"Has anyone seen Gordon this morning?" Scott asked. As oldest brother, he always felt responsible for his younger brothers. After seeing Gordon and Bekkah there on the beach, he thought he'd better check on his brother, and peeked in Gordon's room on his way to the kitchen. The bed was empty.
"Why, yes, Scott," Grandma Tracy told her oldest grandson. "He got up with those meadowlarks of Bekkah's. They ate a big breakfast together, and then he took them all to the tidal pool on the other side of the ssland. Nice to see he's got his appetite back. Bekkah's not up yet, though."
As if on cue, Bekkah put in an appearance, yawning, her hair tousled. "Good morning, Mrs. Tracy, Scott. Anyone seen my three terrors this morning?" she asked, getting herself a cup of coffee.
"Yes, Bekkah. Gordon took them all to the tidal pool after breakfast," Mrs. Tracy informed her as she passed plates of pancakes and sausages to Scott and Bekkah.
"Oh. That's great. Thank you, Mrs. Tracy." Bekkah got down to eating. Scott gave her a questioning look.
"Bekkah, you gonna tell me what that was all about with you and Gordon on the beach last night?"
Bekkah smiled at him between bites. "Nope. You'll have to ask Gordon." She continued to eat.
Virgil came in, tying his dressing gown. "Good morning, everyone. Where's Gordon? His bed is empty."
"He's at the tidal pool with my kids, Virgil," Bekkah answered, cutting up a sausage and popping it in her mouth.
"Hmmm." Virgil sat down next to her. His grandmother passed him a plate of pancakes. "Thanks, Grandma." He leaned over to Bekkah conspiratorily. "What was going on last night? Between you and Gordon? You know, down at the beach?"
Bekkah rolled her eyes. "Am I going to get the third degree from all of you? You will just have to ask Gordon, that's all." She finished her coffee, picked up her dishes, and got up from the table. "I've got to finish the materials list for Thunderbird Four Mark Two, then we have to break down the containment tent in the repair bay. Thunderbird Four can probably be put back in its pod later today, but she shouldn't be in the water until tomorrow." She left the kitchen, and went back to her quarters before going to work in the lab.
Later in the day, Scott and Virgil leaned over the balcony, watching Gordon in the pool with Bekkah's kids. He spent some time trying to teach Terry and Joey to swim, then let the lesson lapse so they could have some fun. He climbed to the diving board, but instead of doing one of his perfect dives, Gordon yelled, "Geronimo!" and did a splashy cannonball, making the Barnes children squeal with delight. Joey got out of the pool and went to the lower diving board, walking cautiously out to the end.
"Uncle Gordon! Catch me!" he called.
"Here, Joey. Just jump right here!" Gordon held his arms up to Joey, who closed his eyes and jumped. Gordon caught him, and whirled him around in the water, before putting him down in the shallow end.
"Uncle Gordon. How about that?" Virgil said to his brother.
"Yeah. I wonder what happened last night," Scott mused.
Each man felt a light tap on his left shoulder, and turned to the left, only to see that no one was there. They turned all the way around to see Bekkah heading down the steps. She raised her hand and waved, but didn't turn around. She was wearing a one-piece bathing suit, and was carrying a towel. She headed down to the pool, and taking a running start, jumped in with a splashy cannonball of her own. When she surfaced, the kids waded their way over to her, giving her lots of hugs. Gordon looked on, smiling.
"Well, whatever happened, he's feeling better," observed Virgil.
"Yeah. I wonder when the other shoe will drop," muttered Scott. Virgil looked at him.
"What do you mean?"
"When is he going to get back to the practical jokes?"
Virgil understood. "Oh, yeah. And I think he's got a new co-conspirator in Bekkah."
Scott groaned. "One was enough. Now we've got two." He turned back to watch as Bekkah dunked Gordon under.
Gordon tousled his coppery hair to near dryness. He was still weary, but it was a good kind of weary. He hung up his towel in the bathroom, and thought about the conversation he and Bekkah had while drying off from their swim.
