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The oldest Tracy brother sighed and desperately tried not to shift position. It was hard, though, he had been sitting on the floor for a best part of an hour, his movement restricted by the fact that he had three brothers leaning on him. Alan was sitting between his outstretched legs, curled up and leaning back on Scott's chest, fast asleep. He had spent so many hours that evening looking scared that Scott couldn't even bring himself to tug his little brother's thumb out of his mouth. Gordon was also asleep, curled into Scott's side. As with Alan, the older brother had his arm looped around Gordon's chest, stopping him from slipping and providing some sort of reassurance to Scott that his brother was still there, that he hadn't just vanished without Scott noticing. John had come and sat down next to him after Alan had fallen asleep. The second-oldest had an expression that just seemed to mirror the way Scott was feeling, and he wasn't sure whether the exact same look would be evident on his own face. John might have been determined to keep his brother company, but it hadn't taken long before he had slipped to one side, his head landing on Scott's shoulder as he too fell asleep.
Scott knew there was no way that he would be getting any rest, despite the fact that it had to be midnight at least. He couldn't get his father's look out of his head when only four of his sons had turned up for dinner, the oldest two looking drawn and haggard despite the fact that it had only been a few hours since he had last seen them. He had apparently only just heard that his boys had been looking for him all afternoon, then enquired where Virgil was. A slight sharpness had slipped into his voice in a familiar way that normally meant they were in trouble, but Scott had just glanced at the floor.
Never had a silence stretched on for as long as it did than when Scott admitted that they had no idea. Before Jeff could grow angry or assume that Virgil was just misbehaving, John had quickly cut in, explaining how they had searched everywhere and there was simply no sign of him. It was as if Virgil had just vanished. Scott wasn't sure he had ever seen the colour drain from a man's face as quickly as it did in that moment. Dinner was forgotten, even Alan claiming that he wasn't hungry, and the family had found themselves in reception whilst Jeff angrily demanded to speak to security.
That had been hours ago. The only reason that they weren't in their own rooms now was that the big burly men who made up the hotel's security team had wanted to speak to them. By the time they were done, the police had arrived and everything had started all over again until Alan had eventually fallen asleep. Jeff didn't seem to want to let them go up to the rooms, keeping a close eye on his sons, and for once, Scott didn't argue. As much as he might have wanted to get the little ones into bed, he knew that he would have then been expected to stay with them, and there was no way that he was going to miss even a word about what was being done to find his brother. Initially, Security and a man Scott presumed was the owner through his physical resemblance to Jack, had claimed that it must just be Virgil messing around. Both Jeff and Scott had shot down that argument and Jeff had demanded the police be called in.
Things had then taken another far more serious turn when Swinger had burst into the boardroom they were using and demanded to know where Oscar was. The silence that fell had caused Scott to shiver as it dawned on everyone that Virgil was not the only one who hadn't been seen for hours. They all knew the boys had been in the same place earlier, and that neither of them had been seen since. The words that had been then flung around – hostage, kidnap, ransom – had made the whole room swim before Scott, and he was sure that if he hadn't have been propping up his little brothers, he would have slipped over.
His father's reassuring hand on his shoulder had helped ground the teenager, but there had been the same terror in the man's eyes that Scott found was gripping his own soul. He had opened his mouth to say something, determined that they stopped standing here and did something about it, but Jeff had shaken his head, glancing at the rest of the family. Backing down, Scott knew what he meant. Once they had found out what was going on, there would be very little rest for any of them. Best they slept whilst they still could.
"...put Swinger on the second floor, the Tracys on the third."
Scott blinked, trying to make his numb mind wake up enough to follow the conversation that was taking place almost directly in front of him. Jeff had seemed reluctant to move more than a few steps away from his sons.
"Security will be on each of the rooms. You two, oversee the moving of their belongings, but keep your movements soft. I don't want anyone to get wind of what is happening. Place the standard issue bugs and re-routers on the phones to direct the calls straight to head office, just in case someone unexpected tries to make contact that way."
"Sir." Two of the security guards swiftly moved off after a third dressed the same had issued their orders.
"We're moving rooms?" Scott asked hoarsely, making Jeff jump as he glanced down at his eldest son.
