Chapter 21

Alan's attempt at staying calm failed abysmally.

He sent Jeff the scan picture and waited for several minutes before making contact. Jeff was watching the ocean from a recliner chair on his balcony and answered the call on the same personal view screen that he had been using to speak to John earlier in the day. He greeted his son with a soft smile and a quietly uttered 'Hello, Alan'.

Alan managed the briefest of nods in reply and then burst into tears. "I don't want to be here," he wailed. "I just want to come home. Please, please, let me come home."

Jeff looked at Alan in dismay and gently stroked his finger across the part of the screen showing Alan's face. "Alan," he murmured. "Alan, please. You don't need to get upset. If you calm down and look at me we can have a proper talk about all this. You're not a prisoner up there, you can come down any time you like, you just need to ask John and he'll bring you down."

Alan shook his head. "No," he croaked. "No, he won't. He won't bring me down. He can't. Thunderbird 5 needs to be manned. He can't leave it empty."

"He can and he will," Jeff replied softly. "I've already spoken to him and he's agreed to bring you down whenever you decide it's time to come back. Thunderbird 5 will be fine on automatic for a while, just like she is when the pair of you are down here for the holidays. The computer in Brains' lab will filter the incoming transmissions like it usually does when Five's empty and we can always improvise some sort of rota to monitor it if John chooses to stay down here for a while. There are ways around everything, Alan and you've got enough on your plate at the moment without worrying about Thunderbird 5."

Alan shrugged. "I have to worry about her," he whispered. "She's a big part of my life and she keeps me safe and warm and…um…aerated." Alan chuckled softly and then frowned. "Seriously though, what's going to happen with that in the future? Tin's not going to want me up here for weeks on end if she's down there with the baby and I'm going to miss out on seeing him growing up if I'm not down there. John can't stay up here indefinitely and apart from me and him no-one knows how to keep things running up here."

"I know and it's something that's still pending on my list of 'things to work out going forwards'. I certainly won't be sending you up there for long periods as it wouldn't be fair on you, Tin-Tin or the baby." Jeff smiled at his son. "Thank you for the picture, by the way. John mentioned that you'd been in touch with Tin-Tin and that she'd sent it to you."

Alan nodded. "We've been keeping an eye on her. So we can see that she's okay and…stuff. The doctors said that she's fine and that the baby looks good and healthy. Tin's heard his heartbeat too; she says it's fast."

"Oh they are, Alan, really fast," Jeff smiled as he looked back in his mind. "I remember watching Scott's heart fluttering away on the screen and wondering how such a tiny little heart could beat so fast. It's something I'll never forget."

"I didn't get to see it or hear it. I wasn't allowed to go or to support Tin-Tin or…anything." Alan looked away from his watch and blinked hard. "Sorry. It's just…"

Jeff tilted his head to one side and smiled sadly. "It's hard. I understand that and while I managed to accompany your mother to a few of her antenatal appointments I missed most of them so I do, at least partly, know what you're feeling. It's incredibly hard, being separated from the woman you love and the children you've borne together and that's exactly why you won't be spending week after week on Thunderbird 5. As I said before, I haven't worked out exactly what will happen in respect to covering Five but you won't be doing it."

Alan rubbed his eyes and looked back at his watch. "Thank you; and yes, it is hard. Harder than I could have imagined it to be." He paused and shook his head. "Not that I could possibly have dreamt up any of this mess. Nothing about it has turned out anything like I'd have planned."

"I don't supposed it has," Jeff replied. "Babies don't necessarily come along when you're ready for them to, your eldest brother is proof of that. They excel at upsetting the balance of the most well-ordered of lives and they cost a small fortune to raise but no matter how much chaos they cause, Alan, and no matter how much disturbance they create, they're so, so worth it. When that little person is handed to you for the first time…" He sighed softly. "It's not something I can truly put into words; it's amazing, mind-blowing, stupefying and terrifying, all wrapped into one. It never diminishes, never fades and no matter how many times you go through it that feeling is just as strong." The sparkle faded from Jeff's eyes, he let out a shuddery breath, cleared his throat and then rubbed his hands on his arms as if he'd received a sudden chill. "I…um…my turn to apologise, I guess. I'm trying to avoid thinking about…that…just after you..." Jeff shrugged helplessly. "You know."

Alan nodded slowly. "Do you want me to get Gordy for you? He said he'd be somewhere nearby…just in case this didn't go well. I'm not quite sure who he was going to be there for, you or me but he's there somewhere if you want him."

Jeff shook his head. "Leave him be. I'll track him down once we're done out here…unless we're already done? You've had a moment, I've had a moment and we've agreed you can come home whenever you want. I'm working on Kyrano for you but I'm not getting very far in that respect. It's going to take time and patience but he will come round and when he does I'll send someone to bring both him and Tin-Tin home again. Okay?"

"Okay," Alan murmured. "…and Dad, thanks. I know this can't be easy for you and I know I'm probably not making it any easier being…um…me but I am sorry. I'm sorry for upsetting you, for disappointing Kyrano, for stealing Three and I'm really, really sorry for crashing your plane. I know that John told everyone to keep quiet about it but I saw the plane on the monitors and worked it out for myself. I've apologised to Gordon already and now I've apologised to you. If there's anything I can do to…um…try and make some way..."

Jeff shook his head again. "Just staying safe and well would be amends enough for me. That and trying your absolute hardest not to do it again; I'm not sure my heart would survive another shock like that and I'd imagine Gordon may well feel the same."

Alan nodded. "He said something similar, yes. I…um…I think I'm done for now. I'm going to find John, see if he'll make me some cocoa and then I'm going to turn in for the night. If Tin's not there then there's not much point me coming down yet. I'll…um…I might play the next couple of days by ear…see what happens. Okay? I might be down tomorrow or…I might not. I don't know yet but I'm happier now I've spoken to you and that's…um…good. Do you get me?"

Jeff rolled his eyes at his son. "Strangely I do, seeing as how there wasn't a proper sentence at the end of all that. I get you and I understand. If you want to come tomorrow then come tomorrow. If you want to wait a few days then…do so, just…stay safe, stay in touch…oh, and try not to drive your brother completely out of his mind while you're up there."

Alan grinned at the smile Jeff gave him and nodded briefly before he closed down the connection. He flopped backwards on the bed, let out a deep cleansing breath and then lay still, looking at the ceiling while he replayed the evening's conversations in his head. Eventually, after several minutes, he shook his head, clambered from his bed and went off in search of John.

Jeff also remained stationary once Alan had cut the connection. He stared out at the ocean, breathing in deep, cleansing breaths of cool, salty air and when he felt completely calm he went off in search of Gordon.

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