Categories > TV > Thunderbirds

In the Wake of Things

by Macx_Larabee 1 review

companion piece to Recovery and Back in the Saddle. Jeff has to deal with the aftermath of the Hood's attack on his family, the close call for two of his sons, and his own fear. Complete!

Category: Thunderbirds - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst - Published: 2006-11-05 - Updated: 2006-11-05 - 10113 words - Complete

In the Wake of Things In the Wake of Things
by Macx

I hadn't planned on writing another movie story, at least none that was directly linked to events of it and the prior two stories I did. But then I watched the movie (again!), more or less as background entertainment as I was writing emails. It was one scene, the fight of Parker and Lady P against Transom and Mullion that launched this stupid thought. The thought was 'what a mess!' after the couch had sailed through the glass...
Here's what came out of it:

Everything was a mess.
The couch area had been... rearranged. The orange seat had been flung halfway across the wide open space, shattering the glass partition instantly as it had hit it. Shards of glass turned the floor into a dangerous pathway. The kitchen was nothing more than a chaotic array of more broken glass of all colors, dented pots and pans, and spilled food.
Debris crunched under his feet as Jeff Tracy walked into what had once been the center of his home. The main area with its kitchen, table, seats, the access to the wading pool, a fantastic look down toward the swimming pools and out into the South Pacific, the view rimmed by palm trees and rock formations.
Now it was... the scene of a fight.
Just one of many, he mused and picked up a broken vase, placing it onto the couch table. There were cracks running through the white material of the table top, as if something heavy had crashed into it. Like many things, he would have to dispose of it.
Lady Penelope had told him of the confrontation she and Parker had had here. Fighting against The Hood and his helpers. She had lost, but it hadn't done anything to dampen her spirit.
Making his way to the edge of the upper level of the house, Jeff gazed onto the deck below. There were no signs of struggle. Nothing had been disturbed. The chairs and tables were still there, the pool the usual calm blue, and a gentle breeze was ruffling his hair. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.
Nothing much had changed. Cleaning had yet to commence, even though it had been more than twenty-four hours since The Hood's attack and subsequent kidnapping of Thunderbird 2. Jeff had just now returned with his injured son and John had crashed instantly, already dead on his feet from the long flight.
Kyrano and Onaha had done what was possible, but he had asked them to wait. He wanted to... to know. He wanted to see. He needed to see.
The Hood had breached his fortress, his home, and he didn't want to return home to a perfect place once more. There was more than enough to do elsewhere.
Brains was all over the ships, hooking them up to the main diagnostic center, running first checks, and he knew the scientist was itching to give him updates.
And Jeff wanted... needed to know that, too.
But first things first.
Turning around he let his eyes scan the destruction. Wearing his flight uniform, looking like everything had just happened a few hours ago, Jeff felt his mind blank. There was so much going through it, it was like a defensive mechanism of sorts. He just stared.
Finally his body seemed to jerk out of whatever paralysis had caught it and he briskly walked across the floor, ignoring the loud crunching noises. Kyrano was awaiting him.
"Shall I start?" he asked quietly.
Jeff nodded. "Yes. Thanks."
"Mr. Tracy?"
The softly voiced question stopped him from continuing into the house. Jeff looked at his friend and housekeeper. Kyrano's dark eyes were filled with a guilt and remorse Jeff knew only too well. The man was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"I am sorry," Kyrano said sincerely.
"It wasn't your fault, Kyrano."
"He is my brother."
"Yes, but you didn't tell him who we are, where to find us. Nor did you invite him in when he came. Just because he's your brother doesn't mean you are like him, Kyrano. You are not to blame. I won't and my sons won't either."
Kyrano hesitated, then nodded slowly.
"Kyrano, I trust you," Jeff told him firmly. "I trust you with my family, my life, our secrets. You were nothing but loyal to us, and what happened came from a sick individual's thirst for revenge... That he is your brother adds to the breach of privacy and I can only feel with you."
"I thought he was dead," Kyrano murmured. "He should have died in that mine accident."
"He didn't and he took us leaving him personally. I never would have left anyone behind, knowing he's alive." Jeff sighed softly. "Never."
"I know that, Mr. Tracy. I do not blame you for that. My brother..." Kyrano stopped and visibly steeled himself. "He should have died," he repeated.
"Yes, maybe he should have. Kyrano... neither of us can forget about this, but we should continue with our lives. We have to."
The other man met his eyes, then finally nodded. "Yes, we have to. Thank you, Mr. Tracy."
Jeff gave him a smile and clasped his shoulder briefly, relaying his support.
He continued toward the control center, the second place of invasion. He stepped into his office, the main control room, and braced himself against the ever more personal feelings of someone breaching his privacy so intimately.
The Hood had been here.
In this place.
Sat in his chair.
Jeff almost laughed. He sounded like one of the seven dwarves.
Thing was, he felt like one, too.
And he felt violated.
This was his inner sanctum and it held family memorabilia. To think that this lunatic had looked at his wife's pictures, at his family photos, and had held their lives in his hands... it made him want to throw up.
Sinking into his chair, Jeff gazed out over the ocean. It usually had a very calming effect on him.
Right now he didn't feel very calm. There was an inner turmoil in him that put a typhoon at shame.
Running a hand over his face he felt a day's stubble scratch his hand.
He had sat with John for the whole observation period of twenty-four hours and except for catching a little nap here or there he hadn't slept.
Jeff knew he needed a change of clothes, a shower, sleep, but despite his physical exhaustion he couldn't rest.
It had been about revenge. Petty, stupid revenge. A man who had been left for dead, coming back to the world of the living, and terrorizing his family. The Hood had nearly killed John and then almost killed Alan right in front of his eyes.
The images still made him break out in cold sweat.
Jeff moved his sore muscles, felt bruises make themselves known once more. The collision with the hard cell bars had done a number on his back. Not to mention his stay in the stuffy, hot and dying Thunderbird 5.
Yes, he needed rest.
Lots of it.
They all did.
The voice startled him and he almost whirled around. Jeff fought the impulse and just turned slowly, looking at one of his sons.
