Hey folks!

Thanks for your patience, things have been a bit crazy around here in the long sprint up to Christmas. Good news? All my shopping's now done. Bad new? My homework isn't Priorities always go out the window at this time of year. I'm too much of a kid. :)

Enjoy the chapter!

Alan chewed on the end of his pencil thoughtfully, frowning at the complex equation. School seemed like a lifetime ago and he was struggling to recall the simplified method of factorising polynomials that his math teacher had shown him. Exhaling a huff of frustration, he reached for his laptop. Wharton's had math study material on the pupil website; he'd be able to access the class notes from there.

It had been almost two and a half weeks now since he'd come down with chickenpox, and the pock marks were finally beginning to fade. The 'first wave' – or so Virgil had entitled it – of spots were now but dim pink splodges covered by a thin layer of dry skin. He barely even felt them anymore. The most recent batch of marks was a little more prominent than that, but even those blemishes had formed a crusty layer over the top and begun to shrink. His back, chest and thighs still looked awful, but his face and arms were much improved. And the itch was all but gone now, thank Heaven.

With his temperature back under control – aside from the occasional light fever during the evening – he was definitely ready to escape from his brothers' eternal flapping. Thank God that the rest of his family were still sleeping off the effects of the previous day's rescue mission, or else he would've been bullied into eating breakfast long ago.

Waiting for the page to load, he tugged the laptop further across his lap and lightly scratched at an itchy patch on his thigh through the thin material of his shorts.


He froze, wincing, fingers still bent mid-itch. However, turning his head towards his bedroom door to face his prosecutor, his sheepish smile morphed into a delighted grin. "Tom! When did you get here?"

Thomas smiled, reaching out towards the open door beside him and rapping his knuckles lightly against the polished wood. "House call! Can I come in?"

Nodding, Alan scooted closer to the wall so that the doctor could perch on the mattress beside him. "Just kick the folder outta the way," he said brightly. "It's only math."

Bending at the waist to instead slide the folder across the floor, Thomas sat down near Alan's knees, facing the teenager. He set his satchel on the mattress beside him, reaching out a hand and pressing it to the blond's forehead.

"And how are we feeling this morning?"

Alan frowned. "Majorly stupid. My brain just isn't working."

Thomas gave a slight grin, running his fingers over the scabs on Alan's neck. "You sure it's still in there?" At the teenager's glare, he cleared his throat and dropped his hands. "How are you really?"

"Bored," Alan replied, avoiding the real meaning of the question, switching the laptop to standby and pulling the screen down, depositing the device on his bedside table. "I've been driven to doing math homework, Tom. That's pretty desperate, wouldn't you say?"

Thomas shrugged, dropping his hand to Alan's shoulder and pushing him back gently against the pile of pillows behind him. "Well, I dunno. John and Virgil were always pretty fond of the subject."

"Yeah, but they're weird."

The doctor chuckled, rummaging in his satchel for a moment. "You're all of the same stock, kid. Your dad's pretty weird. Actually, come to think of it, your grandpa was rather odd, too. It's probably hereditary." His eyes grew soft. "Man, I loved that guy."

Alan sat in silence for a moment as the doctor produced an aural thermometer from the bag and inserted it into his ear. The soft 'beep' sounded and the device was removed.

"Well, your temp looks normal." Tom beamed, setting the thermometer back in his kit and beginning to rummage again. "Let me just check those ears of yours."

It was whilst Thomas held the cold tip of the oscilloscope in Alan's left ear that the teenager finally put forward the question that had been fighting to break free of his restraining lips.

"Did you know him well? Grandpa, I mean."

The family friend glanced up momentarily, eyebrows raised in surprise at the unexpected query, before quickly returning his attention to the device in his hand.

"Sure did." Alan could see the warm smile that graced his features. "Your grandma was always trying to set me up with some 'nice young lady' she was acquainted with. Your grandpa was the one who rescued me. I used to spend a lot of time at their house, especially during the first few years in the NASA frontier project. My parents were going through a divorce and I needed a place I could call home."

