THIRDS Thursday – 6/22/17

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

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


Part One

You can do this.

Why was he feeling so nervous? It was his brothers. Seb had always been able to say whatever he needed to say to his brothers. Granted, before he and Rafe reconciled, there hadn’t been much talking going on, but that changed a while ago, and the fact Ethan was talking to Rafe made a huge difference in all their lives. The thought made Seb smile. Their parents had been so happy when they found out. Ethan might not be able to talk to them, but they held onto the hope that one day that would change. For now, they were thrilled to see their boys were close again, like they’d been when they were little. It had been a difficult time for all of them, but they’d been close.

The doors to the small training bay Seb had booked for the next two hours opened, and in walked his big brother looking as somber and imposing as ever, and behind him his little brother, his big dopey smile and cheerful wave squeezing Seb’s heart. He felt a fierce sense of protection wash over him, same as it always did when Ethan was around. The only one more protective of Ethan was Rafe, and Seb couldn’t imagine how hard it had been for their big brother to keep his distance.

Seb stood from the bench near the mats, and smiled at them. “Hey. Thanks for coming.”

“What’s going on?” Rafe asked, looking around the training bay. “Why did you book a room?”

Maybe it would be best if he eased into the whole I’m-now-a-spy thing. “I thought maybe we could do some training together.” He smiled wide.

Rafe and Ethan exchanged glances before they narrowed their eyes at him. So suspicious these two.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Since when?” Rafe asked.

“Since now.” Seb grinned wickedly. “What’s the matter? Afraid I might kick your ass?”

Rafe’s eyebrows shot up then he let out a laugh. “Seriously? You really think I’m going to fall for that?”

Ethan looked from Seb to Rafe and back. “He’s right.”

Damn it. Now what the hell was he supposed to do? He couldn’t just blurt it out.

“Because it’s obvious I’d be the one kicking both your asses,” Ethan said softly, big smile on his face.

Seb and Rafe both stared at him before Seb turned his attention to Rafe. He pointed at Ethan. “Did you hear what he just said?”

Rafe shook his head, the amusement in his eyes betraying his deep frown. “You are both so very delusional if you think either of you can kick my ass.” He pulled his uniform shirt from the waistband of his tach pants, and started to unbutton it. “Don’t go crying to your boyfriends when I wipe the floor with you.”

Seb threw his head back and laughed. “Please. By the time I’m done with you, you’re going to be glad your girlfriend’s a doctor.” He unbuttoned his own shirt, and pulled it off, laying it on the bench next his brother’s shirt, along with his thigh rig, and tactical belt. Ethan did the same.

“I could say the same about you,” Rafe said, beginning his stretches. “Don’t worry, Hudson will kiss it all better.”

They both turned to look at Ethan who blinked innocently at them. “I don’t need a doctor, or anyone to kiss my booboos. I have a boyfriend who will avenge me.”

Seb frowned at Rafe. “He’s right. Calvin would totally snipe our asses.”

Rafe nodded. “He’s kinda scary for a little guy.”

Once the three of them were down to just their tach pants, black undershirts, and bare feet, they stepped onto the mat. Seb had no idea how he was going to do this. Maybe he should have had a plan other than getting them down here with the pretense of a training session. What was he going to do? Tire them out, tell them, and then make a run for it, because if Rafe didn’t kick his ass, Ethan would.

“Okay, so how do you want this?” Rafe asked them.

Ethan smiled pleasantly. “Every handsome tiger Therian for himself. Last one standing gets dinner paid for by the losers.”

“For him, and his sweetheart,” Rafe added.

“Aw.” Seb held a hand to his chest. “Hudson will really appreciate that. Personally, I’m in the mood for a big ole steak. I hope you two brought your credit cards.” They each took their positions facing each other forming a triangle. Seb clapped his hands together and rubbed them.

Rafe rounded his shoulders, the muscles of his arms flexing. He was bigger than Seb, more muscular, stronger. He looked mean, and rough, especially with the permanent five o’clock shadow he sported. His tough exterior had softened some since he’d let his hair grow out a little from the military buzzcut he’d always sported. No doubt Nina’s influence. Anytime he saw the two together, she’d be running her fingers through his hair. His brother seemed like such a different person when she was around. Almost… vulnerable. At one point Seb could have sworn he’d seen Rafe blush, but it had been gone so quick Seb put it down to being a figment of his imagination.

“We doing this, or you wanna day dream some more?” Rafe asked, motioning for Seb to advance.

Seb looked from Rafe to Ethan. Did his brothers really think they were going to get one over on him? Like he hadn’t grown up with them? Whoever Seb went for first, the other would then come after him. The two would team up against him until someone inevitably started losing, and then the winning two would team up, take out the competition, and then face each other to leave one victor. Rafe thought he’d already won because it was how it had always been. He was the biggest, and strongest with the most training and experience. And the reason he won, was because he knew Seb wouldn’t go for Ethan. Ethan was counting on that as well, and it occurred to Seb that his sweet little brother had no idea Seb knew about his being a TIN associate, or his months of TIN training.

It was time to see how good his little brother was, and at the same time, give him the leverage he needed to reveal his own secret.


Part Two 6/29/17 © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

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THIRDS Thursday – 5/25/17

Prompt: In Darkest Hour Before Dawn we learn Darla has a new beau. Can we see Calvin and Ethan having dinner with Darla and her new man? Also, Dex gets himself invited.


PART THREE (Read Part One here. Read Part Two here.)

“You better be a figment of my imagination, Daley, or I’m going to dropkick you right here,” Calvin hissed, clearly trying his best to be quiet. Ethan could hear Darla, Sloane, and Armel talking from somewhere near the kitchen. Most likely the dining room. Ethan readied himself in case he needed to stop his boyfriend from committing murder.

Dex blinked innocently at Calvin. “Is that any way to speak to one of your mother’s dinner guests? Where’s that famous Southern hospitality?”

“Hospitality? How about I show you to a hospital instead? Admit it, you got yourself invited,” Calvin said, poking Dex in the chest. “How did you even get here before us?”

“I have a muscle car, lights, and a siren. Also, it’s me.” Dex winked at Calvin before stepping aside. “I make magic happen.”

“You make something happen all right, and it ain’t magic,” Calvin growled, stomping past Dex who just chuckled. Ethan stepped inside, and Dex patted his chest.

“Hey, big guy.” Dex grinned wide, and Ethan groaned. He put his hands together in prayer. Dex gasped in mock hurt. “I’m appalled you think I would cause trouble for my dear, sweet friend. Especially while at his mom’s house for dinner. With her new boyfriend. Did I mention Calvin’s mom has a boyfriend? Who’s here. At dinner. With all of us.”

Ethan covered his face with his hands. Oh, God. Why? Why me? He perked up. Sloane. Sloane was here. Someone sane who could help Ethan contain the crazy. He headed for the dining room when his phone buzzed. It was a text.

#Band-Aids

Ethan quickly shot off a text in reply. #Band-AidsDon’tWorkOnBulletHoles

Dex cackled as he walked past Ethan and into the dining room where Darla was hugging Calvin. She kissed Calvin’s temple. “Hi, baby. I’m so happy you and Ethan could make it.”

“Of course, Mom.”

Darla squeezed him again, before holding her arms open for Ethan. With a big smile, Ethan walked into her embrace. He wrapped his arms around her, mindful not to squeeze too hard. She was a tiny thing compared to him, even smaller than Ethan’s mom.

“Hi, honey.” She pulled back, and he leaned in to give her cheek a kiss.

“It’s good to see you, Ethan.”

Ethan turned to Armel who came to stand beside Darla. He held his hand out to Ethan who shook it. Ethan had to give Armel credit. When he’d first met Ethan, he treated Ethan just like he did everyone else, and never asked Ethan about his Selective Mutism. Ethan was sure Darla had spoken to him about it, but Ethan appreciated that Armel didn’t once look at him any different. As a bear Therian, he was huge, beefy, quiet, and looked pretty intimidating, but he had kind eyes, and when he was around Darla, he looked at her like she was the most amazing woman he’d ever known. It was sweet. Which was why Ethan really hoped Calvin would give the poor guy a chance. For Darla’s sake.

Armel turned to Calvin, his expression softening. “Hi, Cal.”

Calvin nodded. “Hi.”

This wasn’t the first dinner Calvin and Ethan were having with Darla and Armel, but things were still awkward. Ethan wished there was something he could do, but Calvin was quiet and reserved, and Armel was clearly letting Calvin set the pace.

