion he was her whole life.
Peter saw through this little tough act of her’s. He could see a girl because that was what she was despite the grace and elegance she somehow managed to effuse, that was scared of what awaited her outside these walls. She was scared of finally fulfilling that tasks she’d been born and taught her whole life how to be ready for.
So he smiled, and her guard didn’t go down but he saw her shoulders relax a little. “You can tell me in your own time. If you need anything to further your work, I can look into my collection.”
Before she could hide it Lydia looked interested. Peter didn’t need to scent her to know that all her suspicion had temporarily been misplaced by curiosity. “What if I don’t become your Companion.”
Peter shrugged, didn’t matter to him, she was one of four. He had yet to meet the other three. But Lydia was obviously a bright woman, capable of being a good ally at some point. He could help her now, endear her to him, and whether she ended up his Companion or not, he’d get a new contact.
“I don’t see what that has to me getting you these books. Your research sounds interesting.” Peter smiled, less charm this time. He softened his eyes and she looked conflicted.
Deaton arrived before she could give an answer. As she stood to leave they locked eyes again. Peter offered her a wave, “I hope we get to speak again, Lydia.”
After she’d left the room, Peter locked eyes with Deaton, “I want her.”
After the meeting, Peter expected to be sent home. He’d met a dozen Companions, a record he bets. He’s all out of the social stamina needed to be polite to people. He’s already decided he wants Lydia, meeting any more Companions feels like a waste of time.
Deaton brings him rabbit food after he meets the last Companion. He was hungry, and irritated, the limp salad and tough, tasteless steak on the side did nothing to sate his hunger. Peter felt cooped up in this grand room. His nose was still sore. At this point, he wanted to go home.
Peter followed Deaton through a door he’d mistaken as a closet, down a long sightless flight of stairs, and into a musty cellar. He produced a contract and placed it flat on the one table in the room.
“This is the contract you have to sign before I can sign over ownership of Lydia,” Deaton said.
“Why do I have to sign it down here?” Peter understood drama, he’d once sent is nephew on a scavenger hunt to the middle of the Preserve for his birthday gift. His nephew appreciated the Camaro, not so much the muddy walk through the woods.
“That door,” Deaton indicated a door hidden by the dim lighting and dark shadows, “Will take you back to your car without attracting the attention of my neighbors.”
Peter understood the need for secrecy. He knew what they were doing was illegal. He could get into as much trouble as Deaton. More actually, Peter is sure that were he to get caught there would be no way to take the other man down with him.
Peter signed his name with a flourish, then clapped excitedly, “Bring me my Companion so I can get out of here and get some real food.”
Lydia arrived dressed neatly in a pink skirt and white button-up. Peter’s eyes traveled hungrily up her creamy white legs. Although the purpose of buying her hadn’t been for sex, Peter could imagine those legs around his hips. She looks like her skin would turn red so beautifully.
“Come along Lydia,” Peter stared into Lydia’s eyes when he spoke.
Almost shyly, she walked to his side. Her luggage consisted of a single leather satchel and a black saddle bag. Peter took both off her bags and then led the way out.
The wooden door leads them to a dirt tunnel. When Lydia saw the tunnel her nose wrinkled. Peter winced at the petal pink satin flats. This dirt would ruin them.
“I’ll buy you a new pair to make up for them.” Peter helped her step on the dirt path and together they walked into its darkness.