Tracy Island had always served its purpose well, presenting the facade of a luxurious paradise on which a family frolicked away the billions in their possession. No one would ever know what truly took place beneath the grand house that rested atop one of the numerous hills.
But although it had always guarded the secret well, never before had it done its job so well in disguising what was really going on with its occupants. Whilst the image of the place offered tranquillity and relaxation, the atmosphere was actually anything but.
Almost a week had come and gone before Virgil was finally allowed out of the infirmary. Satisfied that the rest of the family knew as well as he did what to do if anything went wrong, Brains had taken over on Thunderbird Five. His latest upgrades were misbehaving slightly, and John knew he was taking it personally. Not that he could blame the man for wanting to escape the tension of the island. Part of the astronaut longed to return to the isolation of the stars, to be able to just yell out his frustrations without anyone hearing him.
Instead of getting better, the atmosphere had dipped further with Penny’s return to the island. It had taken her longer than she had originally anticipated to see if she could find a solid lead on the Hood. But a lead she had indeed found, and that was what had thrown the family into turmoil once again.
There were seven of them gathered around the pool, loungers and chairs alike occupied as the discussion raged on. John found himself sitting back quietly, just observing the rest of the family. It came as no surprise that his father was sitting upright, his posture tense and his face grave as he listened to everyone else – mainly his sons – argue. Scott was almost mirroring his position, only John could see the vein throbbing in his temple and knew that it was taking every ounce of the pilot’s self control not to jump to his feet and start pacing.
Virgil was stretched out on the lounger next to him. He was still beyond pale, and his older brother knew it would only be another hour at the most before the artist would need to go in. But despite it being apparent that he was far from okay, it was also clear that he was on the mend. His sleep patterns were slowly beginning to normalise, and now that he was off the drip, the haunted look in his eyes had all but vanished. But to anyone who knew the man, there were still obvious signs screaming that Virgil was far from well.
Gordon and Alan were on the two chairs next to him, although John was sure that his youngest brother was closer to falling off his than he was to sitting on it. He had been inching closer and closer to the edge the more he argued, often accompanied by extravagant gestures that did nothing to illuminate his point any more. Penny was on the chair next to him, her posture and expression being the only sign of calm in the whole group. It was almost as if she wasn’t involved in the fierce debate that her discovery had unwittingly caused. Their grandmother was next to her, looking older than John had ever seen her.
John wasn’t surprised. Everything up until now had been focusing on finding the Hood. Now he had been located, however, something unspoken seemed to have lodged itself in the mind of every member of the family and island alike. What should they do now? Despite his initial fury at the man, even Scott knew it was not going to be as easy as just sending the authorities the co-ordinates. The man was too powerful. He would have to be down before the authorities got there in order for them to have any hope of controlling him. Meaning that the Tracys were needed. They were the only ones who knew enough about what he could do, having experienced it firsthand. But that would mean walking straight into the lion’s den. Last time they had tried that, it had almost been catastrophic.
But what choice did they have? If he was allowed to stay free, to be able to get away with what he had done, how long until he tried again, especially when he realised that Virgil had survived. What if they weren’t the only ones he was targeting? It wasn’t just the family that was at stake here, it was International Rescue. Meaning it was potentially the world.
Alan was all for it; his youth and pure fury at what had befallen the family meant he was out for revenge. But he hadn’t been there when they had attempted this before. He had seen the results, the constant communication had seen to that, not to mention he had been the one trying to find John. But his older brothers weren’t sure he completely realised the enormity of what they were potentially planning to do. This would be beyond anything they had done before, because if they were to fail, the results wouldn’t bear thinking about.
“…and I can be on the lookout.”
“Who said you were coming?”
Scott’s sharp voice brought John out of his thoughts with an unpleasant bump as he glanced between his oldest and youngest brother. For a moment, Alan looked simply confused, before his face clouded over. John caught Gordon’s eye and grimaced at his brother’s eye roll. They both knew how much Alan would want to come – and how much Scott would forbid it.
“Who said you were coming?”
Gordon’s jiggling leg slipped and out of the corner of his eye, John could see Virgil’s eyes widening in surprise. That hadn’t been a surly retort from the youngest member of the family. That had been a cool, soft voice, orders apparent even through the gentle tone. It had been their father.
“Dad, if you think I’m going to stay here…”
“Scott, you are not coming. None of you are. This is one for me to handle.”
“No, Alan. I can’t ask you to carry out this mission.”
As John watched, his father glanced at his grandmother, whose mouth was drawn into a thin line. He was not surprised. No matter the reasoning behind the conversation, this would be more deadly than anything they had ever undertaken before. Normally they did their best to avoid danger. This time they were willingly seeking it out.
“I cannot ask you to do this and not be prepared to do it myself.”
“We know it’s not like that,” Scott interrupted, although John wasn’t fooled. His brother may have his “reasoning” voice coming through, normally something that emerged when he was talking to Virgil (especially over the last few days), but the younger brother could see how tightly his fists were clenched behind his back. He was not happy. “We want to come. We’ve faced him before; we were there when he killed -”
“Not dead, you know!”
“… Virgil. It’s our right to be there.” Scott pretended he hadn’t heard Virgil’s interruption, causing John to smirk slightly at the scowl on his brother’s face. He knew that Virgil was hating the fact they were using his “death” as the reason for doing this. It wasn’t as if he was against it – he knew better than any of them the danger the Hood posed – he just hated that they were using him as a justification for carrying out the plan.
“Not this time.”
“Scott’s right, Dad. We have a duty to make sure this man is no threat again.”
“You are not coming.”
“Scott!” Alan’s attempt at sounding professional was lost on his oldest brother, especially as his tone slipped at his outcry, and John groaned. It seemed they had all accepted they needed to do something in order to stop the Hood for good, had even accepted what they needed to do. But something told John this argument was going to carry on late into the night. Gordon, however, went for a different tactic.
“What will you do?” he asked quietly, and Jeff smiled at him, glad to have a son who didn’t seem to be arguing against him. As with Scott, John knew better. The angle Gordon was sitting at meant that their father couldn’t see the way his hands were twitching slightly, even if the rest of his body remained still. Gordon wanted to be involved as much as Scott did, and John couldn’t blame him. Virgil’s near-death had affected them all, there could be no denying that. But the Hood had been messing with Gordon’s head for longer than the rest of them.
Jeff dropped his gaze. Despite the obvious desire to do something, to be able to protect his sons from a madman who wanted them dead, this was not an easy conversation.
“Surround the place with the local authorities. Tell him to give himself up.” The words were admitted quietly, an uncertainty in his tone that the boys had never heard from him before. To John’s surprise, Gordon laughed, swinging his legs up over the arm of his chair and lounging back comfortably, watching his father.
“Won’t do it. You won’t even get close. Remember what happened when Virgil pulled a gun on him? Blasted halfway across the clearing.”
“Dad, you need us. We’ve faced him more than once, each of us. We know what sort of tricks he’ll try. I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can do this without us.”
“Jeff!” None of the boys were expecting their grandmother’s sharp reprimand, and John had to smirk at the way both Gordon and Alan jumped slightly, almost as if it was directed at them. No doubt they just heard the tone of voice and knew that they were normally on the receiving end of it. Their father swallowed hard, meeting her gaze. Something unspoken seemed to shoot between them, for Jeff dropped his eyes, shaking his head slightly. When he met her piercing gaze again, the whole family – Penny included – could see that something had changed.
“What would you suggest then, Gordon?” Everyone could hear the forced calm in his voice, but the fact that they had even got this far suggested progress. John just couldn’t decide whether that was a good thing or not. He didn’t want the younger ones out there any more than Scott did. But it was more than that. He didn’t want his older brother out there either. He would never forget the look on Scott’s face, in his eyes, when Virgil had stopped breathing. It wasn’t a side he wanted to see again.
“We do it how we did it last time,” Gordon said quietly, his own tone reflecting that he had clearly been thinking about this. There had been a change in his mood since he had spoken to Virgil and, to their relief, he had finally stopped sneaking into the infirmary.
Scott snorted slightly at his suggestion. “Because that went so well.”
“He knew we were coming. This time, if Penny’s report is anything to go by, he has no idea she was even looking for him. He won’t risk coming after us again, not until he knows whether Virgil is alive or not. But he will know that we are after him, and so will keep low. Last time he was prepared for us. He will think he is again, even if we have the element of surprise. Arrogance is an easy target; he won’t be on his guard as much as he perhaps should be.”
“I don’t like it.” Virgil finally spoke, his voice sounding hoarse. It was amazing just how potent the poison had been, and even more of a miracle that Virgil was still here. John knew that Scott planned to thank Kyrano properly, and if his brother would allow it, John felt like tagging along. But judging by the slightly awkward look that had shot between them on the rare occasion Scott had left the infirmary for long enough to see the Malaysian, John had a feeling he knew what else was going on. Scott had seen a different side of the man since he had played the crucial role in sedating the pilot. It had been easy to stay angry with him… until he saved Virgil’s life.
“What’s to stop this time being any different from the last time? He’s been playing us for months, how do we know this isn’t just the same? It’s great that Penny found him, truly. And I agree, something has to be done to stop him being such a threat. But I don’t like it. He could have allowed Penny to find him for all we know, just another one of his great plans.”
“What would you do?” Jeff asked quietly. Whilst he understood Gordon’s need to do something – John was mistaken for thinking that Jeff couldn’t see the tension in his son’s body language – Virgil had a bigger right to say what he wanted done. He had been the one who had died, however momentarily. He had the right to decide.
“I don’t know,” Virgil responded honestly, rubbing a hand over tired eyes. He wouldn’t admit it, but he was getting to the point where he needed to stop. This was the longest he had been awake for over a week, and he was beginning to feel it. John caught Scott’s eye and knew that the oldest brother had noticed and understood the action as much as he had. But both knew Virgil would move nowhere until this had been decided. He had refused to let them discuss the Hood without him; he wasn’t going to leave now they were getting somewhere.
“What do you want me to say? That I want him dead and never able to hurt anyone else? That I want revenge for what he did? That I want him locked away for the rest of his miserable life? I just want this to be over.” Virgil sounded so drained that Scott’s hand immediately closed the distance between them, squeezing the back of his little brother’s neck reassuringly.
“We do it how Gordon suggested.” The Field Commander in him had taken charge, and whilst Jeff looked like he wanted to argue for a moment, something about the way Scott was sitting made his mouth shut again before any words came out. This wasn’t just the Field Commander of International Rescue talking here. This was someone who had had a very successful career in the Air Force. With a chilling realisation, Jeff knew why Gordon too was taking it so calmly. This was not the first time either of them had been asked to do something like this.