“Well,” Darla said, clearing her throat. “Why don’t we all sit down before dinner gets cold?”

Ethan looked at Dex and wrinkled his nose. Where’s Sloane?

Dex mouthed the word bathroom and Ethan nodded.

Sloane returned just then and waved to Ethan and Calvin. “Hey, guys.” He gave Calvin an apologetic smile before tilting his head in Dex’s direction.

Calvin narrowed his eyes at Dex as he took a seat across from him at the table. Ethan sat across Sloane, and Armel pulled out the chair next to Calvin’s so Darla could sit beside her son. She thanked him, her cheeks going rosy. Armel sat next to her at the head of the table, and Calvin stiffened beside Ethan. It was the first time Armel had sat there, but then when it had just been the four of them, Armel and Darla had sat across from them. Ethan understood Calvin’s reaction. No one had sat in that chair in a very long time, and Calvin had grown up around Ethan’s family where Ethan’s dad always sat at the head of the table. Ethan looked to Dex.

You have to do something.

Calvin opened his mouth to speak when Dex jumped in.

“My Gosh, Darla, this all looks so amazing,” Dex said excitedly, his grin stretching from ear to ear. Calvin’s narrowed gaze locked on Dex.

“Thank you, sweetheart. There’s plenty more in the kitchen. I even made you a pecan pie to take home.”

Dex gasped. He held a hand to his heart. “You’re just the best.”

Armel brought Darla’s hand to his lips for a kiss. “Isn’t she?”

Darla giggled, and Ethan bit down on his bottom lip. They were adorable. Calvin elbowed Ethan, and Ethan cleared his throat.

“We should eat,” Calvin said. “Ethan and I have an early shift tomorrow.”

Ethan frowned. No, we don’t. Calvin elbowed him again, and Ethan turned to him. What? Stop elbowing me. Calvin arched an eyebrow at him. Oh! Ethan looked at Darla and nodded. Yes, we have an early shift.

“Do we?” Dex turned to Sloane. “I can’t remember. If only we had someone who… I don’t know, posted our schedules. Like, a Team Leader of some sort.” Dex put a finger to his lips. “Hm.” His eyes widened. “Oh, wait! We have a Team Leader right here. Well, I’ll be damned, it’s our Team Leader.” Dex grinned wide at Sloane. “Hey, agent Brodie. Do we have an early shift tomorrow?”

Ethan gaped at Dex. The guy had a death wish. It was the only thing that could explain what the holy hell Dex was doing.

“Um….” Sloane looked from Dex to Calvin, cringed, then turned his attention back to Dex, his expression pained. “No, we don’t have an early shift tomorrow.”

Dex beamed at Calvin, ignoring the murderous laser beam stare Calvin was pointing in his direction. “Looks like we’re good, Cal.” Dex handed Calvin one of the dishes. “Sweet potato casserole?”

“Thanks,” Calvin replied through a toothy grin, taking the dish from him.

Dex turned to a puzzled looking Armel. “Hey, coach. Mind passing the smothered pork chops? They look mouthwatering.”

Coach?

Calvin kicked at Dex under the table, and Sloane jumped with a curse.

“Honey, you okay?” Darla asked Sloane, concerned.

“Yeah, sorry. I um, bit the inside of my cheek.”

Dex chuckled, his knowing gaze on Calvin. “Don’t you just hate it when that happens?”

Oh, God. Sloane was peering at Calvin, Calvin was glaring at Dex, Dex was playing Jenga with his food judging by the amount he was stacking on his plate, Armel was staring wide-eyed at Dex, and Darla was cheerfully oblivious as she served Calvin.

“Dex loves his food,” Darla told Armel. “I had that same look on my face the first time he came over for dinner.”

“That’s a Therian-sized portion you got there, son.”

Dex winked at Armel. “Got me a Therian-sized appetite.”

Everyone filled up on Darla’s delicious food. She really was the best cook. Dex, Sloane, Darla, and Armel talked as they ate, while Calvin remained grumpy, and Ethan tried to get him to lighten up to no avail.

“The secret to Cal here, Armel,” Dex began, and Ethan braced himself, “is this. He’s like a Tootsie Roll Pop. You need to get past all the hard candy to get to the gooey center.”

Ethan almost choked on his food. He quickly swallowed, and guzzled down nearly an entire glass of water. Had Dex lost his ever-loving mind?

“Dex,” Calvin warned through his teeth.

“See. That’s the hard candy shell talking.” Dex took a big bite of biscuit, his blue eyes sparkling with mischief. “Just don’t play ZZ Top around him. He gets all weird about it.”

Calvin jumped from his chair. “Can I speak with you in private for a moment?”

“Of course. I always have time for you, buddy.” Dex patted Sloane’s shoulder, and followed Calvin out of the dining room. Ethan quickly followed, hearing Sloane tell Armel not to pay any attention to them, that they were always like that.

 Calvin marched into his old bedroom, and Dex followed, with Ethan right behind, the door closed, and Calvin rounded on Dex, but Dex was quicker.

“You’re being an asshat.”

Calvin gaped at him. “I’m being an asshat. You—”

“You need to stop being a selfish dick and think about your mom.”

“I am thinking about her.” Calvin narrowed his eyes at Dex. “How exactly does my looking out for her translate to being a dick?”

“Have you thought that maybe your mom is lonely? That maybe she wants someone to love her?”

Calvin was indignant. “Lonely? Love her? She has a whole family that loves her!”

“Come on, Cal. She’s a beautiful woman. Maybe she wants someone to hold her close, someone who’ll make her feel cherished. You’ve talked about how she’s never had any luck with guys. How they’ve all been assholes. Maybe this time, she’s found the guy for her. You’ve seen how happy she looks.” Dex took a seat on the edge of Calvin’s old bed.

“It’s not easy, you know? After what my dad put us through? Put her through?”

“I get it. I do.”

“Do you?” Calvin folded his arms over his chest. “Because from what I hear, John was the perfect dad, and the Sarge? Come on. The guy would walk through fucking fire for you and Cael. My father? He beat the shit out of me and my mom. He didn’t give a fuck about us. After he was gone, it was one asshole after another. They always started out like they were nice guys. Telling her they were different, pretending like we were all going to be this happy family, and in the end, they were just as bad as my dad. They’d get her hopes up, and then treat her like garbage.” Calvin sniffed, and wrinkled his nose. Ethan knew it was to keep his emotions at bay. He wrapped an arm around Calvin’s shoulders. “She deserves better.”

“You’re right. About everything. I’m lucky. I know that. But it’s different now. You’re not a scared little kid anymore, Cal. You’re a fucking sniper for the THIRDS. You really think some asshole is going to dare lay a finger on your mom to hurt her knowing you and your whole damn family of trained agents will be on him so fast he’ll get whiplash? It’s not just you and your mom anymore. You’ve got us, the entire Hobbs clan, Destructive Delta, and everyone who knows you. We all have your back.”  Dex walked over to Calvin, and put his hand on Calvin’s shoulder.

“I’ve been in the same room with the guy for one evening, and I can see how badly he wants this to work. Give him a chance. For your mom. I know trust doesn’t come easy for you, and our jobs doesn’t make that any easier, but you gotta try, man.”

Calvin seemed to think about it. After several heartbeats where Ethan realized he was holding his breath, Calvin let out a heavy sigh.

“You’re right. I’m being a dick. She obviously really likes Armel. I should be more supportive.”

Dex patted Calvin on the back as he led him from the room. “And if you need anything at all. You just say the word.”

“Thanks,” Calvin replied, smiling for the first time that evening. “By the way….”

“What?” Dex asked before Calvin punched him in the balls. Ethan cringed as Dex went down onto his knees cupping himself. “What the hell?” Dex wheezed.

“That’s for bringing up ZZ Top at the dinner table.”

Ethan went to help Dex up, but Dex waved a hand, his eyes shut tight. “I’m okay,” he whispered hoarsely. “The boys just ran for cover, but they’ll be back. Sweet baby Jesus.” He groaned. “I’m okay. Just, give me a minute.”

Ethan nodded. He followed Calvin into the dining room.

“Sorry about that,” Calvin said, smiling brightly. He kissed his mom’s cheek. “Thanks for dinner, mom. It’s fantastic.” He turned his attention to Armel. “Thanks for coming, Armel.”

Armel blinked in surprise then quickly recovered. His smile was huge. “My pleasure, cal.”

Sloane looked from Calvin to Ethan and back. “Where’s Dex?”

“Oh, you might want to check on him,” Calvin said, looking concerned. “He had to go to the bathroom, and then he said something about having…” Calvin motioned to his groin and whispered loudly, “a burning sensation in his nether region.”

