Chapter Twenty One
He sat on the radiator looking at the parking lot. A few cars went in and out but the private office was quite far away and there were not many outsiders. He was bored out of his mind after a few days of being awake. The headaches were subsiding and he was beginning to have more and more energy.
“Layn?” a soft female voice asked. He turned his head tiredly. He had been driving away most of his visitors except for Elena and the doctor lately. Paige was standing in the doorway with Lucas close behind. He turned back to the window view watching the cars go by. He hadn’t been in the mood to speak to anyone and had only tolerated the doctors prodding to figure out if he was going to be a zombie or not. A zombie werewolf may be a first.
“I believe the proper form of address is hello or hi,” Lucas piped up. Layn sighed audibly and crossed his arms ignoring them. Lucas was not one for disrespect especially if it was directed at Paige. Layn rolled his eyes now.
“We’ve all been a bit bored so I knitted you this. I thought maybe it will look better than the bandages.” Layn looked over to see her holding out a blue/grey knit cap. “It should match your eyes so it will look nice.” He stared over at it and then at her and Lucas surprised.
He touched the bandages on his head and then reached out for the hat. “Ah, thanks…that was…nice of you, really,” he said offering a small smile.
Lucas nodded at this satisfied and took Paige’s hand. “We have a meeting but we’ll see you soon.” Layn nodded and watched them go. As soon as they were gone he got up and walked to the bathroom locking himself inside. He’s stopped wearing the hospital gown days ago and was back in jeans and a tight fitting shirt. No one wanted to have to cover their backside all day.
He looked in the mirror and touched the bandages again. He had looked at his head wound once and it almost made him sick. He was terrified at the sight of it or of what it would mean. Slowly he unraveled it and made himself look in the mirror.
Tipping his head to the side he looked at the crescent shape scar on the right side. It extended from his temple to his ear. His hair had been buzzed when they had done the operation. Now his hair was grown out a bit but not enough to hide it. He’d hopefully grow his hair long and that would take care of it.
Layn pulled the hat on looked at himself in the mirror. It looked much better; he could be a pretend hipster now but without the glasses and scarf. “Layn?” the door handle jiggled and Layn sighed, not even one minute of privacy before they thought he was doing something he shouldn’t. No one trusted him anymore but he was not the one who decided to have his brain carved out.
He opened the door and looked up at Tolliver who gestured to the bed. “Do we really need to go through this every day?”
“Yes, it is and where did the bandages go, Frankenstein?” Layn laughed. He liked the doctor. He was genuinely funny and he seemed to know how to act around werewolves.
“I burned them, Jekyll,” Layn scoffed and let the man take off his hat. The doctor chuckled at his reference. He had come up with a different evil doctor’s name every day. Layn let the man prod his head for only a moment before he swatted his hand and took his hat back pulling it on.
“Well, it looks better than the bandages. Your head seems good too and nicely healed. How do you feel?” Tolliver asked sitting down on the bed.
“M’ok,” Layn sighed. It must be the most tiring question in the history of the known verse. He’d been watching a lot of Firefly lately.
As he was finishing up Elena, Jeremy and Nick walked into the room. “He’s looking good. I don’t see any reason to be concerned.” Elena nodded and thanked him and he made an excuse about leaving to check on patients in the city.
While he left Layn adjusted the toque and crossed his legs on the bed watching them. “What did I do?” Nick glanced at him and then took a step back and closed the door.
“Layn, we need to talk. Do you remember a lot about what happened when we escaped?” Elena asked. Layn shook his head, a feat he couldn’t have accomplished a day ago without some spikes of pain.
Elena pulled a chair over and sat on front of him and he sensed this was going to be very uncomfortable. He sat back a bit and looked at Nick who gave him a reassuring nod. “Look, at me. This is serious,” she said. Layn swallowed and looked into her eyes. As quickly as she could she told him how they escaped and what he had done. He didn’t remember he cages or ripping into Cain, a man he had known from childhood. Suddenly he felt sick. He had eaten someone, the man’s blood and guts were in stomach and in his body now.
“Shit,” he cried and got up so fast his head spun. He made it to the toilet just in time. He was pretty sure he threw up everything he had eaten since he woke up. He was definitely becoming a fruitarian.
“It was over a month ago Layn, your fine,” Nick said lowly setting a hand on his back. Layn pulled away from him and got up wiping his mouth and grabbing the mouth wash. He brushed his teeth quickly and spit glaring up at Nick. Nick opened his mouth to say something but Layn ignored and charged past Nick and into the other room.
