Part 6 of 6, directly after Learn
14-16 Aug 2018
Fandom: Thunderbirds Are Go 2015/Thunderbirds: TOS
Summary: For the world is unkind and it needs your touch.
Word count: 5076
Spoilers & warnings: None
Author’s note: I have no idea whether this worked or not. I claim no knowledge of any of the subjects so I apologise if my mad Librarian skillz haven’t been up to task. No beta, because I’m too lazy. I really hope you enjoy it in any case.
Disclaimer: Mine? You’ve got to be kidding. Money? Don’t have any, don’t bother.
The piano stool was a little high for him, but not high enough to daunt his determination. If Mom could sit up there, so could he. He shoved his chest onto the soft cover, pushing himself up, feet dangling below as he twisted his hips, attempting to get a leg up. An extra swing and his knee caught the edge and he pulled himself up.
Pushing himself upright, he finally found himself sitting at the piano. His feet dangled way off the ground.
But he could reach those wonderful keys.
Reaching out, he touched one slice of ivory just gently. A single note thrummed softly. Another. A higher note.
Balancing on his butt, he brought both hands into play, just like Mom did. Several keys at once. One, two, three. Up in scale. Three, two, one. Down in scale. Two, one, three. Three, one, two. He giggled. He could make music.
Five, two, three, one, four. One, five, six, four, two, three. More giggles.
“That is beautiful, honey.”
He startled, looking up to see his Mom smiling down at him.
She smiled at him. “Perhaps a little. Scoot over, sweetie.”
He shuffled to one side on the stool and his Mom sat beside him, her fingers automatically dropping to the keys and dancing out a little tune.
“Do you like the piano, Virgil?”
He nodded. “Sounds nice.”
“Would you like to learn how to play it?”
“You can do anything you want to, honey.”
“Can you teach me?”
Another smile. “I can help you, but only you can learn what you want to learn.”
“Yes, Mom.” Hopeful. “Can I try?”
She lifted him onto her lap and holding out both his little hands, she splayed his fingers. “Your fingers will make the music. You need to practise until they make music without you thinking about it. Do you think you can do that?”
“I can try, Mom.”
She kissed his hair. “Good boy.” She touched a key in the centre of the keyboard. “This is called Middle C. It all begins here.”
Scott stared at his brother’s chest, watching it rise and fall with each breath. The soft sound of inhalation and exhalation was keeping him sane.
Hypovolemic shock, cardiac arrest, gastrointestinal tract perforation, associated peritonitis and threatened sepsis.
Virgil no longer had an appendix.
And his large intestine was full of stitched up holes.
But he was breathing.
All by himself.
He watched his mother’s hands. “You can play the chords with your left hand and the melody with your right.” To demonstrate she played a simple tune backed by several chords. Her left hand paused and the her right slipped into a more complicated melody. “Or not.” She looked at him. “Would you like to try.”
“Sure.” His fingers weren’t quite long enough for some of the stretches, but he had a few dependable ones up his sleeve.
He sat next to her on the stool and she leant back giving him room.
Left hand C Major followed by F Major, then G Major, repeat. Right hand, simple tune dancing up and down the scale.
“Lovely, Virgil. Where did you find that one?”
He shrugged. “Made it up.”
Her expression was unreadable for a moment before she suddenly stood up and walked across the room to a cabinet. She rummaged in there for a moment before returning to him with a simple tablet. “Here, honey. If you are going to create music, you should write it down so you can play it again.”
She opened a program on the tablet. “Touch here to write the notes, and here to record the music as you play.”
His eyes widened. “Thanks, Mom.”
She smiled at him. “Do you remember that song I used to sing to you?”
She sat forward, her back automatically straightening, her fingers hovering over the keys, before gently touching out the music.
And she sang.
Listen, my son.
Listen and learn
Be what you can
And make what you will be
Love with your all
Share with your heart
I am there for you
And will always be
If you can hear
If you have voice
For the world is unkind
And it needs your touch.
A run of notes and it ended. It was familiar, but he wasn’t sure from where.
She reached over and touched the tablet. A list of compositions appeared. She chose one. It was titled ‘Virgil’. “I wrote that shortly after you were born.” She smiled a little self-consciously. “Think of it as some of my thoughts for the future of my new baby boy.” Her eyes sparkled.
