Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I do not own the Thunderbirds or International Rescue. They were created by Gerry Anderson and the rights are owned by ITV. I am merely borrowing them. I only own my ideas and any other characters in this story.
Many heartfelt thanks to my lovely beta-reader for her advice.
How the hell had it come to this? What the hell was he supposed to do now?
He was the one who rescued the victims. He was the one who calmed the frightened, eased the worries of the hurt, led the trapped to safety. Now the tables had turned and he was the one who needed rescuing. The world had caved in on him and was refusing to let go. He breathed in and out, shallow little breaths that barely stirred the dirt that lay gritty under his cheek. He couldn't take a deep breath, couldn't move a muscle. Not when a flinch was enough to send barbs of pain shooting up from his forearm, burning his biceps, stabbing into his shoulder.
How had it gone so wrong? It was supposed to have been a straightforward rescue. A couple of teenage boys had been exploring a long-abandoned mine when the ground had given way, dropping the boys and a couple of buildings into a forgotten underground tunnel. He and Gordon had flown over to the old Queensland goldfields in Thunderbird Two and had seen for themselves the sinkhole that marred the landscape. He'd landed his 'bird beside Thunderbird One before joining Scott to get his plans for the rescue.
They had gained access to the tunnel and Scott had winched him down first; Gordon following soon after. Together they had made their way to the rock fall and cleared a small access hole to reach the boys. He had found both boys half buried under an unstable pile of rotten wood, sheets of corrugated iron, rocks and dirt of debris, with more dirt raining down on them from the sides of the sinkhole each and every time they moved.
Luckily neither of the kids had been killed. Nor had they suffered major injuries, a minor miracle in itself. He had freed them, assessed them and then helped them through the cleared space to Gordon on the other side. He'd gone back to get the first aid bag when a loud creak echoed around the chamber and before he knew it his own world had caved in.
The rubble under him had shifted suddenly and more debris had fallen from above. He slipped down sideways and a loud crack reverberated around him. For a second, there was silence. For that second he didn't dare breathe, didn't dare think about that sound. But he knew what it meant. His brain registered the memory at the same time as the pain hit. And it hit hard. It slammed into him, stealing the breath from his lungs and momentarily sending rational thought into orbit.
So here he was.
A broken arm. That meant weeks off work, weeks of physio and no piano. Shit.
But what's done is done, he thought to himself. Better to assess the situation and see what he could do about getting himself out of here.
He was lying on his right side on a pile of dirt and rubble and he could feel a heavy weight across his hip. His left arm was elevated high, obviously still where it had been before he'd fallen. Leave that arm for now, it was broken. What else hurt? A quick check revealed no other hot spots of pain, so just the broken arm.
He rotated his right arm carefully from the elbow until his fingers found his left shoulder. Tracing along the arm he got as far as his left elbow before he felt something that gave him pause. Something large was lying on his arm. He moved his hand around, feeling over the rough surface. A rock. It was too dark to see how big it was, but it felt big. Certainly too big for him to move, given the position he was in. Damn. He was going to have to wait for Gordon or Scott to get him out. He sighed, they'd never let him live it down.
Maybe the rock wasn't so big, maybe it was just the position it was in. Was the rock pressing on his hand or was his hand free?
He couldn't feel his hand.
That's not right, he thought. He must be able to feel something. It was the pain in his forearm, he reasoned. It was blocking all feeling from his hand. If he wriggled his hand, he would feel the fingers moving; he would feel the textures under his fingertips. Pain screamed up his arm at the attempt, forcing a gasping moan from his lips.
Realisation hit with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. He couldn't feel his hand! Shit! His heart tripped into overdrive, thudding heavily against his ribs, pounding loudly in his ears as his breath quickened, his mind blanking for a moment. Adrenaline shot through him. He had to get his arm out. Then he would see it was OK. Then he would be able to feel again. It was only because his hand was squashed.
Squashed? Wrong choice of words he admonished. Stuck...that was it...just...stuck.
He shook with an adrenaline rush that brought forth a thousand images, causes, reasons, all blazing through his mind at warp speed. Slow down, he reminded himself. Think this through before jumping off the deep end. He took a moment to slow his breathing, get his emotions under some semblance of control.
Why couldn't he feel anything? What possible explanation could there be? Nerves...the nerves weren't relaying the signals. He knew there must be some nerve damage for all sensation in his hand to be lost. Despite the advances made in the past decade, nerves did not heal well, everybody knew that. Anxiety kicked in again and ratcheted up a notch.
He hated his sudden weakness. He was a Tracy son and Tracy's did not show weakness, they certainly did not show fear. He pushed the panic away; there was no time for that now. He had to get himself under control before his brothers came to get him out of this mess.
