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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THIRDS Thursdays Flash Fiction Removal Reminder

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Hello all! This is just a reminder that all THIRDS Thursday Flash Fiction stories posted before December 10th, 2015 will be permanently removed from the blog and the THIRDS Nerds Goodreads group on February 29th, 2016. This is due to production of the two THIRDS Beyond the Books eBooks. If you’d like to read all about the upcoming THIRDS Thursday eBooks, you can find the information on this post here:
http://www.charliecochet.com/thirds-thursday-ebook-news/

I’m so excited about these eBooks, and I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on their progress.

x Charlie

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Exclusive Calvin and Ethan Flash Fiction – Catch a Tiger by the Tail blog tour continues over at The Novel Approach!

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Hello all! Today the Catch a Tiger by the Tail blog tour stops over at The Novel Approach with an exclusive flash fiction story with Calvin and Ethan. Find out about what happened at the hospital in Blood & Thunder when Calvin decided it was time to tell his best friend the truth. Remember to check out the rest of the tour for the playlist, character profiles, interviews, flash fiction, and more! Plus enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

http://www.thenovelapproachreviews.com/

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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 – 1/14/16

Prompt: Is there any way we can get a story from Zach’s POV? Does he think about Austen? Does he think about Dex and the Cheesy Doodles? I just want to know what he thinks about.


Thank goodness that was over.

As much as Zach enjoyed working protective detail for Unit Beta, babysitting the Therian teenagers of visiting foreign dignitaries was not his favorite. Most were no trouble, but occasionally some of them regarded themselves as celebrities, and their entourage had a habit of treating him like he was their personal butler instead of the highly trained THIRDS agent he was. This time around was the worst yet. The eighteen-year-old leopard Therian and her half a dozen friends were terrifying.

They kept poking his abs, making him hold out his arms to see how many of them could hang off his biceps. One of them even grabbed his butt. Five hours of giggling, of being made to show how strong he was, of being asked completely inappropriate questions about his anatomy, had exhausted him. It was all submitted in his report, and his sergeant was very good at following up on claims of impropriety. The hiring agency would be warned about conduct for future contracts. The THIRDS wouldn’t permit their agents to be harassed, no matter who they were working with.

Zach didn’t want to get the girls in trouble, but his partner had told him it was an important lesson they needed to learn. At least it was over. Now he could enjoy his break and his favorite—

“You,” Zach muttered, his eyes narrowed at the blond Human.

Dex looked up, pale blue eyes wide. “Me.”

Zach didn’t know what to do with agent Dexter J. Daley. He was strange. No. That wasn’t right. Even strange wasn’t strange enough for him. Of all the vending machines at HQ, why did Dex always end up at the same one Zach intended to use? And why was there only ever one darn packet of Cheesy Doodles left? He supposed the answer to that stood in front of him. The guy ate almost as much as Zach did. Besides, the Cheesy Doodles should be his considering this was Unit Beta’s canteen.

Let me guess,” Dex said with a big grin, “these are yours?” He pointed to the lone pack of tasty Cheesy Doodles behind the glass.

Zach nodded.

“I don’t suppose my telling you I was here first would resolve this?”

Zach arched an eyebrow at him. Not even close.

“I didn’t think so,” Dex sighed. “I’ll tell you what, big guy. I’m beat, so outrunning you today is not in the cards, as fun as that is.”

Dex didn’t really outrun Zach. It was more like he squeezed himself into places Zach didn’t have a chance of fitting into. Like the laundry chute in Sparta. Zach had to give the guy credit, he meant business when it came to Cheesy Doodles. No peril was too great, or equipment locker too small. The man went to great lengths to escape with Zach’s cheese snacks.

“How about we share?”

Zach considered this. Share his Cheesy Doodles with Dex, or be forced to chase the agent all around the building, and in the end lose his snack. Although Dex did say he was too tired to run today.

