Hello all! In last week's THIRDS Thursday I talked a little about the new ideas I planned to implement for THIRDS Thursdays as originally intended. I've had some fantastic response from readers about what kind of posts might be fun. So coming soon to THIRDS Thursdays is the Hot Seat! These short and fun mini interviews with the cast will be spread out in between flash fiction and other THIRDS Thursday goodies.To find out how the Hot Seat works and to leave your questions for the cast, visit the Hot Seat page here: http://www.charliecochet.com/thirds-thursdays-hot-seat/
Tag - THIRDS Thursday
Bugs and Hisses Flash Fiction
THIRDS Sweets, Treats, and Space Princesses by Charlie Cochet
This was going to be so much fun!
Dex was practically bouncing with excitement. Or it could be the five chocolate bars he’d inhaled over the last ten minutes. This was his first year participating in the THIRDS annual Halloween charity funfair.
Every year five squads would be chosen at random to help oversee the activities and manage the crowds. This year Destructive Delta was up, and costumes had been selected for each partnership using the very sophisticated method of scribbled names on a piece of paper thrown into a helmet and chosen at random.
The Princess Leia bra had been more of a challenge to get into than Dex had anticipated, but Letty and Rosa had come through for him, though not before Letty threatened to shoot the thing several times.
Assisting with the funfair was the highlight of Dex’s month, and not just because his boyfriend was dressed as Han Solo, complete with snug pants and a pair of black knee high boots that Dex had every intention of making Sloane keep, but because there were rides, games, and lots of yummy food. Lots of yummy food with copious amounts of sugar. Real sugar.
Their sergeant walked by wearing his purple MC Hammer parachute pants and Dex erupted into peals of laughter. The costume—which wasn’t a costume at all but actually a part of his dad’s wardrobe at one time—came complete with yellow and black cropped jacket. It couldn’t get any better than that. At least until Ash stomped out of their team’s tent dressed like the Cowardly Lion.
“I just want to go on the record saying this is bullshit and I never agreed to this,” Ash growled.
Dex was laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe, and Sloane was at his side patting his back, telling him to breathe before he ended up passing out.
Tony didn’t bother looking up from his tablet. “Your complaint has been heard and ignored, Keeler.”
“But why couldn’t we pick our own costumes?” The more Ash glowered at Dex, the harder Dex laughed. Seeing Cael dressed up like Dorothy had been hilarious, but his brother just looked as adorable as always. It had taken days for Dex to pick a costume after he’d drawn Ash’s name. The possibilities had been endless, but he had to take Letty into consideration. So he’d cheated a little after Sloane had plucked Cael’s name from the helmet.
Between the two of them, they decided on Cael as Dorothy, Ash as the Cowardly Lion, Rosa as the Scarecrow, and Letty as the Tin Man. Rosa hadn’t been impressed by their choice, but she’d gotten her own back when she’d plucked Dex’s name and decided on his current somewhat drafty costume.
Ash glared at his floppy lion tail so hard Dex thought it might spontaneously combust at any moment. “Come on, Sarge.”
“Suck it up, Keeler.” Tony was having none of it. If he had to suffer, so did the rest of them.
“Guess you’re just too legit to quit,” Ash said with a snort.
Tony glanced up, one eyebrow arched. “You want to be smothered up in these pants, son? Because I will do it.” With no further protest coming from Ash, Tony scrolled through his tablet. “All right. You all have your assignments, now get lost. Dex, get Sloane his first round of candy. Sloane, make sure you get two sealed bags.”
“What genius put Daley in charge of the candy run?” Ash asked, shaking his head in disbelief, making his fake furry mane swish. Dex couldn’t help snicker.
“PR,” Tony grumbled. “When they go over budget it’ll be their own fault.”
Dex spotted Calvin in his red with black stripe shirt, black jeans, and red converse heading toward them. He was holding onto Hobb’s tail, and as soon as Calvin and Hobbs reached them, Calvin flipped Ash off. Ash cackled. He hadn’t been able to resist himself after drawing Calvin’s name.
“You two look so adorable,” Ash said, grinning wickedly.
