Noah’s heart dropped into his stomach a bit as he glanced at Layn. The other boy seemed unfazed as his eyes followed Elena’s departure and then looked at Nick watching them now seemingly patiently, but he knew him well enough to see the panic from not knowing where Noah was in his eyes and the anger at both of them for their spontaneity.
“Come on,” Noah said in a voice Reese often used on him. He considered it an authoritative voice. Layn nodded and followed him which pleased Noah for a moment until he remembered he had broken the rules. Until he remembered how much shit he might be in. Hopefully Clay would not hang him from a tree in the back yard as he threatened to do if Noah messed up again.
Noah didn’t dare glance at Nick as he walked up the front porch steps and to the front door. He shoved his hands in his pockets and thought for a moment. This is the first time he had broken the rules in this way and he wasn’t sure what it would mean. Sure, he had lost his temper and yelled or been disrespectful at times, but he’d never purposively broken the rules before. He knew his brain was a bit frazzled from his F.A.E (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) and the pack gave him a bit of break because of it. He had made a lot of good progress too, now that was all gone, or some of it anyway.
Noah walked straight to the study hearing Layn and Nick behind him. Immediately he glanced around the room seeing Elena sitting on the edge of the desk with crossed arms. Antonio was sitting at the desk working on his laptop and Jeremy was at the window looking into the back yard. It would do no good to ask not to have a whole audience of older pack members. They would all hear about it soon anyway. Plus, they were all senior pack members and, to a degree, it was their place to be there disciplining and knowing what was going on. It was the like the Interracial Council in a way. If Kate or Logan messed up and did something it wasn’t required that all of them be there but with bigger stuff, deliberate disobedience, they were usually all there or they all heard about it after at least. Noah sat down and crossed his arms imitating Elena and, seeing Layn sit down on the opposite couch with the same body language.
Nick cleared his throat then and Noah looked up at his mentor seeing him make a gesture for him to uncross his arms. Noah obeyed and tried to relax a bit, but when he looked over at Layn to see he wasn’t relaxed in the least. With uneasiness Noah looked over at Elena again.
“I’m sorry…,” he started to say but Elena held up a hand. That’s not good, Noah thought feeling a bit more anxiety.
“Layn, you have not been here long but, Noah, you know the rules. You aren’t to go anywhere without at least telling us where you’re going, boys. There are dangers out there and even if we should be safe on pack territory, we have learned from past incidents we are not. No more leaving without telling someone. No more leaving without people who can protect you, understand?” she asked in her firm Alpha voice. It made Noah shiver to hear the power behind it. Right then and there he promised not to mess up again if he could help it.
“Yes,” Noah said, telling her he understood, but Layn said nothing and just continued to watch. Noah wanted to stop time for a moment and tell him he was going to screw himself with his attitude. The pack didn’t like attitude as it was considered disrespectful. It was, Noah knew, but it was hard not to have a bit of an attitude sometimes.
“Problem Layn?” she asked now, looking at the younger boy. Noah glanced nervously at him and then at Nick who didn’t say a word or do anything but mirrored Elena’s body language instead, telling Noah he wasn’t pleased.
“Yeah,” Layn said, looking up now. Noah saw Nick look over sharply at Layn now and he assumed the other pack members might be doing the same. He knew he should have explained the rules to Layn beforehand. When the Alpha speaks to you like this you’re not supposed to go against her or him. That just makes life harder. If you need an outlet you can get angry, respectfully, with another pack member who can then help you with the Alpha, but getting angry at her would do no good. You could of course go to Elena with anything, but there were rules and pack ways to follow as well.
“It was my idea to go out. I asked Noah and I pressured him into it. I know he’s…,” Layn stopped then looking over at Noah who was frowning, “…um, got problems…,” he continued. Suddenly Noah felt like a volcano had gone off inside his body and his temper flared. He had been much better at this lately, but not this time apparently. He wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t letting Layn think he was either.
