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I wish it were last night again. I wish I could hold her, and talk to her, and I wish I’d known that, before we’d—

Vespa launches upright, gulping in breath until her throat is raw. Within a second, she feels hands crawling all over her, and she screams and bats the false sensation away.

Only she can feel the hands when she hits at them, solid against her blows, and then a voice cuts through, “Vespa, love, I’m here—I’m here.”

“Buddy?” Vespa stills just enough to look at her, or what she thinks is her, a dark shape cutting through the blinding light of the—the… where are they?

“You’re real?” she asks. Her voice comes out more broken than usual, and her face is wet.

“Yes, love. I’m here,” Buddy soothes. She hesitates for a moment, then reaches out to take Vespa’s hand. Vespa lets her, feels the warmth like an anchor, pulling her back down to the real world.

Vespa lets out a sob, and falls into Buddy’s shoulder. Her skin is a little oily, and she smells like sun cream and heat and… they’re at the beach. She remembers that now.

“What was it this time?” Buddy prompts gently, and Vespa shakes her head into her shoulder.

“It was awful, Bud, there was—it could walk in space, and it carved a hole into the Carte Blanche and it came inside, and it stole you right from under me—”

“What did, love?”

“A—A shapeshifter, or robot, something, I don’t know, it could make portals through walls—”

“A portal-making shapeshifter robot? You have quite the wild imagination—”

“It was awful, Bud,” Vespa whispers quiet into her skin. “You were gone, everyone was gone, and the robot took Steel’s shape and then I stabbed it, and—Bud, I watched the skin and flesh melt off of him. Like it was nothing.” She shudders hard, “And then I died. We all died.”

“Oh, Vespa,” Buddy sighs. She runs her fingers through her acid-green hair, and raises her other arm to curl around her, “I’m so sorry, love. It’s alright. We’re all safe here. There’s no such thing as a robot that can take other forms. And if there was, well, I’d certainly like one. It’d be rather useful for—”

“Don’t joke about it, Bud,” Vespa says. Buddy falls quiet.

“Sorry, love,” she says again. “Just trying to cheer you up.”

Vespa used to love Buddy’s sense of humour. It was one of the things that had made Vespa fall for her all those years ago.

The solar system and the planets beyond have made a joke out of her enough, these days. She’s tired. She doesn’t have any energy to find things very funny, anymore.

She knows Buddy tries to adjust to the changes between them. She’s trying to fit two damaged pieces into an old puzzle – but it’s not just the pieces. The whole picture’s changed, now. They have to learn it all over again.

Vespa sniffles and turns her head out of Buddy’s shoulder. She looks across an expanse of deep purple sand towards a deep green body of water. The sun reflects bright off the crests of the waves. They’re underneath an umbrella, and a towel protects them from the sand.

Taking precious time off of the mission to have a beach holiday. Buddy always did have strange priorities. Doesn’t mean Vespa doesn’t trust them, they’ve never failed her yet, just… they’re not traditional, is all.  

“Where are the others?” she rasps.

“Rockpool exploring, I believe,” Buddy says airily, and gestures to an outcrop of blue rocks at the end of one arc of the bay, stretching out into the water and then dipping around out of sight behind a cliff. “Rita, Ransom, and Juno have a hundred creds on whoever can collect Mepistskharoan mudweed first.”

It’s an iridescent form of slime that’s stunning to look at, but shrivels up and dies the moment it gets handled. Vespa snorts, “Idiots.”

“They’re having a little fun, darling,” Buddy corrects, not unkindly but disapprovingly nonetheless.

It hurts every time they disagree now, on the little things. Evidence of the ways their cores have changed into people they aren’t sure are compatible anymore. That uncertainty has been a recurring thread in Vespa’s nightmares for a long time now.

“I do wish you’d learn to lighten up a little, love. You’re hard to be around sometimes.”

Vespa flinches and looks up, hurt, “What?”

