The first time he thinks it, it isn’t really anybody’s fault. Peter’s hands and knees are scuffed and muddy, and he knows he should clean ‘em, but he also thinks maybe he can just let the bugs in and kill him and he’ll be with his Momma soon enough.
“Quit yer hollerin’, boy, it won’t bring her back, none. Least she loved you.”
She did, and that’s why it hurts. Losing something you knew loved you - something as wonderful and perfect as your mother - and being told to stop being upset?
Peter screams that he hopes Yondu had died instead of his mother, and he means it, with all his heart.
The second time, he’s stuck in a tight spot, trying so hard not to breathe too loud. He knows how to count the footsteps below, and he ignores the scuttling bugs that wander around in the duct with him.
He wonders if he kept running through it - where Yondu’s men couldn’t go - could he get free? Go to the authorities, tell them he’s been kidnapped, tell them he’s been stolen?
Or would they laugh, throw him in some jail like Yondu says, or throw him to some gladiator ring, or…
Peter doesn’t have a choice. His best bet at surviving is a man with teeth sharper than his wits, who laughs too hard and too long. He doesn’t want to kill him, but he wonders if he died - just - accidental-like - would anyone on the crew notice if he left?
“Fight, boy, fight!”
Peter is fighting. He’s bleeding from a cut to the lip, and he’s sure he’s got a bruise fit to draw continents on forming down his side. He’s aching and sweaty and no amount of ‘you can’t imagine a real fight to go nice’ makes up for the fact that he’s sore.
People shouldn’t need to know where to offer, if you’re gonna get kicked anyhows. People shouldn’t need to know how to improve your chances of survival by sacrificing things, or allowing pain enough to win.
People shouldn’t need to know how to apply wrist-locks, or attack nerve bundles, or any of this.
He doesn’t want to live in a world where the world wants to kill him, but apparently he does.
He spits out blood, and he climbs back to his feet.
Most folks get gifts on their birthdays, though Peter’s noticed it don’t work so well when you have no idea what day it even is. There’s so many calendars - and years go around faster on some worlds than others - that he has no real sense of how old he even is, any more.
But he’s pretty sure he’s eighteen. Probably. He looks like he should be eighteen. He looks like he should be doing normal stuff, like have girlfriends, drive, steal alcohol (and not have been drinking it already for years). Like he should be getting his own car, not having to ‘borrow’ a spaceship whenever he needs some space.
Yondu still treats him like he’s a kid. No amount of arguing will get him to concede the point that he’s grown, now, and Peter hates that he always must look eight to him. Sure, their species are different, but he can’t still think he’s a boy, right?
He just… needs to be himself. That’s all.
Yondu doesn’t understand.
It’s later. After the lights have died down, after everyone’s retreated to their bunks. After he’s sure no one can hear him, when he walks to the furthest part of his ship, hoping no one can hear.
It’s then when he stares at the metal he stole from the man who stole him.
“You asshole,” he shouts, as his knuckles hit the bulkhead. “You couldn’t once say? Not once? You gotta - you gotta wait until I can’t say nothing back?”
Left, right, left, right. He smacks his hands into the cool metal, feeling it split his skin.
(He knows how to punch, as much as fly, as much as shoot. He might not know how to throw a ball, but he knows how to stay alive, knows how to fight a freaking God, apparently– but he’d give it all up just… just for…)
“You had to be an asshole, in case someone cared back for you! You never thought maybe I wanted to?”
Between the tears. Between the shouting matches. Around the edges of his life, with the long, red coat and the scruff. Emulating without understanding. Trying to impress him. Wondering why Yondu was yet another Man Who Deemed Him Not Worthy.
All that time, and he’d - he’d -
“I hate you,” Peter screams, punching so hard the skin around his knuckle splits clean down, and blood pools around the joint. It’ll hurt for days and days, and he wants it to, because he deserves it, and he needs the feeling inside to match up to how lost, lost and afraid he feels.
He says he hates him, and he does. But he only hates him because he loved him, too.