"Thanks for taking the kids this morning. I really needed to sleep in," she told him.
"No problem. Our talk last night helped. I realized that I was hurting your kids by being so stand-offish. I kinda wanted to make up for it."
"Well, I'm sure I'll be hearing all about the tidal pool from Terry." Bekkah's tone became more serious. "Have you talked to your father about all of this?"
He shook his head. "Not yet. I will, though. I promise."
She smiled at him. "Good. He needs to know what you've been bottling up these past weeks. He seems like a great father, but like most dads he needs a road map. He doesn't have, well, a mother's intuition."
Gordon looked sad for a moment, but then he smiled. "I'm glad your intuition is working. I'm going to talk to Dad after I get dried off and dressed."
"Great," Bekkah said. "Don't put it off. We'll see you later." And she left for the Round House, surrounded by her children.
Gordon ran a comb through his hair. Then he went in search of his father. He found him in the lounge.
"Gordon! You look rested, son." Jeff was looking over some paperwork at his desk. "What happened to you and Bekkah last night? Alan found you both sound asleep on the beach. We had to come out and carry you both to your beds."
"Well, Dad, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Do you have some time?" Gordon sat down on the couch.
"Always, son. Always," Jeff said as he joined his son.
"Well, it's this way, Dad..."
Bekkah got her kids settled with a video. She doubted they would stay awake for it; they had been busy all day, playing hard with Gordon, and now were tired.
"I'll be in the lab if you need me, kids." She closed the door to her quarters and went down to the lab. She found Tin-Tin hard at work on the materials list.
"How's it going?" Bekkah asked.
"Pretty well. I'm not sure what to do about the nanocircuitry though." Tin-Tin gave Bekkah a long look. "Are you going to tell your adopted sister what happened between you and Gordon last night? It's the only thing Virgil, Scott, and Alan are talking about."
"I told them to ask Gordon because it was pretty personal. All I'll say is that we talked about what's been bothering him the past few weeks, and I think he's back on track. He's supposed to be talking to Jeff about it now."
"Oh! That's such a relief!" Tin-Tin exclaimed. "I've been as worried about him as Scott has been. He was hurting so much and wouldn't or couldn't let it out. Thank you for helping him."
Bekkah smiled softly. "He helped me, too. He helped me get some of my own past out in the open. I haven't had the luxury for that since Terrence died." She shook her head as if to clear it. "Now let me see the list for the nanocircuitry..."
Late that night, Gordon opened the channel to Thunderbird Five.
"Gordon to Thunderbird Five. Hey, Johnny. You still up?"
"Hi, Gordo. You look lots better than yesterday."
"Yeah," Gordon grinned. "I feel better, too. Had a long conversation with Bekkah last night. She helped me pull the thorn that's been bothering me for the past few weeks."
"I heard something about the two of you sleeping together on the beach...?" John gave him a sly look.
"Not that way, you goofball." Gordon's face went pink. "More like I fell asleep in her arms."
"Not a bad place to be, little brother," John admitted.
"I didn't think of it that way, Johnny." Gordon looked thoughtful. "But you might be right..."
Gordon finally signed off from his conversation with John. He told John everything he had told his father, and finally all of his other brothers. They were all really supportive and understanding and, to tell the truth, relieved to have the old Gordon back. He headed back to his bed, and fell into it, weary in body and spirit. Again, he began to dream...
He was in the crevasse again. The children and adults who had been in the accident were there, in the same positions. He heard a whimper. It was one of the children he had rescued. In slow motion, he prepared the child for transport. The stretcher came down, and it began to move away from him. Suddenly, another pair of hands appeared and stopped the stretcher so he could catch it. He looked up, and saw Bekkah's smiling face. She nodded at him, and together they put the child in the stretcher. He looked up to the edge of the crevasse. There he saw his brothers and father, waiting to winch the stretcher up...
He smiled in his sleep, rolled over, and for that night, he dreamt no more.
