Chapter 18

It didn't occur to Layla until she got home that Warren never specified what time he would be getting off work. It also didn't occur to her how he was going to be able to contact her. Even if he did know where she lived, how would he know what room was her bedroom? Should she watch out for him and try to sneak outside?

By the end of the night she was feeling just a bit stressed and restless. Why did she agree to this?

Her parents had gone to bed around 15 minutes ago, after having made Layla promise she would call it a night shortly after. Earlier that day she had told them about her hero classes, so when it came time for bed she gave them a false excuse about having extra homework to catch up on in order to be prepared for her new classes.

She was sitting on her bed, which was closer to the window than her desk. She had a magazine spread open in front of her to keep her mind occupied, although she wasn't really taking anything in. She kept rereading the same sentences because each time she would try to concentrate, she found herself glancing out the window. Even the pictures could not hold her interest, the images just a swirl of color.

That said, it really should have been no surprise to see the dark figure slinking around her front yard, but the sight still made her jump slightly. She attempted to get off the bed to reach her window, tripping in the process. Her actions made a slight thump on the floor and she listened carefully to see if it alerted her parents. It didn't.

Once reaching the window (without more accidents), Layla opened it slowly and carefully. She could barely make out Warren's features from below her second-story perch, but she knew she had his attention.

Sticking her hand out, she made her palm parallel to the ground below and slowly raised her hand, feeling the power surge within. A small tree erupted from the earth, growing until its branches were tall and sturdy enough to hold her small frame.

Stepping onto the closest branch carefully, Layla held tight as she climbed down the tree, although through her connection with the plant life she knew that she would be protected from falling.

The lowest branch was about four feet from the base of the tree and as Layla was just preparing to jump, she felt a pair of strong arms circle her waist and pull her down carefully. She turned around as soon as her feet were safely on the ground.

"Thanks," she muttered, a bit disappointed when he dropped his arms.

He shrugged it off, reaching out to tuck a strand of hair back behind her ear.

"Sorry about today," he said, shoving his hands in his pockets and not quite meeting her eyes. "I didn't mean to brush you off earlier, but I wasn't really in the mood to talk."

"What about now?" Layla asked, her tone inquiring.

Warren smirked slightly, looking up as if he was deeply contemplating her question.

"Not really," he shrugged, replying honestly.

"You always listen to me!" Layla protested, her voice light even though she was feeling a bit frustrated. Why did everything have to be such a mystery when it came to him?

"No, it's just easier to listen because you ramble more when you think I'm not," he smirked, teasing her.

She couldn't help but to smile a bit, knowing he was probably speaking the truth.

"So what did Powers want to speak with you about?" he asked, his eyes once again moving downcast. He was fishing for some kind of information, that much she could tell.

"Not much. Just got onto me about attacking Gwen and being a better role model. She wants me to start hero classes tomorrow and then she's going to let me decide after this week if I want to continue with them…"

"Not much?" Warren asked, raising an eyebrow. "Sounds like a lot to me."

Layla giggled a bit, waving him off. "Yeah, I guess so."

"So hero classes, huh?"

"Yeah…" Layla said, letting it sink in.

"Guess now you can't be my sidekick."

At those words she laughed, hitting him on the arm slightly. He smiled back at her, evidentially pleased.

"What did she talk to you about?" Layla asked, feeling it was safe enough to approach the subject.

Warren instantly sobered, his expression once again hard and serious.

"That bad?" she questioned, not needing him to express his emotions because they were written right on his face. He looked at her for a few moments, his expression still hard but his eyes conflicting. Almost like he wanted to tell her what was wrong, but not quite sure if he could trust her.

He surprised her by letting out a small sigh, and opening his mouth to speak.

"She wants me to start meeting with Mrs. Voyant."

"For what?" Layla questioned, her confusion evident. Claire Voyant was the school guidance counselor, and also a mind reader. She could read people's thoughts practically before they even thought them. When she was in her prime, she worked with the police force to catch common criminals, although she retired from that duty years ago in order to live a more relaxed lifestyle. Apparently the thoughts of teenagers were more settling than those of suspected felons.

"Because she thinks I'm screwed up. Everyone does," Warren answered, his features solemn.

"Well, maybe she just wants to you to talk about how you feel and stuff. You know, since you've gotten into so much trouble lately. Maybe Mrs. Powers just wants to make sure you're okay," Layla said, trying to reassure the other teen. She certainly didn't see that there was anything to worry about, but Warren seemed to sense an ulterior motive.

"Wants to make sure I'm not my dad, more likely!" Warren stated, a bitter edge to his words.

Layla was too shocked to speak. She had grown up in a loving home, but hearing someone else talk about a parent with so much resentment was a bit unsettling.

"Warren…" she whispered, reaching out to touch his arm.

His arms were folded across his chest in an almost defensive manner. When he didn't budge she took it a step further, coming closer to him and standing on the tips of her toes in order to reach up and wrap her arms around his shoulders.

His posture was still ridged, but after a few moments of the awkward hug he finally relaxed, dropping his arms from his chest and wrapping them around her middle.

The two teenagers stayed in this embrace for what felt like several minutes, not speaking but just drinking in the emotion.

"I should let you get to bed," Warren said moments later, reluctantly pulling away from the redhead.

"Okay," she replied, looking down at their entwined hands.

Warren tilted her face up gently so that he was able to look into her eyes before closing them as he leaned forward to give her a small kiss. It was not passionate by any means, but it was enough for the moment. Layla felt a thrill of excitement shoot all the way from her lips to her toes at the contact.

"See you tomorrow," he whispered, letting his hand drop from her chin.

He helped her climb back up to the lowest branch of the tree, watching her as she slowly made her way back to her window. Before she stepping through the ledge, she turned back to look down on him.

"Hey Warren?" she called out softly, watching his inquiring eyes.

"Yeah?" he called back up at her, straining his neck to see.

"Everything will be alright, you'll see."

He didn't answer, but she knew he heard. And as Layla crawled back through her window and turned around to shut the glass frame, the light from her bedroom illuminated her silhouette, giving her an almost ethereal glow.

Warren had never seen anything quite as beautiful.

A/N: I wrote this a couple months ago and I haven't gone back through to read it, so I apologize if there are any mistakes. I was hoping to post this when I had the majority of the story already finished, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon. I only have part of the next chapter written, so tell me what you think and hopefully it'll jumpstart some inspiration.