Author's Note – Writing the words has never been a problem. Telling the best story I can and to my satisfaction is the thing that is really hard... mcj

***** RECOVERY *****


Morning, December 30, 2026

Wentworth Falls

Blue Mountains


Wentworth Falls Lake reminded David of one of those giant inland dams. The ones that stretched so far into the horizon you didn't know where the sky started and the water stopped. He guessed it was impressive. He just couldn't get excited about it. No matter how many times his parents raved on that the view from here was fantastic, he'd never understand what was so fantastic about an endless sea of water surrounded by long grass and gnarly looking gum trees.

It was shaping up to be a hot, steamy day in the Blue Mountains of Australia and the humidity had already forced his mother to ramp up the air conditioning to the max. Eight-thirty in the morning and it was almost thirty-nine degrees. It was going to be hell on earth on that bushwalk up to Rocket Point Lookout if the temperature kept climbing at this rate. David was feeling exhausted at the thought.

In fact, he'd almost managed to convince himself that a day chilling beside the pool would be a far less painful option. He'd even turned to run his idea past Jacob. That was until their father walked out of the bathroom with a towel slung over his shoulder, thick white sunscreen caked all over his nose and wearing a hideous-looking broad-brimmed hat in his least favourite colour, orange. He turned back to the window. Nope, it was the bushwalk.

God, his father was a nerd.

"Hey, you guys, so what's the plan?" Damien Townsend was full of enthusiasm even after his affectionate attempt to flick the beach towel between David's bare legs met with the usual sigh and eye rolling. "I reckon it's gonna be scorcher out there today. Sure you won't change your minds about the Lookout and come with us for a dip?"

David glanced over his shoulder at Jacob, who pretended to be immersed in one of his goofy jazz music magazines. It was obvious he had no intention of responding. He guessed it was up to him.

"Err... no thanks, Dad," he said, filling in the awkward silence. "I think we're both kind of looking forward to the walk."

Damien looked disappointed. "Okay, if you say so, but it's the last thing I'd be doing in this heat."

After weighing things up the night before, Damien and Laura had finally agreed that their fifteen-year-old twins could walk the scenic track out to Rocket Point Lookout, alone. Walking without a group came with a number of stringent conditions. Number one, they had to stay together. Number two, they had to behave. "That means none of your usual wise guy stuff," Damien had warned. "No messing with signs, climbing gum trees or taking out the wild life with those air rifles." Three, they had to stick to the track. "No short cuts or checking out dead ends or caves." Four, when they got to the Lookout, they were expected to turn around and come straight back to the resort. The fourth condition had been imposed by Laura and it came with a five o'clock curfew. "We're driving into Katoomba to have dinner at the new art gallery. I've booked a table for seven o'clock sharp. And before you start, don't even try to complain about it, David, because that's what we're all going to do."

Rocket Point Lookout was only an hour from the resort but the hike was taxing, as the dusty track zigzagged through a series of natural sandstone arches, gullies and rock faces surrounded by the dense Australian bush. Yesterday's guide had recommended they allow themselves two hours to walk the distance each way. Most people took at least two and a half in the heat, he'd said. Some had been known to take up to three.

"Boys, you make sure that you drink lots of water. They're predicting it's going to hit forty-five by one." It was Laura, as she meandered out of the bedroom to join the rest of them in the lounge. "You also need to keep piling on the sunscreen and the Aerogard I left for you over there on the bench. I can't believe how vicious the horseflies are around here. The last thing I want you to come home with are more of those bites. "

David looked down at his arms and legs, knowing exactly what she meant. He was still nursing a couple of painful lumps from yesterday's excursion courtesy of the aggressive, blood sucking insects.

"Sure, Mum," he replied, pretending to pay attention to the ever increasing checklist. "The water, the sunscreen, the Aerogard..."

"And no wise guy stuff," Damien repeated. "I mean it, you guys. Getting lost in the bush is not just dangerous, it's bloody dangerous, so make sure that you stay on the track."

