This story has been bouncing around my empty head for quite some time. The pieces finally fell into place to write it up. It turned out to be a lot longer than I had intended, but once the fingers starting flying, so did the story.
This IS a movie verse, so if you don't like those stories, please stop reading now
Wharton School, Massachusetts December 23rd.
Alan Tracy sat at his desk in his Wharton Academy dorm room quietly playing a computer game. He was waiting for someone to come and pick him up for the trip home to Tracy Island for the Christmas Break. Looking out the window, he could see the front yard area of the school where cars were coming and going with people picking up their kids. For once, he didn't mind the wait, knowing that his family probably had the furthest to come. It was shaping up to be a cold, snowy winter in Massachusetts and the two week furlough on the South Pacific island is exactly what he needed to make it through the upcoming coldest months of the winter season. A two week break for the holiday was a bit unprecedented, but the calendar days fell in such a way that the holidays fell in the middle of the week. Plus, with the weather forecasts, the school administration agreed to allow the additional days so that their students could travel home without fear of weather delays. Many parents were quite happy with that decision, Alan's family being no different. Already, he could see the snow had accumulated to about a foot on the ground and the forecasts were for at least two feet of snow by nightfall. He hoped someone would be coming for him soon.
Tracy Island, South Pacific
Gordon Tracy snickered to himself as he leaned on the doorframe of the bedroom door, watching his oldest brother trying to wrap a present. Scott had scotch tape all over his hands and was succeeding in only moving the tape from one hand to another as he tried to peel it off. Gordon's snicker finally turned into a chuckle and Scott turned sharply at the sound.
"You think you could come and help me with this instead of laughing?" Scott exclaimed, completely exasperated by this time.
Gordon laughed. "The man can fly the most sophisticated aircraft in the world but can't handle the simple complexities of scotch tape. Now that's sad!" He walked over and started pulling the tape off and bunching it up together in a ball.
"Cute fish face, really cute," Scott replied, glad to finally be free of all the tape. He turned back to the present and folded the ends together. "Would you please tape this for me while I hold it?
Gordon only chuckled as he pulled a few tiny pieces of tape from the roll and deftly placed them on the ends to seal up the wrapping paper. "You all done with your shopping?"
Scott nodded. "Yep. Got the last of my gifts delivered this morning and they are all wrapped. Well, except for the present that Alan is bringing back with him."
"I thought Alan said he wouldn't have to worry about wrapping it up. Do we even know what IT is?"
"No, and he and John are being very tight-lipped about it," Scott sighed. "Sometimes I really hate how close the two of them have become. They are too good at keeping secrets from the rest of us."
"Who is too good at keeping secrets?" asked Virgil as he strolled into Scott's room and joined his brothers.
"The Sprout and John," Gordon explained.
Virgil laughed. "What secrets are they keeping now, or do we even really want to know?"
Scott shared a quick glance with Gordon before answering. "I don't think I want to know. Not with Christmas only a few days away. Might spoil the fun." What he wasn't telling his younger brother was that part of the secret was the present that the four remaining brothers were getting for him as a combined gift. Neither he nor Gordon knew what the gift was. Only that John had called them and told them about something that Alan had found and was really excited about it, but because of the cost would the brothers be willing to go halves with him on it. While Scott was a bit leery on the price, 200 from each brother, John assured them it was well worth the investment and Virgil would love it.
Scott shared another glance with Gordon as Virgil walked towards Scott's bed. He could see the same thoughts reflected in his face as well.
"So who has been tasked to go and pick up Alan?" Virgil wondered as he sat down on the bed. "I caught part of the forecast on the Weather Channel and the snow will be getting pretty heavy shortly."
"Lady P is going to pick him up," Scott replied absently as he started cleaning up the mess from his gift wrapping.
Virgil turned a curious glance to Gordon, who only shrugged. "Dad was talking to Lady P yesterday to invite her and Parker out for Christmas and she mentioned something about visiting a friend in New York. She accepted the invitation and said she would be happy to pick up Alan and Fermat since she was already there. Of course, Dad accepted since none of us really wanted to fly out there with the weather they have been having."
"Dad told her Fermat and Brains were going to spend the holiday with some family on the West Coast," added Scott.
Virgil shook his head. "I couldn't believe it when Brains asked Dad for the time off. He never made any attempt to visit his family before."
"I think Fermat had something to do with that," Gordon suggested. "Alan mentioned to me that Fermat was emailing his cousins and seemed happy to find some family members. I was just sorry to see them go because I know Brains had mentioned to Dad that he and Fermat would spend Christmas on Five so John could come down and be with us. Now, with them gone, Johnny can't."
This time Scott grinned. "Yes he can. Would you believe Dad told Brains not to worry about it because he was going to have John put Five on auto and bring him down for the week? Brains and Fermat will be back on the 27th and they are going to run up to Five and do some systems checks so John will be here for Christmas and New Years!"
"NO WAY!" Gordon yelled enthusiastically. "This is going to be a great holiday!" He suddenly turned and darted from the room. Scott and Virgil could hear him mumbling as he left, something about preparing things for John's return.
The brothers just turned to each other and sighed heavily knowing that Gordon was going to be up to something they probably didn't want to know about.
Wharton School, Massachusetts
Alan Tracy grinned as he saw a pink car come driving up the road to his dorm room. Quickly shutting down his computer and grabbing his coat and overnight bag, he locked up his dorm room and ran out to meet the occupants. He managed to get to the front door, just as the car pulled up and a man started to climb out.
"No need to get out for me, Parker," Alan exclaimed.
"Ahh, young Mr. Tracy," Parker smiled as Alan climbed into the car after carefully making sure to knock the snow off his shoes. Parker eyed the overnight bag Alan had set on the floor.
"Do you need help with your other bag sir?" Parker inquired.
"No thanks, Parker. Brains came and picked up Fermat yesterday and he took the bag with him. I got everything I need right in here," Alan patted the small bag. Parker only raised an eyebrow but said nothing. He sat down, closed the car up and started to drive away.
Alan finally turned and grinned at the other occupant of the car. "Hi Lady P!" He laughed looking at the pink bundle of faux fur that was huddled up in the back seat of the car. He watched as a blonde head poked out, followed by the pink nose and rosy cheeks of Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward.
"Eww, I just hate this cold weather. A few days in the tropical sun is quite right," Lady P commented. She finally turned to look at Alan. "Hello Alan, dear. I gather by the smile on your face you are more than ready to head home?"
Alan frowned suddenly and took a deep breath. Penelope could tell he was gearing up to ask and question and was afraid she wasn't going to like it. She may not be the mother of the five Tracy boys, but she spent enough time in their company to get to know them quite well. "Alan, is there something you wish to ask me?" she prodded.
"Yeah, kind of," Alan admitted sheepishly. "Don't get me wrong or anything Lady P. I'm happy to see you both. I haven't seen you since the summer break and all. But I was kind of hoping one of my brothers would be picking me up. I sort of need to make a stop and pick up a Christmas present."
"Where would that stop need to be at Master Tracy?" Parker asked from the front.
Alan winced. "New York City. Specifically about half a block away from Tracy Headquarters." Alan feared the answer.
Penny quickly looked at her watch. "Best get to it, Parker. It will be approaching 3:00 when we arrive and I imagine the traffic will be quite horrendous by then." Alan looked up and smiled at Penny.
"Thanks Lady P," he stated gratefully. Penny only smiled at the happy boy and patted his hand. They sat back for the quick trip to New York.
"Where exactly is it I am heading to Master Tracy," Parker asked after a period of time had passed.
