Me again, folks!

Yup, it's another story already. I seriously spoil you guys. :)

Standard Disclaimer: I do not claim to own any of the original Thunderbirds characters, all credit for their creation goes to Gerry Anderson and his team. However, the OCs in this story are mine and cannot be used without my expressed consent. Ta muchly.


Alan tapped his pen lightly against the still-blank page of his notebook, his head propped up on one hand as he gazed unseeingly in the direction of the teacher's desk. His thoughts were a thousand miles away from the afternoon chemistry lesson, images of sandy beaches and dense tropical jungle floating around in his head as his body relaxed against the desk in front of him. Chemistry just wasn't particularly appealing right now.

He was beyond tired. What had started out as minor fatigue during Miss Garret's math class first thing that morning had soon developed into a full-blown exhaustion that seemed to envelop every fibre of his being. The only thing he wanted to do now was crash onto the couch in his dorm with a DVD and a big glass of milk.

Mr. Daniels' animated lecture rolled over him in faint, echoing waves as his mind continued to wander.

"...and as we can see on the graph, the rise in temperature causes a significant increase in the rate of sulphur dioxide production. Now, casting our minds back to the discussion we had on molecular theory yesterday morning, who here can tell me why that is?...Anyone?"

Alan's gaze drifted over to the large clock above the door. Five minutes. Just five minutes left and then it's the weekend. I can sleep in late tomorrow, chill out in the rec. room with the guys, volunteer to be on safety standby during motocross training so that I don't have to ride. Yeah, tomorrow's gonna be good. I just need to get through the rest of today first.

"How about you, Alan?"

Startled out of his own thoughts, the teenager blinked rapidly, bringing his vision back into focus and glancing towards the middle-aged man at the front of the classroom. Mr. Daniels was looking at him expectantly, the interactive whiteboard pen held in one hand as he beckoned for Alan to answer with the other.

Skimming over the notes on the board in an attempt to work out what the question was, Alan stalled for time. "Erm..."

With his usual cheerful energy, the teacher turned back towards the board and drew an arrow that pointed towards the steeper part of the curve on the graph. Jabbing the line several times with his index finger to emphasise his point, he looked at the class again.

"Come on, boys, I know it's the last lesson of the week, but I need you to keep your brains in gear for just a few more minutes, alright? Now, think hard. Why do we see this sudden increase in gaseous molecules?"

Alan shot a sideways glance his bored-looking peers. The empty seat beside him seemed all the more noticeable as the silence stretched out for several long seconds, the sound of the ticking clock the only noise in the room. The student who normally sat in that seat would've been bursting to answer the teacher's question by now. His closest friend and semi-adopted family member, Fermat Hackenbacker, was away with the school's math team for the state championships. The three-day event was being held on the other side of New England, so Fermat wouldn't be returning to Wharton's until Sunday. Things seemed abnormally quiet in the classroom without his friend's eager input.

"Look," Mr. Daniels spread his hands, "you boys have two options: one of you can answer the question correctly before the bell goes or you can all complete an essay over the weekend. Your choice."

Faint, panicked whispers floated around the classroom and Alan grimaced. Essays. He hated essays.

Glancing towards the whiteboard, he thought quickly - a difficult task for someone with a brain that felt like a sponge - took a deep breath, cleared his throat and stuck his hand in the air.

Using his forefinger to push his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose, the teacher beamed. "Alan?"

Uncomfortably aware that thirty-four pairs of eyes were watching him, Alan shifted in his seat. "Is it because there's, like, an increase in kinetic energy which means that the," he paused, moving his hands around in the air awkwardly, "move faster and kinda...collide with more energy and react more often than they normally would...or something."

Man, that sounded lame.

Mr. Daniels slammed his hand down against the top of his desk, a grin threatening to split his face in two. "Bingo! As Alan rightly pointed out, there is an increase in kinetic energy as the temperature rises, which allows the particles to collide more often and with more force, thus," he tapped the graph on the board, "increasing the rate of sulphur dioxide production."

From the other side of the classroom, Alan saw one of his friends, Ben Anderson, mouth the word 'geek' in his direction, a wide smile spreading across his face. Alan just shrugged and leaned back in his chair, twirling a pencil around between his fingers in an attempt to look casual.

