Scenery blurred by Layn’s vision as they drove away from Stonehaven. He took a moment to dwell on the name now. It certainly was stone but he wasn’t sure it was a haven, not for him anyway. He supposed it was for the people who had actually lived there for generations though. His next thought was that it would be nice to have a real home and a place to come to where people grew up and died there, a place so important it had a name. Maybe someday he’d create this, a haven of his own. That was if the pack didn’t kill him for first for what he was going to do.
Layn swallowed and looked at the front seat guiltily meeting Nick’s eyes and looking away just as quickly cursing himself. Great, meet the guys eyes filled with guilt and you’ll win him over Layn chastised himself now. He didn’t dare look back so he contented himself with staring out the window instead and thinking. They had started off talking and joking a bit but the car had gone quiet when the tiredness had set in. It seemed Stonehaven and the pack exhausted them all and especially Layn since he wasn’t used to it.
They’d driven through the smaller town of Bear Valley and Syracuse where they had stopped for a second dinner and were now a few hours from their destination. Nick drove while Antonio typed on his laptop in the front seat. Behind them Reese was in the middle seat listing to music and Noah was in the back with Layn texting on his phone while Layn semi watched but mostly ignored. Layn’s motorcycle was in the back. He had planned on driving it to the Sorrentino’s but he didn’t think he had enough gas and wasn’t sure about his directional ability. Plus, it wasn’t as if they trusted him yet anyway. He could just as easily drive away.
After a few more minutes of absentminded finger tapping Layn felt his cell phone buzz. Feeling guilty again he forced himself not to look up and instead reached into his pocket and unlocked his phone. Jay again. Who else had his number anyway? Irritated he looked at the text confused at the words. Ten minutes was all Jay said. Ten minutes for what? Or until what?
Suddenly Layn felt the panic set in and he bit his lip making himself think of something. Ten minutes until something and Jay would never drop something like this to mess with him. Something was up. He needed a plan. Quickly he looked up and around but nothing came to him. There were just trees and woods for miles it seemed. Pushing his anxiety aside he forced himself to think. Did he even want to stop whatever might or might not happen? Whose side was he on? He wasn’t sure anymore.
Just as he was about to do something semi drastic he spotted a sign for the next rest stop. Thank god. “I’d like to stop ahead,” Layn called casually. Nick nodded to this and Layn felt his heart slow a bit. Good. He’d figure out a way to…to do what? He didn’t even know what Jay meant if he meant anything at all. Maybe stalling was the best answer then.
Once they got to the rest stop Layn tried to act as casual as possible and left the car heading inside the restaurant and convenience store and to the washroom. The time gave him a few moments to think and when he entered the store again he saw Nick and Reese looking at the chip selection. Antonio walked up with an armload of fruit. Layn had never seen the man eat anything but healthy food and drink anything bad for him but a beer. The man was a tank though, so it may be good to follow his example.
“We should just eat here.” Layn shrugged and gestured to the restaurant while he glanced out the window quickly looking for who knew what. When he glanced back at them he saw Nick and Reese both followed his gaze and then look back at him with curiosity for Nick and suspicion for Reese. Noah had just caught up with them clutching a magazine and now looked around confused.
“If you’re hungry again…” Antonio shrugged and looked at Nick who nodded now. Layn could tell his suspicion was not gone but he was going to let it go for now. He turned before any of them could say anymore and headed to the restaurant as if the decision had been made. He had seen this was how it seemed to be done but it was normally older members who did this. Behind him he heard them following after a few moments. He chose a big enough booth and sat down glancing over at Noah who only shook his head and then Nick who was still eyeing him a bit reproachfully.
Layn ignored him and picked up the menu to hide behind for a time deciding on a strawberry shake along with a burger and fries. He ate slowly delaying them further and ordering dessert as well. They had spent well past an hour there and Layn hoped it would be enough to way lay whatever plans Jay had. Finally Nick announced it was way past time to go and Layn reluctantly stood with the others heading first to the washroom and then back to the SUV. Nothing seemed a miss and he smelt no unfamiliar smells so the fear that they might be found quickly left him.
