Standard Disclaimer: I don't own the Thunderbirds or any of the cannon character, nor do I lay any claim to McDonald's.
A/N: This is an update of a story I had on recently. I've had problems updating it so, I've started again. First chapter hasn't changed, but there are now a couple of extra chapters added. The last couple will be added in the near future - i hope ;)
Like the movie 'Titanic' we all know what is going to happen, but please take the time to read and review. Set in a cross between the movie and original series.
The story opens on Easter Friday as the family travel from their Kansas home to a holiday spot in Colorado. (Alan 4, Scott nearly 14.)
Hope you enjoy.
Please review. Thanks
Easter Friday 2008
On the road...
Alan sat in his car seat in the back on the SUV watching the country side pass by, he had been asleep since shortly after leaving home, he couldn't even really remember being put in his booster seat, he remembered that it was dark and the stars where out and that Dad had had to yell at John to stop star gazing and get in the car.
His favourite brother was sitting slumped beside him. Gordon snored quietly his head resting against the side of Alan's chair, it wasn't that Alan didn't like his other brothers it's just that Gordon had more time for him; they played together when Gordon got home from school. Alan was looking forward to starting school after summer, but that seemed an awful long way away to the four year old, and his older brothers kept telling him it wasn't really school only kindergarten, but Alan knew better, Mom said it was school so school it was.
Alan sighed there wasn't much to see outside the window, the landscape was still dark only the lightening sky indicated that dawn was on its way. In the front of the car beyond his two eldest brothers Alan could hear his Mom and Dad talking quietly. Alan looked around for something to do, he wasn't really very sleepy anymore and it was too dark to look at his picture books or do some colouring.
Beyond Gordon, Virgil his middle brother slept with his head squashed against the window, his cheek and face distorted by the pressure against the glass, mouth handing open, suddenly Virgil snorted in his sleep bring a hand up to wipe his mouth before slumping once again against the window, Alan giggled, Virgil looked silly and he was dribbling like a baby.
His giggles alerted his mother who looked back towards him raising a finger to her lips and shushing him. Eyes alight with laughter Alan covered his mouth with both hands to prevent the giggles waking his brothers; he pointed to Virgil and then clamped the hand back over his face, the giggles still escaping quietly. Lucy Tracy looked to where her youngest pointed noting her middle son's distorted face and uncomfortable posture she smiled and winked to Alan, putting her finger back to her lips as a reminder to remain quiet. Alan nodded enthusiastically that he understood.
Turning back to the front of the car she picked up the map she had been reading and looked at her husband beside her at the wheel. "Alan's awake." She murmured.
"Is he OK. Do I need to stop?" Jeff asked.
Looking back at her youngest son who was once again gazing out the window she shook her head, "I don't think so. He was just giggling at Virgil."
"Why what's Virgil doing?" Jeff asked puzzled and trying to see that particular son in his rear vision mirror.
"Oh nothing, he's just pressed up against the window. His face is all out of shape. I think it tickled Alan's fancy."
"It would." Jeff replied dryly. "That boy has the devil in him at times."
"No more so than Gordon." Lucy returned motherly defensiveness immediately kicking in.
"Huh! That one is the devil." Jeff snorted, "I swear I get another grey hair with every new prank."
Lucy smiled, "Likely excuse."
Jeff's mock glare has her giggling girlishly. "It's alright flyboy I still love you, grey hair or not."
"You better." Jeff grinned and returned his concentration to the road, the slippery conditions needing his full attention.
A quiet ten minutes passed, in the back of the car Lucy noted that Alan has fallen back to sleep, smiling quietly she watches her sons. The two eldest in the middle seat Scott's tall frame leaning against the window with a jacket pillowing his head, his dark hair standing on end, beside him John the fairest of the group is slumped against him, his head on his elder brothers shoulder with Scott's arm protectively around his slim frame. Behind them Alan is soundly asleep in his booster seat snoring quietly, Gordon tucked up against the seat his hands clasped together and pillowing his cheek, looking deceptively innocent in his slumber.
Virgil had now changed positions although not for a better one. He sat up with his head thrown back against the headrest, mouth hanging open, snorting and snuffling. 'He's going to wake up with a sore throat and neck at this rate.' Lucy thought to herself. She looked at Jeff noting his frown of concentration, she would have liked to pull over and adjust Virgil's position, but Jeff had his we are going to the Moon face on, he was on a mission and stopping was it not in the flight plan, 'This is why we travel at night,' Lucy thought, 'the boys sleep, Jeff drives, and peace reigns.' Sighing Lucy returned her attention to the front looking out the windscreen.
"Why don't you get some sleep?" Jeff suggested quietly looking over at her, "We've still got about an hour till we reach Denver."
Lucy smiled tiredly, "I'd like to, but I can't get comfortable enough. Anyway I'm keeping you company."
Jeff chuckled, "Baby causing problems?"
Lucy smiled contentedly, "Just a little. You'd think after five pregnancies I'd be used to it."
Jeff reached a hand out and patted her knee. "Those five are enough to wear anyone out Luce." He nodded towards the back of the SUV. "And anyway this one has got to be a little different." He looked at her a questioning frown on his face, "Hasn't it?"
Lucy chuckled, "It's no good you giving me that look. I'm not telling you what it is. I'm not having you go and blurt it out again. This time I'm keeping it to myself." She smirked at him happily.
Jeff pouted and eyed his smirking wife, "I'll get it out of you before the end of the weekend, and that's a promise." He reached over and tickled her in her slightly distended belly.
Laughing Lucy wiggled and shoved his hand away, "Keep both hands on the wheel mister!" she ordered mockingly.
"Yes Madam." Jeff responded snappily and huge grin belying his snapped response.
Behind them the eldest Tracy brother watched the byplay between his parents, he enjoyed listening to them when they played like this, when they though all their children were asleep. It made him feel safe, as if everything was right in his world and nothing would ever change.
The news of the new baby had come as a bit of a shock to him last Christmas, he had thought that Alan was the last, and anyway his parents were too old to be doing that anymore. Scott had recently done Sex Ed in school and the thought of his parents do it, was just too gross.
Scott sighed, 'Another brother. I'm never gonna get any peace.' He looked a John beside him and smiled hugging him a bit closer. 'Well almost never.' Looking back at his mother and father talking he wondered why his mother was insisting on keeping the sex of the baby a secret, it was a common known fact that Tracys' had boys, they had had for eight or nine generations now, so the chances of having a girl was ..... 'well alot.' Scott thought to himself, 'and anyway what would we do with a girl, she couldn't sleep with one of us, and she's not getting my room.' Scott thought firmly, he had only recently been given a room of his own having shared with John for as long as he could remember and then more recently with Virgil as well.
Last birthday in acknowledgement of being a teenager he had been given the small room off the stairs. It was only just big enough for a bed, desk and small set of draws, but it was his, and he wasn't giving it up for some new baby, not even if it was the longed for girl. Scott scowled, 'No the baby could share with Alan and Gordon would have to move into the big room with John and Virgil.'
He shuffled uncomfortably, trying to move John off the nerve in his shoulder, his right arm was cold and numb, clenching his fist and shaking his hand he tried to restore circulation without disturbing his younger brother.
The movement caught Lucy's attention; she smiled at the teen, "You OK honey?"
"Yeah Mom, my arm has just gone to sleep. John's brain is really heavy; he shouldn't work it out so much." Scott joked.
Sniggering at the joke, as her son intended Lucy reached back and pulled John into a more upright position. "Better?"
"Yeah thanks." Scott replied rolling the shoulder and straightening in his seat. "Where are we?"
"On the out skirts of Denver." His father replied.
Scott nodded looking out at the early dawn, the beginnings of homes and shopping precincts appearing. "What time is it?" he asked with a yawn.
"Just coming up to seven." Lucy replied, the yawn triggering one of her own.
Scott nodded again sleepily processing the information, he looked around at his brothers, "We gonna stop for breakfast soon?" his stomach rumbled at the thought of food.
"Yes Scott, the empty pit we like to refer to as your stomach will be filled shortly." Jeff chuckled.
"Hummmm. Good." Scott rubbed his belly to still the rumbling. "Macca's?"
"First one we come across." Jeff promised.
"Great, I want a Sausage McMuffin with egg, better make that two, three hash browns, a stack of hotcakes and syrup and a coffee." He grinned at his mother, knowing the last item would get a rise.
"Scott Tracy. You are not drinking coffee. You can have orange juice." Lucy retorted.
"Yes Mom." Scott grinned pleased he'd gotten the reaction he had intended and that his order had therefore slipped under his mother's radar. Scott had figured out early in life that if he gave his mother something to gripe about the other lesser items tended to be forgotten, so he made it a habit of always giving his mother something to pick him up on, that wasn't as important to him as the other issues he might be raising. It had been working for the last ten years or so, and he saw no reason for it not to continue to work for the next ten or more.
Sighing contentedly he leaned back in his seat contemplating his breakfast, his father caught his eye in the rear vision mirror, Jeff knew exactly what Scott had done, after all it was a tactic he himself used. Frowning at his eldest and trying to appear stern, Jeff shook his head, non-verbally reproving his son's manipulations of his mother.
Beside them Lucy smiled at the interaction between father and son, little did the pair know that she was well aware of their little game and had been happily manipulating them for years in return. Able to tell what they really valued and what wasn't so important to them, she had no intention of letting them know they had been rumbled.
The highway steadily became busier the closer into Denver they drove, the Easter Friday traffic building as families gathered for the holiday. As the traffic was just beginning to become congested enough to start to irritate Jeff, the long awaited Golden Arches appeared as if summoned by God. Scott immediately perked up. "There Dad, Over there." He pointed over his father's shoulder, waving his hand frantically in front of his father's face.
"Scott sit back!" Jeff snapped. "I can see the damned restaurant."
"Jeff!" Lucy reproved frowning at her husband's use of language. "Scott sit back and relax, your father's hardly going to miss it, this traffic is getting heavy. Just be patient."
Frowning sullenly as only teenagers can Scott fell back against his seat, shifting uncomfortably, his bum was numb, his shoulder was aching from where John had been sleeping on it, his stomach was threatening to come up and strangle him if he didn't give it something else to do shortly and he was desperate for the men's room. All in all, he wasn't overly confident his father was making the best time he could in the current traffic conditions.
The traffic noise and his father's snapped response had woken his brother's who where stretching and yawning while looking around at the emerging city.
Gordon's jaw cracking yawn had barely settled in his chest when his high pitched voice piped up at full volume "Are we there yet?"
Five voices firmly replied "NO!" his elder brother's and mother frowning at him. Wide eyed Gordon looked at his only younger brother, "What'd I say?"
Alan shrugged oblivious to the undercurrents.
"Does it look like we're in the mountains?" Virgil queried sarcastically.
"Virgil." Lucy instantly remonstrated; Virgil looked at his mother then shrugged and looked out the window, ignoring the babies beside him.