He needed to contact Scott, or John, or Gordon, but his communicator was on his left wrist and he couldn't reach it. Would it still work? Brains had made them pretty resilient, but they were just metal casings and circuits after all.
Gordon. Had Gordon managed to get himself and the two boys out before the ground had collapsed? Were they safe? He hoped so.
"Virgil! Are you okay?"
Scott's voice. From his wrist comm. The one he needed to push a button on to respond. The one he couldn't reach. Seemed it was still working after all.
He wasn't sure how long he lay there listening to Scott's increasingly worried voice until a different sound roused him to full alert. He strained to hear if the noise was repeated.
There...a small rattle of stones, a rhythmic scrape of metal on rock and after a while he could hear Gordon's voice. He seemed to be calling from a long way off, but it was unmistakeably Gordon. He wanted to call back, let him know he was here, but he didn't think it was a good idea. He couldn't see how much rubble was above him and yelling in the enclosed space may be just enough to loosen it and send it crashing down on top of him. So he waited, listening to the digging noises getting closer. Finally, a quick shower of dirt rained on his face and a narrow beam of light played over the rock.
"Virgil! Are you there?"
"I'm here, Gordon," he called back.
"Thank goodness. Why didn't you use your wrist comm?"
"I can't reach it. My arm is stuck."
"OK buddy," Gordon answered. "Hang in there; we'll get you out in jiffy. I've just got to clear a bigger space so we can get through."
Virgil heard more scraping noises and then a hand on his leg startled him, causing him to jerk. The white hot shaft of pain up his arm caught him by surprise and he was unable to stop a yell escaping his throat.
"Virgil, are you hurt?" Scott's voice again, but this time from close by, not from his wrist comm.
"Yeah. I think my arm is broken."
There was a moment's silence before Gordon answered.
"We're nearly there Virg, another minute and we should be through." Then Gordon spoke again, only quieter as if he was facing away. "Stop pushing, Scott, I'm working as fast as I can."
True to his word, it wasn't long before Gordon managed to work his way over toward him, the miner's light on his helmet shining directly into his face.
"OK, which arm is stuck and which one is broken?"
"My left," Virgil squinted against the bright light as Scott worked his way into the cramped space as well.
"Are you hurt anywhere else?"
"No," he shook his head as Scott took charge.
"Right, here's what we're going to do. Gordon, if we move some of this smaller stuff first, then we can get this beam off Virgil without bringing anything else down. That should give us enough room to get around and check out that rock."
Virgil tried to be patient while his brothers worked in the cramped space. He was so used to doing the work himself that he found it hard to wait patiently now the situation was reversed. Eventually his brothers had cleared enough space to move around and the heavy weight of the beam was lifted off him.
"Alright Virgil, we just have to get this rock off your arm now and then we can get you out of here," said Scott who had quickly reassessed the situation and decided on the next plan of attack. "There doesn't seem to be anything else leaning on it so it looks safe to move."
Virgil clamped his teeth against the inevitable increase in pain, but at least he would see what was wrong with his hand. Then again, he wasn't entirely sure that he did want to see what was under the rock.
With lots of grunting and the occasional curse, Scott and Gordon managed to haul the rock off his arm and Virgil heard someone suck in a breath.
"Oh Christ, Virg," Scott's incredulous voice chased away the last remnants of hope that Virgil hadn't been aware he still had.
"What?" He had to ask, tried to lift his head to see but Gordon's hand stayed him.
"Don't look," he said.
Oh fuck. What was wrong? A random image, so horrifying he couldn't fully grasp it skittered through his mind. Maybe his hand was so badly damaged it was beyond repair? He couldn't contain himself any longer; he had to know.
"What is it? How bad is it?"
"It's pretty bad Virgil, I won't lie to you," Scott handed him the Penthrox inhaler that resembled a green whistle from the first aid bag on his back. "Better use this. We have to move your arm and it's going to hurt like a son of a bitch. Both bones are broken so it's unstable as hell."
"But my hand...what about my hand?"
"Your hand? Looks fine. Why?"
"Because I can't feel it."
The sudden silence was so complete Virgil swore he could hear his heart thumping in his chest.
"Nothing?" Gordon asked.
"Maybe it's not as bad as you think, Virgil," said Scott, the optimist.
Virgil shook his head. Broken bones had sharp edges that could cut through the soft tissues of an arm, soft tissue like nerves. But he grasped Scott's words like a life-line. He hoped Scott was right and his arm wasn't as bad as his brain was telling him.
Take one thing at a time, he reminded himself. His brothers were going to have to move his arm, so he concentrated on inhaling the pain killer. Pretty soon he was dopey enough to hear Scott and Gordon talking and working, but didn't care enough to listen to what they were saying. This was a good place to be, he decided. His arm didn't hurt so much when he was floating along on a wave of narcotics.
