Hi everybody!

Thanks again for being so understanding this week, your kindness and patience really does mean a lot to me. My grandma has been moved to a hospice now, so her immediate environment is a lot nicer than it was at the hospital. She's at peace and no longer in great pain, and I think that's easier on everybody involved. Thank you for your prayers.

Big hugs go to 'Lissysue85' and 'criminally charmed' this week. Your support really helped me to come to terms with what's been happening recently, and I owe you guys a lot. You can put it on my tab. So this chapters for you two, okay? Luv ya both!


Virgil jerked awake, grimacing at the immediate pain he felt in his limbs. He hadn't meant to fall asleep again, but apparently his body had disagreed. Sighing, he glanced around the infirmary, noticing that he was still in a half-sitting position on the bed. Andy had allowed him to sit up a little on the condition that he didn't move a muscle without the older doctor's expressed permission. In truth, considering how much pain he was in simply lying there and breathing, he didn't think there was any danger that he'd jump out of bed and start dancing a jig just yet.

The room was a good deal darker than it had been before, and the overhead lights had been turned down to their dimmest setting. Rolling his head to the side lazily, Virgil peered through the gloom at the clock on the far wall, blinking in surprise when he saw that it was nine-thirty.

Geez, how long have I been asleep? Must be going on twelve hours now. I wonder what-

Hearing a gently snore close by, Virgil glanced sideways and smiled softly at the sleeping form of his father beside him. Jeff's arms were pillowing his head on the area of mattress next to Virgil's torso, the rest of his body slumped in a chair at the bedside - in a position that Virgil was sure wouldn't do his father's back any favours. However, he could tell that the Tracy patriarch needed to rest, the deep lines of concern and stress creasing his motionless face even in sleep, and he didn't have the heart to wake him. Besides, waking him would require energy - a thing that Virgil lacked in its entirety.

'I guess it could be worse, though,' he mused, shifting his left arm slightly and wincing as the muscles wrenched painfully. Considering the severity of his condition, he knew that he was lucky to be alive. If Alan hadn't found him in sickbay - well, the results would have been very different. Such things, however, were in the past. He was alive and relatively whole, and that was all that mattered. And besides, being seriously injured did have its advantages; Virgil had been delighted to awaken to see Andy's face hovering above him.

In many ways, Andy had been his inspiration for medicine. True, he had always held a certain fascination about the subject, but it had been the events that had taken place almost ten years ago - when Alan and Gordon had been flown to hospital after being injured in a thunderstorm - that had hardened his resolve to become a doctor. And although medicine wasn't his official profession, it still separated him out from the rest of the Tracy clan.

Well, apart from Alan. Over the past few months, that kid's been showing a keenness in medicine that I've never seen in another Tracy before. I guess he got that aspect of his character from me, just like he got his love of pranks from Gordon and his stubborn determination from - well - all of us, I guess.

"Virgil?"

The middle Tracy son glanced up, smiling weakly at Andy as the older man stepped over to his bed.

"Hey," Virgil greeted softly, frowning as his voice croaked again. Swallowing, he sighed heavily. Darn tube's gone and roughed up my throat.

"Good to see you awake again," Andy murmured quietly, unhooking the stethoscope from around his neck and tucking the cold tip under the hem of Virgil's t-shirt, pressing it against his chest. The pilot sucked in a sharp breath as the cool object chilled his skin, fisting up a handful of the coverlet, and the doctor winced apologetically. "Sorry, kid."

"S'okay," Virgil mumbled, his energy reserves quickly running out. It was truly surprising just how much energy one required to hold a conversation. All he had said so far was 'hey' and 'okay', and already his body was urging him to take another nap. No, he had changed his mind about being injured; it totally sucked.

Andy pushed the long t-shirt up, blowing on the stethoscope this time to warm it before applying it to the bruised ribcage. "Deep breath, Virge. Nice and slow, don't try too hard. Stop when it hurts too much, okay? If you push yourself, you'll end up having a secondary retraction. Uh-huh. Good, that's it. Now try breathing through your nose. And again."

As Virgil slowly inhaled, he could feel his bruised and swollen skin protesting. His ribcage throbbed mercilessly as the pressure on his chest increased. Andy glanced up and frowned at the pained expression on the middle Tracy's face. Tapping him gently on the cheek, the Air Force medic fixed him with a glare.

"What did I just say?" he asked. "Don't push yourself, Virge. The only way to heal is to know you boundaries and not to overstep them. You're just gonna make matters worse if you tear another hole in your fibrous tissue."

Virgil sighed again, hating the feeling of being so weak and dependent. He was used to being the one in charge, the one who gave the orders, the one who took care of his brothers. But being in one of the infirmary beds was a whole new experience. And Virgil didn't like it one bit.