Jeff wove his way through the morning traffic, making as direct a path as he could for the ever nearing nirvana of the Golden Arches. A sharp foot on the accelerator and a honking of horns later, that earned him his own reproving look from Lucy, and they pulled into the car park of the restaurant.
Jeff pulled into a parking bay by the front door, turned off the engine, then turned to the maelstrom that was his boys as they scrambled for the door. "BOYS!" receiving no response, Jeff whistled loudly. Instantly quiet descended on the vehicle. "Right, Toilet first then you can all go sit down, your Mom and I will take orders and I will go to the counter. Understood?" Responses of "Yes sir," filled the car. "Scott, get Alan out of his seat. Virgil, hold Gordon's hand."
"Ahh Dad..." both boys protested.
"No holding hands, no breakfast." Jeff stated firmly. Lucy wiggled out of the passenger seat and opened the side door of the SUV. Allowing John to descend the step and stand beside her, she ruffled his blonde locks, "Sleep well?" John yawned again and nodded, hugging his Mom closely, she wrapped an arm around the slight pre-teen while waiting for the others to make their way out.
Gordon and Virgil shoving at each other barrelled out of the door, Gordon stumbling on the step, only just being caught from falling to the pavement and cracking his head open by Jeff's quick reactions. "Stop shoving you two, go stand by the door." He pointed to the front door of the restaurant, quickly the two raced off each trying to shove the other out of the way so they could reach to door first and there-by entre first. Jeff shared a look with Lucy and shook his head. Turning to look back in the vehicle he poked his head in, "You alright in there?"
"Yeah Dad, just coming." Scott hoisted Alan across the back of the middle seat so he was stood in front of him. "Com'on Sprout. Let's get breakfast." Scott grinned at his youngest brother. The little boy raced to the open door and dived into his father's waiting arms. Scott stepped out of the door and stretched his growing frame, working out the kinks that had developed on the drive then pulled the door closed. The beep, beep indicating his father had locked the vehicle from where he was standing with Virgil and Gordon, a hand on Gordon's shoulder and placing himself between them. "OK you two. Calm down." He ordered.
Lucy approached the group with her eldest sons beside her, John still held close in a one armed hug. At Scott's approach Jeff pushed Gordon away from the door and towards his eldest brother, "Scott can you take Gordon to the toilets please." Jeff requested. Scott nodded and grabbed Gordon by the upper arm, knowing it wasn't so much a request as a direct order. Still Gordon protested, "Ahh Dad I don't need a baby sitter just to go to the john." He sniggered looking at his second eldest brother, ever since discovering this interesting name for the lavatory he had taken the opportunity to wind his brother up.
"Gordon it's called a toilet or lavatory or even The Head, and Yes you do need a baby sitter. Until I can trust you to do as you are told when you're told, you will have one of your brothers escorting you. Understood young man?" Jeff glowered at the redhead.
Eyes on the pavement watching his shuffling feet Gordon mumbled, "Yes sir."
"I beg your pardon, I didn't hear that."
Gordon looked up at his father, pulled back his shoulders and stood straighter and in a moderated tone said, "Yes sir."
"Good. Virgil, go with John." Jeff leaned towards his waiting wife as the four older boys headed inside to find the facilities, "Well see you at the table shortly. OK" he kissed her noisily much to the amusement of Alan still held in his arms. Alan wrapped his arms around both parents necks locking them in place for a hug, laughing the couple wrapped the boy in a warm hug. "Com'on tiger let go," Jeff requested trying to untangle the boys octopus grip, "Your Mom really needs to go." Giggling Alan held on tighter.
"Right you." Jeff stretched his hand across Alan's lower chest and tickled. "You want to play dirty" The boy instantly let go in a fit of giggles.
Separating at the door, Jeff and Alan went to find the others while Lucy went to find the peace of the Ladies Room.
Five minutes later and much more comfortable she found her men folk gathered around a table directly in front of the counter reading the menu. Jeff's frazzled frown as he tried to work out what everyone wanted tickled her greatly. Taking pity on the poor man she stepped into the fray, listening to the individual demands.
"Ok that's nine hash browns, two sausage McMuffins with egg, one sausage biscuit with egg, one sausage biscuit without egg, four serves of hotcakes and five orange juices." She looked at her baffled husband, "Got that?"
Scratching his head vaguely Jeff nodded, "Oh and I'll have a sausage McMuffin with egg and a hash brown." Jeff's eyes glazed over, looking at her eldest Lucy smiled, "Scott honey watch the boys ok? Com'on Jeff, I'll order, you pay."
Jeff nodded, "Sounds like a plan." he said relieved.
The couple went to line up at the counter, Lucy leaning into Jeff, snuggling in for a surreptitious cuddle. Smiling Jeff put his arms around her and pulled her closer, "I don't know how you do it. I can keep track of God knows how many operations on a launch, but trying to keep track of that lots is impossible." Lucy patted him on the chest consolingly, "I've had years of practice, and anyway, I've got to have something that makes me indispensible."
Jeff smiled down at her and placed a kiss on her forehead, "Oh Luce, you'll always be indispensible to me. I could never ever replace you. Ever!" he stated with passion, hugging her closer. The rapport was broken by the counter clerk clearing her throat. Embarrassed the couple straightened Jeff looked over his shoulder at the sound of retching and coughing to see his boys pretending to gag and roll their eyes at their parents' display. Grinning unrepentantly Jeff poked his tongue out at the boys then turn to the counter at Lucy's elbow in the ribs. "Card Jeff." Lucy stated. Producing his card to pay for the meal, Jeff's eye's opened wide, "How much?" He looked at Lucy. "Just pay it Jeff." Huffing Jeff inserted his card in the machine and put in his id number. "I'm gonna have to close another major deal just to cover this meal." Jeff complained good naturedly. Lucy just grinned, "Wait till Gordon and Alan hit their peak growth spurts as well. We'll be going through a month's shopping in a week."
The girl behind the counter quickly started filling four trays with their order; Lucy took the first one to the table while Jeff waited for the rest.
"I'll go help Dad." Scott quickly volunteered. Jumping up from his seat and racing around to the counter before Lucy could protest, she watched him as he leaned against the counter and smiled at the girl serving them. Flashing his dimples and putting on all his not so insignificant Tracy charm as he chatted to her while she gathered the meal. Whatever he said must have worked the older girl blushed and returned his smile, her "Have a nice day." Seemed to have more bounce in it than was strictly warranted, Lucy felt. Lucy's mother alarm was going off full strength, 'He's too young to be playing that game already.' She thought, 'I'm going to have to have Jeff have a talk with him when we get home. He should be concentrating on school, not girls. He's still a baby, my baby.' She eyed the girl at the counter resentfully; noting the look the girl turned away and found something else to do, other than look at the cute dark haired boy sitting with his family. 'Good,' Lucy observed, 'You leave my baby alone.' She returned her attention to her brood and started handing out meals before they helped themselves and all hell broke loose.
The meal was quickly demolished and after another pit stop they all piled back into the SUV for the remainder of the journey.
The traffic had built to peak levels while they ate, so the trip across the city was time consuming and somewhat stressful for Jeff, used to the freedom of the air, Jeff found the confines of Denver traffic constricting and claustrophobic. He switched the radio on to distract himself, but the mix of raucous country music and intermitted traffic updates only caused him more distress. A good hour and a half later the Jeff pull up in front of the reception office of the ski resort the family was staying at for Easter. Ignoring the ongoing argument between Gordon and Virgil regarding how Easter bunny was going to find the boys. Jeff hopped out of the car closing the door behind him, and sighed a sigh of relief at the quiet. His boys could make more noise than a rocket launch or a pack of angry board members.
Pulling his wallet out he looked for the docket for their online booking, Lucy's knock on the window made him turn and look at her waving the missing item at him. Grinning he opened the door smiled his thanks then dashed up the stairs into the reception office.
"Boy's settle down now." Lucy ordered firmly rubbing her distended middle; the baby was also making its self felt. "Gordon the Easter bunny will find you I promise and Virgil stop stirring your brother up, or the Easter bunny won't be coming for you."
Grinning madly at his older brother Gordon wiggled in excitement and looked at Alan, "Where here Allie, where really here."
Gordon's queries of 'Are we there yet.' Had been echoing around the confines of the car ever few minutes the boy's sense of time somewhat lacking. The elder Tracy's had all snapped at him at some point during the trip, so his excitement at finally having arrived was lively to say the least.
Alan clapped his chubby hands, not sure why Gordon was so excited but willing to play along. If Gordon was happy then so was Alan. The little boy looked around at the enclosing mountains, the road they had followed had steadily climbed through valleys and over peaks, the panorama of crystal white snow gleamed like a magic wonderland to the small boy. He couldn't wait to get out and play.
Shortly his father returned to the car and informed them that their temporary home was along the driveway, he gave them a number and asked the boys to look for it, promising a prize to the first one to spot it. Each of the boys craned their necks searching for the elusive number. Virgil's sudden cry of 'There it is,' as he bounced up and down, didn't sit so well with Gordon who complained he couldn't see anyway because he was in the middle and couldn't see out the windows. Virgil's subsequent prize of being allowed to pick which bed he wanted didn't sit well with any of the boys.
Everyone piled out of the SUV carrying bags and jackets as Jeff opened the front door of the villa they were staying in. The boys dropped their bags in the middle of the hallway floor and dashed off to explore quickly finding the bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen. Jeff redirected the energy into unloading the car while allowing Lucy to put her feet up. This pregnancy was taking its toll. Whether it was age creeping up on her, or that it was her sixth child or just running around after five extremely active boys, Lucy was finding she was more tired than she had been with any of her previous pregnancies, including John and Alan's. She hoped that this child wasn't going to give her the trouble John had with his early birth, or Alan with his demanding labour.
The luggage and boxes of food and supplies were quickly unloaded and distributed around the villa, the boys gathered in the bedroom to claim beds, Virgil already having claimed his top bunk plonked his bag on it and jumped up to make sure there were no claim jumpers. John claimed the other top bunk while Alan and Gordon took the lower beds. Scott being the eldest was given the privilege of taking the put you up sofa bed in the adjoining family room, in front of the TV. Scott had visions of sitting up all night watching late night movies, the ones he generally wasn't allowed to see. Dropping his bag behind the sofa he joined his father at the kitchen bench, "What's for lunch?" he queried, then without missing a beat, "When can we get on the slopes?"
"One thing at a time Scott." Jeff remonstrated looking at the clock, "It's only 11 o'clock now. I'll get some lunch sorted later. In the mean time your mother needs to get some rest so I thought we'd get everyone bundled up and have a look around for an hour or so. Then I'll heat some soup, do some toasties and we'll see what happens after lunch. Ok?"
Scott nodded, "Yeah great, but can I get something to eat now, I'm starved."
