Layn slid off the washer and turned from the other pack member to take his clothes out and throw them in the drier. Turning his back on Noah showed a sign of trust and submission. Noah was technically older and Layn needed to validate that feeling to gain any trust with him. The things he had been doing before was semi working, but he knew new tactics would be needed to form a bond between them. A bond was necessary.
Noah waited until Layn had the drier switched on and had resumed his seat on top of the washer crossed legged to begin. “I’ve been thinking about it and what you did doesn’t make sense,” Noah started. Layn searched his mind now for what Noah could mean. He supposed he could mean any number of things that didn’t make sense. He’d be right. His freak out with Jaime was clearly nonsensical, as was his spontaneously changing and his shuttered nature around most of them. “Why did you protect me?” Noah asked now with curiosity blazing in his eyes. Layn stared at him a moment before it clicked. When he was a wolf he had protected Noah on instinct.
“You know what we do as wolves is usually unexplained. I saw you there and I guess my wolf considered you a friend and therefore protected you,” Layn shrugged. Noah eyed him. Layn was afraid of this.
“That doesn’t make any sense, we barely know one another.” Layn sighed then and bit his lip, not noticing for a few moments. It was an old nervous habit he was trying to get rid of, but whenever things like this happened it was an automatic response.
“I don’t really know anyone here so I guess my wolf latched onto the person he felt he liked or knew best,” Layn suggested. Noah opened his mouth about to validate or deny Layn’s answer but Nick’s voice interrupted their discussion.
“We’re playing touch football, the boys and I, and the twins too. You in?” he called down the stairs. Layn assumed he meant Morgan and Reese when he said boys. Layn nodded and glanced at Noah who seemed a bit annoyed but said nothing. He had come to find out that Nick was Noah’s god around here and he would rarely dispute what he said.
“I want to talk later.” Noah growled before he turned and headed towards the stairs and up, not waiting for Layn. Layn wasn’t sure if he was gaining ground with Noah at all now. It seemed as if he was sometimes but then other times it seemed as if Noah was ready to strike out at him or dismiss him. He considered this for a moment as he listened to his clothes thump around in the drier. It seemed to him that if he had Noah alone he could influence him or simply convince Noah to like him. Then Noah would go with other pack members who would convince him not to be so trustworthy or put doubts in his mind possibly. It seemed likely.
Layn had about two seconds to ponder this before Nick called for him again. He didn’t dare ignore the man a second time so, after a quick check to see what time the drier was at, he walked towards the steps and took them two at a time to go and find the others.
Outside Reese and Nick were tossing the ball to the twins. Reese smiled at him but Noah only glanced up and away again. Why was the one guy he was supposed to make friends with making it so difficult? Unlike Nick, Reese glanced at Noah and then at Layn sensing something was up, but he didn’t comment.
“You ever played?” Reese called. Layn shrugged and waited for them to instruct him and form teams.
They spent the next hour tackling, yelling, throwing and getting muddy. At first Layn was nervous and held back, but Nick never let him be anti-social for long and soon he had forgotten he was new here. For a while Layn did forget about everything, even Noah wasn’t as tense anymore, and he was able to laugh and smile as if he really did have a family, as if he had friends and people who cared, cared because they loved him and not because they had to, or because they were paid to. Sometimes that hurt the worse. Layn was sprawled on the ground on his back laughing, muddy and feeling better when Nick looked over him and held out a hand. Layn grinned, a real smile this time and accepted his help. He was hauled to his feet seconds later.
The Alpha watched through the window as the boys and the twins played with Nick in the back yard. She knew they would keep Layn in line and she wasn’t worried about it. She was worried about this latest piece of information. Layn was either sick or he was taking drugs, so now she had two young werewolves on medication and struggling with problems. One was hard enough. She wondered if telling Layn that they knew would be the right move but decided against it for now. They would get this sorted out eventually.
Was he telling the truth about anything was the real question? She had suspicions about this particular young man. Something was off about him. She was a bit doubtful of him in the beginning but he was a kid, a child compared to them, and so she figured it was just a natural distrust of strangers. Soon after she was fine with him knowing he really was a young werewolf who needed help. It wasn’t until he fought Noah that she became even more suspicious. Something about his moves wasn’t natural. It was as if he was trying too hard. One moment it seemed as if he knew what he was doing but the next it didn’t.