He was lying on the pool deck of Tracy Island, the sun warming his skin and he was pleasantly sleepy. He wanted to stay here forever, just lying in the sun.
Something was tapping his cheek. An insect. Damn insects on this island. Shoo fly. Maybe if he ignored it, it would go away.
"Virgil! Virgil, are you still with us?"
Scott's voice calling him. Scott was always calling him for something. He nodded his head. Yeah, I'm here. A thought, not verbalised.
"Virgil, you're not deep enough, you need more pain relief, keep sucking."
Oh God. His hand.
Reality intruded and he was back underground. He felt the green whistle against his lips and heard another order to use it.
Scott again. Giving him orders. Yet Virgil obeyed just as he always did. He inhaled more pain relief and darkness overtook him.
Pain. Burning every atom in his body.
Pain unlike anything he'd ever felt before.
Pain like hot daggers searing through him.
Somewhere in the distance someone screamed in pain. Poor sod.
He was floating. No, he was swaying.
A gentle swaying motion, almost like a ship on the ocean.
His hammock on the island. He was back home.
He had memory of a nightmare. How odd. What was it? Something about his hand?
His mind snapped to full alertness and he opened his eyes to the sight of Gordon working the hand winch. That explained the swaying. He was in the rescue basket being brought out of the hole.
He was living his nightmare.
Gordon looked at him briefly while disconnecting the cables to the basket and lowering them down the hole again.
"How are you feeling now, Virgil?"
"I'm fine, Gordon."
"Sure you are."
Virgil looked at his arm but it wasn't encased in the standard IR inflatable cast. It was splinted with boards and wrapped in bandages. He immediately saw the reason why. His forearm was bent mid-shaft, almost at a 45 degree angle from where it should be. He felt compelled to look, yet looking made him feel slightly ill. His hand and fingers, surprisingly, looked normal where they nestled unmoving and insensate against a wad of gauze.
Scott appeared in his peripheral vision and he dragged his eyes over to meet the blue orbs he knew so well.
"How are you doing, Virg?" Scott asked as he hunkered down next to the basket and clamped a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Are you hurt anywhere else?"
"No, I'm fine."
"Good. Do you think you can you sit up? Gordon has to take the two boys to the nearest hospital. But you need to get to the capital city. Gordon can drop the others off first and then take you to Brisbane. Or better still, I can take you in One. It's a much faster trip and I can land on the heliport. But you have to be able to sit up in the cockpit because One isn't designed for ferrying patients. Think you can do it?"
"I'll do whatever I have to, Scott."
"Good man. Let's sit you up here first, see how you go." Virgil supported his injured arm with this right hand while Scott put his arm around his shoulders and helped him to a sitting position.
"How are you planning on getting me into One? I can't exactly climb up the ladder like this."
"Leave that to me. I'll carry you up if I have to."
"Sure, Scott," Gordon said with a brief grin that wasn't reflected in his eyes. "I'll get packed up here now then get in the air unless you want help getting Virgil up the ladder?" Scott shook his head in response. "I'll see you back at base then." He tapped Virgil's good arm. "Virg? Good luck. Sounds lame, but you'll be fine. I know it."
"Thanks, Gordo. Fly safe."
"What? No death threats if I scratch Two's fender?"
Virgil shook his head as he looked over to his 'bird, standing high on her struts, the pod door open. "Not this time."
Gordon left and Scott helped Virgil to stand. His legs, shaking at first soon were able to support him and he made his way over to Thunderbird One. Although he felt steady enough, he was still grateful for Scott's assistance. Or maybe it was the moral support?
It took a bit of doing but he was soon ensconced in the passenger gimbal seat in the tin can that was Thunderbird One's cockpit. Scott didn't seem to mind flying by instruments alone but when he flew he preferred to have a visual of what was going on outside. But this was Scott's 'bird and Scott liked it.
"We'd better take your sash off, Virg. No need to announce who you are," Scott said. "I've got your communicator, but the sash is pretty distinctive."
"And landing Thunderbird One on a hospital roof isn't?"
"Maybe, but it can't be helped. Here, swallow this." He held out his hand and Virgil saw his edible transmitter sitting in Scott's palm. "Without your communicator you're off the grid."
"I thought these were only for emergencies? You know Dad's a stickler for the rules."
"It was his idea," Scott said as he secured the harness around Virgil before climbing into the pilot seat. "And John's waiting for the signal."
Virgil looked up when Scott started the engines, felt the rumble through his seat and waited until they were on their way before speaking.
"So you told Dad?"
Scott nodded. "I did. John's contacted the hospital and they're waiting for us. I've got clearance to land on the heliport but I can't stay because they're expecting a chopper in. So I'll drop you off, head home and come back in Tracy One. Unless I can get Dad to let Alan ferry me back in One."
