Disclaimer: Thunderbirds in the property and work of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson and their studios etc. This is not for profit.

Authors Notes: Just a little Christmas fic, unedited and written in the dead of Christmas night. No violence, no bad language, but there is a very good chance you'll choke on the sweetness. Sort of an apology for not having the next chapter of 'Psychics' ready. Sorry.

Please, read and review. And Merry Christmas.

--------------------------------------

Zen Crackers – by Ryuuza Kochou

--------------------------------------

Alan trudged along the frozen road to the station, pack slung over one shoulder. He didn't have money for a cab, but it wasn't very far to the bus stop, and he knew where to go from there.

All around him, the frozen forests were silent and crystalline, a grey-white world stripped to it's skeleton, sleeping, tranquil, indifferent. Quite peaceful for the brisk if chilly stroll along the road.

The road was a flat grey line, it matched the décor of the landscape, sharp and stark against the forests chaotic jaggedness. Despite the darkening landscape, the shadowed eaves, the icy wind, Alan was cheerful, warm and bright.

Alan was never one to give up after the first trip and fall. Nothing gave him more incentive than a challenge.

The challenge in this case was the sincere and heartfelt message I'm so sorry about this

---------------------------------------

"I'm sorry about this, Mr Tracy."

Jeff pinched his nose and made an attempt at patience. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but last time I checked we did not rent out our major structure lab as a convention space, Mr Garrett."

Garrett winced. When Jeff Tracy was reduced to using a surname, it meant at least a pay cut offence. "It wasn't my…our intention to do it, sir. It just sort of…turned out that way."

"I was told the executives of Airterranean and Thrust Inc. needed an emergency commune space to hash out an agreement to take care of the stranded thousands across the Atlantic after the breakdown of the L-two-seven Air Bus. I wasn't told that we'd require a band, champagne, four full frown fir trees and fifty wreaths of holly to string over the four-four-two-six prototype." Although Jeff had to admit the massive thrusters certainly looked…festive. "Of the many things I appreciate about my employees, being called by a bewildered security head to ask if we can run the orchestra instruments through the x-ray in the lobby on Christmas Eve was not one of them. I gave up time with my family to mediate Mr Garrett, not mingle."

"Both companies had Christmas parties planned for tonight before the situation arose, sir. And when they asked…"

"You thought it would be…advantageous for our competitors and partners to see Tracy Corp's biggest projects; a little free publicity and political intimidation wrapped up in a nice package with a bow," Jeff finished, annoyed. It wasn't that he hadn't made use of such a tactic before, it was just that he resented being steered into it by his own company.

"The board agreed, sir," Garrett took refuge in the mob.

Jeff looked at him – young, smart, very, very ambitious. "The board, Mr Garrett, does not own this company. Since there's nothing I can do about it now, I suggest you go and give the caterers a hand. For the rest of the night, including dishes."

Not even turning from the catwalk railing to confirm the dismissal, Jeff watched dismally as decorations were hastily erected on the wide floor below him.

"Not like that!" He called down to the people speedily trying to decorate the huge trees lumped into the space. "Everyone knows the lights….

-----------------------------------------------

"….go before the baubles," Scott took the boxes out of Gordon's hands. "How many years have we done this, Gordo?"

"Conformist," Gordon accused, grinning. He looked over the wide but rather nice Tracy Christmas tree – fake, of course. It was more trouble than it was worth to have a real one flown in and Kyrano, professional horticulturist, said that even a hardy pine tree would have difficulty in the South Pacific climes.

"As if we'd get a say anyway," Scott shrugged. "With Maestro Virgil at the canvas."

Virgil was standing in front of the naked tree, just looking at it like he had been for the last twenty straight minutes. Ever since he had been old enough to hang ornaments, Virgil had worked the entire look out in his head beforehand and wouldn't rest until it was just so. He brought his artists tastes into everything he did.

"Any minute now, and the tree won't know what hit it…" Gordon sing-songed. Then he sighed. "This is going to be the thinnest Christmas crowd we've ever had."

