Written for the TIWF Halloween FicSwap 2016... and also the WA Halloween Challenge 2016!

My TIWF prompt was "A campfire, a scream and a small lie that keeps getting bigger and bigger. It must feature all five Tracy brothers and no one else."

The WA requirement was that it had to be a Halloween story less than 4000 words. This is just over 2000.


"I'm fine."

Scott thought nothing of it at the time. It meant that Gordon didn't need help now, this minute. Not that he wasn't exhausted, sore, exasperated or frustrated. Just that he could carry on.


He was already in the shower when he heard the deep rumble of Thunderbird Two's final approach. A quick glance at the clock confirmed that they were twenty minutes behind him, just as anticipated. He went back to trying to get clean. Crude oil fires were the worst, and he rather thought he was going to have to disappoint Brains. This new soap and shampoo formulation certainly wasn't any better at getting rid of the greasy black residue, and was probably worse.

Finally clean and feeling faintly scrubbed raw, he was heading in search of coffee when he met Virgil. His brother was still so filthy you could barely tell the uniform was blue.

"Use the old soap," he suggested.

"Sure. Scott, I think Gordon's hurt."

Soap was forgotten. "Go on."

"I don't know what happened. He won't discuss it. But he can hardly walk. He screamed in pain when he stood up, though he denied it, said it was just a twinge. It wasn't."

"Crap. Where is he now."

"On his way up, very slowly. Alan found an excuse to do something in the hangar, I suspect so he can check in five minutes that Gordon's made it to the house."

Not a bad idea. Alan was actually threatening to develop something approaching subtlety. Sometimes. This would qualify.


Or should have qualified. Ten minutes later, just as Scott was relaxing with a mug of Kyrano's best freshly ground coffee on the balcony and thinking about what he needed to bring up in the debrief, his wrist communicator pinged. It was John.

"Scott, you should know that Alan just spoke to me. He's worried about Gordon."

"Virgil told me."

"I think Alan may have put his foot in it."

"Let me guess. Gordon said he was fine, Alan said no way he was anywhere close to fine, and they had a stand up fight."

"Your guess is as good as mine. In this case, your guess is the same as mine."

Scott sighed. "I don't suppose you've spoken to Gordon."

"Not since you left the danger zone. I checked, though - his wrist communicator is in his room and not moving."

"So he's taken it off to get clean. You never saw so much soot. Did something happen that he hasn't told us about?"

"Not that I noticed. I'll take a closer look at the GPS traces, see if he could have taken a fall. I'll never see it if he turned an ankle, though. It'll just look as if he stopped to do something."

"If he's only turned an ankle, I'm not worried. I'm more concerned about the metalwork in his leg."

"Oh heck."

"Yeah. Thanks for letting me know, John. I'll speak to you later."

He took a rapid gulp of his coffee and then reconsidered. There was no point rushing now. Gordon had made it back to his room and would be trying to get himself clean, the last thing he'd want would be a knock at his door even if he was okay. If he had damaged himself badly, letting him realise it in his own time was probably for the best. But Scott did want to speak to him before their father emerged from his teleconference, called for a debrief, and Alan decided that putting his foot in it wasn't nearly enough and followed it with the other foot and both legs.

No, he wasn't going to bang on Gordon's door and haul him dripping and furious from the bath.

He watched as the sun dipped towards the horizon, a few clouds scudding along far in the distance the only reminder of the gusty wind which had fanned today's oil well fire. Here it was calm, warm, the high tide lapping up the beach to within a few feet of the Halloween bonfire. Could it really be only this morning that Gordon and Alan had constructed it, laughing and joking? He'd stood here and watched them hauling and stacking driftwood, not a care in the world, thinking about what a remarkable recovery Gordon had made. Had he been wrong? Had Gordon been lying to him - all of them - about his fitness to be an active part of International Rescue?

He didn't want to even think about it. But trying to discuss this in the debrief would be even worse than discussing it one-to-one, and he had to know.


Gordon didn't answer the first time he knocked, or the second. Scott was just considering asking John to check whether Gordon was even in there when the door finally opened a few inches. Gordon stood there, face like thunder, leaning heavily on a crutch which Scott hadn't seen him use in months.

"Here to tell me I'm finished, are you?"

I should have told Father after all, this isn't good... He clamped down on his desire to delegate. He was the field commander, he'd been there today, in charge when whatever it was had happened. This was his job.

"Gordon," he said carefully, "you've been a military officer too. Tell me what you'd do if someone under your command was acting like this."

"I'd... I'd..." It started furious and faded to confusion. Gordon pushed the door further open. "Come in."


Gordon's room was immaculately tidy - a habit he'd certainly never had as a child, but had picked up in WASP and had maintained through months of wheelchair use followed by several more of being decidedly unsteady on his feet. Nothing had obviously changed in here, at least. He hadn't taken his temper out on the furnishings, or thrown things round the room. Scott took that as a good sign.

Now, his younger brother limped painfully across the room to a high-seated chair which Scott knew he'd bought when he was only just out of the wheelchair and sat down with a grimace, indicating to Scott to take the other, lower, chair. "I'd think they were hiding something awful," he said bluntly. "How about we leave it that I'm not?"

"When you can't walk across a flat floor without crutches?"

