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Guardians of the Galaxy fic: Little Boy Lost (1/1)

October 22nd, 2014 (08:33 pm)
indescribable

feeling: indescribable

Title: Little Boy Lost

Disclaimer: I do not own Guardians of the Galaxy.

A/N: Fills my prompt for lost childhood on hc_bingo. You can see my card here. Beta thanks to sockie1000. Set pretty soon after the movie with plenty of h/c and overly sentimental team bonding.

Summary: Peter’s been living a lost childhood long enough.



-o-

As an intergalactic hero, Star-Lord admittedly feels pretty damn good about himself. His criminal record has been expunged. He’s duped the worst would-be father figure in the galaxy. He has his ship and his crew and a whole new tape of tunes. He also helped saved the galaxy.

All things considered, that’s sort of a big deal.

Peter Quill’s never had much to be proud of, but he sure as hell can be proud of that. It’s a bigger rush that breaking into a highly secure private area. It’s more of a kick in the pants than successfully evading law enforcement officials. It even feels better than picking up the hottest girls…

Well, no, nothing feels better than that.

But still. Star-Lord’s riding pretty damn high, and Peter feels good.

Except, of course, for the sneezing and the coughing. And the aches and the pains and the nonstop vomiting.

“Shit,” he says, wiping his face and sitting up from his latrine. His stomach roils again, and he flops back over toward the bowl. “Shit.

-o-

When he makes it to the cockpit, he sort of wishes he hadn’t. He’s exhausted by the effort, and he’s thrown up three times along the way. He’s not particularly happy about that.

No one is going to be happy about that.

Still, it’s his ship. It sort of feels like he should make an appearance. It’s hard to think about, but he’s actually the most responsible one on board.

Though honestly, his decision making has never been all that great, and with the fever he’s pretty sure he’s got, he actually can’t remember why he decided to come this far in the first place. He can only assume it’s because he’s used to doing things alone. Even when part of Yondu’s crew, he’d been fending for himself. Sure, they could be kind of fun, and Peter wasn’t that picky about company, but considering that they did abduct him from Earth and threaten to eat him for over a year, he never did quite learn to trust them.

No, ever since the night his mother died, Peter’s counted on basically no one but himself -- and even he knew how unreliable that actually was.

Not that any such thought process matters because he forgets it all anyway when he promptly throws up all over the deck.

“Man, gross!” Rocket squeals from the pilot’s chair. “Can’t you do that someplace else? Like, you know, not in this ship?”

Peter swallows back another volley and manages to slide gracelessly to the ground by leaning against a bulkhead. It’s pretty pathetic, but considering how he wants to faceplant on the ground, he thinks it’s actually pretty impressive. “That’s my bad, really,” he says.

“You think?” Rocket asks snidely. “It sure as hell isn’t my fault. You’re going to clean that up, right?”

“Oh, yeah,” Peter assures him with a nod. “Right after I--”

He cuts off to throw up again, hitting the ground on his hands and knees as his intense hurling drowns out the sound of Rocket’s more colorful profanities.

When he’s done, he collapses face first on the ground, breathing heavily and too exhausted to move.

“Damn it, damn it, damn it,” Rocket hisses, his small feet coming into view. “You’re sick, aren’t you?”

Peter tries to lift up his thumb for a thumbs up. He smears it in the vomit instead.

Rocket swears again, his furry brows drawn together in consternation. “Then why the hell are you even out of bed?”

“Well, it’s my ship,” Peter says, or tries to say. The words come out funny as his visions starts to blur.

“A ship doesn’t do you any good if you’re dead,” Rocket says. “And if you think I’m going to drag your germ infested body back to your quarters, then you’ve got another thing coming. It’s disgusting and unsanitary and entirely unnecessary. You have to have standards, asshole. Standards, as in I-can’t-stand-the-living-conditions-on-this-god-forsaken-ship--”

Peter nods and opens his mouth to apologize. He’s seized with a stomach cramp instead, which shakes him so badly that he actually convulses. Despite his best efforts, which admittedly aren’t very good at this point, he heaves with such force that he thinks his entire stomach might come up, and he tastes something acidic and acrid burning up his throat as red puddles on the floor in front of him.

