It's shocking! I'm on schedule! *gasps* Lol. Zero college prep means free evenings, and free evenings mean fanfiction. Free time is awesome! Although I AM feeling a tad guilty over the amount of cash I've spent on shopping and cinema trips recently with my friends. I kinda went into overdrive. I mean c'mon, New Look had a sale on jeans AND shoes! Plus I've been going cold turkey as far as shopping is concerned for almost two months, which is WAY too long for a teenage girl, people. Yeah, well....that excuse makes me feel a little less guilty, so just nod your head in agreement, 'kay? Much obliged.
Ooh, and I found the best t-shirt EVER! It says "Don't try and follow in my footsteps - I walk into walls." Ain't that awesome? It tickled my sister's sense of humour, anyway. All it needs now is a picture of LMB (the cartoon character) on the front, and I'm sorted! Lol.
Well, enough about me. Thanks so much for all the great reviews, it was good to see some familiar pennames. Ah, it's been too long, m'dears. Anywho, enough chit-chat. Now, without further ado, let us return to the realms of hurt/comfort madness.
John chewed on his bottom lip, shifting nervously from foot to foot as he watched Scott with worried eyes. His older brother sat slumped on a weather-beaten wooden bench, leaning forwards as he breathed heavily, his hands resting palm-upwards between his knees. John could see that his brother was in pain. Serious pain. The permanent crease between his brows, coupled with Scott's stiff posture and firmly set jaw, was all the evidence John required in order to come to this worrying conclusion.
Plus his brother was covered in blood. This, John mused, wasn't usually a good thing.
Carefully leaning his bike against a nearby tree, the blond-haired Tracy son tentatively stepped towards the bench, almost as though he feared that moving too quickly would only increase Scott's pain. Sitting down a few inches away from the older boy, he watched him in silence for a long moment, listening to his brother's heavy breathing. Finally, he decided that he'd had enough. He couldn't just sit here and do nothing. Scott needed help.
"I'm gonna go home and get Dad," he announced, with all the confidence he could muster. Sadly, this was not an impressive amount, and the statement came out somewhat croaked and with an obvious underlying tone of frightened desperation.
Scott's breathing hitched and he gave a startled jump, head snapping up towards John as he stared at the younger Tracy in surprise.
"Home," John repeated, gaining confidence as he raised his chin defiantly. "I'm going home without you to get-"
"No. "Scott's tone was firm as he cut him off, shaking his head and frowning at the younger boy. "We've already discussed this."
Deflating a little, John inched closer to his brother's side. "But Scotty, you can't walk anymore. You really don't look so good. Why d'you keep shaking? It's not even cold. Are you sick? Susie Harris hit her head when she fell off the jungle gym at school and that made her sick. Did you hit your head?"
"No," came the weary and slightly annoyed reply. "I already told you that. Listen, I'll be okay in a sec. I just need to catch my breath"
John swallowed heavily as his eyes dropped to Scott's knee. "Why won't it stop bleeding?"
"Because," Scott gritted out, trying to keep the bile down as another wave of dizziness and nausea washed over him.
For a long moment, the trees and shrubs opposite him seemed to drift across his vision, almost as though the bench he was sitting on was slowly moving sideways along the path. Scott's heart thudded faster within his chest.
"That's not an answer!" John replied crossly, inching even closer to his brother's side. "We've been walking for ages now, it shoulda stopped! Why hasn't it stopped? What if it never stops? What if it bleeds too much and you faint before we get home?!"
"John," Scott couldn't take much more of this, "I'll be fine. It's just a cut."
John reached up and tugged on his t-shirt nervously. "You're still shaking," he whispered, blue eyes wide and scared. "What is it, Scotty, what's wrong?"
Scott averted his gaze, exhaling slowly as he tried to clench his smarting hands into fists, hoping to stop the worst of the shudders. He regretted the action a moment later as pain exploded across his injured palms. Biting down hard on his bottom lip, he closed his eyes, hugging his arms against his chest in an attempt to bring some warmth back into his limbs. Why had it gotten so cold all of a sudden?
Closing his eyes at the fear in his brother's voice, Scott sucked in another shaky breath. His stomach churned within him, sending a sickening wave of nausea up through his chest and into the back of his throat. His head seemed to buzz, the world around him feeling strange and distant as the soft whispering of the wind began to sound overly loud in his ringing ears. And boy, did he hurt. It felt as though all the skin on his right leg had been torn away, leaving a constant aching burn in its wake. His arm felt much the same, only stiffer and more difficult to bend. And as for his hands, well-
Almost in response to that thought, the pain in his hands shot up another notch, seeming to throb with ever beat of his loudly thudding heart. Scott squeezed his eyes tight shut against the unwanted build-up of moisture, his chest beginning to feel tight again as he tried to control his emotions. I'm not gonna cry. I'm not gonna cry. I'm not.