Beside him Noah went back to texting someone, probably a girl from what Layn gleaned and he instead concentrated on the road ahead of them while looking at the time every few seconds. Sated from food no one seemed to notice his odd behaviour which he was thankful for.
After a few minutes the car made an odd clunking noise as they drove which caused Layn and everyone else to look up curiously. After a moment it seemed to stop and the younger werewolf looked around but no one seemed concerned. Reese was lying across the middle seat with a text book high lighting stuff for work he assumed. He knew Reese had finished school and Noah was now listening to music. Layn had started to get lost in a new novel and so he went back to this until the clunking sound came again more fiercely and stayed longer this time.
“Nicky, pull over,” Antonio instructed closing his computer now. Nick nodded and pulled to the shoulder.
“Reese,” Nick said and the Aussie wolf nodded and set his book aside. Layn took off his seat belt then and followed the older wolf over the seat and out the door. Looking around he saw they were on a less used stretch of highway which made him nervous. Putting these thoughts aside he joined Reese at the front of the car as he looked over the mechanics. He knew Reese was good at mechanics and fixing things but Layn was too and so he studied the interior as well. It was vastly different than his motorcycle but he saw some of the same components.
“Battery?” Layn asked but Reese shook his head to this. “Fan….oh wait…” Layn said and reached past him to the belt. He tugged it to the side to see it had been cut almost all the way through and then looked over at Nick and Antonio who had joined them after a quick private discussion conveying worry.
“The fan belt couldn’t have….,” Reese said looking up and around with a frown and then at Nick and Tonio worried.
“Back inside!” Tonio ordered and turned grabbing Noah who was coming up alongside him and pushing him towards the SUV grabbing Layn’s arm as well but Layn pulled away from him.
“No.” Layn said gesturing to the car approaching. Nick swore and ordered everyone into the woods while Antonio stood his ground and started to roll up his sleeves. Layn saw Reese stop but Nick pushed him on ahead while Noah grabbed Layn’s arm and pulled him along. Layn allowed this feeling both irritated that they were running and annoyed Jay was pulling this shit.
They rushed into the woods and Layn wondered how long they would keep going when he suddenly noticed Nick was no longer with them. Looking back he saw Nick through the trees standing by his father. “Go!” Reese ordered both boys. Layn could tell that Reese was as pissed off as hell that they had to run instead of stand fighting but Layn also knew that the older werewolf knew his priorities.
Finally Reese stopped them and made them hunker down as he looked around and sniffed trying to figure out if they were alone and safe. Eventually he relaxed a bit but looked worriedly towards the road. Layn could tell he wanted to go and help them but as Reese at his charges Layn knew he wouldn’t leave. His concern mostly seemed to rest on Noah whose eyes were alert and who Layn could tell was thinking a million thoughts right then. We’re so alike it’s scary sometimes Noah Layn thought.
Noah opened his mouth about to say something but Layn interpreted when he heard a noise to their left. Reese’s ears had been trained on the road but Layn wasn’t sure what he expected to hear from where he was. “Do you hear that?” Layn hissed just as Reese stood and growled glaring at the tree line to their left. A man stepped out with a smile at them playing idly with a hunting knife.
“Hello boys.” he smiled and then looked directly at Layn and then Noah. Layn knew this one and his gut clenched. Edger was what they called him around Jay but psychopath may be a more fitting title for him and what Layn called the mutt in private. “Noah, your dads been looking for you, boy.” He grinned wickedly. Layn saw Noah clench his fists and glare at the man challenging him but Reese put a hand on his arm to stop any preconceived notions he had.
“Don’t speak to him; you’re going to deal with me, mate.” Reese said grinning as well but as Layn looked from one to the other he could tell that Reese’s ferocity did not match Edger’s own. Reese was proud and protective while Edger was murderous and out for blood. Maybe the two had never met before but they seemed like old enemies to Layn.
Finally Noah seemed to snap out of whatever haze he was in and he turned to Layn and pushed him away ordering him to go. Reese was about to tell them no, or so Layn thought, but before he could as much as look at them Edger attacked. Reese growled and met his attack barrelling forward and not flinching away. That was the last Layn saw before Noah pushed him further into the woods. Layn knew this was a bad idea as there could be more out there but he had asked Noah to be his mentor so he had to listen. Plus, he was technically younger so that made it twice as important.
