Rita does not like Rex Glass, or whatever he calls himself. Not one bit. He’s too charming, too slick, and impossible to find no matter what database she checks. Juno disappeared with him for weeks without telling Rita, just leaving a voicemail, and Rita’s still a little mad about that. But the important thing is that Rita has been able to work out that Juno was with Rex, Rex and Juno were involved romantic-wise, and Rex must’ve hurt Juno so bad Juno lost his eye.
It’s not a stretch. Juno goes for the slippery ones, the charming ones that Rita never trusts. Juno never seems to like anyone unless they want to kick his teeth in, and Rita’s always there to pick up the pieces. Normally, it’s just bruises and cuts, but losing an eye? Rex is dangerous. Violent.
What was it Juno had said? On that voicemail he left, before he disappeared for weeks and left Rita’s blood pressure to rise as she searched every security feed on Mars? Rita can almost recite it from memory, she listened to it so many times. Mostly to try to figure out if the background noise could narrow down what hotel Juno was in. “Even if you aren’t sure you know who he is… even if you aren’t sure you know his real face, his real name… or what he’s really capable of doing to you?”
And then he’d come home. Weeks later, missing an eye. What he’s capable of doing to you.
So Rita’s not happy when she sees Rex leaning up against that green ruby car thing. She nearly turns around and asks Mister Jet to take her and Mister Steel back to Hyperion City right the heck now, but then she turns back and sees Juno’s face as he looks at Rex’s dangerous smile. He’ll never leave with her now. So she makes a decision that probably isn’t the wisest, and follows Jet up into the belly of the ship. The ship closes around them like an egg.
The redheaded lady, Buddy, smiles. The green-haired woman, Vespa, frowns. Rita likes both of them immediately.
“Welcome,” Buddy says. “Follow me.” To Juno, she says, “I see you’ve met Anais Lim before.”
Juno nods hesitantly and turns to follow Buddy. Rita grabs Juno’s arm as he makes his way into the ship. Juno startles.
“Boss?” she asks.
He shrugs her off. “Can’t call me Boss anymore, Rita, and we gotta follow Buddy – “
“Okay, but you gotta be careful with Anais Rex Lim Glass, okay? Promise me you’ll be careful, and you won’t do anything stupid.”
“I already did something stupid,” Juno says, looking off at nothing like he does when he’s thinking. Probably about his eye.
“Well, don’t do anything more stupid – “
“Darlings?” Buddy calls, and Juno turns on his heel and follows her. Rita has no choice but to scurry after them.
The next morning, Juno stumbles into breakfast five minutes late, dopey smile on his face and hickeys lining his neck. Rita feels nauseous. This was how it started with Diamond, too – months and months of thinking that Juno was doing better, that things were looking up, before Juno started showing up to work at the HCPD with finger-shaped bruises and blacked eyes and worse and worse excuses.
Juno pours himself coffee and sits down. Anais – Rex – she’s just gonna call him Rex – saunters in a few minutes later, grinning ear to ear. Juno looks away, blushes.
“Good morning, Rita,” Rex says happily, swooping into the chair next to hers.
“Morning,” Rita says, trying and probably failing to keep her suspicions to herself.
Rex raises an eyebrow, but Buddy clears her throat and starts talking.
Rita and Jet are good friends. Jet likes to listen to Rita talk, and Rita likes to talk, and they both like to watch streams and eat snacks. It’s been about a month since they joined the crew, and Rita loves their crime family, except for Anais. (She’s decided it’s easier to call him Anais since no one else calls him Rex.) Buddy says she’s the best hacker in the solar planets, which makes Rita blush; Vespa’s quiet, but likes Rita’s baking; and Jet’s probably the new Frannie. Speaking of which, she needs to call Frannie. No need to let old friendships go to waste just cause she’s an intergalactic criminal now.
Rita’s room is next to Juno’s. The rooms are small, just big enough for a bed, a desk, and a locking trunk. Rita’s spruced up the place with a giant monitor and posters and drawings tacked up everywhere. She hates it when things are gloomy.
She and Jet are watching the new episodes of Lasers Over Neptune, which has been on for fifty-seven seasons. Rita watched it with her mom when she was a kid. Jet is sitting on the floor, legs crossed, and letting Rita braid and unbraid his dark hair. Rita likes to have something to do with her hands, and Jet doesn’t mind.
