It was awhile before anyone realized that Peter was missing. Noreen just thought he was off somewhere having a good cry, and Gregg decided the poor kid deserved at least that much. Besides, it wasn't as if he had any idea how to comfort him. They'd both just lost the brightest light of their lives.
As the hours passed, though, Peter never reappeared. Gregg finally gathered up the courage to go outside and check on him, telling himself that all he had to do right now was get his grandson home. Eventually, they'd figure out the rest of it together.
But there was no sign of Peter anywhere.
Gregg checked every miserable inch of the hospital and the misty darkness outside, growing more and more frantic and doing everything he could not to show it. Security got involved, and soon the whole hospital was looking for him. Gregg shouted himself hoarse, hoping like hell that Peter was just mad at him, or hiding someplace.
But no voice ever called back.
"He'll turn up back at the house." Kim patted his arm, wiping the tears from her own cheeks. "He'll be fine. You'll see."
Gregg rubbed a hand across his mouth, trying to ignore the horrible cold feeling spreading through him. "Yeah, okay."
He called the cops the next day.
They took his statement, but Gregg could see in their eyes that they thought Peter had just run away. One of the nurses had already had the thought, but Gregg knew that couldn't be what happened. Peter was so much like his mama, and though neither of them had the best sense at times they both had the softest hearts. There was no way Peter would run away when his family needed him.
When he tried to explain that to the uniforms, they just started asking if Peter's mysterious daddy was somehow involved. It wasn't that big a town, and everyone knew Meredith Quill's stories about how she'd fallen in love with a man "made out of pure light." Though it had been years since they'd joked about it to her face, one of the police officers decided that now was the time to bring them back.
Gregg punched him in the face. The judge let him off with a warning.
It still put them no closer to finding Peter.
The years passed, full of missing person posters, child databases, and not a single damn clue about what happened to his grandson. Gregg tried posting a reward, though he didn't have a hell of a lot of money to start with, but the few leads that turned up all ended up being lies. It was as if Peter had just disappeared.
As he got older, people kept trying to get Gregg to sell the house. You need to find someplace smaller, they said. One with not so many bad memories. Gregg just thanked them for their concern and told them that he was fine right where he was.
What he didn't say was that, if Peter was still out there somewhere, the house was where he'd come back to.
If he wasn't ... well, he was with his mama. And Gregg would get to see them both, eventually. All he had to do was wait.
Sometimes, though, he wished the wait wasn't quite so long.
The news was full of aliens again – seemed some of them were good guys this time, fighting next to those Avengers everyone was always talking about – but at 85 Gregg was too old to get worked up about it.
He did wonder, though, if maybe that meant his baby girl had been right.
He wasn't thinking about any of that when he heard the knock on his door one morning. Waving off his home health care nurse – blasted woman didn't think he was capable of doing anything – he slowly made his way to open it.
On the other side was a young man he'd never seen before, wearing a leather jacket and a nervous expression like he'd just stolen the last cookie out of a jar. "Mr. Qu—" When the door opened all the way, the younger man's eyes widened. "Wow, you got so old."
"So I've been told." Leaning on his cane, Gregg noticed what looked like one of those Ents from the Lord of the Rings walking up behind the stranger. He'd never seen an alien up close, but he supposed that a walking tree made as much sense as anything else. "That one of the mean ones?" he asked.
The man turned around. "No, no, that's Groot." He turned back to Gregg. "He's a good guy."
"I am Groot," the tree said solemnly.
"Fair enough." He stopped, peering at the younger man's face. There was something about it .... "Get to the point, son."
Now the nervousness flashed into pure panic, along with something that might have been grief. "Listen, I know you have no reason to believe me, but I'm about to tell you something really crazy. I'd rather not have you kick me out or call the cops or anything without giving me the chance to—"
Suddenly it came to him. The man had his daughter's eyes.
Gregg swallowed past the sudden pressure in his chest. This would be a hell of a time to have a heart attack. "Pete."
His grandson stopped in midsentence, face frozen in surprise for a moment. Then he was blinking hard, his eyes suddenly wet. "Hi, Grandpa." He tried to smile, voice rough with emotion. "I kinda got kidnapped by aliens. Turns out—" His voice cracked. "Turns out Mom was right about dad."
"Ah." Gregg felt his own eyes fill, not able to stop himself from just staring. A part of him wondered if he'd fallen asleep in his chair, and this was just another version of those dreams he hadn't had in so long.
Hell, maybe he'd died in his chair, and this was his introduction into heaven. If it was, he'd take it.
Peter took a deep breath. "So ...." He ran a hand through his hair. "I don't really know what I was picturing here, and actually I talked myself out and back into this three or four times on the way here. I left Drax and Rocket back at the diner, and though I'm pretty sure Gamora can keep them from killing anyone I don't know how much she even really registers property damage. I really wasn't looking to bother you or anything, I just thought you should probably know—"
Gregg smiled a little. Yeah, this was definitely his grandson. "Pete."
Once again, the quiet sound of his name cut Peter off in midsentence. "Yeah?"
Slowly, he held out his arms. "Come here."
Peter's face crumpled as he bent down and carefully enfolded his grandfather in a hug. "I'm sorry I didn't stay put," he whispered.
Gregg tightened his arms around his grandson, alive and home again. "It's okay."