Ok dokey, so this is now me done on this story! Thank you so much to all of you who have reviewed, it really has meant a lot, the outrage at my cliffhangers certainly made me laugh! Unfortunately this time I'm not going to be back quite as quickly, but never fear (or perhaps you should..?), there are more ideas floating around my head!
So anyway, hope that you all enjoy this last chapter!
"Thunderbird Two requesting permission to land." Virgil's dull voice brought Jeff back into the present so fast that his neck clicked.
"He'll be ok, Dad." Letting out an explosion of breath, Jeff leant back in his chair, running a hand through his hair distractedly. He had felt like he had aged a decade over the last hour. Receiving Scott's communication that Gordon was stuck in the cave had made Jeff feel like he was going to have a heart attack, his chest constricting with fear and guilt. It was a dangerous enough rescue as it was, but with communications down, there was no way of finding out the situation his second youngest son was in until the boys reached the surface again. Alan had gone decidedly pale at the news before fleeing from the room, but Jeff knew better than to follow him. No doubt the young man was feeling even more guilty than his father, going after the hot-headed youth would only cause another argument. Besides, it had given him a few moments to talk to John, to reassure himself that his elder blonde didn't mind coming home. He didn't want John to suffer for Alan's prank.
Jumping to his feet as a roar of engines signaled his son's approach, Jeff spared half a glance over his shoulder.
"If Scott calls in before I get back, do you mind clearing him, John?"
"F.A.B. Dad, can you keep me posted on Gords?" His smile answering the question for his son, Jeff found himself sprinting down towards the silos. He had to be in there the second Virgil opened up Two, he needed to be by his son's side. Not only to reassure himself that his boy was going to be alright, for as much as he trusted Virgil, Jeff found that he always had to see it with his own eyes before allowing himself to believe it. It was more than that, though. He had some apologising to do. He had been prepared to trust Alan, and instead had let Gordon go off on a rescue believing that his father was mad at him. And with communications down, Gordon had been stuck in the dark and the cold on his own. Despite knowing it took a lot to get his joker of a son down, Jeff knew full well what being stuck in a place like that would have done to him, Virgil wasn't the only one that remembered Gordon's terror at being stuck in the cellar. And although the memory was faint, Jeff still could hear those frantic cries of his three year old son, begging his father to come and save him from the dark.
Shuddering, Jeff picked up his pace, determined to reassure himself that Gordon was alright. He couldn't bear the thought that he could have lost Gordon, especially knowing what his last words to his son had been. Skidding to a halt, Jeff leant over the railings, desperately trying to force some air back into his protesting lungs as he watched Virgil bring Two into land. No sooner had the machine touched down that Jeff was on the move again. He knew by the time he got down there, the engines would have cooled enough to allow him to approach.
It just showed how often Jeff had sprinted across the silos in terrified anxiety, for the second he came to a stop next to the giant machine, the doors swished open, the timing working to perfection. Virgil hadn't even had time to get out of his seat before his father had reached the sick bay.
"Gordon." Jeff's voice was no more than a mere whisper as he stood framed in the doorway, his heart catching in his throat as he caught sight of his son. Gordon was still moving restlessly, his body continuing to adjust to a more normal temperature, yet his eyes were shut. Hearing Virgil come up behind him, Jeff moved further in, swallowing his fear and crouching down next to his son. Taking Gordon's hand in his own, Jeff found himself casting a worried glance over at his middle son when he felt how cold the limb was.
"He will be ok, Dad. If he wasn't… we'd know about it by now. It is just going to take a little time."
"Virgil, are you shivering?"
"No, I'm fine." Jeff merely frowned at his artist, not believing the quick dismissal for an instant. His eyes flickered momentarily back to Gordon, taking in the jacket that was wrapped around the red-head as well as the one draped over his feet. He should have known. With Scott and Virgil around, he would have received every layer they could get off. By the time he had turned his attention back to Virgil, Scott had materialised in the doorway, his eyes fixed on the youngest brother present with the same intensity his father knew for a fact must also be showing in his eyes.
"I want you two in the shower as soon as we get Gordon upstairs."
"Dad, we're fine."
"Dad…" Freezing, Jeff found his head whipping around on its own accord. That hadn't been Virgil or Scott who had spoken. It had been their brother.
