Back again with something a little different. I'm a bit nervous about this one...
Alan couldn't remember ever having felt so terrified. Blasting off into space for the first time had come close, as had the time he'd been trapped in a collapsing building with tonnes of rubble about to bury him alive. He hadn't even felt this nervous when he'd made his first move on Tin-Tin. No, compared to this, those incidents were just minor worries. This... this was serious.
He got up from Tin-Tin's bed and wandered over to look out of the window for a moment before returning to his original position, checking his watch for the hundredth time and wondering why she was taking so long. She must know what he was going through right now. But still she kept him hanging on. Was she deliberately trying to prolong the agony - or was she too scared to face him?
The bathroom door opened and the realisation that this was it, that there was no going back now, made Alan feel suddenly sick. Trying to read the expression on Tin-Tin's face as she took a step towards him proved impossible - her face was completely neutral, though Alan knew that she was really full of emotion but doing her best to hide it.
"Is it...?" he asked, his voice catching on the words. "Are you...?"
"Negative." Tin-Tin's voice was as impassive as her face.
There was no such restraint on Alan's part, however, as he flung himself at her, catching her up in his arms and swinging her around as he kissed her. "Thank God for that. You had me worried."
Tin-Tin said nothing, just moved away once he'd put her down, taking her own turn at looking out of the window.
"Tin-Tin?" Alan said, slowly, coming up to stand beside her and putting his hands on her shoulders. "That was the result you wanted, wasn't it? You didn't want a baby?"
Tin-Tin kept her back to him as she shrugged her shoulders.
"Tin? Come on, what would we do with a baby? Think of the problems it would cause. I mean, for a start, we'd have to get married- Oh..." He took his hands from her shoulders and backed away a pace or two, wishing he'd kept his mouth shut. He didn't need this conversation, not when he was still trying to pull himself together after the stress of the past few hours.
"No, Alan, I didn't want a baby - not right now. But it's got me thinking."
Alan moved so that he could look into her eyes, reaching out to gently turn her face towards him when she tried to look away. "We're good, aren't we? I mean, we're happy, we're having fun. Why would you want to change anything?"
"I thought I was more than just a bit of fun for you, Alan," Tin-Tin said quietly, pulling away from him again.
"You are. You know you are."
"Am I? It's been two years now and nothing's changed since we first got together. You come to my room whenever you feel like it, but you sneak in during the night and you're always gone before breakfast. It's as if you're ashamed to be with me. And if I come to you, you send me away."
"Gordon's next-door. He teases me..."
"So move in here with me." She let out a bitter laugh at the look on his face. "You really don't want to make a commitment, do you? At least a baby would have forced you to do something."
"Would love us to be together. You know she would. So would our fathers. What's stopping you, Alan?"
What was stopping him? It wasn't as if he hadn't thought about it. There wasn't a single person in his family who hadn't asked him the same question at some point. He'd never given any of them a proper answer, informing them that it was nobody's business except his and Tin-Tin's. But, truth be told, he didn't really have an answer. It wasn't as though he hadn't thought about making the relationship official, but he couldn't help feeling that might take a lot of the fun out of it. Plus, he was well aware that his brothers, whilst not exactly jealous, certainly found it hard at times to see the couple together whilst they had no chance of sustaining a relationship. Maybe if he hadn't been the youngest it would have been easier, but settling down seemed like such a boring, grown-up thing to do, especially when you were an ex-racing driver, an astronaut and a member of International Rescue. But he could hardly tell Tin-Tin that.
"It's not that I don't want to be with you. I love you, you know that." At least he could say it now - it had certainly taken a while. He hoped the words would be enough - Tin-Tin usually softened when he told her that. But not this time. Instead she looked even more forlorn.
"I know you do. But I'm not sure it's enough, not anymore."
