“But you have to warm up.”
“Alan, come near me with that and you are on ‘bird cleaning duty for a month.”
“What’s going on?” Virgil had only popped out of the sick bay for a few moments in order to update John on the situation. He in turn had promised to keep their father informed without Gordon finding out. How he was planning to do that, Virgil had no idea, but he knew that he trusted John to manage it. The first words that had come out of Scott’s mouth as soon as he had realised what had happened – although that was something that had admittedly taken nearly ten minutes – were that their copper-haired sibling could not find out.
Before he could push the matter any further, John had called in and, promising Scott that he would at least wait until they got back to the island before matters got taken any further, Virgil had left the sick bay in order to get a bit of peace. He had no more desire for Scott to find out that his younger brother had practically lost his cool when things got out of hand than Scott had for Gordon finding out. Returning to the sound of raised voices, however, Virgil found himself standing in the doorway, arms folded across his chest. One glance at his oldest brother had Virgil sighing somewhat irritably.
“Scott, lay back down. Now.”
“I’m not telling you again,” Virgil responded threateningly, letting his eyes glance at the locker almost above Scott’s head. Following his brother’s gaze, Scott swallowed.
“I would,” Virgil responded simply. Scott may have been their field commander and biggest brother, but when it came to the medical side of things, Virgil was still able to pull rank on the stubborn man. After Scott’s refusal for help had once nearly cost him his life, Jeff had made sure that his eldest understood that when Virgil gave orders that could affect their health, all the boys followed it, Scott included.
“Now get back into bed.”
For a moment, Scott glared at his brother who simply returned the gaze coolly, knowing that Scott had to do as he was told or risk a relapse. And that was something that Virgil was simply not going to allow to happen. Scott may have been determined to get out of bed, but Virgil was just as determined to keep him in it.
Sighing irritably, Scott finally did as his brother asked and swung himself back into a more secure position on the bed. Virgil knew that had he returned even a few seconds later, his oldest brother would have been out of bed completely. It was amazing how much power the medic seemed to suddenly gain just by glancing to where the sedatives were kept. He had only ever been forced to use them once on any of his brothers, more often than not the threat alone being enough to keep them in their place. Despite his grumblings, he knew it would work with Scott this time. The pilot might moan constantly for every second that he had to spend in the bed, and Virgil knew that as soon as his back was turned Scott would be up again, but the field commander also knew that if his little brother carried out his threat, he wouldn’t be able to keep an eye on the rest of them. It was better to be stuck in bed than sedated.
“Now, what’s going on?”
As Alan smirked, Virgil inwardly winced at how much like their father he sounded. Not shifting though, he merely turned his gaze onto his youngest brother, raising an eyebrow pointedly until Alan started squirming. Very slowly, Alan brought something colourful out from behind his back.
Virgil found himself frowning as he tried to work out what it was that the younger Tracy was holding. Realising that Virgil had no idea, Alan gave the item a quick shake, and Virgil felt his jaw hit the floor.
“Where the hell did those come from?”
“Where do you think?” Alan responded, his smirk growing wider as he took in his brother’s horrified expression. For in his hand rested a pair of socks. But even Alan had to admit that he wasn’t sure if “sock” was the right word for the fluffy, luminous yellow things he had in his hand. He knew that should he put them on, they would come up to his knees at least.
“When I next see Gordon, he’s dead,” Virgil said lightly, crossing the sick bay and snatching the offending items from Alan’s hand before throwing them across the room, letting them land safely in the waste box. “I’m not having things like that in my lady.”
As Scott burst out laughing, Virgil turned to look at his brother again, just in time to see him place his feet back on the floor. Sensing he had been caught out, Scott grinned sheepishly up at his younger brother, who in turn just shook his head in fond bemusement.
“Come on, Al, you’ve got a ‘bird to fly home.”
This time, no look from the medic could make Scott get back into bed. Throwing the blanket that had been wrapped forcibly around his shoulders to the floor, Scott was up and across the sick bay within a matter of seconds. Springing after him, Virgil gritted his teeth as he held onto Scott’s arm, desperately trying to stop the man from going any further.
“Virg, get off. I’m fine, there’s no need for Alan to do anything. The Sprout just needs a nice sit down on the way home, don’t you kiddo? Come on, Virgil, let go…”
“Scott,” Virgil panted, shooting Alan a look for help over his shoulder. “Shut up and sit down. You aren’t going anywhere.”
“Stop overreacting, Virgil, I’m fine. Just need a nice little fly to clear my head.”
“Over my dead body,” he snarled, digging his heels in to try to stop Scott. With Alan’s help, Virgil finally managed to drag his older brother back to the bed, pushing him down on it forcibly. As Scott once more protested – loudly – the medic felt his patience give out. Instructing Alan to keep Scott in the bed – with the slight threat of revealing some things that Alan had been hoping Scott wouldn’t find out if he didn’t – Virgil crossed the room once more. Reaching into a locker, he heard Scott give out another shout of protest when he saw what was in his brother’s hand. Before he had the chance to properly shrug Alan off, however, Virgil had snapped the restraint around his brother’s wrist, fastening him to the bed.
For a moment, silence fell across the brothers as Virgil and Alan tried to get their breath back.
“Let me go.” Scott’s voice was quiet and deadly, but Virgil found that he didn’t particularly care. If Scott wasn’t going to take seriously the fact that he could have quite easily died if it hadn’t been for John boosting the signal and guiding them to where their missing brother was, then Virgil was just going to do it for him. He knew that his brother hated it whenever Alan had to fly One – each Tracy was more than possessive of their own craft – but even so, there was a line, and Scott had just crossed it.
“Alan, go and start pre-flight checks and tell Base we’re on our way home,” Virgil ordered, his eyes locked in a staring contest with his older brother as he spoke, only just turning his head to acknowledge the blond. Alan nodded and left in silence, knowing that there was something far deeper going on between his brothers. He had a feeling that a row was about to blow up quite spectacularly, and he had no desire to be in the middle of one for the second time in a day. Thinking back on finding out about Gordon’s thoughts, Alan couldn’t believe that it really was the same day; it felt so long ago now.
“Virgil, let me go, now. Alan can’t fly home.”
“Yes he can,” Virgil argued, sitting down on the edge of his brother’s bed as a wave of weariness crashed over him. It was alright for Scott, he hadn’t had to go through the thought processes of working out whether his brother was too cold to survive or not. He hadn’t seen the completely weakened state Virgil had found him in. He hadn’t had to pull a semi-conscious brother out through a flood, only to have him pass out as soon as they thought he was safe.
Feeling a hand softly squeeze the back of his neck, Virgil looked up to see Scott leaning forward awkwardly, his face strained as he tried to hold himself in an upright position without using his hands. His eyes were soft and understanding though, and despite being on the receiving end of having to be rescued this time, Virgil knew in that one look that his big brother did understand how it felt. They had all been in enough troubled situations for him to know precisely what Virgil was thinking.
“I’m okay, you know,” he whispered gently, trying his best to reassure his brother and so remove the slightly haunted look from Virgil’s eyes.
“You might not have been.”
“Thank god the girl got out to get you, then.”
“The girl?” Suddenly, Virgil felt full alertness return to him as he gazed at his big brother. Scott had leant back against the pillows, shutting his eyes sleepily. Hearing Virgil’s tone, however, he opened them again, frowning at his brother quizzically.
“The only reason I went back there was because some little girl told me her mother was trapped. There was no one there, but I sent her back out anyway.”
“Scott, no one came to get us. The only way we had any idea where you were was because of John being a smart-ass as normal.”
“Wait a minute…” Scott was sitting up again now, confusion spiralling within his eyes. “Where did she go, then?”
“She must have just found her mother outside or something. John checked the area, there was definitely no one left inside. Whoever she was, you got her out safely, Scotty.”
“I hope so,” Scott muttered, resting back once more with a sigh. Glancing at him, Virgil couldn’t help but smile. No matter what he had just said, he knew that his brother was still worried about the girl; the way his brow crumpled above the bridge of his nose was a clear sign that he hadn’t listened to a word. Making to stand up, Virgil jumped when Scott somehow managed to latch his hand around his brother’s wrist, despite it being tied to the bed.
“Let me go?” His voice was softer this time, more pleading. Virgil, however, was not fooled in the slightest. Until Alan was airborne, Scott wasn’t going anywhere.
“Later,” he muttered, moving out of the sick bay. Unable to stop himself, he had to grin at the annoyed shout that followed him out as he just left Scott stuck there. If he was honest, Virgil thought it served his brother right. If Scott had just done as he was told for once, rather than having to turn everything into a battle, they would have been on their way home long before this. And despite having changed into dry clothes, Virgil had to admit that he was anxious for a nice hot shower. There was something about this place that was giving him the chills, and he didn’t think that it was just his submergence in the water that was causing him to shudder slightly.
Finally making his way up onto the flight deck almost an hour after he had first returned to his ‘bird, Virgil practically threw himself into his command chair, exhaling sharply as he sagged into it’s comforting position. The chair was almost moulded to him now, and shutting his eyes briefly, Virgil sighed. There was something about sitting in the chair that made him feel as if he was once more in control of the situation.
“Thunderbird Two to Base.”
“Are you alright, son?” His father’s tone, not to mention his immediate response, meant that Virgil knew John had made good on his promise to let Jeff knew precisely what had been going on during the rescue. Not sure whether Gordon was in earshot or not, Virgil decided to play it safe.
“Yeah, everything’s fine, Dad. Just leaving the danger zone now.”
“F.A.B. Virgil. He’s not here, by the way, John’s distracting him. How’s Scott?”
“Stubborn ass,” Virgil responded, although his voice lacked any real enthusiasm as he automatically ran through the pre-flight checks. He should have known that his father would have been able to pick up on the note in his voice, however, and sure enough, Jeff was soon voicing his concerns.
“I’m just tired, Dad,” Virgil said quietly, even as he gracefully lifted his craft from the ground, spinning her around and pointing her towards home. He, for one, would be thankful when the island came into sight. Hovering for a moment, Virgil barely touched the thrusters before sending himself shooting forward, the accident zone quickly becoming a distant spot on the horizon. The more distance he put between him and the place that had attempted to take another Tracy life, the more Virgil found himself relaxing.
“Where’s your brother?” Jeff eventually asked, starting to feel a little bit uneasy about the fact that Scott seemed to be doing as he was told and staying in the sick bay. He knew his eldest son well enough to know that never happened, and the father suddenly found himself worrying that the boys hadn’t been honest with him about the condition of their brother. Before Virgil could answer his father, another voice beat him to it.
“Right here.” Stumbling slightly as he crossed the flight deck, Scott threw himself none too gracefully into the seat next to his younger brother, pausing for long enough to smirk at the gobsmacked expression on the artist’s face. Sparing his father a glance, Scott knew that he must have looked pale at the very least, if the look of concern the man was shooting him was anything to go by. He knew that Jeff would soon be trying to order his son back into bed, but luckily for Scott, Virgil spoke first.
“How?” Virgil said blankly. One look at his father, and he knew that the man had a very good idea of what his middle son had done in order to try and keep Scott in bed. Jeff had to admit that he had wondered what was going on when it was quite clearly Alan on his own informing base that he was leaving the danger zone, knowing that Scott never relinquished control if he could help it. Too grateful that he would be getting all three of his sons back in roughly one piece, however, he hadn’t dwelled on it, the thought only returning when Virgil too appeared to be alone.
“Parker,” Scott responded with a grin, folding his long legs up under him so that he was curled up. Virgil took one glance at him and set Two on autopilot, climbing out of his seat as he did so.
“Virgil, what are you doing now?” Scott asked, sounding exasperated as his brother disappeared from his eye line. Virgil didn’t answer, however, but before Scott could move, he felt a blanket being draped over his shoulders from behind. Without a word, Virgil sat back down again, taking control of his ‘bird once more and ignoring the look that his father was shooting him. With a soft, grateful smile, Scott seized the corners of the blanket and pulled it around him further, resting comfortably back in his seat as he watched his brother fly with an expert hand. Watching him out of the corner of his own eye as he guided his ‘bird casually over the smooth terrain, Virgil found himself grinning as Scott gradually fell asleep.
“‘ott… ‘cotty… Scott!”
“Wha-. What?” Peeling his eyes open, Scott glanced around him in confusion before following the hand resting on his shoulder and finding himself looking into his father’s smiling face. Sitting upright, he looked around him frantically, his frown only deepening as he realised that he was still in Thunderbird Two. The blanket he had pulled around his shoulders was still there, but there was another draped across his legs as well. Uncurling himself, Scott could only wince as he attempted to straighten out his limbs.
“Showering,” Jeff responded, his eyes twinkling as he sat down in Virgil’s usual seat. There was no other word for it; Scott simply looked cute, reminding his father of the little boy who never wanted to go to bed despite the fact that he was almost dead on his feet.
“How long have I been here?” Scott muttered, rubbing a hand across the back of his neck as he stretched out his other arm, yawning as he did so. He didn’t even remember falling asleep, but he had to admit, he was feeling a lot warmer now than when he had first escaped from the sick bay. Thinking about the restraint still hanging off the bed, Scott had to smile. The look on Virgil’s face had been worth it.
“Long enough.” Reaching out with one hand, Jeff ruffled his son’s hair as he spoke, a fond smile on his face. He had to admit that he had been more than worried when Virgil had come up from the silos alone, but when he had declared that his brother was asleep, all concerns had been banished. If Scott could stay asleep, then his brother would be able to gradually bring his temperature back under control without Scott kicking up his usual fuss. But nearly an hour had passed since they had landed, however, and Jeff knew that unless Scott moved soon, he was going to end up stiff. Those chairs were not designed for someone of the field commander’s height to be curled up in them for any length of time. Despite knowing that he had to awaken his son, Jeff had still hesitated, watching his child sleep for a few precious moments, just revelling in the fact that Scott had made it back alive.
Putting up with his father’s action – for he knew that he had no choice in reality – Scott leaned back into the chair with a sigh. For a few moments, a companionable silence fell over father and son before a thought suddenly hit Scott and he sat bolt upright with a gasp.
“What about Gordon?” he cried, running his own hand through his hair. He had tried to stress to his brothers that he didn’t want their water-loving sibling to find out that there had been another accident – for Scott was adamant that was all that had happened – not when it had taken them all of this time to try and get through to him.
“He knows,” Jeff said softly, watching Scott sag again in apparent defeat. Waiting for a moment, Jeff paused long enough for his son to glance at him before smiling. As Scott frowned in confusion, Jeff continued.
“He knows all about how Alan tricked you into Two and then managed to basically hijack One whilst Virgil kept you distracted. And that as part of their master plan they cuffed you to the bed. Which is why I had to come down here: because no one had thought to free you and therefore you hadn’t been able to get out yourself.”
“Great,” Scott muttered, shaking his head but finding that he was smiling anyway. It was definitely better to be on the receiving end of Gordon’s comments than for the prankster to believe that someone was trying to kill them. Scott knew they had been lucky, however. If the accident had been of any other nature, it would have not been so easy to hide it. The sooner they could set the redhead’s mind at ease, the better. Hit by a sudden thought, Scott suddenly grinned.
“So, of course, I would want to seek revenge on Alan?”
As Jeff groaned – the long-suffering sigh of a father who had put up with too many wars between his sons – Scott jumped to his feet. Unfortunately for him, however, he moved a little too quickly considering all that his body had been put through, and Jeff found himself leaping up after his son, making it across the short distance just in time to steady him by the elbow.
“Slowly, Scott, slowly. Come on; let’s get you upstairs before he decides to investigate further.”
“What are we going to do about debriefing? We can’t overlook that it happened, and yet we can’t exactly tell him.”
“I don’t see why not,” Jeff began, wondering why his sons were so adamant about keeping their brother in the dark. The father was worried about his fourth-born, that was for sure, but something told him that it would not be any use trying to hide it. After all, they had tried to hide what was going on from Alan, something that failed quite spectacularly and ended up causing more harm than good at the end of the day.
“Dad, he can’t know,” Scott all but begged, coming to a stop as his father attempted to lead him out of Virgil’s ‘bird. Stopping as well, Jeff turned to look at his son, taking in the pleading expression with a sinking heart. He knew that look meant that Scott was in full protection mode and nothing and no one was going to convince him that telling Gordon was in his brother’s best interests.
“Fine,” he sighed, giving up any attempt to reason with the man before he had even started. He had found out the hard way that when Scott believed he was looking out for the others, it was a quick and easy way of sparking up his temper if his father tried to disagree. In all honesty, though, Jeff knew that it was rare Scott wasn’t right about something. He had practically raised Alan himself as it was, not to mention taking control of the others on more occasions than the father wanted to admit to. But on the rare occasion Jeff believed something should be done differently, a clash of tempers could be seen that rivalled even Alan’s.
“We’ll get John to distract him again then, I’m sure he won’t mind.” Making to walk off again, Jeff groaned at the way Scott flinched. “What?”
