“What's this?” asked Maureen, pleasantly surprised as she took in the breakfast spread in the Hub.
John, still dressed in his pajamas with an apron thrown over it, grinned and came forward to give his wife a morning kiss.
“It’s breakfast,” he said, pulling away.
A wrinkle formed on Maureen’s forehead. The Robinsons made meals in turns and according to the schedule John wasn’t due to do it until two more days. “But I was supposed to--"
“Nope,” interrupted John, snaking a hand around Maureen's waist and leading her to a seat. “I’m here now. You don’t need to make the meals all the time anymore. I can do more than twice a week.”
Maureen’s mouth curled into a smile. She wasn’t going to complain. She sat and looked up at John. “You mean I get to sleep in from now on?”
John hummed agreeably in response. “This is what men in retirement do for their wives.”
Maureen smiled and then tipped her chin up, asking for another kiss.
John obliged, softly pressing his lips against her mouth.
Maureen's hand tugged at the apron while the other one slipped underneath his shirt. She murmured, “I can think of other things that retirees finally have a lot of time for.”
John’s eyebrows shot up at, finding her line of thought agreeable. He leaned in again to kiss her.
“Oh, come on, it’s too early, you guys.”
John and Maureen broke apart, chuckling but not bothering to spare their second daughter a blush.
Penny, though, was smiling. She felt rather sentimental. She motioned at the scene. “Breakfast and PDA? Now this is normal.”
John laughed and motioned with his head to a chair beside Maureen. “Dig in, kiddo. I made Oreo pancakes.”
Penny's eyes widened and she immediately ran to the table to determine if her dad was telling the truth.
When she saw the evidence of it before her eyes, she turned to John who was exchanging knowing smiles with Maureen. Penny loved Oreos.
“You didn’t tell me we still had Oreos!” cried Penny, half shocked, half excited.
“If we did, you would’ve eaten them all already,” said Maureen, pouring herself some coffee.
Penny ran to her father with a shriek and gave him a hug. “Daddy, thank you!”
Penny extracted herself from John after a kiss on his cheek and sat in the nearest chair, grabbed a piece of Oreo coated in pancake, and took one savory bite. “Hmm,” she moaned, closing her eyes. “This is what the New World tastes like. Although, it needs some milk. Or some vanilla ice cream.”
“I draw the line at ice cream for breakfast,” John told her, passing her the milk instead.
While Penny poured herself a glass of milk, John moved to stand behind Maureen, his hands resting on her shoulders. He had eaten small bits here and there while he cooked which meant he wasn't particularly hungry anymore.
“Just don’t get used to the Oreo pancakes. It’s only for special occasions.”
Penny choked on her milk causing it to trickle down her chin. She wiped the dribble with the back of her hand and gaped at her parents, both of whom looked entirely amused at her expression. “You mean there’s more Oreos in this ship?”
Maureen shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. “There might be.”
Before Penny could reply, Will walked in the Hub, still rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“I could hear you all the way from my room, Penny. What’s got you this noisy?”
Will froze, staring at his sister who was nodding at him. “No way!”
He may not love Oreos as much as his sister but it’s been a while since they had some junk food.
He ran to an empty seat and practically melted at the sight of eggs, bacon, toast, and Oreo pancakes.
“Are these for real?”
John nodded. “Oh, yeah.”
There was a sound of footsteps in the hall and Judy's voice rang, “I’m home!”
She appeared by the walkway of the Hub and dropped her medicine bag on the couch as she entered.
“Thank God I’m off duty tomorrow. I know I was the one who was so excited to get back to work but I don’t miss the graveyard shifts.” She gave her mom a kiss and her dad a quick hug. “I'm starving. What’s for breakfast?”
“Your father got up early this morning to make us all of this.”
“Really?” the eldest child sat down and picked up a piece of toast. She eyed her father and said teasingly, “and you didn’t burn the toast. I’m impressed.”
“That was one time and you lord it over me. I want it made clear that I did my fair share of time in the kitchens as a soldier to know how to make my family breakfast.”
