Gordon had been struggling fiercely against the ropes holding him when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Virgil lunge forward. His mind was screaming at his brother to stop, his body reacting violently as he tried to pull his way free. Virgil couldn’t do this! The Hood might have threatened to kill them all, but Gordon knew full well Scott would not let that happen. His biggest brother had already been sprinting towards the maniac when Virgil had moved. True, Gordon knew he probably wouldn’t have made it; the Hood’s gun was too well lined up. But the others would have. There was no need for Virgil to be such a self-sacrificing idiot.
As soon as Virgil’s hand closed over the needle, Gordon could have sworn it was as if time had stopped. He could see Scott running forward, sheer horror etched into his brother’s face in a way the aquanaut had never seen before. The Hood had a smug look on his face, the gun still aimed at Gordon as he muttered something to Virgil. If there was one thing Gordon would take back out of this whole experience, it would be whatever the maniac said in that one split second. He knew it was those words that caused Virgil’s face to suddenly look thunderous before he plunged the needle into his arm.
Gordon heard John’s scream, but it was like the sound was muted, coming from far away. Everything seemed muffled apart from his own heartbeat, pounding with a fierce intensity in his ears as the colour immediately drained from Virgil’s face. His voice was restricted; he couldn’t physically yell his horror at the situation in the way John could, so he was doing it internally instead. It was as if he couldn’t get enough air to his lungs, as if someone had a grip on his heart and was squeezing sadistically. If there was one thing Gordon knew a lot about, it was pain. And yet nothing he had ever been through came even close to what he was feeling now.
“Gordon!” A frantic voice sounded directly in front of him, and with a great deal of effort, Gordon turned wide and stunned eyes onto John. The man still had the handcuff dangling from one hand, and the fingers on his opposite hand were bloody. Swallowing, Gordon tried to snap himself out of the almost dream-like state he’d found himself in to see a nail clenched in John’s hand. It was clear the blond had managed to pick the lock without anyone seeing amongst all of the chaos.
Movement drew his attention back over to his brothers. Virgil was on the floor, although how he had ended up there, Gordon could not have said. But in that one glance, he knew the trouble had only just begun. Especially considering the way Scott practically leapt over Virgil, slamming his shoulder straight into the Hood and driving the man to the ground. Gordon didn’t feel John pulling the gag away, nor see his brother disappearing around behind him and beginning to tease the ropes holding him loose. He could only watch as Scott pounded his fist into the man.
But just as quickly as he had started, Scott turned away again. His body arched towards Gordon as he turned, and the younger brother had never seen such anguish on the man’s face as he did in that moment when Scott dropped to his knees beside Virgil.
A hand was suddenly gripping Gordon’s arm, helping him unsteadily to his feet as he stumbled towards his brothers. John didn’t even attempt to stop him, knowing that Gordon needed to be over there as much as he did, despite the fact the Hood still remained there. The pair of them hurried over, dropping to their knees beside their fallen brother. Gordon had never seen anyone so pale, sweat already beading Virgil’s forehead and making his hair stick to it. John pulled his brother close, cushioning him from the ground, but Gordon’s attention was drawn by Scott.
Whilst they’d been moving, the Hood had somehow made it to his feet and had disappeared into the surrounding vegetation. The second Scott was sure Gordon and John were there to stay; he had leapt to his feet and shot off after him.
“Scott, come back!” After what had felt like hours of not being able to say anything, the shout was ripped from Gordon’s throat as he jumped to his feet. He was not going to let Scott run after this monster alone. He was not going to let another brother be hurt. If he had been able to fight against the Hood more effectively, none of this would be happening, Virgil wouldn’t be… No! Gordon refused to think like that. His brother was a fighter, he would be fine. He simply had to be. One glance showed that John was keeping their brother as safe as possible considering the circumstances, and Gordon took off after Scott.
“Gordon, don’t!” John’s shout fell on deaf ears as Gordon ran, the pounding of his blood blocking out all other sound. He could see Scott just in front of him, and sheer frustration at the entire situation gave him a burst of speed.
“Scott!” Gordon almost threw himself on his brother when he caught sight of what Scott was doing. The pilot had reached a small ravine, and judging by the snarling expression on his face, the Hood had disappeared into it. But Gordon didn’t need to be a mind-reader to know what his brother was planning, and, with a strength they didn’t often see from him, he grabbed Scott by the arm and forcibly dragged him back from the edge. It was amazing how much the landscape could change within just a few feet, but Gordon supposed that was partly why the temple had been built on the edge of the drop anyway, as some sort of security. They had barely moved from the ruin, and were in completely different surroundings.
“Get off!” Scott snapped, spinning around sharply and fixing Gordon with such a glare the younger man thought his insides would freeze there and then.
“Get back to Virgil!” he ordered.
“Don’t….” It was clear Scott was going to tell Gordon not to tell him what to do, but the redhead got in there first.
“I can’t lose you!” Gordon suddenly screamed, dropping to his knees as the reality of the situation crashed over him with such intensity he momentarily forgot how to breathe. This was really happening. His big brother had just been poisoned, and considering how much effort the Hood had gone to in order to bring them down, the redhead knew for sure he hadn’t been bluffing. They were really losing…
“No!” The scream this time was almost ripped in half by a harsh sob. Gordon drove his fist into the ground, leaving it scrunched there whilst ignoring the pain lancing up his arm. This couldn’t be happening, it just couldn’t…
He didn’t notice Scott shoot him a sympathetic glance, moving to comfort his younger brother before mirroring his actions and lashing out, plunging his fist into a nearby tree. Gordon didn’t even notice Scott sprint back to where John was still holding Virgil, nor his second oldest brother walk slowly over, taking up Scott’s previous position and gazing down at him. The dramatic change in surroundings meant it felt like they were further away from the scene of devastation than they actually were.
“Gordon? Gordy, look at me.”
Suddenly, a strong and warming grip was on his shoulders. John crouched down in front of Gordon, holding on tightly to the younger man as if he was trying to ground him. Whether it was just coincidence, or whether he truly did know what was best, it was precisely what his little brother needed. As Gordon looked up into John’s eyes something in him broke and he all but fell on his brother, his breathing hitching erratically.
Scott hadn’t stayed because he could offer no words of comfort; make no promises that everything was going to be alright.
Scott couldn’t stay because he knew what was really going on.
“No, no, no, no, no…” he mumbled into John’s uniform, feeling the man’s hands resume their grip, attempting to ground him. But John didn’t say anything. Gordon didn’t need him to; he could feel the way his brother’s heart was pounding with the same agonising intensity as his own, knowing the blond also felt like he was being ripped straight down the middle.
Gordon had no idea if they stayed that way for a minute or an hour before John’s vibrating watch snapped them into action. Keeping one arm firmly gripped around his brother, John’s free hand flicked the switch.
“Dad,” he said heavily, and in that one word, Gordon felt as if a great weight was pressing him into the ground, John being the only thing that stopped him from collapsing completely. He didn’t even notice he was shivering until John drew him in closer.
“John? Alan’s picking up erratic readings from Virgil’s watch. What’s wrong with your brother?”
Gordon had never heard a silence as loud as he did in that moment when John took in a breath.
“He’s been poisoned.”
The silence that fell the other end was something Gordon didn’t think he would ever forget. He could literally hear his father breathing through John’s watch, the man’s breathing stumbling irregularly as he clearly tried to process what he had just been told. He could even hear Alan’s sharp intake of breath, despite the fact that had come from the portrait across the lounge and then back through John’s watch.
“Wh…what happened?” Jeff’s voice was forcibly controlled, yet both of his sons could hear the violent tremors. They were fully aware that it would only be moments before he cracked completely. John gave Gordon’s shoulders another squeeze and stood up, moving away from his brother. Gordon just sat there on the floor, his mind going blank. He couldn’t think straight. Thoughts themselves were far beyond him at the moment. Virgil was dying. There was nothing else that mattered.
John was talking quietly, his back to Gordon as if to shield his little brother from what was being said. Gordon didn’t see the point. It wasn’t as if it could shield him from what was happening. The harsh reality was staring him in the face, causing his breath to catch and his eyes to sting furiously. He scrubbed at them harshly, instead turning the pain into anger. Anger towards the Hood. He hoped that it would help, that it would somehow make things right again if he didn’t dwell on what was going on behind him.
It didn’t work. Nothing could stop the hollow feeling from overtaking every other emotion. He felt numb. Sitting on the floor, Gordon found his hand was automatically playing with the grass surrounding him, picking at the blades before tossing them away from him in anger. What right did the grass have to sit there growing whilst Gordon’s big brother was dying?
As his hands played, Gordon found that his mind suddenly started working again, a small thought filtering through and sticking in his mind. Even as he aggressively pulled up another clump of grass, he froze. The thought would not leave him, and swallowing hard, he glanced up at John. He could see that his brother was becoming more and more agitated, but Gordon couldn’t blame him. Who would want to be the bearer of news like that?
Springing to his feet, Gordon closed the gap between them in a matter of strides. John may have wanted to protect Gordon from what was being said, but he clearly hadn’t been prepared to move any further away from his younger brother than he had to. Gordon didn’t even register the surprised expression on John’s face as he grabbed at his brother’s arm, yanking John’s watch towards him.
“Dad, get Kyrano.”
“Gordon, what are you…?”
“Now! Please!” The sheer desperation in Gordon’s voice cut through John’s attempt at taking control of the situation, and it was clear their father picked up on it as well, for he didn’t argue. Gordon was glancing about him impatiently as he heard the soft murmur of voices on the other end of the line. John was forced to prise his brother’s hand away, Gordon wincing apologetically at the finger marks on the astronaut’s arm.
“Kyrano. Listen, you know this area.” Gordon ignored John’s warning intake of breath. Especially since finding out it was the Hood who was trying – John wouldn’t admit to succeeding, not yet – to kill them, they had made the point of not drawing comparisons between him and his half-brother. But Gordon wasn’t even thinking along those lines. “You told me once that every plant has a use, that none are there for just the sake of it.”
“That is correct.” For once, Kyrano’s calming voice was doing nothing to soothe Gordon.
“Then there must be one here that can do something! Kyrano, please, there must be something we can do.” The pause seemed to stretch on for a lifetime, John once again being forced to remove his frantic brother’s hand from his arm before he had bruises. Eventually though, Kyrano spoke.
“There is… something that might help. It was always believed to combat ill health, its properties are renowned.”
“How do we find it?” It was John who spoke this time, his voice quiet and filled with an uncertain hope. Gordon knew how he was feeling. They had to believe this would work, because the alternative was not something that could bear being contemplated.
“It’s small, dark green and will grow in clumps. The leaves will feel velvet to the touch and light green spots litter the stem. It likes the shade, but apart from that, I can give you no more information.”
“Thanks, Kyrano!” Gordon finally relinquished his grip on John completely and turned back to the clearing. The sight there made his heart skip a beat. Virgil was definitely worse; Scott was all but having to hold him down as shakes racked his body.
“He’s burning up,” Scott muttered, not even turning when he heard Gordon arrive. Gordon swallowed hard.
“Kyrano thinks there is something that might be able to help.” His voice was as equally soft as his brother’s. John hadn’t even followed him back, and already Gordon could hear him beginning to search. Scott’s hands stilled and Gordon heard him suck in a sharp breath. If he knew his brother as well as he thought he did, Scott would have closed his eyes momentarily, shielding the world from seeing the raging emotions shoot through his eyes. One hand flicked at his watch.
“John, hurry up and find it! He’s burning up.” The Field Commander’s orders were once again given, and Gordon turned on his heel, sprinting back into the forest himself. He could understand his brother’s tone. He too was refusing to think that this could potentially be it, but judging by the fact Scott was still with Virgil, he was being forced to accept the sheer reality of the situation more than his younger brothers were. It was why he wouldn’t leave Virgil. Not only because out of all of them, Scott had the most chance of getting the artist to hang on, but because he wouldn’t let the others see their brother like that. It was Scott’s way of trying to stay in control.
Gordon felt like he had been searching for an eternity. Every time he thought he saw something that matched Kyrano’s description it was as if his body gave a strange lurch, his heart pounding uncomfortably until he realised that it was something else entirely. He was getting desperate, hands scrabbling through the undergrowth, crimson streaks soon lining them from where he was taking no care in the slightest. It had to be there, it simply had to be.
He would have searched forever if he had to, anything to feel like he wasn’t giving up on Virgil. He didn’t have to, however, for two things happened simultaneously. He was lucky he had ended up directly in between the positioning of his brothers, for he heard them both clearly even without his watch.
“I’ve found it!”
“John… Gordon… Get back here, he’s not breathing.”
The world spun alarmingly and Gordon found he was forced to put a shaking hand on a nearby tree to keep himself upright at Scott’s words.
No, no, no, no, no, no….
Thundering footfalls signalled John’s movement, and after a moment, Gordon took a deep breath and pushed himself up again. Things still seemed to be spinning slightly, but he forced his legs to move. It was as if he was in a dream, everything around him was blurred as he stumbled back into the clearing. John had indeed found the plant, it was resting on the ground next to him as he gently pushed Scott away, taking over the attempts to revive their brother. Scott fell back, cradling his arm slightly. It showed how much this was affecting him the fact that he let John do it.
Gordon wasn’t even aware there were tears running down his cheeks, blurring his vision as everything seemed to blend into one. He could see nothing else but John, fighting to save Virgil.
But then something else did force his vision to focus. Scott had moved. John hadn’t even noticed his older brother pick up his previously discarded gun and begin to walk away, but Gordon did. He immediately stepped into Scott’s path.
