A/N: This is my first Thunderbirds fic. ZooKitty and Stray did an excellent job sucking me in with fanfic-I fell in love with the Thunderbirds before I had ever watched the movie or seen an episode of the classic series. Ergo, most of my knowledge of these boys comes from fanfiction, the movie, and Wikipedia. I have seen several episodes of the classic Thunderbirds series, but this story (and all my subsequent TB stories, of which there will hopefully be a few) will be movie-based with references to things from the TV-verse cannon. This can be considered a missing scene for the movie (because although I love the Tracys, the movie wasn't all that good and needs a lot of filler scenes, IMO), and there be much brotherly sappiness here.
Dedicated to Stray, in honor of her graduation. I'm very proud of you, hon, and I know you're going to do wonderful things. Thanks to her for the quick read-through, and to both her and ZooKitty for getting me hooked into yet another fandom. I don't own anything.
"Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero."
- Marc Brown
"If you keep that up, we're going to have to start calling you Narcissus, Sprout."
Alan started at the unexpected voice, turning to see his oldest brother leaning against his bedroom doorframe, arms crossed and a smile playing across his lips. "Whipping out the classical references, Scotty? I thought that was John's gig," the youngest Tracy replied with a smirk, turning back to look at his reflection in his full-length mirror. "Besides," he added absently as he smoothed out some nonexistent wrinkles in his new uniform, "if you're following the legend, you might want to keep an eye on Gordo - he's the one spending all his waking moments around pools of water."
Scott chuckled as he pushed off the doorway and stepped inside his younger brothers room. "I keep telling myself I need to stop being surprised at how much random information you seem to know these days, but it never seems to work," he declared.
"I do occasionally pay attention in class," Alan shot back with a roll of his eyes. "And to be honest, I think that stuff about Greek mythology is pretty interesting."
"Virge will be glad to hear that," Scott answered as he leaned against Alan's dresser and made eye contact with the younger Tracy's reflection. "He's always been a fan of ancient mythologies. John's more of a Shakespeare man."
Alan nodded absentmindedly, adjusting the gloves on his hands and tugging the sleeves down. Scott frowned a little at the movement. "Is it too small?"
"No, it fits fine," Alan replied, letting his arms drop to his sides. "It's just…"
Alan shrugged. "Nothing. It's nothing."
Scott folded his arms. "Alan…"
"Scotty, the mission-"
"Can wait a few minutes," Scott interrupted. "As far as rescues go, this one's pretty low-key. The President of the United States asked for our help in putting out some forest fires in Northern Colorado. There's no danger to any towns or people yet, but they want to get it under control before the next big weather pattern moves in tomorrow morning. So we've got a few minutes - which means it's time to spill, Sprout. What's wrong?"
Alan huffed. "Nothing!" he replied, scowling a little.
Scott snorted. "Look, Al, I know we haven't been exactly… close the last couple of years, but that doesn't mean I don't know when you're lying through your teeth. Anything that makes your forehead furrow like that is obviously something." His lips twitched into a little smile when Alan's shoulders slumped in defeat. "Now spill before I get Gordo in here to use some of those moves he learned in WASP to force the truth out of you."
"Do you think I'm ready?"
Scott blinked in surprise. "What?"
Alan gestured at his new International Rescue uniform. "This. Do you think I'm ready?"
Scott stared at him for a moment, a myriad of emotions running across his face. "Not without boots, you're not," he replied finally, pointing at Alan's bare feet. He moved toward Alan's closet as he continued, "First rule of being a Thunderbird, Sprout - proper headgear and footwear can really save your butt on missions."
"I thought the first rule was members have to be over five-ten," Alan joked as he opened the top drawer in his dresser and pulled out a pair of socks. "Fermat always thought that would keep him out of International Rescue for good."
The older Tracy laughed. "No, that's a requirement John and Virge came up with to try and tick Gordon off when he…"
Alan frowned and turned to look at his oldest brother, doing his best to maintain his balance as he teetered on his left foot and pulled a sock onto his right one. Scott was crouched by the closet, Alan's new boots in one hand and an old sneaker in the other. "Scott?"
"Al…" Scott rose and turned, all humor gone from his expression. His face was pale and his eyes were hard. "Were these the shoes you were wearing when… when we were in London?"
