Adam sat in the lonely kitchen eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes. They were Austin's favorite and Adam was missing his warrior, his boy, his brat; he needed to feel close to him. It'd been a little over a year since Austin had been deployed to Afghanistan and Adam was missing him more now than when he'd first left.
They'd promised each other to Skype every two weeks and to write weekly. But the realities of war had broken those promises. They had Skyped when Austin could. Adam treasured those moments even though his hand would ache to hold Austin, to touch him. The laptop screen seemed so small, that once Adam had used connectors and hooked the laptop to their large TV screen. The living room seemed full of his warrior; his voice booming in the empty living room. But not even that had soothed the ache in Adam's hand. He wanted to reach out and touch the screen but couldn’t do so; the two of them had always been reserved about public displays. The communication tent was very much a "public" place. Often there was a line of men standing behind him waiting to use one of the laptops and they might have witnessed the gesture. The military had relaxed its stance on gay soldiers, but Austin and Adam had been around before the repeal of DADT. Old habits died hard.
Adam was jolted out of his musings as the phone rang. Without even looking at the screen, he knew it'd be his brother, Joey, calling. Adam had bought Joey a cell phone so that Joey could call him at any time, in any emergency. The problem was Joey's definition of emergency differed from Adam's. Joey thought Adam should come right over to the group home he lived in if Joey couldn't find the pants he wanted to wear that day.
Answering the phone and solving the latest crisis in his autistic brother's life, Adam hurried to clean up the kitchen and get to work. On the drive to his office, Adam's mind drifted back to thoughts of his warrior. The man who'd asked him many years ago to be his top. At that time, Adam was frightened by what all that would entail. His parents had asked him to take guardianship of Joey, his brother. They'd felt too emotional to make the necessary decisions that needed to be made for their autistic son. When Austin had asked him to have control over him; it'd seemed too much to bear. But through trial and error, tears and laughter, Adam and Austin had formed a relationship that worked for them. It didn't look like a vanilla couple nor did it look like the discipline relationships that they'd read about on blogs. They had come up with their own way of making it work and no one else had to understand it.
When seagulls started to cry out, Adam looked at the clock. The clock had been a gift from Austin when he was stationed in California. The annoying seagulls called out each hour of the day. As irritating as the sound was, Adam had to admit it kept him from being late. Grabbing up the battered backpack that housed his tools for work; he locked up the house and headed to work.
On the drive to his office, Adam's phone seemed to ring incessantly. When he finally got inside his office and had a chance to look at his phone, he saw that Joey had called multiple times. Setting his backpack down, he called Joey back.
"Hey, Joey, what's going on?" Adam said into the phone.
"I found my pants. I knew you'd want to know." The words were said in the monotone voice that showed little emotion.
"Thanks for letting me know," Adam said patiently. Then he tried to explain once again to his brother, "Joey, I'm at work now. Call me if there's a true emergency. Like blood."
"Yes. Blood. Bruised. Broken. True emergencies." Joey recited from memory.
The morning flew by as Adam worked on various devices that would go to children with special needs and fielded calls from his brother. After talking to Joey for the seventeenth time, Adam decided he needed to go see his brother in person. Something was obviously bothering him.
Packing up and emailing himself some graphs and tables that he hoped to work on by remote, Adam went to see his boss.
"Sarah, I need to take a half day off. I've some personal time left, could you put that in for me?" Adam asked.
"Go on. Lord knows you've worked enough weekends and nights without pay, you can take the afternoon off," Sarah said. Then with a smile in her eyes, she continued, "go see what your brother has."
The drive across town was frustrating. Midday traffic was almost as bad as rush hour. The pang of loneliness was like a knife to the gut. Austin had always teased him that this was the perfect time to catch up on the latest music; he'd turn up the radio and belt out whatever was topping the music charts that week. Although it was from his parents’ generation, Adam preferred to listen the old rock music of the 60's and 70's.
When he finally pulled into the parking lot of the group home, Adam made a conscious effort to pull himself together. He'd been thinking of Austin all day; now it was time to put all his focus on Joey. Adam stopped by the attendant's desk to ask if she had any idea of what could cause Joey to call him so much today.
"Oh, you know how it is, Adam," Vicki said with a smile. "It could be the wind is blowing from a different direction. It's always a mystery why one day is so different than another."
Yes, Adam knew that there was no rhyme or reason for Joey's agitation one day to another. Thanking Vicki, he went down the hall to see his brother.
Taking a deep breath, summoning all the patience he could, Adam walked into Joey’s room. All his thoughts abandoned him at the sight of his brother talking to the big man in uniform. His Austin was home.
"He's the surprise," Joey said in his monotone voice. "I kept the surprise. Austin's a surprise. Not a true emergency; a surprise."
With Joey's voice ringing out, Adam grasped Austin in a bone-crushing hug. The sound of his brother and the feel of his warrior in his arms; Adam's world was complete again.