tapped his fingers against the wood on the wall of the dilapidated house. He
had no idea whose house it was. There was a foreclosure sign in the front yard.
Noah had been hesitant about the location at first. He had passed it by a few
times and looked for other places before he finally settled on this one.
Noah parked a block away and walked taking back yards to get there and climbing fences. He landed in the back yard of the foreclosure house and looked around sniffing and listening. He heard noises in the next house but nothing came from the house itself. Noah sniffed and noticed no one had been here for such a long time all he could smell were animals, a squirrel and a raccoon, and the people next door.
Satisfied he walked to the backdoor and tried the lock, it swung open so at least he didn't have to break it. He walked into the kitchen and looked around. Most of the appliances were ripped out of the wall and tipped on their sides. Spray paint covered the walls with swear words and names. Nick had told him that a lot of homes had been taken back by the bank with the recent economic crash. They had seen a lot more foreclosure signs in the last few months. Antonio was even investing to get some of the people back on their feet.
Noah searched the rest of the house finding much the same thing. The two story ranch style home was totally wrecked. Nothing had escaped the torrent of destruction, even the bathrooms and basement. He finally chose the front living room where half the walls had been busted out exposing the studs. When he flicked the light switch but was unsurprised to see there was no power.
To be safe he rounded the house again sniffing and making sure there was no one here. That was part of the deal. If he wanted Chloe's help he had to make sure the house, the property and the surrounding homes and streets were secure. Derek Souza could be a little over protective.
When Noah was satisfied the place was secure he messaged Chloe to give her the all clear and sat down to wait. Luckily his PSP was charged. He sat against a wall and turned on the game becoming engrossed until someone cleared their throat.
"You pay attention well." Noah looked up surprised and put his PSP away to stand. Derek towered over him even taller than Nick and Reese and with Antonio's muscles to match. Chloe was standing beside him dwarfed in comparison. She smiled at Noah who gave a small nervous smile back.
"Hey," Chloe greeted. Once upon a time he had a small crush on Chloe. She had been staying with the pack to get Jaime's help with her necromancy and Derek had been training. He backed off quick when he learned Derek and Chloe were mates and saw the size of Derek's muscles though.
"Do you have the money?" Derek asked. Chloe closed her eyes and sighed shaking her head.
"Derek I told him he didn't need…"
"If someone is using your services then, yes, he does," Derek emphasized. Chloe bit her lip clearly not agreeing but she said nothing. Watching them Noah had learned that Chloe picked her battles with Derek wisely which was smart since there were many of them.
"It's fine. I've got plenty," Noah said and reached for his wallet. Derek glowered at him and Noah sighed scolding himself. Nick was always telling him to think before he spoke. It was a lesson he seemed to never be able to absorb completely. "I just mean…"
"It's ok Noah," Chloe said. Even if they hadn't insisted on money for the job Noah would have given them money anyway. Derek had been to see the pack a few times in the last few years but he was not interested in joining. He got training and help, promised to be good and was on his way. They were still on the run, still fighting and even with Lucas' help it was hard. Noah knew they needed money which they refused from the pack most of the time. He would have insisted one way or the other.
Derek took the bills and counted them before looking at Noah with a scowl. "Half?" he asked and Noah nodded. Nick had taught him a thing or two about under the table business deals even if he hadn't meant to. He wasn't stupid.
"Half now and half when the job is done," Noah informed. Chloe nodded to this but Derek's scowl deepened and he took a step forward. Noah stayed where he was as hard as it was. Derek was a mutt and he could not back down from a mutt being a pack wolf, even if the mutt was terrifying. Of course if Derek was really going to try and hurt him he could run. It was ok to run if you couldn't beat someone. That was a pack rule. He'd still fight a little bit before he ran though, just to save his ego.
"Noah," he growled but Chloe help up a hand.