Virgil was dressed in leisurely clothes, his hair as spiky as ever, but it couldn't hide the dark circles under his eyes, nor the paleness.
"Heard you were back," he said tentatively. "Is John okay?"
"Yes. He crashed already. He's pretty out of it."
Jeff rose and smiled reassuringly at his middle son.
"Okay." Eyes older than his actual age scanned him briefly. "You look like hell."
He laughed a little. "Yeah, I guess. I haven't changed yet."
"Figured as much." There was a little smirk.
"I'm about to catch up on that."
Virgil fell in step beside him as they walked down the corridor.
"Brains is still overhauling Thunderbird 2," he said, trying for normalcy.
Thunderbird 2 being Virgil's 'baby' Jeff understood his son's edge as he told him of the checks. The Hood had kidnapped Virgil's 'bird and it didn't sit well with him.
"He also said something about Thunderbird 5 taking a while to be repaired, but I guess you should talk to him first thing after getting some rest."
Jeff nodded, smiling faintly. "I will."
Virgil just gave him a dubious look, but he didn't comment. He just waved at him and they parted ways, Virgil heading into the general direction of the hangar once more.
Jeff hesitated a moment, then by-passed his room and went to the lab. He needed to talk to Brains.
° ° °
The lab was its usual organized clutter. The tables were full of electronic equipment, gear, tools and half-finished inventions. There was a miniature rocket engine sitting on the side table, secured to the sturdy table top with metal cables, and a read-out screen was next to it, flashing in all kinds of colors.
Brains, the master of this domain, was bent over a laptop. His brow furrowed in deep thought as he typed a few commands and watched the results appear.
"How are things on the engineering front, Brains?" Jeff asked.
The scientist startled out of his readings and blinked. "Mr. Tracy! I didn't know you were b-b-back!"
"I'm not sure I am. I still feel like I've just passed through several time zones." He smiled ruefully. "And whatever happened to calling me Jeff?"
Brains looked uncomfortable at the reminder that he had addressed his employer - who also happened to be a very good friend - by his first name. It had been the first time since meeting so many years ago, and Jeff had been positively surprised.
"How's John?" the scientist asked instead of answering the question.
"Sleeping. He'll be fine soon."
And Jeff let the 'you called me by my first name' topic slide.
"Good," Brains said firmly. "Thunderbirds 1 to 3 are hooked up to the d-d-diagnostics at the moment. Thunderbird 2 in particular took some h-h-heavy damage electronics-wise."
Jeff frowned. "What did The Hood do to it?"
"N-n-nothing invasive, really, but the k-k-k...children tore out the guidance processor for safe-keeping. It was put back in and Thunderbird 2 worked, but it has now degraded. I have to recalibrate everything."
He nodded. Alan had told him on the flight to the hospital what had gone on and he had been proud of the fast thinking on Fermat's part.
"All right. How's the station?"
"Bad," was the quiet reply.
Jeff sighed. "Yeah, well, she was shot up..."
"After you left, the remaining oxygen tanks depleted completely. Thunderbird 5 cannot sustain life at the m-m-moment," Brains told him. "Diagnostics are sporadic. Most of the central processing unit has been destroyed. I believe I have to b-b-be there to give you a full report."
He nodded again. "The moment Thunderbird 3 is fully operational again, Gordon and Virgil can fly you there."
"I'll be ready."
"How's Fermat?" he suddenly asked.
Brains was surprised for a moment. "Fine, Mr. Tracy. He's fine."
"Good. You can be very proud of him, Brains. He and Alan and Tin-Tin saved us all."
Brains smiled; a smile filled with the pride Jeff Tracy had for his own sons, too.
Jeff ran a hand through his already messy hair and briefly closed his eyes, feeling exhaustion race through him. For a second he had the sensation as if the whole world was uprooting itself.
"Mr. Tracy? Jeff!"
The insistent voice made him snap his eyes open once more. He blinked, trying to focus on his old friend.
"You need to," Brains insisted.
"Yeah, I know. Was on my way there." He smiled wryly. "I got side-tracked. Well, keep me informed, Brains, okay?"
"I will. Now go."
"Yes, Mom, I will."
Brains shot him an almost evil look from behind the thick glasses. Jeff chuckled and left.
This time, he actually made it into his bedroom.
He didn't know what had made him leave his room again, pacing through the dark corridors. Maybe it was a sixth sense. Jeff had no idea. He had showered, changed his clothes, but though he was more than tired, he couldn't just lay down and close his eyes.
So he walked the silent house.
Everyone else was already asleep or resting in their rooms. John was knocked out on pain meds, Gordon had been too exhausted to even have dinner, and Brains had shooed Virgil and Scott out of the hangar bay where both men had been almost asleep on their feet. Things were catching up with everyone.
Jeff stopped outside his youngest son's room, drawn to Alan like a magnet. He had reassured himself in London that his youngest child was still in one piece, but they hadn't had a lot of private time after that. Alan had left with Virgil, Tin-Tin and Fermat aboard Thunderbird 2, after dropping Jeff and John off at a private hospital. Gordon and Scott had flown their respective crafts, already way ahead and were at home before TB2 had even taken off from the hospital again.
Pushing the door open, Jeff silently peeked inside. He just wanted to check, he told himself. He needed to reassure himself again that his son was alive.
Instead of a peacefully sleeping Alan he found the youngest of his family sitting on his bed, knees drawn up, hugging them tightly. He was staring at the far side wall.
When the door opened he flinched and looked up, startled. What Jeff saw made his stomach clench.
It was naked fear.
"D-Dad," Alan stammered, valiantly trying to banish his so very open feelings.
He failed.
With fifteen it wasn't easy. Alan was an open book to his father and Jeff knew whenever his son was angry, frustrated or plain stubborn. It showed in his eyes. He came after Scott in that regard.
"Hey," he said softly. "Can't sleep?"
Alan shrugged, uncurling a little. "When did you come back?" he asked.
"An hour ago."
Alan nodded and Jeff saw the coiled emotions in the teenager, the barely controlled feelings of some kind.
"Alan?" he queried gently and walked into the room. "You okay?"
Jeff gave him a raised eyebrow.
"It's nothing."
