Moscow, February, Four years ago
Ominous dark gray clouds rolled in. Snow came down as small ice pellets that cut like glass shards on the skin. They swirled around the mourners as they stood over the twin coffins. A northeast wind blew over the loup garou cemetery outside of Moscow. It cut through the thickest coats and scarves. Alexei Davidoff shivered in his beaver coat and hat. His Enforcers lowered the bodies of his former Chief Beta and his Beta's Mate into the ground. Newly joined, they were dead for the crime of being gay and holding hands in a public square in Moscow.
"This cannot stand. There has to be an answer to this, someone has to stand up against these thugs." Alexei moved his platinum hair off his face. His navy blue eyes flashed both anguish and resolve.
"The perpetrators were human, one of the government's army of gay bashers, Alpha. There is nothing we can do. We cannot harm a human, and the government gives us no recourse to law." The Beta shook his head.
"When is the next protest?" Alexei paced across the icy ground in front of the graves.
"Tomorrow at noon, in the square," Vasily Yudin, Alexei's new Chief Beta said reluctantly.
"I will be there." Alexei watched Vasily's expression. His body folded in on itself in resignation. Alexei knew Vasily realized it was useless to argue. He saw that his Alpha had made up his mind. Alexei could tell his Betas were scheming to mitigate the damage.
"We'll go with you, Alpha." Vasily gestured to Grigory and the six Enforcers in the funeral party.
"No, I will go alone." Alexei clenched his fists and set his jaw in defiance.
"Alpha, it's dangerous. We can't let you go alone. If the FSB picks you up, there is no guarantee that the council will be able to negotiate your release. Please, both Grigory and I think you should let us and the Enforcers go with you, or you should stay at home. The FSB under the current president is worse than the KGB that preceded them. Peter and Sasha wouldn't have wanted you to put yourself in danger. There is no helping them now."
"I cannot let this go unanswered, Vasily. The man who did this wasn't even arrested despite the fact that I reported the assault. I must protest to the authorities. We have an obligation to try to right this wrong. He was one of mine, one of my household, my personal staff. I am responsible."
"But, Alpha, we can't let you go alone into a dangerous situation," Grigory persisted. "We would be shirking our duty as your Betas if we let you go alone."
Alexei Ivanovich Davidoff straightened his spine and spat. "I will lose no one else to the government. As your Alpha, I am ordering you to stay away."
"Alpha," Vasily got on his knees in supplication.
Alexei put up his hand to silence his Beta. "I will hear no more of this. I will lead the demonstration tomorrow."
Vasily and Grigory hung their heads in defeat.
* * *
Gate of the Russian Gulag
March, Three Years Later
"I don't think I can make it," Alexei said as he attempted to walk out the front gate of the gulag to the waiting car.
"Let Grigory and I help to hold you up." Vasily and Grigory each put an arm under one of his shoulders and half-walked, half-carried him to the car.
They strapped him in the back and Grigory spent the twelve hours it took to get to the dacha trying to hold his Alpha up so he wouldn't fall where he sat.
When Vasily and Grigory finally got him into the dacha, Vasily's mouth hung open in shock when he took off his Alpha's coat. Their six foot six, two-hundred-pound Alpha weighed less than one hundred forty pounds.
"What did they do to you?" Vasily asked, tears pouring down his face.
"I was caged most of the time I spent in the gulag. They tortured, beat, and defiled me daily, all because I'm gay and dared to report Sasha's and Peter's deaths, and point to who was responsible."
"They call it prison now, Alpha."
Alexei sighed wearily, "In modern Russia, they call it a prison. But I've been alive long enough to remember Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev's slave labor camps. They can change the name but it's still the gulag to me."
"Alpha, you need to make the change. It will erase your scars and after you've changed a number of times, your injuries. It will take a while. Your injuries are severe." Grigory helped Alexei into a roughhewn chair.
"I can't change. I don't have the strength." Alexei put his head in his hands.
