The ramblings of a Nut who should be doing something else – Adelaide, South Australia

Fischler vs. Tracy

Title: Fischler
vs. Tracy

Sequel to ‘Sleeping
Wounded’

Author: Gumnut

2 – 8 Jan 2019

Fandom:
Thunderbirds Are Go 2015/ Thunderbirds TOS

Rating: Teen

Summary: Scott
Tracy punched Langstrom Fischler. Scott thought he deserved it, but apparently Fischler
didn’t agree, and he filed assault charges.

Word count: 10,670

Spoilers &
warnings: Possible spoilers up to end S2. Virgil is not healthy for most of
this.

Timeline: Sequel
to ‘Sleeping Wounded’.

Author’s note:
This was supposed to be a short fic. It didn’t stay that way. In fact, the
entire inspirational scene for the whole thing didn’t actually end up
happening. It kinda did what it felt like and ended up huge. It has its
moments, and I hope you enjoy them. Many thanks to @i-am-chidorixblossom for
the initial prompt that sprouted all this and for her wonderful help when I
nearly went crazy staring at this. And also to @scribbles97 for the reality
check at crazy o’clock. You guys are wonderful and I couldn’t do this without
you.

Disclaimer: Mine?
You’ve got to be kidding. Money? Don’t have any, don’t bother.

-o-o-o-

The press were
having a field day.

Dressed head to
toe in a sleek grey suit, blue tie and his hair so soaked in product, the wind
didn’t have a chance, Scott was the point of an arrowhead of Tracys. Virgil
walked on his right, John on his left, and Gordon and Alan behind them
respectively.

None of them had
a smile on their faces, and all were similarly dressed, broad shoulders and
expensive fabrics. One of the rare occasions that shouted the power they
wielded and the money they owned.

Kayo strode ahead
of them, similarly attired, but that didn’t stop her from asserting her
security muscle as needed to move the press out of their path.

Unfortunately,
they were unable to move very fast as one, as Virgil was still hampered by his
injuries. It was tactical on their lawyers’ part. Show the judge exactly what
injuries Fischler had been responsible for. Scott still sported his wrist brace,
but had otherwise recovered. Virgil’s face still bore the yellows and greens of
bruising, the damage to his forehead blatant and painful to look at, and, of
course, his arm was still in a cast, but it was his ribs that were slowing them
down. Movement still hurt and this was going to be a tiring day for his
brother.

Not to mention
having his injuries plastered all over the world’s holoprojectors.

It set Scott’s
blood boiling.

“Scott Tracy! Do
you have a response to Langstrom Fischler’s accusations that International
Rescue are out to ruin him?” Holocams buzzed around like bees as they reached
the entrance to Wellington’s District Court, and the press moved in on them.

Scott
instinctively stepped in front of Virgil and out the corner of his eye he saw Gordon
step up to his brother’s side.

“No comment.”

Scott was well
known to the world’s media as a very private individual. The only reporter who
had ever managed a decent interview was Kat Cavanaugh, and popular opinion
believed she had had to break both her legs to get it.

Secretly he
enjoyed the mystique that surrounded his public figure. It gave him a modicum
of power and respect, and considering some of the people he had to interact
with out in the field, he needed all the respect he could muster.

Kayo made her
presence known and a path opened before them. Scott nudged Virgil behind him
and led his brothers through the gauntlet. He registered John dropping to the
back of the line, bracketing the youngest between them.

Virgil muttered
something incomprehensible to himself.

And as one they
entered the building.

-o-o-o-

The holographic
files were beginning to blur. Scott shunted one across the desk and binned it.

Two seconds
later, he realised that it was the most important report on his desk, and
hurriedly dug it out again.

God, he was
tired. With the trial, the lawyers, and the attack, all on top of day to day
International Rescue there was nothing left.

Damn Fischler to
hell.

A hand landed on
his shoulder. “Time for bed.”

He didn’t even
bother to look up at his brother. “No can do. Need to file these for the
lawyers.”

A brown gaze
lasered across the desktop. “Anything I can do?”

“No, and
besides…” His brain finally caught up. “You should be resting.” The day had been
hard and Virgil had suffered for it. He looked up to find his brother still
pale. “Go to bed.”

“You first.”

“Can’t.”

“Okay.” And the
hand vanished. Scott rubbed his eyes.

But was not
surprised to hear the opening strains of one of Virgil’s piano compositions
dance across the air from behind him.

“Virgil.” The man
was attempting to play with a broken arm, for crying out loud.

“What?”

Scott winced as a
key was missed. He didn’t need to look over his shoulder to know it was
accompanied by a grimace.

“What are you
doing?”

“Practising.”

Another key
stumbled and this time it was Scott who grimaced. He turned to face his
brother. The man was hunched over the keys, stubbornly fingering out the tune
despite the fact his cast prevented him from even the mildest of finger
stretches.

An off key
twanged through the air once again.

“Virgil.”

“Yes, Scott?”

“Go to bed.”

“You first.” And
that was a solid wince from his stubborn brother.

Scott sighed and
stood up. “Fine. Move your ass.”

The music
continued for just a moment before Virgil awkwardly riffed it to a close and
shut the lid. Hugging his broken arm to his belly, he shuffled sideways off the
piano stool and stood with a painful grunt.

“You are such an
idiot.”

Tired brown eyes
smirked at him. “Pot meet kettle.” He waved Scott towards the elevator.
“Bedtime.”

Scott glared at
him for a moment before turning towards the exit. Perhaps he could get his
brother to bed and return later.

“And don’t even
think about coming back in here before five am. I’ve asked Eos to alert me of
your whereabouts should you stray.”

“What?”

“It’s past
midnight. Bed.”

“Yes, Mom.” He
rolled his eyes, but made his way to the elevator.

Virgil shuffled
slowly after him.

-o-o-o-

They almost
weren’t allowed into the court.

The moment Scott
stepped between the detectors, alarms started screeching. Several guards jumped
out of the woodwork and Scott froze, his hands up and open.

Oh, the suits
weren’t normal suits. Brains had gotten his hands on them, just like he did
with all their clothing. Fortunately for Scott the circuitry was finely woven
into the material, virtually invisible and although the alarms complained,
eventually they had to let him through or strip him naked.

Considering the
case under scrutiny and the reputation of the man involved, they only stripped
him of two layers of clothing and wanding him within an inch of his life before
capitulating.

Then Virgil set
off the alarms, and they had to go through the process all over again.

Except Virgil was
injured.

The first wince
set Scott on edge, by the third he was ready to punch someone.

“For crying out
loud, we aren’t carrying any weaponry.”

“It is procedure,
sir.”

Virgil was biting
his lip as he shouldered off his jacket. They wouldn’t find anything more on
Virgil than they had found on Scott, this was ridiculous.

Not to mention
the press filming the entire procedure from the entrance.

Turning away he
thumbed the communicator in his collar. “Eos, could you please put me in
contact with Colonel Casey.”

“Yes, Scott.
Putting you through now.”

Five minutes
later, they resumed their stride towards the courtroom to the sound of various
apologies.

Scott rested his
hand gently on Virgil’s shoulder.

-o-o-o-

Virgil marched
him to his bedroom and glared at him until he changed his clothes and slipped
into bed.

Somehow this was
all backwards.

“Shut up and go
to sleep.” His brother stood just inside Scott’s bedroom door, arms wrapped
around his chest, putting all his energy into his eyebrows, deploying his frown
like a weapon.

