Rise amp fall, p.16
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       Rise & Fall, p.16

         Part #4 of THIRDS series by Charlie Cochet
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  The door to the bathroom opened, and Dex walked out in only his pale blue-and-white striped pajama bottoms. He was a yawn away from falling asleep standing up. Sloane patted the bed next to him.

  “Lie down.”

  “Sounds like the beginning of a porno,” Dex said as he climbed onto his side of the bed. He let out a fierce yawn and ruffled his hair.

  “Zip it, wise guy. I’m still mad at you.” Sloane picked up the icepack and settled in next to Dex facing him. Gently, he placed the ice pack to Dex’s ribs. His partner winced but remained still. “Did you take the ibuprofen?”


  “Don’t,” Sloane warned.


  “That ‘I’m too cute, you can’t stay mad at me’ face.” Sloane was going to find a way to be immune to that face. He might need to ask Ash for some pointers.

  “I have one of those? Why didn’t you tell me?” Dex teased, though he yawned in the middle of it, so half of it was garbled.

  “Close your eyes.” Sloane knew as soon as Dex closed his eyes he’d be asleep. A few seconds later, and his partner was out. Or at least he thought so when he heard Dex’s sleepy voice.

  “They never caught them you know.”

  “Who?” What on earth was his partner talking about? Was he talking in his sleep?

  “The men who killed my parents.”

  “Oh, Dex….” Sloane placed a kiss to Dex’s brow. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart.” He hadn’t been aware. It was something Dex rarely talked about. Sloane understood grief all too well, so he never pushed the matter. When and if Dex wanted to discuss it with him, Sloane would be there to listen. Dex mumbled something else under his breath before falling asleep, and Sloane wondered if his parents’ deaths had something to do with Dex’s obsession of catching Hogan. If it was, Sloane had to put a stop to it now, or Dex would continue to spiral down the darkened path.

  Dex’s lips were slightly parted as he slept like the dead. His partner was generally a heavy sleeper, but this was pure exhaustion. With Dex asleep before him, Sloane could take a good look at his partner. Besides the nasty bruising over his ribs, he was covered in various tiny nicks and scratches. There were a few smaller bruises on his arms, and heavy bags under his eyes. Sloane couldn’t let this continue.

  The room was warm from the heating he’d turned on earlier in the evening. Soon it would be Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Fanciful images of him with Dex and his family at Christmas entered his thoughts. He’d joined them for dinner last year and had a great time. It had been the first time he’d had a Christmas where he’d felt… at home. This year it would be slightly different. Cael knew about them, and Sloane had to wonder how much Maddock knew. His sergeant was too sharp, too world worn to be oblivious to what was going on in his sons’ lives. Well, he’d worry about it later. Right now he had to work out how to deal with the man lying beside him. A man Sloane was daring to hope would always be at his side.

  Chapter 9

  SLOANE SAT on the couch, brooding. His gaze followed Dex around the room as he looked for his messenger bag. The one Sloane had stuffed under the couch cushion next to him. They’d had a great morning. After waking up in each other’s arms, they’d made love before their stomachs demanded nourishment. Dex made Sloane his favorite—eggs benedict and pancakes. Sloane had even gone as far as to ask for the heart-shaped ones again. For a moment he thought maybe Dex had given up this madness. Sometime between his going to sleep and now, Dex’s resolve to find Hogan seemed to have strengthened.

  “Damn it. I know I left it here this morning. You sure you haven’t seen it?” Dex scratched his head, then waved a hand in dismissal. “Forget it. I don’t need it. I’ll call you later.” Dex headed for the door so lost in thought, he hadn’t even remembered to kiss Sloane good-bye.

  “All right, that’s it. I can’t take this bullshit anymore. Get your ass back here,” Sloane growled.

  Dex turned with a deep frown on his face. “Excuse me?”

  “I know everything, Dex. I know about your Batcave in Lou’s basement, the stakeouts, Bautista, the ballroom, Seb, everything.”

  “It was Ash, wasn’t it?” Dex curled his fists at his sides. “I knew he was narcing on me.”

