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.
If the matter could have been settled with a fistfight, Peter would have gladly allowed all four of the Avengers in the room to pile on and beat him to the ground without retaliating. The moment after he made the first strike, he realized that he had never intended on a second one. His anger had passed, and he was ready to talk.
Of course, it was too late for that. Bruce staggered backward and fell, and Rocket was off like his namesake, running for cover or artillery or freedom. Peter probably wouldn’t have lasted another five seconds, except that for some reason, Natasha and Hawkeye both rushed to Bruce’s side instead of attacking. Tony took aim with his palm, first at Rocket and then, losing sight of him, at Peter, who dropped into a slide to try to kick Tony’s legs out from under him. He could hear Bruce shouting, “It’s alright, I’m fine, I’m fine!” and knew the other two would be joining the brawl in an instant.
Tony stayed upright, but Peter had found Rocket again, up on a metal rack, and Rocket had found Peter’s blasters. He tossed him one of them and tried to fire the other at Natasha and Hawkeye as they rose from where they had been kneeling near Bruce; it took only a second for him to realize the weapon wasn’t working, and then he threw it down and disappeared behind the rack again. Peter had caught the other blaster and regained his feet to face Tony again, who looked at the dead weapon and paused to smirk, making it all the more satisfying to smash him in the head with it.
Tony reeled, and Peter turned from him only to be faced with Natasha, who dealt him a spin kick that knocked him back, then another one that knocked him down. She stood over him as he lay on his back checking himself for broken bones, and stayed until a creaking sound from the wall made her snap to attention. She darted over to the metal rack just as it was beginning to fall onto Hawkeye, and the two of them managed to brace against it as it tipped forward, spilling contents that appeared to be mostly packaged food and emergency supplies onto the floor.
Peter kipped up. Bruce was standing now too, but he went straight to the rack to add his weight to Natasha’s and Clint’s. That was a relief; it looked like it could do some serious damage if they lost control of it, and this had already gone farther than Peter had wanted on his conscience. With all of them occupied, though, he thought he and Rocket could make it out of the open door, if Rocket would just show his face again…
The moment he turned to look for him, he was caught in a football tackle that drove him straight out of the room and back into the corridor where they had come in. He struggled to stand up, but Tony pushed his face to the floor and got his arms behind his back in a secure hold. Three pairs of feet entered his limited field of vision, all of them human, and then the door sealed itself with a whooshing sound and the clank of internal mechanics.
In a burst of panic-induced energy, Peter pushed himself up to his knees, shouting at the closed door. Someone’s knee caught him in the stomach, and someone else’s fist caught him in the head, and he relived a millisecond of the sensation of being in deep space without a helmet before his consciousness left him.
Having settled temporarily in a cavernous space meant to eventually house a medical bay, the team propped Quill up in a reclining chair and watched his eyes flutter open. Before he could speak, Natasha thrust an ice pack at him, which he sheepishly accepted and pressed to his head. “Where --” he began, and Bruce preemptively answered the question by dropping a slender tablet computer into his lap.
Quill took a few seconds to overcome his disorientation enough to focus on it. There was a camera high up in the panic room where they had left Rocket, and the tablet screen showed him there, alive and well, exploring his asylum by running his hands over everything and opening any container he found.
Quill let out a deep sigh of relief and leaned back into the chair, clutching the ice pack. “He’ll ransack the place,” he said hoarsely.
Tony shrugged. “Nothing valuable in there for him to destroy. No way he can get out. For future reference, this is an example of taking necessary precautions.”
“That how you’re gonna justify it?” said Quill. “Necessary precautions?”
“You really can’t reach that high horse right now, space cowboy.”
“You had him in a muzzle!”
“He bit Pepper!”
Bruce cut in with, “Hey,” and Tony backed down like everyone did when they heard him using a warning tone. Like Quill, Bruce had a new bruise on his face, but he hadn’t made any complaint about it or even showed any animosity toward his assailant. “I think we already got our fighting out of the way,” he continued. “Pepper’s fine, all of us are fine. Quill? Are you fine?”
Quill hesitated, then said, “How long was I out for?”
“Five minutes if that,” said Natasha. It had been closer to twenty, but it was easier if he didn’t know that they had already had ample time to discuss what they were going to do with him and Rocket.
He nodded and took another long look at the tablet. Rocket didn’t appear to be doing anything of note, but anyone could read the pain on Quill’s face as he watched him rifling through boxes and pulling cushions off furniture. Natasha found herself remembering how she had felt when she heard those three words from Coulson, ”Barton’s been compromised.” She wouldn’t have made the mistakes that Quill had, but she knew exactly how much he must have wanted to hit someone when he walked into the panic room.
Clint caught her eye, and she smiled, knowing that he had followed her train of thought. Others thought that their restraint in public concerning their relationship was because they were too hardened to show affection, but the truth was much simpler: they understood the other’s emotions without needing words or gestures to convey them. With Clint, sentimentality was overkill.
“So what now?”
Natasha looked down at Quill, who had asked the question while slumped down again in the chair, and was kneading the ice pack like a stress ball. To the other men, she said, “Can I talk to Peter alone?”
Since she had proposed that arrangement while Quill was still unconscious and they had all agreed to it already - though not altogether enthusiastically - they filed out one by one, Clint touching her hand briefly first. When she turned back to Quill, he was wearing the expression of wary eagerness that she was well accustomed to seeing on the faces of her male interrogation subjects. She brought over a chair and sat down in front of him, and he unloaded his ice pack onto the recliner’s swivel tray and straightened up, keeping the tablet in his lap where he could continue to sneak glances at it.
“So,” she began casually, “Missouri?”
“It’s been a long time since I left.”
“And in the meantime?”
