Fandom: MCU/Guardians of the Galaxy
Characters/Pairing: Peter&Rocket; Tony/Pepper
Summary: Peter's trying to figure out how to be a leader. He decides that breaking into the Avengers' base of operations is a good place to start.
Disclaimer: None of this is mine.
Gamora was arguing hotly, but Peter couldn’t make out anything she was saying because he was talking over her and he was louder. Drax was trying to talk over both of them, but Peter couldn’t make out anything he was saying either, because - well, if he had stopped to think about it, Drax sounded like he was speaking a load of nonsense words. But he couldn’t stop to think about it. He couldn’t even make out what he was saying himself, except that it included a lot of accusation and a fragmented explanation for his own actions, and that he was scared and he wanted to break things.
The only intelligible voice in the room was Groot. Peter knew exactly what that anxious, reedy tone meant, but he couldn’t even bring himself to look at him as he paced furiously around the cabin. Potted plants had always made him feel faintly guilty, but that was usually because he had never succeeded in keeping one alive for long. He never would have believed that they could make him contend with this level of shame.
Unable to cope with it, he continued to shout at Gamora instead. “What part of ‘rendezvous point’ was not clear?”
“You needed immediate extraction!” she snapped back at him. “I was--”
“Disobeying a direct order!”
“I won’t take orders from you when you’re not being reasonable!”
Peter kicked a loose piece of metal casing, making a satisfying clatter. “Revealing ourselves to the whole city and leaving a teammate behind, that’s reasonable?”
Drax cleared his throat. “Ludduk agrul ixbara.”
“I agree,” Gamora replied haughtily, “he isn’t.” She turned back to Peter. “Of course we’ll go back for him, but our chances are better now than they would have been if I had let you get yourself killed trying to get out of that building.”
Peter drove both hands through his hair and kept pacing. He hated it, but she was right. Until the Milano had come to the scene, he had been at the android's mercy. “How are we supposed to get back in, did you think of that?”
“Zegel dom?” said Drax.
Gamora flicked an impatient hand at him as she adjusted Groot, who had flailed his arms so hard that his pot was skidding closer to the edge of the table. “We’ll figure it out,” she shot back at Peter. “Rocket’s not a fool; he’ll take care of himself until we can find him.”
She was right about that too, of course. Peter imagined someone trying to capture and hold Rocket, and almost managed a vindictive smile until he remembered that Rocket’s reaction to any such attempts could be quite literally explosive. He banged his fist against the hull. This was all his own fault.
“What kept you, anyway?” Gamora continued. “Did the residents restrain you?”
Peter shook his head. “There was only the one guy. Coulda been Terran, coulda been a robot.”
“Well why didn’t you simply--”
“Because!” Peter yelled. He took a deep breath to steady himself. “My blasters crapped out. I wasn’t even gonna engage, but my boots weren’t working either and I got cornered.”
Drax put a heavy hand on his shoulder and looked him square in the face. “Gr’sagruth mablikitta af kanax, tugrar.”
For the first time, Peter let his mind catch up to the present. He met Drax’s eyes and found no answers there, so he turned back to Gamora. “Any idea why Drax is pulling a Groot on me?”
The potted plant spoke up, sounding puzzled. “I am Groot.”
Gamora’s brow furrowed. “You can’t understand him?” she asked Peter. He confirmed, and she put the same question to Drax, who answered her with a few rough syllables that remained incomprehensible to Peter.
“When did you lose contact with Rocket?” Gamora asked.
“Almost as soon as I got into the tower.” His eyes widened as he realized what she was suggesting. “You think my translator’s been broken this whole time?”
She nodded. “Your boots, your blasters - why not your translator chip as well?”
“But I can understand you fine. And Groot, much as ever.”
“Because I have an internal translator too, as a function of my enhancements.” She looked at Drax, who had his arms crossed silently against his massive chest, the very image of patience. “But he doesn’t, apparently. Rocket fitted Groot’s pot with a rudimentary chip of its own, to help them communicate with each other.”
