In Too Deep – Chapter Fifteen
'Good Morning, I'm Lindsay McKay and you're watching BBC International Breakfast News. The headlines: British Prime Minister, Jonathon Turner has stunned the nation this morning with the swift decision to call an Emergency Cabinet Meeting. No one knows quite what's behind Mr Turner's decision but there's plenty of speculation after the Home Secretary's shock resignation earlier in the week. We cross now, live to Downing Street where….'
The screen flickered.
'… earlier this morning when the Prime Minster made this statement: "I can not comment, at this time, on the nature of the issue we intend to discuss but I assure the British Public and the Press that a full statement will be made as soon as possible." Speculation of a cabinet reshuffle is rife after Helen Quartz's resignation and mixed reports that Transport Minister James Godfrey is to be appointed Foreign ….'
This time a shadow leaned against the doorpost of the room, legs crossed at the ankles and arms folded across his chest. Silently observing from his position and ignoring the constant flow of water from the small collection of fish tanks that lined one wall.
'…the Prime Minster. At a press conference earlier this morning, he assured the public that…'
"Morning," Alan forced himself to appear cheerful but he was ignored. The television continued to announce the day's International news through intermittent second-long gaps where Gordon persisted with his channel flicking. "Gordon?" Alan took a step into his brother's room this time, but was ignored yet again. His forced cheery demeanour was fading fast as Gordon remained unaware of his presence, "Gordy, would you cut that out?" he couldn't quite keep the annoyed tone from his voice but he tried; it wasn't worth the effort though, as the channel hopping continued as if he wasn't even there.
'…. from Mr Turner, himself, after an influx of bad press for Parliament including…'
'…Emergency Parliamentary Powers could be invoked for the first time since…'
"Gordy, I'm serious," Alan made no attempt to hide his annoyance this time. Eyeing the back of the chair in the centre of the room and the red spokes of hair that poked above it, he growled out another sigh and took another step, further inside the bedroom. "You're going to blow a fuse or something…" His words had no effect. In fact, they seemed only to increase Gordon's erratic button-pressing.
'…our legal correspondent…'
The screen flickered with a bright light, this time to be replaced with darkness. Frowning in confusion, Gordon tried to press the remote a few more times before turning to see his youngest brother, plug in hand. "Oh, Morning, Alan," he said sheepishly.
Alan let the plug drop to the floor and took a seat, helping himself to some coffee. "I thought you were going to blow a fuse," he scowled, repeating himself.
"Sorry," Gordon shrugged and his tone held an air of absence to it, "I guess I'm a little preoccupied."
Alan raised an eyebrow but sipped at his coffee. "Virgil's home today," he said unnecessarily. When Gordon made no effort to reply, he was silent for a few more minutes.
Eventually, he prepared himself to break the silence. "You get much sleep?" he asked, sitting back in his chair and letting the soft cushions ease his aching bones. One glance at Gordon answered that question in truth, but he wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
Gordon shrugged for a second time, "A little. I called Dad earlier, I think Virgil was pretty cut up after the funeral yesterday. They stayed the night at Penelope's so they're not going to get home until this afternoon."
"Is Virg okay?" Alan peered at his brother, over the top of his coffee mug, with concerned eyes. "I mean… should he be up and about so soon?"
Finding it hard to hide his frustration at the situation, Gordon heaved a sigh, "I don't know, Dad said he was a real mess but it's nothing that won't heal with time." He rubbed a hand over his eyes, "I guess we'll see for ourselves in a few hours when he gets here."
"Yeah," Alan nodded, looking about the room. "Have you seen Scott this morning?"
Gordon pulled a vacant expression, "Only briefly but he's getting anal about how everything has to be ready for Virgil coming home. Between him and Grandma, I think the whole house is going to be spotless."
Alan laughed but took a few moments to study his aquanaut brother. "You okay, Gordy? You seem a bit… distant."
"Hmm?" Gordon forced a smile, "Sorry, I'm fine. I'm just tired, I didn't get much sleep."
Alan raised his eyebrows and glanced around the bedroom, looking to the mangled sheets on the bed; that much was obvious. "Nightmares?" Alan ventured.
Gordon shook his head, "No, not really. I just couldn't stop thinking… you know what it's like, about all the ifs and maybes." He knew Alan would be nodding beside him, they all knew what dealing with bad rescues entailed. "I made good use of my time though," Gordon went on to smile, his eyes showing a familiar sparkle that Alan was relieved to witness. "I did some more detailed scans of the damage to the Mole. It's worse then we thought."
"Yeah?" Alan helped himself to a cold slice of toast from the plate by Gordon's chair but screwed his face up after a single bite. "Brains will appreciate that," he said. "I know Tin-Tin's been struggling to get everything fixed up without him here to help her. She wanted to get the interior done first in case Virgil came home, she didn't want him to see… well, y'know." He bit his lips together, his thoughts straying to the pretty assistant engineer who'd comforted him time after time, over the last few days. "Still, I'm glad Brains is in England with Virgil; it's good to know he's on hand, just in case, especially with Virgil not being in the hospital all that long."
"Yeah," Gordon agreed. "I wish we could have stayed with him. I'm sure Scott does too. I don't think he's relaxed since we left England."
"And I don't think he will until Virgil's back here where Scott can keep an eye on him," Alan let out a sigh as he shook his head, partly in understanding. "If I'm honest I don't blame Scott for that. I can't say I won't feel better 'til I know Virgil's back home."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," Gordon replied in a mournful tone, "Virgil needs our support now more than ever and we're thousands of miles away." He paused, "I guess Scott's right, all we can do is make coming home as smooth as possible for him." He smiled and took a deep breath, trying to motivate himself, "I'm going to do some final checks to Thunderbird Two. I know Dad won't want him to go down there, but if I know Virgil, that isn't likely to stop him either."
Alan smirked, "Yeah, I'll go find Scott, see if there's anything I can do, I'm sure he's got a whole heap of things he could use a hand with."
They were about to make a collective effort to move when a steady but constant bleeping from the television set stopped them in their tracks. Gordon groaned and sat back in his seat, as Alan pressed the necessary buttons. "Go ahead, John." He fiddled with the plug for a while in order not to let the battery run down. A precaution that had proved a necessity during stormy weather.
"Good Morning," John smiled, looking fresh and alert, coffee in hand. "How are you guys?"
"We're fine," Gordon replied. "Have you got an update for us?"
John nodded and sat back in his chair, taking a relaxed sip from his coffee mug. "Dad called in a few minutes ago. He said they're about to leave so they should be with you in a few hours. And before you ask, yes, Virgil's fine. Dad said he's tired," John's tone lowered a little, "he also said to warn you guys that Virgil's not quite himself yet but that he's okay."