Scott threw
himself into bed just to shut him up. “Fine. I’m in bed, now will you go to
bed?”

“Lights out.”

Scott thumbed the
switch, the room falling into darkness, the starlight from the windows only
slowly appearing as his eyes adjusted.

Soft. “Goodnight,
Scott.”

“Goodnight,
Virgil.”

A slither of
hallway light and his brother was gone. Scott frowned.

What the hell was
that all about?

-o-o-o-

Scott took his
seat in the defendant’s position and, to his surprise, Virgil sat next to him.

“What are you
doing here?”

Virgil grunted as
he got as comfortable as he could in the chair. “If you think you’re going
through this by yourself, dream on.” His brother straightened up and stared
towards where the judge would eventually appear. “John has Gordon and Alan. I
have you.”

Scott blinked and
twisted in his chair. Directly behind were his three remaining brothers, lined
up in the public gallery, Kayo beside them. Gordon grinned at him.

“Where is he? I
know he will be here.” The whiny voice and in waltzed Fischler, a dramatic
bandage across his nose. He was followed by an elegantly dressed woman, a dark-haired
man with a distracted expression, and a flock of lawyers. Fischler’s half aware
eyes roamed over the courtroom until they landed on Scott. They frowned and
then skipped to his right and narrowed on Virgil.

Scott frowned. He
couldn’t possibly…

“There he is!
That’s the guy who flies the green thing. He’s the one who shot down your
collectors, Perce.” The man standing next to Fischler latched his eyes onto
Virgil as well. Scott had the urge to step in front of his brother yet again.
Perce’s lips thinned.

Both men suddenly
had their arms grabbed by the woman as their lawyers shuffled past. She dragged
the both of them into the public gallery, muttering something Scott couldn’t
hear. They planted themselves at the far end of the seating well away from
anyone sporting the name ‘Tracy’. Kayo eyed them with a death glare.

Virgil, unable to
twist around, didn’t pay them any attention. Scott forced himself to turn
around and face the front.

They all stood as
the judge walked in.

Scott sighed as
he stuck out his arm to help his brother to his feet.

This was going to
be a long day.

-o-o-o-

He was thrown out
of a deep sleep by the sound of shattering glass.

The clock claimed
it was just past three in the morning. Scott blinked the fog out of his brain
and hurried out of bed.

The hallway
outside his room was only lit by moonlight, but it was enough light for his
eyes to sketch out a hunched figure leaning against the wall. A flick of the
light switch revealed Virgil huddled almost in two, his face screwed up in
pain. Blue glass, the remains of one of Grandma’s vases that had been sitting
on the sideboard, was scattered all over the floor.

“Virgil?” The
only answer was a muffled groan. Scott grabbed his slippers, threw them on, and
stepped lightly over the glass. Cautiously he reached out and touched his
brother’s shoulder. “Virgil?”

The man slowly
unfolded, a gasping breath pushed out between his teeth. “Uh, s-sorry. Didn’t
mean to wake you.” He leant his back against the wall, moving ever so slowly
and hesitant. He was dressed only in his pyjama bottoms, leaving the strapping
of his ribs and the green and yellow fading bruises all over his torso
available to see. “Juss needed s’m medication.” He sighed and began slipping
down the wall.

Scott caught him
as gently as he could, but Virgil still cried out as he took his weight.

His head dropped
onto Scott’s shoulder. Panting, and then an exhausted, “Ow.”

“C’mon. Let’s get
you horizontal.”

It wasn’t without
protest from his idiot brother, but eventually Scott managed to drag him into
his own rooms, choosing the shorter distance and higher likelihood of being
able to keep an eye on the man. Virgil obviously hadn’t been taking his pain
medication correctly and this was the result.

By the time Scott
manhandled the larger man into his bed, Virgil was as white as the bed sheets.

Just in case, Scott
checked him over, but his vitals only told him the same story his eyes did.
“God, you’re an idiot.”

“Had no choice.”

“That is
debatable.” Scott pressed his lips together. “I’ll get your medication. Stay
put.” His fingers brushed across the back of his brother’s hand.

He came back
quickly, but not with the medication Virgil had expected. “Aww, c’mon, S-Scott.
You know what that does to me.”

“You need rest.
And you’re not going to get it while you are in pain. This will send you to
sleep.”

“It will send me
stupid.”

“You can’t get
much more stupid than you are now. Why the hell did you skip your meds?”

“Didn’t.”

“Well, you’re
obviously not suffering from pain relief. What the hell did you do?”

“Minimum dose.”

“Why?”

“Couldn’t be
dopey.”

Scott’s lips
thinned yet again. He fought off yet another urge to bash Fischler’s face in.
Instead he held up the hypodermic. “Well, now you get to make up for it.”

-o-o-o-

Scott Tracy was
guilty. He knew he was. It was on the advice of his lawyers that he pleaded the
opposite. It was a matter of sentencing. If he was simply guilty, he could go
to jail. That was something to be avoided at all costs. International Rescue
could operate without him, but the scandal would be seriously damaging. His
lawyer had frowned at him so hard, Scott was surprised he hadn’t blown a blood
vessel. There was more than just Scott’s record on the line. That single moment
of release, of self-imposed justice as his fist hit Fischler’s face, had put
International Rescue in the spotlight and not in a good way.

So, a plea of not
guilty was entered and a trial forced. The aim to expose Fischler for what he
was and reduce the sentencing for Scott. Whether or not it would work remained
to be seen.

By the time
Fischler had finished his rambling accusation on the stand, Scott was quite
ready to change his plea to guilty, just to shut him up. Either that or take
another swing at him. When the man started raving about how Virgil had shot
down his solar collectors yet again, a large hand landed softly on his arm and
squeezed.

Fortunately, the
judge drew his tirade to a halt and their defence had the opportunity to cross
examine and open the case up to the events leading up the assault.

“Mr Fischler,
what was the purpose of your solar collectors?” Their lawyer, Jack Dunning, was
a dumpy little man, plump and somewhat balding, but it was all part of his
image.

“What do you
think? Are you stupid? They collect solar energy. They are called solar collectors
after all.”

Dunning ignored
the insult. “Then why were the devices mobbing aircraft?”

“There was a
slight hitch in their collaborative programming.”

“That slight
hitch in their program disabled at least two aircraft.”

“A bit of an
accident, that. No one was injured.”

“Much in thanks
to International Rescue, I believe.”

“International
Rescue was not invited to the testing! They took it upon themselves to turn up
and start destroying all my hard work. That man there!” And yes, he stood up
and pointed a bony finger at Virgil. “That man took it upon himself to shoot
every single collector out of the sky.”

Dunning looked
bored. “Have you considered why he would do such a thing?”

“How would I know
what he was thinking? There were millions of dollars at stake and he blew it
all out of the sky. This could seriously damage Fischler Industries, and it is
not the first time he and International Rescue have interfered. Did you know
they blew up my comet? I had plans for that, too, you know.”

Scott just
stared. Did the man have anything between his ears? The hand on his arm
tightened its grip.

Dunning turned to
the judge. “Judge, to expedite this trial I would like to request special
dispensation to call an extra witness to the stand.”

The judge looked
tired. “Who and why?”

“I would like to
call Virgil Tracy, the pilot of Thunderbird Two, one of the planes disabled by
Mr Fischler’s collectors.”

