Category - Flash Fiction

THIRDS Thursday - 6/28/18

PromptWe all know Dex is a trouble magnet with a super big heart. Maybe they work on a case and during a raid they find a little 5 year old bratty Therian Jaguar girl, whose needs looking after till her family can be found.


FINAL PART

Dex noticed Sloane had something hidden behind his back as he walked over to Solange. “Sorry I took so long.” He stopped next to her then knelt. “Guess what? Your mommy and daddy are on their way to pick you up, and look who’s here.”

Solange squealed when Sloane presented her with a stuffed lion toy, and Dex couldn’t help his laugh. It had floppy arms and legs, a big brown nose, and the biggest, craziest mane Dex had ever seen. She got her little arms wrapped around it, and hugged the stuffing out of it.

“So what have you two been up to?” Sloane asked, just as Ash entered the room.

Maybe the floor would swallow Dex up, and he wouldn’t have to witness this crushing, life altering moment. Okay, maybe he was being a little dramatic, but still.

Ash opened his mouth when Solange piped up.

“Dex and I were singing!”

The room plunged into silence, everyone staring at Solange.

Sloane blinked at her. “You were singing?”

“Yep. We were here the whole time, and we were singing a fun song. Do you want to hear it?”

Sloane nodded.

Two words in and Dex was on the floor in a fit of laughter. Ash’s eyes were huge, and Sloane had a fist to his mouth to keep himself from laughing. Meanwhile, at the top of her lungs, Solange sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

Ash looked so confused, and Dex was afraid he’d pee his pants he was laughing so hard. “What’s happening right now?”

Solange continued to sing, her voice going up really high in pitch for certain parts of the song, and Dex just couldn’t breathe.

“Yeah, no.” Ash turned and left.

“Do you like it?” Solange asked Sloane.

Sloane laughed softly. “I do. I also think it’s very sweet for you to cover for Dex.”

Dex froze. He sat up, and gaped at Sloane. “You know?”

Sloane stood, and held a hand out to Dex, helping him to his feet. He made sure to stand where he could keep an eye on Solange. “Yes, Babe. I came back to ask Solange a quick question and didn’t see either of you. I figured she managed to sneak away.”

Dex narrowed his eyes. “Ash told you, didn’t he?”

“He did. Yes. Like, the moment he saw her.”

“Where was she?”

Sloane chuckled. “Here.”

“What?”

“She was hiding under my desk.”

Dex’s jaw dropped. Hiding in plain sight. Of course she was. Man, he felt like an idiot. He not only lived with a jaguar Therian, he was mated to one. They were experts at hiding so they could pounce. Sloane’s desk was the first place he should have checked.

“That’s also why we smelled her scent.”

Dex nodded his agreement. He thought her scent hadn’t changed because she’d just been in the office, but in truth it was because she hadn’t left. That sneaky sneak. “Wait, how did she end up with Ash if she didn’t leave the office?”

“He dropped by to discuss the case and found her sitting in my chair, but no you. When he asked her where you were, she said she’d show him.” Sloane looked down, and Dex followed his gaze. Solange stood beside him tugging at one of his pockets.

“Don’t be mad at Dex. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have pretended to run away. He’ll be a really good daddy, I promise.”

Sloane’s expression softened, and he picked Solange up, his smile making Dex melt. “You know what? I think he’ll make a great daddy.”

“You do?” she asked, her smile wide.

Sloane nodded then gave them each a pointed look. “I’m not happy with either of you, but that doesn’t change how great I think you both are.” He turned his attention back to Solange. “You shouldn’t pretend to sneak away like that, or actually sneak away. You really worried Dex. What if you weren’t somewhere safe? How would your mommy and daddy feel if something happened to you?”

Her bottom lip jutted out in a miserable pout. “They’d be sad.”

“They’d be heartbroken.” Sloane turned his attention to Dex. “I’m not sure what you were doing when Solange pulled a Houdini on you, but she reminds me of a certain someone.” He shook his head in amusement. “I take my eyes off you for two seconds, and next thing I know, I find you Duct taped to a medical examiner’s table.”

Solange arched a perfect little eyebrow at Dex. He was being judged by a five-year-old. Splendid.

“Here’s a life lesson. Never steal cookies from a wolf Therian. They are very serious about their food. Especially cookies. They might look all sweet and nerdy, but don’t let that fool you.”

Sloane laughed, and Solange giggled.

“I’m glad my misfortune amuses you two,” Dex said with a sniff.

Sloane pulled him close, and kissed his temple. “I love you. But next time, call me, huh? We’ll work it out together.”

Really, Dex should have known better. “I will. I’m sorry. I just kind of freaked out a little.”

“I know. That happens when your blood sugar is low. Then you crash. So how about I stay with Solange while you get yourself something from the canteen.”

“Have I told you lately how amazing you are?”

Sloane shrugged, his smile dazzling. “I’m not going to complain if you feel the need to say it again.”

“You’re amazing.” Dex kissed Sloane’s cheek before heading for the door. As he headed for the canteen, he thought about Solange and how after everything she’d stuck up for him, so he wouldn’t get in trouble with Sloane. She was a good kid. He thought about the reason he’d take his eyes off her, and an idea struck him. He’d run it by Sloane, but he didn’t think Sloane would mind. Ash on the other hand….

