Hey, back again! Just a few mentions and warnings before we begin with this.
First off, credit goes to Ryuuza Kochou for inspiring this with her wonderful 'Psychics' and brilliant 'Roadtrips Along The Pentagram'. Once I'd read them, the idea of – lets call a spade a spade here - copying them wouldn't leave me alone and by the time I'd looked up, I'd written nearly two chapters.
Credit also to the mate who swears she doesn't think I'm crackers, but has her fingers crossed behind her back, for having a lookthrough anyway and telling me to post.
Warning time. I have played with the ages. Don't email me and tell me I don't have them right, cos this I know. It's an AU and we're suspending our belief for the duration of the story. Thanks. I'm also a little sketchy on who came first, Virgil or John, and I'm gonna go with Virgil. After all, he's Scott's go to guy and I think that stems from Scott having no one else while Jeff was grieving for his wife.
Um, I think that's it … Oh yeah – ENJOY!
Alan Tracy hated being in the house alone. It probably stemmed from growing up in a noisy, brother-infested home, he reflected. The youngest of five, twelve-year-old Alan had rarely found himself in solitude, but, one by one, his brothers had found careers and ambitions which frequently resulted in their leaving the family home for weeks at a time, and his father, the hard working head of the fantastically successful Tracy Industries, hadn't lessened his workload in the slightest.
Four days ago, John, Alan's third oldest brother, had left the house for an 'unmissable' lecture on some astronomical phenomenon that would take him away for at least ten days, including travelling time. As the lecture coincided with the other Tracy's own pursuits, this resulted in leaving Alan in the sole care of his father.
Jefferson Tracy wasn't an uncaring parent, he had re-arranged meetings, briefings and paperwork in order to be home at six each night, unlike his usual nine, until one of his other boys returned and he shut out all thoughts of business until Alan went to bed, ensuring each night that his youngest held his undivided attention. This was a rare treat for Alan, since Jeff's business had begun to boom shortly before his birth and the entrepreneur hadn't been able to take much time off since. Apart from when his wife had died, naturally, staying home to care for his sons, little Alan only six months old and the care of the business left with his friend and partner, Rudolph Meller.
Alan glanced at the clock again. Nearly seven and no word. It didn't surprise him that his dad had gotten caught up at work, he'd been pleased that it hadn't happened before now, but he was a little upset he hadn't contacted him. Jeff Tracy was nothing if not considerate. No-one had come to the house, either, the realisation of which caused butterflies to start their nauseous dance in Alan's stomach. Dad knew he was alone and if he'd been caught at work, he'd have sent someone over to keep an eye on his son. He wasn't irresponsible, Jeff knew where his priorities had to lie.
Alan glanced at the clock once more. He'd give him until half seven before he called. He wasn't a little kid anymore, he didn't need babysitting and he knew how to operate a microwave. He could cook soup on the stove and toast bread, he wasn't going to starve if Dad didn't get home in time for dinner. He knew to do his homework, to keep the telly to a dull roar and he could make himself go to bed at the correct time. Dad could rely on him.
Didn't mean Alan had to like being on his own in the large house.
Shivering, Alan rose to grab a hoodie from the back of the couch where he'd tossed it casually last night and glanced around the quiet room. Impulsively, he darted forward to turn the telly on just to drown out the silence. The brightly coloured, fast motion cartoon did nothing to diminish the dark noiselessness of his home, and worrying in earnest, Alan shivered again. It was getting near the mark.
Unable to sit still until his self imposed panic time, Alan spent the minutes banishing the darkness from his home, dashing from one room to another and lighting each of them. Were his father to return now, the house would seem like a welcoming beacon of light and warmth in the otherwise cold and wet evening.
Alan reached his fathers study. This was off limits ordinarily, a place to be summoned to only, never a playroom, but tonight Alan was drawn to it. He slid behind his dad's desk, shifting in the worn, comfy leather of the chair and checked his watch. Seven thirty.
