John fell asleep in the control room and only woke when Jeff called him, just before dinner. "Father, hi," John blinked blearily at his watch. "What time is it?"
"It's just before six pm." Jeff cocked his head to one side and studied his son. "It's not like you to nap during the day, John, is everything alright up there?"
John leaned over and fiddled with the console until he could see that Alan was still in bed. He then stretched, scrubbed his fingers through his hair, rubbed his face and groaned. "Not really, no. Alan tried to leave, discovered he couldn't and kind of…lost it." John shook his head and frowned. "Actually that's not strictly true; he'd lost it before then, it's just that not being able to get through the air lock was what finished him off." John sagged in his chair as he massaged the bridge of his nose between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. "Sorry, it's just…not been the best of days."
Jeff reached into one of the drawers of the desk and pulled out a small, personal view screen. He switched it on, swapped the feed from Thunderbird 5 onto it and closed down John's main portrait. "It's just you and me now. Your portrait's off so you won't be overheard. Talk to me, John, tell me what's been going on."
John explained that he and Alan had been in touch with Tin-Tin the night before and how this had left Alan in a peculiar, and aggravating, mood the next morning. He told Jeff how excited Alan had been when he'd received the scan picture from Tin-Tin and then went on to describe how he had left Alan alone in the control room so that he could call Tin-Tin in private.
"He came out of there like he had a pack of hell hounds on his tail, Father and he went straight for Thunderbird 3. I disabled his access codes the other morning so he was never going to manage to get in but I don't think he realised it until he couldn't get the door to work." John glanced at the cream-coloured dot that represented his brother. "I didn't get a huge amount of sense out of him because he'd exhausted himself fighting with me and he was still upset. The gist of it seemed to be that Tin-Tin's getting stressed about the fact that she's let Kyrano down and that he's disappointed in her. I don't know all the details but Alan said that Kyrano was giving her a hard time and that she doesn't want to stay in Kansas. She just wants to go home, for Alan to go home and for the pair of them to be together."
Jeff sighed softly. "Alan can come home whenever he wants to. The only stipulation I have is that you bring him down and that you don't let him out of your sight until Thunderbird 3 is in some way disabled so we can't have a repeat performance of the other evening."
"So he'll still be stuck on the island then?" John asked quietly and then sighed when Jeff nodded.
"He has to be," Jeff replied sadly. "…or he'll be in Kansas before any of us can so much as blink."
John shook his head in exasperation. "That's the whole point. He wants…no, not wants, he needs to be with Tin-Tin. If she's not there," John pointed at Jeff, "…then he needs to be..." John held his finger out again and jabbed it towards the floor in the corner of the room. "…there. You can't keep them apart, Father; it's not fair, it's not right and...I'm not sure it's humane."
Jeff held a hand up to the screen. "John stop, please stop and just listen a minute. This might not make a lot of sense but listen anyway. Alan and Tin-Tin, they've been separated, yes, but not because…not because I…we…not because we want them apart." Jeff shook his head. "Sorry, I warned you it might not make sense. They're not being kept apart because we don't want them together; they're being kept apart so that A – Tin-Tin can get the specialised healthcare that we can't provide on the island, B – so that Kyrano can get a handle on everything that's happened and C – so that he can make his peace with Tin-Tin which he'll stand absolutely no chance of doing if Alan's anywhere nearby."
"A is no reason to keep them apart and is denying Alan his rights as a father who just wants to look after his family, I'll let you have B but I'm not sure I can accept C if this afternoon's breakdown was anything to go by. Kyrano's not making his peace with Tin-Tin at the moment and won't be able to until he's got everything straight in his head. In the meantime he just seems to be stressing her out and that's the last thing she needs right now." John glanced at his screen when he noticed that Alan's cream coloured dot was moving. The dot wandered out of the bedroom, down the corridor, into the bathroom and then stopped again. "Alan's awake."
Jeff nodded. "Understood. But John, before he appears, I want to make sure you understand what I was trying to say. Kyrano's struggling, badly, with everything that's going on. The whole situation conflicts with the values that he strives to uphold and Alan turning up there would undoubtedly compound the problem further. The separation won't be forever, just for…a while."
"I'll talk to Alan," John murmured. "…and I'll try to explain. He's not going to be happy though."
Jeff shook his head. "No, he won't. Tell him…tell him that I'll be calling Kyrano again tonight. Tell him I can't promise it'll help but I'll call Kyrano and I'll try to gauge where his head is at. I'll also try to find out whether Tin-Tin is even able to come home at the moment. She may need to stay close to the hospital or they may have imposed travel restrictions on her in which case she might not be allowed back home for some time."
