It had been one of the worse nights he had had in a long time. He had tossed and turned not able to think of much but his mate and his son. The few hours he did dream circled back around the issue and all he could see was Ira hurt and his wife's horrified face twisted into disturbing elongated shapes. He was still trying to figure out what exactly had happened. There was no excuse for hitting a child but it was Kim, Kim who he loved so much and who would never…but who had…he growled and rolled over rubbing his red eyes.
Downstairs, with all the kids' in bed and in various stages of sleep, a discussion had taking place. Everyone had different opinions and reactions taken from their various experiences and their own childhoods. Noah was very angry of course while Nick and Antonio were sitting back and taking it in, neither looked happy. Reese was not sure which side he fell on. If anyone else had hit his child there would be blood spilled but this was his mate, of course she had a reason. She may have grown up rich but within the richness and the displays of normality was a darker secret. She grew up being called these names and being belittled and she had reacted. It was a huge mistake and now they would need to take huge stride to gain what little trust they had of Ira's again.
Right now he could not look at his mate and his confliction was making him so indecisive he was settling into a very bad mood. Ira's distance was making it worse. He was the worst father today, the worst mate, the worst pack member at the moment. Slowly he got up and pulled on last night's discarded jeans walking from his room to Ira's. The boy was still asleep. Light was just starting to filter in through the window. Silently he watched the little boy's chest rise and fall. With his features so much softer he was a different child. He looked smaller, like he could do no wrong, like an angel. As if he was not capable of anger or rage. The bruise on his face stood out in stark contrast.
Reese turned and walked to the kitchen starting a pot of coffee. He wondered where his wife had slept last night. Silently he stared out over the frosty ground and rubbed a hand through his hair. How was he supposed to fix this? Their relationship had been splintered from the first time he met his son and now he and Kim were fragmented. Everything was falling apart. Fatherhood was not something he was sure he wanted anymore.
"She's in the guest house." Reese nodded but did not turn. Antonio's voice and movements were as familiar to him as his own by now. He guessed the man had on a three piece suit and was getting ready for an early meeting. He heard the sound of the coffee pot being stopped and mugs being taken down to be filled with coffee. "Here," he said. Reese turned and accepted two cups, one of coffee and one of previously made tea, one black and one double double. "Go to her," he instructed.
"How can I?" Antonio sighed and set a hand on his arm. His gaze old Reese he had been there before and this would be ok. He wasn't sure a Sorrentino could fix his problems this time though.
"Once, I lost my temper when Nicky was about five or so. He had been in a temper for days, very unlike him and who knows why. At the end of the week I was exhausted and Nicky had had a bad day. He started yelling at me and called me a few names I was surprised he knew."
"Did you hit him?" Reese asked and Antonio shook his head.
"No, I didn't. I did grab his arm rather hard and throw him in his room before slamming the door. I lost my temper and I knew it as soon as I heard him crying but it was a mistake. I cooled off and then went to him and apologized. He had a bruise on his arm and I felt so horribly guilty I could barely raise my voice to him for a month," Antonio admitted. Reese nodded surprised. It was very unlike this man to lose his cool but if it could happen to Tonio it could happen to anyone.
"I bet Dominic was happy," Reese snorted. He had heard the Dominic, Antonio's father, stories and he knew how much of a hard-ass he could be. Reese for one was glad that Dominic was not his father. Wes, his dad, had a temper but only when you pushed. Reese pushed once when he asked Wes who his real father was and got the answer that Wes was and always would be. Sometimes he missed him more than he could even verbalize. He only wished he could be the same kind of dad. What would his father have done with Ira?
"Ha, my dad threatened to beat the crap out me if I ever touched Nicky again. Then he gave me a long talk about keeping my temper and patience. I never lost it again. I think you will find Kim is the same way. She made a mistake and it will not be easily fixed but she is sorry. Ira will be ok after a time too. Right now, you need to go to her though," he encouraged.
"What about Ira?" he asked. Antonio shook his head and pushed him out the door saying he'd take care of it. Reese nodded grateful and headed to the guest house. Ira was a battle but Kim was a war and he was not prepared to lose either of those.
