Chapter 1: The History of Galaxy Sweets
The first time Peter escaped from the Nova Corps thanks to Kraglin, he was twenty-three, running for his life, and stupidly (brilliantly?) decided to hide in his own tiny apartment. He ran past Kraglin into their bedroom, while Kraglin had been trying his hand with some strange-looking chocolate thing in the galley. The officers took one look at it and started chattering all at once; who knew chocolate was a Nova Corps’ weakness? Who knew Kraglin’s amazing dessert would get Peter out of a bind?
The first time was coincidence; the second time, a fluke; the third time, a pattern. By the fourth time Peter got into trouble, Kraglin was on a first-name basis with two of the officers, and Peter was tossed in a cell for seven days to “straighten him out”. Not even Kraglin’s desserts saved him. And while he sat in the slam, he started planning how to put his half-brother’s raw talents into actual credits, so he could stop stealing to support them. When he got out, he found that Kraglin had also been planning – but whereas Peter planned on his own, Kraglin had been smart enough to ask those two officers for help.
And before Peter knew what was happening, his fifteen-year-old brother was helping send him to college to learn how to run a business – all thanks to Nova Corpsmen and a scholarship and a few hefty loans that the two officers placed into Kraglin’s care.
Peter stayed angry for a good six weeks, even though he knew his talented, devious little brother had made the right call. Ten years later, Kraglin was happy in his kitchens, Peter’d met a gorgeous woman he was intent on marrying, and they’d repaid all their debts. Galaxy Sweets had settled on a rock called Knowhere, and the two siblings made a policy: that no matter who you were, you were always welcome in their shop. That the shop was a neutral zone; that any upset to the status quo would quickly get you banned from the most delicious, amazing, wonderful treats in the universe. And it worked.
That is, it worked until a certain blue Ravager showed up and decided to steal the heart of the Chef.
Chapter 2: The Delivery
This chapter: Yondu's POV. They will alter between Kraglin and Yondu from here forward!
Stakar walks down the streets, back alleys, and pathways of Knowhere like he owns them, and when he does – others are smart enough to get the flark out of the way.
Yondu may be jealous, but no way is the other man going to know. He’s just been promoted to Stakar’s First, and he swaggers along like he owns the title. Not bad for a thirty-five-year-old Centaurian with anger issues and a chip on his shoulder.
“I’m surprised you’ve never been here,” Stakar says, shaking his head as they stride along. “One of the most popular places on this whole rock.”
“If it ain’t a bar or a whorehouse, I don’t see why I’d care,” Yondu complains, and shifts the two large boxes he’s carrying from arm to arm. “What’s in here, rocks?”
Stakar grins. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
They walk a few dozen yards more and duck into a shop with gleaming glass and metal counters and coolers, bright lights, and the strangest music Yondu’s ever heard. He sets the oversized boxes down on one of the counters, glad to be rid of their weight. “This is where we’re delivering ta?”
“Yep,” Stakar says. Then, he cups his hands and calls, “Hey, Kraglin!”
Yondu watches as a skinny wisp of a brat flies out from the back of the shop and charges Stakar. His jaw drops as the older Ravager doesn’t shoot the kid, but catches him and gives him a bone-crushing hug. “Stakar!” the boy shouts, and laughs. “Am I ever glad to see you!”
Stakar chuckles and gives the kid a quick cuff on the shoulder. “Good to see you too. I’ve got your order if you’ve got mine?”
The boy’s bright blue eyes, little beak of a nose, and semi-pointed teeth don’t match at all, but put them together with a mohawk, too-long lashes and sweet pink cheeks, and Yondu’s all kinds of intrigued. “I baked the last of your requests this morning. I was hoping you’d be on time so nothing went stale.”
“Thanks. Hey, Kraglin, this here’s my second, Yondu Udonta. You think you got anything he may like?”
And yep, there’s a lot the kid has that Yondu likes. Like that pretty little mouth, or those long, delicate fingers…
“What’s your home planet like?”
Yondu blinks at the question, and the boy offers a shy smile. “Tell me, so I can get an idea of what tastes you’ll like.”
“Humid. Green. We had jungles,” Yondu says, shaking himself so that he stops staring. He hasn’t shared anything about his home world in ages, and wonders why this boy makes it so easy to describe. “Long-gone.”
“Oh,” the boy replies. And then, to Yondu’s intense surprise, he reaches out and laces his fingers through Yondu’s, squeezing his hand. “I’m sorry. Stay here, and I’ll be right back with something.”
He’s gone as quickly as he was there, and Yondu can’t help but raise an eyebrow at Stakar. “Is he fer real?”
“One hundred percent,” Stakar replies. “I thought it was an act the first few times, but he’s a puppy.”
The puppy returns, holding something tiny and purple in his hand. “Eat this,” he demands, thrusting it at Yondu. “I have one other that might suit, but this should definitely be the right choice.”
Yondu’s not known to trust blindly, but he goes with his gut and takes the offering. He places it in his mouth, where it immediately fizzes and explodes with flavor. There’s a balmy citrus twisted with something floral, a hint of herbs and grasses and smoke. Yondu hears a deep moan, realizes it comes from his own mouth, and tries not to die a little as Stakar bursts out laughing. “I think you’ve got another fan, Krags.”
The boy is too busy staring at Yondu to reply, the tips of his ears turning a lovely crimson. “Uh. I have more of those, if you’d like to invest in a box?”
“He’ll take them,” Stakar says, because Yondu’s still too busy chewing to reply. “Add them to my order. How much?”
“Oh, no,” the boy - Kraglin - replies. “I couldn’t charge you, not if you brought me the things I asked for.”
Wait. Wait a minute, Stakar’s offering to pay? Yondu makes a ‘gah’ sound and is ignored by both parties. But… Ravagers! Offering to pay? What the flark?
“C’mon, kid, I know whatever it is he’s eating isn’t something you stock on the shelf,” Stakar says, giving him a stern look. “How much?”
“Uh. Thirty units for a box of ten? Does that sound fair? I really haven’t done enough experimenting with them, and haven’t figured out the ingredient costs with Peter…”
“It’s worth it,” Yondu grunts, licking his lips to chase after the last taste of the confection. “What the flark’s in that?”
“Can’t tell you or I’d have to kill you,” Kraglin says, giving him a cheeky grin. “But, um. I’m glad you liked them? You can send word ahead with an order, if your Captain doesn’t mind, and I’ll be happy to make you whatever you want.”
Yondu’s stopped from replying as the door to the shop swings open again, and this time it’s a green-skinned woman in a form-fitting dress. Yondu glances between her and the boy and, for some incredibly odd reason, finds himself watching the boy instead of the gorgeous broad. “Hi Gamora,” Kraglin says. “Pete’s not here.”
“And I can’t come by to visit you instead?” she replies, not-so-subtly eyeballing both Yondu and Stakar. “Can’t check in with my kid brother?”
“’Mora,” the boy complains. “Not a kid anymore.”