Slinging the stethoscope back around his neck, Andy smiled and took out a penlight from his pocket. Tilting Virgil's chin up, he shone the light in the younger man's honey-burnt eyes, looking thoughtful as he 'hmmd' to himself. Dropping his hands, he gazed at Virgil steadily.

"On the scale of one to ten, how bad's the pain?" he asked. Virgil gritted his teeth, plastering a weak smile onto his face. His ribs throbbed in protest to the lie that he knew he was about to tell.

"S'not too bad," he mumbled. "Maybe five."

Andy snorted. "Since you're a Tracy, I think we'll take that figure up to a nine, shall we?"

Virgil closed his eyes wearily. He didn't want any more pain meds. He was tired enough as it was. He wanted to stay awake long enough to talk to his brothers.

"Andy-" he began, his voice taking on a hint of a whine. The older man, who had been pulling on a pair of surgical gloves, held up a silencing hand.

"Don't argue," he said softly, leaning forwards and lifting the dressing on the side of Virgil's chest to check on the puncture wound where the chest tube had previously been inserted. Nodding in approval, he gently stuck the dressing back down again. Straightening up, he checked on the bag of saline that was attached to the drip in Virgil's right arm. Then picking up the syringe that was lying ready on the metal trolley at the bedside, he inserted the needle into the valve on the IV line, pushing the drugs into the thin pipe and watching as they traveled down into Virgil's arm.

"There you go," Andy smiled, pulling off his gloves and ruffling Virgil's hair. "They should kick in soon enough, kiddo."

Virgil raised an eyebrow, leaning his head back against the pillows behind him and regarding the young doctor in mild amusement.

"Kiddo?" he repeated.

Andy nodded. "Yup. I'm nearly nine years older than you, little dude, so I have the right to call you 'kiddo' if I want to. And besides, what are you gonna do to stop me, hmm?"

Virgil smiled softly, closing his eyes. "I'm gonna kick your ass," he mumbled.

Letting out a short laugh, Andy shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. "Like to see you try."

"Shut up," the middle Tracy grinned, trying and failing to sound hurt. Opening his eyes again, he glanced around the room, frowning as he spotted an empty bed opposite him. His heart skipped a beat, and all thoughts of sleep flew out of his mind. "Where the hell's Scott?"

The older man frowned, turning towards Scott's empty bed and cocking his head to the side as though trying to work out the answer to Virgil's question. He turned back around ever so slowly, wearing a confused and contemplative expression, his brow wrinkled in concentration. After a moment, he locked eyes with Virgil, and a manic grin erupted across his face.

"Sorry," he chuckled. "I couldn't resist. Don't worry, Virge, Scott's fine. I let him get up and take a shower about half an hour ago. He was driving me crazy with his whining."

Virgil smiled, tugging at the bandage on his arm gently. "Well, now you know how I feel when I have him as a patient."

"I already knew. Hey!" Andy gently slapped Virgil's hand away from the dressing. "Don't pull at it, Virge."

Virgil rolled his eyes, dropping his hand back down and glancing over at the sleeping form of his father, another smile tugging at the corners of his mouth as Jeff snored softly. The young pilot let out a sigh, leaning back against the pillows again and allowing his gaze to drift over to where John lay snoozing upon the third bed on the far side of the room.

"How are John's vitals?" he asked softly, watching the steady rise and fall of his older brother's chest.

"Good," Andy replied, setting down the data-pad he had been using and perching on the edge of the mattress. "Apart from a whopper of a headache and a few visual problems, he's okay. I'll keep him in here another day or so, just to make sure, but he should be back to his old self by the end of the week. I think I'll let Scott sleep in his own bed tonight. Apart from being as sore as hell, and just as grumpy, he's fine."

"And what about Alan?" Virgil pressed. "And Gordon? Are they alright?"

Andy nodded. "They're both fine. I made them take a walk about fifteen minutes ago; they've spent almost all day in here and they needed to get some exercise. And besides, Gordon's pacing was driving me crazy. You know what he's like when he's worried."

Virgil nodded, relieved that his brothers were going to be alright. He could relax now. A short silence fell between them, interrupted only by the sound of gentle breathing that was coming from Jeff's sleeping form, and the occasional soft 'beep' from the diagnostic panels above the bed. Virgil felt himself sinking back into the comfortable pillows behind him, his aching body relaxing against the mattress as the drugs began to kick into action. Man, he really needed to take another nap...

"Virgil?"

His eyes snapped open again, and he blinked groggily towards the door, where Scott was standing with a relieved grin upon his face. Walking - well, hobbling - up to Virgil's bedside, the older Tracy came to stand opposite the sleeping form of his father. Peering down at Virgil, he put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently.

"Hey, man. It's good to see you awake."

Andy, who had been watching the younger men interact with a smile upon his face, carefully wheeled a chair over to the bedside, grasping Scott's shoulder and forcefully pushing the pilot down onto it.

