Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia
perpetual

Detonation Imminent - Chapter 14

Title: Detonation Imminent
Author: Kairos
Fandom: MCU/Guardians of the Galaxy
Rating: General (some language, some violence, some creepy stuff)
Wordcount: This part, 2997
Characters/Pairing: Peter&Rocket; Tony/Pepper; Clint/Natasha; Bruce and some other guys show up here and there too
Summary: Peter's trying to figure out how to break out of the Avengers' base of operations.
Disclaimer: None of this is mine.


“Peter Quill,” said a speaker near the ceiling. Rocket pinned his ears back, but Peter was glad to hear Natasha’s voice - or at least, more than he would have been if it were any of the others.

He didn’t look up from the supply crate he was sitting on. “Yeah.”

“Would you and Rocket like to come up and speak to us?”

Peter looked toward Rocket, who had tucked himself away on a shelf and was disassembling a blow dryer he had found in the bathroom. “Hey. They want to know if we’re ready to talk.”

“Tell ‘em you’ll die first,” said Rocket nonchalantly.

Peter sighed and replied to Natasha, “Only if we’re allowed to leave after we do.”

“We’re not there yet, Quill,” she said, inevitably. “One of us can come in there instead, if you think that would work out better.”

Rocket was tearing the device apart with his fingers and sorting the pieces into little piles beside him, looking like nothing so much as a predator with a fresh kill. Peter had already tried a few ways of asking him what he was doing, and gotten nothing but sarcasm or silence in response. At first he had wondered if that meant there was some kind of plan behind it that Rocket wasn’t ready to divulge yet, but soon he realized that this was just his way of coping with the stress of their predicament. They weren’t likely to have much of a dialogue until he ran out of things to destroy.

“Better keep your distance while he’s making that face,” Peter said to the speaker. “Apparently he wants us to just sit around in here until we die of boredom.”

“Tell ya somethin’ about being stuck somewhere,” said Rocket, stripping the power cord with the tools from the very limited kit he had unearthed from the supplies on the floor. “You die from starvation, you die from asphyxiation, you die from missin’ your chance when it comes in, ‘cause it will. You don’t die from boredom.”

It wasn’t the first time that Rocket’s folk wisdom had come across with an ominous tone. Peter knew what a dangerous mood looked like on him and knew better than to take it lightly, but his own patience was wearing thin. It was true, boredom was the least of their problems. They needed to get out of here before Gamora and Drax ran into trouble with whomever was trying to contact the Milano. Before the Avengers got fed up and decided to hand them over to government authorities. Before Rocket truly lost his shit.

Natasha’s voice came from above them again. “For now, maybe you could come back up on your own. Rocket can wait there if that’s what he wants.”

“No,” Peter replied immediately, shaking his head. He didn’t want Rocket to hear him say, I’m not going to leave him alone, but hopefully she understood without the words being spoken. “Can you just, I don’t know, give us a minute?”

There was no answer, which Peter supposed was no less than what he had asked for. Rocket jumped down from his shelf and stalked toward him, but it was only to retrieve a heavy-duty flashlight from a nearby crate. Then he climbed back up one-handed, hauling the flashlight with him, and took a screwdriver to it.

Peter got up again and walked a circle around the room. It wasn’t more than thirty square feet, and its current state of wreckage made it feel even smaller. Everything in it was utilitarian and minimalist, which could have been by design, but there were also enough basic items missing that Peter could tell that it wasn’t finished, much like the rest of the tower he had seen so far. There was only one door, aside from the one for the tiny bathroom, and the room itself was square, plain, and neutrally colored. Another few hours in here, and Peter was fairly sure that he’d be the one losing his shit.

“We wouldn’t even be stuck if you’d let them fix you up like they did me,” he accused, dropping back onto the crate he had claimed. “The whole story I’m pushing about you being a smart guy who isn’t interested in murdering the residents of New York would fly a lot better if they heard it from you.”

“Yeah, don’t get me started on all the work I had to put into your ship after your revolving door of crappy mechanics did their half-assed jobs on it. Bad enough I gotta fix the half-assed job a crappy mechanic did on you now. We can leave me out of it.”

“Tony. Fixed. My. Chip,” said Peter. “We’re sitting here talking to each other, what other kind of proof do you want?”

For a moment Rocket stopped his work, looking down silently at the scattered fragments in front of him. “Just promise me you’ll get it checked out, Quill,” he said before he went back to it. “Even if I can’t do it myself.”

Peter was taken aback. “Of course I’ll let you check it out yourself.” He didn’t have any paranoia of his own on the subject, but it seemed like it should be a given that he would submit to an examination for Rocket’s peace of mind. Unless… “This isn’t just about Tony, is it? This is about you not trusting me. You think I got brainwashed up there or something.”

