Dawn broke over Tracy Island, the sun just peeping over the horizon and bathing the small dwelling in a golden light, infiltrating the cracks in the proud house resting atop one of the numerous hills that littered the land. Birds greeted the new day with a burst of song, each trying to outdo each other. The only other sound that could be heard was that of a few of the occupants beginning to awaken. They too had their morning routine in order to greet the new day, and before long, running water could be heard as showers were turned on, the smell of bacon wafting teasingly out of the now open windows as one of the many doors slid open and revealed a figure slipping silently out for his morning run. Nowhere was there any evidence that there was more to the island than originally met the eye, no clue as to the secrets the family residing there were hiding. The island did its job well. Looking like a paradise for the supposedly playboy sons of a billionaire, there was no hint that this was the base of the world’s most advanced rescue organisation.
One son, however, had no desire to join his brothers in greeting the new day. In his mind, dawn was something that was only ever seen if a rescue had kept them out until extreme times, or if they were in another part of the world at the time it broke. Virgil had no desire to be up and beginning the day this early, not if he could help it. Exhaling in satisfaction in his sleep, the artistic son of the legendary Jeff Tracy merely rolled over, his legs kicking away the covers as the sun already began to bring with it a heat that very few places dealt with on a regular basis. He didn’t notice, however, too used to allowing his body to automatically react in order to acclimatise to the change in temperature. Virgil honestly did not see the point in rising at the same time as Scott and Gordon, not understanding their need to get going so early. In his view, they could be called away at any time, meaning that he was going to take his sleep when and where he could. Unfortunately for him, a certain younger brother did not understand his reasoning behind staying in bed, and Gordon knew nothing could wind his brother up as much as a rude awakening.
One arm slipping under his pillow, Virgil found that he was practically smiling in satisfaction in his sleep, some part of his mind beginning to claw its way back to consciousness enough for him to know that he was still able to relax for a few hours more. Rolling over again, the heat bringing with it some form of restlessness, Virgil suddenly found himself receiving an unexpected – and unwelcomed – shower.
Sitting up spluttering, he unhooked his hand from under his pillow in order to brush his now sodden hair out of his eyes, blinking the sleep out of them at the same time. Huffing in annoyance, it came as no surprise to see his immediate younger brother now standing at the foot of the bed, clearly trying to keep some sort of distance between them in order to make sure that Virgil couldn’t reach him without moving. And knowing what Virgil was like first thing in the morning, Gordon knew there wasn’t much chance of that happening.
“Morning, sleepyhead.” he called, his voice annoyingly cheerful as he grinned down at the dishevelled appearance of his brother, despite the glare that he was being subjected to. On some occasions, the glare did have the power to make the redhead squirm a little; Virgil was his older brother, after all. However, when the artist had hair sticking out at extraordinary angles and was clearly not awake enough to keep his eyes fully open, the look lost its power somewhat.
“Wha’ the hell you doin’?” Virgil slurred, deciding that sitting up was too much effort and collapsing back into his pillows, only to immediately wince as his wet hair stuck unpleasantly to the back of his neck. Running his hand behind his head in order to try and relieve the sensation at least a little, Virgil decided that when he was more awake, he was going to murder his brother. He would just have to wait and see what way seemed like it would produce the most satisfaction when the time came to do it.
“Thought you said that you wanted to be up early today?” Gordon responded, shrugging his shoulders in a non-committal manner, his eyes sparkling at the look he received in return. Both Tracys knew that Virgil had said no such thing, and pushing himself into a more upright position once again, Virgil voiced exactly what he thought of his brother’s answer.
“Whoa, easy tiger,” Gordon laughed, holding up his hands in mock surrender at the language that came out of his brother’s mouth. It was only then that Virgil noticed the handle of the bucket draped over the prankster’s arm, the now empty container swinging freely, almost as if mocking the young man, claiming that it had the power to wake him up in the morning.
“You don’t want Scott to hear language like that, do you?”
“Gordon, go away,” Virgil moaned, flopping back down again and rolling over, burying his face in the soft fabric of his pillows. Maybe if he just pretended that Gordon wasn’t there, his brother would oblige and disappear. To his delight, quiet footsteps did leave the room, and Virgil shut his eyes again, deciding that even with wet hair, he might be able to manage a few more hours sleep. After all, his brain had never properly come round enough in order for him to have to stay awake now.
