Layn walked beside the fence at the end of Stonehaven woods. He’d discovered it as soon as he had walked a few feet in. This odd buzzing sound had seemed to fill his ears as soon as he focused on it. He felt a need to know as he always did and he surged forward despite the pain in his knee. He knew it would heal quickly enough once he slept. Layn walked for a half an hour before he came close enough to the source of the noise to see it. What he saw made him stop in his tracks.
“It couldn’t be,” Layn said lowly. Another fifty feet in front of him was a fence, a fence that was at least twenty feet high and, from the sound, was electrically powered.
Finally Layn unfroze and walked forward again, ignoring his limp and looking both ways to see how far this thing stretched. It went as far as he could see both ways. What the hell? Layn thought as he got within a few inches of the monstrosity now.
He reached unconsciously and touched his finger tip to the metal, getting a shock that made him yip and jump back cursing when he put too much weight on his knee and feel to the ground on his ass. Inside his chest his heart was thumping a million miles a minute and he instinctively put a hand to his chest. His heart rate would be affected due to the currents in his body he knew. That was stupid, Layn chided himself looking at his finger tip and seeing a small red welt. There would be no end to injuries in the pack he could tell. Layn sighed and pushed himself up, hoping no one saw him being so stupid.
Layn looked around then and tried to tell if anyone had seen him. Elena had given him an appraising look before he left, but since she knew the fence was here she would know he couldn’t go far. If she knew he had been stupid enough to touch it, she may not have let him alone; maybe he needed a babysitter after all. This made him feel relieved since he needed some alone time. Being around so many people all the time was suffocating. He wasn’t used to it. He’d been on his own for so long that being around people was hard. He supposed he had been around Jay off and on for years but he didn’t count. Jay was just…he couldn’t think of a word for him. Jay took semi care of him so he could use him. He still wasn’t sure how he felt about that, but it wasn’t important.
Layn enjoyed the quiet of the woods until dusk started to fall. It was just as well. Being in the woods so long made his skin tingle and the scents filled his mind with pictures of running. Flashes of changing, hunting, howling. He was technically lying when he said he had only changed a few times. He’d been changing for years. Jay didn’t particularly like this side of his life so he hadn’t been much help. Layn had struggled alone, first in the basement and finally in the woods. It was painful but not as painful as he thought. It took time but not as much as Jay had told him. Maybe he was just good at changing. Maybe everyone was just different. He wasn’t sure.
Layn was so deep in thought he missed the rustle of the leaves and the snap of a twig. It was faint but he should have heard it. Suddenly a figure was looming in front of him. Layn took a step back and clamped his mouth shut so he wouldn’t yell. He was never good with surprises and more than a little skittish when it came to certain things. He knew most people were so it didn’t bother him so much.
The man with the missing arm Layn had seen in the house was looming a few feet in front of him. He was dark haired like the Sorrentinos but lighter skinned. He had a little less muscle than Antonio and was taller than Reese. Layn swallowed and said nothing as he averted his eyes to the left so he wouldn’t challenge the man. He was clearly a wounded wolf, but he was still as scary as shit and his missing arm only made it worse.
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” he finally said and extended his only arm. Layn nodded and looked up hesitating only a moment before he took the hand and shook. “I’m Karl Marsden,” he said and Layn found himself looking at the man again. He had heard of this man before, everyone had. How the hell did he lose his arm? This man was not as feared as Clay but he was definitely, or Layn should say he used to be, feared.
“I’m Layn....,” the boy said, trailing off and not knowing what to say next. He certainly wanted to ask about his arm but he didn’t dare. Karl seemed to know what he was getting at though, and he looked at the missing arm. His face filled with regret, anger and annoyance.
Karl then turned that annoyed look on Layn who instinctively took a small step back until he spoke. “Not that it’s any of your business, but I lost it in the last mutt attack, the price I paid to save my wife’s life,” he told Layn who bit his lip but quickly stopped himself. That was an old habit and he was trying to get rid of it. That was who he used to be and not who he was now.
“Where is she?” Layn found himself asking now. Karl’s eyes looked storm cloudy for a moment and Layn found himself taking another step back just in case. He hadn’t meant to be so abrupt. He waited for a moment before he looked at the man again. His eyes were back to being settled and he didn’t look as if he would kill Layn so he was thankful for that at least.
