A/N: More Scott and John stuff, because it always amuses me. I needed to write a Thanksgiving story for once, and as I'm already a few days late and we just aren't going to get any better despite my attempts to make it, this is going up now. I hope you guys manage to enjoy it.
Growing Up Thunderbirds
November 26th, 2054
Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence. ~Erma Bombeck
That was definitely smoke coming from the kitchen, and John had been in the kitchen non-stop, to Scott's knowledge, since six o'clock that morning. While this was not, necessarily, concerning well…Scott was concerned. Because John didn't normally volunteer to do much in the kitchen, had never banished them all from it before, and anytime smoke and John were involved something generally blew up soon afterward. There was also a strange smell that Scott couldn't quite place but he thought shouldn't be in the house really.
A quick glance at his three younger brothers assured Scott that they would be alright. They'd given up feigning interest in the Thanksgiving Day Parade at some point after all the balloons of cartoon characters Alan could actually name had gone past and instead had decided to dig out one of John's old video game systems for a virtual football game with Virgil and a computer taking on Gordon and Alan. This was in Virgil's favor, actually, as Gordon and Alan would inevitably end up with several delay of game penalties when they could not agree what to do.
Why they were doing this now when the four of them would play for real in the afternoon—just before Scott's Kansas City Chiefs took on the Oakland Raiders in a game that promised to be good—Scott wasn't sure. More than likely it was to distract themselves from the distinct lack of anything Thanksgiving around the house.
There were very complicated reasons for this. First and foremost, although nobody wanted to admit it, was because nobody really felt like doing the sit down and be a family thing. One year ago they had lost their mother less than a week before. He had been sitting with his Grandmother calling family members and trying to remember if his mom had ever mentioned her favorite flower, and his father had been at the hospital deciding whether or not to admit John into psychiatric care because he wouldn't talk or respond to anyone voluntarily.
It had not been the happiest of holidays, as even by Christmas John had been still recovering from his injuries and responding only listlessly and every single one of them missed their mother terribly. A year later, the wound was still raw and no one really wanted to poke at it by trying to celebrate their mother's favorite time of year without her. The only person who might have tried was Grandma, but she and their father were currently grounded by a snow storm back in New York, where Jeff had taken her to visit friends, and it didn't look like any flights would be leaving for at least another day.
This was the second reason. Without Grandma the best they usually ate was spaghetti and canned sauce, and without Dad if they managed more than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches they were golden. The thought of trying something as complicated as Thanksgiving dinner was overwhelming all by itself, and not a one of them would have had any idea where to start.
At least, that's what Scott had thought, and had assumed all of his brothers had agreed without saying so. Agreed that they were going to have Thanksgiving by playing football and making sandwiches from pre-sliced turkey and a can of cranberry sauce, nothing more than that.
Apparently, John hadn't.
There was a pile of mush that might, possibly, have once been cranberries but were now a blackened mess that filled the house full of the smell of burnt sugar, which Scott could now place as the mysterious smell as well as the likely source of the smoke. The stuffing was a lumpy soggy mess that was only partly coated in some kind of oil and spice mixture that smelt far too strongly of salt.
There were potatoes John had tried to mash, but they must not have been cooked all the way through because they were a lumpy mess of fragments instead of the creamy garlic they were supposed to be. To top it all off, the turkey obviously was not going to fit in their tiny stacked oven. Maybe it would, if it were put it on a cookie sheet, but even Scott knew that it needed to go on a pan of some kind that would let it drip. It also needed butter and Grandma always tied its legs too which it looked like John had tried to do but the knot was slipping terribly.
John scrubbed one hand across his face, but the sleeve of his black hoodie was too long and simply smeared the mixture of potato flakes and butter across his cheek with the scratchy black fabric. He glared at his laptop, sitting pristinely on the far side of the island by Gordon and Alan's stools, like it was somehow to blame for all of this. Being this was John, it probably somehow was.
Even from here he could see that John's eyes were just a bit too bright, and Scott felt his throat clench to look at the heartbreak and frustration there. John had taken to hiding a lot lately, even letting his cowlick grow out to cover the scar on his hairline from the crash and his right eye, and spending hours and hours locked in his room with his telescope and his computer searching for something though he'd never told Scott what. Not since his release from the hospital had Scott ever once seen John grieve or talk about anything that had happened, and it was difficult for Scott to see his brother like that now.
Never one to simply sit back and watch, Scott stepped fully into the kitchen with the small swish of the door, silencing Virgil's whoop of delight with a small movement. "Hey, John?"
Scott had intended to ask his younger brother if he was alright, if he wanted to talk, but instead dashed across the kitchen to stop John from falling to the floor as his little brother jerked in obvious surprise and the stool he'd been sitting on tried to dash out from under him and send the blond sprawling.
One blue eye stared up at him in round surprise, its twin just peeking through pale strands. "What are you, a freaking ninja?"
"Sorry." Scott muttered, using a foot to right John's stool and then pushing him upright again. "I know you told us not to come in here this morning but I thought I should come check on you. What are you doing in here?"
John shrugged in the most noncommittal way he could manage. That was his new favorite way of answering questions he didn't really want to answer, much to John's great annoyance. It worked with most people, because they didn't care all that much about actually getting an answer to the questions they asked just to be polite. Scott was not one of those people, and it irked him to be put in that category.
