Un-betaed; all mistakes are my own.
Disclaimer: they ain't mine.
The family gathered in the living room. Alan paced agitatedly behind the sofa. He knew that there was five sets of worried eyes following him.
He did his best to block out the sixth set of eyes that was only amused.
"There is something still to be said before I can start to maybe leave this behind." Alan said. "Some things I need to say about what really happened that day. I was scared how you guys would react but I can't keep this a secret anymore."
His family said nothing but he felt the concern jump another notch. And that amusement with it.
As Virgil opened his mouth Alan forced a laugh knowing that Virge was still in 'Doctor' mode and was worried about the frantic pacing.
"Yeah, yeah, alright." He said sitting down in the arm chair, a hand gently placed against his still healing ribs.
At first he couldn't bear to look at his family in the face. Soon, he couldn't keep his fears still and he needed to keep moving. It somehow helped to settle the fear. He began pacing once more. None of his family stopped him, mouths opened at the truths he confessed to.
He knew about the tracking substance on Thunderbird One. The substance that had led to the Hood finding the Island. He had argued with his father and stormed out rather than trying harder to explain what he had found. How if he had have stopped, waited and then explained the whole thing might have never have happened.
How he immediately knew that the attack on Five was just that. He had seen the rocket leave the Hood's sub. He could have passed the message on Brains, and therefore Three or Five, but instead he had run for his life straight into the jungle. How if he had told Brains his family could have prepared and not ended up stuck on Five.
That when he drew a map in the sand, it took Tin to point out that, although he had lived on the island the longest out of the three children he clearly didn't know the island at all. If it had been left to his so called command they'd probably still be lost in the jungle.
It was his idea to listen in from the air vents. That had almost resulted in Fermat's capture. It had meant that Hood had known about their presence on the Island. He had led them into the Silo's… He had them dropped through One's booster vents. That had almost killed all three of them.
How he had planned the manoeuvre at the Satellite tower. How he had been essentially useless. It was Fermat that had made the connection to Five. Fermat who had tried to restore control. Alan had done nothing. Well he had thrown the hand held set in to the jungle when connection was jammed. His plan had lead the Hood's Henchmen straight to them. How he had been a jerk. He had mocked his best friend's stutter, he had ignored Tin Tin's advice completely. How he had led to his friends being captured. How he hadn't helped Lady P and Parker. How he had given up the chip to Thunderbird Two. That could have led to the deaths of the all those people on the monorail.
How in the course of one day he wasn't able to make one decent decision and he had ridden on the coat tails of people much better than himself. Fermat had given control back to Thunderbird Five, he had handled Two perfectly. Tin Tin had jumped from Two into the Thames skanky, polluted, water for Christ's sake.
Even his actions in the bank would have resulted that nothing more than death by Mole, in front of Jeff no less, except thanks to Tin Tin's timely intervention. Everyone, the Hood included it seemed, believed that Alan was responsible for thwarting the Hood's plans but Alan didn't see it that way.
When he was finally finished explaining how he had done absolutely nothing but made a mess, as per usual, he was stood with his back to his family looking out of the french doors where Brains was teaching Fermat to swim.
The silence lasted for a long moment before Alan couldn't take it any longer; he turned to face his family. All of them were staring back at him open mouthed.
"What?" he all but demanded defensively crossing his arms.
The Tracy children turned to look at their patriarch.
"You really feel that way?" Jeff asked haltingly.
"No, I made it up for kicks." Alan replied with a sarcastic bite. "Of course I meant it. What sort of a question is that?"
"I don't think you understand what a difference you made." Jeff said.
"Clearly!" Scott said ferociously leaping to his feet. "The only difference he thinks he made was negative." Scott wrapped his youngest brother tightly in his arms.
Suddenly, all of the boys were babbling over each other to have their say.
