A/N: Many of you may choose not to read this because it is full of OCs, and that is your prerogative. However, I pity you as these characters I promise are interesting and multi-dimensional. I have not spent as much time as I have fleshing them out to have them be simple Mary Sues. Even though, yes, I am pairing one with John. I promise if you try this with an open mind, you will find at least something you like.
On the flip side, do let me know if I'm giving you too much detail or back story. I have such a stack that I'm afraid I might over do it. But I will strive my best to learn some balance.
For those, very few of you, that have read 'Half of Chance' you'll find there are some changes here—namely the way Linny and Lucy died. I wanted something more dramatic, so this is what you get.
Disclaimer: None of the characters you recognize, and none of this universe, are my property. They belong solely to Gerry Anderson and his estate. I am making no money from this, and it is purely for entertainment purposes.
Summary: When given a second chance to change one of the worst events of his life, John is determined to take it. He just didn't anticipate how trying to fix his mistakes could make it even worse. JohnxOC, some other minor pairings possible.
August 24th, 2066
Tuesday, 7:00 AM, Tracy Island Time
Most people enjoyed the feeling of awakening slowly to the sun on their face, wind blowing from the open window and carrying with it the smell of the sea and songs of birds that called the rocky shores of this small bit of paradise their home.
Those people were not John Glenn Tracy.
John blinked his grey-blue eyes slowly, rubbing his face into his pillow with a groan. The early morning sun was streaming in the open door from his balcony, bathing the spartan room with a mix of golden light and deep shadows. His telescope was the worst for this, reflecting small discs of light around the room, creating an almost magical look. For a fleeting moment, he was half tempted to knock it over just to spoil the effect.
All that birds and sea breezes and sunshine reminded him of was the fact that he was back on terra firma when what he desperately needed right now was to be back on Five. Why his father had picked this week, out of all weeks, to put Brains up on his bird for some system upgrades and insist that John come home for a while was a mystery to John.
Well, no, that wasn't entirely accurate. He knew that his father was fully aware of what week it was, and he'd wanted to have John close. He knew, logically, that the only intention was to help. After all, the anniversary of their mother's death was always hard, and it stood to reason that the second anniversary of the deaths of John's wife and daughter would be difficult for him. But that was why he needed so badly to be on Thunderbird 5. He had to be busy or he was going to think too much. He didn't want to think, at all.
Glancing up, John made a face at his reflection. His mussed hair, pale face, and dull looking eyes gave the appearance of a man who would sooner break your nose than deal with a smile. Accurate, perhaps, but not good for convincing his brothers he was alright. If he didn't want to be followed the whole time he was down here, he need to step it up.
He dressed quickly, exchanging his dark blue pajamas for a white polo and jeans. A quick wash of his face added a little color, and a wet comb took the edge off the wild look. All that remained was to see if he could convince himself that he had the strength to get through the day. Sometimes his ritual for this worked, and sometimes it didn't, but it was the only thing he felt worth trying at the moment.
The small wooden box sat on his dresser, perhaps the only organic looking object in the room. It was dark wood and plain, with no markings identifying the contents, which is exactly what John wanted. Nobody had to know it was special—a childhood jewelry box of Linny's that her mother had given to him at his wife's funeral. The box went everywhere with him, having traveled to space more times than many of the astronauts John had trained with.
His hands didn't shake anymore like they used to as he lifted the lid, and the first few haunting notes of Linny's favorite song managed to make themselves heard from the well worn gears. How they did this every time, John didn't know. He never wound it up, as he'd never liked iDanny Boy/i and even less so now.
Gently, as he did every morning, he pulled out the first of the two objects he always kept in the box. A Celtic cross on a thin chain, still silver on most of it but with large tarnished spots across it that partly hid the Celtic knots detailed there, and a faded emerald at its center. Just like every morning, John clasped the chain around his neck, sliding the cross under his shirt so it was mostly hidden.
