The Proposal

This is Part one of at least two. I promised you something tonight, but I haven’t managed to finish it yet (I had to rewrite a good chunk of this bit tonight as Scott was being difficult). So while this doesn’t really end on a cliffhanger, it might as well. Sorry.

Warnings: Virgil/Kayo, part of the Warm Rain universe, some kinda graphic depictions of injury (poor Virgil), Virgil!Whump and angst for everyone, including me.

She had only had a split second to realise what was
happening before he barrelled into her, his sheer mass wrapping around her,
ever the protective idiot she loved.

There was snow and rock. She lost her belay rope, the world
just spun sickeningly.

In the confusion a sharp spire of rock loomed, Virgil
reached, his arm blue against all the white.

And he screamed.

She had never heard him quite make that kind of sound.

And their fall stopped.

The snow roared around them, but they had stopped moving.

He was trembling around her, his right arm the only purchase
they had. His eyes were clenched shut. “Virgil?”

“I can’t…” He cried out as something hit them and they were
falling again.

White.

Freefall.

And the horrible snap of tightening rope as they came to a
complete stop mid-air.

Dangling.

The snow fell away.

The mountain fell quiet.

And they spun idly over a thousand foot drop held only by
his tangled rope.

With the exception of his left arm still holding her so desperately
to him, Virgil hung from his harness limp. She gasped when she discovered the
torn uniform from the inside of his right elbow to his waist where the rock
spire had gouged him on their way down. His blood dripped into the abyss.

She checked his harness, his blessed baldric securing him to
his line. She clipped her harness to his line, securing the both of them as
they swayed in the wind. She made sure they were inseparable.

Where the hell was his helmet? Snow peppered his dark hair.

She wrapped her hand around the back of his neck, supporting
him, drawing him in closer. His eyes were dazed with pain. “C’mon, Virgil, work
with me here.”

Please.

He blinked and finally focussed on her, only to have the
wind spin them around, snow fluttering in her face. He moaned in pain, his eyes
scrunching shut.

“Virgil!”

He shuddered. And to her horror, the arm holding her slipped.
She slid down as her harness took her weight.

The links snapped tight and held.

He was staring at her, his chest desperately trying to draw
in breath, his left arm pulling her towards him. “K-“ His eyes shuttered.

Desperate, she pulled him to her. “Damnit, Virgil, don’t you
dare do this to me.” She switched frequencies. “Thunderbird Five, I need you
now.”

John’s voice was tense in her ears. “We have control of Thunderbird
Two. Moving her to your location.”

Virgil was touching her helmet. “Kay?” He left red smears on
the plexiglass.

“John’s got Thunderbird Two. He’s bringing her around. We’ll
be down in a moment. Hang on, Virgil.”

His lips were white, his brown eyes ever so intense. His arm
tightened. Voice ever so quiet. “Can never let you go.” And he smiled at her,
their lazy spin above certain death ignored for an unbelievable moment. “Marry
me?”

Her eyes widened…and the air was consumed by the roar of
VTOL as Thunderbird Two tore around the mountain.

-o-o-o-

Kayo blinked.

TB2 came to a hover below them, edging ever so slowly up to
their position. Her roar had snow shivering off the precipice above them. God, Kayo
hoped they didn’t cause another avalanche.

“Kayo, I’m coming down.” Her brother’s voice in her helmet
seemed to come from a distance above the roar of VTOL.

“John?”

“Get aboard Thunderbird Two, I will be there in seven point
four minutes.”

John was coming down.

She turned her attention back to Virgil, but his eyes had
closed, his face slackening. “Virgil?” She drew him closer and his head lolled
onto her shoulder. “John’s coming, love.”

He didn’t answer.

A thin rivulet of blood dribbled from his mouth onto her
uniform.

Terror welled inside her. God. “John, hurry, please hurry.”

Thunderbird Two opened her overhead hatch, the platform at
its full height. Ever so slowly she edged higher until the platform was under
their feet and Kayo could stand.