"Scotty? Scotty, you're scaring me."
Scott swallowed heavily, keeping his eyes closed. "It's okay, Johnny," he murmured, although the attempt at reassurance failed miserably as his voice shook. "Everything's okay."
"No, it's not!" John was clearly distressed, the worried tone evident in his weak voice. "You keep sayin' that, but everything's not okay! You're bleeding and - and Mom and Dad are gonna be real worried about us 'cause it's already past six and-"
Scott's eyes flew open, immediately locating his brother's face. "What?!"
John looked a little startled, his mouth opening and closing noiselessly for a few moments before he finally responded with a timid, "I said - I said it's already past six, so Mom and Dad are gonna be worried about us 'cause we - we're not back yet."
Scott wanted to die right there and then. Great. Just great. Well, he could add being late for dinner to his rapidly expanding list of wrongdoings. How could this day possibly get any worse? He was so totally screwed.
Pushing himself stiffly to his feet, he tried to force another - albeit shaky - smile onto his face. Hobbling painfully over to where his bike stood, he reached out to take hold of the handlebars with the tips of his fingers, wincing as the hard object brushed lightly over the stinging grazes on his palms.
"C'mon," he began, his falsely cheerful voice sounding strained even in his own ears. "It's not far to the house. It'll only take us another ten minutes if we walk fast, so maybe Mom won't be so mad."
John looked at his brother in exasperation. "Walk fast?" he repeated incredulously. "Are you crazy?! Scotty, how're you s'posed to walk fast with - with-"
"Would you just shut up and walk?" Scott snapped, the level of nausea increasing as the seconds ticked by. "Why'd you hafta talk so much, anyways?"
John bit his lip to keep it from trembling, staring after his older brother as Scott began to hobble off down the path with renewed determination. Tears blurred his vision, but he swiped them away with the back of his arm. He had to be big and brave, like Scotty. His brother hadn't meant to be mean. He was just feeling really sick. And John knew that sometimes, when a person didn't feel very well, they often said things that they didn't mean. Yes, that was it. Scott was just feeling unwell.
Grabbing his bike and jogging off down the path after his brother, he yelled, "Scotty, wait up!"
Scott did pause - but not because of his brother's call. He was suddenly overcome by another terrible wave of nausea, one that had him dropping his bike and staggering over to the side of the path, doubling up and breathing heavily as tears pricked at the corners of his eyes. He was seconds away from throwing up, he could sense it. Trying to regain his composure, he swiped the back of his hand across his eyes, leaning heavily against a large tree as he sucked in steadying lungfuls of air.
He sensed movement out of the corner of his eye and, looking up, he glanced at John as the boy came to stand in front of him. Wordlessly, the eight-year-old handed him the bottle of water that had been strapped to the underside of Scott's bike frame, his blue eyes full of worry and pain.
"Little sips," he instructed softly, even as his voice shook. "Dad always says that big gulps make you feel sicker."
Scott was overcome by a strong wave of gratitude towards his younger sibling, mingled with the uneasy feeling of guilt at having snapped at the smaller Tracy only moments before. John's thoughtfulness and calm demeanor were soothing, helping to take the edge off the pain that now coursed through Scott's body. Reaching out with numb, cold fingers, he took the bottle and forced a shaky smile to his lips.
John smiled up at him, relieved that he'd been able to do something useful, and immediately the slight air of tension between them evaporated. Scott was sorry and John forgived him - nothing more needed to be said.
The water helped, thank God, and soon Scott found that his world was beginning to right itself. Things felt more normal than they had done before, the sounds and sights more real, less....daunting. He would be alright. He just had to keep going.
When he reached for his bike, John didn't even argue with him, but merely stepped over to his side and helped him heave the object upright. They began walking down the path, side by side as John kept their pace steady. Scott found walking a little easier now that the nausea had passed, his mind able to focus on watching where his feet were going instead of thinking constantly about his churning stomach as it had been doing beforehand. This wouldn't be so hard. They'd be home before they knew it. He felt almost....positive....about the journey ahead.
However, the feeling did not last long. They had been walking less than a minute when Scott's attention happened to waver for a split second, resulting in the front wheel of his bike bumping jarringly over a particularly large root in the ground. As Scott's hands tightened reflexively around the handlebars to keep their grip constant, he let out a pained yelp, coming to a sudden halt as he leaned his bike against his hip and flexed his hands, a painful grimace adorning his features. John, who had been watching his brother with barely suppressed panic, reached out to put a supportive hand on the older boy's shoulder.
"C'mon. Nearly home, Scotty," he said, and the statement would've almost sounded cheerful had Scott not seen the tears in his brother's eyes. "We'll be back real soon. Then Mommy an' Daddy'll make it better, 'kay?"