Shaking his head in defeat Jeff nodded leaving his starving son to feed himself, Jeff went in search of his quiet wife to inform her of his plans. He found her laying on her side on the main bed, head pillowed on one hand while the other lay protectively over her bump, eyes closed and breath gentle in sleep. Quietly he crept up to the bed and drew the cover over her. Cloudy brown eyes opened and looked up at him. "What do you think you're doing?" she queried sleepily. Jeff smiled tucking the blanket in around her. "Tucking in my princess." He responded. Smiling Lucy raised an eyebrow, not content with the answer but too tired to pursue the matter. "You just rest. I'm going to take the boys out for a walk, try to burn off some of that energy then I'll feed them and sit them in front of the TV." Jeff laid out his plans; they must have met with Lucy's approval as she settled back down to sleep without any comment. Pulling the door closed behind him, Jeff found the four younger boys in the second bedroom and instructed them to get their coats, hat, scarves, gloves and boots and to meet him in the kitchen.
He found his own things still sitting by the front door, picking them up and returning to the kitchen he found Scott stuffing his face with a sandwich while pulling on his boots. A second sandwich sat on the bench. Jeff picked it up and took a bit, peanut butter and banana, yuck. He put it down again; his son's tastes baffled him. Grabbing the bottle of juice he poured six glasses then downed one, and refilled it then put the bottle away.
Scott picked up his sandwich eyeing the bite taken out he scowled at his father but didn't hesitate to eat the remainder and pick up a glass of juice to wash it down. The other boys appeared in various states of readiness. Gordon needing help with his boots, while Alan was still struggling with his mittens, Jeff handed each of the boys a drink instructing them to drink it then make a pit stop and meet him at the front door. He bent to help Alan while Scott knelt to tighten and tie Gordon's boots. Gordon eyed his eldest brother, "How come Scott got a peanut butter sandwich," he asked with a whine. The other boys at once attentive to the irregularity looked at Jeff, "Scott was starving." Jeff responded automatically, then instantly knew he'd made a tactical error.
"So am I." Gordon whined, the others also gave voice to risks of immediate starvation if they didn't get a sandwich. "Ok! Ok. Scott will make you each as sandwich, just go to the head then meeting me by the front door." He glared at Scott daring him to protest the task. Knowing better than to challenge his father when the brats were whining, Scott quickly put together four peanut butter sandwiches and headed for the front door, handing the food to each of his brothers as they appeared.
The six Tracy men trouped out into the morning snow, gathering on the pavement Jeff looked in both directions. "Which way?" he asked then regretted the foolish question, of course each of the boys decide on a different direction. The inevitable argument was settled by Jeff walking off towards the reception office. The boys realizing that they weren't going to get a reaction from their father quickly gave up on the argument and followed him. Alan and Gordon racing forward, Alan to take his father's hand and Gordon to ask 'Where they were going, and what they were do, and which way was up.' Or any other question he could think of. Jeff patiently answered the redheads questions as best he could then told him to wait and see what happened. Huffing in disappointment Gordon dropped back to question John on his thoughts. Scott and Virgil brought up the rear enjoying the crisp mountain air.
Jeff held the door open as his boys trouped into the gift shop and produce store beside the reception office. "Don't touch anything, that means you Gordon." He commanded. Putting a hand on Scott's shoulder he held him back, "Keep an eye on John and Virgil would you?"
Scott nodded "Yes Dad." He followed his brothers into the store grabbing Virgil by the back on his jacket and dragging him towards the ski equipment, calling for John to follow him. The three boys wandered up and down isles looking at various ski clothing and equipment. A vividly coloured snow board caught their attention, which was where Jeff found them several minutes later. He held up a handful of maps and brochures. "These should tell us all we need to know." He smiled, a sudden crash behind him caused him to turn swiftly to find Gordon standing amid a pile of ski poles scattered across the floor. "Gordon!"
"I didn't touch it..." the boy claimed contritely, "I promise."
"What it just fell on its own?" Virgil queried sarcastically.
Jeff frowned at Virgil silently berating the boy.
Tears pooling in his amber eyes Gordon eyed his father, "I didn't." Gordon pointed silently to a giant of a man, hair and beard obscuring his face dressed in woodsman garb, a large fur coat lying like a dead animal under his arm, he shambled towards the door, "He did it."
Jeff looked at his son closely trying to decide if he was trying to shift the blame.
The counter clerk came hurrying over apologising profusely, "I sorry. Don't mine Dwayne, he's a bit slow, probably didn't even realise he'd done it. Here let me get someone to clear them up." She looked at Gordon's tearful countenance. "Ah now, we can't have any of that. Com'on I think I might have something that will put a smile back on that face." She put a gentle hand on Gordon's shoulder and steered him around the fallen ski poles, then looked at Jeff, "Is it alright if he picks himself out a candy? Just to get over the fright." She asked in a motherly fashion.
Smiling Jeff nodded, "If you're sure, thanks." He picked Alan up and directed the boys to follow Gordon and the woman towards the counter.
The glass fronted counter was in the style of the old fashion turn of the century style shops with displays of various candies displayed in glass jars. Circling the counter she instructed the boy serving to clear up the ski poles, and then smiled down at the redhead, "Now what do you like the look of young man?" she asked. Gordon eyed the range of candies, bright coloured wrappers and swirls of confection. He looked up at his father silently asking permission, Jeff nodded. "One only." Eyes bright Gordon walked along the front of the counter trying to decide, "Ummm. I'll have.... Ummm. One of.... Ummm. Those." He pointed to the long red liquorice whips, a huge grin transforming his face. Smiling the woman pulled out the tall jar and put three of the candies into a paper bag and handed it to him. "Thank you." Gordon said remembering his manners, before he could be reminded.
"Now what about your brothers, do you think they would like something?" She inquired. Gordon looked over his shoulder at his brothers, a cheeky grin spreading across his face, "Nah, they don't like candy." He replied looking back at the woman.
Vocal protest belied his statement. "Now boys, that's enough." Jeff interjected, "I'll pay for the others." He asserted.
Laughing the woman looked at the wide eyes of the boys exchanging a smile with their father, 'Someone's a lucky woman.' She thought to herself, 'Such a handsome family, I hope she knows how lucky she is.' "No no, can't give to just one, they can each have a treat, on the house. We can't have our guests being frightened by the locals. Even if they don't mean it."
Turning to the youngest in his father's arms she smiled, "Now what about you, what would you like?" Alan struggled down out of his father's arms and approached the counter, like Gordon he wandered up and down eyeing all the treats on offer, finger tracing the glass with his nose pressed up against it. "While we're waiting for Alan to decide, why don't the rest of you make your choice?" Jeff advised.
Virgil immediately stepped forward and pointed to the extra large packets of Marshmallows, "Can I have one of those, please?" Nodding the woman handed him a bag of Marshmallow. "Thanks!" Virgil exclaimed shoving the treat in his pocket for later and sneering at Gordon who was already chewing on the first of his liquorice whips.
"What about you two then." The woman asked the eldest Tracy brothers. John shrugged embarrassed at being addressed by a stranger in such a forthright manner. Scott nudged him, "Com'on John." John shook his head looking down at his shuffling feet, shrugging Scott stepped forward, "He'll have a Hershey bar, one of those big milk chocolate ones, and he pointed towards the back of the counter." The woman handed Scott the chocolate, who then handed it to a reluctant John. John looked at the woman out the corner of his eye and whispered "Thanks." Blushing furiously, before turning and finding something interesting to look at amount the information brochures stacked nearby. "And you?" She smiled at the tall polite boy in front of her, Scott smiled, an unintentional reflection of his father. "Oh no, I'm OK." He insisted, not wanting to appear to be one of the children. "Oh surely you're not telling me that you don't like candy." The woman laughed. Scott blushed and looked at the range of confectionary in front of him, tempted but not willing to lose his image of a grown up.
"It's OK Scott, pick something." Jeff reassured.
Taking his father's word for it Scott pointed to a packet of Reeses peanut butter cups. "Those please." The woman handed over the item and then leaned over the counter to look down at Alan, "Now have you found something?" Alan looked up wide eyed. He was stood in front of a display of brightly coloured Jelly beans. "Thems peas."
Smiling the woman pulled out a packet and handed them down to the boy, Alan held the large packet in both hands and grinned, "Tank you." He turned to his father to show him his prize. "Look Daddy, look what I gots." Smiling Jeff picked the four year old up. "Wow Alan, you're going to have to show Mommy that, there's so many in there." The boy giggled and squirmed in his father's arms. Looking at the woman behind the counter Jeff smiled his thanks and gathered the boys, "John, we're going." The blond looked up panicked and hurried over to his father, following his brothers out the door into the afternoon sun.
Putting Alan down and opening a map of the area Jeff looked around to orientate himself, he noticed Gordon starting on his second liquorice whip, "Gordon put that away, you'll spoil your appetite." Reluctantly the boy shoved the sticky candy in his pocket. "Right let's have a look at this track it will take us up behind the villa's and we should come back onto the road just above where we are staying," Jeff instructed leading the way.
The boys followed their father out along a track that branched away from the communal buildings and off into the thinly spread trees. The hard packed snow indicating that the path was in frequent use. They fell into the same pattern as earlier, Jeff and Alan leading, Gordon and John following with Virgil and Scott bring up the rear. The chatter was animated and full of laughing banter. The short walk turned out to be somewhat longer than Jeff had first anticipated, Alan soon tiring and needing a lift. Forty-five minutes later the family staggered onto the veranda of the villa, stomping snow off their boots, pulling off gloves, scarves and hats the boys scrambled into the warmth of the villa, dropping everything in a damp pile by the door, Jeff hung the coats up on the hooks in the entrance while the boys' raced towards the enticing scents coming from the kitchen.
"Mommy looks what I got." Alan crowed showing his bag of Jelly Beans to Lucy.
"Aren't you a lucky boy." Lucy said, she smiled in welcome to her hungry brood, "Candy away now, and go wash your hands before sitting down, you know the rules." Pushing and shoving the five galloped into the bathroom to wash before returning to the kitchen and collapsing into chairs around the table waiting impatiently for lunch to be served. Entering the room after sorting out the pile of soggy clothing Jeff smiled at Lucy, "I thought you were resting?"
Smiling as she served up bowls of warm chicken soup she replied, "I was, but it was too quiet, I couldn't settle." Shaking his head Jeff sidled up behind her. "Well after we've fed the ravenous hordes how about we stick them in front of the TV with a movie and you and I go and have a rest." Lucy looked over her shoulder at her husband's leer. "That's just the sort of rest that got me in this predicament in the first place." She laughed. "Here take these to the table and I'll get the bread out of the oven." She handed two bowls of soup to Jeff, and then got the ready-to-bake bread rolls out of the oven, their golden aroma wafted across the room as she piled them in a bowl and placed it in the middle of the table.
The boys digging into the food, Lucy sat back at the table nibbling on a roll while watching her men eat. The competition was fierce, the rolls quickly being divvied up with Jeff, Scott, Virgil, and Gordon taking seconds, and Scott finishing the last of the soup off before looking for an extra slice of bread to finish off.