Peter reached absently behind his neck, touching the spot where the chip was implanted. It felt no different, but, he supposed, it wouldn’t. “Can you fix it?”
Gamora looked troubled. “I would rather not try, unless it’s absolutely necessary. It would be too easy to damage your nervous system.”
Neither of them stated the obvious, that Rocket would be able to fix it safely and efficiently. Peter rubbed his face. All he wanted was to throw himself headlong into whatever dangers still waited in the tower, trust in the power of spontaneity to deliver him, and soar back into deep space with his whole team. The worst thing about playing for stakes higher than his own well-being was that sometimes, like now, what he really needed was a solid plan. “I can’t go back in like this,” he admitted. “If our stuff doesn’t work in there, even all three of us aren’t gonna stand a chance.”
“Agreed,” said Gamora. “So we negotiate. I’ve examined the telecommunicative network in the edifice, and I should be able to transmit an audio-video recording of you as a message that will be displayed on their monitors.”
She was leaving the content of the message up to him, he noted. He thought about what he wanted to say to the unknown denizens and reluctantly ruled out his initial idea of a string of colorful curses. On the other hand, the words wouldn’t matter as much as the impression they made. So far, the only advantage that the Guardians had was that nobody on Terra knew anything about them; how to press it?
“Okay,” Peter said at last. “We’ll make contact. But tell Drax you’re going to record him, not me.”
Gamora looked confused, as did Drax when she translated. “Why?” she asked. “They probably don’t even have the technology to interpret his native language. They won’t have heard anything like it.”
“I know.” Peter smiled grimly. “To these guys, we’re just aliens. Let’s look the part.”
Drax’s approval when this plan was explained to him was evident, but Peter’s attention was swiftly drawn away by a lonely voice from the tabletop. “I am Groot?”
Peter leaned over the table, taking each of Groot’s little wooden hands between a thumb and forefinger and looking him straight in the eye. “Groot, I swear to you, I am bringing Rocket back. We’re a team now, we’re in this through hell and high water, and whatever I have to do to keep us together, I’m going to do it. Like you did for us. Remember?”
The worry etched in Groot’s bark didn’t fade, but his voice was unwavering when he answered, “We are Groot.”
A wave of relief and affection rushed through Peter. “That’s it. That’s right. We are Groot, we are Rocket, we are Peter. Everything’s gonna be fine.”
Pepper was informed by JARVIS when the system registered a routine docking of Iron Man, but he had removed the armor before she saw him again up at the campsite. Without waiting for his side of the story, she said, “I scanned the raccoon with everything we have. It’s not showing signs of any implants aside from the ones designed explicitly for its own locomotion.”
Tony nodded pensively. “So that’s one potential explosion averted. Still unconscious?”
“Yes, though it shouldn’t be much longer. I also had some supplies delivered.” Before she had started working at Stark Industries, Pepper never would have believed that she could get a major pet store to make a delivery in the middle of the night, let alone as quickly as they had, but Tony’s money had shown her a different side of business. It had actually been more difficult to use his tools to study the raccoon.
“Good. I don’t want to do anything else until Bruce can take a look at it.” After a beat, he added, “Except monitor it, of course…”
Pepper drifted over to the main computer in the room and tapped the screen, revealing a camera she had set up in the eighth-floor lab. It was focused on a sturdy metal cage, containing a bowl of food, another of water, and a dog bed with the furry creature curled up inside. “There’s also an alert that will sound when it wakes up, so we don’t have to spy on it all night.”
Tony looked impressed, or at least like he knew that he was supposed to be impressed and was trying to remember how to praise someone other than himself. “Great! Great job. So we’re good.”
“Well, that depends,” she said crossly. “Why don’t you tell me what kind of enemies you made for us tonight, and whether we can expect them to return with a fleet and nuke Manhattan.”
He inhaled, raised his shoulders in the beginning of a shrug, and opened his mouth to speak, but before he could give her some inevitably bad news, both of them were startled by the webcam on the raccoon suddenly winking out.
“What-” Pepper began, but JARVIS interrupted gravely: “Sir, there is an incoming message from the spacecraft in our orbit.”