Chapter Twenty Four
Reese didn’t think he just acted on instinct. He ran forward and leapt off the building. He caught a glimpse of Layn’s body falling below him and crashing into the dark whirling water. Seconds later Reese hit the same water with a yell. The coldness shocked him into realizing how stupid this was.
Quickly he tried to orient himself and find Layn who was bobbing up and down a few feet away and being pulled under by the currents. “Shit!” Reese growled and swam towards the younger wolf. His father had taught him to swim when he was two and he was excellent at it but this was different. These waters were treacherous. Behind him he heard another loud noise and a splash. He turned and saw Nick surfacing but he ignored the man and kept swimming towards the unconscious werewolf.
Suddenly Layn was pulled under. Reese took a deep breath diving and again ignoring Nick yelling behind him. He started swimming down quickly noting how fast Layn was sinking. Thankfully he was a diligent weight trainer and was beating nature’s chaos around him. He was a foot from Layn when the water abruptly pulled him sideways. His lungs started to feel as if they would burst but if he went back up Layn would die. He pushed himself to swim harder and finally caught the younger wolf’s arm holding tightly. Layn’s dead weight slowed him down to the point where he felt faint from lack of air but this only made him swim harder with fear propelling him. He finally surfaced breathing deeply.
He pulled Layn around to face him. He was still not breathing, still unconscious. Close by he heard someone else surface and take a deep breath. “Nick!” Reese called as the man turned and scowled at him. Reese hauled Layn closer trying to swim towards the older werewolf but the churning water pushed him further away instead. Layn needed air, he could be brain damaged by now for all Reese knew but he couldn’t perform CPR here.
Nick swore and Reese looked around seeing the rest of the pack a few hundred feet away at the docks. Everyone but Jeremy and Noah jumped into the water. “We just need to hold on.” Reese called. Nick nodded and swam forward grabbing Reese’s arm and dragging him and Layn towards the buoy bobbing up and down nearby.
Reese swam with Nick who breathed a sigh of relief when he grabbed a hold of the buoy and then hauled Reese towards it. Just as he was getting his grip a wave crashed down on them and pulled the younger wolf away. Reese’s vision was impaired with sprayed sea foam and he lost Nick for a moment but the older werewolf managed to grab onto his arm and haul him towards the buoy where he held on tightly.
“Layn!” Reese growled coughing with the latest wave of water. He was so concerned with getting to safety he hadn’t realized Layn had slipped away from him. Layn floated close by started to sink again.
“Give me your hand,” Nick shouted and Reese understood and grabbed Nick’s hand letting go of the buoy and swimming towards Layn again. He almost grabbed him when another wave hit them and pulled him away from Nick this time. He swore and made sure he had a good grip on Layn before he turned back seeing Nick was a bit further back then he thought. The next wave crashed down pulling them under further this time and ripping Layn away from him.
“Layn!” Reese shouted over the waved and tried to swim out again but someone grabbed him hard and forced him back to safety. Reese watched as Layn sunk beneath the waves. Antonio let go of him and swam fast towards Layn along with Clay and they both dove. Reese waited with baited breath.
A few seconds later the noise of a small white motor boat started him and he looked around to see Jeremy and Noah pulling up to them. Nick grabbed the back of his shirt and hauled him over to it and Jeremy reached down to help him up. Once they were all in Reese huddled against the side of the boat freezing and scanning for the waves for werewolves.
“If they aren’t out in the next few seconds…,” Nick muttered. He was standing at the haul watching the water intently. Water which had gushed from his clothes before now was only dripping onto the floor making bigger and bigger puddles and coating the boat floor.
“I know,” Elena said standing beside him tense and ready.
Jeremy managed to distract Reese for a minute when he asked if he was hurt but he only shook his head. Noah sat beside him not able to take his eyes off the spot where Antonio and Clay disappeared. Reese put an arm around him to comfort him which probably did little given the circumstances.
“Where are the others?” Nick asked lowly clenching and unclenching his fists.
“They’re cleaning up the warehouse. We don’t need ten of us in the water searching. We’ll just hinder one another’s progress,” Jeremy explained. Reese nodded. Although a half demon and a vampire may have been useful or maybe a scanning spell it would do little good out here where Layn would be pulled further and further away by the second. Plus, the werewolves were stronger than the others anyway.
Another minutes passed in which Nick was about to jump in with or without Elena’s permission but a blonde head surfaced a few hundred feet away followed by a dark one. Both of them began swimming back towards the boat looking tired and haggard.
