*collapses onto laptop dramatically*
Sorry for the wait, guys. College, revision, dance rehearsals and general 'I-need-to-find-the-time-to-breathe-ness' means that I've been pretty busy this week. So yes, I'm a little behind schedule. Sorry. But grades do matter more than hobbies, ya know? And besides, I'm only a couple of days late. You'll live. *grins*
Big thanks to all my reviewers! Here's a nice long chapter for you (not that my chapters are EVER short, of course), so grab yourself a nice mug of tea (or a suitable substitute if that doesn't appeal to you) and enjoy.
Alan exhaled a long sigh out through his nose, chewing on the end of his pen thoughtfully. Leaning his back against the balcony railings, he adjusted the position of the text book that lay open against his bent knees. The sun reflected off the white pages, the bright glare hurting his eyes, so he scooted over to the left a little, moving closer to the shade on the far side of his balcony so that the scorching afternoon sun no longer fell across his book. Nodding in satisfaction, he picked up his pad of lined paper, took the pen out of his mouth and continued writing.
Turning the page with one hand, he narrowed his eyes in determination as his pen flowed fluidly across the lined paper.
Miss Garret said it had to be over two thousand words, and that's what she's gonna get. Besides, this isn't too hard. Another half a page and I'll be done. Then I can go and see what the guys are up to. Gordon's not in the pool, so there must be something interesting going on inside the house. Maybe Fermat's there too? Nah, he's probably with his dad. He said something about working on some new variable resisters to replace Thunderbird 5's current modulators - whatever that means - so I guess he and Brains are probably tinkering with some kinda invention or other.
Brains had returned from his repair mission only the previous evening, after spending eleven days working with the NASA repair crews to fix the extensive structural damage that Thunderbird 5 had sustained. Now that the station was once again intact, the scientist had returned home for a few weeks to plan out the next course of action. The intricate circuitry on-board the damaged Thunderbird would need to be rewired, and much of the internal paneling replaced, before the station would be operational once again. According to Brains, the repair job could take up to three months - maybe even longer - to complete.
But, Alan mused, that wasn't neccessarily a bad thing. It meant that John could spend more time on the island with the rest of the family, giving him a chance to fully recovery from the damage - both physical and mental - that he had sustained during his ordeal aboard the station. And, since Brains had channeled all incoming frequencies to the mainframe communications centre at NASA headquarters, International Rescue could continue operating without Thunderbird 5 for as long as was necessary. If a call came in, NASA would simply relay the message to Tracy Island, and the Thunderbirds would be ready to take off. It was a good thing that both Thomas and his father had friends in high places.
Looking up from his text book, Alan smiled brightly. "Hey, Virge."
The medic came to crouch down next to him. "Whatcha doin'?" he asked, leaning forwards so that he could read what Alan had been in the process of writing.
"It's just a dumb report I had to do," Alan replied, finishing off his sentence and closing the text book over the pad. "I'm done now anyway."
"Good." Virgil grinned, standing to his feet and jerking his head towards the balcony doors. "C'mon."
Alan raised an eyebrow. "C'mon where?"
"I wanna give you one last check-up," the older Tracy stated. "I might not get another chance before you go back to school tomorrow."
Alan groaned, standing to his feet. "Virge, I'm fine."
"Good," Virgil remarked cheerfully. "Then this won't take long, will it? C'mon, I won't even drag you down to the infirmary this time. We can do it in your room."
Reluctantly, Alan stepped through the double bay windows and into his bedroom, letting out a resigned sigh. "Fine, if you insist."
"I do," Virgil confirmed, giving his brother a playful shove. "Sit down on the bed and take your shirt off."
Alan rolled his eyes, but complied all the same. "Yes, sir."
Virgil grinned at the comment, slapping Alan upside the head gently. The younger Tracy gave a mumbled "ow" merely out of reflex, shooting his older brother a jokingly moody glare as he reached up to unbutton his shirt. Sliding his arms out of the sleeves, he set the garment down on his pillow and let out a sigh.
Virgil waved a hand towards him. "Sit back a bit."
Alan complied, pushing himself backwards along the mattress until his shoulders touched the wall. As they did, he sucked in a sharp breath through his teeth, jerking away suddenly. Virgil looked up sharply from where he had been skimming through the notes on his electronic data-pad, concern and worry burning in his eyes.
"What? What is it?"
"The wall's cold," Alan replied pathetically, laughing inwardly at his brother's overprotective nature.
Virgil frowned at him as the younger Tracy's face broke into a grin. Sitting down on the edge of the mattress, the medic punched the teenager's knee. "Dude, that's not even funny. I thought something was wrong."
Alan tried to look apologetic, but failed miserably. Smirking, he shrugged. "Sorry, doc."
Shaking his head, Virgil set the data-pad down beside him and reached out to run his fingers over the faded yellowy-brown bruises that lined Alan's right side. The younger Tracy sucked in another sharp breath, shying away from Virgil's touch.
"Whoa, cold hands!" he protested.