“Why did you save me?” Layn demanded looking at Elena with clenched fists. His head was starting to pound again.
“What do you mean Layn?” Elena asked looking at him. She was careful to not get defensive.
“I ate someone. I tore into them and you would have killed anyone else. Why am I still alive?” he demanded disgusted with himself.
“Layn, you were in really bad shape. I assume your wolf did that on instinct knowing you wouldn’t be able to get better without food. You were not in charge of your instincts and I am not worried about it happening again.”
“You would have killed anyone else. Why am I so special?” Layn asked exasperated. He clenched his hat with both hands.
“You just saved us Layn. I wasn’t about to punish you for that. I am confident it won’t happen again because neither of us will be put in that position again,” Elena consoled.
“I ATE SOMEONE. I’M A MONSTER!” Layn screamed. The Alpha didn’t even flinch.
“Then I am too Layn. When I first changed I escaped and ate someone as well. It happens. I’m over it so you need to get over it too.” Layn stared at her as she turned and left.
“I did not kill Elena after her mishap because I felt I owed her,” Jeremy explained speaking for the first time. “My son had bitten her and it wasn’t fair to just leave her out there or kill her. Clay would have been destroyed. I gave her another chance. I am thankful I did every day.” Layn watched Jeremy’s lips moving but he wasn’t sure how much got through. He was a man eater now.
“So, Elena feels she owes me something? She is trying harder with me?” Nick hesitated but then nodded. “So, if I hadn’t done what I had done? I’d probably be dead.” Layn sat down on the bed looking at the floor.
“This is how a wolf thinks Layn. It’s hierarchy bound with duty. It’s different for us because we are also human but it’s the basics. You need to learn to use your wolf instincts to think like us and understand a bit more, stop pushing them aside,” Nick directed taking Layn’s shoulder.
“But I’m not totally wolf Nick, that’s the problem. I’m human too and I’m…something else…,” Nick glanced at Jeremy who was steadily watching but saying nothing.
“I did just spare Elena because I thought I owed her or because I saw how much she meant to Clay. I spared her because I saw how much she wanted to live and how strong she was. I knew she would survive the process and I knew she could be a valued asset,” Layn stared at Jeremy surprised as his crass attitude, “She turned out to be much more than a valued asset though. I gained a daughter and I believe that Elena sees the same potential in you.”
“To be her daughter?” Layn snorted. Nick chuckled and rolled his eyes.
Jeremy’s crooked smile lit his face and he patted Layn’s knee. “I’ll see if Kate will lend you a dress.”
Layn stood on the edge of the woods watching the shadows of dusk dance through the branches. He smelled Noah. He knew he caught the scent but it was gone. No one else smelled it. Elena seemed to think it was his brain readjusting and missing things but Layn knew a scent when he smelled it.
“Layn, come on,” Nick called. Layn balled his fists but he listened. One screw up and he was being sent to hide with the twins. Elena was already nervous about having him out here but he insisted so much so she said he could come just to shut him up.
Back in the hotel room Reese, Nick and Clay went over maps of the area. Red crosses were drawn on the areas they had already hit complete with blue notes beside them about what they found and green notes for rumours. Layn turned from them and went into the washroom. He was tired of sitting around and taking it slow. He wanted to jump on his motorcycle and take off to find Noah on his own.
He left the light off but glanced at himself in the mirror.
“It doesn’t look that bad.” Layn grabbed his knitted toque and Nick sighed. It was warmer weather so the hat probably looked ridiculous but it could be a style. “Come on, we’re eating and then going to search another area.” Layn followed them out and grabbed the bag of burgers Elena had just brought in. He flopped down on the bed and reached inside grabbing three before Reese took it away from him and sat down. Reese hadn’t exactly been a picnic since Layn had woken up. He seemed to have lost most of his joking nature and would only slightly smile for Nick. Nick wasn’t exactly his normal self either, none of them were.
“Can we try the place we just tried once more? I know I smelled Noah there. My brain is not that screwed up. Please.” Elena hesitated but nodded once.
“Quickly and then we move on.” Layn smiled satisfied with this. If he could find Noah’s scent again they would have a lead. Layn ate quickly waiting impatiently or the others. While he waited he felt his head start throbbing but ignored it. He’d been getting lots of headaches since waking up. He blamed this on the part of his brain he was now missing but he didn’t dare mention that. There had been enough fights and anger about what Elena had let happen. Once this was done he was out of here and would never look back.
“Mate, wake up,” Reese said snapping his fingers in front of his face. Layn looked up to see his neutral expression which was now the usual for him. He shook his daydream off and got up to follow now more determined than ever.