“Pardon?” Buddy looks down at her. She’s in a multicoloured swimsuit. Vespa’s in boardshorts and a rash-shirt. They’re here on holidays, and they’re here together, and Buddy would never say a thing like that.

“Nothing,” Vespa says, and looks down at her feet. Scrunches her toes in the towel and feels the sand underneath. Sighs and puts her head back on Buddy’s shoulder again, “I miss you.”

Buddy’s hand finds hers, “We’re together all the time, love.”

“I know,” Vespa whispers. And she does, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss her, too. Misses them talking hours into the night about all their plans for future heists, wrapped in each others arms, misses seeing the adoration in Buddy’s eyes and being able to believe it was really there, just for her. Misses stealing each other trinkets and laughing and kissing and hell, even misses sex, because they’re both old and tired and have too much baggage now to be able to lose themselves in something as easy and carefree as that.

“I miss you, too,” Buddy adds, quietly.

Vespa snorts softly and stares out at the waves. Trust Buddy to know exactly what she’s not saying.

“How about we take a walk, love?” Buddy says at length, squeezing Vespa’s hand where they’re together. “We can catch up on some things.”

Vespa squeezes back, “Yeah, Bud. That sounds nice.”

Buddy has to let go of her hand to get to her feet, and she groans as she does so. Then she holds a hand out to Vespa, whose joint pains aren’t a whole lot better as Buddy helps her up.

They keep holding hands as they begin trudging along the purple sand. The green water washes up over their ankles periodically, before falling back out to sea.

“Would you like to tell me what’s bothering you?” Buddy asks.

Isn’t that the question of the hour? The truth is no, she doesn’t. She doesn’t want to admit that anything’s wrong at all. She just wants to hold Buddy close to her and pretend everything is still exactly like it used to be.

But it’s not, and she can’t. “It’s just… different. Between us.”

Buddy swings their hands, “Yes. Yes, it is. I understand, love. But we’re both working to work it out, and we both love each other. That’s what matters in the end, hm?”

Vespa closes her eyes, “I know, Bud. And I believe you when you say it, I just… it doesn’t stick. Sooner or later my brain convinces me you’re lying again, and then…” She trails off.

“Well there’s an easy fix for that, then,” Buddy says, and smiles at her, “I’ll just have to make sure to remind you I love you every moment I can. I love you, Vespa.”

“Love you too, Bud,” Vespa mutters.

“Vespa, dear?”

“…Yeah?”

“I love you.”

Vespa laughs a little, and bumps her shoulder against Buddy’s side, “I love you, too.”

“You’re a valuable asset to this team,” Buddy continues, “In fact, you’re invaluable. I’m very proud to have you by my side.”

Something tight clenches in Vespa’s chest, “Stop it, Bud—”

“I don’t think I will, Vespa,” Buddy squeezes her hand, “You understand I am not the kind of woman who likes to dwell on the past, and yet every second I get to spend with you I am reminded of just how lucky I am to have you with me again, of what a miracle it is that I get to see your beautiful face. I adore you, dear, and I know I’ve put you under a lot of stress, forcing you into a whole new crew of people before we’ve even had time to get used to the two of us living together again, but you’re doing so well, love. You’re my personal role model.”

Vespa starts crying, and Buddy stops walking and pulls her into her arms.

“Oh, love,” she says, swaying gently from side to side, “It’s alright. It’s okay.”

“I was thinking of quitting,” Vespa admits, small and ashamed, and Buddy leans back to look at her.

“Don’t you ever dare,” she whispers, and then cups the side of her face and leans down.

Every kiss with Buddy Aurinko is a gift. Vespa remembers that, remembers that everything she’s been through, she’s been through for the chance to feel Buddy’s lips against hers again.

Buddy pulls back, “I love you, Vespa Ilkay.”

Vespa sniffles, “I love you, Buddy Aurinko.”

Buddy smiles and hugs her close again until her tears completely die down.