"I'll be fine Scott. You'll be needed at base in case another call comes in."
"I know. But you shouldn't have to go through this by yourself. How's the pain?"
The trip up the ladder had used the last of the residual pain relief in his system and Virgil's arm was beginning to hurt again. Not that he was going to admit it.
Scott handed another green whistle down to him. "No you're not. Use the pain relief now before it gets out of control."
He took the reliever grudgingly. Scott was right. Again. There was a trip back down the ladder to negotiate soon, and he certainly wouldn't be able to do that if he was crippled by pain.
There was a word he didn't want to think about. Crippled. Damn it all. Another bad choice of words.
Once again the narcotic dulled the pain and rendered him fuzzy-headed. He must have fallen asleep because it seemed like only a moment before he felt Thunderbird One's VTOLs fire and knew they'd arrived. He heard Scott talking quietly into his radio couldn't make out what he was saying let alone to whom he was saying it. Nor did he care, truth be told. He was floating off again on a narcotic cloud and he let himself drift.
Feeling a tug on his harness he opened his eyes to see Scott undoing the clips. When did he get out of his seat? The hatch was open as well and he could see people standing at the base of the ladder. He really must have been out of it. He saw Scott signal something to the people below, then the room spun as he was helped upright. A man in hospital uniform entered the cockpit but Virgil barely had time to open his mouth at the breach of protocol before they had him down the ladder.
It was late in the day and the afternoon sun glinted off the surrounding buildings, momentarily blinding him. He felt gentle hands lay him on something soft and he heard voices talking over him. Scott's voice did most of the talking and Virgil was beginning drift off again when the timbre of his brother's voice changed. Became abrupt like it sometimes did when he was trying to make a point. He struggled to pay attention and heard a woman's voice interrupt.
"I know your policy on secrets, but I still need a name. I can hide him in the system better if I have a name. Unknown male number 57 is a bit too obvious, especially if he's fully compos mentis."
He heard Scott huff out a loud breath. Uh oh, Virgil knew what that meant. Scott was getting impatient.
"You want a name? Fine then, here's a name. Gus Evans. How's that?"
"That's fine. Thank you."
Gus Evans. Figures, Virgil thought. His namesake's nickname and their Mother's maiden name. At least he should be able to remember that easily enough. A shadow passed over his face and he looked up at Scott.
"I have to go now. There's a chopper on the way in. Will you be alright?"
No. He wanted to say no. He wanted someone to stay with him. But he was a Tracy and more importantly, he was representing International Rescue. He had to hold it together. So he nodded, clasped Scott's hand briefly in parting before he was wheeled off the heliport.
A quick trip down a lift and the overhead lights whizzed by as he was transported down corridors and around corners at a fast pace. The lights stopped moving and he was immediately surrounded by people all talking at once and prodding him. It felt like prodding to him. Within a short space of time he'd had his vital signs taken, his shirt cut off him, an IV inserted and they'd asked him a barrage of questions.
An older man with a craggy face stepped into his room and up to his side.
"Mr Evans?" he asked, holding his hand out for Virgil to shake.
Virgil frowned. Evans? Oh yeah, that was him.
"I'm Professor Rosens, head of orthopaedics," the man continued. He glanced at Virgil's arm. "Let's just see what sort of job you've done to yourself shall we? Can you wriggle your fingers for me?"
"No? Can you make a fist? Move anything at all?"
Virgil shook his head.
"Can you feel me touching here? What about here?"
He answered with another head shake.
Virgil thought he'd held himself together pretty well during the trip in. The Penthrox had helped him hold at bay all thoughts of what it would mean if he never got feeling back in his hand. Now, in this stark, antiseptic environment, with the analgesia rapidly wearing off, he could hold them back no longer.
What had he done to his arm? What if the damage was so great that it was permanent?
His entire life might have changed irrevocably in a split second.
He wouldn't be able to work in International Rescue any more, wouldn't fly Thunderbird Two, wouldn't be able to play his piano...
"Keep calm," he thought, trying to will himself into a composed facade. He needed to show a stoic countenance. Needed to show his normal calm exterior, despite the turmoil, the pain, the fear he was feeling.
Yet fear had engulfed him in its icy grip; cramping his stomach and making his heart beat hard against his ribs as if it was trying to escape. He shivered, his mouth dried and he struggled to breathe. Something raw welled up inside him, but he tamped it down with fierce resolve. He hated his weakness and refused to allow it to show.
"I need to look at your arm," the doctor said. "Ever had morphine before?"
Someone placed an oxygen mask over his face, spread another blanket over him, someone else was fiddling with his drip, another someone else started to loosen the bandages of his splint. Oh God. "Don't look, don't look," he chanted in his head. The world spun and a loud ringing sounded in his ears as the narcotic hit his system.
