She waited at the gate pursuing her Ipad of the document that Jeremy had compiled, a PDF including some scanned files and pictures. If anyone would have success with finding out about someone it would be Jeremy it seemed. She glanced at the doors to see that school had not let out yet and her children were still probably anxiously awaiting the end bell. Well, Kate was but Logan was probably perfectly happy to sit in school all night if he could. Kate liked school, and especially her new music classes and lessons, but she was restless and would get quickly bored in a classroom situation. Jeremy suspected some form of ADHD but Clay said it was just werewolf behaviour. Logan was just the opposite and loved traditionally learning as well as pursuing extra books and doing extra credit reports and projects. They were as different as night and day.
Elena looked down at Ipad again and scrolled down seeing Jeremy, as he had explained, had started with the most recent information. If this was the same werewolf, and all indications suggested he was because of the name, she only said this because he had a unique name; he had been living in Toronto from the age of ten. Layn had gone to a public school on the wrong side of town, from what Elena remembered of the city, but his grades were good and he was involved in clubs and sports teams in school like soccer and track and field. On paper he was a perfectly normal kid.
Moving past that she saw one address for all those years and she planned to go up this weekend and check it out. The papers also said he was from a single foster parent family and his father was a mechanic, Jason ‘Jay’ Stagner. She assumed she would find Jay or no one connected to him but she would see. As for parents she found none here but their research hadn’t reached Europe yet. There were also no immigration documents or anything to indicate any kind of citizenship. It seemed as if he was an illegal immigrant. No foster care or adoption papers and no mention of him in social services system that Paige helped Jeremy break into. She would definitely like to talk to Jay though. Even if he was a human, Layn indicated he was, he would know how and why Layn was there and where he came from, or so she hoped.
Going back to the boy’s name Jeremy had found another boy at the same age named Reuben that disappeared and suddenly Layn appeared at the same address and same area. Did he change his name or did Jay? Why? That was the big question. Before he was Reuben Ruman and now he was Layn Rumancek. Both names were European, which they were investigating now, and hopefully one of them would help them solve who Layn was and what he was doing here.
Next Elena glanced over some school photos and watched a growing Layn, starting off as a very small and scrawny kid but filling out when he was older. In the pictures he smiled but it never reached his eyes. There was a deep sadness there that she only recognized because she held the same sadness for many years. It got better of course, she found happiness but not for a long time. She was skimming through a video of one of his games, hockey, owned by the school, when the school bell jerked her from her thoughts. She turned off the IPad and got out of the SUV to find her children. She walked around the front of the vehicle and up to the gates. They always made sure a pack member was here to greet them. All of the kids wore the same white polo or dress shirt and tie with a vest bearing the school name and emblem and either grey dress pants, shorts or skirt so it wasn’t easy to spot her two amongst all the others. It was easier to smell them though.
Finally she smelled and then spotted Kate and Logan coming from the building clutching one another’s hands and their bags too. Sometimes with crowds or other kids they felt a bit overloaded and usually held onto one another as an anchor. Elena was not even sure if they realized what they were doing. Maybe it was just a twin thing though, or a werewolf or even human. They had a bit of human in them after all.
“Mama,” Logan called when they both saw her. Elena smiled knowing Logan calling her this was rare since he generally felt he was too old for it. Both the kids ran into her arms and she hugged them tightly as she did every day. She was beyond thankful for her children not even knowing if she would ever be able to have them in the first place. Being a werewolf changed everything. She never thought she would have her dreams but she had more than her dreams now. More than she felt she deserved.
“Can we get ice cream?” Kate asked hopefully as they broke apart. Elena rolled her eyes at this and shook her head. She knew that when Clay picked the kids up he indulged them with ice cream and treats before they came home but she didn’t want it to become an everyday habit. Come to think of it so did Nick, Antonio, Reese and basically anyone besides her and sometimes Jeremy.
“Maybe on the weekend if you’re both good,” she said opening the back door and waiting for them to get in and settle into their safety seats. The twins looked at one another and then at their mother and Elena winced. ‘Be good’ and other catch phrases such as ‘life isn’t fair’ and ‘this will hurt me more than it will hurt you’ didn’t exactly work for her kids. She heard them constantly growing up but her children were much smarter than she ever was at their age and of course these were much different circumstances. She swore there was a mothering spirit that suddenly took parents over as they became parents and these phrases and words immediately came through without the parents knowing.
