He once told Ira they could meet in their dreams when they both slept, even if they were not together. He had gotten the idea from an old movie Kim had watched with Clary and the girls while Ira was off ignoring the world. The boy was upset Reese had to go away again so he proposed a compromise. One big things he had learned to do since Ira came into their lives.
"How about we have a dream date?" Ira raised an eyebrow at this weird man. Reese had come in moments earlier and sat beside him. Ira had been playing a new game and Reese wanted to know the rules. There were three pairs of sharp scissors and scattered magazines and books. Ira was cutting out words and scenes and he told Reese that the objective was to cut out all the bad ones so only the good remained.
He wasn't sure it was worth mentioning that the magazine Ira was cutting up was one Antonio had just received, and hadn't read yet, or that one was Kim's newest book that she was really enjoying. Some things were not worth fighting about especially when Ira would just make a face not understanding or pretending not to understand anyway.
"What's that?" Ira asked scrunching up his nose. This was one of the last times he actually heard his son's voice so he cherished the odd memory. Reese chuckled and answered that they could meet and do whatever they wanted to while Reese was away they just had to do it in their dreams. Ira thought it was dumb but while Reese was away the boy called and suggested a time and place.
Reese couldn't help thinking about the dream date and the place Ira chose. They met inside his closet where they had posted the words they had cut from the books and magazines, all except the ones about sex which Ira made a face at. He pretended he did not know what sex was or anything about it but he always reacted strangely to it making Reese wonder, and dread how much exposure he had gotten.
They had talked for hours about nothing and stared up at the ceiling painted a few months ago, blue with glow in dark constellations. Ira said it was better in the closet; it was like his own private world. Reese had no idea how many times they found him camped out in the small space sleeping there all night, reading there during the day or drawing, singing or acting out a favorite play or scene. He pretended he never did half of these things. Ira lived in his closet half the time escaping there when he was in a temper, bored, sad or lonely he went to the closet. He was predictable in this way.
Reese could still feel the comforters piled up under them, still smell his son's scent on the soft pillows and the comfortable world he had built for himself. He remembered the first time he saw the small teddy bear Ira pretended he didn't have crammed in the corner until he was alone and could hug it. Reese clutched the bear in his hand. He had been carrying it with him and he looked down at it now. A classic little grey bear with a blue nose and small patches on his puffed out tummy and forehead. They had gotten it for him shortly after he arrived and he acted like he was much too old for it. Afterwards the bear had disappeared and they assumed Dom or Clary had gotten a hold of it until one night they found Ira in the closet, one of the first nights, and he was holding the bear tightly to his chest in sleep.
Reese was desperate to give him back the bear; his little black beady eyes stared at him sadly like he knew his owner was missing. "You know he told me the bear's name is Ariu, it is apparently Albanian for bear." Reese nodded gripping the toy harder and banishing the water from his eyes. His son was a little nut ball but he was Reese's little nut ball and god did he ever love that kid.
"Fuel up, we're heading out soon," Elena announced. Her voice was a little stronger now. Her hand often went to her throat absently touching the bandage. The pain must have been a ragged throbbing but she never complained. She was the Alpha and complaining was not on their To Do lists.
He had spoken to Kim a minute before his thoughts turned to his son again. The babies hadn't come yet. They were stubborn like their dad, the though made him smile, it was a family trait after all, and Paige had announced that if they didn't come within the next twelve hours they would induce labour. Maybe he would get to see the birth of his children after all. For now they were safe and his thoughts were solely on the child that wasn't.
"Eat something," Nick ordered shoving the pizza box his way. Two people walking into a pizza shop at 2 am and ordering ten extra-large pizzas was a bit out of the ordinary but the pizza place, a small out of the way Italian eatery, was only too happy to fill the order and take the giant tip.
Reese accepted the box and obediently shoved the last box of ten pizza slices in not tasting anything. He was chewing the last bite and on his feet before he swallowed ready to go, recharged.