Virgil’s considerable weight slumped heavy into her arms.

Still TB2 rose, until their ropes were slack and she could
lower Virgil to lie on the platform. She pulled her knife and, with some
difficulty, sliced herself and Virgil free.

The moment the last strand separated, the platform began to
descend. She separated their harnesses and she was moving, training kicking in.

First aid kit, assess the patient. Breathing, shallow and
fast, pulse, fast, bleeding, oh god the bleeding. Broken white bone shone
through the red. Her throat tightened, her lips drawing to a hard, tight white
line as her fingers moved, wrapping and putting pressure on what she could…and
what she probably shouldn’t.

When he cried out in pain, she almost strangled on her own
breath. “I’m sorry, love. I-I have-”

He coughed and the whole right side of his ribcage shifted.
His eyes shot open, and he was choking.

She moved as if mechanical. Get him onto his left side, open
his airway, clear obstructions. He coughed blood on the deck. Oxygen. Check
breathing.

It was a mantra, insulating her from what was happening. He
was a patient, a victim, not the man who had, moments ago, asked her to marry
him.

Retro rockets fired above her, heard through the still open
overhead hatch, and John was leaping through the opening, catching himself with
a wobbly stumble as he landed feet first on the decking.

“Eos, Virgil’s vitals please.” And the AI’s calm voice
rattled off numbers over TB2’s speakers. None of them were good. Kayo caught
her brother’s eyes, their green tense and vibrating. “Hover stretcher.”

And she was running.

Thunderbird Two’s rear thrusters fired and the ship was
moving, fast.

With her brother at hand, they were able to secure Virgil
and get him to the medical bay. Eos flew her lover’s ‘bird, the AI taking
instruction from John as they made a dash for Auckland and its largest
hospital.

John set up a fluid IV. Kayo set up a heme replacement
transfusion. They gave him oxygen. They strapped what they could. He continued
to breathe. Wetly.

Kayo bit her bottom lip clean through.

She left him as they entered approach to Auckland, Eos
relinquishing TB2 to Kayo for landing. She thanked the AI with as few words as
possible.

Exercising International Rescue special privilege, she was
given immediate permission to land on the hospital grounds. As this was their
closest major hospital, this wasn’t the first time Thunderbird Two had scorched
their lawn.

Settling Virgil’s beloved ‘bird, she secured the craft. John
was already moving, spouting off vitals, medical history as he guided Virgil’s
hover stretcher to the platform. She leapt on as it began to lower.

Then there were doctors, nurses, more numbers, more medical
words, and she was following a flock of personnel into the cavern of a
hospital.

Until she could go no further and was left staring at the
doors they’d taken Virgil through.

They swung back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…

A pair of hands gently touched her shoulders and she jumped,
her breath catching in her throat.

John’s eyes, green, but so like his brother’s. She stared.

“Kayo?” His voice was soft, calm as always.

“He asked me to marry him.” The words fell from her mouth.
And all her calm, all her experience in the field, everything that held her
together, fell apart. She stared up at John and his kind eyes.

She was shaking.

A tentative arm wrapped around her shoulders. “He’s strong,
you know that.”

She knew that. She loved that about him. She loved him so
much.

She straightened her spine and swallowed. Take control.

“W-we need to see to the climbers in the cargo bay.” The
three survivors of the rescue. The fourth had been swept away as Virgil had
grabbed Kayo to prevent her from the same fate. She had unhooked her belay
trying to reach the woman, so she had not been secure when the avalanche had
hit. Which was why Virgil and grabbed her.

Which was why he was injured.

“He saved my life.”

John lowered himself to her eyeline. “He is strong, Kayo. He
will be fine.”

She gently laid her hand on her brother’s chest, the feel of
the smooth spacesuit almost alien. She unintentionally left red smears.

Virgil’s blood.

She started and stepped back out his reach. “I have to go
and secure his – Thunderbird Two.” And she turned and left, leaving John
staring after her in the hallway.