"Alan, please..."
He was tired. His son was tired. And still he was trying to be someone he wasn't - yet. Alan had a right to a carefree childhood, even though his father was a multi-millionaire and called eccentric because he lived on a remote island. It had never fazed Alan because the teenager knew what lay behind the perfect façade.
Alan sighed. "It's pretty stupid," he mumbled, not looking at his father.
He ran a hand through his already tousled hair.
Jeff sat down next to his youngest. "You know you can talk to me, Alan. Stupid things or no stupid things."
Dark eyes screwed shut and Alan bit his lower lip. "I just don't want you to think I'm... a coward..."
Jeff's eyes widened. He loved all his sons, had never played favorites and he had done his best to make them all feel safe and secure with him. He had had them know that whatever it was, he was there for them, had an open ear, would listen to their problems and comments. And he had never thought of any of them as anything else but his sons, his children.
"Did you ever feel like I thought you were a coward?" he asked, shocked.
The boy shook his head.
"Then why now?"
After he had almost single-handedly fought The Hood. After he had rescued those people on the monorail. After he had saved all their lives.
"Alan, you did more than I ever would have thought possible. Humanly possible, not personally. You saved us all."
Alan angrily swiped at his eyes, trying to hide his tears. "Yeah," he whispered shakily. "But at the time I wasn't thinking. I just... wanted to save you."
"And now you're thinking?"
A jerky nod.
"About what?"
"Things..." came the broken reply.
Jeff waited, seeing the inner fight in his youngest.
"I knew his weakness and I was so sure I could beat him, Dad. So sure..."
"And you did."
"No, I didn't. He... he got me... and..." Alan stopped, his voice hitching dangerously and the slender shoulders began to tremble.
Jeff wrapped an arm around his distraught son. Alan fought him for a moment, tensing up as if he didn't want the comfort, then he clung to his father, tears streaming down his face.
"Couldn't breathe," he moaned. "Couldn't... and it hurt... and he didn't stop..."
Jeff held him in a tight embrace, letting him bury into his chest, into the t-shirt, crying like he hadn't done ever since he had been a little boy.
The Hood had almost choked Alan to death and only Tin-Tin's arrival had saved him. Jeff had been forced to witness it all, and he still saw those horrible moments every tim ehe closed his eyes. That Alan had so swiftly recovered, going after the fleeing mad man, had been an adrenaline response.
Resting his chin on the unruly, blond hair, he let his son cry himself out. It was what Alan needed and it was all Jeff could do for him now.
When he had calmed down, Alan pushed away a little, embarrassment flooding his tear-stained features.
"Stupid," Alan sniffled. "So stupid."
"No, Alan. Nothing of this is stupid."
"The others will probably think I'm a baby."
Jeff took his son's chin and made him look at him, eyes narrowing slightly. "None of your brothers think you are a baby, Alan! What you have is a normal reaction to a near-death experience! Don't think your brothers, or I, haven't been affected by this."
His youngest son's eyes widened abruptly and Jeff calmed down, gently caressing the wet cheeks.
"Alan, it's okay. I'm not thinking less of you. Nor are your brothers. You did great. You're a Tracy."
It got him a wavering smile.
"I was just as afraid as you, or your brothers. You did all the dangerous work and we could only sit and watch. It's the hardest thing to do. Watching..."
"Yeah. I couldn't do it. Watch you... die..." He swallowed hard.
Jeff hugged him, hard. "We didn't!" he whispered fiercely. "We survived."
Alan swallowed and nodded against his shoulder. "Is John... I mean, he's okay, right?"
Jeff smiled at the change of topic. "Yes. He will be. He'll probably a bit out of it the next few days, but he'll be fine, Alan. Really fine."
"Okay," was the soft reply.
Jeff gently ruffled the dark blond head. Alan gave him a tentative smile.
"And if you feel you need to talk... about anything... come to me."
Alan nodded and suddenly gave his father a tight hug, which Jeff only too willingly answered. He knew his youngest would be all right in time, but events had left their marks and he needed time.
Jeff left twenty minutes later after watching Alan fall asleep. His own bed beckoned and he followed the call, but not without once more checking a son of his. He opened the door to John's room and studied the pale young man. The sling was still there, even in his sleep, securely fastened around his torso to prevent the shoulder from moving too much and the arm from worsening. Pain medication had taken care of any sleep problems John might have.
Smiling a little, watching his son breathe, such a simple little thing, Jeff felt a new wave of tiredness.
He had to sleep.
Back in his own room he changed into his pajamas, grimacing at the twinges from all over his back and sides. He knew what he must look like. John hadn't fared any better, though he had been flung around Thunderbird 5 with more force. Jeff had been lucky in that regard.
It still took him a while to relax enough to close his eyes as he lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the surf of the sea.
° ° °
"What was Mom like?"
Jeff Tracy looked at his family pictures as he sat in the command center, the beauty of the South Pacific that shone through the large panorama window lost on him.
Five children and his late wife beamed back at him, all tightly wrapped up in ski gear.
"She was a lot like you."
Yes, she had been. The same fire and temperament, the same determination and stubbornness, the same courage.
Jeff smiled at the picture, sadness creeping into his expression. Even now, after more than a decade, he still missed her. Part of her was in every one of his sons, but he would never have what he had lost.
Moving carefully, the bruises still reminding him of the events in the last few days, Jeff tried to settle into a more comfortable position. It was almost impossible. He knew what his son John was going through at the moment because he was sharing the discomfort, though in a milder version.
The night had been short for him. The dreams and the pain had him wake too early. He had watched the sun rise, had let his mind blank as the first rays crept across the water, turning it into a wonderful palette of colors. It had been soothing on his nerves to just sit and watch, not to worry for a few hours, to let it all slide away. It hadn't been enough to make him sleep, but it revived at least a little of his mind.
Jeff glanced at the read-out screens. One in particular caught his eye - the one that normally boasted an emblem of Thunderbird 5 in the corner; a sign that the station was operating. Now there was nothing. Now there wasn't even a blip.
She was dead in the water.