“I tell you what,” Buddy says eventually, after they’ve begun walking again, “There’s another rocky outcrop on the other side of the bay, can you see it?”

Vespa looks and can just make it out, “Yeah…?”

Buddy squeezes her hand again and looks down at her, a wicked glint in her eye, “I bet you a hundred creds I could find Mepistskharoan mudweed in the rockpools there before you.”

Vespa snorts, shakes her head… and grins, “Make it two hundred, and you’re on, Bud.”


Rita is pretty sure she’s having the best day of her life.

Well, lots of days are best days of her life, actually. Especially recently, which is pretty great. Rita likes to think that every day has the potential to be the best day ever and also every hour the potential to be the best hour ever and if this hour ain’t so nice well then the next hour’s gotta be twice as good to make up for it!

Jet tells her this isn’t how life works. Rita likes Jet, but he’s got a lot to learn about life.

Anyway, all of this is a roundabout way to say that this is the first time Rita’s ever seen a beach! Outside of the simulated theme parks on Mars of course, but they weren’t any fun anyway because that many holograms made Juno feel nauseous, and nothing’s fun when Juno’s having a bad time.

Rita doesn’t even mean that in the ‘she can’t have fun when her best friend’s upset’ way. It’s just impossible to enjoy anything with Juno complaining all the way through it. She loves him, but she’s pretty sure he’s had the same personality since fourteen.

But he seems to be enjoying a real beach just fine, if the laugh he lets out every few minutes is any indication.

Juno has a pretty laugh. Rita’s always thought so. She thinks maybe Ransom thinks so too, by the smile he tries to hide when Juno laughs at his jokes.

Juno looks good today. Not like that, geez, she knows way too much about him to think of him like that. But she helped him pick out this bikini herself, plus taught him how to tie the sarong. She thinks pastel pink looks good on him and she thinks Ransom thinks it does too. She caught a glimpse of them holding hands before, and saw Ransom lean down and pick a blue-white-pink flower to tuck behind Juno’s ear.

They’re kinda cute, what with the way they both think they’re being super subtle, and the way Juno tells her he’s so worried about making sure they’re making all the right decisions and certain they’re in the right place for a relationship before they do anything, when you only have to look at the way they act around each other to answer those questions.

She misses spending time with him, a little. But she’s spent much less time with Juno for much worse reasons, so she doesn’t let it get her down.

Jet’s standing a few rocks away, with his face up towards the pale blue sun. His eyes are closed and he’s breathing long and deep.

Rita makes her way over to him, “Whatcha doin? Photosynthesising?”

“I do not photosynthesise,” Jet responds.

He seems real into whatever he’s doing, so Rita crouches down by a rockpool nearby and squints at something that could be Mepistskharoan mudweed, or could be another one of those awful Mtiralan clinging weeds that squeeze and try to suck blood. Ransom had to cut the last five off of her, and her arm is already all purple and bruised.

When the light hits it, it glistens blue. What was it Ransom had said? If it shines blue, it’s mudweed, but green and it’s a clinging weed? Or was it if it shines yellow it’s mudweed, and if it shines blue it’s an incredibly toxic Caucasusan camouflaging blowfish?

Rita squints harder, which is what all detectives do in the movies when they need to think, and is just about to reach for it when a little neon green crab darts out behind a rock and she yelps and grabs at it.

“Yes!” she holds the crab out triumphantly towards Jet.

Jet breaks his meditative state to clap.

Rita puts the little crab into a bucket along with the three Ajarian singing clams and an Imereti spitting fish. She thinks she’ll make an aquarium on the Carte Blanche, and then she can visit her little critters any time she wants.

“What did you catch, Rita?” Juno and Ransom have walked over in the time it took for her to make up her mind about the thing in the rockpool. She goes to show him the crab, but it’s already buried underneath the sand she put at the bottom of the bucket to make the clams comfortable.