“We might need John. Something Virgil said about the only way they found me being because of him.”
“Fine!” Jeff snapped, throwing his hands up in surrender and walking off, a quick glance over his shoulder reassuring him that that Scott was going to be okay on his own. Something told him that he just wouldn’t be able to win this one. John had already had words about keeping the accident from Gordon, meaning Jeff knew instantly that Virgil would be thinking the same thing: he was more than outnumbered.
Watching him go, Scott bit his lip, wondering if he was perhaps pushing this too far. At least if Gordon knew, they would be able to work as a family to help him. But as he moved forward again, the oldest brother decided against it. From what had already been said, Virgil was already forcing his brother through a number of tests in order to make sure that the younger man was fit for duty, and Scott was loath to do anything that would make him worse.
Making his way slowly up through the silos, Scott took a moment before entering the lounge in order to pull himself together. The last thing he wanted was for Gordon to be able to figure things out for himself, for Scott knew that then the accusations would fly; he and Alan could be amazingly similar when it suited them. Hearing Gordon laugh, Scott knew the time had come to face his brother, and all he could do was hope that the younger man didn’t pick up on Scott’s latest brush with death. Pushing the door open, he leant casually against the frame as he watched the scene within.
After only a few moments, Alan seemed to sense his presence and turned towards the door, concern flickering momentarily into his eyes before he glanced casually at Gordon and made a visible effort to keep his face neutral. Virgil was not as quick in being able to hide the relief on his face, but luckily for him, he was standing behind Gordon, meaning that John and Scott were the only ones who could see his expression.
“So…” Gordon began, grin firmly in place as he stared at his oldest brother, clearly trying to gauge how Scott was reacting to Alan’s supposed behaviour at the accident zone. Raising his eyebrows, Scott turned his gaze onto his youngest brother, tipping Alan a wink as Gordon followed his eyes, a clear indication that he knew what was going on. Alan momentarily smiled, before swallowing hard as Scott’s face clouded over.
“Alan, you have five seconds to run before you are dead. And Virgil, you’d better not be far behind him for coming up with the idea of cuffing me to the bed.” Meaning the last part of his sentence slightly more than the first part, Scott had to smirk as Alan practically bolted for the door, his laugh bouncing back behind him. He knew the kid wouldn’t go far since he had nothing to really fear, but for Gordon’s sake, they had to keep up appearances. Virgil, however, walked slowly across the room, ignoring the warning looks coming from his biggest brother as he gave the older man a visual check over. Despite it feeling like a lifetime to Scott – constantly resisting the urge to see Gordon’s reaction to what was happening in case that made it more obvious – Virgil finally backed away. Something about the look in Scott’s eye must have meant the younger brother suddenly realised that Scott had meant what he said about Virgil cuffing him to the bed, for he suddenly took off.
“Guess debriefing is being saved for later then?” John asked casually, regarding the suddenly empty room in amusement. Grinning, Scott realised that their antics had meant that they had effectively killed two birds with one stone: explaining to Gordon why it was Alan flying One home, and also managing to delay the inevitable debriefing at the same time. As Gordon turned to face Scott expectantly, Scott felt his grin widen.
“Fancy helping me kill the Sprout?” he asked, laughing outright at Gordon’s expression. It wasn’t often that he and Scott were on the same side against Alan, that was for sure.
As the pair of them took off, supposedly in hot pursuit of their younger brother, Jeff stepped gently through the opposite door, having heard the whole thing. Sitting down heavily in his chair, he couldn’t help but run a hand through his hair as he turned to face the still-active portrait of his second-born.
“Are we doing the right thing, John?” he asked gently, gazing wistfully at the door and the sounds of pursuit coming from the other side.
“Scott hiding the fact that he almost died?” John responded, sounding almost bitter as he watched his father. “Probably not. He’s going to shrug off every attempt Virgil tries to make sure he is alright by using Gordon as an excuse. And as for Gordon… who knows, Dad, who knows.”
As silence fell between the two men, Jeff found himself wondering, not for the first time, whether he had done the right thing in setting up International Rescue. He could have lost his son out there today, but more worrying was the fact that he could quite easily be destroying his family because of it, even back here in the apparent safety of the island. Already the lies were beginning to spread between the boys. How much further was it going to go?
Gordon was awake enough to realise that the sun had only just graced the horizon, but relaxed in the knowledge that he didn’t have to get up yet. Scott might not have let go of that part of his military past and was often up at the same time as the sun, pounding along the beach with an energy Gordon knew that Virgil could barely comprehend at that time of day. But despite being one of the earlier risers of the family, the redhead had no desire to be up quite that early. Besides, it wasn’t often he could just lie there and listen to the sound of the ocean crashing onto the rocks below his partly open window, a cool breeze wafting tantalisingly into the room.
This morning, however, it seemed that some members of the family had other ideas. Just as the prankster was allowing his mind to wake up enough to think back on the rescue of the day before and the fact that all protocol had apparently been destroyed: first Alan mucking around and tricking Scott into flying One home, and then completely skipping debriefing in order for said older brother to chase the younger around the island for what felt like half the night until giving up, swearing that revenge was still coming. Before he could think on it any further, however, Gordon felt a hand latch around his ankle. Having four brothers, the redhead immediately reacted, seizing hold of the head board, his fingers biting into the soft wood as he struggled against whoever it was that had decided he needed a wakeup call.
Glancing over his shoulders as they began to burn with the effort of holding on, Gordon was not the slightest bit surprised to see Alan standing there, his face twisted in concentration as he attempted to drag his brother from the sanctuary of his bed. What was surprising, however, was seeing Scott standing next to him, a wide grin on his face as he watched Alan’s struggles. Even more so than that was the fact that Virgil was standing next to them, although as Gordon glanced at him, he attempted to stifle a yawn at the same time.
“What’s going on?” Gordon asked casually, forcing his fingers to relax in order to get a better grip. He knew that Alan wouldn’t be able to move him – the incident on the couch only a few days before gave him that much knowledge. And the relaxed tone in his voice would no doubt work as a way of winding his little brother up, knowing that Gordon barely had to try in order to resist his efforts.
“I believed I promised you a thorough physical,” Virgil responded smugly, also watching Alan. No matter what angle the younger man took, he simply could not shift Gordon. In a way, Virgil wasn’t surprised. Whilst not being the tallest of the Tracys, there certainly was something solid about Gordon, the constant swimming building him up to a strength that rivalled even Scott’s.
“At dawn?” Gordon practically yelped, sounding incredulous as he stared at his brother. If Virgil was willing to get up this early just to put Gordon through his paces, then Gordon’s bout of paranoia had obviously affected the team medic even more than the younger man had believed. After talking to John, and then having had the confrontation in his room, Gordon had to admit that he was letting go of the idea that the rope had been cut; there were too many alternative solutions being suggested that offered evidence to the contrary. And the fact that the last rescue had gone without a hitch, despite being in a similar location, meant that the redhead had been feeling more like himself again. He himself blamed the tiredness due to being up half the previous night pouring over a diagram from Brains regarding updates to his ‘bird. Normally, he simply handed it over to the resident genius, letting Brains work his magic before taking whatever update had been installed out for a spin, usually voicing his approval straight afterwards. But there had been something about this particular moderation that had really caught Gordon’s imagination, and caused him to completely lose track of the time. If he’d known how his brothers were going to react to him merely having a bit of a rest, he would have never done it; it simply wasn’t worth the hassle.
“Who knows when you are going to be needed,” Virgil responded, sharing a look with Scott as Alan still failed to move their brother. “If you can pass it at this time of day, then you can do it any time.”
“You, my dear brother,” Gordon replied sarcastically, trying to work out what the older ones were planning by the unspoken messages darting between them, “are seriously twisted.”
Before he could say anything else, however, he finally worked out Scott’s plan, only a second too late. Nudging Alan gently out of the way, the oldest brother moved up the bed as Virgil stepped into Alan’s previous position.
“Don’t!” Gordon yelled, beginning to laugh at the same time. Digging his fingers in further, he knew he would not be able to hold on against the combined strength of his two earth-bound older brothers, and before he could react further, they had both lunged. As Scott slipped his hands around Gordon’s shoulders, Virgil grabbed onto his ankles, and between the two of them, they lifted their brother clear off the bed. That wasn’t all they had planned though, and as Virgil adjusted his position to stop Gordon kicking him, Alan ran ahead to check the path was clear.
Between them, the three Tracys carried the fourth outside, Gordon attempting to fight them off with all his might whilst making sure that he wouldn’t be dropped in the process. He should have known that Virgil would come out with something quite spectacular when he said that he wanted to give his brother an examination. Apart from the annual ones they all had to undertake in order to make sure that their training and reflexes were up to scratch, the only other time the boys were subjected to one was when something had gone wrong. Gordon was sure Virgil tried to seek revenge on whichever brother it was who’d made him worry in the first place by coming up with something quite inventive for the tests.
Realising where they were headed, Gordon merely held his breath as Scott and Virgil carried him outside, and his suspicions proved to be right as he was thrown unceremoniously into the pool. Resurfacing, he shook the water out of his eyes, grinning at his brothers as he easily treaded water, wondering what they had coming next.
“Is that it?”
“No way,” Virgil responded with a laugh, sharing a grin with Scott. “That was just payback for the other morning.”
“Virgil!” Quicker than a flash, Gordon scrambled out of the pool, charging towards his brother as he did so. If it was revenge they were after, then it was a level playing field, meaning Gordon could give as good as he got. As Virgil took shelter behind Scott, Gordon adjusted his course in order to make sure that he made both brothers pay for their role in what had just happened. Scott, however, had other ideas. Stepping sharply to one side as Gordon ran at him, he grabbed the younger man by the arm, pulling his soaked brother into him and locking his free arm across Gordon’s chest, pinning him in place.
Before Gordon could ask what Scott’s latest instruction meant, his artistic brother had lunged forward. Seizing Gordon’s left arm – the one that wasn’t quite as firmly pinned by Scott – the medic proceeded to draw a phial of blood from his brother.
“What was that for?” Gordon yelled, wincing slightly as he glanced down at the small bubble of blood that had begun to trickle down his arm now that Virgil had withdrawn.
“Full physical, Gords,” Virgil responded, his voice far softer than beforehand as he locked eyes with his brother. “Means I want to do the full works.”
“I have to know that you are okay,” Virgil cut in, and for a moment the two brothers merely looked at each other. Knowing that he wasn’t going to have much choice, Gordon sighed, nodding his understanding and receiving a grateful smile in response.
“Atta boy, fish feet.”
Rocking his body back, Gordon twisted away from Scott, breaking free of his brother’s hold as he did so. Now that was done, he knew that there would be more coming, especially if Virgil really did want to reassure himself. Not that Gordon was worried, however. He knew that he was fine, and if it meant running around the island for a day in order to prove it, then that was fine by the prankster, especially if it meant getting the two smother hens off his back. Hit with a sudden idea, Gordon secretly grinned to himself, knowing precisely how he was going to repay them for putting him through it.
Scott finally let go properly, stepping away from his brother, but Gordon was only half-listening as Virgil began to outline his plan of the tests they were going to put their brother through in order to make sure that he was fit and ready for duty. Instead, he was concentrating hard on trying to make some of the colour drain from his face, made slightly easier by the fact Virgil had just taken blood from him.
“…and then…Gordon? Gords, are you okay?” Breaking off mid-sentence, Virgil turned to face his brother properly, a frown emerging as he took in the slightly glazed look on the younger man’s face.
“Virg, I…” his voice faint, Gordon paused for just a moment, waiting to make sure that he had both Scott and Virgil’s attention, before allowing himself to fall forward. As he had predicted, Scott managed to get in between him and the ground, catching Gordon as he fell. As the older two immediately crowded around him, Gordon made sure he kept his eyes shut, although harder still was keeping the smile off his face, especially as he could hear Alan chuckling behind him, his younger brother clearly knowing precisely what Gordon was up to.
“Do you think it was taking the blood?”
Hearing Scott’s anxious voice, Gordon knew that he needed to bide his time in order for this to work. Move too quickly, and his brothers would still have the adrenaline rush he knew he had just provided them with in order to catch up with him. Wait too long, however, and Gordon knew that he wouldn’t be able to move quickly enough himself.
“I don’t know,” Virgil responded hesitantly, and if he wasn’t after revenge on his brother for doubting whether Gordon was up to a rescue, the redhead would have felt guilty for putting that tone in the older man’s voice. “He’s never reacted before, that’s why I thought I would get it over and done with.”
“Guys, you do know he is fine, don’t you?” Gordon could quite clearly hear the laughter evident in Alan’s voice, but despite his words, it appeared the older two were not prepared to back off just yet.
“What do we do?” Scott continued, ignoring Alan, who merely laughed again. “Wait here until he comes round or get him to the infirmary now?”
“I don’t want to move him…” Virgil began, but before he could continue, Gordon knew that his time had come – otherwise they would start to believe Alan. Opening his eyes suddenly, Gordon heard Scott suck in a sharp breath as the prankster just grinned.
“Gotcha!” And with that, Gordon sprang to his feet, breaking through his brothers and running at full speed for the beach. For a moment, there was a stunned silence, before an outraged shout from Scott was coupled with the sound of running feet, and Gordon knew that both Scott and Virgil were after him. Without having to look, Gordon knew that Alan would be following at a more leisurely pace, not seeing the need to rush, but wanting to stay close enough in order to be able to see the events unfold. If Gordon knew his brother as well as he thought he did, he had a feeling the blond would be patching them through to John at the same time, giving their missing sibling an idea of what was going on as well. Although knowing what John was like, it wouldn’t have surprised Gordon in the slightest that the dawn start – if not more – had been his idea.
Putting on an extra burst of speed as he heard his older brothers thundering along behind him, Gordon had to admit that this was the best he had felt since the accident. If Virgil wanted him to prove that he was fit for duty, then this certainly was the way to do it. Jumping the last few steps down onto the beach, Gordon continued his mad dash for a while longer, his feet pounding rhythmically into the sand. Knowing that he couldn’t try and hide from them – the sand was giving away his route rather obviously – Gordon opted for going straight on, wondering how long it would be until they caught up with him – or he ran out of beach. He was glad he was only wearing shorts for bed, and even more grateful they happened to be an old pair of swimming ones. It meant that they were drying off quite nicely, not hindering him in the slightest. Something suddenly loomed up in front of him, making Gordon skid to a halt, his jaw dropping in disbelief.
For spread across the beach, a giant obstacle course had been constructed. Glancing back over his shoulder at his approaching brothers, Gordon knew by the way the pair of them had slowed to a walk, identical grins evident even from the distance Gordon was at, that they had managed to get him exactly where they wanted him. With a groan, Gordon knew there was a reason they had chosen the pool as a starting place. Last time Virgil had tried to force Gordon through the test, the younger man had simply disappeared for the day. It was clear that he wasn’t giving the prankster a chance to pull a Houdini this time. There was no way to get across the beach unless it was by going through the obstacles, meaning that if Gordon wanted to escape from his brothers, he was going to have to complete Virgil’s course.
“What’s wrong, Gordon?” Virgil called, sharing a look with Scott as the two of them stalked ever closer, unable to keep the grin off his face. Despite worrying about his brother, Virgil had to admit that doing things this way was definitely less stressful than putting Gordon through a scheduled programme. The redhead’s need to be his own person meant that it was almost an automatic reaction for him to rebel against anything that was structured – unless they were on a rescue. He would definitely have to thank John for thinking this up, not to mention Scott for constructing it. When he had put forward the idea to his oldest brother, he hadn’t expected the man to jump on board with quite as much enthusiasm as he had. John had a feeling it was Scott trying to prove that he too was fit and ready for duty, something Virgil had been dubious about since the man’s own accident.
“Absolutely nothing,” Gordon shouted back, smirking as he watched them walk closer. They were making a mistake if they thought that a mere obstacle course would prove that he was not fit for duty. Letting his gaze flicker from Virgil onto Scott, Gordon frowned at the fact that his brother had one hand clasped behind his back. His body automatically tensing, Gordon narrowed his eyes, trying to work out what it was that his brother was about to do, for he knew by the way Scott’s eyes were flickering around that he was waiting for the opportune moment.
“Gordon, duck!” Alan suddenly yelled as he came up behind them, clearly being able to see exactly what Scott was up to. Knowing by the look on Alan’s face that the kid meant it, Gordon dropped to the ground, breaking his fall with a neat roll just as something whistled past his head. Turning from where he was crouched, Gordon could see something quivering out of the nearest wooden support for the obstacles. Glancing back towards his brothers, Gordon was just in time to see Scott and Virgil turn to face Alan, incredulity etched in both of their faces. Thinking it was because Alan wasn’t supposed to have warned him, Gordon smirked as he stood back up again.
“I thought you were going to give him more warning than that!”
Even this far away from his brothers Gordon could hear every word, and his jaw dropped in disbelief once again.