Sloane quickly got up, and left the dining room. Ethan shook his head, and tried his best not to laugh. He almost felt sorry for Dex. Almost. Ooh! Ethan pulled out his phone, and sent off a text.

#Hydrocortisone

Ethan snickered. His phone buzzed, and he checked the text, clamping a hand over his mouth to stifle his gasp.

“You okay?” Calvin asked Ethan. Ethan nodded, and Calvin went back to talking to Darla and Armel. Dex was insane. Ethan glanced down at the text again. Well, at least no one could say family dinners were boring.

#SexytimesInYourFriendsOldBedroom


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

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THIRDS Thursday – 5/18/17

Prompt: In Darkest Hour Before Dawn we learn Darla has a new beau. Can we see Calvin and Ethan having dinner with Darla and her new man? Also, Dex gets himself invited.


PART TWO

Ethan licked the corner of his mouth before falling back onto the bed. His chest rose and fell rapidly as he tried to catch his breath. Calvin flopped over him, sprawled across his chest, his blond hair tousled, his face flushed, and his lips swollen from being kissed. He was beautiful.

“I can’t move,” Calvin groaned, his breath steadying as he absently stroked Ethan’s stomach. “You sure we have to go?” He lolled his head back so he could look up at Ethan with a pout. “Can’t we just stay home and do that some more?”

Ethan kissed Calvin’s lips. “When we get home. I promise.” Ignoring his boyfriend’s protests, he slipped out from under Calvin, and walked to Calvin’s side of the closet. He pulled out a pair of dark blue jeans, a blue and white checkered shirt, and a blue V-neck cashmere sweater that went perfect with Calvin’s eyes. Then he grabbed a brown belt, and a pair of dressy brown boots. He walked the clothes over to his boyfriend, and held them out.

“Wear this.”

Calvin took the clothes from him with a nod. Post-sexy-times-Calvin would pretty much do whatever Ethan told him. As Calvin got dressed, Ethan went to his own closet, and picked out a simple outfit. Black jeans, his new black boots, and a dark gray sweater that Ethan loved because it was super soft and cozy.

Once Calvin was dressed and they’d brushed their teeth, they grabbed their wallets, keys, and the flowers Calvin had picked up for his mom. They locked up, and on the way to Ethan’s truck, his phone buzzed. He smiled down at it.

Hey, bud. Sloane and I are going to have a Bill Murray marathon. You guys in? I know you love the B-Man.

Ethan quickly texted back. Sorry. Dinner with Darla and her new guy tonight.

Pause.

Define “her guy”.

Crap. Did Dex not know? Ethan had assumed everyone knew considering his mom told Hudson, and Hudson and Dex were the gossip kings. If Hudson knew it, Dex knew it, and vice versa. After that, then pretty much everyone else knew. Unless it was confidential or something crazy important, but…. Ethan stilled. Son of a rum puncher! He’d just told Dex that Cal’s mom had a boyfriend! Just as the thought crossed his mind, his phone rang.  

Ethan picked up.

“Holy Shatner!”

Dex’s voice was so loud, Ethan had to hold the phone away from his ear.

Calvin spun on his heels, and stared at Ethan. “Tell me that’s not who I think it is?”

Ethan quickly unlocked the truck, and pushed Calvin toward the passenger side.

“Damn it, Ethan! You tell that nosy shit that if he utters one word of this to anyone, I’m going to take that five-pound bag of gummy bears he has stashed in his desk drawer at work and shove them down his throat until he chokes!”

Ethan hoisted Calvin up, pushed him in, and closed the door, cringing at Calvin shouting from the other side.

“You can’t tell anyone,” Ethan said quietly into the phone, locking the truck doors before Calvin could get out. Calvin unlocked it, and Ethan clicked the button on his key fob, locking it again. Oh, my God, he’s going to kill me.

“Who is he?” Dex demanded. “Do we know him? How many times precisely has Calvin lost his shit? Has he threatened to snipe the guy?”

Ethan groaned. He held his phone out so Dex could hear Calvin pounding on the truck’s window, cursing them out. He returned the phone to his ear.

“You see what you did?” Ethan hissed. “Now I have to deal with the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.”

Dex howled with laughter. Stupid Dex and his stupid nicknames. Ethan’s other line beeped. “Hold on.” He answered it, and immediately regretted it.

“The fuck did you just call me?”

Ethan’s eyes widened, and he turned, staring at Calvin glaring at him from inside the truck, his phone against his ear.

“Um….”

“Think faster,” Calvin warned.

“It was Dex!”

“Way to throw me under the bus there, buddy,” Dex grumbled.

Shit! Hadn’t he put Dex on hold?

“I know what you’re thinking,” Dex said, “and no. You did not put me on hold.”

“Dex, you dick,” Calvin growled. “What the fuck? Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog?”

“Well, yeah. Cause you’re all small and cute, but piss you off, and no one’s surviving.”

“Screw you!”

“So,” Dex said casually. “I hear your mom has a boyfriend.”

There was a click, and then the sound of Dex cackling. “Oh, my God, this is the best thing ever! You know, pissing off Ash is fun, but watching Cal lose his ever-flipping mind gives me life.”

“You’re an ass,” Ethan muttered, heading for the driver’s side. He stopped next to the door. “I’m hanging up now.”

“Wait!”

“What?” Ethan asked, sighing.

“Hashtag my boyfriend is a killer rabbit.”

Ethan hung up on Dex, and slipped his phone back into his pocket. Deep breath. He could do this. He opened the door, and jumped in.

“You can’t murder me because Sarge would be mad!”

Calvin narrowed his eyes at him, and Ethan quickly closed the door. He turned in his seat and smiled.

“And because I just gave you an awesome blowjob.”

Calvin yanked at his seatbelt, clicked it into place, the crossed his arms over his chest. “Just start the damn car, Ethan.”

Ethan quickly did as he was told, hoping Calvin would calm down on the drive over to Darla’s, which gave them just a few minutes really. Ethan fastened his seatbelt, and turned the radio on, forgetting it was set to Retro Radio since Ethan had driven Dex home from work after Dex’s car got a flat tire. Dex had been very… Dex about it. Dropping to his knees dramatically, arms raised, cursing the heavens.

ZZ Top’s Rough Boy came blasting through the truck, and Ethan’s jaw dropped. He turned his head just as Calvin’s eyes got huge. He slowly panned to look at Ethan. Before Calvin could say a word, Ethan threw a hand out and shut off the radio.

Ethan opened his mouth to say something, then thought better of it. He closed his mouth and got them moving. They drove in silence with Ethan throwing the occasional glance in Calvin’s direction. His eyes looked less murderous, so that was a good sign. Thankfully, Ethan found a parking spot across the street. Maybe their luck was changing.

Calvin took his keys form his pocket, when the door swung open.

What the fun?

Dex grinned wide. “Hello, boys. Glad you could make it to dinner. Darla made her amazing pecan pie.”

Ethan groaned. So much for his luck changing.


Final part next week 5/25/17.

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

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THIRDS Thursday – 5/11/17

Prompt: In Darkest Hour Before Dawn we learn Darla has a new beau. Can we see Calvin and Ethan having dinner with Darla and her new man? Also, Dex gets himself invited.


PART ONE

“Tell me again why I’m doing this?” Calvin grumbled for the hundredth time as he held up two shirts in front of him. He’d been at this for hours. Ethan didn’t mind. It meant he got to ogle his boyfriend in various stages of undress from several angles. This was shirt number twelve. Or was it thirteen? No, twelve. Maybe. Ethan lost count.

“Because it will make your mom happy,” Ethan replied, smiling big when Calvin turned to peer at him.

Calvin let out a sound of disgust, and tossed the two shirts onto the growing pile at the foot of the bed. He headed back to his side of the closet in search of more options. A few months ago, they decided to knock down the wall that separated their bedrooms. After some heavy remodeling, they turned their two-person bachelor pad into a home they shared as a couple. It was strange how so much had changed, yet stayed the same. His relationship with Calvin hadn’t changed as much as he’d thought, and where it had changed, it was all good changes. Sometimes he still freaked out about messing up, but Calvin was always there to reassure him, just as he’d always been. Sometimes it caught him off guard, how much he loved Calvin. He’d always loved him, but now it was a different kind of love. The kind that had Ethan getting lost in his boyfriend’s profile when they were watching TV together. Or how Ethan sought Calvin’s touch, how he itched to have his hands on Calvin whenever he was near, even if it was just the two of them at home.