“Where are you going?”
Gordon felt like he had been punched in the gut. There was nothing familiar or loving about Scott’s voice, a cold emptiness, void of all emotions taking its place. His eyes were the same. There was no sign of the Scott Gordon knew there, only burning hatred and an intense anger that he had never seen the like of before. Looking into his brother’s eyes, Gordon knew what Scott was about to do.
“No,” he responded firmly, reaching out to take Scott’s arm. “It’s not going to change anything.”
“He killed my brother.”
“He hurt our brother. Virg’s not gone yet, Scott. Come on, don’t do this.” There was no way Gordon was about to let Scott walk away, for he knew what would happen if he did. True enough, they would be one enemy less, for there was no way Scott would have stopped until he had found the Hood. Whilst there was a part of Gordon that simply wanted to step aside, hell, even go with his brother and finish the bastard once and for all, he knew they couldn’t do it like this. It wasn’t even from some moral sense of knowing what was right or wrong.
It was nothing more than a selfish reason. If Scott did this, it would destroy him. Not now, probably not even in a day or so. But eventually, the anger would ebb away, and Gordon knew that the pilot would be more torn up than even he could comprehend at knowing he had taken someone’s life in cold blood, regardless of how much they may have deserved it. Despite his turmoil of emotions, Gordon wasn’t naive. He knew there was a very strong chance they would be returning to the island one less than when they had set out. There was no way he was about to let the Hood destroy another member of his family.
“No.” His own voice was soft and quiet. It was the complete opposite of Scott’s. Whilst his may have been cold, Gordon’s was cracking with the emotion he was struggling to keep on top of. Before he could say anything else, he found himself staring down the barrel of his brother’s gun.
“No way,” Gordon responded, folding his arms and allowing his stance to show that he wasn’t going anywhere. “You’ll have to shoot me first.”
He desperately tried not to react as Scott’s finger tightened on the trigger. His brother surely wasn’t that far gone in his fury and pain, was he? One more look at Scott’s eyes had Gordon swallowing, suddenly thinking that he might have just made a big mistake. Virgil was to Scott what Alan was to Gordon. And the young man didn’t even want to consider how he would have reacted if the Hood had pulled the trigger that day in Canada.
“Gordon. Move.” Scott’s words were barely audible, instead being lost in a low growl. As Gordon merely raised his eyebrows challengingly – a clear sign that he was certainly not going to move – Scott swung. Gordon had just enough time to see the blow coming and duck away to one side. Scott almost overbalanced as the gun – instead of colliding with his brother’s head – swung effortlessly through the air.
“What are you going to do, Scott? Kill me as well as him?”
“He deserves it.”
“’Course he does. But you aren’t God, Scott, you can’t choose that. Don’t become him.”
“He killed Virgil!” Scott’s roar made Gordon flinch, but he slowly moved to stand back in front of his brother. There had been emotion in Scott’s hoarse yell. He knew that his brother was beginning to slowly come back to him. It was just a matter of whether he could bring his Scott back in time. Scott pushed him roughly to one side and made to move off again, but found himself bowled over instead as Gordon threw himself at the older man’s back.
The pair of them fell to the floor in a tangle of limbs, Gordon somehow managing to wrench the gun away from Scott and throwing it far away into the undergrowth. He would find it later, but right now, he was not going to give his brother an even bigger advantage. Part of his mind suddenly realised that he was glad their positions were this way around, for there would be no way John would have stood a chance at stopping Scott. Gordon was the only one who would be able to, and right now he wasn’t moving until Scott had calmed down.
Unfortunately, his brother had other ideas. Bucking, he managed to dislodge Gordon and rolled the pair of them until he was straddling his brother.
“You’re not a killer, Scott.” Gordon’s quiet plea was not for himself, even if his head was jerked to one side as the usually calm Field Commander punched him. “This isn’t you.”
“How do you know what is me?” Scott snarled, but Gordon inwardly breathed a sigh of relief. He was sounding more and more like his brother with every passing word, and Gordon knew that it wouldn’t be long before Scott came to his senses. Jerking his legs, he wrapped them around his brother’s waist, and in one movement, flipped the pair of them. Leaning down, he attempted to pin Scott’s hands to the ground.
“I know my brother would never try and end someone’s life deliberately, no matter what he had done. Come on, Scott, this isn’t exactly helping.”
Gordon may have been the only brother who had the chance of matching Scott physically, but his brother was so driven by his need for revenge the younger man didn’t stand a chance as Scott threw him off. He hit the ground, breathing heavily as his lungs protested, but managed to glance up in time to see Scott spring to his feet. Gordon knew he wouldn’t be able to react quickly enough, so instead just stuck out a hand, latching it around his brother’s ankle.
Normally, Scott would have been able to kick off a hold like that with no trouble. But he clearly wasn’t thinking straight, and definitely hadn’t expected Gordon to react at all. Meaning that instead of simply jumping over his still gasping brother, Scott was sent crashing back down to the ground to join him in a winded heap.
Gordon didn’t let go. Instead, he reached out with his other hand, gripping onto Scott’s wrist. With a huge amount of effort, he pulled himself to his feet, stumbled forward and hit the ground again, right next to his brother. He grabbed hold of the other arm as well, leaning his weight across Scott’s chest in order to keep him pinned.
“Get off me.” Scott growled, shaking himself furiously as he tried to dislodge his brother.
“Or what?” It was a comeback he had used too many times when growing up, but as Scott blinked, Gordon knew how appropriate it was given the situation. Just how far was Scott prepared to go in order to go after the Hood?
Inwardly smirking, Gordon tightened his grip. Emotion was beginning to flood Scott’s voice, and a small spark had once again been relit in his eye. The bloodlust was fading; Gordon’s brother was beginning to return for good this time. Shifting his weight in order to keep the pilot pinned – for Gordon was taking no chances until he was sure Scott wasn’t going to run – the younger brother sighed.
“Come on, Scott, stop being such an ass.”
“Get off!” Scott yelled, but Gordon merely gritted his teeth, holding the older man down. “Please, Gords…I have to…”
That was what Gordon had been waiting for. Scott’s mind was beginning to snap back into reality, and Gordon knew he was beginning to process not only what he was doing, but what was happening. The aquanaut had a strong feeling he wasn’t the only one who had been in denial about what was going on.
“No you don’t, Scott. You have to calm down and get back to Virg. He needs you, big brother.”
“But he… Gords, he stopped breathing.”
“And since when did that ever stop Virgil needing you to tell him he is being an idiot? You really think something like dying is going to stop Virgil?”
“It’s okay, Scotty, it’s okay.”
“It’s not though, is it?” Scott’s voice had finally softened completely, and when he tugged against Gordon’s hold on his left wrist, his brother released his grip. Leaning forward, Scott let his hand rest against the back of Gordon’s neck as he gave it a reassuring squeeze. Gordon shook his head, tears swimming in his eyes again. “I’m sorry.”
“Me too.” Gordon knew that Scott wasn’t just apologising for all but attacking his brother, but the redhead didn’t want to talk any more. That confrontation had taken it out of him emotionally, and in all honesty, he wasn’t sure how much more of it he could take. John, on the other hand, seemed determined to push his brothers that little bit further.
“Guys, get back here!”
Gordon glanced at Scott, who nodded. Scrambling to his feet, he offered his brother a hand, which Scott accepted gratefully, gripping onto Gordon’s forearm for just a fraction of a second longer than he needed to, before both turned and sprinted back towards the clearing.
John was still on his knees next to Virgil. The younger man was motionless, but John had backed away.
“What are you doing?” Scott yelled, moving forward again, but pulled to a stop as Gordon grabbed hold of him. He wasn’t about to let his oldest brother take out any anger on John, that simply wasn’t fair. John was busy with his hands, crushing something between his palms, but he hesitated long enough to glance over his shoulder at his siblings.
“Saving his life,” he responded simply. Gordon walked slowly closer, dragging Scott along with him. It was as if the pilot had forgotten how to function on his own, his eyes locked on Virgil. He didn’t even notice as Gordon paused, bending down to pick up the discarded syringe. Something told him that they might still need it before this was over, and Gordon was never one for ignoring gut feelings.
The pair watched as John dipped his finger in the strange paste-like substance he had created before dragging it across Virgil’s lips. Gordon thought he had forgotten how to breathe as he stared at his brother. He wasn’t watching John any more though, his eyes instead locked on Virgil’s chest. Or more importantly, the small movements his chest was making.
“Breathing, yes.” John paused in what he was doing, glancing up at his conscious younger brother. Unlike Scott’s emotionless expression, John’s was the opposite, his expression betraying every thought that was going through his mind. “I got him back.”
Scott dropped to his knees next to John, squeezing the back of his brother’s neck in exactly the same way he had done for Gordon. For a moment, John’s breath hitched in his throat as he turned tear-filled eyes on his big brother. The second they looked at each other they seemed to almost freeze, before John suddenly collapsed onto Scott, nearly sending the older man reeling backwards.
For a moment, Gordon just stood there, shocked. Scott’s hand combed itself through John’s hair even as the man clung onto him, all his strength having been taken in literally pulling their brother back from death. His knuckles were white as he gripped onto Scott’s uniform, his breathing hitching erratically. All three brothers were looking at the same thing though, willing Virgil to take deeper breaths than he was.
“Come on,” Scott eventually muttered, standing and pulling John up. “Let’s get him home, he’s not safe yet.”
Nodding their agreement, Gordon and John bent down at the same time as Scott. Between the three of them, they managed to hoist Virgil in the air. Scott was right; it was time to go home.
And just hope that a miracle was awaiting them there.
The comms were open, everything the boys were saying was being broadcast straight back to Base. But Jeff listened to their argument over who was taking Virgil, who was fit to fly which craft and so on, in silence. He had heard everything from the moment he had first contacted John. Whether the elder of his two blonds wanted those on the island to be able to keep their eyes and ears on what was happening out there, or whether he had simply forgotten to cut the connection, Jeff wasn’t sure. Nor did he find he particularly cared – his mind seemed to have gone blank.
He had heard Scott and Gordon fighting, although the sound was distant, muted, as if they were a reasonable distance away from their brother. He had heard John battling to save Virgil, to bring him back from the edge of death. He would never tell his son that he had heard everything there. The way John had begged Virgil to come back, the way he had truly thought his brother was dead… Grandma had been escorted from the room at that point by a pale Brains, but Jeff had forced himself to carry on listening. He owed it to Virgil. He had been the one to send him out there. If these were indeed going to be his son’s final moments, then Jeff wanted to be there in the only way he could given the circumstances.
But fate, it seemed, had other ideas. These were not to be Virgil’s final moments, and even over John’s cry of sheer emotion, Jeff had heard the feeble breath being taken as if it was right next to his ear. Everything else zoned out as he listened to his son, his little boy, take another breath. After a moment, he was able to hear John begin to try and pull himself together, clearly setting to work on the plant.
He didn’t listen to the rest of the confrontation between the boys. They still didn’t know he could hear and Jeff wanted to offer them some sort of privacy. If he was honest, he found that he wasn’t able to listen. There was a strange ringing in his ears as his heart pounded furiously. Virgil was still alive… for now. John had already been forced to stop his brother from dying; how many more times would they be made to do that on the journey home? Would Virgil even survive the journey? Needing answers, he quickly called Kyrano back into the room.
The man looked almost as bad as Jeff was feeling, and he knew without asking that his loyal friend was feeling some sort of responsibility for what had happened. Why, Jeff had no idea, but he knew the man well enough to know what was going through his mind. That wasn’t what he needed to talk to him about though. He needed answers.
“That plant. The one you sent the boys to find?”
Kyrano seemed to know what Jeff was asking, even if the father hadn’t quite managed to put it into words. After all, the Tracy patriarch wasn’t the only one who knew the other members of the island exceptionally well. Kyrano had seen Jeff in the most stressful of situations ever since International Rescue had begun. The first time he had met the man properly, Gordon had been fighting for his life after his hydrofoil accident. He had watched the man send his sons out time and time again into a situation from which they might not have returned. Now that dreaded nightmare seemed to have become a reality and he had never seen a look of such helplessness on the man’s face. He looked haunted.
“It will ensure he makes it back. People believe it has healing properties…” Kyrano took one look at Jeff’s face and decided to change tack. His people used to claim the plant was magical, its healing powers beyond those of other plants, and yet no one quite seemed to know why. But Jeff Tracy had always been more of a scientific man, and telling him that his son was only still alive because of something mystical didn’t seem like a good idea.
“…it works well with the body,” he finished lamely. “It will stimulate circulation. If he has enough, it should become almost impossible for Virgil’s heart to stop in a normal situation. But I don’t know what this poison is, I don’t know if the plant will be strong enough to combat the effects. I just have to pray that it is enough.”
“You won’t be the only one,” Jeff muttered, swallowing hard. How could this be happening to them? Hadn’t their family suffered enough? Luckily, before his mind could continue any further down that route, he finally started paying attention to what the rest of his sons were saying. Their voices had been steadily getting louder and louder whilst their father had been talking to Kyrano, and Jeff thought it was perhaps time he stepped in.
“I’ll take him with me then!”
“And what if something happens? He should stay in Two; it means Gordon can keep an eye on him!”
“Me? There is no way in hell you are flying!”
“You got knocked out!”
“One is still quicker!”
“Wha-? Dad?” If it had been any other situation, the confusion in John’s voice as his father’s words suddenly spiralled out of his wrist would have been amusing, but Jeff knew it had the effect he desired as Scott and Gordon also fell silent. He knew them well enough to know what expressions they would be wearing as well.