“Dad, can you co-ordinate from Base? It’s been years since you were out in the Field, and your expertise is better here. You can conduct the whole thing; you’ll be the one calling the shots. Just let us be the ones doing the shooting. Besides, Virg might need you.”
“Hang on, I’m coming…”
“No way. You can barely walk from the infirmary to out here without falling asleep. We have to do this before he moves on, and you aren’t ready.”
“Your brother is right, son,” Jeff interrupted gently, watching them closely. He didn’t like this, he didn’t like the idea of what they were planning. But he had gone along with the plan for the first time, and knew that Scott was right, they had to move before the Hood had a chance to slip under the radar again.
“I’m coming!” Alan declared stubbornly, almost making John jump at his overly loud voice. For a moment, Scott looked like he was going to argue, but then, to everyone’s surprise, he nodded.
“You still up for being lookout? Don’t protest, that doesn’t mean standing there doing nothing, it means covering us.”
Alan mutely nodded, suddenly seeming to realise that Scott was serious about this. He wasn’t trying to baby him; they genuinely needed someone in that position.
“John, you are also staying here.”
Scott sighed heavily, the corners of his mouth turning up slightly as he took in John’s indignant expression.
“Co-ordinate with Brains from Five. We need you to make sure no one comes near the area until we are ready for them. They can’t know IR is involved, it makes it too personal. We need someone to co-ordinate with the authorities. You speak the language; you are the only one who can hack into their systems if they don’t listen. Like Dad, you are better based here.”
John nodded. He could see Scott’s point, and had to admit, seeing Scott like this was giving him the shivers. Their brother had always been the one to organise them out on a rescue, but it had never really crossed John’s mind where that leadership came from. He had always displayed it to some extent – being the oldest of five had left Scott in charge more than once. But this was the Air Force Scott, one who could organise a hit as easily as he could take a stroll. It was scary, and one glance at his father’s face showed Jeff was thinking the same.
“Penny, are you okay to come out with us? Gordon and I will go in and draw him out, but we’ll need someone watching our backs whilst we do so.” With a dry smile, he remembered the way the aristocrat had casually come to their rescue the last time they had tried to storm the Hood’s hideout.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Her cool and calm voice was just as unnerving to John as Scott’s whole attitude was. Did nothing faze that woman?
“When are you planning on going?” The reluctance in Jeff’s voice showed that he had accepted the situation no matter how unhappy he was about it. The clear and cool way Scott had taken control showed him that his sons were more than up to the job, and them taking it on themselves meant he hadn’t had to ask them. What sort of father asked his own sons to do something like this, to walk straight up to the man who wanted them and their brothers dead?. But Gordon was right, he hadn’t faced the man. He had just seen the results from the various attacks. It was the boys’ right to do this, and with it being Scott and Gordon going in, it was the best arrangement he could hope for given the circumstances.
“How long do you need, John?”
“You can go in the morning.” John had let his mind race through everything they might need whilst Scott had been addressing Penny. Between him, Brains, and Five’s technology, he knew it wouldn’t take much to hack into the system and easily direct things such as traffic away from the area. It wasn’t so much to make sure they weren’t discovered, it was more to do with making sure that no one else was involved. This was something that needed to be dealt with here and now, but they couldn’t risk anyone else being hurt in the crossfire. Unlike the time before, John had no qualms about whether they should be doing this or not. If the Hood found out Virgil was alive, the chances were that he would simply try again. Maybe this time there would be no coming back from it. They couldn’t take that chance, not again.
“Morning it is. Gordon, Scott, John, into Brains lab now. Set up communications with Five, get what you need.”
“F.A.B.” Scott jerked his head and the aforementioned brothers stood up. Gordon walked rather sedately into the house, clearly thinking about what they were planning to do. John squeezed Virgil’s shoulder on the way past, sharing a look with Scott that showed his brother too realised they would have to talk to Virgil about this. Alan watched them go, caught sight of the look on Virgil’s face, and scurried after his brothers.
“What?” Virgil didn’t mean for it to come out that bluntly, but he was tired, aching, and they were all going off without him. No doubt they would be talking about this for months and what would he be able to say? That he was sitting on the island twiddling his thumbs because they didn’t think he was ready? Scott was right, he wasn’t. It was just frustrating that he couldn’t offer any help, he couldn’t do anything that would ensure their safety against the man who had tried to take his life.
“Are you okay, son?”
“Fine,” Virgil muttered, refusing to meet the man’s gaze. Penny caught the mood and quickly excused herself, muttering something about needing to make a call.
“What? What do you want me to say, Dad? I know you are no happier about this than I am, so don’t try and tell me that everything will work out in the end. I’ll believe that when they are back here in one piece. I’m going to bed.” Hauling himself out of the lounger that he had been sitting in for the last four hours, Virgil stumbled his way towards the house, the tension visible across his shoulders. Jeff sighed, and made to rise.
“Leave him.” At his mother’s quick words, Jeff glanced between her and his rapidly disappearing son and sat back down again, rubbing his hand over his face. “He’s right; you can’t comfort him, not this time. He’s worried, and so are you. He’s also tired and you know what Virgil’s temper can be like when he is like that.”
“Been on the receiving end of it enough times,” Jeff muttered, leaning back in his chair again. “He’s not the only one who will be glad when this is over.”
“You don’t have to do this, you know.” Grandma knew that in reality, there was very little else they could do, despite how much she might hate what her family had to contemplate doing just so they could be safe. What hurt her even more was that they had to do it so they could carry on protecting the world. Everything about the situation was just so wrong.
“What else are we supposed to do? You’ve seen what he has done to them? How easily he threw Virgil before? How many people will he hurt, kill even, if we don’t do something to try and stop him? How many of my sons will he kill? If we send the local police in, we are sending them to their deaths. They need our help.”
She nodded slowly. She knew as well as he did why they had to do this. But she wanted him to say it out loud, to make the father realise why he was doing it. If he had even thought about mentioning the word revenge, she would have told the boys the whole thing was off. Despite how long they had debated how to handle the situation, Grandma knew one word from her and they would change their minds again. Sometimes it helped having had more of a hand in their upbringing than she had originally anticipated.
“So you would let Scott, Gordon even, go up to this man’s door to try and stop him from being a threat? What if he is waiting for them, Jefferson?”
“Don’t say it like that. I’m trying to protect them.”
“From the Hood?”
“From themselves!” Jeff cried, running a hand through his hair in frustration as his other hand gripped at the arm of the chair, trying to vent some of his feelings. No, he was far from happy about this situation, and would have done anything in order for it to be done any other way. But he also knew his boys.
“Didn’t you see the look on Scott’s face? If I hadn’t agreed to this, he would have gone alone. Probably without the correct equipment because he wouldn’t have risked going anywhere that might have got him caught. He would have gone out there, tried to take on the Hood alone and most likely got himself killed. At least this way I still have some control. Penny will be out there with them, John can monitor every move. And Virgil… Virgil can tell him what an idiot he is being when they get back. If I didn’t say yes to this, they would have gotten themselves killed!”
Grandma didn’t say anything. What could she say? She knew Jeff was right. The boys were never going to let something like this go, not considering how close it had been – Virgil might have been lost to them for good. They had seen grief nearly destroy their father once before. This would have been grief coupled with anger at knowing who was to blame. Although Virgil had survived, the anger was still there, especially in Scott and Gordon.
“I’m going to sit with Virgil for a while,” she announced suddenly, pulling herself to her feet and going in search of her middle grandson. Something told her he would be just as bad to deal with as his father, but she was also fully aware that Jeff needed time. Time to get his head around what his sons were doing, what he couldn’t stop them from doing. She wouldn’t be able to calm him down like this, she knew him better than that. She would give it a few hours, wait until Scott had driven Gordon mad with the little details… Wait until Alan suddenly wondered whether he could do this and John gave him the pep talk… Wait until the elder blond then lost his patience when Brains insisted for the fifteenth time that the system John was trying to hack into was impenetrable… When the boys needed Jeff to take control and sort them out, that was when she would be able to get through to her son.
Jeff watched her go in silence, not being sure whether he liked the fact that he was suddenly alone. Maybe he would find Kyrano. The man had assured him in a quiet voice that he backed whatever they planned to do, but Jeff still wanted to talk to him. Regardless of everything that had happened, the Hood was still the man’s half-brother. He deserved a say. Jeff owed him that much.
For a moment, though, he didn’t move. The sun was just beginning to set, sending shadows dancing across the decking. His eyes turned skyward, searching for something. In the same way Scott had sought out a particular star on the night they had found out Virgil was going to be okay, Jeff too found his eyes drawn in that direction. Sure enough, it was one of the first to wink its way into view, and he smiled sadly before finally standing up, deciding it was time to do something productive about the upcoming day rather than sitting here dreading it. He knew he wouldn’t be able to escape his mother if he did that.
The next day was going to be a big one for all of them. Jeff wished that he knew how things were going to turn out, just to stop the guilt and concern clawing away at his insides. But he knew one thing for certain. One way or another, this was going to end, tomorrow.
All in all, Gordon thought, the morning could have gone worse. They had all been up throughout the night trying to get the details sorted; making sure that everyone knew what to do in different scenarios. Alan swore Scott was making them up on the spot, but Gordon recognised enough to know that it was the Air Force version of the same type of scenario WASP had drilled into him. His oldest brother was treating this as a military operation and, if he was honest, that reassured Gordon. He would never forget the look in Scott’s eyes when he had tried to go after the Hood when they thought they had lost Virgil. If Scott had been in that sort of mood this time, Gordon would have made sure the Field Commander never left the island.
So apart from Alan’s moaning, the night had gone smoothly. The real problems had started when Jeff had told them to take Thunderbird Two, causing both Scott and Virgil to erupt in fiery tempers. Virgil didn’t see why they had to take his ‘bird when he wasn’t allowed anywhere near her, and Scott didn’t see why they couldn’t just go in One. Their father had calmly pointed out that One couldn’t carry Scott, Gordon, Alan and Penny, and strangely enough, the youngest brother hadn’t been too happy when Gordon had volunteered him to stay behind in a feeble attempt at lightening the atmosphere. They all knew what Jeff wasn’t saying. Two had more security. It had more medical supplies.
