Fandom: MCU/Guardians of the Galaxy
Rating: General (some language, some violence, some creepy stuff)
Wordcount: This part, 3069 (I swear, I am not even trying to make the chapters longer each time)
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.
Whatever Groot had put in that nut, Peter thought, was not only the most efficient knockout gas he had ever seen in action, but also the friendliest. At least, all four of the Avengers appeared to be having a truly enjoyable experience with it. Their laughter had barely died down before they hit the floor, first getting to their knees or sliding down the walls, then relaxing into comfortable prostrations. Natasha and Clint were curled up with their arms around each other and foreheads touching, and the smiles on their faces didn’t fade even after their eyes were closed.
“Wish I had a camera,” said Peter.
Rocket snorted derisively. He was back at the door panel, working quickly but still wearing the muzzle, so Peter had left his face protection on as well. “Last thing I want is a keepsake of this,” Rocket said. “I’m just glad the soporific kicked in before I had to witness any more humie mating rituals.”
“All they did was kiss,” Peter noted while carefully stepping around each recumbent form and checking their vital signs. They were all breathing normally, but Bruce had clasped both hands over his face in an apparent attempt to block the gas, so Peter moved him into a better position.
Rocket’s voice was chipper. “Nah, she was goin’ for his fly. But don’t let me obstruct your denial.” He jammed a screwdriver into a seam in the panel and flipped a few switches, and the door opened. “Boom. Quit your groping, we got places to go.”
Satisfied that the unconscious warriors were in no immediate danger, Peter gathered up what scant possessions he had brought into the panic room. He hesitated before leaving, wondering if they should stock up on any supplies or make some gesture of apology, but nothing came to mind and Rocket was already out in the corridor, yelling, “Get a move on, Quill!”
The muzzle was lying on the floor just outside the door, and Rocket was way ahead, running on all fours so that Peter had to jog hard to catch up. He seemed to know exactly where he was going, but it wasn’t the way Peter had come in. As soon as they were both paused at the intersecting hallways, Peter removed his mask and said as much. “I know which elevators to take, get us right to the front door,” he added. “Just sayin’.”
Rocket shook his head. “Got one stop to make first. The room where I started, they got the stuff in there to fix my translator.”
“Can’t you do that when we get back to the ship? I thought we were kind of in a hurry right now.”
Rocket shot him a look that showed clearly he didn’t want to debate the point, but all he said was, “I just need a few minutes, and we got a few hours. Wait outside if you want.”
More doubt. Peter wondered what it was going to take for them to return to the easy manner they used to have with each other. “I’m not waiting outside, dumbass. Show me where we’re going and let’s get it done.”
It didn’t take long for Rocket to find their destination, although Peter had no idea how he had oriented himself after he had originally come in through the wall. Once they got there it took another five minutes for Rocket to crack the lock, while Peter looked anxiously around them, expecting to be ambushed by half-delirious Avengers at any moment.
The door slid open without complaint, and Rocket ran inside and headed straight for one corner while Peter made a slow circuit of the room, taking it all in. Unlike the other areas he had seen in the building, this one was clearly in current usage. Along with the electronics built into the walls and counter space, office supplies and personal items were strewn about as if someone meant to come back to them shortly. Rocket’s corner, Peter saw, was full of pieces of armor which he now recognized as part of Tony’s get-up.
“You need any help?” he asked, just for the hell of it.
Rocket responded with a sardonic chuckle. He was setting up for his procedure by gathering equipment and keying commands into interfaces, none of which meant anything to Peter. It was useless to ask; Rocket had no patience for giving instructions and often didn’t even seem to know how to describe the tools he used. Peter’s theory was that his expertise with them was more an innate affinity than any kind of training. It wasn’t like he had read a manual on anything he would find in this room.
Peter still would have been glad to sit nearby and hand him things as requested, but if Rocket wanted to be left alone, so be it. As the clicks and whirs of machinery carried on from the corner, Peter wandered around touching Tony’s things and snooping through drawers. He found one full of snacks and wasted no time in stuffing a Snickers bar in his mouth and another in his pocket. He didn’t have the capacity for the entire contents of the drawer, so he rifled through the selection trying to decide which one Rocket would like when he was in a more receptive mood. A Butterfingers went into his own mouth immediately after the Snickers was gone. They were exactly as good as he remembered. Maybe there was some benefit to being back on the only planet that catered exclusively to Terran tastes.
The next drawer he opened contained a wad of cash, which he also took. Anyone who left paper money lying around in large quantities, he reasoned, didn’t really need it.
“How’s it going?” he asked Rocket, chancing a look in his direction.
What he saw made him blanch - Rocket’s back was covered in a web of clamps and wires, and even bleeding a little near his neck. He was holding something in place at his shoulder while his other hand tapped at the display screen in front of him. “Gettin’ there,” he replied absently.
