Jeff's call interrupted John and Alan in the middle of eating their dinner and as such was far less formal than it would have been if the boys had been sitting in the control room. John routed the camera feed from the island into the audio-visual unit in Thunderbird 5's kitchen area so that Jeff could see both him and Alan as they sat opposite each other at the table which had been bolted to the floor in the centre of the room.
Jeff went to the kitchen and poured himself a mug of coffee to drink while the boys were eating. Alan sat silently and ploughed through his food without looking up at his father and John took the time to finish his dinner before finally pushing his chair away from the table and reclining it slightly. "Look, Father," he began. "I want to apologise for earlier. I was out of line and I'm sorry."
"It's me that should be apologising," Jeff replied quietly. "...to both of you. Alan…Alan could you look at me please?"
Alan hunched further forwards and stared down at the table.
"Maybe later," John murmured quietly as he leaned across the table and squeezed Alan's shoulder. "Eh?" He felt Alan shrug beneath his hand and nodded his support. "You're safe up here, Al. I'll never let anything happen to you, you know that, don't you?"
Alan nodded minutely and reached up to grip John's arm. "Need to go," he squeaked. "Need. To. Go."
John nodded understandingly. "Go then," he replied. "I'll come and find you once he's gone. Okay?"
"Okay," Alan squeezed John's arm and then stood up and hugged him tightly. "…and thanks."
John nodded and watched as Alan left the room without once looking up at their father. He sighed loudly and turned back to the screen where Jeff sat with a devastated look upon his face. "He'll come round, Father. It'll take some time but he will come round."
"I know," Jeff responded sadly. "…but he shouldn't have to. I should have kept him safer. I should have made sure he wasn't put in a position where this could have happened. I should have…"
John held his hand up to stop Jeff's flow of words. "Father, stop. You're getting yourself worked up again and I'll be forced to call Grandma if you don't calm down. You won't do anyone any good by getting stressed and upset and there's absolutely no way Alan's going to come round if you're anything but calm." John dropped his hand and raised an eyebrow. "Have you finished?"
Jeff let out a loud chuff of laughter and held his hand up in defeat. "I'm done…and point taken although I have to say that threatening me with Grandma was a dirty tactic." Jeff fell quiet and looked past John towards the door which Alan had fled through. "How has he been today, John? Truthfully, please. Has he been that closed down since he arrived or was that…" Jeff waved at the door, "…was that a reaction to me?"
John pressed his lips tightly together and looked at the ceiling as if seeking some sort of divine answer. After a moment he leaned sideways and brought up a screen which showed him that Alan had gone to ground in his bedroom. "Honestly?" He looked at Jeff who nodded. "Honestly, he's been fairly quiet since he got up. He was a bit tearful first thing and he's been clingy all day but that, just then, I have to say that was mostly a reaction to you." John struggled to look at Jeff as he spoke. "I'm sorry, Father but you said you wanted the truth."
Jeff sighed loudly as he nodded. "I know. I just don't know what to do with him. I can't apologise if he won't speak to me, I can't get to him while he's up there and…" Jeff threw his hands in the air as he shrugged. "This isn't something I've had any practice with. It's new, uncharted territory and I have absolutely no idea what to do."
"I know you don't and I understand that." John spoke softly but Jeff could hear him clearly in the quiet lounge. "The first thing you need to do though, and this is going to be my number one point in absolutely anything you ask me in the next few days, is to stay calm. No hand waving, no raised voices, nothing of any sort that's going to upset Alan in any way…and that includes not telling him about what happened to Gordon. I know it was his fault but he wasn't in his right mind, Father. He was so out of it when he got here that I had to remote pilot Three in and dock her myself. When I opened her up I found Alan inside, in floods of tears and barely able to string three words together. I had no luck getting any sense out of him whatsoever so let him put himself to bed in the hope that he'd be more like himself when he got up. When he did he wasn't completely normal in any sense of the word but he was awake and aware enough to tell me at least some of what had gone on the day before." John shrugged. "Just…don't tell him about Gordon, okay?"
Jeff nodded. "Okay," he replied. "No telling him about Gordon. I'll warn the others as well but I'm not sure how happy Gordon himself will be about it."
John shrugged. "I'll talk to Gordon," he promised. "I spoke to him last night, just after he got back and it was him who told me what had happened in the first place." He checked the screen and sighed when he saw that that Alan was still in his room. "Have you heard from Kyrano at all? Al's worried about Tin-Tin, he doesn't know what's happening with the baby and unless someone down there tells him something, he's got no way of finding out what's going on. I can say for sure that the lack of useful info would be killing me…if I'd found myself in his position. You can grouch about him for being irresponsible and for not taking precautions all you like, but you can't dispute the fact that he loves that girl with all his heart. He'd give his life for Tin-Tin in a heartbeat and…sorry, to point it out, but you've split them up exactly when they need each other the most."
"I know," Jeff sighed sadly. "…and I realise that now. Kyrano and I, we…we panicked, John. Tin-Tin didn't want to leave. She didn't want to leave at all but Kyrano was distraught and needed to get away from the island, away from Alan and, I suppose, away from the broken promises that both Alan and Tin-Tin had made. He was upset, disappointed and worried about his daughter, he guessed what the news would do to me and…" Jeff shrugged. "…he needed to go."
John stared at the immobile dot on the screen that showed Alan's location. "If you hear anything; anything at all then you let me know, okay? You let me know then I can tell Alan. No matter what it is, good, bad, anything, you tell me and not him. Agreed?"
Jeff looked down at his desk top and nodded dejectedly. "Agreed."
Jeff remained in his chair long after his call to John had been completed. After sitting there for some time he sighed deeply and leant down to pull a bottle of scotch and a tumbler out of the bottom drawer of the desk. He poured a generous amount of scotch into the glass, took a sip and then gathered up both the bottle and glass and let himself out of the sliding patio doors
He wandered slowly down onto the beach and stopped at the edge of the ocean where he stood, silently until Scott came looking for him.
"I hope you're not planning on walking into the ocean," Scott murmured as he stopped beside his father. "…'cos we'd miss you, you know?"
"Four of you maybe," Jeff said softly as he bent down to pick the Scotch up from where it was sat by his feet and handed it to Scott. "I think the fifth would rejoice in my…missingness right about now."
Scott held the bottle up towards the setting sun and frowned at him. "How much of this have you had?"
Jeff smiled sadly and held up his glass. "About an eighth of an inch. I've been nursing it rather than drinking it. I've been standing here trying to work out where I went wrong with Alan…why he's so different from the rest of you…"
Scott winced and unstoppered the Scotch. He put the bottle to his lips and took small mouthful of drink which he savoured for a moment before lowering the bottle and pointing it at Jeff. "You know the answer to that," he murmured. "…and it's why you lost it so spectacularly when you found out about the baby." Scott took another swig of Scotch and then carefully replaced the top. "Alan may have been raised with us and by us but he wasn't raised the same as us. There's no way he ever could have been; you know that and you know why."
Jeff swirled the Scotch around in his glass and watched as the light reflected off the amber liquid. He remained silent for several moments and then lifted the glass to his lips, downed the drink in one and set off up the beach with Scott following closely behind him.