Prompt: “Kiss and make up”- Dex really, really mad with Sloane and Sloane trying his best to make up for it.
Sloane loved date night, especially now that they didn’t have to go outside the city. With Sparks knowing about them, all they had to do was be discreet. Instead of having to drive upstate or to Jersey, they just made sure to stay away from headquarters. After a delicious dinner where Dex had eaten his weight in noodles, they were walking off some of their food in Central Park. It was a gorgeous night, but the most beautiful sight was that of his boyfriend walking in the soft glow of the park lamps and the moonlight in the night sky.
“Come here.” Sloane came to a stop and snagged a hold of the loop in Dex’s jeans, pulling him against him, and smiling when Dex wrapped his arms around Sloane’s waist. He leaned into Dex and bent his head down, murmuring quietly. “How about we go home, shower, and get into bed. We can watch some TV…” He trailed a hand discreetly down to Dex’s hip and squeezed. Maybe get cozy.”
Dex kissed Sloane with a hum. “How can I say no to that?”
They both turned, frowning at the two Humans standing there sneering at them in disgust. With a sigh, Dex took Sloane’s hand and tugged him along with him as they headed for the street. A shitty end to an otherwise perfect evening. At least Sloane wasn’t on crutches anymore. Not just because it meant he could pick up his pace, but more so he wasn’t tempted to knock some sense into these assholes.
“You’re disgusting. Spreading your perversion,” one man spat out at Dex as he and his friend followed Dex and Sloane. “Fucking an animal. It’s sick.”
Dex came to an abrupt halt, turning to the two men, his blue eyes blazing with anger. “What did you fucking call him?”
“Dex, leave it,” Sloane urged gently, putting his hand on Dex’s shoulder. “Let’s go.” Sloane was used to the names. To people spitting at his feet. He’d dealt with it all of his life, and made peace with the fact it would take time before the world came around to the idea that he was just a regular guy like every other guy, with a few Felid exceptions. Dex on the other hand, wasn’t used to it, and Sloane’s view on the matter was a sore point for his partner.
The man’s friend stepped forward with a leer. “He called your boyfriend an animal, a rabid beast that should be put down with the rest of the freaks.”
“You ignorant son of a bitch!” Dex lunged forward and Sloane caught him. He picked Dex up and moved him to one side, blocking his view of the two Humans.
“Babe, why don’t you go call us a cab, huh?” He cupped Dex’s face and smiled. “Let’s not have our evening ruined by these jerks. Come on.”
Dex inhaled deeply and let it out slowly through his mouth. He nodded. “Okay.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Dex’s brows drew together. “What? I’m not leaving you here with these assholes.”
“I can handle two Humans. I’m just going to talk to them, okay? Then I’ll be right beside you and we’ll go home and continue our date night.”
Dex was ready to argue some more but his phone rang. It was Cael.
“Go on. Talk to your brother, get us a cab.”
It was clear Dex didn’t want to, and if he didn’t have Cael on the other line, he probably wouldn’t have. As soon as Dex was out of sight, Sloane turned back to the two men.
“You know, we’re not going away,” Sloane said, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets. “So what then?”
“We’re going to change the world, put you animals back in your cages.”
Sloane nodded. “Right. I hate to break it to you, but the world’s already changed, and people like you will either have to resign to the fact that we’re not going anywhere, or you can be decent Human beings, and turn all that energy toward a cause that truly needs it.”
The first guy turned to his friend with a laugh. “Sounds like a load of Therian hippie bullshit to me.”
Well, he’d tried. Sloane shook his head and followed the path Dex had taken when something hard struck him in the back, knocking the wind out of him. He hit the ground with a groan and rolled onto his side when he was kicked in the stomach. Motherfuck!
“We weren’t done with you,” one man snarled.
Sloane let out a growl and lashed out, grabbing one by his leg and swiping it out from under him. He went down with a flurry of flailing limbs and colorful expletives. Sloane made to get up when he found himself surrounded. Shit. Where the hell had the other three come from? He put his hands up in front of him.