Virgil grinned, leaning over further so that he could continue with his examination. "Don't worry, kiddo," he replied warmly. "I'll be done in a sec."
Alan squirmed, letting out a pathetic groan. "Du-ude!" he whined. "This is torture!"
Virgil laughed. "Glad to hear it. Now quit moving."
"You have a really lousy bedside manner, d'you know that?" the blond teenager complained, gritting his teeth and jerking away sharply as Virgil's fingers skimmed over a particularly ticklish spot.
Taking pity on his younger brother, Virgil withdrew his hands and stood to his feet, scooping up his data-pad and making a few notes. Tucking the device into the pocket of his shorts, he glanced back down at Alan and sighed.
"Stand up a sec." He waited until his brother was upright, before pointing down at he ground. "Touch your toes."
Alan blinked. "What?"
"Your toes," Virgil repeated, smiling in amusement. "Most commonly found at the end of your feet."
Alan mumbled something under his breath - something that Virgil pointedly ignored - reaching down to touch the tips of his sneakers. He stayed there for a few seconds, staring at the floor and musing over whether perhaps Virgil was just trying to make him look stupid. He was about to voice his suspicions when he heard his brother's voice again.
"Does anything hurt?"
Alan frowned thoughtfully. "Um....not really. Is it supposed to?"
"No, no, that's a good thing." Virgil sounded amused. "Okay, you can stand up again." The moment Alan had done so, the medic pointed a finger towards the ceiling. "Reach up as high as you can."
Alan sighed deeply, raising his arms. "This is like the friggin' Hokey-Pokey."
"How do you feel now?" Virgil asked, ignoring the comment and looking at his brother critically.
Alan frowned. "I feel stupid."
"Apart from that."
Sighing, Alan dropped his arms and rolled his eyes again. "Virge, I'm fine. It only hurts after I've been moving about for a long while or - I dunno - if I try and lift something that's too heavy, maybe. And even then it's only a little twinge."
Virgil nodded, taking out his data-pad and smiling. "Okay, okay, I get the message," he chuckled. "You're fine. Congrats, Sprout, you've got a clean bill of health. I've already gotten Tom to sign the appropriate forms so that you can skip gym and track over the next couple of weeks, but after that you should be okay." Pointing towards the bed, he began to walk towards the door. "Put your shirt back on. I need you to come help me catch John so that I can give him his physical."
Alan grinned, buttoning up his shirt and raising an amused eyebrow. John hates physicals as much as I do. He's not gonna come quietly. Huh. This is gonna be interesting.
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Scott took a large gulp of coffee, frowning as he studied the set of cards in his hand. Setting his mug down on the table, he leaned back in his chair and 'hmmd' thoughtfully. Beside him, Thomas Palmar let out a heavy sigh, swirling his lemonade around in his glass.
"C'mon, Scotty, hurry it up," the older man groaned. "I'm getting old here."
On the other side of the table, Andy and Gordon exchanged amused glances, lowering their cards simultaneously and raising questioning eyebrows.
"Getting old?" Gordon repeated, smirking. "Dude, it's a little late for that."
Thomas took a swig of his drink, pointedly ignoring the implied comment as he nudged Scott with his elbow. With a loud sigh, Scott turned to face Gordon, lowering his cards so that he could glance over at his younger sibling.
"Gordo, got any....threes?" he asked.
As Gordon handed over one of his cards, he shot another grin in Thomas' direction. "If it's any consolation, old man," he continued sweetly, "You look at least a couple o' hundred years younger than Dad." As Thomas looked up at him, he pressed, "So, how'd ya do it?"
"Do what?" the older man inquired, a slight frown of confusion tugging at his brow.
Gordon's eyes danced with laughter. "Stay lookin' so young?"
Thomas shrugged, glancing down at his own cards. "I moisturise."
Scott, who had been in the process of taking another gulp of coffee, ended up inhaling the hot beverage instead. Setting his mug down on the table with a loud 'thunk', he covered his mouth as he began to cough mightily, leaning forwards in his chair in an attempt to aid his breathing.
"I see what you mean about coffee, Tom," Gordon intoned. "That stuff's deadly."
Thomas grinned, thumping Scott between the shoulder blades as the younger man continued to cough. After several seconds, when the hacking had yet to subside, the doctor raised an incredulous eyebrow.
"Geez, Scotty, how much went in there?" he asked, noticing that the eldest Tracy son was beginning to go red in the face. At last, Scott managed to suck in a ragged breath, wiping the moisture from his watering eyes and collapsing back in his chair.
"Whew!" he sighed, giving another, smaller cough. "Well....that was fun."
Andy looked at his friend critically. "Fun?" he repeated. Shaking his head, he looked down at his cards. "Dude, you really need to get out more."
Scott opened his mouth to reply, but paused as he spotted movement in the doorway. A moment later, John strolled - or was it skipped?- into the room cheerfully, grinning in a very un-John like fashion as he walked up to the dining table and plopped down into a chair beside Gordon.
"Yo," he remarked breezily.
