This is for Red Hardy, my awesome beta who inspired this after a comment she made about Better Baby Brudders. This is a very loose sequel to that fic but you don' t need to read it to follow this one. Thank you, my dear!
Disclaimer: Oh God, I wish I did own them. But I don't.
Warnings: Language but no strong profanity (no use of the F word or excessive swearing).
When Alan was a little boy, his father told him stories about heroes and all he ever wanted to be when he grew up was a hero. But as he lay among the rubble of a four story building, buried in debris, cold, hurting and alone he wondered why his father never told him stories where the hero died. It might have prepared him better for this because, like it or not, nineteen-year-old Alan Tracy was going to die.
It was supposed to be a routine mission, well as routine as these things go. An earthquake in Mexico City had the world scrambling and whenever the world scrambled, International Rescue was called. Thankfully John was down from a rotation on Thunderbird 5, Brains in his place, but even with the able bodied blond on board, the team was still stretched short which was how Alan ended up here, alone. And thank God for that. Usually the brothers worked in teams but the last thing the youngest Thunderbird would have wanted right now was for Gordon or John to be dying down here with him.
Doing it by himself sucked badly enough.
Alan had actually been with Scott in Thunderbird 1 doing a pass of the area when the powerful sensors on Thunderbird 5 picked up heat signatures in an apartment building beneath them, and Brains identified at least two people left inside. Virgil, Gordon and John were in Thunderbird 2 working on evacuating a ruined hospital so that left him and Scott.
His oldest brother had dropped him onto the roof of the building with the intention of picking him up afterwards. However the outbreak of an intense fire nearby threatened one of the evacuation shelters so Scott had left promising to be back as quickly as he could.
Unperturbed, Alan had wasted no time hurrying towards a rooftop entrance and getting inside. The fourth floor was clear and he'd been halfway down the stairs to the third when a powerful aftershock shook the building and the entire building fell out from beneath him.
Amazingly enough when he'd finished falling, he was pinned and hurting but still very lucid. Somehow he'd managed to escape any serious head injury and hadn't even blacked out for a second. That part was a bit unfortunate though because Alan was sure, if by some miracle he did get out of this alive, he was going to have nightmares about falling for a very long time.
In fact, as he slowly moved his head to the side to try and alleviate a sharp pain pressing against his cheek and moaned at the small movement. Alan tried to keep his breathing even and reminded himself that it was over; that the blue skies opening above offered some comfort. And that there was nothing else left to fall on him. However, the increasing panic as he realized just how badly trapped he was, and the agonizing pain that shot through every part of his body, threatened to take away even that small comfort.
But what was absolutely worse, trivializing even the pain, was the knowing that his brothers couldn't come for him yet. His life was trumped by the many more that needed Scott to fight a fire and Virgil to evacuate a hospital. So closing his eyes against the bitter sting of tears, Alan let out another shaky breath and wondered just how serious the spreading warmth of blood down the inside of his leg was… and whether or not he'd be saved. Or recovered.
Forcing himself to think past the fear, Alan tried to use his wrist communicator. Even if it had suffered damage he might still be able to call Brains. Thunderbird 5's powerful receivers might be able to pick something up. But heavy debris hemmed in his arm and the other one was spread out over his head at a grotesque angle, definitely broken and hurting like a sonnovabitch.
Closing his eyes, the young hero grunted softly when he thought he heard the familiar rumbling of Thunderbird 2's engine high overhead but knew that was impossible; the big tanker was too far away, there's no way he could hear Virgil's baby. But oh what he would give to be there with them right now helping Gordon and John, instead of here getting colder and more tired by the moment. Numbness slowly dimmed the pain and he knew he was going into shock but helpless to stop it. Instead he wondered if the people he'd been dropped in to save some how made it out, even if he highly doubted it.
The briefest thought that they were somewhere amongst all this rubble with him, sent Alan's stomach rolling and he swallowed convulsively desperate not to get sick, knowing that if he threw up now he'd choke to death on his own vomit. And while he really wasn't too keen on dying to begin with, the idea of his brothers finding out that he'd asphyxiated instead of succumbing to something much cooler, like bleeding to death, horrified him.