“Listen to me. You don’t want to do this.” Slowly he reached for the inside of his jacket where his badge was. Before he could pull it out, they were on him. A punch to the face split his lip, and a kick to the back of his healing leg had him seeing stars. He reached into his jacket and his badge fell onto the ground. Before he could grab it, one of the men snatched it up.
“Oh Fuck.” He stared at the badge tucked in the wallet before pushing his friends off Sloane. “We need to get the hell out of here.”
“What?” His friend snarled, ready to land another punch when he was shown the badge.
“He’s a THIRDS agent.”
The men flew off him and bolted. That was fine. Sloane had gotten a good look at them and even heard them addressing each other by their names. They’d be brought in by the end of tomorrow. With a groan, he pushed himself to his feet. He stretched out his leg. It was a little sore, but he’d be okay. At least until he got to the sidewalk where Dex was waiting for him. The moment Dex saw him, he rushed over.
“What the hell happened?”
“I got jumped.”
Dex stared at him. “Those guys jumped you?”
“And their friends.” Sloane tongued his split lip and winced. “Five in total. I’ll call it in tonight. Everything okay with Cael?”
Dex’s eyebrows nearly reached his hairline. “Is Cael—Are you fucking kidding me?”
“What?” Sloane cocked his head to one side. “Are you mad? Why are you mad?”
“I’m not mad,” Dex replied through his teeth. “I’m beyond mad.” He took a deep breath and calmed down. “We’re going home.”
“Okay.” Sloane had no idea what had gotten into Dex or why he was so pissed, but he agreed this wasn’t the place for an argument. Sloane hated arguing in public. He waited quietly as Dex called them a cab. As soon as they were in Dex’s living room, his boyfriend exploded.
“What the hell, Sloane?”
“You’re really going to stand there and tell me you have no idea why I’m pissed off?”
Sloane shrugged. Shit. Bad move. Dex threw a hand up.
Whatever it was, Sloane had fucked up. Bad. Dex was pissed at him. Not Dex pissed, but really pissed. He just wished he knew why.
“Could you at least tell me why you’re pissed at me? I just got jumped by five guys. I’m feeling a little sore.” It was clear Dex was doing his best to keep himself calm.
“You can’t keep doing this to me.”
“Doing what? For fuck’s sake, just say it.”
“You were in trouble and you didn’t call me.”
Was that it? Because Sloane hadn’t called him for help? “Dex, I’ve told you before. I’m—”
“So help me if you tell me it’s because you’re Therian….” Dex shook his head, unable to finish his sentence.
“I handled it.”
“Really? Is that what that was? How many more times do you have to end up in the hospital because you don’t trust in me? In us?”
Sloane frowned at him. “Bullshit. Next to Ash, there’s no one I trust more. If I didn’t have faith in us, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Really? Then why when it comes down to a fight, you push me out. I’m a trained agent. I can handle myself, and those assholes.”
“I know that.” This argument was stupid. Why couldn’t Dex understand? Sloane could take a hell of a lot more of a beating than Dex. Sloane was bigger, stronger, and healed quicker. The last thing he wanted was to see Dex hurt.
Dex held his bandaged arm up. “When we agreed on this, what did you tell me? That this was a reminder of us. To think about us.” He thrust a finger in Sloane’s direction. “You don’t get to pick and choose when to uphold that promise. We’re equal partners. At work, don’t I have your back?”
“Do I or do I not have your back on the job?”
“Yes,” Sloane replied grimly. “I trust you to have my back.”
“Then why can’t you let me have your back outside of work? Do you know how that makes me feel?” Dex deflated, his eyes growing glassy. It broke Sloane’s heart. “Every day at work, I have to deal with the fact that I’ll never be as strong as my Therian teammates. I have to train harder, push myself as much as I can so I don’t let you or anyone down, but I understand, because that’s the nature of the job. I’m up against Therian perps who can kill me with one swipe of their paw.” He sighed. “What I’m not prepared to deal with is my own boyfriend believing I’m not enough.”
Dex shook his head and turned to go upstairs. Sloane quickly caught up to him, taking hold of his arm.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that’s how I was making you feel.”