They split up again searching the city, every abandoned building, every out of the way location. They were too few and the city was much too large. Keith let slip their first location on purpose but he was well hidden and the countdown clock was ticking fast. They had an hour before Ira was gone forever; an hour before their world fell apart that would determine the course of Reese's life. Save his son and stay with the pack or chase Keith around the world until he was dead.
"What about Delk Industries?" Noah asked leaning over the wheel and looking out over the city. They were parked on a high bluff overlooking the twinkling lights with maps spread out on two IPad's they were comparing.
"Too small," Reese mumbled.
"The warehouse by the docks, owned by the city I think," Nick piped up from the back seat going over his own map.
"Too exposed," Noah answered touching his screen and moving it around. Their part of the city could not have been bigger but it seemed to be shrinking by the second.
Reese sighed and sat back setting the IPad aside and looking over the city instead. "He would never have given us the countdown if we couldn't reach him in time. Keith isn't like that. He likes to play his games to the end and to him Ira is just a play thing. They have to be within half an hour of the warehouse location."
"We checked, we looked there was no place he could hide a kid and the rest of the mutts, no place where….," Noah trailed off as his thoughts wandered. Noah had been always been different, born with a different brain because of the FAE which meant he thought differently than everyone else. That was an asset like Jeremy being different for the benefit of the pack. It's also what made the man a successful cop.
"Noah, drop to earth," Nick reminded flicking him in the back of the head. Noah didn't react for a moment. Suddenly he was jamming the on button for he key fob car. Gravel was thrown up and hit the car as they screeched from the parking lot. Nick swerved sideways catching the seat before he bashed into the side of the car.
"What the hell Noah!" Reese growled grabbing the door handle so his shoulder would not make contact with the window and give his skin another colourful bruise.
"Sewers, they're in the sewers," he announced hurtling down the hill way past the speed limit. Reese looked back at Nick wide eyed and then grabbed for the phone calling Elena. "It makes sense. He showed the video of putting the Ira into the trunk in the building we found Daniella and Gavin in but since the location has changed in minutes. We just couldn't figure it out."
"It was easy for him to make the switch since he was so close; we need to go back, now," Reese demanded.
"Where do you think we are going?" Noah asked sarcastically. They pulled onto Main Street and Noah sped down the street at lightning speed taking the police siren from the dashboard and giving it to Nick who opened the window and slammed it on top of the car. As soon as the siren started blaring the cars scattered. From the other side of the street another car siren blared and met them in the intersection. Elena.
"You always said the best thing about being a police officer was the blaring sirens," Nick grinned. Noah nodded taking the lead as the others followed. "Also, take note Noah, the Alpha is following your lead, bud," he grinned. Noah stayed silent but secret grin spread across his face.
The sewer system stopped thirty feet from the original warehouse location. Another sweep of the building, and a quick call to Savannah to hack into city records, revealed a hidden sewer entrance buried under the wall Gavin had been held in. "See, he likes to play games," Reese sighed annoyed but hopeful once again.
He'd stopped scratching long ago, the air was thin and he carefully sucked in deep breaths trying to conserve it. There were no sounds now. It was as if he was stuck in a black hole and he would always be there, floating and falling. Something bigger was happening than Keith and this trunk. He was breathing carefully because his skin was pulsing. If he could have looked at it he would have seen the black snakes under his pale skin, like black creatures moving and bubbling. He would have seen his eyes blood shot and pupils dilated like he had taken too many drugs. Sweating, straining, convulsing and nauseous just like the teenagers he would see in Oz.
Keith would always let the younger kids watch and see what a change was like to know exactly what it should feel like. He'd been watching since he was three, he memorized the signs and what to do but he couldn't do any of that right now. He was stuck in a box and he might die there or change there.
The big question was why he was changing so early in life. The mystery was the only thing he could do to keep himself from freaking out. Stress could bring on a change but not in someone so young. He shouldn't be changing so early unless he had two werewolf parents. He did have one werewolf parent one grandparent and his mother had the blood. He was 75% werewolf and only 25% human technically.
