Their job is so important to them it is hardly a job anymore. It’s simply a way of living, and they sincerely enjoy having it that way. If there are no distress calls they get free time, sure, but it's not really the same as taking a day off - if there's a distress call, it will get answered and the best brother qualified for the job gets sent to the area. It's what they do; it's what they have been doing since God knows when, and they rarely complain about the conditions or the lack of free time. They are the International Rescue, after all, it's what they do.
But every now and then comes a time when the situations get too much to handle and a brother after brother gets exhausted under the enormous pressure, and that is when they contact the GDF and ask Colonel Casey to take care of the distress calls for the next couple of days. That's when they take a vacation. Taken that they live in an island and get to see the sun so much there’s always at least one of them having sunburns, they rarely feel the need to travel anywhere warm - they choose cold instead. The majestic heights of the Alps, in Switzerland to be specific, where the sun doesn’t burn but makes the snow glimmer like an ocean of tiny crystals and the frost bites their nose tips and where they finally feel like they are no more than ordinary. Where nobody recognizes them under their skiing masks and they blend in with the crowd of skis and snowboards and are finally free to take some time to just breathe in and relax.
It's not often that it happens, approximately once in a year by Alan’s calculations, but once you've learnt the skill it's hard to forget it, no matter how much time passes. That’s why Alan boldly skips the children’s ski slope and aims for the chairlift that seems to take people to the highest slope instead, only one of his feet attached to the shining red snowboard he’s dragging.
Scott’s on his left side, awkwardly stumbling forward on his skis in a way that isn’t exactly walking but not sliding either. He loves skiing, loves the way he can just slide downhill at a rate that feels equivalent to his Thunderbird's speed, even though it obviously isn’t, and can experience it in a way his ‘bird doesn’t let him – he can actually feel the wind against his face and the frost slowly biting into him, can almost breathe the speed. John and Virgil have tried teaching him the real way to ski hundreds of times, have tried to teach him the way he is supposed to zigzag instead of literally going downhill, but Scott doesn’t care that his way is ‘ridiculously dangerous, that’s not how it’s done, you’ll hurt yourself or hit somebody’. He is a person who not only is in love with adrenaline and feels most at peace when he's breaking the sound barrier but also spends half of his daily hours in what is currently the fastest rocket plane ever created, so fast is what he’s going to do.
On his right side is John, sliding forward in the same way Alan is, with only one leg attached to a snowboard. Snowboarding was originally John’s thing – the ginger of the family had refused to pick the skis like his oldest brother, claiming that they were lame and too easy for him. Of course, Alan hadn’t even been born back then, but he had been told that by his brothers when John had been too far away to hear their gossip. Until Alan was old enough to accompany his brothers when they went on a vacation, John had been the only one snowboarding. He knows how to ski, though – their mother had taught that to both Scott and John first, and he is a very good skier, too. Snowboarding just happens to be what once offered John the slightest hint of challenge, and he simply likes it better.
“Gordon, you sure you don’t wanna join us?” They hear Virgil yell. The middle child is behind the three of them, still attaching his skis. Virgil isn’t really the biggest fan of neither snowboarding nor skiing, but when they go on vacations he chooses the skis. He’s the kind of a skier who picks a ridiculously slow speed and concentrates on admiring the views instead. He gets on everybody’s way, even the smallest children’s, and eventually falls down on purpose because he doesn’t want to crash into someone in front of him. Then he stays in the ground for a while until finally detaching his skis and walking down the rest of the hill, ditching his skis and going to join Gordon in a sledging hill.
Gordon – well, he claims he knows how to ski, but there is no visual proof of him ever actually trying it. He only sends his brothers a weird look when they try to ask him to join him, shakes his head and calls dibs on the best sledge he sees in the equipment rental store. Both Scott and Alan have tried bribing him into their preferred sports, but he never so much as touches their equipment. Sledging hill is, according to him, much more fun than skiing or snowboarding anyway.
And as usual, the second youngest is currently making his way towards the sledging hill, dragging the finest sledge the rental store could offer behind him. He shakes his head without even turning, yells: “Nah, I’m fine,” and keeps moving ahead. Alan chooses not to worry too much about his brother being lonely – Virgil won’t enjoy the ski slopes for longer than an hour, tops, and will without no doubt join Gordon.