"Gordon? Son? Can you hear me?" Squeezing Gordon's hand gently with one of his own, Jeff used the other to push Gordon's hair tenderly back from his eyes, trying not to wince at how cold the skin was. He knew his son was going to be fine, he had more than enough faith in Virgil's ability, but it was the way his son had delivered the fact that Gordon may have never made it home from this rescue that made the tears sting in Jeff's eyes. The last thing he would have said to his son was that he was in trouble.
"I'm here, baby. You're home, and nice and warm. Come on, Gords, come back to us."
"S'not my fault…didn't do it…."
"Dad, I don't think he is really waking up," Virgil commented softly, moving forward to stand next to his father so he could get a better look at his brother. Not noticing Scott shadow his every move, Virgil anxiously checked the readings coming from some of the monitors he had hooked Gordon up too. The red-head's temperature was indeed rising, but it was not yet at the point where it would allow him to wake up properly.
"I imagine his sub-conscious had something he needed to say, and as he is slowly beginning to come round, that is what is happening."
"He wanted to apologise?" Jeff whispered, tears restricting his voice. "Oh Gords, you have nothing to be sorry for. I'm the one who should be apologising, son."
"Scotty, c'mon." Virgil muttered, grabbing his brother by the back of his sash and dragging him out. There was nothing more that they could do in the infirmary that wasn't being done here, and hearing his father's tone, Virgil knew that Jeff needed a moment. He too remembered the look of anger on his face as they had left for the rescue and had heard firsthand how down Gordon had been about it.
"No, I'm staying…"
"Scott." Tipping his head towards the pair, Virgil finally managed to get across to his older brother that this was more than about them being there for Gordon. Besides, whilst Virgil may have shrugged off his father's concern about him shivering, he could see Scott was doing the same and didn't want another brother to be in need of treatment. Knowing Scott, he hadn't even noticed.
"Oh right. Erm… we'll be upstairs if you need us, Dad." Jeff didn't even notice his two sons quickly make their escape from the Thunderbird; he was being too overwhelmed with guilt. He couldn't believe that the one thing that was playing on Gordon's mind so much was the fact that his father blamed him for the prank.
"Gordon, I'm so sorry, son. I should have never have shouted at you. I certainly shouldn't have automatically believed Alan. Please, Gords, wake up. Forgive me?" Knowing that the two elder boys were out of earshot, Jeff felt himself sagging against the bed, Gordon's hand clutched tightly in his own. Resting his head on the corner of the mattress, Jeff couldn't comprehend how he ended up with tears trickling down his cheeks. From what Virgil had said, Gordon could have so easily not made it back from this rescue.
"I promise I'll make it up to you, son. I swear I'll never yell at you again. Well…" pausing for a moment, Jeff let a weak smile cross his face. "Unless you deserve it. But certainly never just before you leave for a rescue. Oh Gords, I could have lost you and you would never know how much I love you."
"I know, Dad." Sitting up suddenly, Jeff allowed the smile to dominant his face as he caught sight of Gordon slowly peeling his eyes open. The youth was extremely pale, but as Jeff caught sight of the glint in his eye, he finally believed Virgil's words about his brother being alright.
"Can I hold you to the never yelling before a rescue?"
"Oh Gordon," Bending down, Jeff quickly slipped a hand around Gordon's back, sitting his son up and pulling him into a tight embrace, trying to force his own body heat into his cold son. For a moment, Gordon seemed surprised by the action, but then he relaxed, welcoming the heat. There was silence in the sick bay for a few moments, both men lost in their own thoughts. Thinking back on the cave, Gordon suddenly shuddered, making Jeff pull away and look at him in concern.
"It was so small, Dad." Gordon whispered, his light-hearted tone that had been present in his first words disappearing as he glanced away. "And then all the lights went off and I was on my own. I didn't think the guys would be coming…."
"Gordon, look at me." Waiting until his red-head had complied with his instructions, Jeff smiled gently. "Your brothers will always come for you, no matter what. Whether it is dark, cold, deep, or whether it is just revenge…" Pausing for a moment, Jeff ruffled his son's hair fondly as a small smile managed to ghost its way across Gordon's face, although it did nothing to remove the haunted look in his eye.
"They will always come for you. We all will. We love you."
"You ok, Dad?" Gordon asked quietly. He knew his father would do his utmost to reassure his son, he always had done, but Gordon couldn't help but feel slightly uncomfortable about the obvious display of affection coming from his father, it was not like the man to be that open with his feelings. He portrayed to his boys how much he loved them, a touch on the shoulder, a look in his eye told them more than words ever could. So with Jeff so openly declaring it, Gordon was slightly concerned about what was going on.
