A/N: Yes, this scene was inspired by the similar one in Mulan II. Also note, though, that my world isn't a happy little Disney movie. I also enjoy the irony of the song and the situation, don't you? I think the ending got a little weird because it was written REALLY late at night, but I like it right now. I apologize in advance for the italics, which mean present time, but I had to think of a way to clearly distinguish flashback from present and I started the flashbacks in italics, before I knew how much of the story the flashbacks would take,and I'm to lazy to change it now.
Two of my upcoming stories are mentioned in here, the one with John in the fight and the Tracy Family Road trip so spoilers to those if you care.
Disclaimer: Diana Ross owns the song. Greg Anderson owns the Thunderbirds and the characters. I own…nothing.
Begun: February 20, 2005 at 5:00 PM
Finished: February 21, 2005 at 12:37 AM
Summery: TV Verse, One Shot Song Fic In the aftermath of a horrible accident, Jeff thinks about how much one of his sons meant to him and how he never got the chance to tell him.
Title: If we Hold on Together
"See you can't save everyone. Doesn't matter how hard you try; doesn't even matter if its someone you love. Someone you'd give up your life in a second to save. You just can't save everyone." Jeff Tracy, Thunderbirds Movie
Jeff Tracy looked silently over the ocean, a frown creasing his elderly features. A soft southern wind brushes across his face and through his silver hair. His brown eyes filled with tears as he remembered the words that had been spoken last time he'd been up on this cliff.
"Come on, Dad! It will be fun! Just you and me on an overnight camping trip to one of the neighboring islands, we'll be able to look at the stars and it will be just like old times."
"I don't know, John."
"The others can handle rescues for two days on their own, and I hardly go on them anyway. I miss hanging out with you, Dad. Please, just this once."
"Alright, John. We'll go this weekend."
"Thanks, Dad! This will be great, just you wait and see!"
It had been great, too. He and John had traveled to a nearby island with their light gear on their back. Jeff may not have been as young as he once was, but he liked to keep his body fit and could keep up with John without much trouble. They had spent the first day exploring the beaches and lower part of the island, and that night they had exchanged information on the celestial bodies above. Rare was the chance Jeff had to spend one on one with any of his children, rarer still to spend time with John. It was a wonderful chance, and he had been enjoying himself until it all went horribly wrong.
The weather the next morning had been a bit misty, but the rain was warm and not unpleasant. They had decided to hike the upper cliffs and canyons of the island when they had come across a rope bridge. Obviously this island had once been a tourist site of some kind in the past now long forgotten. They had both examined the bridge and decided it safe enough to cross as long as they didn't swing it too much. Jeff had insisted on going first with John following behind. They were halfway across when the bridge began to vibrate and swing wildly back and forth. Both of them realized that it was an earthquake.
A sudden snapping sound had them both looking back. Too late, they realized the rope was breaking. As if in slow motion the bridge began to tilt sideways, surely going to send them both down to their doom. Jeff reached up with one hand, snagging a piece of the broken rope, and with the other he grabbed John's wrist.
"Hang on, John! We'll get out of here!" Jeff yelled down to his son. John looked up at him with frightened blue eyes. Another snap echoed through the canyon and Jeff looked up. The rope he was hanging onto had begun to break as well. Looking back down at John he saw determination where fright had been before.
"It can't hold us both," John observed calmly. Jeff wasn't sure where he was going with this, but his stomach began to sink at the look on John's face. John smiled up at his father. "Take care of the others for me, Dad. They need you more than me."
Realization came to Jeff like almost immediately. "No. John! You can't! I'm old, I've lived my life."
"If you let go," John smiled, "we'll both die. Don't you see there is no other way? Make sure you tell them all I love them, won't you Dad?"
"Don't you dare let go!" Jeff called to his son, "do you hear me, John! Don't you dare let go."
"I love you, Dad," was all John said, tears coming to the blue eyes that were so much like his mothers. His blond hair was whipped by the wind as he looked up at his father. "I'll tell mother you said hi." Then his thin hand released its hold on Jeff's wrist. Jeff could only watch helplessly as the thin form of his son disappeared into the mist.
