DISCLAIMER: I do not own the rights to Thunderbirds, Star Wars, or The Grinch. This story is for entertainment purposes only, and is not meant to make any profit for the author.
A/N: This is directly inspired by the two feet of snow that has fallen on my house in the last three days. For those of you who haven't read the Winds of Advent, Lucy Tracy died in December 2010. The boy's ages are movie based, with Scott being fourteen in this story. Also, thanks to my beta reader, Ariel D, for looking this over for me. Your help is always appreciated. ;)
Carefully, so as not to make noise and wake the rest of his family, John Tracy made his way down a long carpeted stairwell. Each stair gave lightly under his feet, cushioning his toes and absorbing the shock that would have caused noise on a hardwood step. He peered intently from under a row of shaggy blond bangs that desperately needed trimming. Once at the bottom, he looked around, and, seeing that everyone still slept, sprinted silently towards the front windows.
The large glass panes were nearly hidden behind lush silk drapes, closed for the night so that the luxury of the house was hidden from prying eyes. A small red couch rested in front of the windows, pushed close enough to the wall so that one could look out, but not so close that the playful hands of children could smudge the shimmering glass.
Smashing happily into the couch at full running speed, John threw himself over the backrest and peered intently between the crack in the drapes. The glowing light of the morning sun lit the icy window and gave it a near stain glass effect, sending a thin shaft of blue light onto the boy's face and into the room beyond.
Using his left hand to balance himself on the couch, John leaned forward just far enough to touch the tips of his fingers to the pane. Through the small break in the curtain, he could just make out lines of frost that darted about on the window, like the patterns carved into a skating rink by a figure skater. The glass was chill to the touch, and wet with the fine moisture of a winter morning.
John pulled his hand back, then set to work opening the window. He took in his hand the long drapery cord, which hung beside the couch. A gentle tug was all that was needed to draw back the blinds, and reveal the blinding white landscape that lay outside.
Squinting against the sun, the boy raised his hand to his brow and once again peered out the pane. Beyond the house was a frozen wasteland of snow, stretching from the front steps to as far as John could see. The front yard, carefully staked out with a white fence, was waist deep at least, and the surrounding acreage looked more like a replication of Antarctica than a lush and fertile country retreat.
John quickly checked the clock on the far wall. It was just past seven o'clock. School started at nine, with the boys normally waking at seven thirty so that there was ample time to drive them into the city on even the worst of days.
Another glance back outside convinced him that there was likely nothing to worry about. With the snow as high and thick as it was, he doubted that there would be school at all. The road into town was kept clean during the winter, but the sudden dump left no time for the work crews to actually come through and plough off the pavement.
Trotting back up the stairs, John tiptoed into the room that his younger brothers, Gordon and Alan, shared. Glancing at each of them to check to see if they were still sleeping, he smiled slightly and flipped off the alarm clock with a quiet click. If school were cancelled, then it would be best to let the boys sleep. They had waited up for their father to come home, only to be ushered off to bed when Jeff had phoned and told Scott that he would be staying overnight at work.
He'll be lucky if he gets back now, John thought with a trace of worry, hoping that his father wouldn't try to drive through the snow to get back home. Given the man's current dedication to his job, however, that was unlikely. He had been more absent than present at the family home since John's mother had passed away, and John doubted that that would change in one day.
It was simply a fact of life that John had accepted and thrown to the back of his mind so that he could carry on. What mattered was his family, and they needed someone to watch over them. There was no room for fighting or bickering, though deep in his heart John was beginning to feel a trace of anger for his father's apparent apathy towards his children. Even at twelve years of age, John knew when someone was behaving improperly, and his father's behaviour was saddening him greatly.
John's eyes floated towards his youngest brother, Alan. The boy, whose hair was already darker and thicker than John's likely ever would be, was curled up on his bed, thumb in mouth and other hand wrapped tightly around a large stuffed teddy bear. His large eyes were closed, his face serene and without worry.