Just as he was beginning to drift again, Virgil felt the contents of at least two more buckets being emptied over his back, drenching both him and his bed at the same time in icy water, making him shudder violently even as he sat back up.
“GORDON!” Running footsteps were all that answered his shout, however, even if the redhead did pause for a fraction of a second in Virgil’s doorway in order to chuckle at the appearance of his big brother. He didn’t hang around for long though, not when he took in the sparks flying from Virgil’s eyes, coupled with the fact that the artist had stood up properly now.
Any thought of sleep was suddenly driven from Virgil’s mind as he glared at the shadow of his fleeing brother. Knowing that he wouldn’t be able to get any more rest now, not considering the state of his bed, Virgil decided that revenge was something that, just this once, was best served hot.
Wrenching his sodden tee-shirt over his head, the pilot of one of the world’s biggest machines jogged bare foot across his bedroom floor, pausing in the doorway as he listened for the sound of Gordon’s footsteps. It was still early – something he was less than happy about – meaning that he knew Scott would still be down on the beach. His father might be up, but would either be in the kitchen or in his office, doing his morning checks on what was happening with his numerous businesses, not to mention receiving any reports from the agents they had scattered around the world. Whilst Alan did not have the ability to sleep in as late as his brother, he had not yet developed the unnatural early rising of the rest of the family, clinging to the one last thing that made him just an ordinary teenager rather than a member of International Rescue. And with John being up on Thunderbird Five, Virgil knew that any movement he could hear would be his troublesome brother.
Sure enough, his pause paid off, and he could hear the quiet footsteps of Gordon trying to sneak down the stairs without his brother knowing where he was. Smirking in satisfaction, despite the fact that the look was somewhat ruined by being punctuated with a wide yawn, Virgil dragged a hand through his hair as he crept towards the stairs, wincing at the wet feeling under his fingers. One thing worked to his advantage though. From the years working in school productions, Virgil knew how to move with stealth. After all, it wasn’t as if he could make his presence known in between acts, that was not how it worked. Virgil had developed the ability to move almost silently, something he knew his brothers – especially the younger ones – found to be an annoyance.
Stealing silently down the hallway, Virgil broke into a jog as he caught sight of the back of Gordon’s head vanishing through the lounge door. The room had access straight to the pool, and Virgil – whilst not normally being up at the same time – knew his brother’s routine. If Gordon reached the water before Virgil caught up with him, then the artist would be forced to wait. Speeding up, Virgil ran flat out through the kitchen, yanking open the door and sprinting past a surprised Kyrano who was busy gathering some sort of plant in their small kitchen garden. The lounge might have direct access, but it wasn’t the only route to the pool. There was no way Virgil would be able to sneak up on Gordon in that particular room; there were too many things in the way that would have given away his presence. However, by going this way, Virgil was hoping that he would be able to cut off Gordon’s escape route.
Hearing the double doors sliding smoothly open, Virgil picked up his pace once more, skidding around the corner and coming to a panting halt just as Gordon stepped out of the door, his eyes sparkling with amusement as he took in the sight of his breathless and wet brother attempting to block his way to the pool.
“Problem, Virg?” Gordon asked innocently, but Virgil wasn’t fooled. He could see by the way Gordon had tensed and the movement in his eyes as they flickered to each side of the pool that his brother was attempting to work out an escape strategy. Virgil was confident that Gordon wouldn’t head back inside; the water-loving Tracy would automatically take the outside world as a means of escape rather than heading back indoors if given the chance. Despite the fact that he had a fuming brother blocking his way, Virgil knew that it would not provide the younger man with a good enough reason to head back into the safety of the house. It was just a matter of waiting to see which way his brother would attempt to bolt.
