I'm so sorry this is late - blame real life, birthdays and work. Not to mention stubborn characters who won't do what you want them to!

Chapter Eleven

Penny's departure might have left Scott confused and Alan bitter, but it did wonders for Grandma. Forced to rouse herself from the stupor she'd been in ever since Tin-Tin had died, she'd found a degree of solace in resuming the domestic chores that she'd left to Parker for the past couple of days. When she thought about the way she'd behaved, she was ashamed of herself. She'd experienced loss and grief many times in her life but she'd never fallen apart like this, not even when her husband had died. For the first time in her life she'd felt old and useless, but now, as she looked around the breakfast table on the morning of Tin-Tin's funeral, watching four of her grandsons as they picked at the food in front of them, she knew she still had a job to do, that they needed her more than ever.

Alan ate nothing. He looked empty and lost and Grandma couldn't help thinking that she'd seen it all before, when Jeff had lost Lucy. Gordon sat next to him, doing a better job of finishing his meal than his brothers, but he too looked pale and strained. Every so often he would murmur something to his younger brother, getting little more than a shrug and a one-word answer for his trouble.

Grandma had expected Scott to do his best to rally everyone, but he sat in silence, a half-eaten piece of toast forgotten in his hand, staring into space with an uncharacteristic frown on his face. All this had hit him hard, Grandma thought.

John caught her eye and smiled faintly, but before Grandma could say anything, Virgil came into the room. Grandma knew she hadn't been at her best lately but if nothing else she'd tried to take care of him and she was relieved to see that he looked a lot better today. He was still pale, but the lines of pain around his eyes, indicative of the headache that had accompanied his concussion, were gone. Like his brothers he was quiet, but he seemed a lot more alert than he'd been for a while and that cheered her, even though the frequent anxious glances he sent Alan's way reminded her that the pair had a lot to work through together and that for all of them, Tin-Tin's funeral was only the first step on the way to dealing with the tragedy.

Grandma hoped Brains was eating the food she'd sent him. Now she thought about it, she'd barely seen anything of him since Tin-Tin's body had been taken away. He'd be suffering as much as anyone, she thought. Tin-Tin had been more than his assistant, she'd been his friend, and the shy genius didn't have many of those. Without the girl to talk to he'd likely become even more of a recluse and Grandma made a promise to herself that she wouldn't allow that to happen.

She'd miss chatting with Tin-Tin herself. The girl had been a welcome companion - as much as she adored her son and grandsons, the constant talk of business, sport and Thunderbirds could get very wearing. She'd loved the times she and Tin-Tin had spent watching movies or eating chocolates as they perused the latest fashion and gossip magazines. She'd have to wait for Lady Penelope's next visit before she could enjoy anything like that again.

Penny... Now Grandma could think more clearly, she found herself puzzled by her abrupt departure. She'd accepted the woman's insistence that she needed to buy something suitable for the funeral without question, but, now that she thought about it, it seemed odd that Penny hadn't been able to find anything appropriate in the eight cases she'd brought along for her short visit, especially since Kyrano had insisted that no one wear black - the funeral was to be a celebration of Tin-Tin's life, not a lamentation of the days she'd never see.

She tried to voice her thoughts to Scott when he helped her clear the table, believing that if anyone would know what was going on with the aristocrat it would be her eldest grandson, but to her surprise he just looked uncomfortable and muttered something about needing to check on Alan before rushing out of the room. Grandma watched him go with weary resignation, wondering if he and Penny would ever get together. But that thought led her back to Alan and Tin-Tin and the lost chance for a wedding and great-grandchildren and before she could stop herself she'd started to cry once more.

The funeral was a quiet, simple affair. Apart from the Tracy Island inhabitants, Penny and Parker, only a handful of other people were present: some family friends of the Kyranos and a couple of International Rescue agents. Kyrano spoke, quietly and briefly, but with what was for him, a great deal of eloquence. Jeff, too, got up to talk about the girl. Then it was Alan's turn, and the Tracys and Penny tensed, praying there wouldn't be another outburst. But Alan only got as far as saying that Tin-Tin had been the love of his life before breaking down. When it became clear that he couldn't go on, his father and brothers went up to comfort him and take him back to his seat. It didn't escape Grandma's notice that Virgil hesitated before he followed them, then hovered nervously behind the others, wanting to help but clearly believing that his presence would only upset his brother even more. It hurt to see it and she swore that she'd make things right between the pair.

The remainder of the service was an emotional affair and when the mourners emerged from the temple, no one was unaffected. Jeff Tracy himself was red-eyed and even Kyrano lost his composure for a while before insisting that they all move on to the nearby hotel where he and Jeff had been staying.