Ethan loved their apartment. It was big and roomy, yet had a warm cozy feel to it. They kept Ethan’s bed instead of Calvin’s since it was Therian size and had the best mattress ever. Even with Ethan’s weight on it, it didn’t sink which meant Calvin wouldn’t end up rolling down any inclines and getting crushed under Ethan when Ethan turned in his sleep. Ooh! Ethan slyly removed his phone from his pocket and shot off a quick text to Dex about Therian mattress woes and ended it with hashtag Therian problems.

“Are you and Dex still having your little Human/Therian problems hashtag battle?”

So much for being sly.

Ethan shrugged. It was fun. Though now he knew better than to open a text from Dex during a briefing. Maddock was so not impressed, though Ethan had gotten off lucky since their sarge knew exactly who was responsible for Ethan bursting into laughter in the middle of a talk on avoiding fleas. Ooh! He had another one. Hashtag fleas.

“Are you paying attention?”

Ethan nodded. Personally, he thought Calvin looked good in everything, but Calvin wasn’t having any of it. He was too worked up, and had been steadily getting worse since Darla announced she and Armel Kearney were dating.

Armel seemed like a nice guy, and whenever Ethan saw him with Darla he was always sweet and polite. It was early days, but Calvin was taking no chances. The second Darla told him about Armel, Calvin had run the bear Therian’s name through Themis and every international database Themis was connected to. Armel came back squeaky clean. Not even a parking ticket.

After that, Calvin contacted the college where Armel had coached football before he retired. Not one bad thing was said about the guy, not from staff member or student. Calvin had followed the guy’s career way back, talking to everyone he could. Everyone said the same thing. That Armel was a great guy.

“It’s just not possible.”

Ethan studied Calvin as another two shirts were judged.

“What’s not possible?” Ethan asked.

“Armel. There has to be something.”

Ethan got up off the bed, and walked over to Calvin. He took the shirts from him and placed them on the bed before turning to take Calvin’s hand. With a warm smile, Ethan sat, spreading his knees so Calvin could stand between them. His boyfriend was being all pouty and miserable and stubborn. He was adorable.

“Why does there have to be something?” Ethan drew his partner close, ignoring Calvin’s grunt, and wrapped his arms around Calvin’s waist. “Maybe, just maybe, he might be a genuinely good guy.”

Calvin snorted. “Right.”

Maybe it was time to distract his partner for a little bit. Otherwise Calvin would be here all night trying to find something to wear, and they had to be at Darla’s for dinner in less than two hours.

Ethan traced Calvin’s spine with his fingers, loving the feel of Calvin’s soft skin and the way Calvin shivered involuntarily. Smiling, Ethan slid his other hand around Calvin’s side to his abdomen. Calvin inhaled sharply, his big blue eyes darkening.

“What are you doing?”

Ethan leaned in and brushed his lips over Calvin’s, trailing his fingers up from Calvin’s spine to the back of his neck to hold him in place.

“Distracting you,” Ethan said, his voice husky and laced with promise. “Is it working?”

Calvin opened his mouth to reply, and Ethan pounced, grabbing Calvin, turning, and throwing him onto the bed. Calvin yelped before he ended up under Ethan.

“Jesus, Ethan. What are you—”

Ethan kissed Calvin, Calvin’s smaller frame pinned beneath Ethan’s much bigger, heavier body. Calvin moaned into Ethan’s mouth, and when Ethan came up for air, he smiled at Calvin’s flushed cheeks. He loved that he did that to Calvin. Made him blush, got him all flustered.

“Where something blue. It makes your eyes really pop.”

Calvin nodded, dazed. He ran his hands up Ethan’s arms. “I’m being ridiculous, aren’t I?”

“Maybe just a teeny bit,” Ethan said, chuckling when Calvin playfully smacked his arm.

“You’re not supposed to agree with me.”

Ethan laughed and kissed Calvin once more, making sure to put as much eat into it as he could. He thrust his hips against Calvin’s before moving his mouth to Calvin’s neck and nipping at his skin.

“Oh God, Ethan. I can’t show up to dinner with a boner, so you either get up off me or finish what you started.”

Ethan gave Calvin a wicked grin. Hashtag challenge accepted.


Part Two next week 5/18/17.

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

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THIRDS Thursday – 9/1/16

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: There have been several prompts for the ball pit incident mentioned in Smoke & Mirrors, so here it is. Enjoy!


“Could you repeat that?”

Dex blinked at Sloane, not sure he’d heard correctly. He couldn’t possibly be that lucky. Maybe his partner was getting him back for one of the many many pranks he’d pulled since joining the THIRDS. Don’t get excited. It could be a mistake.

Sloane handed Dex his helmet. “I said, we’re heading to Brooklyn. A couple of drunk idiots decided to shift in public and wreak havoc at a kid’s birthday party.”

“Yeah, I heard that part.” Dex finished strapping himself into his vest. He could barely contain his grin. “I need you to repeat the other part. The part about where they’re wreaking havoc.” He took his helmet from Sloane. Come on. Say it.

Sloane let out a sigh. “Chuck E. Cheese.”

“Yes!” Dex let out a “whoop” and did a little dance. Best news he’d heard all day.

Ash shook his head in shame at him. “Of course you’re excited. Why am I not surprised?”

“How can you not be excited?”

“I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of ways I can respond to that ridiculous question, but I’m going to go with the fact that I’m not a man-child like you.”

Dex flipped Ash off, ignoring his chuckle. He followed Sloane out of the armory where the rest of their team was waiting by the BearCat. Hobbs was already in his Therian form, his eyes shut in contentment as Calvin scratched him behind the ear. Dex looked from Hobbs to Sloane and back. Did his partner realize what he was about to do? Should he say something? Sloane had to know. As the team climbed up into the back of the BearCat, Dex caught Sloane’s sleeve, speaking quietly.

“You’re going to send Hobbs in?”

Sloane looked puzzled. “Yeah. Why?”

“Dude, that place is filled with climbing, bouncing things.”

Sloane nodded. “I know. We don’t know how hostile these guys are, so I’m not sending your brother in there on his own with two leopard Therians. Also, climbing, bouncing things and your brother. Think about that for a moment.”

“You have a point.”

“I need to make sure this doesn’t get out of control. My other option is Ash.”

Ash loose after two Therians in a Chuck E. Cheese. Dex shuddered at the thought. “Point taken.”

Sloane smiled and gave him a pat on the shoulder. “Relax. Hobbs will be fine. He has plenty of self-control.”

Dex followed his partner into the truck, and as soon as everyone was secured in their seats, Tony got them moving.  They had no idea what to expect. The place had been evacuated, and Theta Destructive was on their way to clear the area and keep traffic out. When they arrived, they received a call that Theta Destructive was held up thanks to a traffic accident.

Tony cursed under his breath before addressing the team. “All right. Get in there, get it done, and get out. Beta Ambush has been dispatched, but we can’t risk these asshats getting out into the street before backup arrives, so move quickly.”

They all confirmed their understanding before hurrying out of the truck. Tony was right. With all the foot traffic, and street traffic, it would be chaos if two drunk feral Therians made a run for it. Quickly Destructive Delta got into formation behind Sloane, tranq rifles at the ready as they headed toward the entrance. Hobbs padded beside Sloane, waiting for the signal.

Sloane signaled for them to stop at the door, and they waited. Gingerly, he opened one of the glass doors and motioned for Hobbs to enter. As soon as their teammate was in, the rest of them followed Sloane inside. It was quiet. No sign of the two perps anywhere.

Hobbs’s sniffed the air. When he flattened his ears, and let out a low hiss, they all readied themselves. Dex looked around him, trying to catch movement from within the colorful tubes or bouncy play areas. Sloane gave Hobbs the signal, and their Felid teammate let out a roar that shook the rafters. The two Therians leaped out of their hiding spots and the chase began. Hobbs took off after them, and the two leopard Therians split up. Destructive Delta gave chase, following one of the leopard Therians as he ducked in, out, over, and under the play area equipment, a feat much harder to do when carrying tactical equipment.

“Split up,” Sloane ordered, taking off in one direction, while Dex went off in another, Calvin close behind. They rounded a corner and found a giant ball pit at the far end near the door they’d come in from.

“I thought they got rid of those,” Calvin said, as they slowly approached.

“Most of them did. The rest are on the way out. Man, I used to love those things.”

Calvin let out a snort. “Used to? I bet you’re just itching to jump in there.”

