?

Log in

No account? Create an account
do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

GOTG fic: (What You Don't Know) Definitely Hurts You (1/1)

December 6th, 2017 (08:41 pm)
stressed

feeling: stressed

Title: (What You Don’t Know) Definitely Hurts You

Disclaimer: Nope, I got nothing.

Warnings: Some graphic descriptions of vomit and other bodily functions.

A/N: Silly, probably redundant fill for my food poisoning square in hc_bingo. No beta. Set post GOTG2.

Summary: Peter’s ability to be wrong was proven in graphic detail.



-o-

When Peter went to bed, he had a small stomachache.

“Nothing to worry about,” he told Gamora. “Just ate a little too much at dinner. You know how it goes.”

She gave him a quizzical look. “No, I don’t.”

“Well,” he said with a nod of his head. “How very fortunate for you.”

For a moment, she appeared thoughtful. Since they had spoken their unspoken thing, Gamora had taken it very seriously. While she had actively tried not to care about Peter for the first two months they’d known each other, they’d spent the last one caring so purposefully that it was kind of awkward at times.

“Is there anything you want me to do?” she asked.

Awkward, but sweet.

The galaxy’s best known assassin and a legendary outlaw.

The thought made Peter want to smile, stomachache aside.

“Nah,” he said. “I’ll be better when I wake up.”

-o-

Peter had a tendency to be wrong about things from time to time. Sure, he could be right about the big shit. He’d been the way to say when Ego showed up that the dude was bad news, but then he’d also been the one who’d gone along with Ego to the point of nearly destroying the galaxy. So, Peter wasn’t exactly putting a lot of stock in his ability to be right.

Still.

When Peter had gone to bed, he’d had a small stomachache.

When Peter woke up, his stomach was tearing itself in two and he felt himself violently lurch. He half fell out of bed, tripping over his sheet as he scrambled to the bathroom, arriving just in time to turn his stomach out into the mildewed basin of his toilet.

It took a long, terrible minute for the process to be done, and when he was finally able to breathe again, he could smell acid in his nose as his heart thumped with adrenaline. Miserably, he slumped back against the wall and closed his eyes, feeling the sweat collect on his brow.

Then, before he could embrace any kind of his reprieve, his stomach roiled again.

And Peter’s ability to be wrong was proven in graphic detail.

-o-

They all heard, of course.

The walls weren’t exactly thick in the Milano, and Peter hadn’t exactly been subtle. Apparently the sounds of exacerbated retching had sounded like death throes. It had been enough for the others to appoint Gamora to check on him.

She found up curled up in his bathroom, clutching the wastebasket to his chest.

“What are you doing?” she asked, eyes flickering around the sordid tableau. Not that Peter’s bathroom was ever particularly inviting, but since spending more time with Gamora, he’d tried to keep it clean.

Now, however, items were strewn haphazardly, including his pants. The rolls of toilet paper had been ripped out of storage with some intensity, and his blankets were still a mess by the open door.

Worse, his t-shirt was soaked with sweat now, even as he felt cold and shaky from the exertion and loss of fluids.

“It might have been more than a stomachache,” he admitted pathetically.

She wrinkled her nose. “Are you vomiting?”

“And shitting,” he said. “Lots of shitting. Usually at the same time.”


Her mouth opened, but she was at a loss for words.

“Stomach bug or something,” he said, trying to offer a diffident shrug. “Haven’t you ever got one of those?”

Her look of dismay darkened. “No!”

“Oh,” he said. “How very fortunate for you. Again.”

She looked disgusted; she looked like she wanted to leave.

Instead, she planted her feet. “Is there anything you want me to do now?”

“No,” he said. “I’m just going to sit here for awhile.”

“For what purpose?” she asked.

“Because lying here is better than moving.”

“And what’s wrong with moving?”

“Nothing except that it makes me hurl.”

This appeared to be vexing for her. “Peter--”

He held up his hand, blood draining from his face.

Hesitating, she stepped closer. “Peter--”

It was one movement too many. Peter’s stomach made an audible noise and it was all he could do to get himself to the toilet in time.

-o-

This went on for several hours.

At least, Peter thought it was several hours.

It felt like several lifetimes, but he wouldn’t indulge that much melodrama. And he refused to accept that his abject misery had only endured minutes. In that light, hours seemed like a reasonable guess.

He measured the time by bouts of intense nausea in pain. At first, they occurred within minutes. When Gamora was there, tending to him, he managed to relax a little, spreading things out to 30 minute increments. By the next morning, he’d managed to sleep for at least 60 minutes straight before feeling sick, at which point Gamora insisted he return to bed.

He moaned.

Like a damn child.

But what was pride when your girlfriend had mopped up your puke from your chin?

“You need real rest,” she said. “You are going to catch a chill lying here on this floor.”

She hoisted him up, and weak as he was, it wasn’t like he could resist. “But moving is so hard,” he groaned as she coaxed him to walk.

“We will take the bucket with us,” she said, scooping it up with a disdainful look.

“What about the toilet?” he asked.

“I’m considering having it incinerated.”

“No, I mean what if I need it,” he said.

She settled him down gently, helping him move his legs so he was lying, curling up on his side. “Surely you must be past the worst of it now.”

With a grimace, he swallowed back the sticky taste rising in the back of his throat. “Could be a 24-hour bug.”

“This is going to continue?” she asked, unable to hide her incredulity as she tucked the blankets around him.

