Scott was worried. And if Scott was worried, it was usually justified.
Perched at Jeff’s desk, looking at the portraits of his family on the wall, he was deep in thought, chin resting on tilted hands as he leant forward, eyes scanning each picture hung in sequence.
His gaze came to rest on Virgil’s portrait and he let out a sigh, thinking fondly of his eldest younger brother who was sound asleep upstairs, getting some well-earned sleep after 46 hours awake pulling people out of a mine collapse in Argentina. He’d stayed on a hunch after rescuing the original six reported and was, as usual, found to be right in thinking more people were trapped below who hadn’t been on shift.
39 people had been pulled bruised, battered and in a few cases with broken bones but very much alive thanks to his quick thinking and adaptability.
Scott was proud of all of his brothers, but especially in moments like that, he was proudest of Virgil and what he’d always managed to accomplish by his unique way of thinking outside the box.
Eyes still fixed on Virgil’s portrait, Scott heaved another sigh as a wave of dread hit his stomach. Shaking his head at himself, his gaze moved out onto the patio, past the pool and to the helipad just below where the rotor of their visitor’s personal helicopter could just be seen.
Tycho was here on Brain’s personal invitation, the two of them working on enhancements to all the craft. Since the incident with the hyper-car, Tycho had been in contact regularly and was now on his first visit to the island, having been granted wary clearance by Scott. After all, he was a well-known figure and thus less likely to make a grab for any spare technology. And he had willingly (and worryingly, almost enthusiastically) agreed to be subject to both arrival and departure searches to ensure he was trustworthy.
His presence was more welcomed now, but still threw the balance of their close knit group off somewhat.
Gordon was swimming less, Alan actually studying (likely in an attempt to impress Tycho), Kayo was spending nearly all her time designing, testing and outfitting enhancements for Thunderbird Shadow, under Brain’s watchful eye, John was calling less which might have had something to do with EOS nesting herself in the hangar to listen in on Tycho and Brain’s discussions and almost missing a call and Virgil…
Well here in lay the issue.
When Virgil had come out as gay during a massive family argument regarding the future of International Rescue shortly before their father had disappeared, none of the family had had an issue with it.
Jeff, for his part, fondly remarked he’d always known that Virgil was a little different and his brothers had all rallied behind him for support. It wasn’t as bigger deal nowadays as in the past, but to Virgil it had been an affirmation of ‘this is who I am,’ and the acceptance had spurred his confidence onwards, helping mould him into the superb rescuer he was today.
And Scott had not thought anything of it until a seismic research centre in Japan had been swallowed by a sinkhole and after the crew was rescued and they were packing up, he showed up.
Jason Rei. A GDF disaster analyst, wanting a debrief for his superiors. A sensible approach, Scott had thought at the time, to analyse exactly what went wrong with industrial disasters and attempt to stop them from happening again.
And Virgil, having been the primary responder, graciously agreed to stay behind and give the debrief. Which lasted, as it turned out, several hours, for all of which he was out of contact.
Scott was not happy about that. He said his piece, Virgil apologised, explained they had been caught up in the moment talking about disasters past and promised it wouldn’t happen again.
Then a mobile sonar platform in the Atlantic failed and almost sunk due to poor manufacturing techniques and again, Virgil as primary responder gave the six hour long debrief.
Three more times, and Scott put his foot down, announcing that he would be attending the debriefs from now on.
Interestingly, when he sent Virgil home after an invasive gas drilling explosion was resolved, he found the debrief only 15 minutes long, and Jason rather standoffish.
Everything began to get back to normal. And then Virgil started disappearing.
The first time, a personal plane had gone and Thunderbird 2 was needed. Virgil answered his comm and remoted 2 to his location. After an earful from Scott, he agreed not to do it again, and requested leave.
In hindsight, if Scott hadn’t denied his leave, things might have ended up very differently, and not in a good way.
Another enormous row saw Virgil leave, threatening not to return. Two hours later, another disaster, and 2 remoted again to his location.
However, on returning from plucking a billion-dollar prototype plane from the back of a sinking carrier, Virgil was troubled.
He finally opened up, finally admitting that he had been seeing Jason since that first debrief, and that their meetings had turned into a lot more. However, recently he had been coaxing Virgil from the island, which explained his absences.