“No,” Noah growled not seeing Layn anywhere. Reese watched him stand and stride towards the edge but Jeremy grabbed him and held him fast. Reese’s heart jumped into his throat as Elena took the motor and steered it towards them. Nick helped them up into the boat and they let them catch their breath sitting against the sides before they confirmed what they all knew.
“He was pulled too far and then we couldn’t see him anymore. We swam as far as we could and as far as we dared but he’s gone. I’m sorry,” Antonio said looking at Elena and then Noah who looked away scrunching up his face in anger and balling his fists.
“No, we have to go in again. He’s there and if we can get to him…,” Noah yelled trying to wrench from Jeremy’s grip but it was impossible. He forced the younger wolf to sit down again instead.
“It’s been longer than ten minutes Noah which is the full time we know a werewolf can survive without air. Even if we can get him back…he won’t survive. I’m so sorry,” Elena proclaimed telling them the search was officially over. Noah deflated and bit his lip before bursting into tears. Nick immediately walked over and sat beside him comforting him. The stress, the situation and now Layn’s death made them all want to have this reaction.
“Reese that was a stupid thing you did,” Nick scolded after a few moments looking up, “Stupid and noble. I’m proud of you but I want to kill you. Never again. I thought I’d lost you too. Never put me through that again,” Nick warned. Reese stiffened and nodded. Nick sounded so much like his father sometimes even if he was not trying to be.
“I agree,” Elena warned.
“Yeah, sorry,” Reese murmured watching the churning water in case Layn surfaced by some miracle. He wasn’t able to look either of them in the eyes right then. It was a stupid thing he did but he couldn’t just let Layn die without trying. He’d regret it forever if he did that.
Once the warehouse was cleaned up and the water calmed down significantly the search for Layn continued albeit a different search now. Nick tried to force Noah to stay behind at the hotel but he was determined to come and help. Elena thought it might give him closure and Reese agreed. He stuck by Noah’s side night and day being there for whatever he needed.
He and Noah walked the rocky shore of the north end of the water searching. Lucas had managed to pull some strings and get a cabal search team to unobtrusively bring in a submarine and search under water as well. Finding his body was now a priority because if it surfaced they would test him and find out what he what risking exposure for them all. They were not leaving until he was found which could take months.
Lucas was already drawing up an action plan to buy and drain the lake if need be soon. They could make up some excuse for the humans and then refill it again once they had found Layn. Hopefully they would not find too much else out here.
Reese set aside his own feelings and tried to cheer Noah up but the younger wolf had been mostly silent since the incident. It was a lot for him to absorb so no one pushed him. Instead Reese talked inanely about this and that. He stopped when he heard a gasp.
Noah ran forward over the rock and almost slipped on the algae a few times until he reached a part of the shore that was clear. Nick had a body in his arms talking lowly to Elena. Layn’s arms and legs swung down to the ground and his face turned towards them expressionless. He suddenly looked so much younger.
Reese expected to see a bloated corpse that looked nothing like the young werewolf but Layn looked the same and almost like he was sleeping. He must have washed up on shore before the water did too much damage.
Noah fell to his knees on the shore letting out a strangled half growl half cry and Reese was immediately there comforting. Noah said nothing as he tried to regain composure but the skin under his hands and face tightened and writhed like black worms. Gently Elena and Reese whispered encouragements for him to calm down and eventually his change stopped coming.
When they arrived back at the dock Jeremy walked over to check Layn’s chest and confirmed something they had been wondering about. “He died the instant he fell over. One of the bullets nicked his heart and I am assuming a major artery. He was dead before he hit the water,” Jeremy announced.
Maybe they had failed Layn ultimately in the end but they hadn’t let him drown and caused him more pain. With any luck he had no idea what had happened and he felt nothing. That for one made Reese feel a bit better.
One Year Later
The clock ticked so loudly Noah could barely concentrate on his exam. Irritated he glared at it and wished for once he had some supernatural magical power to shut the clock up with. With a sigh he went back to the words on his page trying to answer the next question. He had to get at least a B- on this to maintain his grade point average and keep his car.
He drummed his fingers on the desk thinking but his brain was dead. He’d been here for two hours and he couldn’t do it anymore. With regret he grabbed his bag and shoved his pencil inside and then picked up his paper and walked to the front. The T.A. gave him a look since he was the first one to pass in his exam. He didn’t care. The freedom of graduation called to loudly for that.