They all knew what they were getting into, despite the pretence that everything was going to be fine. Virgil had immediately fallen asleep after the meeting, and when Gordon went to check on him later, he was not in the slightest bit surprised to see Scott in there, watching their pale brother closely. It was a clear reminder of why they were doing this – and the cost if they should fail. Nothing had been said between the two of them, for words were not needed. Instead, the silence hung heavily in the air, both men preoccupied with thoughts about what it was they were about to do.
Now, however, Gordon wished he had said something as they slowly walked away from Two, a worried Alan staring out after them. On any other occasion, Gordon was sure his little brother would have come running after them in the way he had done his whole life. But Scott had made a rather forceful case for Alan staying there, especially after giving him the idea that they might need the Thunderbird in the air as quickly as possible – and that wouldn’t happen if no one was there to start her engines. Penny was walking away in the opposite direction from where he and Scott were heading, and swallowing hard, Gordon finally tore his eyes away from the green hulk of a machine.
In a way, he was now glad it was Two they’d brought. It meant that Virgil had a hand in this operation, that there was a part of their brother out here with them. And considering the almost fond look he had seen Scott give the ‘bird as they had departed, he was sure that his oldest brother was thinking the same thing.
“Okay, Johnny, it’s time. What’s happening your end?” Scott’s outstretched hand stopped Gordon in his tracks, the two of them holding back from the small hut that had just become visible. Gordon was sure that if anyone was in it, they wouldn’t be able to see the two brothers. Penny was heading off around the other side, just in case there was a back door. It would be pointless if the two of them stormed the place only to have the Hood slip out the back way and for them to be none the wiser.
“Local authorities are on stand-by, but know not to approach until I’ve given the signal. They may have the slight impression there might be explosives there and that there is a qualified team going in at the moment.”
Gordon smirked at John’s improvisation. They didn’t want it known that International Rescue had a hand in this in case it led to awkward questions. The Hood certainly wasn’t going to keep their secret if he realised he had nothing left to lose.
“They are right. Very explosive situation, he’s called Scott.” Grinning back at the exasperated look his brother gave him, Gordon felt relieved when the pilot didn’t say anything about bad timing and jokes. Gordon wasn’t sure he could handle being serious, because that would mean properly contemplating what they were about to walk in on. If he did that, the prankster wasn’t sure whether he would just run away screaming. If he could distract himself, he could handle it. Luckily, Scott seemed to understand this.
“Well done. How’s Dad?”
“Watching your every move.” The clipped response showed that their father was with John, and they had no doubt he was doing exactly as he said. Both their watches and the cameras on Thunderbird Two were active, trying to give Base as clear an image as they could manage about what was going on. It meant that their father literally could keep an eye on them, and Gordon knew if that hadn’t been the case, they wouldn’t be out there.
“We’ll be fine, you know.”
“You can tell that to your brother when you get back; then I’ll believe you.”
“How is he?” Scott’s voice was soft and hesitant as he waited for his father’s answer. Virgil had still been asleep when they left that morning, and despite Gordon and Alan’s protests that he would be thoroughly annoyed by it, Scott had insisted that they didn’t wake him.
As if knowing what was going through his son’s mind, Jeff smirked humourlessly.
“Annoyed. So you better hurry up and get this over and done with before he blows something up.”
“That’s Gordon’s job,” Scott responded tersely, but Gordon knew as well as he did that he could hear the tension in their father’s voice. It wasn’t just for Virgil’s sake that he wanted them to get back to Base. They all wanted this to be over and done with. As he caught Scott’s eye, he knew full well from the expression on his brother’s face that Scott was thinking exactly the same as him.
“John, progress to stage two. Make sure they stay away but are ready to come in on your signal; we might need their help.”
“F.A.B.” This time, John’s voice was strictly professional, and Gordon was sure he could almost hear the frown he knew John would be wearing.
“Alan, Penny, report in. Are you in position?”
“F.A.B.” Alan’s response was so fast that Gordon knew his little brother was just as much on edge as the rest of them, even if he was going to be away from the main fight.
“All set.” As per usual, Penny sounded not the slightest bit concerned. She could have been taking an afternoon stroll in the park rather than planning to try and flush out someone who wanted them all dead.
“Ready as ever.” Gordon suddenly found that his mouth seemed to be dry and his heart was pounding harder than he was completely comfortable with. He caught Scott’s eye and grinned easily, but knew that his concern was reflected in his eyes. This man wanted them dead, had very nearly killed their brother. And they were going to find him. Not for the first time did Gordon wonder whether they were actually insane. Common sense dictated that they should go running in the opposite direction. But when it came to protecting their own, common sense never seemed to play a part in the Tracy family. Gordon knew he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Let’s do this,” Scott muttered quietly, clearly attempting to return Gordon’s easy smile. He clapped his brother on the shoulder, giving it a squeeze. Gordon knew what he was trying to say, and smiled, dipping his head.
“Remember, keep at least twenty paces away from the hut; we don’t even know if he is in there or not. Keep under cover until I give the signal.”
If it had been any other situation, Gordon would have made some remark about Scott being bossy, expecting his orders to be followed. But this time, the prankster just found himself nodding seriously, accepting his commands and being prepared to follow them through to the end. It was just another operation, the same kind he had experienced in WASP. He followed his superior officer in the belief that he knew what he was doing in order to get them all through it. Part of him wondered whether Scott realised just how much faith his younger brothers had in him.
The two brothers started moving again, walking side by side and completely in step until they reached the edge of the line of bushes that seemed to surround their target. Gordon took a deep breath, looking Scott directly in the eye as his brother nodded and tried to smile reassuringly.
“It’s show time.”
“You too, kiddo.”
For the first time in as long as he could remember, Gordon didn’t protest at the nickname, but instead set off down the path curving away to the left, knowing that Scott would be mirroring his actions down the right-hand one. He kept low and made good time, heading towards the spot they had roughly decided on from Penny’s assessment of the layout. He didn’t even notice that he was letting his military past come out, feet making no sound as he crept along. Part of him did realise precisely why Scott was only happy with his redheaded brother being the one to accompany him. There were certain things that IR hadn’t taught the other brothers, and it was those skills that were being put to use now.
Counting his steps, Gordon stopped, wriggling under a bush and making sure that he had a clear view of the hut. It was a rundown and shabby looking thing, obviously deserted. All in all, it made the perfect hideout, and Gordon found that made him worried. What if this was just another set-up?
Pushing the thought from his mind before he blew the whole operation, he signalled to Scott that he was in position and checked his weapon. Their father was adamant that they had to be armed, and Scott had agreed. But it was Gordon who had insisted that they only took tranquilisers, claiming that he wasn’t going to stoop to the Hood’s level and be a murderer. He had noticed the way Scott’s hand had drifted to the bandage still wrapped around his arm, his brother clearly thinking about it before somewhat reluctantly agreeing.
Once in position under his bush, Gordon lay still, his heart beating fast. All he had to do now was wait. Scott was going to flush out the hut, drive the Hood out if he was in there, and then Gordon was going to take the man down. Then it would be up to John to get the authorities in and it would all be over.
But Gordon had never been much good at simply sitting and waiting, and as the minutes ticked away, he found himself fidgeting slightly. He knew that no one could know he was there – it would ruin the whole operation, not to mention letting the Hood get away and potentially putting one of his brothers, or even Penny, in danger. He just hated simply lying there under a prickly bush in the middle of Malaysia, loaded gun in his hand, waiting for Scott to walk into a possible trap.
“Easy, Gords.” John’s voice made him jump, even though it was barely more than a whisper. Gordon had forgotten about the readouts the watches gave of their physical condition. Not having been there when John was using it to monitor Scott during his time in the freezer, it had been a while since Gordon had seen this put to use. But no doubt his genius of a brother was noticing the accelerated readouts and knew that Gordon was unhappy about the whole situation.
“Heard anything from Scott yet?”
“Give him time, kid. He can’t exactly go walking straight up there, can he?”
Gordon rolled his eyes and fell silent again. Just having John make contact had done the job, reminding him that the whole family were in this together even if he was the only one lying under a bush. He wasn’t alone.
There was something about knowing that John was watching him as much as he was keeping control of the situation that allowed Gordon to fall still again. He could be motionless, he just didn’t like it. But this time, he knew that it was needed. Nothing could give away their presence, and the aquanaut just let his eyes move, training them on the door of the hut, waiting for any sign that something was about to happen. All was silent, but he knew that didn’t mean anything. Scott could have been directly behind him and Gordon knew he wouldn’t have heard his brother’s approach.
Due to everything being so still, when there was a strange clattering noise behind him, Gordon nearly jumped a foot in the air, receiving a twig in the eye in the process. Swearing, the prankster turned his now watering eye onto the path behind him, trying to calm his racing heart. After ten minutes of frantic searching, he finally came to the conclusion that it was nothing more than his imagination and resumed his previous position under the bush.
Time passed and Gordon didn’t move from his uncomfortable position. John had a point; Scott couldn’t just go walking up. He knew that it would take his brother time to get close, but when nearly an hour had passed and Gordon still hadn’t heard anything, he was beginning to grow concerned. Just as he opened his mouth to ask John what was going on, he heard a flurry of activity going on back at Base. His father was sounding tense, angry and worried, and John was uncharacteristically swearing.
“What’s going on?”
Silence fell at the other end at Gordon’s question, almost as if they had forgotten that he could hear everything that was going on. John swallowed audibly, and for a moment, Gordon didn’t think that anyone would answer him.
“We’ve just received the latest images from your brother’s watch…” Jeff began, his voice terse and strained. Gordon momentarily shut his eyes, determined to find his optimism. Scott would be fine; this was Scott they were talking about. Big brother and Field Commander, nothing touched the guy…
“He’s in trouble.”
Gordon’s optimism vanished.
Scott had slowly made his way around the opposite side of the hut. Within seconds, he could no longer hear Gordon’s footsteps and he smiled proudly. He knew there was a reason why he’d wanted Gordon with him. None of the others would be able to move with that much stealth when required. But then Gordon was pushed from his mind as he took up his own position.
The hut was in his eye-line and, for a long moment, Scott simply stared at it. His eyes were narrowed as he tilted his head, trying to work out whether there was any movement in there or not. He knew they were going to have to play this one exceptionally cautiously, that the slightest wrong move could cost them their lives. This man wanted them dead, and Scott wasn’t going to let his mind dwell on how close it had almost been. He had to stay focused and keep his mind clear rather than letting ideas of revenge cloud his head. He was already thankful that Gordon had stepped in and stopped them from taking normal guns or he knew he would be hard pushed to not just murder the man on the spot for what he had done to his family.
