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ride along to another shore

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Peter had always figured that having other people on the Milano would be like being captain of his own crew, like Yondu. It is not. It is like when his mom had owned that pickup truck and her friends were always calling her to help them move or drive them to the airport. No one - no one - has ever been as energetic a backseat driver as Rocket is, the guy literally hangs onto the back of the pilot's chair and shouts in his ear. Drax takes up as much space as three average people and will only eat his own cooking, and his food stinks, like, really stinks. Gamora throws knives at his galley wall and gets into moods, and then she gets into long political arguments with Drax, and those are two people he doesn't want having a fistfight near any vital equipment. The only one of them Peter's not expecting to get sick of is the tree, but on the other hand he doesn't know where he's going to berth a nine-foot tree.

He's understanding why Yondu did the whole reign-through-violence-and-terror thing, basically, because say what you want about that guy, he got respect. Peter is getting about negative one thousand respect right now.

Not to mention that they have no ways of making a living that don't fall somewhere in the gray area between "heist" and "shenanigan". The trick is finding heist-nanigan that can also be massaged into fitting Gamora's moral worldview. It's amazing how rarely the path of righteous action leads towards a giant stack of money, or even a modest heap of money, and the thanks of a grateful people aren't paying their refuel bill anymore.

They have a good run liberating a couple of Valdarian religious relics from an unscrupulous museum curator; the Valdarians aren't rolling in units, but they at least pay a little over costs, and all the root vegetables you can eat. Drax has a happy evening at their very discreet thank-you party exchanging recipes; Rocket is pleased enough about a really deft bit of lockpicking and light explosive work that he doesn't kill the only Valdarian who tries to pet him, just scratches him pretty badly. Gamora is lithe and lively, trying not to look like she's enjoying the thanks of a grateful populace. Once they get back and spritz Groot, everyone will be having a damn fucking fine day.

Peter takes one of the Valdarian's gigantic bottles of beer away from the reception hall and settles in a couch-y alcove, nursing it. He pulls his headphones on to drown out the sounds of the party; he's got an epic scrape across his shoulder and back, from a pretty intense round of running and jumping and clambering over things back in the museum, but the drinking is helping, and anyway he's a fast healer. Mostly he just - doesn't feel like being in there right now. He used to get so damn sick of the quiet inside the ship that he'd ask girls he'd known an hour to tag along on ridiculously dangerous space adventures, but quiet's in precious short supply lately.

"Tired of the party?" an unfamiliar voice asks. He sighs. It's going to be in short supply here, too, apparently. He looks up. And up, and up, and that's just for the legs, holy shit, that is a tall Valdarian. Tall and pretty - Valdarians are reptiles, probably, he guesses, or at least her skin is made up of little white scales that shimmer in the dim light of the hallway. There's a lot of it on display, too: she's mostly wearing a sort of complicated scarf, and he figures it's probably covering whatever is taboo to a Valdarian, which seems to exclude quite a bit.

She smiles, or, at least, her eyes draw up; her hair is a long ruff of feathery tendrils, and she tilts her head, watching him.

"Quieter out here," he says, but gestures at the rest of the bench before she can make to leave. She sits, gracefully, and when she takes the bottle of beer he holds out their hands touch in a way that he'd call damn purposeful. And she throws beer back like a champ.

Of course then a goddamn ruckus breaks out, and he'd recognize Drax's voice anywhere by now, not to mention the sounds of one very pissed off half-cyborg raccoon. He curses, rises to his feet, glances back at the girl.

"My crew," he says, awkwardly.

She lifts a graceful hand and waves him off. She's kept the beer. "Just - I'll be back," he says, and stomps off down the hall.

It takes all night to sort out. One of the various Valdarian religious factions have a taboo against rodents and object strenuously to anything with paws and whiskers touching their precious relics, even relics that were about to be sold as paperweights to rich Xandarans. Rocket, meanwhile, means to enforce his own taboo against being called a goddamn rodent, starting by breaking the heads of certain high priests. Peter could not give fewer shits about who touched whose magical whatsit, but thank fuck he did a report on raccoons in school the year before he left Earth forever and can clarify which animals on Earth are related and how closely, probably. He winds up saying that raccoons are probably basically tree cats, which goes down better.