"Sweet dreams," John whispered, the words knocking hollow in his own mind. His dreams had been less than sweet since December. In fact . . . he shook his head, and forced the thoughts from his mind. There was no need to think about that now, not on a day that held so much promise.
At the same time that he was closing the door to the second bedroom, the door to his own room was once again opening. From the room emerged a very dishevelled looking Scott Tracy. The older boy's hair was tossed about in an even worse fashion than John's and his eyes were dark and tired looking. John knew that Scott had been up half the night, watching over his brothers silently to make sure that they were all right.
"Hey, squirt,"Scott mumbled, stretching his hands to the side and giving a long yawn. "What're you doing up this early?"
"It snowed," John replied quietly, turning away from the door so that he could speak more easily to his brother. "I wanted to see how much there was."
"How'd you know that? You were asleep while it was doing it."
"It was snowing when we went to bed."
"Really." Scott shrugged, and yawned again. "Guess I wasn't paying much attention to outside. It was hard enough trying to get Gordon out of the bathtub and into bed. I swear, that kid wanted to swim for the rest of the night."
A laugh escaped John's mouth, a light and still childish giggle that echoed quietly off the walls of the upper floor. "Maybe if you'd left him there and he'd turned all prune-like, he would have changed his mind."
Scott shook his head in amusement, and began to traverse the stairwell. John followed closely behind him, directing his brother in the direction of the couch.
"See," John teased when they finally stood in front of the upholstery. He pointed a finger at the window and grinned up at his brother. "What'd I say? It snowed!"
"Geeze, did it ever," Scott gaped, gazing through the glass with wide eyes. "You're right, Johnny, I think we'll be staying home today."
The sudden sound of footsteps caused both John and Scott to turn. Down the stairs flew Gordon, grinning widely, with Virgil so close behind that he was nearly on top of the red-haired boy. Something white and blue fluttered in Gordon's grasp, which Virgil desperately tried to grab.
"Give it back!" Virgil growled, jumping forward and landing on Gordon. The force of the attack took both of them to the ground, where Gordon tried whole-heartedly to wiggle away and escape. "Give it back, Gordon!"
Gordon simply laughed in response, and buried the object underneath his stomach where it was inaccessible. "Nope. Come get it."
Trading amused looks, Scott and John walked over to the human pile, and stared down as their brothers wriggled and rolled about on the wooden floor.
"Gordy, why don't you give it back to him?" Scott suggested calmly, in the practised voice of a kid who had done enough baby-sitting in his fourteen years. "Come on, Gordy, be nice to your brother."
"Hee!" Giving Virgil a swift kick in the rear, Gordon managed to squirm away from the beating. He quickly jumped to his feet, and was out of the room before Virgil could even respond.
Glaring at Scott all the while, Virgil shook his head and took off after the red-head.
"Still want to tell them that there's no school?" John asked sincerely. "Y'know, maybe that way they'd at least calm down and get dressed."
The sound of clanging pots drifted from the kitchen, accompanied by the occasional yelp or scream from Gordon. Dull thuds rang out as the pair scuffled on the floor, Gordon obviously on the bottom of the pile based on the vocal commentary.
"Virgil, get off!"
Throwing his hands up in the air, Scott shrugged and declared, "I really don't care. Let them kill each other. Maybe they'll learn better." He began to walk over towards the phone. "I'm going to call Dad to tell him that we're staying home."
Not satisfied with Scott's decision, John shook his head and stormed towards the kitchen. "Gord," he called calmly, "give Virgil back whatever you took from him."
"His underwear!" Gordon declared gleefully, waving the item in the air long enough for Virgil to take aim and fire a plastic cup at his head. The red-head dropped to the floor, and moaned as Virgil placed his foot down hard onto his back. "Owwww, Virgil, that hurts!"
"Serves you right," Virgil huffed, grabbing his brother by the arm and grabbing the underwear from his clenched hand. "Go run around with Scott's underwear next time."