Don't lose your way
With each passing day
You've come so far
Don't throw them away
Jeff had hung there for several more moments, not knowing what else to do. His mind was in shock, playing the last minute over and over again in his head. It was a voice over his watch that finally snapped him out of it.
"Tracy Island to master control," came a familiar and worried voice, "can you hear me Father?"
"I'm here Scott," Jeff had whispered, just loud enough to be heard.
"We had a reading of seismic activity in your area, are you and John alright?"
"No…no we're not. John…" He could not finish. He couldn't believe it. He wouldn't believe it until John was in front of him and he had no way of denying it.
"I've got your coordinates. I'm sending Thunderbirds 1 and 2. Anything else we'll need, Father?"
"I don't know, Scott. John…"
"We'll be right there, Dad. Just hang on."
Jeff wanted to point out that there wasn't much else he could do, but decided against it. He hung onto that rope, eventually with both hands, while its thin fibers tried to stay together. The two thunderbirds where there within moments, a safety line lowered down to him from the hovering Thunderbird 2. He fastened it around himself numbly, his mind seeming to have shut off. He was raised up into the green Thunderbird, and instantly Virgil and Gordon surrounded him.
"Are you alright, Father?" Virgil asked, checking him over for injury. In his son's brown eyes he could see his own pale reflection.
"Where's John?" Gordon asked, peering out the window.
For the first time in the last several minutes, the strong patriarch of the Tracy Family broke down into tears. "He let go! In order to save me he let go. Oh John, my precious little boy…"
Virgil and Gordon stared at each other, shocked and confused. Numbly, Virgil walked over to the control and opened communication link as Gordon awkwardly put an arm around his father.
"Scott, we have a problem."
"What is it, Virg'?"
"Its John. He's…he's fallen in the canyon. Presumed…" Virgil's voice cracked with emotion as he managed to choke out, "presumed dead."
Dreams are for weaving
Wonders are waiting to start
Live your story
Faith, hope and glory
Hold to the truth in your heart
They had searched for John for several hours after that, combing the shallow river that wound through the bottom of the canyon. When Gordon had found him, his red haired son had immediately thrown up. While Virgil had tried to comfort his heaving and shaking younger brother, Scott had gone to check John's vital signs. They had been negative.
It was now two days later. Alan had been brought down from Thunderbird 5 and a press release sent out that International Rescue would be out of commission for the next several days. In order to escape his son's watchful eyes and questions, Jeff had come to his special spot on the island. The spot that he and John had shared for looking up at the stars.
The sunset bathed the ocean in a golden light that made Jeff think of John's hair. It seemed everything made him think of John now. He had never quite realized before just how important his second son was to him. Jeff sat down on a rock, allowing his mind to wander back through memories. Allowing his mind to remember why it was John he turned to when he needed comfort. Allowing his mind's eye to be filled with images of the young blond boy so much a piece of what Jeff had lost.
He had found John sitting on the roof of the garage Jeff's father had built onto the old farmhouse they lived in. Jeff frowned across the roof at his son's back. It was nearly midnight and though it was early April it was freezing outside. It didn't help that John hadn't been in the room he shared with Scott when Jeff had gone on his usual check of his sons. Making some noise so that he wouldn't startle his twelve-year-old son into falling off the roof, Jeff made his way slowly across the roof.
"What are you doing, Johnny-boy?"
John half turned and smiled over his shoulder at his father, "Hello, Dad. I'm saying hello to the stars."
Jeff couldn't help but smile as he sat down next to his son. "Oh, really? And can they hear you?"
John gave a snort. "Of course they can! The stars listen to all the wishes of the world, don't they? Surely they appreciate conversation that isn't demanding magic from them occasionally."
Jeff chuckled as he draped a blanket over his son's thin shoulders, "I guess so, Johnny-boy. It makes perfect sense."
"I want to visit each one," John smiled as he leaned back to look at his father. "I want to visit each and everyone personally."
"Technology still has a way to go before you can do that," Jeff said, looking down at his son's eager blue eyes.
