Virgil paused outside the door to the dining area next to the opening to the pool. The smell of cooking steak wafted through to his nostrils making his mouth water but his stomach clench. Ever since he had gotten up that morning his stomach had been feeling a little off, as if something was swishing around inside, giving him a slightly seasick sensation. It didn't help that there was a rock band practicing in his head either.
Their last rescue had been difficult and there had been major casualties. They had been pulling a large mining crew from a collapsed mine Down Under. Virgil had been the one to go down and search for the unaccounted. He had found multiple men lying dead in various shafts, having been killed instantly when the mine collapsed, but one man in particular had stood out to the middle Tracy. Where all the rest had been in groups of twos or threes, he had been by himself in an abandoned tunnel-like place.
Virgil had stumbled across him, literally, when some of the rocks had moved to reveal the partially hidden cavern. It was only after they had finished and flew the exhausted survivors to safety that Virgil found out that the man was one of three brothers down in the mine. The other two brothers were supposed to have been working in that off-track little hide-away but had gotten transferred at the last moment. Obviously their brother hadn't been told, and when the mine started to fall down, he had gone looking for them in the hopes that they might be alive and safe.
Virgil reckoned that he had wandered for what would have been an unusually long amount of time considering his world was crashing down around him, until finally he had gotten hit by a falling beam and had died without ever finding out his brothers were okay, being rescued and then transported to a local hospital.
It was that night the nightmares started for Virgil Tracy, middle brother of 5. It wasn't long before sickness also started to creep up, mainly from being so run down. There was only one problem: Virgil didn't get sick.
He was the one who looked after the others, a doctor in training, already more knowlegeable than most of the physicians he had met in various hospitals. He looked after others, he didn't need looking after himself; at least that's what he kept telling the voice that popped up regularly in the corner of his head and suggested that he go and talk to Scott, about both the nightmares and his growing feeling of unease, also known as nausea.
Scott had been down in hanger one all morning so he hadn't noticed how off Virgil was, and John was up in Thunderbird 5 watching for impending rescues needed. They were the only two who would have been able to tell that something was wrong; not that Alan or Gordon wouldn't have, they were just easier to avoid.
Speaking of the Terrible Two, they now pushed passed him, rushing to get to the table in order to get first dibbs on the meat when it came out.
They were bickering like an old married couple, and Virgil caught the words 'bathroom door' and 'glue' more than once. Seeing the outrage on Alan's face, almost hidden under his need-to-be-cut blonde hair, he correctly deduced that Gordon had done something to bathroom door which was needed most definitely for necessity. And, if Virgil had correctly read the label on the glue bottle he thought Gordon had used, it would be at least a week before it even started to plan to become unsticky, despite being doused with water.
The two of them were now seated at opposite sides of the table and trying to kick each other in the shins secretly. If watching, you wouldn't be able to tell that Gordon was at least 22 years of age, nor that Alan was going on 21.
Virgil rolled his eyes, winced when the blatently dumb mistake added to his growing headache, and slouched into the room in order to keep his two younger siblings calm until he at least had finished his lunch. Once he was done, he would be going back to his bedroom to sleep and leaving the Terrible Two to his eldest brother Scott.
Scott deserved some mischief and trouble, thought the middle Tracy as he sat down heavily beside Alan, giving Gordon a raised eyebrow in a clear instruction to stop the violence.
Gordon stuck his tongue out but ceased the assult, if only because he didn't want to hit Virgil. His immediate older brother had been known to throw people in the pool now and again. As much as the man loved water, there was just something degrading about getting tossed into the pool with all of your clothes on.
Virgil chuckled at the tongue and leaned back in his seat. There was a thud as his chair legs came back down again when he discovered that swinging on the chair made his abdomen feel even more uncomfortable. A wince crossed his face. Gordon tilted his head to the side slightly.
"You alright, Virge?" he asked, deceptively casual, his thousand-watt cheeky smile plastered across his tanned face. It was obvious that Virgil wasn't alright. His eyes were darkly outlined and his face a pale shadow of what it normally was, even for lunch.
"Did you only just get up?" It was well-known that Virgil Tracy did not like getting up early and a sleep-in 'til noon wasn't unheard of. It might explain why Gordon's older brother looked like something raggedy the cat dragged in. From the rubbish dump.
