"Jeff, what are you doing?" Jeff's head snapped up, as light suddenly filtered into the room through the open door where his mother stood. "It's nearly midnight," she added, glancing at her watch.
"Is it?" he asked, glancing at his own watch as if to check. "I hadn't realised the time; one minute we were talking, the next he'd fallen asleep." He smiled dreamily, "I couldn't bring myself to leave." He yawned loudly and stretched.
"Shh!" Grandma scolded in reply. "Don't wake him!"
She paused; "Talking huh?"
She knew exactly what that little 'talk' would have been about. "How is he?" she gestured to the figure asleep on the bed, as she stepped into the room and came to stand by her son.
Jeff sighed, "Okay, I think. Are the others in bed?" A nod was his only reply and he went back to studying his second eldest son as he slept. The silence that enveloped them was an amiable one, and the quiet was perfect for his brooding thought pattern. A long few minutes passed, before he heaved an intense sigh.
Grandma made no effort to intervene. Like she'd known Scott had something on his mind the night before, she knew her son better than she knew anyone and, she knew he had something to say. Patiently, she waited and sure enough, it came.
"You know Mom, when I pulled up here last night I thought about how hard this weekend was going to be." He kept his voice low, so as not to disturb the sleeping teen, "What with it being Valentines weekend and everything," he expanded. "I knew it was going to be difficult but I never envisaged it would be like this."
"None of us did," she reassured him. "But it's worked out for the best. The important thing is you have your boys around you."
"I know," Jeff replied. He paused before he went on, "Y'know, Valentines is always just a reminder of what I don't have anymore." He stopped and shook his head, "It's everywhere I look; telling us we should appreciate that special person in our lives, the one we love more than anything." He heaved another sigh, "I didn't think I had that anymore; that special person to love."
A few seconds of contemplative silence slipped by.
"The last twenty four hours has taught me that I haven't got that one special person in my life anymore." He looked up to her, with a smile filled only with pride and contentment, "I have five of them instead." He turned away again, as he ran a hand over Virgil's head, "Does that make sense?"
"Of course it does," Grandma grinned and placed a firm hand on his shoulder. "Valentines is about love Son, but there are many different forms of love; each one as special as the next."
"It's wrong though," Jeff frowned, not taking his eyes off Virgil. "That I needed this to happen to make me realise that." He swallowed, "There I was feeling sorry for myself because I don't have a wife to love anymore and all the time, I was overlooking the fact that I have five beautiful sons."
"Jeff," his mother replied. "I know for a fact, you could never 'overlook' your boys," she said with confidence. "This is a hard time of year for all of us," her voice took a wistful tone. "But we get through it," she added with a determined smile. "It makes us think about what's important to us and appreciate the people we love. The reason you have five beautiful sons, is because you're a wonderful father and I'm proud of you."
Jeff scoffed, "I appreciate the sentiment Mom, but at the end of the day I'm as responsible as Gordon for all this. I was the one that promised Virgil the car and I was the one that asked Scott to lend him the Porsche. Those aren't the actions of a wonderful father; they're just plain bad decisions."
"That's silly! You couldn't have known what was going to happen anymore than anyone else." The grip on his shoulder increased, in reassurance. "Jeff, you said it yourself; it was an accident." Grandma told him sternly, "You can't change what's happened in the past Son but in the future, you can show those five special people in your life just how important they are." She rubbed his shoulder, "It's all too easy in this world to concentrate on what you haven't got, when maybe you should be counting your blessings instead. Sometimes we all need reminding of the things we might otherwise take for granted, that way we can really appreciate what we've got."
"God, I do appreciate what I've got," Jeff sighed as he studied his sleeping son. "The thought of losing him, or any of them Mom; it makes me sick," he screwed his nose up.
"Father?" a sleepy voice asked, as Virgil stirred. "Dad?"
"Shh," Jeff soothed. "It's alright, just go back to sleep," he briefly glanced up to see his mother gesturing at the door. Getting to his feet, he continued to run his hand over Virgil's hair until he was sure his young son was asleep. Then, with a gentle kiss on his forehead, he pulled the covers up and tucked them round him. "Night Son," he whispered. "I love you."
Virgil sighed; he turned over again, fingers entwining under his head, and looked up to the ceiling.
