A/N: Virgil v John... v Gordon... v Jeff? With an extra helping of Gordon v Grandma?! Really!? Yeah that's right. That's what this chapter is. I spoil you. I know. You don't have to tell me. Still, you're all worth it, you lovely lot!
Chapter Thirteen: The Goof
The journey home from London was rather muted. Gordon had seemed in a peculiar mood for the entire journey and Virgil and John had no idea how to rouse him from it. They'd tried to ignore him, but the atmosphere had grown heavier. They'd asked if he was all right but he just nodded and replied in inarticulate monosyllabic grunts.
He missed Rachel. He missed her already and it hurt that he missed her. There was no point in telling anyone this, not least because of the inevitable teasing he would get. The resident prankster of the Tracy family was always fair game for any baiting, if only for his long-suffering family to finally get their own back on him, until his next prank, at least. Even if he did tell anyone - what could they do? How could they make the situation better? They couldn't bring Rachel out to the Island - she wouldn't come, for a start. They couldn't let him stay in London with her. No - he was stuck without her. He was stuck fast and he couldn't see a nice and easy way out for either of them.
Rachel was right. They'd come too far. It wasn't just a casual fling any more. But they were still too scared of hurting each other and getting hurt themselves to actually define what they really were to each other. He was tired and achy and confused. His head hurt and his neck hurt and he just wanted to go home and hide in his room for a day or two until the fuzziness cleared from his brain.
"How did it go?" John finally asked. Gordon shrugged.
"Real good, yeah. I slept great," he answered. John frowned slightly.
"You slept?" he repeated. Gordon nodded.
"Like a log."
"You get an unsolicited fifteen hours with your girlfriend-"
"She's technically not my girlfriend," Gordon interrupted. John narrowed his eyes at him.
"Whatever. And you... slept?" he asked. His younger brother had gone out into the wide world on behalf of all Tracy men whose girlfriends didn't live with them - and he'd just slept?!
"I did. She cooked two meals for me, and she cleaned my clothes and just left me sleeping practically the whole time. It was amazing," Gordon told him, cheerfully.
"You didn't have sex, but she cooked and cleaned for you? You're not married, are you?" John asked, dryly. Gordon rolled his eyes.
"Ha ha," Gordon replied sarcastically. He paused and his eyes gleamed with mischief before he continued. "Besides, I took a little time out of my busy schedule of eating, sleeping and using all the hot water in her shower to well and truly rock her world. Say, you know who she reminds me of?" he suddenly realised, snapping his fingers.
"Miss Brandenburg. But English. She's even got that little lisp thing going. Her skirts aren't tight enough, though," he explained. John's eyes widened and Gordon could've sworn he saw his cheeks go a little pink at the mention of her name.
"Jesus! Tricia Brandenburg! That brings back memories!" John remembered, his tone taking on a rather hushed reverence. Gordon nodded, a smug grin plastered over his face.
"Aww, yeah!" he declared smugly, commencing an odd celebratory jig in his seat.
"Who's Miss Brandenburg?" Virgil asked, frowning.
"Gordon's Chemistry teacher in tenth grade," John explained. "A biologically accommodating science geek. She was in her mid-thirties but she only looked about twenty-five."
"And she had a great ass too," Gordon added, helpfully.
"Thank you, Gordon," Virgil replied with a sigh of despair.
"No, Virge, he's right. She did," John agreed. Virgil looked a little downcast by the revelation of his old school having a sexy Chemistry teacher without his knowledge.
"I don't remember her. My Chemistry teacher was Mr Paxton. He was like Albert Einstein with chronic halitosis. He had roughly the same level of sex appeal as a dissected toad," Virgil told them. John chuckled.
"Miss Brandenburg joined after you left. And in my last year. She wasn't my teacher. Not my school teacher, anyway. If you know what I'm saying," he explained, wiggling his eyebrows slightly. Virgil's face fell.
