THIRDS Thursday – 9/28/17

Prompt: Can we see Tony and John during their detective days? Like maybe on a stakeout or something?


PART TWO (Read Part One here)

Tony quickly checked the street before throwing his car door open, hurrying out, and slamming it shut. He darted onto the sidewalk, chucking his coffee cup into a trash bin he passed as he bolted down the sidewalk, John several feet ahead of him. Damn, but the man could run. Even without the head start, John would still be ahead of him. His best friend might be a smartass, but when it came time to get down to business, he was intense.

Two days they’d waited for their guy to show up, and finally they were going to bring him in. John was shouting at the guy to stop, but the bastard just bolted into the middle of the street. Tony cursed under his breath when John followed. Fucking idiot was going to get himself hit by a car.

They ran through the street, cars screeching as they skidded to a stop, horns blazing while the three of them dodged vehicles coming at them from all directions. He felt like the frog in that damn arcade game John loved to play. Here’s hoping none of them went splat. Tony’s heart almost stopped when a car headed straight for John.

“John!”

John didn’t stop. Goddamn son of a bitch slid over the hood of the car and kept on running like he was the Six Million Dollar Man. Tony was going to kill him. If they survived this, he was going to strangle his best friend. No, he had a better idea.

“Stop!” John shouted, gaining on their guy when the he took a sharp left onto 5th street. Tony lost John for two seconds before making the turn and in time to see John disappear into a building. Tony was panting by the time he got there. He ran up the stairs into the converted brownstone when he heard the commotion above him. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

The door to the roof slammed open, and Tony reached deep to keep going. His chest was burning, and everything hurt. There was something off about their guy. Why wasn’t he getting tired? Tony made it out onto the roof just as they man jumped across to the next roof. Tony gaped after him. Then he saw John picking up speed.

“Are you fucking crazy!”

“Come on, partner!” John made the leap, and Tony’s heart jumped too, right into his throat. Oh, John was so going to get it. John landed in a roll before popping up and taking off full speed. This was insane. His partner was insane. He was not going to jump a damn building—

“Anthony, I need you!”

Tony let loose with every swear word he knew and then some, taking off before common sense could prevail. He said a quick prayer, and made the leap, landing hard on the other side, but rolling like they knew to do. He pushed himself as hard as he could to catch up to John, and just as he did, they dove for their guy, tackled him to the ground. The man was strong. Stronger than they were. John turned the guy over, and all the pieces came together. It was obvious by the reflection of light in his eyes.

“He’s a Therian,” John said. He reached for his cuffs, and the guy threw his hands up in front of him and curled up into a ball.

“Please don’t hurt me!” The man was genuinely terrified.

John slowly kneeled beside him. “Hey, it’s okay. We’re not going to hurt you, but we do need to bring you in for questioning.”

“I didn’t do anything. Please.”

“Why did you run?” Tony asked.

The guy looked from Tony to John and back. “I was scared. It’s not safe for people… like me. For… Therians.”

Tony let out a heavy sigh. He couldn’t argue with that. Ever since the May Day Massacre a few months ago, it felt like the world was coming to an end. The city was burning around them, citizens against citizens. There was so much death and destruction.

“What’s your name?” John asked gently, helping the guy sit up.

“Will.”

“Will, we’re not going to hurt you, I promise,” John said. “We received information that you might have information we  can use to help solve a murder where a man was shredded to death.”

Will’s eyes went wide. They welled up, and Tony felt for the poor guy. He looked to be about in his thirties, which meant he’d been real young when he got infected.

“You a soldier?” Tony asked.

Will nodded. He lowered his gaze to his fingers. “That’s how I got infected. Doc says I… I probably won’t live to see forty.”

John cursed under his breath and shook his head. He gently placed his hand on Will’s shoulder. “You don’t know that, Will. I hear they got top scientists working on how to help Therians. Don’t lose hope.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’ll be in jail anyway.”

They helped Will to his feet. The poor guy had given up already. Tony couldn’t have that. “What kind of Therian are you?”

“Um, a wolf,” Will replied. He gave Tony a small smile. “Guess it fits. I’ve always been more of a dog person.”

“Well, we’re pretty certain our victim was killed by a Therian with really sharp claws.”

John nodded. “Plus, it happened three days ago, and after changing back, you’d be in no position to give us the run of our lives you just gave us.”

Will perked up. “That’s right. I try really hard not to give into the urge to change. The first time I changed back, the doctors said I almost died. I’m terrified if it happens again that I won’t survive.” Will let out a heart wrenching sigh, the tears rolling down his cheeks as his bottom lip trembled. “Doesn’t matter. I’m still going to prison. They don’t care if I’m not the right kind of Therian. The fact I’m a Therian is enough. It wouldn’t be the first time. Seems like it’s happening every damn day.”

John took hold of Will’s shoulders. “Now you listen to me. We’re not going to let you go down for a crime you didn’t commit. You come down to the station, let us take your statement, go over what you saw, and we’ll fight for you.”

Will’s jaw dropped open as he stared at them. “You—Why?”

John smiled warmly at Will and patted his shoulder. “Because you fought for us.”

God, he loved this man. Tony couldn’t help his dopey grin. “Trust me on this, Will,” Tony said, jutting his thumb at John. “If this guy knows you didn’t do it, he will move heaven and earth to make sure you get the justice you deserve.”

Will was silent for a moment before he nodded, a look of determination coming onto his face. “Okay.”

They escorted Will back to the car, and helped him get into the back. They didn’t cuff him. Something told Tony they weren’t going to need them. As Tony drove them back to the station, he could feel John’s eyes on him.

“What?” Tony grumbled.

“I can’t believe you jumped for me.”

Tony scoffed. “Are you kidding me? If I didn’t, Gina would tear me a knew one for letting you go off on your own like the damn fool you are. Which reminds me, if you ever do anything like that again, I will bust out Old Betsy. Do you hear me?”

John was looking too smug for his own good, and Tony knew just how to wipe that smile off his face.

“On second thought, I might just tell Gina.”

John gasped. “You wouldn’t.”

Tony arched an eyebrow. “You wanna try me, Daley?”

“Who’s Gina?” Will asked.

“His wife, who is currently balancing work and a little boy just like him who’s going through his terrible two’s.”

Will cringed. “Ooh, I would admit defeat if I were you, buddy.”

“Fine,” John huffed, folding his arms over his chest, and pouting.

Tony held a hand to his ear. “Fine what? That didn’t sound like a promise to me.”

“I promise I will not jump off buildings,” John said. The smug grin returned. “Especially since my best friend who loves me will jump after me. Because he loves me.”

“I don’t know how Gina puts up with you,” Tony grumbled.

“Because she loves me, yeah, yeah, yeah,” John sang.

“Oh God, and the singing begins. Sweet baby Jesus, help us all.”

John continued to sing, and Tony shook his head with a chuckle. His friend was all kinds of crazy, and all kinds of amazing. Tony wouldn’t change a thing.


THIRDS Thursday is on hiatus during the release months of October and November and will return in December with a holiday special!

Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 9/21/17

Prompt: Can we see Tony and John during their detective days? Like maybe on a stakeout or something?


PART ONE

Damn, he hated these long-ass stakeouts. He needed a shower, and he missed his nice comfortable bed, not to mention food that didn’t come served in tinfoil or wrapped in cellophane. The driver’s side door opened for him, and he slipped inside behind the wheel with a grunt in thanks. He handed John one of the coffee cups, and closed his door.

“Thanks, Anthony.” John smiled that big boyish grin of his, and Tony let out a snort in disgust at his best friend.

“You are way too cheerful after two days of this shit.”

John shrugged. “Why wouldn’t I be? The weather’s beautiful, I’m here with my best friend, and now I have java. What’s not to be happy about?”

Tony merely grunted in response before taking a sip of his black coffee. He schooled his expression knowing what was coming. Three… two… one…

“Oh my God, I thought you said you were getting coffee,” John sputtered, his face looking like he’d just tasted a rank lemon or something. Tony congratulated himself on not laughing.