"So," the teacher continued, setting down his electronic board pen and beaming at the class, "instead of writing me an essay, I want everyone - and yes, that includes you, Mr. Anderson, so pay attention - to go over the section we did last week on reaction rates. That's pages forty-six to forty-nine in your books. Take notes, draw pictures, make up songs about it - I don't care what you do, just learn it."

A murmur of laughter swept across the room and Mr. Daniels smiled, leaning against the side of his desk and crossing his arms over his chest. "As you all know, due to the unfortunate timing of the staff training day, there will be no school on Monday, so you boys are gonna miss out on our usual double period."

The majority of the class cheered.

"Yes, I know, it's tragic," the male teacher chuckled, rubbing a hand through his short brown hair. "But I'm afraid you'll just have to wait until Tuesday for the continuation of this topic, when we will be having a thrilling pop quiz-"

A chorus of loud groans filled the classroom, aggravating the annoying headache that had begun to build up behind Alan's eyes.

"-on everything we've been discussing this week. And since that's enough exciting news for today," he glanced down at his watch and grinned, "you boys are free to go. Please return all borrowed apparatus to the appropriate draws and push your chairs under the desks before you leave. You know the drill."

Alan rubbed his eyes and yawned, shaking the fuzziness out of his vision as he stood to his feet and reached down to grab his rucksack. He felt plain weird. It was almost as though he'd had no sleep at all. But that simply wasn't the case. He'd slept a full nine hours last night and he hadn't done anything particularly strenuous so far today, other than walk from class to class. He'd even gone up to his dorm after a light lunch and dozed all the way through the fifty minute break. So why was he feeling so exhausted?

Sometimes, he mused, life just sucked.

"Nice save, Speed," a loud voice interrupted his thoughts, a heavy hand clapping down on his shoulder. "Knew that oversized brain of yours would come in handy for something. You think if you spoke up more in English, Mr. Cooper would lay off on the essay assignments?"

Alan swung his bag onto his shoulder and smiled at the other teenager. Out of all his friends, he should've guessed that Jake Maleski would be the most relieved about the withdrawal of the essay threat. It was no secret that the young athlete hated prep work. He was the bane of every teacher's life.

The sharp, resounding ring of the school bell echoed around the room. Alan zipped his bag closed. "I was that good, huh?"

"Yup. Although you could've piped up a little faster," Jake remarked, spinning his pen on the desk top absently. "For a moment there, I really thought we'd end up with that homework assignment. You can't do things like that to me, Al, it's not good for my health. How d'you expect me to win gold at the Olympics with a damaged ticker?"

Slowly walking towards the door on the other side of the room, Alan gave a weary sigh. "Hey, just be glad I didn't blow anything up. Last time I was this tired, my old school had to call the fire department. Good thing we weren't doing any practical work."

Jake grinned, reaching across to smack another boy around the back of the head as they passed by his desk. "Look alive, Ben."

The dark-skinned teenager stuck his foot out, nearly succeeding in tripping Jake over. "Jerk."

"Boys," came Mr. Daniels' voice from the front of the classroom, "save it for the corridor."

Ben grinned, standing to his feet and slinging the strap of his satchel over one shoulder. "But Sir, we're not allowed to fight in the corridors."

Mr. Daniels sat down in his desk chair and reached for a stack of papers. "Not my problem."

Alan smirked, shoving both his friends towards the door to get them to move faster. It was too hot in the chemistry lab, he needed some air. The majority of the students had already filed out, but the remaining eight or nine teenagers were creating quite a din. The noise sounded strange and muffled in Alan's ears, almost as though the speakers were stadning a sizable distance away from him. And his legs were starting to feel weird.

Yeah, he really needed some fresh air.

"Alan, could I have a word with you for a moment?"

Glancing back towards Mr. Daniels in surprise, Alan nodded mutely, readjusting the strap of the rucksack on his shoulder - more of a nervous habit than a necessity - and coming to a halt in front of the door. The remaining students filed past him, looking at him quizzically as though trying to ascertain what he had done wrong. Ben reached out and tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention.

"We'll wait outside," he stated awkwardly, pointing towards the door as he and Jake began to walk backwards. Alan nodded again, turning back towards his teacher as he heard the door slide closed with a soft 'click'.

The blond-haired boy stepped up to the large wooden desk, waiting expectantly. Mr. Daniels glanced up from the stack of reports in front of him and smiled warmly, setting down his pen and interlocking his fingers together with practised ease.

