Introduction: A few years ago I wrote a Thunderbirds story entitled "Asylum". This is a direct sequel to that work and I recommend you read that story first. It can be found here: s/7574830/1/Asylum

This one's for JanetM74 who asked for it!

Summary: Scott Tracy, suffering PTSD after being tortured for the secrets of the Thunderbird aircraft, hesitantly goes on duty again, not knowing that he'll face his torturer again.

Title: Safety, sequel to Asylum

Author: Xenitha

Reviews: Oh yes! Please!

This story takes place six months after Asylum.

Chapter 2

That night, everyone was quiet, waiting to see how I'd taken the news. I stayed quiet, not wanting to share and tired of being the family's official patient. Finally, Virgil got up from the piano and grabbed me by the arm, led me onto the balcony and shut the door behind us.

"Well?" he demanded.

"Well, what?" I returned.

"Do you still want to be part of International Rescue? I know Dad cleared you to fly today; we all know that! Why aren't you out flying Thunderbird One right now, burning a hole in the ozone? So, where is my idiot brother who can't stay away from his aircraft?" Virgil peered at my face through the gathering dusk. "Or did Gleason kill him?"

"No! He didn't kill my spirit! I'm just…more cautious now," I said, running my hands along the railing.

"Just what is it you're afraid of?" Virg asked softly.

I laughed, hearing the harsh tones of my voice. "Failing you. When I was in the asylum, I was…Gleason convinced me…I'd killed Alan and Dad couldn't stand the sight of me. All I wanted was my family back and to fly!" I stared into the dark sky, picking out the patch of space where Thunderbird Five floated. "That was what kept me going. Then I was home and safe and all the fear that had piled up inside let loose, all at once! Like it was safe to feel it all, now. Now I dream of killing Alan by making a bad decision or you because I messed up a rescue."

"But none of that's real, Scott," Virgil said softly. "That was all the drugs and brainwashing."

"I know that. You know that. But the inside of my brain doesn't know that yet! The therapist said it would take some time for all of this to die down, for me to feel safe! I don't…feel safe. I'm not afraid of being hurt or dying, Virg, it's you guys. I'm afraid I'll freeze up at a critical moment and you'll die, you'll all die because I was too…too…broken to lead you out of danger!" I felt the emotions building up inside and clamped them down hard. I wasn't going to cry, not even in front of this brother whose soul was connected to mine since he was born.

It didn't make any difference. From the expression on Virgil's face, I knew that he was picking up on what I was feeling.

"As bad as that?" he asked.

"That's what I'm dreaming when I wake up the house. Last night, you and Two were shot down by the World Navy again. Only that time, Two ditched into the water. I couldn't find you. You were gone, under the waves," I said. "Don't tell anyone, especially Father, what I'm dreaming about."

Virg snorted. "Hell, if anyone understands toxic worry, it's Dad. But no, I won't tell him. You feel able to fly?"

"Do I have a choice? You guys need me. I'll be up in One tomorrow morning, making sure I still know how to fly her!"

"If your nightmares get bad, you know I've got a couch in my room with that afghan Grandma made. You're welcome to it," Virgil said.

"I might take you up on it," I replied, amused at the turnabout our relationship had taken. I was the one Virgil had crawled into bed with when he had nightmares as a kid. Virg, and everybody else except maybe John. John never had nightmares, or at least never admitted to them.

I turned and opened the sliding door, only to see Alan and Gordon huddled up next to it. Seeing the rage on my face, they started backing away.

"S…sorry Scott," Gordon said. "Don't hit me, wouldja? We just wanted…"

I took a deep breath and saw, really saw, the fear and concern on their faces. I hadn't been the calmest or happiest of brothers lately. I felt suddenly ashamed of myself.

"Okay, I won't pound you for listening in," I said, taking a long breath. "I'm sorry, Gordy." It was time I got out of myself and stopped focusing on my own troubles.

The next morning, I was up before dawn. I checked the pool to make sure that Gordon wasn't having an early morning swim. He doesn't like it when the pool starts sliding on him.

Then I was in my bird. To heck with waking the family, I settled in my pilot's chair, did my pre-flight checks and hit the button.

I could feel Thunderbird One's thrusters gathering power beneath me, then the force of the lift-off pushed me back against my seat. As I left the ground, I felt an emotion I hadn't had in six months: joy. I've always had it on take-off, that feeling when you pull away from the ground and you're suddenly free of the earth. You're free, not tied down to a ball of dirt anymore. Instead, you chase the wind, flirt with clouds and look down on everything you've left behind. I fought down a hysterical giggle and settled for a happy grin. I had forgotten just how good flying was and how much I loved it.