“That is coffee,” Tony replied flatly.

John shook his head. “No, it’s not. It’s foul. Like they took your dirty gym socks and soaked them in water for days, and then used that water to make this coffee.”

Tony gagged a little at the thought. “You’re a cop. Foul coffee comes with the badge.”

“I’ll keep the badge, but the coffee’s getting dumped into the river with the rest of the biological waste.”

Tony reached into his jacket pocket, and pulled out a wad of sugar packets that he dumped in John’s lap. “There you go.”

“Oh, well, this changes things,” John said dryly. “Now it’ll taste like sweet toxic waste.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “They didn’t have any of that frou-frou shit you drink.”

John grinned widely. “Say frou-frou again.”

Tony flipped him off, and John cackled.

“How was that movie you took Dex to?”

John did his best to give himself diabetes as he poured packet after packet of sugar into his coffee. “He loved it. There were a couple of scenes that were a little scary, but when I asked him if he wanted to step outside, he shook his head, eyes glued to the screen. Gina took him shopping the next day, and he came back with a red zip-up hooded sweatshirt just like Elliott wears. She also bought him this tiny stuffed E.T., and he put in a basket that he made me tie to his tricycle.” John shook his head with a chuckle. His eyes went wide, and he turned to Tony with a very solemn expression. “If he gets on his tricycle and E.T. is in the basket, do not take your eyes off him. He keeps trying to make his tricycle fly. With him on it.”

Tony let out a snort. “Like I ever take my eyes of Dex when I babysit him. If he’s not tying his blanket around his neck and attempting to throw himself off the couch, he’s trying to use his jump rope as a whip.” Tony’s expression turned deadpan as he regarded his friend. “Congratulations, John, your kid’s just like you.”

“What? You mean charming?” John asked, wriggling his eyebrows.

“No. Weird.”

John gave him a knowing smile. “Does that mean you’re not going to babysit him this weekend?”

Tony’s eyes went wide in horror at the thought. “Are you kidding? Like I’m dumb enough to stand between Gina Daley and Harrison Ford.”

John laughed. “Yeah, that would not be pretty. Now I know why she keeps suggesting I dress up like Han Solo for Halloween. Can’t say I blame her. Han is pretty hot.” John winked at Tony, and Tony chuckled.

“Man, I can’t wait to see you with a teenage Dex.”

John almost choked on his coffee. “What the hell, Tony? He’s two years old, adorable, and I can’t deal with the cuteness when he’s in his footie pajamas. It’s too soon to be thinking about mood swings, teenage boy smells, or having to purchase tissue boxes in bulk.”

Tony let out a bark of laughter.  John glared at him, and Tony held his stomach as he laughed. He felt no sympathy for John. His best friend was finally going to get a taste of his own medicine, and it was going to be glorious. Tony did, however, feel for poor Gina. Having to deal with two Daley men.

“Then comes the dating,” Tony teased.

John narrowed his eyes. “Not happening.”

Tony cast him a sideways glance. “Yeah? Like you never dated? Pretty sure that’s how you ended up with Dex.”

“I ended up with Dex because I married the love of my life, and we had a beautiful baby boy that’s going to stay an innocent cherub forever.”

“Right. More like he’s going to be like his daddy before his daddy met the love of his life. Leaving a trail of havoc and broken hearts wherever he goes.”

John’s smile faded, and Tony frowned. He placed his hand on John’s shoulder. “Hey, I was just messing with you.”

“I know,” John said quietly, shaking his head. He sighed. “They’re going to break his heart one day, Tony. Some guy or some girl is going to come along and break his heart into little pieces. I think that’ll be worse than the teenage boy smells.”

Tony’s expression softened. “Well, when that day comes, we’ll buy a giant tub of ice cream, grab a bunch of spoons, and we’ll all cry into the ice cream along with him.” The thought formed a lump in Tony’s throat. If Dex really was like his daddy, he was going to wear his heart on his sleeve, and have a heart too big and too soft for all the ugly out there in the world. Tony placed his hand on the back of John’s neck, and gave it a squeeze.

“Dex has you, Gina, and me. He’s going to be okay. Besides, if some boy breaks his heart, his uncle Tony will grab Old Betsy, and pay the guy a visit.”

John burst out laughing. “And you’d do it too.”

“Damn right. Someone messes with my boy, they’re going to answer to me.”

John’s smile lit up his bright blue eyes, the same eyes he’d passed on to his little boy.

“Thanks,” John said softly.

“You’re welcome. Now drink your toxic waste.”

John chuckled, and shook his head. “Ass.”

Tony was about to take another sip of his coffee when several doors down, a guy bolted out from the building. “Shit! That’s our guy!”


Part Two 9/28/17 Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 8/24/17

Prompt: This week we have the final part of Taylor and Angel’s THIRDS Thursday. Read part one here.


Part Two

“I missed you too,” Angel said, taking a step back before he lost it and started sobbing on Taylor’s shoulder. God, it had been so long. He suddenly realized he was staring, and he cleared his throat, hoping his face didn’t look as red as it felt. “Sorry, it’s just so good to see your face. I can’t believe how long you were gone. How are you feeling?”

Taylor’s smile was big, and it stole Angel’s breath away. “I’m good, Angel. Thanks.”

When the hell had it even happened? When had he started seeing his friend as… more? At what point had he started noticing the fiery gold flecks in Taylor’s hazel green eyes? Or the sexy way his auburn hair stuck up in every direction, or those goddamn perfect puppy-dog eyes. Shit. This was bad. So very bad. There was no way Taylor would ever look at him the way he looked at—

“Hey, look who’s back.” Dex appeared in the doorway, and Angel’s heart broke just a little at the way Taylor’s face lit up when he saw Dex.

“Hi, thanks for getting me sprung from the joint,” Taylor teased, walking over into Dex’s outstretched arms.

“It was time,” Dex replied, hugging Taylor who stayed in Dex’s arms longer than necessary. Something in Angel’s gaze must have given him away without him realizing it because Dex’s expression turned concerned, and he gently pulled away from Taylor. His smile was back the moment Taylor beamed at him.

“I’m sorry if I interrupted,” Dex said quickly, motioning toward the door. “I should get back—”

“You weren’t interrupting anything.”

Taylor’s words shouldn’t have stung, but they did. Fuck, I am such an asshole. It wasn’t like Angel didn’t know how Taylor felt about Dex. He’d known for a hell of a long time. What had he been expecting? That when Taylor got back he’d flip some switch just because Dex was getting married? That he was going to suddenly not be in love with Dex anymore and fall for Angel?

When they’d talked on the phone, Taylor often asked about Dex, and they’d laugh about whatever trouble Dex had managed to get himself into that day or week. It hadn’t bothered Angel. Dex was a great guy, and Angel could see why Taylor would fall for him. He’d been after Dex since he’d joined, but Sloane got there first, or so Taylor believed. Years ago, he’d drunkenly confessed to Angel how things would have been different between him and Dex if Sloane had kept it in his pants.

Personally, Angel couldn’t see Dex with anyone other than Sloane. The two were perfect for each other. There was also the fact you had to be a special kind of crazy with the patience of a saint to be with a guy like Dexter Daley, and patience was not one of Taylor’s virtues.

“Angel?”

Angel glanced up at the sound of his name and found Dex watching him worriedly.

“Yeah, um. Sorry. Listen, I gotta go take care of something.” Angel smiled at Taylor, and patted his arm. “It’s good to have you back. Let me know if you need anything. Excuse me.” He felt like the biggest dick in the world, but he just had to get out of there. Pretending he hadn’t heard Taylor call his name, he quickly headed for the male locker room. He wasn’t even supposed to be in today. It was his day off. Seb had given him the okay to go home after Taylor’s welcome back party. He was sure his boss wouldn’t care if he left before it.

The locker room was blissfully empty at this time of day, especially since everyone in Unit Alpha was in the bullpen getting ready to eat cake. Angel changed out of his uniform into a comfy pair of jeans, and a T-shirt. He sat on the bench to pull on his sneakers when someone sat next to him.

