Jeff was lost for words as he sat in the living room, his head spinning with thoughts that seemed to be so useless to him. He had spent the entire day with his youngest son for once not in a principals office, not digging him out of trouble or even breaking up an argument between his brothers. They had actually spoken to each other. More than that they had spoken to each other since morning and in some way Jeff felt he understood his youngest son a little better. Alan had never been a bad kid, misguided yes but never bad. Perhaps it was his own fault for not being there, his older brothers had been at a better age to understand why Jeff just couldn't handle being at home. Still Alan was only a small child when Lucy had passed away.
Scott had taken over the role of mother and father for four younger brothers and Jeff had watched as Alan tried to find his feet in a family that wasn't exactly the most conventional. Talking to the teenager was always a task; he found that being ready for battle worked well as Alan had a way of pushing his buttons. It usually ended up with the pair yelling at each other or simply just not talking. Today however thanks to a sick calf and a task set by Christina, Jeff found the time to sit and talk about everything he could have possibly thought of. It ranged from the small school reports to his own reasons for not allowing his youngest son into the family business.
Jeff couldn't say that everything had been fixed within a day; it simply didn't work that way however a better understanding or even mutual understanding had occurred on some level. Alan didn't agree with being kept away from the Thunderbirds until he finished school but Jeff hoped that he understood the reason, meanwhile Jeff understood just why Alan had acted the way he had been. The feeling of being left out, looking in on a group of people that were family yet kept him out of something he knew all about but was forbidden to go near.
Taking a deep breath and sighing Jeff heard the front door open and the familiar sound of footsteps that could only be Bill. The man looked tired although from what Jeff had seen the man almost always did. Dropping down into one of the armchairs Bill held an almost wicked smile.
"Hear you and your boy had a good... chat?" Bill said wanting to know most if not all the details.
"We did and it's thanks to your girl. Chris knows how to work people." Jeff said having realised earlier that the small task of taking a bottle out to his son was the beginning of something bigger. "I don't know why I didn't do something like this before."
Bill laughed shaking his head toward Jeff. Things were never easy when it came to children and they all had a way of making every parent have tunnel vision no matter what the reason. Bill didn't have children, only the one adopted daughter who now was a woman he never thought the baby he had seen all those years ago would ever turn into.
"Trust me hindsight is a wonderful thing when we get to do the right thing." Bill said shaking his head as he reached for the TV remote.
"Honestly I think I understand Alan a lot more, well not entirely but it feels like I'm a few steps further forward than I was." Jeff added smiling comfortably as the TV screen flicked into life.
Jeff saw the animated cartoon character fly across the screen as Bill rolled his eyes, "You wouldn't think that any adults lived in this house."
The pair laughed at the statement when the channel changed to the evening news. The red banner scrolled along the bottom of the screen with text that only held bad news.
Two explosions rock the city this evening. Investigators tonight are sifting through the wreckage of two sites, the first at Central Station disrupting all trains incoming and outgoing.
Bill shook his head as the new reader was replaced with a live camera crew at the site. Jeff had seen the devastation of all sorts of disasters flying the Thunderbirds but this was different, the pictures showed the ground level results of such an occurrence and the vividly bright flashing blue and red lights of police cars, fire engines and ambulance service.
Twelve confirmed dead this evening with the fatality rate expected to rise as emergency crews continue their work. We now go live to Clifford Davis Federal Building, where the second explosion today occurred.
Jeff stared at the images; it was not as bad as the first scene though when the camera moved to different angles it was clear to see that the glass at the front of the building was shattered and spread over the concrete, cracked and damaged shards littering the floor. A few cars looked badly burned only the metal frames left smouldering as once again the sight of emergency crews working were shown.
We have been told that there were only three fatalities at the Clifford Davis Federal Building, two of which were Federal Agents who have yet to be named. The explosions were caused by leaky gas pipes and authorities are working to minimise any other damage.
The mere words were enough to see Bill's colour drain from his face, Jeff saw the man tighten his grip of the remote control and appeared to cease breathing for a good few moment. Jeff couldn't say he wasn't a little concerned himself as Bill changed channels back to the happy pictures of the cartoon character.
"Do you want to talk?" Jeff said unsure what he could say that would make things any better.