I spread her wings and poured more power into my beautiful bird. The sky rumbled around me in a sonic boom as I passed mach one and it kept rumbling around me while I flew faster than sound.

"Happy?" My Dad's face appeared on my view screen.

"Did I wake you?" I asked, hoping he wasn't too mad at me.

"The sound of Thunderbird One taking off is music to my ears. All the boys are up, wondering what rescue you're going out on. I explained that you're just reacquainting yourself with your bird," he said, lifting a coffee mug to his lips. "Would you believe, Virgil was up first and put the coffee on?"

I grinned back. "Will wonders never cease! He's usually the last one up. I can come back if you need me…."

"No need," Father said. "Give her a workout. She hasn't done any fancy flying while you've been grounded." He deepened his voice to a command tone. "You may commence aerobatics!"

"Yes, sir!" I responded and put her into a barrel roll, then a loop-the-loop and ran her through every piece of trick flying I've ever done. She answered the helm as sweetly as she ever has and I finally felt at home, in my bird, in the sky.

The screen lit up again. It was Alan. "Grandma made blueberry waffles. If you want one, you'd better land soon before we finish them off!"

Blueberry waffles? That was one of my weak spots and Alan knew it. "Save a couple for me, Alan?"

"I took good care of your bird, didn't I?" Alan replied. "No dents, dings or scratches. I want your acknowledgment."

Oh. So that's what he was after, huh? "Okay, okay, Alan. Thunderbird One is in tip-top shape. You have taken wonderful care of her and I have noticed no damage to her at all. I thank you."

The screen panned back to show the whole family listening to my admission. Well, okay, he'd taken care of my bird so I might as well tell him so.

"And I even washed and waxed her," Alan said.

"I am grateful," I replied. "Do I get my waffles now?"

"You gotta land first. I'll stand guard and keep Gordon away from them. They're in the oven, waiting."

I shut off down the screen and headed back to base. Somehow my seat felt lumpy…I reached around and beneath my right buttock I found a small plastic bag. Holding it up to the light, colorful candy shone back at me. "Oh, Alan...tsk, tsk, tsk," I said with a grin. I landed quickly and made my way to the kitchen at a sprint to find my waffles and an appreciative audience ready to watch me eat them at top speed.

"So, I didn't dent her, did I?" Alan demanded, holding my plate of waffles hostage at the table.

"You didn't dent her or scratch her," I admitted, deadpan, then pulled a small plastic packet out of my Levi's back pocket. "You did leave something behind," I said, tossing the bag of gummy bears at him.

Alan dropped the plate to catch the packet and blushed bright red. "Um….I might've gotten hungry on that last rescue, you know…"

"Uh huh…" I folded my arms. "Remember, rats in the wiring? No food in the birds except for Two's kitchen?"

Virgil, Gordon and Dad were hiding smiles.

"I'm not on rat patrol again, am I?" Alan slid the plate over. It was still hot and I poured blueberry syrup over it. I took a long luxurious bite and considered. "No rat patrol, Alan. But remember the rules, okay? I'm the one whose bird got trashed the last time." I closed my eyes, tasting the blueberries as my brothers chuckled at Alan's discomfiture.*

Dad called an International Rescue meeting after breakfast. John attended remotely, as usual, Alan, Virgil, Gordy and I were sitting on the couches in the lounge with Brains and Tin-Tin there too. Kyrano wandered around, pouring coffee. Somehow, that was the best cup of coffee, with deeper flavor than I'd noticed in months. I felt like I was slowly waking up from a bad dream.

"I've discussed the new procedures with Scott and we'll have some dry runs over the next week or two to get the bugs out," Dad said. "No more Mobile Control. I don't want any of you to be unprotected targets."

"Is John ready for this?" I asked. "He's usually just an observer on our rescues."

"I'm ready," John said from his transmission. "Brains has created some simulations of prior rescues for me to follow and I've been running them."

"Yeah, but John," I replied. "You really have to be there physically to gauge a lot of it."

"I'll do fine, big brother, just you watch me," John said smugly, as only John could do.

"All right," I answered, a bit perturbed. I was still feeling replaced but under the circumstances I couldn't really complain. I wasn't 100 percent and, I admitted to myself, might never be. Maybe it was best to have John watching my back. I scanned the faces around me. Alan and Gordon both looked confident and a bit excited. They were glad to have me back. Virgil looked worried, but then he'd looked worried ever since they pulled me out of that damned asylum. Dad? He looked confident.

"We start training tomorrow," Dad said. "Brains has sent details of the simulation to each of you. We'll meet in the morning for a final briefing and any questions you might have." He smiled. "Thunderbirds are go, at last!"

*See story: Beginnings