"What?!" he asked, a little scandalised. John nodded.
"Well, I'd gone back to after I'd started college to help with her eighth-grade class for a bit of work experience and then, y'know... what happens in the staff room stays in the staff room!" he explained, smirking a little to himself. Gordon's jaw dropped.
"John! No! You didn't! Not Brandenburg!" he protested, horrified. John grinned and nodded.
"I can't believe it. I expected more from her. Of all the guys she could've gone for!" Gordon lamented.
"I'll have you know that I'm unobtrusively sexy. Women don't find me threatening," John pointed out. "I'm more sort of Delta Male than Alpha Male."
"Maybe she thought you were gay and made you her project?" Virgil suggested. John shot him a look of derision.
"I don't think she thought I was gay," he replied, firmly.
"Well maybe not afterwards, but you do exude a distinct effeminate... thing," Virgil told him. John sat back a little in his chair, tilted his chin downwards slightly and raised his eyebrow.
"Hey, pot, it's the kettle here!" he retorted.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Virgil demanded.
"You used the word 'exude'. I think that's explanation enough in itself," John shot back at him. Virgil rolled his eyes and let out a 'hmph'.
"Having an extensive vocabulary doesn't mean I'm gay!" he advised, loftily. John's eyebrow raised further up his forehead until it almost disappeared into the curl at the front of his hair.
"No, but wearing a monogrammed smoking jacket and a cravat kinda does," he replied, without missing a beat. Gordon burst out laughing. Virgil glared back at his brother, not wishing to be beaten so easily.
"This from the guy who wears a lilac sash and owns a leopard print dressing gown," he answered. Gordon applauded heartily and clutched onto his sides as he laughed.
"It isn't my fault that pastels suit me! You're the artist, you should know about that kinda thing. Except you still insist on wearing yellow, which has never suited anyone before or since Ronald McDonald!" John told him. As much fun as it was to witness his brothers arguing like this, they were very close to home and Gordon needed to calm them both down before they landed.
"Ladies, please - can we calm down?" Gordon interrupted, placing his hands on their shoulders firmly. "You're gonna screw up my zen if you keep up with this shit."
There was a pause as his two elder brothers froze, then slowly turned their heads to look at him in disbelief.
"Your zen?!" John repeated, incredulously. Virgil looked at John and nodded.
"I think we have a winner," he commented, dryly.
"To think our gaydar never picked up on the kid before!" John agreed. Gordon held his hands up.
"Hey, leave me outta this - I'm the least gay out of all of you!" he protested, before silently wondering if there were in fact varying degrees of gay in order for one person to be more or less 'gay' than another. He wondered if it was an appropriate question to put to Mark, and instantly thought better of it.
"That's only the story you give us," Virgil retorted.
"Virgil's right, how do we know who this Rachel is? We've never seen her," John pointed out.
"She could be anyone," Virgil said.
"Of any gender," John added.
"I guess she could be anyone of any gender," Gordon agreed.
"You see!" Virgil declared, jubilantly.
"Except she isn't. She's very specifically a woman," Gordon told them, feeling a little defensive. Virgil looked at him with mock sympathy.
"You're upsetting the kid, Johnny," he told him.
"I'm not a kid!" Gordon snapped.
"He's not a kid, Virgil," John chided him. Gordon seriously considered strangling them both.
As if subconsciously knowing that his sons needed to be saved from killing each other at the same moment, Jeff decided to check in with them en-route.
"International Rescue calling Thunderbird Two," Jeff's voice boomed over the radio communicator.
"Dad, we're not on a mission, do you have to be so formal? Can't you just say, y'know... 'are you there' or 'hey', or 'sup homies' or something?" Gordon asked. There was a pause for a moment before his father replied.
"Gordon, I don't think anyone's actually said 'sup homies' in a non-ironic manner since approximately 1998," he answered, dryly. John and Virgil burst out laughing. "Did Penny take care of you while you were over there?"
