Hi everyone! So this is based on a request that asked to expand on the camping story told in A Simple Reminder. You needn't have read that to understand this however, it should stand alone. It will be just a little one, set pre IR during the summer when the boys are in their teenage/college years. Written as a TAG fic but can easily be TOS. I don't own any of the characters, or the concept, but love it all the same.
A door slammed.
That sound – one that basically shook the whole house – was all Gordon had to hear to know that Virgil was upset.
Because Virgil didn't often slam doors. Sometimes he would quietly shut it in someone's – most likely Gordon's – face, passively signifying how frustrated he was. Everybody knew the eighteen year old didn't like aggression, or conflict, and Gordon was unashamed to say he took advantage of that. If things became too much for Virg he just retreated to his space, his quiet dominion, where nobody could penetrate whatever thought was brewing in that head of his. Often he would sit in his room for hours on end with music in his ears. He'd block the world out with noise, the quiet tish ta tish ta travelling through Gordon's thin walls.
Later on Virgil would emerge as though nothing ever happened. Everyone would move on. Jeff had once called him his 'low maintenance' child. Gordon didn't really understand what that meant, but since Jeff had called him high maintenance, he felt he should be slightly offended.
Only recently had Virgil been visibly displaying his frustration. Because when he slammed doors…oh boy. That's when everyone knew what was up. Virgil wanted people to know he was angry. When that happened, Gordon knew not to go anywhere near his room. That was hard considering Gordon's room was practically joint to his older brothers, but still. If he had to walk past the door then he tiptoed past.
Even Jeff tended to step warily around the door-frame in case the sight of his shadow set anything off again. Without Scott, nobody knew how to handle these rare but explosive mood swings. Except maybe Grandma. She usually barged right in with two cups of tea in her hand.
Normally, Gordon found the whole ordeal amusing.
But not now. It had been happening far too often lately and Gordon was sick of it. Something had to be done.
As usual, Gordon had two options. He could shrug it off and let someone else deal with it. That was always a good, safe option. Or he could go in and figure out what else was wrong. That was the less safe option. But nobody else in this house seemed to have any interest in what was going on, so option two it was.
Leaping to his feet, the fifteen year old began the intrepid journey out of his bedroom and down the corridor. Not even bothering to think about entering Virgil's cave, Gordon knocked once. Hearing nothing, he shrugged and entered.
There were bits of paper angrily spread about the room. Gordon stepped on one as he moved forward.
It was dark – as expected. Virgil was lying on his bed – as expected. The sound of a classical tune was leaking from his headphones – as expected. Gordon gave a brief nod to nobody in particular. Why were all his brothers so predictable? Just once he'd like to walk in on them dressed as fruit and singing with a hairbrush. It would make life so much more interesting. The teenager cleared his throat, "and here we see a Virgil in its natural habitat."
Virgil started at the noise. Sitting upright he tore the headphones from his ears, eyebrows drawing together. "Gordon! You ever hear of knocking?"
Gordon got down on one knee, studying Virgil curiously. "Ah, the creature seems startled. Something has disturbed him…Perhaps he's hungry?"
"Get the hell out of here," Virgil growled. Slumping back down on his bed he grabbed his pillow and pressed it against his face in frustration.
"What's this? It appears to be hiding. Or is this some kind of strange mating ritual?" The pillow flew in Gordon's direction. He caught it triumphantly and grinned. "It appears to be getting aggressive-"
"Stop seriously." Virgil snapped. He sent a soul splitting glare in Gordon's direction. "If you don't leave in five seconds you're going to be my next choice of prey. Ok? So get out."
Rolling his eyes, Gordon got to his feet. At least he was sticking with the theme. "You're so dramatic. What happened this time? You've been rejected from every single college in the world? You have too many achievements to fit on an application? You forgot your own name? It's easy, it starts with a V-"
"I said go away," Virgil growled, emphasizing each word with its own twist of venom. He waved a hand in the direction of the door. "I'm not in the mood for…" there was a pause, "you right now."
Gordon let the comment slide. This idea was looking less fun by the minute. How did Scott usually sort this out? "Come on you lump! It's summer. We're on holiday. School is over for you for…forever. That's awesome. Lighten up-"
"There's nothing to be light about," Virgil snapped, propping himself up with an elbow. "Not everything is sunshine and rainbows all the time Gords!"
