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Zune

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“I loved your mother, Peter. I couldn’t bear to set foot on an Earth where she wasn’t living! You can’t imagine what that’s like!"

“I know exactly what that’s like! I had to watch her die!”

Peter physically and mentally recoiled at his own confession. It had just railroaded its way out of his throat and into the broad daylight. Saying it reinforced the truth. And hearing it….

Hearing it exposed certain pieces of him he liked swept under the rug of his roguish personality.

Ego’s eyes didn’t soften precisely. They maintained a haze of disappointment that recalled-

-------------------

“I wanna see her!”

“You can’t Peter.”

“But Grandpop!”

“NO means NO! Sit still and finish your eggs!”

His Grandpop took care of him on the weekends. Only the weekends were bleeding into weeks and Peter just wanted things to go back to normal.

Driving around with his mom, howling to Cherry Bomb, slurping down DQ normal!

Peter stabbed at his eggs, defeated. His Grandpop peered at him over a newspaper and muttered opinions on Meredith’s irresponsibility and over-mothering resulting in frailty.

“I’M NOT A WIMP!” Peter yelled at his Grandpop, who thought he hadn’t heard what he said.

He got switched for his disrespect and sent to his room. His Grandpop wouldn’t talk to him at breakfast much after that. Or at all. Peter, meanwhile, worked on developing that mystical ‘thicker skin’ his Grandpop harped on about.

He’d been making admirable progress until, of course -

-------------------

Yondu Udonta cuffed him playfully. His arm stung but it wasn’t numb so yeah – downright good-natured for the Captain.

They were on a backwater planet swarming with life big and small. The ten-year-old swatted the second insect to bite him in so many minutes.

“Where we headed Captain?” Peter asked, intent on getting an answer this go-round.

“Done told you already. It’s a surprise.”

Yondu snapped a reed in half and began picking his teeth with the stem.

They tramped further towards the dense belly of the forest. Foliage and bramble thickened up fast and Peter avoided scratches by gluing himself to the heels of the man in front of him.

He wouldn’t cling to the Captain’s coattails though. He had his pride.

“Kraglin reckons you been low lately. Care to share?”

With you? Peter thought indignantly.

The anniversary was approaching. It wasn’t Yondu’s business.

“No.”

Yondu started whistling Cherry Bomb. Just whistling for the hell of it. The Captain did that when he took his ease, which he seldom ever did fully.

Peter watched the circuits of the Centaurian’s crest brighten, registering a multitude of crawling, flying, and darting lifeforms.

“Kraglin reckons, huh?” he mumbled.

Cherry Bomb belonged to Mom. He didn’t like Yondu whistling her favorite.

“Sure,” lied Yondu. “You been actin’ out less and keepin’ to yourself more.”

“Ain’t that a good thing?”

“You tell me.”

Not paying attention, Peter walked smack dab into a cloud of gnats.

“AAGGGH!!”

Peter scoured his tongue and rubbed at his eyes. Yondu’s hysterical laughter made him blush beet red. He stomped up next to the Captain to walk side by side, unheeding of the branches and brake.

He couldn’t, in actuality, stomp ahead of Udonta since he still didn’t know the way to this dumb surprise.

“Feelings are the fuel for idiocy. You said so back on Berhert. What’s there to talk about?”

Yondu’s humor morphed into peevishness.

“You know damn well I was referencin’ the zealots on Kath. You remember – the cultists who came not too shy of having the crew sacrificed to appease their easily wounded sensibilities.”

The Captain chewed the stem of his toothpick-reed to a pulp, then discarded it with a growl.

“It still hasn’t been rightly spelled out for me how an entire group can take offense to clothes with pockets-”

“They were okay with us being pirates” Peter offered.

He found the irony too much to handle and guffawed. Yondu frowned.

“And that’s how you choose to get gutted by some herd of lunatics? Over charges of pockets instead of piracy?”

Captain Udonta held Peter still with a hand when he tried to suddenly be lead trailblazer. He looked the Terran square in the eye and made sure his point was delivered.

“Emotions don’t equal weakness, boy. Lettin' 'em own you does. Which can be achieved more ways than one, believe you me.”