He'd had a lot to think about today and with so much to consider, it wasn't surprising that his mind wouldn't shut down enough to sleep again.
Recent events had given him a wake up call and helped him to clarify what was important in his life. He'd come to several conclusions; some of which, he wasn't all that appreciative of. The time alone in his room this afternoon hadn't solely been spent 'resting' as his father had assumed. He'd considered his options after Sofia's betrayal and had thought long and hard about his family; more specifically, his behaviour recently and his relationship with Scott.
Glancing at the clock, he realised he'd been awake for nearly two hours and he doubted he was about to get back to sleep. With a sigh he pushed himself up off the pillows, and reached for his 'phone. Newly charged, he was hoping for an influx of messages.
He was sorely disappointed.
Another sigh escaped his lips before he finally made the decision to go in search of a warm drink, hoping it would help him sleep.
As he reached the lounge, he realised the fire was roaring and had recently been stoked. He took a few moments to absorb some of the heat before moving on to the kitchen. As he approached, he could hear the tell tale signs that someone was already inside. Hedging his bets on it being either his Grandmother or his father, he was surprised to see his older brother standing by the kettle.
"Hey," he said softly as he hovered by the door. After Scott's clear reluctance to talk earlier, he wondered how his brother would react.
Scott turned to him quickly. "Oh, hey," he replied, his tone illustrating his surprise. "Are you okay?"
Virgil nodded as he slipped into one of the kitchen chairs. "Yeah," he shrugged. "Couldn't sleep. What's your excuse?"
Scott raised his eyebrows. "I couldn't sleep either." The silence between the bouts of conversation was awkward. "I'm err, I'm making a drink. Do you want one?" Scott asked with a degree of hesitation.
"Please," Virgil returned his smile just as awkwardly. Scott busied himself making the drinks, leaving Virgil to contemplate the silence that settled, far too easily, around them. "Dad told me about the car," Virgil swallowed, feeling a little guilty. "He said it'll be expensive," Scott shrugged but didn't look up from where he the kettle clicked off. "I'll help you out as much as I can," Virgil offered
"You don't have to do that, Dad said he's going to pay for it," Scott told him as he carried two mugs across to the table and sat down opposite his brother.
"I'd feel better if I contributed something," Virgil told his brother. "I was thinking maybe I could get a few more hours helping Mrs Fetter after school," he swallowed. "I know it wouldn't be much compared to how much it's going to cost to get it fixed but it'd be something."
Scott shrugged again, "I said don't worry about it."
"Scott please, let me contribute something," Virgil sighed. "It'd make me feel better."
"Look, I told you Dad's going to foot the bill," Scott repeated. "In the time we've spent arguing about it, he's probably earned enough to buy us both new Porsches and then some." His tone was clipped; not snapped but brusque enough for Virgil to know he wasn't happy.
Virgil watched him look towards the door and knew he was about to make another excuse. "Well we weren't really arguing about it were we?" he swallowed, preventing Scott from taking the opportunity to leave.
"Yeah well it makes a change then," Scott muttered. It wasn't said maliciously. Instead, his tone was one of frustration. He'd given up trying to help Virgil; he was ready to sit back and accept that his brother had grown up and moved on.
Not sure how to reply to that, Virgil mumbled an apology. "I never meant for any of this to happen, I'm so sorry Scott."
"Yeah, you mentioned that," the older brother replied. "Quite a few times." Scott assumed the apology was meant with a view to the car and not in the wider sense that Virgil had meant it.
"I did?" Virgil was confused but Scott just nodded. "Y'know," Virgil began hesitantly, trying to keep the conversation ticking over. "I think that's the worst part; there are big chunks that I just don't remember, the doctor said it was normal because I was so out of it, but it's frustrating." He sighed, "I keep thinking; did I say something I shouldn't have? Did I do something stupid?" He shrugged, "But no matter how hard I try to think, I just can't remember."
"You didn't do anything stupid," Scott reassured him; his own despondency was fast melting at the vulnerability Virgil oozed. "Well, you almost threw up all over Dad," he added with a grin. "But that wasn't really stupid when you think about what I would have done to you if you'd chucked up in my car," Scott joked. However when he smiled at his brother, he realised Virgil wasn't finding it all that funny.