“I hate you so bad right now,” Ash hissed.

When Solange’s parents arrived to pick up their little girl, after her mother bawled her eyes out and her father paced the office in a controlled rage at the babysitter’s negligence, everyone settled down. Solange’s parents were pressing charges, and they had every right to. They’d trusted the babysitter with their precious child, and their trust had been betrayed. Both parents had gone pale when they’d discovered where Destructive Delta had rescued her from, and they were extremely grateful. The THIRDS had made new allies.

As they talked, Dex discussed his idea with Solange’s parents, and then Solange’s mother broke down in tears before lunging herself at Dex, and hugging him tight.

As it turned out. Dolly wasn’t just any lion, but actually Growly the Grumpy Lion, a very famous children’s TV show lion. A British kids TV show lion. Growly was a lion Therian who in his Human form wore a giant crazy mane and was super grumpy which the kids found hysterical. Who would have known that within their ranks they had their own Growly the Grumpy Lion. And, oh, he was very grumpy right now.

Ash sat in the middle of circle of kids, arms crossed over his expansive chest, big fluffy mane with little lion ears over his head.

“Do you live in the jungle?” A little Human boy asked, waving his hand in front of Ash’s face.

“No. I live in Leeds apparently. Probably because it starts with an “L”. Why it couldn’t be London, I don’t know.”

“You don’t sound British,” another little boy said.

Ash sighed, and when he spoke, Dex just knew he was imitating Hudson. If Hudson were a grumpy ass lion Therian pretending to be a British wolf Therian. “I’m British. I drink tea, and eat cookies, but I call them biscuits because I like to be difficult.”

The kids all laughed their little faces off and Hudson frowned.

“I don’t sound like that.”

“Eh, you kinda do.”

Hudson narrowed his eyes at Dex. “As if I would take the word of a biscuit thief.”

“You’re just strengthening his case.”

Sloane stepped up beside Dex, and wrapped an arm around him, pulling him close. He kissed Dex’s temple and spoke so only Dex would hear. “I think you’ve just made Solange the most popular kid at her school. How did you get all the parents to let their kids come?”

“I just used my Daley charm.”

“Too bad that charm won’t work on Ash. I love you, Babe, which is why when this is over, I’ll try and buy you some time so you can make a run for it.”

Cael stepped up to Dex’s right. He was so smitten as he watched his boyfriend. “I had no idea Ash was so good with kids. He’s amazing. Also, you’re a dead man. Just saying. I’ll try and buy you some time, so you can get away.”

Dex chuckled. “I appreciate that my family is willing to risk the wrath of Ash to give me a running head start, but I really don’t think it’ll be necessary. I think he’s secretly enjoying it.”

One little girl launched herself into Ash’s arms. He lifted her up and she sneezed. She’d also had a mouth full of fruit juice which Ash was now wearing.

Dex hugged Cael then turned to Sloane and kissed him. “Make sure my grave says I died valiantly in combat.” Dex took off to the sound of Ash roaring his name. Yep. Just another day at the office for Destructive Delta.


Copyright © 2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday - 7/12/18

Prompt: Can we see Hobbs and Calvin’s hospital kiss from their point of view?

PART ONE

Don’t lose your shit. Don’t lose your shit.

“I’m fine,” Ethan said quietly from where he sat, propped against several pillows on the Therian-sized hospital bed. Calvin could only shake his head in response as he paced the floor at the foot of Ethan’s bed. Fine? How could he sit there so calm, and tell Calvin he was fine? If Dex hadn’t disobeyed orders and gone back for Ethan….

“I could have been standing in the morgue right now,” Calvin hissed angrily. Maybe he should get some air. He’d been in this room since they’d allowed him in to see Ethan. It seemed like forever ago. When he’d come in, and he’d seen Ethan hooked up to all those machines, a tube stuck in his nose, IV in his arm… Calvin had taken advantage of the fact Ethan had been out, and no one else would be coming to disturb them, and he’d cried like he hadn’t all his life.

It wasn’t the first time either of them had been hurt on the job, but none of those instances had ever brought either of them as close to death as this.

“The whole time you were trapped in there, all I could think about was how the hell I was gonna tell your mom that you were….” Calvin shook his head, and pressed his lips together in an attempt to keep the tears at bay. “And then it hit me. I might actually lose you. Twenty-three years, Ethan. Did you know that? We’ve been together, side by side, nearly every single day for twenty-three years. Suddenly I was faced with the possibility that you wouldn’t be there anymore, and I couldn’t….”

“Cal….”

Calvin’s bottom lip trembled, and he rubbed his eyes. He sniffed, and blew out a steadying breath before straightening. He walked to the side of Ethan’s bed, and took hold of his hand, his heart pounding in his ears when Ethan smiled. He looked so sweet and confused. It was a huge risk, one Calvin couldn’t afford not to take. Not anymore.