He resumed their journey and Peter followed, reflecting. Somewhere between the giant boulder and the mossy slope they had to tread down it slipped out.

“The anniversary is tomorrow. It’s the day my mother died.”

Yondu stopped and turned to look at him. Peter couldn’t meet his gaze. Disappointment wasn’t found there but sympathy wasn’t his cup of tea either. He peeked around Udonta and pointed out the shaded glen several yards yonder.

“Is that my surprise? A grody hollow?”

Yondu nodded. He pulled back his duster and an element gun off his thigh.

“Where you’ll learn, Anthos willing, to fire one of these puppies.”

“Bull hockey!” Peter screamed. He was better than surprised – he was pumped!

“I don’t know what that is.”

Yondu handed the child the weapon for him to inspect.

“Now before you hare off singein' trees we’re gonna have a discussion about this safety catch……..”

-------------------

Peter listened to his Zune, sitting on the edge of the bed in the Captain’s quarters.

His memories ricocheted into each other over and over.

Music was the only thing giving him a grip.

Why didn’t Yondu ever tell him about Ego? Things could have been so different. They needed to be so different.

Gamora came and took Groot to bed. Twig fell asleep on the bilgesnipe pelt after staying up with him to watch the funeral. Bilgesnipes were repulsive but they made for nice pelts.

Yondu had slain the titanic critter after Peter accidently stumbled into its nest at fifteen…..

More memories assaulted him.

He scrolled through the Zune. He was used to spacefaring tech so it didn’t take him long to get the hang of it. The previous owner had had the device for quite a while. They’d updated it many instances and had been frustrated with the Zune’s outdated status if the passive aggressive titles were anything to go by.

On list Why Can’t My Cheap Ass Just Get An iPod? Peter noticed a song by a band christened Simple Plan.

Yondu always said the best plan was an easy one to follow. Peter clicked play.

I wanna start by letting you know this
Because of you my life has a purpose
You helped me be who I am today
I see myself in every word you say

Secretly, Peter knew why Yondu didn’t let him know about Ego. He would have gone haring off to search for the living planet in a heartbeat. Yondu would’ve attempted to stop him but Peter was strong and wily and the Centaurian was to credit on both accounts.

He and Peter would have argued. Peter could imagine every harsh word he’d have exchanged. Nothing would be different. Even cursed from his boots to his crest, Udonta would have pursued him. And saved him.

Peter clenched the Zune in his palm.

I was broken
I was chokin’
I was lost
This song saved my life
I was bleeding
Stopped believing
Could have died
This song saved my life
I was down
I was drowning
But it came on just in time
This song saved my life
Sometimes I feel like you've known me forever
You always know how to make me feel better
Because of you my dad and me are so much closer
Than we used to be-

Glass fiber ruptured with a crunch!

Oh no. OH NO!

Music cut out. Peter, in his stupid anger, squished his Zune on accident.

Overwhelmed, Peter hurled the device at the viewport. It smashed to silvers against the transparent steel. Quill hung his head between his knees and wept.

-------------------

Kraglin bumped into him two days later. The former first mate chatted Peter up about his progress with the Yaka arrow.

“I kinda been shootin’ holes inta stuff however” he revealed.

“Nothin’ too major? Like our power cell? Or our art-grav lock? Fridge would be the absolute worse.”

Peter wanted Kraglin to be careful but he kidded around some to let the other man know he wasn’t upset. At least not about his bad archery.

“Nothin’ of the sort, Cap’n” Kraglin smiled.

Peter’s grin dropped like a hot potato. He shoved past Kraglin and made a beeline for the Rec Room.

-------------------

Rocket let it last for a week. Just one.

His ears twitched towards noises of machinery, his noises, in the galley. It was 3AM and Quill was in there, fiddling with the disposal.

The human was on his back and under a huge sink. Gears and grommets mounded near his feet while Quill used tools from his tool belt to repair the appliance.

Rocket watched him go at it and pinched the bridge of his snout. His internal Mechanics Snob went on a tangent that could only be defined as wrong-wrong-wrong-wrong-wrong-wro-

“Okay, Mr. Can’t Fix It, you’ve had your shot. Scoot out and let a pro show you how to adjust the trap on a Crudbuster 3000.”