"OK Scott, John clear the table and I'll wash up in a moment." Jeff instructed, then looking sternly at Lucy, "You go and put your feet up again." Standing awkwardly Lucy gave a mock salute, "Yes sir." She took the three younger boys into the lounge and put on a DVD, sitting the younger two down. Virgil disappeared for a moment and returned with his artist's notebook and pencils, he sat in the corner of the sofa propping the notebook on his knees and started to sketch. "What are you drawing?" Lucy asked, looking over his shoulder, Virgil smiled up at his mother, "We walked up through this path in the woods, it was really cool, all the shadows, light and dark. You know the dark shadow of the trees and the bright snow." His hand moved with sure strokes across the page turning his mental memories into tangible images. Lucy marvelled at his aptitude, while she enjoyed drawing and was considered an accomplished designer, Virgil's talent was promising to be something special.
Scott and John joined the group in the lounge John picking up a book and taking it to his mother, "Mom, can you?" he asked looking at his mother expectantly, "Sure Johnny, just a moment." She settled herself on the second sofa and put her feet up on the foot stool, then patted the seat beside her, "Come here." She sighed as John tucked himself beside her. 'He's confidence isn't coming back as quickly as the specialist said' she though worrying about John's diagnosis of dyslexia. John's initial cheerful outgoing nature had taken a beating when he started school, his inability to keep up with classmates had resulted in cruel teasing and a terrible blow to his confidence, although acknowledged by his teachers as being exceptionally intelligent, his inability to read had caused him to be held back the second year and subsequently ending up in the same combined class as Virgil. Virgil's extroverted behaviour had also caused the introverted John some unintended heart ache. That he had since excelled and was in fact being accelerated hadn't seemed to improve his overall self confidence. Lucy worried how he was going to cope when he transferred to the middle school after summer. She resolved to spend more time with the boy and try to encourage him to be more outgoing. Opening the copy of 'Animal Farm' she listened as John continued from where he had left off, "Chapter three. The animals harvest the hay, with everyone helping - the pigs supervise the others as they work, and even the ducks and hens go back and forth in the sun all day carrying tiny wisps of hay in their beaks...."
Scott laid on the floor beside his youngest brothers an aeronautics magazine taking his full attention. Jeff entered the room to find his family comfortable ensconced, picking up the newspaper he had picked up that morning in Denver he sat in a recliner chair and enjoyed the short interlude of peace, before the boys gained their second wind and demanded more boisterous activities.
The interlude was broken by the end of the movie as the credits rolled, so the two youngest boys who had sat quietly glued to the screen jumped up and demanded attention, Jeff snorted and yelped as Alan jumped into his lap the newspaper falling to the floor from the side of the chair where it had come to rest when he'd fallen asleep. Jeff paled and grabbed his tender nether regions, Lucy's wince of sympathy doing little to relieve the pain. 'Oh well...' he thought, 'there goes number seven.'
The sudden activity and his father's yelp of pain awoke Scott who had dropped asleep on the floor, as he lifted his head the magazine he had pillowed his head on remained stuck to his face, causing much amusement to his three youngest brothers. John and Lucy remained curled up on the sofa together, John frowning hard and discussing the merits of 'communism' as described in the book he was reading, while Lucy gentle played devil's advocate. "Wait until you've finished the story John, you may change your mind when you see how it ends." John shook his head in naive protest, "But Mom, surely it's better if everyone is equal, everyone gets what they need to survive, always. No more poor or starving or sick. Surely that would be a better world."
"Yes John. If the world could be like that but it doesn't take into account human nature, people don't want to just survive, they tend want what someone else has. The grass is always greener over the fence. Just finish the story and then we'll discuss it again. OK?"
John sighed. "Yeah."
Jeff listening from across the room was amazed at his son's ability to formulate an argument. 'The boy is really coming on in leaps and bounds. He's already surpassing Scott in some areas.' Jeff contemplated. 'We'll be thinking about university education for him before too long and he's not twelve for another seven months.'
Putting Alan on his feet and standing up himself Jeff stretched out tired muscles. "OK everyone, It's three thirty now so we've got about an hour and a half before we need change before going down to the bistro for dinner." Having gained everyone's attention he continued, "What's it going to be, a drive into town or a walk up the mountain."
"Walk, walk, walk." The boys chanted.
Smiling Lucy shrugged, "Sounds like a walk it is."
Jeff pulled her gently from her semi reclined position on the sofa. "Are you up to it?" he asked.
Grinning and rubbing her bump Lucy replied, "Yeah, I think the baby needs some exercise as well."
"OK." Turning to address the boys scattered around the room Jeff began issuing orders, "Gordon, TV off. Right everyone you know the drill, pit stops, coats and boot then line up at the door." As the five boys dashed off to use one of the two available toilets Jeff added loudly. "Youngest first!"
The couple looked at each other and exchange tender smiles and a brief hug, "You sure you're up to a walk?" Jeff worried.
"I'm pregnant Jeff, not sick. A walk will do me good. Now go get ready." She pushed him towards the front door after a brief peck on the cheek. "Go on. I'm just going to find my jacket and hat."
The family shortly gathered at the front door, the boys lined up from little Alan through to Scott slouched against the wall. Jeff walked into the hall carrying a rucksack with juice boxes and individually packed cookies. "Attention!" he snapped in his best military voice, the boys instantly stood straighter, Scott and Virgil achieving a reasonable appearance of the correct posture. "Right troupes, here's your orders. You are to exit from here, form up on the pavement and follow your commander, that's me," Lucy raised an eyebrow in mock query, "OK, that's your mother," sniggers broke up the ranks; a mock glare resulted in the boys returning to their serious manner. Jeff cleared his throat and continued, "You will follow your Commander" he stopped and nodded to Lucy, "... in an orderly fashion to the end of the road. At which point we will be following the set path across the snow play field, through the trees and returning to the car park by the reception office." He looked at each of the boys, "Understood, if you get lost just stand still and well come back to find you," he looked at Alan and Gordon in particular on this point. "You can explore and play once we are off the pavement, but keep in sight of your Mom and me. OK?"
All five boys saluted with a firm "Yes sir." Alan broke the formation by then promptly breaking into giggles.
Jeff looked at Lucy by the door, "After you... Commander." Chuckling Lucy opened the door and lead the way into the late afternoon sun.
The boys followed their mother out of the door, Jeff last to leave pulled the door closed and locked it. Turning to look at where his wife stood with the boys lined up as instructed behind her, he had to laugh, they look like a duck and her line of ducklings. Trotting down the stairs to join Lucy he tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow and they led the way up the road towards the snow play field. The boys quickly breaking formation and falling into their usual groupings, Alan and Gordon chatting and skipping along directly behind their parents, Scott and Virgil following discussing the various merits of the cars they passed and John bringing up the rear a distracted air about him.
As soon as the group stepped beyond the fence that bound the edge of the snow play field Gordon raced out passed his parents quickly followed by Alan the two boys were soon diving into the snow drifts and laughing as the cold tickled their noses.
Scott and Virgil having decided to agree to disagree on the matter of cars, set about building a snow fort. Virgil using his precise eye to create a symmetrical circle, his instructions to his elder brother were exacting, Scott listened carefully looked at the slow progress they were making and decided to take matters into his own hands, "Com'on Virge, it's a snow fort, not the Colosseum." He started stacking the snow up quickly, patting it indifferently to firm it down before piling more up to create a wall as high as his chest and three pace across in a matter of ten minutes.
Virgil shook his head looking at his brothers slap dash construction. "It won't stand up to the barrage."
"What barrage?" Scott asked looking at Virgil who was piling up snow balls beside him, Virgil pointed over the wall behind Scott, turning to look he received a snowball full in the face the soft snow breaking up on impact and sprinkling across his chest and down inside his collar. Shivering at the sudden chill, Scott looked for the source of the snowball to find his Father and John standing behind a previously made snow fort some six yards away, additional snowballs in hand, John tossed his, his slight frame quivering with excitement. The snowball sailed high and dropped missing both Scott and Virgil but successful crossing the distance into their fort.
"Well done, Johnny, you got it all the way." Jeff praised.
Scott dived for Virgil's pile of weapons, "Here give me one of those, I'm gonna get Dad." Before long a full blown snowball fight was in progress, Scott and Jeff taking on the roles of gunner, while Virgil and John frantically shaped ammunition under the constant bombardment from the other side. The sounds of excitement attracted the attention of the two youngest Tracy's, who having gauged the field of battle decided that their father's side was the best choice. Alan joined John in making snow balls, although his tended to breakup in flight, while Gordon screamed with delight throwing as much snow as he could at his older brothers, whether it was in the form of balls or not.
In his haste to strike his father Scott leaned on the wall of the snow fort he had built so hurriedly, trying to further his reach. Virgil watched as Scott put more and more of his weight on the wall, 'it's not going to hold,' he thought to himself. The frenzied battle came to a crashing end as Scott fell through his hastily built fort wall, bringing more than half of it down on top of him, Gordon seeing the predicament his eldest brother was in, fell over laughing, Alan and John immediately stopped making snow balls and jumped up to see what was happening, they too burst into laughter. Virgil and Jeff the only ones able to contain their mirth long enough to assist Scott out of his self-made snow drift. Lucy stood to the side video camera in hand capturing the excitement, once her eldest had been rescued by his father and brother, she quickly turned the camera off and stepped forward to prevent the impeding eruption Scott fiercely scowled at his laughing brothers, embarrassed at his fall from grace.
Jeff wisely chose that moment to propose a snack break, offering the juice boxes and cookies, the treat successfully allowing the incident to blow over and Scott to regain his equilibrium.
"Ok boys, we'll have to start heading back soon." General groans of dismay greeted his statement. "Com'on we've got two more days. Let's follow the woodland path back to the villa." Jeff coaxed. He picked up the rucksack and pointed to the starting point of the path they were to follow, "Scott you take point."
"Yes Sir!" Scott said smartly with a grin, please to be given this important position.
"The rest of you can go on a head, but don't go beyond Scott." The five boys raced on ahead, Scott in the lead, making sure that none of his brothers passed him. Smiling at Scott's change of mood, Lucy looked up at Jeff, once more tucked in at his side. "You've got him pegged, haven't you?" She said.
Jeff nodded. "He'll make an A grade officer one day."
Lucy raised an eyebrow, "And if he chooses not to join the military?"
Jeff shrugged, "Then he'll make an A grade manager." The two followed their brood down the shadowed path, the late afternoon sun glowing golden on the trees, creating a heavenly aura around the family. Lucy sighed, "It's days like this that make it all worthwhile, isn't it?" she asked. Jeff agreed, wrapping his arm tighter around her shoulders, "Certainly is. Think they'll sleep tonight?" Lucy nodded.
Lucy and Jeff walked out of the trees to find the boys gathered around the display of hire equipment, the ski store was still open.
"Dad can we get our stuff now so we can get any early start tomorrow." Scott asked in the most grown up and reasonable tone he could muster. "Please."