He walked quietly to the door but once he was past he started running for the front door. He burst out into the sunshine and smiled heading towards his car. Finally he was free. He wanted to throw his bag into the trash and light it on fire. No more high school. He was on to bigger and better things, much more interesting things. He’s already been accepted at the police academy for July and he was planning on lifting as much weight as possible before then.
He drove directly home and pulled his car into the garage. As soon as he walked inside he noted the silence. “Guys? Nick?” he called as he toed off his shoes. He dropped his bag in the hallway and walked down the hall taking out his cell phone and looked for messages. Nothing came up. He looked into the first room, an ill used living room, and then Antonio’s study. Finally he made his way to the kitchen and walked into the room with the kitchen door swinging.
Antonio was at the counter peeling potatoes and Reese had his back to him typing on his computer. He was probably doing something for work. Noah started to sneak up but Reese spoke before he could even get close. “Don’t even try, mate.” Noah sighed and pulled up a seat alongside him watching Antonio work.
“So, the exam?”
“It went ok I guess. I think I got at least a B- but I missed a few questions too.” Reese nodded and said it was no big deal. Antonio smiled at him and threw his potatoes in the sink where they were soaking for tonight’s’ Shepherd’s pie.
“Jaime called Noah. She’s coming to dinner tonight with Jeremy and she’d like to talk to you,” Tonio informed just as the kitchen door opened again. Noah smelled Nick and listened to his footsteps approach before the turned abruptly and looked up at him.
“Nice try Nick. I think I’ve learned enough to avoid that,” Noah informed rolling his eyes. Nick grinned and ruffled Noah’s hair and Noah swiftly moved out of the way but got up in seconds and attacked. Nick laughed and moved to the side but grabbed Noah’s arm propelling him towards the counter and grabbing the back of his shirt at the same time to throw him to the floor. He landed and Nick landed on top of him.
“Maybe next time,” Nick laughed. Noah groaned and got up when Nick let him. He’d seriously have to work on this if he wanted to be a police officer.
“No playing around in here boys,” Antonio warned. Nick rolled his eyes and turned towards the fridge. For as long as Nick was alive, even when he was sixty, Antonio would still call him a boy or kid Noah assumed.
“You told him about tonight?” Nick asked directing the question to Antonio who nodded. Noah opened his mouth to ask but Reese quickly spoke distracting him. Butterflies erupted in Noah’s stomach but he didn’t ask. He was used to being nervous about things. It was a hard habit to break thinking he might be in trouble for things he either didn’t do or didn’t remember doing.
“Noah, want to help with the beef?” Tonio asked masking the question with an order. Noah got up and took the beef, where it was de thawing, from the sink hoping he hadn’t done anything to terrible. Since Layn…he stopped the thought in its tracks. He didn’t want to go down that road right now or ever.
Instead he listened to the chatter in the background and got lost in his thoughts.
“So, once I got to my dressing room who showed up but the asshole who thought he would give me a taste of my own medicine. Little did he know that Jeremy was waiting in my room. As soon as he started to demand my attention Jeremy appeared and I swear the man jumped ten feet in the air when he saw Jeremy’s look,” Jaime laughed. Jeremy remained neutral even as Antonio chuckled and hit him in the arm.
“I bet he was wishing he didn’t bother such a beautiful woman,” Nick grinned. Jeremy gave Nick a look but this was Nick’s nature and they all understood that. Jaime pretended to blush and threw a look to Nick and then to Jeremy who smiled slightly at her. His lips turned up incrementally but his eyes were what really sparkled when he watched her. Jaime reached out and took his hand.
“Well, there goes your choices, mate,” Reese teased. Nick nodded and shrugged his shoulders.
“Wine anyone?” Noah asked picking up the bottle and standing. Nick nodded and winked at the younger werewolf. He was proud of who Noah had turned into a very proper young man at least in most ways or he told Noah constantly. He was still working on believing it.
“That doesn’t mean you can have another glass,” Nick reminded and Noah gave him a look, “half a glass.” Noah nodded and filled up his own glass half way after the others. After dinner he started to help with cleaning up but Nick stopped him. He gestured to Jaime who was waiting patiently and beckoned him forward.
He followed her through the house and the kitchen to the porch. He shut the door behind them and then turned to her confused. “How are you doing Noah?” she asked first. Noah said “fine” immediately and sat down on the patio furniture right after she had. He began drumming his fingers again in nervousness this time.
