Okay, second-to-last chapter begins here! ('sniff sniff')

Thanks for your great reviews, and I'm glad that you didn't mind me shoving Rivers in jail. He really annoyed me. (Except I created him, so technically I was annoying myself...I'm confused.)

Right, hope you like the chapter! Hope Katzen is feeling better and Lissysue85 managed to get some sleep! Best wishes to you guys!

"Virgil, you're awake!"

Virgil smiled at Gordon, who was sitting in a chair next to John at Alan's beside.

"Is it that obvious?" he chuckled softly. Gordon and John both smiled, clearly relieved that Virgil had recovered from the strange mood he had been in the last time they had seen him.

"Hey, son, you're looking better." Jeff remarked softly, looking up from where he had been stroking Alan's hair. Virgil nodded, perching on the end of Alan's bed and running his hand over the boy's leg gently.

"He's been awake quite a few times since you were last here." Jeff continued, gazing back down lovingly at his youngest son's face. "He was little disorientated, but Dr. Mathews said that he would become more coherent as time passed. He had no problems recognising John and Gordon when he last woke up, just over an hour ago."

"Well, who wouldn't be able to recognise John?" asked Gordon, grinning cheekily. "With a face that hideous, it's hard to mistake him for somebody else!"

Virgil laughed humorously as John gaveGordon a massive noogie, shaking his head at his brothers' immature behavior. Suddenly, Alan stirred and moaned on the bed beside him, shifting beneath the blankets.

"I think he's coming around again." Thomas said quietly, leaning over the bed and feeling Alan's forehead gently. Virgil's face lit up, and he shuffled a little closer to his baby brother. Scott, who had been hiding away in the corner of the room, immediately came up to the bedside and leaned over John and Gordon's shoulders.

"Alan?" Thomas called softly. "Alan, can you open your eyes for me?"

The blond boy frowned slightly, his eyelids slowly creeping open and his sleepy blue orbs gazing up at Thomas. The doctor smiled warmly. "Hi, kiddo." he said gently. "Do you know where you are?"

Alan blinked a couple of times. "In the hospital." he rasped quietly. Thomas nodded, his smile brightening.

"Good boy." he congratulated. "Do you know why you're here?"

Alan frowned again, clearly trying to remember what he had been told the last time he had woken up. "Appendix burst." he replied hesitantly, seeming a little unsure of his answer. Thomas grinned.

"Gold star, Al! Now, here's the third and final question. You ready?" When Alan nodded, Thomas bent down a little more and lowered his voice. "Who's the better astronaut, me or your dad?"

Alan giggled slightly, blinking tiredly up at Thomas. "Dad's a better astronaut, 'cause he was the one who flew the rockets. You're a doctor." he replied slowly.

Thomas rolled his eyes, but he was grinning. "Darn! I was hoping I could catch you out with that one!" he joked. Jeff brushed his fingers over Alan's cheek and the boy turned to look at him.

"Alan, I'm raising your allowance." he smiled lovingly, chuckling softly. Virgil laughed again, and Alan's head snapped round to look at him. His small face broke into a sleepy grin.

"Virge! You weren't here before!" he exclaimed softly. Virgil leaned in closer, ruffling Alan's hair.

"Nope, dad sent me to bed." he replied. Alan frowned.

"But Gordon, John and Scotty were here." he said, trying to work out the reason behind only one brother not being present. "What did you do, did you get into trouble?"

Everybody chuckled fondly at Alan's suspicions. The ten-year-old was referring to Jeff's use of 'early betimes' whenever Alan had misbehaved. Apparently, the boy was under the impression that his father still punished his older brothers in a similar fashion.

"Alan?" Thomas smiled, picking up an aural thermometer from the bedside table. "I'm just gonna take your temperature, okay? Hold still for me."

He leaned down and slipped the tip of the thermometer into the Alan's ear, taking it out again at the high-pitched 'beep'. Glancing at the reading, the doctor nodded his approval.

"102.4 degrees." he reported. "That's still pretty high, but it's a lot lower than it was during the surgery. He's making good progress."

"Dad?" Alan murmured, his eyes beginning to droop.