"Katya, Boris, something to eat for the Alpha, right away." Katya ran to the kitchen and brought back some borscht.
"Finish this, Alpha. You have to eat constantly so your stomach can extend again."
Grigory and Vasily knelt in front of their Alpha. Vasily spoke, "We've been pleading with the First for three years. The council finally negotiated your early release on the condition that you emigrate once you recover. We took the liberty of contacting Alpha Daurensbourg, from Saskatchewan and the Central US..."
"I am aware of Etienne Daurensbourg. He is a friend."
"The council arranged for your emigration and that of your household. Alpha Daurensbourg will receive you in New York and already purchased a seven-floor townhouse and nine two-bedroom apartments for our people in New York City. Grigory, I, and our Enforcers will emigrate with you along with Boris and Katya."
"But I have no funds, and you have families here. There I will no longer be an Alpha. I won't be able to care for you."
"You are our Alpha," Vasily said with a stubbornness he had not shown to Alexei before. Alexei narrowed his eyes.
Alexei didn't fight the emigration, only their participation. Vasily continued, "That's the beauty of this course of action. Alpha La Farge, who was the North America's Second, is no longer an Alpha. He is an Omega scrubbing Siberian toilets and can't make the change. They sent him here eighteen months ago to die in disgrace for kidnapping The Alpha Mate. You have blood right to his territory in Colorado. Alpha La Marche has it now. I know he finds the packs fractious because he has no blood tie and they want one of their own. I've made inquiries. He'll give it to you and you can become Second in North America."
"I don't want to be Second, Third, or Fourth for that matter. I can't save the world. I learned that lesson the hard way. I will see my old friend Etienne Daurensbourg and maybe he can help me find a place to go. I have no funds..."
"Excuse me for the interruption, Alpha, but you do," Vasily said with some satisfaction.
"As your factotum, Boris handled your funds. He put all of your accounts overseas as soon as the government started its campaign against homosexuals, only leaving enough rubles in Russia for operating expenses. As soon as they arrested you, he liquidated the rest of your investments and wired the funds to our London banker who in turn, had them sent them to The North American Alpha for safekeeping. Alpha La Marche reinvested everything. The American Stock Market has done very well. You are worth ten times what you were before and it's all protected from the Russian government."
"We bought first-class tickets to New York flying Air France on a nonstop flight to JFK where Alpha Daurensbourg will meet our party. Alpha Daurensbourg would have sent his jet, but the Russian government refused entry. However, Alpha Daurensbourg obtained green cards for the whole household. It's all arranged for as soon as you are able to travel," Grigory added.
It took until November for Alexei to regain his health and put on enough weight to have the strength to make the change that would take away the scars from the constant whippings. He still had some internal bruising that would only go away with time. Alexei needed rest, food, and a place to recover. But, even many transformations couldn't take away the psychological damage the gulag caused, the malaise of the soul. For that, Vasily thought his Alpha needed a miracle. As soon as Alexei could bring out his wolf, Vasily and Grigory had their Alpha and his party on a plane to America. It was right before Yule.
* * *
At Alpha Daurensbourg's urging, Armand La Marche, the Chief Alpha of North America, gave Alpha Alexei Ivanovich Davidoff the territory of Colorado and a seat as Fifth on the Loup Garou Council of North America.
"You were Second in Russia, Fifth is an insult," Vasily complained.
"No, it's not. I'm grateful. I'm tired of tilting at Russian windmills. I need time to gather my strength and clear my mind. I have a place waiting for me at Garou as the officer in charge of Research and Development once I've fully regained my health."
"You're entitled to..." Grigory sputtered.
"I'm entitled to nothing. I was born in Russia. My mother was a citizen of the United States. She never filed for American citizenship for me when I was born. It was too long ago. I'd have to forge papers and with my accent, they would know I'm Russian which in the current climate, is not a good thing. I have a green card. I can become an American. For once, I'm going to be able to do the job I trained for. I have degrees in three kinds of sciences. Research and Development is where I belong." Alexei sighed. "I don't want anything else."
