Disclaimer: I own nothing, all rights belong to their respective owners.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAM! Thanks for being such an amazing friend and always believing in me. Hope you have an amazing day! Now, I do believe you set me a challenge a while ago? Hope this meets the criteria!

And just a note; John and Virg's ages are the other way around to my norm, no getting confuzzled!


Scott couldn't help but feel a rush of excitement shoot through him almost before he opened his eyes. He had been looking forward to this day for a long time. His dad was actually home from work and had promised to take the younger ones. Scott could finally spend some time with Virgil, just the two of them. He knew that – having just reached his teenage years – Virgil was trying to find precisely where it was he belonged. No longer was he seen as a child in the way the others were, but no one had yet given him the responsibilities that had been heaped on Scott's shoulders.

If he was honest, Scott was glad. He knew he had been made to grow up a little too quickly and would do anything to lose the last two years and just turn thirteen himself. He wanted Virgil to enjoy this time but his brother hadn't quite appreciated Scott saying that and instead thought his brother had been trying to treat him like one of the babies. After a bit of frantic back-peddling, Scott had found himself promising to spend the day with his little brother as soon as they next got the chance. Luckily, Virgil was mature enough to understand that if it was a day where their dad was working, then they had to be around for the little ones.

But this day had been planned for a while. Virgil didn't know what Scott had planned, only knew that he was going to be able to spend the day with his big brother. As Scott lay there in bed, staring at the ceiling, he found a smile was spreading over his face. He was doing this for Virgil's benefit, but he couldn't remember the last time it had just been the two of them. They had used to be inseparable around the time Gordon had been born. John had been far too young to join in and Scott and Virgil had spent hours upon hours just making up games between the two of them. Scott knew things had changed with their mother's death, but he thought they might have changed before that. It had changed when John was old enough to join in. Virgil had wanted to prove he could be a big brother as well and Scott found himself on his own a little.

He hadn't minded; he had been able to help with Gordon. But it meant he had missed his brother, and today was as much about him as it was Virgil. Of course, Virgil didn't have to know that, not when he thought Scott was dropping everything to spend some time with him.

Swinging his legs out of bed, Scott knew he had a little time in order to finalise his plans with his father before Virgil awoke. Even the promise of spending the day with his big brother wouldn't be enough to drag the now-teenager out of bed. Scott was glad – it meant he would be ready to go rather than Virgil telling him to hurry up. He could hear the sound of the younger ones already playing downstairs – no doubt excited to have a day with their father – and it was enough to make Scott hurry to make sure he got the bathroom before they realised he was up and demanded he played with them.

Once showered and having grabbed a slice of toast, Scott went to find his father. It came as no surprise when he found himself outside of the study and could hear the man talking on the phone. The fact his dad was even at home was a big enough deal, Scott knew he shouldn't ask for the man to completely detach himself from everything, even for a day. Not to mention neither Virgil nor John had made an appearance yet, it was still early. Pushing open the door silently, Scott hovered in the doorway. His dad smiled briefly at him, indicating he had seen him before he went back to his phone call. Eventually, he hung up.

"Everything okay, son?"

"I was just checking it was still alright for me to take Virgil into town today?" Scott had been allowed to do the journey on his own for over a year now, as long as he reported in where he was going. He knew it would be easier if they lived closer, but they were on the outskirts so it was a bus ride and then a walk. Virgil was just getting to the age where he would be granted the same freedom, but Scott had managed to persuade his father to let Scott take Virgil on their own first. It would be a sign that Virgil was trusted – both to please the boy and to put his father's mind at ease as to whether Virgil was ready – but Scott knew he should still check first before assuming it would be alright. To his relief, his dad smiled.

"You do realise how excited he is about this day and that's without knowing what you have planned?"

"I know," Scott couldn't keep the grin off his face. "I promised him weeks ago that we would do something, ever since he got into that fight at school."

"What fight?" Instantly, Scott knew he had said the wrong thing and he tried to cover it up with a shrug.

"Nothing."

