Author's note: I have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and am using a voice recognition software called Dragon to write my stories for the immediate future. Dragon makes occasional mistakes and if I have not caught them, I apologize. So, any weird words that don't belong, blame the software:)

CHAPTER 4

By the time Gordon got into the villa, the family had gathered around the living room. He gulped, unwilling to meet all those eyes. Brains, Tin-Tin, Kyrano, and even Grandma, were gathered there waiting calmly for him and his brothers to come crawling back from their bar-fight. Worse yet, Alan's grinning face shone down from his portrait on the wall, broadcasting from Thunderbird 5.

"Um..." Gordon said and stopped abruptly in the doorway. Tin-tin looked like she was about to laugh, but it was Grandma who took the lead.

"Your father told us all about your little adventure," Grandma sniffed. "You look disreputable, so say the least and...oh my..." She looked at the figure in the doorway and blinked.

Tin-tin wasn't able to control her giggles this time.

Virgil shuffled in. His silk shorts hung limply from his hips, coated in grease and other unnamed substances. The little rockets that decorated them seemed to glow in the island sunshine. He stopped at the sound of Tin-tin's giggle and peered dimly at them through a pair of black eyes. Seeing the laughter in Tin-Tin's face, he hiked up his shorts and tried to shrink into the dirty blanket draped around his shoulders. Brains just stood, biting his lip and trying not to react; he'd never seen Virgil this...um...He couldn't find a word descriptive enough.

"Virgil Grissom Tracy," Grandma said, storming over to him. She pulled off the blanket and gave him a visual once-over. "You smell like a cheap cat-house. March yourself into the hangar locker room and take a shower there. I'm not letting either of you into my nice, clean house. Leave your...clothing...outside. I'll have Kyrano burn them."

"Even the shorts?" Alan asked with a cheeky grin. He was thousands of miles away from any brotherly retribution. Grandma just glared at him.

"Especially the shorts," she said and chivvied her two grandsons down the utility elevator.

Scott's luck, if possible, was even worse. Hoping not to be seen, he tried to creep through the lounge and into Dad's office. He reckoned without Alan's sharp eyes.

"Why, Scott," Alan's voice rang through the room. "What happened to your new leather jacket? And your new Bruno Magli loafers?"

Scott abruptly straightened, eyes wide like a deer in headlights. "I took them off before I dove into the oil wrestling pit to rescue Virgil." At the shocked looks he was getting from Kyrano, Tin-Tin, Brains and Alan, Scott dimly realized that he'd blurted out Too Much Information. Sleepless night added to waaaay too much liquor, he decided. Okay, man up to this. "Virg was in trouble. It was up to Gordon and me to rescue him," he said with what flimsy dignity he could muster.

Jeff came in through the sliding door and cast his glance over his gathered family. "Don't you have anything better to do than stare at Scott?" he asked mildly. "Come on, son, let's go into my office." He gently pushed Scott towards his office door, saw him seated, then leaned out to see his family still gathered. "Go ask John," he whispered and shut the door behind him.

"Ow! Owwwww!" Virgil yelled as John leveled the handshower at him with one hand, removing skin with a long handled scrub brush in the other. "John, it's just oil! That's all!"

John shrugged, although it was clear that he was enjoying himself. "I'm only Grandma's minion, here. She says scrub you, I scrub you."

"Do you have any idea of what you smell like, Virgil Tracy?" Grandma demanded from behind the closed bathroom door. "I never would have expected my grandsons to be found in that kind of place. You should be meeting girls in church or the library, like we did in my day! Strip clubs..." she grumbled as John turned the water up full and pulled out the Lava soap. "Scott should know better by now..."

"Grandma," Gordon's head popped up over the neighboring shower stall. "Just what happened to Scott at that place? He won't tell us."

"Your father swore us all to secrecy, Gordon," Grandma called through the door. "And you'd better not ask if you don't want to eat a bar of soap."

Gordon's eyes met John's and he spotted the Lava in his brother's hand. His head promptly dropped below the shower stall. A muffled "Sorry." came over the sound of steam and running water .


Meanwhile, Scott tried to dig himself deeper into the leather chair in Dad's office.

"You 're the Field Commander, Scott. And you're older than your brothers. It's your responsibility to keep them out of trouble. I've never seen such a pathetic group of young men in my life as I did this morning when you shuffled off that jet," Jeff Tracy's bushy eyebrows were lowered fiercely over his eyes, masking the twinkle in them. "And I had thought that after what happened there before, that club would be the last place you'd want to go! And furthermore…"

Ten minutes later Scott staggered out of his father's office, the smell of his sweat adding to the general reek of alcohol and jail in his clothing. Tin-Tin, Brains, and now a clean Virgil and Gordon were waiting for him in the lounge. Oh how he wanted to wash the last twenty-four horrible hours off his body and out of his soul.

"Scott, how did it go with Dad?" Virgil asked anxiously. His shiner was clearing up nicely, thanks to the salve that grandma had applied. He looked squeaky clean, if somewhat battered.

"Did you hear the shouting?" Scott asked glumly.