"Thanks, John," Alan smiled, genuinely pleased at John's thoughtfulness. His space-bound brother knew what it was like to have no concrete news when you were worried. "It's a relief to know that he's on his way home, at least. Where he belongs."
"Have you spoken to Scott today?" Gordon asked, a frown of concern playing on his features. "I saw him earlier and he seemed really uptight. He's running about the place like some kind of Commander in Chief."
"Yeah, I spoke with him." John admitted, with reluctance. "I know he's a little busy at the moment, but just …. Just do what he says, huh?" John was almost pleading with his younger brothers. "He's had it tough and it's his way of dealing with things. He wants everything to be right for Virgil and you know what he's like, he has to be doing something."
"A little busy?" Gordon guffawed, "John, he's been conspiring with Grandma!" he exclaimed. "He has a clipboard, for crying out loud!" Alan smirked at John's cleverly concealed wince when Gordon's voice rose.
John heaved a sigh that echoed through the speakers, "He's just trying to keep busy, he'll be okay. He's been under a lot of stress, we all have, and he's worried about Virgil. I don't think Virgil's spoken to him since he left England."
This was news to Gordon and Alan, "He hasn't?" Gordon frowned, looking at Alan in surprise before turning to John again. "But Scott's been calling England constantly."
"Yeah, well that doesn't mean he got a reply. Dad said Virgil's barely spoken a word." John raised one eyebrow. "To anyone. Including Scott. I don't know what's going on, but I don't think everything in that garden is rosy. So go easy on Scott. He's probably upset that Virgil hasn't returned any of his calls. Just keep the peace and go along with whatever he says. Things will get better once Virgil gets back to the island and everything settles down." He paused and looked between his two younger brothers with a purposeful gaze. "Now, in the meantime, we need to talk…."
Flying miles above the constraints of the real world, it was customary for Jeff Tracy to get that weightless feeling of contentment, that all his worries were at least a couple of hundred thousand feet away. The freedom that he could just keep flying away from his responsibilities was never far away. Even though in reality he would never do it, the fact that he could was exhilarating. Today, however, there was no weightless feeling of contentment and the cause of his worries wasn't hundreds of thousand of feet away; it was sat right next to him in the form of his second eldest son. As his concentration wandered from the controls, he looked across to Virgil. The humming of the engines, muffled though they were by the state of the art soundproofing, was the only sound in the cockpit to greet Jeff's ears. Yet, the constant vibration seemed so loud against the tense silence emanating from his passenger.
"Beautiful isn't it?" he asked, gesturing to the deep azures of the sea, far beneath them.
Virgil jumped at the sudden sound and closed his eyes, determined not to let his panic show. "Yeah," he said softly, not moving his gaze away from the passing dots of green, signifying various tropical islands.
Jeff took a deep frustrated breath. Conversation had been hard going even before their departure from England. "Your Grandmother will be pleased to see you," he commented.
"Hmm," Virgil gave a small nod but didn't elaborate.
"Son…." Jeff paused, unsure how to word what he wanted to say without causing discomfort in the cockpit as well as silence. "I know things have been tough. I know they're going to be tough for a bit longer but they will get better now."
Jeff caught movement out the corner of his eye and turned to see Virgil twisting in his seat to face his father. Jeff's elation at the progress from dark, gloomy silence soon faded when he saw the hollow sadness in Virgil's eyes, "Yeah, course they will." His words were belied by the complete lack of any belief in them.
And when Virgil turned back to staring out the window, Jeff felt his heart sink a little further. Ever since this rescue started, all he'd wanted was for it to end. Now, just when he thought it was finally over, it was becoming more and more apparent that it wasn't over at all; in fact, it was only just beginning.
"I'm telling you, John, it wasn't me!" Alan screeched at his older brother. "I was god knows how many miles away and damned busy too! How could it possibly have been my fault that Brains decided to hack into MI 5's system!"
Gordon cradled his head in his hands, this argument was beginning to get out of hand and his head had started to pound, probably due to the lack of sleep. He risked a glance up, to look between his two blond brothers and was surprised to see John staring at him, suspicion written all over his face, "What?" he asked in his best innocent voice.
"Don't give me that!" John replied, his grin askew. "You thought you'd got away with this because everyone's more worried about Virgil right now. Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you but you didn't; elephants don't forget, remember, and this innocent act isn't fooling anyone, least of all me. You know something, Gordy," he pointed a finger in his aquanaut brother's direction and then turned back to Alan, "and if the pair of you don't tell me the truth then Tin-Tin and Brains will take the rap for this."
"Whoa! Now, hold on a minute!" Alan butted in, "Who said anything about Tin-Tin?"
"Oh, come on, Alan! Don't take me for a fool!" John's tone was determined and he wasn't prepared to give up just yet. He tried to calm himself. "Look, guys, I understand why you did what you did, okay? And so … maybe it wasn't the smartest way of getting the information we wanted but you got us a lead, that was the important part. Without that information from that recording, we might not have reached Virgil in time." John paused, watching his younger brothers' expressions darken at the very thought. "You have to tell Dad the truth," he encouraged. "He's coming home today so it's the perfect opportunity to come clean."
"Look, John, we don't know what you're talking about," Alan kept up the innocent act but John was unperturbed.
"Yeah, John," Gordon nodded, agreeing with the shortest action that would enable the conversation to end. "Who died and made you big brother all of a sudden?" He realised what he'd said as soon as the words left his mouth and had the grace to look away, abashed and mumbling an apology, "Sorry, I didn't think…"
John heaved a sigh, "Look guys," he protested, "I'm not trying to muscle in on Scott territory here, I'm just trying to get to the bottom of this. Scott's got a lot on his plate right now, he's worried enough already and the last thing he needs is more stress from you two. Just do the right thing, okay?"
"Does it really matter how we got our hands on the information?" Gordon asked, rubbing at his bleary eyes and sitting forward. "Like you said, we got it, that's the main thing."
"You want me to tell you the most important word in that sentence, Gords?" John smirked like the cat who'd got the cream. Gordon had just inadvertently revealed all. "We." He paused for effect. "Not 'he' or 'they' but we."
"He meant 'we' in the wider sense, John," Alan was quick to defend his brother but the accusing glare at Gordon said it all. "Look, I don't see what the big fuss is about."
"Me neither!" John grinned, "So just tell me."
"Fine!" Gordon mumbled, running a hand through hair that, despite abundant washers, still carried what Gordon thought was a faint smell of smoke. "Alan talked Tin-Tin through the hacking process, it was nothing to do with Brains or me, for that matter, but sometimes y'gotta do what y'gotta do and I back him one hundred and ten percent."
