Scott leaned back in his chair, drinking in the sun's rays. His drink sat on the table near him. The umbrella cast its shade over the glass but stopped short of blanketing Scott. And for that he was grateful. Having spent the better portion of the previous rescue underground searching for his brothers, a bit of sun wasn't going to kill him. The heat from the sun warmed the exposed skin. Vaguely, he thought he heard someone say he should put sunscreen on. He brushed aside that voice in his head. He needed the sun right now.
"Yo! Scotty! You'll fry to a crisp if you stay in the sun any longer without any sunblock on." A shadow blocked the sun from his face.
Scott squinted up to the figure blocking his sun. The glare made it difficult to make out who it was. His face was in shadow and the light illuminated the fine blonde hair.
"John. Would you be so kind as to move your face out of my sun?"
John chuckled but didn't move his head. Scott glared up at his younger brother. They maintained staring at each other for a few moments. Scott was just beginning to think about the consequences of pushing John in the pool when John stepped aside. Now he was staring directly into the sun. He was blinded for the moment before turning his eyes away from the sky.
"You little bastard," Scott muttered, blinking rapidly.
John settled down in a reclining chair next to his brother.
"I'm not so little anymore Scott. I've got a few inches on you now."
Scott grumbled and readjusted himself on his chair. His eyes closed again to return to soaking in the sun. He only had a few minutes of silence before he heard John's voice break it again.
"Tough rescue, huh?"
Scott jumped. His blue eyes met John's. There was a depth of understanding in the bright blue with a hint of a smile on his lips.
He marveled at how well his younger brother could read him. At how well he could read anyone once he got to know them. Especially since he spent much of his year isolated up on the space station. Even when he was on the ground, much of his time was limited to Tracy Island. And John wasn't terribly social to begin with.
"Earth to Scott. I'm down on terra firma. Stop searching space."
"How'd you know?" Scott asked, clearing his thoughts.
John gave a cheeky grin. "You're more like Dad then you think. Spill."
"You're too much like Mom. She could read us all like a book."
John reclined back in his chair, folding his hands behind his head.
"It's not my fault that you all manage to wear all of your expressions on your face. How you ever managed to get away with anything when we were kids amazes me."
"That's simple. We blamed everything on Gordon if I remember right."
"Did I hear my name?"
Scott and John turned to see Gordon walking out of the house towards them ready for a mid-afternoon swim. Virgil was just slightly behind him. But unlike the aquanaut, he had both shoes on his feet and a shirt on his back. In his hand was a bottle of sunscreen. It appeared that he was attempting to get Gordon to lather up before going swimming. Seeing that Gordon was momentarily distracted by his two other older brothers, he sprung.
But Gordon was prepared. Or worked off instinct from his time in the military. With a quick motion, Virgil was in the pool. He spewed water out of his mouth and glared up at his younger brother. The sunscreen tube floated away.
Laughing Gordon walked over to his dry brothers, pulled up a chair, and sat on it backwards. He was still chuckling when Virgil made his way out of the pool and walked dripping to the three of them. He wrung out the edges of his shirt.
"Thanks, Fish-boy. I needed a good swim," he said sarcastically.
Gordon gave that devious smirk that so often warned those around of trouble. John and Scott laughed under their breath, glad that it was Virgil taking an unexpected dip into the pool this time around, and not one of them.
This turned into full blown laughter when Virgil's foot snaked under the leg of Gordon's chair, tipping him into the pool, chair and all. Gordon came to the surface spewing water as Virgil had minutes before.
He climbed out of the pool, dragging the chair with him. Grandma would have his hide if he left it in there. Gordon set it where it had been, before sitting down.
"So, what are we talking about?" He looked expectantly at the two eldest.
John glanced at Scott sideways. He wasn't sure if he was actually going to be able to get Scott to talk about it, but the added pressure of two more younger brothers may do the trick.
"The worst part about the job," he answered simply.
Gordon blinked. Then his face turned into a slight frown. It wasn't very often that the hardened side from his military experience shown through, but this was looking to be one of the times where the joking was suppressed. Virgil only narrowed his eyes.
"Why?" Virgil asked.