“For a long time now, I kept it inside because I was afraid of messing things up between us, but then I almost lost you. I thought about how I might have never had the chance to tell you how I really felt about you, Ethan. I told you after that party how things had changed for me, and I still feel that way. You’ll always be my best friend, and I love you, but now… I want us to be more. I want to be the only guy you have in your bed. I want you.” Calvin gently took hold of Ethan’s face and kissed him. Ethan tensed beneath Calvin, no doubt caught off guard, and for a moment Calvin feared he’d screwed up, but then the most amazing thing happened.

Ethan returned his kiss.

Ethan didn’t just kiss Calvin back, his kissed Calvin with just as much desperation as Calvin felt, his fingers gripping Calvin’s arms, sending a tremor through Calvin’s body. He opened his mouth, allowing Ethan’s tongue inside to explore. They kissed like they’d been starved for each other, and Calvin’s heart beat so fast he was afraid he’d pass out right then.

“What the hell is going on in here?”

Oh shit! Calvin jerked back, his eyes wide and his face burning. When the hell had the sergeant and Dex come in the room? How long had they been there?

Dex spun around and threw a hand up. “It’s my fault, Sarge. I made him do it.”

“What?” Maddock looked from Dex to Calvin and Ethan and back, not looking convinced. Dex turned, his expression when he saw Calvin not boding well, especially when Calvin followed Dex’s gaze to Ethan who was just as wide-eyed, breathless, and red-faced as Calvin.

“Well, Hobbs was bitchin’ about his ouchies, so I said Calvin would kiss it and make it better. Calvin said no, so I said the only alternative was for me to reenact Romancing the Stone scene for scene while singing Billy Ocean’s “When the Going Gets Tough.” And wouldn’t you know it, Calvin puckered up. Absolutely no appreciation for the arts, these two.” Dex shook his head in shame and started singing softly. Sergeant Maddock didn’t hesitate. He shook his head and smacked Dex upside the head. “Ow!”

“Boy, what the hell’s wrong with you? The poor guy got blown up and you’re torturing him with your crappy-ass pop music?”

“Whoa, hey now. Don’t you insult Billy. Billy’s the man. But I understand what you’re saying. I need to work on my selections.” Dex thrust a finger at a startled looking Ethan and started singing “Eye of the Tiger.”

The guy was a nut. He was also trying to cover for Calvin and Ethan.

“No you don’t.” Maddock grabbed Dex by the collar and dragged him out of the room then the sergeant returned. He stopped by Ethan’s bed, his expression softening. “How are you feeling?”

Ethan nodded, and smiled.

“Good.” Maddock nodded. He was quiet for a moment before he gently patted Ethan’s shoulder. “You gave us quite the scare, son.”

Calvin stepped to one side to let the sarge talk to Ethan privately, and took the opportunity to text Dex.

Thank you.

Dex replied with a winking happy face, and Calvin smiled. That guy was such a dork. But the longer Calvin spent around him, the more he realized what a perfect fit for the team he was. Calvin had been skeptical at first, like everyone else, but the more resistance Dex met, the harder he fought, and Calvin had to admire that. It was the second time in only so many months that Dex had tried covering for him and Ethan. It was also the second time Dex had risked his life for them. First at Greenpoint where Calvin had gotten in over his head helping Ethan, and now when Dex went against orders, and dragged Ethan to safety.

Calvin wasn’t ashamed to admit that he didn’t understand why at first. He wondered if Dex had some kind of death wish, or if he was that desperate to impress Sloane, or his dad. It quickly became clear that it was just the kind of guy Dex was. He was the guy who ran into a burning building to save someone.

“You rest, and I’ll send someone to check on you later,” Maddock told Ethan before giving Calvin a nod then leaving the room. Calvin turned, smiling at the sight of Ethan trying to fight sleep. He walked over, and ran a hand over Ethan’s head.

“Just go to sleep and stop fighting so hard.” Ethan wrapped a hand around his wrist, his words almost a whisper when he spoke.

“Will you be here when I wake up?”

“I’ll be here as long as they let me.”

Ethan smiled softly, and Calvin couldn’t help but place a quick, sweet kiss to his lips. When he pulled back, Ethan was already asleep, a tender smile on his face. Calvin had no idea how Ethan felt about him, but he had to take their kiss as a sign right? He’d have to be patient, very patient. Change was difficult for Ethan, always had been, and no change was greater than whatever was happening to their relationship right now. After twenty-three years of being best friends, of things always being the same between them, Calvin couldn’t expect Ethan to suddenly change.

Calvin had admitted his feelings, and made the first move. The ball was in Ethan’s court now. The wait was going to be excruciating, but Calvin would be patient and supportive. First, he needed to find Dex.


PART TWO next week. Copyright © 2014/2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.


THIRDS Thursday - 7/19/18

Prompt: Can we see Hobbs and Calvin’s hospital kiss from their point of view?

PART TWO

Calvin walked outside in time to hear Maddock groaning.

“What did you do?”

Dex shrugged. “Nothing.”

Maddock gave him a look that clearly said he knew better and wasn’t buying it.

“I bought a karaoke machine for the break room.”

“Oh hell no.” Maddock thrust a finger at him. “You’re taking it back.”

“But—”

“No. I’m putting my foot down on this.”