Ira thought hard about this to keep the image of his dad popping into his head and of Kim and the babies but especially his mum. His mother needed him and he was stuck in here. She was being…he couldn't think the word at all. It had been happening his whole life but it didn't hurt more than it did right now.
Another wave of pain hit him hard and he gasped biting his tongue to keep from crying out. He felt his arm and the hair there contracting and growing. It was course and thick and he wondered suddenly if it would be blonde. It made sense. His dad was a blonde wolf and he should be too.
Ira gasped again and bent as much as he could to clutch his stomach. He couldn't help it, he yelled and kicked and screamed for it to go away, just go away. Everything was tight and suddenly he clothes were threatening to rip off of him. Ira screamed again. The air was hot and tight and his head throbbed. The pain spiking through every part of his body caused him to jerk and smack his head into the side of the trunk but the pain was nothing compared to everything else going on.
As suddenly as the pain came on it was over, Ira panted and closed his eyes whining and too exhausted to move. A wave of exhaustion covered his brain and he floated into blackness curling up inside his torn clothes unable to think about anything but sleep.
They'd been walking for half an hour sniffing scents or trying to over the stinking sewage. The sewer system had an exit every fifty feet up to the street and two tunnels leading to other tunnels every fifteen feet. There was no clue as to where the mutt's had taken Ira or where they were holed up now.
Nick sighed again complaining about his leather shoes and the water, comparing it to the ugly parka he had to wear in Alaska ten years previous. Reese ignored them and concentrated on Ira's trail or anyone's he recognized. He smelled Daniella and it was hard not to recoil in disgust like he had every time he even thought about her for a decade. She had one purpose in life right then, to help him find Ira but beyond that he didn't know or care.
"Are you sure he isn't leading us in another game?" Noah sighed. Reese shook his head. He could never be sure with Keith.
"Even if he is this is the only lead we have."
He concentrated on the sound of his feet splashing in the sewage walking over sodden trash and soggy things he did not want to think about. More than once the smell of dead or dismembered rat or raccoon assaulted his nose and senses.
When he took the next step his foot landed on something that crunched. He stopped and Noah almost ran into him. He crouched down and reached into the green slim feeling around until he found the hard plastic and glass object. When he brought it up to examine it he saw it was a phone, a very new model now destroyed by the sewage and his foots. His instinct was to sniff it but he didn't dare.
"It has to be theirs," Noah confirmed. Reese nodded and dropped the phone into a little plastic baggy Noah always carried with him for evidence.
"Two choices," Nick said speaking for the first time in half an hour. He gestured to the tunnel straight ahead or to the left. Reese crouched and sniffed along the edges getting nothing. He walked down the left passageway, looking hard at the sloshing water and filthy rounded walls. He walked a few feet in seeing nothing out of the ordinary until he kicked some crumbled paper out of the way. It flew against the wall and bounced off on his leg again. Reese ignored it but Noah caught it on the way down.
He rolled it up and twisted it to get the water out and then opened it up. It was a map of London with pictures drawn all over it. Silently he handed it to Reese who clenched the clue in his hand and studied his son's drawings. Gone were the pictures of buildings and people to be replaced by pictures of monsters and demons. His sketching reflected his emotions and this said he was very unhappy and scared.
"It's got to be him. I once woke up with that same monster drawn on my cheek and thought it was Dom or Clary but they were both still asleep. Only your little monster was awake," Nick winked. Reese snorted at this and crumpled up the paper putting it in another baggy.
"This was them."
"Reese, where are you?" a voice suddenly crackled from the walkie-talkie at his side. Noah reached for it and told them. "We're almost there, stay put," she ordered. Elena and the others were making their way slowly through the tunnels while Reese went ahead.
"They'll find us," Reese said taking back the walkie and starting forward again.
"I mean is Reese," Elena's voice said chillingly. Reese stopped in his tracks flexing his hands short a few fingers and trying to reign in his agitation. His son was in danger and she wanted him to wait. He paced back and forth sloshing water and letting the anger mount.
