Ira only looked back once as they walked down the corridor watching Hall's body disappear with every step. Hall would die here but he wasn't sure how he felt about that. Hall was his friend wasn't he? Maybe. He turned his attention to the man carrying him and the way ahead instead. His dad was walking directly beside them guarding the rear and Morgan was in front of Kim who had drawn her gun and was ready to shoot anything she needed to.
It was always odd for him to see a weapon because it was so out of place in his world. He grew up with fangs, claws and fists where weapons were considered a human weakness. If you wanted to kill or hurt someone you should do it with your own body to remember the pain you caused. Gavin may not have been the best grandfather, not like Antonio was to Clary and Dom, but he taught Ira a lot. Gavin always stood up for him and although he was not in coddling kids he did treat him special, especially when he went to visit him. Ira always loved those times. Suddenly he missed his grandfather a lot.
They bumped along passing cell after cell, most were empty but some were filled with a few of the scariest people he had ever seen even despite growing up where he did. The cells here and the pack cells looked a lot different than the ones he had been raised around. The ones here were larger and looked comfier but the ones in Oz, the cages, the same ones Keith and Gavin intended to put his father in, was only a five by five concrete box with barely any room, even in wolf form. He had taken turns with the other pack kids to bring the prisoners food twice a day, or once if Keith was trying to torture them. It was scary but it made them tough.
The prisoners would beg Ira to help them escape and promise them anything they wanted or try and grab them on the way by. Ira shivered at the thought. Once a man had grabbed him and bitten his arm. His scream had rang throughout the basement and Keith was soon there bashing the mutt's heads so hard his brains were like a painting on the wall when he was done. The image, and the bite scar, had never left Ira though and it never would.
When his father stopped walking behind him and turned with a soft growl Aaron stopped too and spun to face the wolf. Reese was looking into the darkness of the corridor with narrowed eyes and hair on end. Ira squinted into the darkness but he didn't see anything, not like his dad could. Reese probably saw everything with perfect clarity like Ira would when he changed someday.
Ira closed his eyes and tried to listen harder to the atmosphere. He heard everyone's heavy breathing and the wolves growls, he heard water steadily drip, drip dripping off leaking pipes and standing water and Kim's footsteps now beside him. He only just noticed that Aaron was not breathing like the others or even at all. He opened his eyes wide scanning his mind and trying to figure out what this meant. He loved mythology and had been known to sit for hours with large books in his lap reading about werewolves, vampires and witches and much much older things. He assumed that since werewolves existed other things did too but he still wasn't sure. What could Aaron be? Someday he would travel the world and study them all.
His eyes flew open when he heard meal clanging and a howl reverberate down the long hallway. It bounced off the metal and walls and echoed making the danger seem twice as large. As his eyes adjusted to the dark again he saw his father and Morgan shoot off into the black. Ira turned to Kim who tensed and looked off into the gloom after them. He felt Aaron tense his muscles below him. His taut back and shoulders grew harder under Ira who slid to the floor and stepped up beside Aaron.
"Ira, into the cage," Kim ordered turning so swiftly Ira was surprised she didn't fall with the new center of balance created by how ever many babies were in her stomach. Ira hesitated but Aaron gripped his shoulder and pushed him towards the bars just as loud snarls and a yip bounced off the walls and floors. A fight had started as suddenly as the quiet had faded and it sounded like wolves fighting over territory on the nature shows he watched, another thing that enthralled him.
Ira pushed himself through the cage bars again squeezing and wiggling until he popped through to the other side. Kim's gaze was now fixed steadily down the hallway at the fighting and her body was apprehensively pointed towards the noise emanating from it. Suddenly she turned again and her hands gripped the bars looking in at him. "You need to stay in here sweetie, stay no matter what, understand?" she asked. Ira hesitated glancing down the hallway at where he could picture his dad ripping, tearing and biting.
"Ok." Ira nodded looking back at her. Her eyes were wide and her pupils were large showing her fear. She didn't fear death but she was terrified that Reese would be hurt or killed. She was practically bouncing on her feet wanting to be in the fight, not standing safely away. Aaron must have sensed this too because he set a hand on her shoulder murmuring something that Ira couldn't understand. They both looked at him suddenly and Ira coloured.