Hobbs hissed at Ash. Their tabby tiger Therian friend was clearly not as amused as Ash was.
“All right, that’s everyone. Letty and Rosa are actually getting work done, so you six get lost.” With that Tony was off. Dex turned when Sloane took hold of his wrist. He placed a kiss to the top of his head and subtly trailed a finger up Dex’s spine. He could feel the tingle through the skin-tight, skin-colored long sleeved T-shirt under his princess bra.
“Tell me again why you couldn’t wear a jacket or something?”
Dex gasped in mock horror. “And ruin the authenticity of my costume? You know me better than that.” The only reason he was wearing the skin-tight T-shirt underneath was so he wouldn’t get too cold.
“You’re half naked,” Sloane grumbled. “There are a lot of people here.”
“By people you mean….”
“There are a lot of guys checking you out.”
Dex turned with a big smile. “Doesn’t matter. You’re the one I go home to every night.”
“Aw, but seriously. Letty will give you her silver jacket if you want it. Last I heard she was about to strangle Rosa with it.”
“Ha! I’d pay to see that go down. Nice try, sexy-pants.”
With a huff, Sloane pulled Dex in for a kiss. “Fine. But if you change your mind, you tell me. I’ll see you soon?”
“Promise.” With a wink Dex made his way to the tent holding all the candy for the various bowls around the park. PR really didn’t know what they were getting into when they put him in charge of the candy. His assignment was supposed to keep him out of trouble. Those poor souls.
Just as he reached the large tent, he heard sniffling. Pausing, he listened. It was hard to hear anything over the laugher, chatting, and screams coming from the rides and haunted houses, but he heard it. Faint and soft.
Rounding the corner, he found a little cheetah Therian boy in a Star Lord T-shirt, a pink puffy tutu over jeans, and Converse sneakers. Big fat tears rolled down his pink cheeks. His blond hair was sticking up in all directions around his tiara. He was the cutest thing Dex had ever seen, and couldn’t be any more than six years old, maybe seven considering he was a cheetah Therian. Dex waved as he approached so he wouldn’t frighten him. The lanyard around Dex’s neck stated he was a THIRDS agent, and when the little boy saw it, his crying turned into sniffles and hiccups.
“What’s the matter, buddy?” Dex asked, kneeling down in front of his new friend.
“They said… I can’t… fight… the space monsters because… I’m too little.” The boy pointed off behind him at the Space Invasion ride. It was a moving ride with laser guns attached to each “ship”. Aliens popped up all over and the aim was to shoot as many as possible. He and Cael had kicked butt at it when they were kids.
“Then… my brother Ronnie says princesses can’t fight, but… I’m a space princess, I can too fight.”
“Hey, I’m also a space princess,” Dex said cheerfully. “I’m Dex.”
The little boy gazed at Dex with wide blue eyes before a smile stretched from ear to ear. “I’m Alex. I like your dress.”
“Thanks. I like your tutu.” Dex held out his hand, his smile wide. “How about we go in there and kick some alien butt?”
“Yeah!” Alex skipped along beside him, his hand in Dex’s as they made their way over to the Space Invasion ride. At that moment Alex’s brother Ronnie approached with his friends, all laughing, joking, and roughhousing. There was a small group, ranging from maybe ten to twelve years old. Ronnie looked about twelve. When he noticed his little brother, he rolled his big brown eyes.
“Alex, you’re too little. Go back to the kiddie rides with mom and Lenny.”
Alex shook his head, his expression determined. “Princesses do too fight, and we’re going to kick your butt.”
Ronnie and his friends looked Dex over, their eyes wide. They noticed his badge and he received several deep frowns.
“That’s cheating,” one of them whined. “He’s a THIRDS agent.”
“Actually,” Dex corrected, “today I’m a princess. Though technically I’m a princess agent.”
Ronnie rolled his eyes. “Whatever. There’s lots of us and one and a half of you, so we’re still going to get more aliens.”
Dex let out a snort. “Yeah, I don’t think so. I was Duck Hunt champion of my school three years in a row.”
He was met with blank stares.
“Duck Hunt? You know, Nintendo game where you shoot the ducks flying out of the bushes?”