After ten minutes of squinting, Scott decided it was time to move. He had closed down communications with the island after confirming with John (somehow it seemed far more natural to be running things past the space monitor rather than his father, it gave this more of a feel of a normal rescue) that he would reconnect the second he had any news. But he wanted to be able to focus completely on what he was doing. He knew that it was up to him to get close enough to the Hood without being killed in order to be able to drive him towards Gordon. He didn’t need the distraction of wondering what was going on with the rest of his brothers.
Keeping low, Scott wriggled forward on his stomach. It was slow going as he paused every few moments to make sure that nothing was giving away his presence. The house never left his eye-line, and if the weight of his stare alone could have made a man move, the Hood would be fleeing for his life. The undergrowth was thick and tangled and Scott found that his progress was more than hindered due to the fact that he was trying to do it all one-handed. His gun was clutched in his other hand, unblinking eyes fixed on the hut as he tried to force his way through the bushes.
Eventually, he came to a stop. Scott knew that he wasn’t going to get anywhere like this. He was battling against his own awkward position, not made easy because of having something gripped in one hand. There was a particularly dense bush in front of him, the twisting roots that Scott had been trying to force his way through finally seeming to get the better of him. For a long moment, Scott stared at the weapon in his hand, trying to make a decision. It would only be for a moment, and he had been watching the house the whole time, he would surely know if the Hood decided to come out. He was far enough away, he would have time to grab the gun again…
Finally persuading himself with his own arguments, Scott sighed and put the gun on the floor, level with his shoulders. Immediately, his hands stretched out in front of him and he made short work of beginning to force the bush apart, something that was a lot easier now that he had the use of both of his hands.
Unfortunately for the pilot, he didn’t notice the pair of eyes watching his every move. After glancing around frantically more than once, Scott had decided the feeling of being watched was just his own paranoia about what they were trying to do. Whilst they might be handing the Hood over to the authorities the moment they had him contained, they were still taking the law into their own hands in order to do it. Not to mention he had no idea where the madman was. No wonder he felt like there were eyes all over him. But with his gaze so focused on the house and watching for any movement in front of him, he didn’t see his gun slowly begin to slither the other way, apparently of its own accord.
With his way now reasonably clear, Scott let his hand drift back. He had made a small amount of progress forward, but didn’t want to go any further without his gun back in his hand. They were only loaded with tranquilisers thanks to Gordon’s argument, but still, the oldest brother couldn’t help but feel safer with the comforting weight resting in his palm. This man had taken them down too many times; he didn’t want to go in unarmed.
For a moment, his hand just scrabbled uselessly behind him, until the pilot was eventually forced to turn.
“What the-?” Although he hadn’t gone far, Scott assumed that his gun would have still been in reach. Twisting his head around awkwardly, he swore under his breath when he was forced to wriggle back out of the bush, eventually sitting up and staring around him, the deep frown on his face betraying his confusion. How was it that the gun was nowhere to be seen? No one would have been able to get that close to him without him hearing it, this was the sort of scenario he had been trained in…
Unbidden, the memory of Virgil flying across the clearing sprang to mind. He may not have seen it himself thanks to his father and Kyrano’s actions, but he had heard the boys talking about it. He knew that the Hood had managed it without so much as touching his brother…
Swearing violently, Scott’s hand flew towards his watch, but before he could hit anything, a sharp and piercing pain shot up his leg. Immediately, his hand dropped from his watch and clutched at his leg and he stared in bewilderment at the small dart resting in the middle of his thigh. There was no denying that he recognised it. After all, he had been the one to load it into the gun barely a few hours ago. He had just been shot with his own weapon.
Instantly, Scott could feel the corners of his vision beginning to darken. He knew these things were fast, that was why he had chosen to bring them in the first place. He didn’t want the Hood to get a second chance after being hit, and it was only now Scott registered just how fast they were. It was as if a curtain was being drawn across his eyes, slowly beginning to obscure the outside world from his view. In a last-minute feeble attempt to try and do something, the pilot pulled himself across the floor, heading back towards the same bush he had just been trying to force his way through, part of his mind registering the need to find cover.
But it was hard to hide from something when you didn’t know where it was. The only clue Scott had to the Hood’s position was the angle from which the dart had hit him. They had put silencers on their weapons, wanting to keep the whole thing as quiet as possible. But he knew that it would mean Gordon would have no idea what was happening. His hand scrambled for his watch again, the adrenaline rush fading from his mind enough to know that he needed help, that he needed to warn his brothers and Penny that the Hood wasn’t in the hut.
But the fading of the adrenaline caused Scott to simply slump on the ground where he was sitting, barely even feeling it as his head crashed down. Moving his arm was too much effort, everything felt lethargic and heavy with the darkness tugging more insistently upon him now. He grappled with consciousness for just long enough to see a pair of feet enter his vision – a pair he knew didn’t belong to anyone he had flown out here – and to feel a hand roughly roll him over onto his back, but that was it. The blackness had won.
When Scott blearily forced his eyes open again, he wished he hadn’t. It wasn’t his leg that was causing him problems this time, but his shoulders. It was only after a moment of staring at nothing as he tried to make his brain start working again that he realised that for the whole time he had been unconscious (however long that might have been), all of his weight had been hanging from his wrists.
The moment he realised this, the pilot quickly brought his previously useless legs under him and stood upright, letting out a soft groan as the weight was shifted. His head was clearing slightly as he stood, causing him to glance about him in dismay. His hands were tied above him; a long rope attaching them to the ceiling of what he presumed was the same hut he had been watching for what felt like forever.
The hut! If he was in the hut, he would be okay. For a moment, Scott felt the overwhelming urge to laugh. Gordon had been watching the hut; there was no way the Hood would have been able to move him without Gordon seeing something.
“Don’t get your hopes up.”
Scott immediately froze at the voice behind him, hands clenching into fists as he stared stonily ahead, eyes locked on a point on the hut wall as the Hood came into his vision.
“It’s so easy to make someone look the other way for a moment. All you have to do is this…”
His eyes flashed yellow, and Scott immediately heard the subtle sound of a rock falling. It took every ounce of self-control he had not to automatically turn his head, and the pilot couldn’t help but groan, shutting his eyes in resignation. Considering how on edge Gordon would have been, he wouldn’t have just glanced at a noise; he would have attempted to seek out the source. Time in which it would have been easy to move someone, even if they were unconscious.
His fingers were already scrabbling for his watch when Scott realised that the Hood had approached him. He fell still, glaring at the man who was so intent on destroying his family, but couldn’t help but wince slightly at the maniacal gleam in his eye. Flinching backwards, Scott wasn’t quick enough to stop the Hood from grabbing his chin, and could do nothing as the man proceeded to gag him, coughing slightly at the harshness of the treatment.
“Don’t want you calling for help now, do we?”
Scott pretended to glare, but inwardly, he was smirking. The Hood had been one step ahead of them for months now, and yet had just made his first mistake. Keeping the movements small, his fingers flicked a few buttons. He had never needed words when it came to communicating a problem to John. And he knew that his blond brother would have a way of getting the situation across to Gordon, but not letting their younger sibling rush into it in his normal manner.
The Hood, however, didn’t seem to notice, he was too busy playing around with something just out of Scott’s eye-line. When he stepped back, Scott automatically wrenched on the ropes holding his hands, desperately trying to free himself in some way or another. For a small spark had ignited, and as Scott watched, it slowly began to grow. It was only then he realised that something seemed to be running in a track around the hut, gradually spiralling closer and closer to him. Something, it now appeared, that was flammable.
Staring in horror, Scott watched as the flame slowly began to spread.
“Oh fear not. We have plenty of time yet, it’s a slow burner.”
His eyes finally tearing away from the flame, Scott knew that he was in big trouble. The Hood didn’t seem to care that he had just set the place alight, and that in itself made Scott actually believe what he had said. If nothing else, the man seemed to have some sort of self-preservation if his skill at avoiding being caught was anything to go by. But that wasn’t what truly had him worried. It was the way the man was looking almost fondly at the length of metal piping in his hand as he stepped towards the restrained pilot.
Scott just hoped that John had received his message. As the Hood took another step and the fire spread a little further, he was beginning to seriously doubt that he was getting out of this one alive.
Jeff sat in silence, watching John as his son’s fingers flew. It never ceased to amaze him just how determined the young man could be when he set his mind to something, and knowing Scott was in danger was certainly bringing that side of him out. Scott’s watch had been silent for hours as they had agreed whilst he had been getting himself as close as he could to the Hood, not wanting anything to give away his presence, before it suddenly had flickered back into life, leaving the family with a view of a long piece of rope tied to something in a high ceiling, one hand just about visible, clearly tied to the same piece of rope.
Jeff had felt like his heart had stopped when he realised what he was looking at, and what it could potentially mean for his son. For some reason, the image had disappeared again, but John had been quick to reassure him it was because Scott had turned it off rather than anything more sinister. It might have put John’s mind at ease, but it did nothing for his father. He knew what Scott was like when it came to protecting his younger brothers, and knew the chances were that it had been turned off because he didn’t want them to witness anything that was about to happen. If John was thinking the same, he didn’t comment on it.
Finally turning his eyes away from his second-born onto his third, Jeff smiled softly at seeing Virgil return. He had only been gone for a short hour, under strict orders from Brains that he was to keep up the drug intake whilst all of this was happening. It was still early days for the artist considering how potent the poison had been, and a slip-up now could be lethal. But between his father and grandmother, there was no way Virgil had the chance of letting it slip his mind. It annoyed Virgil with how long it took to make up the right concoction of drugs, but Jeff was just glad that his son had been spared the image from Scott’s watch.
“What’s wrong with your wrist?” Jeff asked, cutting through John’s answer, frowning at the way his son was massaging his left wrist. Virgil shrugged.
“Reckon I must have banged it on something, it’s just aching.”
“Need me to take a look?”
“Dad, it’s fine,” Virgil protested, ceasing the action and moving to stand behind John.
“Scott’s in trouble,” John reported bluntly, not glancing away from his screens. Jeff realised that the barest turn of John’s head had been his greeting to his brother, and that Virgil had both received and accepted the greeting. It was the way John had always been. What else could be said when he could already see the panic leaping into Virgil’s eyes at his brother’s words.
“What do you mean, Scott’s in trouble?”