Jeff turned away from his desk and rose slowly, feeling his body groan in protest as muscles had stiffened. Moving gingerly, each move serving to loosen the musculature, he walked past his sons' rooms, knowing they would all still be asleep. Knowing Brains, the scientist was already in the lab, and Kyrano and Onaha were probably cleaning up the mess that was too much of a reminder for his housekeepers.
And he was right.
Entering the kitchen area, he saw Onaha busily sweeping up debris and spilled food. Kyrano was inspecting the debris from the fight over at the broken window.
"Mr. Tracy!" Onaha called, surprised to see him up.
"Do you have some coffee, Onaha?" he asked, giving her a little smile.
"Of course."
He was handed a large mug not much later and savored the bitter smell of the black brew.
"Thanks," he murmured.
She smiled and nodded, then went about her tasks. Jeff walked over to a more or less cleared area and sank onto a couch chair, wincing slightly. He kept his fingers wrapped around the mug, letting the heat seep in.
"What was Mom like?"
So much like you, Alan. So much like all of you, he mused. And she would have kicked my ass for getting it kicked in the first place - by some lunatic like The Hood.
Jeff smiled.
She had been a strong woman and her sons had inherited that strengths. They all showed it every day; even Alan.
"Do you want some breakfast, Mr. Tracy?"
The softly voiced question drew him out of his thoughts.
"Later, Onaha. I'll wait for my sons to get up."
She gave him that well-known motherly smile. "That might take a while. They all worked so hard yesterday."
He chuckled. Not just yesterday. But she was right. It would probably be a few more hours until the first of them would wake up and shuffle down to the kitchen.
"All right. Breakfast then. Something light."
She nodded her agreement.
Twenty minutes later Jeff had a healthy breakfast. He let his eyes stray to the Pacific again, lost in thoughts, but the arrival of his sons distracted him enough once more from the memories that threatened.

"Hey, Dad!" Virgil called, smiling.
He looked a bit better than the day before, but the tiredness in his eyes was still rather noticeable. Gordon was there not much later, followed by Scott, who looked like someone had actually thrown him out of bed. From Gordon's mischievous twinkling, the younger Tracy had been responsible for that. Alan, Fermat and Tin-Tin arrived as a trio, and finally, about the time the others were just about to go off to do their work, John made an appearance. Pale, woozy, in dire need of a chair and something to drink - not coffee - the blond just gave them all a brief smile.
Jeff watched his second oldest son and got a weak, reassuring smile in return. Theirs was a wordless communication and he simply nodded at John, who managed half a bagel and then declined the rest.
"Not very hungry," he sighed apologetically.
Jeff just nodded. "Understandable. You're pumped full of medication and your stomach isn't used to food at the moment."
John played with a mug of simple tea. "My head feels like stuffed with cotton wool. It took me over an hour from waking up to coming here because I lost track of time. You don't wanna know how long I needed in the bathroom." He sighed deeply. "Not something I'm used to."
"Give your body time to heal, son."
Eyes that spoke of too much pain, too much exhaustion, but still relayed an insight into matters far clearer than the young age of the man should allow, met Jeff's.
"I'm not the only one."
Jeff gave him a rueful smile. "True."
He accompanied his son back to his room not much later, staying with him, both of them talking softly until John was too tired to form coherent sentences and dropped off. Jeff smiled a little, brushing a fatherly hand through the bleach blond strands.
Then he finally rose and left, ready to attempt tackling his tasks for today.
Jeff gazed at the sleeping man, his eyes hooded, his face almost a complete blank. Inside him, worry and fear were battling for dominance, and worry won for the time being.
They had nearly lost John.
It had been close. Too close.
Jeff had been scared out of his mind from the moment he had heard about the supposed meteorite strike till the minute Virgil and Gordon had docked Thunderbird 3 at the space station and they had run into the severely damaged Thunderbird 5.
On the outside he had covered it well; he had been a model of professionalism, barking orders to his shell-shocked sons, taking care of emergency matters. On the inside, he had paced and fretted and been a wreck. The sheer sight of the perforated space station, the debris floating everywhere, had let his stomach clench, his heart constrict, and only his self-control had kept him from losing it.
Reaching out, Jeff touched the pale cheek of his second oldest son, running careful fingers over the skin, smiling dimly. John was naturally pale, spending so much time in space. The white blond hair highlighted the fair complexion even more. But now he looked positively chalky, bloodless... The wounds were healing, and if all went well, the doctor would release his son by tomorrow. He would take him home to recover, to heal completely. John needed an extensive time out. They all did.
He had survived. Bruised and battered and beaten, but he had survived.
John lay on his left side due to his injuries. The deep cut in his right arm prevented him from turning and there was a palm-sized burn on his back. Jeff let his fingers trail down the lax arm and curled them around John's fingers. Rubbing a thumb over the hand in his grasp, he smiled a bit more.
Unlike his brothers, John had never been very accident prone. Jeff had had to take Scott and Virgil, as well as Gordon, to emergency wards and doctors too often for his liking, and even Alan had had his scrapes and bruises from horsing around with his brothers. Not John, though. He had been the quiet one. At least on the outside. Jeff knew that his son was just as temperamental as his brothers, but he didn't wear his emotions for the world to see.
Dependable, some called him.
And he was.
John was the person Jeff needed to depend on, needed to be there to talk to, to bounce ideas off, to run events of the day by once more. John had a unique position in this family of hot blooded rocket jockeys - and Jeff made no exception of himself. They all had pilots blood in them, but John curbed that need and the thrill.
Now, for the first time, Jeff saw him in a hospital bed, and with injuries that were far beyond a bruised knee or a broken bone.
Jeff had spent the last twelve hours dozing or sitting semi-awake next to John's bed, exchanging brief smiles or a few words with the nurses or the doctor, but he had refused to leave. John needed someone to be here. His father. His brothers were already home and Scott had called briefly through the communicator, telling him everything was okay for now. Jeff still saw the vivid worry in his oldest son's tired eyes, a tiredness that mirrored his own.
They all needed a break.
Gentle pressure against his fingers alerted him and Jeff suddenly looked into a pair of blue eyes. A bit sleepy, dazed, but awake.
"Hey," he said softly and returned the squeeze.