"I'm just gonna go wake Tom," he murmured, careful not to wake Jeff. "I'll see you guys in the morning."

"'Night, Andy," Virgil mumbled, as Scott gave his friend a grateful smile. Once the doors had 'hissed' closed behind him, Scott leaned forwards with his elbows on the bed, staring at Virgil intently.

"How d'you feel?" he asked softly, mindful of his sleeping father.

Virgil smiled weakly, closing his eyes and letting out a long sigh. "I'll live."

Scott swallowed, taking Virgil's hand and squeezing it gently. "You nearly didn't," he stated hoarsely.

Virgil's eyes opened again, and he peered up at his older brother in concern. Despite the dim lighting, Virgil could still clearly see the guilt that shone in Scott's eyes. Returning the squeeze, he shook his head.

"That doesn't matter," he said quietly. "I'm alive. It's stupid to think about what might've happened."

"Is it?" Scott asked, his face serious. "Virge, we nearly lost you yesterday. I've never been so-...I was terrified, man. I couldn't help but think that maybe if I'd only paid closer attention to your injuries, I might've-"

"What? What could you possibly have done?" Virgil asked evenly. Shaking his head, he fixed Scott with a steady gaze. "Scotty, even I didn't realise what was wrong with me until it was too late. I was too worried about you and Johnny and Alan and Chris - if it's anybody's fault, it's mine. But don't you dare blame yourself for this, you hear me? I'm not gonna let you. Stuff happens, man, and sometimes we can't stop it. There was nothing you could've done."

Scott sighed, lowering his head and staring at his lap. "I still let you down."

Virgil practically growled in annoyance. "Scott, what is your problem?" he demanded, his voice rising in anger. "Which part of 'this isn't your fault' don't you get? Would you like it in writing? Look, you've gotta stop blaming yourself. We're not kids anymore, dammit, you can't protect us from everything."

"No, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try," Scott replied sternly. Then his voice softened, and he inched closer to Virgil's side. "Virge, you're my brother. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you. Nothing. And it doesn't matter if you're not a kid any more. It's my responsibility to look after you. So if you get hurt, I'm entitled to feel a little guilty, alright? That's just the way I work."

Virgil stared up at him with wide, glistening eyes. Scott leaned down to rest his forehead against Virgil's, squeezing the hand even tighter and letting out a long sigh.

"Promise me one thing."

"What?" Virgil whispered back.

"Never scare me like that again."

Virgil let out a soft chuckle, then grunted, his face screwing up as the muscles in his chest seared painfully. Scott straightened up, glancing down at his brother worriedly. Running a hand through the brown hair, he stared into the pain-filled eyes.

"You okay?" he asked softly. "D'you want me to go get Tom?"

Virgil shook his head, carefully sucking in small mouthfuls of air in an attempt to ease his breathing.

"S'just a twinge," he rasped. "I'll be fine in a sec."

Scott sat back again, watching silently as the pained expression slowly slid from Virgil's face. After a moment, he reached out and gently gave Virgil a noogie.

"You're such a jerk," he stated fondly.

"At least I can cook," Virgil mumbled back, closing his eyes wearily. Scott frowned playfully.

"Smart-ass."

"Idiot."

"Short-stuff."

"Fatty."

"Boys."

At the half amused, half warning tone, both Tracy sons froze, glancing over to where there father was now sitting upright in the chair at the bedside, looking very much awake. Jeff grinned, shaking his head slowly. Scott cleared his throat.

"Hey Dad," he said, with false bravado. "How long have you been awake?"

Jeff leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "Long enough to witness that little yelling match the two of you had earlier."

"Ah." Scott blushed shamefully, rubbing the back of his neck and feeling like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "Well, we weren't actually yelling, Dad."

"Oh yes you were," came an angry mumble from across the room. Three heads snapped round to see John sitting up in bed, rubbing at his temples and glaring at his brothers in weary annoyance. "Geez, guys, why don't you scream a little louder? I don't think Lady Penelope and the rest of London heard you back there."

Scott winced. "Sorry, Johnny."

John rolled his eyes. "Whatever," he mumbled, before dropping down onto the bed and immediately falling back asleep.

Jeff chuckled softly, standing to his feet. Looking down at his sons, he smiled. "Speaking of Lady Penelope, she's planning on staying over for a few days," he stated. "She arrives sometime tomorrow afternoon. She wanted to get here earlier, but she had to pick something up from the airport first."

Scott grinned. "Couldn't keep her away, huh?"

Jeff shook his head. "All I had to say were the words 'the boys are injured', and she was already making plans," he explained. "And you know Penny, once she's got her heart set on something, she won't be swayed."

Jeff sighed again, stepping closer to the bedside and peering at his two sons. Staring first at Scott, then Virgil, he smiled and reached out a hand to ruffle Scott's hair gently, shaking his head.