He nodded drowsily. “Sometimes more.”

“From -- what did you say?”


“Stomach bug,” he said. Squinting up, he could see her look of plain confusion. “You’ve never had a stomach bug?”

“My immune system was one of the most significant enhancements Thanos provided for me,” she said. “I have very rarely been sick in my life.”

Peter gave her a quizzical look this time. “Huh.”

She shrugged meekly. “If it makes you feel any better, I’d trade my enhancements in a second. Stomach bug and all.”

He let out a breath, letting his eyes close. “That’s easy for you to say,” he murmured. “You’re not sick.”

With a wispy touch, she smoothed her fingers over his brow. “Rest, now,” she soothed. “Just rest.”

Weak, shivering and nauseated, Peter found her touch too comforting to resist.

-o-

That lasted for all of an hour.

By that time, his stomach had tied itself up in knots again, and he found himself on the toilet, clutching the basket to his chest as his entire body convulsed.

In the doorway, Gamora looked greener than usual.

“This cannot be normal,” she said.

Feebly, he spit bile into the bucket. “We just have to wait it out,” he said. “Really.”

She looked dubious.

Peter didn’t have time to assuage her doubts as he vomited again.

-o-

They waited.

For 24 hours, Peter vented everything that had been in his system -- and then some. Gamora’s only task was to keep him hydrated, which she managed to do right when his body decided to vacate her efforts entirely.

Turned out, Peter was probably wrong again.

-o-

“I’m dying,” he moaned on the second full night of misery. “I must be dying.”

“I thought you said this was a stomach bug!” she insisted.

He curled up a little tighter on the bathroom floor, trembling. “And it killed me.”

She shook her head, mouth pressed into a tight, thin line. “Then what do you want me to do?”

He gave a small sob, all dignity be damned. His girlfriend had literally wiped his ass now, so what did it matter? “Let me die.”

She sighed, utterly perfunctory by this point. “That’s it,” she said, reaching down to pull him up.

This time, it wasn’t as easy. This time, Peter’s legs weren’t just reticent. This time, they gave way entirely. Without any food or water in his system, Peter was well beyond shaky. He was too busy trying not to pass out to even be aware of the concept of standing.

Or the fact that his girlfriend was now carrying him. “We’re going to the medical bay.”

Peter yelped, flailing in some pathetic attempt to stop her. “No!”

His unwieldy limbs were no match for her, but his heavy frame did slow her down. “And why not?” she asked caustically.

“Because the stomach bug is contagious!” he said.

“Yet I am not sick,” she pointed out.

“But the others--”

“Have far better immune power than you,” she said sternly. “Besides, what if it’s not a stomach bug?”

He knitted his brows together. “Food poisoning?”

This time, she looked even more vexed than before. “You have had food poisoning?”

Peter whimpered. “Let me guess: not something you suffer from.”

She let out her breath, dragging him forward. “Come on,” she said. “There’s only one way to find out.”

-o-

It was true, Peter had not wanted to spread his germs.

But he also hadn’t wanted to spread his humiliation.

In the medical bay, he would have access to medicine, scans and fluids.

He would also be subjected to the prying eyes of everyone on board. When he vomited, they would be there. When he shit his pants, they would see that, too. They would see him weak and miserable.

There was no way he was ever going to hear the end of this.

“Food poisoning?” Rocket asked. “Really?”

“I have never heard such a thing,” Drax said. “Why would anyone consume a poison.”

“No, it’s not that,” Kraglin chimed in. “Just sometimes, if a food goes bad, it can get real toxic like.”

“Oh,” Mantis said eagerly. “So you have had it, too?”

“Oh, once or twice, years back,” Kraglin said. “But the Ravagers toughen you up real fast.”

He exchanged an awkward look with Peter.

“Uh, most of the time,” Kraglin added.

Groot perched himself next to Peter’s head, peering at him curiously. “I am Groot?”

Gamora plucked him up, easing herself between Peter in the others. “The scans are not exactly conclusive,” she admitted. “But they can see no sign of a virus or any other kind of infection that might lead to this kind of autonomic response.”

That was a fancy way of saying: there was no good reason for Peter to be making such a mess.

“So, what’d you eat then?” Rocket asked.

Peter swallowed hard at the mere thought of food. “I don’t know, man,” he said, feeling saliva fill his mouth unpleasantly. “Same as any of you.”

“You didn’t have anything different?” Kraglin asked.

“No,” Peter said, frowning at the memory. “I haven’t been on food prep in a while, so I’ve just eaten whatever you guys have made down there while I pull double shifts getting us ready for another job.”

“But no one else is ill,” Drax said.

“Well, human physiology is shit,” Rocket said. He shrugged. “No offense.”

Peter was too tired to be offended.

And his stomach was too queasy to feign it.

“So this is common in some species?” Mantis asked.

“Some more than others,” Rocket said. “Terrans are notoriously fragile.”

Something lurched painfully in Peter’s stomach, and it took all he had not to give in.

“But we still must deduce what it was that caused this,” Gamora said. “If it’s something in our communal supply, then we need to act before this happens again.”

“Sounds reasonable,” Rocket said. “But it’d help if Quill could tell us exactly what he ate.”

Peter, still curled up on his side, looked at Drax. He looked at Rocket and Groot and Mantis and Kraglin. He looked at Gamora.

Healthy, the whole lot of them.

If possible, that made his stomach even more rebellious. He could feel it, working through his intestines with a ferocity that most people would save for the battlefield.