“Why’d you run off like that?”

Angel swallowed hard. He finished tying his shoelaces, and stood to grab his backpack from his locker. “You should get back to your party.” He turned to find Taylor blocking his path.

“What’s going on?” Taylor’s brow was creased with worry, and Angel felt like an asshole for being the cause of that worry. Jesus, like the guy hadn’t been through enough? He didn’t need Angel acting like some moody teen with a crush.

Angel summoned a smile. “Nothing. I’m really happy you’re back. Maybe we can hang out this week or something. You should go. Dex is probably waiting on you to start the party.”

At the mention of Dex, Taylor cursed under his breath. “Shit. I’m such a fucking ass.” He shook his head at himself before meeting Angel’s gaze. “I blew you off. He walked in the room, and I did exactly what I told myself I wouldn’t do.”

“What are you talking about?” Angel set his backpack on the bench, and sat, grateful when Taylor joined him.

“I told myself I’d stop pining for him like some stupid lovesick puppy. That I was going to suck it up and move on, and the first chance I get to prove it to myself, I epically put my foot in it.” He dropped his gaze to his hands, a deep frown on his face. “I’m so sorry, Angel. I didn’t mean to be a dick. You’ve been… so good to me.” He swallowed hard, and looked up, locking his gaze on Angel’s. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Angel’s heart pounded in his ears. Did Taylor know how Angel felt? Why else would he say that? Had he been that fucking transparent?

Taylor reached up, and placed his palm to Angel’s cheek, his smile gentle. Angel couldn’t stop himself from leaning into the touch.

“I just need some time.”

Angel nodded. Did that mean there was a chance of them…. “Take all the time you need,” Angel found himself saying. Was it really possible Taylor was considering starting something more between them? He couldn’t help his big dopey smile.

“Thanks.” Taylor stood, and took Angel’s backpack from him. “Also, it’s not a party unless you’re there. Just don’t piss on any ferns.” Taylor winked at him, and walked off, leaving Angel standing there gaping after him.

“You jackass,” Angel called out, his heart squeezing when Taylor laughed, and took off. Angel ran after him. If Taylor needed time, Angel could give him that. Something told him he’d give Taylor anything he wanted if he asked. Yep, he was definitely in trouble.


Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 8/17/17

Prompt: I did a poll on Facebook asking who readers would like the next flash fiction story to feature, with the runners up getting the following THIRDS Thursday. We had Austen and Zach for the last three weeks. This week it’s Taylor and Angel! Happy reading!


Part One

“Angel?”

It was finally happening.

Herrera.

Angel’s head snapped up, and he realized he hadn’t heard a word of what Seb had said. He gave Seb a sheepish grin. “Sorry, Boss.”

“No problem,” Seb said, his expression turning concerned. “You okay? You’ve been kind of spaced out today.”

Angel nodded, his thumbnail between his teeth.

“Then why is your leg bouncing?”

Angel looked down at his leg as if just noticing it. Crap. He put a hand to his knee, stilling himself. “I’m fine. It’s just….”

Seb leaned in, his tone quiet. “He’s going to be fine.”

“What? No. Who?” Angel straightened. How did Seb…? There was no way Seb knew. Angel hadn’t been that obvious. Had he? Shit, what if he had? It wasn’t like he talked to Taylor around his coworkers. It was always when he was home, or on his own in one of the sleeper bays. After months of only being able to talk to his best friend on the phone, Angel was finally getting to see Taylor.

“I know you’ve been worried about him,” Seb said. “We all have. But you’re closer to him than any one of us, so I know this has been really hard on you.” Seb finished his coffee, and sat up, smiling at him. “He should be here soon. Why don’t you go upstairs and wait for him?”

“Thanks,” Angel replied, grateful to Seb who headed off.

Usually Angel sat with his team in the canteen during break, but today he’d wanted to be on his own, so he’d stayed back, and decided to take his break later. As if sensing his anxious state, Seb had appeared with a big grin and two lattes, one for Angel, and one for himself. He hadn’t talked, just kept him company, and it had somehow helped soothe Angel. It was strange that a tiger Therian of Seb’s size could comfort with his presence alone. Seb could be intimidating as hell, and sometimes he could be an asshole, but mostly he was a great guy who really cared. He was firm, but fair. Angel respected the hell out of him. It was Seb who’d sat Angel down and told him the truth of what had happened to Taylor.

Angel still couldn’t believe it. He’d heard of TIN. Who hadn’t? He’d just never come close to anyone associated with TIN. It wasn’t like their operatives introduced themselves or went around flashing badges. He knew they were out there, knew what the agency’s missions statement was, but that was the extent of it.

It had shocked the hell out of Angel when he’d been informed Taylor had been taken to a TIN facility after he’d attacked Sloane and Dex. Hearing from Seb what General Moros had done to Taylor broke Angel’s heart, and all these months later he was still furious about it. It was a good thing Moros was dead, because if not, Angel would have made the bastard pay for what he’d done. Seb had been honest, letting Angel know he couldn’t give him all the details, and Angel understood. It was obvious this whole mess was bigger than him. All that mattered was Taylor, and Angel had almost cried when he heard Taylor’s voice. It had been rough, low, filled with pain, and at the same time, relief. He’d been happy to hear Angel’s voice.

What started out as one phone call had turned into a daily occurrence. They’d given Taylor his own phone, and Angel would text him to let him know when he could talk, and they did. They talked about everything any anything. Taylor wanted to know everything about his day, from what he had for breakfast to what case he was working on. Whenever Angel’s phone rang, and his screen showed “unknown caller” Angel’s heart would skip a beat.

As the months went by, Taylor grew more and more desperate to get back to his life, and Angel grew more and more desperate to see him. Some days were especially hard, because Taylor would sound distant, or not completely present, and Angel worried about the tests they were running on him. He couldn’t understand why it was all taking so long. Even Dex admitted he was worried because of how long it was taking TIN to clear and release Taylor. Angel lost count of the months. And now, he was finally back.

Angel had wandered up to Unit Alpha without even thinking about it. He absently walked into his empty office, only to discover it wasn’t so empty.

“Hey.”

Angel stared at the man sitting at his desk.

“Ellis?”

Taylor’s soft smile reached his hazel eyes. They were glassy as he stood, and he took a step toward Angel. He stopped, looking uncertain, and almost… shy.

“Hi, Angel.”

Angel didn’t think about it. He crossed the distance between them in two strides, threw his arms around Taylor, and hugged him close. When Taylor’s arms wrapped around Angel’s waist, and he buried his face in Angel’s neck, Angel closed his eyes, a tear escaping to roll down his cheek.

“I’m so damn happy you’re here,” Angel said, his voice rough with emotion.

“I know everyone’s waiting for me in the bullpen, but I wanted to see you first. I had to see you first. God, I missed you.”

That was the exact moment Angel knew he was in trouble.


Part Two next week. Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 8/10/17

I did a poll on Facebook asking who readers would like the next flash fiction story to feature. Austen and Zach won by a landslide. We had part two last week, so here’s part three! Happy reading!


Part Three

“Please, just try.”

Austen was going to snap at Zach to fuck off when Zach held the mug out to him again. Oh, he meant the tea. Damn it, he was doing the pouty lip thing again. That shouldn’t work on a guy of Zach’s size. He shouldn’t be able to pull off sweet and vulnerable. With a grumble, Austen took the mug.

“Fine. If it’ll get you off my back.” He wrinkled his nose, and braced himself as he took a sip of the steaming hot liquid. It was surprisingly not revolting. Not willing to admit it, Austen didn’t speak, just sipped the tea. Zach sat there, smiling at him. Christ. Now what? Who smiled at nothing? Except maybe Dex, but Austen had stopped trying to figure the guy out years ago. What was Zach’s deal? Austen finished his tea, and put the mug on the table.

“Listen, I appreciate you doing Sloane a solid by accepting to babysit me, but I’m fine. I’ve had worse.”

