Authors Note: This story is the start of an AU version of Thunderbirds.
The cemetery was cold, bleak and windswept; a biting, bitterly cold wind that felt like it came right from the North Pole itself blew right across it.
Jeff Tracy stood facing a new grave, looking at the tombstone and the freshly turned, partially frozen soil that lay in front of it. Though he was bundled up warm against the typically bitter cold day, the biting wind ripped right through his multiple layers to chill him to the bone. Still Jeff paid it no mind, even as it stole the moisture from his lips and cheeks that were red from the cold and streaked with the trails of his tears. He ignored the aching in his lungs from breathing in the frigid air, it was nothing compared to the pain in his heart. A pain that had been there since he had been told of the terrible, fatal accident that had claimed his beloved's life, a pain that seemed like it was never going to stop, a pain that was slowly tearing him apart.
Instead Jeff just looked at the grave, the grave stone was a simple block with writing engraved in gold, just as Lucille had specified in her living room, even the funeral service had been simple. As she had requested as Jeff recalled that Lucille had never gone in for anything overly ornate or extravagant. Lucille has preferred to keep things practical and simple. An attitude and taste further entrenched and pronounced by the austerity of the years of shortages and hardships brought about by the global energy crises that had only relatively recently ended.
Reading Lucille's name and the dates of her birth and death on the cold, unfeeling stone Jeff felt his eyes burn again as the grief welled up inside him again.
"Why," he screamed his throat already raw from having screamed and cried so much in recent days. "Why did you have to leave me, leave our boys?" There was naturally no reply from the stone, or from the departed soul of the dead woman who had been the other half of his soul. Fate and death were cruel like that.
Blind, burning rage filled Jeff for a moment and unable to restrain himself he kicked the ground hard. Then the rage was gone and the grief returned full force. Crumpling to his knees Jeff burst into tears again, deep broken sobs shaking his fit and powerful frame.
Eventually Jeff crumpled over onto his side and drew himself up into a foetal position. No longer having the energy to cry or even to try and stand Jeff just lay there with the bitter wind the only companion for his shattered heart. Slowly his eyes drifted closed.
He saw whiteness, endless pure whiteness. The whiteness was warm and all pervasive; there was nothing but the whiteness and a faint ethereal music that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. Music that was more beautiful and melodic that anything he had ever heard in his life before.
Finding that he was somehow standing up Jeff turned in place hoping to see something. But he saw nothing, nothing but the warm whiteness. What is this place, Jeff thought, have I died as well?
"Am I dead," he said aloud.
"No my love," a beautiful, achingly familiar voice said from behind him. "It is not your time yet."
Startled but delighted Jeff spun around and there she was, standing right in front of him. Lucille was dressed in a long, flowing white robe embroidered with delicate patterns in a golden thread. The colour of the thread almost matching her long blond hair which was hanging loosely down her back, gleaming like a river of liquid gold.
"Lucille," Jeff said softly not quite believing it was her. I must be hallucinating, Jeff thought even as Lucille smiled, the same smile that had long ago stolen his heart in a way that nothing else, not even space had been able to do.
"Yes Jeff it's me," Lucille replied. "No you're not hallucinating I am here, after a fashion."
"Where are we?" Jeff asked reaching out to touch his wife as he had many times, only to feel heartbreaking disappointment as his hand passed right through her body with only some slight resistance. Sadly Jeff pulled his hand back, realising that he could no more touch her than he could touch a hologram.
"You can't touch me Jeff," Lucille said softly. "As much as you might want to, only your mind is here not your soul. To answer your question the best way to describe where we are is a kind of halfway house that exists between the mortal world and the immortal world beyond the veil of death."
"So I'm not dead then."
"No your journey in the mortal world is not over yet, though at the moment that journey is in danger of ending prematurely."
"Why did you leave me? Leave our boys? How could do that to us?" The words came out angrier than Jeff intended, drawing force from the tremendous agony that currently gripped his soul. Lucille didn't even bristle though she smiled sadly and Jeff could tell that she had been expecting the outburst to come sooner or later.
"You have every right to be angry; I would be if our positions were reversed. Believe me when I tell you that I didn't want to leave you Jeff, or our boys. But it was my time; my journey in the mortal world is over, though yours must continue."
"How can I go on without you beside me Lucille? I can't do it, not without you."
"Yes you can Jeff and you must for you still have much to do before your own journey ends. But know this I will always be with you, watching you and the boys. I will always be in your heart until your mortal journey ends and our souls can be together again for the rest of eternity."