“When are we not good, mom?” Kate asked exasperated with her mother and acting like a teenager and she often thought she was. It wasn’t true that the twins were always good. Kate had a temper and was very stubborn and Logan was arrogant at times and liked to have his own way. As smart as they were they were still children after all.
“Sometimes,” Logan reasoned as he looked at Kate who now turned her exasperated look on him. Elena let them talk as she fastened Kate’s safety buckles and Logan waved her off. Logan was often more independent while Kate sometimes wanting things done for her. Elena didn’t mind because she knew all too soon that they would be grown and not be her little children anymore.
Finally she closed the door and walked around the front of the vehicle about to get in when she caught a scent she recognized on the breeze. She froze but when she smelled again there was nothing. Confused she sniffed discreetly and then shook her head. She was always on high alert when she was alone with the twins and she knew, knew absolutely, that the mutt she smelled would not dare be in her territory. Joseph wouldn’t dare come here unless he wanted a beating and a long tortuous death. He had betrayed Clay in the worst way and he would get what was coming to him. Still, she would mention it to Clay and they may investigate later just in case. It would be a relief to tell Noah he didn’t have to worry about his father anymore. He had been worried about Joseph and having to leave the pack since he came to them but Elena swore it would never happen and she would keep her word. Noah was hers and he wasn’t leaving against his will.
Elena opened the door and caught her children in the middle of a conversation. “Maybe it’s someone who shouldn’t be here,” Logan said followed by Kate’s “No, she’s worried about more than that.” Elena cringed. She hated when the children picked up on her worries, especially with Kate’s emotional perception powers.
“Everything’s fine guys,” Elena assured getting into the car and locking the door. She looked back at them in the rear-view mirror and both of them looked back at her with incredulous expressions. If they were like this at not even eight years of age, she was afraid of what they would be like at eighteen and actually part of the pack and entitled to know everything a pack member should, that always made her cringe.
Antonio wiped the sweat from his face as he walked down the hallway ready for a shower and bed. He’d spent the last few hours training alone to work the anger from his system. He knew he couldn’t totally blame Layn for what he did because he was young and untrained in any way shape or form but it still pissed him off. A lot of things about the kids pissed him off but he tried not to let him see. He just didn’t trust the kid. He had no idea why but it was a deep instinct. Something was off. Something was just wrong.
When he heard a groan he stopped and looked towards Layn’s room. Slowly he approached and pushed open the door a bit narrowing his eyes and letting his lower night vision kick in. When it did he saw Layn was in bed with strained look on his face like he was having a bad dream. He groaned again and turned over but then relaxed. Antonio watched for a moment and then stepped back quietly closing the door. If it was Noah he would have woken him or the others but Layn he would leave alone. He didn’t know him well enough and wasn’t sure how his help would be received.
He had spoken with Elena and Nick today and he knew everything Jeremy had found. That the younger wolf had gone by a different name was suspicious enough but that he was so closed off and secretive was hitting him the wrong way. Sure, he knew that by being thrown into a complete family of absolute strangers was nerve racking and he wouldn’t just spill everything all at once. It was still odd that he wasn’t opening up at all. And, then, burying a dead body on the property? His property? What was he thinking? Training or no training he should have been smart enough to avoid that.
As Antonio turned from the younger wolf’s bedroom he heard a door down the hall open and Nick step from his room. Tonio and Dom had chosen that room for him when he was born because it was between their own. Since Dominick’s death Tonio had moved to the master bedroom but still felt the close proximity of his son. No matter how old he got he would be thankful that Nick was there. The room had largely changed since he had grown but it was always a place that had been the heart of the house for Antonio because Nick was his heart and his family.
Nick smiled at his dad and glanced at Noah’s room and then Layn’s before he looked at his father again with an anxious expression. He, being in charge of the younger generation, was especially anxious and worried about the situation. Since Noah and Reese came into his care he had become more confident but each new member he was in charge of presented new challenges especially the ones who were not so forthcoming. “He’ll come around?” Nick half asked and half told his father who nodded but said nothing for a moment.
“I think there is more to him than we realize but I am not sure we will know until it’s too late.” Antonio sighed. Nick gave him a quizzical look before he glanced at Layn’s room yet again.
