Disclaimer: see chapter one
AN: Well, it is amazing what a two hour train trip can do to one's brain. It is also amazing what a four hour first-year university student enrolment day can produce – the two good things to come out of it were this chapter and a guaranteed place at uni in March. And it is beyond astounding that the Plot Bunny of Fluff can quickly beat the Plot Bunny of Angst and Doom back into the rabbit hole it crept out from.
Recycling characters from other tales because it requires too much energy and brain-power (two things I don't have) to create and flesh out new ones. Another chapter containing fluff-without-plot.
Many Years Later
Scott Tracy smiled as he rolled over in his bed, pulling his wife of four years into his chest.
"The kids up yet?" she murmured sleepily against his chest, lightly stroking one of the many scars that adorned his body, medals of honour from years of battle, running a finger lightly over the wolf tattoo on his abdomen.
"Can't hear them," he whispered back, closing his eyes while pushing her hair out of her eyes. It was going to be a lazy Sunday morning, Scott had felt. If his two eldest children had decided to have a lie in, then he and his wife could too, without worrying too much over them. Given the quiet stretch of rescues they were on, Scott would wager that there wouldn't be a major catastrophe.
"They'll be in here in a minute," she said, looking at him.
"Tash, as long as they don't wake the baby, I don't care if they come in here in a minute or in a century."
Tash pushed herself up onto her arm, peering into the cot at the end of their bed.
"Nick's sound asleep. For now. Mel and Luke may have a chance of waking him."
"Don't say that!" Scott pulled her a notch closer to him, feeling her body heat against his skin. "Any time I can get alone with you –"
"Is liable to land us with a fourth kid," she reasoned. "And then a fifth one, a sixth one and a seventh one, if you can't control yourself."
"Not quite where I was heading," Scott pointed out with a laugh as she pulled him on top of her. "And I'm the one that has to control myself? What about you?"
"But it's the truth all the same. Half the time, I have self-control. The other half of the time, you just make me an offer that's too good to refuse. You're doing it right now."
The door opened with a slam, and two figures clambered onto the bed, making a tremendous racket. The baby woke with a loud wail, adding to the din. With a sigh, Tash got up to calm the youngest Tracy down.
Scott glared playfully at his wife as she walked out of the bedroom. "You jinxed it."
"Wake up, Daddy!" Scott's almost four year old daughter, Melissa, yelled out while jumping on the bed. "Wake up!"
Luke, on the other hand, sufficed by giving his father a hug, arms squeezing Scott's neck tightly. At two years old, Luke was the complete opposite to his sister. While she was an extrovert, he was more introverted, preferring to conserve his energy rather than expend it.
"Hey, little buddy," Scott said, cuddling Luke close to him. "Sleep well?"
Luke nodded, burrowing his head into the crook of Scott's neck. "Happy Daddy Day."
"Happy Daddy's Day," Mel added, snuggling into Scott's other side and giving him a sloppy kiss.
"Thank you, sweetie," Scott replied as his wife walked back into the room, with a now quiet baby in her arms.
"I gots you a thing," Mel babbled on, happy to have her dad's undivided attention. "You're my Daddy and I loves you."
"I love you too, Melly. And I love you just as much, Luke. You too, Nick." Scott turned to the red head beside him. "Not too sure if I love you," he joked.
"You'd better," Tash warned, speaking volumes of the history they shared together. "If you didn't, you'd be getting cold cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a month, otherwise."
There was silence for a few moments.
"She told me to clean up my act," Scott established, breaking the silence. His wife looked at him, concerned and puzzled.
"My mom," he explained, swallowing past the lump in his throat. "You asked me about her, remember? Her last words to me were that she'd love me no matter what, but I really had to try and clean up my act. If she saw me today, would she be proud of me, of the life I've managed to attain?"
Tash swivelled Scott's head gently, so that he had eye contact with her. "Your mom can see you," she placed a gentle kiss on his lips, "and she would be more than proud to see what you've achieved to this date."
And that was how Scott's family spent the rest of Father's Day morning, gathered on a bed, laughing, joking and relishing in being a happy family.
Father's Day for Virgil was always painful. Had been since the first miscarriage two years ago, and the subsequent one after that. Easing himself onto the sand, he gazed out into the ocean, watching the waves crash tumultuously onto the shoreline. He should have been here with his two sons, not by himself.
