Dislcaimer: Thunderbirds is the property of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, as well as Carlton and Universal. No profit is intended to be made from this story; it is for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended, and none should be inferred. All original characters are the property of the author. This story should not be used or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.
A/N: Set during the movie, and ending with the scene where Jeff tries to wake John up. You know which one. This story does allude to several events in my story "The Winds of Advent", including John's brush with insanity in Chapters 20 and 21. In order to catch everything alluded to in this story, reading those chapters would be recommended, but not required. For everyone that asked for the one-shots, here's the first one.
Thanks to Ariel D for looking this over when it was written. It's time to pull it out of the cobwebs and post it. :)
A Hope For the Future
"Dad? Are you there?"
The words, so soft and raspy that they were barely audible, faded away as soon as they were spoken. In the diminishing atmosphere of the space station it was surprising that they were audible at all.
They were the last words that Jeff Tracy had expected to hear. And given the circumstances of the situation that he was in, they might also be the last he would ever hear.
Twisting his body around so that his foot was braced against a dark husk of a burnt out computer console, Jeff gave the metal a light kick. The push was enough to send him spinning towards what was the roof of Thunderbird Five, where he was able to grab hold of a loose outcropping and stretch back towards the ground.
Experienced from years of practice on NASA flights, Jeff expertly maneuvered himself beside his son John, who he had thought had succumbed to the low oxygen levels minutes earlier. His other boys, floating limply in the zero gravity of the tumbling space station, showed only the faintest signs of life as they drifted about in unconsciousness.
In such a desolate place, which had barely survived structurally intact from a missile strike, it was not hard to imagine a world devoid of life. But life was clinging on, in the form of Jeff Tracy and his son.
Smiling grimly, and seeing nothing else to do that would make the situation better, Jeff rested his hand on his son's forehead.
A cough escaped John's mouth at the touch. The noise, Jeff realized on closer scrutiny, was probably an attempt at a laugh that was stifled by the low oxygen content of the air on the station. Shaking his head, Jeff rubbed his son gently and withdrew his hand.
"Pretty useless, I guess. It's hot enough up here for all of us to be running a fever." It was a parent's habit that had drawn his eyes to the beads of sweat on his son's face, and the slowly paling pallor of his skin.
"Forgot to turn the heat down last night," John rasped, and his eyes drooped slightly from the exhaustion brought about by simple speech. "Sorry about that." The words echoed around the space station, colliding off floating panels, loose wiring, and shattered glass.
Jeff shook his head. How his son could be so calm in a situation completely alluded him. On the outside, Jeff had shown little emotion during the entire disaster. He had tried to pull things together, tried to keep his sons in check - had tried to give them hope. On the inside though, he had quickly grown terrified.
There his boys were, floating around him, while the space station made its final decent into the atmosphere. There was no hope. They were going to die. His sons were going to die, because of the desires of one madman. They were going to die because of the organization that Jeff Tracy had created and had let his sons join.
The instincts of a field commander had left him as his sons, one by one, had closed their eyes and fallen asleep. All he had left was him, Jeff Tracy, and the raw emotions that he had been subduing since he had first received the distress call from Thunderbird Five.
Stifling a cry, Jeff closed his eyes and bent his head low to his son so that their foreheads touched. "God, John, I'm sorry." The words sounded so pathetic to him. Whether it was the failing of the oxygen scrubbers or his heart trying to die, it didn't matter. Words meant so little at a time like this, when it was action that was needed. "I'm so sorry that I put you in this position."
And he was startled, once again, to hear a response.
How John was holding on was a mystery to him. "We should have done something," Jeff said softly. "We should have had the escape capsule ready for you. We should have . . ."
"Done what?" John's face crinkled as he tried to smile. The action succeeded only in making him grimace. And yet, a placid expression of calm still resided in his eyes. "It was my choice. I knew the risks. And I wouldn't want it any other way. I could die in a lot worse places than this."
And he had no response to the words.
"You tried, Dad. You've been the best father anyone could wish for. Don't feel bad about this. I'm not alone up here. You came to get me. Hell, that's all that matters to me. That's all that's ever mattered."
Those words hit so deep that Jeff nearly curled over in the zero gravity. He had tried to stop it. He wanted to stop everything even now. He wanted to close his eyes and make it better. He wanted to stop time and be able to hold onto what he was about to lose. He didn't want to have to let go. He didn't want to lose it all.
Because that's what he had lost - everything. Things weren't all right. They were the furthest from all right. They were almost all together up on the station, to be sure, but the delicate balance that was their survival would not last for long. And when that happened, he wouldn't have to worry anymore. None of them would.
"It's okay, Dad."
A hand reached up to his face and brushed under his eyes.
"Let me tell you something."
The labored sound of his son's breathing was becoming more pronounced. It was obvious that the air wouldn't hold out for much longer.
"When I first came up here I was so scared. I was so lost. All I could see was the past. All I could see was Mom. I couldn't bring myself to let her go. I kept dwelling on it, kept trying to keep her alive, kept trying to love something that wasn't there."