It was with a sigh of relief that the Townsend twins watched the glass door open and close as their parents headed off for a leisurely breakfast at the boutique café situated on the other side of the resort. David could only imagine the looks his father was going to get wearing that hat. Thank goodness he and Jacob would be spared the humiliation. After breakfast their parents intended to spend time cooling off in the pool, making the most of the lazy summer day until they all left to have dinner together in Katoomba. However, David and Jacob had quite a number of other things planned and only one of them involved trekking the well-signposted track on the popular tourist walk out to Rocket Point Lookout.

As he looked away from the lake and towards the shimmering haze of the Blue Mountains, David recalled the guarded conversation he'd had with his brother the night before. They'd both been so full of bravado, lying sleepless and egging each other on, but now that it came down to actually doing it, David was starting to doubt if either of them would have the guts. If their father found out he'd absolutely kill them, or worse, threaten to bring them back here again next year as a new and bizarre form of punishment. That put a whole new perspective on the risk-taking. Another "vacation" in Wentworth Falls, at least to David, would truly be a fate worse than death.

"I dunno about this, Dave. Do you think we should still do it?" With the departure of their parents, Jacob had closed his magazine and was now looking over at him from the couch, worried.

David frowned at him. Despite the potential consequences and his own feelings of self-doubt, he found it hard to believe that Jacob was the one who was thinking about chickening out first.

"Of course we should still do it," he quipped back as though it was a given. "It was your idea in the first place."

Jacob hesitated, looking even more apprehensive, "Yeah, I know it was but you heard Dad just now. He's not going to be too happy if he finds out we headed off the track."

"We won't be off the track. At least we won't be for long. It'll only take us half an hour to do it; forty-five minutes at the max."

"It's not just that." Jacob bit down on his lip and started scratching at his forehead, a nervous habit that only started when he was worried about doing the wrong thing. "What if someone sees us? It's not like everyone around here doesn't already know that he's our dad."

"So what if they see us? If Dad finds out what's the worst thing he can do? Huh?" The rebel in David blended with a fresh wave of bravado, making him, not Jacob, sound like the one who had masterminded the plan.

"I dunno, Dave..." Jacob still didn't sound too sure.

"Jake, last night you said that we were going to do it. Why do you want to back out now?"

They stared at each other, silent, as the air conditioner whirred louder, the condenser already struggling to cope with the brutality of the increasing summer heat. This was only intended to be an innocent prank...a way to express how they felt about things, a chance to make the point to their father. Nobody was going to get hurt as a result of it and it would even be kind of funny if they managed to pull it off...sitting back innocently, watching the chaos and seeing how everybody coped.

It was David who ended the stand-off first, swinging away from the window to head down the hallway, re-emerging five minutes later with his sneakers and baseball cap and with a backpack dangling off one shoulder.

"Are you coming or not?" he demanded, shoving the water, Aerogard and sunscreen into the backpack. "If you are you've got five minutes, Jake. I've got better things to do than sit around here all day worrying about what Dad is or isn't going to think."

"But Dave…"

"Four and a half minutes, Jake."

Jacob watched his brother lace up his sneakers before sighing and hauling himself off the couch. David was right. Last night he had agreed to do it. He was more worried about waking up this morning with that grinding feeling in the pit of his stomach and it scared him. Every time he had it, it meant there was going to be trouble. He had always been the psychic twin, the one who could sense when there was danger, and whilst it wasn't making him feel physically sick yet, something was already warning him that they needed to stay away.

"I'll go," he said with real reluctance, "but I really don't think that this is such a good idea."

Evening, December 30, 2026

Tracy Island

"Oh…man… how good does that feel?" Alan Tracy groaned into the red satin pillowcase as Tin-Tin settled back down beside him on the edge of her rumpled bed.

"Shhh… Alan. You really have to stop moaning like that," she warned. "Or at least try not to do it so loudly. I hate to imagine what my father thinks is going on."

She made a point of hushing him a second time before snapping the lid of the bottle of exotic massage oil firmly closed. The smell of patchouli tinged with coconut lingered between them, fragrant as the breeze wafted the scent through the warm summer night air.

