A/N: as a few of you already commented on, I changed the point of view from Jeff to his sons. It probably was mainly because Jeff was by now dealing with things and I wanted to continue scenes from previous stories with the other characters. This last chapter has a mix of it again because I think a few things were kept too short in the movie. I still mutter about the last scene where Jeff Tracy includes a fourteen/fifteen year old into IR. No way.
°shakes head °
I could have done a separate story on each and every Tracy, but it would have felt so out of context with the rest of the other stories. And I would keep repeating myself. I hate that.
This chapter has John in it again. Darn, the guy really has grown on me.
The return to school had been like being cast into a dream. Alan had gone without much protest, though he had felt bad at leaving his family to deal with so many things still to do. John would return to Thunderbird 5 soon, but at the moment he was recovering and healing, which took priority.
The flight from Tracy Island to the local airport and the subsequent ride to school had been subdued, almost without the usually spirited conversation between him and Fermat. His best friend was lost in thought as well. Fermat at least had been able to help his father, while Alan had slaved over school stuff.
After dumping his bags in the dorm he quickly checked that he had taken everything he needed with him, especially his homework. The paper John had proved was neatly burned onto a CD and he would give it to Ms Garrett first thing tomorrow.
And then he would start his last leg of school before summer break, keeping his fingers crossed that his grades might pick up and that the paper wouldn't be all that bad.
Going back onto the school grounds, Alan looked around, strangely soothed by the normality. He had always envied his brothers, them going off on cool missions. Sure, he had known they were dangerous, but he had never really understood what it meant. Now he had. He had nearly lost his family, had felt so incredibly helpless, so ill-equipped to deal with this crisis, and it had driven home just how much he still needed to learn. Being a Thunderbird wasn't just about being cool. It was about being responsible, about knowing his stuff, about acting as a team, about... being an adult.
Alan smiled a little. He could learn that. All of that. He would become a Thunderbird, but not by forcing his father's hand. He had proven himself in that dangerous time, but he had also learned a valuable lesson. He still had time to become what his brothers were; and they would always be there for him. John had driven home a fact that he had ignored before. No one expected more of him than he did of himself. No one wanted him to grow up fast; he had all the time he needed because all four of them had been where he was now. Alan had never been left out, even if he had felt like that all along. He had always been a part of it, because he was part of the family.
He had finally understood that now.
° ° °
It was late down on Earth.
Well, depending what time zone you were in.
For John, it meant the South Pacific. It was the middle of the night there, past midnight, and he was just about to turn in, too, since there were no particular hot spots for International Rescue to go to at the moment.
A soft beeping sound announced an incoming call on a private, secured line. He smiled as he recognized the carrier signal. He flipped a switch and the monitor in front of him changed from an outline of Australia to a live feed from a time zone where it was early noon.
For a moment Alan hesitated, wondering if he had made the right decision. Sure, John had told him not to hesitate and call, but he knew his older brother had duties. He was International Rescue's eye in the sky, and he had probably better things to do than idle chit-chat with his youngest brother.
"Hey John. Uhm, you got a minute?" he queried.
His brother smiled at him from the tiny display, looking his usual, relaxed self. In the background Alan could just make out some of the features of Thunderbird 5.
"It's pretty calm up here. Nothing major, so yes, I think I can spare a minute. How's school?"
He grimaced. "Boring."
Leave it to John to bring up school. Great.
John laughed. "I should have known. So... what's up?"
It was a gentle prod toward the reason why Alan had used the powerful communication device. He knew he was calling in the middle of the night for his older brother, but he had suspected he was still up. John was a night owl, so to speak.
"Got my paper back."
John gave him an expectant look, one eyebrow twitching up a little.
"Ms Garrett gave me a B!"
That had his brother whoop. "I told you you can do it, Alan! Way to go!"
Alan knew he was grinning like an idiot, probably as badly as his brother was right now. "Yeah, well, I had help."
"Oh no, you didn't. I proof read. You did all the research yourself, buddy. My work was cosmetic only."
Alan shrugged a bit self-consciously. Math would never be his favorite subject, but he had found that he could at least pull himself together for a paper and homework.
"I hope I can keep it up," he added softly.
"You can, Alan. You're a bright kid. Hey, you're my brother!"
Alan chuckled. "So's Scott. Do I need to say more?"
John snickered a little. "Yeah, and Gordon, who's turning into quite an engineer. And don't forget Virgil. Listen, bro, you did fine. You can do fine in the future, too. Just set yourself smaller goals. You'll be a Thunderbird soon enough, but don't skip school or anything else because of it."
John's voice was serious, very much like their Dad's, and Alan found himself nodding.