"They think it will be safer." There was a strange note in Jeff's voice, almost as if he was trying to hold back anger. By the way that his hands were alternating between clenching and relaxing, Scott had a feeling he wanted to be doing more than just standing in a boardroom discussing security. He couldn't say anything though, he felt exactly the same. In a way, he couldn't help but wonder if that was why his brothers had been allowed to sleep on him – it stopped him from going anywhere.
"Have they found Virgil yet?"
"They're sorting out your safety first."
"They haven't started?" Scott practically exploded, causing Alan to whimper in his sleep as he was jostled slightly. This time, however, Scott found that he didn't particularly care. He was already trying to find a way to untangle himself from the younger ones so that he could go after Virgil himself when Jeff's hand once more landed on his shoulder.
"They will, son."
"How? We couldn't find him, and I think we know where Virgil is likely to go more than they do."
"It might not have been Virgil's choice where he ended up." The soft note in Jeff's voice barely concealed the agony underlying the tone and Scott blinked, feeling his heart begin to suddenly beat very fast.
"You think it might be true? What they are saying? That someone has taken...that someone..."
"Yes, Scott. You know your brother better than I do these days: would Virgil simply take off like this and not tell anyone? And with Oscar of all people? Two ten-year-olds do not just wander off, and I have enough faith in your brother to know that he would not have left the hotel grounds on his own."
"What about Oscar? He would have."
"Yet Virgil would not. Oscar might have been bullying your brother, but Virgil knows when to stand his ground. You and I both know that he would not have gone along with it. And those two together are worth..."
"I don't care what they are worth, or how it might affect your damn business deal. That means someone has my brother!"
"Scott, language. This is nothing about a business deal. But even you cannot deny how much Virgil and Oscar together are worth if the right players are involved. We have to take it seriously that someone might have your brother, and that they might have taken him for a reason."
"Virg," Scott whispered, slumping back against the wall and staring with unseeing eyes far beyond his father's shoulder. He should never have agreed that Virgil could walk back by himself, he was only ten! He should have gone out there and met him, insisted that he waited for Scott rather than coming back on his own...
"This isn't your fault, Scott." Strong hands suddenly rested on either side of his neck, forcing him to look into his father's face. The man's eyes were burning with an unreadable expression, but there was a soft kindness in his look as he gazed down at his son. "So don't you dare think it. We will find him, and whoever is responsible will be brought to justice, I swear. I won't stop until my son is back in my arms."
"You better not," Scott said flatly. He had been trying to reassure his brothers that their father was back with them, that he was going to be a real dad again. But this was the first time that he found he was truly having to trust in the man, not able to step in and help himself. He had to trust Jeff to find Virgil, and it was much harder than he thought it would be.
"They won't hurt him, Scott," Jeff continued gently, his thumb moving in soft circles on the side of Scott's neck. "I promise you, they won't hurt him. They will know that he is only valuable if they don't touch him."
Scott could only swallow, not wanting to admit to how angry it was making him that even his own father was talking about his brother as if he was just another factor to be taken into consideration before striking a deal. However, he didn't have the chance to say anything before another voice interrupted them.
"Sir, your rooms are ready."
The security guard was back and Jeff nodded. "Come on, let's get your brothers to bed."
Scott didn't know what to say in response to that, so mutely nodded. Jeff leant forward and hooked his arms under Alan's shoulders, pulling him away from his brother and lifting him up. Alan stirred, letting out a muffled protest before his arms automatically curled around Jeff's neck and he settled down on his father's shoulder. Gordon stirred at the movement and his eyes slowly began to open. Quickly but gently shaking John awake, Scott rose to a crouch and took hold of Gordon's wrists, draping them around his neck. In one movement, he stood up, lifting his brother onto his back. As Gordon realised what was happening, his legs wrapped around Scott's waist and he held on properly.
"'oming..." John mumbled, barely awake as he pushed himself up the wall and stumbled along behind them. It was only as they made it to the elevator that Scott realised he didn't like John being behind him and dropped back. He could feel that Gordon wasn't going anywhere, and the rest of the family he could see. Somehow, that offered him more reassurance than he had been expecting, and he didn't say a word as they made their way to their new room. It was a larger room than Scott and John's had been, but the six beds made it seem slightly cramped. Scott didn't mind though, it offered him a reassurance that he would be able to keep his brothers in his sight at all times if he found the right angle in the room. Not to mention if he kept his gaze pointedly forward, he couldn't see that the bed in the corner remained empty.