Jeff looked at Lucy who shrugged, "Ok. But only if they aren't busy, we have to get back to change for dinner." Nodding the boys raced into the store, pointing to the individual items they wanted and shouting over each other to be heard, even John joined in the general ruckus. The man behind the counter, thankfully was not busy and full of patience, he assisted each of the older boys in picking out appropriate equipment. Scott and Virgil choosing to try snowboards, rather than skis,
Lucy took Alan over to a display of winter clothing to distract him from the activities of his elder brothers, Alan happily sorted through the hats and gloves, crowing when he found one he particularly liked, it was a pale blue and an adult size, but not to be dissuaded, Alan pulled his own dark blue hat off and pulled the light blue one on. It swamped his small head, Lucy smiled. "Allie how about this one instead." She showed him another child's hat of a similar blue shade. "NO! I want this one, it keep my ears hot." Alan cried clamping his arms across the top of his head to hold the treasured item in place. "It's too big Allie." Lucy tried to reason but relented as tears started to pool in the tired boys eyes. "OK Allie, you can have that one. Let's go pay for it and see if your Daddy and brothers are ready to go get supper." Alan nodded, still keeping a firm hand on his new hat.
Lucy and Alan found Jeff and the boys by the door, Gordon proudly displayed his red ski's to match his red hat and gloves. Smiling Lucy admired the skis and snowboards the other boys presented. "Very nice. Looks like you're going to have some fun tomorrow. But I think it's time to head for the villa."
Jeff nodded, "Com'on boys, we're going to be late for supper at this rate."
Alan tugged on his mother's hand and pointed to his hat, "Hold on Jeff, Alan's chosen a new hat, Scott could you take Alan to pay for it. We'll meet you outside." She handed Scott a twenty dollar note, and the older boy took his baby brother up to the counter to buy his new hat. Jeff took Scott snow-board and carried it outside with his own ski's to wait with the rest of the family. Scott and Alan soon joined them, Scott giving the small boy a piggy back ride. Smiling Jeff continued to carry Scott's snow-board, while Scott carried Alan back to the villa, the other boys happily carrying their skis and snowboards, Virgil and John already sporting their goggles. As they reached the end of the path where it opened up behind the villa the lowering sun seemed to brighten momentarily capturing the family in its golden rays, "Hey! Wait here," Jeff said quickly grabbing the camera from Lucy, "Boys quickly while the sun is just right. Gather around your Mom.
The boys ranged themselves around Lucy below the overhang of the snow covered trees, Scott beside her dropped Alan to the ground, and grabbed Gordon to stand in front of him and to keep him away from Virgil; the two were still stirring each other up. The other three boys gathered close. "OK everyone say Apple Pie." Jeff instructs. It took a couple of tries, but by the third shot Jeff felt he has captured his family at their best in the golden glow of the setting sun.
"OK everyone inside and wash up, we have to be down at the bistro in half an hour." He handed the camera back to Lucy, who looked at the pictures Jeff had taken on the replay. Smiling at the happy faces of her boys, she turned the camera off. She had an idea, she had noticed that the gift shop attached to the hire shop was able to print photos from digital cameras and there had been some nice picture frames in the store earlier, she thought she might just get one after dinner and surprise Jeff and the boys Easter morning. Smiling contentedly she followed the noisy bunch into the villa to get ready for supper.
Ahead of her Jeff was issuing orders, "Gordon, Alan in the bathroom now." Jeff followed them down the hall towards the shared bedroom, calling back over his shoulder, "Virgil hit the shower, John and Scott you can have a shower when we get back, get some clean clothes on for now." Quickly and with little fuss the five boys were made ready and sat waiting for their parents in front of the television. Scott sat between Virgil and Gordon trying to keep the peace, the two just didn't seem to know when to call it quits. "Gordon will you please sit still." Scott snapped for what seemed the hundredth time in the last five minutes. Virgil sniggered and Scott glared at him, slouching back on the sofa Virgil swung his legs, bored with having to wait.
"Why can't we just eat here? Why do we have to go to some fancy restaurant?" Virgil grumbled.
"Cause Mom needs a break and you know the best Dad can do is toasties." Scott replies.
"I want McDonalds." Alan piped up.
"You had Macca's for breakfast Alan, you need something healthier for supper." John put in before Scott could reply.
Alan pouted, "Don't like resi-troont food."
"Me neivver," Gordon added. "Mom's suppers are better."
"Yeah well too bad." Scott snapped again, "Mom wants to go out for supper, so we're going out for supper. Live with it." He stood up to pace getting frustrated with his brothers' whiny tones. Predictably Gordon and Virgil re-start the scuffle that had been going on earlier in the afternoon. Scott swung around at the sound of the two hitting the floor; he stomped over and dragged Virgil from on top of his younger brother. "Will you two stop it?", he yelled. Grabbing Gordon by the collar and holding on, his other hand placed on Virgil's forehead to keep him away from Gordon with is longer reach.
"He started it," Virgil defended himself.
"Did not." Gordon argued.
"Did, did, did..."
Gordon swung out a leg trying to connect with Virgil and shouted "DIDN'T!"
"Shut UP!" Scott yelled in frustration, "I don't care who started it, I'll finish it and you'll both be sorry."
Jeff entered the room to find Scott standing in the middle of the carpet between the two struggling boys, trying to keep them separated while yelling at them.
"BOYS!" Jeff yelled in his most forceful voice, the one he general reserved for recalcitrant new recruits.
Immediately peace was restored, Scott dropped his arms to his side and looked at his father expecting a reprimand. Jeff glared at the two younger boys, "Gordon, Virgil, Scott should not have to separate you. You're brothers' start acting like it." Jeff scolded.
Jeff pulled his car keys out of his pocket, "Scott, here go start up the car and get the heater running for me." He tossed the keys to Scott who grabbed them and ran for the door, "Thanks Dad." As an afterthought Jeff looked at John, "Johnny why don't you go with Scott."
John grinning from his place near the window responded happily, "Yes sir."
The two elder Tracy brother's sat in the front seats of the SUV, Scott having started the car and allowing it to warm up for the short drive back down the mountain to the restaurant.
"The brats are really pushing it." Scott grumbled, he looked at John sitting quietly looking out at the darkening evening sky. John didn't respond, he was looking for the first star.
"Earth to Johnny, come in Johnny." Scott joked.
"Wha!" John looked at his elder brother, "What'd you say?"
"Nothing, just complaining about the brats." Scott responded, "I'm getting really sick of separating Gordo and Virge. When are they gonna grow up."
John shrugged, "Virgil in a couple of years probably, Gordo," John paused and thought about it, a heavy frown appearing between his eyes. "Probably never."
"Yeah you got that right." Scott heaved a sigh. He looked over at John again, who was once again starring out into the night sky. "At least you don't give me any trouble."
John looked over at Scott and grinned. "Yeah... But maybe I'm just better at hiding things than the brats."
Scott frowned worriedly, "You wouldn't really hide things from me would you Johnny?"
John shrugged, "Probably not."
"Good, cause you and me, we gotta stick together against the brats."
"Yeah I know." John smiled quietly, "Big Brothers United."
"That's right." Scott smiled back and reached out a hand to ruffle John's fair hair.
"Don't." The boy snapped pushing Scott's hand away.
Scott looked contrite, "Sorry."
Feeling remorse at snubbing his brother John huffed. "I just don't like it when people touch me. Ya know that."
Scott sighed; touching his brothers, hugging them, ruffling their hair was his way of showing his affection for his brothers, with John Scott found it hard. John wouldn't accept the same queues as his other brothers. "I know." Scott acknowledged, "It's just I can't help it. Ya know?"
John nodded, then noticing the rest of the family leaving the villa he climbed over the centre console to find his seat in the back. The driver side door opened and Jeff looked in at Scott, "Ok Scotty, I'm driving so out you get." Scott grumbled good naturedly, he couldn't wait til he was allowed to drive. He clambered over the seat and into the back of the vehicle where his mother was struggling to strap in Alan. "Here Mom, I'll do it." Scott offered.
Lucy looked over her shoulder at her eldest son, "Thanks Scotty, I don't think your baby sister appreciates my gymnastics." She huffed quietly and stepped out of the way, then climbed out the side door to find her own seat in the front, while Scott strapped Alan in.
"Everybody ready?" Jeff asked from the driver's seat a few minutes later.
A resounding "Yes sir." reverberated around the car.
The short drive down the mountain to the restaurant was completed quickly. The boys tired from the days walking and games were quiet. Jeff found a parking space and the family climb out, Lucy and Scott holding onto Alan and Gordon respectively, while Jeff locked up.
"Ok everyone, I want best behaviour. I mean it or I will bring you back out to the car and you will wait till the rest of us have finished." Jeff looked sternly at each of the three younger boys, and then led the way into the restaurant.
The waitress guided them to a table, as the boys crossed the floor of the restaurant they were struck by the displays of food, the restaurant was a smorgasbord style affair, something the boys hadn't experience before. Having been sat at their table, Jeff looked at the three eldest, "OK Scott, John, Virgil you can go and select what you want to eat and drink, but don't be greedy, you can always go back for more. Virgil stay with Scott."
"We can have seconds?" Scott queried.
Jeff grinned, "Yes and thirds and fourths if you can fit it in, but be warned, the desserts haven't been put out yet, so leave some room."
Scott's face lite up at the prospect of so much food, Virgil and John followed him across to the display of food and started filling their plates. Jeff and Lucy following with the younger boys helped them to select what they liked the look of from what was on offer.
Scott returned to the table with his plate piled high, he hadn't intended to take so much, but there was so many things that looked good that he couldn't help himself, in the end he had had to stop before the contents of the plate over balanced. Virgil quickly followed also with an overly full plate. Scott quickly dug his fork into the food and started shovelling it into his mouth. Lucy returning to the table with Alan frowned. "Scott use you're manners." She remonstrated, Scott slowed down and transferred his fork to his left hand and started using his cutlery as his mother had taught him, taking smaller bites and chewing properly before taking another. By the time he had finished half his plate John, Gordon and Jeff had returned and started on their meals.
Scott and Virgil soon returned to the smorgasbord to refill their plates, Gordon tagging along and allowing Scott to help him. Towards one end was an area that was filled with ice and displays of whole fish, Gordon stood gobsmacked looking at a whole snapper sitting on a plate. "Want some?" Scott asked from behind the boy.
"People eat that?" Gordon asked.
"Yeah." Scott chuckled, "It's like fancy fish and chips but without the chips. You want to try some of it?"
Gordon looked up at him wide eyed. "Yeah." He breathed in awe. "And some of those and those and those. Shortly Gordon has his plate piled with prawns, fish, crayfish and various other seafood. The three returned to the table as Jeff left to get seconds.
"Look I got fishes." Gordon showed his plate to his mother.
Lucy looked at the plate in some surprise, "Are you going to eat that Gordon?" she asked.
Gordon frowned and looked at the plate, "Yeah." He responded with a tone of voice that indicates that of course he was going to eat it. "Its fancy fish and chips, but no chips." He grinned at his mother and started picking at the food on his plate. Lucy watched the expressions crossing the redheads face as he savoured each delicacy. As Jeff sat down again she nudged him and subtly pointed to Gordon. Jeff laughed, "Told you he was part fish." He whispered, Lucy nodded Gordon's affinity for all things water based was definitely dominating his personality.
