X. Gordon and Well, Everybody
With some Virgil-approved, ass-rockin' music by who-cares-as-long-as-it's-loud shredding his stereo speakers, Gordon stared into his medicine cabinet, working his jaw back and forth to chew down the weight of Wow.
Yes, it had only been twenty-four hours. And yes, it was premature to think about anything beyond worrying if everyone was physically whole and safe — definitely not about if Dad really would pull the plug on IR — but he couldn't help it. The future was there, whether he wanted it to be or not, especially here in his bathroom. It stared him down, taunting him with all the possibilities.
One day — a week, two, a month from now, however long it took — his body could be completely healed from the two years of training and full duty and Yesterday. He wouldn't need any of this. Not the antiseptics, not the cortisone creams, not the Band-Aids or Ace bandages. Not the naproxen or Ranger Candy or — what was that? — lovely, lovely vicodin (getting slammed into a cliff under the weight of a rescue basket hurts with all the perks of a five star hangover, people). He wouldn't need all these gauze pads or iodine or any of this.
He could not hurt, not even a little.
For the first time, he might actually feel like a normal (nearly) nineteen year old man.
That was a helluva lot of Wow.
He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt that way.
Even better, he realized if he could feel that way, so could the others. His brothers and father could be healthy. When John's sling came off, it could hopefully never be needed again. By the time Alan went back to school, his bruises would be nothing more than a little yellowing, unnoticeable to anyone who didn't know it was there to begin with. Virgil might one day let them make a mess now and then again without following them around with a scouring pad and gallon of bleach. Even Scott might lose the zombie effect around his eyes once he was back down to only eight cups of caffeine a day. They could all be completely healthy.
Big fat globs of Wow.
Gordon wasn't so sure he'd be able to live with that kind of change. Sure, he got Dad's heebie-jeebies about letting his children back in their 'birds, but he had to realize how much they were the ultimate product of his upbringing. He'd raised them to help people. Scared as he was, he couldn't unraise them from that way now. No, they were getting back in those 'birds, whether he was decisionally paralyzed (how's that for politically correct?) or not. Sorry, Dad.
Any time now, Dad would call them into what stood for a formal meeting in the organization. When he did, Gordon would walk into that meeting and vote Hell Yeah. Bring on the cuts and sprains and bruises like badges of honor or courage or citizenship of the nation, whatever good little Boy Scouts got for badges these days. Bring on the headaches and nightmares. Break a bone or two (preferably not on the same day, thank you), if that's what it takes. Even with all of that, Gordon couldn't imagine saying no.
Overwhelming creep chilled his blood as the contents behind the mirror taunted him for daring to say so. Be seein' you real soon, bucko. Real soon.
Okay, so maybe take the hooh-rah exuberance down a notch, but still.
"Hey, Fish," Alan called from the other side of the door, "Did you fall in or what?"
Deep, long breath in, even longer out. Gordon ran his hand over his fresh haircut, shaking away most of the dread. He'd clean up the mess later (no tempting Virgil with the vacuum just yet). Steady, cucumber cool stamped back on his face, he gripped the doorknob.
Yanking the door open, he teased, "You gonna rescue me if I did, runt?"
A neon yellow sponge ball from his door-hanging basketball hoop collided with his nose. Guess that answered that. Gordon's internal revenge radar locked in on Alan — of course it was Alan, twerp — and dove for the ball at the same time Alan's face registered the meaning behind Gordon's wicked smile. Just before he fell past the foot of the bed, Gordon caught Scott leaning back against the headboard with a little Some people's kids kind of shake of his head. Right, because he was so damn mature.
Even before he hit the ground, Gordon whipped the ball back at Alan, hard — What? He so could have done damage … with that … painfully damaging sponge, shut up — which reminded him, the Royals' last spring training game was last night, yesterday, this morning, whatever. Happy Opening Day, people!
Alan dove for the ball with a growl. Gordon felt enough delayed shock (and not just a little rug burn) run up his legs that it wasn't so much he let Alan get the advantage as he found himself on his back on Alan's chest with a spaghetti arm wrapped around his neck pretty quickly. A quick breath brushed his ear, reminding him Alan wasn't entirely running full speed either. He did his best to keep the pressure to a minimum, but there was no way he would let Alan catch him taking it easy on him, not today.
He wrenched his hips to the side hard enough to get some leverage to his knees. Hard as Alan held on, Gordon was able to follow the momentum around until he was fully on hands and knees. Alan swung his foot at one knee, but Gordon had no doubt it pulled at the kid's ribs in a nasty way. Alan's pale, winterized fingers wrapped around Gordon's tanned, summerized wrist and yanked it out like a tent pole collapsing an entire kit on top of them.
Both of them grunted as they fell to the carpet. This was a lot easier when they were little.
The runt was quicker on the move this time, skibbling out from under Gordon's grasp, pulling his wrist up behind his back, and landing good and hard on his tailbone. Gordon's fight back was weak at best as he felt Alan (and his bony, scrawny ribcage) crawling up his back. Alan knew it, too, because he panted, "No letting me win."
Oh, now the punk was in for it.
"Alan, don't tease your brother when you know he's weaker than you."
Both Gordon and Alan froze, tangled and panting, to crane their heads toward each other. Gordon's amused confusion was mirrored back at him in Alan's scrunched forehead. So he'd heard that, too.
Quietly, Alan asked, "Get him?"
Gordon nodded once. "Get him."
Sure, they probably shouldn't have warned Scott that Team Little Brother had joined forces against him, but the lazy bum still sat on the bed, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles, book in front of his face. He probably hadn't even bothered to look up when he'd admonished them. There was no way he wasn't going down.
Until he wasn't.
Quick as Alan and Gordon were, Scott was quicker — and armed. Like he'd popped out of any cheesy slow motion take in a Michael Bay movie, Scott dropped his book and whipped out the fully loaded Super Soaker Gordon kept under the head of his bed whenever Alan was home. In the three seconds it took him to get to his feet in the center of the bed, they never stood a chance.
Gordon yelled for Alan to take cover and save himself, diving for the bright yellow beanbag chair in the corner. Brandishing it like a shield, he marched toward the bed and the enemy. He didn't dare risk trying to figure out where Alan was. Instead, he did what any sensible combatant would do: demand surrender from the guy with the gun and high ground from his lesser, useless position.
"So much for that prank alert, huh?" Scott taunted him. "I warned you I'd get you back."
"You really wanna test me?" Gordon threatened from behind the safety of his beanbag. "It's two against one, man. You're outnumbered."
"You realize I'm still older than you and can pummel your sorry ass, right?"