"I'm fine. Gordon, I…"
"Damnit Gordon, I could have lost you and the last thing I would have done was yell at you." Blinking in surprise at the raw emotion he could hear in his father's loud tone, Gordon pushed himself into a more upright position, smiling softly when he caught sight of Virgil's jacket around him.
"Dad, we know the dangers of the rescues, no, don't interrupt, we know. And yet we do it anyway. I know you were annoyed, and all I'm saying is Al better run. But Dad, I know,we all do. It is what gives up the strength to keep going."
"Wow." For a moment, but men sat in stunned silence. It was harder to say who was more surprised about what had just come out of Gordon's mouth. Watching him, Jeff found the corners of his mouth suddenly twitch. Catching sight of the motion, Gordon took one look at his father and burst out laughing. Within a matter of seconds, Jeff had followed suit, his amusement and relief being too great to contain.
"Come on, philosopher, let's get you upstairs before your brothers come back down."
"Oh Dad, please, just leave me here," Gordon moaned pathetically as he shakily put his feet on the ground, pushing himself upright. Watching him critically, Jeff quickly stuck out a hand, steadying Gordon by the elbow as the red-head wobbled somewhat precariously. He was far paler than Jeff was comfortable with. He had only seen Gordon look like that once before, and that time as well, Jeff didn't think he would ever get the chance of telling his son how proud of him he was.
"There is going to be no stopping them, is there?" Picking up Scott's jacket from where it had fallen on the floor, Jeff wrapped it around Gordon's shoulders, leaving his arm there. Mildly curious as to where Gordon's was, Jeff steered his son out of the sick bay, making sure to be taking as much as his weight as he could.
"You might have one thing working in your favour." Jeff said quietly, a hint of a smile playing across his mouth although his eyes still sparkled with concern. As the pair of them stepped into the lift, Gordon shot his father a quizzical look, subconsciously leaning against him.
"Virgil was limping."
"Scott, get off me!"
"You are not going anywhere until you've sorted out your leg. And don't think you can sneak away either, Alan Tracy. Not until you have apologised to Gordon."
"Scott, please, relax a bit."
"Just because you are on Five doesn't mean you can tell me what to do, John. Especially if you are going to be back here very shortly."
"Why is John going to be back here?"
"Virgil, sit down!"
"Because I've been banished."
"Scott, leave me the hell alone! How long for, Alan?"
"He wasn't talking to you."
"Thought you would be glad to have a change of scenery, John."
"Hem hem." Clearing his throat, Gordon found himself leaning against his father a little more as he watched the chaos in front of him. The lounge of the Tracy household had turned into a war zone. Virgil was sitting on the edge of the sofa, Scott's firm hand on his shoulder obviously being the only thing keeping him there. Scott's other hand was practically entwined in Alan's collar, who looked like he was trying to bolt. His eyes flickering over to the portraits, Gordon found himself smirking as John leant forward in his chair, annoyance dominant in his face as his hand crashed down on a switch with far more force than necessary. How he loved not being in the middle of it for a change.
"Gords! You're awake, and up. How are you feeling, dude? Scott, will you please let me up now?"
"No," Scott practically growled, but let go of both of his brothers all the same. Before Gordon could so much as blink, his oldest brother had crossed the room, placing his hands on his younger sibling's shoulders and looking him directly in the eye. For a moment, no one moved as Gordon felt his brother practically examine his soul. Eventually though, he did pull away, only to pull the aquanaut into a fierce hug.
"Don't you ever do that to me again, Gordon Tracy." Cuffing his brother lightly over the head, Scott's words reflected more than his light hearted tone could manage. Offering his brother a small smile, Gordon sent out an apology with his eyes, causing Scott to wink. Unbeknownst to Scott, however, Virgil had slipped silently from the sofa, crossing the room without a sound. Smirking at his younger brother, Virgil reached around with one hand, tapping Scott on the opposite shoulder. As his brother whipped around, Virgil merely nudged him out of the way, allowing the artist to stand in front of his younger sibling. As Scott had done, he said not a word for a long moment, simply staring at his brother to make sure Gordon was really there and not just a hallucination. For once, Gordon put up with the quiet, knowing that if he wanted any chance at escaping from them for about the next month, he had to let them reassure themselves. And they called him and Alan the Terrible Two. Thinking about his younger brother, Gordon let his eyes flicker over Virgil's shoulder, seeking out the youngest Tracy as Virgil mirrored Scott's actions and pulled him into a hug. Alan was looking the other way, his whole posture tense in a way that Gordon knew meant he was upset and shaken.
