What happens when Virgil's need for everything to be put away in its proper place collides head on with Alan's more casual idea of what constitutes an orderly environment?

This story was written in response to the 2004 Tracy Island Writers Forum's Fic Swap Challenge

The bleary-eyed and disheveled figure loomed large in the doorway, nearly filling its dimensions entirely. Its gaping jaw opened just short of its full capacity as a slender fingered appendage rose to stifle the remnants of an all too brief hibernation. The only light was the fine thread of silver streaking through a tiny slit in the window dressing, its angle indicative of the full moon rising.

The lone figure surveyed its surroundings, raising its head as if to sniff the air for any signs of intruders in the area. It extended a wary foot forward, testing the waters. As it stepped forward, oh so carefully...


At this grating sound of distress from out in the hallway, four bedroom doors swung open, almost simultaneously. The sight on the floor that greeted them was perplexing to be sure. None of them had any idea that their brother could do such a talented impression of a pretzel. The known insomniac of the group was the first to speak.

"Jesus, Virg! What happened? Are you okay?"

"Dammit! Goddammit, Scott! I'm gonna kill him, I swear!"

"Kill who? What the hell's going on, Virgil?" The patriarch, a vision in a velvet and satin smoking jacket, boomed throughout the corridor.

"Uh, sorry, Father. I just, um, tripped over Alan's latest booby trap."

The blonde's indignation was immediately apparent.

"Booby trap! What are you talking about? It's not my fault you don't watch where you're going. You should be more careful." Virgil stared at him, incredulous.

"Careful? I should be more...Alan, it's a crankshaft! What the hell is a crankshaft doing outside my bedroom door?

"Oh, that."

Virgil rolled his eyes. "Yeah, that."

"I brought it in so I could use the micro scanner to find any cracks or imperfections in it before I installed it into the kit Roadster I'm building," Alan explained. "I must have gotten distracted when Tin-Tin came by to, er, say goodnight." He at least had the courtesy to blush slightly. What he didn't notice was the deep shade of crimson now gracing Virgil's features, not to mention his labored breathing. It was obvious that he was trying to maintain some semblance of control over his emotions. Everyone else, however, did notice.

While the reputation of the second eldest Tracy had always been to have the calmest of demeanors and the steadfastness of a rock, it was also known that when properly provoked, he could explode with the fierceness of a nuclear detonation. And more often than not, youngest brother Alan was the one at ground zero.

Scott eyed Virgil warily because of all the Tracy siblings, he was best able to recognize the warning signs of imminent disaster where his closest brother was concerned.

"Uh, Alan..."

"...And you know what, Virg? Just because you're so anal about keeping organized, don't expect everyone else to be so manic about it. Some of us have more important things..."

Scott tried once again, in earnest. "Alan!"

"...and don't you try to make excuses for him, Scott. I'm sick of Mr. Everything in its place constantly trying to impose his rules on everyone else. Just who do you think you are anyway, Virg?"

At this point, even their father had had enough.

"Alright, Alan. I don't want to hear any more. Virgil has a point, he could have been injured and then we'd be down one pilot. You could have affected the whole operation."

Virgil spun immediately on Jeff. "Operation? OPERATION?? That's not the point, Father. He's irresponsible and he just doesn't care. Any one of us could have tripped and been injured because of his carelessness."

"Okay, Virgil, you've had your say. Now, Alan, I want you to take that part and put it... back in the workshop where it belongs, and Virgil?"

"Yes, Dad?"

"Go back to bed."

Two eyes, the color of burnt honey, narrowed as a forehead creased, heavily.

"What? That's it? Alan almost causes me to break my neck and that's all you have to say about it? Maybe you'd like it if I'd cracked my skull instead? If I had done something that stupid, you would have kicked my ass but good."

"That's enough, Virgil. Now, it's late and I don't want to hear any more about this. Alan's going to be more careful in the future." He paused to shoot Alan a look that would penetrate titanium. "After all, there was really no harm done."

For Virgil, that was the proverbial last straw.

"No-no harm done?"

By this time, Brains and Tin-Tin had come up from the lab, where they were working late on some notations, to join the assemblage.

Tin-Tin glanced down at the dignity compromised Tracy on the floor, then up at Alan.

"Okay you two, what happened?" she asked expectantly.

"V-Virgil, are you all, uh, right?" Brains asked the heap on the floor.