"I'm fine," Virgil snapped, eyes flashing. When he saw the shock on his red-head brother's face, he was immediately apologetic. "Sorry Gords, just didn't get the best sleep I could have." He snorted at himself and his understatement. He had gotten less than 5 hours sleep last night, having been up and about, doing anything to keep his mind off of his nightmares, which was probably how he had gotten sick in the first place, not enough sleep. Not that he was sick, of course.
Alan frowned. "Why? You're the one who sleeps the most. Are you sick or something?"
Virgil sighed. Trust these two to jump to that conclusion straight away, despite it being true, or at least presumed true. They had gotten sick a lot in their childhoods and couldn't be separated when they were so a week or so later the other would come down with the same illness and the care would be repeated. That was until their father had discovered the wonders of locking the bedroom doors, thus ensuring both boys learned to climb at an early age to reach the second story windows. Jeff Tracy could never figure out how both of them would manage to get sick, despite one being in quarentine.
"Virge's sick?" Scott's voice by the door made Virgil jump and whirl around, forgetting about the pain in order to see his brunette brother. Scott had clearly been trying to creep into the room quietly and sneak up on Virgil and had overheard the last question of Alan's.
He strode over to his younger brother and stuck a recently scrubbed, oil-smelling hand on Virgil's forehead, looking concerned. Virgil leaned into it for a second feeling the coolness on his face before remembering where he was and batting it off impatiently.
"Don't touch the hair!" he mock-growled, attempting to remove the train of conversation from his well-being. Virgil didn't like being the center of attention particularly. Scott's raised eyebrow showed that he had seen right through the guise.
"I didn't touch your hair. And I don't hear you denying that you're not feeling very well," he warned, knowing now that something was going on. Gordon and Alan shut up from the snapping match they had started when Virgil hadn't answered Alan's question and looked up.
"But Virge doesn't get sick," said Alan blankly. Scott sat down next to his brother at one end of the table, staring worridly into his eyes, as if trying to look for the fever he had felt through the hand-to-head contact.
"No, he doesn't," he murmered to himself.
"No he does not indeed," replied Virgil even though Scott's statement wasn't meant for a response. "Which is why I'm not sick. And why you all can leave me alone and stop pestering me." His hands were slammed down on the table palm down and frowned at his family, leaning forward in his chair.
Scott looked at him flatly, no doubt going to reprimand him for his attitude, sick or not. Alan frowned slightly and Gordon opened his mouth, most likely to make some smart-ass comment about how much he felt left out and how Virgil needed looking after anyways, but all this was halted in its tracks when the Tracy patriarch strode purposefully into the room and sat down opposite Scott. This left Virgil and Alan sitting next to each other, Jeff and his eldest at either ends and Gordon next to his dad.
Jeff smiled at his boys until realising that none of them had maintained their gaze and had returned their stares to the middle Tracy son. He raised an eyebrow, a habit that had been passed onto Scott.
"Everything alright, Virgil?" he asked curiously.
"Everything is FINE," snapped Virgil sulkily, removing his hands from the table and crossing them across his chest.
"Okay spitfire, just asking," he chuckled in response, letting it go. Virgil had just denied his own words by using the tone of voice he only used when getting over-mother-henned by Scott, and if Scott was smothering him, it meant something was wrong. Jeff decided to wait until Virgil was ready to say something and eat lunch in the meantime.
Onaha came out with a tray piled with a giant bowl of salad and smaller bowls in a pile, one for each male at the table.
"Would some of you lot come and help me bring out the rest of the lunch?" When Gordon and Alan jumped up, Virgil forgotten, she pointed back into the kitchen. "There are plates for each of you... oh, and a jug, could you get that Alan?"
"Sure thing, Onaha." Both hunger-driven boys almost ran through the door and onto the tiles, only slowing down when Jeff yelled after them to calm themselves or risk sliding into the fridge after falling on the tiles. It wouldn't be the first time.
While the two youngest were out of the room, Virgil turned to Scott and whispered in an undertone that he really was fine. Scott looked at him sceptically before sighing and nodding once, letting it go until further notice, or at least until they were alone when he could cajole the true information out of his younger brother.
"Virgil," called Jeff over the table, Virgil's head shooting up to make eye contact. "What's your sleeping bag and pillow doing down in the room with the piano? I almost tripped over it on my way to speak to Johnny on the Plasma this morning." He looked annoyed. "Can you move it after lunch, please." It wasn't a question. Now he had seen that Scott was going to deal with whatever was up with his middle son, he felt he could get down to some matters that were bothering him, preferably before the lunch came out of the kitchen.
