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.
To work on Peter’s translator they brought him down to a laboratory, which gave him a nasty shock when he entered and saw the cage where Rocket had been kept, now empty. This was the most convenient location which was properly stocked for the procedure, Natasha explained when he remarked on it, and Peter took a deep breath and nodded. They were finally starting to communicate; he couldn’t afford another outburst.
Bruce had gone his own way to study something or other, but Natasha and Hawkeye stayed, both admitting outright that they couldn’t offer much assistance but were curious about the translator chip, and about Rocket.
“He looks like he’s settling in just fine,” said Tony as he turned on a monitor with the same view on Rocket’s current location as the tablet had shown. “By which I mean everything in that room appears to be destroyed.”
“Toldja,” said Peter. “You said you could do a two-way video in there, right?”
Tony nodded and vacated the computer chair. “Sit here. Audio isn’t enabled, but he’ll be able to see you.”
The screen in the panic room where Peter’s image showed was apparently cornered from the camera on it, showing him an angled mirror of himself in the chair. Both screen and camera were well out of Rocket’s reach, so he appeared in profile and from an overhead view, but Tony zoomed into the image so that his aghast expression was clear as he reacted to seeing Peter’s face.
“Smile at him or something,” suggested Hawkeye.
Instead, Peter made a hand sign that the Ravagers had sometimes used to indicate “stand down” or “good news”. The gesture had Kree origins and the Guardians had never adopted it, but he thought Rocket might be familiar, given his mixed history.
After a few tense heartbeats, Rocket returned the sign, two fingers sweeping upward from his chest. He didn’t seem any more relaxed, but Peter was relieved enough to produce a smile, and he followed it with a thumbs-up, which Rocket responded to by sighing heavily and giving him the finger.
Around him, Peter heard startled laughs mixed with sounds of dismay, and Tony said, “So to reiterate, you two are friends?”
“Yeah,” Peter grinned. “This is the Rocket I know. Okay, get started but can you keep the camera on me so he can watch?”
Natasha frowned. “You think he’ll understand what’s going on?”
“Sure. It’s pretty obvious I’m volunteering for this, right?” He made the hand sign at the camera again, still smiling widely, then leaned forward and pointed out the spot on his neck for Tony. “If you can see the scar there, make the incision in the same place.”
Tony was busy dragging a contraption across the floor, the metallic offspring of a coat rack and a motherboard. “What a barbaric idea. You might come from somewhere a little more primitive, but around here we don’t just go slicing into necks when we can do the whole thing through magnetism.” He positioned the machine behind Peter and extended one of its attachments, lining it up to press a scope over the spot that Peter had indicated on himself.
Instantly, the nearest tabletop was illuminated by a three-dimensional interface. Peter straightened up to get a better look, and the entire image was wiped away as the cup of the scope lost contact with his neck. “Sorry,” he said, and reached behind himself to hold it there. The representation of his chip returned, as large as a pizza and gleaming electric blue.
“Amazing,” said Tony, rotating the display with his fingers. “This is a true masterpiece of technology, designed and crafted by the hand of a genius.”
Peter rolled his eyes. “You can get one implanted for like twenty credits on Xandar. Government subsidized for citizens.”
“Oh, not your chip, I was talking about my alien tech barrier. But the chip’s not half bad either.” He tapped the diorama at four different points, which turned red. “See, it’s deactivated at these crucial but isolated receptors so that nothing is permanently damaged.” He spread out his hands, causing the image to enlarge so that Peter could see that the four tiny red dots were as intricately textured as the entire translator had appeared to be at first. “Just gotta reroute the signal to wake them up.”
“Alright,” said Peter. With the scope held to his neck, he couldn’t quite turn around, so he asked the others in the room, “How’s Rocket?”
“Unnerving,” said Hawkeye.
“Stop it, Clint,” said Natasha.
Peter tried to look over his shoulder at them and succeeded only in disrupting the display again. “Who’s Clint? Who else is in here?”
Hawkeye chuckled. “I’m Clint, but you can keep using my outlaw name if you’d rather.”
Thankfully, Natasha answered the initial question before they could get sidetracked any further. “Rocket’s staring at you pretty hard, but he seems okay.”