When they got back to the woods Layn walked around the area he had initially smelled Noah and crouched down to sniff the trail, nothing. He moved to the left and then the right before going further in. He knew what he smelled. He tried again finding nothing and growing frustrated. “Ok Layn, let’s go,” Elena called. Layn held up a hand.
“Just give me another minute.” Layn heard a sigh and he heard someone walking towards him. Quickly he sniffed a few more places with no success before someone took his arm and pulled him up.
“We’re not wasting time anymore,” Nick said lowly. Layn bit his tongue to keep from being rude and followed the man. He didn’t want to waste time either but this seemed like a monumental waste of time to him.
As they were walking back he caught the faintest scent again and stopped. “Nick, sniff its Noah’s scent.” Nick sighed but sniffed to humour him and then froze.
“Elena!” Nick called. Layn turned and caught the scent again taking off. Nick called after him but he couldn’t stop just in case he lost the scent again. He followed it half a mile crashing through the bushes like a bear until it abruptly ended. Layn looked around hearing the others behind him. He caught sight of something red on a nearby branch and he stepped forward and grabbed it sniffing.
“It’s Noah’s,” Layn said turning to them. Elena took it from him and sniffed nodding handing it to Clay who passed it on after sniffing as well.
“Good job Layn. Let’s scour the area,” she instructed. Layn nodded and started looking around with Nick. They found a few other trails one of which was distinctly Joseph’s but it only seemed like a changing area for a run. They followed the trails until it circled back to the road and stopped again.
“They must have just stopped to change,” Nick sighed.
“Fuck!” Reese growled and punched the side of the car leaving a dent. Nick immediately grabbed him and pulled him back telling him to calm down. Reese pulled away from him angrily and headed into the woods alone.
“Just leave him a minute Nick.” Nick glanced at Elena two steps from following and nodded. Layn leaned against the car watching them. Nick looked beyond frustrated and Antonio set a hand on his shoulder and spoke lowly to him while Nick rubbed a hand through his hair.
While they were distracted Layn left his position and slipped into the woods following Reese. He found him in a clearing sitting against a tree with his head in his hands that were scraped and bleeding. Layn glanced at the tree above him seeing blood on the trunk.
Reese didn’t look up as Layn approached and then sat down beside him crossing his legs. “At least we found his trail. We can find him now,” Layn said looking over at him.
“Stop,” Reese growled.
Layn sat back thinking for a moment before he shook his head. “No, if you want to find Noah you can’t just…,” Reese was up in a flash and had grabbed Layn’s shoulders pushing him against the ground in a flash of anger.
“You don’t know anything Mate. You don’t know…,” he yelled but then broke off and relaxed after a few deep breaths. He got off of Layn letting him up. “Come on, let’s go back.” He held out a hand for Layn and they started back to the others.
“Do you blame me too?” Layn asked lowly hoping he wouldn’t hear.
Reese stiffened but kept walking. “Don’t ask me that again unless you want a real answer.” Layn tensed and stopped watching his back for a moment before continuing.
Nick met them halfway along the path and asked Layn to go on ahead. Reese looked annoyed but he stood with crossed arms listening to Nick. He walked back to the others seeing they had the map stretched across the hood and were studying it. They had put a red X across the woods and made a note. “The trail is a bit old but if we look at the hotels and abandoned places along the way we should find something.”
Elena closed the map again as Karl updated the IPad version. They had a few different versions and with different generations in the pack some preferred paper like Jeremy and some preferred technology like Nick and Reese. Layn walked to the car and leaned against it crossing his arms and watching the woods.
“Good job Layn. You caught the scent like a much older and experienced werewolf. You’ll make a good pack wolf,” Antonio praised clapping a hand onto his shoulder.
“Doesn’t mean I’m staying,” Layn murmured looking at Elena. She didn’t dignify that with an answer and turned to Clay instead. Antonio shook his head but said nothing. To them he was someone who would need to stay with the pack for the rest of his life. If he screwed up because of what happened to him it would the pack’s fault. He was a clear liability. He would not let that happen though.
Layn stood by the table studying the map with crossed arms. He wanted to search an area they hadn’t gotten to yet and one that he figured had a lot of promise. He’d been thinking carefully about how to be most effective on his own and he’d been planning for days. The reason he had not put his plan into action yet was that he had to be sure before he left. He only had once chance before either the pack or Joseph found him. When he turned he almost ran into Nick who had apparently been watching him. “Layn, don’t do this.” Layn rolled his eyes and went to sit on the bed.