Virgil nodded silently in answer. Jeff looked appeased and turned to Scott to start discussing why he had washed his hands but not changed out of his oily clothes. Scott reluctantly admitted that he had lost track of time and only just made it up here for lunch.
Virgil's gaze returned to the table-top, one arm wrapped around his stomach.
Gordon and Alan came back in in record time bringing two plates at a time each and setting them down first in front of Virgil, Scott, Jeff and then at their own places at the wooden table. All males set upon the meat ravonously, keeping conversation all the while, with the exception of one.
Virgil sat placidly and silently, fork in one hand, literally picking at his food and pushing it around his plate. He hadn't taken any salad. His stomach was starting to redo the queazy thing it had began that morning, making him feel as if something were doing flips in his abdomen. Onaha frowned.
"Is the steak not to your liking, Virgil?" She asked and the look on her face could only be described as hurt. Virgil glanced up quickly, yanked out of his nauseous thoughts and found everyone at the table looking at him, conversation dead with the realisation that their brother and son wasn't eating.
"No, no!" He replied hurridly, watching as her face lost the sadness. "It's just..." He paused for a second. His stomach made an exceptionally large flip and bile rose at the back of his throat. He swallowed convulsively and one hand teetered towards his mouth.
"Excuse me," he gasped and ran out of the room, one hand firmly over his mouth the other tightly wrapped around his abdomen. Scott and his father looked at one another and then both leapt up from their seats as well.
Gordon got up too, but on his way out Jeff waved him down.
"Virgil doesn't need too many of us there," called the head Tracy as he followed Scott along the hallway and up the stairs. Gordon say back down grumpily and picked up his fork.
"Like he wants any of us there anyway," he muttered before pushing his plate away and stood to leave. "I've lost my appetite." He nodded to Ohana, uncharacteristically serious for once, only seen when someone was in I'm-sick-or-hurt kind of trouble.
Alan sat where he had frozen at Virgil's mad dash to most likely the bathroom.
"Virgil!" Someone on the other side of the clearly locked door yelled at the male crouched over the toilet. "Let us in!"
Virgil coughed the residue of the sick from his mouth and croaked back, "I locked it for a reason."
There was silence now from the other side, as if the two eldest Tracy's were discussing with their eyes what they should say next. It's probably likely, thought Virgil as he groaned. Those two are as close as berries and the straw which accompanies the term at the front.
"Virgil, open the door." That was Jeff, calm as ever, as one had to be to be in the rescue business. This wasn't a request either, it was an order, and a stern-toned one at that. Jeff was obviously worried. He tended to get like that when he was. Scott, however, was more the frantic type...
"Virge, open up!" There was banging as an overprotective brother threw himself at the door. "We need to see if you're okay!" Point proven.
Smother-hen, snickered Virgil before his stomach made another leap and the white porcelain bowl filled his whole vision. He blocked out everything else.
His ears were surrounded by ringing, he couldn't tell if it was from inside his head or from the door where one of the elder Tracy's could be overriding the locking mechanism. He wouldn't put it past them.
Another blank formed in his short-term memory as bile rose again, unrelentive, and spilled out of his mouth. He was feeling absolutely miserable.
There was a thump as if someone had thrown a punch at the wall separating the sick Tracy from the worried-out-of-their-mind Tracy's, and then there was beeping. "Damn," was muttered before the door slid open automatically with a woosh and a blue-shirt rushed in.
Virgil didn't see who it was, nor did he try to stop them from coming in, or even protest. He was tired, much too tired. His head was lolling on his shoulders and his body felt like jelly or possibly over-boiled noodles, he couldn't decide which in his common bewilderment.
All of a sudden the minimal amount of strength he had and was exerting to keep himself upright disappeared like the sun going behind a cloud, only Virgil knew it probably wouldn't come back for a while.
He moaned and shivered, his face going on a direct downward course into the water and sick in the bowl. A face-plant, he thought unhappily, but just before his forehead touched the unclean surface, a hand came out of nowhere and slipped between it and the porcelain. Another hand landed gently on his back and both worked in unison to pull him away from the toilet.
The hand on his back rubbed softly and soft words were murmured in his ear, something about it being 'Okay' and 'Stay back, Father'. It seemed it was Scott, but that was all Virgil could discern from the muddled pool in his brain, barely filtering the words through his unworking ears. He heard his name over and over again, Virge, Virge, Virge.