“How’s Virgil?” Before he made any decision about who was flying who – Thunderbird One’s speed might be needed, but an extra pair of hands might also be desirable since Scott couldn’t fly and treat his brother at the same time – Jeff thought he might need to know the full extent of the situation. If anything, the silence got even heavier. Jeff could even hear Gordon suck in a shaky breath.
“Holding on,” John eventually said bluntly. The few words spoke volumes though. Jeff knew full well what wasn’t being said. There was no way Virgil was even vaguely safe yet. Judging from the argument, the boys knew that as well. John hadn’t just wanted Gordon there to keep an eye on Virgil, he had wanted him on standby in case the artist stopped breathing again. Jeff found he suddenly couldn’t seem to breathe properly himself, the room swaying slightly alarmingly.
He was not aware of Kyrano moving, calling his name gently as he took him by the arm, guiding him down onto the sofa and forcing his head between his knees. A hand rubbed over his back in the way he had done numerous times for the boys, a faraway voice coaxing him into taking deep breaths. Eventually, the spinning stopped and Jeff made to sit up. The warning hand on his shoulder made him do it slowly, but neither he nor Kyrano said a word. What was there to say? If a man could not show a moment of weakness at a time like this, then when could he?
“Dad?” John’s voice sounded slightly more hesitant than before, and Jeff was acutely aware that the silence had remained on the other end of the line. It came as no surprise that his sons seemed to be aware or, at least, had a vague idea of the type of scene that had unfolded on the island. But Jeff was not in the mood for their concern, he wanted all of their attention fixed on someone else.
“Scott, bring One home. Gordon, fly Two. John, stay with your brother.”
“Now!” The yell echoed through the watch, and Jeff could have sworn he heard it bounce around Two’s sickbay– for he was sure that was where the argument would be taking place – for a moment. Then, quietly, Scott answered for them all.
“Wait, Scott, you’re bleeding.”
“Dude, the maniac shot you! At least let me see it!” Gordon’s voice sent Jeff’s mind reeling again. John had told him about Virgil. He had failed to mention what else had happened, however. Judging from what he had picked up, John had been knocked out – and clearly been out of it for some time if Gordon’s concern was anything to go by – and now Scott had been shot as well? What else didn’t he know about?
“Scott, let your brother see.” Jeff’s voice left no room for arguments, and only after a few moments of feeble protests, a curse followed by an “Ow”, Gordon declared his brother fit to fly. The words sent a sheer rush of relief through Jeff. If Gordon had decided that Scott was well enough to fly, it meant the wound wasn’t too bad. He wouldn’t have trusted Scott to make that assessment himself, considering how desperate he was to get Virgil home. But although the father wanted nothing more than for Virgil to be safely back in the infirmary with Brains making up an antidote – for Jeff had no doubts that the genius would be able to come up with something that would save his son’s life – he certainly didn’t want Scott flying if he wasn’t up to it.
There seemed to be a flurry of activity on the other end of John’s watch, but Jeff had once again stopped paying attention. Now that they knew he was there, he was almost certain he would be transferred over to the main screens of both Thunderbirds, no doubt staying connected to John’s watch as well whilst he monitored Virgil.
“Scott?” Hit by a sudden wave of concern – mentally kicking himself for not having thought of it before – Jeff switched to a private channel with his first born. He didn’t want the younger ones to hear this, but Scott seemed to know what he was going to say.
“No sign of him. I’ve looked, Gordon’s looked. The local services are scouring the area for him, but they hadn’t pulled up anything by the time we left. They told John they wouldn’t stop though, but I’m not holding my breath. I mean, how many times has he pulled one over us? What chance do they have?”
“So he’s still out there, possibly plotting again?” Scott’s audible swallow gave Jeff the answer he needed, just didn’t want. “I’ll contact Penny immediately. She can pull all of our sources. We will find him and bring him to justice.” Signing off, Jeff cut the line. Scott had enough on his mind. Instead, he just made sure the links were open between all three manned Thunderbirds and the island, meaning the family was all connected.
He did what he said he was going to do regarding Penny, but instead of talking to her, he just sent her an emergency signal. She knew enough about what was going on to know what it would mean and interpret it correctly. At this moment in time, Jeff just couldn’t face having to say what had happened out loud.
The journey home had never been so silent. Not just in the craft, but on the island as well. Grandma had finally come back in, although judging by the look on Brains’ face, she really hadn’t given him much option. Jeff wasn’t surprised. The woman was fiery on the best of days, let alone in a situation like this. Brains wouldn’t have stood a chance; he wasn’t exactly one for voicing his opinions. But although there were four of them present – five once Alan had pulled himself together enough to reactivate his portrait –no one said a word. You would have been able to hear a pin drop.
But that wasn’t the sound they were all focused on. Alan had boosted the signal from John’s watch using Five’s technology, meaning the rest of the family could hear nearly every sound that was being made in the sick bay of Thunderbird Two. They were all focusing so strongly on the small breaths they could hear Virgil taking. When a sudden, shrill beep echoed through the link, Jeff jumped in surprise at the volume of the noise in comparison to everything else, only to then feel his heart shatter.
The sound of someone flat lining…
“Oh no you don’t, you jerk. You’re not dying on my watch!” The sheer determination in John’s voice cut through the mist that was once again descending on Jeff’s mind and the father shook his head furiously, forcing himself to concentrate. Kyrano had been forced to repeat his earlier actions with Jeff with Grandma, pushing the shaking woman into a seat. Her son had half a mind to tell her to leave again, but one look at her face made the words die in his mouth. Instead, he was forced to listen as John attempted to once again save his brother. Jeff couldn’t help but think of the irony of how hard his own heart was beating as he was listening. He would have done anything to transfer the frantic pounding of his own heart over to his son, done anything to stop that infernal noise…
No sooner had he thought that, the beep stopped. Instead, a steady rhythm was once again settling into its place and he heard John blow out a shaky breath.
“He’s still with us.” There was an obvious crack in John’s voice even as Jeff sagged in a vague form of relief. What on earth could he feel properly relieved about? Not until Virgil was once again awake would the father feel any form of true release. But he knew he had to at least put up an appearance of being strong: John needed him.
“Well done.” The words sounded so hollow, so flat. He used to say ‘well done’ to the boys when they got a good report card. How could he be uttering the same words when one son was fighting to keep another alive? Luckily, John seemed to understand what his father was really trying to say, but before he could respond, Scott radioed in. One son was back at the island.
Leaving Kyrano and his mother to keep communications open with Two and to inform him of anything, Jeff set off at a run down to the silos. He didn’t want to wait for Scott to make it upstairs, he had to see his eldest for himself. He simply grabbed Brains – not knowing how badly hurt Scott truly was – and ran. He reached One’s silo just as Scott stepped out of his Thunderbird. Jeff immediately skidded to a stop. His son’s hand was clutched over his arm, and even from the distance he was at, Jeff could see the way Scott’s fingers were smeared crimson. Yet the father did not have to ask to know that the wound was not the reason for the look of pain on Scott’s face. His eyes looked almost haunted.
“Scott.” Jeff’s quiet voice seemed to almost make Scott jump; he had clearly not been paying attention. As Jeff walked forward, he could see how exhausted the young man was. “Let me see.”
“It’s fine. Has Penny found anything yet? You’ve told her, haven’t you? They must have some sort of lead by now, surely?”
“It’s too soon, Scott. Yes she knows, and is on the case. But it’s only been ten minutes. Now, no arguments, let me see.” Jeff trusted Scott enough to know that despite the situation, the pilot would have seen to the wound as best as he could. That was not the reason why Jeff needed to do it himself. He had to do something that made him feel like he was helping the boys. Luckily, Scott seemed to be able to read the emotions in Jeff’s eyes and surrendered his grip on his arm. His father immediately sucked in a sharp breath, anger sparking to life in his eyes as he took in the deep gash in Scott’s arm.
“Is it still in there?”
“No. Never went in, just grazed past,” Scott responded, sounding as drained as he was looking. Jeff knew that there wouldn’t be any decent rest for him for a while though. He might be able to bully Gordon and Alan into getting some rest, even John if he was lucky. But there would be no way he would be able to persuade Scott to get any. It seemed the young man had been lucky the bullet hadn’t lodged itself in his arm – the damage could have been far greater. Although from everything he had picked up about the scenario, Jeff knew that was because the Hood was a good shot rather than any luck on Scott’s behalf. Their luck seemed to have run out the day of Gordon’s first accident with the crates. Jeff’s hand drifted up from Scott’s arm, letting his palm rest against his son’s cheek.
“Don’t, Dad. Just…don’t.”
Jeff nodded his understanding. What was there that could be said?
“Jeff, Gordon’s coming into land.” His mother’s voice cut through the silence that had fallen across the silos and, as one, father and son turned and began to walk towards where Two would arrive, Brains scurrying along behind them.
They were leaning on the railings overlooking Two’s docking bay. Jeff wasn’t sure whether the thin strips of metal were actually the only things that were keeping Scott upright, but he glanced over anxiously at his son’s words.
“He’s silent. You know what he is like when he is stressed, he voices it. I’ve never heard him so quiet.”
“He’ll be okay when they get back.”
“How can you…”
“Your grandmother will see to that.” Jeff cut through Scott’s heated protests with a firm voice. No, he could not truly say that Gordon would be okay. How could he say it? But he had to say something. He couldn’t exactly tell his son what was going through his mind.
There was a roar of engines that cut through any further thoughts. Jeff and Scott traded a long look before suddenly they were both moving again.
The infirmary was a flurry of activity. John had been forced down on one of the beds the second he had stepped through the door, Jeff taking the chance to look over his second-born himself. After a quick discussion with Brains, John had then been informed he wasn’t allowed to sleep for 24 hours, just in case of complications. But the withering look the father had been subjected to in return had caused him to smirk slightly. Sleep was the last thing on John’s mind.
Gordon and Scott had watched each other almost warily from either side of a bed, but there seemed to be some sort of understanding between them, mainly due to the man who was on the bed between them. Jeff hadn’t thought it would be possible for his emotions to drop even further than they already had, but he’d found he was wrong the second he had laid eyes on his middle child. He had seen Scott battle against an infection that was trying to claim his life. He had seen John break down mentally. Yet the closest thing that he could associate with how Virgil was looking now was the first time he had walked into the hospital room to see Gordon wired up to all of those machines.
If it wasn’t for the monitors Brains had set up the second Virgil had been whisked in, he wouldn’t even know his son was alive. He was so pale, so cold, that Jeff had forced himself to listen to the monitors, the reassuring beeps, to stop himself from losing it completely. But even they weren’t that reassuring. His heart rate was too slow, his breathing too shallow. It was only when Brains began analysing blood samples and announcing that if it wasn’t for the helping hand the plant had given him, Virgil wouldn’t have even made it this far, Jeff finally accepted what Kyrano had told him about the small weedy looking thing. Watching Virgil fight for his life, he had never been so grateful to the resident Malaysian as he was at that moment.
“Brains?” Jeff’s voice shook significantly as he finally turned away from John, forcing himself to cross over to Virgil’s bed. It was so hard though. It would have been so much easier to stay with his conscious son, make himself feel like he was actually doing something to help rather than being forced to simply watch as Virgil fought for his life. “What can you do?”
“W…without knowing the, uh, p…poison, n…not much,” Brains admitted regretfully, his own hand letting out a slight tremor as he finished attaching an IV line to Virgil. Gordon sighed, the slightest flicker of a smile crossing his face as his hand drifted to his pocket.
“Then maybe this will help?”
Scott sucked in an audible breath as his little brother pulled out the syringe, John swinging his legs down from his own bed at the same time.
“Gords…” Scott’s voice was barely more than a breath as he sat down suddenly, his eyes locked on the object in the aquanaut’s hand. Wordlessly, Gordon held out his hand to Brains, who almost seemed reluctant to blink, as if scared that if he should glance away for even a second, the needle would disappear. Eventually – with the whole room seeming to hold its breath – he took hold of the needle.
“I’ll get, uh, w…working s…straight away.” Brains was gone in the blink of an eye, moving with far more agility than the family were used to seeing unless he was in the middle of something. It was quite unnerving when they thought about how much he could change within a split second.
“I need to call Penny,” Jeff eventually muttered. The boys had never heard such reluctance in his voice and John stuck out his hand, grabbing hold of his father’s arm.
“It can wait, surely?”
“Not this call,” Jeff said heavily, his eyes locked on Virgil’s prone form. “I need her to put out an announcement that we are going offline.”
“No!” Scott’s shout made everyone jump, but his eyes were only locked on his father. “You can’t.”
“Scott, look at what has happened.”
“We’ve managed with a team member down before. Alan can come back from Five if necessary.”
Jeff frowned. Out of all of the boys, he’d expected Scott to back him up on this. After all, the pilot had spent a month avoiding Virgil, and Jeff knew there was only one thing on his mind that would have made him react like that. Whilst his son had never said anything as such, Jeff knew Scott well enough to know he had doubted the future of International Rescue. So why was he the one immediately trying to stop Jeff?
“I didn’t just mean short-term, Scott,” Jeff said softly, knowing by John’s sharp intake of breath that his blond knew what he meant, especially by the way his hand suddenly let go of his father’s arm.
“I can’t lose…”
“No, you can’t!” There was something about Scott’s tone that made everyone in the room listen. It wasn’t the strong, confident tone of the norm. It wasn’t even the angry tone Gordon had heard back at the rescue zone. For the first time, Scott sounded broken. His voice almost cracked, tears evident in his eyes as he slowly sat back down. The pilot hadn’t even noticed that he had jumped to his feet when Jeff had announced his intentions. Swallowing hard, his gazed lingered over all of the wires that Brains had connected to Virgil, things being used to help his little brother fight for survival. The same little brother who had used his last breath to beg Scott for a promise.
