Craving your kind indulgence, it is alternate universe story, the first chapter of how Gordon came home.


About 3:45 AM it was, Island time, or whatever they called it thereabouts. He was nearly a week into his new "home" and, though he still hadn't exactly settled in, Gordon felt the need to get back to his training regimen.

There were problems; the pools were too warm, and too small, the ocean much wilder than any he'd experienced in far-off Europe. But he took a certain grim comfort in dragging himself out of bed at 3:30 even so, getting dressed in the dark, scrounging a bit of breakfast, then swimming laps till he was ready to drop. Especially now, when so much else had changed...

In the gleaming kitchen (he'd memorized a stealthy side route through the spacious, inlaid and ornamented mansion), Gordon very cautiously fished a number of items from the walk-in refrigerator and larders. Foreign stuff, largely. The boy consciously avoided food brands he recognized, not wishing to look down at a plate and wonder why it wasn't being served by his mum.

There was just moonlight enough to see by, so he kept the overhead lights off. Didn't want to wake the new family, or their servant. All of this stealth wasn't occasioned by the behavior of his hosts- they'd been exceedingly, almost overwhelmingly, kind- but by his own discomfort. He still felt like a wretched poor relation, miserably carrying on where he'd rather not be.

Trying for invisibility, he didn't use any noisy appliances, but someone noticed, anyway. He was just clearing up the last traces of his cold, furtive breakfast, when Gordon got the very strong, neck-prickled feeling that he was being observed.

He turned, less casually than he would have liked, and spotted the watcher, who stood framed in one of the nearer dining room doors. Though he hadn't met him before, Gordon knew him at once. Tall, blond, slender, and as stiff as his formal portrait. Another Tracy brother; the second one.

Suddenly nervous, Gordon made a last-ditch, red-faced effort to tidy up.

"Sorry," he mumbled, righting a spilt cereal box, "...didn' mean t'..., I jus' thought I'd get something f'r myself, without rousin' th' house."

The young man came further into the kitchen, blue-violet gaze fixed and intent.

"Not a problem," he replied quietly. "There's more than enough." Then, as if trying out a painfully unfamiliar word, "Gordon...?"

The 14-year-old boy, relocated and confused, but always polite, wiped his hands upon his shirt, then hastily extended the right, saying,

" 'Course; sorry..., Gordon Tracy."

They shook hands.

"I'm your brother, John."

The reaction was very different, this time. No rough, pummeling hugs, or painfully knuckled scalp. Just a firm handshake, and brief shoulder clasp. Gordon allowed himself to relax a little.

"How's it been going?" His brand new (cousin, he'd have said, a week ago; brother, now) acquaintance asked, leaning back against the kitchen counter. Gordon gave him a cautious look. He'd been much talked at, these past few days, joyfully "filled in", but very little listened to. He had to consider a bit, before replying.

"It's been... well..., there's... I'm certainly grateful, f'r all th' welcoming, and..."

John cocked a slim eyebrow.

"That bad?"

All at once, something broke inside him like a dam. 'Get along, Luv,' she'd whispered, 'Try t' fit in, no matter what. I need t' know that you'll be all right...,' But the raw wound of being torn away from everything he'd ever known simply hurt too much to stay decently covered. Hazel eyes drilling the tiled floor, hands white-knuckle taut on the table's edge, Gordon raged quietly,

"What if I didn't miss anythin'? What if I was happy? I have a life! And a mum... or I did, anyhow."

Three months later, he still had trouble recalling that she'd gone. Nothing left; not even hospital visits. More damn stuff got knocked over, as Gordon quit trying to force words past the painful lump of unshed tears clogging his chest.

John was silent for a moment. Then he turned and crossed the kitchen to the big, chrome refrigerator. In the warm amber glow of appliance light, he looked less ghostly pale and insubstantial; more like the rock-solid Scott and Virgil. Not that there was much time for such comparisons.

Finding what he wanted a moment later, John returned with two dark brown bottles, one of which he tossed at Gordon, saying,

"It's five o'clock, somewhere. And further along your world-line, you're 21."

Gordon squinted at the silvery label, turning it to catch the wan moonlight. American-style lager, of the sort Europeans used to wean their children. John opened his own bottle, then Gordon's, with his fist and the table's edge. Then, gazing at his new-found brother with a direct, amethyst stare, he said,

"It's been awhile. So... fill me in. What's happened?"

Gordon hesitated. He'd thought it wiser to say as little as possible about what he'd left behind. He was supposed to fit back into their lives, after all, not the reverse.

"Why 're you askin'?"

John shrugged.

"Either I'm interested, or I'm pretending to be. Does it matter? Either way, I'm listening."

Maybe the 'who gives a shit?' tone should have made him angry, but Gordon had the odd feeling that John was there because he very much wanted to be; that he'd rushed back, from someplace quite far, just to meet with Gordon privately, and on his own terms.

So, bit by bit, one hesitant word at a time, he sketched the past for his silent brother. The silver window-square of moonlight slid clear across the floor and halfway up the wall, was replaced by pearly-wet, twittering dawn, before he'd talked himself out. He ended on the stubborn and fretful note that,

"Sometimes, late last night, f'r instance, there are noises. Like a bloody damn train wreck, and everyone just ignores them, acts like I've gone three stops past Barking if I even mention I've heard somethin'!"

John shook his head briefly, a muscle in his left cheek twitching slightly.

"You're not crazy. There are occasional loud, um... events."

Somewhat mollified, but still mulish, Gordon persisted,

"What th' hell are they doin', then? Launchin' rockets?"

"It's not my place to say," John replied calmly. "But, I can tell you this; when he," (a swift head jerk, in the direction of Jeff's office) "...gets around to explaining, I think you'll be very proud to be a part of what's going on."

Gordon's expression must have echoed some angry and turbulent ocean of dissatisfaction, because John added,

"I'll make you a promise: give it three days. If he doesn't completely explain things in that time frame, I will. Deal?"

Gordon nodded, and they shook on it. John released his hand, then turned very still for an instant. Very inward. When he spoke again, it was to say, in a barely audible voice,

"I know things have been chaotic, but give them... us... a chance, please. You may not remember us, Gordon, but we never forgot you. They're trying to make thirteen years just disappear, and they don't realize yet, that they can't. I'll talk to them."

Gordon gave his new brother a slightly lop-sided smile, and allowed himself to wonder, for the first time, what it might have been like, to grow up with the "American Cousins". Maybe, after all, he could find a place here.

"Right," he said. "Thanks, John."