Ira fidgeted with the attention and winced when a roar boomed toward them and a howl of pain. It froze his blood in his veins. He desperately wanted to see what was going on but all he heard was the pain and the crunch of bones. Kim gasped and then put her hands over Ira's gripping the bars. "It will be ok," she assured. Ira nodded again absently as she stood giving some last instructions, stay here, be quiet and someone will find you. The last part made him look up sharply but she was already heading down the hallway gun raised with Aaron following her. He looked back and winked at Ira before they disappeared into the darkness. He was never sure why adults felt winking made things better. It didn't make sense to him.
He wanted to call out to them, beg them come back and take him away from here but he was a werewolf. Werewolves did not beg, they were brave and they dealt with whatever they had to. He stayed quiet instead watching after them and finally taking his stiff hands from the bars. He had to be proactive not inactive. This is what all the drills in Oz have prepared him for, all the middle of night wake up calls when they had to pretend to defend themselves against invisible threats, all the harshness and the pushing him to be someone he wasn't. He was a scholar not a warrior but Keith had not accepted that. It did look like all the things Keith and even Gavin made him go through might pay off though.
He turned and looked around the cage scanning for any weapons he could use or anything that could give him leverage. The light reached only a few feet in front of him and he suddenly realized he may not be alone. He swallowed pushing his fear down deep and taking a shaky step forward and then stopped listening. With every step his bare feet froze a little more. He did this three more times letting his eyes adjust enough to see a few feet ahead of himself at all times. When he reached the back wall he repeated the process to the left and right finally sighing in relief when he figured out he was alone.
He ignored the ache in his body and numb feeling spreading through his mind covering any emotions and pushing him to focus. Dropping to his knees he started searching the dirty dusty floor for anything he could use to defend himself. Down the hallway he heard Kim shout, an unfamiliar yell and the gun shot go off followed by another painful yip. He scrambled faster feeling the floor and scrapping up his hands even more in his desperation.
"Calm down and think of Asia," his mum's voice penetrated his frantic thoughts. This was something she often said to him though he had no idea what the Asia part meant. Ira often got caught up in frantic thoughts and anxieties. His mum had a variety of ways to calm him down everything from breathing to distractions like board games and getting him to write down his thoughts so he could break it down and find the root of the problem. He did this now sitting down and squeezing his eyes shut to think. He put his hands over his ears to block out some of the noise.
Once he was calmer he took his time searching the furthest corners of the cell. When his fingers touched something unfamiliar and sharp he picked it up gingerly seeing it was a large shard of a broken and dirty plate. He smiled in relief and stood heading to the front of the cage again and gripping the bars to look out. He thought he could see something now, movements in the shadows to go with the snarls and Kim's shout.
The metal felt cold between his hot and bleeding fingers and he pushed his body against the bars straining to see them and put a visual with the audio. He squinted gripping the sharp plate in one hand. A crash sounded down the corridor with more snarls and another gun shot. Suddenly he was sure he saw someone running down the hallway towards him, Kim. She looked terrified but Ira couldn't see why or where his father and the others were. Next he saw a giant monster burst from the shadows. He thought it was his father or Morgan at first but the wolf was twice as large as a typical werewolf, his eyes were glowing red and his teeth were filled with bone and blood.
Ira studied the unfamiliar wolf for a moment before realizing who he was, the bullet wounds in his chest were still bleeding and he had a few more to match, Hall. Not the Hall Ira knew but a giant ravaging monster that was intent on eating his step mother. Ira gripped the plate shard in his hand preparing to wiggle through the bars again but Kim's look froze him as if she knew exactly what he was going to do. He stayed put as she flew by the bars and Ira held his breath hoping not to be noticed. The wolf, Hall raced by as well with muscles straining and teeth and mouth glistening. Silvia dripped down to the floor as he ran marking his path along with the blood. Ira sucked a breath in and almost wretched at the smell of rotting meat and flesh. Something was very wrong.
He heard two howls from down the hallway seconds later. He craned his neck watching as Morgan and his father charged from the shadows bleeding and clearly in pain. Their eyes were only focused on Hall and Kim. The pain and the world beyond them didn't exist when their children and mates were in danger. Hall skidded to a stop a few feet from his cage and snapped his head around sniffing. Spittle flew and hit Ira's face and clothes. Hall roared at him and headed for the cage snapping at the bars and Ira as well.
He took a staggering step back watching as Hall clamped his jaws around the metal bars and tried to get to him without any luck. His father launched himself onto Hall's back clamping his teeth around the scruff of Hall's neck. Hall shook himself violently trying to dispel Reese but Morgan was copying Reese's moves. Hall was infuriated and looked even crazier than before trying to snap at one of them and shake them off.
