Blood & Thunder, page 16part #2 of THIRDS Series
“You love throwing it in my face. I’m sorry we can’t all be fucking perfect like you, Rafe. Whatever happened, you can’t pin this one on me, you asshole.”
“I’ve had enough of this.” Dex fished into his utility belt pouch and grabbed his Ultra Sound Device. He held out the small black device and pulled out a couple of earplugs that he tossed to Calvin. “Get those in Hobbs’s ears. Sloane, get the hell out.”
Sloane’s eyes went wide and he bolted from the room. As soon as Calvin had the earplugs in Hobbs’s ears, Dex clicked the small black button. It seemed as if nothing was happening, at least not to Dex and Calvin. Hobbs’s brothers dropped to their knees, their hands over their ears as they writhed in pain. Dex clicked off the device and put it away, knowing the two would remain stunned for a few seconds. He grabbed each one by the ear and hauled them to their feet.
“If you two insist on acting like a couple of Felids throwing a hissy fit, I’m going to treat you that way. Come with me.” He dragged them out of the room, ignoring Sloane’s startled expression as Dex strode by with the groaning and squirming Therians in his grip. The brothers were too affected by the ultrasound device to do much about it. He led them a couple of doors down and pushed them inside, turning them so they faced the bruised and battered agent.
“You see that? That’s my baby brother.”
The two agents swallowed hard, their surprised expressions quickly growing remorseful.
“You don’t see me blaming everything that has a fucking pulse. He was doing his job. Yeah, I’m pissed off. I’m hurt. I want to scream and beat the living shit out of something, but I won’t. Why? Because he needs me to keep my shit together so I can catch the sons of bitches who did this to him. Now you two can keep throwing your temper tantrums, see how far that gets you. Or you can do your damn jobs and make your brother proud. Now get the hell out. It was a pleasure making your acquaintance. Let’s do it again, perhaps never.” Dex headed for Cael’s bedside and took a seat on the sky-blue couch. The two brothers lingered silently for a moment before Rafe stormed out. Seb came around and took a seat next to Dex.
“I’m sorry about your brother.”
“Yeah, well, you two aren’t the only ones with something to lose.”
“Hobbs mentioned you were Cael’s older brother. I didn’t know he’d been hurt. He’s a good kid.”
Dex couldn’t help his smile. “He’d punch your lights out for calling him that. He hates to be called a kid.” It was hard not to think of him that way. Although Cael was in his late twenties, he looked much younger, and his sweet, playful disposition had him coming off as younger than his age as well. To Dex, Cael would always be his little brother.
“Thank you, for what you did. I’m glad you’re on the team, Dex. Makes me feel better knowing Ethan’s got you to watch his back.”
That reminded Dex. “I didn’t know you’d been on Destructive Delta.”
Seb averted his gaze, his green eyes looking at nothing in particular. “Yeah, reassignments are usually kept on the down low since it tends to happen most often when an agent fucks up rather than anything else.”
“But from what I’ve gathered, except for Sloane, no one on Destructive Delta has had any previous partners.”
“You’re right. Originally, Team Leaders worked solo. When I was reassigned, they restructured all the squadrons and Team Leaders were given partners, so each team had an equal number of Therian and Human agents. My partner applied for Recon, so they hired Gabe to fill the position and assigned him to Sloane.”
Dex nodded, waiting for Seb to continue. Judging by what Rafe had said, Seb had gotten involved with someone on Destructive Delta, and Dex couldn’t help wondering who it was. It had been before Gabe’s hiring, so it could have been Sloane. The only other options were Calvin and Cael. As far as Dex knew, Cael dated, but they were mostly casual hookups from his college days, and it had been a while since he’d heard Cael mention anyone in particular. Having a secret forbidden relationship with your partner wasn’t the only challenge to an agent’s love life. “So, what happened? If you don’t mind my asking.”
“I fucked up.” Seb shook his head, a deep frown coming onto his face. “Never fall for a teammate, Dex. It’ll only end in heartache.”
Don’t I know it. Dex swallowed hard. “Sounds like you really cared about him.”
“If I’d cared about him, it would have hurt, but… It’s been five years and I can’t get him out of my head. He’s something else. Gorgeous, funny, sweet, such a nice guy, and I messed it all up. I tried to talk to him after—”
A knock sounded at the door, and Dex looked up, smiling at their visitor. It had been a while since Dex had seen Hudson around. Their team’s Chief Medical Examiner had been on loan to the rest of the unit and snowed under with backlogged cases. Just because Destructive Delta was working on finding the Order didn’t mean homicides stopped happening.
“I came as soon as I could—” Hudson came to an abrupt halt, his eyes widening, and his face going red at the sight of Seb. “What are you doing here?”
Seb got to his feet, his hands shoved in his pockets. “I was visiting my brother.”
Hudson’s expression softened. “Oh, yes of course.” Hudson gave him an apologetic smile. “I do apologize. How is he doing?’
