“Notify me when we finally get a hit,” Maureen instructed, placing a hand on Ava's shoulder and then casting a grateful smile in Don’s direction, before walking out of the cockpit with John following after her.
When the couple was out of earshot, Don cocked his head in the direction they left and said to Ava, “She has a thing for me.” He put his feet up on the console.
Ava snorted, her body shaking with laughter. “Yeah, right.” She looked at the screen again; she did this more out of habit, for the feeling of doing something rather than actually expecting to find anything—a Jupiter full of children or Alpha Centauri—on the radar.
But Maureen Robinson was convinced they would find something.
Ava didn’t know where the woman got the hope and will to believe.
“Tell me something,” she said to Don. “You were with the Robinsons for months. Does Maureen ever give up even in a hopeless situation?”
Don put his feet down. He pointed at the direction Maureen took and gave Ava a look that told her she had just suggested something ridiculous. “That woman? Give up? It isn’t in her DNA. I’m half convinced she came out of her mother's womb with blueprints to the Jupiter.” Don shook his head. The more he thought about it, the more impossible the idea of Maureen giving up was. “Naah. That woman is a genius. She has a one-track mind and when she sets her sights on something, her brain starts kicking and the gears start turning, and she’ll have the calculations done before you can even remember to ask for it. She’s rarely ever wrong. Think of her as me but female.”
Ava snorted again at West’s ego. Somehow in space, it only got bigger. “She must be one hell of a woman to have your loyalty and trust like this.” It was amazing seeing Maureen give Don orders and subsequently watch Don carry it out without his usual flippant demeanor that masked tender emotions locked away.
“You’d trust her too if she rescued you from death, which she has. Need I remind you that she went out in a maintenance pod to save us from suffocating.”
Oh, Ava remembered. She remembered having to smuggle Don and the married Robinsons and leave them to hide within the walls of the ship.
Wanting to look at something other than the screen, Ava swung her seat and looked at Don. “You know you never told us what you were doing with the Robinsons while you were gone. Anything fun?”
Don’s eyes widened. “Fun? Uh-uh. The Robinsons put me in a thermos and hurled me into space. And then I got ejected into space without my consent. And then I got attacked by anti-fog flakes. And then we got sucked into a rift where we had to live off of corn and rehydrated packs for seven months. And then we had to turn the Jupiter into a sailboat which trashed CEEDRA and then I had to fix it. And then when I fixed the damn thing, the Robinsons trashed the Chariot. So, I fixed that next. Don’t even get me started on being attacked by alien kelp. What, you think I’ve been on vacation? That family worked me for all I was worth and I wasn’t even getting paid.”
Ava smiled knowingly. For all of Don West’s complaints, there was a certain fondness in the way he spoke of his experiences with the family. She wouldn’t have noticed if she hadn’t worked with him for so long.
Don frowned. “What's with the face?”
“I think you like them.”
“Of course, I like them.” It was impossible not to like or trust the Robinsons. “I never said I didn’t. Their eldest daughter could use a little work, the middle one’s right up my alley, though. A Don West in the making, that one. And then there’s the youngest—" Don broke off when he saw Ava's smile widening. Why did he feel like he just walked in a trap? He suspiciously pointed a finger at her. “What are you up to?”
Ava shrugged. “I think it’s great that you’ve turned your life around. I’m happy for you.”
“Turn my life—what are you talking about? I’m still not getting paid enough to secure a comfortable retirement. I’m still stuck in space. I might get sent back down to Earth and die of pollution. My life is still going downhill.”
“But you’ve found yourself a family.”
Ava continued, “When I first started working with you, you had nothing, Don. Don’t interrupt. I’m talking,” she said when Don opened his mouth. “You couldn’t trust anybody. Sure you’d hang out and laugh and eat with the rest of us but you always had one foot out the door. And then months living with the Robinsons and you’ve got a family that you fight for, a moral code. Hell, you admitted to Kamal that you’ve been smuggling goods all to save that Robinson kid. The old Don West wouldn’t have done that.”
“I only saved her to return the favor, alright?”
“Why is it so hard for you to just admit that these Robinsons have rubbed off on you? They’re a good influence.”
Don opened his mouth and then shut it again. He wasn’t lying when he said he saved Penny because he owed the Robinsons a lot. But were they his family?
Absolutely not. The Robinsons were their own family. Don didn’t fit into it. He never did. Not anywhere. Not even space. It’s why he talked to Debbie, why he smuggled goods (used to, anyway). Animals, Kobe steak, whiskey—those things don’t let you down. But family demands giving up parts of yourself to be a part of a group that becomes better together.
And sure in the past seven months in the Water Planet, Don let John Robinson cut his hair (which he never let anyone do, but barbers were kind of sparse at the time), sacrificed his last bottle of whiskey for Mom and Dad, and then also gave Will a haircut before he ended up looking like Luke Skywalker and taught him to repair the motor, gave Penny a 101 on lock picking (not that doors in the Jupiter have locks but better safe than sorry), and even worked with Will and Penny to prepare a surprise birthday party for Judy. Was that what made a family?
Don couldn’t say anyway, seeing as he’s never had one to compare the experience with.
"I have no idea what you're talking about. All this," Don gestured to himself, "is Don West, okay? Not Don Robinson or whatever it is you're thinking about."
“Sure. I get it,” said Ava, shrugging her shoulders. “I won’t tell anyone about this. Wouldn’t want to ruin the Don West reputation.”
Don rolled his eyes and then focused on his screen again. He let a half-amused smile grace his face, one that Ava wouldn't see from where she sat.
Don Robinson, he thought. That was ridiculous.
Family or not, one thing was sure, though. He wasn’t going back to Earth, not until the Robinsons were together again.