Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia
perpetual

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Brace for Impact - Chapter Four

Chapter Title: Things Fall Apart
Author: Kairos
Fandom: Guardians of the Galaxy
Wordcount: This part, 2939
Rating: General/Teen
Notes: Finally getting a bit of Rocket&Peter H/C going...you know, the good stuff.


Peter dropped into a slide to cover the last few feet of the distance to the remains of the rooster’s cockpit, rolling once to extinguish the blaze that his coat had picked up from the burning rubble. Someone was crawling out of the other vehicle in the collision, but all he could do was hope that they weren’t yet in shape to attack him. Beneath one long sheet of plating, he found Rocket, limbs twisted unnaturally and clothing soaked in blood.

He was breathing. His eyes even fluttered a little, and nothing large appeared to have pierced his torso, but Peter didn’t waste time trying to check him for consciousness. Since he wasn’t strapped in, it wasn’t difficult to lift him out of the seat, but there was no way to know where to touch him that wouldn’t risk complicating his injuries. Peter kept up a steady stream of words as he moved, just in case Rocket could hear him: “It’s me. Don’t panic, Rocket, it’s me, I’ve got you. We’re getting out of here. I’ve got you.”

More than ever before, he was grateful for the Guardians’ synergy, the shared bond that let them function as one in a crisis. He didn’t have to tell Gamora to run back ahead of him to prepare the ship for immediate takeoff. He didn’t have to tell Drax to cover him as he held Rocket close to his chest and ran, hard as he could, never daring to look over his shoulder to see who was in pursuit.

He could tell by the sound of them that there were too many too close, though. They had the sense to stay inside their machines, while the Guardians were on foot. Drax was doing his part as the team’s one man army, but even he could be overwhelmed. Peter had no choice but to leave him to it. Setting Rocket down right now, even for a moment, would mean the end for him. The Milano was straight ahead, and Peter just had to get through the hatch so that Drax would know to abandon the fight and follow, and then Gamora could close the doors behind them.

The ship’s external lights flashed, and Peter called up all of his strength to put on an extra burst of speed. The ramp was lowered, but he saw immediately that he wouldn’t make it - some of the opposing army had cut them off on their bikes and speeders, and they were now dismounting and positioning to surround them.

Gamora must not have had the angle to see the predicament from inside the ship, because the hatch was opening. Peter almost shouted in frustration, but he couldn’t spare the breath for it. If the door was vacant, there was no way to stop the attackers from getting into the Milano before he did. Their only hope was to let Drax clear a path so he could get Rocket safely inside and then go back to the fight, and it looked like that wasn’t going to happen.

”I...AM...GROOOOOT!”

Three or four pursuers who had been swarming up the ramp were tossed aside like twigs. Groot’s reach seemed suddenly limitless, his voice thunderous, his face a carved mask of fury. Nobody else had a chance to get near him, or to block the way into the ship. Peter stumbled anyway, unsure of how to get around Groot himself. The flailing wooden limbs around him extended past his field of vision, and there were so many that it seemed like an entire forest was hurtling out of the hatch.

Rocket groaned in his arms. Trusting Groot to control the onslaught, Peter dashed toward him and didn’t stop until both of his feet were firmly inside the ship. “We made it,” he told Rocket between heavy gasps, but before going any further, he turned and saw, through a wall of living branches, that Drax was right behind him. Outside, people were screaming and Groot was still roaring back at them, but nobody was attempting to try their luck with a chase up the ramp. “Groot, get in!” Peter commanded as Drax cleared the door.

Groot followed the order to the best of his ability, but Peter could see that it wasn’t easy for him to pull in all of his extensions at once. Some of them were probably still wrapped around opponents out there, or penetrating bodies, or in the process of being hacked off. Finally he freed himself and fell backward into the ship, and Peter called out, “Gamora, shut the door!”

As soon as he had spoken, it was done, and he could feel the ship’s launch begin. There was a patter of projectiles hitting the hull, but he had already seen that none of the vehicles out there were designed to leave the atmosphere. Their escape would be clean from this point.

The infirmary was close to the entrance, planned there for exactly this kind of circumstance. Peter laid Rocket down, wincing when some fur came off because the blood had made it stick to his coat. He shed the coat and his gloves, leaving his arms bare to the elbow and unhindered, as Drax rushed in and powered up the table to access its full range of scanners and instruments. Rocket moaned in a way that made Peter think he was regaining consciousness, which wasn’t necessarily a good thing at the moment. Abandoning thought in favor of velocity, Peter reached for the scissors to cut Rocket’s clothing off.

It was as bad as it had looked when he had picked him up from the battlefield. Everything on his right side was crumpled and torn, and Peter hadn’t even thought it was possible to break Rocket’s reinforced skeleton. Blood was spattered over so much of his body that it was hard to trace it back to the wounds. Most worrying of all, there was a silver gleam of exposed circuitry on his chest, and it was emitting a faint spark at irregular intervals.