“If there is one thing I know a lot about it is grief Noah. How are you really doing?” Noah looked at the table and bit his lip.
“I…better I guess,” he admitted and she nodded.
“I know it doesn’t ever really go away but at least it gets better. I came today because I need to tell you something Noah. I don’t normally do this as it’s not a good idea for necromancers but I am making an exception because I know how hard this has been on you.” Noah watched her surprised and finally nodded.
“I guess.” He forced himself to stop his fingers and pay attention to her. He could tell this was beyond important.
“Noah, they are worried about you. You’re doing well but you need to move on so I’m here to help,” Noah raised her eyebrows but kept silent. “Layn is happy Noah,” she started and Noah stiffened. He’d been avoiding the subject for so long it was his instinct to just leave or ignore when his name was brought up but as he started to rise he suddenly made himself sit again. He had to listen to this. They all expected that. “He is not in the same afterlife as his parents and I can’t say much about it but he is with Eve and Kristof now. I believe he sometimes visits his parents as well.”
Noah nodded feeling the guilt encompass his stomach and the water rush to his eyes. “The last I heard Kristof was teaching him hockey and Eve was teaching him how to use a sword. He never has to worry about control there and he had met a few other werewolves too. A Sorrentino, Antonio’s brother I think and Edward Danvers. That’s Jeremy’s grandfather. They have taken to one another quite a bit,” she smiled. Noah didn’t move a muscle as he absorbed this.
Finally he found his voice. “It doesn’t matter if he’s happy because it is my fault he is dead Jaime. He would have been happy here too.”
“No, it’s not Noah. Eve and Kristof did come to Layn before this happened and they hinted at his role. He knew what he was walking into and he chose to do it Noah. He chose to do what he did so it is not your fault. Plus, you could argue that the decision he made before this were one’s that ultimately led to his death. These are his words not mine,” she reminded when he stiffened at this.
“How can he be happy if he’s dead? Didn’t he want to live with us?” he questioned. Now he got up and paced with restless energy. His feet made little sound on the wooden patio.
“I think he was confused Noah but I do know his ultimate plan was to leave. Pack life was not for him. If he had left he would have been killed out there eventually or so Eve says, so, ultimately this was the only way. He’s happy Noah and he wants you to be at peace too,” she informed. Noah looked towards the woods thinking about this. He didn’t feel he had a right to be happy if Layn wasn’t.
“We could have kept searching and we might have found him alive.”
“No, we wouldn’t have. Almost every scenario shows him dying Noah and in the few that he doesn’t he is so brain damaged he can barely function. Would you want that for him? For your brother?” Noah shook his head immediately scanning the tree line out of habit.
“No, of course not, I just feel like we could have tried harder and we didn’t. It makes me feel like an awful person is all.” He looked towards her again marvelling at how if she had come to him with this a year ago he would not have been able to speak so candidly to her but he had grown. Layn had changed him and so had the situation.
“You and everyone tried as hard as you could. He knows that and he is ok with the decision. He knows you argued for him as well. He appreciated that Noah. He was there when you were searching for him and he saw everything before he was pulled away, but it is time to move on.”
Noah turned to her then giving her a look. “Are you just telling me this to make me feel better like you do at your shows?” she shook her head. He felt the hot anger flash through him but he squelched it quickly.
“No, I wanted to but Jeremy said it would only hurt you. I got this information through Eve a few months ago and we have been waiting to tell you. I would not lie to you like that Noah. Not only would Jeremy not allow it but Nick would never want that,” she said forcefully.
He studied her for a moment before he decided she was telling the truth. “Ok. Thanks.”
He turned from her and walked down the porch steps and towards the woods. He knew where he was going. It was a five minute walk away and a place he always avoided when changing. In a clearing close to the house five graves stood in a row. The newest was Layn’s but that is also where Gregory Sorrentino was buried and Dominic as well, though Dominic had a grave in the human cemetery for appearance sake too, and some others were here that Noah did not know. The bunch did not include his father killed shortly after they had come back. He was burned and his ashes scattered somewhere else. Noah didn’t care.
He walked to Layn’s gravestone and sat down looking at it. It was simple and said only name and birth and death dates. Noah had added a simple word under that Thank You. It was a bit odd but the only thing he could think to say. He owed Layn his life and he was so thankful even if guilt did consume him when he thought about it.
“I hope you are happy Layn. I really hope you are.”