How to Deal

OK, so if your seventeen year old says he wants to get married, what do you do?

Nope, do not own. Let's see, I have written eleven stories, three as multi-chapter, so I have now disclaimed 75 times. Shouldn't there be a legal limit to the legal nonsense?

Jeff Tracy watched the gathered group by the upper pool with no small degree of satisfaction. With the work done for the day and no rescues to occupy their time, his son Virgil and his fiancée Sarah, along with his son John's wife Emily sat at one of the pool side tables, laughing and talking. While he could not hear the words, from the note pads out on the table Jeff would wager that the conversation had to do with the wedding plans. Emily was a great one for making these kinds of plans; maybe that was what made her such a great administrator for the clinic Tracy Charities sponsored in Akaroa, in nearby New Zealand.

Emily smiled as she reviewed another list Sarah had drawn up. Sarah raised an eyebrow as she watched the young doctor jot down a note. "Emily, do you ever regret eloping with John?"

Putting down the pad she had been writing on, Emily pursed her lips before shaking her head. "No. If John and I had tried to get married like Scott and Kate had or like you and Virgil are going to, my mother would have found out. I was so desperate for her approval for so long; I would have taken her acceptance of me only as a future daughter-in-law of Jeff Tracy. But John came into my life like this force of nature, and less than a week after we met, we were married. And by the time I did confront my mother; I was pregnant and had discovered what it really meant to be part of a family. I haven't spoken to any of the Haas' since then. No big loss."

Kate walked over to the table, carrying her baby son Jason, followed by the oldest Tracy son, Scott. "Watch it Em, you start giving them ideas, and they elope, Dad will never forgive them. This is his one and only chance to play father of the bride." Scott chuckled at that, his wife was right. Jeff was thrilled that Sarah wanted him to give her away and had been touched that Sarah would even be wearing Lucy Tracy's wedding dress.

The group all laughed, which made Baby Jason start his baby laughter. This only made everyone laugh even harder.

"They look happy." Lucy said.

Alan Eppes smiled at her. "It takes a lot to bring your children down. You brought together some amazing children."

Lucy smiled. "Look at Emily. She is glowing. And Sarah, my sweet little girl is finally going to be my daughter for real. I use to watch the way she would look at Virgil. I knew from when she was a little girl she was the perfect match for my artist. Did you see the look on Jeff's face when she asked him to give her away? My big tough rocket man… He looked like he was going to cry."

"She looked beautiful when she tried on your wedding dress. Why did Jeff think to offer it to her?"

"Oh, I kept knocking our wedding picture over when they were talking about flying to Auckland to shop for a wedding gown. It inspired him."

"Kate made a beautiful bride as well. I hadn't seen my Donnie so close to losing it since his mother died. And now with the baby, what changes in their lives. Now, there is a good looking kid. Edward and Daniel look like my side of the family. Thank God, all the other kids and their kids look either like my Margaret or their mothers. Or, in Jason's case, another Tracy clone."

Lucy chuckled. Since that horrible night two years ago when that monster had kidnapped and terrorized her baby, Alan Eppes had joined her in watching over her children. She knew it was partially because of Kate. His baby granddaughter – now 27 and a mother in her own right – had asked him to watch over Alan. Well, he had reasoned, Kate had never asked him to stop watching. And while his boys and their children all led reasonably safe lives – unlike when Don and Charlie were younger – Kate's new family was an entirely different story. The Tracy Family was secretly International Rescue and the hazards they faced often made Donnie's field career at the FBI look like a tea party.

"When will John come home from Thunderbird Five?" Alan asked.

"Well, I believe Gordon had gone up in Three to get him. The Hackenbackers certainly were looking forward to their trip. How they chose that as the perfect vacation spot is beyond me."

"What is beyond me," grumbled Mr. Eppes "was how that kind man ever became a single parent. Most women would kill for a bright, gentle man and an equally remarkable son. I just don't get it."