"See? That wasn't so hard, was it?" John replied, sarcasm in his voice. He was actually a little relieved that he was making progress and hoped he was doing the right thing, trying to lighten Scott's stresses by taking a few on himself. "Now, bypassing the fact that you broke god-only-knows how many laws, what would you have done if they managed to trace your little hacking expedition back to International Rescue?"
"John, I really don't need a lecture from you; we did what we had to do. Virgil is back and you said he's doing fine so right now that's all that matters," Alan shuffled forward in his chair as Gordon hovered at his side, already making an effort to get closer to the door. "We've got stuff to do before Virgil gets home and the last thing we want is Attila the Scott on our case, so if you don't mind…" he nodded towards the door.
"Hold it!" John warned, glaring at the both of them and daring them to move. "You've got two choices, bro," his reply came from the TV screen turned radio. "You either have the lecture from me and I'll make it quick and painless or you let Dad or Scott have the honor and they'll still be bending your ear this time next century."
"Fine, fine!" Alan waved a hand. "Come on, let's hear it." He rolled his eyes as he sat back in his seat and held an arm out pointing for Gordon to do the same. "Make it quick!"
"Did you think about the repercussions?" John's flicked between them reminding Gordon of how their father would reprimand them both for playing silly tricks when they were younger.
"John, we thought it through. We decided on what we thought was best. We did it. End of story," Alan shrugged. "The advantages outweighed the risks and you can't sit there and tell me that you wouldn't have done exactly the same thing," he was fast approaching a state of exasperation with his older brother. "Sometimes you've got to…"
"Break the law?" John filled in for him, eyebrow raised for effect. "Tell lies? Get other people into trouble?"
"Bend the rules," Alan finished, rolling his eyes at John's sarcasm. "We made an informed decision."
"Good for you," John nodded, his tone, as ever, thick with derision. "Now stand by it, face the consequences and don't let Tin-Tin and Brains take the rap for your … informed decision."
Alan scowled and studied his brother, cocking his head to one side. "Okay, you've made your point. I'll talk to Dad when he gets home."
"Good," John nodded his approval. The transition from stern superior to concerned brother was almost as smooth as if Scott had been the one to reprimand them, "Now, I suggest you find Scott before he finds you."
"Yeah, yeah," Alan waved a hand at his older brother, not taking his insinuation seriously. "Whatever."
Scott Tracy didn't often get nervous but as he watched his father's private jet circle the island before reaching the correct approach angle, he began to feel his stomach churn. Perhaps it wasn't nervousness as much as it was apprehension. His father had spent a lot of time with Virgil over the last few days, trying to piece together what had happened from the few snippets of information that Virgil had divulged but most of all, offering as much comfort and support as possible. If it had been up to Scott, he would have been right by his brother's side too but he knew, just as his father knew, that someone had to keep the business ticking over and Scott was expected to lead by example.
His father had done his best to keep him informed and Scott had even spoken to Virgil once or twice himself, but the conversations hadn't done anything to assure him that his brother was anywhere close to any semblance of recovery. In fact, if anything, he got the distinct impression that Virgil was avoiding him. His younger brother used the time difference as a blatant excuse to avoid calling and on the few occasions when Scott had managed to get through to him, Virgil had appeared subdued and uncommunicative with the result that their conversations were short and awkward. When Scott considered it, he wondered if maybe that was why his stomach churned so mercilessly. Either way, his gut was telling him that Virgil's problems weren't as easily rectified as his father proclaimed.
As Scott watched the rubber wheels of the jet brush against the hot tarmac, he hoped with all his heart that attending the funeral had been therapeutic for Virgil and that he was ready to start healing. He'd seen it before; men unable to let go, destroyed by circumstances beyond their control. The last thing he wanted was to see his brother so crudely shattered.
The jet taxied to a stop and Scott approached, aware that Alan and Gordon were jogging over, having abandoned their positions. As the hatch opened and Virgil appeared in the frame, Scott heard an audible gasp behind him. Turning, he saw Tin-Tin standing alongside Alan with a hand over her face, aghast at the sight of Virgil's battered appearance. Scott understood her shock, to him the swelling, cuts and bruises had diminished a lot but for Tin-Tin, it was the first time she'd seen Virgil and she only had Alan's woeful descriptions to prepare her. Scott swallowed and waited for some kind of reaction from Virgil.
There was an awful, tense silence before Virgil swallowed and forced his trembling lips to smile, "Is it that bad?" he joked. Scott closed his eyes, hoping that one of his younger brothers wouldn't agree in a clumsy, inconsiderate retort.
"No, of course it's not," Gordon had a little more decorum than Scott gave him credit for and shook his head, "I've seen worse." He paused, "And, it's healing, it's a lot better than before."
Virgil was grateful for the reassurance and began to descend the retractable staircase towards the ground. His movements were stiff and slow, prompting Scott to meet him halfway. "Let me help," he said, offering Virgil a supportive arm.
"No," Virgil's reply was sharp. A lot sharper than Scott expected. His earlier worries came back to the forefront of his mind. "I can do it."
Scott stepped back but glanced at their father in despair, confused by Virgil's apparent irritation. Jeff just shook his head, advising Scott to let it drop for now, "Well, Brains and I could certainly use a hand, Scott," he smiled, passing his eldest sons a few holdalls to carry.
As soon as Virgil's feet hit the ground, Tin-Tin came forward and enveloped him in a hug. "Easy, honey," he sighed, wincing against the pressure on his chest. "It's just a few bruises." He looked up to Alan, expecting to see a jealous glint in his youngest brother's eye but there was only compassion and concern. He managed a smile before extracting himself from Tin-Tin's hold with gentle but firm movement. "I'm fine," he swallowed, looking directly into her eyes.
"Oh, but Virgil," Tin-Tin cooed. "Your face…." Her gaze drifted from his eyes to blemishes caused by the stitches and his yellow jaw.
"…is definitely an improvement." Alan finished for her, stepping forward and putting an end to any superfluous pitiful conversation. "I like it," he smiled.
Virgil smiled his thanks to his youngest brother, it was good to see that some things never changed. "Thanks," he managed to get out through a sudden shudder to his chest. His grin didn't reach his eyes, in fact, it didn't come close but it was there, nonetheless. Alan was gentle as he wrapped his arms around his big brother and resisted squeezing him tightly.
"I bet you just love all those colors," Gordon commented, stepping forward to get a closer inspection of the sickly colours scattered across Virgil's face and embracing him with caution.