He opened his eyes realising that he had closed them. He was now leaned against the wall, Scott crouching in front of him, hands on both of Virgil's shoulders holding him upright where he would have most definitely slid down the white walls were it not for his support. Scott's cobalt-blue eyes were wide and worried.
'Mother-hen mode,' Virgil groaned to himself. 'Well, at least this time I probably look bad enough to be mothered.' It was only when Scott moved one hand up to Virgil's cheek and tapped it gently that Virgil became aware that his eyes had shut again.
"Virgil, keep your eyes open, okay? Dad's gone to get Brains, he should be back soon." Scott stroked Virgil's cheek with his thumb, comforting him in the way only Scott could.
"Dontneedhim," he mumbled, eyes at half mast. Scott frowned and leaned in closer, trying to decipher the unintelligable word, or was it more than one?
"What was that?" Virgil cleared his throat.
"I said, I don't need him. It's just a bug of some sort." He coughed twice and raised his head until it was as far back as it could go. "I'll be fine." Scott smiled grimly when he realised that Virgil had at least refrained from saying that he was fine, when he clearly wasn't.
"Good to see you won't lie to my face," he muttered under his breath. To Virgil he replied, "You're getting checked out anyway. I haven't seen you this sick since that time you ate all of John's chocolate in one sitting and then went for a swim in the pool." Virgil managed a smile as well.
"Gordon was out for my head after I threw up in there and John was just about the same when he found all the wrappers," he chuckled before groaning. Scott resumed his stroking of his younger brother's cheek with his thumb.
"But I hauled you out before they both jumped on you." Virgil closed his eyes and smiled a soft smile, this one more of love than of amusment.
"You always protected me, Scooter," he said softly. His honey-brown eyes opened again and he looked into the concerned blue ones. "Which is why I'm asking not to be taken to the infirmary and not to be looked at by Brains. Please. For me."
Scott looked away. If there was one thing that would have had him doing whatever he was asked it was the combination of Virgil being sick, using his big honey-brown eyes in a puppy-dog manner, and pleading. Virgil was actually pleading not to be looked at. It was not uncommon for him to refuse flat-out to be looked at or go to the infirmary where all of the medical equipment was, but pleading was a new one.
The stubborness was a Tracy trait though, and while Virgil was being as stubborn as he could be, there was one who could match it, having grown up being the eldest. However, Scott Tracy could never so blatently disregard his younger brother's wishes.
"Okay then," he said, turning back to look at the sick Tracy again, who was looking a little better for all the time that had passed. "How about I take you up to your room and you rest for the remainder of the day. I'll have Brains come up this evening to check up on you." Refusing he couldn't do, negotiating however was a different story.
Virgil nodded slowly before reaching one trembling hand to his head.
"Sure thing, Scotty," he agreed tiredly.
Scott smirked to himself. 'And John says I'm no good at bargaining,' he snickered internally, getting into position to move Virgil from his spot against the wall, one hand slipping behind the man's back and the other hooking under his knees. Virgil's hands flailed out, reaching out to grasp at anything to keep himself on the ground.
"I never agreed to you carrying me," he complained grumpily, but he was too exhausted from his bout with the bathroom to do any real damage to his eldest brother.
"Non-negotiable, Virge." Virgil let his head rest against Scott's shoulder. Scott was perfectly strong enough to carry his brother; there wasn't the danger of stopping and having to rest. He could sleep quite easily in this position.
"Whatever Scooter," he mumbled, already halfway gone.
"Just go to sleep Virge." It was the last thing Virge heard before darkness swamped him and comforted his aching body.
Loud cracks sounded. Metal beams smashed. People screamed. Someone kept screaming and continued even when he woke up.
Virgil bolted upright in bed, clasping his chest where seconds ago he was sure he had felt the burning metal of a bullet. Or was it Scott that had been killed this time? Usually it was. Or was it Gordon? Maybe Alan or John.
Virgil didn't know, all he knew was that his chest still hurt and it wasn't from the bullet. In fact it wasn't from anything physical at all, he was sure of that. This was the unmeasureable pain of losing someone loved, someone close enough that you let them into your life indefinately. This was the death of one or all of his brothers.