"Jeff never understood it either. It was never a cake walk for him, raising the boys as he had to. But Hiram is good at understanding Fermat. And Fermat adores his father. They really do enjoy the uninterrupted time they get when they go to the space station together. And I think they appreciate how happy my boys are to be together."

"And here comes another one of your boys." The duo smiled as Alan and Tin-Tin walked out from the kitchen, followed by Kyrano. Tin-Tin's father gave a gentle smile to the couple, before returning to some yard work. From the kitchen, they could see Onaha peeking out at her daughter and Alan, concern and love warring for dominance on her face. "Oh my, I think they told them about the engagement. Looks good, Lucy, looks good."

Lucy smiled. All of her sons had gotten their fair share of the Tracy charm, a combination of a devastating smile and wit, with a persuasive tongue. No doubt, Alan had managed to convince his future in-laws to give their blessings. Maybe with some apprehension, but the blessing had definitely been received.

"Hey, Alan, Tin-Tin, come join us." Virgil called out to his youngest brother and the girl who was like a little sister to the other Tracy sons. Scott stood up and grabbed two more chairs, placing them next to Emily. At a look from his sister-in-law, Scott smiled at her before making sure Alan was in the seat directly next to the physician in the family.

"Well, you are going to be checking Alan out, figured I may as well make it easy on you and Baby Tracy."

Even Alan joined in the laughter, which only became stronger when Kate said, "Oh, please, Scott. We all know Emily is only doing what you would have before we got a doctor on the island." Scott's mother hen act to his brothers was an insiders joke for the Tracys. In other words, only the Tracys were allowed to make fun of it.

Any comment that would have been made at that point was interrupted by the sight of Thunderbird Three's arrival. Observing the giant red rocket return to its silo located beneath the currently divided library building, a few chuckles could be heard when Alan groused, "Dammit Gordy, be gentle with my bird."

Tousling his baby brother's hair, Scott grinned. "It's not your bird until your eighteen Allie. And even then, you'll be away at college most of the year. So you will have to trust us with her until you get back."

Virgil chuckled. "Yeah, try to be as mature as Scott is about Thunderbird One, will ya Sprout?"

Sarah made the gathered group laugh harder when she muttered. "Yes, or as mature as Virgil is about Two, hmm?" The couple's one major argument had been after Sarah had been training in Thunderbird Two and caused a minor ding. The middle Tracy son's reaction had not been unlike when someone had damaged the side mirror of his fiancée's Thunderbird convertible – loud and rather annoyed. Fortunately, Emily had managed to intervene to calm the couple down before anything unforgivable was said. And Sarah had sworn she was never going to try and work control on Two again. She much preferred Thunderbird Four, having picked up the handling of the submersival craft faster than anyone in the family had except Gordon himself.

The laughter was interrupted by a voice calling out, "So is this a private party or can anyone join?" Emily awkwardly rose, beaming at the sight of her husband rounding the corner. Alan moved to get up, but John motioned him back into his chair. Pulling his wife into a quick hug and kiss, the family astronaut instead sat in his wife's chair before pulling her into his lap. Laughing at her protests of "weighing too much" John reveled in holding the two lives dearest to him in his arms once more. While he was usually up on Thunderbird Five for three weeks with one off, he had been on duty for just over four weeks, allowing for a temporary schedule that would see him down for eight weeks, leaving time John to be there when his first child arrived.

Still holding on to Emily, John was about to ask Alan how he was doing when he happened to look down at the notepad in front of Emily. Frowning slightly, he raised one eyebrow in concern as he remarked, "You guys do realize you are having Emily stand up as a co-matron of honor ten days before the baby is due."

Emily smiled gently at her husband. "John, most first babies are late. It will be fine."

Scott shrugged. "Jason was almost two weeks early."

Giving a rare frown, Emily looked up at Scott. "Do you want to make him more paranoid then he already will be? First babies are hard on the fathers. You should remember and sympathize." The group chuckled; leave it to Emily to be more concerned with John than herself. The family tried not to worry. While Kate was like Sarah – athletic and as physically tough as any male Tracy – Emily was femininity personified: tiny and delicate. But the core of steel that ran through the young doctor assured them she would be fine. At least, that is what they kept reminding themselves.