Virgil stared down at the notes. Wow.
He gently placed the tablet up on the music rack, and straightening his back, began to play.
The first time around he focussed on the playing of the music. On the second he sung the words.
There was silence for a moment after he finished. He looked up at his Mom to find her staring at him, her eyes wide.
“Do you like singing, Virgil?”
He shrugged again. “It’s okay.”
The following week found him at an audition for the local choir.
He was successful.
Time in hospital is a weird thing. Sometimes it stretches out and seems to last forever, other times it moves so fast, you could blink and lose everything.
One step forward, two steps backward.
That morning Virgil was improving. That afternoon, he was back in intensive care, his fever skyrocketing.
Scott was reduced to sitting beside the bed, simply holding his brother’s hand.
His mother straightened his collar, the lipstick on her lips shining in the overhead lighting. “You’ll do wonderfully, Virgil.”
He nodded, too nervous to say anything.
“Trust me, honey, I know. You were made for this.”
He smiled just a little at her before suddenly grabbing her in a desperate hug. “Thanks, Mom.”
Her arms wrapped around him and she kissed his hair. “Now, don’t mess yourself up. It is nearly time.” She ran a finger down his cheek. “Your brothers and I will be in the audience. We are there for you. Remember that.”
“I will, Mom.” Her fingers brushed his chin before she turned and left, forcing him to face the fact that within minutes, he would be out on stage, in the spotlights singing his heart out.
“Come now, Virgil, we can’t have our lead wandering off.” The choir master was an excellent singer and conductor, but a little odd in everything else. Including the peacock hat she was wearing tonight.
The feather bounced off beat.
The lights were bright, the music loud, but the atmosphere was vibrant. And he was singing.
First with the entire choir, then separate alone, a single pure voice above the music. He felt alive. This was what he wanted to do. This was everything.
He had wings.
The doctors couldn’t give him any definitive answers.
Virgil’s body had taken such a beating, between the injury and the infections, they couldn’t guarantee his brother had it in him to survive.
Scott’s spirit steeled at that. Virgil was one of the strongest people he knew. He was fit, he was healthy, he was as stubborn as the Thunderbird he flew.
And he had four brothers who dearly wanted to see him fly her again.
International Rescue shut down its services for an indefinite amount of time. The world complained, but Scott didn’t have the ears for it.
He spent his days beside his fallen brother, attempting to give him what he could in his fight.
But no matter what he did, Virgil lay there waxen and drawn, not waking, not reacting.
Now there was talk of maybe he would never wake up.
Gordon ended up yelling at the doctor and had to be restrained, Scott pulling him back into his arms, desperately trying to give what little comfort he could.
Alan looked like a ghost, there but not.
John disappeared into research desperately looking for something that might help.
And Scott…Scott wept when no one was looking. Dropped his forehead onto his brother’s and pleaded with him to come back. Please, Virgil. Please.
Days turned into weeks.
The tablet in his hand trembled.
The email had arrived. “Mom, it’s here.” Even his voice shook.
His mother who had been attending to Alan in the nursery, hurried down the hall. “Really?”
“I think so, Mom” He bit his lip, nervous as he could be. “Should I open it?”
“Of course, you should, honey.” She wrapped her arm around his shoulders. “We’ll celebrate if they said yes, or we’ll celebrate if they said no.”
He touched the subject line and his breath hitched.
‘Dear Mr Tracy,
We are happy to inform you that your application for the Austrian Boys Performing Choir has been accepted. You are one of five successful applicants of over three thousand, and should be congratulated.
Please report to our choral hall in Vienna…’
Oh my god. “Mom! I got in!”
And then there was hugging, and cheering, and yelling for John and Scott. His father was contacted. There were celebrations all round.
Plans were made for the following month. The whole family would go to take advantage of the travel opportunity. Much discussion was had about what they could do in Austria. There were museums, piles of history to wade through, hiking and definitely some skiing. The Austrian Alps were a must see.
But Virgil’s head was in the clouds. This was it. A world class choir. This was his opportunity and he was going to take it.
“C’mon, man, you have to eat something.”
“Gordon, I said, I’m not hungry. Please just leave it.”