Peter went back to searching the room, this time for a med kit. Instead he found a shelf of records. Good records. It was just about the last thing that he expected, especially since even cassette tapes, from what he understood, were supposed to be obsolete by now. And who would have thought an assclown like Tony would appreciate Queen, or Black Sabbath?
He was distracted from the music by a loud thunk, the unmistakable sound of some internal mechanism shifting. Rocket had moved to the power bank in the middle of the room and was half inside the gear compartment, visible only by his tail peeking around the corner. Peter put down the vinyl he had been examining. “Did you just throw a lever in there?” he asked.
“Yeah,” said Rocket, backing out and wiping his hands together. “Had to reset the hardware so the current ain’t gonna fry me when I connect.” He returned to the corner with the armor pieces and plugged himself into another circuit board with one of the remaining wires attached to his back.
Peter turned away again. Seeing Rocket like this was wretched, almost worse than it had been to see him in a cage. Everything about this trip had been a mistake.
Rocket let out a yelp of pain, and Peter nearly knocked over a table in his haste to get back to him. When he did, though, Rocket was calmly tugging his shirt on as if the sound hadn’t even come from him. “Done,” he said.
“How can you be sure it worked?” Peter asked, trying to pull his frantic thoughts into some kind of order.
“Because her name was Lylla,” Rocket replied with grim certainty.
It was possibly the most unsettling thing that Peter could have heard. He was accustomed to being alarmed by some of the things Rocket said or did, but usually he classed them as signs of instability or post traumatic stress. This sounded more like outright madness.
He shook his head, overwhelmed. Rocket was switching off the display screens and yanking a small power box behind them free from the cables that secured it there. Peter swallowed. “Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yeah I’m okay, what’s your problem?”
“You were bleeding.”
Rocket shrugged. “It stopped.” He headed toward a sizeable hole in the wall. which Peter assumed had been created by his first entrance to the lab.
“Now what? You said all we needed was to fix your chip and we’d be out of here.”
“I left my comm in there.” Rocket transferred the power box briefly to his teeth, hoisted himself up, and disappeared into the cavity. Peter was once again left to count the minutes and indulge in his paranoia about getting caught here while listening to the scrabbling of Rocket’s claws from the inside of the wall. He tried to think about how he would explain this to Natasha if she happened to walk in the door. I’m stupid and my friend is insane didn’t seem like an excuse she’d readily accept.
There was another muffled thunk, then an electronic tone. “Rocket?” Peter called.
“Geez, Quill, cool your jets.” Rocket finally emerged, placing his newly reclaimed communicator in his mouth to free his hands for climbing, as he had with the power box. “Security and locks are disabled downstairs again. Let’s split.”
In another second he was standing on the floor and had his comm attached to the collar of his shirt. In spite of everything else that might be wrong, Peter was at least relieved to see him fully dressed again. The outfit he was wearing had been printed in two pieces that nevertheless fit together to appear much like his usual jumpsuit, and it neatly covered the hardware and scarring on his back that made him so self-conscious.
Having his translator and accessories back seemed to buoy Rocket’s spirits, too. At least, he allowed Peter to lead the way to the elevator to get out, and didn’t quarrel with him as they hurried through the lobby and, at long last, left the building with the glass entrance doors swinging behind them.
“Not to spoil our moment of victory, but they’ll start searching for us as soon as they wake up,” said Peter.
Rocket nodded, his eyes lit with a faint red glow by the city’s evening lights. “Lay low?”
“I was thinking more like hiding in plain sight. We just need to kill some time until Gamora gets in touch, might as well do it in the last places they’ll ever go looking for a couple of escaped space bandits.”
“What do you mean?”
Peter grinned widely, craning his head way back to see the city’s fabled skyline. “I mean let’s be tourists! We need some fresh air, anyway, we’ve been cooped up in there so long.”
Rocket sniffed around himself. “Where do they keep the fresh air?”
“Yeah I don’t think they actually have any, but come on.” He started walking across the perfectly manicured lawn that surrounded Stark Tower. Past the stone wall at the edge of the property, he could see the shadowy forms of other pedestrians, but he wasn’t going to let Rocket think he was afraid of encountering them. “New York City,” he said, waving his arms, “say hello to Star-Lord! Took me a while, but I finally made it here!”
Rocket stayed close by his side, casting cautious looks left and right. “Is this the planet’s capital?”
Peter stopped them where the path met the city sidewalk, and surveyed the brightly lit windows and whizzing traffic before them. “Yes,” he said. “Yes it is.”
They didn’t get far before Rocket’s uncertainty about his surroundings drove him to voice it. “Quill, I’m drawin’ eyes just by walkin’ here. This ain’t really what I’d call hiding in plain sight.”
Peter didn’t halt to answer, but he kept their pace at an easy amble, projecting nonchalance while remaining intensely aware of Rocket’s position beside him. “The way I hear it, Earth’s been hit with so much in the last couple years, they don’t know what’s normal anymore. New Yorkers probably never have. Sure, they’re gonna stare at you, but on the list of weird stuff the locals have seen, I bet you don’t even rate.”