"I'm proud of my boys," he stated softly, watching them smile at the phrase he'd used when his sons were still children.

Leaning forward, he placed a kiss on Scott's forehead, before bending down and doing the same to Virgil. With another grin at the surprised expressions on his sons' faces, he turned around and walked over to John's bed, tucking the blankets closer around his second-eldest child and planting a gentle kiss in the soft mop of blond hair. He smiled to himself as John shifted beneath the coverlets, letting out a small sigh of content and falling into a deeper sleep.

Striding towards the door, he stood in the open doorway for a moment, glancing back at his two conscious sons and giving a slight wave.

"G'night, boys," he called softly, before heading off down the hallway and towards the main corridor.

Jeff had heard enough of Scott and Virgil's conversation to know that the two of them were going to be alright. The yelling was over - at least for now - and the two brothers had seemingly called it quits. And with that knowledge, a huge weight had been lifted from Jeff's mind. He could breathe easy now, knowing that all would be okay.

I think I'll just go make a cup of coffee...


It was two o'clock in the afternoon on Tracy island. Insects buzzed around exotic flowers, birds called to one another from tree to tree, a king snake curled its way around the branch of an apaya bush, and everything about the world seemed to be just right.

Except, trapped within the confines of his infirmary bed, John Tracy was bored. Officially, absolutely, totally, excruciatingly, mind-numbingly bored.

Sending the doctor in front of him a pleading look, he decided that perhaps he wasn't too proud to beg after all.

"C'mon, Andy, please? I'm fine, honest. Just a little dizzy. Can't I just go for a ten minute walk? I won't even go as far as the beach, I'll just stroll around the poolside for a while."

Andy dropped the data-pad back down onto the trolley beside him, smirking slightly as he crossed his arms over his chest.

"No."

"But-"

"No," Andy repeated, this time a little more firmly. "You're staying in bed, understood?"

"But-" John said again, sitting up a little straighter in protest.

"John," Virgil called from where he sat on his own bed with his eyes closed on the other side of the room. "Stop it."

"But I-"

"Don't make me come over there," Virgil warned wearily.

Thomas, who had been jotting down notes at Virgil's bedside, gazed at him sternly. "Don't you dare, bucko. Stay put or I'll get Alan to duct tape you to the bed."

Virgil opened his eyes, smiling up at the doctor cunningly. "As if that'll stop me."

Thomas grinned, shaking his head as he took up the smaller bag of antibiotic fluid and hung it on the IV pole. Connecting the thin tube to the valve at the bottom, he waited until he could see the droplets of liquid begin to trickle down the transparent line before stepping back, nodding in approval. Glancing over to where Gordon stood beside the window, he raised an eyebrow at the redhead's smirking face.

"Gordo?" he called. When the teenager turned to look at him, he couldn't help but laugh as the full smirk came into view. Gordon looked all of twelve years old when he was wearing that particular expression upon his face.

"What?" Gordon asked, trying and failing to compose himself.

Perching on the edge of Virgil's mattress, Thomas pointed in the vague direction of his mouth. "Why the grin?"

Gordon's eyes twinkled, and he tapped his nose secretively. "You'll see," he replied evasively. "Just as soon as FAB 1 arrives. They're beginning their descent as we speak."

Alan looked up from where he had been sitting with Scott at John's bedside, and shared a grin with his prank-loving brother. Thomas looked between them suspiciously, a slight frown on his face, before waving his hand in dismissal.

"Teenagers," he muttered. "They're all weird."

"Hey!"

Thomas glanced over to where Tin-Tin had been re-stocking one of the cupboards on the far side of the room. Grinning apologetically, he held up a hand. "I was referring to teenage boys, honey," he soothed. "They're an entirely different species to teenage girls."

Tin-Tin smiled. "Good," she said lightly, before turning back around again and continuing with her task.

Thomas looked at the Tracy sons - who had been watching him with a mixture of concern (for his safety) and amusement - and wiped a hand across his brow as though to say 'Phew! That was close!'. The rest of the room's occupents grinned back at him - for the exception of Tin-Tin, of course, who thankfully hadn't noticed his gesture. Thomas picked up the data-pad at Virgil's bedside, humming to himself as he stepped across the room and went to sit on the end of what had previously been Scott's bed. He had allowed Scott to sleep in his own bedroom after the first night, since there hadn't been any medical reason to keep him in. Plus Scott's constant attempts to escape had been wearing him out. Now if only John would settle down and take it like a man...

"Say, where's Fermat?" Andy asked suddenly. Thomas glanced up from the pad and gave the room a once-over, noting that the young Hackenbacker was indeed absent. He shot a quick look at Alan, who had been spinning around absently on the wheeley chair he was sitting on in an attempt to annoy Scott.