"Yes, son?" Jeff prompted, smoothing the blond hair back from Alan's warm forehead.

"I'm gonna have a little sleep now, 'kay?" the boy replied, letting out a weary sigh.

"Okay, Alan." Jeff smiled. "We'll be right here when you wake up."

"'kay." Alan slurred, his eyes drifting closed. After a few minutes, his breathing had evened out and his face relaxed as he fell into a peaceful slumber.

Thomas looked up to where Scott was leaning over the bed beside him, and frowned slightly at the bump that was rapidly swelling on his jaw. Turning to the nurse at the end of the bed, he smiled at her.

"Jenny, could you please fetch an ice-pack for Scott?" he asked softly.

"Ice-pack?" Jeff repeated worriedly, glancing over at his eldest son. Noticing the bruise on Scott's jaw, he released Alan's hand and stood up, rounding the bed swiftly and gently pulling Scott's head up towards him.

"Scotty, where did you get this?" he asked in concern, fingering the bump carefully. Scott winced when his father pressed a little too hard, and Jeff's eyes flashed worriedly. "Did somebody hit you?" he demanded softly, as Gordon and John both stood up to inspect the battle wound. Thomas cleared his throat, and Jeff turned towards him.

"Scott was hit by a press reporter whilst trying to defend one of the nurses." he explained. Jeff's eyes narrowed.

"Which press reporter?" he asked. "And what were they doing to the nurse?"

"It was Nathaniel Rivers, dad." Virgil said softly. Gordon and John both growled, and Jeff's frown deepened.

"Wasn't he the guy who was causing you all that trouble earlier this morning?" Jeff asked. All the boys nodded gravely, their eyes smouldering. Virgil quickly explained what had taken place since leaving the hotel with Scott, being sure to fully describe what Rivers had said and done. When he told his family about what the reporter had said to poor Melissa, Jeff's face hardened in anger. Turning to Thomas with a concerned expression, he curled his hands into fists and tried to keep his anger in check.

"Is Melissa alright?" he asked worriedly. Thomas nodded.

"She's a little shaken up, but the creep didn't actually hurt her." he replied.

"Scott hurt him, though." Virgil commented, smiling slightly. "Decked the idiot before he could do anything else to Melissa."

"You did WHAT?" Jeff cried, turning back towards his eldest with a surprised expression. Scott looked a little sheepish as he tried to avoid his father's penetrating gaze.

"Yeah, sorry dad." he mumbled. "I kinda socked him in the jaw when he started harassing Melissa."

Jeff shook his head and sighed. "Scott, you know I don't like violence." he began, but Gordon interrupted him.

"I hope you punched him more than once." he growled angrily. "That slimy, obnoxious, dirty-"

"Yes. Thank you, Gordon." Jeff warned, using his 'that's quite enough' tone of voice. Gordon closed his mouth, but his eyes were still smouldering in fury.

"It wasn't an unprovoked attack, Jeff." Thomas added. "Had Scott not been there, I would have decked Rivers myself. Some of the things he said were way outta line."

Jeff sighed and looked into Scott's eyes. "I don't blame you for what you did, Scotty." Jeff said softly. "But I don't approve of it, either. I'm not mad at you for decking Rivers. In truth, I probably would have done the same thing myself."

"Yeah, and I would not have intervened if that had been the case." remarked Thomas, clapping Jeff on the shoulder. "I made the mistake of coming between you and the other guy once before, and I'm not keen to do so again."

Jeff chuckled softly, and Scott grinned at him expectantly. "That's a story for another time, Scott." Jeff told him. "I promise, when you and I have a few minutes alone together on the island, I'll tell you all about it. Then you can sensor it and tell it to your brothers."

"That bad, huh?" Scott smiled. The nurse walked back into the room at that moment and handed the ice-pack to Thomas.

"Sit down a minute, Scooter." he instructed gently, pushing Scott into the nearest chair. Putting the ice-pack to the younger man's jaw, he grabbed Scott's hand and held it against the cold object. "Hold it there for ten minutes or so, and with any luck you won't look as though a tennis ball is growing out of your jaw when you take it off."