“Oh, shit,” Rocket says. “Quill -- Peter--

Peter tries to smile, but quite frankly, he’s too busy passing out to get very far on that one.

Or, really, anything at all.

-o-

Unconsciousness is all well and good -- and Peter’s spent more than his share of time that way -- but waking up is a bitch.

Especially when there’s an oversized maniac staring intently inches away from your face.

Peter startles, trying to pull away. It’s an action he immediately regrets as the entire world spins and dips so badly that he very nearly passes out all over again.

When his vision clears, Drax is still sitting there, far too close for comfort.

Peter moves more slowly, inching himself back until he’s leaned against the bulkhead. Gingerly, though, because everything hurts. His head hurts; his stomach hurts; his lungs hurt; his brain hurts. “Hey, man, you know it’s creepy to watch people sleep,” he says, and even his tongue hurts.

“You were unconscious,” Drax supplies unhelpfully.

“Yeah, that doesn’t make it any less creepy,” Peter manages, holding his arm protectively over his stomach because of everything that hurts, that one hurts the most.

“I believe your forceful vomiting has frightened Rocket,” Drax says. “He made an excessively raucous scene until I arrived here and promised to watch over you until his imminent return.”

Peter frowns, glancing around. He’s still in the cockpit, but Rocket is gone. He absently hopes someone put the autopilot on to somewhere good because they’re still moving at a pretty good clip. He also hopes that the Nova Corps took the time to upgrade his collision sensors since basically they hadn’t worked before and if no one is manning the control, they could very well collide with, well, anything.

“He said you were feeling under the weather,” Drax continues. “Since this is an artificial atmosphere, am I correct in assuming that is a figure of speech?”

“Yeah, buddy, that’s just something people say,” Peter mumbles, trying to take a deep breath and failing. Badly. His vision is still gauzy around the edges, and he can actually feel every beat of his heart as his blood pounds in his ears.

“What kind of weather are they referring to?” Drax asks.

“Bad weather,” Peter says with a wince. His stomach gurgles, and he catches himself with a sneeze. Snot gets clogged in his throat, which leaves him hacking for a long moment. His eyes are wet and he’s wheezing when he continues, “Very, very bad.”

“As in a thunderstorm?” Drax asks. “Or is it perhaps more severe? There are typhoons on my home world. Are you under the typhoon?

Peter squints up at him, but Drax is serious. Of course, Drax is always serious. “What?” Peter asks because he’s too sick to deal with this crap.

“The typhoon,” Drax says, with a plaintive nod. “Would that be an appropriate figure of speech?”

“That’s nonsense, man,” Peter says, shaking his head. His breathing is growing shorter, and his mouth is starting to water. “That’s just, I don’t know, gibberish.”

Drax looks upset by this. “It is your figure of speech, not mine,” he says.

“But you’re using it all wrong,” Peter tries to correct. “It’s not that literal, and when you go into it like that, no one knows what the hell you’re talking about.”

“Well, I never know what of this so-called gibberish you are conversing about, but I still endeavor to be polite,” Drax tells him crossly. “I find your unabashed candor to be rude and culturally insensitive.”

“Insensitive?” Peter asks. “I’m sick, man. I think I’m really sick--”

As if to prove his point, he coughs again, hacking so hard that he starts to vomit. He pitches forward, ready to faceplant on the ground again, when Drax catches him. The arms are strong and steady, and even though it’s more than a little awkward, Peter realizes that this time he’s not going to fall.

Not for the first time since he was a kid running out of a hospital room.

He’s not going to fall again.

-o-

At first, he’s glad to be back in his bed.

However, when he realizes how terrible he feels, he also realizes he didn’t get here on his own. And, no matter how he tries to think about that, that’s just more than a little unfortunate and so not how he wants things to go.

Groaning, he tries to flop on his side in abject misery. He’s only half successful, and he ends up coughing for his trouble.

“You really are an overgrown child, you know that?” Gamora snaps at him.

Peter opens his eyes to slits, not sure if he wants to be hallucinating or not. “Heard that one before,” he mumbles finally when his eyes fail to focus on anything more than a green blob.

The green blob gets to her feet and approaches until she looks a little less like a blob. Still green, though. And angry. Really, really angry.

“And that doesn’t bother you?”