She and Clay had exchanged glances a few times during the fight. He was suspicious as well, but they hadn’t had time to discuss it with the kids and Layn being hurt. This latest issue with him might be a good thing though. With him away she could consult the others about her suspicions. She knew she was right, that was never an issue, a very good thing about being Alpha, but she still wanted their input. That is partly how a pack worked. She made the plans but she could, and did, consult the others. She could choose to ignore them if she wanted, but she knew being in charge didn’t mean taking over and ordering everyone around. Clay, Jeremy, Antonio and Nick were the oldest and most experienced pack members. She would be a fool to think she didn’t need their help or their advice. She didn’t consider herself a dictator after all. An argument she had had with Jeremy many times over.
Behind her she heard almost silent footsteps, light on the instep but heavier on the arch. Clay. She stayed still as he approached and felt his arms snake around her waist. “Darling, we’re alone for a while,” he reminded. Elena immediately smiled. Nick was distracting everyone outside and barring that Antonio was ready with food for when they were done. Morgan was sleeping and Karl had left to go be with Hope, taking his daughter with him.
Immediately Elena turned and Clay reached down to pull her into a long hard kiss. Every time, no matter how long it had been, he could take her breath away and make her feel like she was twenty again and sitting in his class watching him. When she was sure he didn’t notice her, not like that anyway, and she could at least pretend that he did. Now she didn’t have too. He was all hers and she was a jealous lover. Nick might flirt and play but in the end she was Clay’s and Clay was hers.
Elena ended the kiss and pulled away from her mate. Clay eyed her with his eyes darkening as she grinned wickedly and backed away. His eyes followed her in predator mode as she backed up the door and then turned and raced upstairs. She knew he would wait until she hit the top step before he dashed after. This game was well-practiced between the two of them and both knew their parts. Elena made it to their room and onto the bed with her shirt half off by the time he appeared in the doorway and pounced onto the bed and her, grinning down at her. Elena smiled up at him with a wicked glow and he gave a soft growl and covered her mouth in another hard kiss while bringing his hands to her breasts and fondling them.
Elena wasn’t even sure she remembered what she was worried about before as she lay naked in her lover’s arms an hour later. To her one of the best parts about being Alpha was the fact that Clay could make her forget about it. She sighed and felt Clay’s chest muscles rumple as he almost purred in relief. She supposed it was odd to think of a wolf as purring but it was the closest approximation she could come up with.
“We need to talk, don’t we?” Elena asked after another moment of comfortable silence. She didn’t want to talk about pack business, but she had to take her opportunities where she could.
“Nah, darling, we never have to talk about pack business again,” Clay said with his chest rumbling. Elena chuckled as well and rolled her eyes, looking up at him through her lashes.
“I wish,” she muttered and Clay chuckled again at this and waited for her to speak now. She knew he would keep silent until she explained or spoke her mind and Clay was nothing if not patient when he wanted to be. “Layn’s fighting the other day. It was…,” she trailed off, looking for the word.
“Forced?” Clay asked and Elena nodded. “Nick noticed it too, but he hasn’t said anything and Tonio and Jer were thinking the same thing,” he said. Elena made a noise of agreement and sat up then, reaching for her shirt. Before she could grab it Clay reached for her again and pulled himself forward, showing her how ready he was for another go, but before anything could happen they both heard loud voices of two young werewolves play fighting.
“The brood returns,” Elena sighed but Clay made an ‘I don’t care’ noise and persisted with distracting her. Hours later, after finally getting away from Clay whom she convinced to go on a walk with the kids, Elena was scanning articles on her laptop and waiting for a call from Paige or Lucas. Reese had taken Noah and Layn into Syracuse for a movie so she could think and research for a while and to make sure none of them felt trapped or suffocated here. She well remembered being a teenager and yearning for freedom from responsibilities and from an adult’s watchful eye. Not that many adults in her adolescence had cared that much what she did but still.
She’d used some of her newspaper resources to try and see if she could find information on Layn. She didn’t find many people his age with the same name and none of them were him. He was either off the radar before he contacted the pack or was under an assumed name. Why would he need one though? What purpose could he possibly be hiding? She wondered as her cell phone rang.