He shuddered in the pale light. It appeared to be evening and he was in his room. He had a vague notion of being set down on his bed and of someone's shirt being gently tugged out of his sweaty, clasping fingers. And that was it. That was all he remembered of the morning. And now he was scared, more scared than he had been in a long time. Terrified that even in that time he had been asleep something had happened, something unreversible, something that could have torn the very fabric of his being into shreds.
He needed to see his brothers. He needed to see his father. He needed to see Brains, Tin-Tin, Ohana and Kyrano. He needed to see them like he needed air to breathe. And he needed his piano.
His piano had always calmed him down, almost more than Scott ever could have, but not quite. The younger siblings might complain about Scott's slightly over-bearing method of taking care of each and every one of them, but he made them feel loved, important, part of something like nothing else on earth. Virgil supposed it came from being the eldest, being born into that role.
He supposed as he slipped his legs out of bed and stood up, heading out of the door as silent as possible. He was on his way.
There were only two things that could sort him out when he was in this sort of mood: Scott being Scott, or playing his piano. And Scott at the moment was out of the option.
Virgil headed down the hallway, passed his brother's rooms. They wouldn't be in there at this time, they would be at the pool or somewhere like such which was why he couldn't just go and see Scott. It was Scott and only Scott that could calm him down after a nightmare, and very seldom John when he heard the middle Tracy screaming, but none of the youngest he could risk seeing him like this. It was the elder's job to be tough for the youngers and Virgil didn't want them to see their big brother terrified out of his wits by some dreams as well as sick enough to have to be carried to his room by Scott.
Maybe it was his fevered mind, maybe just evening-madness possessing him, but on his way downstairs he walked passed his piano in the piano room. And it was calling to him, as it did most nights when he couldn't sleep or go to Scott at 3 in the morning, until he had finally decided to sleep down there.
The ebony coloured wood, the ivory keys, the hidden whisper of promise that only called to those few who knew how to hear it and bring it to life, bring it into the world so others might enjoy it's melody too.
Virgil sat, noticing that he was wearing his pajamas for the first time since he had come downstairs.
He pulled open the lid and set his long fingers to sit atop the keys. He paused, revelling in the stillness for a moment before the need to hear something, anything, became too much to bear. His fingers flowed over the notes, no music sheet required, playing something he had dubbed 'Mum's Song,' after his mother. His mother.
A small tear formed rapidly at the corner of his eye before overflowing to course down his pale cheek.
More than anything he wished that someone could hear him playing and come and sit with him. Rescue him from the silence in the room that only company can break. At this point he would be happy with anyone, elder brother pride be damned. He wanted someone to listen to him and stay with him and reassure him that he wasn't alone, that nothing was going to happen, that his brothers were safe from a mine half way across the world and yet still in his head. Reassure him that they weren't going to die like that man who did, still searching but not knowing.
In that moment Virgil wanted nothing more than someone to cling to. He was feeling so alone. But of course the others were by the pool and couldn't hear his sweet melody over the splashing of Gordon and the laughing of Alan, of Jeff and Scott discussing the 'Birds. No one could hear him. But Virgil hadn't counted on John. And John had eyes everywhere.
Without him knowing, John patched in quietly to the Plasma screen behind Virgil on the wall and sat in his chair and watching him play. It always gave him great strength to hear his immediate younger brother play the piano, especially the song he was playing at the moment. It was sad and sweet and joyful at the same time, and made John think of his mother again. He had known her, unlike the two youngest who barely knew the woman who gave birth to them. She was just a distant memory for them but not for John.
This song helped John remember the smell of her, the sound of her voice, the feel of her hands as they hugged him and all these feelings made him happy instead of making him miserable like they did his father. He felt happy because this was how he remembered, by thinking about her, and he was happy that he could remember her. He enjoyed thinking about her, it reminded him that he had a mother and what she was like and so he could feel proud that he knew her as well as he remembered.
Finally Virgil stopped playing and turned around. John saw the tear streak on his cheek and his worry immediately went from sub-conscious (why was Virgil playing the piano by himself when everyone else was outside?) to sky-rocketing.
"Virge," he called in a soft voice. Virgil started and whipped his head to face the screen. The blonde was sitting forward in the chair, one elbow on the control panel and his hand holding up his chin.
"John! You're alive!" he called in surprise but John noticed that it was more of a croak. And the 'You're alive!' bit on the end put a bit of a damper on the welcome.
