Another random one-shot.

I don't own the Thunderbirds, and I am making no profit from this story.

Gordon lay still, heart beating fast as he waited for the debris to stop shifting. Virgil was a warm weight across his back, and Gordon alternated between gratitude that he could feel the steady rise and fall of his older brother's chest, and concern that Virgil had been unconscious for several minutes now.

They'd been navigating a crumbling, earthquake-damaged office building, searching for survivors under the rubble, when Virgil had given a sudden shout. Before Gordon even had time to turn around, he was downed by a ferocious tackle – he was definitely going to feel that later – and all the air went whooshing from his lungs as he was sandwiched between Virgil and the ground. And then the building had collapsed on top of them.

When the stars stopped flashing in front of Gordon's eyes and he was able to suck in a lungful of dusty air, he'd discovered that Virgil was out cold – and that he could hardly move, between the weight of his brother and the debris that had covered both of them.

He needed to get free so that he could properly assess the situation and call for help. In the dim, dusty light, Gordon could see that if he moved a few pieces of wood and plaster to his left, he might be able to wiggle out from underneath Virgil. Bracing himself awkwardly, he shoved at the splintered boards, wincing as a nail scratched his arm. After a moment, he had cleared a little space.

He paused, both to rest his trembling muscles and to consider his moves carefully – the one thing he didn't want to do was exacerbate Virgil's injuries. He'd have to work slowly so that the debris over them wouldn't shift.

An inch at a time, trying to support Virgil's weight with his right arm while he pulled himself free with his left, Gordon wiggled his way into the cleared area. As he was gently lowering Virgil's head to the ground, his brother stirred a little and groaned.

"Virg?" Gordon said, cautiously twisting around until he could sit up. He winced and rubbed the back of his neck. "Dude, I think you gave me whiplash," he muttered under his breath.

Virgil's eyes slowly began to blink open. "Gordon?" he mumbled. "Ouch…" He frowned and reached around to touch the back of his head.

Gordon felt for the flashlight on his belt, but then realized that he must have dropped it when Virgil had tackled him. He pulled out a glow stick instead, and in a moment, they were bathed in an eerie green glow.

He held the light close to the back of Virgil's head. "No blood, but you've got a nice goose egg," he told him. He grimaced at the glow stick. "Think I can use this thing to check your pupils?"

Virgil rolled his eyes and felt along his belt. Opening a small pouch, he handed Gordon his tiny pen light. "Don't lose it," he growled. He shifted so that he could pillow his head on his arms.

Gordon flashed the light into Virgil's eyes, mumbling an apology as his brother winced at the brightness. "Looks good – equal and reactive," he said. "Do you have pain anywhere else?"

Virgil just looked at him.

Gordon snorted. "Yeah, yeah, I know – stupid question. Just answer it, okay? You know you'd make me answer."

That seemed to stir something in Virgil's memory. He frowned. "When I was waking up," he said slowly, "did I hear you saying something about whiplash?"

Aha. He should've known better than to say that out loud – he'd learned a long time ago that big brothers were nearly always listening, even when it didn't seem like they were. "Nah, you must have been dreaming." He activated his wrist-comm. "Scott, what's your status?"

His oldest brother's voice sounded tired. "Alan and I just finished clearing our section. How's your building coming?"

"Well, actually, we could use a hand over here," Gordon said. "The building kinda sorta, well, collapsed on us." He braced himself for an explosion, holding his watch well away from his ear.

Sure enough, there was a loud, "What?" from the other end of the line. "Are you hurt? What about Virgil – is he okay? Alan, get over here, NOW!"

Gordon broke into the tirade. "I'm totally fine, but Virgil's a little banged up."

Scott calmed down quickly. By the sounds of things, he and Alan were probably jogging along the street. "Virgil?" Scott called.

Virgil rolled his eyes again and spoke up. "I'm good – as far as I can tell, it's just bruises." He grabbed Gordon's wrist and pulled his brother's watch closer to his own face. "Gordon was lying, though. He's not totally fine – he says he has whiplash."

"Whiplash?" Scott repeated, taken aback. "How in the world did he get whiplash?"

"Good question," Virgil said, looking puzzled. "How did you manage that, Gords?"

Gordon was suddenly slightly concerned. "You don't remember?" he demanded. "You tackled me!"