Dex nodded, but he didn’t look Sloane in the eye. His voice was quiet when he spoke. “I’m going to take a shower.”
“I’ll come with you,” Sloane said.
“I just need some time alone. Okay?”
Sloane swallowed hard and released him. “Okay.” He didn’t want to let Dex go, but if it was what his partner needed, so be it. He watched Dex go upstairs. They’d had arguments before, fought, shouted, but they never walked away from each other angry. Sloane didn’t like it. He’d really fucked up this time. What he had believed to be merely a biological fact, Dex had taken as a personal fault.
While Dex showered, Sloane sat on the couch thinking of all the times he’d stopped Dex from doing something because he was Human. In his mind, he’d been protecting someone he cared about, and then later someone he loved. In Dex’s mind, Sloane had been saying he wasn’t strong enough.
“Fuck.” Sloane ran a hand through his hair. He had to do better. Dex was the best thing to ever happen to him. He couldn’t fuck this up any more than he had.
Once Dex finished with the shower, Sloane took his turn. He hated the silence in the house. Dex’s house was never silent. There was music, laughter, joy. It was one of things Sloane loved about the place. It was always filled with love and happiness. Sloane would be damned if he let that change.
After he’d showered and changed into a T-shirt and pajama bottoms he left Dex curled up in bed and went downstairs. He made Star Wars shaped chocolate chip cookies using Dex’s favorite cookie cutters. Then poured a glass of milk, and arranged everything on the Death Star shaped tray. He wrote a small note and folded it up next to the cookies. Upstairs, he left it on the nightstand and came back downstairs. He went to the linen closet, pulled out a pillow and blanket before heading down to the couch. Good thing it was long enough for him.
Having no luck sleeping, he kept the TV on, grateful for the CSI marathon. Around two in the morning while Sloane deduced who this episode’s perp was, Dex appeared beside the couch in his black boxer-briefs, Classic Nintendo T-shirt, and orange socks. He folded his arms over his chest and fidgeted, but he didn’t say anything.
Sloane opened up his blanket and Dex hesitated for a second before joining him on the couch.
“Did you mean it?” Dex asked, allowing Sloane to pull him in close.
“Every word.” His note had been brief, but he’d meant it. Dex was the most precious gift he could have received in his life, and he’d never do anything to screw it up on purpose. “I love you, and at times I’m so scared that this is all going to go away, that I let my fears take over. I’m sorry I made you feel like you weren’t enough. We are equal, and I’m going to do my best to prove it to you every day.”
Dex nodded, a small smile coming onto his handsome face. “Thank you for the cookies.”
“Don’t suppose you left me any?”
Dex let out a snort. “Are you kidding? They were my bribe. I ate them all.” For emphasis, he booped Sloane on his nose on every pause. “Every. Last. Crumb.”
“I wasn’t trying to bribe you,” Sloane began when Dex arched an eyebrow at him. “Okay, maybe a little. I wanted to do something nice for you.”
“And they were delicious.”
Sloane eyed him. “All of them. Really?”
Dex gave his cheek a kiss. “Of course I left you some. They’re on the counter.”
“Aw, thank you.” Sloane couldn’t help but beam at him.
“I’m magnanimous that way,” Dex teased.
“You are. Very magnanimous.” He kissed Dex, reveling in the taste of him, in his warmth, and love. “I love you so much.”
Dex gave him a cheeky grin, and donned his best Han Solo impression. “I know.”
A huge thank you to everyone who voted in the Paranormal Romance Guild 2015 Reviewer’s Choice Awards!! Thanks to the lovely voters, Against the Grain and the THIRDS series picked up 1st place awards. Thank you! And a big congrats to all my fellow authors who also picked up awards! <3
M/M Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy Novel
1st place winner: Against the Grain – Charlie Cochet
Hello all! Dreamspinner Press is having a fabulous sale! Get 30% off the entire store! that means all my books are on sale, including paperbacks, translations, and the pre-order to Catch a Tiger by the Tail!! Woot!
Prompt: I would like to see Calvin supporting Hobbs during the situation that arose with Hobbs (trying to say without spoiler) in Against the Grain. It was a big part of the background in that book and since the next story is about Cobbs, I would love to see more of what is going on with them. Thank you.