"I know. Thanks, John."
"Anytime. Call Dad and let him know about the paper, okay? We're all proud of you."
"I will. Uh..." He stopped, unsure all of a sudden.
"Something on your mind?" John asked quietly.
"Kinda, but... it's just... you don't have to, but..."
"Spill it, Alan. I'm not going to bite you."
He grinned nervously. "Could we... talk about some of the stuff sometimes? I mean school stuff? Fermat's okay to talk to, but he's brainy and way out of my league." He stopped and felt himself blush a little. "Okay, so are you, but you're my brother. And you helped before. I really appreciate what you did, John, and I liked bouncing ideas off you..."
"Hey, Alan," John's calm voice interrupted his stuttering. "I'd be happy to help. Call whenever you need help, right? We can talk."
Because John already did it for their father. And probably with his brothers, too. They all talked to each other, but Alan had never turned to any of them because he was the youngest and didn't want them to think he was weak or unfit to join them.
The latest crisis had shown him that for all their posturing and play, his brothers were only human, too. Like his Dad. He still respected him and them greatly, for what they did, how they risked their lives to help others, but they were no longer so unapproachable.
"Thanks," he murmured.
"Any time. Keep up the good grades."
"Will do. Night, John!"
Alan signed off after a little chit chat and hid the communicator. He would call his Dad the normal way at a better time.
Smiling to himself, feeling elated because of the good grade and Johns lauding.
Maybe this term would prove to be much better.
° ° °
"You really think he's ready?"
John chuckled slightly as he looked at his father. "Yes, Dad, I do. It's up to you in the end, but I won't say no to Alan coming here."
Jeff leaned back in his chair, looking thoughtful. It was one of their late night chats again, but this time the topic was more than just daily events on Tracy Island. Summer break was approaching and Jeff had more often than not started to think about his youngest son's future training. Alan was fifteen now, soon turning sixteen. He had really pulled himself together in the last months, had delivered grades that were more to his abilities, and Jeff was more than proud of him. Alan had the makings of a future Thunderbird and the trouble with The Hood had apparently finally jarred lose that last bit of grit in the whole clockwork.
"You said it yourself, right?" John continued. "He knows the simulator inside out. He flew them all, even in real life, though he never went into serious weather situations or had breakdowns to deal with. But he doesn't understand a thing about International Rescue's internal workings. He can sit with you all day and watch you do office work, and it would bore him to death. Have him come up here, let him fly Thunderbird 3 if you can get Gordon to do it... let him be part of it from another perspective." John grinned mischievously. "He might just like it."
Jeff snorted. "Right..."
"Hey, you never know."
Jeff wasn't so sure Alan would be thrilled to be a watcher. His youngest wanted action and while his father knew he had to talk him down from his high expectations of adventure and coolness, he knew that the complete opposite-- sitting and watching and keeping guard-- was really not what Alan wanted as a Thunderbird.
"John, you've been up there for more than a month now. Virgil is supposed to relieve you. Are you sure?"
"Yep. I could do with some company and Alan could do with a little bit of space patrol."
Jeff looked at his second oldest son, took in the expression, the firmness around his eyes, the set to his mouth. John was serious about this; completely. He wanted Alan up there and he was ready to do a few extra weeks for it.
"All right," Jeff gave in. "I'll tell him about it. Should he decline I won't force him."
"I'd never ask you to. It's either of his own, free will or not at all," John agreed.
"He'll be home by tomorrow. I'll let you know."
John just grinned brightly. "Looking forward to a little company."
Jeff chuckled. They talked a little longer, Jeff updating his son on island matters and things in general. He signed off half an hour later, saying good-night to John and ready to turn in himself.
Tomorrow would be another long day and then Alan would be home.
° ° °
Summer had arrived faster than Alan had really expected. School was getting better, though he wasn't scoring stellar grades. They were good grades, he was attentive in school, and visits to the headmaster had dwindled to none. His teachers had remarked positively on it and had hopes he would catch up on his friend Fermat's grades, but with Fermat everything was an A. Well, mostly. Even a small genius had subjects he didn't like.
Coming home to Tracy Island was almost like a vacation. Alan had missed his father and his brothers, even though he had gotten calls. The only one he truly saw was John through the communicator that no one except the two of them knew of. John's gentle prodding and his open ear when it came to school stuff was priceless to the youngest Tracy. Alan had started to understand now why their father talked to John so often. It was strangely balancing and calming.
Their own personal Agony Aunt... well, Uncle, he chuckled to himself. John would probably kill him if he ever said that out loud.