John is the first one to reach the queue to the chairlift, Alan only seconds behind him. Scott and Virgil stumble to them right on time to make it to the approaching chair, and they actually manage to get on it. Alan clearly remembers last time they were here and Scott tried to sit on the lift but missed and sat on the ground instead, missing the ride and having to the next ride with three, loud 10-year-olds. After that he swore never to get any kids himself. Alan also remembers the time before that when just seconds before having to hop off John got stuck on a badly attached screw from his pants and had to stay in the chair for a total of three rides before finally getting himself free. Chairlifts sure are evil things.
The fact Alan had, at the age of only 7, chosen a snowboard instead of skis, hadn’t been a result of long ponder – the minute he had seen John slide down the hill on a snowboard with a huge smile spread on his face, he had wanted to learn it too. John had happily loaned him his old snowboard which had gotten too small for him ages ago and had taught him everything he knew about snowboarding. He had slid with Alan the first times and had helped him up again after the worst falls, and eventually Alan had bested him. John doesn’t enjoy the scariest paths and steepest hills as much as the youngest brother – he prefers the easier slopes, the ones where he can slide past Virgil, reach Scott and drive the oldest to a competition between the fastest and the most skillful.
Alan hopes it doesn’t come to that this time. The combination of Scott who has no idea what he is doing or how to slow down and John who is too clever for his own good and thinks everybody else knows how to perfectly act on a slope just because he can is purely dangerous.
“Which one first? Black Plague or Rainbow Rush?” Alan asks, before quickly adding: “I think it’d be best to start with Rainbow Rush since it’s a little easier. What do you think?”
John huffs, raising his eyebrows, but Scott is the one who answers. “Alan, if I wanted to take it slow I would’ve chosen one of the baby slopes.”
“Black Plague it is, then,” John smirks, and Alan just shrugs and continues to admire the views from the lift. If his brothers are so keen on getting themselves killed on the first slope they try, sure.
“Why are all the slopes named like they are characters in My Little Pony?” Virgil asks from where he’s tucked between John and Scott, causing the latter one to snicker and Alan to feel the urge to facepalm.
“They are not, shut up, Virge.”
“They literally are, Rainbow Rush is the violet one,” the middle brother claims, to which Alan rolls his eyes and corrects: “It’s Rainbow Dash, you dork, do your research. And why would you know that in the first place? They only got popular again when I was a baby. Been watching some My Little Pony recently, have you?”
Virgil huffs. “Oh, don’t you even try. Wanna guess how many times I had to sit with you through an episode because you were too afraid of Nightmare Moon?” This earns laughs from both his oldest brothers and Alan would be blushing if the cold breeze of the wind hadn’t already turned his cheeks rosy pink.
“I was not!” He tries to deny, but Scott who’s sitting next to him gently pats his back and adds: “Oh, you were too. You wouldn’t dare to fall asleep without one of us sitting in the room with you, too afraid Nightmare Moon would find you during the night.” Alan opens his mouth for an objection, but John is faster.
“We had to buy a Nightmare Moon stuffed animal just to send it to the ocean on a little ferry to prove it had moved to another island and would never come back,” the only ginger of the family smirks from the other head of the chairlift, and Virgil cracks up.
“Man, I remember Alan pretending Dad’s random letters were from Nightmare Moon, telling him what other islands she had invaded and how many ponies she had imprisoned.”
“What was the name of the first island, again?”
“Pancake Island, right?”
“Oh, shut up,” Alan groans, but beneath his frown he is smiling. This is why it’s worth it to work the remaining 358 days of the year: to be able to feel his brothers laugh around him – well, technically next to him – and make fun of him, to actually spend time together and enjoy each other’s company.
They are approximately halfway through the lift trip and Alan is swinging his snowboard that is now properly attached, excited to get on the slopes again. The discussion about Nightmare Moon and her adventures continue for a while longer but Alan mutes his brothers and concentrates on the views and the people underneath them.
Before he knows it, the chairlift reaches its end and it’s time for them to hop off. John checks he isn’t caught on any screws or other things three times before daring to drop off and the rest of them manage to leave the chair without problems too. Without consulting his brothers Alan takes a head start, stumbling forward until finally getting to the part where the only way is down. He adjusts his ski goggles to protect his eyes from the wind before he looks behind at his brothers, yelling: “Last one down is on dish duty for this week!”
“Hey, that’s unfair!” He can hear Scott yell behind him, but he’s already moving, making his way down on the slope that is called Black Plague. The wind feels even stronger when you’re sliding down a slope so steep it should be illegal, but Alan loves it, savoring every second of it. He’s sure he would see John right behind him if he dared to glance back, but he doesn’t. He is also sure any minute now Scott is going to fly right past him with a speed that will get people killed if they get on his way.
