Disclaimer: They're not mine.
Author's Note: Just playing around, having some fun.
Left Behind Chapter One
"Gordon, wait up!"
Fifteen-year-old Gordon Tracy quickly grabbed his friend's arm and began to walk faster toward the school parking lot. "C'mon, Mark, move it. I thought you were on the track team!"
Mark Teague gave Gordon a bewildered look. "Why're you rushing me? The car ain't goin' anywhere."
Mark glanced back at a familiar blond head trying to fight through the massive crowd towards them. "Hey, isn't your kid brother trying to get your attention?"
Gordon didn't glance back; he only quickened his pace. "Mark, let's go! I don't want us to get stuck taking Alan home. If we do, then Dad might make me stay, too, and I wanna hit the mall. Let's go!"
Twelve-year-old Alan Tracy pushed his way between two high school students and stopped when he saw his brother disappear into the growing crowd. He scowled, angry. Gordon had promised to take him home today. If only the middle school and high school were attached, rather than across the street. Maybe he would have made it in time.
Alan looked around, feeling rather small in a crowd of teenagers in the midst of growth spurts. He had another brother in high school; all he had to do was find him.
A group of teenage boys around seventeen looked vaguely familiar, and Alan followed them. They were heading for a couple more teens that Alan couldn't make out. As he drew closer, he finally recognized Virgil, smiling and laughing with another boy beside his car. He broke into a run. "Virgil!"
Whether or not Virgil heard him, Alan didn't know. Virgil and a few of his friends piled into Virgil's car, and they peeled out of the parking lot as quick as they could. Alan stopped yet again and threw his backpack onto the ground in anger.
"Fine!" he shouted after Virgil's retreating car. "I guess I know enough to take a hint!"
Ignoring the dirty looks he was receiving, Alan picked his backpack up and began to walk towards the street. It was a thirty-minute trip by car to his home on the other side of the city, and it was even longer on foot. His father was not going to be happy when he got home.
Scott and John glanced up from the television as their younger brother Virgil walked into the house. Virgil nodded to them and flopped onto a chair nearby.
"How was school?" Scott asked, smirking slightly.
Virgil smirked back. "Wise ass. Not all of us get a three week break in the middle of the semester."
"Not our fault," John said. "Although, I'm not really put out by it."
"Yeah, I can see that," Virgil shot back.
"Where's Alan?" Scott asked.
Virgil shrugged. "I dunno, haven't seen him all day. I think he's getting a ride with Gordon. Where's Dad? Still at the office?"
"What do you think?" John asked darkly.
Scott looked at him. "John-."
"Don't start, Scott," John cut him off. "We hardly see him enough as it is, and he can't find it in him to take a few evenings off to spend with his family."
He stood abruptly and stormed out of the room. A few moments later, Scott and Virgil could hear the front door slam shut, and they exchanged looks before turning back to the television set.
John allowed his hands to steer the car in an aimless direction, his mind too filled with frustration, hurt, and anger to concentrate. He guided his car through the streets before he found himself in the parking lot of the mall. He was a little surprised; he hadn't been to the mall in years. It really wasn't a place he liked to frequent. Deciding to take a walk around inside and cool down, John exited his car and went inside.
It wasn't very crowded, even for a Thursday afternoon. A few shoppers were wading through merchandise, weaving in and out of the stores. John barely paid them any mind as he walked around, working through his anger. It wasn't often that he felt so worked up, but when he did, it took him a while to calm down.
A sudden outburst of laughter nearby caused John to spin around and look for the cause. Two teenagers were laughing uncontrollably at a third, who was covered in what look like pizza sauce. John was about to continue his walk when his sharp blue eyes caught sight of one of the laughing teens.
"Gordon?" John paused, confused. Gordon hadn't mentioned coming to the mall after school, though at fifteen he really didn't have to ask for permission. But looking at the two boys he was with, neither one looked like Alan.
John turned and began to walk towards his younger brother. When he reached Gordon, he grabbed Gordon's arm and spun him around.
"Hey, wha!" Gordon stopped when he saw John's frowning face. "Uh, hi, Johnny. What're you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same thing," John shot back. "Where's Alan?"
"Alan?" Gordon repeated dumbly.