Gordon gave him a funny look, before shaking his head and returning his attention to his cards. Scott frowned, tilting his head to the side. There was something....different about John's appearance. Something that wasn't quite right.
Feeling Scott's eyes on him, John looked up at his older brother, his smile widening into a full-out grin as he leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. It was then that Scott realised exactly what was missing. The sling on John's right arm - the arm which had sustained a hairline fracture during the initial explosion on-board Thunderbird 5 - had been used to hold the injured limb securely for almost two weeks in order to give the bone a chance to heal properly. But now the sling was gone, much to John's apparent relief, and the younger Tracy was free of the annoying restraint.
Being right-handed, Scott knew that his brother had found it difficult to do anything useful over his recovery period. The family had made use of his quick-thinking mind, of course, but John had been frustrated to find that he was unable to assist in any of the repairs due to the restrictions that his injury caused him.
"Hey," Andy said suddenly, a slight frown tugging at his features. "Did Virgil give you a physical without me?"
"And without me?" Thomas added, sounding equally as disappointed.
There came the sound of amused laughter from the doorway, and Scott looked up to see Virgil and Alan standing in the corridor outside the room, the older Tracy's arm slung around the shoulders of the shorter boy.
"Sorry, guys," Virgil apologised, dropping his arm and stepping into the room. Walking up behind John's chair, he grinned, clapping his older brother on the shoulder. "My infirmary, my patients, my job."
Andy frowned. "But I'm the older, more mature, better looking doctor," he stated, matter-of-factly.
"Yeah right. I'm three times better than either of you will ever be," Thomas informed the other doctors smugly. "So technically it's my infirmary. Plus I was the one who designed it all those years ago - over ten years ago, on fact - when you were still playing with plastic stethoscopes-"
"He still plays with plastic stethoscopes," Gordon mumbled.
"-which means that I have the prior claim over all medical facilities on the island," Thomas concluded calmly, as if there had been no interruption.
Virgil crossed his arms over his chest. "Bite me."
Thomas grimaced. "No thanks."
Alan, who had stepped up to Scott's side, leaned against the table and looked at his eldest brother questioningly as the three doctors continued to bicker amongst themselves. When Scott looked up at him, he raised an eyebrow.
"What are they arguing about?"
Scott grinned, shrugging. "It's a mother-hen thing, Sprout," he replied, sharing an amused look with John as he spoke. "Put three doctors on an island together with only two patients - especially when they're forced to co-exist in close quarters with a single medical facility - and they're bound to ruffle each other's feathers occasionally."
Andy, drawn out of his argument with Thomas over who was better looking, shot his best friend an incredulous look. "You're one to talk, Scott," he chuckled. "When put to vote, I think you'd win hands down in the 'mother-hen of the year' competition."
Scott shrugged, pulling out the chair beside him and tugging Alan into it. "Whatever. C'mon, let's deal again."
As Andy scooped up the cards and began to shuffle them expertly, Scott saw Alan glance down at his watch out of the corner of his eye. Noticing the slight frown on the boy's brow, he nudged Alan with his elbow to make him look up.
"You waiting for somebody?" he teased lightly. Alan grinned, leaning forwards and resting his crossed arms on the edge of the table.
"I'm just wandering why Tin-Tin's already getting ready for the party," he commented. "It's not even three yet. Virge and I met her on our way down here, and she said she was going up to Penny's room to get changed."
Thomas laughed, pushing his empty glass to the side and picking up his new hand of cards. "Jenny's up there, too," he commented, shooting Alan an amused glance. "Kiddo, one of the things I've learned during my married life - other than how to brew a 'suitable' cup of tea, of course - is that women take a heck of a long time to get ready for special occasions like this. But hey, who cares? The end result is always well worth the long wait."
Alan raised an eyebrow again. "So....they're gonna take three hours to get changed?" he remarked, almost to himself. "Um...why?"
The six males exchanged silent glances, before shaking their heads dismissively and turning their attention back to the cards in front of them. They knew, after all, that trying to comprehend a woman's mind was utterly pointless.
"John, got any fours?"
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Tin-Tin turned sideways, smiling at her reflection in the full-length mirror as she faced the front again, putting her hands on her hips and tilting her chin up. The floral skirt and matching blouse wouldn't normally have appealed to her tastes - she hadn't worn a skirt since she was nine years old - but she had to admit, she was pleased with the outfit that Jennifer Palmar had brought back for her from Peru. The older woman was right; the colour really did suit her skin tone.
"Thanks, Jen," she stated, holding her arms out to the side and spinning around, smiling at the way her skirt swished about her legs. "I love it!"
Jenny glanced up from where she had been styling Penelope's hair. "Thought so," she said smugly. Tapping Penelope on the shoulder, she continued, "See, Penny - I told you Tin-Tin had a great pair of pins. Seriously, honey," she smiled at the teenager warmly, "You're gonna have the college boys lining up to date you with legs like those."
Tin-Tin laughed, moving away from the mirror and taking a seat on the end of the pink double bed, reaching down to pick up the bag of hair accessories that she'd taken from her own bedroom. Sifting through them, she glanced up and caught Penelope looking at her, the older woman's eyes dancing merrily.