“But we were going to have a sing-off. Destructive Delta versus Beta Ambush.” Dex shook a fist at the air. “They’re so damn cocky. They think they can out air guitar me? We’ll see about that.”

“No, we won’t, because whatever’s going through your head right now isn’t happening. You want to do a sing-along—”

“Sing-off,” Dex corrected.

“That machine enters the building and it’s going back out via the nearest window. Be weird on your own time.” Maddock stormed off and Calvin stepped up to Dex, studying him.

“You didn’t really buy a karaoke machine for the break room, did you?”

“What?” Dex laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I didn’t. This whole case has him on edge.”

Calvin gave it some thought when it occurred to him. “And you were taking some of the edge off.” That was actually really… smart. No one wanted the sarge to be on edge.

“When it seems like the world’s burning down around you, a little sense of normality can go a long way.” Dex took a seat on one of the plastic chairs outside Ethan’s room. “The sing-off is real though. I’m going to crush those Beta bastards. Can you sing?” He waved a hand in dismissal. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll still beat them. So, you and Hobbs.”

Calvin cleared his throat and took a seat, his face burning up. “What about us?”

“Dude, I walked in on you two sucking face like a couple of college kids, come on. Whatever you say stays between us. If you can trust me with your life, you can trust me with this. Something’s been up with you guys for months, and if you haven’t noticed, the team’s been worried.”

Calvin’s head shot up and he turned to Dex. “They don’t suspect anything, do they?” If anyone found out, who knew what they’d do. They couldn’t split them up, everyone knew that, including the sergeant, but they could take them off the team, move them into a different department. Okay, he needed to stop freaking out about this.

“Nah. Whatever they’re thinking, it’s nothing close to that, but if you don’t sort it out soon, Sloane’s going to get wind something’s wrong, and you don’t want him interrogating you. It’s not fun. So?”

Calvin had no idea what it was about Dex that made him feel like he could tell the guy anything. Which was weird considering what a gossip the guy was. Yet he knew Dex would never tell anyone about his relationship with Ethan.

“You know Hobbs and I grew up together. We both came from a rough neighborhood. No segregated schools, at least not officially. Inside was a different matter. There were more Humans than Therians. We got shit for being friends. On top of that, Hobbs got bullied for his mutism. Those assholes knew he couldn’t fight back. He was bigger than them, stronger, but he was so crippled by his anxiety, he didn’t stand a chance.

“I don’t think a day went by where I didn’t end up in the principal’s office for fighting, but I had to protect him. My mom wanted to put me in another school, one strictly Human, but I refused to leave Hobbs behind in that shithole to fend for himself. He needed me. I can count on one hand the number of times we weren’t together. By college, Hobbs had gotten better with his mutism and the anxiety. We shared an apartment. Man, it was so much fun. We did some pretty stupid shit,” Calvin said with a laugh. Then he thought about the night that changed everything, and his smile faded. He looked down at his fingers, lost in the memory. “Anyway, things were good. After college, we got recruited by the THIRDS and moved into a bigger apartment together. We figured there was no point in spending a load of money on rent when we could save that money and help get our families out of the ghettos they were living in.

“Everything was cool between us. We’d never been closer. Then last year, we had this big Fourth of July party at our apartment, and both of us got shitfaced. We hooked up with these guys, the four of us in Hobbs’s bedroom, and everything was fine until Hobbs started fucking this guy. He was blond, about my height and size. I bolted. I couldn’t be in the same room while he screwed that guy.”

Calvin remembered that day as if it were yesterday. The way he’d felt sick to his stomach when he’d seen Ethan’s hands all over that guy, when he’d kissed him, fucked him. It made him feel sick now just thinking about it.

“What did Hobbs do after you bolted?”

“He came after me. We had a huge fight, mostly because I was so pissed off at him and at myself. I didn’t know what the hell I was feeling. All I knew was that I couldn’t stand seeing him fuck another guy. It was selfish, I know. I told him I needed some space. You should have seen his face. It was like I’d stabbed him in the heart. For days I hid out in my room, making sure when I came out I didn’t bump into him. He was so damn patient and good. He’d make me sandwiches and leave them in the fridge for me.” Calvin’s eyes grew glassy and he gave a sniff. He’d hated himself at the time for making Ethan feel so shitty, but he couldn’t stop feeling what he did. He’d tried.

“He caught me one afternoon in the hall, and when he tried to apologize, as if he was the reason I was acting like such an asshole, I lost it. I told him I didn’t want him fucking anyone else because… of how I felt about him. I couldn’t say the words, mostly because until the explosion, I couldn’t say exactly what it was I felt. I told him somewhere along the way, things had changed. The way I felt about him changed. I thought I was going to lose my mind waiting for him to say something. In the end, he hugged me and said we’d work it out.” Calvin let out a heavy sigh. “He’s scared we’ll lose our friendship. I tried to tell him it would never happen. If things didn’t work out, I’d never stop being his best friend.”

“How’s he feel about what just happened?” Dex asked, nodding to the closed door beside him.

Calvin shrugged, a small smile coming onto his face. “He kissed me back. That’s a good sign, right?”

