A conclusion. Of sorts. For now ...
The last pools of blackness were still clinging to the sky and a few stars twinkled persistently as the sun rose behind the island. The gentle breeze that drifted up from the sea was warm and ruffled John's hair, tugging at the heaviness of his mood.
Unable to sleep and needing to not be with company, he had wandered out here shortly after nightfall and had watched the passage of time roll overhead. He was too far past tired to close his eyes and yet he knew he probably ought to rest. With a sigh, he licked his dry lips and reached out for his glass of water. The liquid was warm and the ice long gone. He lifted the drink up before him and smiled suddenly as he saw the reflection in the glass.
"Hey …" John offered quietly, taking a long gulp of the water and hearing bare feet padding across the patio.
John set down his glass and turned his head.
"Hey." Scott smiled thinly. "I just … well … I had to … shit …" Scott shrugged, "You weren't in your room and … well …" he looked down at the stone tiles in uncertainty.
John frowned and sat upright, the world spinning for a moment as exhaustion and lack of food made their joint protest.
Scott glanced up at him. "Sorry."
"No, it's okay." John swung his legs round and perched on the edge of the bench.
Scott stepped forward warily. "Was it as bad as it sounded …?"
John nodded slowly, their father's hurt, angry words suddenly bubbling in his ears once more. "Not that I can blame him."
"He thought he'd lost you … we all did …" Scott continued forward and sat down on the bench opposite John. "More than once …"
Scott nodded, "I know."
John sighed and looked down at his hands. "It seems like someone else's life … it doesn't feel real …"
Scott watched his brother in concern. "It's a lot to take in." He agreed and then suddenly gave a small chuckle. "I mean, the hair is enough of a shock."
John smiled and reached up to pull at a lock of dark fringe.
"But at least the beard is gone." Scott continued lightly.
"Yeah!" John stroked his fingers down the side of his cheek and frowned as his freshly shaven skin tingled at his touch. "I hardly recognised myself …"
Scott's smile faltered as he considered his brother's words. He shrugged off the sudden melancholy and laughed gently. "It's a good disguise, then. You'll not match your mug shot."
John looked up at him in interest.
"You were on the Interpol most wanted list. Alan was most impressed."
John managed a small smile.
"So." Scott took a deep breath. "What now?"
John shrugged, "Penny is covering my tracks."
Scott nodded in silence.
"Using up the last of her favours, as she put it." John continued and then frowned in thought, "And your new friend has urged the charges to be dropped."
Scott smiled, "Yeah, I'm right up there with the bigwigs. First name basis and everything."
John closed his eyes. "It's all gone to shit, Scott …"
"We've lost so many people and … I …"
"Not all of them were your fault." Scott offered carefully, "If that's what you're thinking."
John nodded and smiled a reply.
"And we've found some handy new friends."
John gave another nod.
"It just sucks that Art's one of them … man!" Scott chuckled softly, "He just had to be a good guy, didn't he?"
"What?" John looked up in interest.
"Nothing." Scott sighed, "Long story."
"Hmm … it is, isn't it …"
"With a happy ending, though."
Scott watched John's shoulders sagging heavily and got to his feet. He moved across to perch on the bench beside John and waited patiently for him to continue. His brother stayed silent. After a few minutes, Scott took a deep breath and ventured into what he was sure was troubling John. "Pen's going back to London in the morning."
John made no response.
Scott leaned forward a little, could see the pained expression on John's face and knew he had found the source.
John cleared his throat and opened his eyes, his gaze fixed on the floor. "Al's going with her."
"Oh, man …"
"She - " John's throat was tight and he swallowed back the lump that had risen. "She wants to leave."
Scott reached up and placed his hand on John's back. "She's not well enough."
John snorted a reply, "Her mind is made up and I don't think anyone can stop her." he shook his head slowly, "She's so angry ..."
"Can you blame her?"
John spun at Scott suddenly, hurt in his eyes.
Scott shrugged a response. "I would feel just the same." He offered a thin smile. "I did for a while there."
John stared in uncertainty at his brother.
"You made a choice, John." Scott resumed quietly. "And it wasn't her."
John gasped, tears welling. "No! That's not true! I -"
"You left her."
John visibly recoiled from the notion and looked away from Scott, his face crumbling. "I … I had to …"
Scott frowned and shook his head slowly.
John turned and saw Scott's quiet response. He groaned and stood from the bench, his head spinning dizzily. "I thought … that is … I hoped she would understand …" He padded over to the edge of the pool and gazed out over the lightening sky above the ocean. "I guess that's it, then …"
"What?" Scott stood quickly and hurried over to his side. "You're giving up?"
John closed his eyes and hung his head.