“It was real cool, Mistah Steel,” she explains, “Look! See if you can find another one.”

He peers into the rockpool she was just crouching over, and then says, “Oh, hey. Mudweed.”

Without a second thought, he plunges his hand into the water, and then Ransom is grabbing hold of him and pulling him back.

Juno,” he says, exasperated, “That’s a Caucasusan blowfish! Didn’t you listen when I explained the difference? You would’ve been dead in two minutes!”

Ah! Well, wasn’t it smart of Rita to go after that crab instead.

“Oh,” Juno says. “Well, I’m, uh… sure glad I have you, then.”

Ransom glares, but only because he’s trying not to smile, and Rita rolls her eyes (in a loving way), and goes to go explore another rockpool.

“Hey—don’t run off, we just walked over here to spend time with you!” Juno says, and Rita stops and turns around to face him.

“Really?”

“Duh,” Juno makes a funny face at her and then walks over to the side of the rocks, patting the space beside himself. Ransom follows and sits down daintily beside him.

Rita bounces up and sits herself right down next to Juno, kicking her legs over the ocean. Juno and Ransom both have their legs in the water.

“Juno tells me you’ve never been swimming,” Ransom leans past Juno to look at her.

“That ain’t true!” Rita says, and folds her arms. Which is hard to do with the floaties she’s wearing, “I just ain’t never seen an ocean before is all! It’s Mistah Steel that’s never been swimming.”

“I have!” Juno protests, and then quieter he adds, “Once.”

Ransom grins, showing off his scary sharp teeth, and then he lies back on the rocks and sighs. He’s shirtless, which has gotta be uncomfortable, but if it is he doesn’t seem to notice, “I’ve always thought, if I ever were to settle down on a planet, which doesn’t currently seem likely, but you never know, that I’d settle on a beach.”

“Yeah?” Juno asks.

“Mm,” Ransom hums, “There’s something captivating about beaches. They’re never the same twice, they’re a gateway to an entire hidden world underwater. A nice beach is also often isolated, which is a plus.” Rita can’t see him properly but she thinks he moves slightly, “I can see myself waking up in the morning, going for a swim and drying out on the sand under the sun, reading a nice book under an umbrella in the afternoon, perhaps enjoying a nice glass of wine in my favourite kimono from the porch of my beach house as the sun sets.”

“All alone?” Rita asks, horrified.

Ransom doesn’t answer for a moment. She thinks he hasn’t heard her until he says, “Well. That’s all a matter of whether I ever find someone willing to settle down with me, I suppose.”

Juno laughs, a little strained, “You say that like you couldn’t get someone right now if you asked, Ransom.”

Rita sees his shoulders tense a half-second later, and he adds, even more strained, “I mean… like someone, not like… anyone in particular.”

Peter stands up from the rockpools in a flash of movement, “I think I’m going to go for a swim.”

“Aw, Mistah Ransom, don’t—”

“Yeahthatsagoodidea,” says Juno.

And just like that, Ransom takes a deep breath, and dives off the edge of the rocks.

“Ain’t it dangerous to jump from here!?” Rita exclaims, but nobody answers her. When she looks over, Juno has his head in his hands.

“Aw man,” Rita puts her hand on his back, “It’s okay Mistah Steel.”

“No, it’s not,” Juno groans, “What has he got to think when I say stuff like that? Shit, Rita. I don’t mean to pressure him, or make it obvious how I feel and make him uncomfortable, it just—the Universe hates me, alright?”

Rita breathes deep and remembers that in all the best streams the romance happens naturally, and not after some very pretty expert hacker shouts down her best friend for how oblivious he’s being. So she just pats his back and glances out to the water.

Ransom’s head is above water, though it disappears in a flash of wet black hair the second she looks at him.

“Well,” Rita looks away from the ocean again and says, “Where would you live, then, if you settled down?”