“He told me to never give up,” he whispered, his hand stroking Virgil’s hair back from his forehead as he spoke. He could feel the rest of the family moving in around him, but his eyes never left Virgil’s pale face.
“I understand this is difficult, Scotty…”
“No, you don’t!” There was no denying the crack in Scott’s voice now. He blinked, causing tears to spill over, a few running silently down his face. “He made me promise.”
“I promised, Dad! It was the last thing he said. He stopped breathing after that. But the last thing he said was that he wanted me to promise to never give up. And I did. I promised. Can’t you understand that? I promised! I’m not going back on that, no matter what!”
Jeff shut his eyes, tears of his own trickling through. He moved forward, wrapping one arm around Scott’s shoulders whilst the other rested atop the hand that was still resting on Virgil’s forehead.
“I can understand, son. Things will carry on as normal.” For a moment, father and son remained still. If thoughts alone had the power to bring someone back to consciousness, Virgil would have been bouncing around the room.
“He has to know. He has to know I kept that promise.” Scott sounded so desperate, so young and vulnerable in a way never heard from the usually cool Field-Commander. Jeff swallowed hard, but another voice cut through first.
“He does know.”
Scott wasn’t the only one sounding far from himself. Gordon’s voice had completely gone, John moving to wrap his arm around his brother. As Jeff glanced over, the redhead tried to smile, tried to form something of his usual expression. But his own eyes were swimming with tears, and as he locked eyes with his father, one rolled silently down his cheek.
No one moved. No one even thought of moving, although Jeff found his eyes kept going back to John. His second-born was staring at Virgil as if afraid that if he should so much as blink, his brother would vanish. Inwardly, Jeff sighed. His son had literally been made to bring his brother back to life twice now. Something told the father he was going to need a very long chat with John. Although knowing what John was like, it was possible that not even that would really help.
It was nearly five hours later before anything happened. Thankfully, Virgil had kept fighting the entire time, and although there had been a moment of panic when the monitors had flickered, the artist had managed to steady himself. Finally though, the door opened and Brains all but sprinted in, making the family jump. Jeff cleared his throat roughly, standing up straighter, although his grip on Scott didn’t lessen in the slightest.
“It’s only a temporary solution,” the genius muttered. It was a sign that he was the one back in control for he didn’t stutter in the slightest. “I haven’t had time to come up with anything substantial. But I’ve mixed a commonly known antidote for poisons with a liquid extraction from the plant at the rescue zone; it might give him a chance.”
“Might?” John’s voice may have been quiet, but it echoed suspiciously around the room. Brains refused to meet his gaze as he pushed a measurement of the solution into the IV before administrating another dose directly into Virgil’s arm.
“He has to fight it himself.”
Virgil himself answered John’s question. Almost immediately, there was a slight increase in the readings. They all knew what the beeps meant. His heart rate – whilst still far slower than it should be – had risen slightly. He was indeed fighting, something that was signified as he took in a slightly deeper breath than before. Brains nodded his approval.
“He won’t regain consciousness until I find a more exact antidote. But…”
“But Kyrano’s plant may have saved his life.”
“We have it growing in the kitchen garden,” Scott muttered, knowing there was something about the plant he had seen John frantically crushing that had stirred a memory. Brains nodded.
If Jeff thought Scott was leaning on before, it was nothing compared to what he was doing now. It was as if all the energy had been sapped from him, and the father found that he was literally holding his son up. Gordon cleared his throat self-consciously, dragging his sleeve across his eyes before giving John a nudge to make his brother back away a little.
“Well, much as I would like to stand around here all day….” His voice was still nothing more than a croak, betraying what he was really feeling. “I’m gonna call Al.”
John let out a slightly shaky laugh as Gordon strode from the room, wiping his own eyes as he moved forward. Perching on the edge of the bed, he took hold of Virgil’s unresponsive one.
“Told you you weren’t dying on my watch.”
Scott smiled slightly as he pushed himself upright a little more, resuming his previous action of stroking back his brother’s hair.
Jeff just watched them, a lump in his throat. Virgil was a fighter, he could pull through this. He had to pull through this. Jeff needed him to be okay. He needed his little boy to wake up.
Jeff sat by the edge of Virgil’s bed, all but ignoring the other sons crowding around. Having eventually succumbed to sleep, Gordon was curled up in the chair next to him covered with a blanket. It had certainly helped ease the mood slightly, watching his two eldest try and move their brother into a more comfortable position from where he had been sitting on the floor without waking – or dropping – the young man in the process. John was standing by the window – although he had thankfully stopped his earlier pacing as he now just gazed quietly at the heavens. Normally Jeff would have been demanding that his son went and got some sleep, but he knew Brains was still worried about the possibility of concussion. Scott was the other side of the bed, still holding onto Virgil’s hand but staring into space, his mind far away. His father could only hope that he was finding some sort of sanctuary away from the hell they had found themselves in.
Despite Brains’ temporary solution having been administered a further four times in an attempt to keep Virgil clinging on, Jeff knew they were beginning to run out of time. The boys had been back for almost thirteen hours, and whilst Virgil’s heart had kept beating this time, Jeff felt as if he was watching his son fade away in front of his eyes and there was nothing he could do to stop it from happening. Virgil’s temperature had rocketed after four hours, his breathing becoming more strained, even with all of the machines and drips Brains had set up.
Now, Jeff was just left looking at a son who looked nothing short of dead. The sight was a cruel twist of déjà-vu. Jeff had sat in a position like this before, watching a chestnut-haired Tracy slip away from him. Although Virgil looked and acted like Lucy perhaps more than his brothers, Jeff was inwardly begging his son to not follow his mother on this occasion. He had to keep fighting, he just had to.
But at the same time, the father knew those were the exact same words he had uttered last time. It had been bad enough when Gordon had his crash, having to listen to the doctors telling him that his son was probably never going to wake up, and if he did he would most likely be paralysed. But that had been something that was purely an accident. This was his fault. He had set up IR; he had sent them out there. If it hadn’t been for Scott’s earlier breakdown International Rescue would already be offline, never to fly again.
“This shouldn’t be happening,” a quiet voice muttered. It was the first thing John had said for at least five hours. Not that any of them had been particularly talkative, and if anyone was going to be the silent one, it would be the star-loving Tracy. But his voice sounded so hoarse, so emotional, that Jeff eventually looked up, even if it did take an age for him to drag his eyes away from Virgil’s pale face.
“I know, son.” What else could he say? That he was sorry he sent them out there? That he wished none of this had happened? He knew his boys didn’t blame him – hell, they were probably too busy blaming themselves – but that just made it harder. He wanted them to yell at him, curse him for making their brother go out there. He brushed Virgil’s hair back sadly, wincing at the heat he could feel radiating out. Scott seemed to see his wince and immediately replaced the cool cloth that had originally been over his brother’s forehead.
“No, he shouldn’t have done it!” There was emotion back in John’s voice now, raw feelings being expressed in those few words that tore at Jeff’s heart.
“What do you mean?” Jeff’s voice cut quietly through Scott’s attempt at reassuring his little brother, anxiety and fear clutching at him once more. The Hood shouldn’t have done it… or Virgil shouldn’t have done it? There was something about the note in John’s voice that made Jeff think that there was possibly something that they were holding back from him, something that was clearly upsetting John.
“Nothing,” Scott responded quickly, but his tone didn’t fool Jeff. It was too quick, especially coupled with the look that he was shooting John. Scott didn’t want him knowing. John, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have the same qualms.
“The Hood didn’t inject him.”
Jeff felt as if the bottom of his stomach had fallen out, a cold sensation gripping his insides as one of his hands turned white where it was gripping the arm of the chair.
“No, Scott. He shouldn’t have done it.”
Despite Scott’s clear attempts to control the conversation John was not going to let it happen and he turned to face his father full on. It was only then Jeff realised just how bad John looked. He was paler than usual, blood still matted in his hair. Big circles shadowed his eyes and he looked nothing short of haunted.
But then the father’s gaze switched to Scott and he was met with the same picture, only the blood was seeping through the bandage around his arm rather than his head. It just showed how bad things were by the fact they looked healthy compared to their brother. Taking Virgil’s still hand – he refused to describe it as cold, it was too much of a harsh reminder of the fact his son was dying – Jeff swallowed hard. His temperature was all over the place, making it even harder to combat.
“The bastard gave him an ultimatum. Do it himself or he started shooting.” John’s eyes slipped onto Gordon’s sleeping form, and tears swam within, veiling the normally vibrant blue orbs. “Starting with the youngest present. S…so Virg did it.”
This time, the cold sensation gripped around his very heart, squeezing ruthlessly as it felt like he had been winded. Shutting his eyes, Jeff bit his lip, but this time was unable to stop the tears. They seeped out from behind the closed lids, flooding silently down his cheeks. He tried to say something, knowing that it was up to him to be the one to reassure John and Scott, especially as it was clear John was struggling. But he couldn’t get the words out, feeling as if someone was closing their fist around his throat.
Finally he managed to open his eyes again, just increasing the flow of tears as his vision weaved, Virgil’s pale face swimming in front of him, blurred and distorted. Blinking, he found that image was burnt into the back of his eyelids, leaving him with no escape from the vision of his dying son. Little did he know just how long that image would haunt him.
“Dad?” Scott’s voice was gentle and strangely calming, but Jeff shook his head, folding his other hand over the one already clasping Virgil’s, pressing it against his cheek in order to try and bring his son back to him. The situation was simply getting worse. Once again, a Tracy had sacrificed themselves for another. He shakily let out a breath, but it caught painfully in his throat and ended up as more of a harsh sob.
Scott caught John’s eye, who nodded despite the tears running down his own face. He knew what his brother wanted from him. If it had been any other time during this hellish ordeal, he would have refused point blank to even contemplate what Scott was asking of him. But he knew this time he had to put aside his own feelings and step away for a moment.
“I’m going to help Brains,” he muttered, forcing himself out of the room. Jeff vaguely registered him going, but didn’t realise John’s reasoning. He just assumed that he was struggling still being in the same room as his unconscious brother. Especially after having to pull him back from death more than once. What did surprise him, however, was when Scott stood up, although the reluctance was burning brightly in his eyes.
“It’s been another hour. I’ll contact Al.”
The youngest member of the family had demanded that someone made contact at least every hour if there was no change, but immediately if something happened. As soon as someone had had enough rest, Thunderbird Three would be launched. But no one was in a fit state to fly yet, and Alan seemed to understand that, even if he had looked more stressed than Jeff had ever seen his youngest son look before.
Within moments, Jeff was left on his own with an unconscious Virgil and a sleeping Gordon. The boys knew him better than he gave them credit for. They knew that he wouldn’t want them seeing this. The father needed a moment – if not a lifetime – to try and get his head around what was occurring within his family. It was not something he wanted them witnessing. He had failed Virgil; he could at least attempt to protect the artist’s brothers from seeing their father crumble.
How could Virgil have done it? Thrown away his life like that? But deep down, Jeff knew. Any of them would have done it, their bonds had always been strong enough for them to be prepared to die for each other. As another wave of tears flooded over, silent and unchecked, Jeff angrily tried to brush them away. He wasn’t the type of man to cry, it wasn’t in his nature to believe that a problem had defeated him. But how was he supposed to control himself now? Virgil was potentially dying, something that was becoming more and more likely as the hours passed and Brains struggled to identify the properties of the poison.
There was a strange series of emotions running through him now. How was he supposed to feel? It was either watch the life slowly drain away from his son, relying on a dear friend to once again pull a miracle out of the bag, or to know that if it wasn’t this scenario, it would be another just as horrifying. Somehow Jeff knew that he either had to be sitting here watching Virgil slip away from him as the hours passed, or know that someone else would not have made it back to the island. Was he supposed to focus on the overwhelming and raw agony that he was losing one of his boys, or feel relieved that Virgil had made it back to fight?
After a moment, Jeff slowly withdrew his hands from Virgil, resting his elbows on the edge of the bed and then dropping his head into his hands, his shoulders all but shaking as an inner turmoil raged under the surface. He was glad the boys had left; this was what he hadn’t wanted them to bear witness to. He was supposed to be strong for them, but what could he possibly hope to offer when their own brother had just thrown away his life to keep them safe? That was the role of the father; he was the one who was supposed to protect them, to shield them from the world. John was right, this never should have happened. Virgil should have never been put in this situation.
“Come on, sleeping beauty or I’ll get the buckets of water again.”
A low and uncharacteristically quiet voice made Jeff’s head jerk up. Swallowing hard, he saw Gordon sitting in Scott’s previous seat, clearly having been disturbed by his father’s cries. But he was pointedly ignoring Jeff, instead watching his brother.
“Gordon?” Jeff winced at how hoarse his voice sounded. Raw emotion could be heard spiralling out even as he tried to pull himself together, tried to be the strong one once again now that Gordon needed him. Or so he thought. Instead, Gordon just looked up at him steadily.
“What on earth do you have to be sorry for?” Jeff asked quietly, lowering his arms from the bed once again. He dragged his hand across his face, scrubbing away the evidence of his tears whilst using his other hand to check Virgil’s temperature again, silently willing the stubborn young man to open his eyes.
