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A Lean and Hungry Look

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Peter likes this time of morning. There's a deathly silence that follows him from street to street, an enervating indigo pall that lies heavy and still over every doorway and every window; a sense that he might, in fact, be the last living thing on earth. It's soothing. Serene.

The illusion is incomplete, as the not-quite-soft-enough tread of footsteps continues unabated behind him. Apart from that, though, the stark peace of the moment is absolute.

Peter wonders, as he walks, what's made him stand out to the stranger stealing after him in the gloom of predawn. He's made himself nondescript enough: a man in a long black coat with a long black cane, as anonymous as a shadow and, he thought, as forgettable. The faint noise the cane makes as it scrapes over uneven concrete is the only sound that marks his passage.

Does he appear easy prey? The cane is as much a ruse as it isn't; some mornings (not this morning, oh no, not when this night has gone so well) it's all he can do to drag himself back to the shabby little brownstone he rents the bottom floor of and collapse into bed, his muscles strained and aching too badly to let him sleep. His physical therapist, an earnest girl fresh from school, has told him time and time again there will be setbacks, there will be pain; it's not every day you wake up from a six-year coma, Mr. Peter, and you've already made so much progress (if only she knew); you'll see, in a year you'll be like new again.

She takes care to never reference his face in these assurances.

Peter and the stranger walk in step another few blocks, and he'd like to draw it out a little, see where it leads, but he's nearing home now. Pardon his coarseness, but, as a rule, he tries not to shit where he eats.

He stops on a well-lit streetcorner, lamp turning the haze of morning fog around him a vivid, glaring orange.

"Hello," he says to the empty street. "I believe it would be best if you came out now."

There is no reply. Peter hadn't necessarily expected one.

"Alternatively, I could come and find you," and here Peter smiles to himself. It's a shame, really, that he's already glutted full; tonight's dish wasn't terribly challenging, and after such a mediocre meal the thought of a second, perhaps better chase is very alluring.

There's the scuff of a shoe on pavement and Peter turns slowly in place to survey the deserted street behind him, head lowering, smile widening as his senses stir. He's always been so bad at controlling his impulses.

"Come out, come out," he calls softly. "Wherever you are."

The street is silent, and Peter's taken one prowling step forward when someone says, "Um."

A figure edges out from behind a crumbling brick retaining wall some fifteen feet away, and Peter doesn't realize how far he's slipped until he has to rein himself in with an impact he feels in his teeth.

"Stilinski," he recalls. One of four boys, second floor, obnoxiously loud speakers right above Peter's bedroom. "Stiles."

"Morning, Mr. Hale," Stiles says sheepishly. The boy comes to a stop a little ways away from Peter, hindbrain perhaps sensing something's not quite right. "You're out awfully early."

"I could say the same to you," Peter returns, assessing him with interested eyes. Stiles is dressed in jeans and a bright, poppy-red hooded sweatshirt, scarf, tennis shoes. His eyes are glassy, cheeks red and mouth wet as he licks his lips, open as he breathes out long plumes of fog into the lightening sky. There's a metal bat protruding from his backpack, and particolored bruising along the edge of his jaw and temple.

Something not quite right, indeed.

"Since we're bound the same way, why don't we go together?" he offers, and watches Stiles swallow.

"Uh, together?" he starts, glancing to the side and Peter takes the opportunity step closer, within touching distance. Stiles' eyes fly up to his face at the movement, but he doesn't back away. "Mr. Hale, I'd really love to, but—"

"Peter, please."

"Peter," Stiles says. "I've gotta… um," he says, straightening as Peter lifts a casual hand.

"A word to the wise," Peters says, trailing a finger over the fine mist darkening the front of Stiles' hoodie. "Contrary to what you'd think, red hides blood rather badly."

Stiles looks at him, all sheepishness gone hard and dark in his eyes.

"Well, I wasn't going to say anything," the boy says, calmly. "But—"

He reaches for Peter's face and Peter's hand is on his forearm in an instant, just as Stiles' thumb contacts the corner of his mouth.

The boy doesn't say anything, even though Peter's grip must hurt. They stare at each other, and Peter feels that tar-black thrill rising, knows that this close Stiles can't help but see it.

But then again, Peter can't help but see some of that tension reflecting back at him.

Slowly, deliberately, Stiles drags his thumb just under the swell of Peter's lower lip, eyes dropping to Peter's mouth as the pressure pulls at the flesh, baring a sliver of Peter's teeth to the cold air. He's pressing a little harder than necessary, breath coming a little too fast, lingering just a little too long before pulling away.

"You had something," he says, huskily. "Right there."

He draws his hand back a fraction more and Peter lets him, gaze dropping to the incriminating rust-brown flakes on the pad of Stiles' thumb. Peter licks his lips and there it is, that sweet tang of iron.

Stiles' heart is racing, and when Peter angles his head he can almost taste the boy's pulse on his tongue like a piece of hard candy, his mouth just brushing the tender inside of Stiles' wrist.

The boy tries to suppress a shudder and Peter grins.

"Stiles," he says against the thin skin.

"Yeah?" Stiles breathes. His eyes are wide but his voice is steady.

Peter lets his grip slide up to Stiles' hand. "Why don't you let me buy you breakfast?"

"... breakfast?" Stiles repeats with an edge of disbelief.

Peter tugs and Stiles lets himself be pulled forward without protest, Peter drawing his hand down, in, until it rests in the crook of Peter's elbow with his own hand on top of it.

"Breakfast," Peter says firmly, and pats Stiles' fingers. There's a bakery around the corner and he needs a distraction from the hunger surging back to claw at his stomach, at his throat. It would never do to rush to rush so fine a feast as this.

"You can tell me about your night," Peter offers as they turn to walk and Stiles laughs suddenly, letting himself be led.

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours."