Fandom: MCU/Guardians of the Galaxy
Characters/Pairing: Peter&Rocket; Tony/Pepper; Clint/Natasha
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.
It was clear that Quill didn’t like hearing that Bruce was going to do some fact-checking before they accepted his story, but Natasha couldn’t tell if he was afraid that his lies would surface, or just impatient. She suggested they sit while they waited, and he refused, preferring to pace around the lobby and shoot the occasional glare at Tony.
“So how does the helmet work?” asked Tony, unperturbed. “I’m thinking it harnesses unstable molecules? Antimatter physics? Even if the metal is extraterrestrial, I may be able to adapt it from the blueprints. Aside from retraction, what other qualities does it have?”
“It makes me look cool,” replied Quill. He shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and took a few aimless steps. “I don’t know the science. Rocket probably would.”
Tony gave Natasha a can-you-believe-this-guy look. “Right, because he’s not only sentient but also a mechanical genius. You mentioned that.”
“Yup.” Quill swiveled back around to give him a challenging glare. “Okay, now I have a question. Where’s your fourth guy?”
Natasha looked up from the seat she had taken on one of the waiting area’s couches. She hadn’t expected that question. “What fourth guy?” she asked him.
“Megatron over here told me to come with three people or less, that means you had enough to outnumber us by at least one. So is he in here somewhere playing sniper on me, or what?”
Natasha was ready to continue concealing Clint’s presence, but before she could say anything, his voice came out of the darkened upper level of the lobby, followed by his form, ambling down the open marble stairwell with his bow and quiver slung across his back. “Not anymore. Pleasure to meet you, Peter Quill.” He nodded as he walked right past him and addressed himself to Natasha, holding up his cell phone. “Bruce says he’s ready, but we need to figure out how we’re going to do this.”
Quill turned his pacing into following Clint. “Uh, we need a battle plan to walk upstairs? Wow. You guys must be unstoppable in a crisis.”
At that moment, Natasha felt a vibration and pulled out her own phone to see a new text from Bruce: It looks like Tony may have been right. Rocket is intelligent, but he seems afraid of being sent back to his masters. She looked up. Tony had apparently received the same message and was reading it now, and Clint caught her eye and gave her a very slight nod. The phone vibrated again: Quill might still be controlling him somehow. Don’t let him know we know.
“I’ve got a panic room on every floor,” said Tony. “We can bring them both in to take a look at each other, then get on with the negotiations.”
“I’ll go help Bruce,” Natasha volunteered.
Tony nodded toward Quill’s pair of sidearms. “Mind taking those squirt guns up with you? I want to scan them later.”
Quill scowled, but said nothing when she picked them up from the side table and headed for the stairs.
The last thing she heard before she reached the lower-levels elevator was Clint introducing himself to Quill as Hawkeye - surely just to play with his mind, as the rest of them had offered their first names without reservation - and then Quill asking cautiously, “Is that an outlaw name?”
She switched elevators on the eighth floor and kept going up to the tenth, noticing along the way that she was already learning her way around this place. Of course, it could all change beyond recognition by the time it was ready to serve as the Avengers base of operation.
Bruce was in the room with the cage, but keeping a good distance from it, so Natasha suppressed her impulse to put her face up to it for another look at the raccoon. “You still want to allow Quill to see it? Outside of the cage?”
He was going through a crate of supplies that Pepper had left for them, and he paused with one arm hanging into it and the other holding a restraint pole, which he used to gesture before dropping it back in the crate. “We’ll never get anywhere if we don’t. I just can’t figure out how to move Rocket without endangering ourselves or traumatizing him.”
“So we’re going with ‘Rocket’?” she asked, lips curling into a smile.
He didn’t return it. “It’s better than ‘it’.”
Considering the implications of the pronouns she had been using, she took another long look at the covered cage, then sighed. “I’m going to test these,” she said, holding up Quill’s weapons. “If they really don’t work, we should be ready to give them back so he doesn’t have any truck.”
She returned to the adjacent warehouse where the raccoon - Rocket - had been lurking when they arrived, and fired at the ceiling with both weapons until she was satisfied that they weren’t going to do anything. Soon Bruce called her out again, hands full and looking even grimmer than he had been a few minutes ago.
“Here’s the plan,” he said. “Help me get these on him.”
The longer they made him wait, the more time Peter had to envision all of the terrible things they might be doing to Rocket. He tried to think about it rationally, to consider what they would actually want out of him, but he was already stuck trying to figure out what they wanted from Peter himself. He had made himself as helpless and generous as possible, and if he was doing something wrong, they weren't exactly forthcoming about what it was.
As soon as Hawkeye looked at his communicator and said, “Okay--”, Peter started walking briskly in the direction that the redheaded beauty Natasha had gone, so the others had to choose between following or holding him back. They followed.
In the elevator, he was subjected to more annoying questions from Tony, the man behind the robot. “I designed the barrier that made your alien tech malfunction. Care to take a quick customer survey?”
“No, but hey, how ‘bout I break all your stuff in return?”
“Did you bring anything in aside from the weapons and the helmet?”
A tone sounded, and the doors opened. “Yeah,” snapped Peter. “One cybernetically enhanced raccoon, and you’re not the only one who wants to find out if your dumbass barrier worked on him.”
After leaving the elevator, he didn’t know which way to go, but Hawkeye led the way while ignoring the argument going on behind him. “Shame on me for having a security system,” Tony was saying as they stopped at a door down the hall. “If only I had known that it would dampen the home invaders’ spirits.”
Peter wasn’t listening. One step into the small square room had shown him everything he needed to see. ”Rocket!”
He tried to rush forward but they held him back, Tony on one side with his robot gauntlet, and Hawkeye on the other with his bare but musclebound arm. Nobody held Rocket back when he took a few uncertain steps toward Peter, but even as he broke into a jog to cover the rest of the short distance, Peter could see that something was grievously wrong. Rocket was stripped to the waist, his wrists were lashed together in front of him, and what was that thing tied beneath his ears and obscuring his face...?
“Oh, you sick bastards,” Peter breathed as he sank into a crouch, barely registering that the grip of the two men behind him had loosened to allow it. Nobody spoke when he unfastened the buckle on Rocket’s head and tossed the muzzle away with a contemptuous flick of his hand. Rocket handled the zip ties around his wrists himself, chewing through them in a matter of seconds as soon as his teeth were free. “You alright, buddy?” Peter asked him softly.
Rocket’s only response was to shake his head and tap the back of his neck, where his brain augmentation hardware was centered. His fur was standing on end, and he couldn’t seem to focus on anything for more than a few seconds before looking over his shoulder or up at one of the humans. “Yeah,” said Peter, backing up the words with a nod to show he understood. “I know, your translator’s out. Mine too. Don’t worry, we’re gonna get you back on your game. We can...”
He dropped his forehead into his hand and rubbed at his temples. He didn’t want to lie, even if Rocket couldn’t currently tell the difference, and he had no idea how to finish that sentence honestly.
Bruce, the alleged scientist, had gradually followed Rocket across the room while Natasha hung back. He kept a wide berth so that he ended up beside Peter, and it was him that he addressed in an even tone: “We can try to fix whatever went wrong with his interpretation device. But Tony and I have agreed to not make any changes without a clear sign of consent.” He pointed at Rocket and clarified firmly, “From him.”
Peter felt locked into his half-kneeling position, one hand outstretched to Rocket without touching him, staring blankly ahead. Could these really be his people, this stern Terran hovering over him, that gorgeous Terran who took his blasters, that cocky Terran and laconic Terran who had ushered him in? They felt more alien than any race he had encountered in the galaxy. This was not how he remembered his home.
And then suddenly it was. His consciousness of the present was invaded by a long-ago incident, which probably wouldn’t have seemed as important as it had at the time if he had known that later that day, his mother would die and he would be abducted by aliens. At the marsh, the best place to go after school if nobody had instructed you otherwise, there were no aliens. There had been a death, though. Peter had found a frog, and one of the other boys had found a stick as tall as he was, and when the end of the stick came down, the frog was still squirming, but it couldn’t hop.
He could see them all now with perfect clarity: that big dumb jerk Alvie Warden, the short dumb jerk Matt, the coward Bart who just did whatever Alvie did, and the frog still writhing until Alvie banged his stick down a second time. Tears came into Peter’s eyes and Matt laughed at him for it, but they were angry tears, the kind that herald action and not surrender. Peter wasn’t stupid; he knew that nothing he could do would make a difference. There were three of them and one of him, and at the end of the fight, which he would lose, the frog would still be dead and Alvie would be free to do it again whenever he wanted.
Basically, throwing a punch was a bad idea. The only defense that Peter had for doing it was that it wasn’t an idea. In that moment he had no past or future to consider, just a single point of time in which his sneakers were wet from the marsh and his mother was dying and the frog was dead and Alvie had joined Matt’s laughter so Bart did too, and he was angry. He knew that these were all good reasons for fighting. Only when it was over and he thought about the disappointment his mother would feel did he realize that there were also reasons not to fight.
It had taken him a long time to learn to incorporate potential consequences into his decision-making process, and it had never become a preferred method. But he thought he had grown. He had earned the mantle of Star-Lord, hadn't he? Star-Lord was a leader. He had to have more than a good reason to fight.
A tiny sound from Rocket brought him back to the room in the tower in New York, where he was once again angry and disadvantaged, where his friend had been caged and muzzled, where someone had just implied that he was the one to blame. Looking into the dark and glassy recesses of Rocket’s eyes, he made a silent apology to his mother. It would surely disappoint her to know that right now, he wasn’t Star-Lord at all.
He was Peter Quill, and it was as such that he stood up, pulled back, and watched his fist flying into Bruce’s face.