Without an answer the bigger wolf turned and started walking back towards the house. Layn followed as he knew he should, but his mind was racing with questions. What happened to Karl’s arm? Where was his wife? What had changed the pack? These questions and many more he figured he may not get the answer to for quite some time.
“What the hell are you doing out here anyway?” Karl barked and Layn stopped for a moment surprised but didn’t have an answer. Karl said nothing after this and Layn sensed he had annoyed him or crossed a line he should not have. He’d be more careful in the future.
When he emerged from the woods he smelt the smell of cooking meat and his legs instantly made him walk faster. Karl was far ahead of him by now and Layn saw in the distance that a little girl, maybe around three or so, was running towards Karl. The man picked up the little girl with one arm and a smile. So there was something that would make the man smile Layn thought. Something that would make the man un-freeze.
Layn set that thought aside to focus on his hunger. He was starving, but he always was anyway. Ever since he turned about fourteen he had consumed everything in sight. He knew it was normal, but it was one hell of an annoyance as well, especially living in the human world.
In the back yard he saw various pack members milling about besides Karl and the little girl who was now chasing after the twins trying to catch them. Nick tended the BBQ and there was a cooler full of beers on the porch. Layn knew it may be the last BBQ of the season with the way the weather was turning. It wasn’t quite fall yet, but summer didn’t know that apparently. Layn studied the scene as he walked up still trying to get a feeling for who belonged in what position and how the pack worked. In the field it would be easier, but in this laid back situation they all just seemed like a huge family with no proper hierarchy.
Karl was now sitting at the picnic table with Jeremy, Elena and Antonio. Did that mean he was a senior pack member? Not from what Layn had heard, but he was one of the oldest too. Karl had not officially been part of the pack for a long time but eventually he had come around, or so Layn had heard. Nick was taking a fresh plate of burgers to the table where drinks, condiments and extras like veggies were piled. On the second picnic table Reese and Noah were playing what looked like poker and the other pack member, the one who looked to be sick, was sitting watching.
Layn knew his place would be at the picnic table with the younger members so he headed there, even if all the younger members may not like him. As Layn walked he heard the back door open and saw a gorgeous red head walk out the back door carrying more drinks. The woman was at least double his age, but despite that he had a split second mental picture of every boy’s fantasy. Quickly he shook these thoughts aside and tried to concentrate.
Immediately Layn slowed and watched as Jeremy stood with a wistful smile and untangled his legs, getting up to walk towards her. As Layn reached the picnic table Jeremy reached the woman and took the drinks from her in one hand but with his other he took the woman, dipped her and kissed her deeply. “Who is she?” Layn asked still watching them.
“Off limits,” Reese said immediately. Layn nodded knowing this of course. The former Alpha had kissed a woman. Why would Reese think Layn would immediately go over and hit on her? It’s not like he had a death wish or anything. Plus, he wasn’t sure who or what he was interested in yet. He had definitely had flings and been with people, but that didn’t help him narrow down his preferred choice. He guessed he was a late bloomer, but he had never given it much thought just because he didn’t have as much interest. He’d been too busy surviving. Too busy fending for himself. Even with Jay he was still mostly alone. Jay was only interested in Noah and, really, Layn should be resentful of this but he wasn’t. He understood, at least somewhat.
“She is Jaime and she’s Jeremy’s mate. She’s a necromancer,” the unknown werewolf told Layn. The younger wolf nodded to this, catching the man’s odd accent and watching as Jeremy took Jaime’s hand and led her to the picnic table.
“I’m Layn,” Layn finally said, waking himself from his trance and looking at the red haired wolf. He had no idea what made a wolf sick, but this guy was pale and looked like it was an effort to stay awake or upright. It looked as if at any moment he might collapse
“Morgan,” he said but didn’t offer his hand. Layn nodded and sat down on the side that Reese occupied, making sure to sit at the far end. Layn was a Canadian and he was fairly sure he could place this man’s accent as far East Coast, probably Newfoundland or Labrador. As with Reese he wouldn’t ask though, just in case. He had no desire to see the cold look that he had seen in Reese’s eyes again on someone else.