“Eh,” he says. “I grew up without a dad, and then my mom died before I had a chance to say goodbye. Before I could even cope with that, I was literally abducted by aliens.”

“My planet was slaughtered, and I was taken by force to be raised by my enemy,” Gamora seethes.

Peter considers that. “I got to be honest,” he says. “I usually win the crappy childhood contest.”

“My point is that it’s no excuse,” she says, stepping close enough that he can actually make out her face more clearly. “You take on the cause of the entire galaxy, and yet you don’t even take care of yourself!”

“Whoa, there,” Peter says. “I’m fine--”

Which is, of course, when he sneezes and coughs for about five minutes.

That’s not an exaggeration.

Five minutes.

When he’s done, he lays miserably against his pillow. “--or, you know,” he croaks. “Fine-ish.”

“You are not fine,” she says. “Coughing, congestion and nausea. I can only assume there are muscle aches and weakness.”

“Dizziness and fever, too,” Peter supplies as helpfully as he can, wincing against another shudder of pain along his spine.

“A high fever,” she says, a little softer now. “Too high. And you are vomiting blood.

Peter makes a face. “That’s bad, right?” he asks. “I got to think that’s bad.”

“Of course it’s bad!” Gamora snaps at him. She shakes her head as if in disbelief as she paces away from him. “These symptoms -- they’re severe.”

Peter props himself up a bit at that. Because: “Severe?”

She turns back toward him, and the look on her face is inscrutable.

Or his vision could just be failing. Again.

Nonetheless, his stomach bottoms out. This time he’s pretty sure it’s not the illness. “Like, how severe are we talking about here?”

“Given the rapid onset of the symptoms and...colorful vomit, I think it’s a strain of the Kree Flu,” she says. “Relatively harmless to natives, but when other species are exposed…”

His frown deepens. “What?” he asks. “What happens when other species are exposed?”

Gamora sighs, the anger giving way to what Peter can only see as outright worry.

His head goes lighter than before. He sinks back down as his fingers start to tingle.

She’s worried.

One of the scariest assassins in the galaxy, raised by a madman, and she’s worried.

He swears. “I’m dying?”

“The mortality rate in most species is almost 80 percent,” she says. “For Terrans, it’s hard to say, but since you’re only half Terran, it might give you better odds.”

“Or worse odds!” he says, inhaling sharply against the pressure in his chest. He shakes his head. “I can’t be dying! I just survived touching an infinity stone, and I’m dying from the flu!”

Gamora crosses the distance toward him, settling down on the bed next to him. Her fingers locked around his own. “The percentages are just that -- percentages,” she says. “I’ve seen you save the galaxy with only 12 percent of a plan.”

“Sure,” he says, blinking rapidly in a vain attempt to clear his vision. It only makes things worse, because now he’s dizzy and has a headache. “But you guys came up with the rest.”

Her fingers tighten around his, and a tight smile pulls at her lips. “My point exactly.”

His energy is fading, and his nausea is swelling again. If there’s something he knows, it’s how to lose a fight. And this is one is getting away from him.

Hell, it’s probably been out of his hands since he woke up puking.

“You’ll stay?” he asks, unable to keep the tremor from his voice. “No matter what?”

“Peter,” she says. “Where else would I go?”

“Well, I don’t know,” he says. “Someplace away from the sick and probably contagious person you barely know.”

“I know you well enough,” she says. “Besides, I had the Kree Flu when I was a child.”

Peter strains to sit up a little, struggling to breathe against the constriction in his chest. “Oh, yeah?” he asks, daring to be hopeful even as his stomach churns painfully. “And you survived it fine?”

“It was the most excruciating five days of my life,” she tells him soberly. “The pain will increase. You will get weaker. You will vomit until the lining of your stomach comes loose and your bowels are dried. You will feel like your body is on fire, and you will wish vehemently for death before it is over.”

His brow creases. “I’m not sure that’s really the best pep talk I’ve ever heard,” he admits, breath catching on a cough.

“But I survived,” she tells him earnestly. “And so will you.”

Peter’s not sure if he believes her, or if any of this is reassuring or terrifying or both, but really, there’s no time to think about that.

Not when the room is spinning and his heart is pounding and his stomach is turning itself inside out and Gamora tips him over a trashcan and everything goes dark.