Virgil turned his head from his contemplation. "Nothing we could do, Gordon. Dad went to pick up Alan, but he got detoured. And John can't come down. But we'll have the satellite hook up and the messaging system, we'll keep in touch."

"We got John's care package up there," Scott sighed, untangling the ropes of lights. "What else can we do?"

Virgil sat down at the piano, and opened the lid disconsolately. "Three out of six. Half our compliment."

"Dad will get Alan day after tomorrow and we can celebrate then," Scott grunted. "And John got his Christmas kit, which was the plan from the beginning."

"What did we put in there, anyway?" Virgil began playing a familiar tune idly.

"Oh, good stuff," Gordon replied, grinning suspiciously. "He'll get hours of entertainment out of it."

Virgil played. Hark the herald angels sing…

-----------------------------

… 'Glory to the newborn King'

"I'm going to kill you Gordon," John muttered to himself, screwdriver in hand. The damn box, a metre square and wrapped in neon red with a huge plastic ribbon had started singing various carols an hour ago, and John couldn't turn it off without loosening several key panels to get the lid off. A delicate job of complex moves. He wouldn't have minded the carols, except that they had all the tone and pitch of ring tones and were sped up to nearly incomprehensible beat. It was much like bad elevator music. And it was loud.

"Ah ha!" John finally for the garish lid of and reached in to stop the recording. He was not amused by the 'A Little Christmas Ambience' message scrawled across the note. Tossing it aside, he processed to check the contents. Let's see, Tupperware with the Christmas feast – actual food, thought John, not the preserved stuff, - trimmings, tinsel, wreaths for Thunderbird Five, lots of various goodies, several wrapped parcels with a stern note forbidding pre-Christmas peeking. And several already cracked Christmas crackers. He picked up the note attached to them, grinning.

'Zen Crackers, n., - crackers we would pull with you if we were there, but we aren't, so we can't.'

Snap!

John jumped and dropped and the half a cracker as it made a tiny explosive noise. He let out a breath as it was followed by the recording of a snigger. "Got you, Johnny."

John pulled out the tiny recording device. "Funny, Gordon." Although he was amused by the thoroughness of the Zen Crackers.

He laughed as he read the cracker joke, and got out his messenger pager.

FR: J5 TO: DA, S1, G4, V2, AL

Q: What do you call an IR agent who counts to twenty?

----------------------------------------------

FR: J5

A: Barefoot

Alan chuckled to himself and quietly as he could, trying not to wake the sleeping bus, but it was hard.

Huddled in his rather uncomfortable seat, Alan tapped out the message.

FR: AL TO: DA, S1, G4, V2, J5

Five IR agents walk into a bar…

----------------------------------------------

"You'd think one of them would have noticed," Gordon chuckled. "Old, Sprout, very old."

He shifted uncomfortably on the kitchen chair, feeling restless. Virgil was still fussing over the tree, and Scott was checking the command centre's systems as per procedure. "Hey Scott! Did John say that he could get the uplink to Tracy Corp in a video stream?"

"John and I organised that a week ago," Virgil called in from the lounge. "It should be fine, but if it's going to be live, we'd better organise what exactly this extravaganza will include. Cabaret singing?"

"With Scott's voice?"

"You're in no position to complain on that score Gordon," Virgil retorted. "We learned our lesson when we got you a karaoke set last year."

"Hey, is Scott still in the study?" Gordon said suddenly, coming into the lounge.

"Yep," Virgil replied, setting a strand of tinsel fastidiously.

"Then I can give you your present," Gordon exclaimed cheerfully.

Virgil looked surprised. "It's not Christmas yet."

"I know." Gordon took a breath. "Thanks."

"Your welcome," Virgil replied blankly. "For what?"

"The rescue, in the mud, last week. You know, my back went out and you jumped off the platform and hauled me out," Gordon explained. "I'm never going to admit I was wrong in front of Scott or Dad am I? They'll never let it go. But you saved my life, I admit that. So…thank you."

Virgil looked nonplussed. "That's my present? You're a bit of a cheapskate, Gordon."

"Hey," Gordon threw up his hands. "I'm standing here freely admitting that I needed help and that you were better at our job than me. You can't buy that! I'm standing here and admitting it! I'm actually saying thank you, you jerk!"