She moves between Kraglin and Yondu, and Yondu’s no fool. He recognizes a fighter’s stance when he sees it. “Stakar’s a friend,” the boy continues. “He’s delivering the wood and stones I ordered for the new oven and a few other things besides. Gamora, this is Stakar; Stakar, this is Gamora. She owns the weapons manufacturing business next door and is going to marry my dumbass brother if he ever man’s up and asks her.”
Ravagers, doing proper business. Yondu doesn’t make a sound, but he screams on the inside. What. The. Flark. Stakar, most famous Ravager in the Fleet, Admiral and Assassin, is doing delivery errands for a kid? Yondu manages to keep a straight face, but it’s not without effort; he’s not willing to anger his boss by questioning the logic in the venture.
Meanwhile, Gamora’s smacking the kid upside the head and Stakar’s laughing at them. “Kraglin Obfonteri, you mind your manners!” the woman growls, ignoring the two Ravagers in the store. “You know Peter as well as I do, and it’s taking him time to get there.”
“I dunno,” Kraglin replies, and glances at Yondu. “Sometimes it’s just something you know right away.”
Why, did the boy just… and is Yondu standing there like a statue? Two can play at that game. “Yu just give me the word, boy,” Yondu replies, leering. “I’ll be happy t’ show you lots of things I know.”
Kraglin squeaks in a decidedly-adorable fashion, and ducks behind the counter. “I’ll go get your order, Stakar!”
Both Gamora and Stakar give Yondu a hairy eyeball; Gamora looks possessive and Stakar looks intrigued. “Got summthin’ on my face?” Yondu growls, and they both look away.
“You mind yourself with my little brother, pirate,” Gamora threatens. “Or I’ll be happy to make you miserable.”
“Ain’t got no idea whatchu’s talkin’ about,” Yondu grunts, and crosses his arms over his chest. “We ‘bout done, cap’n?”
Stakar nods. “If you want to go, I’ll catch up with you later.”
Yondu stalks towards the door, until a voice calls, “Wait!”
He turns and finds Kraglin shifting from foot-to-foot in front of him, holding a purple square box. “Your purchase,” the boy says, awkwardly. “I didn’t want you to forget them?”
“Would’a,” Yondu admits, and finds himself equally wrong-footed. Quietly, he asks, “Ya wanna get a drink, maybe?”
“Can’t say I saw that coming when I brought him here,” Stakar whispers loudly to Gamora. Yondu glares and they’re both grinning at his misery. Fuckers.
Before he can complain about it, one side of Kraglin’s mouth twists up in a grin. “Shop’s open till eighteen hundred. Afterwards? I’ll hold your chocolates for you here?”
“Eighteen hundred,” Yondu replies, and before things can get more awkward, he turns away and absolutely doesn’t flee from the shop.
Chapter 3: Dog Day Afternoon
And here we have Kraglin's POV...
“Your brother has a date with a pirate,” Gamora announces, as soon as Peter walks through the door. “A Centaurian Ravager, to be more precise.”
Kraglin’s head bangs into the oven door as he stands too quickly, and he groans in pain. Then he sends up a little thank-you to the Stars for protecting him from the oven, as the monstrosity isn’t on yet. “Gamora,” he moans, rubbing his skull. “Don’t tell him that, flark’s sake.”
Peter looks confused and annoyed, and opens his mouth to complain, but Kraglin’s already prepared his defense. “He’s Stakar’s second, and all he asked me to do was have a drink.”
“You’re going out with a pirate,” Peter says. “Absolutely. Over both my dead body’s, and Gamora’s.”
“Peter!” Kraglin protests. “I’m twenty-five now, I’m perfectly capable of going out with someone and not getting killed!”
“You’re not going anywhere with anyone from the Ravagers.”
“I was sleeping on street corners long before you found be and brought me home, Peter Jason Quill,” Kraglin growls. “I can take care of myself.”
Peter stops, takes a deep breath. Then he grins. “Fine. Then we’ll make it a double date.”
“Yes,” Peter replies. “Either that, or Gamora and I will follow you.”
“That’s a very good plan, Peter,” the-backstabber-also-known-as-Gamora says. “I too would like to go get drinks tonight.”
Kraglin groans. “This isn’t happening. Peter, you’re not my parent. I can go out with someone without a babysitter or protective detail.”
“Are you sure? Because I seem to remember laying down a rule about ‘no business with pirates’, and yet here I find you getting ready to go out with one.”
“Stakar brought me rocks and wood,” Kraglin groans. “Not guns and drugs. There’s nothing illegal about my request. I wanted to try some new methods of smoking chocolate I’d read about on the ‘net, and I knew Stakar could find the products I needed. All I have to do is bribe him with sweets. Nothing immoral there.”
“And now his second in command is taking you for drinks.”
“The man looks like he could use a friend!”
“He was certainly not looking at you with friendly intentions,” Gamora helpfully adds, and if looks could kill, Kraglin would smite her. “He looked at you like he looked at the chocolates in the cases. Something sweet and edible.”
“Yeah, well. I maybe was looking at him the same way,” Kraglin replies. “I’m allowed to find someone attractive, right? You saw him, Gamora. He was crazy-handsome.”
“I do not agree,” Gamora says with a shrug. “But it is besides the point. Peter is right to be protective of you. There are those who would kidnap you, you know this.”
“Not Stakar. And not Yondu, either.”
“Yondu? What kind of name is that? How can you trust a guy named Yondu?” Peter bitches.
“How can you trust a woman named Gamora?” Kraglin retorts. At Gamora’s hurt look, he adds, “Sorry, ‘Mora, but one of those things made as much sense as the other.”
“I understand,” she replies. “But would it not be better to allow for your safety, rather than take chances with it? Peter does not ask out of a desire to ruin your outing…” and here Kraglin snorts, interrupting her. “Or, perhaps not only to ruin your outing.”
“It wouldn’t have been a big deal if you hadn’t blabbed to him the minute he walked in the door,” Kraglin sulks. “That was all on you, Green Goddess.”
“Perhaps it is payback for your earlier comments, and perhaps I do not want to lose another person I care for.”
Well, Stars. Kraglin’s got no answer to that. He sighs. “So you guys want to go with us? I really can’t just go for a drink without you? This isn’t fair, you realize.”
“I know, Kraglin. But while the rules of the shop means that no one will touch you in here, I don’t like it when you’re out there without at least one person you know.”
“I know Stakar.”
“One trustworthy, not-pirate person,” Peter clarifies.
And if Peter’s being the voice of reason, then Kraglin forces himself to cave. He knows Peter’s right, and he knows Peter loves him, but he’s not too old to have a moment of teenaged melodrama. “How do I tell him I have chaperones? I’m an adult, he’s going to think I’m a baby or an idiot.”
“If he does, than better to be rid of him now, little brother.”
Kraglin groans, and pushes himself to his feet. “I’ve got work to do,” he grumbles, effectively letting Peter know he’s won this round. “Aja buns don’t bake themselves.”