More blank stares.
“I weep for your generation.”
Inside the ride, he and Alex climbed into one of the spaceships and each manned their space zapper. The ride was as much for teens and adults as it was for kids, so there were plenty of monsters to shoot at, some moving quicker than others, and all with green dots on them that would turn red when hit. Ronnie and his friends were in the two spaceships in front of them, but even so, Dex put his Duck Hunt skills to use. And his law enforcement training of course.
By the time they reached the end of the ride, Alex and Dex had beaten Ronnie and his crew by twenty three aliens. Dex had missed some on purpose. He hadn’t wanted to make Ronnie and his friends feel too bad about losing. Dex carried Alex out of the ride since Alex had gotten a little scared by the dark tunnel with stars. Outside Dex spotted Sloane waiting for him.
“What happened to the candy?” Sloane asked, his eyes narrowed. “You didn’t eat it, did you?”
“No, I was helping my pal Alex beat some space monsters.” He walked over to Sloane and gave him a wink. “Sloane, this is Alex, fiercest space princess in all the galaxy.” He subtly motioned over to the group of bigger boys.
Sloane blinked in surprise before turning his attention to Alex and smiling warmly. He bowed regally, making Alex giggle. “It’s an honor, your majesty.”
“Princess Alex, this is my space prince Sloane Brodie.”
All the kids looked up at Sloane, mouths hanging open. His sexy boyfriend was big to average sized Therians, Dex could only imagine what Sloane looked like to the tiny ones. Even larger and more imposing. Dex put Alex down and Sloane kneeled. He put his fist over his heart.
“Thank you for keeping my princess safe.”
Alex bowed before patting Sloane’s head. “You’re welcome.”
Dex and Sloane said their goodbyes as Ronnie and all his friends made a fuss over Princess Alex who’d guarded the fierce jaguar Therian’s princess. It was more likely that Ronnie and his friends were impressed at Alex’s association with a THIRDS agent like Sloane. The guy was impressive. Didn’t matter that he was out of uniform. He just had a way of drawing attention.
“Thanks for that,” Dex said, slipping his hand into Sloane’s. His boyfriend was not good with kids. It wasn’t that he didn’t like them, but more that he had no idea what to do with them. He was also slightly terrified by them, but whenever he was needed, he was always there, putting aside his insecurities to help any way he could.
Sloane smiled down at him, his amber eyes sparkling. “Anything for you, princess.” He squeezed Dex’s hand, and Dex couldn’t help himself. He pulled Sloane behind the candy tent for a kiss. It was sweet, warm, and full of love.
“What was that for?” Sloane asked, nuzzling Dex’s temple.
“For you just being you.”
“Are you sure you didn’t eat a whole bag of candy?” Sloane teased.
Dex laughed and threw his arms around Sloane’s neck. “Just kiss me.”
Around them folks were walking around in all kinds of costumes. Kids ran around, squealing with delight as they ate candy and headed for the next ride. Some agents were in their Therians forms, from cheetahs to bears. Despite the music, the squeals, the noise, the somewhat organized chaos, and laughter, there was just him and his space prince. What more could he ask for? Except maybe a chocolate bar, or five.
Hello all! Welcome to another edition of THIRDS Thursdays’ Hot Seat! Today we have with us Cael, Calvin, and Seb who are going to answer some of your questions. Each edition of THIRDS Thursdays Hot Seat will feature three cast members who will be asked questions by our lovely readers. The same question may be asked to all three members. Let the fun begin!
Charlie: Hi, fellas! Thanks so much for being here today. Our first question is from SK and it’s for all three of you. We all know about Dex's guilty pleasures (although he doesn't show guilt about them at all). What are yours?
Cael: Hm, I don’t know that I necessarily feel guilty about anything that brings me pleasure, but there’s some stuff I have to stay away from because my self-control isn’t so great. Like cookies. I love cookies. So I enjoy baking all kinds of cookies and if I’m nervous about something I end up eating all the cookies. I’m lucky I have cheetah Therian metabolism because oh my God, I’d have been in trouble otherwise. It’s also a tough guilty pleasure to have when you have a brother who’s like a black hole when it comes to food. Anything remotely edible around him gets sucked into his mouth. Also, I um *blushes* do this thing when I’m making dinner where I pretend I’m doing a cooking show and I narrate what I’m doing, and sometimes I’ll use accents.