“Yes,” Drax said. “Do you know what it is that you consumed to make your stomach so miserable?”

Peter didn’t know, though.

Peter didn’t know anything.

Except for the fact that he was going to vomit.

Again and again and again.

-o-

Seeing him vomit had a pronounced effect on his friends. They were, undeniably, grossed out.

They were also, strangely, terrified.

As if the sight of hurling ones guts while shitting oneself was some sign of the impending apocalypse.

In this light, they no longer seemed vaguely curious about what was wrong with him.

Now it was like they were trying to save him from his homicidal father again.

“You need to make a list,” Kraglin said. “Just list it all out.”

“I could look in the kitchen,” Mantis offered. “See what ingredients we still have.”

“No, we need to make the list,” Rocket said. “I mean, look at Quill.”

They did.

Peter pathetically looked back. They had laid him back down again and damn near swaddled him in an effort to provide what Peter could only assume to be comfort. They meant well, his friends.

“Indeed,” Drax said. “Quill looks more dead than alive. We must figure this out on his behalf.”

That was super reassuring.

Peter might have cared had he not been so tired.

That was the only good part about dehydration. You were too tired to care if you felt sick anymore.

“It has to be something,” Gamora interjected shaking her head. She kneeled down to look at Peter. “You have to remember. Did you eat anything out of the ordinary?”

Peter blinked tiredly at her. “No,” he said. “Nothing.”

“It’s not nothing,” Gamora said, her patience running thin. “It’s something!”

She slammed her fist down in frustration on the bed next to Peter’s head. He knew that wasn’t aimed at him; if anything, it was a sign how much she cared about him. Only love could make an assassin like Gamora lose control of her emotions, if only for a split second.

He wouldn’t begrudge her that.

His stomach, on the other hand, begrudged everything. It begrudged the water Gamora had given him and the empty platitudes his friends had offered. It begrudged Gamora’s outburst of anger with an outburst of its own.

Peter was too weak to stop it as he hurled right where he was, the trail of vomit hitting his bed and spilling over to the floor.

Instinctively, the others pulled back as Gamora stepped closer to steady him. He wasn’t even completely finished when his body started to shut down, eyes slipping shut in exhaustion as Gamora started to clean him up.

“It’s definitely something,” she said again. “And we’re going to find out what the hell it is.”

-o-

Peter was more than content to let the others figure it out

As for himself, he was going to spend the time resting and recovering.

Oh, and vomiting and shitting himself.

So, you know, dying in general.

At least, Peter wished he was.

Death would be so much better than this.

-o-

After nearly two days of misery, Gamora managed to set up an IV after reading up on the procedure in the database. Peter might have found this questionable, but seeing as he was mostly unconscious when she did it, he didn’t really have much room to object.

Besides, it sort of seemed to work.

Not that it made his stomach settle.

But it gave him enough energy to stay awake and to hold his head up when he was puking his guts out.

In these instances, you had to celebrate the small victories.

-o-

Now that he was able to stay conscious for brief periods of time without vomiting, his friends felt the need to be there for him.

Peter knew that was how they were thinking about it. That was what they were trying to do. They thought that he needed emotional support.

What Peter really needed was sleep.

And a new stomach.

And probably some new intestines while he was at it. There was probably nothing left of his colon.

As it was, his team meant well, and Peter was conscious, but it wasn’t like he was exactly in any position to get away from them.

Mantis made the first -- and Peter hoped -- last apology.

“I am somewhat distressed,” she admitted to him. She had been sitting next to him, mostly quiet save for the occasional whimpers.

Like she had something to whimper about.

Peter hadn’t eaten solid food in two days, and he hadn’t even managed to drink enough water to rinse out the acidic taste in his mouth.

“For I fear I may have contributed to your current situation,” she continued, unbidden. She glanced up at him from her seat, her antennae entwined together anxiously.

Shit, Peter thought. He had to comfort her now. “It’s not your fault,” he said, even while splayed out limply on the single examination bed. He was covered with a sheet, but that didn’t do much to disguise the fact that he was on a damn bed pan. “These things happen.”

He said it like he meant it. After all, this was a galaxy where Peter won battles by having a dance off and this was a universe where he met his dad just to kill him less than two days later.

So, he wasn’t lying.

He didn’t even have the energy to lie.

It did little to assuage her obvious discomfort, however. “Ego could eat, but it was not required,” she said. “He took little pleasure in food, and as for myself, I eat mainly insects, which require no cooking.”

Peter did his best not to think of eating raw insects.

His stomach did a little flip, and he felt bile tickle the back of his throat as he swallowed it back hard. “That’s great.”

She sat forward, even more earnest. “I did not consider that my lack of experience may affect my ability to participate in normal food preparation aboard this vessel,” she explained. “The others tell me now that meat can sometimes be undercooked, which can leave it susceptible to disease.”

Eating bugs was hard.

Diseased meat was nearly his undoing.

“Even when I did prepare food, Ego never felt bad,” she said. “I once watched him consume an entire banquet on his own and he didn’t even burp. He never had any problems.”

Come to think of it, neither had Peter. He’d been able to eat all the weird shit Yondu put on the table, and he hadn’t even balked when the other Ravagers had fed him bits and pieces of things he couldn’t identify. Peter had tried cuisines from all over the galaxy, and never felt bad after.

Until now.

He didn’t miss Ego, but he was started to miss the bastard’s impenetrable DNA.

