Juno grunts and falls back against the wall, clutching at his dead arm. "This isn't gonna work," he hisses, "I'm just slowing you down."
"Nonsense," Nureyev hisses right back, "It's barely a scratch, you wilting flower, now come on! We have to keep moving!" He waves Juno toward his makeshift new door, something a little wild flickering in his candle-bright face.
Juno could look at him forever, he thinks, and sullenly attributes the thought to blood loss a moment later. He takes a faltering step towards Nureyev, still propped against the wall, but his knee buckles treacherously under his weight, and he starts to fall.
"Juno--!" Nureyev reaches out to wind his arms around him, dropping the plasma cutter, which clatters and spins against the pavement. One of his long-fingered hands slides against Juno's neck, supporting his head, and the other clutches over his own at the hole in his shoulder. Still hurts like a sonofabitch, but for a moment that doesn't matter so much to Juno.
"Nice catch," he says, with a dizzy grin. There's a weird sort of reflection from the neon signs above, makes Nureyev's eyes seem to shine behind his glasses.
"I must say I expected you to put up a bit more of a fight, Detective Steel," comes the woman's voice from behind them. Cold, but faintly amused. Juno tears his gaze away from Nureyev's face to watch her approach, still mostly in shadow. The light glints red off her pistol. That thing doesn't look like any kind of regulation weapon Juno has ever seen. Doesn't feel like it, either. Most lasers would cauterize a wound.
She moves slowly, completely self-assured that her prey is going nowhere despite the fact that they've cut a visible escape route out the back of the alley already. What does she know that Juno doesn't? Well, the list is probably on the longer side, but--
"Yeah, well, my aim isn't what it used to be," Juno deflects, trying and failing to find his feet. His head's spinning worse than the time he emptied a bottle of whiskey in one night and woke up in a hospital bed with Rita glaring at him. Nureyev's arms wind tighter around him, pulling him into his lap in an awkward half-crouch.
"Really," he says, smoothly, "Must we resort to violence? Can't we talk this through like civilized people?"
The woman snorts, and cocks her gun. "It's just business, I'm afraid," she says, levels the weapon to point just left of Juno's eyepatch. She's still ten, fifteen feet away, but even without a bloody hole in his arm Juno can't outrun a laser.
Nureyev shifts, trying to hold up Juno's mostly dead weight and shield him simultaneously. "Oh, you're going to have to elaborate. We're both in the habit of making powerful enemies. I'd hate not to know which one was out for my head."
The gun lowers, and the hitman glances over Juno's shoulder at Nureyev almost as if she's seeing him for the first time. "Rose, wasn't it?" she clarifies, "You're free to go, if you like. My business is with Steel."
Juno swallows around a suddenly dry throat, but he can't say he's surprised. It's the Kanagawas after a family reunion, probably, or the Triad, or someone he's put in Hoosegow, or someone he failed to put in Hoosegow, or--damn, now he takes the time to consider it, that's a pretty long list of people who could want him dead. Lucky Nureyev, his mistakes don't tend to follow him around very long after he makes them. The perks of anonymity. He slides a hand down towards the gun at his hip, and grasps at empty air in the same second he spots it, lying in a puddle at the mouth off the alley where he'd dropped it. Damn.
"If you want him," Nureyev says, quite calm, still half curled around Juno, shielding him, "I'm afraid your business is with me, too." The hand at his neck drops away, and rises back into Juno's line of vision curled around a knife.
The assassin sees it, too, and trains her gun on Nureyev. Juno feels his heart drop into his stomach. "C'mon," he urges, trying to elbow his way out of Nureyev's embrace, "Don't be an idiot. Get out."
"Not on your life, Juno," he vows.
She sighs. "Oh, please don't get in my way. I hate to waste a laser shooting someone I'm not paid to use it on."
Damn it, Juno's never been the type of guy to stand by and let someone stick their neck out for his sake, much less someone he l...cares about. His shoulder is on fire, and his pulse jackhammers in his own ears. Juno tries again to pull away from Nureyev, hands raised in surrender, but he can't manage much more than to kick his legs and groan in pain.
"Ah, but I really can't allow you to shoot him," he hears Nureyev say, bold and foolhardy, still brandishing his knife. "If you want Juno you'll simply have to go through me."