  “No, he was being honest, unlike you. How could you look me in the eye every day and lie to me, over and over?”

  Dex opened his mouth, and Sloane quickly held a hand up.

  “And don’t you dare tell me you did it for me, or you didn’t want to worry me. You lied. I asked you not to go after Hogan, and not only did you completely ignore me, you lied about what you were doing. You brought the team into it, your brother. Seb? Jesus, the guy just got his career back, Dex.”

  “You of all people should understand why. I almost lost you!” Dex’s pale blues eyes pleaded, but Sloane stood his ground.

  “So you run around the city like you’ve got a death wish, throwing yourself into the line of fire, without so much as the proper equipment? You work yourself ragged, sleeping on a goddamn couch in your ex’s basement living off sugar and caffeine? I understand how important this is—”

  “Do you? Because if you did, you’d be supporting me. It’s my job.”

  Sloane grabbed his crutch and pulled himself to his feet. “No, it’s our job, because we’re part of a fucking team. It’s not the Dexter Daley show. You don’t get to run around doing whatever the hell you want, flash your smile, and then expect everything to turn out okay. Because while it may turn out okay for you, the rest of us have to run around behind you picking up your shit and making sure you don’t get yourself fucking killed.”

  Dex stormed farther into the room. “What the fuck? Since when? Is that how you feel? That you have to run around behind me picking up after me? Babysitting me like I’m some fucking asshole who doesn’t know his left from his right? Am I that much of a shitty partner?”

  Sloane shook his head. This wasn’t going at all like he’d hoped. “Don’t put words in my mouth.”

  “Then don’t make it sound that way. I might act like the class clown, but I’m a damn good agent. No, I don’t always follow the rules, but sometimes to get results, the rules have to be broken.”

  “Oh my God, how can you say that? You were arguing with Ash against the same thing weeks ago!”

  “I have to go. We’ll talk about this later.”

  “Dex, stop.” Sloane couldn’t let him walk out of there. His desperation got the better of him, and he didn’t think, stepping forward with his right leg instead of his left. His leg gave out, and he went crashing onto the carpet.

  “Sloane!” Dex rushed over and dropped to his knees beside him, his arms embracing him and helping him sit up. “Damn it. What the hell were you thinking?”

  “I was thinking, ‘I can’t let him leave. I can’t watch him walk out the door for what could be the last time.’ I was thinking I need to do whatever it takes.”

  “For what?”

  “To keep you with me.” Sloane took hold of Dex’s arm, needing someone so badly it hurt.

  “I’ll call Ash—”

  Frustration, anger, and something else he couldn’t explain bubbled up inside him, erupting furiously. “I don’t want Ash, goddammit. I want you! I fucking love you!”

  Dex stared at him, and Sloane realized what he’d said. He swallowed hard, allowing Dex to help him to his feet and over to the couch where he sat down, trying to get his thoughts and emotions under control. Inside him, his Felid roared and clawed to get free, and Sloane could feel him. Could feel him trying to tear through, to claim Dex and show him the raw need he had for him. His eyesight sharpened, and he felt Dex’s hand on his cheek as he murmured soft words.

  “Hey, it’s okay. Tell him it’s okay. I’m not going anywhere.”

  Sloane didn’t know how Dex knew, though it was likely his pupils had dilated. He breathed deeply and exhaled slowly.

  “Is it true? What you said? Because if it’s to make me stay—”

t’s not to make you stay,” Sloane snapped. “Do you really think I would say something like that to make you stay? I can’t make you do anything, Dex. No one can make you do anything because you’re fucking Dexter J. Daley, and no one makes you do shit you don’t want to do. No one can stop you from doing what you want. I’ve seen you beat up, bloodied, bruised, shattered, at the mercy of a madman, and goddamn it, I can’t—” His words caught in his throat, and he let out a shaky breath. “I know the job is dangerous. But for you to go out looking to face a force you can’t handle on your own. To disregard your safety when there are plenty of capable agents to do the job…. Fuck you. Fuck you for putting yourself before the rest of us. Before your dad, and your brother, and me.”