"Come to think of it," the English aristocrat began, looking away again casually. "I suspect that a certain blond-haired Tracy will be most grateful that we persuaded you into wearing this particular outfit this evening."
"Who, John?" Jenny frowned slightly, setting down the hairspray and stepping back to admire the other woman's reflection in the mirror above the dressing table.
Penelope rolled her eyes. "No, dear. Deduct eight years and think smaller."
"I'm only joking, Penny," the brown-haired woman chuckled, smoothing down her dress carefully. "So Tin-Tin," she began, leaning against the closet beside her and raising an eyebrow, rubbing her hand absently over the bandage on her forearm. "What do you think of Alan?"
Tin-Tin felt a hot blush creep up into her cheeks, and Jenny's face broke into a grin. "Ha, I knew it!" The older woman moved swiftly over to the bedside and took a seat next to her, an almost teenage excitement shining in her eyes. "Okay, spill. You like him, right?"
Glancing down at her lap shyly, Tin-Tin shrugged. "I - I guess....kinda."
"Now, now," Penelope smiled, turning gracefully around on her chair so that she sat facing the other two women. "There are no secrets between friends."
"It was the eyes that first got your attention, right?" Jenny pressed. "That's what did it for me when I met Tommy. Well - that and the fact that he was the only senior doctor with a good sense of humour. I guess the two went together, really. Every time he laughed, I lost myself in those eyes."
Tin-Tin smiled at the dreamy look on Jenny's face. Then, seeing an opportunity to shift the focus of the conversation completely off her own little crush on Alan, she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and inquired, "So...when did he first ask you out?"
Jenny sighed happily. "Almost a year ago now. Right after I threw coffee all over his shirt."
Tin-Tin's mouth fell open. "You threw coffee at him?"
"Cold coffee," Jenny elaborated, shrugging slightly as she accepted a necklace off Penelope, smiling at the beautiful emerald stone attached to the long, silver chain. "I'd fallen asleep on the sofa in his office after finishing his paperwork for him again - and at the end of my double shift, too! Anyway, he came happily skipping into the room and woke me up by singing 'Oh What A Beautiful Morning'- and yes, Tommy might be a multi-talented guy, but singing just isn't one of his gifts - so I sat up, grabbed the nearest item to me and threw it at him."
"And that item was a cup of coffee?" Penelope concluded, sounding highly amused as she glanced up from where she had been examining the rows of shoes that lined the shelves in her closet.
"It was one of those take-out cups from the cafe across the road," the older woman nodded, "And as I said, it was cold - so no harm done. Well....I suppose his shirt had seen better days. But still, he deserved it. And besides, he didn't seem the least bit put out. He just flashed me one of those dazzling smiles that made me go weak at the knees - thank God I was already sitting down, who knows what would've happened otherwise."
"And then?" Penelope prompted, raising an eyebrow.
Jenny shrugged, reaching back to fasten the clasp on the necklace. "Then he asked if he could buy me breakfast. Fifteen minutes later, I'd already decided that he was the guy I'd been waiting for." Her face softened again as she dropped her hands down onto her lap. "And I guess I was right. We were engaged before the month was out."
Penelope sighed happily and, for a moment, the two older women merely sat in dreamy silence together as Tin-Tin smiled and shook her head. Then the blond-haired agent seemed to snap out of her daze, reaching out to retrieve a pair of high-heeled shoes from the closet shelf.
"Try these on, dear," she instructed, handing the shoes to Tin-Tin. "They go perfectly with your outfit."
Tin-Tin smiled. "Thanks, Lady P."
"Please, call me Penny," Penelope said warmly, sitting down in the chair at the dressing table once again. Glancing at her reflection in the mirror, she sighed softly and reached up towards her hair, patting her victory rolls. "There's something missing," she stated.
"Hang on," Tin-Tin said suddenly, reaching down to sift through her bag of hair accessories. After only a short moment, she pulled out a large exotic-looking silk flower. The petals were yellow and deep pink in colour, matching the tones on Penelope's dress, and the base of the flower was attached to a long hair clip.
Carefully sliding the accessory just above Penelope's ear, Tin-Tin clipped it to the hair securely before standing back to admire its effect.
"There." Tin-Tin smiled. "Perfect."
Penelope turned to look at herself in the mirror once again, another smile gracing her features as she raised her chin, turning her head to the side. After a long moment, she nodded in apparent satisfaction, turning to face her two companions.
"Ladies," she said, "I think we're ready."
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"Hey Scott, catch!"
Alan drew his arm back, throwing the football across to his eldest brother. Scott jumped up out of the water, catching it deftly and throwing it towards Virgil before his feet had even touched the bottom of the pool again. Virgil, caught unawares, gave a cry of protest as the football landed directly in front of him, splashing water into his eyes.
Alan smirked. "Nice catch."
