Disclaimer: I own nothing, all rights belong to their respective owners.
Partly in thanks for the gorgeous story the other day (everyone, go read!) and partly because I do believe you challenged me to this, this one is for you, Sam.
Scott moved quietly towards the kitchen. His dad wasn't yet home from work and he could still hear his mother trying to persuade Gordon that getting dressed would be a good idea. How the little boy had managed to take off the clothes he had already been put in, Scott had no idea. But when Gordon had his mind set on something, it was amazing what the four year old could achieve. With his mother occupied and his father having already left for some meeting or another (Scott still was sulking over the fact that his dad was working on a Saturday), it was the perfect time for him to go and raid the cupboards.
The ten year old silently opened the kitchen door, thinking he should be congratulated on his stealth. The pretence, however, was lost when he realised there was someone already in the kitchen. Not having expected it, Scott let out a small yelp of surprise – something he would then vehemently deny – and tried to calm his beating heart as Virgil turned to face him. The younger boy looked as surprised to see Scott as Scott was him.
"What are you doing?" Scott hissed, moving in and shutting the door behind him. He was genuinely confused. If Virgil had been in a cupboard, Scott would have understood. After all, that was why he had come in here. But his brother had the coffee machine turned around and was perched on the worktop, quite clearly taking the back off it.
"The light isn't on," Virgil mumbled, returning to the task at hand rather than continuing to address his brother. Scott moved forward to have a look. He knew Virgil had a knack for taking things apart and putting them back together again. But he also knew the coffee machine was something that was off limits to the children. Luckily, Virgil had thought to move the full pot of coffee away before starting to work.
"You know we're not allowed to touch," Scott began, a hint of reproach in his voice. He had taken it upon himself to look out for his brothers, and if that had to include stopping them from doing something they weren't allowed, then so be it. Virgil glared at him.
"And you know how Dad gets if he doesn't have his coffee."
"Dad isn't even here."
"He said he wouldn't be long."
"And he'll expect the coffee to still be hot when he gets back, so I'm making sure it is."
Scott couldn't argue with his brother, not when Virgil used that tone of voice. He could hear the hurt and upset in his tone and knew that Virgil was just as disappointed their dad had worked on a weekend as he was. They barely saw him during the week as it was, to lose him on a Saturday was just unfair. Scott had to admit; he liked Virgil's thinking. If they could make sure the machine was working and there was hot coffee waiting when their father got home, it was an almost guaranteed way to make sure the man was in a good mood. He had promised to take Scott over to the park to fly his plane later on.
Scott pulled around a chair and knelt on it so he was eye-level with Virgil. The younger boy grinned and continued to prise the back of the machine off. Scott was rather proud of himself that he said not a word about the fact his brother had clearly raided his father's tools – another forbidden space.
"Hold this," Virgil demanded, handing Scott the back piece. Scott knew he wasn't as good as figuring out the complications of wiring as his younger brother (although how Virgil had learnt it all when he was only eight was beyond Scott. He had long ago stopped doubting his brother) and so was happy to simply sit there and hold something. Virgil leant in closer, looking precariously close to falling off the edge. Scott had to forcibly bite his tongue to stop him saying something, knowing if Virgil moved he wouldn't be able to reach to fix the machine.
Virgil seemed to study it in silence for a few moments, his head tilted to one side and his tongue poking out in concentrate. Despite Scott's faith in him, he knew this was hard for his brother; it wasn't a toy. It was something they shouldn't be touching and if they didn't get it right, they would be in big trouble.
"Got it," Virgil declared triumphantly after the ticking of the clock had seemed increasingly loud to Scott. His brothers were always hungry; it wouldn't be long before John or Gordon asked for something to eat, or Alan started crying. Then their mother would come into the kitchen and find what they were doing. Silently, Scott willed Virgil to hurry up.
"What is it?"
"This wire's come loose."
"Can you fix it?" Scott could hear how hesitant he sounded, but he personally had no idea. Virgil tilted his head to the other side and reached towards it.
"Be careful!" Scott gasped before he could stop himself. He might not know the complexities of the wiring, but he knew anything that had wiring was potentially dangerous. Virgil jolted in surprise and for a moment, both boys could only sit and breathe heavily, trying to ignore their pounding hearts. Scott knew Virgil was just as nervous about doing this as he was.
"I'll be fine," Virgil muttered. He reached towards it again and Scott tensed, expecting his brother to suddenly be electrocuted. But Virgil simply poked the wire until it connected with another and then leapt down off the top as the machine started whirring at them. Scott could only grin as his brother snatched the back off and began fixing it back on. Scott stood up, reaching up into a cupboard and pulling down a fresh bag of coffee.
