Prompt: How does Ethan’s family react the first time he brings home this weird little human kid (Cal)?
Rafe headed for the kitchen, and Ethan looked at Calvin worriedly.
Calvin let out a snort. “Please. My mom’s not scared of anything. Come on.” They tiptoed over to the kitchen doorway, and peeked around the corner. Darla and Julia sat at the table drinking tea and laughing together. It made Calvin happy to see his mom like that. It seemed like all she ever did was work, and when she wasn’t working, she only ever thought about Calvin, never herself.
“Hi,” Rafe said, standing next to the table.
Darla and Julia looked up, Darla’s eyes going wide. “Hello.”
“Darla, this is my oldest son, Rafe. He works for the THIRDS.”
Darla smiled wide. “Oh, how wonderful! Has Calvin told you he wants to be a THIRDS agent?” She put a hand to her chest as she moved her attention to Julia. “It doesn’t surprise me. He’s always been such a brave boy, always wanting to help people, protect them. The moment he said he wanted to be a THIRDS agent, I knew he’d found his calling.”
“Ethan wants to be a THIRDS agent too,” Rafe grumbled.
“That’s perfect,” Darla said cheerfully. “They can help each other. It’s not an easy path by any means, but then I’m certain you know better than anyone, Rafe. With you and Seb to help guide them, they’ll be in good hands.”
Rafe stared at her. “Can I ask a blunt question?”
“Of course,” Darla replied. “If we’re all going to be friends, we should be honest and open with each other.”
“You really don’t have a problem with Ethan being a Therian? With us? Because you seem a little too relaxed about all this.”
Darla let out a heavy sigh. “I’m going to be very upfront with you.” She smiled sadly at Julia. “You have such a beautiful family, Julia. You’re very lucky. I’m Calvin’s only family. It’s been the two of us for a long time. When I hear a Human say Therians are monsters, I know they’re wrong, because I lived with a real monster.” Her eyes teared up, and Calvin wanted to go to her, but Ethan held on tight to his hand. He knew they shouldn’t eavesdrop, but he couldn’t help it.
“Oh, Darla, you don’t have to,” Julia assured her, placing her hand on Darla’s for comfort.
“It’s all right. I’d like your son to understand where I’m coming from. Calvin’s father was Human, but any man who would hurt his own child the way he did doesn’t deserve the title of father. I tried to protect Calvin as best I could, but I was forced to leave Calvin in his care when I ended up in the hospital one night. When I was released, and I saw my baby bruised and bloodied, I knew I would never let that man touch him again. I did what I had to and got Calvin far from him.”
“Do you need help? Where is he now?” Rafe asked, his hands balled into fists at his sides. “If he lays another hand on you or Calvin—”
“He’s dead. He was killed by the police after he robbed a gas station and took a clerk hostage.”
Julia gasped. “Does Calvin know?”
Darla nodded. She took the tissue Julia handed her with a “thank you”. “Like I said, I’m the only family Calvin has. We don’t keep secrets.” She smiled up at Rafe. “So you see, I know humanity isn’t exclusive to Humans. Who we are, our deeds, how we love, and the way we treat others? That’s what matters.”
Rafe swallowed hard. He nodded. “If you or Calvin ever need anything, you call us. I’ll give you my card, and you call me any time, okay?”
“Thank you.” Darla wiped the tears from her cheeks and let out a little laugh. “I’m sorry. Please excuse me for getting all emotional.”
“Nonsense.” Julia took Darla’s hands in hers. “You and Calvin aren’t alone anymore. You have the Hobbs family now.”
Darla started crying, and Calvin couldn’t help himself, he ran to his mom, and threw his arms around her.
“Don’t cry, mom.”
“It’s okay, baby. I’m just happy.” Darla wrapped her arms around him tight, and kissed the top of his head. “Whatever happens, you come to me, Julia, or one of Ethan’s brothers.”
“I promise,” Calvin said, moving away as Ethan came up beside him. Ethan stepped up to Darla and hugged her. Julia and Rafe looked surprised.