Noah sighed at one point and suddenly Reese found himself flying forward. He hit a wall hard and fell into the disgusting water disoriented. When he found his feet he turned fast glaring at Noah who was frowning in concentration. "What the hell?" he growled. Noah came forward trying to hit him again and ducked when Reese threw a punch beyond annoyed.
"Get it out," Noah answered. It was something he had said to Noah plenty of times before. Reese growled at him meaning for him to go away. Noah smiled evilly and came at Reese again, getting pay back for years of this from Reese. In the background he saw Nick put a hand to his face shaking his head.
"Noah I am so serious right now." The man kept coming forward and Reese raised a hand pushed him back familiar from practice. They both knew their parts well and circled one another eager for a hit and ignoring Nick's voice in the background. They weren't teenagers anymore.
"Stop, now. We need to concentrate on finding Ira," Elena barked. Her body followed her voice and she appeared in the doorway. Her eyes glowed with annoyance.
"Just trying to blow off some steam," Noah answered backing up in mid-block. Reese lowered his hands rubbed his eyes.
"Can we go now? My son…,"
"I know Reese but I'm not sending any of us in without a huge amount of backup. I understand the significance of the situation. This is the plan," she began. They would go in together and if it was too dangerous they would find a way out and regroup, re-plan. Reese wasn't leaving without his son though so they might need to go to plan B in the middle of plan A.
With Elena leading them, Clay slightly ahead, they navigated the way through the rest of the passageways. The tunnels came out after multiple twists and turns under another building in what seemed like a basement storage room. Elena didn't need to tell them where to go, to be quiet or how to act. They were a well formed team which is why they always won, not because they were bigger and badder, though they were most of the time, because they were organized, they knew who their leader was and they were well trained. There was a difference between hitting one another and learning to adapt or a punching bag once in a while and just honing your skills.
They fanned out along the hallway moving silently and listening to the voices of the men coming from a room further ahead. Elena waved hem forward and then held up a hand outside the door. Under the men's talking and laughing they could hear a quiet resigned sobbing like the person being hurt could not voice the pain anymore.
Elena held up her fingers counting down to three before she nodded to Clay who kicked the door open. Reese followed them in and stopped in his tracks. He hadn't been there but flash backs of reading about his mother's own rape in a local paper hit him hard. There were five other werewolves and Daniella. He quickly came out of his stupor and roared in anger surging forward and ripping into the first naked man. Their advantage was surprise and the fact that all the men were unclothed. He was sure Keith told them to be on the lookout but other things took too much of their concentration.
Reese threw the mutt to the floor and landed on his stomach punching him fiercely in the jaw and head over and over again like his first fight with a neighbour boy. No technique just rage. The boy had kicked his dog, of course he was angry. Blood flew coating him as he hit with blind fury. When he finally stopped he wiped a hand across his eyes and looked up assessing the situation. The other mutts have been subdued and tied up and the men, and pack, were watching Reese.
Elena was holding a crying Daniella up. She blinked and held out a hand whispering his name. He hesitated but stood and walked forward. "Where is my son?" he asked taking her hand and embracing her. He hated her but this should never had happened and she was still the mother of his child. He let go of her as soon as he thought it was appropriate and let Elena deal with her.
"I…don't know," she rasped and then began sobbing again hugging Elena now who he could tell did not want to be in this position. "They…t…took him from…I'm..s..so sorry."
"I need to find him," Reese stated and turned. He heard Elena order someone to take Daniella and he heard her follow him out. She didn't say anything as Reese walked listening and pulling open doors to look for Ira and other mutts. The pack silently followed the empty trail.
Reese paused when he opened the door furthest from the right. Suddenly he understood where everyone else was. Keith was smiling when Reese stepped inside. Ten other mutts were arrayed around him. Directly behind him was the trunk.
"It's about time. He ran out of air ten minutes ago," Keith mentioned casually.
Reese started forward but Elena gripped his shoulder. "Keith, give us the boy and I will grant you're men a fast death and you not the slow one I had planned," Elena announced. Keith looked at the watch on his wrist and shook his head with a click of his tongue.
"Tick tock," he chuckled.