He sat back, dropping the medical instrument back into his satchel. "I had an apartment in the city, of course, but your grandparents insisted that I stop by at least once a week when I was earth-side. Grant and I had a whale of a time poking fun at your dad. Your gramps had the best sense of humour."

Alan regarded the far-away look in the doctor's eyes, his own smile saddening a little. "I wish I could've known him."

Thomas glanced up at that, his expression softening all the more, becoming warm and understanding. He squeezed Alan's knee affectionately. "He would've loved you, kid. You're a lot like him, you know. You may not have the Tracy looks, but you've definitely inherited Grant's personality. He and your mother were very similar, that's why he loved her so much. But I can definitely see characteristics of both of them in you. Grant's sense of humour, his rebellious streak, his stubborn determination." He paused, tapping his chin thoughtfully as humour sparkled in his eyes. "And boy was he formidable when he got angry."

Alan raised an eyebrow. "Grandpa had a temper? Was it as bad as Dad's?"

"No, nowhere near, " Thomas chuckled. "Grant's temper was very much like John's is today. Virtually non-existent until something or someone presses the wrong button, then BANG!" Alan jumped slightly, grinning, as Thomas thumped the side of the bed with one clenched fist, "it's like somebody's dropped an atom bomb. I only witnessed the phenomenon a couple of times, and was never on the receiving end of one. In fact, I think that was the kinda outburst that he only reserved for non-family members who deserved it – like the jerk who decided to get his thrills by driving down a rural housing estate at eighty miles per hour. Nearly ran over Scotty. Man, your Gramps burst a gasket about that one. I doubt the guy ever went near that road again. Fascinating experience, watching Grant blow."

Smirking, Alan shook his head. "Wish I could say the same for John's explosions. But damn, they scare the crap outta me."

Thomas laughed, waving away the statement. "Nah, John's just a big, cuddly teddy bear. Give the guy a peanut butter cup and he's as happy as can be."

"Yeah," Alan snorted. "Take it away and it's a whole other story."

"Well then," the doctor zipped up his satchel and stretched his arms above his head, "you just have to make sure that the cupboards are always stocked with candy."

Alan's stomach grumbled at the mention of food and Thomas laughed again, ruffling his hair. "Good to see that your appetite's starting to come back. You had breakfast yet?"

The teenager shook his head. "Couldn't be bothered getting up."

Thomas raised an eyebrow. "But you could be bothered doing math homework? Makes perfect sense, kid. C'mon, I'll walk you down to the kitchen."

"Nah, I'm not really all that hungry," Alan replied, twirling his pencil between his fingers. He'd only get an ear-lashing from Onaha for leaving it so late.

The doctor looked at him pointedly. "Your stomach says otherwise."

Shrugging and shooting the older man another sheepish grin, Alan brought up a hand to gently rub the back of his neck, feeling the hard, rough scabs beneath his fingers. He leaned back against the headboard and exhaled a soft sigh, studying the lines of sunlight that shone through from the bay windows and reflected off the shiny laminate floor onto the ceiling. It was nice to be able to tolerate such light levels again without the constant bother of a killer headache stabbing at his brain.

"Seriously, though," Thomas said suddenly, his expression uncharacteristically somber as he studied the youngest Tracy son. "How are you feeling, kid? I want the truth, now."

Alan sighed again, running a hand through his hair. "Tired," he admitted. "All the time. It's like I can't get through a single day without at least one nap...siesta...ah, you know what I mean. I know I needed rest when I was sick and all that, but my fever's gone and it's still not getting any better."

"It will do," Thomas assured him gently, resting a hand on the teenager's bent knee. "It's just your body's way of recharging its batteries. It's gone through a lot lately. And you've napped - sorry, siestered - so often over the past couple of weeks, your body's become acclimatised to that sleeping pattern. It's only natural that it's fighting to keep things that way. It won't take long for it to switch back to a normal routine now that you're almost better."

He looked up hopefully. "I can go back to Wharton's on Sunday, right?"

Thomas nodded. "You're technically no longer contagious now that everything's scabbed over," he replied, "but a couple more days' rest won't hurt. Your ear infection's sorted itself out nicely, thanks to the antibiotics. You finished the course yesterday, right? The little white pills?"