John looked a little confused, blinking several times as if trying to focus. A mild frown marred his forehead.
"Hey," he rasped. "You look tired."
"You look terrible," Jeff returned with a grin.
"Oh, thank you," his son grumbled. His eyes roamed around the room as far as he could see it. "Still?" he murmured, sounding dejected.
John had been awake for a little while some hours ago. Barely coherent, but understanding enough to realize he was in a hospital. Jeff had been relieved to talk to him, even if the conversation had been rather mono-syllabic.
Now he almost laughed. "Yeah. Doc's not letting you go for another twelve hours. If all checks out tomorrow, we're going home."
"Looking forward to that," John whispered. "Home sounds really good."
"Yes, it does," his father agreed. "Now get some more rest."
"I've been doing nothing but sleep lately," the blond complained.
"Which is good for you. You need it, John."
The younger man sighed. "Okay."
It wasn't like he could really put up much of a fight against the medication and his own body's needs.
Jeff pushed back a strand of fair hair and smiled at his son as John slipped back to sleep. The sooner he was out of here, the better his father would feel.
A nurse walked in not much later, carrying a thermos of coffee. She gave Jeff a warm smile.
"Here you go," she said quietly, handing him the thermos.
"Thanks," he replied, surprised.
"I thought you might want something to drink. We have some sandwiches if you want one," the young woman offered. "I mean, you must be hungry, sir. You've spent the last twelve hours watching over your friend..."
Jeff gave her a grateful smile. "That's very generous of you, nurse. Thank you."
"You're welcome. I'll bring you something. Any preferences?"
Jeff shook his head and received another smile, then she was gone; only to appear ten minutes later with a plate and three mouth-watering sandwiches.
"Here you go. Dig in."
"Thank you."
"Any time." She gave him another smile, then left Jeff alone.
He took a sandwich, savoring the smell and the taste, as he watched his son sleep.

Now, two days later, Jeff Tracy did the same. He sat outside, enjoying the warm breeze, keeping out of the direct sun. Onaha had prepared cold and hot sandwiches for the hard working boys, and his sons had already devoured the majority of the food. John had eaten one. He still ate too little for Jeff's liking, but at least he drank enough and he rested. Right now he was sleeping in one of the recliners, out of the sun as well, looking a lot better than the last time Jeff had watched him.
These things took time.
The doctor had told him what to expect, what to look out for, and had reassured him after a brief call that John's appetite would return. His stomach just didn't handle the normal amount of food at the moment.
So Jeff watched with barely disguised worry, trying not to fuss. He wanted to be there for his son like John was always there for him, up in Thunderbird 5, ready to listen and to talk to him. Jeff knew John wasn't the only one in need of his father. He had four other sons who, each to a different degree, needed him, too.
Alan, his youngest, had been exposed to an amount of violence he had never had to face before. He had been chased and nearly killed, tortured and had to see his brothers being threatened, and still he had done what needed to be done. He had shown an incredible resilience, endurance and courage. Jeff knew that everything still had to catch up to Alan, as well as Tin-Tin and Fermat.
Scott was still rattled, but he didn't really show it much. Jeff knew his son and could tell, though. Something was going on in his oldest and it would surface sooner or later. Gordon and Virgil looked shaken, and both had turned to either swimming in Gordon's case, or long jogs along the beach in Virgil's. They were all dealing with it alone, but Jeff was aware of the need to talk to them, each and every one, let them know it was okay to feel what they did.
He felt it, too.
The fear, the uncertainty, the invasion of privacy that still hurt.
And memories faded slowly.
° ° °
In the last few days they had occupied themselves with repairs and clean-up. It took their minds off things, off matters too closely associated with the invasion of their home and the consequences. Alan had almost voluntarily started on his ten thousand words paper for school and had found a helping hand in the form of John, though his older brother couldn't concentrate one hundred percent for any length of time due to pain meds.
Still, Alan found it reassuring to have John sitting with him, proof reading his already finished chapters and pointing out errors. He never really told him what was wrong exactly, just hinted. Alan had to go hunting for the errors himself.
The broken furniture, glass ware and pottery was thrown away, the huge window pane demolished completely and the support frame taken down. Scott, Virgil and Gordon coordinated their efforts and Jeff had already called for a replacement to be shipped to his reclusive home in the South Pacific.
Kyrano and Onaha, with the help of Tin-Tin, did their best to make the traces of The Hood's presence disappear, though no one could erase the memories. Only time could change those vivid recollections, fade them into the back of their minds.
Alan had spent a lot of time with Fermat and Tin-Tin, the three of them talking about events, and all had shared the fear of past events catching up with them. Adrenaline had prevented them from really realizing what danger they had been in, but now, in the quiet aftermath of it all, the felt it all the more.
Fermat had tried to withdraw, looking paler than usual, but Alan had refused to let him. The younger boy was his best friend. Tin-Tin, while talking to her parents, also hung out a lot more with them, her dark eyes reflecting the horror. She was also dealing with the new information about her family, and Alan had been careful when treading on that particular ground. It was a minefield of emotions.
The Hood was her uncle and she had the same powers he had. While it fascinated Alan to no end, he didn't really pressure her into explanations. He took his lead from his father in that regard. Jeff Tracy had witnessed her powers, too, but he didn't pursue the issue.
Things would unfold one day. Right now all Tin-Tin needed was a friend, and she had two very good ones.
° ° °
Virgil had taken to spending all his free time with Brains, getting the Thunderbirds into shape again. While Gordon did the main shuttle service for the repairs of Thunderbird 5, he and Brains tackled the engineering problem of the reconstruction of the most important part of International Rescue - their space monitor. John was doing his share, but he couldn't keep up the pace and settled for what was in his abilities. And he had taken to keeping an eye on their youngest brother.
Virgil had been worried about Alan at first, had seen the haunting shadows of what The Hood had done. He and his brothers had been told of the final showdown in the vault of the Bank of London by their father, and Virgil had been horrified. He knew he would have very vivid nightmares of getting strangled, and Alan wasn't any different. They were all only human.