Seb: *laughs* That’s adorable. *clears his throat* I uh, I like photography. *fidgets in his chair* I have a really amazing camera that Hudson gave me on our one year anniversary. I used to take pictures of him all the time on my crappy camera. The shots always looked great, but I put that down to the subject matter. He said I was really good at it and if I enjoyed it I should do it more often. I liked taking shots of every day moments though, nothing posed. I’d take those too, but it was the little moments in between, the moments when people let down their guard. That smile just for a lover, or a laugh, a moment of genuine surprise. All those instances that show us how fragile and beautiful life is.
Calvin: *stares at Seb* Wow. Okay. So, you’re all poignant and eloquent and my answer’s going to sound dumb in comparison.
Seb: No it’s not, Cal. *nudges Cal playfully* I know what your answer is and it’s sweet.
Calvin: *sighs* I like falling asleep against Ethan when he’s in his Therian form. We used to do it all the time when we were kids. Find some big grassy hill away from everyone and everything where we could just look down at the world. I’d lay on my back and he’d be my pillow. We’d look up at the clouds and I’d talk about all the cool things we’d do when we grew up. It became a habit and we still do that.
Charlie: Aw. Okay, the next question is from Naoki and it’s for all three of you. When animals (especially dogs and cats) sense you around them, do they steer clear from you, or do they follow you around?
Cael: If Ash is near me then they stay clear of me. *shakes his head in amusement* Seriously, it’s funny to watch. With cats especially. They hiss at him and if he’s in his Therian form he hisses back. Actually, he hisses back in his Human form too. *laughs* Weird, considering we’re Felids, but Ash is not a fan of other Felids approaching my space, no matter how small they may be. Dogs he’s okay with. If I’m on my own they sometimes look for a scratch behind the ear. The cats won’t rub up against me though because they’ll smell Ash on me.
Seb: Dogs generally are okay. Cats tend to stay away from me once they catch my scent. They’re pretty wary of tiger Therians, though not as much as jaguar Therians. A cat will get a whiff of Sloane and bolt like someone set its tail on fire. Though that could have something to do with a grumpy jaguar Therian in particular.
Cael: *eyes widen* Sloane does not like cats around Dex.
Calvin: *shrugs* I don’ get it. Like a housecat is going to lure Dex away or something.
Seb: Well, Dex is easily distracted.
Calvin: Good point. As for me, they don’t care because I’m Human. If Ethan is with me, they both tend to stay away. Sometimes a cat might wander over but Ethan’s friendly even in his tiger Therian form, so I guess maybe they sense that.
Charlie: Next question is for Cael from Linda. How do you stay calm with both Dex and Ash around you?
Cael: *arches an eyebrow* There is no calm when my brother and Ash are in the same room. There’s only chaos. Unless we’re in assembly where they’re not allowed to talk, then there’s calm, but even then they’re bugging the hell out of each other. Every time Intel has a presentation it’s like Kindergarten. Dex throws something at Ash, Ash gets up to go to the bathroom and smacks Dex in the back of the head on the way out. Dex throws spitballs, Ash sticks his leg out when Dex walks by on his way to bathroom and trips him. Sloane and I have to sit between them just so they don’t tackle each other in the middle of the auditorium.
Calvin: *snickers* I’d pay money to see that.
Seb: It’d be a hell of a lot more entertaining than any of Intel’s presentations, that’s for sure. *his eyes glaze over at the thought* It’s like they’re talking another language.
Charlie: Okay, next question is for Seb from Naoki. Have you ever tried to deal with a very drunk Hudson? If you have, how was it?