"Oh, I didn't mean right now." They remained silent for a moment, John once again turned so he could see as much of the sky as possible. They sat like that for several moments until suddenly, "hey Dad?"
"Do you think…" John swallowed, turning around slowly to look at his father, "do you think that you can still see the stars in heaven? Grandma used to say that some of the stars were windows angels use to look down on those they left behind. I don't believe that anymore but…I wonder if momma is looking at the same stars I am right now."
Jeff didn't know what to say. The other boys never mentioned their mother for fear of getting Jeff angry with them for rekindling the still fresh and painful memories. John, on the other hand, never hesitated to bring his mother into a conversation. He seemed to need to talk about her, and Jeff never could bring himself to be angry with him.
"I hope she can," John continued, resuming his search of the sky. "Because then she doesn't seem so far away, does she Dad?"
Jeff pulled the preteen close to him in a tight hug, resting his chin on top of his thin blond hair. His hair was soft, and the same color Lucy's used to be. He even smelt like she had. He smelt like fresh cut grass and spring wind. "No, Johnny. She doesn't."
If we hold on together
I know our dreams will never die
Dreams see us through to forever
Where clouds roll by
For you and I
Tears splashed from Jeff's eyes, catching the wind as they fell. John had always been like that. John was the only one who dared to try and reach the man that hid behind the tough façade. John knew that his father was still hurting from the death of his wife, and was constantly trying to get him to face his emotions.
John had been his rock, his anchoring place. Even when he had been young, John had been the source of comfort his father needed after the death of the mother he was so much like.
Jeff looked up blurrily to see his blonde haired five-year-old enter the room. He licked his already to moist lips, "Hello, John."
The blurry figure moved closer, his features becoming more distinct. Jeff could clearly see the frown on his second son's face. "You've been drinking again."
Jeff winced at the disapproving tone in his young sons voice, and he felt the need to explain himself. "Today would have been your momma's birthday, Johnny. I had been going to take her on a cruise in Alaska to celebrate before…"
A small hand reached up and took the bottle from his hand. "She wouldn't have liked to see you like this, Daddy. It makes her sad when you do make yourself forget."
Jeff sucked in a breath. How could John know what his Lucy would have thought if she could see him like this? John was only a child. The five-year-old hoisted himself up onto the bed and knelt down at his father's side. With gentle hands he turned his father's head so that he could look him in the eyes.
"Forgetting Momma won't make you feel better," John said, sounding much older than his few short years, "you need to remember her. That's what I do when I get sad. I remember Momma when we were all happy."
"Remember?" Jeff asked, not sure whether he was confused because of the alcohol or because he truly didn't understand.
"Uh-huh. I remember when we would read my book, or when we went to the beach. Do you remember going to the beach, Daddy?"
Jeff smiled. Lucy had looked stunning that day, though she said she was to fat as she'd given birth to Virgil two short weeks before. Jeff's mother, however, had insisted they spend time with their two elder sons and taken over caring for the newborn while Lucy and Jeff took Scott and John to the beach. It had been a lovely day, with eighteen-month-old John chasing seashells and young Scott trying to catch the waves on the sand. "I remember, Johnny. I can't believe you do, though. You were so little."
"I promised Momma I wouldn't forget her," John said calmly, "and that means all of her. If I think of them long enough and hard enough, I can remember everything Momma and I did together. You have to do that too, Daddy. As long as we don't forget her, Momma can't ever leave us."
Souls in the wind must
Learn how to bend
Seek out a star
Hold on to the end
Jeff closed his eyes, suddenly overwhelmed with the pain of the memories. He had taken for granted that John would be there when he needed comfort, or when he just wanted to talk. That's how John was, always there to listen if any of his family needed to talk to him. He would patiently listen to them rant about some silly thing or other before gently pointing them in the direction of the solution that, in retrospect, was often quite obvious. Rarely did he seek any comfort or anything, really, for himself and even when he did he usually managed to turn it around to help someone else.
Opening his eyes, Jeff saw the evening star beginning to shine in the western sky. Two more tears fell from Jeff's eyes as he thought of the first time John had expressed to him his special bond with the stars, his own version of healing.