“Resting. You know Ethan, tough as nails.”
“I can assure you, he’s being well cared for.” Hudson gave a tentative smile, and Dex looked from one to the other. Awkward didn’t cover it.
“So, uh, how are you?” Seb asked, running a hand absently through his cropped hair.
“Good, considering. You?”
An uncomfortable silence stretched between them as they both tried their hardest not to look at the other one. Guess there was no question who Seb had been involved with. Poor guy. It was obvious he was still crazy about Hudson.
Seb finally broke the silence, motioning toward the door. “I should get back. Rafe is probably driving Cal crazy.”
At the mention of Rafe’s name, Hudson stiffened, and his jaw clenched. “Would you mind not telling him I’m here? I’d rather avoid one of his oh-so-pleasant encounters.”
Rafe’s reputation certainly preceded him, Dex thought wryly. Bet he and Ash were best buds. If Rafe was hostile with his brother concerning what happened, he could only imagine he wasn’t too fond of Hudson. Dex didn’t blame the Englishman for avoiding the guy.
“I’m sorry,” Seb said sincerely.
“Not your fault your brother’s… difficult.”
That made Seb chuckle. “Still so polite.”
“One of my many faults.” Hudson smiled sadly at him. “Please take care of yourself.”
“You too.” With a wave at Dex, Seb left, and the room was once again plunged into awkward silence.
“So, you and Seb….”
“It’s not up for discussion,” Hudson snapped.
Dex held his hands up. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to pry.” Wow. It must have been bad. Hudson was nothing if not polite at all times. After a few months, Dex learned there was more to their Chief Medical Examiner than he’d first thought. Hudson was exceptionally well spoken, composed, and polite, but he had a mouth on him that would make a nun keel over. The wolf Therian could swear with the best of them and far more creatively. Dex was always learning fun new words from him. He’d even learned how to make English tea. Of course the cookies, or biscuits, or whatever the hell Hudson called them, didn’t hurt in making the experience more enjoyable.
Hudson let out a weary sigh. “I apologize. It was a rather disheartening experience. Seb is… a wonderful bloke.”
“Seems like he still cares about you,” Dex added carefully.
Hudson’s cheeks flushed, and he pushed his trendy, black-framed glasses up his nose. “The feeling would be mutual.”
“Then why not—”
“It’s in the past, Dex.” Hudson went to Cael’s bedside and put his hand to his forehead.
“He’s a great guy,” Dex stated proudly.
“Well, if you need anything, do give me a shout.”
“I will. Say thank you to Nina for me.”
Dex grabbed the change of clothes Tony had brought him earlier and headed for Cael’s bathroom. There was a small shower stall and some towels. Once inside the shower, his muscles relaxed. He’d managed to clean up some while he waited to hear about Cael from the doctors, but now he was finally able to wash away the remaining dirt, grime, and blood. He wished his worries would wash down the drain with the rest of it. Besides coming into Hobbs’s room to see what all the noise was about, Dex hadn’t run into Sloane, and that wasn’t a good sign. This was the first time Dex had done something to really piss Sloane off. Oh, he’d made his partner angry before, but not nostrils flaring, you-done-fucked-up angry. He was not looking forward to whatever awaited him.
After toweling off, he pulled on a clean pair of boxer briefs, socks, his comfy jeans, and a loose charcoal gray, long sleeve T-shirt. He dropped down onto the couch, fluffed up the pillow given to him by a cute little Therian nurse, and stretched out for a much-needed nap. His leg protested, but it wasn’t too bad since he’d been given some painkillers. With his arms folded over his chest, and his stocking feet crossed at the ankles, he forced himself to clear his mind, hoping this whole thing with Sloane would blow over. Maybe by the morning, everything would be back to normal.
The faint sound of his name being called woke Dex with a start. He rubbed his eyes and sat up when he remembered where he was. Jumping to his feet, he ran to Cael’s bedside, his heart squeezing at the sight of his little brother smiling at him.
“Hey, you’re awake,” Dex said, putting a hand to his brother’s head. “How are you feeling?”
“Like shit,” Cael replied, his voice raspy. “Can I have some water?”
“You can have all the water you want.” There was a jug of water, along with some plastic cups on the small table beside the bed, and Dex poured some, handing it to Cael then pausing. “Can you hold it?”
Cael rolled his eyes and took the cup from him. Well, it looked like his baby bro was going to be fine. He drank down the whole cup and passed it back to Dex. “Thanks. How long have you been here?”
Dex looked at his watch. “A few hours. Dad brought me some clothes, and I used your shower. You know, if this is to get out of programming more algorithms, there are better ways to go about it than getting yourself blown up.”
“Screw you,” Cael said with a laugh, then winced. “Ow.” He frowned, his expression giving way to panic. “Hobbs? Is he okay? I heard you say he was trapped just before I got knocked out.”
“Take it easy. Hobbs is fine. He’s pretty banged up, but he was lucky. They’re treating him for smoke inhalation.”