Virgil frowned at him playfully, the corners of his mouth turning up as he threw the ball towards him. However, before Alan could even begin to react, a blur of copper flashed before his eyes as Gordon dove off the side of the pool, catching the ball effortlessly before landing in the water with a colossal 'splash'. Alan's "whoa!" was lost in a miniature tidal wave that left him coughing and spluttering, blinking the water from his eyes.
A wet head emerged from the water in front of him, green eyes sparkling as a grin threatened to split his face in two.
"Sorry, Sprout," Gordon chuckled. "You want the ball back?"
Alan shook his head, deciding that he'd better take a break. His ribs were beginning to ache. "Nah, I'm good."
Turning around, Alan reached out towards the edge of the pool. Pushing himself up, he winced at the twinge in his side, rolling over so that he sat with his feet dangling in the water. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Fermat and Virgil looking towards him in concern. Inwardly groaning, he tried to plaster a reassuring smile onto his face as the older worry-wart swam over to him.
"Hey," Virgil murmured, coming up to Alan's right hand side and putting a hand on his knee. "Your ribs okay?"
Alan nodded. "Yeah, they're fine. I just don't wanna overdo it."
"Probably a good idea," the older Tracy agreed, swiping his wet fringe away from his eyes. "You gonna be okay?"
"Yeah, I'll just watch," Alan replied, pressing his palms against the pool decking and leaning back. "And laugh whenever one of you drops the ball. That's what annoying younger brothers are supposed to do, right?"
Virgil raised a challenging eyebrow. "You'd better not laugh at me, squirt."
Alan grinned. "Wouldn't dream of it, Virge."
"Hey Mozart!" Gordon yelled from the other side of the pool. "You playing or not?"
Virgil grinned, squeezing Alan's knee before pushing himself away from the side of the pool, swimming back to his position. The game began again and Alan smiled as he glanced about, watching his brothers splash each other playfully. Despite being 'adults', they really hadn't changed much over the years. Especially Andy. The young doctor was now commentating from his his position on a giant, pink blow-up float in the centre of the pool.
"What the heck was that?" the brown-haired man demanded, as Scott missed John's pass, nearly flattening Fermat in the process as he fell on top of him. "C'mon, Scooter, let me see some of that Flyboy hand-eye coordination!"
Scott frowned at him, picking up the football and throwing it effortlessly over towards Gordon. "Shut it, Mandy."
"Gordon, let's not sit around and do nothing!" Andy continued, oblivious to the evil glint in the redhead's eyes. "You hafta be the ball!"
As Gordon tossed the ball over to Fermat, the aquanaut skimmed his arm across the surface of the water quickly, splashing Andy's face as the doctor drifted closer to him on his pink blow-up float.
"Bleugh, Gordon!" Andy protested. "You can't attack the commentator, it's not professional!"
Gordon smirked. "Sorry, Mandy."
Andy rolled his eyes. "Geez, you're such a Blunderbird."
Fermat dropped the ball into a water with a soft 'splash', the sound filling the sudden silence that fell over the pool area. Scott's expression was hard, but his eyes were gleaming cunningly as he glanced towards his brothers. A short pause dragged slowly by, before five voices called out:
"Oh, I'll get 'im!"
"You asked for it!"
In a coordinated attack, Fermat and the four Tracy sons leaped towards the float, laughing as Andy kicked manically in an attempt to get away - but to no avail. The doctor was successfully dragged off the float and into the water, dunked under by five merciless attackers. At the side of the pool, Alan laughed loudly, clutching at his side as his eyes watered. Oh yes, life was good.
Hearing laughter behind him, Alan glanced over his shoulder towards the barbecue pit. Kyrano, Thomas, Brains and Parker were helping Jeff with the barbecue, grins on their faces as they glanced over at the splashing figures in the pool. Jeff's eyes locked onto Alan's, his face softening into an affectionate smile. Then a slight frown tugged at his brow as he saw that Alan was no longer in the pool with the others, and he reached over to touch Thomas' shoulder, indicating for the doctor to look after the steaks for a moment. When Thomas complied, he wiped his hands on a towel and stepped out onto the pool decking, walking slowly over to where Alan sat.
Crouching down beside his youngest son, the Tracy patriarch put a hand on the teenager's shoulder. "You alright?"
Nodding, Alan smiled and replied, "Yeah, never better. Just thought I'd take a break, that's all. My side was getting a little sore"
Jeff squeezed the shoulder gently, grateful that Alan was now so much more at ease when it came to talking about his injury. "You need anything?" he asked softly. "Tom can grab you some meds if you like?"
Alan shook his head. "Nah, I'm good. It was just a muscle twinge. It's gone now."
"Okay," Jeff smiled, standing to his feet again. Glancing over his shoulder, he sighed. "I'd better get back to the barbecue before Tom burns my steaks. You know what he's like when it comes to cooking."
"Yeah," Alan grinned. "He's even worse than Scott!"
"I heard that!"