Scott managed an almost-smile at the younger boy's innocent encouragement. John had, probably unknowingly, used the 'baby words' he had recently begun to reject so adamantly. Over the past few months, anything the younger kids did that Scott didn't do was seen as being 'babyish' in the eyes of the growing eight-year-old. Even bedtime stories, that John had once loved more than any other part of the usual bedtime routine, were becoming distinctly 'uncool'. When Scott had expressed his concerns over the matter, his father had merely laughed it off, saying that John was simply growing up fast. And, seeing his brother standing beside him so resolutely, Scott had to agree. John wasn't a little kid anymore. He was a big brother, just like Scott.
Minutes ticked by like long, painful hours. Every step seemed to bring forth a new spasm of agony from the various cuts and scrapes on the side of his leg, the constant throb of his knee sending sharp, pulsating aches into the rest of the joint, making walking a particularly difficult task. And although every step brought him closer to home, the movement was also feeding off his dwindling supply of energy reserves. His arms already felt like jelly; strange, light and stiff - almost numb - like they belonged to another person and weren't even a part of his own body. But there they were, stuck onto his torso, bothering him.
"Look, Scotty!" John's hope-filled voice piped up, breaking the silence. "It's the gate, look! We're nearly home!"
Scott looked up and blinked, surprised. The old wooden gate at the end of the path up ahead opened out onto a wide tarmac road - the very same road his family lived on. Another minute and he'd be home, safe and sound.
Sadly, as the tidal wave of relief passed over him, it seemed to wash away the remaining tendrils of energy from his body, leaving him feeling utterly exhausted and defeated. Despite how close he was to his final destination, he suddenly found himself wanting to sit down on the ground and never move again. Oh yes, sitting down sounded good.
"C'mon, Scotty." John seemed to have sensed his brother's exhaustion and, with an encouraging tug on Scott's shirt, was leading the way towards the gate. "We're nearly there. You just need to walk a little bit more, 'kay?"
Forcing his jelly-like legs to keep moving, Scott stumbled down the path after his younger sibling. How his cold fingers managed to maintain their fragile grip on the handlebars of his bike, he'd no idea. But he honestly couldn't be bothered to contemplate that particular phenomenon right now. He had more important matters to attend to. Such as keeping himself upright.
Out from under the cover of the overhanging trees that had sheltered most of the path, the evening sun seemed overly bright, making Scott wince as he emerged through the gate. He was breathing heavily already, the last push to their home now a serious problem for his wearied body. Suddenly, the short walk from the gate to the driveway at the end of the road seemed ten times longer than usual, every metre an impossible distance to cover as he stumbled forwards on weak legs, stomach churning within him again.
He was grateful that it was dinner time and the other residents of their small road were not to be seen. If old Mrs Wilson saw him like this, Scott was sure that it would finish her off. Then he could add murder to his list of faults right alongside being late for dinner and disobeying his father's instructions. Although, he mused, the death their favourite neighbour might be a greater cause for concern than the other mistakes he'd made that day.
Finally, they arrived at the large black gates that blocked the gap between the shoulder-height walls which ran around the circumference of the giant Tracy property. The paved driveway curved gracefully around the large front lawn that stood before their house, a handful of outdoor toys and coloured balls lying scattered here and there from the day's activities, standing out brightly against the green of the short grass. In Scott's eyes, the sight of the oh-so-familiar family home was even better than a genuine antique F-34 fighter jet.
He'd made it. He'd actually made it. He was home.
John pulled the bolt back on the large gate and pushed one side open, wheeling his bike onto the driveway hurriedly and glancing back at Scott, worry shining in his eyes. But the older boy was too spent to notice, his determination having fizzled down to nothing now that he'd finally arrived at the desired destination. There was simply no way that his wobbly legs were going to carry him all the way across the front yard and up to the door. It was a physical impossibility.
Leaning heavily against the opened gate, Scott let go of his bike, for once not even caring as it hit the hard ground with a resounding 'crash'. John looked at him for a long moment, fear and concern mingled together on his face, before shooting a quick glance towards the house.
"Scotty, stay here," he ordered, sounding far more confident now that they were finally back home. "I'm gonna go get Dad."
Scott didn't bother to argue, watching with groggily detached interest as John threw his bike down onto the grass and went sprinting off across the lawn and up to the house. Just before he arrived, the front door opened and a small copper-haired figure jumped down the steps, stopping long enough to stare at John as the older boy raced past him and into the house. Then the boy turned towards Scott and began running over the grassy lawn on his two little legs, a wide grin on his face.
"Mommy, Daddy!" he cried cheerfully. "Scotty and Johnny's home! Scotty and-"
He broke off, skidding to a halt a few metres away from Scott, eyes going wide and mouth falling open in horror as he gazed up at his eldest brother in stunned silence. Then, his face the picture of total panic, he turned around on the spot and ran back towards the house as fast as his tiny legs could carry him, his tone desperate and frightened as he yelled,
"Mommy! Daddy! Scotty's dying!"