He half-shrugged and gave her a smile that probably worked like a charm on most of the women who had the fortune to see it. “Will I get to hear your life story too?”
“Not much to tell,” she lied, giving her voice a wistful tone to stoke his curiosity. She had already chosen an approach to take with him; the way he had been puffing out his chest and subtly flirting with her since he arrived suggested that his Achilles’ heel might be women in need of rescue. Natasha had little idea of how it felt to be a damsel in distress, but she could certainly play one convincingly. “It’s been a long time since I left my home too, but...compared to you, I feel like I’ve hardly stepped out of my front door.”
“But you’ve got your whole, uh, ‘Avengers’ gig here, that’s gotta be worth a little boom-shaka-laka. If you can’t join the aliens, at least you can still shoot ‘em up, right?”
She responded with an almost genuine laugh, then leaned in closer, resting her face in her hand. “Most of the time I’m just shooting at people, actually. Trying to prove myself. Sometimes I think that’s the only thing I’ll ever do.”
He didn’t even hesitate before asking, “You want to come with us?”
Natasha was thrown for a loop, which hadn’t happened to her during an interrogation in years. Possibly never. Men would say all kinds of things to try to trip her up, but the unbelievable thing about this one was that Quill appeared to be completely sincere about it. “You’ve known me for less than a day,” she said, “and I’ve interacted with you primarily by kicking you in the head.”
“Yeah, exactly, you’re handy in a fight. I’ve got a friend who would probably love having another woman on board. We can make it work.” He paused and then let out a resigned sigh. “Except that it also would mean I’m asking you to either break me and Rocket out of here or convince the bro squad to go with it. Alright. Forget it.”
It was time to bring the conversation to the heart of the matter. She made her tone as kind as she could without losing the gravity of the truth. “You know we didn’t mean him any harm, don’t you? We didn’t know what your intentions were, and we were trying to protect him from whoever it was that hurt him.”
Quill’s eyes stayed down on the tablet in his lap. “And now you think my intentions were to kick your collective asses. Well, at least you know I suck at it.”
”Honestly, it’s not even about you anymore.” She crossed her legs and carried on as if they were conducting some standard business. “I spent some time testing your weapons. Of course I couldn’t fire, but I picked up the basics of how they function. Top barrel to kill, bottom to injure or stun, is that right?” He nodded, and she continued, “I saw Rocket trying to use one back in there, and it looked like he knew what he was doing. Now I couldn’t tell for sure which trigger he was pulling, so I won’t make any assumptions. But I think you saw, and I think you know.”
It was plain that he did, and that he knew exactly what she was implying. “We’re not a danger to you,” he insisted softly.
“Agreed, but really, most things aren’t. That’s why we look after the ones who need it. We don’t release an unknown hostile among them just so we can wash our hands of him. Especially when he’s showing destructive tendencies on that level.”
“Rocket’s not a killer,” said Quill with sudden vehemence. “He’s a goddamn hero. He’s freaked right now, okay, he’s gone a little Ozzy, but….” He rubbed his hands over his face and into his hair. “You don’t know what he’s been through.”
“Do you?” she asked bluntly.
His eyes widened without focusing on either Natasha or the tablet. “No,” he admitted. “Not really. He won’t even talk about it unless he’s drunk. Christ, I’ve only known him for a few months...”
“How did you meet - wait, I’m sorry, do you mean you actually let him drink?”
Quill chuckled. “By now you should have some idea of how cockeyed the idea of letting Rocket do anything really is.”
Natasha had to remind herself to stop pursuing her questions about the biology and lifestyle of a sentient raccoon, which were many. Not only were there more important issues before her, but prying was beginning to feel more like insensitivity than mere curiosity. She was edging up to the outlook which Quill evidently already had: Rocket was an equal, not a mascot or a sidekick. “Then maybe he should be your team leader,” she said.
“I’d say that would be a complete disaster, but I have a feeling you’d use that to make a point about me socking your scientist instead of talking to him like the grown-ass man I’m supposed to be.”
Invulnerable to his charms though she was, she found she couldn’t stop herself from pitying him; he seemed so full of regret. “Yes, that was extremely stupid,” she said. “But believe me when I say that the worst that could have happened, didn’t. I’m giving you a chance, Quill. Nobody wants to keep you and Rocket locked up here, but we can’t let him go if he’s that demonstrably willing to shoot us dead. Find me a solution.”
When he took a moment to answer, her eyes drifted down to the tablet along with his. Rocket was dragging a box over to the bathroom door, which he then used to reach the handle, looking surprised when it opened with no further effort. He slipped inside, out of the camera’s reach, and Quill lifted his eyes again to meet Natasha’s. “Just let me talk to him,” he pleaded.
“I’m sure he can fix our translators if you give him the gear…”
Natasha shook her head. “Not a chance. We don’t know what else he’d be capable of doing with tools like that, and that’s not even to mention the issue of getting Tony to share his toys.” She hesitated, then said, “But we can start by having Tony take a look at your implant himself. If he can fix it, you’ll be able to communicate with Rocket, won’t you?”
“Yeah.” Quill was instantly animated with childlike hope. “Then I can explain everything to him. This is good. This is a good plan.”
She smiled, although she had a feeling that more disappointment would be coming for him. “I’ll talk to the boys. No promises.” She stood up and so did he, tablet tucked under his arm, so she added, “Stay here. Avoid disaster.”
As she turned to go, he stopped her with, “Hey. Natasha.” She paused long enough to raise an eyebrow in response, and he said, “The offer stands. You could see the galaxy.”
Knowing he couldn’t really expect her to answer that, she grinned ruefully and continued her exit, then paused and turned back again, this time on her own initiative. “What’s it like out there?” she asked.
He sat back down on the recliner to gaze serenely up at her, and spoke in a low tone of real wonder: “It is so, so vast.”