Confusion is another relatively short prequel to Turning His Life Around that features Kenji (YAY! Kenji is my favorite! -Mr. Grace) and Ian primarily and helps establish more of their prior relationship after Kenji left to join the military.
Find the previous chapters below:
The guard at the gate waved them toward a small parking lot a short distance inside the base that was off to one side and by itself. “You can park there and wait. They’ll be out soon. Don’t go past the lot without an escort.”
Kane nodded. “Okay, thank you,” he said, pulling through the gate. The lot was pretty full, most of the other vehicles empty. Their occupants were standing next to their cars, waiting. He chose a spot and pulled in, then sat back, glancing over at Ian. “Do we wait outside?” Kane asked.
Ian shrugged. “It’s not like he doesn’t know the Jeep. He does. Intimately.” Ian snorted.
Kane laughed. “Yeah, I remember a few of those times.”
“The thing is, I don’t know how much we can hug and stuff. I might be tempted to do more than just pound him on the back a few times,” Ian said, with a chuckle.
“Yeah, I’m not sure we should greet him like that.” Kane smirked. “Save the tongue for later.”
Ian rolled his eyes, but the letter from the day before flashed through his mind. Maybe he wasn’t the one to be worried about. He shook his head and his eyes took in the not-so-different buildings near the lot. All of them were standard box-style, military buildings made of basic red brick and mud-brown paint with low signs identifying them in weird letter and number combinations. Most of them were pretty far away. Ian wondered where Kenji would be coming from.
They sat in silence while they waited, both preoccupied with their own thoughts of the friend they were watching for, but they didn’t have to sit too long. A few minutes later, a long truck with a canvas cover over the back flew along the service road through the base and pulled up in front of the lot they were waiting in. The uniformed driver and passenger jumped out of the cab and jogged around to the back, pulling on the tail gate. A moment later, several people in also in uniforms piled out of the back, toting large duffle bags, some also carrying smaller bags with them.
Ian gave up trying to wait and jumped out of the Jeep, too excited. Several guys and two women jumped down and it took him a second to recognize the next person. He still wasn’t used to seeing short hair on Kenji, though it had grown a little bit since he left for basic.
Kenji looked around, spotted them and jogged over, a huge grin on his face. He dropped the duffel and lifted Ian up in a tight hug. “Hey!!”
Ian was grinning, his arms wrapped tightly around Kenji’s neck. “Hey yourself. I missed you!” He felt a lingering, if light, peck land on his cheek near his ear; then Kenji pulled back. Ian glanced over his friend. “Damn, you look good. The uniform looks good on you.”
Kenji’s grin spread wider. “Thanks,” he said, then turned to Kane. “Still wearing the spikes, huh?”
Kane rolled his eyes. “Of course, how else am I gonna be taller than him?” he asked, tossing his head toward Ian, trying too hard to look annoyed. Then his own grin took over and Kenji caught him up in a hug too. “Let’s get out of here before I’m tempted to kiss you silly,” Kane said for their ears.
With a laugh, Kenji stepped back to grab his bag. He tossed it in the back of the Jeep, but when he started to climb in Ian beat him to it and took the back seat. “Don’t get used to it, but you can have it this time.”
He let out another laugh as he climbed into the front seat. Kane pulled out of the spot and made sure to obey every rule as they went through the gates, not wanting to take any chances that they’d be delayed. As soon as they were out of sight of the base, Ian leaned forward and planted a kiss on Kenji’s cheek. “Missed you,” he whispered, surprised a little at himself just how much he had.
Kenji turned in his seat and leaned over, pulling Ian into a real kiss. It was full of lips and tongue and emotion that stunned. When he pulled back, he ran a thumb down over Ian’s cheek, his eyes full of something Ian couldn’t quite place. “I missed you, too. So glad to be home, even for a little while.”
“Do I get one of those, too?” Kane asked from the driver’s seat.
Kenji snorted. “When you’re not driving.”
Kane stuck his bottom lip out, but kept his eyes on the road. “Glad we’re not too far from home, then,” he grumbled, pulling another laugh from their friend. Kenji leaned over and left a kiss on Kane’s cheek.
“That’ll have to do. You drove.” He chuckled when the pout deepened.
Kane glanced in the rearview at Ian. “You have to drive next time.”
“Right, so you two can just make out in the back seat while I chauffer you? I think not.” Ian smirked.
“I didn’t say we’d make out the whole time,” Kane muttered but went back to driving. The other two let out snorts. At the next light, he stole a kiss, getting honked at for his trouble. “Damn, everyone’s in a mood today.”
“It’s the holiday season. They all are,” Kenji said.
“I’m not!” Ian piped up from the back seat and the other two laughed.
Kenji talk about his training the rest of the way and Ian and Kane pelted him with questions he hadn’t answered in his letters. Finally, they were pulling up at the house.
Ian turned to him as soon as they stepped inside. “You can drop your stuff in our room.”
“Okay. I need a shower. I’ve been up since four and part of the day was spent in a transport plane.” He shuddered. “I hate flying in those.”