"Scott…"

"It's nothing, Dad. I promised him we could have this day, so is it still okay if I take him into town?" For a moment, Scott thought he had said too much and his father was going to refuse until he had found out precisely what had happened. From what Scott understood, it was nothing more than a misunderstanding – Virgil refusing to walk away when he perhaps should have done. Scott couldn't judge, he knew he would do exactly the same thing. Eventually though, his father sighed.

"I suppose so. Are you going to be all day?" Knowing that they wouldn't be allowed to leave until his father knew exactly what Scott had planned, the teenager perched on the edge of a chair and filled his dad in with all the details about how they were going to spend the day. It took a while, but Scott got the feeling his father was really testing just how deeply Scott had thought this through rather than not trusting his son. Even the idea that his dad thought he had planned it carefully filled Scott with pride and he was more than happy to explain it all.

By the time he finally got out of the office, Virgil himself had appeared. It looked as if he had just pulled himself from bed – that most likely being the truth considering the teenager was taking that part of his age rather literally – but his eyes were shining with excitement. Scott could see how he was trying to hide it and appear as if he didn't really care, but his big brother knew him better than that. Scott followed Virgil through to the kitchen.

"So what are we doing today?" Virgil asked, pouring out a bowl of cereal while yawning at the same time. Scott shrugged, feigning indifference.

"Guess you'll just have to wait and find out, won't you, kiddo?"

"Sco-ott," Virgil whined, dragging his name out into two syllables the way Gordon was prone to doing when he wanted something. Scott simply grinned and moved towards the kitchen door.

"Meet me in the hall when you're ready," he said before bounding out. He knew that Virgil needed the time in the morning to wake himself. Not to mention Scott was so used to looking after the others he knew he would worry about them all day if he didn't check on them before heading out with Virgil.

Gordon and Alan were playing in the lounge. Well, Scott pretended they were playing and tried not to think about what Gordon was trying to get his little brother to help him with this time. Gordon had certainly lost some of his innocence over the last year or so and Scott had taken to wedging his door shut most nights just in case the younger boy decided he would make a good target. All he needed was to quickly check on John and hopefully Virgil would be ready and they could head out. Scott knew if they stayed around too long, his father would start asking him to do things while he just took another call or checked his emails.

Scott had promised this day to Virgil, he wasn't going to step in for his father again.

Fate, it seemed, didn't want to make things that easy for him, however. John wasn't in his room. Scott even went in and checked all the usual spots where his little brother would often end up curled up and reading, even if he hadn't yet had breakfast. But the chair and the window, not to mention the bed, were all empty.

"John? Johnny, you in here?" Scott felt the roof of his mouth go dry as he started looking around for his little brother. John was predictable; he would be in one of a few places. But ten minutes later, Scott was scratching his head as he tried to work out where his brother was. All of the places he knew where to look were empty.

Then, just like that, Scott knew where John was.

It was the one place he always went to when he didn't want to be found. Normally, Scott just left him to it, knowing that John would have hidden for a reason. If the younger boy thought that was his secret hiding spot, then Scott was going to keep that pretence. But he couldn't go out with Virgil while knowing that John was hiding there. He never took sanctuary in that place unless it was for a good reason.

Sighing, Scott headed across the room and eased John's window open. How he had even managed to get it shut behind him, Scott had no idea. He left it wide open as he scrambled up onto the window seat – he had always thought it was a bad idea to let John have the room with it in – and then awkwardly clambered out of the window. He didn't dare let go as he edged along, his knuckles going white as he clutched onto first the window, then the guttering. But it only took him a few shaky steps until he saw John. His little brother had his knees drawn up to his chest where he was perched on the roof, arms wrapped around them and then his chin resting on his legs. Scott thought he looked deep in thought until he heard a tiny sniff.

"Johnny?" The older brother called softly, making sure he didn't startle John. The last thing he needed was for him to jump and slide from the roof. With any luck, all it would take would be a few reassuring words and then he could get back to his plans with Virgil.

"Go 'way, Scott," John muttered, causing his big brother to inwardly sigh. Scott knew that tone of voice. John was truly upset about something; something he didn't want any of the others to find out about. As Scott took a few more steps towards his brother, he saw the way John scrubbed a hand across his face. It was obvious he was trying to remove evidence of tears and Scott didn't stop moving until he could gingerly sit next to John.