And fair enough; Alan sees a familiar figure dash past him with an alarming speed, and Alan tries to yell “Zigzag, Scott, you gotta zigzag,”, but his brother is too far away to hear him. His second oldest brother also reaches him, and for a while they slide downhill together, trying to beat each other with their skills and Alan loves how his usually so concentrated and calm brother tries to show off in a way he never does. Alan knows the coolest tricks, taken that he gets to practice practically same kind of movement with his space surf so often, but there’s something that could only be described as grace in the way John moves that Alan can’t possibly outdo.
But soon John’s gaze lands on Scott again and if his eyes hadn’t been hidden under his goggles, Alan is sure he would see their usual deep green darkened with competitiveness.
Against all odds they all make it to the end of the slope, even Virgil, even though their Grandma would make it faster than him and they wait for him for ages. Scott’s cheeks are glowing red from the cold or just pure excitement, Alan’s not sure which, and John is smiling like he just won a lottery.
“Looks like we have our winner,” Scott provokes the middle brother when he reaches then, but Virgil just shrugs.
“Just gotta make sure Gordon doesn’t make lasagna,” Virgil says like it’s no big deal at all and Alan makes a mental note to ask Lady Penelope to join them to dinner when they get back to their cabin. Gordon always shows off then she’s around, trying the most complicated recipes and cooking so many different variations of his famous lasagna to get it taste exactly right that by the time they should actually start eating, his brothers are already completely filled with lasagna.
“Ah,” John sighs, glancing at the ski slope with a joyful expression on his face. “I always forget how amazing this is.” Scott hums in agreeance and as they both are completely lost in thoughts, Virgil sees his chance to get back at his brothers. The feeling of the skis attached to his feet is getting familiar again and he is the one who takes head start this time, sliding towards the chairlift, yelling: “Last one on the lift helps Grandma clean when we get home!”
There’s not many sentences that could make the remaining brothers move faster than that one. Alan is already moving and while awkwardly trying to move forward John intentionally bumps into Scott, making their oldest brother stumble and fall on his ass, thus losing valuable time. They proceed in a mix of hopping, sliding and stumbling, and Alan doesn’t remember when he last laughed as much.
Not surprisingly at all, Scott is the last one to reach the chair as he awkwardly stumbles into it, just barely making it in time. His expression is annoyed as he whines “John cheated!” between his heavy breaths, making the second oldest flash him the widest smile he can. Alan takes his goggles off for a moment, appreciating the cold air against his face.
They continue like that for an hour, sliding down and getting up again, prompting each other on the most challenging slopes, making bets that only get more ridiculous after each other. Like predicted, Virgil loses his interest soon after the mark of an hour, sitting on the slope and admiring the view before detaching his skis and walking the rest of the hill, shouting “I’ll go to the sledging hill with Gordo.” The three remaining brothers are almost too busy to even notice, constantly trying to outdo each other.
Sun is shining though not warming, making the view so breathtaking Alan would absolutely stop to admire it if Scott hadn’t just bet his last bagel back at the cabin to the first one who catches him. Alan knows he won’t catch him, at least not before John does, and he prefers the zigzagging more than just going straight downhill. He lifts one hand to cover his eyes from the sun and that is the moment he first notices the problem.
The problem – in other words Scott’s choice of direction. The bet that has them dashing through the snow so fast it’s almost scary only makes it worse. His oldest brother is heading to the direction of a curve they haven’t yet tried, but Alan knows that specific curve because he tried it earlier that day, mistaking it as a short cut – he remembers the way the sudden ramp flew him right on his ass because it just came so suddenly. It’s a new ramp, one that wasn’t there the year before, and Alan is hundred percent sure his oldest brothers have no idea of its existence. His oldest brothers, who are currently dashing towards it and laughing like they are ten-year-olds instead of 25 and 28.
“John! Scott!” Alan shouts, panic creeping into his voice and that’s when he realizes his mistake – both of his brothers turn their heads to look at him, to check everything is alright because he wouldn’t be shouting like that if everything was alright. Don’t the idiots know they are supposed to look forward the whole time?
And just as suddenly as when Alan slid on it himself, the curve is right in front of them, their speed way too fast to approach a ramp like the one they’re about to. Scott is the first one to turn his head back to the direction, and he’s too surprised to even yell – he flails his hands like a windmill, trying to slow himself down, the surprised noise escaping his throat alerting John to turn his head, too.