"Y'r one sick puppy, Tracy," he rasped humorlessly then chuckled, ending in a pain-filled, pathetic whimper. His chest throbbed and something heavy settled harder against him, a terrible weight that threatened to finish what the aftershock started; to crush him. And then suddenly someone was there leaning over him, asking him if he was alright.
It took him a moment to recognize his brother, the visor and helmet obscuring most of the man's face, but it was Gordon and Alan blinked wondering if he was closer to the pearly gates then he'd thought.
It was impossible. Gordon couldn't be here. Not yet.
"Jesus, kid," Gordon's breath was hot next to Alan's cheek as the older man leaned over him. "Talk about a tight spot." His eyes swept the debris then quickly refocused on Alan. "This hurt?" Alan grunted softly as his brother's fingers ghosted over his chest. "I'll take that as a yes."
"Y'r here?" he was slurring, the effort of dragging his jaws open to talk becoming too much. "What'cha doing 'ere?"
"Of course I'm here," Gordon huffed then grinned, "And I'm saving your sorry ass." The smirk looked tight and forced beneath the visor. Alan frowned.
"Oh Allie…" the older man sighed. He deftly worked off his helmet, one-handedly, and laid it to the side. Scott would be pissed, Alan thought but didn't say anything, the relief of being able to see his brother's familiar features – the concern in his amber eyes - muted the protest. "You're a mess."
That was probably being nice, Alan thought tiredly, thankful when Gordon didn't seem to require a comment. He watched dully as his brother tried to assess how badly he was hurt, a task made difficult by the rubble. The certainty in the red-head's movements was comforting and Alan felt himself relaxing, comforted more than Gordon would ever know, by his just being there. The youngest of five, Alan had never needed to be alone. There was always someone to keep him company, even when he didn't want it, and it was – ironically enough – usually the young Olympian.
"Leg," Alan rasped, trying to help. They were trapped under something heavy and he was pretty sure he was still bleeding.
Gordon glanced down towards Alan's lower body and frowned. "Can you feel them?"
Alan gave him a tight nod and then he must have zoned out because the next thing he knew someone else was standing over him. This brother was broad shouldered and strong, his size almost dwarfing Gordon and Alan was confused. Virgil? But that didn't make any sense; Virgil couldn't be down here. He'd be flying his bird, hovering somewhere overhead.
"Hey, Sprout," it was Virgil's voice though and Virgil's concerned face that leaned over him as the big man crouched down where had Gordon had been only moments before. "Next time you want to get me on the ground, I can think of some better ways of doing it." The attempt at humor was weak but Alan gave him a weak smile anyway. "Just relax, okay? We'll have you out of here in no time."
Virgil seemed momentarily confused by Alan's soft grunted words and then chuckled sadly when he got it. Reaching out with a gloved hand, he gently rubbed a finger across the younger man's cold cheek. Alan leaned into the touch and briefly closed his eyes. "John's flying… Gordo said he needed more brawn then Mr. Scrawny Spaceman, so you got me. But I'll have you know that I wouldn't be down here for just anyone so I want points for this one!"
Alan closed his eyes again. Yeah, he knew.
He opened them again when someone started tapping at his face. It was annoying. "Did you know," Gordon was back hovering over him, "that when you were born, I wanted a puppy?"
Pressure increased on his legs and Alan arched with a sharp cry but Gordon was quick; his hands pressing gently but strongly against the trapped man's chest. "Easy, kiddo, try not to move, okay? Virgil's just trying to get some of this crap off you."
Virgil muttered something angrily and Alan saw Gordon glance back in alarm. His face paled. "Shit! Stay awake, Al, I need to give Virg a hand." And then he was gone.
Alan was unconscious a second later.
The next time he woke up, Alan was on a stretcher in Thunderbird 2 and John was watching him. The older man smiled when he saw Alan was awake.
"Man, Alan, you sure do know how to give a guy grey hair."
Alan stared at the blond and John chuckled, the worried lines around his eyes lightening fractionally, "Not me, stupid. Scott. I swear, he's going to be whiter now than us after this stunt."
The ship banked slightly to the left.
"We're taking you home now," The astronaut smiled in explanation. "Do you remember anything about the hospital?"
