Welcome, once again, into the madness I like to write! This is a sequel to 'Back to Basics', and I'm afraid it looks to be another long multi chapter. In which case, I most definitely need and appreciate your comments. All feedback welcome, and it's nice to connect with readers!
Usual disclaimers apply, meaning I'm no closer to owning the Tracy boys, or the Supernatural plots, than I am to landing on the moon.
I did have one anonymous review stating I had followed the plots to Supernatural. I would like to once more stress - as I did for Back to Basics - that I am following the plot to Supernatural, but doing it with the Tracy characters. I lay no claim to the plot lines (please, anonymous see above???) although I frequently add my own bits and change those that don't work for my purposes.
Once more I ask you to suspend belief and let your imagination take flight. As always, and most importantly, enjoy!
It'd only been two weeks.
They'd changed. Not much, not to the untrained eye, but Alan could see it. Subtlety had never been the twelve year olds strong point, but he'd grown up surrounded by his brothers and any change in them struck a discordant chord on his subconscious.
Their hair hadn't changed, their faces, eyes, hands, anything Alan could remember remained the same, except … Scott rarely smiled, Virgil's hands were still, John's books were closed and Gordon hadn't found an excuse to take him swimming. Silly things, little things. Things that made up such a huge part of his brother's lives and Alan couldn't help but feel responsible for their absence. It was, after all, he that had had the vision that had left the Tracy brothers wandering America in search of a father that always seemed to be one step ahead of them.
Alan was anxious to see his Dad. Any moment of time not spent travelling seemed to echo before him, stretching endlessly while Jeff Tracy moved further away, leaving Alan impatient to get going again. He missed him badly, was frightened for him. Alan wanted very much for that deep, gravely voice to tell him everything was going to be all right.
It had only been two weeks, although it seemed far longer.
The beat up SUV they travelled in seemed like home now, the long stretch of road their back garden, a never ending thread of tarmac that pulled them through states and towns, scenery flashing by in monotonous greys and greens that lulled Alan to sleep, despite his best efforts. In sleep came dreams.
He dreamt of the fire often. Sudden flashes of red and orange woke him at night, leaving the impression of heat on his face and a fear that held him pinned. Long moments of silent panic followed, sleep elusive and unwelcome. So far, Alan had managed to keep these sporadic occurrences from his brothers. Scott thought the upheaval and days spent travelling induced the occasional early waking and restlessness and Alan was content to let him. Falling asleep became something to dread, and sleeping in the car was a risk Alan wasn't prepared to take.
However, his body demanded sleep all the same and wedged between John and Gordon, warm and secure, Alan nodded off.
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 …
The room chilled with an audible snap. Alan's breath hung before him in a frozen cloud, the flames solidified. Curious, terrified, Alan reached out a trembling hand and brushed his fingertips against the smooth, polished surface of the fire. It felt like ice.
As if activated by his touch, the room moved. The ground shuddered, the walls shook, he was heading for the ceiling or it was falling towards him, the flames parted and he could see Ruddy's face. Alan expected to see pain or suffering, some sign beyond the grave of his father's friends' torment, but instead Ruddy smiled slowly, as chilling as the deadened room surrounding them.
Before, Ruddy had told Alan to run, but here he remained silent. Anxious, Alan remembered the shadow man, the thing Scott had called a demon and he spun to find it emerging from the wall, seeping through the frozen flames. It wore Rudolph Meller's face and Alan screamed.
"Alan! What is it?"
Alan came to with a surge, like a diver coming up for air. Gordon held one wrist and knee, John his shoulders.
"Alan!" Scott demanded again, twisting in the front passenger seat, Virgil checking over his shoulder swiftly despite the heavy traffic on the road.
"I'm okay," Alan breathlessly rushed to assure his brothers. "I was dreaming."
"What of?" John asked.
Gordon squeezed his knee before letting go. "That was some awakening, Sprout."
