Disclaimer: I own nothing, all rights belong to their respective owners.
Back with another story for you! Young one this time! As normal, the world's biggest thank you to Bee for being an awesome beta, thank you so much!
Hope that you like it!
Virgil stared at his father for a long moment, ignoring the burning sensation in his eyes as he fought back tears. Crying was for babies, like his two younger brothers. Not for ten year olds! But the reprimand still rang loudly in his ears, and before he knew what he was doing, the middle Tracy brother had turned and run.
His oldest brother watched him go with a sigh. He glanced out of the corner of his eye at his father, watching the man's expression flick through various emotions as he once again struggled to find the best way to address his sons. That was what happened when he withdrew when they needed him. Scott knew that it was affecting John and Virgil the most. The other two were too young; give them something to occupy them and they didn't notice their father's absence. Well, Scott knew that wasn't quite true, but it kept smiles on their faces for a few hours longer before the whining started, and that was all he could ask for. He was too busy keeping the others distracted to properly notice. He wasn't sure if the others saw the haunted look in his father's eye, but now he was fifteen, he was seeing things differently. He had been given no choice but to see things differently.
"I'll get him," he volunteered quietly. It wasn't so much that he wanted to go, but more because he knew that if it was anyone else, they would never be able to get away.
"I want to leave in ten minutes."
"Yes, sir." Scott shot Gordon a warning look just to make sure the child didn't try anything then moved off around the back of the old farmhouse. It was not going to take him ten minutes to find Virgil. But coaxing him out of hiding was going to be a different matter entirely. Reaching an old oak, he silently made his way around to the far side and swung himself into the branches. Sure enough, there, with his knees curled up to his chest, balancing precariously on a thicker branch, was Virgil.
"What was that?" Scott asked gently, making sure that he kept the accusations out of his voice. The last thing he needed was for his brother to be annoyed with him as well; that would not get them anywhere. "You know he wants to go."
"Course he does, it's a business trip."
"No, it's a holiday for us as a family."
"That just happens to work around a business meeting he has whilst we are there? I'm not a kid, Scott; I know why we are going to that place and why we are going right now."
Scott sighed, looking at the way Virgil's eyes had filled with tears again; although it was apparent the ten-year-old was about to vehemently deny their existence.
"And don't look at me like that. I'm not crying!"
Inwardly, Scott smirked. He knew Virgil too well. Unfortunately, it meant he knew precisely why the younger boy had caused the whole fuss to start with. He just wanted his little brother to admit it out loud so he would hopefully realise it had been the wrong thing to do.
"Why did you do it, Virg?"
"Alan's allowed to take his toys; Gordon's allowed to go swimming." Virgil shrugged in a non-committal manner, making sure his head was turned away from his big brother. It had been worth it. He didn't see why he should make it easy for his father. There was once a time where Virgil would have done anything Jeff asked almost before his father had opened his mouth. But the man had given up that right when he put his work first, and now Virgil had made it his mission to be as stubborn as possible. Sometimes he even managed to drag his two younger brothers along with him, and once even John. But the blond had admitted to having a bad day that day and had never done it again. Scott was just impossible; Virgil couldn't help but think, always sticking up for their father whilst being the one that felt his absence more than anyone.
"They are younger than you."
"John's taking his books."
"John won't do anything else, you know that." There was that note of patience in Scott's voice again that always got to Virgil. Why did his brother just never lash out? Even John was known to yell when he got interrupted with something. Virgil was sure that Scott used to be as bad - worse even.
"Well, neither will I!"
"Virgil, you can't take your entire art set with you! They've got stuff there, I told you that. It will take up too much space, you know how big your box is. You just can't take it." Scott tried reasoning with his brother, even though all he really wanted to do was jump out of the tree and storm off himself. But he knew that if this holiday was going to go even slightly according to plan, they had to at least get there without wanting to kill each other.
"Because... because I said so!"
"Don't sound like Dad!"
"At least one of us does..." Scott muttered quietly, then instantly regretted it. He had sworn that he would keep his feelings about his father to himself. Virgil twisted around the tree and looked at him quizzically.
"You okay?" he asked gently, the stubbornness all but melting away as he watched his big brother. Scott decided to go for his normal tactic when matters came back to how he was feeling. It always worked with his father, even teachers. Definitely with his brothers, although his grandmother was a harder one to throw off. But this time, he knew it would work, so he changed the subject.
"I thought we had plans, Virg. You were going to come to the beach with me, remember? And I was going to go to that... whatever it was... with you?"
"You obviously don't want to if you can't remember what it is called."
Scott's temper snapped. They were only on the first day of their summer break, and already he longed for the distraction of school.