“He got me first. Used me against John, then used that to lure Scott in. If I had fought harder… done something more… then this…”
“Stop,” Jeff interrupted firmly, his voice gaining in strength slightly. He leant across Virgil, squeezing Gordon’s arm reassuringly. “Don’t you dare try and blame any of what has happened on yourself, you hear me? Virgil…” He paused in order to take a deep breath. “Virgil knew what he was doing when he injected himself. He knew there was a chance. You know that if any of the positions had been reversed, whoever the Hood gave the choice to would have made the same one.”
“I know. But… seeing him like this, so s-still, Brains still hasn’t found anything, has he?”
“He’s working on it,” Jeff responded firmly. Whilst he himself was thinking the same as Gordon, he wasn’t about to let his usually carefree son give up. They would need him if they were going to get through this. “And when has Brains ever let us down?”
“Then believe your own words,” Gordon practically snapped in return, shifting in the chair so that whilst he was still watching Virgil, he was sideways onto his father, effectively avoiding eye contact. Jeff gaped at him for a moment, then realised that Gordon knew he was just saying these things without believing them himself. He should have known, his sons always seemed to be able to pick up when he was lying about something like that.
Gordon’s response said it all. What on earth could either of them say when Virgil was fighting for his life in between them? But it was so much more than that. Jeff knew that Gordon would be thinking the same as him, and no doubt so would Scott, John and probably even Alan. Knowing what his boys were like, they would all be thinking it: Virgil was fighting for his life because of them. If any of them had acted differently, they wouldn’t be in this position, they would be safe. Whether or not it was true was a different matter entirely, but Jeff was still sure that was what was going through everyone’s heads. For a family full of strong and unique characters, they could all be scarily similar.
“Hey, Virg. You have to wake up, man. Scott wants to put Johnny through a physical. And we all know how much you love them…” What started off as a clear attempt to distract himself and get through to his brother was lost as Gordon’s voice cracked. He swallowed hard, but before he could even attempt to control himself, Jeff had left his seat and moved around the bed. His arms draped over Gordon’s shoulders as he perched on the edge of the chair, pulling his son close.
“It’s okay, Gordy. We’ll find a way through this.”
“I don’t know, son,” Jeff replied honestly. He knew there was no point telling any more reassuring lies now. Virgil had sacrificed himself for his brothers, especially Gordon, if John’s account of what happened was correct and Gordon was to have been the first to be killed. What was Jeff meant to say that would make that pain go away when he was feeling it himself?
For a moment, Jeff just held Gordon close to him, barely hearing as Scott slipped softly through the door. He had clearly finished his conversation with Alan – it was the first time Scott had spoken to his younger brother, Jeff and Gordon taking the earlier calls – and he didn’t want to be away from Virgil any longer. He squeezed his father’s shoulder, ruffled Gordon’s hair and moved around the bed, taking Jeff’s earlier seat. Sighing, he again dipped the cloth in the cool bowl of water resting on the side for this very purpose, wrung it out and laid it once more across Virgil’s burning brow, distractedly brushing back a few strands of hair as he did so.
Eventually, he looked up and caught sight of his father and younger brother watching him intently and managed to offer them a small smile.
“He hates his hair being in his face,” he said with a shrug, before once again turning his attention back to his brother. The rest of the room’s occupants followed suit and silence once again fell over the infirmary as they waited.
Waited for Brains to come up with some sort of miracle cure.
Waited for Virgil to wake up.
But that was all they could do, wait.
The hours continued to trickle by, eventually turning into days, and still all they could do was wait. Jeff had enough medical knowledge to know when to give John the all-clear to get some sleep, and had all but banished his second and fourth-born for some much needed rest. He had tried the same with Scott, but had just been met with steely blue eyes that reminded him so much of himself that he gave up almost before he opened his mouth.
Two days had passed. They had spent the majority of them trying to keep Virgil under control as he thrashed against the poison, fighting for all he was worth but not managing to drag himself back to consciousness. Jeff knew that the clear pain their brother was suffering was adding to the haunted looks the remainder of his sons were wearing. Even Alan was steadily getting paler and paler as they called through with no change. The young man had done well, knowing that no one was yet in a fit state to fly – lack of sleep had seen to that. But although desperation at the situation was burning brightly in his eyes every time he made contact, he didn’t ask to come home. He seemed to realise that it would just make his father feel even worse than Jeff thought was possible.
Although he had managed to banish John and Gordon for a few hours each day, Jeff himself hadn’t left. Kyrano ended up bringing meals in, both he and Grandma having given up trying to persuade the stubborn men to leave to get something to eat. But more often than not, he took away the same amount as he brought in. Every time he did so, Jeff and Scott would be staring in opposite directions, the identical set of their jaws meaning they had once again argued over the other not eating, and yet had refused to do so themselves. The Malaysian knew them better than that though. He knew neither of them would eat until there was more news on Virgil, no matter how much Jeff might try and force his son, or how much said son would turn his father’s arguments back around on him.
They were both still in there now, but they weren’t alone. Gordon had returned, once again curled up in the chair, his eyes fixed on Virgil. It was a sign of just how wrong things were, for the aquanaut hadn’t so much as dipped a toe in the pool since they had got home. More than anything, that was worrying Jeff. They all needed a way to vent out their frustrations and helplessness at the situation, but for the life of him he couldn’t persuade them to take a break. John was down in the lab with Brains again, the only one of them who could at least feel like he was doing something useful.
If the Tracys hadn’t had any rest, it was nothing compared to the resident genius. Brains hadn’t set foot outside of his lab since he had first administered the temporary treatment for Virgil, relying on John to get/deliver anything that was required. For once, the second eldest Tracy didn’t complain about basically being a dogsbody, not when his brother’s life was on the line.
Gordon had attempted to talk to the man, to find out if there was anything the rest of them could do to help. But the redhead had been snapped at so harshly and in such an uncharacteristic manner by the usually stuttering man that he had fled. John had appeared not long after that, saying that Brains was just feeling the strain of basically being the one they were relying on to save Virgil. Gordon had shrugged it off, said it was nothing. But his oldest brother and father didn’t overlook the fact that he hadn’t tried to go down again.
Silence had fallen across the infirmary. No one was quite sure what there was to be said when one of their own was clearly fighting for his life as every second passed. False words of comfort fell on deaf ears, no one believing what they were trying to say. Jeff felt like he should be doing something, at least saying something, to help the boys deal with what was happening. But every time he opened his mouth, one of them would just look at him with such pain in their eyes that he shut it again. What on earth could he hope to say that would make things better?
As it happened, it wasn’t Jeff who was needed to break the silence in the end, despite how long it had stretched uncomfortably on for, Virgil’s mutterings being the only thing that could be heard. John’s voice came floating through his father’s watch, clearly knowing the others would be close enough to him to be able to hear as well. Gordon slowly uncurled himself as he listened hard, the faintest outline of a smile beginning to make its way onto his face as he listened to his big brother. Brains had possibly found something! Then why weren’t they already up here..?
Even as the thought made its way from his head to his mouth, Scott looked up.
“They are already coming,” he said simply, knowing what was going through Gordon’s mind. If he was honest, it was the same thing that was going through his own, but he could tell by the way that John was speaking that the man was on the move. There was only one place the astronaut would be heading, and Scott knew that he wouldn’t be coming alone.
The pilot was right. Barely a minute later a flushed John entered, Brains directly behind him. The genius barely even acknowledged the family, instead immediately moving around the room, taking note of the various readings coming from the monitors that were keeping an eye on Virgil. Gordon looked like he wanted to say something, but one look at the anticipation on his father’s and older brothers’ faces and he once again found himself swallowing his words. He didn’t realise that he had visibly showed how concerned he was about the situation, but John had still picked up on something. He moved across the infirmary, perching on the arm of Gordon’s chair and draping his arm across his little brother’s shoulders. Coming from John, that was a big thing.
But Gordon had never been so grateful for it when Brains finally stopped reading monitors and approached the bed, a needle being pulled out of his pocket along with a small phial. Gordon didn’t realise that he was holding his breath until he felt John’s hand rub in small circles between his shoulder blades, encouraging the younger man to breathe, but not saying anything. He too watched Brains closely. Scott’s knuckles had gone white from where he was scrunching his hands up so much, and Jeff seemed to have gone a slightly grey colour.
It wasn’t just Gordon holding his breath as Brains slowly pushed the liquid into the IV line already leading into Virgil’s arm. The tinge of colour was watched by several eyes as it dissolved into the drip, all of them watching the solution trickle into Virgil. For a long moment, absolutely nothing happened, the drug clearly needing time to enter Virgil’s system before it could do anything.
Nearly ten minutes had passed before there was a visible reaction. Virgil cried out again, before stilling. The monitor focusing on his heartbeat gave a shrill beep before settling again. John slowly got to his feet, frowning as he stepped closer to have a look.
“His heart rate has slowed. It’s steady… but it’s slowed.” The uncertainty in his voice made Jeff and Scott trade fearful looks.
“What does that mean?” Part of Gordon knew; they had all received the same training. Not only for IR, but he had had some experience of it during his time at WASP as well, not to mention months spent in a hospital himself. But if someone didn’t say it, his mind wasn’t letting him accept that it was real.
“Brains?” It wasn’t that John didn’t know the answer to Gordon’s question, but like his little brother, he didn’t want to be the one to say it out loud. The genius just shook his head however, resuming what he was doing before and checking all of the monitors, muttering to himself the whole time. Scott was mirroring Jeff’s colouring now, staring at Virgil with a frightening intensity.
“Brains, what’s happening?” It was Jeff’s sharp tone that finally made the man turn around, his face almost as pale as Virgil’s. Jeff was leaning forward, his hands once again clasped around Virgil’s, holding onto his son as if it was the only thing that was stopping the man from slipping away completely. Scott had to admit, he knew how his father was feeling, he too wanted to do anything he could to make his brother hang on.
“He’s n…not responded t…to it.”
“But he’s…” Gordon gestured feebly towards his brother, not knowing what to say. Whilst every noise of distress Virgil had made before had felt like a knife twisting in his gut, Gordon wasn’t sure whether he actually preferred it to the silence that was now occurring.
“H…his body has reacted to a…another, uh, substance being i…injected, but he w…was supposed to, uh, w…wake up.”
“No,” Gordon said flatly, slipping out of his chair and walking over to the bed. “This isn’t happening! Virgil! Virgil, wake up!” Grabbing his brother by the shoulders, Gordon made to physically shake the man but John got there first. Wrapping his arms around his younger brother, he pulled Gordon away, pinning his arms to his sides.
“Come on, Gords…”
“No! Why isn’t he waking up? Brains said he would!” Gordon was yelling now, struggling against John’s grip. In a way, Jeff was not surprised. They had all been waiting for Brains to once again pull a miracle out of the bag, none of them doubting that he would be able to. It wasn’t fair to have put that much pressure on the man – there were some things that just couldn’t be fixed, no matter what got thrown at them.
“Virgil! Wake up!”
Jeff caught John’s eye, knowing that the elder of his blonds was finding it difficult to deal with Gordon.
“Get him out of here,” the father muttered quietly, receiving a nod for his troubles. Even as John hauled Gordon over to the door – the latter struggling against the former the whole time – the door opened and Grandma appeared. Her quick eyes assessed the situation, but it was as if time had stopped when she met her son’s gaze. She could read in his eyes what was happening.
Without a word, she grasped Gordon by the upper arm, pulling him out of John’s slackening grip and out of the infirmary, the door shutting behind her again. For a moment they could hear him shouting before it went quiet, and Jeff knew that his mother would be dealing with his son. But that didn’t help the problem lying in front of him.
“What does it mean, Brains? What’s happening to him?”
“V…Virgil has fallen into a d…deeper state of unconsciousness.”
“So what do we do?”
“I don’t know.” Brains’ voice was quiet and without his usual stutter as he stared at the still form of his friend. They were relying on him to make everything well again and he had failed them.
“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Scott practically snarled, frustration, worry and concern lashing out.
“Scott.” Jeff’s one word warning was enough to make his eldest back down again, but the father dragged a hand over his eyes. “There has to be something…”
“I’ll be in my lab.”
All three conscious Tracys blinked at Brains’ tone. The man strode from the infirmary without so much as a backwards glance and Jeff knew without having to be told that he would be going straight back to work. Brains wouldn’t rest until he had found something, some clue as to why his presumed antidote hadn’t had the desired effect. Over by the door, John sighed.
“I’ll go and…”
“Leave him.” Jeff’s tone was quiet and soft, an attempt at reassurance. “He won’t want you there, John, and you know it.”
John looked like he was going to argue for a moment, before shutting his mouth and nodding, moving back over and sinking into Gordon’s previous seat. There was a heaviness in the air that none of them wanted to acknowledge. It had been bad enough beforehand, simply wondering whether Brains was going to find something. But now he had – and it hadn’t worked. Now what happened?
“Just hang on, Virg,” Scott eventually muttered, leaning forward and taking his brother’s still hand in his. “We’ll find something. Just hang on.”
Both his father and brother made no mention of the tears in his eyes.
Another day had passed. Brains hadn’t reappeared from his lab and even John had not yet mastered the courage to go down to their friend. He knew they should try and say something to him, to reassure him that he wasn’t to blame for the fact the antidote hadn’t worked, but he found himself too reluctant to leave Virgil. None of them had moved since he had fallen into a deeper state of unconsciousness. Gordon had returned an hour later, red-eyed but quiet as he curled up on another bed, watching Virgil.
