He had been cursing himself all morning about the other night. He had really wanted to call his mum and he even had an elaborate plan to sneak the phone to the tree house. It worked, and he had been congratulating himself on his cleverness, but when he opened the old style flip phone, he saw the battery was dead. Angrily he threw it against the boards and watched it smash to pieces. That satisfied him for a moment until he had to go back to contemplating his original problem.
Now, hours later and with a bit of a cooled temper, Ira looked up at the two teens in front of him and then at Clay and Elena. The twins looked just like their parents and they were apparently full werewolves. That meant they would be stronger than normal wolves, stronger than him anyway. He greeted them politely like his mum had taught him and the two said "hi" as well. They were a bit scary and a bit fascinating.
At home Ira and the other kid's usually stayed away from the teenagers who had a tendency towards aggression and were used to taking that out on the younger kids. Keith always dismissed this as pack bonding and kids being kids but, when he came into the house with a black eye, Ira swore the whole country heard his mum yelling at the teen, Mark, who did it. He almost winced at the memory. After that Keith had ordered the teens to be more careful lest all the wives and mothers rise up and bludgeon them in their sleep. He was joking Ira thought but he wasn't so sure.
After he met the twins Elena told them the meeting was starting and the twins were watching Clary, Dom, Nita and himself. Of the adult wolves he had now officially met the members that hadn't been at the park the other day like Morgan, Jeremy and Karl. Morgan was a red head and he was quick to smile. When Ira pointed out he had a weird accent he chuckled and told him he was from far away as well and they should have a weird accent contest soon. Ira looked at him strangely but didn't reply and Reese muttered that Ira didn't necessarily understand jokes. That wasn't true. Ira understood jokes but his father simply wasn't that funny.
Karl looked like his mum's banker in Melbourne. He was big but he looked like he would be better at business than he was at fighting. He smiled slightly at Ira but he seemed resigned around the pack members like he had to be there. Until he smiled at his daughter, Nita, Ira was pretty sure he was a statue or a vampire. He'd never met a vampire and he doubted their existence anyway.
Ira instantly liked Jeremy who was tall and had dark hair and eyes. When he smiled the happiness reached his eyes which didn't happen with many adults. He crouched and shook Ira's hand; virtually the only part of his skin that wasn't sensitive, like he was a friend and told him there was ice cream in the freezer when he got hungry. Yeah, he liked Jeremy.
"Guys, show Ira a good time ok?" Noah said draping his arms around Kate and Logan's shoulders. The twins nodded simultaneously as Noah winked at Ira and followed the others into the study. Ira turned to the twins expectantly and took a step back waiting. He'd watch them carefully to evaluate how they compared to a normal werewolf. Having two full blood werewolves in the pack would probably make them one of the strongest packs in the world. The advantage was enormous.
"Can we go to your room Kate?" Nita asked pulling on her sleeve. Nita was his age and he thought he had never seen someone, besides Irene, who was so pretty. She had darker skin like the Sorrentino's and huge blue eyes. Her hair was dark, like black ink, and curled around her shoulder and she blushed when Ira smiled at her. Ira was sure he blushed too but then it felt like he was betraying Irene and so he looked away quickly studying his feet. Someday he would get back to her and he had to be able to tell her she was and still is the only one. Just like in the movies his mum always said. She also said he had a romantic heart.
Kate and Logan were as different as night and day or so he saw on first appearances. Kate seemed like a typical teenager, she had her mom's hair colouring and her dad's curls. She was tall and lean and her attitude shone for miles. Logan had straight hair and his dad's colouring. At thirteen he was already showing lean muscle and he was quick to smile like Nick. He seemed nicer than his dad too which probably wasn't hard.
"Just a sec," Kate said and called her mother back before she could fully leave, "mom, we should be at the meeting. We should not be babysitting. Logan and I have almost fully changed which means we are almost fully werewolves and pack member. Why are we stuck with the little kids?" she asked and Logan, looking a bit guilty, nodded.
"I'm not a little kid," Ira protested but no one paid attention. He sent an exasperated look to Nita who rolled her eyes as well mouthing "me either". Clary was too busy chasing her brother around to pay any attention but from what Ira saw she would have taken the most offense so it was a good thing Dom was so distracting. Nick had deposited him into Clary's arms as soon as they headed into the meeting but thanks to some secret chocolate Antonio had given them in the car, before the others came out; the baby was wound for sound.