“Guys?” Instinctively turning his head, Virgil had to smirk at the expression on Scott’s face. There was a look of resignation present as he took in Virgil’s sodden appearance – not to mention the fact that his brother was up and awake and the sun had only just risen. Gordon was standing in the doorway, a towel draped over his bare shoulders, a grin firmly in place, and his legs tensed, a clear indication that he was about to move. Having four younger brothers, one of them being a known prankster, Scott didn’t even need to ask what was going on. It was just a matter of stopping the pair of them from killing each other. Or more specifically, stopping Virgil murdering Gordon. Scott still needed them on rescues, despite claiming that his own ‘bird was far superior. Besides, it would just mean a hell of a lot of paperwork, something that the Field Commander found to be more than tedious.
With his head turned towards Scott, Virgil only just caught Gordon’s movement out of the corner of his eye. Having expecting his brother to run one way or another, Virgil was not prepared for the redhead to run straight forward, pushing against Virgil’s chest and causing him to stumble backwards, although Virgil knew instantly his brother had been careful that the artist wouldn’t fall. What Gordon hadn’t noticed, however, was the sun lounger directly behind Virgil, and, feeling it collide with the back of his knees, Virgil felt his training take over automatically. Letting his body fall, he tucked his legs into him as he dropped, rolling neatly over the sun lounger and landing on his feet in a tight crouch. It was harder to say who looked more impressed, Scott with his raised eyebrows over on the far side of the pool, or Gordon with his gobsmacked expression. The prankster had frozen mid-stride, one arm outstretched from where he had been in the process of throwing his towel down, his head swivelled with wide eyes as he watched Virgil’s actions.
“What?” the artist eventually muttered, beginning to feel self-conscious at his brothers’ stares. He knew they had seen him do something like that before; they all had a habit of pulling off unusual stunts during a rescue when the situation demanded it. But usually someone’s – if not their own – life was in danger when rational thought was driven away, and Virgil knew it was far from common for something like this to happen at home.
“You need to get up early more often,” Scott commented lightly, finally beginning to move around the pool, a grin firmly in place. What Virgil hadn’t seemed to realise was that his own face had mirrored that of his brother’s. He had looked as surprised as the rest of them that the stunt had actually worked. Scott knew full well that his younger brother didn’t realise how he looked: the stunned expression coupled with wet hair dripping into his eyes made the young man look a picture. It reminded the oldest Tracy son of the little boy who had pulled his big brother out into the pouring rain just to show him the frog he had found in the garden one time. His smile turning fond, Scott shook his head as Gordon snapped back into reality and dived smoothly into the safety of the water, barely making a ripple as he did so and making sure that he was out of Virgil’s reach for the time being at least.
Reaching Virgil, Scott stuck out a hand, nodding at the appreciative grin Virgil shot him as he helped the younger man back into an upright position. For a moment, the pair watched their brother in the water, both of them still marvelling at how effortless Gordon could make the action look, despite having seen it hundreds of times before.
“I’ll just have to kill him later,” Virgil eventually mumbled, turning back around and letting another yawn stretch over his face. Now that the chase had worn off, the artist was more than aware of the time of day.
“Don’t make a mess,” Scott responded companionably, joining his brother in walking through the lounge towards the kitchen, both grinning in appreciation at the smells wafting through the house. With their grandmother visiting friends back in Kansas, Kyrano almost seemed like he was trying to prove he was just as good as the Tracy matriarch at looking after the rest of the family and had practically been outdoing himself with the meals that he had been preparing. Not that any of the Tracys minded, however. If there was one thing they were never going to complain about, it was the sudden excess amount of food that had appeared on the table.
When they reached the kitchen door, however, the two men made to walk in opposite directions. Pulling up short as Virgil headed towards the stairs, Scott froze in the kitchen doorway.
“Virg? Where are you going?”
“Back to bed,” Virgil moaned, dragging his feet a little in order to illustrate his point. Remembering the state of his own bed, however, he rolled his eyes with a long-suffering groan. “Or maybe I’ll steal John’s, he’ll never know.”
“Don’t think so, man.” Moving forward, Scott simply grabbed his brother by the arm, almost marching him into the kitchen. It was only then that Virgil was glad he had never got around to putting a clean shirt on before taking off after Gordon, for he knew that had he been wearing something, Scott would have just grabbed him by the back of the collar – it had been done before.