"You realize you're way too on the wrong side of twenty to act like this, right?"
The sound of two sharp snaps on the doorframe brought their heads toward the hallway. Virgil kept his feet firmly in the designated I'm Not Staying area outside. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder when he honed in on Scott. Gordon had to give him credit; Virgil didn't look like there was a single thing out of place. "John needs you. He said to tell you, quote unquote, it's your turn and you have big brass buttons, so bring whatever you need for the long haul."
Scott didn't bother to lower his squirt gun as he jumped easily off the bed. "Where?"
"Dad's office. What's going on? He wouldn't tell me."
"That thing with me he told you about. It's his thing now."
"Why is he the one with the … oh." A big ol' light bulb exploded over Virgil's head and illuminated his eyes. "Oh. Yeah. Makes sense he'd have the same thing, sort of."
"Come with me?"
Gordon had to curl his tongue in and bite down hard to keep from interrupting. There was something that snarled Why hello, scheme to him like always, but hadn't he already told Alan they couldn't expect everything to change overnight, even under the circumstances? Besides, being together on this didn't mean they had to be in each other's pockets every single second, right? The speaking in code — a brilliantly covert, not at all detectable code, that one — was getting old already, though.
He had to give Scott credit; Big Brother seemed to feel Gordon's minor irritation vibing at him. (Gordon flicking his right ear probably helped, too.) His hand clamped hard around the crown of Gordon's head, shaking it until their eyes met. "This isn't like before, man, I promise. Give me half an hour with him, and then meet us down on the north beach. Throw together enough supplies to get us through the afternoon. We all need out of the house. I swear this isn't like that."
"No schemes? No plots? No Help me, Gordo-wan Kenobi, you're my only hope?"
Something crossed Scott's face, a decision he obviously hadn't made until that very second, that made him squeeze the back of Gordon's neck hard enough to force a wince. "Sorry. You know what? Make it fifteen — okay, twenty — minutes. You're right. John's right." He sucked in a whistling breath and pinned his eyes to Virgil's, even as he rambled on to Gordon. "I've put you all in danger without you knowing how or why for a long time now. If I can't let him do the same … "
"That doesn't make any sense."
"It will. Nineteen minutes." Decision became peace that settled over Scott's eyes. Gordon couldn't remember the last time he saw that kind of peace there. Then it was gone as he put his focus on a flinching Alan, who had almost managed to sneak over the bed behind him. He yanked hard on Alan's ankle until his hips were even with the edge. "That means you, too."
"No, you guys should — "
"If I have to hike back up here to drag your kicking and screaming ass down there, you won't like it. I'll give Gordon free rein to submarine your room at his own discretion the entire s'winter break." With that, Scott headed for the door, snagging Gordon's beanbag and tossing it back in the corner along the way. He met Virgil with a clap on his shoulder in the hall, but he turned one last time into the room. "Hey, Gords?"
Scott grinned. "I don't know. I just thought I'd ask you."
"No, What's on second."
"I Don't Know what you're talking about."
"Third base!" they said together, message received. Gordon flopped back on the bed, snagged the yellow basketball, and threw it up toward the ceiling. "You're still not funny, dork."
"Eighteen minutes," Virgil said, yanking Scott by the elbow down the hall.
Alan sat up slowly, hissing a breath about half way up. His hand was curled around his side, but he still managed a crooked look down at Gordon. "What in the world are you two talking about?"
Gordon searched for the right answer, a clever answer, any kind of answer to satisfy Alan's curiosity without necessitating follow up questions, but nothing came. Yes, he got the whole hypocrisy of him scuttling around the issue, but all he could do was shrug. Wait and see. Rocking himself back up, he knocked his head toward his escape hatch. "C'mon, we've got a kitchen to raid."
"Not without shoes, you don't." Alan pointed angrily down at Gordon's feet right before they hit the floor.
"Keep looking at me like that, man, and I'm gonna think I've got the life expectancy of an Imperial Admiral."
Alan shot his hand out and clenched his fist. When Gordon didn't choke on his own idiocy, Alan shook his fist like a good rattle could make the damn thing work. Gordon reached out and yanked it and the rest of Alan toward him until he could hook his arm around the kid's neck.
"I'm sorry," he said as earnestly as Alan's struggling would allow. "The little bit I do know isn't my secret to tell, okay?"
"Like that's stopped you before. Now get off."
"I'm turning a new leaf. Besides, I've had enough of the drama for a year. C'mon. Beach and water and sunshine call my name. I don't know about you, but my jet lag has rocket lag. If any of us are gonna get a normal night's sleep around here, I need to stay busy until dinner. You can't expect those three to be in any way entertaining for me without you there. Don't abandon me now, battle buddy. I'll beg if I have to."
He didn't look like he had even the slightest energy left to keep up with a snail, let alone Gordon, but Alan's face lit up all puck-like anyway. "The first one to bring the drama gets a seaweed crown."
Gordon snorted and raised one wicked eyebrow. The last time that happened … Yeah. This would be good. So good.
Except where it wasn't.
There wasn't enough in their picnic basket (or the world) to keep Gordon's hands or mouth busy when Scott and John took turns telling them how bad things really were in their heads. Seaweed crowns were quickly forgotten, although a seaweed muzzle wasn't out of consideration if they didn't shut up. Gordon wasn't sure if he should feel some sort of guilt that his face was the last thing a terrified Scott would have seen that awful week, but he was pretty sure he would feel it anyway. Same for John. Virgil. Alan. All of them. Guilt, guilt, fuckity fuckall suck bombs. Geez.
Did family counselors have a pain threshold they were allowed to deal with before they broke out the rubber stamp and waved you on your merry way? Good luck, Tracys. You're all nuts. Send us a post card from Crazy City.
Okay, yes, some of this would probably be considered self-inflicted, but still.
By the time John got around to forcing Scott to explain the gun and Scott got around to forcing John to explain Virgil's six seconds and Virgil begged John not to sing Johnny Cash or pretty much anything ever again, Gordon didn't need any more convincing: they were all completely screwed with their pants on.
"You know what? This is ridiculous. How hard is it to get in a good mood?" Gordon got up, not bothering with the sand coating his shorts, and pulled Virgil (and his confusion) to his feet. Into Virgil's ear, he whispered, "Go with it."
Virgil's struggles seemed very realistic — seriously, ow! There's a head under that hair, douchenozzle! — but in the end, Alan saw what was happening and had no qualms whatsoever about helping a brother out. Gordon hadn't intended all three of them to end up head under water, but he wasn't about to complain either. He'd never be convinced there wasn't healing power in water. It made everything better.