“Nick, what are you talking about?”
“You know what I am talking about?” Nick pushed coming to stand in front of him. “You leave now and interrupt the search for Noah and you’ll be caged in two seconds flat. We don’t have time for childish games. You leave and you piss me off to no end because I don’t have time to chase you around when Noah is out there. Grow up and help us Layn.”
“Then do something except for chasing your tail Nick. He’s out there and it feels like we are doing nothing but sniffing around. Joseph will hurt him or kill him and truthfully he’d probably be better off dead than turn into the person Joseph will make him,” Layn growled.
“You were under Joseph’s care for years and you’re a good person Layn, he didn’t manage to change you.”
Layn snorted. “He did though. He changed me for the worst but I fought him every step of the way. Is Noah strong enough to do the same thing?” Layn asked quietly looking up at the man. It was true. He remembered being an innocent and care free kid. His parent’s death had changed him a lot though as had foster care and by the time he got to Joseph he had little of that boy left. What he did have left he fought to preserve. Not even Josephs could take it away from him.
“Yes,” they both heard. Layn looked behind Nick to see Reese standing in the doorway. His expression was hard. “He has the ability to fight his father because he knows what is waiting for him is better. Noah is a good and strong person and he will fight them every step of the way.”
“The Joseph will eventually get tired of him and either kill him or just start beating him until he submits,” Layn sighed running a hand through his hair. He remembered that too.
“We will find him before any of that happens,” Nick assured. Layn didn’t dare look at him or the look would show his disbelief. Instead he studied the floor intently waiting for Reese to pass a silent look with his mentor.
“I feel like we sit around here too much planning and not doing things like finding them. Noah will be totally changed. He won’t be naive and sweet anymore. He’ll be hard and distant Nick. You guys won’t know him anymore and he won’t let you in too help. Trust me on this.”
Layn looked up to see Reese and Nick watching him. “So he’ll turn into you?” Reese huffed.
“Yeah, we wouldn’t want two of me,” Layn growled and started to stand but Nick put a hand on his shoulder and pushed him back down.
“That’s not what he means,” Nick sighed and shook his head at Reese who shrugged and sat down. “We’re all on edge. Let’s get some sleep and in a few hours we can start again.” Layn sighed and flopped back on the bed. They were never getting anywhere like this.
He lay in bed wide awake unable to fall asleep. Instead he listened to Reese and Nick’s breathing even out and waited. When he was sure enough time had passed he slowly got up and grabbed his keys and phone before slipping out. He walked to the car and held up the key fob opening it. He would find something and come back to tell them or he would find nothing and they would never know.
He just put his hand on the door handle when someone’s voice made him jump. “Stop.” He felt a hand on his shoulder and the person pulled him back before spinning him around. Reese glowered down, with his two inch height advantage, at him with crossed arms. “You can’t go alone,” he said holding his hand out for the keys.
“I don’t need…,”
“Yes, you do. I haven’t been able to do anything but think about Noah since he left so I may as well come.” He continued to hold out his hand looking imperious. Layn tried to back him off but Reese couldn’t be moved. Finally he handed the keys over and moved around the car to get into the driver’ seat.
“Where are we going?”
“Just go, I’ll direct.” Reese glanced over at him not liking the plan but in this Layn was absolutely sure. He had to maintain some of this plan. He was tired of taking orders and getting nowhere. “Take a left and turn on Spritz Ave. and then take the first right.”
Reese drove from the parking lot and did as directed. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel. “Listen, I am going to help you find Noah and after I’m leaving. You’ll have your brother back and you won’t need to deal with me at all and neither will Noah.” Reese said nothing about his confession. Maybe he already knew or maybe he was going to make sure he left the pack either way.
“Just stop,” the Australian asked quietly. Layn bit his lip to keep from talking and kept his eyes on the road giving directions. When they stopped Layn jumped out and walked towards the edge of the woods followed by Reese. He crouched and sniffed not catching the trail here but he walked a bit further in and tried again. After five different areas he finally caught a faint whiff and got Reese to double check. The older wolf sniffed twice before going further into the woods and following the trail. Layn smiled and followed feeling he had finally done something right.
“So I was right?” Layn asked. Reese grunted but kept going. Layn smirked and continued on following him but froze when they heard a branch snapping. Reese halted in front of him as well and looked around the forest sniffing and listening. Layn turned the opposite way and cursed lowly.
“Reese,” he hissed getting his attention. Reese turned slowly and cursed as well swinging out his arm as if to protect Layn. A large dark wolf stood between two trees watching them. It’s brown human eyes were not amused.