“What? You said you would fire when I gave the signal,” Alan argued, his gaze slipping from Scott and onto Gordon, flinching somewhat as he caught the look his brother was sending him. Offering him a sheepish grin, only to receive a teasing glare back in response, Alan rubbed his hand across the back of his neck.
“You are a traitor, Alan Tracy,” Gordon called, mock anger in his voice as Alan shot him another grin, slightly stronger this time.
“What can I say? The enemy has strong persuasion tactics.”
“Enemy?” Virgil demanded haughtily, trying to keep both of his younger brothers in his sight at the same time. “Chose your next words very carefully, little brother, or you might find out just what those tactics may include.”
“Bring it on then,” Alan responded playfully, both he and Virgil ignoring Scott’s attempts to interrupt them.
“You are going to regret that, Sprout.”
“Will you two please stop? Gordon’s made a run for it!”
“He’s what?” Finally registering Scott’s voice, Virgil turned back to the obstacle course, a grin splitting his face as he caught sight of Gordon disappearing over the top of the wall, before quite clearly dropping to the ground the other side.
“What’s round the other side, Scott?” he asked, already moving forward. Whilst he knew that his brother had no other way round the course other than to complete it, he still wanted to be able to monitor Gordon’s performance the whole way around. He couldn’t make a decision if he didn’t know how the redhead was doing.
“Either a long swim or opening the vents from the outside for Thunderbird Two and getting back up to the house that way. And you know how awkward those vents are when you’re on your own. Not to mention this is Gordon we are talking about, meaning that it is probably going to be the swimming option.”
Feeling Scott fall into step with him, Virgil picked up the pace slightly, eager to gain on his fleeing brother. He could sense Alan hurrying along behind them and, with a sideways look at Scott, both men grinned, speeding up again. They may have been testing Gordon, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to put their youngest member through his paces either.
Gordon, however, had no desire to follow the course through on its regular path. He couldn’t help but feel as if the obstacles were only part of the test, and that just completing the course would not be enough to convince Virgil that he was really able to carry out a rescue. His brother certainly had a flare for creativity, and whilst suspecting it was Scott who had laid out the actual course, Gordon knew that Virgil had something else hidden up his sleeve.
Sprinting through the first part of the course in what he knew to be a record time, Gordon quickly came to a halt. With a quick glance behind him to make sure the others couldn’t see what he was doing, he began to walk backwards in his own footsteps, springing onto a nearby rock once he had reached the spot he was aiming for. He knew that he didn’t have long, but he had long enough to leave a few unwelcome surprises for his brothers. Glancing at the net he had just crawled under, Gordon found himself measuring the length to the ropes hanging off the corners before tipping his head back and gazing at the rock that was jutting out slightly above his head. With a predatory grin, he set to work. He would show them what happened when they tried to leave him out of rescues.
Breathing heavily, Alan was determined that he was not going to be left behind as Scott’s pace got more and more punishing, even Virgil dropping back slightly instead of keeping it up. Waiting for his brother to finish crawling out from under the net, the blond looked around him, trying to force the oxygen back into his lungs as he did so. Frowning as a slight smudge caught his eye, Alan only half heard Virgil’s call for him to hurry up, instead finding himself peering at a nearby rock, wondering whether he should be suspicious that it was covered in sand. He knew how Gordon’s mind worked – there were some privileges in being part of the Terrible Two, after all – and Alan knew full well that his immediate older brother was not simply going to run through an obstacle course, not if he thought that Virgil was being unfair.
“Alan, move!” Knowing that when Scott used that tone of voice, he had no choice; Alan pushed the matter from his mind and bent down, making to slip under the net. The course no longer seemed just about testing Gordon, Scott instead taking the opportunity to time both Alan and Virgil as well, much to the latter’s annoyance. How was he supposed to keep an eye on Gordon if he had to push himself?
Just as Alan lifted the net, he glanced up in time to see Scott make a sprint for the next obstacle, clearly showing that it wasn’t just Virgil who wanted to keep an eye on their copper-haired sibling. Just before he reached the wall that he was supposed to be scaling, he suddenly stumbled, using his hands to break his fall before bounding up again.
“Scott!” Instantly Virgil was by his brother’s side, concern etched into his face. Scott never stumbled during anything physical; it was what annoyed John so much. Yet the fact he had clearly just done so told Virgil that despite what he was saying, Scott was still feeling the effects of his time in the freezer.
“I’m fine, Virg,” Scott practically snapped, hating the fact that his younger brothers had witnessed his moment of weakness. He was feeling the effects slightly, but he would be damned before they knew that. “Alan, stop dawdling and move!”
As Scott shot off again, Alan rolled his eyes. He hated it when his brother tried to give orders, especially when he wasn’t up to full fitness himself. With a cheeky grin, the youngest brother glanced down at the net before stepping onto it, making to walk over it rather than bother with the tedious task of scrambling on his stomach. He had just reached the centre of the net, however, when he felt it move below his feet.
Too late did he notice that instead of being used to anchor the net to the ground, the ropes were suspended above his head, hooked expertly around a small piece of rock jutting out from the side of the cliff. With a yell of surprise, Alan made to throw himself forward to try and clear the net, but he couldn’t move quickly enough before it gave a sudden jerk and swung into the air, leaving him trapped inside.
“Virgil!” Yelling for his brother, Alan blushed slightly as Virgil turned back, not having got as far ahead as Scott. He hated having to call for help. Virgil’s eyebrows practically disappeared into his hair line as he took in the sight of his brother swinging in mid-air, stuck in the same net he had just crawled under.
“I don’t even want to know how,” he muttered, more to himself than Alan as he moved forward, clearly intending to go and free his brother. Wondering if this was Scott trying to catch Gordon out, or the latter trying to get back at the rest of them, Virgil had to admit that he was more alert than normal as he crept slowly along to where Alan was hanging. Before he could get there though, his question was answered for him.
Having missed the rope by complete accident the first time he had crossed it, Virgil was not expecting the knot to suddenly tighten around his ankle, pulling him off his feet as he did so. Immediately sitting up, Virgil bent forward, intending to slip the rope from his foot, but before he could do so, another lassoed out of nowhere, dropping expertly around his opposite wrist. As fast as he moved, Virgil wasn’t fast enough as the rope tightened, pulling him flat out on his back with a yell of surprise. With both ropes pulled tight, Virgil was as stuck as Alan.
Hearing a noise from behind one of the larger rocks, Virgil awkwardly twisted his head around to see Gordon climb out, grin firmly in place as he took in his brothers’ positions.
“Have I passed yet?”
“How did you know?”
“I knew what Alan would do,” Gordon responded with a shrug, glancing up at his suspended brother as he did so. “And I knew that you wouldn’t just leave him there. So, have I passed?”
“Not yet,” Virgil said, pausing in his struggles to free himself in order to lock eyes with his younger brother. “You still have to take out Scott.”
“Done,” Gordon said simply, striding past the net and, as he did so, reaching up with one hand and grasping Alan’s wrist lightly. As his brother shrugged him off, confusion spiralling in his eyes, Gordon smirked, pocketing Alan’s watch without the younger man noticing what he had done. He should have known that there was more to the obstacle course than just the actual obstacles, but judging by his words, Virgil was the only one who had been relying on Gordon not taking it at face value. That would certainly work to his advantage in taking down Scott.
“Gords, can’t you let us up first?”
“So you can warn him?” Gordon said lightly, turning back to face his brother. It was only then that Virgil realised that he couldn’t reach his watch, meaning that he had no way of warning Scott. And whilst Alan might not have noticed Gordon stealing his watch, Virgil had, and he knew that Gordon had as good as passed the test, whether he could take down Scott or not.
“Laters.” And with that, the aquanaut bounded away, his feet making barely a sound as he sprinted to where he knew Scott would be waiting for the others.
One thing that wasn’t working in his advantage, however, was the element of surprise he thought he had. Scott had heard Alan yell for Virgil, and had thought nothing of it. But when Virgil had let out a cry of surprise, the pilot had frozen, automatically raising his watch as he did so. He received no answer from either of his brothers, however, and tensing, Scott found his military past beginning to take back over as he slowly spun on the spot, eyes wide and alert.
“I know you’re there, Gordon!” he yelled across the apparently deserted beach, trying to work out where Gordon would be able to take shelter. What he wasn’t expecting, however, was the tip of something cold being placed against his neck.
“How right you are,” Gordon responded, holding the edge of the pipe with a steady hand. He knew that in order for Virgil to be completely satisfied that Gordon’s reactions were precisely what they should be, he would have to take down Scott in order to prove it.
Despite knowing that Scott would be harder to stop than the other two, Gordon was not expecting his brother to react so quickly. Bringing his arm sharply up, Scott rolled his shoulder as he spun on the spot, hitting Gordon’s arm away and causing the pipe to clatter harmlessly to the ground. Both of them knew that it had only been for show; now was when the real fight began.
Before Gordon could regain his senses after Scott’s sudden movement, the older brother had moved again, forcing his hand up through the gap between Gordon’s arm and his side, bending it back as he did so and causing his little brother to be bent over double. Without thinking about it, however, Gordon simply allowed his torso to twist, weakening Scott’s hold and grabbing onto his brother’s wrist as he did so. His attempt to drag Scott down, however, didn’t go according to plan as Scott simply rolled over Gordon’s back, dropping into a tight crouch on the other side and flicking one leg out to the side as he spun slowly in a circle.
Caught off balance as his legs were swept from under him, Gordon hit the floor, but instantly flipped himself over backwards and rested in a tight crouch. Out of the corner of his eye, he could make out Virgil and Alan coming to watch. He knew that it wouldn’t have taken Virgil long to free himself, but it had given Gordon the chance he needed to tackle Scott without them automatically interfering.
Rising to his feet, Gordon found that he and Scott were almost circling each other, waiting for an opening in the other’s defences. If it had been any of the others facing Scott, they would already be down, but Gordon stood more of a chance. He had been through practically the same basic training in the military as his brother, and could certainly hold his own against the elder Tracy. Without warning, he threw himself at Scott, taking the man by surprise and bowling him over.
Scott quickly used his height to his advantage and managed to flip the pair of them, but a quick knee in his stomach stopped him from straddling Gordon properly. As Gordon made to move again, Virgil quickly cut in, knowing that the pair of them would let stubbornness surface and things would begin to get dangerous – he knew what they were capable of. Not to mention the fact that Scott could have easily died the day before, something he was still adamant that Gordon could not find out about. Virgil wasn’t about to let his little brother discover it by realising that his opponent was weaker than usual, that was for sure.
“Okay you two, that’s enough. Gordon, congratulations, you are hereby fit and ready for duty.”
“And?” Gordon prompted, propping himself up on his elbows from where he was sprawled across the sand.
“And?” Virgil questioned, clearly not having a clue what his brother was talking about. As Scott suddenly snorted with amusement as he hauled himself to his feet, Gordon shot him a grin, knowing that the older man had figured out what the younger was heading towards. Glancing at Scott, Virgil sighed heavily, realising what Gordon wanted.
“And I’m sorry for having doubted you.”
“Awesome,” Gordon responded, jumping to his feet and digging his hand in his pocket. Pulling out Alan’s watch, he caught the younger man’s eye, grinning apologetically as he threw the gadget over, Alan just about managing to catch it. Making to stride off, Gordon paused, turning to face all three of his brothers once more.
“And I’m sorry for getting worked up about the accident, and for not telling you myself, Al. I swear I’ve let it go this time, especially as you were all obviously fine on the last one.” His voice softer than before, Gordon chewed on the bottom of his lip, trying to make himself believe his own words. As Virgil returned his look steadily, he suddenly grinned.
“Race ya!” And with that, he shot off towards the house, Scott giving Alan a nudge in the back to send him after his partner in crime and so allow him to talk to Virgil in peace.
“Do we tell him?” Virgil asked hesitantly, glancing at his older brother in concern. Scott was staring after Gordon’s retreating back, a frown on his face. As they watched, Alan drew level with his older brother, and hearing Gordon’s laugh bounce back down the beach towards them, Scott sighed.
“No. He’s happy now, leave him be.”
“Virg, no more accidents are going to happen, we’ve just been careless. There is no point getting worked up over something that doesn’t matter.”
Not liking it, but accepting his brother’s word, Virgil allowed Scott to lead him back to the house, wondering if they were doing the right thing.
By the time Virgil reached the house his mind had raced through every reason for and against telling Gordon what had happened. Despite not liking Scott’s logic, the younger man had to admit it did make sense. But what was troubling him was that things never had much of a chance of staying a secret when they lived on an island. Alan especially had a habit of just blurting things out whenever he got annoyed, the revealing of Christmas presents year after year had meant the brothers had learnt to not trust him with anything important. Virgil knew it hadn’t worked well with Alan not being told about Gordon, but he couldn’t stop the suspicion that if Gordon found out they had been keeping something from him for fear of the effect it would have, Alan’s outburst would seem like a mere whisper compared to what he would come out with.
“Virg? You okay?” Scott’s quiet voice brought his brother out of his musings and, blinking, Virgil spared him a glance, realising that they were standing on top of the steps about to walk straight into the house. The artistic Tracy didn’t even remember climbing them; he had been too lost in thought.
“Are you?” Virgil shot back, referring to Scott’s slip out on the course.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Scott answered, frowning at his brother. He knew though, knew precisely what Virgil was getting at. He should have known that Virgil wouldn’t have let his fall go unchallenged, but he certainly wasn’t going to let the younger man know that he was feeling far from alright. Virgil had enough to worry about without knowing that his older brother kept experiencing moments of double vision.
“Whatever,” Virgil muttered, brushing past Scott and moving into the cool shade of the hallway. The temperature had certainly risen whilst they had been out there, another reason why Virgil was glad to have it over and done with.
“What was that for?” Suddenly, Scott was in front of him, hands on hips as he stared down at his younger sibling, annoyance in his eyes as he waited for an explanation for his brother’s dismissive tone. Forcing himself to keep calm, Virgil returned Scott’s piercing gaze steadily.
“Nothing,” he answered simply, making to move on again. He knew Scott wouldn’t believe him in the slightest, but he just hoped that his brother let it go, for he had a strong feeling that if he did not, Alan would not be the only one proving how vocal he could be when wound up. He knew full well Scott was lying when he said that he was fine. All his life Virgil had kept a close eye on the health of all his brothers, not just Scott. He knew when they were fine, and when they were not. But if Scott was simply going to play the stubborn card, then two could play that game.
“Virgil, answer me,” Scott ordered, moving to block Virgil’s route again. Coming to a stop, Virgil felt his steady look slip into nothing more than a glare.
“Giving me orders again, Scott? You seem to be doing that a lot lately. Especially when it comes to telling me to lie to my brother.”
“Virgil, keep it down,” Scott hissed, sparing a worried glance over his shoulder, but Gordon remained safely out of earshot. Rolling his eyes, Virgil shook his head, pushing past his older brother and stalking towards the kitchen, desperately hoping that Scott wasn’t about to follow. He should have known better, however, as Scott quickly fell into step with him.
“You know my reasons for that, Virgil,” he said quietly, clearly wanting a reaction from his brother. All he received was a withering glance in response.
“I know your reasons. But that still doesn’t change the fact that you are trying to pull rank to keep Gordon in the dark.”
“Virgil, that’s not true!” Scott cried, and Virgil knew by the look in his brother’s eye that Scott truly hadn’t meant for that to be the way it had come across. But by now, Virgil was too worked up to let it go.
“So you didn’t mean it. Yet that is what has happened.”
“Can I make it up to you?”
“Let me tell Gordon.”
“And make him paranoid again? Don’t think so,” Scott practically scoffed, unable to see where Virgil was going with this. The younger man had originally agreed to keep quiet about what had happened, and considering it was Gordon’s health which could potentially be affected by the news, Scott had thought that his brother would jump at the chance to protect his younger brother; he always had before. After all, it had practically been Virgil’s idea to not tell Alan in the first place, meaning Scott had no idea why this was so different.
“It’s because it is his health,” Virgil shot back, coming to a stop in the doorway, not realising Kyrano was directly behind him, observing the confrontation in his usual quiet manner. “If we tell him, we can work through it with him; this morning proved that he is fine. But what happens when he simply overhears something, the way Alan did? And not tell us that he knows? You saw him after his own accident, there will be no telling what he might try and do. Then how paranoid do you think he will get, Scott, knowing that his brothers lied to him!”
“Virg, this is Gordon. How much do you think he can hide from us without us noticing?”
“Exactly, this is Gordon. Scott, you know how much he hid from us after the accident. It was only Dad who saw how depressed the kid got; we didn’t notice – too busy trying to cheer him up with stupid jokes. If there is one thing that Gordon is better at than the rest of us put together, it’s hiding things.”
“John’s pretty good,” Scott muttered, running a hand through his hair as he spoke, knowing that he was fighting a losing battle with this one. Sometimes he hated being the oldest brother. Virgil was alright, he was just thinking about protecting his younger sibling. Scott had to somehow work out what was the best course of action to help them both.
