Disclaimer: It's been our sad luck that we never gained ownership of the TBs, IR, or the Tracys during the time we've been writing this story.

A/N: Okay, this one is a bit long. First, Mystikstorm, thank you so much for helping me finish this story. And for dealing with me when I was being stubborn or emotional. Love ya! Criminally Charmed, thank you for all your wonderful support and for letting us use Rocket Man in this update. Love ya! Angel-Sue76, thank you for all your support and chats. Never forget that she's watching over us. Love ya! Loopstagirl, Math Girl, Vulcangirl1983, Silver Bee, Kate Maxwell, and diff-r-ent-1, huge thanks to each of you for your continued support in reading and reviewing this story. To everyone else who read the story, added it to your alert or favorite list, if you liked it, please review and thanks for reading.

Chapter 25

He tried to get a few more moments of sleep but something niggled at him until he awakened a bit more. The whispered question he heard made no sense to him. "When are my boys going to remember to knock on my bedroom door before coming in? He felt his hand rise and fall in a rhythmic pattern. A pattern that hadn't been like the one he felt last night as he placed his hand on Virgil's chest.

Virgil glanced down at his father's hand when he felt it twitch. A small grin tugged at the corners of his mouth when Jeff momentarily grasped Virgil's t-shirt. It was as if he was reassuring himself that his son was safe and within his reach.

Seeing his brother's grin, John whispered, "What?"

"He's waking up, I think."

John caught the sudden look of what appeared to be fear or panic on his brother's face. He hurriedly whispered some last moment advice. "Calm down. Just let him say what he's gotta say. I'm right here if you need me."

Jeff sat up and looked at Virgil. "Virgil?"

Glancing at his eldest blond brother, Virgil took a calming breath. He refocused his attention on his father. "Yeah, Dad?"

Jeff looked over at John then back at Virgil. "Who were you talking to?"

John had closed his eyes before Jeff had looked over at him. Pulling Scott's hand closer to his chest, he slowly drifted back to sleep. For his part, Scott merely tightened his grasp on his brother's hand.

"Um, I was talking to myself, Dad. I didn't want to wake anyone." Shifting awkwardly, he tried to get comfortable as well as work off a little of the nervous energy that was building up.

Worried that Virgil might be running a fever and hallucinating like John had, he moved his hand up to feel his son's forehead. "How are you feeling? You don't feel like you're running a fever. Maybe I should get Brains…oh hell; I can take your temperature myself." He stood up and strode over to the cabinet that held the thermometer. Grabbing it, he turned back to see a fleeting smile cross his son's face. "What?"

"Dad, I don't think I'm running a fever. I just spent…How many days was I in the hospital?"

Still holding the thermometer, he walked back to Virgil's bedside. "You were there for two days before Scott managed to get the doctor to release you into our care." He glanced at the thermometer in his hand then raised his gaze to meet his son's. "Humor me, will you?"

He shrugged his shoulders half-heartedly. "Go ahead." He held himself still when the cool tip of the aural thermometer touched his ear. Almost instantaneously, the device beeped. "Well?"

Jeff tossed the probe cover into the wastebasket and set the thermometer down on the table next to Virgil's bed. "99.0." He played with the cup on the table for a few moments. He was beginning to feel nervous like he had when he wanted to have that talk with John. "What is it about my boys that make me so nervous just to talk to them?"

The Tracy patriarch wasn't the only one experiencing a case of nerves. Virgil was fighting the impulse to jump out of his bed and run to…Well, he wouldn't care where as long as it wasn't here. Even having John in the room with him wasn't calming him down. Casting a glance at his elder brother, he frowned. "He's gone to sleep. I can't believe he's fallen asleep again. So much for him being right there if I needed him. I wonder if I could hit him with the thermometer before Dad could stop me." With his thoughts focused within, he didn't realize that his father was speaking to him.

"Virgil?" Placing a hand on his son's shoulder, he lightly shook him. "Son, are you okay?"

Having felt the slight shake, Virgil startled just a bit. "I'm sorry." He shifted his gaze back to his father after frowning at his brother once more. "Oh, yeah, I'm fine." He noticed his father's fidgeting and somehow realized that the conversation John had warned him about was drawing closer. Hoping to forestall the inevitable, he forced himself to yawn. "Just a little tired."

Normally, Jeff could read his sons' expressions. "I thought I could but I guess John has put that theory to rest. I'm sure that they're better at hiding what they really think or feel when it comes to their emotions. Lucy, I didn't do too great a job with teaching them to be open with how they feel. They watched me hide what I truly felt for so long that they thought that was the way to handle their emotions."

"You did hide for so long, Jeff, but the time for hiding is over. Talk to him now before the others wake."

The soft scent of lilacs tickled at his nose just as he felt a slight pressure on his shoulder. "Okay, Lucy, okay. I'll talk to him."