"Thanks, Tom." Scott replied, smiling slightly. The doctor turned back to the monitors above the bed, glancing at the readings and nodding in approval.

"Alan should be a lot more responsive the next time he wakes up. Although you may not appreciate that as much as you'd think." he commented. Jeff, who had just taken his seat again, let out a groan.

"Oh joy. Post-anaesthetic syndrome, right?" he asked, smiling slightly. Thomas grinned and nodded.

"Yep. I see you remember from when Gordon had his anaesthetic?" he asked, referring to the occasion when Gordon had fractured his leg several years earlier.

"Oh no." John groaned, working out what his father was talking about. "He's not gonna get as cranky as Gordon, is he?"

"Worse." Jeff smiled, shaking his head. "Alan's got Scott's stubborn personality, remember?"

Gordon grimaced as Alan pouted and crossed his arms over his chest, glaring up at the ceiling in determination.

"Nope, I'm not doing it." he stated firmly.

The copper-haired Tracy sighed deeply. Alan had behaved wonderfully all day, showing no sign of this 'post-anaesthetic syndrome' that Dr. Palmar and his father had referred to. However, it was now seven-fort-five in the evening, and Alan was refusing to go to sleep. Jeff, Scott and John had all gone to eat dinner at the restaurant across the road, as Gordon and Virgil had eaten theirs earlier. Virgil had gone for a stroll in the park next door, leaving Gordon to look after Alan on his own. And now the ten-year-old boy had become slightly cranky, adamantly refusing to close his eyes and get some rest as the doctor had told him to.

"C'mon, Sprout." he persisted, patting the blond hair gently. "Dr. Palmar said you had to get as much rest as possible. He told me that you had to try and go to sleep at seven-thirty. It's gone seven-thirty, kiddo. It's getting late, and you need to get some sleep."

"You go to sleep!" Alan retorted moodily, although the effort of arguing appeared to be robbing him of most of his energy. "I'm not tired!"

"Yes you are." Gordon replied evenly. Alan's eyed flashed defiantly.

"Am not!" he argued. Gordon bit back the childish reply that was about to spring from his lips, refusing to fight with his baby bother. He had to keep reminding himself that it wasn't entirely Alan's fault. The after-effects of the anaesthetic were just making the boy a little cranky.

"Listen, Allie," he said, trying to reason with the grumpy ten-year-old. "Why don't we make a deal? If you lie down and go to sleep, I promise I'll take you to the shallows on the east side of the island when you're better, and we can explore the reef there. There are loads of different species of fish and coral in that area. How does that sound, hmm?"

"Like a dumb idea." Alan grumbled moodily. "I hate fish."

"You don't hate fish." Gordon chuckled. "What about all those clown-fish we spotted a couple of months ago? You liked them so much that dad went and bought you a tank of them for your bedroom, remember?"

"I hate fish." Alan repeated, blinking furiously in an attempt to keep his eyelids from drooping. Gordon leaned forward and patted his little brother on the shoulder, only to have his hand angrily shoved away.

"Go 'way, Gordon." the boy grumbled.

"Alan, you're falling asleep already." Gordon said softly. "C'mon, just close your eyes and your body will do the rest for you."

Alan shook his head again, shifting under the covers slightly and wincing as the movement caused his side to ache a little. Gordon frowned in concern. "Are you alright?" he asked worriedly. "Dr. Mathews will be along in about twenty minutes to check on you, but if you're in pain I could press the call button and-"

"Shut up, Gordon!" Alan snapped. "Stop being so annoying! I'm fine. My side is a little bit sore, that's all. Why don't you go and look at fish, and leave me alone?!"

Gordon blinked at the sudden outburst, not quite knowing what to do. "But Allie," he began, deciding that humour was the most sensible route to take in order to calm his younger brother's anger. "The nearest bit of ocean is over four miles away. I can't exactly step outside and go snorkeling, can I?"

Alan's eyes narrowed and he glared up at Gordon. "Are you calling me stupid?" he demanded fiercely.