“I don’t care if… Wait, what-?” Suddenly realising what Scott had just said, Virgil paused in mid-tirade, his mind distracted from Gordon and onto what his older blond brother might be hiding.
“Nothing,” Scott responded dismissively, brushing past Virgil and moving into the kitchen, just about acknowledging Kyrano’s presence.
“So now you are trying to keep me in the dark as well? Anything else you’re holding back on, Scotty?”
“Virgil, please, just drop it.” Scott sank wearily onto one of the bar stools, letting his head rest in his hands as he propped his elbows up on the counter. This was not the way he had thought things would pan out when he had decided that it was safer that Gordon didn’t know how close his oldest brother had come to not making it back from the rescue.
“Then you drop this whole protection crap, Scott, it’s not helping anyone!”
“Virgil!” Scott was on his feet again, anger spiralling out of his overly bright eyes as he glared at his brother. Virgil, for his part, was glaring back with equal intensity. Neither Tracy was prepared to back down on their stance, both adamant that the opposite course of action was the right one.
“Boys?” Ever the peace maker, Kyrano stepped up between the two brothers, the furious looks seeming to melt in his calming presence, Scott sitting down heavily again. Before anything else could be said, Tin-Tin came slowly into the room, a frown on her face as she took in the atmosphere in the room.
“Father? Scott? Virgil? What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Scott muttered, and instantly earned himself a warning glance from the girl’s father. One thing was for sure – Kyrano might put up with them snapping at each other, but he was not going to let them turn on his daughter.
“Tin-Tin, can you get Mr Tracy for me?”
“Sure,” Tin-Tin responded, confusion lining her voice. With a last, long look at the boys, she turned and left the room.
“Kyrano, there is no need for that, Dad doesn’t need to know.”
“It involves you and your brothers, so your father needs to know.”
As Scott opened his mouth to argue back, Virgil gave him a sharp kick on the ankle.
“Just drop it.”
“Like you have?” Scott instantly shot back, and, as Virgil made to make an angry retort back, Kyrano stepped between them again. This time he seemed to know that the boys had gone too far to simply let matters go, and, taking Virgil by the upper arm, he pulled the younger man away from his brother, putting physical distance between the pair of them. Luckily, Jeff chose that moment to arrive; his brow crumpled as Tin-Tin led him into the room. Instantly crossing the kitchen, she went and stood next to her father, his arm snaking around her shoulders and holding her close as they waited for the scene to unfold.
His eyes glancing around the kitchen, Jeff sighed deeply. He was already worrying over what was happening between the boys with the lies that seemed to be bouncing around the house and one look at the positions of his two sons and he knew things were escalating, especially considering the fact that Kyrano was still positioning himself in between the boys, clearly ready to stop them from going for each other should he need to.
“What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Scott said for the third time in only a few moments, suddenly becoming very interested in the worktop as he refused to meet his father’s gaze. If Scott wasn’t going to answer him, however, Virgil decided that he should just do it for him. After all, it wasn’t like he was going to take Scott’s side on this.
“He wants to keep Gordon in the dark over what happened.”
“Thanks, Virg,” Scott muttered bitterly, earning himself another withering glance from his brother. Knowing that if he delayed, things would escalate further, Jeff snapped into action.
“Virgil, go into the lounge.”
“Now, son! Don’t make me tell you again. Scott, with me.” Striding from the room, Jeff paused in the doorway, shooting his boys meaningful looks over his shoulder until they both began to move. Taking the first part of the route together, their father leading the way, the two brothers refused to say a word to each other. Just as Virgil made to turn off to enter the lounge, Alan suddenly appeared. A look of astonishment crossed his young face when he caught sight of the matching surly expressions his brothers were wearing.
“What’s going on?” he asked, his eyes darting between the three older members of his family, clearly not sure who he should be addressing in order to get an answer.
“Nothing you need to concern yourself with, Alan. Can you make sure that Gordon doesn’t come down?”
Nodding his understanding – his expression giving away the fact that he was suddenly aware of what this was about – the youngest member of the family turned on his heel and bounded away again. Nudging Virgil in the right direction, Jeff waited until his son had entered the lounge before shutting the door behind him.
“Come on, Scott,” he sighed, continuing to lead the way towards his office. Standing back to let his oldest son enter before him, Jeff raised his watch, keeping his voice quiet as he connected through to Thunderbird Five.
“Hey, Dad, what’s up?” John’s response came almost immediately, a clear sign for his father that his son was not in the middle of something.
“John, I need you to talk to your brother.”
“Which one? I do have several.”
Despite himself, Jeff had to smile. He could almost picture the smirk on his son’s face, and shaking his head in fond amusement, he knew that John would be able to sort Virgil out. At least, hopefully, better than Scott was at the present time.
“Virgil. He and Scott are disagreeing over the Gordon situation.”
“Why does that not surprise me?” John muttered, his tone somewhat resigned. “I thought the tests this morning would sort the pair of them out, but on second thoughts, I should have known they would make things worse.”
Confused, Jeff had to frown. He knew that Virgil had planned to put his brother through his paces and, hoping that it would work as a way of getting the older brothers off Gordon’s back, Jeff had let them go through with it, a quiet word with the redhead meaning that he had also accepted it.
“What do you mean?”
“If Gords had failed any of the tests, Virg and Scott would have united over what needed to be done next. Now they have to accept he really is okay. Scott is still going to want to look out for the kid, whereas Virgil always has had more of a head-on approach. No doubt Scott thinks that if Gordon never finds out, everything will be fine, whereas Virg will be sure that he will discover it somehow and be the worse for it.”
“You’re in the wrong profession, son,” Jeff said, astonishment lining his voice. It had always amazed him how John managed to read his brothers – both older and younger – so well, despite not being on the planet half the time any more. It was what made him such an effective Space Monitor, often picking up on things that the rest of the family were missing. The astronaut couldn’t see his brothers most of the time, meaning he had learnt to listen in a way none of the others could manage.
“So what precisely do you want me to do, Dad?”
“Just…keep him calm until I’ve spoken to Scott,” Jeff responded, running a hand distractedly through his hair as he glanced back towards his office door wondering how he was going to get through to his son. Whilst all the boys had a stubborn streak in them – they were their father’s sons after all – Scott was possibly the worst when it came to looking out for the rest of them.
“F.A.B.” John confirmed, his mind already racing over different ways of being able to keep his artistic brother calm. Whilst generally Virgil and Scott were practically inseparable, when something managed to drive a solid wedge between them the results could often be explosive.
“Oh and Dad?”
His finger almost touching the button that would have disconnected him from his distant son, Jeff paused. Once again, he could hear the smirk in John’s voice, and bracing himself, he wondered what was coming.
“Good luck,” the blond said simply, cutting the connection from his end. Sitting back in his command chair miles above the earth, John sighed deeply. There certainly was some sort of storm brewing on Tracy Island, especially if his brothers were arguing with each other. Despite reassuring Gordon to the contrary, John himself hadn’t completely dismissed the idea that someone else could have been present on the rescue. The sensors may not have picked anything up, but John knew how all over the place they were when a fire was raging. Whilst not confirming anything, they also hadn’t ruled anything out. And then there was the whole freezer episode… Scott had been adamant that it was nothing more than an accident and so, knowing what they were putting Gordon through, John had stayed quiet, but as ever, his mind was racing.
“Virgil, come in.” Hitting a switch in front of him that would connect him to his younger brother, John decided that he would wait and see how Virgil reacted before deciding on a plan to keep him calm. After all, this wasn’t the first time he had been made to play peacemaker between his immediate older and younger brothers. Despite being regarded as two of the closest siblings, Scott and Virgil had always had their moments, especially growing up. Virgil’s early teenage years coinciding with Scott’s later ones had meant the
“Sent to babysit me, Johnny?” Virgil’s reply, whilst sounding slightly irritated, was not as furious as John had been dreading.
“Come on, Virg, you’ve got to give me more than that.” Trying to make his own voice sound slightly like he was whining, John grinned in satisfaction as he heard Virgil chuckle. He knew full well that the younger man would know precisely what he was up to, but the fact that it was working was all that the Space Monitor cared about.
“Why does he always think that he knows best?” Virgil eventually muttered after a few moments of silence. John immediately knew which “he” his brother was referring to, and, wondering if this meant they were going to actually get somewhere, John found himself sitting up straighter. His father may just have asked John to keep Virgil calm, but the second-born knew Jeff was aware that his son would be able to do more than that; John always had a way of being able to get through to his brothers, no matter what the situation.
“Maybe because most of the time he does?”
“Oh stop being such a smartass, John!”
For a long moment, silence fell between the two brothers, John knowing precisely what was coming next, but just waiting to see how long it took for Virgil to crack. Nearly a full five minutes passed before Virgil did just that, and before long, was laughing, causing his brother to smile. Mission complete.
“Ready to try again, little brother?” Without waiting for Virgil’s response, John knew it was time to push the matter. “What’s really going on?”
“He wants to keep what happened from Gords. I get why he is doing it, John, I really do, but look what happened with Alan. Do you really think that we can manage to keep it from him forever and just hope that he never finds out?”
“Virgil?” John asked quietly, wondering whether he was imagining things. He could have sworn by the way Virgil had worded his tirade that this had nothing to do with Gordon. “Who this is about? Gordon, or Scott?”
“Gordon!” Virgil said strongly, his flash of temper showing that he was lying. “I just want the kid to be alright, yet Scott has to come in and start giving his orders and pretending like he is the only one that wants what is best for him. He’s my brother too, John, why doesn’t Scott get that?”
“Now tell me again that this is about Gordon,” John responded, smirking. He knew he would get to the bottom of the issue eventually. Whilst in a way this really was about their water-loving sibling, John knew what the real issue was. It wasn’t lying to Gordon that had Virgil so worked up, it was the fact that Scott had told him to do it. Or, judging from the messages he seemed to be getting here, ordering the younger man to do it. No wonder Virgil was annoyed, John knew that he would be too. But he could also understand Scott’s need to look out for them both; it was what was causing such a conflict in the first place.
“Oh go to hell,” Virgil muttered bitterly. He had never worked out how John always managed to get him to admit precisely what the problem was.
“Then you’re coming too, short-stuff,” John responded smugly, knowing they were making progress. Now Virgil had stopped pretending that this was all about Gordon – even if that truly was what he had believed himself – they would be able to get somewhere.
“So is it really Scott giving his orders that has got you worked up?”
“I’m not worked up!”
“Just answer the question, Virg.”
“Yes!” Virgil responded heatedly, knowing inwardly he was completely denying his previous claim that he was not worked up. Jumping up from the arm of the couch from where he had been perching, Virgil rolled his neck, strongly resisting the urge to start pacing. There was something about the way John almost seemed to be able to read his mind that meant the artistic Tracy was sure his brother would know what he was doing before Virgil had even started.
“More like it.” Mirroring his father’s early actions, John ran a hand through his hair as he lent backwards with a sigh. He had always been able to sort out their problems, he just seemed to have a way of knowing whether his brothers were lying to him or not. Scott could do a similar thing, but when he was partly the cause, his big brother intuition seemed to suddenly be lacking as his own stubbornness came to the surface. As Virgil refused to elaborate, John raised his eyebrows.
“Any time today, Virgil. Come on, tell me. What is this truly about? And no more lies.”
“He could have died yesterday, John,” Virgil muttered quietly, sounding somewhat drained as he perched back on the couch, sinking fully into the cushions this time. “And he wants to act like it never happened just to stop Gordon getting worried.”
Knowing they had finally reached the root of the problem, John pondered the best way of tackling it. Despite agreeing with Scott about wanting to keep their redhead safe and happy, Scott was risking his own health doing it. What if he and Gordon were alone on a rescue and he felt the effects of the near-disaster? Gordon wouldn’t know what was wrong in order to know how to react, meaning the results could potentially be lethal for the oldest brother.
“Virg, you know that Scott never takes his own health seriously, especially not when he thinks he can protect one of us in the process.”
“But that stubbornness is going to get him killed, John!”
“Knock knock! You in there, Virg?”
His head spinning around sharply, Virgil felt his heart sink as Gordon’s voice echoed down the corridor, a thankful warning that he was heading straight for the lounge.
“John, it’s Gordon!” he practically hissed, suddenly worried that his raised voice would have travelled further than he originally thought. It would certainly solve all of their problems if Gordon had heard his tirade, but even Virgil didn’t want his younger brother finding out that way.
“What are you going to do, hide?” John responded drily, and immediately, Virgil felt himself calming down. John was right, there had been nothing in Gordon’s tone to indicate that he had overheard something he shouldn’t have, and so, taking a deep breath, Virgil stood up.
“Virg, flick me onto the big screen,” John suddenly ordered just as his brother’s shadow hit the door. Doing as he was asked, Virgil spun to meet Gordon, trying to hide how hard his heart was pounding. He had no idea why John wanted the communications to be flicked over to the portraits rather than Virgil’s watch, but he trusted his older brother to know what he was doing.
“What’cha doing all cooped up in… Oh, hi, Johnny.” His voice trailing off as he caught sight of the active screen, Gordon smiled, plonking himself down gracefully in their father’s usual chair, swinging his feet up as he did so.
“Hi yourself, squirt.” John responded with a smile, catching Virgil’s eye over Gordon’s head and, when he was sure that the redhead was preoccupied, winking at his brother. Smiling in return, Virgil dipped his head in understanding. With the screen activated, it just looked as if Virgil had shut himself in the lounge to have a proper chat with his big brother. Whenever any of the boys wanted a long talk, they all tended to use the portraits rather than watches, it just made the whole thing feel more real, as if John was really in front of them rather than being thousands of miles away.
“What are you two old women gossiping about then?”
“You,” John responded flatly, ignoring the frantic looks Virgil was shooting him. He had trusted the astronaut to be tactful about this whole thing, and yet the artist had to admit he had no idea where John was going with this.
“About how awesome I am?” Gordon asked, shooting Virgil a grin over his shoulder as he did so. Forcing his mouth into a smile, Virgil turned away, letting the ocean draw his gaze as a way of avoiding having to make eye contact with Gordon.
“Something like that,” John said with a laugh, letting his hand slide smoothly over the controls in front of him. With Gordon looking the opposite way to where Virgil was standing, the space monitor casually hit a couple of buttons, sending out vibrations to Virgil’s watch, causing him to visibly jump and turn back around, glaring at the screen at the same time. Smirking, John raised his eyebrows pointedly, clearly trying to tell his brother to relax before Gordon got truly suspicious.
“Virg was just telling me that you aced the tests this morning.”
“Naturally,” Gordon responded smugly, crossing his arms behind his head as he began to swivel slightly on the chair. His tone growing serious, he shot his artistic brother a slightly accusatory glare. “Not that you should have expected anything else. I’ve been fine all along, you know.”
“Sorry, kiddo,” John answered for Virgil, seeing in his brother’s eyes that he was having a hard enough time keeping things together as it was. Gordon’s timing couldn’t have been any worse. Just as Virgil was letting his defences down, letting John get to the root of the problem, he had been suddenly forced to once again act like nothing had happened.
“That might have been my fault; I wanted to see if the obstacle course would work. So, what did you do? Virgil here has been a bit…reluctant to say the least about how you managed to pass.”
As Gordon launched into a step-by-step account of what had happened that morning – not in the slightest bit surprised Virgil had been holding back on the details considering the way his younger brother had managed to defeat him – the artist muttered some comment under his breath about needing a drink, and left the room, more than conscious of the burning stare on his back. John was definitely not finished with him, of that Virgil was sure.
Not sure what else he could do, Virgil did indeed navigate his way into the kitchen, rolling his eyes at the sight of Alan and Tin-Tin sitting next to each other at the bar, taking it in turns with the tub of ice-cream in between them.
“Nice work, Al,” Virgil muttered, pouring himself a coffee as he shot his youngest brother a slightly dark look over his shoulder.
“John’s talking to Gordon.”
“The same Gordon you were supposed to be keeping upstairs.”
“Oh crap!” Alan cursed, jumping up from where he was sitting, although what he planned to do next, Virgil had no idea. “Does he..?”
“No,” Virgil answered heavily, hitching himself onto the nearest stool and letting his forehead rest against his mug. It was going to be one of those days, he could just feel it. “Thanks to John’s quick thinking.”
“Virg, I’m really sorry…”
“Whatever,” Virgil muttered, cutting off Alan’s apology. Looking up, he caught the kid’s eye, sending out a message that he knew the younger man hadn’t meant for it to happen. The last thing he wanted was to be arguing with another brother.
“Are you questioning my judgement?” Hearing the raised voice, both Virgil and Alan jumped, making their way to the door simultaneously. As Alan pushed it open gently, Virgil knew instantly that the voices were coming from their father’s office.
“It’s my right as your father and commander to question your judgement.”
“There is nothing to question!”
“Don’t you dare take that tone with me, Scott Tracy!”