Zach nodded, and stood. He walked over to the coffee table and picked up the mug. “I’ll heat up some soup for you in a bit. You should rest.” He walked off, and Austen stared after him.

What the hell just happened? Clearly, he was being too subtle. Zach returned, and took a seat on the couch.

“You need to go.”

Zach tilted his head. “Why?”

“Because I don’t need babysitting.”

“I agree,” Zach said.

Austen peered at him. “And yet you’re still here.”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Oh, my fucking hell,” Austen said with a groan.

“You curse a lot.”

“Yes. Yes, I fucking curse a lot. All the fucking time. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”

“Why?”

“Why do I….” Austen leaned in, eyes narrowed. “Because you’re annoying me, that’s why. I swear on my much beloved nads that if you say “why” one more time, I’m going to punch you in the face.”

“No, you’re not,” Zach replied matter of fact.

Austen arched an eyebrow. “Is that so?”

Zach nodded, a smile spreading across his stupidly handsome face as he made himself comfortable. He stretched his long jean-clad legs out in front of him. His brown leather biker boots probably weighed more than Austen. He laced his fingers on his flat stomach, the long-sleeved T-shirt straining over his bulging biceps. Jesus, did the guy not own shirts that fit? Austen would bet if he wrapped his hands around Zach’s bicep, his fingers wouldn’t touch.

“Hey,” Zach said softly, grabbing Austen’s attention.

Austen moved his gaze up to Zach’s face, and the knowing smile. Shit. He’d totally just been busted checking Zach out. Feeling his cheeks burning up, Austen threw his blanket over his head, and keeled over. He curled up on himself, his voice muffled under the blanket.

“Get out.”

“Nope.”

Dammit. What the hell? Maybe if he just stayed under his blanket, Zach would go away. “I don’t—”

“Need a babysitter,” Zach said gently. “I know. I’m not here to babysit you, I’m here to offer support. That’s what friends do.”

Austen’s heart skipped a beat, and he cursed himself for being such a dork. “We’re not friends.” He felt a hand on his head, and gasped. As soon as the shock wore off he hissed.

“We could be.” Zach’s tone was soft, and hopeful.

For crying out loud. Cut me a break, will you? “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Austen muttered, curling up in a tighter ball. He swatted at Zach’s hand from under the blanket. Why wouldn’t Zach take the hint? They shouldn’t be friends. Being friends with Zach would mean getting closer, and Austen couldn’t do that. Not with Zach. Why did Zach even care? Austen had never been anything but a pain in the guy’s ass. Why did he keep coming back for more? Man, he was suddenly feeling tired. It was going to physically pain him to say the word, but he’d try anything at this point. “Please, go away.”

The hand moved away, and Austen stilled. The couch shifted, and he listened out for the door. Nothing. How could a bear Therian be so quiet? No creaking floorboards, heavy footsteps, nothing. Austen tugged his blanket down his face, and he found himself nose to nose with Zach.

“Holy crap!” Austen scrambled back until he was practically inside the couch cushions. “What the hell?” he growled.

Zach chuckled warmly, his amber eyes bright and filled with amusement. He was crouched in front of the couch where Austen had been curled up.

“You’re kind of jumpy.”

“No shit. That’ll happen when someone stick’s their nose in your face.” Okay, he’d had enough. He threw off his blanket, jumped off the couch, and the room spun. Flailing, he prepared to kiss the floor when he landed against something soft. He blinked up at Zach. For fuck’s sake. Again? Why did he keep ending up in this guy’s arms?

Zach’s brow furrowed as he looked down at Austen now cradled in his arms. He placed the back of his hand to Austen’s brow. “I think you have a fever.”

Somewhere in Austen’s head was a smartass remark, but suddenly he felt drained, achy, and sleepy. “I hate this,” Austen mumbled, closing his eyes.

“What’s that?” Zach asked, sitting down cross-legged. Austen opened his eyes, and Zach pulled the blanket off the couch. He covered Austen up to his chin, his strong arms around Austen as he shivered, both from his fever, and from being in Zach’s arms. He didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to feel safe, or comfortable. Too close. Too warm. Too… perfect.

“Being weak.”

“You’re not weak,” Zach said gently, but firmly. “You’re just not feeling well. We can’t be at our best all the time, no matter how strong we are. It’s okay to lean on someone. On me.”

Austen was so cold, and Zach was so warm. He turned into Zach, curling up against him, and burying his face against Zach’s chest, mumbling. “This doesn’t change anything.” He just needed a moment to recharge, that was all. Soon as the room stopped spinning, he’d tell Zach to leave, and go back to being a miserable jerk.

“I know,” Zach replied quietly.

Was that a smile he heard in Zach’s voice?

“Just this once,” Austen said, his body feeling heavy. “Then you go home.”

“After soup.”

Austen sighed. “Fine. After soup.”

“Go to sleep.”

“Don’t—” Yawn. “Tell me what to do,” Austen huffed as he tried to stay awake. Zach’s hand came to rest on his head, large fingers slipping into Austen’s hair, stroking, comforting. Austen would have swatted his hand away, but that would mean moving. He made a noise he was pretty sure conveyed his annoyance.

Just this once.


Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 8/3/17

I did a poll on Facebook asking who readers would like the next flash fiction story to feature. Austen and Zach won by a landslide. We had part one last week, so here’s part two! Happy reading!


Part Two

That was the problem with good guys like Sloane. They always wanted to help.

“Look, I understand better than anyone the dangers of losing someone you love to the job.” Sloane sat down next to Austen, and put a hand on his shoulder. “Do you think it didn’t scare the hell out of me every time I went out on a call with Dex? No matter how capable I knew he was, that didn’t stop me from worrying, because it wasn’t his skills I questioned, but the motives and vileness of what was out there. Even once we’re sworn in by TIN, and we’ve had all the training there is, that doesn’t mean I won’t stop worrying about him. Does that mean we shouldn’t make a life together? Shouldn’t have friends, or family?”

Austen frowned deep, his gaze averted.

“Zach doesn’t live in a bubble, and yes he works for Unit Beta. The risks he faces on the job aren’t the same as those of Unit Alpha, but there are risks nonetheless. You keep telling yourself, and everyone else that you’re trying to protect him from the dangers of your job, but the truth is, you’re protecting his heart from you.”

Austen’s head shot up, and he met Sloane’s gaze. It was frightening, and heartbreaking how much affection he saw in Sloane’s eyes. Austen was a lethal, trained TIN operative, but when he was around Sloane, it was like he was that frightened little boy who’d been tossed out into the street. His world changed when he met Sloane, and despite Sloane being a huge ass jaguar Therian, Austen felt safe with him, always had. Cheetah Therians were known to have difficulty trusting, due to their vulnerability as the smallest of the felids. It didn’t mean they weren’t strong, but they had big hearts that were easily broken. He shouldn’t have felt safe with Sloane after running into him, but he had. Austen trusted Sloane with his life, and his heart. He hated that Sloane was right.

“I know you’re scared, and I’m not telling you what you should do. I’m just saying that you need to really think about the reasons you’re pushing Zach away, and that maybe having a friend or two outside of Destructive Delta would be nice. You know we’ll always be there for you, and we want your around.” Sloane put a hand to Austen’s cheek, and smiled warmly. “We also want you to be happy, to have more than just the job. At least think about it, yeah?”

Austen nodded. Just then the doorbell buzzed. Dex got up and walked over to the security camera. He called out over his shoulder.

“It’s Zach.”

Austen sat there quietly for a moment. This was insane. He was not going to become BFFs with the guy just because Sloane got all sappy with him. What the hell was he supposed to do? Zach was already here. With a heavy sigh, Austen nodded. “Buzz him in.”

“Your tea should be ready,” Dex said, walking over to the kitchen after presumably buzzing Zach up.

“I know it’s still months away,” Sloane said, a big dopey smile on his stupidly rugged face, “but we’ve arranged it so everyone can arrive early to the estate the day of the rehearsal dinner to give everyone a tour. There’s plenty of room for shifting, playing, and pouncing. It was one of the bonus perks for picking this place. Maybe you should invite Zach for a run. I hear he’s pretty damn quick.”

