Hornet's Nest

By Spense

CHAPTER TWELVE

The exhausted and depressed remaining members of the Tracy clan stopped dead in their tracks as they exited from the lifts behind their portraits. Their missing members were sound asleep on the couches in the room. Brains looked over at them and smiled. "I, uh, tried to tell you."

"How . . ." Virgil finally began.

Then they all began to speak at once. The commotion woke John with a moan as his headache flared. Sitting upright rather creakily, he leaned forward and put his head in his hands, moaning "Keep it down! Please."

Jeff finally found that he could move and was kneeling in front of his son in seconds, placing a hand on his shoulder. "John . . . what . . . how. . . ?"

John looked up and met his father's eyes. "You wouldn't believe it, Dad. You just wouldn't." Looking at his stunned father, he continued. "Did you get them?"

Jeff ignored the question for the moment and instead glanced quickly at Brains. Brains nodded his reassurance back to the Tracy patriarch. "They're both somewhat, uh, worse for wear, a few, uh, broken bones, but they'll be, uh, fine. They're both more exhausted than, uh, anything."

"What about the drugs?" Virgil asked, concerned.

Brains didn't even ask how they knew. "I have tests on, uh, their blood running now. But, uh, again, there doesn't seem to be any, uh, cause for concern."

Jeff, although wincing at the 'broken bones' comment, was somewhat more relieved than before. He looked over at the other couch. Scott and Gordon were already looking over Alan, who hadn't woken up, even with all of the commotion.

He looked back at John and finally answered his question with a smile. "Yes, we did." His smile deepened to a grin of genuine amusement. "They kept saying something about 'we didn't expect this'".

John laughed, then moaned again as his headache stabbed. "I'm sure they didn't."

Virgil shook his head. "I always thought if you and Alan ever collaborated on something, it was really going to screw up somebody's day. I just always thought it would be Gordon though."

Gordon looked up from where he was standing looking worriedly at Alan, and said indignantly, "Hey!"

Jeff laughed, squeezed John's shoulder and looked over at Scott. "Well?"

Scott knelt in front of the other couch checking over his little brother, his flight suit still stained from the exertions of last several hours, and his recent encounter with the kidnappers. Placing the back of his hand on his youngest brother's forehead, then his cheek, he frowned, then muttered a slight 'damn'. Alan didn't even stir. "Dad, I think he's running a temp."

John sighed. "I'm not surprised. It's been an . . . interesting couple of days."

Brains just nodded. "I don't believe it's anything serious, Mr. Tracy."

"Okay, thank you, Brains." He smiled at the man, then turned back to John. "I'm definitely going to want the whole story, but right now, you look done in. You need to sleep. So is there anything I need to know right now, that can't wait until morning?" Jeff asked, helping John to his feet as he winced, and held his ribs.

"No," John said thoughtfully. "I don't think so."

Jeff nodded, and still supporting his son, turned to Scott. "Take Alan down to the infirmary, and put him to bed. We'll be right behind you."

Scott nodded, and gathered up his brother, who woke up just enough to realize that something was happening.

"Easy sprout, everything's okay, I'm just taking you to bed."

Alan nodded slightly as he recognized Scott, and wrapped his good arm around his older brother's neck. He closed his eyes against the dizziness, as he felt himself carried out of the room and eventually laid on one of the beds in the infirmary. Opening his eyes, he looked sleepily at his oldest brother, as Scott pulled the covers up around him, gently tucking him in.

"Told John we'd beat you home," he commented briefly, then closed his eyes again, asleep almost at once.

For the first time in over two days, Scott found himself able to laugh.

TB TB TB TB TB

Jeff Tracy made his way quietly into the infirmary in the early morning the next day. Although the remaining conscious Tracy's had made a decision that nobody needed to stay up with John and Alan since everybody was exhausted, and Brain's was certain that there was no cause for concern, Jeff found that he was still unable to sleep.

Stopping at the first bed, he looked at John. Sprawled on his back, taking up the whole bed, he looked totally relaxed, aside from the slight tightness at his mouth and furrowing on his brow. Headache, Jeff thought. Well, that would be the case for awhile from what Brains had said. He was just grateful that that would be the only aftereffect. The early morning sunlight streaming through the windows made no difference to John. He was deeply and thoroughly asleep, his breathing slow and even.

Mind at ease about John, Jeff moved to the next bed which held his youngest. Unlike John, Alan was curled tightly in a fetal position, protecting his broken wrist and collar bone even in sleep. Jeff could only make out the top of his head under the blanket. Smiling, he moved the bedding slightly and laid the back of his hand on Alan's cheek. Alan didn't even stir.

"Fever's down, Dad." Scott's soft voice confirmed what he had just discovered.

Jeff looked up to see his oldest son propped up comfortably in an arm chair in the shadowy corner of the room where the sun had yet to reach.

"So I see. And exactly what are you doing here?" he asked softly, although there was no need. His two sons were completely and deeply out. He didn't think the alarm klaxon would even wake them.

"Same thing you are, I'd guess." Scott answered, completely uncowed. "I couldn't sleep."

"I thought that we'd agreed . . ." Jeff began, but Scott broke him off.

"We did, but frankly, I'm still jumpy," his oldest son admitted.

"Me too," Jeff concurred. "But five hours sleep isn't enough. Especially if we're called out on a rescue."

"For you either," Scott pointed out logically.

Jeff laughed and walked over to his conscious son. Holding out a hand, he said, "Point taken. I'll go back to bed if you will."