John was lying on his bed, back turned toward the door, as Jeff silently entered. He could see his son's shoulders shaking with quiet sobs. Guilt tugged at Jeff's heart. How could he possibly have thought John would have started that fight? John was hurting and he'd done nothing to help. What kind of father was he?
John rolled over, his blue eyes blood shot and red rimmed from at least a half hour's worth of tears. He sniffled and rubbed his left hand, the one bandaged due to his broken wrist, under his nose. "I thought you were at Allie's party."
Jeff sat down on John's glow in the dark star covered bed and motioned for his nine-year-old son to sit next to him. Dutifully, John did so, and Jeff smiled down at him sadly. "Gordon told me everything."
"He did," John said slowly, blinking as he sniffled once more.
"Yes, he did. Why didn't you tell me the other boys had provoked you? In your position I would have done the same thing. Probably even worse things."
"You didn't ask." John offered by way of explanation. "You just asked if I'd started the fight, and I was the one that threw the first punch so…"
Tears coming to his eyes, Jeff pulled his sensitive son close, "I'm so sorry, Johnny. I shouldn't have believed you'd do that. I should have known better. I just was so angry because of what day it is that I couldn't see. I'm a terrible father."
To Jeff's surprise, John hugged him back with all the strength in his small arms. "You're not a bad Daddy! Don't even think that! You're the best Daddy in the whole world and I love you." John jumped to his feet and tugged him to the window. "I have stars that I talk to when I can't talk to you guys. Each one of you has a special star. Do you want to see which one is yours, Daddy? That one is." John pointed eagerly to the glowing evening star and looked at it before looking up at his father. "Through that star I can talk to you and I know you'll hear me, even if you don't realize it."
"Does it work the other way to?" Jeff smiled, resting his hand on top of John's head as he turned to look out the window again.
"If you want it to, Daddy. If you want it to."
There is a fountain
Washes our tears all away
Worlds are swaying
Someone is praying
Please let us come home to stay
Jeff looked at that star now, the feeling of pain in his chest almost overwhelming him. It hurt so much to think of his blond son now, and how he had always been there for him.
"Come back John," Jeff whispered to the star as tears fell down his slightly wrinkled cheeks. "I wasn't ready for you to go." He got to his feet, suddenly angry and yelling. "Do you hear me John Glenn Tracy! I wasn't ready to let you go yet!"
Jeff sat down again, feeling almost like he couldn't breath. He wasn't ready to lose any of his sons. It was the worst pain he had ever experienced and would ever experience as a parent. He mourned for every parent who had ever experienced this before. Losing anyone of his boys would have been difficult, but losing John was the most difficult.
He had lost him, at least physically, once before on a family vacation. Jeff had come up with the brilliant idea of taking his young boys to Disneyland to celebrate Scott's thirteenth birthday. Because Gordon was terrified of airplanes at the time, Jeff had decided driving would be a good idea. It wasn't and before they'd reached the Arizona/Nevada border he was at his wits end. He had hurried his boys back into the car after a rest stop so quickly that he didn't realize that his quietest son was missing until two hours down the road. The moment he realized John wasn't there had been horrifying for him as a parent, and a moment he would never forget for as long as he lived. Dearer to his heart, however, was when they had been reunited thanks to a kindly state trooper.
"Dad!" John, all five-feet-two-inches of him, bolted from the open door of the patrol car and raced toward his father. Jeff bent down and caught him open armed, holding him as close and tight as Jeff felt allowed without crushing his eleven-year-old son.
John began sobbing into Jeff's shoulder, trembling all over. "I just left the car for a minute to get a soda, but then I turned around and you were gone! All of you were gone!"
"I'm so sorry, Johnny," Jeff said, fighting his own tears, as he ran his hands through John's hair. "I'll never ever lose you again. I'm so sorry I didn't realize you weren't there."
"Its okay, Dad," John smiled, pulling back to look Jeff in the eyes, "I would forget me to if I were the one driving and had to put up with Gordon."
Jeff laughed, hugging his son close to him and allowing a few tears to land in John's thin hair. "Don't you ever worry me like that okay, John? I love you to much for that."