Virgil glanced up at his dad and was surprised to see the small smile playing on his lips. "Dad?"

"Yes, Virgil?"

"Are you okay? You seemed a bit…A bit distracted, I guess."

"I'm fine. I know that you're tired but I really would like to continue the conversation that we started just before the rescue. "

"Dad, I'm really not feeling up to this. Can we talk another day?"

"Oh, no, you don't, Virgil. John and I have both reassured you that everything is going to work out. Now, you listen to what you're dad has to say whilst he's still around to say it. If you don't do it now, then everything you wanted to say to him or even hear him say to you will be lost." To give her charge comfort, she placed her hand over his heart.

Hesitant yet well aware that he needed to talk with his son, Jeff pressed on. "I know that you're still recovering from your injuries and such but I don't want to put this off any longer." He sat down and took a deep breath. "Virgil, I owe you an apology but I know that no words that I say now can ever change the pain that I put you through. I wasn't the father to you that I was to your brothers. Even then, I wasn't much of a father to them either after your mother died. I failed each of my sons in so many ways but it was you who suffered the worst." Steeling himself, he raised his gaze to look at his middle son. "A parent should never do what I did to you. I blatantly ignored you and your talents because I was too weak to face what so reminded me of your mother."

Virgil stared at his father for a moment before he closed his eyes. The pain of his father's rejection and denial flared within his heart. "I only wanted you to love me because I am your son." Pain gave way to anger and he railed against his father. "I was seven-years-old and you turned away from me. Every time I tried to reach out to you, you walked away from me." He pushed himself to a sitting position. "Grandma tried to reassure me that once you were finished grieving for Mom that you'd be the dad I'd always known."

Several tears coursed their way down his face. "But you didn't. You tried to take everything from me. Had it not been for Grandma allowing me to play the piano whilst you were at work or out-of-town, I'd have lost one of two things that Mom taught me. One of two things that gave me a sense of peace." Impatiently, he wiped at the tears that he couldn't hold back. "Scotty and John gave me the encouragement to continue with my artwork. It was my brothers who hugged me when you turned from me. They were the ones who attended all the recitals and concerts I performed in. They did it because you couldn't be bothered. They did it because it didn't matter to them that I had the same hair color as Mom. It didn't matter that I resembled Mom the most. They did it because they weren't afraid or selfish enough to pretend that I didn't exist.

Do you know how much it hurt me every time you failed to show at something I was good at? You always made time to go to any sporting events that they were involved in but I wasn't worth the trouble."

His anger deflated as suddenly as it had risen and he fell back against his pillow. "Why didn't you love me like Scotty, Johnny, Gordy, and Allie? What did I do?" His words sounding much like those of the lost little seven-year-old boy he had been. Struggling to stifle the sobs that threatened to break free, he turned his face against his pillow. Away from his father.

Scott woke to the sound of his brother crying but before he could do anything, John tightened his hold on Scott's hand. "Don't, Scotty, they need this. For Virgil's sake close your eyes and pretend to be asleep."

On the other side of the room, Gordon also woke to the sound of Virgil crying. He looked over at his brother, ready to kick someone's ass for making his big brother cry. Keeping his head on the bed, Alan whispered, "If Scott hasn't moved then you don't need to either. This is between Dad and Virgil." Somehow, neither Virgil nor Jeff heard John or Alan's whispered words. The four brothers continued to pretend that they were sleeping.

Virgil's softly spoken words pierced his father's heart more than the angry tirade did. It was the pain in his son's voice that finally made him do something that he should have done years ago. Mindful of his son's injuries, Jeff crawled next to his son. Virgil tensed beside him but Jeff didn't hesitate to pull his son against him, hugging him tight.

Tears trailed down his face as he held his son. "I do love you, Virgil. You are my son and I love you more than I can ever put into words." He kissed the side of Virgil's head. "You did nothing wrong, Son. I was wrong in the way I treated you. I have no excuse for what I did except that I was so filled with grief that I withdrew into myself." Swallowing hard, he finally said what he had to. "I was selfish, Virgil. It seemed to be easier to ignore you than to hold you when you needed me." The tears fell faster and his vision blurred. "But it wasn't. I saw the pain in your eyes and yet I couldn't make myself hold you because…Because I was afraid that you would reject me as I had done you.

I was always proud of you, Son. Even if I couldn't seem to show you how proud you made me. I may not have been able to make myself show for your recitals and such but I always saw them. Scott often recorded them for me to watch. I'd take them with me when I had to go away on business trips. And now, hearing you play the piano calms me. I try to find any excuse I can to sit in the lounge and just listen to you play." Tilting his head back just a bit, he looked into his son's eyes. "Did you know that you get that same intense expression on your face that your mother had whenever she was trying to compose her own music? You even cock your head to the side just as she did whenever the music flowed through her."

"You watched my recitals?"