Returning Virgil's hug, the red-head found himself smiling into his brother's shoulder. He wouldn't change his family for the world, that was for sure. Suddenly tightening his grip on Virgil, Gordon knew by the way his brother responded that Virgil was thinking the same thing as him. The family could have so easily have been torn apart today. Every time they went on a rescue, there was the constant risk that one may not make it back, and Gordon knew enough about medicine and the human body to know it had become very close to being him this time.
"Virg, are you going to let the guy breathe?" Hearing John's amused tone, Virgil sheepishly pulled away, ruffling Gordon's hair as he did so and letting John get a proper look at him. Offering him a smile, Gordon could see in the blonde's eyes that he hated not being there to check on his brother for himself. For some reason, reassurances from each other didn't do enough in the Tracy household, each brother had to see for themselves. John may have been putting up a fuss about coming home, but after what had happened, he was secretly relieved. It would do him some good to get off Five for a change, and he wanted to make sure himself that Gordon was truly alright.
"You ok, kiddo?"
Pausing for a moment, his eyes flickering over his family around him, Gordon smiled, albeit whilst trying to hide a shiver.
"I'm good, Johnny. I'm good."
"You need something hot inside you," Scott suddenly declared from the other end of the room. Perched on the edge of his father's desk, the eldest brother had not missed the shiver Gordon had been attempting to hide. However, it wasn't just his red-headed younger sibling that was attempting to hide shivers.
"You too, Virg."
"You can talk." Virgil responded sharply, his eyes twinkling as he glanced over at Scott. For as much as the pilot was frowning at the pair of them, he too was subconsciously rubbing his hands over his arms in an attempt to warm them up slightly.
"I thought I told you both to hit the showers?" Jeff finally interrupted, having allowed his sons to reassure themselves. He knew there was no point in telling them to stop crowding Gordon, it would only make matters worse later. Better they got it out of their system and made sure their brother was alright now whilst Jeff was there to make sure they didn't go too far. He knew how much Gordon hated being smothered.
"Scott, Virgil, upstairs, now. Then Virgil, you are to report to the infirmary, I want a proper look at that leg. Scott, I want a run down with what happened to the communications after you are warm again. Alan, I want you to go and pack. Everyone understood?"
"F.A.B." Watching Scott and Virgil wander out of the room, their reluctance to go still obvious. Yet even his oldest brother/field commander knew not to cross Jeff when he used that tone. It was a scary mixture of concerned father and the commander of International Rescue, a dangerous mix if one wanted to go against it. Glancing at his dad, Gordon moved forward as Alan went to slouch from the room after them. Catching his kid brother around the arm, Gordon spun him around to face him.
"Aren't you going to give me a hug?" He asked lightly, his eyes roaming Alan's face. He may have three older brothers all fussing around him, but the aquanaut was still an elder brother himself. He too had a duty to his younger sibling, and looking at Alan now, the kid needed it.
"Don't sweat it, kid."
"Oi! What does a guy have to do around here to make his younger brother listen?"
"Gordon, you could have..."
"But I didn't."
"Alan, listen to me. It happens. We all know rescues can go wrong."
"But Dad wouldn't have been mad at you if it wasn't for me."
"Well, I've made him mad at you more than once, and that wasn't your fault. Don't you dare blame this on yourself, Alan Tracy, or I swear I am going to prank you until you are ancient."
"As ancient as you?"
"Now that is more like it. C'mere, I want a hug." Without giving Alan another chance to say anything, Gordon reached around the younger man and pulled him in. For a moment, Alan didn't look like he knew what to do, but eventually relaxed against his brother, the steady heartbeat reassuring him that Gordon was indeed still with them.
Glancing over his brother's head, Gordon caught his father watching them, a loving smile on his face. Holding on for just long enough to know that Alan was alright, Gordon suddenly tightened his grip, moving one arm further down in order to pin Alan's arms to his side, ignoring the muffled protest emerging from his brother. Leaning down until he was level with Alan's ear, Gordon grinned mischievously.
"That doesn't mean I'm not going to get you back for that, Sprout." His voice barely audible, Gordon felt his grin widen as Alan froze, before frantically trying to break free of his brother's grip. Pushing him away, Gordon winked, enjoying Alan's nervous swallow.