-o-o-o-

Scott hit New Zealand airspace barely after making cruising
height, Tracy Two responding smoothly, though not as fast as he was used to.
The cockpit was silent despite the presence of Gordon next to him. The rest of
the family was just as quiet back in the main cabin.

John’s calm report had taken them by surprise. Thunderbird
Two had left on a simple mission – four climbers had been stranded on a
mountain in the Andes. Kayo had accompanied Virgil as Gordon had asked for the
day off to see to one of his projects. The TB2 pilot had been quite happy at
the prospect of spending the morning with his girlfriend instead of his
brother. The smile on his face as he had flipped into his chute had been
somewhat devilish. Enough to have Scott wondering whether he should have sent
Alan instead.

His lips thinned. There was a possibility that he should
have.

Regardless, the result was a shattered ribcage. His brother
had almost been gutted by a chunk of rock while attempting to save Kayo.

Not that Scott would have acted any differently, but…he
sighed, dropping his head slightly.

“Virg is one of the strongest men I know.” Gordon’s voice
was quiet, but firm.

“I know.”

The description John had given him. A piece of rock had
opened up his side, hooking on his ribs, shattering several of them, puncturing
his lung and damaging his liver, before gouging further under his right arm.
The image was stomach curdling.

“Scott, he will be okay.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Scott.” Amber eyes caught him, fixing him in place. “I
know.”

“Zulu-Kilo-Tango-Romeo-Two, you have clearance for
approach.”

Scott returned his attention to the jet. There was still a
landing, customs and a thirty kilometre car ride before he could see his
brother.

Fingers brushed his arm. He looked at Gordon. The faith in
the younger man’s eyes lifted him just enough. “He will be fine.”

Scott let the air out of his lungs, looking away. “He better
be, or I will kick his ass.”

-o-o-o-

John was aware of the strange looks he was receiving, but he
didn’t care. The IR logo kept everyone at a respectable distance and the
hospital had kicked out the press two hours ago.

Kayo had not returned.

The roar of Thunderbird Two launching and tearing off over
the hospital had been loud an hour and a half ago. Eos had reported her return
to Tracy Island not long after. He had heard nothing since.

Hospital chairs were as uncomfortable as hell on a good day.
After several months in space they were painful. He really should stop jumping
back to Earth without acclimatization time. It hurt. In his bones. And worse,
he had nothing to occupy his mind. Not even his tablet.

Stir crazy was just around the corner.

But then the Tracy clan arrived.

Scott was on him immediately, report demanded, despite the
fact he had spoken to his brother not five minutes ago. “Nothing has changed.
He is still in surgery.”

“Where’s Kayo?”

John frowned. “Didn’t you bring her with you?”

“What?”

“She took Thunderbird Two back to base. I assumed she would
return with you.”

“She said she was going to take Thunderbird Shadow. She
isn’t here?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Then where the hell is she?”

“Eos?”

“Thunderbird Shadow has not left Tracy Island.”

“What?” It was a chorus of both John and Scott.

“Not according to the ship’s transponder.”

Scott shoved his face into his hand, exasperation leaking
out between his fingers. “Eos, can you locate Kayo?”

“I will attempt to do so.”

“You know she won’t be found if she doesn’t want to be.” Two
painfilled blue eyes stared at him. “She’s upset, she may just need some time.”

“She needs to be here.” Those eyes spat anger. “He will be
asking for her.”

A hand landed on John’s arm and another landed on Scott’s.
Their grandmother stepped between them. “Please don’t quarrel, boys. Kayo will
do what she must. She loves your brother, you know that. She will be here when
she is needed.”

Scott nodded once, but didn’t say anything further, stepping
away from all of them to hover in the corner, looking a little lost for a
moment before digging out his tablet and taking a seat. The tablet suffered a blistering
glare.

John turned to his grandmother. She was staring at Scott,
eyes glistening. “Grandma, are you okay?” Stupid question. “Did you want to sit
down?” He offered her a chair.