Sarah smiled at the blond Tracy wife, with her golden hair falling loose by her husband's platinum head. "Just don't go into labor during the ceremony. I'd hate to have to interrupt the ceremony to deliver the baby."

General laughter once more filled the air; John finally turned his attention back to Alan. "So Sprout, how are you doing? Getting sick of people asking how you are feeling yet?"

Alan burgeoning look of annoyance had quickly turned to a grin. "Yeah, I feel a lot better. Maybe I can even go back to school with Fermat."

"No!" was said by so many of the gathered voices that all Alan could do was blink.

Emily took charge quickly. "Alan, I insisted on two months here on the island and I meant it. The wedding will be on a Saturday, John and I will be flying out with you, Virgil and Sarah on Thursday. While the three of them take care of any last minute wedding details – and yes, John, you help your brother – you and I will be going to Mass General for a full workup. If the doctors there concur, you can return to school on Monday. The semester will already have been in full swing for a week, but you can start the spring semester like you finished the fall semester, by satellite. And if I don't see the results I like, you are coming right back to Tracy Island after the wedding."

Alan began to grumble, then Tin-Tin gave him "the look" that the three other Tracy sons recognized immediately. When Alan immediately withdrew his objections and instead gave a weak smile, the other boys just grinned. Alan might only be seventeen, but he was already a marked man and Tin-Tin had him secured.

Gordon had begun his approach from the access tunnels, having done the post flight checks on his own after sending his anxious brother to check on Emily. Seeing his brothers and their significant others, along with baby Jason, brought a bittersweet smile to his face. He loved them all, could not imagine his life without each and every one of them, but sometimes the "what ifs" tore at his soul. Pushing down his envy at his brothers' contentment, Gordon went to join them on the patio. It was almost Christmas and he was happy to have his family all together. "Mom," Gordon thought. "You would have loved to have seen them all like this."

"Oh, my little Miracle, I do love seeing your brothers so happy. And the women they have chosen to have stand beside them – Kate with her strength, Emily with her drive, Sarah with her determination and Tin-Tin's courage – I couldn't have picked better mates for my boys if I tried."

Grandpa Eppes looked over at Lucy, smiling at her once more. "But you are still worried about Gordon."

Lucy smiled back at Kate's grandfather. "I just wish I could take away the pain. And I know he loved Lisa. But I just never felt she was the right girl for Gordon. I am just afraid that in his determination to remain loyal to her memory, he will let love, a true, forever love, pass him by."

"Your Jeff remains true to your memory."

"Within reason; he's no monk."

Alan Eppes smirked at her. "What? You didn't like Lady Penelope? I thought she was lovely and cultured. A real class act, as my Donnie would have said. And she loves your boys."

"You know what I told you, what she told Jeff. 'Marriage and children are not my cup of tea, Jeff. I love the boys, but I am not cut out to be anyone's wife or mother.' Jeff ended their affair but kept their friendship. I suppose since she works with him it's necessary. And the boys do like her."

"And that Parker is a hoot."

Lucy grinned, with the slightly mischievous expression she has clearly handed down to her two youngest boys. She rather liked Parker herself.

Jeff walked towards the patio, smiling as he watched all of his children together. They really did look good. He paused for a moment as Gordon greeted his siblings. As much as he tended to be overprotective to towards Alan, Jeff was still worried about Gordon. Each of the other boys had found their partner, the other half to make them whole. But Gordon was alone.

Just as their father was about to make himself known to the boys, John suddenly exclaimed, "Tin-Tin, is that Grandma Tracy's engagement ring?"

"Ooh, Boy. Your son really should have told his father before this."

"Give him a break. Tin-Tin has been wearing the ring for four days and none of them have noticed it. John has been home for ten minutes and he spots it?"