Jeff laughed as his eldest son and closest friend protested Alan's comment in unison. Ruffling Alan's hair, he headed back over to the barbecue pit, leaving his youngest to turn his attention back to the six figures in the pool. After watching his extended 'family' wrestle with each other in the water for a few minutes, Alan began to get uncomfortable. Deciding that stretching his legs would help to ease his stiffness, he pushed himself to his feet and grabbed his shirt from a nearby sun-lounger, sliding his arms into the short sleeves and reaching down to do up a few of the buttons.
Smiling to himself, Alan headed away from the poolside and walked across to the long table beside the steps that lead up to the house. Onaha had set out a variety of finger-foods and salad dishes to accompany the burgers, steaks and hot-dogs from the barbecue - and the pleasant aroma was making Alan's stomach growl. Grabbing a glass and pouring himself some lemonade, Alan glanced down at his watch, raising an eyebrow as he noticed how swiftly the time had flown by that afternoon. Indeed, it wasn't technically the afternoon anymore. It was currently two minutes past six, which meant that the party had officially 'started'. But where had Tin-Tin, Jenny and Lady Penelope run off to? They couldn't possibly still be changing, could they? Perhaps they were - what had Andy called it again? Oh yes - 'fashionably late'.
As his stomach growled again, Alan frowned to himself. Well I hope they get here soon, 'cause I'm starved.
Hearing a familiar female voice behind him, Alan turned away from the table of food to face the new arrival. The teasing 'and it's about time too' died on his lips as he ran his eyes over the slender figure, feeling something odd flutter in his chest.
"Um...Tin-Tin," he stammered. "You...um...y-you look-"
"Weird, I know," Tin-Tin smiled, tucking an invisible strand of hair behind her ear out of habit as she glanced down at her feet shyly.
"No, no, you look amazing," Alan stated hurriedly, hoping to correct his blunder. Then, realising what he'd just said, he felt his cheeks burn in embarrassment. "Um...I mean, ya know, it looks quite nice - the outfit, I mean - on you - and....you know, I - I think your Mom's calling me."
Rushing off up the steps, leaving Tin-Tin standing beside the table with a slightly flushed and bemused expression upon her face, Alan fled swiftly into the house and out of sight, hoping against hope that he hadn't actually just said that. Pinching himself in the hope that it was all a dream, he let out a mortified groan when he failed to wake up.
"Alan," he moaned, leaning his head back against the wall of the corridor. "Your life is over."
Outside by the pool, Alan's speedy exit did not gone unnoticed. Dropping his towel onto a nearby sun-lounger, Scott grinned as he watched Alan make a sudden dash up the steps towards the house, disappearing through the screen doors and out of sight. Hearing soft chuckling beside him, he turned his head to see John and Andy climbing out of the pool, wearing identical grins.
"What?" Scott asked, grabbing his shirt.
John shook his head, massaging the blue support strip around his upper arm as his eyes sparkled. Grabbing his towel, he began to dry himself off, smiling as his eyes wandered over to the spot where his younger brother had previously stood.
"I think Alan's finally realised that Tin-Tin's a girl," he stated.
Andy snorted in amusement. "Took him long enough."
Virgil, having climbed out of the pool to see what his older brothers were talking about, unhooked his towel from the back of a deck chair and slung it about his shoulders, thumping Scott on the back to get his attention.
"What's the big secret?" he inquired, running a hand through his damp hair and rubbing the moisture off his face with one end of the towel. Scott smiled, briefly explaining the reason behind Alan's sudden disappearance and pointing towards where Tin-Tin was now pouring herself a drink.
Virgil grinned. "Shame I didn't film it. That would've been a keeper."
John looked at him meaningfully. "You'd better not be thinking about using this against him," he warned
"Don't sweat it, Johnny," Virgil chuckled. "His secret's safe with me."
"Thatta boy, Mozart." Andy ruffled Virgil's damp hair, grinning as the younger man pushed his hand away with an annoyed pout.
Scott glanced over his shoulder towards where Fermat and Gordon were trying to drown each other in the pool. "You don't think Gordon saw it, do you?" he murmured, frowning slightly. "'Cause the Sprout's life ain't gonna be worth living if he did. Gordon will never let him live it down."
Andy nodded in agreement, turning back towards the pool. "Yo, Fish-sticks!" he called. As Gordon looked up at him, dark copper hair dripping water down his face, Andy continued, "Have you seen Alan around?"
"Yeah, he's-" Gordon paused, looking towards the table and realising that his younger brother was no longer present. "Well he was over there. Dunno where he is now, though. He must've gone inside for something."
"Yeah, probably," Andy agreed, before turning back around and smirking at Scott as he buttoned up his shirt. "See that piece of acting right there? That, Scooter, is why you will never be anywhere near as awesome as me. You might as well just give up trying, ya know."
Scott rolled his eyes. "Thanks for the words of encouragement, Andy," he stated sarcastically. "You've really put my life into perspective."
Andy grinned. "Anytime, pal. Anytime."
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Jeff leaned against the pillar beside the barbecue pit, watching his family as they chattered and laughed around him without a care in the world. The evening had cooled a little, the blue sky fading into a pastey orange colour as the sun began to set over the island. In the seats around the edge of the pool, his sons were talking animatedly with each other, clearly in the midst of debating something. Tin-Tin and Fermat sat on either side of Alan, all three teenager's laughing at a comment that one of the older Tracys had just made.