He and Gordon looked at John. John in turn looked at Scott. Scott looked back at John. Seeing that he was going to have to start talking, Scott sighed.
"I was brooding, and John offered to talk to me about it."
"Did you answer him?" Virgil asked. His brown eyes searched Scott's face.
Scott shook his head. "Hadn't gotten that far."
"I think the worst part of the job is the feeling that you're working against the clock," Gordon offered. He rested his chin on the back of his chair. "You only have so much time to get those people out of there. Whether that be because of the threat of smoke inhalation, or a leak in a ship underwater, or simply the fact that all the oxygen is going to be used up by those inside. You have to be fast, but you have to be precise with every motion."
There were slight nods from everyone in the circle.
"Honestly, I think the most difficult bit is when people are in the grip of hysterics. They just don't seem to be able to grasp that we are going to get them out of there, and they need to keep a firm head on their shoulders." Virgil shook his head. "Don't they realize that they are endangering themselves and everyone around them? It just adds another thing to worry about. I swear the next time someone freaks out like that; I'm going to stick a sedative dart in their ass."
That got a few chuckles from his brothers.
"You can at least do something about them, all I can do is try and talk them down," John pointed out.
"Yeah, but you were always good at that though. I can't count how many times you managed to defuse the flaring tempers of various family members during the teenage years. I don't think Scott managed to do it half as well as you," Virgil argued back.
John gave half a shrug. The only reason why Scott wasn't able to calm tempers was because he was trying to get their father to see what his distance was doing to his sons. Each task needed to be done and that was just the way the cards were dealt out.
"Yeah, but I was always the one that had to deal the punishments out. Johnny-boy always made sure that I got to deal with the punishments. How did you manage to do that anyway? Make me the bad guy."
John smirked to himself. That was a trade secret and there was no way that it was going to escape his lips any time soon.
"And I'm still wrangling you guys in. Doesn't matter if we're on rescues or not. Sometimes I just want to get one of those toddler leashes and attach it to each and every one of you. I have to know where every one of you is at every single moment of time. Gordon's in the sub, working to clear debris away, now he's using Thunderbird Four as a battering ram. I mean, you do realize that these are expensive machines? Not just Hot-Wheels that you set up on a track to smash together?"
Scott was getting a roll on his rant. Gordon was snickering.
"And you Virgil, not only do I have to keep track of you, I have to keep track of how many of our machines get damaged when you are driving. Thunderbird Two, two separate elevator cars—how'd you even manage to crash both of them during the same mission? Sometimes I think that you crash things on purpose, just so you can fix things up again. Is the painting and piano playing not enough? Maybe I should just get you a junkyard for your next birthday, and then you can tinker and destroy things to your hearts content! And don't even get me started on Alan."
Virgil was biting his lip. As serious as the whole topic they were discussing was, there was something humorous about the rant Scott was having.
Scott could feel his blood pressure rising, but he wasn't going to lie, letting everything out was making him feel a bit better. John always had a way of getting the truth out. Glancing over he noticed John's smirk.
"Like your job is all that stressful Johnny-boy. You get to sit in your safe little satellite listening to the radio all day."
Gordon laughed. "The best part is that he doesn't even really need to get dressed for his job; it's all audio. He could be running around in the nude and no one would ever know."
Scott couldn't help himself. Despite the rant he just finished, he started laughing. The idea of his rule-following, space-staring, education-loving brother working on life and death situations without any pants on was utterly ridiculous. Through the tears in his eyes, he looked at his blond brother.
John's smirk never left his face. Nothing moved in his posture to convey any awkwardness that he might be feeling. Although there was a faint pink blush across his cheeks and on his ears, but that might have just been sunburn. John, along with Gordon, was the most susceptible to it.
"No, unlike some I manage to keep my clothes on while I work. Need I remind you what happened on our family vacation to Florida?"
Gordon's laughter stopped as his mouth closed like a trap. A dark red blush that had nothing to do with sunburn spread across his face as he remembered the incident. Virgil and Scott guffawed with renewed furor. John's smirk grew broader.
"Shut up," Gordon muttered.