Dex put his change into the machine and tapped the digital screen. The bag plopped down.  Zach readied himself. Dex was going down. Those Cheesy Doodles were Zach’s.

“Man, for a small guy, Austen is one tough little bastard.”

Zach straightened. “Austen Payne?”

“Only Austen I know,” Dex replied with a nod. He grabbed the packet of Cheesy Doodles and motioned over to an empty table. Zach followed, but only because he didn’t want to lose sight of his Cheesy Doodles. Not because he wanted to know about Austen Payne. Zach scrunched up his nose. That was a lie. He wanted to know more about the mysterious cheetah Therian he’d looked after in the abandoned building a few months ago.

Zach sat down across from Dex, his eyes on the packet. It made a lovely sound when it was opened. To his surprise, Dex offered him first dibs. Zach grabbed a couple and waited for Dex to say whatever he was going to say. The guy was very smart, despite playing the fool. Zach had seen him in action plenty of times, out in the field and training in Sparta.

“You asked Sloane about him.”

There was no teasing or malice in Dex’s tone. It was simply a statement. Zach nodded. He ate one of his Cheesy Doodles.

“I asked him how Austen was doing,” Zach admitted.

“Still alive and kicking. And being a pain in everyone’s ass.”

Zach shrugged. That was Dex’s opinion. Zach didn’t think so. “He does what you do.”

“And what’s that?” Dex asked, his head cocked to one side in thought.

“Act like a clown to hide the truth.”

“And what truth might that be?” Dex popped another Cheesy Doodle into his mouth before offering the bag again. “Also, Austen and I are nothing alike. The guy’s like an obnoxious little ninja. You know he breaks into my house to steal my Cheesy Doodles?”

Zach stared at Dex before letting out a quiet laugh.

“That’s right. Your boyfriend’s a thief.”

Zach stopped laughing. He narrowed his eyes. “He’s not my boyfriend. The truth he hides is his true feelings. You make jokes to hide insecurities.”

Dex studied him. “Interesting. However, we’re not talking about me, we’re talking about Austen.”

“I just wanted to know if he was okay.”

“Because you were thinking about him.”

Where was Dex, going with this? Dex peered at him, and Zach was forced to look away. Okay, so he had been thinking about Austen. There was something… sad about him. Zach didn’t know that much about Austen other than what Sloane had told him, but the thought of the spirited cheetah Therian being all alone in the world made Zach sad. He’d never been alone. Heck, he’d grown up with eight brothers and sisters, plus cousins, aunts, and uncles. The Zachary clan was huge.

Zach shrugged. He couldn’t deny he’d been thinking about Austen. Whatever Austen did as an SSA, his job was very dangerous. Zach knew that much. At least he cared about what he did, considering he’d been helping Sloane out when he got hurt. From their short time together, Zach had been able to gleam some insight into Austen. It was obvious that outside of Sloane, Austen wasn’t used to anyone being kind to him without wanting something in return. Zach cleared his throat.

“So, you’ve seen him recently?” Zach wasn’t particularly pleased by the impish smile on Dex’s face, but he ignored it.

“Today, actually. We had a training exercise and he wiped the floor with us.”

Zach’s brows shot up. “Us? Who’s us?”

“The whole team. Hobbs, Ash, Sloane.” Dex shook his head in shame. “That’s what we get for underestimating him. Dude’s got mad skills.”

“Good,” Zach said, pleased.

“Good we got our asses handed to us?”

Zach laughed at Dex’s stunned expression. He shook his head. “No, silly. I’m glad that he can defend himself against bigger Therians.”

“I think he’s been training harder, after what happened with those Coalition jerks. I get the feeling Austen doesn’t like getting caught.” Something in Dex’s eyes made Zach pause. There was more to that declaration.

“Anyway, thanks for the chat,” Dex said as he got up, handing Zach the rest of the packet. “You know, just because you don’t see him, doesn’t mean he’s not around. He likes to keep tabs on people close to him. He just doesn’t like them to know he’s keeping tabs on them. The guy’s about as emotional as an armadillo.” Dex patted Zach’s shoulder and gave him a wink. “Until the next pack of Cheesy Doodles.”