With a small sense of trepidation, Alan reached for the vidphone and hit the button that would connect him to his dad. He hesitated, but the persistent shiver that travelled his spine gave him concern enough to punch in the code that would allow him to bypass his father's secretary and put him directly through to Jeff's office. Alan bit his lip as the transmission began. His dad had stressed he was only to use this line in emergencies, not when he wanted to ask him a question and couldn't circumnavigate Mrs Ellings.
Alan rubbed his cold hands together. He just couldn't seem to get warm tonight, not since he had stepped into his home. The screen in front of him lit up and the warm face of Rudolph 'Ruddy' Meller smiled back at him.
"Alan," he said quietly. "What a pleasant surprise."
Ruddy had known most of the Tracy boy's since birth and had become a surrogate uncle to them. Warm but quiet, nothing seemed to surprise him and he had the best poker face Alan knew. Even Gordon wasn't as good as effecting such a bland, if agreeable, expression. Alan and Gordon had once theorised that if you set his foot alight, he'd show nothing more than a mild curiosity.
"Hi, Ruddy," Alan said, squirming a little. "Is my Dad there?"
"Jeff left over an hour ago, Alan," Ruddy replied gently.
"Oh," Alan said, at a loss for words. "Well, thanks."
"I'm sure he's just stuck in traffic," Ruddy assured the boy.
Alan smiled. "Yeah," he agreed. Suddenly he wanted nothing more than to end the call. "Bye."
Ruddy stopped him. "Alan?"
"I won't tell Jeff you used this line."
"Oh," Alan said again. "Yeah. Thanks, Ruddy."
With a sigh of relief, Alan shut off the vidphone and stared around the room. It was at once familiar and strange, an essence of his Dad, but with a removed feeling of the workplace attached to it. Still, it was as close to Dad as he was getting at the moment, and padding in his socked feet to his own room, Alan hauled his duvet back to his Dad's study. Throwing it over himself, Alan curled up in his Dad's spacious leather chair, behind his Dad's vast desk and stared at the room again, waiting.
When Alan jerked awake, the first thing he did was check the time. Nearly ten. He hadn't been asleep that long, which was hardly surprising. His Dad's chair, while comfortable, had been built with work in mind, not sleep. Alan got up, stretching, moving out of the familiar/surreal room and beginning his search for his Dad.
Alan knew it was pointless. If his Dad had come home, the first thing he would have done would have been to find his son. Still, Alan couldn't stop himself. Shouting for his Dad as he descended the stairs, Alan almost laughed at himself. He was calling for someone who wasn't there only to chase away the silent shadows that continued to plague him. Still bundled in his duvet, something he only did when he was ill, Alan continued down the winding staircase. His journey became slightly more unorthodox when his foot caught on the corner of the duvet and the material slipped on the wooden board of the stairs. With a muffled thump, Alan landed at the bottom.
Fire had a voice.
It whispered. It could roar. And, as Alan was learning, it could scream. He stared in horror around the room, the walls dripping with an almost liquid flame, its source the ceiling. Alan slowly lifted his head, reluctant to look, but unable to avert his gaze. He knew what awaited him. Alan uttered a startled gasp of shock and horror and …
It was dark out, cold. The pavement glistened with recent rain, the air smelled of thunder. Ozone, his mind supplied. Glancing heavenwards, Alan frowned. The earlier rain clouds had been swept away, leaving only wispy counterparts hanging in their wake, certainly not thunderstorms. The stars glittered between them, frozen in the dark sky, watching with icy distance the actions of man.
Alan shivered, drawing his coat about him tighter. It was too big for him, borrowed from a much taller brother, rock salt bullets in the pockets, Alan knew, should he care to look. His attention moved back to his brothers, standing beside him. John and Scott flanked him, Virgil and Gordon on their other sides, each man's gaze riveted on the woman who stood on the bridge's railing. Her white dress fluttered in a breeze only she could feel, her dark hair lifting slightly also as she stared back. With an almost casual grace, she turned away and let her body fall forward.
