Thunderbirds and related characters are not mine. Pants. If they were, you'd be in a multiplex watching this unfold! Oh, if only ...
The soft amber glow washed across the wall of the small kitchen, spreading his distorted shadow over the simple cabinets behind him. Scott squinted in the sudden light and gazed into the fridge, suddenly unsure what it was that had called him out here in the middle of the night.
It wasn't hunger. And his weary body wasn't sure if it really needed fluid of any kind. He stood there transfixed, half asleep. And then his tired eyes rested on some of the contraband that his youngest brother had ferried in.
It was a bribe. He was sure of it. Alan never offered gifts without an ulterior motive. It wasn't a lack of generosity on his part. He was fourteen. And the youngest of five boys. He used whatever means he could to get ahead. And not living on a remote island, far from the delights of the local candy store was one of them.
Chocolate didn't do well in tropical heat. It had started to soften on the approach home and refrigeration had drawn out a white coating on the surface. But nestled among the far healthier, less exciting options it sparkled like an oasis in the desert.
Perhaps it would have been easier to resist had the packet not been opened. With a sigh, he shook his head and reached into the fridge. Too far beyond considering the consequences of being lured into the trap and content with the knowledge that he was at least not the first to venture in, he snapped off a piece of the large bar. Closing the fridge door, he placed the small chunk on his tongue and closed his eyes. God, it was good.
"You realise he's got you know."
The voice was unexpected and Scott's gasp of surprise nearly drew the melting chocolate dangerously close to the back of his throat. He spun round and across the lounge could just make out the faint silhouette draped along one of the sofas.
"Man!" Scott managed through the thick coating on his tongue.
"Sorry." Came the gentle offering, hinted with amusement. "Didn't mean to scare you." The figure moved slightly, slowly heaving itself up into a sitting position and now clearer to make out against the pale lounge wall.
"John …!" Scott groaned, his heart still drumming a stunned rhythm in his ears. "Dude!" He sucked on the sugary lump that filled his mouth and slowly calmed. "You opened it, then?"
A low, gentle chuckle. "No. I would never fall for such an obvious ambush."
Scott frowned and stepped from the kitchenette to wander across the lounge.
"You won't believe who caved first."
"Huh?" Scott's frown grew.
"He crept in here like a pro'." Another soft laugh. "I almost didn't hear him. I would never have believed he had such moves, man!"
"Who?" Scott urged in a delighted conspirational whisper, his tongue still heavy with watery cocoa goodness.
"Kyrano." Came the giggled reply.
"What!" Scott enthused, shoulders hunching down low as he realised how loud that had sounded in the still house.
"No way!" Scott returned to a low whisper, scraping the last of the chocolate from the roof of his mouth with his tongue. "After being all sensible and indignant when it was revealed."
"I know. The lady obviously doth protest way too much."
Scott laughed eagerly. "That's it. Not listening to any more of him and his misses and their healthy diet shit."
"I hear ya." John agreed and leaned down to grasp the bottle that leaned against the front of the couch. He placed the top to his lips and took a long drink.
Scott frowned in the semi-darkness and watched his brother savouring the lager. "Odd time to be drinking." He observed, as casually as he could.
John paused mid-swallow and turned back to his brother.
Scott smiled as he watched the uncertainty on John's face. "That sounded scarily like him didn't it …"
John finished his mouthful and nodded a reply.
Scott considered this for a moment, searching the inside of his lips for any last remnants of sweetness but the chocolate was gone.
"I can't sleep here." John offered after a moment. "Never could."
Scott watched as John began to examine the near empty bottle, his thumb tracing the shield insignia on the label.
"I'm used to a background hum and the noise of the thrusters." John continued pensively. "It's way too quiet down here."
Scott laughed suddenly. "Wait 'till the sprout wakes up and you'll soon regret ever complaining!"
John smiled and shrugged a slight agreement. "I guess."
"You could always sleep down in the plant room." Scott offered, grinning at the image; John camped out in a sleeping bag beside the immense dynamos nestled down near the shoreline that constantly thudded the conversion of water power into electricity. His smile faded as he then saw the gentle frown on John's face. "I'm joking." He added quickly, suddenly concerned that John might actually be considering the idea.
"You think he's ready?"
"Huh?" Scott was confused by the unknown direction John was now spinning off into.
John looked up from his study of the bottle he held and his frown grew. "Alan." He explained carefully.
"Oh." Scott took a deep breath and slumped back against the sofa. "No."
John nodded thoughtfully.
John shrugged and turned to gaze out at the moonlit pool beyond the lounge.
"But …" Scott took a moment to choose his words. "It was you that sold the idea to us."
"It was you that agreed to let him take Two to London."
"It's you that backs up his pleas to leave school."