Time to get up.
Calvin stretched with a groan before rolling over. His bed was nice and warm, but he really should get his ass out of bed. Rubbing his eyes, he sat up with a yawn. What time was it? He grabbed his phone from the nightstand, and frowned at the screen. Shit. It was almost nine. Ethan probably already had breakfast. Forcing himself to get out of bed, he let out another yawn before getting his butt in gear, and making use of the bathroom. After washing up, and brushing his teeth, he headed for the kitchen. Man, he was beat.
It had taken Ethan longer than usual to fall asleep last night. Now that he thought about it, it had probably been about three or four in the morning when he finally crawled into bed. At least Ethan had slept through the night. If he’d had nightmares, he would have ended up in Calvin’s bed. His best friend had been having a rough time with his anxiety lately. It hadn’t been this bad in a long time. Ethan had his really rough days, but since he’d started his medication back in college, he’d been having fewer of them. Calvin was at a loss to what had changed.
When Calvin reached the kitchen, his heart sank. Ethan wasn’t up yet. Ethan was always up before him. The only reason his best friend would still be in bed was if he wasn’t feeling well, or because of his anxiety. Hopefully he could get Ethan to eat something.
Calvin made them both breakfast sandwiches. He made some coffee for himself, and some hot chocolate for Ethan. When he was finished, he placed everything on a tray, and headed for Ethan’s bedroom, knocking before he went in. As expected, Ethan was buried under a mass of duvets, surrounded by scores of pillows. Calvin couldn’t even see him, just the big lump in the middle of the bed. His heart squeezed in his chest. It was pretty bad. He placed the tray on Ethan’s dresser before walking over to the bed, and taking a seat on the edge of it. The big lump moved away, so Calvin knew Ethan was awake.
“Morning, sunshine. I made you your favorite breakfast sandwich, and some hot chocolate.”
There was no reply.
“Do you want me to go, or stay and have breakfast here with you?”
The lump moved, and a hand slipped out from under the duvet, turning over palm up. Calvin tickled Ethan’s palm, same as he’d been doing since they were kids. When Ethan used to hide under his blankets and refuse to come out, Calvin would find his toes or his hand, and tickle him. The lump moved again, growing taller as Ethan sat up under the duvet, pulling it down to wrap around his shoulders. His hair was sticking up, and his cheeks were pink from the heat.
“Want some hot chocolate?” Calvin asked, receiving a nod in response. He wasn’t talking. Not good. Calvin got up and went to the dresser. He brought back the mug and held it out to Ethan, who took it with a nod of thanks. He sipped it, a small smile coming onto his handsome face. It always broke Calvin’s heart seeing Ethan so vulnerable. When people looked at Ethan, they couldn’t understand how it was possible for a huge three-hundred pound tiger Therian—a man who stood at almost seven feet tall, with the strength of several Humans—to be left debilitated by such a thing as anxiety. Calvin understood. He also understood what it meant to love someone who suffered from Selective Mutism, and severe Social Anxiety. As such, his purpose wasn’t to put up with Ethan, as some believed. His purpose was to love and support Ethan in every way he could, during the good days, and the more challenging days.
“We can stay home today,” Calvin said, getting up to bring their sandwiches over. He put the tray on the bed between them, careful not to spill his coffee. Ethan shook his head.
Ethan’s smartphone went off, and he looked at the screen. He motioned for Calvin to pick it up. It was Julia, Ethan’s mom. Calvin tapped the screen, and put it to his ear.
“Hi, Julia. It’s Cal. I’m good, thanks. Ethan’s just having some hot chocolate in bed. It’s getting pretty chilly out isn’t it?”
Because of Ethan’s anxiety, he needed routine, as well as habits. Hot chocolate in the morning, in bed was usually a signal to Julia that Ethan was having a tough day. They didn’t tell Ethan that because it would only make him feel guilty, and Lord knew Ethan felt guilty about enough as it was.