Zach nodded. I look forward to it.

The rest of the day went quickly, and soon he was home. After a hot shower, he came downstairs in his T-shirt, and loose pajama bottoms. His feet were bare as usual. He wasn’t a fan of socks. He fixed himself dinner, talked to his mom on the phone, and promised he’d be there for his dad’s birthday party that weekend. He was too tired to go out, so he stayed in watching TV. During the commercial break, he headed into the kitchen for a bottle of water and his Cheesy Doodles. He opened the cupboard where he stored them, and frowned.

They were gone.

This morning there had been a full bag. He was certain of it.

A slow smile crept onto his face.

He went to the fridge and scribbled a quick grocery list, adding Cheesy Doodles to the bottom.

Better make that two bags.  


 

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

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THIRDS Thursday – 12/17/15

Christmas THIRDS Thursdays

Prompt: The first time Hobbs talked to Calvin.


Principal Meyers thrust a box of tissues at Calvin before snarling at him. “Clean yourself up. I don’t want you bleeding all over my carpet.”

Calvin glared at the man and grabbed a bunch of tissues. He wiped his nose before twisting one up and sticking it up his right nostril.

“Let me guess,” Meyers said with a sigh. “Ethan Hobbs.”

Calvin didn’t reply. He slouched down in his seat and crossed his arms over his chest. At least he managed not to get any blood on his T-shirt this time. His mom wouldn’t be able to buy him new clothes until the new school year started, and Calvin was too embarrassed to ask Seb, even though he’d offered the last time he caught Calvin wearing one of Ethan’s way-too-big-for-him shirts because he’d gotten his P.E. one ripped.

“For crying out loud, Summers. Can we go one day without you ending up in my office? You think I have nothing better to do?”

“I don’t know. Do you?” Calvin asked smartly.

Meyers narrowed his near black eyes. “You need to work on your attitude.”

You need to work on not being such a jerk. Like the guy even cared that Calvin had been in a fight against three seniors bigger than him. Meyers just had to look like he gave a shit.

“Do I need to get your mom up here again?”

Calvin swallowed hard, his voice quiet. “No, sir.” His mom would be upset if she had to miss work to come down because he was in the principal’s office again. It meant she’d have to make up the hours at some other point during the week, and as it was, Calvin hated that she had to spend any time at all in that shithole diner. Plus, Meyers loved to hear himself talk, especially when he was blabbering on about what a troublemaker Calvin was. It’s like his principal kept his mom there on purpose, just to punish Calvin.

Meyers stood and came to sit on the edge of his desk to face Calvin. “You’re not a dumb kid, Summers. I’ve seen your grades. You’re a talented artist. Determined. You can have a bright future if you choose the right path, and right now, you’re not on it. Do yourself a favor and find some news friends to hang out with.”

Calvin was stunned. “Stop being friends with Ethan?”

“That kid is nothing but trouble. He’s got all kinds of problems. I know things are tough for you at home, but you’re smart. Ethan is holding you back.”

Calvin balled his hands into fists at his sides. “Ethan is smart, way smarter than you think. And he isn’t the problem. It’s those jerks picking on him. He never bothers anyone, but they find him just to bully him. They call him horrible names, push him around, and steal his lunch.”

Meyers studied him. “Have you thought that maybe you’re making him weaker?”

“What?”

“He’s a tiger Therian. Ethan’s the biggest kid in this school. Maybe if you stopped fighting his battles for him, he might stand up for himself and tell those kids to stop.”

Calvin stared at the man. Was he serious? “You know he can’t because of his mutism.”

Selective Mutism. He can talk.”

“Yeah, but he can’t choose who he talks to.” The only person Ethan spoke to was Seb. Heck, Ethan and Calvin had been best friends for over a year and a half now and not even Calvin had heard him talk.