It’s very late when the sounds start. Rita hears moaning, shifting, from the room beside hers. She rolls her eyes. The boss’ sex life is hard to stay out of when it’s six feet away through a thin wall.
She tries to ignore it, until she hears a soft “No…. no, please, no…”
Jet and Rita look at each other. They don’t want to intervene, but…
They hear Anais’s voice, low and soothing, but Juno’s voice continues and so does the soft sound of the bedframe creaking. “No! No, I won’t, please don’t, please, get off of me – “
“Quiet down, Juno,” Anais says clearly. Is Rita imagining the hint of annoyance there?
Juno is suddenly quiet, the noises stop, and Rita is scared for him.
Rita’s about to go into the kitchen to heat up some Martian-shaped soy nuggets when she hears them in there.
“Love, I don’t think Rita likes me very much,” Anais muses.
“I’m sure she does,” Juno says gruffly. “Why do you say that?”
“Well, she tends to glare at me like I canceled her favorite stream,” Anais admits.
“Don’t pay attention to it, okay? I’ll talk to her.”
Then there is the distinct sound of kissing and heavy breathing, so Rita stifles a squeak and scurries back to her room.
Lying on her bed, she thinks through it. When Juno was with Diamond, there was a full year when she didn’t see him hardly at all. Rita had begun to speak up about the bruises, about the split lips, and Juno started to avoid her more and more. Even had her transferred, for the last six months he was at the HCPD. Which is why everything went so wrong with Captain Hijikata, Rita maintains. But the point is, if Rita confronts Juno about what Anais is doing to him, Juno will shut her out. So she keeps her mouth shut and her eyes open.
Rita’s manning the security system when she sees it, and it takes all her willpower not to break in there and tear Anais Lim apart.
The crew is robbing a fancy party, so they’re all dressed fancy except Rita, who has to stay behind to do all the hacking. Which is sad. Next time she’s dressing up anyway. Anais and Juno are pretending to be a married couple named after flowers or something, Rita can’t ever remember, but they’re holding onto each other possessively as they charm the young lady who they’re trying to steal from.
But in the grainy security footage, the young woman laughs hugely and pulls a little packet of pills from her cleavage. Anais leans in, interested. Juno’s eyes dart, and he seems to be looking for an escape route.
Rita’s not much given to murder, but she could kill Anais for putting Juno in a position where he’d have to give up his sober streak. Eight years without drugs. Rita could strangle him.
The young woman calls over a waiter, and all three take flutes of champagne. She distributes the pills, and they all swallow them. Anais and the woman laugh. Juno looks like he might be sick. Then Anais puts his hand on her waist, and Rita knows he’s got the key. It’s done.
Two hours later, Rita finds Juno in the bathroom. He’s vomiting into the toilet, eyeliner smeared down his cheeks. His dress is unzipped, the bodice trailing on the bathroom floor. Rita can see the old lash marks on his back in the fluorescent light. Rita leans against the door.
“Boss?” she asks timidly.
“Vespa gave me an opiate antagonist,” Juno says, voice wrecked. “I asked her to. It… shouldn’t be a problem.”
“I’m so sorry, boss,” Rita says. “You shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place, y’know?”
Juno turns and dry-heaves. “Well, we didn’t tell the crew that I had a drug problem,” he says with a grim smile. “Now they know.”
Someone taps her on the shoulder. “Miss Rita,” Anais says politely. “Juno, I brought you some tea.”
“Thanks, Nur – “ Juno turns and heaves again. “Thanks.”
“Get some sleep, Rita,” Anais says kindly. “I’ll look out for our grumpy detective.”
Juno gets shot on their next mission. It’s an odd one, to rescue the daughter of one of Buddy’s old friends out on Brahma. For reasons nobody explains to Rita, Anais refuses to go on this mission so Juno has to do the infiltration while Anais stays on the ship. Jet carries Juno back to the ship after things go wrong and they get out of Brahmese airspace just in time.
Rita has just closed up shop – it took some doing to convince the AI to let them out of Brahma’s orbit - and put the computers in sleep mode and she wants to go see Juno. She heads down the hall and is about to knock on the infirmary door when she hears Anais’s voice. Loud, fast. Angry.