Okay, yes, there was something kind of strange about them goofing off when there was a killer submarine beached half a mile away from them, but they had to take their beach back sometime. They dunked and wrestled and pretty much forgot about the two lazy bums on the beach for a few minutes. By the time they popped back onto the sand, though, Gordon wasn't any less annoyed than he'd been before. Or disappointed. That was a better word.
"Guys, we're alive. It's time to stop moping and enjoy it."
"I have space lag," John said.
Pfft! As if that was an acceptable excuse. "You have a severe humor deficiency," Gordon retorted.
Scott regarded him over the rims of his sunglasses. "I thought that was me?"
"You're a lost cause. Big difference."
Virgil joined them and shook his hair out over John like a wet dog. Alan tried to wring his towel out over Scott, but Big Brother was too quick. Gordon watched, safe in his knowledge that the mischief torch was in good hands, as Scott chased Alan around the beach. That training for the cross-country team more than paid for itself with how long Alan was able to keep from being thrown into the surf. Virgil jumped in to defend Alan not long after the kid started screaming for reinforcements. When Gordon flopped down on the sand next to John, he couldn't help imagining Alan as a Labrador puppy they were chasing around. Now, if he could get John to relax …
Next to him, the black hole of fun pouted, "I have a sense of humor."
"Oh, yeah, you're a laugh riot."
"I take it back." Gordon didn't like the evil overlord color to John's voice. "No Lost Weekend for you for at least another year now."
"What's that supposed to mean? Lost how?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" John waggled his eyebrows since he couldn't rub his hands together like a Vaudevillian villain and hollered pleasantly, "I'm punishing Gordon. No Lost Weekend."
"Whatever you said, Gordon, apologize," Scott begged as Virgil caught him around the waist and tried to swing him into the water. A whitecap gulped up whatever he meant to say next. It was enough encouragement for Gordon.
He got down on his knees and bowed the traditional I'm not worthy. John simply patted Gordon on the head and sipped at his water bottle, although he thought he heard John's teeth hit the rim a few times as he tried to keep his evil laughter contained. One gulp sounded an awful lot like "Tell me I have a sense of humor, punk."
"You have a sense of humor, punk."
Even behind his sunglasses, Gordon could feel John's eyes roll.
"Sorry, Oh Hilarious One. You have a sense of humor, ugly and strange as it is. I laughed at you just … last … week? I just … " His defense petered out with gusto. This whole honesty thing they promised each other was so much fun. "Yeah, I got nothing. Look, I'm not saying you shouldn't freak out. We all have, and we all probably will for a while to come. I'm no one to talk, and I suck for even asking you to lighten up. I know that, but I'm asking for one afternoon anyway. I need this."
This time, John's sunglasses came off. He watched Gordon, not unlike the way he did one of his specimens of whatever science experiments he liked to do up on 'Five when he was bored. Something flickered for a moment, his weirdo red screen Terminator T-101 computer brain rebooting or something, before he was back to being their designated listener and big brother John.
"You okay, little brother?"
The breath Gordon hitched said, I just told you I'm not, but it came out as "Try to have a little fun, Johnny. Do that, and I'll be fine".
Cool and graceful, John slid his sunglasses back on and leaned his head against his rock. "I'm the lost damn Beach Boy."
Gordon groaned. "You know you're walking right into the most obvious comeback in the world, right?"
Yeah, Gordon wasn't gonna touch that one. Or take Johnny's T-bird away.
And wow, wasn't that a depressing thought?
Okay, maybe a little humming wouldn't hurt. The wet clump of seaweed John tossed at him did.
Three rounds of John clumsily stuttering over the lyrics later, Gordon tuned him out. He watched Alan hunt for rocks, analyzing the smoothness and shape of each one before either tossing them back to the sea to get back to work on them or jamming them into his pockets for safe keeping. He would offer to help, but Alan had turned him down so many times in the last few conversations they'd had over temper tantrums and rock tossing that —
"Oh, damn." Gordon sat up, draping his arms over his tented knees. "You lost your skimmer."
"No big deal. I can get some pieces from Brains to build a better one."
John glanced between them, a pop can frozen half way to his mouth. "What's this?"
"You mean that thing you did with the rocks in 'One's silo?" Virgil asked.
"I'll make the next one better." Alan gave a flat, swirly stone a hefty zip across the water. He didn't move until a decent-sized wave devoured it whole while he studied it, already trying to find a way to beat the waves. Gordon didn't have the heart to tell him the water wouldn't let him conquer it, no matter how hard Alan tried. He should know. When Alan did look back, he had a wistful smile to say the loss wasn't much of a loss at all. "We got some good ones in down here before you guys took off."
In other words, Alan was sorry.
It was hard to see with the sun glaring in his eyes, but Gordon hoped his smile was brighter as he handed a stone up to him from his own pile. "Yeah, you did."
In other words, Gordon was sorry, too.
And then, because no moment could go by these last few days without someone saying something stupid or drinking up idiocy like it was free keg refills, Scott asked, "What's it like, watching us take off from down here?"
Gordon's mouth pressed into a hard, sympathetic line of He means well, kiddo, really even as he smacked what he could reach of Scott's leg. Numbnuts.
Alan threw the rock too hard, missing the surface of the water with too high an arc so that it simply dropped under when it broke through instead of bouncing. He didn't look back, but Gordon could tell there wasn't (much) heat behind the "You're a tattle-telling buddy fucker, you know that?" meant for him.
"Scott did it," he defended himself as promised. "There were bamboo shoots and pain. Lots of pain. Oodles. I cried manly tears of man pain."
"Two words: pinky swear." Alan punctuated each word with a middle finger.
Gordon raised his right back. "What kind of school are we sending you to that you can't tell these aren't your pinkies?"
John snort-laughed under the crook of his good elbow. "Mouths, children. Add that to the list of educational gems Dad's money is paying for."
"That one was all me," Scott confessed, raising his hand and pointing off at some random corner of blame in the wild blue yonder. "I'd say we should start a swear jar or something, but we'd all be without a trust fund inside a week."
Gordon flicked his attention between Alan's back and the banter going on on either side of him with a gnawing at his gut. It wasn't intentional — anyone could see that — but they were doing it again. It was so easy. With Alan gone most of the year right now, conversations were almost awkward with him in them rather than without. The rest of them had such a shorthand when they talked because of the work that when they played it carried over. Alan's shoulders twitched as Scott and John started to argue about which one of them would empty the nest egg first, making Gordon fight back a little anger of his own. He'd forgotten what this felt like.
