Prompt: I would love to see the team play paintball or a similar game and get very competitive.
“This is ridiculous,” Ash growled. “How is shooting each other up a team building exercise? None of us are on a team.”
Cael contemplated that. “Well, we work as a team every day. Sarge wants us to keep our individual skills sharp.” He finished strapping into his tactical vest. “At least he’s not making us carry our equipment.” Cael grabbed his helmet, turning to Ash before putting it on. “Whatever you do, stay away from Dex.”
Ash looked pained. “Come on, sweetheart. It’s everyone for themselves. I love you, but you don’t really expect me to pass up an opportunity to shoot the shit out of your brother, do you?”
Cael blinked at him. He shook his head when he realized Ash had misunderstood. “I didn’t mean stay away from him so you wouldn’t shoot him, I meant stay away from him so you wouldn’t get shot by him. He’s going to kick all our asses.”
Ash stared at him. “I’m sorry, are you… are you being serious?”
“You’ve never played paintball with my brother, Ash. He turns into like, Rambo. Seriously, he’s kinda competitive, and really good at it. Not even Cal’s going to make it out of this.”
“Cael, I think I can handle your dorky brother.”
Cael smiled sweetly. He patted Ash’s bicep. “If you say so.” He headed into the waiting room where everyone stood except for Dex. Ash looked around before addressing Sloane.
“Where’s your dweeb boyfriend?”
Sloane shrugged. “I don’t know. He said he had to get ready. I’m not really sure what that entails, or why he couldn’t do it in the same changing room.”
The instructor came out, and Cael told him to go ahead. Dex knew this obstacle course like the back of his hand. His dad had already explained to the team that if he attempted to find a course Dex hadn’t done, he’d have to send them out of state. The team laughed when Tony told them not to let Dex beat them too badly. If they didn’t want to believe the man who’d raised Dex, they had no one to blame but themselves. Dex was competitive at the best of times, but put a paintball gun in his hands, and there was no escape.
The instructor led them to their course, and Sloane frowned. “Where the hell is Dex?”
They turned and Ash burst into laughter. “Holy shit, are you wearing camouflage?”
Dex grinned broadly, wriggling his brows before lowering the visor of his helmet. “This is war, Keeler.”
“Oh, I am so looking forward to this.”
They were each handed their paintball rifles containing a different color then escorted out onto the field. The obstacle course was the size of a football field surrounded by shrubs and trees with everything from sandbag bunkers, to car frames, old broken down cars, tire stacks, industrial barrels, and stone structures.
The lion Therian instructor motioned to the field. “When the buzzer rings, game’s over. Whoever has the least amount of paint on them at the end wins. Take your positions.”
Cael ran off, ducking behind a sandbag bunker, and Ash ran behind the car across from him. Dex was nowhere to be seen. It had begun. Cael almost felt bad for his team.
The buzzer sounded, and the game officially started. Cael wasn’t concerned with winning, just keeping himself from getting too much paint on him. He edged close to the end of the bunker and peered out. The coast was clear. Cael ran for the stack of tires ahead of him, diving behind it when he saw movement to his right. Letty fired, hitting the tires where Cael had been seconds ago. She cursed in Spanish and Cael chuckled.
“Nice try,” Cael called out. Playing with his team was nothing like playing with his friends back in high school. Unlike his teenage friends at the time, his team was trained to stalk and remain out of sight, not to mention engage in warfare. For several minutes, they all crept and crawled, dashed, and ducked. And then Dex decided he was tired of waiting for his teammates to come out of hiding.
Dex soared through the air, aimed, and fired, hitting Ash in the back of the head. Cael cringed from his spot where he saw the spectacle clearly. Before Ash was even up, Dex landed on a stack of hay and promptly rolled off right behind a wooden wall.
Ash’s startled expression made Cael giggle.
Dex popped up from behind a stack of tires several feet away and shot Ash in the ass. Ash jumped to his feet.
“What the fuck is happening right now?”
“Ash, you need to move before—”
Dex dove out from behind a car frame and shot twice, and Cael sucked in a breath as both shots hit Ash in the ass. His boyfriend’s howl echoed through the field. By the time Ash turned around, Dex was nowhere to be seen. Everyone else took advantage of Ash’s stupefied state and shot him.
