THIRDS Thursday – 3/23/17

Prompt: Would love to see Cael and Ash baking on a lazy rainy Saturday. Cakes, cookies, all kinds of heavenly sugary goods. Maybe Ash finally sharing or showing the how-to of a recipe Cael just never could get right. Just them goofing off and having a good day. Would like it to be after they got officially together. And as always, a little touchy-feely never hurt anyone. ;)

****SPOILER ALERT**** This takes place after Thick & Thin.


Part Three last week. Read it here.

PART FOUR

Downstairs in the kitchen, Ash placed Cael on his feet, letting him get dressed while he pulled out ingredients and placing them on the counter. Cake flour, sugar, large eggs at room temperature, cream of tartar, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Unless he was on a double shift, he pretty much baked daily, so his pantry was well stocked. Baking helped relax him. He could get lost in the process, in the art of precision, the creation of something perfect. Few people knew he baked, and those who did know didn’t get it. They only saw what didn’t fit. The cakes, cookies, frosting. It didn’t fit with his nature.

Then there was the part where he rarely indulged in any pastries or sweet baked goods while he was out. People assumed he just didn’t like it, and although he didn’t necessarily have a sweet tooth, his not eating pastries or muffins or cakes had nothing to do with his sweet tooth or lack thereof, but because most often than not he was left disappointed. He could taste when too much sugar was added, or not enough. When someone substituted an ingredient, or altered a recipe. Unless a place had really great feedback, he didn’t bother.

As soon as all the ingredients were out, he readied the equipment and utensils. Once everything was ready, he turned to Cael with a smile. “Why don’t you show me how you do it, then we can see how it differs from how I make mine.”

“Okay.”

Cael got to work. He turned on the oven and set it to the right temperature before sifting the cake flour and sugar. He combined the extracts and set them aside before beating the eggs whites, cream of tartar, and salt until he’d formed peaks. When it came time to add some of the sugar, Ash pinpointed where Cael was going wrong, but he let Cael continue, watching him. He beat the mixture in the bowl, added the flour mixture, and extracts, mixed it, and poured it into the angel food cake pan then set it in to bake. He turned to Ash and frowned.

“It’s not going to come out fluffy. I don’t know what I do wrong.”

Ash pulled him into his arms and kissed the top of his head. “It’s okay, sweetheart. Now, do you want to watch me do mine?”

Cael nodded.

Ash started the same as Cael, but when it came time to add the sugar, he stopped and turned to Cael. This part was going to be tough for his swift little cheetah Therian. Cael was never still for very long. “There’s a couple of very important steps. Angel food cake is supposed to be very light and fluffy. To get that lightness, you need to be gentle, and take these steps slowly. You need to add the sugar slowly.” He demonstrated, and when it was time to add the cake flour, he paused again. “I like to fold in the flour mixture by hand, but you don’t need to do that. But you’ll still need to beat on low, and then add your flour and extracts in slowly, like this. Don’t forget to fold in the sides and the bottom.” Once that was done, he spooned the mixture into his angel food cake pan.

“Another important step is to try and remove air pockets.” He took a knife and moved it through the batter before placing the pan in the oven then setting the second timer.

“I was going too fast,” Cael said with a sigh.

“Yes.” They had some time before the cakes were done, so Ash put away the ingredients and started cleaning up with Cael’s help. “So what do you want to have with your cake? Strawberries and cream, or—”

“Aren’t you terrified?”

Ash wiped his hands on one of the kitchen towels before turning to Cael, the fear and heartache in his eyes had Ash crossing the distance between them, and drawing Cael into his arms. He kissed the top of Cael’s head.

“A lot more scares me than people realize, sweetheart. You’ll have to be more specific.”

“That something will happen to Sloane and you won’t be there.”

Ash closed his eyes, his cheek resting against the top of Cael’s head. When he spoke, his voice came out rough. “Of course I am.” He had every faith in Sloane and his abilities. There was no doubt in Ash’s mind that when Sloane was done with his training, and got his stupid color tie, that he’d be a force to be reckoned with, but that didn’t mean that Sloane didn’t need his family.

Taking Cael’s hand, Ash led him into the living room and the cozy loveseat Cael loved so much. It was usually where Ash found Cael when he got home from work, usually when they were on different shifts. Cael would be curled up in fluffy blankets and a hoard of pillows. Sometimes he’d be engrossed in one of his comic book movies, or binge watching a TV show. Sometimes he’d be fast asleep, his reader on his chest. Then there were times when he was feeling anxious and just needed space. The loveseat had become his safe place. Not that Cael didn’t feel safe in their apartment, but the chair was his. Ash never intruded, joining Cael only when he was asked.

“Sit with me?”

“Sure.” Thankfully the loveseat was extra wide as were the other two couches. He sat with his back against the armrest, his legs too long to stretch out, so he brought his knee up, his other leg on the floor until Cael had climbed up and snuggled against him, then he brought his leg up. Cael let out a heart-wrenching sigh.

“I know Dex is going to be given all this kickass training,” Cael said, his eyes closed. “He’s going to be some super-secret ninja agent, God help us all, but he’s still going to be Dex, which I’m really glad, but at the same time, it’s Dex. What of Sloane’s not around to keep him grounded? What if he ignores protocol? It won’t be like at the THIRDS where Sloane or my dad yell at him and put him on equipment duty for a month. He could be killed, or left trapped behind enemy lines, and TIN will go on as if he never existed.” Cael buried his face against Ash’s chest, and Ash held him close, rubbing circles around his back.

“Cael, look at me.”

Cael reluctantly did.

“This is all new. Hell, they haven’t even been officially sworn in, and I know you’re worried. I’m worried too, but we have to believe in them. Look at everything your brother’s been through. I have never met anyone more stubborn, more resilient than your brother.” Ash put his hand to Cael’s cheek. “Sweetheart, your brother died and came back to life. If there is anyone, anyone who is going to fight to stay alive with every fiber of his being, it’s going to be your brother.”


Final part next week on 3/30/17!


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 3/16/17

Prompt: Would love to see Cael and Ash baking on a lazy rainy Saturday. Cakes, cookies, all kinds of heavenly sugary goods. Maybe Ash finally sharing or showing the how-to of a recipe Cael just never could get right. Just them goofing off and having a good day. Would like it to be after they got officially together. And as always, a little touchy-feely never hurt anyone. ;)

****SPOILER ALERT**** This takes place after Thick & Thin.


Part Two last week. Read it here.

PART THREE

Showers had vastly improved since Cael started joining him. The two of them seemed to be in sync more and more each day. When Cael chatted away at him, Ash happily listened. When Cael was quiet, and needed to be in his own head, Ash left him to it. When that happened, Ash found himself having to touch Cael in some way. As if he needed to feel him, to assure himself Cael was there, which was ridiculous. He could see Cael, so why should he need to touch him? To say this was all knew to him was an understatement. It struck him then that in four months, he and Cael would have been together a year. Yet it felt like they’d been together so much longer.

“That feels good.” Cael hummed, drawing his attention back to the present, and the deliciously naked Cael standing in front of him, his back to Ash.

Ash smiled as he continued to massage Cael’s scalp. Cael let his head fall back against Ash’s chest. He opened his big gray eyes and smiled.

“Hi.”

Ash hunched over and kissed Cael, upside down, making him laugh. “Hi. Rinse, before you get conditioner in your eyes.”

“You’re so adorable.”

Now there was a word no one had ever associated with Ash Keeler, and anyone who dared call him that to his face would get an earful. Except Cael. Cael was the exception to every rule.

Cael stepped under the shower and washed the conditioner out of his hair while Ash finished washing up. They got out and dried themselves. Ash hung up his towel and turned to find himself wrapped up in Cael’s arms and a huge fluffy towel.

“Thank you, Ash.”

“For what?” Ash brushed Cael’s wet hair away from his brow, his pulse picking up, and his heart beating fast. It always did when Cael looked at him like he was now. Like Ash was the most amazing thing in the world.

“For being you.”

Ash swallowed hard. It wasn’t easy being on the receiving end of such adoration. It wasn’t long ago that he didn’t think himself worthy of such a look. “You’re the only one I’ve ever known who didn’t want to change me.”

“Because no one has ever taken the time to really look at you. They don’t see what I see.” Cael cupped Ash’s face, his sparkling gray eyes filled with so much love. For him. “There’s so much… wrong with me, yet you’re always so patient. You know how to deal with me.”

Ash’s expression softened, and he brushed his fingers along Cael’s jaw. “First off, there is nothing wrong with you, sweetheart. None of us get through life without picking up scars along the way. Even your brother Mr. Perfect, isn’t so perfect. Second, you’re not someone I deal with. You’re someone I love. Someone who means the world to me, who makes me cherish every minute we’re together. When you’re having a panic attack, I want to make it better for you, and I do my best to show you you’re safe. When you’re feeling anxious, I try to show you how much you’re loved. When you’re scared, I do everything to assure you that I’m right beside you. I’ll do whatever it takes to make everything okay again. Because it’s you.”

Cael averted his gaze, but his lips were pulled up in a shy smile. “See. You always know just what to say.”

Ash gently turned Cael’s face so their eyes could meet. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Cael stood on his toes and kissed him. It was sweet, slow, and filled Ash with the kind of hope he never thought he’d feel. Ash ran his hands down Cael’s arms, his skin soft in Ash’s rough hands.

Ash pulled back, feeling breathless. He couldn’t take his eyes off Cael. “I gotta say, sweetheart, you terrify me.”