"I'll be able to tomorrow - isn't that good enough?"

"If there really is something you can't tell me, it's going to be an issue." There. It was said, and Scott waited for his brother's temper to flare, for him to rant about being an adult, having rights, and privacy, and not needing to explain himself to anyone. He had no idea what to do after that. He knew how family worked. He knew how a military chain of command worked. International Rescue was somewhere between the two, and he still wasn't entirely comfortable with exactly where.

Instead, Gordon looked at the floor. "Do you know what day it is?"

"Sure. Halloween." It had been one of Gordon's favourite holidays as a pre-teen, but now, as an adult? He hadn't thought of it as more than a bit of fun, the day they built the bonfire.

"That. And exactly a year since I was medically discharged from WASP. Lovely letter, that one. All full of 'unfit' and 'physically incapable' and 'no longer suitable', but hey, this morning I felt pretty darn good, you know? I can walk. I can swim. I'm an International Rescue operative. And then I get two hours into a rescue and my leg craps out on me."

Scott frowned. "You were at the danger zone for nearer four." It had been physically intensive the whole time, too. That last hour, Gordon and Alan had shifted a significant number of gas cylinders by hand, further away from the blazing wellhead to a point where the Firefly could be used to move them to complete safety.

"Brains gave me some serious painkillers for use in emergencies." He looked up, caught Scott's eyes. "I know. It wasn't an emergency. I shouldn't have told you I was fine. I should have said no and swapped places with you or Virgil. But I... but Alan... but you..."

"We treat you like you're fit, and physically capable, and entirely suitable?"

Gordon nodded.

Yes, Scott could see how important that was to him. Ten years ago he'd have given his little brother a hug. Now he settled for what he hoped was an understanding look.

"I've seen those letters, or the Air Force version, at least. I've signed a few. Seen a couple of tough men in tears over them. They're not nice." Not even when you know they're coming, he didn't add. Gordon had known his WASP career was over almost from the day he'd woken up after the accident. Scott hadn't realised that the written confirmation of it, weeks later, had affected him so badly.

"Not nice and until today I was starting to hope not true. But it is true, isn't it? I don't have what it takes physically, not any more."

Oh, Gordon. But it wasn't a request for sympathy, it was a genuine question, and Gordon's expression made it very clear that he wanted an answer right now. Scott settled for another question.

"How bad have you hurt yourself?"

"Leg keeps cramping like there's no tomorrow and my foot hurts like hell where there's all the nerve damage they couldn't fix. I haven't done any physical damage, Scott, I overdid it, that's all. I swear I'd have told you if I had a new injury."

"I need you to tell me before it gets that far."

Gordon grimaced. "Unless it's an emergency, there is no way I'm taking those painkillers to help me carry on again. I may make a lot of mistakes but I do try not to make the same one twice, and this is not fun on an epic scale."

From Gordon, veteran of a four month stay in hospital with half the bones in his body in pieces, that was a major admission of pain. "Should I get Brains?"

"What, so I can say 'you know that double dose emergencies only mega-cocktail you set up for me, can I have another one please?' He'd have to say no and he'd feel bad about it. And that's not an excuse to avoid him prodding me. Really it isn't."

"So what's going to help?"

"Hobbling round the room on crutches putting no weight on my foot and swearing a lot?" Gordon managed half a wry grin. "Nothing much."

"How about sitting on the beach and swearing a lot? That sand's been baking in the sun all day. Might help. And it's a shame to waste the bonfire. Since it's Halloween and all."

Gordon just looked at him, jaw dropping. Finally he said. "You're right about the hot sand helping. I don't think anyone else is going to be up for the happy Halloween fireside chat, though. I kinda bit Alan's head off and I wasn't exactly Mr Congeniality with Virgil."

"And now you're going to tell them why, and we're going to discuss choice of personnel for future rescues. All of us, including John. Today was a lousy call and we have to do better."

"Including John?"

"You think he wants to sit home any more than you do, when he's not on Five?"

"No, but..." Gordon stopped. "Fair's fair. Let's discuss it. With Father? I think I need to clear the air with Virgil and Alan first. At least I haven't yelled at John."

"Father's been in a teleconference ever since I got home. It'll be his call ultimately, but I'd like to have a good set of ideas to -" He stopped as something outside the window caught his eye. Orange flames flickered upwards on the beach, silhouetting two figures. As he watched, one of them turned and waved. When Scott waved back, the other jumped up and down, beckoning enthusiastically. No prizes for guessing which was which.

"I guess they wanted the Halloween bonfire after all," said Gordon, and the relief was evident in his voice. "I... I could use a shoulder to get down there. Crutches on sand suck. Or sink."

"You got it." That was almost a joke. Gordon might be hurting, but he was also feeling a lot better. And that fire flaring up couldn't have been better timed. He'd thank John later - once he'd found out exactly how he'd been listening in.

Gordon pushed himself uncomfortably to his feet, and Scott hurried to support him on his bad side. They were making their way slowly out of his room and towards the beach when suddenly Gordon stopped. "Oh...there's something else I need to tell you."

Scott stiffened despite himself, wondering what he'd missed, and Gordon laughed. "Nothing bad! Just...someone with some tact really needs to speak to Brains and let him down gently. That new soap is terrible."

By the time they made it to the fire, they were both smiling.