Seb: *laughs softly* Yeah, I have. Quite a few times. He’s a very happy feely drunk. You know the kind. They love everyone and everything. He’ll want to hug everyone. He’s also a lot bolder, so he’ll want to dance even if there’s no music playing. He’s normally very reserved and shy, so he’s not big on public displays of affection, but that kind of goes out the window when he’s drunk. *blushes* He used to like crawling onto my lap when we were out at a bar or a club and he’d had a few too many. It was kind of nice, seeing him get all possessive. He’s not a lightweight either. As a Therian, and a Brit, he can drink most anyone under the table. He doesn’t get drunk often, though. Only if he feels safe or if something is really troubling him.
Charlie: Last question. This one’s for Calvin. How would you describe a perfect date or vacation?
Calvin: *looks thoughtful* I guess just me and Ethan somewhere on our own. Maybe a private beach. Somewhere he’d feel safe. It’s hard for Ethan to get comfortable, especially if we’re somewhere unfamiliar. A private beach or secluded beach would be okay for him once he got into the right headspace. We’d just play on the beach, swim in the ocean—Ethan loves the ocean—and fall asleep together under the stars.
Charlie: Aw, I bet he’d love that. Thanks, guys, for joining us today. You should probably get back. Considering you three are probably the most level-headed of the bunch, there’s no telling what the rest of your teammates are getting up to.
Seb: *wriggles his eyebrows, a wicked grin coming onto his face* Not my team, so I get to stand back and watch the gummy bears fly. I heard there’s another assembly on “Safety at the Workplace” tomorrow.
Calvin: *shakes his head in amusement at Seb* You’re evil.
Hello all! Since we had a THIRDS Halloween flash fiction this week over at the DSP blog, which you can find here if you missed it, I thought we’d get the team in the hot seat again! Today we have with us Hudson, Lou, and Austen who are going to answer some of your questions. Remember, if you’d like to leave a question for any of the cast, you can do so here. Let the fun begin!
Charlie: Hi! Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedules to be here with us. Why don’t we start with Hudson? This question is from Katelyn. I was wondering if Hudson was near or far sighted, and then my thought progression made me wonder if visual impairments transferred to Therian forms.
Hudson: Well, Katelyn, our Therian DNA may set us apart from Humans in many ways, such as strength, resilience, and of course the existence of our feral side, but whether we’re Therian or Human, we’re very much susceptible to the same ailments. However, there are certain conditions specific to Therians as these are directly linked to the effects of the vaccine which brought about our mutation. As for my vision, I’m nearsighted. Occasionally I wear contacts, when I can get the blasted things in, but I much prefer glasses.
Charlie: Our next question is from Jacob for Austen. How long after Sloane got him hired by the THIRDS did he join TIN? And is spying on the team for TIN or for him?
Austen: *arches an eyebrow* That depends. Is anything I saying going to leave this room?
Charlie: Um, no. Just me, you, and our readers.
Austen: *smiles brightly* Good, because if anyone spills the jelly beans, I’ll find out, and it won’t be pretty.
Charlie: *smiles sweetly* I think you forget your book’s not written yet. It could get pretty hairy.
Austen: *lets out a snort* Please, like it won’t anyway. How many times have you blown up or shot Destructive Delta?
Charlie: *clears throat* Let’s move on shall we?
Austen: Yeah, I thought so. Bring it. Right, TIN. I don’t have an exact date of when I joined TIN. I was working for them before I even knew I was. A few months in, Sparks started training me herself, so that’s probably when it happened. Also, I need to point out that I’m not one of their operatives. I’m a freelancer. You have to be pretty fucking scary to be an operative, and as long as I have people I care about, I can’t be an operative, not just for the safety of those I care about, but for my own. TIN doesn’t mess around. The job always comes first. And as for the spying, that’s usually either for Sparks—off the books—or for me. These guys grow on you, you know? I might work for TIN but I don’t trust them. Hell, there are few people I do trust. I need to make sure they’re okay.
Charlie: Next question is from Carol Ann for Lou. How did you feel when you saw Dex again once he was a thirds agent? Regrets? And what was your first thought when you caught him and Sloane making up?
