A/N: I know, I know, I have a million other projects and the attention span of a kitten. This one, however, has a built in deadline of a story meant to be read during the Holiday season, so I kind of have to put it at the forefront of the to-do list.
This is inspired not a little bit by Math Girl and her take on John, and also the National Treasure story "Closed Break" by my pal save changes to normal. If you like National Treasure at all—and any of you that like brother stories at all, and don't, are just silly—you should go read it. Then pester her into finishing it because it is a good fun story.
As usual, this is kind of a hybrid verse (not that it matters as it is pre-series at any rate). You'll notice that certain things, like ages, don't quite add up with either well…I'm going with what makes sense to me. Call it an alternate universe, if you'd like to. I'm hoping you won't need any outside explanation from me, but any questions just ask.
And, yes, more soaking wet John. I do that all the time, it seems.
Disclaimer: All characters you recognize belong solely to Gerry Anderson and his estate. I am making no money off of this or any story I write using them, and it is done solely for the purpose of entertaining myself at work.
Summary: John's determination to handle a problem on his own leads to more trouble than the Tracy's resident genius could have ever guessed. Where can you go when you've lost everything? Pre-series, no pairings.
November 3rd, 2056
John Glenn Tracy prided himself on being a genius. It was the one thing he had to set him apart from his brothers. Scott was great at everything except cooking, Virgil the artist/musician, Gordon the athlete, Alan the goofy kid you couldn't help loving, but John was the genius. There hadn't yet been a system he could not hack, a math problem to difficult, or a science experiment too complex for his quick thinking brain.
The thing with being a genius was, however, that generally you were a genius in only one area. John was fantastic at strategy, math, and anything that required a lot of patience. What he wasn't as good at was understanding people and, for the sixteen-year-old, this was looking more and more like an actual problem than a minor setback.
His failure to understand other living beings was how he'd ended up in his current predicament of going for a very unwanted swim in the courtyard fountain of the David Walker Academy for Boys. It wasn't a particularly deep fountain, but enough so that the water was chest deep, cold and thick that made moving quickly out of it difficult. Not that he could get out of the mammoth blue tiled thing quickly, as he had to collect the contents of his backpack that had been unceremoniously dumped in with him. The layer of thin ice that had crusted the top of the water in the early November cold wasn't helping him at all, either.
The real trouble was his new roommate, at least in part. For the last three years the Tracy boys had attended this exclusive school, John had shared a living space with Scott and Virgil. The boys' dormitories were set up in a couple of different ways, one of them being two rooms sharing a bathroom that linked them. Scott and Virgil would share one side and John and his computer took the other and that was how they'd liked it.
Until one of his teachers had gotten it into her head that it wasn't normal for John to spend so much time locked alone in his room, interacting only with his two brothers. She—with every intention of good, John had to remind himself—had taken it upon herself to call his father (John spit out a mouthful of fountain water) and suggest that it might help him to develop better social skills if he was roomed with someone else. It would force him to engage in conversation with boys his own age which, as far as everyone else seemed to think, was a good thing.
Enter Kirk Jorgenson, the son of another business tycoon who'd been shuttled off to this exclusive school for what was touted as the highest education anyone could pay for in the United States. This kid, like very many before him, hadn't taken kindly to John. Probably something he said. It usually was, though John could rarely tell you which thing specifically would have set them off. Generally they asked for his honest opinion, and then got upset when he gave it to them. People were odd like that.
The Meatball, as John had not so secretly dubbed him because that's what his buzzed red head looked like, wanted him gone. More than a few incidents the school seemed inclined to pass off as 'boyish pranks' made it very clear that this kid wanted John to petition the school for a new roommate. Why Kirk himself wouldn't do it, John couldn't say and he wasn't exactly in a position to ask. This hadn't the first trip he'd taken into this fountain, stripped of his week's spending money, and it wasn't likely to be his last.