"Dad asked him to give Brains an update on how the guys are doing," the teenager stated, leaning back and smiling innocently at his eldest brother as Scott glared at him. "Plus he wanted to know how the repairs were coming along. Apparently Brains found an unexpected corrosion on some of the minor backup circuitry."

"What?" John asked worriedly, sitting up a little straighter. "What's wrong with her?"

Andy rolled his eyes. "Geez, you'd think she was your wife."

Thomas laughed. "Careful, junior, you're treading on dangerous ground here. Never get between a man and his machine. They're very protective. Gordon still hasn't forgiven me for calling his sub a 'mutated banana'."

Laughter broke out amongst the assembled family at Gordon's frown of disapproval, and the atmosphere lightened to such an extent that even Gordon himself was forced to join in after a few moments. Thomas grinned, wiping his watering eyes and glancing back down at his data-pad. It had been far too long since he'd heard the boys laugh together like this. It hadn't even been two days, but it felt a good deal longer due to the mood of anxiety and fear and that consumed the atmosphere for so many hours. But now that Scott was up and about again, and John was heading that way himself, the Tracy boys had allowed themselves to relax back into their familiar style of interaction.

"Virge?"

Thomas glanced up again at Scott's worried call, his eyes darting over to where Virgil sat upon the bed on the other side of the room, clutching at his ribcage with his good arm and grimacing painfully. Dropping the data-pad onto the mattress, Thomas stood up and hurried over to the younger man's side, wincing sympathetically.

"Sorry, Virge," he murmured. "Guess your ribs didn't find it funny, huh?"

Virgil, who had gone slightly pink, shook his head and gave a weak smile. Scott, Alan and Gordon appeared at the bedside a second later, looks of concern upon there faces as Virgil breathed slowly to ease the pain in his side. John's head appeared over Gordon's shoulder, pale but worried as he casually put a hand on his brother's shoulder for support. Andy came up behind him and took a gentle grip of his uninjured arm, just in case his dizziness got the better of him, but did not make any comment about the astronaut being out of bed without permission.

"Guys, I'm fine," Virgil protested, peering up at his siblings as the pain began to abate. "It's just a twinge."

"That's what you said at the danger zone," Alan countered. "And look what happened to you then."

There was a moment of uncomfortable silence and everyone shifted, looking at the floor, their feet, the ceiling, the walls - anywhere but each other. Then the tense moment was broken.

"Round one to the munchkin," Andy deadpanned.

Alan elbowed him gently in the ribs, pretending to look offended as the rest of the family - minus Virgil - laughed at his expense, eager to relieve the tension. Tin-Tin, who had also made her way over to the bedside, her task completely forgotten, handed Virgil a pink and fluffy object.

"It's a hot-water bottle," she elaborated, as seven males turned to look at her incredulously. "The same one I gave to Alan at Spring Break. It worked wonders for him, so I thought you might like to use it."

Alan nodded in agreement. "It's actually just as good as pain meds, Virge," he stated. "Plus it doesn't knock you out."

Virgil smiled at Tin'Tin gratefully, putting the hot-water bottle to his bruised side and leaning back against the cushions with a sigh. After a few moments, he smiled slightly, opening his eyes and glancing over at his family.

"Alright, I'm okay now," he stated, waving his good arm in a shooing gesture. "Stop crowding me already. And darn it, Johnny, get back into bed."

Smiling in amusement, Thomas herded the Tracy clan away from Virgil's bedside, knowing that the young man didn't like to be 'smothered'. Especially since the middle Tracy son was a medic himself. Having been in the same position as Virgil on numerous occasions, Thomas knew just how frustrating it was to be the patient instead of the one in charge. It made you feel weak and helpless; two feelings that weren't normally associated with being a doctor.

As Scott and Andy forced John back into bed - much to the younger man's annoyance - Thomas glanced down at Virgil and smiled gently.

"Feeling better?" he asked.

Virgil rolled his eyes. "Just peachy," he said sarcastically. "Can I leave now?"

Thomas chuckled fondly, ruffling the young medic's hair and shaking his head. "No, buddy," he replied. "Not for a little while."

The pilot sighed in resignation and settled back against the bed, unfailingly stubborn even though his exhaustion was obvious to all. Knowing that the injured Tracy would probably fall asleep within the next few minutes, Thomas returned to the third bed in the room, picking up his data-pad and sitting down on the mattress, scrolling through the long list of notes and changing a few of the details here and there. He usually hated - no, loathed - making reports, but for some reason he didn't mind doing it so much right now. Perhaps it was because he felt so at home on Tracy island, surrounded by the people he had known for most of his life, doing what he loved to do most; heal people.