He crouched on the ground pulling his coat tightly around himself and watched the ant march across the gravel. Ants in Australia were much different than the one's here. Every animal was different down under, a term Ira quickly learned for his country, because they pretty much all wanted to kill you. Here the animals were tamer which pleased him because he liked to study them without being in mortal danger every time he turned around.
Since he had come here they had caught him studying, pulling apart or making notes about animals, flowers, plants and trees or rock. Well, he never pulled the animals apart but he did want to dissect a dead one, whatever species it was, if he ever found one. He secreted a knife in his room for the occasion and found a book but he hadn't had cause to use it yet.
His favorite back home was a colony of sugar ants; they were large with black ends and an orange strip in the middle of their bodies, which he and Irene would follow from wherever they forged for food to their nests. They never saw the queen which was their main goal but they named a few hundred of them. Everything from pack names to names that were unpronounceable. He was the scientist and Irene was his assistant documenting and taking notes. They had whole note books on one ant colony alone.
Here he was following Carpenter ants which were mostly black and boring. "Come on Bernard," Ira sighed slowly following the ant carrying a crumb back to the nest. Ira crawled after him on hands and knees observing until he heard the front door and the crunch of feet on gravel. He ignored them and continued his observation. There was a reason as there was a reason for everything he did. He needed to focus on something, anything so he didn't scream, so he didn't beat the ground and cry and so he didn't end up sitting the bathtub rocking back and forth in a panic. He sometimes went to the bathtub when it was scary because of his mother and it made sense to him, it made him feel safe. Surprisingly he hadn't ended up in the bathtub yet while he was here but that was probably because he had so much faith in his mother right then. So much fear as well.
He had stood at sliding glass door that morning watching the trees swaying in the breeze and the back yard and trying to see through the greenery to the guest house. Antonio hadn't let him go out to see them and Ira had refused to eat. He couldn't eat without his dad. It was just an idea he got into his head that he could not let go. His dad was his Alpha like Keith had been and he wasn't allowed to eat without him. Antonio had figured this out and tried to convince him that anyone in charge could take his dad's place but Ira wasn't interested. Instead he went hungry trying to quell the panic at not seeing his dad. What if's kept running through his mind like what if his dad was gone and giving up? What if Kim said she didn't want him anymore? He was confused about why he cared but his mind did and he couldn't get around it.
A black boot suddenly came down, scattering his thoughts, and almost crushed Bernard and Ira scowled and pushed the foot out of the way letting the ant scurry to safety. He stood and glared at the offender with crossed arms. "You almost stepped on my fucking ant," Ira said in a low and measured voice. His dangerous voice.
"Ira, I don't want to hear those words," Antonio called. Ira heard footsteps and rustling and seconds later the man walked from the house right after Noah who was standing in front of him looking surprised. Ira turned to him and narrowed his eyes. They had rules for everything here and it was less than appealing. Ira could understand rules that kept you safe but rules like not swearing were only about exercising control. They were worthless.
"I am allowed to swear Antonio," Ira scoffed crossing his arms as Noah hid an eye roll looking amused. He was more than willing to discipline Ira or any of them when they needed it but often the others beat him to it, not that many of the others were ever disciplined as much as Ira was. Dom was he supposed but that was because of the terrible twos.
"Says who?" the man asked crouching down and looking Ira in the eyes. Ira puffed out his chest and smiled. Beyond them Bernard had gotten back to the nest and Ira had done his job and rescued him and his whole colony. He felt like a superhero. Adults had an odd anti bug policy and were always dousing them with chemicals and stomping them to death. Adults did not make sense. Ira wanted to grow up but he didn't want to be an adult.
"The charter of human rights, it says I have freedom of speech so I can say whatever I fucking want," he grinned thinking he had outsmarted them both. Ira took particular pride in outsmarting adults. It wasn't all that hard most of the time.
"Let me tell you when I will allow you to swear and get away with it, when your first change hits you can scream profanity all you want. After that you can swear as well but not now, capice?" he asked. Ira rolled his eyes and grumbled under his breath until his walked to the garage after which he called Antonio a fucking moron.