"Is everything alright, Alan?"

Blinking at the unexpected question, the blond teenager replied with an overly cheerful, "Yeah, everything's fine, Sir."

"Are you sure?" the teacher pressed, leaning forwards and eyeing him critically. "You weren't your usual self today. Every time I looked up, you seemed to be half asleep. You don't find me that boring, do you?"

"No, Sir." Alan smiled wearily and shook his head. "I'm just tired, I guess. It's been a long week."

Mr. Daniels raised an eyebrow. "Alright, if you say so. But if it turns out you're sickening for something, you'd better be ready to protect me from your father. I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on you, remember?"

Alan groaned and let his head drop. Gregory Daniels had been one of his father's closest friends during high school. According to his dad, it was their mutual love for science that had broken the ice. And whilst Gregory had gone on to study chemistry at Harvard, Jeff had signed himself up for the NASA engineering and technology college on the other side of the country. The long distance between them and the significant time difference had put a stopper on their friendship. Over time, they'd completely lost contact. And then, just under a year ago, Gregory had begun teaching at Wharton's, having decided to take a break from university lectures.

That's how he'd been reunited with Jeff, on the first day of term after the summer break when Alan and his father had been saying their goodbyes at the reception desk. Much to Alan's embarrassment, his science teacher and the Tracy patriarch had soon become firm friends once again. Not long after that, Jeff had quietly asked Gregory if he would 'keep an eye' on his youngest son. Alan hadn't taken too kindly to being treated like a child on his first day at kindergarten, but he'd soon discovered that Mr. Daniels was a nice enough guy. He'd never once pulled the 'keeping an eye on you' card.

Well...until now.

"You - you're not gonna call my father about this, are you?" Alan asked hesitantly.

"About what?" Gregory looked at him steadily, a soft smile tugging at his lips. Alan let out a relieved sigh.


The chemistry professor looked back down towards the pile of papers, taking up his pen again. "Be sure to let Fermat know about the pop quiz," he instructed lightly. "Although might I suggest that you wait until after the state championships are over? The last thing the team will want is their star player studying chemistry right before the final competition."

Alan grinned. "Don't worry, I'll wait until he gets back."

"Thank you." Mr. Daniels pushed his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose with one finger and used the other hand to point towards the door. "Now, run for your life and enjoy your weekend."

"F.A.B., Sir."

The teacher sent him a knowing look as Alan smirked and headed towards the door, pulling it open and jumping out into the corridor. Letting out a sigh as it closed behind him with a 'click', he rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand and gave another yawn.

"So," a loud voice came from directly behind him, making his jump at least a foot in the air, "what did old Daniels want? You get a detention or something?"

Alan adjusted the strap of the rucksack on his shoulder and shook his head, turning to face Ben. "Nope. Nothing that exciting. He just wanted to make sure I wouldn't forget to tell Fermat about the pop quiz."

Ben looked thoroughly disappointed. "That's it?"

"Yup, sorry." Alan glanced around the almost-empty corridor and frowned. "Where'd Jake go?"

"Um, hello?" Ben tapped his watch. "Does 'track team meeting in five minutes' ring any bells? You're supposed to be there, genius."

Alan swore loudly, taking off in the direction of the dormitory block as fast as he could run with Ben's laughter echoing after him down the corridor. He'd completely forgotten about training. His naive hopes of having a relaxing afternoon were swiftly going down the drain. But they weren't lost yet. Maybe his coach would decide it was too icy to run track?

The teenager scoffed as he burst through the double doors of the dormitory building, sprinting up the stairs towards the floor where he and Fermat shared a room. He'd trained in the snow before, he doubted a bit of frost would change Coach Stevens' mind.

Nope, he'd just have to grin and bear it. And hope that he didn't fall asleep during the meeting.

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Alan pulled his hands inside the sleeves of his jacket and hugged his arms to his chest, hopping from foot to foot in an attempt to keep warm. The bitter chill of the February wind was cruel and bone-deep, making his teeth chatter and his arm hair stand on end. His breath came out in white, steamy puffs, his cheeks and nose smarting from the biting cold. Whereas before he'd wanted to stand still and do nothing, he was now very much looking forward to jogging around the track and warming up a little.

