No Place Like Home
by Criminally Charmed
Disclaimer - Do not own Thunderbirds. Do not, do not, do not. But...I am considering changing my pen name to Dark Goddess of All Things Evil. Just kidding. It would be too much of a pain to change it since I put it on each chapter.
Oh - And I don't own the song "Little Wonders" from the movie "Meet the Robinsons".
Scott and Jean drove down the road, stopping occasionally when they spotted something off to the side. Most of the time it had nothing to do with Alan or TJ Adair; but twice it had.
Somewhere around the half-way point, they found a baseball cap that Jean had last seen in TJ Adair's back pocket. As she picked it up and explained its significance to Scott, he looked at his best friend in concern.
"Jeannie?" Scott asked quietly. "What's wrong?"
"That girl," Jean said slowly. "Amy. She really has faith in Adair, doesn't she?"
"Maybe he's a good actor."
"Or," she countered. "Maybe he really has changed. I've read his jacket. He was never a violent criminal. And when he found out what his partner had planned, Adair was apparently appalled and turned on the man."
"What do you mean, what they planned? They planned on abducting my baby brother – my literally baby brother – for money,"
Scott scoffed. "Are you saying he didn't know? Because I was there. I saw him reach for Alan."
Jean stared at Scott in surprise. "Your dad never told you?" she finally whispered. "Never mind, let's get -"
"Damn it, Jeannie," Scott snapped. "Dad never told me what?"
Sighing, Jean looked like she wanted to keep silent but knew from experience that Scotty wouldn't let her.
"Jeremiah Paulson never had any intention of giving Alan back to your family. He had a link to an illegal adoption ring. He was planning on getting half a million dollars from your family and then selling Alan to the adoption ring. They already had leads on three families and a bidding war going. Apparently, a healthy blond, blue-eyed baby boy was worth millions to the ring."
Scott had become so pale that Jean was afraid her friend was about to pass out. "What the hell," he muttered. "What sick twisted soul is determined to take Allie away from us?"
"We're gonna find him, Scooter," Jean insisted.
"Yeah, we are, Jelly-Bean," Scott sighed as he let her lead him back to the SUV, both of them flinching as another cold November wind sprayed dirt into their face.
As they drove off, Scott pulled out Alan's billfold, tracing the lines of his little brother's face as he prayed.
"Mom – take care of our baby until I can get to him. I haven't forgotten my promise. I won't forget my promise."
The barn on the Tracy Farm was sturdily built, but the recent storms had caused some damage. As the cold winds continued to blow, Alan had been shivering where he lay. But his shivering was becoming less – and that wasn't necessarily a good thing.
A few times, Alan did begin to regain consciousness. But as he did, Alan would hear the feral dog outside, howling louder than the winds and his claws digging into the wooden doors. Luckily for Alan, most of the damage was higher than the dog could reach and nothing was currently near the structure that the animal could climb.
As he lay curled up on the ground, Alan felt a gentle hand rub over his cheek, bringing a blessed coolness. The smell of lilacs filled his senses and he smiled as he sighed, never connecting the fact those lilac flowers he could smell bloomed in the spring. Alan shouldn't smell them. Then again, he shouldn't be hearing the gentle voice that began to sing to him.
Let it go,
Let it roll right off your shoulder
Don't you know
the hardest part is over
Let it in,
Let your clarity define you
in the end
We will only just remember how it feels
Our lives are made
in these small hours
These little wonders,
these twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
but these small hours,
these small hours still remain
Let it slide,
Let your troubles fall behind you
Let it shine
until you feel it all around you
and I don't mind
if it's me you need to turn to
we'll get by,
it's the heart that really matters in the end
Our lives are made
in these small hours
These little wonders,
these twists & turns of fate
Time falls away,
but these small hours,
these small hours still remain
All of my regret
will wash away somehow
but I cannot forget
the way I feel right now
"Mama," Alan whispered as his shivering ceased all together, causing a ghostly Lucy Tracy to look even more heartbroken.
"Oh, my baby," Lucy whispered into the wind. "You hold on. Hold on, your big brother is coming for you. I miss you so much, my little surprise – But the family needs you even more. Hold on, baby, hold on."
The second item found by Scott and Jean was actually on the Tracy property, at the end of the long driveway leading back to the farmhouse.
"Stop!" Scott practically yelled as he opened his door.
Jean had barely been able to apply the brakes, and hadn't even put the SUV into park when Scott threw the door open and leapt onto the ground. But once the deputy had the vehicle parked, she quickly joined Scott in a small gullet next to the mailbox. Well, where the mailbox used to be. The post was snapped in half, with no sign of the box itself. No mail had been delivered there in ages, Jeff Tracy having arranged a post office box in town for what little "snail mail" they had. But Jean knew that the box had been there since before Mr. Tracy was born and his late mother had faithfully painted it for years, her own mother having assumed the duty a few years ago.