Scott shrugged and took the proffered hand, allowing his father to pull him to his feet. "May as well. Brains was in here a little bit ago. He's figured out what they were drugged with. He said that they'll sleep for a LONG time." At his father's questioning look he continued. "No, no harm, or long term aftereffects. It's a sedative, with residual short term effectsof nausea, slowed reflexes, paranoia, and nervousness. They side effects usually lastonly a couple of days, and are best slept off. Basically, they felt really, really lousy.Brains said thatthey'll just sleep like the dead, and they'll be fine when they finally wake up."

"Okay, then. Let's emulate them." Slinging an arm over his Scott's shoulder, they both left the infirmary, lighter of heart.

Virgil watched from the shadows smiling. As soon as the two were out of sight, he slipped into the quiet infirmary, and settled into Scott's vacated chair. This was exactly where he wanted to be.

EPILOGUE

"Good morning," John heard as he finally stirred. The sun was streaming in from the open windows, and he realized that he was home. Hitting the button on the remote control of the hospital bed, he raised the back. Once upright, he stretched guardedly, and looked over to see Scott, Virgil and Gordon quietly engrossed in a game of cards.

He returned the greeting with a nod, then asked, "Alan?"

Scott jutted his chin towards the next bed farther down the line. "Still out for the count."

All John could make out was blond hair amidst a tightly curled mound under the cotton blanket and sheet.

"Where's Dad?"

Virgil laughed quietly. "We'd all agreed that you were both fine, and that nobody needed to stay with you. But somebody always managed to be in here, and it was Dad most of all. We finally made him take a break a couple of hours ago."

"How are you?" Gordon asked softly.

John took stock for a moment. He still had a slight headache, but was especially glad to realize that he finally felt like he was thinking normally. No more slow mental connections and no more paranoia. "Fine, I think," he said with relief. "Amazing what a few hours sleep will do."

Virgil laughed quietly. "A few? Try more like closer to 30 hours."

John looked at him incredulously. "Your not serious."

"He is," Gordon said dropping his cards. "Man, we're dying here. We want the whole story. I mean, you beat us home!"

John laughed. "Yeah, with some help from the juvenile delinquent over there."

"I heard that," came Alan's muffled voice, and the pile on the far bed began to unravel.

"No problem," Gordon snickered. "It's true."

"Shut up," Alan said, without heat.

"We slept 30 hours?" John came back to that, still amazed.

"Pretty close," Scott shrugged. "Brains said it was part of the aftereffects of the stuff you guys had in your system, and part trauma. He said it wasn't anything to worry about."

"Easy for him to say," Alan muttered, wincing as his collarbone bothered him. He mimicked John's earlier movements and raised the head of his bed, and tried to find a comfortable position.

Their attention was diverted for a moment by the arrival of Kyrano, wheeling a food cart full of steaming platters.

"Whoa! Kyrano, what's this?" Virgil said with interest.

"Mr. Brains said that he believed Mr. John and Mr. Alan would be waking up soon. I took the liberty of making a substantial breakfast. I assumed they would be hungry. And if you were not yet awake, I was certain that the others would make use of it," the unflappable man said with a gentle smile.

"You thought right," John said, pleased. He was starved. A glance at Alan showed he was feeling the same way.

"You brought enough to feed an army," Scott said in disbelief.

"I felt that Mr. John and Mr. Alan might be inclined to share," the man deadpanned.

"You thought wrong!" Alan laughed. Gordon made a mock lunge in his direction, but settled instead for helping Kyrano get tables and trays set up, and everybody served.

TB TB TB TB TB

Breakfast was soon demolished, and the tales were told. After both sides caught up with the other, the talk turned to more specifics. The kidnappers were in prison, and charges had already been filed. Jeff already had attorneys deeply involved. John had been correct – his father wanted blood. And now that International Rescue was protected and out of the picture, he was going to get it. John just laughed. He'd expected as much.

He'd also noticed Scott's reaction to their wild car trip with Alan behind the wheel. Gordon was suitably impressed and Virgil disbelieving, but Scott's eyes had narrowed and he had gazed speculatively at an oblivious Alan. Much the same reaction he himself had had, John laughed quietly to himself. Big brother was on the job. He'd leave no stone unturned, of that John had no doubt. Alan was toast, and he was well out of it.

He tuned back into the general conversation as Alan said to him, "I still want to know where you learned to pick handcuffs. You have to teach me!"

"Teach you?" Virgil laughed. "Are you kidding? You get into enough trouble."

"He knows how to pick just about every other type of lock," John said dryly.

"Cool," Gordon grinned, obviously mentally filing that information away for future use. Virgil and Scott just looked horrified.

"How . . ." Virgil began.

Scott closed his eyes in pain. "Parker. It had to be Parker."

"Next time, you might want to be more careful about who you dump me with," Alan pointed out, to Gordon's accompanying laughter.

From just outside the infirmary room door, Jeff smiled as he listened to the banter. He knew he'd get the whole story from John later. And a probably more suitably sanitized version. His sons always protected one another. That was fine. He'd had lots of practice at reading between the lines. And he knew them all much better than they ever gave him credit for.

He listened contentedly for a while longer, enjoying the sounds of all of his sons together, then headed down the hallway. He'd leave them alone for awhile. Very seldom did they get the chance for all five of them to be together as someone was usually on the space station, and Alan away at school. And as everything appeared to be fine now, somebody, probably Virgil, would need to go back up to Five today. He'd talk with John and Alan later, and give the boys some quality time together right now. After all, he had the time. All was right with his world.

finis