Cael tilted his head. “Me?”

“Yeah. I don’t think you know the power you have over me. You got me thinking all kinds of crazy things.”

“Like what?”

Ash shook his head. “I don’t think I’m ready to say them out loud.” Just thinking about it scared the shit out of him.

“Well, when you’re ready,” Cael said, smiling as he kissed Ash, sweet and quick. “I’ll be right here.”

Ash nodded. He breathed in deep through his nose, and released the breath slow through his mouth. He motioned toward the door. “How about we get dressed and get to baking?”

“Sounds awesome.” Cael pulled away and left Ash holding the towel. He walked off naked, and Ash turned to watch him go, the sight of Cael’s tight ass making him groan.

“Really? You want me to think about baking with you strutting around here like that?” He followed Cael out into the bedroom, and folded his arms over his chest. The little tease. Cael slipped into his boxers nice and slow, his back turned. Ash had never seen anything so sinful.

“You teach me how to make the perfect, fluffy angel food cake,” Cael purred, “and after, as a show of gratitude, I will let you pick any toy from the drawer to use on me.”

Ash stifled a gasp. “I get to choose?”

Cael looked at him from over his shoulder. “Yep.”

“Anything?”

Cael nodded. “Anything.”

Holy shit.

Ash was pretty sure he broke a world record with how quick he got dressed. When he was done, he grabbed Cael’s clothes and thrust them at him. “Come on, we got some baking to do.”

Cael waggled his eyebrows. “With great power….”

“Oh, you’re in for it now.” Ash grabbed him and lifted him off his feet, laughing at Cael’s yelp and flailing arms as Ash hoisted him over his shoulder. He smacked Cael’s ass for good measure.

“Ash!” Cael laughed as Ash carried him down the stairs.

“Challenge has been accepted. There’s no turning back now.” The perfect angel food cake was the only thing standing between him and hot, toe-curling sex. He was not about to lose.



Part four next week on 3/23/17!


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 3/9/17

Prompt: Would love to see Cael and Ash baking on a lazy rainy Saturday. Cakes, cookies, all kinds of heavenly sugary goods. Maybe Ash finally sharing or showing the how-to of a recipe Cael just never could get right. Just them goofing off and having a good day. Would like it to be after they got officially together. And as always, a little touchy-feely never hurt anyone. ;)

****SPOILER ALERT**** This takes place after Thick & Thin.


Part One last week. Read it here.

PART TWO

“I think maybe we should stay in today. I’ll call Sloane and tell him we’re gonna have a quiet evening in tonight.” Ash brushed his fingers down Cael’s cheek, smiling when Cael looked up at him.

“Really? Are you sure?”

“Am I sure? You’re right. Maybe I should think about this.” Ash pretended to be giving it serious thought. “Do I want to spend a lazy day with my boyfriend, touching him, kissing him, hanging out, doing incredibly dirty things to him, or do I want to spend the day listening to Dex and Sloane argue over the existence of X-Men? That’s a tough one. I know Dex makes a very solid case, and there’s always the possibility of my getting to smother him with one of Sloane’s ridiculous throw pillows, but Sloane’s kinda grown attached to the dork, so the chances of him letting me strangle his fiancé are quite slim. Hm.” He scratched his stubbly jaw, holding back a smile at Cael’s adorably unimpressed expression. “It’s tough. I won’t lie. But I think I’m going to go with spending the day with my boyfriend. Even if he’s looking at me like he wants to throat punch me.”

Cael arched an eyebrow at him. “You could have just said yes.”

Ash laughed. “I could have, but then I wouldn’t have gotten to see your adorable pout.”

“I’m not pouting,” Cael grumbled.

Right. “I’m going to go call him real quick, then I’ll be back downstairs to help you clean up.” He kissed the side of Cael’s head before heading upstairs to the nightstand where he’d left his phone. Sloane picked up on the second ring, laughing and calling out over his shoulder.

“You’re lucky you’re pretty, babe, because you are so wrong right now. Indy would totally kick Hans’s ass. Hey, Ash.”

“The level of nerd I’m being exposed to right now is seriously damaging to my health so I’m going to make this quick. We’re going to give tonight I miss. You guys go on without us.”

“Everything okay?”

“Keep this to yourself, but Cael’s freaking out a little about the new job.”

There was some shifting before the room went quiet, probably from Sloane moving away from wherever Dex was. “Dex has been worried about him. He knows something’s wrong, but Cael keeps insisting he’s fine.”

“Yeah, well, he’s not.” Ash sat on the edge of the bed with a sigh. “He still hasn’t opened up, but he did his Cael thing where he just blurts something out, and it was about you and Dex getting sent somewhere that puts Therians to death.”

Sloane cursed under his breath.

“The thing is,” Ash closed his eyes, and pushed down his own fears. “He ain’t wrong, Sloane. And just knowing you two could be sent to one of those places without us to back you up….”

Sloane went quiet for a moment before speaking up. “You could.”

“Could what?”

“Back us up. You’re an asset now, Ash. You and the team.”

Ash narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, we are, but you two have a habit of running off and doing shit on your own instead of asking for help.” The more Ash thought about it, the more pissed off he got. He jumped to his feet and started pacing. “You know what? No. You get sent to one of those places, you’re calling me for backup. You got that? I don’t want to hear any bitching, whining, or pathetic excuses. You go somewhere with heavy firepower or fucked up laws, and you better put in a call to whoever the fuck you gotta call, and put me on the first flight to wherever the fuck, because if you don’t—”

“I promise.”

“Don’t fuck with me on this, Sloane.”

“Ash, there is no one I would rather have watching my back, or Dex’s, than you. I will call you. I swear on my mother’s grave.”

Ash stilled. He inhaled deeply through his nose then released it through his mouth, the tension easing from his shoulders. “Okay.”

“Let us know if you need any help with Cael.”

“Will do. Can you keep this under wraps for a little while? I don’t want Dex barging in here in big-brother-mode. Cael needs time to process this shit, and Dex isn’t exactly patient when it comes to family.”

“I can buy you some time, but keep me posted, okay?”

“Thanks. Oh, and Rick Deckard could kick both Hans and Indy’s asses.” Ash laughed at Sloane’s curses then hung up. Dweebs. Bringing his cell phone with him, he headed downstairs, his heart squeezing at Cael standing in front of the sink just staring down into the sudsy water.

“Hey,” Ash said softly, coming up beside him so as not to spook him. Cheetah Therians were anxious by nature, and Ash made sure to always be aware of the fact. Cael blinked as if waking up from whatever trance he was in. He smiled brightly at Ash, and it was the most beautiful smile he’d ever seen.

“Hi.”

Ash chuckled before kissing him. “Hi, sweetheart.”

“Did they mind us not joining them?” Cael asked, going back to washing the dishes.

“Nah. You know them. They’re probably going to spend the day being all disgustingly lovey-dovey.” Ash wrapped his arms around Cael, and nuzzled his temple.

“As opposed to our lovey-dovey,” Cael teased.

“I’ll have you know, my cuddles are the epitome of manliness.”

Cael laughed, and Ash couldn’t help his smile. He loved making Cael laugh.

“What did you do with all the leftovers?” Ash asked, opening the fridge and getting his answer. It was filled with plastic containers.

“I’m going to try out some of Darla’s breakfast casseroles. Cal swears by them.”

Ash couldn’t argue with that. No one knew casseroles like Darla Summers. He helped Cael finish cleaning up around the kitchen, then leaned against the counter, facing Cael. “So what do you want to do first?” If they just took things easy, Cael would relax, and maybe even feel at ease enough to talk about what was going on in his frantic little cheetah Therian mind. Even when Cael was still, his thoughts were racing.

Cael went thoughtful. “Maybe after we shower and get dressed, you could show me how you make your angel food cake. I can’t seem to ever get mine as fluffy as yours.”

Ash couldn’t help his dopey grin. “That sounds great.” He brought Cael in for a kiss, wondering when it had all become so… normal. Falling asleep with Cael in his arms, waking up to his sweet smile, and finding joy in the little things he had once thought as nothing more than a mundane necessity. When had he started getting all sappy over cooking with his boyfriend, or just hanging around the apartment? Fuck. Sloane was on to something. Ash never thought he’d look forward to just spending the day at home with someone. He tolerated people in small doses, and a good portion of the time, not at all, but with Cael everything was different.


Part three next week on 3/16/17!


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 3/2/17

Prompt: Would love to see Cael and Ash baking on a lazy rainy Saturday. Cakes, cookies, all kinds of heavenly sugary goods. Maybe Ash finally sharing or showing the how-to of a recipe Cael just never could get right. Just them goofing off and having a good day. Would like it to be after they got officially together. And as always, a little touchy-feely never hurt anyone. ;)

****SPOILER ALERT**** This takes place after Thick & Thin.


Ash rolled onto his back and stretched, the cool sheets comfortable against his skin. Cool? He opened his eyes and frowned. Usually he woke up with a warm, softly snoring Cael plastered to his back. Ash couldn’t help but grin at the image. It said a lot about how he felt about Cael. Ash never liked anyone touching him while he slept, not that he’d given anyone much opportunity to. Very rarely had he stayed to sleep with someone after having sex, and he never invited anyone to his apartment. On the rare occasions that he had stayed, he didn’t like anyone clinging to him. With Cael, not only did he love waking up to him holding onto Ash in some way, but Ash often woke up wrapped around Cael.