“No, you didn’t. I can think for myself and just because I have problems doesn’t mean I’m stupid or I follow blindly. I’m not stupid,” Noah exploded and half stood. Layn looked over at him with an apologetic expression and Elena gestured for him to sit down again before addressing him.
“No, Noah. We know you’re not stupid and you can make up your own mind. You’re doing much better and we’re all very proud of you,” Elena said smiling slightly and Nick nodded, saying something along the same line. Noah sighed and looked appeased somewhat now, but his anger was still there boiling beneath the surface like a can of pop just waiting to explode.
“I’m sorry, Noah, you’re right, I just…I mean that I saw you wanted to get away for a bit and I took advantage of that. I’m sorry. I’m good at manipulating people when I want and I feel awful about it,” Layn said. Noah looked shocked for a moment before he nodded now at the other boy. “Look, if anyone gets into trouble it should be me,” Layn said. Noah looked from Layn to Elena. Noah was more than a little confused about why Layn would admit he was a manipulator. What was going on with this guy?
Elena looked at both boys now and then at Nick. “You can punish them,” she said and Nick nodded, looking at both boys in turn now. Noah looked at the floor now and accepted this before he looked over at Layn and swallowed. The other boy’s eyes were showing fire and he was not happy about the situation. Noah shook his head slightly at him, but Layn ignored him and turned to Elena again.
“I think this is unfair,” he said and Elena, who had stood and was walking to Jeremy, now turned back. When she had stood she had basically declared the conversation finished. It was not good to restart it Noah knew. He could feel all eyes on Layn. No one said anything for a second which Layn took to mean he could go one. “Noah is 18 and so am I. We are old enough to be able to go out on our own. We are not children. Others our age are living away from home and travelling around the world, but we have to have guardians and chaperons, we have to tell everyone where we are going and ask permission. It seems a bit juvenile,” Layn challenged. Noah felt like he couldn’t take a breath. Layn was going to get an ass kicking for sure if he kept this up.
“Yes, but you’re not normal, are you?” Elena asked, walking back now with purpose. Noah watched Layn’s face but the anger was still there. “Neither of you are normal. There are people after Noah and anyone could grab him. I’m sorry, Noah, but you’re not strong enough to fight against a more experienced werewolf. This is for your protection…,” she enforced and was about to go on but Layn interrupted.
“So it’s a jail. Being part of the pack means I’m in jail with no chance to do anything on my own. This isn’t what I signed up for. I need to be able to go out on my own without a babysitter. If you need to, you can set rules about how far we can go, or if you don’t trust me to be alone with Noah we can take another pack member when we are out together, but I can’t be trapped here,” Layn said, raising his voice a little with both anger and a little panic.
“Oh? Can I make rules for you? I have your permission?” Elena said in a hard voice. Layn winced at this and opened his mouth, but Elena spoke over him. “Shut up, I’m talking,” she growled and Noah went wide eyed. He hadn’t heard Elena this angry in a while and she usually didn’t think without speaking. “I understand you want freedom and you can have it, if you want you can leave right now,” she emphasized. Noah saw Layn’s eyes dart to his before he focused on her again.
The silence that descended then felt to Noah as if it took a life time but finally, a little hesitantly, Layn spoke. “No, I don’t want to go, I just want some freedom,” Layn said in a quieter voice. Noah clenched his fists now at the tension in the room and took a breath, not realizing he had been holding it before. He had always hated arguments or raised voices and fighting. He always felt anxious when anyone shouted or the situation got tense. That was something that hadn’t gotten much better by being with the pack. No, they didn’t yell or fight as much but by not doing it as much it caused his anxiety about it to flare more viciously when it did happen.
“I understand,” Elena said, walking to Layn now and sitting down beside him. “I know this can be frustrating and I think you are right. I’ll let you go for drives and out on your own under the condition that you tell someone you’re going out, ok?” she asked, Layn looked up at her surprised before he nodded to this. “Noah, you can go with him and have the same limits imposed on you, but I would like an older pack member to go with you, hon. You know you may still be in danger,” she said and Noah smiled then. He had been feeling lately like he was bashing his head against a brick wall. He needed freedom and soon. “Both of you will take cell phones with you and not drive out a range. If no one hears from you in a few hours you will be getting a phone call and you will answer, understood?” she said and set a hand on Layn’s knee. Noah didn’t think understood the cell phone rule but Noah did. Cell phones had GPS the pack could tap into. A lifesaving invention Nick had told Noah once.