Gordon disappeared from view as he darted through the front door and into the house. For a long moment, there was silence; empty, wonderful, sleepy silence. Not even the rustle of leaves or the gentle whistle of the wind came to bother him. And man, Scott was tired.
Suddenly, another flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye drew him away from his musings. John had emerged from the house again, bringing with him a taller, dark-haired figure. Scott felt another wave of relief wash over him as he instantly recognised the familiar form.
The Tracy patriarch was across the lawn and at Scott's side in a matter of seconds. As he knelt down beside him on the paved driveway, Scott blinked, mildly surprised as he realised that he was no longer standing upright. At some point, he had clearly settled down into a sitting position on the ground, too tired to support his own weight against the metal bars. Scott frowned inwardly. Odd. I don't remember doing that.
"Scotty?" A gentle hand on his shoulder brought him back into the present with a painful jolt. His father was looking at him with barely suppressed fear, his eyes shining with worry and concern as they ran over the various wounds that marred his body. "Okay. Alright, son. Don't worry, it's okay. Everything's gonna be okay. You'll be just fine."
The stream of murmured reassurances were working their magic. Scott slowly felt his stiff posture relax a little as his father's hands moved up to his head, unclasping the strap on the underside of his chin and carefully pulling off his helmet. Then warm skin pressed against his cheeks as the older Tracy cupped his face, turning his head from side to side slowly.
"Did you hit your head, son?"
Scott shook his head slightly, too tired to attempt a verbal response.
"Alright, kiddo," Jeff murmured as he made to stand, looping one arm beneath Scott's knees and another around his back, all the while maintaining a soothing outward calm. "Let's get you inside and cleaned up, hmm? Okay. D'you think you can put your arm around my neck for me?"
Scott siged in relief and nodded, wincing only a little as the material on his father's shirt brushed against his various scrapes. He blinked, turning his head towards the fabric....and grimaced. White. His father's shirt was white. Oh boy. Scott might've been a little lethargic, but even he could put simple colours together. Red bloodstains on white shirts - never a good thing. Plus he knew from art class that red and white made pink - and Scott hated pink. And spinach. He really hated spinach.
He squeezed his eyes shut, leaning closer into his father's hold as they entered the house. There were too many noises, too much motion, too many colours. The dizzyness was starting to get worse. And boy oh boy, did his hands smart.
"Here we go, Sport," Jeff murmured, and Scott opened his eyes, blinking at the brightness of the room around him. The kitchen. His father carried him over to the large work surface on the far side of the room, sitting him down with his legs hanging over the edge of the counter and keeping a gentle hold on his shoulders to make sure he didn't fall off.
"Oh my gosh."
The shocked gasp had Scott's head snapping up towards the doorway, where his mother stood frozen in shock with a hand pressed lightly against her mouth, eyes wide with fear and worry as she stared at her eldest son's blood-splattered form. Rushing forwards as fast as a heavily-pregnant woman could possibly manage, she swept over to Scott's side and took his face in her hands, planting kisses on his cheeks and forehead.
"Oh, sweetie, what happened?" she whispered, her eyes scanning over his various cuts and grazes.
Scott swallowed heavily as his throat began to ache again. He wanted to cry. Why did he want to cry? He was home, his parents weren't angry at him (yet) and he wasn't going to die. What was wrong with him? Blinking back the moisture from his eyes, he bit his lip. He was too old to cry. Only little kids cried. He was supposed to be brave. He bet that none of the older boys in his grade ever cried when they got hurt. And heck, Scott wasn't about to be called a baby. He'd just have to suck it up.
"Jeff." Lucille was holding Scott against her in a gentle hug and rubbing his back soothingly, but looking towards her husband as she spoke. "His knee's pretty torn up. Maybe we should get it checked out. It might need stitches. I can stay here with the boys while you take Scotty to-"
Scott was still a little groggy, but he was lucid enough to understand what his mother was trying to say. Pulling away sharply, he looked up at his parents with wide, fearful eyes.
"I'm not going to the hospital," he said adamantly, mustering up as much force as he could.
"Kiddo, you're gonna have to if that cut on your knee doesn't start seal up by itself," Jeff replied, patting his shoulder sympathetically. "But let's get you cleaned up first so that we can take a closer look at it, okay?"
A sudden blur of blond from the doorway had Scott looking past his parents' tall forms and across the room towards where a small boy was stepping slowly into the room. Seeing Scott's eyes averted, the two Tracy parents followed his gaze, their eyes falling upon John as the eight-year-old set his helmet down on the counter above him and shifted nervously, clearly unsure of where to go or what to do.
Jeff stepped forward, coming to kneel down in front of his second-eldest as John rubbed his nose, a clear sign of distress. "Johnny?" he pressed, taking hold of his son's arms gently as he ran his eyes over the small body. "Are you alright, son? You're not hurt, are you?"