This time, John’s fingers did falter slightly and he glanced over at his father, clearly asking whether he should be the one to tell Virgil or not. Jeff gave the slightest dip of his head in confirmation. He could be as bad as John when it came to not verbally reacting, but his son got the message. The Hood had created enough secrets in this family already, there would be no more.
“We’re not sure. You know how he was keeping the comm down? It just flared into life and this -” John broke off for a moment to tap at his keyboard before the previous image came back onto the screen and Virgil sucked in a sharp breath. “- is what we got.”
Virgil swore, what little strength he had seeping away as he sat down heavily, unblinking eyes staring at the screen. After a moment, Jeff nodded pointedly and John turned it off again, resuming his attempt to brief Gordon on what little they knew whilst stopping the redhead from running straight in there.
“This can’t happen,” Virgil muttered, not noticing he was rubbing his wrist again. “How long ago was that image?”
“And Gordon hasn’t gone in there yet? Who knows what that bastard is going to do to our brother!”
“Virgil! You can’t expect us to ask Gordon to go straight in there. How do you think the Hood managed to catch Scott? This is your brother we are talking about. Don’t think we aren’t as worried as you!” Jeff didn’t mean to snap, but the accusing note in Virgil’s voice had sent him over the edge. To say that he was terrified of what the man might be doing to his son was an understatement, and to hear Virgil almost accuse them of not working fast enough had been too much. He was about to say something else when he caught sight of Virgil’s actions.
“What is wrong with your wrist?” He sounded slightly more demanding this time, crouching down in front of Virgil and taking said wrist in his hand, rotating it gently as he tried to get a look.
“Nothing, I just banged it on something,” Virgil muttered, attempting to tug it back into him. After seeing a faint outline of a bruise, Jeff let him. It did just look like a bang, and knowing what Virgil was like, he let him carrying on rubbing it, regardless of the way his skin was turning pink. Virgil always needed something to fiddle with, a way of using his hands. He had always been like it, ever since he was a small child and especially when he was stressed out. Considering what was happening at the moment, Jeff knew he was lucky the artist wasn’t automatically dismantling something subconsciously. It was times like that he had been glad for John, for although Virgil was good at getting things apart, he didn’t always know how to put them back together again.
“…okay Gordon; you know what you are doing?”
Hearing Gordon’s confirmation, Jeff turned sharply and stood up, moving to stand behind his son as he listened to the two of them. He had barely been paying attention to what the plan was, his mind numbing for a while after learning that the Hood held the life of yet another of his sons in his hand, again. Besides, he trusted John and Gordon to be able to come up with something.
“F.A.B. I’ll be in touch when I’ve got him.”
“Good luck – and be safe,” John practically begged, his professionalism slipping for the first time since the mission had gone ahead. Gordon disconnected, and it took every ounce of Jeff’s self control for him not to yell at his son to keep visual on. But he knew that Gordon needed to focus, and knew what Virgil and John were like. No doubt the pair of them would accidentally keep up a running commentary about what they could see from their awkward angle, distracting Gordon and driving him into insanity.
“What’s the plan?”
“Walk through the front door.”
“What?” Jeff’s cry of alarm was muffled slightly by Virgil’s snort of disbelief. John finally turned in his chair to face his father, a calm expression on his face. Jeff couldn’t help but think that he was looking at a member of International Rescue rather than his son.
“The Hood knows we will do something. He knew Scott was out there, so how the hell did he move him past Gordon or Penny? He knows they are there, meaning he will be expecting something. Face it, we’re known for our secrecy. So why not play to Gordon’s main strength?”
“Making an entrance?” Virgil muttered, a slight smile tugging at the corners of his lips as he thought through John’s plan. His brother grinned at him.
“Yep. He would expect us to come through the back, thinking the front is too obvious. So we go Gordon-style, and simply walk through the front door.”
“It’s too dangerous,” Jeff argued obstinately, reaching past John in order to reconnect to Gordon and tell him to call the whole thing off, to get Penny and find another way in that perhaps wouldn’t get him killed on sight. To his surprise, John’s hand closed protectively around the button, fixing his father with a rather fierce stare.
“Do you trust him?”
“Yes, but this is…”
“If you trust him, Dad, let him do this.” John dropped his gaze, swallowing slightly. “You must have heard the rumours of what he got up to in WASP?”
John mutely nodded, and Virgil stared between them in confusion.
“What? What did he do?”
“Let’s just say our Gords can be deadly when he wants to,” John muttered quietly, meeting Virgil’s gaze head on and causing the artist to swallow. He had always known – they all had – that Gordon was nowhere near as light-hearted as he tried to make out, but he had never considered his brother to be deadly. Scott, yes, even John in his own way. But Gordon? He had to admit though, now he was thinking about it, if he couldn’t be out there himself, there was possibly no one he trusted more to get Scott out of there.
“So you’ll let him go with this?” John pressed, clearly wanting his father to verbally answer him rather than just staring at him in concern. Jeff eventually sighed, running a hand through his hair and sighing deeply, nodding as he backed away and sat down.
“Yes,” he whispered, hating the way it felt like he was sending his son to his death rather than a rescue attempt. He had to make these types of decisions every time there was a rescue. But somehow, it seemed ten times worse when it meant going against another person rather than the unpredictable forces of Mother Nature.
“He’ll be okay.” Virgil leant forward, intending to clasp his father on the arm in a sign of reassurance, but found a wave of light-headedness crashing over him, grabbing hold just to stop himself from pitching forward.
“I’m okay…” His voice sounded hoarse, and Virgil coughed slightly, before suddenly wincing. “Ow!”
“Virg, what…?” With a curse, John jumped from his seat when he caught sight of Virgil’s wrist. What had been a light bruise before had turned into an ugly splash of colour, vivid blues and greens spread out across his wrist. Crouching down in front of him, John took it gently in his hand, only to have Virgil wince and try and pull it away, breathing deeply.
“John, I…” Virgil’s gasp made his brother’s head shoot up so fast that his neck clicked. John stared at his little brother in shock as Virgil seemed to be struggling to breathe.
“It’s alright, John, I’m right here.” Jeff had moved from his seat the second John had, and was now attempting to move his son out of the way so that he could get a better look at Virgil himself. His son was pale, a light sheen of sweat breaking out across his forehead and his eyes were wide and scared as he struggled to take in a proper breath.
“John, move out of the way!”
Despite yelling for help, John wouldn’t budge from his position, and Jeff groaned, knowing precisely what was going through his elder blond’s head. The last time Virgil had struggled to breathe, John had been the one who’d had to pull him back. No wonder he was close to panicking.
“John! I need you to get Brains on the line and find out if this is a delayed reaction to the poison.”
“I know, son.” Kneeling down beside Virgil’s chair, Jeff forced him into sitting up straighter, rubbing a soothing hand up and down between his shoulder blades.
“It’s…not…not poison. Some…something else.”
“Don’t try and talk, Virgil. Follow my breathing. Come on, deep breaths.”
“Brains doesn’t know!” John yelled, and Jeff knew that he had about five seconds before John too started hyperventilating. He was going to need to have a long talk with his son about what had occurred out in Malaysia.
“Go to the infirmary and get me an oxygen mask!” the father ordered, his eyes narrowed in concentration as he tried to help Virgil. John sped off, and must have made it back in record time. Feeling the mask being pushed into his hand, Jeff smiled his thanks tightly, keeping eye contact with a panting Virgil.
“Virgil, listen to me. This is going to help you, you understand me? I’m going to put it on now; don’t fight me.” He knew that the chances were, Virgil wasn’t thinking straight any more, especially not if the way his eyes had widened in panic was anything to go by. Knowing he didn’t have much time, Jeff sat up and quickly fastened the mask around Virgil’s mouth and nose, all the while keeping up a murmuring stream of reassuring nonsense as he tried to get his son’s breathing under control.
The mask didn’t seem to do anything. Virgil still didn’t seem capable of taking a proper breath, even with the fresh oxygen now supposedly flooding his lungs. He had a tight grip on his father’s hand, gasping as he struggled to breathe.
Despite everything he was telling Virgil, Jeff knew that he wasn’t getting through to him. He knew that Virgil’s own panic was not helping the matter, especially as a few hot tears slipped from the corners of his son’s eyes and rolled unchecked down his face.
“I know, John!”
“What do we do?”
“Talk to Brains again,” the father ordered, knowing that he had to give John something to do rather than just letting the young man stand there and watch his brother’s distress, no doubt being plagued by memories of Virgil not breathing altogether. Never before had Jeff felt a wave of hatred towards the Hood as strong as he did now. It was he who had reduced his family to this, he who had made his normally untouchable son panic. He felt John move away and turned back to Virgil, cupping his face to make the man look at him.
“Virgil, focus. I know you are scared, I know you are panicking. I need you to listen to me, son. I need you to follow my breathing. Can you do that?” To Jeff’s dismay, Virgil shook his head, clearly trying to tell him something. As his hands moved to lift the mask, Jeff caught them in his own and lowered them back down again, shaking his head.
“It’s helping you, son, you need to leave it on.”
Virgil shook his head frantically, before seeming to take one deep shuddering breath.
“Virg? Virgil!” Jeff felt an insane rush of panic hit him as Virgil didn’t seem to take another, his eyes narrowed in concentration. But then just as suddenly as the whole thing had started, relief flooded into Virgil’s eyes and he took in a few normal breaths, gulping in the oxygen stutteringly. After a few moments, Jeff reached up and gently unclasped the mask, moving it away slowly to make sure Virgil wasn’t going to react. Now that his son was calming down, the father couldn’t help but wonder whether it had just been an ordinary panic attack over what was happening.
“He’s okay,” Virgil whispered hoarsely, making Jeff stare at him in confusion. He only just had time to pull the mask off completely before Virgil’s eyes rolled back into his head and he passed out.
“Dad?” John’s voice was much quieter now, although Jeff noted that it wasn’t that much calmer. Staring down at Virgil in confusion, Jeff had no idea what had just happened.
“Check in with Gordon.”
Normally, Gordon was the first to deny any nerves, claiming that nothing bothered him. But as he crept towards the hut where he now knew that his brother was being held, even he couldn’t deny the way his heart was pounding. John was informing Penny of the situation, but she wasn’t to interfere until the last minute. From where Scott would have been positioned, the Hood would have only had to get him past Gordon. So whilst there could be no denying he knew there was another Tracy out there, with any luck, he wouldn’t know about the agent.
The hut seemed menacing up close, although how a rundown shack could give him the shivers, Gordon had no idea. Swallowing drily, he triple-checked that his gun was in his hand and ready to go. He was not going to be taken unawares, not with the way this creep had messed with his head over the previous months. This time, Gordon was ready for him, and he was going to show the Hood precisely what happened when you messed with the Tracy family.
