A loud crack sounds out as Don falls to the ground. He holds a hand up to his nose. “Hey, Andre.”
The man, now satisfied with having shown Don how upset everyone was at him, turns around to leave.
The woman to Don’s right hold out a hand and Don takes it, standing back up.
“We had a whole pool going on who was going to punch you first,” she explains as she quickly drops his hand. “I guess I was too slow.”
Confused, Don sputters. “Wh- I though we were a brotherhood,” he defends. He raises his fist in solidarity, “and a sisterhood.”
“You’re a deserter,” she accuses, her glare icy enough to freeze hell over.
“Deserter? That’s kind of a harsh term.”
“Sorry, would you prefer coward? Backstabber? Asshole?” She riddles off names at him.
“Whoa,” Don stops her before she can say anything worse about him. “For the record, when everything went crazy on the Resolute, I was helping everyone launch their Jupiters!”
“You abandoned ship.”
“I was practically kidnapped! I was held hostage against my will! Come on, Ava. I’m your top mechanic.” He puts his hands on her shoulders, trying to calm her down. “I make your life easy.”
She glances at his hands and looks back up at him. He immediately removes his hands.
“Okay, make my life easy,” she tries. “You see that?” She points and guides his gaze to the source of her troubles. “It just got back from Well 3 and now it’s grinding.”
“What’s wrong with it?” Don questions as he glances at it. From what he can tell, it seems to be in perfect working condition.
“I don’t know. Figure it out, top mechanic,” she says as she hands him a large wrench.
“Okay, I’m on it,” he complies, happy to be somewhat gaining her trust back. A sharp pain runs through his nose and he winces. “First I’m just gonna hit the med bay. There’s someone there who’s kind of an expert on my nose.”
Ava rolls her eyes but doesn’t stop him, which he takes as a sign that she’ll let him run off real quick to get his nose fixed. He sets down the comically oversized wrench and begins to walk towards the medical tent.
He sees the back of a figure heading into the med tent and immediately knows it’s Judy before she even turns around. He stops her before she can head back in. “Judy!”
She recognizes Don’s voice and turns her head, letting a small smile come over her features when she sees him. She pauses for a moment when she realizes that they’re not supposed to see each other for a few days while they get acquainted with their new surroundings. “Miss me already?” She asks as she tries to figure out what’s wrong.
“I might need you to fix up my nose,” he says, almost sheepishly as he holds his hand up to it.
She stares at him incredulously. “Don... it’s been like an hour.” The ‘how have you already managed to get punched?’ goes unsaid.
“That didn’t stop Andre.”
Judy doesn’t know who Andre is and isn’t quite sure she wants to at this point. She can’t decide if she wants to laugh at her friend for getting himself into trouble so quickly or feel bad for him. “Alright. We have to do it out here, though. Not inside the tent.”
“Why?” He asks, looking around for anything suspicious.
“I’m just an intern now, I’m not a doctor anymore,” she explains, somewhat sullenly, though she tries to keep her spirits up.
“That’s ridiculous, of course you’re a doctor. You’ve done amazing things, Judy.” Don says earnestly as she takes the hand that’s not held to his nose and leads him behind the tent.
“Thanks,” she smiles and looks down at her feet. “But none of that matters now that we’re back with civilization,” she sighs. “Now I’m an intern who gets to do supply runs,” she says it as a joke, like it’s some high honorable position.
Don doesn’t laugh. “That’s bullshit.” He thinks about all the times she’s saved their skins. How could anyone not want her on their side?
“Thanks,” she manages a soft laugh. “How did you get such a nice welcome present?” She asks as she points to his nose.
“My crew wasn’t exactly happy to see me,” he explains.
Suddenly it makes sense to her. Seven months in space had left a lot of time for talking and Don had told her all about how he left.
“Not the welcome you expected?” She tries for levity.
“Not at all.”
“I feel the same. That’s probably on us for thinking we’d land in some utopia where we all get to do what we want to do,” she tries to reason, “we’re forgetting that everyone else went through hell too.”
“It was easier back on our Jupiter, I think,” he says quietly, feeling almost sad that the seven months were over. Don’t get him wrong, he was glad to be off the small strip of land surrounded by water and lightning storms, but it was simpler then when it was just the six of them and Debbie. He wasn’t counting Dr. Smith, or whatever her name was.