Alan searched his muddled coherency but remembered nothing after passing out at the accident site. Things were hazy at best; his last tangible memory was of Gordon. Although now that John mentioned the hospital the younger man realized he wasn't in pain anymore. Everything was muted and his head felt heavy but he didn't feel shocky anymore. He shifted slightly then noticed that his arm was now tightly bound to his chest. "No," he rasped when he realized John was expecting an answer.
"I'm not surprised," the blond man admitted. "You didn't miss out on much though. Not much fun at all. You got x-rayed, poked, prodded, transfused, stitched and then given back to us with a whole list of restrictions, warnings and frowning. They wanted to keep you but a heated medical debate between our Doctor Virgil and the head of ER assured them you'd be in good enough hands." He chuckled, "And I don't doubt Scott's 'if looks could kill' glare, helped. But don't think you're getting off light here. I know for a fact Dad is having restraints installed on the bed you're going to be living in for the next couple of weeks."
"'S'it that bad?" Alan really had no idea. He'd known his arm was messed up and his leg but other than that, shock had been a wonderful painkiller.
"'Fraid so, kiddo," John's eyes were soft. "Dislocated shoulder, broken arm – you almost bled out right there when Virgil pulled that piece of heavy drywall off your leg. You'd sliced the femoral artery…" He paused and glanced towards the front where Virgil was undoubtedly piloting now. "Thank God Gordon wanted a bit more of a medical wonder than me on the ground with him and had Virgil."
"Oh. Oh? Okay… understate much?"
Alan was confused, his drug addled mind not ready to do a mental dance with John as he still tried to put things together; like how his family had gotten to him so quickly when they were on other rescues. "Thought you were s'where else. Rescue… hospital?"
That took a moment for John to interpret but then he was nodding his head in comprehension. "We were, but by the time we'd heard you were down, Scott was almost finished with the fire and pulled us off the evac, taking over himself and sending us to you." He was watching Alan carefully and the younger man shifted under the scrutiny, wondering vaguely what drugs he was on because, man, they were good. "What? You didn't think we were coming or something?"
Alan managed a shrug and numb pain shot through his abdomen. John hadn't mentioned broken ribs but he'd be willing to bet there was at least spectacular bruising for him to be feeling anything right now. "Figured I'd be waiting a while."
John dropped his head and closed his eyes briefly. When he looked up at Alan again, his face was a myriad of emotion. "Never," he managed. "Never. We'll always come for you, Alan, immediately. Always. As soon as we know."
Uncomfortable under the intensity of his brother's devotion, Alan needed to change the subject. He knew they loved him but to hear it stated so bluntly twisted something deep in his soul; something good but that had no verbal answer he could offer in its face. So instead he fumbled his one free hand towards John and tugged at his brother's wrist. "Gord-" he licked his lips and tried again, "Gordon wanted a puppy?"
John looked at him in confusion for a moment and then he smiled, obviously getting what Alan was trying to say and a look of gratitude shone across his handsome face. "Oh man, I'd almost forgotten about that! But yeah, when you were born, Gordon was a little bent out of shape and demanded that Mom and Dad let the hospital keep you, and get him a puppy instead. A Labrador Retriever or something I think." He laughed as he relieved the memory. "He was going to call it 'Alan' though, if I'm remembering it right."
Alan rolled his eyes. That sounded like Gordon.
"But then Scott regaled him with past Tracy big brother attempted trades on new brothers, and well Gordon decided that maybe keeping you might be okay." John twisted his hand so that he was now holding Alan's and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Let me see if I can remember it right. Scott wanted to trade me for a water gun and Virgil wanted to trade Gordon in for a sister. What the hell was her name? Debbie? Deidre? Delilah? Shit, why can't I remember? Man, I can even see little Virgil stomping around the house chanting the name." He closed his eyes and scrunched up his face. Alan was fascinated just watching him and then John's eyes shot open and his free hand shot up in exclamation. "Aha! Delores! That's right. He wanted Gordon to be a girl called Delores!"
Against his better judgment Alan started to laugh. It was a bad move as his whole body seemed to convulse in agony and the last thing he saw before he lost consciousness again was John's worried face.
