Author's note: This is a revised and expanded version of a story first written for the TIWF story prompt 'Resolutions'. It incorporates changes based on comments made by forum members on the original story, so thanks to everyone who contributed, as well as to my betas, Sam and Chris.
Thanks too to Gerry Anderson and his team for creating the characters, and the current copyright owners for not suing me.
Never give up?
"I've decided to quit smoking."
The announcement at the breakfast table caused all heads to turn.
Virgil wasn't known for his breakfast conversation, not being a morning person (unlike Scott who always got up at some ungodly hour, or Gordon who could be irritatingly cheerful at any time of the day or night).
"What's brought this on?" asked Scott, pouring himself a cup of coffee and adding two spoonfuls of sugar. "It's a bit late for New Year resolutions."
"No specific reason; it's something I've been thinking about for a while. Then last night I finished the pack I was using, and was just on my way to the store room to get another when I decided this would be a good time to stop."
His grandmother leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek. "Well, good for you, sweetie," she said, giving Jeff a stern look. She didn't like it when her son smoked either, but the Tracy patriarch now limited himself to an occasional cigar, usually to celebrate the closing of some business deal.
John looked up from pouring syrup over a stack of pancakes. "Maybe we should all give up?"
"Good idea!" chimed in Gordon. With his backgrounds of swimming and a career spent in submarines and bathyscaphes, Gordon had never taken to the idea of filling his lungs with smoke. In fact, Virgil could only ever remember seeing him smoke once. That had been at Lady Penelope's place when they were celebrating the conclusion of a rescue, and even then he suspected his brother had taken the cigar offered him out of simple politeness, as he had spent more time holding it than smoking it.
Virgil looked across at their older brother, who was now leaning back in his chair cradling his coffee mug in both hands. "What do you reckon, Scott? We're the worst offenders here; John just has the occasional smoke when he's Earthside. Do you think we could do it?"
Scott's eyes flashed. "Are you saying I can't?" He reached in his pocket, pulled out a red and white striped box and flipped it open. "There you are; that's the last one in the pack. And that's where it's going to stay."
"Don't forget," chipped in Gordon, "there's plenty of products on the market to help you quit – patches, gum and so on."
Virgil exchanged glances with his older brothers, seeing the same determination in their eyes. "No, we can do this ourselves. We don't need crutches."
The three boys shook hands solemnly on the deal.
The next few days saw some changes to the routines in the Tracy household. Scott and Virgil had been in the habit of playing pool in the evenings after supper, and that was when they tended to light up. Now the pool room was abandoned. Virgil dug out the old guitar that he hadn't played since his school-days, and would spend the evening fiddling with that. Scott made a forage into one of the store rooms and came out with a Rubik's cube; as he explained, it gave him something to do with his hands. If Jeff was still smoking, he seemed to be confining it to his study.
A week later, the atmosphere on Tracy Island was starting to get strained. John and Alan had exchanged shifts the day before, and after supper Virgil looked over the balcony to see Scott walking round the pool. Even from this distance he could read his brother's body language, so pausing just long enough to grab a couple of cans of beer from the refrigerator, he made his way down the steps.
Scott was leaning back against a palm tree, staring up at the night sky through the fronds. He took the proffered can with a smile. "Thanks. Am I that obvious?"
Virgil sat on a nearby parapet and sipped his beer. "Only to me."
"Is it just me," his elder brother mused, "or are the Terrible Two being even more irritating than usual?"
"That's a bit unjust; Gordon's been very supportive these past few weeks."
Scott nodded. "Yes, I'll give him that: I suppose I've just got a slightly shorter fuse than usual." He glanced up at the night sky. "John didn't seem to be having any problems."
Virgil raised his beer can in a silent toast to their brother in the skies. "No, but like he said, he only used to smoke when he was with us, and was used to doing without every time he went back to Five."
Scott drained the rest of his beer and gave a small sigh. "It's this time of day that I find hardest."
Virgil grimaced; he was finding the same. "Have you still got that cigarette?"
Scott fished out a now rather crumpled box and displayed the contents. Virgil had to admire his brother's self-control. He'd thrown out all possible temptations in his own quarters. "You're never tempted?"
Scott smiled. "Occasionally. Sometimes I even take it out and hold it. But I tell myself I can smoke it tomorrow; I just won't smoke it today. One day at a time, that's the secret." He pushed himself away from the tree. "How about a game of ping pong?"
Virgil grinned. "Good idea! How about we challenge Gordon and Alan to a doubles match?"
By the end of the next week, Virgil was still holding on – barely. Alan was seriously getting on his nerves now. Nothing the kid did specifically, just …. being there. And on one occasion Virgil had to stop himself snapping at his grandmother – a complete no-no in the Tracy household.
It was almost a relief when the klaxon sounded to summon everyone to the lounge for a rescue. A collapsed mine in China: at least that would take his mind off his cravings.
He was on his way to the danger zone when Scott's voice came over the radio. "What's your ETA?"
Virgil looked at his screens. "Estimate forty-seven minutes, Scott."
"Can't you make it any faster? We need that rescue gear."
Scott had been making comments like this on almost every rescue since IR started, but this time something in Virgil snapped. "Don't you think I know that? I'm coming as fast as I can."
There was a silence at the other end, then the click as the radio was switched off.
Virgil cursed himself. He had broken the golden rule – you never take personal problems onto a rescue.
By the time he arrived at the danger zone he had calmed down and was all business again. Scott made no comment about the altercation so neither did he; keep the personal problems for home.
The Mole made short work of rescuing the trapped miners, and soon they were heading back to Tracy Island.
Virgil was already peeling off his grubby uniform as he entered his room. He paused at the sight of a familiar object on his bedside table; a battered red and white box. Knowing how his brother's mind worked, Virgil recognised this for what it was: not a temptation, but an apology and a peace offering.
He opened it and pulled out the slim white cylinder. The smell alone was enough to bring that rush to his brain. Then Scott's words came back to him. One day at a time. OK, he could smoke it tomorrow. With a firm resolve he pushed the cigarette back into the packet and put it back on the table. Right now, he had an apology to make.
PS In case you were wondering, we see Scott, Virgil and Jeff smoking in various episodes: John with a cigarette in his hand at the end of 'City of fire' and Gordon with a cigar at the end of 'Day of disaster'.