"I'm joking Virg," the comment was rewarded with a small smile, but there was still doubt in Virgil's eyes. "You err…" Scott continued. "You kept saying you wanted to go home and that you were sorry; to be honest, I don't think you knew what you were saying.." Scott hesitated, lifting his eyes to his brother before he went on. "You must've apologised nearly ten times, before we got to the hospital; I guess it was pretty important to you." He paused again, "There's nothing to apologise for though."
Virgil cupped his hands around the mug in front of him, weaving his fingers together. Somehow, the sharp pain at the site of the burn, when he gripped the mug, was reassuring.
"Would you still think that if I told you I was going too fast when it happened?" He took a quick breath, "She called and I was going to be late, so I tried to hurry up." He looked up at Scott, expecting him to have some angry retort waiting about how selfish he had been. Virgil wouldn't have blamed him, but he'd already decided he was going to be honest; no more secrets, no more lies and no more concealing the facts, even if that did mean facing Scott's wrath.
Scott took a deep breath and pensively bit his bottom lip. The way Virgil had spoken of Sofia didn't go unnoticed but he wasn't about to start that old argument again. There was anticipation filled silence as he thought through what he was going to say; he didn't really care how it had happened, just that Virgil was okay.
Virgil on the other hand, was anticipating a chewing out.
Eventually, Scott let his shoulders sag and sat forward, "Virgil, it would have happened anyway." He raised his hands, as if he were going to shrug but then let them drop back down again, "It was just unlucky that you were driving. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time; it was an accident."
"Yeah well I think I'm having a run of bad luck just lately." Virgil swallowed. He tried to study Scott wondering just what it was taking for his brother to remain so calm. If Scott was going to be angry at him, or throw this back in his face in two years time; he'd rather just get the yelling over with now and be done with it. "I err…" Virgil took a deep breath and forced himself to continue. "I thought you'd be mad. You have a right to be; I know how much you care about that car Scott."
"Yeah well, not as much as I care about you," Scott's reply came before he'd thought the words through. When Virgil's head shot up to meet his gaze, it seemed he was as surprised as his brother was at his choice of vocabulary.
A few awkward seconds passed; Scott fidgeted uncomfortably and Virgil shook himself in the silence that followed. "I mean it Virgil," Scott said eventually. "As long as you're okay, I don't give a damn about the car."
Virgil nodded even if it did feel more than a little uncomfortable hearing those words from his brother's lips. "How did it go with Al?" he asked, trying to change the subject.
Scott looked at him blankly, the lights were only dim but Virgil could see from Scott's expression alone that he didn't have a clue what he was talking about. Sure enough, Scott's mystified reply came, "How did what go with Al?"
"The homework," Virgil replied, he knew full well that there had never been any homework and that it was just an excuse.
"Oh," Scott nodded in realisation. "Yeah, okay," he replied taking a sip of the hot drink in front of him. "It was okay," he finished lamely, unable to expand any further.
"Good," Virgil said as he sipped at his own drink, "Good."
A few more seconds of silence passed before either of them spoke again.
"I've been doing a lot of thinking," Virgil broke the silence uneasily. "I owe you an apology." He smirked, "Well actually, probably more than one." His smiled faded, "Listen, I'm sorry about earlier." He fiddled with his hands, "I didn't mean to snap at you; I was just really tired and I needed some sleep." His apology was genuine enough.
"Forget it," the older boy replied with a shake of his head. "Sleeping obviously helped," Scott commented. "How's the head?"
"Okay, I'm hungry though," he admitted. "Guess that's my own fault too; I should've eaten that soup."
Without comment, Scott got up and pulled a chair across to the cupboard at the far end of the room.
"What are you doing?" Virgil frowned as his brother climbed onto the chair and reached a hand up to feel about on top of the cupboard. With a triumphant grin, he brought down a purple tin. "What's that?" Virgil queried.
Scott pulled the chair back to the table and sat down. "Promise me you won't tell Grandma," he held both hands down on the lid, until Virgil nodded. Once he had confirmation, he ripped the lid off revealing chocolate liqueurs. "It's Dad's secret stash, they're not exactly filling or healthy…. but it's better than eating Grandma's leftovers. She'd have a fit if she knew we were in here eating at this hour, here… don't eat them all," he instructed as he pushed the tin in front of his brother.