-o-

The universe is full of dark places. The space between the stars is vast, and Peter’s lost himself between more than a few. It’s easy to get lost.

It’s much harder to be found.

He sleeps and wakes; he eats and vomits. Mostly, though, the darkness burns through him.

“His fever is rising. We need more cool towels.”

“This is a freakin’ spaceship, and not a very good one. We’re out of towels.”

“I can do another load of laundry, but I am afraid the process will be quite slow--”

“Then give me a dirty one, okay? I just -- he needs…”

“I know, I know, I know.”

“I will make haste.”

“Come on, Peter. Come on.

Peter groans, struggling to open up his eyes to the light--

-o-

And, suddenly, Peter’s five years old again. He squints up, wrinkling his nose as the lamplight blinds him.

Sound from the television distracts him, though, and he turns a listless head to the side, scratching absently at an itch on his face.

And then his neck and his shoulders and his chest and his arms and holy hell--

It’s the chicken pox.

He remembers this somehow, like the fragment of another life. He’s just started kindergarten, no more than two months ago. A few other kids had caught it, and bad things always seem inevitable to Peter. At first, he’d liked the fact that he got to miss school, and playing connect the dots on his own stomach is kind of cool.

But then the fever rises.

And man, he feels bad.

The itching doesn’t stop, and his head is killing him. He’s not suppose to throw up, but Peter’s not one to do things the easy way.

Something shifts, and he’s drawn up. His head presses against something feminine, and his mom turns the channel to cartoons. She turns the volume down low, letting the soft glow of the screen numb the rest of his senses.

For a while, he lays like this, curled up against her on the couch. He feels horrible, but it’s kind of nice this way. Tucked against his mom, he believes everything might be okay. Things are bad, but they could be worse. He’d stay like this forever, honestly, if he could.

“Easy, Peter,” his mother soothes. “Easy.”

Something furry brushes against his face.

Peter frowns. “Did we get a dog?” he asks.

“A dog?” is the indignant reply. “A mangy mutt? Son of a bitch! That’s almost worse than being called a rodent.”

Peter shakes his head when he realizes he can’t see anything around the large gray mound in front of the television. “And we really need to redecorate,” he says. “That pattern clashes with the sofa.”

“I apologize, but my appearance is something I cannot change,” is the answer. “I would have to seriously consider the depth of our friendship before even judging that to be a worthwhile request and not an outright insult.”

“Um, sure,” Peter says. He makes a face when the house plants start to dance. “I’m pretty sure that’s not suppose to happen.”

His mother sighs, and a green hand tips water up to his lips. “Drink this.”

“Whoaaa,” Peter says. “Mom?”

He looks up, as if for the first time. His mother is oddly green. And younger. And way more angry.

And kind of hot.

His mother’s not supposed to be hot.

This is his mother.

This is his family.

This is…

“You’re not my mom,” he realizes dimly, but he’s not sure if he believes it or not.

She levels him with a steady, nonplussed glare. “Drink this,” she says again, lifting the water again.

This time, he obeys, the cold water trickling down his throat.

She pulls it away, smiling slightly. “And one more thing.”

“Sure, Mom,” he says, smiling back stupidly. “Anything.”

She rolls her eyes. “Try not to throw up.”

Peter is nodding his agreement.

Which is when his stomach turns.

The furball swears. The gray mass holds out a trashcan. The dancing plant shivers. The hot green woman holds him to the side as Peter throws up again.

-o-

He closes his eyes.

His heart hammers in his chest.

He’s dying, he’s dying, he’s dying.

“He needs fluids.”

“I brought you all the water we have on this piece of flying crap.”

“Perhaps there is medical equipment--”

“That none of us know how to use, genius.”

“We need to do something.

“But what?”

And that’s the question, isn’t it.

That’s always the question.

With a strained breath in, Peter opens his eyes and hopes like hell for the best.

-o-

Not the best, but maybe not the worst.

This time, Peter’s fifteen. At least, that’s his best guess. Time gets sort of haywire after he leaves Earth, and it’s not like a ragtag crew of thieving bastards is all that set on helping him keep track of how old he is.