"Boys," Jeff paused in passing Scott another bag and looked up, "Brains and I could do with some help here." With dutiful nods Gordon and Alan moved to the other side of the jet, helping Jeff to unload and Scott moved towards Virgil, brushing his hands together as he went.
"It's so good to see you," Scott smiled. To his critical eye, Virgil was far too pale, he'd lost weight, and his eyes still had a look of bewilderment about them, as if maybe it hadn't really sunk in yet. "We've missed you," Scott grinned, taking a step forward to flop a welcoming arm round Virgil's shoulders. When Virgil took a step back, squirming away from any meaningful contact, the pain was like a physical slap across the face, especially when everyone else's embrace had been permitted.
"Um…" Virgil coughed, clearing his throat. "I'm really tired, what with the flight and everything. I think I'm going to lie down for a few hours," he waved an arm towards the villa in a slow circular motion.
"Sure," Scott felt disheartened and could only nod. "Can I do anything?" he asked, trying to be helpful.
"Stop walking on eggshells," Virgil's reply drifted up to Scott's ears on the soft breeze but it didn't really penetrate his thinking until Virgil was making steady but painfully slow progress towards the house.
Frowning Scott started to go after his brother but he'd barely moved an inch before his father stopped him, grasping his arm and offering him words of advice, "Just leave him, Son, he needs some time. He's taking all this very hard."
"How is he really?" Scott asked, watching his brother retreat with such anxiety that Jeff felt his heart constrict at Scott's turmoil. "I mean, how's he coping? Has he said anything? How did the funeral go?" Scott asked, almost afraid of what his father was about to tell him. He had to know, though. He had to at least try to understand what Virgil was going through and just how his brother was handling all this. "I thought it might help… y'know, give Virgil a chance to say a proper goodbye."
"So did I," Jeff mused, "The funeral was hard going, it took a lot out of him but he handled himself very well."
"Did he say much?" Scott asked, wanting and, more than that, needing to know every detail. He felt guilty that he hadn't been able to support his brother himself and needed to know exactly how Virgil had coped. "About Luke or…" he trailed off, hoping for his father to pick up the thread of conversation.
Jeff heaved a long, heavy sigh that didn't bode well for his reply. Scott's gut began to churn harder.
"He hasn't said anything about what happened," Jeff admitted, running a hand over his face. "I tried to talk to him but… he's not ready yet. It's too raw."
"But, he must've said something!" Scott exclaimed, his brow furrowing in surprise and distress. His tone carried a slight edge to it, which Jeff disliked. It was almost critical. "He must've told you about Luke?" Scott's eyes clearly expected some kind of revelation.
"He doesn't want to talk about him, he just wants to forget all this ever happened." Jeff found himself saying, his tone morose and defeatist, something that Jeff Tracy rarely exuded. "As soon as I mentioned Luke's name…" he shook his head, "I could see his eyes change and then…. Nothing."
"I can't believe it," Scott muttered. "He's usually … I should have talked to him, I should have stayed with him! Made him listen to me!" he exclaimed, feeling responsible. "Didn't he talk to Luke's family at the funeral?"
Jeff shrugged his shoulders, "There was only his fiancée, Lisa, and Luke's son, Virgil had every intention to talk to them but when it came to it… he was too upset. To be brutally honest, Scott, he was in no fit state anyway." Jeff paused, eyeing his eldest son in uncertainty. He hoped that he was doing the right thing in telling Scott all this. "Virgil's devastated that Luke died and it's almost as if, as a response, he's shutting down. He doesn't talk unless he's spoken to, he spends all of his time in a world of his own and he's hardly slept or ate since we arrived at Penelope's."
"He's acting like one of us has died!" Scott exclaimed, his frustration evident from his tone of voice.
"We can't even begin to understand the pressure they were under when they were trapped down there, Scott." Jeff's frown deepened and he looked in the direction Virgil had left with a wistful expression. "He's grieving for someone he put a hell of a lot of trust in. Someone who trusted him in return, and someone who, despite his best efforts, he couldn't save. The situation forced them together and they obviously built up quite a relationship."
"You think this is survivor guilt?" Scott's eyebrows climbed.
"No, I think it's Virgil trying to cope with everything the only way he knows how," Jeff took in a deep breath. "He feels numb, he's still in shock. Right now, he needs us to be patient with him."
Scott let out a long sigh of frustration, "I feel so useless… I just don't know how to help him when he's so intent on isolating himself."
"You can't, Scott," Jeff's tone was sympathetic, "not until he's ready to be helped."
"I knew he'd been upset and maybe even a little despondent, I mean that was to be expected. I knew things would be tough but I had no idea… I never expected him… not like this… He's not coping is he?" Scott's concern was obvious, his brow was furrowed, his eyes so clear, telling of his internal pain at seeing his closest brother in such ill-concealed heartache.
Jeff let out yet another sigh of his own and then shrugged, "He's trying. It's hard for him, he's been… quiet, withdrawn. Conversation is like getting blood out of a stone but we have to respect that after everything he's been through, he's…. upset, and that's perfectly normal. Like I said, he's grieving. He was talking about taking a vacation for a while, maybe seeing Luke's family. He mentioned something about a promise he had to keep and that he wants to meet with Luke's fiancée, especially after the funeral, but that's something for the future. He needs some time to come to terms with things before he makes any decisions. A hell of a lot has happened over the last week and a half. And not just to Virgil, either. We've all been through the wringer on this one."
Scott offered his father a small nod. "I guess." He paused. "I'm worried, Father. I'm really worried about him… he's so distant, it's like he wants to isolate himself …. away from me" he struggled to articulate himself. "He's avoiding me, I know he is but I don't know why. It feels like I've got him back just to lose him all over again."
Jeff shook his head and placed a firm hand on Scott's shoulder, squeezing a little. "I know how you feel; he's shutting all of us out at the minute but I promise you, Scott, that isn't going to happen. There's not a person on this island who'd let it, you and I included." He smiled and squeezed Scott's shoulder a second time. "Here," he said, passing his eldest son the white paper bag he'd been holding in his free hand. "It's Virgil's medication. Why don't you take it to him?" Scott hesitated before taking the proffered bad and smiling his thanks at his father.
As Jeff watched Scott make his way towards the villa, his heart lurched. During the time they'd spent together in England, Virgil had stubbornly refused his help to the point where Jeff's frustration was beginning to fray the edges of his temper. Time after time his offers of assistance had been rejected and instead he'd been forced to watch as Virgil isolated himself in an unseen cocoon of sorrow. He hoped with all his heart that Scott would have greater luck in breaking that protective shell than he did.
