Disclaimer: I don't own Thunderbirds.
IRRelief fic, (loosely) using lightning1999's prompt "Virgil finally teaching Scott things about gardening ( bounce: if it's about how to transfer a plant into the soil . inpatient Scott keeps failing)"
Virgil couldn't concentrate. He'd been trying to do a painting, but his muses were staying stubbornly out of reach, leaving the paint blotches just that – lifeless stains of paint on a canvas. This had been his last resort. The piano just didn't sound right, almost as though it was being purposefully out of tune, and when he'd gone down to the hangar with the intention of getting a head start on maintenance, he'd ended up standing there blankly without even a tool in his hand.
He knew what it was. The others were equally aware, but none of them had managed to shift the awkward mood of the house. Not Alan's video games, John's quiet conversations, or even Gordon's pranks had done anything to kick their eldest brother out of his uncharacteristic slump. Virgil's previous efforts had also fallen flat, and even with his back to the den below he knew Scott was carelessly draped over Alan's pilot seat, tablet in hand but turned off.
Dad was alive. He was back, currently secreted away to a specialist rehabilitation centre with his mother refusing to leave his side and Kayo adamantly on security detail. It was a source of great joy for them all – even Alan, the most nervous about what their Dad would be like – but once the rush had worn off, reality had started to sink in.
Scott didn't know his place any more.
It had been so simple – if not easy – when Dad was gone. Scott had stepped up, again, just like he had done when they'd lost Mom a few years earlier, taking on the responsibility of their family's wellbeing, the company, and then International Rescue once they could bear to look at the Thunderbirds their father had loved so much. This time there was no Grandma to sweep into their lives a week later and give Scott a reprieve – she was already there, and grieving herself.
Scott was in charge. Easy enough to explain, even if the realities of adjusting to listening to Scott like they'd once listened to Dad had been tough and they'd never quite reached that level (Alan had been closest, but then again there was over a decade between them anyway).
Eight years was a long time. Most of them had had the majority of their teenage years during their Dad's absence, Scott presiding over one of the most intense periods of change and adjustment in their lives, and they'd all got used to it, Scott most of all.
Now Dad was back, and after the euphoria of the reunion, more practical considerations were starting to surface. Who was in charge? Would they split the responsibilities, or would one of them hold all of them – as both had done at some point in their lives? Would one be able to yield to the other's command, now they were both used to being the one calling the shots?
It was an unspoken agreement between the younger four that whoever took charge, they'd support them both – even if Virgil privately thought it would be tough to adjust to taking orders from Dad. He'd been too young to join IR before the Zero-X happened. John had been in training, already spending some time up in Thunderbird Five like the child prodigy he was, and Scott had been delighted when Thunderbird One's metaphorical keys had landed in his lap a year before, but for Virgil, Gordon and Alan, Scott was the only commander they'd ever known. They'd work for Dad, if that was how it ended up, but it would be another period of adjustment.
The conversation hadn't happened yet. Dad was still too early on in his rehab, so everything was still on Scott's shoulders, but the uncertainty was looming ahead him and the current scene below Virgil was becoming all too common. Reassurances from all of them that everything would work out just fine seemed to be falling flat, and as a result, the atmosphere was turning stifling.
Virgil ground his teeth and set his palette and brush down, silently promising to clean up the mess later.
"Scott!" he called, descending the stairs. Scott's head jerked up, the hand holding the dark tablet in front of his face falling away to the side.
"What is it?" he asked, and his face reminded Virgil again of just how tired his eldest brother was. The bags under his eyes hadn't receded any since they'd found Dad, despite hopes to the contrary.
"Follow me," he said, slowing but not pausing as he passed the den and headed for the stairs.
"Virgil?" Scott asked, but to Virgil's relief he moved, finding his feet and setting the tablet down before jogging to catch up. That was a good start; if he had the presence of mind to remember he didn't like following, he wasn't too preoccupied with whatever was running amok in his head and exerting its influence over the rest of them in the process.
"Remember the gardener?" he asked as they descended the stairs to the poolside. Gordon was floating aimlessly in the water, and Virgil made sure he was between Scott and their younger brother – the last thing he needed was Scott getting distracted and trying to parse why Gordon was so lifeless in his favourite place. He wasn't wholly successful, Scott peering past him suspiciously, but a sudden splashing from the water told Virgil that his wingman had seen what was going on.
"What gardener?" Scott asked. Virgil steered him towards the shrubbery, new piles of laurel bushes he'd recently planted. "Wait-"
Leaving his brother to stare at the bushes in dawning comprehension, Virgil ducked to the side to a small storage shed and pulled out two pairs of shears.
"That gardener?" Scott asked as he came back. "The one I kept upsetting and you got mad at me for ruining all your attempts to pacify him?" Virgil handed him one of the pairs of shears, Scott accepting it automatically.
"His name was Monty," he said. "But yes, that gardener." He stepped forwards, and after surveying the bush in front of him for a moment, made his first cut. Beside him, Scott stood dumbly, and normally Virgil didn't particularly enjoy being watched as he did any art but there was something different about his eldest brother trying to piece together in his mind what was going on.
