measure of affection
Drax’s people do not keep time like other species do. They have no moon-cycles, no years, no seasons except war and peace.
And yet, no matter where Drax is or what he’s doing, he knows that on his homeworld, another year has passed and it is That Day again.
Drax wakes up to the timeless expanse of space, something loud thumping over the Milano’s speakers, and knows that, once again, it is That Day.
This is the first time in a long time he’s spent it around other people, and he’s not sure what to expect.
“Woah, dude,” says Peter, freezing as Drax comes up to the deck. Groot, in his small pot, does the same, arms outstretched. “You look blue.”
Drax narrows his eyes. “I am not blue,” he says. “I am green. What are you doing?”
“Me?” Peter grins. “Nothing at all.”
“Your foot is in the air.” Drax is perplexed. Is he trying to strengthen his left leg?
“Is it?” Peter waves one of his hands breezily. “I didn’t notice. And I didn’t mean you’re blue-colored, I mean you look—sad. Are you okay?”
Drax is a bad liar. All of his people are. He tries anyway. “Do not worry about me, friend Quill,” he says. “What I am feeling will pass.”
Peter puts his foot back down, frowning. “You wanna talk about it, big guy?”
Drax snorts. “No,” he says, “I do not.”
“You want a hug?” Peter gives Drax a wide smile, arms outstretched. Groot, who they have discovered learns by example, does the same.
Drax squints. “I don’t know what that is,” he says. “And I would prefer that you did not touch me. Gamora said you were diseased.”
“I am not diseased! Incurably, anyway, and c’mon, hugs aren’t contagious, hugs are—Hey, wait!” Peter calls, but Drax is already going. “Come back!”
Peter must have told the others that Drax is ‘blue’—which he is not, he checked in the mirror, he is the same color as he always is—because when he gets to the rec room, as Peter calls it, Rocket pauses in his tinkering and gives Drax a hard look.
“Huh,” he says, “whaddya know, Quill was right. You are lookin’ blue today.”
“I am not blue,” Drax mutters, annoyed. “You all need your eyes checked.”
Rocket rolls his eyes. “That’s not what it means, dumbass. It means you look down in the dumps.”
“I have never been to any landfill,” Drax says, even more confused. This is a first. Usually That Day passes in anger and sadness, perhaps in a drunken stupor. He’s never been confused on it before. It’s a very clear-cut, straightforward day for Drax.
“Oh jeez, whatever, no. I mean, you look like you’re sad.”
Drax blinks, taken aback. “Sad,” he says, and again cannot lie. “I will survive it.”
Rocket looks at him good and hard again for a few moments, then nods to himself. “I hate it when Quill’s right,” and he doesn’t sound like he’s talking to Drax, not really. “I really, really do, because it means that I gotta do something embarrassing while he gets to play around with Groot.” Rocket subsides into mumbles, then sighs. “Well, might as well get it over with.”
“If you are going to hug me,” Drax says suspiciously, “I am going to throw you into that wall.”
Rocket bares his teeth. “I look like a hugger to you? Nah, ain’t my style. C’mere, ya big menace.”
Braced for an attack, Drax warily inches closer to his small companion. “Rocket,” he says, “I am fine, I mean it. It will pass.”
“Shut up and pet me, you idiot.”
Drax’s brow furrows. “Pet you?”
“Yeah, y’know, rub my head or something.”
“’cause it’s fuzzy and soft, moron. It’ll make you feel better.”
“I am not sure—” But Drax had petted Rocket when they thought Groot had died, and it had seemed to calm Rocket. Perhaps it ‘works both ways,’ as Peter sometimes says? Cautiously, Drax strokes the fur between Rocket’s ears. It is very soft and fuzzy.
Rocket tolerates the petting for a few minutes, then pulls away. “There,” he grumbles, “feel better?”
“Not really,” says Drax, “but I appreciate the gesture. I know you do not like to be petted.”