“There was absolutely no reason for you to get shot, Juno – “
“I – I had to – “ Juno says weakly. “Ow.”
“I can’t believe you let yourself get hurt. The plan was – “
“Plans don’t always work in the moment – “
“So what, you were going to leave me alone again for the sake of improvisation? For god’s sake, Juno! You need to think about something other than your own death wish from time to time – “
“Anais.” Vespa’s voice is flat. “Much as I agree with the sentiment, you and Steel can’t have this little spat right now. He’s bleeding all over my infirmary and I need him calm so I can do sutures.”
Rita jumps out of the way before the door slams open and Anais stalks down the hallway. Rita is angry. How dare he lecture Juno about self-preservation after injuring him so badly Juno lost his eye, after refusing to do this mission and not giving anyone a good reason. How dare he.
Rita is steaming mad. But she’ll wait until Juno is better. Contrary to popular belief, she is patient – and she needs to get to the bottom of all this.
It takes weeks for Juno to get better. Rita tries to sit with him as much as possible, but Anais waves her off most of the time, practically living in the armchair beside Juno’s infirmary bed. Rita resents this.
She’s sitting with Jet in the kitchen when Anais sweeps in and pulls together a bowl of soup, heating it in the microwave. He carries it back out and Jet and Rita watch him go.
“How long have you known Anais?” Rita asks.
“A long time,” Jet rumbles. “Many years and many aliases.”
“Is he a good person?” Rita asks.
“I’m serious!” Rita protests.
“Yes, I think so, despite the fact that he is an accomplished criminal,” Jet says seriously. “Why do you ask?”
“I just… Juno ain’t got the best taste in datemates, usually,” Rita admits. “I worry about him.”
“You are a good friend, Rita,” Jet says. “I am sure Juno understands that.”
“I’m just worried about him and Anais,” Rita admits.
“I do not know Juno as well as you do, so I do not know Juno’s patterns of interpersonal relationships. Right now, however, Juno’s mental health seems to be fairly stable to an outside observer.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” Rita says.
Juno knocks on her door a few weeks later. “Hey Rita?” he calls from outside. “You’re fired.”
Rita opens her door and quickly scans Juno for injury. She still remembers the time that Juno, nose bleeding and arm broken, had knocked on her door at 2am and told her Nadia had broken up with him. Juno’s not bleeding. He looks… happy. Rita hates that she’s suspicious, but fifteen years of knowing a lady and she’s got cause to be worried.
Juno comes in and sits down at the desk chair. Rita sits on the bed.
“What’s up, boss?” Rita asks.
“Well… I…” Juno smiles. “I wanted to talk to you. About Anais.”
“What about him?” Rita’s on guard. She doesn’t want Juno to shut her out.
Juno groans and buries his face in his hands. Rita has a long running theory he’s allergic to his own feelings. “I just… I really love him, I think, and I want to tell him about all the shit from my past but I’m worried he’ll run away? Like if I tell him all the stuff about Ma and the HCPD – he might not… want to stick around? Which is dumb, but - “
“He’s told you about the skeletons in his closet, right boss?” Rita is going to swallow down her trepidation and give her boss good dating advice if it kills her.
“Well, told might be a strong word. But yeah.”
“Then you’ll be fine. Just be honest. Speak from the heart! Like in the fifth season of Unicorns of Venus, when Calypso tells Miranda how much they love her, and Miranda tells them – “
It comes to a head six months after they join the crew. They haven’t had a mission for weeks. Rita walks into the bathroom early one morning, turns the handle because it’s not locked. The door swings open easily.
Juno is sitting there on the toilet lid, good eye rapidly bruising as Anais dabs at it with a paper towel. He looks resigned.
“I’m so sorry, Juno dear, I didn’t mean to do it,” Anais says as he flutters around Juno’s face.
“I’m fine, Nureyev,” Juno says, and then spots Rita over Anais’s (Nureyev’s?) shoulder. All the blood drains from Juno’s face.
“Rita,” Juno says steadily, reaching out his hands as he stands like he’s taming a wild animal, “this is not what it looks like.”
“Oh, hello Rita,” Anais says cheerily. “Would you mind getting some ice from the kitchen?”