Kraglin buries himself in his baking, wishing for once he could do things like a normal twenty-five-year-old Xandarian. Is it his fault that Galaxy Sweets became such a monument to desserts in the universe? Or that he and Peter are worth more than some small governments? That’s why they never leave Knowhere!
How he wants to explore, to know something more than the walls of the city around them. How he wishes for an adventure!
Kraglin sighs, pushes a ball of thick dough across the slab in front of him. He kneads his frustrations into the Aja dough, adding spices from across the stars to sweeten it: psa berries in their thick molasses, and candied knus to add crunch, and bits of chocolate from a planet far away. The dough doubles as he works, than triples, and he pulls it apart in fist-size chunks to form into the curved Aja rolls. The process takes him more than three hours, and by the time the trays are ready to sit for the night, it’s almost seventeen-twenty.
He flies up the stairs to the second floor of the shop, which serves as his thinking space. The loft apartment is filled with books, clothes, and ideas; sketches of new bread shapes and lists of ingredients for new menu items. It also, fortunately, has a shower and extra sets of clothes for when he ends up wearing his creations.
“Crap,” Kraglin mutters, as he looks at the small quantities of shirts and pants. He scrambles from a quick shower into black pants and a black shirt, and hopes Peter doesn’t give him shit for looking a little less like a kid. He also hopes Peter doesn’t try to give him a wedgie, since he’s not wearing underwear. “Okay, you can do this,” he tells himself, and stomps back downstairs.
When he pushes open the door to the front of the shop, Gamora and Peter are sitting at one of the corner tables, talking.
Chapter 4: Molasses Clock
Yondu.... oh, Yondu.
Yondu stares at the clock behind the bar and tries to will it to move with his mind. Not the physical clock, but the time. He wants the sweet in the candy store, and he’s not thinking about purple explosions on his tongue.
“Any luck moving that chronometer?”
Yondu wrinkles his nose and purses his lips, determining whether or not killing his captain in a fit of spite falls under the rules of the Ravagers. “Nah. Any luck besides bein’ the errand boy for a brat?”
Stakar’s face goes serious, and Yondu has only a moment to worry if his joke’s gone too far before he’s being shoved roughly against the bar. “What. Did. You. Call. Me.”
“I’s… nothin’, Captain,” Yondu replies. “S’just weird, us doin’ a proper delivery! I’s just teasin’.”
“More or less weird than you asking a Xandarian for a date instead of bedding a sexbot?” Stakar sneers back, shaking Yondu once for good measure. “You turning into a nice boy on me now, Udonta?”
The words ‘nice boy’ are snarled as one would normally say ‘serial killer’, and Yondu doesn’t wince, but it’s close. “Point,” he grudgingly agrees, and Stakar releases him. “Don’ know what happened. Was about out the door, an’ then I was askin’ him to meet.”
“If you consider hurting him, I’ll space you out an airlock.”
Yondu literally goggles at his captain. He can’t have heard… “Wha?”
“Don’t hurt him.”
“You his daddy now?”
“Yondu, let me explain something to you. You’ve heard of the Collector, have you not?”
“Course,” Yondu snaps. “Not an idjit.”
“The Collector’s a fan of Galaxy Sweets. As is Nova Prime. And the Kree. And a great many other races across the universe. If you hurt that boy, you’ll have a price put on your head so great that I’ll turn you over to the highest bidder myself. That doesn’t even cover what Kraglin’s step-brother will do to you.”
“Ain’t afraid of no Terran!”
“Not even one that has more money than the entire Ravager fleet combined?”
Yondu swallows his drink badly and sputters. After wheezing for a few seconds, he gives his Captain a dark look. “Why didn’ ya tell me this ‘fore I asked him ta meet me?”
“Not my job to protect you from yourself,” Stakar says, and shrugs eloquently. “Thought you’d have more sense than to flirt with the shopkeeper.”
“He smelled good,” Yondu blurts out, before he can stop himself. Stakar’s eyebrows enter orbit. “Quit lookin’ at me like that.”
“He smelled…” Stakar lowers his voice and drags Yondu closer. “Yondu. Are you telling me something?”
“Not sayin’ anything,” Yondu replies, but he knows it’s too late; Stakar may be many things, but an idiot he is not.
“Kraglin’s your mate, isn’t he.”
“Flark it, Stakar!”
Stakar’s wide-eyed and his mouth’s hanging open in shock. It takes him a moment to regroup, but when he does, he growls, “Am I going to have to look for a new first mate?”
Yondu has no idea about his own biology, and even if he did, he doesn’t want to discuss it with Stakar. “No.”
“Look, I dunno, alright? Who expected a scrawny, hairy Xandarian to match with me?”
“Who, indeed.” Stakar shakes his head. “Flark, Yondu. We’re not taking him. Forget it.”
“No. There’s no way.” And with that, the captain puts a hand on Yondu’s shoulder. “If you disobey my orders this time, I’ll execute you myself. This isn’t open for debate, do you understand me?”
Yondu scowls, doesn’t reply until Stakar’s grip tightens on his shoulder. “Yes, sir,” he bites out. “I understan’.”
“Good. Now, have another drink, and then go back to the shop. Doesn’t look good to be late for your first date. Ship leaves tomorrow morning, ten hundred. Have fun…”
Yondu lets out a noise of sheer frustration, but obeys his commanding officer. Even if the man’s an A-hole. He trudges through the streets, winding his way back to Galaxy Sweets, and if he’s half an hour early, who’s going to tell on him?
He pushes the door open, calls, “Kraglin?”
“He’s not available,” a ruddy-haired Terran says, and yep. This must be the brother. “Who’re you?”
“What’s it to ya?” he snarls, before his brain kicks in and reminds him that he may want to get this man on his side. “Er. I mean, I’m Yondu. Him and me’s got plans. You the brother?”
“Peter,” Peter replies, giving Yondu a once-over. They glare at each other a few moments, until the green girl strolls out from the back room. “Gamora, you remember Yondu,” Peter spits out.
She nods at him. “Kraglin will be down soon. Why do we not all sit and talk while we wait for him?”
Yondu would rather sit on the sharp end of his arrow, but doesn’t argue. Flark everything. “Sure.”
“So,” Peter says, the moment their collective asses hit the chairs. “I hear you’re a pirate.”
“Stealing, killing, Ravager first mate.”
“Ya got a point?”
“What makes you think that I want you near my baby brother in any way?”
“Not your decision. ‘S his.”
“I could make a point to ensure you don’t make it back to your ship.”
“Peter…” Gamora interrupts, but Yondu’s chuckle cuts her off.
“I’d like ta see you try,” Yondu says. “’Cept somethin’ tells me that wouldn’t work out the way you want it to. Boy’s liable to get awful angry at you fer it.”
“I would be happier to bear his anger than to let him get himself killed.”
“Sounds ‘bout right for a brother ta’ feel that way. Wouldn’t know m’self.”
That comment makes Peter pause. They stare at each other again. “I told Kraglin that we’re making it a double date. For his own protection.”
“The flark you say,” Yondu replies. “I got enough ways to keep anythin’ from hurtin’ him.”