"Virge, are you okay?" he asked concerned and slightly suspicious if truth be told. Something was going on here that he hadn't known about. He did have a pretty good guess if the information he had found the other night was correct.
Virgil nodded but the answering gesture was made useless by his face immediately draining of colour as he stood. John's eyes widened.
"Where's Scott?" When Virgil didn't answer, he tried again only this time louder. "Virgil, where is Scott?"
There was the tiniest sliver of a grin on his face as he replied, "Listening outside the door." He swayed where he stood, his face completely void of any sign of blood. John raised his voice even louder, praying that it would reach his older brother and that Scott could do what he could not.
"SCOTT! Get in here NOW!" He yelled over the channel and crossed his fingers. The eldest Tracy son came through. Literally. He barreled through the sliding door and sprinted across the room to Virgil where his knees were buckling and he was on a direct plummet into the corner of the piano.
Scott grabbed his brother, pulling him to his chest and away from the piano and ground, wrapping his arms around the shaking man.
"Shh," he hushed, rocking the middle Tracy from side to side. "Shh, you're alright, you're okay."
He had been on his way up to Virgil's room to check to see if it was alright for Brains to complete the check when he had heard the piano playing from what he and the others had dubbed 'Virgil's Second Room.' He had been at the door listening, reminiscing as John was about their Mum, when Virgil finished. He had been deciding on whether he had the guts to go into the room after having heard that when John made his decision for him, screaming at him to get in there. Having found Virgil swaying as if on a tightrope, his heart had stopped for a second before he ran to catch him as the younger Tracy almost ended up bouncing off of the piano. He held him in his arms now and a thought came to him.
"John, how did you know to come online at that very moment?" He asked, muffling his voice in the other Tracy's brown hair. He only risked a glance at John when the astronaut answered.
"I don't know," he replied, perplexed. "Scott, what's wrong with him?" Scott sighed deeply, making wisps of the shuddering Virgil's hair blow in different directions.
"I don't know either, Johnny. I don't know." As he reached for his communicator watch on his wrist and called the others, John spoke again.
"Scott, there is something you should know." Scott finally looked into his brother's digital eyes.
"You know what's going on," he stated. It wasn't a question but he was most definitely looking for an answer. John began talking timidly, not sure of the response he would get from the eldest Tracy.
"This isn't the first time Virgil's played Mum's Song this week, or even last week. I've been coming online every night to check and he's been coming down here almost every night, after everyone is in bed and staying here 'till about 3 in the morning by your time before falling asleep beside the piano. Also..."
"What?" Worry was making Scott's temper shorter than usual.
"Scott, he's been checking the heat signature in Thunderbird 5 all the time and I'm willing to bet he's been coming into your rooms at night as well." There was a muffled 'Damn' as Scott remembered previous nights earlier in the week when he had thought he had heard a noise in his bedroom.
"Why didn't you tell us?"
"I thought you were dealing with it! What can I do, I'm stuck in a space station!" Scott smiled grimly. There weren't many things that could tear John away from his love of the stars and make him wish he was back on solid land. This was one of them.
"Apparently save Virgil from bashing his head open on the corner of his beloved piano," he said softly and, at the noise of the door opening and four pairs of feet racing towards them, he looked down at the unconscious boy held in his arms. Virgil would always be a boy to him, his little brother who constantly needed looking after, protecting and getting out of trouble. 'But not as much as having to get Gordon out of trouble,' he mused silently.
As Jeff and the two youngest boys prepared to carry Virgil to the infirmary finally, Scott swept him up in his arms like earlier that morning to the shocked look of everyone else, said goodbye to John, and started to stride out of the room. A comment from John made him freeze momentarily.
"By the way Scott, he seemed to think I was dead. Just in case that's any help. Bye everyone." He included a personal note for Gordon who, last time he was away, had stuck a box of pink feathers above his door so that it would drop on he who first walked in. It couldn't be a she, John always kept his room tidy enough that Ohana didn't have to clean it.
Gordon nodded once and followed the somber procession out of Virgil's Second Room.
Virgil was cold, freezing cold. It was as if he had been dunked in a frozen river like Alan had that white Christmas where he had ended up with serious hypothermia. Funny, the things he was thinking as he lay on the soft surface below him.
He turned his head slightly to the left, still not opening his eyes and winced when a flash of white-hot pain streaked down his spine.