“I’m so sorry, Peter,” she said, reaching out to touch him but stopping herself.

Weary, he reached out and closed the gap between them. She could feel his pain this way, but she would also be able to sense his honesty. “Now you know,” he said. “And really, this probably wasn’t your fault.”

“But whose?” she asked, emphatically.

Peter laughed, quiet and breathless. “You’ve seen the mess that this galaxy has to offer,” he said. “You think there’s always a reason?”

She squeezed his hand back, flooding him with comfort. “I wish there was,” she said, as Peter felt himself relax blissfully. “I really do.”

-o-

Mantis could make him feel good for several minutes, maybe more if she stayed close.

But her powers were empathic.

Peter’s current predicament was far more physical.

She could calm him down, sure, but she couldn’t keep his stomach from expelling every ounce of sustenance that came its way.

Fingers cold and limp as he held the bucket, he’d long since had anything of substance to throw up. The bile in his stomach was thin and yellow, but he spent more time dry heaving than actually bringing anything up. It wasn’t for a lack of effort, of course. His entire body convulse, and he could feel his insides trying to turn themselves inside out with an intensity that stole his breath and brought tears to his eyes.

In his agony, he flopped back on the bed with a sob.

His mind was fuzzy, and his limbs were heavy. His ears buzzed, and he felt himself zone out in exhaustion. Someone was there with him -- Gamora? Rocket? -- but he couldn’t remember who, not even as they wiped his chin clean and splayed a cool cloth over his flushed forehead.

No, his senses were deadened, his entire body overwrought. As he drifted, he vaguely remembered getting sick as a child. His mom had given him soda pop and dry toast to still his stomach, but the only thing that had worked was the sound of her voice as she sang him to sleep with her favorite songs.

He could hear her now, her voice lilting through his subconscious.

That probably wasn’t a good sign, Peter knew.

At this point, however, Peter didn’t have the energy to care.

-o-

When they changed the IV bag, Peter had no choice but to wake up. “Are you sure that’s just saline in there?” Peter asked, craning his head to look. Awake, he was, but at full capacity, he was not. The fluids had a weird effect on him, perking him up without giving him any actual strength. He felt jittery, but every time he actually moved, he came close to passing out.

Or vomiting.

Peter would prefer passing out.

He blinked a few times, trying to focus. “Because it feels super weird.”

Across from him, it was clear that Kraglin was the wrong person to ask.

Standing there, it occurred to Peter’s hyper mind that the Ravager hadn’t even sat down, and there was no telling how long he’d been standing there. This seemed like some sort of apt metaphor, but Peter hadn’t actually gone to school past the second grade, so what the hell did he know.

Probably about as much as Kraglin, who looked even more miserable to be there than Peter.

No, that wasn’t true. That was hyperbole.

Peter wasn’t sure how he knew what hyperbole was, given his third grade education. He wondered briefly if he’d been exposed to literary elements under Yondu’s care. The dude had liked cute, soft things from time to time.

Kraglin, though, was talking.

“I think the taro root smelled funny.”

It took Peter several seconds to realize what the words were.

It took several more before Peter realized he had no idea what the implication was. “What?”

“The taro root,” he said. “Not the funny not-ripe smell, you know. But the one it makes when it goes bad. Just a little bad, that first 24 hours -- you know how fast it turns, Pete. I know you do.”

Peter knew because Ravagers had eaten rotten taro root all the time. Ravagers had eaten everything.

They were disgusting.

Peter blinked a few more times, realizing that Kraglin was looking at him guiltily.

“I smelled it, I did, but I thought it was just so borderline. And I can’t throw it out if it’s borderline,” Kraglin rambled. “Yondu was always real strict about the food budget, and every bit helped, and I ain’t never seen no one get sick from taro root.”

Eventually, even hazy as he was, Peter understood what Kraglin was saying. “Wait,” he said. “You willfully fed all of us food that may have been past its prime?”

“I told you, I’ve never seen anyone get sick before,” he pleaded. “Sure, I mean, there were stories, but it seemed like a shame to waste it.”

Peter, laid out on the bed, had another literary element come to mind: irony. “Yeah,” he said, trying not to think about how long it was since he’d eaten because then he’d have to think about food and that would just make him hurl again. “Real shame.”

-o-

Peter had never been sick like this.

Short, 24-hour bugs, yes. Because he’d grown up in an unsanitary Ravager ship where dudes didn’t know how to effectively use bleach except as a weapon of torment. Who didn’t get sick from time to time -- unless you were Rocket, Gamora, Drax, Kraglin or Mantis?

But Peter had never been sick like this.

Not even the saline could keep him from feeling weak, to the point where he needed help lifting his head just to throw up. Everything was shaky, and his vision was white around the edges with a haloed effect. If he’d been flying solo like he’d always dreamed as a kid, then he’d be dead by now, no doubt.

As it was, he felt dead.

He wished he was dead.

In all his memories, on Earth and beyond, there was only one other time he’d felt like this. One other time he’d felt so vulnerable that he wanted to disintegrate into ash. It had been the first month after Yondu picked him up, and Peter had lived in abject terror that he would be eaten. It had been a deeply unsettling experience, mourning his mother, leaving Earth behind and getting used to the violent men now tasked with raising him.

They had been loud and noisy and rough, and Peter had been small and scared and sick.

After barely eating for a month, he’d come down with a stomach bug that laid him out flat. He’d vomited all over his quarters, spending the night alone in misery while he waited to die.