Alan's mind rushed. His brothers knew everything about him, all about his freaky powers and they'd shared close accommodation for the last few weeks. Alan felt them closing in on him, pressing too close and he needed some small measure of privacy, something that was his alone. Dreams, he felt, should at least be your own property.
"You know that one when you think you're falling?" he asked, watching each of the other four relax, not regretting the lie. His brothers were too tense as it was.
"You need to lay off the cheese, man," Gordon advised him. Virgil chuckled from the driver's seat and even Scott's lips twitched. John remained emotionless and Alan belatedly remembered the twenty-two year olds particular talent. The boy shot a guilty glance at the blond from under his eyelashes, but John didn't appear to want to out him. Alan couldn't tell if he knew he was lying or not, quickly ducking his head again as John glanced at him.
"Where are we?" Alan asked, anxious to divert the focus from him.
"We reached Colorado a couple of hours ago," Virgil replied.
Alan sat up straighter. "Are we there?"
John had searched the co-ordinates their father had left in the journal, finding Blackwater Ridge in Lost Creek and little else. No vengeful spirits, no sudden, unexplained deaths, no history of the supernatural. If Jeff Tracy had been heading here, John concluded, it was for a reason outside the hunting world.
"Just passed the sign," Scott replied now.
Alan smiled, allowing hope to flare. Dad could be waiting for them just around the corner. He ignored the little itch at the back of his mind that told him he was going to be disappointed. It didn't have to be precognition, he told himself. It could just be his subconscious protecting him with caution.
John threw cold water on his enthusiasm, his voice soft with regret. "I can't find Dad."
Alan shot him a glare, wondering if he had caught his thoughts, but Gordon nodded as well.
"I can't translocate to him, either," he admitted.
Scott nodded, but focused elsewhere. "John, what can you pick up?"
"Mostly the same thing, for once," John smiled. It was easier to block out group thoughts, less of a babble, words repeated over and over again. A little monotonous, perhaps, but less of an effort to ignore. "Grizzly's."
"Bears?" Virgil queried.
"S'what I'm getting," John agreed, slipping unknowingly into the local speech pattern. It was a side effect of tapping into so many minds at once, and it never lasted long, but it was always amusing to hear the crisply correct Tracy slurring like an old time miner. Scott turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised in amusement, missing what Gordon saw.
"Ranger's office," the red head pointed out.
Virgil wordlessly pulled in and the brothers gratefully exited the vehicle, stretching stiff muscles. Alan didn't move, reluctant to leave the warmth of the car and watching his brother's shiver slightly in the chilled air of Colorado.
"C'mon, kid, shake a leg," Scott called.
Alan stuck his leg out the car, wiggled it and retreated inside once more. Gordon roared with laughter.
"Funny," Scott sighed sourly, while Gordon continued to chuckle. "Alan, move."
"Why are we staying here?" Alan grumbled, joining the others and allowing Virgil to lock the car. "Can't we just keep going, find Dad?"
Scott shut his eyes in his time-honoured method of keeping calm and even Virgil pinched the bridge of his nose, a sure sign he was nearing the end of his tether. Alan was about to relent, feeling a little guilty, but his longing for his Dad overruled. He scowled, crossing his arms and drawing on his stubbornness.
"Alan, this is the only lead we've got," Scott told him, opening his eyes again.
"It isn't a lead! Dad's not here," Alan told him belligerently. "Please, Scott, can't we just go?"
Scott eyed his baby brother. Alan was pale, trembling, shadows had gathered beneath his eyes and he was obviously out of sorts. Alan wasn't naturally a whiner, although he was known for expressing his opinion. Still, Scott issued a red alert. Alan was upset, possibly falling ill and Scott's anger drained away into sympathy. He moved forward to wrap an arm around Alan's shoulders.
"Go where?" he asked, softly. "Alan, we're running blind here. There is nowhere else to go."