Virgil was a man of science. The big bang theory, natural selection, survival of the fittest. He wasn't given to praying. Didn't attend church, didn't believe in God Almighty. But just in case...he prayed now. Prayed He would help the doctor save the use of his hand. Virgil knew he couldn't continue working in International Rescue without it. He would have to stay at home while his brothers went on the rescues. Stand by and watch while someone else flew Thunderbird Two. Virgil tried not to think about his piano now, or his painting. But if He did save his hand, would He want something in exchange?
What did Virgil have to give?
"I'll give up smoking. For good this time," he thought as the trolley wheeled down the corridor and paused a moment while a glass door hissed open. The smell of anaesthetic gas and disinfectant assailed his nostrils. "I'll stop trying to piss off Alan by calling TinTin honey." The ceiling slid away as he was wheeled down another corridor and around a corner. "I'll throw out my smoking jacket and painting smock...the one with the huge bow. I only wear them to tease Grandma. I know I shouldn't but she's so funny when she thinks I'm gay." The trolley jerked to a halt under a large set of lights and clunked as the brakes were applied. "Please save it. I don't think I'm strong enough to live without it." Hands moved him onto the hard operating table, the coldness of it turned his skin to gooseflesh and he shivered.
The craggy face from earlier swam into view. The doctor.
Virgil tried to focus on the face but the morphine was pulling him back under, the edges of his consciousness blurring. He grasped the edges of his scattered thoughts. This was the man who held his future in his hands.
"Ready, Mr Evans?"
"Please, fix it. I need it."
He was begging?
Damn drugs! They weakened his defences.
"I'll try but I can't promise anything," the doctor said. "It depends what I find when I get in there."
"I know," Virgil nodded. He did know, but he hoped. Hoped with everything he had as the anaesthetist placed an oxygen mask on his face.
"Alright Mr Evans." He reached for the IV tubing and inserted a syringe of liquid. "You're going off to sleep now."
Virgil tasted a slightly bitter chemical taste in his throat a nanosecond before the shutters came down...
He pushed at the bed table with its offending breakfast tray. How they expected him to eat at a time like this was beyond his comprehension.
He looked at his hand, lying useless on a pillow. The fingers were swollen and bruised, dried blood still caked around his nails. It was strange to see it, know it was there yet not be able to feel the pillow underneath. If he touched it with his other hand, how would it feel? Virgil reached out a not-so-steady finger but pulled back at the last moment. He couldn't do it. It was one thing for the nurses to touch it, but if he touched it, that would make it seem...real.
Oh God. Who was he kidding? It was real. It was real enough to make him feel physically sick. During the night he'd woken up after the surgery searching for some sensation past the break, even pain would be welcome. But there was nothing. During the night he convinced himself it was the residual anaesthetic dulling his senses. But in the cold light of day he had to face the reality.
No more would he slide down the access chute to Thunderbird Two. Never again would he don the blue uniform with its yellow sash. Never again fly his 'bird, feel her power through the control yoke. Never again experience the thrill after a successful mission. But even that he could learn to live without as long as he had his music.
Lost to him forever. It was impossible to play Beethoven with only one working hand.
The loss sat as a painful heavy lump in his chest yet he felt hollow inside.
He looked out of the window at the traffic below. There was a line of cars stuck in the gridlock of peak hour, inching forward at a snail's pace. Pedestrians scurried down the sidewalk, everyone going about their lives blissfully unaware that his life as he knew it was over. How could they? How could the world keep turning when his own world had shattered?
The door opened, interrupting his brooding and a nurse's face peered around the door.
"Morning, Sunshine," she said and wheeled a small trolley into the room, her face beaming with a cheery smile. "I'm Sally and I'll be looking after you today. Just going to do your obs and then I've got an antibiotic for you."
Virgil turned away, looked back out the window. She had no right to be this happy when he was in turmoil. She kept talking to him as she wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his right arm, stuck a digital thermometer in his ear and placed a probe on his finger. But he tuned out the chatter, unable to dredge up enough enthusiasm to participate. He knew he was being rude, but for once in his life he honestly just didn't give a shit.
She opened his chart and wrote something in it. Then she started probing his fingers and he closed his eyes, unable to stomach the sight of her touching his fingers and not be able to feel it. After a while she gently shook his knee, garnering his attention from the no-man's-land he'd managed to find.
"It's time for your shower."
A shower? She had to be joking.
"What's the point?"
He was feeling quite disgruntled and wished she would take her happy face and upbeat manner out of his room.
"Look," Sally's voice was suddenly quieter. "There's no advantage worrying about something until you've got something to worry about. The doctor will be in to see you this morning, and he'll tell you what's going on."