  “I… didn’t know.”

  “Well, now you do. I won’t sit here waiting for Ash or Calvin to tell me you’ve been fucking mauled to death. Maybe I am being selfish, but you know what? Fuck it. I’m going to be selfish. You wanted a future for us. Well, this is it. Us. You and me. No lone-cowboy shit. Every time you think of doing something stupid out there, you think about us.” He took hold of Dex’s face and looked into his pale blue eyes, hoping his words would get past his partner’s thick skull.

  “I know you’re a capable agent, Dex. You’re a great agent. You’re smart and sharp. You adapt quicker than any other rookie I’ve seen. You’re determined, loyal, resilient…. But you’re Human. I’m not saying you’re weak, because you’re one of the strongest men I know. You need to accept there are forces out there stronger than you. It’s okay to walk away. I spend all day worrying about you, about what you’re getting yourself into. Do you know what it feels like to watch you walk out the door, wondering if it’s going to be the last time?”

  “I’m sorry, Sloane.”

  “From the moment I met you, you’ve been driving me out of my fucking mind. I’ve never known anyone who makes me want to laugh and scream at the same time. When you asked me to stay with you, I thought it would expose the faults in our relationship. And now? When you’re not here, I wish you were. God, I even miss your stupid music. I want the Dex that drives me crazy. The one who laughs at his own jokes and eats snacks at inappropriate times. And I want to wake up with him every day. I want his beautiful eyes and breathtaking smile to be the first things I see when I wake up and the last things before bed.”

  Dex’s eyes widened. “Are you… are saying what I think you’re saying?”

  “I think I should move in. Someone needs to save you from yourself, and I’m the only one qualified.”

  “Is that the only reason?” Dex asked quietly, a small smile on his face.

  “What? That and my wanting to because I love you isn’t enough of a reason?”

  “That’s all the reason I need.” Dex brought Sloane in and kissed him, sending a shiver through him. Maybe he was losing it, but nothing in a long time had felt so damn good or made him this happy. He held Dex to him, savoring every passionate kiss, every gentle touch, and lingering smile. As Dex’s tongue sought his, Sloane gave himself over to his partner. How could one man, one Human, have so much power over him? Sloane’s Human side wanted to relinquish everything to the man in his arms, while his feral side wanted to possess him.

  Sloane’s fingers brushed over the four thin claw marks on Dex’s arm, and a fierce heat threatened to consume him. He deepened his kiss, and pushed Dex onto his back, his heavier weight pinning Dex to the couch cushions beneath him. He slipped his hand over Dex’s forearm and pulled back, his partner’s kiss-swollen lips and flushed face drawing his feral side closer to the surface. What the hell was happening to him? Lately the beast inside him seemed to stir at the slightest provocation, especially when it concerned Dex. Sloane couldn’t explain the sudden ferocity. When had his need for Dex become so great that the thought of him with someone else had Sloane growling with anger from deep in his chest? He wasn’t one to be possessive, and he’d always maintained a firm grip. But now….

  Dex arched his back, and he placed his free hand to Sloane’s heart. “What’s he telling you?”

  “You don’t want to know,” Sloane replied roughly.

  “Yes, I do.”

  Sloane shook his head. His partner didn’t know what he was asking. Dex might have grown up with a Therian brother, but the dynamics of that relationship compared to the one with a Therian lover were completely different, outside of the obvious. “You won’t like what you hear. He’s not… civil. I think he knew how I felt before I did. Everything I feel, he feels ten times stronger. It can be a little… disturbing.”

  “Try me.” There was no mistaking the sincerity in Dex’s voice.

  Sloane pressed his hard body down against Dex’s, his voice low as he tried to keep his grip on his feral half. “He wants me to mark you so that every Therian will know you belong to us.” His finger circled one of the faint lines on Dex’s arm.