“I’ll tell him. Thanks. Take care, and give my mom a hug for me. Tell her I’ll call her later.” They exchanged a few more pleasantries before he hung up. He took a sip of his coffee. “If you’d rather not go out today, it’s no big deal. We could stay home, watch some movies. Your mom said she’d drop off some food.”
Ethan shook his head, and Calvin nodded. They ate their sandwiches quietly. The silence was never awkward between them, but Calvin knew Ethan was already beating himself up for feeling the way he was feeling, as of he could help it. Once they were done with breakfast, Ethan motioned to his closet.
“Sure thing.” Calvin walked over to pick out what Ethan was going to wear to Thanksgiving dinner. As he did, he pretended not to see Ethan sitting on the edge of the bed, a deep frown on his face as he glared down at the floor. With a deep breath, Ethan stood, took a step forward then shook his head, and went back to the bed. He dropped down onto it, and closed his eyes. Calvin wanted to tell him again he didn’t have to, but that would only frustrate Ethan, because he knew he didn’t have to, but he wanted to, and because he wanted to and couldn’t, he’d get upset.
Calvin picked out Ethan’s clothes, checked his email, then spent the next three hours soothing Ethan, and helping him get out of bed. They had a light lunch in the kitchen, but Ethan still wasn’t talking. Calvin made his best friend some tea, which helped soothe him, but he was still on edge. They showered, dressed, and put on their coats. It took a couple of tries, with Ethan heading back upstairs after reaching the sidewalk on the first attempt. Calvin followed him up, comforted him, and assured him whatever he wanted to do would be fine. Calvin didn’t mention how no one would be upset with him because Ethan would only hear the part about folks being upset, and him. At times like this Calvin had to be exceptionally aware of how he phrased his words.
Soon they’d arrived at Ethan’s parents’ house, and Ethan managed to give him mom and dad a hug. Calvin hugged everyone. His mom had been there since early morning helping Julia cook Thanksgiving dinner. When Seb hugged Calvin, Calvin whispered in his ear about Ethan having a rough day. Seb gave him a nod. When dinner was ready and on the table, Seb sat himself at the end, opposite his dad who was at the head of the table. Seb placed Ethan between him and Calvin so he’d feel safe. Rafe was running late, so Julia insisted they go ahead and start dinner after Thomas Hobbs said grace.
As they ate, Calvin kept an eye on Ethan. It was good to see him smile, even though Calvin knew Ethan was trying so very hard to make it seem like nothing was wrong. The door opened, and Calvin held back a curse when he saw someone unfamiliar come in with Rafe. In a matter of seconds, all hell broke loose. Ethan jumped to his feet, accidently knocking into the table. The glasses fell over, red wine spilling across the white linen. Rafe threw his hands up as he walked over.
Julia and Calvin’s mom began to mop up the spilled liquid while Seb grabbed his older brother, growling quietly at him. “Why the hell didn’t you call first?” He sniffed at Rafe. “Have you been drinking? Are you drunk?”
“Get off me,” Rafe snapped, removing Seb’s hand from his arm. “I shouldn’t have to call just to say I’m bringing a friend to dinner.”
Ethan began to make wheezing noises, and Rafe started yelling. What the hell was wrong with him? He knew better than to just spring someone up on his brother like that. Meeting strangers was difficult as it was for Ethan, much less when he was having setbacks with his anxiety. Calvin glared at Rafe, warning him to stop. All he was doing was making things worse.
“Ethan baby, it’s okay,” Julia said, coming over to pat his arm gently. It would have helped if Rafe would just stop his damn shouting.
“Stop coddling him. That’s why he does it,” Rafe fumed, turning his attention to Ethan. “That’s enough, Ethan! You’re a grown man, for fuck’s sake. Stop acting like such a child. You have everyone’s attention, now stop it.”
“Rafe!” Julia gasped. She glowered at him. “You know better than that.”
“He’s doing it for attention!”
Rafe’s friend looked Ethan over before he started laughing. “Man, you never said your brother was such a spaz. He’s almost as big as you are. What’s the big deal? Wait, isn’t he supposed to be a THIRDS agent? Seriously? This guy? He looks like he’s about to cry.”