"What is it?" Jean asked in concern, seeing Scott's helmeted head bent down as he knelt on the cold ground.
Scott turned and looked around at Jean, the visor covering his expression as he held out a single sneaker to her. Jean took the offered shoe and sighed, having recognized it instantly.
"Allie," Jean sighed before she let a small smile cross her face. "Remember when he was little? Your mama just couldn't keep shoes on his feet. How many times did we have to hunt through stores to find his missing shoes?"
Scott chuckled sadly. "Way too many, Jean. Way too many."
"Well," Jean said sensibly. "We are on the right track. Maybe we'll get to the house and Allie will be curled up in bed."
"Maybe," Scott sighed as the two of them climbed back into the SUV. But in his heart, he was worried. If Alan had made it safely to the main house, surely the teenager would have called someone.
At the barn, the feral dog had found a small crack in the wood boards next to the main doors. With a growl, he used his powerful jaw and razor sharp claws to dig at the wood, slowly making the hole bigger. Usually, dogs would not attack a human like he wanted to. But he was a creature that operated on pure instincts. He wanted food and saw Alan as a wounded animal – ripe for hunting.
The dog had no name. He was a blend of Rottweiler and German Sheppard, both animals long used in law enforcement and the military for their intelligence, fierce loyalty and strength. Sadly, this was a dog mutated by years of abuse and a reality where if he did not decimate his opponent, he would not be fed. And now he was cold and hungry. He had not been able to get into the house, but he could enter this place. And inside was food.
TJ Adair stumbled once more as he approached the old farm house. There hadn't been a name on the mail box – hell, there hadn't been a mailbox – but hopefully someone was home and had a working cell phone. TJ felt like crap and knew he needed help, but first he needed someone to find Alan Tracy.
Stumbling yet again, TJ looked down to see the remains of a blue and white metal mailbox. His eyes went wide in surprise when he read the name on the box – "Tracy".
It may have come from miles away but TJ suspected this was the mailbox from down the driveway. He knew Jeff Tracy's parents had had a farm just outside of Bailey, one of the reasons the billionaire had chosen to both start his business there as well as having originally intending to raise his family in the small town. There were numerous farms surrounding Bailey, and were considered to be a part of the town itself.
Looking down once more, TJ saw an odd set of footprints, one from a sneaker and the other – a sock? OK, that was strange. As the cold wind howled once more, TJ again started towards the farm house only to freeze at another howl. But this wasn't the wind.
Moving faster than he thought he could, TJ started at the sight of a vicious-looking dog pulling at the wood planks near a damaged but solid looking door on the large barn. He wasn't sure how he knew, but TJ was certain – Alan was in that barn.
"Hey, Cujo!" TJ snarled, matching the dog growl for growl. "Pick on someone your own size," he snapped as he threw the mailbox at the dog.
A small yelp as the metal mailbox met the dog's shoulder.
"OK, Adair," TJ muttered. "That was brilliant. Get the crazed animal to attack you. Yeah. Good idea."
TJ started to run towards the farmhouse but he was exhausted and hurt. The dog had seen better days but he was driven by survival instincts as much as TJ: plus, he was hungry and had known nothing but cruelty from man.
The breath was knocked from TJ as eighty pounds of fur and taut muscle slammed into him. Rolling as he hit the ground, TJ tried to scramble backwards in an effort to escape but soon found the feral animal firmly on his chest, its vicious teeth bared as the powerful jaws approached TJ's throat…
Jeff was still seated at the control and command, proud that he managed to keep a straight face whenever anyone commended him on how well he was adapting to working with International Rescue. He knew it was rumored – but never, ever – confirmed that Tracy Enterprises had helped to build the Thunderbirds. Well…they had, hadn't they?
There were distinct advantages to being the sole owner of the company. Not being answerable to any stockholders was definitely the biggest one.
"How's it going, Jeff?" Amos Taylor asked as he sat heavily in a nearby chair.
"The search and rescue teams have found almost everyone who was unaccounted for," Jeff said. "Teams Alpha and Charlie are coming back, in fact."
Amos nodded as he leaned back and sighed. "Lost another one of the kids from the bus accident. Five kids who will never get to grow up, five families devastated."
Now it was Jeff's turn to nod as he played with a few switches. "Part of me wants to say I understand. When Lucy died…" his voice trailed off, but he didn't need to finish his thought. Amos could recall how devastated the man had been at the death of his beloved wife.
"To lose a spouse is hard – but to bury one of your children?" Jeff sighed. "I've been lucky. I just hope…Amos, I can't lose Allie. He's my baby. I love all my boys, but Alan is…he's special. If we lost anyone else, our family would recover in time. If we lose Alan – I don't think we could make it back from that."