They made it a half a mile before more mutts appeared. Layn sucked in a breath knowing this would happen. How many had Jay sent? It also made him nervous that if Jay had control over this many mutts or supernaturals than he was more powerful than Layn knew. Maybe this was a sign to get out of this as soon as possible and come clean to the pack. If they lived through this that was. “Well, well what do we have here?” one of them sneered. Someone Layn didn’t know. “Little Noah Stillwell.” Noah glared and Layn looked from one to the other concerned.
Glancing around at the ground he did see a few he knew which was a problem. They could easily give him away and Jay might just kill them for it. While the mutt’s attention was focused on Noah Layn took a step back making sure his left leg was forward and praying this would work. Slowly he balled his fist at his side and twisted his wrist a bit bringing his fist to Noah’s head catching the nerve there and knocking him flat out. Layn caught Noah before he hit the ground and gently laid him out apologizing silently.
“What the hell do you want? You’ll blow my cover.” Layn growled angrily checking Noah’s vital signs. Before he could look up he felt someone grab him and pull him up only to throw him roughly to the ground again.
“You think you’re safe since you’re with them? Jay is just waiting to teach you a lesson when you get back. You don’t ignore him and you don’t go off the plan!” a familiar mutt growled and grabbed his face grounding it into the rough ground. The scratches already there took another pounding and instantly Layn smelt blood.
“Ok.” Layn said hoping he sounded apologetic and threw a touch of worry into his voice. The mutt above him, Charles Layn thought his name was stopped and patted Layn on the head which annoyed him more than the bad treatment had. When Charles started to stand Layn turned and grabbed his shirt front punching upward to daze him and pulling him to the ground to continue the treatment. He got two more hits to the jaw before Charles grabbed his hair and delivered his own punch twice as hard as Layn’s.
Behind him he felt hands grab him and pull him up holding him still while Charles got up himself and smiled brushing off some dirt. “Time to teach you a lesson I guess.” He grinned just as Noah groaned and started to move. Layn’s attention went to the other boy for a moment before the pain in his jaw brought him back to the moment. Held fast he couldn’t get out of the grip and instead growled at the man who kept raining down punch after painful punch to his face, shoulders and stomach. With the wind knocked out of him Layn could only half way fall over and groan trying to breathe and think.
Behind them Layn saw Noah look up through his hazy vision and then struggled to his feet but another mutt grabbed him from behind just as Charles landed a kick to Layn’s most sensitive area. Layn cried out and fell to the ground when his captors let him go breathing hard and feeling the pain course through him. This was a warning for him. Do not ignore Jay. Don’t betray Jay either or he was death. These thoughts were the only thing that got through his pain addled brain.
He vaguely heard them punch Noah and Noah defending himself and getting a few hits in himself. Confused he thought he heard Reese and Nick find them followed by Antonio. Suddenly he was pulled up and he sat dizzily trying to figure out what was going on and who was talking to him. His name, someone was saying his name but why? Finally he looked up to see Antonio not looking to much more bloody or worse for wear inspecting him over critically. “Where did they hit you?” he asked for what Layn thought was probably the hundredth time.
He tried to answer but before he could figure out how to speak again he felt his insides wage a war against him and he turned to the side and threw up everything he had eaten that day. It was definitely not a good idea to stuff himself with food right before a fight, not that he knew he would get the crap beaten out of him today. Above him he felt someone’s touch and heard them saying some soothing words but the world spun and before he knew it the blackness closed in around him and the pain was gone.
Noah heard the fists hitting someone’s body and the person grunting and he smelled a mingling of blood and sweat as well as unfamiliar werewolves. Finally he came to his senses and remembered what was going on. Slowly he assessed his wounds and knew they were mostly superficial. Opening his eyes he saw the mutts holding Layn down and beating the crap out of him. It was more than undignified and wrong. He knew this from Nick and the pack but also in his heart.