“Guys, supper,” Nick finally called. Immediately both young werewolves got up and Morgan started to as well, but Reese set a hand on his shoulder with a “stay put” look. Immediately Layn’s mind started spinning with ideas about the hierarchy system. Morgan looked older, but Reese still seemed to be in charge. Did that mean that Reese was a better werewolf so he was in charge, or that since Morgan was sick he couldn’t maintain his hierarchy, at least over Reese? Maybe Noah was still under Morgan. It was just a lot of confusion really, but Layn guessed that since Morgan was sick he could not defend his rightful place and so fell on the pack chain. Morgan nodded looking grateful as he relaxed where he was. Now Layn really wanted to know but he didn’t ask. The curiosity was burning inside him like an oil lamp just about to fizz out.
Morgan looked over at Layn then as if he knew he was being watched and Layn didn’t have time to divert his eyes. The man smirked a bit and his deep forest green eyes crinkled.
“Poison,” he said simply. Layn looked wide eyed and astonished at this. “It was the last attack. The worst one,” he said. Layn nodded astonished now. He had heard the last attack was one the pack had barely survived. It was the worst in pack history since an incident before Layn was born where a few of their members died. This was why it was a bad time to reach out to the pack, but he had no choice.
Morgan didn’t elaborate and Layn didn’t ask for any more information. It may seem like he was interfering in matters he had no place interfering in. Plus maybe the information was too personal. Layn jumped a bit when he was pulled from his thought by Noah and Reese returning, thumping three plates down onto the picnic table. Morgan accepted his with a warm smile and took the cold beer Reese handed him as well.
Layn pushed himself up then knowing he was allowed to go and get food that the others just above him had come back with their food. No one would get him for him, so it was fend for himself or die, he knew. The young wolf looked around to see everyone else had started eating and knew there was little chance there would be much left if he waited any longer. As Layn made his way to the table he saw the kids had a smaller kid sized picnic table made just for them. Probably a pack member had made it or maybe bought it.
The food was scattered over the table and Layn tried to be as quiet and invisible as possible while getting a plate and grabbing some much needed sustenance. As he filled up and was in his own little world someone gently laid a hand on his hand. Suddenly a memory surfaced of someone grabbing his hand and dunking him under the water he was standing in. They wouldn’t let go. They held him fast. Layn struggled and lashed out, trying desperately to get away, but in the next second he was on the ground, gulping air and looking at serious brown eyes.
“What the hell, kid?” Antonio growled holding Layn’s arms still now, pinning them against his sides. Layn closed his eyes and tried to figure out what had just happened. He had virtually no memories from before he was ten so he had no idea what that was. He was confused and felt so disoriented. The world was spinning and it took a few moments for Antonio’s words to even make sense to him.
When he opened his eyes again he saw Jeremy had half a knee on the picnic bench and had a hand on Jaime’s shoulder. Jaime had two scratches down her cheek and she was trying to look calm, but she was a little bit shocked. Layn just stared at her for a moment wondering where the scratches had come from before it hit him. He must have scratched her. He had been trying to get away and in the attempt he had hurt her. He was so dead.
Layn was more surprised that Jeremy was not on top of him wanting to rip his throat out, but Antonio was closer he supposed and got to him first. Jeremy was holding her now looking none too happy, but he didn’t look as if he wanted to murder the younger wolf. That must be a good sign.
“I…,” Layn said, trying to get his heart to stop pounding. Layn lifted his hand then to brush sweaty hair from his forehead and only then realised his finger nails were claws and hair had sprouted on his hand. He had never half changed before and he looked at his hand with the same confused look that he gave Antonio and then Elena who stood over him now looking cool and not too amused. He must have scratched her with his werewolf claws then. Not good.
“I’m so sorry,” Layn said in a voice that sounded like it was half a growl. Layn swallowed then and tried again, willing his hands to turn back to normal and his voice as well. What the hell had just happened to him? The haze of confusion and disorientation was lifting, but it still felt like a stray cloud floating around him. He ignored that question to focus on the now again. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened, but I didn’t mean it. I saw…something…I’m so sorry,” Layn apologized, looking over at Jaime now. The woman nodded and pulled away from Jeremy’s hold.
Antonio got up then and pulled Layn easily up as well. Looking around, he saw half the pack was on their feet or half way standing.