Gordon wilted at his brother's comment. He narrowed his eyes. "At least you don't have three more years of torture to go. That's like…five hundred days of Mrs O'leary breathing down my neck, or Mr Welchman putting me in detention for sneezing too loud. You've got it easy... you're gonna be free."
Spreading his arms out like a bird Gordon let out a wail. Man, he wished he was eighteen. Why did all his brothers make such a big deal about this process? It was just college.
Virgil glared harder at him. "Now who's being dramatic?"
"Let me check…ah yup, still you."
"Am I going to have to push you out of here?"
"You can try." Gordon mimed setting his feet firmly to the carpet. "Seriously brotha, what else has sent you into a spiral of self-pity? You almost broke the door with that last slam."
Virgil sighed. He studied Gordon with the kind of irritation that one would feel toward a herd of sheep in the middle of the road. The effort to actually get up and push him out seemed too much for the artist, so he resigned himself to speaking. "Lizzie's really doing it."
Gordon screwed up his nose. Yuck. Lizzie was involved. Gordon really didn't like his brothers 'long time' girlfriend. If five months could be considered 'long time.' It probably could for Virgil because he got really emotionally attached. A little clingy too, but hey, who was Gordon to judge?
Either way, Gordon didn't like her. She had a nose that resembled a mushroom and always sneered at him when she came over. Her only topics of conversation seemed to be her singing voice and the band she was in. It was boring. She was boring. Also she kept purposely mistaking Gordon for Alan. That was annoying. "Doing what? Cheating on you?"
"No you idiot – studying in England!" Virgil growled. "She's really going to do it. I thought she was just playing around with the idea, but now it's true. I thought hours apart would be bad, now it will be countries!"
Blergh. Put a country between Gordon and Lizzie anyway. He shrugged, "Oh. Maybe she's trying to tell you something."
Gordon's attempt at humour didn't pay off. Virgil's eyes darkened. Oops, bad move Gordo. He should have probably opted for the sympathetic or comforting reply. Ah well, nobody's perfect.
"Whatever," Virgil muttered. The walls were closing again. He rolled over onto his side to block Gordon out. "I know you don't really care, Gords. I'll get over it."
"I do care!" Gordon's words came out as a squeak and weren't exactly convincing. "I just don't wanna see you mopey all the time. This summers supposed to be fun. It's just you me and Al too!"
Virgil just sighed, shoulders slumping. Apparently that idea wasn't so appealing to him. "Just go and tell Dad that I cancelled the visit to Denver, would you?"
Gordon winced. Another touchy subject. "What, already? Why don't you tell him? And why don't you just book for another date?"
"Because he obviously didn't care enough to go in the first place," Virgil's fingers scratched at his sheets. "He's so frustrating! He's supposed to be helping me. They all are! It's like he doesn't care where I go or what I do. It's the same with Liz, she doesn't care if we're in the same city, she doesn't even care if we're in the same country. I hate it." Pent-up frustration was vibrating from Virgil. His short outburst left him breathless and achingly aware of the negative words that just came out his mouth. His voice softened. "Just…just tell him would you? I don't want to talk to him right now."
Gordon hopped from foot to foot. "Neither do I really... he's in business mode. Come on Virg, it's not all that bad. You can't just lie here all day. We should so something!"
"No. I have to work on my applications."
"What? That's boring-"
"Gordon," Virgil snipped, tone curt. "If you want to annoy someone, go annoy Alan would you?"
Gordon narrowed his eyes. Charming. He wasn't aware that he had been annoying him; he was only trying to help. Gordon folded his arms across his chest. "Fine. Suit yourself. I'll be your messenger boy."
Virgil made an unintelligible grumbling noise which Gordon took as another order to leave. Making his way out of the room, the teenager left with a heavier heart than he'd had on the way in. Virgil had been in a rut of bad moods lately, and to be honest, they were all rather warranted.
It had all started from when Scott had told them he wasn't coming home.
Gordon had been disappointed to hear his eldest brother wouldn't be visiting during the summer break, especially since they barely seen him all year. But he had his second assignment for the Air Force that was due to start in a week, so it was it was sort of understandable. It had been no fault of his own. Scott was genuinely torn that he couldn't come back.