He got up as fast as he could but someone grabbed him. Without thinking he threw a punch and caught one of them in the shoulder and then another one in the head before they managed to subdue him. He tried to kick one but they grabbed his leg. Noah growled and attempted to pull away but someone grabbed him just as Nick suddenly burst through the tree line in his field of vision.
Nick saw Noah and his face went darker than he had ever seen before. In seconds he was on them and Noah was able to break away from the person holding him just as Nick smashed his fist into the mutts in front of him and kicked the one who had been holding him sending the mutt spiraling backwards. Nick may more of a lover than a fighter but Noah realized most werewolves underestimated the man. He was a hell of a god fighter.
Noah lunged at the one Nick wasn’t furiously beating up and caught him in the chest since he wasn’t paying attention and Reese, who appeared beside him grabbed the guy elbowing him in the stomach and then in the temple and pushing Noah back ordering him to back off before he got hurt. Noah scowled and glanced over to see Antonio had taken on the other ones and they had wisely decided to retreat rather than pursue this course of action. Noah looked back at the other mutts to see they were leaving as well. Antonio ordered them to catch one to question and Nick and Reese took off.
Noah tried to go as well but Nick ordered him to stay and with a reluctant sigh Noah did as told and instead turned towards Layn and Antonio rubbing his aching head. Someone had knocked him out from behind, probably one of those stupid mutts. Noah felt like shit but he knew he didn’t feel worse than Layn who had just passed out when Antonio tried to see if he was ok. Tonio caught him before he banged his head again but Noah could tell he was worried.
“Noah, are you ok?” the man asked checking Layn’s vital signs and then picking him up. Noah nodded then and hissed out a breath through his teeth when the pain in his head hit. He was more concerned about Layn. He had promised to look out for him and be his older pack brother and he had failed.
“Will he be ok?” Noah asked and Tonio nodded and told him it was time to go back. Noah led the way and despite the pain in his head his sense of direction was excellent. Later Tonio informed him he would send Nick and Reese to do clean up while he took care of Layn’s wounds and then Noah’s. Noah nodded numbly to this as they cleared the woods and approached the car. They were there for him. They were going to take him he assumed and Layn was hurt because he tried to defend Noah. It was his fault and Noah felt like the shitiest friend in the world. He had failed as a pack brother and as Layn’s only real friend. As these dark thoughts consumed him he began methodically helping Antonio by getting the emergency coloured coded first aid kit and taking out things the man told him to.
Layn was laid on the back seat in the car and the seat was pulled down to resemble a bed but they stayed inside so no one would become suspicious. Like a zombie he handed Tonio bandages, antiseptic and whatever else he needed. He wasn’t even sure what he was handing him. Shock was in every bone of his body he realized but he couldn’t shake himself of it. He watched listlessly as the older werewolf checked Layn’s stomach, chest, shoulder and face for broken bones. “Don’t mention this.” He ordered as undid Layn’s pants. Noah looked away knowing the check was necessary and knowing they had gotten in a very painful hit in other boy’s genitals.
Noah jumped as he heard the door open and looked over tensed but it was only Nick and Reese both looking a bit bloodied and bruised but fine. Layn would have the worst of the injuries but mostly bruises and soreness. “We couldn’t catch any of the bastards but the scene is cleaned up, we should move.” Tonio nodded to this but kept working on Layn as the other wolves got in and Nick started the SUV.
Finally Antonio finished fusing with the werewolf and let him rest on the seat buckling him in and moving Noah and himself to the middle seat so he could check him over. Noah insisted he was fine but catching Nick’s eyes in the mirror he knew he was wrong. “Shock,” Nick said and Tonio nodded and forced him to eat some fruit and juice.
“Did they say anything?” Nick asked now trying to figure out why they were there in the first place. Reese repeated their encounter as Antonio looked him over and told him he’d be sore in the morning but fine.
“They were after me, it’s my fault.” Noah said coming out of his zombie like state and recounting what he had heard and how awful he felt about it.
“No.” Nick said in a hard voice making sure Noah knew it was absolutely not his fault and he should not feel bad at all. Noah nodded but didn’t have time to comment or think as Layn groaned from the back seat. Antonio unbuckled himself and looked back at the boy setting a hand on his arm as his eyes fluttered open.