Austen let out a snort. “Maybe, though he’s not as quick as I am.”

“We’ll have to see about that.” Zach walked into the living room, and smiled at Austen.

“Are you kidding me? There’s no way you’re beating me.”

Dex handed a mug to Zach, who brought it over to the couch. He took a seat beside Austen, and handed him the steaming mug of gross tasting tea.

“And why’s that?” Zach asked, putting his arm over the back of the couch as he leaned in to Austen. Needing to do distract him from the closeness, Austen listed all the traits that made a cheetah Therian the fastest Therian on the planet.

Sloane stood, and Austen stopped talking. Where the hell did he think he was going?

“Dex, and I better get going. Lou’s kinda scary when you mess with his schedule.” Sloane cringed. “Actually, when he’s in work mode, period, he’s terrifying.”

“You’re leaving?” Austen asked, dumbly. He looked over at Dex. Hell, he’d even take Dex. Wait, if Dex stayed—which he wouldn’t, but still—he’d meddle and try to play matchmaker. It was best the blue eyed menace got lost.

“Yep,” Dex replied cheerfully. His big smile making Austen want to punch him. Dex smiled at Zach. “Make sure he drinks all that tea, and at least two more. There’s soup in the fridge, make sure he eats all of it.”

Austen glared at Dex. “Screw you, Daley. I can take care of myself.”

“Really? What was the last thing you ate?”

“Pizza,” Austen said smugly.

Dex nodded. He pointed to the kitchen. “From the pizza box next to the trash bin? The one with the receipt time-stamped four days ago? That pizza?”

Oh, you fucker. “Just go,” Austen grumbled.

“That’s what I thought.” Dex turned to Zach. “Ninety percent of what comes out of his mouth is bullshit, so you’re going to have to read between the lines.”

Austen grabbed one of his throw pillows and chucked it at Dex’s head. Unfortunately, his reflexes were for shit right now so Dex managed to duck. With a cackle, the asshole headed for the door. Sloane waved as he followed his dorky fiancé.

“Rest up. Call if you need us to pick anything up on the way home.”

The door closed, and Austen put the mug of boiled leaf water on the side coffee table, before slinking down into the couch cushions, his knees raised, and his blanket pulled up to his chin. Zach was in his living room. Sitting next to him on his couch. Close. Too close.

“You need to drink your tea.”

Austen narrowed his eyes. “You need to not be so bossy. And no. It’s disgusting.”

Zach got up, walked over to the coffee table, and picked up the mug. Instead of handing it to Austen, he walked off into the kitchen. Well, that was easy. Austen heard cabinets opening and closing in the kitchen. What the hell was he doing in there? Austen leaned forward to try and see into the kitchen. Damn it. Where the hell was he? Maybe if he leaned a little more….

Zach appeared, and Austen quickly sat back. He peered at Zach as the huge-ass bear Therian walked into the living room. He held the mug out to Austen.

“I’ve put some honey in it.” Austen opened his mouth, and Zach held a hand up to stop him. “No bear jokes.”

Damn it. Austen lifted his chin defiantly. “Don’t care what you put in it. I’m not drinking it.”

Zach took a seat beside him, and turned, one knee bent on the couch so he could face Austen. He took up half the couch. Why were bear Therians so freaking big? Okay, yeah, so their feral halves were ginormous so it made sense they’d be huge in Human form. Plus, there was the fact Austen wasn’t exactly great in stature to begin with. With each of them being at the far end of the Therian size chart, it made their differences glaringly obvious. Austen dropped his gaze to Zach’s hand. The one resting on his knee.

“You got big hands,” Austen said before he could stop himself.

Zach held his hand up to inspect it. “Do I?”

Austen snorted. He put his hand up against Zach’s, the difference staggering. “Uh, yeah.”

Zach smiled softly, and moved his fingers slightly so they were in between Austen’s, not quite holding his hand, but if he bent his fingers he would be. Austen snatched his hand away, heat flaring through his face. He was such an ass. Zach wasn’t even his type. Not that Austen had a type other than “willing and able”, but even so, Zach was most certainly not his type. He was too big, too strong, too capable of overpowering Austen.  Never again. Austen shook those thoughts from his head. He wasn’t that weak, helpless kid anymore. Zach might be bigger, but Austen could take him down if he had to. He wasn’t falling for that gentle-giant bullshit. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice….


Part Three next week. Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 7/27/17

I did a poll on Facebook asking who readers would like the next flash fiction story to feature. Austen and Zach won by a landslide. So here you go! Happy reading!


Part One

He felt like crap.

Damn it. TIN operatives weren’t supposed to get sick. He knew this was coming. The second that douchebag had sneezed on him, he knew. Did henchmen not get paid sick days? The dude should have been at home, not at work infecting everyone with his germs. Granted, he’d tried to stab Austen, and that would have been far more inconvenient than contracting the mutant bug he’d been fighting for days. He’d tried to power through it, but the second Sparks heard his voice, she benched him. When she asked him about his flu shot, he cringed. He’d totally forgot. After she stopped breathing deeply though her nose—he could practically see her nostrils flaring—she asked him what medication he was taking. Apparently “whiskey” was the wrong answer. Then she went and narced on him to Sloane!

As if it wasn’t bad enough he was feeling like sludge, he had to deal with Sloane’s fussing, and Dex’s meddling. They were driving him batshit crazy with their mothering. Drink this, rub this there, inhale this, take that, get some rest. Did they not know who he was or what he did for a living? It was the flu, not freakin’ ebola. He made to get up off the couch, and the world spun off its axis, bringing him crashing back down.

“Fuck. This. Shit,” he grumbled against his pillow. Colds and flus are what mortals got, not TIN operatives. “This is bullshit.” Damn it, he had to get better.

Dex’s bachelor party was less than a month away, and for some ridiculous reason, he’d RSVP’d when he’d gotten the invite from Cael. What the hell was he doing going to a bachelor party? Especially since he knew a certain someone else had been invited as well. Just what he needed. It’s like the universe was purposefully fucking with him. Every time he thought he had a handle on things where Zach was concerned, some asshole, or some blue-eyed menace was determined to undo all his hard work.

Austen rolled onto his back, cocooning himself in the thick fleece blanket Sloane had brought him. He was fucking freezing, and the heating was on. He glared up at the ceiling. It had been odd at first, being in Sloane’s apartment, even after Austen filled it with his belongings. Gone were Sloane’s wall to wall shelves of books, and movies, the living room set and coffee tables. Austen’s space was sparsely furnished. An old habit. He’d spent most of his life moving around from one place to another. When he’d started working for TIN, he was earning enough to buy himself a home, but Austen had yet to find a place he felt he could call home.

This was the longest he’d ever held onto a place. Nearly two years. Fuck. He’d had Sloane’s place for almost two years, being extra vigilant, making damn sure no one even got close to figuring out he was here. The place was still under Sloane’s name, and the tenant an alias, one with an entire life, a busy guy who travelled a lot for business, so he was rarely home. Austen had also installed a ton of security.

Behind a picture frame by the door was a security panel that opened a section of the wall, revealing a high-tech display. With his handprint, or the right clearance, the wall opened, revealing several screens and security footage of the apartment building. There was a digital keypad, and typing in a sequence of numbers would open a section of the living room wall opposite the bookcase filled with all kinds of equipment and weapons. He had no idea what had possessed him to do that, but for the first time in his life, he felt a sense of calm when he got back to this apartment.

The alarm beeped, and there was a click. Austen groaned. The thought of two sexy male nurses would have put a smile on anyone’s face, except these two were determined to crush his libido, acting like a couple of big brothers, making him disgusting tasting tea, making sure he took his antibiotics, making him chicken soup, and patting his head like he was twelve. Two dopey faces smiled down at him from over the back of the couch.

“Hey there,” Sloane greeted.

“Aw,” Dex crooned. “He looks like an angry little caterpillar spinning a cocoon. Soon he’ll emerge as a deadly little Felid.”

