Guilt

Virgil Tracy sat on the polished wooden bench overlooking the cliff face. Below him, the rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean crashed like cymbals against the sandy shore. The tropical wind blew lightly through the musician's wavy brown hair, pushing his fringe away from his eyes which stung with unshed tears; tears that his heart wanted him to shed but his more masculine upbringing refused to allow.

Instead, Virgil closed his eyes, rested his elbows on his knees, his fists against his forehead, and counted the seconds between each wave crash: one, two, three, crash; one, two, three, crash; one, two…

"It wasn't your fault, you know," a voice sounded from beside him.

Virgil looked around to find his big brother sitting to his left, still dressed in his International Rescue uniform.

If Virgil was surprised at Scott's sudden appearance, he tried not to show it. Instead, the younger pilot turned and gave his brother a look that betrayed the agonising guilt that he felt. "Then why do I feel so bad about it?"

"Because you're a good person, Virg," Scott answered. "You would have sacrificed your own life if it meant saving someone else's."

"Well me being a 'good person' didn't help on our last rescue, did it?" Virgil said. He took a deep shuddering breath. "I…I... Oh God…I'm sorry Scott."

"Sorry? What have you got to be sorry for?"

"I let you down." Virgil gestured to the villa situated somewhere below them, "I let them all down; Dad, Grandma, John, Gordon…but especially you."

"Virgil, look at me," Scott commanded softly. He waited until his younger brother had lifted his head and was looking hesitantly into Scott's cobalt blue eyes. "Listen to me and listen to me carefully: you did not let me down, you could never let me down, no matter what, remember that."

Virgil held his brother's gaze for a few seconds longer before tearing his eyes away and staring down at beach where he could just make out the figure of his father standing on the shoreline, accompanied by Gordon. The red-haired aquanaut had his head rested on his dad's shoulder and in an unusual show of emotion the Tracy patriarch had his arm around his son, hugging him close. The artist pointed them out. "I may not have let you down, but can the same be said for them? Can you really say that I haven't let them down, they hate me for what's happened?"

Scott shook his head, long dark curls flopping wildly with the vigorous gesture. "They don't hate you Virgil," he said. "They hate what's happened and one day soon they'll understand that and when that day comes you'll be able to go on."

"How can you sit there and say that?"

Scott smiled. "Because I know them, I have faith that International Rescue will prevail no matter what tragedies may befall us, and I believe that deep down inside you know that too, don't you?" The pilot shrugged. "Besides, if I can forgive you, then I'm sure that they can too."

Rocking slowly back and forth on the bench, Virgil closed his eyes, clasped his hair and for an innumerable time went over the disastrous rescue in his head. Images and sounds flashed like lightning through his mind: the rain, the mudslide, John's desperate call for help and Gordon with tears in his normally cheerful looking eyes, begging his big brother to do something, anything. But most of all Virgil pictured himself as he tried desperately to do what he was trained to do: save a life. For longer than he should have done Virgil performed CPR, alternating between chest compressions and attempting to fill his victim's lungs with much needed air. Even when John had put a hand on his shoulder and had – with much difficulty – told him that there wasn't anything else that they could do, Virgil kept going.

It wasn't until his father had interrupted his rhythm over his chronometer watch, commanding that Virgil come to a halt, did the artist finally give in and allow John to pull him out of the mud and take him back to Thunderbird Two, though it was with great reluctance.

Finally, the artist opened his eyes. He sighed deeply. Down below Gordon and Jeff had disappeared from the beach and Virgil surmised that they had gone back to the villa. The sun was just beginning to set over the horizon, leaving the sky an amazing trail of colours from warm amber to fiery scarlet to electric yellow, each hue swirling together effortlessly and Virgil was surprised to find that he just couldn't appreciate their beauty, no matter what the artist inside him thought.

What he wasn't surprised about though, was that he was once again alone on the bench.

The pilot finally allowed the tears that he had been holding inside to fall. "I'm sorry, Scott," he whispered, voice laced with anguish. "I just can't forgive myself. Maybe one day I will, but I doubt it, because I have to live the rest of my life knowing that I…I…" He buried his face in his hands. "I didn't save you."

"Virgil?" a soft voice came from behind him. The artist turned to see John coming towards him. The astronaut sat down on the bench beside him. "Why are you up here all alone? Everyone's worried about you."

Eyes red raw Virgil gestured at the inscription on the golden plaque that was nailed to the bench: In loving memory of Scott Carpenter Tracy. Loving son, brother and leader, you aimed so high and you never let us down, RIP. "I came to apologise," he said, "But I don't think it worked.

John put his arm around Virgil and pulled him into a hug. "That's because you have nothing to be sorry for; it wasn't your fault you know, what happened at the mudslide."

"Yeah, that's what he 'said.'"

"That's what who said?"

"Nothing, John, it doesn't matter. Just don't leave me."

The blonde astronaut rested his head on his older brother's shoulder. "I'm not going anywhere." He gestured towards the plaque, "and neither has he – not really."

"I know," Virgil replied softly, resting his chestnut hair atop John's blond locks.

The two brothers sat quietly side by side, watching the sun set. Each of them lost in their own memories and Virgil trying desperately to relieve himself of the immense guilt that he felt.

He just couldn't do it. The pilot didn't know whether it was because it was just too hard or that he wasn't ready yet.

Maybe one day soon he would be.

"Forgive me, Scotty," Virgil whispered almost silently.

But not today.

It was just too painful.

End.

*Looks around guiltily* Um, did I mention that this was a death fic?

Apparently this is the type of story I write when I'm slightly bored in one of my University classes.

Boredom + University = Angst and death, who knew?