Juno sighs and leans his head against Rita’s shoulder. He thinks for a long moment, and then mutters, “I guess the city.”

“Ain’t you had enough of the city?”

“You’d think so,” there’s a smile in Juno’s voice, “But… I don’t know. I don’t think I could live without the… the… noise, you know? The people. The evidence that life is happening all around, all the time – that it keeps on going and you have to keep going with it. I think that keeps me sane sometimes, you know?”

“That’s real deep, Mistah Steel,” Rita says thoughtfully.

“How about you?”

“Oh obviously I’d live on Adzhar Akhaltsikh, you know the candy planet from Attack on Adzhar II? The one with the caves made outta crystals you can eat and giant lakes made outta bubbling drinks only it all gets dug up because of the rebel alliance and that guy played by Strabo Mosch (ain’t he dreamy, Mistah Steel?) breaks up with the candy king which causes a whole nother set of problems and—”

Juno sits up straight, “Rita.”

“Ooh! And I’d have a holiday home on Samtskhe from Call of the Georgians XVI with that spa owned by that lady with the real long red hair and the biceps,” Rita breaks off to giggle dreamily, and Juno shakes his head and laughs.

“Thanks, Rita,” he says quietly, after a while.

Rita smiles to herself, glancing down at the rocks. Then she gasps, because right between her legs is a little rockpool, and in that rockpool is a slimy weed that’s shining blue and green and yellow all at once.

“Mistah Steel,” she says, seriously, “Prepare to lose one hundred creds.”

 

Juno dips his toes in!

 


Jet and Rita cook late-afternoon lunch/early-night dinner, without supervision from Buddy and Vespa, who are apparently on a date of their own somewhere on the other side of the bay, which means their attempt at cooking is, predictably, a disaster.

Jet’s a decent cook, actually. Juno likes his food. But adding Rita to the mix means tampering with the recipe when Jet isn’t looking, plus all of the crazy concoctions she makes on her own. Juno is staring on in silent horror as Rita throws a strap of bacon she’s rolled in rainbow-coloured glitter sugar onto the barbeque, and then there’s a slender hand around his wrist.

“Want to get out of here?” Nureyev murmurs from beside him, and Juno, impressively, manages not to jump, just snorts and turns to face him.

“If I watched another minute of this, there’s no way in hell I’d be able to stomach dinner,” he says, by way of answer. “Let’s go.”

They agreed beforehand that they’d still make time to have their nightly feelings talk while on their short vacation, but with everything going on, Juno hasn’t had time to prepare like usual. He hopes Nureyev won’t bring up the stupid slip of his tongue earlier. Last they talked, Nureyev was in a place of conflict, unsure if he was willing to give Juno a second chance, and Juno’s pretty sure nothing works better on a tense, high-pressure situation than dumping a big fat  confession like I would settle down with you if you asked on it.

Peter keeps his hand around Juno’s wrist as he leads him down the beach.

“Where are we going in such a hurry?” Juno asks.

“There’s a cliff I saw while I was swimming,” Peter explains without turning around. “The sunsets on this planet are meant to be legendary. If we walk fast enough, we might make it in time to watch the whole thing.”

Soon enough, Juno can see the looming hulk of a dark blue cliff standing out over the water. The sand starts to give way to wiry pink grass, and Peter’s grip on Juno’s wrist tightens as they start to pick their way through the undergrowth.

“You, uh,” Juno slaps a tree branch out of the way and then almost trips over a rock, “Really want to see this sunset, huh?”

Nureyev doesn’t say a word, and Juno looks ahead to see that a path starts a little way ahead, and crawls up the side of a steep hill to the top of the cliff.

“Aw, hell,” he says.

“No time to lose, Juno!” Nureyev says cheerily as they start on the path, and Juno grumbles under his breath, his flip flops slipping on pebbles.

“Easy for you to say, you’re like a Martian mountain goat. I’m more like a sewer rabbit on rollerskates.”