"Are you okay, Virgil?"
Virgil squinted up into the blinding sunlight, staring at the silhouette looming over him. He shrugged, unwilling to give a definite answer. Tin-Tin exhaled and sat down on the sand next to him, drawing her long skirt closer to her body in the process.
"Where's your son?" Virgil asked, surprised that she wasn't holding her three year old.
"Well, with Alan up on Thunderbird Five, I figured Leroy could spend some time with his Uncle John."
Virgil sighed. That was all he would ever be. An uncle to his ever escalating horde of niece and nephews. If the past was anything to go by, he would never be graced with the title of father. This day would never belong to him.
"You never answered my question, Virgil," Tin-Tin reminded him.
"What's there to answer? I should be celebrating this day with my family, and all I can do is sit here, isolated, and think about my sons." Virgil bit his lip, swallowing back the tears that had formed in his eyes. "I wasn't even able to hold them."
Lost for words, Tin-Tin pulled Virgil into a comforting, tight hug. It was moments like this that reminded her how lucky she was to have Leroy. It was also moments like this that had made her adamant that Leroy would be an only child, much to Alan's discontent. As a mother, Tin-Tin didn't know how she would cope if she lost her child, and she marvelled and admired Virgil for having the strength to carry on, despite the tragic loss.
"How's Gus holding up today?"
Virgil blinked rapidly a few times. "Gus?"
"Yes. You know, your wife?"
Virgil shot her a disparaging look. "She wants to be alone right now."
Silence. Virgil couldn't quite stop some tears from spilling out of clenched tight eyes. "You never answered my question," Tin-Tin reminded him softly.
"I've had two chances to be a father, and both my babies got taken away from me. Maybe this is the universe's way of telling us we're not destined to have a family. So, no, Tin-Tin, I'm far from okay. Especially today."
Having five personal slaves – wait, Jeff definitely meant sons – had its perks. Especially on a day that was reserved to thank and honour fathers. In time honoured tradition, Gordon had woken the greying man up by jumping and down on his father's spring-box mattress at the crack of dawn, despite being a twenty five year old man. The red-haired boy's inner three year old was considerate enough to avoid Jeff's legs so that they weren't broken by Gordon accidentally jumping on them.
No amount of pleading could deter the boy, and even threatening to dispose of Thunderbird Four in the nearest volcano didn't faze him. Instead, Gordon had laughed, flopped down besides Jeff and laughed some more.
"You'd never do that," he had argued, knowing Jeff's threat had been empty. "You wouldn't have a rapid response submersible for underwater rescues."
Jeff would never let the lovable rogue know that he was right, so instead, he settled for, "Well, I'm not going to now, considering you've realised that my bed is not your own personal bouncy castle."
"But it's so springy," Gordon whined, pouting the way Jeff would have expected of Alan. "And it's fun! Think of it as a trampoline; this way I'm fulfilling the requirements of getting at least an hour of exercise a day."
Jeff scowled at his fourth son and he pointed out of his window. "Gordon, I built two Olympic sized swimming pools for you. Use them, not my bed! I like waking up in the morning, showering and dressing in peace, without you acting as my personal alarm clock."
Gordon huffed, knowing when he wasn't wanted. Like the drama queen he loved to play, he flounced out of the room, nose held high in the air, before gracefully swan diving into the crystal blue water of the pool.
Fifteen minutes later, clean shaven and showered, Jeff strolled out to the breakfast table. John stood there, looking as impeccable as always. Dressed in a waistcoat and a cravat that was too chic for the morning meal, Jeff concluded that he had been taking lessons in sartorial elegance from Virgil. He wondered if he should point out that such extravagance at the dining table wasn't needed, but then decided against it. If taking fashion tips from Virg made John happy, who was he to question it?
In his hands, the blond held a dinner plate with two slices of toast, eggs, bacon and tomatoes.
"You remembered," Jeff grinned at John.
"Hard to forget inadvertently giving you food poisoning fifteen years ago, Dad," John grinned back, heroically choking back his laughter.
Jeff frowned. As much as he loved his sons, he knew he shouldn't have eaten that horrific looking meal they had placed in front of him eons ago. On the other hand, he knew that if he hadn't devoured the meal, making appreciative 'mmm' noises as grease slicked food passed between his lips, he would have hurt their feelings.