John didn't answer the question. Instead, his eyes traveled across the room nervously, seeking out his older brother's battered form.
"Is Scotty gonna be okay?" he asked, his voice wavering a little.
Jeff glanced towards his eldest momentarily, cobalt-blue orbs troubled and concerned as he caught Scott's gaze. Then he smiled softly, turning back to his younger son and reaching up to ruffle John's hair.
"He's gonna be fine, buddy," the Tracy father replied, his manner and tone of voice calm and reassuring. "But are you alright?"
John nodded, still looking decidedly worried as he gazed across at his older sibling. Noticing his child's concern, Jeff leaned in closer, and Scott had to strain to hear the softly murmured words.
"Hey Johnny, can you do something really important for me?" Jeff inquired. At John's small nod, he continued, "I need you to go and find Gordy and give him a big hug for me, okay? He got a little upset when he found out that Scotty was hurt. And he probably told Virgil, so both your brothers are gonna be a little frightened right now. I need you to take care of them while me and Mommy clean up Scotty's scrapes, alright? D'you think you can do that for me?"
John nodded again, this time with greater determination. Jeff smiled. "That's my boy."
With a final worried glance towards Scott, John scampered out of the room, leaving the eldest Tracy son alone with his parents. Scott, who had managed a small smile at his younger sibling's bravery, shifted uncomfortably in painful anticipation as his father stood up and headed over to the large storage cupboard that was built into the opposite wall, reaching up to grab the large (and frequently used) first-aid kit from the top shelf. Moving back over towards Scott, he placed the giant green satchel down on the counter beside him and shared a look with Lucille. Seeming to understand some silent message that had been passed between the two Tracy parents, she pushed herself away from the counter and began running the hot water tap at the kithcen sink.
Scott frowned, looking between his mother and father in confusion. Okay. Parents are officially weird.
Jumping slightly, startled by the sudden voice, Scott gave a slight hiss as an injured palm brushed against the smooth work surface beneath him. Jeff, who had come to stand just to the left of Scott's legs, extended a hand to inspect the injury.
"Geez, you're cold," he murmured, squeezing Scott's numb fingers gently. "Are you feeling dizzy at all? Nauseous?"
Averting his gaze, Scott sucked in a steadying breath. "I just feel weird," he admitted softly. "Before we got home, I couldn't stop shaking and I - I felt real dizzy, like I couldn't stand up properly. My legs were all weak and wobbly."
His father's worry became more evident. "You sure you didn't hit your head?" he asked slowly, a large hand moving up to run gently over Scott's hair. "It's important that you tell me if you did, Scotty. I need to know."
Scott shook his head. "I - I kind rolled down a little hill in the woods and got real dizzy then, but I - I don't think I hit my head."
A confused frown formed on Jeff's face. "The woods?" he repeated. "What were you doing in the woods?"
His heart lurched unpleasantly within his chest as Scott realised too late that he'd said too much. Squirming under his father's steady gaze, he fumbled clumsily for the wisest way to approach his response.
"We were - I mean, I was just - I thought that - I just wanted to-"
Jeff shook his head, dropping his gaze. "Never mind, son," he murmured. "We can talk about it later."
As Jeff returned his attention to the cut hand, Scott let out a long, relieved sigh. Sure, he was probably only postponing the inevitable, but at least that kept his dad calm for the time being. In his current shaky state, he wasn't sure if he could handle what would no doubt be a very stern lecture.
After a long moment, his father leaned in for a closer inspection. "Did you land on your hands when you fell off the bike?" he asked softly, reaching for Scott's left hand to see if both had been grazed.
Scott shifted uncomfortably, a gnawing, guilty feeling settling itself deep within his chest. "Um....I guess....sorta," he murmured, biting down on his lip as his father pressed down on one of the little grey bumps that seemed to stand out against the flat surface of the rest of the skin.
"Did you fall onto gravel?" Jeff inquired, a slight frown marring his features. "It looks like you've got some in there."
Scott thought for a moment, memories of his painful skid along the ground still slightly jumbled by the dizzying tumble he had taken afterwards. Then he nodded mutely, blinking rapidly as his mind began to replay the frightening events, the dizzy feeling washing over him again. Breathing hard, he tried to focus on his present painful predicament. He had more pressing issues right now.
As his father reached into the first-aid kit and removed a pair of tweezers, Scott sucked in a sharp breath. Jeff glanced up at him, realised the source of his son's distress and, putting a reassuring hand on top of Scott's head, gazed at him steadily.
"It's alright, son," he murmured. "They're only just under the surface and it'll be quick. You'll hardly feel a thing, I promise."