“The problem is what will we lose if too late becomes a reality.” Both Sorrentino’s turned to see Reese standing in the doorway of the room he frequented here sometimes, most of the time he was in the Guest house which had become his, but tonight he was at the house. In fact, until they stopped being nervous about Layn’s presence and Morgan’s health he would be here. In boxers and nothing else the young werewolves’ muscles bulged as he looked at his mentor’s seriously.
“We don’t convict without proof.” Tonio reminded and Nick nodded looking frustrated and brushing a hand through his hair. Reese growled lowly to himself at this but nodded as well. He may not like the rules sometimes but he followed them no matter what. Reese was loyal and he always would be. They rarely had to worry about the Aussie wolf messing up thankfully, not counting the fact that he chased Nick to Detroit without permission hell bent on helping him find Malcolm Danvers. Since then he’d been as good as gold watching his steps carefully.
“I hope it’s worth the cost.” Reese said lowly before he turned and went back into his darkened room shutting the door lightly. Nick looked at his father with a raised eyebrow but Tonio only shook his head. Reese was stubborn and he sometimes went close to the line of being disrespectful but he never was, being on his own for so long was something he was still getting over mentally. He knew he was pack, they knew he was pack but sometimes his brain slammed on the breaks and he had to remind himself of this.
He lay in bed holding his breath listening to their soft voices. They knew way more than he was comfortable with and his current plans came to a screeching halt then. He sat up rubbing his numb face and wondering what to do. Should he tell them? Should he change tracks? Should he just leave? He had no idea but things were unravelling fast. Sympathy. He needed their sympathy and quick. It would steer them off the track of suspicion and if there was one thing he was good at it was manipulation. Before he fell asleep again he had a new plan and it settled his nerves considerably and let him catch a few hours of much needed rest. Plan B would be put into action tomorrow. Plan C was flat out getting out of dodge so he hoped his second attempt would go smoother.
Layn was up and dressed early the next day making bacon, eggs and French toast. Food was a way to anyone’s heart and this was especially true for a werewolf pack. Nick was first in the kitchen and Layn immediately steered him to the dining room where breakfast was waiting. It took minutes for everyone else to find the food as well and a few minutes later all that could be heard was chewing and swallowing. A few times he saw one or two of them sniffing their food to make sure nothing extra was in it but Layn wasn’t offended. He knew they didn’t trust him and even if they didn’t overtly show it he knew.
Finally it was time to put his plan into action. He prepared his face and body language accordingly before he dared speak. “I need to…,” Layn started to speak and looked up at Nick and Antonio but at that moment the sunlight broke through the clouds and bounced off the metal candle sticks on the table. In seconds he felt the creeping spider web feeling across his cheek and his brain froze and filled him with a sudden sense of dread and terror. He couldn’t move, couldn’t think and couldn’t breathe. The glass in his hand began to shake and then fell knocking against the table and spilled its contents before falling to the floor and shattering. Layn didn’t register the noise or anything else then in his frozen state.
When he was able to register sound, light and movement he saw he was still sitting and broken glass was littering his jeans and the floor. He could tell his pupils were dilated and he could still feel the dread and fear inside of him slowly sinking away. It hadn’t been as bad as some other times and he was thankful for that. He would be more thankful if he were along though.
“Layn?” Nick said sounding concerned as Layn blinked and tried to answer. His mouth tasted like cotton balls and dry like he hadn’t had liquid in days. Immediately his eyes went to the table and the water picture and all four werewolves’ eyes followed his gaze. Noah was up in seconds and getting Layn some water as Nick set a hand on his shoulder. He drank like a man dying of thirst but refused more and tried to collect himself. It had happened. He knew it would. His medication didn’t always work and certain things would always trigger it like light reflecting off of snow and shiny surfaces or strobe type light effects either at a concert or even something smaller like on a computer or TV screen. Movies were the worst and especially 3D which he couldn’t watch without having an episode. Stress was the worst though and he had been highly stressed lately.
When he was able to focus he rubbed his eyes and blinked some more before he looked at Nick and the people around him. Concern, suspicion and confusion were the emotions written on everyone’s faces but something else too, sympathy. With something he hated he had done what he thought was impossible, gaining their sympathy to get back on track. “Has this ever happened before?” Nick asked simply and Layn nodded. The fear and general confusion of the seizure was passing now so he could reluctantly explain.