With a smile of admiration, Virgil reached for one of the delicacies and bit into it. "Thanks."
"So," Scott began cautiously. After Virgil had made the effort, he felt he should return the gesture, "How come you can't sleep now? You were sleeping okay when I went to bed at half eleven."
Virgil shrugged, concentrating on eating and avoiding having to process the question, "I guess I've been sleeping a lot these past few hours; maybe I'm out of sync." He'd noticed the way Scott had leant back in his chair and was watching him critically. "I can't stop thinking now; my mind just won't shut down."
Scott hesitated, taking a good few minutes to ponder over whether to proceed with the question on his lips. Virgil had made it clear that he didn't want or need his interference anymore and Scott had to wonder if it'd be better to keep his mouth shut. Nowadays whatever they talked about always came down to one word: Sofia. More to the point where Sofia was mentioned, disagreements and unpleasantness usually followed.
He proceeded with caution.
"Oh yeah, what were you thinking about?"
"Well y'know, just stuff. At the hospital and then this afternoon, I've had a lot of time on my hands," Virgil replied vaguely.
Scott nodded but didn't say anything, unsure whether that was his cue to dig deeper. "What kind of stuff?" he swallowed.
Virgil halted and looked up to his brother, a liqueur half way to his mouth. "Nothing you'd want to hear about," he said with a sad smile. "I made my bed, now I've got to lie in it."
"It doesn't have to be like that," Scott sympathised.
"No?" Virgil shook his head. "You tried to warn me this would happen, I can hardly expect you to pick up the pieces now it has, can I?"
The older boy shrugged, noncommittally, "I'm still here, aren't I? Bloods thicker than water Virg, that isn't ever going to change." The certainty in Scott's tone was compelling and he appeared confident, even if he really wasn't.
Virgil was hesitant. Slowly he took a breath and raised his downcast eyes to Scott's once more. "I don't suppose she's called, has she?" he asked, though he already knew the answer.
Scott was surprised at the question; Virgil had always been so guarded about his relationship with Sofia that he hadn't expected this directness. "No," Scott stumbled out. "I'm sorry, she hasn't." He hesitated; now Virgil had set the standard, he felt safe in voicing the question on his lips. "Did you really think she would?"
Virgil shrugged again. "I don't know," he admitted as he looked into the mug in his hands. "I guess I thought she might."
He raised an eyebrow. "Then again, I don't know what I'd say even if she did call," he shook his head.
Scott studied Virgil for a few minutes, wondering just what his brother was expecting him to say. He felt like he was walking a tightrope; one wrong move could send him plummeting to the ground. He didn't want to appear as if he were interfering, then Virgil would blow up at him again. Yet, at the same time, he needed to let Virgil know that he could talk to him, without appearing too distant.
"So that's what you've been thinking about," Scott acknowledged. He paused and chose his words carefully. "So err… did you decide on anything
"No," Virgil admitted, his tone glum. "Half of me feels so angry at her Scott, I just want to… I want to hurt her,"
He began to wring his hands together in an outward display of the frustration he felt. Wincing at the pain it caused, he pulled his hands apart. "And I know that's wrong; I know I shouldn't feel like that."
He shook his head in despair, "I can't help it."
Scott nodded with understanding, "It's perfectly natural to feel like that; she hurt you, of course you're going to be angry." He pushed further, "Virgil, you've got every right to be angry at her."
"It's not just her though," Scott was filled with apprehension at the comment, wondering if he'd pushed too far. "I'm angry at me too, for not listening to what people were telling me."
Scott sighed in relief as Virgil continued.
"I mean, look at us!" he exclaimed. "She's already come between us." He rubbed a hand over his eyes, "I've let her come between us."
Scott smiled at the use of the past tense, all tension forgotten. "Hey, we're talking now aren't we?" he pointed out. "Nothing will ever come between us Virg, because we won't let it; not Sofia, not anything. Right?"
Virgil mumbled a reply. Not satisfied, Scott repeated, "Right?"
"Not anything?" Virgil asked, his eyes seeking his brothers once more. "Not even space?"
Scott frowned. "Space?" he questioned. "I don't understand, what do you mean?"
"Nothing." Virgil shook his head, "It doesn't matter."
"Yes it does." Scott countered, "Come on, explain."