It was official: his coach was crazy.

For example, who else would decide to hold the meeting outside, when there was a perfectly suitable heated room inside the school where the track team normally congregated for planning purposes? Perhaps Alan wouldn't have minded it so much had it been any other training session, but today just wasn't going well for him. What he really wanted right now was warmth, junk food and sleep. Preferably in that order, although the topic was up for debate.

He hadn't even heard half of what his coach was saying - or, well, shouting. He was honestly too tired to bother listening anymore. Instead, his mind seemed to be focusing on the strangest of things; small, pointless things that he would've normally overlooked. Like the grass, for example. The cloudy sky had blocked out the majority of the sunlight, allowing the frost to remain as crisp and glittering as it had been first thing that morning. Alan found the noise that was produced when he stepped on the frozen blades to be highly fascinating; certainly far more interesting than anything his coach was saying.

Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his ribs as Jake roughly elbowed him into alertness.

"Dude, wake up!" the other boy hissed, talking behind his arm as he casually brought up a hand and ran into through his short black hair.

Alan snapped back to attention, eyes darting towards the coach in time to see the muscular man clap his hands together impatiently.

"Why don't I see anybody running? C'mon, c'mon, look alive!"

'Warm-up laps,' Alan sighed inwardly, forcing his weary legs to begin pumping as he and Jake jogged over towards the orange running track that circled the grassy playing field. 'Great. Ah well, at least it might help to bring some of the feeling back into my feet.'

His fatigue became more noticeable as Coach Stevens told them to pick up the pace. It was still only light warm-ups, yet Alan was already struggling to keep going. Jake kept sending him brief glances as they jogged alongside each other, the taller teenager's brow furrowing every time Alan began to lag behind.

"You feelin' okay?" he asked, keeping their pace steady as the rest of the team moved off down the track ahead of them.

"Yeah," Alan panted. "I'm fine. Why?"

"Because," Jake looked back towards the track in front of them, arms pumping as he jogged with relaxed ease, "you look like hell. You sick or something? If you're not up to running, you should tell Coach."

Alan frowned in annoyance. "Jake, I'm fine. Just drop it, would you?"

Jake gave a slight shrug. "Suit yourself. But if you're coming down with whatever bug Ben's little brother's got, don't you dare give it to me."

Shooting a sideways look at his friend, Alan raised a questioning eyebrow. "Ben's got a little brother? I thought he was the youngest?"

"Nope," Jake breathed, creating a small puff of white steam. "He's got a four-year-old half brother. The little guy got sick after the family came up to school to see Ben. How did you manage to miss all this?"

"Oh, so that's who the kid was?" Alan puffed out breathlessly, eyes lighting up in realisation. "This was just over a week ago, right?"

"Yeah," Jake replied slowly, looking at is friend quizzically and slowing their pace all the more. "Why?"

"I came across this little kid in the canteen," Alan explained between pants. "He'd gotten lost somehow and was bawling his eyes out...I took him back to the reception desk, but Coach Stevens called me away before the family got there." He sniffed, the cold weather making his nose run. "I knew Ben's family had come up to visit him that day, but I never made the connection. Huh. So...what did the kid come down with?"

Jake began to say something, but broke off when a loud, gruff voice shot out across the field.

"Tracy! Maleski! You call that running?! Jake, pick up the pace, let's go! Get those Roadrunner legs of yours working!"

As his friend shot off like a bullet, Alan gritted his teeth, doing his best increase his speed. The next two laps completely depleted his energy reserves and, by the time he began his third circuit, his legs were like jelly. With the rest of the team over half a lap in front, he knew his inability to run was glaringly obvious. But the coach was busy watching Jake speed around the track, perhaps he wouldn't even notice how far Alan was lagging behind...

"Tracy, front and centre!"

Alan slowed to a walk and let out a heavy sigh. Face it, Alan, the world hates you.

Stepping off the orange race track and onto the frosted, grassy playing field, Alan tried to catch his breath as he slowly made he way towards where Coach Stevens was standing in the centre of the pitch, bare arms crossed over his chest.

I knew it, he's crazy. What sane person would wear a t-shirt outside on a day like this?

"Coach?" he panted as he came to stand in front of the tall man, already knowing what the topic of their conversation was going to be about. However, the ex-Olympic champion runner surprised him by clapping him on the shoulder in a gruff but friendly manner and nodding in the direction of the school.