Nureyev finally stops and laughs lightly. He turns around and reaches out to take Juno’s other hand in his, “Fine. We’ll take it a little slower, then.”

Juno wheezes and leans his head down, “Thanks.”

Nureyev starts up again after Juno has his breath back, stepping slowly up the cliff effortlessly backwards, and tugging Juno up after him. By the time they’ve gotten to the top of the hill, the bottom of the sun is just hanging above the sea-green horizon.

Nureyev lets go of one of Juno’s hands, and walks them both to the very end of the cliff. They sit down, their legs hanging over the edge. The faded red-striped t-shirt that Nureyev put on after swimming ripples in the wind.

Juno sighs, “Nureyev, look. I’m not sure what you want to talk about tonight, but—”

“Perhaps,” Nureyev says gently, “We don’t have to talk, tonight. If it’s alright with you, I’d just… like to watch the sunset, with you.”

“Oh,” Juno says. “Alright.”

The sky has gone a gradient of dark blue at the top down to a pastel green at the bottom. The sun dips down so that it’s just touching the horizon, and all at once a beam of light cuts through the sky and cuts a line through the ocean, splitting the scene in front of them in perfect half.

“Woah,” Juno breathes.

“Brilliant, isn’t it?” Nureyev says quietly, “Something to do with the exact positioning of the sun, and some differences in the composition of the atmosphere here.”

Little lines of light split off of the main beam, streaking across the sky in an arc. The line of the horizon goes soft pink that fades easily into yellow, then green and blue again.

Nureyev leans his head on Juno’s shoulder.

Which is about the point Juno stops paying attention to the sunset. He swallows, stares fixedly straight ahead, and tries not to let it show that every part of him is alert and tense.

Nureyev laughs softly, “Your pulse is racing,” he mutters.

“It’s—ah,” Juno swallows again, “Pretty high up here. Not my, uh. Favourite thing.”

Not a total lie. It is high up here, and Juno’s legs are dangling over the edge, and it is frightening.

It’s just also that Nureyev is infuriatingly casual with his affection. Today especially, he’s been all over him, and Juno’s not sure how much more of this – how much more of hand holding and flowers behind his ears and being touched so effortlessly – he can take before something snaps.

“Juno,” Nureyev says, and leans up off of him at last, “I had a lot of time to think while I was swimming.”

“Oh,” Juno says, trying to keep the nervous waver out of his voice, “That’s good.”

He watches the sunset stoically for a second more, but when Nureyev stays quiet his resolve crumbles and he glances over, “And?”

Nureyev plays with some gravel with his fingers, and then sighs and tips his head back, “I was trying to figure out my answer. To the question you asked me last time we talked.”

What do you want from me—from us?

Nureyev looks at him front on, “Juno, I still don’t know if something between the two of us could ever work.”

Juno never had high hopes. He’d been certain Nureyev’s affection was just platonic, but still, he hopes his face doesn’t show how badly it hurts to hear. “Yeah,” he spits out, “That’s… fair, Nureyev, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have pressured—”

“However,” Nureyev says over the top of him. “I realised that that fear, that worry… doesn’t answer the question that you asked. In fact, it has prevented me from answering it, and in the process has led me to deny that I can. But I can,” He takes a deep breath, “I’ve thought about it more, and I think I know what I want.”

Juno can feel his heartbeat in his fingertips. They’re still making eye-contact, and Juno doesn’t know how to break it – doesn’t think he could if he tried, “So…” he says, “What… do you want?”

Nureyev’s mouth opens to say something, but he obviously changes his mind. And then they’re just stuck looking at each other, the air heavy with tension.

“Juno,” Nureyev says quietly, and his hand comes to rest on Juno’s thigh on the other side of him. The action pulls him closer, marginally, and Juno tries to get his voice to work.

“Is-is,” he stutters at last, trying to shape his voice into something resembling a joke and not a desperate plea, “Is, uh. That an answer?”