When Yondu found him the next morning, quaking and curled up in his own sputum, Peter had expected the worst. Hell, he’d been hoping the old blue dude would just put him out of his misery like he was always threatening.

And there had been yelling and cursing and throwing.

But when Yondu scooped Peter off the ground, he’d been surprisingly gentle. And when he tucked Peter in, he shook his head. “You ain’t no damn good to eat if you’re sick like this.”

Peter had turned to his side, too weak to fight his fate.

It hadn’t occurred to him, then, but somehow, in his daze, it occurred to him now.

When he’d woken up, he’d been alone save for the water and crackers at his bedside. The entire room had been cleaned and polished. Yondu never said anything.

All these years later, Peter knew why.

That was what you did, when you were family.

He closed his eyes and tried to hum himself back to sleep.

That was what you did.

-o-

When he finished barfing for the fifty billionth time -- give or take, Peter had lost track just as readily as he’d lost his dignity and his will to live -- he laid back, ready to sleep.

That was when Drax decided to start talking.

“I did not wash my hands.”

This was...not an extremely relevant revelation. Though, to be fair, no revelation would have been relevant to Peter after three days of slowly throwing up his entire body from the inside out.

“I feel that it is my duty to inform you of that,” Drax continued, as though Peter had given him any indication that he cared about anything except finally dying.

Squinting, Peter tried to pretend like he could sleep through this until his next bout of abject misery. “What?”

“My hands,” Drax said again, sounding mildly distressed this time. “I did not wash my hands after relieving myself in the bathroom.”

Peter was pretty out of it, this much was true. He was dehydrated and nauseated and weak and-- “What the hell?”

“I find the process unnecessarily tedious,” Drax explained, like that was some kind of explanation that validated the image of Drax’s fingers in his private parts.

“No, it’s sanitary,” Peter said, somehow finding enough will to be emphatic. It was funny what disgust and indignation could do when saline failed.

“This is what the others have told me of common customs,” Drax said. “Though I do find it perplexing. All my life, I have never washed my hands after such encounters and I have never been sick from it.”

Peter made a face, feeling his stomach ripple with discontent. “Well, my stomach isn’t designed to lick your turds.”

Drax nodded very seriously. “They are powerful turds.”

The ripple intensified.

He thought of Drax, wiping shit from his ass, all over his fingers, under the nails--

Peter threw up again.

-o-

And again.

There was nothing left, though.

His stomach rebelled, his entire body convulsed, but it was like tapping a dry well. He’d been drained already, and not just from his stomach. The illness was sapping him faster than the saline can infuse him with energy, and it was going to be too much.

He’d been here before, of course. Back on Ego’s planet, when he’d rejected his father just to have the old man take what he wanted anyway. As horrible as everything had been, that had been the worst. To feel his energy, his power, his life drain out from him. Ego had taken his light, leaving him as nothing but a shell of who he was supposed to be.

So, on the bright side, barfing himself to death wasn’t quite as bad.

Peter heaved, choking on the air as it stole the last of his breath from him. His stomach was shriveled into nothing, and his insides felt dry and brittle as he came close to crumbling under the insurmountable strain.

Then, he heaved again.

Shit, he thought, as his vision started to fade. That was one hell of a bright side.

-o-

When Groot realized that he could no longer hear the music, he graciously stopped dancing. Instead, he curled close to Peter, his tiny wooden body nestled against the hollow spot in Peter’s chest where his heart thumped placidly.

They had stopped trying to feed him. He couldn’t even bring himself to look at water.

But when his body shuddered, Groot looked up in concern. Peter tried to smile, tried to reassure him, but his voice wasn’t working.

Hell, his whole body wasn’t working.

Visibly bothered, Groot got onto his feet, padding closer to Peter’s face. With a great deal of care, he extended his hand, producing a small twig that grew from his palm. He held it out to Peter, expectant.

Peter, even if he hadn’t been half dead from dehydration and misery, would have had a hard time deducing what he wanted anyway. Seeing as he was half dead from dehydration and misery, it was that much harder to put two and two together and come up with jack shit.

Eagerly, Groot snapped off the twig and held it closer still.

“Buddy,” he croaked. “I don’t know--”

But Groot was climbing up on his shoulder how, practically pressing the piece of wood against his lips.

Peter’s instinct was to protest.

But who the hell had energy for instincts, much less protest.

Groot had survived far worse than him. They’d literally shattered the dude into a million pieces and here he was, no worse for wear. So, who knew? Maybe Groot knew something none of them did? Maybe Groot’s ability to say only three words was not directly linked to his actual intellectual capacity.

Besides, at this point, how could things possibly get any worse?

The look of joy on Groot’s face when he obligingly opened his mouth and swallowed the little twig dry was satisfaction enough.

At least, until it settled into the pit of his stomach and was immediately rejected. Everything spasmed, and the pain ratcheted up to notches Peter no longer had the ability to comprehend before he retched and gagged, vomiting with a force his weary body should not have been capable of.

Yeah.

So apparently things could still get a lot worse.

-o-

Instead of vomiting, he just cried this time.

There wasn’t anything else he could do. He’d been spent, he’d been taken and used and left with nothing. All the shit the galaxy had thrown at him over the course of his lifetime, and he’d taken it, endured it, but not this.

If you blew a flame, it didn’t have a choice but to go out.

Peter had been flickering in the wind long enough.

It was time to just go out.