Gordon growled, threw Virgil's foot off of him, and jumped to his feet. He was about to take another lunge at his brother when a strong hand caught his arm and spun him around. Pale blue eyes glared directly into Gordon's brown ones, which widened in surprise.
"That's not fair!" Gordon whined, as John pulled him over to the kitchen and threw him gently into a chair. "You always wreck our fun."
"Didn't look like fun to me," John replied, tossing both of the boys sour looks. "Gord, sometimes that's funny, sometimes it's not. You've gotta learn the difference."
"It wasn't my fault," Virgil declared. "He's the one that took them."
"Yeah, and you gave him what he wanted when you tried to kill him on the stairwell."
The chestnut-haired boy gave his older brother a dark look, then turned and began to search through the kitchen drawers for something. "You're not my Dad."
The comment caught John off guard, and sent him back a few steps. "No," he finally replied, "I'm not. But someone has to look out for you."
"That's what Scott's for."
John bit his lip, trying very hard to hold back a nasty remark. When the feeling finally passed, he closed his eyes and observed, "It snowed last night."
The word snow had an immediate effect on the younger boys.
"Snow?" Virgil echoed, pulling his head from the cupboard long enough to look at John with wide eyes. "Snow?"
"Snow?" Gordon asked, another mischievous look coming to his face. "Really?"
"John!" Scott's voice interrupted the banter. "I got hold of Dad's secretary. She says she'll tell him, 'kay?"
"No school! Can we go outside?" Gordon pleaded as fast as he could. "Please please please please please?"
"After you get changed," called the older brother from the hallway, "after you have breakfast, after you have your beds made. Understand?"
The two fled the room in a flash, leaving John to stare at a utensil covered floor and counter. He sighed, and absently ran a hand through his mop of blond hair.
"Lovely. And we haven't even woken Alan up yet."
Turning his head in the direction of Gordon's voice, Virgil was greeted with a large dripping snowball to the face. He stood in disgust as the liquid melted and ran down his cheeks, glaring when the snow was far enough down that he could see again.
"Nice, Gordon. Real nice."
The back yard of the Tracy acreage extended several hectares from the home, and was composed of small groves of trees, several large hills, and abundant foliage and plant life. The snow had covered most of the smaller bushes, giving the boys ample cover to use when playing. Gordon, huddled and snickering madly behind a group of hedges, was covered enough by the shrubs that Virgil could not pick him out.
"Where are you?" The older boy called back, bending down and taking a pile of snow in his hands. A few quick pats had the pile into a ball shape, perfect for throwing. "Gordon, I can't see you."
Another voice suddenly called from behind him. "Virgil!"
Purely on instinct, Virgil turned around, and was greeted with another barrage of snow to the face. A loud almost babyish laugh signalled the presence of the youngest Tracy.
"Of all the-" he groaned loudly, trying to wipe the ice from his eyes. He saw through his blurry vision the small form of Alan Tracy, fleeing with all of his speed to a safe spot behind a grove of Oak Trees. "You little twerp." He turned around with the intent of making another snowball, only to receive a third and final wallop.
"That's it." Virgil's eyes glowed with inner fire. "You guys are dead."
Scott took his time lacing up his boots, making special sure to wrap the liners firmly about his ankles so that the snow wouldn't leak in and wet his socks. Grabbing his jacket from a nearby chair and throwing it about his shoulders, he strode out of the house and headed towards the snowman that John was crafting carefully by the back fence.
The blond haired boy was intent on his sculpture, taking extra time to pat the snow round so that the snowman was in wonderfully perfect proportions. Scott couldn't hold back a smile at the snowman's face. John had a wonderful eye for dimensions, but he had no talent at capturing human features. The snowman's eyes were crooked, and itsmouth was curved in what appeared to be a look of nausea. Overall, it looked like a round stomached, overweight, and slightly deformed snow being.
"Dad's secretary called back," Scott finally said, causing John to jump in alarm. "Sorry, just thought you should know."
"It's okay," John replied quietly, gazing at his work with a look that borderlined on disappointment. "Thanks."
"She said that he's in meetings all day, and he'll get back to us as soon as possible."