"Erm, Dad... Can I go now?"
"Why? I thought we had agreed you would go in the morning?" Sparing Gordon an almost terrified glance over his shoulder, Alan turned back to his father pleadingly at the predatory look on his brother's face.
"Please!" Following Alan's gaze, Jeff raised his eyebrows at the innocent expression on Gordon's face before glancing back towards Alan's anxious one. Despite not hearing what his son had whispered, Jeff could tell just by Alan's look that revenge had been promised.
"If Scott is feeling up to it and is prepared to be co-pilot, then alright." Normally, Jeff would have held his ground, but he really didn't want the whole house to end up as a war zone. And judging by the look on Gordon's face, he was planning something big. Jeff could only hope that he had forgotten what the idea was by the time Alan came back down to Earth, but something told him he wouldn't be so lucky.
"Thanks, Dad." And so saying, Alan jogged across the room, sending another anxious look back at Gordon, who this time couldn't help but laugh openly. Before Alan could leave the room, however, their father called him back. Not wanting to appear as if he was intruding, Gordon threw himself down on the sofa, sighing deeply and shutting his eyes. He didn't know why, he was just so tired.
"What's up, Dad?" Alan asked; his voice considerably lighter than the last time he had spoken to his father. The scare of what had happened followed by the subsequent relief had altered something between the two of them, almost as if the argument had been forgotten in order to make place for the concern for Gordon. Jeff knew he had been harsh on his son, but whilst he knew that Alan did need to learn there was a right and wrong time about trying something, his son was not the only one that was carrying guilt over what had happened. After all, Gordon had been constantly trying to blame things on his brothers' for his whole life, yet this time, Jeff had been so prepared to accept Alan's word that he hadn't listened. He knew he had to make sure that didn't happen again, it was not something he had ever really thought about.
Beckoning Alan over, Jeff smiled reassuringly as Alan showed a flicker of concern. As soon as he was in reach, however, Jeff pulled him in close, wrapping his arms around his son and marvelling at just how tall Alan had become. It seemed only yesterday the youngest Tracy had emerged, blinking his blue eyes up at his father and making Jeff's heart melt for the sixth time. Lucille was the first to have made it happen, but then with each new arrival, Jeff had felt his heart swell and swell with the love he had for his boys.
"I love you, Allie," he murmured softly into the blonde hair, pulling away as quickly as he had started the hug, making sure Alan didn't feel uncomfortable.
"Erm... love you too, Dad." To Jeff's amazement, Alan's ears began to burn as he subconsciously ran his hand across the back of his head, avoiding eye contact. Despite his new found maturity, the open expression of affection had Alan reverting straight back to a teenager. Unable to hide his amusement, Gordon attempted to muffle his snort, opening one eye to regard his younger brother.
"Get out of here, Al."
As if worried that Gordon had suddenly remembered his threat, Alan all but bolted from the room. The smile still playing across his mouth, Gordon shut his eye again, only to sit up suddenly as something soft landed over his head. Pulling it off with one hand, he stared in something that could resemble bemusement when he realised that he was now clutching his own jacket.
"Your friend was worried you would leave it on the bus like you did to Alan." Swivelling around, Gordon frowned in confusion as Scott's head suddenly stuck back around the door. Considering he was still in his uniform, Gordon knew full well that he had not showered as his father had ordered.
"Small, young, emerged wearing your helmet and jacket."
"Ah, Dee. They all made it out ok?"
"Wait a minute..." Jeff suddenly cut in, making Scott drop his eyes guiltily at the look his father was giving him.
"You gave one of the victims your uniform?"
"It was cold and raining rocks." Gordon responded with a shrug, knowing that his dad wouldn't really mind. As much as he might moan at his boys' for not taking their own safety first, Jeff knew as well as they did that things wouldn't change. It was wonderful in theory telling them to consider their own safety, but out in the field it was different. Especially when the victims were only children.
"And what is this about you leaving Alan on a bus? When did that happen?" Suddenly looking guilty, Gordon glanced towards his big brother, hoping Scott was somehow going to get him out of this, but the older sibling was watching him with raised eyebrows.
"You never told him?"
"It might have slipped my mind."
"Gords, I only didn't say anything because you promised me you would."
"Scott, I'm not ten any more. Dad, hey, guess what? I left Alan on a bus."