Grandma knew how they felt, she really did. She too found herself watching over her motionless grandson for hours on end, willing the young man to open his eyes, to give them some sign that he was alive in there other than the beeping of the machinery surrounding him. She was managing to distract herself by making sure the rest of her boys ate and got some sleep. The latter was a losing battle, especially against Jeff and Scott. They simply refused to get any rest. She was just glad Scott was beginning to pick at food again; at least it was a step in the right direction. Jeff was just surviving on coffee and the odd bite when his mother forced it into him. She had already had a hushed but heated debate with Kyrano about whether they should stop the caffeine fix, but the pair of them seemed to realise that would mean Jeff would just completely crash. Despite being worried about him, Grandma couldn’t put her son through that, not until they knew for sure Virgil was going to be okay.
But now, however, things were different. It had been three days, and Grandma had had enough. If they weren’t careful, more of the beds were going to be occupied. Grandma was not going to stand for it any longer. Her boys weren’t the only ones terribly worried about Virgil; it was about time they realised that there were others who would watch over him whilst they went and got a little respite. She had told Kyrano to be in the infirmary in half an hour – hopefully a well planned entrance would back up her words – and so the old woman found herself outside the room. It was only now she noticed she still had her rolling pin in her hand, but she wasn’t going to put it down now. Steeling herself, she let herself in.
She could have predicted the sight that greeted her. Gordon was rocking back on one chair, his feet balancing on the opposite bed as he stared at the ceiling with unseeing eyes. It had taken her a while to get through to her fourth grandson the day before, but he had finally calmed down and she was sure he would be the one to now hold his emotions in check. He had been provided with the release the rest of the family still desperately needed.
Jeff was once again in the seat next to Virgil’s bed. Grandma was convinced her grandson was going to have holes burnt into him thanks to the weight of the stares from his father and oldest brother, for Scott was mirroring his father’s position from the other side of the bed. Grandma cleared her throat meaningfully.
“Everything okay, Mom?” Jeff asked wearily, tearing his eyes away from his son for long enough to glance at his mother. Despite what she thought, he wasn’t just sitting here. The last time he had left, Virgil’s heart rate had dropped worryingly low again before they had pulled him back again. He wanted to be here at all times, especially since the events of the day before. He had been denied the chance to be with his son when Virgil had first slipped away at the rescue zone, he wasn’t going to do it again.
“No, Jefferson, it is not. Gordon, feet down, now.” In Grandma’s mind, it was just a sign of how wrong things were that her fourth grandson did as he was told without arguing, instead turning to face her with a quizzical expression on his face. She was using the tone of voice that normally meant there would be no refusing her.
“What are you doing, Grandma?” Scott sounded as drained as his father. In Grandma’s mind, no one should sound like that at his age, and it just made her more determined to do something about it.
“Right here.” The astronaut had seen her enter the infirmary on his way up from Brains’ lab. As with every other time he had gone down, he had got as far as the door, thought of Virgil’s still face and all but bolted back up to the infirmary.
“Good. Now you are all here, you can all get out.”
There was a moment of silence whilst her words sank in, before Gordon gave a slight snort of amusement. Grandma raised her eyebrows at him. “I’m not joking, young man. You’ve all been in here far too long. You need food, sleep and fresh air.”
“You’re right. Boys, you need a break. Go.” No one moved, and Scott and John even went as far as trading amused looks. Finally, their father picked up on the atmosphere of the room and glanced up again, only to find himself looking up at his mother.
“I didn’t just mean them,” she said quietly, but her son shook his head adamantly.
“Well, I’m definitely staying for this,” Gordon declared; the slightest sparkle in his eye. If that was all it took to get him looking more like himself, Grandma could have kicked herself for not doing this almost the second everyone got back to the island.
“Quiet, Gordon. Jeff, you need rest, you are going to make yourself ill if you don’t.”
“I’m not leaving him.”
Her son’s voice was soft and desperate. Normally, it was the type of voice that would have her backing down. But Ruth Tracy had sworn to herself that she was getting the boys out of this room, and that was what she planned to do.
“The rest of you, out.”
“Now!” For the first time since she had got there, Grandma was glad she had the rolling pin in her hand as she whacked it against the chair, causing a loud bang to echo around the room and for Gordon to almost fall off his chair in surprise, saved only by John’s quick reactions. Looking at their startled faces, her expression softened. “Boys, your brother is not going to die just because you aren’t in the room. I’m not saying to leave him alone: I’m staying and Kyrano wants to come up for a little while as well. I’m just saying go for a swim, a run, eat, sleep, anything. You have to do something to relieve the tension, or you are all going to…”
“Explode?” Gordon supplied, and for once, Grandma smiled at his interruption. She could tell from what he had said and the way he had said it that Gordon was beginning to come around to the idea. However, she knew the redhead well enough to know that no matter what he thought of the idea, he wouldn’t be leaving until his brothers did.
“Yes, Gordon, explode. Scott, you haven’t left apart from to go to the bathroom. You need fresh air. John, you’ve been running yourself ragged going between here and Brains, you need a break. And Gordon, you haven’t been in the pool for three days, you need to stretch out your back.”
“Your grandmother is right, Scott.” Despite expecting their father to join her in forcing his sons out, it was not Jeff who had spoken, instead a quiet voice coming from the doorway as Kyrano appeared there. Scott glared, knowing full well why his grandmother had asked the man to turn up when he had. She clearly had been expecting a fight, and after what had happened before, knew that Scott at least appreciated that Kyrano could literally throw them all out. He didn’t want to back down, but looking around, saw that she had a point. John and Gordon looked terrible. Echoing her earlier thoughts, he knew they wouldn’t leave unless he did.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” he muttered softly, running his hand through Virgil’s hair and regretfully standing up. His brothers looked surprised, but, almost silently, the three of them scuffed from the room. Grandma watched them go, a twinkle in her eye.
“Stay by the door please, Kyrano.”
“Why? They’ve gone,” Jeff mumbled, letting his head rest in his hands. His mother smiled down at him.
“You really think that Scott would leave that easily? No, he’s making sure the others go, and then he will try and get back in. Right, Jefferson, it’s your turn now.”
“You don’t have a choice.” Grandma softened when she caught sight of the haunted look in her son’s eye. A look she had only seen once before. Perching on the edge of a chair she took his hands in hers, holding on tightly whilst letting her rolling pin rest on the edge on Virgil’s bed. “Jeff, Virgil needs you. He is going to wake up, you’ll see. And he doesn’t need a father on the brink of falling apart when he does so. Just a few hours, please. Get some sleep. Then you can be back in here as if you had never left. Your other boys need you as well. You all need a break, Alan needs to come home. But the more you all decide to be stubborn, the longer your little boy is stuck up there alone.”
She could tell by the way his shoulders suddenly stiffened that she had made a point he hadn’t thought of. Grandma knew that simply telling Jeff to go was never going to work, and if she was honest, she herself had no desire to be leaving the room any time soon now that she was back in here. But if using his other sons against him was what it took, then that was the card she would play. A muffled thud and a curse caused the corner of her mouth to turn up. Scott was trying to get back in, but Kyrano simply overrode the door from inside. Grandma knew that now she had to push the matter with his father.
“Jeff, please. For the sake of your boys, if not yourself. For Virgil’s sake, get some rest.” She knew the second he accepted her argument, for he seemed to almost to shrink into himself, just another sign of how long he had been sitting in that chair. Grandma let go of his hands, stood up and drew her son to his feet. For a moment, she just held onto him, but eventually drew back, giving him a small nudge in the direction of the door. Scott had stopped his attempts to get back in and his grandmother could only hope he was finding some relief in something.
Kyrano stepped aside as Jeff stumbled in that direction, but the father didn’t leave the room. Instead, he walked back over, pressing a kiss to Virgil’s brow. “I’ll be back, son,” he whispered softly, before finally turning for the door again.
“A few hours only. And you swear…”
“If anything happens, I’ll come and get you. Oh, and Jeff, dear?” Walking over, Grandma placed her rolling pin in his hand. “Put this in the kitchen for me?” For the first time in three days, she managed to get a ghost of a smile from him as he nodded, finally leaving.
As soon as he was gone, Grandma dropped into his chair, resuming his previous position as she stared at her grandson. Gently, she leant forward and stroked his hair back from his forehead, frowning at the fever he still seemed to have. It was almost as if Brains’ supposed cure had done absolutely nothing other than stop his restless mutterings. That in itself was a blessing, for there was something that just caught on her heart at hearing him in so much distress.
“I’ll make you some tea,” Kyrano said softly, excusing himself from the room as he spoke. He clearly believed that neither Scott nor Jeff would try to get back in and wanted to give the old woman some space. He knew her previous attitude had just been a front to get her boys to move. Inside, she was hurting as much as the rest of them.
Grandma barely noticed him leaving. She sighed deeply, wondering how on earth they had got into this mess. For a moment, she just gazed at Virgil’s still face, praying that her grandson was going to open his eyes.
“Now listen here, young man,” she said softly, all her previous strength seeming to vanish now she was properly allowing herself to think about the situation. She should have realised that sitting in here on her own was not a good idea. Up until now, she had managed to avoid contemplating quite what could happen by battling against the rest of the household, making sure they were eating and sleeping properly. But now she had almost won in that respect, she didn’t know how to react.
“You are to wake up and stop this silliness, you hear me? That’s quite enough worrying you’ve put the family through…”
When Kyrano returned with a cup of tea ten minutes later, Grandma had managed to compose herself slightly. The two friends sat in silence, both thinking about the still figure that lay between them. Surely there had to be something they could do other than just wait and see if Brains came up with anything new?
Neither of them saw a finger twitch slightly.
Scott had immediately taken to the beach when he realised that he wasn’t going to be allowed back into the infirmary. Feet pounded out a punishing rhythm; slightly laboured breathing accompanied the thuds of footfalls. Scott barely even noticed the sand flicking up behind him as he ran.
He pushed his legs faster, relishing the feeling of the slight burn in his muscles. It didn’t feel like it had been three days since he had last left the infirmary, time seemed to simply blend into a mass as they waited to see if Virgil was coming back to them or not. His grandmother had been wrong in the sense of not believing that Scott hadn’t tried to get some rest. He had managed to snatch a few hours now and again when his body simply gave up, but some monitor always beeped, or he thought he felt Virgil shift, and his eyes would wrench open, terrified that something had happened to his brother whilst he was asleep.
The sheer frustration at not being able to do anything pushed Scott to a speed he knew was border-line dangerous, but he couldn’t find it within himself to actually care. He had truly thought they were going to get somewhere the day before when John had announced something had been found and the whole family had watched Brains attempt to save his brother. But then nothing had happened, Brains believing Virgil wasn’t reacting to whatever it was the genius had concocted.
Yelling out in frustration – although the effect was somewhat lost by the fact his breaths were coming in short gasps thanks to his pounding feet – Scott eventually became aware of another noise. He slowed his pace down slightly, lightening his footfalls in order to be able to hear better, but didn’t stop completely. He had a feeling he knew what was there. Or rather, who was there. Hearing the steps gain on him slightly, Scott suddenly sprang away. His feet barely touched the ground as he sprinted off.
Sure enough, there was a slight curse as the figure tried to gain on him. Leaning against the edge of a large boulder, Scott quickly brought his own breathing back under control, stretching out his legs whilst he waited for a certain younger brother to catch up on him. It took a few moments, but John eventually came flying around the corner.
Scott cleared his throat meaningfully, causing the blond to almost fall over as he skidded to a stop, leaving a deep furrow in the sand. He glared at the pilot, pushing his hair out of his face and coming over to stand next to the eldest brother, panting heavily. He made as if to lean on the rock, but Scott caught him by the shoulder, keeping him upright.
“Not until you’ve caught your breath,” he told John firmly, watching him for a moment before rolling his eyes. “What the hell are you doing out here, John? You’ve barely had any sleep, you shouldn’t be running.”
“Then neither should you,” John panted, clutching at a stitch in his side. He had forgotten how fast Scott could be, even when he was lacking in sleep. That was what happened when something was playing on his big brother’s mind – he ran. “I thought I’d keep you company.”
“Why didn’t you just ask?” Scott crossed his arms over his chest as he leant against the boulder, staring at his brother in bewilderment.
“Would you have said yes?”
“Fair point.” There was a reason, after all, that Scott had immediately taken to the beach when he realised that there was no way he was getting back into the infirmary. If there was one thing he had learnt throughout this whole ordeal, it was not to underestimate Kyrano. He didn’t want the others crowding him, asking how he was doing. And yet, now that John was out here, Scott found that he didn’t mind.
“So?” Scott prompted after a moment of silence, knowing there was no way John had simply come out here to join him in a run. There had been times Virgil might have, but John?
“So what? Oh… I dunno,” John shrugged, finally having caught his breath and moving over the boulder. He ignored Scott’s glare as he climbed it with ease, balancing himself on the top and swinging his legs. “Just didn’t want to be inside on my own, I guess.”
Scott nodded, poking John in the side of the leg to make his brother shift over. Knowing what the elder man wanted, John offered his hand and somewhat precariously pulled his brother up alongside him, Scott’s injured arm restricting his climbing ability somewhat. There was a clear view of the ocean from the top, stretching out for as far as the eye could see, calming and hypnotic. Scott frowned slightly. For the first time in days, he felt some sort of peace. Maybe it was finally getting some air, getting the chance to burn off physically the frustration that had been slowly building ever since they had lost contact with Gordon three days ago. But Scott suddenly found he had the urge to smile. Leaning back on one arm, he took in a deep breath, swinging his legs casually.
“We’ll be okay, John,” he murmured quietly, tilting his head towards the sky. The day was drawing on, the sun just beginning its descent over the horizon. Another day survived. “We always are.”