Jeff laughed at the angry tones knowing that it was frustration and concern more than pure anger. He steered his eldest and youngest children back to the sofa and sat them down. He knelt down and placed his hands on Alan's knees making sure that Alan was looking at him.
"Okay, you've told us what happened from you perspective, shall we tell you the same events from ours?"
The boys clambered in their agreement.
"When you came to me, I could have given you the chance to tell me. You told me it was important and I still dismissed you. If anyone is to blame for what happened that one is on me."
"But I-" Alan started.
"But nothing, as much as you might not want to admit to it, you are still a child and I berated you for acting like one. I'm the adult and I acted in the same way I accused you of behaving."
"And as for the tracking devise itself, I made a note a couple of years ago that we should look at our security, we were too sure of ourselves that the press would respect our one demand and the device Brains made would protect us; but I knew that there were gaps in our defences." John said carefully. "I could have done something to prevent that. Scott parked the 'bird why don't we blame him for not noticing the tracking gel?"
"But Scott-" Alan tried again.
"Oh so we can't blame Scott but we can blame you?" Gordon said hotly.
"Besides which, Fermat told Brains and even then they didn't take any action of prevent what happened next." Jeff continued as though he hadn't be interrupted.
"But if I-"
"Moving on," Scott said loudly. "I'm sure that rocket going skywards lasted ages from where you stood but you didn't know that it was heading for Johnny or that it was an attack against us until Fermat told you and then as that weird ass submarine beached. Johnny could have contacted us by using his watch but he wasted precious seconds by running to the main station to contact us. You had eight seconds between the launch and the impact. Eight. What sort of superman do you expect yourself to be that eight seconds would have changed anything?"
"Don't criticise John. Don't." Alan bit out tightly. "You don't know how things might have ended if he hadn't moved." Alan glanced at Virgil who had paled. "He survived."
He pushed Jeff's hands off his knees, and suddenly feeling claustrophobically trapped, planted his feet on the sofa and jumped over the back of it. He hissed as the movement agitated his ribs.
"Alan." Virgil said carefully speaking out for the first time. "I know how hard this had been. Out of everyone, except maybe Tin, I know."
A hand on Alan's arm made him jump and he looked into Virgil's creased and worried face.
"You won't let us say a word bad about anyone else. But understand where we are coming from; you expect to let us hear how everything was your fault. The only person who thinks that is you. I know you don't believe us but this isn't sliding doors. It's not as simple as this future or that. And as you said, changing something as simple as where Johnny was standing could have changed everything. That applied down here too. He survived and you survived. Changing one thing wouldn't have changed the overall outcome but it could have had catastrophic results in other ways. You did good kiddo."
"I could have done better."
"Coulda, woulda, shoulda." Virgil said. "You've seen enough to know that everything could have ended so differently." Alan glanced at where to Hood was still stood and then his gaze flitted away. "I'd say that the outcome we got was the best possible one. Don't you?"
Alan looked up at Virgil and then glanced at his family who were standing on the other side of the sofa.
He bit his thumb nail and half shrugged and half nodded.
Gordon signed, running a hand through his hair. "It's a good job you're still injured otherwise you'd get thrown in the pool about now.
Alan laughed despite himself and his family relaxed a notch.
"Besides which," Jeff said, "I know you don't want to hear any criticism of anyone but yourself, but Tin and Fermat couldn't have done any of what they achieved without you." Jeff carried on speaking quickly before Alan could interrupt. "Tin and Fermat are both very talented in different ways but they both looked to you. You couldn't have led them otherwise. And yes maybe your plan put them in danger but neither of them stepped forward with an alternate plan. It's not a criticism to either of them but just think about it, okay?"
Alan nodded; he'd been so worried that they would agree with him and it hadn't even occurred to him that they would so completely disagree. He would think about it.
There was one more thing that came to his mind, from a conversation within a different reality. In order to finally let go of the churning inside him he needed to have that same conversation again.