Alan and Lady P were startled to realize they were already in New York City, approaching Tracy Headquarters. They spent the trip talking amongst themselves and never noticed the miles fall behind them.
"Do you know the art shop that Virgil goes to, Parker?" Alan asked as he leaned over so he could look out the front window and guide Parker if he had to.
"I believe so, sir, "replied Parker. "Is that where we are heading?"
"Yep. I just need to run in there for a quick minute."
"So its Virgil's present you need to pick up?" inquired Penelope.
Alan nodded. "It's a present to Virgil from me and the guys."
"Must be something special if you didn't have it delivered," Penelope hinted. She was curious as to what the gift could be as it seemed to be really important to Alan.
"It is," Alan replied as he opened the door once the car pulled up and came to a stop. He turned to tell the occupants he would be right back, but stopped when he saw Lady P and Parker climbing out to join him. He just shrugged and walked into the store.
The store was called "The Paintbrush" and by all appearances, seemed to be your stereotypical coffee shop where upcoming young artists hung out. The smells of flavored coffees, cappuccino's and other sweets filled the air. Parker sniffed appreciatively.
Alan ignored it all and walked through a door on the side, with Lady P and Parker trailing behind him. It was like walking into a completely different shop. This side of the store was filled with all the increments any inspiring artist would need for painting and sketching. Alan walked up to the counter and waited for the man there to finish his phone conversation.
"Hello, Mr. Wagner," Alan greeted when the man turned around to greet him.
"Mr. Tracy! I'm glad you were able to get here. I was afraid you wouldn't be able to make it when I heard about the snowstorm approaching New England," Mr. Wagner commented. "I gather you're here to pick up your purchase?"
Alan nodded. "Yes, sir. Is it all ready?"
"Just about. The special paintbrushes that Virgil uses only came in yesterday and I haven't had time to put them with the rest. If you'll give me a few moments, I'll go finish it up for you," Mr. Wagner explained as he headed towards the back of the store.
Alan turned and looked at Penny and Parker. "So what exactly is this 'special gift'?" asked Penny.
Alan beckoned her and Parker over to a section near the back of the store. The area contained all kinds of painting easels and cases. Alan pointed to one in particular that was opened up to display. "That."
Penny looked at Alan in amazement and then went over to inspect it more closely. "Oh Alan, its exquisite. Why would you think of something like that for Virgil? You know how practical he is."
Alan only shrugged. "I wouldn't normally. Remember when I came down to New York to spend the weekend with Dad back in October?" Penny nodded. "I had just spoken to Gordon and he told me that Virgil lost all his painting supplies when that freak tropical storm hit them. That's got to be the fourth time this year that's happened to him and I know how frustrated he gets in trying to replace it all. When I came to visit Dad, I stopped in here to pick up some stuff that Virgil had ordered and saw it. Its perfect and Virgil can pack all his paint supplies into it. I know its expensive and all so I called John and asked him what he would think about all of us pitching in and getting it for Virgil for Christmas. John agreed and said he would tell Scott and Gordon."
"I don't think Masters Scott and Gordon are aware of the gift though," Parker noted. "When they came to England to go shopping in November, they didn't mention anything about it."
Alan grinned. "They don't know exactly what it is, just that it's what Virgil needs and it cost a lot." Alan leaned over to show them all the details of the display.
After a few moments, Mr. Wagner returned hefting what looked like a thick brown leather suitcase. "Here you go Mr. Tracy. All packed up and ready to go."
Alan went to retrieve it but Parker beat him to it. "I'll take it sir and put it in the boot."
"Thanks Parker," smiled Alan gratefully.
"Before you leave, Mr. Tracy, I wonder," Mr. Wagner asked haltingly.
"Something wrong, Mr. Wagner?" Alan wondered.
"No, nothing is wrong," assured the shopkeeper. "It's just that Virgil ordered a bunch of special order paints and said he would pick them up the next time he is in town. I wondered if you might be willing to take them to him. I hesitate in asking though because it's a rather large amount and I'm not sure if you'll have the room in your car with the other purchase."
"Exactly how big is the order?" Penny asked.
Mr. Wagner walked behind a counter and picked up a box. He opened the flap so they could look at the contents. There appeared to be about a total of 30 jars and tubes of various colors and paints. Alan looked over at Penny with raised eyebrows.
"We have plenty of room, Alan dear." Penny assured him. "Mr. Wagner, may I inquire as to whether or not this case that matches the display Alan purchased would be big enough to hold those paints?"
Alan looked at Lady P in surprise while Mr. Wagner flustered for a moment. "I believe it will, Ma'am. Would you like for me to pack them in there?"
Lady Penelope nodded. "Yes, please. I would like to purchase the case."
Alan moved over to her. "Lady P, are you sure? That's awfully expensive!" Alan knew the case cost about 300.
"Yes dear. It's perfect." Lady P told him. "I haven't been able to find a present I really like for Virgil; he can be rather difficult to buy for. This is quite right."
Mr. Wagner returned within a few moments and showed Lady Penelope and Alan how perfectly the paints Virgil ordered fit nicely into the case. "Virgil will be quite pleased with these purchases. I know he has looked at them a few times and expressed his delight in the idea behind them."
"Excellent," Lady Penelope replied as she paid for the purchase. "Come Alan, we have a long trip to make and should get going before traffic gets much worse."
Alan chuckled knowing she was only saying that for show. As soon as Parker got FAB 1 out of the city limits, the car would transform into the flying jet and they would be home in the South Pacific before most people who left New York at the same time would reach California!
FAB 1 was about five minutes away from Tracy Island when Lady Penelope finally spoke up. "Alan, you've been looking awfully thoughtful this trip home. Is there something troubling you?"
"Hmmm?" Alan started when Penelope interrupted his thoughts. "Oh no Lady P, nothing is wrong. I'm just trying to figure out how to get Virgil's gift into the house without him seeing them."
"Not to worry, dear. I have that all figured out." Alan looked at her questioningly. Lady P smiled and explained further.
"You see, Alan. Parker's luggage was completely ruined on a recent trip and he has not had the time to replace them. So he is borrowing one of my suitcases for this visit. If he handles the luggage in such a way, we can convince Virgil that the two cases that are actually his presents are Parker's new luggage."
Alan started laughing. "You mean Parker is using a pink suitcase? Wait 'till I tell the guys that one."
Parker sniffed. "Coming up on Tracy Island, Milady. Permission to off-load our passenger before landing?"
Lady Penelope giggled. "Now Parker, I don't think Jeff would take too kindly to having his son dropped in the middle of the ocean. Prepare for landing."
"Yes, Milady," Parker stated in a resigned tone. He knew the Tracy boys would tease him about it and he was prepared to take their onslaught good naturedly. They were good boys after all.
Alan and Lady Penelope shifted around to prepare for landing. Alan moved his overnight bag to the side to make room for his feet. "Alan, why is it that you only have that small case? You usually have your big one when you come home for Christmas. Does Virgil's present have anything to do with it?"
Alan looked sheepishly at Lady P. "Yes. I figured Dad might ask you to come and get me and knowing I needed to pick up the gift, as well as the amount of luggage you usually have wouldn't leave much room. Brains took it with him and will bring it back to the island when they come home on the 27th."
Penelope looked slightly askance. "Well, I image your laundry will be quite ripe by that time."
Alan laughed. "Nope, I did all my laundry before I packed it up."
"Well, you certainly seemed to have everything well organized," commented Penelope. She was actually quite amazed at how thorough and thoughtful Alan had been on this. She almost briefly decided to tell him the surprise; that John would be home for the Christmas and New Years holidays but decided to wait for Jeff to spring that on Alan.
