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Thieves Among The Stars

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Nureyev avoided Juno Steel like a plague, a sickness that he could possibly ignore if he was careful enough. It’s a shame that there’s no vaccination for a broken heart. He wouldn't admit it, but he had hoped that his stunt on the Ruby 7 would be enough to win Juno over. A sexy pose, a familiar line, and Juno would be running into his arms.

Of course that isn't how it happened. Juno was surprised, and he seemed like he wanted to say something, but the words were stolen from the lady as they prepared for takeoff. After that, it seemed that they were never alone. There were shared glances, Juno looking as if he were to say something important, but they were always whisked away before they could talk. Peter spent many days watching the former detective wistfully as he interacted with the crew. Quarrels with Vespa about specific plans, failed jokes with Jet, deep debates with Buddy about space and travel in the stars, and ‘tech lessons’ with Rita. Tonights tech lesson was showing how to go through Rita’s stream library.

He wasn’t listening to the specific conversation, but the calm of the room was broken by Junos laugh, loud and scratchy, a cracked bell that rang in Peter’s heart. It was then that Peter was struck with a thought.

He had never heard Juno laugh before.

Through all of their adventures, all of their shared hardships, the Kanagawas, Engstrom, Miasma, and-- after, Peter had never heard that laugh. As he thought about it, there were a lot of questions he had about the lady. What was his favorite color? His favorite stream? How did he get his scar across his nose? With this revelation, Peter knew what he had to do.

“Juno? We need to talk.”

*****

Juno was waiting in the observatory when Peter arrived, silhouette framed in the endless expanse around them. He was beautiful. Peter paused.

He paused too long, it seemed, as Juno turned to face him. It was the first time Peter truly looked at the lady since being reunited. His hair was longer, intricate braids brushing his shoulders as they waved with his movement. His vibrant blue eye was sparkling with sadness and a resolve he hadn’t seen before. New scars shone occasionally, most notably the hints of lightning patterns spreading from somewhere under his shirt, the tips stopping at the base of his neck. He looked tired, but there was a lightness there. Juno seemed to be doing well, all things considered.

“Nureyev,” his voice was nearly a whisper, like he was sharing a secret that wasn’t his to tell. “I-I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have left like that. You deserved an explanation, but I couldn't do it.”

Peter felt the poorly patched cuts on his heart open, a dull ache rocking him. He could just accept the apology, let that be that, and see how far they could go in the stars. But that wasn't fair to him, to either of them. “Juno, I asked a lot of you that night. We were both hurt, lucky to be alive, and I let my emotions make an ultimatum that was impossible.” he took a deep breath, steadying himself mentally. “I have long since forgiven you for that night in Hyperion. I wanted to talk about something else.”

The lady’s face flashed with hesitant relief. “Oh, well go ahead then.”

“I don’t think I loved you.”

Juno sagged slightly, trying to keep a brave face and failing. He looked heartbroken, but even worse, he looked like he expected it. “O-oh. I think i should go.” He kept his eyes forward, tears welling up slightly as he brushed past the thief.

“Juno, please wait!” Peter reached out, grabbing Juno’s wrist. It was loose enough that he could escape, but he stayed, frozen in place facing away from Nureyev.

Peter shook slightly, but he had to keep going. “Juno, I cared for you deeply during our time together, more than I’ve cared about anything in a very long time, but I don’t think it was love. Not like that. I would call it an infatuation? The snarky detective against the big mean world, doing anything to be good, to be just. I was smitten.”

Peter dropped his hand, stepping forward. Juno hadn’t moved, but his shoulders were quivering in the starlight. “I realized today, I had never heard you laugh before.” He didn’t bother to wipe the tears he felt heating up his face. “I don’t know your favorite food or your favorite planet or why you have that awful painting in your room.”

Peter reached out, gently turning the lady to face him. He couldn’t look the thief in the eyes, but there was a glimmer of realization as he listened. “My dear, I wouldn’t call it love, because I didn't know you; not in the way it mattered. And I’m sure its the same about me. You don’t know me, Juno. I'm just some thief that dragged you through some dangerous situations then asked too much from you.”

He squeezed Junos arm gently, hopefully a reassuring gesture “With that being said, I think I would like to get to know Juno Steel. We make a great team, and there may even be love in there, in the future.”

Juno finally looked into Peter’s eyes, a flicker of understanding mixing with that usual spark. “So what, we just start over? Should I introduce myself, or..?”

The thief gave a watery laugh. “I don’t see why not.”

“Okay, I’ll start then. I’m Juno.”

“I’m Cesar Thorn, but those close to me call me Peter Nureyev.”

“It's a pleasure, Nureyev.”

Peter smiled, a warmth filling his chest, not quite fixing the ache in his heart, but close. “Yes, I certainly think it will be.”