"Fine. Stay up the tree and sulk all summer if you are going to be like that." Dropping to the ground, Scott had taken only a few steps towards where the rest of the family would no doubt be waiting when a somewhat strangled cry called him back.
"No! Don't lea- ...don't leave me!"
Scott was back at the tree in seconds, rubbing his brother's back soothingly and helping Virgil to his feet where he had dropped out of the tree. He should have known. It had only been a year since the accident. Only a few months in reality since Virgil had stopped having nightmares of everyone leaving him.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. Just please, don't try and fight with Dad, you know he is stressed."
"His fault," Virgil muttered, but his voice was lacking the heat from before and he stayed quiet as Scott led him around the house to the car. Nothing was said as they approached the rest of the family. Their grandmother had managed to get the two youngest into the car, something their father had been struggling with when Scott had left. Gordon just didn't want to do as he was told. That in itself was nothing new, but this time, Scott knew the reasoning behind it. If their grandmother – or even Scott himself – had told the child, Gordon would have pouted, but given in. Virgil wasn't the only one who had noticed their father's absence lately, and the redhead was after any attention he could get from the man, even if this was the wrong type.
"Ah, there you boys are." It was the old woman who had noticed their approach, and Scott gripped Virgil's shoulder softly before nudging him forward. Jeff looked like he wanted to say something, but kept his mouth shut, something for which Scott was grateful. If Virgil ran again, Scott knew that even he wouldn't be able to persuade his little brother to get in the car.
"Now, Scott, can you run up those stairs and tell your brother that we are going to go without him unless he gets that nose of his out of that book? Goodness knows how many times I've called him."
Scott nodded, glancing once more at Virgil as he headed towards the partly-open front door. The younger boy was purposefully looking everywhere but in the direction of their father. Scott heard the small sigh from Grandma as he moved past her and knew that she too had seen it. The oldest brother couldn't help but smile. He was sure that by the time he got back from fetching John, she would have the situation between Virgil and Jeff sorted. Or, at least, under control enough that they would be able to go for a few hours without any tense words.
Taking the stairs two at a time, Scott paused outside of John's door. There was always something so peaceful about his brother's room and, considering the atmosphere outside, Scott wondered whether he could just hide in there as well. Eventually, he sighed, tapping lightly on the door.
His brother's response made Scott smirk. No wonder his grandmother hadn't been able to get an answer out of the blond. The vacant tone to John's voice showed that he was clearly engrossed in whatever he was doing. Pushing against the door, Scott let himself in. It came as no surprise to see his brother sprawled across his bed, lying on his stomach, reading.
"We have to go."
"Not for another half an hour."
"No, now. It's been an hour since I told you that we only had half an hour left."
"What?" The thirteen year old slowly rolled over, blinking owlishly at his brother as he brought his mind back into the real world. "Do we have to?"
Unlike Virgil's defiance, there was a quiet acceptance in John's voice. But he seemed to think that this holiday was going to be just as disastrous as his younger brother did. Despite secretly agreeing with them, Scott nodded at his brother's question.
"Come on, Johnny. It will be good to get away from here, and we will still have the rest of the summer when we get back. You know that tree in the woods has grown enough this year to climb?"
"I don't want to go, Scott."
John's whisper made Scott stop in his attempt to distract his brother. The oldest Tracy son glanced at the cover of the book in John's hand and sighed. Virgil wasn't the only one visibly reacting. The book told Scott enough. Their mother's favourite.
"We need to get away for a bit, John. Besides, I thought it had a good view of that meteor you were going on about the other day?"
Scott grinned, pulling his younger brother to his feet. Subtly, he slipped the book from John's hand and tossed it back on the bed as he pulled the boy from his room and nudged him towards the stairs. If John was going to be able to get any benefit from the time away, he needed to leave the book behind. Scott knew why he was reading it so desperately; it was the same reason why he had been reading it since the accident, since they had lost their mother. It was his attempt to cling on to her, and Scott couldn't fault him in that. But he knew that his younger brothers needed a break from it all. They needed to be able to act their ages again. Ironically, he didn't include himself in that.
"Don't have to sound so surprised, I do listen, y'know."
"Apart from when Grandma tells you not to touch the apple pie!" John shot back immediately, and Scott felt his grin widen. Maybe John was going to be alright after all.
The pair made it out of the front door, and Scott immediately snagged his younger brother's arm, a frown leaping onto his face as he watched the scene in front of him. Virgil was in the car with the others, but their grandmother was talking in a quiet tone to their father. Jeff's expression was ranging between upset, angry and resigned, and Scott had a feeling he knew what was being spoken about. Clearing his throat noisily, he didn't want the adults knowing that he and John had witnessed it.