Drax had been preparing a syringe, which Peter knew would contain a formula that sedated the patient while accelerating the body’s natural healing and blood production. He found the right spot on Rocket’s neck, framed it with his fingers, and nodded at Drax to administer the shot.

“This will only suspend the damage,” Drax warned.

“I know,” said Peter. The serum had worked wonders for the Guardians in the past, but it wasn’t a panacea. “He’s gonna need surgery.”

Rocket’s eyes popped open before the syringe had even come close. A stream of profanities, interspersed with bestial snarls, came out of his mouth, and he was suddenly struggling so hard that Peter could barely hold him down with both hands.

“You must be still, my friend!” Drax said urgently. “This is for your aid!”

Peter wanted to tell him that reasoning with Rocket in this kind of state wouldn’t work, but he soon found himself trying to do the same thing. “Steady, man, steady, come on!”

Drax kept trying to complete the injection, but Rocket’s head was one of the only parts of him that was unharmed, and he was snapping his jaws wildly every time the needle came closer. Peter reached across him, trying to straighten his position on the table while everyone’s voice kept getting louder and more insistent, and Rocket took the chance to clamp down on his forearm with all his strength.

”Owwwwwwwwww.” The initial shock of pain didn’t lessen; Rocket’s teeth were sunk deep in the flesh, and he wasn’t letting go, even after blood began welling up around his lips.

“Should I--?” Drax began, alarmed.

Peter sucked in a breath through his teeth. “No, just stick him while his mouth is occupied.” He angled his arm to block Rocket’s view, and Drax got the five seconds that he needed to inject him.

All three of them were still for a moment, waiting for it to take effect. Peter’s eyes stayed locked on Rocket’s, which were at once berserk red and rimmed with tears. Slowly, he moved his free hand to cup Rocket’s face, stroking between his ears with his thumb. “Alright, buddy,” he whispered. “Just rest, now.”

Drax swapped the syringe for the skinlock, a tool that sealed up wounds, without stitches or bandages, long enough for the flesh to knit back together. In Peter’s experience it wasn’t painful, simply gliding over the skin like a lukewarm clothes iron, but Rocket flinched wherever it touched him. He still had a growl deep in his throat, and was still staring at Peter like a pair of oncoming headlights. Finally he blinked once, slowly. His mouth’s grip loosened, and his eyelids drooped again and again until staying closed. Peter delicately pried the teeth out of his bloody forearm and eased it away.

His adrenaline surge wore off all at once, leaving him with a fresh sense of shock. The monitors on the table showed that Rocket was stabilized, but to the naked eye, he didn’t look it. Peter reached out blindly for the drawer where the infirmary automatically prepared hot towels whenever it was in use. Drax caught his arm instead and applied the skinlock to the bite, finishing up by wiping it clean before Peter could take a fresh towel for Rocket. “I frightened him,” said Drax apologetically. “I should have been more careful.”

Peter shook his head. “I’m the dumbfuck who mentioned surgery out loud.”

He was clearing his own blood from his friend’s mouth when they heard Gamora cry out Groot’s name, followed by her hurried footfall. Peter and Drax exchanged a glance, aghast. They had closed themselves into the room to avoid any interference from Groot, whose good intentions could be dangerous in the wrong circumstances, and there hadn’t been time to spare another thought for him. Drax opened the door and rushed out; Peter, torn, hovered in the doorway where he could see what was going on without leaving Rocket’s side.

Gamora was kneeling with Groot’s face held between her hands. He was sitting on the floor, legs spread out to either side of himself, but his head was still about four feet off of the ground, as it had been earlier that day when he was standing at his full height. His arms were too long, and hanging limp at his sides like dead vines instead of the hardwood armor that they should have been. Loose tendrils and snapped-off sticks protruded from every part of his body, making him look shaggy and wild.

He mumbled at Gamora, who said a few words of reassurance and then looked up at Drax and Peter. “How did this happen? What did he do?”

Drax gave her a quick summary of how Groot had guarded the door while they made their escape, and a hypothesis of how the overexertion might have affected him. Peter could only stare in blank denial. An injured teammate was his own personal hell. Two at once was unbearable.

“I’m sure we can heal him,” said Gamora firmly. “We’ve seen what he can survive. Isn’t that right, Groot?”

“I am...Groot…”

Peter braced himself against the doorframe, his knuckles white where he held it. “Rocket will know what to do,” he offered, though his voice sounded too hoarse to make it credible.

“Rocket,” said Gamora. She stood up, giving Groot’s shoulders one more encouraging rub. “How is he?”

“He’s hurt bad,” Peter let out in a rush, stepping back to let her into the infirmary. “He needs a doctor. Which way are we headed?”

