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A Good Team

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Traveling with quick, loud, tiny Rocket was never boring.

They worked together well, Groot and Rocket, or at least Groot thought so. Rocket was quick and full of plans, keeping them moving and having the skills to be sure they were never kept to one place, never restrained. Groot had the strength to split mountains if given the time, and the size to be sure no one thought they could hurt Rocket.

They learned how to fight together. Groot could give Rocket height for his guns and protect him from projectiles. Things that would outright kill the little protein-based creature were nearly powerless against Groot’s superior cellulose-based form. Rocket was good at keeping watch with his sharp eyes and sensitivity to scents, and he could suggest directions and strategies faster than Groot could think of them alone.

They worked together well. Groot could do things Rocket could not, and Rocket could do things Groot could not. Groot carried tools for Rocket hidden underneath bark plates nobody seemed to realize were moveable, where no search had ever found them, and Rocket made sure they were always traveling. They were always running off in new ships and stopping on new planets.

Traveling to many planets was good, because Groot couldn’t be the last.

There had to be other Flora colossus – there had to. Groot couldn’t be the last.

With time and good soil, Groot could grow into a vast forest – had on more than one occasion – but it wasn’t the same as having others.

There had to be others. The Flora colossus had been such a strong people. There must be others still somewhere.

Rocket had been upset about it at first, but he had grown used to Groot finding a safe place on any planet they landed on. Groot always took the time to find a place with nice sun, and a good breeze – a safe place to unfurl spore fronds.

Groot tasted the soils of many worlds, basked in the warmth of strange suns, and let foreign winds carry spores away.

Somewhere, some time, there must have been another Flora colossus standing on a planet spreading spores. Some time, somewhere, Groot’s mossy little gametophytes would meet those of another, and there would be more Flora colossus.

There had to be.

Groot spread spores on every planet, and eventually Rocket stopped complaining about the waste of time. So quick always, Rocket, so impatient – but then protein-based creatures had such limited lifespans. They could not spread into forests or regrow from shoots. They had to seize what tiny bright flash of life they had.

Traveling with Rocket was never boring. Groot learned to appreciate the pace of the raccoon’s life, with constant motion, but stopping and spreading spores was a need.

Rocket stopped complaining, and eventually he even helped. He would find nice places for Groot, with rich soil and a perfect breeze.

Groot had not understood, the first time Rocket provided a space.

“Go on, do your thing.” Rocket urged, making upward spreading motions with his hands to illustrate.

“Mmmm Rooo.” Groot said gratefully, the sound for good and happy feelings, and the closest Groot could make to Rocket’s name. The cellulose-based form was not good for soundwave communication the way protein creatures so often favored, The ‘ck’ sound was impossible, and Rocket had expressed a dislike for being called ”Rootaat’ or ‘Root’, so Rooo he was.

“Aww, shut up.” Rocket said, scratching at his ear uncomfortably before scampering up a nearby rock, “Just stay downwind, I don’t want your stuff in my fur.”

“Mmm.” Groot said agreeably, and settled. The soil was rich and strange, and the sun was warm. Groot rooted and shifted bark plates aside, letting spore fronds unfurl up into the air, soaking up sun while the breeze lifted spores to spread across the face of the planet.

Groot might have spent months there, but Rocket did not have months to spare. After only a few hours Groot furled the spore fronds and settled bark plates back into place, feeling the familiar relaxed contentment of having sporulated.

Rocket scaled up Groot, his blunt claws scrabbling familiarly against bark plates, to give directions to where they would go next.

“You are one freaky-lookin’ tree, you know that?” he commented, lounging out comfortably on Groot’s shoulder.

“Mmm.” Groot agreed. Groot was as strange a tree as Rocket was a raccoon.

After that, Rocket always helped Groot find good places to spread spores. Rocket took care of Groot, and Groot took care of Rocket.

They were a good team – or at least Groot thought so and Rocket had never left Groot behind so he probably thought so too.

Groot learned to appreciate the faster pace of Rocket’s life – it was never boring to be in motion with the little raccoon, running and fighting, but they weren’t always doing that.

There were quiet moments of rest too, all the more treasured because they were rare. There were quiet nights when tiny Rocket curled up into Groot’s arms for safety to sleep while they waited or hid. He was warm and comfortable to have there, and Groot tried to be sure no bark plates were pinching or poking him. Rocket was quick to help direct adjustments once he understood what was happening.

Sometimes Rocket did the raccoon equivalent of sporulating, though from what Groot understood raccoons were dioecious and there was no chance of another generation unless he did it within another raccoon – and there were no other raccoons with minds like Rocket.

Rocket was alone, too, without even Groot’s hope of finding others.

Early in their partnership Rocket would wander away from Groot to do so, and return sleepy and scented of unfamiliar pheromones. Later on he would stay with Groot – at first only when it would be too dangerous to wander away alone, but more and more as time went on.

Eventually he even stopped telling Groot not to watch, to pretend it wasn’t happening. In the quiet of the night, curled safe in Groot’s arms, his clever little fingers would open his uniform and he would stroke the single curved pink frond that unfurled from between his legs. It seemed an inconvenient place to keep a spore frond, but the entirety of protein-based creature reproduction seemed inconvenient. Rocket seemed to enjoy it though, and would sometimes even purr a little in Groot’s arms afterward as he drifted to sleep.

