Disclaimer: Thunderbirds belongs to…oh, many other people. Not the author.

Authors Notes: Just a quick fic on the theme of home. My mother and my brother have just come home from long absences, and I got to thinking on it. Just a little bit of poetry hiding as prose.

Please read & review (please).

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Blue Smell – by Ryuuza Kochou

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Alan keeps an expensive blue bottle next to his bed as he sleeps. He's never told anyone why. Perhaps he doesn't even know.

When Jeff left for the big city for the first time, he was a young man; not rich, not powerful, certainly unable to afford the clothes that would help him blend in. He had to make due with the old leather jacket his father wore, that had been exposed to three decades of Kansas weather and you could see it. You could almost believe they'd found a way to synthesise the sensation of the blue dome of the sky meeting the deep earth of the farms, the hint of wheat growing and wind blowing. Jeff wore it when he walked on the island and it was windy, at the risk of getting the salt into the leather. It could afford to absorb a little more weather. He was rich enough now. He'd never thrown the tattered thing away.

Scott used to cook in the Air Force. The other cadets teased him about it – not much, because there were a lot worse things to wake up to than a well cooked non-military breakfast. He never told anyone why. Perhaps the habit of several thousand cooked meals for his younger brothers was hard to shake off. He just grinned and rolled with the barbs, stuck his apron deep in his pillow case where no officer could spot it, and went out into the fugue of hot metal and jet fuel that was the base, the smell of cooking on him.

John drank a lot of cocoa when he was new in the space program. He was never much of a coffee drinker. When he was on his first outer atmosphere run, he took a bag of powdered stuff with him, even though they already had it in supply. He just smiled when they asked him why. It was a good, self made mix that he drank. When he was picked up off his first solo mission, the recycled air had a tint of chocolate and cinnamon in it, just like Mom had had. Just like every morning on the island had had.

Virgil's friends asked him – why do you work on weekends? You're Dad's loaded. You don't need the money. Virgil just told them that Dad didn't believe in making it easy, which was true. In that case, they said, why not work at a mechanics or as a technician? The money is better. You work at a mill. Virgil spent his off days with the whine of a saw and the choke of sawdust for company, not machines that he was studying. Why do you do it? But Virgil had experience with wood. He'd helped his Dad lay down floors, had made frames for his paintings, had helped Grandma fix her roof and supplied her firewood. Whenever he lay out on the deck at home, he could spot every nail he'd driven in. The aroma of old sap was clear and sharp from fresh cuts, and the oils got into his workman's hands. There were worse jobs.

Gordon spent a lot of time in the sea – he collected its detritus; its shells and stones and beach glass. Lots of people born of the sea collect its pieces, so this was nothing unusual. Most of it got recycled back into the sea anyway. He used to line the pieces up on the boat deck when he went diving, and not all of them would stay there. Once, a friend knocked a shell off by accident. Gordon had nearly drowned himself snatching it back from the sea. His friend had asked him why, and Gordon never said. It was a nice one - hints of many colours glinted at many angles – but there were thousands of others like it. Gordon had shaken his head, and clutched the shell. The smell of the sea was still on it. Gordon's seas, not any of these foreign seas. To the connoisseur, all seas were different – not just looked different, acted different, but were different in the same way different lands were different. They sounded different, they smelled different. This was a shell from Gordon's beach. There was no other like it.

Alan keeps a blue bottle next to his bed. When he first left, he couldn't sleep at nights. All the sounds and feelings and smells that he was so used to were conspicuously gone. Not one remained. It wasn't even homesickness. Homesickness would cause this weight on his heart. It took a month of sleeplessness and one trip out to the mall before he finally was able to relax, the sample paper from the perfume department of the store next to him. It was good stuff, this stuff. It was strong and unyielding but it was also subtle – most of the really expensive ones relied on hints rather than shouts. That was his Dad all over. And Scott too. Alan was still young enough to believe that maybe tastes, like blue eyes, ran in the family and bought himself a bottle. But he never wore it in the end. He just kept it open as he slept, and let it slowly evaporate. Blue smell, that's what he called it. He slept with it in his dreams. He had nightmares when he was away from that bottle.

When he came home, stepped across the decking with the wind bringing the sea in, as someone cooked in the kitchen over the bag of cinnamon sticks hung up to combat the smells of a house full of men, he would reach for his father, and, as he buried his face in his father's neck, or in his brothers, there would be the blue smell again – everyone nicked Dad's aftershave when they thought he didn't look. Alan breathed it in, just like he did every day.

And he knew he was home.