Alan's forehead furrowed for a moment to stare at the worn sneaker in his brother's hand. His eyes widened when Scott turned the shoe, revealing a large gash in the sole that nearly split the shoe in two. It was one of the sneakers Alan had been wearing the day the Hood attacked; he'd meant to throw them out upon their return to the island, but in his exhaustion he'd simply tossed them in the far corner of his closet so that they were out of sight and had since forgotten about them. A shiver ran up Alan's spine as he recalled the terror of dangling one-handed over the Mole's spinning blades, the feel of the feather-light pressure that nearly sliced through his shoes and almost cut his feet, the sounds of the motor running and the Hood laughing and his father screaming -
Alan blinked and nearly jumped when he saw Scott's face was now just inches away from his own. His brother's eyes were wide and worried, and Alan could feel pressure from where Scott was grasping his shoulders. "You back with me, Sprout?" Scott asked, his grip tightening a little.
"Yeah," Alan said with a shaky nod. "Yeah, Scotty, I'm right here."
Scott's eyes narrowed as he eyed the fading ring of bruises around his brother's neck. Alan shifted a little under the scrutiny. Over the past week, his brothers alternated between showing him affection, worrying about his (and John's) injuries, and fuming over what the Hood had done. Alan was starting to get a little disoriented from all of the wild mood swings.
"I wonder if Dad would mind if we made a little pit-stop in London on the way back from the mission," Scott growled. "We've got some unfinished business."
Alan's lips twitched. "He might if you didn't let him come along for the ride," he quipped. The humor faded from his face as he reached up to grasp Scott's wrists. "Seriously, Scott. I'm alright. I'll be alright."
Scott stared at him for a moment longer, and suddenly Alan found himself in a hug. Scott kept his grip loose, mindful of the spectacular array of bruises the younger Tracy had received in his adventures fighting the Hood, but his voice was firm as he murmured in Alan's ear, "You know we all love you, right? Even though we might not always act like it?"
Alan's throat clogged for a moment, and he hugged his brother back, nodding into his shoulder. For a moment the image of his family floating lifeless up in Thunderbird Five flashed through his mind, and he shivered, clinging tightly to his brother. When he thought about how close he was to losing everything… "I know, Scotty," he whispered. "I know. Even if I don't always act like it," he finished with a little grin.
Scott chuckled and pulled back, ruffling the blonde's hair. "Good. Glad we got that all straightened out," he declared with a grin. Then his expression sobered. "As to whether you're ready… Do I think you're ready? No." He held up a finger before Alan could reply. "I think you're more than capable, Alan. You've already proven you can handle a tough situation, and while I know you didn't always make the best judgment calls fighting the Hood, you showed a lot of courage and a lot of maturity. You're a Thunderbird now, but more importantly, you're a Tracy, and I know for a fact that you can do this."
Alan couldn't help but grin at his oldest brother's words and the obvious pride in Scott's eyes. But after a moment, Alan's eyebrows furrowed. "If you think all that, then why did you say I'm not ready?"
Scott squeezed his shoulders and smiled. "Al, you could be thirty years old and going out on your thousandth mission and I still would say you're not ready," he explained. "John's been doing this as long as I have, and I still don't think he's ready, either. Same goes for Virgil and Gordon."
He paused for a moment and glanced down at the sliced-up shoe now resting on the floor near his feet. "Maybe I should just admit that I'm not ready," he murmured, looking back up at Alan. "Because I'm not, Al. I'm not ready to see you put yourself into dangerous situations to help others. I'm not ready to face the possibility that the next mission might be your last, or that you might be injured to the point where you can't do this anymore."
Alan swallowed. "I've never been ready to see you guys do that, either."
"None of us are."
Scott and Alan turned to see Virgil standing in the doorway. The middle Tracy smiled a little, but his eyes were serious as he looked at Alan. "Why do you think I'm always looking to expand my medical knowledge, Sprout? Why do you think Dad and I insist on making sure you guys all know extensive first aid? I don't want to get somewhere on some mission and not be able to save you or Gordon or Scott or John if you get injured. We go out to save lives, but we make sure to watch out for each other's lives, too."