Back to the Sea
Bekkah slid out from under the control panel, wire snippers in hand. She and Tin-Tin were making the necessary repairs in the wiring harness before Gordon took Thunderbird Four out to test the sealant's efficiency.
Tin-Tin had already finished her part of the repairs, and stood in the cockpit, waiting for Bekkah, clipboard in hand. "That's the last of it, Bekkah," she said. "Thunderbird Four is ready for a hull test."
"How do you think we should handle this, Tin-Tin?" Bekkah asked as she got up from the deck and dusted herself off. "Should one of us go with Gordon and tell him what to do to match the telemetry? Or should we handle it from base?"
"Why don't we leave that up to Jeff and Gordon?" Tin-Tin suggested.
Bekkah grinned. "Good idea." She closed up her toolbox and headed for the hatch.
Gordon, Virgil, and Jeff were waiting for them in the lounge. Gordon looked antsy; he was more than ready to take Thunderbird Four out into the sea again.
Tin-Tin asked, "How do you want to do this, Gordon? Do you want one of us with you or do you want us to feed you the telemetry from here? We want you to do the same things you did on that rescue two weeks ago. Then we will have a clearer picture of whether or not the sealant works."
"I guess you could do it from here. That way I'm in touch with base the whole time. Just in case," Gordon replied.
"Okay. She's all ready to go," said Bekkah. "Thunderbirds are go."
Virgil went over to his cockpit entry, the poster of a rocket ship on the wall. The wall tipped him up and out of sight. Gordon made for the passenger elevator.
"Tin-Tin, do you mind doing this today?" Bekkah asked. "I'm pretty beat and I'll be the one staying up and doing the moisture measurements."
"No, I don't mind at all. You get some rest, if you can," Tin-Tin told her.
"Wake me when Thunderbird Two has 30 minute ETA. See you later." Bekkah left the lounge, heading for her quarters. The children were gone; Alan had taken them fishing since Tin-Tin was busy that day. So Bekkah had her quarters to herself. She untied her work boots and pulled them off. Then she laid down on her queen-sized bed and tried to nap.
"Okay, Gordon." said Tin-Tin. "At this point, you dove to your maximum depth, 100 meters, and stayed there for an hour and a half."
"Yeah. This is where I got out and started using the laser welder," he answered. "Guess I'm going to be bored for a while. Maybe I'll take a nap."
"No naps, son, Jeff told him. "You need to be alert."
"Yeah, Gordo," Virgil snickered over the radio, "The country needs more 'lerts'."
Gordon snorted at the old joke.
It was darker down here, but there were just as many interesting creatures to see as there were in the upper waters. Gordon's sonar told him that there were several large objects approaching him from the north. He turned up the lights on the light bar. One thing Bekkah had done was replace the older, less efficient light bulbs with brighter ones. He could see farther in the murky water now. He moved the sub so that the front viewport faced the oncoming objects. He was pleased to see a pod of whales moving toward him. Their built-in sonar allowed them to pass by without even touching Thunderbird Four. He watched in awe as the huge, barnacled bellies floated over his craft. He looked one or two of them in the eye as they swam past beside him. "This is so amazing," he whispered.
Tin-Tin heard him. "What is amazing, Gordon?"
"I'm in the middle of a pod of whales," he explained, his voice soft and full of awe. "I've never been this close to whales before."
Tin-Tin smiled. This sounded like the old, sea-struck Gordon.
"Can you record it?" she asked.
"Oh, yeah. Bekkah's boy will love this." Gordon turned on his external cameras.
"Bekkah!" Tin-Tin's voice came over Bekkah's wrist telecomm. She stirred, and then looked at it.
"Yeah?" her voice was furry from sleep.
"Thunderbird Two ETA 30 minutes."
"Oh, yeah. Okay. F-A-B. Whatever." Bekkah rubbed her eyes and rolled out of bed. She brushed her hair, put her workboots back on, and went out into the living area. She was met by Alan, carrying a sleeping Joey and trying to herd the other two quietly into their home.