"Ira, that's one," Noah said. Ira turned and levelled a glare at him. Of all the ones Ira could hope to manipulate, Noah was on the top of his list.
"Don't do that Noah, your one of the only ones I actually like. Don't act like them…," he begged and then smile winningly at him.
Noah chuckled hesitating until Antonio called back not to fall for the little manipulator. Ira raised an eyebrow at this. Apparently they thought they knew him better now. He'd have to up the ante if he wanted to best them. Luckily Noah would be his ticket out. All he had to do was play on the man's sympathies and what Ira saw, or maybe his wolf saw, as naivety.
Ira started scouring the ground again for his ants or any other wild life but really he was thinking. He hadn't figured out a way to check on his mother beyond running away but first he needed to get off the property. The problem was the pack guarded them like an attack was imminent at any moment, which it was. "What are you doing?" Noah asked bending down with a smile. Ira shrugged. He'd been balancing on the raised stone surface walking back and forth and counting the number of tiles.
"There are eight hundred and twenty seven tiles between here and the front door," Ira answered. Noah went through a few different emotions at this. First he looked surprised and then he counted a few of the tiles himself before he shook his head and told Ira they needed to get out. Ira shrugged at this pretending not to care but he couldn't hide the mischievous glint in his eyes.
Noah's thing was ice cream and Ira could not argue with that. Lonely? Eat some ice cream. Sad? Ice cream will help that. Crazy? Ice cream was good for that too. According to Noah ice cream was good for everything. So was ice cream soup in Ira's opinion. He swirled his spoon around ten times clockwise and then ten times the other way. He waited. He was good at patience when he needed to be and this time it should pay off too. He wasn't sure if his plan would work. He had taken the little, what he called rocks, from Oz and had been secreting them in his bag ever since he left. Keith had an abundance of them and he used them in unfair fights.
So, Ira waited. It was worth it. As soon as the mini explosion hit everyone froze. Noah looked towards the bathroom where Ira had thrown the rocks into the toilet of a few stalls. Ira feigned surprised and turned towards where the stalls were. When he looked back Noah was half way standing and as frozen as the other people, until another rock exploded. Then the screaming started. Noah looked wide eyed and suddenly he was a different person. He told Ira to stay put and not move a muscle before taking off. Ira did the exact opposite.
He wasn't sure how long he stood outside the door but when he finally got the courage to go in the coffee was cold and the sun was high in the sky. He followed Kim's trail to the bedroom where she was sprawled over the covers half undressed with red eyes and tear tracks down her face. It immediately made his heart wrench and stretch. Right then he forgave her. Maybe if she did not have the upbringing she did, or if she was prone to anger he would have driven her away but the fact was that she was human, a werewolf as well, but human too. The wolf nature did not drive the human to be violent as much as the human might want to blame the wolf.
Elena and Reese had had many conversations about this. There was a time before she would forgive Clay that she blamed her werewolf nature on being more violent and more easily angered. After she forgave him she realized that she had always been the way she was. The wolf only gave her the extra strength and power to get past her abusive childhood and to embrace life. For Kim it was much the same but from the start Kim loved the wolf and loved the strength and confidence it gave her. It was something she lacked in life and something they kept an eye on in case she wanted revenge. Of course she did but she was too level headed and too much herself to do that. Maybe she dreamed of it like Reese did and like Elena did but it was never enacted upon. For Reese it would be someday though. He would make sure of it.
As he walked towards the bed and slid down beside her Reese slowly brushed Kim's hair out of her eyes and kissed her forehead. He wrapped his arms around her and murmured the words she loved to hear in her ear until her eyelids fluttered open. Her looked was full of sleepy confusion and he thought he probably couldn't love her more than at that moment.
"I'm sorry," she whispered after that few seconds of sleepy grogginess was wiped from her mind. Reese shushed her and bent down kissing her, morning breath and all. She murmured below him but he pushed her against the bed kissing harder and faster and silencing her protests. He didn't need words right now, he needed control and she needed forgiveness. This was his forgiveness. It was a forgiveness she would understand and reciprocate. It was raw, hard and powerful and over in minutes.