Rocket shrugged. He had finished with the flashlight and was now using the tools to dismantle the toolbox itself. Nevertheless, it looked like the ritual of taking things apart was keeping him sane and focused, making Peter wish that he had his own coping mechanism for times like these. Usually he unwound by hooking up with a stranger, but sex was going to be in short supply for his foreseeable future. Unwinding would have to wait.

“Well, you’re wrong,” said Peter, uselessly. He stood up and ambled over; Rocket was three shelves up, and this put them at eye level. “I’m still me. But if you can’t see it I don’t know how--”

“What are you not telling me?” Rocket interrupted. His eyes were still on his work, hands still moving, but the question was sharp and direct. “You come in here, prance around like nothin’s the matter, try to cajole me into followin’ a plan you don’t have. If you’re clear, why’s all that?”

Peter really had been putting on an act so far, he realized, and it was time to drop it. “Because you’re not clear,” he stated. “This place hit more than our translators. It’s all of our tech, including everything connected to your brain. That’s why I need you to trust me now, why you need to let the Avengers talk to you.”

Rocket said a word so bad that even the Ravagers hadn’t used it much. A little piece of casing he was holding snapped in his hand and fell to the floor. Peter felt a pang of alarm and backed off a few paces; Rocket’s hackles were up and his eyes were showing a red tint, both very bad signs. There was a real possibility here that he would physically attack, and Peter didn’t even want to imagine that kind of disaster.

When there was a safe distance between them, Peter turned his back and took off his jacket. The room was neither warm nor cold, but it was uncomfortable wearing multiple layers while Rocket was bare from the waist up. Peter didn’t know how that had happened, but he was sure it wasn’t by choice. Prisoners didn’t like feeling exposed. Neither did thieves. Neither did raccoons.

As Peter slipped the jacket off, though, he felt a bulge in his pocket and withdrew the little nut that Groot had given him as he left the ship. Although he had been scanned and searched more than once since meeting the Avengers, they must have either not noticed the object, or thought it was a bit of detritus.

Maybe this was just the kind of peace offering he needed. “Hey Rocket,” he chuckled, heading back toward the shelf. “Brought you something from your better half. I forgot all about this...”

He held the gift out and Rocket snapped to attention, ears pricked and eyes wide, and snatched it from his hand. Letting its leaf wrapping fall to the floor, he held the ball close to his face and rolled it around in his nimble fingers, sniffing it, even touching it with the very tip of his tongue. The look of intrigue on his face soon transformed into an undeniable grin.

It wasn’t the reaction that Peter had anticipated. “What is it?” he asked. “What is that?”

Shush,” said Rocket emphatically. “It’s our chance comin’ in, is what. Just like I said. Now you said the knuckle-draggers upstairs are droppin’ eaves on you but not me, so you gotta play it cool while I lay down the jailbreakamatics, understand?”

Peter already had his doubts about this, but taking up the role assigned to him was probably the best way to learn more. “Well, if it’s food, you should share it. I thought it was a marble.”

“That’s more like it,” Rocket snickered. “Now grab me some stuff so I can do my thing on the door.”

“Why?” asked Peter. He tried to think of a question that would draw the imperative information out of Rocket without revealing to the other listeners that they were talking about something other than dividing up a piece of candy. “Is it poison for humans?”

Rocket laid the object down carefully beside the tool kit and jumped down from the shelf with a flathead screwdriver. “Don’t be dense,” he said as he wedged open a panel by the door that Peter hadn’t even seen was there. “Groot’s not gonna hand you anything toxic. Just get ready to put your best face on when I crush it. Rip a piece of fabric offa something for me, six inch or so.”

Peter stared at him blankly for a few seconds, trying to connect the dots. Finally he heaved a sigh, looked up at the camera and then back at Rocket, and said, “First I need to know what you’re doing.”

“Trust me!” Rocket yelled. Seeing that Peter wasn’t in a rush to follow his instructions, he shook his head in disgust and abandoned the wall panel to start tearing up a couch cushion himself.

“No!” Peter yelled back, matching his vehemence. “The way you’re acting, they’ll be in here with a tranquilizer gun any minute now!”

The answer came from the bathroom, which Rocket had just disappeared into, clutching the scrap of cloth he had liberated from the cushion. “So, they can see us. Ain’t that nice to know.” There was a muted splash, and then he emerged again with the scrap dampened and the angry look still on his face.

Peter groaned, the heels of his hands pressed into his eyes. “I didn’t tell you there were cameras on us because I thought you would react badly and are you trying to blow us up, please just tell me that!

“What if I am?” taunted Rocket. “You gonna tattle on me?” He went digging in the rubble near the middle of the room, and to Peter’s shock, pulled out the muzzle that they had left there when Peter helped him get it off. Without a moment’s hesitation, he lined its interior with the damp cloth and started to strap it onto his own face.