Virgil wrapped his arm around his younger brother good-naturedly.
"Aww, we're just having a bit of a laugh. But you've got to admit that it was pretty funny to see Dad racing around the hotel trying to get you to put your swim trunks back on."
Gordon's blush didn't seem to be going away any time soon.
"Hey, it could've been much worse," John offered up. "There could have been reporters there capturing the whole thing on video."
Open laughter could be heard within the boys. Gordon was debating shoving them all into the pool.
"Imagine the headlines: Billionaire Fights with Naked Son over Swim Apparel."
Gordon was really considering hopping into Thunderbird Four and just driving away. Maybe there was another island somewhere he could hide. Bring a volleyball, name it Wilson, and live out the remainder of his life as a hermit.
"Relax, Gordon. We're only teasing. Besides, I've got enough stories on each and every one of you," John said, giving Gordon's knee a small shove.
Gordon offered him a small smile. He knew that his brother's loved him. Teasing was their way of letting him know. They were the victims of most all his pranks, so it figured that they get back at him in some way.
They fell into a comfortable silence after that. There wasn't many opportunities that they had as a family to just sit around and enjoy one another's company. Usually when they got the time to relax and put their feet up would be when the alarms started to ring and half of them would be sent off into some dangerous rescue. And when they came back they would be too tired to do much more than take a shower and go to sleep.
The time passed. The sun sunk lower into the sky. Supper would be ready soon and everyone was looking forward to whatever Grandma was cooking that day. Virgil was just getting ready to go inside when he heard John's voice.
"It's the silence."
Three heads turned to look at the platinum blonde. John didn't meet any of their eyes.
"The silence is the worst part of it all."
Scott made a quick glance over to his younger brothers. Both Gordon and Virgil held a look similar to the confounded feeling he had on their faces. Then, as one, their brown eyes looked over to his blue ones. A silent exchange was given between the brothers and they turned to look at the space monitor.
"So, the spaceman doesn't want to be in space anymore. Figured it would get to his head sooner or later," Gordon muttered, earning himself a cuff to the back of the head. "OW."
Virgil glared at his younger brother. Whatever John was talking about was a serious matter and Gordon didn't need to screw everything up with his misplaced sarcastic comments. Gordon mimed zipping up his lips.
All three brothers looked to their older/younger brother. John had his eyes raised up to look at the sky, approximately where Thunderbird Five was orbiting with the youngest brother on board. He didn't say anything for the longest moment, and Virgil was just about to go off on Gordon for scaring away whatever John was going to say next when John spoke again.
"It's stupid really. I mean, you all are on dangerous missions regularly. Midst earthquakes, landslides, cave-ins, and hurricanes. You have to be careful of every move you make; otherwise it could be your life in the forfeit, not just those you are there to rescue. Then there's me. Safe in space, undetected by anyone. What's there for me to worry about?"
Scott saw that Virgil opened his mouth to remind his older brother something. But whatever it was never made it out of his throat and his mouth closed once again.
"But every time there's a rescue, I find myself glued to the transmitter. It's that need to know what's going on. Most of the time you guys are good about keeping each other informed, but it's those moments where something happens and the radio is silent. Questions run through my head, what happened? Was someone injured? Is someone dead?"
Tears were forming in John's eyes. None of the others needed to look at their brother to confirm that. The way that his voice wavered by the end was all that they needed.
Scott, Gordon and Virgil looked at each other for a moment, before moving as one. Together they squeezed every single one of them onto the reclining lawn chair. Scott next to John with Gordon and Virgil at the feet. They had known that John was listening to the rescues, but they didn't realize just how close he was listening. How much that lapse of audio could wear on a man. But it allowed for some things to come into the light, such as why he always made sure that when he was on rescues that he talked to Alan to keep him up to date.
John took a deep breath and blinked his tears away.
"It's stupid. Anyway, what's for eating this evening? I heard that Grandma was going to make apple pie."
From the abrupt change of topic, they gathered that John was finished talking about the issue. Not that any of the brothers were ready to let it go. It was almost certain that they would corner their brother later to pry more information out of him, or confront their father about the whole thing. And they were certainly in the future going to be spending more time making sure that John knew what was happening outside of his little tin can.