Coming back from Thunderbird 5 after another shuttle run, Virgil found Alan and John in the pool area, school books piled up high, and John was reading something in one of them. His brow was furrowed in concentration and he was making notes. Alan was typing away at his laptop. Virgil grinned at the sight. Fermat was reading, sitting on one of the lounge chairs further down by the pools, and of Tin-Tin there was no sight.
John was what Scott playfully called 'their science geek'. He had always loved science and all associated subjects. Virgil had been quite good in math and physics, but that had been about it. He had absolutely despised literature and English. Discussing poetry had been about as rock bottom as it could get.
"Hey, sprout!" he called as he approached and playfully ruffled his younger brother's hair.
John glanced up and shot him a smile, while Alan protested and swatted at his hand.
"Already back?" John asked.
"Yeah. Gordon and Scott are up in your 'bird, helping Brains install the new security net. Dad's keeping an eye on things down here and bouncing signals back and forth."
He glanced at the books and grimaced. Math. Not one of Alan's strong points, but he could get a C easily, a B if he finally got down to planet Earth with his daydreaming and put some effort into school. Virgil knew his brother wasn't stupid, just easily impressed by all the wonderful ships to fly and 'cool missions' his brothers had. Virgil knew he had been like on a high when he had been allowed to finally fly. He had finished school back then already and only Gordon had had to wait before joining rescue missions. Alan had been a kid.
He wasn't any more.
"I'm going to take a dip in the pool. Wanna join?" he offered.
Alan glanced at John, giving him an almost pleading look. Virgil tried not to grin. Their older brother sighed theatrically.
"All right. Break. It's your paper, Alan, you set the pace."
"I'll be done tomorrow, I promise," Alan said fervently. "Really!"
John chuckled. "I'm not your teacher, Alan, just your brother."
"Even worse," Virgil added in a stage whisper. "He's the master of communication. The moment he's back up there, he's going to haunt you, Alan, if you don't finish this and get a good grade."
John threw a wadded up napkin at him and Virgil laughed, grinning. John's eyes were sparkling and it was good to see him so full of life again. It had scared Virgil to realize that their brother had been so severely injured. He had been the one to give him first aid, to pull him to his feet and keep him upright aboard Thunderbird 5. And he had felt the tremors racing through him.
"Wanna join?" he invited, then cursed himself.
John wasn't allowed to swim due to the still quite sensitive burn wound on his back. He shot him a silent apology.
John shrugged and rose. "I can at least cool off my feet," he said jovially.
Virgil sighed silently in relief. Joining Alan who had already stripped down to his swim shorts and jumped into the pool, he grabbed a ball and threw it at his brother who caught it. It did good to horse around, to play, and they could even involve John, sitting at the edge, getting soaked up to his waist.
All thoughts to play a prank and pull him in, dunking him under, were far from his mind. No one took the injuries lightly.
Fermat joined them not much later, though he stayed in the shallow area of the pool. His swimming skills weren't stellar yet, but he was getting there.
It was how Jeff found them half an hour later, Virgil and Alan panting from exertion but grinning like mad men. John hadn't moved from his position, chugging the ball to Virgil, who promptly fell backwards and got dunked by his youngest brother, grabbling for the ball.
Jeff leaned against the open sliding doors to the house, smiling, watching his sons.
John excused himself not much later, settling back in the chair after toweling off.
"Back hurt?" Jeff asked softly as he joined his son, glancing at the still humming laptop.
"A bit. It's okay." John leaned back a little gingerly. "I'm taking my meds. I'm fine."
It's what they all said. Fine. But Jeff didn't feel fine. Still, he pushed it away.
"How's Alan doing?"
"On the math front? Not too bad. I know he knows his stuff, but he needs to go at it without distractions to rise above C level. He's getting there, Dad. I think things are finally seeping in."
Jeff chuckled. "I guess."
"And if you're wondering about other stuff, like nightmares... getting there, too. He's young, Dad. He moves past these things."
"Spoken like a man just before retirement," Jeff teased lightly.
John grimaced, but his eyes sparkled. "Yeah, well, you would know."
Now he laughed. Both continued to watch the two players - Fermat had retreated to the safety of dry land already -- until Virgil called it quits, both now completely out of breath.
"Hey, Dad!" Alan called, bursting with energy despite the long game.
"Hey, son. I see you're working."
Alan stopped for a moment, his face going through several emotions. There was confusion, defense, resignation, and stubbornness. Jeff knew that his youngest had immediately misunderstood him, taking offense.
"John tells me you're almost done," he added, hoping to tell his son that he hadn't meant the first comment as a stabbing remark or sarcasm.
"Yeah, well..." Alan slung the towel around his neck. "Kinda."
"He promised to be done tomorrow," John chimed in mischievously.
Alan glared at him and Jeff smiled more.
"Then I won't keep you. Scott will be coming down in an hour, picking up some more parts. Brains is planning to stay overnight. The station can already support life."
"That's good news," John agreed.
"See you later."
And with that he disappeared inside the house and immediately went to his office to keep in touch with the work up in space. He knew that work down here was done by his two sons. Alan wouldn't be alone, and neither would be any of the other two.
They needed the company.
It was a healing factor all by its own.
The return to school had been like being cast into a dream. Alan had gone without much protest, though he had felt bad at leaving his family to deal with so many things still to do. John would return to Thunderbird 5 soon, but at the moment he was recovering and healing, which took priority.
The flight from Tracy Island to the local airport and the subsequent ride to school had been subdued, almost without the usually spirited conversation between him and Fermat. His best friend was lost in thought as well. Fermat at least had been able to help his father, while Alan had slaved over school stuff.
After dumping his bags in the dorm he quickly checked that he had taken everything he needed with him, especially his homework. The paper John had proved was neatly burned onto a CD and he would give it to Ms Garrett first thing tomorrow.
And then he would start his last leg of school before summer break, keeping his fingers crossed that his grades might pick up and that the paper wouldn't be all that bad.
Going back onto the school grounds, Alan looked around, strangely soothed by the normality. He had always envied his brothers, them going off on cool missions. Sure, he had known they were dangerous, but he had never really understood what it meant. Now he had. He had nearly lost his family, had felt so incredibly helpless, so ill-equipped to deal with this crisis, and it had driven home just how much he still needed to learn. Being a Thunderbird wasn't just about being cool. It was about being responsible, about knowing his stuff, about acting as a team, about... being an adult.