Gamora walked slowly around the table, peering closely at Rocket’s injuries and the automated charts documenting his condition. “Outer spiral arm, but we can refine it before--” she broke off when the circuitry on Rocket’s chest sparked again. “No, no, this is bad, can’t let this malfunction.”

Her hands flew through the drawers of instruments, taking out a few that Peter was sure he had never even seen before. Something round and metal went over Rocket’s breastbone, something with a digital display and a dial got hooked into it with a thin cable, something else yet had a wire fed through and trimmed by a snipping blade in Gamora’s confident hand.

Peter’s heart felt like it was revving up to bust out of his chest. “What are you doing? Is he going to -- are you sure that’s--”

“I’m sure.” Just seconds later, she lifted the disc off of Rocket and checked the readout on the closest monitor. “It’s okay, Peter. He’s out of immediate danger.”

For a moment Peter could only nod, squeezing her hand to thank her. “This is all my fault,” he said, the words spilling out against his will.

She cast him a long look. “If it is, all you can do is make it right.” There was a mobile device clipped to the main computer which showed the patient’s status, and Gamora took it and fastened it to her belt. “And if it isn’t, that’s all you can do anyway. Our teammates need you, Star-Lord.” She put a special emphasis on his title, and he understood. He didn’t have the luxury of dwelling on his guilt right now.

Drax had helped Groot to his feet and was walking with him, one slow step at a time, toward the infirmary as the tree’s wayward branches draped over his shoulders. Groot let out a soft moan when he saw Rocket’s unconscious form, and everyone rushed to comfort him, saying they were headed to a doctor, Rocket would be fine, Rocket wasn’t in any pain.

Peter couldn’t tell if he believed them, but he doubted it. He put on his most authoritative voice and said, “Rocket needs to rest now, and so do you, Groot. Drax will get you to your room. Promise me you’ll take it easy, okay? Trust us to take care of Rocket.”

“I am Groot.” His tone was acquiescent, or maybe defeated. Either way, he allowed Drax to lead him away, leaving Peter effectively alone with Gamora.

He ran his hand along the table. “Isn’t this thing supposed to transform into a cot?” Most everything in the infirmary was a new addition, and Gamora understood machines better than he did.

She pressed a few buttons and the table lowered, grew a rail around its edges, and rolled out a cleaner, softer surface beneath Rocket. “I plotted us a course toward the more inhabited systems. It should be easier to find medical services there.” She hesitated, maybe wondering if there was even a doctor in the galaxy who could handle a patient like Rocket. “Are we in danger of pursuit?”

Peter shook his head. “They didn’t have any spaceworthy ships, and they won’t know where we’re going.” He felt a dagger of rage slice through him at the thought of their anonymous attackers, and at Keelah, who had led them there. “Oh shit,” he suddenly realized out loud. “While Keelah was on the ship she put the data pocket into the computer. It could have uploaded a virus, or a tracer.”

To Gamora’s credit, she didn’t take the easy opportunity to berate him for his poor choice of sexual partner. Instead she walked briskly out of the infirmary, and Peter followed, tearing his eyes reluctantly from Rocket and closing the door behind him. Gamora sat down at the nearest computer console and opened one of the holographic monitors, and Peter sat next to her and opened up the mobile controls to help her look. “I don’t see anything amiss,” she said after a moment.

He didn’t, either, but he wasn’t about to trust his own limited hacking skills. “Why would she bother with the upload, anyway? Once she was in the room alone with me, all she had to do was pull out that strangler scarf and get herself away from us.”

“Maybe the map is legitimate,” Gamora theorized. “If you hadn’t taken her inside, you still would have used the data pocket eventually, and it could have led us into a trap as a failsafe to her plan to kill you in the ship.”

“That makes sense. Her friends must have set up the ambush from Knowhere, when they saw she was coming with me.”

“And you have no idea what they want from us?”

Peter sat back and rubbed his aching head. “We thought we were hunting for Thanos’s officers. We didn’t think about them hunting us. And they’re better at it than we are.”

“No, they aren’t,” she said, hard and certain. “We were outgunned, outnumbered, and taken off guard, and we all survived. Once we take care of Rocket and Groot, we’ll get to the bottom of this, Peter. There will be more combat. And we’ll win.”

He had to admit, hearing her talk like that always helped. “So do you think there was ever a slave ring in the first place, or did they make that up to get our attention?”

She swiped rapidly through another series of screens, the multicolored light gleaming over her disdainful expression. “There’s always a slave ring,” she stated. “But we have nothing to tell us where to find it.”

“I’ll look through what I’ve got on Keelah’s people,” said Peter, rising from his seat. “Try to figure out a destination for us.”

As he was leaving the room, he noticed that the day-lights throughout the ship had been growing incrementally brighter, heralding the end of the night according to the twenty-four hour cycle he had set it on. He sighed. It was going to be a long day.


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