Austen narrowed his eyes at Dex. “I want to seriously hurt you right now.”

“And I’m going to make you some of Darla’s special tea,” Dex replied, booping Austen’s nose. Austen snapped his teeth, but Dex moved his hand away.

“Flu’s making you slow,” Dex said with a chuckle as he walked off.

“Bite me, Daley,” Austen called out after him.

Sloane laughed softly. He came around the couch, and Austen slowly sat up. Man, his head was killing him.

“So,” Sloane said, fidgeting in front of Austen. “Dex and I have a bunch of appointments with Lou today for the wedding. Of course, if you need anything, you call us. We’ll be back tonight to check in on you.”

Austen peered at him. What wasn’t Sloane spitting out? “Just say it.”

“I um… well, we decided someone should be here with you, to you know, help out.”

Austen’s eyes widened, and he stared up at Sloane. “Don’t you fucking say it.”

Sloane cringed. “Zach’s on his way.”

It took Austen a moment for the fog in his brain to clear enough for Sloane’s words to make their way through. Zach. Coming here. It was either the fever making his blood boil, or he was just fucking livid. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“You’re angry,” Sloane stated.

“No shit. Yes, I’m angry. No, scratch that. I’m fucking furious. He shouldn’t be coming here. Fuck, now he knows where I live! You’ve painted a huge fucking target on his back!”

Dex arched an eyebrow at him as he entered the living room. “Weren’t you the one who said Zach’s been under surveillance for a while now? That TIN’s keeping him safe? Besides, Zach can look after himself. You seem to keep forgetting he’s a THIRDS agent. And a fucking huge-ass bear Therian.”

“Yeah, in fucking Unit Beta. Those guys play defense. It’s their job to look fucking huge and scary as shit so their opponents back down without a fight. They’re the guys you bring in for crowd control, to escort dignitaries, and play bodyguard. Do I look like fucking Whitney Houston to you? I don’t need a bodyguard.” He’d bet his spots this had been Daley’s idea. The guy was so fucking annoying!

“No, but you need a friend,” Sloane said softly.

Austen’s eyebrows shot up near his hairline. “The fuck just came out of your mouth, Brodie?”

These two were unbelievable. Why couldn’t they get it through their thick skulls? Austen didn’t want Zach anywhere near him. He was trying to protect the guy, keep him away from all the grime, and fucked up shit surrounding Austen, and not all of it related to his job. Zach deserved someone good, and sweet, and fucking perfect, not a broken Felid that spooked at the mere thought of more with someone. Happily ever after was something that happened to guys like Sloane and Dex. Not Austen. He had nothing to give. No. He wasn’t going to be a sucker. He wasn’t going to get his hopes up only be tossed aside. There was no way he would ever, ever let Osmond Zachary near his heart.


Part Two next week. Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 7/13/17

***Contains Spoilers for Darkest Hour Before Dawn***

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Prompt: Can we have a training session with the Hobbs brothers where Rafe and Ethan find out about Seb and TIN?


Final Part (Links to previous parts at end of post) 

“I’m sorry. You’re right. I should have come to you. You’re my big brother, and nothing’s going to change that. Ever.” Seb sat with his hands between his knees, wondering where the hell the years had gone? Seemed like only yesterday that Ethan was just a kid, Seb tucking him into bed before finishing his homework while Rafe cooked them dinner so their mom could focus on their dad, and making him comfortable. Back in the day, medication for their dad’s condition had been iffy at best. Not that it was stellar now, but at least now his father had some good days where the pain wasn’t as bad.

Rafe was quiet for several seconds before finally speaking up. “I know there’s going to come a time where I’ll be more of a hindrance than a help, but while I can help, I want to.”

“Hey, look at me,” Seb demanded gently.

Rafe did, and Seb cupped the back of his brother’s neck. “You are never going to be a hindrance on me, Ethan, or anyone in our family, you understand? Do you think dad is a hindrance on mom?”

Rafe shook his head, his bottom lip wobbling as a tear rolled down his cheek. “Fuck, Seb. Look how much she’s suffered with him. I know she loves him, but God, how do you think it makes him feel? She’s spent nearly their entire marriage taking care of him. Having to stab needles into him, crying herself to sleep because he’s in so much pain, and there’s nothing she can do about it. I don’t want to do that to anyone.”

“You’re not doing anything to anyone. We’re your family, and we love you. Mom doesn’t do what she does because she has to. She does it because dad’s still the same guy she fell in love with years ago. They adore each other, and when mom said, “in sickness and in health” she took that to heart. Would you ever give up on dad?”

Rafe gave him a dirty look, and Seb held his hands up in front of him. “You see? So why would we give up on you?” Seb put his arm around his brother and hugged him close. “You’re absolutely right about me and Ethan coming to you, and I promise you we’ll try harder. You know how hardheaded the three of us are. Sometimes it takes a bit for things to get through out thick skulls.” He lightly knocked his fist against Rafe’s head, making him laugh.

“Yeah, I think I started that trend.”

They both laughed quietly. Seb worried his bottom lip between his teeth before doing what he said he’d do, and confiding in Rafe. “You know, there’s another reason why I’ve made peace with joining TIN.”

“What’s that?”

“If there’s a cure out there, or something that can help you, and dad, I’m going to find it, Rafe. I swear I won’t stop until I do.”

Rafe turned to meet his gaze. “You’re going to look for a cure?”

“With TIN’s resources, and the training Hudson and I are going to get, we’ll have access to information and specialists we didn’t even know existed. Sparks says TIN can fix my knee.”

Rafe stared at him. “They can do that?”

Seb nodded. “It pissed me off at first, that they wouldn’t help before I joined, but after Sparks explained it, I got it. Sort of. Hudson had to explain some of the medical jargon.”

“Wait, they have a procedure that will fix your knee, and they wouldn’t do it unless you joined them?” Rafe shook his head with a glower. “What the hell?”

“The technology isn’t legal yet.”

Rafe opened his mouth to reply then closed it. He cursed under his breath, and ran a hand through his hair. “Shit, Seb. Is it even safe?”

Seb winced. “It’s kind of experimental, but so far it has a high success rate. They’ve performed the procedure on several of their operatives, and it’s worked. They’ve been doing it for years. Do you think Sparks would have hired me as an operative if she wasn’t sure it was going to work? If I don’t take this chance, my knee’s just going to get worse. My point is, there’s gotta be something out there. Even Dex has sworn to Ethan he’s going to find something.”

Rafe cursed under his breath. “Daley’s in on this?”

Seb nodded. “Talk about stubborn. There’s no way we’re winning him on that. If Dex promised Ethan, he’s going to come through with something. There’s no way in hell he’s going to let Ethan down.”

Rafe let out a sigh, and for the first time in a long time, he looked… hopeful. When he spoke, his voice was shaky. “I’m kinda terrified to get my hopes up.”

“Whatever happens, we’re going to get through this together.” Seb brought Rafe in for a hug, both of them laughing when another pair of arms joined in.

“You two are such dorks,” Rafe said, pulling back to ruffle Ethan’s hair.

“Jerk,” Ethan muttered quietly, his grin wide.

Well, we must have gotten it from somewhere,” Seb teased.

Rafe gasped. “Are you calling mom a dork? I’m so telling.” He made to stand, and Seb saw him wince before he sat back down with a pained expression. Seb nudged Ethan, and Ethan disappeared inside.

“Remember when we used to sit out on the stoop at mom’s while Ethan and Calvin played hide and seek?”

Rafe let out a bark of laughter. “Ethan was not good at hiding.”

“Kinda hard to hide when you’re thirteen and almost six feet tall.”

“Remember when Cal hid in the tree, and then he got stuck?”

“I remember you two jerks just standing there laughing at me,” Calvin grumbled, taking a seat next to Ethan after Ethan plopped down beside Rafe. Everyone came out from inside and sat around Rafe, Nina sitting between Rafe’s knees and leaning back into him. She stretched up, and he kissed her. The smile that followed lit up his face. Man, his brother was a goner.

“Because birds weighed more than you did,” Rafe said, answering Calvin.