The tell-tale signs of FAB 1 landing brought them both back to attention and Alan looked over at the end of the runway to see Jeff, Scott, Virgil and Gordon waiting for them. He couldn't help the big smile that came over him when he thought of how great Christmas was going to be this year.
None of the brothers gave a second thought to the "luggage" that Parker carried into his room. Likewise, Parker managed to get his real "luggage" placed into his room without any of the Tracy brothers being the wiser, he snuck it past them when they were welcoming Alan back home. He felt quite proud of himself.
After hastily unpacking, he moved over into Lady Penelope's quarters to start unpacking her stuff while she was visiting with the others. He even managed to stash the gifts for Virgil amongst all her luggage so that it couldn't be found without a deliberate search.
In the Tracy kitchen, Alan was being bombarded with questions by Scott and Gordon. Lady Penelope had managed to get Virgil into the lounge area to supposedly talk about some music.
"So where is this special gift, Sprout?" Scott prodded. Before Alan could respond, Gordon started in.
"Yeah, Squirt. You got us all worked up about it and now you didn't bring it!" complained Gordon.
"I brought it!" exclaimed Alan. "And quit calling me Sprout and Squirt."
"What! Is this gift so small you hid it in your pocket or something?" Gordon wondered. "Cause none of you were carrying anything gift-wrapped."
Alan sighed. "Parker brought it in. He's got it hidden in his room. It's too big to wrap."
Scott and Gordon shared a puzzled look. "Too big to wrap?" Scott questioned. "Alan, just stop with the games and tell us what it is?"
"What's what?" asked Virgil as he strolled into the kitchen.
"Nothing!" Alan hastily replied as he moved to help Onaha with a large pot she was carrying in from the pantry. "Onaha, where's Tin-Tin? I haven't seen her since I got back."
Onaha smiled at the young man. "She's down in Brain's lab checking on a couple of experiments he asked her to monitor while he was gone. She'll be back up in a few minutes."
"Okay. I'm going to go see Dad," Alan hastily left the room before anyone else could try and corner him to ask questions.
Virgil looked at his two remaining brothers, who quickly moved to the table and each grabbed an apple to eat. "You know, normally I would be very worried when you guys suddenly start acting nonchalant about things. But since its coming on Christmas, I'm going to assume it has something to do with my present and I'll let it drop." He turned and walked back towards the lounge.
"So what exactly did Parker take to his room?" wondered Gordon, whispering in case Virgil was still within hearing range.
Scott looked thoughtful. "I really wasn't paying attention, Gordo. I just saw him with his luggage and some of Penny's."
"Guess we'll just have to wait", Gordon replied with a resigned tone. "Who would have thought that Alan could be so good at keeping a secret? Scott? You don't think he's not telling us because he really doesn't have anything that special for Virgil, do you?"
"Nah. I believe him. Besides, John said he knew what it was and was really surprised that Alan could be so thoughtful," Scott explained. "I think it's just one of those rare times that Alan is going to be able to get something over on us and he's milking it for all it's worth."
Before Gordon could reply, Alan came barreling back into the kitchen, with a big grin on his face. "Scott! Gordon! Dad just told me that John is coming down for Christmas. Is this great or what?!" In his enthusiasm, he grabbed his oldest brother in a hug. Scott laughed as he returned the hug and swung Alan around. He set him down when he felt Alan pull away.
"Dad said if you agreed, I could go with you to pick up John from Thunderbird Five! Can I? Please?" Alan begged as he bounced up and down.
Scott knew he wouldn't refuse his baby brother. The twinkle in his eyes and his cheeks blushing from the big smile on his face was the undoing for Scott. "Sure, Sprout. You can come with me."
"When are we leaving?" Alan eagerly asked.
"As soon as you go to your room and change into this," announced Jeff, walking into the kitchen and handing Alan his own Thunderbird uniform. Everyone smiled at the shocked look on Alan's face.
"MY uniform?" Alan whispered in awe. He carefully took the silver jumpsuit from his father and looked around the room.
Scott had moved to stand behind Alan and put his hands on Alan's shoulders. Jeff moved in front of his son. "Yes son. If you're going to be going out on rescues during your school breaks, you'll need a proper uniform. Jeans and t-shirts won't cut it."
Alan could only open and close his mouth in shock. "We were going to give it to you as a Christmas present, but the opportunity to come with me to get John came up and Dad and I thought you should have it now," added Scott.
"Now scoot," Jeff turned Alan into the direction of his room and playfully swatted him on the rear. "I'm sure Scott wants to get going so he can get back in time for the festivities to start." Alan just kept staring at the uniform so Gordon laughed, went over to his brother and guided him up to his bedroom.
"Come on, Squirt. In your state of mind you'll get the zipper caught on something vital," Jeff and Scott could hear Gordon mumbling as they walked away.
Scott shot a questioning look at his father. "Now? I thought you wouldn't want John brought down until Christmas morning!"
Jeff shrugged. "It's been pretty quiet the past few days. John and Brains have done several tests of the automated system and it worked perfectly, so I see no reason why John can't join us now."
Scott gave his father a questioning look. "Is there something going on that you're not telling us? And don't try and deny anything. There's been an awful lot of computer equipment going into that room next to your office – the one you're keeping locked."
Jeff only shrugged. He knew he couldn't keep the secret from his boys for too much longer, he just hoped he could until Brains and Fermat returned on the 27th. For a response, he walked over to Scott and in the same manner as he directed Alan, he turned his eldest son in the direction of his bedroom, told him to scoot and swatted him on his butt, although not quite as playfully as he did Alan.
"I'm going! I'm going," Scott complained after shooting his father a disbelieving look.
Jeff smiled as he watched his oldest and youngest sons walking towards him in the hangar of Thunderbird Three. Alan walked straighter and in time with Scott and Jeff had to admit, looked good in his new uniform. Scott was grinning only because he could imagine how Alan looked. He finally had to look over just as they stopped in front of their father. If Alan's grin got any bigger, Scott was afraid it would freeze the facial muscles.
"Scott, most of the components that Brains will need when they go up is already loaded into Three. Make sure the three of you get them unloaded and placed where they should be going?" Jeff asked. "It'll make things a lot easier on Brains and less work for you guys then trying to haul it all up in one trip."
"Not a problem, Dad," assured Scott. "We'll take care of it."
"Can we go now?" Alan whined in anticipation.
Scott rolled his eyes at his youngest sibling. "Gee, Dad. Maybe we should double check all the components against the inventory list Brains set up. We really need to make sure nothing gets left behind."
"The list is on clipboard in the cabin if you want to, Scott," Jeff replied as he walked away, shaking his head at the antics of his children. "I'm going to keep Penny company."
"Scoooootttttt!!" Alan called from the gangplank leading to the main cabin door of Thunderbird Three. Scott looked up in surprise.
"How did you get up there so fast?"
"Are you kidding me? You shuffle like an old man, Scott. Anyone can beat you."
"You DO want to go on this trip, don't ya buddy?" threatened Scott. Alan only laughed and ducked inside.
When Scott finally moved into the main cabin of the ship, he saw his brother seated in the co-pilot seat, all strapped in and ready for lift-off. Scott grinned when he saw how Alan had wrapped the harness belts once around his legs before fastening them. He shook his head as he sat down in the pilot seat.
"Okay, Sprout. You win," he conceded. "But if I were you, I'd unfasten those belts and put them on correctly. You don't want to have them cut off the circulation to your legs during take-off, do you?"