Rocket shook one of Peter’s shoes to get his attention. Quill didn’t leave the sink and used a leg to gently shunt him aside.

“Shoo” he ordered.

“Did you just-!?”

Brandishing a screwdriver, Peter’s hand appeared from under the shadows and motioned for Rocket to go.

“Get! Kraglin nicked a pipe in here practicing. I grew up on this tub and if someone’s gonna tango with Cook’s sinks, it’s gonna be me.”

But Rocket didn’t leave. He sat down and organized the parts Peter had spread out without rhyme or reason.

“Hey, Quill.”

Rocket poked the Terran’s kneecap with a stray gasket. The sink muttered darkly.

“Anybody let you in on how cohabitating with you this week has been a pain? Or do they pussyfoot around you as per usual?” Rocket inquired.

“Hand me the grind ring.”

Rocket sighed. “You’re fuckin’ up the drain chamber.”

“Wrench.”

Quill groped for the implement so Rocket passed it over.

The weapons expert refused to turn the tap on his criticism but what else was new? All the scientists in all the galaxy couldn’t engineer the Rocket out of Rocket. He entertained himself crafting a handheld buzz saw with the leftovers he’d finished organizing.

“Not that I give a shit. I just thought you should know the crew talks about you behind your back.”

A whirring report confirmed that the Crudbuster was whole and hearty again.

“Hn. Listen to that,” mused Rocket. “Is it fixed?”

“Stick your tail in and find out.”

Peter crab-walked out into the open. He wiped grit and grime off his arms on a frayed dishrag.

“Jeeze! There goes my concerted effort to be nice. Look, I’m waving bye.”

A royal wave, as it happens, can be performed sans gloves by a fuzzy abomination with a gun-fetish fairly well. Chalk one up for the annals. Peter tossed the dishrag at the not-a-raccoon.

“Not now, Rocket. I have zero, got that? Zero patience.”

“You sound like a laid-off parent.”

Not now, Rocket. Make like Michael Jackson and beat it.”

“Fat chance.”

Using his aero-rig, Rocket got in Quill’s face.

“You spend your days in this core fixing it or working out in the Rec” he arraigned the human.

“So the Quadrant shouldn’t be spaceworthy and neither should her captain?”

Quill had a quiet arrogance shielding him right now. Rocket had seen that same half-sneer half-smirk recently and he wondered if Peter had any clue who he looked like. It wasn’t daddy dearest that was for sure.

Genealogy made sense to Rocket. What didn’t was nurturing beyond the litter stage. Could ‘surprise-adoptions’ pick that crap up?

“You won’t talk to anyone and you don’t play music anymore! Stop being the atypical biped and quit lumbering with a stick up your ass!”

Peter yanked Rocket’s aero-rig towards him and, yeah, his composed veneer was gonzo.

“You wanna go? Hmm?” he growled.

“I came to the galley cuz I wanted to give you this.”

Rocket produced the Zune from a pouch. Peter’s mouth parted and he let go of the bomb-maker. The daze and guilt in his eyes made for a strange mix. Rocket stroked a foreclaw over the pristine and masterfully repaired device, pensive.

He knew Yondu’s death had hit Peter hard.

“You’re mean to your toys.”

“It’s not a toy.”

“Uh-huh,” said Rocket. “Then why’d a toddler chuck it into a viewport? It was so totaled it took actual hours to restore.”

Peter made a grab for it. Rocket flew out of range and rotated the Zune in his paw.

“Ah, ah, ah. A ‘praise you, Rocket’ if you please.”

Quill seemed to waffle internally when a smile, his most shit-eating yet, was directed at Rocket.

“Race you for it?” he dared.

“With M-ships?” Rocket asked.

“First one around an asteroid field and back to the Eclector wins.”

“Loser shaves their head?”

Meh. A whole eyebrow.”

The weapons expert touched his brow bone, somewhat self-conscious.

“Do I have those? Whatever. You’re on Star Munch.”