“I think Peter is most concerned about you hurting him,” Gamora says, breaking the staring match between Yondu and Peter. “But I find it interesting that you would think to protect him from outside threats.”
“’S cause I’m a sweetheart,” Yondu says, sarcasm coating every word like gel. No need for either of them to realize he’s deadly serious when it comes to the idea of protecting his little mate. “Now, you gonna flark off so I can take the boy for a drink, or are we gonna have to do this the hard way?”
Any response is cut off by the soft voice behind them asking, “Yondu?”
Yondu’s head snaps around, and shit. Boy’s standing in the doorway to the shop, staring in abject horror at the three of them talking at a table. “You’re early!” Kraglin squeaks. “Oh my Stars, what did Peter do…”
Yondu can’t help but grin. “I’s just tellin’ your brother that I’m perfectly capable of keepin’ ya safe without his giant nose pokin’ into our night. So whatchu say, Kraglin? Think you ‘n me can make a night jus the two o’ us? Or are we a party o’ four?”
Chapter 5: First Date
Back to Kraglin. :)
Oh. Oh Stars, Kraglin doesn’t know what to say. He’s torn between wanting Yondu’s company all to himself, and wanting to not fight with Peter and Gamora. He must hesitate a second too long, because Yondu says, “’S okay, Kraglin. Party o’ four is fine.”
“No, I really wanted to go just the two of us, but…”
Yondu faces him, twisting his stocky body around in the chair. “I gotta get used to ‘em eventually, yeah? Part of the package?”
Kraglin… Kraglin stops. Gapes. “You really don’t mind?”
“Naw. Jus, maybe one o’ you should pick the place we go. I ain’t got the lay of the land like y’all.”
Kraglin beams. He doesn’t know why his pirate (and oh, how he really likes the sound of that) is so willing to go along with Peter’s aggravating intrusion, but he’s not going to complain. “Want to go to Drax’s? The owner’s pretty nice.”
Kraglin grins and shoves his hands in his pockets. “I guess I gotta lock up and we’ll be ready.”
“Why don’t Peter and I lock up and meet you there?” Gamora asks, glancing between Kraglin and Yondu. “If you give your word to go to Drax’s.”
“Sure!” Kraglin chirps. He yanks a hand free from his pants and holds it out to Yondu. “Want to get out of here?”
“Best idea I’ve heard,” Yondu replies. He stares at Kraglin’s extended hand for a minute, then hesitantly links his fingers with Kraglin. “C’mon.”
They walk out the door and down the street, fingers still linked. “Sorry that I couldn’t talk Peter out of coming along,” Kraglin says, hesitantly. “He’s a little overprotective.”
“’S fine. Ain’t never had a brother to bug me, but got a few crewmates that prank each other, so.”
“I don’t see you as a prankster.”
“Boy, ya ain’t looked hard enough yet.”
Kraglin screws up his courage, says, “I’ve been looking since you first walked in the store.”
Yondu’s whole face changes. The cynical glower melts away, leaving beautiful blue cheeks and… okay, some slightly terrifying gold teeth. But Kraglin’s not afraid to be bitten. “Yeah. I’ve been lookin’, too.”
“I don’t really do this, you know.”
He blushes, knowing full well Yondu’s teasing him. “Accept drinks from strangers. I’m not… people-y.”
“Seem pretty comfortable huggin’ Stakar,” Yondu grumbles, and Stars – is that a hint of jealousy? Kraglin grins.
“I’ve known Stakar a few years. Never saw him with you before, though. He’s nice, for a pirate, and willing to do some honest jobs if I ask. But no, I mean, I don’t go out with people. Don’t like it.”
“I normally ain’t one ta ask, so guess we got bein’ antisocial in common,” Yondu admits, then points at the stripes on his Ravager jacket. “An ya ain’t never seen me cause I jus got my bars. First Mate.”
“Congratulations.” Kraglin turns a corner and pulls Yondu into a low-lit tavern. He likes Drax; the giant man has a gentleness that suits Kraglin’s personality. He also likes the slightly cleaner interior and tables and chairs. “Come on. There are always tables open in the back.”
“Fancy,” Yondu remarks, but allows Kraglin to tug him along. “Glad I let you choose.”
Kraglin leads him to an out-of-the-way corner with a good view of the rest of the room. Yondu glances around for the exits and situates himself in a chair with the best sightlines. Kraglin takes the chair to his right, and fiddles with the buttons on his shirt. “So… um. I know you’re Stakar’s second, so you’ve been on a lot of different trips with the Ravagers, right? What’s some of the coolest places you’ve seen?”
Yondu purses his lips and makes a thoughtful sound. “Got kidnapped once by natives,” he says. His lips curve up in a smile. “Thought I was one a’ them ancient gods or summthin’ cause o’ bein’ blue. Ate more ‘n my weight of this paste stuff that looked like ground organs but tasted like gold on yer tongue. You ever go anywhere?”
“Nope. I was born on Xandar and then moved here with Peter. Haven’t had time to see a lot. Peter went to one of the Quadrants to study for school when I was a kid, and he’s seen more than I have, but I want to go and see the stars, Yondu. More than anything.”
“I’ll be happy ta show ya,” Yondu says, squeezing their fingers together. Kraglin jolts a little; he hadn’t realized they were still holding hands. “Ain’t never played tourist up there, always been workin’.”
“And what do you do for work, as if we didn’t know?” A voice says, startling Kraglin and forcing him to stop staring at Yondu. He turns his head to glare at Peter as Peter sits in the chair to Yondu’s left.
“Flyin’, mostly. Plannin’ with the boss. Not exactly an idjit.”
“Perhaps we should order something,” Gamora says, and waves a hand at a passing server. “What do you drink?”
“Anything alcoholic,” Yondu replies, giving her a toothy grin. “Ain’t picky.”
“Why don’t we share a bottle of CLU?” Kraglin asks, desperate to change the subject. “Yondu was telling me about the stars.”
“You can see stars from here,” Peter grumps, and then squeaks, leaning over to rub at his leg – where Gamora obviously kicked him. “But it’s true, they’re a lot different up there.”
“Didn’t ya see ‘em when you came from Xandar to here?”
“No. We didn’t have a lot of credits, so we had a tiny interior cabin on the transport ship. And I haven’t been around anyone wanting to go see stars with me.”
Kraglin grins at his blue pirate. “I’d like that.”
“So you’re planning to stay here on Knowhere for a while, to spend time with Kraglin?”
Kraglin kicks Peter’s other leg, ignoring his wince of pain, and says, “I’m sure we don’t need to pressure Yondu into making any hasty decisions right now at this very second.”
“The Ravagers are leavin’ tomorrow at ten hundred,” Yondu says. “So I’s got ta go, but I’ll be sending messages and callin’ ya. Ain’t gettin’ rid o’ me so easy an’ I’ll be back ‘fore ya can miss me.”
“I’d like that,” Kraglin says. The server suddenly appears with the tall, glistening-white bottle of CLU and four glasses. “So, a toast to new possibilities?”