Virgil hadn't brushed it off so easily. He acted as though Scott had betrayed him. It was like if he didn't come home now, he'd never be coming home again. Gordon understood why. This summer was important for Virgil. He had college application results, college visits, college decisions, college blah.
It was boring to Gordon and he just pretended to listen when the middle brother talked about it. The only detail he needed to know was that Virgil would be moving out. It had been a big deal when Scott left, less of a big deal with John, and now felt rather normal with their resident artist. It wasn't that they didn't care. They were all just better at dealing with it.
Virgil certainly seemed to take it that they didn't care. Then two days ago Jeff had dropped the bombshell that he was going to Tokyo for three weeks, coinciding right with Virgil's planned college visit dates. To make it even worse he was taking John with him. They'd only get to see the second eldest for a day before he was off again.
By that point, Gordon was annoyed too. It wasn't unusual for Jeff to take off on long business trips. Especially lately. Some grand scheme had been brewing in his father's mind, but Gordon didn't really care to ask what it was. Probably just a load of numbers. So he wasn't so much annoyed at Jeff leaving – though his timing certainly could have been better – but he had been excited for John to come home.
Gordon hated seeing Virgil so upset. Even he – as second youngest – knew this was supposed to be an exciting time for him. Not stressful, or hateful, but nerve-racking and thrilling. It was their last summer together and they should be spending time with one another. But no, now Virgil was moody, Jeff and John were leaving, Scott wasn't coming back, and Alan was…well, blissfully unaware of the whole situation.
An idea that Gordon had been toying with popped back into mind. It was a childish idea. Probably selfish too. But the second youngest couldn't stand to see Virgil like this, and he certainly didn't want to put up with his moods for the rest of the summer.
He wanted to do something fun with his family. His whole family. That wasn't so much to ask, was it? The last time they had all done something proper together had been over a year ago, more than that maybe, and it would do everyone some good to have a break.
Scott technically had a week before assignment, right? And Jeff didn't need to go on these business trips. Anything was flexible if you tried hard enough. Gordon could work around this. He always did. The only problem was getting everybody to agree to the idea. Well, there was no harm in asking.
Turning himself around on the landing, Gordon leapt down the stairs two steps at a time. Their relatively small Kansas home was quiet enough for anyone to hear who was travelling up and down levels. So by the time Gordon reached his father's office, Jeff already knew who was coming. Any of the others would have paused before entering, but Gordon burst right on in.
Jeff was sat at his computer, its bright light reflecting off the lenses of his reading glasses. A stack of paper was on one side, various gadgets on the other. Blue eyes rose slowly to look at Gordon before sliding back down again. He didn't say anything, just sighed.
Gordon narrowed his eyes again. Was it offend Gordon day or something? Sheesh these people had no common curtesy. "Hi," the teenager said, purposely bright. He wiggled back and forth on the spot as though that would gain more of his father's attention.
"Hello Gordon…" Jeff replied warily, only half focusing as he went about digging through the papers by his side. It wasn't often that he was visited by his second youngest when he was in work mode
"Virgil sent me to tell you something."
Jeff lowered his head, looking over the tops of his glasses. "Is there something wrong?"
"No. He's just canceled the visit to Denver."
"Oh, well…" Jeff's frown deepened. "That's good I suppose. Has he rescheduled?"
"No. He said you don't care," Gordon replied flippantly, still grinning at nothing in particular. Disconcerting happiness was his special weapon in these sorts of circumstances.
Jeff raised his eyebrows. That got his attention. "Excuse me?"
Gordon shrugged. "He said you didn't care, so he won't reschedule. Don't blame me; I'm just the messanger guy. Or maybe that wasn't supposed to be part of the message? I dunno. He's pretty miffed about Tokyo still I think, and Scott. Anyway…what are you doing?"
The rapidity of Gordon's speech threw Jeff off guard. "I'm…well I'm working but…What's gotten into him? Did he really say that? I do care I'm just busy at the moment. When I get back I'll-"
"How do you feel about camping?"
Now Jeff really was lost. "What?"
Gordon was hopping from foot to foot. Before he knew it, the teenager had darted around to his father's side, peering over his shoulder. All Gordon saw was spreadsheets. Line after line of numbers that made absolutely no sense. "Looks fun," he chuckled. "You know what's actually fun? Camping. I think we should do it."