“Scott, let me go.” Virgil found that his voice was coming out as nothing more than a pathetic whine as he was pushed onto one of the bar stools, Scott striding in the direction of the coffee machine after fixing his brother a look that clearly told him to stay put. Resting his elbows on the counter, Virgil dropped his head into his hands. He should have known that his oldest brother wouldn’t have let him go back to bed. Scott seemed to have a weird – in Virgil’s mind, anyway – rule that once they were up, that was it.
“This will help.” Hearing the quiet tones of the resident Malaysian, Virgil lifted his head in time to see a laden plate being slipped in front of him, all of the artist’s favourites just waiting for him. Smiling in gratitude, Virgil was surprised by how hungry he felt; normally he couldn’t stomach the thought of food this early. Tucking in, it took him no more than about thirty seconds to realise that Kyrano had really outdone himself this time.
“Kyrano, yo’e t’e b’st,” Virgil mumbled, the words barely audible around his food.
“Virgil, that’s disgusting.” Sliding into a seat opposite his brother, Scott slipped a mug across the counter before taking a sip of his own coffee, eyebrows raised in something that could resemble horror as he watched Virgil almost inhale his food. All of them were known for being able to make a meal disappear in a matter of seconds, but this was practically setting a new record. Virgil, however, was too busy eating to acknowledge his brother’s words.
Taking his own laden plate from Kyrano with heartfelt thanks, Scott didn’t realise that he was almost matching his brother’s speed as he began to eat, causing Kyrano to move away, shaking his head at their antics. If there was one thing he had learnt about the Tracy family, it was to never get in between one of the boys and their food. Although their father wasn’t much better than the horde more commonly referred to as his sons.
As if knowing he was being thought about, Jeff himself suddenly materialised in the doorway, smiling in greeting at his oldest son before his eyes fell on the still-eating Virgil. His eyes widening in surprise, he looked back at the elder brother, hoping that he would be able to provide some sort of answer as to why the tradition of a lifetime was suddenly being broken. Swallowing awkwardly, Scott knew precisely what his father’s look meant.
“Gordon,” he said simply, and Jeff rolled his eyes with a smile, heading towards the coffee pot himself. No more needed to be said, that one name told him everything. And if he was completely honest, Jeff wasn’t sure he wanted to know what his fourth-born had done to get his brother out of bed. Although judging by the water trails down Virgil’s back, he had a very good idea anyway. As Jeff took a seat next to Scott, silence fell over the kitchen, a companionable atmosphere spreading out. There wasn’t a silence because no one knew what to say, but because nothing needed to be said.
Hearing the quiet and heavy voice of his youngest son, Jeff glanced up with a smile, only vaguely aware that Scott was mirroring his actions exactly. Running a hand through his hair, Alan didn’t seem to blink at the sight of Virgil being up, almost as if he had been expecting it. With a sigh, Virgil knew that his littlest brother had probably known what Gordon had been planning all along – they weren’t known as the Terrible Two for nothing.
No sooner had Alan sat down when Gordon appeared as well, immediately heading to the far side of the table and sitting in between his father and oldest brother, shooting Virgil a cheeky grin, safe in the knowledge that his brother couldn’t touch him there. The look that his sibling responded with, however, made the prankster more than aware that Virgil was not going to let it go. So, he might not be able to touch his younger brother at the moment given his current position, but there was still the rest of the day. Gordon couldn’t stay there forever.
“Any news?” Scott eventually asked, his open-ended question including not just Jeff’s businesses, but worldwide with the rescue organisation as well. He knew from the time that Jeff had arrived in the kitchen that his father had also been checking in with the agents, the time differences meaning he was often forced to do it at strange times of the day.
“Not really. Penny still hasn’t been able to find out much on whoever it was that tried to photograph the ‘birds on the last rescue, although she isn’t going to give up anytime soon. Apparently she is getting Parker to dig out a few of his old contacts.”
Simultaneously, grins split across the brothers’ faces as they thought about their London agent. No, there certainly was no way that the aristocrat was going to give up any time soon. Virgil wasn’t even sure that Lady Penelope even knew what the word ‘failure’ meant; she certainly didn’t know when to admit she wasn’t going to find anything.
