Prompt: How does Ethan’s family react the first time he brings home this weird little human kid (Cal)?
“You want to maybe not block the whole doorway,” a low growly voice said before the huge tiger Therian was pushed into the room, a second even bigger tiger Therian stepping in behind him. The first one looked a lot like Ethan, with black hair and the same green eyes. The second guy had lighter hair, and the same eyes as Julia. He was way scary looking, especially when he narrowed his eyes at Calvin.
“Who’s the pipsqueak?”
Swallowing hard, Calvin hid behind Ethan. He knew he shouldn’t be scared of Therians, but they were so big!
“Boys, please,” Julia said. “You’re scaring Ethan’s new friend.”
Ethan took Calvin’s hand, and stood with him. He smiled warmly, and patted his chest before pointing to first one guy then the other.
“Oh! They’re you’re brothers. That makes sense.”
“Wait, you understand him?” The bigger of the two said, looking surprised.
“Well, yeah.” Calvin shrugged.
Calvin peered at him. “I pay attention.”
The other brother laughed, the older grumbling something under his breath. Maybe Ethan didn’t say words, but he talked, so Calvin listened.
“Calvin,” Julia said softly. “That’s Sebastian. Sebastian, Calvin Summers.”
Sebastian smiled, and Calvin felt at ease right away. He looked a lot like Ethan, just older.
“Hi, Calvin. Call me Seb.” He held his hand out to Calvin who took it hesitantly.
“And that’s Rafe,” Julia explained. “Ethan’s oldest brother.”
Calvin tilted his head up, his mouth dropping open. Rafe’s head almost touched the ceiling.
Rafe didn’t say anything or hold his hand out to Calvin for him to shake. Instead he frowned and looked at Julia. “Do his parents know he’s here?”
Julia cleared her throat. “Calvin’s mother is at work, but he’s going to let her know.”
Rafe shook his head, and let out a heavy sigh. “Mom—”
“It’s going to be just fine. According to Calvin, his mother says Therians are just like Humans and should be treated like equals.”
Rafe and Seb’s eyebrows shot up. Seb smiled warmly at Calvin.
“Is that so?”
Calvin nodded. “It’s true. My mom won’t care. She’ll be happy I have a best friend like Ethan.”
Rafe ran a hand through his hair. Why did he look so worried? Did he not believe Calvin? He turned to face Ethan who was looking sad again. Calvin took his hand.
“It’s true. I promise. You’ll see.”
“All right. Why don’t you boys wash up for dinner? Calvin, would you like to stay for dinner?”
Calvin’s stomach growled, and Ethan laughed.
Julia walked over and kissed the top of Ethan’s head. “Why don’t you show your friend where the bathroom is.”
Ethan took Calvin’s hand, and led him down a short, narrow hallway. He pointed to the bathroom, and Calvin nodded.
“Where’s your dad?” Calvin asked, his heart hurting when Ethan’s eyes got watery, and he looked real sad. He pointed to a closed door then put his hands together and pressed them to his cheek. “He’s asleep?”
Ethan nodded. He made himself cough and then shook his head.
“He’s not well?”
Ethan shook his head again then sighed. He motioned to the bathroom, but Calvin told him to go first.
“I’m going to call my mom at work and tell her I’m here.”
Ethan nodded, and Calvin went to ask Julia if he could use the phone when he heard Rafe and Julia talking quietly inside the bedroom.
“Mom, you shouldn’t have let him stay. Ethan’s just going to get his heart broken again.”
“Maybe I can talk to Calvin’s mother, make her understand how much they need each other.”
“And how many times has that worked?”
“I have a feeling this time it’ll be different. You have to have faith, sweetheart.”
“Yeah, a whole lotta good that’s done us.”
“Rafe, baby, is something wrong? You’ve been so distant lately. Your father and I are worried.”
There was a pause before Rafe spoke up. “I’m fine. Just a rough day at work.” He let out another heavy sigh. “Talk to the kid’s mom. Let me know if you need anything.”
“I will. Thank you, baby.”
Calvin quickly ducked back into the hall, waiting for Rafe to leave the room. When he heard Rafe and Seb in the kitchen, Calvin walked to the bedroom. Julia sat on the bottom bunk, hugging a stuffed tiger toy. He hated that she looked sad.
She smiled warmly at him. “Hi, sweetheart.”
“Ethan’s washing up first. May I use your phone to call my mom?”
“Of course. It’s in the kitchen.”
“Oh.” Calvin worried his bottom lip with his teeth. That’s where Seb and Rafe were.
“Is everything okay?”
Calvin nodded, and smiled. “Yes. Thank you.” He headed for the kitchen, stopping just inside when Rafe and Seb stopped talking and turned to look at him. “Um, your mom said it was okay for me to use the phone to call my mom.”
“Sure.” Seb pointed to the counter on the other side and the black phone sitting on top on one corner. Calvin had to walk by Ethan’s brothers to get to it.
If he wanted to be best friends with Ethan, he couldn’t be scared of his brothers. Lifting his chin, he walked by when Rafe grabbed his arm. Calvin’s eyes went wide as Rafe turned him, and knelt in front of him so they were eye to eye.
“Why do you want to be friends with Ethan?”
“Jesus, Rafe, leave the kid alone,” Seb said with a groan.
Calvin narrowed his eyes at Rafe, his hands balled into fists at his sides. “Because I want to. I like him. He’s nice, and funny, and we both like comic books and cartoons.”
Rafe studied him. “The other kids aren’t going to like you being friends with a Therian.”
Calvin shrugged. “I don’t care.”
“They might try to beat you up.”
“I can fight,” Calvin growled. “If anyone tries to hurt Ethan, I’ll fight them too.”
Rafe blinked at him, and Seb cursed under his breath.
“Fighting isn’t the answer,” Seb said. Rafe let go of Calvin and stood to face his brother.
“Did you see Ethan? You think those little bastards who gang up on him care about talking things out? No. He’s different, so they hurt him. Ethan needs to protect himself. He’s bigger than them.”
“Exactly,” Seb hissed. “He can really hurt them, and he knows it.”
“Come on, bro. Ethan doesn’t fight back because he’s too scared to, not because he knows he’ll hurt them. You all baby him too much, and it’s going to get him in real trouble. What about when he’s older? Is that the kind of guy you want him to be? Someone who’s scared of his own shadow?”
“We’re going to be THIRDS agents,” Calvin said, arms crossed over his chest. “No one’s going to pick on Ethan then, and we’re going to protect people.”
Rafe and Seb stared at him.
“Did Ethan tell you he wanted to be a THIRDS agent?” Seb asked, looking worried.
“He can’t be a THIRDS agent,” Rafe snapped at Calvin.
Angry, Calvin snapped back. “He can too! You’ll see!”
“He can’t talk! How the hell is he supposed to be a THIRDS agent when he can’t talk? You need to stop getting his hopes up.”
“He can too be a THIRDS agent!”
“Listen here, kid. No way the THIRDS is going to put a mute on one of their teams.”
A gasp caught their attention, and they all turned to the door where Ethan stood, tears streaming down his face.
“Shit,” Rafe muttered when Calvin shoved him as hard as he could.
“You’re an asshole!” Calvin left Rafe and Seb arguing in the kitchen and ran after Ethan who ran out of the apartment. “Ethan, wait!” Ethan was much faster than he was, but he knew where Ethan was going.
Part Three next week. Copyright © 2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.