"Oh, no way, dude! No way!" Scott grabbed John's arm and turned his brother to face him. "You chase half way across the world on some insane crusade to bring Trangh to justice, nearly killing yourself and her in the process, and now you've got to face up to the consequences. If that means getting on your knees and begging that woman for forgiveness, then you damned well do it. You hear?"
John regarded Scott in confusion, his eyes filled with sorrow.
"You're seriously gonna let her go?" Scott urged.
John's frown faded and he shrugged slightly, "How can I apologise for something that I'm not sorry for?"
Scott took a step back from him.
"I don't regret what I did." John stated evenly, "And I would do it again in a heartbeat. Alex just … well … she just makes things a little more complicated."
"What?" Scott whispered in disbelief, backing further from John. "This isn't you …"
"No?" John laughed suddenly, "Then who is it?"
Scott stared at him in horror.
John calmed and looked back out at the view across the pool, troubled thoughts creasing his brow once more. "It's just … it's just better this way …"
"Letting her go."
Scott shook his head slowly. "I don't see how."
John closed his eyes and sighed heavily. "I can't … Scott, I just can't love her when … when my mind is …"
And Scott suddenly understood. He recalled thinking that it was odd that their father had been yelling and screaming at John and had then suddenly backed off. He remembered seeing John wander down from the office and the silent exchange he had shared with Penny. And he could see in his brother now that something still wasn't right.
On their return home in One together (requested by an exhausted John to avoid a journey filled with questions and concerns from the rest of the family), his brother had been quiet and calm. He had spoken a little of what had happened and what they had prevented. It was bigger than any of them had dared imagine or could even comprehend. But somewhere beneath the battered shell of his brother, was the man Scott used to know and he had hoped that perhaps all that they had been through had not done as much damage as everyone had imagined.
"I need some time." John ventured huskily.
John turned back to look at his brother and his eyes were brimming with tears. "This isn't me, Scott."
"I know." Scott whispered, stepping closer and reaching out to place his hand on John's arm.
John leaned into his touch and moaned gratefully as Scott moved even closer and wrapped his arms around John's shoulders.
"Where will you go?" Scott asked quietly.
"Dad gave Lily a call. She said I can go stay with her for a while."
Scott considered this for a moment. John made it sound like a vacation, a trip out to visit family. But then, that wasn't too far from the truth. Lily had been part of their lives for many years. Not so much of late, but in the early years after their mother had died, she had spent a lot of time talking to them all. None more so than their father. Now, the psychiatrist who Alan still referred to as 'Auntie Lil' was the chief of staff at a private clinic in California.
John lifted his head and looked up at Scott. "You think they'll understand?" He nodded towards the house behind them.
"No." Scott smiled, "Not at first."
John nodded slowly.
Scott gave his brother a gentle squeeze and groaned softly. "I wish there was something I could do …"
Scott leaned back from him, raising his eyebrows in eagerness. "Anything."
"Look after Alex for me."
Scott frowned in uncertainty.
John shook his head slowly. "I can't … can't see her ... not like this ... not when she - ... I don't trust myself not to break down or … well … worse …"
"Dude, I think you need to - "
"I know what I need, Scott!" John argued suddenly, his lips trembling, "And what I don't need is to see the hurt in her eyes when she looks at me." He shrugged out of Scott's embrace and stepped away from him. "I know I'm being a coward but I just can't …"
Scott watched his brother fighting back tears and nodded slowly.
"Please …" John turned back to him, the tears finally spilling onto his flushed cheeks. "When I look at her I … I see all that I used to be and … and I need to get that back before … well … before - "
"Before you can be a father." Scott surmised.
John nodded in agreement, his face crumbling and his knees buckling beneath him. He sank down onto the stone patio and grasped at Scott's arms as his brother tried to catch him.
"It's okay." Scott wrapped his arms around John and held him close, his own tears falling as he rocked his brother gently. "It's okay. It's gonna be okay."
"How?" John managed.
"I don't know. But it will be." Scott replied firmly, adding: "And I'm always right."
John chuckled briefly, "Is that so?"
"Yup." Scott shrugged, "I'm the eldest."
"Being the eldest doesn't make you always right."
Scott smiled, "Okay, how about the fact that I can so kick your ass into next week, little brother?"
"Yeah." John laughed gently and sniffed back further tears. "Then you have a point."
"Absolutely. You may be a genius but brute strength always wins."
John relaxed back into Scott's arms and smiled merrily. "I'll remember that next time Brains and I play chess."
Scott laughed at the image and gave John a tight squeeze. "See … you're in there somewhere, bro' …"
Scott took a deep breath, "You go see Lil and I'll take care of everything while you're away. It'll all be fine."
"Definitely. I'll make sure of it. I'm best pals with the President, don't ya know!"
John laughed gently, uncertain as to how that last comment was of much help in his situation, but completely convinced that Scott would be true to his word. And maybe, just maybe, John could somehow make everything right again.
One way, or another.