"We're fortunate that there is not a taboo against apes," Gamora says dryly, cleaning her nails with Drax's confiscated knife while she waits for them to wrap up.

"There is," the head priest says, looking at them suspiciously, and it's all Peter can do to get them all back onto the ship without someone spilling the damn beans. They're three hours late for Groot's nighttime watering, and Rocket's in a panic; Peter doesn't even remember about the Valdarian girl until after they've broken orbit.

Their body clocks are all fucked up from switching planet to ship time to planet so many times in a bare eight-nine days, so after they put a contrite Rocket to bed, clutching a spray bottle, beside the perfectly-fine Groot, Peter winds up staying up drinking in the forward cabin with Gamora and Drax. It's a better wrap-up for a successful shenaniheist than that goddamn stuffy party was, that's for sure, though he stills winds up whining about the girl. "Seriously," he says, gesturing, "you should have seen her, she had these hips-"

Gamora snorts in a way she wouldn't if she wasn't also well into her fourth beer.

"Valdarian females have a wide pelvis because they are egg-layers," Drax informs them with the over-precision of the truly inebrieted. "I don't understand what relevance they would have to you, though."

Peter glances between him and Gamora; there's a glint in Gamora's eye, but Drax is, as always, completely serious. "You know, my large tattooed friend," he says, debating and then deciding not to nudge him with an elbow. "I was hoping to, you know."

"He was hoping to copulate with her," Gamora supplies helpfully, which if he hadn't just been on a ship with her for weeks would have made him do a spit take.

Drax's nose wrinkles, which is kind of a sight to behold. "She has a cloaca," he says, almost mournfully.

Peter feels pretty proud of how seriously he means his answering shrug. "In my experience, man, if you're into each other you can figure it out." He lifts his beer. "But then, only one of my species on this side of the galaxy, you know how it goes."

Drax stares into his drink for a long moment. "I am faithful to my dead wife," he says, finally, with flat simplicity. He sets the mug down. "I require sleep urgently," he adds, and rises, wobbly, to his feet.

Peter sets his beer down hastily. "Yeah, man," he says, "I'll walk you back there, okay?"

"My wife had a beautiful dorsal fin," Drax says, allowing himself to be towed. "She always said it was too big. I did not agree."

"Shh, big guy," Peter says. Rocket is snoring on the opposite bunk, curled around Groot's pot; they're going to have to convert part of the cargo hold, he realizes, when that tree gets bigger.

Drax sits down on the bunk, and Peter debates taking his shoes off for him, but Drax kicks at them until they come off. "Only our females have dorsal fins, you know," Drax says. "She liked it when I stroked it."

"Woah there," Peter says, throwing a blanket over Drax's shoulders. "Keep it clean, buddy."

"I am very hygenic," Drax rumbles up at him. His eyes are already closed.

"I know." Peter says, and takes a look around the bunkroom. "Okay," he says, slipping out the door, hitting the lights on the way out. "Good night."

Gamora is still awake, out at the table. She's spinning a bottle cap idly; she manages to make it look more athletic than anything Peter's done in his life. She raises an eyebrow his way.

"He's fine," Peter says, picking his beer back up, considering it, and then going to the potable-water tap and filling a mug instead. "He'll sleep late."

Gamora nods. Her hair's coming down from the elaborate knot she wore to the reception; her overrobe is thrown over the back of her chair where she sits, chin on her knees, in her sleeveless top.

The moment kind of stretches, weirdly, and then she says, "I'm the only one of my species on this side of the galaxy."

He waits for her to say something else; she doesn't.  He takes a gulp of water from the mug, and in that delay she's set down the bottle cap and stood. "Good night," she says, briskly, a little formally.

"Good night, Gamora," he says, bemused, but she's already disappeared down the corridor.