Ash placed his hand to Cael’s side of the bed. His boyfriend had clearly gotten up some time ago. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. Cael was an early riser. Like, ridiculously early, but when Cael stayed over—which was pretty much all the time now—he stayed in bed with Ash, usually reading a book or browsing the web on his tablet.

Getting out of bed, Ash rounded his shoulders then stretched his back. He grabbed his boxers off the trunk at the end of the bed, pulling them on before he headed into the bathroom. His heart did a little flip at the sight of Cael’s toothbrush next to his. Man, he was such a freaking sap, grinning like an idiot over a toothbrush. Then again, who the fuck cared? He liked seeing Cael’s toothbrush there. Liked seeing Cael’s toiletries in the bathroom alongside his own, Cael’s clothes in Ash’s bedroom. He liked having Cael with him, occupying the same space. It was a first for Ash.

Finishing up in the bathroom, he headed downstairs in search of his cheeky cheetah. Not surprising, Ash heard Cael moving around in the kitchen. Whatever he was making smelled amazing. When he reached the part of the stairs where he could see into the kitchen, he paused. Were Dex and Sloane coming over for breakfast? He groaned. It was way too fucking early to deal with Dexter J. Daley. Had Ash forgotten? They were supposed to be meeting up later for dinner and a movie. It was quite possible Dex had said something and Ash had just tuned him out. Wouldn’t be the first time.

“Morning, sweetheart.” Ash walked over to Cael, drew him into his arms, and kissed him. He had to hunch over a little, and Cael had to stand on his toes, but it always made him smile. He hummed at the sweet taste of Cael’s mouth. He’d been eating fruit.

“Morning. I made us breakfast,” Cael said, motioning to the counter.

Ash blinked at him. “You made all that for just the two of us?”

Cael nodded. “It’s all gloomy outside, so I thought we needed some tasty awesomeness. I made three kinds of pancakes. Blueberry, chocolate chip, and cranberry. Then I thought you might not want pancakes, so I made French toast and cinnamon rolls. But then I remembered that sometimes you don’t want to eat sweet in the morning, so I made scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and buttered toast. It’s all piping hot. And there’s coffee, and hot chocolate.” Cael gasped, his eyes going wide. “I didn’t make any muffins. I’m sorry.”

“Baby, you know I love everything you make.” Ash studied Cael. “Talk to me.”

“I am.”

“Not about breakfast. Tell me why you made more food than even your brother could eat.”

Cael craned his neck around Ash to look out the huge glass window in the living room. “Wow. It’s really coming down out there, isn’t it?”

“Sweetheart,” Ash nudged gently, nuzzling his temple. “What’s on your mind?”

“We should eat before everything gets cold.”

Cael wasn’t ready to talk. Ash could wait. When Cael was ready, he would tell Ash what was wrong. Whatever it was, it was big if he didn’t even want to address it. “Sure.”

“Great!” Cael smiled, but whatever was weighing heavily on his mind was there behind his beautiful big gray eyes. Ash kissed his cheek then turned to grab a plate. He didn’t usually eat sweet stuff for breakfast, but Cael had spent who knew how long making all this, so Ash filled his plate with a bit of everything. Sometimes Cael forgot that the rest of them didn’t burn through calories the way he did. Next to Dex, and from what he gathered, Hudson, no one ate as much as Cael. Dex’s appetite had been scary when he was Human. Now he could eat almost as much as Sloane and Ash combined. Hudson was a wolf Therian, and wolf Therians loved food. They were also always running around, rarely still until they wore themselves out, or had someone to keep them grounded. Cael burned through calories by just breathing.

Sitting at the counter, Ash made sure Cael’s chair was close to his before Cael took a seat beside him with his small feast. Most his selection was sweet except for the tiny mountain of bacon piled next to his tower of pancakes. They ate, and made small talk. The food was damned good. It always was when Cael made it. Cael had seconds and ate every bite except for a rogue blueberry he was rolling around his empty plate with his fork. Ash took a sip of his coffee, and waited.

“It’s kinda gloomy out, isn’t it,” Cael murmured, still looking down at his blueberry. That was the second time he’d said that. “Did you know in some countries they sentence Therians to death just for being Therian?”

Ash almost choked on his coffee. He quickly swallowed, and grabbed a napkin to cough into. When he was no longer in danger of choking to death, he turned to stare at Cael. “Um, yeah.”

Cael looked up at him then, eyes glassy. “What if Dex and Sloane get sent to one of those places by TIN? What if they get caught?”

It took Ash a second to catch up. Shit. TIN. This was about Dex joining TIN. He should have known. Cael had managed to fool him this long. He’d acted like he was fine with it. Clearly, he wasn’t. Ash had to do something before Cael lost anymore sleep, or worked himself into a panic, because Ash could see it in his eyes. How the hell was he supposed to make Cael feel better about something he knew nothing about?


Part two next week on 3/9/17!


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 1/26/19

Prompt: Ash and Dex team up to take care of Cael while he is sick, like a couple of mother hens. :P


Ugh, he was so tired of these stupid algorithms. He’d been doing them all day. Why couldn’t Defense agents program their own stuff? He supposed he couldn’t be too mad at them. They had enough to worry about out on the streets without having to break their brains trying to talk to Themis. Sometimes he wanted to tell Themis where it could—

“Cael!”

Cael gave such a start he almost fell out of his chair. “What?” He snapped at Dex hovering over him.

“Jesus, you don’t have to bite my head off. What’s with you? You’ve been such a grumpy McGrumpy Pants for the last two days. Are you feeling okay?” Dex leaned in and put his head to Cael’s brow, his eyes going wide. “I think you have a fever.”

Cael swatted his brother’s hand away. “I’m fine. I’ve just been busy.” He frowned and went back to his desk interface. “Did you want something?”

When there was no reply, he looked up and peered at Dex. His brother was studying him, eyes narrowed.

“You’re kinda creeping me out,” Cael muttered. Then again, it was just Dex being Dex. “I’ve got a lot of stuff to do, so….” Hint. Hint. Hint.

Dex got up and walked out of the room. Cael stared after him.

“What the heck was that about?” Seriously, he worried about that guy.

Cael lost himself in his algorithms, stopping only long enough to pull a tissue out of his desk drawer. Stupid allergies. His nose was all stuffed up.

“Cael, are you all right?”

A shadow loomed over him, and Cael lifted his gaze, finding Ash looking down at him worriedly.

“Dex said you were sick.”

Cael leaned back in his chair to glare at his brother who was very smartly hiding behind Ash.

“I’m fine,” Cael said. “Dex is overreacting. Again.”

Ash seemed to be mulling that over. “While I will agree that your brother is prone to exceptional feats of ridiculousness, it would ease my mind if you let me check your temperature.”

Cael stared at him. “Take my temperature?” He shook his head. “Ash, I’m fine.” Of course the moment the words were out of his mouth, he sneezed.

Ash removed a small device from his pocket.

“Please tell me you didn’t bring a—”

The thermometer was place to his head, and Ash’s expression was very stern when he spoke. “Hold still.”

Cael was surrounded by crazy people. Should Cael be terrified right now? It would appear his brother’s crazy was rubbing off on Ash. Cael sighed, and the gadget beeped.

“You have a fever,” Ash declared, and Dex leaned around him to thrust a finger at Cael.

“I knew it. You’re sick. Do you want to go to the medic?”

Cael scowled at him. “No. My partner is a medic, remember?”

“Right.” Dex looked up at Ash. “He needs to be home under lots of fluffy blankets with pillows and chicken soup and one of those smoky-breathy things.”

Ash rolled his eyes. “You mean a humidifier?”

“Yeah, one of those.”

Cael groaned. “I’m fine. You two need to go away. I’m busy.”

“But—”

Cael jumped to his feet to yell at his brother when a wave of dizziness slammed into him, and he would have fallen over his chair if Ash hadn’t caught him. “I’m fine,” Cael grumbled.

“Sweetheart, maybe you should take the rest of the afternoon. You’re looking a little pale.”

“That’s just cause it’s so cold in here. Rosa probably turned the temperature down before she left for lunch.”

“Speaking of,” Ash said, running a hand over Cael’s head. It felt nice. “Why aren’t you eating lunch?”

“I wasn’t hungry, and I wanted to get these algorithms done.” He was going to once again say he was fine when he noticed Dex was gone.

“Where’s Dex?”

Ash straightened and turned around. “He was just here a second ago.”

Tony strode into the room, grumbled at Ash to move aside, and put his hand to Cael’s brow. Before Cael could say yet again that he was fine, Tony spoke up.

“You’ve got a fever. Go home.”

“What?” Cael sputtered, shutting his mouth when Tony gave him that look. “Yes, sir.” Cael let out a heavy sigh as Tony left. His dad was very strict when it came to agents getting sick. He’d rather have an agent be out for however long it took and get them cover than have a bug go around infecting everyone. Covering for a couple of agents was preferable to having to cover whole teams.

Dex walked in looking smug, and Cael gasped.

“Oh my God, did you just narc on me to dad?”

“No, I narced on you to our sergeant. Very different.”

Cael would have strangled him if he had the strength.

“Listen,” Ash said, kneeling beside his chair. “Sloane owes me some overtime, so how about I take you home and we get you settled down on the couch and I’ll make you some soup.”

“I can make soup,” Dex chimed in.

Ash waved a hand dismissively. “I’ve got this, Daley. Go make a menace of yourself elsewhere.”