“I told you, I could have gone after them,” Scott said, sounding slightly annoyed as he glanced at his father out of the corner of his eye. Despite their own disagreement that morning, Virgil and Gordon exchanged looks, one wincing slightly whilst the other rolled his eyes. Scott certainly hadn’t liked his commander’s instructions to return to base immediately after the potential threat had made itself known, and the fact that Penny had no further ideas about who was behind it was clearly not sitting well with the oldest Tracy brother. A potential threat to International Rescue was a potential threat to his brothers, and Scott simply wasn’t going to allow that.
“And I told you no,” Jeff responded firmly. He knew that Scott was only looking out for the rest of them, but there was no way his father was about to put him in any kind of danger over someone who had attempted to photograph their machines. Thanks to the sensors aboard Thunderbird One, whoever it was had fled with nothing. Jeff simply wanted to know who was showing an unnatural interest in them.
“What happened?” Alan asked, but immediately fell silent at the look Gordon gave him, one that clearly said he would explain later. Despite being on Five when the row had taken place, Virgil was surprised that Alan hadn’t already heard, the way his father and oldest brother had been yelling at each other was certainly loud enough for it to have reached the most distant ‘bird.
“John’s reported in a couple of potential rescues,” Jeff continued after a moment of awkward silence, determined to restore the mood of relaxation into the kitchen. He knew that Scott’s view on the matter had not changed, but neither had his father’s and Jeff had no desire to restart the argument again.
“How’s his cough?” Virgil asked, finally pushing away his plate with an explosive sigh of satisfaction now that he no longer felt hungry. Feeling the look Scott was giving him, he adamantly kept his eyes on his father, who smiled gently at him.
“Virgil, he is fine. If he wasn’t, do you really think he would have wanted to head back up for his rota?”
“Yep,” Alan responded, rocking back slightly on his chair and hooking his legs around the legs of the chair, supporting himself against the counter whilst ignoring Scott’s pointed look. “He hated that I got to be the first one up there after Brains’ new updates.”
“Not helping, Al,” Gordon broke in, smirking at the look that had come over Virgil’s face.
“I still think it could be bronchitis,” the medic muttered, frowning as he tried to recall the exact way John had said he was feeling before heading back up to Five.
“Virgil, it was just a cough, son.” Jeff broke through his son’s thoughts gently, knowing that unless he could convince his son otherwise, Virgil would have hijacked Three and launched off through space before Jeff could even say “Thunderbirds.”
“You know how cold he got on that last rescue, Gordon too. They both had it, and look at Gordon now, right as rain.” Reaching over, Jeff ruffled his son’s hair fondly, smiling at the pretend affronted look the redhead shot him as he attempted to flatten his hair, despite the fact that he was only making it worse.
“He won’t be by the time I’m done with him,” Virgil said darkly, glaring at his brother, who merely smiled sweetly back, albeit it with a hint of challenge in his look.
“Time out, you two, it’s too early in the morning.” Deciding that it could be a very long day if Virgil and Gordon were at odds with each other the whole time, Scott attempted to intervene, but only found that Virgil merely shifted his slightly murderous look onto him instead. Being more than used to it, Scott folded his arms across his chest and stared impassively back, almost daring his brother to try something. Both he and Virgil knew that Scott could wipe the floor with his younger brother if need be; there really wasn’t a lot Virgil could do to try and get back at him.
“I’m going to talk to John,” Virgil declared, standing up from the table and picking his plate up as he did so. He could hear the rest of the family also beginning to move, knowing that they all had things they needed to be getting on with. As Gordon and Alan disappeared upstairs, clearly with the intention of getting dressed properly, Virgil found himself face to face with his earthbound older brother.
“He really is okay, Virg, promise. I spoke to him last night, and he didn’t cough once.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Virgil responded, making to brush past Scott, not yet in the mood to forgive his brother for not letting him go back to bed. What he could do with was a nice long chat with the Space Monitor; it had felt like an age since he had a proper conversation with John, both of them being kept busy by respective things.
No sooner had he stepped into the lounge with the intention of using his father’s desk, however, Virgil found that his plans were somewhat dramatically changed as a piercing noise cut through the silence of the house.
They had a rescue.