There was a brief shudder and Alan was jarred out of his thoughts. He looked out of the side windows and smiled. Sitting strapped into the co-pilot's chair of Thunderbird 3, Alan had a great view of the approach to Thunderbird 5. The space station seemed to effortlessly float in space, the huge solar panels glowing in a soft, golden tone. Gordon was skillfully handling 'his Thunderbird', steering her closer and closer to the docking port.
Alan had been almost shocked out of his pants when his older brother had let him fly the red rocket after launch, just watching as the youngest of the five Tracys steered the powerful ship through the atmosphere and into outer space toward Thunderbird 5. Gordon had told him to take the long route, which gave Alan a priceless view of Earth just below them, until they arrived at the space monitor station. From there Gordon had taken over again, and a stunned and exhilarated Alan had gladly left the controls to the more experienced pilot.
Hell, who was he kidding? He had no experience at all except for the simulator, and that had been quite different to the brief flight he had now been allowed to take.
The docking computer helped his brother adjust to the station's movement, as well as the rocket's, and soon Alan heard the reassuring grinding clunk of two airlocks meeting.
"Okay!" Gordon announced, flipping more switches. "Here we are."
Alan unstrapped, just like Gordon, who was still busy securing the connection and powering down the Thunderbird's not needed computers.
"Hatch secured," he told Alan. "We're good to go in."
The youngest Tracy grabbed his bag and eagerly followed the pilot to the docking port's hatch. A huge '5' was painted onto the outer door and it slid open, revealing the long tunnel that led into the heart of Thunderbird 5. Massive steel struts secured the so fragile construction and Alan almost reverently followed Gordon, who walked past it all as if it was nothing new.
Then again, it wasn't. He had been here before. For Alan, it was the very first time. Jeff had never allowed him to just visit the station.
John's jovial voice greeted them as they entered the control room and Gordon received a brief, hard hug from his older brother.
"Welcome to Thunderbird 5, Alan!" John announced and enveloped him in a hug, too.
Alan laughed a bit nervously. "Thanks."
"Let's get your stuff to the sleeping quarters first, then I'll give you the basic tour of the place before you get lost." Blue eyes twinkled.
Alan knew Thunderbird 5 wasn't that big, but he really didn't want to open a hatch and find himself in outer space.
Gordon hung around until he had settled in, grabbed a cup of coffee with them, and then said his good-byes.
"Try not to annoy him, squirt," he teased, ruffling Alan's hair. "He gets insufferable."
John made a mock grab for him and Gordon laughed, waving his good-byes.
As Thunderbird 3 detached itself with an audible grinding noise, Alan felt a brief shiver run through him. There went his only link to Earth. It was a strange feeling.
A warm hand landed on his shoulder and he nearly jumped.
"Alan?" John queried gently.
"It's okay. Just a bit... strange."
John smiled reassuringly. "You'll get the hang of it. You might even like it up here."
"I never said I wouldn't!" Alan immediately protested.
The blond laughed lightly, clapping his shoulder. "Easy, Alan. It's okay. Now, let's do the grand tour. Ask whatever you think needs clarification. Don't sweat it if you can't keep it all in mind. We have two weeks here and I won't run an exam in the end. This is for fun and for education in one."
Alan nodded, inhaling deeply. "Okay."
John still grinned as they went back into the kitchen area. "So... ran any Thunderbird 5 simulations at all or only the other 'birds?"
Alan stared at his older brother in shock. Simulations? "There are simulations of Thunderbird 5?" he blurted.
Sure, he had been in the simulator, flying or driving or diving with all crafts, but he had never remotely considered the station...
"Uh..." he stammered, embarrassed.
"I didn't know..."
John smirked. "Aside from Dad and me, no one does."
"So there are simulations? I mean... what about?"
"Oh, all kinds of things. Whatever emergency you can think of. From electronics failure to meteorite strike." There was a brief shadow crossing his brother's face and Alan bit his lower lip.
"Then there's simulated rescue calls, multi-tasking sessions, things like that," John went on. "I can run them up here, too."
"Ah." Alan was slightly at a loss.
"But for now you just enjoy yourself. Dad thought it might be time to introduce you to the outer space part of International Rescue, give you a little broader view of things. So, any questions so far?"
Tons, Alan thought dimly.
It was so incredibly overwhelming. So surreal.
But it was also the experience of a life time. He wanted to be up here, he wanted to know everything there was to, and he wanted to prove he was ready for the training to begin.
So he asked.
And John answered; patiently, explicitly, calmly.
Alan knew the next two weeks would be more than he could ever have dreamed of, even without him flying a super fast ship to a dangerous rescue.
Because he was starting to be part of International Rescue now-- for real.