He was pulled from watching Scott disappear into the house as Alan, Gordon and Tin-Tin appeared in front of him, looking decidedly nervous.
"Dad," Alan began, hopping slightly from one foot to the other. "The luggage is done. We were wondering if we could talk to you…" he swallowed and glanced out to the sea. "In your office." He suggested.
"It's important." Gordon tagged on.
Jeff nodded, about to suggest they head inside when the sight of his mother caught his attention. Her stride purposeful as she made her way across the tarmac, Jeff could tell she wasn't happy in any way, shape or form. "Boys, can this wait?"
No-one got a chance to reply.
Scott tapped on the door to Virgil's room, soft at first but harder when he got no response. "Virgil?" he asked. "Virgil it's me. Dad asked me to bring your medication up to you." There was no reply and he tried the door but found it locked. "Virgil? I know you're in there."
There was a soft click as the lock slid back but the door didn't open. Scott waited a few seconds to see if Virgil was going to let him in but when the door remained closed he decided that the unlocking was invitation enough. He opened the wooden panel with slow controlled caution, ready to retreat depending on Virgil's reaction. "Virg?" he peered around into the room, automatically looking to the bed for any sign of his brother.
To Scott's surprise the bed was empty and instead Virgil was stood by the window, staring out at the swaying waves and feeding paper into the desktop computer system. "Hey," Scott ventured inside. "You okay?"
"I'm not due any meds for another hour, at least," Virgil replied. His tone wasn't angry or snappy but it was curt, brusque even, and Scott felt the first tingling of frustration hit his spine.
"Well, I'll leave them here then," he said, placing the bag on Virgil's dresser and trying not to appear as ruffled as he felt. He was half tempted to leave, having fulfilled his purpose but yet he wasn't prepared to let Virgil succeed in alienating himself entirely. "What are you doing?"
Virgil stiffened. "Brains wants me to look over the Mole with him, I thought I might as well make a start."
"You don't have to do that yet," Scott frowned. Virgil's behaviour was causing him great concern and he entertained the idea that this was only a diversion tactic, remembering what his father had said about Virgil's desire to 'forget'. "You've not been home an hour. Just relax for a while, the doctor said no stress."
"Do I look stressed?" Virgil turned to face Scott but the comment was sharp and carried bite.
Scott bit his lips together in order to stop himself firing a retort back and rising to his brother's provocation. "Look, Virgil," he sighed. "Have I done something to offend you?" he asked, holding Virgil's gaze. "Because you're obviously angry with me for some reason but I don't know what I've done. Maybe if you tell me then I can start putting it right and we can deal with this together." He hoped Virgil would pick up on the hint.
"What?" Virgil frowned in confusion but then winced as the facial movement pulled on his stitched face. "No," he shook his head but that caused pain in his neck and he had to stop. "I'm not angry with you. I'm sorry if I gave you that impression."
"You're not?" Scott's surprise was genuine. He walked the short distance to Virgil's bed and perched on the edge. "Well, you're doing a damned fine job of snapping my head off every time I open my mouth."
Virgil clutched his abused chest and lowered himself in to the comfort of the leather desk-chair, only relaxing when the pain of movement subsided a little. Without a word, he continued with his work at the computer, ignoring Scott and taking a much needed few moments to think.
Seconds passed before Scott got up, moving to stand alongside Virgil's desk, peering over his shoulder slightly. "Virg, I think I deserve an explanation," he urged.
"I've said I'm sorry," Virgil replied, his tone contrite but still carrying an edge. Scott noticed that his hands were starting to tremble a little. "I don't know what you want me to say. It won't happen again." He paused to flick through some images of the scans that Gordon had completed the night before.
There was what seemed to Scott to be a long silence as he considered the situation.
Virgil broke it, speaking with such clarity that he took Scott by surprise, "Looks like the motors are going to need re-fitting but we would've had to go over them anyway after the hammering the air recycler took. The fusion reactor's going to need work on the shielding too. Once we open it up," Scott's brow furrowed in alarm, to Virgil machines were living objects, usually women, but certainly not 'its'. "I think we're going to find the integrity of the drill bit has been compromised, looks like it's buckled under the pressure, here." Virgil held up a pencil to the screen, pointing out the small rumple in the smooth line on the x-ray-like scan. "Was it knocked off the undercarriage?"
Scott looked at his brother, stunned by the sudden technical confidence he exuded. It was obvious to him that Virgil was hiding behind his engineering expertise but he wasn't sure that broaching the subject would help either. It certainly hadn't done their father any good.
"Uh … no, I don't think so. Gordon and Alan loaded her up, they didn't report any problems but then again, I was a little preoccupied at the time… worrying about you," Virgil appeared uncomfortable at the direction the conversation was taking and turned to more mechanical scans of the buckled metal from the file, more than prepared to take solace in his work.
"We're going to need materials…."
"Virgil….," Scott couldn't keep this farce up any longer and moved to reach a hand out to Virgil's shoulder, surprised at the ferocity with which Virgil tensed. "Were you listening to me? You can't just shut us all out like this. I'm worried about you, say something."
"Uh huh," Virgil swallowed and cleared his throat. "If we get the materials on order as soon as possible then I think we'll be able to get all the repairs done in, say…. three weeks at the most." He paused, turning to face Scott, begging him not to keep pushing without saying a word. "Obviously, that's a very rough estimate. I've only just opened the file and it'll depend on how long the parts take and …." His thread continued, not taking the time to pause for breath.
"Virgil, stop it!" Scott frowned, his tone carrying more volume and severity then he'd intended.
"Stop what?" Virgil's eyes were as wide as his eyelids allowed them to open.
Scott sighed, "Stop…." He waved a hand towards the computer. "This."
"It needs doing, Scott," Virgil scoffed, shrugging off Scott's obvious concern. "I might as well get on with it."
"That's not what I meant… though you shouldn't be doing that either," Scott sucked in his top lip and grazed his teeth against it. "I meant…. avoiding the issue; you can't just isolate yourself like this. Say something! Yell, scream, cry – I don't care but do something!" He pleaded as he knelt down alongside his brother, on a level with him. "If I've done something to upset you, I want you to tell me." Scott hung his head, unable to look up. "Do you blame me for what happened?"
"What?" Virgil screeched, his eyes widening painfully. "No!" he denied with vigour, "No, of course I don't! Don't be ridiculous! This wasn't your fault."
"Then what is it?" Scott's confusion was plain, his eyes contained an anxiousness that spoke volumes.
Virgil let out a sigh that turned into a painful scoff of incredulity, "You don't understand. It's not something you've done, it's something you're going to do."