All of which is to say, he’s not old enough to do this stuff on his own, but he’s old enough to wish he could. And damn it all if he doesn’t remember this. He should be learning to drive, but he’s scavenging an abandoned ship. That’s not the bad part, though. No, that’s just sort of to be expected in his life.

The bad part is that this kind of thing is never safe, and Peter’s never really that careful, and he’s fifteen and full of hormones and he wants to drive and have sex and instead he’s sifting through garbage.

In his self pity, he pulls harder on a panel than he should to see if there are any wires left to salvage, and he doesn’t catch himself in time when it slips loose in his grasp. He stumbles, falling backward against one of the dilapidated bulkheads. The exposed edge is sharp, and it cuts right through Peter’s jacket, slicing up through his skin so fast and so deep that Peter doesn’t even have a chance to cry out.

Instead, he sits there, staring dumbly down as the blood spills out, staining everything red.

Blinking, the color drains from his face, and he realizes dimly that he needs to do something or he’s going to bleed to death.

It’s one thing to be stuck here when he wants to be driving and having sex; it’s another thing to die before he ever gets the chance. Peter wants that chance.

Grimacing, he shrugs out of his jacket and wads it up against the wound, tying it off like a makeshift bandage. He hoists what he can of his haul over his shoulder and makes his way back to Yondu’s ship. He’s lightheaded and embarrassed as hell when he gets there, but he’s not a complete idiot.

Peter Quill has never had a deathwish.

Yondu is pissed, but he takes a look at the blood and at least gives Peter space to suffer in silence. Hell, the man shows enough concern to find a clean bandage before he closes Peter in his room to recover until their next job.

And he has to be ready for the next job, Yondu makes it very clear, or a cut on his arm will be the least of his concerns.

Peter has every intention of complying to these terms, but apparently open, poorly treated wounds can and quite often do get infected, and within a week, he’s burning with fever.

It takes two days before anyone realizes he can’t get out of his room, and even then, his help is a little wanting. Yondu sends meals to his room, but when it’s clear that Peter’s in no shape to eat them, he grumbles his way next to the bed and shoves the spoon into Peter’s mouth. He half chokes on the watery broth, almost crying when he’s forced to swallow, and Yondu sits back with a grunt.

“No dying, boy,” he says. “That’d be pretty damn stupid.”

“I’m sorry,” Peter slurs. Because he hates it here, but this is home. This is family. This is all he has, and the more he hates it, the more he can’t let it go because the galaxy’s so damn big and he’s so damn small. “Didn’t mean…”

Yondu sighs. “I know, I know,” he mutters. His face is tight and pinched in that way where he cares just a little and even that is more than he wants to admit. Yondu’s almost a complete dickwad, but not quite. “Just makes me think I should have let them eat you after all. Would have been easier.”

“Easier,” Peter murmurs in agreement. So much easier. He wonders if it’d be better compared to growing up like this, to just not grow up at all.

“There’s nothing easy about this,” a feminine voice intones.

“I’ve had an easier time breaking out of prison,” someone else snarls.

“I do not believe Quill is entirely within his right mind,” a deep voice rumbles.

“Is he ever?”

Peter shakes his head. He takes a breath and promptly chokes on it. He spasms as he tries to cough, and Yondu curses as his chair scrapes back. He’s going to leave Peter to choke; he’s going to leave Peter to die.

But something green takes him by the shoulder. Something furry brushes across his head. And he’s enveloped in gray as he’s lifted up and up and…

-o-

Peter can’t be here. He can’t do this.

He can’t, he can’t, he can’t.

He squeezes his eyes shut until the tears burn against his lids, and he chokes and splutters, eyes open--

-o-

And Peter runs.

He doesn’t know where he is. He doesn’t know why he’s there. He just knows he has to leave.

It’s instinct, really. Peter’s just that type of kid. When things get bad, he runs. When he gets in trouble at school, he runs. When he breaks his mother’s favorite cookie jar, he bolts. He runs from his teachers, his friends, his mother -- Peter just runs.

The thing is, it’s always worked. The only one who ever came looking for him was his mother, and ever since she died, no one bothered following him unless they wanted something. Unless they needed him for something. Peter’s worth was completely utilitarian, and he’d learned real fast that there’s a fine line between running for your life and staying put to live it.