"You left Alan on a bus?" Jeff responded slowly, his eyebrows raised in incredulity. Why did that not surprise him? Judging by the look on Scott's face, it had been more than dealt with at the time, and considering Alan had just slipped away up the stairs, there was no lasting damage.
"I don't think I want to know. And as for you, Scott Tracy... why are you not in the shower?"
"Now, Scott!" Gordon found himself hard pushed not to burst out laughing as his older brother jumped and ran up the stairs. The slamming of the bathroom door a few seconds later signalled Scott had indeed dived straight into the shower this time. Trading amused looks with his son, Jeff couldn't remember the last time Scott had actually done what his father had told him, it was not normally required. As Gordon leant back again with a yawn, Jeff felt his smile disappear. The young man was still extremely pale.
"Come on, Gords, Virgil isn't the only one I want in the infirmary."
"Dad, I'm fine."
"Don't give me that, son, you were unconscious only twenty minutes ago."
"There is something I want to do first."
"What?" Groaning, Jeff rolled his eyes as Gordon flashed him that mischievous grin that was so infectious, yet only spelt trouble.
"Base to Thunderbird Five." Gordon suddenly called, his grin growing wider at the apprehensive look his father was giving him.
"Thunderbird Five receiving. Hey, Gords, not been taken prisoner yet?"
"They're trying. Hey, Johnny, can I ask a favour?"
"I don't want to hear this," Jeff declared. "Gordon, infirmary, five minutes, don't make me carry you down." And with that, the father strode from the room. Why did he get the feeling that even escaping the planet was not going to be enough for Alan to avoid his brother's revenge? At least with not being present, Jeff could honestly deny all knowledge and therefore not find it his duty to interfere.
Wandering down to the infirmary, Jeff felt his mind wondering. He knew this route well, too well in fact. It was that which was playing on his mind. How many times after a rescue had the family been sent sprinting for the infirmary? Gordon may be fine, but Jeff knew it would have only had to have taken the other two a few more moments to reach their brother and that would not be the case. Had he made a mistake setting up International Rescue? Was he really that selfless that he would save the world at the cost of his family? Hitting the switch to allow himself access to the spotless hospital beyond, Jeff knew the answer. He always had. But he knew that whilst the boys agreed with him, and always put their brothers first, no matter what, they would not sit back when they knew they could save even one person.
"Hey, Dad." Brought out his musings by a soft voice, Jeff smiled as Virgil hobbled through the door, thankful that at least one of his sons' was still willing to do what his father said, unlike a certain older brother Jeff could mention.
"Up on the bed, Virg, I want it properly looked at."
"Aww, c'mon, Dad, I can do it myself." Virgil moaned, but still found himself hoisting himself up onto the nearest bed anyway. "Don't disturb Brains, I'll sort it."
Rolling up the material once more, Virgil winced slightly as he caught sight of the blood soaked bandage Scott had forced on him at the accident zone. Hearing his father's sharp intake of breath, the artist stuck an unconvincing grin on his face, reaching for the antiseptic with one hand whilst unravelling the bandage with his other.
"Want a hand?" Jeff asked softly, noticing Virgil struggling slightly at juggling both things. At his son's grateful smile, Jeff took the antiseptic from him, pulling out one of the wipes.
"This is going to sting. You ready?"
"Dad. I'm not six with a scraped knee."
"I can pretend," Jeff responded quietly, emotions threatening to bubble to the surface once more. Sensing his father's mood, Virgil didn't say anything, just rolled over so he was lying on his stomach, allowing Jeff access to the wound. Trying to keep his hand steady as he gently wiped the area, Jeff winced in sympathy as Virgil sucked in his breath, attempting to not flinch. Neither said anything as Jeff set about caring for his son.
"Do we need to amputate?" A light voice came calling through, the door opening to reveal two more members of the family. Tying off the fresh bandage and helping Virgil sit up before turning around, Jeff smiled as Scott appeared. He had showered this time, and was leading Gordon in, one arm wrapped around his brother's waist, his other holding Gordon's arm around his shoulders. Judging by the look on the red-head's face, Jeff knew it was less about supporting the younger one, but more about dragging him down.
"Oh, I'm sure he'll live." Jeff responded, his tone just as relaxed. He knew that in all of their cases, it was just a front, they were all just attempting not to crack in front of the others. Guiding Gordon over to the other bed, Jeff gently pushed him down on it, ignoring the protests coming from the young man.
"You are staying in here tonight. If nothing else, it is warmer than your room."
