Altair shoved his head into his brother’s room. His brother was sitting on the floor doing one of the jigsaw puzzles Altair bought him. He had a bookshelf full of them and he made a mental note to load them all up into his car and take them to Goodwill. Desmond never did a puzzle a second time, he said it was ‘too easy’. Too easy. He was doing three thousand piece puzzles in a day since it was still summer. Altair only bought one a week though, any more and their house would literally be filled with puzzles, any less and Desmond would start growing bored. He usually saved his puzzle for Wednesday, or Thursday, when he knew Altair would buy him another one over the weekend.
The current one was of a snowy field with a mountain range in the background and a deer in the foreground. He’d started it this morning after he’d watched morning cartoons and it was only three pm, and it was more then half finished. Three thousand fucking pieces. It literally hurt Altair’s head to think of that. Maybe he should start buying him 3D puzzles, the ones you had to actually build, then he could play with them afterwards as castles or houses for his stuffed animals. Fuck something to not have like five stacks of boxes in the book shelf.
“Desmond,” he called and his brother looked up, holding a piece in his hand. “C’mon, we’re going to the airport,” he said in slow Arabic. He’s been teaching Desmond for a few weeks now and he caught on really quickly, enough that Altair could speak nothing but Arabic around the house if he wanted. It was sort of cool. He thought maybe he should teach Desmond Spanish, as Kaley was actually Spanish (half Spanish), but Arabic seemed more special, since in South California a lot of people spoke Spanish, not as many spoke Arabic. Once Desmond had Arabic down he’d start getting him into Spanish. But not yet. Arabic first.
“Why?” he asked and put the piece in place.
“We’re going to get mom, so c’mon.”
“I don’t wanna,” he pouted. That was another thing, about a week ago Desmond’s brain had just… switched. He didn’t speak in English anymore. It was sort of hilarious since he’d go up to Malik or Kadar, who he knew were Arab like he was and start talking to them in Arabic. But neither Malik or Kadar knew Arabic and they’d just stare at him in horror, everyone thought it was funny until Desmond had talked to them in Arabic. Surprisingly Mike had actually been able to respond to him, though it was broken and slow and sounded really awful, but he did reply in Arabic.
“Too bad. We’re going. She’s coming home for a few weeks. Now c’mon,” he beckoned to his brother.
“I’m busy. I wanna do my puzzle,” and he put three pieces down in quick succession in their places. Altair just rolled his eyes and picked Desmond up. “No! I wanna stay!” he yelled and struggled. “I don’t wanna go,” and he squirmed though Altair put him on the bed and pushed him into socks and shoes despite his protests that devolved into crying. “I wanna work on my puzzle Altair, let me goooo,” he wailed, crying, but not actually with any tears.
“You can work on your puzzle when we get home. Now stop that,” he scolded him and carried him out of the house to the car and strapped him in to his kicking and protesting and whining. “Hey. Stop that.”
“Yes!” he said sternly. “You’re a big boy aren’t you?”
“Yes,” he sniffled.
“Well big boys don’t throw tantrums when they get they have to go to the airport and have to leave their puzzles behind.”
“I don’t wanna go,” he said, pouting.
“I can’t leave you here. And we’re going to pick up our mother-
“I don’t want a mother-
Altair blinked at him, “Don’t you ever say that,” he said harshly. “Do you understand me? Don’t you EVER SAY THAT!” he might had ended up yelling, he wasn’t sure, all he knew was that he suddenly had real waterworks on his hands, so yeah, he’d yelled. Shit. With a sigh, cursing himself, he picked Desmond out of his car seat, “Shhhhh,” he cooed, “It’s okay. I didn’t mean to yell,” he said gently.
Really, he hadn’t. He hadn’t meant to yell. But just… that was just one of the only things Altair wanted, a mother, a real mother. Desmond cried into his shoulder and he just gently shushed him and walked back and forth the length of his car. As he did he just felt guilty. He always tried to keep in control. Always. Or this happened, he flew off the handle and yelled. And he’d yelled at Desmond, hist fucking adorable little brother who only had him. He hugged Desmond tighter to him miserably. That was right, Desmond had only him, to Desmond he didn’t have a mother, or a father. Fuck he didn’t have any of that, all he had was Altair.
Somehow Altair ended up sitting against the tire of his car, half curled up around his brother wanting to cry himself. He didn’t know when he’d ended up on the ground, but he knew he was still just gently rocking back and forth making shooshing noises until Desmond stopped crying. Or maybe he was trying to shush himself because Desmond had stopped crying but he still hadn’t gotten up.
“Altair?” Desmond asked.
“Yeah buddy?” he asked in a quiet voice and swallowed when his voice cracked a little.
“Shh, you don’t have to be sorry. I’m sorry,” he pressed his hand to the back of Desmond’s head. “I’m sorry I yelled. I didn’t mean to yell at you.”
“You’re not angry at me?” he asked.
“No,” he said quietly, “I’m never angry at you. Never. I’m just a little stressed. That’s all,” and then his phone started ringing. He dug it out of his pocket, “Hello?” he asked and wiped Desmond’s eyes where he was now standing between Altair’s folded legs.
“Mom?” he said, surprised.
“Hey baby,” she said, as sweet and cheerful as ever. “I was just wondering where you were.”
“Where I…” he pulled his phone away from his face and looked at the time, “Oh my god your plane landed like ten minutes ago!”
She laughed, “Yeah.”
“Shit. Shit,” and then he was getting to his feet. “I haven’t even left the house,” he’d been sitting against his car for almost an hour. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Everything all right?”
“Yeah. Me and Des just had a little trouble getting out the door,” and he put Desmond in his car seat, this time Desmond didn’t complain and picked up one of his books Altair kept in the back. “We’ll be there in like half an hour, what terminal are you at again?” he asked as he pulled out of the driveway. She told him, “Okay. Okay.”
“Altair. Baby,” her voice cut through his panic. “It’s okay,” she said and he slumped against the seat.
“I’m sorry, I should have been there by now and just-
“It’s okay. You wouldn’t be the first person who I had to wait for at the airport. Drive safe. I love you.”
“I love you too,” he felt the words fall out of his mouth, and heard them in his ears, but wasn’t quite sure he was really saying them. They felt hollow to him, like his mouth was dry.
“We should go out to eat here in L.A. I’ll buy,” she said enthusiastically.
“Okay,” he said mechanically as he drove towards the base exit. “We’ll be there soon.”
“Okay,” she said cheerfully. “Don’t speed and I’ll see you soon,” and she made kissing noises into he receiver. He yanked the phone away from his face and threw it across the car into the passenger seat as they came to the gate. The gate went up, the guard gave him a sort of wave as he drove through and Altair didn’t look at his phone the entire way to L.A. International, even when Malik called him twice.