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FICLET: Bombs Away

This is my response for Tarabeth's Tearoom November challenge.  Thank you Tarabeth for all the support you give us. You can read all the other wonderful submissions here:

Title: Bombs Away
Characters: Adam/Austin; Joey
Warning: This may be a trigger for those suffering from PTSD.  If you or someone you know is suffering from PTSD or difficulty adjusting to civilian life, please seek help.  There is help out there for you.

The roar of jet engines echoed in Adam's head.  Sounds of war reverberated throughout the house.  Finally, Adam couldn't stand it any longer.  He turned off the water that he'd had running to rinse off the plates from dinner before putting them in the dishwasher.  Then he took a deep calming breath and went into the living room.

"Joey.  Joey!" Adam tried to yell gently enough not to scare his brother.  Once he got the autistic man's attention, he said, "Turn the television volume down.  The sounds of war are giving me a headache."

"John Wayne.  The Duke. Cowboy and soldier," came the monotone reply.

"Yes, John Wayne is an actor so he plays a cowboy in some movies and a soldier in other movies," Adam explained again.  Joey was very literal and took everything he saw and heard at face-value.  The John Wayne movie marathon had captured Joey's attention and his confusion.  Adam winced as automatic gun fire exploded from the screen.  He had a silent battle within himself; should he just reach over and turn the TV down himself?  Would the inevitable tantrum Joey would throw be worth it?  No, he decided, nothing is worth a tantrum.

"Joey.  The volume is too loud.  The neighbors will complain.  Turn it down to number 10."  Giving simple, straightforward directions was the best way to avoid confusing Joey.  He sighed in relief when Joey picked up the remote.

"Seventeen.  Sixteen.  Fifteen," Joey counted down with the volume image displayed on the screen until he reached ten.  "Volume at ten. Ten is not loud."

Agreeing with his brother, Adam said, "Ten is just right."   Before he could go back and finish up the few dinner dishes, the front door opened and in walked Austin.  "Hi, babe.  How'd the dinner go?"

Austin had been volunteering at a veteran's shelter lately.  As today was Veteran's Day, they'd had dinner and a presentation honoring those who had passed away during the previous year. Adam had a little warning alert niggling just underneath his consciousness all evening.  Austin had been going through a tough time in the past week as the war in the Middle East continued to rage.  Adam had been shoring up the trenches trying to give his lover security and a way to talk out his emotions.  

"Good, good.  It was all good," Austin replied too quickly.  "Let me jump in the shower and then we'll have ice cream for dessert."

Adam watched as Austin avoided eye contact and practically ran to the bathroom.  The warning alert turned to an air raid siren both on the television and in Adam's mind.

"Bombs away.  Bombs away," Joey repeated after the actor on the TV.

Adam nodded his head in agreement.  However, the bombs being dispatched on the television wasn't what Adam was referring to.  No, the bomb seemed to have been ignited somewhere inside Austin.  Adam wanted to defuse it as quickly as he could.  He didn't want his lover's heart to be a casualty in the war that Austin had been fighting internally. 

"Joey, stay here and watch all of the movie.  I'm going to go talk with Austin," Adam said.  He knew that Joey would stayed glued to the movie, he just hoped it gave him enough time.  Walking down the hallway, he heard the sounds of the shower running.  But inside the bathroom told another story.

Austin wasn't in the shower.  He was sitting naked with his back against the wall, feet planted firmly on the ground, with his arms propped on his knees.  The sight of his strong lover on the floor with his head bowed was almost more than Adam could take.  His lover was a strong man, but right now he looked defeated.

"Austin," he said gently.  "Talk to me.  Tell me what happened."

Austin looked up with eyes full of emotions.  "Oh. Nothing.  I just needed a moment."

When the lies hit Adam's ears, he took action.  Reaching down, he grabbed Austin by the wrist and yanked him up.  Several strong swats were delivered to the soldier's bare ass.  And then Adam demanded much less gently, "talk to me!  Tell me what happened!"

Adam knew that Austin was going to keep lying to him when he tilted his head slightly to the right, trying to avoid eye contact. He saw the lies start to come out of Austin's mouth and held up his hand. "Your belt is laying right there.  If you lie to me again, I will take it across your ass until sitting becomes a distance memory."  Adam pulled again on Austin's wrist, until they were nose to nose.  "Tell. Me. What. Happened."

The words started pouring from Austin.  "So many were lost.  They made it through the war!  And yet, here at home, they take their own lives."

Adam's mind took a minute to fully understand.  Once he did, his heart broke for his hurting soldier.  "The presentation."

"Yes.  So many of our world war two soldiers, and Korean soldiers have died from cancer and other things.  It was the Vietnam Vets.  And the Gulf War Vets.  And the Vets of the war now!  They are losing hope.  They are killing themselves," Austin cried.  

Adam held on tighter when Austin tried to pull away.  "No. No.  We do this together.  Don't you pull away from me.  Ever!"

With a gulp, Austin nodded.  "I won't.  It just got to me.  So many have died this past year.  Oh, hell, in all the past years too.  They've died of alcohol. Of drugs.  Of homelessness."

"And you feel helpless," Adam put into words what Austin couldn't seem to.  He knew he'd hit a bulls eye when Austin finally met his eyes.


Adam resisted the urge to pull his boy into his arms.  Yes, Austin needed comfort, but he also needed Adam's strength.  "It is a horrible situation.  One that has no perfect solution.  Austin, you do all you can.  You volunteer once a week. You mentor soldier's who are coming back to civilian life.  As much as you want to, you can't take this all on yourself.  You have to lean on me.  Talk to your commander in the Guard. Don't ever brush me off with 'it's all good' or my threat to take a belt to your ass will become a realty."

Adam knew that the threat of the belt would seem harsh to some, but for Austin, the threat was a stopping point.  A clearly marked line in the sand.  One he'd try his hardest never to cross.  

"Never because of how you feel, I'd never punish you for feeling. But for denying me your emotions, I will." 

Austin nodded. "I'm sorry."

"Don't ever be sorry for caring.  For feeling. Just don't block me out, Austin.  I might not be able to help, but I can listen.  I can share your burdens.  That's what we are for each other," Adam reminded Austin.  They'd lived such separate lives for most of their relationship.  They were still adjusting, but Adam wanted this to be their mantra.  That they'd be there for each other.

"Yes," Austin agreed. "And no, I'm not good. But I am better than I was a half hour ago.  Except I'm freezing.  Can I get in the shower now?"

Adam looked closely at his lover.  The sadness and grief were still there, and once they'd taken Joey home, he knew they would talk late into the night.  But the total despair that had been in Austin's eyes earlier was gone.  Moving his hand from Austin's wrist to his neck, Adam pulled him in for a gentle kiss.  Then he released him.  "A quick shower.  Ten minutes.  No more or I'm coming in to get you."

"I'll be quick," Austin promised.

Adam waited until his lover was in the shower, and then he turned and walked into the hallway.  And almost right into Joey.  

"Battle over.  'Nother war.  Scooby Doo," Joey stated jerkily.

Adam knew what Joey was saying.  The movie was over and another war movie was coming on.  Joey was ready to watch a more light hearted show, a cartoon.  But the symbolism was too great.  Adam knew that this battle was over.  But the war still raged on inside of Austin.  They'd make it through, Adam knew, but they'd both carry the battle scars.

"Ok, Joey.  Let's get Scooby Doo started. But when Austin's done in the bathroom, we'll have ice cream," he told his brother.

The smile that came from his brother's face coupled with the sound of his lover in the shower, Adam knew he'd fight this war until the very end.

The End

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