Space wasn’t nearly as exciting as Juno expected it to be. An empty expanse of absolutely nothing for light-years. He wasn’t entirely sure what else he expected. They hadn’t landed since taking off from Mars and the small but sleek spacecraft was becoming cramped.
Mostly because of the people inside of it- or rather, one certain person inside of it.
He’d hardly spoken to Peter since they’d arrived. A few small conversations here and there, and talk of plans for the most elaborate heist he’d even heard of was it. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to, he just had no idea how to. After everything that had happened between them… he wasn’t sure how to go about apologizing. Rita said that he should just do it, but he wasn’t so sure.
He had been spending more time with Buddy and Vespa. They were the most informative on the whole ordeal and even explained their relationship with Nureyev. Except, they didn’t know him as Peter Nureyev. Instead, he was Alas Bright.
“We met him on a heist before… well you know,” Buddy explained. “We were both trying to get the same thing, a priceless painting from Earth. We were close to getting caught and decided to work together and split the profits that we made from it. After that, if we needed an extra pair of hands, we called each other for backup.”
At least she understood that he didn’t want to be kept in the dark anymore. After everything that had been kept from him for his entire life, it was nice to actually be in the know for once.
The brown jacket man, now known as Jet, was the least helpful of them all. He and Rita seemed to be spending all their time together. Not that Juno was jealous or anything. Rita was finally getting the recognition she deserved. He did miss her sometimes, though.
“We’ll be entering Titan’s orbit in a minute or so,” Vespa calls from the control panel. “Hold onto something, this might be a bumpy ride!”
A bumpy ride may have been an understatement. The ship was sent careening to the side every few moments by stray asteroids in the planet’s orbit. Juno held on as best he could, but his sweaty hands slipped from the hand rail and he tumbled backwards.
Right into Peter Nureyev’s chest.
Juno felt his face burn, and mutters an apology. He tries to push away, but they collide with something and the two of them are sent flying.
“Vespa!” Buddy calls. “Can you try to be a little more careful?”
“I’m doing my best, darling,” She grunts in reply. “I’m doing my best.”
Rita clung to the rail next to Jet. “H-how much longer un-until we land?” She was green in the face and looked like she was about to lose her breakfast.
It was then Juno realized he was still very much pressed against Nureyev, and in the moment, he found that he didn’t really care. The next moment he realized that he very much did care and pulled himself away without another glance in Peter’s direction.
Once they broke the atmosphere, it was pretty smooth sailing. Juno watched out the window as he landed on his first foreign moon. Titan was beautiful. Iced-over seas stretched for as far as his eye could see. White capped mountains rose in the distance. Craters sat deep in the frozen ground. Below them, a city that shone as bright as Hyperion. A pang runs through his heart as he thinks of his home. It had only been about a week but he was missing it already.
They landed just outside the city’s dome. The job they were doing was taking place inside the city and there was nowhere close that they could park a spaceship.
Jet pulls up the holo-screen with a layout of the city, zooming in on a certain few blocks. “Let us go over the plan once more.”
Cassini was the name of the city. Their destination: a Dark Matters research base where they had tracked more than a few of the Theia SOULs. They weren’t entirely sure how or why Dark Matters had SOULs, but that was the purpose of the mission. That and stealing a couple of rare artifacts from the vaults.
The plan was simple: Rita and Jet would hack into the main computer and try to get any information they could about the Theia. Buddy and Vespa would keep security busy long enough so they could complete the job. Peter and Juno, well, they were stuck with get-away duty. Nureyev was only stuck driving the Ruby 7 because he didn’t trust anyone else to. Juno was only stuck with him because there was nothing else for him to do. He wouldn’t mind it as much if it didn’t mean sitting in a car with the man who he didn’t want to talk to, and didn’t want to talk to him, for at least an hour or two.
He was sure Rita had something to do with where he ended up. But still, he didn’t mind. They would be doing something good. Hopefully. He was still surprised they agreed to help him solve the mystery since they really weren’t getting a whole lot out of it. He supposed it was better not to ask.
Before the exited the craft, Jet handed Juno a heavy coat and a small pill. “What’s this for?”
“It is very cold-”
“Not the jacket. I’m not that stupid. The pill. What does it do?” Juno knew he was being paranoid, but who could blame him. He wanted- no, needed to know some things sometimes.