“It’s easy for you to say.” John’s voice was heavy with emotion, and Scott turned his gaze from the heavens onto his brother. For once, John was not looking up, but staring glumly down at the sand below them. “I had to breathe for him, Scott. Twice.”
“I know.” Scott’s voice was thick as he shifted his weight, moving one hand to squeeze John’s arm before dropping it back again. He knew what the blond was like with physical contact. “You shouldn’t have had to do that, John. It wasn’t your responsibility. I’m the one that was supposed to keep him safe.”
“That’s not what I meant, Scott. You had to get One back, there was no choice. And you tried to go after the Hood, to make sure it was safe for us all. Has… Has Penny found anything yet?”
“Nothing solid.” Scott sighed, kicking out a bit too hard and slamming his heel against the rock, immediately causing him to wince as he thought back on the brief conversation he had had with their agent after checking in with Alan earlier that morning. “She thinks she might have a lead on his newest hideout after we stormed the last, but there is no sign of him yet. He’s still out there.”
“She’ll find something, she always does.” It was John’s turn to be the comforter now, mainly because he knew that if they stayed on the topic of the Hood, any good the run had done his brother would have been for nothing. He knew how much Scott still wished Gordon had let him go after the man that day, but John sided with his younger brother in that case. If Scott had caught up with the creep, it would have ended up destroying him.
Scott sighed deeply, once more tilting his chin back. “How the hell did we get into this, Johnny? How come the rest of the world sees us as lazing around on an island living off Dad’s money, when our brother is fighting for his life?”
“Because fate apparently has it in for us,” John responded, so moodily that Scott had to laugh slightly. At this moment in time, John sounded further from the usually calm space-monitor than his brother had ever heard him. But the laugh felt good, felt right somehow. Scott didn’t know what was going on, but somehow he just felt as if things were really going to be okay. When he got back inside, he would make sure to thank his grandmother for making him get some air; it had certainly done the trick.
For a few moments, the two brothers sat in silence, both lost in thought. Scott knew that they wouldn’t be out for much longer. Not only because of the shadows beginning to creep their way across the beach, but because he knew John intended to be away from Virgil only as long as Scott. As soon as they believed their grandmother would let them in, both brothers would once again be taking up position in the infirmary.
Before that time came, however, a voice was heard calling them. John immediately sprang from the top of the boulder, dropping into a crouch even as Gordon came running around the corner. His hair was sticking up and still damp, his face flushed from what looked like a spontaneous sprint across the beach.
“Gordon?” John’s voice was sharp, and Scott knew without looking his eyes would be burning brightly, concern in his eyes even as he let his hands rest on Gordon’s shoulders as their younger brother gasped for breath.
“He’s awake.” Scott was the one who answered, though. His hands were digging deeply into the rock, not seeming to notice the slightly red marks slowly appearing on his palms. Everything else about him was as still as the rock he was sitting on.
“How did you…?”
“I don’t know. But I’m right, aren’t I?”
Gordon frowned up at the figure of his brother sitting atop the rock he had once forbidden Gordon to climb and slowly nodded, a wide grin splitting over his face.
“Brains’ antidote did work! I knew it would! We just didn’t give it enough time! Come on!”
Without a backward glance, both John and Gordon sprinted off up the beach, the tension leaving their shoulders as Scott watched. It all made sense now. The feeling of calm, the certainty that everything was going to be okay… He had meant what he said to Gordon. He had no idea how, but somehow, Scott had known the second Virgil had stirred.
He took one long last glance at the sky, the first star appearing in the evening light. Tears were glistening in his eyes as he slipped neatly down from the rock, his actions much more controlled than John’s frantic leap had been. He moved slowly up the beach. He wanted to run with John and Gordon, push everyone out of the way until he was by Virgil’s side. But somehow, he instead felt an inner peace, something that had been absent for too long.
“Thanks, Mom,” he whispered quietly, his eyes locked on that first star even as more slowly began to wink their way into view.
Scott began walking up the beach, but before long he found himself running as fast as his brothers had, possibly more so. He had an infirmary to get to. The Hood hadn’t won; Virgil was going to be okay.
As he hurtled his way through the house, Scott skidded to a stop outside the infirmary, smashing his hand on the panel and practically flinging himself through the door. People were crowded around the bed, every occupant of the island crammed into the room.
Even through the bodies milling everywhere, Scott still found himself locking eyes across the space with the one person he needed to see. A smile spread rapidly across his face as Virgil returned it. He looked like absolute hell and it was clearly taking every ounce of self control he had not to pass out again, especially considering the amount of people firing questions at him.
But he was alive.
“…and then, he managed to catch his foot on the edge of the sun lounger, and before I could even warn him, he had fallen in backwards!”
Scott raised his eyebrows at Gordon’s dramatic tale – accompanied with extravagant actions – as the redhead rolled backwards off the edge of Virgil’s bed as he tried to demonstrate precisely what their youngest brother had done this time. Whilst Virgil smiled at Gordon’s attempts to keep him occupied, his oldest brother wasn’t fooled. The artist was tiring. It was time to kick out the circus.
“Go and get cleaned up, the pair of you. If Brains – or heaven forbid – Grandma sees you in here dripping water like that, you’ll be scrubbing the ‘birds for a month.”
“Field Commander’s orders. Now go.”
Gordon’s face fell until he was matching the pout that Alan was already wearing and, without another word, he grabbed Alan’s arm and began pulling his brother from the infirmary, muttering something quietly in his ear. Scott had a feeling he had just subjected himself to being their next victim, but Virgil’s grateful smile made it worth it.
Another three days had passed since Virgil had regained consciousness. He had spent the majority of the next one sleeping, only his stirrings now and again stopping his father and oldest brother from going mad with worry. Both John and Gordon had forced their exhausted bodies into getting some rest and gone up to get Alan on the second day. It had been somewhat amazing to watch the life sparkle back into Alan’s eyes once he had had a conversation with his weakened brother.
For the most part, Virgil seemed to be getting there. He could now make it about three hours before falling back to sleep, and the drugs Brains had pumping through the IV line were keeping him lucid and able to focus through the pain. The poison was a vicious one, and on the one occasion where Virgil had stubbornly pulled out the IV with the declaration that he was fine and could they all please stop fussing, the middle son had immediately been crippled by the pain, sending him straight back into the realm of unconsciousness once again.
When he had come round again, the line had been replaced and he had been met with the accusing stares of the rest of the family. Even the half-asleep Alan had managed a look that Scott would have been proud of if he wasn’t already shooting daggers at his brother.
“Don’t you dare try that again!” the oldest brother snapped, Virgil’s cry of pain ringing through his ears. He had made it to the door, intending to get something from the kitchen when he had heard Virgil’s movement. He doubted his brother even realised the heartrending plea he had sent towards the pilot to make the pain go away before passing out.
“Only what you would have done.” Virgil’s mumbled reply broke the tension that had settled into the room, and the majority of the family had gone back to what they had been doing. But not before Scott and John had traded a number of facial expressions as they conveyed the fact that Virgil was not to be left on his own again if that was the sort of trick he would try. John had passed the message on when he got his other brothers and father away from the artist, and to Virgil’s dismay, they had made good on that promise. Even when he was asleep, there was someone around. Usually Scott, but that didn’t surprise the younger brother in the slightest. After all, he had tricked Scott into thinking he was asleep before going for his escape attempt. The older man wasn’t going to give him the chance to do it again.
“I thought they would never go.”
A tired mumble brought Scott’s mind back into the present and he smiled at the exhausted appearance of his brother. Brains had reluctantly told them that whilst Virgil had the poison in his system, he would remain exhausted. It was a combination of the drugs and the constant battle his body was going through. Even so, colour was slowly beginning to trickle back into Virgil’s cheeks, and considering how he had looked only three days ago, he looked positively healthy now.
“Gords is getting better,” Scott responded, knowing what was really going through Virgil’s mind. The artistic brother had no idea how Gordon had snapped when they believed the cure hadn’t worked, but even in a semi-conscious state, he had picked up enough to know his normally care-free brother was struggling.
“Having Al home is good for him.”
“But?” Scott knew his brother well enough to know that there was something else on Virgil’s mind. Virgil was biting his lip slightly, staring at the door even though he was having to stubbornly pull his eyes open. Scott knew it would only be a matter of moments before Virgil succumbed to sleep once again, but he wasn’t going to say anything. He knew how much his brother needed rest, but there were certain characteristic traits that definitely ran through the family. As soon as someone mentioned the word ‘sleep’ to Virgil, he did everything in his power to stay awake. He didn’t realise there was a light sedative mixed in with the numerous drugs he was being given, Brains not trusting him any more than the rest of the family did.
“He was in here again last night.”
Scott sighed heavily. Gordon might be acting as if things were heading back to normal, but this was the third night he had moved from his own room back into the infirmary. He had nearly given John a heart attack the first night. Still, it was disconcerting that Gordon couldn’t find the escape and rest he needed unless he was in Virgil’s presence.
“What happened, Scott?”
“What do you mean?”
“With Gordon. Why is he like this? What aren’t you guys telling me?”
Scott avoided Virgil’s gaze. Why did this particular brother manage to master a look that made Scott feel guilty? It was for Virgil’s own good that they weren’t telling him about Gordon’s breakdown, knowing their grandmother had dealt with the situation and that the aquanaut didn’t want the others saying anything. For a moment, the eldest brother paused, wondering what he would be able to say that would save Gordon, but satisfy Virgil’s curiosity.
But Virgil saved him the trouble himself as he suddenly yawned, scrubbing at his eyes angrily.
“Don’t,” Scott said softly, capturing his brother’s hands in only one of his own and forcing them back down to Virgil’s lap, stilling the action. For a moment, it looked as if the younger man was going to fight him, but then he sagged against the pillows, sighing deeply. As soon as Virgil relaxed back, Scott released his grip.
“I hate this.”
“You were dead five days ago, Virg. It will get there.”
“When, Scott? I want to get out of here; I don’t want to be wired up to this stupid…”
Scott had to reach over and grab Virgil’s hand to stop him from pulling out the line again. This time, Virgil did struggle against his brother, although Scott could see it was only going to be a matter of moments before sleep overtook him once again.
“Virgil, stop it.”
“Stop.” Scott’s firm voice took on the hint of combined big brother and Field Commander, and Virgil glared up at him.
“You wouldn’t lie here, and you know it.”
“I also know that you would drag my ass back and handcuff me to the bed.” Scott let his voice soften, a small twinkle appearing in his eye as he tried to calm Virgil down. They were right in thinking that he still wasn’t ready to be left alone, especially if this was what he was going to be trying every time he was. For a moment, it looked like Virgil was going to argue further, but sleep was coming swiftly and he once again relaxed against the bed. Scott didn’t let go of his hands though.
“You deserve it, stubborn idiot.” There was a hint of real bitterness in Virgil’s muttered words, but Scott knew that it wasn’t aimed at him. It was at the whole situation, the fact that they were in here at all that was annoying Virgil. For someone who never let Scott out of his sight when he was injured, Virgil was a stubborn patient.
“Charming.” Scott used one hand to keep Virgil’s down and let his other comb through his brother’s hair, smiling as Virgil pretended to glare at him. “Get some rest, Virg.”
“Don’t want to.”
“Mmm hmm.” Even as Scott looked down at his brother, eyebrows raised, Virgil gave in. He sagged completely, his breathing evening out as sleep drove away the constant battle he was under every moment he was awake. Waiting to make sure he was truly asleep and not just faking it, Scott paused for a moment before eventually letting go of Virgil’s hands. His quick eyes made an assessment of the drip, making sure Virgil hadn’t managed to pull it free.
Finally, he was satisfied that there was nothing more that he could do for his brother until Virgil next woke up. That didn’t mean he had any intention of leaving the infirmary, though, and rocking back on his chair he grabbed the book John had brought him the day before and swung his feet up on the end of Virgil’s bed. Letting it fall open to the right page, he took another long look at his brother.
“You’re not the only one who hates it, kiddo,” he muttered softly, before beginning to read.
That was how John found him an hour and a half later. The blond silently let himself into the infirmary, but was not the slightest bit surprised that Scott heard him coming. Although there was a book open on his brother’s lap, the astronaut wouldn’t have been surprised if Scott hadn’t read more than a few pages, his eyes flicking back to Virgil every two seconds.
“How’s things?” he asked quietly, pulling around another chair. Scott set the book to one side and lowered his feet back to the floor, stretching out as he did so.
“We need to get comfier chairs in here.”
John snorted slightly at the deadpan in Scott’s voice, knowing that his brother was being completely serious. As he tried to navigate himself into a more comfortable position, he found that he was agreeing. After the silence between them had stretched on, John spoke again.
“How is he?” He knew why Scott hadn’t answered about Virgil the first time, despite the fact the older brother would have been more than aware that that was what John had been referring to. If Virgil had been fine, Scott would have told him. His reference to the chairs instead was a clear sign that something wasn’t quite right.
“Frustrated. He wants to get out of here.”
John had a frown on his face as he nodded his understanding. He knew the feeling. All of them hated being stuck in the infirmary, and he too wanted his brother out. If nothing else, the room was beginning to make John feel claustrophobic. Considering this was the man who spent months on end in a tin-can (as his brothers constantly referred to it) floating around in space, that was saying something.
“What has Brains said?”
“It’s going to take another few days before he can come off the drip,” John muttered, watching Virgil sleep. Once the sedative stopped being pumped into his body, Virgil would certainly be more alert, but apart from that, they weren’t quite sure what would happen. They hadn’t told Virgil yet, knowing the medic would want out as soon as he could. “But he’s not sure whether it is going to have been long enough.”
