Don West had a problem. A lot of problems, actually, considering he was trapped on an alien planet with air he couldn’t breathe, water he couldn’t drink, and only six other people. But those weren’t the problems he laid in his cot thinking about.
No, Don’s current problem was that he wanted to kiss John Robinson. And he wanted to not want to kiss John Robinson.
Every day he spent with the Robinsons, Don grew more in awe of them. Maureen was brilliant, fiercely determined, and more than a little scary. Judy, Penny, and Will were each incredible in their own ways, but their shared ability to make the best of a bad situation never ceased to amaze him.
But John...John was the anchor that held them all together. The family simply couldn’t survive as a unit without him keeping them all in place. He and Maureen knew it; Don did too. And so, each time John did something so recklessly good — like, say, running out into the corn field without his suit to patch up the tent — Don wanted to grab him by the shoulders, shake him, and plant one on him. And not necessarily in that order.
He’d tried to keep his distance from John, thought that if he’d just busied himself enough, he could ignore the fluttering sensation in his belly whenever the other man was near. But that had proved unworkable, what with the whole stranded-with-five-people-one-psycho-and-one-chicken thing. And, even though he tried to ignore his feelings, he felt pulled toward John, like a planet orbiting the sun.
Or, in his case, like an asteroid coming to destroy a planet.
Don liked the Robinsons. Hell, if he was being honest, he loved them. The last thing he wanted to do was cause them any trouble. They’d already had more than their fair share.
Yet, every time John was near, he felt on the edge of losing what little control he had left. And when John put himself into danger for the lives of his family, Don couldn’t help the panic that spread through him. So today, watching Judy put John under so she could make sure that the methane from the atmosphere didn’t damage his lungs as well as his hands, Don found him pleading with a god he didn’t believe in. Don’t take him, he thought desperately. We — I — need him.
Once John was sleeping peacefully and the machines connected to him were beeping at a steady pace, Don left the sick bay. He couldn’t stand to see John, normally so alive and active, out cold like that.
He found Penny and Maureen in the main cabin, taking down the decorations from their makeshift Christmas party. It already felt like eons ago that Will had given them all a copy of Penny’s book.
“Here, let me help,” he said, reaching for some glowing seaweed from above Penny’s head. She didn’t say anything, just nodded her head and turned to go collect some more. For all their similarities, he and Penny, there was one stark difference between them (other than that she was a teenage girl and he, most assuredly, was not) — when she was worried, she grew taciturn, silent. When Don was worried, he needed to talk.
But he let Penny walk away, content to give her the space she needed. After all, John was her dad. Not her...friend, or whatever he was to Don.
So lost was he in his own thoughts that he didn’t notice when Maureen walked up behind him. He jumped when she put her hand on his shoulder.
“I might’ve jinxed it,” she said, holding up the bottle of whiskey he’d given to her not two hours earlier. “But I think this counts as an emergency. Want a drink?”
Don swallowed, pushing the image of John in the sick bay out of his head. “Desperately,” he said with a small smile. Even though he couldn’t tell Maureen what was wrong, he could at least share a drink with her. It was kind of his trademark move.
Without another word, she grabbed two glasses and pulled up a seat at the table. Don followed suit, watching as she expertly poured out two fingers for each of them. For a time, they drank in silence, each lost in their private thoughts.
As the minutes dragged on, the air between them took on a palpable weight. Don twirled his whiskey glass on the table and dragged his finger through the ring of condensation it left behind. It felt so wrong, him sitting here drinking in camaraderie with the woman whose husband he fantasized about. But he’d never felt the way he did around John before. It wasn’t that John was a man, Don had never set boundaries like that while on Earth and wasn’t about to start now. It was more that Don felt safe with John, like he could just be himself. There was a quiet understanding between them, a sense of peace he didn’t have to use humor to cover up. But John was married to Maureen, and obviously madly in love with her. As his thoughts turned to the woman beside him, he snuck a glance over at her. She was already looking at him, as though she’d been waiting.
Don didn’t know what Maureen was thinking about, couldn’t even venture a guess. She remained just as much a mystery to him as ever. And, frankly, even after all this time, she still sort of terrified him. Adding on top of that the guilt he felt and he really, really didn’t know what to say to her.
“I’ve loved John for a long time,” Maureen said, breaking the tension that had grown in the silence between them. “Almost twenty years. And in all that time, I’ve never gotten used to his selflessness.”