As the minutes passed, Thomas actually began to enjoy himself. Writing reports on the Tracy boys wasn't so bad. Since they were unofficial records that would not be submitted into any national medical database, he had the freedom to add random and bizarre comments wherever he liked. And he was doing so. Frequently, in fact. He had a feeling that Virgil would get a laugh out of reading the reports later on. Thomas would just have to make sure that he didn't let the young doctor see them until his ribs had fully healed.

Suddenly, the 'hiss' of a door opening made Thomas look up from his data-pad. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open as a brown-haired woman glided into the room, her eyes full of motherly concern as she hurried over to Virgil's bedside, completely by-passing Thomas.

"Virgil, honey-bun, are you alright?" she asked in her soft English accent, her eyes scanning over the diagnostic panels as she cupped his cheek affectionately. "Your blood pressure's a little off. Are you still on morphine?"

Virgil also seemed to be in a state of weary shock as he blinked up at the woman in surprise. "Jenny?"

Jennifer Palmar smiled down at him. "The one and only. Now you stay right there, sweetie. I'm just going to check on your brothers."

Straightening up, she hurried from one bed to the other, again by-passing her gobsmacked husband as she went over to John's bed, reaching out to gently run her finger over the small row of stitches on his forehead.

"John, dear, did you really have to pick a fight with the ceiling?" she teased lightly. "I know men aren't the wisest of creatures, but really, I expected more from a Tracy. Especially you; I would've thought a man who could play chess as well as you do would have a higher IQ than that. Speaking of which, you and I are having a rematch as soon as you're fully recovered, understood?"

Thomas opened and closed his mouth several times, before finally finding his voice. "Jenny, how-" he began, only to be cut off as she held up a hand.

"One moment, cupcake."

She dropped her hand away from John's brow, turning to Scott -who sat in a chair at the bedside - and giving him a one-armed hug. "How's your leg, dear?"

Scott grinned at the hurt pout on Thomas' face, before looking up at the motherly nurse and smiling.

"It's fine Jenny," he replied. "A little sore, that's all. I'll live."

Jennifer smiled. "That's good to know."

Turning then to Gordon she poked him in the chest. "Good, you're still there. I wasn't entirely sure, since you've been silent for what? Two minutes? And that must be your personal all-time record. I think this calls for a celebratory hug, don't you?"

Gordon laughed as Thomas crossed his arms over his chest and pulled a grumpy-looking face. The redhead allowed himself to be pulled into an embrace by Jennifer - who was at least a head shorter than him - before stepping back and allowing her to bustle over to where Alan stood on the other side of the bed.

"Hey, sweetie," she cooed, hugging the youngest Tracy warmly. "Good to see you looking so healthy. Now baby, I know your brush with death earlier this summer was exciting and all, but please refrain from scaring me like that again, alright? I've so far managed to avoid grey hairs, but your condition came very close to giving me some, I'm telling you. Are you off the antibiotics yet?"

Alan shook his head, sighing heavily. "Nope. I've still got another week to go," he stated. "Andy's been the one jabbing me recently, since Virge has been kinda tied down - sometimes in both senses of the word."

Jennifer laughed softly, her blue-green eyes sparkling as she released Alan and turned to look at Andy.

"Hi, junior," she greeted, adopting he nickname that was so often used by her husband. "Been keeping Tommy in line for me?"

Andy grinned, nodding his head and allowing Jennifer to give him a one-armed hug. "Yes, ma'am."

"Good," she sighed, stepping back and regarding the group of men fondly for a moment. Then she frowned, turning around and looking thoughtful. "Now, who have I forgotten to say hello to?" she asked aloud, tapping her chin thoughtfully.

Thomas grinned, straightening up and uncrossing his arms. His wife's face broke into a smile, and she turned towards his end of the room.

"Ah yes, of course!" she exclaimed. "Hello, Tin-Tin, darling!"

The Tracy's began to snicker softly as Jennifer glided right past Thomas once more, going close enough to brush against the sleeve of his lab coat as she hurried over the cabinet on the far side of the room where Tin-Tin had resumed her task. Kissing the young teenager on the cheek, she clasped the girl's hands gently in hers and whispered something in her ear. Tin-Tin giggled, blushing shyly and glancing over at Alan, before shaking her head and whispering a reply into Jennifer's ear. Alan frowned slightly, wondering what on earth the two females could be talking about. He honestly didn't understand women sometimes.

Thomas had found his pout again, and was leaning against the side of Scott's bed, looking as though he were sulking and knowing full well that his wife was just trying to tease him. He had to try very hard not to smile as she walked back into the centre of the room and sighed in satisfaction.

"Well," she said softly. "I think that's everything. I'll just be off, then."

As she began to head towards the door, Thomas lunged for her and grabbed her round the waist, twirling her around in his arms and dipping her as he captured her lips in a gentle kiss. Bringing her upright once more, he grinned at her slightly dazed expression.

"Hi, honey," he murmured.