Jeff turned to face his son. It took him a moment to regain composure, fingers tapping lightly on the desk the only sign of irritation. "Well…ah, sure. Ask Virgil and see if he'll take you and Alan while we're away."
He was only agreeing to get Gordon to go away. Gordon knew that. He was very aware of when people didn't want him around, like teachers, or older brothers, or Jeff. "No, we should all go. Together. We haven't done it in ages. Where was that place we used to go?"
Jeff pinched the bridge of his nose. "Erm…Bora woods I think. Listen Gordon, I don't have time for this right now, maybe later we can talk about it-"
"We should go soon. Scott has a week before assignment right? We could fit it in," Gordon absentmindedly reached out to play with the gadgets on Jeff's desk. His fingers crawled towards his father's phone.
"Soon? No. Gordon what are you talking about? We can't. What's brought this on?" Jeff batted his hand away.
"I just think we should do something together. Like we used to. Virgil's gonna leave soon,"
"I don't need the reminder."
"…and then it will be just you me and Alan!"
Jeff's eyes rolled to the roof. "God help me…"
"Listen, how about you and Al set a tent up in the backyard? Your Grandmother knows where all the gear is if you ask her-"
"No." Gordon shook his head. "We need to go together."
"Scott doesn't have time, he's already said. He's about to go on assignment. That's important-"
"Are you saying family is not important?" Gordon spouted the line he'd heard from his father too many times. Something flickered in Jeff's eye. A wary flicker, a moment of indecision. Gordon knew he wanted Scott to come home as much as the rest of them. "Besides, he's got a week doesn't he?"
"That's a short time. They won't give him leave; I might remind you it is the military. Besides, John and I have this trip to Tokyo planned-"
"Just cancel it."
"Excuse me?" Jeff's moment of wariness was gone. He was getting visibly frustrated now, lips pulled into a hard line. "I have meetings Gordon. Not everyone is on holiday like you."
"Oh please, you run the company, you make your own holidays," Gordon waved him away. He knew that wasn't entirely true but something spiraled his words. "It will be easy to cancel. Here, I'll just call up Tracy Industries-" he reached for the phone again, intending just to pick it up and look for important names.
Jeff snatched it from him. "Stop this. I have work to do. If you want to annoy someone go and annoy Alan. We can talk about this after I come back from Tokyo."
Gordon furrowed his eyebrows. Well, if this tactic wasn't going to work, he'd try for another one. Alan usually got what he wanted, and that involved whining. Maybe Gordon could whine too. "But Dad…"
"But he's sad."
Jeff sighed a world weary sigh, mostly for the fact that Gordon was still standing there, but also because he would like to do something with all his sons. It just wasn't feasible at the moment. Still, he'd entertain Gordon a little longer. "Who's sad?"
"Virgil, of course! This is supposed to be his summer, a great one. But it's not. He's sad, haven't you noticed?"
"He's not sad-"
"Yes he is, and annoyed, and angry. So we have to do something fun with him. If he doesn't remember us as being fun and happy then he won't want to come back."
Jeff tilted his head slightly at the comment. Gordon's eyes were wide and imploring, emotions open and truthful. There was never anything else with him. His statement resonated in Jeff. Virgil wasn't truly upset…was he? They'd had a few arguments sure, but it was a stressful time. Then again, any sort of arguing with Virgil was a bad sign. The hardness in Jeff's expression faded. Running a hand through his hair, he sighed. "Listen, I know this means a lot to you-"
"Not just to me, to everyone! Al would love to spend time with the others again. I know you were pretty angry Scott wasn't coming home too."
"No I'm not. I'm happy for him…why did you think that-?"
"I heard you on the phone."
Jeff frowned and looked at the culprit phone in his hand. "You're pretty manipulative, you know that right?"
"Yeah but I get it from somewhere."
Clicking his tongue against his teeth in thought, Jeff looked around the room. Ok…so It had been a long time since the whole family had been together, and he and Virgil had been at odds these past weeks. It would be nice to spend time away from work too…but…Jeff wasn't one for spontaneity, and there was about zero chance of getting his eldest on board. Yet Gordon looked so hopeful… "I'll tell you what. You get Scott and John to agree to this and I'll think about it. Think, mind you."