Noah nodded then incredibly happy with the new arrangement. Reese would agree to go out with them if Noah needed to get away and he would have more time to be independent. He was definitely starting to like Layn more now. At first he thought he would hate him, but earlier that day when Elena came and requested he at least try, he did. He didn’t think it would go anywhere but it had gone to some good places in only the space of a few hours. Not that they were best buddies or anything but making a bit of progress.
“I’m sorry,” Layn apologized to her and Elena nodded now with a small smile. Noah relaxed then, but when he looked over at Nick he knew that relaxing was not on the agenda. Elena had her turn to chew them out and now it was Nick’s turn. He wasn’t sure who he was more afraid of in this regard. Elena was the Alpha but Nick was basically his father here. He dcided right then Nick was the one to fear and he braced for impact.
“Noah, you’re grounded for a week, and Layn, no more bike for a week,” Nick announced. Noah accepted this with calm finality but immediately he knew Layn did not.
“No, you can’t do that. You don’t have the right,” Layn protested. Noah looked over at Layn again wondering when the other boy would get a clue. The older pack members had a right to do anything they wanted to the younger generation as long as it fell within pack standards and the Alpha wouldn’t protest about it.
“You have a lot to learn, Layn. I’m in charge of the younger pack members, a group which you fall into at present, and, therefore I do have a right. I suggest you decide whether pack life really is for you. If it is, take the punishment and deal and, if not, you can go, as Elena said,” Nick enforced. Noah watched Layn visibly clamp his mouth shut to stop from speaking, but the fire was back in the other boy’s eyes now. Nick didn’t miss it either, Noah knew as soon as the man chuckled.
“I’m going to give you a piece of advice my father gave me when I was younger than you,” Nick said, coming to stand in front of Layn now. Layn’s eyes went to the Antonio’s at the desk, who was watching them with a knowing look and back to Nick’s now. “You can grumble and complain all you want, you can even call me an asshole or a bastard, I don’t care, but do it where I can’t hear and accept your punishment. It wouldn’t be punishment if you didn’t deserve it or needed to learn a lesson, got it?” he asked. Layn nodded now. Finally, Noah thought, knowing when to back down and when to proceed was a good quality in anyone. Nick had given both Noah and Reese the same piece of advice before so Noah knew it well.
As they got up to go, Noah thought about the time he asked Antonio when he had given Nick that advice and had gotten a Nick childhood story in return which he loved. Apparently, Nick had gone into the woods when the pack was changed. A safety precaution which he wasn’t allowed to break and Antonio found out. Rather than tell Dominic he punished Nick himself. Nick, only about 6 or 7 at the time, proceeded to call his father an asshole for being punished when he had done what the man told him not to do at which time Antonio gave him this advice. Noah was sure there had been many more incidents when Nick had called his father names but never in his presence again.Noah noticed that Layn followed him and he decided to go directly upstairs so they could talk. As they walked Layn threw coveted glances out the windows he could see through at his bike. Currently Nick was rolling it around the house to put in the locked shed. Noah knew that if it was him being punished they would just leave the bike there, but they didn’t seem to trust Layn all that much right now, so they would lock it away just in case.
Noah reached their bedroom first and opened the door to see Reese sitting on the window seat and waiting for him, or perhaps both of them. He turned from looking at the backyard and the darkness with crossed arms and a raised eyebrow. Noah sighed knowing that he wouldn’t be able to escape a second lecture. He heard the door shut behind him and turned to see Layn staring at Reese with annoyance.
“On the bed,” Reese ordered. Noah immediately walked over and sat down, cupping his hands in his lap waiting. Layn didn’t move from his position by the door with his hand on the knob.