He helped Virgil turn the machine round, then carefully set the new lot to filter. Shoving the fresh pot under, he turned towards the one that had been left off for a while. He knew it would be too cold for his father now, and it was better the man had fresh if they were intending to keep him in a good mood.
"What do we do with that?" Virgil asked, coming to stand next to his big brother. Scott could only stare at it, an idea beginning to form in his head. Virgil had taken his risk for the day. Scott decided it was his turn to do something rebellious. He reached into a cupboard, grabbed a mug and poured himself out some of the coffee.
"Scott, you can't," Virgil protested, biting his lip. Scott simply looked at him. Virgil knew he wasn't allowed to touch the machine and yet had done it anyway. His younger brother seemed to know what he was getting at, for he grimaced and grabbed his own mug.
The two boys upended the cups. Luckily, the coffee had been off the heat for long enough that it had cooled. Virgil gasped, his face twisting into an expression of disgust as the bitter taste coated his mouth. He made the effort of swallowing, but then immediately emptied the rest of his cup down the sink.
"How does Dad drink that?" He spluttered, quickly running the tap and sticking his head under the water in order to gulp some down. Scott forced himself to swallow, also grimacing at the taste. But he couldn't resist taking another sip. It was bitter. It was disgusting. And yet for a reason he couldn't explain, he found himself draining the cup.
"That's disgusting, Scott," Virgil informed him, looking disbelieving that his brother had actually drunk it. Before Scott could answer, they both heard footsteps heading their way.
Scott shoved Virgil out of the way, flicking the water to hot and dumping the cups and pot in the sink. The door opened and both boys turned with an expression of innocence.
"What are you two up to?" Their mother asked as she walked in, Gordon balanced on her hip. The four year old had a deep frown on his face, no doubt because he was dressed again.
"Just washing up," Scott said innocently, grinning at her. He only hoped she didn't notice the coffee in the machine was still running through rather than already being sorted. Virgil grabbed the tea-towel and also grinned, trying to maintain the pretence. They were both eyed suspiciously for a moment, but then the cry of a youngster from another room had their mother turning again.
"Make sure you wash properly," she called as she disappeared again. The brothers grinned at each other, flushed with their success. Somehow, they had got away with it.
"Dad better want a coffee when he gets in," Virgil grumbled as he began to dry what Scott was washing. Still, the older brother would rather an extra chore than them be caught out.
Jeff stopped the car, staring guiltily up at the house. The meeting hadn't been that productive, mainly because he hadn't been able to get the hurt look his sons had given him out of his head when he had informed them he had to work. What had hurt him more was that they didn't protest, knowing they would get in trouble for arguing back against it when he had no choice. They had just accepted he wouldn't be around again with the disappointment and pain shining out of their young eyes. Needless to say, he had cut the meeting as short as he could and possibly bent a few speeding limits in order to get home to his family just after lunch.
Taking the key out of the ignition and grabbing his case, Jeff headed into the house. He was instantly greeted by Gordon hurtling himself at his father. Just in time, Jeff dropped the case and caught his son, scooping the delighted boy up into the air and swooping him through it a few times before settling the giggling youth on his hip.
"Daddy's home!" Gordon yelled at the top of his lungs. Jeff winced, hoping Alan wasn't having a nap. Still, he couldn't resist dropping a kiss on the top of Gordon's head before setting him down again and nudging him towards the lounge. Jeff loosened his tie as he moved through, greeting John and Virgil who were both engaged with respective tasks; John was reading and Virgil was working on something at the table. Jeff wasn't going to ask if it was homework or not.
"Jeff? Jeff, come upstairs." Not liking that tone, Jeff hurried upstairs, following his wife's voice until he found himself in Scott's room. The boy jumped up eagerly to see him, a grin on his face. Jeff took a second look, realising his son still seemed to be bouncing even when he was up. In a way he hadn't done for years, Scott threw himself at his father.
"Hi, buddy. You okay?"
"I'm great!" Scott opened his arms wide and made to spin in a circle. Luckily, his mother reached up, grabbed his wrist and pulled him back onto the bed. Jeff wasn't surprised why; Scott looked as if he was more likely to trip over something.
"What's got you so hyped up, kiddo?"
"Jeff, he's shaking. Has been all afternoon. It's like he is on some kind of sugar high but he hasn't had anything out of the usual."