Scott's frown deepened as he tried to deconstruct that sentence into manageable pieces, he was unsuccessful and shook his head in confusion. "You're right, I don't understand. What am I going to do?" Virgil lowered his gaze, pulling at the dressings on his wrists like a child, ashamed of the punishment about to be handed to him. "Virgil?" Scott persisted. "Don't shut me out."
Virgil shook his head before slowly lifting his gaze to meet Scott's confused expression. "You know," he shrugged, one shoulder rising higher than the other, against the protest his battered ribs provided. "Talk," he mumbled, "about….stuff. Make me ..." He paused. "That's what you want, isn't it?" Virgil's tone became quiet and low, his words garbled through tight lips. "That's what Dad's been trying to do all week but I… I can't. I need to get my head straight first."
Scott's expression broke into a grin as he grasped his brother's knee and began to shake his head, "Is that what this is about?" he sighed. "Virgil…you're not stupid. You know you can't ignore it forever and yeah, you have got to face this at some point. But I can understand how you feel, you want to do it on your terms, when you're ready but that doesn't mean you have to shut us all out and do it by yourself."
Scott knew too, that it had a lot to do with Virgil regaining some control over his life again and after nearly two days of feeling vulnerable and powerless Scott couldn't blame him for wanting to do that. Virgil was a strong, resilient man and wasn't used to relying on other people or being the centre of attention, Scott could empathise with his desire to take his time and was ready to trust his brother to know when the time was right to set his demons free. After all, sometimes a few demons were required to remind us of our own mortality. Scott knew that only too well.
"Right now," Scott continued after a pause, "I'm just pleased that you're here at all. I've got no intention of pretending to know how you're feeling right now, but I do know this: whatever you need, whenever you need it, I'm never far away, okay?"
Virgil's lips curved into a small smile, as wide as he could muster. He was relieved that Scott understood and yet at the same time, felt incredible guilt for behaving so abysmally towards the brother he could always trust to understand him. "I'm sorry if I've been taking things out on you or you thought I was pushing you away. I guess…maybe I've been a little harsh, I didn't mean to … " he paused to consider how to articulate himself, " ignore you and I certainly don't blame you. There was nothing you, or anyone, could have done. I'm sorry if I made you think that." Virgil emphasised that point, knowing from the way Scott had broached the subject that it had obviously been something his older brother had thought about a lot.
Scott grinned, "Forget it."
"No," Virgil shook his head, "It was inexcusable. I'm sorry, Scott, I should never have ignored… I shouldn't have been so rude to you when you called. I don't know why…" he stopped to take a deep breath, "… I'm sorry."
Scott smiled and got to his feet. "It's already forgiven and forgotten." Scott's tone of voice signified that the apology was enough and that there need not be any further discussion of the matter, for which Virgil was grateful.
Nodding his understanding, Virgil turned his attention back to the screen in front of him. Picking up a pencil and, after a few seconds, beginning to make notes. Scott felt he'd done what he'd intended to do in beginning to make his brother realise that he didn't have to do this on his own nor, for that matter, right now. However, if Virgil wanted to concentrate on work, he was prepared to play along and he certainly didn't want the conversation to become too heavy, "Are you planning to make any improvements? Tin-Tin mentioned something about adding a kind of device like the Paralyser on Thunderbird Four."
Virgil hesitated and then began to shake his aching head, "Wouldn't work. It'd knock out everyone in the cabin and it's not practical to have breathing apparatus for genuine IR staff." Scott's nod spurred him on, "We could beef up security but you know what it's like in a rescue situation, you don't always have time to go through checks. I'll work on it but I don't see how any improvements could make much difference."
Scott found this difficult to digest. Normally, after a compromising situation, Virgil would be more than willing to go back to the drawing board and work until he found a solution of some kind. He'd even enjoy the challenge, throwing himself into anything that made the source of the problem less likely to occur again. "You wouldn't feel safer if we had more protocols in place to stop this kind of thing happening again?" Scott asked.
"Let me ask you something, Scott," Virgil replied in a calm, calculated tone. It was obvious he'd done a lot of thinking in England, "Would you feel safer if we stopped you going to the danger-zone alone because of what happened at the Ambro River?"
Turned around like that, Scott could see where his brother was coming from and offered him a smile in agreement. "Okay, I take your point." When Virgil didn't carry the conversation on further, Scott got the distinct feeling he was in the way. "Can I do something to help or do you want me to leave you to it?" Virgil looked up at him and raised an eyebrow.
"You could tell me what you did to your hand?" Virgil raised an eyebrow and gestured down to the bandaged limb, hidden from sight thanks to a long sleeved sweater.
"I'll go," Scott decided, ignoring his brother.
"You might've fooled Dad with that yarn about getting it trapped in the wreckage of the jet but you didn't fool me," Virgil replied, a smile pulling at the edges of his damaged face. He paused as Scott edged closer to the door, his discomfort at the subject of conversation obvious. Virgil watched him out the corner of his eye.
"Let me know if you need a hand with those schematics," Scott attempted to change the subject.
Virgil continued to make notes, not turning to look at Scott but at the same time, not needing to. He ignored Scott's words just as Scott had ignored his, he wasn't prepared to let his older brother off that easily. "Did you hit him?"
Scott let out a soft sigh as he shook his head at Virgil's perseverance. "No," he replied eventually. "I'm telling the truth, I hurt my hand in the wreckage of the jet, just like I told Dad."
"So if you didn't actually hit him, how many millimetres off his face were you?" Virgil was unperturbed.
"I'm leaving," Scott announced before a short pause. "Just do me a favour, huh?" Whether Virgil agreed or not, he had every intention to vocalise his wishes. Thankfully, Virgil offered him a small nod, accompanied by a wince that was fast becoming customary. "I know you won't be able to tear yourself away from that just yet," he gestured to the paperwork around the computer. "But don't work too long at it. You've got to take care of yourself and that means plenty of rest."
Virgil chuckled at his older brother's concern; it no longer felt oppressive but instead reassuring to know that Scott would be keeping an eye on his recovery. "I will," Virgil promised, raising a hand to his heart. "I'll just finish this."
Scott headed towards the door, only to be called back.
"Scott," he turned at the sound of his name. Virgil was watching his older brother from his desk, with a look of concern and remorse. "It wasn't your fault. You know that, right?"
In truth, Scott wasn't convinced about that but he nodded, content to leave Virgil alone even though he knew that as soon as he closed the door, paperwork and mechanical scans would be the last thing on his brother's mind. Scott knew Virgil needed time and space to accept what had happened before he'd allow anyone to help him deal with the anguish and suffering he'd endured. It was like his father had said earlier; they could do nothing but provide a physical presence until Virgil was ready to use an emotional crutch.