Virgil vented his frustration.
"I know what's going on. I can't feel anything with my hand. I can't move my hand. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out what that means."
"As I said, wait until after the doctor has been in before you start panicking."
"I'm not panicking. I don't panic. I leave that to Sco...ah...my...my colleague."
"Ah yes. Tall fellow, dark hair? Likes to give orders?"
Virgil nodded, perplexed. Scott was here?
Sally continued, "He was hanging around hassling the staff last night when you came back from theatre. I sent him away with a flea in his ear and told him to come back during visiting hours."
The image of Scott in full commander mode being stood up to and told off almost made him smile.
"Bet he didn't like that."
"He didn't have to. Rules are rules, I don't care who he is. Right, up and at 'em, Sunshine. Last night getting you to theatre was more of a priority than having a wash, but you really need one now. You look like something the cat dragged in and you smell even worse."
"The cat dragged in?" Virgil raised his eyebrows in surprise. "What the heck is that supposed to mean?"
"It means you're a mess. I'd normally say you look like something else, but I'm in uniform so I can't swear."
"So what are you saying? That I look like shit?"
"Your words, not mine, Sunshine."
To Virgil's consternation, she started disconnecting drains and drips, wrapping some sort of plastic around his arm to stop the dressings getting wet.
"Do I even get a say in this?"
"Of course you do. You can choose the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is you get into the shower under your own steam. Pun intended."
"And what's the hard way?"
"Trust me, Sunshine," she smiled at him. "You don't want to know."
She whipped the sheets off his legs and he gave her a Scott-worthy glare.
"You do realise I've got a bit of a problem here don't you?" He indicated his useless hand.
"That's where I come in. I do the bits you can't reach."
"That would have to be," Virgil thought when he was sitting in the armchair by the window later, "one of the most humiliating experiences of my life." At least she'd dressed him some hospital issue pyjamas instead of another gown that gaped in back and bared his butt to the world. The IV was now reconnected and dripping fluid into his veins. The drain had also been reconnected and its pump was humming happily next to him.
He looked up when the door opened, surprised to see Scott.
"How are you?" his brother asked as he entered the room and closed the door.
Virgil shrugged in response. "No better."
"Yeah." Virgil stared unseeing at the traffic below. "I'm sorry, Scott. I'm really glad you're here, but I'm not much company at the moment."
"I don't blame you. I tried to get in to see you last night but there was some old dragon on and she wouldn't let me in."
"She told me." Virgil watched as Scott's eyebrows rose in surprise. "She's on again this morning."
"So where is she now?"
"Probably bullying some other poor bastard into having a shower they don't want," Virgil shrugged. "How did you convince Dad to let you come?"
"I told him I was going to be with you and that was that." The way Scott shifted uneasily in his chair made Virgil think there was more to it.
"Is Dad coming over?"
"Uh, no." Scott shifted his weight again. "He thought he'd better not."
"Come on, Virg. You know his face is too easily recognised, especially by the media. If anyone googled the name Jeff Tracy, they would see that he was married to Lucille Evans. Then, if one of those people just happened to be here and saw Dad in a city he has never been to before, hanging around a hospital where an International Rescue operative just happens to be going under the name Evans..." Scott shrugged.
"That's a lot of ifs."
"He thinks we've created a potential security hazard."
Scott held his hands up in surrender. "OK, OK. Me."
"If you're here, we're two men down. What's International Rescue..."
A knock sounded on the door and the door opened to reveal the nurse accompanied by the doctor.
"I see you've found your way back," she said to Scott who folded his arms across his chest defensively.
"It's after ten."
"So it is. But the doctor's here. You'll need to wait outside."
"He stays," Virgil interrupted. If he was going to get bad news, he wanted his brother with him.
The doctor strode in and made a point of shaking hands with Scott.
"Paul Rosens, I operated on Mr Evans last night."
Scott nodded his head but didn't offer his own name. He stood next to Virgil and allowed the Doctor to sit down.
"First up, how's the pain?"
"Nothing I can't handle."
"Sure. But I've prescribed pain killers if you need them and I encourage you to use them. No sense in putting up with pain if you don't have to. As you know, you sustained quite a nasty break there, but the good news is I got the bones realigned without any trouble. I've used plates and screws to hold them place while they heal." He looked through Virgil's chart before continuing.
"Now it was a compound fracture and the wound itself was pretty contaminated. There is quite a significant risk of bone infection, but I gave it a good washout and you're on some heavy duty antibiotics to minimise that risk. You said yesterday you're up to date with your Tetanus vaccinations?"
Virgil nodded curtly and wished he'd get to the point.