"Go pack your bags, Alan. You're leaving."

Alan blinked, stunned. Sure, he wasn't performing to his max on the track right now, but expelled?!

"Sir," he stuttered, a frown furrowing his brow. "Sir, I don't understand. Why do I-"

Stevens grinned, shaking his head. "Relax, Tracy, it's just for the weekend," the muscular man assured him, reaching down to unclasp a data-pad from his belt and waving the device in Alan's face. "I got an IM just a moment ago from the reception desk. Says there's a visitor waiting to take you home. And, apparently, I have to let you leave now so that you don't miss your flight." He lowered the pad and gave Alan a slightly disapproving frown. "You know, it would've been easier if you'd just told me about all this beforehand and skipped practice instead of lazing around the track for ten minutes."

"I - I didn't know," Alan murmured, his foggy mind trying to make sense of the sudden news.

The prospect of going home certainly appealed to him right now, what with his fatigued body and aching head. But why all the secrecy? The last time he'd been picked up from school unexpectedly, it had been to fly halfway across the country to the hospital where Gordon was undergoing emergency surgery after his hydrofoil accident. Is that why he was being collected? Had something happened to one of his siblings?

"You mean you weren't expecting this?" Coach Stevens sounded surprised. Alan shook his head mutely and swallowed, suddenly feeling dizzy. The teacher's eyes darkened in concern. "You feeling okay, kid?"

"Yeah," Alan cursed inwardly at how weak his voice sounded, "I'm fine."

The man didn't seem convinced. "Go home, Son. And get some sleep, you look like hell. I'll see you on Tuesday."

As the coach shoved him in the direction of the school, Alan stuck his hands in his jacket pockets in an attempt to warm his frozen digits. The grass 'crunched' beneath his running shoes, but the sound was no longer of interest to the worried teen. Images of horrific rescue sites and injured siblings flashed through his mind in an endless, torturous slide-show. Scenes out of his worst nightmares filled his consciousness, bringing forth a cold, heavy weight somewhere in his gut. Had there been another terrible accident? Another brother injured, maybe even killed?

But Gordon's crash had happened almost four years ago. He was older now, he was almost sixteen. They would've called him if something bad had happened, right?

Somehow, that thought didn't make him feel any better.

Quickening his pace, he headed into the changing rooms, all thoughts of his own physical state shoved aside as he grabbed a change of clothes out of his locker. His body wasn't going to be at ease until he'd found out who had come for him and why they were here. In the meantime, all he could do was hope and pray that his fears wouldn't turn into reality.

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Alan entered the school through the grand front entrance, his heart hammering away in his chest. Instead of weaving his way around the hoards of students in the corridors, he'd opted for exiting through the left wing of the school and walked around the outside of the building. He'd figured that the fresh air would do him good anyway; it would give him time to calm down before he met up with whichever family member was waiting for him inside.

If it even was a family member. Lady Penelope had arrived to pick him up from school at the end of term on more than one occasion.

Stepping into the warmth of the reception area, Alan blinked at his surroundings in silence. It never failed to surprise him how big the place was. And the absence of swarming teenagers certainly put emphasis on the heavy silence that seemed to dominate the area. Aside from the whir of computers and the gentle ringing of telephones, there was almost no sound at all. Since the reception hall was cut off from the general student corridors, very few students passed through this way unless, like Alan, they had entered the building through the front entrance. Consequently, it was far from busy.

A few Wharton's students sat about in chairs along the right hand wall, slumped against the furniture and staring down at their shoes as they waited in silence. In the far corner of the hall, beside a giant potted tropical plant, two teachers in navy suits and contrasting ties talked quietly to each other, the light shining down from the chandelier in the centre of high ceiling and reflecting off their balding heads.

Forcing himself to concentrate on his present situation, Alan walked across the carpeted floor and up to the reception desk, resting his hands atop the high, wooden surface. In front of him, a middle-aged woman with greying hair and glasses sat bent over a stack of papers, an electronic data-pad clutched in one hand as she murmured to herself softly. Alan cleared his throat.

"Um, excuse me, Ma'am?"

Glancing up, the receptionist smiled at him kindly, taking off her glasses and allowing them to hang down on a string of dark purple glass beads about her neck. Alan spotted an ID badge pinned to her blouse, noting that it read 'Ida Harding'.