“He so should have let John take Scott rather than me,” Virgil muttered, unable to stop a wry smile from flickering across his face. As Alan turned towards him questioningly, he shook his head, not willing to go into the argument any further; John’s cross-examination had been bad enough. Before he could say anything else, however, the office door burst open, and even from the angle they were at, the two brothers could see Scott storming towards them. Seeing two of his younger brothers watching him, even as the lounge door reopened and a third appeared, Scott stopped short.
“What’s wrong with you lot?” he practically snapped, not in the mood for anyone else telling him that he was in the wrong. His head was throbbing with more intensity now, and considering no one seemed to believe that what he was doing was the right thing, Scott didn’t want to deal with anyone else.
“Scott, are you alright?” Virgil asked quietly, momentarily forgetting his own disagreement with his brother as he took in the ashen complexion of the older man, wondering if Scott realised quite how much he seemed to be swaying on the spot.
“For the last time, I’m fine!” Scott yelled, causing his father to appear in the office doorway, disapproval written all over his face.
“Scott!” Cutting off his father, Virgil dove forward even as Scott’s eyes rolled backwards into his head and he pitched forward.
For a moment, Jeff could only watch as Virgil skidded along the floor on one knee, somehow managing to get in between Scott and the floor, catching his brother awkwardly. Due to the angle and Scott’s dead weight, Virgil was unable to hold his brother up for any length of time and quickly lowered him down again.
“Infirmary, now!” he practically barked, and, hurrying forward, Jeff made to help his son.
“What about…?” His question hanging in mid-air, Alan stepped forward uncertainly, clearing wanting to help, but not knowing what he could do that would mean he wasn’t in the way. Glancing at him over his shoulder, Virgil knew precisely what his youngest brother was going to ask. What they should they do about Gordon? The redhead looked slightly stunned to say the least as he watched his father and brother with Scott, but Virgil couldn’t help but notice there was a strange light burning in his eyes, a look there that Virgil was not expecting to see.
“I can get John…”
“Alan, what’s the point?”
Sensing his father’s warning look at his blunt tone, the medic sighed irritably, hooking his hands under Scott’s shoulders and half-lifting his brother. As Jeff took Scott’s feet, the two of them somehow managed to hoist him back into the air and slowly but surely, the two of them began to carry the pilot towards the one room in the house he hated more than anywhere else. Gordon snapped himself out of his daze, jogging ahead to make sure the way was clear and most likely darting into Brains’ lab on the way past to let him know what was going on. Other than Virgil, the resident genius was the one all of the boys trusted when it came to their health. In fact, since he didn’t moan at them for not reporting an injury in the same way as their brother did, all of the boys had gone straight to Brains more than once if it meant avoiding the wrath of Virgil.
Sure enough, as soon as Virgil and Jeff finally reached the infirmary – Jeff motioning to Alan to open the doors and so give them access to the array of medical equipment waiting within – Gordon was not the only one in there.
“W..w…what h…happened?” Brains stuttered, pushing his glasses further up his nose as he waited patiently for the Tracys to dump Scott – somewhat unceremoniously – on the nearest bed. Almost instantly the father found himself forcibly nudged out of the way as Virgil bustled around, hooking his brother up to a variety of different monitors, his brow furrowed as he muttered to himself, clearly trying to work out precisely what had caused his brother’s collapse. When no one answered Brains – three out of the four Tracys being slightly unsure of what to say for fear of Gordon’s reaction – Virgil eventually opened his mouth.
“He was being too stubborn for his own good.”
“T…that doesn’t, uh, h…help,” Brains muttered, trying to sidle closer to the bed to examine the patient for himself, only to find that he was subjected to the same treatment as Jeff and pushed out of the way. Virgil had always been the same way: if he could do a job, there was no way he was about to let someone else try and do it for him, especially not when it concerned his brothers’ health. Glancing over his shoulder as Gordon hitched himself onto the opposite bed, his legs swinging freely as he tried to keep out of the way, Virgil knew that they couldn’t hide it any longer. Not if this was the consequence.
“His body temperature is far too low.”
“W…why?” Brains asked, causing Jeff to curse softly under his breath. With everything else that had taken place over the last day or so, he had completely forgotten that the debriefing for the rescue had never happened. This was the very reason why he had always insisted one took place, just in case something like this happened. Everyone on the island needed to know of any problems the rescuers might have, keeping secrets just didn’t work in their organisation, despite its very existence being the biggest secret of them all.
“That’s what happens when you get stuck in a freezer,” Gordon responded casually, causing Virgil’s hands to slip from where he had been trying to set the thermal blanket to the right temperature before draping it over the still form of his oldest brother. Instantly, a deadly silence spread throughout the room, Brains frowning in confusion as he glanced between the Tracys. Jeff shut his eyes, taking a deep breath before slowly turning to face his fourth born.
“How long have you known?” he asked quietly, not being sure whether he should be worried by Gordon’s relaxed posture. Leaning on his hands, Gordon lounged back on the bed but raised an eyebrow at his father’s question. Not knowing where the family was going with this, Brains muttered some excuse and quickly bustled out of the room, clearly not wanting to get in the middle of things.
“Practically since the guys got home. Well, I knew something had happened then, just didn’t know what until this morning.”
“How?” It was Alan who spoke this time, confusion lining his voice as he stared at his usual partner in crime, wondering how Gordon could be taking it so calmly. He knew how it felt to be left out from knowing something that could have cost one of the brothers their lives, but, unlike his explosive reaction, Gordon simply shrugged.
“It was easy. Sorry, Al, but if I’ve never been able to get Scott into the sickbay of Two, there is no way you could have tricked him in. And Virg, do you really think I would believe you helped Alan? I know what you are like on rescues.”
“And the freezer part?” Virgil asked quietly, returning to his task. Within moments, Scott was almost obscured from view under the blanket, but, his eyes flickering to the screen that was monitoring his brother’s temperature, Virgil was satisfied that it would not take very long before Scott regained consciousness; his body had reacted well to the blanket. The medic knew this had only happened because his stubborn older brother had refused to let him check him out properly once they had returned to the island, claiming they needed to keep it from Gordon. He was just lucky that people had been around when he had collapsed; there could be no telling how bad it might have been otherwise. Running a hand through his hair with a sigh of relief, Virgil sat down heavily on the end of Scott’s bed, his attention completely focused on his immediate younger brother. Jeff pulled up a nearby chair, swivelling it around until he was sitting next to Scott, before also turning his attention to his son.
“Alan,” Gordon responded simply.
“I didn’t say anything!” Alan exclaimed immediately. He turned to face Virgil, innocence plastered over his face supporting his words. For Virgil’s part, he simply let his eyes flicker back to Gordon. If the redhead had already figured out that something had happened just from the way they were behaving when they arrived home – something that Virgil should have known would have provoked suspicion, considering how lax about their usual protocol they had all been, even Jeff – then he knew that Alan wouldn’t have needed to say anything. Sure enough, Gordon’s next words confirmed his suspicions.
“You didn’t have to, Sprout.”
“So how did you know?”
“Oh charming,” Alan muttered, sitting down on the floor and crossing his legs as he did so. The look in his baby brother’s eyes didn’t escape Virgil’s notice as he glanced across at Scott before removing the pilot from his eye line. Sighing, the medic made a mental note to check on Alan later. The kid had always looked up to their oldest brother in a way that bordered on worship, and the rest of them were well aware of how much it affected the young man when something happened to the elder.
“What do you mean, son?” Jeff prompted, still at a complete loss as to where Gordon was going with this. He knew that whilst Alan hadn’t liked being kept in the dark himself, he certainly wouldn’t have gone against his brothers and let the redhead know. The fact that Virgil and Scott were disagreeing as it was didn’t matter, their younger brother didn’t know that at the time.
“When you told Tin-Tin that you couldn’t reach the ice-cream she wanted and she suggested getting Scott to go and get it.”
Shutting his eyes with a groan, Alan rested his head in his hands. He had completely forgotten that Gordon had been in the room for that. All he had thought about was there was no way that Scott was going into another freezer; the image of his barely conscious brother was still burnt into his mind’s eye. If he was honest, whilst he may have realised that Gordon would have picked up on his reaction – despite normally being partners, there were occasions where even Gordon would play the big brother card – Alan didn’t know that his brother was already on the way to figuring out what had happened. If Gordon hadn’t thought something was wrong, he would have been able to gauge nothing from Alan’s reaction.
Watching him, Virgil sighed. Only Gordon would have been able to figure out what had happened through reactions like that. Thinking about his troublesome brother, Virgil found he was hard pushed not to mirror Alan’s actions and groan out loud when he thought back to something Gordon had said on the obstacle course. He had claimed that he was letting it go because nothing had happened on the previous rescue. But even when he had uttered those words, the aquanaut had had some idea that something was going on, even if he hadn’t yet worked out precisely what. Had he been testing his brothers, waiting to see whether they were going to come clean with him or lie to his face? Wondering if the blunt tactic would work this time, Virgil opened his mouth.
“Are you okay, Gordy?” Whilst his voice was low, Virgil found that he was watching Gordon closely, waiting to see if there was the slightest flicker of emotion that would betray him. For his older brother was sure that the younger man was simply going to brush everything off. It came as a bit of a surprise when Gordon turned to face him head-on.
“Why wouldn’t I be? Think I might be worried that something weird is going on? I mean, it’s not like this is the second accident to happen in as many rescues, both ones where people’s lives weren’t in direct danger as such. It’s not like the rest of my family decided that lying to me might be better than telling me that my brother nearly died. So wouldn’t I be okay, Virg?”
Shutting his eyes, Virgil swallowed hard. This was precisely why he had disagreed with Scott about keeping Gordon in the dark. Whilst Gordon’s voice had been light-hearted, sounding just like his usual self, Virgil found that made his words cut even deeper.
“Now you know what it feels like,” Alan muttered under his breath, causing Virgil to roll his eyes.
“Not helpful, Alan.”
“What would you know about what is helpful or not, Virgil? It’s not like anything got kept from you!”
“Yeah, maybe because I’ve been the one who has had to save their asses both times! Don’t tell me I don’t know what it feels like, Alan!”
Both Virgil and Alan immediately fell silent at their father’s tone of voice, knowing automatically that they had gone too far. Alan sank further down on the floor, but Virgil glanced across to Gordon. Or, at least, to where Gordon had been, for all that remained now was an empty bed. Turning so he was looking at his father, Virgil was surprised to see Jeff on his feet. He hadn’t heard either of them move, finding that his annoyance with Alan had clouded his senses to everything else. But he knew that it wasn’t just Alan he was annoyed at, but the whole situation. Things should have never got this far in the first place.
“Virg, gerroff my feet.”
Jumping, Virgil leapt up in surprise, Alan scrambling up off the floor as both brothers came to stand side by side, identical smiles stretching across their faces as Scott glanced up at them, trying to sit up. Realising what his brother was trying to do, Virgil stepped forward at the same time as Jeff, both of them instinctively putting hands on Scott’s shoulders, trying to force the pilot to stay still.
“Let me up,” Scott protested weakly, trying to dislodge his father’s hand, seeming to think that it would be an easier task than removing Virgil’s.
It was his brother who answered him, however, and, putting more weight behind his hand, Virgil glared at him.
“No, Scott. If you hadn’t been so adamant about hiding things from Gordon, this wouldn’t have happened.
“Virgil, shh!” Scott hissed, his eyes darting around the room. It came as a surprise to see Alan watching his struggles, but no Gordon in sight. Thinking that perhaps the rest of the family had been able to cover up his collapse, Scott smiled in relief. Seeing the smile – and correctly interpreting it – Virgil frowned down at his stubborn brother.
“He knows, Scott.”
“You promised you wouldn’t tell him!”
“No one told him, son, your brother figured things out for himself.” Jeff’s words did what their hands could not, and Scott fell back against the pillows with a long groan. The fact Gordon wasn’t in the room showed just how well that had gone down.
“We don’t know if he is okay or not; he left when Alan and Virgil were arguing,” Jeff continued, shooting the sons in question meaningful looks. Sitting back down on the edge of the bed, Virgil rested his hands against his knees, leaning forward slightly. That was the second time he had had that argument, although with two different brothers. He couldn’t help but think he was lucky that John had been able to calm him down, it would have been worse if the star-loving Tracy was annoyed at him as well. All he had wanted to do was what was best for his little brother.
Knowing what he was thinking, Scott leant forward again.
“Not having a good day, Virg?”
“It wouldn’t have been so bad if you hadn’t been so damn stubborn.”
“You know me, Virg,” Scott said softly, a touch of a smile ghosting his lips as his brother turned to face him. He had no desire to continue the argument with Virgil, especially considering it would have been more than pointless as Gordon had already discovered what it was they were arguing about. Besides, it was Scott’s job as the big brother to try and make Virgil feel better, not worse. “You didn’t think I was going to make life easy for you, did you?”
“Would have been nice if it was a bit easier,” Virgil muttered, suddenly feeling drained. It had been a long day as it was, what with deciding to do the obstacle course at dawn to beat the heat – regardless of the reason he had given Gordon – then his initial argument with Scott and now this. It wasn’t even lunchtime yet, and Virgil felt like it should at least be early evening.
“It’s not exactly been easy for the rest of us either, you know,” Alan mumbled, more under his breath than to his brothers as he copied Gordon’s earlier position and pulled himself up onto the opposite bed. Taking a deep breath, Virgil had a horrible feeling he knew where this was going. Despite Scott’s accident, Alan certainly hadn’t the chance to get over what had happened to Gordon, let alone anything else. No sooner had he found out than they had been rushing out on another rescue, another one with slightly dangerous consequences. His previous outburst had already shown that he was fired up, something that was not going to have been helped by Scott’s collapse.
“Alan, we told you the reasons behind that…” Virgil began, feeling Scott tense up next to him as the older brother worked out what was going on.
“Just like you told Gordon? That went down really well, didn’t it?” Alan snapped back. Feeling his temper beginning to get the best of him, Virgil stood up. Immediately Scott grabbed onto the back of his shirt as Jeff stepped between the two brothers.
“That is enough, the pair of you! What has happened has happened. Admittedly things have been rather shaken up over the last week or so, but there is no need for you to take it any further than it has already gone.”
“But Dad -”
“No, Alan. I don’t want to hear another word about it. I’m going to be speaking to you all individually about what has happened. Not so much the accidents, they are just unfortunate. But this sudden need to lie to each other, it stops. Now! Lives could be at risk if you lot are acting like small children.”
And with that, Jeff strode from the room, pausing long enough to give Scott a swift, but searching look, clearly trying to reassure himself that his oldest son would be alright. Alan followed his father out almost immediately, refusing to meet the eyes of either of his older brothers, clearly not knowing what was going to be said next. No sooner had Alan left than Scott finally let go of Virgil’s shirt.
“What happened?” he asked simply.
Virgil knew instantly that his oldest brother wanted to know what had sparked the two of them off before Scott came round.
“He’s still angry that we didn’t tell him about Gordon.”
“And you?” Scott prompted, and, smirking, Virgil knew that he should have known Scott would have realised that Alan wasn’t the only one who was worked up. Normally, Virgil was able to hold his temper against his younger brother, unless something had already managed to wind him up beforehand.
“You were being a stubborn ass,” he responded truthfully. For a moment, a stunned silence fell between the two boys, until Scott suddenly let out a laugh, reaching forward and ruffling his little brother’s hair.
“Virg, did you really expect me to do anything else? You would have been worried if I had let you check me over, admit it.”
“Oh shut up,” Virgil muttered, feeling the tension drain out of him at Scott’s words. He knew Scott wanted to keep his accident from Gordon, just the way Gordon had wanted to keep his from Alan. Yet the only difference between the two occasions was that Virgil had agreed with his brother about Alan. And as for Scott letting the medic check him over, the day that happened without a fight was the day Virgil knew something was seriously wrong.
Before anything else could be said, Virgil’s watch suddenly beeped, and, with a smile, he patched the pair of them through to his other older brother.
“Virg, are you with Scott?”
“Yeah, why?” Voicing his confusion, Virgil couldn’t help but share a puzzled frown with the said brother as John spoke again.
“Can I speak to him?”
“John, why didn’t you just call Scott?”
“I wasn’t sure whether he would be able to reach his watch.”
Virgil couldn’t help it; he had to burst out laughing as Scott let out something that sounded like an indignant splutter. After all, that was not the first time Virgil had had to restrained his older brother just to make him stay put; Scott was notorious for not staying in bed when he should.
“Just patch yourself through to him, John, he can reach.”
“Where are you going?” Sticking out a hand, Scott made Virgil pause halfway through crossing the room, turning back to face his brother as he did so.
“To find Gordon. We’ve got some explaining to do.”
“Let me know how he is?” Scott all but begged, and, nodding, Virgil turned to leave. Whilst he by no means trusted Scott to actually stay in the infirmary now that he was left on his own, with John talking to him the medic was not as worried as he would normally be. He knew that John would quickly inform him if there was any change in Scott’s condition, and, despite not being on the Earth, the blond was scarily talented at being able to make any of the brothers do something. Apart from himself, if there was anyone the artist was happy to leave Scott with, it was John.