“This is an
assault case, Mr Dunning. We have yet to hear from the assailant. This is not
the place to discuss why these experimental devices were shot down.”

“Sir, I believe
this is important evidence that will reveal the perspective and the possible
reasoning behind the alleged attack.”

The judge had
intelligent eyes and Scott found himself holding his breath, both wanting a positive
answer and a firm denial. He didn’t want his brother up there under such
scrutiny, especially in his condition and with the press foaming at the mouth
in the media gallery, but at the same time, it was likely Virgil’s testimony
could sway the judge.

Those eyes
drifted to Fischler who was still sitting in the witness box with his arms
crossed across his chest looking more like a pouting child than a professional
scientist.

Scott could see
the moment the decision was made. “Permission granted. Mr Fischler, you are
dismissed.”

“What?”

“Please step down
from the witness box, Mr Fischler.”

“Very well. The
sooner this is over the better. My time is expensive, you know.” The man stood
and, muttering, stalked back to his seat.

“The court calls
Virgil Tracy to the stand.”

-o-o-o-

Scott took a
moment to clean up the mess of glass in the corridor after administering
Virgil’s medication and give his brother a chance to drop off to sleep without
a witness.

He knew why
Virgil had done it. He had suspected it during the day, but hadn’t had the
chance to corner him and, in part, understood the necessity. But it still hurt
to see his brother hurting.

His ribs were
healing, but they were tender and movement remained the biggest challenge. The
strain of the day and the emotional pressure on taxed resources couldn’t have
helped.

All because Scott
had let sense be overtaken by emotion.

He sighed as he
poured glass into the rubbish.

It wasn’t the
first time Virgil had had to pay for his rashness either.

Another sigh and
he resisted the urge to kick the trash can.

When he returned
to his room, entering quietly, Virgil was exactly where he had left him,
hunched under the covers, forehead wrinkled with pain.

He crept around
the bed, and gently sat down on the other side.

“I hate you.” It
was quiet, muffled and slurred a little.

Scott shucked off
his slippers and climbed on top of the covers, laying down beside his brother.
“Somehow I doubt that.”

“These damn drugs
suck.”

“Yes, Virgil.”

“Everything is
wonky.”

“Yes, Virgil.”

“Your bed covers
smell like you.”

“Yes, Virgil.”

“You smell like a
pineapple.”

“A pineapple?”

“Yes, Scott.”

“Go to sleep,
Virgil.”

“Can’t.”

“Yes, you can.”

“Hurts.”

Scott sighed,
wondering if there were any studies that linked medication sensitivity with age
regression.

“Give the
medication time to do its job.”

“Don’t want
medication. Need to be there for you.”

“You were there,
Virg. It is over now. You can sleep.”

“Don’t want to
sleep.”

“Why?”

“Need to be there
for you.”

“You need to
sleep.”

“Sleep means
dreams.”

Scott’s eyes shot
open and he involuntarily turned towards his brother. “What sort of dreams?”

Virgil didn’t
answer.

“Virgil? What
kind of dreams?”

“Don’t want to
talk about it.”

Scott bit his
lip. Technically this could be considered as taking advantage of Virgil’s
drugged state. “Virgil?”

“Gotta be there
for you.”

“You are.”

“Good.” Virgil
shifted slightly and groaned through his teeth. “Can’t lose you.”

“You didn’t. I’m
here.”

But the
medication had taken hold properly, his brother’s voice dropping to little more
than a chanted whisper. “Can’t lose you. Can’t.”

“Virgil-”

“Would rather
die.”

-o-o-o-

“Mr Tracy, could
you please tell us of the events that led to your arrival at the scene of the
rescue.”

Virgil shifted in
his seat, obviously not as comfortable as he could be, but his back was
straight and he met the lawyer’s eye.

“Yes, sir. A
distress call was received from Air Terranean Flight 4586 over Brazil en route
to Los Angeles. They reported unidentified objects hounding their flight path.
One had disabled an engine and the plane was losing height. They feared another
of the objects would damage the plane further.” A pause as his brother
swallowed. “As per our protocol for such an incident, both Thunderbirds One and
Two were deployed. I pilot Two, while my brother Scott, pilots One. When we
arrived-“

The lawyer held
up a hand. “Mr Tracy, you said as per protocol. What is the protocol in this
situation? Why were both ships needed?”

Virgil’s eyes
skipped to Scott for a split second. None of them liked talking about
operational procedures in public. “In air rescues involving a plane that has
the potential to crash, if possible, at least two craft attend to maximise the
chances of saving it. There have been previous situations that have proven this
to be the case.”

“But why are two
Thunderbirds needed?”

“One craft may
need to intercept the cause of the plane’s distress to enable the other to save
lives. In this case, Fischler’s devices were the cause, and I am very grateful
we did deploy both craft, despite the result.”

“So, one
Thunderbird is needed to defend the other?”

“Not always, but
yes, it has happened before.” Again, Virgil’s eyes flickered to Scott’s. “Also,
air rescue is difficult on the best of occasions. It helps to have back up.”

“What happened on
this occasion?”

“When Thunderbird
One arrived on the scene AT 4586 had been completely disabled and was on a
glide trajectory to crash. TB1 immediately provided flight support.”

He had hit the
danger zone at high speed, the yells of the falling plane becoming more and
more frantic. Scott had immediately deployed his grapple, securing it to the
ship’s fuselage and lifting the craft into a more stable glide, TB1’s thrusters
replacing those the plane had lost.

It was at that
point John had alerted him to incoming projectiles, and he had had to disengage
momentarily to avoid the mob of experimental collectors attracted to his
thrusters. It had taken all his skill to dive and dodge the hoard.

“When I arrived
on the scene, Thunderbird One was caught between providing assistance to the
passenger plane and dodging a mob of small robotic projectiles.”

“Did you know
what the projectiles were?”

“By this time,
Thunderbird Five had located the cause and identified Fischler.”

“Did his
identification have any effect on your reaction to the situation?”

Virgil paused.
“Mr Dunning, International Rescue has a long history with Fischler. The man has
endangered so many lives, yet he is somehow still operating. He mentioned a
comet earlier? That comet had the potential to wipe out the majority of life on
Earth, and it did almost do exactly that. So, no, I can’t say it didn’t affect
my reaction to the situation.”

There was
muttering from the back of the room, but a stern glare from the judge silenced
it.

“What did you do
upon arrival?”

“Protocol dictated
that Thunderbird Two should have taken the weight of the aircraft, reducing
Thunderbird One to support, however the moment I entered detection range, the
collectors targeted Two’s systems, abandoning One. Scott immediately resumed
the rescue and I found myself in some difficulty.” His brother stopped talking
a moment and shifted in his seat, the bruises on his face standing out stark
against his pale skin.

“Are you okay, Mr
Tracy?”

“Fine.” It was
short and sharp and obviously a lie. Apparently, Virgil’s oath of truth didn’t
extend to his health.

No one in the
court commented.

“Why did the
collectors target Thunderbird Two?”

“We are unsure.”
Brains suspected it was the difference in fuel mix, but had been unable to
confirm it as yet.

“What did they
do?”

“They were
attracted to her thrusters. I had some difficulty avoiding them.”

“Thunderbird One
managed.”