"How can I help you, dear?" she asked cheerfully, pushing the papers aside for a moment

Feeling a little more at ease, Alan leaned against the desk and began, "Coach Stevens said that I had a visitor. He said reception sent him an IM or something? My name's Alan, Alan Tracy."

"Alan Tracy," Ida murmured, skimming down a list of names on her computer screen. "Ah yes, now I remember. A visitor did come to see you about twenty minutes ago. He's in the family waiting room. Go on in."

Alan smiled politely and inclined his head. "Thank you, Ma'am."

As he walked away from the reception desk and towards the semi-transparent sliding doors that lead to the waiting room, Alan's head swam and his mind buzzed with the new information he'd just acquired. She said it was a 'he', so that rules out Lady Penelope. It's either Dad, Brains or one of the guys. That still doesn't make me feel any better. It was Virge who came to pick me up when Gordon had his accident. Oh God, please don't let it be anything serious.

The doors slid open before him with a soft 'hiss', revealing a spacious room filled with padded chairs and comfortable looking couches. A giant plasma-screen TV practically covered the wall to Alan's left, the volume turned down so low that the news reporter's murmur was almost indistinguishable against the sound of ringing phones and whirring printers from the reception desk out in the main hall. The room almost empty, save for one person. In the far corner of the room sat a lone figure - a figure that Alan recognised instantly.

His older brother sat with one leg crossed casually over the other, a sports magazine propped open against his knee as his piercing blue eyes skimmed over its contents. He seemed oblivious to Alan's presence. But the younger Tracy, overjoyed at seeing his brother's relaxed posture and realising, therefore, that there was nothing to worry about, couldn't hold in his excited exclamation.


The blond-haired head snapped up towards the door, the startled expression morphing into a goofy grin as the astronomer spotted his younger sibling. Throwing the magazine down onto the pile on the table next to him, he jumped to his feet and stepped forwards as Alan darted towards him.

"What on earth are you doing here?"

"I'm happy to see you too, Sprout," John chuckled, pulling the smaller Tracy into a firm embrace. "Dad figured that the staff training day on Monday was a great excuse to drag you back home for a long weekend visit. Sound good?"

Alan hugged him back tightly, relief and embarrassment over his own stupidity rolling around within him as he let out a long sigh. Nothing was wrong. Everything was fine. Life was good.

Then he felt John's body stiffen and the twenty-four-year-old pulled away sharply.

Alan looked up at his brother. "What?"

"You're freezing," John murmured, rubbing Alan's arms in an attempt to bring some warmth back into the icy limbs.

Laughing softly, the teenager shook his head. "In case you hadn't noticed, it's pretty cold outside."

John's eyes widened. "Wait a sec," he frowned, eyeing Alan dangerously. "Are you telling me you were out there in sub-zero with nothing but a t-shirt on?!"

Alan realised his mistake a moment too late. Actually, in his defence, this was the first time he'd noticed that his attire wasn't suitable for the current weather conditions. The jacket he'd been wearing out on the track was now at the bottom of his running kit in his gym locker. He hadn't even thought about the cold temperature outside as he'd walked around the outside of the school building to get to the main reception, his mind having been somewhat...preoccupied at the time.

Wincing inwardly, he tried to shrug it off with a casual, "Well, I'm wearing jeans too, aren't I?"

Smacking his brother lightly around the back of the head, John sighed his displeasure. "Kid, are you trying to get pneumonia?" He shrugged off his Armani jacket, wrapping it around Alan's shoulders. "What the hell were you thinking?"

Squirming under his brother's disapproving gaze - John always got to him in a way that even his father could never quite achieve - Alan gave another shrug and let his breath out in an explosive sigh. Usually, he'd make up some lame-ass excuse and try to bluff his way out of a situation like this. But this time, for some reason he wasn't fully aware of, he felt compelled to tell the truth.

"Look, I was worried, okay?"

John's expression immediately softened, his blue eyes searching Alan's face. "Worried?" he repeated, pulling Alan down onto the nearest couch. "Worried about what?"

Alan sighed, slipping his arms into the sleeves his brother's jacket, grateful for the added warmth. "Look, it's stupid," he mumbled. "It's just that - well, I had no idea you were coming, so I wasn't expecting any visitors to come along and take me home, right?"