Each and every Tracy took a step forward, as if to catch her, pull her back. Alan was aware of Scott saying something, of Virgil replying with a shake of his head, but he ignored them, his attention focused on the spot he'd last seen her, his mind conjuring a face, a man, someone she had known, he felt. He was dead, Alan was sure of it, although how he could have known this stranger's fate was beyond him. He joined his brothers at the spot the woman had disappeared, slower than the rest, knowing before they did what they'd find.
Nothing. Not a glimpse of the white figure appeared in the water below. Alan had known that, because she hadn't really been there in the first place. Not tonight, at least. She was long since gone. The smell was still strong however, the cold still present and once more Alan hugged himself. He found himself turning towards a sudden, bright light and …
He was now warmer, without the jacket, staring at a wall in a motel room. The wall was covered in drawings and scratchy notes, highlighted in red marker pen. Pages had been ripped from books and pinned up also, printouts from a computer accompanying them. Alan found he couldn't read the words, his attention wouldn't focus, as if his mind kept sliding from them. He was aware of something else, a name … J? Jerry?... Jerico? And a presence, absent now, but having left its stamp on the room and its contents.
Alan opened his eyes, the word dying on his lips, surprised to find daylight streaming in the misted glass pane of the front door. Slowly he uncurled himself from his uncomfortable position within the duvet, wondering if he'd been waiting for his Dad at the bottom of the stairs as he had done when he was younger and fallen asleep. The pain in his head and hip, startled into life at the movement, reminded Alan he'd fallen and he peeled away his jeans to inspect the damage.
A large, dark bruise greeted him, and Alan frowned for a moment, until his sluggish mind connected with the weight in his pocket. Slipping his hand in, he retrieved the broken remains of his cell phone. Frowning and rubbing at his temple in an effort to appease his headache, Alan sighed. He glanced at his watch, his eyes widening in surprise. It was after eight. Frighteningly, he'd been unconscious for ten hours.
His father's firm, reassuring voice flooded his mind as he recalled the words he'd heard so often regarding head injuries. Ten hours was a long time to be out, he'd most likely given himself concussion.
Hospital, he told himself, but his resolve wavered. Dad still hadn't come home, and he hadn't sent anyone. If Jeff Tracy knew he wasn't going to get to his son, he'd have made arrangements. Which led Alan to believe Dad hadn't known he wasn't going to make it home.
Thoughts of his Dad lying in a hospital bed filled him with panic, but the rational voice in his head reminded him all the local hospitals knew Jeff Tracy and knew to contact his sons in an emergency. Alan therefore had a couple of options.
He could go upstairs and contact his brothers or he could contact Ruddy again. Giving the treacherous stairs a sour glance, Alan climbed unsteadily to his feet and made his way back to his father's study, considering his next move.
It was Friday. John's lecture began today and went through until Monday, he would have turned off his phone for the whole weekend to allow himself some peace. Scott was definitely out of reach also. The air force had him locked away in secrecy, testing some new aircraft they'd been excited about.
Virgil was similarly holed up, head no doubt stuck in an engine. He, at least, could carry his phone with him and Alan typed in the number swiftly. Virgil's recording, voice only, sprang into life and Alan, disappointed, swiftly told his brother that their Dad wasn't home, and that he didn't know what to do, since Jeff hadn't sent anyone.
"And my phones broken," Alan added softly. He didn't mention the colossal headache he nursed, there was no need to worry his brother unnecessarily. "I'm going to try Gordon now," he signed off.
Once more, Alan got the recorded message. Frustrated, Alan explained the situation again, adding that he'd tried Virgil and couldn't get him. "I guess I'll try John," he mumbled and disconnected.