"Oh - um - no, Allie." Gordon stuttered, realising that he'd only succeeded in making matters worse. "Of course I wasn't, I just meant that there isn't-"

"Stupid fish." Alan muttered darkly.

Gordon closed his eyes and counted to ten, quite impressed with himself over how well he was keeping his temper in check. He opened his eyes again, chuckling slightly at Alan's grumpy expression.

"Now, are you gonna try and get some sleep or not?" he asked lightly. Alan shook his head and returned his stony gaze to the ceiling.

"Nope. I'm not sleepy." he declared firmly, lifting his head up from the bed. "I've already had loads of rest today, and I don't wanna sleep any more! You can sleep if you like, but I'm not! Why don't you go back to your room and sleep if you're so desperate?! I don't care if I'm supposed to get lots of rest, I'm not going to and that's final!"

This mini-rant was clearly very tiring to the young boy, and his head flopped back onto the pillow as he breathed heavily. Gordon regarded him with a raised eyebrow, noting how much the ten-year-old sounded like Scott when he became cranky.

Alan yawned wearily, and Gordon pounced on the opportunity to prove his point. "See? You are tired, Sprout." he insisted gently. "Go to sleep."

"Make me!" Alan retorted defiantly.

Gordon sighed again, looking heavenwards for some inspiration. Deciding that he needed reinforcements, he fished around in his pocket for his cell phone. His father had assured them all that their cell phones would not interfere with the hospital equipment, as Brains had modified each transmitter carefully so that they could be used anywhere and still receive a perfect signal. Dialing Virgil's number, he put the phone to his ear. After a few seconds, his older brother's voice responded.

"Hi, Gordo. What's up?"

Gordon sighed and put his head in his hand. "Help." he moaned.

"What's the matter, bro?" Virgil asked, a hint of worry in his voice. "Is everything alright?"

"Alan's cranky." Gordon replied. "He won't go to sleep. Please help? I need backup, all my battle plans have failed."

He heard Virgil chuckle in amusement. "Well, it had to happen sometime." the older teenager said. "I'm actually surprised that it hasn't happened sooner. Don't worry, I'll be up in a few minutes. And I've got a secret weapon in mind."

"What is it?" Gordon asked curiously.

"You'll just have to wait and see." replied Virgil. "Until then, don't antagonise the Sprout. Don't even mention going to sleep. Try to distract him."

"Fine." Gordon groaned. "But please hurry? If he insults aquatic creatures one more time, I might not be able to contain myself."

Virgil laughed again. "Don't sweat it, Gordo. When you got cranky after your operation when you were his age, you said all sorts of things to Scott."

"Like what?" demanded Gordon. Virgil laughed again, and Gordon's frown deepened. "Virgil, what did I say?"

"Oh, something along the lines of what you were planning to do to Tracy One if Scott didn't stop talking." Virgil replied, still chuckling slightly. "As I recall, it involved copius amounts of yellow paint and a packet of Barbie stickers."

With that, Virgil cut the line. Gordon sat open-mouthed for a second. "I said that?" he asked aloud. Suzie, who had been sitting quietly in the corner as she worked on a pile of reports, looked up at him questioningly.

"Did you say something, honey?" she asked kindly. Gordon closed his mouth and blinked.

"Oh -um - no mam, I was just talking to myself." he mumbled in embarrassment. Suzie nodded and grinned.

"First sign of madness, don't you know?" she joked, before returning her attention to the huge stack of papers in front of her. Gordon gazed back down at his little brother.

"Okay Al, if you're not gonna sleep, what are you gonna do?" he asked. Alan frowned slightly, clearly not having thought of the next stage in his plan.

"Dunno. Just not sleep." he replied quietly. "Can't I get up?"

Gordon smiled slightly, shaking his head. "Allie, you can't even sit up by yourself yet." he said, ruffling his younger brother's hair affectionately. "And besides, it would make your side hurt if you moved around too much."

Alan did not make a comeback this time, apparently seeing the truth behind Gordon's words. He sighed deeply, his eyelids beginning to droop again.

"I'm bored." he murmured. Gordon laughed, patting Alan's arm gently.