"No, it doesn't matter." Virgil shrugged, "It's silly."
"Virgil," Scott sighed leaning forward and trying to catch Virgil's downcast gaze. "Don't clam up on me now. It does matter, and I'll bet it's not silly, so just tell me." His words didn't seem to have much effect on Virgil, so he tried again. "Whatever it is, it doesn't matter; just tell me."
"I err…" Virgil coughed and shifted uncomfortably in the chair. "I don't…" He trailed off, muttering the rest of the sentence. He looked up to Scott nervously, unsure whether his brother had heard or not. Scott sat forward further, eager to hear his reply. He waited patiently, eyebrows raised in anticipation.
Virgil swallowed, "I don't want you to go back."
It took Scott a moment for the words to sink in. He sat back, frowning at the change in Virgil' attitude. He had a feeling this was more than what had happened with Sofia, "What's brought all this on?"
Virgil shrugged and fiddled with the tablecloth edges, as Scott had done the night before. "I've been thinking about stuff, that's all. All this, it's made me realise things, y'know… " he pulled a face at Scott's frown.
Unsure how to respond to that, Scott resorted to stating the obvious, "Virg, I have to go back."
"I know," Virgil ran his uninjured hand over his face. "It's just it's not the same without you here." He shrugged, unsure of how to phrase his words correctly, "I don't always like it."
"Why haven't you said something before?" Scott frowned. He hated to think that Virgil was unhappy; John's words came back to him and he began to wish he'd questioned his blonde brother in a more comprehensive manner.
Virgil shook his head, "I don't know. I thought thing's would change, that I'd adjust and it'd get better, but it didn't." He looked to the table, not wanting to face his brother, "It got worse."
"John said you were feeling a bit low, but whenever I called you always seemed okay." Scott leaned forward on the table again. "If you were feeling so bad, why didn't you say something? You let me believe that you were okay."
Virgil sniffed, "I didn't want to ruin it for you. Whenever you called, you were always so happy; you've got new friends, a new lifestyle."
"That doesn't mean things have to change between us," Scott emphasised. "Sure, I have new friends and I do new things but I haven't got any new brother's have I? And I don't have any friends or do anything that is more important than you." He shook his head in exactly the same way Virgil had, "You should have told me it was hard for you."
"Maybe," Virgil agreed. "But things have changed between us, haven't they?"
Scott nodded his head with clear reluctance. "Only because you don't talk to me anymore."
"It's not all my fault," Virgil responded defensively. "You're the one that went away!"
"I didn't mean it like that," Scott replied, defusing the situation before it turned into another confrontation. "Let's not argue, huh?" Virgil nodded and so he went on. Knowing how sensitive his brother could be at times, he continued with care.
"John said that you seeing Sofia, made you a lot happier. Did it?"
"I guess so," Virgil sighed. "She was so different; when I was with her, I was the furthest away I could possibly be from things here." He shook his head, "And it felt so good; it was what I needed, to just get away from how I felt. Does that make any sense?"
Scott nodded and tired to smile but inside he was upset that it had taken Virgil this long to come to him about how he felt.
"How did you feel?" he asked, unsure whether he wanted an answer to that question and unsure whether Virgil would even give one.
Virgil hesitated and Scott considered that he might be wandering into territory that he didn't want to discuss.
"Lonely," he said finally. "I felt really alone; I could sit in a room full of people and still feel lost. It was like I didn't fit in anymore." He stopped but quickly carried on, "And before you say it, I know it's stupid and I know Dad and everyone loves me; but I just couldn't help it."
Running a hand over his face, he confessed, "Sofia made me feel … I don't know, I guess the more I knew Grandma didn't like her and then you… it just made me want her even more." He looked up at his brother. Expecting Scott to be frowning or judging him in some other way, he was surprised at the empathy in his brother's eyes.
Nervously, he stumbled on.
"She made me… she made me forget stuff and I liked that, I liked the way she's the complete opposite of what you expect and the fact she doesn't give a damn about anything…"
He smiled at fond memories, that had become somewhat tainted. "Or anyone," he finished.
"So what are you saying; she was a distraction?" Scott asked, trying hard to understand. "Are things that bad here?"
Virgil avoided the question, "She made me happy; I really cared about her and I thought she cared about me." He looked up at his brother and Scott could see just how torn he was.