Jeff looked up, startled. He hadn't heard this before.
"Dad, that morning you called me, I lost it. I had a breakdown, because I couldn't see the future. I couldn't put my trust into the hands of other people who loved me. I couldn't trust my own family."
"Know how I've survived this long up here? I know there's something tangible to fight for. This organization-"
"Is dying," Jeff said, suddenly immensely tired. He wanted to sleep so badly. He had screwed up, and this was the result. If he closed his eyes, if he could just let go, then everything would disappear . . .
"It isn't, Dad!"
The sudden sharpness of John's tone struck Jeff hard in the face and drew him back to reality.
The force of the voice also drew too much energy from his son's body, causing John to shudder and give off a hard and wracking cough. He gasped and wretched, nearly doubling over in midair, and then finally composed himself enough to continue. "Because I learned that you can't dwell on the dead. You have to have hope for the living. Alan is still okay."
"Going to be fine, Dad. You said so earlier."
Jeff didn't have to say what he was going to say. He didn't have to say that they weren't okay, that it didn't matter anymore for whoever was up on the space station. He didn't say that his hope in Alan had faded. He didn't say that he didn't think Alan could win. He didn't say that his son didn't have a chance.
How much I've fallen, Jeff thought sadly. But how can I have hope now? For a man that has preached perseverance to his sons, I'm an awful hypocrite.
"He may not reach us in time, Dad."
Of course Alan wouldn't. He was just a boy. He was smart, but he lacked the experience needed to pull off a proper rescue. It wasn't Alan's fault that they were probably going to die.
"But he's going to be okay."
"Why?" Jeff finally managed. He was past the point of arguing with his son. He just wanted to talk to him, wanted to drag the moment out as long as it would last, before the lack of air robbed his senses again. "Why?"
"Because-" The blonde's voice was cut off suddenly as he struggled for air.
Placing his arm under his son, Jeff pulled John closer to him so that he could hear better. "Because?"
"The Hood is obsessed," John whispered, his eyes finally closing from the strain. "And obsession destroys. I know what it can do. And Alan and Lady Penelope and Brains and everyone else are going to be able to stop him. Because sometime he's going to make a mistake, and they're going to fix everything. He won't get away with it. They're strong. They won't let him win."
How could he believe those words? How, when death was so close, could he possibly feel that things would be all right? The Earth looked so tiny out the frosted window, so far away that Jeff felt as though he could hold it in his hand. It wasn't a world – it was a marble of sanity, so small that it slipped through his fingers and spun out into the void.
"Trust me, Dad. I know."
Perhaps because it was his son that was speaking them.
He wanted to give up. Death called, robbing his air of oxygen. Soon there would be only blackness. And maybe he had made a mistake, but until then, until his punishment was fulfilled, he still had a sliver of life to hold on to.
He still had John. He still had his boys. And in John, who had always, since the day Lucy had died, stood strong, he found his sanity again. For a brief moment, Jeff Tracy's brain cleared, and he saw things as clearly as if he were walking in the rain on a cold April morning. His panic disappeared, to be replaced by an almost euphoric calm.
Maybe, just maybe, Alan would be okay.
"What would I do without your help?"
From between clenched lips, John said simply, "You'd be my Dad." Then he was silent, a motionless body in the red glare of the emergency lights.
That was it, then. There was no reason to hold back now. Yet, when he tried to cry, Jeff found that he had no tears. He was strangely relaxed, just as John had been. It was as if everything had finally sunk in, and he understood was about to happen.
Something bumped into Jeff's arm, and he absently grabbed at it with his free hand. Bringing it around to his face, he saw that it was the facemask for a nearly empty oxygen canister. He raised it to his own face, and when he found oxygen there, he touched it to John's. With as much strength as he could muster, Jeff said, "Don't go to sleep! John, look at me. Keep your eyes open!"
He didn't expect an answer – and this time he received none. John was strong; Jeff knew that. He had seen it as his son had grown up. He had overcome obstacle after obstacle and had survived.
But death was one monster that couldn't be escaped from, no matter how hard you tried.
Keeping the mask tight to his son's face, Jeff closed his own eyes and fell deep inside himself. As the darkness began to surround him, as his mind began to swim with more than the sensation of weightlessness, he tried to focus on the past. He tried to hold onto it.
But he couldn't. It only reminded him of what was happening now, and it tried to take away from him the calm that he had found in the words of his son. He couldn't sort out the happy memories from the unhappy ones. All he could see was Lucy's face, broken, bleeding, and covered in dust and mud.
So Jeff did what John had suggested. He let go of what had happened. He let go of the destruction. He let go of the mistakes. Instead, he focused his thoughts on the smiling face of the one boy who was going to survive. He didn't want to die a broken man, and that resolve put a tiny smile on his worn face.
It was that way, with his thoughts on his son Alan, and with a small shard of hope in his heart - a hope for the future - that Jeff Tracy fell asleep for what he thought to be the last time.