"Much better job this time, John. Your best effort yet," Jeff commended, tucking the chair under the table as he sat down to dig into his meal.
"That's because I didn't have Scott, Alan or Gordon in the kitchen," John smirked.
With a playful glare – teasing brothers was something he had hoped all his boys had grown out of, not that it had happened – Jeff swatted his son over the head with a rolled up newspaper. "You have maintenance to complete on Three. Now scat."
Hooking his thumbs into the false pockets of his waistcoat, John made an about turn and headed to the cavernous hanger that housed Thunderbird Three.
"John," Jeff called out, mumbling around a mouthful of egg. "Thanks for the breakfast."
With a cheery wave, John let his father enjoy his meal in peace.
Tradition dictated that everyone gathered in the main villa for dinner on Father's Day. This meant that Gordon, Virgil and Gus and Scott plus his family of four traipsed over the pool from the small block of apartments Jeff had constructed for them towards the villa. As much as he loved having his sons, their partners and his grandchildren under one roof, Jeff understood the need for more space. The villa hadn't been designed for such a rapid family expansion, through marriage and births of grandchildren.
It had been a good day, Jeff concluded, smiling contentedly at his family. After his breakfast, he had a long chat with Alan. His youngest had informed him that all was good with the world, and that for once, he was enjoying his time up there. Alan was able to get back up to speed with the NASCAR races, if nothing else.
A quiet word with Virgil after that, who was moping by the pool. Although he was lucky enough to never have lost his children, Jeff knew exactly how Virgil felt. It was akin to how he felt every time he sent the boys out to a rescue. Whatever he had said seemed to have done the trick; Virgil was less mopey. He had even managed to crack a small smile or two as he sat down behind the piano, ready to entertain his father with the gift of his music.
Gordon had joined forces with Scott; the latter boy spending the day on the beach with his three kids. Jeff had found them there some time after lunch. Gordon was entertaining his youngest nephew by tickling his tummy, making the brown haired, green eyed boy – a cross between his mother and father, physical feature wise – gurgle. Scott, meanwhile, was down closer to the shoreline, helping his eldest son and only daughter build a sandcastle.
Jeff had taken the infant into his arms for a cuddle and spent a bit of time with his red-haired rascal, waiting for his eldest to finish the sand sculpture. During that time, Gordon had given him a brief, but still welcome hug and told the patriarch of the Tracy family that he couldn't have asked for a better father. It was unexpected, but Jeff was moved all the same.
Jeff had responded in kind, saying that he couldn't have asked for a better son. Gordon wanted to know if that meant he was Jeff's favourite. Jeff didn't respond, so Gordon took his silence as yes. The red-head then took off, crowing at the perceived fact that he was Jeff's favoured son.
The waves crept up the shoreline, and Scott hurried to higher ground with his kids tucked under each arm. Collapsing on the dry sand next to the greying man, Scott looked at his father and sighed.
"Is this what it feels like?"
A raised eyebrow from Jeff. "Every father feels it. Some are just reminded about it more than others."
"I love my kids," Scott stated simply, surprising Jeff not with the honesty in the statement, but the blunt way in which it was phrased. "I do; even when they rush into the room at two in the morning because they're frightened of the monster under the bed, or the thunderstorms woke them up and scared them. I just never realised how much I love them."
Jeff leaned his head towards Scott, a mirror image of himself, only twenty six years younger. "I get reminded of that every time I send you boys out in your Birds. And I feel it every time you boys return back home. Being a father is a full-time, stressful job, but you and I both know that it's one of the greatest jobs in the world too."
A quick stretch to his feet, working the kinks out of his joints, handing Nick back to his father. "Spend as much time as you can with them, Scotty. You'll miss them this young once they grow up. I know I do."
And so he had left the family to relish in happiness and laughter and he headed back to the main room of the villa. Time flew by, and soon he had been summoned to the dining table.
Faces smiled back at him.
Gordon tossed him a clumsily wrapped package. "I know John made your breakfast this morning, and I also know what happened last time you ate his cooking. I thought this would be useful for you."
Knowing his second youngest son's taste for practical jokes, Jeff opened the wrapping carefully. It was a bundle of air-sickness bags. More of a grimace than a smile now. "Thank you, Gordon."