John nodded thoughtfully and watched as Alan's dot approached the control room. "Alan'll be here in a second, Father so I'm going to have to go. I'll talk to him and I'll tell him that you'll be in touch; with me if not with him."
Alan wandered into the control room and glanced over at the computer screen. "Have you been watching me?"
John chuckled. "Only for a couple of minutes. I was sleeping before that, the same as you. It seems our impromptu roughhousing session earlier took a lot out of both of us."
Alan's cheeks flushed red and he found himself unable to meet John's gaze. "Yeah, about that. I…I'm sorry. I must have looked kind of…nuts."
"No more than usual," John replied with a smile. "No more than usual."
Alan smiled sheepishly and leaned over to centre the screen on Tin-Tin. "She's still in bed."
John peered at the screen and nodded. "If she was anything like as upset as you were then bed's probably the best place for her. You seem calmer now you've had a nap and hopefully she'll be the same." John studied his brother for a moment. "No hard feelings? About locking you in, I mean?"
"No," Alan replied. "I can understand why you wouldn't want me making off with Three…at least I can now I'm thinking straight. I'm not exactly sure where I thought I was going to land her in Kansas but I'm sure she wouldn't have been in any fit state to come back up here after I'd tried."
John shook his head. "No, I don't think she would have. She lands at home, Alan, you know that. She lands at home or, at a push, at one of the bigger WASA sites. She will not…ever…attempt to land in a cornfield; be that one in Kansas or anywhere else for that matter. You got that?"
Alan grinned. "Yes, sir, I understand. No cornfield landings for the big, red rocket." The grin slipped as Alan looked at his brother. "I wouldn't be welcome, even if I did make it to Kansas. I deflowered Kyrano's only daughter and he's going to hate me forever."
"Deflowered?" John repeated. "Well, that's an...out-dated way of putting it and 'hate' is a very harsh word, especially when used in regards to Kyrano. He's upset and aggrieved but I'm not sure he actually has it in his heart to hate anyone or anything. He'll come round eventually, he just needs some time. Father's going to call him again tonight and said that he'll subtly try to evaluate Kyrano's state of mind while he's talking to him. He also said to tell you that he'll try and find out if there's any medical reason that Tin-Tin has to stay in Kansas or if she'll be able to go home once Kyrano agrees to it."
Alan nodded slowly. "I got the impression that it was Kyrano keeping them there but…" Alan frowned and looked worried. "…we sort of got side-tracked and upset and...everything so I don't suppose we really finished the conversation. I know that Peanut's got a strong heartbeat and that Tin-Tin's heard it and the doctor says he's fine. Tin didn't say anything about her blood tests or anything today but yesterday she said that she didn't really feel any different to normal so she's not feeling bad or sick or…anything."
"Well hopefully that's a good sign. With any luck Father'll find out that Tin-Tin's results are all fine and Kyrano will calm down enough that he'll let her go home soon." John paused and smiled at his brother. "You're calling him Peanut?"
Alan began to look sheepish again. "I'm calling him 'him' as well but that's Tin's fault, not mine. She doesn't know what he is and doesn't want to call him 'it' so she's calling him 'him' and I'm calling him Peanut 'cos he kind of looks like one."
"Fair enough. Peanut it is." John shrugged and then chuckled. "You probably ought to know that he'll hate it by the time he hits his teens though. It's a bit of a 'rad' and 'out there' sort of a name."
Alan pulled his head back and looked quizzically at his brother. "What are you…eh? Oh…" Alan laughed and reached over the punch John's arm. "He won't be Peanut forever. I guess he'll be…he'll be…um…I don't know what he'll be. That's a girl thing, isn't it, naming babies? I thought they all had some sort of preselected list of names that they picked out like forever ago?"
John snorted loudly. "I have absolutely no idea, you'll have to ask Tin-Tin the next time you speak to her."
Alan shrugged. "I might, I'll see how things go; if she's still feeling okay and…stuff."
John made dinner for himself and Alan and the pair ate it sitting in at the table in Thunderbird 5's kitchen area. Alan cleared up after they'd finished eating and then followed John back to the control room where the older Tracy proceeded to thoroughly beat him in several fast-paced chess battles.
After his third successive defeat, Alan gave up. "Do you think Dad's spoken to Kyrano yet?"
John glanced at his watch and let out a non-committal noise. "He hasn't called to speak to us so he either doesn't know anything, hasn't spoken to Kyrano or the call didn't go well. Why don't you call Tin-Tin and check she's okay after the fuss this afternoon."
Alan nodded and wandered away in the direction of his bedroom.