Then he removed the second item from its place in the box. A picture of a mother and toddler in autumn leaves. The woman had a laughing face, with sparkling green eyes that shone out from a multitude of freckles and curled red hair. She had on a light grey jacket and green shirt, her faded blue jeans covered in dirt and grass stains. In her arms was a girl that was no doubt her daughter. A tiny round face with strawberry blonde hair, a few curled strands escaping from the two high pigtails to land in her face just like John's always did. In one tiny pudgy hand she had a bright orange leaf that she was holding out to the camera, raising a small pink jacket up over her rounded baby belly. Both girls were grinning at the camera, autumn leaves sticking to their clothing and pieces in their hair.
It was the last picture John had of his girls. He'd taken it exactly two years ago yesterday, eight days before the two of them were killed.
"Hi there, Lin." He tried not to do this when he was on earth. He tried to only put on the cross that had once belonged to the love of his life, stare at his picture for a moment, and the close the lid. But he couldn't this time. Not today. "Did you miss me?"
Two of his fingers lovingly traced the woman's face and shoulder line, trying to keep those features he knew so well fresh in his mind. To replace the photo with real flesh, soft to the touch, warm, and always smelling of fresh air and honey.
He wished he could remember her voice. Every once in a while he thought he'd grasped the fragments back—her bright laughter and soothing Irish lilt—but the moments he needed it most they always vanished.
Even if he could not recall the voice they belonged to, Linny's last words to him always came to mind when he held this picture. The still angry look in her green eyes, and the flash of a red ponytail as she vanished forever. "I love you, John Tracy, but sometimes I wish you were less of an ass."
If only he'd known it would be the last time he would see her. To hold her one more time, kiss her, take that last chance to apologize instead of holding onto his wounded pride. To say he loved her, with all his soul, just one more time and know that she had heard him.
His fingers brushed so lightly, desperate not to leave smudges but aching to touch. "I am trying to make you proud of me. To be the man you always wished I was. What would you say if you could see me now?"
A sudden knock at the door jerked him from his reverie. Reality crashed back in as he carefully returned the picture, shutting the box to his heart with the smallest of snaps. "Come in."
Blond hair emerged from around the door, followed by Alan's obviously nervous brown eyes. He must have drawn the short straw this morning. "Grandma said to tell you breakfast is ready."
John couldn't keep an almost smile off his face. No way he'd be getting away with light meals this week. "Alright, Alan, tell her I'll be right there."
Alan shifted for several moments, seeming like he wanted to say more. In the end, he only nodded and disappeared down the hallway. John shook his head, feeling a little more relaxed now that the familiar weight of Linny's cross had returned to his neck. She had always worn it, and now John couldn't stand to be parted from it. Of course, to John's knowledge, she hadn't yet to forgive him for marrying a catholic. Or for never getting to meet her great-grandchild.
That was one of the hardest parts. The only one that had ever met his wife was his father, and then only briefly.
How could he have been so stupid? He'd been only eighteen, and so convinced he was right. So sure that he was justified in the hatred and anger toward his father for spending so much time at the office. For choosing to go to meetings instead of football games or piano recitals. For not being home to greet them, or help with homework, or taking phone calls in the middle of important conversations. And he hadn't been quite wrong, he knew that still, but he'd gone about in the worst possible way.
He shouldn't have gotten as upset as he did about his father saying he'd be late for his graduation. He shouldn't have said Jeff didn't love them, and shouldn't have pushed every button he knew how to rile his father up. And he knew every button, too, because he'd let that resentment and hate go for so long and spent so much of his high school career trying to get his dad's attention by doing all the wrong things and getting into trouble.
He should not have believed every word his Dad said about how he was ashamed to have him as his son, and didn't deserve to be a Tracy. Shouldn't have believed it when his father told him that if John left that night he couldn't come back. Most of all, he should not have gotten into his truck and gone with nothing but the clothes on his back and telescope in the bed of it.
Even though it did get him to Florida, where he met Linny, working beside her at NASA to achieve their dreams. He wouldn't change it, really, but he wished he'd talked to his brothers. For seven years, through heart ache and growing up, and tears, and weddings and funerals and births, all he'd ever done was text Virgil and Gordon on birthdays and once every six months to say he was alive.
