Fandom: Guardians of the Galaxy
Wordcount: This part, 2509
Rating: General/Teen (there's actually a lot of sex talk in this chapter, but it's just that, talk)
Notes: Yeah I said I wouldn't update before I saw the movie (WHICH IS TOMORROW, GUYS, IT'S TOMORROW), but I've had such interesting reviews and conversations on this story lately that my mind stayed here. Expect the unexpected, I guess.
“Paging Rocket Raccoon. Attention, Rocket Raccoon. Quit hiding, bro. I know you took my crispitoes. Come in, Rocket--”
The ship-wide speakers finally started talking back at him. “Get off the intercom, Pete. Cryin’ out loud. I’m in the cockpit.”
Peter jogged up the steps and found Rocket in one of the front seats, fiddling with the secondary controls...and giggling. The crispito bag was on the floor beside him, but when Peter dove for it, he found it empty. He scrunched it into a ball and threw it back down. Rocket was definitely giggling. That was something that always required immediate attention.
“Yeah,” said Rocket, waving a hand at the discarded bag. “There’s no more of them. Can’t stop eatin’ lately, must be some kinda doctor-work side effect.”
“Probably,” Peter agreed. “Here, I brought your meds. You have to start remembering these, man. Unless you want some side effects that are way worse than the munchies.”
“In a minute. Check this out.” He pointed at his screen and snorted a laugh. “That parasite ship we’re reelin in? I’m in their computer. Every time I do this--” He tapped a quick sequence of cues. “--Every monitor they got does this.” A window popped up showing red text on a black background: CRITICAL FAILURE.
Peter leaned his elbows on the back of the seat. “Just the monitors, though? No actual damage?”
“Yep! And a couple minutes later it gets replaced by this one.” The text in the window now read: SYSTEM TEST ERROR. DISREGARD PREVIOUS MESSAGE.
It was all too easy to imagine the psychological effect that the back-and-forth of the contradicting messages was having on the enemy ship’s occupants. Peter’s lip quirked into a smile. “Okay, that is pretty funny. Can I try?”
Rocket let him type in a brand new message, and he chose, EVEN WORSE FAILURE. The text that was to follow it up in five minutes was, NEVER MIND.
Before long they were both howling with laughter, trying to outdo each other with ideas for fictitious error messages to display for their now-captive follower. “Bet they’re tearin’ their own machines apart tryin’ to fix ‘em,” Rocket gloated, slapping his knee.
Peter wiped a sleeve across his brow. “We should totally try this on the Avengers next time we’re near Terra.”
“An’ then fly like hell before they catch us at it,” Rocket agreed cheerfully. He reached for the pill bottle without needing another reminder, shook two capsules out, and swallowed them, still grinning. Screwing the lid back on, he picked up the tube that Peter had brought along with the pills. “What’s this?”
“It’s that gunk Dr. Shanthig gave us to help your fur grow back. It’s cool if you love your new look, though, you don’t have to use it.”
Rocket shot him a glare and pulled his arms out of his jumpsuit, leaving him unclothed to the waist. As he smeared the ointment on his patches of bare skin, he kept talking: “These chumps ain’t gonna give us any trouble. Barely any weapons to disable on their ride, and we can flank ‘em when they land in case they come out armed.”
“Great,” said Peter. “One more day and we’ll be there. Drax says he and Groot are ready.”
Rocket finished applying the ointment to his limbs and side and handed the tube back up to Peter, who was about to pocket it when he realized that Rocket had scooted forward in his seat. His entire back, still hairless from old scars, was now exposed. Interpreting the movement correctly was tricky, and important, and Peter couldn’t ask for verbal clarification without risking an argument. He decided to toss the dice, and squirted some gel into his hand to rub across Rocket’s back.
It was the right choice; Rocket didn’t even flinch. Maybe he was getting more accustomed to touch in general, or maybe Peter had just earned enough of his trust to gain access to that forbidden zone. Rocket’s voice was serious when he next spoke, but what he said had nothing to do with his fur growth. “When we got everyone back together...we’re doin’ this, right, Pete? We’re goin’ into Hell Incorporated?”
“Guns blazing,” Peter assured him. He screwed the lid back onto the tube. “Remember when we took this job? I couldn’t get over how lucky we were to find one that let us do what we do best without breaking any laws and could put cash in our pockets. None of that’s changed, really.”