"I know but soon you'll be able to join the meetings, ok. Right now I really need you guys to help with the kids. I'll give you both a full blown account after the meeting, I promise." Kate accepted this with a sigh and Logan nodded but neither looked happy. "Guys, remember how we talked about a bit more allowance?" she reminded. Both of the teens brightened and suddenly seemed more amiable to the task after the reminder.
"Alright, let's go to the rooms then. Clary, do you need help?" Kate called. Clary shook her head. She was used to Dominic and his wiggles and the toddler seemed to really only like her anyway. Normally Vanessa would have been taking care of him, or so Ira heard when Nick spoke to her on the way, but she had been delayed so Ira would not meet her until tomorrow.
Ira looked around Logan's room wonderingly. It seemed to be made of machines and inventions. They encompassed his room from the top down whirling, twisting, waving and moving. One along the ceiling went around the room and kept circling; it kind of looked like a train. Another one against the wall started near the window and it tunnels and pipes ended at an alarm clock. Ira assumed that you put something inside and it set off other things like a button or a pull string to eventually start the alarm. It was amazing. Everywhere he looked there was something new. On the walls were posters of the solar system, the periodic table, Einstein and others things Ira considered super smart and really liked himself. In fact he same picture of Einstein on his bedroom wall at home. Maybe he and Logan could get along after all.
"This is amazing." Logan nodded and grinned falling down on his bed and grabbing a book while Ira continued to gawk. He walked around picking up a coin collection and finding one from Australia which gave him a pang of longing.
"Did you go to Oz?" he asked. Logan shook his head and sat up setting the book down. It was one Ira had read recently and one of his favorites, The Name of the Wind, about magic, war and love, some of his favorite subjects.
"No, we're not allowed to go there. Your pack, or your old pack I guess, will kill us if we do. Your dad says so," Logan said matter-of-factly and shrugged. Ira froze and stared at him before looking away embarrassed.
"Sorry," Ira muttered.
"It's not your fault," Logan shrugged. Then why did Ira feel like it was. He felt Logan watching him and he was nervous but he ignored it in favor of observing. They were both quiet until a door banged open down the hallway and Dom shrieked a giggle suddenly running past the room. Kate called for Logan to help and the teen sighed and put the book aside telling Ira to stay put. Ira rolled his eyes and waited until he was gone to go to the bookshelf and peruse the books. There were a lot of complicated science things. Ira was smart but not that smart.
Apparently Kate needed more help controlling the kids then Logan thought because he was in Kate's room a few minutes later. Kate's room was what he considered a typical teenagers room. There were a few teenage girls in the Australian pack and their room was filled with three main things: pink, posters of boys and sports equipment. Kate had all of this and especially the posters and pictures of guys they considered "hot" but Ira had no idea what you needed to fit into that definition.
Ira took a seat beside Nita and accepted the game board piece she handed him for a game he had never heard of. Across from him Clary shook some dice while the twins wrangled Dominic. He was diving deep into the terrible two's and fighting against Logan's hold biting Logan to prove it. Logan let go growling and Kate grabbed Dominic just before he hit the floor and Ira shook his head as he kicked Kate in the stomach and she let go too. He thumped to the floor and started running and shedding his clothes.
"Guys, stay here." Ira looked up as they left the room calling for Nick to come and control his son. He wasn't planning on going anywhere as long as Nita wasn't. He turned back to the girls who were watching him and moved his piece, on Clary's prompting, not really sure what he was doing but not willing to admit to it. As he played he noticed Nita and Clary exchange looks like Clary was jealous every time he got too close to Nita. It was weird. Clary was a little kid, two full years younger than him, and Nita was his age. She certainly was not a little kid.
Behind the girls something buzzed and all three of them looked towards Kate's cell phone. This started a discussion between the girls about when their parents promised them their own phones. Ira stared at it for a minute, ignoring the chatter, before realizing it was exactly what he needed. As the girls bickered over something, probably something stupid, Ira got up casually and pretended to look around room meanwhile getting closer and closer to the phone. He looked back at them to make sure they were not looking and quickly his hands darted out and he pocketed the phone. He was about to excuse himself to go to the washroom when Kate and Logan came back in without the toddler.
