Rita had been following him around the spaceship for the better part of an hour. Peter noticed of course. He was an expert in subtly and subterfuge after all, and Rita decidedly was not. She tried her best to look nonchalant about it. Holding magazines up in front of her face in the lounge room, picking at wires in hallways of the ship, accidentally running into him in the kitchen and shoving an entire piece of bread into her mouth and chewing it slowly without breaking eye contact with him in lieu of responding to his ‘oh excuse me.’ There was a reason she stayed on the ship during heists.
Peter sprawled over the captain’s seat, back against the joining curve of the back and the arm, one leg folded over the other arm, other sticking up into the air using the other joining curve as support. He unfolded the largest glossiest gossip magazine he owned to a page on intergalactic fashion trends. It seemed that rhinestone encrusted mesh body suits were making a comeback.
The cabin doors slid open with a hiss.
“OH! Mr. Banks! Fancy seeing you here! Anyways I just needed to take a look at the optima light-speed sub-drivers! Ohhhhhh whatcha reading there?” She folded her body over the back of the chair to inspect Peter’s magazine. “Is it a crime-azine? Master Thief Monthly? Nefarious Evil-Doers Quarterly?” She laughed at her own joke, but it was jagged and forced. The door slid shut behind her.
“No, those publications don’t ship until next week.” He flipped to the cover. “It’s Stream Star Weekly, though admittedly this particular issue is already a month old.”
“Oh! You better not be following too closely then, you never know when, um when trends um, when they…”
“Yeah that.” She folded her arms forlornly over the chair back and gazed at the cover.
Peter took pity on her. “Take a seat dear, you look like you’ve got a lot on your mind.”
She forwent the copilot chair in favor of the armrest across from Peter, and he sat up slightly to match her gaze.
“What’s been bothering you dear.”
She chewed her lip before muttering. “You.” Peter frowns but before he can respond she holds up her hands. “It’s nothing bad! The opposite really! You’re just… you’re nice. Really nice.”
“Is that… a problem?”
“No! I’m so glad you’re nice! I want you to be nice! And that’s the problem, as far as I can tell you are nice, but what if that’s only because I want you to be nice! What if I’m skipping over the warning signs because I so badly want them not to be there! But I don’t think I am, you’re just nice. And I really hope it’s true! Because that would be, well, nice.”
Peter blinks at her. “Thank you? I think? I try my best to be nice, at least to our crew-mates, I’m afraid police officers and CEOs might have a different opinion but…”
“Nah, it doesn’t count when you hurt someone who deserves it.” She waves a hand.
He smiles. “I’m glad.”
Rita gives him a small smile.
“Why are you afraid I wouldn’t be? Have I done anything to offend you?”
“No. It’s not… Listen, Mr. Banks! You have to understand that I’m not usually this kind of girl! I’m real good at respecting boundaries… well not all the time but it doesn’t count with Mr. Steel anymore, and I try not to get into anyone’s business -except Mr. Steel’s- and I promise I’m trying to trust you but when it comes to Mr. Ste-”
“Does this have something to do with Juno?”
Rita starts at being cut off then flushes and nods her head guiltily. “It’s just that the boss and I were talking this morning, and we we’re talking about personal affairs, and he didn’t say nothing bad, I promise you! But he did maybe sort of mention that you two were… in the service of venus if you know what I mean…”
Peter did indeed know what she meant. He frowned, puzzling over the turn of events. “Does this mean this is a, what do they call it in old Earth movies? A shovel talk?”
“I don’t want it to be, Mr. Banks!” Rita sounded miserable. “It always seems so scary and controlling in the movies! And I don’t want to be scary and controlling! And you seem really really nice!”
“But, it’s just,” she hesitated, “I don’t want to share any of the lady’s personal business, and really, he should be telling you this himself, but Mr. Steel doesn’t usually go for the nice ones.”
“Oh.” He slid his feet down into a cross-legged position in the chair, still facing Rita, but sitting up completely straight. “Rita, if it’s any consolation, I’m not at all offended by you looking out for Juno. In fact, I’m very glad he has someone as caring as you looking out for him. I know I’m not the most… open person, but if there’s any one thing I need you to know about me it’s that I would never hurt Juno. I love him.”
She smiles weakly at him. “It’s good to hear.”
“But it’s not enough, is it?”
“I want it to be. I’m just so tired of seeing him get hurt, but he’s so determined to make it hard for me sometimes, it makes it difficult to trust his judgment.” She gives a bitter laugh. “I was starting to think it was some weird kink of his, to only be attracted to people who want to kick his teeth in.”
Peter feels something cold squeeze his chest. “Rita,” he sweeps both of her hands up in both of his, “not only do I never ever want to see Juno hurt, but I would also deeply appreciate if you could give me the names and addresses of these unkind exes of his, so that I can show them what not nice really means.”
At that Rita laughs, a real genuine unworried laugh. She meets his eyes with confidence, concern gone. “Oh Robin, I’ve made plenty sure they already know, but I suppose if you insist we can give them a call and remind them of a thing or two.