The hand gripping his arm squeezed gently as she looked up
at him. “I’m as best I can be, honey. How about you go and wash up.”

And he realised that he still had Virgil’s blood spattered
all over his uniform. No wonder everyone had been staring at him. “Yes, yes,
thank you, Grandma, I will do that.”

He escaped to the men’s room.

-o-o-o-

Loving Virgil Tracy made her vulnerable.

She had known it from the very beginning, but she had pushed
it aside labelling it no different from loving him as a brother. Love hurt, it
was the nature of the emotion.

She was wrong.

Yes, she loved her brothers more than life itself. But
Virgil, he had been her brother, but now…that rock may as well have gutted her,
it hurt so much. His lax face, his head on her shoulder.

His smile as he asked her to marry him, all the while
bleeding away.

She closed her eyes, hiding the sight of the room she shared
with him. Hiding his jeans discarded on the bed, the red flannel he so
preferred, the abandoned sketchbook he had been playfully cartooning with the
night before, goofy pictures of his brothers and the celebrities on the holovid
they had been half-watching before becoming far too interested in each other to
care.

She could smell his cologne.

She could hear his beautiful voice.

But he wasn’t here.

And it was too late. There was no going back. It was almost
as if part of her had broken open, a seal no longer airtight, and she had let
him into a place where she could hurt more than she had ever imagined.

And love him more than she had ever known was possible.

And he dangled his death in front of her.

Anger flared.

How dare he.

Anger was a familiar friend. It warmed and it fuelled, it
protected her from pain.

It made her invincible.

She shed her blood-spattered clothing, ignoring his
fingerprints, the smears. Stripped naked she walked into their ensuite and
quickly showered the pain from her body.

His toothbrush stared at her.

His towel mocked her.

She threw on a spare uniform. She was International Rescue.
She was stronger than this.

Grabbing his prepacked overnight bag, she turned her back on
the room and stalked to her chute.

She had somewhere to be.

-o-o-o-

The world came back slowly, piece by agonising piece.

What the hell had he done this time?

White.

Snow.

Falling.

Kayo!

He started awake.

And immediately regretted it. Two hands were holding him to
the bed ever so gently, but his entire right side was on fire. His brain was
fog. The pain was disorienting.

He opened his eyes to find a blurry approximation of his
eldest brother.

“Virg?”

His mouth opened but nothing came out. His throat was
parched. There was something on his face. He fumbled to remove it.

“No, you have to keep that on. You need it.” The mask was
replaced.

It was hot, cold, humid and confining. But oxygen, he needed
oxygen.

“What happened?” Augh, his throat was like sandpaper, his
voice muffled. What the hell did he do? A frown. “Where’s Kay?” Oh god. They
had fallen. “Where is she?!” His heart stopped. An alarm screeched.

“Hey, Virgil, calm down. Kayo is fine.”

He took in a breath, his heart still thudding in his chest.
“Where is she?”

His brother’s eyes shifted away a moment. “She’ll be back
soon.”

“W-what aren’t you telling me?”

“Nothing. She’s fine, Virgil. I promise.”

Please be okay. “Okay.” He swallowed and forced himself to
calm. “What about me?”

“You are going to be okay.”

Virgil frowned. Scott looked awful. The blur was clearing
enough to outline grey smudges and worry. “Are you okay?”

Exasperation. “No, Virgil, I am not. Because my brother
managed to fall off a mountain and gouge a hole in his side big enough to park
his ‘bird in.”

“Wha-?” Virgil again tried to sit up and again was held back
by his brother and the pain in his side. “What did I do?”

“Will you stop moving!”

“Stop scaring the crap out of me!”

“Then stop scaring me!”

“I don’t even know what the hell I did!” And he was panting,
desperately trying to get a deep enough breath. His heart was hammering. An
alarm.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?” And Gordon was
there. Little brother Gordon. Funny Gordon. What were those spots?