Alan bit his lip, twisting away from Scott's comforting embrace. He didn't want Scott to try to make things better, he wanted his Dad, but he was met with Virgil instead.
"Dad wanted us to be here," he reminded the boy, reaching out to cup Alan's neck, running his thumb soothingly against the pulse. Alan's dark blue eyes locked onto his brother's soft brown ones, falling under the familiar spell. "There's always a reason, Allie, we just can't see it yet."
"He could be getting away," Alan mumbled.
"Or he could have left us a message here. Give this place a chance, all right?"
Alan nodded miserably, allowing Virgil to tug him into a quick hug.
"Why don't I go scouting for a motel?" John offered quietly.
"Can I come?" Alan asked morosely.
John gestured with a jerk of his head and the two blonds left.
"Virge," Gordon shook his head, "when, exactly, did you train as a Jedi master? Seriously, dude? Mind control."
The mechanic smiled. "Just call me Darth Virgil."
"You need to teach me how to do that," Scott sighed, ignoring his brother's banter. "Some day's I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere with him."
Virgil grimaced. "You're the father figure, Scott. He's going to test you more than the rest of us."
"It's what you get for operating under Dad's authority," Gordon agreed.
Alan followed John across the road. It wasn't busy, but in the distance a car was approaching in each direction. They could cross with time to spare, but John hurried anyway. Alan, still reluctant to be in the town, dawdled mutinously. Half way across, the wind blew up, sending dust stinging into Alan's eyes. He rubbed at them, blinking away the irritation. Dropping his hand …
Alan opened his eyes to darkness.
He glanced around, trying to find something his senses could latch onto, seeing nothing. He could hear the sound of his own ragged breathing, exaggerated in the stillness. He felt his heartbeat quicken, and he kept turning, desperate for sight, his eyes unnaturally wide and straining to make shapes out of the emptiness. His balance compromised with the lack of vision, Alan's turning led to toppling and he knocked into something solid. It swung gently, bouncing back into him, obviously hanging from something. Alan noticed it was heavy, and a thick smell threatened to choke him, causing him to gag. He spread one hand over the thing, terrified to discover what it could be but needing to know. It was big; there was cloth and sticky wetness and it gave no warmth. Alan's hands shook, his throat closing in fear as something ended in a wet stump.
Faint, distant, not reaching where he stood but causing Alan to blink as his eyes watered after the long absence. The thing beneath his hands vanished into darkness. Alan could see nothing where it had previously been, his hand moved through unobstructed air. Drawn to the light, he took a cautious step forward. Something moved in that distant glow; tall, superhumanly fast and Alan spun to try to get another glimpse of it. He could see no further in the pitch like area. As he came full circle, he ended suddenly face to face with a man. Jumping back, Alan cried out in alarm.
The man held the light, a lantern, shuttered and dim, but casting enough of a glow for Alan to make out details. He wore a hooded sweater beneath his jacket, the material over his head combining with the lantern to cast dark circles around his eyes. The lantern highlighted his nose, cheekbones and lips, leaving his other features steeped in shadow. He stared, blood on his face, his lips pressed into a thin line, heavy brows drawn together.
Alan gulped and his eyes travelled unwillingly over the man's clothes. Shining wetly on his jacket was a black stain Alan's mind identified as fresh blood, rips running through it and him. Clumps of material hung and Alan's stomach churned, convinced he could see parts of the man's torso stripped as well.
He lifted his eyes back to the man's face.
"What do you want?" he asked, his voice a shadow of itself, a frightened whisper.
The man said nothing, holding Alan's gaze. Then, slowly, deliberately, he lowered his eyes to Alan's hand. Alan followed his stare and lifted it shaking, turning it palm up.
Blood, rusty and flaking, flecked his fingers, caked in his cuticles. Swallowing thickly, Alan lifted his eyes once more. The man disappeared, taking the light with him and Alan was left alone in darkness, a wild thing running loose around him and a dead man's blood on his hands.
