"I don't see why you joined the ARMY," Rick wailed as he flopped back on Roy's bed, glaring at him despite his head hanging upside down off the side. Roy ignored him as he methodically packed the things he was taking with him, his basic clothing, a couple of books, a photograph of his mother and father, as well as one of him and Rick in his cherished airplane, and the model of that plane that Jim Fokker had given his son many years before.
"It's the Navy, there's a difference. I'll leave the rest of my models here, see that you don't mess them up," Roy warned as he did a once over on his room. "Mom get's the computer, but I said to make sure to let you play on it when you want."
"How come I don't get it," Rick pouted.
"Your dad said no," Roy grinned down at the boy whose pale face was turning beet red from his awkward position. "He say's you're too young."
"I'm not," Rick sounded indignant. "I'm flying in the junior national flying championships this year."
"Apparently you can handle a plane, just not a computer," Roy snorted, as Rick flipped back up and lay flat on the bed.
"You didn't answer my question, Fokker," Rick insisted, in a rare instance of using Roy's last name. He'd picked it up lately from his father and uncle, and used it when he wanted Roy's attention.
"Well, HUNTER," Roy turned to face him, smirking. "I didn't want to fly in this dusty outfit forever."
"But WHY," Rick whined, not understanding. At ten, he had much of the world to understand before he could ever see where Roy was coming from.
"Because, I have to," Roy shook his head.
"Don't tell me I'll understand when I'm older," Rick petulantly rolled his eyes. Roy threw a roll of socks at his head.
"I hope you do," Roy only sighed. "At this rate you'll be stupid for the rest of your life."
The roll of socks sailed past Roy's ear and neatly into his bag.
"Oh, thanks," Roy laughed, as he zipped up his duffle, the only thing he was allowed to take with him.
"Roy, you about ready," His mother's voice sounded from the foot of the stairs, bright and brittle all at the same time.
"Coming," Roy grabbed the bag as Rick raised himself up to follow.
"I want you to stay out of here, you know," Roy knew this was a useless admonition; Rick had been wandering into his room since he could walk.
"I won't come in, sheesh," Rick grumbled, but Roy knew that promise would last only as long as the first day or so Roy was gone. Rick would come here often, both because of curiosity, but because he'd miss Roy. And somehow that warmed his heart in going, that this little boy who'd idolized him so would miss him.
"You'll take care of Mom for me, right," Roy looked down at the small, slight figure in front of him. Rick, for all the good-looking Hunter features he promised to have one day, had his mother's small build, perfect for pilots. It dwarfed him compared to the tall and lanky Roy.
"I'll try," Rick's voice was gruff. But Roy saw some suspicious moisture on the boy's eyes.
"And keep an eye on Pop and Uncle Joe, right," Rick nodded at Roy as he continued listing off responsibilities for Rick. "And no touching my plane."
"I'd NEVER touch your plane," Rick's blue eyes were solemn. "That's your plane, no one else's. How could you think I would?"
"Just checking," Roy grinned at him. "And you make sure to write, OK. I have to admit, I'll miss you."
Without much provocation, the small boy threw his skinny arms around Roy's middle and held on tightly. Roy was stunned, but then he loosened Rick's grip, knelt to his level, and hugged him with all the force that ten years together put into him. After all, he was Roy's little brother, biological or not."
"Be good," he whispered, as Rick sniffed treacherously.
"I'll be home on leave when I can, and we'll go for a ride then." Roy tousled Rick's dark curls, and then moved to the stairs.
He had no idea that when that squirming little object Aunt Delia had presented to him with such pride had wormed his way into Roy Fokker's heart, but somehow he did. He imagined his life without Rick Hunter about all the time, and somehow, it felt a little bit emptier.
"But I'll make sure that this world's a better place for him," Roy silently promised,
"For him, and for Pop, Uncle Joe, and Mom. I want Rick to not have to do anything for the rest of his life but fly, just like he always wanted." The idea of that made Roy smile, even as his childhood home faded in the rearview mirror of his mother's car.