"What's up?"

"Just go away. You're going out with Virg anyway, aren't you?"

Scott groaned. It was almost as if John had hoped no one would notice where he had gone because he knew his two elder brothers would be preoccupied. Knowing John, he would know what Scott had planned with going into town even if Virgil didn't. He clearly hoped they had already gone and no one would know where to look for him.

"Not until I know what is going on with you."

"Leave it, Scotty." There was an audible crack in John's voice as he spoke this time and Scott shuffled closer, letting his hand rest on John's shoulder.

"How am I supposed to leave it when something is upsetting you?"

"Because you promised the day to Virgil and neither of you have done anything together for so long." John shoved his hand away again and stared in the opposite direction. Scott bit his lip. He thought Virgil was going through an awkward time, but at least their father had agreed that Scott could take him into town. John was truly stuck in the middle of the older and younger ones and Scott didn't know what to do. He had promised this day to Virgil, but he wasn't sure he could go through with it with a clear conscience knowing something was upsetting John. But judging by the stance his brother was taking, John wasn't going to be admitting what was on his mind any time soon.

Still, Scott was sure he knew how to handle this. Precariously, he moved back across the roof, climbed through John's window and headed out of the room. Virgil was just heading up the stairs as Scott reached the landing.

"What were you doing in there?" Glancing back to where Scott had come from, Virgil looked genuinely bewildered. Scott sighed, running a hand through his hair.

"John's on the roof," he admitted, knowing instantly by Virgil's face he knew what that meant. Virgil glanced towards John's door himself. He might not be the biggest brother, but he was still John's older brother and Scott knew Virgil was just as protective of the younger ones as Scott was.

"Well?"

"Won't tell me," Scott muttered. Virgil nodded, and brushed past him. Scott, however, stuck out an arm and caught Virgil's.

"Dad's here. He could handle it." It felt wrong saying it. It was against his nature to leave a brother upset. But he knew how much this day meant to Virgil and couldn't just sacrifice one for the other. Virgil bit his lip, the indecision burning from his eyes.

"Let me see if I can get him to talk," he finally said, wriggling until Scott let go. The eldest brother watched as Virgil disappeared into John's room, but found that he was just sinking down the wall as he waited to hear what would happen. If John spoke, then they would know what they were dealing with. But if he didn't, Scott wasn't sure he could go through with his plans, regardless of how much he would hate to do that to Virgil.

He didn't even have to wait five minutes before Virgil was back again.

"I can't get onto that bit," the younger brother admitted, sitting down next to Scott. "But he wouldn't tell me either."

"Who wouldn't tell you what?" Scott glanced around to see Gordon coming to the top of the stairs, regarding his elder brothers with an uncharacteristic serious look on his face. For a nine year old, Gordon could be remarkably understanding about situations that Scott believed were beyond his understanding. Then again, when he was Gordon's age he still had a mother. He knew he wasn't the only one to have grown up in the last few years.

Scott wasn't planning on saying anything. John had taken refuge because he didn't want them knowing where he was. But Virgil was watching Gordon closely.

"John's upset and he won't tell us why," Virgil said slowly. Scott made to kick him, only found that he was distracted by Gordon's face. The young boy had glanced towards John's room, then flushed slightly and looked at his feet.

"You know what this is about, don't you?" Scott said quietly, his tone of voice making Gordon flush harder. The younger ones had learnt to listen to Scott when he used that tone of voice and Gordon clearly knew he was caught. He came and sat cross-legged on the floor in front of Scott, biting his lip.

"You know we can't help him if you don't tell us what is wrong," Scott prompted and Gordon looked up again.

"He doesn't feel like he fits in anywhere because those boys are still being mean to him at school, you and Virg are going into town on your own-,"

"What?"

"That was your surprise," Scott muttered under his breath, not wanting to break Gordon off while the young boy was actually telling them what was going on. A pleased look shot over Virgil's face and Scott could see the way he sat back up against the wall more comfortably.