Something about the way he says it, so straightforward and determined and uncaring of the way the words make Juno's lungs seize and his vision cloud with fear-- He reaches with the hand that isn't attached to his bum shoulder to grab a fistful of Nureyev's shirt, like some frightened kid, like holding on to him will stop this woman from putting a hole in his skull. He shakes his head, biting down on another groan, but Nureyev has his eyes locked on the woman.
"You can't throw as fast as I can shoot," she warns, half a scoff.
"Maybe not, but you'll only get one shot."
"And if I aim for Steel, I get a dagger through the throat."
"I see you've got the picture. Hard to collect on your fee then, eh?"
"I could shoot that knife out of your hand," she muses, changes targets again.
"Yes, but I have more than one knife, and I'm a very quick draw," Nureyev promises.
Juno looks between them in mute fear. The woman laughs to herself, and lowers the gun again. "So either you kill me, or I allow you to drag my mark away, ruining my reputation and my career and losing myself a very lucrative reward. That's quite an ultimatum, Mr. Rose."
She moves fast, crossing the distance between them in a few strides. Nureyev doesn't flinch when the barrel of the gun kisses his temple. He doesn't lower his weapon, either.
"I suppose I'll just have to shoot you first, then."
"No!" Juno grunts, finally shifting upright out of Nureyev's lap, pulling himself upright by the hand fisted in his shirt. The whole world spins dangerously on its axis. "No, you can't--you idiot! Just get out of here. Leave!" he begs, almost shouting. "The door is right there!"
"Oh, do shut up, Juno," Nureyev chides, bright eyes flickering over to meet his. "As if I'd leave you behind."
The woman groans, and jabs her gun sharply into Nureyev's head. "Ugh. Look at you two lovebirds, you're going to make me sick."
"I'm dead anyway," Juno pleads, voice hoarse. He pushes at Nureyev with the last burst of whatever second wind he's been running on, doesn't budge the master thief one single inch. "Don't do this, Nur--Rose," he says, "It's not worth it."
"Last chance," the assassin says sweetly, her finger dancing over the trigger. "Three, two--"
Behind her, one of the doors to the alley creaks open, and then a lot of shit happens at once. Startled, the woman glances over her shoulder, and Juno executes a jump that's really more of a flop. There's a loud crack, and a wet thump, and a scream, and when Juno opens his eye he sees nothing but red.
"Nureyev?" he pants. The swimming shapes coalesce into a solid form after a moment, and he can see Nureyev, sprawled under him, a curtain of blood painted down one side of his pale face. "Nureyev!" The sound of that last gunshot rings in his ears, louder than anything he's ever heard before.
"For heaven's sake don't shout, Juno," Nureyev grunts, turning his head to glare fondly up at him. Juno's so relieved that all he can manage to do is collapse on top of the impossible idiot, a laugh bubbling up from the center of his chest. God, he's probably soaked all the way through Nureyev's coat with a mixture of blood and sweat and...okay, there are some tears. "Oh, that smarts," Nureyev complains, a moment later, and Juno pulls away, shaking his head to clear it.
"She got you?"
"Grazed me," Nureyev corrects, probing at the side of his head, just above the silver glint of his ear cuff. "Barely, at that. And anyway, I got her back."
Juno glances over his shoulder, and then a moment later wishes he hadn't. Suffice it to say that knife hadn't missed. Nureyev must catch the expression on his face, because he changes the subject fast, brushes himself off and rises slowly to a crouch. "How's your arm?"
It throbs in tandem with the question, but Juno pushes past that, taking the offered hand and stumbling to his feet. "I'll be fine," he mumbles, then drops Nureyev's hand and punches him square in the face.
"Ow!" Nureyev whines, clutching at his nose and staggering back a half-step. "Juno, what on earth--?"
Juno follows, grabbing him by the collar and hauling him into a desperate, messy, angry kiss. He stands stock-still for a full second, hands gravitating naturally to Juno's sides but offering no push or pull, and then he melts into the embrace with a soft little mewl of contentment.
When he retreats to catch his breath at last, Juno takes a moment to catch Nureyev's bottom lip between his teeth. He groans, softly, and Juno lets his eye fall shut, slumping against his chest. "If you ever try to die for me again," he chokes out, "I'll kill you."
He presses a soft kiss to Juno's forehead, wrapping his arms around him and letting out a shuddering breath. "Understood."