By the time Scott and Virgil had had thirds the desserts were being put out, the five boys stood in wonderment at the display of cakes, pies and puddings. Once again plates are piled high, John having discovered the numerous chocolate flavoured treats decides that one plate just wasn't enough and carried two plates piled with chocolate cake, chocolate coated strawberries, puddings, pies and various other treats, back to the table.
"Johnny!" Scott gasped when he saw what John had returned to the table with.
John just grinned, "I didn't know you could get chocolate in so many desserts, and I didn't know which one I'd like best so I got some of each." He said logically.
Scott shook his head, "You're gonna get fat eating all of that."
John blushed and shrank into himself.
"Leave him be Scott." Lucy reproved, "You enjoy it Johnny."
Scott looked apologetically at his brother, "Sorry John."
John gave a hesitant smile around a mouthful of chocolate cake. " 's OK."
While the boys were eating their desserts, Lucy feign a need to use the Ladies room, she took her bag with her and being sure that she wasn't being watched she entered the gift shop and had the photos' printed while picking out a frame. Returning the frame to the counter the clerk showed her the photos. Quickly she picked out the best of them and jotted a note on it. The clerk then put the photo in the frame and gift wrapped it. Lucy slipped it into her bag and returned to the restaurant feeling pleased.
She returned to the table to find the boys slumped back in their seats, Alan and Gordon half asleep while Jeff sipped his coffee. "Looks like you lot are ready for bed." She smiled.
"Not me." Gordon perked up. "I wanna watch TV."
"Let's get back to the villa, and then we'll discuss it." Jeff put in, aware that Gordon would probably be asleep five minutes after being put in the car.
Jeff carried the dozy Alan out to the car, with the four older boys following wearily. The trip home was made in complete silence. The usual bed time arguments absent, the three younger boys climbed into bed and were soon asleep. John and Scott having washed and changed sat in the family room watching TV on the fold out bed. Lucy watched from the kitchen as her two older boys tried to fight their exhaustion, but before long they too were asleep. Jeff wandered into the kitchen behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, "Well the little ones are settled," he told her, noticing her attention was elsewhere he asked "What's up?"
"Shhh," Lucy pointed towards the sofa bed, "Aren't they sweet."
Jeff hugged Lucy close, "'Course they are, you gave birth to them." He kissed her cheek, "Should I try to get John in his bed?"
Lucy shook her head, "No they've enough room, let them sleep." She pulled away from Jeff and tucked a blanket over her sleeping boys, leaning down to tenderly kissed each good night.
Yawning widely Jeff smiled at his wife as she returned to him. "How about an early night?" he asked with a leer.
Lucy punched him gentle in the shoulder, "Behave." she giggled.
"Hey! A man's entitled to try." Jeff chuckled. "Seriously, you look worn-out."
Snuggling close Lucy looked up at her wonderful husband. "I am. An early night sound good. Care to join me flyboy." She kissed the underside on his jaw working her way up to his cheek and finally whispered an offer too good to refuse in his ear. Grinning Jeff swept his wife into his arms and strode up the hall towards the main bedroom. "You wish is my command my Lady." He whispered into her hair, pushing the door closed behind him.
Alan opened his eyes and looked around the strange room it was still dark, he couldn't remember going to bed last night, and he wasn't sure where he was now. Across the room he could see a foot hanging out of another bed, a big pile of blankets and a redhead poking out the bottom end of the bed. In the bed above him Alan could here Virgil's quiet snores. Alan grinned and climbed out of his bed and over to Gordon's pulling the blankets back he climbed up onto the bed and snuggled down with Gordon. Closing his eyes again, Alan was soon asleep.
Lucy yawned and rolled over to look at her sleeping husband, 'He looks so young when he's asleep.' She thought, 'You wouldn't know he's just turned forty two.' Gentle so as not to disturb him she kisses his forehead. Then laying back down she watched him sleep, the baby kicking her and keeping her awake. Sighing Lucy rolled out of bed and wandered into the bathroom for a shower. The noise of the running water awakened Jeff, content to lie listening to his wife and the quiet of the house he smiled thinking to himself 'Life's doesn't get much better than this.' Lucy's reappearance in the bedroom rousing him to get up himself and greet his towel wrapped wife, "Hello beautiful."Lucy smiled and crossed to the bed, "Hi handsome." She leaned down to kiss him, with a quick twist Jeff swung her off her feet and around onto the bed pinning her in place with his chest, grinning down at her, the towel now on the floor, he leaned in for a proper kiss.
Breathlessly Lucy laughed and pushed him away. "Jeff, the boys will be up in a moment."
Chuckling Jeff relented, "OK, but you owe me..." he smirked "tonight, you and me, here."
"Oh?" Lucy grinned back, "You gonna make it worth the effort, flyboy." She ran her hand down his side provocatively running her fingers under the waist band on his shorts.
Jeff's breath hitched in his chest and he grinned "You better believe it gorgeous." Jeff whispered his lips bushing the side of her face in a caress.
Giggling Lucy pushed him away again. "Go get showered."
Sighing in mock frustration Jeff bounced to his feet, "You never take me seriously." He grouched.
"Ha." Lucy snorted retrieving her towel, "What's this then." She pointed to her expanding middle. "This looks pretty serious and there's five others out there," she pointed towards the door, "That proves the fact I've taken you seriously far too often."
"Ah, but you love me." Jeff grinned sidling up to her again.
"Silly man, go get showered." She laughed and pushed him away again. "I'm going to wake the boys and get breakfast started. Scott and Virgil are going to want to be on the slope early, so you better hurry."
She dressed, leaving Jeff to his absolutions. Looking in on the younger boys on her way to the kitchen she found Alan in bed with Gordon, both with their heads at the foot of the bed rather than the head. Crouching she ruffled the blond hair of her youngest. "Alan, Allie time to get up sweetheart."
Alan stirred and looked sleepily at his mother. "Mommy?"
Behind Alan, Gordon also stirred, "Mom. Is it time to get up?"
"Yes sweet, time to get up."
Nodding Alan sat up and Lucy helped him off the bed giving him a hug and kiss on the cheek, "Go into the kitchen, I'll get breakfast started in a moment." She pushed Alan towards the door, turning to help Gordon untangle himself from the blankets, "Com'on love," Gordon reached out for a hug before both boys drift out into the hall yawning. Lucy pulled herself to her feet and looked at her middle son, Virgil was buried beneath the blankets in the top bunk snoring softly, smiling in contentment Lucy pulled the blankets back til she found a head, "Virge. Virgil time to get up sweetheart." Virgil rolled over and tried to pull the covers back over himself, "Don't wanna, wanna sleep." He grumbled from beneath the blankets. "Uh huh, Com'on sleepy head." Lucy grinned giving him a gentle shake, "Virgil, if you don't get up Dad will take the others skiing and you'll miss out." The threat seemed to register, Virgil turned sleepy eyes on his mother, "I wanna go skiing."
"Well you better get up then."
Groaning in protest Virgil sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed, wobbling. Lucy supported him saving him from falling out of the bed, with a gentle push Virgil dropped from the top bunk landing heavily on the floor. Holding him to her side, Lucy guided the sleepy boy to the kitchen and sat him in a chair, kissing the top of his head. She found Jeff already in the kitchen putting bowls and packets of cereal out on the bench, the two youngest sat on the fold out sofa with their elder brothers. "You four coming to have breakfast?" she asked from the table.
Quickly the boys gathered around the table, pouring cereal into bowls and splashing milk over the top. Jeff watched from behind the kitchen bench as Lucy expertly diverted clashes between the boys, making sure each got what they wanted, the boys responding instantly to Lucy's quiet reprimands and quick look often all that was needed to avert an argument. He shook his head thinking, 'Why is it they never behave like that for me?' as he placed a plate of toast in the middle of the table. Quite fell over the gathering as the five hungry boys ate and slurped at their fruit juice. Having settled the boys, Lucy sat beside Jeff on a kitchen stool and sipped her morning coffee, a smile of quiet contentment on her face.
"What you thinking?" Jeff queried.
"What?" Lucy looked up surprised, "Oh nothing really. Just happy."
Jeff wrapped an arm around her shoulder pulling her in close for a hug and kissed her temple. "Me too."
The quiet didn't last for long, as soon as the distraction of food had passed the boys found other entertainments. Gordon never one to sit quietly for long picked up a crumb and flicked it at Virgil, who promptly returned fire with a spoon, having better aim the spoon connected with Gordon's shoulder, growling Gordon dived out of his seat and charged his brother, Virgil stood to meet the charge and both boys tumbled to the floor struggling and wrestling. Alan stood on the table clapping his hands in excitement, while John grabbed the bowls out from under his feet before he sent them flying. Scott dived into the mêlée trying to separate his brothers and received a punch in the nose for his troubles. Crying out in pain, the blow caused him to fall back heavily against the table leg causing the table to judder and Alan to tumble, John catching him just in time.
"Hey!" Jeff shouted jumping to his feet and rounding the bench he grabbed at the first child he reached pulling Gordon off his elder brother. As Jeff hoisted Gordon to his feet, Virgil stood his lip pulled back in a snarl he flung himself at his younger brother, not realising his father was present. Jeff grabbed at Virgil's shirt pulling him away from his brother, "VIRGIL GRISSOM TRACY!" he shouted.
The sudden shout caused Virgil to quail and look up in surprise at his towering father.
"What the hell is going on?" Jeff ignored the quelling look Lucy gave him, fighting was not something he tolerated, and he wasn't going to mind his language. "Well! Answer me!"
"Ah.....ah..." Both boys stood looking at the floor and shuffling their feet.
Gingerly Scott climbed out from under the table, his face and the front of his shirt stained with blood as it dripped from his nose.
"Scott!" Lucy rushed to her eldest's side a wash cloth in hand. "Oh sweetheart, sit down."
Jeff glared at the two recalcitrant boys he held in either hand, "Look what you did to your brother by this idiocy." He shook them both lightly and reluctantly they looked up seeing Scott sitting with the wet cloth covering his nose, head forward as the blood continued to stream. "Well what do you have to say?" Jeff demanded.
Virgil looked up at his father knowing when to yield, "Sorry Dad."
"It's not me you need to apologise to." Jeff released the elder of the two and Virgil approached his brother placing a hand on Scott's shoulder.
Scott looked at his middle brother resentfully, he wasn't sure which of them had hit him, but he wasn't ready to forgive either at the moment. He shrugged the hand off and turned away.
Lucy ran her hand though the dark hair of her eldest, Scott hated being hurt or ill, he just didn't cope well with it, 'Much like his father' Lucy thought. She watched the exchange sadly, "Go get dressed Virge. We'll talk about this later." She looked at John holding a subdued and wide-eyed Alan. "John can you help Allie get dressed please?"
"Yeah Mom." Nodding John carried Alan towards the bedrooms, reluctantly Virgil followed.
Jeff looked at his redheaded son who still hadn't made a sound. "Well?"