"That's why there's a part of me that just wants to forget it ever happened and to carry on as normal." He admitted; his voice sad and low. "I know it's naïve to think I could do that, but I just don't want it to end."
"That wouldn't happen to be the other half of you, would it?" Scott asked with a grin, trying to lighten Virgil's despondency.
Virgil carried on, ignoring the comment. "I know it's weak that I don't want things to change, even after all this, I know I should." Virgil bowed his head. "You think it's feeble and that I'm pathetic, don't you?"
"No," Scott shook his head. He tried to convey just how wrong Virgil was. "Of course I don't, you're not pathetic Virgil."
"Well, I do." Virgil replied absolutely. "It is pathetic; everything inside me is screaming out, telling me to finish it now but there's this little part of me that keeps reminding me that if I finish with her, I'm on my own again."
Scott licked his lips, "Would that be so bad, really?" he suggested. "I mean, being single has its advantages; no ties, no one else to think about."
"I don't just mean on my own in the relationship sense though." Virgil said quietly as he leant forward and sipped at his drink.
"Virgil, you can call me anytime, you know that; you're not on your own." Scott was deeply disturbed that his brother could think that in the first place. "Maybe we haven't talked enough since I left for college. Why don't we speak to Dad and see what he says about me coming home more often, or maybe you could come stay with me?"
"Dad would say that you're there to study and that I should get used to things here; and he's right. In a couple of year's time, I'm going to be going to college too. We can't be together forever." Virgil shook his head again, "Besides, I don't want to cramp your style; it won't look good, having your little brother hanging around."
"Virgil, I don't know what to do," Scott sighed. "In one breath you're telling me you're not happy at home when I'm not here, but in the next you're telling me you don't want me to come home either!" He smiled and raised his hands, "I'm always here, even if it has to be on the other end of the 'phone. And you can come stay with me anytime you want; you just have to say the word."
"Thanks Scott," the younger man reached for another liqueur. "You think I should finish it, don't you?" he asked pensively.
"With Sofia?" Scott asked. "Only you can decide that," he said. "You need to work out what you're going to do though."
"I don't know what to do," Virgil shrugged his shoulders. "This sounds stupid but I can't believe she'd do this to me; I just can't get my head around it. I thought she really cared about me, but she didn't at all. How can you be so wrong about someone?" he mused. "I always thought I was a good judge of character; that's why I was so sure you guys were wrong about her."
"You are a good judge of character; you've just had a bit of a wobble that's all," Scott told him trying not to sound like he was patronising him. "You said yourself you weren't at your best when she came along."
"I can't believe she hasn't called to check I'm okay," Virgil said miserably. "As far as she knows, I could've crashed the car on the way to Rob's and be dead in a ditch somewhere."
Scott scowled at him, shaking his head, "Don't say things like that."
"It's true though, isn't it?" Virgil sighed, his tone sad and disgruntled. "She really doesn't care at all, otherwise she'd have called, wouldn't she?"
"I know it's hard," Scott sympathised. "But you could do so much better Virg," he suggested carefully.
"You think?" Virgil scoffed. His tone belied his doubt.
"Absolutely! The reason you feel so insecure is that you've gotten too reliant on her. It's all about confidence; girls like confident guys." Scott gave his brother the benefit of his own experience, "There are loads of girls out there that would jump at the chance to have a guy like you, trust me on this okay?"
Virgil smiled at the attempted flattery.
"Look, I know what Sofia's done has hurt you, but it could've been worse."
"Yeah?" Virgil asked, "Remind me of how?"
Scott was hoping he wouldn't have to, and cringed as he tried to think of how to voice his thoughts without actually saying any of it aloud. "Well the way you were talking to her on the 'phone last night, I thought maybe you were about to do something stupid," he replied as tactfully as he could. "At least you found out before you did something you might've regretted."
He tried to save Virgil's dignity by avoiding discussing the specifics.
Virgil only raised his hands to catch his head as it dropped. He squeezed his eyes shut, knowing the following conversation could become painfully embarrassing for the both of them. "What if I did?"
Scott's mouth dropped, he swallowed and tried to recover. "Did what?" he asked, needing confirmation.
"I think you know what," Virgil frowned, bracing himself to look at his brother. "Something stupid."