The look that crossed John's face at that moment was too complex for Scott to even try to unravel. It was as though the boy was feeling disgust, anger, and sadness all at the same time. He could understand John's feelings, though, if he was guessing at them correctly. He had felt almost the same thing when the secretary had explained the situation to him.
"He'll come home as soon as possible, John. Besides," Scott looked over towards the tree groves in time to see Gordon take a snowball to the face. "Don't think we're in trouble here. There's food in the kitchen, and the others are behaving. If he's late, then so be it."
John shook his head, his eyes suddenly as cold and frosty as the morning, but said nothing.
"Come on," Scott finally ventured, "I'll help you straighten out that guy's nose. It looks like he's been in a gang fight."
Shrugging, John pulled off the carrot and tossed it to his brother. "Sure, whatever."
Virgil, completely exhausted from his vain attempts to pin down his brothers, lay collapsed on the side of a very large snow pile that the three boys had constructed. His breath escaped his mouth in large cloudy puffs, drifting up in the brisk air to the clear blue sky above. Little crystals of ice floated about on the light breeze that danced across the acreage and the sun speckled with traces of hidden cloud and humidity.
Snow flew in the air as Alan and Gordon both threw themselves down beside Virgil. The younger boy waved his arms along the snow in quick strokes, easily forming a snow angle in the soft white powder. No one bothered to speak, they simply lay and enjoyed the escape that the weather was offering them.
"Their snowman sucks."
"Hmm?" Virgil turned his head, sending a river of snow falling into the back of his jacket. He gasped and jumped up from the pile, shaking his coat out in alarm. "Sheesh, it's cold!"
"Their snowman," Gordon repeated, raising a hand and pointing in the general direction of the house. "It has a crooked face and a pot belly."
"Uh huh," Alan added gleefully, his round boyish face tinged red from the cold. "It looks like Virgil's teddy bear."
"I do not have a teddy bear!" Virgil replied indignantly. "What are you talking about?"
"My bear," Alan continued happily.
"You did give it to him," Gordon enlightened his brother.
"Well." Virgil's eyed narrowed in mild irritation, and he glanced over in his other brother's direction. "We'll just have to do something about that snowman."
A quiet whizzing sound was John's only warning of the disaster to come. With no notice, a snowball near the size of a grapefruit smacked into his temple, knocking him from his feet so that he hit the ground face first with a thud. Dazed from the impact, he raised his head and glanced about the white ground with a look of confusion. "Scott?"
"Little buggers," Scott huffed, in the voice of a man who had been issued a challenge. "Striking us in the back. Who do they think they are?"
Another snowball came flying over the fence, narrowly missing Scott's left ear. The older boy glared out into the yard, and carefully bent down and rolled a projectile of his own. "All right, you little pirates. Show yourself!"
He was greeted with a flurry of flying frost, coming from three different directions that were spread evenly across the yard. Turning to gaze where the smallest one had come from, Scott slowly crept forward, bent over so that his height was hidden behind a Caragana bush. He finally came up to a small shrub, which bore a distinct hat bobble on its top.
Jumping around the bush in an attempt to ambush Alan, Scott was surprised and immediately concerned to find the hat - and only the hat - there.
"Shoot." The feeling of frozen water assaulting his skull was Scott's proof that he had made a large tactical error. He swung around, dived down behind the bush, and haphazardly tossed the snowball blindly as hard as he could.
The sound of it connecting with either cloth or flesh was music to his ears. As discreetly as he could, Scott peered out over the bush. The sight of John, water dripping from his face, his mouth seemingly frozen into a perpetual frown, was not encouraging.
"Good shot," the blond congratulated dryly, wiping the snow from his face with his mitt. The mitt, already being covered itself, hardly helped.
"I don't know where they went," Scott hissed, looking behind his back in paranoia. "They're everywhere!"
"You got fooled by a four-year-old. Congratulations."
"Listen, I'm sorry, okay?" Scott sighed, and heaved a snowball lightly in John's direction. "Here, take this. We're going out hunting."