Elena glanced at caller I.D. and smiled. Paige Winterbourne-Cortez was one of her closest female friends. She didn’t have a lot of them, being more of a tom boy honestly, but she had felt a longing for female companionship most of her life. It was in small ways and she was never the type to go on a New York shopping spree like Jaime and Savannah, but she still needed something a little more than the mostly male pack could provide. Though, having Jaime here a lot more now did help.
“Paige,” Elena smiled as she answered the phone. She knew her good mood would reach though and be noticeable to her friend almost immediately. Paige and Elena had not always been friends. At first she was the annoying young witch who tried too hard and thought she knew it all. Getting to know her better helped as did her being with Lucas, her husband, and Savannah, her ward, coming along.
“Elena, how are you? How are the kids?” Paige asked immediately and they fell into casual girl talk about the twins’ latest escapade, an experiment with the garden hose, and Savannah’s newest idea for office advancement involving some kind of witch powered death ray.
When they finally got around to the topic Elena had called about, Paige passed her over to Adam who had actually met with Layn first. “He was nervous, wouldn’t tell me what he wanted at first so I put him at ease by suggesting food,” Adam chuckled and Elena snorted. Werewolves and teenage boys had the consumption of all food in the universe in common. “I finally got his supernatural type out of him and what he wanted. I was a bit skeptical at first but he was adamant. I offered him a place to stay until you guys could meet up with him; I was worried about him in the area and not being able to keep an eye on him. In the few days he stayed with Sav and I, I didn’t see anything off about him. He was polite and helped out where he could. He seemed like a typical teen to us,” Adam explained.
“He didn’t give you a different name? Anything different than what he told us?” she pried but Adam could only tell her what she already knew. With a sigh, and a promise to meet him and Savannah for lunch soon, she hung up. Him and Savannah were official now and had been for a few years. They all figured it was about time.
“Anything?” she heard from the doorway and looked over to see Jeremy. She shook her head and drummed her fingers against the desk. “Perhaps, it would be best to look in Europe or abroad. He did mention he was born there. Possibly Canada would be good as well?” he suggest casually.
Elena nodded as he walked to his chair and lowered himself down looking thoughtfully at her. Before she became Alpha he would have asked her to look into other sources abroad, but now it was a suggestion. It had taken a long time to get used to that. “I’ll ask Nick to look into Europe if you’ll try Canada,” she said. Jeremy smiled his secret smile and said nothing. “I would ask Noah or Reese, but I don’t want to alert them to anything being off, though Reese already suspects something of course. Can’t get much past him but we’ll keep it from Noah for now,” she told the man who was as close as she had ever had to a father figure.
“For now it may be a good idea to keep him uniformed, but if he and Layn become closer, given their ages, then Layn may trust Noah and tell him things he won’t tell us,” Jeremy said as casually as if he were asking about the weather, but Elena knew he was anything but casual about this. This was a message to her the only way he could give it, not in the form of an order given her status. He was telling her to make sure to use every resource at her availability, even the younger members, anything to protect the pack. All werewolves had the instinct to protect the pack, but Elena was in charge of how they went about it.
Elena nodded to this and sent a thank you to the man. Jeremy’s smile reached his eyes when he looked at her and she wondered why she was ever afraid of this man. At first, when she thought he was holding her prisoner, he was a monster and any kindness he sent her way was just a way for him to manipulate her. Now, he was a man who inspired her, who saved her.
The Alpha glanced at the clock behind Jeremy then and saw that the twins would probably be home soon. She’d have to fix a snack and make sure the next few hours of her schedule were cleared. “I’ll help you,” Jeremy said, standing now. He always knew exactly where her thoughts were. Elena nodded and stood as well, heading to the kitchen. Outside she could hear Noah and Reese practicing. Reese had come to them fight ready and was an excellent sparring partner for both Morgan and Noah. She hadn’t realized they had come home from the movies. Layn was nowhere in sight, but he was probably on his own walking. He seemed to like his alone time.
She turned her attention back to the boys again and glanced out the window then to watch their progress before she turned back and looked at the ceiling as if she could see through it to where Morgan was. Most likely sleeping she thought. The poison had taken its toll on his body but he was slowly working it out. Unfortunately the only solution they had since they couldn’t find a cure.