"If you are upset about the reduction in my status, go work for the new Russian Second." Alexei's face turned hard.
Vasily bowed his head in supplication baring his neck. "No, Alpha, we're yours. Whatever you decide to do, we will go with you. I just wanted you to have options."
"I'm taking an option. I'll be Fifth and grateful for the consideration. I'll leave the politics to Armand. Obviously, he's better at it than we are. Although there has been some resentment, miraculously gay bashing is now a hate crime in the United States, against federal law, and gay marriage has become legal."
Sunday Last Day in February, Five in the Morning
Vasily and Grigory accompanied Alexei on his regular early morning jog through Central Park. He was trying to rebuild his strength to where it was before his imprisonment. Alexei was almost there. Now he didn't get winded after running fifteen miles and was able to lift four times his weight, not great for a wolf, but getting there. However, the depression had not disappeared. His soul was still in the gulag. About halfway through his regular run along the jogging paths, the scent of oranges overwhelmed him. Oranges, in the park in February? He thought it was strange and took a detour.
He stopped and looked around, his wolfen nose picking out the muted scent. He followed it down the jogging trail to a lone park bench hidden behind a black cherry tree. On the bench under some newspapers lay a young man dressed like a prostitute, barely breathing. He wore a black net shirt and tight ripped jeans totally unsuitable for the cold of the late February morning. Alexei had to help. He couldn't let a fellow creature suffer. His memories of cold and hunger were all too recent. He removed the newspaper and stared.
He looks no older than Gabriel's mouse, but he is dirty and unkempt and looks... Wait, there is a needle hanging out of his arm. Alexei sat next to the boy. He reached out to remove the needle. As soon as skin touched skin his wolf cried, Help him, now, Mate, mine, sick, dying.
Alexei panicked. He called Vasily and Grigory, who were about one hundred yards behind him, over the Alpha Link. "My Mate, I have found my Mate. He's dying. Call Armand. Get Dr. Artis. Someone... I need a doctor to treat an overdose, now!" Vasily and Grigory scrambled to do Alexei's bidding.
Alexei picked the boy up and ran out of the park. He stopped once to give him mouth to mouth, cursing his inability to run faster. He held him close to his body, in an attempt to share his body heat. Fifteen agonizing minutes later, Alexei reached the park entrance near the zoo just as Artis pulled up in a Navigator. Alexei continued to check to see if the boy was still breathing while Dr. Artis jumped out of the SUV.
* * *
"I have everything with me to set up at your townhouse. This way you can be with him during the detox."
Alexei's Betas, who had accompanied him on his run, and the Enforcers who hurried from the house, when Grigory called, helped load the boy into the Navigator. Alexei rode with Dr. Artis and the boy. His Betas and Enforcers ran behind the SUV to the expansive seven-floor townhouse Daurensbourg had found him on East Sixty-Fourth Street, two blocks from the park.
He held his Mate's cold hand. Dr. Artis took out what looked like a small crayon box and placed it over the middle of his boy's outer thigh and pushed. "I am administering naloxone with a handheld auto-injector called Evzio to mitigate the effect of the overdose. I may need to do this once more before we get to the house." His Mate's body spasmed, but he didn't respond. Alexei began to panic.
A loup garou nurse was in the Navigator with Artis and watched her patient's vitals.
"Dr. Artis, another injection of Evzio, stat," the nurse said in a calm, steady voice.
Dr. Artis took another box like the first, held it over the boy's thigh, and plunged. His jade green eyes opened and he moaned.
The Navigator stopped in front of the townhouse. His Betas opened the Navigator's door. The first rays of morning light bathed the inside of the SUV. It was then that Alexei noticed the remnants of a severe beating. There were contusions, both new and old, everywhere but his face. Alexei gritted his teeth in anger and consternation. Who would do this to another human being? I thought I left these horrors in the gulag.