Alan shot a wary glance at his brother, wondering if it was some sort of trick, but seeing Scott concentrating on take-off procedures, he knew he was safe. He quickly un-wrapped the belts and fastened them correctly. Scott looked over at him as he finished the pre-flight sequence.
"You know that this is different than taking off in One?" Scott told his brother.
"I know. Gordy said the best way to handle it is to push myself back in the seat and don't try to move."
"Well, Gordon does that because it doesn't put too much strain on his back," explained Scott. "You won't have that problem. What I meant was you know the ride isn't as smooth."
Alan nodded. "I figured as much. I'm ready."
"Okay. Let's get going then."
Scott radioed in to his father. "Thunderbird Three to base. We are ready for lift-off."
Scott looked at the radio in surprise when it was John's voice that came through. "Thunderbird Five to Thunderbird Three, area is clear and you are go for lift-off. I'm packed and waiting for you guys to get here so stop screwing around and move it!"
Alan and Scott laughed. Flicking on his microphone, Scott turned to Alan and winked. "So, what do you think, Sprout? How about we take the long way and I let you fly Three for a bit."
Alan's eyes grew wide at what Scott was suggesting, but he couldn't tell if he was kidding or not. Deciding to play it safe with both his brothers, and then suddenly remembering something he saw in the main lounge area before they left, Alan shook his head. "Sounds like fun, Scott, but how about we wait until after we pick up John."
"Why after? You know John is just going to complain about wanting to get back home,"
"I don't complain!" John exclaimed over the open airway.
Scott snorted. "Not much."
"Let's get out of here so I can tell you why?" urged Alan.
Scott nodded and before they knew it, Thunderbird Three was blasting its way into the sky heading towards their space station.
"Okay, Alan," John stated when he reestablished contact with them. "What's the story?"
Scott looked over at his brother when he didn't immediately respond to John. He laughed at the amazed look on Alan's face and how quickly he was breathing. "Hang on a sec, John. I think Alan's mind needs to catch up with his body."
John laughed. "Well, at least he hasn't thrown up yet. That's a good sign."
Alan suddenly shook himself and glared at the radio. "I didn't have time to eat so there isn't anything to throw up, wise ass."
"Well, well, well, guess his mind finally caught up with the rest of him."
Scott laughed at John's comments. "Watch the language, Alan." Alan turned and glared at his brother.
"Okay guys. So Alan, what's the story? Why do we not want to get home right away?"
"If we get up and back too fast, we're going to have to help bring down the tree from the attic," Alan explained. "If we wait until after we pick up John, then we can take our time and if anyone from the island calls, Scott, you just tell them you're giving me some training flight time and John is co-piloting while you watch. This way, we get home Dad will have had Gordon bring the tree down, all by himself. You know what a chore that is!"
"How do you know Dad wants the tree brought down tonight?" John asked.
"Family tradition, remember? We decorate the house the day after Thanksgiving but the tree doesn't go up until December 23rd. Then we decorate it on Christmas Eve," Alan reminded his brothers. "I saw the boxes in the lounge area."
John laughed. "That's not quite the tradition, Alan. Mom and Dad started doing that when you and Gordon were babies because the two of you kept pulling the ornaments off the tree and breaking them. Remember, Scott?"
Scott laughed at the memories. "Oh yeah! Remember the year Mom was pregnant with Alan and Gordon put one of the little bulbs in his mouth and it shattered! I thought Mom was going to deliver Alan right then and there, she was so upset and worried that Gordon would cut his mouth up."
"Or the year when Alan was two and he and Gordon took down all the large bulbs from the bottom of the tree and used them to play their weird version of bocce ball!" John reminisced.
"I don't see what's so funny about that," Alan frowned.
Scott leaned over and patted Alan on the shoulder. "You had to be there, Alan."
John agreed. "Yep, and the next year, Mom decided that we would wait until the day before Christmas Eve to put up and decorate the tree so you two couldn't break any more bulbs."
Scott burst out laughing and could hardly say what he wanted to. "Remember . . . what Gordon did . . . the next year, John?"
Silence from the speaker let the brothers know that John was trying to think. "Can't say that I do, there's been so many."
Alan joined Scott in laughing at that comment. Scott finally calmed down enough to remind him. "Mom and Dad had just put the tree up. Mom put Alan on the floor so she could keep an eye on him and she and Dad were lying on the floor underneath the tree fixing the tree skirt."
John interrupted, laughing. "Now I remember! Gordon ran into the room and bounced off Dad's butt right onto the tree!"
"Brought the whole thing down on top of Mom, Dad, AND Alan!"
Scott and John laughed harder. Alan couldn't stop the smirk on his face, however he did cross his arms, cock his head to the side and gazed at his eldest brother. "You find all that amusing, do you?"
"Like I said, Sprout, you had to be there."
Alan only shook his head at his older brother's antics and looked over the control panel. It gave Scott and John a few minutes to get their laughter down to giggles. By then, they were just about on final approach to Thunderbird Five.
Unbeknownst to any of them, their entire conversation had been overhead by Jeff who had been sitting in the Command and Control Room checking the feeds to Thunderbird Five so it would be ready to be put on automatic. He laughed along with John and Scott and their memories, and only felt a slight pang of hurt that there were no more to be had. The year following Gordon's dive into the Christmas tree was the year he had lost his Lucy. It was a long road to travel, but eventually his sons showed him that reliving the happy memories helped fill the hole the hurt had left.
At the same time, he wasn't about to let them off easy. Gordon walked into the room at that moment.
"Should we wait until the guys get back to bring the tree down, Dad?"
Jeff gave his son a mischievous smile. "Tell ya what, Gordon. This year we're going to let John and Alan bring the tree down and put it up. The two of them are never here when we do it, so I think it would be a special treat for them this year."
Gordon looked puzzled as he glanced at his watch and noticed it was well past 7pm. "Uhmm, Dad? It'll be close to 10:00 before they get home and you know the light in the attic isn't that bright. They won't be able to find the tree!"
"That's right!" Jeff agreed. "This means they'll have to go up tomorrow morning and bring it down."
"I don't mind bringing it down, Dad."
Jeff walked over to his son and gave him a one armed hug. "Not this year, Gordon. Let's just say I'm taking sides this one time and I picked your's." He walked away chuckling.
Gordon only looked at his parent and shrugged.
It was going on well past 11:00 when Scott, Alan and John finally landed back on the island and headed into the house. They had just walked through the kitchen when the light snapped on. The three of the jumped, startled.
"Any problems getting Five on auto?" a voice they well recognized asked.
John shot a quick look at his brothers. "No, Dad. Everything is working just fine."
Jeff stood up and walked over to his sons. "Any problems with Thunderbird Three?"
This time Scott glanced at John and Alan. "Uhmm, no. Everything is running great."
Crossing his arms, Jeff gave his sons a hard glare. "Care to explain to me why you're over an hour late getting back then."
"Scc. . . Scott," Alan stuttered a bit in nervousness. "Scott gave me some training lessons in Thunderbird Three on the way down."
Jeff looked directly at Scott, who only shrugged. "Figured it was a good time. Not a lot of traffic in the skies."
"Uh huh," agreed Jeff. "Well, next time make sure you clear it with me first. No one called in and I didn't know where you were."
"Sorry, Dad. It was me," Alan spoke up. "I guess I kind of got carried away with the lessons and put us out further than we should have been."
"Alright, never mind about it now. It's late. Get to bed," Jeff ordered. As the boys turned away, Jeff called out. "John, Alan? Make sure the two of you are up early. I want you to bring the tree down from the attic."
John and Alan shared a surprised look. "Didn't Gordon bring it down, Dad?" John wondered.