Virgil finally stood up and hastily brushed himself off. "Yeah, no thanks to the brat."

Tin-Tin turned to the man she had left just an hour ago. "Alan, what did you do?"

"Me? Why does everyone always assume that I've done something?" Six voices chimed in together.


After issuing a forewarning scowl to the assembled parties, Alan swung on his random victim.

"Okay, fine! I can see that I'm out numbered here."

"Look, Alan, cut the crap. Everyone knows that you don't give a damn about how you leave things."

"Well, if you weren't such a clumsy ox..."

After taking one look at Virgil's face, Gordon chimed in. "Uh, Al, maybe you should..."

"Should what? Let him stand there and blame me because he tripped over his own big feet? He's got all the grace of a grizzly bear. I don't see why I'm always the one getting blamed."

The incessant diatribe spouting from between Alan's lips did nothing to alleviate the tension in the air. As Virgil began to recall in his memory all of the times that he had found himself in just this type of situation, his anger only escalated. Years of dealing with his youngest brother's carelessness began to bubble up inside of him like a pressure cooker on a too-hot stove. There were times, he remembered, after their mother had died, when they'd had to share the same room due to there being only a modicum of space available. Trying to navigate through the veritable plethora of discarded items littering the floor proved to be a problem. For at times, not a single square inch of carpet was visible.

If he himself had tried to tidy things up, he would return later only to find that the same items had once again scattered themselves about the room. His efforts were futile to be sure. He thought about what it had taken to keep on an even keel about the situation during those times. More than once, he'd had to remind himself that their arrangement was only temporary. It was when they had moved to the island and started International Rescue though, that the ramifications of Alan's carelessness had become clear.

Whenever duty called and they were on the scene of some major disaster, his little brother could be counted on to be just as responsible and safe as any of his elder siblings. However, down in the maintenance bay, in the kitchen and just about anywhere else was a different matter when he was off duty. That whole incident a few weeks ago involving The Mole and a load of quick bonding compound left a mess that he was still scraping off the ceiling. Alan just didn't seem to understand the virtues of cleaning up after himself.

Virgil sometimes wondered about the former racer's hobbies and why he couldn't seem to keep them separate from the workplace. He was always finding discarded tools lying about, not to mention unrecognizable stains on the hangar floor. In the past he had tried to let it slide because the reality was that Alan was a hard worker and a definite asset to IR. But, the clutter he left behind was becoming harder and harder to overlook. Not that Gordon didn't also have his moments, but he surmised that Alan must have majored in general disarray.

A place for everything and everything in its place. That was one of his grandmother's favorite sayings from when she was a girl. Virgil had always thought of his grandmother as a saint, having to put up with the shenanigans of five growing and very rambunctious boys...including Alan. He didn't know how she had done it and decided it was only due to Scott's intervention, taking over some of the family responsibilities in their father's absence, that got her through it all without having a stroke. They could all be a handful, but Alan...he was a real piece of work.

"...And you know what else...?"

'Good God, would he ever shut up?'

Virgil had begun to seethe. The alarm on Scott's face should have given Alan ample warning of the ensuing melt down, had he been paying attention to anything but the sound of his own voice.

By now disgusted, Jeff retired to the confines of his study and decided to let the boys work it out amongst themselves. After all, the sleeping rooms were soundproofed and they were all adults, right? Well, one would certainly have thought, but Alan and Virgil were disparate forces akin to identical poles of a magnet, repelling each other. They mixed together like oil and water, with Virgil determined to be the one floating on top. It was a situation that had existed practically since Alan had become a toddler.

Meanwhile, Scott and Gordon had dragged Virgil back into his room and locked the door so he couldn't get out. They tried to placate him by telling him that they would devise the mother of all practical jokes in order to wreak revenge upon the unrepentant baby of the family. It seemed to work...they thought.

Forty-eight hours later found Gordon and the afore affronted Tracy entertaining themselves in the private cinema room located downstairs from the lounge and just off the rec room. They'd been watching a classic; an old animated flick, one of those that used marionettes to play the characters. It was an art form that wasn't used very often any more because of the degree of difficulty and the expense involved in creating an entire world that was only about 1/3 the size of a human's.