He had just exited the infirmary, intending to do precisely what he had just told Scott he was going to do, when raised voices drew his attention. Recognising Jeff’s voice, Virgil momentarily pushed thoughts of Gordon aside and crept down the hallway towards the voices. It didn’t take him long to figure out that it was Alan his father was arguing with. Shaking his head, Virgil moved past the closed office door, pausing by one of the many windows scattered down the hallway. Letting the calming movement of the waves draw his attention, Virgil sighed heavily. He knew he wouldn’t have to look very far to find Gordon; he was almost certain where he would find the water-loving Tracy. What was playing on his mind more was his father’s previous words. What was going on with the family that they were arguing and finding the sudden need to lie to each other? It was not something they had ever done before, and yet over the last week, it had just been lie after lie, attempting to keep one brother or the other in the dark. Alan was right when he said that no one kept Virgil in the dark, but as he crossed his arms over his chest to try and hide his sudden shudder, Virgil thought back on his response. He had been forced to pull his brothers free of potentially deadly situations in both rescues, and he knew deep down that it was only luck he had made it in time for both. They couldn’t keep relying on luck.
Forcing himself away from the window, Virgil couldn’t help but wonder whether he was suddenly mirroring Gordon’s thoughts. If he knew that they couldn’t keep relying on luck, did that mean he too thought that there was a chance that there could be another accident? That, just maybe, the accidents were not as accidental as Scott was still claiming. He had no idea how Alan was feeling about them – he hadn’t had the time to monitor his little brother, everything had been moving far too quickly since the youngest member of the family had found out. He knew that John had managed to persuade Gordon that the ropes could have been cut by an accident, but thinking back on the conversation they had had in the silos, he knew that his star-loving brother hadn’t ruled out the possibility that someone had cut them.
With a sigh, Virgil shook himself free of his musings. He knew that if either John or Scott caught him thinking along those lines, Gordon wouldn’t be the only brother that they were suddenly being cautious around, but with everything that had happened so far, Virgil knew that he wouldn’t be able to face the concerned looks. Deciding it was about time that he found his missing sibling, Virgil walked slowly down the hallway and into the lounge. Just as he had predicted, Gordon was in the pool. Crossing the room, the artist came to a stop by the doors, his hands resting lightly on his hips as he watched the redhead in the water.
Despite having a presence about him on land that made everyone aware of when Gordon had entered a room, there could be no denying the elegance he possessed when he was in the water. It took Virgil a few moments to allow his eyes to adjust to the speed his brother was moving at, barely making a ripple in the water. Whether Gordon saw him when he came up for air, Virgil could not have said, but the younger man certainly gave no sign that he had. In a way, Virgil hoped his brother hadn’t seen him, it was better than the alternative – that he was being ignored.
How long he just stood there, watching Gordon move effortlessly through the water, Virgil could not have said. But after watching his brother complete a perfect turn and send himself forward again, Virgil found himself frowning as Gordon suddenly slowed down. Coming to a stop, the redhead broke the surface, giving Virgil a glimpse of a pain-filled face before he disappeared under again.
Without thinking, the big brother and rescuer in Virgil took over, and he was out of the door before his mind had even registered that Gordon was in trouble. Ripping off his shirt as he ran, the artist was thankful that he had already been wandering around barefoot as he took a running leap and dove into the pool. With a few strong strokes, he reached his brother. Diving under, he hooked one arm around Gordon’s chest, striking for the surface with the other.
Immediately coughing as they broke the surface, Gordon found himself leaning back on his brother gratefully as he took in welcoming lungfuls of air. For a moment, he just rested his head against Virgil’s shoulder, barely aware of his brother towing him slowly to the side.
“Stupid cramp,” he muttered quietly, sounding utterly exhausted. Pulling them onto the steps, Virgil refused to let go of his brother until they were both sitting waist deep in water, Gordon stretching out his leg with a groan as he did so, causing Virgil to wince in sympathy.
“Taking it out on the water a bit too much, kiddo?”
“Something like that,” Gordon muttered, not wanting to go into the reasoning behind why he had been pounding out lengths quite so desperately. He knew it had been dangerous going at that speed without warming up properly, it was one of the lessons his old coach had driven into him relentlessly. But he had been so annoyed with everything that was happening within the family that Gordon had found he didn’t particularly think about what he was doing; too busy focusing on burning off some of the frustration. He knew it wasn’t the fact that they hadn’t told him which was the issue; he hadn’t exactly gone out of his way to let Alan know about his own accident, after all. No, that wasn’t the case, not without him standing up and admitting he was a hypocrite. It was the fact that the three of them had quite clearly lied to him about why it was Alan flying One home, constructing a whole cover story and thinking that they would actually be able to get away with it.
“You okay, fish?” Virgil asked gently, slinging an arm around his brother comfortingly as he took note of Gordon’s uncharacteristic silence. He had a strong feeling it was not the cramp that had restricted the words from his normally vocal brother.
“What’s happening to us, Virg?” Gordon asked quietly, staring at the water as the sun danced across the top, glistening prettily. Following his brother’s gaze, Virgil once again sighed. He had been thinking the same thing himself.
“I have no idea, Gords.”
As the two brothers simply sat there, side by side in the water, an awkward silence fell between them. There could be no denying that something was going on, whether it was related to the accidents or not. One thing was for sure though, and that was that both brothers were thinking the same thing. It stopped. Today.
Virgil wasn’t sure how long the pair of them simply sat there on the edge of the pool, their ankles still submerged in the water, but eventually, Gordon was unable to hide his shivers from his older brother. Despite the sun burning down on them brightly, there was an unusually cool breeze wafting around the island, bringing with it a chill that seemed to be infiltrating the family itself. Climbing to his feet, Virgil offered his hand, grinning as Gordon allowed himself to be hauled to his feet.
“Go and get dried off, fish-feet.”
“You too, Virg,” Gordon responded softly, his eyes flickering over his equally sodden brother. As Virgil glanced down at himself and grimaced, Gordon had to smile. It was typical Virgil to notice that Gordon was shivering, but not to realise that he himself was mimicking his brother’s actions. As Virgil turned away, splashing his way out of the pool, Gordon called him back. As his big brother turned, a quizzical look on his face as one eyebrow raised in expectation, Gordon smiled gratefully.
“Thanks,” he said simply, but Virgil nodded, a smile of his own emerging once more. Nothing more needed to be said. Gordon wasn’t simply thanking his older sibling for rescuing him from the cramp, but for trying to protect him in the first place. Having known precisely what his brothers would have been thinking considering his own mind had gone through the same thought processes when he had been hiding his accident from Alan, Gordon knew they were only looking out for him by not telling him what had happened to Scott. He had been angry at the time of Scott’s collapse, unable to believe that the pilot would risk his health in trying to keep the incident a secret, but the look on Virgil’s face had soon settled the growing frustration. The artist clearly hadn’t been any happier about that particular aspect than Gordon had, and judging by the argument the redhead had overheard that morning, he knew Scott was more than aware of how his younger brother was feeling about it. He could only hope that now at least the two of them were growing frustrated with the state the family was in and something would be done about it.
“Any time, Gords. You know that, don’t you?”
Nodding his understanding, Gordon followed his brother out of the water, knowing that Virgil’s words had a deeper meaning than at first appeared. A talent the brothers had developed over the years of having to monitor what they said at a rescue meant they had a knack for being able to say a lot with just a few words. Picking up his speed, Gordon knew that he didn’t need to answer the older man; Virgil would be able to see that he had understood and accepted the message.
What he hadn’t seen, however, was the deviant smirk that slipped onto Gordon’s face as the prankster in him once more began to surface. Moving past Virgil from where he still stood frozen on the steps, Gordon waited for a moment. As soon as Virgil had lifted a foot and begun to take another step forward, the younger man shot out his hand, colliding it strongly with Virgil’s shoulder and pushing his brother back into the pool with an almighty splash.
Splashing his way to the surface for the second time within about half an hour, Virgil was not the slightest bit surprised to see that his younger brother was nowhere in sight. Hauling himself from the water, he grabbed what he supposed was Gordon’s towel, dragging it through his hair and draping it over his shoulders. Picking up his discarded shirt, he too meandered back into the house, determined to get back to the infirmary, but knowing Brains would have a fit if he walked in soaking wet. Making his way towards the stairs, Virgil pulled up short when he caught sight of Gordon lurking in the hallway, a frown on the prankster’s face even as he bit his lip. The older brother had expected the young man to be in hiding, knowing that Virgil wouldn’t normally let a trick like that pass. On this occasion, though, the artist was just too thankful that his little brother was feeling enough like himself to have done it in the first place. Not that he was going to tell the troublemaker that, however; he had a strong feeling Gordon would see how far he could take it.
“You okay, squirt?” he asked quietly, but still managed to make his brother jump violently. Gordon had quite clearly been so lost in thought that he hadn’t even heard Virgil enter the house. Offering his now even wetter brother a sheepish grin, Gordon found his eyes involuntary drawn back to the shut office door.
“Just wondering where Al is,” he admitted, still chewing on his lip. Glancing at Virgil once more, the redhead found an almost smug look on his brother’s face. “What?”
“Nothing.” Virgil responded innocently, his smirk widening.
“Overprotective big brother!” And with that, the artist bounded up the stairs, his laughter bouncing back down at his stunned younger sibling. Being one of the younger members of the family, there were not many occasions where Gordon had to play the big brother card; he tended to prefer the younger one. With Scott and John constantly in their protective mode – and with a wry smile, Virgil knew the Terrible Two saw him in the same way – there was often no need for Gordon to do so. But when he did, however, he was a force to be reckoned with. There would be no escape for Alan this time, not with Gordon on his case.
Having the quickest shower in Tracy history in order to try and drive the slight chill from him, it was no time at all before a dry Virgil was walking more slowly down the stairs again. Gordon had moved in that time, but whether he had found their youngest brother or not, Virgil had no idea. Everything seemed quiet, so at least it meant that tempers were being kept at this precise moment. Considering how everything had been lately, that was not something Virgil could honestly say had been happening over the last few weeks. First with Gordon’s accident, and now this, Virgil knew that fuses had been shorter than they normally were. Not being sure whether he was about to walk into an empty room, Virgil took a moment to compose himself before allowing the infirmary doors to swish open.
To his surprise, the bed remained obviously occupied. If he was honest, Virgil had not expected that to happen. Considering Scott knew that his younger brothers had been arguing, the artist would have not been the slightest bit surprised if he had made a run for it whilst Virgil had been going after Gordon. Taking a few steps closer, however, he knew the reason why. With a fond smile, he stepped right up to the bed, gazing down at his now sleeping brother. Adjusting the blanket almost automatically, Virgil sank into a nearby chair, his eyes fixed on Scott. The steady rising and falling of his oldest sibling’s chest calmed the younger man down in a way he was not expecting.
“What’s happening, Scotty?” Virgil whispered. It wasn’t that he was expecting a response from Scott; the older man quite clearly couldn’t hear him. It was more the need to say something, the need to voice his confusion to an older brother rather than a younger one. Despite doing his best to reassure Gordon, Virgil had to admit he was beginning to think along his brother’s train of thought. They had always had accidents; it was a risk of their job, they all knew that. But there had been something strange about the last two. The fact that it was the movement of an object that had caused the problems – the crates in Gordon’s case, the freezer door in Scott’s – had made Virgil begin to think. Normally, accidents involved something giving way, or a mistake on their behalf. This was something different.
Before he could think any further, however, he felt his watch suddenly begin to vibrate. Frowning, Virgil stood up. A quick glance at Scott showed that whoever was sending out the emergency signal had remembered to disconnect the oldest brother from the communications. Jogging slowly out of the infirmary, Virgil waited until the doors had swished silently shut behind him before raising his watch.
“Dad? What’s going on? Why’s the emergency signal been activated? Is there a problem?” Without waiting for a response, Virgil found he was continuing on his jog, automatically heading towards the lounge even as he spoke.
“We may have a rescue, Virgil. We need you in the lounge, now.”
Nodding, he scrambled to his feet and set off for the lounge as quickly as possible. Pushing the door open, he came face to face with the rest of the family, John’s active portrait bringing the absent blond in on the conversation. The older brother, however, was clearly not paying any attention at all, his back turned to the screen as he worked furiously away at something.
“What’s going on?”
“Scott still asleep?” Jeff asked with a smile, and just like that, Virgil knew why he had been silently summoned. Grinning, Virgil nodded, his eyes flickering over to his two younger brothers. Gordon looked far more relaxed than the last time Virgil had seen him, and even Alan offered his older brother a somewhat apologetic grin, something which Virgil immediately returned.
“John, status report.”
His father’s tone finally gaining John’s attention, Virgil couldn’t help but smile as John finally swivelled his chair around to face the family, looking slightly put out that he had been interrupted in what he was doing. His brother had always worn that expression, even when they were kids and someone had interrupted the blond with his homework. It was nice to know that despite the changes the family had been forced to go through over the years, some things remained the same.
“Oh, report. Right.”
Unable to stop himself, Virgil found that he had to smirk along with his two younger brothers. Whatever John had been focused on quite clearly had been taking all of his attention, for it took the astronaut a couple of moments to seemingly collect his thoughts before launching into the reason why he had contacted them in the first place. He had signed off from Scott when he realised that the older man had fallen asleep, hence why Jeff knew not to sound the klaxon. He had to admit, the father had jumped rather violently when John had all but yelled for him not to hit the emergency signal. Once his son had explained the reasoning, however, Jeff had to agree with him. If Scott knew there was a rescue, it would be almost impossible to stop him going short of physically restraining him. Whilst the launching of the ‘birds would disturb him – for no one could sleep through that – it would be too late for the stubborn pilot to do anything other than sulk about it. It was a lot less hassle for everyone doing it this way.
Just as John opened his mouth to deliver the report that had the whole family – minus Scott – gathered in the lounge, a sudden coughing fit overtook him, causing his father to lean forward in sympathy. Virgil however, merely crossed his arms across his chest and glared at John’s portrait.
“How long left until the end of his rota?”
“Three days, four hours, 57 minutes and,” Alan broke off momentarily to glance at his watch, “23 seconds.” As Gordon snorted in amusement, his younger brother shrugged, boyish excitement lighting up his face. Virgil couldn’t help but shake his head fondly. He should have known Alan would be in countdown mode. The week before a rota changeover always had the earthbound Tracy getting more and more excited. John because he wanted to be back amongst his beloved stars, Alan just because the novelty still hadn’t seemed to have worn off for the kid.
“Pretend that didn’t just happen,” John interrupted, returning Virgil’s pointed glare with one of his own. He hated it when any of his brothers decided that he needed looking after, it was the one thing that could drive the normally calm Tracy to insanity. When Virgil merely rolled his eyes rather than commenting further, John continued.
“We’ve got a rapidly declining situation in Malaysia. Severe weather is causing the ground to loosen, and I’m already getting reports through of homes being destroyed as the ground is moving.”
“So a landslide, basically?” Gordon cut in, not seeing why his brother had to explain things the long way when a simple word would have been enough to give the family a full picture of what was happening.
“You could say that.” John had no choice but to agree with his little brother’s way of thinking.
All the Tracys – not just Jeff – jumped as Kyrano’s quiet voice floated out of the shadows from where he had been standing, clearly ready to act should his boss need him. Or more specifically, need coffee. Knowing what was going through his friend’s head, Jeff smiled gently and nodded. This was more than just any old rescue. Their friend’s home was potentially in danger this time.
“Boys, prepare to launch. Gordon, take Four. Depending on the situation we may need to dam the river as well whilst we’re there. You know what to do.”
“F.A.B.” Three voices chorused at the same time as the three earth-bound brothers sprang into action, vanishing through various points scattered across the lounge. John barely waited until the family had moved before turning back to what had previously been occupying his attention. With his back to the screen, he didn’t try to hide the frown crumpling his brow as he attempted to make sense of what it was he was seeing.
Barely even noticing Alan excitedly ask for permission to launch from One’s silos, John worked steadily through Virgil’s launch as well. It was only when Virgil began to report in statistics and timings for the rescue – a job his older brother should have been doing – did the blond finally work out what it was he was seeing. Feeling the colour drain away from his face, John spun his chair back to face his father.
“…just make sure you boys are careful. Virgil, I’m relying on you to keep your brothers safe; we don’t want any more accidents.”
Swallowing hard, John found that he had to shut his eyes for a moment as Jeff’s words washed over him. None of them wanted any more accidents, only the second oldest brother was no longer sure things were as simple as that.
“Johnny?” His father’s gentle voice finally breaking through his thoughts, John opened his eyes, only to see Jeff leaning forward in concern, a frown of his own making its way onto his face as he took in the complexion of his son.
“What’s wrong? Is it the cough, are you feeling ill?”