“Get ready to eat my chemtrails, Trash Panda.”

-------------------

The main core of the Eclector was large and metal and sound carried. Gamora’s footsteps were whispers as she traversed gangways and entered the hangar. She both relaxed and grimaced upon discovering the source of the late-night racket.

Beneath her were perhaps the universe’s two greatest egos. The Ego they destroyed didn’t count.

Peter and Rocket drunkenly roared along to music pouring out of speakers. The Zune they’d nestled in a dock atop a beer cooler. They were patching up a pair of mangled M-ships and going through cases worth of Krylorian Ale.

No, I don't wanna be sad
I don't wanna be sad, sad, sad no more
It's been twenty-eight days since I've seen the sunshine
'Cause I just can't seem to lift this cloud away
I swear all the tears I've cried could fill an ocean
I've been swimming in the sea of misery
I can't find the strength to leave this bed
I'm locked up in my cuckoo head
I feel so low and I can't let go
I've got all the symptoms, all the signs
I tell my friends I'll be just fine
But truth be told, it's getting old!

“This revelry is vivacious. Why were we not invited?” Drax asked.

The giant’s footfalls were quiet as well. Gamora, for not the first nor the last time, was grateful to no longer regard him as an enemy. She spied Baby Groot perched on the monolith’s shoulder.

“You should not be up” said Gamora.

“Groot was awoken by the vibrations of Quill and Rocket’s inebriated cacophony. As were others and myself.”

To add credence to his statement, the remainder of their number filed out of the passage behind him. Mantis yawned, her antennae seesawing above her tired eyes. Kraglin held the railing of the gangway and gave a fond shake of his head at the sight of Peter.

“Ain’t much Quill loves in life above a ditty. Happy or sorry he’d highjack the ship’s interface and force us to listen. Punishment didn’t deter him neither.”

“Quill requires music. It is like the old Terran saying by Odiom Pluvercog, ‘music has charms to soothe the savage breast.”

“S’ppose you gotta point. Cap’n Udonta did title it Peter’s ‘healin’ time’.”

Gamora paced the gangway like a riled panther.

“Those two…..”

She watched Rocket Raccoon and Peter Quill argue over preferred methods of remodeling the carcasses of their M-ships which no doubt came to wreckage over male posturing.

Below the rivalry had not abated.

“Gimme the weldin’ torch! I’m gotta graft ‘nuther plexi-sheet over here!”

“Uh-uh! I’m usin’ it t’fry off a wing you bent to hell!”

“Only cuz you cut me off, rodent!”

“Don’t call me names n’less you wanna get staplegunned someplace personal!”

“You started it!”

“Did not, Star Munch!”

“Did so and you just called me a name! Shove off, you’re mendin’ the for’ard thruster bass-akwards! NO!! Don’t screw that there!”

“AH-HAHAHA!! That’s what she said!”

“Don’t make me make you Davy Crockett’s hat!!”

“What in the fuck is a Davy Crockett?!”

Baby Groot giggled “I am Groot!” to repeat Rocket’s naughty language. Drax shushed him and addressed those on the platform.

“Come, let us question them to determine what brought on this celebration.”

“Indeed, let’s” Gamora agreed. Her tenor was flinty. While the others took the stairs, she took the express route and leapt off the gangway. She landed with ease and grace.

“Gamora!” Peter exclaimed.

Star Lord was unperceiving of her mood and hugged her. Gamora’s frown lifted some. He was ever the charmer and she had trouble remaining cross with him. She stared between he and Rocket. Something was off with their appearances.

“Are each of you missing an eyebrow?”

“We tied so we’re both losers” said Peter, as if his explanation were rational.

Drax with Baby Groot, Mantis, and Kraglin joined them all on the lowest level of the hangar.

“That is perceivable, Quill. But tell us, what spawned this frolic?” asked Drax.

Peter popped open the top of another beer.

“Duzn’t – hic- matter.”

Rocket cranked a bolt into place on his M-ship. It was looking better faster than Peter’s so far.

“Quill’s grievin’, Princess. Leave him be.”

“I am not a Princess. There is no call to revisit what we have established.”