"Mommy!" Terry exclaimed, trying to keep his voice soft. "We caught four fish! I caught two, Chell caught one, and Joey caught the biggest. Uncle Alan didn't catch any."
"No, I didn't," Alan said, as he left Joey's room. He had laid the sleeping boy in his bed. "I was too busy helping the kids with their catches. But we had fun, didn't we?"
"Yeah, Mom, we did have fun." Chell looked tired.
"Get into bed, you two, and take a nap. I'll let you know when supper is ready. I've got some work to do on Thunderbird Four today." The two older children nodded and went to their rooms without a fight.
"Thanks for taking them out, Alan," Bekkah said as she left the Round House.
"It was fun for me, too, Bekkah." Alan matched her stride as she headed for Thunderbird Two's hangar. "I wanted to be a favorite uncle, like John and Gordon." He grinned. "I think this helped my popularity."
Bekkah chuckled. "Now we've just got to find out how Virgil and Scott can go from ordinary to extraordinary 'uncles'."
Thunderbird Two was just releasing pod four back on the track. Tin-Tin was waiting, Bekkah's equipment duffel beside her. As soon as Thunderbird Two was locked in, the door to pod four opened and Gordon stepped out. "Wait until Terry sees what I taped for him!" he enthused. "A pod of whales swam past me and I got it on film!"
"Ooh! He'll love it!" agreed Bekkah. She rummaged around in her equipment duffel and pulled out the moisture meter. "Duty calls. I'm going to teach Tin-Tin how to use this, then I'm going to get the new moisture readings. I'll let everyone know when we're finished." Bekkah followed Tin-Tin into the sub.
Dinner time came, and Bekkah took a break to eat with her kids. Gordon enthusiastically told everyone about his encounter with the whale pod. Terry hung on his every word. After dinner, both Tin-Tin and Bekkah went down and worked on Thunderbird Four's moisture measurements. They finished up around 10 p.m. and went to the lab to check the data. Scott poked his head in, anxious to hear what the two scientists found.
"Let's go up to the lounge, Scott. So we can tell you all what we found," Tin-Tin told him.
In the lounge, Jeff, Virgil, Scott, Alan, and Gordon watched the screen of the microcomp.
"All the moisture values were much, much less than before. In some places we found no moisture at all. And in the worst place, here by the viewport, the moisture level was reduced to 0.01. Thunderbird Four is as watertight as she is going to get right now. She's good to go." Bekkah wrapped up her explanation. All of the men looked relieved.
"Good work, ladies," Jeff said. "Now to focus on the long-range goal: building a new Thunderbird Four. I have your materials list, and I'm starting to order from our subsidiaries. We will test the steel we get this time, so we get exactly what we order."
A Close Call
The orders for the materials to build the new Thunderbird Four began to flow from the desk of Jeff Tracy, CEO of Tracy Industries. The Hood, through his spies, noticed the orders and wondered what was happening. Perhaps one of the Thunderbird machines had been damaged. Perhaps they are building a new piece of technology that I could steal. Perhaps it is time for me to make another trip to Tracy Island. His half-brother Kyrano wouldn't know what was going on; he was still in Singapore, and therefore was useless to the Hood. It was time to activate the homing device he had planted on the island. The Tracys could not, would not stand against him. And he planned a special vengeance on the Barnes woman. She would pay for the pain she had inflicted.
Terry Barnes was picking up his Legos in response to his mom's complaint about stepping on the sharp-edged plastic blocks. He crawled down the hallway between the bedrooms, picking up the tiniest of pieces and putting them in the purple plastic box he pushed down the hall with him. He was in front of the louvered doors to the closet in the hall when he became aware of a flashing light inside the closet. Curious, he opened the closet to see what it was.
The family suitcases were stored in the closet. On the lower edge of one, he found a blinking button. It looked like one of his mom's marker buttons, but it was smaller. He decided that his mom should see it right where it was. Abandoning his Lego quest, he went instead in search of his mother.