“I’m pretty sure Navy Seals don’t know how to make Oreo pancakes but they taste great anyway,” said Penny mouth full of bacon.
“Dad!” Judy scolded halfheartedly, not even surprised at the Oreos which made Penny think she may have been in on the Oreo supply all along. “Oreos do not make a healthy breakfast.”
“Can I have your share then?” Penny asked a little too sweetly.
“You said you didn’t want any!” Penny bit back.
“I never said that. I said they didn’t make a good breakfast. Anyway, I’ve been up since yesterday. This is basically dessert for me.” Judy put half eaten toast down on her plate and ate one full piece of Oreo.
“Hey, that's your last piece. We each get four only,” said Penny after Will took a fourth Oreo.
“You can have my share, sweetie,” said John, stealing a sip from Maureen's coffee.
Penny's hand shot up in the air. “Dibs on Dad's share!”
“Hey, not fair! We split dad's share equally!” Will argued.
John laughed, shaking his head. This was what he left the Navy for. This noise, these people, this life.
Maureen squeezed his hand which was still on her shoulder, thinking the same thing he was.
“So, what are your plans today?” she addressed the children when John gave her her mug back.
“I’m going with Will and the Robot after lunch to check out the market in town. Can you believe it’s been more than a year since we went shopping? And the fashion here is totally different. I’m gonna need some new clothes.”
“And I want to try the tortillas and see if they really do leave an aftertaste,” Will added, looking at his mom with a smile.
“What about you, Jude?”
“I’m gonna sleep.”
“How about later you and I can go on a run? I don’t have anything else to do except drive your mom to work and fetch her after. What do you say?"
“Yeah,” said Maureen to Judy, “You two can ditch the treadmill.” She glanced up at John. “You know what, don’t bring the Chariot when you pick me up. I’ll pack some extra clothes and we three can run home together.” It’s been a while since she’s had some physical activity that did not include running away from danger.
“Okay,” said Judy. “That could work.”
“You know, back on Earth, 20% of cases that go in the ER are composed of retirees. Something to do with how bored they are." Maureen fluffed a pillow and then placed it under John’s foot, elevating it.
Maureen never got to run home with her husband and daughter after work because Judy picked her up in the Chariot that afternoon, explaining that John sprained his ankle and was currently back in the Jupiter resting.
“Are you calling me old?” asked John, grinning.
“I’m calling you bored.”
John snatched his wife's hand and pulled her down on the bed.
“John!” Maureen cried in surprise, landing unceremoniously on her stomach.
John positioned himself on his left side, his right foot still resting on the pillow. He put an arm over Maureen's waist and pulled her close to him, his fingers digging in the sensitive spot of her side.
Maureen squirmed, laughing.
“I’m just out of practice, alright,” John said, pausing his tickle attack. “You try running down a hill when all you’ve been on all year is a treadmill. Treadmills don't incline downwards."
Maureen scoffed. “Maybe you could’ve ran using the sidewalk instead of challenging Judy to see who could run over a hill faster.”
“That daughter of ours bet me I couldn’t do it! You know I had to prove her wrong.”
Maureen rolled her eyes but there wasn’t much annoyance to it. She gave John an amused look.
“Anyway, I’ve been cleared by the doctor. The sprain will go away in a week. Nothing rest won’t fix,” John added.
“As if you can stay put long enough to not put pressure on that ankle.”
“You’re one to talk. You had a broken leg and then you were hiking up the forest through a diamond storm. Mine's just a sprain.”
John released his wife and leaned his head back against the propped up pillow. “I promise to take it easy. And then once I’m better, I can bring you to the hill again. You and I can make a date of it.”
Maureen barked a laugh, sitting up herself whilst waving a hand at him. “Oh, no, no, no. I am not hiking another hill with you. I can still remember the one in Tuscany—”
“It’s not hiking. We’ll be running.”
“Yes, well, may I remind you that the last time we went through a hill, you rolled us down it.”
“That was fun.”
“I had bruises for days!” Maureen said, pointing at various parts of her body that once showed bruises ranging from yellow to purple.