Nodding, John waited for him to continue.

"Well," Alan paused for a moment, wrapping his arms against his chest, "I - I guess it made me think back to the last time something like this happened." He swallowed heavily and looked down at his feet. "You know, Gordon's accident and stuff. Sure, it was in a different school and I was younger back then, but it still turned something in my stomach. And what with you guys always running right into danger on rescues, I thought...I though that-"

He broke off, letting out another frustrated sigh and rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment.

"You thought that something had happened to one of us," John finished softly, understanding dawning in his eyes. He looked at his younger brother in tender sympathy. "Alan, I'm sorry, I shoulda thought of that. Maybe this was a bad idea-"

"No!" Alan's head shot up. "No, don't think that, this is awesome. I was just being stupid. Seriously, this weekend's gonna be great."

John ruffled his hair, his features relaxing into an easy smile. "So, you up for spending a few days at home with us elderly folk?"

Alan grinned, pushing the older Tracy's hand away. "Sure thing, Gramps." Then he paused, shaking his head. "Dude, aren't you supposed to be, you know," he pointed towards the ceiling, "up there?"

"I needed a break from the stars," the taller blond replied lightly. "The cosmos is only satisfying for a certain amount of time. Man craves the company of others."

The teenager snorted. "Still exhaling poetry, I see."

"You got a problem with that, short stuff?" John grabbed him in a playful headlock and rubbed his knuckles into Alan's scalp.

"Gah, no, get off! Okay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! John!"

Laughing, the astronomer released him and clapped him on the back affectionately. "Glad to see you're still as annoying as ever."

Alan smoothed down his hair and mock-glared at his older sibling. "I'd say the same about you, 'cept I'm not particularly 'glad' about it." Suddenly, the smile slid from his face as his slow brain logged onto a fault in their plan. "Hang on a sec, what about Fermat? He's still at the championships. D'you think he's gonna be okay with this?"

John held up a calming hand. "Don't worry, everything's cool. Fermat's known about this for quite a while."

Alan wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but there'd be time to find out later. Frowning up at his brother with a quizzical expression upon his face, he tilted his head to the side.

"How'd you get here anyway?"

John looked left and right slowly, almost as though he were checking to make sure nobody in the empty room would be within hearing range, and leaned in closer, his face serious and his eyes shining.

"I discovered the secret to teleportation."

Alan pretended to look enthralled. "Seriously? What is it?"

John lowered his voice to a whisper. "Chocolate."

The teenager gave a loud laugh, shaking his head and looking down at the floor. "Talk about an anticlimax." He sobered up a little and glanced over at his brother. "Did you take one of the jets?"

"Yup." John tapped his hand against his denim-clad knee absently. "I had to drop something off at the office in New York, so I took Tracy One."

Alan sighed. "Not nearly as exciting as teleportation."

John chuckled, poking him in the back to get him to move. The two brothers stood to their feet and Alan shrugged off John's jacket, suppressing another yawn. The warmth of the material had made him feel sleepy again, the adrenaline from before having ceased to pulse around his body the moment he'd seen John's smiling face.

As he handed the garment back to his older sibling, John frowned slightly, reaching out to take the jacket with one hand as he pressed the back of the other against the skin of Alan's upper arm.

"You're still like a block of ice," he stated. "You're gonna end up sick if we don't warm you up soon. Tell ya what," he glanced down at his watch, "why don't you go grab a hot shower? I need to sign a load of paperwork before we can leave here anyways. Let's see...d'you think you can be showered, changed and packed in less than twenty minutes?"

Alan nodded confidently. "Yup."

"Awesome." John gave him a shove towards the door. "Your time starts now."

Jogging through the reception area and into one of the side corridors, his energy suddenly renewed, Alan grinned happily. The day was turning out better than he'd ever hoped. There were so many questions that still needed answering - the most pressing of which being who the heck was up on Thunderbird 5 if John was down on earth ahead of schedule? - but those questions could wait until later. It was a four hour flight from Wharton's landing strip back to Tracy Island. He could quiz his older brother to his heart's content once they were in the air.

Keying the access code into the lock on his dorm room door, Alan smiled to himself.

This was going to be a weekend to remember.


The weekend will certainly be memorable, but not quite in the way that Alan had envisioned. More on that next time.

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