"Gutted, bro." Virgil called over, thankfully glad his father had said it. He hated being the one that was constantly forcing his brothers to stay.
"And so are you, Virgil."
"And don't think you can laugh, Scott. As soon as you are back from switching your brothers, I want you back here as well."
"I don't want to hear any protests. You were all exposed, some more than others, admittedly. I want to keep an eye on you. Besides, you all need a rest."
"Dad, we can't all be in here, what if there is a call out?"
"Scott, the world is going to have to go without the Thunderbirds for one night; their family needs them too much. None of you boys have had enough rest lately; I'm putting my foot down here."
"One more word out of you, Scott, and I'll be co-pilot for Alan and get Brains to administer a sedative again."
Silence met Jeff's statement, the eldest brother pouting in annoyance and making himself look far younger, causing his brothers to trade amused glances. Scott knew full well that his father would make good on that promise, he still hadn't forgiven him for the last time it had happened.
"Scott, you ready, bro?"
"Yes," Scott growled, making Alan raise his eyebrows. As Scott stormed out, Alan set his bag down, gazing quizzically around the rest of the family. Gordon was not looking good, but Alan knew full well that he would be alright, Virgil knew what to do. But the artist too had a pout on his face, and glancing at the stern look his father was wearing, Alan knew instantly what was going on. If all three of them were going to be confined in the infirmary overnight, Alan was glad that he was leaving the planet.
"Safe flight, Sprout," Virgil called over, swinging himself back onto the bed and laying back, admitting defeat to his father's instructions. If he was honest, now that he knew his brother was going to be alright, his own exhaustion had come crashing back down on him, and at this moment in time, his own bed seemed so far away.
"Cheers, Virg. Rest well." Frowning as Gordon silently beckoned him over, Alan crossed the infirmary, coming to a stop next to the aquanaut's bed. Giving them space, Jeff moved away, going over to check on Virgil again.
"Are you alright, Allie?"
"Are you? You are the one that almost died!"
"Alan. Promise me you'll let this go?" His tone uncharacteristically serious, Gordon locked eyes with his younger brother. He was desperately anxious about the kid, no one else seemed to be really noticing how much this had affected him. He knew that whilst they may have been worried, the others were too worked up over what had happened, something he could not deny had been made worse by Alan's actions, in order to smother him in the normal way. It was indeed a hard lesson in growing up he had to go through.
"Let it go? Gords, I made Dad yell at you, and then you nearly died. Sorry if I can't just shrug this off. It was my fault." Reaching over as Alan made to turn away, Gordon grasped his brother's hand.
"Do you think I have just shrugged this off, Al? You guys thought I was going to die, heck, do you have any idea what was going through my head? Alan, I was scared. Scared in a way I'd never been before, even after the hydrofoil crash. I knew you guys were there for me on that, but with this... Hell, Alan, I was stuck in the pitch black and freezing cold on my own."
Seeing Alan's eyes fill suddenly with tears, although judging from the way the teenager hastily looked away, Gordon knew he didn't want his brother to see. Gordon wasn't trying to make the younger one upset, though, he was trying to get through to him that this wasn't his fault.
"But I'm over it." At Alan's disbelieving snort, Gordon knew that hadn't come out quite right. "Ok, physically I'm not, and what with Mr Medic and the Paranoid Pilot, they aren't going to let it go for..oohhh... let me see, about six months. But I know that I am safe back with you guys, with my family, and by tomorrow, Scott would have said at least six times that he wished I was still stuck in the cave. Come on, Allie, please? Stop beating yourself up!"
"Alan, if you do not stop pitying yourself, I am personally going to make your life hell, as well as telling Scott you are blaming yourself." Staring at his brother in surprise, Alan didn't know what to say in a response to the slightly angry tone in Gordon's voice. Knowing that he was fighting a losing battle, not to mention he didn't want to give the prankster any more ammunition, Alan nodded, a small smile making its way onto his face.
"That's better. Go on, go and annoy Scotty for a bit. I'm beat." Lying back, Gordon slipped his hand from his brother's and shut his eyes. That bit certainly hadn't been a lie. In fact, Gordon didn't quite comprehend how tired he was. No sooner had his eyes shut than he was off to the land of dreams.
He didn't hear Thunderbird Three take off, didn't feel his father tuck him properly into bed, monitoring his temperature every few hours. In fact, it wasn't until late into the night that Gordon knew anything at all. Shifting slightly, the red-head peeled his eyes open, knowing that they wanted to stay shut, but something was telling him that he was not alone. Rolling his eyes slightly at the heap of blankets that had been piled on top of him, Gordon grinned when his sight fell on what had woken him.
