A/N: Brainwave as I was trying to write the next chapter. Hopefully will be up soon, tomorrow if I have my way, but in the meantime, enjoy. Definitely contains spoilers for my multi-chapters, this one for up to chapter 29 of Determined.
Disclaimer: If not for Sylvia and Gerry Anderson, I would not be able to play in this wonderful playground, so no, I do not own the Thunderbirds.
Lungs expand and retract; nothing but bags of hot air. They are so needed, strong and resilient, yet at the same time, so fragile.
His are failing.
John's chest rises and falls, the tube in his throat assisting the beleaguered organs in receiving the air he so desperately needs to survive. The oxygen tank hums next to the bed, and it is really only the beeps that signal his continued heartbeat that lets me know that he is still with us.
The fever has still not yet broken, and it is killing me, waiting for him to wake. I resent the situation that our family has been put into, since that bastard attacked my defenceless son to get to me.
I hate that I wasn't able to see the signs of John's distress, how ill he was getting in the first place; even before his relapse was confirmed, before he got to the point where his body was crying out again.
If not for the fact that we had been called to John's rescue, that he had been injured and consequently hospitalised, we might not have found out that his cancer had come back. It terrifies me that again, I was too blind to realise that John was sick.
Even after he commenced the salvage treatment, I still had too many other things to focus on to properly give him the attention he needed. I didn't have time to breathe, let alone work with my sons as a family to ensure that they were alright, in body and in soul. I was trying, but it wasn't enough.
It's never enough, but in order to deal with it, and make it work, I needed to breathe. But you cannot breathe without fresh air, and I have none.
It is like a storm-cloud, the aftermath of the attack, and it just gets thicker and darker above our heads, every time we get something else dumped on us, designed in no small way to rock us to the core, and to challenge everything we've fought for these past eight years.
It's just confusing, shocking, and so hard to contemplate that we have to deal with this on top of everything else that's been going on with the world.
I was trying to figure out the logistics and materials needed to consider restoring International Rescue to active status, along with helping my sons recover from the attack on our family, and to support my friends, as they tried to be there for their families as well as mine. But then the revelation that Virgil now has the disease that ultimately killed my father came along and threw a spanner into what was a tentative balance.
It is unbearable, knowing that my middle son has to rely on external sources to help him survive for the rest of his life; that a single action, insignificant to the majority of the human population, can kill him with little effort.
His entire future is under threat because of it, and I don't know how to approach Virgil to discuss it. I am unsure if he has even thought about it yet. The diabetes is barely under control as it is. Virgil is technically an outpatient here at the moment, because it was so urgent that we got to the hospital for John, and it has led to me feeling guilty that I am split between two terribly ill sons.
Virgil is struggling, feeling the same guilt that I saw in John's eyes back in the hotel last week. They both need all their brothers, and their father, but we are split and trying to cope on our own, while trying to stand together at the same time.
He knows what he's facing, and it's killing me as much or possibly even more than it is him. By being here, having to drag Virgil halfway across the world while he is so sick, though not unwilling, is reckless and dangerous, but necessary. I could scarcely leave him behind when John was, is hanging by a thread.
I am sacrificing one of my boys for the others, and I feel awful because I can't tear myself into five, so all of them can have an equal piece of father to confide in and help them cope with all of this. The other three are being forced to take care of themselves, and as a parent who knows how his children react to stress, I can see the warning signs.
Almost all of my boys are grown men, but as when I was raising them, this is definitely one of the times that I wish that my own father is still alive to ask for advice.
Gordon is pushing himself to his limits again, not only where his physical health is concerned, but also his emotional health. He is bottling it all up, mimicking Scott without realising, in an effort to be there for Alan, who is far too young yet, despite what happened a month ago, to properly be processing the situation.
He can see as well as I that Alan is struggling; he's become that small eleven-year-old who was back in the hospital when Gordon had his accident. It's the only memory he has of how to cope under these circumstances, and Gordon understands that and is compensating. Gordon is getting more and more tense as Alan gets clingier, and I wonder when he will crack. I can't deal with another son hospitalised. I just can't.
He's downstairs sleeping with Alan and Virgil, but he needs to breathe. Like the rest of us.
I need to breathe. I'm following John's breaths, as he lies unconscious in the bed, and I notice again the paleness of my son's face. He is almost lost within the sheets, like last time. Skin and bone, wires and tubes. We are so close to losing him again, and it's terrifying. He's not even six weeks into treatment, and he's already like this. Where will it end?
I wish that John had told me how poorly he was feeling before the situation got to this, before he got so sick he had lost so much weight, and now, before he developed this infection.
To be fair though, my second son was probably so used to feeling sick that he probably hadn't recognised what the warning signs of infection were when they appeared. The chemotherapy this time around is so much more potent, leaving him barely able to stand and move without retching, and that would make judging what is normal for him to be feeling a very difficult endeavour.
I wish that Scott had told us earlier that John had been hospitalised. Not to the point that my second son needs a god-damned machine to help him breathe!
But that is not fair, I know. Scott is doing his very best. As he always has. He worries me. He will not move from John's bedside until visiting hours are over, and then comes back as soon as they begin again, unless I force him to get out of the room. I must confess I am the same way, but there is a difference. I wish again that this is not happening, but the universe does not ever really answer my prayers.
I know that Scott continues to fight his demons from four years ago. I see the signs that he is about to have an episode; the tightening of his hands, the shifting of shoulders, the redness in high-boned cheeks, but then he suddenly vanishes from the room, and I always, instantly worry.
It sounds completely inane and ridiculous, but I cannot go after him. I want to, desperately, but I do not allow myself. I know that Scott deals with them on his own, that he cannot deal with the idea of any of us thinking of him as weak. He thinks that I don't know he still has the panic attacks. It is far from weak to show feelings, but he needs his breathing room.
I need breathing room. I feel bad, but John is making me feel suffocated. It's not fair to him, but some traitorous part of my mind is telling me that he's not even awake to know if I leave or not. I just need an out; to deal with this in some capacity, on my own.
I want to try and recall how it feels to smooth my son's curls out of his face without the gloves and protective gear, to see him hale and healthy. I want to wish for John's bright-eyed smile, untainted by medications, headaches and pain, red in his cheeks; health instead of fever.
Most of all, I want and need to imagine, even if I can't see the clear, full-chested breaths inflate my son's lungs, without the threat of him going into respiratory distress.
I can't take the silence of the darkened room anymore. I need to go. I need to breathe.
I jerk my phone out of my pocket as I slip out, the pangs of guilt for leaving John alone left behind with the force of my movements. For now anyway.
There is a buzzing in the pocket of my jeans as Scott returns my text, presumably asking along with his agreement whether I want the coffee he was purchasing, and it alerts me to the probable concern he is feeling at my message, but I ignore it.
I can't deal with his worry at the moment. It's selfish and stupid of me, but I just need half an hour. Half an hour to catch my breath and try to deal. I have to try; I owe him and his brothers that more than anything. Then I will be able to deal with everything my sons need of me. I'll be able to cope.
I need all of my sons to be strong, healthy and whole, but first; I need to breathe.