"What will I do? How will I live? I can't go on like I did before you…"
"Before I died," Lucille finished for him. "No you can't but I cannot answer those questions for you my love. You will have to find the answers on your own as they will direct your destiny and it is only you alone who controls that."
"My fate is in my hands."
"Precisely. I must leave you now my love, time works differently here you cannot stay much longer. But before I go will you promise me something Jeff?"
"Promise me that you will go on with your life. There is nothing wrong with the grief you feel at the moment, it is perfectly natural, just don't let it fester, don't let it dominate your life."
For a moment Jeff paused, he wasn't sure that he could do what his wife asked of him. If he could get past his heartbreak and pain to go on with his life without her by his side. Lucille had been his rock for so long, the one he could turn to when he was uncertain, going on without her would be incredibly difficult. But he knew somehow that she was right, he had to go on with his life not only for his sake, but for the sake of their sons and Lucille's own memory.
"I, I promise I will try. It will be so hard," he said at last, which earned him a smile from Lucille.
"I know my love, and to try is all I can ask of you," Lucille answered and put her hand on Jeff's cheek and to his amazement Jeff faintly felt her touch. It wasn't much more like the echo of a sensation but it warmed and comforted him nevertheless. "If it helps remember I will always be with you, even though you won't see me. Always remember that I love you Jeff."
"I love you too Lucille. I always will."
Lucille smiled at him one last time, and then she turned transparent before vanishing altogether. Around Jeff the all pervasive whiteness began to fade away as well, darkening until there was nothing but blackness. Jeff sighed and closed his eyes as a curious lightness filled him. Then he knew no more.
Jeff gasped softly as consciousness returned with a sharp jolt almost like an electric shock. Slowly he opened his eyes to find himself looking up at a familiar ceiling, a ceiling he knew very well indeed. It was the ceiling of his bedroom in the big farmhouse that had been in his family since they had first immigrated to America from England centuries before. Did I dream all that, Jeff wondered, was that weird white place all a dream? Or did it really happen, did I really see her?
"Dad," a hesitant sounding voice – that it took Jeff's still groggy mind a few seconds to recognise as belonging to his oldest son – said. Looking in the direction the voice had come from Jeff saw that Scott was sitting in a chair beside the bed. As soon as their eyes met Jeff saw a look of relief and delight appear in Scott's expressive blue eyes.
"Dad you're awake," Scott said. Jeff nodded already deciding that he was going to play dumb about what had happened to him, he wasn't sure he believed it himself yet, but he knew Scott would never believe him.
"Scott what happened? How did I get back here?" Scott looked at his father carefully, he could tell that Jeff knew something but didn't want to say. For a moment he contemplated asking his father what that something was but decided against it. He would never get an answer from Jeff unless he was willing to give it, only their mother had been able to do otherwise.
"When you didn't come back after the funeral we went out looking for you," Scott explained playing along. "Grandpa found you collapsed unconscious next to mom's grave, he brought you back here. We called the doctor but he couldn't find anything wrong with you, you were just unconscious. That was three days ago."
"Three days," Jeff repeated stunned. "Oh God I'm sorry Scott, I didn't mean to make any of you worry."
"Its okay Dad, it's not anything you could control. I'm just glad you're awake now. I have to go and tell everyone else. Will you be okay while I do that Dad? Do you want anything?" Jeff thought for a moment and realised that his throat was as dry as the Sahara desert. But then was understandable after being asleep for three days.
"A drink would be nice Scott," Jeff answered at last. "Water preferably."
"Alright I'll get you some water," Scott replied standing up. "I'll be right back Dad."
Jeff nodded and watched as Scott left the room. Once his eldest was gone Jeff looked around the room trying to wrap his head around the fact that three days of his life had simply vanished. After a moment his eyes fell on a photograph of Lucille and strangely the photo seemed to begin to glow with an unearthly white light and Jeff knew what had happened. He hadn't dreamed that strange white place or the meeting with his wives spirit, it had really happened. I'll keep my promise Lucille, he thought, I will find away to go on with my life until the day comes when my soul again joins with yours.
For a moment the Lucille in the photo seemed to smile at him, and then the glow vanished leaving an inert image behind glass. Jeff smiled softly then lay back in bed to wait for Scott to return. Silently he vowed to himself that he would find away to keep his promise to Lucille. How he was going to do it he didn't know but he knew Lucille was right and that he would find away. He had to.