Peter sauntered towards Gamora and extended a gallant hand.

“Dance with me?”

When he waggled his remaining eyebrow at her, Gamora broke into laughter.

“Very well” she said, accepting his hand. The Zune went to a new song and Peter twirled Gamora around until she was beaming at his contagious silliness.

I don't wanna fake it baby...
And I don't wanna hurt you none
I came here to shake it, baby
I came here to have some fun!
Can I get a little,
This right here's my favorite line
'Cause I can't get it out my mind

Mantis clapped her hands to the rhythm and turned to Kraglin.

“It looks very amusing! Might we join them?” she requested.

Kraglin kicked his heels, bashful.

“Er, I ain’t the fanciest on my feet, Miss Mantis.”

Drax pushed them out onto what served the crew as a dancefloor.

“Go, Kraglin! Your soul also grieves Udonta and deserves to be healed!”

Kraglin and Mantis, not without large quantities of innocent trepidation, began to dance together.

Get in the middle of the dance floor
And give the people what they asked for
All together we can dance more
We gotta do it, do it, do it, baby that's all!
Shake that body, show me that lala
Shake that body, ain't about the dollar
Everything good in life comes for free!
Happiness, love and family!

Gamora snorted the closer she got to Peter’s face.

“What?”

The Zehoberei’s gaze flicked to his shaved eyebrow.

“It’ll grow back!”

Peter whipped around and yelled at his drinking buddy who’d gotten him into this.

“They grow back, right Rocket?!”

“How should I know?!” Rocket shouted over the music.

Drax set Baby Groot down on the cooler next to the Zune. He stretched his massive torso to unbind muscles still stiff from their escape on and of Ego.

“You look ridiculous,” he told Rocket. “How much alcohol did you consume before going through with your bet?”

“Two……and a half cases? Groot, go easy on the Jelly Canes”

Rocket batted Groot’s roots away from the frozen treat he’d pulled out of one of the open coolers. Groot stared, dismayed, when Rocket buried the Jelly Cane under various drinks and ice.

He lengthened his limbs and scooped the Zune out of its dock as retribution. Movement on the dancefloor paused and Peter lamented the loss of tunes.

“Dude! You threw off my groove!”

“Groot” Rocket chided with a slurred edge to his voice. Chastened, the little tree replaced the MP3 in its dock and a different song came out of the speakers than had been playing before.

“Alright! I like this one! It’s got my name in it!”

Groot was pleased Rocket was pleased so he made no further adjustments.

Got a horseshoe in my pocket
And my hands are full of gold
My heart's racing like a rocket
Wind it up and watch it go
We'll be ruling in the sunlight
Like we're pharaohs on the throne
We'll be dancing in the moonlight
Dancing all the way back home
They're coming home at last
They're coming home again
Skies open, where we going
It's in the stars, it's who we are

Peter spoke to Gamora and she nodded. The dance partners separated. Quill knelt next to Rocket, who hummed while he worked.

“Thanks for fixing the Zune.”

Rocket harrumphed but grinned. Peter continued.

“And for racing me. I needed it.”

“I know. After big blue’s funeral, you were a real douchebag.”

“Rocket!” said Gamora. She was close enough to overhear their conversation. She didn’t approve of Rocket’s callous form of sentiment.

“What?!” Rocked exploded. “Everybody loves to get me to own up! Why can’t they just own up too?!”

Peter stood, with some difficulty, and gained the attention of everyone there.

“He’s right. I guess I owe the crew an apology.”

The bipeds were understanding and warm.

“Apologies-smologies. I’ll take a mint condition plasma-cannon from the En’gali System!”

Rocket’s demand caused Peter to arch his lonely eyebrow. He drew back his Ravager coat in order to place hands on his hips and adapt a cranky ‘hold-your-horses’ stance.

Kraglin chuckled.

Peter took it the wrong way.

“I said it’ll grow back!"

“Wudn’t that, Cap’n. S’only Yondu did that thing with his coat a bunch. You’re his spittin’ image somma the time.”