And then they practically fly over the ramp, so close to each other Alan knows it won’t end well, and they disappear from his sight. Alan slides to their direction as if he could make any difference now, carefully dodging the ramp, and a sickening thump and a shout from the way he’s headed to drops his heart to his feet.
In the end it probably even isn’t that serious, the ramp didn’t kill him when he accidentally tried it, but he is still kind of afraid of what he’s going to see.
In a matter of seconds he has circled the ramp and he sees his brothers.
They are both sprawled on the ground and Alan immediately notices the way John’s clutching to his arm from where he is lying. They must have hit each other on the way or maybe at the same time they hit the ground, and the impact had been enough to roll Scott a little further down. Alan carefully approaches John, whose face half hidden under the ski goggles has gone whiter than the snow around him, and it only takes one look to realize his shoulder is dislocated.
His phone is fished out of his jacket’s pocket without him even realizing and he’s dialing Virgil’s number while quickly detaching his snowboard, not giving a crap that it immediately starts to slide down the hill without him.
“Come on, pick up,” the youngest murmurs, ripping his ski goggles away and kneeling beside his second oldest brother. “John? John, can you hear me?”
That earns a painful grunt from his brother, “I dislocated my shoulder, Alan, I’m not deaf,” and he makes an awkward movement, trying to sit up. Then there’s a yelp and a hiss of pain and his face goes even paler, if possible. “Shit. Ah, my arm.”
Alan gulps and with the hand that isn’t holding the phone he lifts his brother’s goggles from his eyes. John’s eyes are shut tight and his expression is extremely pained and Alan has no idea what to do with his free hand. John carefully opens his eyes enough to see the figure knelt over him and his order is quiet but strong: “Go check up on Scott.”
Alan nods, ending up gently patting his brother on the shoulder that isn’t dislocated and he stands up. He can deal with people being hurt and scared, he does that all the time, but these are his brothers, and that is and is always going to be harder.
But he also knows that there is no room for panicking in situations like this, so instead of doing just that he takes a deep breath.
“Alan?” It’s Virgil’s voice against his ear and Alan sighs out of relief as he makes his way to his oldest brother.
“Virgil! Hey, uh, there’s been a…um…Scott and John crashed, uh, pretty bad,” he babbles and kneels down beside unconscious Scott. So he is probably concussed, too. Great.
He is being as gentle as he can as he shakes Scott from his shoulders a little, trying to wake him up.
“Scotty?” The only answer he gets is a grunt of pain but it is still an answer and that’s enough for Alan right now. He uses his free hand to move his brother’s ski goggles out of the way and Scott’s eyes slowly open, his expression baffled and eyes everything but sharp.
“Crashed? What do you mean? Alan?” He almost forgets to answer Virgil who is trying to get his attention back.
“Yeah, they crashed into each other, there was this ramp, they didn’t notice it– can you come here, like, right now?”
“Gordon, come… no, just come– Alan, are they okay?” Alan runs a hand through his hair and only then realizes he has thrown his helmet somewhere, glancing at both of his brothers.
“Umm…” Scott has a perfect timing with his groan, and Alan gulps. “Well, they’re not dying, but…”
“Okay, tell us where you are, we’re on our way,” and then, slightly muffled “Gordon, go get the paramedics.”
Alan does his best with explaining where they are without forgetting to mention his brothers probably aren’t able to walk and puts his phone on speaker, dropping it into his pocket to get both of his hands free. He checks Scott’s pulse – steady, although a little weaker than he would appreciate – and gently starts moving his hands on his oldest brother’s torso, checking for any broken ribs. He is not the doctor of the family, Virgil and Gordon are, and it’s just his brothers’ luck to be stuck with basically the only brother without proper medical education in a situation like this.
“Don’t touch,“ Scott hisses at the touch and Alan guesses he may have cracked his ribs a little. He quickly checks his legs and arms for any possible injuries, thankful as he finds nothing else. He then takes off his jacked, tucking it under his brother’s head.
“I’m gonna go check on John, don’t– don’t choke on your vomit or anything, okay?” Alan stands up without giving Scott a chance to answer with anything else than a grunt, going back to John’s side. The ginger is blinking heavily, staring at nowhere, still clutching to his injured arm.
“Still alive, Johnny?” Alan drops down next to him, doing a similar check on John as he did on Scott.
