Chapter Twelve: Confrontations, revelations, and memories
Scott barely had the time to be surprised when Alan slid out of his grip and started running again. He cursed. His brother was slicker than an eel, and worse, he was afraid, and fear had always been a good motivator.
The harsh words Alan had uttered were running through his head as he followed the younger man. Kill him. He expects me to kill him.
But why? Alan had never been afraid of him in his entire life. Well, maybe a bit frightened, but that was usually after he had somehow evoked his brother's fury through some foolish stunt; and most of the time, he reacted with anger rather than fear. Never had he believed that Scott would actually harm him.
"Alan!" Scott shouted, but the blonde wasn't listening. He ran at top speed, heading towards an old factory building.
Scott, hot on his heels, felt his brotherly instincts rise. If Alan continued like that, he'd injure himself. His brother had thrown all caution in the wind and was running like a mad-man. It was difficult to see in the darkness, but Scott thought he recognized some rusty looking stairs, leading down...
Slow down...please slow down...
Without looking back, Alan thundered down the rather dubious looking stairway. And he didn't seem to be slowing down. Scott's eyes widened in dread as he saw the speed at which his brother hurtled down the stairs.
Be careful, be careful...
Too late. The momentum was too great, Alan stumbled. For a moment, he was hanging in empty air, arms windmilling wildly. Scott darted forward, but he was too far behind, couldn't reach his brother in time.
His body hit the stairs with a sickening thud, and then he rolled the rest of the way, connecting harshly with the stairs. His limbs flopped around in an aimless way, making him resemble a rag-doll. The staircase wasn't long, and he'd already been half the way down when he'd stumbled, but it still looked very painful.
For a moment, Scott was frozen – he had a horrible vision of Alan's broken body lying on the ground, his brother taken from him again.
I've just found him! I can't lose him again! Please, this can't be happening...
The blonde came to a rolling stop on the ground and didn't move. A groan escaped his lips, almost too soft to hear.
"Alan!" That shook him out of his stupor and he raced down the stairs, coming to a skidding stop beside his brother. "Alan?"
An icy feeling of dread trickled through his stomach when he didn't receive a response. No! He couldn't lose him all over again!
"Are you okay?" There was an edge of panic in his voice as he asked, falling down on one knee to examine his brother. He stretched out his hand, trying to get Alan to face him, trying to get a response. Then training kicked in and he shoved his emotions aside, trying to deal with this like he would with any rescue.
"No!" Alan recoiled from him as if he was on fire. "Get away from me!"
Relief washed over Scott – Alan was alive, he wasn't dead – followed by irritation and confusion. What the heck was wrong with him? Was he...stoned?
That could be a logical explanation for his behaviour, and Scott kicked himself for not having thought of it earlier. Drugs often caused paranoia, extreme feelings and delusions. He reached out again, this time intending to look at Alan's eyes – dilated pupils were a sure sign of drug-induced hallucinations.
But he never came that far. Alan let out a wild roar – sounding more like an animal than the human being he was – and attacked him.
It was safe to say that Scott Tracy had never expected to be attacked by one of his brothers. Quarrels, yes; bouts of wrestling in the gym, certainly; and sometimes arguments, nasty word exchanges. But attacked, in the meaning of real, proper dirty street fighting? No. Never.
And so it was quite understandable why he froze in shock when Alan suddenly threw himself at him, throwing punches with such a fury that he was propelled backwards.
His youngest brother seemed convinced that Scott was going to kill him, a notion that hurt him deeper than he let on. Even if he was on drugs, he should know that Scott would never hurt him. Right?
"Alan, stop this nonsense! Have you gone mad? I'm not going to kill you!" He tried to calm his panicked brother, feeling totally overwhelmed. He had been ready to deal with an indignant and sulking Alan, even with an Alan that had been kidnapped by some criminals, but this? This wasn't the brother he knew. He behaved like a different person! And it scared him.
"Sure you are!" Alan spat, his eyes open wide. "I might not remember everything, but I do know your face, and the last time I saw you, you were making death threats..."
And then Scott understood. Understood why Alan had been acting that way; why there wasn't the slightest hint of recognition in his eyes; why he looked so lost and miserable. It wasn't drugs. He hadn't been kidnapped. No, it was something far more frightening.
"So that's why you didn't contact us? You...couldn't remember?" He blanched at the mere idea. Amnesia was not unknown to him – with the amount of injuries and trauma he had to deal with, he had encountered it frequently.
But not in one of my brothers. It happens to victims, to people I don't know, people I can treat with professional detachment. It can't be Alan...he would have forgotten everything...has forgotten about his role in IR, about Tracy Island, about me...