Layn told them about the seizures and what he could. When did it start? What triggered it? Etc. By the end of his spiel Layn was back at the table feeling weaker but better. Across from him Antonio was looking over the medication bottle and then at Nick who looked annoyed. They must have gone to his room to see what they could find when it happened.
“When you join the pack you tell us everything.” Nick scolded now with less sympathy and more warning. Layn nodded annoyed with this. He didn’t have them often now, due to stronger medication and growing into his werewolf powers, hopefully it would go away all together someday, but he wasn’t sure.
“Would you have told?” Layn asked quietly and looked Nick directly in the eye, challenge. Nick blinked but held his gaze and finally Layn looked away wanting to forget this had ever happened. He had gotten their sympathy but what did he do with it now? He had to plan his next move quickly but before that he had to get up. Moving slowly he started to stand but immediately felt a hand on both upper arms. Antonio on one side and Reese on the other, oh, this was annoying but it was also perfect to play right into his plans.
“I’m alright.” He insisted and pulled away from them now reaching for some more water.
“Well see, you’re going to see someone about this.” Nick insisted but Layn protested. He had been tested and retested and thoroughly probed as well when he had an episode in Toronto. Jay probably would not have cared too much but it happened at school and therefore required the utmost attention. Maybe it had been a good thing then especially since it had been monitored but, it did give Jay another avenue to mock him and call him weak. He could take the taunting as long as something would help the symptoms.
In the end he got off with detailing everything about what was wrong with him and accepting that Jeremy would examine him and research his condition. He hated to think of it like this but that is what it was though, he did consider his werewolf side a bigger condition or affliction than anything else that was wrong with him but apparently he was the only one. He felt like a two year old being fused over when nothing was wrong. Maybe he was making too big a deal out of it or maybe he just wasn’t used to being cared for but it was a bit too much.
Quietly he slipped from the house and into the garage. Nick was the only one who had stayed home that day but he had been busy with a work meeting in his office. Apparently burying dead bodies in the back yard meant Layn couldn’t be trusted on his own anymore or maybe it was the affliction. Either way it irked him to no end. Layn looked around the garage and drooling at some of the vehicles there before he spotted his own bike, it didn’t look like much compared to theirs but it was his which meant a lot more to him.
Once he had it rolled out to the front of the garage he got on and revved up taking off. He didn’t know exactly where he was going at first but when he turned the bike onto the New York State Thruway he automatically kept going towards the boarder. Canada. Toronto. Six hours of driving later he was in Cabbage Town driving down the silent street and finally parking in front of the house he had spent his late childhood in.
The neighbourhood was quiet, middle class, not the nicest of the Cabbage Town areas but good enough. Layn stopped the bike and got off outside the driveway and wheeled his bike to the garage. Beside it was a copse of trees where he hid the bike before he turned to the front walk. Was Jay home? He could never tell. The scents in the driveway told him that he had been here within the last day but nothing was more recent. It could just mean that he hadn’t left the house. He was a bit of an agoraphobic when it suited him.
Layn took a deep breath and let himself into the house. The smell of alcohol and cigarette smoke hit him instantly. He set his helmet down and walked further into the house. From the outside it looked like a normal family home. There was evidence of the dilapidation inside. No one knew about the newspaper stacked in the hallways and all the rooms of the house almost the ceiling or the crumbling wallpaper falling from the walls, the stacks of old food containers or endless ash trays strewn around the house.
Layn continued through the house and into the kitchen. Jay could normally be found in one of those two rooms. He was right. Jay was in the kitchen playing cards with one of his mutt buddies, Scott. Jay looked up at him and then away to keep playing cards. Layn’s stomach tightened at this. With Jay you got mind games. He’d been with the man long enough to know what his silences or his icy tones meant.
Layn ignored him as well and walked to the fridge digging out a can of beer and then walked to the table and sat down. Popping the top he took a swallow and waited. He drummed his fingers against the table top as Jay laid out a royal flush. “Running again?” Jay asked now.
Layn froze and forced himself to look calm before he shrugged. “The pack is just a bunch of tight asses. I needed a break. Noah’s fine by the way. Seems happy.”