"She always does, you know what she's like about English hospitality," Virgil replied with a grin.
"And how about you, Gordon?" Jeff asked. Gordon looked a little guilty.
"Yeah, what Virgil said," he replied, vaguely. "English hospitality, a lot of that," he agreed, brightening a little.
"Really? Because when I spoke to Penny she told me that you'd gone to visit a friend in London," Jeff told him. Gordon's face fell.
"Well... I... It wasn't shore leave, Dad!" he stammered. Jeff let out a low growl of frustration.
"We'll talk about how irresponsible you are and exactly what the running of a 'secret' organisation involves when you get home," he decided. Gordon rolled his eyes.
"Can't wait for that," he muttered under his breath.
"Excuse me?" his father asked. Gordon smiled sweetly.
"FAB!" he answered, cheerfully.
"That's what I thought," Jeff replied, switching off communications.
Gordon spent a few minutes looking intently at both of his brothers, not too sure what to say to them first. John and Virgil looked a little uncomfortable but weren't sure how to avoid the subsequent conversation.
"Wow. Seriously. Thanks," he began sarcasatically. "You two did a great job of covering for me. Next time, I'll get Alan to cover for me. He's a jackass but at least he can keep his mouth shut!"
"Hey, don't look at us!" John protested.
"You only told us to keep your secret, you never asked Penelope to!" Virgil added. Gordon frowned angrily.
"She's a fucking secret agent, it's in her goddam job title to keep quiet!" he ranted.
"What, where Dad's concerned? She tells him everything," John reminded him. "He doesn't even need to ask her anything any more, it's automatic. Jeff Tracy's like her own personal truth serum," he muttered. Gordon looked at him quizzically
"Her own what now?" he asked. Virgil shuddered and John shook his head in despair.
"I said 'serum'," John replied, rolling the 'r'. Gordon let out a sigh of relief.
"Thank God for that - I just got images I didn't need of those two!" he declared.
"You didn't need to share 'em!" Virgil lamented. Gordon and John exchanged a conspiritorial wink before Gordon cleared his throat and continued the conversation.
"You reckon Dad and Penny have ever-"
"Don't," Virgil interrupted, covering his face with his hand.
"You might be right, Gords. He's got that silver fox thing happening, I bet Penny's at least thought about it," John agreed, innocently.
"They do spend a lot of time together," Gordon reasoned.
"And I guess it gets cold in the winter in England. It's a great way to keep warm," John pointed out.
"That's true. Dad wouldn't like hypothermia at his age," Gordon added. John shook his head and pursed his lips in agreement.
"Not with his knees."
"Good job there's nothing wrong with his hips," Gordon commented. John's eyes gleamed, and he couldn't resist the obvious reply.
"They don't lie, baby."
"Will you two quit it?" Virgil snapped. John and Gordon both bit the insides of their cheeks until they almost drew blood in their attempts not to laugh.
"What's up with you?" Gordon asked, frowning.
"Penny's not with Dad, I'm just saying," Virgil replied, sulkily. He rolled his eyes as Gordon and John let out a dramatic "Ah!" of realisation.
"You're so jealous!" John declared.
"I'm not jealous!" Virgil replied, defensively.
"It's adorable," Gordon teased him.
"I'm not adorable!" Virgil argued, grumpily.
"He's got it so bad!" John told Gordon, reaching over and ruffling Virgil's hair. Virgil shoved his hand away impatiently.
"I do not, either, now will you both shut up and let me land?!" he demanded.
"Oh, I see, the first time in over a year, he needs silence to land Two," John teased.
"No, I don't need silence to land Two, I need you both to shut up if you have any special wish to keep breathing," Virgil told him.
"He's just so cute when he's mad, isn't he?" John asked, reaching over and ruffling Virgil's hair again. Virgil shot him a withering glare, which made John and Gordon laugh hysterically but they allowed Virgil to land without any further interruptions.