“You know me too well,” Dex admitted with a chuckle. From the corner of his eye he caught a flurry of movement. “Oh shit.” Dex grabbed Calvin’s arm and tugged him along with him as he ran. “Fall back!” They made a run for it just as the two Therians soared through the air into the ball pit. The air-filled container exploded, releasing a giant wave of colored plastic balls, knocking Dex and Calvin on their asses.

Dex rolled, spotted one of the Therians and fired three rounds of tranq darts, two hitting the perp in the neck. Calvin took the other one down.

Dex was about to say something when Calvin scrambled to his feet, shouting.

“Ethan, no! Someone close the damned door!”

Dex turned in time to spot Ethan leaping through the open front door after dozens of colored balls spilled out into the street, the place’s manager on the floor looking like he was about to pass out. What part of “wait outside” did the guy not understand?

Dex took off after Hobbs. There was no way he was missing this. With the perps subdued, Dex was free to take advantage of this epic situation. Outside it was pandemonium. Beta Ambush had yet to arrive, and the streets were littered with rolling colored balls. He pulled out his smartphone and started recording just as Calvin barreled out of the building and took off after Hobbs.

“Ethan, stop!” Calvin sped off, and Dex followed, leaving his team to take care of the rest. He couldn’t help himself. Calvin hauled ass after Hobbs who was swatting at the colored balls, unaware of the panicking pedestrians diving out of his way.  Dex was laughing so hard his phone shook in his hands. Up ahead to his left, some dude climbed his Hummer.

Hobbs swatted a blue ball out into the street and chased after it. Calvin turned to follow only to have Hobbs swat the ball back onto the sidewalk. He was so excited, he didn’t even notice Calvin, and swept past him at such speed that Calvin spun and flailed. Dex could hear his friend’s curses from where he was. With some impressive footwork and balancing, Calvin kept himself from falling on his ass. His face was red, and Dex could barely breathe.

Dex moved his phone’s camera back to Hobbs, and cursed when he spotted the yuppie he was headed straight for. When the yuppie saw Hobbs, he sprinted forward, revealing a tiny old lady a few feet behind. Before Dex could warn the old lady, she looked over her shoulder, secured her purse under her arm, and bolted into a run that any athlete would envy. What came next Dex wouldn’t have believed if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes. The tiny old lady plowed through yuppie guy like she was a running back for the Giants. The dude soared through the air.

“Holy shit!” Dex had to prop himself against a car, he was laughing so hard. “Oh God. I can’t breathe.” Tears ran down his face, but he kept recording as Hobbs sped by, Calvin close behind. Hobbs smacked the blue plastic ball and it hit Tony’s boot, bringing Hobbs to a screeching halt. Calvin smacked into him, falling over Hobbs and onto his back on the sidewalk. Dex made his way over. He stood over Calvin, recording him. He waved down at him with his free hand.

“Say hello.”

“Fuck.” Panting breath. “You.”

Dex laughed, and wiped at his eyes. He stopped recording, and joined Sloane by the truck as Tony shouted orders at the newly arrived members of Beta Ambush while reporters flooded out of their news trucks.

Sloane dropped his head into his hand when Dex stepped up to him, grinning. “What was it you said before we came out here? Something about control?”

Sloane groaned. He lifted his head, his bottom lip jutted out. “Sarge is going to kick my ass.”

“Brodie! Get your ass over here!”

Dex patted Sloane’s arm. “Whatever you do, make eye contact, and just agree with everything he says. I’ll be here to kiss it better.”

“Thanks,” Sloane murmured before heading off to face their sergeant.

Several hours, and lectures later, Destructive Delta was back in the armory putting away their equipment. Everyone was silent. Mostly because Calvin was so pissed he was practically radioactive. No one dared say a word.

In the locker room, Dex was getting undressed when Calvin opened his locker. Plastic colored balls poured out, rolling and bouncing across the floor. Ash was the first to laugh, and Dex couldn’t help himself. He joined in along with everyone else in the locker room. So that’s what Ash had been doing when they’d been waiting in the truck for him.

“Fuck all of you,” Calvin hissed, grabbing his toiletry bag before slamming his locker shut and marching off toward the showers.

Dex picked up one of blue plastic balls, and put it in his locker as a little memento.

Best. Workday. Ever.

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Author Columns – Deconstructing Dex and Destructive Delta Shenanigans

Charlie M & M

Hello all! Today my monthly author columns have landed on the same day, so double the fun! At Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews we have Dex and Ethan with some meme fun. Ethan loves his memes, and he can often be found texting them to Calvin and Dex. Here we have an example of a typical day at the office for these two mischief makers.

Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviewshttp://sinfullymmbookreviews.blogspot.com/2016/02/charlie-cochets-men-mischief-monthly.html

Over at Love Bytes I’m chatting about character creation and Dexter J. Daley, including personality types. Drop by and tell us about your favorite characters.

Love Bytes Reviewshttp://lovebytesreviews.com/2016/02/24/deconstructing-dex-character-creation/

 

 

 

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Ethan Hobbs character profile over at It’s About the Book!

CatchATigerBTBanner

Hello all! Today the Catch a Tiger by the Tail blog tour takes us to It’s About the Book with a snazzy character profile for our sweet tiger Therian Ethan Hobbs. Make sure you check out the rest of the tour for more fun stuff like playlists, interviews, flash fiction, character profiles and more! Plus there’s a giveaway!

http://itsaboutthebook.com/

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THIRDS Character Spotlights all week long at Two Chicks Obsessed with Books and Eye Candy!

THIRDS logo

Hello all! In celebration of the release of Catch a Tiger by the Tail on Friday, Feb 5th, the lovely folks over at Two Chicks Obsessed with Books and Eye Candy are hosting a week long event where they’ve asked our THIRDS guys and gals five questions. There will be two characters per day, starting with Dex and Sloane and ending with Calvin and Ethan. Enjoy!

Monday Feb 1stDex & Sloane: http://twochicksobsessed.com/thirds-character-spotlights-dex-and-sloane-a-tco-exclusive/

Tuesday Feb 2nd – Cael & Ash: http://twochicksobsessed.com/thirds-character-spotlight-cael-and-ash-a-tco-exclusive/

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THIRDS Thursday – 1/21/16

Prompt: I would like to see Calvin supporting Hobbs during the situation that arose with Hobbs (trying to say without spoiler) in Against the Grain. It was a big part of the background in that book and since the next story is about Cobbs, I would love to see more of what is going on with them. Thank you.


Time to get up.

Calvin stretched with a groan before rolling over. His bed was nice and warm, but he really should get his ass out of bed. Rubbing his eyes, he sat up with a yawn. What time was it? He grabbed his phone from the nightstand, and frowned at the screen. Shit. It was almost nine. Ethan probably already had breakfast. Forcing himself to get out of bed, he let out another yawn before getting his butt in gear, and making use of the bathroom. After washing up, and brushing his teeth, he headed for the kitchen. Man, he was beat.

It had taken Ethan longer than usual to fall asleep last night. Now that he thought about it, it had probably been about three or four in the morning when he finally crawled into bed. At least Ethan had slept through the night. If he’d had nightmares, he would have ended up in Calvin’s bed. His best friend had been having a rough time with his anxiety lately. It hadn’t been this bad in a long time. Ethan had his really rough days, but since he’d started his medication back in college, he’d been having fewer of them. Calvin was at a loss to what had changed.

When Calvin reached the kitchen, his heart sank. Ethan wasn’t up yet. Ethan was always up before him. The only reason his best friend would still be in bed was if he wasn’t feeling well, or because of his anxiety. Hopefully he could get Ethan to eat something.

Calvin made them both breakfast sandwiches. He made some coffee for himself, and some hot chocolate for Ethan. When he was finished, he placed everything on a tray, and headed for Ethan’s bedroom, knocking before he went in. As expected, Ethan was buried under a mass of duvets, surrounded by scores of pillows. Calvin couldn’t even see him, just the big lump in the middle of the bed. His heart squeezed in his chest. It was pretty bad. He placed the tray on Ethan’s dresser before walking over to the bed, and taking a seat on the edge of it. The big lump moved away, so Calvin knew Ethan was awake.

“Morning, sunshine. I made you your favorite breakfast sandwich, and some hot chocolate.”

There was no reply.

“Do you want me to go, or stay and have breakfast here with you?”

The lump moved, and a hand slipped out from under the duvet, turning over palm up. Calvin tickled Ethan’s palm, same as he’d been doing since they were kids. When Ethan used to hide under his blankets and refuse to come out, Calvin would find his toes or his hand, and tickle him. The lump moved again, growing taller as Ethan sat up under the duvet, pulling it down to wrap around his shoulders. His hair was sticking up, and his cheeks were pink from the heat.

