Tick Tock (continued)
Someone was stroking his hair.
“Mmm, tha’s good.”
“Virgil? Are you with us?” Scott. But there was a fragrance.
“I’m here, honey.” The fingers in his hair patted him gently.
“Not feel so good.”
A shadow fell across his eyelids and a kiss brushed his forehead. “Don’t you worry, you’re safe.”
And it was only then he realised that he was surrounded by the sound of his beloved ‘bird. “Wha-? Why?” He tried to sit up and discovered blankets over him and a needle in his arm and hands hurrying to hold him down. “Woah, Virg, you relax. We’re on our way to the hospital.” Opening his eyes produced a blurry approximation of his big brother.
He struggled to sit up, attempting to throw his legs off the side of the bed. But something was wrong.
He stilled and the hands holding him back steadied him. “What’s wrong with my legs?” He tried to move them again. The left one shifted a little, but the right one might as well have not been there. Panic hit. “What happened? What’s wrong?” He couldn’t remember.
“Virgil!” It was Scott’s command voice, but something inside Virgil wasn’t right. His heart rate soared and an alarm shrieked somewhere.
But then a pair of soft hands cupped his face and he was turned to look into a pair of clear blue eyes. “Virgil, it is going to be alright. Do you hear me?” One of those hands returned to combing his hair.
A breath fell out of him and he sagged, his body sliding forward before being caught by a familiar pair of strong hands. He was lowered slowly back onto the bed.
Grandma didn’t let her touch slip for a moment. He forced himself to take in breath, expel it, and calm down. “What happened?” Why was he so breathless?
“You collapsed in the comms room. Do you remember?” Scott’s voice was like a lifeline.
He thought back. “Something…I smelled bad.”
“Yes, you did.” And there was a touch of a smile in that voice. “That was thirty-six hours ago.”
“You were exhausted, Virgil. And you have been asleep for most of it. Damnit, why do you do this? There are rules for a reason.”
“I-I broke no rules, Scott. There were people-…who needed hel-“ And he had to catch his breath. His lungs just weren’t filling properly. “Wha’s wrong w’ me?”
Scott looked at his grandmother a moment before turning back to Virgil. Quietly. “We don’t know yet.”
Gordon’s voice suddenly filled the room. “We are on final approach to Wellington. Please take your seats for landing.”
“Hospital, Virgil.” Grandma brushed his temple with her fingertips. “We will find out what’s wrong, honey. You just rest.”
He leant into her touch. “Sorry, Grand-ma.” His eyes drifted shut, his focus shifting to her gentle touch, clinging to it. “Sor-ry.”
A breath that wouldn’t come.
And he was forced to let go.
Scott spun as both an alarm started shrieking and his grandmother cried out. “Virgil?!”
His brother’s body shuddered slightly and then stilled.
A pause, a moment, no indrawn breath.
“He’s not breathing.”
The ship around them shuddered as if in sympathy and Scott moved. Don’t think, just do.
The roar of VTOL vibrated through the hull as he reached for a bag ventilator and started breathing for his brother. Grandma lowered the bed, helping to move her grandson into the correct position.
Damn you, Virgil, don’t do this. Scott scanned the readouts. If only he had realised what was happening faster.
They had thought it was simply exhaustion taking his brother down. The man had fallen asleep on the floor, for goodness’ sake. Once he and Gordon had manhandled him into the infirmary, everything had checked out. Virgil had just over done it, and not for the first time. They had decided to let him sleep it off in medical where they could keep an eye on him.
Something had niggled at Scott, something about how Virgil hadn’t seemed himself before his collapse. It bugged him. But there were no indications that there was anything else wrong with him.
Fourteen hours later and he was still sleeping. Scott reassured himself that it was just Virgil, who slept long periods normally anyway.
But still the niggle.
At sixteen hours, he cracked enough to attempt to wake his brother.
Virgil responded by swearing at him, rolling over and going back to sleep.