Ethan made a jumping motion with his hand, and they laughed.

“Oh, shit,” Rafe snickered. “I forgot about the squirrel.”

“Squirrel?” Hudson sat between Seb’s legs, and leaned back to look up at him, his pupils blown. “What squirrel?”

If there was anyone who loved chasing squirrels more than Ethan, it was Hudson, but then most wolf Therians seemed to go crazy over squirrels. Seb didn’t understand it himself, but Hudson was adorable when he chased something. He looked like a big gray bunny hopping around, tail wagging.

“A squirrel landed on Calvin’s head while he was stuck in the tree,” Seb explained. “Calvin screamed, let go of the branch, and luckily, we were right below him, and caught him.”

Ethan nodded. He patted Calvin’s head.

“Screw all of you. That squirrel was vicious.”

Rafe nodded. “As squirrels went, that one was particularly vicious, and fluffy tailed.”

They all teased Calvin, and while Rafe was busy teasing Ethan about his hiding skills, or lack thereof, Nina looked over at Seb, and put her hand to her heart, mouthing the words “thank you”.

Seb winked at her. They might be a mismatched family of misfits, and he included Destructive Delta in that, but Seb would do anything for them. Together, they’d get through whatever storm came their way.


Missed the beginning? Start with Part One here. Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 7/6/17

***Contains Spoilers for Darkest Hour Before Dawn***

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Prompt: Can we have a training session with the Hobbs brothers where Rafe and Ethan find out about Seb and TIN?


Part Three (Read Part Two here.)

“You broke him,” Calvin whispered at Seb.

Seb put his hand on Calvin’s face, and slowly pushed him away, making him laugh. Little pain the ass. Not that Calvin was wrong. He may very well have broken Rafe. Not long after his brothers and their partners arrived at his house, they’d hit the booze before they ordered dinner. Seb had been hoping Rafe would get nice and toasted, and therefore take everything Seb had just told him in stride. No such luck.

Seb had decided not to hold anything back. If he was going to bring Rafe in on this, he was going to tell him everything, from his beating the shit out of Trent, to the truth about who Wolf really was—he’d discussed with Hudson prior to Seb’s confession. It was now… five minutes, and his brother hadn’t so much as blinked. His eyes were narrowed, his elbows on the counter, and his fingers steepled in front of his lips. He could possibly be processing everything, or brainstorming the various ways in which to end Seb.

“Rafe?” Seb asked, from the other side of the counter. “You, um, gonna say anything?” Seb glanced over at Nina and subtly motioned to Rafe. She looked at him like he must be on something. Okay, clearly no one was going to jump into the fire with him.

Rafe turned in his seat, got up, and walked around the counter, jaw clenched. He stood toe to toe with Seb, and then did something unexpected. Not totally unexpected, but considering this was Rafe, unexpected.

He smacked Seb in the head.

“Ouch! What the hell, bro?” Seb rubbed the sore spot on the side of his head.

“You fuck. All this shit you went through, and you didn’t once, not once come to me for help?”

Seb opened his mouth to reply then closed it. “Wait, what?”

“I’m your big brother! You’re supposed to come to me for help.” Rafe folded his arms over his chest, his hurt expression squeezing at Seb’s heart. “I thought we’d moved passed this shit. That you two were going to trust me more.”

“We do trust you,” Seb said sincerely, grateful when Ethan joined them.

Rafe dropped his arms at his sides, his voice quiet. “Then why didn’t you call me? Either of you.”

Seb let out a heavy sigh. “Because you got your own shit to deal with, and I didn’t want to add to that.”

Ethan nodded in agreement.

“So you two just decided for me, is that it? You think I can’t handle shit anymore?”

“That’s not it at all, and you know it.”

“Do I?” Rafe shook his head at them. “The way I see it, you two are still in your little boy’s club, and I’m not a part of it.”

Seb tried to speak up, but Rafe just put a hand up to stop him. “I need some air.” He headed for the door, stopping long enough to assure Nina he was fine, and just needed a minute to be alone. Nina walked into the kitchen, her hands on her hips.

“So? How are you going to fix this?”

“I don’t know.” Seb ran a hand through his hair, grateful for Hudson’s quiet support as he wrapped his arms around Seb’s waist.”

Hudson looked up at him, his bright blue eyes filled with compassion. “He rather has a point, darling.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re still treating him different. Only now it’s because of his condition.”

That wasn’t true, was it? “I just don’t want to burden him with my shit when he’s got bigger problems to worry about.”

“Like becoming a burden on you both, and your family?” Nina asked softly.

Seb frowned at her. “What are you talking about?”

“Come on, Seb. Read between the lines. You’re trying not to worry him, and all he sees is that he’s not the strongest anymore. That you both think he’s not the strongest. There’s going to come a time when he’ll need to rely on the strength of his little brothers. How do you think that makes him feel? This is Rafe we’re talking about. You might have been the nurturer, Seb,” Nina placed her hand on his arm, her eyes glassy, “but he’s always been the provider, and the protector. The rock everyone leaned on. And now he feels that slipping away.”

Ethan put his hand on Seb’s shoulder, and Seb hated to see the sadness in his little brother’s eyes. How the hell was he supposed to fix this? Could he even fix it? How could he make Rafe understand that Seb still looked up to him? That he still thought he was the strongest of them all?

“I’m going to go talk to him,” Seb said before kissing the top of Hudson’s head. Ethan motioned toward the door, and Seb shook his head. “I just need a few minutes with him.”

Ethan nodded, and Calvin came over to take his hand. The warm smiled was instant, and Seb couldn’t help his own smiled. He couldn’t think of anyone better for Ethan than Calvin.

Seb went outside to join Rafe on the stoop. It was a quiet night. Well, city quiet. Seb sat next to Rafe, both of them looking out at nothing in particular. These kinds of heart to heart talks were new to Seb. At least where Rafe was concerned. Seb and Ethan talked all the time. They chatted about anything and everything. Seb never really had any sit-down chats with Rafe. Mostly because growing up, Rafe had always been busy taking care of their family, going to school, working his ass off. Seb swallowed hard at the memory. His brother never got the chance to be a regular teenager. Not that Seb hadn’t been in a similar situation to his brother, but after everything Rafe had done for his family, he was facing the same future as their dad, and that broke Seb’s heart.

Somehow, he had to fix this. Make things right between them. Their bond had grown since that day in the hospital, but it still wasn’t solid, and that was on Seb. Ethan followed Seb’s lead, at times even without realizing it. Seb needed to make his brother understand that they were in this together, and if there was something out there that could help Rafe and their dad, Seb was going to find it.


Part Four next week. Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS Published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday – 6/29/17

***Contains Spoilers for Darkest Hour Before Dawn***

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Prompt: Can we have a training session with the Hobbs brothers where Rafe and Ethan find out about Seb and TIN?


Part Two (Read Part One here.)

Seb charged Ethan, the surprise on both his brothers’ faces making Seb grin. He threw a right hook, and got nowhere near his little brother’s head. Ethan blocked it in a swift movement while simultaneously grabbing Seb’s arm, and kicking out, sending Seb hurdling over his shoulder, and onto the mat. Seb rolled, and quickly jumped to his feet. He didn’t know exactly what Ethan’s TIN associate training had entailed, but if it was anywhere close to what he’d seen Dex and Sloane do the night of the wedding when the Makhai had come to kidnap Hudson then Seb had no reason to hold back.

Seb came at Ethan with everything he had, his adrenaline pumping, and pulse racing. Every punch and kick was blocked or deflected. Ethan ducked, and dodged. He was quicker, lighter on his feet which could be a real challenge for tiger Therians. Over and over, Seb hit the mat. Rafe was too stunned to move. He stood there staring at them, and Seb didn’t blame him. But it was time for Rafe to see for himself what his little brother could do.

