Blood & Thunder, page 22part #2 of THIRDS Series
“I’m too tired right now to come up with an appropriate response, so I’m going to pencil you in for later in the week. How’s Thursday work for you? I can tell you to fuck off properly then.” He let out a yawn and Ash chuckled.
“My week’s kind of full, but since it’s you, I’ll move some things around.”
“I appreciate it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more moping to do. Tell Taylor I know he’s the one who ate my maple donut, and if he does it again, I’m going to shank him with a spork.”
“Whoa, that time of the month, Daley?”
Just his luck, Rosa and Letty were walking past. “Rosa, Ash is calling me a woman on my period. Crush him.” He strolled away to the sound of Rosa cursing Ash out in two languages. Then Ash made the mistake of accusing her of having PMS, and Dex felt marginally better, knowing the guy would soon find himself in physical pain.
Dex closed the office door behind him, tapping his security code into the panel, and setting the room to privacy mode. Might as well get some work done between moping and waiting to hear from Lieutenant Sparks. He initiated his desk’s interface and dropped down into his chair. “This sucks.” His cell phone buzzed in his pocket, and he pulled it out, his heart in his throat at the sight of Sloane’s grumpy face appearing on his caller ID screen. “Hey.”
“Hi. About this morning… I needed time to think.”
Wow. Straight and to the point. “Sure.”
“I know you’re probably wondering what the hell’s going on, and you deserve better than some vague answers and pathetic excuses. I shouldn’t have done what I did last night.”
“Oh.” Dex tried not to let the words sting, but they did. A horn honked somewhere in the distance, and Dex realized Sloane was offsite.
“Shit, that came out wrong. I don’t regret it. I don’t regret you. I’m not in the right frame of mind right now, and I shouldn’t have done what I did if I was going to be an asshole this morning.”
“You’re not an asshole. Most of the time.”
There was a chuckle on the other end before the line went quiet.
“You still there?” Dex asked, closing his eyes, inhaling deeply and releasing it slowly. He knew this feeling. This sense of impending doom.
“Are you… I mean, is this the phone call?” Over before it began. Was he really that surprised? A part of him was. Things weren’t great between them, not by far, but he’d expected the chance to work things out, to at least try to make something of whatever was between them. Had he been hoping for too much? Maybe Sloane wasn’t a relationship kind of guy. Maybe Dex was trying to make Sloane into something he wasn’t. He didn’t want that.
“I’m not that much of an asshole, Dex. I would never end things over the phone.”
“Good to know,” Dex muttered. Not that it made him feel any better. Something was up with Sloane, and it was more than the usual relationship insecurities.
“No, it’s not the phone call. I was calling to apologize. Again. And to tell you I’m taking a couple of days off. I know it’s going to sound cliché, but it’s not you, it’s me.”
“Is there something worse than cliché? Because if there is, that was it.” Were they really having this conversation? Why couldn’t Sloane come out and tell him what the hell was going on. “You know, if it’s not working for you, say so. I understand. We said we’d take things as they came, and I meant it.”
“No, Dex. I—I’m fucked up right now, so please, when I say it’s not you, believe me. It’s not you. It has nothing to do with you, or us.”
Sloane’s tone had Dex sitting up. Shit, something really was wrong. “What’s going on?”
“I can’t talk about it. Not right now. I feel like a dick for asking, but you and Ash are the only ones I can turn to. Can you not tell anyone I’m off sick? I told your dad I was out chasing leads. I need a couple of days. If Lieutenant Sparks finds out, she’ll start asking questions, and—”
“Done. And if you need me, you know where to find me. Is there anything else I can do to help?”
There was another long pause. “Wait for me?”
Dex’s heart fluttered. “You bet.”
Sloane hung up, and Dex returned his phone to his pocket, his mind racing. He was worried about his partner. It wasn’t like him to go off the grid like this. Whatever it was, it was serious, and Dex was sure it had something to do with the case. He hoped Sloane didn’t do anything rash, or attempt anything on his own. Lord knew the guy was pigheaded, worse when it came to asking for help. Dex would give Sloane the time he needed, but after that, he was going to make it clear to Sloane that he was no longer alone, and it was time he realized it.
WHAT A nightmare.
Dex dropped down onto his couch with a groan. He’d had one hell of a day juggling his workload, along with the dozens of coworkers who came to him asking for Sloane. And to make things worse, before noon the switchboards lit up and emergency calls started flooding in.
All over the city, violence was erupting between Humans and Therians. At first, they believed it was random, until they watched surveillance footage from several businesses. In all the videos, the Therians fighting the Humans wore black masks and were dressed in military camouflage with military grade weapons. News stations hounded the THIRDS, demanding to know if the Therians were agents. It was a PR nightmare. Themis analyzed the footage and identified several of the Humans as being members of one of the Humans 4 Dominance forum. That’s when the theories started.
It soon became shockingly clear this new Therian group was drawing Isaac’s followers out of the woodworks, which was awesome, but they were doing it through violence, which was a nightmare for everyone involved. The last thing the city needed was a trigger-happy group of vigilantes. Unit Alpha was being stretched thin despite passing on some of their cases to other units.