“I’m pretty sure those bruises weren’t from the roll down.” The expression on John’s face told Maureen exactly what he was recalling. After they had rolled down and caught their breath, she and John had proceeded to do other things under the cover of the hills.
“Another reason why I won’t be rolling down a hill with you. I had dirt everywhere—
“Grass all over our hair.” John sighed happily in recollection. “That was amazing."
“It was,” Maureen agreed. “Doesn’t mean I’m gonna do it again. You and I are way too old to be rolling down hills and making love in the grass.”
“One of us would probably break a limb.”
John shifted and turned his body to face Maureen’s, the injured foot still elevated. “Why roll down a hill when there’s a perfectly good bed right here?”
Maureen caught the playful expression on his face. “The kids won’t be back until dinner," she said, feigning interest.
“And Judy went out to get some ice cream... We could roll around right now.”
“With that sprain? Absolutely not.”
“The sprain has nothing to do with my—”
“We can cuddle.”
“Ooh, I like cuddling.”
“So do I.”
John stretched out his arm and Maureen positioned herself beside him, John’s arm behind her neck. She leaned her head against the side of his chest and her hand rested on John's stomach.
There was a lot more belly there than abs but she found that she absolutely did not mind one bit. It was just more proof of John's loyalty to their family, that he traded a military life for a domestic one, his fatigues for an apron and instruction manuals for cookbooks.
Maureen wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We should host a housewarming party,” John said softly. “It’d be a great way to get to know the neighbors. Didn’t we always say we needed to be more neighborly?”
“Yeah, but between your job and mine, Judy was doing most of the neighborly duties. Although I have to admit I do miss talking to adults. Don doesn’t count,” Maureen added when John tried to interrupt.
John chuckled. “Well, if we host a party and invite Don, there’s a chance the adults in the room will rub off on him.”
“We could do a trivia night!” Maureen said, pulling away abruptly with an excited grin on her face. It was a smile she wore only during occasions when they gambled and she knew she was going to win.
John started shaking his head, already knowing the result and trying to get her to get back into the cuddle. “Absolutely not.”
“You just don’t want to lose.” Maureen twisted around and retrieved her whiteboard from the shelf behind them. She started writing down categories.
“Cause I’m already down 335 bucks and I currently do not have a source of income to pay you back. Speaking of which, you still haven’t given me my five bucks for being right about the Dhars’ Jupiter.”
“God, I forgot all about that. What about we make it the starting bet on the trivia night?” she didn’t wait for John's reply and continued scribbling.
“How about Karaoke? I always win at Karaoke.” John gently pried the whiteboard away from Maureen’s hands and she let him gather her in his arms as he began singing in her ear.
It was the song they danced to on their wedding.
“Come on,” he urged her, “I know you know the lyrics to this.”
Maureen laughed and relented, joining him in singing. She wasn’t kidding when she told him she disliked his singing that one time in the Resolute, but marriage was all about making exceptions on certain days.
A bored husband stuck in bed with a sprained ankle was one of those days.
They finished the chorus together and then Maureen sighed contentedly.
“If somebody told your 20-year-old self that you’d be in space in 20 years, would you believe them?”
John pursed his lips in thought. “Nope. And if you told me that I would be sitting in bed with a sprained ankle thinking about beating your ass in Karaoke, I wouldn’t believe you either. I entered the Navy right after college. I never thought I’d get to have this family let alone even go to space.”
“Do you miss it?” Maureen asked a little shyly, not looking at him when she did so. Instead, she played with the ring on his finger. “Work,” she clarified.
She sat up a little straighter and John drew his arm back to his side, still pondering an answer. Maureen tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, suddenly regretting asking because she didn’t want to know the answer but she needed to.
Technically Maureen didn’t force John to go to Alpha Centauri but she hadn't given him much choice. No parents would let their kids move to another planet without them. It was more or less an ultimatum and at the back of her head there was this nagging feeling of doubt that told her John would wake up one day and resent her for forcing him to come.