"Not this time," Gordon said. He, too looked cheerfully clean. The bruises and scratches he had sustained didn't look too bad. From Scott's assessment, both would be fit to fly in short order. Although, he decided, that for International Rescue's public relations, Virgil would probably have to cover the black guy with makeup for the next rescue. It wouldn't do to let the public speculate about what International Rescue's operatives did in their spare time. That is, assuming Dad left him in charge.

"Scott, are you okay?" Virgil asked, with an anxious look. "I mean, I'm the one who got into trouble, after all. It wasn't your fault!"

"That's not what Dad thinks," Scott said as he sank into the couch next to Virgil. "He isn't sure he'll allow me to remain Field Commander. He says that, as commanding officer, I had a responsibility to keep you two out of trouble. He's giving himself a day or two to consider his decision. I'm grounded until then."

"That's just not fair!" Virgil exclaimed. Gordon nodded vigorously.

"I can't believe he would do a thing like that," Tin – Tin broke in. "You've always been Field Commander. Who could take your place?"

"I don't know," Scott said glumly. "It could be any of you. Virgil has as much experience as I do, John could easily come down from Thunderbird Five to take over my spot, Gordon has military training…"

"Oh, not Alan," Virgil muttered.

"What's wrong with Alan?" Tin–Tin remonstrated.

"The point is, that any one of you could take over his field commander. You're all trained. None of us is indispensable," Scott said. He looked around the lobby bleakly. "I can't stand this," Scott said and walked swiftly away towards his room.

Virgil moved to go after him but was restrained by Gordon's hand on his arm. "I think he needs to be by himself," Gordon said, for once completely serious. "I know I would be."

"I guess so," Virgil said. "But still, it's not fair."

Scott stood in the shower, trying by main force to scrub every evidence of the bar and the jail from his body. He couldn't imagine that father was serious in removing him from command, and yet Jeff's voice rang strong in his memory.

"Scott, I can't have an officer in command that I can't depend on. You, of all people, understand that we of International Rescue are never fully off-duty. Your inability to head off this fiasco shows a deep flaw in your command. You weathered a similar situation while you were in the Air Force, and I assumed that you had learned from it. Because of this, not only your face but those of your brothers are splashed all over the tabloids. All it takes is for one person to recognize any of the International Rescue operatives and we're sunk." Jeff had given him a look of profound disappointment. "Now, I'm going to take some time to think about this before I make my decision. I would suggest that you do the same."

Shower finished, Scott donned running shorts and shoes. His favorite trail was quiet and, most important, private. He needed to think this out. He let himself out of the house, grateful that everyone seemed to be gathered in the lounge. The shame of his father's dressing-down still stung. He began to run in an easy lope.

It was nice to see Mandy again, and that she'd done well for herself. She'd impressed him with her business sense even back then. He used to tell her his own plans for the future, his dreams of flying for the Air Force, of test flying new and better machines. This, of course, was before his family's dream of the Thunderbirds had become a reality. In response, she would tell him about her dreams of having her own business, of managing people, of having an enterprise of her very own and not working for a boss.

They had been spending the evening at her tiny apartment. She had made a spaghetti dinner for him with a bottle of good red wine. They were finishing the wine and feeling very mellow. They had been talking about their hopes and dreams for the future.

"I know that you want your own business. So what kind of business do you plan on?" Scott had said. "You don't want to stay with a strip club, do you?"

"I might," she said with a mysterious grin. "I know the girls and I know the business. There's nothing wrong with providing entertainment for men, is there? I mean, I met you at the club, didn't I?" She gave him a challenging look, as if daring him to disagree.

Scott had suddenly felt uncomfortable and slightly embarrassed. He knew exactly what she was getting at, that she wasn't in the kind of business that his family approved of. "No, nothing wrong with that," he said hurriedly. "It's just that…"

"Oh, I know what you're going to say," she said through tightened lips. "I'm not the kind of girl you take home to father am I? Especially if that father is a billionaire and his son could do much better for himself?" She had got up from the table where they sat and walked towards the kitchen.

Scott had stood. "I didn't mean to say that," he had replied. "You can do anything you want to and I would support it because it's what you want to do." She had turned around and come back to the table.

"Do you mean that? Do you really mean that?" Her face was flushed and she looked a bit embarrassed. "Because, you see, I've been saving my money. If I have a chance, I want to buy Bernie out and take over the club myself. Of course it will take time before I have enough money to cover it."

"You're smart enough to do that. "Scott held up in his arms. Mandy hesitated, then came over and sat on his lap, leaning in against his chest. She snuggled into his arms.

"I'm glad you believe in me. When I discussed this with any of my friends. They are either horrified or they laugh at me." She snuggled in more.

"When my dad started planning to open his own company, mom had just died and he was almost broke." Scott chuckled, remembering. "He couldn't even afford a babysitter for us. And you know, there were five of us and Alan was a baby. Grandma came to live with us, so that there would be someone to take care of us. Dad saved every dime he could and invested it and then invested those profits. Tracy, Industries wasn't born until I was a teenager, and only started making a profit when I was in college."

"Really?" She gave Scott a long look. "I'd like to meet your father someday. I think we have a lot to talk about."

Of course, what happened soon after that had ended their relationship.