“Thunderbird One
is not Thunderbird Two.” It was said quite vehemently and Scott couldn’t help
but smile just a little. Don’t dis his brother’s ‘bird. But, yes, in this case,
TB2 had been at a greater disadvantage. The ship was built for strength, not
manoeuvrability, and it had been a major problem. It had only been Virgil’s
masterful flying that had prevented Thunderbird Two from being taken down immediately.

“What did you do
next?”

“Leaving the
danger zone was not an option. That would have left One and the failing plane
vulnerable to attack once again. The only options left were to continue to
provide the distraction or to remove the threat.” Virgil looked over at
Fischler. “And as Fischler has mentioned on several occasions, I chose to
remove the threat.”

Scott had to
admit, it had been awesome to witness. Two’s laser cutter was not designed as a
weapon, but his brother had played it like he played his piano. While Scott
concentrated on pulling the ailing plane out of the sky and lowering it to the
nearest airfield, Two had darted off into the distance over the sea of trees,
her red laser striking out with precision, chunks of burnt and sliced up collector
falling from the sky like rain.

“That was
millions of dollars of technology you destroyed!” Fischler was standing up in
the public gallery shaking his fist at Virgil.

“Mr Fischler, you
will sit down and be quiet or you will be charged with contempt.” The judge’s
voice cut across the courtroom like a knife.

Fischler looked
to say more, but a female hand reached up from behind him and shoved him back
down into his seat.

Virgil
straightened in his chair and flinched. “Lives were at stake. Cost was
irrelevant.”

“What do you
think would have happened if you hadn’t destroyed the collectors?”

His brother
turned his attention directly to their lawyer. “They would have taken out my
‘bird, my brother’s ‘bird and then moved onto whatever aircraft they could have
found. People would have died.”

“So you made the
decision to save lives?”

“That is what we
do.”

“But you weren’t
entirely successful in destroying them all.”

Virgil’s
shoulders dropped. “No, one managed to reach Two’s starboard rear thruster and
exploded. The thruster was damaged, taking a good percentage of flight control
with it.”

“You found
yourself in danger of crashing?”

His brother
looked up. “Both rear thrusters and VTOL were disabled. Yes, we were going
down.”

Virgil had sworn
a blue streak across comms. Scott, still caught up in rescuing the airliner had
been unable to respond. He had watched as his brother’s ‘bird began her plummet
to Earth.

A swallow,
another shift in his seat and Virgil’s face paled even further.

“Mr Tracy, if you
are unwell, the trial can be postponed.”

“No, I’m fine.”

“You did just
survive a plane crash.”

“I’m fine.” It
was growled. Stubborn bastard. Scott raised his hand to draw the attention of
Dunning, but his brother’s eyes swung around and pinned him to his seat.

Scott lowered his
hand.

“I-I did
everything I could to prevent my ‘bird from going down, but the explosion had
taken out most of her systems. Scott flew over to assist. He took the controls
– “

“Your brother
boarded a crashing plane.”

Virgil faltered.
“Uh, yes, I-I asked him, too.”

“What of the
airliner?”

“Thunderbird Five
took control of Thunderbird One.”

“Why didn’t he
take control of Two?”

“Auto-relay
systems were shorted. I was on manual only.”

“So, Scott
boarded your plane at the risk of his own life?”

Virgil’s mouth
was open, nothing was coming out.

“Mr Tracy?”

A cleared throat.
“Yes, I asked him to risk his life.”

“Scott!” It was a
hissed whisper from behind. John. “Sit down!” And yes, he was halfway to his
feet. His butt hit the cushion and shook his teeth.

“Mr Tracy, it is
the nature of your work that your lives may be risked at any time, is it not?”

“Y-Yes, sir.”

“How many times
have they been risked because of idiocy?”

“Objection!” The
other lawyer bounced to his feet.

The judge eyed
the man a moment before sighing. “Sustained. Please, Mr Dunning, restrict
yourself to the specified events.”

“Very well.” He
turned back to Virgil. “Scott boarded Thunderbird Two…”

His brother
blinked and straightened again. “Yes, he was able to take control of the flight
while I attempted to repair ship systems to halt our descent.”

“You were not
successful?”

“Unfortunately,
no, though I did manage to mitigate damages by restoring two of her VTOL
thrusters. They slowed us enough to stabilise the landing somewhat.”

“But there were
still injuries?”

“Thunderbird Two
is out of commission for the foreseeable future, Scott sustained a major
concussion, and I, well…” He shrugged and winced. “…have seen better days.”

“In fact, you
have a fractured skull, six broken ribs and a broken arm, do you not?”

“And assorted
bruises, yes.” Virgil glared at the man, not a fan of having his vulnerabilities
paraded. Scott rolled his eyes.

“All because of
Fischler.”

“Objection! My
client is not on trial here!”

Dunning turned
around and glared. “I beg to differ. These men risk their lives to save others
on a daily basis and your client continues to endanger more and more lives.
This is a proven fact.”

“Nothing has been
proven…”

“The comet that
nearly collided with not only a space station but the planet as well was proof
enough. Did you know that three of these brothers, including Virgil sitting
right here, nearly died in that incident, too?”

“That is not
relevant-“

“I never asked
them to interfere!” And Fischler was on his feet again.

A gavel hit wood
hard. “Gentlemen!”

The sudden
silence in the room was only broken by a mutter from Fischler as he was once
again dragged back onto his seat by the woman behind him.

“Mr Dunning, I
repeat, please restrict your comments to the current incident.” The judge’s
glare targeted the back of the room. “Mr Fischler, keep quiet or you will be
expelled.”

Scott only had eyes
for his brother. Virgil was literally sagging in his seat. Apparently, the
judge had noticed. “Mr Tracy, thank you for your testimony. We will take a fifteen-minute
recess. Please take a moment to rest. There is a room down the hall.” The judge
waved a court officer over.

Scott was on his
feet without thinking, his own court officer trailing him. “Virgil!”

Brown eyes caught
his, but the hand of the court came down on his arm and he was held back.

They led Virgil
away.

-o-o-o-

“Would rather
die.”

The words were
barely there, whispered, slurred into the pillow, but they leapt up and tore at
Scott’s heart.

“Virgil, no.” He
levered himself up onto his elbow, wishing his brother wasn’t turned away from
him, wasn’t hidden by the darkness.

Damnit! He sat
up, reached over and flicked the light switch, flooding the room with its
yellow glow.

“Aah, what the
hell, Scott?” His brother lifted up his wrapped arm and rolled onto his back,
wincing. “Whatcha do tha’ for?” He blinked repeatedly, tired eyes in a tired,
bruised face.

“You can’t mean
that.”

“Mean what?” The
blinking had slowed, the eyes bleary.

“That you would
rather die.”

“Die? Everybody
dies.”

Scott closed his
eyes. What was he thinking? Virgil was off his face, this was not the time for
a serious discussion.

“Everybody dies.”
It was an echo, a repeat of the words he had said a moment before. “Mom. Dad.
You.”

A frown. “I’m not
dead, Virgil.”

“Yes, you are.”

A chill crawled
up his spine. “Virgil, what do you mean?”

But his brother’s
eyes were closed, his brow wrinkled. “Can’t.”

“Can’t what?”

“Would rather
die.” And his brother was drifting off to sleep.

He couldn’t help
himself. He knew Virgil would deny everything come the light of day. He had to
know. He reached out and touched his brother’s cheek. “Virgil, why? Why would
you rather die?”

Brown eyes
blearily opened and stared at him. “Can’t lose you. You’re the only one left.”