“And to family,” Gamora says, gently clinking her glass with Kraglin’s.
The conversation stilts along for a round, then two; Kraglin’s only too glad when Gamora says, “I believe Peter and I will excuse ourselves. Yondu, would you be so kind as to walk Kraglin to the transport station, so he may safely return home?”
While Peter sputters, and Kraglin freezes in shock, the best expression belongs to the fearsome pirate at the table. Yondu’s eyes go wide and he adopts a hunted expression. “I… yeah. Would be glad to.”
Gamora nods. “Come, Peter.”
Peter glares, frowns, and knows better than to argue. With a final sigh, he takes a handful of credit chips from his pockets and tosses them on the table. “Drinks are on me, I guess.”
“Thanks Pete,” Kraglin says.
“Get home by one hundred hours or I’m sending out a search party,” Peter replies. He leans over and gives Kraglin a one-armed hug. “I mean it, kid.”
“Ugh, gross.” Kraglin squirms out of Peter’s grasp. “Cooties…”
Peter and Yondu exchange one last irritated glance, and then Peter departs behind Gamora. Kraglin watches them leave, then turns to Yondu. “So. Wanna stay or wanna go for a walk to see something cool?”
“Sounds like an easy choice,” Yondu says. He stands, offering Kraglin his arm. “Let’s go.”
Chapter 6: Long Walk
Oh, Yondu. Silence your boyfriend!
Kraglin shivers the minute they leave the bar and hit the street, and before Yondu can overthink it, he’s slipping out of his coat and wrapping it around Kraglin. Kraglin squeaks in surprise, then cuddles into its warmth. Yondu’s not sure if he’s happy that Kraglin’s comfortable, or jealous of the leathers wrapped around his mate’s thin frame.
“Ya okay now?”
“I… yes, thanks,” Kraglin says. He leans his weight into Yondu, and Yondu tosses a careless arm around the boy’s shoulders. “Aren’t you going to be cold?”
Yondu shrugs. “If I get cold, I know I got someone ta warm me up.”
Kraglin squeaks again, and yeah. Yondu could get behind hearing that sound for the rest of his life. “C’mon, whatchu wanna show me?”
Kraglin puts an arm around Yondu’s waist, and even though Yondu’s not as tall as the other man, it’s like their bodies know exactly how to fit together because they’ve done it a thousand times before. Something about the fact that Kraglin is his mate makes Yondu want to hold him down and fuck… and yet, he’s perfectly willing to wait for the younger man to be ready for the naked fun parts.
Kraglin steers them to a rare open space on Knowhere, into a cluster of metal trees and strange tiny lights. “What’s this?”
“They call it an urban forest,” Kraglin says, pulling Yondu down a pathway. “There are benches around the corner, and in the evenings they turn on the fairy lights so people can walk together. It’s not like a real forest, but it’s a neat idea, isn’t it?”
“You ever see a real forest?”
“Nope. Only on the ‘net.”
“There’s planets that got trees that stretch taller ‘n the buildings here,” Yondu says. “An’ they’re quiet as gravestones. But fer a big place like Knowhere, ‘s interestin’ that they made a metal forest o’ their own.”
“You promise to take me some of these places someday?”
“Don’t think takin’ ya anywhere with me ‘s gonna be a hardship,” Yondu says. “Kinda wanna take ya with me tomorrow.”
“Why won’t you?”
Yondu sighs. “Honest, don’ want no trouble with yer family. Gonna be stuck with ‘em a long time, I think.”
The brilliant grin and blush from Kraglin’s worth the small admission. Yondu remembers what he felt like as a Kree slave, and if that damn obnoxious Terran loves Kraglin as obviously as he does – and they’re not even related by blood – then Yondu’s not going to fuck it up.
He wonders if his biology is thinking for him, because it sure as shit isn’t his Ravager side.
Kraglin pokes at his arrow, which hangs exposed since he gave Kraglin his coat. “What’s with the arrow?”
“’S a yaka.”
“Okay. What’s with the yaka?”
“Radioactive arrow I control by whistlin’,” Yondu says. “Part of my heritage, or so I guessed. Saved my life a thousand times over when some a-hole had it in fer me.”
Yondu glances sharply at the boy beside him. “Whassat?”
“C’mon, ya can say it. I ain’t got a lily-white rep, I know.”
Kraglin looks at him from under lowered lashes; Yondu wonders whether the boy knows how much the gaze affects him. “Have you killed people?”
“Lots. Most wanted ta kill me first, though. Can’t exactly be a Ravager if yer squeamish.”
“I’ve never done anything lawbreaking before,” Kraglin says. “Not since I met Peter, anyway. I picked pockets and swiped food and stuff, and got in fights, but I’m not tough.”
“Went out with a pirate, didn’ ya? Got more tough than some.”
Kraglin grins at that and cuddles closer to Yondu. “Yeah, but somehow I knew you’d be good to me. Why’s that, exactly?”
Yondu shrugs, refusing to answer, and it makes Kraglin laugh. “Keep your secrets, then. I’ll work them out of you eventually.”
“So sure o’ yourself, are ya.”
They sit on an unoccupied bench and Kraglin drapes himself against Yondu’s side. Yondu quietly agrees that, for metal and lights, it’s not a half-bad spot. “How’d you meet Peter?”
Kraglin launches into a story about a street gang and Nova Corps officers and a chance for the two brothers to escape poverty, and Yondu listens with half an ear. The other half keeps an eye on their surroundings. Which is a good thing, because after a few minutes, Yondu hears quiet footsteps coming around the path. He whistles softly, and slips his free hand to his thigh to unholster a blaster.
“What is it?” Kraglin whispers, noticing the shift in Yondu’s mood.
“Dunno. Gonna wait and see what happens.”
‘What happens’ turns into being held at gunpoint by two men. Yondu sends the arrow hurtling towards one, only to hesitate when Kraglin jumps up and shouts, “STOP!”
Their attackers pause but Yondu doesn’t; he continues to shove Kraglin behind him. “Stay back, idjit,” he snarls. “Get yer ass shot on someone else’s watch.”
“Yondu,” Kraglin grunts, and why does he sound annoyed? “Let me up, I know these guys. Hey, Drax. Hey, Devos.”
One of the two steps forward. “Hello, Kraglin. When I saw you with this pirate at my bar tonight, I thought I was dreaming that you could show so little sense.”
Kraglin scowls, but takes the time to run his hands down Yondu’s arm, pressing hard enough to push the blaster muzzle to the ground. “No shooting,” he says.
“No promises,” Yondu replies, but holsters the weapon anyway. He’s more than confident he can eliminate them with his yaka.
“It was a date, Drax. Peter and Gamora were both there, too.”
“Do you know who this is?” the one called Devos asks, voice raising in pitch as he talks. “That’s Yondu Udonta. He’s wanted in multiple planetary systems for theft, murder, and numerous other crimes! He’s got more than a million credits on his head on Nova alone.”