Probably Gordon, Jeff mused. That boy could entertain company for days on end without even breaking into a sweat.
Glancing down at his watch, Jeff sighed deeply and straightened up. It was time. Pushing himself away from the pillar, he nodded towards Brains and Kyrano, picking up a glass and a spoon from the nearby table and tapping the metal against the transparent object.
"Gather round, everyone, I have an announcement to make!"
At their father's statement, Scott and John looked at each other, smiles spreading slowly across their faces as they realised what was about to happen. Jumping to their feet, they grabbed Gordon and Virgil, tugging them across the pool decking and over to wher their father stood. Andy followed close behind, frowning in confusion as he raised an eyebrow at Scott's grinning face.
"What's going on?" he asked in a loud whisper, sensing the note of excitement in the air. Scott leaned across and murmured something into the doctor's ear, and a broad grin broke out across Andy's face. "Ah, I see."
Alan frowned to himself, walking over stand a few feet away from his father. Behind the Tracy patriarch, his four older brothers had lined up alongside Brains, Thomas an Andy, mock-serious expressions upon their faces. Gordon locked eyes with him and winked, his green eyes sparkling with some hidden secret as he clasped his hands behind his back, feet shoulder-width apart as he adopted the same stance as the other men. The Belegant parents - along with Penelope, Jenny and Parker - came to stand in front of the drinks table to Alan's left, facing Jeff as the brown-haired man cleared his throat.
"Tonight is a special night," he began, looking around at his assembled family, his eyes lingering on his sons as he spoke. "And there was a time when I didn't think that any of us would live to see it. But we did. And we're all here together - because of three very special people."
Turning to look at the three teenagers, he smiled. "Fermat, Tin-Tin, Alan." They took a step towards him as he beckoned them closer, looking thoroughly confused and more than a little embarrassed as they glanced at each other questioningly. "Against all odds, you three worked together to save our family," Jeff continued. "Furthermore, you put your own lives at risk in order to save complete strangers. What you did took immense bravery and courage. You far outshone the rest of us with your determination to do what you knew was right."
Pausing, he put a hand on Alan and Fermat's shoulders, smiling at Tin-Tin, who stood between the two boys. "I'm proud of you," he stated. "All three of you."
Taking a step back, he slipped his hand into his pocket. "What happened last week allowed me to realise two important things." Withdrawing his hand, he smiled again. "The world needs the Thunderbirds - and the Thunderbirds need you."
Alan felt his mouth drop open as his father stepped forwards again, reaching out to attach an International Rescue pin to Fermat's shirt.
"Mr. Tracy!" Fermat breathed, his eyes going wide as he stared down at the emblem. The Tracy patriarch ruffled the boy's short brown hair, smiling at him fondly, before moving across to Tin-Tin. The Malaysian girl blushed, her eyes shining as he squeezed her shoulder gently.
Alan blinked, glancing over to where the other members of International Rescue were standing. Six grinning faces looked back at him, Gordon letting out a muffled snort at his younger brother's shocked expression. Then a figure moved in front of Alan, blocking his view of the other men. He blinked up at his father's smiling face as Jeff reached out to attach the pin to his shirt.
"No short cuts, Alan," his father stated, putting both hands on Alan's shoulders. "You earned it." Jeff stepped back and smiled at the three teenagers. "You all did."
Running his fingers over the pin, his attention focused on the intricate design of the object attached to his shirt, Alan swallowed heavily. This smooth, metallic surface felt cool to the touch, and it glinted slightly as it caught the light. This pin was more than just a pin. It wasn't just an empty symbol. He'd done it. He was finally a member of the team. Alan blinked, the enormity of what had just happened suddenly slapping him in the face.
Laughter broke out, and Alan was suddenly surrounded by his older brothers, being pulled into fierce hugs, his hair being ruffled repeatedly as the cheerful congratulatory comments rolled around him. The grin on his face widened to infinite proportions as he gave Fermat a high-five from where he stood crushed within Virgil's embrace. Right now, he was the happiest teenager on the planet.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, guys!" Scott said suddenly, and all heads turned towards him, Virgil's arms loosening their hold and allowing Alan to breathe once again. The pilot grinned at Alan, Tin-Tin and Fermat, his cobalt-blue eyes sparkling in mischief. "We've forgotten to properly welcome the squirts into the club."
"Oh no you don't!" Jenny protested, swooping in and putting a protective arm about Tin-Tin's shoulders, guiding her away from the group of males and over towards her parents, who immediately enveloped her in a two-way hug.
Scott shrugged. "Fine, she'll be spared," he remarked casually. "But the other two?" He smirked over at the young teenagers, before looking around at Andy and the assembled older Tracy brothers. "Guys, you know what to do."