Scott gritted his teeth all the same, screwing up his face as the Tracy patriarch took up his hand again. He wished he could be anywhere but here right now. Still, he found himself unable to look away, a part of him finding the whole procedure strangely fascinating. I mean c'mon, he was getting stones removed from his hand - and he wasn't crying. That was kinda....cool. He was going to have to show the cuts to Tommy Smith when they went back to school on Monday.
Then the older Tracy was pulling away, setting the tweezers aside and smiling at him proudly. "All done, Sport. See, that wasn't so bad, was it?"
As Scott shook his head, his mother appeared at his side again, setting a large glass bowl of water down beside him on the counter. Reaching across to accept a gauze pad from Jeff, she soaked it in the water with one hand, using the other to brush the fringe away from Scott's forehead.
"I'm just gonna clean up that arm of yours, okay?" she said gently, taking a light hold of the injured limb. "Now, this is gonna sting a little."
Scott gritted his teeth against the renewed burning sensation in his arm, rhythmically kicking the side of the counter with the back of his left sneaker as he tried not to move. His father, who usually stuck firmly to the 'no kicking unless it's a ball' rule, seemed to pointedly ignore Scott's actions on this occasion, instead focusing on cleaning and disinfecting the tiny cuts on Scott's hands. The sting in his palms felt ten times worse than the pain in his arm, but Scott bit his lip and refused to cry. He was stronger than that.
Just as Lucille finished applying the large, stretchy band-aid to Scott's elbow, a soft voice broke the silence of the room.
Turning towards the door, Lucille smiled at her second-eldest warmly. "What is it, sweetie?"
Shifting nervously and remaining in the doorway, John's eyes flickered worriedly towards Scott before returning to his mother's face. Bringing up a hand, his rubbed his nose in barely concealed distress.
"Virge is doin' okay," he stated softly. "But Gordy - Gordy won't stop crying. I think he thinks that Scotty's gonna die. I even said I'd play Aqua Monkeys with him, but he's not listening to me. He won't even come outta the closet."
Scott frowned worriedly, momentarily forgetting about his own pain as he looked upwards, almost as though he expected to be able to see through two floors of wood and plaster and directly into Gordon's bedroom. Letting out a stressed sigh, he sent a pleading glance towards his mother.
"Mom, I'm okay," he insisted. "Gordon needs you more than I do."
Lucille smiled softly, leaning forwards to plant a soft kiss on Scott's cheek. "Well, if you're sure."
Swiftly rinsing her hands in the kitchen sink and drying them on a nearby dish towel, she extended an arm towards John and looped it around the small boy's shoulders, guiding him out of the room and leaving Scott alone with his father.
"Looks like it's just you an' me, Sparky," Jeff smiled, smoothing a band-aid over the last of the deeper cuts on Scott's hands. "Alrighty. Let's take a look at that leg of yours, shall we? You know what, son? I think you might even get a scar from this one. We'll have to show Dr. Palmar next time he comes over to visit."
Scott sucked in a sharp breath as Jeff began wiping the wet gauze pad down his leg, grunting softly at the nasty sting that came from the friction grazes that ran along the side of his calf. His father tried to keep him distracted by reeling off a continuous monologue of random and amusing comments. And Scott had to admit, it worked pretty well. At least until Jeff began applying the antibiotic gel. Scott was surprised that his left foot didn't kick a hole right through the cupboard door. That stuff hurt!
However, by the time his mother returned to the kitchen five minutes later, Scott was sitting cheerfully in a chair at the small breakfast table in the corner of the kitchen, sipping at a glass of water and gazing out of the window as his father disposed of the used medical materials. Both male Tracys looked up as Lucille stepped into the room, closely followed by a trio of young boys, two of which immediately ran across the kitchen and skidded to a halt in front of their older brother.
"Scotty!" Gordon exclaimed, grabbing his brother's uninjured arm and hugging it tight. "You're alive!"
Scott chuckled, patting Gordon's head carefully. "'Course I am, squirt."
Virgil, who had come to stand on Scott's other side, looked down at the bandage on his brother's knee worriedly. "Does it hurt lots, Scotty?"
Scott shook his head confidently, brushing off the comment with an easy smile. "Hurt? Nah. It did hurt a little bit when Dad was taking the rocks outta my hand, but it's okay now."
"Rocks?" Virgil repeated, awed by the vivid mental image. "Inside your hand?"
"Uh-huh," Scott replied. "Dad had to pull 'em out with these giant tweezers."
Gordon clung tighter onto the captured limb. "Scotty, you're the most bravest big brother in the whole entire world!" he stated passionately.
Laughing, Scott tried in vain to dislodge the spider-monkey from his arm. "Thanks, Gordy. Love you, too."
"Scott, John." Lucille, smiling, leaned against the side of the table and looked at both her boys indulgently. "You two still haven't eaten dinner. C'mon, there's some left in the pot on the stove. Johnny, go wash your hands, baby. You and Scotty can eat in here this evening."