John collapsed face first onto one of the beds, never having truly woken up. Depositing Alan on another, Jeff smiled and pulled his son's shoes off, tucking the covers around the now sleeping John before turning back to getting Alan settled. Scott dropped Gordon on another bed, but didn't say anything as the redhead slipped straight back off again. Somehow, it came as no surprise as he ran straight to Alan's bed, climbing up on it and somehow wedging himself in between his brother and father. Realising that Virgil still wasn't with them and that he was hungry, Alan started to cry.
Satisfied that his father would have his hands full with those two for a few moments, Scott glanced at John. It was supposed to be the night of the meteor shower he had been so excited about. Instead of sitting up all night with his brother, glancing at the sky, he had fallen asleep, exhausted, and scared that something had happened to their brother. Sighing, Scott softly let himself out onto the balcony, nodding to his father as Jeff looked over at the movement.
His elbows rested on the rails and he stared up into the night sky. Everything was so calm and peaceful out here, not even a hint of the turmoil that was going on within the room. There was a light cloud covering, and Scott found himself cursing it. He had come out here with a specific thing in mind, and now the weather was hiding the one star that he needed to see. Did that mean that there was no hope, that even his mother was turning away because she didn't want to witness what was happening? Was his father right when he had said that whoever was behind this wouldn't hurt his brother? The thought of Virgil out there, on his own, sent shivers down Scott's spine.
"He'll be okay."
"How can you say that?" Scott was responding even before he had truly registered his father's presence, but couldn't find it in himself to shake off the arm that curled around his shoulders. Even so, he couldn't relax into it the same way he had been able to before.
"Because he has to be."
Glancing at his father out of the corner of his eye, Scott didn't comment on the burning emotions obvious even in the darkness of the night.
"He simply has to be." Jeff's head turned towards the sky, and Scott knew that he was seeking out the same star that Scott had, especially if the sigh that escaped him was anything to go by when he realised it was hidden. "You should get some sleep, son."
"I don't think I can," Scott admitted, glancing at where his hands were clenched around the railings. "There's too much going on in my mind."
"You have to try. For Virgil, you have to try. You're no good to the search teams half asleep."
"I can go with them?"
Jeff's hand rose from Scott's shoulder and he ruffled his son's hair. "I can't really stop you, can I?"
Scott smiled softly in the darkness and turned to go back in, realising that his father was right about needing to get some sleep. Knowing that he would be able to help find his brother settled Scott's churning stomach slightly.
He turned back at his father's call, glancing towards the man. He wasn't looking at his son though, but the sky. John's meteors had made their appearance and Scott felt his breath catch as he saw them shooting across the sky. He knew they were just lumps of rock with a good and solid scientific explanation behind their appearance, but that didn't stop him from watching them with a sense of longing in his eyes. Maybe his mother hadn't turned away after all, but was finding another way of making sure they knew she was still watching over them?
For the first time in years, Scott found himself closing his eyes and wishing.
"Virgil? Virgil? Virgil?"
"What?" Virgil sat up, glaring through the dark to where he could hear Oscar's voice coming from. He was sore, scared and exhausted, and he didn't particularly want to deal with the other boy right now. Despite their confidence that they were going to get away, their afternoon had resulted in nothing more than sore shoulders from where they had run into the door multiple times on the off-chance that it might suddenly swing open for them. Needless to say, they had had no such luck and Virgil had found that his wrist was simply getting more and more painful as the day had gone on. He had kept it quiet though, not being sure how Oscar would react, whether he would be sympathetic or mocking, but when they had tried to pull the bar away from the wall in order to use it as some sort of leverage (although it was only now that Virgil realised it had been a stupid idea since there was simply nothing to use it against!), he had drawn the line and had to stop. Both boys had flopped down in opposite corners, silence falling over them.
Virgil couldn't help but hate the fact that there were no windows. He had absolutely no idea what time of day it was. With passing out before and therefore losing time, he could have been missing for a few hours or for days by now, he had no idea. He knew that it must have been reasonably late when he had fallen asleep an hour or so ago. Now, with Oscar hissing at him from the other side of the room, Virgil took a wild guess that it had to be the middle of the night at the very least.
"I'm hungry," Oscar whined, and Virgil simply rolled his eyes. Turning his back to the boy, he cradled his arm against his chest and tried to relax his mind to go back to sleep.