The two boys looked at each other, nodded, then slowly crept off in the general direction of the nearest hedge.
"That is the ugliest snowman that I've ever seen." Shaking his head in disbelief, Virgil surveyed the work before him with mild disgust. "Look at the thing! It looks like it's pregnant."
As if to answer, Gordon reached down, dug around in the snow, and pulled out a shiny black stone from underneath the frost cover. He jumped up, and smacked the rock square in the centre of the snowman's forehead. "There, now it looks better."
"Three eyes?" Virgil asked, wondering if Gordon was right. Maybe John and Scott had been attempting to make a snow alien. John he could see, but Scott . . .
"No," he finally decided, "it's ugly."
"Fix it!" Alan laughed, throwing a pile of snow gleefully in the air so that it once again landed and ran down Virgil's back.
Little flakes of snow began to drift down from the sky as he worked. Virgil glanced up, and noted the quickly forming storm clouds on the horizon. "We'd better make this quick."
Snow was once again falling in buckets, catching John and Scott halfway across the acreage and completely out in the open. By the time that they managed to trudge back across the field towards the house, they were drenched in snow, cold, and completely ready to kill whichever brother they found first.
Slamming the door behind him, John kicked his boots off and walked calmly into the main hallway. "Okay, guys, where are you?" Following closely behind, Scott added, "Yeah, come out so we can beat you."
The two boys checked the sitting room, found it empty, the moved to the dining area. When it too proved to be deserted, they turned for the kitchen, only to be stopped in their tracks by the sound of clanking cups coming from the lounge. Creeping up to the door, the brothers peered in at the darkly lit room.
Sitting in front of the fireplace, which was lit and glowing, were Virgil, Alan and Gordon. Blankets were strewn across the room, mixed in with various jackets and snow clothes, and a large container of hot chocolate lay dripping on top of the maple end table. The boys themselves were lying haphazardly across the various couches and chairs in the room, Gordon with his feet above his head, Virgil with his arms sprawling near to the floor.
Catching sight of his brothers at the door, Virgil waved a hand and called, "Come on in. We made some for you to."
John and Scott shared incredulous looks, then opened the door and entered. They both silently accepted a mug from Virgil, and found a place to sit that wasn't covered in some form of wet clothing.
"You realize," John muttered in between appreciative gulps of the liquid, "that you aren't supposed to use the fireplace without Scott or me around."
Virgil shrugged. "Thought maybe you'd want to be warm once you got back. We didn't plan on leaving you outside during the storm."
Scott glanced over at the window. Outside, the clouds had turned a dark grey, and flakes the size of quarters were falling at an incredible speed. The trees whipped about mercilessly in the wind, sending ice shards and long dead leaves flying into the air.
"Yeah," Scott finally decided, "that was nice of you." He took a sip of the chocolate, and smiled in relief. "Gosh, it's cold out there."
"I wish Dad were here," Alan suddenly whined from the couch, his large blue eyes twinkling in the firelight. "Scotty, when's he coming back?"
"Don't know, Al," Scott replied truthfully, "probably sometime tonight. We're going to have to manage without him."
"But I want Dad!"
Gordon opened his mouth to retort, and was quickly slapped down by John.
"Don't even start," the other boy scolded, but his eyes softened as he saw Gordon's own face begin to fall. "Hey, Gord, sorry."
"Let's not worry about it." Scott smiled supportively, and began to look around the room for something that they could do. "Here, there's some movies on the shelf. Why don't we watch something?"
"What's up there?" The mere mention of movies put Gordon in a better mood. "Can we watch The Grinch?"
"It's past Christmas," Scott muttered, now searching through the rows of films that were packed on the top of the fireplace mantle. "How about something else?"
"The Grinch is a bad influence anyway," Virgil observed with a hint of sarcasm. "We should make Gordon watch something serious."
"You just say that because Dad says that." Gordon scrunched up his face and stuck out his tongue. "Jerk."
