They didn’t trust him. He wasn’t surprised. He showered with the door open and with Nick in the next room working on his IPad and talking to Reese lowly. Finally he turned the water off and stepped out grabbing a towel and doing the best dry job he could before pulling on his other clothes awkwardly.
“Want help?” Nick asked and Layn turned to see him in the doorway. Slightly humiliated he pulled up his long sleeved shirt to show Nick the button and zipper he was having trouble with. The older werewolf didn’t say a word as he helped Layn become presentable and gestured for him to go to the other room. He did, while Nick used the washroom, and sat with Reese who only looked over at him before going back to his business. The other werewolf’s expression was neutral but Layn could tell he wasn’t happy. No one seemed to be.
Layn blew air from his lungs agitated and fell back onto the bed thinking. He was at a crossroads and he had no idea what to do. It seemed his death was inevitable so why not just do what the pack says. If he went against them he dies and if he goes against Jay he dies.
“Layn, it’s almost time for the meeting so come and eat,” Nick called.
He laid for a moment more feeling as if he had a little control and then followed them from the room. Bacon awaited but more importantly the pack awaited. This was where he proved himself. He sat in front of them with a full stomach and a cup of coffee waiting. He’d answer all of their questions, again, hooked up to a polygraph to prove himself. He hated this but it was what he had to do.
Layn was surprised to hear some questions reiterated from when Elena questioned him in the Sorrentinos cage. It could have been for the benefit of the pack or council or to make sure he was telling the truth. Either way he made sure his answers fell in line with the original ones he gave a few days ago.
He was sitting in one of the Winterbourne-Cortez meeting rooms by a table where the machine was hooked to him. The rest of the pack and council were ringed around him either sitting or standing with Elena nearest to him.
“Jay’s pack consists of Cain and five other mutts including Liam and Raymond, plus Charles Grant, Ezekiel Rack and Yu Chan. They are all mutts between thirty and fifty so all in prime fighting form. All dedicated to destroying the pack and to preserving Jay and his thinking,” Layn divulged.
“When did he tell you his plans?” Layn looked down at the polygraph and bit his lip growling at himself momentarily for the old habit.
“I figured it out when I was about fourteen. I was looking for him after school one day and I found him changing in the tool shed. I had totally forgotten about werewolves and everything else and after he was human again he explained it to me and explained what I was. He told me the plans after that and my role. It didn’t take long to figure out things after that,” Layn shrugged.
“So you just accepted all of this?” Nick asked and Layn nodded.
“I didn’t have a choice, do the math. I was younger and weaker and they were, and are, five strong werewolves. How do I object?” he asked. Nick nodded to this but didn’t look pleased.
“So, when did you change your name and who you were and why?” she asked next. Layn stiffened not wanting to talk about it but he knew he had to. No secret was worth his life.
“I’m sure you noticed I’m on the missing children’s registry in England as Reuben?” he asked and she nodded. “Well Jay and Cain noticed too. One day they came to my room, not long after I got there and was still terrified of them. They told me I wasn’t allowed to be Reuben Iven Ruman anymore and I had to pick a new name. I refused and so they picked a name. Cain had heard the name Layn and liked it so they called me Layn Emerson Rumancek keeping some of my Polish roots. It took me forever to get used to the name and I’m embarrassed to admit I finally accepted it after much yelling and pain.”
“That’s not so bad.”
“Yeah, it is. It’s my major moment of weakness. I let them bully me into it and I hate myself for it. I’m weak and I hate myself for that too,” he growled. He was showing his weakness even now and he had to get himself under control. He couldn’t look so weak in front of them.
“Do you want to be called Reuben again?” Elena asked seriously now uncrossing her arms and setting her hands on the table behind her. Layn started to shake his head but then stopped.
“No…maybe…I don’t know. I guess Reuben could be a clean slate for me with you guys but…not now anyway.”
“If you do we can easily change certificates and do whatever we need to accommodate that,” Layn looked up at her as if she had lost her mind but, maybe with all that was going on, she had.
“Elena, I won’t be living with you when this ends, or with the pack. That’s impossible. Noah hates me and wants me dead. If I go back it will be constant turmoil. Plus, I can’t live with the Sorrentinos. Plus, did I mention that Noah will kill me. This won’t work. I’ll help out until Jay is taken down but then I can’t stay. I need to leave,” Layn emphasized. He had already thought this through and knew it was the best plan.
“We’ll speak about it when this is over,” she was being evasive. Layn would have to slip off after this it seemed but for now he would help them. “Tell me the rest of it.”
“They’re determined Elena. They have been for years and I’ve been trained to be part of it. They want this. Remember how firm they are in their convictions. They want the pack dead and Jay wants Noah back. It’s his only goal. You’ll have to kill him.”