"Hey," she replied breathlessly, her hands pressed against his chest as she gazed up at him. "Miss me?"

Thomas smiled, pressing their foreheads together. "Absolutely."

"Get a room, you two."

Thomas glanced over at Jeff as the Tracy patriarch stepped through the doorway with Lady Penelope, a wry smile upon his face.

"Oh, I plan to," Thomas stated. Jennifer slapped his chest chest gently to make him shut up, and turned to greet Jeff - but was once again dipped by Thomas as he sought another kiss. Waving a hand towards the door, she attempted to turn her head sideways momentarily.

"Hi Jeff!" she tried to say - although of course it came out as an unintelligible mumble, as Thomas' lips were still pressed firmly against hers.

Jeff rolled his eyes and turned towards his sons. Glad to see his boys so cheerful, he stepped aside so that Lady Penelope could hurry into the room.

"Hello, boys," she greeted, smiling warmly. "Lady Penelope Creighton Ward, at your service."

Thomas, who had allowed his wife a momentary respite, glanced up at the blond female and raised an eyebrow. "Do you always have to say that?" he asked incredulously.

Penelope chuckled, already absorbed in greeting the boys individually. "No, of course not," she replied. "I only do it to annoy or impress. In this case, my intent was to antagonise you. Was I successful?"

Thomas grinned and rolled his eyes. "You always succeed, Penny," he stated, wrapping his arms around his wife's stomach as she turned to lean her back against his chest. "That's why I never pick fights or play monopoly with you any more. And besides, you cheat."

Penelope smiled, running her fingers through Alan's hair fondly. "I most certainly do not," she protested calmly. "You're just a sore loser."

Thomas pouted, resting his chin atop his wife's head. "Jen, she's picking on me," he complained, his tone taking on a hint of a whine.

Jennifer laughed. "Suck it up, love," she replied. "Take it like a man,"

Penelope released Tin-Tin from her gentle embrace and straightened up, smoothing down her silken pink top and smiling over at the couple on the other side of the room. Brushing a stray lock of blond hair behind her ear, she clasped her hands in front of her and leaned against the end of the bed-frame.

"He is taking it like a man, Jenny," she smiled. "All men are melodramatic."

Virgil, who had been trying to contemplate the sudden arrival of Thomas' wife, suddenly snapped his fingers as the pieces of the puzzle slotted together in his mind. As the occupants of the room turned to look at him, he glanced over at his father.

"You said Penny needed to pick something up from the airport," he began, smiling in amusement. "That 'something' was Jenny, right?"

Penelope nodded and smiled. "Correct. Since Jennifer was quite adamant to visit the island, I offered to bring her here myself."

Thomas glanced down at his wife. "But I thought you had to stay in Peru until next Thursday?" he inquired.

"I was supposed to," she replied, smiling over at Penelope. "But since I've been working overtime lately, the big white chief allowed my to leave a week early. Don't tell me you're regretting my decision?"

Thomas chuckled and shook his head. "Not one bit," he stated.

"Good," Jennifer smiled, pushing herself away from her husband and striding towards the door. "In that case, I'll go put the kettle on. Tea, Penny?"

Lady Penelope nodded. "If you're making it, then a cup of tea would be just wonderful," she smiled. "These American men are lovely, but they wouldn't know a good cup of tea if it was put in front of them."

"Hey!" Thomas protested. "I make good tea!"

Penelope, who had taken a seat at Virgil's bedside, rolled her eyes. "That, Dr. Palmar, is because you've been trained by a professional, darling," she informed him. "I doubt Jenny would have married you if you had proved to be an unsuitable tea-maker."

Thomas pouted. "Don't called me Dr. Palmar," he mumbled moodily.

Ignoring the amused snorts that sounded in the room, Penny glanced down the pink and fluffy object that was pressed against Virgil's ribcage, smiling slightly and nodding in satisfaction.

"At least one Tracy has good taste," she stated.

Jeff didn't know which was better; the sound of laughter coming from four of his sons, or the look of complete and utter mortification on Virgil's face. Whichever it was, he was sure of one thing;

Virgil hated pink hot-water bottles.


Gordon smiled down at his sleeping older brother, glad that John had finally given up the act and allowed his weary body to pull him into the land of dreams. The second-eldest Tracy had been adamant that he was fine, and that he should be allowed to sleep in his own bed. But Andy had held firm, and had even gone as far as to threaten to use the dreaded restraints if John didn't settle down. The fact that John had tried to get out of bed, and had nearly fallen on his behind, had only fueled Andy's determination to keep John in sickbay for another evening.