“What do you think?”
“I hope for all our sakes it is. Dad’s not saying it, but I know he doesn’t want Five on automatic any longer than necessary. He muttered something about making decisions when talking to Brains yesterday, but they broke off when I approached. I tried to talk to him about going back, but he won’t have it.”
“Do you honestly want to go?” Scott was surprised. He knew John felt a deeper connection with Five than the rest of them did with their own ‘birds, and that was saying something. But considering how weak Virgil still was, it came as a surprise that he would even contemplate going back yet. To his relief, John shook his head.
“Not in the slightest. But I heard what you said, Scott. Virgil wants IR to carry on. We can’t keep her on automatic and expect to be able to function properly. If it wasn’t for someone being up there, we would have never found you when you were locked in the freezers. She needs someone on board.”
“What about Brains?”
“Not until Virg is definitely healing. What if something goes wrong? Brains was only just able to save him this time. We need him.”
“Five is a big girl, Johnny, she can cope.”
For a moment, John looked like he was about to protest, but then he caught sight of the smile on Scott’s face and knew that his big brother was just trying to lighten the situation, something for which he was eternally grateful. There had been a strange mood overhanging the island over the last week, Alan’s return only lifting it momentarily. Despite their grandmother’s best efforts and Kyrano’s best cooking, none of them had been able to pull themselves together properly.
“How are the kids?” Scott didn’t know what the two of them would have got up to since he had kicked them out, and part of him felt like he should go and check on them, knowing they were both still trying to come to terms with what had happened. Alan had been away from them when it had happened, and in true Tracy style, the absent brother felt like he should have done more. Gordon had already revealed how hard this had been on him. Scott knew what was going through his younger sibling’s mind. Gordon had been the first to suspect something was wrong when the Hood began his attacks. He had been ignored, almost pushed to one side, yet hadn’t wavered in his belief that something was wrong. But despite knowing it, he had been unable to stop it from happening. And although he would never admit it to Scott, something their father had said made Scott realise that Gordon was blaming himself for the fact they had been caught. It was only Virgil who had the power to make Gordon pull himself together.
“Gords has crashed,” John muttered, causing Scott to nod. It was getting late after all, and all of them had had very little sleep. Not to mention the oldest brother was certain the swimmer would be up and back in the infirmary within a couple of hours. It was better to let him rest whilst he still could.
“Again? They were up till gone 3 last night.”
“I know…wait, how do you know? I thought you went and got some sleep once Dad took over?” John smirked at Scott. He should have known. Gordon might have been the one sneaking in and making it more than obvious that he wasn’t coping with the situation. But it appeared that Scott wasn’t exactly getting the rest he needed either.
“So how do you know?”
“Um…” John grinned ruefully.
“Busted.” Scott smirked, before rolling his eyes slightly. “Why don’t we just admit that none of us are going to sleep until he is out of here?”
“Apart from him?” John smiled as he watched Scott’s face soften as they both glanced towards their sleeping brother.
“At least he isn’t trying to fight us like this,” Scott murmured, absentmindedly adjusting the covers around Virgil and finding his smile widening as his little brother automatically shifted into the new warmth, sighing deeply before stilling once more. Virgil had always been the one to stay motionless when asleep. Scott had never been so glad for it as he was now. At least it meant that Virgil was sleeping normally, and Scott had found he had managed to shift his chair to the right angle so he didn’t see the drip and monitors his brother was hooked up to. He could pretend that Virgil was simply asleep. His positioning, however, hadn’t been missed on John.
He knew that although he would never get any answers out of Scott whilst Virgil was still potentially in danger and Gordon was showing all the signs of heading towards a breakdown, as soon as this was over, he planned to corner his brother and not let Scott go until he knew for sure that his biggest brother was coping.
Little did he know that Scott was thinking exactly the same about him.
Gordon had never been one for sneaking around the house in the dark, instead preferring to turn on every single light as he passed. It drove John mad, especially considering his older brother’s ability to almost see in the dark. Gordon still swore that John was nocturnal. But this time, he did keep quiet and resisted the urge to light his path, knowing that if any of the older members of the family knew that he was up, he would be sent back to his room like a naughty child before he even had time to think of a response.
For once, stealth decided to play nicely, and Gordon found himself outside the infirmary without running into either his father or Scott, or even John for that matter. Of course, he knew full well that could mean one of them was waiting inside, but now that he had made it this far, he had to get in there. He had to know that Virgil was still there, still fighting rather than giving up, the idea his mind tried to torment him with when the redhead attempted to get some sleep.
The door swished open almost silently, giving him access to the dimly lit room beyond. With Virgil sleeping in odd fits and starts, they never turned the light off properly, not wanting him to be in darkness should he awaken. There was a figure slouched in one of the chairs, and Gordon knew immediately that it was Scott. He should have known. It had been John the first night, their father the second. Typically, it had never crossed any of the older members of the family’s minds that the younger ones might also want the chance to watch over their brother.
But to Gordon’s delight, Scott didn’t move at him entering. It seemed that his big brother had finally managed to give into his body’s demands and get some rest. As Gordon moved quietly further into the room, he gently prised the mug Scott was still clutching from the man’s hand, putting it down somewhere much safer and just standing there for a moment, watching his brother. Even in sleep, he looked strained and stressed, and Gordon knew that he wouldn’t be able to sleep for long. After all, if Gordon wasn’t managing it, what chance did Scott have, considering how active his paranoid sensors were being?
After dragging a blanket out from somewhere and attempting to throw it over Scott, Gordon was feeling quite happy with himself as he curled up on the chair the opposite side of the bed. Whoever thought the younger members of the family couldn’t look after the older ones were surely mistaken. Sure, Gordon didn’t have the ability to throw a blanket and just make it land in the right place the way John seemed to be able to do, but he had managed to cover most of Scott. Besides, it was the thought that counted.
“What are you doing here?”
To say Gordon jumped was a bit of an understatement. The redhead literally left the chair in surprise, his heart thudding loudly. He hadn’t realised that Virgil was awake, let alone watching him. He had seen the whole show with Scott and was now watching Gordon shrewdly through the dim light in the infirmary. Gordon squirmed under the gaze.
“Don’t look at me like that. I should be doing that to you.” Despite the protest in his voice, he kept his tone soft and quiet, fully aware this was the first time Scott had managed any proper rest since they had got back. The odd few hours snatched here and there were certainly not enough.
“You didn’t answer the question.”
“I thought Scott might be cold.”
“Crap. You had no idea he would even be in here, let alone asleep. I saw your face, kiddo. What are you doing in here? You should be asleep.”
“Yes, Dad,” Gordon deadpanned. Curling his legs up on the seat, he leant forward so that his upper body was resting on the bed, chin propped up on his folded arms as he sighed deeply. Immediately – almost by instinct – Virgil found his hand combing through his brother’s hair. Gordon smiled slightly, before remembering he was trying to be annoyed and jerking his head away. But he didn’t move from his position and Virgil chuckled softly.
“I mean it, Gords, you should be sleeping.”
“So should you.”
“I’ve been doing that all day. I’m tired of sleeping!”
Gordon glanced up at the sheer frustration in Virgil’s voice and winced sympathetically. “Sucks, doesn’t it?”
Virgil looked for a moment like he was going to argue, to claim that no one could know how he was feeling about being stuck in bed for a week. But then he remembered who he was talking to. If anyone knew how it felt, it was Gordon. At least he could still move around.
Seeing the emotions flicker across his brother’s face, Gordon knew what Virgil was thinking and that he didn’t know what to say.
“I feel fine for the most part. All of you take it in turns to be in here with me, and don’t get me wrong; I would have gone mad without it. But seeing you get up to leave, knowing that I can’t even think of going anywhere without Scott seeming to know what I’m thinking…. Hang on,” Virgil broke off, staring at Gordon with the slightest flicker of annoyance. “We’re supposed to be talking about what you are doing down here, not whether I want to leave or not.”
“Sounds like I’m not the only one who needs to talk,” Gordon responded with a non-committal shrug of his shoulders. He had had a feeling that Virgil would be feeling like this. All of them hated being stuck in bed at the best of times, let alone without knowing when they would be able to get out. Virgil was right about Scott. Since the artist had first tried to leave, Scott had insisted someone stayed in here at all times. On the surface, it was to keep Virgil company, but Gordon couldn’t help but feel like it was partly guard duty as well, and he hated it.
“So you do need to talk?”
“That’s not what I… Oh don’t go psycho-analysing me, Virg, John does that well enough.”
“Come on, Gords. Tell me, why are you in here? And don’t you dare say it was to check on me, or I’m stabbing this needle in you.”
“You won’t get it out without waking up the smother hen,” Gordon shot back without missing a beat, but he knew that Virgil was not going to let it go. For a long moment, he refused to look at him, knowing full well what look the team medic would be subjecting him to. Eventually though, he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep quiet any longer.
“It’s my fault,” he admitted quietly, and as hard as he was trying to keep quiet, Virgil’s snort of disbelief still made Scott shift position. Both of the younger brothers froze, waiting with baited breath as he just settled again, thankfully staying asleep.
“What the hell makes you think that?” Virgil should have guessed though. As a Tracy, Gordon had the natural ability to blame himself when it came to something serious. If it was a matter of who ate the last piece of cake, the prankster was quick to pass the blame. But on something like this?
“He took me out. If he hadn’t done that, he wouldn’t have got John, end of story. He would have never have grabbed you, shot Scott or… any of this. It’s because of me.”
“Okay, it’s all your fault.”
Gordon blinked in surprise.
“And it’s Alan’s for calling through that mission. It’s Scott’s for not telling you to stay away from that area when you were on your own. It’s John’s for not getting in contact the second he couldn’t reach you. It’s mine for not fighting him off. It’s Dad’s for setting up IR. It’s Grandma’s for not making us drink enough milk…”
“Gordon, you complete and utter moron. How the hell is any of this your fault? What about all the accidents? The fact that he has been trying to kill us for months now? It was only a matter of time before he got close enough to almost succeed. And the fact that I’m even telling you this shows how much that obviously failed.”
“You don’t understand…” Gordon raised his head slightly so that he could look his brother in the eye. “I walked into that area without checking, got the men to help me without running it past Mobile Control.”
“If you dare say you didn’t follow protocol, I’m waking Scott up. Gordon, since when do any of us ever follow procedure out there? Even Scott? Sure, when it counts, but instinct comes first and… and I can’t believe I’m even saying this. You know this, Gords.”
“It doesn’t normally get a brother killed.”
“No? How about when Alan ran straight into that burning building because he thought he was picking up a life sign? Or when John decided throwing himself over the cliff after that child would somehow help them both? Or when Scott jumped into a freezing river because he thought he had seen something? Or when I decided that wading through a mudslide on my own was going to be a good idea? We’ve all done it, and all have nearly paid the price more than once. The difference here is that someone was trying to kill us.”
“Oh, I know who I missed out from my list of whose fault it was. His! Gordon, this is all because of the Hood. You wouldn’t have done anything different and you know it. None of us would have. It is all his fault, you idiot.”
“That’s easy for you to say!” For a moment, Gordon forgot to keep his voice down, and once again found himself holding his breath as Scott shifted. “You didn’t have to fly a great hulk of a machine home whilst listening to your brother trying to restart your bloody heart!”
“That’s what this is about, isn’t it?” Virgil leant back, watching Gordon through narrowed eyes. The guilt trip didn’t surprise him; he had already had a very similar conversation with both Scott and – rather bizarrely – Alan. Virgil had to admit he was still trying to get his head around the fact that Alan was blaming himself. “It’s nothing to do with whose fault this is, Grandma’s missing cake and Alan’s guilty conscience can handle that fiasco quite well. This is to do with the fact that I…”
“Died?” Gordon muttered bitterly, resting his head back down and staring glumly at the plain covers in front of him. “Maybe.”
“So did you, Gords.” Virgil’s soft voice was matched with a gentle hand running through Gordon’s hair, and this time, his younger brother didn’t pull away. “I don’t remember enough of the day Mom died, but the day they said you weren’t going to pull through was the worst day of my life, little brother. But you came back, and we moved on. And the same is happening here. But if you are going to be a complete ass about it, then I’m pulling out this line here and now. Then you can say how much it is your fault.”
“True. Gordon, get it through your skull this is not your fault, I’m not dead and quite frankly, don’t have any plans to be any time soon.”
Gordon opened his mouth to argue back, but something in him snapped. Something finally accepted Virgil’s words. Maybe it was because it was Virgil saying them rather than another brother. He was alive, and judging by the way he was addressing his brother, was clearly on the mend, even if he was still frustrated at the situation they were in. Gordon’s mouth snapped shut, and he slowly nodded, causing Virgil to smile.
“Atta boy.” He sighed deeply, his hand still methodically moving through Gordon’s hair. He was exhausted by that little speech, and before he knew what was happening, he had fallen back asleep. With the comforting hand of his very much alive brother still resting on him, Gordon found that he too followed Virgil into the realm of dreams, feeling more relaxed than he had done for days.
Neither of them noticed another pair of eyes open, lips turning up in fond amusement at their positioning. Scott hooked the blanket more securely over him, took another look at his now resting brothers and shut his eyes again, a smile on his face.
“Nicely handled, Virg.”
He had been awake for the whole thing. And Virgil knew he had. But the pair of them had agreed that the only person who would be able to get through to their redheaded sibling would be the artist, with no interruptions. So upon hearing the door open, they had shared a look, and Scott had shut his eyes. Watching Gordon relax now, he was glad he had.