John winces as he gets closer to the injured arm and Alan makes sure not to touch it. John has dislocated his shoulders before, multiple times, but Alan knows that doesn’t make it any easier to bear.
“Peachy,” John hisses through his teeth, and Alan wishes there was something he could do to ease the pain. He ends up placing his hand on John’s shoulder, gently squeezing it. He glances over John to check that Scott hasn’t, well, died on his watch but his oldest brother still has his eyes open and his chest is rising with even breaths.
“Virge is on his way with Gordon. I don’t really know what to do but…they will.” And that is the thing that finally makes John sharpen his gaze on Alan, and through the pained expression there is the slightest hint of a smile as his brother lifts his uninjured arm to gently pat Alan’s shoulder.
“Alan. You’re doing great.”
If anyone dares to bring it up later, John will strictly deny there were any tears in his eyes when the shoulder was finally set back to its place again. Alan was there with him so he knows the truth, but he won’t say a word. Or mention how his fingers still feel slightly numb from how forcefully John clutched on them during the procedure.
Scott is still a little concussed, and nobody dares to mention how he threw up on Virgil and the pretty paramedic lady when they tried to get him on the snowmobile the first time. Or how he later threw up on Gordon on the way down.
They are sitting in front of a fireplace, all except for Virgil who is washing the dishes and cursing the cabin for not having a dishwasher. Scott is sitting on the comfiest chair he called dibs on, only half of his shirt’s buttons buttoned and thus showing a little of the white bandage covering his ribs. John has the second best chair, though he claims that it’s better than Scott’s anyway, his uninjured arm holding a hot cup of cocoa and the other one in a sling. There’s an untouched bagel sitting on his lap because well, technically John did catch Scott although not necessarily how Scott had originally meant.
They are more or less broken, but they will be fine.
“And all this for a bagel? Sheesh, Johnny, if you were that desperate for a bagel you should’ve just said so and I would’ve bought you one.” Gordon is having way too much fun listening to Alan’s story of how things proceeded. “Man, I can’t believe I missed that. You should have filmed it,” he continues to laugh, and Alan shakes his head with a smile. It’s easy to laugh at it now that the situation is over and both of his brothers are healing.
“Well, this one does have cream cheese in it,” John points out, placing his cup away to take a bite of the bagel.
“But we’ll miss the skiing,” Scott whines and John nods while taking another bite.
“Sucks. It’s gonna be ages ‘til we get back here again.” But Gordon already has a solution to that.
“Actually, we made a reservation on the cabin three months from now.” For a moment it’s totally quiet, John is eyeing him suspiciously and Scott is just looking shocked.
“But Colonel Casey –“
“Heard about the situation and was more than glad to give us another vacation. Not like we don’t deserve it, after all,” Virgil interrupts Scott. A grin spreads on his oldest brother’s face as he turns his gaze back to John who is now halfway through his bagel.
“And no more bets,” Virgil continues, and John sends him an innocent look.
“Which reminds me – Scott’s on cleaning duty once we get home.” Scott groans and stares at the ginger murderously.
“You cheated, it doesn’t count!”
“Oh, it does.”
“No it doesn’t!”
“All is fair in love and war and technically this is both.”
“Um, technically it’s neither,” Alan tries to pipe, but Scott just rolls his eyes.
“That’s it, I’m disowning you. Virgil, you’re the new second oldest from now on.”
It goes on for a while, but Alan is no longer paying attention, he’s just looking at his brother and hiding a yawn behind his palm. In the end it doesn’t matter that it’s not a ski slope they’re on and there’s no snow in sight – they’re together and in one piece, that’s what matters. All things considered Alan thinks this may actually turn out to be the best vacation they’ve had.
3 MONTHS LATER
They are standing by the chairlift, waiting for Virgil – again. The middle brother is having troubles with his skis and Gordon has already disappeared to the sledging hill. Scott is wearing his new jacket because the last one got so covered in vomit they decided to throw it away, adjusting his goggles. John and Alan both only have one of their legs attached to their snowboards, ready to get on the chairlift.
Virgil finally reaches them, and all four of them sit on the lift together. John’s shoulder has completely healed and Scott’s ribs are as good as new, and taken that the last time they only got to enjoy the skiing for one day, they are all very excited about getting on their skis and snowboards again. It’s snowing a little, but Alan doesn’t mind.
Then Scott points at something below them – a new ramp that wasn’t there the last time. He turns his head to John, who is already grinning.
“First one to try that gets the best bed.”
Alan and Virgil just groan.