Dear heaven, he doesn't remember me!
It was a selfish thought, but one Scott couldn't stop thinking. His little brother, the boy he had taught how to walk, didn't remember him, looked at him as if he was some stranger.
Emotions flashed over Alan's face, quicker than the eye could follow. For a moment, he didn't look like the man he was, but like a boy, utterly lost and alone. Scott had gotten the answer he had been looking for; but it wasn't one he particularly liked.
And then Alan screamed.
It was a shout of rage and frustration, of hatred and loss. Suddenly, his eyes burned with wild fire and he sprang forward, attacking again, with a ferocity that Scott had never seen before, hadn't even known that his brother was capable of it.
Oh God, he doesn't remember me and he thinks I'm going to kill him...
No wonder he's freaking out...but why?
"Alan!" He barely escaped a flying fist. "Alan, please calm down...I can explain everything!"
But it was no use. Alan seemed to have lost his reason; he was in a full-blown panic attack, deaf to everything around him. He continued to fight, the way a wounded animal in a trap won't stop struggling, harming itself in the process.
He caught Scott off-guard, threw him to the ground until they rolled through the dirt, the older brother barely able to avoid getting hit.
I can't fight back...hell, I can't hit my little brother!
"I hate you! I hate all of you!" Alan raged on, his eyes blazing. He continued beating Scott's chest in a useless fashion, tears spilling down his cheeks. Scott was too stunned to react. Never before in his life had he seen his brother...freaking out like that. Alan might lose his temper, but he was still Alan, his kid brother. This, however, was downright scary – like a stranger, a lunatic who wore the face of someone he had once known.
Scott held up his hands, trying to stop the blows and winced when one struck.
"Alan, stop!" He tried to get through to his brother. "I'm not going to hurt you, I'll help you, Alan, would you just listen!"
Alan didn't hear. His eyes glinting dangerously, he darted forward again, striking with his fist. The movement came too quick even for Scott's lightning reflexes. It connected with the side of his head, throwing him backwards. Hot pain flared up, and for a moment, the world tilted out of focus.
Scott blinked and held up his arm to protect himself. Blood was running down his face, but he ignored it, too shocked by what had just happened.
Alan had punched him.
And judging from the look on his face, he wasn't feeling particularly sorry about it.
He thinks I'm his enemy.
He hates me.
He is afraid of me.
I don't understand. If he can't remember me, I should just be another stranger. This shouldn't happen. Why does he remember me that way?
"Why?" Scott asked, his voice almost inaudible, not tearing away his gaze from his brother. He flinched, as Alan made a movement, expecting to be hit again and hating himself for it. He wasn't weak; but he couldn't fight his brother, of all people!
Or maybe he has been feeling like that for forever. Maybe he has hidden those feelings, and now they come to the surface, because he can't remember to hold them back...
But he can't be afraid of me, he's my little brother! I'm not that terrible, am I? I know that we often fight, and that I've got a quick temper...but he knows that I love him, does he? He knows!
So why does he behave that way?
Alan sat back on his heels and stared at him, breathing heavily. His face was full of scratches from the fall, and his hair stuck out in all directions. The punch seemed to have brought him back to his senses – or what was left of them. He stared at Scott with his mouth hanging open, awareness trickling back into his face. The panic disappeared and...something else flashed through his eyes, something almost akin to...recognition?
"Alan..." Scott began, though he had no idea what to say. He had lost control, was slipping, a feeling he didn't like at all. Maybe one of the others would have been better equipped to deal with this – John, for example - the relationship between him and Alan had always been a bit rocky. But who could have known?
Alan let out a weird sound – a mixture between a groan and a sob – and clutched his head, grimacing in pain. His eyes lost their focus and he swayed back and forth, like a drunken man searching for balance. Scott stretched out his arm to steady him and stopped when a sharp sting in his head reminded him of the fact that Alan wasn't very fond of him of him at the moment.
The blonde moaned again, all anger seeping out of his body, and then curled up in a ball, his shoulders shaking.
Huh? What's happening now?
"Hey." Scott's voice was so tentative that his brothers would have been surprised to hear it.
Alan ignored him, just made himself even smaller, trying to hide from the world. He now resembled more the little kid brother Scott knew so well. When they'd been younger, Alan had always curled up when he was afraid, as if it would somehow protect him from anything nasty. Scott's heart went out to his brother, and, all hesitation gone, he moved across and put his arms around the trembling figure.
He expected to be shoved away, to be attacked again, but moments passed and nothing happened. Alan only tensed, surprised by the sudden hug.