"Sorry if I'm not interesting enough for you." he joked. For the next five minutes, Gordon managed to succeed in keeping Alan calm, although the occasional moody retort was thrown his way. However, he refrained from mentioning the idea of 'sleep', as Virgil had instructed him to do. Gordon wasn't sure what Virgil had planned, but he hoped that whatever it was would work quickly. He was getting rather tired himself.

"Virgil!" Alan cried happily, his moody face breaking into a tired smile. Gordon looked up towards the door as his older brother strode into the room, his hands holding something behind his back.

"Hey, Allie!" Virgil smiled, coming up to the bedside opposite Gordon. "And how is my favourite patient?"

Alan sighed and turned to glare at Gordon. "Gordon's being annoying."

Virgil grinned at Gordon, before turning his attention back to his youngest brother. "Well, I've got something that will make you feel better." he smiled. Alan's eyes lit up.

"What?" he asked curiously. "What is it?"

Virgil removed his hands from behind his back, waving the object in front of Alan's smiling face.

"Cocoa! Thanks Virge, you're the best!" the ten-year-old cried, grabbing the teddy bear and hugging it tightly. Gordon stared at his suddenly happy younger brother in surprise.

"But - how?" he asked, looking questioningly up at Virgil. His older brother wore a rather smug expression.

"We left Cocoa on the jet." he explained. "I figured it might help to cheer Alan up a little."

"Man, you're good Virge." Gordon said, shaking his head. "I would never have thought of that. How did you know?"

Virgil laughed. "Because you were the same at his age. Except, as I recall, it was that giant blue dolphin teddy of yours."

Gordon smiled fondly. "Ah, good ol' Flipper. He got me through a lot of hard times." He stopped, shaking his head and frowning. "What am I saying? I sound like a moron."

"Gordo, you are a moron." Virgil smiled. His smile broadened when Gordon pouted moodily. "Now, why don't you go for a walk? It's a warm evening, and that park next door is really nice. You look as though you could do with some fresh air."

Gordon sighed and raked a hand through his hair. "Yeah, you're probably right, as usual." he murmured, grudgingly. "Okay then, I'll go. Will you be alright for half and hour or so?"

Virgil smiled and nodded. "Yeah, I think we can manage can't we, Sprout? You go and relax outdoors for a while."

Alan nodded as well, looking at Gordon and smiling. "Yeah, don't blow anything up, Gordo."

Virgil burst out laughing, and even Gordon managed a chuckle. Leaning forward, the copper-haired teenager gave Alan a very gentle noogie. "Why you little..." he growled fondly. Alan giggled, pushing away his hand.

"See you later, Gordy." he said. "Love you."

Gordon blinked in surprise at how quickly his brother's feelings towards him had changed, considering that Alan had been yelling at him not five minutes before. Leaning forward, he kissed Alan's forehead lightly.

"Love you too, Sprout." he smiled. "Goo- um...I'll see you later."

Virgil sighed at Gordon's slip-up and frowned. The copper-haired Tracy had very nearly said 'goodnight', which would have set Alan back to square one again. Gordon shrugged and grinned, standing up and waving goodbye to Suzie before heading out of the door.

"Gordon's acting weird." Alan remarked thoughtfully. Virgil stifled a laugh and tried to look curious.

"What makes you say that, Al?" he asked, pulling up a chair and beginning to stroke Alan's hair softly.

"Dunno." the boy replied, yawning slightly. "He was just acting differently to normal, that's all. Maybe he's sick."

Virgil chuckled, his fingers combing gently through the blond locks. There was something on the older boy's mind, a question that he'd been wanting to ask ever since Alan had first woken up. But how do I word it? How do I ask my younger brother if he blames me for what happened? I know for a fact that it wasn't my fault, dad made me see sense, but does Alan think of it in that way? I have to know.

"Al?" he asked hesitantly. Alan's blue eyes gazed up at him.

"Yeah?" the younger Tracy asked curiously.

"How much do you remember about - about what happened yesterday?" he asked quietly, his other hand taking hold of Alan's gently.

"You mean at home or in the hospital?" Alan inquired, his brow knitting in concentration.