Slouched in the chair next to the bed, Scott had his feet resting on the end of Gordon's bed, his head resting on his chest as he slept on. Technically, he was complying with his father's instructions, he was in the infirmary, but Gordon knew that wasn't quite what was in Jeff's mind when he had ordered Scott to stay here for the night. That wasn't the only thing, however, that drew the red-head's attention.
His hands clasped behind his back, his posture relaxed, John was gazing out of the infirmary window, his head turned towards the heavens, making Gordon smile. It didn't matter that his brother had only been back on earth for a few hours at the most, he still wanted to be out with the stars.
"Johnny?" Keeping his voice low, Gordon glanced anxiously at Scott, but it just showed how exhausted the field commander was, for he showed no signs of stirring. Turning, John immediately grinned, crossing the room in a few steps and pulling Gordon into a hug.
"You know how to age a guy, don't you, squirt? Sorry if I woke you."
"You were just standing there, how would that wake me?"
"Not just standing," John said, looking somewhat guilty as he glanced towards his hand. Following his gaze, Gordon groaned when he caught sight of the thermometer clutched in it. "And before you say anything, it wasn't my idea. Virgil wanted you closely monitored and Dad agreed. We've been taking it in turns most of the night, the others have finally just agreed to get some rest."
"Don't you need some rest?"
"Dude, this is me. Besides, Dad never sends me out on a rescue for the first couple of days back, and I told Alan I was going to be up anyway if he needed me."
"How is he?"
"He'll be alright. But as for you, go on, ice man, get some more sleep."
"Ice man?" To Gordon's amusement, John actually winced, looking away as the back of his neck burnt.
"I couldn't think of anything else."
"We'll make a joker out of you yet, Johnny," Gordon mumbled, his eyes slipping shut even as he spoke. Relaxing into the soft pillows again, Gordon sighed in contentment as he felt John pull the blankets up over him some more, running his hand through his brother's hair as he did so.
"S'night, space man..." Gordon's words, however, were hardly audible, his body giving into sleep even if his mind didn't want too.
It was morning when Gordon awoke again, glancing around him for a moment before the memories of the previous day came flooding back to him. Shuddering slightly as he remembered all too well the feeling of being stuck in the cave, Gordon sat up quickly, hoping that no one was around to witness his moment of weakness. Scott had moved, although hearing voices floating across the infirmary, Gordon knew his brother had not gotten far. Sure enough, he was sitting on one end of another bed, Virgil opposite him, both brothers in deep conversation. Watching them for a moment with a smile, Gordon then let his eyes flicker around. His dad was nowhere to be seen, but John was examining something over by the far side. As if sensing he was being watched, the blonde suddenly turned, his face splitting into a grin.
"How you feeling, dude?" At John's words, Scott and Virgil also stopped talking, glancing over with smiles that could match their brother's.
"What are you guys looking so happy about?" Gordon muttered, slightly self conscious about the attention he was receiving.
"You gave us a pretty rough night, kiddo. Your temperature was all over the place."
"GORDON! JOHN!" Sharing a grin with his brother as Scott and Virgil looked confused, Gordon didn't have time to move until Jeff came bursting in. He looked annoyed, but even from the distance he was at, Gordon could see the twinkle in his dad's eye.
"Problem, Dad?" John asked innocently, causing his brother to suddenly realise something. They all maintained that John was the most serious out of them all, but seeing how casually he didn't react, Gordon was rethinking that. His older blond brother may actually be the worst out of the lot of them.
"Why is Alan on the comms covered in flour and water?"
"He wanted it to snow?" Gordon asked sweetly, causing Virgil to snort with amusement. Both he and Scott recognised the failed prank. Looked like Gordon wasn't prepared to simply let it go.
"You are going to be the death of me, Gordon Tracy."
"Now, Dad," Gordon began seriously, leaning back comfortably on the bed and winking at John. "There may be a rescue, how would you feel if that was the last thing you said to me?"
As his boys all started laughing, Jeff felt the corners of his mouth twitch. One look at their happy faces, he too quickly found himself joining in. Only a day ago, they were thinking they had lost their brother, and now it was as if nothing had ever happened. Sometimes, miracles really could happen.
Ta da! The End! Please let me know what you thought? Pretty, pretty please?