"Nick finally took the little monster back," Kate said answering Clary's panicked question about her brother. She looked as if she was about to get up and go find him but Kate set a hand on her shoulder and shook her head. Nick had taken him and was punishing him for biting. Clary nodded and looked relived and then angry. She was very close to her brother Ira had observed. He had often wondered what having a sibling would be like. Now, he'd never really know.
"He's not a monster," Clary said hotly. Kate was about to reply but Logan set a hand on her arm. Instantly Kate cooled down and took a breath. Ira watched fascinated at how the twins coordinated and worked with one another never fighting or hindering the other.
"No, he's not a monster Clary, I'm sorry. He's just difficult sometimes," Kate apologized. Clary nodded and Kate prompted them to get back to their game. In the meantime Logan produced more sugary snacks and handed them around joining in on the game with them. Ira fidgeted but stayed where he was trying to keep his mind preoccupied.
Reese kind of felt like he was on trial, he expected them to get right down to business; how to protect everyone, how to protect Ira, how to integrate him into the pack and so forth. Reese did not figure that Elena would be thinking along the same line as Kim. Had he lied? Did he change his story when he got here to gain the pack's sympathy or to make himself look better?
"If I had known about my son I am not saying I would have stayed but, I would not have been languishing here living my life when he could have been in danger. I know how lucky I am that Keith did not kill him as an infant. It makes me wonder why and it makes me suspicious. I don't want to think my son is a plant but…" Reese trailed off and Elena nodded. Kim squeezed his hand and he squeezed back discouraged but taking comfort from her.
"I was thinking the same thing. Daniella dropping him here out of blue and going on the run seems suspicious. As a mother I would never be able to leave my child not knowing if he was totally safe. I am not sure it adds up." Clay nodded to that one and seconded it beside Elena on the couch.
"It does if you don't have a pack and are terrified they will kill your child. The only safe place for him would be with the father she remembered as being kind, caring and compassionate. She knew you would take Ira in Reese, and, she knew you would protect him no matter what. It makes sense if you look at it from that angle," Antonio said in between bites of an apple he had pilfered from the bowl on the coffee table. He glanced towards the back of the room where Nick was pacing with Dom in his arms trying to get him to calm down but also listening. He'd been punished though Antonio was not sure if the boy understood why, and now Nick was hopeful he might nap. When he was finished the apple he got up to take Nick's place pacing with the baby and whispering words to him in Italian which usually calmed him down or kept him calm. The terrible two's were not fun times.
"It does but some things are just not adding up. I am not saying Ira knows what is going on, or is in any way to blame of course, but I do wonder how much he knows," Jeremy mused. Reese sent him a surprised look but swallowed his initial protest. They had to think of all the angles in the pack and Ira knowing more than he had been letting on was certainly a big one. The boy was quiet and good at hiding his feelings so it was a huge possibility.
"He is just a sweet, little and terrified boy. Ira doesn't know anything," Kim protested and Reese nodded taking her hand but he had his doubts. Ira didn't speak much and he didn't make eye contact a lot. How could they really know?
"That is something we will not be able to figure out unfortunately. We can talk to him but I'd rather not make him suspicious. I'll sit down with him after we eat," Elena said. Reese tensed and looked at her but said nothing. She stared steadily at him and smiled. "Reese, please trust me. I understand Ira is a child and I am in not any way implicating him or accusing him. I know he is innocent and if he does know what is going on I know he is being manipulated," Elena assured.
"I know I just wish…I wish I could just take this all away from him." Kim nodded and squeezed his hand again. In a magical world Ira would not have to deal with any of this and neither would he.
"We all feel like that as parents Reese. Welcome to fatherhood," Nick grinned and punched him in the arm. Antonio rolled his eyes but told Nick to shush as he walked back to his place with a sleeping baby on his shoulder. Nick made a gesture to take him back but Tonio declined. He loved spending time with his grandchildren and working often meant he was too busy too. He'd rather keep his grandson right where he was, drool and all.
"Safety, we need to talk about safety," Clay interrupted. Reese rolled his eyes and chuckled. Elena shot him a look but smiled and shook her head. With Clay this would always be first and foremost.