Eventually they made their way back to the living room where Jeff and Mrs Tracy were waiting for them. Nobody ever asked where Scott and Tin-Tin were if they weren't in the living room, they were always a little afraid of what the answer would be.
To her credit, at that moment, Tin-Tin was carrying out checks to Thunderbird One and Scott was helping her with the checklist. Which wasn't even a euphemism.
"Ah, here they are," Grandma began, hugging Virgil tightly, then kissing John before hugging him as well - and then giving Gordon an appraising look. "And here he is. What's the saying? 'Home is the sailor, home from the sea' - or at the very least he's home from fornicating like a rock star in London!" she declared. Gordon rolled his eyes.
"Nice to see you too, Grandma. C'mere," he insisted, wrapping his arms around her and squeezing her tightly. "Y'know, nobody has a way with words quite like you do."
"Well, if you can't say what the hell you like to your grandchildren then what's the point in growing old?" she asked. Gordon laughed. "I hope this girl cooked for you. Look at you, you look exhausted. What have you been doing? Don't tell me. I don't want to know what you've been doing. I hope she's got a good chiropractor - if you're going to keep having these marathons you've got to keep yourselves in good shape!"
"She has a great shape, I promise," Gordon assured her, giggling helplessly. His grandmother sighed. That wasn't what she meant at all. Gordon was far too much like her though - which may be why he held such a very special place in her heart - if he didn't want to talk about something, he practically had digitised skills in subject-changing.
Later on that evening, Gordon had taken a walk along the beach for an hour or two to clear his head, returned to the Villa and played chess with Tin-Tin for an hour. He couldn't have been concentrating because she won all three matches they played easily and he now owed her fifty dollars. She was a very expensive opponent. Brains still played for matchsticks.
He had wandered into the Games Room and had started going round the billiard table to see how quickly he could pot all fifteen balls, when his father walked in clutching two large glasses of bourbon.
"You're not the easiest guy to find round here, thought you'd be in the pool," he began, handing a glass to his son. Gordon took the glass from him and took a large, grateful swig.
"What's this in aid of?" Gordon asked. Jeff leaned against the billiard table and pushed himself up onto the edge.
"I told you I needed to talk to you. This isn't a lecture," he replied, taking another swig of bourbon. "This is a Concerned Dad Trying to do the Right Thing talk between two grown men."
"Are you sure?" Gordon asked, unimpressed. His father nodded.
"I'm afraid so. I need to know a lot more about this girl than you've told me," he answered.
"You've got her first name, what more do you want? Her shoe size?" Gordon asked, sarcastically. Jeff shot him a steely glare and Gordon backed down instantly. "I'm sorry."
"She's a stranger. You work for an organisation whose very survival depends upon secrecy. Do you know what you just risked by what you did? Do you have any idea what could have happened while you were over there?" Jeff demanded.
"You said this wasn't a lecture!" Gordon reminded him. Jeff wasn't put off.
"I said I was concerned," he answered. Gordon shifted nervously from foot to foot and looked around for an escape, even though he knew there wasn't one.
"You don't think you're overreacting?" he finally asked his father. The vein in Jeff's temple started to throb a little.
"No I do not think I'm overreacting!" he shouted, slamming his fist into the billiard table. Gordon's eyes widened. He would have hated to see how his father would've acted if he had overreacted. "Who is this girl? We don't know her. She could be anyone, she could work for any organisation," he told her. Gordon's jaw dropped.
"Are you trying to say she's only having sex with me to get to International Rescue?" he asked. Jeff paused for a moment.
"Well... you don't know that she isn't!" he pointed out. Gordon's face lit up like Christmas.
"How about that! That's so awesome. I always thought being sexually exploited to get International Rescue's biggest secrets would be more Scott's thing. But it's me instead. This is like the best day of my whole life!" he declared. Jeff slammed the palm of his hand into his face.
"Be serious, Gordon," he pleaded, wearily. Gordon frowned.
