Juno’s first plan upon getting back to Hyperion was to crash into bed and sleep for a week. He was down an eye again and the socket still throbbed, whatever back alley pain meds that were in Hanataba’s tea not quite cutting it.
“I will leave you here now. The gates to the dome are within walking distance. I have no desire to get too close to your law enforcement.” The big guy parked the speeder and Juno hoped off.
“Thanks I guess.” He waved at him.
“Your thankfulness is noted.” And with that big guy sped off, leaving Juno coughing in the dust kicked up by his tires.
Comms hopelessly smashed, he walked until he found a bus stop, and rooted around in his pockets for change. By sheer luck he had enough to cover the bus fare despite his wild couple of weeks having knocked most everything else out of his pockets. He tried to doze on the ride but his head kept knocking against the window and eventually he just decided to watch the scenery pass by.
They were passing through old town.
There was his and Mick’s old neighborhood, the school, the bar across the street. His chest ached in anticipation for what he knew was next. The cemetery. The one Ben was buried in.
There seemed to be a funeral there today. A large one by the look of it. Juno tried to look away but found himself unable, exhaustion and morbid fascination keeping him transfixed. Whoever it was, Juno felt something awful that they had to be buried in oldtown, but at least they had so many loved ones. He wondered if it was someone he had known as a kid. They seemed awfully close to Ben’s grave after all. He watched Ramses address the crowd.
Juno staggered to his feet and yanked at the cord as many times as he had to until the driver turned around and glared at him.
“Sorry, it looks like I’m late to my own goddamn funeral.” He pushed the doors open before she could protest and ran through the traffic, cars honking at him and swerving around him the whole way.
It was a little surreal.
Rita was right next to the podium, burying her face into Mick’s shoulder of all people. He didn’t even think they knew each other. Mick looked a wreck, eyes red and downcast. Alessandra looked forlorn but had linked hands with another woman Juno didn’t know and assumed was her fiance. Even Julian had shown up- and he was wearing a ridiculously elaborate black dress complete with a beaded veil that hid most of his face. Cecil was there too, and beside him, another veiled stranger of the same height and build of Cecil, who kept batting away the camera he had brought. A chunk of blonde hair drifted from behind the veil. Cassandra.
The more he looked around the more people he recognized. People he had pushed away, or that he assumed hated him or only tolerated him and pretended to be nice. People he had spent sleepless nights thinking of how he hurt them and people he thought never felt something for him at all. All of them crowded around a headstone, next to Ben’s, a little taller than the others to make room for some extra engraving he couldn’t see. Juno was absolutely floored.
And then he got close enough to hear what Ramses was saying.
“-and despite his self depreciation Juno was one of the bravest people this city had to offer. Even in death, he protected his city, from the murderous Mayor Perera, whom Juno stopped from wrecking even more of a crisis upon this town.”
“You’re full of shit Ramses!” He shouted as loud as he could.
The entire crowd held its breath.
Juno met Ramses eyes from across the cemetery and then the crowd turned, and the mayhem started.
Rita screamed at the top of her lungs. “JUNO!” And ironically it was the use of his first name that shocked him more -she did everything at top volume. And soon enough she had shoved her way through the crowd and crashed into him. Tired as he was he couldn’t stay upright so they toppled to the ground and he had a lap full of sniveling Rita, clinging to him desperately.
Mick screamed and jumped back. “AHHH ZOMBIE” and then paused, “Jay! You’re a zombie! This is great!” And he also runned to hug Juno, or he tried anyways. The rest of the crowd had surrounded Juno, all talking over each other, looks of worry and confusion on their faces.
It was too much. Juno stared back up at the onslaught of would be mourners and felt his breath go shallow and pulse quicken. There were so many more people that cared about him than he thought, so many more people to disappoint. Even the thought of trying to be good enough for all of them was exhausting. Rita, who had been furiously squeezing his chest suddenly loosened her grip to sit up and look him in the eye. She searched his gaze for a minute before nodding, having apparently found what she was looking for, and stood up and offered him a hand. He took it and she pulled him up and into a one armed embrace, other arm held out to the crowd.
“EVERYBODY SHUT UP FOR A SECOND!”
Rita’s ability to command a room was truly a thing of miracles.
“My boss here is clearly miraculously alive! But not well!” She gestured to the mild radiation burns gracing his face and he scowled at her. “So back off! Give him some space! We’re gonna go now!” The crowd murmured apprehensively and one single hand was raised from the back and waved vigorously. “Yes Mr. Mercury, you can come! But no one else!”
And she started steering him to her car, Mick jogging to catch up.
“Hold on a minute!” Juno broke from her grasp and started marching towards Ramses. “Hey asshole! I’m not done with you!”
“Juno?” He only sounded mildly perplexed. “Are you quite alright? You’ve been out there quite a while, long enough to get a heavy dose of radiation-”
“Not enough to forget that you orchestrated this whole goddamn thing! The realty scam! The assassination! The Piranha!”
“I’ve no idea what you mean. We should talk when you’re well.”
“Oh like hell we will-”
“Jay! Jay!” Mick caught his fist before he could throw the punch and Juno instinctively flinched and looked over to him. Rita rushed up and hugged his other arm. Effectively trapping him.
“Can you wait till you can stand without swaying before starting any fistfights, boss?”
“Yeah Jay, this really isn’t the time for this. Even if zombies technically can’t die anymore than they already have.”
“I’m not a zombie Mick.”
“It’s ok Jay, you’ll come to terms with it eventually.”
“Goddamn it you guys, let me deck this-”
Juno turned back but Ramses was gone. The crowd had started to disperse a little. Some had started to crowd together in little groups and mutter conspiratly, giving Juno worried glances occasionally. The whole display made his skin crawl.
“Come on boss, let’s get some painkillers in you.”
He let Rita and Mick lead him to a car. Neither of which had relinquished their grasp on his arms. They sat him in the backseat like a child and sullenly he leaned his head against the window like a child, watching the remaining mourners wander off.
One person hung behind, not talking to anyone. Like Cassandra and Julian they were wearing a veil, but their dress was more reserved than either of them had been and was taller and leaner than most anyone Juno knew. He leaned closer into the window, trying to figure out if he was simply imagining the shape of a familiar man under all that unfamiliar fabric.
The figure turned, seeming to have caught Juno looking. A single gloved hand waved at him as Rita started to drive off and then reached up to pull the veil off their head. Juno twisted in his seat to try to catch a glimpse of their face but the car turned the corner before the veil was off and they were lost from sight.