That had been truly stupid, and he'd known that even then, but until that moment…until he was suddenly facing a life alone and had nowhere to turn, did he realize just how completely he'd burned that bridge, and how far from grace he'd fallen.
None of his brothers had ever met Linny, or their daughter, and it was his fault more than anything else ever was.
He could hear the TV from halfway down the hall, and he wasn't surprised to see Scott and Gordon sitting on the couch already wide awake and showered. Virgil being at the table was a bit of a surprise, but they probably already had their orders from Father. Stay with John, keep him distracted, and keep him happy. For what they could do, John appreciated it.
Pulling out his usual seat, John dropped into it with a sigh. He wanted a drink, something stronger than what they usually kept on the Island, but he couldn't possibly ask for that. Instead, he grabbed the pot of coffee and poured himself some strong and black.
"Good morning, Johnny." His grandmother sounded as chipper as it was possible for anyone to be this early in the morning, and a plate full of pancakes and eggs materialized in front of him. "Hope you're hungry."
No, he wasn't really. He picked up his fork anyway. "Thanks, Grandma."
"Did you sleep well?"
He hadn't slept well since Linny died. He had called her his dream catcher because she kept the nightmares away, and without her he couldn't make it through the night. More often than not, he just didn't bother with it all. He'd finally crashed last night after being awake for two days straight. "I slept fine, thank you."
John took a sip of his coffee, smiling a little to himself as the hot liquid hit his tongue. Linny used to tease him about how he'd switched to strong black coffee after he started going out with her. She claimed that since she'd taught him to shoot whiskey he had no taste buds left from trying to impress her with how much of the stuff he could consume.
This was, in a way, slightly accurate. He had preferred a mix of cream in his coffee before he regularly had to get to school after a Sunday night filled with laughter, drinks, and his favorite girl.
Glancing up, he saw the tear stained face of some woman as she was being pushed into a police car, and he made a face. He'd never enjoyed the news, and even less so now.
Gordon must have shared his sentiments as he peeked over the back of the couch toward the breakfast table. "Why do you insist on watching this stuff? It's depressing."
Virgil took a long drink of his coffee before answering. He must have been the one Gordon was talking to as he had the remote beside him on the table. "It's important to know what's going on in the world, even when we aren't really part of it."
"Yeah, a heads up about some of the stuff we'll be getting into is good, isn't it?" Scott grinned over at Gordon, and got a pillow shoved in his face for his efforts. Probably because Gordon hadn't been on a rescue for a good long while, so the we was a bit of a stretch. John took a nibble of his eggs as Virgil turned up the volume to hear his news program over the scuffle on the couch.
"Back to you, Dan," the reporter said, just as the screen switched back to a man with a horrible tan sitting at a desk.
"Thanks, Rick. In our last story of the hour, NASA has announced plans to commemorate the second anniversary of the attack that happened there."
Fire. Everywhere. It was in his lungs, burning them, but he didn't care as he plunged head long into the building. He had to find them. They couldn't be dead, couldn't.
Scott and Gordon had stopped their wrestling, both frozen in surprise. Virgil had frozen too, the coffee cup halfway to his mouth.
"Next Tuesday will be the second anniversary of when disgruntled former employee, Gregory Kouitsz, ignited several of the buildings at the NASA complex, killing over a dozen employees."
"What do you want me to do, Linny? Call and tell them I can't come in because my two-year-old daughter has a doctor's appointment? They are finally going to let me go on a mission—really be an astronaut. I can't blow it now."
"It's just one day."
"An entire day of conditioning and training. I might only have one shot. Can't you back me up on this, just once?"
"You know, fer someone who hates his father so much fer puttin' work above family, yer sure doin' an excellent job of bein' just like him."
The TV showed a burning building, fire fighters running around like dark shadows in front of the inferno. John knew that if the camera turned just a little left it would show two of them dragging him out, barely conscious and fighting to get back so he could find them.
"It was the first attack of its kind in almost a quarter of a century, since improvements in technology had made such things nearly impossible."