Jeremy was just getting the carrots out of the fridge when she refocused on the scene. They alternated days with the kids when it came to food now, three days a week they had a healthy snack, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the other two days they were allowed to have cookies or a treat. They wanted to keep their diet healthy but knew they couldn’t forbid it or they would just want it more.
Elena knew it was now or never if she wanted to speak to Jeremy. Any moment the kids would come barreling through the door and everything would be about them for the next few hours. Elena always looked forward to hanging out with her children, especially after a few hours without them, and after a life time of thinking she could not have them, but it was also hard to find time to talk about pack business with them around.
“What do you think of Layn’s fighting style?” she finally asked him. Jeremy looked up, making an ‘um’ noise and thought about the question for a moment. As he did she went to the cupboard and grabbed the fruit bars, bringing them back to the table where the carrots and juice was now set up. Normally they gave the kids real fruit, but on days when they hadn’t gotten to the grocery store this would have to do.
“Strained,” he answered and Elena nodded. “As if he was trying not to win,” he went on. Elena sighed and explained that Clay and she had seen the same thing. As they discussed it they both heard the car in the yard and two doors bang shut. Kate yelled something at Logan and Logan, after a small delay, yelled back. The front door banged open and the kids’ voices mingled with Clays, pounding feet down came down the hall and wide grins flashes as they entered the kitchen. Elena scooped both of the twins up and hugged them close, being hugged hard back and talked to by both of them at the same time.
After she deciphered the twins separate experiences, with Clay’s help and aided the twins in finishing their snack they decided a trip to the park would be in order. As they helped a squirmy Kate and a fidgety Logan into their coats Elena’s cell phone rang. Automatically she grabbed it and pressed the talk button on the touch screen concentrating on zipping up Kate’s coat. She and Logan had long ago learned to do this on their own, but they sometimes liked to be helped, like any other child, or maybe Elena just liked to indulge them. She was a mother after all. Sometimes, though, they indulged her.
After she answered there was silence on the phone for a moment so she spoke again standing up straight and giving Clay an “I have no idea” look when he asked her silently. “Hello, is Layn about?” a man suddenly asked in an English accent. Elena made a face and pulled the phone away from her ear noticing that this wasn’t her phone. She had picked up Layn’s by accident. Shit.
“Um, no, sorry, he’s out. Can I take a message?” she asked politely now. The English man went silent for a moment and she was about to suggest he call back in a few hours when he spoke again.
“Tell him Jay called,” he ordered and hung up the phone before she could answer. Elena looked oddly again at the phone and shook her head, setting the phone on the side table. Apparently Layn did have a life, or friends, outside of here. She was now a bit more concerned. Maybe it would be natural for him to have friends and a life she supposed. His file stated he had grown up similar to her and someone would have had to raise him. His parents had died when he was about the same age as she had been, four or five it seemed, and after that he had moved around a lot. He could have formed a lasting relationship with a foster brother or father. This Jay could just be a concerned human for all she knew. Still, it was odd. Layn seemed like a loner and he had never mentioned him. Yet again they hadn’t known him that long. She wasn’t sure which way her thoughts were going with this.
“Mom,” Kate’s voice interpreted her thoughts and she looked down at her daughter to see her with her hands on her hips and a frown. She must have been trying to get her attention for a while. Elena smiled and held out her hand and Kate’s fierce expression broke, her eyes sparkling with the attention. Kate was like that, mad one moment about not getting attention, or what she wanted, and happy the next.
“She was just thinking, Kate,” Logan chastised her in his mini Alpha voice. Kate rolled her eyes and walked forward dragging Elena with her. Logan, feeling too old for hand holding as he was too old to call her momma anymore, walked behind them with Clay following. Elena turned her attention to the surrounding woods and gave it a scan, an automatic response, and then turned when she heard Logan’s laughter ring through the yard. Clay had scooped his son up and he was upside-down in the air for a moment before he landed on Clay’s shoulders with a wide grin.