For Alan, this was what it was when they took off for another rescue while he was left on the beach alone. Noise and chatter, wrapped in a package of familiarity, always around him but never with him. It was him waiting in the common room at school while Gordon swung from 'Two in the basket, crashing into cliffs and never calling to say he was okay. It was …
"Seeing the lightning and waiting for the thunder," Alan said, but he quickly ducked his head. Under the soft crush of a wave and blush, he said, "That's what it's like."
"Huh?" Scott asked.
Yeah, that wasn't what Gordon expected either.
"I like that," Virgil said with an approving smile that said I could paint that. Gordon could just kiss him for that.
Confidence overpowering the embarrassment, Alan added, "I don't get to see it all that often, you know? With school and everything, it's — I usually only see the 'birds on TV once you're there. From here, it's pretty cool. I like how they feel under my feet."
Obviously Scott saw an open door with Opportunity: Must Exploit in gold leaf bold letters. He looked up at Alan, shading his eyes, and asked, "And when you aren't here?"
Gordon nodded with his chin, encouraging. Maybe if they all heard it from Alan himself, they would get it this time (and never ask him to play their spy games again). Maybe this time Alan could stick up for himself without losing his temper or turning Scott's misguided but, yes, ultimately good and busybody intentions against them all. Maybe they could surprise him. Gordon was in the mood for a surprise.
"Depends on the day you ask me." Alan turned around, like he didn't want any of them to see him when he answered. He pulled his arm back and released another stone into the great blue, punctuating what he had to say. "Today it's a good thing. I'm still stuck with Lois Lane's ditzy cousin twice removed, but I don't have to worry about her this time. Until The Hood killed the mood, John Wayne was off to the rescue. It doesn't get better than that."
"She's really that bad?"
"I think … " Alan caught on whatever he meant to say and swallowed it, like the words were something nasty and moldy. "She's doing her job. It's weird. Sometimes she's so close to sounding like she might know something, but then she goes and says something so out there I have to leave the room so no one hears me laughing. Definitely smart, though, when she wants to be. She may not figure everything out, but she'll get close one day." He tossed a clump of tall grass at John, who didn't bother to blink, and smirked. "I think she has a crush on John's voice."
Virgil reached over and twisted his finger into the dimple at the right corner of John's mouth. "Aww, say somethin' pretty, Johnny."
"Eat me running backwards with a chainsaw." John snapped his teeth at Virgil's finger. When they missed and scraped together, Gordon shivered. He hated that nails on a chalkboard feeling and had to run his tongue over his teeth to try to get rid of the scrape-by-osmosis. John didn't seem to mind. "You won't always have to watch, Al."
"You sound like you mean that."
"The world didn't swallow me whole yesterday like I wanted it to," Alan verbally shrugged. To Gordon, he added a mouthed "Nice pep talk, Scott" before he stuck his tongue out.
Sometimes they all could still surprise him.
Sometimes hatches blow for no reason, Dad would say. And sometimes they don't.
Feeling he was on equal footing — solid, forgiven, maybe even on the way to healthy footing — with them all for today, Gordon tuned them all out so he could watch his waves come in. This was the way it was supposed to be, the five of them against the world and the forces of Nature, whichever decided to screw with their universe on any given day. There was no controlling either of them, not really, but at least he could predict what the waves were going to do. If he listened, he could hear a rhythm to the ocean's chaotic temper. Poseidon had yet to let him down any more than his family could. Only the metronome of his heartbeat in his chest was more constant.
Rolling wave after curling wave hypnotized Gordon so that when he looked up again, he had no idea how the sun had dropped that far onto the horizon — or what in the world that thing in the sky was coming right for them. Only when Alan teased John — You think your jet lag is bad — and FAB1 made enough of a turn could he make out its shape. There was something both amusing and disturbing about how the sunset provided it such perfect camouflage.
"What are they doing here already?" he asked.
"Reinforcements." Scott waving his hands over his head at Parker banking for the runway was either an overenthusiastic HI or a desperate cry of GET ME THE HELL OUTTA HERE.
When Scott didn't elaborate, John chimed in. "Scott and I called in the big guns. She has a plan. We have a plan."
"After dinner, we're talking to him. Al? John and I want you to be part of that conversation." Scott fixed Gordon with a Don't screw this up look, which Gordon was perfectly happy to roll his eyes over. Like he was the one who needed to be warned.
Virgil's grin was somehow at peace as he voted, "Yeah."
For a kid who wanted so badly to get in those planes only twenty-four hours ago, Alan's hesitant "Are you sure?" growled heavy in Gordon's chest.
"We aren't putting you in a plane tomorrow. You broke it." The corner of Gordon's mouth popped up, daring Alan to smile back. "But this is as much about your future as ours. You should be there. Definitely."
"That didn't sound so sure," Scott said.
"The way you guys were talking last night, it didn't sound like you thought Dad would listen to you anyway."
Virgil laughed. "Big Brother is staging a coup with guns and cake."
"Oooh, and a guillotine. I want a guillotine." Gordon pleaded, "Can I have a guillotine?"
"NO," they all shouted him down. Killjoys.
Alan had this sweet, not quite pathetic glimmer of hope in his eyes as he ignored the rest of them and asked John, "You think that's gonna change his mind?"
"I think he won't have a choice but to listen to what we want."
Their eye in the sky had his eyes on his sky, and he didn't look too optimistic. Neither did his scowl.
"Well then, can I ask you guys something?" Whatever it was Alan was thinking, his eyes were popped wide and zipping back and forth. He looked so small and unsure, like he thought he wasn't allowed to say anything. He was this close to saying Nevermind.
Gordon nodded his chin at him, inviting. "What's that?"
"What would Mom say about it? I … I know Dad talks to her all the time — you guys all do — but I … I don't remember her enough to know what she would tell him."
After everything, it was a natural question. If ever there were a time they would cash in and walk away from all this, this would be it. No one would blame them. International Rescue's defenses had been breached, her operatives nearly murdered, all for her technology. What The Hood had done would no doubt inspire copycats and ideas galore. Human Rights organizations all the world over could take the responsibility for them. Dad and Brains could sell off their designs to make sure they fell into the right hands first. No one would blame them at all. And Mom, well, she hadn't been much a part of it. She'd be able to see it in a clear head, in a way they couldn't.
Of all of them, though, Scott was the one who should and did answer. "I can tell you right now, kiddo, no matter what we decide to do with this or anything else, all Mom ever wanted was for us to be happy. I don't think even yesterday or some of the other things we've done would change that, not after living the life she lived with Dad for so long. She knew who she was raising, and that goes back as far as raising Dad. Wherever she is, Mom wants us to be together and happy."
First John and then Virgil came to slow, wistful smiles and agreed.