Text message: 'Forgot my purse at the office. Stopping in.' Thinking about going to meet them, running across the complex to the physics department, to apologize, to promise he'd try harder. Thirty-seconds. Boom.
"Families of the victims have been invited to a memorial service next Tuesday on NASA grounds. Guests are expected to include many important officials and celebrities, including billionare Jefferson Tracy, who's two-year-old—"
Maybe they weren't in here. It had only been thirty seconds. But her cross in the rubble…she never ever took it off. They had to be here, he had to find them, had to save them, couldn't lose anyone else, couldn't lose them, couldn't breathe…
His younger brother must have unfrozen milliseconds before, as the TV clicked off at the same moment as Scott's cry. Then a silence so heavy John thought he would choke on it. He knew they were all looking at him. Could feel their eyes burning his skin, waiting for him to react, but John felt like he'd been kicked in the gut.
How did he react? He knew this was coming. Knew what day it was, would be, and so did everyone else in the room. He hadn't needed or wanted it thrown in his face like this, and he couldn't think or breathe and he wanted to run but where could he go? Trapped on an island that his brother's knew better than he did, they would follow and want to talk. Everyone always wanted to talk, except him. Talking ripped him open, exposing his heart and its frailties, and left it to be stabbed through by fate again and again.
Talking was how he'd gotten close to Linny, fallen in bed with her, fallen in love with her, and now there just wasn't anything left to talk about.
"John, I…"Virgil looked apologetic, and John wanted to be mad at him but found he couldn't. It wasn't Virgil's fault that had come on as soon as he'd gotten up. It was just his destiny to hurt this bad.
"Don't worry about it, Virg." He surprised himself with how steady his voice sounded, lifting his mug to his mouth but not really taking a drink. Like he didn't care when it felt more like another shred of his soul had been torn away.
Virgil faltered a moment, sharing a look with their oldest brother John couldn't read. They always did that now; he could only assume they had gotten close when he was away living and losing his perfect life. "Johnny, look, if you…"
"I said don't worry about it." This time he wasn't so calm. There was a steel and anger in it that he couldn't quite actually feel but must have been there.
Scott opened his mouth, because of course his big brother couldn't just let it drop, but mercy decided to smile on John for once as their father came in.
"Suit up, boys, we've got a fire in Japan and they need our help."
"What kind of fire?" Scott asked, already on his feet while Virgil downed the rest of his coffee in one swallow.
"A high rise. Something in the middle caught—they aren't sure what yet—but several people are stranded at the top where fire trucks can't reach, and the fire men don't have a way to get through. Vigil, grab the Firefly and—"
"I'm going to." Everyone turned to stare at him, but John didn't look up from the black contents of his cup. None of them had ever dared interrupt their father like that, and in truth John had no idea what made him speak up like that. Now that he'd said it, however, he found that no would not be an acceptable option. He needed to be anywhere but the island. Needed to be doing something that wasn't sitting, hurting, and remembering. Even if it was a fire, it wasn't the same fire, and this time…this time…
The official reason to his brothers that he wasn't allowed on many rescues was because he didn't have the experience and training they did. To an extent, this was true—he had no military training and had been the last of them to join International Rescue only a couple of weeks before launch. But John suspected that it was more because his father guessed how he felt. Knew that every single person they tried to save became his mother, Linny, Lucy to John, and he would stop at nothing to get it right this time. To save them, even if it cost him his life in the process.
Jeff's mouth was a thin line, and John braced himself for a fight. Their relationship, while better than almost ever before, was still shaky at best. He didn't want to fight, but he couldn't stay this time.
However, they must have been taking too long as John suddenly found himself lifted to his feet by Scott pulling on his arm. "Well fly ahead in Thunderbird 1. Virgil, follow as quick as you can."
Gordon looked like he wanted to protest, but Scott was already dragging John down the hall. Neither he nor Scott said anything as they made their way down to Thunderbird 1's hanger. For whatever reason, Scott had decided to give John his chance, and he wasn't going to blow it. This time, he was going to make a difference.