"Look who I found." Nudging John forward, Scott briefly caught his father's eye, and felt the smile he had planted on his face fade. There was something lost about Jeff these days, almost as if he didn't know how to react around his own sons any more. Scott faltered for a moment, but sensed more than saw John half turn. By the time the younger Tracy looked at his brother, the smile was firmly back in place.
John frowned at his brother. He knew why Scott was putting on the smile, and knew that it was working for the younger ones, but his brother was more foolish than he thought if he believed that it would work on him. He could see straight through it, and knew the reasoning behind it as well. Scott caught his eye and shook his head ever so slightly. Somehow, he knew that John knew. But right now, considering the journey they had ahead of them, he didn't want it brought up. Tilting his head towards the car, Scott inwardly sighed with relief as John merely rolled his eyes and got in, their father following suit.
Just as he went to climb in, Scott found himself called back by his grandmother. He turned, frowning slightly when she beckoned him over. As soon as he was in reach, the fifteen year old found himself pulled into a hug.
"Look after them," she whispered softly in his ear, and despite everything, Scott found himself smiling.
"Always," he murmured in response, grateful when she pulled back. He might not be the average teenager any more after what their family had been through in the last few months, but there was still a limit to what he would and would not do.
But it was with a smile on his face that he climbed into the family car and watched the farmhouse disappear around the bend. He still had it present when Gordon started asking if they were there yet only ten minutes later.
The smile, however, was not still present when, five hours later, the car finally turned into the hotel where they were staying. Yawning widely, Scott climbed out at the same time as his father.
"Can you take Alan?" Jeff muttered, helping Gordon out. He went to do the same with Virgil, but had his hand shrugged off almost violently and Virgil jumped out himself. As Scott leant in, unbuckled and then proceeded to pick up his five-year-old brother, he caught sight of Virgil's face. Despite his best efforts to stay angry at their father, he couldn't hide the look of awe as he took in the sight of the grand hotel. This was certainly something different to anywhere they had ever been before. But at the same time, Scott knew precisely why they had come somewhere so posh. Virgil had been right when accusing Jeff of trying to organise a family holiday around a business meeting.
Hearing the sleepy mumble, Scott smiled as Alan buried his face in his shoulder, trying to go back to sleep. It had seemed like a long journey for them all; even Gordon had eventually grown silent. John was the luckiest thanks to his ability to read in the car and being used to curling up on a seat for hours. The rest of the Tracys, however, were normally far too active to sit still for that length of time.
"Can I go swimming now?"
It was only John reaching out and snagging the back of Gordon's collar that stopped the child from running off as Jeff attempted to get the luggage out of the car.
"No, we have to book in first." Placing the suitcases down, Jeff smiled gratefully at his second-born. The thirteen-year-old had immediately picked two of them up. With Alan in his arms, Scott was only able to throw one on his back, and no one was foolish enough to ask Virgil to help if the mutinous expression on his face was anything to go by. Unable to stop himself, Scott found that he was trading somewhat amused looks with John even as he shifted Alan to a more secure position. Virgil clearly didn't understand why his two older brothers were trying to make life easy for their father. Judging by the expression on John's face, he too knew what was going through his immediate younger brother's head.
Jeff had the last case and the paperwork in one hand, and Gordon's hand firmly in his other, knowing that the energy was coming back into his seven-year-old now that he was out of the car. With the excitement of the holiday, the child was almost bouncing along, skipping on at least every third step as he swung from Jeff's hand, letting out an audible gasp as they stepped into the building.
Even Jeff had to fight to keep his expression neutral as he took in the surroundings. He wouldn't normally opt for a place like this to bring the boys, knowing that the trouble Gordon alone could cause meant it was often too much hassle. But this potential business partner had offered to pay for the entire family, and Jeff wasn't sure whether he was up to organising anything else for the boys. That had always been Lucy's job, and like many aspects of their life that he was losing control over, he needed her. It just seemed the easiest way – the facilities the hotel offered would have something that catered to all of the boys and would keep them occupied whilst he had to deal with business, and it meant he was finally giving in to his mother's demands for him to get his sons away from the house for a while.
Ten minutes later, however, and he wasn't sure whether he would be regretting that decision or not. Gordon was pointing out everything that had caught his eye in an overly loud voice, already gaining the family some disapproving looks from the old men in suits who were sitting in the deep armchairs. Virgil decided to tell his brother to shut up in a way that immediately made Gordon fight back, resulting in Scott standing in the middle of them with Alan still in his arms, trying to get them to quieten down. John had helpfully wandered off, his fingers tracing over the marble-work on one of the pillars that surrounded the reception area, a faraway expression on his face.