"The Hood said something to me." He started the same way he had last time. "And I want to know if what he said had any truth to it at all."
"He was lying to you, Sprout." Scott said immediately. Alan smiled, Scott was so predictable that his mind had filled in the gaps.
They had had the discussion about leaving the Hood to die on the day that they had watched the footage and Alan was now certain that he knew the truth on that score so he didn't need to rehash that any further.
"Did you know his other henchmen and woman, or do you think they were hired help?"
"Most I think we hired help. Mullion lost his partner in an earthquake and always blamed us for not being able to save him." Scott said.
"What is this really about, Al?" John asked. "What did he say that is bothering you?"
"It doesn't bother me, as such. But, I'd like to talk about it just the same. I said the other day that he can't read minds, he can read emotions and I don't know what he picked up from me, with his powers, and what he picked up from other people."
"About what?" Virgil asked softly.
"It's stupid." Alan stated firmly in a forewarning way.
"Based on what we've seen of your interactions with him, I very much doubt that." John said.
"What did he say to you?" Gordon nudged.
"He said that you hated me. And that you didn't want me as part of your family. That you forget about me when I'm not here. That I am always going to be forgotten and left behind."
"You know that is all a load of rubbish right?" Scott said abruptly.
"You believe the Hood?" John said in the same breath.
"I don't believe all of it." Alan said quickly before anyone else could get their two cents in. "I don't believe that you hate me. But for the rest of it, I don't know. It's not that I don't believe that you don't want me as part of your family, but you never act pleased to see me when I do come home. And I have to watch the rescues on the TV, because you never actually tell me what you get up to… or even bother to call when one of you is injured… or even call at all! All you ever talk about is the 'birds or previous rescues and then when I try and join in you all just put me down! It's not my fault that I am so much younger, and that I can't take part yet but you don't even want me to be a part of this. You deliberately exclude me; don't even try and deny it."
The first time Alan had had this discussion with his family in that other reality, he had been biting his tongue for so long that it had burst from him like an explosion. This time he just sounded so tired. He just didn't have the energy for that anger anymore.
"Alan, you are so desperate to grow up, but at the same time we are so desperate to stop it from happening too quickly." Scott said carefully.
"You only ever hear about the amazing and fun rescues where everything is okay." John said. "They aren't all like that. Not by a long shot. We didn't want you to have to see those things."
"You seriously think, I haven't seen them?" Alan asked hollowly. "You don't even know the stir that the Thunderbirds cause the rest of the world, do you? Every single rescue is broadcast on TV. I have seen almost every rescue you have been on. Don't tell me I don't know!"
"Yeah, Allie.. you saw the rescues but you still don't see the things we see." Virgil said carefully. "You don't get to see the people we can't save. There are some things that the new broadcasts don't show."
"So, if you are so desperate to protect me why did you let me go to London?" Alan asked looking at Jeff.
"Because, you had already seen those things that we were trying to hide from you. You saw someone who didn't flinch at killing everyone in this family. You saw someone who wouldn't hesitate to hurt a child. You saw someone who locked eight people in a freezer and left them to die. I let you go to London so that you could take control. You spent that whole morning and afternoon being chased and hunted and hurt by an absolute psycho. And there wasn't one family member here to protect you. By letting you go, we could see you sooner, because we were heading for London too and it meant that you didn't have to see the destruction left at home by the people that tried to hurt us. It meant that you could action, rather than only reacting. Alan, we do love you and we do want you as part of this family."
"So why then do you tease and essentially bully me all the time?" Alan asked softly. This is where he had cut off before because the gaps in the Hood's set up showed. This time, though, this time he would hear the truth.
There was a pause.
"Its not like that." Virgil said his mouth furrowing.
"Then what's it like?"
"Do you really feel like its bullying?" John asked.
Before he had wanted to run. But he wasn't running anymore. His family kept surprising him; they, so far, hadn't acted the way he thought they would.