When a palpable minute had passed and he still hadn’t answered, Maureen looked at him. “I just… I realized I never asked you and between getting lost in space and trying to survive, I never got the chance.” John looked at her and his face was blank. She hated it when he did that because she could never read what he was thinking which only made her ramble on more. “Did you ever feel like I forced you to come here? You quit your job to come with us and you say you’re retired and that you’re happy but are you? Truly happy? Being alone at home, playing driver and cook, I know it’s not something that you wanted for yourself.” She sighed, dropping her gaze and looking down at her hands. “I just don’t want you to hate the life we have here.”
Finally, John shifted, taking her hands and holding them tightly. He held Maureen’s gaze and this time she could read him perfectly. He did not hate the life they have and he told her so. “I chose this, remember? If I wanted adventure, I wouldn’t have left Earth. I chose you and the kids. And I will always choose you and the kids.”
“So, you don’t regret quitting?”
“No. I get to do things I’ve never done before. I mean, I can be here for Will's science projects, scare Penny's future boyfriends, go to the movies with my family without having to count the days until I’m deployed again. Hey,” John cupped his wife's cheek, wanting his touch to convince her he was serious. “I am perfectly content here.”
Maureen nodded, smiling softly.
“What brought this on, anyway?” John asked, frowning slightly in concern.
“Just something a colleague said when she saw you drive me to work.”
“What did she say?”
“She talked about how her husband went into an early retirement and hated every minute of it. It was just a passing comment and I didn’t think much of it until you mentioned the Navy.” Maureen shrugged, “And I just... I don’t want you to think that I'm limiting you to this Jupiter. I want you to spread your wings too. You can go back to work, if you wanted to. I mean the U.S. Naval base in the colony is hiring. You could make some inquiries.”
John scratched at his jaw in thought. “They, uh, they actually offered me a job yesterday. They want me to lead some scientists out on a sea exploration.”
“Gonna take me away for months at a time. Sound familiar? Anyway, I turned them down.”
Maureen bit her lip, hesitating. Eventually, the supportive wife in her gained the courage and she said, “But if this was something you wanted, we could talk about it with the kids.”
“I’ve already done the pros and cons. Pros: I’d have a steady paycheck. Keep my hands busy. Contribute into building the New World. It’s also less dangerous than what I used to do. Cons: I’d be leaving. Again. The cons outweigh it all in my opinion. Besides, I’ve already tried to change the world, went 6000 miles away to do it. Now, I want to do all of that again but right where I’m standing... or sitting, rather.”
The weight on Maureen's chest lifted and she captured John's face in her hands and kissed him. “I love you.”
“I know,” John said a little cockily. “Also one reason I declined is cause I got another job offer from Colonel Samira to act as consultant for their training regimen. Something about how my unique space experience could really bring a whole ‘nother dimension to the training courses. If I'm not mistaken, they're thinking I could make it, uh, out of this world?”
Maureen laughed at the pun.
“And I’ve also done the pros and cons for that. Cons: it’s gonna mean less time in the kitchen. So, you’re gonna have to suffer my absence a little bit in that area. Pros: I get an option of working at home and when needed, I get to change out of my pajamas to visit the training sites, oversee construction and training, which is only a thousand miles away. So, what do you think? Should I take it?”
Maureen nodded, almost surprised that he had to even ask her. “Yes! Yes! I can’t believe you waited for my say on this.” She kissed him again and when she pulled away, John stroked her cheek. “Hey, we make decisions together. I wasn’t going to accept without running it by you.”
“We’re gonna have to get you an office.”
“I have an office.”
“The Hub is not your office.”
“Then I’ll make one.”
“Please don’t DIY yourself a table and chair again. The last time you did that, the table was crooked and the chair broke.”
“Okay, I’ll admit that furniture is not my strongest suit.
Maureen scoffed. Then, she said, “Promise me we’ll always talk like this. That we’ll never make a repeat of those years where we avoided phone calls and talked to each other through the kids. Promise me John that everyday in the New World with you will be like this.”
“Maureen, I love you but I am not spraining my ankle everyday for you.”
Maureen laughed while John kissed the top of her head and said, “I promise.”