"Aw, Tin-Tin, come on. Don't look at me like that." Alan could hear the desperation in his voice but he couldn't - he wouldn't - say what she wanted to hear, not when his heart wasn't in it. Not even to stop her crying. "Look, one day, maybe... I mean... I don't want anyone else, you know that. But why do we have to rush into anything? We're fine as we are, why can't we just enjoy ourselves? There's plenty of time for babies and all the other stuff."
Tin-Tin shook off the arm he attempted to put around her shoulders. "Leave me alone, Alan! I'm tired of all this. The thought of a baby terrified me, but if it meant you finally grew up and made a commitment to me then it would have been the best thing that ever happened to me. To both of us. You've got to grow up one day, you know."
"But I'm not ready..."
"No, you're not." She looked at him with a mixture of anger and sorrow. "But I am." She turned away from him. "Leave me alone, Alan."
"Please... just go."
"Okay. But we'll talk properly later. When you're feeling better."
"Maybe. Get out, Alan."
First he went to his room, but that reminded him of one of Tin-Tin's complaints, so he took himself off to the games room. But after five minutes on his favourite racing game he found himself wondering if this was just an example of his apparent immaturity. Allowing his car to career into the wall of the track where it burst into flames, he put the controls down and made his way outside to the pool. Gordon was there, but he was well into his daily training regime and clearly not looking for conversation. That was just fine by Alan, so he sat himself down on a lounger and tried not to think about Tin-Tin. It didn't work.
The day had started so well - after a successful rescue the day before, they'd all slept late and Grandma had promised to prepare his favourite dessert that evening as a reward for managing to save two small children when all hope had seemed lost. But then Tin-Tin had cornered him looking worried. When she'd explained her situation he'd felt a surge of panic like nothing he'd ever known. Since she was busy working with Brains on some new machine and didn't want to draw attention to herself by disappearing with no good reason, he'd had to fly over to the mainland under the pretence of a sudden bout of toothache which necessitated an immediate trip to the dentist. Instead he'd picked up a pregnancy testing kit - one of the most embarrassing purchases of his life - and flown straight back, knowing that the whole course of his life depended on the results.
He'd never expected things to turn out the way they had - he'd thought that either he and Tin-Tin would have been celebrating their lucky escape, or trying to work out what to do now they had a baby on the way. To his surprise, Alan found himself wondering if it would have been better if the test had proved positive - at least then he'd still have his girlfriend.
"What's up, Al?"
Scott and Virgil. Great. The last people he wanted to see - or to talk to. He knew neither one would be fooled by the inane grin he plastered across his face as he insisted he was fine - just fine.
"Something's wrong," Scott said, sitting on the next lounger and leaning forward to look at Alan more closely. "What's happened?"
"Nothing. Leave me alone."
"Another fight with Tin-Tin?" Virgil asked, taking a seat the other side of him. He didn't sound particularly surprised, or concerned, knowing that Alan and Tin-Tin's relationship often went through rocky patches.
Scott took his youngest brother's silence for assent. "Cheer up, Al. Whatever you've done, she'll come round."
Alan sprang to his feet. "Why do you always assume it's my fault?"
"Because it always is," Virgil said, stretching out on his lounger.
"Well, thanks for the support, Virg."
"Was it your fault?" Scott asked.
Alan sat heavily back down on the lounger. "Maybe... But I didn't mean it. It just happened."
"She'll forgive you."
"I'm not so sure. She - she thought she was going to have a baby."
This got Virgil's attention - his eyes snapped open and he sat up sharply. "Is she?"
"No. But that got her thinking about where we were going and, well, we ended up fighting."
"She wants things to move on a bit?"
"Yeah, but why rush into anything? Life's just great as it is, isn't it?"
"You didn't tell her that, did you?" the eldest Tracy asked.
"No wonder she's not happy," Virgil said. "It's been two years, Alan. Maybe you should-"
Alan couldn't take any more. "Oh, shut up, the pair of you! What do you know about relationships anyway? When was the last time either of you dated someone for more than a month? You have no idea what this is like - for either of us. Why don't you drop the wise-guy big brother act and just leave me alone?"