For a moment, he nearly lost his nerve altogether as he finally reached the building, standing on tiptoes and just being able to peer in through a grime-smeared window. Trying to squint into the murky darkness, it took a while before he was able to make anything out, but when he realised where his light source was coming from, Gordon backed away slightly, thinking hard. The place was on fire, and yet he had just made out the silhouette of the Hood standing in front of something. Gordon knew it meant he still had time; the man surely wasn’t crazy enough to kill himself?
Knowing that he needed a better look at what was going on, Gordon crept around to the other side, once more standing on tiptoes to glance through a window that, if anything, was even worse. But thoughts of the window were quickly banished from his mind when he finally caught a glimpse of what the Hood had been standing in front of. Rather than moving away, Gordon simply ducked. He rested his back against the wall of the hut, breathing hard. He’d known that he wouldn’t exactly find Scott having a beer with the man, but the sight of his brother hanging from the ceiling was not going to leave his mind any time soon. Even from the back, Gordon knew that his brother was hurt, and if the angle his hands were at was anything to go by, at least one of his wrists was broken.
Gordon knew he had to get in there fast. The fire wasn’t going to keep away forever, and he had no idea if Scott was even conscious. If he had to get his brother out of there with absolutely no assistance at all, it was going to take time. Time Gordon wasn’t so sure that they had. Taking a deep breath, he tightened his grip on his gun and moved back around to the front of the hut.
With one movement, his foot connected strongly with the door and he kicked it down. Rather than just opening, the door’s hinges broke, leaving it hanging pathetically as Gordon went charging in. The Hood turned at his entrance, leering unpleasantly as he watched Gordon take in the sight of his brother.
There was no denying that Scott’s left wrist was broken, and deep bruising was covering his arms. The torn pieces of uniform were giving Gordon enough of a view to be desperately hoping that bruising was the full extent of it and that there was no internal damage. Considering the blood stain across his stomach, he knew that Scott could be in serious trouble.
“Come to enjoy the show?” the Hood spat, and with one flash of his eyes, Gordon was sent flying the whole length of the hut, crashing into the opposite wall. It was only then he realised that his concerns about Scott being conscious were proving to be true, for his brother didn’t so much as lift his head at Gordon’s flight. Pushing himself into an upright position, Gordon aimed his gun at the Hood, only to have it go flying out of his hand and clattering against the wall where he had previously been standing.
Jumping to his feet, Gordon gasped. Instead of taking a step forward as he had been planning, he found that he was lifted off his feet, an invisible force wrapped around his neck as the Hood’s eyes glowed eerily. Gordon refused to let another sound escape him, instead fighting against the hold with all of his might. But how could he fight against something that he could not see?
Just as spots were beginning to dance in front of his vision, Gordon saw something. Scott may have been unconscious on Gordon’s arrival, but in true big brother style, he was not going to stay that way, not whilst he had a younger sibling in danger. His head lifted, bleary eyes peering across to where his brother seemed to be floating.
In one movement, he had let his wrists take his weight again, bringing his foot up and kicking the Hood as hard as he could. The hold on Gordon was instantly broken and the redhead fell back to the ground in a gasping heap. The Hood turned his attention back towards Scott, but trying to put weight on a broken wrist was never a good idea and the man just watched as Scott tried to get his breathing under control, resisting the urge to scream. Slowly, the Hood outstretched his hand, placing it on Scott’s forehead. His eyes glowed once more, and this time, Scott couldn’t stop the cry of pain escaping him as the blackness pulled him under again.
Gordon could only watch, frozen. A small sparking sound caught his attention and with a cry, he realised just how close to Scott the fire was getting. Even the Hood was forced to take a step backwards in order to let the flames reach his intended victim without burning himself in the process. Throwing one arm over his mouth, Gordon attempted to breathe through his sleeve as he painfully crawled across the floor, heading towards the gun. He could hear Scott’s laboured breathing and knew that they had run out of time. They had to get out of there, now.
“You should have known that you couldn’t stop me.” The Hood’s gloating voice came bouncing through the smoke towards the conscious Tracy, and Gordon literally growled.
“Hey, baldy.” Squinting, he could just make out the man’s glowing eyes through the smoke even as his hand closed once more around his weapon. “Go to hell.”
And with that, Gordon fired. Once, twice, three times… he didn’t stop until the gun was empty. Feeling an adrenaline rush shoot through him as he watched the Hood slowly fall over backwards, his body arching mysteriously as the tranquilisers hit, Gordon accidentally took in a rather deep breath to steady himself, only to end up coughing harshly. Scrambling to his feet as fast as he could, he stuck the empty gun into his belt and raced across the hut. The Hood was sprawled across the floor, and Gordon knew from the amount of times he had hit him that the creep would be out cold for hours. Long enough for Gordon to get Scott away from there before getting John’s help to bring in the local authorities. But first things first. Snatching up the same pole the Hood had been tormenting his brother with, hissing at the heat coming out of the metal, Gordon swung it wildly at the rope binding his brother.
Through sheer dumb luck, it somehow managed to break. Scott’s hands were still tied, but he was free from the ceiling, and Gordon only just had time to brace himself before taking his brother’s weight. Hooking his hands under Scott’s arms, Gordon refused to think about the fact that he could barely breathe as he began his painstakingly slow progress towards the door. He could feel Scott’s breathing getting worse, and knew that the smoke had been thicker where his brother was.
Once again, there were spots littering his vision, and Gordon knew he had very little choice. He held his breath, running for the door as quickly as he could whilst dragging Scott along. The door was getting closer… he was running out of air… nearly there… he couldn’t breathe…
He had done it! The redhead didn’t stop moving until he was some distance away from the door, collapsing onto the ground as he took in deep breaths, coughs racking his chest as he tried to get himself under control. Tears were streaming from his eyes as he took in great shuddering breaths, allowing the cool oxygen to flood his senses. Eventually, he rolled over onto his knees, hearing frantic footsteps behind him.
“Gordon!” Penny had arrived, obviously having heard the commotion coming from inside of the hut. Gordon crawled over to where he had dropped Scott, watching anxiously as his brother still seemed to struggle to breathe. Why couldn’t he think straight? He needed to do something… what was it he needed to do?
“It’s alright, Gordon.” Penny dropped to her knees in the mud next to them. Quick fingers made short work of untying the gag, tilting Scott’s head back and allowing his airway to open some more. Immediately, his breathing eased and Gordon watched almost in a daze as she began checking him over, ripping off a long strip of material to bind his wrist after tugging the rope free. Gordon felt like he was in a dream as he watched her work, knowing that he should probably be doing something to help.
“John…?” Wearily raising his watch, Gordon found himself face to face with a pale brother, who seemed to go even paler upon seeing the state of Gordon. Before John could launch into anything – Gordon really didn’t have the time or patience right now – Gordon spoke.
“Time to get the auth-” His words were stolen from him as an almighty bang filled the air, making him jump in shock. Slowly, he turned around, only to watch as the roof of the hut gave an ominous creak before collapsing, the added fuel meaning the flames shot high into the air as it did so. It soon was burning bright and hot, thick plumes of smoke billowing out into the air.
Gordon was vaguely aware of someone shouting his name, but he didn’t so much as turn his head as Alan came running over, throwing himself down next to his brothers. He took one glance at Penny working on Scott, saw that his brother was going to be okay and that there was nothing he could do to help, before crawling over to the dazed Gordon. Without acknowledging his presence, Gordon stuck out an arm and threw it around Alan’s shoulders. He gazed at the flames for a long moment before swearing viscously, realising that the Hood was still inside of the blazing hut.
No one could survive that. The Hood had been unconscious, Gordon’s darts seeing to that. But the hut had turned into almost a mini-inferno, and Gordon had done enough rescues to know that no one, not even the Hood, would be able to walk away from that one.
“Gordon?” Hearing John try and get his attention, Gordon blinked, glancing between Alan and his watch as if realising for the first time that they were there.
“It’s over,” he responded wearily, wanting nothing more than to go home.
As his eyes peeled slowly open, Scott just blinked at the ceiling above him, his brain trying to process not only what had happened, but where he now was. Coughing slightly, he shifted a little, only to gasp in pain. His left arm was strapped firmly across his chest and, glancing down at himself, he saw that his upper body was smeared with different creams, a few of the areas – especially his stomach – wrapped up.
“Welcome back,” a hoarse voice said somewhere over to his right, and Scott rolled his head over, only to find his confusion deepening at seeing a very put-out Virgil lying in the bed next to him. Virgil didn’t need to be in here anymore. Brains had cleared him before heading back to Five… So why was his brother lying there looking thoroughly annoyed? And what exactly had he done to his wrist?
“Wha’ you do?” Scott croaked, wincing as the words seemed to grate on his throat. Virgil winced sympathetically. His hand had been drifting towards his watch, clearly intending to let the rest of the family know that Scott was awake. They had all sat there for hours, but when Alan had eventually dozed off and they realised that Gordon’s paleness wasn’t fading, their father had forcibly removed the rest of the family, claiming that he needed John’s help with something. Virgil was no fool; he knew that it was as much an act to get John out of there as it was the younger ones, but it had worked. Knowing they were due back any moment, the artist stopped at Scott’s question.
“Nothing.” He glanced down at where his own wrist had a light support over it, mainly to stop the ointment his grandmother had smeared all over it from rubbing off. Seeing Scott’s eyebrows raise, Virgil looked pointedly at his big brother’s broken wrist. “You did it.”
“I… what?” Needless to say, Scott was beyond confused. How on earth could he be responsible for Virgil hurting his wrist? But that still didn’t explain why he was currently occupying a bed in the infirmary. “How did I do it? And what are you doing in here, Virg?”
“You broke yours,” Virgil responded quietly, locking eyes with his brother. He was so sure of what he had felt: the pain in his arm, the way he couldn’t breathe. From what Gordon had said, the moment Virgil’s bruise had become worse was when Scott had put his weight on his wrist. His father had already claimed that he had just had a panic attack, something that was apparently understandable considering his brothers were going after the man who had almost killed him. He had attempted to explain the bruise by saying it must have been already coming out, but Virgil wasn’t buying it. He knew that his reactions had some sort of direct relation to what had happened to Scott.
“You felt it?”