"Really?" Gordon felt excitement spill through him. That was easier than he'd thought it'd be. Maybe he should whine like Alan more. The smile on his face faltered slightly as he realised Jeff was only saying this because he didn't think he could get either Scott or John to agree. Smiling impishly, Gordon left the room. Jeff sure underestimated his fourth son's abilities.
The phone rang twice before his brother's tired voice crackled across the airwaves. Scott tried to mask that with a cheerful greeting. Well, it was more cheerful than Virgil's and Jeff's, which was a positive. "Hey buddy – what's up? You ok?"
Gordon put up with the usual formalities before it felt right to pop the question. Well, it was less of a question. More of a statement really. "We're going to go camping, you should come."
There was a weighty pause on the other end. Empty space crackled as Scott moved the phone to a more comfortable position. "Uh…you and Al?"
"…What? Since when? I thought Dad-"
Gordon lied with the ease of a professional spy. "He's canceled the trip."
"Oh," The surprise in Scott's tone barely masked the frustration. He'd only just spoken to Jeff a few days before, why hadn't he said anything? "Well…that sounds great kid, but you know that I can't-"
"Yeah I know, Air Force stuff, blah. We're gonna go like tomorrow or something."
Now Gordon was just going with it. "Maybe the next day. You should come."
"Gords...I can't." It sounded like it was physically painful for Scott to refuse.
"It will be the whole family except you." Gordon knew exactly what to say to get Scott to start getting guilty. This meant he knew exactly what to say to get him to come home.
"How'd you manage that?"
Gordon coughed. He hadn't yet. "John just wants to see us."
"Hey so do I! But-"
"Can't you just tell them Grandma's sick or something? To get leave?"
Worry infiltrated Scott's words. "What? Is she sick?"
"No Gordon. I'm not lying to my superiors just to-"
"We're doing it for Virgil." Gordon decided to save the kicker for last. There was nothing like mentioning the middle brother's name to get Scott hooked. The teenager wondered how Virgil would feel knowing he was being made into this excuse for him trying to get the family back together. "He's sad and stressed."
The reply was small. Even hours away and those two still knew what was going on with one another. "I know…I wish I could come home, I really do-"
"Then just do it." Gordon's reply was simple.
Scott took a breath. "…camping huh?"
"Yup." The thought suddenly occurred to Gordon that he wasn't sure if Virgil even liked camping. Ah well, minor details.
There was a sigh and a significant pause. "I suppose I could ask for leave…it's a bit late now though, and I'd be cutting it fine-"
Gordon smiled. One down, one to go.
"We're going camping. Tomorrow."
"We're? As in I don't get any say in this matter?"
"We're as in…all of us?"
"Yup…" Gordon grinned, knowing that idea was making it even less appealing to John. "That includes me, in case you were wondering."
"And…no. You've got to be joking. For a moment there I thought 'we're going camping' was the worst thing I'd heard in a while. But 'we're going camping with Gordon' has just brought it to a whole new level."
Gordon snorted. "Oh come on Johnny, don't be such a downer! Everyone else has agreed, now it's just you!"
"One, I thought I was going to Tokyo? Two, I've got work to do. Three, this is really bad timing. Four, it would be more fun without me. Five, I hate camping. Six, we'd probably argue. Seven, I'd probably be arrested for fratricide afterwards if we had to share a tent-"
"What the heck is fratricide?"
"The act of killing one's brother."
"How do you know that?"
"Eight, I don't own any camping gear. Or camping clothes. Or general motivation for camping."
Gordon paused. "Are you done yet?"
"No, there are many more reasons why I don't want to do this."
"Sweet, so we'll meet here at-"
"John, I will see you here with the new camping gear you just bought. Unfortunately, money can't buy you motivation, but you're just going to have to find that along the way."
There was a beat.
John growled. "I was looking forward to a nice couple of weeks with Dad in Tokyo. I've never been to Tokyo. But now, I'm going to have to traipse through dirt, and mud, with all of you."
Gordon chuckled. He knew John wasn't that disgusted, not really. "Hey, we can go stargazing."
"Pah, bribery…Are you sure Dad's agreed to this? Why hasn't he told me he canceled the trip?"
Gordon didn't hesitate. He wondered when lying had become so natural to him…probably the result of having nosey old brothers. "He's been busy, asked me to pass along the message. It's pretty much all settled."
"I hate you Gordon."
"Love you too," Gordon chuckled and clicked off the phone.