"Gordon?"

"What?"

"Your welcome. Anytime."

They smiled at each other.

"Just let me get the mistletoe, so we can do this tender scene properly," Virgil leered, snickering.

"You're a sick man," Gordon grinned. "But that gives me an idea…"

FR: G4 TO: J5, DA, AL

This is a virtual mistletoe message. Once you read it, you must kiss the first person you see…

----------------------------------------

His messenger buzzed again, much to Jeff's relief. He politely excused himself from the grip of Meredith Dayshon, Thrust Inc CFO, who was laying it on pretty thick to get his attention.

Messages had been going back and forth between his sons all evening. It gave him an excuse to break free of the grasp of many drunken and ambitious corporate executives, whose conversation was neither stimulating nor kind.

"Excuse me, I have to take this…"

He looked at the message, and laughed.

FR: DA TO: G4, J5, AL

Not for five bucks, son. Do keep in mind who handles your trust.

He waited for a moment in his corner, and it buzzed again.

FR: AL TO: DA
Is She Ugly, Dad? Take what you can get, haha

Oh, very nice. His issue was ganging up on him.

About to respond, the messenger buzzed again. A slight shiver that had passed along his back from before became a full out chill.

FR: G4 TO: DA
Hold that thought, Dad. The heat just got turned up in the heavens. S1 checking if there's a problem

------------------------------------------

"I'm fine, Scott," John assured gently. "I turned up the heat because I felt cold all of a sudden."

"Don't do that to me, John," Scott sighed. "I thought it might be a breach in the station hull. It was bad enough not being able to breathe when Gordon went under the mud last month…"

"I was pretty breathless too, when I lost contact," John replied softly, recalling that moment of dark, heavy airlessness reluctantly. "You know he's been really hit by the incident, don't you? He knows that he miscalculated."

"Of course," Scott snorted over the video image. "If I thought it was a problem, I'd 've brought it up with him, though. The whole situation snowballed on him, literally. It wasn't his fault. I'm not going to give him a hard time – my Chrisse present to him."

John grinned. "Nice. Cheap, and easy." John changed the subject. "I think I got cold because I started thinking of the snow. You remember, when Mom was pregnant with Virgil, that year? We took up every square inch of snow in the yard to make snowmen? Just you, me, Mom and Dad. We did it every year since."

"I'm surprised you remember that," Scott looked it. "You were just a toddler still. So was I, really."

"No, I remember," John smiled. "I guess you made sandmen this year. To bad I couldn't do it up here."

Scott looked surprised. "You didn't look in the freezer bag?"

"Yes," John replied, taken aback. "I got the tub of ice cream…"
Scott's image smiled. "You didn't look inside?"
Giving Scott a nonplussed look, John turned to the mini freezer and bought out the unmarked container, which was quite large. He pried open the lid.

"Scott!" John cried, nearly tearing up. The ice cream snowman grinned at him with choc chip eyes and a wafer nose. "Thank you!"

"Merry Christmas."

Gordon wandered into the background, rubbing his arms. "We're ready for the uplink. Hey, can I turn on the heat, Scott? Is anyone else cold?"

---------------------------------------------

Shivering, Alan kept on jogging. His Christmas cheer was feeling somewhat dampened, just like the rest of him. Any sensible Christmas season would have fluffy and picturesque snowflakes tinkling gently through the air. What did the city get instead? Rain. Icy, driving rain.

Oh well. There wasn't a cab in sight at the depot, not this late, and the buses weren't running on the public holiday, so what else could he do? His destination wasn't far, and the weather drove even the street criminals indoors. In the distance, gleaming like a beacon in the heavens, the fully lit tower patiently got closer and closer.

He wondered why he felt to annoyed and so amused at the same time. Christmas spirit under pressure, he guessed accurately.

------------------------------------------

"So, I thought if the mountain won't go to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain!" The man beamed expansively.

Jeff plastered a smile on his face, praying for salvation from this den of smoke, alcohol and unoriginality.

Come on boys, don't let me down now!