-o-

He was only vaguely aware of Rocket’s presence, and that was only because it was hard to overlook a talking raccoon who knew more about explosive than he did. Still, as far as he was concerned, Rocket could just go explode shit.

Peter was too busy dying to actually care.

Rocket, however, had other plans.

They all did; they always did.

For being the so-called leader of this group of misfits, Peter was surprisingly ineffective and mostly ignored.

Too bad they couldn’t ignore him now and just let him disintegrate in peace.

“Fine,” Rocket said, crossing his arms over his chest as if Peter had done something to piss him off. “I admit it. I diverted power from the refrigeration system.”

This proclamation was made with some intention, and Peter was aware that he was suppose to be picking up on the implications. Unfortunately, Peter was semi-delusional right now and his vision was impossible to focus, so he wasn’t picking up on anything at the moment. “What?”

His own voice sounded thin and brittle; like a damn ghost. He wondered absently if Celestials could be ghosts.

Or Ravagers and adopted fathers who died in the vacuum of space.

“The rebuilding process was not as easy as I probably let on,” Rocket continued with a sigh of affectation. “I mean, contrary to what you all seem to think, I’m not a miracle worker. In order to get our systems back at full functionality, I had to cut a few corners. I didn’t want to leave us completely defenseless, considering that we had like three aggressive empires after us at the time.”

Peter furrowed his brow, and tried to think about this quite seriously. It was a little weird, like his brain was actually wrapped in cotton. This thought proved rather distracted to him, as he contemplated what it would be like to literally have your brain wrapped in cotton.

“And I mean, in the grander scheme of things, I thought diminishing energy to the refrigeration system would be the least offensive way to do that,” Rocket said, pontificating as if it made total sense.

It didn’t, though. And Peter didn’t even have his brain wrapped in cotton, so he was pretty sure about that. “You took our fridges?” he croaked.

“I didn’t take them,” Rocket snapped, clearly defensive. “I just diminished their full capacity by, I don’t know, give or take 12 percent.”

Peter stared at him. It might have appeared that he was dumbfounded, but mostly he was too tired to force his mouth to move.

Rocket took it as an accusation. “It was either that or life support.”

“But,” Peter said. “Food spoils…”

“Yes, I realize that now,” Rocket said, as if Peter was putting him out. “I just didn’t think it would matter that much. I mean, it had never been a problem before. I’ve seen Groot eat his own clippings for years, and he’s never sick.”

This didn’t actually sound like a defense.

Rocket shifted uncomfortably on his feet, unfurling his arms. “If it makes you feel better, I fixed it,” he said. “In fact, those babies are running at 110 percent, just to be safe.”

There was some consolation in the fact that Rocket was finding every way possible of apologizing without actually having to say it.

But, frankly, that consolation was as spent as Peter was.

Nothing was going to make Peter feel better at this point.

Except, maybe, one thing.

-o-

Death.

Sure, it went against his instincts, but instincts were overrated anyway. He’d spent his whole life struggling to survive, and here he was, just ready to die.

And it had to happen, soon.

He’d lost track of time. He didn’t know if it was day or night; he didn’t know how long it’d been since he’d last eaten. He measured his existence by the intervals of his stomach’s contractions, and he was no longer able to hold an intelligent conversation about anything. He was shaky and lightheaded -- too weak to lift himself.

He had nothing left.

He’d been emptied; vacated.

Screw that, he was just gone.

That was his legacy, after all. His mother, Ego, Yondu -- they were all gone.

All that was left -- all that there was -- was his team.

Strong, smart, powerful and determined, they might have been.

But Peter wasn’t sure they could hold him together any longer.

-o-

“Come on,” Gamora said, trying to sit him up.

Peter groaned, wanting to pull away. He was too weak, but his loose-limbed posture made him unwieldy enough. “It’s just food poisoning,” he slurred, not sure if the words were even audible.

Gamora grunted, throwing one of his arms around her shoulder as she hoisted him upright again. “You are very ill; we need to get help.”

He let his head flop, tipping against her shoulder. She felt warm; either that, or he felt very, very cold. “Nothing you can do.”

“We have faced worse odds,” she said, voice sounding quite stiff as she paused for a moment, tilting his head so she could look him in the eyes. “We cannot just let this illness kill you.”

Peter snorted, a half-hysterical sound. “You all should stop trying to do that on your own,” he muttered. “Learn common food sanitation--”

He trailed off, the small surge of adrenaline fleeting and his eyes started to close.

“We just forget, Peter,” she said, softly now.

“Forget?” he asked, his voice hitching drunkenly. “To be human?”

“No,” she said, a little sternly now. “That you are human.”

She was telling the truth, and that was what made it so much worse. Stretched thin as he was, that level of emotion wasn’t something he could handle. The barren truth of it all was harder than he would have anticipated. After all, he’d thought all his life that he was human.

All his life, he’d been wrong.

Now that he was, in fact, wholly mortal, his own fragility was terrifying and disappointed.

Whatever he’d thought he had as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy, it had been purged now. He had been purged of every good quality, everything that made him a fit and reliable leader of the team.

His stomach twisted, harder than before. Harder than ever.

There was nothing he could do as he retched, and Gamora shifted her stance quickly to support him as she leaned him over the side of the bed to spew onto the floor.

All the times he’d done this, nothing probably should have been a surprise.

Except, this time, instead of food or bile or nothing, Peter saw red.