“Then I’ll pay them off,” Kraglin says, shrugging. When Devos and Yondu both protest at once, Kraglin cuts them off. “Don’t complain, Devos. You know I can afford it.”
“’S not the point,” Yondu snarls. “Ya ain’t gonna waste yer hard-earned credits clearin’ my name, boy.”
“Don’t ‘boy’ at me,” Kraglin snarls right back, and shakes a jacket-covered fist in Yondu’s face. “I feel this pull when I’m with you, and I’m not letting some stupid bounty interrupt this.”
“I’m more likely ta get ya killed!”
“Then I’ll just haunt your stubborn ass until you give in!”
Yondu gets ready to shout back, only to realize the two men are looking on with genuine amusement. “Whatchu lookin’ at?”
“I believe we are witnessing a child successfully yell at a pirate,” the huge man says.
“I’m not a fucking child.”
“Sure, cause that didn’ sound childish at all.”
Kraglin slugs Yondu none-too-gently in the arm. “Don’t side with them. Stars…”
“I’m going to have to arrest him, Krags,” Devos says. “I don’t see a way around it.”
“But… Devos, he’s not. He’s not hurting anyone by sitting here with me, and I swear if you do this I’ll ban you from the shop!”
“Aw, kid,” Devos says. “That’s blackmail! I can’t just let a Ravager walk off into the park with a kid, especially not one wearing colors.”
Kraglin perks up, says, “What?”
“Not one wearing colors,” Devos repeats.
“Oh. Well, then it’s a good thing he isn’t here wearing colors, isn’t it?”
“What are you talking about? I see his jacket with the flame insignia just fine!”
“But he’s not wearing it. I am,” Kraglin says, grinning. “So I guess you have to arrest me, too. Right?”
“Over my dead body!”
“That can be arranged, pirate,” Drax growls. “Kraglin, you cannot be serious.”
“I’m serious, all right. I’m wearing Ravager colors, not Yondu. So I guess I’m the one going to jail. Otherwise, you’ve got no reason to arrest either of us tonight. Right? Because he’d have to actively be breaking the law right now for you to have shown up here anyway.”
“That’s a technicality…”
“But he’s right,” Yondu says, grinning at how perfect his little mate is. “So you, what – followed one of Knowhere’s upstandin’ citizens into a park to peep on ‘im? Would make for great press. I can see it – Galaxy Sweets owner detained fer bein’ a pirate.”
“Shut. Your. Mouth.”
“Why donchu make me,” Yondu growls, and lets out a low whistle. The yaka twists and hovers in front of Devos’ face.
“Yondu,” Kraglin elbows him. “Stop that. Devos, no one’s going to go home happy tonight if you arrest me. And if you take Yondu, I’m pretty tempted to let him skewer you. Can we extend the shop policy for tonight? No one’s going to witness you letting us go except for Drax, and I know he’s not going to say anything either. Please. For me, I’m begging you.”
The bar owner and the law officer hesitate, and Yondu plasters on his most innocent ‘who, me?’ look. He can see the moment they both crumble under Kraglin’s pleading. “Get off my planet,” Devos says, and lowers his blaster.
Yondu whistles the yaka back into its sheath. “I’m gonna be ‘round for Kraglin,” he says. “Ain’t gonna give you no reason to look fer me. Agreed?”
The officer huffs and stomps off; Drax, meanwhile, says to Kraglin, “I will be discussing the sense of this with Peter Quill tomorrow when I see him.”
“Can’t wait,” Kraglin sighs. “But for what it’s worth, Drax – thanks.”
“Good night, Kraglin. Good night, Yondu Udonta.”
The two men lope off and leave Kraglin with Yondu in the dark. Yondu takes a deep breath, goes to speak, and then shakes his head. “C’mon, Kraglin. ‘S gettin’ late. I’d better get ya to the shuttle stop.”
Yondu takes Kraglin’s hand in his, pulls Kraglin’s body into his own. He raises Kraglin’s hand to his mouth and bites gently on the taller man’s fingers. “Ain’t gonna stop me wantin’ ya.”
“I… okay,” Kraglin says, releasing a shaky breath. “Okay. Let’s get me home.”
Chapter 7: Crazy Decisions
Kraglin, don't cry.......
At eleven hundred hours the next morning, Kraglin knows his heart will well and truly be broken. He mopes around the shop, wishing he could’ve spent at least another few hours with his pirate. Stupid Drax and Devos, for interrupting them! He wanted at least a kiss goodnight, not just a few cuddles.
“Are you going to be okay?”
“What do you care?” Kraglin snaps, shoving a tray of flat tanzerprins into the oven. He sets a timer so he won’t burn the delicate cookies. “He’s gone, congratulations.”
“Don’t! I don’t want to hear it, Peter. Just… just get out of my kitchen, all right?”
“Look, I’m sorry, okay? Is that what you want to hear? He’s no good for you, little brother.”
“What I want to hear is silence, because it means you’ve left me alone.”
Peter sighs and Kraglin ignores it. He’s not willing to deal with his brother’s fussing when he’s got more important things to think about. As Peter turns to leave the kitchen, however, Gamora sticks her head in the door. “Kraglin, there’s someone in the shop inquiring about a security job.”
Kraglin glares at Peter, betrayed. “Did you do this? Did you hire some security guard for me?”
“What, me? No! This is the first I’ve heard of it!”
“If this is your idea of a joke, Peter, I’m going to murder you in cold blood.”
“Kraglin. Stop threatening Peter and go look at your applicant,” Gamora says, voice oddly gentle. “Peter, won’t you come next door with me please? We have things to discuss in my shop.”
Kraglin throws his hands up in the air at Peter’s dumb expression and stomps into the store. Without looking, he snarls, “Look, I’m not hire…ing…?”
He stops. Stares. Stares some more. Yondu gives him an adorably shy grin. “Hey,” the Ravager says.
“Hey,” Kraglin replies, mouth and brain on auto-pilot. “What…?”
As he asks the question, he looks at the two duffle bags sitting by Yondu’s feet. Yondu rubs a hand over his neck, says, “I decided ta stay instead of leaving.”
“But… but why?”
Gamora pulls Peter out the door, drawing Kraglin’s attention, but only for a moment. He strides over to the door and locks it behind them. “I don’t understand.”
“I kinda don’t either,” Yondu admits. “Was layin’ in my bunk last night, ready ta go, thinkin’ that I’d like ta see ya or take ya with me. Started thinkin’ I may get killed or arrested an’ never see ya again, and it didn’t set right.”
“So you, what? Stayed here for me?”
“Donchu realize why?”
Kraglin blinks. “Tell me.”
“Yer my mate,” Yondu says. He blushes royal, and Kraglin can’t help but be charmed. “Don’ wanna push ya into anythin’ and don’t want ta stay without doin’ my share, but I can’t just leave ya either. I wantcha, Kraglin Obfonteri. More ‘n any raid, more ‘n any money. I know I ain’t much, but if you’ll have me…”
Yondu doesn’t get to finish the statement because Kraglin throws himself into his pirate’s arms. “Stars, Yondu,” he breathes, burying his face into the other man’s neck. “I thought I’d die when I realized you’d left me. All I wanted was to be back in your arms.”