The aquanaut sat down beside his eldest brother and joined his stare at the wan figure on the bed. There was less of Virgil there every day. “Scott, if you don’t eat, you’ll end up in the bed beside him. I can’t afford to lose both of you.” His voice cracked.
Scott’s voice was smouldering flame. “We’re not losing anyone.”
“We will if you don’t eat!”
“Please, just leave it, Gordon.” The sound of pain.
“I can’t, Scott.”
His brother didn’t answer, his head just dropping into his hand, his elbow on the bed.
Gordon knew he was losing both of them. If Virgil didn’t wake up… He could take it personally. Didn’t Scott have three more brothers to live for? But he understood it far too well.
His mother. His father. His brother.
How much more were they expected to lose before they lost everything?
Please, Virgil, just wake up.
It had been nearly three weeks now. His brother’s body was healing, the wounds sealed, the infections defeated, but he refused to stir. The doctors didn’t know why. The longer he was under the less likely it would be that he would ever wake.
Gordon let his hand drop onto his brother’s blanket covered leg, gripping his lax limb lightly as if to pass on some of his own energy through the bedclothes.
Out of all his brothers, Gordon understood his second eldest the least, but there was something about the man, his quiet smile, gentle demeanour and fierce loyalty that drew him in. Drew them all in. Virgil was their fulcrum. An ironic thought, him being an engineer, but true nonetheless. Scott led them, but Virgil…Virgil kept them together.
“He was singing. Just before we reached him. I guess he was trying to keep the kids entertained.” Scott was staring at Virgil, but his eyes were focussed elsewhere.
“Singing? Virgil doesn’t sing.”
“What? He doesn’t. Well, all except for that one night with the Hollies.” Now that had been an eyeopener. Not to mention completely mystifying. Whoever wrote He’s not heavy, he’s your brother obviously had never tried picking up Virgil. His brother was built like a tank.
Scott shifted in his chair, turning to look at Gordon. “Haven’t you ever wondered why, in a family full of stars, Virgil has never shone as brightly?”
Gordon frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Look at you, you are an Olympic Gold Medallist. Alan is a champion race car driver. John an astronaut – you don’t get much higher in achievement than astronaut, so that adds even more shine to Alan. Me, I’m top of the line Air Force. Dad, another astronaut and one of the most successful businessmen on the planet.” He paused for breath. “But what is Virgil?”
Gordon’s hackles rose. “Virgil is a brilliant engineer. What the hell are you saying, Scott?”
“Gordon.” His brother reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. “Engineering was Virgil’s second choice in career. Not his first.”
He loved it. It was everything he could have dreamt of.
And they loved him too. Two months in and he was lead soloist, the choirmaster having taken a particular shine to his vocal offering.
Of course, it wasn’t perfect. Put a bunch of young boys together in any setting and there will eventually be scuffles of all kinds, no matter the interest in common. But he managed to keep out of trouble, despite the occasional spat of jealousy from his choirmates.
His mother moved the family temporarily to Vienna, the older brothers taking classes online for the last few months of the year. John loved it. Scott grumbled that he was missing his friends. Gordon and Alan were more excited about the snow than anything else.
Even Grandma and Grandpa came to stay for a while. The only person who didn’t join them was Dad. He had important business in the States he couldn’t ignore. But he kept in contact and visited regularly.
Everything was wonderful.
His main focus was the end of year concert, a large production to be televised across the world. A last secular offering before the Magic of Christmas three weeks after that. Virgil had been asked to perform in both and was consumed with practise.
The family had rented a house with a small studio out back. His mother hired a piano specially for this space and when she could grab a moment away from his brothers, she would play and he would sing.
He suspected she enjoyed it as much as he did.
And he would cherish the memories of those moments with her for the rest of his life.
Because the weekend before the final performance, everything came to an end.
Father was there. Grandma was there. Scott looked so pale. Where was Grandpa? He found himself with an armful of distraught Alan, John beside him equally clutching Gordon. Scott’s hand gripping his shoulder.
His father’s tear-filled eyes.
Mom was gone.
Gordon stared at his brother. “What?”
Scott blinked a moment and let his hand drop. He looked away, staring once again at Virgil’s pale face. “Virgil was a world class choral singer.” Scott swallowed. “Or he could have been. He never gave himself the chance to win his gold medal.”