Rocket sounded skeptical. “Oh yeah? Cash and all?”
Peter shrugged. “Maybe not, but I needed something that would keep you interested.” He said it lightly, determined to keep this conversation from getting too grim, but they both knew that the monetary reward wasn’t the primary motivator for any of the Guardians anymore, and Rocket least of all. “Gonna be straight with you, this whole thing is giving me the heebie jeebies. When we thought they were slavers, I had this nice mental image of us storming a dungeon and smashing the chains off a horde of grateful women...”
“We all know what keeps you interested,” Rocket interjected in a low mutter.
“...But now it’s -- I don’t even know what to call them. Research subject collectors? I thought I’d crossed paths with every kind of organized crime there is, but this, closest I ever got to something like this is--”
“Me,” Rocket finished for him. He was tugging his jumpsuit back over his shoulders, still looking and sounding calm enough. “You call ‘em bio suppliers, by the way.”
Peter nodded slowly. “Okay. So when we meet these ‘suppliers’...”
“I been thinkin’. That map takes us straight into bad planetary neighborhoods, right? Someplace where the cargo gets dropped. Where’s the cargo go from there?”
“If the cargo is experimentation victims? To a lab, right?”
Rocket half-turned in his seat to fix Peter with an intent look. “Then why the middleman? We already saw whose job it is to go find the warm bodies, no point in hirin’ someone else just to get from Point B to Point C. Pete, I think the lab’s where we’re headed in the first place.”
For a simple deduction, it hit Peter with more force than he’d been ready for. He had been worrying about taking his team near people who would try to capture them for biological research; he hadn’t gotten as far as the realization that he would be taking them right into that kind of facility. “Rocket,” he said hurriedly, “you don’t have to--”
With one of his trademark bursts of arboreal agility, Rocket was suddenly balanced on the back of the pilot’s seat, facing Peter and almost at eye level with him. He reached out and grabbed two handfuls of his shirt, hauling him closer to gleaming red eyes, pinned ears, and sharp teeth. “Shut. Your. Face,” Rocket commanded. “And don’t you even think about tellin’ me I don’t have to be part o’ this.” He let go of the shirt and shoved him in the chest with both hands, hard enough that Peter took a stumbling step back.
It didn’t take him long to conclude he had deserved that, and more. “Shutting face. You’re in this. We all are. Tick tick boom.”
Rocket paused, blinking, and then a toothy smile spread across his face. “That would make a great error message.”
“Good point. It’s my turn to send one. Move over.”
A vast array of weapons were arranged neatly on the table, including a few that Peter didn’t even recognize. Gamora had her own collection, and she was now seated in front of them, dismantling a longsword that carried an electric current.
She looked up when Peter entered the room, and raised an eyebrow. “Did you want to help? I got tired of waiting for you.”
“Oh!” he said. “Right. Weapon cleaning day. Let me just put some music on.”
A minute later he was sitting across from her, working on one of his blasters to the soothing sound of his mother’s Awesome Mix Vol. 2. “I’ll do Rocket’s for him,” he told Gamora. “He usually just makes new ones instead of keeping up the old ones. I guess it works out, since he cleans the parts while he’s cannibalizing them, but we don’t have time for that before we land and he’s busy now with programming the ship. Oh man, you have to see what he rigged up to screw with those guys behind us. We were sending them fake error messages -- what?”
She hadn’t said anything, but she had been rubbing a cloth along the same piece of plating for the entire time he was rambling, and she was giving him a searching look. Now she opened her mouth, then closed it again as if deciding not to say what she was thinking. Before he could ask again, she changed her mind back and asked in a rush, “Did you know that Rocket is castrated?”
Peter’s legs instantly crossed themselves under the table. He put down his blaster, feeling he couldn’t trust himself to be holding a weapon at the moment. He had seen Rocket naked, but he would have had to be paying much closer attention to notice anything amiss with his plumbing. “I thought we agreed not to watch any more of the Halfworld video without his permission,” he answered, trying to make it sound casual.
“I haven’t,” said Gamora. “He told me. It came up while we were talking about what might be happening in Thanos’s biological experimentation.” She picked up where she had left off on the longsword.