'Add aches and pains to the list,' he thought resigned. It was a long list. His head was still foggy and pounding like a bass drum but thankfully his stomach had settled down somewhat. Small mercies.
A touch to his cheek made him jump in fright. There was a voice talking, a deep voice and one he felt he should recognise but his brain was still filled with slushi.
He moaned quietly in response to whatever was being said and the hand left his cheek only to re-adjust itself on his forehead. The hand was cold, almost as cold as he felt and it was in that moment of heart-stopping relief that he realised he wasn't freezing, he was burning.
His mouth opened, somewhat like a fish, and he gasped, possibly shocked, probably just frightened. Everything around him was on fire, burning to ashes in the immeasureable heat.
The hand started stroking. Virgil noticed that it was rough, calous but tender, as if the owner didn't want to hurt, only comfort. He relaxed, all of his muscles going limp on what he now found to be a bed if he was right, only to tense up again with the renewed heat.
"Virgil." That was his name! Someone was calling his name, calling him. Where were they calling him to? He didn't even have his eyes open yet, but with that understanding, he recognised that the voice was actually trying to call him to open his eyes. The tone of the voice implied immediate response so open his eyes he did.
A blurry figure sat on the left of the bed, a male with brown hair much like his own, and blue eyes. Even through the sludge up top, he knew that it was Scott.
"Scotty," he whispered. The blur's mouth moved and tilted upwards at the corners. Virgil squeezed his eyes shut before opening them in the hope that everything would be clearer. It was.
Scott's cobalt-blue eyes were shadowed and dark in worry and concern. He looked at Virgil, moving closer as if to see him better.
"Hey buddy," he smiled gently. Virgil opened his mouth, much like the gasping motion he had tried before, and closed it again.
"Scotty, it's hot." Scott nodded slowly and surely.
"I know, Virge, I know. Brains has gone to get some medicine for you, okay?" He stroked the sick Tracy's forehead, keeping a continuous rhythm to appease the agitated man.
Virgil wondered in some corner of his brain why Scott was speaking to him as if he were a little child but he knew consciously that Scott had been worried and that his own brain probably wasn't up to deciphering too much just yet.
"Scotty, I don't feel very well." Virgil's stomach had restarted it's gymnastics with a vengence and his face took on a green tint.
Luckily Scott realised what was going to happen before it did and so was able to quickly grab a bowl, roll Virgil on his side gently and help him lean over the edge of the bed to empty the meager contents of his already empty stomach. He rubbed Virgil's back as he dry-heaved into the plastic bowl and thanked Brains for his amazing foresight.
Speaking of Brains, he looked to the door and noticed it was still closed. He wouldn't have been able to hear it open over the pounding in his ears and the screaming worry in his head, of that he was sure, so he routinely glanced to the sliding door just to check.
"It's okay, Virge. You're alright, you're alright." He repeated those several words over and over again in the hope that it might calm the middle Tracy. Needless to say it did, but then when had Scott ever failed to console his closest sibling?
Virgil sighed miserably. It was no fun to be sick, which was the most major understatement of the century. 'At least Scott was alive and well,' he thought before realising just what that meant.
"You're not dead," he said in mild surprise and bluntness once he was rolled back onto the bed properly. Scott did his famous eyebrow raise.
"No, I'm glad to say I'm not." The V formed at the top of his nose as he frowned. "Why would you think that?" Virgil looked away to stare at the opposite side of the bed.
"Oh, just some bad dreams," he said casually. If he hadn't been sick, he would have never gotten away with saying just that and would be pestered and mother-henned until he told. As it was, he thought he was being as much mother-henned as he could possibly get, it surely couldn't get any worse, not that worse was the right word. It seemed however that Scott had some hidden reserves.
"Virge, why didn't you tell me?" There was a pause.
"You don't seem surprised." Virgil was surprised though.
"After John's unannounced help and the things he said to me, I think I can even guess what they were about." He smiled sympathetically. "You know we'll always be here for you." Virgil snorted in disbelief.
"Sure, unless you get killed on a rescue." Seeing as Scott already knew the basics, Virgil could find no harm in letting him in on the rest. But he drew the line at Scott, no one else was to know and he made sure his eldest brother knew that. He told him about the dreams. About how they all died. About how lonely he felt and how much getting reckless looked appealing. About how he had no one left. And he cried while he spilled his soul.