Scott blinked,
attempting to decipher what Virgil meant. The only one what? “Virgil?”

“Please don’t
leave me, Scott. I can’t-“ And there was an edge of panic in Virgil’s voice,
his injured arm reaching out to grab him.

What the hell?
“Virg, it’s okay. I’m not leaving.” Was this a direct line to his brother’s
insecurities? “I’m here.”  

His brother’s
fingers desperately attempted to get a grip on Scott’s pyjamas, but the cast
wouldn’t let him make a proper fist. “Scott, please.”

He grabbed
Virgil’s hand and held it tight, reaching over to run his fingers through the
man’s hair. It took a moment, but finally Virgil sagged into the bed, a shaky
breath escaping between his teeth.

Scott bit his
lip, but continued to comb his brother’s hair, long enough for the man to
eventually slip into an uneasy sleep.

His heart was
thudding hard against the inside of his chest.

When Scott turned
off the light, he lay in the dark staring up at the ceiling.

Sleep would not
come.

-o-o-o-

“I am Cyril
Packham, Mr Tracy, the attorney for the prosecution.”

Virgil nodded.
Scott resisted the urge to snort. They knew the man’s name, his history, the
fact he had two children, a wife, a girlfriend and some interesting commitments
in Indonesia. Penelope was quite thorough.

Gordon sat behind
his older brother this time as witness support. John had sent him to Virgil
during the break to check on him and the aquanaut appeared to have chained
himself to the man. The glare that was emanating off Gordon in the direction of
the prosecutor was enough to light Packham’s hair on fire. Scott hoped he
didn’t end up having to bail his second littlest brother out of jail today.

“Your attorney
appears to believe that these events have pertinence to the assault that
occurred the next day at the hospital. So, let’s review those events.”

Virgil didn’t
react.

Gordon upped his
temperature just slightly.

“Did you at any
time during these events contact Mr Fischler and advise him of the situation.”

“No, I did not.”

“Then how could
you possibly blame him for a situation he was not aware of?”

“I didn’t contact
him. That wasn’t my place. Thunderbird Five, my brother, John Tracy, spoke to
him repeatedly. He asked him to withdraw the collectors. He asked him to turn
them off. He gave him a video feed of exactly what was happening above. The man
could see what was happening from where he was standing! And he didn’t do a
thing!”

“I did too!”

“Mr Fischler!”

“I told them to
get the hell out of my sky. They were interfering. It was their fault the
collectors did what they did, and then they destroyed them! It was their
fault!”

“Mr Fischler, you
are in contempt!”

“Yes, I am. In
contempt of these self-righteous idiots. Everyone thinks they are so wonderful.
Yet how many times have they screwed up an honest man’s work? How many times-“
But a hand landed on his shoulder and he shut up suddenly, the burly court
official forcing him to sit down and handcuffing him to the railing in front of
him.

The judge was
glaring. “You will stay there and stay silent, Mr Fischler, for the remainder
of these proceedings. Another word out of you and you will be escorted to a
holding cell.”

Fischler opened
his mouth.

The judge raised
his gavel.

Fischler closed
his mouth.

Maybe he did have
some kind of sense in there after all. Scott rolled his shoulders attempting to
relieve the tension.

“Mr Tracy,
perhaps you can clarify your decision to destroy the collectors.”

“Yes?”

“Why didn’t you
just lead them away?”

“Where? Wherever
I led them, they would cause havoc and endanger lives.”

“Couldn’t you
have drawn them away from the airliner?”

Virgil stared at
him as if he was an idiot. “I did, and, despite everything, they crippled
Thunderbird Two. Do you have any concept of exactly how hard that is to do?”

“No. Please
explain.”

Scott bit his lip
and Virgil clammed up. “No, that is not necessary.”

“Perhaps your
crash had nothing to do with the collectors, perhaps your ship malfunctioned.”

Oh, shit.

And fire lit up
amongst the bruises on his brother’s face. “Are you aware of my qualifications,
Mr Peckem?”

“It’s Packham.
And yes, you are a graduate of Denver College of Advanced Technology, are you
not?”

“I am a fully
qualified engineer, pilot and the mechanic of Thunderbird Two. I know EXACTLY
what my ship is capable of. I know her inside and out. I know her very soul.
She did not malfunction.”

“Then why did she
crash?”

The arm with the
cast wrapped around it shot out, pointing in the direction of Fischler. Scott
didn’t miss his brother’s flinch at the movement, but he was obviously too
angry to care. “Because that man had the audacity to combine energy collecting
ware, a poorly designed AI matrix with no safety overrides or shutdown codes,
and explosive massive-storage. It tore off one of her rear thrusters and disabled
the other, sending electrical feedback through her system that took out VTOL
along with other vital systems. If she had been any other ship, she could have
exploded mid-air killing me and anyone in a several hundred meter radius.”

“How do you know
so much about the solar collectors?”

Virgil froze.
“What?!”

“The solar
collectors are proprietary designs and their specifics are not available for
public information.”

“Uh…”

“Are you trying
to steal information from Fischler Industries, Mr Tracy?”

Virgil stared at
him for a moment, wide eyed. Then he burst out laughing. “Ow, ow, oh god.” And
he was clutching his rib cage, leaning against the edge of the witness box.
“Please, please don’t make me laugh. It hurts so bad.”

“It wasn’t a
joke, Mr Tracy.”

“Yes, it was.”
His head came up and caught the man’s eyes. “What possible reason could I have
to want to steal Fischler’s inventions? They are poorly designed and, in most
cases, downright dangerous.”

“But how do you
know so much detail about them, Mr Tracy?”

“Because I need
to know what the hell is trying to kill me. The first time we encountered
Fischler, he crippled Thunderbird Two above a hurricane. It was only luck and
the skill of my brother, Gordon, that saved me that time. I don’t need to be
taught twice. I’ve been as prepared as possible since.”

“But how do you
obtain this information?”

“Objection!” Dunning
shot to his feet. “Mr Tracy is not on trial here and this is not relevant to
the case.”

‘I beg to differ.
Mr Tracy is on trial here and the trustworthiness of International Rescue is
key to this case.”

“A petty play on
words, Packham.”

“Gentlemen.” The
two lawyers continued to glare at each other. “Objection overruled.” The judge
turned to Virgil. “Please answer the question, Mr Tracy.”

Scott swallowed.
This could get them into some serious shit.

Virgil looked up,
his face calm, his tone firm. “I will do what is necessary to save a life, Mr
Peckem.”

“Including
breaking the law.”

“Only if
necessary.”

“Is that what you
did with Mr Fischler’s technology?”

“That remains to
be seen.”

“What do you
mean?”

“Is it within the
law to launch two hundred bombs into a flight zone?”

“Excuse me?”

“You don’t really
think a flying solar panel could take down a 400 tonne Thunderbird all by
itself, do you? Each of those collectors had the storage capacity of a small
nuclear bomb. Fortunately, when we encountered the flock, they were only
partially charged, but still able to deliver a considerable payload upon
ignition. They were attracted to specific types of energy sources, other than
the sun. In fact, rather than an ecological energy solution, I would consider
them to be more in the line of weapons development. You asked me earlier why I
didn’t lead them away. Would you like me to lead them into your backyard?”

“Mr Tracy-“

“I learn what I
need to know to save lives, Mr Peckem. That is all that you need to know.”