"Yeah, our little brother, about yay high?" John held out a hand about Alan's height. He saw Gordon's eyes flicker, and felt a sense of unease building. Whenever Gordon did that, he was trying to do some quick thinking. John's eyes narrowed. "Gordon, where is Alan?"
"Oh, Alan, yeah," Gordon replied. "See, he's, um . . ."
"Don't tell me that you left Alan alone at school," John stated. "Don't tell me that our twelve-year-old brother is right now on his own, trying to get home for the last forty-five minutes."
"Um, okay," Gordon replied weakly.
"You left him alone?" John shouted. "Gordon, for God's sake, he's twelve! What the hell were you thinking?"
During the exchange, Gordon's friends had edged away, hoping to escape unnoticed. John paid them no mind. He was focused wholly on Gordon.
"I thought he'd catch a ride with Virgil!" Gordon insisted, lying out of his teeth in desperation.
"Virgil didn't know anything about that!" John yelled. He forced Gordon back towards the direction he'd come, walking as fast as he could while still dragging his brother. "Come on. You're coming with me."
"What?" Gordon replied. "Why?"
"Why?" John echoed in shock. "Virgil's home, you're here, and Alan's missing! Why do you think?"
He dragged Gordon the rest of the way to his car.
Alan sighed for the hundredth time as he trudged down the street. By his watch, he'd been walking for almost an hour now, and he didn't seem any closer to his house than he'd been when he started.
His thoughts swirled in his mind, focusing on his brothers. He supposed he should be used to it by now; being the youngest, he was always pushed to the side.
Scott was twenty-one; it was hard for Alan at times to see him as his brother. When their mother died, Scott had taken over some of the responsibilities of caring for them. For Alan, that had also meant diaper changes, learning to speak and do simple things, and bedtime stories. There were times, though, that Scott had wanted to break away and do things on his own, with kids his own age. Alan supposed he couldn't fault Scott for that, but that hadn't made the brush-off hurt any less.
John was nineteen, and he had always tried to do best by Alan. At least when he'd tried to get rid of Alan, he'd tried to be honest and nice about it. Alan did his best to give John a hard time about it, but John never just ditched him. Not like Gordon, and at times, Virgil.
Alan was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn't notice a group of men in baggy clothes approach him from across the street. It wasn't until a large, immovable body moved into his path that he looked up and saw the five men surrounding him.
"What have we here?" the man in front of Alan said. "Looks like a little piggy that lost his way."
The other men laughed at the joke. Alan felt fear curl in his gut, and he swallowed hard. "E-Excuse me, please. I'm just trying to walk home. I don't want any trouble."
The men laughed again, causing Alan's skin to crawl. He tried to slip past the large roadblock, but the man placed a beefy hand on Alan's chest and pushed him back.
"What's the rush, piggy?" he asked. "Stay awhile and play."
Alan's stomach lurched, and he quickly ducked around the man and ran down the street at top speed. He could hear the group laughing behind him, and that spurred him onward. He ran for nearly ten minutes when he finally came to a small park. He darted through the few people who were there with their families and ran up to a large tree next to another side street. Dropping his backpack, Alan scurried up the tree onto a high branch. Putting his back to the trunk, he hugged his legs tightly to his chest and buried his face in his knees. His thin shoulders shook as he finally released the tears that had been building up. He was too scared to walk the rest of the way home; he could only hope that someone would notice he was missing and come look for him.
John sped through the streets as fast as the law would allow, hoping desperately to catch some sight of Alan walking along the road. He and Gordon had gone back to the high school and looked around, asking a few late stragglers if they had noticed the young boy since school. Getting no leads, the two Tracys had started to backtrack along the path that Alan had most likely taken back to their house. Along the way, John had called Scott to tell him and Virgil what was going on. Scott had ordered Virgil to stay home and cover for them with their father and wait for Alan while Scott joined in the search from his own vehicle. So far, no one had spotted the youngest Tracy.
"Wait, what's that?" Gordon suddenly said.
"What?" John asked.
Gordon pointed. "Over there, by that tree."
John pulled his car over to the curb, and the two boys jumped out and walked up to the object. John crouched down and picked it up.
"Alan's backpack," he murmured. He looked down at the backpack, then at the tree, then slowly lifted his eyes up into the branches. Through the leaves, he could just make out a small shape huddled high above.