Jay scowled and threw the rest of his cards on the table. “He’s not. They’ll suffocate him just like they are suffocating you. You will go back there. Finish this. It can’t be hard to get Noah to trust you. Do your job!” he growled.
Layn sighed and lifted the can again taking another gulp. Without a word he stood and walked from the room and towards the stairs to his room. He slammed and locked his door. The familiar atmosphere greeted him and he gratefully walked to the bed and fell onto it. Across the room he looked at one of the only other doors not leading to the hallway. The outside of the door had two locks and led to another room similar to his. It was for Noah.
Jay had said that Noah was being forced to live with the pack and that he was miserable. Yet, Jay planned to lock him up here against his will. How happy would he be then? Layn could see he was happy with Nick and the pack. Jay was wrong. It was time to come clean. He had known this wasn’t right for a long time and seeing Noah cemented that.
Layn growled at himself and turned over in his bed comforted by the familiar scents. He’d rest for a few minutes and then take off again. Coming back had been a bad idea. He should have just driven around for a while instead. Layn yawned and rolled over closing his eyes. Seconds later it seemed he was being shaken by someone who was growling at him to get up.
Layn looked up confused to see an angry Jay standing over him with a bottle of water. Layn scrambled out of the way as the man threw cold water all over him. The young werewolf sighed and wiped cold water from his face fully awake now. “Thanks.” Layn growled rolling his eyes.
“Get up. I want you out in five minutes.” Jay ordered and then turned and left. Layn glared at the man but got up and got ready. He knew Jay was not joking. He never joked. Layn had fallen asleep in his clothes and now all he had to do was swipe a hand through his hair and grab his helmet and wallet.
Without saying goodbye he left. He retrieved his bike from the side of the garage and wheeled it out the driveway revving it up. He fit the helmet over his head. He wasn’t stupid. He knew that he wasn’t invincible and could be killed just as easily as a human if he was in an accident, just as a bullet could kill him, not the silver kind, and various other destructive methods.
The sun rose as he drove and he realized he had been gone from the Sorrentino’s for almost a day. Cursing he rode as fast as he dared making it over the state line and to the house just before lunch.
Layn opened the front door with his code and walked inside shedding his muddy boots at the entrance. He stopped listening carefully but heard no one. The house was big enough that werewolf hearing might not be enough to figure out if he was alone or not. The kitchen smelled like recently cooked food. When he looked at his watch he saw it was Saturday. Everyone would be home today.
As Layn walked by Nick’s study door Nick called out for him. Layn stopped and popped his head in the door to see Nick on the phone but waving Layn in and telling him to wait. The younger werewolf nodded and took a seat. How much trouble was he in?
“Yeah, if you can get the report done by Monday we can keep the meeting on track.” Nick said into the phone. He nodded and then wrote something down. Nick said a few more things and then nodded a few more times before he hung up looking at Layn.
“Sorry.” Layn said automatically and trailed off when Nick looked at him with a raised eyebrow, “Um, for going out and not saying anything…,” he said and Nick nodded.
“You’re not a little kid Layn but I would like at least a word when you’re going out. I tell Antonio and the boys when I go out and I’m over forty. Noah and Reese tell me when they leave and Tonio does the same. It’s just courteous and with mutts around we need to know. If you don’t come home and we haven’t heard a word you may be in trouble and we won’t be able to help.” Nick said and Layn nodded.
“I’m also a bit concerned with you driving when you have this…condition.” Layn stiffened but didn’t address it.
“I know sorry. I didn’t mean to I just kind of…kept driving and suddenly I was home…” Layn sighed and looked away when Nick’s eyebrow shot up again.
“Home?” he asked. Layn swore at himself and tried to backtrack now. Maybe he should just come clean now, stopping piling lies on everything else and digging himself deeper.
“Um, yeah…Jay and all, I lived there for the longest so I guess it’s kind of home.” He shrugged. Another lie. Jay’s would never be home. The only home he actually remembered, kind of, was in Poland and even that was tainted.
“Can I ask where this home is?” Nick asked Layn seriously leaning forward now. Layn shrugged. Nick sat back looking disappointed and drumming his fingers on his desk.
No. Not now. Maybe soon but now. He didn’t have as much courage as he thought he did. The silence stretched so long that Layn became uncomfortable. Nick kept scrutinizing him and Layn knew the man was just trying to make him talk and it was almost working.