As soon as their eyes met, Scott sighed and looked away in astonishment. "When?"
"A couple of weeks ago," Virgil admitted awkwardly. He defended his actions immediately, having seen the expression on Scott's face. "She's older, that's one of the things I like… liked about her so much. She treats me like an adult and she expected me to act like an adult too."
Scott frowned at his brother's choice of vocabulary, "Y'know, girls aren't always as innocent as they make out when it comes to this kind of thing; they can be pretty manipulative. Did she pressurise you into anything?"
"No," Virgil shook his head. "No, I wanted to."
Scott hesitated, reminded again of his brother sensitivity; he tried to be tactful in his reply. "But now, you wish you hadn't?"
"No, I can't say that; it felt right at the time." Virgil leant forward, taking another liqueur.
He was surprised how easily this was coming out; he'd expected Scott to ask in one way or another, but he'd also anticipated long silences and awkwardness. As it was, the words flowed and he felt Scott understood what he was saying.
"I don't regret it; it's just now I know what I know, it kind of demeans it all." He ran a hand over his head, "It makes me wonder if it ever meant anything to her."
Scott shook his head, his expression one of sadness. He was still getting over the shock. "I always thought you'd talk to me, when …" he nodded his head, gesturing and not needing to expand further. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit disappointed that you didn't tell me."
"I didn't tell anyone Scott," Virgil finished off the drink in his hands.
"Did you use…"
"Yes!" Virgil cut in quickly. In his mind his father's words played over.
I'm not going to say I approve of that, but at least have the sense to protect yourself.
"So, you're being responsible?" Scott asked warily.
"Yes," Virgil smiled, again his father's words played in his head.
It's important that you're responsible. It's when you start being irresponsible that accidents happen. And we don't want any little accidents.
Virgil laughed to himself and shook his head. "You know, you're so like Dad, it's unbelievable."
"It's not funny Virg, I'm being serious here," Scott objected. "It's a big thing and you need to be aware of all the possibilities; if you're going to continue to do this you have to be responsible and you have to be prepared to face the consequences."
"I am," Virgil assured him. "Besides, there's no chance of me 'being responsible' now is there? Well, not any time soon anyway."
"Does that mean Sofia's a thing of the past?" Scott asked, hopeful that Virgil was not only banishing Sofia but also the awkwardness between them.
"I guess so," Virgil smiled and tried to appear decisive.
"Good," Scott smiled back.
There was a brief moment of quiet, before Scott leaned forward.
"We're never going to let this happen again, okay? Whatever it is, we talk about it. Deal?"
"Deal," Virgil pledged with a nod. "Everything's going wrong at the minute."
"No," Scott shook his head. "Bad things happen in threes; you've had your run of back luck. What else could go wrong?"
"You think all this was down to bad luck?" Virgil shook his head, "How do you figure that?"
"Well, first there was the incident with the computer; that was bad luck." Scott stated, "Then there was the car; that was definitely bad luck and then you were in the wrong time at the wrong place when you saw Sofia; that was bad luck too. That's three," Scott told him certainly. "Trust me, it was just a run of bad luck; you've had your three things go wrong. Thing's will get better now."
Virgil frowned and got up to rinse his mug out, he leant against the sink in contemplation. "Hmm, yeah," he thought aloud. "Okay, I concede the point about the car being bad luck, but Sofia and the computer were bad judgement, nothing to do with luck."
"Come on Virg," Scott shrugged. "The computer was definitely bad luck; what are the odds that you'd knock that glass over and that it'd fall that way? And seeing Sofia with that other guy was just being in the wrong place at the wrong time; that was definitely bad luck."
"Or good luck, depending on how you see it," Virgil raised an eyebrow. His head shot across to the door, as he heard footsteps on the stairs. Glancing at his watch, he looked up to Scott. "It's half five," he said. "That's going to be Dad getting up."
"Dad?" Scott exclaimed, glancing up at the kitchen clock to check for himself. "Here, help me hide these…" He trailed off when he looked inside the tin. "You ate them all!" he exclaimed incredulously. "I told you not to!" he screeched. "Help me put the tin back, grab that chair. Quick!"
"Now that's bad luck Scott." Virgil briefly glanced at the doorway. "You're on your own," he smiled from his place, leant against the sink. "Revenge," he said smugly.