Bill simply shook his head and sank further back into the armchair; it took two sharp knocks on the front door for the man to look scared to death. If there had been any colour left in Bill's face it was gone, he appeared frozen as Jeff rose from the couch to take a few steps toward the front door. Had it not been for his slight ignorance to the entire situation Jeff was sure he would have been rooted to the spot the same way Bill currently was. Jeff held out a shaky hand to open the door, his heart almost in his throat as the hinges creaked revealing the tall, baseball capped officially dressed figure. The black suit, white shirt, blue windbreaker with three letters emblazoned on one side of the chest. Jeff's eyes hadn't even begun to see past the chain that held a shiny Federal Agent's badge when the voice knocked him back into reality.
"You guy's seen Luca, she here yet?" Duke almost bellowed as he stepped passed Jeff and invited himself in.
Jeff still held his grip on the door for a few seconds after Duke had entered before he pushed the door closed and turned to see if Bill was looking any better.
"Not here yet... where is she? Why isn't she with you?" Bill asked in the smallest and quietest tone Jeff had ever heard the man use.
Duke simply shook his head before dropping himself down onto one end of the couch closely followed by Jeff. The man looked grave, his eyes showing nothing and his face as expressionless as a blank wall.
"We got separated, me to Central Station and Luca to..." Duke stood gritted his teeth, "Anyone heard from her here? Blondie?"
Jeff raised his brow and shook his head, since the morning Jeff hadn't heard a thing. Bill also shook his head pulling an old cell phone from his pocket; his eyes glanced across the screen seeing nothing.
"Was it really a gas leak?" Bill asked closing his eyes half knowing the answer already.
"The media truth, it's a gas leak." Duke stated, "What I know to be the truth I can't tell you right now. Where's BLONDIE!"
Duke rose from his seat walking toward the foot of the stair case. Jeff was sure if Duke wanted to have a conversation with someone in the next state he wouldn't need to use a phone as John appeared at the top of the stairs.
"You heard from Luca?" Duke asked almost in a normal tone.
When John answered no, Jeff heard Duke rattle off several new swear words before storming back into the living room. The man didn't seem to know where to put himself, Jeff watched as Duke began to pace hardly adding any ease to the situation.
"You thought about calling her?" John suggested leaning against one of the walls, almost looking like he was going to bolt to freedom.
"Tried, phone lines are down with an overload of calls, and we didn't have time for full gear. Communications are dark." Duke muttered slamming his head into his hands when he dropped down onto the couch. Duke hissed muttering under his breath. "When we find these guy's there isn't going to be a hole big enough to bury them."
John looked puzzled as he glanced between the aged faced of Bill, his father's worried look and Duke who appeared he was about to do something rash at any moment. He almost wanted to ask what had happened though he could see it wasn't going to be a good answer. It was only a few minutes before they heard the tyres on the gravel outside, Duke was first up leaping over the couch and had reached the front door before Jeff or John had time to move a muscle.
By the time Bill, Jeff and John were stood on the porch Christina stood in the shadows by her truck speaking to Duke in hushed voices. Jeff couldn't make out what was being said although when Duke moved toward his own car and the engine started he didn't think it was anything bad. The only light cast in the yard was from the doors and windows, the yellow-orange glow didn't show much but when Christina appeared into the light Jeff saw more than he could comprehend.
The woman he had seen leave earlier that day was almost unrecognisable when she walked toward then, her shirt was covered in what Jeff could only think was blood, more than he had seen in a long time. Her black suit pants were torn, her face bloody though no of it appeared to bother her as she stood in front of them, her eyes catching Bill's worried stare.
"It's not mine." She said simply smiling as best she could while walking past them into the warmth of the house.
Jeff glanced toward Bill who didn't seem entirely relieved by the sight; he honestly couldn't say he was either although as Christina climbed the stairs he saw his son's stare. Jeff knew what John felt for the woman; to a father it was easy to see although knowing if the one who held his son's affections felt the same, well that was a little more complicated.
"Leave her son." Jeff said softly though it appeared to have no real effect when John too climbed the stairs.
"No use telling them anything Jeff, children rarely listen to what parents say." Bill muttered dropping back into his seat.
Still Jeff couldn't deny the fact he had some concern for his son. Upstairs John stood in the middle of the hallway unsure what he was going to do, he knew what he wanted to do, his head knew it too yet still invisible strings had his feet rooted to the floor debating the possible outcomes of the situation. Eventually after what felt like hours John retreated back to where Bill and Jeff where sat, one reading the newspaper from that day and the other watching some wildlife documentary that neither seemed to be paying much attention to.