Okay, the bear was still in residence.
But sixteen hours was a ridiculous length of time to go without fluids, sustenance and a toilet break.
So he woke him again and against Virgil’s protests, dragged him out of bed and into the infirmary’s bathroom, before shoving a glass of water and a bagel in front of him.
The glare was epic, particularly when Virgil realised exactly where he was.
“I’m not sick!”
“Eat your breakfast.”
But the moment his brother set eyes on the bagel he paled to a ghastly shade of green. “Not hungry.”
“Drink, at least.”
Half the water made it down his throat before Virgil’s eyes began to droop again. “‘M tired.”
“Drink the rest of the water, or I’m calling Grandma up here.”
The rest of the water made it past his lips, the glass hitting the bed table just that little harder than intended as Virgil pushed the table away. “Wanna sleep.”
Scott sighed. “In a moment. Just let me check you over first, okay?”
His brother rubbed his ear as he lay back on the pillow. “O-kay.” But he was asleep again before Scott had a chance to do anything.
Twelve hours later, Scott was really beginning to worry.
“Something is not right, Grandma.”
Gordon was examining his prone brother, checking Scott’s assessment of his condition. “Bro, I can’t see anything more than you. Virgil is just sleeping. No indications of anything else.” A sigh. “He just pushed it too far. I’m going to give him a piece of my mind once he is back on his feet.”
“Get in line.” Scott and Grandma said at the exact same time.
Another sigh. “Let’s wake him up. Time for some more fluid, in and out.”
The bear was still firmly in residence upon being disturbed. “For god’s sake, leave me alone.”
“Virgil, toilet break, then food.”
“Who died and made you boss?”
Scott froze, just as Virgil realised exactly what he had said. “Shit. Sorry, didn’t mean that.” Sitting up, he dragged himself to the side of the bed, letting his feet hang off the edge, and dropped his head into his hands. “Hell.”
Yet another sigh, and Scott reached over to help his brother off the bed. “Apology accepted, if you pee, drink and eat something.”
“I know.” And he did. This was not the Virgil he knew and it was setting alarm bells screaming in his head.
They started screaming even louder once Virgil’s feet hit the floor. “Ooh, that’s weird.” And then his brother was falling.
Scott only barely managed to catch him, the larger man more difficult to manhandle than expected. “Gordon!”
The aquanaut appeared in the doorway, diving in to help the moment he saw Scott stagger. “Virgil, whatcha doing?”
“Feet feel weird. Numb.” And as Scott watched, Virgil attempted to get those feet under him and failed. “Don’t think I can…can’t…what the hell is going on?”
They managed to get him back on the bed. A sensitivity assessment later and they realised that their second oldest brother was suffering a creeping paralysis.
The anxiety level in the room skyrocketed.
But Virgil didn’t know because he had fallen asleep again.
Thunderbird Two was prepped and they left the island within the next fifteen minutes.
But apparently they weren’t fast enough.
They torched a park near the Wellington Hospital, foregoing the airport the moment Virgil stopped breathing. They could charge them for damages later. It wouldn’t be the first time the Tracy’s had to pay for extra greenskeepers and it wouldn’t be the last.
An ambulance met them there.
It was a huddle of the three of them as they pushed the hover stretcher out of TB2. Scott at the head was keeping his brother alive, pumping air into his failing lungs. Grandma held Virgil’s hand.
Gordon held them together.
A blur of paramedics, vitals and his brother was rushed off to emergency. Scott going with him.
And Gordon found his arms full of his grandmother, quietly crying on his shoulder.
He bit his own lip. Now Virgil was in other hands, he had no emergency to occupy him, nothing to distract him from the fact that his brother may be dying this very moment.
And Grandma was crying.
He blinked and a tear ran down his cheek. He cleared his throat. “C’mon. We need to get to Scott.” His big brother was likely a mess. Try and help what he could.
And pray for what he couldn’t.