The part that troubled him, though, was the second a call came in, Jason was pressuring, constantly asking and even trying to follow him into Thunderbird 2, or asking to be taken to the island to see the launch, to meet everyone, to see the ships, everything. It had, apparently, come out of no-where.
Now with over 20 missed calls and some worrying text messages with vague implications, Virgil had become concerned.
Scott had had enough. He managed to reach Colonel Casey, intent on reminding her that part of their operations agreement was that no member of GDF staff was to request information on or about the location of Tracy Island.
But when the name of Jason Lei was mentioned, she confirmed their worst suspicions; no-one of that name was registered as a GDF employee, and there was no such thing as the Disaster Analysis Team.
For the first time in Scott’s memory, Virgil was livid. He trashed his room, the second lounge, fully intent on flying to Jason and demanding answers. Then the rage faded into tears and the grief, the guilt and the horror of being lied to finally hit.
They had a family meeting where Scott explained the basics of the situation with Virgil’s blessing and together, they came to the same consensus; they had to find out who this Jason was, who he was really working for and what his intentions were.
Virgil, for his part, couldn’t bring himself to contact him. The missed calls began to grow larger, the messages angrier and more threatening.
With Penny’s help, they managed to track down Jason’s past, his employment history and his real identity.
Fresh out of jail for fraud, with no-where to go, one Raleigh Hoii had been employed by Axius Industries as an analyst. Axius Industries, who as of three months ago no longer existed, having been seized and shut down by the GDF after they found that the company was owned and operated by known associates of the Hood.
The Hood had hired him to infiltrate the Tracy’s by any means and gain the location of the island, a fact he admitted when confronted by Parker and Penny.
His arrest for ‘undermining core government processes’ and ‘imitating an officer’ carried harsh sentences, as well as a gagging order surrounding his activities during the time he spent infiltrating, but for Virgil it was too late.
He was broken, unable to work, barely eating, not sleeping. He felt used, dirty and betrayed, and all for good reason.
Gordon and Alan hovered around him constantly, trying to make him smile, trying to coax a little of the old Virgil back.
When Virgil requested leave again, Scott approved. 4 weeks away. Travelling, he said. Scott didn’t press for details, he only made a request.
“Come back home.”
Virgil had given a weak smile as he hoisted his ready packed bag over his broad shoulders and headed down to the docks.
They had been the longest four weeks of Scott’s life.
Every day was spent worrying about Virgil, checking in with their agents worldwide, in case he’d been spotted. He was smart, and he stayed off the radar.
Then on a beautiful, sunny morning with the calmest sea you can imagine, Scott wandered, bleary eyed into the kitchen, fresh from an unheard of whole 6 hours of sleep, and a broad silhouette on the patio caught his eye, shadowed by the sun behind him.
He’d not even thought, he just ran down the side of the pool and straight into Virgil with arms open. And Virgil just laughed, wrapping his older brother in a hug.
He got similar welcomes from Alan and Gordon when they finally woke up, and John even came down in the elevator to check on him. Kayo actually seemed emotional and Brains was relieved he was okay. Even MAX did a delighted twirl at seeing him back.
Grandma straight up burst into tears and sobbed into his chest with her arms around him, vowing to never let him go. Virgil chuckled the whole time, promising never to leave her alone with the rest of them again.
The smiles were back, the easy-going nature, the relaxed posture and the confidence.
Questions about where he’d been flowed as they all sat down to a huge breakfast– Japan, South Africa, China, all over Europe and finally Australia before home had been the trip, helping people along the way wherever he could and coming to terms with what had happened.
Whatever he had done, whatever he chose to leave out, it seemed to have helped.
That was almost 4 years ago now, and Virgil, though not usually one to broadcast his personal life, had not shown any signs of seeing anyone since.
The moment Tycho had landed on the island and been introduced to everyone by Brains, Scott could see Virgil turning red. As Tycho shook his hand and remarked in his usual, thinking out loud way, how impressed he was with his flying skills during his rescue and, out of the blue, how anyone could ‘get lost in those eyes’ as he gazed, fascinated at Virgil before sharply turning to admire MAX, he saw Virgil, mouth still a little agape, regard the hand Tycho had shaken with a sort of reverence, the blush on his face growing as he shook a little. He had caught himself a moment later and physically shaken his head a little, an embarrassed smile on his face as he moved onto the patio, taking a deep breath.