“My turn,” Kate shouted and started to race to Clay, but Elena crouched down and caught her swinging her into the air and catching her again before she swung her onto her shoulders. Kate screeched with laughter and fell back, making Elena catch her quickly before she fell off or got hurt. “Almost lost her, darling,” Clay chuckled as he walked to the door and opened it, lifting Logan off his shoulder and setting him in his car seat. Elena watched as he did this. The kids had almost outgrown the seats, but they were both a bit small for their age although they were growing. Hopefully, like the rest of their friends and the kids their age, they wouldn’t need them by the end of the year.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” Kate asked, breaking through Elena’s thoughts again. What was wrong with her today? She couldn’t seem to get her head out of the clouds. Layn and the situation seemed to be distracting her. She guessed it was also thinking about him growing up in the same kind of situation that she did. What horrors was he hiding? Did he have it as bad as she did? Would they ever know? With a smile up at Kate and some reassurance since the little girl was very receptive to emotions and body language; she shook the thoughts away and walked around the car to put Kate in her seat. The little girl was a bit bigger than her brother and would be out of the car seat before Logan, but they would keep them both in until they were both ready. That was the way with them. Neither did anything very different, not when it came to school, routines and time spent with them. They both got the same treatment but in different ways adhering to the two different people they were.
Clay gave her a questioning look but Elena shook her head. They would speak later about it; she was sure, but not now. Now was about the kids. She promised they would not grow up feeling as if they were second to their parents’ pack duties. Elena was the Alpha but in mind her children always would come first. It was a warring instinct for her between pack and her children. Was she more the mother or more the Alpha? She promised herself her children would go up with happy memories, good values and feeling loved and wanted, all the thing she never got or never had. She felt somehow that making up for her childhood meant giving her own children the best childhood she could.
As they drove Clay reached over and covered her hand with his own. She looked up into bright ocean blue eyes, seeing the deepest love she had ever known. She smiled again and then turned to look at the kids, asking them questions about a future trip they were taking in a few weeks. She could tell it didn’t totally distract Kate who glanced at Logan and gave him an “I’ll tell you later” look as they spoke.
The park, along with the ice cream and a trip to the bookstore did seem to distract them and by the time they got home the kids were more interested in their new acquisitions than what was wrong with their mother. Elena felt better as well and ready to tackle more questions about Layn and her current problems. Finally, getting some alone time with Clay, she had a chance to off load and get another opinion. As he held her she felt her thoughts calming and her burden lifting a bit. This was always the way of it.
As she finished explaining she heard a familiar car. Clay and her lied still, knowing their time alone was coming to a close and waited just holding one another. Outside doors opened and Antonio’s footsteps could be heard now. The man appeared a few minutes later with a smile on his face and a few bags of groceries he had stepped out to get. As she spoke she heard the front door open and saw Layn pass the study a few moments later but called him back before he got too far.
Before he could speak Elena informed him about the phone call and Layn, looking surprised and worried suddenly, took the phone and hurried away without another word or backwards glance. “Wonder what that was about,” Tonio muttered as he stood and picked up the grocery bags again. Elena shrugged but looked after the boy worried. Phone calls in private were fine, but the way Layn looked made her pause. He didn’t seem happy about this development so maybe this Jay person was not a good person. She’d need to find out more and Nick would be the perfect person to do this. Hurriedly she stood and left the room to find him with Clay shaking his head behind her.
Layn was furious at Jay. How could he call and put all of this in danger. How could he put Layn in such danger? Jay was an idiot but at least he spoke in a fake accent. They didn’t suspect him yet, or so he hoped. He also reminded himself he needed to formulate a plan if they did figure out who he was or suspect him of anything. Layn shook his head and walked through the kitchen and onto the back porch to make the call. What did “don’t contact me I’ll contact you” mean to him anyway.
With a sigh Layn waited for the line to connect and for Jay to pick up. When he did he used the accent again. Layn figured he would continue with it if they spoke like this. “Layn, I’ve been waiting for your call,” he said with irritation in his voice. Layn stiffened and sat down on the porch steps with his head in his hand.
“I told you…,” Layn began but the man cut him off.
“You don’t tell me anything, boy,” he growled. The young werewolf shut up then and waited. It had taken Jay a life time to find his own anger and use it as a weapon. Layn learned that when he met the man at ten. At that age he had been going from foster home to foster home and knew another one didn’t make a difference. When he had ended up with Jay, the man was nice and everything seemed normal. Everything was normal for a few weeks until Layn walked into the shed at the wrong time and saw the man changing. It terrified him but it also reminded him of what he was. His parents had told him he was a werewolf but that was a lifetime ago. They had died a lifetime ago and he had become a human essentially. Until Jay reminded him he wasn’t.