“Rafe,” Seb barked out the order, and his brother snapped to attention. He didn’t hesitate, immediately switching to agent mode. Rafe joined the attack, taking Ethan from the left, while Seb charged from the right. Ethan’s footwork was impressive, and he kept himself away from Seb and Rafe. As the smaller of the three of them, he’d always been quicker, but now Rafe and Seb struggled to keep up. Ethan anticipated their moves, giving him time to act rather than react. It was like he’d figured out their weaknesses, and was using it against them. Rafe’s strength was upper body, while Seb’s was lower, which was ironic considering those areas were where their bodies were failing them. Rafe his back, and Seb his knee.

Rafe and Seb charged at the same time, and in a move Seb had never seen before, Ethan ducked, spun, and grabbed Rafe. He used the momentum of his spin to hurl Rafe into Seb, and the two of them went tumbling and rolling across the mat. Seb lay on his back next to Rafe who lay on his stomach, both trying to catch their breaths.

“Well that… didn’t go… as… expected,” Rafe said, breathless.

Seb laughed. Holy crap. His heart swelled with pride, and he beamed up at Ethan who leaned over him with a goofy grin.

“I think this means I win,” Ethan said. He held out his hand to Seb, and helped him up. Together they helped Rafe up. Rafe narrowed his eyes at Ethan, and looked him over.

“What the hell was that? When did you turn into the fucking Terminator?”

Ethan rolled his eyes. “You’re so dating yourself right now.”

Seb snickered, and Rafe glared at him. He quickly put his hands up in surrender. “What? I wasn’t the one who called you old.”

Rafe folded his beefy arms over his chest, his eyes on Ethan. “Explain. And don’t tell me you’ve been training. That’s all I hear about you guys. Why’s Sloane training you so hard? What the hell are you preparing for?”

Ethan’s smile faded, and Seb couldn’t stand the worried look that came on his little brother’s face. He might as well get this over with.

“Hudson and I joined TIN.”

“Joined in what?” Rafe asked, frowning.

Seb rubbed at his temples. Seriously? “Not joined in, joined TIN. Therian Intelligence.”

Rafe’s jaw dropped, and Ethan narrowed his eyes at Seb. Neither of them spoke. They didn’t so much as blink. Great. He’d broken them.

“Come on, guys. Give me something,” Seb pleaded. The suspense was killing him.

Ethan held a finger up. “I’m sorry, could you repeat that? I thought I heard something crazy. Like that you and Hudson joined TIN.”

Seb rubbed the back of his neck, and cringed. “So, um, a lot of stuff kind of happened before Hudson and I got back together.” Where did he even start? It’s like he’d been sucked up into a whirlwind of crazy, and tossed around. “I’d been made the offer to become a TIN Associate, and turned them down. Then I went and fucked up royally, and the only way out was to join TIN as full operatives, but after thinking about it and everything that’s happened, that was the best call for us, the best way to keep Hudson, and you guys safe.”

“Safe form who?” Rafe asked, throwing his arms out. “What the hell is going on?” Something seemed to occur to him, and he straightened. “Wait, does Nina know about this?”

Seb shrugged. “I don’t know. Hudson was going to tell her. We agreed that there were certain people in our lives who we needed to tell, so they could be prepared for any threats that might come our way.”

Ethan shook his head, the hurt in his big green eyes squeezing at Seb’s heart. “You joined TIN?” Then that hurt turned to anger. “You joined TIN?” Ethan growled, and marched up to Seb. The punch he landed across Seb’s jaw sent Seb staggering back. Ethan hissed and shook out his hand, and Seb rubbed his jaw.

“Jesus, Ethan.” Rafe stared at Ethan before turning his attention back to Seb. “You do deserve it though.”

Seb grunted. “Thanks.” He released a heavy sigh. “I know.” He met his little brother’s gaze. “I’m sorry, Ethan, but this is the best way to keep our family safe. You know better than anyone what we’re facing out there. Moros? The Makhai? Wolf? Hudson was thrown into the middle of all that shit. What was I supposed to do? Wait around for Dex and Sloane to come to the rescue? If it hadn’t been for them, and Wolf, Hudson would be gone, and I’d be dead.”

Both brothers stared at him. Shit. He may have forgotten to mention that tiny little detail about being poisoned on his wedding day, and almost dying.

“You almost died?” Rafe sputtered. He threw his arms up, shouting at no one in particular. “What the fucking fuck is going on around here? Who the hell is Wolf? What the fuck is a Makhai?”

Seb cleared his throat. “We sort of have a lot to catch up on.”

Rafe’s eyebrows flew up near his hairline. “You think?”

“Why don’t you, Nina, Ethan, and Calvin come over for dinner tonight? I’ll tell you everything, for now, I need you to trust me.” Seb walked up to Ethan, and put his hands on his shoulders. “I need you to trust me, just like you need me to trust you and the decision you made.”

Ethan’s expression softened, and he nodded. “You’re right.”

“Wait, what decision?” Rafe asked, looking from Ethan to Seb and back.

Ethan let out a heavy sigh. “Destructive Delta became TIN Associates a few months back. We’re becoming assets for Dex and Sloane who’ll be sworn in as operatives after their wedding.”

Rafe frowned. “But TIN in Therian intelligence. Dex isn’t a Therian.”

Ethan and Seb exchanged glances.

“Um… about that,” Seb began, cringing when Rafe marched up to the two of them, and grabbed them by the ears.

“Ouch! Rafe let go,” Ethan whined.

“You two are dicks, and I should kick both your asses.”

Ethan let out a snort. “You can try.”

Seb barked out a laugh before he could stop himself. He clamped a hand over his mouth.

“When did you become such a smart ass?” Rafe shook his head. “The two of you are in so much shit. Not only are you both buying me and Nina dinner, we’re going to Seb’s for dinner tonight, and you both are going to tell me everything. And if I so much as get a whiff of either of you holding anything back, I swear to God, I’m going to tell mom the most embarrassing shit about you two.”

“Pfft, whatever,” Seb said. He was a grown as man. There was nothing that Rafe could tell his mom that could embarrass him. it was his mom.

“Right.” Rafe nodded, his lips pursed. “So you don’t care if I tell mom how when you were fifteen I walked in on you humping your teddy bear.”

Seb gasped, and Ethan doubled over with laughter.

“What the hell?” Seb gaped at Rafe, his face about to go up in flames.

“Yeah. Mom sent me to remind you about something, I opened the door to your room, saw that shit, and walked right back out.”

Ethan was crying he was laughing so hard.

“I was a hormonal teenager!”

Rafe waggled his brows. “I hope you at least offered to buy him dinner after.”

“Fuck you,” Seb growled, covering his face with his hands.

“And you,” Rafe said, prompting Seb to peek out at Ethan from between his fingers. Ethan was still howling with laughter. “Remember that time the cable bill arrived with that weird charge, and mom couldn’t figure it out?”

Ethan’s laughter stopped, and his eyes went wide.

Seb remembered that. Ethan was about fifteen or sixteen at the time? Seb arched an eyebrow at Rafe. “You said it was a documentary you ordered.” He looked over at Ethan who looked like he wanted to crawl under a rock.

“Nope,” Rafe said, grinning wide. “Ethan and Cal ordered porn.”

“We didn’t know we were ordering it,” Ethan groaned, covering his face with his hands, his voice muffled when he spoke. “It said “watch it now” not “buy this movie”.”

Seb nudged Ethan with his elbow. “So how often did you and Cal watch porn together?”

Ethan glared at him.

With a cackle, Seb headed for the doors, Ethan and Rafe flanking him.

“At least no one heard it, unlike you and Hudson in the rec room. I never knew you two were so religious,” Ethan teased before doing an imitation of Seb. “Oh, God, Lobito. Oh, God!” He moaned, and Seb shoved him away from him. Rafe laughed, and Seb flipped them both off.

Rafe got in between them, and threw his arms around their shoulders. “This is going to be a fun dinner. I can feel it.”

Seb shook his head, amused at his brother’s wicked smile. It was good to see Rafe happy again. His brother was right. He deserved to know everything. His life was soon going to be shrouded in secrets, but this here, his brothers, his family, this was his heart, and he would never lose sight of that. Never.


Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.