"Jeff," Penelope greeted him with a delicate smile, despite her distress at Jeff's haggard and extremely harassed appearance. "How are you all? And, how's Virgil? Annie tells me he's doing extremely well, all things considered."
"Yeah, we're all fine," Jeff nodded. "Virgil's doing well. He's locked himself up in his room but I think he just wants to be on his own for a while; he'll be okay. Other than that everything's fine." Penelope nodded in consideration but Jeff paused and let out a deep breath, slumping in his chair. "That's not true. Coming back to the Island's been more stressful then I thought possible."
"How so?" Penelope's eyebrow arched in intrigue, her eyes ready with the required empathy.
"Oh, just… everything," Jeff heaved a heavy sigh, sitting back in seat. "Alan and Gordon have just confessed to…" he paused when he saw the expression on her face and the way she ducked out of view for a few seconds. "You knew didn't you?"
"Well, Tin-Tin did mention it, she was rather concerned at your reaction but you have to remember, Jeff, they were all worried for Virgil's safety," Penelope smiled, trying to argue their case as gently as she could. "They did what they thought was right and without that information… Well, I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but Virgil may not be with you now."
"I know, Penny, I know," Jeff pulled his lips to one side in a pensive expression as he rolled his eyes towards the ceiling. "I'm not entirely sure Virgil's 'with us' now," he confessed. "He doesn't speak to anyone, not unless he's forced to." He paused to run a few fingers against his forehead, "I just don't know what to do anymore. I thought coming home would do him good but… it's changed nothing."
"Oh, Jeff," Penelope cooed, "Give it time. All you can do is support him as much as he'll allow it. He needs time to come to terms with things, he's grieving. When he's ready to accept your help, he'll find you." She could see the foreign expression of despair in his eyes, a melancholy, hopeless indication that he was reaching for the last straws of spirit to keep going.
There was a pause as Jeff thought long and hard about the last few weeks. Reaching for the scotch bottle, he poured himself a generous amount leaving Penelope in no doubt that it wasn't his first of the evening. "I can't help thinking if …" he trailed off, his voice suddenly lower than Penelope had ever heard before and his eyes avoiding her image.
"Stop that this instant!" her sudden, firm tone startled Jeff into silence and she offered him a purposeful gaze before she continued, "That isn't going to help you and it certainly isn't going to help Virgil," she said, adamant that she was right. "Virgil needs you to be strong. Don't doubt yourself."
"How can I not, Penny?" Jeff took a mouthful of scotch, feeling the reassurance of the familiar burn against his throat. It was perhaps due to the previous glasses of scotch that they were even having this conversation. It wasn't one he usually embarked on without serious persuasion of the alcoholic variety. "You've seen the state he's in, what kind of father…"
"I refuse to listen to this," Penelope held a manicured finger up to stop the sentence. "Jeff Tracy, I've known you longer than I'd care to recall, and I know that there's one thing in your life that ranks a lot higher than anything else: your sons. At this moment, your son needs your support, he needs your guidance and your love. We'll have no more of this self-pity, it's most uncharacteristic and not at all attractive in a gentleman of your stature. Your family is complete, Jeff, Virgil's home now, so make the most of it and don't waste time with regrets. Not even Jefferson Tracy can turn back the hands of time."
There were a few seconds of awkward silence where Jeff swirled the remaining scotch around his glass and Penelope was forced to consider whether she'd overstepped the mark. She breathed a silent sigh of relief when Jeff sat forward and put the glass on the desk.
"You're right, Penny, you're absolutely right. I'm sorry, I guess this is really taking its toll on all of us," he glanced up to her to convey his sorrow but quickly moved the conversation to safer grounds. "Tell me how things are going with the clean up operation. I'm sorry I didn't get to discuss it properly with you in England, but I didn't want to put any extra stress on Virgil. He's got enough on his plate right now, Luke's death hit him so hard."
Penelope hesitated, unsure whether their previous conversation had ended yet. "Oh, not at all, Jeff, I agree entirely," she smiled, making her decision to let sleeping dogs lie. "Virgil's been through quite enough already, I'm just glad the funeral passed yesterday without any unforeseen complications. And I can only offer my sincere apologies that Parker and I were away from Foxleyheath so frequently for the duration of your stay." She frowned and raised a tea cup to her lips, "But I'm afraid we had a rather pressing matter to deal with."
She paused again, before launching in to her report, "As you know, Sir Jeremy met with the Prime Minister, Jonathon Turner, for breakfast earlier this week and presented him with the evidence we'd gathered. By all accounts, Mr Turner wasn't pleased at the development. He assured Sir Jeremy that all testing would be stopped immediately and that he'd personally ensure the Home Secretary was removed from office. He kept to his word. The tabloids were, and still are, captivated by the news that Helen Quartz, the Home Secretary, had suddenly resigned and there would be a cabinet re-shuffle. However, there's another twist to the tale. Tomorrow morning's papers will report that she's been arrested."
Jeff straightened in his chair, "Arrested? The Home Secretary?" he frowned.
"Former Home Secretary," Penelope corrected. "Apparently so," her rich tones went on, carrying a hint of amusement at the situation but not missing a beat. There was always a sense of catharsis when good prospered over evil and if it involved a few political figures being brought down a peg or two then all the better in her view. "I've had my ear to the ground, so to speak, and it seems this little project wasn't Ms Quartz's only abuse of her powers as Home Secretary. The charges range from fraud to murder; it just so happens that a ballistics report matches the bullet that killed Dr Hunt to a gun in Quartz's own personal collection of shooting riffles and it seems she has no alibi for the murder."
"That's impossible!" Jeff exclaimed, "Hunt was killed with Virgil's gun, the boys saw it!"
"My dear friend," Penelope cooed. "When it comes to politics, nothing is impossible." She paused for effect, and to give Jeff some time to appreciate what she was saying, "There's been an internal investigation and having analysed the tape recording we provided, Special Forces at Thames House have ascertained that in fact it was Helen Quartz's voice on the tape. They concluded that the abbreviation HQ is probably a representation of her initials, and not Head Quarters as we'd assumed." She shook her head, disgusted at the turn of events. With a heavy sigh, she went on, "I spoke with Sir Jeremy again this morning, and he tells me that, after reviewing all the evidence, Jonathon Turner wasn't satisfied that her resignation was enough."
"I see," Jeff blinked, still comprehending the news. "What about the research center?"