Alan smiled a little. He could learn that. All of that. He would become a Thunderbird, but not by forcing his father's hand. He had proven himself in that dangerous time, but he had also learned a valuable lesson. He still had time to become what his brothers were; and they would always be there for him. John had driven home a fact that he had ignored before. No one expected more of him than he did of himself. No one wanted him to grow up fast; he had all the time he needed because all four of them had been where he was now. Alan had never been left out, even if he had felt like that all along. He had always been a part of it, because he was part of the family.
He had finally understood that now.
° ° °
It was late down on Earth.
Well, depending what time zone you were in.
For John, it meant the South Pacific. It was the middle of the night there, past midnight, and he was just about to turn in, too, since there were no particular hot spots for International Rescue to go to at the moment.
A soft beeping sound announced an incoming call on a private, secured line. He smiled as he recognized the carrier signal. He flipped a switch and the monitor in front of him changed from an outline of Australia to a live feed from a time zone where it was early noon.
"Alan. Hey."

For a moment Alan hesitated, wondering if he had made the right decision. Sure, John had told him not to hesitate and call, but he knew his older brother had duties. He was International Rescue's eye in the sky, and he had probably better things to do than idle chit-chat with his youngest brother.
"Hey John. Uhm, you got a minute?" he queried.
His brother smiled at him from the tiny display, looking his usual, relaxed self. In the background Alan could just make out some of the features of Thunderbird 5.
"It's pretty calm up here. Nothing major, so yes, I think I can spare a minute. How's school?"
He grimaced. "Boring."
Leave it to John to bring up school. Great.
John laughed. "I should have known. So... what's up?"
It was a gentle prod toward the reason why Alan had used the powerful communication device. He knew he was calling in the middle of the night for his older brother, but he had suspected he was still up. John was a night owl, so to speak.
"Got my paper back."
John gave him an expectant look, one eyebrow twitching up a little.
"Ms Garrett gave me a B!"
That had his brother whoop. "I told you you can do it, Alan! Way to go!"
Alan knew he was grinning like an idiot, probably as badly as his brother was right now. "Yeah, well, I had help."
"Oh no, you didn't. I proof read. You did all the research yourself, buddy. My work was cosmetic only."
Alan shrugged a bit self-consciously. Math would never be his favorite subject, but he had found that he could at least pull himself together for a paper and homework.
"I hope I can keep it up," he added softly.
"You can, Alan. You're a bright kid. Hey, you're my brother!"
Alan chuckled. "So's Scott. Do I need to say more?"
John snickered a little. "Yeah, and Gordon, who's turning into quite an engineer. And don't forget Virgil. Listen, bro, you did fine. You can do fine in the future, too. Just set yourself smaller goals. You'll be a Thunderbird soon enough, but don't skip school or anything else because of it."
John's voice was serious, very much like their Dad's, and Alan found himself nodding.
"I know. Thanks, John."
"Anytime. Call Dad and let him know about the paper, okay? We're all proud of you."
"I will. Uh..." He stopped, unsure all of a sudden.
"Something on your mind?" John asked quietly.
"Kinda, but... it's just... you don't have to, but..."
"Spill it, Alan. I'm not going to bite you."
He grinned nervously. "Could we... talk about some of the stuff sometimes? I mean school stuff? Fermat's okay to talk to, but he's brainy and way out of my league." He stopped and felt himself blush a little. "Okay, so are you, but you're my brother. And you helped before. I really appreciate what you did, John, and I liked bouncing ideas off you..."
"Hey, Alan," John's calm voice interrupted his stuttering. "I'd be happy to help. Call whenever you need help, right? We can talk."
Because John already did it for their father. And probably with his brothers, too. They all talked to each other, but Alan had never turned to any of them because he was the youngest and didn't want them to think he was weak or unfit to join them.
The latest crisis had shown him that for all their posturing and play, his brothers were only human, too. Like his Dad. He still respected him and them greatly, for what they did, how they risked their lives to help others, but they were no longer so unapproachable.
"Thanks," he murmured.
"Any time. Keep up the good grades."
"Will do. Night, John!"
"Night, Alan."
Alan signed off after a little chit chat and hid the communicator. He would call his Dad the normal way at a better time.
Smiling to himself, feeling elated because of the good grade and John's lauding.
Maybe this term would prove to be much better.
° ° °
"You really think he's ready?"
John chuckled slightly as he looked at his father. "Yes, Dad, I do. It's up to you in the end, but I won't say no to Alan coming here."
Jeff leaned back in his chair, looking thoughtful. It was one of their late night chats again, but this time the topic was more than just daily events on Tracy Island. Summer break was approaching and Jeff had more often than not started to think about his youngest son's future training. Alan was fifteen now, soon turning sixteen. He had really pulled himself together in the last months, had delivered grades that were more to his abilities, and Jeff was more than proud of him. Alan had the makings of a future Thunderbird and the trouble with The Hood had apparently finally jarred lose that last bit of grit in the whole clockwork.
"You said it yourself, right?" John continued. "He knows the simulator inside out. He flew them all, even in real life, though he never went into serious weather situations or had breakdowns to deal with. But he doesn't understand a thing about International Rescue's internal workings. He can sit with you all day and watch you do office work, and it would bore him to death. Have him come up here, let him fly Thunderbird 3 if you can get Gordon to do it... let him be part of it from another perspective." John grinned mischievously. "He might just like it."
Jeff snorted. "Right..."
"Hey, you never know."
Jeff wasn't so sure Alan would be thrilled to be a watcher. His youngest wanted action and while his father knew he had to talk him down from his high expectations of adventure and coolness, he knew that the complete opposite - sitting and watching and keeping guard - was really not what Alan wanted as a Thunderbird.
"John, you've been up there for more than a month now. Virgil is supposed to relieve you. Are you sure?"
"Yep. I could do with some company and Alan could do with a little bit of space patrol."