It’s no way to grow up, of course, but Peter’s never really had that chance. He’s been the man of the house for as long as he can remember, which means he’s as much an adult as he is completely a child, and whenever that becomes a problem, well, he likes to run from that, too.

Because life is scary. Life is cruel and unfair. Life destroys your mother’s vitality and then lets you get abducted by aliens who, literally, want to eat you. In everything, Peter’s been running to stay alive, which is kind of a convenient way to run from actually being a person.

Peter can be a thief, and he can be a hero. He can be an overgrown child and a pain in the ass, but will he be more than that? Will his life amount to anything except a winding trail across the stars that no one cares enough to follow?

Sometimes Peter wants to stop. Sometimes he wants to stop everything, but he’s afraid that if he does, he’ll have to face the things he’s lost.

More than that, he’ll have to face the things he never had.

Peter just wants to be a kid, curled up on Saturday mornings, watching cartoons with his mom. He wants to blast the radio while they dance around the living room so loud that the neighbors pound on the wall. He wants to go to birthday parties and get stuck in detention at school. He wants to ask a girl to dance and then ask her to go to the parking lot later. He wants to drive a car and skip a class.

He wants to graduate high school and go to college and get a good job.

Peter wants to take someone’s hand and hold onto it, never afraid that he’ll be the last one to let go.

Peter wants to grow up.

But he can’t do it alone.

Then again, he thinks, maybe this time, he won’t have to.

-o-

Peter’s five and eight and twelve and fifteen. He’s twenty-three and three and everything in between. He’s on Earth and he’s skipping through the galaxy. He’s on an abandoned ship, and he’s walking home from school with his walkman blaring in his ears. He’s running from the law; he’s getting his ass kicked by Yondu; he’s watching TV at his grandfather’s house, waiting for his mother to die.

And he’s standing on a battleground, facing an enemy he has no hope in hell of beating. All bravado aside, he’s probably going to die here, but Peter doesn’t back down. He’s willing to give himself up, and when the power of the universe is surging through him and ripping him to pieces, he only has strength to make one last choice.

To take the outstretched hand.

Not to run. Not to do it alone.

But to stay. To be connected.

To grow up.

It’s the fate of the galaxy, but this time it’s more than that. This time, it’s his fate. This time, it’s his childhood. This time, it’s him.

He lives a lifetime in a moment, and sometimes it’s nothing short of hell. It’s pain and it’s loss; it’s fear and it’s regret.

And Peter’s instincts are still to run. To run so far and so fast that he never even has a chance to look back. That’d be easier, he thinks. A whole lot less scary.

But this time he stays.

This time.

He closes his eyes.

-o-

Gamora’s right about one thing: they are the worst five days of his life.

The congestion chokes him, and he the only way he gets any air at all is to gape like a fish. Even then, he nearly has to lift himself off the bed to take in desperate, heaving gulps of air. Of course, with that effort, the oxygen gets caught up in his throat until he has to cough it free, which just leaves him more breathless than before.

And the process starts all over again.

It’s horrible.

It’s like slowly drowning -- on dry land. Or, in outer space or whatever, which may not make any sense but really, the logistics are kind of a secondary concern when his lungs are heavy and wet and his throat grows raw and thick and he’s dying.

The aches grow worse, which is to say that it turns into a nonstop, unrelenting agony that is interspersed with soul-sucking, shooting pains that leave him curled up and whimpering. He starts to tremble at one point and just doesn’t stop, alternating between shivering and full out shaking so bad that he very well may be having a seizure.

But then, he could be imagining most of that since he’s actually on fire.

It’s probably the fever, he knows on some level, but it burns through him with an persistent intensity that strips him of whatever dignity he had left. His teeth chatter and his ears ring, and even the act of thinking leaves him utterly spent. He sleeps and wakes in turns, though there’s not much difference between the two. Sleep is a muted agony; wakefulness is a full-on assault.

On top of all that, he’s mostly delusional. While it is true that he’s lived in his own form of reality, carefully chosen for his own enjoyment and benefit, now he exists in degrees of hallucinations. Sometimes he’s aware enough to know that the hallucinations are, in fact, hallucinations. Other times, he’s just tripping and tripping until Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds seems like a gospel hymn.