Dex threw an arm around Calvin and gave him a reassuring squeeze. “I think so. Give him time. It’s a lot to take in. I’m betting Hobbs isn’t the kind of guy crazy about change, especially when it concerns the possibility of losing his best friend.”

“Thanks, Dex. I’m gonna head back in, say good-bye. Maddock and Sloane agree he needs more time to recuperate. I’ll see you at HQ.”

“No problem, buddy.”

Calvin headed back inside, feeling better at having gotten all that off his chest. It was nice having someone to talk to about Ethan. It wasn’t like he could tell Seb, or Rafe. The war between those two was getting worse by the day, and at some point, something had to give. God, they were all such a fucking mess. He dropped down on to the chair pulled up to Ethan’s bed and watched him sleep. Sometimes he couldn’t believe they were here.

After years of struggling and fighting, they’d done it. They’d clawed their way out of the putrid hole the world had thrown them in, refusing to back down. It had left them scarred in more ways than one. Calvin absently stroked the back of his head, tears welling in his eyes. There’d been times when he’d considered giving up, because really, how much shit could the world pile on the back of one short ass scrawny kid? But then he’d look at Ethan, and he’d find the strength to keep going, because if he gave up, Ethan would fall with him. Calvin couldn’t have that. It would break his heart if Ethan didn’t feel the same, or decided he couldn’t take the risk, but Calvin would have to find a way to get over it, because not having Ethan in his life wasn’t an option. Only time would tell, and until then….

Calvin took Ethan’s hand in his. “I’ll always be here. Always. No matter what happens between us, I’ll never leave you, Ethan. I promise.”

Ethan let out a soft sigh, and Calvin lay his head down, and as he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep he could have sworn he heard Ethan murmur something and squeeze his hand. Maybe it was just his brain playing tricks on him, or maybe… just maybe, everything would turn out okay.


Copyright © 2014/2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.


THIRDS Thursday - 8/23/18

Prompt: Dex goes to see Journey and Def Leppard in concert.

**** WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM BOOKS 1 THROUGH 10 ****


PART ONE

“Sloane.”

Grunt. Too early.

“Sloane. Sloooane.”

Something was poking him. Something was going to lose a finger if it continued.

Sloane rolled over with a grumble, taking the duvet with him. It was still dark which meant it was still sleep time. His inner jaguar growled low and the sound rumbled up from deep in Sloane’s chest. “Sleep.”

“Babe. Baby. Boo Bear.”

Sloane’s body grew heavy. Why was he sinking into the mattress? His mate’s scent filled his senses. Ah, that would be why. Dex was sprawled on his back from head to toe.

“Sleep,” Sloane murmured. “Heavy,” he added. Dex didn’t weigh what he used to. All that change in muscle mass had him going from his one hundred and seventy-five Human pounds to two hundred and fifteen not-all-Human pounds. Not that Sloane couldn’t carry Dex’s weight—he could carry Hobbs’s weight if he had to—but Sloane was on his stomach with his face buried in his fluffy pillow wanting to sleep. His body was sore from all the TIN training, and he was determined to make the most of their time off.

“You’re comfy, but mostly I need you to get up.” Dex rolled off him, landing beside Sloane. “Baby, I neeed you to get up.”

Sloane huffed and cracked open one eye which he promptly narrowed at his far too awake husband. “How are you awake?”

“I had coffee,” Dex replied, his smile huge. “A lot of coffee.” Were his pupils dilated? Was his husband having one of his random hybrid moments? They seemed to be happening with more frequency lately. At times he appeared all Human, and other times he was giving off some serious Therian vibes that had Sloane’s inner jaguar clawing to get free to reclaim his mate. It was freaky and a little concerning.

“I’m awake,” Sloane said, rolling onto his back. Dex straddled his stomach and leaned in, his floppy hair falling forward and in need of a cut.

“Hi, Handsome.”

Sloane’s heart swelled, and he placed his hands on Dex’s hips. “Hey, beautiful.”

“Guess what today is?”

Sloane pretended to think about it. “Isn’t today the anniversary of Ash threatening you for the first time with bodily harm?”

“No, that’s next month.”

Sloane tapped his fingers against Dex’s waist. “Let me think.” He slid his hands up under the worn out and well-loved Journey T-shirt. “Is it the anniversary of when we first met?”

“Also next month. You’re just stalling so you can feel me up,” Dex teased.

“Am I?” Sloane grabbed Dex and rolled them over so Dex was beneath him. He smiled down at his husband.

Husband.

Sloane still couldn’t believe it sometimes. How was it possible this beautiful man got even more gorgeous with age? Next month it would be five years since they’d met, yet it felt like a lifetime ago. A few extra lines had appeared in the corners of Dex’s brilliant blue eyes when he smiled, and when he grew out his beard the blond was interspersed with some gray. Leaning in, Sloane brushed his lips over Dex’s. “Happy birthday, baby.”

Dex blinked at him. “Birthday?”

“Um, yeah.” Sloane shook his head with a chuckle. “It’s your birthday today. Isn’t that why you’re excited?”

“What? Oh, right! It is my birthday, isn’t it? That’s not why I’m excited. I’m excited because we’re going to see Journey and Def Leppard in concert!”