“But, I always make him soup. And chocolate chip cookies.”

Ash stood, and slapped a hand on Dex’s shoulder. “And now he has me to make him soup and chocolate chip cookies. Don’t you have a job to do?”

Dex folded his arms over is chest. “Taking care of my family is my job.”

Cael sank farther down his chair. It was like watching a tennis match that never ended because neither side was giving in. Cael just needed a little sleep, that’s all. He logged out of Themis, and shut down his desk interface while Dex and Ash argued over who would look after Cael better. Taking it slow, he pushed himself to his feet. No dizzy spell. Good. He turned and sighed. They were still arguing? Jeez. These two. Pot and kettle.

“How about,” Cael said loudly, halting the argument, “Ash makes the soup, and Dex makes the cookies?”

They both narrowed their gazes at him.

“Or, you can both stay here arguing, while I go home, all alone.” He pouted. “Sick.” Cough. Cough.

“You got it, sweetheart.” Ash wrapped his arm around Cael.

“Chocolate chip cookies,” Dex agreed. “I’m on it.”

Cael blinked up at Dex. “Can I have double chocolate chips?”

Dex threw his arms around Cael’s head, petting it. “You can have all the chocolate chips, Chirpy.”

“Wow. You two are total suckers.”

Dex pulled back, puzzled. “My precious baby brother is sick, Cal.”

Cael looked up at Ash, bottom lip jutting out. “I’m not feeling so good. Can we go home?”

“Of course, sweetheart.” Ash led him to the doorway when Ash and Dex were called over by a fellow agent. “Be back in one second.” Ash kissed the top of Cael’s head before he and Dex hurried off. Cael turned to thrust a finger at Calvin.

“You do anything to ruin this for me, and I will end you, Summers.”

Calvin chuckled. “Man, you are evil.”

“Cal, my boyfriend is best friends with my brother’s boyfriend. Which means Dex and Ash are in each other’s hair more than ever, which means they spend a good portion of their time arguing and driving me and Sloane nuts. I deserve soup and chocolate chip cookies when I’m sick, Cal. If I don’t get my cookies, and some hot chocolate with enough whip cream to choke a mule, I’m going to shank someone with a spork! Do you hear me, Cal? A spork!”

Calvin took a slow step back, his eyes wide. “Um, how about I bring you some of my mom’s pecan pie?”

Cael smiled wide. “Aw, that’s very sweet of you, Cal. I would love that.”

“You’re kinda scary sometimes.”

“You would be too if Dex was your brother and Ash was your boyfriend.” Cael gave Calvin’s shoulder a pat. “Don’t forget the whip cream.”

Ash jogged over, his expression worried. “You okay? Sorry, just had to answer a couple questions about our last case. Ready?”

Cael coughed. “Ready.”

Thankfully they didn’t hit a lot of traffic on the way home. Cael was feeling pretty gross. His head hurt, his nose was stuffed, he was cold, his whole body ached, and he was so tired. Once inside, Ash helped him into his comfiest pajamas, and helped him over to the couch. He brought down half a dozen warm fuzzy blankets, several pillows, and even made Cael a hot water bottle because he was shivering. By the time Ash was done, Cael was ready to hibernate in his cave of fluffy warmth. The only part not covered by the blankets were his eyes.

“Better?”

Cael nodded.

Ash put on one of the science fiction movie channels before turning and kissing Cael’s brow.

“I’m going to go make that soup. If you need anything, you just let me know, okay?”

“Thank you,” Cael said, genuinely thankful Ash was here. He was so good at taking care of Cael. Even if his boyfriend did sometimes drive him crazy when he was around Dex, Cael still loved Ash like crazy. He really was such a good boyfriend.

Somewhere in the middle of a so-bad-it’s-good movie, Cael fell asleep. When he woke up, he could hear Ash and Dex arguing. It was hilarious though, because they were whispering arguing. There was nothing like hearing Dex and Ash insulting each other in whispers. There was movement around the kitchen, so clearly they were cooking while arguing. Cael couldn’t help his smile. They were such dorks.

Cael must have fallen asleep again, because the next time he woke up, Sloane was sitting on the couch, socked feet propped up on the coffee table in front, reading from his tablet. He looked over at Cael and smiled.

“How are you feeling?”

Cael let out something that was a cross between a moan, a groan, and a hiccup. Ash and Dex appeared before him. Jeez, how did they do that? It’s like they learned how to teleport or something.

“Hey, Chirpy. Are you okay?” Dex put his hand to Cael’s head. “Still feverish.”

Ash shoved Dex aside and knelt in front of Cael. “Want some soup, sweetheart?”

Cael nodded.

“Ha!” Ash thrust a finger at Dex. “I told you.”

“Can I have a cookie too?” Cael asked.

Dex bounced around on his toes pointing at Ash with his index fingers. “And I told you.”

“You better not eat all my cookies,” Cael warned his brother.

“Please. Just what do you take me for?”

Ash opened his mouth to reply, and Dex cut him off.

“Shut it.” Dex turned his attention back to Cael. “I made my own batch.”

Of course he did. Oh God, if Dex didn’t stop bouncing….

“Babe,” Sloane said gently. He patted the couch next to him. “Come here.”

Dex bounded over and dropped onto the couch next to Sloane. “Yes, my love?”

Sloane smiled warmly at him. “Nothing. Just wanted to give you this.” He leaned in and kissed Dex. Dex melted against Sloane with a dreamy sigh. He pulled up his legs, and snuggled up close to Sloane, his eyes closed. Still. Not fidgeting. Sloane winked at Cael before going back to his book.

And that was why the man was made for Dexter J. Daley.

Cael had never known anyone in his life who could calm his brother with just one look, one word, or one kiss. It was astounding.

“You okay to sit up?”

Speaking of astounding….

Cael sat up, and smiled at Ash. “Thank you, Ash. I really appreciate it.” He carefully moved aside his blankets so he could sit up. Ash placed the tray over his lap, and kissed his head.

“Anything for you, sweetheart, you know that. Oh, and Cal dropped off some of his mom’s pecan pie and a tub of whip cream.” Ash shrugged.

Cael’s heart swelled, and as Ash got under the covers beside him, wrapping him up just enough to keep him warm while he ate his chicken soup. Cael couldn’t be happier.


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


THIRDS Thursday is on hiatus for the month of February for the release of Thick & Thin and returns March 2nd! 

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THIRDS Thursday – 12/29/16

The fellas share their New Year’s resolutions.


Ash: I don’t make new year’s resolutions. If I want to do something, I do it. If I don’t want to do something, I don’t. That’s it.

Dex: How very Ash of you.

Ash: Whatever. This coming from the guy with no self-control.

Dex: *huffs* I totally have self-control. I don’t know what you’re talking about. *Turns to Sloane* Babe, I have self-control, right?

Sloane: *looking everywhere but at Dex*

Dex: *narrows eyes* Babe?

Sloane: *blinks at him innocently* Hm?

Ash: *snickering behind Cael*

Dex: Darling? Light of my loins. Owner of my very, very precious heart. Self-control. I have it, right?

Sloane: Um, of course your do, sweetheart.

Dex: You hesitated.

Sloane: *looks past Dex to Cael* How about you? Any resolutions?

Cael: I’m going to try and be more assertive. Outside the bedroom, anyway.

Ash: *jaw drops*

Dex: *eyes go wide* Oh my God, why? Why would you say that in my presence? *covers his eyes* I need bleach for my brain!

Cael: *rolls his eyes* I’m thirty years old, Dex. One of these days you’re going to have to accept that your baby brother isn’t a baby anymore.

Dex: Never! *throws his arms around Cael’s head and pets him* Precious, precious cookie.

Cael: I’m going to seriously hurt you if you don’t let go.

Dex: *sniffs* They grow up so quickly.

Cael: Get off.

Dex: One minute you’re changing their diaper—which was so heavy you had to wonder how something so small could poop so damn much—and the next thing you know—*gets tackled off his chair*

Sloane: *to Ash* What do you want to do after this?

Dex: *tussling with Cael on the floor* Could use a little help here.

Ash: *thinks about it* How about we grab some dinner and watch a movie? I’m kinda in the mood for Korean.

Dex: *groans after getting hit in the ribs* Babe?

Sloane: *snaps his fingers* Hudson recommended this great place over on East 31st Street. We should go there.

Ash: Sounds good.

Dex: Ouch! Dude, did you just try to knee me in ma boys? I need those!

Cael: Then stop talking about my diapers, you turd!

Dex: *snickers* Turd.

Cael: *stands over his brother and narrows his eyes* Say one more thing about me in diapers. I dare you.

Dex: *opens his mouth to reply*

Cael: Just know that when you do, I’m going to describe in exceptional detail the sex Ash and I had last night.

Dex: *pops up onto his feet* You know, I think I’m gonna sit down next to Sloane.

Cael: You do that. *Resumes his seat next to Ash*

Dex: *leans over Cael to peer at Ash* I blame you.

Ash: For what? The sex?

Dex: That. But generally, I just blame you.

Sloane: *chuckles and pats Dex’s leg*

Dex: *turns to Sloane* So what’s your new year’s resolution?

Sloane: *thinks about it* I don’t know. I guess, just really appreciate what I have, and making sure what I have knows he’s appreciated. *kisses Dex’s cheek*

Dex: *melts* Aw. You’re such a sap.

Ash: *to Dex* I blame you for that one.

Dex: *sighs dreamily as he looks at Sloane* I happily accept responsibility.