As expected, John's phone went straight to message. Without bothering to leave one, Alan turned off the recording of his brother with a sigh. Tears prickled at his eyes and he sniffed them back, determined he wasn't going to cry. He had one last number to try, after all.
Again using the emergency line – and if this didn't count as one, Alan didn't know what did – Alan almost wept with relief when Ruddy answered in person.
"Alan?" the calm, controlled manner was gone in an instant, Ruddy's eyes widening in concern. "What happened?"
Alan frowned. How on earth did Ruddy guess …
"Alan, answer me! Where does that blood come from?"
"Blood?" Alan replied dumbly.
"Alan, you've got blood caked to the side of your face!" Ruddy's customary cool had blown. "Talk to me!"
"I fell down the stairs," Alan whimpered, feeling every inch the fool. "I'm fine."
"Where's your father?"
"I don't know. He didn't come home and he hasn't sent anyone."
Ruddy wrenched his control back from the brink. "I'm on my way," he said calmly. "Stay where you are and don't go to sleep."
"I'm not tired," Alan told him, surprised and confused.
Ruddy sighed with a tired smile. "That's good news, Champ. I'll be there soon."
Alan got up from the chair and made his way to the bathroom. He jumped when he caught sight of his reflection. Dark smudges stood out sharply from beneath his huge eyes, the left side of his face covered in rivulets of flaking dried blood. His skin was ghostly pale and the image reminded him of the strange dream he'd had while unconscious. The woman who'd fallen from the bridge echoed in his memory, ghostly fingers trailing ice across the tight skin of his shoulders.
Shaking the dream from him, Alan set about cleaning himself up. He found the source of the blood along his hairline at his temple, a small, shallow cut that had bled profusely. Alan could feel his pulse beat in time with the headache that emerged from the area. His gaze found the shower and suddenly all Alan wanted was to climb in.
Once he was clean and dressed in fresh clothes, Alan felt better and he retreated back to his father's study to wait. Knowing Ruddy was on his way was doing a lot to settle his nerves. He heard the door open, the man's voice calling his name even as his footsteps pounded up the stairs.
Ruddy opened the door, striding over to the boy, dropping car keys and wallet on the desk. "Alan," he began, obviously concerned. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah," Alan replied. "I'm fine."
Alan was about to deny it when Ruddy stiffened. With an almost inhuman scream, Ruddy was torn off his feet, hitting the ceiling hard enough to knock plaster dust to the floor and Alan cried out in alarm. Within seconds, with a whoosh of heat, Ruddy was ablaze and Alan, panicking and crying, ran for the fire extinguisher, only to find his way blocked as the fire spread down the walls, liquid heat beating him back.
It was if he was in a dream. Alan slowly lifted his head, reluctant to look, but unable to avert his gaze. He knew what awaited him. Alan uttered a startled gasp of shock and horror and watched as Ruddy tried to speak.
Ruddy's face was now covered with the terrible fire and Alan scanned the room once more, desperately trying to find something to help. He screamed in terror as a black figure emerged from the wall flames, eyes burning with the same colour as it moved towards Alan.
Instinctively scooping Ruddy's wallet from the desk, along with his ruined phone, Alan fled the burning study. He flew down the stairs, wrenched open the door and sped down the drive. Despite it being a Saturday, the world was empty. The Tracy's lived in a quiet area, the house alone and surrounded by grounds and a high wall. Emerging from the gates, Alan didn't think about his destination, his feet taking him anywhere as long as it was away.
Alan ran through suburbs, heading for the city centre and its bus station. He wasn't thinking at this point, acting on instinct only and it was only half an hour later, exhausted and limping, that Alan slowed, hoping that the wallet he held contained cash. Taking a moment to organise his scattered thoughts, Alan scanned the time table and opened the wallet, closing his eyes in relief when several fifty dollar bills stared back at him. Opening his eyes, the first destination caught his gaze. Boston.
John was in Boston.