What Alan wanted to say was that whatever Kyrano was thinking, it was right on the money at least as far as he was concerned. After a month in space, just one touch of her hands on his bare back and shoulders had been enough to send him into sensory overload.

"There's an area down here that's still a little tight."

Her hands slid to his lower back.

"Tin-Tin, you know you should never tease me like this."

"Who's teasing? I'm serious."

"Ow! "

"Alan, I really wasn't joking when I said your back was tight."

Alan closed his eyes and allowed her to continue to expertly knead and manipulate all of the offending muscles. He was sure that she didn't have any idea what something like this was doing to him, or if she did, she was certainly able to ignore it a whole lot better than what he could at the moment.

"You didn't answer my question," he eventually said, trying to ignore the fact that her thumbs were now grinding away right into the centre of his butt.

"You didn't answer mine, either."

"Yes I did. I told you before it's the combination of standing around in Thunderbird Five for hours waiting for updates and this afternoon's surprise little rappelling drill."

"That's certainly one of your more original excuses."

"Excuses? What else is there that could have given me such a sore back?"

"And you ask me why I refuse to answer some of your questions."


"Alan, just never mind."

Her hands had now moved on to massaging the length of his whole body, a teasing amalgamation of direct pressure and sensual caress that was nearly driving him crazy.

"Well?" he groaned, still managing to focus on something other than what he wanted to do to her.

"Well, what?"

"Geez…oh come on, Tin-Tin…"

He rolled over onto his back and gave her his best look of frustration. He hated it when she did this to him.

"How much plainer can I make this? I'd like us to spend some time away from the island, together. You and me, together, alone," he spelt out. "It's been eight months now since that night we first...and I just want to …well …what I mean is… I'd really like to…"

She smirked as he struggled to find the right words.

"It sounds very intriguing, but I'm not so sure what your father is going to say about that. The way he's talking, it could be at least another week before this earthquake thing in Australia blows over."

Now his brow furrowed deeper with real irritation. He was right that she have any idea of where he wanted to go with this relationship. It was getting as embarrassing as all hell trying to tell her. His invitation to the mainland had nothing to do with their physical relationship. Well sure, he guessed it was going to be part of it; like her he was tired of closed doors and the lack of privacy that came from everyone living and working so closely together on the island. But it wasn't the main reason he'd asked her to go. Over the last few months he'd grown up a lot and he had finally made up his mind about Tin-Tin Kyrano. He wanted to experience more with her than just their stolen moments of intimacy and he wanted ... no he needed to know if she did too. He didn't appreciate being reminded that he was currently on standby. It wasn't as if he didn't know what it meant.

"Tin-Tin, you never take me seriously," he grumbled. "All I want is the chance to have you to myself for a couple of days. Do different things and have some fun. I don't think that's too much to ask. The two of us are so involved with the outfit all the time and you can't tell me this arrangement..." he lowered his voice and pointed to the locked door, " us enough privacy to get to know each other the way that I'd really like. I need to get away from here and do more with you than just…well…"

He sighed at the difficulty he was still having expressing himself. "Oh, you know what I mean," he trailed off unhappily.

Tin-Tin stopped teasing him and eased herself down to study his red and discontented features. She knew what had started as a casual thing between them eight months ago was now way past the point of just an occasional expression of their physical chemistry. Leaning into him, she tried to make amends by brushing his lips with her own.

"Oh Alan, don't pout. Of course we can spend a few days together. There are so many beautiful places we can go at this time of year. You know that I'd really like that."

"You're only saying that now because you think that I'm sulking."

She smiled and shook her head at him.

"You are sulking, Alan. It still doesn't stop me wanting to take the time off."

"Yeah, well..."

Still a little disgruntled, he pulled her closer to him and returned the kiss, only pausing when it started to intensify between them and he was encouraged to slip his fingers inside the shiny thin silk of her nightdress.

"It would mean no International Rescue," he warned, preoccupied.

She closed her eyes to the sensation. "It would mean no closed doors and fathers, too."

"And no brothers," he murmured. "Definitely no brothers."

"No brothers," she agreed.