“I’m sure if he stopped being so lazy, and really tried—”

Calvin jumped to his feet. “Are you kidding me?”

Sit down, Summers.”

“Do you know anything about Selective Mutism? Do you even care?” Calvin was so angry he was almost shaking. Lazy? If he really tried? How could he say those things? Ethan wasn’t lazy. He worked super hard all the time. Some days his anxiety was so bad he couldn’t even come to school. Meyers knew that!

“Watch your tone,” Meyers warned. He stood and took a seat behind his desk. “You and Ethan have been nothing but trouble since you arrived. No other Freshmen give me as much grief as you two. Look at you. The black eye you came in here with on Monday has barely faded, and already your back, bloodied and bruised. Ethan Hobbs is a lost cause. Cut him loose or you’re going to end up serving burgers in some dive just like your mother.”

“Fuck you!”

“That’s is. Detention for a month.” Meyers grabbed the detention notepad from his drawer and slammed it on the desk.

“I don’t care,” Calvin spat out. “Don’t insult my mom, and don’t for a minute think I’m going to stop being friends with Ethan. I won’t stop protecting him from bullies, or people like you!”

“You’re looking to get suspended, Summers. But then judging from your home life, what else can be expect?”

“You don’t know anything about my life,” Calvin ground out through his teeth. “And it would be nice to get a textbook or two in this school, but then judging from its principal, what else can be expected?”

Meyers gaped at him before his entire face turned a purplish-red. He jumped to his feet and thrust a finger toward the door.

“You’re suspended for a week, Summers! Let’s see who’ll look after your friend when you’re not here.”

Calvin flipped him the bird before spinning on his heels and strolling out the door. It slammed behind him, a loud crashing noise resounding from somewhere inside the room. It sounded like maybe Meyers had thrown something. With a grin, Calvin headed for his locker to grab his backpack. His mom would be upset, but she’d understand.

He waited ten minutes outside his and Ethan’s math class until the bell rang. When Ethan came out, his big smile squeezed at Calvin’s heart. His smile faded when he saw the tissue in Calvin’s nose.

“It’s nothing. Come on. We got a week off.” Meyers didn’t know anything about Ethan, and he sure as hell didn’t know anything about them. If Calvin wasn’t in school, Ethan wouldn’t be either. He’d tell his mom he wasn’t going and that was it. Ethan never missed school. He actually liked it. For the most part. If it wasn’t for the bullies terrorizing him, he’d love school. He especially loved science and chemistry.

Calvin headed for the front doors with Ethan on his heels. Outside, Ethan stopped him by the fence, his expression worried as he cupped Calvin’s face. He frowned at Calvin’s bloodstained nose before cocking his head to one side in question. Calvin had gotten really good at understanding Ethan. His best friend was the most expressive guy he knew and he never said a word.

“I got suspended.”

Ethan put a hand to his chest.

“No, not because of you.” Calvin couldn’t help his grin. “I said “fuck you” to Principal Meyers.”

Ethan’s jaw dropped.

“He talked shit about my mom.” Calvin turned and walked with Ethan right beside him. There was no point in making Ethan feel bad by telling him everything. His best friend felt guilty enough most days. Seb would bring them their homework, and most likely chew out Principal Meyers again. The thought cheered Calvin up. He remembered the last time Seb had stormed in there after Ethan had called him.

During P.E. some asshole had snuck up on Ethan from behind and thrown a towel over his head, holding it closed from behind. Ethan had a panic attack, and Calvin had punched Teddy Henley in the mouth. After Meyers was done threatening Calvin, Ethan had called Seb to come pick them up. When Seb thundered into the room, Calvin had taken hold of Ethan’s hand. He’d never seen Seb so pissed. Principal Meyers all but shit himself.

