There were days when Juno wanted nothing more than to go back to Mars, hole up in his old dump of an apartment and wolf down takeout on his lumpy sofa in peace while watching some old re-run on the streams. Perhaps it was the old siren-song of privacy, or simply the desire to eat fries.
The Carte Blanche was largely a communal space, even they did all have their own rooms. For years Juno had only had to spend time with Rita every day and then his clients and potentially some former co-workers and others that were somehow linked to the case of the day. His office had been a messy, if private place where he could play Solitaire to his heart’s content and stare out the window in a dramatic fashion whenever he wanted.
Juno was glad to have Rita around, chattering to everyone about her new favorite show and sitting beside Juno at the dinner table with a delighted smile on her face whenever he’d put on a nice outfit for the occasion.
Not that he’d ever stopped wearing his scruffy heeled boots and long trench coat. But now he’d put on a soft purple crewneck sweater on top of his old striped shirt and enough patterned tights in his closet so that he didn’t have to worry about tearing a few pairs whenever he felt like wearing his new skirts or dresses.
Juno had bought himself some new skirts while on shore leave and accepted the rose-patterned dress Peter had given him just before their last job.
“You’re picking out my clothes again?” Juno had asked, inspecting the material. This was not the sort of thing he’d have gotten for himself, at least on Mars. This was not something from the discount rack or found in a box on the floor of the thrift store.
This was the fancy stuff.
The dress was backless and with a long skirt that would no doubt float all around Juno as he walked around. It was not the sort of dress you wore with any kind of underwear.
“I stole it from the mannequin,” Peter said casually, handing over ruby ankle boots and a clutch large enough to hide a gun, his wallet and his lipstick. Maybe a snack, if it was a little one. “I thought that you might wear it with those dahlia-patterned tights of yours.”
“Did you?” Juno asked, not bothering to hide his smile.
Juno thought of the compliments Peter would slide into their conversations whenever Juno wore his favorite green dress. And how Peter’s smile wasn’t the wicked smile of a man who expected to get something in exchange for those comments, but a shiny charming one with just that ever present hint of mischievousness.
“I very much did, dear,” Peter said, outright grinning at him. “Now, hurry up and get dressed before we land.”
“Alright, alright,” Juno muttered, tightening his grip on the ankle boots and dress and stalking towards his room, where he somehow managed to get the delicate tights on without ripping them and was just pulling on the ankle boots when Rita rushed into his bedroom after some very minimal knocking and shouting his name.
“You look fancy, boss,” Rita said, holding a makeup bag underneath her arm like a very angry cat. “I got my makeup so we could do our eyeliner together!”
“You look fancy too, Rita,” Juno said, taking in Rita’s bright yellow overalls and gold bowtie. The sleeves of her shirt were rolled up to show off the bangles on her wrists.
Juno rummaged through his bag for his red eyeliner as Rita did complicated things with highlighter and glitter. He adjusted his eyepatch in the mirror.
“It’s easier to do your eye-makeup when you’ve only got one eye,” Juno said, rubbing tinted lip-balm on and putting on the eyeliner with a few sure strokes. “Saves a lot of time not having to make it match. And on products, too.”
Juno put on mascara and filled in his eyebrows a bit, absently styling his hair when he’d put his makeup away in its bag. He stilled when he realized that Rita had not said anything in a while after she’d put on her swirly eyeliner and tied up her hair.
“What?” Juno asked, side-eying her as she put both her hands on her cheeks as she’d just seen a video of a feral alley-cat being rescued from the dangerous streets and scrubbed free of lice and patched up before learning to be loved by its new family.
“I’m real happy that we’re both here, Mistah Steel,” she said. “Sellin’ all your furniture and apartment and getting a new job wouldn’t have been nearly as fun as this. It would’ve been awful.”
“I’m sorry that I almost put you through that, Rita,” Juno said, swallowing. The image of Rita rummaging through his shitty kitchenware and papers loomed in his mind, there and gone again.
“Was it because you wanted to follow Ransom?” Rita asked, her voice low.
“…yeah, it was,” Juno admitted. “I was too much of a coward to leave Mars, then. And I couldn’t make myself leave you-“
“Oh,” Rita said.
“So, I left him instead,” Juno continued, unable to stop. “Broke my own heart to do it, but I wasn’t ready for anything like that yet. Besides, we barely knew each other, back then. Maybe I was just in love with the idea of him I had in my head. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to travel the stars with him and never, ever looking back.”
“Aw, Mistah Steel,” Rita said.
“I like travelling the stars like this better,” Juno said, wiping his hands clean and fixing his neckline. “Much better.”
“Yeah,” Rita said with a sigh and a bright smile. Then she grabbed his hand and pulled him out the door, a few seconds before Vespa started shouting at him to hurry up.