Alan rolled his eyes. "They're all white Tom."

"I'm taking you off the acyclovir too," the doctor continued, ignoring the teenager's comment, "seeing as the virus has all but been defeated. So provided nothing else goes wrong, you shouldn't have to take any more meds from now on." He paused, fixing Alan with a questioning look. "What's the situation with the headaches?"

"There isn't one, I'm fine."


"Okay," the teenager amended, dropping his gaze, "so maybe I still get little ones every now and then. S'not like it happens all the time. Usually only when I'm tired."

The corner of the doctor's mouth twitched. "I thought you were tired 'all the time'?"

Alan frowned. "You're bullying me."

Thomas snorted. "No I'm not."

"I don't like it when you bully me."

The doctor held up his hands defensively. "Kid, I'm not bullying you."

"You're doing it again," Alan argued, eyeing the raised hands with a slight frown. "That's a threatening stance, Dr. Palmar."

"Hey." Thomas dropped his hands, wrapping an arm around Alan's bent legs to keep him still. "Don't. Call. Me. Doctor. Palmar!"

Each word was punctuated with a playful jab to Alan's ribs and the teenager squirmed away from him, curling his arms around his midriff in a desperate attempt to protect the sensitive area.

"No, no, no...Tom, okay, I give in," he babbled, trying to fight off the skilled hand. "I give in!"

"Well, that's a start," Thomas said reasonably, continuing with his assault in a calm and thorough manner. "Glad you're finally seeing things my way."

Try as he might, Alan couldn't hold back the laughter that bubbled up through his chest, and he felt his face glowing red as he pressed himself as far against the headboard as he could, squirming desperately.

"Physical abuse!" he howled, weakly pounding at the family doctor's arm with a clenched fist as the man continued to jab him, finding the most sensitive areas of his chest with practised ease. "Stop it!"

Thomas laughed, sitting back and releasing his hold on the teenager, watching with a satisfied smirk as Alan collapsed back against the pillows, breathing heavily. The blond shot him a glare, but its effect was somewhat lessened by the watering eyes and wide, happy grin.

"I...I hate you."

The doctor raised an eyebrow. "Sorry?"

"You're awesome," Alan replied breathlessly, leaning his head back against the wall, chest heaving.

Thomas nodded. "Thought that's what you said."

Alan shook his head, and a comfortable silence passed between them as the teenager got his breath back. The family doctor seemed happy to study the contents of Alan's math notepad – which, in the scuffle, had fallen to the floor in front of the doctor's feet. For a long while, the only sound in the room was the ticking of the wall-mounted clock and Alan's steadily slowing breathing pattern. The youngest Tracy, despite his current state of exhaustion, felt better than he had in weeks. It had been too long since he'd had a...well, a tickle fight, he supposed. They'd once been weekly – if not daily – occurrences whilst he was growing up, but now? Not so much. Man, he missed being a kid.

"You know," Thomas spoke, picking up Alan's notebook and glancing at the rows of equations, "I don't have to return to the mainland until this afternoon. Fancy spending some quality math time with your uncle Tom?"

Alan looked doubtful. "You remember how to do math?"

"Hey," the doctor smacked the teenager's knee with the pad lightly, "I'm not that old. Besides, I owned at math. History? Not so much. But that's only 'cause Sophie Ashton sat next to me. Kinda distracting, if ya get my drift."

Thomas waggled his eyebrows suggestively and Alan snorted in amusement. "I don't think I wanna hear that story."

The doctor waved the notepad in front of him. "So, whatta ya say? Breakfast and quadratic equations?"

Alan shrugged. "Why not? It's not like I'm gonna get them done by myself. Chickenpox has made me into a dufus."

"Nah," Thomas chuckled, standing up and grabbing Alan's pencil from his bedside table. "You're just a little out of practice. Half an hour with me and you'll be top of your class."

Alan stood, swaying momentarily as the gained height made his head spin. Thomas circled an arm about his shoulders, steadying him.

"You okay?"