Jeff walked out onto the patio. Picking up Tin-Tin's hand, he looked at the ring he had seen every day of his life until his father's death. While his mother had never removed her wedding ring, she had taken off her engagement ring prior to his father's funeral. He knew that she had always meant for Alan to have the ring someday, to give to his future wife. He was never sure why she had chosen their youngest to receive the ring. But Jeff had not expected to see that ring on Tin-Tin's finger. At least not yet.

"Alan, my office, now."

Standing up, Alan reached out to take his fiancée's hand. "Alone, Alan."

Pulling herself up to stand with Alan, Tin-Tin shook her head. "No, Mr. Tracy, this concerns both of us."

Handing Jason to Scott, Kate also stood. "Actually, it would concern me as well." At her husband's puzzled look, she shrugged. "I got the ring sized for Alan."

Emily struggled to her feet, brushing back her husband's concerned hands. "And me. I have already sat down with them and discussed family planning. They want to be married but not yet, if they can help it, be parents. Not until they finish college. They have thought this out, Dad."

Sarah stood and faced Jeff as well. "I might as well be in on this myself, seeing as they will be living in my old condo in Boston while they are going to school."

The four older Tracy brothers stared at the Tracy women, then at Alan, before turning to Jeff. Alan looked at his sisters by marriage and smiled, staring down his four brothers before turning to his fiancé. With a tender look and a gentle touch, the youngest Tracy son held her hand ever tighter, reveling in the sense of rightness having her by his side created.

"Dad, Tin-Tin and I are getting married. We don't have to, we want to. Yes, I know we are only seventeen. But we will be eighteen in May. And we plan on marrying in June, after we graduate from high school. If I have to, I can work to support Tin-Tin until she finishes school, then she can put me through. It may not be Harvard, but I suppose it would do. I know the money was already put aside for Tin's education… It's part of her parents' employment contract, same as the one you have with Brains."

"Alan…"

"No, Dad, I love her. And life is too short. I have found that out the hard way the last few years." The family froze. They knew all to well what Alan meant. The boy really had been through so much facing so many near misses. Walking over to his father, Alan gently touched his father's arm. "Dad, I have loved her since I was fourteen. I will love her when I am one hundred and fourteen. I know what love is and I know I have found it. Please, I have already used up most of my energy persuading Tin's parents to be cool with this. I'd like your support as well."

Jeff eyebrows rose at his son's words. "Onaha and Kyrano gave their blessings?"

"Somewhat reluctantly," answered Tin-Tin. "But they would rather have us living as man and wife in Boston than playing house and risking certain, um, consequences."

Moving back into the house Jeff sat heavily on a sofa. Picking up a framed picture from a nearby table, he stared deeply into the sparkling blue eyes of his late wife. "Oh, Lucy, what would you say if you were here?"

"I tell you what I would say Jefferson Tracy. You will lose our baby if you do not support him in this. I know you want to protect him. Hell, I want to protect him. But they love each other so much."

Jeff cocked his head, confused. He could have sworn he heard Lucy talking to him…

"Oh, my God, did he hear me? Can he hear me?"

"I think he did Lucy. Your Jeff needed to hear you and he did."

Feeling someone sit next to him on the couch, Jeff looked over to see his youngest sitting beside him. "Dad, I love you. For most of my life, I have tried to be like you. A few years ago, this whole thing would have dissolved by now into a screaming match. But I have – we all have – had a lot to deal with over the last few years. The Hood invaded our home, threatened our family. But I got through that with Tin-Tin' friendship. Mitchell kidnapped me, terrorized us all, and even caused me to get shot later. But with Tin-Tin's support, I made it through that. Then we had two fires and a serious illness. But I gained strength to deal with that because I had Tin-Tin's love. Yes, I had my family. And I know how much you all love me. It gives me strength most of the guys I know will never have. They will never know what it is to be that important to their families, and I feel sorry for them. But Tin-Tin is an important part of my life too. And I want to be with her."

"Alan, you are young, I realize there are a lot of feelings, and you have hormones…"

"Dad, we are not having sex!" Alan blushed; he hadn't meant to yell that out at his father.