“I’m going to go find Noah.” Layn said starting to stand but Nick interrupted him before he fully stood.
“You can tell me anything Layn, anything. I won’t be angry. I want to help you like I helped Noah and Reese and, even Morgan. You need a pack and a family and I’m here.” He said gently. Layn looked surprised at the man before he turned and fled, fled before he actually gave in to and spoke to him. He was too close. Nick called his name but Layn ignored.
Layn headed from the room and towards the pool room where he heard Noah and Reese’s voices and, he thought, Morgan as well. When he walked in he saw them all lounging by the pool throwing a football back and forth over the water and chugging beers.
“Hey.” Layn called.
Reese waved and Noah smiled nodding. Morgan gave a quick nod as well. He looked better which was good. The young werewolf walked to where Noah was and took a seat a few feet away from him and the water. He wasn’t comfortable around water. Not since he was little. He thought about when he first met Jaime and had a mental flashback. Water. Drowning. No thank you. The most he was willing to go through was a shower which was always short and to the point.
“We were thinking about playing water basketball or something, you in?” Noah asked. Layn shrugged and looked at Morgan.
“I’m feeling better than I have in a long time,” Morgan said answering his unasked question. Good. Layn genuinely liked Morgan and felt a connection to him because of their Canadian roots.
“I’m good, I’m not really a water guy,” he shrugged and picked up a nearby unopened beer can playing with it idly before he opened it and took a chug of it. The burn of alcohol washed down his throat and he instantly felt better.
“Come on.” Noah cajoled and shot a grin at Layn. The young werewolf sighed and looked at the water and then back at Noah. The other wolf was including him and asking him to hang out. If he turned him down he would put Noah at arm’s reach again. He needed to get to Noah. No. He should be taking a step back and telling the pack the truth. He was so confused. Nick must have sensed this and that’s why he tried to get information from him.
“I’m ok.” Layn said. There wasn’t a force on earth that would get him in that water, to show his skin. He was dreading the day when he would need to change but he’d been ignoring the urge even as it burned under his skin for the last few days.
“Leave him alone Noah.” Morgan called and Noah rolled his eyes but obeyed.
Layn watched as Noah and Morgan got into the water and threw a basketball around practicing lay ups with the net mounted above the pool. Behind him Reese padded up and took a seat beside Layn taking a drink of a foreign beer, some Australian brand that looked disgusting but Reese swore was better than any American swill.
He grabbed the extra beer from beside the older wolf and proceeded to open and drink it but the look he got from Reese stopped him. In a split second decision he grinned and took a drink as quickly as he could grimacing at the taste of the awful stuff. In a move quicker than lightning the can was grabbed from him and he was pushed forward but he grabbed a hold of Reese’s arm so he wouldn’t throw him in the chilly water.
“Not a good idea to touch his beer.” Noah called and Layn nodded but smirked slightly. Reese sighed and smiled as well pulling back and letting him go.
“There’s normal stuff in the fridge.” He informed and Layn nodded gratefully. “The rule is you can have a few at home or if you aren’t going out or if you’re somewhere else and someone else is driving. Have one before you drive and you’ll regret it.”
“Nick will make sure of it.” Noah called.
Layn took this in and walked from the pool room to the kitchen intent on grabbing a beer and putting it against his forehead. His skin had been hot for a few hours and had been feeling stretched and like something was crawling under it. The beer felt cool and helped a bit but a dip in the pool would have been better. That wasn’t happening so he contented himself with this.
He walked from the kitchen and pulled his sleeve down not willing to watch the black worms crawl. When he walked past Nick’s study he heard him still in there and knocked on the door sticking his head in. Antonio was bent over the desk looking at something on the screen and Nick was explaining whatever was there.
“Sorry to bug you guys but I’m going out back to change.” He explained and pulled up the sleeve on his shirt showing them the skin. “Just thought I would let you know.” Nick smiled at this not expecting to be obeyed and then nodded.
“I’m almost done and we’re all overdue, get the boys and we’ll join you.”
“Um…,” he hesitated, “I like to change alone…I’ve never really done it with others before.”
“In a pack we change together.” Antonio said not leaving any room for negotiation before he went back to talking to Nick. Layn hesitated but then left closing the door slightly. They were about to learn his other secret because it seemed a day for that, a really sucky day.