"Nope. It was too dark up in the attic and you boys know that bringing that tree down isn't a one man job. So Gordon and I did some other things tonight to get ready for the holiday."
Scott narrowed his eyes at his father's rather nonchalant attitude. While his brothers walked away grumbling amongst themselves, Scott turned to his father and just as he opened his mouth to comment, Jeff beat him to it.
"Next time, make sure no one is listening in on your conversation," was all Jeff said as he chuckled and walked away.
The family, minus Alan and John, sat at the breakfast table eating a Christmas Eve breakfast, listening to the thumps and thuds coming from the attic above them. Gordon shared a grin with his father, while Scott and Virgil winced at the noises. A sudden silence, and then a call on Jeff's wristcom made everyone jump.
"What is it, John?"
"Alan and I found a box that was underneath the tree marked Christmas. It doesn't look like it's been opened in ages. Did you want it left up here?"
Jeff frowned and looked over at Kyrano, who only shrugged. "I was pretty sure everything was down."
"Bring it down, John," Jeff told him.
"Okay, but someone needs to meet us in the stairwell to take it."
Gordon jumped up. "I'll go," and was gone before anyone could say a word.
The thumps and thuds started up again, along with a few whispered curses that had Jeff frowning. Onaha wore a frown of her own after she heard the boys dragging the box into the living room.
"Okay boys. You come in here and get something to eat. That tree can wait until after breakfast."
"Yes, Onaha," Alan thankfully said. Trailing behind John, the two sat down at the table while Onaha passed the food to them.
Jeff waited a few moments for his sons to get some food into them before speaking up. "So what were you teaching Alan in Thunderbird Three last night, Scott?"
Scott, who had just placed a forkful of food into his mouth paused and glanced over at his father. He took a few seconds to chew and swallow while thinking of what to tell his father. He shared a look with John and Alan, which Jeff did not miss. He smiled to himself knowing he would get an answer out of Scott, just not the complete truth. He once again asked himself if he really wanted to know exactly how many secrets his sons had amongst themselves.
"Oh, I just let him take the controls and do some flybys and twists and turns. Thought he would like to feel the difference between handling Three from the other 'birds. He was right when he said we got a bit too preoccupied with his flying and ended up further away from the island than we thought," Scott explained.
Jeff nodded and turned to Alan. "Well, you've handled the controls for One and Two, what do you think about Three?"
Alan's eyes light up as he remembered the flight. "She's a lot more powerful than I would have imagined, and I think her controls are a bit touchier than the others."
"Good catch, Al," John agreed. "She is a bit more to handle than the others, but it's because of the power in her engines. Fly her often enough and you won't even feel it."
"I have a bit of trouble whenever I take the controls for flights up to Five because I don't fly her often enough. But then again," Scott stated as he looked at Gordon and Virgil," I think any of us would have that problem."
Virgil snorted. "Not me. As you guys are so fond of saying, Two flies a tank. Whenever I get behind the controls of Three, I feel like I'm flying out of control."
"It takes a firm hand to hold onto that much power," Jeff agreed. "Of course, if you really want to feel out of control, you should have been on some of the earlier rocket launches during my career. At least with Three, you're in control right from the start. When I flew, we didn't have control until after booster separation. That got the heart racing. That's why I made sure when I designed Thunderbird Three that the pilot is in control from the go."
Onaha looked around and noticed that everyone had finished eating. "Okay boys, enough shop talk. John, Alan, the two of you need to get that tree up. Scott and Virgil, would you two please get the extra leaves for the dining room table out and put them in. With Penny, Parker and John all joining us, we'll need the extra space. Then put the Christmas tablecloth and runner on the table. Gordon, would you please go down to the pantry and bring up the turkey? After that, you can all go and do what you want to do."
With yes ma'ams heard all around, the boys left to do the tasks assigned by Onaha. John and Alan headed into the living room to finish getting the tree up.
"Can you believe Dad waited to make us do this?" complained Alan. As he walked into the room, he bumped into Kyrano who was coming from the opposite direction with several pots of poinsettia plants in his hands. Alan and John both reached out to catch them before they fell. "Sorry Kyrano. I didn't see you behind the foliage."
Kyrano only smiled at the boys. "It is okay. I should not have tried to carry so many plants at once."
John was looking at the holiday plants with interest. "Kyrano, did you grow these in your greenhouse?"
"Yes, Mr. John. How are you able to tell?"
John chuckled. "They appear to be a lot hardier than the ones you buy at a store. Were they hard to grow in this climate?"
"Not especially. I just made a special section of the greenhouse for those plants I want to grow that require different temperature levels."
"Kyrano, I need to visit your greenhouse while I'm home. I suspect you are really enjoying that present from dad."
Kyrano only smiled. "I have been able to grow things I probably would not have been able to in this climate. It was a wonderful present from your father."
Alan, by this time had unpacked the tree. "Come on, John. Let's get this done."
Within a few minutes, John and Alan had the tree put together and with some help from Kyrano, were able to make sure it stood straight. The both lay down on the floor and Kyrano handed them the tree skirt to put around the bottom. John was on one side of the tree, Alan on the other, when they both glanced at each other and suddenly started laughing, remembering the story from the night before.
Kyrano smiled at their amusement and shared the same line of thought that Jeff did last night; the secrets the Tracy boys had amongst themselves were better kept amongst the brothers.
As Christmas Eve day wore on, Tracy Island, at least on the inside, was transformed from a South Pacific Island Retreat, to a winter wonderland. At various times throughout the day, Scott wandered into the kitchen, his nose and stomach following the enticing smells that were wafting through the house. Onaha and Tin-Tin were busy cooking up various dishes in preparation for the main meal the next day, while at the same time keeping up a steady supply of appetizers for everyone to snack off of throughout the day. Even Parker had gotten pressed into service at one point to help keep snacks out around the house. Jeff and Penny wisely managed to escape from Onaha's chore assignments and were currently completing a walk along the beaches.
It was late afternoon when Scott wandered in once more, but got no further than the doorway when Onaha stopped him. "Scott Tracy, you turn yourself right around and head back to wherever you came from. You keep coming in here to eat and there won't be anything left for the others, plus you'll ruin your dinner."
"Aww, Onaha! Everyone else has been in here. I can't help it if I have a fast burning metabolism and I'm hungry again," Scott complained.
Onaha turned and waved a wooden spoon at the eldest brother. "That is not true. I have not seen John come in since breakfast and I've only seen Gordon once. You give your brothers a chance to get some food."
"John and Gordon have been snacking off the trays that are in the living room and study."
"Those are just snacks. You've been nibbling at the fixin's for dinner. If you are so hungry, you can set the table for dinner."
Scott looked at his watch and saw the time. "Wow! I didn't realize it was so late. Okay, Onaha, I'll get the table set."
As Scott headed off to the dining room, Jeff and Penny walked in from the pool area. Jeff sniffed the air appreciatively. "Mom, my mouth is watering."
"It certainly does smell quite delicious," Penny agreed. "You know, Jeff. This is going to be the first time that Parker and I have actually joined your family for a real Christmas dinner."
"You've been here for the holidays before, Lady Penelope," Onaha stated.
"Not really. We've been here for exchanging gifts and a small party, but I've always had to leave to attend some function or other and never got to stay for dinner," Penny reminded her. "Since I knew Jeff was going to extend the invitation again, I made sure to keep my calendar completely clear for the week and have no intention of leaving this island until the day after New Year's."
Alan happened to walk into the kitchen just as Penny gave her explanation and walked over to her and hugged her. "Well then, we'll just have to make sure that you get the full treatment."