Gordon shrugged, stubbornly remaining silent.
Gordon looked up at his father through his fringe, trying to judge just how much in trouble he was. He looked at Scott out the corner of his eye, noting the blood covering Scott's shirt and his mother wiping the last of the mess from the older boy's face, all without raising his head. "Sorry." He mumbled.
"Pardon?" Jeff asked sternly.
"Sorry." Gordon responded a little more loudly.
Sighing Jeff released the boy and crouched down in front of him. "Why are you sorry Gordon?"
"For hitting Scotty?" Gordon queried, not sure of what he was expected to say.
Jeff shook his head, "Why Gordon? Why did you charge at Virgil like that?"
"He threw a spoon at me!" the eight year old complained, tears beginning to pool. It wasn't fair why was he being questioned when Virgil had been sent away.
"And that makes it alright for you to charge at him?" Jeff looked at the boy sternly. "I'll talk to him, but next time you tell me or your Mom. I won't have fighting. Understood?"
Gordon nodded in agreement.
Quietly Jeff pushed him towards the hall door, "Go get dressed."
Half-heartedly Gordon trudged towards the door, shoulders slumped in dejection, passing Scott he suddenly turned and threw his arms around the elder boy, bursting into tears, "I'm sorry," He hiccoughed between sobs.
Scott's big brother instincts kicked in immediately, still angry at being hit, he nevertheless wrapped his arms around the sobbing boy. "I's aw wight Gowdy" he mumbled, rubbing his brothers back.
Lucy wrapped them both in her arms hugging them close, then ran her hands through the red hair of her little devil. "Hush now. It's OK. Scott will be fine. Nothing broken." She smiled at the flushed face, Gordon always turned as red as his hair when he got upset. She wiped the tears from his face, "Go get dressed now."
Sadly Gordon shuffled out of the room to get dressed, leaving his parents and eldest brother in a very quiet kitchen. Jeff stood over Scott and tipped his head back to inspect the damage. He grimaced at the blood still occasionally dripping down the boys face.
"Not broken. But it's gonna be swollen for a while. You still up to skiing today?" he asked in concern.
Scott stood hurriedly wiping the ticklish stream of blood from his face with his sleeve. "Yessh." He said, "I'm fwine. I'wll jus get dwess-d." He dashed across the room to grab his bag before his father decided that he was too injured to go.
Jeff chuckled and looked at Lucy to gage her reaction, she nodded and Jeff returned his attention to his anxious son. "Go get showered then. You can use the bathroom attached to our room."
Scott raced out into the hall impatiently wanting to reach the slopes as quickly as he could.
Jeff looked at the clock above the table, 'Nearly eight' sighing he helped Lucy clear the table then found a mop to wipe Scott's blood off the floor under the table.
Lucy collected the coats, hats and scarves and handed them to each of the boys as they appeared, Jeff joined her as the boys gathered in the lounge, Scott the last to appear.
"Right!" Jeff rubbed his hands together, "You got everything? Are we ready to go?"
Cheers erupted from the assembled boys. "OK everyone out to the car." A mass exodus ensued the four younger boys charging through the door pushing and shoving to reach the car first. Scott rolled his eyes and shook his head, causing his mother to giggle and wrap her arm around his shoulders, 'He's getting so tall.' She noted sadly, 'He's not my little boy anymore.' Pulling him in for a quick hug she smiled, "They will grow up.... eventually." She reassured him.
Scott shook his head. "John, Virgil and Alan maybe. Gordy... never...." he grinned at his mother.
Jeff laughed behind them, "That's what I used to think about you Tiger."
Scott looked over his shoulder at his father and scowled. "Ha!"
Jeff shoved him playfully toward the SUV. "Get in hotshot."
Quickly the boys clamber into the vehicle for the trip to the ski slopes. Jeff pulled away from the villa and started the slow drive further up the mountain to the ski fields. Frost rimed the windows of the SUV chilling the faces of the boys as they press up against them watching the snowy hills pass by.
In the pristine mountains the SUV pulled into the car park at the bottom of the ski fields by the kiosk and ticket booth for the ski lifts, excitedly the Tracy boys clambered over each other to exit the car, Scott this time joining them in the boisterous excitement. Jeff pulled the various skiing equipment from the back of the SUV handing it to it's owner and directing the overly exited boys towards their mother standing in the shelter of the ticket booth with Alan.
Tickets were purchased and the four elder boys kissed their mother goodbye as they raced towards the base of the ski lifts.
"Is that it?" Lucy called looking at the boys.
Reluctantly they returned and Lucy gave each a proper hug and kiss. Adjusting a hat or scarf, pulling a jacket zipper up tighter. "Now you listen to your Father. Do what you're told. Understand."
"Yes Mom." They responded obediently.
Lucy laughed. "OK." She gave each a final hug and kiss. "Off you go then. Love you."
"Love you too Mom." Scott said as he hugged his mother. "I'll keep an eye on them, don't worry. I won't let anything happen to them."
"I know you won't Love." Lucy brushed Scott's fringe away from his eyes. "Look after yourself as well." She ran her finger gently over his bruised nose and hugged him close. "Go on. I'll see you later." The four raced across to the line for the lift, shoving and pushing to be first. Scott quickly got them in to order, separating Gordon and Virgil by placing himself in the middle.
Lucy laughed at their antics. Jeff grinned and tried to look down trodden, "You want to take them instead?" he asked. "Love to." Lucy agreed, "But number six disagrees." She patted her distended abdomen. "You'll just have to manage with them while I'm gone."
Jeff smiled and kneeled beside Alan, "Now you look after Mommy, 'Kay." He pulled the small boy drowning in his new hat into a warm embrace, "No running off with any Sasquatch."
The small boy screwed his nose up at his father, "What's a Saswatch?" he asked
"Never mind." Lucy drew the small boy away from his grinning father, "Your Daddy is being silly." She glared at Jeff mildly, and directed her next comment to him, "No frightening the boys with stories."
"Yes m'am." Jeff stood and saluted smartly.
Laughing Lucy leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek, "Any more cheek from you mister and you can kiss your chances tonight good bye."
Jeff smiled and tried to look contrite, "Sorry." Giving up he grabbed Lucy and swung her into his arms kissing her passionately. Breathlessly the two separated.
"Ahh.... ah..." Jeff looked at his mussed wife suddenly feeling reluctant to leave her, "I suppose I better get going then."
Lucy looked at her four boys waiting impatiently for their father to join them. "Guess so." She pushed Jeff towards the waiting boys. "I'll see you later. Have fun."
Lucy and Alan stood at the bottom of the slope watching as Jeff and the boys rode up the mountain on the lifts, Gordon turning to wave energetically to them until they were nothing but a small smudge in the distance. Lucy sighed, she loved skiing, but pregnancy and skiing just didn't work. "Com'on Allie, let's go and see if we can find the perfect place for a snowman." She took the four year olds hand and they walked across the snow towards the line of trees.
The vast tract of untouched snow was too much for Alan, pulling from his mother's hand he raced across the snow diving into drifts and rolling in the powder. Laughing Lucy followed the excited youngster, enjoying his elation in the simple pleasure.
"Mommy. Mommy." Alan called as he found a particularly big snow drift. "Look at me." The four year old dived into the drift disappearing entirely. Worriedly Lucy hurried over and dragged the boy from the snow dusting him off. "Careful Alan. Snow can be dangerous; you mustn't dive into it like that." Contrite the boy remain by his mother's side for a while as they strolled across the snow and through the trees. As they followed the path back around to the car park they could see more cars arriving and crowds of people lining up to take the lifts to the top of the slopes.
"Well it looks like you Dad and brother's got here just in time." Lucy said to Alan. "It's starting to get busy." She looked at the small boy at her side, his nose red with cold. "How about a hot chocolate?"
"With marmellows?" Alan grinned.
Lucy pursed her lips as if considering the option, Alan's anxious eyes causing her to laugh quietly, "Ok, you can have marshmallows, just don't tell Virgil."
Alan giggled knowing of Virgil's fondness for marshmallows and that he would be miffed that he had missed out.
They bought the drinks at the kiosk and sat on the seats in the shelter in front of the large open fire watching the crowd of people waiting for the lifts.
Finishing the drinks, Lucy dropped the plastic cups in the bin and held Alan's hand as they stood watching the slopes. Lucy stared up the hill looking for a sign of her boys or husband, knowing it was in vain as they were well beyond her sight. Sighing she looked at Alan, "What about that Snowman then?"
Grinning Alan dropped her hand and raced off towards a clear area of snow near to the trees they had walked through earlier. "Here Mommy." He called jumping up and down in excitement.
Laughing Lucy joined Alan and the two began piling up snow to form the body of the snowman. Crouching to gather another handful of snow, Lucy suddenly felt a cold wet sensation as snow dribbled down the back of her neck, turning she found Alan giggling madly, realising he'd been caught out the little boy dashed around the pile of snow. "I'm going to get you for that." Lucy laughed chasing the boy around and around the half built snowman, tripping Alan fell over in a fit of giggles. "You've been watching Gordon to much little man." Lucy growled theatrically. "Shall I show you what I do to little boys that put snow down their Mommy's necks?" Alan wriggled as Lucy grabbed him up and tickled him. The two collapsed in a heap in the snow breathlessly. Alan climbing into his mother's lap and snuggled close. "Gordy told me to do it." Alan said with a grin.
"Ohhhh." Lucy looked at the small boy eye brow raised, "And you do everything Gordy says?"
Alan shrugged and shook his head. Smiling Lucy hugged him close. "Well I'll just have to get Gordy back later won't I?" giggling Alan nodded.
The bright sun glared off the steep hill of pristine snow behind them causing the two to heat up and throw off their hats and scarves. Standing up they continued to work to pack the snow into a rough semblance of a man.
Lucy stood back to admire their work, "Great Allie." She praised as the boy continued to pat the snow into place, "I think he needs a face. What do you think?" smiling Alan looked around for something to make a face with. Grinning at the frustrated frown on the small boys face Lucy pulled a carrot from her pocket. "What about this?" she asked.
Eyes lighting up Alan grabbed the carrot and shoved it end first into the head of the snowman. Lucy crouched by his side. "Anything else?"
"Eyes. He needs eyes" Alan stated adamantly.
"Hum..." Lucy looked at Alan. "What do you think we could use for eyes?" she asked.
Alan looked thoughtfully at the snowman, Lucy could almost see the wheels turning, 'He's so much like John.' She thought the furrowed brow and fair hair reminiscent of his elder brother. Lucy smiled as she thought about her second eldest, the discussion of the afternoon before returning to mind, 'Poor John takes everything so seriously.' She looked at the serious face of her youngest. His frown suddenly disappeared as a bright smile of excitement crossed his face, reaching into his pocket Alan drew out the packet of candy, "Jelly beans!" he crowed. Pulling a few of the candy from the packet he shoved some in his mouth and the rest back in his pocket and pushed two of the candies into the snow for eyes, one blue and one green, turning his grinning face to his mother, "Look eyes."