"Does Ira know the rules?" Elea asked and Reese and Kim both nodded emphatically.
"He knows them but I am not 100% sure he will obey them yet. He's already tried to take off once and he seems to be a runner when things go bad. I think we need to watch him closely for now and make sure he's A) not communicating with anyone back home, B) that he doesn't know anything, and C) that he understands how much danger he is in," Reese said. Elena agreed and then pushed the conversation onto pack safety matters to quiet Clay down.
The meeting lasted way too long in Ira's opinion but every time he wanted to go down and demand food, secretly trying to slip away, Kate and Logan stopped him. Instead they brought snacks and kept plying them with chocolate milk and soda. The result was that both Clary and Nita were running up and down the stairs making whooping noises and jumping when they got a few steps from the bottom. Ira sat at the top watching them calmly. He felt jittery from the sugar but he wasn't about to act like a little kid and embarrass himself. It was ok for Nita to do this though. She was cute while she played.
Ira bounced his knee setting his hand on it and drummed his fingers against the tip of the stairs. He kept glancing down the stairs at the study door until it finally opened and they came out. Elena was saying something about continuing this later, most likely because of the noise the kids were making. Dom was again wide awake and when Antonio walked out he squirmed to get down. Dom ran to the stairs and started to climb so he could imitate the girls but Reese swooped down and grabbed him before he got two steps.
"Ok, guys. Let's go outside and burn off some energy." Nita and Clary whooped with excitement and Ira stood and walked down the stairs after them holding onto the banister. The wood grain, rough under his hand, helped him to feel connected to the world. He ignored his father's wink and sat down in the foyer with the other's putting on his sneakers and following them out.
Noah and Antonio were quick to get a game of chase going with the younger kids who enthusiastically chased them around. His dad wanted to participate but the Alpha hadn't been done with him yet. Ira sat on the porch steps and watched them clutching the wooden steps and feeling the wood under his fingers again. He took a deep breath calming. One advantage about being sensitive was that he felt everything so keenly from the grain of the wood under his fingers to the texture of the paper of the books he read. He loved his tactile senses. They comforted him when nothing else would.
"Ira, come and play," Noah called. Ira shook his head jiggling his legs jittery with the energy from the treats. Candy here was much sweeter then he was used to and it was causing him to become unfocused. He didn't like that. He liked knowing exactly what was going on, knowing exactly where everyone was and what they were doing. He preferred to have a razor sharp focus in case he had to act.
"We won't touch you." Ira again shook his head and Antonio shrugged and turned mock growling at Dominic who screeched as the man got onto his knees and chased him. Ira watched cataloguing every move and every motion. Finally he was too restless to sit still any longer and he stood calling to them.
"I'm going for a walk." Ira stepped off the porch and started to circle around them and go towards the woods but a voice made him stop in his tracks, frozen. He turned when Noah asked him to and looked up annoyed crossing his arms. Did they think he was a baby? It seemed so a lot of the time.
"I'd rather you not go off on your own right now, ok?" Noah asked crouching a bit. He started to reach out like it was automatic but Ira eyed his hand with such antipathy that Noah stopped and instead awkwardly rubbed his jaw.
"I am not a little kid, Noah. I used to go for walks all the time at home, so, why can't I go on my own now?" Ira demanded. Noah drew back a bit surprised at Ira's tone before he stood at his full height and looked down at him. Ira stood his ground trying to force the man to give him what he wanted. It worked with his mum sometimes when she was tired or in a bad mood but it hadn't worked with any of the pack members yet.
"Ira, you're not going alone. We can all go or you can go and sit on the porch by yourself until supper," Antonio said now walking up to them holding onto Dominic who had his head on the man's shoulder and was sucking his thumb. Noah nodded to this and Ira glared at them both irate. The sugar coating his veins didn't help his mood. He stood his ground stubborn and unmoving rubbing the soft fabric of the sweater he had on with his hand.
"I want to go for a walk!" Clary shouted running over holding hands with Nita. The girl swung their arms and hands between them and Nita cautiously glanced at Ira but he ignored her. He pretended not to see the disappointment in her large brown eyes. He didn't have time for that right now.