Before Alan could ask what his brother was talking about, he found himself grabbed by several pairs of hands, hoisted off his feet and into the air - and thrown into the pool. He emerged gasping, laughing and splashing, seeing Fermat's wet head popping out of the water beside him. The two teenagers grinned at each other, happy beyond words. Then suddenly, Fermat's eyes widened.
His cries were lost in a torrent of water as six muscular men - Thomas included - dove off the edge of the deck and into the pool.
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John squeezed his younger brother into a tight hug, ruffling the mop of blond hair as he let out a long sigh.
"Call me as often as you like, okay?" he murmured, forcing himself to step back and hold the younger Tracy away at arms-length so that he could look into the young, eager face. "You know I don't follow normal sleeping patterns. No matter what time of day it is, if you wanna call, then call."
Alan nodded, squeezing John's left arm. "Will do, Johnny."
John locked eyes with him, smiling softly. "Try not to get hurt again, okay?" he teased lightly, although Alan knew there was a real message behind the words. "I know you're clumsy, but I wouldn't wanna hafta travel all the way to New England just because you got yourself landed in hospital for the fifteenth time, okay?"
Alan frowned defensively. "It is not fifteen."
Behind him, Thomas chuckled. "Sorry, kiddo, but he's right. Trust me, I'm the kinda sad person who keeps track of things like that."
Rolling his eyes, Alan shook his head, sending Thomas a mock-salute as he began to walk backwards towards Tracy One. John walked over to the rest of the group - who, having already said goodbye to the youngest Tracy, had moved back to a safe distance away from the jet.
"C'mon, Alan, we're gonna be late!" This was Fermat, who had stuck his head out of the open hatch, grinning as he beckoned for Alan to hurry up.
Waving to his gathered family, Alan turned around and jogged up the steps and into Tracy One's passenger hold, typing in the familiar four-digit sequence code that would close the hatch door. Moving over to the nearest window seat, he plopped down with a sigh and reached for his safety belt. Up in the front of the jet, he could hear his father talking and laughing with Brains as they ran the standard pre-flight checks.
The 'hiss' of the jet's hatch as it sealed itself shut made Alan jump, and he fumbled with the buckle on his safety belt. The noise seemed to have startled to two men in the cockpit too, because the voices came to an abrupt halt.
"We all set to go, boys?" Jeff called back, and Alan could hear the loud thrum of the jet engines as he powered them up.
In the seat on the other side of the cabin, Fermat nodded enthusiastically, setting down his hand-held games console on the seat beside him. "Y-yes, sir!"
Alan opened his mouth to respond, then paused, contemplating the question. Was he all set to go? Sure, his bags were packed and his homework was - for the first time in months - completed, but was he really 'all set'? After everything that had happened to his family, after everything they'd been through, was he honestly ready to leave them behind? At Wharton's, thousands of miles away from his father and brothers, he'd be helpless to help them if something went wrong. And now that he was finally a member of International Rescue, surely his place was here, on the island - with his brothers.
He glanced out of the window, spotting his assembled family on the other side of the spacious hanger. But I can't stay here. If there's something I've learned recently, it's that there's more to life than being a Thunderbird. And there's more to a Thunderbird than brute strength and fearless bravery. I might be a member of the team, but Scott's right - I'm still just a kid. However much I hate to admit it, school is important. So I'm gonna do it the Tracy way. No short cuts. Well....at least no obvious ones.
"Alan?" his father's voice prompted, clearly concerned by his silence. "You ready?"
Letting out a long sigh, Alan's mind flashed back to the International Rescue pin he now had hidden in his sock drawer up in his bedroom. Even if he was away from home, he was still going to be a part of the Thunderbirds team. And he always would be.
"Yeah," Alan replied, and in his heart he finally believed it to be true. "I'm ready."
- THE END -
Ta-daaaa! And thus ends 'Mending Broken Wings'. It's been fun, folks. I hope you all enjoyed the last chapter - as I always say, it's the hardest one to write for many reasons, one of them being the major worry I feel over ending it badly. So, what did you think? You like? Well, I loved writing it, so I honestly don't mind what you think. Although if you tell me that you hated it, I might just cry.
Lol, only kidding.
A big thank you to all my readers and reviewers, your constant support has been a great help to me. Special thanks to a number of very special people (you know who you are, 'cause I either beta for you, PM you constantly, or both). For all you reviewers who do not have a profile, I urge you to get one (please, ast, I need to thank you personally!). Honestly, I don't bite if you give me concrit. And it takes all of three minutes to set up an account, plus it's free! *poke poke* Get one!
Tee hee, no pressure. Anyway, as part of my A/N, I'm gonna give you a little notice about my future stories. As quite a number of you will know, I go to college, so my exams begin in just over a week. They're spread out over the course of four weeks (I have the BEST timetable ever!), so it's very unlikely that I'll be posting anything between now and then. However, I WILL continue to review other people's stories, plus I am still available to beta for my four lovely ladies.
And, when I return, I'll have lots more brotherly fluff for you! Haha! So until I see you again, take care, keep smiling, and avoid running into trees (sound advice there from LMB, don't you think?)
Little Miss Bump xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox