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Apologies to Alan, for what has been and what will be.

John took Alan into the pent house office; the kid was as white as a sheet and was literally shaking from the shock of seeing them all there. John had not been in favour of leaving his youngest brother in the dark about their arrival but had allowed the peace keeping side of him to let it pass. He now knew that it had been a mistake, Alan may have been many things but when it came to family the kid would cross the world and back just to see a brother with a mild concussion. This was one situation he would never have run from.

The shock Alan had been left with was quickly morphing into apparent anger so John had quickly guided the younger man away from anyone he could easily damage with careless words, calm needed to ensue before anything.

The office was small but the walls were filled with framed photos of the family, pot plants sat by the window and the desk was kept spotlessly clean and without a computer – whoever was using it usually brought their own laptop or used computers down in Tracy Towers. The sash windows looked out across New York and the sky above, streaming afternoon light into the room and highlighting the shadows under Alan's eyes.

They sat in a couple of chairs in front of the desk; John perched on the edge whilst Alan slumped back and seemed to sink in to himself. He had that look in his eyes, the one that thought things over too much and jumped to conclusions, the look which made Alan a loose cannon with his emotions.

"There was a cave in on the rescue site Al, I fell through and lost contact with the guys. They thought I'd been trapped under the debris but I fell through to the other side and went ahead to help any casualties." John leant forward and gripped one of Alan's hands which felt cold in his own, explaining their actions seemed the best way to go. "It took a long time but when Scott and Virgil finally got to me we had to then deal with the civilians and the rest of the operation. We didn't know that Tintin had contacted you until we were back on board Two, and by then we were heading home anyway so figured we'd debrief before heading over here to explain to you what had happened."

He took a deep breath, desperate for the fear in his brother's eyes to dissipate. Blue eyes met blue and Alan blinked back the understanding, eyes scanning John's face for any sign of injury but finding none.

"I thought maybe you'd…" Alan closed his eyes, taking time to bite back words which could only cause further hurt, "I thought the worse."

"I know, and we're all so sorry to both you and Gordon. I can't imagine what it must have been like waiting."

"No. You can't." He leant forward, elbows resting on his knees and he hung his head in his hands. "But you're ok, right? And that's what matters." There was anger there and a sense of betrayal but he held it back too well, he seemed almost rehearsed in the action which hurt John more than he'd dare say. Deep breaths calmed his nerves and held back tears which had portrayed his true feelings, only the tracks which had made their down his face bore witness to them.

"Yeah, we've all got our signature rescue bumps and bruises but that goes with the job. Apart from that we're fine." John bit his lip, mulling over how he could lighten the mood. "How was your trip? Gordon says you seemed pretty stoked about it."

"You've spoken to Gordon?"

Ok, wrong choice of words. Alan didn't need to know that Gordon had known long before himself, another mistake in a ridiculously careless plan. "Yeah, we arrived a few hours ago but didn't want to wake you. He took himself back to bed, seems like you've both got some jetlag to catch up on huh?" Alan may have slept but he didn't look at all rested. "So, how was the jump?"

For whatever reason Alan didn't pursue the reason why Gordon had known before him, or the reason that they hadn't woken him. He just shook his head and sighed, leaning back in the chair and gazing out of the window. It was uncharacteristic and oddly disconcerting, their younger brother had aged and they'd barely noticed.

"It was alright."

"Alright? You jumped off a bridge and it was 'alright'?" John gave a short snort of laughter which he didn't quite feel. "Will you be jumping off anything else or was that a onetime thing?"

"I'd do it again," Alan hummed, a smile flickering across his lips before he frowned at something, "not sure I'll be doing the season though."

"What do you mean? I thought you were really looking forward to it. I've only heard from Gordon and Tintin but they both said you were keen to get the ball rolling, even if it does take a few weeks of form filling and vaccinations…"

Alan sighed again, eyes meeting John's as that fiery anger that had been missing from the conversation arose. "Some of the papers printed a bunch of stuff about me and now News International thinks I've been speaking to other journalists." He rose and leant back against the desk, hands rubbing tired eyes as he gazed at the wall of photos unseeing. "I'd feel much better about it if what they'd written wasn't partially true."

"Huh? What did they say?"

"The papers or News International? The editor of News International was pretty pissed, I've got to go in to see her tomorrow and just hope that she'll believe me. I haven't seen the papers yet but they printed some story about me stealing one of dad's jets when I left the island." Alan shook his head angrily, fists gripping the edge of the desk.

"How would they know that?" The papers often wrote things about the Tracys but for the most part it was made up, yet no one had known about Alan's departure of the island or his mode of transport. "You haven't said a word?"

"No!" He snapped, standing up and glaring at John before his shoulders sagged and he sank back into his chair. "All that I said was in that one article."

Jeff choose the wrong time to poke his head around the door, eyes scanning both his son's faces before coming in and closing it with a loud click behind him, apparently too impatient to await the end of John and Alan's conversation.

"Give us five minutes Dad, we're catching up."

John tried to catch his dad's eyes, in which he felt sure he could convey his meaning, yet Jeff had eyes only for Alan who in turn stared back with a cold disdain, it was a recipe for disaster. Tired, jet lagged, stressed Alan versus an equally tired, worn out Jeff. A man who had spent the last few weeks waiting for the Alan bomb to drop, expecting the kid to mess up, waiting… He did not need to know about News International, not then, not when their relationship was already stretched to its limit.

John reached out and shook Alan's knee, diverting his attention and giving the warmest smile he could muster. "It's so good to see you Allie, we need to sort out someway where we can all spend time together and really catch up. None of these passed on messages, yeah?"

Alan smiled weakly back but nodded, lips wavering as he studied his brother's face.

"You're really ok? No secret head injury or anything?"

"He's fine." Jeff let out a long breath and passed them, heading to the seat behind the desk which he sank into. "We'll be having words about protocol but I'm pretty sure he'll survive. Right John?"

"FAB." He grinned, standing and brushing his jeans down before looking between the two. "Am I alright to leave you to it?"

Surprisingly it was Alan who answered, his head nodding slowly before he put more feeling into it. "Yeah we'll be fine; I guess we have a lot to talk about."

John paused in the doorway, nervous about leaving yet knowing he had to give them time without anyone interfering. Perhaps Tracy Enterprises and International Rescue was getting in the way, they really did need to spend more time together but the possibilities of doing so were limited, especially without Alan at home.

"Play nice." With a wink he headed out, fingers mentally crossed for some resolution.

Jeff's attention had been on Alan ever since he'd entered the room, he'd spent weeks thinking through what he wanted to say, he'd played countless arguments through in his mind and had thought of a thousand responses to Alan's possible reasons for what he had done, but when it came down to seeing his youngest son sat before him, a deflated image of a man, he could not remember a single word.

"I'm so sorry Alan, we really messed up this time."

Alan ran a hand over his face trying to wipe away the apparent exhaustion, eyes taking in the room before falling back on his father. There were words waiting to be shouted, heartache screaming to be understood, but like Jeff he found them distant and at that moment they just couldn't be grasped.

"I'm sorry to, I really screwed up."

They sat in silence as minutes ticked by, the warm office comfortable, and the photos on the wall a reminder of why they were here, John's empty chair a reminder of what was really at stake; Family.

"How've you been?" Jeff finally asked, he'd heard small details on Alan's travels but none of them knew enough to be settled with. "Are you staying in New York now or will you be heading off again?"

"I'm not too sure." Maybe his response answered both questions. "I hadn't really thought much past seeing John alive and well, you've kind of thrown me just appearing here like this."

Jeff bit back on his tongue, he wanted to mention the fact that Alan hadn't been picking up any of his calls so he'd really had no way of informing him. His brothers of course were a different matter, but Jeff did not feel guilty for his actions.

"It's a good thing us Tracy's have healthy hearts… listen, Alan, we need to sit down and replay that conversation we had. The one where you upped and left, where things were said..."

"I know which you mean." He didn't need reminding. "Will the outcome be any different?"

Jeff chewed his lip, his stance on the subject hadn't changed and neither had his sons. Well, perhaps they were opening their minds to the idea of Alan being an operative for International Rescue, but when it came down to putting the idea into action none of them were at all keen. Alan was the last remaining link to their mother, he was a childhood which they all felt of as home, and he was their base point, the safety amidst a world of chaos.

"Maybe we should sit down as a family, as much as I want to make this decision maybe it's time we spoke more openly about things."

"Really?" Alan was thrown, clearly expecting Jeff to replay the past. He frowned, eyes darting as the idea played through his mind before a smile cracked into a grin. "Like a group decision?"

Alan was getting ahead of himself, clearly seeing the badge already on his chest as he sat taller and almost jigged in excitement.

"Alan, have you spoken to your brothers about this? You know they're not keen for you to join, right?" Clearly he was not aware as his eyes darted to Jeff's in confusion, the spark in his eyes caught in the headlights of Jeff's insinuation.

"What do you mean? Why wouldn't they want me to join?" Perhaps that was the look Jeff had failed to see the first time round, the hurt which verged almost on a pain which swam across Alan's vision like a veil. Judgement clouding as he struggled to comprehend what was being said.

"That worry that you had for John when you thought he was injured, when you were awaiting news and praying for the best but silently thinking the worse?" Jeff closed his eyes blinking away painful memories when the outcome had once been so very different, "Every time you leave home it is what we all feel. All your life we've tried to keep you safe, by allowing you to join we would be going against everything we believe in. We can't always protect each other on the field Alan."

"But you do." He shook his head slowly, still trying to get his head around the idea that he still wasn't wanted as a Thunderbird. "You always come home…What makes me so different to Gordon? Or John, Scott or Virg? Or what about Tintin?! She was on Command and Control Dad! What about her?" His voice rose and so did he, standing as his arms struck out at the air.

"Tintin is not my youngest child Alan, she is not the soul survivor of an avalanche where she survived only because someone cared more about her life than their own." He turned away, a hand swatting his eyes as emotion welled up within. "Tintin is not the reason for the grey hairs on my head, the hours of lost sleep or continued worry when she's not there. Tintin has nothing to do with any of that."

Alan was still standing but froze as he saw the raw emotion of his father, a man usually so stoic and controlled breaking down before him. "I'm sorry I cause you such grief." He said voice no more than a whisper.

"No Alan, that's not it." He had to understand, surely? "You are something we all live for and we love you more than you could ever understand, but if we feel that kind of emotion when you are traveling or even when you're at home, what are we going to be like on the field with you besides us?"

He wasn't getting it, or perhaps he was but not to the extent he should have been. Alan sagged down onto the chair. "Am I that much of a liability?"

Perhaps that obsession with keeping him safe had created the selfishness Alan struggled to cope with, the anger which flared so bright but which could dissipate in the blinking of an eye, the feeling of loss which stemmed from both having everything and nothing all at the same time.

"It's not about being a liability Alan, it's about being loved."

"But you love Scott and…"

"I love each and every one of you, and if I went back perhaps I would do things differently. Some things I wouldn't do at all but it's too late to regret the past, I'm thinking of the future and if I can do one thing for you it is this. I'm not saying 'no' Alan, I'm saying that we sit down and we discuss it. You can hear your brother's thoughts and give your own, at the end of that time we can vote on the outcome. Ok?"

"Ok." The hope which sparked in his eyes before had gone now, replaced with confusion and disbelief. "Does this mean I have to come home?"

"We can do it here if you wish, but I'd love to see you back home son, I really would." He rubbed the sadness from his eyes and gazed at Alan, pleased when he tilted his head and nodded.

"Ok, I need some time to think and I need to see someone tomorrow but after that..." He leant back in the chair, legs crossed before him as he considered his options. "Am I ok to head out for an hour or so? I need to pick some stuff up and hopefully rearrange what I was doing tomorrow, as much as I'd love to catch up with everyone I need time to just get my head around things."

"Sure." Jeff smiled smugly, happy in the knowledge that Alan would return home, understanding that it was a lot to take on board. "We'll order in some food for when you get back."

"Right… well, I'll be back soon. I've got my phone if anyone needs anything."

Alan sat at a small bar close to Tracy Towers staring at the empty beer bottle before him, wondering how his brothers could side against him on something as important as being an International Rescue operative. He loved his family, lord knows he did, but sometimes he just couldn't handle it. He needed space to sort his thoughts and couldn't do that in an apartment full of people who apparently had been against him the entire time.

When he was younger he'd thought that by twenty one his life would have been sorted, the issues would disappear the moment they handed him his International Rescue badge. Now he was beginning to question whether he even wanted it anymore.

The whole plan had been a dream, cooked up in an idealistic mind with damned rainbows and apple pie. But that apple pie life didn't exist and it wasn't just his family to blame. No. When he looked back at those dreams and aspirations it hadn't been himself that he'd envisaged living it, it was someone altogether different. For one, the dream Alan was blissfully happy; he wouldn't storm off at the end of each argument or drift away to mull over beer bottles. There wouldn't have been arguments, that case in itself made the dream fade with whatever hope remained.

He'd have to go back and talk, and not just because all of his stuff was there, he had to make things right even if his heart didn't feel it. He had to try and understand as did they.

Maybe that was what being twenty one was about; Finding a way to ignore the doubts, the hurt and feelings of loss, to concentrate on life and love, to please those around him. Maybe that would make his father proud. It wasn't like News International was going to give him that full season, not when they thought of him as a liar. There was definitely something going on with that, he couldn't place what exactly but he felt as though he was being played. The question of 'who by?' remained a mystery.

With a sigh he pushed the empty bottle away, returning with alcohol on his breath would definitely not help matters. The short time he'd spent with alcohol had not been something to be proud of. Pushing himself up Alan turned to leave but found himself face to face with a red eyed man who looked to be in his early thirties. A mess of dark hair on his head and an accent as Irish as Saint Patrick 's Day.

"Sorry lad didn't see ye there."

They'd bumped into each other, the pint clutched in the man's hand half lost over Alan's shirt.

"Sorry about that." Alan forced a smile, for a moment considering just walking away but his grandma's rules of politeness presiding. "Here, let me buy you another." He turned back to the bar and signaled the barman over.

"Make that two."

Alan frowned but paid, wondering how far his politeness had to stretch, certain that he shouldn't have been paying for the man's so far missing friend's drink also. Turning to leave once more he nodded an apologetic goodbye.

"Will ye not join me?"

"Oh, sorry I just thought.." The young blonde flushed in embarrassment, stuck in an unsure moment of how to respond.

"I've just had a piss awful day," the guy continued, the Irish drawl hanging in the air. "Could really use some distraction, ye know? Just one more drink lad, there's no fire is there?"

Alan couldn't really refuse; he had just walked straight into the guy. Plus he now had half a pint quickly soaking into his shirt, either way he'd return stinking of alcohol in need of an explanation, might as well make it that bit more bearable.

"Alright, give me a minute to dry this off." He gestured to his shirt.

"That's dandy, I'll hold ye brew for ye. Just don't do a runner, aye?"

"No worries, I'll be back in two."

He headed to the toilets and did his best to squeeze the remaining liquid from his shirt and into the sink, finally giving up and holding it under the hand dryer for a minute. A guy came through giving him a funny look so he thought better of it and headed back to the bar; even if it did dry the amber liquid had already left its mark on his white shirt. There was no hiding that.

He joined the guy at a small table in the corner of the bar, waved over by a wide smile and the flash of crooked teeth.

"Thanks for the beer mate," he drawled as Alan sat, pushing the second pint over for him to take. "Got myself a drinking buddy to, can't ask for much more than that." He took a gulp of his drink before setting it down too harshly and losing more of the liquid on the table, it was no wonder he'd collided with Alan, he seemed to have already had a few. Holding out a hand he took Alan's and shook it vigorously. "Brendan O'Donnell."

"Alan." He reclaimed his hand and took a swig of drink, wondering how quickly he could leave without seeming rude. "Can't stay long, I've got food waiting." He gestured with his hand before taking another drink.

"No worries lad," Brendan sat back and looked Alan over with an unsteady eye, "I should be heading back for me own soon, don't want the missus getting herself worked up. Not when I've gone and lost me job."

"You're joking? I'm so sorry to hear that." It explained the guy's behavior, Alan didn't really have a job, not a proper one anyway, yet the potential loss of it weighed down and made the relief of a beer tangible. "What happened?"

"Oh, you know how it is, not enough money in the world anymore. You've got to have money to make money, and if ye don't? Well, look at old muggins here."

Alan felt guilty at that, he didn't mean to be the son of a billionaire but he couldn't wish things different. Not when life seemed so hard for so many, you had to take what you were given and make the most of it.

"Have you got something to fall back on?" He asked, taking his pint down to halfway before looking back up at Brendan who smiled back, eyes glistening with something Alan wanted to believe was the Irish luck he'd need to not be out of work too long.

"Sometimes things just fall into your lap lad."

"Opportunities come knocking, right?" The guy was looking over his shoulder at something so he glanced back unseeing of whatever it was, happy to have a reason to be leaving as he turned back to down the rest of her beer.

"Too right."

Alan stared back at him, rubbing his eyes tiredly, they seemed to be having problems focusing and he couldn't seem to be able to blink back the focus. He'd not had so much of a problem with jet lag before but presumed that the worry over John had messed with his sleeping pattern more than anything, as soon as he had some food in him he'd be fine.

"Well, it was nice meeting you. I've really got to head off." He stood up, grasping the edge of the table as his legs threatened to give in under his own weight. Two beers shouldn't have affected him like that, two beers and a lack of sleep certainly shouldn't. "I've really got to head off." He repeated and shut his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath, when he reopened them Brendan was suddenly next to him, an arm snaking round his waist confidentially as he holstered most of Alan's weight. "What are you doing?"

"Just helping me mate out, cause we're mates now, right Alan?"

"Yeah… right." He frowned, he'd had two beers so why the hell did he feel like he'd had twelve? And why did the guy who had seemed to have had a fair few more suddenly seem to be the picture of good health?

Brendan read his questioning look and explained for him.

"I spiked ye drink lad, gotta borrow ye for a few hours."

"What?" He swayed forward but was held upright by the man, his muscles refusing to work to protect himself as he was moved toward the emergency exit and outside.

"Alan Tracy. Youngest son of Jeff Tracy, ex-astronaut, founder of Tracy Enterprises, and subsequently a billionaire?" Brendan O'Donnell grinned. "Too easy Alan, ye made it all too easy."