Penny and Parker had taken rooms there too. Jeff been decidedly puzzled when the woman had arrived, since she'd promised him she'd stay on Tracy Island to watch over his family. He still wasn't sure why she'd left. She'd been decidedly reticent, assuring him that everyone was coping as well as could be expected before escaping to her room. Parker hadn't been able to offer an explanation for their arrival, either.

When Penny had announced over breakfast that she was leaving immediately after the funeral on a mission for MI5, Jeff couldn't help feeling even more confused, not to mention a little let-down. He'd been relying on her to help him pick up the pieces of International Rescue - he'd debated shutting down for a while, if not for good, but Kyrano had told him over and over again that they had to continue, that if they gave up, Tin-Tin's death would have been for nothing. Jeff had told her that and asked her to stay, but he'd been surprised by the force with which she'd insisted that, as loyal as she was to his organisation, other agencies had demands on her time. Tin-Tin's death must have hit her harder than anyone had realised, Jeff thought. There was no other explanation for her behaviour.

Penny had thought long and hard before accepting the mission which she'd declined just a couple of days ago, Scott's words of concern about the danger she'd be facing had echoed around her head even as she'd spoken to the chief of MI5. But she hadn't hesitated. After all that had happened with Scott and the shattering of all the fantasies she'd enjoyed over the past year or so, she needed something to take her mind off things. The mission would require all her attention - her life and those of others would depend on it. Not only that, but she couldn't help feeling utterly humiliated as she recalled her desperate escape from Tracy Island. So much for the pride she took in being the coolest of secret agents. She'd acted like a naive schoolgirl. That was what happened when you let your emotions take over, she thought. She'd embarrassed herself in front of some of the men she admired most in the world and she felt the need to regain some dignity in their eyes, not to mention in her own. The mission was the way to do it. Despite the guilt she felt at leaving Jeff to handle things alone, she knew the break was for the best.

Penny hoped that one day she'd be able to look Scott in the eye without letting her feelings show, but right now that was impossible, and she found herself doing her best to avoid him, sticking close to Jeff and Kyrano, but hopelessly aware of him hovering near her, apparently wanting to talk. It was a relief when his grandmother called him over and he obediently went to join her. Glancing at her watch, Penny saw that she only had another twenty minutes or so to kill until it was time to leave. Surely she could avoid Scott for that short time.

Scott did indeed want to talk to Penny. He hadn't slept, memories of the night he'd spent with her coming back to him as he'd lain in his bed, the scent of her perfume still lingering in the air. If that wasn't enough, a comment of Alan's about Tin-Tin believing Penny loved him - something he hadn't taken seriously for a minute at the time - was bothering him. He'd genuinely believed they were just friends - it was what Penny herself had said so often, though, as he now realised, not recently. Not since they'd been trapped together on Sir Reuben McAllister's island... He couldn't help wondering if Tin-Tin had been on to something - and what he should do if she'd been right. There had been a time he'd have jumped at an opportunity to develop their relationship, but he hadn't thought of Penny that way for a long time, and these latest developments had left him totally confused.

The news that she was leaving for London that afternoon hadn't really surprised him, but it had made him anxious. He worried that she wasn't up to the mission, that her sorrow over Tin-Tin's death and anguish over what had happened with him would distract her. He really needed to speak to her, but she seemed to be doing her best to avoid him. He thought back over their last conversation, recalling his comment that they were friends, nothing more, and wondering if that was what had led her to accept the job. If anything happened to her he'd never forgive himself, especially if he never got the chance to find out her true feelings - or to work out his own.


Scott jumped. He'd been so lost in thought as he'd watched Penny talk to Kyrano that he hadn't realised his grandmother had been speaking to him. Now as she reached out to touch his arm, he was brought back to reality.

"What's wrong?"

Scott hesitated, but as much as he needed some advice right now, he couldn't confide in his grandmother - if nothing else, he wanted to protect Penny. She'd been utterly mortified when his brothers had caught them in bed together, the last thing she needed was Ruth Tracy finding out. As much as he knew his grandmother wanted the pair of them to get together, Scott knew that she wouldn't really approve of what had happened.

"I was just wondering if Penny's ready to take on a new mission. She's pretty cut up about Tin-Tin."

Grandma couldn't argue with that, but Scott's discomfiture wasn't lost on her. Something was going on, she thought. Scott's attempts to talk to Penny hadn't gone unnoticed and she decided that, whatever the reasons for the pair's current behaviour, something had to be done to sort them out before Penny disappeared for who knew how long.

"Penny! Come here for a moment, dear."

Penny turned, unable to hide her dismay at being directly summoned by Grandma. She'd never been so relieved in her life when, just as she sat down in the only available seat - right next to Scott - her phone rang. Digging around in her handbag she pulled it out, glancing at the caller's name as she apologised to Grandma for the interruption.