"There's been a full inquest into funding from Secretaries of State as a result and, in light of the developments with regard to the recording, Mr Turner extended his sincere apologies to all those involved," Penelope replied with her usual command, though it was obvious she felt that apologies were of little importance given the atrocities that had occurred. "Sir Jeremy informs me that Mr Turner intends to compensate all those caught up in the disgrace but, for obvious reasons, wants to keep the scandal low-key. I'm sure the Security Services will be able to cover their tracks," she grinned with a hint of sarcasm. "Let's face it; it's not the first time they've white-washed the rest of the world into believing what they want."
"Any mention of us?" Jeff's expression was, once again, contorted into a frown.
Penelope's blonde hair fell to her face as she shook her head, "Not a word." Penelope interpreted the silent question and went on to answer, "As far as Jonathon Turner is concerned, the tape was sent anonymously to Sir Jeremy because it's a well known fact that he's a close ally of the Prime Minister's. I can't see that it poses a threat to International Rescue's anonymity."
Jeff was impressed and shrugged his acceptance, "That's good. At least something constructive has come out of all of this, even if it is only to stop it ever happening again. Could we be facing any awkward questions in the future?" he asked, pleased to turn his attention away from problems closer to home.
"No, not at all," Penelope assured him with a smile to ease his worries, "I have it on good authority that an old acquaintance of mine has been handed the task of dealing with any fallout." She raised a manicured hand to her chin, "And I'm certain Sir William Fraser will do the honourable thing; he wasn't at all pleased that his Service had been linked to such a disreputable incident."
"Well, I suppose it's in his interests to keep this low key if he doesn't want attention drawn to the links with MI 5 or the government," Jeff mused, feeling a little relaxed in the knowledge that International Rescue would escape unscathed from the shambles. "What about the plane crash, how have they explained that?" When Penelope looked up at him with a raised eyebrow and vacant expression, he frowned at her. "The jet," he clarified. "The one that crashed at Ferryhill."
Penelope only offered him an expressionless shake of her head, "Jeff, I assure you, I don't know what you're talking about. There was no indication, in any of the reports I've read, of a jet ever being at Ferryhill. The police report mentioned an arson attack at a disused air base but there was no recollection of any jets."
Jeff smirked at the underlying sarcasm and raised an eyebrow whilst stroking his chin, waiting for her to continue. "Good, so long as it stays that way," he muttered.
"It most certainly will," Penelope assured him. "I took the liberty of checking that none of the …." She took a moment to select the right phraseology, "instruments of deception or their operators, whom we were forced to rely on, were either traceable or inclined to talk about their experience."
"I see," Jeff never ceased to be surprised by her efficiency and conscientiousness. "So the K40 can't be traced to us?"
"No," Penelope shook her head, placing her tea cup back on the tray and patting her lips with a napkin before picking it up again. "There's no way Alan or Gordon could be identified in the purchase of it and the capital can't be traced."
"Good. That's fantastic," Jeff sat back, breathing a long sigh of relief as he felt the weight of the world lift from his shoulders. "Penny, we couldn't have done any of this without you, you've been a god-send," he looked at her with sincere eyes and a wide smile of appreciation. "I don't know how to begin thanking you."
"I'll tell you exactly how," Penelope smiled back at him. "Look after those sons of yours; continuing the marvellous job you do with International Rescue is more than thanks enough." The tea cup stopped half way to her lips and a mischievous sparkle lit up her eyes as her smile became roguish, "Although," she paused, "I do hear the Alps are rather nice this time of year."
The moonlight sparkled on the dark waters of the sea as a warm breeze brought the waves to crash on the soft, sandy beach. The sand was still cooling after the heat from the daylight hours and the sea still radiated warmth where it rolled to and fro. Living on a tropical island definitely had its benefits, especially when it came to relaxing. The warm sand between Scott's toes was soothing rather than irritating, and the light from the moon bounced around on the surface of the choppy water in time with the waves as they thundered against the beach, a few feet away.
After a humbling conversation with John and a private debrief with his father, Scott really felt he needed to be away from the hubbub of the house to evaluate what had happened over the last few days. John had relieved his guilt a little after accepting his apology with grace and goodwill, insisting that it was just unfortunate to be on the end of the majority of his older brother's displaced anger. He brought up a valid point though; just how close Scott had come to losing control and despite profuse apologies, Scott had to admit he'd come close to crossing a line from which there would be no return. That bothered him a great deal when he thought about how helpless he'd felt, knowing what Virgil was being subjected to. He was disappointed in himself for not handling things better. Not things. His feelings. He flexed his bandaged hand, waiting for the pain to shoot down his arm as if it was some kind of reminder or punishment for his actions.
He was deep in thought, replaying John's conversation and his father's words of wisdom whilst also analysing his plans for the future; the Mole needed work and equally, Virgil was going to need a lot of support. As Scott let the warm grains of sand filter through his fingers, his worries dissipated with slow surety. The fact that Virgil was even alive, let alone right there on the island was enough to inspire him. They'd lived to fight another day and though there would be scars of both the physical and the emotional variety, the important thing was that they'd survived. As a unit and also as a family. The rest, Scott decided, would come with time.
Time was the answer to all their problems according to most of the family members he'd spoken to, it would heal all ills and make everything right again. But nobody seemed to consider that time was an eternal concept and Scott couldn't wait an eternity for Virgil to return to his old self.
Scott's philosophising came to an abrupt end as he felt a soft spray of sand hit his back, accompanied with the sound of sinking feet getting steadily closer. He didn't look up to see who it was. He didn't need to. If the odd grunt of exertion and muffled, breathless moans weren't enough, the fact that the majority of the household seemed content to celebrate Virgil's home-coming without him narrowed down the suspects. Scott continued to stare out at the sea until his brother dropped to sit alongside him, breathless and unable to hold back sharp grimaces of pain. Scott thought back to his father's words about only being able to provide a physical presence and decided not to speak but rather to wait and see what Virgil sought from him first.
During the long minutes that followed, neither spoke. The moon made its journey across the skies and the choppy waters became calm, causing the moonlight to cease in her dance and settle over the sea in pools of silver.
After a few more seconds of silent contemplation, as they both watched the moon's slow advance across the water, Scott began to feel the wind brushing Virgil's hair in a soft caress of his bare arm. He looked down to see that his brother's tear-stained face rested against his shoulder, his body weight leaning in to Scott's frame and his eyes closed as if he was drawing strength from Scott's proximity.
Scott placed his arm round his brother's shoulders, pulling Virgil with gentle, unnecessary, pressure, into his embrace. He lowered his cheek to rest on top of where Virgil's head fitted neatly into the crook of his shoulder like part of an old jigsaw clicking into place.
No words were spoken.
No words needed to be spoken.
The action was enough and spoke volumes more than words ever could.