"Yes, with the exception of you because I haven't actually seen you in two years, seven months, one week and five days, and I haven't spoken to you in over a year, but who's really counting." That was a cruel jab and he knew it even as the word left his lips. "But for the others, yes, it moved into the bullying territory quite a long time ago."
Once more there was a cacophony as several of them tried to talk over the other.
Alan stepped in again. "Johnny, I'm not blaming you. I could equally have called you and I didn't. I lumped you in with them and you didn't deserve that; so I'm sorry for the little that it changes."
"I'm sorry I didn't call you either. I guess I just got caught up in all of this and you were at school."
"You all got caught up and I got left behind." He shrugged.
"We've always teased you." Scott said slowly and carefully with an expressionless face. "When did it move to bullying?"
"It didn't happen overnight Scott," Alan said in exasperation. "I can't pinpoint a moment anymore than you can. But think of how things used to be, and then think about my first day home when you managed to chase me out of the room in less than three minutes."
Scott, Virgil and Gordon exchanged glances.
"I didn't realise." Virgil said. "We push each other the same way."
"Yes, but you are together all of the time. I'm here for less than ten weeks in a year. The first thing you said to me since Christmas was 'blown up another school, Sprout?'?" Alan looked from Virgil to Scott, "I guess it was the tone and intent to actually wound that changed the teasing then to now. Maybe its just that you mock me for being younger and it's something that bothers me in way that the topics of teasing then didn't. But what if, we hadn't made it, that three minutes would have been our last dialogue and you guys take risks everyday. Maybe I don't want to run the chance that harsh 'jokes' and storming out is going to be the last thing we exchange."
Scott wrapped his arms around his brother again.
"I'm so sorry we made you feel that way. I didn't know."
"I know you didn't know, and I know that you didn't really mean it. But I don't want to do this anymore."
"Everything is going to change. I promise." Scott said firmly. "And I need you to promise that if we do or say something that you think is too far that you tell us. Promise me."
That was an easy promise to make.
Alan nodded, "Yes, I promise."
Gordon scooted under Scott's arms so that he was hugging Alan too.
"I feel like I should have known." He said quietly, only for Alan to hear. "You're my only little brother and I said that I would always look out for you."
"And you do." Alan replied. "Who chased that kid who was picking on me in kindergarten up that tree?"
Gordon laughed briefly before his faced turned serious, "I should chase myself up that damn tree. I'm sorry I hurt you."
Now that Alan knew it wasn't intentional and that they had just been getting carried away it was easy to forgive them.
"It's alright, just maybe don't do it again?" he raised his shoulder in a half-shrug knowing that his statement sounded like a question.
"Never." Gordon said.
"I'm gonna try harder." John said, practically pushing Scott out of the way in order to get to the youngest Tracy.
"And I'm gonna try harder too." Alan said.
"I'm really sorry." John said. "I can't believe that I hadn't realised how isolated we had made you."
"You didn't mean to. And I'm sure I didn't help matters any; I know I've been a bit of jerk ever since I went to school."
"Hey," Virgil said with gentle sharpness, carefully elbowing his brother. "Since we are extracting promises today, how about you promise to stop blaming yourself for things that aren't your fault, huh?"
"There are lots of things that are my fault." Alan said not looking anyone in the eye.
"Alan you're still a kid, and I hope that you've realised, that it's okay, you've got all the time in the world to grow up, and absolutely nothing is your fault." Virgil said earnestly. "And I'm sorry that we made you feel like things were. Blowing up one room in the whole school wasn't your fault and I am so so sorry that we brought it up every chance we could and made it sound so much worse that it was. Scott's right, things are going to change. We're going to change. And I don't think we've said it nearly enough over the past couple of years, but, we love you and I am going to try harder."
"I think that we all need to try a bit harder." Jeff said, adding his arms to the 'slowly crush Alan' pile.
"Guys, broken ribs! Can't breathe." Alan said jokingly.