"Okay, Dad. I promise."
If we hold on together
I know our dreams will never die
Dreams see us through to forever
Where clouds roll by
For you and I
Jeff sobbed, wrapping his arms around himself. How he longed to hold his calm and stable young son again, to tell him he loved him once more. It was something he hadn't done often enough lately. He had been taken for granted that John would be there when he needed him, a consistency in this hectic world. Never again would his son soothe away his father's worries and fears with just one glance or soft word. Jeff could only think of one other time John hadn't been the one to wipe away his Father's tears. The only time someone other than John had seen him cry.
The room was silent except for the beeping of the heart monitor. For some reason the monitor was comforting, its steady beeping the only signal that his son was still alive. Jeff's eyes looked over his prone son lying on the bed as tears came to his eye. John's blond hair was plastered to his white forehead with a thin line of sweat. The horrible fever that had hospitalized his fifteen-year-old son had not abated yet.
"Please John," Jeff managed to choke out through his dry throat, "don't leave me now. You can't leave me…I need you still…"
Jeff didn't look around, he knew it was Scott. His young son had just learned how to drive and was the only one that could possibly be here because his mother had recently lost her drivers license.
"I picked the other boys up from school, Father," Scott said as he stepped into the room and shut the door behind him. "I've come to see if you wanted to come home."
"Not without Johnny," Jeff had whispered. Scott had looked at his father for a moment, and if Jeff would have turned around he would have seen a flash of anger in his elder son's eyes.
"Alan got an A on his math test today," Scott said as he walked forward, pulling a chair behind him. "And Gordon has a meet on Saturday about the same time that Virgil has an award ceremony for one of his paintings." When Jeff didn't answer, Scott began to feel his anger boiling inside again. "Don't you even care, Dad?"
"I'm sorry, Scottie, but John needs me right now."
"We need you now! You have four other sons that need your right now! Gordon wants you to go to his meet; Virgil wants to tell you about his first kiss. Alan tore his test to pieces because you weren't there to see it. And stop calling me Scottie. I'm not a kid any more."
For the first time Jeff looked up at his eldest. Sitting there like he was, Scott didn't look like a kid any more. His blue eyes were so serious and intense, true anger written across his not quite man but not quite boyish features. Unable to keep his son's angry gaze, Jeff turned to look at John again. Scott sighed, looking down at the floor.
"I know you think John is all you have left of Mom," tears came to Scott's eyes, "some final piece of her kept alive. He's not though, Father, he's John. That's all he ever will be, and someday you're going to have to see that. I miss her too, but forcing John to be the strong one all the time because he feels its his responsibility to take care of you won't bring her back."
Jeff didn't say anything but looked at Scott evenly. Scott looked up at him, his eyes just a little to bright. "I know you miss her dad. I miss her too. But you can't make John feel like he has to be her. He does feel that, you know, and he hates that he's not. You can't keep doing this to him, to us. We need you to be our father. Not just when things are hard, all the time, but especially when things are hard. We need you now. All of us. John wouldn't want you to do this to us. If he were here he would be so angry with you for being by his side instead of making sure everything at home was okay. When he wakes up he's going to be so angry with you."
Jeff smiled at his eldest son. "Thank you, Scott. Really. Though I think hitting me upside the head would have worked even better."
To Jeff's delight, Scott began to laugh.
When we are out there in the dark
We'll dream about the sun
In the dark we'll feel out the light
Warm our hearts
"I'm doing it again," Jeff whispered to the star, though it now had company. "I've left them just when they need me the most." Jeff stood up, though he couldn't remember having sat down again.
He shivered slightly, pulling up the collar on his shirt. "I don't know if I can face them again, Johnny. I don't know if I can face looking in the mirror again. I depended on you so much…I took away your childhood. I can only think of one time that you lost control though. Only once did you ever get mad at me when I deserved so much more."
Jeff Tracy stumbled in the door, his mind and body exhausted. He had been working constantly on his plan for the Thunderbirds, as he and Brains had come to call them, and all he wanted to do right now was collapse on his bed and sleep for the next week.