"Every one of them. And I'll tell you something else. Your mother and I saw Cats on Broadway before you boys were born. It was good but I preferred the production that I saw in Kansas."

Disbelief showed in his eyes as he struggled with the sudden knowledge that maybe he was just as important to his father as his brothers were. "You…You came to the play? But I never saw you. I looked for you but I didn't see you."

"I was determined to see you perform and I just happened to have finished with my meeting early. I sat away from the family because I got there a bit too late."

"But John…Oh, man…"

Jeff couldn't help but chuckle at his son's incomplete comment. "Yes, my SUV ended up in the garage again. Your brother was hell on that SUV, my wallet, toothbrush, and shampoo. It made me angry but looking back I can understand why he did it."

"You do?"

"He was getting back at me because I dared to hurt you. John is fiercely protective of our family but more so when it comes to you."

Smiling softly, Virgil glanced over at his next eldest brother. "Yeah, he is. I'm a pretty lucky guy to have Scott, John, Gordon, and Alan for brothers. Even if they do sometimes drive me mad." His brother's words echoed in his mind and he suddenly realized that he wasn't tense any longer. In fact, he felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders and he knew that it had everything to do with finally talking to his dad. He hugged his dad, surprising the older man. "I love you, Dad. And thanks for talking with me."

Relief flooded through Jeff as he hugged his son back. "I love you, too, Virgil. Thank you for listening to me and not pulling away. I wasn't the best role model for you and your brothers when it came to dealing with emotions."

"No, you weren't but then again, you did have your head up your ass for a few years there."

Several snorts of laughter sounded from either side of Virgil's bed. "Geez, it's a wonder Dad bothers coming back from business trips with Virgil and Scott telling him that he' had his head up his ass." Alan looked around at his brothers, shaking his head.

"I thought you were all asleep," Jeff said.

Just a little embarrassed, Virgil smiled at his brothers and dad. "I knew they've been awake for a while now. I heard the change in each of their breathing patterns." The four brothers converged on their middle brother's bed.

Out in the hallway, Kyrano smiled at the scene before him. "Where the father leads, the sons will follow. For each is strong on his own but almost indestructible as a family."

"Dad, we want to go outside." Virgil stared out the window, sulking. He and John had been asking for the last twenty-four hours to be released from the infirmary. They'd begged, pleaded, sulked, and whined to not only Jeff but also Brains, Scott, Alan, and Gordon. And each time they were told no.

Sighing, Jeff counted to ten. "Virgil, for the last time, you may not leave the infirmary until Brains has released you." He set down Virgil's lunch tray that Kyrano had prepared whilst Scott set John's down. "Eat your lunch and maybe Brains will release you this afternoon." He and Scott left the infirmary so that they could eat their lunch in the dining room with Gordon and Alan.

John picked at his food for a moment before looking over at Virgil. "I say we go walksies. I'm tired of being cooped up in here. Brains told me that the infection is gone as is the fever…for the most part."

"Walksies, eh?" Throwing back the blanket over his legs, Virgil swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. "Let's go."

The two brothers stole through the house, avoiding detection. The sunlight beckoned them as they skirted the pool deck beneath the canopy of fronds. The warmth of the tropical island touched their very souls but John still glanced around nervously. "Do you think they're really gone?"

Momentarily confused, Virgil stared at his brother. Then he realized that John was talking about the shadows. The very thing that had started the Tracy family on the road to healing. Virgil stopped walking and looked at his brother. "Kerrie said they were."

"Virg, do you think what we do is worth it?"

Gazing out over the ocean, Virgil nodded. "Yeah, I do. We won't always save everyone but the ones we do have another chance at life. So, yeah, I think what we do is worth the sacrifice."

Thoughtful, John mimicked his brother and gazed out over the calm sea. He slightly nodded his head. "Maybe we are doing more good than I realized."

The brothers jumped when they heard their names being called. "Damn, they know we left the infirmary." Both looked towards the path leading down from the pool decks and saw Jeff, Scott, Gordon, and Alan.

Throwing their hands up in mock surrender, they walked towards their father and brothers. None of the Tracy men noticed anything out of the ordinary.

Further down the beach, two shimmering figures watched the two men. "They are such good-hearted men but..."

"But they're as stubborn as their father." The older of them said. "Each of my boys is...All of them." They watched as John and Virgil were surrounded by their family. "Take care of each other." A sad smile graced not only Lucy's face but Kerrie's as well. "I love you, Rocket Man, Flyboy, Stargazer, Mozart, Fish, and Speed Demon." Fading from view, they knew that they would be needed again. In the mean time, they would look after the ones they loved.

A/N: This moment is bittersweet but after a year, we have finished this story. I only wish that Lissysue could have seen it. It is for her that I continued the story even when my emotions were all over the place. I was told that one of the things that Lissy had been sad about was not finishing her stories. Well, Lissy – Baby Sis – one of your stories was completed. I miss you. Sam1