"You've got some major swelling already and I expect a lot more over the next few days, so I haven't closed the wound yet. That would compromise the circulation in your arm and I'd like to avoid that if we possibly can." He leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees, and caught Virgil's gaze. "Now, despite the severity of the break there's relatively little soft tissue damage, although there is some."
This was it, Virgil knew. The moment the doctor was going to confirm that his life, as he knew it, was over. The burdening weight had his shoulders slumping forward. He didn't think he wanted to hear it. Even though he'd thought of nothing else since he'd first woken and had convinced himself that he would be facing a single-handed future, hearing the words spill from the doctor's mouth would make it final. Irreversible.
Scott clapped him on his shoulder and he roused himself. He sucked in a deep breath, straightened himself in the chair. Whatever the doctor had to say, no matter how bad it was, Virgil would take it like a man.
He looked into his brother's smiling face.
Scott was laughing at him. Laughing at him in his misery, the bastard. The worst moment of his life and Scott found it funny. How could he? He never thought Scott would ever do something as unfeeling as that.
Hold on. He never would. So why...?
Virgil looked from Scott's face to the nurse. Even the dragon was smiling. Hang on...
"Um...sorry, I think I missed that."
"As I said, Mr Evans," the doctor commanded his attention again. "There is some minor damage to the muscles which will heal, but everything else is intact."
"Intact...? But then, why...?"
"The nerves were compressed between the displaced bone fragments which is why you've temporarily lost sensation and function."
"The nerves are quite bruised and swollen at the moment so they are in a state of shock. You've heard the term spinal shock?" At Virgil's nod he continued. "Same phenomenon, different nerve. But yes, the nerves are intact and I should expect you to regain full functionality of your hand again."
"Oh yes, Mr Evans. I'd stake my reputation on it."
Virgil was suddenly overwhelmed with relief and let out a pent-up breath. Did he really hear that? He was going to be able to use his hand again? Hope swelled, it was so much more than he dared hoped for.
"Will it be as good as it was before? And how long will recovery take?" Scott's voice came from somewhere over his head and he was glad for his brother's intervention. He was finding it hard to marshal his thoughts at the moment and actually forming a question was temporarily beyond him.
"Everyone responds differently but within six to eight weeks I should expect the nerves and the bones to be fully healed. He may need a bit of physio after that but I don't see any reason why he shouldn't be back at work inside three to six months."
Six months! Still, he would be able to get back to work, something Virgil fully expected he would not be able to do. He dropped his head, unable to fully voice his feelings. He was glad Scott was with him; his reassuring presence was a steadying influence.
"When can he be discharged?" Scott asked and Virgil suddenly longed to be back home on the Island.
The doctor turned back to Virgil.
"Not for another week at least. I want you back in theatre every few days for dressing changes and so I can monitor your progress. At the end of the week the swelling should have reduced enough to allow me to close the wound. Following that, if everything is going well, you can be discharged. Do you have any more questions at the moment?"
Virgil shook his head. With that, the doctor stood and gathered the chart off the bed, shaking Virgil's hand to indicate he was leaving
"Thanks, doc," Virgil got out, pleased to find his voice at last.
"Don't thank me yet young man. Let's wait until you're clear for discharge. I'll check in on you again tomorrow."
The doctor then left the room, followed by the nurse, leaving Virgil alone with Scott.
Virgil heaved a huge sigh and rubbed his hand down his face. He finally knew what people meant when they said they didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"Christ, Virg," Scott said, sitting in the chair and interrupting Virgil's whirling thoughts. "I've got to tell you, I was worried for a while."
"You were worried? Jesus, I was fucking scared." Too late, Virgil realised what he'd said. "Scott, I swear if you ever tell anyone I said that, you won't live long enough to regret it."
Scott grinned and leaned back in his chair, getting comfortable. "OK. Never heard a word." he reassured him then Virgil saw Scott's grin fade. "Going to be a tough week for you with all the operations."
Virgil shrugged, resigned. "That doesn't worry me so much. As long as everything works out the way it's supposed to, I'll do anything."
"Even putting up with the dragon for a week?" Scott indicated the door with his thumb.
"She's not so bad I guess. Once you get used to her." Virgil smiled and realised it was true. All was right with the world, the sun outside shone a little brighter and his hospital room felt less like a prison. Even the traffic outside had cleared.
"Rather you than me."
"Not. It's self preservation."
"Still a coward."
The door opened and said nurse reappeared.
"Oh Christ, look out." Scott whispered and scooted his chair back against the wall.
"I heard that," she said and opened the chart on the bed. "More antibiotics. Right, Sunshine...give me your name, date of birth and allergies."
"I told you all that last time."
"You'll be telling me again next time too." She checked his armband and chart as he gave her the details she wanted. He and Scott waited silently as she as she did what she had to with the drip.