Ash: Dork.

Dex: Bite me, Simba.

Ash: That’s getting old.

Dex: Aslan, then. Or we could go with Scar. Or Mufasa.

Ash: *grins wide* How about we go with my fist in your face. How’s that? I like that one best.

Sloane: Okay, that’s enough you two. Back to resolutions.

Dex: *puts his hand up * Ooh, I got one!

Sloane: Why are you raising your hand?

Ash: I find it hard to believe that you ever raised your hand in school.

Dex: Of course I raised my hand. I was an exceptional student.

*Cael and Ash exchange glances before bursting into laughter*

Cael: *wiping a tear from his eye* He’s right. He did raise his hand. He also made noises, whispered loudly to get the teacher’s attention, and flailed his arms. It drove his teachers insane, among other things.

Dex: *wrinkles his nose* Hey, I was an enthusiastic student.

Cael: And then after all the flailing and noises, when the teacher finally did call on him, he’d ask a completely random question. Like if she asked what the answer to the math problem was, he’d drive her nuts until she picked him, and then ask something like “why do dogs get surprised by their own farts”.

*Ash and Sloane burst into laughter*

Dex: What? If I didn’t ask when it occurred to me then I’d forget, and it would bug me for the rest of the day. I needed to know. You can all bite me.

Sloane: *sobering up* Okay, babe. What’s your resolution?

Dex: *mutters* To find new friends.

Sloane: Aw, don’t be mad. *pulls Dex into his arms and kisses him* You know we love you.

Ash: *opens his mouth when Cael clamps a hand over it*

Dex: *pouts* Can we get ice cream after dinner?

Sloane: Of course we can. You can have all the ice cream you want.

Ash: *groans*

Cael: *eyes light up and turns to Ash* I want ice cream too!

Ash: *hugs Cael and glares at Sloane over Cael’s head* Of course, sweetheart.

Dex: *jumps off his chair at the same time as Cael* Woop! *they run out*

Ash: *shakes his head at Sloane* You couldn’t have just said yes, you had to say “all the ice cream you want.”

Sloane: Sorry. You know it’s hard for me to say no when he’s looking all pouty like that.

Ash: Which is why he does it, you sap! *throws his arms up* Now they’re going to eat their weight in ice cream, and Cael is going to be bouncing off the walls.

Sloane: *shrugs* Dex will be too. And it’ll last most of the night. *waggles his eyebrows*

Ash: *opens his mouth to answer then closes it. Realizes what Sloane is saying and stands* Let’s go get some ice cream. *grins wide* Happy New Year to me.

Sloane: *chuckles and walks after him*


Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

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THIRDS Thursday – 11/17/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: I’d love to read about Ash and Cael going to brunch with Ash’s mom. Thanks so much!!


“This is ridiculous.”

Ash scowled at himself in the mirror. He’d been at this for an hour now. He turned to Cael with a frown. He lay the gray tie over his charcoal gray shirt beneath his collar.

“Tie or no tie?”

Cael smiled warmly as he crossed the bedroom to stop in front of Ash. He placed his hand over Ash’s, his voice gentle when he spoke.

“Ash, do you think your mom’s going to be happier to see you or the tie?”

Ash blinked at him. “Well, when you put it that way.” He tossed the tie onto the bed then turned to draw Cael into his arms. “Thank you.”

“For what?” Cael cocked his head, and Ash chuckled softly. How could Cael not see how much his support meant to him?

“For being here. For coming with me.” Ash brushed his fingers down Cael’s cheek. “I don’t think I could have done this without you.” He swallowed hard, still unable to believe he was going to be having brunch with his mother. There wasn’t a whole lot that Ash really gave a shit about. Very little ruffled his mane, because that would mean it mattered to him. Yeah, he bitched and griped, but that was mostly things pissing him off in general, but really get to him, enough to make him nervous? No.

A part of Ash was hesitant, telling himself it was too little too late. Why hadn’t she stood up to his father years ago, when he’d needed her most? He’d just lost his brother, and then shifted for the first time. He’d been terrified, in need of the woman who’d hugged them close at bedtime, and told them stories. Where was she when his father turned on him? The man had been an asshole, always. He’d looked for any excuse to “discipline” him and Arlo, though Ash had done his bets to keep his brother away from their father’s belt.

“Ash? Talk to me.”

Ash shook himself out of it, finding Cael’s hand on his where Ash had it over his cheek. He’d been rubbing it without realizing.

“I got hit in the face once, with the buckle of my dad’s belt. He used the end with the buckle because it would hurt more.” Ash wrinkled his nose at the memory. “Usually it was where our clothes would cover the marks, but I’d made the mistake of talking back. Actually, I think I was pleading with him. If I talked back, I was insubordinate and needed discipline. If I surrendered, I was pathetic.” Ash walked over to the bed and sat on the edge of it, his head in his hands. “Maybe this is a bad idea. She didn’t just throw me away, she let him hurt us. I’m sure he hit her too. We just didn’t see it. Why didn’t she do anything?”

The bed sank down beside him, and Cael’s soft voice broke through his pain.

“Maybe she was too scared. Terrified of what he’d do if she left. Where would she go? Who would she ask for help? What if they thought she was too weak to take care of herself? Maybe it was all so terrifying, and overwhelming that she didn’t know how to help herself, much less her kids.”

Ash straightened, his heart squeezing in his chest at Cael staring down at his fingers. “Cael?”

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel how you feel, or that she couldn’t have done more. I’m just saying I understand how scared she must have been.”

Ash drew Cael into his arms. He kissed the top of his head and ran a hand over his back, soothing him. “I’m sorry I dragged you into my drama.”

Cael pulled back, a deep frown on his face. “You didn’t drag me into anything, Ash. I love you, and I want to be here for you no matter what. This is about you, what you feel, and what you want. It’s not about me. What I feel doesn’t matter.”

“It matters to me,” Ash replied firmly. “You are the most important person in my life, Cael. Don’t ever question that.”

Cael’s smile reached his big gray eyes. He threw his arms around Ash’s neck, and kissed him. Ash wrapped his arms around him as he returned Cael’s kiss. He was warm, soft, and tasted deliciously sweet. Ash was tempted to stay right here, in bed, with Cael in his arms, kissing him, making love to him.

As if reading his thoughts, Cael smiled against his lips. “We should get going.”

Ash huffed. “Fine.”

Cael chuckled, and stood. He held his hand out to Ash, which Ash promptly took.

“You look amazing.”

Cael looked down at himself, tugging on the end of his gray vest, and shrugged, but there was no mistaking the blush in his cheeks. “It’s nothing special.”

The dark jeans looked fucking sexy on his lithe frame, and the preppy gray vest over the fitted blue and gray checked shirt accentuated his slender waist. The top button of the collar was open, and the sleeves neatly folded up to his elbows. Ash was still amazed that Cael wanted to be with him. He was just so damned… beautiful.

Ash placed a kiss to the top of Cael’s head. “You’re something special.”

“You’re such a big softie,” Cael purred, standing on his toes to give Ash’s lips a kiss.

“Only for you,” Ash teased. Fuck, he really was turning into such a sap. As long as Dex didn’t get wind of it, he’d be fine. Besides, it wasn’t like Sloane wasn’t a total sucker for Dex, and he didn’t care who knew it.

Ash laced his fingers with Cael’s, and they headed for the door. The café they’d chosen near Central Park was cozy, and when they arrived, his mother was already there. She’d gotten them a table near the back which Ash appreciated. It offered them a little more privacy. A lump formed in his throat when she smiled at him. She stood, and made to move toward him but stopped herself. As if she wasn’t sure she should, so he took the initiative, kissing her cheek.

“Hi.”

“Hi.” Her eyes were glassy as patted his arm. She smiled brightly at Cael, and gave him a hug. “Cael, it’s so good to see you again.”

Cael smiled sweetly. “It’s good to see you too, Vivian.” He took a seat across from her, and Ash sat beside Cael. The waitress came, and they put in their order for coffees and pastries. Food was the last thing Ash wanted right now. Cael and Vivian exchanged pleasantries until the waitress returned with their drinks and food. Cael thanked the young woman, and took a sip of his decaf coffee, the table falling into silence. Ash noted the way his mother absently shifted the cutlery, or touched her cup without picking it up. She was nervous. Finally, she looked up at him.

“Thank you for coming. I wasn’t sure you would.” She dropped her gaze to her lap. “I wasn’t sure why you answered my call to be honest. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you told me… to never contact you again.”

Cael pressed his thigh to Ash’s, letting him know he was there, and Ash found the courage to speak up. How was it he suddenly felt like a little boy again? How did she still feel like his mother after so many years apart? After she’d abandoned him.

“I wanted to give you a chance,” Ash admitted. “I think we both deserve a second chance. In all honesty, I was surprised you called, and even more surprised you’d left him.”

She nodded. “After seeing you… I couldn’t go back to the way things were. I missed my baby boy.” Tears filled her eyes, and Ash placed his hand over hers, doing his best to remain quiet and composed while she said what she clearly needed to. “I failed you in so many ways, you and your brother. Before and… after.” She shook her head, her bottom lip trembling. “I was so scared, and devastated. I couldn’t believe Arlo was gone, and then you… you shifted. I know that’s no excuse. I… I let him… hurt my babies.” She broke into tears, and Ash went around to sit beside her, pulling her into his embrace. She buried her face into his chest, and he kissed the top of her head as she sobbed. He had tears running down his cheeks, but he didn’t care. He focused on his breathing, and comforting his mother. he wanted to be mad at her, hate her for what she’d done, but he never did. Not really. He blamed himself. Told himself she left because he was an abomination. He’d had so much anger inside him for so long, he didn’t want to go back to that. He’d changed. Maybe not completely, but where it mattered. He had so much good in his life now.

