Chapter 6

Jeff closed the hangar door and headed slowly back into the house, deep in thought. He wandered into the kitchen and stopped dead at the sight that greeted him. Scott, wearing Ruth's flower-patterned baking apron, was standing at the cooker whipping up pancakes like they were going out of fashion. Virgil and Alan were sitting at the table and as Jeff watched, Scott turned and deposited a plateful of perfectly formed pancakes in front of them. He turned back to the cooker and pulled another plate, this time piled high with bacon, out of the oven where it had been keeping warm and spotted Jeff as he turned back and placed it beside the pancakes. "Everything okay?"

Jeff shrugged and then groaned and reached up and scrubbed his hands over his face. "Not really but it's not something I'm going to discuss over the breakfast table. Alan, I need to speak to you. Finish your breakfast, by all means but I want you in my office before you move on to…whatever it is that you've got planned for the day."

Alan frowned slightly but wisely kept quiet and nodded. He looked questioningly at Scott and then Virgil but received a small shrug from both of them so he replied with a shrug of his own and stabbed his fork through a large pile of bacon, dragged it onto his plate and began to tuck in.

Scott flipped a couple of pancakes and a pile of bacon onto a plate and set it at the head of the table before wandering across to where Jeff was standing. "You've kind of stalled there, Father," he murmured softly. "I don't know how long you've been up but you should probably sit down and eat something." He gently nudged Jeff the short distance to his chair and pushed him into it. "Sit there, eat your breakfast and I don't expect to see you move before your plate's empty."

Jeff shook himself and chuckled as Scott shook a spatula at him in a near-perfect imitation of his grandmother. "Yes sir…ma'am…sir."

Scott raised his eyebrows at his father and let out an amused snort. "Whatever. Guys, I'm not Grandma so I can't do everything in one sitting. Eggs and tomatoes will be ready in a minute for anyone who wants them."


Alan slowly worked his way through everything that was given to him and then sat quietly and waited for Jeff to finish. Jeff, who was only picking at his food, nodded gently to acknowledge him and then stared down at his plate, deep in thought until Ruth wandered into the room a moment later.

The old woman stepped up behind Alan, kissed him on the head and smiled at his empty plate. "Are you waiting for seconds, dear? I can make you something if Kyra..."

"Kyrano's not here, Mother." Jeff gave up with his pretense at eating and pushed his plate away. "Scott made breakfast today and Alan's eaten as well as any of us. He doesn't need ba…um…babying any more. He's fully grown and can decide for himself if he's full or not."

Ruth raised an eyebrow at her son and shook her head. "Don't you take that tone with me, Jefferson Tracy. I only asked the boy…"

Jeff let out an explosive breath and slammed his hands down hard on either side of his placemat, shaking the table so hard that the crockery rattled. He growled, low in his throat, pushed his chair backwards and leapt to his feet. "Mother," he snarled. "That's enough. You…" He jabbed a finger in Alan's direction, "My office, now. You…" Jeff attempted to rein in his ire and not physically shout at his elderly mother. "…I had a rude awakening, rather too early for my liking this morning and I am really not in the mood to explain myself. Later, maybe but not now."

Jeff realised that Alan had fled the room and he breathed heavily to try and calm himself. "Scott, Virgil, I need you to lock the island down for me. I need you to close down the boathouse and the hangar as well so that your brother can't try to follow Gordon to Kansas."

"Gordon's in Kansas? What's he doi…" Virgil found himself pinned with a stern look from both Jeff and Scott and held his hands up in front of himself. "Whoa. Forget I asked. I don't want to know. I'll do the boathouse, Scott; you do the hangar and…I guess I'll meet you by the pool when we're done."

Scott nodded and stood up in order to undo the apron which was still tied around his waist. He laid it over the back of his chair, winked at his grandmother and then gave Jeff a concerned look before grabbing Virgil's arm and pushing him from the room.

Ruth turned to find that Jeff had started pacing back and forth behind his chair. He was flushed and breathing heavier than he should have been but seemed unaware of what was going on around him. Ruth frowned at her son's uncharacteristic behaviour for a moment and then positioned herself in front of him and dragged him to a stop.

"Jefferson," she murmured. "Whatever's gotten into you this morning? You've hardly touched your breakfast, you've driven the boys from the room and you're wound tighter than a coiled spring. Talk to me, Jeff. I'm worried about you."

Jeff closed his eyes and let out a long, slow breath as he clung to the hand which Ruth had on his arm. "I can't," he whispered, opening his eyes and looking at his mother with pain in his eyes. "Not…not yet."

"Later?" Ruth nodded sadly. "Yes, you said that before. I hope you realise I'm going to hold you to that. You can't get away with behaviour like this without an explanation. It's not good enough, Jeff, really it isn't."

Despite his mood, Jeff chuckled and pulled Ruth into a hug. "I know," he groaned. "…and I'm sorry but I promise I'll explain everything later. Maybe over a drink or three."

"So it's a three drink problem, is it?" Ruth murmured. "Oh dear."

Jeff nodded. "Oh dear, indeed. Now, Mother, you need to let me go. I need to go to my office and I'd better find Alan there waiting for me. If I don't then you may do well to enlist Scott and Virgil's help because it's going to take both of them to stop me from inflicting serious bodily on the little fool."

Ruth took a step back and frowned at her son. "Don't do anything stupid, Jeff. He's still your son, no matter what he's done."

Jeff grumbled something beneath his breath, placed a chaste kiss on Ruth's forehead and walked away.

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