"I'll be back in an hour. It's good to see you smiling, you were starting to look like Wednesday's child," she said and left.
"Who the heck is Wednesday's child?" Virgil asked Scott, looking confused.
"Got me baffled. Google it, Virg and we'll both know."
5 months later.
Virgil let his hands drift over the piano keys, eyes closed, lost in the music as Claire de Lune flowed from his piano. The sheer joy of playing again, his left hand now fully healed and functioning as it should, was a pleasure he would never again take for granted. He watched his hand moving effortlessly, the fingers dancing over the keys and gave silent thanks to the doctor in Brisbane and the powers that be who were watching over him for giving him his life back.
All he needed now was for his father to allow him to resume his role in International Rescue. He'd been given the all clear by the doctor a month ago, but still his Father procrastinated. He'd said that working for International Rescue and piloting the largest carrier craft in the world was not normal work and he wasn't willing to risk the success of a mission, Thunderbird Two or Virgil's life if the arm wasn't fully healed.
Hearing a soft scrape of wood on the tiled floor, he looked up and smiled as Grandma settled herself in her rocking chair. He waited until she relaxed against the cushions, opened her book and began to read before he segued into Moonlight Sonata. He caught Scott's swift glance and they shared a small smile. His father never looked up from his paperwork, although his mouth quirked and he shook his head.
He kept an eye on his Grandma as the music filled the room. He'd give her a minute, two at most. For some reason she could never stay awake during this piece yet she'd never figured that out. Presently her head began to nod; the book fell forgotten in her lap and her head dropped onto her chest as sleep overtook her.
"How do you always manage to do that?" Gordon asked quietly from the chess game he was losing to Alan.
"Magic hands," Virgil smiled, watching his hands again as they picked out the melody. There was a graze on the knuckles of his right hand, legacy of time spent finetuning Thunderbird Two. Gordon had been flying her lately and while he was a competent pilot, Virgil felt compelled to double check her systems himself.
"You know, Virg," Alan moved his knight and took Gordon's bishop, causing Gordon to groan. "One of these days Grandma's going to figure out how you do that. Then there'll be trouble."
"Yeah, maybe...one day," Virgil smiled as Grandma's head lolled on her chest.
A beeping echoed through the lounge, accompanied by a flashing from John's portrait. Virgil stopped playing mid-chord and strode over to his father's desk.
"Go ahead, John." Jeff opened the hidden speaker on his desk.
Virgil watched as the portrait changed to a live feed of John, looking smart in his uniform and with a clipboard in his hand.
"We have a call, Father. A maintenance diving bell for an oil rig has become loose from its mooring and fallen into the North Sea. There are two men trapped inside and their oxygen is running out, but because of the storm the rig can't launch a rescue sub. They wanted to know if we could handle it."
"Download the specs, John and we'll take a look at it first," Jeff said.
"Already done, Dad. The wind speed, ocean depth and swell are well within capability levels. The trapped men are still in radio contact with the rig but they only have enough oxygen for another two hours."
Virgil turned his attention to the computer screen where a series of numbers appeared.
"Alright, John, tell them we're on our way." Jeff said after a quick scan of the data.
"FAB," John answered and his image winked back to his portrait.
"Scott," Jeff's voice brought Virgil back to the present. "Away you go; John will give you the co-ordinates when you're in the air."
"FAB." Scott answered before setting his access door swivelling.
Virgil almost didn't dare hope that he would be allowed on this rescue, but he knew the way it was. Yet, surely this time his Dad would let him go. Gordon couldn't fly Two as well as pilot Thunderbird Four, and although Alan was also trained to pilot Two, he didn't have as much experience in stormy conditions.
This was it, Virgil thought as his Father looked directly at him.
But the longed-for words didn't come at first. His Father appraised him in silence for what felt like an uncomfortably long time before he made his decision.
"All right, Virgil. You're clear to go. But take Alan along as well in case you run into difficulties. I also want you to keep in touch at all times and at the first sign of trouble you will hand over piloting duties to Alan or Gordon immediately. Understood?"
Virgil's heart lifted although keeping a straight face was much more problematical.
"Yes sir," he replied.
"Off you go then. And welcome back."
Virgil couldn't keep the smile off his face a moment longer, his voice also betraying his excitement as he acknowledged the order. He took up position against the access door to Thunderbird Two, braced as it tilted him feet over and he began the long slide into the cargo plane's cockpit.
He was back.
Wednesday's child comes from the nursery rhyme "Monday's Child".
The music "Claire de Lune" was composed by French composer Claude Debussy and for this story I chose the transcription by pianist David Bérubé. This is how I imagine Virgil would play.
This story was written for the TIWF "Face the Fear" challenge in which one of the characters must face his or her greatest fear.