The nausea, at least, ebbs and flows with greater periods. Of course, that’s probably because there’s not anything left to vomit, and he even seems to run out of blood. Every heave leaves him sobbing and breathless, and he begs anyone who will listen for some kind of reprieve.

There’s no reprieve.

For the love of all that is good and pure, there’s just no reprieve.

But Gamora presses a cool cloth to his head. Rocket brings a fresh trash can. Drax hums a lullaby that pulls him back to sleep.

Peter holds on, tighter than ever.

He knows they’ll all do the same.

-o-

When his fever breaks, Peter wakes up for real. He’s sort of aware that he’s been awake on and off, but this is the first time that he’s actually in full control of his faculties.

Or, as in control as he ever is.

At least, it’s the first time that he isn’t out of his mind. Or vomiting. Or out of his mind while vomiting. Or vomiting until he’s out of his mind.

Or some variation thereof.

But still. He’s awake.

He’s weak and he’s spent and he’s sore and he’s exhausted, but shit…

Did he really just spend the last five days thinking Gamora was his mom?

That’s just a little embarrassing, though he’s pretty sure Drax carrying him to the bathroom is even worse, and he feels like he probably needs to apologize to Rocket for trying to snuggle him like a stuffed animal.

He lifts his head, and looks around. He’s still in his room, at least, but he’s not alone.

He’s not even a little alone.

Drax is asleep, sitting up against the door. Rocket is curled up in a ball, snorting peacefully on Peter’s table. Gamora is tipped back in her chair by Peter’s side, looking a little paler shade of green than normal.

He’s not the only one who feels weak and spent and sore and exhausted, even if he’s pretty sure he’s the only one with the bad luck of catching the worst possible strain of Kree Flu imaginable.

On the table, Rocket snorts and snuffles back into sleep. That’s when Peter sees Baby Groot in the pot next to him. He’s smiling, waving a small tendril at Peter.

Peter waves back.

Baby Groot yawns and smacks his lips before closing his eyes and going back to sleep.

Peter looks at them, these unlikely heroes and unexpected friends.

This family.

They’re still here, and so is Peter.

That’s the best news Peter’s had in a long, long time.

Smiling, he drops his head back to the pillow and goes back to sleep.

Because, maybe for the first time ever, everything is finally okay.

-o-

When he wakes up again, he’s alone.

Only, not really.

Sure, there’s no one in his room, but honestly, that’s sort of how it should be. Given that it is his room. And one of the few advantages of having your own ship is not sharing sleeping quarters.

Still, there’s a cooling bowl of soup by the side of his bed. The room’s been picked up and cleaned -- it looks better than Peter ever remembers. The trashcan is pushed up close, but it’s also clean and mercifully empty. A pair of fresh clothes is folded on the chair. Everything is perfectly in place, waiting for him when he gets up.

It’s an implicit expectation -- that he’s going to get up.

After spending the better part of a week almost dying, there’s no room for doubt that he’s going to be fine.

Grinning, Peter sits up. His head spins and his vision gets hazy, but he doesn’t pass out. He’s still sore, but the ache has diminished from blinding to tolerable, and the low growl in his stomach is suspiciously like hunger.

Tentative, he reaches over and picks up the bowl. It’s a simple broth, but it tastes good.

It tastes really damn good.

Sitting on the bed, he looks around his room again.

It’s a strange thing, to trust in people.

But Peter Quill’s Star-Lord has somehow become an intergalactic hero, so stranger things have happened.

-o-

After he eats, he manages to get to his feet. He has to brace himself against the wall, and it takes him longer than he’ll admit to get dressed, but he feels pretty proud of himself for it all. Plus, he feels moderately human again. Or Terran, or whatever the hell he really is. That is a mystery for another day.

For today, he’ll settle for getting out of bed without falling on his face.

He waits for a few minutes to get his equilibrium before giving that one a go.

When he opens the door, he takes a steadying breath. The corridor has never seemed so long as he limps his way down it, shaky step after shaky step. It’s not easy, but by the time he reaches the cockpit, he feels like he’s starting to find his footing.

Which is good, but apparently not necessary.

Everything is in working order.

In fact, things are better than working. They’re clean and efficient. Rocket’s in the pilot’s seat, and Gamora is at his side. Drax is studiously examining a sensor array while Groot sways back and forth to a silent rhythm.