Things got quiet after that. Not uncomfortable or moody, which Gordon was grateful for. It was brotherly in a way that they hadn't been, even when they got back and hung out in their various incarnations the night before. For the first time since they had come home — maybe for the first time ever — they were all five together, the Fantastic Five, exactly as Mom and Dad had always intended. It felt good. Right.
Now, if they could just redesign the uniform and figure out how to set John the Human Torch on fire without blowing him up or concussing him …
By the time the sun had gone purple-blue and the campfire tried to die (if Virgil would've quit feeding it, anyway), Gordon had pretty much settled on them spending the night on the beach. Lady P would have plenty of time to work her magic on Dad, and he wouldn't mind a night away from those ugly security lights. But Parker came down to chase them on their way with threats to make them listen to his entire oral history of The Ashes since 1882. Which, incidentally, segued him to the time he was commissioned to steal some old stiff's ashes from his fifty years younger wife and her Cobalt SB-06C by his mistress.
It was a draw who was on the path up to the house first, Alan or Scott. Poor John was stuck with his handicap of equally useless encyclopedic knowledge. It took everything Gordon had to not ask if there was anything in the Geneva Conventions about torturing with boredom.
Since pretty much everyone had been forbidden to clean anything else in the house (ahem, Virgil) until noon the next day, the dining area was still enough of a mess that dinner was set up in the living room with card tables. Dad assured them he'd survived many a holiday with them, along with plastic plates, vinyl tablecloths, and Solo cups. Gordon wondered if there would be a designated Kids' Table.
Virgil peeled off from the herd along the way, his eyes lit with a wicked something Gordon couldn't help being proud of. Someone was up to no good.
Hooking his thumb toward the escapee, Gordon asked Scott, "Where's he going?"
From the top of the steps leading into the dropped floor of the living room, Gordon had to wonder how Dad survived this rumored Christmas tradition of plastic. Having Alan and Scott put one of those things together, getting the catches to actually catch on the legs and not have the table wobble until the beverages tipped off, was near impossible. It was enough to make Gordon want to up end the entire contraption. There was no way Dad and Uncle Tom got through more than one holiday of that together. No way.
The rest of dinner felt normal, like the whole family — all thirteen of them, except the sorely missed Grandma — just was again. Until Dad had to go speechifying, it was even fun. But no, the old man had to go and ruin it all.
"You all know that words are not my specialty," Dad said from the head of Adult Table Number Three. "Either I say too much, I say too little, or I say the wrong thing and we're all in trouble for a week. When it comes down to it, I hope, though I don't have the right words, you all still know the words in my heart for each and every one of you. This family would not be complete without each and every one of you. Thank you for coming home, and thank you for making sure the rest of us made it home to you. Thank you for making this place home. To my family."
Feeling awkward but completely in agreement with all of it, Gordon hoped someone would stuff some steak in Dad's mouth before he could be any more sincere or thoughtful.
There was a reason Tracy men didn't do speeches.
Once everyone was done, the TV came on so they (Gordon, Brains, and Tin-Tin) could catch the game replay while they cleaned up. Somewhere around the top of the third, John and Scott cornered Dad. He didn't look entirely happy about it, but he followed them out of the living room. A few minutes later, Lady Penelope and Brains stealthily collected Alan and Virgil, leaving Gordon to finish up.
Keeping one eye on the game while he worked, Gordon breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't until he hollered at the stunningly bad one-two-three bottom fifth inning that he realized he was alone in the room. For the first time since that alarm went off yesterday morning, he was completely alone. Not a single soul was there to be grateful he was still alive or admiring that he was acting too much like a grown up or concerned he wasn't grown up enough. For a few pitches, he could stand there and be a guy (not a kid or a man, just a guy) who would love his Royals, win or lose, until he took in his last breath.
For the first time in he lost track of how many hours, he was simply Gordon.
Gordon rocked back onto his heels, but he couldn't drag his eyes off the television. "Hmm? What?"
"Uh, baseball? Mauer's having an off day. It might be the only — OH, COME ON!" Just as both the Twins and Royals managers stalked onto the field, Gordon threw his shoe at the television. "Off your knees, Blue! You're blowin' the game!"
"That's it. You're outta here." Scott's arm wrapped tightly around Gordon's neck, bending him in half at the waist and leaving him essentially blind. He steered Gordon through the halls and up the stairs, miming a detour into the frame when they came to the library door before pulling back in time to prevent the first concussion back. Yeah, because Gordon so wanted to be benched before they even were up to bat again.
When Scott let him up, John stood in front of Dad, looking like he was finally done for the day. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his eyes closed and shifted his shoulder as much as he could around the sling strap. "I don't know what else I can tell you. We've made our decision."
"I'm not arguing with the decision, John; I'm arguing with the timing of it." Dad wiped his hand down his face, which did nothing to lighten the bruises under his eyes. "It's going to take time to regain the world's trust. We have a target on our backs now, which may not be a risk even our closest friends will be willing to take. Things will be that much more dangerous out there for us now."
"There was already a target on our backs," Virgil said softly from the ornate chocolate leather sofa. Gordon wanted to wash that guilty green color from his face. Hadn't they already established the custody of guilt in all this? "We just didn't know it."
Scott gave Gordon a gentle push toward Virgil's sanctuary on his way to John's side. Gordon couldn't help being amused at how their ranks immediately closed up around Dad (rounded out by Lady Penelope and Brains), banishing anyone on the sofa to the Unpaid Hacks Section.
Plopping down next to Virgil, Gordon leaned into his shoulder, crossed his arms over his chest, and closed his eyes. For whatever reason, that particular couch had a tendency to induce sleep in him (not that it would be that hard right now). Perhaps it was the floor to twelve foot ceiling walls entirely lined with books and archaeological artifacts and moon rocks. Books made for good pillows, especially the kind Dad kept around.
Still, he should probably pretend to put up the appearance he thought he had a voice in what was happening. "What'd we miss?" he asked. "Where'd Alan go?"
Virgil shrugged. "He wanted to be alone. Unless he gives Dad a reason not to be, he's home until the next semester starts in August, so it's not like we can't hunt him down later. Otherwise, not much. Brains isn't saying anything either way. He won't put in the calls for parts until Dad gives him a go."
"So it's kids versus parents. Nice."
Another half hour of discussion went by with Dad and Scott raising their voices while Virgil and Gordon watched the Wimbledon conversation from their sofa box seats. Back and forth, should they or shouldn't they, Dad's conscience, Scott's nerve, John's safety, loyalty, responsibility, everyone's safety, logistics, blah blah blah. Anyone else in the room might as well have been invisible.