“I don’t care if they think I’m weird, I care if they think I’m food.”
“Raccoon meat? Ugh, no way, that’s totally gross. But hey, if you want, we can get you a disguise.” He pointed out a narrow shop front with the word SOUVENIRS blazing atop it. “We’re tourists, Rocket! Live it up!”
A man walked by holding the leash of a cat which was sitting on the baseball cap on his head. The cat looked down to hiss at Rocket; the man didn’t even pause. Rocket’s gaze followed them down the sidewalk and then turned to Peter. “How did your species even manage to win the evolutionary race?”
Pepper took out her phone almost automatically as her car approached Stark Tower, ready to enter the shortcut code that cleared any vehicle she was using for priority access. Before she keyed it in, though, the driver asked, “Is this right, ma’am?” and she looked up to see that the gates were already open.
“No,” she murmured, knitting her brow, then clarified for the driver’s sake, “Yes, it’s the right place, keep going. I just wasn’t expecting - it’s fine, there’s nothing to worry about.”
“Our policy is to stay by the client at the destination if they should feel unsafe for any reason,” he told her as the car rolled up to the first-floor entrance.
“I don’t feel unsafe,” she laughed. “But I’m doubling your tip for that. Just drop my bag by the door, please.”
In truth, the lax security did give her a moment of doubt. She hadn’t double checked it before she left the night before, but Tony had assured her that he would repair any of the damage done by the raccoon and the masked invader, and that wasn’t usually the kind of promise she had to nag him about. He must have left the gate open to admit the Avengers, but that wasn’t usual, either.
On the other hand, after the superhuman-related dangers she had faced in the past, she had developed an instinct to remove all civilians from the scene at the first hint that something was amiss, and right now that meant her driver. His physique was formidable, but that would mean very little going up against anyone who had the brass to target Tony.
The main entrance opened without a code, too. As soon as the car had departed, Pepper rushed to the elevator as quickly as her pumps would allow, dialing Tony as she did. No answer. That wasn’t a cause for alarm in itself, but she wished he would have the presence of mind to keep her abreast of his location in times like these. Her next call would have been to Jarvis - at least he always picked up - but she was almost at the living quarters where he was enabled, anyway.
That door, at least, was properly secured, and properly opened for her as soon as her fingertips touched the handle. Tony wasn’t in there, though, and neither was anyone else. “Jarvis, what’s going on?”
“Miss Potts,” the solemn British voice welcomed her, “I’m afraid there has been an incident involving Mr. Stark, as well as Mr. Banner, Mr. Barton, and Ms. Romanov. They are unharmed and in no danger, but all are currently incapacitated.”
Pepper gaped, feeling truly bewildered. “What are you saying, they’re all drunk?”
“No. They have been disabled by a chemical agent released by the cybernetic raccoon which we had been holding for study. Please remain calm.”
“Are you kidding me? That rat took out four Avengers by itself and you’re asking me to remain calm? Where are they? Where’s the raccoon?”
The closest monitor lit up with a camera image of one of the building’s saferooms. It was in shambles, but near the door she could see four prone figures: Clint and Natasha, Bruce, and, yes, Tony. “Oh my God,” she breathed, and turned to leave the room.
The door slid shut right in front of her. “I’m sorry, Miss Potts,” said Jarvis, and he really sounded it. “My standing orders are to keep you safe at any cost. The soporific gas may still be active in that area, and the raccoon has escaped the premises with his human companion who returned to negotiate. With all respect, I must enforce your remaining here until further notice.”
“Tony gave me all permissions to your system. Deal with whatever moral quandary this is giving you, and open the door.”
There was a silence, which she hoped meant that he was taking her suggestion. Then he said, “The rooftop sensors have indicated the arrival of Thor.”
That was one more thing Pepper hadn’t expected, but she wasn’t slow to recognize the potential solution it offered. “Okay, if I’ve got Thor escorting me into that room, I’m safe and you’re doing your job, right?”
It did the trick. Thor entered the campsite shortly, dressed in the outfit that could have been his superhero costume or could have been simply the Asgardian norm - Pepper could never decide. “Hail, Lady Pepper,” he greeted her.
She explained what was going on, as much as she understood it herself, as quickly as she could. He made a token effort to coax her into staying behind while he went to retrieve his teammates himself, but he didn’t have Jarvis’s incentive or immutability, and she won him over easily. Before they began, though, she had to ask: “Why were you coming here now? Did Tony invite you to a party?”
He shook his head. “He bade me investigate the landing of an intergalactic ship. I journeyed there, but I was not the first. Valiant men have the situation well in hand. I thought to come here instead, as the Iron Man neglected to tell me why he would not take such a mission himself.”
Pepper nodded slowly. “So, we both have a lot of questions. Let’s go get some answers.”