“I already got a lecture from two people with a higher rank than you, I don’t need to hear it again,” Layn grumbled. Reese strode forward and took Layn’s shoulder propelling him to the bed and making him sit. Layn glared but said nothing. He only had to remember Reese pinning him to the wall the other day to know that he needed to sit and listen or he’d be sorry again.
Noah wasn’t surprised that Reese was able to make Layn do what he wanted. Reese was like a mini Alpha in temperament and personality. He was strong, authoritative and not scared to do what needed to be done. The younger boy was sure that one day Reese would be the Alpha, even if he was training to be an enforcer now.
“That was stupid. Both of you should have known better. Next time you want to get away just tell me and I’ll help,” he told them. Noah nodded knowing that Reese had probably heard the whole conversation and thought of a plan before Nick had even scolded them.
“What’s the point of us getting away if we have someone older watching over our backs?” Layn asked and put an arm over Noah’s shoulder making them a team. Noah looked at Layn and then Reese again.
“The point is I’m younger, and with me they will let you go, but you won’t have to deal with someone older who might not understand going to a certain movie or getting you guys into a bar underage,” Reese explained and sat down in the middle of the boys, pushing them apart now. Noah could tell Reese wasn’t exactly comfortable with Layn coming in and influencing him. It was true that Noah was not stupid and could make up his own mind, but he knew he could be influenced easily and Reese wouldn’t like that at all.
“Fine,” Layn said, getting up now and heading to the washroom. Noah watched him go and then turned to Reese knowing his older pack brother had more to say to him. Reese waited a moment before he took Noah’s arm and propelled him out of the room. Reese started towards the next room down and knocked on the door. When he got no response he went in and closed the door, tugging Noah behind him.
“Noah, you need to be careful,” Reese began as he turned on the lights. Elena and Clay’s room was empty for now and neither of them would mind him using it. Noah nodded and followed Reese to the bed now. “You can’t let him influence you so easily. You only just met him. I’m worried,” the Aussie wolf emphasized.
“I know but I’m not blindly influenced, Reese. I won’t let him hurt me,” Noah countered and Reese gave him a look then. Noah knew he’d messed up by that look, but he didn’t look away. Once he was, not afraid, but weary around Reese, figured the guy would think he was weak or make fun of him but he never did. Reese was the best friend Noah had ever made and the best brother he could ask for. He wouldn’t steer him wrong.
“You went with him after he suggested you go out for a bit. How much thought did you put into that?” Reese asked, not unkindly, as the door opened and Elena walked in closely followed by Clay and Nick.
“Shit, sorry. We just needed a place to talk,” Reese apologized, but Elena waved them off. Nick immediately went to the bar in Elena’s room, a similar one to the one in Clay’s room, and mixed them some drinks while Clay fished for cards in Elena’s sock drawer but listened closely. Sometime they needed to just chill out and play a game of cards like the old days. The responsibility of being Alpha was a heavy one Noah figured.
“No, I wanted to talk to you guys anyway,” she began and closed the door behind her. “Where is he?” she asked before she began getting the answer from Noah. “I want you both to be very careful around Layn. I don’t completely trust him. Jeremy has the feeling something is off about him, but we’re not sure what. Maybe it’s just his nervousness or the fact that he hasn’t told us something or other, but neither of you are to go alone with him, got it?” she asked and both of them nodded.
“What do you think it is though?” Reese prodded now, crossing his arms and looking at her seriously. Elena looked at him gravely for a moment considering what to tell them. Sometimes, Noah knew, they kept information from him but let Reese know. It bothered the hell out of him, but he knew they had their reasons too. Sometimes he could persuade Reese to tell him anyway as long as he didn’t say anything.
“It’s the way he doesn’t completely look at you when he’s saying some things. In the way he has a tense energy around him unrelated to the anxiety of joining a pack and being new, and he’s in contact with a few people from the outside world. One specifically named Jay. He erased his conversations but his contact list is short. We also found some medical stuff he didn’t bother telling us about. It’s a lot of things so just be careful,” she instructed and set a hand on each of their shoulder.