“Dad…” John’s whisper cut straight through Jeff’s ramblings, and the father instantly knew that something was very wrong. Not noticing a shadow appear in the doorway, Jeff kept his gaze fixed on John. His son looked nothing short of scared.
“John, what’s going on? What’s wrong?”
“Dad, they weren’t alone.”
“What do you mean, son?”
“The accidents… Dad, they weren’t accidents. I’ve been trying to improve the read-outs from the fires ever since Gordon asked me to, and since managing to boost the signal from Scott’s watch, I’ve been doing the same from the flood as well. Dad, someone was there both times.”
“And I’ve just sent them into another rescue,” Jeff whispered, mirroring John and feeling the colour drain from his face. Before anything else could be said, another voice cut through their conversation.
“I’m going after them!” Scott declared loudly, already turning on his heel and beginning to walk away. Without having to think about it, Jeff knew that his oldest son was heading straight for the family jet. The last thing that he had intended was for his son to find out that his younger brothers had flown into a situation that was potentially more deadly than normal. Springing from his seat, Jeff made to go after Scott, desperate to stop the impulsive young man from doing anything rash, but someone beat him to it.
Barely seeing Kyrano’s movement, Scott was not prepared for a strong hand to close around his wrist. Angrily turning, the pilot glared at his friend.
“Let me go, right now. I’m going after them, and there is nothing you can do to stop me.” Scott’s voice was quiet, but just like the rest of the family, Kyrano knew that was far more deadly than if he had been shouting. Someone was threatening his family and Scott was going to make sure nothing happened to his brothers. Anyone who tried to get in his way was just being foolish. Ever the calm one, Kyrano didn’t so much as blink, however, instead reaching out his other hand and grasping onto Scott’s other arm.
“Damnit, Kyrano, let me go!! You can’t stop me; I have to get to them!” Beginning to realise that Kyrano had no intention of letting him go again, despite the fact that the Malaysian had yet to utter a word, Scott began to struggle in earnest. Crossing the room, Jeff knew he was going to have to join in the attempts to calm his son down, for nothing would get Scott more worked up than feeling helpless when it came to not being able to help his brothers. Whether Scott was more weakened from his latest brush with death, or whether the quiet strength that Kyrano seemed to possess was greater than Jeff had given him credit for, the father wasn’t sure. But he could only watch – open-mouthed – as Kyrano casually dragged his son back into the room, almost as if he couldn’t feel the pilot’s furious struggles. Pushing him down into the nearest seat, Kyrano finally relinquished his grip on Scott’s arms, but as the young man tried to rise from his seat, he moved behind him. Placing his hands on Scott’s shoulders, he instead kept him down.
“Stand down, commander!” Jeff yelled, knowing that when Scott was this worked up, trying to address him as a son simply didn’t work. Moving in front of him, he shot Kyrano a grateful look and received a soft nod in response as the man kept Scott pinned down.
“Let me go!!” For a moment, Scott didn’t seem to hear his father’s words, instead continuing to fight against Kyrano, but eventually he seemed to realise that he wasn’t going to be going anywhere and sagged back in the seat.
“There is nothing you can do to help them, you know that, Scott.” With Scott seemingly calming down, Jeff crouched in front of his son, the way he had always done when the man was just a child. “You’ll only draw more attention to them. They already know to be careful. Besides, it’s a different continent this time; whoever it is has only acted in Canada. They are going to be just fine.”
“You don’t know that,” Scott pressed, his voice taking on a pleading note that had Jeff groaning. It was clear that the Field Commander had no desire to let the matter go, and sure enough, he quickly began to rise from his chair again. With a roll of his eyes, Jeff nodded to Kyrano whilst hitting a button on his watch at the same time. Exerting pressure, the faithful manservant forced Scott back down again, causing language Jeff normally forbade to come sprouting from his son’s mouth. Before anything else could be said, Brains came panting into the room, his quick mind assessing the situation even as he glanced between Jeff and the case he had in his hand.
“Dad…don’t.” It didn’t take Scott more than a few seconds to work out what was in the case, especially by the way Kyrano’s hands tightened in warning on his shoulders again, clearly preparing for another escape attempt.
“I need you to calm down, Scott.”
“But they need me.”
“John needs you too,” Jeff responded quietly, letting his eyes flicker back to his second-born. True enough, John was working away, obviously trying to monitor anything and everything he could on this new rescue. But the slight tremors in his normally steady hands showed that he was finding this as hard as Scott was. Unfortunately, being stuck out in space meant he couldn’t go charging off to the rescue in the same manner as his older brother.
“They’re not supposed to be out there with only one medic; I should be there,” Scott argued, clearly not going to let it go. He had followed Jeff’s gaze towards John, but his younger brother had met his look. Jeff was right in thinking John was struggling not to react in the same way as Scott, for the blond couldn’t hide the look in his eyes when Scott had met them. He wanted the Field Commander out there as much as the said person wanted to be out there, he just didn’t want to say it.
“Virgil can handle it. Besides, it’s not like Gordon and Alan can’t handle themselves Have faith in them, Scott.”
“Brains?” Glancing over his shoulder at the genius, Jeff didn’t miss the way Scott suddenly swallowed, or the way Kyrano automatically tightened his grip. Even so, Scott still somehow managed to wriggle free from the Malaysian, and, as his son sprinted for the door, Jeff cursed under his breath. Sometimes he just had no idea where his son got his stubbornness from! Making to go after him, Jeff felt the concern crash over him once more as Scott stumbled. Before the accident, that was something that never usually happened. Regardless of Scott’s protests, it was clear that he was still far from fine. Kyrano was onto the young man before anything could be said, however. Before Jeff had the chance to react, Brains had crossed the room, pulling open the case as he did so.
Within just a few moments, Scott was attempting to fight off the drug, but the anger was clearly draining from him as his eyes began to flicker. Between the three men, they somehow managed to navigate his lanky form onto one of the nearby couches. Knowing that this was a family issue, both Kyrano and Brains quickly excused themselves, disappearing almost silently out of the lounge as Jeff sat down heavily next to his son. Brushing his hand through Scott’s hair, he sighed deeply.
“Have to look out for them,” Scott mumbled sleepily, unknowingly leaning into his father’s contact.
“They can look out for themselves, son,” Jeff responded gently, staying where he was until Scott had finally fallen asleep properly.
“Was that really necessary, Dad?” John’s quiet tones caused Jeff to shut his eyes for a moment before turning to face his next son.
“Do you really think that Scott would have backed down considering what he had just overheard?”
“Dad, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise he was there…”
“It’s okay, Johnny, you couldn’t have known. I didn’t know he was there either. Now, how about we get back to the rescue at hand and see how your brothers are doing?”
“Do we tell them?” John asked uncertainly, biting his lip. It wasn’t often that Jeff saw his son look so conflicted, for John was always the one with answers to things. It was just another sign of how much the discovery had unnerved the older members of the family. Jeff knew precisely what was going through his sons’ heads, simply because the same thing was going through his. It wasn’t so much that someone was clearly trying to hurt them, but more the fact that it was the youngest three that were potentially in the firing line at this moment in time.
“If we can get Virgil on his own, yes. But I don’t want Gordon knowing, not yet. Nor Alan, his reaction earlier was too explosive.”
“F.A.B,” John responded miserably, turning back to monitor the readings. It wasn’t so much that he had anything to study, but he couldn’t face looking at Scott. If anything did happen out there, the pilot would never forgive himself.
Blissfully unaware of the turmoil that the island was in, Virgil could honestly say that the rescue was going according to plan. Well, as much to plan as it could considering they were dealing with the unpredictable forces of Mother Nature. With a calm and steady hand, he was flying his ‘bird with ease over some of the more isolated areas, Gordon hanging in the platform below him, helping those who had been stranded on board before they flew them to safety. It was amazing how many people made it out onto the roofs of their houses once they realised that International Rescue was in the area. The artist was desperate for this rescue to go without a hitch, if only to prove to his father and oldest brother that they could handle things without Scott. And the fact that it was in a completely different part of the world to the last two rescues definitely helped set his mind at ease. The way his two younger brothers had immediately started joking around as soon as they had landed and got a plan of action established had certainly helped calm Virgil. He wasn’t used to being the oldest one. It probably helped that one of the rescue victims had such a large, walrus style moustache that his attentions had been distracted by trying to stop Gordon and Alan laughing at him too obviously.
Virgil wasn’t the only one feeling more relaxed. Almost leaning against Mobile Control as he took note of the rest of the readings, Alan couldn’t help but admit he was loving his job. He knew it was wrong to admit it, especially considering lives were in danger, but it was his chance to show that he was a mature member of their team. With Virgil needing Gordon’s expertise in handling the platform, the older brother had no choice but to allocate Alan Scott’s usual role of manning Mobile Control and helping to direct their progress. Thinking back to the last rescue, the youngest Tracy only hoped that one of his brothers would be able to give him a hand packing it away again. With a smirk, Alan shook his head in fond amusement as he set about patching through another set of co-ordinates to his airborne brothers.
Hearing a heavily accented voice coming from behind him, Alan quickly made sure that he masked his expression to one of neutrality – the “rescuer” face they had to wear when they were out in the field.
“How can I help..?” His voice trailing off, Alan swallowed hard. The man’s giant walrus moustache suddenly didn’t seem as funny as when Gordon had first pointed it out to his little brother on landing. Although something told him it wasn’t the moustache which had lost its amusement value, it was more the shot gun aimed directly for his head that had wiped the smile off his face.
Watching the world whizz past him as Virgil steadily turned Thunderbird Two around once more, Gordon found himself leaning on the railings of the platform. This was the one occasion he could really understand Scott’s need to fly. The wind was in his hair, the landscape spreading out for as far as the eye could see. If it wasn’t for the area below him being almost lost to the landslide, Gordon could have stayed like this forever.
“Gordon, are you coming up, or not?” Virgil’s slightly amused tones echoed out through his watch, and it was only then that the redhead realised his hand had been resting on the button that should have winched him back into Two, but had yet to press it. With a rueful grin, the prankster let his fingers exert pressure on the button and, slowly but surely, he felt the platform begin to be pulled up into the safety of the ship flying gracefully above him. The first time he had done this, to admit that he had been terrified would have been a slight understatement, but now Gordon loved the sensation. His confidence in his brother’s flying abilities – not that he would ever tell Virgil – meant he felt completely safe. Thinking about whether people were safe or not, the water-loving Tracy decided to get an update from his youngest brother. The last communication had indicated that now this drop off had been completed, they were finished. Gordon, however, wanted to double-check before he made it all the way back into Two.
“Mobile Control, come in. You there? Are we done now?” Waiting for a moment, Gordon frowned. It was unlike Alan to not immediately respond, normally with some smart-ass comment, especially when it was Gordon wanting information. The older man knew the kid wouldn’t dare do it to Scott, or even Virgil, but they had their own ways of dealing with the tension of a rescue.
“Mobile Control?” Feeling the roof of his mouth begin to go slowly dry as his heart began to pound uncomfortably, Gordon knew his frown was deepening.
“Confirmed, Star-boy, situation under control.”
As Alan disconnected again, Gordon immediately knew that something was very wrong. It wasn’t the slight tremor in Alan’s voice, but his choice of words. Anxious to keep secrecy maintained within the operation, all of the brothers had nicknames for each other when they were out on a rescue. If there were a lot of inquisitive ears around, said brother would know that they were the one being addressed without the use of their name being made public. Needless to say, ‘Star-boy’ was not Gordon’s nickname, but John’s. Something was wrong.
“Virgil, swing back towards Mobile Control, now!”
“Gords, what’s wrong?” Confusion mingled with concern in Virgil’s voice, but even as the platform continued its steady journey into Thunderbird Two, Gordon felt the ship begin to turn. Wishing that Virgil could get more speed out of her, Gordon found himself clinging on tightly to the railings, his knuckles turning white with the effort. It wasn’t the flying as such, but more the need to vent his worry in a physical way.
“Alan just used the wrong name.”
“Alan used the wrong name?” Virgil repeated slowly, not being sure where Gordon was going with this. He himself had several names for Gordon, not all of them acceptable enough to say out loud, especially not if their grandmother was present. So what if Alan had called his brother something different for once?
“And he was formal,” Gordon continued, knowing that it wouldn’t take a moment for Virgil to realise where he was going with this. Despite being the most relaxed member of the family anyway, Gordon had certainly noticed that Alan tended to mirror him out on a rescue, worry leaking into sarcasm. Scott and Virgil just had worry turning into stress. John, on the other hand, never seemed to worry, always keeping a cool about him that Gordon couldn’t help but envy.
“Do you think something’s wrong?” Virgil asked, not being able to keep the concern out of his voice as the same worry that had his younger brother gripped in its claws now beginning to eat away at him. “Hang on, Gordon, I’m getting something from Base.”
For a moment, all went quiet, only the slight murmuring of Virgil’s voice filtering back through to Gordon where he had clearly turned away to address whoever was on the other end. Drumming his fingers anxiously against the railings, Gordon found he was attempting to strain his eyes in order to peer across the landscape, desperately trying to locate Mobile Control. As much as he tried, however, Gordon couldn’t see anything. Scrubbing a hand wearily over his face, Gordon found his mind beginning to wander back to the conversations and atmosphere that had infiltrated the house of late. But before he could think too much, Virgil suddenly swore violently, his voice loud enough to reach Gordon’s watch, even though the redhead knew his brother was still facing in the opposite direction. Opening his mouth to question what was going on, his heart pounding even harder, Gordon found that he had to hold on with a slight yelp as Two suddenly sped up without warning.
“Virgil, talk to me, man!” Gordon eventually yelled, hearing Virgil cursing away to himself as he pushed his ‘bird, seeming to forget that he had a brother hanging on underneath.
“The accidents weren’t accidents,” Virgil reported shortly, his eyes fixed on the control panel in front of him as he forced more speed out of his lady, only the thought of getting back to Mobile Control and his youngest brother lodged in his head.
“What?” Gordon asked, a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach taking hold, almost like a hand squeezing his heart. He had been trying to make himself put those thoughts aside, knowing that the rest of the family had been worried that he was getting paranoid. Gordon had to confess, he had been more apprehensive about coming out on this rescue than he would have ever admitted to his brothers. With the rescue being on a completely different continent to the previous two, however, he had forced his discomfort to one side. Could his refusal to consider his fears potentially cost his little brother his life?
“Virgil, we’ve got to get back to Alan!”
“What do you think I’m doing?” Virgil snapped, pushing the throttle even further and cursing when the ship didn’t speed up enough for his liking. Hearing the tension in his brother’s voice, Gordon didn’t say anything else. Holding onto the railings with one hand, he moved the other until he was unclipping his harness, making sure not to tell Virgil what he was doing. He had never been so thankful for the slow movement of the platform. It meant that although he was higher than before, Gordon was still suspended under Thunderbird Two, and unfastening himself, was left standing on a slightly unsteady platform with no support in the slightest.
After what felt like an age to the frantic brothers, Gordon finally got a glimpse of Mobile Control, the low sun winking tauntingly off the machinery at him from across the land they were speeding over . He knew by the way Virgil had fallen silent that he too had seen it. Squinting towards the machine, Gordon felt his frown return when he couldn’t see his brother. Letting his eyes roam the surrounding area somewhat frantically as Thunderbird Two got closer and closer, Gordon suddenly gave a shout of alarm.
He could just about make out the blue of Alan’s uniform, about five paces away from Mobile Control, his back firmly against a nearby tree. What caught Gordon’s attention more, however, was the man standing in front of his younger brother. As the sun caught the weapon in his hands, Gordon hitched himself up onto the railings. Wobbling precariously as he held on tight, the redhead crouched on top as Two shot even closer to the pair before suddenly slowing down dramatically and almost throwing Gordon out.
“I can’t get close enough; the trees are in the way!” Virgil shouted, making Gordon more than aware of the fright in his brother’s voice. He knew that Virgil had been just as concerned as him that something was going on with the family – their conversation by the pool had been evidence enough of that.
“Can you take him out?” Gordon yelled back, knowing that the watches were powerful enough to have picked up his words had he whispered them. But, like Virgil, he had the need to voice his fear.
“Not without taking Allie down too, they’re too close!”
“Don’t worry, I’m on it.”
“Get me as close as you can.”
“Gordon, what the hell are you doing?”
“Do you want to save Alan or not? Just get me closer, Virg.”
As Virgil complied, Gordon braced himself. The whirring of Two’s engines drew the attention of both Alan and his attacker. Not sure whether his baby brother could see the reassuring look Gordon was attempting to shoot him, the redhead instead turned his attention back to the man. Even from this distance, Gordon could make out the leer twisting his face into an even more unpleasant sight than it had been before. Mockingly slowly, he raised the gun again, pushing Alan further back into the tree as he pushed it against the young man’s throat. Glaring, Gordon knew the time had come. Virgil was not going to get him any closer; he had already lowered both Two and the platform as quickly as he could, almost as if he knew what was going through his brother’s mind. It just showed how scared the artist was considering he hadn’t tried to stop Gordon, knowing that this was the only chance they would have.