“Want some hot chocolate?” Calvin asked, receiving a nod in response. He wasn’t talking. Not good. Calvin got up and went to the dresser. He brought back the mug and held it out to Ethan, who took it with a nod of thanks. He sipped it, a small smile coming onto his handsome face. It always broke Calvin’s heart seeing Ethan so vulnerable. When people looked at Ethan, they couldn’t understand how it was possible for a huge three-hundred pound tiger Therian—a man who stood at almost seven feet tall, with the strength of several Humans—to be left debilitated by such a thing as anxiety. Calvin understood. He also understood what it meant to love someone who suffered from Selective Mutism, and severe Social Anxiety. As such, his purpose wasn’t to put up with Ethan, as some believed. His purpose was to love and support Ethan in every way he could, during the good days, and the more challenging days.

“We can stay home today,” Calvin said, getting up to bring their sandwiches over. He put the tray on the bed between them, careful not to spill his coffee. Ethan shook his head.

Ethan’s smartphone went off, and he looked at the screen. He motioned for Calvin to pick it up. It was Julia, Ethan’s mom. Calvin tapped the screen, and put it to his ear.

“Hi, Julia. It’s Cal. I’m good, thanks. Ethan’s just having some hot chocolate in bed. It’s getting pretty chilly out isn’t it?”

Because of Ethan’s anxiety, he needed routine, as well as habits. Hot chocolate in the morning, in bed was usually a signal to Julia that Ethan was having a tough day. They didn’t tell Ethan that because it would only make him feel guilty, and Lord knew Ethan felt guilty about enough as it was.

“I’ll tell him. Thanks. Take care, and give my mom a hug for me. Tell her I’ll call her later.” They exchanged a few more pleasantries before he hung up. He took a sip of his coffee. “If you’d rather not go out today, it’s no big deal. We could stay home, watch some movies. Your mom said she’d drop off some food.”

Ethan shook his head, and Calvin nodded. They ate their sandwiches quietly. The silence was never awkward between them, but Calvin knew Ethan was already beating himself up for feeling the way he was feeling, as of he could help it. Once they were done with breakfast, Ethan motioned to his closet.

“Sure thing.” Calvin walked over to pick out what Ethan was going to wear to Thanksgiving dinner. As he did, he pretended not to see Ethan sitting on the edge of the bed, a deep frown on his face as he glared down at the floor. With a deep breath, Ethan stood, took a step forward then shook his head, and went back to the bed. He dropped down onto it, and closed his eyes. Calvin wanted to tell him again he didn’t have to, but that would only frustrate Ethan, because he knew he didn’t have to, but he wanted to, and because he wanted to and couldn’t, he’d get upset.

Calvin picked out Ethan’s clothes, checked his email, then spent the next three hours soothing Ethan, and helping him get out of bed. They had a light lunch in the kitchen, but Ethan still wasn’t talking. Calvin made his best friend some tea, which helped soothe him, but he was still on edge. They showered, dressed, and put on their coats. It took a couple of tries, with Ethan heading back upstairs after reaching the sidewalk on the first attempt. Calvin followed him up, comforted him, and assured him whatever he wanted to do would be fine. Calvin didn’t mention how no one would be upset with him because Ethan would only hear the part about folks being upset, and him. At times like this Calvin had to be exceptionally aware of how he phrased his words.

Soon they’d arrived at Ethan’s parents’ house, and Ethan managed to give him mom and dad a hug. Calvin hugged everyone. His mom had been there since early morning helping Julia cook Thanksgiving dinner. When Seb hugged Calvin, Calvin whispered in his ear about Ethan having a rough day. Seb gave him a nod. When dinner was ready and on the table, Seb sat himself at the end, opposite his dad who was at the head of the table. Seb placed Ethan between him and Calvin so he’d feel safe. Rafe was running late, so Julia insisted they go ahead and start dinner after Thomas Hobbs said grace.

As they ate, Calvin kept an eye on Ethan. It was good to see him smile, even though Calvin knew Ethan was trying so very hard to make it seem like nothing was wrong. The door opened, and Calvin held back a curse when he saw someone unfamiliar come in with Rafe. In a matter of seconds, all hell broke loose. Ethan jumped to his feet, accidently knocking into the table. The glasses fell over, red wine spilling across the white linen. Rafe threw his hands up as he walked over.

Calvin quickly stood at Ethan’s side. “It’s fine, Ethan. Breathe. It’s okay.”

Julia and Calvin’s mom began to mop up the spilled liquid while Seb grabbed his older brother, growling quietly at him. “Why the hell didn’t you call first?” He sniffed at Rafe. “Have you been drinking? Are you drunk?”

“Get off me,” Rafe snapped, removing Seb’s hand from his arm. “I shouldn’t have to call just to say I’m bringing a friend to dinner.”

Ethan began to make wheezing noises, and Rafe started yelling. What the hell was wrong with him? He knew better than to just spring someone up on his brother like that. Meeting strangers was difficult as it was for Ethan, much less when he was having setbacks with his anxiety. Calvin glared at Rafe, warning him to stop. All he was doing was making things worse.

“Ethan baby, it’s okay,” Julia said, coming over to pat his arm gently. It would have helped if Rafe would just stop his damn shouting.

“Stop coddling him. That’s why he does it,” Rafe fumed, turning his attention to Ethan. “That’s enough, Ethan! You’re a grown man, for fuck’s sake. Stop acting like such a child. You have everyone’s attention, now stop it.”

“Rafe!” Julia gasped. She glowered at him. “You know better than that.”

“He’s doing it for attention!”

Rafe’s friend looked Ethan over before he started laughing. “Man, you never said your brother was such a spaz. He’s almost as big as you are. What’s the big deal? Wait, isn’t he supposed to be a THIRDS agent? Seriously? This guy? He looks like he’s about to cry.”

“You son of a bitch!” Calvin rounded the end of the table and tackled the guy, the two of them tumbling to the floor, and bringing chairs crashing down with them. Calvin landed a good punch across the guy’s jaw.

“Cal! Baby, please!” His mom called out across the room, but Calvin was too busy smacking the stupid out of the jerk.

“Cal, come on,” Seb pulled Calvin off. “He’s not worth it.”

“You asshole! What the hell’s the matter with you?” Calvin spat out as he tried to get away from Seb. “Who the hell do you think you are coming here and talking shit about someone you don’t even know? You don’t know him!”

Julia’s tearful call of his name snapped Calvin’s attention away from Rafe and his asshole friend. He turned to find Ethan on the floor, his hands covering his ears, as he took in big gulps of air. His whole body was shaking, and if they didn’t do something quick, Ethan was going to have a full blown panic attack.

“Seb, help me out.” They gently helped Ethan to his feet, and quickly but carefully led him to his old bedroom. It was just as it had been before Ethan had moved out for college, with posters of his favorite TV shows, movies, and music bands. Everything decorated in shades of calming blue. Luckily the bed was Therian-sized, so Ethan still fit. There was even enough room for Calvin to climb in with him, but first he had to make Ethan comfortable.

“Thanks, Seb. I got it.”

“Just call me if you need anything,” Seb replied. He left the room, closing the door behind him. Calvin didn’t waste time. He sat Ethan down, and pulled off Ethan’s sweater, knowing it would soon feel stifling to him. Then he knelt down in front of Ethan and pulled off his shoes and socks. Once he’d done that, he unbuckled Ethan’s belt, and gently tapped his flank.

“Lift up for me, buddy.”

Ethan did as asked without thought. They’d done this so many times that Ethan checked out for a good deal of it. He lifted his hips, and Calvin pulled off his slacks. As soon as he wore nothing but his undershirt and boxers, Calvin lifted the duvet.

“Okay, time to get all snuggly.”

Ethan lay down, and pulled his legs up, a heart wrenching sigh escaping him as he pulled the duvet around him, followed by his pillow. He had all but his face covered as he burrowed himself in his blanket cave. Soon he was breathing better. Calvin removed his clothes, staying in just his undershirt and boxer-briefs. He sat on the edge of the bed, smiling warmly at Ethan who shimmied back, and lifted the covers so Calvin could get in beside him. As soon as he was in, Ethan pulled him and the duvet close, wrapping the two of them up in fluffy, comfortable warmth. Now Ethan was safe. His body visibly relaxed, the tremors easing.

“I’m sorry,” Ethan murmured quietly.