“So… you’ll let me keep ya safe? I ain’t ever done honest work ‘fore, but fer you, I’ll do it.”
“I couldn’t imagine a more qualified person to watch my back than someone who loves me.”
Yondu grins, all gold-teeth and absolute cuteness, and Kraglin rubs their noses together. “I’ve got a small room and mattress upstairs,” he says. “You want to make that mating claim more permanent?”
“Only if yer sure,” Yondu says. He nuzzles into Kraglin’s body. “I think, once we make it permanent, ya ain’t ever gettin’ rid a me.”
“I can’t think of anything more perfect, to be honest.”
Kraglin takes Yondu’s hand in his, leads him through the kitchen and up the small staircase. “I can’t believe this is real. You’re here, right? I’m not just dreaming?”
The loft’s a disaster, but Kraglin hardly cares. He draws Yondu into the small bed sleeping area, kicking a pile of dirty laundry under the mattress stand. “I gotta be honest,” he says, swallowing hard. “I haven’t done this a lot.”
“I don’t got a lot of… you know. Experience. M’not exactly handsome like Peter, or…”
“Hey, hey,” Yondu cuts him off. “Yer flarkin’ perfect, don’t be crazy. Anyone not wantin’ ya ‘s an a-hole, ya hear me?”
“Yeah, okay,” Kraglin mumbles.
“Naw, I’m serious,” Yondu says. “Look atcha. Yer gorgeous, and yer mine.”
“I want to be yours.”
Yondu skims a hand under the light shirt Kraglin’s wearing, untucking it from his pants. “Can I…?”
Kraglin nods. He can’t believe the care the other man shows him as layer by layer strips away, leaving him in nothing – not even his underwear. But for every piece Yondu removes, he strips away his own clothes, never far from Kraglin’s body and leaving them equally undressed.
“’S this okay?”
“Yeah,” Kraglin replies. “Yeah, I want more.”
The grin on Yondu’s face is pure mischief. “Ya sure ya can handle all this blue skin showin’?”
Kraglin giggles, the yelps as Yondu hoists him up and deposits him on the bed like he weighs an ounce. “Yondu!”
“Just movin’ things along,” the pirate says, shrugging unrepentantly. He lowers himself on top of Kraglin, propping himself up on his elbows. “Yer edible.”
Kraglin’s voice trails off as Yondu sucks a nipple into his mouth. The wet, hot suction draws a moan, and he grabs onto Yondu’s shoulders for support. “Stars.”
Leisurely kisses follow; the wet glide of Yondu’s tongue in his mouth, down his neck, in his belly button, to the hot space between his legs that has him crying out in pleasure.
And as Yondu moves within him, loving him, the pirate sinks his teeth into Kraglin’s neck, marking him for all to see as Mate.
Kraglin falls asleep when it’s done, and knows he’ll never know as much happiness as he does in Yondu’s arms.
Chapter 8: Epilogue: Starkar
Five Years Later
Stakar pushes the door open to Galaxy Sweets, and the first thing he hears is, “NO-NO-NO, Uncle YahYah! Don’t eat me!” followed by hysterical three-year-old giggling.
It’s not the first time he’s walked in on such ridiculousness. He walks into the back of the shop and the scene before him has him laughing out loud; Yondu holds his pale green, half-Terran niece by her ankles, tickling her. Kraglin’s video recording it, and little miss Marilyn Monroe Quill giggles ferociously. “I dunno,” Yondu says, poking her belly. “Ya look awful edible. What does Terran taste like? Hmm…”
The ex-pirate grins, such a happy expression never on his face before he landed in the confectionary shop. He puts Marilyn down and she throws herself into his arms, squealing, “Again, again Uncle YahYah!!”
“Am I interrupting?”
Three heads shoot towards him. “Uncle Stakar!” comes Marilyn’s squeal. “Up, up!”
Stakar scoops up his goddaughter into a hug. “Hey kiddo,” he says. “Are you gettin’ your uncles into trouble?”
“I gonna get eated!”
Stakar grins. “You are?”
“Uh huh. Momma and Daddy say no, but Uncle YahYah’s gonna do it.”
Kraglin howls in laughter. “Uncle YahYah knows not to eat you without checking with Momma and Daddy first.”
“Stuff it,” Yondu says. He stands up, revealing a pair of shorts with skinny blue calves sticking out at the bottom and a black short sleeved shirt. Definitely not his old Ravager uniform. “Hi, Captain,” he says.
“Hi Yondu. Hiya Krags.”
“Hi Stakar.” Kraglin shoots Yondu a grin, then hugs Stakar, ignoring the mumbled, ‘sure, sure, still gotta hug the a-hole’ from Yondu’s corner. “Glad you’re here.”
“Me too.” Stakar gives Kraglin a once-over, noticing the tan and longer hair. “How was your trip?”
“Amazing! I’d never even heard of a beach before, let alone seen one. And the water was gorgeous, you could swim out and see straight to the bottom.”
“Made fer great skinny-dippin’,” Yondu added, leering at his mate.
“What’s that?” Marilyn asked, causing all three men to cringe. “Sk…sk…”
“It means swimming in deeper water, instead of in the shallows,” Kraglin says, straight-faced. “We did a lot of that deep-water swimming. Yes siree. Hey cutie, why don’t you go upstairs and watch one of your shows, huh? Let us grownups talk for a minute?”
“Okay. See you later, Uncle Stakar.”
They watch her trudge up the stairs, Kraglin cooing at her retreating backside. “I think I’ll go keep an eye on her,” he says.
With that, he hugs Stakar again, then tips his whole body into Yondu’s for a kiss. The pair would be nauseating after five years together, but somehow Stakar manages to ignore it. “Don’t be long,” Kraglin says.
Yondu makes an affirmative noise, watches his mate walk away. He turns back to Stakar. “Just visitin’? Didn’ let us know you were comin’.”
“Passing through on a job,” Stakar replies. “Didn’t have time to let you know. You look good, Yondu.”
The ex-pirate smiles. “Yeah. Retirement suits me fine.”
“Still got lots more to show ‘im of the universe. Warm places he can explore and take pictures.”
Stakar looks at the framed photo of the two men taped to one of the giant refrigerators, along with a dozen others: Peter and Gamora’s wedding, tiny infant Marilyn in her mother’s arms, two proud uncles cuddling the new babe, Stakar holding a pastry and laughing. One of Yondu wearing a sheet, sleeping. One of Kraglin, wet and shirtless, about to be knocked over by a wave. “You got a good life.”
“More ‘n I deserved.”
“Maybe. Or maybe the two of you needed each other, and that’s why you connected.”
“Either way, I’ll never take it for granted,” Yondu says, softly, eyes following Stakar’s as he takes in the photos.
“And that, my friend, is what we call an official happy ending.”
Chapter 9: Simple Gifts
This chapter is dedicated to BlueSocksandFluff because they said, “Accidental Baby Acquisition” in a comment and it broke my brain!
