A/N: Jeff Tracy. He gets some bad press. He really does. All those WeeTracy stories that assume Jeff was physically and emotionally absent while his sons were growing up and basically left Scott to bring up all five of them alone. It makes literally no sense at all. I don't see him as that kind of guy, it doesn't feel right to paint him like that. But it's not always easy trying to do the right thing by everyone - no matter how hard we try.

I watched The Bourne Legacy on Monday and Edward Norton's line, which makes up my first paragraph, really made me think of International Rescue. Perhaps all idealistic causes have similar areas of moral ambiguity. Incidentally, if you haven't seen The Bourne Legacy - you should. It's amazing.

Dedicated with love to Teobi for making me believe in myself enough to write this stuff. Hope you like the photo! Here's mud in your automated eye, mon ammy!

Disclaimer: I do not own the Tracys, but I would like to thank Gerry and Sylvia Anderson for being amazing human beings and creating their little world so that I can escape to it as often as I like. Today I will be borrowing Jefferson. I was going to write the next chapter in Home from the Sea (shameless plug!) but this happened instead. So you can probably expect Chapter 14 early next week. instead of tomorrow!

The Sin Eater

"We are the Sin Eaters. It means that we take the moral excrement that we find in this equation and we bury it down deep inside of us so that the rest of our cause can stay pure. That is the job. We are morally indefensible and absolutely necessary."

It was a line an old action movie I first watched when I was about fifteen. The words always stayed with me. The guy who said them was so intense, almost proud of what he was saying. I could never understand how anyone could reconcile doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. It's only now I'm in this position myself that I can even begin to comprehend it.

I wouldn't class myself as a bad man. I try my best, the same as everyone else does. I love my family, I love my fellow-man, and I do what I can to help them. What I do, the sacrifices I make and the sacrifices I have asked my children to make - they don't always rest easy with me.

Before my wife... while Lucy was still alive... we talked about doing something, finding some way to help people. Helping in a practical way. She was singularly the most noble woman I have ever met. She had such fire, such dignity, and a heart bigger than herself. Watching news stories of natural disasters or terrible accidents used to really upset her. Not just passively - she was deeply and physically sickened by the thought of other people's suffering. She would still be affected for days after seeing those news stories. I wanted to take all that hurt away from her, as any young, foolish man in love with a beautiful woman would want to do. I wanted to be Lucy's hero - I wanted to save the world just to see the smile on her face when I did it.

The format of our doing something to help people in need was never finalised. We talked about different ideas, hostels for the homeless, charity foundations for disabled children, sending out care packages to war-torn countries. All worthy ideas in themselves but, somehow, none of it seemed enough. It didn't seem to be as comprehensive and inclusive as we wanted. Then the boys came along and although our desire to help other people never diminished, we certainly had other, more pressing issues to prioritise.

Then, one day - she wasn't there any more. She was gone, and I had five boys to bring up and no idea what the hell to do. It wasn't the world that needed saving any more - it was me. It was my boys. We were the ones who needed help, and Lucy wasn't there. There were dark days and long nights when everything seemed hopeless. There were those weeks when at least three out of five boys had measles or flu or a stomach bug and I needed seven pairs of hands and the ability to be in fifteen different places at once. I was in a constant, sleep-deprived state of business meetings and packed lunches and bedtime stories and service contracts and kissing hurts better and putting food on the table.

Those were the easier days. They grew up and then the problems really started. Whether it was Scott and his seemingly endless stream of girlfriends, or Gordon's pranks going terribly wrong and him being suspended from school for the billionth time, or Alan being in ER every other week with a new random injury because he fell out of a tree or he crashed his go-cart - there was always some high level of drama going on. The phrase 'never a dull moment' was basically invented for my family. The worst thing of all, though, was coming to terms with them leaving. They'd go off to College or Military academies and the house would be still. So still you could feel the silence. It was heavy, it pressed onto my chest and nearly broke my heart. The stress of bringing them up was nothing compared to the desolating realisation that they didn't physically depend upon me any more.

The eventual idea of International Rescue came from a throwaway comment John made on a rare night we were all together over Christmas. Gordon had decided we hadn't had a night of all of us together just watching a movie and eating pizza like a normal family in years, so it was settled. That's what we did. It was some disaster and rescue movie or other, big explosions, high tension and barely any plot - just the way I like 'em - and Scott and Virgil were giggling over how unrealistic the rescue operation was. John suddenly said, "I bet us six would do a better job of saving those people than all twenty of those idiots who get paid for it!"