Oh, he couldn’t get enough…

“Virgil, look at me.” Soft, brown eyes, lighter versions of
his own. “Slow breath. In. Out. Calm. Another. In and out. Breathe slowly and
calmly. Let your body catch up.” He did as he was told. Calm. So tired. He
could just drift.

So he did.

-o-o-o-

Gordon dragged his oldest brother out of the room. A nod in
John’s direction and his space brother took their place inside.

“What the hell do you think you were doing? You were
supposed to keep him calm!” Scott was considerably taller than Gordon, but he
was slumped and looked no better than a scolded child. “Hell, Scott. I don’t
get it. You know better than that.”

“I know.” He ran a hand over his face. “I…Where is she,
Gordon? He needs her here. He doesn’t want to see me, He needs to see her.
Where the hell is she?”

“I’m here.”

Gordon and Scott spun around. Kayo stood in the door. Immediately
Scott was in her face. “Where the hell have you been?”

“Tracy Island.” And when Scott didn’t back down, she flared
up. “Cleaning your brother’s blood off my hands.”

Scott took a step back.

There was too much anger in the room. “Hey, guys, c’mon.”

Kayo’s eyes turned to him. They were so cold, they burnt.

Shit, she was hurting bad. “Tin?”

She flinched, just barely, but he caught it. “How is he?”

“As well as can be expected. But not as good as he could
have been if you were here when he woke.” And Scott was still angry.

She flinched again.

Gordon rounded on his brother. “What the hell is your
problem?”

Scott closed off immediately. “Nothing you need concern
yourself with, Gordon.”

“Well, I beg to differ because you keep taking out chunks of
those around you and sooner or later its going to be one of my chunks and I
want to know why I’m giving it up.”

“What?”

“Oh, for the love of…Kayo, go to him.” A wan smile, followed
by a glare at his brother. “I’ll take care of this one.”

Kayo nodded once, taking a step back and slipping into
Virgil’s room. An overnight bag dangled from her arm.

The moment she was gone, Gordon turned back to Scott. “Spill.”

-o-o-o-

John looked up when she entered. Her brother looked so
tired, his green eyes dulled, his red hair limp. Without looking at Virgil, she
walked directly up to John and placed a hand on his arm. “You look awful. Go
and get yourself some rest, John.”

He smiled awkwardly. “I declare pot and kettle.”

“Yes, well, I didn’t jump off a satellite to save my brother
and sister.”

“No, you fell off a cliff.”

“You win on sheer distance, John.” She leant up and kissed
him gently on the cheek. “Thank you. Now go and look after yourself. I’ll take
care of Virgil.”

And now she let herself look.

He was so pale, his dark hair contrasting against his skin.
The mouth she had kissed this morning was hidden by an oxygen mask. The arms
that had wrapped around her in love, lay limp on the sheets, one wrapped
heavily in bandages.

John touched her shoulder and squeezed gently before
ghosting out of the room.

Kayo sat down beside the bed.

“Hey, gorgeous.” Her voice was so quiet she hardly heard
herself.

The bed was elevated. Virgil had compromised his right lung,
damaged his liver, nicked a major vein, and broken most of his ribs down one
side. That side was a mass of sutures. A drain was trying to keep his lungs
clear of fluid. He was strung together with bailing wire, duct tape and hope.
The risk of infection was a horrible number, and pneumonia a definite threat.

She reached up and pushed a stray hair out of his eyes. A
small smile. He hated his hair without product in it to keep it straight. It
was rare she saw it loose outside the shower. Personally, she thought he looked
scruffy and cute when it was dishevelled. There had been several wrestling
matches between them on the topic, her reaching to tousle it just that little
and him wriggling to escape.

Because she could, she reached over and messed it just a
little.

But he was too pale to be cute. The shadows too large under
his eyes.

She trailed a finger down his cheek, skipping around the
oxygen mask. “You are beautiful, Virgil Tracy.”

“I know.” And he was smiling. Those gorgeous brown eyes
opened and found her. “Hey.”

“Hey.” She couldn’t help but smile a little back. “You’re in
big trouble.”