"It's fine, let's get started." Noah nodded and glanced at Derek who didn't look happy but Noah didn't care. This was too important. He needed to speak to someone who was dead and Jaime would never do that. She had already broken the rules when she had told him about Layn but Noah needed to speak to him for himself. He needed closure.
"Here, I brought Layn's, um, whatever this is," Noah explained. There was a small pouch with dried herbs and others things in Layn had from his mother, some kind of protection charm. Noah had kept it ever since Layn died as a reminded. It hung on his bedpost now in sight but so he didn't need to look at it every day.
Noah watched as Chloe took it, thanked him and sat on the floor closing her eyes. Jaime had materials she used to communicate with the dead but only Jeremy was allowed to see the set up process. Once she was done the people involved could come in and see but it was a very select group of people. Noah had never been to a summoning. There was a first time for everything.
Derek stood behind them making Noah a bit nervous. Derek was younger but much bigger than Noah and he was excellent at fighting. That may be due to the genetic modifications though. He was a like a shadow that Noah made himself ignore. Nick said to ignore things that bothered him or made him feel uncomfortable but it wasn't easy sometimes. Reese had taught him some techniques he used to cool his anger or discomfort and that worked some of the time. Counting numbers in his head or quoting books or movies didn't distract for long though and especially not now.
Noah watched Chloe concentrate. The way her eyes crinkled and her lids moved and the tightening of her lips and the stress in her muscles. He wanted to tell her to stop but breaking her concentration might get him in trouble. Instead he watched her closely to make sure she was ok. She had done this many times before so he assumed. Chloe fingered her necklace as she worked and Noah wondered what it meant.
Behind him Derek shuffled and Noah tensed. He didn't like a non-pack wolf at his back but he refused to turn around. That would show weakness and he wouldn't do that. He was pack and Derek was not his equal. That sounded bad but pack wolves were better than mutts only because they had to be. Mutts had to know their place but some of them were good too. The pack taught him how to tell the difference. Derek was a mutt but he was good if annoying. He was good enough to become pack if he wanted but Noah assumed that would never happen.
Chloe suddenly gasped and Noah swung his gaze back to her. Her face was scrunched up even more like she was so deep in concentration she would not be able to hear the world around them. "He's coming." The whisper was so quiet Noah would not have heard it without being a werewolf.
Noah swallowed his nervousness and watched as she tensed and then relaxed. When she opened her eyes her gaze went from him to something behind him. Noah turned but saw only thin air. As per their arrangement Chloe would let Layn possess her and talk through her. That part of the agreement took a lot of cajoling and negotiating. Derek finally allowed it after hours of arguing. Noah's points were that Layn was a good person and he would never permanently take a body, even if he tried Eve would rip him out. Derek hated the idea because one of the number one rules was to never let a ghost possess you. Layn was different. Noah finally convinced them but his life was on the line if anything happened and he knew Derek did not make idle threats.
Noah looked back at Chloe expectantly. Again, she closed her eyes looking nervous. Beads of sweat had formed on her forehead from the concentration and she wiped them away haphazardly. "It's ok, Layn's a good guy."
They waited in a silent for a full minute and Noah wondered if this would work. He desperately wanted it to. "I am a good guy aren't I?" Chloe finally said but her voice had changed, the timber was deeper and the tone lower. Chloe had a smirk on her face but one that belonged to Layn. It was Layn's facial expression. Noah grinned.
"I would hope so. On that matter are you stupid? Dragging me back from the afterlife? Don't you know how much trouble you could be in? All of you, and especially Chloe for being a necromancer?" Layn asked giving him a look Nick was famous for.
"I know but I needed to talk to you. I need to…I'm sorry Layn," Noah began deciding to jump right in, "I got you killed and I feel so, I've felt so awful about it this past year. I know you gave a message to Jaime for me but…"
Layn's eyes turned sympathetic then. "It wasn't your fault Noah. I knew what I was doing and I knew what I was getting into. I already knew this was my last destination in life. It was my purpose in life Noah. I know that now. I know exactly why I went through what I went through and why it led to Jay. None of it was your fault. Do you understand me?" Layn asked reaching over and setting a hand on his shoulder. Noah smiled and brought his hand up to rest of Layn's but only had it there a second before Derek growled and he let go.