She looked at him then. Really looked, with her wide, intelligent eyes. Don resisted the urge to shift in his seat under the weight of her gaze — he felt like she could see through him, right into his soul. It wasn’t what one would call a comfortable experience.
“Do you know what made me fall in love with him in the first place?”
Don weighed his options, knowing he should tread lightly. He had a million guesses for Maureen — but he couldn’t voice any of them. Each beat of his heart gave a different answer: Loyalty. Freckles. Devotion. More freckles.
“His rugged good looks?” he said, hoping she would take it as a joke. She didn’t, and just kept staring at him with those big eyes. He’d never noticed it before, but they weren’t any one color, not green, nor blue, nor brown. Instead, they seemed to hold constellations, as if the stars she loved so dearly had become a part of her.
Jesus, these Robinsons would be the death of him yet.
“No,” she said, voice chiding as if he were a small child. “No, it was always his capacity for love that drew me to him. He accepted both me and Judy into his heart without a second thought. And every time our family gets bigger, he keeps taking it all in. It’s amazing, really, how he finds the space for everyone.”
Don, not knowing what to say, took another drink. He couldn’t stand her scrutiny anymore.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“You’re our family now, too,” she said, as if that made everything clear. But it didn’t; no, whatever her point was was about as clear to him as the air on the earth they’d left behind.
“Maureen...” He started to say something — anything — that would get her to stop looking at him like that.
“I’ve seen how you look at him, Don,” she said, cutting off his half-formed response. “I’ve seen it and I know it’s killing you. But I’m telling you that you don’t have to worry about me. Do you know what John loves most about me?”
Don stared, dumbstruck. This conversation certainly had not gone where he’d expected.
“I’m not the jealous type.”
With that cryptic remark, she put her glass down and pushed herself up from the table with both hands. Then she spoke again: “Judy is keeping him in the sick bay overnight. I’m going to check on the kids and head to bed myself. I’ll see you in the morning.” She paused, bending down to brush her lips against his cheek. “Goodnight, Don,” she whispered against his ear.
He watched her leave, her words buzzing around his head. She couldn’t have meant that John might...could she? Try as he might, he couldn’t see how her words meant anything other than that. And the more he thought about it, the more he had to find out for himself.
Don grabbed Maureen’s mostly-untouched drink and downed it in one swallow. He closed his eyes, letting the burn comfort him as the liquor made its way to his belly. Whatever liquid courage was in that glass, he needed it now more than ever. Nodding resolutely to himself, Don left the cabin.
Each step he took down the hall seemed to echo louder than the last. By the time he reached the entrance to the Med Bay, Don was sure he’d woken everyone on the ship. Yet, when he opened the door to pop his head in, John didn’t even look up from Penny’s book.
John’s absorption in his reading gave Don a chance to study him for a moment. At first, Don was just relieved to see that he was awake. But, as his relief melted into something warmer (unless it was the booze, Don wasn’t going to count that out), Don began to notice the little things about the man before him. Like the way his eyelashes curled gently against his cheek, glinting copper in the fluorescent lights. The way his freckles were denser on his forearms than on his face, except for a smattering across his temple. The way he chewed his lower lip as he concentrated on the book in his hands.
Don wanted to chew on his lower lip, too.
He rapped softly on the door, drawing John’s attention. Looking up from Lost in Space, John’s face split into a smile. Don’s heart did a little flip-flop in his chest, which Don tried his best to ignore.
“Come to break me out?” John drawled.
Just like that, the tension inside Don broke like a dam. No matter what happened next, he thought, he was lucky just to have this with John, this simple companionship. It was almost enough.
“Oh no,” he said, “I can’t do that or the Doc will break my nose…again.” He entered the room fully, sitting on the chair next to John’s bed. It felt close, intimate, to share such a small space with John.
“She does have a wicked elbow,” John said, voice swelling with pride as it always did when he talked about the kids.
“I don’t know,” Don said, “sometimes I think I’d rather take the elbow than that look she gives me. The ‘I’ve met snails with more backbone than you’ look. You know the one.”
John nodded solemnly. “She gets that from her mother.”
“So I've noticed.”
They lapsed into silence as Don contemplated his next move. He shifted his weight, leaning against the wall in what he hoped was a casual pose. But for Don, there was nothing casual about this moment.
“Thank you,” John said, “for saving me. Again.”
