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.
Calvin quickly stood at Ethan’s side. “It’s fine, Ethan. Breathe. It’s okay.”
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.”
Copyright © 2014 Charlie Cochet. All Rights Reserved. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.