"Let's see it, Terry." Bekkah got down on her hands and knees to look at Terry's find.
"It looked like one of your marker buttons, but it's too small," Terry explained.
"You're right, Terry. It isn't one of my buttons." Bekkah carefully removed the suitcase from the closet. "Terry, I'm going down to the lab. Grab Chell and go down to Thunderbird Two's hangar together. Get my equipment duffel and bring it to the lab. I need the jeweler's tools."
"Okay, Mom." The two parted on their separate missions.
"Tin-Tin, could you come to the lab, please?" Bekkah called over her telecom. Tin-Tin's face appeared in place of the watch face.
"What do you need, Bekkah? I am helping with dinner."
"I have a mystery here that I think the two of us should unravel together."
Tin-Tin looked over to Mrs. Tracy.
"Go ahead, Tin-Tin. I can handle dinner," Mrs. Tracy told her.
"Okay, Bekkah. I am on my way." When Tin-Tin arrived at the lab, she saw Bekkah pulling a small black case out of her equipment duffel.
"Here, Tin-Tin, look at this." Bekkah held up the suitcase with the flashing light on it. "It's not one of my marker buttons. I don't know what it is, but we need to find out, don't you think?"
"Yes. I've never seen anything like that before." Tin-Tin peered at it. "Do you think it's dangerous?"
"I don't know. I want to use the isolation chamber with the remote gloves just in case it has an explosive in it." Bekkah made a sour face. "I've tried and tried to come up with a good design for an explosive detector, but just haven't been able to fit all the types of explosive chemicals into a single machine. I'll have to hand that problem to Hiram when he gets back."
"What is in the black case?" Tin-Tin asked, intrigued.
"Oh, these are my jeweler's tools. They are usually used for the making and repair of jewelry, but I find them helpful in dissecting small things such as this." She removed the blinking button from the suitcase with a pair of tweezers and carried it carefully over to the isolation chamber. This chamber had bullet-proof glass and a pair of remote gloves which could mimic the human hand's motions. The hands were worked by controls on the outside of the enclosed cubicle. There was a video camera and screen for viewing what was going on inside the box.
She slipped the flashing coin into the cubicle, and put it as close to the middle of the box as she could. Then she opened up her jeweler's kit and slid that in, too. She selected a tiny screwdriver, had the video camera zoom in closely to the light, and then operated the hands to open the button.
"I figure that if I can get the cover off without any detonation, it probably doesn't have any explosive in it and we can take it out to work on it more closely." Bekkah struggled with the controls as she sought to slide the tiny screwdriver into a slot on the side of the coin. Finally, she achieved her goal, and the cover came off. The flashing stopped abruptly.
Bekkah let out a pent-up breath. "Okay, no boom. Let's pull that out of there and work on it out here where we can see it better." She fitted her actions to her words, and soon both she and Tin-Tin were looking at the tiny piece of machinery through a powerful magnifying glass.
"That looks like a transmitter of some sort," Tin-Tin pointed out. "The battery is tiny, but powerful."
"Yes. And it looks like it has a receiver for a remote control," Bekkah added. "This is a powerful little device." She looked at the suitcase it was attached to. "Hmmm. I think I might know what this is. Let's ask Jeff to step down to the lab and see what he says."
"I've never seen anything so small with such a hefty battery," Jeff commented a few minutes later. "It's amazing!" He turned to Bekkah. "What do you think it is?"
"Well, it was attached to the suitcase I used when I first came out to the island." She looked at Jeff gravely. "I think it might be a homing transmitter. One that can be activated from a remote location."
Jeff's face paled. He sat down heavily. "Do you think that the Hood planted this on you?"
Bekkah shrugged. "Him or someone who works for him. I don't know how they would have managed it, but it stands to reason that it was planted then. If you're certain that the Hood didn't know where your base was..."