Incredulous frown. “Wha-?! When the hell did that happen?”
Scott looked back at him. “Why were we in Austria, Gordon?”
“When, Mom-? We were skiing!” Stupid Austria, never wanted to step foot inside that country ever again. Well, only if they were calling for help. Stupid country.
“We were there for Virgil. He had an opportunity to perform with the Austrian Boys Performing Choir.”
Gordon blinked. Even he had heard of them. “Really?”
His eyes shot to his unconscious brother, his dark hair stark against his pale skin and the white bed sheets “But Mom died.”
“Yes, she did.”
“You cannot possibly expect him to perform.”
“He has to. We have no replacement.”
“He has taken ill. We need Virgil to perform.” The choirmaster’s Austrian accent was getting stronger by the minute. “The world will be watching.”
“He has just lost his mother!” Something in Virgil’s stomach twisted at the pain in his father’s voice. “How can you possibly ask him to do this?”
“This is his opportunity! His chance! The world must hear his beautiful voice.” The ‘master was pleading now. “This is what his mother would have wanted.”
Virgil stared at the man. What his mother would have wanted?
Beside him he could almost feel his father’s body temperature increase. “How the hell would you-!“
“Dad. I’ll do it.”
His father’s attention immediately focussed on him. “Virgil-“
“He’s right Dad. She loved this. I want to do it for her.”
“You don’t have to, son.”
He pressed his lips together. “Yes. I do.”
The last few days leading up to the performance were a blur. A blur of sympathetic looks, concerned questions and lone practise.
When the night finally came, Virgil was exhausted. There was no question of his resolve. He was going to do this. The question was – was he able?
Scott stood with him in the wings. Dad and his brothers were in the audience. None of them were at their best and he felt guilty for dragging them all here. They would be going home tomorrow, taking Mom with them. His understudy would be taking the Christmas performance, Virgil just needed to get through tonight.
He fiddled with his suit.
“You’ll do great, Virgil.” Scott’s voice was soft, his blue eyes shining, a small encouraging smile on his face.
Virgil grabbed him and hugged with everything he had. “Thanks, big bro.”
“Do it for, Mom.”
Looking up at his brother, he smiled. “For Mom.”
Giving his arms one last squeeze, Virgil stepped away from his brother and strode out on the stage, taking up his lone forward position behind the curtain, the rest of the choir rustling into place behind him. A quick glance back at his brother in the wings.
Scott smiled sadly at him.
The stage hands counted down.
He drew in breath, deep in his core.
The curtain opened.
He opened his mouth.
And he sang.
“The newscasts had him front and centre for weeks afterwards.” Scott’s expression managed to be both proud and bleak at the same time. “We fled. Buried Mom. And hid.”
Gordon frowned, trying to remember back that far. He had been so young at the time. He remembered the funeral, but not much else. “Why?”
“Why was he on the newscasts so much? Why did we hide? Why isn’t he a famous singer? Pick a question, Scott!”
His brother pressed his lips together before reaching into his back pocket for a mini holoprojector. He brought up a search screen, hooked into the nets and within moments a fifteen-year-old holocast of a young Virgil Tracy was hovering above the device.
“This is why.” Scott hit the play button.
His brother opened his mouth and sang.
From his heart.
The song wasn’t in English. It was in German, but it didn’t need to be understood intellectually. His voice spoke emotion and emotion responded. Gordon could hear the sadness in his brother, he could hear what he was feeling.
A verse in, and the back of the stage lit up, revealing the rest of the choir who joined in, harmonising with Virgil’s lead. But their spirit lacked his fire and were merely a vague echo.
Gordon had seen Virgil lose himself to the piano before, but this was something else.
His brother’s voice truly was golden, even to a tin ear like his own, but it was the power behind it, the loss he knew his brother was experiencing, the painfilled energy and passion. His brother was an artist, and this was the artist in his defining medium.
The holographic Virgil had tears running down his face.
No orchestral accompaniment. The whole structure of the piece rested of Virgil’s lead. He controlled it. His voice cut the air, the others strung behind him. He held the ebb and flow and he drew it to a crescendo. Again. And again. And then he shut it down.
Two more softly sung words and silence.
Virgil let his head drop.
And the auditorium erupted with applause and screaming ovations.
Young Virgil turned and walked off the stage.