  Dex swallowed hard, his blue eyes moving to his arm in Sloane’s grip. They widened slightly as Sloane’s nails slowly elongated. Sloane hissed at the pain, but he held his feral side at bay. Dex moved his eyes back to Sloane, the lust in them taking Sloane’s breath away.

  “Do it.”

  “Dex, you don’t know what you’re saying.” Even as he whispered the words, he could feel his feral side demanding he go through with it. Sloane’s blood felt hot inside his skin, his eyesight remained sharp, and his fangs began to grow. “Please, Dex. I don’t want to hurt you. I can’t.” The thought alone frightened Sloane. He’d never done anything like this before. His Human side desired Dex. His Therian side wanted to claim him.

  “I love you. Please. I want you to. I need you to.” Dex cupped Sloane through his pajama bottoms and Sloane hissed. He was so hard it was painful. Dex didn’t know what he was doing.

  “Dex,” Sloane pleaded. He gritted his teeth against the pain of his claws growing in.

  “Do it,” Dex urged, slipping his hand inside Sloane’s pants and stroking him. “Make me yours. I want to be yours in every way possible.”

  Sloane’s hold on his feral side was tremulous at best, and Dex kept pushing. How could he make his partner understand? “This is serious, Dex. You’ll have this mark for the rest of your life.”

  “Good. Because that’s how long I want you with me.”

  Sloane inhaled sharply, and he relinquished control to his Therian side without any further thought. His claws came out, and his painful cry drowned out Dex’s as the tips of Sloane’s claws pierced his lover’s skin. Dex clutched at Sloane, his finger’s digging into his bicep and his jaw clenched as he tried desperately to keep himself quiet. His eyes grew glassy and red, but Sloane could see Dex fighting to keep himself from screaming. Darkness encroached Sloane’s vision, his senses sharpening. Slowly and deliberately he sliced at Dex’s arm, making sure to go deep enough to leave his mark permanently but not enough where Dex would need stitches.

  Sloane’s heart pounded, the scent of Dex’s blood filling his nostrils. He ground his hips against Dex as he finished leaving his mark around Dex’s forearm. As soon as he was finished, he pulled off his T-shirt and wrapped it around his partner’s bleeding arm, tying it firmly in place. His eyes landed on Dex, and he was taken aback by the heat in those amazing eyes. They clawed at each other’s clothes the best they could with Dex’s arm and Sloane’s leg. Desire and love turned into desperation, sending them both into a frenzy of need and lust. Sloane spit into his hand, making it good and wet, then wrapped it around his cock, stroking himself before he pushed a finger against Dex’s entrance.

  “Yes,” Dex hissed, his fingers slipping into Sloane’s hair and grabbing fistfuls of it. “Please, fuck me.”

  Sloane quickly prepped Dex, his dick soon replacing his fingers inside his lover. The feral beast inside him rejoiced. Dex was his. Would always be his. Any Therian who laid eyes on Dex’s arm would know what the deliberate claw marks meant. Would know the pain they’d both endured for their bond. Dex gasped and moaned, his back arched up, and his fingers
pulled at Sloane’s hair. Those amazing lips were plump, pink, and slightly parted. They kissed with a hunger and fervor that left them gasping for air. Sloane’s movements were awkward at first because of his leg, but he used his arms to steady himself, to give him the momentum he needed to drive himself deep into Dex over and over. Dex cried out beneath him as he came, and Sloane wasn’t far behind, his teeth gritted as he thrust into Dex several more times before collapsing on him.

  Their breaths steadied, and their skin began to cool as the minutes passed. Sloane was afraid to get up, fearing Dex might be regretting it now. Did his partner truly understand the significance of what they’d done?

  “It’s okay.”

  Dex’s soft words met his ear, and Sloane closed his eyes, relieved. He pulled back, and his heart squeezed at the warm smile on Dex’s face.

  “Are you having second thoughts?” Dex asked hesitantly. “I didn’t want to push you into doing something you didn’t want to do.”

  “I wanted to do it,” Sloane said confidently. “But….” He gently took hold of Dex’s arm wrapped in his T-shirt. “I’ve scarred you.”