“Of course.” Sloane should have known. It wasn’t as if Dex hadn’t been going on about it for months. Because of their training, they’d been out of the country on and off for several months, and each time they missed a tour date. The moping had gotten so serious that Sparks had insisted they take a month off, conveniently around Dex’s birthday when two of his husband’s favorite bands happened to be in concert. Sloane had surprised Dex with front row tickets. He’d been rewarded handsomely for his gift. In fact, he’d been rewarded for days, and he had a feeling he’d continue being thanked after the concert.

Since they were flying to Tampa, Ash and Cael were coming with them. Although Ash had no desire to be “in Satan’s taint” as he put it, Cael was so excited he could barely sleep knowing they were all going to visit his favorite theme parks the day after the concert.

“I’m concerned,” Dex said, his expression serious.

“About?”

“Ash. You know how he feels about humidity. Has he ever been to Florida? By his comment about Satan’s bits, I’m going to say he has not.”

“I told Cael to buy him summer clothes,” Sloane said.

Dex’s gasp of delight was epic. “Oh my God! I can’t wait. What do you think are the chances of Ash ending up in a tropical shirt?”

“I think the chances are slim. Like, Letty and Ash sitting down and sharing their feelings with each other slim.”

“I don’t know. Chirpy can be pretty persuasive.”

Sloane moved his gaze to their packed suitcases then back to Dex. He peered at him. Dex’s smile had him groaning. “Oh God, what did you buy me, and how bad is it going to assault my vision?”

“Come on, we’re going to be in Florida in August. It’s going to be hot as balls.”

“Answer the question.”

“It’s a very modest, lightweight, button-down shirt. It’s even black.”

Sloane arched an eyebrow at him.

“With palm trees. And sailboats.”

Sloane let his head hang, ignoring Dex’s laugh.

“Come on, Babe. You’re going to look sexy as always. I promise.”

“Should I even ask what else you stuck in my suitcase?”

Dex waggled his eyebrows. “Don’t worry. All the fun stuff is in my suitcase.”

Sloane opened his mouth then closed it. If he didn’t know, he wouldn’t worry. Heaven help the poor TSA agent who decided to check Dex’s luggage because God only knew what his husband had packed.

“We should start getting ready,” Dex said, pushing against Sloane’s chest. Sloane didn’t budge.

“Sweetheart, you do realize we went to bed two hours ago, right?”

“What?”

Sloane dropped back down onto his side of the bed then pulled Dex close. He kissed his goofy husband and covered them with the duvet. “It’s just after midnight. We don’t have to get up for the airport for another five hours. You should get some sleep.”

Dex stared at him. “But Sloane, I drank so much coffee.”

“You’ve drunk so much coffee that I’m pretty sure your blood type is coffee. You can go to sleep. I know you can.”

“How?” Dex whispered, peering at him. “How do you know, Sloane? Is it a sixth sense? Can you sense it? Your jaguar keeps sensing all kinds of weird shit lately.”

“I know it because we’ve been training how to do it for months.”

“Oh, that’s right. Have you set all the alarms?”

Sloane closed his eyes and smiled as Dex cuddled close. “Yes, Dear. I have set all the alarms.”

“Good. Night.”

Within seconds, Dex’s soft snores filled the room, and Sloane couldn’t help but give his husband a squeeze. “I love you,” he murmured before placing a kiss on Dex’s brow. In a few hours, they would be in Florida. It was only a mini vacation, and Sloane knew Dex was disappointed the rest of the team couldn’t take the time off, but Sloane was determined to give Dex a birthday he wouldn’t soon forget.


PART TWO next week. Copyright © 2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

THIRDS Thursday - 8/30/18

Prompt: Dex goes to see Journey and Def Leppard in concert.

**** WARNING: CONTAINS PLOT AND CHARACTER SPOILERS FROM BOOKS 1 THROUGH 10 ****


PART TWO

It was almost time.

The bags were by the door, and Sloane had triple checked everything, making sure they left nothing behind, especially the electronic devices meant to keep Dex busy on the plane. It was a matter of safety. Cael had made the mistake of selecting the two empty seats in front of Dex and Sloane’s for him and Ash, meaning Dex would be sitting behind Ash. No good could come of that. In the interest of getting everyone to Florida in one piece, Sloane would be sure to keep Dex busy.

The doorbell rang, and Dex whizzed by in a blur of pink and blue. Sloane shook his head in amusement at his husband. No one should be that excited at this time of morning, and normally Dex wasn’t, but the copious amounts of coffee had done its job. Dex threw open the front door greeting Ash and Cael in his cargo Bermuda shorts and blue button-down shirt covered in pink flamingos.

“Are you two ready to penetrate Florida with me? Wait, that came out wrong.”

“I regret this already,” Ash muttered.

“Ignore him,” Cael said, hugging his brother. “He’s been saying that since we booked our flights. A month ago.”

“As of now, we are on vacation, and while on vacation,” Dex put his thumbs to the sides of Ash’s mouth and pushed up to make him smile, “there are no upside-down smiles, mister.”

Ash narrowed his eyes. “You’re one second away from losing those fingers, Justice.”