Grigory, Pierre--Armand's driver, and Dr. Artis removed his Mate from the backseat. They carried him into the basement rear entrance and onto the elevator of Alexei's new home. "Where is your suite?" Artis snapped.
"Third floor to the right."
Once they reached the master suite, Alexei took his Mate from Pierre and Grigory and placed him in the center of his bed. Boris quickly took down the bed curtains.
"I'm going to do a rapid detox with naltrexone. I will administer the naltrexone under anesthesia and it will look ugly for about three to six hours until the opiates leave his body. It is not as pain-free or safe as advertised. He will be bedridden for at least three days after the procedure and the procedure itself is very dangerous."
"Is there another way?" Alexei frowned, anxious. He started to pace. The gods couldn't mean for him to lose his Mate now that he finally found him. Am I being punished for my former arrogance?
"In this case, no, there isn't another way to rid his body of the drugs. Soon he will be under the influence of the mating pheromones. He will need to eat almost constantly. He won't eat with a heroin addiction. This way after the three days are up, Katya can feed him so he gains the weight he needs to be physically ready for the mating. He will have to see Dr. Cote to overcome the psychological addiction, or maybe Kane can help him with his gift. Kane's gift is new; we don't quite understand how it works yet." Dr. Artis took the young man's blood pressure.
"How do I find out who he is, where his people are?" Alexei asked, truly at a loss.
"Call The Alpha. Ask him to come. He will know what to do and who to call."
His Betas and the Enforcers came to the door of the bedroom. Artis turned to Alexei. "Tell them to wait downstairs. Make sure all of your Enforcers are here at the house. The fact that he's a prostitute might mean trouble with the Italians. The Alpha and the others will bring theirs with them," Dr. Artis told him.
Grigory hesitated. His gaze went to Alexei as he waited for confirmation.
"Do as the doctor says. We are new here. We will need help to navigate the waters. Put the Enforcers in the great room. You and Vasily go and wait in the library." Alexei turned his eyes to the bed once more effectively dismissing his Betas.
Alexei took his new phone out of his pocket. It was a low end. He was four years behind on Russian technology; for western technology, it might as well have been a decade. However, his Betas just finished teaching him how to use his new not-so-smart, smart phone with voice commands. He pushed a button on the screen.
"Calling Armand La Marche," the phone chirped back.
"La Marche residence, Rene DuBois speaking."
"This is Alpha Davidoff I have urgent business with The Alpha."
"I'll see if he can be disturbed." Alexei glanced up at the clock and cringed. It was only five forty-five. No wonder the Beta had to see if he was awake.
Alexei heard some rustling in the background. "Alpha Davidoff, how is your Mate?"
"He is about to undergo rapid detox, which Artis says is not safe but necessary in this case because of the pheromones."
"I understand. What is it you need?"
"Alpha, Artis says you can tell me how to find out who he is. He is definitely a rent boy. In Russia, the street prostitutes are run in stables. He must belong to someone who will come looking for him when he doesn't report back this morning. I need to negotiate for his release. I can have two hundred fifty thousand in cash and seven hundred fifty thousand in bearer bonds by eight this morning."
"How old does he look?"
"Early twenties, I would say. It's hard to tell. He's emaciated."
"He's probably a liability to his handler, too old, and an addict to boot. I'll see what I can do. In the meantime, I'll come over to you with the Mates and their Alphas. Sean's Voice and Kane's gift for healing mental trauma may be necessary to make this procedure a success."
"Thank you, Alpha. Words are not enough--" Alexei choked.
"I think your young man wanted to die or else he would have been on the street making money rather than in the park doing heroin. He must have been in despair to try and take his own life," Armand said thoughtfully.
"He's been badly beaten. It's almost as if I were back in the gulag looking at a fellow inmate." Alexei shivered.
"Kane will be able to relate." Armand cleared his throat. "I have to go to see Don Ferone, the mob boss in charge of the men who run the stables. I will attempt to negotiate your Mate's release. I'm sending Detective Sergeant Murphy of the NYPD over to take pictures along with the others."
* * *