Jeff's smile became actually genuine as his messenger buzzed. "Sorry folks," he said a shade too quickly, bringing it out.

FR: S1 TO: DA

Heavens are fine. Special transmission being relayed – code 32

Code three-two. 'Find a secure location'.

"Sorry, I have to step up to my office from a moment…" Jeff bowed out, and headed for the elevator.

John was already on the screen when he got there. "Hey Dad. Having fun?"

"A ball," Jeff replied dryly. "But that was not what I wanted at all, by the way. You alright John? I heard there was a heating issue…"

"I'm fine. Just getting into the spirit of the thing," John flipped the bobble of his Santa hat over one shoulder. He cleared his throat. "As your official holiday MC, it is by pleasure to present this short best wishes message from the Tracy Insane Asylum. You'll have to just wait a second, Dad, I'm trying to reach Alan on his phone…"

The office intercom buzzed. "Hold that thought, John," Jeff hit the button. "Yes?"

"Mr Tracy? There's a young man down at the security desk asking to see you. He says he's your son, sir."

Jeff blinked, and turned to John.

"Couldn't be…" John said slowly.

"I have five sons, so let's be specific," Jeff spoke to the guard. "Describe him."

"Blonde, blue eyes, about five-three, teen."

"No way!" John grinned.

Jeff was smiling. "Send him up."

Alan was literally dripping as he got into office, but that's didn't stop Jeff, designer suit and all, sweeping him up in an enormous hug. "What are you doing here, son?"

"I got a pass," Alan sniffled, face shining. "I figured if the mountain wasn't coming to me…" He shrugged.

The comment, which had been so very grating just five minutes before, made Jeff burst out laughing now. "You should have called! I would have sent a car for you from the depot." He shook the sopping shoulder. "You're soaked to the bone, Alan!"

"You're lips are looking a little blue there, kiddo," John added concernedly.

"John, tell the others to put a hold on things for a minute," Jeff ordered, hustling his youngest toward the en-suite.

Ten minutes later, Alan was snuggled on the office couch wearing his father's bathrobe, which came down to the floor, and wrapped in a blanket that Jeff kept for all-nighters. He looked tired but very happy as he was joined by his father with a cup of cocoa.

"Okay boys, shoot," Jeff waved a hand t the screen, which was one half John and one half Tracy Island lounge.

Virgil started playing the piano…

We wish you a Merry Christmas…

The tree lights lit up bright.

We wish you a Merry Christmas…

The fake fire lit up too, off to the side.

We wish you a Merry Christmas…

The three islander Tracy's came into view, sitting at the piano, singing off-key with John and waving more tinsel, holly, baubles and reindeer antlers than could be good for a person.

'And a pay rise this year!' Gordon yodelled on his own, across the other three.

Virgil slyly brought out a bunch of greenery to hold over Gordon's head as he stood in between the two. "Uh oh, Gordon!"

Gordon looked up in horror at the mistletoe. "Oh no! No no no no …yeeeuuuk!" Gordon received a sloppy kiss on either cheek from two very cheeky brothers. "You guys are soooo gross!"

"From Tracy Island…" Virgil announced while Gordon gagged.

"We wish you happy holidays and we expect you to be home for Christmas roast, oh, and by the way, can you pick up cranberries?"

Jeff and Alan were laughing hysterically. "We always forget cranberries," Jeff chuckled, his arm around Alan. "No problem. We'll be home in about…seven hours. John, do you think you can contain your appetite that long?"

"Sure, why not?" John shrugged.

"Yeah, we need at least one miracle at Christmas," Gordon added, snickering.

"Riiight, you can really talk, Gordo," Scott rolled his eyes. "Alan! No more wandering through cities in the dead of night in the freezing cold, or I'll kick your ass!"

"Yes Scott. Merry Christmas to you too."

"Merry Christmas, Sprout."

"Lean back and listen to the music, guys, it just struck midnight," Virgil advised, starting to play gently but joyfully.

Deck the hall with boughs of holly

Below, there were drunken cheers.

Alan leaned a head sleepily on his Dad's shoulder. "Merry Christmas Dad."

"Merry Christmas, son."

--------------------------------------------

The End