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You're Still Young, That's Your Fault

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The call from the bridge rings through while Yondu is asleep. The alert bleats and he burrows deeper in his blankets, considers silencing it. Kraglin is a capable First Mate, can handle anything this hunk of metal could throw at him.

Abruptly the call ends and for some reason that worries Yondu more. When it starts up again, he's awake--and concerned--enough to pick up.

"Better be good," he snarls. They know not to bother him when he's sleeping, but then he knows being a captain is a full time occupation.

Kraglin's looking shifty, chewing his lip the way he did as a kid; he got that little tell under control years ago, so whatever is making it pop up now isn't good. "Got a call on the Captain's private line," he says, slewing his eyes away from the screen. "It's Peter."

A small knot of anxiety forms in Yondu's gut but, unlike Kraglin, he controls his face, stays blank. Peter's been on a job, heist of some kind, took his M ship and been gone about three Xandarian weeks. That's longer than Pete's ever gone without even checking in and Yondu's been privately worried for days. Sure the boy's grown now, big ruddy thing, all thick arms and hairy face, but he's always stupidly enthusiastic, too friendly. Not enough thinking before the doing, sometimes. "Send me the message."

It's Peter all right, looking more flushed than he usually does, sweaty hair plastered to his skin. Shirt he's wearing is soaked with sweat but he's shivering. Sick from the look of it. He's slouched in the pilot seat and his eyes are glassy, unfocused. "Smthin' wrong," Peter mutters. The knot of anxiety grows, rises until it's in Yondu's throat. "Got sprayed-... can't breathe..." He coughs and coughs, a dry hacking sound. Leaning back, Peter pants, gasping. He closes his eyes and whines softly, mutters, "dad... m'sorry..."

The message ends after a bit. Yondu calls the bridge as he grabs his shirt. "We're pickin' the Milano up," he barks at Kraglin. "Set the course. I'm comin' up."

When he gets there, the bridge is quiet, uncharacteristically. Even when it's a skeleton crew there's at least some bickering, laughter, something. Yondu's pretty sure that means they've seen the message.

"'Bout forty minutes to arrival, cap'n," Kraglin informs him, sliding out of the captain's chair to go sit at his usual navigation terminal.

Yondu throws himself into his chair, scowling. He knows the crew on the bridge, knows they all are fond of Peter, won't pitch too much of a fit for going off course from the latest job. Quelling any mutinous feelings amongst the rest of the crew shouldn't be too hard, either, just annoying.

From the minute they snatched him, the Terran had charmed them all right away, kicking and clawing and biting like a wild beast. Had a real eye for dirty tricks, too, knew the best time to strike, knew when it would be least expected. Even managed to shimmy into some tight spaces and through vents, climbed pipes until he was pressed against the ceiling. The crew thought it hilarious and traded stories of how the kid injured them each day. Packed a real wallop for a little shit.

Once the kid stopped being scared, couple weeks into the trip back to his dad, Peter was overwhelming. Talking nonstop after the translator was implanted, following crew around, asking them every damn nosy question that popped in his head. Wanted to try everyone's food even if he was warned it'd make him sick. Asked to help with ship repairs. Drove Kraglin to madness, following the teen around, begging him to play.

And at night, given some blankets and extra clothes and eventually his backpack, he'd make a little nest in the corner of the deck everyone bunked on and play that stupid music over and over, quietly. He loved being a part of the rush and noise and activity.

Yondu realizes he's been tapping one of the figurines on the arm of his chair for a while now. Kraglin keeps glancing over at him. Sitting up in his seat, Yondu curls his lips in a snarl and everyone returns to their work, tense. Wouldn't do to let the crew know he's worried.

When the Milano is finally close enough, Tullk hails it, but no answer. Horuz locks the tractor beam on the ship and hauls it into the belly of the Eclector.

Yondu lets Kraglin head off the bridge first, trying to appear disinterested, bored even. He scratches his chin, cracks his neck, tells Horuz to watch the bridge, before sauntering towards the lift.

Kraglin and one of the other Ravagers, Brahl, have Peter between them, half-dragging him off of his ship, his arms slung around their shoulders. Head rolling on his shoulders, Peter tries to help, to walk, but his legs wobble treacherously. He's muttering to himself, too quiet to make out.

"Infirmary," Yondu orders. "And disinfect that ship. Whatever the hell's wrong with him ain't spreading."

Oblo is on deck at the infirmary and Yondu internally sighs in relief. Oblo's always been a real loyal type, always been fond of Peter. Yondu tells Brahl to get back to work, and the Achernonian is all too happy to comply. Yondu sends Kraglin off as well, an order he isn't too pleased about.

"Cap'n, I'd like to stay until we know what's wrong," Kraglin says, the tiniest note of pleading in his voice. He's letting all sorts of things slip today. He rushes on before Yondu can reply. "Need to know what he got sprayed with. For safety."