Nobody could say that John didn't have a vindictive and possibly masochistic streak at least a mile wide, though, and it was precisely because spaghetti for brains wanted him gone so bad that John stayed. If his very presence caused The Meatball such distress, then it was payback enough for John. Well, that and a virus he slipped onto the guy's computer that turned all his music speed up to chipmunks on crack level got them even enough.
There was also the issue that John was pretty sure his father had left instructions that he wasn't to transfer roommates, anyway. The esteemed CEO of Tracy Aerospace Corporation had probably expected John to try and wiggle his way out of this uncomfortable circumstance, and taken steps to make sure that he couldn't slip out so easily. After all, Jeff was fond of repeating to his second oldest, Tracys don't shy away from problems.
Tracys might not, but John was fond of that solution. He could always come back at it from a different angle that way.
John sighed, dragging a soggy bit of paper through the thin ice towards him. So much for that report on Shakespeare's 'Troilus and Cressida', or at the very least for getting it in on time. He could always print off another copy of it, but lunch was ending in ten minutes and English was his next class. Mr. Cully hated when students showed up late, so he'd probably end up cutting it again to change and turn it in tomorrow.
After all, what good would it do him to show up in his soaked blue polo and slacks that passed as the school uniform, gold-blond hair dripping in his eyes and making it nearly impossible to see? The only thing that would salvage the situation of seeing at all was the last item he had to find in this fountain.
His navy blue NASA hat was far and away John's most treasured possession, far more even than his computers. He had had the hat, given to him by his father; as far back as he could remember. There were even pictures of the thing on the shelf in his nursery. Jeff Tracy had taken it with him to the moon, and brought it back to the son whose birth he'd missed by a month; whose entire gestation period he'd missed completely in a ten month mission, so he hadn't seen John at all until a month old and already could recognize his mother but not this strange guy who suddenly picked him up a lot.
The story went that John had cried every time Jeff picked him up until Jeff came up with idea to tickle his new son with the hat. John had latched on to it when it brushed his tiny hand and refused to let go of the thing, and it had been his ever since. No amount of coaxing or in school suspensions could get it removed from its usual backwards facing position on his head, and the administrators all eventually gave up long before he did whether it violated dress code or not. He always got it back, and it always stayed on.
Except when he was shoved backwards into fountains after a disorienting punch in the face, apparently, and John felt for only a moment a ridiculous sense of abandonment as he looked around the slushy fountain.
A soggy black dripping thing floated in front of his vision, dangling just in his line of sight from overhead.
"I'm going to guess this is what you're looking for?"
John lunged for his hat, but wasn't overly surprised when Virgil jerked it out of his reach. Turning toward the edge of his watery prison, John found his younger brother kneeling on the very edge. Virgil was, to put it mildly, everything John was not. Where John was pale and wispy, all long scrawny limbs, grey eyes, and limp white-blond hair, Virgil was stocky and dark, handsome like a Greek statue instead of almost insubstantial. Their personalities, too, were at polar ends—John antisocial and in love with all things metal, while Virgil was more organic and the adopted kid brother of everyone at school.
"Your lip is bleeding," Virgil told him simply, holding the edge of Johnny's hat with two fingers.
"I noticed." He wanted to say something sarcastic, but it would have been too much effort and Virgil would have simply shrugged it off like he always did. That was why he tended to hang out with his brothers. They didn't get mad when he said stupid crap like 'you're head would look less lumpy if you let your hair grow out' when you first met them. Virgil would immediately take your advice, and Scott would laugh as he punched you hard in the shoulder because he knew you meant well, really.
John nodded as he clambered out onto the edge of the fountain, spraying water as he shook the icy hair out of his eyes and his papers dripped down onto the floor. No use lying to Virgil about it. He'd helped John clean up the mess after Kirk had decided that filling his backpack, hat, and shoes with Jell-o was a good way to get John's attention, and the time he'd shredded a couple of John's rare science fiction books and used them as confetti all over John's bed. Kirk had been forced to repay John for the last one—monetarily, anyway, and John had yet to find replacements for them.
"You really ought to tell someone about all this." Virgil was still holding John's hat, and frowning at it a bit before looking up at John. "Like a teacher or something."