“What did you see?” Elena asked now and Layn looked at her confused for a few moments before he understood. He could tell she didn’t quite believe him though.
“I’m not sure…um, it was…can I go?” Layn asked. Elena watched Layn for a moment before nodding and walking towards him. She took his upper arm, pulling him from Antonio and walking him towards the back porch, across it and inside. Once inside she turned to him and took his shoulders in her hands.
“What did you see?” Why did you attack Jaime?” she demanded. Layn looked away from her and glanced out the back window to see Clay looking towards the house, but no one got up to follow them.
“I don’t know…I…I think it was a memory. Jaime took my hand and suddenly it was like I was seeing something and someone was trying to…to drown me,” Layn explained fearfully. He had a feeling this was real and that he wasn’t just going crazy. What he saw had really happened to him, but he couldn’t remember the circumstances.
“An early childhood memory?” Elena asked, looking thoughtful and weary but not as angry as before. Maybe he could get through to her. Maybe she could see that what had happened was real, could see that he was in disarray and wasn’t faking his feelings.
“I don’t have any memories. Not until I was older, maybe about ten or so. I remember a few things from then but not before that,” Layn said. Elena looked as if she was remembering something but then she was back and looking at Layn like they could understand one another. The moment passed in a blink, but Layn could have sworn it was there.
“Childhood amnesia,” she said and Layn shrugged. Elena sighed then and looked at Layn with the Alpha’s eyes. These eyes terrified him and suddenly he decided that none of this was worth it. He couldn’t do what he came here to do. The pack would kill him or he’d be kicked out before he was even here for a few weeks.
“I can’t do this,” Layn suddenly said and felt panic begin to bubble in his stomach then. Jay would probably beat the crap out of him, but maybe that was worth it. He just couldn’t do this anymore. He wouldn’t get away with it anyway, so what was the point?
“Layn,” Elena said, taking his arm again as Layn wrenched from her grip. He headed towards the living room ignoring her which she didn’t take too kindly to he assumed, but he was panicking and she had to see that. He was outsider and this wasn’t easy. Why couldn’t she understand? “Layn,” she said again, following him and taking his shoulder once more. Layn resisted slightly, but she was able to lead him to a seat. “Sit, we’re going to speak,” she commanded now. Layn didn’t dare disobey and he sat, trying to take a deep breath as she instructed and clear his head a bit. Being hungry didn’t help at all.
“I need you to calm down or you’re in danger of a change. I can’t let you change so close to my children,” she emphasized and Layn nodded, understanding. He took a couple of deep breaths now, closing his eyes and forcing himself to calm down. After a minute it worked and he looked over at the Alpha again.
“I can’t do this, Elena. They all hate me and no one trusts me at all. I feel like it shouldn’t be this hard. I just want…I want to…to be accepted but it will never happen. I need to stop pretending. Just let me go,” Layn pleaded, but Elena shook her head again.
“No, Layn. I can’t. What I can do is believe you when you tell me that you did not attack Jaime out of malice. I’m suspicious, but obviously something is going on. I can’t exactly ask you to control whatever happened to you I suppose, but I can get you help,” she said and immediately Layn shook his head. Elena frowned at this but let him speak. She could try and get him help, but Layn didn’t want it, and if he didn’t accept it he knew there would be no point.
“I’m fine. I’ll try and do what I can, I suppose, but it would be better if I could just go,” Layn said, but again Elena shook her head and told the boy he was staying put. Layn knew it was probably too dangerous for him to be without help right now but he was still frustrated.
“Now, if there isn’t anything you need to tell me,” she said, looking at him critically, but Layn shook his head, “then we’re going back out there. I’m going to vouch for you which should settle most of their minds, but just try and be careful, ok?” she asked and Layn nodded. The knot of reluctance was forming in his stomach though, and he wished beyond anything else he had never come. It was stupid to think he could accomplish anything here.
Layn apologized again once he got outside and Elena told everyone that he hadn’t meant it and they were to leave it alone. Layn would make it up to Jaime in whatever way she wanted, even though Jaime protested about that. Finally Layn gathered food and made sure to get extra vegetables when Antonio jokingly complained that no one there liked vegetables. He had been trying to lighten the mood but it wasn’t working well.