"You're not?" Gordon's question caused Alan's blush to deepen when he realized his family had followed him in and had been listening.

Alan stood up, defying his family as he took his fiancée's hand once more. "It's a little matter of respect. Dad would not approve, so I would never do that under his roof. Kyrano and Onaha have done their best to trust in us, so their villa would be out of the question. And I respect Tin-Tin too much to, well, to be with her in some place not, um, designed for that purpose. We have talked about it, and decided to wait until we felt we were both ready. I know the majority of this room still thinks of us as kids. But I am sure there are plenty of so-called adults who are less mature about sex then we have been."

Scott did his best to ignore his wife's muttered, "You got that one right, kiddo." He wasn't sure if he wanted to know exactly what she meant.

Virgil had been carefully watching Alan and Tin-Tin. Sighing, he turned to his father. "Dad, it is a six month engagement. That is actually longer than any of us had. And they have known each other since they were ten. If they have actually been working this all out, it is obvious that they have put a lot of thought into it." Sarah beamed up at her fiancé. She knew he would come around.

John whispered in his wife's ear. "I can't believe you were a party to this."

Whispering back, Emily made her spouse blush slightly when she responded. "Would you rather have Alan married in June or having to get married in December?"

Scott grimaced. "Alan, be reasonable. The two are still both kids. anf Dad can't possibly give his approval." Kate glared at her husband.

Alan turned to the brother whose approval he had always sought almost as desperately as his father's. "Yes, Scott, I can expect my family's support and I should have it. I love all of you but I love Tin-Tin as well. How would you have felt if we had told you that Kate and you couldn't marry?"

"That was different. I am more than ten years older than you are. Marrying in your mid to late twenties is a lot different than marrying at eighteen."

"So tell me, has Scott always been so stubborn?"

Lucy nodded grimly.

Jeff looked at his other sons, before returning to Alan. Virgil and Gordon were clearly on Alan's side. His daughter-in-laws were all in support of this. Even John looked to be giving his reluctant approval, much, he suspected, for the same reasons as Tin-Tin's parents. Scott was adamantly opposed. Yet it was Scott, Jeff now knew, who had slept with his wife, before their marriage, here on the island. Alan had respected Jeff's opinions and Scott, his responsible first born, had not. And while he did not think any of his sons were aware of the fact, Lucy – who he had already been engaged to – was in fact carrying their first child on their wedding day. If Alan ever figured that one out, he would be labeled a hypocrite in his son's eyes. Jeff remembered Gordon's smart aleck response that summer to Alan's acceptance to a youth leadership conference. "Since when did Alan become a leader?" The better question seemed to be, "So when did Alan grow up?"

Sarah spoke up. "Dad, can I make a suggestion?" As all eyes turned to her, Sarah struggled for a moment then continued. "They want to be married in six months. Might I suggest a minimum of three months in pre-marital counseling? If the counselor can give approval, then we have to give ours."

Jeff sighed, sitting back, conscious that all of his children – both his sons by birth and the daughters of his heart – were awaiting his verdict. "OK, premarital counseling is essential. The councilor feels you are ready; I will be OK with it. If not, then you turn back into a very long engagement and you will both live on campus. I will say up front, I have my reservations. And you will have to prove to me you are ready for this Alan. I want your word."

As his son reverently promised to follow his directives, Jeff grimaced. How could he have been so ready for Scott to marry Kate, yet so reluctant for Alan to marry Tin-Tin? He loved Tin-Tin like a daughter already, and had always known this day would come.

"Oh please, I don't care if Alan would have been eighteen or eighty; your Jeff doesn't want to give up his baby boy."

Lucy smiled at Grandpa Eppes. "He raised Alan almost by himself. You notice Scott feels the same way. They don't want to let go of their baby." Moving closer to Jeff, she leaned towards her husband. "I love you Rocket Man. But it's time to loosen up the leading strings on our baby. He's made good choices; he has a good head on his shoulder. Tin-Tin will keep him grounded and balanced." Lucy reached up and traced Jeff's face. He froze for a moment, sure he could feel, could sense…

Jeff watched with trepidation as his three middle sons, along with his daughter-in-laws, gathered around Alan and Tin-Tin. Hugs and kisses, with excited words, were exchanged in the group. Scott, his own infant son snuggled in his arms, made his way over to his father. "Dad, are you sure? I mean, they are rather young."