No such luck there then.
"So am I. Just shut up!" Virgil snapped, refusing to look around this time. What did Oscar expect him to do about it, suddenly pull out some food the way he had thought the boy would have been able to pull an escape plan out of thin air? That was something else that was really grating on Virgil's nerves. Oscar had truly seemed to think that Virgil would have been able to get them out of there, and Virgil had failed. He constantly had faith in Scott to pull off the impossible, and his brother somehow always managed to do it. Oscar had believed in him, but Virgil had failed.
"Can't talk to you like that? Newsflash, Oscar, I can talk to you however I please. I'm as stuck as you are, so stop being a brat about it. I can't get us out of here, I can't produce food out of thin air, so stop moaning!"
Oscar's mouth snapped shut and he stared at Virgil in sheer and utter disbelief. Curling back around his arm, Virgil growled softly to himself as he tried to rest his head on his other arm in order to make himself more comfortable. He couldn't help but wonder if that was the first time that Oscar had ever been told no, and yet Virgil found that it didn't bring him any satisfaction. He didn't want to be telling the boy to grow up, he wanted to be back with Scott and John, curled up between them and falling asleep as his big brothers talked about something that he didn't understand. Virgil bit his lip, scrubbed at his eyes furiously as the tears threatened to spill and told himself to go back to sleep.
It didn't work this time. His mind had started thinking about his family – whether they would realise that he was missing, whether they would blame him, whether they were looking for him yet - and the more he thought about it, the harder it was to stop the tears from coming. Trying to muffle the sniff, Virgil was acutely aware of every noise he was making. Not just him, but Oscar as well. There was something unnerving about being in a silent room, and realising just how loud things such as breathing could be when there was no background noise. Wherever they were, Virgil knew yelling for help was going to get him nothing but a sore throat.
How long he stayed curled up for, his mind playing tricks on him, Virgil had no idea. But there was no way that sleep was going to come and take him away like it had before. As much as he was trying not to cry, he could also hear that Oscar was clearly trying not to either, and that somehow gave him reassurance. He hated the boy for all that he had done to him and his brothers over this holiday, but at the same time, he knew it would be much worse if he had been in this on his own. Even thinking about being in the room on his own made him shudder and Virgil quickly pushed the thought to one side. He wasn't alone, so he wasn't going to let himself think about it.
Wondering if Oscar was about to comment on his shiver, Virgil just made a non-committal noise in the back of his throat, still not turning over.
"Can you hear that?"
Virgil sat bolt upright as he realised what Oscar was getting at. There was a noise coming from somewhere, and Virgil swallowed as his eyes fell on the door. Now that he was thinking about it, the noise sounded like a bolt being drawn back. He glanced at Oscar at the same time as Oscar glanced at him, and within seconds, both boys had moved until they were sitting next to each other, the bar over their heads and the wall against their backs. They might not get on, but it was better than facing this alone, and Virgil could feel Oscar shaking next to him as the door slowly moved.
Why he did it, Virgil had no idea, but he found himself getting to his feet, using the bar for support as his eyes were locked on the door. He wasn't stupid enough to try and make a run for it, not after last time. But he wasn't going to just sit there, utterly defenceless, whilst their captor came in. Not if he truly was a Tracy. Judging by the way Oscar pulled anxiously on the bottom of his shirt with a whimper, Virgil had a feeling the other boy didn't have the same thoughts that he did.
"Having fun, boys?" Despite the words, there wasn't even a fake friendliness in the voice, the mask saw to that as their abductor walked into the room. He had a plastic bag in his hand, and when Virgil's eyes landed on it, he threw it over. Neither of the boys moved to get to it, though. There was something paralysing about the way the mask obscured any facial expressions or even this man's tone of voice.
"What do you want with us? Let us go." Virgil tried to sound strong and confident, the way he knew his father and oldest brother could do. He had heard Scott fend off grown-ups' questions for the last year, and he had always wondered how his brother did it. But staring at the man in front of him, trying not to flinch away, Virgil wasn't sure that he had the same talent.
"I'll let you go when I have what I want."
"And what's that?"
"You won't get away with this! Don't you know who my father is?" Oscar insisted, finally climbing to his feet and standing next to Virgil, his arms folded as he glared at the man. He may have looked surprised when a strange laugh echoed around the room, distorted by the mask and echoing around thanks to the walls, but Virgil simply sighed, not taking his eyes off the man. He was subconsciously rubbing his wrist again as he spoke.