"Alan?" John stood and thrust the backpack into Gordon's arms. He looked at Gordon. "Call Scott and tell him we've got Alan, and that we'll meet him at the house. Then go wait in the car. In the backseat."
Gordon went without a word. His attitude hadn't been one of a guilty person, but right now John didn't care about that. He could deal with Gordon when Alan was found, safe and sound.
John returned his gaze to the leaves. "Alan? It's John. Can you hear me?"
The figure didn't move. John felt his worry grow at the lack of response from his normally vocal and energetic brother. Taking a deep breath, John jumped up, catching hold of the lowest branch. Slowly, he began to climb the tree after Alan.
Alan didn't budge, even when John lifted himself onto the same branch and nudged him. John couldn't see Alan's face, but he could hear Alan's stifled sobs and saw the quaking of the boy's shoulders.
"Alan, it's me," John whispered, balancing himself next to Alan. "Are you okay?"
Alan sniffed and finally looked up. The tears still spilling from his bright blue eyes and the fear and anger shining from his face tore at John's heart, and he pulled Alan into a hug.
"Oh, Sprout, I'm so sorry," he said into Alan's hair. Alan clutched tightly at John's shirt, twisting the fabric out of shape.
"Th-They said they w-wanted to play," came Alan's muffled voice.
John tensed. "Who said they wanted to play?"
"Th-The men," Alan replied. "They came up to me on the street. I-I didn't know what to do. They said they wanted to play with me. I ran as fast as I could."
John felt anger swell in his stomach. Anger at Alan for not calling home for a ride, anger at Gordon for leaving him behind, and anger at the people who had tried to hurt his baby brother. He forced himself to be calm; Alan didn't need his anger right now.
"Let's get you home now, okay Sprout?" John said. "Come on."
Gently ruffling Alan's blond hair, John released Alan and began to climb back down the tree. Alan, to his relief, uncurled and followed him down. Once they were on the ground, Alan glanced around. "Where's my bag?"
"In the car," John told him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. "Let's get you home. You've got three other brothers worried sick about you."
Alan scowled, but made no comment. He walked with John back to the car and slid into the passenger seat. He glanced back at Gordon, but didn't say anything.
"Hey, Alan," Gordon greeted, somewhat uncomfortable.
John started up his car and drove back home, taking the shortest route possible.
The instant Alan walked through the door, Scott and Virgil descended on him. Alan was drawn into fierce hugs, hearing snatches of words from both brothers. He didn't understand what they were saying, but he caught the gist of it.
Scott and Virgil pulled back, giving Jeff Tracy a clear path to his youngest child. Jeff knelt down and drew Alan into a protective embrace.
"Thank God you're all right," he said.
John and Gordon gave Scott and Virgil confused looks. Scott rolled his eyes.
"I should have known better than to leave Virgil to cover for us," he muttered. "He's an awful liar. Dad found out before I got back."
Virgil shrugged. "So sue me. He was going to find out anyway."
Jeff pulled back and held Alan's face in his hands. His eyes scanned his son, looking for anything out of place. "Are you all right?"
Alan nodded wordlessly, his eyes swimming once more in tears. He leaned back into his father, who stood and scooped him up into his arms. Alan wrapped his arms around his father, burying his face into Jeff's neck. Jeff looked at his other four sons.
"I'll be back in ten minutes," he stated. "We're all going to have a little talk about what happened tonight. Meet me in my office."
"Yes, sir," the four boys replied. Nodding, Jeff turned and carried Alan up the stairs and out of sight. As soon as he was out of earshot, Scott and Virgil rounded on John.
"Where was he?" Scott demanded. "Gordon didn't tell us much."
"Up a tree," John replied grimly. I'll tell you everything when Dad gets back. I'd rather tell this story once."
The boys moved to their father's office and took seats around the room, claiming the couch and some chairs near a fireplace. They left a seat for Jeff for when he returned.
It was closer to twenty minutes when Jeff arrived, and one look at his face told his older sons that this was not going to be a very pleasant discussion. Instead of sitting down, he stood over his sons, arms folded.
"How's Alan?" Scott asked, trying to delay the inevitable.
"Asleep," Jeff replied. "It took me a while to get him there, and I didn't like what he told me. Would one of you care to explain to me just what the hell happened tonight?"