"Any of it." Virgil supplied. "From the moment you woke up yesterday morning, to when you woke up in bed this morning."

Alan frowned slightly. "Well, I was feeling pretty weird for most of yesterday morning." he said. "At first, I wasn't really feeling sick, it was more like just - just a funny kinda feeling, you know?"

Virgil nodded for him to continue, glad that the anaesthetic hadn't effected his memory too badly. Alan frowned again, cocking his head to the side and exhaling forcefully.

"It's kinda blurry to remember, like it's a dream or something, but I think I started to feel sick right before went to the beach." he stated. "I didn't want to tell anybody 'cause I knew that you and Scottywould worry and take me home. I didn't want to ruin the day for everybody."

Virgil blinked in surprise, giving Alan's hand a gentle squeeze. "Allie, that wouldn't have spoiled our day at all." he said kindly. "We care a lot more about you than we do about a stupid picnic!"

Alan smiled up at him. "Really?"

Virgil ruffled his hair and, leaning down, rubbed their noses together gently. "Of course we do, silly-billy."

"Thanks, Virge." Alan sighed happily. Virgil smiled at him and gave his hand another squeeze.

"What else do you remember?" he asked. Alan frowned again.

"Well, you know when I chocked on all that water in the sea?" he started. When Virgil nodded, he sighed and continued. "Well, that's when my side really started to hurt. It had been a little sore all day, but when I was swimming towards you guys, it suddenly hurt a lot more than before. After that, it wouldn't stop hurting. I thought I had just pulled a muscle or something, but I guess I was wrong, huh? I'm sorry for not telling you sooner. I guess it was kinda my fault that it hurt so bad in the evening, wasn't it?"

Virgil brushed the blond hair away from Alan's warm forehead. "We all make mistakes, Sprout." he said softly, understanding the words more than ever now that he was telling them to his baby brother. "It wasn't your fault that this happened. You couldn't have known that things would end up the way they did. Besides, it's all in the past now, so it doesn't matter any more. I'm just glad that it's over."

Alan nodded wearily, his eyes drooping slightly. "Me too."

There was a short silence, in which Alan tried in vain to keep his eyes open. "Virgil?" he asked. "Will Fermat be able to come and visit me?"

"Course he will, Sprout." Virgil smiled. "He and Brains are catching the first available flight tomorrow morning. Dad says they'll be here at about ten-thirty."

Alan sighed. "That's good. I wanna show Fermat my scar. Tom says that it's even bigger than the one Scotty's got on his knee!"

The older boy chuckled softly, watching as Alan's eyelids began to droop again. As he noticed his brother becoming increasingly more tired, Virgil decided to risk being snapped at in order to ask an important question.

"You feeling sleepy, Sprout?" he inquired. To his immense relief, Alan merely nodded slightly, letting out a huge sigh.

"Why don't you close your eyes for a little bit, then?" Virgil pressed. Alan peered up at him sleepily.

"Will you stay with me?" he asked quietly. Virgil smiled kindly, feeling his heart warming inside of him. He gave Alan's hand a gentle caress.

"Of course I will, Sprout." he replied softly, brushing his fingers rhythmically through Alan's hair in a calming motion. "I'm staying right here."

Alan smiled wearily, his eyelids becoming heavier and heavier. "Virge?"

"Yeah, buddy?" murmured Virgil, leaning in a little closer and resting his hand on the boy's cheek.

"Love you." Alan whispered. Virgil felt his eyes burn as tears threatened to fall, but he quickly blinked them back. Feeling the happiness swell up like a balloon in side of him, he bent his head close to Alan's and planted a gentle kiss on the top of his forehead.

"I love you too, Alan." he replied affectionately, his eyes gazing lovingly at the younger brother that he had almost lost.

Alan's eyes slid shut and he sighed again, beginning to drift off to sleep, with his teddy bear under one arm and Virgil's hand held tightly to his chest in the other. With his free hand, Virgil stroked Alan's hair as he had been doing before, humming quietly. Alan smiled in sleepy contentedness, and Virgil, upon seeing this reaction, began to sing softly. It was a lullaby that their mother had sung to them on occasions when they were sick or hurt, and Virgil knew that Alan probably remembered the tune more than he remembered his mother. Alan had only been four when the avalanche had robbed her of her life. But Virgil had often been found singing lullabies to the little boy after the tragic accident, not only to calm Alan but to calm himself, too.