  “How about if once they’re fully healed, I get a tattoo? It’ll look cool. I’ve always wanted a tattoo.”

  “A tattoo?” Sloane liked the idea of that. He carefully sat up and pulled Dex with him, wrapping him up in his arms.

  “Yeah. Therians will still know your mark is there, but Humans will only see the tattoo unless they’re close enough.”

  “You really want to?”

  Dex smiled brightly. “It’ll be awesome.”

  “Okay.” Sloane sat there for a moment, his hand tenderly holding Dex’s arm. Any Therians who saw it would know. “You’ll have to keep it covered at work.” The gossip would run rampant through their unit, especially since Dex was supposedly not seeing anyone. This wasn’t the kind of thing you did with a casual hookup or even a long-term boyfriend. This was the real deal. Sloane swallowed hard. How’d he go from flipping his shit over the word boyfriend to being in a committed relationship to… this?

  “No problem.”

  Speaking of work…. “You see this?” Sloane held Dex’s arm up. “When you’re unsure, when we’re not together, when you’re scared, or about to do something you know you shouldn’t, you look at this, and you remember you have more to think about than yourself. I’m a part of you now, got it?”

  Dex nodded.

  “I want to hear you say it,” Sloane growled.

  “You’re a part of me.”

  “Good. Now, get the Therian first-aid kit. We need to patch you up. While you’re there, could you bring me a T-shirt?”

  “Sure.” Dex gave him a quick kiss before getting off the couch and pulling on his pants. Although his partner did his best to hide the pain he was feeling in his arm, Sloane knew better. He dressed while Dex fetched the kit, and when his partner returned, Sloane went to work cleaning his wounds and dressing them. As soon as his arm was bandaged, Dex popped a couple of painkillers and pulled his long-sleeve T-shirt over his head, mindful of his bruised ribs.

  “Okay. We’re dealing with Hogan as a team. No going off on your own.”

  “I promise.”

  “And we’re going to stop acting like a bunch of fucking idiots and talk things through. No lies, no withholding information, no nonsense. Communication.”

  Dex arched an eyebrow.

  “Yes, that goes for me too, wise guy.”

  “Okay.” Dex’s smile grew wide before he planted a kiss on Sloane’s lips. “Have I told you I love you?”

  “I wouldn’t mind hearing it again,” Sloane teased, releasing Dex’s arm and returning the kiss.

  “I love you.”

  Sloane did his best Han Solo impression. “I know.”

  “You dick,” Dex laughed. “Come on.”

  “Okay.” Sloane grew serious. “I… kind of like you. Sometimes.”

  Dex pressed his lips together trying not to laugh. He shook his head.

  “No? Okay, how about, I like you, but more than like. You make me feel like there’s a party in my pants.”

  Dex burst into laughter. “Oh my God, what are you on? Is it the meds talking? It’s the meds isn’t it?”

  “I have no idea. No, it’s not the meds.” He drew his partner up against him and put a hand to his cheek. “I love you.” If those three little words were all it took to bring that glorious smile to Dex’s face, he’d never stop saying them. “And I’m sorry it took me this long to realize it.”

  “That’s more like it.”

  They kissed until they could no longer hold off on the inevitable. It was time to deal with this case and put an end to it so he could concentrate on the insane spur-of-the-moment decision he’d made to move in with Dex. The thought alone should be scaring the hell out of him, but like several other choices as of late, it wasn’t. He had no idea what the hell they were going to do about work, but they’d sort it out later.

  “All right. From the beginning.”

  Ash had filled Sloane in on what he knew, but Ash obviously hadn’t been with Dex every step of the way, so he needed Dex to fill in the blanks. He sat silently listening as his partner recounted everything he’d done from the day he asked Lou to use his basement up until their team’s most recent undercover job. Sloane had to admit, he was impressed. His partner had done all of it without Themis, without algorithms, or fancy gadgets. When Dex finished, he gave Sloane a few minutes to think quietly. They were getting close.

  “Good job. Okay, I need you to set up a meeting with the team.”

  “You got it. Where?”

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