There were times when Scott hated being the oldest. Alan was half asleep in his arms, Gordon and Virgil were sniping at each other and, out of the corner of his eye, Scott could see one of the elderly gentlemen engaging John in conversation. Just like every other time lately, Jeff was too busy focusing on something else to take note of what his boys were up to.
"John!" Scott's snap made Alan whine miserably. His big brother rubbed a hand soothingly across his back as he watched the younger teenager glare at him before making his way over.
"What was that for?"
"Who was that?"
"Someone who saw me looking at the stonework and decided to give me a history lesson on it!" John snapped back, and Scott found himself relaxing. John struggled to make conversation with people his own age, his unique outlook on things isolating him. He found conversing with adults much easier, something Scott had grown wary of. With their father not paying the attention he should, Scott hated having to keep an eye on his normally sensible brother to make sure he wasn't talking to anyone he shouldn't be. Give it a few years, and he would be able to relax. But with John only at thirteen, Scott knew it was still up to him to keep an eye on his brother.
"Can you help me with these two?" he muttered, trying to make it seem like he had dragged John over for a reason other than to just get him away from the man. John nodded and grabbed Virgil by the arm, hauling him away. Normally, Virgil would have kicked up a fuss at that as well, but the timing worked in Scott's favour as Jeff finally came back over with two keys.
"Scott, John, you are sharing. Virgil and Gordon, you are in with me."
"What 'bout me?" a sleepy voice muttered, looking around with wide eyes.
"You're with me too, baby." Jeff was quick to reassure Alan, rubbing his hand soothingly over his back. He hadn't realised his youngest was awake enough to be following the conversation, but Scott had never been so thankful to hear Alan sound so worried, not if it distracted their father. Virgil's face had become thunderous at hearing that his two older brothers got to be in a room on their own whilst he was being classed as a younger one and stuck with his father. John followed Scott's worried gaze and quickly leant over, whispering something in Virgil's ear. Their oldest brother had no idea what had been said, but Virgil's face lit up and he nodded eagerly.
Somehow, Scott had a feeling that he was going to regret whatever had just been said. It wasn't often John would get that look on his face that said he was up to something, but when he did, he was worse than the younger three put together. And considering how creative Gordon had been getting recently, that was saying something. Scott narrowed his eyes, and John merely raised his eyebrows, leaving his big brother sighing in exasperation. He wasn't going to get anything out of him. It looked as though he would just have to wait and see when and if the plan unfolded and deal with it then. But if he was honest, if it meant that they could go a few more hours without Virgil kicking off, that was fine by Scott.
"Alright, boys, we'll head up the stairs, get freshened up and then we should have some time before dinner."
Scott could have predicted Gordon's excited yell, and even Jeff had to smile, despite the looks they were receiving. He reached over and ruffled his second-youngest son's hair.
"I should have guessed." Moving on from Gordon, he plucked Alan out of Scott's arms and motioned with his head to the luggage that he could no longer carry. Virgil glared, but Scott nodded softly. He would carry more than that if it meant that his father held Alan. He wasn't sure the last time he had seen that. Picking up the bags, he nudged Virgil in the back with his elbow to make the younger boy move and set off up the winding staircase after his father.
An hour later, and they were all back down again. The pool was large enough that even Gordon was momentarily stunned, before being grabbed by John to stop him running off. Rules were given out, John and Virgil disappeared and Scott found himself with his water-loving brother. There was a time when he had hated being with one of the younger ones in the water, his concern over their safety stopping him from enjoying himself. But with Gordon, there was no fear. Even being younger, he was already at least as strong, if not stronger than his oldest brother in the water, and Scott found himself relaxing. He didn't have to worry at this moment in time, didn't have to think about Virgil's murderous expression which had been present more than once throughout the day. For once, he could just enjoy the time to play around with his younger brother.
If he was honest, he didn't realise how tense he had been until he finally managed to drag Gordon out nearly three hours later. John and Virgil too were only just giving in to their hunger and dragging themselves away. There wasn't just a pool, but a whole games room to one side and indoor tennis courts to the other. Scott knew the other two hadn't been in the water the whole time, but as they finally joined the others, laughing at something, he didn't care. Jeff had got Alan dried off much earlier and was sitting in the small cafe, watching his sons play around.
But it wasn't just Scott the rest had done good. Even Virgil seemed to have calmed down, grinning as he and John reencountered the adventures they had already had and the ones they were planning next. Watching them, Scott couldn't help but smile. With Virgil relaxed, so was Jeff. Maybe this holiday could do what they needed, and as he swiped the last cookie from Gordon and grinned at his brother's protests, Scott blew out a long breath.
Things were finally beginning to look up.