“There’s nothing for you to be sorry for. You did nothing wrong, Ethan.” He ran a soothing hand down Ethan’s arm. “It’s okay. We’re okay now. Just you and me.”

“I ruined Thanksgiving.”

“No, you didn’t do anything. Rafe knows better than to do what he did, and what’s more he was drunk. He showed up to the house, to Thanksgiving dinner, drunk. None of this is on you. You’re loved, Ethan, you know that. Your mom will probably make us some big turkey sandwiches with all the trimmings. Your mom makes the best Thanksgiving subs.”

Ethan laced their fingers together, giving Calvin’s hand a squeeze. His eyes were glassy, but he managed a small smile. “Thank you, for all you do for me. I don’t know where I’d be without you.” He inhaled deeply, and let it out slowly. “You’re the only one who makes me feel safe.”

“You know whatever you need, I’m here for you.”

Ethan snuggled closer. He placed a kiss on Calvin’s brow. “Yeah.” When he pulled back, Calvin was surprised by the tears in his eyes. “Don’t leave. Don’t ever leave.”

“Never, Ethan.” He put his hand to Ethan’s cheek, smiling warmly when Ethan closed his eyes and leaned into the touch.

Ethan opened his eyes. “Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Okay.” Ethan closed his eyes, his fingers still laced with Calvin’s.

Calvin stayed awake like he always did, until Ethan had fallen asleep. He placed a kiss to Ethan’s cheek. “I’ll be right here. Always.”


 

Copyright © 2014 Charlie Cochet. All Rights Reserved. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

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THIRDS Thursday – 12/31/15

THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: Calvin and Ethan go back to their old high school.


Calvin couldn’t believe they were back.

That morning, a call had come in. A student had called the THIRDS in tears, asking they send someone to stop the bullies who were picking on a Therian kid. It was a young girl, dispatch had said. Normally, it wasn’t the kind of thing the THIRDS handled. Not unless one of the kids went feral and started running around in their Therian form. When Kimmy from dispatch had been told which high school the student was calling from, she thought Calvin might like to know. The school had come up in conversation on more than one occasion, and Calvin made it no secret what he thought about it and its principal.

Four years of hell Calvin and Ethan had suffered in that place, with no one to turn to but each other. Calvin had spent the majority of his days in the principal’s office getting yelled at, fighting, or comforting Ethan for the relentless bullying. No one would listen. They couldn’t understand how a kid as big as Ethan couldn’t defend himself. Why he wouldn’t speak up. Didn’t matter that they knew he had Selective Mutism. He wasn’t a mute. He could talk. They just couldn’t seem to get it in their heads that he couldn’t pick and choose who he talked to. It didn’t work that way.

Some teachers had been understanding, even going out of their way to help, like walking him to his next class so he wouldn’t get caught in the halls by some asshole looking to shove him into a locker or take his backpack so they could throw it over the fence into the P.E. field. Which was why Calvin was surprised when Ethan said he wanted to go.

Ethan pulled the Suburban into the faculty parking lot, drawing a crowd of students hanging around, a couple of them smoking. They should have been in class.

“You sure you want to go in there?” Calvin asked.

Ethan eyed the small group of gawking Seniors hovering close to the car. He gave Calvin a nod.

“Okay.” Calvin climbed out of the Suburban. They were in full uniform with their Glock secured in their holsters. Everything else remained locked away in the truck. The kids gathered around the truck, their mouths hanging open. At least the ones that didn’t have cigarettes in them.

“Holy fuck, look at the size of this dude!” One of the Seniors came up to Ethan. He had to crane his neck up to look at Ethan’s face.

“You fucking nuts, man? He’s THIRDS,” another one hissed from a couple of feet away. He shuffled nervously from one foot to the other. His friend ignored him.

“Hey, you ever have to maul anyone to death on the job?” The Senior asked.

Ethan looked down at the kid and narrowed his eyes. The kid stiffened as Ethan reached out and plucked the cigarette from him mouth. He dropped it on the ground, and stomped on it with his boot, grinding it for emphasis.

Calvin grinned. “He doesn’t like you smoking in his face.”

Ethan arched an eyebrow at the other kid with the cigarette. It flopped from his gaping mouth and hit the ground. The kid quickly stomped on it.

“How much you weigh?” One kid asked, as Calvin and Ethan headed for the entrance.

“What kind of tiger Therian are you?”

The first Senior who’d approached Ethan ran in front of him. “Hey, it’s rude not answer!”

Ethan glowered at him, and shook his head. Like he hadn’t heard that a million times. They walked into the school, the kids trailing behind them. Calvin wrinkled his nose. It was like going back in time. There was still litter in the halls. Kids hanging around when they should be in class. Graffiti on the walls, bent lockers, and broken lightbulbs.

A young Human girl dressed all in black and sporting several piercings came running, her tears having caused her thick black eyeliner to smear down her cheeks.

“Please, you have to help Neil.”

Calvin opened his mouth when one of the Seniors butted in. “Get lost, emo girl. They’re not here for that loser.”

The girl’s big silver eyes filled with fresh tears. Ethan walked around their rude entourage, glaring at the kid and scaring the pants off him before turning a warm smile to the young girl. He held out his gloved hand so she wouldn’t be scared, and pointed to his name tag with the other. Her eyes widened and she shrank away, uncertain.

“It’s okay,” Calvin assured her gently. “My partner and I are here to help.”

She gave them a big wobbly smile, her voice shaky when she spoke. “Neil’s in the gym. They beat him up and shoved him in the showers. He’s hiding behind the bleachers. I’m afraid he might shift and get hurt.”

“What’s your name?” Calvin asked, as they followed her through the school. Not that they didn’t know where the gym was. Poor kid. God only knew what kind of skanky stuff was behind those bleachers. Principal Meyers had a habit of spring cleaning only when Parent/Teacher conference time came around, or on the rare occasion members of the school board showed up. No one had high hopes for this place, or the students.

“I’m Melanie Harris, but everyone calls me Mel.”

“Okay, Mel. Can you tell us what happened?”

“We were on our way to Algebra when that jerk Doug and his friends grabbed Neil. They took him into the boys’ locker room and beat him up, then shoved him into one of the shower stall, running cold water on him. I tried to help but they just held me back.” Fresh tears streamed down her cheeks. He was so scared!”

“How long has this been going on?” Calvin asked as they ran into the gym. It still had the same foul stench it did when he’d been a student here.

“Months. Neil’s super shy. They pick on him for it. They call him the Cowardly Lion because he’s a lion Therian and he’s not fierce. He loves art. He’s really good at it.” Mel came to a stop by one of the bleachers and grabbed onto Calvin’s arm. “Please, you have to help him. He’s my best friend. He’s the sweetest, nicest guy in the world. I’m scared of what he might do to himself.”

“It’s okay, Mel. We won’t let anything happen to him.” Calvin turned to one of the kid from their little entourage that was watching them like they were some MTV reality TV show. “What’s your name?”

“Pete.”

“Pete, bring us some dry towels, and tell the P.E. teacher we need some clean sweatpants and a sweatshirt?”

Pete’s eyes went wide. “Mr. Henley hates them. Says they’re what’s wrong with this country.”

Calvin’s brows shot up. “Henley? As in Teddy Henley?”

Pete stared at him. “Um, yeah. You know him?”

Oh, the irony. “Yeah, I know him. Ask him for that stuff, and if he has a problem, just tell him he can come out here and tell Calvin Summers himself.”

Pete ran off, and Calvin turned to Ethan. He stepped up close to him to talk quietly. “I think you should go in there. You’re a Therian, and you’re good with kids. See if you can draw him out.”

Ethan nodded, and within seconds had disappeared behind the rickety wooden bleachers. The thought of suggesting his partner where a hazmat suit to go in there had crossed Calvin’s mind.

“Calvin Summers? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. I owe you a knuckle sandwich you little twerp. Where is he?” He noticed Calvin standing there and gave a start. “Shit, sorry, agent. I was looking for someone else.”

Calvin smiled pleasantly. “Hi, Teddy.”

Teddy’s reaction would have had Calvin in stitches if he didn’t feel so bad for the guy. Not that being a P.E. teacher was anything to laugh at, but Teddy wasn’t a P.E. teacher because he wanted to be. Hell, the guy rarely attended class when he’d been a student here, and certainly not P.E. He’d loathed it. Said it was for fat kids and losers. By the state of the gym and the equipment Calvin could see, Teddy clearly just didn’t give a shit.