Scott ran his hand through his hair. "He knows I'm not being a hard arse for fun, right?"
"He knows," Virgil assured him. "Ultimately, it's you he'll turn to when he's ready."
"I don't like that boundary between us," Scott admitted.
"Not many parents do," Virgil agreed. "But for now you just have to wait it out."
Scott sighed and Gordon clapped him on the shoulder.
"Alan loves you, Scott. He's just being a kid," he said seriously. Scott smiled gratefully and nodded.
"I know. I think he might be getting a cold or –"
The squeal of tires cut through the air, a car horn blasting, then another. It was enough to send the Tracy boys running towards the sound.
John turned to say something to Alan, only to find him standing in the middle of the road, shock still, a blue car approaching.
"Alan!" John cried, dashing back, waving his arms at the oncoming vehicle. The driver applied his breaks, realising the two weren't going to get out of his way, twisting the wheel and veering into the other lane. The driver of the other car swerved around him, blasting its horn before stopping also.
John ignored them, reaching Alan and tugging him to the ground, suddenly weak with fear, panic and relief. Alan gasped, coming out of whatever trance he'd been caught up in, fighting John off wildly and the two drivers approached. Passers-by gathered with them, drawn by the commotion.
John wrapped both arms around the twelve year old as he sat, swinging one leg over both of Alan's in a futile attempt to restrict his movements. The onlookers were starting to talk and John picked up their distress as they wondered what he was doing to the boy. Suspecting his brother was suffering his usual memory block, John acted fast. He needed to stop Alan from saying anything that might cause more suspicion.
"It's okay, kiddo, I got you," John whispered, pressing Alan's face against his shoulder.
Alan struggled against him, blind with panic, his breathing wild, but John was stronger, holding the boy tight and hating himself for it. He was going to leave bruises on his kid brother's skin, he was sure.
A woman knelt by him. "What are you doing? Let him go!"
She began to try to prise Alan from him, causing the boy to cry out in panic, heightening his fear and fuelling his struggles.
"He's my brother," John snapped. "Get off him."
"What the hell's wrong with him?" the driver of the blue car demanded, angry with fright.
"Epileptic," John answered curtly, gratefully seeing his brothers running for him.
"Jesus, is he fitting?" the woman from the second car asked hysterically.
"Just give him a moment, he'll be fine," John insisted from between his teeth, attempting to find his little brother's mind, thinking to speak to him that way and assist in bringing his memory back.
"Ain't you s'posed to lay 'im flat?" the man asked.
"I've done this before," John replied coldly. "Could you just give us some space?"
"John!" Scott dropped by his side. "What happened?"
"He had one of his fits in the middle of the road," John explained, maintaining his tight grip on Alan. "He's okay; he just needs to calm down."
John locked eyes with his eldest brother, concentrating hard. Keep it simple, he reminded himself.
The word flooded Scott's mind, and for a moment he reeled with the tidal wave of thought John had put behind it. But not for nothing was Scott a decorated Captain of the Air Force and he processed the information John had given him and was acting before his equilibrium had returned. His mind clung to the one word. Fit. John had told everyone Alan was epileptic.
"John, talk to him," he instructed. "Virgil, move these people back. Gordon, help me hold him."
The Tracy's sprung into action, the tiny crowd moving under a combination of Virgil's persuasive voice and physical presence, gentle words spoken even as he spread his arms and shepherded them away. Gordon gripped Alan's wrists, restraining him with as little force as possible, stroking his hands and adding his voice to John's. Scott took off his jacket, wrapping it around his little brother and taking the boy into his own arms. No longer forced to blind himself against John's shoulder, Alan relaxed a little, blinking up at the three faces who stared down with worry. Scott lifted one hand to stroke Alan's hair, speaking into the child's ear.
"Easy now, Sprout. Come on back to us. You're all right, just breathe."
Alan struggled for a moment to think of the right name, before crying out.
"Scott!" he wailed, bursting into tears.