“I think I know what you mean.” She nods along. “Even if we were occasionally fighting for our lives, we still had some good times,” she smiles. “I liked the calm days when we could just sit and work, or talk, or play with a chicken. I liked it when it was just us. Well, most of the time. I don’t know if I’ll miss your singing every time you tried to annoy me,” she smirks at him.
He laughs as he recalls all the times he’s made a fool of himself just to get her to smile. Sometimes a terrible rendition of a classic rock ballad was just what she needed to take her mind off of her mounting anxiety at being stuck in space. “That’s just hurtful, Doc,” he matches her grin and lays a hand over his heart, feigning hurt.
Her smile fades and he can see the moment she shifts into doctor mode. Her hands go up to his face, palms against his cheeks, and thumbs running along his nose. He leans down a little to give her better access. He takes a moment to assess their position and realizes that it would be intimate if it weren’t for the pain radiating from his face.
“Your nose doesn’t look too bad this time,” she says softly, letting her thumbs trail across the plains of his face.
He tries to ignore the warmth of her touch. “You just going to pop it back with no warning like last time?” He matches her tone and meets her gaze, staring into her eyes.
Her eyes have a little twinkle in them. “Do you want warning?” She smirks.
“Maybe. It hurt like hell last time.”
“Okay,” she lets out a soft laugh at him and dammit if he doesn’t think that it’s just the best sound he’s ever heard. “On three, then. One, two, three.”
He pulls his head back before she can pop his nose back. “Actually, you know what? I can live with it.”
“Don,” she gives him a look.
“No,” he shakes his head.
“Don,” she tries again.
She makes the same face when she was trying to convince him to fling himself into space with her dad. If he couldn’t resist the look then, he sure as hell couldn’t resist it seven months later after he’s gotten to know her better.
He’s already decided that he’s the worst person ever for maybe liking her just a little bit. The tiniest amount, really. At least that’s what he tells himself. She’s his best friend, he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize their friendship. But when she looks at him like that and he realizes that he would do just about anything for her, he decides that maybe he’s okay with being the worst.
“Fine,” he shakes his head in defeat and steps closer.
Her hands go back up to his face, softer than before and he raises his own hands and places them on top of hers. “Thanks for this, by the way.”
Judy smiles at him. “Thanks for coming to me with this and not my new boss.”
“Hey, I trust you a hell of a lot more than I trust some guy I’ve never met.”
Judy’s taken aback by the honesty in his gaze and feels her mouth suddenly go dry. She swallows and manages to tear her gaze away from his own. She decides to break the moment with a joke. “High praise.”
“You know what I meant,” his gaze remains the same.
She thinks back on all the adventures they hand together and smiles once again. Don had become her confidante over the seven months. She had been able to talk to him about her time in the ice, he helped her through any nightmares, they were workout partners and chicken feeding buddies, and they had each other’s backs no matter what. She knew that he was one of her best friends. She elected to ignore the growing warmth she felt whenever he looked at her with joy, or when he held her to comfort her, or yes, even when he sang a terrible rendition of a classic rock ballad just to cheer her up.
“For what it’s worth,” she whispers, their faces close enough that needing to use a normal tone was unnecessary, “I trust you too. Even if your crew doesn’t like you anymore, my family and I still will.”
“So you like me?” He smirks, though he’s whispering just like she is, not wanting to break the tiny bubble they’re in.
“I meant to say tolerate. I’ll still tolerate you.”
“Thanks, Princess. That means a lot,” his tone is teasing but he’s telling the truth.
Before she can respond, she twists her thumbs and his nose snaps back into place.
“Ow! What the hell?” He says loudly as he steps back and holds his nose.
“I had to do it when I knew you weren’t going to jump away!” She laughs as he watches him be overdramatic about his nose.
“We were having a moment! Was any of what you just said true or were you just trying to lull me into a false sense of security?” He’s teasing but he throws a glare her way.
She rolls her eyes at him then. “Of course it was true. You know I trust you with my life, Don.”
“So it was true, you do only tolerate me,” he frowns.
“I more than tolerate you,” she smiles and reaches over to grab his hand.
“If it’s worth anything,” he starts as he squeezes her hand in his, “I more than tolerate you too.”