Straightening up, Gordon glanced over to where Scott, Fermat, Tin-Tin and Virgil were talking together quietly on the other side of the room. Returning his gaze to John's bed, Gordon's smile widened when he realised that the astronaut wasn't the only blond-haired Tracy who had fallen asleep. Alan's head was pillowed in his arms, his breathing soft and steady as he dozed against the mattress. Shaking his head and glancing down at his watch, Gordon stood to his feet. It was only ten-thirty, but clearly Alan had had enough for the day.

"Hey Scott!" he called in a whisper, pointing down at Alan as his brother turned to look at him. "I think I'm gonna need your help in getting him into bed. He never listens to me."

Scott stood up, coming to stand beside Gordon and regarding his baby brother with a fond smile. "I guess he's still tired from what happened the other day," he stated. "I know I am. And my leg still looks as ugly as hell."

"Well," Gordon sighed, patting Scott on the shoulder as he gazed at him sympathetically. "At least it matches your face."

Scott jabbed Gordon in the ribs in retaliation, causing the younger Tracy to squeak in protest. Stepping away from his older brother, Gordon put a finger to his lips and pointed the other hand at John's sleeping form.

"Dude," he complained. "I've only just managed to get him to go to sleep! You don't wanna wake him up argue with him again, do you?"

An amused snort sounded from the doorway. Jeff stepped into the room and up to John's beside, shaking his head and smiling.

"That's exactly what your mother used to say to me when John was a baby," he stated. Then he frowned and cocked his head to the side. "Well - she didn't refer to me as 'dude', but the rest of the sentence was identical."

Scott and Gordon grinned at their father's comment, and Jeff winked at them. Then stepping up behind Alan, he bent down and gently ruffled his son's hair. Alan stirred and grunted, raising his head from his arms and blinking up at his father. Jeff smiled and put a finger to his lips, indicating John's sleeping form.

"Bedtime, kiddo," he whispered softly. Alan nodded, too tired to argue, and stood to his feet. As Jeff made to guide him out of the room, Scott stepped forward and put an arm around Alan's shoulders, smiling at his father.

"I got him," he said softly, steering Alan towards the infirmary doors. "C'mon, Sprout. Let's make sure you don't fall down the stairs, hmm?"

As the doors closed behind his sons, Jeff turned to Gordon and slung an arm about his shoulders.

"Son?" he asked softly.

Gordon glanced up at him. "Mmm?"

"D'you think Tom would kill me if I had another coffee?" he inquired thoughtfully. Before Gordon could reply, Virgil glanced up from where he had been talking to Fermat and Tin-Tin, a firm frown in place.

"Never mind about Tom, Dad," he said seriously. "I'll kill you if you have another coffee."

Gordon grinned as his father did a very good impression of an 'Alan-pout'. 'Patting' his dad on the back sympathetically, he grinned over at Virgil and winked. Stepping away from his father, he allowed his older brother full view of his father's back. Virgil's mouth dropped open in shock as the word 'ANTIQUE' came into full view, written in bold block-capitals upon a white sheet of paper that Gordon had subtly taped to his father's back only seconds before. Fermat also noticed this, and began to chuckle, turning it into an almighty coughing fit in an attempt to hide his amusement.

Jeff turned to look at the young teenager, frowning worriedly.

"Are you alright, Fermat?" he asked. Fermat nodded, going red in the face, and Tin-Tin began to giggle uncontrollably. Virgil had a rather pained expression upon his own face as he fought to contain the laughter, the strain of doing so hurting his ribs. Jeff noticed this, and the worried frown increased.

"Virgil, what's wrong?" he demanded. Virgil shook his head, his eyes watering slightly.

"Nothing, Dad," he choked out. Jeff paused momentarily, before striding towards the door.

"I'm gonna find Andy," he stated, the worried frown still in place. The moment the doors had 'hissed' closed behind him, Gordon collapsed onto the floor in peals of silent laughter, clutching at his sides as tears streamed down his face.

Virgil managed to take in a deep breath, easing the pain in his ribcage as he looked over at Gordon. "Dad's gonna find out, you know," he stated. "And he's not gonna be a happy bunny."

Gordon stood up and waved a hand dismissively. "Nah, he wont notice a thing until-"

"GORDON!"

The redhead froze, wincing. "Until Andy spots it," he finished softly. "Oh darn."

Virgil smiled, leaning his head back against the soft pillows behind him and letting out a gentle sigh. Gordon was up to his usual tricks again, so he was obviously just fine. And as long as Gordon was fine, the rest of the family usually followed suit. Despite how annoying the teenager could be at times, he was the one who kept up the Tracy moral, the one who they depended on after every rescue mission to keep them thinking positive. They needed Gordon more than he prank-loving Tracy could ever know.

So as long as Dad doesn't turn him into sushi, everything is gonna be just fine.


PLEASE REVIEW and tell me what you thought! You know I love to hear from you. The next chapter will be up at some point next week, although I can't say when. Life's so hectic at the mo, and I have exams on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

xoxoxox