Rocket glanced slowly between the woman in the red armor standing outside the Broker's office and the casually preening form of Quill, striking a pose that was probably supposed to be seductive.
He'd seen Quill try that particular move more than once on Gamora, though she had an amusing habit of knocking the leer off Quill's face by way of reply. Up until now, though, Rocket hadn't actually assumed that meant Quill had a death wish-- because ever since she'd joined them, Gamora had done her best not to just casually kill people. And even at his most obnoxious, Quill was still people.
The chick he was flirting with now, though. Rocket had lagged behind for only the teensiest moment, scanning the crowd for any easy bounties, and in that miniscule gap of time, Quill had somehow managed to find the creepiest female on the planet.
Just looking at her made the fur stand up along Rocket's spine, a damned uncomfortable sensation under his sleeveless armor. Her skin and hair were streaked with blue, but not like a Centaurian like Yondu was blue; blue like deadly alkaloid flowers were blue, to warn off anyone sane who approached them. And she smelled a little like the back alleys of Knowhere where the miners hadn't been yet; like something ancient that had existed long before Xandar had coalesced from stardust and would go on existing after every scrap of life on its surface was dust once more.
Whoever she was, she had to be at least part Celestial-- and not in the half-assed way Quill was, either. Like the real deal, an actual Old One. And Quill was treating her like she was just another pretty face! Rocket would have thought he'd have learned how to tell the difference between regular marks and the kind that could eat your face off without blinking by now...
...but then again. Ego. Ronan. Dance off. Quill might just go ahead and try it anyway.
A shudder passed through Rocket's small frame. Why had he volunteered to come with Quill to check up on their contacts, again? Putting the Ravager-raised Guardian within leering range of a deadly woman was like handing the baby version of Groot a bomb with a frickin' death button. Sooner or later, it just wasn't going to end well. Leave it to Rocket to have to be the sane one. Again.
He took a deep breath, then put on his best swagger and strolled up like he hadn't a care in the world. "Hey, Quill. Thought we were here to talk to the Broker, not make new friends."
"Rocket, don't be rude!" Quill turned wide humie eyes at him, in a guileless expression Rocket knew better than to believe. "Fred, this is my friend Rocket; Rocket, this is Fred, and she says she's from Earth. She's out here trying to figure out what happened with that strange mass attack earlier this year. Apparently, someone she knows might have been behind it. Weird, huh?"
From Earth? Rocket stared at Quill a moment, then up at 'Fred's' bland brown-eyed gaze, and suddenly believed a lot more of Quill's crazy bragging than he had before. Planet of outlaws, huh? Maybe it wasn't such a freakish accident that Quill had been the one of all Ego's kids to inherit his so-called light.
"Nice to meet you," the Old One said, very politely, in a friendly, inquisitive tone of voice that did not match anything else about her at all.
"...Yeah, that's great, Quill," he said, feigning nonchalance as best he could. "Can you take her comcode for later, though? I kinda want to be done here before the rest of the Guardians get impatient and start tracking us down."
He didn't actually know whether or not anyone would come looking, but he wanted out of that conversation immediately, and he was pretty sure the idea of their wrath would be a more effective excuse for Quill to bow out than the mere lure of lucre.
Quill made a face at him where 'Fred' couldn't see, then gave a thoughtfully apologetic sigh. "You know, I hate to admit it, but he's probably right; you going to be on planet awhile longer?"
The Old One's attention shifted back to Quill again-- and Rocket stiffened as the brown color bled slowly out of her eyes, replaced by more of that actinic blue. Her posture changed, too, from something very nearly human to a more insect-like movement, her head tilting to the side as she glanced between them. "You seek to deceive me," she said, flinging the words more at him than at Rocket. "You know more than what you are saying."
Quill lifted his hands before him, palms empty, still trying to do the charm thing. "Now, Fred-- sorry, sorry, Miz Burkle. I can assure you...."
Never frickin' again; next time Rocket had to go somewhere alone with Quill he was bringing Groot, no matter how contrary the regrowing Flora Colossus felt. Groot wasn't the one who needed babysitting; Quill was. How had the idiot even lived long enough to meet them, anyway?
"Shut up, Quill. And so do you, lady," Rocket interrupted, lips drawing back from his teeth in a defensive snarl. "However you found Quill-- he ain't responsible for what his father was trying to do, and we killed that asshole anyway. Show's over; ain't nobody going to be able to pick up where he left off."
The Old One narrowed her eyes at that. "You claim to have slain a Celestial," she replied, flatly.
"Kinda had to," Quill said, shrugging, hands still up. "Sorta comes with being a Guardian. He wanted to be the only thing in existence, anywhere."
Her lip curled up in response-- and then her shoulders slumped slightly, the blue fading unexpectedly back out of her irises. "Damn," she said, a strange humie accent thickening her voice once more. "After all the damage he did, I really wanted to make a trophy out of his spine."
And somehow that was the creepiest thing she'd done yet; Rocket watched a petite well of alien power pout at the thought of missing her chance to kill a sentient planet, and was not at all surprised by the way Quill brightened in return. He was going to ask her back to the ship, wasn't he?
"You know what, the Broker can wait. It sounds like you knew some things about Ego we didn't know, and we can tell you all about what went down. If you'd like to come back to our ship....?"
"Oh, I couldn't possibly impose," the Old One replied, actually batting her frickin' eyelashes.
...Yeah, he'd invited her back to the ship. A stunt like that deserved one of Drax's huge turds in his bed later that night.
"It wouldn't be an imposition, I promise," Quill said, earnest as the guy ever got.
Well, there'd be no contradicting him now. Rocket would have to corner Gamora later; get her to screw his head on straight. Metaphorically speaking, though literally might help too. And in the meantime....
"Yeah, what he said," he gritted through his teeth, and resigned himself to living in interesting times.