“You son of a bitch!” Calvin rounded the end of the table and tackled the guy, the two of them tumbling to the floor, and bringing chairs crashing down with them. Calvin landed a good punch across the guy’s jaw.
“Cal! Baby, please!” His mom called out across the room, but Calvin was too busy smacking the stupid out of the jerk.
“Cal, come on,” Seb pulled Calvin off. “He’s not worth it.”
“You asshole! What the hell’s the matter with you?” Calvin spat out as he tried to get away from Seb. “Who the hell do you think you are coming here and talking shit about someone you don’t even know? You don’t know him!”
Julia’s tearful call of his name snapped Calvin’s attention away from Rafe and his asshole friend. He turned to find Ethan on the floor, his hands covering his ears, as he took in big gulps of air. His whole body was shaking, and if they didn’t do something quick, Ethan was going to have a full blown panic attack.
“Seb, help me out.” They gently helped Ethan to his feet, and quickly but carefully led him to his old bedroom. It was just as it had been before Ethan had moved out for college, with posters of his favorite TV shows, movies, and music bands. Everything decorated in shades of calming blue. Luckily the bed was Therian-sized, so Ethan still fit. There was even enough room for Calvin to climb in with him, but first he had to make Ethan comfortable.
“Thanks, Seb. I got it.”
“Just call me if you need anything,” Seb replied. He left the room, closing the door behind him. Calvin didn’t waste time. He sat Ethan down, and pulled off Ethan’s sweater, knowing it would soon feel stifling to him. Then he knelt down in front of Ethan and pulled off his shoes and socks. Once he’d done that, he unbuckled Ethan’s belt, and gently tapped his flank.
“Lift up for me, buddy.”
Ethan did as asked without thought. They’d done this so many times that Ethan checked out for a good deal of it. He lifted his hips, and Calvin pulled off his slacks. As soon as he wore nothing but his undershirt and boxers, Calvin lifted the duvet.
“Okay, time to get all snuggly.”
Ethan lay down, and pulled his legs up, a heart wrenching sigh escaping him as he pulled the duvet around him, followed by his pillow. He had all but his face covered as he burrowed himself in his blanket cave. Soon he was breathing better. Calvin removed his clothes, staying in just his undershirt and boxer-briefs. He sat on the edge of the bed, smiling warmly at Ethan who shimmied back, and lifted the covers so Calvin could get in beside him. As soon as he was in, Ethan pulled him and the duvet close, wrapping the two of them up in fluffy, comfortable warmth. Now Ethan was safe. His body visibly relaxed, the tremors easing.
“I’m sorry,” Ethan murmured quietly.
“There’s nothing for you to be sorry for. You did nothing wrong, Ethan.” He ran a soothing hand down Ethan’s arm. “It’s okay. We’re okay now. Just you and me.”
“I ruined Thanksgiving.”
“No, you didn’t do anything. Rafe knows better than to do what he did, and what’s more he was drunk. He showed up to the house, to Thanksgiving dinner, drunk. None of this is on you. You’re loved, Ethan, you know that. Your mom will probably make us some big turkey sandwiches with all the trimmings. Your mom makes the best Thanksgiving subs.”
Ethan laced their fingers together, giving Calvin’s hand a squeeze. His eyes were glassy, but he managed a small smile. “Thank you, for all you do for me. I don’t know where I’d be without you.” He inhaled deeply, and let it out slowly. “You’re the only one who makes me feel safe.”
“You know whatever you need, I’m here for you.”
Ethan snuggled closer. He placed a kiss on Calvin’s brow. “Yeah.” When he pulled back, Calvin was surprised by the tears in his eyes. “Don’t leave. Don’t ever leave.”
“Never, Ethan.” He put his hand to Ethan’s cheek, smiling warmly when Ethan closed his eyes and leaned into the touch.
Ethan opened his eyes. “Promise?”
“Okay.” Ethan closed his eyes, his fingers still laced with Calvin’s.
Calvin stayed awake like he always did, until Ethan had fallen asleep. He placed a kiss to Ethan’s cheek. “I’ll be right here. Always.”