"Oh, he knows exactly who your father is. And mine. That's why he is doing this. Why? Money?"
"So young, so naive." The man finally got control of his laughter and Virgil didn't need the mask to tell him that he was being mocked. "What I want is far beyond your understanding, so why don't you just sit down?"
Virgil found his knees automatically beginning to fold, wanting to do as the man said because he knew the consequences of doing otherwise. What he hadn't expected was for Oscar to suddenly speak up.
"No one tells a Swinger what to do."
"I'm telling you what to do right now. And very soon, I'll be telling your father what to do as well if he wants to see his son alive again."
"Go for it, he won't care."
Despite Oscar clearly trying to sound confident, there was a note in his voice that made Virgil turn slightly. He wasn't trying to be brave or anything like that; he truly believed that his father wouldn't care. Unfortunately, the man saw it as well and chuckled again.
"Oh but Virgil's daddy does, doesn't he, boy?"
Virgil didn't answer, but the man took a step forward, grabbing his arm and pulling him closer, making the child wince as he pulled on his sore wrist.
"Imagine how mad his father is going to be if he finds out a Swinger was the reason that his son was hurt."
"What are you talking about?" Oscar snapped, but Virgil could see the fear in his eyes even as he tried to struggle against the grip.
"Virgil here will do as I say because he won't want me going after those brothers of his."
Virgil froze, his heart pounding uncomfortably hard. "And you will do precisely what I say because otherwise I'll take it out on Virgil. Do you really think that if you ever again see the light of day, Scott Tracy would let it go that you are the reason his brother was hurt?"
Oscar swallowed, but didn't say anything. The man laughed one more time and pushed Virgil away again, causing him to stumble and raise his hand just in time to catch himself on the wall before he fell.
"That's more like it. Sleep well, boys."
Virgil gripped onto the bar as the man strode out again, slamming the door shut behind him. There was the unmistakeable sound of a bolt being drawn, but neither of the boys said anything. Virgil was only grateful that he now knew roughly what time of day it was, for there was nothing more disorientating than not having a clue. Oscar finally moved forward and looked into the bag before letting out a sigh of relief. As he pulled out two bottles of water and two sandwiches, Virgil just let himself slide down the wall, resting his head on his knees.
"He knows precisely who we are."
"I thought you said that was the point?" Oscar asked, already beginning to eat. Virgil glanced at him and shook his head slightly.
"I mean, he knows that Scott would kick your ass if something happened to me because of you. Who knows that?"
"Everyone who watches you together."
"We're that obvious?"
Oscar shrugged, pushing the water and food over to Virgil and avoiding the other boy's gaze. Eventually, he sighed heavily. "Yeah. Yeah you are. That's why I started on you; I could see that it was going to get a reaction."
"Really? You had no idea what we were like, yet you could see that Scott would look out for me?" Virgil had never even thought about the fact that it might be really obvious to anyone. Oscar nodded.
"I didn't realise how much though."
"So he might be bluffing when he says that he can go after the others, that he doesn't know as much as he thinks?"
"Would you risk it?"
"No." Virgil had nothing more to say on the matter. There was no way that he would even contemplate crossing this man if it meant that his brothers might be the ones to suffer for it.
"What?" Virgil's head whipped around so fast that he grimaced as he stared at Oscar. The boy shrugged, not meeting his eyes although even by the dim light of the one bulb they had, Virgil could see him flushing.
"You've got a cool life, Virgil. Why do you think I tried to wreck it? I promise I won't any more, though."
"Um... thanks?" Virgil had no idea what he was supposed to say to that, so just settled down against the wall and pulled the food towards him. Like Oscar, he was starving and quickly tucked in. When he had finished eating, he glanced over at Oscar to see the boy sitting staring into space, his eyes looking haunted.
"Try and get some sleep," Virgil said gently, curling himself back up.
"...tells a Swinger what to do, I got that part. But you're no good in an escape if you're half asleep."
"An escape? We're getting out?"
"Yeah," Virgil said with as much certainty as he could manage, nodding firmly to himself in the dark. No one threatened to go after his brothers, and Virgil was now more determined than ever to get out. Filled with the convictionthat everything was going to be okay in a way that only a child could, Virgil managed to fall back to sleep again.