Penny looked warily at the young boy. "Do I dare ask what the 'full treatment' is, Alan?"
Alan only smiled and walked over to the linen hutch and took out the holiday linens. "Let's just say that a holiday meal with the Tracy family is quite different from a regular dinner." He held up the linens. "Scott forgot to get the tablecloths and such."
As he left the kitchen, Penny leaned close to Jeff. "How is a holiday dinner different?"
Onaha frowned at Penny. "Let's just say, Milady that you don't want to have anything to drink but water until after the meal is over and you always want to make sure you keep your glass covered."
Penny looked puzzled as she turned to Jeff who expounded on Onaha's explanation. "Let's just say that there were many holiday meals that I found the bottom of my coffee cup or wine glass filled with the vegetables that the boys didn't want to eat." At the shocked look Penny gave him, Jeff and Onaha burst out laughing.
"It's just something you learn to expect when you have rather boisterous children, dear," Onaha patted Penny's hand.
"It sounds like I would be better off not having anything to drink at all until after dinner."
"Don't worry, Penny," Jeff assured her. "I'll make sure the boys behave themselves at the dinner table."
"I would appreciate it, Jeff. They may not like how I retaliate," Penny smiled and moved over to help Grandma.
Lady Penelope Creighton Ward expected her first Christmas Eve dinner with the Tracy family to be a formal affair, judging by how well the table was set. She briefly contemplated running up to her room and changing into something more formal when John Tracy walked into the dining room. Seeing he was dressed casually in pressed jeans and a polo shirt, she decided her outfit was fine.
"Good evening, Lady P. Enjoying the holiday so far?" John casually asked.
"Oh yes, John. I'm having a wonderful time," Penny admitted. "I do have to say however, when I look around at all the decorations and smell the wonderful aromas from the kitchen, it has made me wonder what the holidays in a true winter climate would be like."
John smiled as his thoughts turned back to the holidays while he was growing up. "It does add a very special touch to everything, looking out the window and seeing a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. We would have a big roaring fire going in the fireplace, drinking hot chocolate after coming in from the rides. When Grandpa Tracy was still alive, he would take all of us out for a sleigh ride right after dinner."
"Not quite the same nowadays, is it?" Penny asked him.
"No. I mean, there is just something wrong about putting up a Christmas tree and holiday lights outside in shorts and a tee-shirt." John laughed. "The first year we moved here, Gordon was so mad that there wasn't any snow, he turned the air conditioning down to like 50 degrees. It got so cold in here we thought for a minute it was going to snow. Dad wasn't really happy about Gordon doing that."
Penny laughed. "I can imagine. I guess spending your winters in the farmlands of Kansas is very different from spending them in a big city. When I was little, we would go out to the countryside and visit my grandparents. It was very different because the snow was always fresh and clean. Unlike London where it is all slush and mud." She shuddered.
"Well, you don't have to worry about that there. No storms on the horizon, sun and more sun is the only thing expected."
Penny looked at the number of settings at the table. "John, is someone else joining us?"
John shook his head. "Nope. Dad absolutely refuses to allow Kyrano, Onaha and Tin-Tin to not join us for the holiday meals. The first time they were here for the holidays, Kyrano told Dad it was not proper for he and his family to join us for the main meal. They both finally came to the agreement that Onaha would prepare the meal, but once all the dishes were served, they all were to sit their butts down in the chairs and join us."
"At least they managed to come to an agreement about that. I don't imagine Jeff wins too many fights with Onaha," Penny agreed.
Before John could respond, his brothers came into the room, Alan trailing behind chatting quietly with Parker. "Come on, fellows. Let's get the line-up going," Scott commanded.
"The line-up?" Penny asked.
Gordon walked over to Penny, took her by the elbow and directed her to a seat. "You just sit back and relax, Lady P. We have a system worked out for getting dinner on the table and you would only be in the way. Parker, you sit down next to her."
Parker started to object, but was cut off by Jeff who had walked into the dining room. "Sorry, Parker. The boys are in charge right now and you are a guest."
Parker looked askance at Lady Penelope, who only shrugged and gestured to her butler to sit down.
"Okay boys. Onaha and Kyrano are ready in the kitchen."
In amazement, Penny and Parker watched as the boys lined up between the dining room and the kitchen and started passing bowls and plates down the line to each other. Penny could just see Scott at the front of the line, taking the items from Onaha or Kyrano and passing them down. Tin-Tin had come in and stationed herself at the end of the line and placed the bowls on the dining room table. In no time at all, the steaming dishes were on the table and Kyrano was pushing in a butler cart with a huge turkey on it, ready for carving.
Penny finally pushed herself back from the table and glanced around. She happened to glance at the butler cart and was surprised to see that the turkey, which Onaha had told her earlier was a 20 lb turkey, was nothing but a carcass. Looking around at the table, she could see nothing but empty bowls and plates. She finally looked at all and noted that everyone was also pushing themselves back from the table.
"Well. I certainly hope you don't get a call out for a rescue," Penny remarked.
"Why's that?" Jeff asked.
Penny nodded towards the boys. "After all that food they ate, I suspect that shortly everyone is going to be falling asleep."
"Oh my dear," Onaha chuckled. "This was nothing but a snack for the boys. They will be looking for something to munch on within an hour."
"After all of that!" exclaimed Penny. "I couldn't possibly put one more thing on my stomach."
"These boys could," Jeff added. "That's why Onaha hides the pies. They don't come out until later, but trust me; the boys will be scouring the kitchen for them."
"Well then, I insist that you let me help with the clean up," Penny stated. She frowned when Onaha and Tin-Tin chuckled. "Don't tell me. The boys have a system for that as well?"
Tin-Tin only pointed to the boys. Penelope turned and watched as each one of them got up from the place, took their plate and scraped the leftovers into a bowl on the butler cart, gathered up their silverware, glasses and at least one of the serving bowls and headed to the kitchen.
"I'm impressed," Penny could only respond. "They do it without arguing!"
Jeff had stood up and was doing the same thing. "They were the ones to work out the systems. Couple of years ago, I told them that they would have to work together to help Onaha out with the dishes because it was just too much for her to do on her own. So, the boys devised this serving and cleanup system. When they go into the kitchen, their dishes are stacked on the counter and all Onaha has to do is put them in the dishwasher."
Penny followed suit, as did Parker, and both followed Jeff into the kitchen. "It still must take her several loads to get all these dishes washed."
Onaha came up behind her. "At first, it did. But the dishwasher broke down and when Mr. Tracy replaced it, it was replaced with a big restaurant style one. It will hold all of this if packed properly."
"And mother always cleans as she goes along, so most of the pots and pans have already been put in the dishwasher by the time dinner is served so all we have to do is unload the clean dishes," Tin-Tin added.
"Well, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at the level of organization found around here," Penny lamented. So, since I'm not needed in here, I'll just go into the lounge and see what I can't do in there."
Tin-Tin laughed. "Lady P, we'll be serving coffee and start decorating the tree. If you can check and make sure the boys have the lights on the tree it will help."
"Very well dear, I'll go see what I can do in there." Penelope left the kitchen and headed into the lounge. She found Jeff sitting on a chair, opening up various boxes of ornaments and placing them on the table for the boys to pick up. "Can I help with something, Jeff?"
Jeff looked up and smiled at Penny. "Sure. If you can open up the boxes and set them up so the boys can get to them, it'll ensure they don't tear them apart."