The teenager nodded. "Yup. Let's go. Try not to fall behind, okay?"

Thomas grinned, ruffling Alan's hair and giving him an ever so gentle push towards the door. "Keep up with the attitude, kid, and I'll infect you with something that'll make chickenpox seem like a pleasant alternative."

Eyes widening dramatically, Alan shot a look of mock horror over his shoulder.

"Doc! Child abuse!"


Stretching his arms above his head, Alan sank lower into the hammock and released a long, weary sigh of contentment. The late afternoon sunshine peeked through the gaps between the leafed branches above him, creating a mottled yellow pattern on his dark t-shirt and highlighting the fading pock marks on his bent knees. He stared at them for a moment, idly stroking the smooth surface of a thick, waxy leaf that had become entangled in the woven network of twine above his head. Looking at the scabs, it was hard to believe that he had once been gravely ill with the virus. It all seemed rather pathetic now.

A loud, slurping splash caught his attention and he rolled his head to the side. Since the hammock was situated on a small, sheltered area of decking a good thirty centimetres above the level of the rippling blue water, Alan had a pretty decent view of the large pool. He smiled as he spotted the familiar – although slightly distorted – form gliding gracefully beneath the surface. If the talented twirl he performed beneath the water didn't give away who it was, the orange trunks certainly did. Gordon's fashion sense had always been loud. Scott said it was merely another method of expressing his personality without getting kicked out of the library.

As the copper-haired swimmer surfaced near the other end of the Olympic-sized pool and blew the water from his lips, Alan suppressed a chuckle. The action reminded him of a birthday card Virgil had designed for Gordon years ago. It had been more of a comic strip, really. It had shown a whale – a whale with a mop of copper-red hair, of course - swimming across the length of the pool before surfacing on the far side, where the family had been gathered around a birthday cake, colourful party hats and multicoloured streamers aplenty as they prepared to celebrate. However, upon surfacing, the whale had immediately let out a sharp puff of air through its blowhole, effectively obliterating the cake on the spot and drenching the family in the process. Gordon had loved that birthday card. He still had it somewhere, Alan was sure of it. There were some snippets of your life that you could never throw away.

Using his body weight to swing the hammock gently from side to side, Alan allowed his gaze to drift back to the green vegetation above him, smiling softly as he listened to the rhythmic sounds of his brother's swift, measured strokes.

There was a reason why Gordon was in the pool for the second time this afternoon.

Tomorrow he was going cold turkey. For seven long days.

Alan grinned, interlocking his fingers beneath his head and relaxing into the soothing sway of the swinging hammock. Perhaps Gordon wouldn't have minded so much if he'd had time to prepare; it would have allowed him to gradually wean himself out of the water...so to speak. However, nobody had expected John to wake up that morning with some serious congestion problems. Hell, John never got sick, so naturally the turn of events was surprising. But there was nothing to be done. John couldn't go up to Thunderbird Five if he was coming down with a cold, and Brains couldn't stay up there any longer. With Alan's bout of chickenpox, the scientist had been forced to remain onboard the station in order to avoid contracting the virus. But now that Alan was no longer contagious, it really wasn't fair to keep Brains up there any longer. Besides, Five was due for a supply run anyhow.

"It'll only be for a week or so, Gordon," their father had said at lunch; no doubt in an attempt to stop the inevitable huff that would result from the sudden turnabout. "John's bound to be right as rain by then."

Alan hoped so. Not only did he dislike the idea of John being sick at all – because seriously, it didn't look like Tracys did anything half-ass – but there was the whole problem with Gordon being miles and miles away from any pool-sized volume of water. The second youngest Tracy didn't cope well in space. He could stomach the journey and the occasional gravity fluctuations just fine, but it was the enclosed space that didn't work for him. It was like putting an excitable puppy in a kennel and throwing away the key. John - being the quiet, mature, patient, calm-natured soul that he was - had no problem entertaining himself with a good book or by continuing with his astronomical research. But Gordon? Gordon didn't do books. Too much sitting required.

Thank God there's exercise equipment up there. I dread to think what Gordon would be driven to do if it weren't.