"Don't think you're Dad's favourite now, Gordy," Virgil supplied. "That position is mine!"
"Alright, alright, that wasn't the real present," Gordon grumbled good-naturedly, handing a more carefully wrapped gift to Jeff. "Here you go, Dad."
This time it was a book, entitled The Joys of Fatherhood: How to Raise a Gentleman.
"I thought you'd like affirmation that you raised us right," Gordon said to his amused brothers.
John was the first to have a snappy comeback. "Dad, read the book. Then test it out on," he pointed to Gordon, "Test Subject A. Let's see if it really works."
"I am a gentleman!" Gordon protested, much to the laughter of the table.
Once the laughter had died down, Virgil handed his gift to Jeff. Instead of a shop bought gift like Gordon, Virgil had chosen to create a montage of Jeff with all the boys as babies, toddlers, children and teenagers. The images were laid out in a manner so that when it was viewed at a distance, a shape that held special significance between Virgil and Jeff could be seen.
"It's beautiful," Jeff breathed. He knew just where to hang his latest piece of art. "Virgil, thank you."
As they were going in reverse age order, John knew it was his turn next. He shyly presented Jeff with a gift bag, ducking his head and scratching his nose in embarrassment. Curiously, Jeff drew the box out of the bag and opened the lid. Inside lay a book, leather bound with gold-lettered title embossed on the front.
John's latest book.
"I thought you'd like a sneak peek before it hits the shelves," John shrugged, cheeks beet red.
Jeff opened the book, skipping to the dedication. Hungry eyes devoured the words on the page.
To my Dad.
For encouraging me to seek and reach for the stars. For pushing me to go above and beyond my wildest expectations. For teaching me that I should aim for the moon, but it didn't matter if I missed, as I would land amongst stars.
A quick hug expressed more than words could say.
Last, but not least, Scott pushed an envelope towards Jeff. "I found it when we were moving from the villa to the apartment. It's twenty two years old, and it's about time you had a look at it. Bear in mind that some of the spelling and grammar may be a bit dodgy; I was seven at the time."
The envelope, yellowed with age, was split open, and Jeff pulled out another piece of paper, yellowed with age. The ink had smudged from when Scott's left hand had dragged over ink that hadn't dried, rendering the letter almost unreadable. Left-handedness – that was a trait that Scott inherited from Lucille, Jeff remembered. So was smudging ink.
Squinting, Jeff began to decipher the letter.
Mrs. Kelaney says we have to write to someone we admire and explain why we admire them for homework. Many people are writing to President Keaton, but he's a Republican and I don't like him, so I chose you instead.
Daddy, I don't know what to write, except that you make me feel like I'm special. You take me out to the airfield to watch planes take off and land. Sometimes you'll even take me up in the air and let me fly the Cessna. I like that the best, Daddy. I like the wind running over my head as I turn the plane right or left. I especially like it when you twist the plain and make it go upside down. It makes my tummy all squiggly, but it's fun.
You come home and you help me with my math homework and then you'll take me and Johnny to the park to play baseball. That's my favrite part of the day. You throw me the ball so that I can hit it and run. Then you'll take me and Johnny out for strawberry rainbow ice-cream. The sprinkles and sauce taste yummy, even though Mommy gets cross and says that you ruin our appetight with ice-cream.
At night time, you'll read me a chapter of Harry Potter. The voices you do are funny, but Moldymort is scary. He's called Moldymort, isn't he? And then you'll give me a big hug and tell me that you'll see me in the morning. The hugs are nice. They smell warm and safe.
Daddy, people ask me what I want to be when I grow up. They ask me who I want to be when I grow up. I tell them I want to be just like you, coz your my Daddy and you're the best.
Love you heaps, Daddy,
"I remember every word I wrote in that letter, because I meant every word," Scott murmured, staring Jeff in the eye. "I still do."
Jeff wanted to give his son a hug, but even a hug wouldn't have sufficed. What could he do to say thank you to the son that had poured his heart and soul out onto that paper at seven years old?
The letter would join all of Jeff's other nick-naks of the boys, including the baby teeth that had been collected in jars, and curls from each boy's first haircut.
Jeff raised a glass in toast to his family.
"Happy Father's Day," he said, taking a sip of his drink.
"Happy Father's Day," the rest of the room echoed, before digging into dinner.