Okay so actually I was posting because I had a couple GotG one-shots in storage and I wanted to have something to post. Not sure if anyone here is still reading for this fandom and this one wasn't that popular on Ao3 but here you go. It's about Yondu.
Title: Nock, Draw, Release
Fandom: Guardians of the Galaxy
Summary: Yondu has a fin and an arrow and he once had a family; this is how he got them.
Every morning he would touch his scalp and feel that the crest had grown in a little more. He didn’t know how old he was, but he instinctively understood that this was a coming of age for males of his kind. He walked a little taller among the other slave boys in the Nest, flaunting the crimson flash on his head.
“Don’t get used to that fin there, little fish,” cackled a caretaker when she noticed.
Yondu scowled. The caretakers were Kree property too, all of them women too old to fight or too ugly to serve as concubines. They kept their charges fit and healthy but deflected any attempt at filial affection. “What’s that s’posed to mean?” he challenged her.
“They tear ‘em out, make room for th’ implant.” She tapped the back of her neck, where her own implant gleamed unnaturally. “Otherwise it goes here, but your kind, they’ll stick it up top for sure.” She laughed again and heaved a huge cooking pot onto the wash rack. “Gonna tear that fishy fin right offa ya.”
The caretakers were the only adult slaves that Yondu had ever seen. When a boy reached a certain age, he vanished from the Nest. The old woman might have been lying. She might not have even known the truth.
He lay facedown, bound by straps he could have broken if he tried. He would not try. The surgeons barely seemed to pay any attention to him, but they would notice signs of weakness, and they would remember.
Nobody had told him anything about what was going on, so he had tried to piece it together from their commands, and what they said to each other over his back. The crest was coming out, that much was clear. It didn’t take a genius to see that it would be replaced by an implant. He had never learned what the implants were really for, though. The caretakers never said anything about the function of theirs.
The first incision came suddenly, but it was nothing compared to the pain that followed. Yondu put all of his strength into resisting the urge to scream. He hadn’t screamed since he was a tiny child, had forgotten how it even felt to want to, but he never would have imagined how a tendon severed at the back of his head could send such agony throughout his entire nervous system.
His vision went black and he tried desperately to get it back, knowing that passing out would be worse than screaming. He mentally recited every creed and song and fact he had ever been taught. It was little enough, but by the time he finished, he could see again and the gash on his head was being fitted with a set of adjoining hard plates.
“Stand up,” ordered the overseer not much later.
Yondu did, vaguely surprised that he was even able.
“Tell the truth about how you feel,” said the overseer. Yondu noticed for the first time that he was holding a short rod with a blinking red light at the end. That was somehow significant; he was sure of it.
He meant to give the standard answer: “Able and ready.” The right answer to any question about his own feelings was always “Able and ready.”
Instead, he found himself responding, “Hurts all over.”
The overseer should have doled out a punishment right then and there, but he simply said, “Implant functioning,” tapped his device, and moved on to the next station in the operating room.
The implant was the same color as his crest had been, but compact and smooth. Most of the time, he could forget it was there. Only during training, and then real combat, did the overseers activate their control rods and issue orders that had to be obeyed.
Yondu knew where disobedience could land him, but he still wanted to test it. Every time he was lined up with the troops, he tried to anticipate the moment he would hear the command, thinking there must be a way to delay its effect, through a mental trick of some kind or maybe just sheer resistance. And every time, he was already carrying out his instructions by the time he realized he had missed another chance. He never managed even a second of hesitation.
After he had survived his first few battles, he lost his ability to differentiate between the implant’s compulsion and his own hunger for the fight. When the words “Kill them all!” cracked through the air, he was not being forced, but set free. He set a record kill count and beat it again and again. He let them know his worth.
Off the battlefield, commands were the ordinary kind, backed up only by the common sense of a slave who wanted a meal and a bed instead of a beating. Off the battlefield, nobody even cared what Yondu and the others did, as long as it wasn’t escaping. At least, that was what he had thought.
When they couldn’t fight the Kree’s enemies, they fought each other. No weapons were allowed to them off-duty, but fists could be enough to end a life. Yondu had proven that already, and now he was eager to face off against the only other fighter who had done the same: a hulking A’askvariian, ten years his senior.
“Udonta,” the man hissed.
“Blugfoul,” Yondu replied, a deliberate mispronunciation of a name he had never mastered anyhow.
The insult made his opponent screech and leap at him, and then they were both on their knees howling in pain, and the next thing Yondu knew, he was waking up alone on the same spot on the ground.
He took a few lessons from that. First, the implant could not only control his mind, but remotely disable him. Second, the overseers did, sometimes, care if he amused himself with a fight, at least one as dangerous as this one would have been.
Third, he really had proven his value.
Every morning he would wake up and touch his crest. It never changed. He kept thinking there ought to be some external sign of his freedom, but the hard red implant attached to his brain was still there. Stakar had explained that they couldn’t tear it out without damaging his mind, but they could make some changes to it if that was what Yondu wanted.
Yondu didn’t know what he wanted. He had watched Stakar kill the overseer who held his controller, and that meant that nobody was his overseer. Then Stakar picked it up, looking right at Yondu, so Stakar was his overseer. Then Stakar handed it to him. And then Yondu was holding his own controller.
He had felt nothing when he destroyed it, so it was still hard to trust that his chains had truly been broken. With that implant on his head, some Kree slaver might still claim him one day, and he wouldn’t know it until he was their belonging again. No change he could make to the style of the crest would convince him that it wasn’t there to make him do someone else’s bidding.
They were talking about him one day when he made his way through the ship where they lived, moving warily because he knew he couldn’t kill them all if it came to that. Aleta saw him first and beckoned while addressing the others, a sly smile on her lips. “Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
“Ask me what?” Yondu demanded.
Stakar waved him over with the impatience of someone who had been waiting all day. “Can you whistle, boy?”
Instead of asking why the hell they wanted to know, Yondu couldn’t help showing off. Music was the only kind of painless entertainment allowed to a battle slave, and whistling was the only kind of music that Yondu could make on his own. He gave them a complete melody, something playful and a little bit sad that he had invented years ago, and he did it perfectly.
“That seals it,” said Aleta as all of the Ravagers made sounds of admiration. “The arrow’s his.”
Charlie brought it out, a long narrow red pointed rod of unsurpassable beauty. Yondu felt something powerful come over him as he looked at it.
“Yaka arrow. Found it just before we found you,” Stakar explained. He chuckled. “Best day o’ lootin’ we had in a long while.”
Aleta strolled over to stand beside Yondu. “Takes an implant to make it hear you whistle for it, but Krugarr can get it calibrated to yours right easy, wouldn’t you say so, Krugarr?”
A series of shapes appeared in front of the silent creature’s hands, concentric circles and twirling arrows that Yondu didn’t understand at all. “He says yeah,” translated Stakar. “So how about it, boy?”
Yondu looked again, making no move to touch it. He imagined everything it could do, guided by his heart. With the arrow...if it came to that...he could kill everyone in here.
When he looked back at Stakar, he was sneering. “You’re givin’ me a weapon? Stupid old coot.”
Somehow, even after that, the next day they had him lie down in the infirmary. Krugarr’s hands danced over him, and the arrow never left his field of vision. At the end, he saw it glow.
His new fin was tall and proud. He whistled one high clear note, and the Yaka arrow flew into his hand like it was a part of him that could fly free but would always come home. He was in control. He owned himself.