Virgil was so engrossed with the sweet words of the song, he did not notice Scott and John standing in the doorway, gazing at him lovingly. Nor did he notice Suzie looking up from her papers with tears in her eyes. All that he saw was the innocent face of his baby brother, and all he felt was the immense happiness over being loved so unconditionally by the little boy.

As the song finished, he bent close to Alan once again and ran a hand through his blond hair. "Goodnight, little one." he whispered, now understanding the true love and adoration that his father had always put into these three short words.

As he strightened up, he felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to look up at his older brother. Scott crouched down beside him and pulled him into a gentle embrace.

"Mom would be so proud of you, Virge." he said, his voice constricted by emotion. "And so am I."

A second pair of arms encircled the pair as John joined in the hug, resting his head on top of Virgil's. They stayed in this position for several minutes, each content just to bask in each other's affections. Finally, they broke apart, and John perched on the bed in front of Virgil.

"You are such a moron." murmured the star-loving Tracy, cupping Virgil's cheek. "How could you think that I'd hate you?"

Virgil blushed, glancing up at his eldest brother. "What happened to 'Let's just keep this between you, me and dad'?" he asked. Scott shrugged apologetically.

"In my defence," he began. "John had already guessed most of it. And he asked me directly, I wasn't going to lie to him, was I?"

Virgil sighed, returning his gaze to look into John's piercing blue eyes. "Don't." he said, pleadingly. John smiled.

"Don't what?" he asked innocently. "What are you suggesting that I'm planning on doing?"

Virgil shot a nervous glance in Scott's direction. "The same thing that Scott did when he found out." he answered hesitantly.

"Oh - that?" John grinned, poking Virgil in the side and eliciting a strangled squeal from the younger teenager. "Well, I think it can wait until later."

Virgil sighed in relief, glad that his ticklish ribs had been spared a second punishment - at least for the time being. He turned back to his older blond brother.

"I'm sorry." he said sincerely. John smiled.

"It's okay, Virge." he replied kindly. "I'm not mad at you. It's just - don't ever be that stupid again, okay?"

Virgil laughed. "Okay, Johnny." He sighed again, looking around the room. "Hey, where's dad?" he asked.

"He was ordered to bed." Scott grinned. "He came back to the hospital with us, but Tom was waiting at the doors when we arrived. He said that if dad didn't go back to the hotel and get some sleep, he'd have him sedated."

Virgil laughed, shaking his head. "What did dad say?"

John snorted in amusement. "He didn't say anything. He just waved goodnight to us and hurried off towards the hotel."

Virgil felt a grin spreading across his face. "You don't think that Tom has followed through with that threat in the past, do you?" he asked. "If dad didn't even try to argue then - well..."

Scott nodded his head seriously. "I have a feeling that there a number of stories that dad has 'forgotten' to tell us about his life on the space station."

John grinned. "Well, we might as well ask himabout it sometime this week." he suggested cunningly. "We should interrogate Tom, too. It's not as though either of them can hang up on us as they would a phone call. I'm sure if we corner them individually, we'll be able to get the truth out of them. I'm particularly interested to hear about dad's right hook."

Virgil laughed along with his brothers, glancing down at Alan to make sure that the boy was still asleep. He smiled to himself in amusement.

Hmm. Perhaps this week won't be as uneventful as we'd first thought...

In the next chapter, Alan arrives back on the island after his time in hospital. How will things have changed? Will all the boys be back to their old selves? Will they still be treating Alan as though he is made of glass? And will things have returned to normal on Tracy Island?

Okay, as a treat, the next (and last) chapter will be posted later this evening! - I thought you might prefer this result as opposed to having to wait a whole week for the final chapter, as I'm going away tomorrow!

PLEASE REVIEW! Coz I love all your comments and concrit! Tell me what you though of my chapter, so that I can improve my style for future stories, if you want them! Thanks!