"If Grandma's making apple pie, then we best keep Scott from going into the kitchen. Grandma's always threatened to give him a spanking," Virgil said taking the last comment and running away with it.
"Or," Gordon said in a sing-song voice. "We could allow Scott to go into the kitchen. It would be pretty entertaining to see that, I think."
Scott bit his cheek from responding in the way he wanted to at that moment. He was just opening his mouth to say something much more socially acceptable when he heard a chuckle near him. He looked over to see John trying to hold in his laughter. John was looking at him with utter amusement on his face.
Virgil and Gordon looked at John with a hint of concern. Gordon's comment wasn't really all that funny to begin with.
"What's so funny space-case?"
John held up a finger for a moment as he tried to control his silent giggles. After a couple of deep breaths, he raised his open palm. Confused for a moment about what he was gesturing to, Scott was unprepared for what his immediate younger brother did next.
John slapped his chest.
Scott's breath escaped in a short burst. Not so much for the fact that John had hit him that hard, John rarely hit anyone with the intention to cause real pain. No, the place where John had slapped was stinging harshly. Scott looked down to see the perfect imprint of John's hand on his chest. Sunburn. Virgil and Gordon started laughing.
"I told you, you needed sunscreen on earlier today," he laughed.
"Har-dee-har-har. You're hilarious." Taking inventory of the rest of his body, Scott could pretty much conclude that he was sunburned all over. He was going to be hurting in the morning.
"At least you didn't have any sunglasses on," Virgil offered through his laughter.
"Too bad, we could have called him a raccoon," Gordon said.
Scott glared at his younger brothers. It was good that they were having a good laugh, but did it have to come at his expense?
They sat a bit longer, laughing and enjoying one another's company. The sky was already beginning to change its colors as the sun sank lower in the sky. Eventually Tin-Tin came out to let them know that supper was ready and their father wanted them to wash up. Grumbling, they stood to follow Tin-Tin who had already left them.
"We're adults now, he doesn't have to tell us to wash our hands," Gordon mumbled.
"I'm pretty sure he does, I remember a time where you were tromping through the house coated in mud," Virgil answered him.
"When was that?" Gordon asked. He couldn't remember the last time he had gotten that dirty.
"Two days ago."
John made to follow his younger brothers, but Scott's voice made him pause.
"Do we really shut you out over the radio?"
John turned to see his brother standing still. Scott didn't seem to want to move from his position.
"I'm sure that it's just me overreacting. The seconds drag on longer when you aren't actually at the scene."
"That didn't answer my question." He folded his arms across his chest, ignoring the uncomfortable friction that it caused.
John didn't meet his older brother's eyes. Everything about the way that he was behaving showed Scott that John was feeling guilty. But why would he be the one feeling guilty? They were the ones that were keeping him out of the loop. They should be the ones feeling guilty, but it wasn't that he hadn't started feeling the guilt already.
"Johnny," Scott started. His arms dropped to his side and he walked closer to his brother.
"Don't worry about it. Seriously. I'll be fine. I haven't cracked yet, despite what Gordon thinks." He gave a sidelong smile at that.
Satisfied with the answer that he gave, John made his way back inside the house where supper and Grandma's apple pie was waiting.
Scott waited a bit more, thinking over what had been shared that day. They had some good laughs but also shared some deep thoughts on the whole operation. And he couldn't help but feel that John was more bothered by the silence than he let on. And now that he thought about it, he couldn't really remember a time where he had called just to ask John how he was doing. It was all business all the time. That drained a person as well.
Setting his jaw, he resolved to do more for his brother. Starting tomorrow. Tonight he was going to have to fight to get a slice of Grandma's pie, and honestly, that was something that was every man for himself. Scott started to run. Come hell or high water, he was going to get at least one slice.
Two if he was sneaky.
A/N: I don't really know what to say about this. It's my first time writing with these characters, so I'm hoping that everyone sounds like themselves. If not, oopsie-daisy, I tried, and it's not like some of these characters have real defined personalities in the 60's show. So I made do with what I had. Please, leave a review.