Characters: Rocket and the team, no pairings.
Notes: I kind of intended to forget about this as soon as I wrote it, but I guess I still like archiving everything here. This one's short and fluffy and was written for a prompt that sounds mostly like the title but not entirely.
Crouched with Quill behind the fallen ship’s slice of hull, Rocket could make out the sounds of at least six different kinds of weapons being fired around them. He was all for variation in gun type, but only when he was the one using them: this many enemies with this many battle skills added up to the kinds of odds he didn’t like.
“Drone strike protocol is gonna get us out of this,” Quill said in the near-shout that still counted as a whisper when there was so much noise around them. “All I need is to get to that base. Door’s wide open but there’s no cover.”
Rocket grabbed the holo-map from Quill’s hand and examined it. The gap between their hiding spot and the base could probably be crossed in less than a minute, but as Quill had noted, it was in an incredibly vulnerable area. “I’m gonna go,” Rocket decided.
Quill looked genuinely surprised. “No, you stay here and get ready to fly once I clear the field.”
“This has a fifty-fifty chance of survival, Quill.”
“That’s why I’m doing it. Captain’s gotta put himself on the line sometimes.”
Rocket shook his head. “Screw that. I can get the drones out faster and I’m a smaller target. This one’s my job.”
Quill put his mask up, apparently to show he meant business. “I order you--”
“Screw that, too.” Rocket ran, trusting Quill to be too slow to stop him and too smart to go after him.
He kept low to the ground, stopping only once when there was a rock large enough to cover him on one side, and aside from that, moving as fast as he ever had in his life. He made it with no harm greater than a patch of fur torn out, and had the drone strike launching before he had caught his breath.
The reunion with the team had an edge of surreality to it, which made him realize for the first time that he hadn’t been sure if he would ever see them again. Quill came striding right over to him, dropped to his knees, and hugged him.
“Come on,” Rocket protested, his voice quavering. “What’s this about?”
“You saved us. All of us are alive right now because of you. Because you’re the bravest, coolest, most badass person in the universe. And tonight we’re going to drink to you and play all your favorite tunes and if you want to blow something up we’re gonna do that too, I swear, Rocket, anything you want, you deserve it.”
Rocket had made the dash because he didn’t want anyone else to die. It had never occurred to him that they might be grateful for it. Tentatively, but sincerely, he hugged back.
“It’s just one day,” Rocket had said. “He ain’t even gonna know I’m gone.” And indeed, Groot had continued running circles around everyone’s legs, barely even looking up when he was urged to say bye-bye. Rocket was amused but resigned when he got into the pod with his backpack and rare part shopping list.
It was the first time they had been separated overnight, but Peter was more concerned for Rocket’s emotional state than he was for Groot’s. The little tree went on wreaking havoc as usual, kicking it up a notch since his strictest parent was absent, fraying everyone’s nerves until they were asking each other by the hour how long it would be until Rocket was back.
Peter was there to greet him when the pod returned to the ship. “How’d it go?” was the first thing that Rocket said as he accepted Peter’s hand for a boost out of the pod. “Groot didn’t even notice, right?”
“Well, he--” Peter began, and was instantly interrupted by a high-pitched yell coming from close to the floor.
“I am Groooooooot!” He was running at his top speed, and as soon as he got close, he positively launched himself at Rocket and clung tight to his clothes and fur, pressing his tiny face into the raccoon’s chest.
Rocket didn’t seem to know what to think. He returned the hug, a little gingerly, looking down with soft eyes. “Hey, Groot.”
Peter had to smile. “I’d say he noticed.”
Mantis’s eyes followed Rocket as he crossed the medical bay, and her antennae followed the path of her eyes. He climbed up a shelf and pushed a few supplies around until he found the one he wanted, and only then, still hanging by one arm from the shelf, did he turn around and snap at her, “What are you lookin’ at? I got the same right to some opitabs as anyone else.”
“Yes,” she replied evenly. “But they will only help with the pain in your body.”
He let go of the shelf and jumped to the floor. “That’s what opitabs are for.”
“You have pain in your heart, too.”
Mantis approached him with her hands folded demurely at her waist. “If I touch you, I will feel your pain too.”
He froze, as if in sudden fear, in the middle of unscrewing the bottle’s cap. “The hell would be the point of that? Then we’d just both be hurting.”
“Rocket, let me touch you.”
Eventually he said yes. For half the night they sat together, touching, not speaking. As morning approached, Rocket let out a shuddering breath and admitted it: “That did help.”
The bomb went off - to admittedly glorious effect - a few seconds before anyone caught sight of Rocket again. A sigh of relief rippled through the other Guardians as they spotted him scaling down the scaffold against the hull of the derelict ship: he must have kicked the device away from himself in midair. There was a chance he had even done the whole thing intentionally.
From the way he swaggered back to them, grinning, it was clear he at least wanted them to think it had been intentional. “Hey losers, how ‘bout a round of applause for my explosion-fu?” he boasted, but neither he nor anyone else had a chance to say more before Gamora stalked over, bent down, and grabbed him by the ear.
Rocket snarled, his entire demeanor changing instantly, but he hadn’t recovered from the shock that she would actually do this, and he didn’t try to fight back. Likewise unable to intervene, the others stood still and watched in awe.