The thing that caught me most was the phrase "Us six." My boys and I. We were a team. We are a team. It was at that moment I realised exactly what had got me through the last ten years. It was them. And, even though I'd been so blinded by the enormity of the task of simply bringing up my children - it seemed as though I'd got them through it all, too. I hadn't failed them. I had worried and I'd fretted and I'd been too strict sometimes or too lenient other times, but through it all, they'd grown up knowing that I was there for them. It wasn't 'the boys and I' or 'us guys and Dad' - it was just 'us'.

The idea of International Rescue, I will always maintain, is a pure one. It all stemmed from the six of us having a genuine, heartfelt desire to help people. Really helping them, in a practical way, so that they didn't have to suffer, and so they could do what normal people did - spend more time with their loved ones and have a full, happy life. At the start, we didn't realise how much that would affect us personally.

Sometimes I wake up at night, that little voice in the back of my mind screaming at me. What have you done to them? You've taken their youth. You fell in love, got married and had children - and you were happy. You were one of the first men on the moon. You lived out your dreams, fulfilled your career's ambitions. You've taken those chances away from your sons. You've stolen it from them. What kind of a selfish bastard are you to make your sons do that? To expect them to just go along with it, without complaint, without regret?

Two of my sons alternate satellite duty. This means that they spend six months of the year miles above the earth's surface, listening out for cries of help. They won't all be calm, sedate calls. Sometimes they'll be screams. There will be hysteria, there will be distress, and one of my sons will firstly have to calm the caller down before they can decide what action is to be taken. They hear the real terror of the situation - and they're always too far away to do anything other than take a message. John and Alan both get times when they feel so helpless about their geographic situation on Five they feel as though they're in some sci-fi style intergalactic prison. But they stay, because they know they're needed. Without them, there would be no rescues at all.

When the details of an impending rescue situation are relayed to me, I will send at least two of my other sons into untold danger. There is every chance that one day, one of them won't come back. Something terrible could happen at any moment to any of them. And it would all be on my head. I would be the one who sent them out to their death. I don't know how any man could live with that guilt. I just pray to whatever's out there every night that I'll never have to try and live with it.

I'd owned Tracy Island for a few years before we moved out there permanently. Running Tracy Enterprises and being a single parent is a little taxing, and the whole reason I bought it was to get away from it all every now and again. Just me and my boys. Away from everything - away from stress and school and work and all the other crap that went on back home. We only ever had good times here on vacation. It seemed like the sensible place to move to when we started up International Rescue. There was plenty of room for everyone and the Thunderbird craft, and we were secluded enough to not attract attention whenever one of the 'Birds were launched.

Sometimes I know it feels too secluded out here. There are so few opportunities for going out and meeting new people, having fun and just generally being a normal guy. Even I feel suffocated by our isolation sometimes. For someone as gregarious and outgoing as Gordon, for example, who is still only in his early twenties, living miles away from civilisation must be excruciating at times. Yet, he stays - because he knows if he was needed, he'd only beat himself up over what he could have done but didn't do.

My boys have sacrificed so much for what we do. And I've let them do it. I've encouraged them to do it. I am the sin eater of International Rescue. What I've asked of them, what they do for the benefit of people who may not even thank them for it, is in many ways indefensible and inexcusable. But they do it. They do it because they're like their father - strong-willed and stubborn and they will always try and help anyone who needs it. They do it because they're like their mother - tender, compassionate, proactive and brave. Because whichever way you look at it - the ethos of International Rescue is a simple yet gallant one. Our methods aren't perfect, because we aren't perfect, but my boys do what has to be done for the greater good of a cause we all believe in.

They do it because that's who they are. It's who we are. The moral rights and wrongs of the life they have chosen could be debated and reviled until the end of time - but I am so proud of my boys, of the life they have chosen, the lives they save and the things they accomplish. For the things we accomplish, together - as a team.

I couldn't save the world by myself just to make Lucy smile, no matter how much I so desperately wanted to. I know she would have approved of International Rescue, though. Wherever she is, I often wonder what she thinks of us, out here on the Island, just waiting for the chance to save someone. I hope that what we do makes her proud of the man she loved - and of the men her boys have become.

THE END