Scott, ever the big brother, gently pulled him up and over to his shoulder, holding him and rocking him, much as he had done earlier in Virgil's Second Room. What really shocked him was that while he held Virgil close to him, the long pianist fingers crept around his back and clung to the back of his shirt in desperation. In all his life, he had never known Virgil to get so clingy. Sure, he was partial to the occasional hug, but clinging was more Alan's forte not Virgil's.
There was the swishing of the door opening, startling them out of their silence, and Brains timidly wandered in. He glanced a question at Scott with his eyes, asking if it were okay to come in and give Virgil the medicine, and Scott nodded once before returning his head to the downward position of watching the brunette buried in his chest.
He have one final rub of the Tracy's back before pulling him away gently and settling him lying down on the bed. Virgil immediately grabbed his hand and clung to it as if for dear life, his eyes shot through with absolute terror.
"Don't leave me," he whispered, all pride having been washed away with his tears.
Scott raised an eyebrow but tucked the hand away against his muscular chest in between his own two hands, pressing it against his heart so that his younger brother could feel the steady beat.
"Still alive, Virge." Virgil closed his eyes and relaxed, letting all of his muscles go limp under Brains's hands. Brains checked for a while, prodding and poking at Virgil's abdomen, his throat and his chest all the while he clung to his brother. He administered the medication, Scott gently lifting his brother up so he could swallow the slightly smelly liquid. Finally he looked up.
"H-he's run d-down, Mr S-S-Scott. You've t-told me that he hasn't b-been s-sl-resting, throwing up and I can c-clearly f-feel the fever so I would s-say that your b-b-Virgil has g-got a form of stomach f-flu."
Scott remembered how to breathe out. They knew how to deal with that. Both he and John, when they had spoken earlier before Virgil had woken up, had thought that it had been something serious. John had been talking about putting Thunderbird 5 on autopilot and coming back down to earth. Scott had managed to convince him otherwise before he contacted Gordon to load up 3 and come and pick him up.
Thinking of John, he had promised to contact him once Brains had had a look at Virgil. Scott gently untangled Virgil's hand from his own and went to lay it beside him on the bed. He stopped when there was a wimper from the middle Tracy, barely audible. Virgil reached to Scott and grabbed his hand again, holding it even tighter than before.
Scott looked at his brother, lying there on the bed, drenched in sweat and drained of colour, and turned to Brains.
"Would you be able to contact John and tell him that Virge's got stomach flu?" Brains's eyes lit up with understanding as he glanced between the two brunette Tracy's. Those two had always been closest to one another, sticking together through everything and most definitely competing over almost everything 'Bird-wise. He nodded.
"Of c-course, Mr Scott." He nodded to himself now and stood to leave, his joints creaking slightly in protest. Scott stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"Brains...thanks." Brains smiled and left, motioning with his hands to the people sitting on the outside of the door to go away. 'Brains will have to tell the others as well,' Scott mused. They had agreed to let one 'baby-sitter' at a time and since Virgil had strongly protested to Scott leaving, even while asleep, they decided (reluctantly) to let him stay. He and John had had their conversation through Scott's watch.
Scott turned to Virge.
"John's gonna be mighty pissed when he finds Brains telling him and not me. I made a promise, but I guess his relief might overweigh his need to murder me." There was no reply from the bed and Scott smiled as he realised that Virgil had fallen asleep long ago, even before Scott had tried to let go of his hand.
'So it's sub-conscious then,' he thought to himself. 'Virge would never admit or try to do that while awake.'
There was a full-blown grin on his face now as he thought about what Gordon would say if he found them like that, holding hands like little girls, once he found out it wasn't serious about Virgil of course.
That night, and every other one when Virgil woke screaming, Scott was right there to hold him and let him cling, but only at nights. There was no telling what it would do to his manly pride if Virgil came up and clung to him in the daytime, not to mention what the Terrible Two would say. The only time daytime clinging was ever allowed was after a dangerous rescue and a near death experience, like this one. After all, Scott's heart had nearly stopped when he found Virgil white-faced and falling to the floor in his second room. He walked Virgil around his brothers bedrooms late at night when Virgil couldn't sleep for fear, and moved his sleeping bag and pillow from Virgil's Second Room to his bedroom where his younger brother was always welcome.
And Virgil never found out how Scott had managed to override the code to his bathroom door. 'Protective brothers,' he guessed, 'can do anything. Even chase away bad dreams like the pigeons in the park.'