"I know!" John shouted suddenly, his voice cracking through the lounge. He sighed and stood quickly, a little too quickly. He wavered slightly for a second and then moved away from the couch, aware of his brother watching him in quiet concern.
Scott's eyes had now fully adjusted to the dimness and he caught sight of the neat row of empty bottles that lined up beside the couch. John enjoyed his beer. Everyone knew that. He would savour the opportunity to indulge himself every time he was planet side and void of the strict water rations and dehydration concerns of the station. But downing his week's quota in one night was a new thing. And more than a little off-putting.
"Gordon was his age when he started training with us." Scott offered after a while.
"Alan's not Gordon." John countered.
Scott smiled suddenly, "Not that it's always easy to tell."
John turned and saw his brother's amusement. He allowed himself a smile as he then also considered the pranks that the two youngest of the clan would get up to. He then shook his head and all remnants of his smile were gone. "But Gordon's more focused. Give him a loose rein and he'll go totally crazy but as soon as he's needed he's there."
Scott stood slowly and wandered across to join his brother beside the immense Plexiglas lounge doors, once never closed but now firmly locked to keep out the intruders that they had never before considered.
"He doesn't think. He's all impulse and no reasoning." John continued quietly, "He'll leap out of a plane and worry about the landing half way down."
Scott nodded slowly. "But he has us to make sure his parachute is strapped safely on."
"We can't always," John countered, "We can't be constantly watching out for him. We need to stay focused and not distracted by what he might be charging into."
"He proved himself in London."
"The 'Birds practically fly themselves, Scott." John argued wearily and saw the hurt that flashed across his brother's face. "You know what I mean … sure, it takes skill to control them correctly but … it takes more than just flying a rocket to do what we do."
"And he'll learn that." Scott urged, a sudden smile pulling at his mouth. "Man, I can't believe this! Am I actually defending the little shit?" He laughed softly and shook his head. "It must be the chocolate."
John's sombre face lit up for a moment. "Dangerous stuff that."
"Maybe he laced it with something. I should warn the others."
"Or we could simply sacrifice ourselves." John continued with a chuckle. "Finish off the lot and spare them the torture."
"Yeah!" Scott enthused and pretended to make a dash towards the kitchen.
"No, wait!" John chuckled merrily and turned to grasp his brother around the waist in a mock tackle. "Don't do it!"
"But … I … must!" Scott clawed the air exaggeratedly. "For … the … team!"
"It'll give you spots."
"I don't care. Anything for my family!"
"It'll go straight to your hips."
Scott laughed loudly and relaxed back against him. "Okay."
John chuckled and rested his head against Scott's back.
"It'll be fine." Scott sighed and patted his hands on the arms that still hugged him gently. "You'll see."
"Mmm." John mumbled, "I love you, man."
"Okay!" Scott laughed and prized himself free of the embrace, turning to see John grinning merrily. "Little too much alcohol in your brain there, buddy!"
Scott smiled as he saw John yawn and his stance wavered slightly. "Wo!" He reached out and took hold of John's elbow to steady him. "Bedtime." He began to lead John away from the glass doors and through the lounge.
"Stars." John gasped suddenly.
John shrugged free of Scott's grip and spun back round. "Sleep outside."
"But - " Scott began to protest but then shrugged and followed quickly after his brother to assist with the keypad lock on the centre door.
The air outside was warm and heavy. A slight pale glow in the sky behind the house heralded the approaching dawn and the heat that the sun would soon bring to the day.
"Stars." John sighed contentedly and sank down onto one of the plastic sun loungers, his head falling back against the hard slats with a thud.
"Ouch." Scott grimaced sympathetically and bent down to lift John's legs up onto the lounger.
John rubbed at the back of his head and frowned in annoyance. "Beer bad."
"No," Scott laughed, "Beer good. Just not all in one night."
Scott stood up straight and peered above the house at the approaching light of day. "You gonna be okay out here? The sun can get pretty hot, even first thing."
John nodded wearily and glanced up at the still deep blue above them. "I'm gonna talk to my buddies and then I'll go inside."
"Right …" Scott watched his brother for a fond moment, knowing he was privileged to be seeing a brief glimpse of a not-quite-so-serious John and glad that this side of his brother did still exist, albeit usually locked deep inside. He shook his head in wonder and headed back towards the house.
"Don't do it." John offered quickly.
"Huh?" Scott turned back as he stepped up into the lounge. "Do what?"
"One piece is sneaky theft. Two and you'll owe him."
Scott opened his mouth to argue but somehow the logic of his brother's albeit inebriated mind made sense. He smiled and gave a slight nod. "'Night John."
The glass doors slid shut, a gentle bleeping alerting the status of the locking and alarm mechanisms. Another chorus of tones then signalling that Scott had overridden the code and the doors were left open.