He’d settled down for some vegetating in front of the TV when someone pounded on his door, giving him a start. What the hell? Dex got to his feet, edging cautiously to his front door, his gaze shifting momentarily to the baseball bat propped up in the corner beside it. It was well past midnight and he hadn’t been expecting anyone. He unlocked the door and cautiously opened it, his jaw dropping. Swinging the door open, he stared at his partner.
“Sloane? What the hell happened to you?”
The corner of Sloane’s lips lifted in a halfhearted smile, before it faltered and trembled, a laugh that was half a sob escaping him and breaking Dex’s heart. “You should see the other guys.”
“You got in a fight?”
Sloane’s smile faded. “Yeah. I don’t feel so well, Dex. Can I come in? You can say no. I deserve a ‘no.’”
Dex had no idea what was going on, but he couldn’t leave Sloane like this. He took hold of his arm and gently pulled him inside, closing the door behind him. “You feeling sick?”
Sloane nodded and Dex didn’t give it another thought. He laced his fingers with Sloane’s and led him to the stairs. Wrapping an arm around him, he helped Sloane upstairs. The guy looked like he was ready to pass out. As soon as Dex switched on the bathroom lights, Sloane made a dash to the toilet. He dropped to his knees and hurled into the bowl. Well, this was nothing he hadn’t done for his brother and vice versa. He knelt down beside Sloane and rubbed a hand soothingly over his back.
“It’s okay, buddy. Let it all out.” After giving Sloane’s back a pat, he rose and went to the cabinet underneath the sink. He grabbed a small plastic cup, a couple of paper towels from the roll he kept down there, and a bottle of mouthwash, then took a seat on the floor beside Sloane. When the guy was finally done, Dex handed him a paper towel, followed by some mouthwash. “Here.”
“Thanks,” Sloane grumbled, before spitting out a mouthful of the minty blue liquid into the bowl. “I must reek.”
“You do, but you left behind a couple of T-shirts and a pair of sweatpants. I’ll get them for yo
“You ever wish you were anyone else but you?”
Dex paused. He opened his mouth, but Sloane waved a hand in his face. “Don’t answer that. You don’t. I know you don’t. Why would you? You’re so good.” Dex’s confusion must have shown, because Sloane cupped Dex’s face in his big hands. “Being around you… I don’t hate myself so much.”
“Why would you hate yourself? Hey, look at me.” Dex ran a hand over Sloane’s head. “Whatever happened, it doesn’t change the fact you’re a good guy.”
Sloane shook his head, the tears in his eyes catching Dex by surprise. Jesus, what the hell had happened? This was the first he’d seen Sloane like this.
“I keep telling myself I should walk away from you, that it would hurt less than you walking out on me, but I’m too much of a coward. Can’t walk away, can’t stay. I don’t know what the hell to do anymore.”
“Why would I walk out on you when all I’ve been trying to do for months is convince you how much I want to be with you?”
Sloane shook his head, his hands falling to his sides in defeat. “You don’t want to be with me, Dex. You shouldn’t be.”
“Stop. I don’t know what’s happened, but nothing’s changed.”
Sloane let out a harsh laugh. “It will.”
“I’m not going to walk away.”
“You have to,” Sloane insisted, his words slightly slurred. “For your own good.”
“Damn it, Sloane, what the hell is going on?”
“I need to go.” Sloane moved to get up, and Dex put a stop to that, his hands on Sloane’s shoulders. He gave them a squeeze.
“You think I’m letting you out of my sight while you’re like this? I’m getting you a change of clothes, and you’re crashing here.”
“Leave me alone.” Sloane pushed himself to his feet, wavering and grabbing onto the sink to steady himself.
“Not a chance.” If Sloane thought Dex was going to back off that easy, he had another think coming. There was no way Dex was letting Sloane leave this house, even if he had to knock the guy out himself to keep him there.
“Fuck off!” Sloane spat out.
“I’m not going anywhere, and neither are you.”
Sloane turned, looking distraught. “You don’t understand.”
“Then help me understand.”
Sloane pushed past Dex, stumbling through the bedroom. Before he reached the stairs, Dex grabbed him by the shirt and jerked him back. The last thing he wanted was for Sloane to break his neck on the stairs, or bring them both crashing down. Sober, Dex wouldn’t have been able to budge him, but shitfaced was another matter. Sloane flailed and hit the hall carpet with a loud thud. He rolled onto his side, making a low growling noise. Ignoring him, Dex reached down to help, only to have Sloane grab his ankle and pull it out from under him. With a groan, Dex found himself on his back with Sloane leaning over him, a fist hovering over Dex’s face. Making sure not to make too sudden a movement, Dex reached out and wrapped his hand around Sloane’s fist. He remained silent, his eyes not moving from his partner’s.