Simon. She'd avoided talking to him ever since she'd spent the night with Scott. She still didn't want to speak to him, but right now he was the lesser of two evils and the call couldn't have come at a more opportune moment.

"I have to take this," she said. "It's Simon. Please excuse me, Mrs Tracy."

Scott's look of disappointment matched Grandma's for a moment before he pulled himself together and plastered a look of indifference onto his face. Even so, it was more than he could stand to stay sitting with his grandmother right now, and he muttered something about getting some food before making his escape. But instead of making his way to the food table, he headed out of the room and into the lobby, trying to gather his thoughts. He'd forgotten all about Lord Warrington-Farr. He was fairly sure Penny hadn't given him a thought the other night, either. But what he needed to know was what she thought about him now.

Deciding that there was no putting it off, that he just had to talk to Penny, whether she wanted to or not, he made a conscious effort to steel himself before making his way back to the funeral party. He couldn't see Penny, but when he asked Virgil if he'd seen her, his brother told him she'd gone out into the garden.

He didn't see her at first, but then he heard her voice carrying from some distance away. He hesitated, then moved closer, unable to stop himself from trying to overhear what she was saying, desperate to get some sense of her true feelings. But it seemed her telephone conversation was over. A low voice answered her and although Scott couldn't make out the words, the spealer was unmistakeably Parker.

"Remember, Parker, he must never find out. Never."

Parker mumbled something in response, to which Penny replied,

"No, he wouldn't understand, Parker. It would ruin everything for us. I hate to lie to him but what else can I do? I'd lose everything if he found out. I can't risk it, Parker, I simply can't."

Scott drew in a deep breath and turned away. So Simon was the one, after all. The night with him had been exactly what he'd originally thought: an attempt to comfort a friend in distress. She probably hadn't expected things to go as far as they had - or maybe she'd needed it too. No wonder she'd been so embarrassed the next morning. Poor Tin-Tin, she'd always been a hopeless romantic - she'd had to be to put up with Alan for so long. Scott smiled ruefully to himself as he returned to his family. It was just as well he hadn't spoken to Penny - the resulting awkwardness would have ruined their friendship forever.

Penny sat on a garden bench relieved to have a moment to herself, having dismissed Parker with orders to bring down the cases and find them a taxi. She replayed the conversation with Simon in her head, wishing she'd found the nerve to finish things with him. Why hadn't she done it? She was supposed to be one of MI5's top agents, capable of withstanding torture, of hurting - even killing - her opponents, yet she couldn't tell a man that she no longer wanted a relationship. She'd wanted to, she really had, but in the end she just hadn't been able to do it. Not over the phone. She respected him too much not to do it face to face. But whether she'd get the chance before she joined the other MI5 agents was doubtful. She'd covered her impending absence by telling Simon that she'd decided to stay with her friends for a while. After all, she could hardly tell him that she was off on a top-secret mission for MI5 since he knew nothing about her secret life as an agent - as she'd said to Parker, if he ever found out, her career would be ruined and her life would never be the same again. He'd feel humiliated enough when she broke off the relationship - finding out that she'd been lying to him all this time would just make things that much worse. She'd felt terrible when he'd accepted her decision without protest, telling her to take all the time she needed to get over her friend's death and promising that when she finally returned to England he'd be waiting.

When Parker appeared to say that the taxi was waiting, she said her final goodbyes, doing her best to keep her head high as she said a few last words to Virgil, John and Gordon. She couldn't meet Alan's eyes though, but any fear of more bitter words was soon allayed when it became clear that the young man was barely aware of what was going on. She cast a concerned look at Jeff, who hadn't left his son's side since he'd broken down at the funeral. Jeff smiled sadly and promised to call her later that evening. With a final goodbye to Brains, who looked almost as distraught as Alan, and Kyrano, who unsurprisingly was once again his usual stoic self, she walked away.

To her dismay Scott was waiting for her in the lobby - she'd really hoped she'd be able to escape without seeing him. Although she hated herself for it, she couldn't help the momentary hope that flared as she wondered if he'd changed his mind about them just being friends. But when he quietly promised her that their night together would remain a secret - he'd ensure that none of his brothers would breathe a word about it, either - and that he hoped things would work out with Simon, Penny felt that last tiny bit of hope die.

How she managed to get away without bursting into tears, she didn't know, but she did, throwing herself into the taxi with none of her usual grace or elegance, much to Parker's surprise.

She couldn't stop herself looking back as the car began to move away, but there was no sign of Scott. She wondered if she'd ever be able to face him again or whether she'd just said goodbye to him - and to International Rescue - for good.