"I am!" he replied, a little bewildered. "Dad, please - lay off. This isn't a serious thing. We're not even officially together. Or even unofficially. We aren't together at all."
"It isn't serious? When you place your own selfish wants above the security of International Rescue, it becomes serious to me. You went AWOL after a rescue just so you could screw her!" Jeff shot back at him.
"No! I went AWOL after a rescue to see her because I-" he paused, unable to say the words that almost fell out of his mouth. Jeff's eyes darkened.
"I... I pulled a little kid out the rubble of a house," Gordon explained.
"You rescue people all the time, Gordon, what's so different about today?"
"You don't understand. I didn't rescue her. She was dead, Dad. Her head was smashed in," Gordon told him. Jeff's face fell, and he looked visibly sickened at the thought of seeing a small child in that state. He couldn't bring himself to imagine how he would have felt if it had been one of his boys at that age. Gordon refused to make eye contact with his father as he continued his stifled explanation. "I just... I just needed to see Rachel. It was more than - that. I dunno. I just needed to see her. I'm sorry."
"In that case, Gordon, I'm afraid, as much as you deny it, you've fallen for this girl. Which means it's far more serious than I thought," Jeff told him gently. Gordon shook his head stubbornly.
"I haven't fallen for her," he answered. Jeff shook his head in despair.
"You don't have to pretend with me. Falling in love isn't a crime, y'know."
"I didn't say it was. I just said I haven't fallen for her."
"We all knew there'd be big personal sacrifices to make for the greater good before we started the organisation," Jeff said. "This was always gonna be the toughest part. For everyone. You think I like seeing you this miserable when Rachel is the other side of the world and you can't be with her? You think I enjoy the look on your face when I know all you're thinking about is her? No. I don't. I'm your Dad and all I want is for you to be happy."
"I am happy."
"Would you be happier if she were here?"
"Of course I..." Gordon faltered. "No. No, I wouldn't."
"You wouldn't? Why?" Jeff asked, bemused.
"What if she did know about International Rescue? You know as well as I do what the dangers are out there. That's why it's a secret. We don't know who's after our technology - and we don't know what they'd do to get their hands on it. If Rachel knew anything about International Rescue, she would instantly be in danger. What if something happened to her?" Gordon demanded, gesticulating wildly. "She could be hurt, or killed, or... Jesus, Dad, I couldn't take it. She would be in constant danger - and it'd all be because of me. How does a guy live with himself, knowing he's constantly putting someone he cares about at so much risk?"
"Ask Scott," Jeff replied, simply. Gordon shook his head.
"That's different. Tin-Tin lives with us and she's a member of International Rescue, she takes the same risks as we do, she's every bit as committed to it as we are," he answered. "Rachel isn't. Even if we were together, she'd never come here. Not permanently."
"How do you know?" Jeff asked.
"Because I know her. She's too independent. She'd want to work for a living. She'd want to keep her own home. She wouldn't want to make those big sacrifices to be with me, and I wouldn't ask her to do it," Gordon replied.
"I don't admit to knowing much about women, Gordon - but I do know one thing," his father began.
"You should never presume that you know what they want. Because ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you don't have a damn clue," he answered, sagely. Gordon allowed himself a brief chuckle before draining his glass.
"I guess. The fact is, Dad - she doesn't know. She won't ever know. I'm not even going to see her again for another five months. She might've gotten bored with me by then," he reasoned. Jeff frowned and shook his head.
"Bored?" he repeated, incredulously. "Gordon, I've known you since before you were even a smudge on an ultrasound - and the one thing I can safely say about you is that I haven't been bored of you for one moment during the past twenty-three years."
"You're such a sap, Jeff Tracy!" Gordon declared.
"You tell anyone else that, and I'll kill you myself," he replied, his expression deadly serious. Gordon frowned for a moment, but burst out laughing as his father's face creased into a broad smile and he shot him a wink.