A Tracy by any other name

Chapter 2

Scott and Virgil sat on the floor at either end of the pool heckling Gordon during his morning swim, while Alan and Tin-Tin sat side by side on a sun lounger laughing over the articles in the latest edition of Tin-Tin's favourite celebrity magazine. It had been unusually quiet on the rescue front in the last couple of weeks and the family were making the most of the impromptu downtime knowing that, at some point in the near future, their peace would be shattered and they would be needed to risk their lives once more for the people of Earth.

None of them were particularly surprised when the quiet space around the pool was suddenly disturbed by the bleeping of four wrist-comm units. Alan, Virgil and Scott immediately raised their left arms up to see the concerned face of their father looking back at them. Gordon launched himself out of one end of the pool and peered over Virgil's shoulder, dripping copious amounts of water down his elder brother's back as he did so. Virgil turned to castigate the wet red-head but, once their father began to speak, he forgot his ire and began to feel worried instead.

"Scott, Alan, I need you to prepare Thunderbird 3 for immediate launch. Alan, I'm sorry but I'm going to have to ask you to go back up to Thunderbird 5." Jeff's voice came clearly over the wrist-comms, along with the obvious stress imbedded in the Tracy patriarch's tone.

"But Father…" Alan began before Jeff cut him off once more.

"No buts, Alan. I know you've only been back three weeks and that you're not due to go back yet but John needs to come down…and he needs to come down now."

Gordon's "What's wrong with John, Father?" clashed with Virgil's worried "Is John sick?" which overlapped with Scott's "This is something to do with that letter, isn't it?"

Jeff raised his hand up to stop them. "John is fine," he assured everyone. "He doesn't know it yet but he's going to need some personal time over the next…he's…well he's just going to need to take some personal time."

The three older boys opened their mouths to argue but were silenced by a stern look from their father. "No more," he said firmly. "I have to talk to John now. Scott, Alan, get yourselves ready."

Alan quietly hugged an unhappy looking Tin-Tin before getting up and disappearing into the house without looking back. Scott looked across the pool and met Virgil's worried gaze for a moment until, without warning, the mid-aged brother was upended, fully clothed, into the pool. Gordon caught Scott's eye and winked before throwing himself into the pool after the now-surfaced and spluttering Virgil.

Scott smiled and shook his head gently, rolling his eyes to himself as he watched his brothers. Gordon was nothing if not creative in his methods to stop Virgil mulling things over and over in his head. The quiet, studious middle Tracy child was renowned for bottling up his feelings and worries until, eventually, they would come to a head in a complete breakdown and reduce the young man to an emotional wreck for anywhere up to several days.

The years directly after Lucille's death had been a trying time for the whole family but Virgil had been hit particularly hard, having been trapped in the crushed cabin with his mother's body for several days before rescuers had finally managed to dig them out. Despite everyone's assurances and discussions to the contrary Virgil had always blamed himself for his mother's death. If he hadn't become sick during that fateful skiing holiday then he and his mother would have been safely up on the ski slopes with his father and brothers when the avalanche happened. Instead Lucille had stayed in the cabin with Virgil and had lost her life due to a sick boy and a tragic, brutal act of nature. Jeff, Grandma, Tin-Tin, her family and his brothers had learned to judge his moods very well and usually managed to avoid a meltdown, although on occasion the inevitable still happened and everyone would have to pitch in to help pick up the pieces.

Scott jumped and realised he'd delayed too long in his musings when Gordon surfaced in front of him and carefully flicked a single drop of water onto his face. While Virgil often needed a short, sharp shock to bring him out of his introspection, Scott needed the complete opposite. A gentle pat on the back, a squeeze on the neck or a softly spoken word to remind that there was someone else around who cared for him was the best way to shake Scott from his thoughts. Gordon waited quietly until the droplet of water sliding down Scott's nose eventually registered with his brother and Scott finally focussed on him.

"You OK, bro?" the red-head asked quietly. "You've got that look about you."

Scott leaned forward and absent-mindedly played with Gordon's wet hair while he thought out his reply. He knew exactly what Gordon meant by 'the look' and he also knew that his second-youngest sibling wouldn't let him leave without an answer. He pulled a chunk of hair until it stood in proud spikes on top of Gordon's head and then used the flat of his hand to squash the hair back, more or less, into its original position.

"I don't think there can be anything physically wrong with John," he answered eventually. "Dad wouldn't have let him go up there in the first place if there was any chance he was sick and I'm sure we would have heard if he'd've somehow hurt himself while he's been..." Scott stopped speaking and waved the hand that had been toying with Gordon's hair in a vague motion that pointed up into the sky.

Gordon nodded silently and waited for Scott to continue.

Almost as if he needed the contact with his brother Scott placed his hand back on Gordon's wet hair and started talking again. "He…I'm not supposed to say anything but John got a letter this morning, from a solicitors in Tasmania. I think this must be something to do with that but for the life of me I can't work out what it could all be about."

Gordon nodded under Scott's hand. "It takes a lot to fluster Father," he agreed. "Although something's definitely up but he won't tell us until he's good and ready, of that you can be sure."

The elder brother snorted through his nose at this. "Oh, I'm sure alright!" he said with a grin as Alan's voice came floating out of the house shouting that he was ready and asking why Scott was still 'lazin' by the pool'.

Scott patted Gordon on the head as he stood up and the red-head immediately submerged himself in the pool and disappeared. Scott then ambled back into the house reminding Alan that his was a return journey and that Alan was the one who had needed to pack for a stay away. Alan grumbled at that but Scott knew it was half-hearted. Much as Alan liked his downtime on the island Scott knew that the youngest boy couldn't deny John anything. Now the boys had all grown up, the two blonde brothers were probably the closest out of all them and were renowned for their long, varied conversations over the vid-comm units when one or the other was up on Five.

"C'mon little bro," he said quietly. "Let's get this done."

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