Alan lay on his bed, pinged Tin-Tin's watch and then waited for her to reply. There was a short delay before Tin-Tin answered and it was immediately obvious when she did that she was curled up in bed. "Hi," he whispered. "I didn't wake you, did I?"
Tin-Tin shook her head against her pillow. "I was just dozing. I fell asleep after we'd…um…after I spoke to you earlier and I didn't feel like going down for dinner so I've just sort of mooched around in here. I had a look through the boxes in the closet and got a couple of books out to read and I found this little guy." Tin-Tin reached beneath the bedcovers and held up a well-worn toy dog with black and white fur. "Is he yours?"
"Hey, you found Bipper," Alan exclaimed. "I often wondered what happened to him."
Tin-Tin curled her hand around the dog and cuddled him to her chest. "He's been keeping me company this afternoon, I hope you don't mind. It's very quiet without all of you here and I needed someone to…well, someone to talk to, if you know what I mean."
Alan nodded. "I understand and I don't mind. He can look after you while I'm not there and Peanut can have him once you're back home." Alan sighed softly. "I wish I could be there with you, Tin 'cos I'm not properly in the loop up here. I know you told me that the baby's okay but I don't know what the doctors said about you. Would they even let you go home at the moment?"
Tin-Tin gazed at Alan for a moment and then nodded. "Doctor Sumner says that I'm a picture of health and that he's very pleased with me." She stopped and giggled quietly. "The nurse who did the scan today was funny. She said that she doesn't know how I cope at home, surrounded by so much testosterone."
Alan grinned. "Yeah, I guess it can be a bit like that at times. You seem to cope though."
"It's pretty much all I've ever known so I don't really think about it." Tin-Tin leaned down, rubbed her nose against Bipper's head and sighed. "So to answer your question, yes I can fly, if I want to but what I want doesn't stand for much when Father says I've got to stay here."
Alan screwed his nose up at this. "I don't suppose you know if Dad's spoken to him today? John said that Dad was going to call him but I don't know if he's managed it yet."
Tin-Tin shrugged. "I don't know but I heard Father talking a while ago so he may have done. How is Mr Tracy coping with…everything?"
"I haven't spoken to him," Alan admitted. "Not since…um…not since before I came up here. John's spoken to him; he's spoken to him loads but he…he's always been good about keeping in touch." Alan sighed. "Dad knows that most of what he says to John will get through to me so he's sort of using John as a relay post and I guess I'm kind of doing the same back to him." Alan sighed again. "I should talk to him in person really but I just can't quite bring myself to make the call. It's not that I'm scared of him, I mean, it's Dad, that'd be stupid. It's more…not knowing if I'm going to get anger, fear, disappointment or just plain nothing at all. I know he wants to speak to me and I know he wants to apologise for the other day but it's just…it's just…" Alan threw his hands in the air in an exaggerated shrug. "Oh, I don't know, it's just weird."
Tin-Tin gave Alan a sad smile. "It's definitely that. Have you spoken to any of the others? Scott or Virgil maybe?"
Alan shook his head. "No. I don't know what to say to them. Scott's too much like Dad and I don't want to see the look on his face that says I've let him down. Virgil'll be pissed that I broke Dad's plane and Gordon…" Alan shuddered. "I know he's 'Gordy the Invincible' and that he'll try and laugh it off but…How can I face him knowing that I nearly killed him?"
"Gordon has a big heart," Tin-Tin replied softly. "…and an unfathomable ability to forgive. He doesn't hold grudges, will do anything for an easy life and, most importantly, he loves you. You didn't mean for…whatever it was, to happen. You didn't mean to almost kill him and he knows that. You're his only little brother, Alan and he's probably missing you like crazy."
A tear slid down Alan's face as he nodded. "I miss him too. Gordy and you…you're like the buffers between me, the big kids, Dad, Grandma and the whole outside world. If I want a hug I can get one, if I want to moan I can moan, if…if…" Alan struggled to think of another example and eventually plumped with, "…if I want to pitch an all-out childish hissy fit then I can and the pair of you will just roll with it. John's doing his best but I know I'm bugging him and I…I'm not explaining myself very well but you…both of you…I need you."
Tin-Tin stroked the tip of one fingernail down Alan's face on her watch. "And we need you. Both of…" Tin-Tin looked at her stomach and giggled. "…the three of us need you. We need you to stay well and to look after yourself and to…to…to just be you. Don't ever change, Alan. Just be yourself and the three of us will love you forever."
Alan sniffed loudly and nodded. "I need to talk to Gordon. I'll call you tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay." Tin-Tin smiled sweetly at him. "Take care of yourself and I'll speak to you tomorrow."