"And that's why I need you to promise me something, Alan," Scott added. "There are going to be missions where tensions are high and you'll mess up. It happens to us, and it happens more often than you think. But I want you to know that even though you'll mess up, and even though I'll probably yell at you for it, that doesn't change the fact that I know you can do this job. You might not have all the skills and knowledge yet, but I know you'll pick it up quick, and I know you're going to be great. You've always learned quickly from your mistakes, and I know you're going to do that as a Thunderbird, too. Promise me you'll remember that - that I know you can do this, even if I won't always act like it."
Alan hesitated, glancing from Scott to Virgil and back again. "I'll try," he replied finally.
"And when he forgets, I'll remind him," John called, sticking his head and shoulders through the doorway. He grinned when he spotted Alan. "Looking good, Sprout! I daresay you might be the second-best looking operative on the team."
"The first being me, of course," Virgil quipped, elbowing John in the side as the older blonde entered the room.
Scott rolled his eyes as Alan laughed. "Get your boots on, Sprout - it's time to head out," the oldest Tracy declared, squeezing Alan's shoulder once before letting his hands drop. He scooped up the destroyed shoe and turned toward his other brothers. "And Virge, everyone knows the Op 1 action figure is always the first to sell off the shelves," he added with a grin, tossing the shoe back into the corner of Alan's closet before the others could get a closer look.
Virgil snorted. "That's only because the Op 1 action figure is the favored chew-toy of dogs everywhere."
"Are you ladies ready yet?" Gordon called over Alan and John's laughter as he slid into the room in front of Virgil, effectively preventing a glowering Scott from reaching him. The aquanaut whistled as Alan finished zipping up his boots and stood straight. "Well look at the little Sprout! I think he's set to go out on his first official mission."
Alan shifted his weight from one foot to the other as the older Thunderbirds scrutinized him for a moment. "Nope, I don't think so - there's still one thing missing," John declared after a moment.
"You're right, John," Virgil agreed, folding his arms and grinning. "Gordy, you got the goods?"
"But of course!" Gordon announced, holding up a small green bottle. "Scott, would you like to do the honors?"
"I'd be delighted," Scott replied, tugging off his gloves and handing them to John before snatching the bottle out of Gordon's hand.
"Uh, guys?" Alan asked, a hint of nervousness in his voice as Scott approached him. "I know you love me and all, and I'm sure this is some twisted way of showing that, but don't we have a mission we're supposed to be going on?"
"Don't worry, Sprout, this is all part of your initiation," Gordon declared with a wicked grin.
Alan lifted an eyebrow. "Thanks, Gordon, that makes me feel so much better," he deadpanned.
Scott laughed as he came to a stop in front of Alan. "Trust me, Alan. It'll be fine, I promise," he murmured sincerely, opening the bottle and squeezing a small amount of gel into his hand. Alan relaxed when he recognized the smell of the hair gel Gordon always used.
"After all, no Thunderbird is complete without his pre-styled windblown look," John quipped as Scott started gelling Alan's blond hair. "Scott patented it in the Air Force; we've been forced to follow it ever since."
"We Tracys are such slaves to fashion, after all," Virgil added. "All the tabloids know Scotty's our trendsetter."
"And since I'm such a nice older brother, I even gave you the bottle without the Nair," Gordon finished, winking at Alan. "Besides, I don't think you'd ever be able to top the time John looked like a balding dog with mange."
"You're just lucky it grew back, bro," John growled, automatically running a hand through his hair. "Otherwise, we'd be looking for a new pilot for Four."
Gordon snorted and waved a hand at his older brother. "Promises, promises," he declared with a roll of his eyes.
Alan grinned as Scott applied the finishing touches. "There," the oldest Tracy declared, tossing the bottle onto Alan's bed and stepping back so the others could see. "Now I think he's set."
"Nicely done, big brother," Gordon said with a nod.
"Looks good, Sprout," Virgil agreed.
"Not quite as awesome as my own hair, of course, but it'll work," John finished with a grin.
"Thanks, Johnny," Alan replied, rolling his eyes as he moved to stand in the middle of his brothers. "Can we go on the mission now?"
"Patience, young grasshopper - you have many things to learn," Gordon intoned, flinging an arm around his younger brother's shoulders. "We need the catchphrase. Superheroes can't launch into action unless someone says the catchphrase."
The older Tracys grinned at Alan, who grinned right back, excitement thrumming through his veins as he declared, "Thunderbirds are go!"