"You have ten minutes," Derek warned. In the deal they had worked out Layn had fifteen minutes in Chloe's body before the vervain came out and he was banished. Fifteen minutes was enough, it had to be.
"What's with the tall, dark and scary?" Layn asked eyeing Derek behind him.
"That's Derek. He's Chloe's, the girl you're possessing, her mate. He's also a werewolf so it would be best to listen to him. He will rip me apart if we don't." Layn laughed and sat back. Now came the hard part for him, the most important thing for him right now.
"Layn, I want you to know I forgive you for everything." Noah nervously stated drumming his fingers on the dusty floor. He had cleared a space but the circle was not big enough. He let Chloe sit in the cleaner part while he was half in dust. His designer jeans would thank him later and so he imaged would Nick who bought them.
Layn frowned and then rolled his eyes. All the motions were odd in Chloe's body but Noah got it. "There was nothing to forgive Noah. For what's it worth I forgive you for being an ass if that helps." Noah snorted at this. "Tell me what's going on," Layn asked now. Noah nodded and told him everything about the pack's life now. When he was done they still had a few minutes and Layn was able to tell him everything he was allowed to about his life. It matched what Jaime had said rather closely. He was really glad she hadn't lied.
When time was up Derek reminded them the second the clocked tickets to the minute. Noah looked at Layn who smiled and stood. Noah did as well and accepted the embrace which was awkward with Chloe being so much shorter. "No getting kidnapped again ok? I'll see you on the other side." Noah nodded as Chloe's body went limp. Noah caught her but she was back to herself in seconds and blinking up at him standing on her own.
Noah let her go before Derek went werewolf hulk on him and she stepped back and shook herself out. For a second her gaze went to the air behind him again and Noah knew Layn was still watching. "Go." Chloe said softly. Noah sensed the loss of his presence immediately and he sighed feeling relieved and sad.
"Thank you, thank you so much," Noah suddenly said surprising himself. He picked Chloe up and swung her around smiling bigger than he had in the last year. Chloe laughed and Derek growled behind him. Quickly he set her down and dug out the rest of the money tossing it at Derek.
"Never again," Derek warned and Noah nodded. The only other person he wanted to contact was his grandfather and he knew he couldn't. That would have to wait. Contacting Layn was risky enough but contacting a family member was way too risky. Eve would definitely come after him for that one. She might even come after him for this one. He shuttered and tried to put it from his mind.
On the drive home he shoved a CD in the player for the first time since he had gotten it. Nick had given it to him shortly after everything had happened hoping to make him feel better. It did a bit but what he really needed was this, closure. He smiled widely and drummed his fingers to the music's beat happy. He could finally let himself feel this way. He could finally let go and it felt so good he couldn't even contemplate the consequences of his actions. He didn't care right then.
Consequences he didn't have to think about for another week. He was eating breakfast in the living room watching the newest Game of Thrones before school with his feet propped on the coffee table and his math book opened beside him. The pack had noticed the difference in Noah in the past week like he had woken up suddenly. Nick was exceptionally happy about it attributing to his ongoing maturity and the packs persistence.
Reese thought it was about a new girl. Only Antonio had given him a knowing look but kept silent. He swore the man could see through skin into souls. It was like he knew everything before even you knew it sometimes.
"Noah, seriously, do you think this is pig sty?" Nick asked coming into the room keys in hand. Noah looked over with raised eyebrows and then looked at the couch where his cereal box had fallen over spilling cereal onto the cushions.
"Sorry," Noah said around a mouth filled with food.
Nick shook his head and ordered him to clean it up before school and to get his homework done too. Nick picked up the remote and clicked off the TV before he turned and Noah saw his serious face. He sat up straighter when Nick sat down watching him.
