"So, Earth must be pretty boring compared to what you're used to, huh?"
Peter looked down at the teenager skipping along at his side as they explored the main shopping district of what Peter had been told was one of the biggest cities on this particular continent (Fifth Avenue, New York City, North America, Earth). "Boring? Why?"
The kid -- whose name was also Peter, so they had settled on "Parker" and "Quill" -- looked up at him with wide, guileless eyes. "Dude, you've seen whole different planets. You've been on spaceships."
"You've been on a spaceship," Peter pointed out mildly. "My spaceship."
"Yeah, but, like, once. You can fly them! You've been to whole shipyards full, I bet. And -- and Infinity Stones, and -- I mean, all I can compare it to is sci-fi movies and stuff, but you've seen the real thing. How in the world can anything on Earth compare to that?"
Peter looked up and down the street. They had been walking for awhile, and had wandered out of the high-class stores further north and were into an area now that the little handheld map on his StarkPhone told him was called Greenwich Village. He liked this better; it had a lot of interesting little shops that he found more appealing than the glitzy shops uptown, which put him in mind of certain districts on Xandar that tended to try to arrest him for loitering as soon as they got one look at his Ravager-red coat.
The thing was, objectively speaking, Parker was right. Once you'd been to Knowhere, once you'd been offered your own planet, once you'd flown through the Well of Ten Million Stars at incredibly unsafe speeds and held an Infinity Stone in your bare hands, how could a small planet in a quiet neighborhood of the galaxy possibly hold any wonder at all?
But that was asking the wrong question.
He'd been to a hundred planets, and every last one of them was interesting in its own way. This one was even more fascinating because it was the one that his people had come from. Every single person on these streets looked just like him. He couldn't get over it. Oh sure, some of the colors were different, some of them were a little shorter or taller, but that was such a tiny difference that he hardly even noticed it. Every last person he saw around him could be related to him -- in fact, actually was related to him, if you went back far enough. And every last item in each one of the shops had been invented and built by his people.
If he were going to lose his sense of wonder, he'd have long since lost it after a few years of wandering around alien markets with Yondu and the Ravagers. Instead, everything he saw just made the next thing more interesting by contrast ... all the more so on his long-lost planet of birth. Nothing here could ever seem dull to him.
But he wasn't quite sure how to explain this to Parker, who had literally never been off this planet (which Peter still found hard to wrap his mind around) except for very briefly on the Milano.
Peter couldn't help thinking that Yondu would have laughed and laughed to see him showing the galaxy, even tiny little bits of it, to another wide-eyed Terran kid who even happened to be also named Peter. There was a time when that thought would've felt like a ragged saw blade across his heart, but time's passage had done what he'd once thought impossible: it had faded his grief to something gentle and warm and only slightly sad.
We'll meet in the stars someday, you old bastard, and I'll tell you all about this, just in case you don't already know.
But he couldn't imagine how to explain any of this to someone Peter Parker's age, someone who'd literally never even met anyone except Terrans until Peter's team showed up, so all he said was, "I like Earth. I wish I could see more of it before I have to leave, but this city is my favorite place so far." He watched the kid preen, because of course the city was his place (and the odd thought occurred to Peter that he might actually have already seen more of this kid's world than Parker himself had had a chance to, so far). "What else should I see before I leave?"
"Ooh. The Brooklyn Bridge, for sure. There's a pedestrian walkway, which is pretty rad, but I like to web-sling from the towers. That's the best part, and it'll be sunset soon, which is awesome from up there."
"Where's that?" Peter asked. He held up the StarkPhone and let Parker touch the map with quick, deft fingers. "Oh, that bridge. The one with the big swooshy parts. Here, hold on."
"What are -- ack!"
Peter had engaged his rocket boots, swooping away into the sky and leaving behind a chorus of awed gasps and some flashes of those little communication devices everyone carried here. A moment later, they dropped out of the sky on top of the peak of the bridge's towers.
"Dude," Parker panted, sitting down on a concrete buttress. "You can't just do that here. I mean, seriously. People don't just fly around here."
"Literally half the people I've met on this planet can fly."
"Yeah -- but -- look, the people you've met so far aren't exactly, uh, normal."
"Neither am I," Peter pointed out. He put away the StarkPhone and put in an earbud from the Zune. Parker was right, the sky was beginning to show the first flush of color. He hadn't seen a sunset on Earth yet and he was looking forward to it, so this needed some music.
"You know you can play music on the StarkPhone, right?" Parker said, eyeing the Zune.
"I know. Tony told me."
"I mean, how many songs can that thing possibly have on it?"
"Three hundred," Peter said absently, scrolling through his playlists. Perfect: Otis Redding, (Sitting' on) The Dock of the Bay. "Want to listen?" he asked, holding out an earbud to Parker.
"Three hundred ... songs. You know the StarkPhone can fit like 500 times that many, right?"
"Oh, believe me," Peter said, "I'm not leaving this planet without all the music I can stuff onto whatever storage media you have here." He'd asked each of the Avengers if they would put some of their favorite songs together for him, and he was looking forward very much to hearing all of them on the long jumps between the cold stars. He'd heard some of Tony's music and liked it already; they even knew some of the same songs, which was something he'd never actually had in common with anyone besides his mom before.
"But, don't you think --"
"Do you want to listen or not?"
"Okay ... fine." Parker took the earbud. "Even this thing is kinda old-fashioned looking," he remarked, looking at it. "I would've thought a spaceman wouldn't be so ... retro."
Peter couldn't help smiling again; Yondu was definitely laughing his goddamn blue ass off about this, somewhere out there in the stars. "Someone gave it to me ... someone who loved me, and now I carry a little of them with me, wherever I go. That's important when you don't live on the same planet with the same people all your life. Home isn't places, not really; it's people." He ran a light thumb over the Zune. "And sometimes this is the closest thing you have when people aren't there anymore."
He was fully expecting this to sail straight over Parker's head, but instead the kid gave him a smile with a trace of wistfulness. And yeah, come to think of it, he didn't remember hearing anything about any of Parker's relatives except for an aunt. Peter's mother had died on Earth; he should know better than anyone that his birth planet was not without its full measure of pain.
"What did you say this song was called?" Parker asked.
"Dock of the Bay. Otis Redding." Peter tapped to start the song. "Now, show me one of these Earth sunsets I've heard so much about."
"It's right there," Parker said dryly, pointing at the western horizon as the first beats of the music began to play.