Rita sees red. The next thing she knows, she’s launched herself at Anais and is punching whatever she can reach. “You! You don’t touch him, you piece of – “
And then Juno’s arms are around her middle, lifting her up and away from Anais as she flails. From Juno’s grip, Rita keeps yelling. “You hurt him! You took his eye last year when you ran off with him! I bet you were thrilled to find a lady who ain’t got any good sense of self-preservation! You made him take drugs and told him to be quiet when he said no and you left him on Brahma to get shot and – and – he’s too good for you! You ain’t gonna touch him again!“
Anais gets to his feet and dusts himself off. “Rita?” he says warily.
“Rita,” Juno says, “He elbowed me in his sleep. That is how I got this black eye. It was an accident. If I let you go, can we discuss this? Like adults?”
Rita glares at Anais. “Boss, you said that when Diamond broke your ribs! Six times! You said it was an accident!”
“Who broke your ribs six times?” Anais says, sharp and dangerous.
“None of your business!” Rita yells.
“What is happening?” Jet, still in his pajamas, fills the doorway.
“Jet! Help me! Anais has been beating up Mistah Steel, gave him a black eye – “
“It was an accident – “ Juno says over her, exasperated.
“Excuse me,” Jet says. “Rita, would you be willing to hear Juno’s side of this before attempting to attack Anais?”
Rita deflates a little. “Fine,” she says.
“Excellent,” Jet says. “Let’s go to the kitchen.”
Jet pours them all some tea. “So, Rita, tell us why you believe Anais is hurting Juno.”
“Well, Mistah Steel ain’t got a good track record with relationships! We’ve been friends for fifteen years and he only likes people who wanna kick his teeth in!” Rita takes a breath. “And last year Anais – he was Rex then – he ran off with the boss for weeks and weeks and Mistah Steel left me a message saying he was scared of what Rex was gonna do to him. And then the boss came back without his eye. And so I wanted to go right back to Hyperion as soon as I saw Anais! But I didn’t want you to be here alone with him, boss.”
Juno looks a little stunned. “Do… do you still want to go back to Hyperion?” he asks.
“No! I love our crime family! I just – he put you in a position where you had to take drugs, and he told you to be quiet when you said no, and you yelled at him when he got shot and you hit him!” Rita is yelling by the end, staring Anais down.
Anais looks confused and angry. “Rita, I can assure you, I would never lay a hand on Juno.”
“Rita.” Juno takes a deep breath. “Anais didn’t hurt me. He has never hurt me on purpose. Everything you’re talking about is… a misunderstanding. Or an accident. I appreciate that you’re trying to look out for me, and I know what all of this looks like, but I swear – “
“You swore that you fell down the stairs when Nadia broke your arm! You swore Valentine didn’t do anything when I had to take you to the hospital for internal bleeding! You – “
“Stop!” Juno stands, fists clenched. “Stop it, Rita. I know. I know. But I’m telling the truth now. I’ll swear on whatever you want.”
“But he told you to be quiet after you told him no – “
“A nightmare – “
“And the drugs – “
“A bad coincidence – “
“Rita,” Anais interrupts. “I am so sorry that you got that impression, and I don’t blame you at all for looking out for Juno. We both care deeply for him and don’t ever want to see him hurt, yes?”
“Yes,” Rita says reluctantly.
“I think you’ve gotten the wrong idea from a few incidents,” Anais says. “I accidentally elbowed Juno in the eye, and I am so sorry about that. I couldn’t go on the mission on Brahma because of something in my own past, and I tried to ensure Juno couldn’t be hurt by the mission, which is why I was so upset that he was shot. I had no idea Juno had a drug problem when we were undercover, and I will never again do anything that would jeopardize his recovery. I… am not the direct cause of Juno losing his eye, though I do believe my carelessness contributed to it.” Anais places his palms flat on the table. “Thank you for telling me how concerned you are about Juno.”
“I’m right here,” Juno sighs.
“You ain’t mad?” Rita says suspiciously.
“No. You were just looking out for him.” Anais takes her hand, and Rita lets him. “And I understand if you don’t trust me right away. But can we at least talk?”
“Yeah,” Rita says. “We can talk. I don’t know if I trust you yet, Anais, but I ain’t gonna punch you anymore.”
“And Rita,” Juno says, “for the love of god, will you talk to me about all this next time you get suspicious?”
“Sure, boss!” Rita says happily.