“He never told me that.” It did make sense. Rocket didn’t have any apparent hormonal urges, and he showed neither curiosity nor embarrassment when it came to anyone else’s sex life. Peter felt a little hurt, though, aside from feeling on edge just because of the nature of this topic. He forced his feet back to the floor. “Usually he tells me things.”
She shrugged, but her voice was sympathetic. “I don’t think he considers it a secret, or anything like that. Maybe he thought you would make too much of it, what with the undue importance you place on your own testes.”
“I do not!” He involuntarily crossed his legs again. “I don’t place...undue...look, they’re just really important, okay? Please can we leave my balls out of this?”
Gamora looked half exasperated, half amused. “I’m just trying to say -- you might see a tragedy here, but for Rocket it’s just who he is. He doesn’t want all the same things that you want.” Her gaze dropped to her sword, and her voice lowered along with it. “Or that I do.”
“Wow, Gamora. I think that’s the closest you’ve ever come to admitting you have a sex drive.”
“Don’t make me hurt you. Not every woman who doesn’t want to sleep with you is--”
He held up his hands. “Hey, hey, I was kidding. I know how it is. Drax thinks I’m gonna get married someday, y’know. I disagree, but I had enough trouble just trying to set up a one night stand. If one of us ever wants more than that...” He finally picked up his blaster and cleaning kit again. “I don’t know. I guess that would mean some changes.”
“I’ve never given it much thought, either.” She hesitated. “But maybe Rocket has.”
Peter frowned. However remote, the possibility of a long-term romantic entanglement was still there for him, or Gamora, or even for Drax. Rocket was never going to form the kind of relationship that might distance him from the Guardians. Like Gamora said, that might be something at the back of his mind: the fear that the team would all go off to start new families of their own and leave him once again alone with Groot. “No wonder he never brought up being snipped,” he said ruefully.
“Just make sure he knows that it doesn’t matter to you.” She paused to fix him with a serious look. “That might mean never asking him about it, by the way.”
“It does matter to me,” Peter protested. “Everything they did to him matters to me. I mean, sure, maybe we’re better off not having any more testosterone on this ship, but it’s not fair he never had a say in it. And trust me, whatever the species, males do not say yes to that.”
“I understand, but think about it, Peter. He said it was one of the first procedures he went through, so he barely remembers anything before it. It’s just part of who he is.” She sighed. “When he got hurt, we took him to the doctor. When he has nightmares, I don’t know what it is you do for him, but I know it helps. But the worst of what he’s been through is beyond us. You can’t fix the damage when--”
“--When he is the damage.” Peter rubbed the bridge of his nose. The Guardians would never have met if not for their respective traumas. He had to remind himself of that sometimes when faced with his inability to heal them all. And Rocket wouldn’t even exist if not for his trauma. “Doesn’t make it right.”
“No,” she agreed softly.
The tape reached its end with a click, leaving them in relative silence. Peter brought his attention back to his blasters, letting his muscle memory take over the work of clearing each internal crevice so his mind could stay elsewhere. “Rocket’s really bent on taking down this research supply chain. I figured it was just his way of fighting his demons, but I kind of wonder if he doesn’t want what happened to him to happen to anyone else.” He snapped the last piece of the first blaster back in place. “I know, that doesn’t sound like Rocket. It’s only a theory.”
While they had been talking, Gamora had finished cleaning all of her own weapons, and was moving on to one that none of them claimed individually, a large paralysis-bomb launcher. “Who am I to say it doesn’t sound like Rocket? He’s not the raccoon we met on Xandar.”
“Yeah,” said Peter, and all of a sudden felt a smile coming on. “Yeah. He’s gonna be alright.”
The intercom crackled, loudly enough that both of them jumped in their seats. “QUILL!” came Rocket’s angry voice. “Did you move units outta my account? Ya think I wouldn’t notice?”
Peter tapped the button on the table to respond. “I only took what you owed me, dude.”
“I didn’t owe you nothin’!”
“Nice try. See, this is why I manage the money. Over and out!” He switched off the intercom, cutting out Rocket’s furious sputtering.
Gamora looked like she wasn’t sure if she wanted to know the answer to the question she was about to ask: “What did he owe you for?”
“Bag of crispitoes.” Peter struck a pose with his newly cleaned blaster. “Nobody steals from Star-Lord.”