Scott grimaced, his stomach churning again at the thought of food. "Actually, Mom," he murmured, looking up at the blond-haired woman hesitantly. "I'm still not feeling too good. Do I hafta eat dinner?"
Lucille brushed a hand over his hair, glancing over towards where Jeff stood leaning against the counter beside the sink, before turning back to Scott and smiling gently.
"Not if you don't feel up to it," she replied softly. "But if you're hungry later on, just tell me, alright?"
Scott nodded and smiled his appreciation, before turning serious again and looking over towards his father. Taking in a deep, steadying breath, he chewed on his bottom lip for a long moment, the nervous habit occurring almost without his consent as his heart began to thud faster within his chest.
"Dad," he began, shifting uncomfortably, "I need - um, I mean - can we talk now?"
Jeff glanced towards John, who had just entered the kitchen again after having washed his hands, and shook his head.
"We'll wait until your brother's finished dinner," he stated. "So that you boys can tell me together."
"No!" Scott rushed, but then stopped, quietening down a little. "Dad, this wasn't anything to do with him. It was my fault, not his. It was all my stupid idea. Johnny was the one who tried to stop me from going down Freewheel Slope in the first place, so-"
Scott broke off, inwardly cursing himself for blabbering so much. He hadn't meant to blurt it all out like that. Swallowing heavily, he looked back up towards his father, who was watching him silently with a steady and disturbingly unreadable gaze. Then, pushing himself away from the counter, he gestured towards the door.
"I think you and I need to discuss this elsewhere, don't you?" he suggested, waiting for Scott to rise before beginning to head out of the kitchen. "C'mon, we'll go talk in my office."
Scott winced, sharing a worried glance with John as he pushed his chair back. Virgil and Gordon sent him sympathetic glances as he walked towards the door sullenly. It was a well known Tracy fact that a trip to their father's office was never a joyous experience. Scott sighed inwardly, walking down the hall and into a small side-corridor, coming to a halt in front of the open office door. This was it. It was time to face the music.
Stepping into the dreaded room and closing the door behind him, Scott glanced over towards his father, frowning inwardly in confusion as the Tracy patriarch moved over to the couch. It was a large, comfortable piece of furniture, situated just in front of the bay windows that overlooked the giant back garden - but it wasn't the usual location for a father/son discussion. The early evening sun shone cheerfully in the sky, filling the room with a warm and calming glow. As his father sat down on the couch, Scott glanced over towards the large desk, now even more confused. This wasn't how things usually worked out. His father would always sit behind the desk whenever Scott was in trouble. Something was fishy here.
His father was looking at him expectantly, patting the area of couch beside him. Deciding that a comfortable couch sounded far better than standing in front of the desk, Scott moved as quickly as his injuries would allow, sitting down carefully and wincing a little as he bent his knees. He'd purposefully left a few inches between himself and his father, just in case. He loved his dad, but the older Tracy looked really scary when he was truly mad.
"Alright," Jeff began, smiling warmly as he moved across to sit right beside his son, looping an arm around his shoulders, "I think you'd better start from the top, son."
A little nervous at their close proximity, Scott dropped his gaze to his lap and shifted uncomfortably. His father might be smiling now, but he knew for a fact that the smile would be gone by the time he'd finished explaining the cause of his injuries.
After stumbling over the first few words, Scott found that the confession was far easier than he had first imagined. He told his dad everything. About how Tommy Smith had first clued him as to Freewheel Slope's existence, about how well he'd had the entire descent planned out, about how disastrously it had ended. It all came out. Heck, he wouldn't have been able to shut up if he'd tried. The sickening, nauseous feeling in his gut seemed to ease with every word and Scott began to realise that the sensation had been caused primarily by his fear and guilt. But now, with his father's arm wrapped about his shoulders as he admitted to the fear and pain he'd felt, the heavy weight in his chest was lifted. He could breathe easy once again.
"So you see," he conluded, picking at the corner of the band-aid on his left palm, "none of this was Johnny's fault. I was the one who made him go past the stump. And I was the one who went down the slope. And I know I shouldn't have done either of them. Dad, I - I'm sorry."
The last words, murmured so quietly that Jeff had to strain to hear them, brought a soft smile to the Tracy patriarch's face. Putting a finger beneath his son's chin, he tilted the downcast head up to face him, gazing into the guilty blue eyes for a long moment. At last, he sighed, shaking his head sadly.
"Well, now you know why I enforce specific rules, son," he stated, his tone gentle but firm. "I'm not trying to spoil your fun. I only want what's best for you. And, as you found out today, not all of my rules are completely ridiculous, are they?"
Scott grimaced, shaking his head as his injuries throbbed in agreement.
"But it's in the past now," his father said, ruffling his hair. "You can start afresh tomorrow."