When the tiny sweet shop opened on Knowhere, the Collector had been curious. As a Celestial, he’d not been surprised in a great many eons. All he’d cared about was gathering as many rarities as he could find, steal, or buy – so that when the end came, he’d be surrounded by all the things he’d wanted. His existence never changed, never wavered, and was never exciting.
No one had ever mentioned the boy who’d eventually shock him down to his bones. He wandered into the Collector’s shop one day, some sort of white powder stuck to his cheeks and a smile lighting his face. “Hi!” the young man said. “I brought you something.”
“For sale?” the Collector asked, bored already.
“Nope. A present. But, I suppose if you’d want to give me your opinion, I’d be happy with that.”
The Collector couldn’t recall a time someone had offered him a present or wanted his opinion of anything. Suspiciously, he took the box the boy offered and opened it. And almost dropped it on the floor.
Sparkling up at him were Infinity Stones – not the real ones, he knew – but glass orbs that gleamed in the store’s light, sparkling up in red, purple, blue, green, yellow, and orange. “How…?” he asked, stunned.
“Oh. Had a customer tell me you wanted the mythical stones. I never saw them, of course, but I know the legends well enough. Made them from spun sugar and dyes and a few other things. Thought I’d call them ‘Affinity Stones’ cause they tend to attract the eye. Wanted you to have the first batch. Was hoping you’d tell me if they looked real or not, maybe?”
The boy hesitated, twisting his shirt in his hands. “You don’t have to, of course. But I thought you might like them. You can eat one, if you want.”
“That would be a travesty,” the Collector replied. “To eat what looks as real as you or I. They are magnificent.”
The boy beamed. “I’m glad you like them! I know it’s not the real thing, but I thought you might get a chuckle out of them. By the way, I’m Kraglin. I run…”
“Galaxy Sweets. Yes, I know.”
“Oh.” Kraglin nodded. “Right, of course you’d know. Anyway… I hope that you enjoy them. I’ll just get out of your hair now. Thanks again for telling me whether they looked real or not.”
The boy… Kraglin shuffled toward the door. For a moment, the Collector watched him go, and then – to his surprise – he called, “Kraglin? Do you have other such unusual items in your shop?”
Kraglin grinned. “You’re always welcome to stop by. But I’ll warn you, I tend to use neighbors and friends as test subjects for my new recipes.”
The Collector wondered which he was; and if it was possible to somehow become both.
The Collector thinks about the memory as he walks down the street, wrapping his bundle more tightly into his cloak. He considers the boy he knew versus the man Kraglin became; a respectable citizen despite the world around him, a doting uncle to a seven-year-old, a loving mate to an ex-pirate and good man.
The Collector smiles and pushes open the door to Galaxy Sweets. His eyes land upon both Kraglin and Yondu, the pair chatting with a customer in the store. He waits; when Kraglin spots him, he can’t help but reciprocate with a wave. “Hi!” Kraglin says, bounding to him, still all gangly legs and youthful energy. “I didn’t know you were coming in today, or I’d have made you a treat!”
And still as generous as upon their first meeting. “My decision to visit was sudden,” the Collector replies. “I would speak with you and your mate in private, at your earliest convenience.”
Kraglin’s face drops. “Are you okay?” he asks. “Do you need help? What’s wrong?”
Has anyone, anywhere ever worried for him as this boy does? The Collector allows himself a small moment of pride. His decision to bring his bundle to this boy has been sound. “I am fine as always, my friend,” he replies. “I have a gift for you, and wish only to share it with you and your mate alone.”
Kraglin sighs. “Oh. Oh, of course, I’m so glad you’re okay. Wait… a gift?”
The Collector nods. “Go tend to your customer and then we may speak.”
The boy nods and hurries back to the counter. Once the patron finishes his purchase and leaves the store, Yondu is the one to lock up and direct the Collector to a comfortable table and chairs. “Heard you had somethin’ for my mate?”
“For the both of you, actually.” The Collector pulls back his cloak to expose the precious bundle beneath. “She came across my doorstep and I thought of you immediately.”
Both men are taken aback by the appearance of… “Is that a baby?” Kraglin’s voice cracks on the word. “I… whoa, it’s blue!”
While Kraglin stays in a state of shock, it is Yondu’s reaction the Collector finds most interesting. The ex-pirate reaches a hand out without thinking, then snatches it back, his eyes so wide that the Collector can see pale white behind red. “She’s Centaurian,” Yondu says in awe. “But… how?”
“I am sorry to tell you that her mother was a slave of one of my contacts. The woman is deceased; the babe’s name is Lahdna and she is an orphan. When I learned of this, I purchased her from her Master, knowing a much better home for her. With you.”
Yondu’s head snaps up. “You want us to take her?”
“She is my gift to you,” the Collector says. “I see you with your niece. She could not be more loved. Would you not offer the same love and care to a member of your own kind, Yondu Udonta? Would you not want a child to raise with your mate?”
Yondu and Kraglin look at each other. Kraglin’s eyes are watering and he wipes them with the back of his hand. “We’d talked about a kid,” Kraglin says, and laughs a watery laugh. “We never thought. I never thought. Stars, I never…”
The boy reaches out his hands and the Collector passes over the child. Kraglin tucks her head into his throat, wraps solid arms around her, and rocks her gently. “She’s so beautiful,” he says, marveling at the babe in his grasp. “I couldn’t give her to anyone else.”
“I would never ask you to. No one would have to know she was anything but a child conceived by your mate and a carrier. Yondu Udonta, would you claim the babe as your own?”
“Ya try an’ tell anyone she ain’t mine, I’d fightchu on it,” Yondu replies, stroking a hand across Kraglin’s cheek. “Baby. We’ve got a baby, sweetheart.”
“Lahdna,” Kraglin says. He kisses the girl on her forehead, right below the tiny red crest that’s developing. “Oh Stars, Yondu. She’s got a baby mohawk all of her own.”
“She’s gorgeous,” the ex-pirate agrees. He then turns to the Collector. “Why’d ya do it?”
The Collector smiles. “When I first met your mate, he offered me a gift more precious than any other I’ve acquired. He called me neighbor, allowed me to become friend. I cannot tell you the last time I’d been so pleasantly surprised by a mortal. It was an honor to repay his kindness with a gift of my own.”
Kraglin hands Yondu the baby, and suddenly the Collector finds himself caught in an embrace. “Thank you,” the boy says, squeezing him. “This is the best gift I never asked for. I promise we’ll love her for the rest of our lives.”
“That is all I can ask,” the Collector replies, and brings up an arm to awkwardly pat at Kraglin’s back. He is so unused to Kraglin’s zealous displays of affection, but enjoys them all the same. “You are a rare treasure all to yourself, Kraglin Udonta. It is my delight to watch you live and love and grow.”
After a moment, the Collector releases the boy, rises from his seat, and makes his way to leave. He accepts the profuse thanks from the pair and returns to his own corner of Knowhere, a little lighter of spirit and a little better off than he was before.