"I was certain we had hidden ourselves adequately. But now..." Jeff thought for a moment. "He might still be unsure of where we are. Especially if he didn't see the Thunderbirds taking off or landing. I just hope that is the case."
"It's been deactivated, Mr. Tracy," Tin-Tin soothed. "Hopefully he won't have any coordinates written down." She knew it was a frail hope even as she spoke.
The Hood was flying over the South Pacific in a black helijet, following the homing beacon's signal, when the signal stopped abruptly. He tapped the helijet's receiver once, twice, then cursed. They must have found the homing beacon! No matter. He had gotten a fix on the island the last time he went there; he had no real need for the homing beacon. Still, he reasoned, if he flew to the island, the Tracys would be warned of his coming. He took them by surprise when he arrived by sea. The same tactic might work again, but even better if he had the means to approach the island from beneath the waves. So he turned back to his base in Malaysia, and set about getting the equipment he needed to assault Tracy Island.
Building the 'Bird'
Brains returned from his physiotherapy session elated. Tomorrow the physical therapist was going to let him try walking with a walker! If that happened, it meant he could get around on his own, and not be stuck waiting for a nurse or for Kyrano to help him out. He was also going to be calling Tracy Island to see how everything was going with the new Thunderbird Four. He had to be very careful what he said while on the videophone, but he had worked out a code of sorts to use when he talked with his surrogate family on the Island. Thunderbird One was the "silver bullet", Thunderbird Two had become "the mean green flying machine", Thunderbird Three was nicknamed "the red rocket", Thunderbird Four was, appropriately, "the yellow submarine", and Thunderbird Five had been nicknamed "our eye in the sky." International Rescue was called "the family business."
He was usually kept up-to-date on the construction of Thunderbird Four Mark Two by Tin-Tin, Bekkah, or Jeff. Right now, the girls were having problems coming up with a solution to the silicon layer that was to be put between each layer of the hull. They had reported to him that the manufacturer they had contacted had recommended small balloons full of silicon. Both Tin-Tin and Bekkah had giggled like schoolgirls about that.
"Hiram, they look like old breast implants!" Bekkah had told him, the mirth evident in her voice.
"That won't work for us, will it?" he asked.
Bekkah got control of herself and replied, "No. They aren't flexible enough and are too bulky. We need something thinner that will hug the side of the hull."
He kept thinking about it, but couldn't come up with any answers. Maybe the girls had thought of something. He'd find out when he called.
Tin-Tin and Bekkah were both in the kitchen, helping Grandma prepare dinner. The silicon problem had stymied them for a couple of days now, and they couldn't get on with the hull until they had solved the problem. The keel had been laid and innermost hull had been put together and sat in the repair bay. Both of them were itching to get on with the work.
Tin-Tin grunted as she tried to open a jar of pickles. Her hand kept sliding on the slippery lid. "Bekkah, could you give me a jar opener? They are in the second drawer down on the right."
"Sure." Bekkah opened the drawer and tossed a square of rubberized mesh to Tin-Tin, who caught it and fitted it over the jar lid. With it, she got enough grip to open the stubborn jar. She put the jar on the counter, and went to put the implement away. But as she did, she took a good look at it, and an idea blazed in her mind.
"Bekkah! Look at this!" She pulled on Bekkah's sleeve to get her attention.
Bekkah looked at it, uncomprehending.
"This is what we need for our silicon layer!" Tin-Tin exclaimed. "It's flexible and thin!"
Bekkah stared at it, then looked at Tin-Tin. "You're right! That's the answer!" Bekkah gave Tin-Tin a hug. "You genius, you! You've found the answer!"
"Let's tell Mr. Tracy!"
"You go tell him, Tin-Tin. I'll finish up here." Bekkah just about pushed the Asian girl out to the lounge.
Jeff was on the videophone with Brains, when Tin-Tin rushed in with something in her hand.
"Look, Mr. Tracy! I think we've found the answer to the silicon problem!" She shared her discovery with both Jeff and with Brains.