Alan arrived with Tin-Tin about 30 minutes into the movie. As usual, he wanted to know what parts he'd missed. Virgil rolled his eyes. "Just watch the beginning later, Alan. But, for right now just shut up so we can hear." Alan pouted, but didn't respond. It was about half way through the film that the emergency klaxon sounded.

"Damn, just at the good part!" Gordon sighed.

"You can always watch it later," Alan mocked.

They both shot him an admonishing look, but let the comment go for now. Tin-Tin just shook her head, wondering if he would ever grow up. Virgil turned and ran back up the aisle until his foot went thunkas it landed smack dab in Alan's discarded popcorn bucket. It had, of course, been set on the floor instead of in its proper place in the holder. Try as he might, he just couldn't get the damned thing off his foot. Seeing his dilemma, and stifling a grin, Gordon did his best to help his older brother out of his absurd predicament. As he gave one last tug on it, the bucket suddenly released itself, sending Gordon flying into the cheap seats.

"You okay, Gordo?"

"Oh, couldn't be better," came the cynical reply.

"Where's that bucket?" Virgil asked.

"Right here, why?"

Virgil's only answer was to pick it up and hurry out of the theater.

As they entered the lounge, everyone else was already assembled.

"Glad you could join us, boys. Hope we didn't take you away from anything important."

Jeff eyed them disapprovingly, waiting for an explanation for their slow response to the alarm. Virgil didn't even hesitate. With a determined look in his eye, he stalked across the lounge, popcorn receptacle in hand. Alan's eyes widened as his elder brother lifted the bucket and plopped it unceremoniously down on his head with an audible thud. He then turned on his heel and took his place on the couch beside Scott.

"Mpfff! He-Hey! What are you doing, you idiot?"

"Hoping a butter and salt beauty pack will teach you not to leave things where other people can step into them."

Jeff intervened. "That's enough!" His voice reverberated throughout the lounge, causing everyone to involuntarily flinch.

"I don't know what the beef is between you two, but you'd better cook it up and eat it. I'll have none of this foolishness going on during a mission! Is that understood?"

"But it wasn't...!"

Jeff shot Alan a silencing look that would shut down an active volcano in mid eruption. He opened his mouth in a wordless reply, but just sighed instead.

"Yes, Sir."

"Okay, Father," Virgil added.

"Good, then if you two don't mind, we'll start our briefing now."

Their mission was a very cut-and-dried one; rescue two trapped night watchman from the basement of a museum in Cairo after a terrorist bombing had entombed them there. Luckily, it was only a small explosion, relegated to one section of the building, a warning of sorts. The alliance that Egypt had made with the World Union had angered some of the other interests in that region and retaliations had begun to occur sporadically around the country. Scott, as usual, was first on the scene and had the entire layout of the building and the construction specs committed to memory before Virgil had even arrived. Alan had also come along but this time, at Scott's request, had ridden in Thunderbird One with him. He knew that Virgil wouldn't have asked as he didn't want to effect any change in procedure due to his personal misgivings about his youngest brother.

As Two set down in a field just south of the structure Alan went to meet his brother and coordinate their part of the rescue. Things were kept on a professional level, their earlier altercation shelved for the moment. Their plan was to use the Mole to drill to where the two men were trapped. They had to be careful because the vibrations from the gargantuan machine could easily cause more of the earth to collapse down around the two men underneath. It would have to be slow going at first. It was not, however, a procedure that they were unfamiliar with by any means.

Before they began, Virgil wanted to take a look inside the museum to gauge the stability of the flooring above the crater that had been created by the blast. As he came in through the service entrance, he was stunned by the number of artifacts just strewn about the huge storage room. Some of them had just arrived and were waiting to be restored for public viewing, the rest were waiting to be shipped to other facilities around the world, facilities with more space to fill. As he tried to take in the sheer historical worth of all the objects surrounding him, his comm watch came to life. It was Scott. He'd had to set up mobile control at the other end of the building because it was the only place with enough room.

"Virg, how's it looking?"

He shook himself out of his reverie. "Hmmm? Oh, I'll know in a second, Scott." He went over and leaned down around the edge of the gaping hole. The flooring had seemed stable enough but there was so much debris, he couldn't even see where the men where located, much less get any rescue equipment down there from above. No, the only way this was going to work was if they were to come at them from underneath. It was then that Alan came into the room carrying a trauma kit in case it was needed. He walked over to where Virgil was, setting the kit on the floor.

"Well, wadda'ya think, Virg? What's the action?"