John smiled to himself, glad that he wouldn't now have to face the daunting task of opening the doors once he wanted to retreat inside. He looked up at the last few twinkling lights above him and his smile grew. Somewhere up there, nestled amid the stars, she was watching and waiting. For now, linked up with the island computers and each of them taking a turn to sit with her as she mumbled her thoughts and monitored the goings on around the world.
His first tour of duty since the attack had not been easy and Jeff had called him back perhaps a little sooner than John would have preferred. But his family were worried; they needed the reassurance that if John went up to Five, he would be coming back.
Coming back had been the hardest part. Stepping onto the station for the first time since the repair and remodification had been a welcome relief; he loved it up there and had been distraught at the possibility that she might be lost forever. Coming back, he had been forced to face the memories and the post-trauma oddness of his usually far too bubbly family.
"Can you see her?"
The sudden voice made John gasp in shock, he was sat upright in a heartbeat, his wide eyes scouring his surroundings.
Alan chuckled softly, "Dude … if I'd known, I would have made that more impressive!"
"Shit!" John clapped a hand to his chest dramatically. "You scared the crap out of me!" He laughed in relief and slumped back against his chair, his eyes adjusting to the darkness beneath the shade of the house and now able to make out his brother's form.
Alan chuckled again, "I'd say sorry but your face was just priceless! Cheered me up no end."
John grinned and shook his head slightly. "Cheeky little shit …" He then frowned and turned back, trying to focus on Alan's shadowy figure. "Cheered you up?" He sat back up and swung his feet over the side of the lounger. "Why? What's wrong?"
Alan stood from his crouched position down at the far edge of the house and stepped into the gentle light from the lounge behind them. He padded slowly across the decking, his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans.
John frowned in concern. "How long you been out here?"
Alan shrugged slightly, "A while. Needed some air."
John watched his brother approach, now seeing the damp, sandy hem of the bottom of his jeans. "Don't let Dad know you went roaming in the middle of the night."
Alan grunted sullenly.
John shuffled up along the lounger and patted the free end. "What's up, dude?"
Alan paused for a moment, a smile dancing on his lips. "You only call people that when you've had a few Buds."
John grinned up at him. "True."
Alan sat down beside John and suddenly smiled up at his big brother. "You're drunk!"
"I've only had a bew feers."
Alan sniggered in delight.
John grinned and dragged a hand through his hair. "'Course, after three weeks of basic rations, perhaps my metabolism can't cope with the sudden influx of alcoholicky goodness."
"All hail the genius of the family." Alan laughed.
John opened his mouth to protest and then suddenly thought better of it, shooting Alan a mock glare instead.
Alan stuck out his tongue in response and then gasped as he was suddenly pulled into an out of character hug. He lost his balance and fell into John's tight embrace, surprised but equally delighted by such unusual affection. After a moment he thought he should pull back but John had a tight hold of his shoulders and Alan smiled as he tucked his face into his brother's neck and slipped his arms about John's waist.
After a few minutes, the embrace seemed to reach a natural conclusion and Alan felt John's arms relax a little. He sat back upright and caught the smallest of smile's on John's face. And then there was silence.
"Are you ready?"
Alan watched the sincerity in John's eyes and considered his response for a moment.
John suddenly smiled and nodded in understanding. "Then you are."
Alan laughed and frowned in confusion. "Huh-what?"
"If you're still unsure, then you're ready to learn."
"Oh hell …" Alan groaned, "Is this gonna be one of Dad's 'you're a man now' speeches?"
John grinned, "What, with those pimples?" He saw the instant horror in Alan's face and reached out to grab his shoulders and hug him close to him once again. "No. No speeches."
"Good. You were just starting to finally get interesting."
John chuckled softly, "Touché."
And silence surrounded them again. Until the birds began to noisily alert them to the approach of day.
"Are you ready?" Alan asked quietly, freeing himself from John's loose embrace.
John turned to look in at the house beyond the glass doors and shrugged a reply. "It's a harmless compound."
"They're gonna freak."
"Like you can't handle it?" John spun back, one eyebrow arched in amusement.
"The blame, yeah. The secret, no."
John's smile faded a little and he shook his head, a little anxiously. "Oh, they can never know, dude."
Alan grinned and stood slowly. "And they never will."
John nodded and his smile washed over his face. "Cool." He held up his hand, palm-outwards and giggled as it was slapped in conspiratorial success.
Alan sighed merrily and headed inside; feeling a renewed energy flowing through him and realising with delight that, despite being weighed down with the aftershocks of all that had happened, he had discovered the coolest of allies along the way. And life could throw at him whatever it liked.
He had John.
And John had one of the best weapons going.
They'd never see it coming.
With thanks to Agent Yellow for helping me out with understanding the mind of a fourteen year old. Probably best we don't go into that one ;o)