A/N: Thanks for sticking with this, guys! I promise we'll be getting to the IR and Thunderbirds bits of this soon. Just have to do a little more world setting up. The same rule still applies: If you are confused, just ask so we can clear it up. Also, it should be noted that it is primarily for John and Gordon's mouths that this gets the rating it does.

John is…breaking out of the previous style a bit. Because if I can't give you even a glimpse of what he's thinking, he tends to come across as a complete bastard and I don't want that, even though he can be and I love him for it. And, yes, he is being horrifically unfair to Jeff. I promise, he isn't as bad as he comes across here. John is just extremely biased and makes no effort to hide it. Hopefully, with more view points, you'll get a more fair picture of him.

Finally, would anyone like to see drawings of how the boys will look in this universe? While similar to the puppets, they aren't exactly the same, and I could do some sketches and put them on my DA page if anyone wants to see. That is all.

Thunderbirds: Millennium

Episode 1: Paying the Piper

As long as John could remember, he had survived primarily on oxygen and juice. Solid food just wasn't something he cared much for, and vitamin infused smoothies were more his thing. It had surprised and delighted him to see that Memaw, after a long hug and exclamations of how he obviously wasn't taking care of himself, had made him exactly what he always loved.

Jefferson had been less than pleased with his special menu, but since when did Jefferson approve of anything he did? It wasn't like John had ordered it or anything. And, yes, maybe taking long slow sips of it while watching the man's lips get progressively thinner in annoyance had been a little overboard, he could admit that. Nothing about this situation was normal, though, and if Jefferson was going to drag him away from Houston and everything he loved then John felt he was under no obligation to behave himself.

Wouldn't be like Jefferson to give him time off for good behavior, anyway. Not where money was involved.

Once the sandwiches, tomato soup bowls, and one glass of blueberry pomegranate juice were empty, Jeff had dismissed the boys in order to speak with his mother alone. John had hoped this would mean the first few moments to himself since Jefferson had shown up, but no such luck as Scott slipped into step immediately behind him and followed him out into the living room.

Nothing had changed in these rooms for the last decade. It was all the same furniture with its dark wood, faded cloth, and indentations from the bodies that always sat in the same places. The same outdated television that they kept for the hook-ups and John's own refurbished game consoles tucked neatly into the entertainment center underneath the flat screen. There was even the same smell of apple pie floating in the air. It was probably imbedded in the walls because their Grandmother made it so often.

Just for the sake of forcing something in this room to not be so chokingly the same, John dropped into the green recliner by the window that had always been Virgil's seat. John could swear the thing had pencils sticking through the cushions, and preoccupied himself with digging his hand between to find them.

Scott dropped down into his usual position on the edge of the blue-grey couch that nearly exactly matched John's eyes and forced a smile onto his face. "Can't seem to keep yourself out of trouble, can you?"

A simple shrug was all John could really find to say to that, and he frowned a little. Why was it with his family that words never seemed to be the right answer?

"I take it you don't want to talk about it?"

"No, not really. But I'd do it again." It felt important to say that last bit aloud, loud enough that he hoped Jefferson would hear it. Because some things in this world were worth three million dollars, and John's freedom, a hundred times over and there would be no hesitation if he was called to hit that button again.

"That's…" Scott trailed off; obviously uncertain of the adjective he wanted. "Fair, I guess."

John watched his older brother slump slightly, all the fight seeming to drain out of him, and John couldn't help frowning. The room was the same, maybe, but Scott wasn't. He looked older now, and tired. Not in his face, which was still as handsome as ever, damn him, but in the defeated turn of his shoulders and the stiffness of every movement.

Now that John was thinking about it, he couldn't see why Scott was even at the old farmhouse in the first place. Hadn't the military claimed his soul all those years ago, so he couldn't be around here anymore? Hadn't he gotten his wings and flown away from this hell as fast as he could go, without ever looking back at those he'd left behind? What was he doing back here?

Something big must have happened in the last seven years, and though he wanted to know, John didn't ask. Because if he asked, then Scott would ask him back, and John wasn't ready to talk about it. Not yet, maybe not ever.

"You're looking pretty good, Johnny." Scott's smile was a bit more genuine this time as he got up and began pacing. "Better than I've seen you in a long time."

This was ironic, as Scott hadn't even seen him at his worst, but John didn't say that either. Instead, he calmly shrugged and said, "you look old."

"Thanks." But Scott sounded more amused than angry with him, and John didn't quite manage to stop the half-smile before it slipped passed him. His older brother seemed to take this for a victory as his grin relaxed and his shoulders lifted a bit. "What do you think Dad meant by making a difference in the world?"

This time, John's shrug was genuine. "No idea, to be honest. Jefferson hasn't spoken much since we left Houston. Wouldn't let me turn on music, either, which makes for a very long nine hours."

"No doubt. You've really got yourself in hot water this time, Johnny. Wonder if you'll taste good with butter."

It was a lame joke, and John couldn't help wincing at it. "Probably not great. I'm somewhat gamey you know. It'd have to be a least garlic butter."