Kraglin’s comment knocked Peter for a loop. The music resumed, an oldie but goodie: Hallelujah! I Love Her So by Ray Charles. Gamora even convinced Drax to join in the fabled ‘conga-line’ Peter often related to her.

Plucking his nth cold one from the cooler, Peter was unprepared for a docile touch on his arm.

“I do not believe Kraglin meant to be disheartening” Mantis acknowledged.

“He wasn’t.”

He saw Mantis was curious about the ale so he passed it to her for a sip. When he did, their fingers brushed.

“Oh,” said Mantis. “You miss the Captain quite dearly.”

The blockade he’d built within himself to avoid sorrow was failing. All of his memories were coming back to plague him. So were his regrets.

“He would not desire you to suffer.”

“I’m not suffering.”

Peter was cordoning off his emotions with booze and dangerous-to-attempt piloting stunts in asteroid heavy areas of outer space.

But he wasn’t suffering.

“You blame yourself,” Mantis revealed. “You wish you were as capable as he raised you to be. And you…..assume he would be ashamed of your behavior.”

Peter became interested in the floor.

“Wouldn’t he?” he asked the empath. Mantis was speculative and kind in her response.

“I do not know. Would he?”

She took a swig of the beer and scrunched her nose at the flavor. Peter took the bottle back and drained most of it.

“Yes and no. He’d give me an earful about how Terrans should come with the warning: may overthink to death and then he’d dedicate an entire speech to how he didn’t rear a quitter.”

Baby Groot had invaded the coolers again and he’d already gone through several Jelly Canes behind Rocket’s back. Peter watched the irrepressible weapons expert try to catch up with the sugar-high child on his aero-rig. Rocket kept drunkenly bumping into junk.

“Then do not quit.”

A simple suggestion.

His only option or hope.

Her answer gave him peace.

“Guys! Mantis hasn’t got to pick a song yet!” Peter called out.

They returned to the party together. Mantis could barely contain her excitement at being permitted to choose the next melody. She selected one that reminded her of, she said, her aspirations for Ego’s other children.

Hope when you take that jump
You don't feel the fall
Hope when the water rises
You built a wall
Hope when the crowd screams out
It's screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stay
Hope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
You give it all you have
And I hope that you don't suffer
But take the pain...
Hope when the moment comes
You'll say
I...I did it all
I...I did it all

Things needed to be different. And one day, they would be. Peter’s grief would never fully leave him but he’d come to terms with it slowly but surely. He had his family to look after.

A man did not abandon his responsibilities. Yondu Udonta had taught him that and many more truths. He’d forever be indebted to the space pirate.

Peter danced with Gamora and introduced her to the Salsa dip. She radiated love.

He’d protect that love if it cost him every inch of what he was. Terran and whatever else. His mom and surrogate dad, for all their challenges, had raised him right.

They were in a better place. Peter could feel it.

And if they were looking down on him with that Spirit in the Sky, then he wasn’t going to disappoint.

I owned every second that this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

Chapter Text

Authoress Notes:

(Drax is quoting William Congreve bt-dubs) Also: had to throw in a Kuzco moment.

Thank you all so much for letting me write these! I haven’t been in the best of health lately and writing this ficlet set helped me get my head out of my ass about my stubborn mindset.

I’m happy to have found fellow fans of Vol. 2 to commiserate/geek out with online! You guys have been fabulous!

I’m pretty much done with this series and consider it complete. The only thing I leave behind I don’t want to is probably Drax.

The one-man Exposition Machine/Walking Thesaurus is a joy to write. Plus, he’s basically me.

I swear some of his lines, especially the one’s about getting disturbed by “inebriated cacophonies” were me all through college. I’m the blunt Drax friend of the group.

I’ll post this on fanfiction.net as well but if I make a return to writing fanfics I’ll swing by Archive first. Maybe get my own account!

The Adventures of Star Munch and Trash Panda sounds like an idea for a sequel series donnit?

Please, if you want, let me know your thoughts on this series. These pieces are just my ‘head-cannon’ into the characters but critique is always appreciated as it adds tools to my toolbox as a writer.

Peace out and to quote another favorite sci-fi of mine: Stay shiny!

Best,

Lizzy :)