Layn made his way back to his picnic table with cold food and a warm drink and didn’t look at anyone as he ate. Elena said he had to try and make friends with the others and it would be a good idea to start with Noah, Reese and Morgan but it seemed an impossible feat. How did you make people trust you when they didn’t even really seem to like you?
He had to make an effort though, so, with grudging resolve he looked up at the three. They had been speaking about an upcoming trip and eventually Layn decided he would try later. After he had enough to eat, to do him a few hours anyway, and had helped clean up dinner, he headed outside again and to his motorcycle. He hadn’t felt like speaking to anyone and decided being on his own may be best for a while.
He’d always been good at fixing things and his bike had been making odd sounds for quite a while. Like wind breaking through a crack where there shouldn’t be. He took his bike by the handles and moved it away from the spot where it had been leaning. When he got to the gravel driveway he took the keys from his jacket and turned it on revving it up and listening to the sound. Almost immediately three little kids appeared on the porch to watch. Layn smiled and stopped the noise, setting the bike on its stand and going into his saddle bag for tools.
Layn next sat down and looked at the bike, deciding where to start and pretending not to notice as the kids crept closer. Finally Layn decided to start with the rear power unit and work his way from there. Eventually he would find the broken or irritated area. Once he had some parts scattered on the grass he looked up to see Logan, Kate and Karl’s little girl sitting on their haunches and watching with interest.
“Have you three never seen a motorcycle before?” Layn asked amused now.
“Yes,” Logan immediately said. “But Uncle Nick takes his to the shop,” he said intrigued and he looked over the dirty metal pieces but didn’t touch them. The pack had definitely taught them well.
“Even though Reese says he can help fix it,” Kate said. Layn chuckled then imagining the exact scene. He didn’t know any of the pack members well, but he was definitely starting to see how each of them differed and contributed to the pack to form a whole. Even the kids had their personalities and roles it seemed.
Layn picked up a socket wrench and laid himself on his back, taking apart the belly pan of his Ducati. He’d had his motorcycle a few years now and it was definitely his most prized possession. Jay had given it to him as a sign of good faith. He’d walked out into the yard one day to see a blue Ducati Diavel. Lightweight with a six speed transmission and top of the line Testastretta 11 engine. He was sure it was a dream at first or that it was a trick, but Jay hadn’t taken it back. That was good since he had no intention of giving it up.
“Kate, Logan, Nita,” someone called from the porch, interrupting Layn’s memories. The young wolf looked up to see Elena calling the kids in for bedtime. Logan looked like he was being pulled from his favorite class in school and shot Layn and the motorcycle a regretful look, but Kate immediately took the other little girl’s, Nita’s, hand, and started walking with her towards the house.
An hour later Layn figured out that the problem was a lose shift lever. He wiped some spilled oil off of his face smearing black across his cheek. By the time he had a majority of the parts back in place he heard footsteps. He ignored the person for a moment until he needed to reach for the extra spark plugs he kept for a change and saw Noah sitting on the ground not far from him.
“Can you hand me those?” Layn asked and Noah, startled out of his thoughts for a moment, looked around and picked up the spark plugs, handing them over. “Thanks,” Layn smiled and laid down again to fit them into place.
“Elena said I should talk to you,” Noah began and then stopped. Layn nodded but realized too late Noah wouldn’t see.
“She told me the same thing,” the other wolf admitted. Noah said nothing for a moment and Layn looked over to see he was playing with a blade of grass. Layn guessed Noah wasn’t the most talkative so maybe it would be up to him.
Layn fit the last plug into place and sat up, wiping his face with his sleeve and starting to gather up his tools. He had half of them cleaned before Noah spoke again.
“Why did you attack Jaime?” he asked suddenly. Layn looked over at the other boy and knew he had been gathering up his courage to ask for a bit.
“It looked bad, huh?” Layn asked. Noah nodded and picked up a cleaning rag to clean off some tools for him. Layn dipped his head to him as a thank you and thought about what to tell him. The truth would be best he knew so he would go with that. He had to gain Noah’s trust as quickly as possible.