“You listen to me,” uttered the most dangerous woman in the galaxy. “You do not go tempting fate like that when there are people who need you. When you nearly get yourself killed right before our eyes, that’s not a cool stunt, it’s not funny, it’s not brave. Don’t ever do it again.”
For another second they just stared at each other, and then Rocket pulled his ear away, and Gamora let him. His voice was sullen. “You don’t gotta be so dramatic...”
“There are people who need you,” she repeated firmly, then added, “and I was scared.”
Scared. Gamora, Daughter of Thanos, scared of losing him. He rubbed at his ear, dropped his scowl, and nodded.
It wasn’t true that Drax was a master of stealth, but he did have a light footfall, so when Rocket heard him stomping into the control room, he not only knew who it was but knew that he was in a temper. “What are you doin’ in here?” Rocket asked from where he sat with his heels up on the console.
“I’m angry!” Drax announced.
“Yeah, but what are you doin’ in here?”
“The others told me to leave the cabin. It made me angry.”
Rocket flicked open the camera on the cabin. Gamora, Peter, and Mantis were all standing over the table, and it looked like they were arguing over some broken object. “What did you do?” asked Rocket. He squinted at the screen. “Is that the microwave? You broke the microwave?”
When he turned to look at Drax, the big man was frowning deeply, his arms crossed. “Yes.” He paused, then blurted out, “I was angry!”
“Cool it, Snacks Destroyer. I fixed the thing like fifty times already, this ain’t gonna be what does it in for good.” Grinning, Rocket reached down to open a hidden panel of controls. “In the meantime, I bet this’ll cheer you up.”
He entered a command and twisted a lever, and then pointed at the cabin screen. As he and Drax watched, Groot began to slowly float up and off Mantis’s shoulder. No sooner had Peter noticed it than the broken microwave went up before his eyes.
Just as Rocket had anticipated, Drax let out a loud roar of laughter and stated the obvious: “You lowered their gravity!”
Rocket responded with a giggle of his own, and turned the lever a little more. Mantis was first off the ground, then Gamora. Peter flailed wildly as he went up, trying to grab onto something and managing only to get the tabletop, accidentally turning himself upside down.
After a few more minutes - okay, almost an hour - of pranking the rest of the team, Drax let out a few more chuckles and then a sigh. His voice became much more serious. “Today has been...difficult.” When he met Rocket’s eyes, he was no longer laughing, but definitely not angry. “Thank you, Rocket.”
Peter kicked back in his chair and put his feet up on the table. This wasn’t the kind of port that had many good pubs, and this particular pub wasn’t one of their better ones. His beer was overpriced and weak. About the only advantage the place had was that they wouldn’t stop him from putting his feet up on the table. That, and the lack of other patrons.
Soon after his first sip, though, a familiar face appeared across the way. He raised his hand to Rocket, who cautiously raised his own and approached Peter’s table.
“What brought you here?” Peter asked. “If someone recommended it, they don’t have your best interests at heart.”
“Nah.” Rocket took a seat, although he had been hesitating until Peter motioned at the chair. “I was lookin’ for you.”
That didn’t quite seem to add up, either. “And this is where you started? That’s a hell of a lucky guess.”
Rocket shrugged. “Followed your scent. You weren’t with a girl, and you didn’t say you were gonna meet someone, so I figured you were alone and maybe someone oughta check and make sure you wanted to be.”
Peter put down his beer bottle and stared. After another moment he shook himself out of his reverie and called out to the bar for another beer, then looked back at Rocket and asked, “You can track someone walking just by scent? All the way from the ship?”
“It ain’t that reliable. I just know yours pretty well, so...anyway, if you do wanna be alone…”
“No, stay. I was cranky all day so I thought it would be better for everyone if I wasn’t there to yell at you.”
Rocket’s beer arrived, and he sniffed at it, his ears moving restlessly until the waiter left. “I don’t mind,” he remarked. “If you’re cranky, I mean.”
There was a pause as Peter tried to work out what was beneath Rocket’s words. “You’re not worried about me, are you? I was a little bit down, had too much on my mind, but I’m okay, I swear.”
“I know.” Rocket’s gaze was unfocused, but Peter could see his tail swishing nervously under his chair. “It’s not for you. I was...well, there’s these times when you ain’t there and it kinda reminds me of how I had this whole first part of my life when you weren’t there, and...and it sucked. So now I wanna...not be like that again.”
Very gradually, a smile was forming on Peter’s face. “Rocket, are you trying to say you missed me?”
“No!” Rocket shot back, and then barely let a beat go by before saying, “Yes.”
Peter’s smile broadened. “So, you like me?”
“Whatever. It’s stupid, I know. You’re stupid.”
“But you like me!”
Rocket rolled his eyes dramatically. “God knows why.”
Taking a triumphant swig of his lousy beer, Peter wondered where his bad mood had gone. Knowing that someone had noticed his absence, started missing him after barely an hour, and made the remarkable effort to find him, he couldn’t feel anything but loved. “Hey, Rocket. Real talk. Next time I want to be alone, do you want to come be alone with me?”
Instantly sharp to negotiate, Rocket narrowed his eyes and replied, “This go both ways?”
“Yeah, but you gotta keep in mind I can’t smell my way to you, so speak up about it if you’re lonely.”
“Fine. One more condition and you got a deal.”
Peter grinned. “Hit me.”
Rocket reached across the table and grabbed his hand, dragging it over to himself by the pinky finger. “Pet me, stupid.”