“I’ve been waiting for a long time to kill that mutt,” a Southern drawl interrupted the. Layn glanced at Clay in the doorway and nodded.
“He knows that. He’s ready and he’s not like he used to be. I saw picture of what he used to look like and that’s not him now. He’s been training, he’s got muscle and he looks ten years younger. He’s out for blood like never before,” Layn explained and Clay smirked.
“So am I.”
After the questions and many more he watched as the pack members spoke quietly among themselves for a few moments before turning to Elena once more as if a silent signal had been given. “We need to speak about the plan. We all know what’s going on and what’s happened but now we need to do something about it. This threat to the pack will not be tolerated,” Elena said calmly. Elena existed no more. In her place the Alpha stood with only one intention, protect the pack.
Layn watched her carefully for a moment before looking around at the others, the older ones. Jeremy was watching her full of trust and the others emulated him. Even Reese had no doubt in his eyes. He didn’t see Nick stand and reach for him but he did feel the man take his arm. “Hey,” he protested but Nick growled for him to be quiet. Layn sighed agitated as the man took him outside. On the way in they passed Antonio who was just joining them but he only nodded to them and went into the room. Nick kept walking with him until they got to the elevator.
“Layn, we’re planning and we don’t trust you enough to listen in right now. Understandably we can’t have you knowing our plans. No one is available to watch you so you’re going downstairs for now,” he explained. Layn groaned, ignoring the irrational pang of hurt in his heart, as the man brought him to the room with the cage but Lucas ran down the hallway stopping them just as they opened the door.
“Aaron just brought this vampire in,” Lucas explained. Layn and Nick both looked at the cage to see an angry looking man inside and Aaron and Cassandra on the outside trying to speak to him but the vampire was having none of it.
“Um, will Layn be safe in there?” Nick asked uncertainly. Aaron shook his head and Cassandra only looked at the vampire in the cage and then to the young werewolf with a knowing but unconcerned expression.
“No, but if you need someone to stay with him I can. I’ll get details of the conversation later,” Aaron offered. Layn almost snorted at the audacity of it. A vampire forced to babysit a werewolf. No one had written a book on that as far as he knew. Nick nodded at the arrangement and pushed Layn towards the man. He turned to glare at Nick as the man left and then back to the two vampires and the one in the cage.
“Layn right,” Aaron asked and Layn nodded.
“Aaron, I suggest you take the child outside,” Cassandra ordered and Layn bristled but said nothing. Cassandra was ancient so he supposed even Jeremy was a kid to her. Aaron made an uninterruptable noise and Layn ignored them and walked away and to the nearest exit. He heard no one following but he assumed vampires made no noise like werewolves when they wanted to be quiet. He knew he was right when he heard the door behind him catch as Aaron caught it and then sit down beside him taking out a cigarette and smoking.
“You’re a fucking vampire.” Aaron chuckled.
“I drink too.”
“Of course you do.”
Aaron chuckled again and they sat in silence until he was done his smoke and had put it out on the cement step. “So what did you do?”
“Got on the wrong side,” Layn admitted. Something he was still coming to terms with.
“A-huh, well my advice is to do everything they say and you’ll get out of this alive. The werewolves don’t fuck around. Ever!” And that was the truest statement he had ever heard.
They sat in silence on the concrete step for a few minutes more before Aaron asked if he wanted food. Layn shrugged and got up to follow the man who looked back at him with a raised eyebrow. “I can run faster than you and am stronger,” he reminded.
“Give me a break,” Layn said rolling his eyes. He wasn’t planning on running anyway so it would be nice for someone to trust him for once. They walked across the unbusy road to a diner. It was a 50’s style restaurant complete with Elvis Presley on the juke box and girls in roller skates delivering food. Layn had gotten through a milkshake, a beer, two burgers, fries and a steak, half of it was food Aaron ostensibly ordered for himself, and Aaron was sipping a beer when the door opened and he heard heavy footsteps. Nick.
“That lasted long,” Layn sighed. He felt the hand on his shoulder and rolled his eyes at Aaron who chuckled again and looked behind Layn.
“Over bearing,” he mouthed and Aaron laughed out loud now and finished his beer. Layn took the last bite of his steak and was about to chug his own beer when Nick grabbed it from him inciting another audible sigh from the younger wolf.
“You didn’t think I ate him did you?” Layn waited but no one said anything. He presumed a look passed between the two and it was, yet again, something all important he couldn’t know.
Back at the investigation firm Layn listened to the part of the plan he was allowed to hear. He hated it. He argued but Elena was a steel door and she wouldn’t be moved. He considered just leaving but that would earn him a ticket to the heaven he no longer believed in. As it turned out he did have hours and hours to mull it over since the Alpha declared the matter non-negotiable and sent Layn to bed like a small child in the cage since she couldn’t completely trust him.