Jet sighs. “Your body is not accustomed to the gravity of Titan. It will help you adapt quicker.”
“You are welcome. Now come on. We’ve got work to do.”
“And I’m out. Again.” Juno tosses the cards in his hand down. “How did you get so good at this? I just taught you how to play.”
Peter shrugs. “Guess I’m a fast learner.”
“Want to go again?”
Juno shakes his head. “Nah. I’d rather not lose all my pride for the sixth time today.”
“Suit yourself.” Peter collects the cards and slips them back into the box.
The car falls quiet. Tense. Just like when they started. The first ten minutes passed excruciatingly slow, and finally Juno had suggested a card game to pass the time. Peter had modestly accepted, then proceeded to kick his ass in Martian Poker six times.
Questions swim around Juno’s brain, with no way of coming out. He knows what he wants to ask, but there’s no words to express what he wants to say. He wants to apologize, to ask Peter why he’s still here with him, why he was even allowed to join the team in the first place. Doubts and worries swirled around his mind. Nothing new.
“Juno?” Peter’s voice breaks him from the self-loathing for a moment. His voice is soft, calm. Nicer than it should be. “Are you alright?’
He sighs. Was there a point to lying? “No. I-” A lump forms in his throat, blocking the rest of the sentence. He clears his throat. “There’s just a lot going through my head right now.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Juno lets his head fall back against the headrest, and closes his eye. When he opens it, Nureyev’s looking at him intently, waiting for him to speak. “I’m sorry,” He whispers. “I’m sorry. I should have said it earlier, but I- I didn’t know how. I know there’s no reason for you to forgive me, but… I just needed you to know that I’m sorry.”
Peter’s quiet for a long moment, and Juno knows he’s messed up. Of course he wouldn’t forgive him. Why would he? What would he gain? Juno had hurt him bad, there was no reason that he should ever forgive him.
“Oh, Juno…” Peter shakes his head. “I forgave you a long time ago.”
“Why?” The crack in his voice betrays his emotions. “Why?”
Nureyev’s hand raises, but stops halfway to touching him. That was one thing he was always good with, boundaries, and Juno had no idea what he wanted right now. “Juno… do you really think that I care so little for you that leaving me would make a difference. I will admit, I was hurt at first, but I knew you. I know you.”
The tears forming in his eyes finally release and he turns away to wipe his eyes. “That doesn’t make it okay. Nothing makes it okay.”
“I know. You made a mistake. You are only human, Juno.” Peter places the hand on his chin, turning his face back to look at him. Gently, he wipes the tear away. “I forgive you, Juno.”
Juno pulls away, ignoring the obvious look of hurt on Nureyev’s face, and wipes his eyes with the sleeve of his ratty jacket. “You never told them, did you?”
“Never told them what?”
“Your name. Alas Bright… That’s what they know you as.”
“Do you think I just give my name out willy-nilly to whoever will listen?”
Juno shrugs. “You gave it to me. I still don’t understand why.”
Peter falls silent again, and Juno wonders if he said something wrong. But before he can respond something catches his eye out the window. White flakes tumble gently from the gray sky above. He looks around. There were no erupting volcanoes nearby, so it couldn’t be some sort of ash. “What the hell?” He mutters as a flake lands on the window of the Ruby 7 and melts instantly.
“Oh dear, that makes things more difficult,” Nureyev mutters, noticing the flakes.
“Why? What- what is that stuff?” Juno asks.
He just looks at him for a moment before chuckling. “Sorry, it just never occured to me that you’d never seen snow before.”
“Snow?” Juno repeats.
“Yes, I’ve heard of snow, but living in a climate controlled dome for your entire life kinda means you never get to see it.”
The backseat door opens suddenly and Rita and Jet clamber inside, shaking off the snow that had gathered on their clothes and hair. Her eyes are bright with wonder. Juno realizes that this is probably her first time seeing snow as well.
“Where are Buddy and Vespa?” Juno asks.
“They got… caught up,” Rita answers.
Peter rolls his eyes. “How long do you think-” A siren from the building blares out, cutting him off mid sentence.
“Great.” Juno mutters.
Nureyev shifts the car into drive and pushes his sunglasses over his eyes, a sharp smile decorating his face. “Let’s roll.”