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Accident

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It’s Gordon who pitches John into the pool, because he’s gotten everybody else in the space of a week, and John’s the only one he’d been waiting for. Even Grandma had gotten dunked, and Gordon had nearly had one of his ears yanked off by the family matriarch as she hauled him all the way to the shallow end for a lecture. Grandma Tracy had been on the swim team in her day, too.

Kayo, technically, had thrown Gordon in. Gordon still counts this as a win, seeing as how they’d both ended up in the water after her preemptive tackle, once she’d noticed the pattern of Gordon working his way through the family. Brains had been similarly forewarned, and approached Gordon during his morning swim, befitted with a lifejacket and oversized goggles, a lamb to the slaughter. Quite willing to be dunked, but given the number of electronics he carried around on a regular basis, unwilling to be surprised by a dunking. Gordon had given him an obliging shove into the shallow end.

So everyone’s complicit when John gets down from ‘5 at the end of the week, and no one warns him. There’s maybe a little bit of general Schadenfreude at play during the family barbecue, with the sun setting over Tracy Island. Scott’s making drinks and Virgil on the grill. Alan’s already staring at Gordon with a big, expectant grin from the far end of the pool, where he and Kayo are bouncing a beach ball back and forth.

John’s taken up residence on one of the deck chairs, and he and Brains are playing a holographic game of 3D chess, projected helpfully by Max. This is a boring way to spend a summer evening, so Gordon smirks across the pool at Alan and clears his throat.

“Hey John,” Gordon calls, and the way everyone else’s head snaps up along with the redhead’s indicates they all know exactly what’s coming. “C'mere a minute.”

John’s only been on the ground for about half a day, and he still has that sort of bouncing lilt to his stride as he approaches. Gordon’s sat by the poolside, his feet dangling in the water, already in swim-trunks and a loose tanktop. And he’s had the phrase “sweep the leg” echoing in his head since he and Alan had watched The Karate Kid earlier in the week, and it’s just too tempting.

Except the concrete at the edge of the pool is damp, slick, and everything goes wrong. John’s already losing his footing, skidding backwards as Gordon catches him by the back of the knees. The well-measured maneuver that should have been enough to send his brother well clear of the pool wall and into the deep water doesn’t, quite.

There’s a godawful crack and John’s suddenly a blur of limbs and falling. Gordon registers, a few seconds out of sync, that he’s soaked from the splash that was a hundred and eighty pounds of John, hitting the water. And for the first time in his life he’s frozen up.

By the time he claws forward through the three, four, five seconds by which he’s fallen behind reality, Kayo’s already knifing through the water from the shallow end. By the time he snaps into action, Alan might be just realizing what’s happened, his blue eyes wide. There’s a cloud of blood blooming in the water, and bright, blossom red on the pale concrete edge of the pool. No one else seems to have noticed there’s a problem yet, as Gordon yells and plunges into the water after his older brother.

There’s another beat of his heart as his eyes adjust below the water, at the sight of John, insensible and hanging face down, almost on the bottom of the pool. His hair is leeched of its warm tone in the blueness of the pool around them, and floats in a loose halo around his face, pale and blue, ghostly below the surface. The blood in the water is dark, billowing.

Gordon can’t remember if he’s ever hurt anyone like this before, accident or not, and guilt is seeping into his stomach, heavy like molten lead.

But there’s no time for that. Dropping straight down, he beats Kayo to John, but only just. The normally crystal pool water is clouding with an alarming amount of red, and blood ribbons and threads around Gordon’s arms as he gets ahold of John by the back of his t-shirt. Kayo’s there a second later, and between the both of them they get on either side of John, and kick upward for the surface.

Virgil!” Gordon yells as soon as he breaks the surface, because whenever he kicks over into crisis response mode, it’s always Virgil who’s his backup.

It’s not Virgil, but Alan who’s waiting at the pool edge. Alan’s tiny and skinny and John outweighs him by nearly a third of his teenaged bodyweight, but he was closest. The youngest member of the family grits his teeth, determined, and helps haul John up, onto solid ground.

There’s water already running from John’s nose, his mouth, and Alan’s palms are bright, bloody red as he cradles his big brother’s head in his hands. John’s always ranked just a step below Neil Armstrong in Alan’s books. Gordon can’t help feeling that leaden guilt in his stomach at the look on his baby brother’s face, hardening through him, freezing him solid again. Some reflex has him grab John’s wrist, but he can’t even make his fingers find a pulse.

Kayo’s the one who takes over, efficient and cold-eyed and clinical–she’s always been just about impossible to rattle–and she’s gently tilting John’s chin up, levering his jaw open, leaning in to try and hear him breathing. “Alan–” she starts, as she presses one of John’s arms across his chest, but Alan’s already pulled John’s wrist away from Gordon, tucking it gently underneath his cheek.

The change in posture as Kayo gently turns John onto his side is what does it; there’s a jerk of his torso and a choked cough, and then he’s vomiting pool water. It’s an alarming amount for only have been in the water for about half a minute, but there’s a harsh, stuttering gasp at the end of it. “There we go,” Kayo murmurs, and she exhales deeply, her hand rubbing over John’s back as he continues to choke on air. “Come on, John, big breaths.”

Scott’s there now, close but not too close–it’s already crowded around the edge of the pool, and plainly Kayo and Alan have things in hand. Gordon is just sort of…there, crouching in front of his brother, staring and numb and not looking up to meet Scott’s eyes. Grandma’s gone inside for the first aid kid. Brains is at Max’s data console, pulling up medical reference with Virgil stood behind him, conferring. Almost absently the middle child picks up a folded towel and tosses it to Kayo.

She doubles it over and presses it firmly to the back of John’s scalp, her fingers probing his skull carefully, gently looking for any damage beyond the gash in his scalp. “No break that I can tell, but get Max over here with his x-ray attachment,” she mentions, and wipes her bloodied palm on John’s t-shirt. “Uh, sorry.”

John’s long fingers spasm, clench against the fabric of the t-shirt plastered to his chest, the concrete beneath his head. His knuckles scrape on the ground and Alan presses a hand down on top of his older brother’s, the other catching his shoulder to hold him still. His palms are still red with John’s blood and he’s bent over, peering anxiously at his brother’s face, his flickering eyelids. Alan’s voice is smaller than he likes it to be when he prompts, “John? Hey, John? You hear me?”

“…hhhhk.” There’s another spate of coughing, another flood of pool water and then he’s staring fuzzily right at Gordon, blinking and dazed. John’s usually hard to read, but he’s been knocked firmly off-guard and he’s visibly concerned as he registers the panic on the faces above him. “..ow. Nn. Okay. ’m. I’m okay. A-Alan? Gordy. Ow, though.”

“Stay still,” Kayo advises, even as John starts pushing himself up on his elbow. “John? You hit your head, take it easy.”

Gordon finally finds his voice and manages, sounding more like a child than Alan, even,“Oh, god, John. I’m sorry. Johnny?”

“H-hey. It’s okay. I’m just a klutz, was just an accident.” Typical John. His big brother forces a weak, shaky grin. “What d'you call me, Gord? W-wobbly space-dork. Heh. Guess it’s true.”

No one explains until later why this makes Gordon break down bawling.