Gordon was about ready to go back to the Royals when Dad crossed his arms and turned his attention to the sofa. "I'm not hearing anything from the two of you. Virgil?"
"I think everyone has a point about everyone else's points, but honestly? We've talked it to death. I don't think it's possible for us not to be International Rescue anymore. So let's get this call out of the way so we can go to bed. We'll have a lot of work to do tomorrow."
"If a task is once begun, see it through 'til it's done." Gordon wasn't the least surprised when his brothers joined him to finish their grandmother's favorite poem in unison with him. "Be your task either great or small, do it well or not at all." Over the collective grinning groans at his apparent (deliberate) sentimentality, he said, "We aren't done yet, Dad. If we quit now, all we did was try to do a great thing badly."
Scott leaned over from his new perch on the arm of the sofa and whispered in his ear, "When did you go evil genius on me?"
Without looking away, Gordon craned his chin toward Scott's ear and whispered back, "That was Alan."
"Sneaky little shit."
John swiped the remote from the table and tossed it to Penny, one last overriding of their father's authority. "Make the call."
"Jeff," Lady P said, which sounded an awful lot like They're doing this with or without you, so you might as well give in and make the call.
"Far be it from be to do a great thing badly," he said. He took a beat to focus on each of his children, studying their faces like he realized they weren't children anymore. As much as it probably hurt him — Gordon supposed it was every parent's greatest thrill and worst fear in one — Gordon could see he saw it, too: Jeff Tracy's babies weren't babies anymore. Four men stood in front of him. Heaven and Hell help him. He mumbled something to himself, low and amusingly irritated, and pulled the trigger. "Do it."
One perfectly manicured pink nail thumbed the remote.
Dad threw his shoulders back a little bit straighter and tugged down his t-shirt. No one expected Billionaire Jeff Tracy to appear anywhere in a plain t-shirt, especially the tabloids. For him to show up in any kind of meeting dressed so casually, there had to be a good reason. He wanted her to see him as an ordinary man in a t-shirt with ordinary, good kids not in uniform. Gordon couldn't help thinking Dad knew this was coming even before they all ganged up on him — and he dressed for the occasion. Nice.
Gordon never got tired of watching the stack of three motorized shelves that first moved outward from the rest of the bookcase before gliding up out of the way so the thirty-two inch screen could slide forward. So damn cool. Lady P hopped off the table corner with the same airy grace she did everything else. She aimed the remote at the eye at the top of the screen until all that was left to do was wait.
"Be brilliant, boys," she instructed them as John took a seat on the other sofa arm, lining the four of them in place, the Von Trapp-ed Tracy children. (Do, a deer, a female deer!) At the last second, Virgil switched places with John with a pointed glare at the sling John was trying very hard to get out of. "It will be all right."
As long as she was truly as scary as Dad said, sure.
To prove her point, Lady P raised her hand with a dainty flair to silently count off the seconds on her fingers. Five. Four. Three. Two.
The screen cut from black to blonde as Lisa Lowe sat down at a desk in a secure location she'd been directed to in New York. She adjusted the camera so she was framed with the plain gray masonry behind her head before she sat back with a certain degree of nervousness that Gordon couldn't help being grateful for. It would've scared him a lot more if she wasn't nervous. "Hello?"
One last breath and Dad took the remote from Lady P to push the button he couldn't take back. The small video box from their end of the conversation popped up so they could see what she was seeing. No adjustment necessary on this end, Dad dove right in. "Good evening, Ms. Lowe. Thank you for meeting me. You know who I am?"
Ever the six-year-old, Gordon loved this part. People tended to go fish out of water mouth and numb around his father, especially when they didn't know what to expect. He was always so tempted to tell them it helped not to know him. People never wanted to get that part; he was just their dad. He changed diapers and cleaned up his kids' puke with the rest of them. Anything else he did was coincidental. It was like seeing the Mona Lisa; everyone spent so much time waiting in line to see something that really wasn't all that big or impressive, especially when there was so much else in the room to see.
Fumbling for the right words — Psst! This is the part where you say 'Yes, Mr. Tracy' — Reporter Barbie nodded.
Dad took it in stride with a smiling, careful prod. "Ms. Lowe, you should have received a delivery earlier today. Did you bring the box with you?"
Again she nodded, although she seemed to know she was doing it this time, which was a start. She dug into her humungous purse and pulled out a black box to show them. "I assume you're going to tell me how to open it then?"
"Not just yet. First, there are a few more conditions."
Lady P strategically moved shoulder to shoulder with Dad the way Gordon had seen her do every other time they'd brought a new agent into the fold. It didn't matter if she could kill you with one perfectly manicured finger or not; she looked like she could. That was enough. Gordon forgot sometimes to appreciate what a team the two of them made, like Bonnie and Clyde without the bank robbery and murder and screaming sister-in-law.
Sitting between Scott and John, Gordon could feel them both straighten to military attention. This was it.
Taking the golden rule of You get more flies with honey than vinegar that Grandma had drilled into every Tracy head from zygote-hood, Dad was big on giving first in any business transaction. And yes, this was business. Maybe years from now it would be different, but for now, Lisa Lowe was not a friend. She might be an agent by the time the meeting was through, but she was not a friend. So business it was, and in business, Jeff Tracy gave.
With the flick of a remote button, the little screen showing the library side of the conversation panned out to show the four of them sitting on the table.
"Ms. Lowe, I'd like you to meet the faces behind the uniforms of International Rescue." Gordon didn't miss the dig in his father's voice, though he doubted Lisa knew it was there. Maybe one day she'd realize what Alan had been trying to tell them seemed lost on her, that the men behind the uniform were someone's sons, someone's brothers, someone's grandsons and friends. Gordon followed Scott and John's cues while they offered the woman a short, curt wave as Dad introduced them.
"Your … " Lisa swallowed, blinked, and did pretty much everything people do when they're gobsmacked. "Your men are your children?" She belatedly remembered to add the "sir".
"You're meeting them so that, perhaps, when you open that box you'll understand the weight of what I'm giving you — and the world. Ours is a small circle of highly trusted people, people I have to entrust with the lives of my children. As you can imagine, I don't have the option of court documents to ensure people's cooperation in our operation, but I do consider the use of the combination to open that box as good and binding as your signature. I'm putting my children in your hands, Ms. Lowe. If that is a responsibility you cannot accept, we can end this meeting right now."
"NO!" Her hand clapped over her mouth immediately.
Dad gave her a moment to regain her composure, which gave Gordon enough time to contain himself, too. Seriously, Jeff Tracy was only a man, people. He wore holes in his jeans like anyone else.