"So," Scott looked up at his father, albeit a little hesitantly, "you're not mad?"
Jeff sighed, looking down into his son's face. "No, I'm not mad," he replied. "But I am disappointed. The rules I laid down were perfectly clear, but you still chose to disobey me. Being the eldest, I need you to set a good example for your younger brothers. You're my right hand man, Scotty. I entrust you with your brother's safety when I let you go out alone together. You're older than Johnny, so it's your job - your responsibility - to make sure that you both stick to my rules. You didn't do such a good job today, did you?"
Scott shook his head, feeling thoroughly chastised. The painful lump that came into his throat made swallowing difficult as he dropped his gaze to his lap again, blinking back the tears that threatened to pool in his eyes. His dad's tone had remained perfectly calm and gentle, but it hurt him as much as any harsh scolding. He hated it when his father felt disappointed in him.
"But," Jeff continued, hugging Scott against his side, "I am proud of how brave you were today. And I'm not just referring to those nasty scrapes of yours. I'm proud of you for coming forward and telling me the truth. That takes guts, kiddo. We all make mistakes, but admitting to them is something that a lot of us struggle with. And whilst I don't condone your actions, I'm pleased that you made the mature decision to confess."
Scott looked up at his father again. "Does that mean I'm not gonna get punished?" he asked, unable to keep the hopeful tone from his voice.
"Well," Jeff let the word hang in the air for a long moment, before smiling and ruffling his son's hair. "No, I'm not. You've punished yourself enough, so I think you've learnt your lesson. Those scrapes are gonna smart for a long while. And I doubt this is a stunt you're going to be repeating anytime soon."
Shaking his head, Scott laughed softly. "Uh-uh!"
Jeff grinned wrapping his other arm across Scott's front and giving his eldest a long, warm embrace. Sighing heavily, he released him, before waving a hand towards the door and patting his son on the back encouragingly.
"Go on, kiddo. I suspect you'll be feeling up to some dinner now, am I right?"
Scott stood up, smiling sheepishly at his dad as he headed towards the exit. Opening the door, he was about to step through when his father's voice called out to him again, making him turn and look back towards the couch.
Leaning against the door frame, Scott beamed cheerfully. "Yeah?"
"Might I suggest that you stay away from your bike for a few days?" the Tracy patriarch recommended, crossing one leg over the other as he relaxed against the couch cushions. "It's not a punishment, so you don't have to if you don't want to, but....I think, with that knee of yours, it'd be for the best."
Scott nodded in agreement. "Yeah, probably. Thanks, Dad."
"Anytime," Jeff drawled, eyes twinkling. "Love you, Scotty."
The ten-year-old smiled. "Love you too, Dad."
Closing the door behind him, Scott let out a contented sigh, his heart feeling warm and light within him. Indeed, there would've been a bounce in his step had his movements not already been restricted by his injuries. Heading off down the corridor, his stomach directing him towards the smell of food in the kitchen, he carefully fingered the giant band-aid that covered his elbow and part of his forearm. Shaking his head, he hardened his resolve never to go near steep slopes on his bike ever again. The consequences were too painful.
Besides, he mused, the actual ride hadn't even been fun. He'd been too busy trying not to pee his pants in terror to enjoy a single moment of the fast-paced descent. But, upon reflection, maybe today had been worthwhile, even if only in a small way. Sure, he'd pulverised his body, but he'd learned a valuable lesson. Plus the experience had allowed him to see a different side to his little brother. A side that, perhaps, Scott had never seen before. John was growing up. In hindsight, maybe the circumstances surrounding this realisation could've been better. But you couldn't change the past. The past changed you. And overall, Scott knew one thing for sure:
This was a lesson in momentum that he wasn't ever going to forget.
Thanks for reading, my lovelies. Did you enjoy it? I hope to have another story (maybe a three-shot, maybe a one-shot) posted by this time next week. I warn you, though: if it's a one-shot, it's gonna be WEIRD. As in 'weirder than worryingly wise cockatoos' kinda weird (Impeccable Timing). Yeah, that weird. It involves one of Gordon's illustrious plans, if that helps to make things any clearer.
But, alas, I'm back at college for a few weeks as we have our introduction to the senior year. Snore. And yay! I've been put in charge of community involvement managing, which means that I get to skip the last period every day so that I can go out into the city with different groups of younger teens and do charity work. It's gonna be awesome! On the downside, I DO have to fill in a ton of disclosure forms and Child Protection acts before I start. Plus I have to do a lot of the paperwork. *grimaces* Totally unappealing. But hey, that's life.
PLEASE REVIEW and tell me what you thought of the ending. And yes, Jeff's an old softy, just like my own Daddy. But I think you'd agree that, despite Scott's disobedience, the kid had already suffered enough as it was. Being grounded on top of everything would just suck. Jeff's not that mean.
See ya soon!