Ira continued his standoff with the men but finally gave in. He really wanted to get away. Abruptly he turned and started off and he heard them following. At least they were letting him take the lead. He scanned the tree line and saw a few choice paths but he chose the closest. He took a deep breath of the late summer air smelling leaves that Kim said would turn and change colour soon, he wasn't sure he believed her. He was overwhelmed by earthy smell of the forest, a good overwhelmed. He was fascinated by the trees. He loved looking up to see the canopies and feeling the grainy bark under his skin. His favorite game on walks was to pretend he was in Terabithia or Middle Earth and anything could happen.
He managed to forget about the others behind him and got further and further ahead until they called for him to halt. Ira took a few more steps testing the boundaries before taking a deep breath and sitting down on a log waiting for them to catch up. He watched his feet and listened to their footsteps and voices to his left. To his right he heard a buzzing sound and he longed to go and see what it was. He could so easily just disobey but then they might touch him and he didn't want to go there. His skin already felt like it was being stung by bees from the last few days of trying to ward them off.
"Ira, do you want to walk back with me?" Nita asked as they caught up. Ira looked up at her and stood taking part of a tree branch he was twirling in his hands. He wanted to take Nita's hand because this felt better when he did but he kept thinking about Irene. It wasn't fair to her. He had to refuse. He shook his head and ignored the disappointment again starting to head back the way they had come. He ignored the voices behind him comforting Nita who was a bit upset and ignored Clary calling him a brat. Noah admonished her but not very strictly. He didn't care. None of them understood.
The first thing he heard when he stepped inside the house and was Kate yelling. He winched as Kim set a bowl of potatoes in his hands and asked him to take it to the table. He considered dropping it and telling her where to go, he was not in the mood for this. He didn't like to be ordered around but he thought better of it. The hustle and bustle of the kitchen made him want to escape so he listened, but on his own terms.
He walked into the dining room just as Kate shouted again making him almost drop the bowl. "I can't find my phone." Ira's stomach tightened. He set the bowl on the table pushing it towards the center as Nick set down a plate of BBQ chicken he had made. It smelled amazing but he had much bigger problems.
"Did you call it?" Elena asked. Kate sighed deeply like the world was ending and replied, with as much sarcasm as a thirteen year old could manage, that she had called it. Clay came around the corner at the same time with more glasses and gave Kate a look but he let Elena deal with it. She announced that they would be speaking about her tone later and Clay seconded this.
Ira backed up knowing he needed the make the call before he was found out but it was too late. Inside Ira's pocket Kate's phone buzzed. Ira tensed as Kate's head swivelled his way looking at him accusatory. "What was that?" she demanded. Ira shook his head and backed up as she came forward towering over him. She wasn't as tall as her mother yet but she would probably be the tallest girl in her class. He was a short nine year old at only 3'8 and tipped the scale at barely 53 pounds. Kate on the other hand was almost four years older and, by Ira's guess, she had to be at least 5'4. She probably had a good 50 or 60 pounds on him. He was in trouble.
Ira grabbed his pocket tightly where the phone was hoping to silence it a bit and tried to make an excuse but the IPhone, which was too big for his pocket, was squeezed out and dropped. In an acrobatic feat worthy of a circus, Ira figured, the phone flipped end over averting both Ira and Kate's efforts to catch it before it finally hit the floor and bounced on the wood. It came to a full stop seconds later. "You took my phone you little brat." Kate called for her mother not realizing she was right behind them and grabbed her phone from the floor.
Ira looked around for escape routes but the only way was through the door that Kate was blocking. Various pack members were entering and exiting with food enough to feed a large army as well. "Mom," Kate said angrily looking pointedly at Ira, "Ira stole my phone. The little brat cracked the screen," She accused. Ira turned scarlet and balled his fists crossing his arms and glaring at the floor.
"Ira?" Elena asked setting a dish aside and walking towards them but Ira could not look up. She said his name again and he saw her feet moving forward. His name was repeated. He glanced up and saw her reaching out for him. He backed off quickly and hit the wall behind him looking around again for an exit. Elena sent Kate to get Reese but did not try and touch him again seeing his discomfort. Instead she crouched down and looked up at him trying to get his attention now. He looked at the side of her face but refused to meet her eyes.