After that Jay coached him about himself and his heritage and helped him a bit when it was time. Jay was always an in and out guy though. When Layn had his first change he was alone. After that he helped a bit but what he really wanted from Layn was to use him. That was ok with him as long as he was safe and somewhat happy he supposed. It may be the best he could hope for out of life.
“How are you doing?” he asked now. His tone was lower and he seemed calmer. Layn made himself relax as he answered. The man could tell if Layn was nervous or tense just by his tone so he forced himself to relax. Layn talked casually about his stay intentionally telling him that he had made a friend to emphasise that he was making friends with Noah. He also mentioned that the pack, the people he was staying with is how he put it, were somewhat cool as well.
Jay was silent when he heard this and Layn knew he had said something wrong again. He always seemed to. “Remember, you can’t trust anyone, Layn. You should have realized that by now. Don’t let them get to you. It may all be a lie,” he cautioned in a low tone as if Jay was his father and just giving some fatherly advice.
“I know. I have to go though, so I’ll message you soon,” Layn emphasized and hung up before Jay could reply. With a sigh Layn turned to see Nick looking at him from behind the screen. Layn winced and hoped the man didn’t hear much but it may be a stupid hope. Elena appeared beside him now and opened the door so both of them could walk out to see him.
“Who was that?” Nick asked, folding his arms over his chest and looking at Layn as if he was his father. The young werewolf swallowed his irritation and looked at the phone with a sigh. Stupid Jay.
“An old…erm…foster dad,” Layn admitted. Nick nodded and Elena looked sympathetic.
“Is he bugging you? Do I need to have a talk with him?” Nick asked now. Layn looked up surprised at this. Nick was coming to his defense? That was…strange. Layn shook his head then and smiled slightly.
“Nah, he was the last guy I was with. He was ok, compared to some anyway. He just likes to check up on me is all. See if I’m ok or if I need anything. He’d like me to come and live with him again but…,” Layn trailed off, letting them think what they wanted about it.
“I get it,” Elena said and Layn looked over at her, watching her suspiciously. “It was the same for me growing up. Some of them kept in contact but most didn’t. Some of them were…not meant to be foster parents. We can talk about it sometime if you want, hon. If there is anything that happened you want to get off your chest or we can compare stories,” Elena smiled. Layn immediately shook his head but kept quiet. He was definitely not ready for that. He may not have gotten off so bad, but there were a few foster families who still kept the anger inside of him boiling. A few who he dreamed about going to rip apart one night and showing up as a wolf and doing as he pleased. He kept these thoughts and his urges in check though.
“Just let me know if something is bothering you. When we get to know one another more I’ll be able to tell right away like with the others,” Nick said, gesturing to the house and presumably to the boys. Layn nodded then feeling that his capacity for emotions was full for that day. With a hand behind his head he looked at the porch’s worn wooden deck waiting for someone to say something else or for the awkward silence to be done with.
He slipped his hands in his pocket and fought the shudder inside his body that signalled a coming change. He didn’t want to change yet and after three years he could control it somewhat but not entirely. It took years for total control. Luckily no one noticed because he wasn’t to the point of physically showing he needed to change yet, soon though, very soon.
He considered asking if he could work on his bike for a bit. It would give him some peace and quiet to think in and also give him time away from the pack but he knew what the answer would be. He didn’t want to have to feel like a child when Nick said no so he didn’t bother asking.
“The boys are planning something for tonight, Layn, and some younger supernatural members are coming to visit. Why don’t you see if you can join them?” Elena suggested. Layn jerked from his thoughts but nodded heading past them gratefully and into the house. He breathed a sigh of relief as soon as he was away from the tense atmosphere and sniffed to figure out where everyone was.
He found Reese and Noah in the living room talking on the phone to what sounded like two others. Quietly he sat and figured out how to get his plan back on track. He needed to get closer to Noah and it seemed like he had taken a small hiatus. No more. Jay was pissed and if Layn didn’t have results soon he’d be…well, he wasn’t too sure but it wouldn’t be good.