Part of Virgil was nervous. There was no indication that this would work. Scott had never had a particular interest in gardening (memories of Mom trying to get him to repot a plant and dirt going everywhere except the pot sprang to mind with surprising readiness), and that rescue hadn't been one of his favourites, either. It would make perfect sense for him to drop the shears – maybe at least put them back in the shed, if he'd even spotted where it was – and head back inside to continue his mental struggles alone.
Thus, it was with some surprise that he heard the snip of shears on plant while his shears were still opening after his previous cut. Glancing over to the right, he saw Scott's face caught in a look of intense concentration as he cut small, tentative chunks of foliage away from the bush.
"It works better if you make bigger cuts," he commented after a few moments of small twigs falling to the ground, looking more like they'd been trimmed with secateurs than cut with shears. "Don't let that confidence of yours stop now."
It was a double-layered sentence, and he knew Scott heard both. Silence answered him, although the sound of the shears grew louder, as though Scott was throwing more force into them. Despite that, the chunks falling to the ground were no larger.
Virgil winced. He'd hoped to get at least some response, even if it was entirely about cutting leaves and nothing to do with the other, deeper, problem. He returned his attention to his own topiary, eyeing the vague shape he'd outlined critically before making a definitive shear into it.
"What if he doesn't agree with what I've done?"
Scott's delayed response caught him off guard, and he jumped a little, accidentally nicking off a twig he'd been intending to keep.
"What did you mean?" he asked. "Why wouldn't he?"
Shears snapped viciously at Scott's chosen bush – a bigger cut now. Progress, maybe.
"I made a lot of changes," Scott said. "Some of them are just technological advances, I know that. Dad will know that. PODs instead of the Mole, the Firefly? Those made it easier for us to get the right gear for the job."
Virgil made a noise of agreement as he made another purposeful cut to his bush. He knew all that – remembered the day Brains had approached them with the built-it kits over their specialised individual machines. As the pilot of Thunderbird Two and responsible for all those machines, it had certainly made his job easier. But that wasn't what was bothering Scott.
"But… John's space elevator," Scott continued after a moment, his shears snipping away in an uneven, almost chaotic rhythm. "Brains came up with that almost right at the start. It's not a new idea developed after Dad vanished. Dad flat-out vetoed it as too dangerous. When he realises that I approved it, and that John actually uses it regularly, he's going to be furious."
"Is he?" Virgil asked, unable to stay quiet if Scott was saying things like that.
"He vetoed it, Virgil," Scott repeated. "I went directly against his wishes. And then there's Alan-"
"You did what you thought was right," Virgil cut in, before the Alan tirade could begin again. That one, he had heard before, many times. Why did I let him join? Alan's too young for this. What if he gets hurt? What if a mission goes wrong? He's still in school. What if his schoolwork suffers? What if this ruins his future? "Why are you second-guessing yourself now?"
"Because Dad's here now!" Scott snapped, an extra-vicious shear getting rid of a large bunch of foliage all at once. "Because when I made those decisions I didn't think he was ever coming back and I wouldn't have to justify them to him! But now he's back and I don't know what he's going to do with International Rescue. With me."
Virgil shook his head, squinting at his progress to determine which bit to lop off next.
"Without you, International Rescue wouldn't have survived to find him," he said, bulldozing on before Scott could protest. "Those decisions you made are what kept us going. Eight years is a long time, Scott. Things change – things have to change – and Dad knows that. You know he knows that."
"I know," he said. "I know, but now that he's here…"
"You're nervous," Virgil finished. Scott grit his teeth and gave a jerky nod. Virgil shot him a grin. "If it helps, I'll be supporting you the whole way, and I know the others will, too. You've done the best you could, and he'll respect that."
He stepped back from his bush, satisfied. In front of him, a falcon spread its wings as it launched into the sky.
Beside him, Scott continued cutting in silence, his own bush taking shape into something far larger, and rather less refined than the bird of prey beside it. It looked hurried, which brought a small smile to Virgil's face. Scott had never had the patience for anything related to gardening, after all.
But it was recognisable, even if the bear looked like it had an extra limb and no mouth. Scott stepped back from it and turned away from his creation.
"Thanks, Virgil," he said, dimples deepening as he let himself smile. Virgil smiled back at him and divested him of the shears.
"I'll clear up," he said, looking at the foliage strewn about their feet. Not waiting for an answer, he headed off to the shed to put the shears away and retrieve a rake.
Glancing over his shoulder as he pulled the door open, he found Scott still standing there, staring up at the falcon and the bear, side by side. The heavy air was gone, and Virgil allowed himself a moment of triumph.
It hadn't solved everything, but it was progress.
My first time publishing anything from Virgil's PoV - he's a hard character for me to get into the head of, so I hope it's not too out of character... It's a pretty loose interpretation of the prompt, but the idea of doing something with topiary and these two was too hard to resist; it's still kind of gardening, right?
IRRelief is an amazing idea and bless Gumnut for coming up with it! For those that don't know, it's a collection of prompts anyone can add to and use on tumblr, with a focus on fluff, to give us something to do while we're stuck indoors. Full details are on tumblr under the tags #irrelief and #irrelief2020
Thanks for reading!