Scott regarded him carefully, a flash of the dread which weighed him down now shooting through his stomach.
“Not again,” he’d thought. “He can’t go through this again”.
And the truth was, Tycho was likely very different. For one, he wasn’t in league with the Hood. Two, he was trusted and was helping them. Scott was musing reason three when a rumbling voice snapped his attention away from his thoughts.
“You’re pretty much drooling there. You get enough sleep?”
Scott looked up to see Virgil, dressed in his usual morning attire of loose lounge trousers and a baggy grey shirt, his hair unstyled and wayward.
“You’re one to talk,” Scott grinned at his brother. His smile faltered a little as he noticed the dark rings around Virgil’s eyes as he moved to the coffee machine in the corner of the kitchen. “You’ve only had, what, four hours? You doing ok?”
Virgil smiled softly, not a happy smile, more a melancholy one and let out a sigh, continuing with his coffee making.
It was a few moments before he formulated a response.
“I… guess? Still tired. But sick of laying in bed staring at the ceiling. Just,” he sighed as the machine beeped, indicating it was ready and he reached to get a mug from the cupboard in front of him. “A lot on my mind. Thinking about stuff. You know.”
Scott nodded. He wondered if Virgil had been going over in his mind the same things he had.
“Yeah,” Scott mumbled in agreement. “I know the feeling.”
Virgil shot him a look, almost questioning as he took a sip of his coffee. Scott swallowed the growing lump in his throat, wondering if he should broach the subject.
He opened his mouth the speak but was cut off by the timely arrival of Brains and MAX, the robots tell-tale mechanical whir resonating through the room and almost cut off the excited voices that followed him.
Brains and MAX came up the stairs leading to the underground complex below them, closely followed by Tycho, the two men in animated conversation.
“So y-you’re saying that, that if we change the conductors,”
“That it would allow for more effective current transmission and faster response time, yes!” Tycho chimed, gesturing upwards. “Like neurons in the brain, if we get them to fire faster, faster response time! Experimenting with alloys could get the signals sent to the processing computers around 62% faster, which means tighter controls and…”
All three stopped as they stepped onto the floor, looking into the kitchen.
Tycho smiled at them both, as did Brains.
“Good morning gentlemen!” Brains greeted in his usual formal way. “We were just d-discussing improvements to T-thunderbird two’s control module, it’s all very exciting!”
Virgil perked up a little at the mention of his ship.
“You’re doing what-now to my girl?” he asked softly, genuinely curious.
Scott watched in mild amusement and Tycho registered his presence, seeming to not have done so before, being caught up in the conversation with Brains.
“Ah, Virgil! Brains has been telling me how good you are with Thunderbird 2’s systems. He says you do almost all of the maintenance yourself. Impressive!”
Virgil began turning red, suddenly finding his bare feet quite interesting.
“Oh, I… well she’s my baby,” he shrugged, placing his now empty coffee mug on the kitchen island. “It makes sense to know how everything works, inside and out. You never know when you’re going to have to fix something mid rescue.”
“A very sensible approach,” Tycho nodded excitedly, making his way across the room to where Virgil now tried to lean nonchalantly against the counter but still looked a little stiff.
Scott almost said something, almost moved to stop him as he saw the approach. The dread was back as he looked between them, Virgil with a shy smile on his face, Tycho staring at him with fascination and a hint of adoration, and the voice in the back of his mind screaming ‘Protect VirgilI’ got louder.
“I’d like you to take me through your knowledge of the internal systems, if you’ve got time, of course. Brains said that you’re the man for the job, and I don’t think there’s any higher recommendation than that!” Tycho was almost bouncing on his heels with excitement.
“Uh, yeah, sure,” Virgil responded, looking almost alarmed at the slim man now stood only a couple of feet from him, looking at him like he was the most interesting thing in the world. “Just let me grab a shower and get dressed and I’ll be down.”
“Fantastic!” Tycho chimed, now turning to Scott.
“Now, you!” he pointed directly at Scott, who was taken aback.
“You! Tell me, what niggles have you got with your Thunderbird? Brains says you like to complain a lot,” he grinned.
“Oh did he now?” Scott asked with a smirk as he registered Virgil slinking back upstairs out of the corner of his eye.
Across the rooms, Brains swallowed hard.