Concerned eyes looked at his first born before he smiled at his grandson. Taking baby Jason from Scott, Jeff responded quietly. "I have gotten to know Alan a bit through the years Scott. If I refused to let them marry, they would see themselves as Romeo and Juliet, being denied the chance to be together. And who knows where that might lead. For now, they have a plan and are trying to be responsible adults. I much prefer that to impulsive, hormonal teenagers. I really don't see them waiting four years to sleep together do you? After all, there is a limit to restraint, wouldn't you say."

At the look his father gave him over the baby's head, Scott found himself uncharacteristically blushing. He didn't know how his father had found out, but he knew that Jeff Tracy was aware that one of his cardinal rules had been broken. Scott ducked his head and pretended great interest in his son's fist, currently waving at something only he could see.

"What a clever baby, hmm, Lucy? Yes, you are Jason. You are a clever baby."

Lucy laughed as Mr. Eppes played with his great-grandson. She would regret when Jason would no longer be able to see them. But there would be more babies, and she could watch over the next generation of Thunderbirds as she had her sons. Moving over to the cluster that made up most of her family, she gently brushed a hand over Alan's golden hair. Tears filled her eyes, as her longing to once more hold her baby in her arms swept over her. Lucy could remember his birth, holding the tiny bundle of constant energy. She recalled his first smile, his first word – Scottie – and his first steps. Once he started to be mobile, it was hard to keep up with Alan. Lucy remembered her sorrow at being unable to comfort her children after her death, watching them grow up without a mother's gentle hand. Out of all her children, she had worried most for her baby boy. If you had asked three years earlier if Alan would be ready for such a momentous step at eighteen, Lucy would have said no. But time and trials had forced Alan to become older than his years. And Tin-Tin had always been more mature than most girls her age.

Alan looked over at his father, smiling at the only parent he had ever really had. Kissing his fiancée, Alan moved away from the group. Stepping up to his father, Alan hugged his father. "I love you Dad. Thanks for trusting me."

Jeff returned the embrace, brushing a hand over his son's hair. "I do trust you Alan, and I love you. But, try and enjoy your college years. Balancing marriage and your studies will be hard enough. Can you imagine trying to include a baby in that mix?"

Alan grinned. "Why do you think we are already talking to Emily? Not all of your sons want to be Daddy by their first anniversary. Just because you managed even faster than John, doesn't mean we all want to follow that closely in your footsteps." With a wink and a playful pat to his nephew, Alan rejoined Tin-Tin, as the group moved to the dining room as Onaha called them in for dinner.

Jeff froze. No. Alan knew? No way.

"Oh, yes, Jeff. He knows. Live with it." Lucy smiled. "I love you, Rocket Man. Now try and be as mature as Alan about it."

Alan Eppes just laughed. Life was never boring on Tracy Island. Thank goodness. Grandpa Eppes could never regret choosing to watch over his granddaughter and her family by marriage. Some people need every bit of help they can get. But with the love and courage that so personified the Tracy Family, Alan Eppes knew they would continue to triumph.

"Thunderbirds are go, right Lucy?"

"They sure are." Lucy smiled, "They sure are."

a/n - No, Jeff did not totally freak out. If Alan was as he is in many stories - utterly self-centered and immature, then that would have happened. But my Alan is mature and better for what he has had to endure. And I did manage to bring back Alan Eppes. I love that dude.

On a personal note, I will try and get my other stories out, but I may have to take a little extra time. Some health issues have arose, and I tire very easily. I will not abandon this, I just may not be publishing every day. I do hope to have my next rather long one-shot up soon, like within the next week. Two major life-changes will be coming up and need to be addressed for the Tracys.