Peter stares for a moment. It’s surreal, honestly. A few weeks ago, they were strangers. In fact, they wanted to kill each other. And now...they’re working together in seamless perfection.

“Am I still hallucinating?” he asks. His throat feels raw and scratchy, and the words are painfully hoarse.

Drax looks up at him with a broad smile. “Quill!” he says. “It is most good to see you!”

“Which means, we were getting pretty tired of seeing you hurling your guts out and moaning delusionally,” Rocket says over his shoulder. “I know I’ve been willing to die for you, but seriously. Actually dying for you is better than watching you do that.

Peter shrugs sheepishly. “If it makes you feel any better, I sort of thought I was dying,” he apologizes.

“No, that really doesn’t make me feel better,” Rocket mutters, looking back at the viewscreen.

Gamora offers him a small smile. “You look better.”

“I feel better,” Peter says. “I mean, I’m not sure what I was really feeling for a while there, but I’m pretty sure that the nonstop, unrelenting pain was probably the only thing that was real.”

Gamora tilts her head. “Probably.”

“So, um, just to clarify,” Peter says, taking another tentative step inside. “My mom wasn’t here, right?”

Drax looks concerned. “I believe I would have noticed that.”

Peter nods. “And, um, Yondu was also a no-go, right?”

Rocket snorts. “If that bastard had showed up, he wouldn’t have lasted very long.”

Peter nods again. “But, you guys,” he continues, looking from one to the next. “You guys were there, right?”

Gamora’s smile widens, just a little. “We never left.”

Peter nods one last time. “Good,” he says. “Good.” He hesitates awkwardly. “I, um, guess I should thank you.”

“For letting you throw up on us?” Rocket says. “Yes, please. I take thank yous in the form of cash or credit.”

“Well, I don’t have cash or credit,” Peter says.

“Perhaps we could take leave at a nearby planet and indulge in intense recreational pleasures,” Drax suggests.

“Um, pretty sure that would only get us in trouble,” Peter says.

“I think what they mean to say is you’re welcome,” Gamora supplies.

Rocket makes a face, but doesn’t disagree. Drax nods benignly, and Groot grows a new sprout on his head.

“Really, though,” Peter says, taking a steadying breath. “No one’s ever -- I mean, not since I was a kid -- and no one has ever bothered to, I don’t know--”

“Endure your personality?” Rocket asks.

“Alleviate your suffering?” ask Drax.

“Care?” Gamora wonders.

“Stay,” Peter concludes for them all. “No one’s ever bothered to stay when things get tough, and not because it benefits them but because that’s what friends do. Mature and adult friendships. And I’m not great at this whole thing, but, I don’t know. I think maybe I’m ready to learn.”

Gamora arches her eyebrows. “I thought you didn’t learn.”

“Well,” Peter says. “First for everything.”

“Yeah,” Gamora agrees, turning back to the display. “I suppose there is.”

-o-

Walking back to his room, Peter begins to realize the full extent of his illness. He’s barely eaten in five days, and despite his adrenaline rush getting out of bed, he’s feeling worn beyond his limits. It’s as if the last 20 years are catching up with him finally, and he feels weaker than he ever has.

And really, that just feels horrible. He feels weak and vulnerable and pathetic. He’s lost weight, and he feels shrunken and withered. At this rate, he’s not going to be back up to snuff for days, maybe weeks.

In short, he’s probably never felt worse.

Which is ironic since he’s never felt better.

Because sure, he’s weak and he’s sick and he’s pathetic, but he’s not alone. There are people here for him, people who are going to stay by his side, no matter what. He’s got a family. An actual family, and what the hell. He’s been living a lost childhood long enough.

Maybe, just maybe, he’s ready to grow up.

Because saving the galaxy, that’s really not that big of deal.

Saving each other, however -- well, that’s sort of the biggest deal there is.

Comments

Posted by: digitalwave (digitalwave)
Posted at: October 23rd, 2014 05:41 am (UTC)

This was wonderful, sweetie, thanks so much for sharing it with us. :)

Edited at 2014-10-23 05:42 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: December 7th, 2014 03:28 am (UTC)
gotg star lord 2

Thanks for reviewing!

2 Read Comments