“I saw something,” Layn admitted. Noah gave him an odd look, but Layn quickly went on to explain. He didn’t need the other boy thinking he was a freak on top of everything else. “When Jaime set her hand on mine it let lose a memory. Someone was trying to hurt me but I don’t remember who. Suddenly it was…maybe like someone was trying to hurt me again and I lashed out. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Sorry if I freaked you guys out,” Layn said covertly, watching Noah’s reaction as he watched the ground setting a now cleaned tool down. He was eager for the other boy to understand and so he tripped over his words a bit, hoping Noah would not think the worst.
“That’s…kind of weird,” Noah admitted, looking up again. Layn could see the fear in his eyes that he would take offense, but he only laughed and shook his head.
“I know,” Layn answered and stood now, gathering his tools to put back in the hidden compartment on the bike. He was about to lead the bike back to the place Reese had set it, but he suddenly had a better idea.
“Want to go for a ride?” he asked with a grin. It was a split second decision and for a second he thought Noah would see how desperate he was for his trust. Noah looked at the bike and then at Layn. Hesitatingly he looked back at the house, but when he caught Layn’s eyes again his were shining with the need for adventure but still mingled with distrust and feelings of guilt. Layn nodded then with a smile of his own and got on the bike. Sticking in the key he turned it on and revved up, gesturing for Noah to get on as well. With a quick look at the house Noah scrambled on and grabbed a hold of Layn tentatively. Layn called for him to hold on tightly as he turned and took off, not looking back.
They drove two miles before Noah lightened his grip a bit and he could hear the other boy laughing. Noah seemed to have forgotten he didn’t trust Layn for a moment and just given into the feeling of freedom. It’s what Layn would have done at least. Layn laughed too and sped up, taking the road into town and zooming through the center of it. He looked around as they drove memorizing the town for future reference and stopping off near a local donut shop.
“I’m hungry,” Layn explained and Noah nodded with a big grin. It amazed Layn how different the other boy was acting now. Maybe he just really needed to get away or he had forgotten he shouldn’t trust Layn. Maybe he was just being care free for once.
“That was awesome,” he laughed and Layn nodded. It had occurred to him that he could easily take Noah now and just keep driving. Noah wouldn’t be able to do much about it but try and jump off and of course, he’d kick the crap out of Layn, but Layn wouldn’t hold back then either. Maybe he’d beat the other boy.
After gassing up the bike and sharing a box of donuts and some iced coffee, Noah finally looked at his phone and frowned. “We’d better get back,” he suggested looking worried. The misgivings were back in his eyes now. Maybe he was able to forget for a bit that Layn wasn’t technically pack but not for long. Layn sighed but nodded. He was definitely not used to being treated like a child and he didn’t like it. At his age he should have been able to go anywhere and do anything without permission. It was more than an annoyance to tell the truth.
As they walked out the bike again, Layn considered just driving off as a serious plan again. It was only when they turned off the highway and had a choice to keep going down the main road and hit I-89 or head towards Stonehaven that he hesitated. No, he couldn’t just drive away. He doubted he would get very far and Noah would fight him on it sensing danger. He would need to wait until he was more trusted and could convince Noah to go with him maybe. So, he headed for Stonehaven instead, knowing it was better to be patient and wait. He was not in a hurry to get back to Jay anyway.
They pulled into the driveway at full dark and saw lights blazing from behind the pine trees as they drove up. Layn braked at the same spot he had fixed the bike before and let Noah get off before he turned off the engine and rolled the bike to the side of the house. “Thanks for that. It was…really awesome,” Noah grinned.
“Well, Elena wanted us to be friends, right? I guess she got her wish,” Layn shrugged. Noah looked at Layn for a moment then nodded slightly. Layn could tell that Noah was still a bit hesitant about him, but it also seemed like Noah had this side that he needed to explore. He needed to get out and do stuff and have some non-pack adventures. Maybe Noah was suffocating sometimes as well. Layn was hardly surprised. At their age they didn’t need to be coddled and cooped up. They wanted to be free. So, if Layn could help Noah explore this side of himself then maybe that would endure the other boy to him much more.
Layn grinned at this until he turned to see Elena and Nick standing on the porch with twin frowns. Both had their arms crossed and looked none too happy. Layn glanced at Noah who had gone a bit pale. Much like Layn himself had. Elena uncrossed her arms then and crooked one finger in a ‘come here’ gesture before she turned and went back into the house leaving Nick to watch the boys cross the yard and come up the steps. Hopefully their adventure would actually be worth it.