"Jeremy called and he wants to talk to you after school. Is there anything I should know?" Noah swallowed and shook his head standing. He gathered his math book and cereal bowl and strode from the room. Why did Jeremy want to talk to him? He hated when he had to wait a whole day to figure out what was going on.
His good mood had finally dissipated and he remained sullen throughout the day. By the time he drove in the driveway and saw Jeremy's car he was seeing thunder clouds over his head. He parked and stayed in his car for a few minutes before he got the courage to get up, grab his bag and go inside.
He toed off his shoes but didn't get past the first few rooms before a voice called him to stop. He turned and saw Jeremy and Jaime sitting in the living room. His stomach dropped into his bowels and then started doing a conga. Nick sat nearby looking unhappy. Noah dropped his bag and walked into the room with his hands shoved in his pockets.
"Noah, have a seat," Jeremy ordered kindly. Noah did as told and walked into the room sitting on the same couch as Nick across from Jeremy and Jaime. He couldn't look at any of them right then. He was confident he had done the right thing but now it felt so wrong. He couldn't let them make him feel this way.
"Noah, how are you?" Jaime asked first. Noah stammered a reply keeping his eyes on the coffee table. He had gotten so much better since he had arrived, he had matured, become confident and even self-assured but it took very little to put him back to where he used to be.
"Noah, eye contact," Nick reminded. Noah looked up sucking in a breath. He had a hard time with eye contact sometimes even now. He caught Jeremy's eyes first and then looked over at Jaime when she spoke. Her green eyes were kind as always but there was something new there, rebuke maybe. Noah tensed.
"I got a visit from Eve, Noah. She was concerned because Layn got into trouble with…with someone on the other side for speaking to you and for possessing a human body," she said. Nick sighed beside him but he didn't dare look over. "Noah, you know that can't happen again, right? You know you can't contact Layn again or anyone else. There won't just be trouble for him but for you too, understand?" Noah nodded. He had no idea what kind of trouble though.
"I know. I shouldn't have done it but, I needed to. I needed to apologize."
"It wasn't…," Nick started to say but Noah cut him off. He would regret that later.
"It wasn't my fault but you know what Nick," Noah said standing hearing the resentment and anger in his voice now, "you can say that a million times but I will still feel like it was my fault. Every damn day I feel this way and I can smile and agree with you all you want but Layn's blood is on my hands and it always will be. Talking to him was the only thing I could do. I needed to and I don't care how much trouble I'm in. If it helps with the…the feelings, the depression and the world closing in on me it was worth it. I would do it again," Noah said forcefully looking from Nick to Jeremy and Jaime. None of them looked particularly pleased about this.
"I am pretty sure that is the most he had spoken in a year," Reese chuckled from the doorway. Noah bit his lip and clenched his fists as Nick stood and quickly embraced him. Noah resisted at first before he finally relaxed and accepted him. It took a long time to be able to accept assurance like this and a longer time to believe he deserved it.
"I know you've been having a hard time with this Noah. I thought Jaime talking to you would help," Nick said letting him go but maintaining a hold on his upper arms. Noah shuffled his feet a bit taking a breath to calm down before speaking.
"Not enough, but, thanks," Noah said turning to Jaime who nodded but still looked concerned. Nick finally let him go and Noah crossed his arms. Reese gestured for him to uncross them and he did knowing how important body language was here. Crossing his arms meant defensive and letting them hang at his sides loose, with his chest and most vital organs exposed, meant he was open and welcoming to whatever they had to say.
"Listen Noah, I understand but it can never happen again. You do not know the dangerous forces you are playing with. This will never happen again because I do not want to be involved with those forces either," Jaime said. Noah nodded and sent an apologetic look to both Jeremy and Jaime.
He came out of the incident fairly unscathed even after being grounded. It was worth it. Later, when Reese prompted him, he would admit he paid Derek and Chloe but they kept it between themselves. Paying a mutt meant he had leverage over you but Derek was better than most. They hoped they had nothing to worry about.
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