"Y-y-es, Tin-Tin. Th-that should work, uh, well. G-g-good work!" Brains praised.
A week later, blanket-like layers of silicone had arrived at the Island. Jeff was bringing to bear all of his resources and contacts to get things done quickly.
Each night after work, and after Bekkah's kids were in bed, Bekkah and Gordon spent time playing pool, swimming together, or just talking, sitting by the twin palm trees. When John returned from Thunderbird Five, Bekkah invited him along, much to Gordon's chagrin. The things they had experienced together, John's rescue of Bekkah, and Bekkah's long talk with Gordon, became the basis of a strong and growing friendship.
Gordon and John came up by way of the lab on their way to the villa and bed. They had been putting the final rivets and welds in the outermost hull. It had been a busy four weeks since Gordon had taken Thunderbird Four out after the sealant was dried. There had been several rescues, but only two of them required Thunderbird Four. Scott, Virgil, and Jeff had been working on the hull, too, as time and rescues permitted. Bekkah and Tin-Tin had been mostly supervising and trouble-shooting, but had also taken their turn at the heavy work.
There was music coming from the lab. Gordon grinned at John and gave him a playful nudge. They knew Bekkah was up late. She was the only one who played music in the lab and she only played it when she was alone. She was busy working on getting Thunderbird Four's new computer up and running. Tin- Tin hadn't worked with nanocircuitry before, and Bekkah had incorporated it into her microcomp, so they agreed between themselves that Bekkah would do the computer, while tutoring Tin-Tin on the installation of the rest of the nanocircuitry.
They stopped at the open lab door and peered in. Bekkah was sitting on a high stool at the big workbench, her back to them. She had on her magnifying viewers and was working with a micro-fine soldering pen. Her jeweler's tool case lay open beside her. The outer case of the new computer was open before her. She was listening to one of her favorite recordings: a women's close harmony trio singing with a swing band. The recording was from the late 20st century, but the most of the music was from the early 20th century. She was singing along with the song entitled, The House is Haunted.
They both stood, leaning on either side of the door, listening. It was a beautiful, sultry, and melancholy song about lost love, all in minor key, and Bekkah's voice, soft and throaty, blended well with the trio on the recording.
When it was done, and before Gordon could scare her with some loud noise, John sighed, "That was pretty."
Bekkah started a bit, then turned, taking off the magnifiers to see them in the door. She paused the music. "Yeah. It's one of my favorites."
"Well, it worked like a lullaby for me," John yawned. "I'm off to bed. You coming, Gordon?"
"To bed with you? I don't think so," Gordon snickered.
John rolled his eyes at his red-haired brother.
"Goodnight, John," Bekkah told him. He waved in response and left.
Gordon came into the lab, and pulled a chair up beside her. "How's it going?"
"Slowly. I want to do this right the first time." She closed her eyes and stretched, shrugging her shoulders to try and get the kinks out. Gordon got up, standing behind her, and began to knead her shoulders and the back of her neck.
"Ummm. That feels good. You have strong hands."
He kept up the massage. Then, impulsively, he dropped a kiss on the nape of her neck. He could feel her surprised reaction in the way her head came up suddenly. He planted another, and her skin flushed pink. A third kiss brought a low moan and gooseflesh. Pleased with her reaction, he would have continued but before he could, she turned around.
"Why are you doing that?" Her voice was wavery.
Gordon grinned at her. "The nape of your neck just looked too irresistable."
"Please. Don't do that," she pleaded with voice and eyes.
"Why? You seemed to be enjoying it." He leaned in to kiss her, but she placed two fingers on his lips.
"I did," Bekkah admitted.
Gordon sat down again, puzzled by her words. Now that he was sitting next to her, he could see her tremble.
"It's...it's...just that..." She took a deep breath to steady herself. "Terrence would do that to me. Kiss me on the back of my neck. When he wanted us to make love."
"Oh," was all Gordon could think to say.