It took her a moment, but when she got herself together, she had a look to her that Gordon associated with the higher profile interviews he'd seen her do before. As flustered as she'd been, Dad had picked her for a reason. He didn't even know about how annoyed Alan could be with her. Before going out into the world to report on wars and International Rescue and other investigative works, she'd done her time in the White House Press Corps. She knew her stuff. It was a mistake to think she didn't.
"I'm perfectly willing to hear what you have to say, Mr. Tracy, provided I set some conditions myself? Your agents said I would be allowed to ask a few questions?"
Oh yeah, Dad saw his fish on his hook. She wasn't going anywhere. It wouldn't stop him from playing with her for a few yards of line, but he wouldn't have to work to reel her in at all. He flashed what Gordon thought of as Dad's statesman look, chin slightly up, eyebrows up higher, pleasant line but no smile to his lips, not yet. "Go ahead."
"I'm assuming you've come to me because you need someone to spin the situation yesterday. Unless I get the whole story, the real story, I can't report anything. I won't be lied to, Mr. Tracy, and I certainly will not compromise my integrity with the network or my viewers in order to protect you if you jerk me around."
"You'll have as much honesty as I'm allowed. I cannot give you the identities of anyone in my organization without their permission, but you will know everything you need to know to do your job effectively."
"And that job would be what exactly?"
"If our arrangement becomes acceptable to you, you will be the sole authority on International Rescue. You'll have insider access, including radio communications. We have not offered this to anyone else, and I don't intend to again."
"What about Ned Cook? He's been digging into this as much as I have, if not more."
"I have it on good authority that if I'm going to bring a member of the press into the organization, you are the one we can trust. Do we have a deal?"
Her answer was to remove a pen and old steno notebook from her bag and to wait with her hands folded together like a schoolgirl with her listening ears on.
Satisfied, Dad let himself sit on the corner of the table. "On the lock, Lisa, I'd like you to press in the following combination: four, eight, fifteen, fourteen, twelve. Inside, you will find … "
Gordon tapped Scott's shoulder and nodded toward the door. Scott narrowed his eyebrows for a moment, but he shrugged and pitched his chin with permission. It wasn't like Gordon was needed for this part, not with Dad sitting there with his arms crossed and Scott sitting there with his arms crossed and Penny sitting there with her arms crossed. He knew enough about body language to know that if Lisa Lowe wasn't quaking in her Manolo Blahniks by now, his being there wasn't going to change it. He didn't like doing the intimidation part anyway. That's what they had Scott Tracy: Interrogation Specialist for.
He wandered the halls, not entirely sure what he was looking for, but he figured he'd know it when he found it. Not that there was much going on. The moratorium on cleaning of any kind was still in effect, so he was kind of relieved to see there wasn't a single broom or waste bin in sight. It wasn't often anyone in this house took time to just be, not cleaning or rescuing or rescuing the cleaners or cleaning up after the rescuers. The way Grandma talked, that was pretty much the way most people lived; life was one long laundry and dishwasher cycle, no matter what they did with their lives. He hoped everyone else took time to not do those things once in a while. This house could use more of that.
Finding the door to Dad's office wide open, Gordon poked his head around the doorframe. He almost didn't see Alan sitting there watching the wall like the men on it would peel away and become real if he didn't watch it every single second. Figuring that if Alan was hiding out here he was probably as peopled out as Gordon was, he was about to go in search of some other hidey hole when Alan called out to him without looking away to see which of them it was.
"Is it done?"
"Your favorite reporter has been and will continue to be properly guilted, yes." Gordon planted himself on the desk next to him. "She'll definitely never baked goods us again. So? What did you think of your first IR meeting?" He didn't mean for it to sound quite as teasing as it did.
Alan snorted. "It sounded an awful lot like any given dinnertime." He was quiet a moment before he relaxed, placing his hands behind his hips so he could lean back and cross his ankles. "I don't know how you people get anything done."
"There's a reason none of us want to do debriefings until after we've slept," Gordon agreed, absently scratching at the back of his head. (It totally wasn't out of embarrassment that the first thing Alan had to say when the Wizard pulled back the curtain was that they all looked like a bunch of rookies, no, not at all).
Alan shook his head, clearly thinking something about IR being this side of a government operation. After a beat, he waved his hand in a lazy circle at the mural on Dad's wall. "Did you know about this?"
Gordon ran his tongue over his teeth in an effort to contain his grin.
"You did, didn't you?"
"I didn't know know, if that's what you mean."
"You really can't keep a secret at all, can you?"
And maybe Gordon deserved it for that. He didn't have the energy to point out exactly how many secrets he had kept for all of them over the years (although John probably had kept a whole bushel more), but breaking this one did pack a bigger punch. On the other hand, if the others knowing about how Alan felt about the mural and so many other things led to an artful masterpiece like this, well, he couldn't be bothered to care that he'd lied. Sometimes broken promises and crossed fingers behind your back were necessary.
The charcoal drawing of Alan crouching at the poolside between Dad and Virgil's feet was pretty good for short notice. He maybe even looked a little cool with that badass look on his face. Virg hadn't had enough time to properly shade away what would be behind Alan or color it in, but another few hours of work and a new layer of glaze and no one would know Alan hadn't been home the day that picture was taken.
"If it helps, I don't think you were supposed to see it yet."
Alan's "He didn't have to do that" translated to a sweetly embarrassed I wish he wouldn't have done that — especially now that he looked like a colossal dork like the rest of them.
"I think he did."
"Because you're a tattle tale and can't keep a secret and are pretty much the worst spy ever."
"He still had to. Dad can't work a camera to save his life. The only way you were ending up on that wall was if Virgcasso did it." Gordon peered at the wall, examining the details Virgil had managed to sneak in there in so short a time. He really did take Virg's talents for granted sometimes. "Of all of us, you're the only one who looks relatively human here."
"Well, somebody had to," Virgil said far too happily as he slid up behind them. He leaned his head in between their upper arms, peering at the wall the same way Gordon had. "Man, I hate that thing."
Gordon raised his eyebrows at him. "You didn't think any of us actually like this monstrosity?"
Virgil walked backwards from them until his knees hit the sofa, humming. "All in all, it's just another — "
Gordon knew exactly where this was going. Virgil had pretty much locked them in his room one night after neither of them could sleep post–Paris and made him listen to entire damn album because, seriously, didn't it have such incredible sound and production value? Yeah, Gordon had fallen asleep somewhere along the lines of Goodbye Cruel World and vowed he would never wake up again if he had to hear it one more time. Dude, that movie was so very trippy. Never again.