"-but he doesn't want to play with me and Allie… I asked him, Scott, honest I did, but he said he had things to do." Gordon finished earnestly and Scott reached over, ruffling his hair.

"Thanks for telling me, kiddo," he said fondly, causing Gordon to beam and scramble to his feet. Scott was honestly surprised he had been able to sit still for that long. He glanced towards John's door again, but caught sight of the disappointment on Virgil's face that the thirteen year old was clearly trying to cover up.

"What?"

Virgil shrugged, playing with a stray piece of cotton rather than look Scott in the eye.

"You really got Dad to say yes to us going into town on our own?"

"He trusts us, Virg."

"Even after..?"

"He doesn't exactly know about that," Scott winced when he thought back to his slip of the tongue and how he had nearly landed Virgil in it. Luckily, he had said the right thing now for Virgil's face lit up before falling just as fast.

"We can't go now though, can we? Not with John feeling like this."

Scott didn't know what to say. He owed it to both of them. He had always told his brothers that they had to stick by the promises they had made and he had sworn that today would be for just him and Virgil. But considering them going out on their own was one of the problems, Scott didn't know what to do. He knew that John had had trouble with some boys from school over the last few months, but his younger brother had promised him that it was being dealt with. That might be so – he wasn't sure John would flat out lie to him like that – but it clearly wasn't happening fast enough.

"Sure you can," Gordon suddenly piped out. Scott and Virgil glanced at each other before looking towards their younger brother. Gordon's ideas were often impractical, impossible and downright dangerous. But just now and again, he would come out with something that would actually work. Considering their brother's happiness was at stake, Scott wouldn't have been surprised if this was one of Gordon's better ideas.

"How?" Virgil was clearly thinking the same thing if the look on his face was anything to go by.

"We all go into town."

"Gords, I don't think…"

"We all go in, and then you two wander off to do whatever it is that you do at your age. Be really boring, I reckon. But you take John with you until you can drop him off at the library or wherever. He'll think he is old enough to come with you. Al was moaning about books the other day, so Dad can take us up slightly later. John then meets up with us and comes home with us and you two do what you want."

Having spoken so fast – and clearly making a lot of it up as he went along – Gordon sat down again after he had spoken, trying to get his breath back. Scott found himself thinking over everything that Gordon had just said and realised he had been right in thinking this was one of his brother's better ideas. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that Virgil was thinking it over as well and judging by the small smile beginning to unfurl on his lips, Scott knew he was thinking it had the potential to work.

"Scotty?" Virgil turned to him, clearly not wanting to agree until he knew what Scott was thinking of it. Scott smiled.

"Gordy?"

"Ye-ah?"

"Go and tell Dad we all need to go into town." Gordon was up again before Scott had finished speaking, excitement shining out of his eyes at the idea of something he had come up with actually being used. Scott watched him go with a fond smile before climbing to his feet.

"Is that okay with you, Virg?"

"I get you to myself for most of the day and we sort out John in the process. What's not to like?" Virgil grinned as he too climbed to his feet and Scott found himself feeling a rush of pride towards his little brother. Virgil was really growing up if that was the attitude he could take. Scott knew it wouldn't have been that long ago when Virgil demanded to have Scott's attention regardless of what was happening with the others then. Then again, not that long ago, there would have been someone else who was more in tune with their brothers and what was happening with them than they were. Things had changed, and it was only now Scott was beginning to see that some good was starting to come out of it.

Virgil took a step towards John's door, but Scott put his hand on his brother's shoulder and nudged him towards his own room.

"I've got this. You go and get ready."

Virgil looked as if he was going to protest, but then he smiled and changed direction. Scott took a small step towards John's room, but then found he was just standing there watching Virgil go, hearing Gordon running around downstairs as he tried to locate their father in order to deliver the news it was turning into a family outing.

Smiling, Scott continued to move towards John's door. Now all he had to do was sort out one more brother and everything would be back how it should be. He couldn't ask for anything more, especially as it would mean that John was happy and Scott hadn't broken his promise to Virgil in the process.

Not that he would ever admit it, but Gordon's mind fascinated him sometimes with the solutions he could come out with.