Jeff nodded his understanding, motioning for his wife to let him handle this. He had given her enough to do by disappearing to work that morning. She left and Jeff took her place on the bed. He caught Scott's chin and turned the boy's head to face him. His eyes were bright and there was a very slight flush on his face, but it was nothing to do with being ill. It looked as if he was just incredibly hyper.
"Scott, answer me this honestly. Have you eaten something you shouldn't have today?"
He watched closely as his son seemed to consider the question seriously. But then Scott shook his head.
"Nope. I haven't eaten anything I shouldn't have." For some reason, Scott seemed to find this incredibly funny and Jeff could only stare as his son dissolved into giggles. The father shook his head, bewildered. There didn't seem to technically be anything wrong with Scott, he just seemed to be incredibly hyper for no particular reason. Jeff stood up.
"Why don't you grab a ball and go for a run around in the garden?" he wasn't suggesting; he was telling. Luckily, Scott understood that and instantly started looking for his shoes. Deciding to see if Scott would just calm down on his own, Jeff left him to it and went to get changed.
Five minutes later, there was the sound of thundering footsteps in the garden and the father was heading back down to the kitchen, dressed in comfortable clothes that were far more suited to playing with his young family than work attire was. He didn't need to think about where he was going, smoothly pulling down his favourite coffee cup and sliding it towards the pot with well-practiced ease. Not looking what he was doing, Jeff grasped for the pot, only to find his fingers closing in thin air.
Startled, he glanced around to see he had missed the pot by a couple of millimetres. He took a step towards it, lifting the pot and glancing at it in alarm at seeing it was steaming.
Now that he was thinking about it, he was sure the light hadn't come on that morning. He just hadn't had time to throw away the coffee before he left for work, leaving it where it was. Thinking hard, he carefully poured out some and took a sip. It was piping hot, just the way it should be. If the machine was working properly, that was. Wondering whether perhaps it had just had a faulty morning and started itself working again, Jeff shrugged it off and drank the rest of his drink, absentmindedly flicking through the paper as he did so.
After snatching something to eat, the man decided it was about time he resumed his responsibilities as a father. But as he turned to leave the kitchen, something caught his eye. There was a slight mark on the worktop next to the coffee machine. The mark of something having been in the same place for a long time, then shuffled over slightly. Taking a closer look, Jeff knew there was no denying it. The machine had moved.
"Luce?" he called, staring at it even as he leant towards the door. "Did you get someone to look at the coffee machine?"
"Why? What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing," leaving it at that, Jeff continued to stare. He knew he hadn't just been half-asleep that morning; the machine hadn't been working. Yet for some reason, it had been pulled out and now was. Wondering if he was losing it a little, the father made to leave the kitchen. Only this time, he bumped into a chair that hadn't been put back properly. A chair, if he wasn't mistaken, that looked as if it had been pulled around so a son could kneel on it to be at the level of the worktop.
"Virgil," Jeff sighed, suddenly realising what might have happened. He would have been angry with his son if it wasn't for the fact the machine was now working. Still, he knew he was going to have to have a word. There was a reason why the boys weren't allowed to touch it; it was dangerous. He didn't know whether to be impressed or angry that his boy had not only disobeyed him, but also managed to fix the machine in the process.
Nut just as he thought about going to find the boy to have a word, Jeff suddenly realised what was wrong with Scott. His son had been telling the truth about not having eaten anything he shouldn't have. But now Jeff realised he was being fooled; he should have asked if Scott had had anything he shouldn't have done. For unless Jeff was very much mistaken, his son was experiencing his first caffeine fix.
Jeff grinned when he thought about the face Scott would have pulled at tasting the coffee. But if the older brother had done it, had the younger? Jeff dismissed it; Virgil was acting ordinary. If he had had any, it hadn't affected him the way it had his brother. He wondered who would be the most put out by that: Virgil for not going hyper, or Scott for knowing his little brother could handle it better than him?
"Do you think Scott will be okay?" Jeff glanced over as his wife came to join him, both glancing out of the window where their son was charging around the garden. Jeff smirked. So far, the boys had managed to get away with it without their mother finding out. Jeff was going to allow them that victory, just made a mental note to have a word with them himself.
"He'll be fine. Just wait until he crashes." He said it in a way that implied he thought the boy was just excitable and had gone a little hyper. But inside, he knew that Scott was about to experience a crash he had never felt before from just being hyper. Deciding that would teach him his lesson more than anything Jeff could say, the father left him to it and went to find his other sons.
He just wasn't sure whether he should start putting his coffee on a higher shelf. After all, he knew what he had been like when he had first got a taste for it and had no desire for Scott to be developing that taste at only ten. At least he didn't have to worry about Virgil.