A frown as Scott wrinkled his nose, looking into the bowl of what John had tried to make cranberry sauce but instead he'd left too long and had burned. "You've made a bit of a mess, haven't you?"
"Your sympathy for my plight is overwhelming."
A cautious fork poke of the stuffing, which didn't crumble so much as melted, before Scott responded. "I thought we weren't going to do this."
"We aren't. I am."
"It's Thanksgiving, Johnny, and there is no 'I' in it."
"There are two, actually."
Scott glanced up, scowling at his younger brother's semi-cheeky grin. "Two 'I's make a 'we', you know. It's a family thing, John. You sure weren't planning on eating all of this yourself."
Scott had him there, he knew it, and John simply shrugged again because there wasn't a good answer for that which didn't involve him admitting he was wrong—a mortal sin in his younger brother's eyes for all he imagined himself a scientist that had to admit when he'd made a mistake to learn from it.
"Did you buy all this stuff yourself?" John didn't have a job, so to speak, but Scott knew he occasionally did computer repair around the neighborhood on top of the allowance the five of them got for keeping their grades up. He hadn't been doing all that well in school lately, though, and Scott didn't doubt that it must have taken a considerable chunk out of his brother's savings. That alone made it seem like he should at least attempt to eat anything that wouldn't flat out kill him. "How did you get it here, anyway?"
"My bike. I took several trips, and stored it in the fridge in the barn." Another shrug from John, although Scott couldn't say for sure what he was shrugging at. "I just thought we…I mean, holidays were always so important before and I…"
All of the sudden, John's gray-blue eyes were swimming again, a thin sheen of tears springing up like Old Faithful. He couldn't seem to finish whatever he was trying to say, and as per his new habit John dropped his face to hide behind his hair.
Scott swallowed, unsure as always what to say. There really was nothing that could be said to ease that ache, and Scott was tired of trying. All that ever seemed to do was make it seem like the hurt they all felt should be fading; that it didn't matter. Like they should be over it, even though none of them were and might never be.
Instead of speaking, Scott walked over and inspected the turkey. He circled it once before leaning down to peer at it. "Do you suppose it would fit in the dryer?"
John blinked, once, than twice. "Dryer? What for?"
"I saw it on an old TV show once. They were cooking a turkey in a dryer because it didn't fit in the oven."
"Did it work?"
"If you count the dryer exploding as working." Scott offered a small half grin. "But then at least we'd know what to get Grandma for Christmas, right?"
John laughed, scrubbing at his eyes with the sleeve of his hoodie. His brother looked much younger than thirteen, suddenly, and Scott could have hugged him but didn't because he knew John never much liked it. Scott settled instead on ruffling blond hair so it stood up all over.
"Thanksgiving isn't about the food you know." Someone had to say it, and Scott figured it might as well be him. After all, there wasn't really a way to salvage any of this that he could see, so the point had to be made.
"I know. I just…it doesn't feel right around here."
Scott didn't have the heart to tell his younger brother that a little cooked turkey wouldn't fill the hole in their house, no matter how much they all wanted it to. Instead, he picked up the pot of potatoes and made a face at the mess. John was right, though, it didn't really feel like the holidays without their mother cheerfully humming as she dashed around throwing up decorations or filled the kitchen with wonderful smells while laughing with Grandma. The house just felt so much more empty without her than the lack of one person should.
He dumped the potatoes in the garbage. "Why don't you come play football with us, Johnny? I know you don't like it, but maybe just this year you can try it? We…I'd really like it if you hung out with us. We've missed you."
More surprised blinking from John, who looked a bit like a startled one eyed white rabbit. "Missed me? I haven't gone anywhere."
How did you explain that it wasn't that he had physically left, but that there had always been walls between them? John had spent so much time up in his room lately, or sitting silently not even pretending to pay attention to what they were saying that he might as well have not even been there. He missed the John that was always coming up with crazy ideas, sitting and really listening to everything that was said. Scott wanted that brother back, and John's attempt to bring them all together for dinner might, maybe, be that brother reaching out. If he could, Scott would reach back.
Borrowing from John's book, Scott shrugged one shoulder at him. "Come and play with us, Johnny, or at least referee. You could even play on Gordon and I's team, if you wanted. Just…just come out and play with us."
"You really are going to play football?" And John half-smiled at him, the best Scott had seen in a while. "There's, like, three feet of snow outside."
"That's what makes it even better. We'll all get cold and soaked, and then come in and make sandwiches and we can play Monopoly and have my game on in the background. It will be fun. What do you say?" Scott willed John to say yes, trying with his eyes to reach into his brother's brain and get him to relent. To have him, even if it was just for one day, seem almost touchable.
Somehow, Scott's pleading must have gotten through as John glanced up only briefly before nodding slowly. "I'll make hot cocoa; we can take it out with us. But I want to be on Virgil and Alan's team. Virgil is a much better blocker than you'll ever be."
He couldn't stop the grin that split his face, and Scott scooped up several bowls from the counter to toss them as well. "You're going to wish he was when I get my hands on your scrawny butt."
"You just try it. I've got a few tricks up my sleeve myself. We're playing backyard rules, right?"
"Anything that doesn't kill you goes? Always."
John grinned, and for a heartbeat Scott questioned the wisdom of his invitation. "Excellent."