Sweaty he lay against the pillow pulling Kim to his side and laying his chin on top of her head. "I'm so sorry, Reese," she whispered. Reese growled at her lowly in warning but she growled back and then pushed on. "Not for Ira, though I am, but for…I'm…," Reese sat up and looked at her swallowing hard. He took a deep breath in. He could already smell it on her. Why hadn't he picked that up before?
The park was very dark and seemed deserted. Ira squinted down at the map he printed out from Google Maps and realized that the street names really were too small and he had real idea where his mum was. He was probably prey out here in the concrete jungle. He didn't like that and neither did the inner voice he was coming to associate as his wolf. He was technically too young for that but there was a voice guiding him and it sounded much smarter than he ever would so it had to be the wolf. Wolves were smart and so his should be doubly smart.
He walked a little further listening to his feet whisper across the grass as quietly as possible. He'd been walking on the grass to be quiet and even through some water ways to avoid making noise and to obscure his scent. The wildlife channel said that animals that preyed on others could usually lose the scent trail by walking through water. Ira would do the same. The main problem being that it might be humans after him and not animals which made doing this a waste of time.
He took a few more steps before crumbling up his paper and throwing it. It landed a few feet from him as silent as a blade of grass in the wind. This was proof he would probably never have athletic ability. He made it to the swing sets across the park and sat down swinging and kicking the gravel. Ira was not anything if not thorough. He had a plan A and B and C but the problem was that none of his plans had accounted for this. He knew this, just knew this was the night be would die or regret in some really big way. It was the tingling in the back of his neck and the pounding of his small heart.
"Think," he hissed to himself and kicked the ground annoyed. There had to be a solution, maybe he could…he looked back up and saw the strip of grass where he threw the map devoid of the paper. Ira squinted thinking maybe he hadn't looked in the right place or it was elsewhere but he knew he had thrown it there. His heart froze as he stopped the swing with a final squeak and a lurch to look around.
All was silence; he closed his eyes, as hard as it was to do, and listened like he had been taught. He heard the rustle of leaves, the air on the wind, the swings swinging slightly in the breeze, the distant noise of the city and footsteps. Ira's eyes flew open. A man was watching him with the map open in his hand rumpled at his side and a look like a hungry wolf in his eyes. Ira knew the look well. It sent shock waves of terror through his body making him shake.
Ira swallowed and stood. He recognized that look in mutts and in the faces of murders and people with solely violent intentions. Keith brought in mutts like that all time and they had looked at Ira like he was a piece of meat or worse. His mum always pulled him away from them and gave him the stranger talk over and over again until he was afraid of his own shadow by the time he was three.
They looked at one another like it was a moment frozen in time and neither knew what to do or say. Suddenly the man's leg jerked like he was thinking about moving forward. That was all Ira needed. He turned and took off so fast he pictured gravel flying up into space from his sneakers. Behind him the man laughed and Ira clearly heard the man gaining on him. He knew he had to think quickly. He was smaller and only half as fast and strong. The lessons in the training room were quickly coming back to him. He had to use his strengths and that was clearly his intelligence.
Ira scanned the landscape. There was the play area, a few trails and beyond that more dense woods. He needed to steer clear of the trees and the trail. He had no idea where it led so that was not a good plan. Instead, like he had seen his father and Nick do once in the woods at Stonehaven, he would use his surroundings.
Ira made a split 180o turn and grabbed the cold steel bars of the tree house set to his left. He scrambled up. From directly behind him the man swore but Ira could hear his shoes on the metal rungs and feel the ladder vibrating. When Ira cleared the top he reached for a bar above his head to pull himself up but something jerked him back. Ira let out a gasp holding on tightly and looking behind him. The man, his greasy hair falling into his eyes which were clouded and didn't seem like they were registering the real world, had a hold of his bag.
Ira let it slip off his shoulders surprising the man who slipped a bit with the lost momentum. He almost fell himself when he cleared the top and his feet landed on the boards that were slippery with early fall mist. He threw himself down the slid on the other side and slid to the bottom almost tumbling in his haste. The man swore loudly again and threw his bag. It hit Ira's shoulder which made him stumble and made his heart jerk into his throat but he kept going. Never give up Reese's voice whispered in his ear. Ira was too scared to be surprised that it was his dad and not his mum he heard for once.