Scott flicked off the projector.
And Gordon discovered two soft brown eyes staring directly at him.
Scott saw Gordon’s eyes widen and turned abruptly to find Virgil, eyes open and staring at his younger brother.
Those eyes flicked to him, drooped closed, then opened again. His dry lips parted. “Wha-?”
Scott grabbed the jug of water from beside the bed and shakily poured a sip of water into a plastic cup and offered it to his brother. “Here, a little at a time.”
Virgil swallowed, looking over the cup at the both of them. He handed the empty cup back to Scott. “What were you doing?”
“You saw that?”
“You’re a good singer.”
“Did he have to?”
“I think so.”
And Virgil’s eyes slipped closed again, his body relaxing into sleep.
Scott felt his face heating up, a stupid grin battling with the tears welling in his eyes. Gordon grabbed him in an excited hug, an incoherent sob his only words.
Oh, thank god!
Days passed and Virgil slowly woke more often and for longer periods. All his brothers, Grandma, Kayo, even Lady Penelope and Parker dropped in to visit.
Gordon was there the second time he woke up and was interrogated on the condition of Thunderbird Two. Something about damaging her wing on exiting the hanger. Gordon blamed it on the man’s illness. How could he possibly think he would be foolish enough to endanger his own life by damaging his brother’s ‘Bird? There were much better ways to die. Like being burnt alive.
Of course, waking up was only the first step in a long recovery. Rehabilitation, particularly for his abdominal muscles was in the journey ahead, but after such desolation, the simple act of his brother opening his eyes had lifted the pall hovering over them.
Gordon had to admit to some curiosity about the past though. Why hadn’t his brother continued singing? He was obviously damn good at it.
He considered asking Virgil, and he was certainly planning on discussing it with him sometime in the future, but he could see it was a sensitive subject and now was definitely not the time.
John was eagerly discussing something with his dark-haired brother. Something no doubt to do with monitoring lifesigns no matter what they were wearing. He’d been raving about the lack of information on Virgil’s condition during the situation since it had happened. Gordon was pretty sure that not-so-Big Brother would soon be watching his body functions from afar at all times. He rolled his eyes.
Maybe he could rig one that let John know, with the appropriate sound effects, each time he passed wind.
Squeezing Virgil’s knee, he indicated he would be back in a moment to rescue him, and then set off to find Scott. The real big brother had wandered off on a mission to acquire lunch and he had taken so long, Gordon wondered if he’d been attacked by the hospital tea lady and stuck in a freezer some where for safe keeping.
So it was with some surprise he found his brother sitting quietly in the corner of the cafeteria drinking mineral water. A pair of tired blue eyes glanced up at him as he approached.
“Watcha doin, big bro? I thought there would be lunch.”
“There is. It is being prepared.”
Gordon took the seat opposite Scott. “So you’re hanging out here in the meantime?”
Scott shrugged. “I thought perhaps John might like some time with Virgil for a bit.”
Gordon eyed him a moment. “Nothin’.”
Lips thinning. “What do you want, Gordon?’
“What, I can’t sit next to you? Is this seat taken? Got some hot chick waiting for me to move my butt?”
Scott rolled his eyes.
“I repeat. What do you want, Gordon?”
“Why Virgil doesn’t sing, despite being damn good at it.”
“He barely spoke for nearly a month after that concert, much less sang anything.” Scott grimaced. “We were all worried. Dad was beside himself. Virgil simply shut down. We took him to specialists, but he wouldn’t respond. It was like he just didn’t want to use his voice anymore. So, when he did finally start talking again, we didn’t want to push it. We were just happy to have him back.” Scott paused. “That ‘night with the Hollies’ was the first time I had heard him sing in fifteen years. I wasn’t even sure he could anymore.” Scott put down his drink, staring at it. “He was really close to Mom. He took it really hard.”
“But he plays the piano.”
Scott looked up. “Honestly, I think he’s meeting her halfway. I’m sure part of it is grief, but I’m also damn convinced that a good chunk of it is anger.”
“Virgil? Angry? You’re kidding.”
Scott shrugged. “Each to his own. We cope how we cope.” He drank the last of his drink and stood up. “It appears lunch is ready.” And Scott grabbed the crate of food offered to him by the tea lady.