The vampire here previously must have either done the right thing and been set free or done the wrong thing. That sent a chill up his spine. He smelled no blood though, so either the council employed different methods from the werewolves or they killed elsewhere.
He tossed and turned all night in the room and finally he sat up and put his back to the wall pulling his legs to his chest and hugging them. He mind swirled with the most unpleasant scenarios and danced with thoughts and feelings. Finally he abruptly fell asleep half fallen to the side not waking until someone shook him on the shoulder only a few hours later.
He slowly opened his tired eyes and accepted the plate of breakfast they offered along with coffee eating fast without speaking. He had never been a morning person after all. He was coming out a steamy shower, being careful with his hand and half-dressed when someone hollered and a loud bang sounded along with a fizzle and an explosion.
He pulled on his jeans and moved forward instinctually reaching for the doorknob. As soon as his thumb touched the metal the door burst open and he jerked back wishing he had buttoned his jeans. Reese growled at him to get down but pushed him down before he could accomplish the task himself. The older werewolf covered most of his body as another explosion sounded and Layn felt Reese winch on top of him. His own ears rang with pain. Nick yelled something in the other room.
“What happened?” Layn hissed gritting his teeth against the pain but got no answer. They waited for something more to transpire but no more noises came. Still they waited.
“Reese?” someone’s voice cried with clear frightened tones. He felt the older wolf shift and Layn moved a bit and looked at the door seeing Nick and Jeremy who both rushed in. One pulled Reese up and before Layn knew it he was half standing and being looked over by Jeremy and asked frantic questions. He wasn’t sure he understood right away and his ears kept distorting his words. The man swiftly snapped his fingers in front of Layn’s face to make him focus. He answered that he was fine figuring that was what he wanted and followed the others from the room. Outside the windows were blown out and debris littered the green grass and pavement they stood on.
“Who did this?” Reese growled but then answered his own question before anyone else had to, “Jay.” He glared at Layn who glowered back getting some hearing back. He felt thirsty and dizzy though and knew it was shock.
“Yes, because I made sure Jay did this to screw with everyone despite the fact that he hates me!” Layn hissed ignoring his symptoms. He just needed to sit and get the ringing the stop for a moment.
“Stop!” Nick barked making a sideways chopping motion with his hand.
Both boys stopped their pissing contest and went to meet the others who had gathered, at least the ones who were not chasing after the mutts who bombed them. Layn immediately sat down on the edge of the sidewalk and rubbed his ear annoyed with the ringing and looking around cataloguing who was here. Only Nick, Jeremy and they were present. The others must have been on chasing duty.
“Are you both sure you’re ok?” Nick demanded looking at Reese now. The Australian werewolf nodded but pointed out that Layn had been rubbing his ear and grimacing. Jeremy immediately crouched and reached for him but Layn batted him away. Jeremy caught his hand and pushed it aside forcing his way in. Irritated Layn put up with this and winced at his probing.
“Um, it’s probably just a side effect of the blast that will wear off. We’ll check it a bit later but tell me if anything changes.” Layn nodded not really paying attention as he scanned the horizon for the others. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Jeremy go to Reese and take his jaw looking into his eyes and pronouncing both of them were in shock, like Layn thought.
“I should go too; I know what Jay smells like and looks like,” Layn announced. He stood but all three shook their heads. Annoyed he shoved his hands in his pockets or tried, and winced, when his broken hands hit his thigh.
“You know the plan. You’ll have plenty of time to contribute…,” Nick said trying to be comforting but Layn interrupted him and stepped back supremely annoyed.
“NO! You know what Nick? I’m tired of this. Jay is so close I can feel him and we are sitting here doing nothing. We need to go and kill them so I can leave already!” He felt his voice escalating until he was screaming at the older wolf by the end looking up at the man who was stronger and had a few inches over him and much more experience.
“I understand,” Nick said calmly.
“No, you don’t,” Layn said lowly channelling his anger now.
“Enough,” Jeremy voice came firm but soft. Layn turned away and walked to the curb sitting down heavily. He was so tired of doing nothing. Jeremy walked to a nearby convenience store to grab some water bottle a few minutes later which helped a bit. Finally Reese asked the question Layn had been wondering but too stubborn to ask himself. “Where are all the police and emergency people?” he wondered. Layn looked up as Jeremy explained.
“The business is surrounded by a perception filter which means no humans heard it or saw it. Only supernaturals can see it or know anything around the area.” Layn told them he had heard of this before and Jeremy nodded suggesting they go to Lucas and Paige’s house and wait. Since anything was better than waiting here in the cold night air Layn agreed.
