"What are you thinking now, Agent?" Renault asked after taking a long drag on his cigarette.

Cooper didn't answer. He was busy flexing his fingers to make sure they could still move properly. His wrists ached a little from the cuffs, but his captor had been sufficiently conscientious to double-lock them, so they hadn't tightened at all. As promised, there would be no marks except for the one on his cheek. He pressed the other side of his face to the floor to avoid touching the bruise.

No visible marks, anyway.

Renault closed a hand around a fistful of Cooper's hair. Not enough to hurt, but enough to remind him that it could hurt, and hurt very much.

"I thought it was just in the movies that people wanted to smoke afterwards," Cooper said softly.

"That's not what you truly are thinking." He let go of the hair and ran the hand along Cooper's bare back, as if appraising a recent purchase. "It's all right. This is strictly between you and me."

Cooper took a deep breath. He let hollowness show in his words and monotone. "I'm pondering whole new ways of aching and the fact that I'm fairly cold."

"I thought that might happen."

"Yes." He knew better than to complain further.

"Is that all?"

He tried to summon some amiability but couldn't quite manage it. What could have been a lighter comment turned into a parody of a joke. "If you really want to know, I'm mildly impressed by your stamina, though given that you run a brothel and several prostitution rings I guess I'm not that surprised."

"Very feisty of you to say." Renault took another drag; then crushed the stub under his shoe. By now he was fully clothed while Cooper remained naked. This was obviously a deliberate psychological tactic. "Do not move unless I tell you to."

Cooper passively allowed Renault to remove the rope from around his neck and pull him to a sitting position. "I can't pretend that this wasn't a terrible experience, but thank you for using a condom at least."

"Pfft. That was for my own protection. I don't know where you've been." Renault now looped the rope around the cuffs. "Stand."

He complied, though his knees wavered and he wanted nothing more than a five-hour shower and an eighteen-hour sleep. And a hug. Several hugs. When he got out of this he was going to hug as many people as possible. Then he would tell Diane what happened and erase the tape without sending it to her. Then possibly he would shoot the noses off a bunch of targets. "Politeness costs nothing."

"You are entirely too endearing a man for your own good, and I say this though I would love to see you dead." The rope now secured Cooper's hands above his head, leaving him more vulnerable than before. Now he didn't even have the floor to shield part of his body. Renault held Cooper's chin in his hand. "For example, that must be why I want to scar you so much. Scar your mind, I mean. Take away the happy face that so many appear to be drawn to."

"That seems to be going pretty well," Cooper mumbled, not meeting his eyes. He wanted to pull back. He wanted to flinch. But he didn't want any more pain than Renault felt necessary – what he felt necessary was quite bad enough.

"Not enough. There's still an element of cheer about you, Agent, and seeing as we've only been in this room for a little over two hours and they haven't brought any kind of negotiator yet, I have the time to stamp it out." He retrieved the scarf from the corner and tied it around Cooper's eyes.

Now blind, Cooper couldn't help but feel an increase of anxiety about what was going to happen to him. Which was of course the point. The kinds of torture Renault could actually accomplish in this setting without injuring him were limited, so it made sense to heighten all the sensations by sense deprivation.

He clamped his jaw shut to stifle the yelp when he found out what it was. Renault had a candle and was dripping hot wax on his skin.

Renault had an arm around his waist and whispered in his ear. "Wonderful thing, hot wax. Beeswax tends to burn, but the cooler varieties just flake off with no sign afterwards. This is a very simple exercise, Cooper, and playing along will shorten it." He let another drop fall on Cooper's stomach.

The burst of heat was like a simultaneous jab of a needle and shrink-wrapping of the skin it touched. Every hair follicle pricked up in uncertainty, not knowing which part of the body would suffer next. "Y-yes?"

"If you scream and your friends demand to talk to you because of it, I will throw you down on the floor and fuck you again. I am assuming you don't want that." A kiss on the side of his neck. "Hm?"


"On the other hand, if you sob – and it is genuine, and I know you have really broken down – I will stop all of this. I will get you another drink, you can dress, I'll take you to the bathroom to clean up, and we can wait out in the kitchen with a gun to your head like civilized people."

"You want me to cry?"

"Just don't hold it back. Let it happen. Be without defenses. Then I can say that I have won."

The next drop of wax fell on a nipple and Cooper shuddered. He managed to remain silent for an interminable length of time, jerking slightly with each drop, but silent except for an occasional hiss of air.

Renault clicked his tongue. "Mr. Stoic, I see. I will add another tactic." He covered Cooper's mouth with a hand and pinched the nostrils shut. The other hand held his head still. He must have put the candle somewhere.

No matter how much Cooper didn't want to fight it and make the suffocation worse, his body writhed for air. His pulse pounded in his ears. As the world grew sick and faint he wondered how he was supposed to weep under these conditions.

Then he realized that Renault wasn't going for a repeat of their earlier smothering session. He was relying on an aspect of male biology. "Oh no. Don't. Please don't," Cooper gasped as he felt practiced fingers curl around his involuntary erection.

"Doesn't it feel good, though?" The hand pumped up and down very slowly and Renault kissed Cooper on the cheek. "It must be lonely, the life you lead."

"These are basic – aahh – reflexes…they don't mean…God!"

Another drop of wax fell. Another rush of unwanted pleasure coursed through him. Mocking tenderness from lips and fingers adept at lying.

Wax. Hands. Lips. Hands. Wax. Lips. Wax. Wax. Hands. Hands. Wax. On and on.

Until eventually Renault stopped doing anything but manipulate Cooper's cock, and he started talking.

"Mademoiselle Audrey…a lovely girl…I prefer them older myself, but you should have seen her when I stabbed a man before her eyes…she was too drugged to do anything but weep in confusion...I held her and comforted her…though I was the one who caused her pain…she spoke of you in her delirium…many times…brave, honest Agent Cooper would save her…how she loved you…but you didn't take advantage, oh no, you were too honorable…a man of purity…a man beyond lust…a man in control…and you did save her… took her away from the evil man…what would she say if she saw you now? You could save her from me but you couldn't save yourself…now you're clay in my hands…in French it is called 'le petit mort'…it's almost as good as le grand, yes?"

And he didn't want to he couldn't be doing it thinking about Audrey and thinking about Laura and the innocents and he had to do what he had to do but he'd been raped and not just once but twice and why couldn't his friends hurry and he was trying to remember the mantra but the mantra wouldn't stay in his head he saved their lives but he would carry this even if he shot the man dead that wouldn't change what had happened and oh but he hadn't felt like this for ages he hadn't loved since Caroline and so much fear and so much doubt and oh God he was coming and coming and coming.

Hanging uncomfortably from his wrists, his legs like jelly, Cooper burst into tears. He felt the blindfold taken off but he didn't want to open his eyes and see the triumph in Renault's face. He didn't want to see that it was Renault holding him, rubbing his back, making soothing sounds. He could pretend it was someone who cared about him and not the man who had played him like a violin.

"You bastard…" he gasped. "You absolute bastard."

A lifetime later Cooper was dressed and sitting near the door. Renault excused himself for a restroom break. The other conspirator, gun trained on him, asked with amazement, "What did he do to you?"

Cooper just looked at him. He said nothing. He waited for Denise.