Virgil knew he was getting better because he was getting more and more frustrated about being stuck in bed. Sure, he could now get out of bed any time he liked, but the exercise was one of pain and embarrassment.
And he needed help.
He had no strength in anything and it was annoying.
So, he was sitting up in bed, a pile of pillows securing him so he wouldn’t strain his injuries, doodling aimlessly on the hospital menu when Angela walked in the door.
“You up for a visitor or two?”
His mood immediately lifted, his face splitting into a grin. “Angela!”
She grinned back and rushed over to him, her hug gentle, but no less heartfelt.
“Daniel?!” He looked towards the door again.
“And Jana, Marissa, Alex and Johnny!” The eight-year-old bounded into the room, followed by his little posse. Alex had his arm in plaster and Jana was still sporting the red remains of the scrape on the side of her face, but all of them were grinning like crazy.
“C’mon here, all you.” And he held out his arms. With a squawk of ‘Be careful!’ from Angela, he found himself hugged gently all over by the five children.
“How are you all?”
“Better!” This from Jana.
“What about you, Mr Virgil? They wouldn’t let us visit you for such a long time.”
A soft smile. “Getting better every day.” He didn’t fail to notice Scott smiling in the doorway. “Hey, Daniel, did you want to meet the pilot of Thunderbird One?”
“Really, can I?” His eyes lit up like twin moons.
Virgil grinned. “Turn around. This is my brother Scott. He likes to fly fast.”
Scott straightened up, a flash of trepidation crossing his face before his Field Commander professional façade slipped on.
Daniel and the other kids stared up at him. There were a couple of dropped jaws.
“Hi, guys. V-…Mr Virgil tells me you like Thunderbird One.”
“So cool!” Daniel’s head looked like it was about to explode. “How fast can you go? Can you go into space like Thunderbird Three? Can you go faster than Thunderbird Three? Can I see her?”
And those were just Daniel’s questions. Virgil grinned as the kids swarmed his brother.
Angela smiled at him. “They’ve been asking about you since that first day.”
“How are they?”
Her smile slipped a bit. “As well as can be expected. They’ve all lost friends, so they’ve banded together with their shared experience.” She tilted her head. “The only team member who has been missing is you.”
Her lips twisted slightly. “I hear rumour you’re not a bad singer.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Really? I hear rumour you are going for the record number of rescues by International Rescue.”
A blush and an awkward smile. “Well, then, Mr Virgil.” She poked him in the shoulder. “I expect you to get well as soon as possible so you will be available for the next one. I expect only the best in my rescuing.”
Another smile and she lent closer and whispered, “Besides Thunderbird Two really is the coolest.”
Scott found his brother sitting on the front porch steps. The day was cool, but dry, the winter sun low on the horizon. Kansas stretched out before them and a light breeze tousled his hair.
“Hey, Virgil.” He received no response, but then he didn’t expect one. Virgil said very little now.
He plopped himself down beside his brother. Virgil had his head in one hand, his elbow held up by his knee. He was staring into the distance.
“I’ve got something for you.”
His brother’s eyes darted towards him for a moment, before returning to their distant stare.
Scott brought the sketchbook around onto his lap and opened it. “I figured that if you weren’t going to talk, then to have a good conversation, you could write or draw things.” He grabbed the pencil. “For example, here is me sitting on the porch.” He drew a stick figure sitting on a step with a sketchbook on its knees. Well, that’s what it was supposed to be.
Looking up to see if Virgil understood what he was drawing, he was surprised to find his brother’s eyes pinned to the sketchbook.
“What, you think you can do better?”
Those brown eyes flicked up at him before reaching over and gently taking the book and pencil out of Scott’s hands.
Scott bit his lip as an artful facsimile of his brother appeared next to his stick figure.
His eyes widened. “Okay, so you can. Got yourself a full load of artistic genes there, bro.”
Virgil stared at him for a moment before returning the pencil to the paper.
The stick figure changed. Darker lines taking over as Scott appeared on the paper. Virgil’s frown of concentration was almost amusing.
“So mine not good enough, huh?”
Virgil sent him a half-lidded glare.
“Okay, okay, I bow to your artistic prowess, oh great brother of mine.”
That earned him some eye-rolling.
Scott hid a smile.
And Virgil kept drawing.