Don smiled, aware how soft the expression felt on his face. “I wouldn’t have to keep saving your ass if you didn’t keep trying to be a hero. You really should be more careful.”
“Why Don, it almost sounds like you care.” John flashed his teeth in what could’ve been called a grin. To Don, he looked like a shark scenting his prey. It probably shouldn’t have made his dick twitch in his pants but hey, he was only human after all.
“Only because if you die, they’ll expect me to take your place as the hero. And that isn’t my shtick.”
John chuckled softly, sizing Don up. The look in his eyes said he didn’t believe Don. The set of his lips said he was about to say something about it.
“No, I’m sure it isn’t. Of course, that’s ignoring the fact that you’re even here at all. Or that you let my wife launch you into space to save my kids. Or that, just today, you were the one to drag me back into the Jupiter.”
“A few minor lapses in judgment. Trust me, I’m not a hero.”
John stood from the bed, raising himself up until he was eye-to-eye with Don. Suddenly, the Med Bay seemed much smaller than it had before.
“I do trust you, Don. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re a hero. Without you, I’d be dead. Along with everyone else here.”
Well that was…unexpected.
Just as Don opened his mouth to respond, John’s communicator beeped to life. Maureen’s voice came out of the speaker:
“John? Judy is coming to check on you in ten minutes. Just wanted to make sure you were aware.”
“Thanks Maureen,” John responded, a note of wariness creeping into his voice. “But why are you telling me this?”
“I thought … Isn’t Don with you?”
“Yeah, but I still don’t understand.” Now John was looking at him, his green eyes clouded with confusion. If Don had ever been thankful for his ability to grow a beard, now was the time. Otherwise, John would surely see the fierce blush reddening his cheeks.
“Um, nevermind,” chirped Maureen, altogether too brightly. “Goodnight!”
“Goodnight, babe,” John responded. He clicked the communicator off, never breaking eye contact with Don. Don, for his part, was wishing he’d never heard of the Robinsons, the Resolute, or Alpha Centauri. He was perfectly fine on earth, thank you very much.
He faked a yawn. “Guess it’s time for me to go,” he said, trying to leave with at least some of his dignity still intact. He could try to seduce John Robinson another night.
John cocked his head to the side, still eyeing Don. Something in Don’s face must have given him away however. John’s face suddenly split into a smile and he took a step towards Don, who was inching toward the door. “Don,” he said, the word dripping like honey from his lips, “what is it about you being here that my wife doesn’t want my daughter to see?”
The blush that his beard had previously hid so well was now impossible to miss. Don’s whole face was aflame with embarrassment, but John didn’t seem to notice. And if he did notice, he certainly didn’t seem to mind. Ever so slowly, he took a step toward Don, then another and another. His eyes flashed, sending a bolt of heat straight through Don. He couldn’t help but stare as John’s tongue darted out to wet his lower lip.
Stopping mere inches from Don, John reached a hand up and laid it against Don’s neck. He tried to cover his shiver as John ran his thumb over his pulse point. Now they both knew how fast his heart was beating. This close, Don could see that John’s eyes were two different colors, one greener than the other.
“Tell me you want this.” John spoke low, his voice rasping. “Tell me I’m not misreading the signs.”
Don knew an opening when he saw one. Grabbing the front of John’s shirt, he hauled him close, until they were standing flush, knee to chest.
“You aren’t,” he said. And he kissed him.
Don may have initiated the kiss, but John quickly took control, crushing his body into Don and licking against the seam of his lips. Don opened his mouth for John’s seeking tongue, which swept inside with long, sure strokes.
They could’ve kissed for minutes, or maybe hours. Don’s hands found their way from John’s chest down to his belt, pulling him impossibly closer. John kept one hand on Don’s neck, the other leaning on the wall beside him, trapping Don in.
Don had never felt less trapped in his life.
Finally breaking the kiss, John backed up until he could reach his communicator. Maintaining eye contact with Don, he pressed the “Talk” button.
“Hey Maureen?” he asked.
“Can you distract Judy for a bit? Don and I have some business to take care of.”
Through the comms, Don could hear Maureen chuckle, deep and throaty. The sound sent a wave of heat through him, zipping straight to his awakening cock.
“Of course,” she said, “And John?”
“Go easy on him.”
John laughed as he disconnected. He stepped toward Don again, pulling him flush against his chest. As his teeth grazed over the sensitive spot under Don’s earlobe, he whispered:
“Not a chance.”