Scott laughed, which seemed to startle them both, and John turned his head to look out at the rain that had started falling sometime during lunch. It couldn't be this simple to fall back into their old banter, could it? After everything they'd done to each other, was it really so simple as just talking?

The silence between them turned a little awkward, and Scott turn to look out the window with a soft sigh. "Gordon was in an accident."

"I saw it on the news." John winced at how calloused that sounded. He'd wanted to call, but he'd lost Gordon's number long ago, and anyway he'd had his own problems at the time. "They said he was doing well, at a secure location away from the public."

"The island. Virgil's put his schooling on hold to look after him."

Maybe there was an accusation in there, maybe not, but John chose not to deal with that right now. "How's Alan doing?"

"As well as kid that lives thousands of miles away from civilization when not at school would be expected to." Scott sighed, and John got the impression that that was something his older brother and Jefferson had discussed before. From the look on his face, Scott had lost. "Don't get me wrong, he does well enough, I guess. Spends a lot of time on video chat with his friends from school, and causing havoc when he's not doing that. Virgil says he's glad the kid's only home a few months out of the year."

John laughed slightly, pulling his knees up to his chest to rest his chin on and wrapping his arms around them. "Sounds like typical Alan."

That horrible silence again that echoed with everything that wasn't being said.

"We've missed you, John." For the first time in this conversation, Scott sounded truly pained. "Seven years, that's a long time to not even hear from someone. You never called, wrote, anything. For all we knew, you were lying in some unmarked grave somewhere."

"I wasn't." Obviously, as he was sitting here now, staring out the window as it started to rain. "Jefferson made it very clear that he wanted nothing more to do with me. I guess I just…" He shrugged again. Scott was looking for honesty, and the truth was even John didn't know why he'd never even tried to contact his brothers in all that time. It wasn't like his quarrel was with them, and he'd missed them too. Maybe at first he'd been ashamed, and after that, when things were better, maybe it just felt wrong after so long to try and burst back into their lives.

Scott was going to say something, but Jefferson striding into the room and his very presence demanding their attention, as it always did, stopped him.

"Step into my office, boys. I have something to show you."

There was no choice but to comply, though John kept his head down the whole time. He was familiar enough with this office to find a chair without looking; a good portion of his teenage years had been spent in this office with his father demanding explanations for his behavior and never once listening to what John was trying to tell him.

It was a fairly boring room, in truth. A large desk, with dual monitors and a videophone and very little else that wasn't correctly filed. Two pictures in frames, one his parent's wedding picture, and the other a family picture not long after Alan was born, were the only decorations on it. Five chairs, always five, sitting in front of the desk were the only other pieces of furniture in the room.

Scott sat in the seat directly across from Jeff, and John took the one as far to the left as possible, resuming the knees to chest position he'd just been in.

"Alright, first I'm going to show you something, and then I'll explain a bit more what this is all about. I apologize for the secrecy, but you'll soon see why it's necessary."

The lights clicked off and a large screen slid down from the wall to the right, and somewhere above John's head a projector clicked on. A screen, white except for a logo and two words appeared. The logo was the world as seen from space, overlaid with an out stretched hand. The part that would be its arm pointed upwards, with the letters IR written on it. Below this was written 'International Rescue' in a bold black font.

"Welcome to International Rescue," a distinctly British female voice said. Scott perked up, and John couldn't help uncurling slightly. "We are an organization dedicated to those struck with natural disasters, who would otherwise be unable to help themselves."

The screen changed rapidly after that. First a shot of a blue rocket with a red nose cone blasting through the air, it sleek design taking John's breath away. He'd always loved machines, and what he was seeing now was incredible. A green behemoth of a ship, looking more alien than anything, starting its engines on a runway. They were going faster now. Some kind of yellow digging machine with a drill on the front that spun, another yellow machine of some kind that was putting out a fire, and a red rocket, tall and sleek, that could only be meant for space travel that made John's fingers itch to touch and his heart hammer in his chest.

Over all of this, the woman had kept talking. "Using our advanced technology, International Rescue proposes to be the first, and only, organization of its kind."

The screen changed again, flashing shots of different disasters. Some John was familiar with, like the tsunami that had struck several Asian countries the year before, and an earthquake in the Midwest that had destroyed most of the civilization in the state of Utah a few years before. Others were older shots, judging from the picture quality, of disasters John knew less well. All were scenes of destruction, of loss, and mourning people.

"Natural disasters hurts all of us equally. International Rescue is designed to come to the aid of people in grave danger, without regard for nationality or political ties. Our sole concern is preserving human life, for once that is gone it cannot be returned."

John couldn't help glancing at the pictures on the desk, but looking away just as quickly when he saw Jefferson watching him.

A shot of the Earth from space, a real picture, with the International Rescue logo slowly coming in over it. "Thank you for your interest in International Rescue, and welcome aboard."

The lights came back on, and John blinked rapidly at the sudden change.

"This is just a rough start, of course, and the theatrics are all Virgil. He was very angry with me that I was going to show you before he's finished it." Jeff's voice was somewhere between amusement and exasperation. "But you can get the basic gist of what we're going for. Now, tell me, what do you boys think?"