“You don’t sound surprised.” Propping himself up on one elbow, Virgil stared over at his brother in confusion. Scott was always the most practical of his brothers, not believing in anything unless the evidence was there in front of him. But right now he was staring back at his brother, biting his lip as he clearly pondered something.
“It wouldn’t be the first time. Well, maybe for you, but not for me,” Scott admitted quietly, glancing down at the bed before letting his eyes flicker up to meet Virgil’s.
“You’ve felt it too?”
“Virg, when your heart stopped, it felt like a part of me had died. I don’t just mean grief; it was as if something had physically gone. Gordon no doubt told you… told you my reaction?” Virgil nodded, and Scott dropped his gaze again.
“It was like I could feel what that poison was doing to you. I thought it was just shock, you know? You weren’t supposed to have gone and died.” Scott let out a shaky laugh, his good hand automatically fiddling with the covers on the bed. “But then, I knew… before Gordon told us that the cure had worked, I just knew it. You think I’m crazy now, don’t you?”
“Considering why I’m in here?” Virgil muttered. There would have been an occasion when he would have mocked Scott for it, but now was not the time, not considering everything that had happened. “But why now? I mean, I had no idea when your plane crashed all those years ago. And I’m guessing that you didn’t know when I broke my leg?”
Scott shook his head, and the two stared at each other, neither having a clue what to say.
“So what the hell is happening to us?” Scott eventually muttered, glancing away from Virgil. What if something was seriously wrong with them? What if he always knew what his brother was feeling? Whilst that might be something of a bonus on a rescue, an easy way of keeping Virgil out of trouble, Scott found that he really didn’t want to know all that his brother got up to, especially when Virgil had time off from the island. Something told him that his brother was no doubt thinking along the same lines if the small shudder he suddenly gave was anything to go by.
“I might be able to help with that.”
A soft voice came from the door, neither of the two men inside having heard it open. As one, both Scott and Virgil turned to face the door, Virgil even trying to get out of the bed. Scott would have followed suit if one movement hadn’t sent him collapsing back onto the pillow with a groan. Every inch of him hurt! But Kyrano lifted a calming hand and Virgil stopped. He propped up the bed so that he could sit up, but made no attempt to get out of it. Scott couldn’t help but smirk slightly. Ever since they had heard about Kyrano’s role in sedating Scott, the rest of the brothers had been strangely reserved around him.
“How do we know when the other is hurt?” Virgil practically whispered. Scott knew how he felt though. If Kyrano couldn’t answer it, they didn’t know who else they were going to talk to. John would regard them silently and thoughtfully, would claim to be looking into it and really be researching mental illnesses. Their father wouldn’t listen for more than a moment, whilst Gordon and Alan would no doubt find the whole thing hilarious and the two of them would be dodging pranks for months as the troublemakers tried to catch them out.
“You haven’t always, have you?” There was something calming about Kyrano’s voice, something that didn’t make the two brothers feel like they were losing their minds. Virgil glanced at Scott, who paused for a moment before shaking his head. Kyrano returned the nod, clearly contemplating something as he walked forward. Neither of them had the chance to ask anything before he suddenly stretched out his hands, resting his fingers on Scott’s temples.
The pilot made to jerk away, to demand to know what the man thought he was doing, but something in Kyrano’s expression stopped him. He looked calm, pleasantly thoughtful, as his eyes shut, a slight frown giving away how much he was concentrating. Just watching him, Scott felt himself feeling sleepy, his eyes slowly beginning to flicker shut before the Malaysian suddenly pulled away and repeated the process on Virgil.
“I thought as much,” he eventually muttered, sitting down between the two beds and watching the brothers, as if unsure as to how they would react.
“What? Kyrano, what is it? What’s wrong with us?” Virgil sounded slightly frantic as he demanded answers from their friend, but Scott had a feeling that whatever it was, it wouldn’t necessarily be bad news.
“The first time you felt this? It was after an encounter with that man, wasn’t it?”
Scott wasn’t sure whether it was a deliberate attempt to distance himself from the situation when Kyrano didn’t say the Hood’s name, but he nodded, glancing over at Virgil. The younger brother knew what he was thinking about and leant over, grasping Scott’s arm gently, mindful of any bruises.
“It was after he killed Virg.”
“And Virgil, you felt it for the first time only yesterday?”
“I was out for a whole day?”
“Yes,” Virgil admitted softly, ignoring Scott’s disbelief. He was chewing on his lower lip, always a sign that something was troubling him. “What happened?”
Kyrano sighed, looking between the two young men again. He had watched them grow into the men they now were. He may not have known them as children, but he had certainly watched them mature since everyone had moved over to the island and he had brought his daughter over. He had seen them at their best, and at their worst. But never did he think he would be the one who would have to explain something like this.
“The… the Hood and I, we have a connection. He exploits it, I ignore it.”
Scott’s eyebrows had disappeared into his hairline and Virgil almost dared his brother to read his mind to see what he was thinking. That would be one way to shut him up, that was for sure. He just hoped that his brother wasn’t going to say anything that could offend Kyrano. Luckily, Scott shot him a scathing look and Virgil smirked. He should have known; Scott had always known what he was thinking.
“You were both touched with that same power. I believe it awakened something in you both.”
“But Gordon got hit with it more than the rest of us put together,” Virgil mused out loud, not forgetting the sight of his brother on the floor in agony. Kyrano frowned, closing his eyes for a second before opening them with a smile.
“But Alan did not.”
“The pair of you have always been close. There were already the… the building blocks, if you like.” Smiling at their dumbfounded expressions, Kyrano pressed on. It wasn’t often that a Tracy was rendered speechless. “The same would have happened to Gordon if Alan had also been affected – they too have that same bond. But as it is, all Gordon got from it was a headache.”
“So, will we always know?”
“Don’t you want to?”
“No!” both brothers yelped simultaneously, and this time, Kyrano couldn’t hold back his laughter. In having such strong personalities, the two were more alike than they realised. No wonder they had managed to form such a strong bond without meaning to. The desperate need to know what was happening with the other had allowed the bond to open.
“Then it will go,” he replied calmingly; beginning to climb to his feet. He could hear footsteps heading down the corridor towards the infirmary, and knew it was time for the rest of the family to be made aware of the fact that Scott was awake. “It will only remain as long as you want it to.”
“Oh.” Scott too had heard the footsteps. “Kyrano, do you mind if..?”
“The rest of the family do not find out?”
“Please?” It was Virgil who spoke this time and, once again, Kyrano found he had a smile on his face. The two might claim that they didn’t want to know, but if they remained so in sync with each other, it was going to take a while before their new bond disappeared. It would be interesting to see how far it had progressed and just how much they knew what the other was feeling. Knowing them, they would just think it was the other knowing them too well anyway.
“They will not hear it from me,” Kyrano promised. He wasn’t going to promise that they would not find out, because when living on an island, there wasn’t a lot that could remain a secret, something that the boys had learnt the hard way in the past. But he would not be the one to divulge what was going on with the brothers, not even to his own daughter.
Scott smiled gratefully, but before he could open his mouth to thank their old friend, the door swished open and the rest of the family arrived. Everyone was there, even their grandmother. Relieved smiles split open their faces as they realised that Scott was awake, and en-masse, they all piled into the room.
Grandma somehow got there first, fussing over the two of them for all she was worth, even though Virgil had been subjected to it the day before as well. They both put up with it, trading amused looks as they realised once again they were thinking the same thing. There was no point trying to fight against her, and it was only when the covers on the beds were perfectly straight that she finally said something about needing to make sandwiches and bustled out again.
Knowing the coast was now clear, the rest of the family moved forward, automatically taking up positions around the room that made Scott realise this was not the first time they had all been in here since they had arrived home.
After the initial questions about how he was feeling, and did he hear what happened to Virgil, and how Alan got to fly Two home, Scott found himself tuning out. He nodded and made the appropriate comments when required (or when John subtly nudged him in the leg, knowing that Scott wasn’t paying attention), but that aside, he found himself watching Gordon closely.
The redhead looked more tired than Scott thought he had ever seen him, and it suddenly dawned on him what his younger brother must have gone through in order to get him away from the Hood. He was lucky, there didn’t seem to be any visible injuries, and remembering the heat of the fire in the brief moments he had been conscious, Scott felt a rush of relief shoot through him at the fact that his water-loving brother hadn’t even been burnt. Feeling another nudge in his leg, he finally turned his attention back to John, who had been watching him just as closely as Scott had been watching Gordon.
The raising of John’s eyebrows was all that Scott needed to see in order to know that Gordon was okay. But there was something about the way John then let his eyes dart between the pilot and their younger brother which clearly said that he needed to talk to Gordon. Scott nodded softly, a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips. Never mind being able to read Virgil, John was just as easy to those who knew him.
Whilst he wanted to be able to talk to Gordon there and then, to be able to put his mind at rest, Scott knew that he would have to wait it out and listen for the third time in a row whilst Alan excitedly described the journey home. It had been okay for the first or even the second re-telling – watching Virgil’s face as Alan described his control of Two had certainly brought more of a twinkle into his eye. But as the stories faded away and the general chatter broke back out again, a family celebrating being back together, Scott could see that Gordon wasn’t going to be staying around much longer.
“I’m going to see if your grandmother needs any help.” Ruffling Alan’s hair as he stood up, Jeff paused before leaving, drinking in the sight of all five of his boys well (enough) and alive. Too many times over lately had he feared that that might not be the case, it had almost happened. Gordon and the crates. Scott and the freezer. Alan and the gun. John almost being kidnapped… the list seemed endless. But no more.
Penny had flown back over the previous day, after a quick debriefing had made any loose ends obvious, armed with John’s knowledge of the local area and how she should expect the authorities there to react from what he had learnt from his liaisons with them. For the entire family – minus Scott who had been blissfully unconscious – it had been the worst waiting game ever. Eventually, the news had come through that the hut had been completely destroyed and she had found no sign that the Hood had made it out alive. There was no other option than to believe he had died in the blaze.
The reaction had been instant. Grandma had almost fainted from relief, causing Kyrano to quickly go and make her a cup of tea. Judging by the way Tin-Tin left after him, they all knew he too needed a moment. Brains had smiled, and promptly gone back to installing something into Five’s upgrades in the way only he could manage. Alan had laughed out loud, whooping for joy at the knowledge that it was all over. John and Virgil had exchanged deep and significant looks, but it was Gordon’s reaction that was deeply engraved in Jeff’s mind.