Cael nodded somberly, his eyes welling up. Dex carefully took a seat on the edge of his bed. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
“Hobbs is okay because he’s a Therian. What if he hadn’t pushed you out of there?”
Dex’s close call hadn’t even crossed his mind until now. He’d been so busy worrying about his brother and his teammate, he hadn’t given it much thought. He swallowed hard and gave his brother a reassuring smile. “You know me. I got a hard head.”
“How can you joke about this? You could have been killed!”
“It’s my job, just like it’s yours. You think I wasn’t going out of my head, thinking the worst when I heard about you?” Dex had known from the moment he was recruited how much more vulnerable he was to the rest of his team. Not only were his teammates Therians, they were more often than not facing Therian threats. His Human teammates had the advantage of experience over him, but Dex couldn’t spend his time worrying about what ifs.
“Yes, but I’m a Therian. I know I’m not as strong as Sloane, or Ash, or Hobbs, but I can take more than you, and you’re on Defense.”
“Hey, don’t work yourself up. I’m fine. What about when I was in the HPF? I was just as likely to be hurt there as here.”
“That doesn’t help,” Cael muttered pathetically. “Promise me you’ll be careful?” He narrowed his eyes at Dex. “You’re not really John McClane, you know.”
“Thanks for bursting my bubble.” Dex could see Cael trying not to smile, but he failed miserably.
There was a soft knock at the door, and Dex called for them to come in, surprised to find it was Ash, though he was more surprised by Ash’s behavior. It almost resembled… insecurity. That couldn’t be right. It would mean the guy possessed feelings other than anger and disdain.
“Ash,” Cael said cheerfully, his smile stretching from ear to ear. Dex still couldn’t fathom how these two were such close friends. It was like a bunny becoming friends with an anaconda.
“Hey.” Ash returned Cael’s smile and held up a thermal lunch bag. “Rosa made you dinner. She’s convinced the only way you’ll get better is if she gets some of her Boricua food in you.” He walked over to Cael’s bedside and handed him the bag.
“Ooh, did she make me some arañitas?”
Ash chuckled. “Of course she did. She knows how much you love those things. A bit too greasy for my taste, but they’re not bad.”
“Are you kidding? They’re awesome! Fried shredded plantains with the right amount of garlic. Besides, Rosa’s cooking is the shizzle.”
“You and your brother, man. What is it with you two and food?”
“Um, it’s tasty.” Cael motioned over to his right and Ash followed the movement, giving a start when he saw Dex. What the hell? Seriously?
“Daley. I didn’t see you there.”
“Yeah, I must have been real difficult to spot with all the other people not in the room,” Dex muttered. Jerk.
Ash opened his mouth then seemed to think better of it. When he turned his attention back to Cael, he was smiling again. “Did you want to eat now?”
“In a minute. Thanks for bringing it.”
“No problem. How are you feeling?”
“Better, now that you’re here.”
Dex’s stunned expression mirrored Ash’s. Cael carried on, obliviously.
“Yep. Letty came by—”
“Wait a second.” Dex held a hand up. “I’ve been here the whole time. When did she come by?”
“While you were sleeping, a.k.a. dead to the world,” Cael said with a snort. “She tried to wake you up, but you rolled over and mumbled something about having coffee first.”
Dex had no recollection whatsoever of someone trying to wake him, but he knew his brother was speaking the truth. Hence, his ex-boyfriend getting away with horrendous home furnishings for the house. “Makes sense. Carry on, then.” Cael rolled his eyes and turned back to Ash.
“Anyway, as I was saying. Letty came by earlier today, said she was worried about you. Apparently, you’ve been acting like an ass.” Dex opened his mouth and Cael put a finger up without glancing in his direction. “Shut it.”
Dex made a zipping motion over his lips.
“She called me an ass? What the hell?” Ash pouted, his beefy arms crossed over his chest.
“No, I’m calling you an ass,” Cael corrected.
“For blaming yourself. This wasn’t your fault, Ash. And before you say anything else, you were on the other side of the damn building. There was nothing you could have done. You know that, right?”
“I know, I just….” Ash let out a long breath.
“Come here, big guy.” Cael carefully shifted over and patted the bed. After some hesitation, Ash sat down beside him with exceptional care. Dex tended to forget how big Ash was, since whenever Dex saw
Dex watched flabbergasted as Ash gently pulled Cael into a hug. His brother tilted his face toward Ash’s neck, his fingers slipping under the collar of the larger Therian’s uniform. With a smile, Ash pulled back, giving Cael a wink, followed by a playful nudge on the cheek.
“I gotta go. If you need anything, and your bro’s busy, or sleeping on the job, call me.”
Cael grinned widely. “Okay.”
With a grumbled “good-bye” in Dex’s direction, Ash left the room. Dex waited until he’d closed the door behind him before taking a seat on the edge of Cael’s bed. His brother wisely avoided his gaze, his eyes dropping to his fingers.