Scott and John glanced at Virgil, then all three looked at Gordon. Jeff followed their gaze and frowned deeply.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you tell me this morning that you and Alan would catch a ride home with your friend Mark after school today?" he asked.
Gordon cleared his throat. "Um . . . I might have said that."
"Might have?" Jeff repeated sternly.
Gordon sighed. "Okay, I said that, but that was before Mark suggested we hit the mall after school. Alan's such a pest when he tags along; always whining and wanting to do what he wants and bugging my friends. I figured he could just catch a ride home with Virgil."
Jeff's eyes slid over to Virgil, who shook his head. "I didn't know. I never even saw Alan today."
Jeff looked over at Scott, then John. "So let me get this straight. Alan tried to catch up to you, and you left him behind at school. He couldn't find Virgil in time, and so he decided to walk home. Alone."
"We're lucky no one tried to mess with him," Scott added.
John shifted uneasily.
Jeff's eyes focused on his second born. "What?"
John looked in his father's eyes, then down at his shoes. "Alan told me . . . he said that some guys came up to him on the street. They said they wanted to 'play' with him. We found him up a tree, hiding from them."
Jeff closed his eyes. His sons could see the vein in their father's forehead begin to throb and braced themselves.
"OF ALL THE IRRESPONSIBLE, INCONCEIVABLE . . ." Jeff began to walk away, but came back quickly. "I THOUGHT I RAISED YOU BETTER THAN THIS! ALAN COULD HAVE BEEN HURT, HE COULD HAVE BEEN KIDNAPPED . . . HE COULD HAVE DIED! He is your BROTHER! He should rate a little higher on your priority list than your friends, REGARDLESS of how much of a pain you think he is! What the HELL were you thinking, leaving Alan to fend for himself? He's TWELVE!"
"Dad, I'm sorry!" Gordon tried to say.
"You should be!" Jeff went on. "I have to trust each one of you to look out for the others younger than you! You failed Alan today, Gordon, and you're damn lucky to have been given another chance to do right by him."
Gordon looked back down at his shoes. "Yes, sir."
Jeff started to walk towards the door, but paused before leaving. "You're grounded for two months. No TV, no music, no friends. You go to school, you come straight home. I hope you take that time to reevaluate your priorities."
Jeff left the boys in an uncomfortable silence. John and Scott looked at each other, unsure of what to do next.
Gordon shifted uncomfortably on the couch, aware of his brothers' eyes on him. Huffing in anger and frustration, Gordon stood and stormed angrily out of the study.
It was nearing three in the morning, and Scott still couldn't sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw indistinct shapes swarming around his baby brother, intent on harming him. The very idea that he had nearly lost Alan that day scared him more than he liked to admit. It didn't matter that Alan was sleeping soundly just down the hall; the idea that it could have happened was enough to haunt Scott.
Realizing that he wasn't going to be getting to sleep anytime soon, Scott tossed his covers aside. Glancing over at John and Virgil, sleeping peacefully, Scott made his way to the door and into the hall.
He made no sound as he approached the room Gordon and Alan shared. He wanted to check on Alan before moving downstairs.
Scott pushed the door open and slipped inside. He froze when he saw a figure sitting beside Alan, but then relaxed when he realized it was his father.
Jeff turned to look at his eldest son. "You're up awfully late," he commented.
"So're you," Scott replied, moving further into the room. He looked down at Alan. The younger boy was curled on his side towards his father, his face unlined in slumber.
Jeff followed his eyes and lightly brushed Alan's hair back. "Couldn't sleep. I just keep thinking how close we came . . ."
"Yeah, me too," Scott admitted.
They lapsed into silence for a few moments.
"You'd better get some sleep if you want to be ready for work tomorrow," Scott commented.
"I'm taking a couple weeks off," Jeff told him. "Today made me realize that my own priorities need to be rearranged. I know you boys have not been happy with the hours I've been putting in at the office. I'm going to let Alan stay home with us tomorrow, then Saturday we're going to go on a vacation. All six of us."
"Sounds good," Scott said. "Where are we going?"
Jeff smiled. "It's a surprise. No one's going to know till we get there." He looked back at Scott. "Now get yourself to bed. You're going to need your rest for tomorrow."
Scott nodded and retreated back into the hall. To his surprise, he felt tired. Returning to his bed, he closed his eyes. Within minutes, he was fast asleep.
End Chapter One