"I think I can handle that easily enough," Penny smiled and sat down next to him. She couldn't resist peeking inside the boxes as she opened them up. Penny was always amazed at the ornaments she saw gracing the Tracy family Christmas tree. Most people may expect to find expensive ornaments made out of glass or crystal, in subtle tones befitting someone of Jeff Tracy's wealth. They would be surprised to find that the ornaments were more homespun. Wood ornaments depicting toys like drums or rocking horses, various farm animals and of course, the handmade ornaments she knew were made by the boys during various ages of their childhood. Those turned out to be the most amusing to watch as the boys hung them on the tree. While the boy who created the ornament begged and pleaded that it not be put on the tree this year, the others oohhed and aahhed and told stories about the year it was made. Penny found those moments to be more treasured than anything she ever experienced growing up.
As much of the decorating had been done throughout the day, in no time at all the boys had the tree decorated and everyone was sitting back admiring their handiwork. Onaha and Kyrano walked in with coffee and hot chocolate, Tin-Tin following them with the pies.
Setting the tray down, Onaha looked at the boys. "You all make sure and pack up the boxes and clean up the mess before you light the lights or try for one piece of pie," she warned, shooting glare at Scott who had moved over toward the pies.
Scott sighed in resignation. He'd never be able to get past Onaha until her instructions were followed. "Okay fellows. Let's get to it."
The boys quickly jumped to follow orders and in no time at all, had all the ornament boxes packed up and put away for the rest of the holiday. It was only then that the mysterious box was noticed.
"Hey Dad?" Alan called out as he picked up the box. "This was the box John and I found upstairs." He brought it over to his father.
Jeff frowned. "You were right. Looks like it hasn't been opened for years. Wonder what's in it?"
The other boys crowded around him. "Only one way to find out," Virgil hinted.
Jeff took the box and pulled the tape off. It was yellowed with age and cracked and split in pieces as he pulled it off. Opening up the flaps, Jeff found something was wrapped up in tissue paper and napkins. Lifting it out of the box, Gordon took the box from his father while Jeff sat the parcel on his lap. He pulled the tissue paper apart and suddenly gasped.
"What is it, Dad?" Scott asked, concerned as his father's pallor became pale. The others quickly moved closer to their father.
"I thought we'd lost this in the move," Jeff whispered. He carefully lifted a cloth angel out of the paper and smoothed out the dress and wings. Scott, Virgil and John gasped in surprise as well when they saw what their father was holding. Only Alan and Gordon didn't seem to recognize it.
"What is it, Jeff?" Penny asked. Jeff and his older boys had momentarily forgotten about their guests as they were lost in the memories of the object Jeff held.
Jeff held up what was obviously a hand-crafted angel. It was nothing more than a small baby doll that had a halo sewn into her head and a white dress with feathered wings attached to the back. The dress was trimmed in gold and it appeared that the angel was holding a small necklace. The necklace actually was woven into the dress and along the line there were small frames, five in total, each one containing a picture. The pictures were of each of the Tracy boys taken on the day of their birth.
"Lucy made this the year we got married. We couldn't afford a real angel so she made this. Then, when each of the boys was born, she would take one of their first pictures and add it to the dress of the angel. She said it would heaven's way of always making sure her little angels were safe."
"How come I don't ever remember seeing it, Dad?" Gordon asked softly.
Scott draped his arm over his two youngest brothers. "We thought it got lost when we moved from Cape Canaveral to Kansas. The last time it was on the tree was the year Alan was born because we moved the following year."
"Can we put it on the tree once again, Dad?" Alan wondered.
Jeff smiled at his boys. "We sure can, Alan."
The angel was placed atop the tree and everyone crowded around while the room was darkened and Jeff turned on the tree lights. If anyone noticed that there appeared to be a halo of lights surrounding the angel, no one mentioned it.
Jeff finally broke the melancholy mood that seemed to settle over everyone. "Okay, how about some coffee and some music. Virgil?" When Virgil glanced at his father, Jeff motioned towards the piano.
The rest of the night moved quickly by with carols being sung and everyone enjoying themselves.
Even though everyone had retired for the night, it you had been a fly on the wall in the lounge trying to sleep, you would have been interrupted every so often as one person after another snuck into the lounge area and lay out their presents underneath the tree. What had been only a few presents under the tree when everyone turned in, was not slowly turning into a room laden with brightly wrapped presents in various shapes and sizes.
Alan and Parker had managed to grab a quick minute alone to discuss the best way to get Virgil's present to the room. Parker assured him that he would get it into the lounge without anyone being the wiser, and he would find a place to keep it hidden until the right time. It was just coming on sun-up when Parker was finally able to sneak the "luggage" into the lounge, passing by Alan on his way back to his room.
Parker nodded. "All set young Mr. Tracy."
"Great! Thanks for your help in this, Parker."
Parker smiled at the young lad. "It is my pleasure, sir. No. If you will forgive me, as I don't have to worry about Milady's breakfast, I should like to retire for the few remaining hours that I can."
Alan chuckled. "Okay Parker. See you at breakfast."
It was 8:45 in the morning on Christmas Day and the only occupants of Tracy Island that were awake were Onaha, Tin-Tin and Kyrano. Onaha and Tin-Tin were busy preparing the breakfast and Kyrano was setting the table. It had been a quiet morning, not completely unusual in the Tracy household since breakfast wasn't served until 9am and everyone knew it was useless to come in any earlier than that.
Jeff had already woken up, gotten some coffee and was in his office checking on some emails while waiting for everyone else to get up. He had heard some whispered words and thumps coming from the direction of his boy's rooms earlier, and knew it had to be Scott, John or Alan. Gordon and Virgil's alarm clocks wouldn't be going off for at least another 10 minutes. Even with guests in the house, Virgil especially, would not be awakened any earlier than need be.
Looking at the clock and seeing it was now 8:55, Jeff got up and headed towards the dining room. He was joined at the doorway by Scott, Alan, John, Penny and Parker, who were coming up from the lounge area.
"Merry Christmas everyone! How long have all of you been up?" Jeff asked. They were all showered and dressed. Even Penny looked her normal perfectly coifed self. Each of them was carrying a coffee mug.
"I was the first one in the lounge and that was around 8:30," Scott spoke up.
"John and I came in a few minutes after that," Alan added.
"Parker and I were right behind them."
Jeff chuckled. "Just can't wait to get to the presents, can you?"
"Well, it appears that Santa must have spent some extra time unloading his sleight this year, judging by the number of gifts under that tree," Penny teased.
"I was just trying to find one present in particular," Scott said, shooting Alan and John a meaningful look." Alan only smiled.
"Mr. Tracy, would you care for a cup of my special holiday brew?" Parker asked, holding a coffee pot.
Jeff caught a whiff of coffee mixed with an interesting scent. "Sure Parker. I'm always game to try something new." He took a tentative sip. "Well, I'm really just a regular coffee person, but I like this. What is it?"
Before Parker could reply, a shuffling sound could be heard in the hallway. All eyes turned as Gordon breezed in, followed by Virgil who everyone knew had just woken up.
"Morning and Merry Christmas everyone!" Gordon chimed cheerfully. "Time to open presents?"
Scott slapped Gordon on the back of the head as he sat down. "No, fish face. You know its breakfast first, presents later."
Parker wordlessly handed Virgil a mug of coffee, who took it and smiled gratefully at the butler. "Thanks."
As everyone began sitting down at the table, Onaha and Kyrano began to serve. The din of the chatter rose a bit as everyone dug into the delicious breakfast of eggs, sausage, pancakes, toast and juice.
"My goodness! I'm going to have to exercise when we get back home to work off all the pounds I'll gain," Penny remarked as everyone finished the meal.
"We all go for a jog later in the morning, Lady P. You're welcome to join us," Gordon teased.