Dex released him with a huff. “You better get used to smiling, because after the concert we’re going to the happiest place on earth.”

“It can’t be the happiest place on earth. You’ll be there,” Ash deadpanned.

Dex arched an eyebrow at him before turning to face Cael. “Life of the party, your boyfriend.”

“Oh my God, Dex, we’re going Disney World!” Cael bounced on his toes excitedly. “I haven’t been there since we were kids. Remember when Dad took us for your tenth birthday and you ate so much cotton candy you puked rainbows when you got off the Mad Tea Party ride?”

“Of all the things we did that day, that’s what you remember?”

Cael shrugged. “It was pretty epic. I mean it looked like a rainbow was shooting out of your mouth.”

Sloane did his best to contain his laugh at Ash’s pained expression. “Sweetheart, it’s too early for me to be interacting with your brother much less hear about his projectile vomiting.”

“Oh, right. Of course.” Cael stood on his toes and kissed Ash’s cheek. “Thank you for coming with me.”

Ash snorted. “Like I was going to send you to some tropical location without me. Not with the way those swim trunks you packed mold to your ass when they’re wet.”

“TMI, buddy. TMI.” Dex perked up, and Sloane smiled. “The car’s here!”

Ash sighed. “Because that’s what the world needed, Dexter Justice Daley with Therian abilities.” He narrowed his eyes at Sloane. “You and your stupid blood.”

Sloane flipped his best friend off. They could joke about it now, how Sloane’s blood had changed Dex, but that hadn’t always been the case. As they picked up their bags and headed outside, Sloane remembered how painful it had been knowing his blood had altered his husband’s Human DNA, not to mention the horror that came once Dex’s body had accepted Sloane’s mutation. He’d almost driven himself crazy thinking of the what-ifs, but Dex refused to let him go down that path. The uncertainty was troubling. Dex’s new hybrid DNA was unknown territory for them, TIN, and the hundreds of TIN scientists who’d run test after test on Sloane’s mate. They had no idea the extent of the changes within Dex because they were still happening.

“I’m sitting up front,” Ash declared, snapping Sloane out of his thoughts.

Thankfully the ride to the airport was uneventful, as was their wait at the airport. Mostly because Ash grabbed Cael and disappeared until boarding time arrived. Ash loved Dex, defended him, had been there for him when Dex had needed it most. He also wanted to kick Dex’s ass most of the time. Sloane had never seen anything like. Was he surprised? No one knew Dex or Ash like he did, so no.

Boarding time came, and they waited for their section to be called. Dex and Cael were both practically vibrating with excitement. It was really adorable. While the brothers talked a mile a minute about everything they’d do and eat while at Disney World, Sloane turned to Ash.

“So what are you two going to do while we’re at the concert?” Sloane had booked them a room at a hotel near the arena and they’d be meeting Ash and Cael at the park gates the next morning.

“Cael wants to go to some big Therian waterpark. Apparently, you can swim around in your Therian form.”

Sloane blinked at Ash. “And um… are you going to swim in your Therian form?”

“Yeah, why?” Ash peered at him.

“Just curious,” Sloane replied, congratulating himself on maintaining his stoic expression. While Ash was distracted having his e-ticket scanned, Sloane quickly caught up to Cael. “Are you taking pictures at the waterpark?”

Cael studied him. “Of course. Why?”

“I just want to make sure you don’t miss out on any memories.” Sloane smiled brightly. He could feel Dex’s eyes on him.

Once they’d put their bags in the overhead compartment and beneath their seats, Dex took his seat in the middle, and Sloane the aisle seat. Sloane had to give Dex credit. His husband managed to wait until they were in the air before whispering hoarsely at him.

“What are you up to?”

Sloane blinked innocently. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Don’t give me that look. I invented that look. Spill.”

They leaned into each other, their heads together as they murmured conspiratorially. “Ash and Cael are going to a waterpark.”

“So?”

“A Therian waterpark.”

“Not following.”

“A Therian waterpark where you can swim in your Therian form.”

Dex squinted at him. “Is the altitude messing with your oxygen intake?”

Sloane rolled his eyes. “Babe, Ash is going to go swimming in his Therian form. In Florida.” He watched as realization slowly dawned on Dex and his brilliant blue eyes widened. A low, long exaggerated gasp escaped him.

“Holy shit, there’s not going to be enough hair products in the state capable of taming the epic lion mane frizz. He’s going to look like a giant Pomeranian!” A wicked gleam came into his eye and he cackled evilly. “I need photographic evidence of this.” And Sloane didn’t doubt he’d get it. Humidity and Ash’s mane were not going to get along. Mane frizz was real, and the bigger the mane, the bigger the frizz. With lion Therians, their mane reflected the kind of strength, vigor, and ferocity they possessed. The tougher they were, the darker more majestic the mane. Dex wasn’t wrong when he said Ash was a precious princess when it came to his mane.

Thankfully, Ash and Cael spent most of the flight being “disgustingly lovey-dovey” as Dex put it which meant his attention was purposefully focused on Sloane, his eBook reader, his phone, and everything not Ash. They landed in Orlando, and the moment they stepped out of the plane, Ash was off.