On their way home they stopped at a park. It was empty since it was mostly a kiddie park which was falling apart. No parent in their right mind would let their toddler play in this deathtrap. Calvin climbed the rusted jungle gym. Some of the bars were missing. Ethan joined him. It was nice. Ethan took hold of Calvin’s hand. He did that sometimes. Not because they were boyfriends or anything, but because Ethan liked it. It made him feel safe.

Ethan squeezed his hand and Calvin smiled at him. His best friend’s cheeks went pink and Calvin wondered what Ethan was thinking. Then Ethan opened his mouth and talked.

“Thank you.”

Calvin was stunned, but he was quick. He shrugged and smiled. “For what?” If he made a big deal out of it, Ethan would feel uncomfortable and he might stop. Calvin never wanted him to stop. His voice was soft and sweet. Calvin had never heard anything more amazing.

“For being my best friend. For taking care of me.”

Calvin nudged a bit closer to Ethan so he could rest his head on Ethan’s shoulder. Mostly, he didn’t want Ethan to see the tears in his eyes. He squeezed Ethan’s hand to let him know how much it meant to him that Ethan had talked to him.

“We’ll always be together, Ethan. Always.”


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

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Join the THIRDS fellas over at the Halloween Flash Fiction Event hosted by Books Make Me Happy!

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Hello all! Happy Halloween! To celebrate this holiday when things go bump in the night, Books Make Me Happy Reviews has been hosting an awesome Halloween Flash Fiction Event with plenty of fab folks taking part. Today the fellas from Destructive Delta join the fun and we get to see what happens when the crew is called out to a creepy crime seen on Halloween. With Ash, Dex, and Sloane in the same room, there’s bound to be some shenanigans! Enjoy!

http://booksmakemehappyreviews.com/?p=4355

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Halloween Flash Fiction Event hosted by Books Make Me Happy!

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Hello all! The fabulous folks over at Books Make Me Happy are hosting a Flash Fiction Event for Halloween! The THIRDS fellas will be joining the spooky fun on October 31st when my little flash fiction story inspired by a creepy photo goes up. What happens when Sloane, Dex, Ash, and the rest of Destructive Delta get called to a spooky crime scene? Well, you’ll just have to check it out on Friday, October 31st to find out.

Check out the kick-off post and schedule here:

http://booksmakemehappyreviews.com/2014/10/24/halloween-flash-fiction-event-kickoff/

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Coming Soon – THIRDS Thursdays

THIRDS Thursdays

Hello all! Starting sometime in September I’m launching THIRDS Thursdays on my blog. What is THIRDS Thursday? It’s a day for all things THIRDS, and a little thank you to all you amazing THIRDS fans. More ideas may be added, but for now, on Thursdays I’ll be posting short Flash Fiction (200-1000 words) based on prompts you post. You can link to a picture for inspiration as well. I’ll also cross post them to the THIRDS Thursdays Flash Fiction folder in the THIRDS Nerds group on Goodreads here. If you’re a member of the group, you can also leave your prompts along with images here.

The only rule to this is that your prompts have to fall in line with the current series timeline. So I’m afraid until Ash and Cael’s book gets released, there won’t be any sexy-times between them. But if you want a sweet scene between them that reflect their current relationship, go for it! Same for the other couples: Dex & Sloane, Calvin & Hobbs, Seb & Hudson, Lou & Bradley. You can even include childhood shenanigans with Dex & Cael. Family moments. So remember, no Flash Fiction spoilers before the actual books have come out. Of course that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative. ;)

You can start posting your prompts on the THIRDS Thursdays page here and I’ll announce as soon as the first one is about to go up. I’d like to get a few done before I start scheduling them. I’ll be choosing prompts using the Magic Hat. Please try not to get upset if your prompt doesn’t get picked, though this might only happen if we get loads. Most importantly, have fun!

Links:
Goodreads THIRDS Nerds THIRDS Thursdays Flash Fiction prompts: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1964668-thirds-thursdays-flash-fiction-prompts

THIRDS Thursdays Blog Page: http://www.charliecochet.com/thirds-thursdays/

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