Reese sucked in a breath and glanced at his Alpha who told them they had one more chance. When Keith smiled Elena nodded slightly and the pack spread out. Reese stayed focused on Keith who backed up and sat on the trunk drumming his fingers on the wood. The mutts stood in front of him blocking his view and tensing.
"Now." Reese surged ahead and fake punched the first mutt he came to distracting him and coming in from the other side. He wanted this fight done as soon as possible so he could get to Keith and his son. The mutt, the same size, height and seeming experience as Reese, caught on quickly and started taking the same route copying him; fake punch, real punch, fake kick, fake kick, real and then fake once again. It was impossible to tell and he had to push Ira and the trunk from his mind and focus on the mutt in front of him to get the advantage.
He ducked a left side hook and sent an upper cut towards the mutt's jaw not bothering to fake anything anymore. In a flurry of furious kicks and angry punches he took the mutt to the ground grabbed his head and smashed it into the floor just in time for another one to jump on his back.
Reese roared and threw him off hard making the man hit the wall with an audible crack. He had a second to look around him. Every pack member was engaged in a fight and the injuries seemed to be even on both sides. Reese didn't interfere while Clay throat punched a mutt, while Noah's arm was ratcheted behind him and it snapped and he grimaced in pain but kicked the mutt in the head or with Elena choking another mutt to death.
He turned his attention to Keith who was sitting on the trunk watching and grinned while the fighting went on. With Reese watching he knocked on the trunk and said Ira's name softly frowning and then shrugging when he didn't hear anything. Reese growled and rushed forward knowing in his mind he should be more careful but his son was in there and he could be dying or dead.
He rushed Keith who stood immediately and met the charge throwing Reese off a bit and letting him get in a gut punch. Reese's breath rushed out and he blocked the next punch and threw a weak one of his own letting Keith kick out his legs. He felt his back hit the concrete hard, pain radiated up and down his spine. He groaned as Keith dropped down onto him and started punching his face with nothing held back. Reese caused his senses and jammed his knee into Keith's crotch after five painful hits to the face making him suck in a breath and stopping him cold.
He grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him down smashing his head against Keith's to stun him. The pack were finished with their fights freshly bleeding and wounded arranged around them to watch. He got the chance to punch Keith in the throat making him loosen his grip so he could flip him over and sent a barrage of punches to his face and head. Reese's back protested as he punched, the pain reached the agonizing level of a change taking his breath away.
The split second he stopped Keith reached up but Clay's hand came down hard smashing him in the temple. The mutt lay stunned bleeding from the head and wheezing. Reese took a deep breath and settled back, his back cracked and grimaced. Determined he stood and looked at the trunk. He took a stepped forward stumbling with the pain and gasping. Immediately Antonio grabbed him and lowered him to the ground.
"Ira," he said through gritted teeth. Elena said she had him and walked to the trunk. With Nicks help she snapped the locks and opened the wooden lid. He expected to smell his son, smell fear and pain but only the old odour of mahogany and iron met his nose.
"Nothing," Elena informed. She turned and glared at Keith holding his bleeding nose on the floor. "Where is he?" she demanded taking a threatening step forward. The pack followed her lead.
Keith started laughing, the sound of someone who had a secret and was unwilling to share. His big boom of sick mirth followed him as he turned his head towards his phone on the floor dripping more blood into the pool under him. Antonio walked forward and picked it up glancing at the screen.
"Ten minutes," he informed them and turned the cracked glass to show them the countdown timer.
"Look like someone will soon have a new pet. Ten minutes until the auction is over."
Reese froze where he was. Ira wasn't here. He could be anywhere in the world being sold to anyone for his werewolf blood or his impressionable age or both. It was like the mad man who wanted to steal the twins and sell them on the black market before they were even born. Ten minutes and his son's blood could be anywhere, ten minutes and his life, both their lives were over.
He was up despite the pain before he knew it flying at Keith and finishing off what he began. He was screaming at the man but he didn't know what. The pain in his back, the ringing in his ears was all background noise like Elena's voice and all the others. It only took a few seconds for hands to grab him and pull him off and for voices to close in on him.