When she pulled away, she thanked Cael for the napkins. She dried her eyes and blew her nose. She wouldn’t look at Ash. “I don’t know how you can stand to look at me. I’m a failure as a mother. If I’d done something sooner…. If I’d taken you and Arlo, and left, Arlo might be alive today, and I’d have my boys.”

Ash placed his fingers under her chin, and turned her face so he could meet her gaze. So much heartache and pain in her blue eyes. “Listen, I know what it’s like to live your life steeped in regrets and what-if scenarios. Don’t. What happened to Arlo wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t yours either. The past can’t be changed, but we can have a future. A family. I’d really like for you to be a part of my life.” He reached across the table to take Cael’s hand in his. “Of our lives.”

She looked up at him with big wide eyes. “Really? You… want me in your lives?”

Ash nodded. “Very much.”

His mother threw her arms around him and squeezed him tight. He couldn’t help but wrap his arms around her. He turned his face into her hair, and closed his eyes. Her scent hadn’t changed. Still the soft rose scented perfume she’d always worn. Back then his arms just about encircled her waist. Had he really been that small? She felt so tiny and fragile in his arms, and a fierce sense of protectiveness washed over him. She’d been hurt too, by a man who’d vowed to cherish her and love her. Richard Keeler should have protected his family, loved them. Instead he wallowed in his misery, growing bitter, angry, and taking his pain out on his family. Not anymore. Not while Ash could do something about it. He pulled away, and wiped her cheeks.

“Where are you staying? Are you safe?”

“Yes. When your father—”

“Richard,” he corrected. “He doesn’t deserve that title.”

She nodded. “When Richard went out to drink with his friends, I went online and looked up organizations that might be able to help me. I found one whose mission included helping women in similar situations. I went to their office, spoke to a lovely Therian lady who listened to every word I said. I admit, I was afraid she would ask me to leave, knowing what I had done. I told her how much I missed you, and how after seeing you, there was nothing I wanted more than the chance to have my son back. She took my hands, smiled, and said she was glad I came to them. They helped me move out, found me a lovely apartment, a job, and an incredible divorce lawyer.” She smiled wide, and Ash couldn’t help his grin.

“I’m so happy for you.”

“I was terrified, but now… I’m happy for me too.” She gave his hands a squeeze. “For the first time in years, I feel like my own person, like I have a say in my own life.” She turned to rifle through her purse, removing a piece of notepad paper and a pen. She scribbled something down before handing it to him. “You already have my cell phone number. Here’s my address. Please come visit whenever you like. You and Cael.”

Ash took the paper with a smile, and nodded. He folded it up and put it in his wallet. Standing, he sat back down across the table next to Cael, and kissed his temple before turning back to his mom. “You can bet on it. And any time you’d like to come over, just let me know. The only reason you need to call is because my work schedule changes a lot, and I’m basically always on call in case of an emergency.”

“Of course.” Her smile grew sly as she looked from him to Cael and back. “Plus I wouldn’t want to barge in on you boys, um, enjoying each other’s company.”

Ash’s eyes went wide, his face all but spontaneously combusting while Cael giggled beside him. Ash arched an eyebrow at him.

“What?” Cael asked innocently. He leaned in, whispering loudly. “I like her.”

Vivian laughed, the sound filling Ash with warmth. When was the last time his mother had laughed? Ash poked Cael on his side playfully, making him squirm and laugh. Cael started chatting enthusiastically with Vivian, telling her how she had to meet the team, including his crazy brother who was the boyfriend of Ash’s best friend Sloane, then regaled her with tales of their team’s shenanigans, usually instigated by his brother. Ash was happy. He’d lost his family and found one in Destructive Delta, and now his family had grown again to include his mom. Maybe Sloane was onto something with this whole family thing. Ash was certainly happy to find out.

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THIRDS Thursday – 10/6/16

THIRDS Thursdays

*** Contains spoilers for Smoke & Mirrors (Book 7) ***

Prompt: After Sloane breaks up with Dex in the 7th book, Cael goes to comfort Dex, so I wanted the scene taking place between them…Does Dex get sick because he thinks his mate’s left him? Something along those lines. Preferably from Cael’s POV (but either will do).


Cael was fuming.

When the cab pulled up outside Dex’s house, Cael did his best not to slam the car door behind him. He paid the driver and thanked him before marching up Dex’s front steps. Ooh, he just wanted to plant a fist in Sloane’s stupid nose. How could the guy just walk out on Dex like that? And everyone said Ash was an asshole. Ash would never walk out on Cael. Maybe at one point he might have, but not anymore.

Ash wasn’t the kind of guy to back away from a fight, whether he was in the wrong or not. That was the difference between Ash and Sloane. When Sloane was hurt, he wanted to be alone to lick his wounds, so he went off to find somewhere he could do that. With Ash, he stayed put, and if you knew what was good for you, you would be the one to give him space, but if you didn’t, he would go on brooding whether or not you were there. These days, Ash talked more. If Cael was upset about something, Ash talked it through with him, helping Cael calmly explain what was wrong, and what Ash could to help, or how they could do things differently the next time around.

Cael was going to fish in his pocket for the spare keys he had to Dex’s place when the door was thrown open.

“Sloane?”

Cael looked up at Dex and all of Cael’s anger melted away. He’d never seen his big brother look so… fragile, so lost. Unable to find the right words to say in that moment, Cael threw his arms around Dex and hugged him tight. They stood like that for what seemed like hours, Dex’s face buried in Cael’s hair. It was only when Dex shuddered that Cael realized his big brother had been silently crying. Cael rubbed circles over Dex’s back, imagining the pain his brother must be in. Dex’s boyfriend hadn’t just walked out on him. His mate had walked out on him.  The pull between bonded mates was so much deeper. Emotions ran higher, hotter, and the pain far more intense.

When Dex was ready, he pulled away, giving Cael a wobbly smile that broke Cael’s heart. His big brother was always the one Cael leaned on. The one who made everything better. Dex was unbreakable. Cael had never seen Dex not bounce back, a big boyish smile on his face. It might take some time, but Dex always bounced back. This time, Cael wasn’t so sure, and he hated it. Hated that Sloane had left his big brother all alone and in pain.

“Hi, Chirpy.” Dex stepped to one side so Cael could come in.

Inside the living room, Cael’s heart squeezed at the nest of blankets and pillows Dex had on the couch. The coffee table was littered with snacks, from his favorite gummy bears and Cheesy Doodles, to cupcakes and chocolate. The Princess Bride was paused on the huge flat screen TV.

Dex finished locking up and joined Cael in the living room. It was the middle of summer, but Dex had the AC cranked up. He had fuzzy socks on his feet, Star Wars pajama bottoms, and a plain black T-shirt that was too big for him and obviously Sloane’s. As if reading his thoughts, Dex put a hand to his chest and rubbed the T-shirt, a sad smile on his face.

“I know, I’m a dork, but….” He sighed heavily. “It make it hurt a little less.”

Cael nodded his understanding. He waited for Dex to climb on the couch, wrapping himself up then holding one side open for Cael. Cael toed off his sneakers then climbed up, snuggling up close to Dex when his brother wrapped the blanket around them.

“This reminds me of when we were kids,” Cael said with a smile. “When there was a bad storm and you’d make a fort out of the couch cushions, blankets, and pillows, then you’d read stories. Dad would make us s’mores and hot chocolate, then take over for you, and we’d both fall asleep to him reading.”

Dex sighed. “Yeah. I miss those days.”

“Me too.” They were both quiet, and Cael could feel his brother wanted to say something, so he waited patiently.

“Did you see him?” Dex asked, his voice quiet.

Cael nodded, feeling himself getting angry again. “He’s staying on Ash’s couch.”

“Sorry.”

Cael pulled back and frowned up at his brother. “Why are you apologizing for him? He’s the one who left.” Dex flinched, and Cael kicked himself. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean….”

“It’s okay.” Dex’s eyes were red and glassy, his hair a mess, and his skin flushed. He’d clearly had a good cry long before Cael showed up. “And you’re right. I just can’t help worrying about him despite everything. Was he okay?”

Cael’s expression softened. Trust his brother to be worried about Sloane after the guy had ripped his heart out. “He looked rough,” Cael admitted. He folded his arms over his chest. “I know he’s your mate, and that you still love him no matter how pissed off you are at him, but, Dex, I really want to punch him. I can’t believe he did this to you, after everything.” Cael could feel the heat rising in his cheeks. He was so mad. “It was his idea to move in together, he agreed to mark you, he promised he would be here for you, and he’s doing what he always does. I thought he’d changed.”

“He has,” Dex assured him. “For the most part. This was just, I don’t know. It’s different. Bigger. I’m not saying I’m not pissed off, because I am, but to be honest, it’s being drowned out by all the hurt. My mind is indignant, but my body….” Dex put a hand to his heart, rubbing the spot as if it were sore. “It fucking hurts so bad, Chirpy. It just refuses to listen to my head. I tell myself we’ll work it out, that he’s not gone for good, but my body is buzzing with need, and I don’t mean sex.” He moved his hand to his marked arm. “It burns, and I’m hit with these waves of nausea. They don’t last long, but at first, I kept getting sick, and dizzy.” He let his head fall back with a sigh. “I don’t know what to do, and that’s a new thing for me. This is all new.” Dex swallowed hard, blinking past the tears in his eyes.