“Wha…?” he said not getting out a full word. Tonio quieted him and got him to drink some water now while Noah tried to apologize. Finally Nick growled at him to shut up and the car went quiet while Layn struggled to stay awake. When Noah looked back at him a few minutes later a bit sulkily he saw Layn had given up the struggle and gone to sleep again.
The next few hours were a blur that was best described in a series of pictures. Noah staring out the window chastising himself, calls to the Alpha and Stonehaven, getting a groggy and sore Layn inside once they got home and going over and over what was said and what happened in the woods. Why was the big question. A question Noah felt was centered on him.
Finally time seemed to sync again and Noah found himself in the garden outside wandering aimlessly. Jeremy had come to check over Layn and everyone else while Elena and Clay had fortified the Alpha’s house in case the kids were in danger along with Jaime. No one thought they were really were but they had to take precautions.
Noah sighed as he walked around the carrots and the peas not looking forward to weeding later and rubbed a hand through his hair angry with himself. He should just ask Elena to go after his father and take care of him. He was tired of living in fear of his father’s revenge and of his place in this pack because of him. Elena had promised he was here for good but his father could mess that up Noah was sure.
With a growl Noah kicked the ground nearly missing the plants and cursing himself. “It took us forever to get those plants to actually grow, please don’t kill them. I do not want to start again.” Nick said close behind him. Noah sighed remembering the process. He and Reese hated the whole thing but Antonio and Nick had argued that with them in the house there was no need for gardeners or landscapers. Noah and Reese thought differently but apparently they didn’t have a say. Nick had helped them at the very least. A bonding moment he told them which made both of them roll their eyes.
“Noah, how can this be your fault? Did you send you dad to the pack? Did you tell him to be an asshole?” Nick asked and set a hand on his shoulder. Noah shrugged and pulled away crossing his arms.
“No, but I’m here instead of with him, aren’t I? I am putting everyone in danger and I’m not even really part of the pack. Elena must hate me.” Noah growled at himself and looked at the ground again. Was this moment when they would realize how much trouble he was and how much he wasn’t worth this? He may have gotten much better over the last few years growing and accepting the pack but sometimes he tumbled back and felt like the kid who had first met them. Worthless and not good enough were two words that came to mind for him.
Immediately he saw Nick walk forward and pull him into a hug not saying a word. Noah stiffened at this and wanted to pull away but Nick knew him too well and just held him tighter. Finally Noah relaxed in his grip and put his arms around the older and bigger wolf. Seconds later he began to speak. “You do belong here. You are the closest thing to a…no; you are my son now, Noah. You are not his anymore. He doesn’t get you because he doesn’t deserve you but I think I do. The pack does. The pack wouldn’t be the same and I wouldn’t be the same without you. Who would be Reese’s brother?” Nick asked softly, more softly than Noah had ever heard him speak before and it went right to his heart.
“I was always an only child and I never wanted a brother, Noah. Not until I met you.” Noah heard as Nick pulled away and Reese stepped up and mock punched him in the arm, “You belong, even more than me, remember? You’re American. I’m from down under.” He reminded and Noah shrugged to this as Nick shook his head.
“And I’m Italian, Jeremy is partly Asian and Elena is Russian, so what?” Nick asked them both. Reese nodded to this and Noah knew he only said this to make him feel better anyway. Reese always knew his place and he was always confident in all things. Anything he said that seemed like he wasn’t was only for Noah’s benefit.
“I know you feel badly but Noah, what could you have done? Come on bud, the best thing you can do now is show your father how strong you are and how much you’re willingly to sacrifice to stay with us. Don’t let him get to you because I swear, sometime soon, he won’t be a problem anymore.” Nick assured. Noah felt his chest constrict a bit knowing exactly what Nick meant but he only nodded.
Maybe this wasn’t really his fault but the lingering doubts remained and he still felt a bit bad. He didn’t want Nick to know this though, the man had basically claimed him as a son and Noah had never been more touched. He had thought of the man as a father but he didn’t think Nick thought of him like a son. Now he knew that he did and he didn’t want to let Nick down, ever.