Two of the red parts on the image of the chip turned blue to match the greater part of it. “Almost done,” Tony announced, “assuming you’ve had enough jazzercise and you’re ready to sit still now.”
“We should talk about what you’re going to say when you get in there,” said Natasha.
Peter scowled, though nobody saw it. “Hey, the only time I go off the script is if there’s a script,” he said. “Don’t try to make this into a diplomacy thing. I’ll say whatever pops into my head just like I always do.”
He actually did have a little more of a plan than that, not that he was about to share it. Since the Guardians had taken up together they had discovered a few tricks for dealing with Rocket’s neuroses, and Peter knew that right now, what Rocket really needed was for someone to pet him. An act of such implicit domesticity couldn’t be taken lightly, and Peter had established the rules for it through a combination of intuition and the proverbial hard way: don’t touch any bare spots or external hardware, don’t talk about what you’re doing, and most importantly, don’t do it when anyone outside of the team is there to see.
The camera would be on them, so Peter was forced to accept that he was already planning to break the last rule. Rocket might even be operating on the assumption that he was being watched, but it was worth the risk. The translator would give them their words back and that was good, but words weren’t going to be enough.
“Someone switch out that scope for the other attachment,” said Tony. Peter looked back at Clint and Natasha, who were inspecting the spindly machine and holding up parts of it while Tony said, “Not that one. Not that one.” Finally he stalked over to do it himself, and then Peter felt something cold and hard pressing against his neck where the scope had been.
“Hold it here,” Tony instructed them. “Don’t let him squirm.” Natasha put one hand on Peter’s shoulder to steady him as she kept the disc in place, and Tony returned to the interface.
There was a mild jolt, more unexpected than it was painful, but Peter felt his limbs spasm in response. Every possible way that this procedure could go wrong suddenly occurred to him at once. Did Tony even want to fix the chip?
Natasha was the first to speak when she dropped her hold on him so he could massage some life into his arms. “You might not need a script, Quill, but as far as we’re concerned, a diplomatic mission is exactly what this is.”
“Definitions aren’t exactly the first thing on my mind right now,” Peter replied wearily.
Clint extended an arm to help him up, and Tony entered Peter’s line of vision and asked Natasha, “So it worked?”
She affirmed that it did, and Peter got the feeling he had just missed something. “How do you know that?” he demanded.
She smiled. “Because I’m speaking to you in Russian.”
“Oh.” He supposed that made sense. The only other Natasha he had known was the Rocky and Bullwinkle villain. “This doesn’t mean you guys won the Cold War, does it?” he asked, then before she could answer, came back to the moment and said, “And it’s a recovery mission. You don’t send in diplomats to take back their own.”
She arched an eyebrow at him. “Rocket doesn’t belong to you.”
“No.” He remembered Rhomann Dey’s warning as they had parted ways, and smiled grimly. “But we want him more than you do.”
While Quill was being escorted to the panic room by Natasha, Tony sent out a group text to instruct everyone to meet him back at the campsite. Whatever was about to happen, he wanted Jarvis to be watching it with them.
He also took the opportunity to call Pepper and invite her to return to the tower. “I don’t have time to explain everything, but recent developments have convinced me that the elevator shaft invasion squad is about as dangerous as Dora the Explorer. And later we’re probably going to party so I need my arm candy.”
“You just want me to host,” she laughed.
“Take pity. I don’t even have a Chex Mix recipe.” On the main monitor, he spotted Quill coming into the room and looking around as the door closed behind him. “Gotta go,” he told Pepper. “My show is starting.”
Bruce rushed in and pulled up a seat, followed by Clint. They all shushed each other a little, trying to concentrate on the camera, but so far Quill hadn’t said anything and Rocket hadn’t even appeared. Tony would have worried that they were off on another round of indoor coon-hunting, but Jarvis had been monitoring him, so they knew he was still in there.