“He’s it for me, Cael. I can’t imagine my life without him. I didn’t even know you could love someone this much. It’s scary. It could be the mark, or it could just be my stupid heart.” He straightened and looked down at Cael. “I fucking adore him, with all his faults, just the way he is. Yeah, I wish he hadn’t walked out, and as much as I want to kick his ass….” Tears welled in his eyes again, and Cael put a hand to Dex’s shoulder. “I just want him home, Chirpy.”

Cael didn’t hesitate. He wrapped Dex in his arms, offering what comfort he could. Closing his eyes, he prayed that Sloane would come to his senses, work through his shit, and come home to Dex. Didn’t Sloane realize what he had? How madly head over heels Dex was for him? How many times could the guy break Dex’s heart? For now, all Cael could do was be here for his big brother, just like Dex had always been there for him.


Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

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THIRDS Thursday – 9/8/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: I’d like to see Ash and Cael’s trip to Bed Bath and Beyond.


“Would you mind if we stop at Bed Bath & Beyond? It’s on the way, and I need a new showerhead.”

The words Ash had been dreading to hear. He supposed he couldn’t complain. He’d managed to evade the floral scented purgatory until now. He really, really didn’t want to go, but with Cael looking at him with those big silver eyes, and that dazzling smile, how could he say no?

“Sure. No problem.”

The moment he stepped foot in the store, he was in pain. Not physical pain, but it was close. He pressed his lips together as he followed Cael to the bath department. On the way there, Cael stopped to look at candles. Ash lingered, his hands shoved in his jacket pockets as he stood, not touching anything in case the douchebaggery was catching. Except Cael. His sweet, sinfully sexy boyfriend looked adorable as he tried to decide from the thousands of different candles on the shelf before him. Unlike the asshat in the next row gushing to his girlfriend about the emu egg omelet he’d had last week. The urge to smack the stupid out of him was strong, so Ash turned around. He frowned at the price label on the shelf beneath a box displaying a candleholder. A sales clerk was walking by, and Ash called out to him.

“Hey, there’s a misprint on this.”

“Oh?” The bouncy waif of boy with floppy blond hair all but skipped over. Jesus, what was he? Seventeen? Nineteen at most? He pulled out his price gadget and scanned the tag. “Hm, looks like that’s the current retail price.”

Ash’s brows sprang near his hairline. “Are you telling me this piece of glass is almost eight hundred dollars?”

The teen blinked at him. “It’s Waterford Crystal, sir.”

Was he supposed to know what that meant? “It’s a candleholder. It holds a candle.”

“Um, yes, sir. It does.” He looked at Ash like that was supposed to clear up everything.

“Is it going to do my taxes for me?” Ash growled. “Or does it somehow have the power to light my whole apartment and therefore negate the need for electricity?”

“Uh, no.”

“So what you’re saying is this piece of glass that you stick a candle in, is eight hundred dollars.”

The kid opened his mouth, when Cael took hold of Ash’s arm, smiling at the clerk as he tugged Ash along with him, calling out over his shoulder.

“Thank you for your help.”

Cael pulled him down the aisle, and Ash shook his head. “Can you fucking believe that shit?”

“If it’s shiny, you probably shouldn’t look at the price tag.”

“It makes no sense. Why would you pay that much for a candleholder that’s going to get melted wax all over it?”

Cael looked up at him, his eyes alight with amusement. “I doubt people actually light the candles inside it. They most likely just have it on display.”

“Why buy it if you’re not going to use it. That’s stupid.”

“It’s décor, Ash. What about the expensive rug you have in the living room, and the throw pillows on the couch?”

“I didn’t have to fucking remortgage my apartment for them, plus they’re functional. We lay on the pillows, and we sit on the rug.”

“And have sex on it too,” Cael pitched in with a wicked smile that went straight to Ash’s dick. He cleared his throat. What the hell were they talking about? Right, useless expensive shit.

“Why don’t we find the shower stuff and get to your place?”

“Okay. Try not to scare anymore employees.”

“I wasn’t scaring him. I was expressing my disgust and disdain at the overpriced paperweight. No, actually, a paperweight serves a purpose.”

Cael laughed softly as he veered off to the right and the wall length display of showerheads. For fuck’s sake. Was there really a need for that many choices? With a huff, he looked around, spotting a bunch of fancy bathroom scales.

“Christ, really?”

“What?” Cael asked, sounding amused.

“Why the hell would you need a scale that has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth?”

“It connects to your activity tracker so you can sync your weight and body mass information, or whatever health data you’re monitoring.”

“Fuck I feel old.” It suddenly occurred to him that he was ten years older than Cael. A whole damn decade. It wasn’t like he hadn’t known, but he never really thought about it. Now, surrounded by sheets bragging thread count, two-hundred-dollar basket hampers, and hundred-dollar bath rugs, he felt like he was in a different world. Kitchenware connected to computers, a gadget told him how old his egg were, and how many—like he couldn’t just fucking count them—, and a crockpot that could be turned on via smartphone. Man, he felt so old. Cheaper options were available, but even if you were floating in cash, why the fuck would you need a designer hamper? He just didn’t understand it.

Everything he owned was functional. It served a purpose. He liked nice stuff, but there was a line. Some stuff was worth spending the money on. Hundred-dollar shower curtains did not fall into that category.

Laughter caught his attention and while Cael compared showerheads, Ash turned to the couple huddled together looking at soap dishes. They were both young. Probably about Cael’s age. They were obviously very much in love. They teased and flirted with each other, making each other laugh. Everything seemed to excite them. Or more likely, they excited each other.

“Ash? You okay?”

Ash snapped himself out of it and smiled at Cael. “Yeah. Did you find the one you wanted?”

“Yep.” Cael held up the box, and winked at him. “Therian, extra sturdy.”

“Great.” He cleared his throat, and forced the words out. “Is there, um, anything else you want to look at?”

Cael patted Ash’s bicep. “Don’t worry. I think you’ve suffered long enough.”

“It’s fine,” Ash said quickly. “I mean, if you want to look, shop, whatever, it’s fine. Really.” This is what couples did right?

Cael blinked at him. “Thanks, but I’m done. Promise.”

Ash nodded. He insisted on paying for the showerhead since he’d been the one to break it during their last sexcapade. These days, sex with Cael seemed to come in two settings, and only two settings. There was sweet and slow, or “holy fuck!”. The latter usually resulted in something breaking. In this instance, Cael’s showerhead which Ash had grabbed and snapped after Cael’s little experiment went a little too well.

On the ride to Cael’s place, Ash was lost in his thought. He hadn’t even realized it until Cael’s soft voice snapped him out of it for what seemed like the hundredth time. At the red light, he glanced over at Cael in the passenger seat, his heart skipping a beat at the concern in Cael’s big silver eyes. He was dressed casually in jeans that hugged his lean frame, a superhero T-shirt, and soft hoodie. On his feet were the orange Chucks he’d “borrowed” from Dex, and one of his many patterned socks. Today it was cupcakes. God, he was beautiful.

“Ash? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” He did his best to smile, and took Cael’s hand in his before bringing it to his lips for a kiss.

“Ash,” Cael prodded gently. “Talk to me.”

The light turned green, giving Ash a good excuse not to look at Cael while he confessed his stupid insecurities. “I don’t know. Do you ever wish you had someone who understands all this domestic shit?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know. Picking out curtains and stuff.”

Cael chuckled. “That’s a stereotype, Ash.”

“What is?”

“That all couples pick out color swatches together, or redecorate together. You really think it matters to me whether you help me pick out hand soap or not?”

Ash pulled up to the curb, parking in a spot a few feet from Cael’s apartment. He turned to face Cael. “You know I love being with you, and I’ll go wherever you want me to, but I suck at this.”

“First of all, I love you too, and you don’t suck,” Cael assured him. He took off his seatbelt, and Ash thought he was about to get out of the car. Instead, he climbed over the center console, and straddled Ash’s lap. Ash’s breath hitched, and he shifted in his seat, swallowing hard when Cael moved Ash’s hands to his hips.

“Second of all,” Cael continued, leaning in, his voice low and husky. “You know I would never want you to do something you don’t want to. We’re a partnership, Ash. Which means we look out for each other. Compromise on what’s important. Stopping at the store tonight was a matter of convenience since it was on the way. It wasn’t a test to see how much you loved me.” Cael placed a kiss to Ash’s cheek, followed by another to his jaw, his chin, the tip of his nose, and his brow. “Tell me what else is wrong,” he murmured softly.

“I’m gonna be forty next year, and you’ll just be turning thirty.”

“And… this worries you?”

Ash shrugged. He slipped his hands under Cael’s T-shirt, loving the feel of his silky, smooth skin. How was it possible to love someone this much? “I’m grumpy, hotheaded, foulmouthed…. The list is pretty extensive.”

“So is my list. You want to know what’s on it?”

Ash nodded.

“There’s brave, handsome, loyal, smart, sexy, kind, protective….” He brushed his lips over Ash’s. “Should I go on?”

Ash let out a moan when Cael’s tongue poked out to lick Ash’s bottom lip.