Amos stood back up and grasped Jeff's shoulder in support. "Keep the faith, Jeff. The boy has angels watching over him, I just know it." At Jeff's surprised look, he chuckled. "Jeannie reads parts of Scott's letters aloud. That youngest of yours has been a handful since the day he was born. He's needed heaven on his side."
Jeff smiled sadly. Yeah, Alan had to have angels or they would have lost him a long time ago. Please, he prayed silently. Please be with my baby one more time.
Keifer Dutton glared at the television screen. He had been assigned to work the phones and coordinate resources from the Sheriff's office. Partly he knew it was because no matter what else was said about him, he was good at detail work. A bigger part was that Jeannie Bates was working point at the rescue site – and the sheriff wanted to keep them apart for safety's sake.
As he perused through the reports, several drew his attention. Jeff Tracy had been rescued from the banks of a swollen river – what had been a dried out river bed? And Alan Tracy was missing?
Thinking of the news stories that had crossed the screen – the bus accident, the shopping center collapse, babies delivered by Thunderbirds (and wasn't he furious that he didn't get to meet them!) and the like – Keifer hadn't once seen any mention of the Tracys. Pulling open a desk drawer, Keifer found a small business card that had been given to him a few months back. A new reporter had come to Kansas City and had been fascinated that Keifer had been from Bailey – home town of Jeff Tracy. Pressing the card into his hand, she had insisted that he call her – personally – if any news stories about the Tracys emerged.
Picking up the phone, Keifer listened to it ring as he glanced around to make sure he was alone. When the call was answered on the other line, he spoke quickly.
"Hi – it's Keifer. Keifer Dutton. Keifer Dutton from Bailey. Keifer Dutton, the deputy from Bailey, Kansas – Jeff Tracy's home town. Yes, hi. Well," Keifer drawled as he leaned back in his chair. "I thought you would be interested to know that Jeff Tracy and his youngest son, Alan, were in Bailey when the first twister hit yesterday. Jeff Tracy was rescued but Alan is still missing. No, it doesn't look good at the moment. I think Mr. Tracy is still at the command center at the middle school here in Bailey. No, thank you, Ms. Nevada or can I call you Ana?"
TJ drew back as far as he could, the fetid breath of the dog and the drool would have made him wince in the best of cases. Having the vicious teeth inches from his throat was not the best case scenario in his book.
Somewhere in the background, TJ thought he heard the sounds of an approaching vehicle. He hoped he did. He hoped it was the sound of another human yelling and a door – or two? – slamming shut. But as the dog's growling suddenly ceased, TJ realized what the next sound he had heard was.
Two pairs of gloved hands reached out and pulled the now dead dog from on top of TJ.
"Mr. Adair?" Deputy Landman was addressing him as she re-holstered her sidearm. "Are you hurt?"
"I'll live," TJ murmured as he tried to look at the man – man? – helping him to his feet. "Are you -" his voice trailed off as he stared at what looked to be a space man behind him.
"This is Op One of International Rescue," the deputy explained. "We were looking into who had been on an accident on the bridge. It was the vehicle you left Bailey in."
"Alan," TJ said hastily. "I tracked him here. I think he's in the barn. That dog was trying to get in to the barn."
"Alan Tracy?" Jean asked in clarification.
TJ nodded. "Yeah – the car he was in got swept down the river. I saw it happen. His dad fell – do you know if he is ok?"
"D- Mr. Tracy is fine," Op One assured him. "How did you get the boy out? We saw what was left of his car."
"Some idiot driver slammed into me," TJ explained. "But I was already trying to get to Alan. Thank god the car he was in was wedged against a pylon. Damaged the truck even more," he sighed. "I think that it was the same car that ran me off the road earlier."
"A red Mustang convertible?" Jean asked in dismay.
TJ turned to her in surprise. "How'd you know?"
"I'm definitely gonna kill that bitch," Jean muttered. Although Scott hadn't said a word, he briefly nodded behind TJ's back.
"C'mon," TJ said quickly. "Let's get that kid. He has a head injury," TJ explained as he got his second wind, hurrying towards the barn.
"If he has a head injury," Op One asked, "what is he doing out here?"
TJ shook his head, forcing his aching hands to grasp the handle of the barn. When he groaned in pain, Deputy Landman gently pushed him aside and grabbed at the door. "Not sure," TJ admitted as the door barn began to open. "He wandered off when I fell asleep. But he needs help – I know that much."
The deputy and the Thunderbird entered the barn, both of them sucking in their breaths at the sight in front of them…
A/N - Consider yourselves lucky - I thought of ending the chapter when the dog attacked TJ. Reviews will be answered by one of the following pairs: Scott and Kate, Virgil and Sarah or John and Emily. Yes, the wives are gonna get their say! - CC