"Shh." Scott whispered, almost immediately falling back into the role as older brother – comforting his siblings had always been his first goal.
To his surprise, Alan relaxed into him. A small sniffle broke the silence, another followed – and suddenly the blonde was racked by violent shudders, as he cried wordless tears into his brother's shirt.
Scott held him tight, glad that he was able to feel his presence, happy that Alan was alive. It filled him with a warm glow from the inside. He closed his eyes briefly, allowing himself to bask for a moment in the gentle happiness of having his brother back – and then took the opportunity to examine said brother.
A lot of bruises – Scott winced inwardly when the saw how blue Alan's rib cage was – and a ragged looking gash on his left arm. Several cuts, but none of them too serious – most of them were wrapped in bandages anyway. Probably a concussion, too, judging from the fall he had taken.
"If only I had known..." In an unconscious gesture of affection, Scott stroked the blonde hair out of Alan's face. "And here I thought you'd forgotten about us...well, you did, in the literal sense of the word...damn, you must have been so alone!"
Alan didn't respond, caught up in his own little world. Scott had no idea what his brother was going through at the moment, so he contented himself with holding him, offering what little support he could.
Memory loss. Amnesia.
The idea of Alan wandering around helplessly, not knowing who or where he was, while they'd been looking for him everywhere...it was enough to turn his stomach. While they had been sitting on Tracy Island, Alan had been forced to fight with his own, personal demons. It was must have been dreadful.
Scott remembered the dark circles under Alan's eyes, the haunted look, the tension in his shoulders. The last days had taken their toll on him. The usual round and open face looked thin and haggard, etched with lines of worry and exhaustion. The blonde hair was matted and dirty.
Tin-Tin had been right. Alan would never have skived off, not without a serious reason, and Scott felt foolish for believing so.
He'd known, deep down. Had known that Alan wouldn't do that. But it was easier to be angry, because that was an emotion he knew – an emotion he could deal with. He hadn't wanted to acknowledge any other possibilities, because they scared him, and he didn't want to be scared. Didn't want to feel the mind-wrenching worry. It was easier to feel anger...
"I'm sorry," Scott whispered, as he ran gentle hands along Alan's shaking body and checked for broken bones. To his relief, he found none, though he suspected that the ribs were bruised severely - and one wrist appeared sprained. He looked very battered, his brother, signs of the catastrophe he had lived through. "I'm sorry for doubting you."
Despite everything that had happened - and his memory loss, which seemed to be vast – Alan had been drawn to the racetrack, something he was familiar with. Had he remembered that bit? Or had he just acted on instinct?
He had looked happy for a moment, before Scott had announced his presence. That thought alone gnawed at his gut. It was Scott's fault that Alan had run, Scott's fault that Alan was afraid, that he fell down the stairway...
But if he remembered racing, he should remember his family sooner or later...shouldn't he?
Alan began to relax, and the breathing that had been coming in short gasps now settled into a more even rhythm. Scott waited with a patience he hadn't known he possessed. He didn't want to destroy the fragile peace they had created. He didn't even know what had changed; but he was glad for it.
However, he needed to make sure how severe the memory loss was; and he needed to reassure his confused brother that his fear wasn't real, that he was here to help, and not to kill.
Thinking that I'm out to murder him...honestly.
Alan groaned and mumbled something he couldn't understand. Then he scrunched up his nose, like he had always done when they had been kids and he'd been dreaming about something nasty. Scott watched him with a bemused smile; some things, it seemed, would never change.
"Alan?" he asked again, his voice very soft.
The blonde groaned and blinked through the headache that was exploding in his skull. His gaze was blurry at first, but then focused on Scott. A set of emotions washed over his face – fear, confusion, understanding, frustration. Scott was ready to pin him to the ground should he run again – but Alan didn't move. Instead, he just stared at him, his eyes wide and solemn.
"Hi." Scott smiled.
Alan just watched him warily.
"I'm not going to hurt you."
There was a heavy silence between them – and then Alan shook his head. "I know that." he replied instead, his voice rough and unsteady. "Well...I think I do."
"I should be insulted if not", Scott tried to joke, even though his heart nearly broke when he heard the uncertainty, the confusion. "I'm your brother."
Alan blinked, face set in stone. "But I remembered...remembered you wanting to kill me."
Pain flashed over Scott's features. "Well, I don't really understand..." he began and trailed off. "What exactly did you remember?"
Alan shrugged. "Nightmares. Mostly your face – screaming at me, and you were so mad! I believed for sure that you were going to kill me! You said so yourself – screamed it, actually. 'I swear I'm going to kill you', something like that." He rubbed his aching head, wincing when he touched a sore spot.