As it was, Tony was inclined to agree with Clint: the best word to describe Rocket was “unnerving”. He didn’t mind harboring him and Quill until they had all learned more about each other, but he was still waiting for conclusive evidence that the creature was capable of independent thought and speech. The translator was functional, and Tony knew alien technology when he saw it, but that didn’t mean that everything Quill had told them could be trusted. Rocket’s so-called language might be nothing more than a few basic terms magnified by the listener’s delusion.
“Rocket?” said Quill. “It’s me. Hey, we can talk now, are you hearing this?”
Natasha entered the campsite then and squeezed in next to Clint. “What’d I miss?”
Nobody really needed to answer; it was clear from the way Quill was meandering around the room that he and Rocket hadn’t yet connected. Tony wondered out loud if they had been wrong to drop their initial assumption that there was some fear between the two of them, and Bruce made a low sound of agreement.
Then Quill started singing. “I’m goin’ up to the spirit in the sky!” he belted out, and his slow shuffle turned into a sashay to match. “That’s where I’m gonna go when I die!” He almost seemed to forget about Rocket as he picked a path through the supplies and furniture littering the floor, snapping his fingers.
“Spirit in the Sky?” said Clint.
“Norman Greenbaum, 1969,” Tony mused. “Good song.”
Quill was twisting and punching the air with increasing energy. “When I die and they lay me to rest, I’m gonna - oh hey man there you are.”
The raccoon had just crept out from behind a cupboard, and was glaring up at Quill with his arms crossed. Everyone sitting in front of Tony’s monitor held their breath to listen, and were rewarded with a quiet chittering sound from Rocket.
“Missed you too,” said Quill, but his tone was sarcastic. “It’s not a trick, okay? They fixed my translator so we could talk.”
Rocket made another soft, animalistic sound.
“That was my fault,” admitted Quill, rubbing his hand through his hair in an abashed gesture. “I got angry and I hit the nearest target before I thought it through. They were actually pretty cool about it, considering.”
This time Rocket’s response was barely audible, but Quill looked gobsmacked. “No, they didn’t,” he insisted. “It’s me. I’m fine. All they did was fix it, weren’t you watching?”
Bruce turned to Tony and spoke quickly while Quill was listening to Rocket, so that he wouldn’t be talking over anything that they could have understood. “Does it sound to you like Rocket thinks we did something to hurt Quill?”
“No,” said Tony. “It sounds like we’re supposed to feel sorry for them. Curb your credulity.”
Quill was bending to pick up the couch cushions, saying, “The one with the RoboCop glove.” He finished placing them back on the couch and sat down in the middle, leaving plenty of room on either side of himself. “With the sissy beard, yeah.” The sounds that Rocket was making between his remarks were varied, and difficult for the Avengers to pick up from the speakers, but Quill’s side of the conversation was as casual as a local call. “No, he’s just ticked because you bit his dog or something.”
Rocket came a little closer to the couch, mewed, then came the rest of the way and hoisted himself up to settle in the seat on Quill’s right side.
“Wait, Pepper’s a woman?” asked Quill. His hand moved onto Rocket’s head and began to caress him with short, even strokes. “Is she hot?”
Tony twitched. Natasha smiled wryly and murmured, “You should let him try his luck with her. We could all use the laugh.”
“Right,” sighed Quill, “you can’t tell, I know. I need to give you a crash course in human beauty standards so you can be my wingman.”
Rocket emitted a low mumble, his pitch rising at the end like a question.
“My wingman! Like in flying, except you help me pick up girls. Why’d you bite her?” As he spoke, his hand never stopped moving. Rocket remained sitting still, making no visible attempt to either escape the stroking or to lean into it.
“What kind of candy?” said Quill. “Man, you should have taken it. Terran candy is the best. I wonder if they still make Reeses Pieces.”
After a long pause, Rocket made the chittering sound again and looked up at Quill, whose hand stayed resting on his neck.
The slightly ironic tone that Quill had been using so far changed subtly, giving way to something both persuasive and painstakingly gentle. “Yeah, Groot’s fine, he’s on the ship.”
Rocket faced forward again, and Quill resumed petting him.
Tony pushed his chair back from the monitor and asked Bruce, “What do you think?”
“You know what I think,” said Bruce, sounding exhausted and looking older than he should. “We’re the bad guys.”