"Very good Alan." Lucy ruffled the boys blond hair. "Anything else?"
The frown returned as the small boy studied his master piece, walking around the snowman, he picked up his hat and reaching up perched the hat on the snowman's head then tried to wrap his scarf around the middle. Standing Lucy helped him taking instruction on the correct positioning of the piece of cloth. 'He's worse than Virgil.' She thought as the small boy screwed up his face and turned his head from side to side to make sure everything was just right. Hands on his hips he looked seriously at his mother, "He needs arms."
"Arms?" Lucy questions.
"Yes! Arms. Tree arms." Alan replied and marched off towards the trees to find suitable branches; Lucy watched carefully as the boy sorted though partially snow-covered dead branches lying under the trees. He separated a couple of appropriate branches and dragged them back to the snowman determinedly. "Are they big enough?" Lucy asked trying to keep a straight face.
"Don't know!" Alan replied, lifting the long branches and trying to place them properly. Lucy giggled at the expressions crossing his face as he struggled with the branches; determine to get them into place. 'So like Scott, bigger is better.' She thought, stepping forward to help, pushing the first overly long branch into place then the other. Eventually the snowman was finished. Alan stood back to admire his work, a rather rotund, stunted snowman, with an orange nose, blue and green eyes and extremely long arms. Smiling Lucy pulled her camera out and took a photo of Alan beside his snowman.
"Very good sweetheart, you'll have to show Daddy later." Grinning Alan hugged his mother, rubbing his cold face into her neck. "Brrrr. Let's get your hat and scarf back on you." She said.
"But snowy will get cold." Alan replied.
"Snowy is a snowman, he's supposed to be cold Allie, you're not." Lucy pulled the hat and scarf from the snowman and wrapped up the four year old again. "Com'on it will be lunch time soon, we need to meet Dad and the boys at the kiosk."
Holding Alan's hand firmly on the steep slope Lucy began the slow journey back down towards the kiosk the bright sun gleamed off the snow.
In the distance Lucy heard rumbling, she looked up at the clear sky surprised wondering where the noise was coming from. Sudden screams and cries from the crowds below alerted her that something wasn't right, immediately she thought of Jeff and the boys. 'Where are they?' She looked towards the lifts hoping to see them. The crowds were rushing away from the hillside towards the cars. Her eyes were drawn up the line of the lifts towards the top of the mountains, which had suddenly vanished in a cloud of snow. Vibrations coursed through the ground and up her legs. Horror manifested itself in her chest as she realised what was happening. "RUN! ALAN RUN!" She cried dragging the boy by his arm trying to outrun the snow. The child stumbled and rolled down the hill away from her, quickly Lucy lurched towards him grabbing him up and racing for the protection of the trees, the kiosk and car park were too far away she realised too late. Holding tight to her son and praying that her other boys and husband were safe she stumbled towards the trees and safety the cloud of snow swirling around them she fell towards the shelter of the trees the sudden weight of the Avalanche hitting her and tossing her and Alan against a large tree, in desperation she clutched Alan to her chest, her instincts causing her to curve her body around her child as they were pummelled by the raging snow. A sudden blow to the head and Lucy knew no more.
Alan woke to a white, white world. Glaring bright light caused him to close his eyes. Around him it was quiet, a nearby regular beeping and the distant shuffling of feet caused him to reluctantly open his eyes again. He wasn't on the mountain he realised. Looking around the panicked four year old sought anything familiar, beside him on a chair asleep sat his eldest brother. "Scotty?" Alan croaked, coughed and tried again. "Scotty."
Suddenly Scott looked up his eyes were red rimmed. "Allie, you're awake." Standing Scott sat on the bed and gathered the little boy into his lap, being careful of the plaster casts on both of Alan's arms and one leg. Alan looked at the plaster in surprise. "What happened?" he asked. "Where are Mommy and Daddy?"
Tears welled in Scott eyes, his breath caught in his chest as pain blossomed. "Just rest Allie, Daddy will be here later." Scott choked on the words burying his head in his brother's hair. In distress Alan clutched at Scott, "Where's Mommy? I want Mommy!" The little boy demanded.
"She's gone Allie." Scott looked at his baby brother tears pouring down his face, "She's gone."
Shaking his head Alan struggled in Scott's grasp, "No. I want Mommy. MOMMY!" he cried at the top of his lungs. His cries drew the attention of the three other Tracy boys gathered outside the room. Quickly they rushed to their baby brother's bedside, gathering around the two boys on the bed. Gordon climbed up beside Scott and snuggled in close to Alan wrapping his arms around the smaller boy, Virgil sat behind him and also wrapping his arms around his brothers for once not arguing with Gordon, John sat up on Scott's other side, Scott taking one arm from around Alan and pulled John into the hug, instinctively John embraced his brothers accepting the close contact for the first time in his short life. Together the boys lay clutching at each other, the pain and despair consoled for a time as exhaustion took them and they each fell asleep in a huddle. Scott the last to do so, "I'll look after them Mom, I promise I'll look after them." He whispered, closing his eyes.
It was late when Jeff found them; the nursing staff having tried to separate them had given up deciding that the distress caused would out-weight any discomfort the youngest might be feeling from his injuries. Tiredly Jeff collapsed in the chair Scott had been sitting in earlier. He had been out on the mountain all afternoon helping the search and rescue crews. They had found no sign of his Lucy. The tears he had tried to hold at bay all afternoon suddenly broke through, he choked on his sobs not wanting to wake his boys, his and Lucy's boys. 'How can she be gone?' he asks the quiet room. 'Why? Why us. What did we do to deserve this?' He closed his eyes against the pain.
Morning dawned in the small hospital room finding the Tracy boys still huddled in a mass on the bed and Jeff hunched in a chair. The movement of medical staff awakened Jeff to a new day, one filled with dread. Reluctantly he opened his eyes hoping that it was all a dream, but the sterile hospital room reminded him that it wasn't, that his precious wife and unborn child were gone.
Scott was the first to awaken as usual; he sat up untangling himself from his brothers' arms and legs. "Dad?"
Jeff shook his head at the unvoiced question. "Nothing son." His lips trembled as he swallowed tightly; he had to be strong for his boys.
The breakfast trolley woke the rest of the boys, and Scott persuaded them to eat. Forcing a cup of coffee into his father's shaking hands and taking one for himself. Jeff frowned, Lucy didn't like Scott to drink coffee, 'But she's not here.' Jeff thought in anger. 'Let him have his coffee, he deserves to have whatever he Damn well wants.'
After gaining clearance from the doctors', Jeff checked Alan out of the hospital and they returned to the villa. It was a subdued group that gathered in the lounge. Scott put the television on for the two younger boys and approached his father who had retreated to the kitchen. "Should we call Gran?" he asked.
Jeff looked up surprised to see Scott at his side; he hadn't heard him come in to the room. "Ah....No." He frowned trying to clear his thoughts; he didn't want to tell anyone, to tell even his mother was to admit that Lucy wasn't coming back. "No we don't need anyone else. We can manage on our own."
"Okay." Scott looked at his father worriedly. He turned at the sound of shuffling feet by the door; John and Virgil were both standing in the doorway.
"What do we do?" John asked quietly.
Scott shrugged the three boys withdraw into the shared bedroom and sat silently with their own thoughts.
Alan's hobbling, clunking approach brought them out of themselves and Scott reluctantly returned to the kitchen to get his brothers some lunch his father was no longer in the room and a quick search of the villa found him in the bedroom he shared with Lucy. Jeff sat on the bed, tears streaming down his face a photo frame clutched in his hands, torn wrapping paper and a box of Easter eggs scattered across the floor, some of the chocolates obviously broken, having be thrown with some force. His vacant stare caused Scott to retreat.
John helped Scott to organise a late lunch and the boys ate in the lounge, gathered together, keeping in physical contact as if it would keep the pain away.
The sky was darkening when a knocking sounded on the front door. Scott answered it to find two men in uniform standing on the threshold. "Hello son. I'm Officer Harris, this is Officer James." They showed Scott their ID, "is your father here?"
"Ah.... Yeah." Scott replied. "I'll get him." He allowed the officers into the hall and closed the door, then went to find his father. Officer Harris stood in the hallway with his partner; this was the worst part of the job, talking to the families. He noticed the four faces in the partially open doorway opposite and realised there were more children. 'Five.' He thought, 'She's left five kids behind. Damn. I hate Avalanches.'
Jeff followed Scott down the hall and nodded to the officers, "Scott take your brothers into the lounge please." He directed without looking at any of the boys. He indicated the officers should follow him and the three men went into the kitchen. Scott looked at his brothers, the four younger boys exchanging looks and by silent consensus they crept down the hall and listened at the kitchen door.
"I'm sorry Mr Tracy." Officer Harris said in a tired voice, "The search party has found no trace of your wife. It's not unusual in these cases. The power of the Avalanche can sweep a body for miles. We did find this." He handed Jeff Lucy's camera, Jeff handled it as if it was a bomb about to explode, gently putting it on the kitchen bench.
"She could still be alive somewhere then?" Jeff asked hope flaring for a moment, only to be dashed by Officer James' next words.
"I'm afraid not Mr Tracy. It's been thirty two hours, it's well below freezing out there. That we found the boy, your son? Is incredible enough. Chances are we won't find a body. The canyons and gorges here are deep and snow cover is heavy. Spring will bring rain and the melt and any remains will probably be washed away. I'm real sorry I wish we had better news. But truth is you're not going to get her back. I sorry."
Jeff held his breath trying to hold everything in. That his wife was dead was bad enough, but not to be able to give her a proper burial was beyond him, his grief broke his hold and he collapsed on the kitchen floor distraught, within moments the boys were at his side arms surrounding him as he held on to them clutching Alan and Gordon to his chest as the pain exploded through his system. The two officers stood stock still unsure of what to do. Scott stood and looked at the officers holding his own pain and tears at bay. "Thank you Officer Harris, Officer James, is there anything we have to do?"
"Ah...." Officer Harris looked at his partner unsure of this suddenly adult acting teen, Officer James just shrugged. "There will be paperwork that needs to be signed but it can be sent to your father. Are you alright to get home, can we call someone, a friend or relative?"
"No." Scott replied, "We don't need anyone else. We can manage. Thank you." He showed the Officers to the door as he closed the door behind them he noticed the photo frame sitting on the table where his father had left it. Scott picked it up. It was the photo his father had taken the day before, 'No two days ago.' Scott thought, he looked at it, tears misting his vision as he looked at the happy smiling image of his mother, in the bottom right-hand corner in his mother's distinctive hand writing was a message. 'To Jeff and my five amazing boys.'
Scott slumped to the floor and allowed the tears to flow clutching the photo in its frame to his heart.
A/N: Heart breaking huh? (Well I've been bawling my eye's out writting it. LOL. Sad aren't I.) The photo is the one that is on Jeff's desk in the movie. It's basically were this story came from. If Lucy died (?) in an avalanche then how did they get such a lovely photo? This story is my answer.
Thanks for reading...
Please review, TBZ.