“Holy blazing fuckballs! Why is there no air? I’m already sweating, and we haven’t even gotten outside yet. God, I hate Florida.”

“You hate everything,” Dex replied, amused.

“Yeah, but I hate Florida especially with its sweltering heat, stifling humidity, and stupid palm trees. They’re not real trees!”

“Pretty sure they are,” Dex argued.

Ash continued his tirade despite being in the airconditioned baggage claim. Once they’d collected their luggage, they stepped outside, and Ash flicked Dex in the ear.

“Ow! What the hell, man?”

“This is your fault. You couldn’t see your stupid concert somewhere with a breeze?”

“Like you’ve never lived through a New York City summer,” Dex grumbled.

“That’s different. The air doesn’t try to choke me.”

Dex opened his mouth to reply, and Sloane clamped a hand over his mouth. The last thing they needed was someone calling airport security about the crazy blond guy in the flamingo shirt and the homicidal lion Therian. Cael, being experienced in all things Ash had already called them a car, meaning in less than ten minutes, they’d parted ways. Ash and Cael headed for the hotel Dex and Sloane would be returning to the next evening after the park. Dex insisted on driving the rental, insisting it was for the sake of Sloane’s blood pressure. Sloane figured it was just Dex wanting to drive like he always did. Nope.

“This particular stretch of highway is lovingly known as Satan’s dongle.”

Sloane held onto the oh-shit bar, his gaze sliding to Dex. “Known to who?”

“To me,” Dex replied cheerfully. “I-4 is perpetually under construction and at this moment in time has more twists and turns than a racecar track, which by the way, would be safer to drive in.”

Dex had Def Leppard blasting in the car on the drive to Tampa. They had the rest of the morning and afternoon to just relax, so they went to their hotel room, checked in early, and went to the pool. For the first time in a long time, Sloane’s muscles relaxed. The hotel was Therian-friendly, so no one batted an eye when Dex and Sloane held hands, cuddled in the pool, or stole kisses.

Later in the early afternoon, they pulled on some comfy clothes, and took a nap—with several alarms set to wake them up in time for changing and getting some food. It was heavenly, and while Dex dozed, Sloane stayed up a few extra minutes just to relish in the feel of his husband in his arms as they lay on the clean, soft sheet, the only sound in the room belonging to the A/C. Sloane nuzzled Dex’s temple before placing a soft kiss to his citrus-scented hair.

“I love you, baby.”

Dex sighed and snuggled closer.

Their alarms went off at three that afternoon. They showered, changed—Dex in a Journey t-shirt and Sloane in a Def Leppard t-shirt—then headed to a Cuban restaurant where Dex ate his weight in mojo pork. By the time they’d parked in one of the parking lots near the venue, the place was filling up fast. They waited in line so Dex could by his band t-shirt, or t-shirts. As in one of each, including the pink one because it had “a different design than the others”.

They joined the throngs of people, and Sloane couldn’t imagine having to deal with this kind of weather every day. It was one thing when you were on vacation, but having to deal with it when you had to work? Fuck, the the THIRDS guys down here deserved a medal for going out on call in this weather with their full gear.

“It smells like armpits and assholes.”

Dex popped his head up and scanned the crowd. “Ash?”

“Not Ash,” Sloane said with a chuckle.

It seemed like a lifetime went by before they were past the metal detectors and inside the building.

“Babe, I want a burger, fries, and a drink. Looks like we’ll have to refinance the house.”

“That’s concession prices for you. Imagine if Ash were here.”

Dex’s eyes went huge. “These people would not survive.”

They carried their overpriced food to their seats in front of the stage, finishing just as the music started to play. The lights dimmed, and Dex bounced on his seat. His phone buzzed, and whatever it was had him barking out a laugh so loud concertgoers three rows over turned to see what was so funny. Dex was in tears. He showed Sloane his phone, and Sloane burst into laughter. He was laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe. It was a picture of Ash in his lion Therian form, and just as Dex predicted, he looked like a giant Pomeranian. A very grumpy, very fluffy, Pomeranian.

As the screen lit up with “Tampa” in the signature Def Leppard font, the packed-to-the-brim arena went crazy and Dex jumped to his feet, arms in the air as his scream joined everyone else’s. The screen rose, revealing the band in front of a wall of flickering TV screens. They kicked things off with Rocket, and Sloane was quickly swept into the fervor, jumping and screaming with his husband, rocking out with the crowd. At one point, Sloane felt a tug on his sleeve, and Dex jumped into his arms, legs wrapped around his waist.

“I love you!” Dex screamed loud enough for Sloane to hear.

“I love you too. Happy birthday!”

They kissed to the sound of guitars and drums. A blast of warmth exploded through Sloane’s chest, his body vibrating, and he realized it was coming from Dex. His mate was so happy, his rumbling purr was feeding his own inner jaguar. They might have been enjoying Dex’s gift, but knowing how happy he’d made Dex was the best gift Sloane could ever receive.


THIRDS Thursdays goes on hiatus the month of a THIRDS release, so we'll be back in October with more THIRDS Thursdays!

Copyright © 2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.

Who wants to continue Dex, Sloane, Ash, and Cael's vacation in Florida when we come back in October?


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