“I figured.” His eyes tracked over her as if checking for
injury. “You okay?”

“I’m fine. Thanks to you.”

“Good.” His left arm moved a little unsteadily and reached
for her. She leant over him, bringing herself closer and his hand touched her
cheek. “Beautiful.”

Lifting up the oxygen mask, she gently kissed him. “I have
to keep up with you, don’t I?”

She placed the mask back over his face and ran a hand over
his forehead and temple, down to his cheek. “Please don’t do that again.”

He cleared his throat. “I’ll try. But no promises.”

Her lips pressed together, the emotion threatening to
overwhelm.

He caught her hand. “I’m sorry, Kay, I truly am, but if I
can save you, I will. You know that.”

The man had taken bullets for her. She knew it too damned
well. “Next time, I will save you.”

And there she saw it. A flicker of fear in his eyes. Her
stomach clenched. “But now is not the time to discuss that.” She eyed the
cardiomonitor. “Take a breath, love.”

She watched his chest rise and flinch.

She ran her fingers through his hair.

-o-o-o-

Scott stared at Gordon. ”What?”

“Now you are just getting repetitive. What the hell is going
on, Scott? This isn’t you. What dog upped and peed in your cornflakes?”

“Gordon-“

“No.” And he purposefully moved into his brother’s personal
space. “I want an explanation. Virgil’s not here to kick your ass, so you’ll
have to put up with me.” A glare. “Spill.”

The fury in Scott’s eyes was something to behold. How the
hell Virgil tamed it with so few words, Gordon had no idea. They would just
have to make do.

It looked for a moment as if Scott’s hair would literally
ignite. Gordon’s eyes widened. But an incomprehensible sound passed his lips
and his brother’s whole body slumped and fell into a chair, his head falling
into his hands, his elbows on his knees. Muffled. “Shit.”

Gordon let out a breath he didn’t realise he had been
holding and sighed. He sat down next to his brother and tentatively placed a
hand on his shoulder. “C’mon, bro, tell me.”

“I should never have sent them out there.”

“What? Why?”

“I should have sent Alan.”

He was beginning to have his suspicions. “And exactly what
difference would that have made? Virgil would still have tried to save him.
Kayo would still be sitting beside his bed.”

Scott head shot up. “How do you know? You’ve seen Virgil’s
reaction to a threat to Kayo. Or don’t you remember the bullet wounds?”

Gordon rose slowly from his seat. “You have got to be
kidding me. You honestly think Virgil would be unprofessional enough to put his relationship above the mission?!”
He stared at his brother, his voice dropped to a dangerous whisper, his own
anger flaring. “How many times have you risked your life for Virgil? How many
times has he risked his for yours? For any of us? Just because Kayo is his
girlfriend-“

And Scott was standing and in his face. “He shouldn’t have
to make that choice! He shouldn’t be put in that position. And neither should
she.”

“What is the difference between risking Alan and risking
Kayo?” It hurt either way.

“He wants her for his wife!”

Gordon froze.

“What?”

And Scott groaned throwing his head into his hands again,
planting himself once again on the horrible plastic chair. “Damn.”

“H-how do you know?”

“I told him.” And John was there, eyes ever so tired. And
sad. He sat down beside Scott, lay back and closed his eyes. “God, I’m tired.”

And how the hell did he know? Gordon looked between his two
older brothers. Something still wasn’t adding up. “Well, I think that is great
news. In fact, I think it is fantastic news. But it still doesn’t explain why
big bro has all his panties in a twist.” He glared at Scott.

The glare wasn’t returned, but his brother did look up, his
face pained. “Did you see Kayo when she walked in? Did you see what this is
doing to her? Can you imagine what would happen to either of them if they lost
the other? To Virgil? To Kayo?” He swallowed, voice quiet. “I saw what it did
to Dad.”

It made sense, sure, but…”And what the hell do you think you
can do to prevent it? We’ve been risking our lives for years, Scott. How is
this any different?”