"They know, Virge, and do you see any around?" At this he gestured around the open courtyard, which didn't have even a handful of students on this freezing cold day. "It isn't a big deal, anyway. Apparently normal guys do this."
"Scott and I don't."
"See previous statement."
Virgil wrinkled his nose at that, obviously wanting to say something witty back but coming up a little short and settling on, "well, what about telling Scott at least? You said you would."
"I said I would if things got out of hand." John reached for the hat only to have it tugged away. "They aren't. I have everything under control."
"Your eye is blackening."
"What does that even mean?"
"Unimportant under the circumstances. You have no way of knowing how my eye got blackened. Next case." The fact that it had been Kirk; opening the bathroom door 'accidentally' in his face did not change his assessment. Nor did the fact that just getting his nose knocked in probably hadn't helped the bruising in the slightest.
A heavy sigh from his younger brother, and Virgil's hands tightened and bent the material of his soggy hat. "This is serious, Johnny. He could really hurt you."
John shrugged, running a hand through his hair so it stood up. "He won't. He wants me out of his room, not dead."
"I'm not giving you back your hat until you promise to tell Scott. I'm worried about you."
A small growl from John and he lunged for his hat. This wasn't Virgil's usual style, so he must have actually been pretty concerned. But this was the first time that Kirk and his two buddies had ever done anything that would actually leave a mark, and it wasn't likely to be repeated. At least, John didn't think so. He could handle it, though, and he would. Without Scott, who would insist on fixing absolutely everything and having John sleep in their room every night without telling anyone or intimidating Kirk and his buddies to stop. Yes, it would solve the situation, but then John couldn't look his father in the eye and say he'd done as he was told while at school. He couldn't tell him he'd handled it like a son of Jefferson Tracy should. "Give me the hat, Virgil."
"No. Promise me."
"It isn't Scott's problem."
Virgil pulled back as John lunged again, but the hat was yanked from Virgil's hand when he held it away by their eldest brother, who strode from the glass doors out to the fountain in only four strides. Scott was tall and broad, a regular prince charming type with eyes of pure blue and chestnut brown hair, so such a feat wasn't all that impressive for him.
"Any Johnny problem is Scott's problem. What's going…what happened to you?" Scott reached forward, grabbing John's face with one hand and pulling his younger brother toward him. "Alright, tell me what happened. Now."
"I got hit in the face with a door. It was an accident, not a big deal." John spoke this at Scott, but shot Virgil a very clear look to keep his mouth shut. Which he would do, because John had made his brother promise, and there was no chance that his younger brother would break that. Virgil Grissom Tracy always kept his promises, even when he regretted them later.
Scott looked skeptical, but released John's face. "Why were you in the fountain?"
"Diving for change." It was an obviously sarcastic response, and Scott didn't look impressed by it. "I fell in, that's all, and now I'm very cold so I would like to go inside please."
It was obvious his older brother didn't believe him, but all Scott got when he glanced over at Virgil was a tight lipped head shake. Scott didn't seem pleased about this at all, with his pale crystal blue eyes flashing, but the bell rang then and he slapped John's hat—forward facing—onto John's blond hair. "You got lucky this time. We'll talk later, alright? Go change, I'll get you excused."
John turned his hat back around, picking up his soggy backpack and salvaged soggy papers. Of course Scott was going to help him, even when he didn't know what was wrong. He wouldn't be John's annoying older brother who seemed convinced John couldn't even handle a paper cut if he wasn't. "Whatever. See you at dinner."
He walked toward the south doors while Virgil and Scott headed to the north and the class rooms. No doubt Scott would interrogate Virgil to try and get some answers, only to meet a stubborn wall of resistance; probably, he would also call Gordon and Alan at their boarding school for younger kids halfway across the country on the off chance John had confided in one of them. Yeah, like John would show his younger brothers how bad he was at looking after himself.
No, he was going to handle Kirk on his own, and in his own way. After he changed into a warm sweater and took a nap, of course.