"Revenge?" Scott asked. "Revenge for what?" he frowned. The sounds of his father making his way towards them had Scott hoping from foot to foot; desperately searching the kitchen for a hiding place for the empty tin.
"For whatever you said to Father, to have him feel the need to subject me to an hour long lecture about safe sex tonight," Virgil said from the sink, a grin highlighting features that had been dark of late.
"Virgil," The younger brother's grin widened at Scott's stricken expression as he glanced between the door and his brother. "If Dad finds out you've eaten his hand made, chocolate liqueurs he's going to be equally mad with you."
"Liqueurs?" Virgil grinned, shrugging and pulling a blank expression, he raised his fingers to his ears as if he hadn't heard. "What liqueurs? I don't know anything about any liqueurs; I don't even know wherehe hides them!"
"Why you…" Scott waggled a finger at his brother in disbelief, though secretly he was pleased to see him smile. "You little…" his head snapped up as his father appeared at the door. In a flash, the hands with which he held the tin were behind his back. "Father!" he exclaimed.
"Hmm, Good morning boys," Jeff yawned as he made his way over to the kettle; he flicked the switch and turned to study both his sons. "You're both up early. How are you feeling Virgil?"
"Oh fine Father," Virgil's sickly sweet grin widened even further. "I'm feeling just great." He avoided Scott's hasty eye movements, gesturing for him to collect the tin from behind his back.
"Scott, why are you stood like that?" Jeff frowned at him.
"Oh, err," Scott feigned rubbing his back. "Must've fallen asleep on the couch; I've got a stiff back that's all."
Virgil's incredulous snort drew Jeff's attention and he looked between them suspiciously. "What are you two up to?" he asked.
"Oh nothing Father," Scott assured him. "We were just talking, that's all."
The expression on Scott's face when he thought he'd have to reveal all was more than satisfying and Virgil's laughed at his predicament; he knew Scott would be able to talk his way out of this one easily but it still felt good. Stretching, he cracked his fingers and announced, "I think I'll go get a shower."
"Okay Son," Jeff nodded. As he turned his back to make the coffee, Virgil stealthily walked behind Scott, taking the tin from his hands and concealing until he was out of sight.
He waited in the lounge for Scott to make his excuses and follow. Sure enough a few minutes later, his older brother burst into the room.
Scott heaved a sigh of relief; "You really had me there," he admitted.
"You didn't really think I'd let you face Dad on your own did you?" Virgil grinned, "Come on Scott, you know me better than that." Scott smiled, concluding that yes, he did. "We'll put the tin back later and he'll never know it was us," Virgil suggested.
He paused, looking up to his brother thoughtfully. "For what it's worth I'm sorry, for the way things have been."
Scott followed. "Me too," he agreed with a content smile. "Me too."
In the kitchen, Jeff settled down at the table with his coffee. Leaning forward, he found a very distinctive piece of silver foil and held it up to the light. Recognising the wrapping immediately, he turned to the cupboard, where his secret reserve was housed. With a frown and the paper wrapping still in his hand, he stood on tip-toes and reached a hand to run above the top of the cupboard. He was unsurprised to find a big gap where his tin should have been.
Suddenly everything clicked into place; Virgil's hasty exit, Scott' strange stance and the weird behaviour they'd both engaged in.
He opened his mouth to call them back and quiz them on the missing tin and subsequently absent liqueurs. However, he hesitated and a smile crept onto his features. Maybe he was going soft or maybe this weekend had shaken him up more than he gave it credit for, but for whatever reason he sat back at the table.
He may not have his wife to love anymore, he mused decidedly, but he was grateful for the legacy she left him in their sons. His mother had been right; Valentines was about love but more significantly, it was about realising how important the people you love are and prioritising them above all else.
His sons were his priority; they were more important to him than anything.
When he thought about what he could've lost this weekend, suddenly chocolate liqueurs didn't seem all that important...
Happy Valentines Day Everyone!
A/N: Thank you to everyone who has given me feedback, in one way or another, for this piece of writing. I appreciate you taking the time to let me knowyour thoughts about my writing. Special thanks to Agent Five for confirming my medical facts were viable and MCJ for her support, inspiration and invaluable help!