"Ira, please talk to me." Ira shook his head and moved his gaze to the floor until he heard footsteps and voices. Kate was speaking angrily telling Reese about the situation and making Ira out to be a master thief. Finally Reese was in front of him and trying to get his attention as well. Ira looked from one to the other and finally at Kate in the doorway glaring at him.
"Ira, do you need some space?" Reese asked. Ira gave a sharp nod and Elena and Reese backed up. Ira took a breath as Kate walked forward practically stomping. If she could shoot laser beams at him from her eyes she would. Ira pushed himself into the wall and tried to look tough at the same time but probably only achieved terrified and confused.
"You had no right," Kate growled as she reached for him. Ira saw her hand coming down and he winced wanting to jump at her. Reese took her arm and gently pushed her back. Kate glared at him and then back at Ira reserving all her anger for him. With the adults there he felt a bit bolder and he glared back.
"Kate, he doesn't like to be touched so please don't. I don't want anything to happen," Reese explained. Ira glared at his father and shook his head. He wouldn't really hurt anyone but when push came to shove he might. At home there was a kid, Zeke, a bit older than him, who he hated. Zeke kept picking on him and he would always touch him. One day, after months of being pushed around, he threw himself at the Zeke out of anger and started punching his face over and over. Zeke was so stunned that Ira got in a few good hits before Zeke hit back giving him a black eye and a bloody lip.
"Ira, why did you take this?" Reese demanded. Ira stayed still not looking at him. "Ira, answer me." He wasn't able to. The words would not come. He was so angry and upset and just felt so alone that he had no idea who to be mad at, or, what to do.
"You don't need to be scared," Elena said. Ira tensed and bit his lip annoyed. This was not helping. Finally he looked up putting on doe like eyes and looking sad. Gavin taught him manipulation would work with almost every situation so he would try it. His mum always said when he was confused and needed to calm down he had to pick one course of action. This was his course of action.
"I didn't steal it, I borrowed it. I want to call mum. You're lying to me about mum and I don't believe you. I don't believe you!" Ira yelled instantly forgetting about the plan and letting anger take over. "I want to talk to mum now!" Ira demanded glaring at his dad. He clenched and unclenched his fists. He was sure he was beet red by now. Kate rolled her eyes. His father's eyes went wide in surprise. Ira had never raised his voice and always spoke lowly around them. Not anymore.
"If he's going to be like this then why is her here. Just let him go back to his mother already. He doesn't belong here if he's going to steal and lie. That's not how a pack works." Kate crossed her arms and gave Ira a superior look. For once he agreed with her. Maybe she didn't like him but she was right in this instance.
"I want my mum," Ira seconded that. Reese sighed and looked at Elena exchanging a meaningful look. He looked between them and hoped this would work. He had no more ideas unless he set his alarm for 3 am and used one of the phones back at the house. That might have to be a backup plan.
"Your choice Reese," Elena sighed. Ira looked from her to him hopefully.
"Ok, Ira. We can call your mum," Reese said. Ira smiled for the first time since he was left there which surprised his dad again. Reese smiled a little as well though. Kate rolled her eyes and protested that Ira was getting rewarded for bad behaviour. Elena promised he wouldn't be and they would punish him but Ira did not care about that. He was going to talk to his mum and she would come and get him. He would make her understand she needed to come back.
"Really?" Ira asked skeptically and Reese nodded. He turned and headed to the phone in the study and Ira followed wearily still wondering if this was a trick. He couldn't quite trust his dad yet. Reese looked at Ira contemplating like he wanted Ira to say he changed his mind. Finally he dialled the number and then handed the phone to him. Ira took it with both hands and turned away from Reese feeling elated.
He waited for her to pick up on the other end and studied the books lining the bookshelves. It rang and rang and Ira wondered if maybe Reese was right that she had changed her number. The panic started to climb up his stomach again as he waited. When Reese suggested they call back and tried to take the phone Ira pulled it away from him, sent him a glare and clutched it tighter mouthing "Pick up, pick up."
Finally someone did pick up and Ira let out his long held breath. His mother's voice came across the line and he didn't even hear what she said. He concentrated on how she sounded and the rush of relief in his stomach as he finally heard her. He closed his eyes and listened with relief.