"That's quite alright, Gordon. I think I'll pass on that for now," Penny quickly replied. "Besides, I didn't bring any running shoes."
"So when do you open presents?" Parker asked in all innocence. Everyone laughed.
"As soon as Virgil is able to form one coherent sentence," John dryly replied. Virgil glared at his brother.
"Keep that up and I'll make sure it doesn't happen until well after lunch," Virgil warned him.
Gordon slapped his hands down on the table and stood up, picking up his dishes. "Well, there's the sentence."
Before she knew it, Penny watched all the boys pick up the dishes and set them on the counter above the dishwasher. Onaha loaded them into the machine while the family quickly cleared off the table and cleaned up the kitchen.
Even before Penny realized that the kitchen was cleaned up and the dishwasher running, Jeff had pulled back her chair and helped her up. They were following the boys, Tin-Tin, Onaha, Kyrano and Parker to the living room.
"Would it be awfully presumptuous of me to assume that the opening of the presents is as organized as the setting and clearing of the breakfast table?" Penny asked.
Jeff, and Scott who happened to be walking directly in front of them, laughed.
"Are you kidding!" exclaimed Scott. "Everyone sits down and we hand out all the presents and then it's a free for all."
"Free for all?" Penny gave Jeff a puzzled look.
Jeff directed her to a chair that was slightly set apart from everyone else. "It means sit back here and you'll be safe."
Penny did just that. Scott was right; it became a free for all, especially watching the five supposedly grown-up Tracy brothers revert back to more like five year old children as they opened their gifts. She laughed along with Jeff as the four older brothers kept throwing their wrapping paper over Alan's head, who only resignedly shook his head, pushed it off to the side and continued to open his gifts.
By the time all the gifts were open, everyone thanked and were thanked for the gifts that were received. Penny got a beautiful diamond necklace and matching earrings that Jeff had specially made. Jeff didn't know which gift he loved the most. Penny had given him an Oriental statue; the very one he had expressed a desire to own when he saw it in a shop in London a few months back when he visited Penny. He went back to purchase it, only to find out someone else had beat him to it. His other treasured gift was a picture of his five boys, all dressed in their Sunday best looking very dashing and cutting fine figures in their suits. Scott had confessed that while Jeff was gone to a conference in Germany, Penny arranged for them to fly Thunderbird One to a secluded spot in Massachusetts, not far from Alan's school. They arranged it when John was planet side for a week and Brains was covering for him. The boys picked up Alan, got their picture taken and Penny had the portrait sent to her home for safe keeping.
Parker was quite happy to receive the new luggage from Lady Penelope, even if it caused him a few moments of embarrassment to explain his current predicament. One that Alan was happy to take up the story.
"But I saw you carrying in some leather bags, Parker," Gordon told him. "Don't tell me Lady P made you carry in your OWN Christmas present!"
Parked glanced over at Alan, who shared a look with John and nodded. Scott, Gordon and Virgil all saw it and wondered what was up. "Okay guys, what gives?" Scott demanded. "Where is this so called mystery gift for Virgil?"
"For me?" Virgil squeaked in surprise.
Alan once again looked to Parker who nodded in the direction of the piano. Alan looked and saw the gift sitting just out of sight, behind the bench. He walked over to Virgil and put an arm around his shoulders.
"Yes, Virgil. It's for you from all of us."
Virgil pulled back and gave his youngest brother and skeptical look. "If it's from all of you, how come none of the others know anything about it?"
"Oh for Pete's sake Virgil," John admonished. "Alan found this gift for you and thought it was exactly what you wanted and needed. He called and told me about it and I agreed with him. It is a bit on the expensive side, so I called the guys and we all agreed to go in on this together. So it's really from all of us."
"Okay," Virgil agreed, although hesitantly. "So where is it?"
Alan pointed towards the piano. It was then that Virgil saw it. "You guys bought me a suitcase? Gee, I'm touched but I really don't need anything that big."
Scott gave Virgil a light smack on the back of the head. "Go sit down on the bench you ninny."
Doing as Scott ordered, Virgil sat and was soon surrounded by everyone as they were now all interested. Alan moved the case to stand directly in front of Virgil.
"Okay Virgil. First off, you see the side of the case that is facing me?" Virgil nodded. "There are two little tabs on the ends," Alan explained. "If you pull those away from the case, a flap will open up."
Virgil did so and saw what appeared to be poles inside. "Those are collapsible and adjustable tripod legs," Alan began again.
Now knowing what they were, Virgil pulled them out and extended the legs. With Alan's help, he set the case up on the legs. "Great. It's a suitcase with its own legs."
"Virgil!" Alan whined. "Okay. Now, see the two clasps in the front?" Again Virgil nodded.
"Go ahead and open them and then lift the top up."
Virgil did so and caught his breath as the lid opened up to reveal an easel pad for drawing, as well as clamps to hold a backdrop for painting on. Looking down at the case again, Virgil suddenly realized what he was looking at. He gave Alan a shocked look.
"Oh Alan! You didn't?" Alan only nodded and smiled while his brothers urged Virgil on. Without needing further instruction from Alan, Virgil pulled up two tabs that were in the middle of the case. Two trays folded out and down over the sides of the case. One side contained a flat panel for Virgil's painting pallet, with slots for paintbrushes. The other side contained slots for hanging cloths and placing open cans or tubes of paint. With all the panels moved and the side trays out, Virgil looked down into the case itself and his eyes grew wide in amazement.
"Alan! This case contains all the colors that I use both tubes and jars. And these brushes!" Virgil once again looked at his baby brother in shock. "How did you do this?"
Alan shrugged. "Remember, back in October when Dad flew to New York and I came down to spend the weekend with him?" Virgil and his brothers nodded. "You asked me if I would go to your art store and pick up some paints you ordered and give them to Dad to bring home. I saw this when I was in there. When Mr. Wagner showed me what it was, I thought it would be perfect for you. This way, when storms are coming, you can pack up all your art stuff in one spot and get it out of the danger zone."
Jeff, who had been standing behind Alan, put a hand on his son's back and rubbed it gently. "That was a very thoughtful idea, Alan."
Again, Alan only shrugged. "I just know how mad Virg gets whenever he has to replace his stuff and how long it can take to get it to the island." Virgil had sat back down on the bench, unable to say anything about Alan's gift.
Penny finally decided to add her gift to the display. "Virgil. There is one more gift that is a part of this. It's from Parker and me for you."
Penny set the case next to Virgil on the piano bench. Virgil only closed his eyes and smiled when he saw the case, again, knowing what it was. He opened up the case and sucked in his breath to see that it was fully stocked. He picked up a few of the jars and tubes and looked at them closely.
"Wait a minute! These are the paints I placed on order."
Alan nodded. "When we stopped in New York to pick up the display, Mr. Wagner asked if we could bring the order out to you. That was when Penny saw the case and bought it and then had Mr. Wagner pack your order in the case. He also is the one who helped me order the brushes and jars that are in the big case. So you kind of owe him a big thanks. I never would have been able to do this without him."
Virgil finally stood up and drew Alan into a hug. "It's perfect, baby brother. Thank you."
Scott, John and Gordon shared a grin and joined their brothers in a group hug.
Jeff just stood back and smiled at his sons. A warm glow filled his heart as he witness how much his sons truly cared for each other. Glancing over at the Christmas tree and at the angel, Jeff thought to himself, 'You would be very proud of them Lucy. We did good.'
Jeff was torn from his thoughts when he felt arms suddenly grab him and pull him into the middle of the family hug. No one seemed to notice the angel on the tree as her glow grew a bit brighter.