Many months before International Rescue launches, Jeff recalls how a different tragedy for the Tracy family was averted.

Inspired by Chapter 5 of Rathead's I Am The World.

His sleep had been restless; he'd known that he'd have to confront the boy sometime, but why had he done this? Had he been so repressive to the young man's own initiative that he felt he had no choice but to try some sneaky tactic?

He rolled over for the umpteenth time and checked the clock beside his bed. Still the middle of the night, but at least it was nearly morning, so he found a dressing gown and slippers and padded downstairs in the quiet darkness just before dawn. Passing the door to his study, he heard a whispered curse and the rustling of papers.

There was no doubt who it was, but he hesitated at first. No, putting it off this long had accomplished nothing but loss of sleep, probably for both of them, he might as well get the confrontation over with.

The door swung open silently, and when the light went on, Gordon jumped, his eyes wide and startled. His expression changed from one to the next, so rapidly that Jeff barely had time to them to register in his mind; first fear, then dismay, embarrassment, and finally the mulish look that had marked their first discussion of this issue.

"You saw it," Gordon stated flatly, his voice expressionless, and backed away from the desk at his father's approach.

Jeff inhaled sharply, the released it. "Yes." He pulled open a drawer and withdrew the paper that had so upset him the night before, the one that Gordon was so obviously certain that he would not sign if he had known it what it was. " I ... was disappointed..."

Gordon looked down, and realizing the flashlight in his hand was still lit, turned it off. "You aren't going to change my mind..." he said softly.

"I realize that."

"So, now what? I'm nearly 18, Dad. If you won't sign this now, I'll only wait until next year to join..."

Jeff silently extended the form toward him, his bold signature visible at the bottom. Gordon reached for the paper robotically, and stared at it a moment, unbelieving, then looked up at him, confusion written across his face.

"I was disappointed that you felt so desperate that you'd pull a stunt like this. Gordon, if you wanted this so badly, don't you think I'd want you to be happy?"

"We didn't exactly see eye to eye the last time we tried to talk about letting me join the WASP..." Gordon shrugged.

"That was nearly 6 months ago, son. Did you think that I'd sign anything without looking at it first?"

Gordon sighed deeply. "Well, I thought if it was with a bunch of other papers, you might not see what it was."

Jeff's smile was rueful. "I saw every one of them. Didn't Abby's father think it was odd that you wanted him to conduct the physical, and not our family doctor?"

Gordon shrugged again. "I just told him the truth, and then sat through his lecture..."

"Then I had to pretend I knew all about it when he saw me at Alan's soccer game the following Saturday...You never dreamed he'd check with me, did you?"

Gordon was looking more and more uncomfortable, head down, the paper in his hands crumpling slighTly. "No."

"How were you planning to get to Wichita? " Jeff gestured vaguely at the form, which indicated the date the following week and the departure time for the flight to San Diego and WASP's USA training station.

"Jerry Hazenby was gonna give me a lift to Dodge City and then I was going to take the bus..."

"You know Grandma was going to think that you ran away from home..."

"Probably." Gordon's voice was choked with what might have been a sob. At last, he looked to his father's face and was surprised to see the older man's eyes were red and moist, but full of love. The tears rolled down his cheeks and soaked into Jeff's dressing gown as he was pulled into his father's arms in a tight hug.

"I'm sorry, Dad," he managed after a moment.

"I am too, sorry that you thought you had to go through this elaborate scheme to follow your dreams..." He loosened his grip enough to look into his son's face. "You're gonna make us all proud, Gordon. You're a Tracy, after all."

Gordon could only smile and nod.

The following week, Grandma, Alan and he were all at the airport with Gordon, just as they all had been to see the older Tracy boys off to their respective destinies; Scott to England, Oxford, Yale and finally the USAF, Virgil to Colorado and then New York, John to Florida and the ISA. Now only Alan was left; Jeff already had a good idea where his dreams were leading him, and then it would be only Grandma and him to see him go.

The warning beep from one of the machines surrounding his son's bed brought Jeff's mind came back to the present; one of the bags of fluid running into Gordon's IV lines was empty and needed to replaced or removed. The nurse soon arrived and shut off the alarm before attending to it, then checked her patient before turning her attention to his visitor.

"Mr. Tracy," she clucked, "You really should try to get some rest. You haven't left his side since he got back from surgery this morning."

Jeff nodded and offered some assurance that he'd try to do just that, but as soon as she left, he took up Gordon's unimpeded hand again and rubbed his fingers over the back of it thoughtfully. Two surgeries down, and more to go, and even at that, none of the specialists could say whether he'd walk again or not.

Jeff remembered again the joy on Gordon's face as he waved to them before boarding the plane to San Diego that day, and sighed. His plans for an international rescue organization were already taking shape. There was another destiny for them all, but what adaptations would be needed for Gordon to take part in it were yet to be seen.

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