Virgil was
covering for John. He was wording everything precisely, taking any and all
credit or blame onto his shoulders while skimming between fact and fiction. It
was a dangerous game. Scott bit his lip.

“So you refuse to
answer the question.”

“I have answered
as truthfully as I can.” A sharp indrawn breath.

“You look pale,
Mr Tracy.”

“I have six
broken ribs, Mr Peckem, would you like to count them?”

Dunning stood up.
“Sir, Mr Packham is wasting time and gaining no further information, I ask that
we move onto our next witness.”

The judge sat
quietly for a moment, his eyes on Virgil, who by this point looked about ready
to faint. For a moment, they skipped to Scott who was on the edge of his seat,
then darted back to the two lawyers who remained glaring at each other.

“The witness is
excused.”

Virgil sagged
where he sat, Gordon hurried in to help as he struggled to his feet. To Scott’s
surprise, Virgil actually leant on Gordon. Damn, the man must be hurting bad.

By the time the
two of them reached Scott, Virgil was visibly trembling.

“Mr Tracy.” Five
heads bobbed up. The judge didn’t quite roll his eyes. “Mr Virgil Tracy, you
are excused if you need to leave the court.”

Standing beside
Scott, half leaning on Gordon, his brother straightened as much as he could.
“I-I need to stay, sir. I have some medication. I will be fine.”

The judge
assessed him for a moment. “Very well. Proceed.”

Virgil lowered
himself ever so slowly into the chair beside Scott. “Please, Virgil, you’ve
done enough, go back to the hotel.” Gordon hovered until a court official
directed him back to his seat in the public gallery.

“No, I’m staying
here.” Virgil drew out a bottle of pills from his suit pocket. “This is more
important.”

“Damnit, Virgil!”

“The court calls
Scott Tracy to the stand.”

-o-o-o-

Virgil was
fortunately still asleep when Scott finally cracked and climbed quietly out of
bed at just after five in the morning. Grabbing his jogging gear, he took a
moment to check on his brother. In the dim light he was breathing softly, once
again lying on his less injured side, broken arm wrapped around his waist on
top of the covers.

His hair was
flopping into his eyes.

Scott sighed to
himself, turned, grabbed his running shoes and slipped out of the room into the
predawn. He got dressed in one of the bathrooms, and after a drink of water in
the kitchen, set out on his morning run.

The sun was just
beyond the horizon, reflected light the only light in the sky. He lost himself
in the beat of his soles on the gravel of the path.

Thud, thud, thud.

A seabird
screeched far above him.

A cool sea breeze
caressed his heating skin, playing with his hair.

He tried not to
think.

Tried not to
think of the smug look on Fischler’s mug. The snarl of fury from Fischler’s
brother. The frustration on Dunning’s face.

The pain on
Virgil’s.

An exhausted huff
of breath out of pace with his tread.

All because he
let himself go for one moment and hit that stupid bastard.

How was it fair?
He did so much for the world. Couldn’t it have forgiven him for this one
mistake?

Apparently not.

It wasn’t the
trial. It was what it put his brother through. And the stupid, stubborn bastard
wouldn’t back down.

It was love, he
knew that. He, in turn, would do anything for Virgil, or any of his brothers,
but watching him push the limits…

Picking him off
the floor of the corridor at three in the morning.

Damnit!

He stopped in the
middle of the path overwhelmed by the urge to hit or kick something.

But then that is
what had started all this.

He forced his
legs to start moving again as the sun finally peeked over the horizon, catching
his face in its warm embrace.

-o-o-o-

“Mr Tracy, could
you please tell us what happened leading up to the incident in question.”

Scott shifted in
the witness chair, now understanding why his brother had moved so often in the
seat despite his injuries. “I was admitted to hospital due to my concussion-“

Mr Dunning
interrupted him. “This was the concussion sustained while attempting to save
your brother’s life?”

Scott’s gaze
flicked to Virgil for a split second before he answered. “Yes, I received it in
the crash.”

“You were knocked
unconscious?”

“Yes.”

“But when your
brothers found you, you and Virgil were quite a distance away from the craft
weren’t you?”

Huh? How was this
relevant? But Dunning’s eyes were boring into him, directing him to answer.

“Uh, Virgil
pulled me out.”

“Your brother,
Virgil, the one with the broken arm, broken ribs and skull fracture? Here
sitting in this room?”

“Yes.”

“Objection! How
is this relevant to the case?”

Dunning turned
around to face Packham. “It is very relevant for us to consider the
personalities involved in this case. Mr Scott Tracy was dragged from the downed
plane by Mr Virgil Tracy. He was barely conscious, but despite Mr Virgil
Tracy’s injuries, he still managed to drag his brother two hundred metres into
the jungle.”

“I still don’t
see the relevance.”

“That is obvious.
These men are heroes, Packham. They make life and death decisions on a daily
basis. What I am trying to demonstrate is the thought processes involved.”

“Virgil Tracy
isn’t on trial here.”

The judge spoke
up again. “Gentlemen, I believe the court has been very patient with these
demonstrations, so please make your point Mr Dunning.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Sit down, Mr
Packham.”

The lawyer
returned to his assigned position, but not without a mutter.

“Mr Tracy, what
happened at the hospital?”

“I was there for
about twenty-four hours before I was well enough to get out of bed. Virgil and
I were in separate rooms, so as soon as I could, I went to see him. I ran into
Fischler in the hallway outside of Virgil’s room. He asked after my brother and
made it very clear that he blamed him for the destruction of his collectors,
and that he wanted to give Virgil ‘a piece of his mind’. Virgil was badly
injured and it was the last thing he needed.” He swallowed. Here came the hard
part. “So I stood in his way.”

“How did Mr
Fischler react to you protecting your brother?”

“Not well. He
became insulting.”

“How did that
make you feel?”

“Not good. I was
worried about my brother, and quite frustrated by the man’s attitude. After
all, we had just saved his life for the fourth time.” He frowned. Or was it the
fifth? “We don’t expect gratitude as operatives of International Rescue, but a
little respect wouldn’t hurt.”

“Respect?! I
deserve respect, you charlatan!”

“Mr Fischler!”
The judge roared at the man and he shrunk back into his seat.

Dunning ignored
the byplay. “You saved Mr Fischler’s life as well?”

“That airliner
was projected to land on top of the man if we hadn’t intervened.”

“Did Mr Fischler
reach your brother?”

Scott looked
down, knowing his brother was staring at him wide-eyed. “No, he did not.”

“Why?”

“I stopped him.”

“How?”

“I hit him.”

The room fell to
silence.

“Mr Tracy.” The
judges’ face was grave. “Did you want to change your plea?”

Mr Dunning held
up his hand. “Before he answers, sir, I would like to ask one more question.”

The judge frowned
at him, but with a sigh, nodded.

“Scott, do you
know why Mr Fischler was in the hospital in the first place?”

Scott blinked. It
hadn’t occurred to him. “I don’t know.” But as he thought about it, his
suspicions grew and his eyes widened. “He wanted to see Virgil. He was there
for the sole purpose of seeing Virgil.” His eyes swung to the man at the back
of the room. “What did you want with my brother?”

The man actually
snarled. “I wanted him to pay for what he did.”

-o-o-o-

Virgil was gone
from Scott’s rooms when he returned, his bed tidily made.

Scott sighed and
threw himself into the shower, washing more than the sweat from his body. He
stood in front of the bathroom mirror and wiped fog from the glass. The man who
peered back at him felt older than he looked, blue eyes worried and not a
little stained with guilt.