As the man turned his attention back to the youngest member of the family, Gordon launched himself off the platform.
“Oh fu…” The rest of Gordon’s sentence was driven from him, however, as the wind stole his words, practically knocking the breath out of him. For a split second that seemed to last a lifetime, the redhead could only swear violently as he seemed to just fall through the air, but eventually, he remembered his training. Bracing himself, Gordon fell towards the pair, immediately slamming straight into the man, sending them both sprawling across the ground in a tangle of limbs. Virgil couldn’t have lined him up any better.
Trying to regain his breath, Gordon looked up in time to see Alan staring down at him, open-mouthed.
“Just thought I’d drop by,” Gordon muttered, somewhat shakily as he pushed himself up into an upright position, wincing as his wrist throbbed somewhat. Virgil was going to have a field day over this one. When Alan seemed incapable of answering – definitely something to be concerned about in Gordon’s mind – and instead just gaped at his brother’s sudden arrival, Gordon narrowed his eyes.
“You okay?” Nodding mutely, Alan let out a somewhat hysterical laugh.
“I can change that.” An icy voice came from behind the redhead. Groaning, Gordon found the attacker had actually been pushed from his mind, his crash landing only leaving him with thoughts about whether his brother was okay or not.
“Alan, get out of here,” Gordon said quietly, his tone dark and dangerous.
“That’s right, little Alan. Run along. Run back to Daddy.”
As Alan made to move forward in anger, Gordon sprang to his feet, catching his little brother around the arm and shoving him back again.
Finally catching onto the note in Gordon’s voice, Alan backed away a pace or two, swallowing hard. He had never heard his brother sound as deadly as he did right now. Alan knew that the frustration and emotions of the last few weeks were taking their toll on Gordon. After all, despite not knowing that the accidents had been confirmed to be anything but, Alan knew that his brother had been on edge ever since the original mishap.
“What makes you think that I’m going to simply let him go?” the man asked, his voice as deadly as Gordon’s as he brandished his gun once more. Regarding the weapon coolly, Gordon paused for a moment before swinging his arm up. Catching the barrel of the gun in his open hand, he immediately closed his fist around the gun, before twisting his arm and pulling sharply. If the man was surprised by Gordon’s actions, he certainly hid it well, but was unable to hold on as his gun was wrenched from his grasp.
“Primitive weapon anyway,” he muttered, a gleeful smile springing onto his face as he caught sight of Gordon’s defensive stance, especially the way he had moved in front of his younger brother. Alan, for his part, was torn over what to do. He didn’t just want to leave Gordon, even if it was to get help. On the other hand, it had only been a matter of hours ago in all reality since he had witnessed the fight between Scott and Gordon. There was no way his older brother was defenceless.
For a long moment, the two men simply stared at each other, Alan hovering uncertainly behind Gordon. He could make out Virgil bringing Two in for landing and knew that it wasn’t going to be long before the third brother arrived, probably bringing back-up with him. Glancing over his shoulder, the man followed Alan’s gaze, his eyes narrowing as he realised that he was running out of time. Sensing Gordon’s movement out of the corner of his eye, he turned just as the redhead made to swing at him.
Gordon had been expecting the man to at least lean back out of the way of his punch the second he realised that his actions had been seen, but he certainly had not been anticipating the grin to widen on his opponent’s face. Before Gordon could think about what was going on, the man’s eyes flashed yellow.
“Gordon!” Unable to stop himself, Alan couldn’t hold back the cry of horror as his older brother immediately dropped to the floor. For a moment Gordon lay perfectly still, before he bucked, almost as if trying to escape from something.
“What are you doing to him?” Dropping to his knees beside his fallen brother, Alan felt tears catch in his eyes at the pain etched in Gordon’s face. He had seen his brother look that hurt only once before, an incident which had nearly stolen the carefree Tracy from the family once and for all.
“Alan…run…” Gordon grunted, desperately trying to see through the pain that was lancing through his head, but finding that his little brother’s face was weaving unpleasantly. It was as if a thousand tiny knives were stabbing away inside his skull and, no matter what he tried, Gordon couldn’t escape from the immobilising pain.
“Now this is more like it,” the man commented almost conversationally as he watched the two brothers, pain reflected in both of their eyes.
“Stop it!” Alan screamed, but the man only smirked, his eyes glowing once more and causing Gordon to cry out before he could stop himself.
“Let him go.”
A third voice cut into the conversation, cool and calm. As Alan looked up, he felt a rush of relief crash over him at seeing Virgil standing there. The man’s gun was resting in his brother’s hands, and when nothing happened, Virgil placed it against the back of the attacker’s head.
“Let. Him. Go.” he repeated slowly, making a show of flicking the safety off the gun. As the resonating click echoed into the silence, the man cast a look of loathing at where Gordon was sprawled across the floor.
“You’re International Rescue, you save people, not kill them.”
“Do you want to test that theory?” Virgil responded coldly, pushing the muzzle of the gun further into the man’s head. To Alan’s delight, he winced slightly, before allowing his eyes to fade back to their normal, empty colour. Almost immediately, Gordon let out an explosion of breath, gasping as the pain finally subsided.
“You good, squirt?” Virgil called over, not moving the gun from the man’s head as he forced him to take a few steps to the side, allowing the artist better access to his brothers.
“I’m good,” Gordon panted, flopping back down and shutting his eyes, trying to get his breathing under control. Before Virgil had to think about what to do next, the screeching sound of sirens and men shouting reached their ears. As the man cursed, Alan found he was watching the stranger closely. He almost didn’t seem bothered that he had been caught, but instead just looked like it was nothing more than an inconvenience.
“Virg…” Alan began, but the man’s movements stole his words from him. Twisting his head awkwardly, he locked eyes with Virgil for a split second before letting his own flash yellow again. As Alan cried out, Virgil found himself flying through the air, landing with a thud next to Gordon. Sitting up with a groan, his fingers scrabbled across the floor for the gun, but by the time he looked up, the man had gone.
“Virgil! Are you alright?”
“Dammit!” Virgil swore, lashing out at the ground. The local services had caught sight of what had happened and knew not to bother approaching the three men, instead changing direction and hurrying after the escape route of their mystery attacker.
“It’s gonna be okay, Virg,” Alan muttered softly, not knowing how to react to his brother’s temper. Reaching out a hand, Alan caught Virgil by the shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze before dropping his arm again. Catching the uncertainty in his younger sibling’s voice – and actions – Virgil forced himself to exhale sharply. The kid already looked shaken up enough, he certainly wasn’t helping matters.
“Al, the rest of the accidents weren’t accidents.”
“You think it was him?” Alan asked, the cold feeling that had taken over Gordon’s stomach jumping into his as he swallowed hard.
“Now we’ll never know,” Virgil muttered, pushing himself upright. For a long moment, he stared intently at his baby brother.
“Did he hurt you, Sprout?”
“No, Gordon got here first. Virgil, what’s going on?”
“I have no idea, Al. C’mon, let’s go home. Are you going to be alright to fly?” To his surprise, Alan let out a bitter laugh.
“It doesn’t really matter, does it? Gordon sure as hell can’t fly and we have two crafts to get back to Base.”
“Sorry, Virg. It’s just…I didn’t think you guys would get here in time.”
Smiling gently, Virgil knelt upright, leaning forward and clapping his brother on the shoulder. Alan seemed to freeze for a moment before throwing himself forward. Taken by surprise, Virgil only paused for a split second before returning the hug.
“You’re okay, Sprout, you’re okay.” Reaching around with one hand, he ruffled Alan’s hair as he drew back, running his eyes over the younger man. Despite not normally trusting Alan when it came to his health – he could be as bad as Scott – Virgil had to admit that he did look okay. And with the fear beginning to subside from his eyes, Virgil knew the kid would be alright in getting home. As Alan let out an explosion of breath, running a hand through his own hair, it seemed that the youngest member of the family and organisation realised himself that he truly was okay. Watching him for another long moment, just to reassure himself, Virgil eventually crawled over to Gordon.
“Up and at ‘em, kid,” he called gently, trying to hide the tremor in his voice as he shook Gordon slightly by the shoulder, receiving a pained groan for his efforts. The realisation that Gordon was still conscious was enough to make Virgil sag in relief, sending out a silent prayer of gratitude to whoever was out there.
“Five m’re m’tes?”
“’Fraid not, sunshine.”
As Gordon opened his eyes, Virgil smiled sympathetically. Looping his arms around Gordon’s shoulders, he gently helped the younger man into a sitting position.
“Alan, can you get packed up and head back to Base? We need to let them know what happened.”
“Do we want Scott knowing?”
Before Virgil could answer, Gordon cut in, although his voice was practically trembling with the effort of talking.
“No more secrets,” he said softly, catching Virgil’s eye. Thinking back on the conversation they had by the pool, Virgil nodded.
“Besides,” the artist continued, slipping behind Gordon to help the younger man support his weight better. “After what we heard from Base, he might already have an idea.”
“Good luck to them then,” Alan muttered, shooting Gordon one last, long, searching look before sighing heavily. Turning on his heel, the young man set off at a jog back to where One was waiting, pausing to stop by Mobile Control. For once, Alan packed the machinery away with no problem, his desperation to get back to the safety of the island seemingly giving him the knowledge of what to do. Watching him as he worked, Virgil eventually turned back to his other younger brother.
“Okay, squirt, no more pretending.”
“Alan’s out of the way now. No more younger brothers to pretend in front of.” As soon as Virgil finished speaking, Gordon sagged back against his brother with a groan, making the artist more than aware that he had been right about the aquanaut. He knew the man well enough to know Gordon would never show how much he was hurting in front of Alan.
“Come on, let’s get you home. You know Scott will walk out here if he hears before we get back?” Slowly, but surely, Virgil pulled Gordon to his feet, keeping his arm firmly around the younger man. He couldn’t hide the anger he was feeling towards their mysterious attacker, especially given the way his brother seemed to be having trouble putting one foot in front of the other.
“Virg, I don’t feel so good…” Gordon eventually muttered, weariness causing him to lean more heavily on his brother. He had no idea what the man had done to him, but the aquanaut knew he had never experienced pain like it. He had survived a hydrofoil crash that should have killed him and yet this outstripped it by far. As Virgil turned to face him, Gordon swallowed hard, trying to get his eyes to focus on his brother’s face.
“Gordon? Come on, man, stay with me, we’re nearly there.” As Gordon made some sort of grunt in confirmation, Virgil hitched his little brother’s arm more securely over his shoulder, taking as much of the younger man’s weight as he could. Speeding up as fast as Gordon could physically manage, it still felt like an age until the welcome sight of Virgil’s most prized possession came into his eye-line.
“Go ahead, Alan, get back to Base. We’re good here, and someone needs to defuse Dad.”
“And you’re leaving that to me?” Alan’s slightly incredulous response caused Virgil to smile. Of all the brothers – apart from possibly Scott, given the pilot’s adamant nature – Alan was the least likely to be able to calm their father down. The two men were too similar in order to get on all the time, especially in a situation like this.
“Get John to help?” Virgil suggested lightly, trying to hide the concern in his voice as he once more had to pause to hitch Gordon back up again. The younger man almost seemed to be struggling to stay conscious, and Virgil knew that unless he got him back to Two quickly, they were going to have bigger problems to deal with. He just didn’t want Alan knowing. It may have been the older brothers that were genuinely regarded as the smother hens, but that didn’t mean the younger ones didn’t have that same stubborn, protective streak. Alan had no younger brothers to look out for, so he just made sure he did it for his older ones. If the kid knew the state of his immediate older brother, it would be almost impossible to get him back into One.
Just as Virgil finally began pulling his brother up the ramp into Two, a roar of engines made him look skyward. Unable to stop himself, Virgil had to sigh in relief at the sight of Thunderbird One quickly becoming nothing more than a streak on the horizon. That was one brother escaping to the safety of the island. All that remained now was to get his other younger one back home in one piece.
Gordon seemed almost incapable of helping Virgil as the artist navigated him into the sick bay of his ‘bird. To Virgil’s mind that just showed how bad he must have been feeling, for normally Gordon would be running in the opposite direction. Scott may have held the record for escapes from the infirmary, but none of the brothers took it calmly. Forcing his brother onto the nearest bed, Virgil stood back for a moment, running his eyes over the younger man critically. Gordon looked nothing short of awful. His face was beyond pale, a sheen of sweat beading his brow as it took all of his efforts to remain sitting up. As Virgil watched, he slowly began to turn another colour and, quick as a flash, Virgil practically threw the nearest bowl at his brother, just in time.
Wincing in sympathy as Gordon proceeded to empty the contents of his stomach, Virgil perched on the bed next to him, rubbing his hand soothingly over his brother’s back. After a few moments, Gordon sat back up properly, wiping a shaky hand over his eyes from where the harsh retching had caused them to water.
“That’s better,” he muttered, and, handing his brother a glass of water, Virgil had to admit that the aquanaut was looking better. He knew that the release of tension could often help clear a migraine, and judging by what Gordon had just been through, that seemed to be the case. Standing up, Virgil fixed his brother with a look that had the redhead groaning.
“You know the drill, kiddo,” Virgil commented, correctly interpreting his brother’s groan and crouching down in front of him. “Follow the finger.”
Gordon had either truly run out of energy, or seemed to know that Virgil wasn’t going to be moving until he had complied with the older man’s instructions, but for once he did as he was asked. When his brother stood up, reaching into the overhead lockers and pulling out his penlight, Gordon groaned again. As Virgil turned to look at him, the redhead made a show of lying down, burying his head in the pillows.
“Gordon…” Virgil began, a hint of warning in his voice when he realised that his troublesome brother had no intention of playing along any longer.
“Just let me sleep, Virg,” Gordon’s muffled voice responded.
Biting his lip, Virgil frowned down at his brother. A small amount of colour had trickled back into Gordon’s cheeks, and the fact that he was obviously feeling well enough to fight against Virgil made the artist contemplate letting his brother do just that. If there was something serious enough to affect him on the short journey home, Virgil knew he would have already spotted it. With a wry grin, he knew that Gordon was not going to have a chance when they got back to Base. Not with their father and Scott around. Not to mention that whilst John may not even have been on the planet, the star-lover certainly took his big brother duties seriously and had a way of making the others do as he said, despite the distance between them. No, there was no way Gordon would escape from a thorough examination once they returned to Base. For now, however, Virgil was content to let his brother rest.
“Sleep well, squirt,” he said softly, gently ruffling his brother’s hair and walking slowly from the room. Pausing in the doorway, Virgil sighed deeply as he looked back at his little brother. Gordon’s breathing had evened out and Virgil was sure that the younger man had already fallen asleep. Hoping it would provide the swimmer with some relief, he eventually walked out of the sick bay.
Crashing into his command chair, Virgil scrubbed a hand wearily over his face, his tired mind trying to process everything that had just happened. Despite there being the possibility that someone was after them, Virgil found that he hadn’t properly contemplated what that meant. Seeing the man casually aim the gun at his littlest brother’s head, not to mention what he had then done to Gordon… It gave Virgil the shudders just thinking about it. Was this man the one responsible for everything that had happened beforehand, despite the rescues being on completely different continents? Or was there more than one person out to kill his family?
“Base to Thunderbird Two.”
Jumping violently as his father’s voice rang over the comms, Virgil reached out a hand and flicked a switch, finding himself face to face with his father. For a moment, Jeff just stared at his middle son, before letting out an explosion of breath.
“You look like crap, Virgil.”
“Nice to see you too,” Virgil muttered, unable to stop the small smile dancing across his mouth. His father’s blunt approach had been precisely what he needed, and, stretching himself up, Virgil sat up straighter, beginning to let his hands dance through their routine checks of the controls.
“How’s Gordon?” The humour had immediately vanished from Jeff’s voice and, letting his eyes flicker over to the man, Virgil could easily make out the worried frown and the look in his father’s eye.
“He’s sleeping. I think he is going to be okay. Is Alan back?”
“Yes. I’ve sent him to change.”
“How is he?” As the engines rumbled into life, confirming that they were ready to transport the Tracys home, Virgil skilfully brought his ‘bird into the air, barely looking at what he was doing as he waited for his father’s reaction.
“More shaken than he would say, but able to give us a run-down of what happened. The man got away?”
“Yeah,” Virgil sighed heavily, feeling his anger sparking back into life. “The local services couldn’t find a trace of him and the scanners aren’t picking anything up.”
“We’ll find him, son. He won’t get away with this,” Jeff promised, narrowing his eyes as he caught sight of the anger flaring to life in his son. “Come on, get your brother back to Base, I want to see him try and escape Scott.”
“F.A.B.” Virgil confirmed, grinning at the teasing note in his father’s voice. As always, Jeff had managed to calm him back down again, seeing the danger signs of one of Virgil’s fiery explosions almost before the artist had registered it himself. Disconnecting himself from the island, Virgil turned his ‘bird, pointing her towards Tracy Island.
It was time to go home.