He hadn't noticed Aaron was not there until he suddenly appeared again. Ira gasped in surprise more uncertain about him then he had been about Hall. Aaron's face was pulled back in a dangerous teeth baring grimace and his eyes were wild with hunger as he threw himself on Hall joining Reese and Morgan. Ira had no idea what Aaron was, though he had assumed he was a half demon, now he knew that Aaron was a predator and just as dangerous as the werewolves.
Ira shook himself and moved forward fast taking the plate shard and jamming it into one of Hall's paws that was sticking a few inches into the cage. He howled letting Aaron, Reese and Morgan get better holds with the distraction and Kim move forward to fire off her last few shots hitting Hall in the head. He made a guttural noise and gave one final shake before falling to the ground. His sides heaved and he looked suddenly focused and confused. His red eyes faded and became the usual odd ocean colour Ira was familiar with.
Ira pulled the shard from Hall's paw and dropped to his knees crawling closer. He set a hand above the wounded area ignoring Kim telling him to step back. Hall's eyes rolled to focus on his. He saw regret and fear mixed together. Ira smiled strained but determined. "It's ok," he whispered, "Josef did this not you," Ira assured. He understood the situation better then he knew the others would. Josef had hurt him too. That he forced Hall to change and made him go crazy did not surprise him.
Hall made a whimpering noise before the light started to fade from his eyes. Ira lifted a hand to Hall's head and ear petting gently as he laid his head on the hard cold floor and closed his oddly unique eyes. Finally he sides stopped heaving and he went still. A torrent of emotions crashed through Ira as Hall took his last breath. He both liked and disliked the werewolf so he wasn't sure how he should feel now. He was sad but also dismissive of the situation. He had seen how other children reacted to death but he just wasn't like that. Another thing he was just odd about him he supposed.
Ira looked up when Hall was gone. All four adults were staring at him like ravenous hunters not having shaken the animals off yet. Finally Kim spoke asking if he was alright. Ira nodded glancing at Aaron and the wolves. Morgan and Reese were both lying on the floor now licking bloody wounds and Aaron had turned away pinching the bridge of his nose. He hadn't noticed how hurt any of them were before but surprisingly they seemed unscathed. They were all bloody and had multiple cuts and scratches and Morgan looked like he had a chunk taken from his shoulder. Four on one must have guaranteed their safety.
Ira stood and wiped his bloody hand on his shirt. "Ira can you…," Kim started to ask but gasped before she was done and fell to one knee dropping the gun. Reese was immediately on his paws trotting to her and looking up at her. Kim had one hand on her stomach looking strained. Aaron looked over fully back to normal now and then rushed to her side taking her shoulders. All his father could do was whine and paw the ground looking up at her.
Ira wiped his hands on his shirt again and started squeezing through the bars. When he popped out he almost tripped over Hall's enormous body and over Morgan rushing to get to Kim as well. "Tell me what you need," Aaron said. Kim shook her head as Ira stepped to their side. He put a hand on his dad's head petting him again and scratching his ear. His father was whining still not able to do anything.
"You overdid it, Kim," Ira said and she nodded and took a deep breath. His mum had been pregnant once when he was five and she overdid it too. He remembered her straining to reach the laundry hanging from a high line and she gasped and almost fell. She was confined to bed rest from then on. One day Ira came into the kitchen for breakfast to see his mum sitting at the table and no longer pregnant. She didn't talk about and he didn't ask but he knew even then. He hadn't wanted to lose his brother or sister then and suddenly he didn't want to lose this sibling either even if he wasn't sure what the baby's birth would mean for him.
The static of the walkie-talkie coming to life startled Ira who instinctively reached for the equipment on Kim's side at the same time as Aaron. Kim shook her head and swatted both their hands taking the walkie-talkie and clicking it on to answer Elena. She described their position and ETA and then told her everything was fine. As soon as she clicked the device off and stood Reese growled at her biting at the walkie-talkie. "She's got enough on her plate right now Reese, I'll be fine," Kim assured rubbing Reese's ear like Ira had before.
His father disagreed and shook his head in an awkward gesture. "There's nothing we can do about it now. Let's get upstairs," Aaron said. Ira looked up at him when he spoke. He was trying to hide his worry. He had no doubt that he would be telling Elena about Kim and Ira was surprised he was grateful. When he stood back and looked at his emotions he found that he was becoming attached to his new family against his will. Maybe it was what he went through or maybe it was just that it was human nature to do this. It annoyed him more than anything.