Any other time he'd have laughed at the dumbstruck expressions on his elder brothers' faces, but Alan was beyond being cheered up right now. He got to his feet and turned back to the house.
"Al?" Gordon had finished his workout and had just pulled himself out of the pool.
"You can shut up, too!" Alan informed him, mindful of Tin-Tin's comment about him not wanting her in his room and still harbouring what he knew to be a completely irrational resentment towards Gordon.
Gordon stared in surprise when his brother pushed past him, almost sending him back tumbling back into the water. He watched him storm down the steps towards the beach then turned to his older brothers.
"Another fight with Tin-Tin?"
"Yeah. Sounds serious."
"They always do, Scott. Until they make up half an hour later..."
"I'm not so sure this time," Virgil said.
"Big relationship talk by the sounds of it."
"I can just guess how Al handled that one," Scott said. "Might take longer than half an hour for them to make it up this time."
"But no baby?"
"Pity," Gordon said, drying off his hair then slinging the towel over his shoulder. "It would be fun to have a kid around the place."
"They couldn't stay here with a baby," Scott said.
"It's not fair on the kid. Who's it going to play with?"
"Me," Gordon told him.
"Seriously, Gords. Kids need company their own age. You couldn't keep a child here all by itself - it wouldn't be fair on them. Alan and Tin-Tin would have to leave once the baby started to grow. Then where would International Rescue be?"
"They wouldn't have to leave," Gordon insisted. "They could take the kid over to the mainland to play. And for school, maybe."
"How's that going to work?" Virgil asked. "Okay, it would be fine for a year or two, but you can't expect a kid to keep a secret like International Rescue. What's going to happen the first time it gets into a fight over whose dad's the best?"
Gordon looked confused. "Why's that a problem? It wasn't for us."
"My dad's a billionaire - and he's been to the moon..." Scott and Virgil chanted in unison. Gordon had to laugh.
"You're right, Gords," Scott told him. "We always won that one. But how's this kid going to react? My dad's the best because he pilots Thunderbird Three? Years of keeping our identity secret will count for nothing if it all comes out in some schoolyard spat. No, there's no way you could raise a kid on the island and still keep IR secret. Maybe it's just as well Tin-Tin isn't pregnant."
"Here she comes," Virgil announced. Scott and Gordon turned to look as Tin-Tin came over to them, their suspiciously innocent expressions not fooling her for a minute.
"Hi, Tin-Tin," Gordon said. "If you're looking for Alan he's gone down to the beach."
The brothers exchanged glances, surprised by Tin-Tin's cool tone.
"Virgil, Brains would like you to join him in his lab. He's ready to run the simulation. Scott, your father wants to see you."
Without waiting for an answer she left them and made her way back to the house.
"Okay..." Gordon said. "Looks like things really are serious."
"Go and sort Alan out," Scott told him.
"We're busy," Virgil told him. "Anyway, he's already told us what we can do with our advice. Maybe you'll have better luck."
Gordon didn't. Alan flatly refused to talk to him. Finally the redhead gave up, leaving his brother on the beach and making his way back to the house where he found his grandmother frantically dusting the piano.
"What's going on, Grandma?"
"Lady Penelope's coming to visit."
"Really? She hasn't been near the place for months. What's the occasion?"
"I don't know, dear. Some business with your father, I believe."
"Well, it will be good to see her. She hasn't seen New Four yet. Does Scott know she's coming?"
"Yes, he does."
Grandma frowned at her grandson. "Gordon, leave him alone. Things were going so well between them but Scott says they've hardly spoken at all since that business with the McAllisters. I don't know what's going on, but don't you go getting involved."
"Yes, you, dear."
"Okay," Gordon agreed. "I haven't got the time, anyway. Scott's got me trying to sort Alan and Tin-Tin out."
"Oh dear. Again?"
"I'm never going to be a great-grandmother, am I?"
Gordon had to turn away to hide his smile.