“I love you, Ash, all of you. Just as you are.” He cupped Ash’s face, his incredible smile made Ash’s heart skip a beat. There was no doubt or hesitation in that smile, a smile that was just for Ash. Cael didn’t look at anyone the way he looked at Ash, and it took his breath away. Then Cael kissed him. It was sweet and languid, his tongue tangling with Ash’s, his lips so soft, and his mouth tasting of the sweet candy he’d had during the movie.

When he pulled back, and spoke, his voice was throaty and filled with heat. “How about we go inside, and we take the new showerhead for a test drive, see how sturdy it really is?”

Ash threw his head back, and laughed. “You’re fucking amazing, you know that?”

“So are you. If you forget, I’ll be here to remind you.” Cael gave him another quick, but scorching kiss before reaching over, grabbing the shopping bag, then opening Ash’s door to hop out. Ash didn’t waste any time. He set the car alarm and chased after Cael, catching up with him at the top of the stairs. Cael laughed in his arms, and Ash couldn’t help his dopey grin. How did he ever get so lucky? Whatever the reason, he was thankful, and if the new showerhead couldn’t keep up with them, then he’d happily accompany Cael for a new one, especially if it meant they got to test it out when they got home.


Copyright © 20116 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press

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THIRDS Thursday – 3/3/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: How about, Ash dealing with caffeinated Cael after the big move, also from Catch a Tiger by The Tail? 


“This isn’t good,” Dex muttered, his worried gaze on Cael who was currently taping boxes together to make himself a robot suit.

Ash agreed with Dex, though he wasn’t about to say so. “Does it always take this long for the caffeine to work through his system?” He would have thought things would happen a little quicker considering Cael’s cheetah Therian metabolism.

“He’s not burning through it quick enough. No room in here for him to freak his cheetah fuzz out properly, and the few minutes you two were running around won’t cut it.”

In Dex speak that meant Cael needed to burn some more energy. The two of them had changed into their Therian forms for a play, but it had been short lived. Three Therians in their Felid forms in one house was not a smart move. It was fun at first, but they’d been forced to shift back after Cael almost knocked Dex’s fancy coffee machine off the kitchen counter. The screech the guy let out could be heard in Jersey.

“Got it. We’re leaving.”

“Uh, okay.” Dex gave him a nod. “Thanks for your help today.”

Ash waved him off. Dex thanking him was too weird for him to deal with, even for something as simple as helping move Sloane’s stuff into Dex’s. Ash headed over to Cael, shaking his head in amusement at Calvin trying to get Hobbs out of the too-small box his tiger Therian butt was squeezed into. Ash was surprised the thing hadn’t burst at the seams yet. Hobbs just chuffed, his eyes closed in contentment. Good luck with that, Cal.

“Time to go, Trouble.”

Cael blinked up at him. “But I’m not done with my robot. He’s going to be even more badass than a Jaeger!”

Ash pursed his lips. “Which one was that again?” It was hard to keep track of all of Cael’s robots.

“Pacific Rim,” Cael said, looking around. He turned his head up to Ash with a wild smile that almost had Ash ducking for cover. His boyfriend was kind of scary when he was wired. “You gotta knife?”

Oh, hell no. Ash gently took hold of Cael’s arm and pulled him to his feet. He didn’t trust Cael with anything sharper than a spoon right now. “Come on. I have a surprise for you.”

Cael gasped in delight. “A surprise? I love surprises! Good surprise though, not Dex surprises.” He narrowed his eyes and craned his neck around Ash to glare at his big brother who was oblivious to the daggered look he was receiving. Well, daggered on anyone else, Cael just looked adorable.

“His surprises usually involve stealing my food, candy, or gadgets. Thief. That’s what he is.”

“All right,” Ash said with a chuckle, leading Cael toward the front door. He waved goodbye to everyone, snickering at Dex’s confused expression as Cael pointed two of his fingers to his eyes before moving them to Dex, mouthing the words “I’m watching you”.

Ash managed to get Cael in his truck with his seatbelt fastened, all while trying to keep up with Cael’s mile-a-minute conversation, many of which stopped halfway before a new one topic started.

“Where are we going? This isn’t how we get to your apartment, or my apartment.”

“We’re almost there.” Thank God there was barely any traffic at this time of night. In less than ten minutes they were at their destination. Ash parked, turned off the ignition, and quickly got out in time to catch Cael as he stumbled out of the passenger side. Yeah, definitely no coffee for Cael, ever.

“Why are we at the THIRDS training facility?”

“Because we’re going to go for a run. Well, you’re going to go for a run. In your Therian form.”

Cael’s eyes lit up and the moment his sneakers touched the floor he was off. Ash set the alarm on his truck and ran after him, signing them both in at the security desk and giving the guard an apologetic smile as Cael called to him from across the lobby near the doors that led to the training fields.

Ash caught up, and he was forced to run after Cael. It was easy to forget how much faster his little cheetah Therian was. Most of the time out in the field, Cael was miles ahead, tripping up perps so Ash, Sloane, and Hobbs could wrangle them up. They hit the huge changing bay, and Ash followed Cael to one of the stalls. When he stepped inside, Cael blinked at him.

“Aren’t you going to run with me?”

Ash shook his head. “No. I’m going to be there with you, but I’m not going to change. PSTC remember?”

“We could just get one of the staff to do it. There’s always a few around even at this time.”

Ash stepped up close and put his hand to Cael cheek. He smiled warmly, his heartrate speeding up. “I want to be the one to do it.”

Cael’s cheeks flushed and he smiled. “Okay.”

“I’m just going to be out here while you change, okay?”

Cael nodded, and Ash stepped outside, drawing the curtain closed. It was best he not be in there while Cael undressed or he’d want to do other things. Right now, Cael needed to run, and Ash wanted to be the one to perform PSTC when Cael returned. They didn’t get to shift often off duty, so Ash hadn’t had the chance to perform PSTC on Cael. It was something he wanted to do.

Ash tried not to flinch at Cael’s screams. It was nothing new, but he hated anything that brought Cael pain. As soon as Cael was done, he darted out, chirping happily and pouncing. His heart swelled. He loved seeing Cael in his Therian form, so carefree and playful. Not that he wasn’t those things ion his Human form, but there was a certain peace found when they were in their animal form.

Cael leaped over to Ash with a chirp. He rubbed his head against Ash’s leg before circling him, leaving his scent over Ash.

“All right, you’ve made your point. I’m yours. Let’s go.” He jogged out toward the expansive grassy field with the wide dirt track surrounding it. There were strategically placed water tanks with clean, cool water for Therian agents. Hydration was very important. Near the tanks were steel bleachers secured inside a fenced off area for viewing. Instead Ash walked to the center of the grassy field and sat down, knees drawn up and arms wrapped around them. He smiled up at Cael.

“Go for it, sweetheart.”

Cael chirped and darted off. He was stunning. The way he almost floated when all four paws were off the ground. He was graceful, beautiful, hitting high speeds in short bursts, using his tail to keep his balance as he came around the bend. Ash could sit here all night watching Cael run.

Once Cael had his run, his chest heaving and his mouth open, he trotted over to Ash. He pushed his heart-shaped nose against Ash’s cheek, making him laugh. With a ruffle to his fur, Ash pushed himself to his feet.

“Let’s go home.” Ash headed to the changing bay, following Cael in. He went to the small kitchenette along the wall. It had a couple of cabinets and small fridge that was stocked with Gatorade and protein bars. Enough to get agents going until they could get a proper meal. Once he was done, he heard a soft groan. He brought his supplies over to Cael sitting on the bench, his head in his hands.

Ash took one of the clean large towels and wrapped it around Cael’s shoulders. Postshift trauma was a scary thing. Not just the effects, but the fact it left a Therian in a vulnerable state. At this point they were practically useless. Cael was strong, but also pretty vulnerable at the best of times. Seeing him like this tugged at his heartstrings. He took a seat beside Cael, cooing softly.

“Tilt your head back, sweetheart.”

Cael did as he was told, and Ash held the Gatorade bottle to his lips, the other hand to the back of Cael’s head to support him. Cael sipped at the Gatorade until he was strong enough not to fall over. He slowly ate the protein bars as Ash gently stroked his hair, his neck. The fact that Cael was completely naked was an afterthought. This wasn’t about sex. It was about taking care of Cael, and offering comfort. He placed a feathery kiss to the top of Cael’s head, smiling when he heard a sweet sigh come from Cael.

Once Cael was done, he turned his head, and smiled up at Ash, his cheeks flushed. “This is the first time it’s just been you here, giving me PSTC.”

Ash nodded. He stroked Cael’s cheek with his thumb, caught by surprise when Cael threw his arms around Ash’s neck and kissed him. It was passionate but gentle. Ash gathered Cael up into his lap, never missing a beat. The kiss was sweet, and Ash couldn’t think of a time he’d been happier. He might be more comfortable in their relationship out in the open, but having Cael in his arms, knowing how Cael loved him, it still amazed him.

Ash pulled back, nuzzling his face against Cael’s, his voice breathless when he spoke. “Feeling better?”

Cael lowered his gaze to Ash’s lips, and when he met Ash’s eyes, there was a sinful look in them. “I think I might have a little more energy to burn.”

Ash arched an eyebrow, his body reacting to those full lips, and the wicked gleam in Cael’s silver eyes. “Is that so?”

Cael nodded. “Why don’t we go to your place and you can help me out.”

Ash quickly but gently put Cael on his feet. “What are you waiting for, get dressed.”

Cael threw his head back and laughed.

Yeah, pretty damn amazing.

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