The walk out of the basement was tense. Ira walked beside his father with one hand in his fur feeling his muscles and shoulders bunch and move as he walked. Aaron stayed in front of them now and Morgan trotted behind them. Ira didn't think he would be comfortable with a werewolf walking behind him but Morgan was pack and the pack had come for him. His instinct told him to trust them and now he found he could. His trust was coming easier now with his father and the others too. It was scary but it relaxed him.
The trip upstairs was uneventful which put them all on edge. It hadn't been easy to get where they had gotten but it still seemed like something would come out of the endless hallways and offices and try and kill them. Ira was constantly closing his eyes to walk through corridors and floors filled with dead bodies trying not to see. He'd seen enough death, blood and fangs to last him a very long time. Finally they made it to the top floor taking elevators and stairs and Ira breathed a sigh of relief relaxing even more.
When they entered Josef's office everyone looked up at them. Elena immediately walked forward and brushed a stray hair from Ira's forehead looking down at him and smiling. "Are you ok, hon?" she asked. Ira nodded as Morgan and his father walked off to change and Ira let his hand slip through the silky fur once more before his father turned quickly and licked him with a chuff like a laugh.
Ira followed Kim across the room where she sat down on the couch almost sitting on the floor by the coffee table instead which was his customary place. He sat close by letting his will go and his instincts take hold. As he settled he watched Elena turn from caring mother or aunt to the Alpha giving orders that were quickly obeyed.
Ira wiggled until he was comfy and then glanced around disoriented waiting for Josef to pop out. When he didn't he gave Elena a look and then the others standing near her. He visibly felt and saw them all stiffen at his confusion knowing exactly what he wanted to know but no one answered.
"Where is Josef?"
Kim hesitated a moment waiting for Elena to answer. "He's not a concern anymore." Ira smirked at this hoping they meant the man was dead. He wouldn't learn until years later that Sean and Josef had met in a final showdown. Josef was about to throw a lightning bolt and kill Sean but Sean was quicker. He struck his uncle dead and just like that the cabal was his.
The news made him the happiest he had been for the first time in a week. All eyes turned to him and he felt someone suck in a breath behind him. His father stood behind the couch sweaty and breathing hard. The wolf was clear in his eyes still and he was only half dressed in jeans, bare feet and an open shirt. He stumbled around the furniture and fell onto the couch pulling Ira onto his lap and hugging him so tightly his aching and sore body pulsed with pain. The tightness of the hug calmed him though.
"Ok, buddy?" Reese asked in his ear and Ira nodded slightly. He knew his father would say a lot more later but not in the middle of a meeting. His father sighed and sniffed his hair kissing the blonde and long tangled mess before letting him go. Ira's skin burned, he wasn't used to being touched now at all but he was used to this burn. He turned and settled between Kim and Reese again who held hands between him. Ira's feet dangled over the couch but he could still see the tops of his dirty and scraped up toes that were splotched with blood like the rest of him.
"Your kid's got balls Reese," Aaron chuckled. Ira blushed. He was brave and he knew it.
"It's hereditary," Nick announced with got more laughter and broke the tension in the air a bit.
"Kimmy, are you ok?" Ira heard his father whisper. He glanced up as his dad's worried eyes hit Kim. She nodded and told him not to worry about it then. It looked as if his father had a hard time doing this but he nodded and gripped her hand harder. He sensed he could trust his father to know if something was really wrong and Kim to actually tell him. Ira glanced at her growing stomach wondering if the baby was ok and wondering why he cared so much suddenly.
The next hour was filled with discussion and arguing, decisions and, for Ira, confusion. He was nodding off sitting close to his dad and allowing him to have an arm around his shoulder, while they talked one of the cabal doctors, under the pack's watchful eyes, checked him over bandaging, cleaning and disinfecting. Ira was sure it hurt, he winced and made small hissing noises but he didn't complain. He never did.
He listened to the steady beating of his dad's heart as he processed what they were speaking about. Ira was smart enough to understand that Sean was now in charge of the cabal but there was also a contract that Elena was drawing up with him to do with the cabals and werewolves, specifically the pack. The Nast Cabal could not take part in any werewolf matters which included keeping mutts for any purpose. If a mutt was bothering them the cabal would contact the pack and have them deal with it. Another clause stated that all experimental information about the werewolves would be given to the pack and they would destroy it. At this point Aaron stated that they should do this with vampire matters as well.