He weaved in and out of the equipment jumping on top of the teeter-totter and over the side, rushing over the swings and pushing them both hard so they flew in the man's face and using the merry-go-rounds momentum to propel him to the climbing tube at the end of the park. Ira didn't dare look behind him as he dashed into the tube. He wasn't quite sure what he would do after that. He was breathing hard and his side hurt from running. He felt his panic jolt but he ignored it. He ignored it until the man grabbed his leg and yanked him back the way he had come. Then he couldn't breathe. Then he felt light headed.
Ira's hand scrambled to grab a hold of anything inside the plastic tube but there was nothing on the smooth surface. He felt the fresh air hit his face just as he smelled the stench from the man above him who had one hand wrapped around his ankle and one bunched in the front of his shirt. Ira kicked him hard in the thigh and tried to punch out but his assailant was not close enough to him.
He opened his mouth to scream, not really sure what good it would do, just as dark shadow appeared and grabbed the man pulling him back hard and throwing him on the ground. Ira gasped as he was jerked forward and fell on the gravel to his hands and knees scraping them. He watching wide eyed as the shadow and the man faced off. The shadow, someone Ira could not distinguish, picked the man up again and slammed him against the rock climbing wall. The man sucked in a breath as the shadow held him with one hand and punched him with the other so hard that Ira could see droplets of blood fly.
"Don't let me catch you preying on kids around here again." Ira realized that he did not recognize the deep growly voice. It sounded more like gravel than man. That jerked him from his reverie. He pushed himself up. He needed to get out of here or he'd get away from a stupid predator but fall into the arms of a smarter one instead.
Ira needed to get to his bag so he veered out of the way of the fighters and back to the slide. He was reaching for it when another hand shot down and grabbed it instead. A woman took the bag and slung it over her own slim shoulder as Ira took a step back and scowled. He clenched his fists wincing where the pain of the cuts on his hand dug in and made the mistake of turning sharply when he head footsteps. Never turn your back on the enemy his dad reminded him. Ira shook his head to dispel the voice.
The shadow, he now saw was a huge man with dark hair and eyes, he looked at Ira for a split second before his gaze shot to the woman's. Ira turned again but backed up into the slide so he was looking at them both. "What's your name?" the woman asked. Ira looked her up and down deciding she looked nice, a bit like Elena with blonde hair and blue eyes but Ira knew that was a lie. Elena was nice when she wanted to be but she was the Alpha which mean nice was not a word that applied to her. This woman looked ok but she could be hiding a darker nature.
Ira's eyes darted to the left and right. He swallowed and looked back at the woman giving nothing away. Suddenly he felt the shadow man move. Ira pulled back not letting the gasp inside of him out. His ankle already hurt from the first man grabbing him and he didn't want to be in any more pain. The man took his bag and fished inside finding his wallet. Ira growled lowly in warning, like he had heard the pack members do, and tried to grab his bag but the man pulled it out of his reach and above his head. Ira jumped once for it and then huffed as the man looked at the wallet and his name, swore and sent an annoyed look to the woman.
"He's a Williams."
"As in Reese William, pack enforcer?" the woman asked. The man started to nod but then shrugged and looked at Ira who puffed out his chest and stood at his full four feet four inches. Ira neither denied nor confirmed this as he glanced between the two. He was surprised they knew about his dad which meant they knew werewolves or maybe they were werewolves. This was either a very good or very bad thing.
"Reese had a mate but he can't have a kid this old," the man said as they both scrutinized him. Ira stood his ground and then smiled like a Cheshire cat making them both frown. He could use this to his advantage if he was careful. After all they took the time to rescue him so they seemed like the right kind of people.
"I would run if I were you, mate," he said for good effect channelling as much of his dad as he could and as much of Keith as well.
"Fuck," the man growled and dropped his bag and wallet. Ira stooped to pick it up again looking into the large man's surly face. He was scowling and watching the woman. A silent conversation ensued but Ira interrupted them before they could come to a clear decision.
"Unless, you help me," Ira said letting the sentence fall where they could interpret it.