“Jeremy sent me out for you; he wants to check your head.” Noah nodded feeling his head hurt a bit but overall he felt fine. Antonio had checked it in the car and he’d just had a bit of a headache then and no dizziness or anything else. He went though, knowing there was no getting around it. The former Alpha may have been more concerned about the people who were injured more but Noah knew the man would eventually get around to him.
Noah smiled at Nick knowing he had no words for the man and nothing he said would do anyway. It would be his actions that would show the older werewolf how much he appreciated him and his words.
Inside Noah found the Alpha in the kitchen and saw Layn was now sitting at the table looking more alert and eating almost bloody red meat. It looked as if they had seared it on both sides for a minute or more and that was it. It actually looked very appetizing to him. “Noah.” Jeremy said softly pulling his attention over to him. He waited as patiently as he could while Jeremy performed a few small tests and finally declared he needed some sleep but would be fine. Noah nodded to this and immediately turned back to Layn walking to the table and taking a deep breath.
“I’m sorry Layn. I feel like it’s my fault you got the crap beaten out of you. Thanks for defending me though, I feel like I should be defending you. I’m sorry I let you down but I totally trust you now, absolutely. You’re my pack brother.” Layn went from looking surprised to defensive to disbelieving and pleased.
“Noah, I don’t think it’s your fault. Your dad is an asshole apparently but what he chooses to do isn’t your fault. I do like that you trust me now more though.” He grinned and then grimaced at some pain Noah couldn’t feel. Layn’s jaw was swollen and he had bruising around his face and neck and much more than Noah couldn’t see so he imagined that Layn felt the pain all over. He didn’t even want to think about the pain the other boy felt down under. This thought made him wince a bit. “Plus, you being my mentor doesn’t mean you always protect me. I protect you too, we both take the hits.” He held out his hand for a fist bump when he was finished. Noah didn’t know what to say to this so he only nodded and bumped fists with Layn.
Noah felt an odd tingling in his stomach when Layn’s eyes flashed with guilt and uncertainty for a moment but he blinked it away very quickly and Noah wasn’t even sure of what he saw by the end. Maybe he was wrong but he didn’t feel wrong. He felt cautious still. Were his words to Layn insincere? No, he knew he trusted him and it was just the fact that Layn’s life seemed so secret and there was so much Noah didn’t know. He would get to know him though, he was now determined to.
The rest of the night Noah kept to his promise and stuck by Layn showing him the games room where they spent countless hours bashing one another at Halo, Noah running every time Layn needed more ice for his groin or other pain pills. The only thing really missing was Morgan’s presence. He normally sat and watched them play, not always participating but always there. He was at Stonehaven now though recuperating and waiting for a doctor from Toronto to come down and check him over. Dr. Tolliver, someone that half helped and half hindered with a previous mission was coming for a visit and to hopefully, help Morgan.
Noah yawned as he walked down the hallway with a glass of water for the night looking forward to sleep. He’d had a break from school and didn’t need to go back for a few days. He had to admit he missed his human friends and his off and on girlfriend as well but he didn’t miss the learning and the tests. He just wasn’t good at that stuff and though he did the best he could it was often far from what he wanted.
With a sigh he got to his bedroom door and looked across the hallway. Layn was looking at his phone with a worriedly as it rang. Noah was about to open his mouth to comment when the other wolf threw his phone on the bed looking annoyed and angry. When he looked up and caught Noah’s look he saw guilt flash in his eyes again and his worry resurfaced. Something was off but he couldn’t place it. Layn then smiled with resolve in his eyes and suddenly the moments passed like it never happened. Had it?
“Just a…Jay again,” he shrugged. Noah felt his uneasiness grow now. Who was this guy? An old foster dad shouldn’t be bothering someone so much, should he?
“Maybe you should let Nick talk to him.” Noah suggested but Layn immediately shook his head at this and turned closing off the conversation. Maybe he would take care of it himself. Figure out who this guy was. After all he was supposed to be mentoring Layn or helping him out. Reese and Nick would do the same for him so he would try and find out more about this mysterious guy and hopefully scare him away from Layn for good too.