The fist in Dex’s hand started to shake. Pulling it away, Sloane fell back onto his ass, his knees drawn up and apart as he hung his head in his hands. Not knowing what to expect, Dex carefully sat up and nudged closer inch by inch, when Sloane grabbed his arm and dragged him onto his lap. Dex shifted his position so he could face Sloane, slipping his arms around him and feeling a sense of relief when Sloane held him tightly to him, his face buried against Dex’s neck, whispering, “I’m not a monster.”
Dex ran a soothing hand over Sloane’s head. “I know that.” Sloane shook his head, a shuddered sigh escaping him, moisture against Dex’s neck.
“Whatever you hear, whatever they say, please… don’t believe it.” Dex opened his mouth to reassure him, when Sloane’s choked voice whispered in his ear. “I never meant to hurt her. I’m not a monster.”
Dex held Sloane, whispering soothing words and rubbing a hand over his back. When Sloane had stopped sniffing and let out a shuddered breath, Dex gently urged him to stand. With great effort, Dex helped his sluggish partner to his feet and into the bedroom. He guided Sloane to what he considered his side of the bed and sat him down. Sloane lay on his side, his eyes bloodshot, dark circles around them. Dex kissed him, brushed his hair away from his face, and went about undressing him. Sloane was out for the count by the time Dex had him dressed in the spare T-shirt and loose sweatpants. He emptied out Sloane’s pockets before collecting the clothes and carrying them downstairs to the basement to chuck them in the washing machine. Once back upstairs, he turned off everything as he made his way back to the bedroom, feeling numb.
Tonight had been a strange and disturbing night. He didn’t know what had brought all this about, but he sure as hell was going to ask his partner about it in the morning. Once he’d brushed his teeth and changed, he climbed into bed beside Sloane who’d rolled himself onto his back. There was so much Dex didn’t know about his partner, about his past, and he tried not to dwell on it. Sloane was a good guy, he knew that much. Dex trusted him, though at times he thought he was crazy for doing so. His eyes landed on Sloane’s hands, and Dex took one gently in his. He gave the back of it a kiss before turning it over, his thumb brushing over the faint line on his wrist. Sloane had suffered in his youth. So much so, he’d been desperate to escape any way he could. That much he’d told Dex.
“Why won’t you let me help you?” He held onto Sloane’s hand and closed his eyes, hoping Sloane might explain tomorrow, though he wouldn’t hold his breath. He had to try to get through to his partner for both their sakes.
THE NEXT morning, Dex had gotten up before Sloane for the first time ever. Most likely due to the fact he’d barely slept. He dragged himself out of bed and made coffee, and breakfast. After he’d eaten, he sat at the counter wondering if he should wake Sloane up before Dex headed out, when he heard Sloane coming down the stairs. His heart squeezed at the sight of Sloane standing in his pajamas and unlaced biker boots, looking disheveled and fragile.
“Hi,” Sloane croaked. He cleared his throat and rubbed his arm, trying again. “Hi.”
“Hey, how are you feeling?”
“As shitty as I probably look.” His voice was hoarse, and he shifted uncomfortably, but he didn’t move from where he stood.
Dex waved a hand in dismissal. “Nah, you look fine.” Sloane narrowed his eyes at him, and Dex cringed. “Yeah, okay, you look pretty shitty.”
“I appreciate your honesty.”
“No, thanks. I’m uh, gonna go. Thank you for not slamming the door in my face.”
“You’re my partner.” Dex got up, but didn’t move from his spot, afraid if he did, Sloane would leave. So far, he’d said he was going to, but hadn’t. Dex took that as a good sign. However, Sloane’s inability to look him in the eye, wasn’t such a good sign.
“How can you keep being so good to me? I don’t deserve it.”
“I’m worried about you.”
“I’m worried too.”
Dex couldn’t hold back anymore. He walked around the counter and approached his partner. “Sloane? What’s going on? You’re really freaking me out here.”
“I gotta go.” Sloane turned, but Dex caught his arm. He couldn’t let him leave, not like this, not without giving him something.
“Goddamn it, Sloane. Last night you were so shitfaced, I’m amazed you managed to stay on your feet, yet out of everywhere you could have gone, you came here. You came to me. Why can’t you let yourself trust me? Forget what is or isn’t going on between us. Trust me.”
Sloane’s confession startled Dex. “Of what?”
“Of going back there. Of not being strong enough. I can’t drag you down with me.” Again, Sloane tried to walk off, when Dex called out after him.
“What happened to her?”
Sloane stopped in his tracks. “What?”
Sloane stood, and just when Dex thought the guy was going to make a break for it, he spoke up, his back still to Dex. “Dr. Freedman isn’t his real name. His name is Dr. Abraham Shultzon. He saved my life. Twice. The second time, you sort of know about.” He turned to face Dex, and the expression in his partner’s amber eyes crushed Dex’s heart. It was fear mixed with desperation, self-loathing, and God knew what else. “All you need to know is if the public finds out what he knows…. They’ll demand more than my resignation. They’ll want to see me put in a cage. The THIRDS will lose credibility. They’ll demand to know about all the other First Gen agents. Ash….” Sloane put a hand to his head, and Dex crossed the distance between them, leading Sloane to the couch to sit.