Elena and Clay didn’t show up until late into the night and even then they were vague about what had happened and sent everyone to bed soon after. This time Layn was able to sleep in a real room but was accompanied by Nick and Reese with both of them participating in the nighttime watch. This was not only to keep track of Layn but to make sure no more attacks surprised them. He may as well have been part of the night shift for all the sleep he got though. Early in the morning he gave up and joined Antonio and Jeremy for an early breakfast while the others slept. He wasn’t sure that his company was wanted but he didn’t get the feeling of being an intrusion which he was very tuned to thanks to Jay. When he wasn’t wanted he knew it and that was most of the time. He had spent a lot of lonely meals and days in his room with the only comfort being books. It was the next best place to the used book store he loved only a couple of subway stops from his house where he would sit for whole days and just lose himself in imagining.
The bookstore owner suspected something was up when Layn started coming there so often and so he let Layn help out there cataloguing books and restocking as well. Every time he worked there he got a free book which he preferred to cash. Those were some of his fondest memories. When he was fourteen the bookstore owner died suddenly and the store was sold and turned into a McDonalds.
Silently Layn sat and wolfed down his breakfast or probably only his first breakfast, listening to them. He wondered if they felt as poorly about the plan as he did but, if they did they gave no indication at all. Finally he set his fork down on his plate hard and looked over at them unbelieving. Both men stopped their conversation and eyed Layn who sat back with crossed arms. “This is stupid. We need to confront him and not wait…,” he growled. Jeremy sat back quietly watching him and Antonio took a bite and chewed slowly.
“The Alpha knows best.”
“No, she doesn’t!” Layn sighed and stood leaving the table and heading for the back door. Childishly he made sure it slammed and headed for the back woods but he stopped just short of the stairs. Acting like this would not do any good. Instead he could change the plan as it unfolded. Elena wouldn’t listen but she could not stop his actions when the time came.
Filled with conviction and restless energy Layn circled around the house to where the small basketball court was, supposedly set up by Lucas for Savannah when she was younger, and he picked up the ball and started to shoot hoops. In high school he had a brief stint where he played but it was never his favorite. He liked soccer and hockey much better. It had kept him out of Jay’s hair as well.
He played for a few minutes by himself before he heard the door open. He didn’t see who was there until he lost the ball when he threw it too hard and turned almost falling over as it was thrown back at him. Playing one handed did not do him any favors. Jeremy’s slow crooked smile lit his eyes and Layn begrudgingly let him in and they faced off for a few shots until he managed to get the advantage and score five more points.
“I know you frustrated Layn,” the man finally said bouncing the ball.
“Yeah, well…,” Layn began and then stopped not sure what to say.
“It’s hard for you to trust her because you have never had to trust an Alpha before and, surprisingly, I understand that. Do me a favor though,” he asked and set a hand on Layn’s shoulder. “Give her a chance. When this plan works you will see she knows what she is doing and you will trust her. You have no reason to right now but you will. You accepted her before in words now do it in actions and in here,” Jeremy said pointing at Layn’s chest and his head.
The younger werewolf looked at the former Alpha surprised before he nodded not knowing what else to do. Jeremy’s lips twitched in another small smile and he patted Layn’s shoulder and suggested they go back in. He didn’t want to; in fact he would rather have taken off down the street that he was looking longingly down but Jeremy, knowing where his thoughts were going, steered him towards the front door and whispered for him to trust them.
As they got to the front door it opened and Elena looked at them and specifically at Layn. Finally she nodded to them and they walked past. On the way by Elena took his arm as she shut the door and led him to the closest room, a living room, where she turned to him. “I need your word that you will listen to me in everything involving this plan and for the next twenty four hours. After that we can work on this but, for now you need to do everything I say. Promise me,” she ordered with the Alpha hard in her eyes.
Layn thought for a few moments and then nodded. Elena was right and while he didn’t like the plan he knew it was the only way to get to Jay and to possibly defeat him. Maybe he could find a weapon…form a plan later he scolded himself.
“I’m going to try,” he said truthfully. If he went in with the plan fully she would suspect him and he would just be screwing himself if he went against them. The only way to get what he wanted was to follow along until it suited him and then deviate.
Just because he accepted Elena as his Alpha he was finding it didn’t mean being stuck in the same conundrum as he had been with Jay. He could still disobey her and go on his own path and while it was uncomfortable it wasn’t hard. With Jay it had been impossible.
The main question now was how much did Elena know about his plans? Her eyes were shuttered so it was impossible to get a read. She didn’t break eye contact with him until he looked away and he wasn’t stupid, he looked away first.