"Where were you?" The to calm voice came from the couch. Jeff whipped around and saw eighteen-year-old John sitting on the couch. His arms were crossed over his chest and his blue eyes were narrowed in the dim light.
"I was working." Jeff answered, wondering vaguely while he was being treated like a child come in past his curfew.
"You'd promised to be home by nine." John told him, voice lowered to a level Jeff would have recognized as dangerous had he been more awake.
"Excuse me, John, but who exactly is the parent here? Shouldn't I be the one lecturing you?"
"Fair question. Let me turn it around and have you answer one for me. Would you even know if I hadn't been home before midnight like I'm supposed to? Would you have even noticed it was way past supper at that you had three boys at home who wouldn't have gotten any?"
Jeff was stunned for a moment, staring at John as he slowly got to his feet. At his sides, John's hands were balled into trembling fists and hot tears were beginning to spill out of his blue eyes.
"Whose the parent here, Dad, because it isn't you! You're never even home! You're at the office all the time; you don't even know your own sons anymore! Did you even know that Virgil got a scholarship to an art college in South Carolina? He was up until eleven, when I sent him to bed, waiting to tell you and run the idea by you! Gordon had a swim meet last week that you missed. He's got a good shot at the Olympics and he wanted to talk to you about it. You didn't come home, and so he had to substitute me. And Alan… don't even get me started on Alan! He needs you, Dad! He needs a father now and you're not there for him! You never have been!"
Jeff didn't know what to say. Never before had he seen his son so angry. Never had John dared to talk back to him about anything before.
"Are you so damn selfish that you can't see that without Scott we're falling apart?" More tears spilled down John's flushed cheeks. "I'm doing the best I can, but I'm not Scott. I'm failing my classes, Dad! Even my astronomy classes because I'm here taking care of your sons because someone has to be there for them! You're at work all the time, Scott abandoned them, and so that leaves me. I'm flunking out of college, the only thing I thought I'd ever be good at, because I'm here being a father to boys only a few years younger than me. What the hell am I supposed to do, Dad? What am I supposed to do?"
Jeff couldn't answer him, and watched helplessly as John sat down on the couch with shaking hands and heavy sobs tearing from his thin chest. "I don't know what to do anymore, Dad! I can't take this, but I can't let this family fall apart. I won't let everything I love be taken from me! I won't!" John began rocking back and forth, tears running down his pale face. For the first time in to many weeks, Jeff truly saw his son. Cloths that were usually to baggy now seemed to be drowning him, and his usually thin frame was now getting borderline scrawny. Dark circles were under his son's eyes as he cried unabashedly on the couch.
Jeff moved over and hugged his son close, and though John went ridged he didn't exactly pull away from the embrace either. "I'm sorry, Johnny. I'm sorry for everything."
"I don't want you to be sorry," John sobbed, "I want you to fix it!"
Jeff pulled his son closer, noting with alarm how thin he was. "I know. I will. I promise you, I will. I love you, Johnny-boy. Never forget that. What I want you to do is go back to school, and concentrate on your studies. You leave the raising of the other three to me, all right. You've done all you can, John. You understand? You've done more than enough, Johnny, and its time you become who you are."
John rested his head on his dad's chest, sobbing for a bit longer, "I love you, Dad."
Jeff kissed his son's forehead gently, holding him close enough to break him, "I love you too, John."
If we hold on together
I know our dreams will never die
Dreams see us through to forever
As high as souls can fly
The clouds roll by
For you and I.
"I still love you, John," Jeff smiled to the star. It didn't respond, but Jeff hadn't really expected it to. Tears falling from his eyes, he turned away from the sea and began to walk toward the house. He could see his four remaining sons sitting in the living room, comforting each other. They needed each other's strength, and he needed them.
In silence he slid open the door, and immediately the all looked up. They could tell he had been crying, but none of them wanted to bring it up. Gordon walked over and hugged his father close.
"We'll survive," the red haired Tracy son whispered, "we'll get through this."
"Of course we will, Gordo," Jeff responded, hugging his son back, "because we're in this. Together. Just like John wanted us to be all along."