Rocket took care of Groot, and Groot took care of Rocket.

Groot’s hands were coarse with protective bark plates on the outside, but on the inside they were smooth and could be gentle.

Much of protein-based creature sporulating satisfaction seemed to come from closeness to a partner, but Rocket did not have one. There was not one for him.

But there was Groot. Others came and went, but it was always Rocket and Groot together across the stars.

Groot tried scratching lightly in the soft fur around Rocket’s ears afterward, like affectionate grooming.

“Mmmm.” Groot answered gently when Rocket started to ask what Groot was doing, the sound of good feelings, of contentment. Rocket blinked up at Groot briefly with his shiny black eyes, then snuggled close and purred himself to sleep.

Groot could take care of Rocket. It was satisfying to be able to help the raccoon feel good.

Groot always groomed Rocket afterward, after that, and tiny Rocket purred louder in Groot's arms for it.

Rocket was having a hard time sporulating one night, his breath panting out angrily as he became more and more frustrated instead of more relaxed as he should.

He rubbed one of his clever little hands across his eyes, tugged on an ear in frustration, then looked up at Groot who was curled around and sheltering him.

“Groot, buddy?” he asked, hesitating before he continued, “Could you… pet me how you do?”

“Mmm!” Groot answered in the affirmative. It would not have occurred to Groot to touch Rocket during. It seemed like it would be distracting to be touched during sporulation, but if Rocket wanted that Groot was more than willing.

Groot’s fingers gently running through Rocket’s fur had the tiny raccoon purring and relaxing in Groot’s arms, and when he resumed stroking his frond it seemed to give him more pleasure. He released his spores quickly after that, and Groot continued grooming him until he fell into contented sleep curled up safe with Groot.

And Groot was content too.

Rocket wanted to talk about it the next day, once they’d found a new ship to take to new stars and figured out how to navigate the vehicle.

“Groot, buddy…” Rocket said, obviously uncomfortable, “About last night… you know you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to? I know it doesn’t do anything for you.”

“Aaa.” Groot answered firmly in the negative, reaching out to gently stroke the fur on Rocket’s head. “Mmm Rooo.” Rocket took care of Groot, and Groot wanted to take care of Rocket.

“If you say so, bud.” Rocket said, but he smiled and purred a little as he nuzzled into Groot’s hand before he scampered off to explore the rest of this new ship.

It was a small fast ship, as many of the ones Rocket chose were, but Groot could rest as comfortably prostrate as upright and did not mind.

After that, Groot always offered to scratch Rocket when he was sporulating. Sometimes Rocket did not want that, but often he did.

Eventually Rocket took to directing Groot’s scratching and stroking to other parts of his body. He liked to remove his jacket and have Groot’s fingers run through the thick fur of his back, up and down, little scratches along the edge of his chin, and soft petting strokes down his chest and belly.

It was a quiet night, hidden in the dark with Groot cradling Rocket while synthesizing a chemical that repelled the biting midges that tormented protein-based creatures with iron-based blood on this planet – the first time Groot stroked Rocket’s frond for him.

It started accidentally, with Groot’s finger’s straying from idly petting the raccoon’s belly and brushing the warm hardness of his frond.

Rocket gasped and pushed up into it.

“Mmm?” Groot asked, “Mmm, Rooo?”

“Yeah… yeah, bud.” Rocket urged, “Oh, yeah… gentle, gentle… justlikethat, mmmm.”

Groot followed Rocket’s directions, softly stroking the tiny curved frond. It was hard and stiff, and very warm, and the skin that covered it was the softest Groot had ever felt.

And Rocket enjoyed it. He encouraged and squirmed and pushed his hips up into Groot’s hand, his blunt nails scrabbled desperately at bark plates and he gasped Groot’s name when he sporulated.

He lay trembling in Groot’s arms, nuzzling close and making no move to clean himself up, for long enough that Groot worried about having hurt him.

“Rooo?” Groot asked gently, stroking soft fingers through the raccoon’s fur. “Rooo?”

“Nah, buddy, I’m fine.” Rocket assured Groot, shaking himself to awareness with a soft laugh, “That was good.”

“Mmmmmm.” Groot answered, relieved, and helped Rocket re-dress himself.

Tiny Rocket purred, safe in Groot’s arms, and Groot groomed him gently to help him relax and sleep.

Rocket petted a few of Groot’s bark plates, “…wish I could return the favor.” he said, with a sleepy yawn.

“Aaa, Rooo…” Groot said dryly, briefly shifting a few bark plates to show sporulating fronds without unfurling them. “Mmm.” Rocket already took care of Groot, always making sure they found the time and a good spot for spreading spores on every planet, no matter how busy they were.

“If you say so.” Rocket said quietly, and nuzzled close to sleep.

Groot didn’t stop grooming the little raccoon right away.

Rocket took care of Groot, and Groot took care of Rocket, and that was good.

Without Rocket, Groot would never have gotten to spread spores on so many planets, and never so quickly. Without Groot, Rocket might have died in any of the fights he was so good at getting into. Groot had grown to appreciate the frantic pace of Rocket’s life, it made these quiet down times all the better. It was never boring.

They were a good team – Rocket and Groot, together in the stars.

And Groot was content.