Nureyev’s mouth twitches into a smile, and Juno is pulled like a magnet, moves closer without even thinking about it. Their faces are so close, and even now Juno’s half sure Nureyev’s going to change his mind, won’t be able to go through with it, and he opens his mouth to tell him it’s okay if he does.

And then, like a scene from a movie, Peter Nureyev leans in and kisses Juno Steel in front of the sunset.

Juno clutches him close with one hand in the faded striped t-shirt and kisses him back. He doesn’t want to show how urgently he needs this, has craved this, but when Peter pulls back he can’t help himself but chase him forward and kiss him again.

Juno feels himself getting warm behind his eyes, and they kiss until it finally overcomes him and he has to break away to laugh and cry all at once.

“Oh, don’t,” Nureyev says severely, “You’re going to make me cry, too.”

So Juno laughs wetly, and kisses him again, short and sweet this time. Then he leans down to put his head on his shoulder.

“I think,” Nureyev says at last, “I think this was the right choice.”

“I think you’re a sap,” Juno says, and squeezes where their hands are still holding each other.

“Perhaps,” Nureyev agrees, a smile in his voice, “When it comes to you.”

Juno breathes in the smell of Nureyev’s shirt, masked as it is by the smell of salt water and sun-cream, and they watch the rest of the sunset together in each-others arms.

“Ah, fuck,” Juno says, when he realises it’s getting dark, “We better go if we want to be able to see our way back.”

“Ah,” Peter says, “No need to worry, I thought ahead. I have a flashlight in my pocket.”

“Huh. And all this time I was thinking you were just happy to see me.”

Peter laughs and Juno laughs with him, leaning their foreheads together. When it dies down, Nureyev smiles, and turns his head a little to catch him in a kiss.

Nureyev’s hand rests on Juno’s side, “Juno,” he sighs, “I… feel as though if this is to work, we’re going to have to keep talking. Taking it step by step.”

“Yeah, of course,” Juno soothes, “I’m not gonna rush ahead, Nureyev. We can take it slow. We don’t even have to tell the others, if that’s not what you want just yet.”

He smiles, “Thank you.”

Juno kisses him again. He has a feeling it’ll be a long time before Nureyev has kissed him enough to make up for all the time apart, but he’s looking forward to every second of it.

“Juno! Ransom!”

Juno jolts away from Nureyev to see Buddy Aurinko, hand in hand with Vespa, standing at the edge of the cliff.

“Ah,” he says, “Uh. Hi. We were…”

“Getting friendly, I see,” Buddy smiles with one corner of her mouth, “I’ve been told to call you two down for dinner. But if you’d rather be left alone…”

“No, that’s fine,” Nureyev says, “We’ll be down in a moment.”

“Alright,” Buddy says, and begins to turn. Then she turns back, and adds, “And congratulations, darlings.”

“Barf. Now I’m gonna have to deal with you two getting all sappy all over the Carte Blanche,” Vespa says.

“Hey, says the one holding hands with our Captain. Where have you two been all night, huh?” Juno accuses, but all he gets for his efforts is an offensive hand gesture.

“We’ll see you down there,” Nureyev tells Buddy, and she nods.

“You may want to get changed before you join us, Juno. It’s getting a bit cold for swimwear, dear,” is all she says, before she turns and walks away.

Juno turns to Nureyev sheepishly, “So much for not telling anyone?”

“It was bound to get out anyway,” Nureyev sighs, “It’s a hard thing to hide in a crew of six.”

Nureyev stands and stretches back, cat-like. With one hand he pulls the torch out of his pocket, and with the other he reaches down to hold a hand out to Juno.

Juno takes it and pulls himself to his feet, and then tugs Peter in to kiss him one last time.

“Well, darling,” Peter says, and offers his arm, “Shall we?”

Juno snorts, and takes his arm, “Alright, then.”

 


 

The Crime Crew eating dinner.