Yawning loudly, Alan reached out towards his bent knee, stomach muscles straining as he kept himself in position long enough to scratch at a mildly irritating spot behind the joint.

"Hey." Water droplets splashed across his arm and face.

Alan thumped the hammock with a clenched fist and groaned out a loud, "Oh, for Pete's sake!"

Gordon, whose arms were propped up on the edge of the wet decking a couple of metres away from Alan, gave an innocent smile. "Just lookin' out for my little brother's welfare. Can't blame a guy for caring, Sprout."

Wiping the water from his skin, Alan sent the older Tracy a hard glare. "Enough with the babysitting act already, Gords. I'm not contagious anymore, I'm over this thing. You can't spend the rest of your life watching my every move."

"You can still get an infection in one of the spots, though," Gordon argued lightly, pushing himself away from the wall and beginning to tread water. "It's not worth the risk, Al. Besides, since I'm flying up to that freakin' metal prison tomorrow morning, this is the last chance I have to tell you off and legitimately get away with it."

Shrugging, Alan settled back against the hammock, smiling again. "Fair enough."

A short silence passed and the blond allowed his gaze to return to the sunlit vegetation above him, studying the varying shapes and colours of each individual leaf. He heard Gordon climb out of the pool, heard the loud splatter of the droplets as they fell to the decking beneath his brother's feet, but didn't look his head until he saw the aquanaut appear beside him out of the corner of his eyes. Sparing the redhead a glance, he raised an eyebrow.


Something flickered in the swimmer's for a moment, a spark of something that Alan couldn't identify. But then it was gone and Gordon smiled, reaching out to ruffle his hair. "Nothin'."

His brother turned away with his usual energy, but something about Gordon's earlier hesitance compelled him to press the matter. Reaching out to snag the man's arm – almost overturning the hammock in the process – he successfully halted Gordon's retreat.

"No, seriously, what is it?"

Gordon regarded him silently for one moment, then released a small sigh of resignation and shrugged, smiling in a manner that was lacking in its usual cheeky confidence that it could almost be classified as sheepish.

"I'm just kinda gutted that we don't get to spend more time with each other," he admitted, scuffing his bare foot along the decking and shrugging again in an attempt to make the statement seem more casual and less...sentimental. "Ya know, the whole point of you coming home was so that you could hang out with us for the weekend. That kinda failed, huh?"

Alan echoed Gordon's gentle laugh and nodded softly, tracing his fingers along the edge of the hammock. "Yeah, kinda."

"You really gotta stop getting sick like this, kid," Gordon persisted and, judging by the uncharacteristically serious gaze that locked with his own, Alan suspected that they were now getting to the heart of the matter. "I mean it. Last year was bad enough, but we really don't want an annual repetition. Can't you settle for something simple, like a cold?"

"Nah," Alan joked, waving away the comment and crossing his arms over his chest as he began to swing again. "Where would be the fun in that? I like going for the deadly and unusually bizarre viruses."

Gordon's brow furrowed. "Alan."

"Dude, c'mon, it's not like I have a say in what bugs I get," the blond protested, peering up at his brother's still wet face and cracking a half-smile.

"I know, but...just try and not get them in the first place, okay? Eat lots of vitamin C, drink plenty of fluids, enjoy the sunshine-"

Alan laughed. "Gordon, are you actually giving me a health lecture here?"

"Yes...No." The aquanaut cleared his throat. "Maybe."

The teenager grinned. "That's cute, Gords."

Gordon's mouth fell open. "Did you just-"

A tinkling chime echoed across the pool area, interrupting the redhead mid-sentence. Alan sat up quickly and swung his legs over the side of the hammock, standing to his feet and smirking as Gordon's attention shifted to the main villa entrance. Now faced with the exciting prospect of dinner, their previous conversation had been completely and utterly forgotten. Well, that worked for Alan.

Exhaling a sigh of relief, he turned to follow his brother across the decking and towards the house.

"Saved by the bell."

Only one more chapter left now, my lovelies. Out next week. Stay tuned!

Review, s'il vous plait. :)