“You sons of bitches!” Ash dove behind a stack of tractor tires. He shouted over the side. “I’m going to kick all your asses, starting with you, Daley!”
Dex’s reply was a swan dive over a haystack, and a shot to Ash’s helmet before he vanished behind a sandbag bunker.
“Fucker!” Ash turned to face Cael. “When did your brother become a fucking ninja?”
“I told you. He’s kinda competitive when it comes to paintball. The guys in his old department used to fight over him when it came to picking teams. Whichever team he was on always won. I tried to warn you.”
“Fuck this. I am not going to lose to that dork.” Ash let out a roar as he ran out, the rest of Destructive Delta rallying at his war cry. They’d decided to unite against the force that was Dex, and Cael could see why. Everyone was covered in dozens of blue splotches—Dex’s color.
Cael shook his head and watched the chaos. It was like a game of Whac-A-Mole the way Dex popped up, except the mole had a paintball gun and sprayed his teammates like he was Tony Montana taking out his enemies. In fact, Cael was pretty sure he heard his brother throw out a couple of Scar Face quotes.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Calvin screamed in frustration. “How is he doing that?”
Ash thrust a finger at Calvin. “Dude, you’re the fucking sniper, snipe him!”
“I’m trying, but he’s like some kind of squirrel on steroids.”
“Enjoying the show?”
Cael gave a start. “Jesus, Dex, you scared the shit out of me.”
Dex laughed. “Ash looks like he’s wearing a blue suit. I’ve run out of places to shoot him.”
Rosa’s curses were loud and vehement. Dex narrowed his eyes. “I may not be an expert of the Spanish language, but I’m pretty sure what she just said was both insulting and frightening.” Dex lifted Cael’s visor, and patted his cheek. “Oh, and I’m sorry.”
“For what?” Cael asked, cocking his head.
“For this.” He shot Cael in the vest before skipping off, calling out over his shoulder. “No favoritism, Chirpy! Love you!”
At hearing Dex, everyone charged in his direction, but Dex was already diving behind a rusty pickup. They ran around it, and Cael stood, propping himself against the bunker, chuckling at his unsuspecting teammates.
Dex stood on the roof of the car and shot each one of them on their visors the moment they turned around. They scrambled, bumped into each other, and all went down. Dex blew the end of his rifle as the buzzer sounded. He hopped down, walked over to Sloane, lifted his visor, and held his hand out.
Everyone removed their helmets and stood. Ash looked so confused, Cael found him completely endearing.
“You look like you should be in the Blue Man group,” Cael teased him.
Ash pouted. “I can’t believe I lost to your brother.”
“Aw.” As everyone headed back indoors with a grumble, Cael stood on his toes and kissed Ash. “How about we wash you off, and then when we get home, I’ll help stroke your ego.” He nipped at Ash’s chin. “Among other things.”
Ash’s lips broke off into a grin. He nodded, and followed Cael inside. As they were getting dressed in the locker room after showering, Dex was celebrating his victory.
“So how about it,” Dex said to Ash. “Drinks on me at Dekatria for beating your butt so completely.”
Ash smiled brightly, and Cael braced himself.
“Sorry, pal. I’m going home to do filthy things to your little brother.”
Dex’s jaw dropped.
“Yep, going to pound town.”
Cael groaned and covered his face with his hands. He could not believe Ash just said that.
“Oh God,” Dex gagged. “I think I’m gonna be sick.”
“Yep, gonna get him naked, and—”
“I’m not listening!” Dex covered his ears, singing some eighties song at the top if his lungs as he ran from the room. Ash threw his head back and laughed. Cael shook his head at him.
“You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?”
Ash wriggled his eyebrows. He leaned in to nibble at Cael’s ear. “Doesn’t make it any less true.” He grabbed Cael’s hand, said “see ya” to everyone, and winked at Dex as they walked by. Dex yelped, and Ash laughed as they headed for Ash’s truck. Well, Dex won his game, Ash won the last word, but as Ash turned him, and kissed him soundly, a preview of what the evening held, it was pretty clear who the real winner here was.
Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.