"Just like a fucking pack member," the man growled. The woman shushed him and then smiled and crouched down. Ira knew he looked like an innocent little guy, a blonde haired blue eyes angel he'd once heard but he was anything but. He was not named after his grandfather for nothing.
There were lots of things wrong with apartment 2B. It was on the wrong side of town for one thing, the side of town Benton and Darrin took him too where guns were like accessories and drugs were your three square meals. Ira stood on the sidewalk and looked at the four storey building wondering why his mum was holed up here and wondering if she was even here. He was sure she was though. He could feel her here.
Derek, the guy and Chloe, the girl he learned were both supernaturals. He was a werewolf, a mutt, which is why he knew the pack and she was a necromancer. She apparently had lessons from Jaime when she was younger. That did not stop Ira from threatening them. If they did not help him he could tell the pack all kinds of troublesome things, could and would. Maybe he was a bad person but he knew what he wanted and needed and with no way to get there he had to fight hard.
Derek did not like him, that much was clear but Chloe gave him the sympathetic look he was hoping for so he focused on her. That is what got him here walking up the stairs with her while Derek went ahead to scout danger. Ira stared straight ahead but the watcher in him saw all the flaws like the garbage and the needles strewn all over the hall and stairways and the peeling and cracked wallpaper and paint, that and the smell of sickness and alcohol. That combined with the smells he could not identify which were in abundance.
Ahead of them Derek waved them forward from a broken doorway, he hadn't even had to break the lock. When he touched it the door swung open with a creak like they were in a movie. Chloe stiffened at this which made Ira automatically tense. He shook himself out of this and walked forward and into the small dimly lit apartment where he stopped and stared. It was much worse than he thought. The apartment definitely went along with the building itself, it had all the same smells and looks including furniture so ratty and so gross looking Ira was sure it had been rescued from the dump. All he could think was this was not his mum, could not be his mum. His mum would never stand for this.
Cautiously he walked forward and then looked at Derek who nodded to the bedroom. Ira swallowed and took a deep breath, though better of it and coughed before he squared his shoulders and took a step. Like a man his mum always said. In seconds, that felt much too fast for him, he was standing there looking in. Ira saw the bed and the rest of the room but he registered nothing but the bedraggled woman who was not his mum, could not be him mum on the bed. This woman was sunken, worn and looked twenty times older than Ira remembered.
"Mum?" he walked into the room holding his breath. He walked until he was a foot in front of her. Tentatively he reached out and touched her shoulder knowing he would just know if it was her when their skin made contact. There was this zinging like electricity when they touched and it was the same with his dad but he ignored that. Her face was turned from him but he could tell it was her. They had been together since before he was born and he knew every inch, every feature, every emotion and even every smell.
Slowly he walked around the bed and cringing he looked at the sheets. They were dirty and littered with needles and bags of things with white powder and darker substances. With a shutter he climbed on and carefully navigated the paraphernalia and lay down across from her staring into her dull eyes. He didn't think she registered him or anyone at all. Her normally beautifully deep brown eyes were like scuffed marbles. Ira had read that reference in a book and he congratulated himself on using it. Sharply he reprimanded himself and brought himself back to the moment.
Carefully he reached his hand out and cupped hers in his watching her unmoving. Her chest moved up and down slightly but she had no colour and gave no other indication that she was otherwise alive. He could feel she was and he knew that if anything ever happened to her Ira would know. He would just feel it. Wouldn't he? He had done this many times with his mum, especially on the morning he had no chores or she felt unwell. He would lay there and they would hold hands and he would cuddle to her side. She would make everything better like always.
He heard noises in the background. This he identified as Chloe and Derek talking, traffic, gun shots and emergency sirens but none of it mattered because he had been right. His mum was too sick to call him on his birthday and that is why she had been so angry with him on the phone too. His mum was still his mum she was just hidden now. He had to help here. Immediately he thought about calling his dad but he hesitated. His father might not be able to be trusted with this. Reese didn't like Ira's mum and he had threatened her, hadn't he? Maybe he had to rely on Chloe and Derek and his threat but first, first he needed to just be here, just look at her, and just be her son.