Lou: *sighs* I did have regrets at first. At the time I just couldn’t handle the media hounding me, the phone calls at all hours, the threats. The walls were closing in on me and I’m not very good when that happens. *looks embarrassed* I’ve been accused of being flighty and a bit of a drama queen, and maybe that’s true. Dex was always caring and sweet, though. Of course, he had his moments. Dios mio! There is no man more stubborn than Dexter J. Daley. When I saw him at the bar, I was a little breathless. He looked so fantastic, but I wasn’t surprised. No matter what life throws at him, he finds a way to pick himself up. My first thought when I saw him and Sloane kissing? Initially it was mostly curse words that crossed my mind. I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, Dex had always been fighting for Therian rights, something he got from his parents, but he’d never been involved with a Therian before. It made me wonder if that was why things didn’t work out between us, because I wasn’t… enough for him. But I quickly realized we wouldn’t have worked in the long run.
Charlie: Okay, next question is for Hudson from Jazette. I was wondering if Hudson only dates humans, now because of his mating marks?
Hudson: *shifts uncomfortably* I, um, I’m afraid my career doesn’t leave much room for dating. It’s been a while.
Austen: *frowns* Hold up, by while, do you mean years? As in since you and a certain beefy tiger Therian broke up?
Hudson: *sniffs* I don’t think that’s any of your business.
Austen: *shakes his head sadly* Man, you have got it bad. It’s been years. Are you at least getting laid?
Hudson: *glares at Austen* That is most certainly none of your business.
Lou: *eyes go wide* You haven’t had sex in years? *pats Hudson’s leg sympathetically* Oh, honey.
Hudson: Why are we bloody talking about my sex life? No one says I haven’t had sex. The question was in regards to my dating, not sex.
Austen: Well the two kind of go together, don’t they?
Hudson: They most certainly do not. Not everyone has sex you know, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Besides, I don’t hop into bed with every man who takes me out.
Austen: And how many is that, because form what I can tell—
Hudson: *goes pale* You’ve been spying on me?
Austen: Well, yeah, duh. We pretty much established that. You are part of Destructive Delta.
Hudson: *gets flustered and crosses his arms over his chest* I am not discussing my love life—
Austen: Or lack thereof
Hudson: Piss off! Bloody wanker.
Austen: *cackles* I love when he gets all indignant. He’s so proper even when he’s cursing you out.
Charlie: Okay, next question. This one is from Pam for Lou. I was wondering when u left Dex you really had a problem with Therians but that seemed to changed. What happened to change your mind?
Lou: I guess it was a few things. It had taken a while to get used to Cael. He’s such a sweetheart, but he’s a Therian. At first, I hadn’t been sure if I could be in a relationship with Dex knowing he had a Therian brother. I won’t go into why I felt the way I did about Therians, but I will tell you what changed. Once I saw what a genuinely sweet guy Cael was, I started to relax around him. I admit, Sloane scared the life out of me. I mean, the guy is huge. On top of that, he’s lethal, and not just because he’s a THIRDS agent. Jaguar Therians are some of the most dangerous Felids out there. He also wasn’t the most pleasant, at the time. But then I saw how he was with Dex and how crazy Dex was about him. Sloane was gentle. Passionate. Not traits I associated with Therians. He also let me be a part of Dex’s life. I respect him. Then I met Bradley. *sighs* He’s so handsome and sweet. I was so surprised that when he started talking to me, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought. I mean, I still am, but it’s more because I like him rather than because he scares me. We’re still getting to know each other, but between Cael, Sloane, Bradley, and some of the other members of Destructive Delta, how they’re a family, take care of each other, it really changed my perspective on Therians.
Charlie: Last question. This is for Austen from Shania. Has Austen seen Zachary again after being protected by him?
Hudson: *smiles knowingly at Austen* Zachary? As in Agent Osmond Zachary from Unit Beta?
Austen: *narrows his eyes at Hudson* I got mauled and Sloane had Zach babysit. What?
Hudson: *holds his hands up in surrender* Nothing.
Austen: *grumbles incoherently* Yeah, I’ve seen him. He did me a solid, so I occasionally check up on him. It’s no big deal.
Lou: *coughs* Isn’t he, like a three hundred pound bear Therian?
Austen: Your point, cupcake?
Lou: *rolls his eyes* You’re not fooling anyone.