Scott swallowed hard. Now that he thought of it, he had said some rather nasty things. The phrase Alan had mentioned was his standard curse after his younger brothers had played a prank on him again. Yet it was never meant in a serious way, and they knew it. He just got...mad.
However, take the words out of context and the whole world shifted. Alan had remembered them, but without everything around it. Given that evidence, it was no surprise that he had been convinced that his brother meant serious harm.
Scott felt sick. So Alan had been running away from him, having nightmares, for God's sake, just because he couldn't control his temper in a stupid fight!
In the future, he really would have to really watch what he said.
Alan, unaware of what was going on in his brother's head, sat up and winced as his body protested. He felt battered, but relieved. At first he didn't know why, but then he realized...realized that where there had been emptiness before, his head was now full of memories. They didn't make sense; most of them weren't even connected, and there were far too many of them – a memory overload.
It would have been funny, but he couldn't muster the energy to laugh.
But at least they were there!
"You were angry because I...did something to...your 'bird?" He concentrated hard, trying to make sense of the overlapping pictures. "Yes. I know. The morning before we left on the rescue, I had been loading some programmes into Thunderbird One's computer. It was taking a long time, so I went to get a pizza from the kitchen. Tin Tin came into the cockpit while I was working..." Alan stopped and smiled. Tin-Tin. Of course. Finally he had a name to go with the beautiful girl. Then he noticed that Scott was waiting – Scott, his brother! - and continued dutifully.
"...and I put the plate on the floor while we had a little er, chat. By the time I had finished the programming I had forgotten all about it. I was playing pool...I think...that's the game with the cues, yes?...when you came storming into the games room, breathing fire. You'd gone into One to see if I had finished, stood on the pizza and slipped. You were pretty mad at me. We were just working up to one of our rows when the alarm went off."
Alan stopped in wonder. The words had tumbled out of his mouth effortlessly, yet he still had to make sense of them. It was like before, on the racetrack. His mouth said things his brain didn't know yet, and only after the words had left his mouth, he realized that they were true. He had a past. He had a history. It was there.
He was someone!
"I'm sorry." Scott started to apologize, but Alan didn't appear to hear him. He stared at some spot to his left, a faraway look on his face.
Scott waited with baited breath. It seemed as if Alan's memories were returning – maybe triggered by his presence? - and he didn't want to destroy this miracle.
"There was a rescue", he began and looked at Scott, the man he had thought was out to kill him. He saw only kindness in the blue eyes, so similar to his own. "Wasn't there?"
...have to do something, oh no, it's too late, the wave's there shitwhatamidoing...
"And I was...in the water." The blonde continued, looking at the pictures in his mind. "I wanted to help...the boy. And then the water came. The wave. It hit. And it hurt." He blinked in the darkness. "You were screaming at me."
"I didn't want you to take off the harness." Remembering the rescue was painful. "It was a foolish thing to do."
...I'm so dead, I'm going to die I don't wanna die please...
"I wanted to help him."
Scott didn't dare to hope. Alan looked different compared to before. The almost mad look had disappeared, had been replaced by contemplation and honest confusion. Awareness shone out of his blue eyes, and for the first time, Scott had the feeling that he was really dealing with Alan, not some stranger who bore the same face.
Alan looked up, and saw him – really saw him – for the first time since the whole ordeal started. For a moment, time seemed frozen, while he took in everything – the shirt that had been torn during the fight, the darkening bruise on Scott's face, the scrapes on his knuckles from where he had been forced to defend himself – and horror began to dawn. This was...not a killer. This was a man he knew...had known...was...familiar...
He blinked through the pictures that flashed in front of his eyes, swaying under the mental blizzard that seemed to rage through his head.
The thought stood in the forefront of his mind with such clarity that he couldn't help but shudder. Not a killer. Not a madman. His brother. His brother Scott, whom he had known for his whole life.
...friendly, easy-going banter at the breakfast table...
And his name wasn't John, either. It was Alan. Alan Shepherd Tracy. And John was the name of his older brother, the one who had the same blonde hair as him, who was an astronaut, just like him, and who loved the stars...
...exhausting, frustrating tennis battles, young against old, the war raging on for hours, until both parties fell to the ground and couldn't move any longer...
Not a criminal. He wasn't a criminal. The thought filled him with such profound relief that he felt his knees go weak. Even though it had seemed unlikely in the end, he couldn't help but wonder...and the mere idea had scared him.
...the smell of perfume when Tin-Tin brushed by him, alluring and exotic...
So. He had to keep secrecy, but only because he belonged to...International Rescue...