His brother’s eyes dropped to the floor. “It is.” A breath.
“It just is.”

-o-o-o-

They housed the clan at a nearby hotel and they took turns
keeping Virgil company.

It was Kayo on the second day who discovered the fever. It
was low grade, but the doctors moved fast, pulling out the antibiotic big guns
and filling his bloodstream with chemicals that would hopefully take out the
infection before it became a major problem.

Unfortunately, due to the damage he had done, by evening he
was hot, irritable and worsening.

“Kay, I’m so sorry.”

He had been saying it repeatedly for most of the afternoon.
A combination of the pain, the painkillers and the fever. He made it very clear
that the last thing he ever wanted to do was hurt her and he knew that was
exactly what he was doing.

“So sorry.”

She sat holding his hot hand, her eyes on Scott on the other
side of the bed. His pain mirrored her own. “I know, Virgil.”

“So sorry.” And he drifted off again, exhaustion freeing him
from consciousness.

She kept her face straight, letting her anger burn beneath
the surface where no one could see it, but it could keep her going.

“Kayo, why don’t you take a break. Get a drink.”

She shook her head. “No. I’m fine.”

The nurses came and went. The doctors appeared like
seagulls, a flock of them jabbering about the patient like he and his family
weren’t even there. Scott flared up on several occasions. His commanding voice
deployed to get answers.

Unfortunately, they weren’t the answers he was looking for.
They were doing their best, there was a lot of foreign material in the wound,
it was inevitable, they were giving him the best treatment. The answer Scott
was looking for contained ‘getting better’, but Virgil continued to get worse.
Pneumonia flared up.

“It was almost inevitable in this case.” Kayo stared up at
the young doctor. “We will do our best, that I can guarantee.”

She looked back at her lover, his beautiful hair damp with
sweat, his face gaunt, his breathing laboured and shallow. Pain was etched in
every shadow on his face. Consciousness was intermittent, passing
indiscriminately and rarely fully there in the first place.

He was still apologising and it hurt more each time he said
it.

“Marry me?” Her heart lurched. His eyes were open, but
glazed over with pain and illness. His hand twitched as if to reach for her.

She leant over and wrapped her fingers around his.

“Please, Kay. Love you.”

God.

Scott’s eyes were full of her pain. Her mouth twitched and
she grabbed for control. He knew. Goddamnit, he knew. Anger flared and she
cherished it. Her eyes flashed at him and she saw their impact. He flinched and
looked away.

“Please, Kay.” Virgil’s voice was rough and faint. His heart
struggling to oxygenate his body, beating so much faster than normal, it gave
him no rest. “Please.”

“Yes, Virgil.” Her voice cracked. She looked up and Scott
was gone. Her eyes closed. “I will marry you, love. I will.” She tightened her
hand around his and she couldn’t hold back the tremble.

“Please, Kay.” And he was drifting off into exhausted oblivion
again.

She struggled to find the anger. She needed it. She needed
it.

Two arms wrapped around her and Scott was drawing her away
gently. She didn’t want to go. She couldn’t.

So familiar. So much taller. So much her brother.

He kissed her hair.

She was trembling. And she was clinging.

Desperate to find the anger to sustain her.

Scott was brushing her hair with his fingers like he did
when she was a little girl and she had fallen over and hurt herself.

Hell.

She screwed her eyes shut.

“Let it go, Kayo.”

“No.” Her voice was barely there.

The anger flared. She wanted to hit something. Good, it gave
her strength.

He sensed it in her, and looked down, his expression as
shredded as she felt. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but knew
there was nothing he could say that could possibly make anything better. His
mouth relaxed, but he drew her in tighter.

“Love you, little sister.”

Damned Tracy brothers were all the same.

She gently squeezed his arm, but didn’t say anything, not
game to open her mouth. She took a step back and stumbled into the chair,
returning to Virgil who was restless in his sleep.

She took his hand once again and simply held on.

-o-o-o-

TBC

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