He vomited again, and he tasted it this time, the acrid sensation in the back of his throat, all over his tongue and running down his chin.

“Shit,” Gamora said, adjusting her grip on Peter again. His blood was everywhere, all over him, all over her. It seemed right, somehow. The last and fleeting evidence that Peter was alive. “Peter!”

He hated to disappoint her, he did.

But she had to get used to it, sooner or later.

-o-

He passed out to the sound of Gamora screaming.

Honestly, he didn’t expect to wake up again.

Peter’s ability to be wrong, however, knew how bounds or physical limitations.

It was, perhaps, the one constant in the galaxy.

He could underestimate himself, sure.

But he would have to realize that he couldn’t underestimate them.

-o-

Surprised as Peter was to be alive, he wasn’t surprised to see his team waiting for him when he woke up. It was his first cognizant thought, and he didn’t have to look to know that they were all there.

Shakily, he looked at them, one to the next, and realized that he didn’t know what had happened.

He did know, however, that they were probably responsible.

Swallowing, he tried to work saliva into his dry mouth. “What happened?” he asked, even as he started to put some of the disparate facts together. He was still on an IV, but the bag looked different than before. The bed was clean and comfort and oh -- this wasn’t the Milano.


“You threw up blood,” Gamora reminded him.

“It was super disgusting,” Rocket said.

“And honestly, most unsanitary,” Drax added. “I had thought we had decided against such things.”

“We had already been moving toward the nearest space station when Gamora told us,” Kraglin offered.

“A few quick jumps and here we are!” Mantis enthused.

From his position next to Peter, Groot beamed. “I am Groot.”

This was a lot of information.

And though Peter was feeling better -- no more nausea, thank God -- he was still feeling fuzzy.

Though the idea of gauze literally wrapped around his head was no longer quite so fascinating.

It was Gamora who smiled, clearly taking pity on him. “This is remote Nova outpost,” she explained. “It’s fully stocked with the latest medical equipment. They couldn’t clearly identify the organic matter that caused your food poisoning, but they were able to use advanced methods to stop it before it killed you.”

Experimentally, Peter shifted in the bed, sitting himself up slightly to rest against the pillows. The movement felt harder than it should have, but at least he was capable of it again. “A space station, though,” he said. “Is that safe? Can we even afford it?”

“Nova, remember,” Rocket said. “When they realized who we were, they were falling all over themselves to help.”

“It is a remarkable thing, being a hero,” Drax said. “I spent so many years as an antagonist that I had nearly forgotten what the alternative was like.”

“No kidding,” Kraglin said. “I had no idea you guys carried this kind of clout!”

“I am very pleased that my decision to turn against Ego has been proven correct,” she said. “This team is more remarkable than I ever could have imagined.”

There was something to this, to all of it.

What, though, Peter wasn’t exactly sure.

“Come on,” Gamora said, patting him on the arm as she got to her feet. “You need to rest.”

“Feels like I’ve been resting forever,” he admitted, even as he sunk down deeper into the pillows.

“Can’t be forever,” she reminded him softly as the others started to file out of the room. “You’re mortal, remember?”

He looked at her, his stomach twisting. It wasn’t nausea this time, though. “How could I forget?”

She kissed him, her lips pressed to his as she squeezed his hand. When she left, she closed the door behind her, leaving Peter alone.

He stared at the door for a long moment.

Not alone, Peter corrected himself. Never alone.

And never empty again.

-o-

He convalesced for several days, and the medical staff was nothing if not doting. They would have gladly housed him for longer, but he explained that he really would be more comfortable back at home.

Truthfully, he would just be comfortable away from their hero worship. It was all well and good to be grateful, but accepting adoration from someone who helped you wipe your ass was a bit harder to deal with.

When they released him, they gave him an ample supply of drugs and equipment, most of which was designed to address his more pronounced biological weaknesses. Among their praise, they also lectured him, quite patiently, about his inherent weaknesses.”

“From your DNA alone, no one would guess you were the hero who had saved the galaxy,” one of the doctors explained. “We want you to stay safe, so you can help keep all of us safe.”

Peter smiled awkwardly, walking gingerly toward the airlock, where the Milano was docked. “No pressure or anything.”

“Oh, no, of course not,” the doctor said, falling all over herself in apology. “I’m sorry, Mr. Quill. It’s just that we’ve all heard the stories. We all know what you’ve done for us. You should know that you provide hope for all of us. You’re our light in a dark, dark galaxy.”

Peter thought of Ego, and the darkness of his own flickering flame.

He thought about how empty he’d felt.

And yet, here he was. Still with something to give.

Smiling, he offered a hand of thanks. Half amazed, the doctor took it, shaking his hand. “Thanks,” he said. “For everything.”

She beamed back at him. “No, Mr. Quill,” she said, ushering him to the airlock. “Thank you.”

-o-

Back on the Milano, Peter tried to get back to life as normal.

Not that Peter really knew what normal was anymore. He’d been flying by the seat of his pants so long that it seemed like the status quo, but given his newfound status as intergalactic hero and total orphan, things were harder to make sense of these days.

Fortunately, while he couldn’t quite resolve his emotional crisis, the physical one was easier to ease. He’d been eating solid food for a few days with no problems, though he was under strict orders to steadily increase his diet and slowly work up his energy levels.

There might have been a time when Peter would have liked a doctor’s order to lay in bed and eat.

Now, it was strangely harder than it should have been.