The puzzling part for Ira was when Elena stated that the Nast Cabal would help them destroy all information they had about werewolves and get any werewolves in custody out for the pack to deal with including vampires. Ira opened his eyes when he heard this catching Noah's eye when he did so. The older wolf winked at Ira who started at him unemotional, he remembered what Josef had said, and looked past him at Aaron with realization dawning.
Without thinking he looked at the window and the shaft of sunlight splitting the couch in half and bathing the man in its glow. Aaron hadn't felt cold at all and he hadn't tried to suck Ira's blood. It still made him uncomfortable though especially when he remembered Aaron's awful expression. Reese looked down at him when he tensed and then followed him gaze to Aaron. In the next second he took Ira's chin and lifted it to see his eyes. "Staring is rude." Ira swallowed and nodded letting his dad's hand fall away and feeling the burn leave with it but he snuck glances at the vampire anyway.
His look asked the question he didn't need to speak out loud. He stayed at his dad's side as they stood and didn't dare look at his dad's face which he was sure was looking disapproving at him for staring.
Aaron chuckled and nodded. "Yeah, kid, I'm a vampire but I'm not the blood sucking kind," he answered and winked. Ira scrunched up his face confused as Kim apologized for her son's rudeness; Ira did not miss that, and Reese told him it was past time to go. Ira swallowed and continued to watch the vampire until they were out of sight feeling uneasy but brimming with questions about him and vampires in general. He didn't dare ask them.
Coming back to Stonehaven had been like going to a place you hadn't seen since you were a child. He half expected the windows to be boarded up, cobwebs to cover the corners and doorways and dust to be the main inhabitant. He couldn't say why or how he expected that his cousins and the other pack kids would be grown up and he'd be the only young one. Maybe this was just wishful thinking.
He was taking off his shoes and Kim was pulling off his coat, much to his annoyance, he wasn't five after all, when soft footfalls echoed on the steps. Ira looked up as Kim got the coat off, more difficult with his arm, and hung it up watching Nita appeared. When she saw him she smiled making Ira smile as well and blush. He looked down at his hand quickly and then back up. Had she noticed how she affected him?
"You're supposed to be in bed," Kim said softly after hugging her. She nodded not taking her eyes off of Ira. Ira couldn't stop watching her either. The way her long eyelashes curled a bit against her tanned skin and how her big brown eyes sparked with gold when she was focused, he saw the slight blush creep up her cheeks as well. Reese clearing his throat was the only thing that brought him out of the world they had created.
Ira concentrated on taking his book bag off and his father took the handle telling him gently it was bed time and they had had a long trip. Ira nodded distracted and suddenly wide awake. It had been a long trip back and he had slept quite a bit but he hadn't talked, he hadn't wanted to talk about any of it since they left L.A.
"I'm glad you're ok," Nita suddenly said from much closer than she had been before. Ira looked up surprised as she suddenly hugged him lightly. Ira jerked not used to being touched, his own choice, but automatically his arms came up and he hugged her back closing his eyes. She smelled like cinnamon and sugar. He liked it.
When she finally let go Ira was blushing out his toes but he was happy. "Ok, Nita, bed," Reese reminded. She nodded and hugged both Reese and Kim before scurrying up the stairs. Ira watched until the bottom of her white nightgown and her small feet disappeared. He swallowed and looked at his own feet curled in his white socks. "You too, buddy," Reese said setting a hand on Ira's shoulder. He allowed it. He almost lost his dad, lost the pack and now he needed to know his father was there and the pack was there. He needed to be ok with this now.
Ira nodded feeling tired once again and trudged upstairs after saying hi to Jeremy and Jaime. Jaime smiled and Jeremy's eyes lit up which Ira knew was a good sign. He didn't know them well but he was a child and he learned that, unlike children in the Aussie pack, he was valuable here just for being young and for being someone who would contribute to the pack in the future.
He undressed carefully and stepped into a hot shower feeling like he was melting with the steam and the water beading on his skin and running off. His father hadn't spoken much since they left the cabals. Kim told him to give Ira some space but the man hadn't left his side. He was now outside sitting on the toilet now looking over email on his phone and taking care of smaller work things. Ira reluctantly accepted his help with washing his hair and drying off. Soon his second wind subsided and his father's guiding hand was the only thing keeping him upright as he stumbled into the room and onto the bed not even bothering to get under the covers.