“Damn right,” Rocket says. “And if you do it again I’ll bite your hand off, so don’t get any ideas!”
Drax wants to ask, Ideas about what? But he also wants to be alone, away from his friends and their strange behavior, so he simply nods and leaves, searching for somewhere quiet to sharpen his knives.
Peter gets Drax because Peter is insane, and Peter thinks that it is perfectly acceptable to hide in the support beams in the cargo bay and drop on Drax from above. Drax does not know if this is a hunting technique common among humans, and if it is he wishes to never visit Terra.
“Quill!” He bellows, head and neck wrapped up in Peter’s jacket. Peter hangs off Drax’s neck cheerfully, arms wrapped around him. “Get off of me!”
“Nope,” says Peter. “Not ‘til you’re feeling better, big guy. Just relax. Just let the power of the hug take over.”
Drax has absolutely no interest in letting Peter work some strange Terran magic on him, and promptly says so.
“They don’t have hugs on your planet?” Peter sounds horrified. “How did you live?”
Drax demonstrates his people’s survival techniques by tossing Peter across the room and making his escape before Peter can get up and trap him in another ‘hug.’
Groot catches Drax unawares, and the number of times this is happening is distressing. Drax knows that it’s That Day, but that is no excuse to let his guard down so badly.
Tiny tendrils wrap around Drax’s fingers, fragile but also strong in Groot’s way, warm and reassuring.
Drax sighs at his smallest friend. “I don’t understand why you all are so concerned,” he says. “No one has died from feeling this way.” (This is as close to lying as Drax can get.)
“I am Groot,” says Groot, in his tiny voice. Drax cannot understand, but he appreciates the warmth around his fingers all the same.
When Gamora walks into the cargo bay, Drax frowns. “If Peter sent you here, you may go,” he says. “I have told everyone else, I am fine. It’s only a feeling. I have had much worse and survived.”
Gamora looks at Drax like he has grown a second head. (Metaphor. Or a simile, Drax can never tell the difference.) “I’m sorry,” she says. “If you want to be alone, I can go.”
She makes it a question. Drax almost says, “Yes, please,” but Gamora, out of all of his friends, is most likely to understand.
“I am sad,” he says simply. “Today is… an anniversary. It will pass tomorrow.” It won’t, of course. Drax is no longer as blindingly angry as he used to be—Ronan is dead, and if anyone can defeat Thanos it is the five strange beings who have assembled on Quill’s ship—but he is still sad, and he thinks he will always be so. He loved his family very much.
Gamora nods. “I am sorry, for what Ronan did to your family. I wish—”
“You could not have stopped it,” Drax says. “Even if you had been there.”
Gamora smiles sadly. “I know. But you should know that you don’t have to feel like this alone anymore. We’ve all lost people. We all get it.”
“Rocket said something similar.” Drax doesn’t know what else to say. “I appreciate your support. It is… nice.”
Gamora’s smile is less sad, this time. “Nice,” she agrees, and she sits carefully next to Drax.
He stiffens. “You’re not going to hug me, are you?”
She makes a sound that could almost be called a laugh. “No,” she promises, “I’m not going to hug you.”
Drax relaxes. “Good,” he says, “because I do not need a hug.”
(Gamora does lean into him, though, her shoulder pressed against his, and it feels like solidarity and understanding, and Drax doesn’t move away.)
It is night on Drax’s home planet, now. He can feel it as he makes his way through the quiet ship, past his sleeping friends. The sun is setting there. Here, Peter, Rocket, and Gamora are curled together in Peter’s bed like small children, Groot’s pot tucked safely under Rocket’s chin. Their breaths rise and fall together.
Drax smiles. The sadness in his heart is still great and terrible—if he were alone, he would have spent the day howling, calling for his daughter and his wife—but today—
Today it is less than it has ever been before, and as he settles down to watch over his friends, Drax feels a weight in his chest lessening.
Perhaps, in a few years, his daughter’s birthday won’t hurt so much at all.