Christina was stood in her room staring at herself in the mirror; she could hardly believe how the day had gone so sideways on her. Leaving the office in a rush with Duke earlier that day it was the same as most other days. They each had a place to be and no idea what they were going to meet. Her head had replayed every moment that had passed, from the moment she got the call to go to the Clifford Davis Building. The sight of everyday life carrying on as usual and the chaos that had ensued, the federal agents hand she had held waiting for the emergency services that were just a few seconds too late to make a difference. It was as if she didn't feel anything when she stood there, even the drive home had been... she couldn't find the words to describe it.
The string of red lights on the road home that usually made her curse a little were just another road signal, she stopped obediently waited and didn't once utter anything. Even the three faces on the doorstep of the ranch house didn't cause her to feel anything. Her appearance wasn't too far from a Halloween zombies, her clothes torn and bloody and even now as she stared at herself in the mirror she felt precious little. Sighing she pull off her ruined shirt, it was one of many that just needed to be thrown out. She had learned a long time ago that trying to wash certain things from clothes was a waste of time, besides even when the stain had gone she could still see it was there plain as day.
Christina sighed heavily as she closed the bathroom door gently. She tried desperately not to think about what had gone on that day; she concentrated for a long while on the morning. She stepped under the spray of warm water remembering the calf and wondering how Jeff had gotten on with Alan as the water soaked her hair, the water quickly washed away the dirt of a very long day. The memories were so far away as she dressed again, simple jeans and an oversized jumper she was far too fond of. Even walking back down stairs she felt nothing, no sadness no relief to be home after a long day. Christina knew it wasn't right, she knew she was going back to the way she had been when Lady Penelope had found her and brought her into the team. A smile on the outside and dead on the inside and the worst part was she had no idea how to fix it this time.
She walked past the three men sat in the living room simply nodding at them before walking out into the darkness of the yard. Christina walked as far as a wooden fence that made up a small paddock; the darkness prevented her from seeing the other side of the enclosed space however she didn't mind. She leaned against the fence staring out into the darkness her mind trying to make sense of what it could.
John had seen her walk out of the house, her face lacking any smile or grin, even the happiness that was infectious was gone. He could see something was wrong; the warm smile that never failed to melt his heart, even the sparkle that her brown eyes held was gone and replaced with something that just wasn't the woman who had left that morning. John paid little attention to the idle conversation that had occurred between Jeff and Bill; he simply got up and left his father and Bill to talking as he made his way outside. It surprised him to see her so close to the house, he half expected a hunt to find her yet it didn't matter to him. Without hesitation he closed the gap between them walking toward her like he knew what he was going to do.
Even when his hand reached out toward her shoulder causing her to turn to face him, he had no idea what he was thinking. It took a mere moment for him to make up his mind, the moment he saw her face it didn't take more than a seconds thought when he took her into his arms and held her tightly against him.
"Everything's okay." John whispered to her softly, it was beyond him why he said it but the two words were the first ones that came to him.
Christina found it hard to catch up with the moments that passed before her; the feeling of his arms around her holding her tight followed by two simple words was enough to bring back the flood of emotion she thought had been lost. She held him just as tightly as silent tears began to fall from her eyes, they soaked John's shirt in minutes and when she felt the dampness of the fabric against her own cheek she pushed away from his embrace.
"I'm sorry... I shouldn't have... my fault." She spluttered not even looking at him. She didn't cry in front of people who weren't family, least of all those she cared about.
John had no clue what to do in that moment, the feeling of her pulling away from him was far more confusing than he had ever imagined. The thousand words he wanted to blurt out right then seemed lodged in his throat when he stared at her tear-stained face.
"Christina I... I..." Love you, he thought desperately. I love you, his mind yelled at him though the words just wouldn't form.
The silence seemed to scream louder than anything else whilst the pair stared at each other. John watched helplessly as Christina took a few steps backward, he knew she was going to run he could see it in her eyes when he held out his hand to her though when she saw it he watched her turn and flee. Standing there he lost sight of her as the darkness provided a decent cover for the escape. John stood out there until his father called him from the porch; he wanted to stay out there for the rest of the night although when he glanced up toward the stars he wondered just why he couldn't say what he wanted to. Walking back to the house was like admitting defeat, even when he set foot through the door he could see Bill and Jeff trying to smile and nod reassuringly.
"She'll come around." Bill said optimistically, "It's been a long day for her."
Bill knew it was no excuse, he had no clue what had really gone on that day although like always he knew Christina would come around eventually. Bill watched Jeff usher his son upstairs before he turned out the lights and did the same knowing that Christina would come back when she was ready.