After explaining his findings to his younger brother and the procedure they would need to invoke, the two men got up to go and retrieve the Mole. As he glanced at the man beside him Virgil thought to himself a little guiltily that yes, on the job, Alan was indeed the consummate professional. His attention was momentarily distracted by the sound of an urn crashing to the floor, its position on a shelf disturbed by the explosion. As he turned to look, he tripped over the case containing the trauma kit, which was still on the floor. He flailed for purchase until he grabbed onto what felt like someone's torn shirt. Out of the corner of his eye, it appeared to be the body of a man. Virgil instinctively put his arm around it and held on. As he went falling into the crater, he was able to grab onto the edge of the flooring surrounding it with his other arm.

"Virg!" Alan watched helplessly and let out the breath he was holding when he saw that Virgil was still safe, but not yet out of danger.

As Virgil turned to face the victim he was holding onto, he recoiled in horror and let out a scream that could be heard all the way to the other end of the structure. The "man" he had tried to save was actually a mummy that had been temporarily placed in storage. Its facial covering was partially unraveled revealing features that were completely hideous.

He hastily let go of it, hoping it wouldn't fall on anything too vital and pulled himself up with his now free arm. His wrist comm boomed to life as Scott's frantic voice filled the airwaves.

"Virg! Alan! Do you read me? What's happened? I thought I heard a woman screaming!"

Alan couldn't help himself. He became temporarily incapacitated as a fit of laughter overwhelmed him. Virgil, however didn't find it quite so hilarious.

He shot daggers at Alan with his eyes as he made his reply to his anxious older brother.

"We're fine, Scott. No worries."

"But I thought I heard..."

"I said we're fine!" he snapped.

"Okay then, keep me posted," came Scott's bewildered reply.


He hadn't meant to snap at his brother. But since he didn't currently have Alan's neck in his grasp...

His brother continued to display his amusement at the situation.

"Okay, Alan, that's enough!!"

Gradually, his laughter died down and he was able to help Virgil up out of the crater. Once he got back on his feet, he made a threatening gesture in the general direction of the youngest Tracy.

"I swear, Alan, if you breathe one word of this to anyone..."

Alan just stood there, his expression one of pure innocence, not that Virgil was buying it.

Virgil regarded him for another second before relenting. "Okay, c'mon. We've got work to do."

The rescue had been successful. Both security guards were now safe and sound and the museum's curator had been eternally grateful that the whole incident had incurred no loss of life. Even the historical losses were minimal, all and all, a good day at the office.

The trip home seemed to go by quickly, although Scott wondered at the insufferable smirk on Alan's face.

Virgil headed straight for the shower and tried to wash away the tension induced stiffness that ran all the way across his shoulders and down the back of his neck. He stood in the steaming hot water for as long as he could before he had to get dressed and go to the debriefing. He arrived in the lounge to find everyone there with the same stupid smirk on their faces that Alan had displayed earlier. He tensed again, anticipating the inevitable. Gordon, as expected, threw the first pitch.

"Oh hey, Virg, heard that museum was a happening place. It was nice of you to try and save King Tut. Problem is, you were about three thousand years too late."

"I heard some sweet young thing was almost scared to death though." Scott couldn't resist joining in.

"Yes, poor dear. Hope you were able to get her calmed down without too much effort."

Virgil stared at Alan, who was still feigning innocence; incredulous that he'd have the balls to do just what he knew would set his older brother off again. As he charged at him, he was oblivious to the cries of protest coming from his father and the shouts of alarm coming from just about everyone else. As he picked him up bodily and headed for the balcony, Scott was the first to catch up with him.

"Virg! NO!!"

Without hesitation, Virgil, who was as strong as a bull, lifted Alan up over his head and flung him the 25 feet to the swimming pool below, narrowly missing the edge. After the initial splash that sent water flying up onto the patio, the youngest Tracy surfaced, much to everyone's relief. He flailed and spluttered about until he found the ladder and pulled himself out.

Virgil turned to see gaping eyes, all on him. No one uttered a sound but their shock was obvious. Jeff simply opened the door to his study and waited for Virgil to enter through it, closing it behind them both. He knew that whatever his father was about to unload on him would be bad, really bad. But, he had finally been able to release all the animosity he had built up regarding his meddlesome little brother and that, in his mind, would more than make up for it.

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