Austen: Like I give a shit what you think. Trust is a luxury I don’t get to have in my line of work, so when someone puts themselves on the line for me, I don’t take that lightly.
Hudson: It doesn’t hurt he’s a rather strapping lad.
Austen: You know what, you two can bite me. I’d don’t get all melty and swoony over a pair of beefy biceps and a nice ass. Unlike you two goody two-shoes. I also have sex whenever the hell I want, and I have fun doing it. I don’t need to be tied down by any one guy. Besides, Zach’s too nice. I check he’s okay, and that’s it. He never even knows I was there.
Lou: So, you’re spying on him.
Austen: *throws his hands up* What is this, the Spanish Inquisition? *jumps out of his chair* I’ll see you nerds later.
Lou: *chuckles* He’s so full of it.
Austen: *calls out from the hall* I heard that, Lou, and I just want you to know I’m flipping you off right now.
Hudson: *smiles* That went well, didn’t it?
Hello all! This week we have an excerpt from Chapter Two of Catch a Tiger by the Tail!
"I see you two are getting nowhere fast.”
Great. Just what Ethan didn’t need. He let out a grunt in response to Ash’s tease.
“Don’t get pissy with me. If you don’t make a move on your boy, someone else will. I got a feeling there’s a certain wolf Therian who wouldn’t think twice. Bautista’s already sampled the goods. Guess he liked it.”
Ethan hissed at him, and Ash chuckled. Asshole. Since when was Ash the expert on relationships anyway? Then again, he and Cael seemed to be settling into theirs. Ash was actually happy most days. It was weird. What did it say about him that Ash could get it right and he couldn’t? God, he needed a drink. He tapped the bar and held up two fingers to Bradley. With a wink, Bradley brought him a double shot of whiskey.
“Wow, on the hard stuff already?”
Ethan rolled his eyes and snatched up his whiskey glass, giving Bradley a nod in thanks. Everyone else was moving forward in their relationships except for him and Calvin. Although Ash wasn’t completely at ease with being open about him and Cael, he was doing his best and making the effort. The rumor of his relationship with a guy had spread through Unit Alpha, and instead of worrying about it, Ash went with it. He challenged anyone who tried to make something of his move from girls to guys, or rather one guy in particular. And of course he did so in typical charming Ash fashion—in other words putting the fear of God in anyone dumb enough to make a joke at his expense.
Dex and Sloane were sweet together, even when Dex was driving his boyfriend crazy, which was the majority of the time. The two were in synch, their bond bringing them closer together, giving them the ability to sense each other in a way they hadn’t before. Ethan still couldn’t believe they’d bonded. He didn’t know all that much about Therian bonds. It was one of those things not discussed out in the open, something that stemmed from deep within their feral side. Therians were always being accused of being animals. The last thing they needed was evidence suggesting there was some truth to the accusations. His dad had talked to him and his brothers about it when they’d been younger, stressing how serious it was, how dangerous for the parties involved. If there was ever a cautionary tale, it was Seb and Hudson. His big brother hadn’t been the same since he’d lost his mate. Like a part of him was missing. He suffered daily, and Ethan hated seeing Seb in pain like that, but there wasn’t anything he or Rafe could do about it. Not that Rafe gave a shit. When had his big brother become such a dick?
With a sigh, Ethan sat on the barstool Calvin had vacated and sipped his whiskey when Ash took a seat beside him. He ordered a beer and took a few swigs after it arrived, sitting silently. Ethan arched an eyebrow at him. Maybe Cael’s manners were rubbing off on him.
“You, me, Sloane, we’ve been through a lot of fucked up shit. The last year and a half alone has been insane. Yet for some inexplicable reason, these guys have stuck by our side. We’ve put them through hell. We’ve hurt them bad. And they keep coming back. Now that means they’re either fucked in the head, which in Daley’s case is most likely, or they see something in us we don’t. I know you got it rough, but you got a guy who’s been bleeding for you since the day you met. He’s had your back and taken on anyone stupid enough to cause you grief. I ain’t ever seen anything like it. For a Human his size, he’s one tough little son of a bitch.”