Virgil's eyebrows scrunched together for a moment as he struggled to remember, then horror slowly spread across his features. "You're right, I did," he gasped. "And I hurt you? Gordon, I'm sorry! How bad is it?"

Gordon spluttered at him. "What? Wait, no! Just, no! You are not allowed to feel bad about tackling me, Virgil! You did it to save my life!"

Virgil still looked guilty.

Gordon pointed to a pile of massive beams a few feet away. "Look at that – that's right where I was standing. If you hadn't tackled me, I'd be under all that right now – probably dead, or at least seriously maimed." He actually had no idea where he had been standing, but he wasn't about to admit that and lose the point he was making. "I'd rather be tackled any time than be squashed!"

Virgil still didn't look entirely convinced, but Scott broke back into the conversation before he could say anything.

"All right, you two, set that aside for now. It's time to work on getting you out of there. Alan and I are just outside the door. Can you see my light?"

Gordon looked toward where he thought the door was, and could just see a beam of light flickering through the debris. "Yeah, I see it. We're way in the back corner, though. You might find it easier to come in through a window."

"FAB," Scott replied, and the light disappeared.

Gordon glanced over to see that Virgil had worked his way up into a sitting position, although he looked like he could tip over again at any second. Gordon scooted next to him, putting an arm around his shoulders.

Virgil flinched at the touch. "I think I'm going to be sleeping on my stomach for a while," he said. "I feel like it's one giant bruise back there."

"You didn't have to shield me," Gordon muttered.

"Yes, I did."

"Why?" Gordon knew what the answer would be.

"Because I'm your big brother," Virgil said calmly.

Gordon huffed in annoyance. "You know I've been an adult for a few years now, right? The whole big-brother-protection thing should've died out a long time ago!"

"Try telling that to Scott or John." Virgil nudged him in the ribs. "Besides, I know you watch out for Alan when we're on rescues. I've seen you get all mad just like Scott does when someone tries to give Alan a hard time."

Gordon sputtered indignantly, but couldn't come up with a reply.

"Face it, Gords," Virgil told him, "you can't make any accusations without being a total hypocrite."

At that moment, they heard glass smashing nearby, and then the sounds of debris being shifted. A few minutes later, Scott carefully tipped a board to one side and squeezed through a narrow gap into Gordon and Virgil's little space.

Gordon had already helped Virgil stand, so he simply passed Virgil over to Scott.

"You okay to walk?" Scott asked.

Virgil nodded, his face stubborn, but both Gordon and Scott kept an eye on him as they picked their way back through the debris and helped him more than once when he wavered slightly.

Alan was waiting outside, clearly the backup in case anything went wrong. He grinned when he saw them. "Whiplash, Gordon?" he asked.

Gordon scowled. "Why is that so hard to believe?" he demanded. "I mean, Virgil was really good at football, remember? He might be getting on a little in years, but he's still got one mean tackle!"

"Careful," Virgil growled. "And make up your mind, will you? Earlier you were trying to make me feel better; now you're making it sound like I hurt you on purpose!"

They wearily headed back toward Thunderbirds One and Two, Scott supporting Virgil and Alan walking beside Gordon.

Alan cast Gordon a sidelong glance. "So he really tackled you – like, a full-on football tackle?"

Gordon nodded, and then rubbed his neck again, rolling his shoulders to try to ease the ache. "Yep. I didn't see it coming, and I went down."

"You are gonna be so sore tomorrow!" Alan said.

Gordon shrugged, then growled as he realized that movement hurt too. "I'd rather be sore than dead."

"Good point," Alan agreed.

"I think we ought to turn this into a saying," Gordon went on. He struck a pose. "Give me a tackle, or give me death!"

All three brothers snorted.

"I don't know, Gords," Virgil called back to him. "It doesn't quite work."

"Hmm…how about 'A tackle a day keeps death away.'"

Scott shivered. "That one's just creepy."

"Well, the point is – thanks, Virg."

Virgil was finally smiling. "You're welcome, Gords. Anytime."

As they headed home a few minutes later, with Alan flying Two, despite Virgil's best efforts to convince them that he was fit to fly, Gordon reflected that sometimes – just once in a while, mind you – being tackled was a good thing.