Jeff looked at his second oldest son, took in the expression, the firmness around his eyes, the set to his mouth. John was serious about this; completely. He wanted Alan up there and he was ready to do a few extra weeks for it.
"All right," Jeff gave in. "I'll tell him about it. Should he decline I won't force him."
"I'd never ask you to. It's either of his own, free will or not at all," John agreed.
"He'll be home by tomorrow. I'll let you know."
John just grinned brightly. "Looking forward to a little company."
Jeff chuckled. They talked a little longer, Jeff updating his son on island matters and things in general. He signed off half an hour later, saying good-night to John and ready to turn in himself.
Tomorrow would be another long day and then Alan would be home.
° ° °
Summer had arrived faster than Alan had really expected. School was getting better, though he wasn't scoring stellar grades. They were good grades, he was attentive in school, and visits to the headmaster had dwindled to none. His teachers had remarked positively on it and had hopes he would catch up on his friend Fermat's grades, but with Fermat everything was an A. Well, mostly. Even a small genius had subjects he didn't like.
Coming home to Tracy Island was almost like a vacation. Alan had missed his father and his brothers, even though he had gotten calls. The only one he truly saw was John through the communicator that no one except the two of them knew of. John's gentle prodding and his open ear when it came to school stuff was priceless to the youngest Tracy. Alan had started to understand now why their father talked to John so often. It was strangely balancing and calming.
Their own personal Agony Aunt... well, Uncle, he chuckled to himself. John would probably kill him if he ever said that out loud.
There was a brief shudder and Alan was jarred out of his thoughts. He looked out of the side windows and smiled. Sitting strapped into the co-pilot's chair of Thunderbird 3, Alan had a great view of the approach to Thunderbird 5. The space station seemed to effortlessly float in space, the huge solar panels glowing in a soft, golden tone. Gordon was skillfully handling 'his Thunderbird', steering her closer and closer to the docking port.
Alan had been almost shocked out of his pants when his older brother had let him fly the red rocket after launch, just watching as the youngest of the five Tracys steered the powerful ship through the atmosphere and into outer space toward Thunderbird 5. Gordon had told him to take the long route, which gave Alan a priceless view of Earth just below them, until they arrived at the space monitor station. From there Gordon had taken over again, and a stunned and exhilarated Alan had gladly left the controls to the more experienced pilot.
Hell, who was he kidding? He had no experience at all except for the simulator, and that had been quite different to the brief flight he had now been allowed to take.
The docking computer helped his brother adjust to the station's movement, as well as the rocket's, and soon Alan heard the reassuring grinding clunk of two airlocks meeting.
"Okay!" Gordon announced, flipping more switches. "Here we are."
Alan unstrapped, just like Gordon, who was still busy securing the connection and powering down the Thunderbird's not needed computers.
"Hatch secured," he told Alan. "We're good to go in."
The youngest Tracy grabbed his bag and eagerly followed the pilot to the docking port's hatch. A huge '5' was painted onto the outer door and it slid open, revealing the long tunnel that led into the heart of Thunderbird 5. Massive steel struts secured the so fragile construction and Alan almost reverently followed Gordon, who walked past it all as if it was nothing new.
Then again, it wasn't. He had been here before. For Alan, it was the very first time. Jeff had never allowed him to just visit the station.
"Hey, guys!"
John's jovial voice greeted them as they entered the control room and Gordon received a brief, hard hug from his older brother.
"Welcome to Thunderbird 5, Alan!" John announced and enveloped him in a hug, too.
Alan laughed a bit nervously. "Thanks."
"Let's get your stuff to the sleeping quarters first, then I'll give you the basic tour of the place before you get lost." Blue eyes twinkled.
Alan knew Thunderbird 5 wasn't that big, but he really didn't want to open a hatch and find himself in outer space.
Gordon hung around until he had settled in, grabbed a cup of coffee with them, and then said his good-byes.
"Try not to annoy him, squirt," he teased, ruffling Alan's hair. "He gets insufferable."
John made a mock grab for him and Gordon laughed, waving his good-byes.
As Thunderbird 3 detached itself with an audible grinding noise, Alan felt a brief shiver run through him. There went his only link to Earth. It was a strange feeling.
A warm hand landed on his shoulder and he nearly jumped.
"Alan?" John queried gently.
"It's okay. Just a bit... strange."
John smiled reassuringly. "You'll get the hang of it. You might even like it up here."
"I never said I wouldn't!" Alan immediately protested.
The blond laughed lightly, clapping his shoulder. "Easy, Alan. It's okay. Now, let's do the grand tour. Ask whatever you think needs clarification. Don't sweat it if you can't keep it all in mind. We have two weeks here and I won't run an exam in the end. This is for fun and for education in one."
Alan nodded, inhaling deeply. "Okay."
John still grinned as they went back into the kitchen area. "So... ran any Thunderbird 5 simulations at all or only the other 'birds?"
Alan stared at his older brother in shock. Simulations? "There are simulations of Thunderbird 5?" he blurted.
Sure, he had been in the simulator, flying or driving or diving with all crafts, but he had never remotely considered the station...
"Uh..." he stammered, embarrassed.
"I see."
"I didn't know..."
John smirked. "Aside from Dad and me, no one does."
"So there are simulations? I mean... what about?"
"Oh, all kinds of things. Whatever emergency you can think of. From electronics failure to meteorite strike." There was a brief shadow crossing his brother's face and Alan bit his lower lip.
Meteorite strike.
"Then there's simulated rescue calls, multi-tasking sessions, things like that," John went on. "I can run them up here, too."
"Ah." Alan was slightly at a loss.
"But for now you just enjoy yourself. Dad thought it might be time to introduce you to the outer space part of International Rescue, give you a little broader view of things. So, any questions so far?"
/Tons/, Alan thought dimly.
It was so incredibly overwhelming. So surreal.
But it was also the experience of a life time. He wanted to be up here, he wanted to know everything there was to, and he wanted to prove he was ready for the training to begin.
So he asked.
And John answered; patiently, explicitly, calmly.
Alan knew the next two weeks would be more than he could ever have dreamed of, even without him flying a super fast ship to a dangerous rescue.
Because he was starting to be part of International Rescue now - for real.

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