Ethan swallowed hard. He couldn’t deny Ash’s words. Calvin had been at his side from the beginning, their friendship tested time and time again, but it never faltered. Calvin never faltered. While growing up, he’d taken on Humans and Therians, anyone who messed with Ethan. Here he was this huge tiger Therian, and his Human best friend had fearlessly defended him against all odds. He still did.
Cael cheerfully bounded over, his pink cheeks giving away how tipsy he was. He threw his arms around Ash’s neck and planted a big kiss on his cheek, making Ash chuckle.
“Hey, Trouble.” Ash gave Cael a kiss on the lips.
Ethan’s brows shot up. He might never get used to seeing this side of Ash.
“Hi, Hobbs!” Cael gave Ethan a hug before pulling back and looking around. Ethan was used to it by now. Wherever he or Calvin went, everyone expected the other to be there at all times. It didn’t annoy him. He just found it strange that everyone thought they did every single little thing together. Okay, maybe they did most things together, but not everything. He pointed behind him to the door that led to the restrooms.
Cael turned back to Ash, and Ethan noted how at ease he was with Ash. He noticed the special way Cael smiled just for him, the sparkle in his bright gray eyes and the subtle gestures that always had him touching some part of Ash, his arm, his chest, his shoulder or leg.
“So…. Mr. Keeler….”
“Uh-oh.” Ash laughed and received a playful punch in the arm. He winked at Cael and nudged his cheek. “What can I do for you, sweetheart?”
“Dex says that Sloane can totally beat you at arm wrestling. I told him he’s been eating too many gummy bears and the sugar’s gone to his head, because you can totally beat Sloane.”
Ash eyed Cael. “You two made a bet, didn’t you?”
Cael nodded, a big sweet smile spread across his face. It was clear to Ethan then how easily Cael wrapped Ash around his little finger. It was also clear Ash was fully aware and went along with it anyway.
“What are the stakes?” Ash asked before taking a swig of his beer.
“If he wins, you have to wear the T-shirts of his choice for a week.”
Ash let out a low grunt. “And if you win?”
“Twenty-four hours of complete silence to distribute at the time of your choosing in whatever denomination you choose.”
Ash put a hand up. “Wait. You’re saying if I beat Sloane, I get twenty-four hours’ worth of silence to dish out on your brother whenever I want? So let’s say, if he’s annoying the fuck out of me during lunch, I can tell him to shut up for an hour?”
Cael nodded. “The only exception is if it’s an emergency.”
Ash jumped off his barstool. “Let’s do this.” Cael bounced off, and Ash leaned into Ethan, talking quietly. “Don’t worry so much about fucking it up that you end up doing just that.” Ash gave his back a hearty pat before strolling off, his arm around Cael, who’d stopped to wait for him.
Ethan finished off his drink, recalling the night in the surveillance van. Not their little show in front of Dex—he was still trying to forget Dex had been there—but what had come before that. He could still hear the soft gasps and moans in his ear as Calvin seduced Felipe. Ethan had watched Felipe kiss Calvin on the front steps of his house moments earlier. It had twisted Ethan up inside. Until then he’d been trying to figure things out, but when he saw Calvin being kissed and touched by another guy, when he heard Calvin’s hoarse whispers and moans, Ethan had been ready to go feral. His inner Felid had been furious. No one was supposed to lay a hand on Calvin in that way or make him sound like that.
Ash was right about Felipe. All Calvin had to do was say the word and the guy would make a move. Felipe might be a nice guy, but Ethan wasn’t about to give Calvin up. It was time for him to get his act together and do what he had to for the both of them.
- What is the name of Dex’s biological mom and dad?
- How old was Sloane Brodie when he first shifted?
- What was the name of Ash’s twin brother?
- What is the name of Tony Maddock’s sister?
- What kind of car does Dex drive?
- What type of Therian is Bradley Darcy?
- What is the name of Lou Huerta’s catering company?
- What is the name of Rosa’s girlfriend?
- Which three letters are tattooed to Cael Maddock’s neck, signifying his Therian classification?
- What T-shirt was Ash wearing the very first time Dex saw him?
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?”
“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.”
“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.
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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