“Back away slowly,” Reese instructed now looking at the wolf but not in the eyes. Challenging but not too challenging and submissive but not too submissive. Layn did as told but once they got two steps away the wolf took his first step. Layn lifted his gaze to look into the wolf’s very human eyes.
“We need to take him down,” Layn encouraged lowly and Reese immediately shook his head.
“No, he could rip us apart in seconds.”
“He’s coming after us and will rip us apart Reese. We have to defend ourselves,” Layn countered. Reese looked indecisive for a moment and the wolf took a step closer like he was slowly stalking them.
“Run, I’ll keep him off you,” Reese instructed and pushed Layn to get him moving. Layn started to obey but stopped and looked back when the wolf snarled. It was in mid jump. He could not let Reese get hurt because of his dumbass idea. The wolf had hit Reese’s chest and made him fall back against a tree. Layn flew forward and grabbed the wolf by the scruff of the neck pulling back enough so he could not bite Reese.
“Go!” Reese growled kicking the wolf back hard with both legs. The wolf let out a loud yelp.
“No, I’m not leaving you,” Layn said smashing the wolf on the head with his elbow. The wolf yipped and growled reaching back to bite Layn but Reese kicked him in the muzzle. The wolf snarled and whipped around so fast neither of them had time to react. He bit Reese’s arm hard and proceeded to shake him like a rag doll. Reese yelled in surprise but quickly regained his composure and balled his good hand into a fist punching the mutt as hard as he could.
Layn looked around for any weapons before he remembered his hidden one. He had snagged it from one of the locations they had searched and wasn’t even sure it would work but he had kept it in the waistband at the back of his jeans like some TV bandit. He pointed the gun at the wolf’s back pulling the trigger. He hit him once and the wolf snarled in pain and jumped letting go of Reese. Layn took a step back and pulled the trigger again but he was out of luck.
“Distract him,” Layn mouthed. Reese nodded not having any other plan and watched the wolf carefully licking his flank where blood gushed. Reese stood and walked slowly picking up a large stick. Layn figured he would bash him on the head but when he was close enough he threw the stick into the woods opposite making the wolf look that way instead. When he did Reese threw himself onto him getting on his back and grabbing his muzzle with both hands.
Layn turned the gun around in his hand and rushed forward smashing the wolf in the head with the butt of the gun hard. The wolf bucked and tried to throw Reese off but he held tightly. Layn started smashing the wolf’s temple harder and harder until he heard someone yelling and he was pulled back. He fought and tried to turn smashing the person in the temple with the gun but suddenly it was gone and he was looking at Nick who had him by the shoulders. “Stop, just stop,” he commanded.
“Whose brilliant idea was this?” Elena growled looking from Reese to Layn on the hotel bed. They had put the unconscious wolf into the trunk of the car and were taking him for interrogation as soon as Elena was done interrogating them. They had fixed Reese’s arm up with antiseptic, a sewing needle and bandages. Luckily it was a flesh wound that left a large and bloody hole but did not do any muscular or grave damage.
“Mine,” Reese sighed but Layn shook his head glaring the other werewolf.
“No, I was leaving and Reese couldn’t stop me so he came with me. If he wasn’t there the wolf would have killed me,” Layn admitted and glanced at Reese who sighed and shook his head looking annoyed.
“Damn right because you’re an idiot,” Reese snarled. Layn coloured but didn’t defend himself.
“You should have been able to stop him,” Nick said in a disappointed tone. Reese tensed and then nodded taking the rebuke before lifting his head to look at his mentor.
Layn ground his teeth annoyed. “Maybe he’s getting tired of sitting around so much like I am. Maybe he figured action was the best course,” Layn pushed. Layn looked directly at the Alpha as he said this but she stared him down and he looked away seconds later.
“Don’t speak for me,” Reese said in a low irritated voice. “I could have stopped you easily but I chose to go with you. That is my fault.”
Layn growled frustrated and crossed his arms glaring at the floor. “I asked you to trust me Layn. You promised you would try.” Elena’s words stung him but he looked up anger sparking in his eyes.
“And you promised you would fix this. How can I trust you if you can’t even find Noah? If it seems like you’re not even trying. If he was your son you’d be…” Layn found himself falling backwards seconds later and crashing into the bed and to the floor on his stomach. Someone landed on his back and pinned him painfully by the left shoulder with one hand and a tight grip on his forearms. If his arms were wrenched he’d be in a lot of pain in seconds.