Author's note: this story was written for the TIWF challenge to write a story that follows on from another author's story. I chose JulesDPM's 'Talking cure' as my starting point, but have also made a passing reference to my own 'Night flight'.
My thanks to Jukes for letting me follow on, to Purpuss for proofreading and the Gerry Anderson and his team for creating the characters. I acknowledge Granada as the current copyright holders.
Scott entered the lounge to see his father stacking up the folders on his desk into a neat pile.
"Finished for the day, Father?"
Jeff nodded. "Yes, I have to wait until I hear back from the Madrid office before I can go any further with this project."
Scott crossed to the window, glancing at his watch. "I'm going take a walk along the beach – would you like to come?"
Jeff put the last folder on top of the pile and looked across at his eldest. "Good idea, son. We've got plenty of time before supper is ready."
As the two men made their way down the steps, Scott smiled to himself. He knew his father often took a short walk after finishing with his office work, and had managed to time his entrance just right. He wanted to have a conversation with his father - one with no interruptions.
Father and son walked along the beach in companionable silence. The tide was ebbing and their footprints were firm in the damp sand. Jeff cast a sidelong glance at his son. Scott was definitely looking better from his enforced break from duty as International Rescue's Field Commander. His face had lost that haggard look and his whole bearing seemed a lot more relaxed than Jeff had seen for a long time. Perhaps he would be ready to return to active duty soon.
They rounded the headland and, by unspoken consent, headed for a group of rocks that gave a good view across the bay. The sun was low on the horizon, casting long shadows against the cliffs behind them, while the rocks still retained some of the day's heat.
After watching the ebb and flow of the waves for a few minutes, Scott broke the silence. "Gordon told me recently that he always comes here when he's feeling wound up. He says when he watches the sea, the way it's always changing, yet always constant it puts your problems into perspective. You just know that it's so vast, it was here a long time before we were and will still be there a long time after we are gone, that it makes you realise how insignificant you, and your problems, really are."
"Gordon said that?" Jeff couldn't hide his astonishment.
Scott turned and smiled at his father. "Yes, amazing isn't it? You spend all your life with someone, you think you know them, then they come out with something like that." He shook his head. "I seem to be discovering a lot of things I hadn't realised before. Things that have always been there, but I never noticed them."
"Is this from your therapy sessions?" Jeff asked, realising where the conversation was going. When Scott had had trouble coping after Virgil was nearly killed on a recent rescue, Jeff had made his son stand down from duty and sent him to see a psychologist for counselling. Scott had made no attempt to discuss the results of those sessions before now.
Scott nodded. "Yes, one thing Dr. Powell got me to do was think of all the different ways that people I know have of handling stress, so I've been conducting a sort of survey. Virgil I know uses his music, and John his writing. Grandma goes on a cleaning frenzy." Jeff smiled. The whole family knew better than to get in his mother's way when she was having a cleaning blitz. "But did you know that Brains does Tai Chi?"
Scott smiled at his father's bemused expression. "Yes, hard to imagine, isn't it? But he says it helps him to clear his mind if he's got some problem he's working on. He's offered to give me lessons."
"Perhaps we should all learn."
"Why not? I'm sure he'd be willing to teach us. And then there's Alan – and we all know how he deals with stress."
Jeff nodded. "Yes, he just erupts."
Scott grinned. "Doesn't he just! But according to Dr. Powell, that's probably the healthiest way to deal with it. He's made me realise that I just push all my negative feelings down inside me, not letting them out, and they just stay there, because I never deal with them." He looked across at his father again. "One thing I've realised recently is how similar Alan and I are in character."
Jeff nodded. "That's what your grandmother is always telling me."
"Trust her to pick up on it. But it does make you wonder what he would have been like if he'd had the responsibility of being the eldest." He paused and smiled. "If he and Tin Tin do ever manage to get together, I think becoming a father will change him – once he's got someone to be responsible for we'll see a whole new side to him."
Scott saw his father's puzzled look. "Yes, all this introspection doesn't sound like me, does it? But I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, a sort of stock-take of my life and how I fit in with the people around me. John suggested some books to read as well."
"So do you think the therapy is helping?"
Scott gave a solemn nod as he fixed his gaze on the sea again. "It's helping with a lot of things – and I'm not just talking about the rescue business here. In the short term, it's made me realise that I don't have to deal with problems on my own any more. When we were all kids, I was the one the others came to with their problems but I didn't have anyone else to talk to – Ma was dead and you were too busy, but now all my brothers are here to support me as well." He shook his head. "In fact they've been trying to for years – Virgil playing his piano for me, John ready to listen to my problems, Gordon taking me diving, or Alan sky-diving with me to help me relax – but I just didn't realise what they were trying to do."
He turned to face his father. "In the long term, it's brought a lot of other stuff out into the open as well. Did you ever know how mad I was at you after Ma died?" Seeing his father's shocked expression, Scott continued. "No, I guess you wouldn't. I blamed you for a long time. I kept thinking if you had gone away with Ma that weekend to see her friends, then you would have been flying the plane, she wouldn't have been on that commercial flight. And then of course I felt guilty for blaming you because I could see how upset you were. But Dr. Powell explained to me that anger, either at the person who has died, or at someone else, is a normal part of grief, just another stage to go through."
Scott watched his father's expression close up, as it always did whenever the conversation came anywhere near this topic. This was dangerous ground, but Scott was accustomed to danger, and determined to reach his goal. "Do you know, Alan can't even remember what Ma's favourite colour was? And Gordon has been trying to think of the name of that song that she used to sing to get us to sleep."
"Golden slumbers," replied Jeff, his voice a whisper.
"Of course," answered Scott as the echo of the tune drifted through his memory. "Father," he paused and tried again, his tone softer, "Dad, it's been over twenty years and you still can't even talk about the happy times. Don't you think it's about time you got some help?"
Jeff looked up at his son. "You think I should go and see your Dr. Powell?"
Scott nodded, "Yes, I do. In fact I've made you an appointment for next Wednesday. What do you say?"
Jeff smiled as he got to his feet. "I'd say that it sounds like Field Commander Scott Tracy is back in control again."
Putting his arm around his son's shoulders, the two men walked back along the beach.