"I wasn't...prepared...for such a strong...physical...reaction," She rubbed her temples then turned to look at him. "It has been a long time since I've made love to a man."
She looked at the floor. "Five or six years."
"Why so long?"
"Because I made a promise to myself a long time ago. I promised myself I wouldn't get physically involved with a man that wasn't my husband." She closed her eyes. "It was easy enough before Terrence. I didn't know what I was missing, so I didn't miss it. But now..."
"But now you know what you're missing, is that it?"
"Wasn't there anyone who was interested in you after Terrence died?"
She sighed. "There were a couple of guys that were interested. They courted me. But they didn't have the two criteria I was looking for in a man."
Gordon's eyes narrowed. "Only two? The way you talk about Terrence, he was perfect. No one could measure up to him, I'm sure." He couldn't keep the anger from his voice.
"Gordon, it wasn't that Terrence was perfect. Lord knows he wasn't. He had bad habits just like everyone else. But he had two characteristics that I felt were important to me. And to my kids."
"What were they?" Gordon asked sharply.
She had stopped trembling and looked at him with that frank, challenging gaze that she had the day they had first met. "Terrence was patient with the kids. Much more patient than I was at the time." She slowly shook her head. "I've had to learn that kind of patience over these past years. It wasn't easy. And most men I've dated had a hard time accepting the fact that the kids and I are a package deal."
"And? What else?"
"He was my very best friend. I didn't have to be on my best behavior with him. I could be myself. Even when we finally began to date, it just added to the friendship. And when we were married our friendship grew even deeper. Into love." She chuckled quietly. "In fact, sometimes I think we got married just so we didn't have to go our separate ways at the end of the day. The physical part of marriage was just gravy. It was the companionship I wanted. No other man has been able to give that to me. They all seemed to be anxious just to get me into bed with them. Dating them was all about them."
"I think I understand. You wanted friendship first, and these guys were into sex first."
"You could put it that way, I guess." She was silent for a moment, thinking. Then she sat up. Brown eyes looked into amber eyes again.
"Terrence was big on musical theater. One of his favorite musicals is called The Music Man. There's a song in it, sung by the leading lady. She's singing about her "white knight", the kind of man she wants. She describes the man as being more interested in her than he is in himself, and more interested in the two of them being together than in her. I guess that sums it up for me, too."
Gordon's anger dissolved. He reached over and turned off the soldering iron. He took her hand and led her from the room. "Come with me. Let me finish what I've started here." He led her to his bedroom. "You've been too long without a man's touch."
She stopped at the doorway, trembling again, wrapping her free arm around herself as if cold. She shook her head, looking anywhere but at him. He could see the battle waging between her body's desires and her mind's determination. "No. Not now," she whispered.
"But you are..."
"I know. My body is reacting to your...stimulation. But my head says 'no'."
He smiled at her, putting a hand under her chin so they looked at each other eye to eye. "What does your heart say?"
"My heart says that I'm not ready. Yet. There's that promise I made to myself. It is standing in the way, but I can't break it. Not yet."
He let go of her hand. She reached up with it to caress his face.
"Please be patient with me. I'm willing to give this a chance, Gordon, but I need time." She stroked his face again. "Goodnight, Gordon."
"Goodnight, Bekkah. Sweet dreams."
Bekkah walked away with difficulty. She wanted him to hold her and caress her and bring to life the feelings she had known with her husband. But she knew she would regret it later. She entered the quiet Round House, found her bed, and sobbed herself to sleep.
Gordon went into his room, and lay awake on his bed for a while. When he finally fell asleep, his dreams had a decidedly erotic nature.
John went back to bed. He had heard voices in the hall, and was about to bawl his brother out for making a lot of noise, when he realized what was going on. Curious, he listened as Bekkah refused his brother's advances, although John could tell by her voice that it was difficult for her to do so. Lying on his bed, he pondered what he had just heard. Gordon and Bekkah? Could they really be in love? He would have to give that some thought. With that, he dozed off.