“Thank you,” Darla said, hugging Ethan. She pulled away, and cupped his cheek. “Thank you for finding us. I need you to be brave for Calvin. Can you do that?”
Ethan puffed up his chest and nodded. He took Calvin’s hand, his smile big before turning to Julia and patting his belly. Julia laughed.
“Yes, you and Calvin can have some milk and cookies.”
Ethan pointed behind him, and Julia nodded.
“Okay, you can have them in your room, but no crumbs on the bed. Go play. I’ll bring them over.”
They ran to the bedroom, and Ethan let go of Calvin’s hand to run over to the bottom bunk where Seb was on his side reading. Ethan jumped on him, and Seb laughed, grabbing him, and tickling him. Ethan laughed as he tried to fend Seb off.
“You think you can just launch an attack and not face the consequences?” Seb said.
Calvin sat to watch them. He’d always wished he had brothers or sisters. Julia said that he and his mom weren’t alone anymore. Maybe they’d all be a family. A real family. Calvin really hoped so. Hearing Ethan laugh made Calvin smile. He liked Ethan’s laugh. Seb looked over at Calvin, and arched an eyebrow at him.
“Oh, you think you’re walking away from this scot-free?”
Calvin’s eyes widened when Seb stood up. He scrambled to get up when Seb grabbed him, hauling him up under one arm with a playful growl. Calvin shrieked before breaking off into laughter. Seb turned and hauled Ethan up under the other arm, growling, and swinging them around.
“All right, I’m heading into work. You brats behave yourself. That includes you, Seb.” Rafe walked into the room, and Seb put them down. He scratched his jaw with his middle finger, but Calvin knew he was flipping Rafe off and trying to be sneaky about it. Rafe just rolled his eyes. Maybe Rafe was a jerk, but he looked so awesome in his THIRDS uniform. Ethan and Calvin ran over to him.
“So cool!” Calvin stared up at Rafe’s name tag. One day, he’d have a uniform just like Rafe’s and it would say “Summers” on it. As Rafe headed for the door, Calvin and Ethan followed him.
“How many Therians are at the THIRDS?” Calvin asked.
“Lots,” Rafe replied.
“What kind of Therians?”
“Are there any bigger than you?”
“Really? There's a Therian bigger than you? What kind?” Calvin couldn't imagine a Therian bigger than Rafe. “How tall are you?”
“I'm seven foot two. Bear Therians are bigger.”
“By how much?”
“A few inches taller maybe. Depends. They're wider though. More muscles.”
How was that even possible? Calvin and Ethan gaped at each other. “Have you seen a bear Therian?” he asked Ethan. Ethan shook his head.
Julia walked into the living room, and kissed Rafe’s cheek. “Be safe, baby.”
“Always.” Rafe kissed her cheek in return, and it looked like he smiled at Darla. Maybe. It was hard to tell with Rafe. “Nice to meet you, Darla. Remember what I said. If you need anything, you just call us.”
“Thank you, Rafe. Stay safe.”
“I will.” Rafe ruffled Ethan’s hair. “Be good for Mom, Squirt.”
They watched Rafe walk out, and Calvin didn’t understand why Julia looked so worried. Rafe was a huge Therian, and a THIRDS agent. He was also all growly and scary. Who would mess with him?
“It’s so dangerous out there right now,” Julia told Darla. “I worry about him.”
“No matter how big they get, they’ll always be our babies,” Darla said warmly.
Julia turned to smile at them. “How about those cookies I promised?”
“Yay!” As Calvin and Ethan followed their moms into the kitchen, Calvin couldn’t remember ever being happier. He knew things wouldn’t be easy, but then he was used to it. Except now, it wasn’t just him and his mom. Calvin smiled at Ethan, and took hold of his hand. He knew it was going to be hard, and that lots of people wouldn’t want them to be friends, or understand why, but one day, he’d help them understand. Together, he and Ethan would get bigger and stronger, and become THIRDS agents, and help Humans and Therians be friends. Whatever happened, he would always look out for Ethan. Always.
Copyright © 2018 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.