He ate, of course. Even if he hadn’t been so inclined, there was no way his team would have let him neglect it. But his appetite still wasn’t what it used to be; food still tasted strange.

The good news was that when he ate, it seemed to make the others feel better, which he generally preferred. He couldn’t say that he was super fond of being waited on like he was some kind of invalid, but then again, he was actually an invalid for the time being.

Stupid human DNA.

At least the others, while they hovered, were not torturing him with endless apologies. Instead, they tried to pass the time more pleasantly, talking to Peter about things he liked and making small talk about what they might do next.

That was what they said, at any rate.

It was what they didn’t say, however, that Peter noted more than anything else.

Drax made a point of washing his hands every time he entered Peter’s room. This was not a subtle thing, because he spent nearly five minutes in Peter’s private bathroom, using so much soap that Peter had to resupply it every few days. As for Rocket, he made daily sweeps to check the humidity levels and he maintain the calibration on the environmental systems with an almost obsessive awareness. For her part, Mantis started reading cookbooks, and she was surprisingly enthusiastic about trying Earth cuisine. Kraglin made meticulous food dumps, a fact Peter would have not been aware of except that it included Peter’s current meals. If he left them unattended for more than 45 minutes, Kraglin confiscated them and gave him something fresh.

Groot still offered him twigs, and Peter still couldn’t bring himself to refuse. They actually didn’t taste so bad anymore.

All in all, they were moving on, just like they were supposed to do. It was impossible to say what had caused it -- or who. But it was easy to say that they were all going to work harder to make sure it didn’t happen again.

After all, Peter wasn’t empty anymore.

This time, that had nothing to do with the food -- or lack thereof -- in his digestive track.

His stomach gurgled, and he briefly wondered whether or not he was ready to eat ice cream.

Grinning to himself, he felt his body lighten. Okay, so it almost had nothing to do with food.

-o-

Of course, not even ice cream could change the truth, and Peter might have conveniently been willing to overlook that if he had the choice.

Like with most things, he didn’t.

It was Gamora who brought it up. This was typical: Peter had made her speak the unspoken words, and now, frankly, she didn’t know how to stop.

“I’m glad you’re feeling better,” she said, as she shared a meal with him in his quarters. This was a habit of hers most nights.

And most mornings.

Yes, that implied everything.

Peter took a bite of his oatmeal, feeling a bit perkier than normal. Food was starting to taste good again, now that he could no longer sense the faint aftertaste of vomit in his throat. “Well, you guys haven’t exactly given me any other option,” he said, pausing to take a swig of juice. “I never would have pegged you all for a bunch of mother hens.”

Gamora looked perplexed. “Hens?”

Peter shook his head, dipping his biscuit in gravy. “Nursemaids,” he clarified. “I mean, you guys are doing everything for me.”

“Well, just until you’re back on duty,” she said. She paused herself, wetting her lips. For as much as Peter was eating now, her dinner looked barely touched. “You scared us. All of us.”

Peter stopped chewing to look at her.

Her cheeks reddened ever so slightly. “Me,” she clarified. “You scared me.”

Putting down his biscuit, Peter sighed. “I’m sorry, if that helps.”

“I don’t want you to be sorry,” she said.

“I’ll just have to be more careful,” Peter continued.

“But we’re talking about food,” she said. “You nearly died because of something you ate. Being careful in battle, I understand. Being careful with your emotions, sure. But food? I’ve always thought you to be vulnerable, Peter, just by nature of your humanity, but I have to admit. This makes me nervous in a way I can’t explain.”

Peter scrubbed his hand over his beard. “I can’t say I love it myself.”

“So,” she said, sitting forward more intently. “What can we do?”

He chuckled. “Gamora, it’s a sensitive stomach.”

She shook her head, adamant. “It’s more than that.”

“Yeah, I guess,” he conceded. Then he shrugged. “But so are you -- all of you.”

It was her turn to stare at him. “That’s it? That’s your solution? Just to trust us?”

“I don’t know,” Peter said. “You have a better idea?”

She scoffed, as if in disbelief. “But Peter, we very well could have been the ones to cause this illness,” she said.

“And you’re the ones who saved me from it,” he reminded her. “I mean, getting me sick -- that was a mistake. But keeping me alive when my insides were literally coming apart at the seams? That’s pure dedication.”

Her face was taut, a thousand words visible in her expression. She couldn’t pin them down.

Peter wouldn’t make her this time. “Look,” he said, leaning forward to put her hand on his. “I didn’t know it, but Ego gave me the power of immortality and that has probably saved my life more times than I know.”

“More times than I want to know,” Gamora interjected.

Peter squeezed her fingers patiently. “But you guys, you make this whole mortality thing not so bad,” he said. “I mean, sure, I’m not going to live forever -- none of us are going to do that, I think -- but what we’re doing, being the Guardians of the Galaxy -- that’s going outlive all of us.”

She sighed. Her resignation wasn’t sad, though. Not quite. “That’s not so bad, I guess.”

He smiled, feeling his whole spirit brighten. He’d never realized what it was to be fulfilled before.

He knew now.

He knew.

“No,” he agreed, reaching for his biscuit again as he started to eat. “It’s really not.”

Comments

Posted by: Lisa (meridian_rose)
Posted at: January 8th, 2018 11:41 am (UTC)

From all those confessions it's a miracle Peter didn't sick earlier :P
Good sick-fic, nice resolution, and some lovely moments of team as family :)

1 Read Comments