"Stop right there," he pleaded.
"Before we go any further, do you love me?" Virgil retorted, switching musical gears.
"Not if you keep singing, I don't," Alan said bluntly.
Virgil stuck out his lower lip in a pout. "I thought I was your favorite brother? Traitor."
Gordon glared at Alan and crossed his arms over his chest. "Hey, I thought I was your favorite brother."
"Not today." Alan's mouth twisted, taunting and Nyah-nah-nyah-nah-nah at the same time. He walked over and kicked Virgil in the knee in appreciation before he left them both for destinations unknown, muttering something about finding a mermaid.
"Living room in ten, pajamas and sense of humor required," Virgil called after him. Hooking his thumb toward the door, he grumbled good-naturedly, "Ungrateful brat."
"No kidding. What's in the living room?"
"Sleep deprivation cures galore."
"Everyone who wants to be."
"Count me in."
Virgil hoisted himself out of the couch with a little tug from Gordon. He stopped to stare at the mural, scowling. After a vocal blech of a shiver in the back of his throat, he headed for the door, humming another song that Grandma would wash his mouth out with soap for if she ever caught him singing it.
By the time Gordon joined them all down in the living room as requested, the coffee table was so full of junk food and hot chocolate and just stuff, he thought his eyes would go into a sugar coma. It looked awesome. In the middle of it all, Tin-tin and Fermat sat shyly accepting the praise and adoration of his brothers that they hadn't been able to shower on them until then. Tin-tin seemed to be doing her best to melt into the carpet as she and Alan played the age old game of Don't Look with each other. Fermat held Scott and John's attentions the most as the three of them dug through the movie selection for something. Nerds gotta nerd together, after all.
Everyone made it through the first movie together, no sleeping allowed. There was no way they were all going to make it through the second, but the first was the big one. Gordon couldn't help feeling, like the night before when none of the five of them wanted to be away from the others so they could heal together, tonight was the night the sons and daughter of Tracy Island needed to heal together. Maybe one day they'd let the adults back into things, but for now, this was their night.
That, or he was too sleep deprived to realize what a lousy sap he was.
The FBI warning on the front end of Indiana Jones and the — which one was that one? — was pretty.
Sleep was good.
Someone needed to change the channel. His family was on TV.
Good sleep. Good couch.
And it would be really good if no hatches blew tomorrow, just in case. Somebody should get on that.
Hmm … sleep.
Sleep makes everything better.
They really should all sleep in their own beds again one of these days.
Insert that Scarlett movie girl business about … tomorrow … and all that. He was too tired to remember what it was, word for word. He'd think of it just as soon as … He'd think about it tomorrow.
Somewhere far, far away, John and Virgil were singing. "The sun has gone to bed and so has Gords."
So there you have it, the end of the first day of the rest of their lives. If you feel unsettled, if you feel like this story is just beginning, good. That's how you're supposed to feel. Like I said in the summary: what they went through can't be solved in the span of a Disney movie — or a fic. I hope I got them to the point where it feels like they're going to move forward as a family, even if they're still fighting nightmares and temper tantrums in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Maybe Virgil will inhale a little too much bleach during a relapse cleaning spree. Maybe Scott will blame the wall and put his knuckles through it. Maybe Alan will be a total brat one day. Who knows for sure? All I know is how their first few hours went. So if this feels unfinished to you, I did my job. Yay me!
Those of you who made it all the way through, thank you, from the bottom of my black little heart. You've made this an incredible adventure. Thank you for making me feel talented. I owe you all more than you could ever know.
For credit's sake:
The title comes from He Is, They Are by Harry Connick Jr., from his album Blue Light, Red Light. Lyrically, it was everything I wanted to convey with this story. I hope it worked.
Anything you might recognize as a bastardized quote from a movie or song lyrics, please credit to their proper sources, not limited to but including: Ghost, Dead Poets Society, The Right Stuff, Lost Moon by Jim Lovell, Rupert Holmes's Escape (The Pina Colada Song), Mary Poppins, The Godfather trilogy, Bruce Springsteen's cover of Pony Boy, Schoolhouse Rock, Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Johnny Cash's many songs, Cheers, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The West Wing, The Rolling Stones, Prince (no, the gett in Gett Off is not a spelling error), The Human Torch/Fantastic 4, The Wonder Twins, Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall, George Lucas's Star Wars, Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, Meat Loaf's Paradise By the Dashboard Light, and the Beach Boys' Fun, Fun, Fun.
2. Market Garden was the second large scale airborne mission of WWII that, had it gone as planned, would've allowed Allied forces to cross the river Rhine, cut the route into Germany, and end the European side of the war before Christmas 1944. While initially a success, the final bridges weren't secured and the Allies had to go south and around into Germany instead.
3. The fictional law firm Jeff sends on the attack, Gage Whitney Pace, is where several Aaron Sorkin characters work/ed.
4. The historical reference to John Wayne without a lung forging the river is a true story. Prior to the filming of The Sons of Katie Elder, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had a lung and two ribs removed. He continued to do his own stunts and was caught in the river. He nearly got pneumonia out of the deal. Great damn movie, though.
6. Black bras and strappy high-heeled shoes? I'm guessing you know what I mean, but I will simply direct you to a story by that name from my dear friend Tidia. I have a feeling Scott has done/will do the same for his brothers somewhere along the line, although maybe in a spendier joint. That's what big brothers are for.
6. SERE school is a military training different groups go through based on the possibility of capture. SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. They really do teach you what you can eat, how to capture and clean animals, emergency medical procedures above what you get in basic training, etc. As a USAF pilot, Scott would be required to go through Level B or C training, depending on rank and what kind of missions he flew.
8. Ted Williams was a left fielder for the Red Sox and last player in MLB history to have a single season batting average over .400. When he passed away, his family got into a huge legal battle over what to do with his remains. His son maintained (and won) that he wanted to be cryogenically preserved so they could be together in the future.
9. BUD/S is the course to become US Navy SEALs. According to several friends, yes, it's as hellish as they say. Lucky them!
10. Always Finish is an anonymous poem my grandmother had a cross-stitch picture of on her wall. It was one of her favorite sayings. I can't believe I used it on my own kid the other day.
The idea of The Lost Weekend is inspired by the book by Charles Jackson about a five day binge of excesses. Brilliant book, if a bit disturbing sometimes. Our Tracys co-opted the name, but not the behavior (as far as I know).
And on that (now condensed and edited) note, thank you again, whether I hear about it from you or not. If you had half as much fun reading this as I had writing it, well, then I had twice as much fun writing it as you had reading it. Heh. THANK YOU! Six