He'd half expected them to jump back in concern but everyone just eased their grip just the slightest bit.
"Suck it up, kiddo." Scott said in the light tone.
Alan was reminded of a time when they were still children when they'd felt open to sharing their emotions, before the four eldest had become so stoic and darkened by the world. He was reminded that the five of them had once done everything together, age difference be damned, and of times when they'd so frequently slept curled up around him that Jeff had a bought a bed that filled a whole room. Words meant little, but Alan did truly believe that things were about to change for the better.
Once they'd all let go of him with gentle ribbings and hair rufflings, Scott turned back to his youngest brother.
"While we are talking about this stuff." Scott said carefully. "There is one more thing that I would like to know. The Doctor flew half-way across the world to speak with you, but other than that one chat pretty much after he arrived, he has spent the whole time tucked away with the Kyranos. Why?"
Alan glanced at their house invader who was more translucent that he had been at the start of the conversation but still noticeably there.
"Dr Rackham may be one of the best psychologists in the world, but he suddenly found himself out of his depth." Alan replied slowly. "He knows next to nothing about the world of psychics and is currently attempting to become an expert pretty much over night."
"Sorry to repeat the question but I have to second it, why?" Virgil said. "The problem has passed."
"Has it?" Alan said softly, eyes fixed on the man stood by the doors.
The Hood has presented you with a Cross Roads, everything you want against everything you fear.
"What are you looking at?" Said Jeff craning is neck.
Alan made a decision.
"There is one thing I haven't been completely 100% honest about." Alan said carefully, but continued quickly before anyone had the chance to protest. "Ever since I woke up, I have been able to hear him, and sometimes see him."
Virgil pushed back from them abruptly. "The Hood? You said it was a nightmare!"
"And maybe it is." Alan said. "But I never said that I thought it was. You did and I just didn't disagree with you."
"What are you talking about?" Said Gordon, his tone bordering on anger in his concern and fear.
"Dr Rackham wants to know if the Hood's influence can stretch across the whole damn planet or if, at that moment by the door, he shook something loose in me or if we need to start discussing medications." Alan said stiffly finally looking at his family who's mouths were all hanging open again. "The Kyranos are insistent that I'm not bat-crazy, but I remain unconvinced."
"You really see the Hood?" John asked.
"Right now." John pressed.
Alan's gaze move back to the windows and he nodded once, a jerky aborted motion.
"Holy shit." Scott breathed.
"Language." The younger four parroted back with humour.
The routine was enough, Alan broke eye contact with his nightmares to laugh at the broken tension along with his family. When he glanced back the Hood was gone. There seemed to be a pattern to cracking the intrusion.
"I've jumped the gun a bit." Alan said lightly and then heavily regretted the turn of phrase when Virgil flinched; he scrunched his face at Virgil, the only apology he could offer. "I think the Doctor was planning on sitting down with everyone this afternoon to discuss this. I just thought that perhaps you should hear it from me."
Hey everyone! So much for those weekly updates, huh? They say that God laughs at the plans of men, and boy has he laughed at me. The first rule of 2016 should be that we never talk about 2016. About a month after I started updating again I was taken very poorly; 10000% praise shout out to all the nurses and doctors who make up the NHS (National Health Service; the poor staff are overworked, underpaid and have a huge amount of rubbishy politics thrown their way) as they have been an absolute godsend and have just generally been absolutely brilliant. They're still not totally definite what has caused my decline but hopefully I'll get some answers soon. So, after taking several months to recover (and feel sorry for myself) I renewed my desire to get these fics done!
This is the second to last chapter and the final one is done; I'm just editing it now and it will be up next Wednesday.
Thank you to everyone who has reviewed as well as those who have favourited and followed. And for anyone that still has any interest in this story after a stupid number of years, thank you for your patience!
If you have the time, I'd love to hear your thoughts; please review! :)