"How about this?" A DVD was waved in the air. "Good enough?"
All four boys turned to look at John, who had raised his fist in an uncharacteristic outburst of emotion. The boy turned a light shade of red and grinned sheepishly. "Ah, yeah, sure, that'd be okay Scott."
"Uh huh," Scott snorted, laughing on the inside at John's enthusiasm. "Star Wars it is."
"Star Wars sucks," Gordon argued half-heartedly, obviously perturbed that he didn't get his choice of film. "They used puppets in it."
"Does not," John bit back, oddly annoyed about something as trivial as a film. The reaction seemed rather amusing to Scott. "Don't say that."
"Okay, guys, enough." The older boy flipped on the television in the corner of the room, put the disc in the player, and hit play. "Let's watch."
It was going on nine o'clock in the evening when Jeff Tracy finally pulled his work car into the driveway. The vehicle was covered in a slick layer of ice just from the drive back, a drive which had been adventurous at the best. At least, Jeff observed out the window, the snow had finally stopped. Though, once he considered it, he had not really noticed the storm. He had been so tied up in meetings the entire day that he hadn't thought once to look out a window.
The door required a gentle nudge to open. Jeff gave the inside handle a push, and the car opened with the sound of cracking and shattering ice. He stepped slowly from the car, taking time to find his footing, grabbed his paperwork and briefcase, and walked slowly around to the back of the house. Normally in the summer he insisted that the family use the front door, but with the moisture that they had been seeing recently it had made more sense to use the easily washable back hallway.
Jeff was halfway into the house before the odd shadowy figure in the yard caught his eye. He turned, and directed his full attention towards the towering snowman that had seemed to appear out of nowhere.
A smile tugged at the man's tired lips, begging to come out onto his face.
The day had been a long one, and the events of the past month were wearing heavily at his mind. He had been completely absorbed in his work, with his mind lost in a world that did not exist anymore.
It had been even more discouraging for him to speak to his secretary at the end of the day, only to discover that his children had been trying to contact him since the early morning. Of all of the things that he should have been doing . . . he should have been there for them. It had been happening too much as of late. Things were piling up, and no matter how hard he tried, he could not seem to escape from the storm of gloom that was blustering over his mind.
And yet, there was the snowman, waving happily at him from its post near the fence, its face raised in a ridiculously huge grin, its stomach bulging out from under what appeared to be a necktie. It was so silly looking, and perhaps that more than anything was what appealed to Jeff. The stupidity of it all! And so, the innocent product of children at play was oddly refreshing.
He couldn't help noticing that it looked suspiciously like one of the managers that worked for him at Tracy Industries.
Finally giving into the mirth, Jeff let the smile wash onto his face. If anything, it swept away any of the surface worries that he had suffered from that day, leaving only the dull throb of pain that had been festering in him since December. He turned away from the outside, opened the door, and prepared to greet his children. It was good to be home.
A/N: Calling All IR Operatives
Last month, our world was stricken with a tragedy that goes beyond common sense. It has gone beyond grief, sadness, and all other emotions, and has left the entire global population in a state of shock. Thousands of brave relief and rescue workers are already working in Asia to clean up the mess, and yet thousands more are needed. For the people of Asia who have been struck by the devastating powers of the tsunami, there are no Thunderbirds to fly in and clean up the rest of the disaster.
But, that does not mean that International Rescue cannot help out. At the heart of the matter, IR is a mind-set, a belief, and not a set of ships and special agents that travel the world in the physical sense. The spirit of IR is with all of us who put their tales to paper, with all of us who read those tales, and with all of us who wish in the back of our minds that we could wear the IR badge on our own chests.
This is my challenge to you: take up the IR spirit and help with this crisis in whatever manner you can. It could be something as small as sending a pair of used shoes, or could be something as large as giving your time directly to the rescue efforts. It doesn't matter. The world is a very small place, and in times like these the IR spirit is needed more than ever.
In the immortal words of Jeff Tracy, "The world needs Thunderbirds, and the Thunderbirds need you."