Alan almost smiled as that particular memory came back. Over the last days, he had heard sing-songs of praise for International Rescue, never once realising that he was one of those famous heroes in blue...it certainly put a lot of things in perspective.
...loud, painful arguments, where both lost their temper and got so mad at each other that the only way to escape was to leave the room and slam the door...
"Yes." He finally answered, his voice a triumphant whisper. "I remember."
And those were the best words he'd ever said, sweet tasting and full of triumph.
Scott gave a whoop of joy, something so out-of-character for his older brother that Alan found himself gaping at him, and hugged him fiercely. "Alan! I'm so glad to have you back! You had me worried!"
"Well, I was worrying myself." Alan smiled through the splitting headache he was encountering. "It was horrible, Scott! I didn't know who I was, and so I kept drifting around...I had myself convinced that I was some wanted criminal!"
"No way! Why that?"
"Well," the blonde gave a sheepish grin, "First, I had this need for secrecy which I couldn't explain to myself - must have been some kind of subconscious IR protection safeguard – and then I hot-wired a car. I had to," he quickly admonished against Scott's shocked look, "There was nobody there, it was like a freakish nightmare, and I wanted to escape those ghost towns as soon as possible."
Scott nodded in understanding, feeling that there was still a lot Alan wasn't telling. How frightening it must have been – he tried to imagine himself in the situation and failed horribly.
"And then, of course, I saw my picture on the newspaper...gave me a real scare!" Alan shook his head, seeing the irony of the situation. "I had myself convinced that I was being hunted by some kind of mafia!" He snorted, since International Rescue was probably almost the exact opposite of a mafia – well, with the exception of the secrecy and the patriarch...
But he could remember! He didn't mind the headache, but he finally knew who he was – Alan Shepherd Tracy, twenty-three years old, former racing driver, International Rescue operative, pilot of Thunderbird Three and astronaut. Smiling serenely at the happy thought, he didn't notice when Scott stood up and was thus startled when a helpful hand was offered to him.
"Come on, kid, let's go home. There are a lot of people waiting to see you."
Home! Alan rolled the idea around in his head. What a wonderful word. He wasn't drifting any longer; he had an anchor place, a history, and a family.
And he was itching to see them again, to hear Gordon's familiar banter, see Virgil's laughing face, eat Grandma's apple-pie, feel Tin-Tin's sweet touch on his skin. He wanted it more than anything, and yet...
"Hang on, Scott." He pulled himself up and leaned on Scott's shoulder for support. His injured ankle stung like hell, but he was far too happy to complain. "I've got to tell Mick and Henry what happened – they're really nice guys. They were my friends when I had no-one, and I will never forget that. They knew I had lost everything in the flood, they'll be pleased to find out that this is not the truth! And you should see the car, it's really great, I did some work on it, and boy, it's good, maybe they let me make a few rounds, I'd like that..."
Scott nodded amused. Typical Alan – as soon as he had his memory back, he was talking his ear off. But he wouldn't have exchanged that for anything in the world. Right now, Alan's babbling was the sweetest sound on this planet.
"Well. Let's go then. But not for long – I want Brains to have a look at your injuries. Amnesia is not to be taken lightly."
Alan rolled his eyes. "I'm fine, Scott."
"Ten minutes ago you were convinced that I'd cut your throat. You're far from fine, Alan."
"Alan, we thought you were dead! And then I find you running away from me! Humour me - you're going to get examined, even if I have to knock you unconscious and tie you to a chair!" Scott glared at his brother.
Alan mumbled something under his breath. Even the prospect of a gruesome examination couldn't dampen his mood – he could have hugged the world. Then another idea struck him. "Hey Scott, I bet you came here with Thunderbird One?" The grin threatened to split his face in two halves.
Scott, having learned from experience that this meant no good, nodded wearily. "Why?"
"Well, let's just say there's this farm that I want to pay a visit to...I wonder what Annie and Howard will say if Thunderbird One lands in Annie's herb garden and I climb out of the cockpit?"
Well, Pen wanted me to post earlier, but I simply didn't get the chance to use the net. Anyway, this is the last chapter, and I can't help feeling that I disappointed everyone with it. Sigh. I thought about writing an epilogue, but really, I could think of nothing appropriate.
Thank you - everybody who reviewed. I'm glad that you like(d) it - sometimes I was ready to chuck it out because it annoyed me so much, especially since there are already really good amnesia stories out there (far better than my attempt).
My thanks to Pen, because the story would have been only half as good without her, and filled with many more embarrassing mistakes and gaping plotholes. And to Mapu, for the technical help with races and cars.