He had seen the silent conversation between John and Scott just now, and he too understood the necessity of Gordon being able to talk to Scott. He was hoping that he if left, the other boys might take the hint, although considering how excitedly Alan was chatting away, he wasn’t sure if that would be the case. Besides, he didn’t just want to leave them to let Scott and Gordon be alone. He too wanted a word with a son. John’s reaction at Virgil’s panic attack meant Jeff knew there were some unfinished issues.
John watched his father go, a small smile on his face as he realised what his dad was doing. He knew it was nothing to do with helping his grandmother that made the man leave the room, and this time, he caught Virgil’s eye as he turned back to the beds. Scott was almost asleep, and jumping on that chance, John beckoned Alan over.
“Reckon you can help me break Virg out of here?” he asked in a stage whisper, knowing full well that Scott had heard them, but for once, the oldest brother was not going to comment on it. Gordon had his upper body cushioned on the bed, and it was clear to them all that he too was close to falling asleep. If his other reactions had been anything to go by, the redhead would not have got much sleep the night before. Scott had his good hand combing through his brother’s hair, and John knew that Gordon wasn’t listening to a word. This was their chance.
Alan immediately grinned and the two blonds stood up. John had no doubt that Virgil knew what they were up to, but he certainly joined in as he silently slipped from the bed, making a show of leaning on Alan. John knew that he didn’t need to, it was just a way of making sure their youngest member left the room. Otherwise all of them knew Alan wouldn’t leave Scott.
Letting the two younger ones leave before him, John had to admit Virgil was certainly playing along with it. Alan’s chance to fly Two gave them something to talk about, and now that the initial worry for his ‘bird seemed to have died away, Virgil was more than willing to talk through minor details with his brother. Either that, or he was just a much better actor than John had given him credit for. The door swished shut as John left, pausing for long enough to give his oldest brother a quick visual once over. Scott might be the one trying to get through to Gordon, to make sure the rest of the family was alright, but that didn’t mean John was any less worried about him than the others. He had truly believed that Scott wouldn’t be getting out of that one alive and, shuddering slightly, John made to go and find out where the others had got to.
“A word, son?”
The voice coming from the shadows almost made John jump, something that had always been hard to do. Running a hand through his hair in distraction, John turned. His father hadn’t gone very far when he had left, and he certainly hadn’t gone to help Grandma. Instead, he was waiting directly outside of the infirmary. It was only now that John realised the man was waiting for him.
“I was gonna go and see…”
“It can wait,” Jeff interrupted, his voice gentle, but firm. He knew that given the chance, John would try to avoid him. The blond was never one to open up about how he was feeling, but his reactions over the last few days showed Jeff that was precisely what he needed to do. Hopefully if he could get through to John, they would truly be able to let the whole fiasco fade. Poison and broken bones had nothing on the effect the attacks might have had on his sons’ mental state. John looked like he was going to argue, before glancing at the infirmary doors. He suddenly realised that he had basically left Gordon in the same situation, so smiled slightly at his father and nodded. Following the man down the hallway to his study, John couldn’t help but wonder what he had just let himself in for.
Gordon was thinking the same thing. The hand had stopped combing through his hair and the stupor the movement had sent him into was broken. Blearily sitting up, it took him a moment to realise that everyone else had left. Scott saw him looking around and knew what he was thinking.
“Just you and me now, kiddo.”
“Last time that happened, you were barely breathing.”
Scott inwardly grinned. He had been worried that he was going to have to force out of Gordon what precisely was troubling him, but it appeared the redhead wanted to talk. He had just been waiting for the right brother.
“Okay, out with it.”
“Bully.” Gordon sat up, the corners of his mouth twitching as he looked over at Scott. The pilot simply raised his eyebrows, a look Gordon knew only too well. He wasn’t getting out of here until he had told Scott everything. Considering his brother was battered and bruised with a broken arm, Gordon didn’t see how the older man could put so much power into that look. Gordon eventually sighed, glancing away from Scott and running a hand through his hair in agitation.
“It’s because of me he is dead.”
“It’s because of you I’m alive,” Scott shot back. For someone who appeared to brush everything off as being trivial, Gordon was a deep thinker at times, almost rivalling John. And just like their brother, it was sometimes hard to work out what was going on in his head because of the mask he seemed to wear.
“No, Scott. I killed him.”
Scott sighed, leaning forward and stretching out his good hand. Capturing Gordon’s chin, he turned his brother’s head towards him, forcing the younger man to look him directly in the eye.
“You were the one who insisted we didn’t take real bullets. You were the one who didn’t want this to turn into a hit.”
“And yet I was the one responsible. How’s that for irony?” Gordon muttered with a bitter laugh, causing Scott to tighten his grip warningly.
“Stop it. He was going to kill us both if you hadn’t have done what you did. All you did was dart him. He was the one that lit that fire.”
“He would have made it out if I hadn’t…”
“And we wouldn’t. Gordon, please, listen to me. I know you think you killed him, but that was only an accident. You neutralised the threat just as we planned to do. If he wanted to try and burn us alive, then that is his fault. And I know you. If that roof hadn’t collapsed – yes, Penny told me what happened, she called via the comms earlier, don’t interrupt – then you would have gone back in for him, wouldn’t you?”
Gordon didn’t say anything for a moment, before dropping his eyes and nodding.
“See? You tried.” Scott pressed on, hoping that he was getting through to his brother because he wasn’t quite sure what to say if not. “His own actions led to his death and you did all you could. What about every rescue victim we’ve been unable to get to in time? Are their deaths your fault?”
Again, Gordon didn’t speak, mutely shaking his head. Scott knew that he would be able to make the point on that argument; it was a discussion that had raged long and hot for days after they had lost their first victim, each brother personally feeling the effects.
“And this is the same. Face it, Gordon, it was him or us. And considering he would have gone after John, Virgil and Alan again if he’d been the one to make it out, you just saved us all, Squirt.”
“Then why does it feel like it is my fault?”
Scott grinned, dropping his hand back. He could see by the look in Gordon’s eyes that he had accepted what his brother was saying; it was just a last attempt to clear up any doubts before they could come back and haunt him further.
“Because you are an idiot.” If Gordon had asked that earlier on in the conversation, Scott would have been doing his best to try and reassure him. But he knew Gordon, knew there was nothing more he could say to him and that was a sign to get back onto more familiar territory before they ended up going around in circles. Gordon huffed, finally sitting back in his chair and making Scott breathe a sigh of relief. That was what he had been waiting for. The clear and obvious sign Gordon had relaxed. He knew that once that happened, his brother was no longer hiding anything. Otherwise, you could never tell what was going on in his head.
“You okay?” Scott muttered gently after giving him a moment, keeping his voice light and casual even though he desperately wanted to know the answer.
“I think so.”
Scott could ask for no more, but before he could say anything, the door opened again. Alan was in like a shot, flopping down onto the chair he had previously been sitting in and swinging his legs up onto the end of Scott’s bed. For a moment, Scott couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing in there. It wasn’t exactly Alan’s favourite place. But then he heard the quiet voice of Virgil floating through even as the artist himself appeared. It was time for Virgil’s next dose. But the man didn’t come in fully. Instead, he was lurking in the shadows of the doorway, his watch raised, talking. Scott frowned, before glancing back at Alan.
“Brains,” his brother said simply, and within seconds, Scott understood. He knew that Virgil had been trying to talk to the man for the past week, but had never managed to catch him. Brains was not one for long, face-to-face conversations and often just disappeared if one seemed likely. He seemed to be alright talking over the comm though, maybe it was because it was something he had designed and created, giving him a sense of security. Either way, Scott was glad Virgil had finally got the chance he was after. They had all thanked Brains profusely for his role in saving Virgil’s life, but the man himself hadn’t been given the opportunity. First of all with being too weak, and then with Brains disappearing up to Five… now this gave things more of a sense of finality. They were tying up the loose ends, things were beginning to get back to normal again. It helped that Penny was taking care of everything over in Malaysia, for Scott was not sure whether they would have been able to hold it together there. At the end of the day, Virgil had died there, however momentarily, and Scott knew their plan to stop the Hood could have so easily gone drastically wrong.
Before he could think of it anymore, Virgil moved across the room at the same time as the door opened again. Scott frowned as his father and immediate younger brother walked in. Jeff was looking relieved, as if a great weight had been lifted from him. But it was John who really caught Scott’s attention. The blond was pale, and Scott was sure he had been crying. But despite the red rims of his eyes, they were clearer than he had seen them since Virgil was poisoned. Whatever the pair of them had been up to, it had clearly been needed and done the trick. Scott was glad. It was nice to see his father be able to take control of the situation and his son. Especially when it came to John – the man hid things too easily and for too long. Scott didn’t particularly have to be the one to break through his defences this time.
The pair moved across the room after Virgil, John casually nudging Alan out of his seat and taking it for himself. He wasn’t to have it for long though, as their grandmother arrived back with a large plate of sandwiches. It almost looked like no one had ever left as Virgil hitched himself back up onto the bed, Alan climbing up beside him. Both sat sideways, legs swinging off so they could face the rest of the family. John climbed out of his chair, offered it to his grandmother and sat cross-legged on the end of Scott’s bed.
Outside of the door, someone else paused. Kyrano had come back to check on the boys, wanting to make sure that Scott and Virgil were dealing with the knowledge that he had imparted earlier. But on seeing the whole family there, he found that he couldn’t go in. This was the first time in months they had properly all been together with all of them conscious. The first time they had truly been able to relax, knowing that their problems were over and that they would be able to go about their normal lives once again. They could go back to saving the world without someone trying to kill them for it.
He couldn’t help feeling slightly responsible. No matter how much he normally denied having a brother, even a half-brother, it was still his own flesh and blood that had caused such suffering to the men he considered to be his real family. He knew that they would never see it like that, and that if he should voice his guilt, they would tell him he was being foolish. Even so, they possibly didn’t realise he was perhaps the most relieved of them all that this was over.
Moving away, Kyrano decided to find his daughter. Perhaps they should have some time with just the two of them, leave the Tracys to deal with what had happened and piece together their lives again. But as he stepped forward, a sharp pain shot momentarily through his head. Something stirred. The same something that had been silent since the attack, the same something he had attempted to put into words for two of the closest brothers.
And this time, that something was furious.
The pain disappeared as quickly as it had come, and Kyrano pushed it from his mind, adamant that it had only occurred because he was thinking about the man. Nothing else could happen. The Hood was dead. The Tracys were safe.
But deep in the depths of a jungle, a harsh voice chuckled darkly. They believed what he wanted them to believe. He would be back. And next time, the Tracys would not be so lucky.