There was only one thing that Peter could think to do. Whatever Rocket was scheming, it apparently hinged on Groot’s creation, so he dashed across the room for it. If they spent the rest of the day playing keep-away, he thought, so be it - but that was before Rocket got there first. It was amazing how fast he could move in an environment like this; while Peter was tripping over the rubbish on the floor, Rocket was already scaling the shelves and snatching the prize. He took a pair of pliers, too, tucked them into the muzzle strap, and went up higher to cradle the marble in his palm, out of Peter’s reach.

“Natasha!” Peter called out, not needing to fake the urgency in his voice. “I don’t know what to do here! Rocket is - I need help, are you guys even there?”

“Bravo,” said Rocket. “Knew you had it in you.” It sounded like a jest, but if he was grinning, it was now concealed by the muzzle. “Now cover your d'ast face. We’re not gettin’ blown up today.”

***


There were too many sources of information in Tony’s suite, Natasha decided. After she had switched off the microphone connected to the panic room and turned down the volume, Jarvis advised everyone that they should look at the secondary monitor, but before they could, Tony pulled up the same data on one of his mobile devices and also announced that he had received an email from Thor.

She shut out everything but the monitor. It took a moment to interpret the symbols and numbers, since nothing was labeled, but Tony was saying, “His ship is as fidgety as he is,” and Clint pointed to the screen and said, “That’s it, that’s their ship. It is moving.” In fact, it appeared to be coming in for a landing near Westchester.

“Do we tell Quill about this?” asked Bruce. He was still sitting at the computer with the camera, but no longer looking at it, having wheeled around to join the discussion.

“How do we know he’s not behind it?” countered Clint. “We can’t even confirm he was really in contact with his ship when he warned them not to land, let alone that he meant what he was saying.”

Natasha shook her head. “That was sincere. Believe me, I’d know. Interrogating this guy was like handcuffing a paraplegic.”

“We’re still not telling him,” said Tony. “Come on, is that really what we need in the mix right now? Or, here’s an empathy spin on it, is that kind of news what he needs right now?”

“No,” Clint agreed. “First we have to find out if SHIELD is on this, have someone check in at the landing site and report on it. Can we get Fury on the line?”

Tony shook his head. “Fury should have already contacted us to explain everything they know so far and request my presence at the site. And he hasn’t, so.” He threw his hands up. “We have me check in at the landing site and report on it.”

“Not so fast,” said Natasha. “This might not be the best time to split the team. What did Thor say?”

“I don’t know, he’s mighty? I guess?” Tony’s mouth twisted as he took out his phone again. “I’ll tell him to come.”

Before he could finish dialing or anyone else could speak, they all heard it at once: Peter Quill’s voice breaking out of the conversation he had been carrying on with Rocket and rising to call for Natasha. She mentally cursed herself - she should have been paying attention, and now there was no way to know what had been going on for the past few minutes. He sounded distressed, and when she looked at the screen, she saw that Rocket was perched over his head and holding some kind of tool.

“Damnation,” said Bruce. He stood up and headed straight for the door.

“Wait, whoa,” said Clint. “Not alone.” He followed, and Natasha didn’t have to think twice before doing the same. If Bruce was going for Rocket’s sake and Clint was going to protect him, that still left Quill, and she was the one best equipped to deal with him.

Tony, the last one in the room, seemed momentarily torn. He was still holding his phone to his ear, but as Natasha looked back at him over her shoulder, she heard him say, “Thor, yeah. We need you to check out a spacecraft landing in the vicinity, let me give you the coordinates…”

Natasha smiled with approval; sending Thor to investigate the mystery of Quill’s ship was a good move that left the four of them in the tower to deal with whatever was going on downstairs. They made one stop to arm themselves with the restraints and non-lethal weapons they had left in the lab, and went into formation outside the panic room before Tony opened the door.

She and Bruce entered first, moving slowly and keeping their hands free. Not much of the scene that greeted her seemed to have changed from what they had seen on the camera upstairs, although Quill turned sharply when they came in and held up his hands, either to signify his peaceful intentions or to ward them away. Tony and Clint came in next, but she didn’t turn to look at them, knowing that each man was holding a weapon and was far more likely to be viewed as a threat.

The door closed behind them. Natasha kept her voice low and calm to ask Quill, “Can you ask him what he wants?”

He was looking straight at her with wild eyes, but all he said in response was, “Now?”

Rocket made a sound. Natasha turned her gaze to him and could see now that he was wearing the muzzle again, and that the object in his hands was a pair of pliers with a little brown nut held inside them. As he squeezed the pliers together, crushing the nut, she noticed from the corner of her eye that Quill’s mask was back up.

The sweetest scent in the world began to fill the room. Bruce coughed. Tony coughed. Clint began laughing, and Natasha turned around, kissed him, joined in his laughter, and coughed.


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