“Summers?” Teddy looked Calvin over, his jaw slack. “You’re a THIRDS agent?”  Just as he said the words, Ethan emerged from behind the bleachers, Neil cradled against him, his face buried against Ethan’s uniform. Mel ran over to comfort him.

Teddy looked over at Ethan and Neil. “What’s going on? That little punk up to no good again?”

Calvin gave Teddy a warning look. “Where’s the clothing I asked for?”

Teddy snapped his fingers at Pete. “Well, go get it.”

Pete gave Teddy a dirty look before running off. Not wasting another second, Calvin approached Ethan who was down on one knee smiling warmly at poor Neil who was on the floor shivering, drenched from head to toe. Mel was hugging him, and running her hand through his soaked hair. Neil’s lips were purple, his skin pale. There were dark circles under his puffy red eyes. This kid was in a living hell here. Calvin’s heart squeezed in his chest. He knelt down beside Ethan.

“Hi, Neil. My name is Calvin Summers, and this is my partner Ethan Hobbs. You know, we used to come to this school.”

Neil’s head shot up. He looked from Ethan to Calvin and back, his eyes widening.

“That’s right. Ethan here, he used to get bullied too because of his Selective Mutism.”

“What’s that?” Mel asked curiously, her arms around Neil protectively.

“It means he can only talk to certain people or under certain situations. He doesn’t have a choice who he can talk to. He’s shy too. Everyone thought because he was a big tiger Therian that he could, and should, stand up for himself.”

Neil looked up at Ethan. “You couldn’t fight back either?”

Ethan shook his head. He placed his hand on Calvin’s shoulder, then moved it back to himself. Mel smiled.

“You two were best friends then?”

Calvin nodded. “Yep. We’ve been best friends since we were kids. We’ve always looked out for each other. In high school, I looked out for Ethan.”

“What’s going on here? Who called the THIRDS?”

That voice…

Mel stood, her hands balled into fists at her sides. Her bottom lip trembled but she held her head up high. “I did, Principal Meyer.”

“For what?”

“They were hurting Neil.”

“You don’t call THIRDS agents for that, Mel!” Meyers hissed. “You don’t think these agents have better things to do?”

“You saying a student continuously getting bullied in your school isn’t important?” Calvin stood and turned to face Principal Meyers. Aside the thinning gray hair, the man hadn’t changed at all in twenty-three years.

“I just meant—” Meyers peered at him, as if he were trying to figure something out. “Neil’s always stirring up trouble.” He removed a pair of glasses from his front breast pocket and proceeded to clean the lenses.

“He’s not! They’re always picking on him and no one listens!”

“Neil can stand up for himself. He just chooses not to. There’s no hope for that kid. He’s a lost cause.”

Calvin’s eyebrows shot up. “Wow. Still singing the same tune.”

Meyers put on his glasses, a deep frown coming onto his face before it turned to surprise. “Summers? Is that you?”

“That’s agent Summers, Mr. Meyers. I’m here on official THIRDS business.”

It took Meyers a second to get his jaw up off the floor, before he lifted his chin defiantly. “Come on, Summers. You’re an adult now. Look how far you’ve come. You never would have made it to where you are with that Ethan kid dragging you down. He was dead weight.”

Calvin couldn’t help his laugh. “You’re such an asshole.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me. What, you’re going to give me detention? Oh, by the way. You haven’t met my partner. He’s a demolitions expert and Safety Bomb Technician for the THIRDS.” Calvin stepped aside and Ethan got up, rounding his shoulders and straightening to his full height before he turned and stepped up to Meyers.

“Nice to meet you—” Meyers stared at Ethan’s name tag. “Hobbs? Wait, you can’t be….”

Ethan smiled and waved at Meyers.

“You… you work for the THIRDS?” Meyers took a step back. He couldn’t seem to stop staring at Ethan. “You talk now?”

Ethan rolled his eyes and turned back to Neil and Mel. He was obviously so done with Meyers.

“No, he doesn’t talk now. Well, he talks to me, and a couple of other people, so his condition’s improved. No thanks to people like you.”

Meyers chose to ignore that comment. “Then how can he work for the THIRDS? How can they have a mute agent?”

“Because he’s a damn good agent, Mr. Meyers. The THIRDS doesn’t discriminate. In fact, they encourage both Humans and Therians of all genders, races, religions, nationalities, and disabilities to work with them.” Calvin crouched down beside Neil who was looking up at Ethan like he was the most amazing thing he’d ever seen. He spoke so everyone else would here. “You’re better than this place Neil. Don’t let them define you. You define you. These people wrote off Ethan here as a lost cause too. They wanted me to stop being friends with him. Wasn’t going to happen. No matter what they said, or did, Ethan rose above that.”

Pete handed Calvin the dry clothes, and Calvin handed it to Pete. “Here. Why don’t you get dressed. You know, I draw too.”

Neil’s face lit up. “You do?”

“Yeah.” Calvin reached into his breast pocket and pulled out one of his THIRDS business cards with all his contact info on it. He handed one to Neil and one to Mel. “If either of you need anything, you just contact me okay?” He turned his attention back to Neil. “If you ever need help with your art and want me to stop by, just call me.”

Neil nodded, a big smile on his boyish face. He got up with Ethan’s help. Neil’s anxious gaze at the other students, as well as Meyers and Teddy wasn’t lost on Calvin. He put a hand to Neil’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Neil. We’ll take care of it. Go on now.” Neil nodded, tears in his eye, but a smile on his face. He gave Ethan a hug before scurrying off with Mel in tow.

Calvin and Ethan turned to their little entourage. “What have we learned here today kids?”

One of the bigger boys looked around at everyone. “Don’t pick on the nerds because one day they might grow up to be huge ass THIRDS agents who can kick your ass and you’ll end up the loser gym teacher?”

Ethan coughed into his hand so he wouldn’t laugh. Teddy looked about ready to spit nails.

“The moral of this story is, respect your fellow Humans and Therians. Or I will come down here and arrest your ass. Now get your butts back to class, study hard, be good, and if I hear of you boys stirring up trouble we’ll be back, and you’ll get to meet our lion Therian teammate, and believe me, you don’t want him down here because he will put the fear of God in you.”

The kids’ eyes were round as saucers before they bolted from the place like it was one fire.

“Well,” Meyers cleared his throat, “crisis averted. Thank you for coming down here agents.”

Calvin chuckled. “Oh, I’m not finished here, Mr. Meyers. You have a serious bullying problem in your school, and with attitudes like yours and Mr. Henley’s here, it’s not going to improve. All these kids have potential. I expect you to do a damn better job than you’ve been doing. You have six months to get this school into shape. When I come back here, if I don’t see an improvement, we’re going to have problems.”

“Are you crazy, Summers? We don’t—”

Calvin held a hand up. “Agent Summers.”

“Agent Summers,” Meyers replied through his teeth. “We don’t have that kind of funding!”

Calvin pursed his lips in thought. Some of it was true. The school’s funds had never been good, but then neither had its performance. It was a vicious circle. The THIRDS however did support several fundraisers and grants to help schools.

“Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to send a team of agents down here along with some members of the school board. They’re going to do an assessment of the school, and how much funding is needed to at least get it off life support. Clean it out, paint it, fix it up, get some new classroom furniture, some equipment, and work out a budget. We’ll see what we can do to help.”

Meyers narrowed his gaze at Calvin. “Why would you do that? You hate me, and this school. I thought you’d be happy to see me fail.”

Calvin sighed. “No. I’m not above rubbing your face in the fact that we accomplished something for ourselves much greater than you believed, but I don’t hate you. You have the power to make a difference in these kids’ lives. To give them a chance at a better future, and to stop incidents like today from happening. Take a look at your policies, set down some firm rules, expect change.” Calvin headed for the exit with Ethan at his side. “The next time we come back here, I expect results, Principal Meyers.” He waved goodbye, calling out over his shoulder before walking out the door. “Nice seeing you again, Teddy. Same goes for you.”

As they drove back to HQ, Calvin felt good. Not because Meyers and Teddy got to see the good men two troublemaking kids had turned into, but because coming back here gave him the chance to do something about the rest of the kids. He wished he’d done something sooner. Shamefully he’d let his anger and resentment cloud his judgement. The kids who attended the school shouldn’t suffer for the complacency of the adults around them.

“You up for fixing up that shithole?”

Ethan smiled at him, forming little wrinkles at the corners of his green eyes. He nodded, and took hold of Calvin’s hand, giving it a squeeze.

Looked like even now all these years after having left school, they were still learning a thing or two.


Copyright © 2015 Charlie Cochet. All Rights Reserved. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

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