The infirmary on Tracy Island had a very distinctive smell so Alan knew he was home before he even opened his eyes.
"I know you're awake," Scott's voice rumbled quietly somewhere to his left.
A small smile twisted Alan's lips even as he denied it. "No, I'm not." He felt much more lucid this time and was relieved that his words came out clearly; his voice was still a bit weaker than usual but not slurred this time. His body though, felt like someone had tenderized him and he guessed the pain meds had been dialed back a bit. And to be honest, he'd rather be clear headed and in a bit of pain then loopy minded and pain free.
"You're right. You're an idiot instead."
Alan opened his eyes and saw his oldest brother standing next to him, his arms folded across his muscular chest and one eyebrow cocked in a trademark "you are so in trouble, little brother" Scott Tracy glare.
"What do you mean you thought we'd make you wait? What in our whole entire history of being brothers makes you think we'd make you wait, especially when you were hurt or there was any chance you were dead?"
Oh, that explained the look…
"Well," Alan started meekly, "because, that's what we do, Scott. All the time. We go into a situation and triage. And while I hate to admit it, one me is a lot lower of a priority on the needs to be rescued scale than a hospital needing to be evacuated or a fire that needs to be put out.." Alan was breathless by the time he was done talking. He didn't want his brothers to think he didn't understand. The saving of the many out weighed the saving of the one. Even if that one was him.
"Alan," Scott sat down next to him and sighed. "I really wish you had a head injury because at least then I could just pretend you didn't know what you were talking about. But, c'mon, kid – sure there are rules of triage, but the safety of any one of my brothers supersedes triage. Always. Why do you think I'm such a prick when it comes to how we do things? It isn't just because I like making you guys do things exactly the way I want things done." He stopped and smirked for a brief moment. "Okay, well not all the time…" Then became serious again. "But if I just weighed the risk of one, or even the four of you, against the number of people we need to save, I'd be an only child by now. That's not how it works, bro. A good leader always has to make sure their team's safety comes first. And that goes doubly so when it's family…" Dark blue eyes bored through the electric blue watching him. "You can't save lives if you're dead, Alan."
Alan swallowed hard, his eyes burning.
"And even if you could," Scott wasn't finished yet. "I'd still have a personal problem putting the lives of anyone else above my family."
An awkward silence settled between them. Scott was a man of action. He hated talking about things like this and while Alan appreciated it greatly – he needed to hear it every now and then – he loved his brother more and let Scott off the hook. It was his own way of telling Scott that he got what his brother was saying and he was sorry for doubting them.
"Well," Alan's heart filled with pride as he watched his brother. He loved his family so much but it was only at times like this that he was reminded of what remarkable men they really were and just how lucky he was to be their little brother, "blood loss can make you say some pretty stupid things too…"
Scott smiled and it smoothed out the intensity and softened the chiseled angles of his face. "That is true. And according to Dr. Virg, you were pretty much running on empty by the time they got you to the ER."
"I don't remember that." Alan frowned wishing he did.
"Trust me, it's probably better if you didn't." Scott spoke honestly. "Lots of blood, poking, prodding, stitching."
"Yeah, that's basically what John said too." Alan pursed his lips in consideration as he thought about what else John had been saying. "Hey, Scott?"
"Is it true that Gordon wanted to trade me in for a puppy?"
Scott tossed his head back and barked out a laugh. "Oh now there's a trip down memory lane… Yup, kiddo, 'fraid so. But it gets better."
Alan waited for him to continue and his big brother didn't disappoint. Instead Scott went into great detail about what happened that morning nineteen years ago, and Alan barely remembered not to burst out laughing when Scott got to the punch line.
"Esmeralda?" the young blond chuckled, resting his good hand protectively across his abdomen. "Really? Gordon thought that would have been a cool name?"
Grinning widely, Scott nodded and at that exact moment the infirmary doors swished open and a hurried looking Gordon, fresh from the shower, rushed in and then promptly turned to leave when his oldest and youngest brothers both chimed out in perfect synch:
Once again Alan found himself wondering about those hero stories his father used to tell him. And about why none of those men wore Speedos because the ones in his life usually did.