Disclaimer: I own nothing, all rights belong to their respective owners.
Happy (slightly late) Birthday, Bee! Can't break tradition and not write you something now, could I? Huge, huge thanks to Sam1 for checking this over for me - kind of hard when hiding it from your normal beta, thank you so much!
Gordon felt his feet hit the floor, his knees threatening to buckle as they took the impact. He kept going though, he knew that he had no choice but to keep moving. The spray of bullets tore up the ground around his feet as he sprang away again, letting his legs pound out a steady rhythm as he ran. Running was for Scott, not for him. But then again, maybe if his brother was here, he wouldn't be in this situation. If Scott were here…. Then Gordon wouldn't be here either.
After all, what kind of vacation is it if he were to take the smother hen with him? Getting time off from the island had been hard enough as it was. Not that that was Scott's fault, mind. Whilst the big brother in him always seemed to want the others close so that he could keep an eye on them, the field commander knew that wasn't practical. They all needed a break from the hectic chaos that was their lifestyle on a regular basis. That part of Scott had been more than happy to kick Gordon off the island for two weeks or so, especially after the redhead had run straight into a burning building, misread a life signal, and ended up with half the building collapsing on top of him for absolutely no reason at all. But the other part of him had wanted Gordon where he could see him, and right now, Gordon couldn't think of a good enough reason to disagree.
The vacation had been going perfectly. He wasn't far from the island – every member of the team was just as bad as the others at actually being able to let go of their duty completely and simply relax – but it was far enough for him. There was a pool, there was the sea, and there were some pretty gorgeous girls in the room next door to him. Dinner and drinks on more than one occasion with them, maybe something a little more, meant the prankster truly felt more relaxed than he had done for a long time.
Until news of a rescue had kept him awake one night. Unable to sleep, but knowing that he couldn't call into the island until everyone was back or it would just cause more fuss meant Gordon had slipped out of the hotel in the middle of the night. He had always found watching the waves by moonlight just as relaxing as John found staring at the stars a good way to unwind, and the calming motions of the waves soon had his worries disappearing out to sea. He knew that his brothers could take care of themselves, he just didn't like not being there in order to make sure that they were indeed okay. After all, it wasn't as if being truthful about one's injuries was a trait that ran in the family. They were more likely to lie to him if something was wrong than allow him to cut his break short.
Gordon had just about felt ready to head back when he had heard the hushed voices from a little further down the beach. Ever the curious type, he had found himself clambering up the very same rocks that were hiding the speakers from view. Gordon didn't have to be watching them for long to know precisely what he was seeing.
He didn't even realise that people still did it. Obviously, living on an island had lulled him into a false sense of security. The others always teased him about how well he knew the wildlife both on and around their island, but Gordon didn't see what choice he had. Some of those species were deadly, someone had to know what was out there, especially when Alan had been nothing more than a kid and took "no" to mean "go". Marine life had always interested him and so he had simply taken it further.
But seeing the rifle in the man's hand, knowing how many protected species populated the islands littering the sea around this part of the main land, Gordon found himself getting a bit of a reality check. He knew that he couldn't do anything there or then, they were clearly armed when he was not. They would simply make him disappear, and even John wouldn't be able to trace his whereabouts.
That, however, wasn't enough to deter Gordon. Now that he had an idea in his head, he wasn't about to let it go, not when it was something that he felt strongly about. So he had waited, watched, and planned. It didn't take him long to slowly begin to piece together who the men were and when they took to the seas. Gordon wasn't sure if it was his military past, International Rescue present or just because he knew what to do, but it was almost too easy to trace their movements. Determined to put a stop to it – he had tried the authorities, then realised that they didn't believe a word he was saying, believing he was just trying to cause trouble because of his name – Gordon had followed them.
It was why he was now running for his life, with men shooting at him from all angles across a small rocky island that he had no way off. He had taken a boat out after them, easily keeping pace and slipping onto the island. There was a rare type of bird here, Gordon had discovered that much, and that was what they had come for. But when they realised that they were being followed, the group had turned their attention onto a much larger prize. Or rather, they had when one had recognised Gordon and they had realised that they were much more likely to make money from a son of Jeff Tracy than a species that not many had heard of.
Gordon had given them the slip – naturally – but they had been better than he had given them credit for. A couple had doubled around and almost caught him in the crossfire as he tried to make his way to his boat. A few well-placed bullets had put a hole in that plan – literally – and Gordon knew that even attempting to go for the poacher's boat was suicide; three men were still guarding it despite the chase going on across the island.
Ducking behind an outcropping of rocks, Gordon clapped his hand over his mouth in order to muffle his breathing as two of his pursuers ran past. Gordon could pick up enough of what they were saying to know that they were Italian, but that didn't mean anything. He didn't understand a word, and knew the group was a mixture, someone had definitely been talking German earlier.
Their footsteps died away and Gordon blew out a long breath, resting his head back on the rocks as he tried to steady his heartbeat again. What on earth was he supposed to do now? This would only work as a hiding place for so long, and then he would be forced to run. He was hopelessly outnumbered and had no way off the island. Not to mention they were armed and he was not.
Gordon refused to use his watch, refused to call John just as if he was another helpless victim stuck waiting for a rescue. Oh, they would come, Gordon had no doubt about that. But once they realised that he had got himself into the situation by acting irrationally, they would mock. No doubt his father would be furious for him getting into trouble that required the 'birds to be called out and would never let him off the island again. Sighing, Gordon tried to think a way out of it, but every solution his mind came up with, Thunderbird Four was somehow involved.
Maybe that was it? Gordon straightened up, grinning. He didn't need to call International Rescue, he just needed to call one of his brothers. John was up on Five, not to mention whilst he was happy in outer space, there was no way that Gordon was letting him in Four on his own. Scott would be as bad as his father if he were to find out, and Alan had sprained his ankle on the very same rescue that had led Gordon out here in the first place.
Meaning there was only one person Gordon felt he could ask for a favor. Or a rescue, to be more precise. The only problem was getting Virgil to agree to it. Knowing that he had nothing to lose, Gordon raised his watch.
"You want me to what?!"
Virgil was glad that he was in his studio when his watch had suddenly vibrated. Expecting Gordon to be bragging about what he had been up to, the artist had been more than surprised when it had taken Gordon a moment to answer. But that hadn't even touched upon what he had felt at hearing what was coming out of his brother's mouth.
"You want me to lie to Dad and Scott – our commander and Field Commander, practically steal Thunderbird Four and come out and get you because you've got yourself on the wrong side of some trigger happy maniacs?"
Gordon's response was soft and quiet, and it was only that which made Virgil realise that his brother had been telling him the truth. Wherever Gordon was, he didn't want anyone to be overhearing him.
"You are impossible."
"Just come and get me, Virg, please. I won't prank you for a year."
"Don't make promises that you can't keep, Gords." Virgil was already standing up as spoke, rolling his eyes at the same time. Gordon would know that he would come, it wasn't as if he was going to just leave his brother there.
"You left me behind once before…"
"And you haven't let me forget it," Virgil grumbled, finding that one finger was hovering over the switch that would cut his brother off even as he spoke. That had been an accident, that was all. The rescue was over and he was distracted, not to mention Gordon had been annoying him for the whole rescue. It wasn't as if he had meant to leave the aquanaut stranded in the middle of the ocean for a couple of hours, but Gordon had never let him forget it. Wondering if this would get him out of the teasing for a week or so at least, Virgil sighed.
"Send your co-ordinates then."
"If I do that, John will find out and he'll tell Dad."
"Hang on," Virgil stopped dead, one hand resting on the door handle as he stared at his watch in bemusement. "You were being serious when you said not to let Dad or Scott find out, weren't you?"
"C'mon, Virg, you know Dad won't let me leave the island again if he finds out about this. I'm perfectly fine, just a little, you know…"
"Stranded? Stuck? Completely out of your depth? In need of a big brother to come and save you?"
"Don't get carried away. It's the third island from the mainland northwest, I can tell you that much."
"Stand by then, Gords."
Gordon disconnected and Virgil felt the urge to bang his head against the door. Maybe if he concussed himself, he wouldn't be left with the responsibility of bailing Gordon out of trouble? But deep down, Virgil knew that his brother was right. Their father would not take too well to Gordon landing himself in trouble, and it would be a considerable length of time before he was allowed on vacation again. Virgil was becoming used to a peaceful island without having to check around every corner for potential traps. Telling himself it was for his own benefit made him slightly more favorable towards doing this at all, Virgil finally let himself out of the studio.
Despite making light of the situation, Virgil knew that he couldn't hang about for too long. Gordon would only be able to stay hidden for so long, but Virgil knew that he couldn't simply launch without spinning Scott some sort of story. He would never even make it to the ocean if he didn't do this the proper way.
Wondering whether he was better asking Scott or Jeff, Virgil found himself walking the hallways slowly, glancing around for his family as he did so. He knew that they had spoken about running some updates at breakfast, meaning they could be anywhere. Luckily, fate seemed to decide to help him out, and the sound of voices came floating out from his father's office. Cursing Gordon under his breath for being too curious, Virgil stepped up to the door and knocked softly.
"You okay, Virg? Thought you were in the studio?" Virgil forced a smile on his face even as Scott stood up, taking a step towards the door. He might be able to get away with lying to his father, but Scott made it a lot harder. His brother just seemed to be able to read him, and Virgil was convinced that the look in his eye would be telling Scott all that he needed to know.
"I had a better idea." Virgil muttered, turning his attention onto his father rather than his older brother with the hope that it would stop Scott's stare from burning a hole in his forehead.
"Can I take Four out?"
Virgil should have known the silence that would follow after his words. Despite all of the brothers being trained in each other's craft, they never opted for using another 'bird over their own. Virgil could see the concerned glance being shared and forced himself to grin, finding the eye roll accompanying his action was far more genuine.
"I never get the chance to test her in real conditions, Gords is too stubborn. Yet out of all of us, I should be the one knowing how to handle her the best, I do have to carry her around the whole time. Just an hour or two, Gordon will never find out and I'll get to feel her properly."
"Very well." Jeff had a small smile on his face as he nodded at his son. "That's a good idea. Maybe it is something we should impose? After all, Four doesn't set off as many radars as the other crafts, we could have literal practices rather than just in the simulators?"
"Um, Dad? I was kind of hoping to go now? As in, right this moment, this absolute second in time. You never know, the urge might disappear again and then I'll never want to do it again…"
"Right. Off you go, Virgil."
"I'll clear him." Virgil groaned inwardly at realising that Scott was right on his heels and wasn't going to be letting him get away with this. Still, he almost bolted from the room but not before hearing his father muttering something about strange sons and unusual behaviour that he would never understand. Virgil had only made it a few steps down the hall when Scott grabbed his arm.
"What's he done?"
"Gordon. Don't give me that crap about wanting to get the feel of Four, I know you wouldn't risk it. Meaning that Gordon must have asked or given you permission to take her out. Now, I know Gordon well enough to know that he wouldn't do that unless he had a reason. If he was hurt or ill, he would call the island. Meaning that he doesn't want anyone to know that he needs you, so he has done something stupid and got himself into trouble. What's he done?"
Virgil simply stared at Scott for a long moment. He had spent most of his conversation with Gordon trying to figure out whether his brother was telling the truth or not, and that was hearing his voice. Yet Scott had somehow just managed to figure the whole thing out just through what Virgil wasn't saying. Knowing that Scott wasn't going to let go of his arm until he had an answer that he was satisfied with, Virgil sighed.
"Got himself on the wrong side of some poachers and is now stranded on an island with them deciding that he is a better prize."
A low whistle of disbelief slid through Scott's teeth as he finally took a step back.
"That's impressive. Even for him."
"So now you see why I really need to go now before Dad gets a ransom that he doesn't see coming. If he grounds Gordon, we'll never have a moment's peace."
Wondering if the same reasoning would work on Scott as it did for him, Virgil watched his brother's face closely. Scott might not have brought the reason behind why Virgil was doing this, but there was no way he was going to stop Virgil when their brother was in trouble.
"Then I'm coming with you."
"Scott, Dad won't buy that."
"I know you don't care about what Dad has to say about it. But Gordon asked me to help him, there must be a reason why he didn't want you to know." Virgil didn't dare say that they both knew that Scott would have gone straight to their father if he had found out through any other way what was going on. "I can do this, Scott, you know I can. Trust me."
Scott might have been able to read Virgil, but the younger man could read his brother just as well. By uttering those last words, he had not only guaranteed that Scott would let him go, but that he wouldn't say anything about it either. Trust was an important issue, not just to them as a family but because of their very lifestyle. Scott knew as well as Virgil that if accusations started flying about not trusting each other, everything would come tumbling down.
"Fine. But tell him from me that he's on the next rota on Five next time Johnny is dirt-side."
"You know John will kill you for that?"
"Fine…just tell him…"
"That no one here knows and his secret is completely safe with me? Good idea, Scott, will do. Now come on, please help me launch that stupid lump of metal so I can go and save Gordon's ass."
Scott didn't have an answer to that, and Virgil took it as his chance to escape down into the silos. It didn't take him long to run through the pre-launch checks in Four, having done the simulator enough times to know what he was doing. It was strange though. Not only being in Four, but the fact that they were launching her straight from the island as well. Virgil wasn't sure the last time that had happened unless Gordon was taking her out to check something that Brains had done. Virgil himself had never done it.
"You ready, kiddo?"
"F.A.B, old man. Let me out of here."
"You will kick his ass from here to the moon, won't you?" Scott sounded so genuinely worried that Virgil had to laugh. He knew that Gordon's secret was safe – Scott's tone of voice clearly indicated that he was worried no one would tell Gordon that he was being a complete and utter idiot.
"Don't worry, Scott. I might be getting him off that island, but that doesn't mean that I'm taking him as far back as the mainland. All systems are green here, beginning tracks to approach water."
"F.A.B. Opening up cliff now. You do realise that it is only Gordon who would be capable of something like this, right?"
Virgil grinned as he felt Four being slowly dragged towards the water. He had always been able to mingle professional language with a casual conversation with Scott, something that he never underestimated the importance of at a rescue. To be kept calm without any true effort on Scott's behalf was not a talent many men had.
"I do. And you do realise that I have a free pass from him for the upcoming future right? Lowering into water now."
"F.A.B." Scott responded to Virgil's positioning before swearing under his breath. He seemed to realise that with Virgil out of the question with pranks and John up in space, not to mention Alan hurt, he had just landed himself the prime position of being the next victim. Virgil chuckled, easing the throttle on Thunderbird Four and allowing the yellow submarine to go shooting out into the water.
If he was honest, he barely even felt a ripple as she glided straight under. Flicking on the beams – Virgil hated navigating underwater with no lights on – he sat back in the chair and tried not to shift too much. It just wasn't the same as his seat, Gordon was a different shape to him. Confirming to Scott that everything had gone swimmingly (almost being able to see the disbelieving look on his brother's face at what he had just said), Virgil allowed the systems to take charge for him and found himself heading towards the mainland.
Remembering what Gordon had said about the location of the island, Virgil adjusted a few things and sat back. He loved to fly Two manually, loved how it felt to have such a great machine under his fingertips and how she responded to his every thought. But when it came to any of the other craft, he was more than happy to let the automatic take over and get him to his destination in one piece. There was less chance of a collision if it was Brains' computer steering the 'bird than if Virgil himself had hold of the controls. Whilst he might have been on his way to rescue Gordon, Virgil was fully aware that it was him who would need rescuing if he so much as scratched the paintwork.
"Thunderbird Four to Gordon."
"I never thought I would be pleased to hear those words. What kept you?"
"Oh, you know, fathers, brothers, crashing machines…"
"You did what?!" Virgil grinned, glad to have got the reaction that he wanted. It meant that Gordon was still okay, that he was still safe. Despite taking this whole thing rather light heartedly, Virgil was more than aware of the fact that his brother was in potential trouble.
"Just kidding, Squirt. What's going on your end?"
"I've found somewhere safe for now, it's a series of caves. They are still looking for me though, so if you wouldn't mind say, flooring it and getting here quicker? Does anyone know?"
"After you spent so much care making sure no one did? What do you take me for, Gords, do you really think that I would have told anyone?"
There was silence for about ten seconds, then Gordon spoke again.
"…Scott knows, doesn't he?"
Virgil knew that he shouldn't even try to deny it even as he began to tease more speed out of the machine. For him to deny that Scott knew was like Gordon denying that Alan helped him plan his pranks. Everyone in the family knew it, but Virgil knew Gordon well enough to know that his brother wouldn't hold it against him that their older sibling could practically read Virgil's mind.
"Where are you now?"
"I think I'm coming up on your position. Seriously, Gords, you really didn't want to go that far away from home, did you?"
"I never knew if I would need a rescue or not." Virgil simply huffed, not sure if Gordon was joking or not. He never could be sure when it came to his immediate younger brother. Instead of answering, Virgil tried to get more speed out of the 'bird. When one of the lights on the console started flashing at him, however, Virgil decided that he was going to just let Four take it at her own pace. If she was anything like Two, Virgil knew that the machine would somehow find a way of going faster the closer they got to Gordon.
The line between them stayed open, yet neither brother said anything. They didn't necessarily need words, not when they had other things that were occupying their attention. Virgil was focusing on trying not to crash as he gradually took control back and he had no doubt that Gordon was trying to make sure that he stayed alive. If he was honest, there was no way that Virgil was going to distract him from that particular task. Despite feeling like he was approaching the island, it still took another hour or so before Virgil knew that he was close enough to be of any use.
"Right, I'm surfacing now."
Virgil started, his hand completely missing the switch that he had been aiming for. His heart was pounding hard at Gordon's cry, wondering if something else had happened.
"What? What is it?!"
"Don't surface. If they are after me because they realised I was a Tracy, just imagine what they would do if they saw Four. They are hunters, Virg, and there is no way that I'm letting them get their hands on my girl."
"Gordon… think about what you are saying. If I can't get to the island, you can't get off. She can handle it, you can't."
"Virgil Tracy, if you break the surface in my sub, I'm painting Two." There was such certainty in Gordon's voice that Virgil didn't even question it.
"So what do you suggest?"
"I'll swim out to you."
"You'll do what?" Virgil was sure that he must have misheard. There could be no way that Gordon was suggesting such a thing, it was totally ludicrous. There were men all over this island just waiting to shoot him, or hold him hostage. And Gordon was talking about going for a swim?
"I can get out to you and they'll be none the wiser that there is a link between the Tracys and International Rescue. Trust me, Virg."
There it was again. The exact same words that Virgil had used against Scott in order to make his brother let him go. Just the way that Virgil knew they would work against the older man, he knew that he too was helpless against them. He didn't want to agree, but he knew that he had to trust Gordon. Besides, if anyone could make a swim like that, it would be Gordon. Still, it didn't stop Virgil from raising the sub just a little. Gordon would never know, and if Virgil wasn't quite so deep, that had to make it easier for his brother.
"Give me ten minutes and then open the air lock."
"Ten? Gords, are you sure that is long enough."
"Virgil, I can do this. Trust me."
Virgil sighed, wondering why it was precisely that he had let Gordon put him in this position in the first place. It would have just been so much easier if he had let Scott come as well.
"F.A.B. Countdown beginning now. You better be here, you moron."
Letting the line go silent again so that Gordon could concentrate, Virgil kept one eye on the time as he drummed his fingers against his leg. At least if he was waiting for something in Two, there were always things to look at. But down here, there was nothing. The beams seemed to have scared away any potential wildlife that Virgil could look at, and instead he just found himself willing Gordon to hurry up. How his brother could actually enjoy being underwater like this, Virgil had no idea. He was definitely going for a long walk in the open air when he got back to Base, that was for sure.
The time seemed to drag, but eventually, the ten minutes was up. Virgil sprang into action, lifting the sub slightly higher before activating the air lock. As soon as he did so, a figure could be seen swimming strongly towards him. Unable to believe that Gordon had actually carried it off, Virgil shook his head in bemusement and reached out a hand, helping Gordon in.
The redhead immediately sat down in a soaked pile, coughing and gasping for breath. Virgil gave him a moment before giving him a gentle nudge with his toe.
"Go and get some dry clothes on, I'm taking you home."
"No. No, take me back to the mainland, Virgil, please."
"Virgil, Dad can't know about this. I'm begging you, take me back to the mainland. Besides, I need to put some calls into the local authorities. It seems there are a group of people stuck on an island after their boat was wrecked."
"What did you do?"
"You don't want to know."
This wasn't the first time that Virgil had heard that as an answer, and instead just rolled his eyes and helped Gordon to his feet. Scott's past was obvious in the way that he ran their rescue operations, but Gordon's was often overlooked. Virgil didn't like to think of his little brother being deadly, yet he knew that was the case if Gordon wanted to be. Instead, he just left it at the fact that Gordon had done something to their boat to stop them from getting off the island. He didn't even want to know what had happened to Gordon's mode of transport if he hadn't been able to get himself off the island in the first place.
"You're weird, you know that right? Most people relax whilst on a break."
Gordon had finally been taking a few steps towards the back of his craft, intending to get changed into something dry. He stopped at Virgil's words, however, and shot his brother a smile.
"One of a kind, that's me."
Virgil simply rolled his eyes and turned back to the controls, knowing that when Gordon was dry, he was going to be firmly pushed from the control seat.
What he couldn't do, however, was disagree.