“Medical stuff?” Reese asked confused. Elena nodded and accepted a drink from Clay before he dropped down the bed, soon followed by Nick. Clay shuffled the cards and Noah knew that was a sign they needed to leave soon. Sometimes the younger generation joined the older in card games and such but not often. It was really just a time for Elena to relax like the old days and she couldn’t as much with Noah or Reese around. Not like they used to anyway.
“It’s epilepsy medicine not prescribed to him, but he may be taking it. It’s odd that a werewolf would need medicine though, for that anyway,” Elena told them and sat down as well. Noah shrugged and got up then followed by Reese. They bade the three goodnight and left the room quickly, going back down the hall to their own to find Layn asleep or pretending at least.
“Are you getting water?” Reese asked lowly as they got ready and Noah nodded saying that he would get them both water. He walked downstairs and into the kitchen to see Antonio locking the back door and alarming it. He turned and smiled at the boy who gave him a small smile back before going to the fridge.
“Noah, can I ask you something?” the older man asked. Noah nodded as he pulled some clean glasses from the dishwasher and set them on the counter to fill. “Do you like Layn?” he asked simply. Noah’s shoulder’s slumped a bit then. It seemed like he had been talking about Layn all day. It was starting to get on his nerves a bit.
“No, I know not too. Pretty much everyone has already told me to be careful, so I know, but thanks,” Noah told the older man.
“It’s fine if you do. We aren’t trying to isolate the kid but just be careful is all, kiddo,” Antonio smiled and patted Noah on the shoulder like a father. Noah blushed and concentrated on the glasses in his hand. He was never very good with emotion and things. When Noah looked back up Antonio nodded then and ushered him upstairs, telling Noah he’d be up in a bit. Antonio was always the one to double check the locks and the security system.
Noah was half asleep when Antonio slipped in and got ready for bed. The man was almost completely silent and Noah was almost asleep by the time the bed spring creaky slightly. He peered through the dark with only a bit of light from the moon to help his sight. Layn rolled over and moaned and Antonio froze but the other boy said no more, so Noah closed his eyes and let himself fall into sleep. Only to wake up to chaos a few hours later.
“Noah,” someone said and Noah pushed whoever it was away to go back to sleep again. “Wake up,” someone said again and shook him. Noah growled and opened his eyes to see Antonio looking down at him. Tonio took his arm and pulled him up and all Noah could think about was why a wolf was standing on the bed. The wolf was dark brown and reminded him of Nick and Antonio, but they were both in the room right then. He cocked his head and regarded Noah for a moment while sniffing the sheet and whining.
“Stay still,” Antonio instructed with his hands on Noah’s shoulders. Reese was on the other side of the room standing by the bathroom door and waiting for his own instructions.
“Layn?” Noah whispered now figuring out who it was. How the hell did he change without waking anyone up? Noah asked himself with his mind reeling. Layn looked over at him with his odd green and blue eyes and shook his head now, turning in the bed and yawning with another whine to show his teeth.
No one said anything for a moment and Noah wondered how they were going to get out of this when the door was shoved open and a black wolf stuck his head into the room. Dark eyes glanced at Noah and Antonio and then went to the unfamiliar wolf on the bed. Immediately Layn growled and leapt from the bed at Noah and Tonio. Antonio swore and pulled Noah out of the way, shielding the younger boy’s body and yelling for Reese to stay still.
Noah, pinned below Antonio, assumed he would feel a bite or hear Antonio grunt in pain at any moment, but what he heard was another growl followed by a bigger growl and a whine. Noah sneaked a look from under Antonio to see that Layn had placed himself in front of Noah and Tonio and was growling at Jeremy, an unfamiliar wolf to him.
“He’s protecting you,” Reese said lowly which surprised Noah, but he didn’t have time to think about it as Tonio, in one quick move, pulled Noah to his feet and dashed to the bathroom, ordering Reese inside and slamming the door shut. Outside they heard a second familiar growl and Noah held his breath as a yip of pain rang out.