Man, he needed to
talk with his brother.

He scrubbed his
face with a towel.

Breakfast was
Virgil-less, but that was nothing unusual, the man slept in if he could. Gordon
eyed Scott as he toasted a bagel, questions in those eyes so similar to his
brother’s. Scott didn’t answer any of them.

Grandma wandered
past at one point, dropping her hand onto his shoulder. “Is he okay?”

“As best he can
be, I guess.”

She kissed his
hair. “Let me know if he needs anything.”

Scott raised an
eyebrow. Grandma was never one to stand back when any of her boys needed
anything, particularly Virgil. Scott wasn’t above admitting that his Grandma
had a soft spot for his artistic brother, knowing that it didn’t make her care
any less for her other grandsons…and it got him out of the shopping on many
an occasion. Virg and his grandmother were well suited to each other and got on
very well.

Why was she
caring for him via Scott?

“And don’t worry
about the vase. I didn’t like it anyway.”

He blinked.
“Okay.”

“What vase?” Alan
waltzed into the room. “Bagels again? Aww, John’s not even dirtside.”

Most of the day
passed without a peep from Virgil. Scott went through the papers he needed and
filed what he had to with the lawyers. Dunning’s hologram still sported a
frown, this time topped off by a glare. “Hey, this time it wasn’t my fault.”

“Sure, Scott.”
And the lawyer had the audacity to sign off without saying goodbye.

The commander
rolled his eyes and with a flick of a finger threw the man a sizeable bonus.
The note scrawled beside it said, ‘For the grey hairs, Scott’.

A note came back
immediately. ‘Kind of you, but really just keep you and your brothers safe,
Jack’.

Scott sighed. I’m
trying, Jack, really.

And then Scott
discovered the report that had come with the note.

At about five o’clock
in the afternoon, a stiff and half-dressed Virgil staggered into the comms
room, heading towards the kitchen.

“Hey, Virg, how
you feeling?” Gordon never was one to read the warning signs. Or he did and
just chose to ignore them.

Scott looked up
from the desk. Virgil didn’t really acknowledge either of them, just grunted
and kept moving step by step. Obviously, he hadn’t taken his morning dose yet,
coffee or heavy painkillers.

The trip down the
stairs must have been fun.

“Virgil, for
goodness sake, sit down. I’ll go get your coffee and your pills.” Gordon said
it before Scott could open his mouth.

His brother’s
shoulders sagged and he let the nearest wall take his weight. Gordon was up and
beside him in a flash, such a contrast to the injured man. “C’mon, Virg, no
need to be the hero today. Sit down and put your feet up.”

The glare Virgil
sent his younger brother was half-hearted and almost fond. He looked down at
the hand on his arm and capitulated. He was surprisingly docile as Gordon led
him over to the sofa. The stairs down into the sunken lounge were conquered and
Virgil lowered himself slowly onto the nearest couch.

“Now was that
black with six sugars or white with seven?”

“Gordon.”

“Okay, okay, just
going for that smile. I guess I should know better to attempt it before your twenty-sugar
coffee.”

Virgil rolled his
eyes. “Gords, please.”

“I’m going, I’m
going.” And he went.

Leaving Virgil
staring up at Scott.

The eldest
brother lifted his chin a little. “Hey.”

“Hey, yourself. I
still hate you.”

“Again with the
hate, Virg, really?”

“So, did you
enjoy listening to me waffle about fairies and pixies? Or did I sing the
entirety of Gilbert and Sullivan this time?”

“None of the
above.” Scott sighed. He was doing that a lot lately. “Do you really think I
care what you do when under the influence of necessary medication, Virgil? You
were in pain. something you put yourself through for me, incidentally. Do you
really think I would find it funny?”

Virgil looked
away. “Gordon would.”

“No, he wouldn’t,
and you know it.” Scott stood up and walked around the desk, stepping down into
the sunken lounge to take a seat opposite his brother. “You have no reason to
be embarrassed at all.”

“Easy for you to
say, all you ever do is fall asleep.”

“Virgil.”

“What?”

Gordon bounded up
the stairs, coffee in one hand and a bottle of pills in the other. He had a
water bottle under one arm. “Here you go, oh great wounded hero.”

“Shut up,
Gordon.” The coffee floated into the man’s hand like magic and was immediately
being poured into his face, no doubt as black and as sugarless as it could be.
“Oh, god, thank you.” The moan was almost obscene. But then Virgil’s
relationship with coffee was more powerful than anything lust could provide.
“Perfect.” His eyes were closed and there was an actual half-smile on the man’s
face. Scott rolled his eyes towards Gordon who was sporting a goofy grin.

“Don’t forget
your pills.”

“Coffee first.”

“The two of you
may need to get a room.” A smirk. “And I’m not referring to Scott in this
relationship.”

“Thank you,
Gordon. Now leave me and my coffee in peace.”

“Yesssh,
massster.”

“Oh, god.”

“I’m leaving, I’m
leaving.” He eyed Scott, and for just a moment all humour vanished from his
expression. He frowned, his eyes darting in Virgil’s direction. Scott
acknowledged him with a twist of his lips. His brother turned and yelled
towards the stairs. “Hey, Alan, I’m hungry, wanna come with me and Grandma to
the mainland for some Italian?”

There was a
resounding ‘yes!’ from the lower floor as Gordon waltzed out.

Virgil didn’t
appear to have noticed, still worshipping his coffee.

“Aren’t you going
to go with them?” Those brown eyes were questioning him. Obviously, Virgil was
more aware than he appeared.

“No, they’ll
bring back takeaway. Brains is still in his lab and needs to surface sometime.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“What did you
want to talk about without the others around?”

Scott stared at
him. “Take your medication, Virgil.”

The coffee cup
was lowered to the side table quietly.

The pills were
ignored.

“What’s going on,
Scott?”

-o-o-o-

“Mr Tracy, you
have changed your plea to guilty.”

Scott stood up
and faced the judge. “Yes, sir.”

“Do you believe
that you are guilty of assaulting Mr Langstrom Fischler?” The same Fischler who
was now holed up in the building’s lock up.

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you believe
you deserve punishment?”

In the corner of
his eye, Jack Dunning shot to his feet, but he was unable to say anything
procedurally.

Scott swallowed,
but held his perfect military stance. “No, sir.”

“Why?”

He drew in a
breath. “What I did was wrong, sir. It was a moment of emotional release that I
should not have allowed myself. However, no punishment you could give me would
equate to what punishment today has been.”

“Explain.”

He couldn’t help
but glance in Virgil’s direction. His brother’s eyes were wide. “I have had to
watch my brother suffer through his injuries today to support me. I wish no
more than to protect him and never have I failed so badly. Honestly, sir, you
could not do worse.”

The judge stared
at him.

“I could take
that as a dare, young man.” Scott’s future hung in the balance. “But I agree.”
His stomach dropped. “It was a stressful situation, you were injured and little
damage was done, and, I say to this court, the world was possibly improved.”
There was a gasp from the back of the room.

“Mr Scott Tracy,
you are ordered to pay any medical bills associated with Mr Fischler’s nose
bleed and his court costs.”

There was
silence.

“This case is
closed.” The gavel dropped.

-o-o-o-

“They have
discovered that Fischler was indeed building weapons. The GDF have moved in on
several depots and seized various weapons. Langstrom and Perce are imprisoned,
however his sister is missing. Apparently, she was the mastermind of it all.”
Scott shrugged. “Which is not hard to believe considering the lack of mind in
the rest of the family.”

“Missing? You’re
kidding.”

“No, I’m afraid
not. I’m sorry.” He stood and hurried over to sit beside Virgil. “You don’t
need to worry. Kayo is out there already. Penny’s on it. They will find her.”

Virgil rubbed his
face. “I’m not worried, Scott. I’m just tired.”

Scott sat back a
little. “Understandable. Take your medication.”

“Yes, Mom.” But
Virgil didn’t move. “This doesn’t affect our operations, you know.”

Scott
straightened. “It should.”

“It doesn’t.”

“Virgil-“

“Scott, no one is
going to die because of those bastards, you hear me?” And Virgil was in his
face.

“No-one.”

-o-o-o-

The Tracys left
the courthouse amongst another flock of holocams and rude questions. There was
no arrowhead this time, simply a huddle of brothers around Virgil hunched in
the middle. A car was ordered to the front door and Kayo stormed through the
press wielding her hostile expression like a weapon.

Scott helped
Virgil into the car, wincing himself at the man’s pained gasps. He set him up
between himself and Gordon. John, Alan and Kayo sat opposite. By the time the
car started moving, Virgil was already falling against Scott’s shoulder, taking
the pressure off his injured right side.

With Scott free
to go, it was decided that they would pick up their belongings and head home
immediately. Scott stayed in the car with Virgil while John supervised their
rooms and luggage. Fifteen to twenty minutes after arriving at the hotel, they
were packed and heading to the airport and Tracy Two.

Virgil was asleep
on Scott’s shoulder.

Three blocks out
from the airport, a car ran a red light and barrelled into the front fender of
the limo, throwing it into oncoming traffic.

-o-o-o-

“Get out of the
car.”

Scott blinked,
momentarily confused. What?

“I said get out
of the car!”

And the screaming
registered. There were people screaming. His head kicked into gear.

Emergency.
Respond.

A gun was stuck
through the window pointing at him. He frowned. No, pointing at Virgil.

“I said, get out
of the damned car!”

His brother was
moving slowly, looking as dazed as Scott felt. Scott stepped in front of him,
pushing the door open and climbing out first. He shut it behind him and blocked
its access, preventing his brother from emerging. The limo lay in a mess of
stalled traffic, its front end mangled by a sedan.

The man holding
the gun was Perce Fischler, Langstrom Fischler’s brother.

“What do you
want?”

“I want your
brother.” It was snarled and spat.

“Why?”

“Because of what
he has done.”

“What has he
done?”

“He has ruined
everything.” The man shot crazed eyes at Scott. “You’ve ruined everything.” The
gun rose.

And was suddenly
airborne, a blur of blue grey IR uniform in its place. There was a yelp and
Kayo had him on the ground, her knee in his back. She whispered in his ear.
“You think my brothers caused trouble, you have no idea what I could do to
you.” A couple of cable ties disabled the man and Kayo stood over him,
obviously restraining herself from physically injuring him further.

Brothers? And
Scott was flinging open the car door. Virgil collapsed into his arms yelling at
him. John was clambering over the hood of the car, Gordon was yelling for
assistance for the driver, and suddenly Alan was beside Kayo asking her if she
was alright.

“Scott, are you
okay?” Virgil was struggling to stand up.

“I think I hit my
head again.”

“Damn. C’mere.”
And Virgil was reaching for him. There were sirens, more yelling, more
questions. He was so damned tired of all of it.

Virgil was
yelling at someone.

He just wanted to
go home.

Things became
clearer as time passed. By the time Alan took the controls of Tracy Two,
apparently after Virgil had yelled at enough people, reality was beginning to
reassert itself.

“Is everyone
okay?”

“Oh, the dazed
prince awakes.”

“Shut up,
Gordon.” Virgil reached over and touched his arm. “Everyone is fine. You were
the only injury, bar a few bruises for the driver. How are you feeling?”

Scott blinked.
“Better. Things were a little fuzzy for a bit there.”

“It’s only a mild
concussion. I figured you would want to make it home tonight.”

“You figured
correctly.” The plane turned and began its descent.

“Tracy Airways
asks you to fasten your seatbelts for landing.” Alan’s voice was full of forced
cheerfulness.

-o-o-o-

There was silence
in the room for several moments.

“Are you going to
take your medication?”

“Are you going to
stop nagging me?”

“Only if you take
your medication.”

“Fine.” Virgil
poured a couple of pills into his palm and threw them into his mouth, downing
them with a gulp of water. “There, done. Happy?”

“I’ll be happy
when you can move without flinching.”

Virgil sighed.
“I’m okay, Scott.”

“No, you’re not.
Take your damned medication and keep me sane, please.”

His brother
didn’t respond, but there was a touch of guilt in his eyes.

Scott’s shoulders
slumped. “Hell of a day yesterday.”

Brown eyes caught
his. “Yeah.”

“I’m sorry you
had to go through that.”

“It was
necessary.”

“No, it was
stupid. If I hadn’t hit the idiot, you could have stayed in bed for the day.”

“If you hadn’t
hit the idiot, he wouldn’t have gotten what was coming to him.”

Scott shrugged.
“It’s just that you had to pay the price.” He looked up and caught Virgil’s
eyes. “I am so sorry.”

His brother
looked away a moment. “I’d do far more if necessary, Scott, you know that. What
you said to the judge…I do appreciate it.” He paused. “Just one thing.
Perhaps think before you act a little more in the future?” Quietly. “This isn’t
the first time.”

Scott swallowed.
“I know.”

Silence fell
again.

“Virgil.”

His brother
looked up at him in query, his brow furrowing. “Yes?”

“You said some
things last night.”

“Oh, goddamnit! I
knew it! Did I propose? Disclose my deepest fears? What the hell did I say this
time?”

Scott swallowed.
“More the second of the two.”

A blink. “I
what?”

“You appeared to
be afraid of losing me.”

“Oh.”

“I’m not going
anywhere, you know.”

Virgil didn’t
answer.

“And if I did,
you would make a brilliant commander of International Rescue.”

His brother stood
up with a groan and turned away. “Not going to happen.”

“What?”

“I don’t want to
talk about it.”

“Virg-“

“No, Scott. I
know the drugs give all and sundry access to both my soul and my stupidity, but
that doesn’t mean I have to bare it willingly.” He slowly made his way up the
steps out of the lounge.

Scott shot to his
feet and followed, placing his hand on his brother’s uninjured arm. “Please,
Virgil, if not to me, talk to someone.”

The injured man
turned awkwardly to face him. “What the hell did I say to you?” He frowned.
“You’re scared.”

“I’m worried.”

Virgil took a
step towards him. “No, you’re scared, Scott. I can see it in your eyes.”

“I’m worried
about you. Promise me you will talk to someone.”

“I will. You know
I do.” And he did know. Virgil treated his mental health seriously, just like
he did the rest of his body. Perhaps yesterday was just the result of
circumstances.

Regardless, Scott
gently wrapped his arms around his brother and embraced him. “Look after
yourself.” He tightened his arms just slightly. “And thank you so much for
being my brother.”

Virgil returned
the hug awkwardly. “Scott, are you okay?”

Scott dropped his
forehead onto Virgil’s shoulder, “Couldn’t be better.”

-o-o-o-

FIN.

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