Yondu narrows his eyes, wets his lips. Bad sign. The kind of look that says he's about to start whistling. "You get down there an' supervise them cleanin', you so worried 'bout it. Don't bother comin' to the bridge tomorrow neither, just get everything spic and span."

Flustered, Kraglin hurries for the open door before he can merit any further punishment.

"I'll letcha know how he's doing," Yondu calls after him, feeling a little guilty. Kraglin is just worried about his little brother, after all.

Oblo works quick and quiet, pulling up the medical files they have on Peter and Terran biology. The pirate looks dumb, usually has a blank smile plastered on his face, thinks it's menacing--it ain't--but he's not really stupid. It's the reason he gets the infirmary on his work rotation. He even calls up the Milano's travel log and looks up the last planet Peter landed on. Smart thinking.

While Oblo works, Yondu stands by Peter's side, watching. The boy is restless, shivering, coughing so hard he gags and dry-heaves; Yondu rolls him onto his side, startled by the heat rising off of the clammy skin. Terrans tend to run hotter than Centaurians anyway, but after this long, he knows when Peter's temperature is out of normal ranges.

Wet eyelashes fluttering, Peter opens his eyes and tries to focus on Yondu. Unexpectedly, he grins. "Dad," he wheezes. His fingers brush Yondu's coat.

He took to Yondu after the Captain decided to keep him, teach him how to be a Ravager. Clung to his leg like a barnacle at the first sign of kindness. To hell with Ego. To hell with the poor children Yondu brought him, only to find out they ended up rotting in a cave somewhere. Instead, Peter got to learn to steal and lie and sneak and fight, how to fly a starship. Got to survive.

Bending down, Yondu brushes a hand over Peter's damp curls, brushing them off of his forehead. "I gotchu, son."

And just like that, Peter's face crumples. His eyes well up, tears threaten to escape, and a little whimper escapes him. He lifts his hand and scrambles to grab Yondu's, keeping it pressed against his head. It's always been like this. Peter never tended towards sickness except right at the beginning, building up a tolerance for alien illnesses the hard way. When he did get sick, all hell broke loose.

"Not yet," Yondu murmurs, "hold on a bit longer." Petey stares at his face but turns away when he starts coughing.

Speaking of. Yondu lifts his gaze to the other Ravager, raising his eyebrows, silently communicating that he needs answers now.

"He got a fever an' fluid in his lungs. Scan shows he got somethin' coverin' him. Spores like from a mushroom. Blood test says he's infected with it, like." Oblo holds two ratty old bags up. Things rattle inside. "Got some antifungal meds and cough meds for him. From what I read, that's 'bout all we do unless he gets worse."

Yondu nods, grabs the bags and shoves them in his pocket. He's been on that same planet plenty of times, no problem, wonders if this is a Terran thing. Decides to make a note of it in Peter's file. "Help me get him to my quarters."

Peter's old cot is still stuck in the corner of Yondu's room, still got his lumpy pillow on it, but the boy is much too large for it now. They deposit Peter on the captain's bed. Years ago when Peter got too big for his cot, he'd joined the rest of the crew in the bunks, but considering how sick he is now it didn't feel right to dump him in the middle of those rowdy assholes.

Oblo leaves after promising to stay in the infirmary for the next couple of shifts. Yondu calls up Kraglin, tells him about Peter and to shift the duties around so Oblo is available for medical.

It's quiet, finally, except for Peter's painful breathing. Yondu sits on the edge of the bed and unties the boy's boots, yanking them off. "All right, now," he announces though he's unsure if Peter is conscious enough to understand. "Yer safe. Gonna getchu right."

A quiet sob answers him. Yondu turns slightly, sighs. Peter's restlessly squirming. "Dad-," Peter whines, holding his arms out.

Doesn't matter how old the boy gets, he still turns into a baby when he's sick. Didn't seem too odd when he was little, begging to curl up with Yondu at night, crying while pressed up against his back. Yondu told him stories of his childhood as a Kree slave fighter, taught him the couple of words in Centaurian that he could still remember, whistles mostly.

It was during one of those illnesses that Peter had started calling him "dad."

It was a private thing. When Peter got sick, he got babied, fussed over. Yondu couldn't help himself, there was something irresistible about the curly-mopped kid whining and clutching at him. Not the little spitfire he usually was. Yondu would carry him around his filthy cabin on his hip, Petey sweating all over him, limp in his arms.

The thing is, it didn't stop. Peter didn't get sick as often, he grew hale, a big rowdy teen that tripped over his own legs. But when he did get sick, he inevitably went to Yondu, blubbering, begging to be coddled. Whimpering as Yondu stroked his forehead and hummed songs from Peter's precious mix tape. But it's still a private thing, more now than ever. Wouldn't do to let the crew see Quill weeping over a cold, they'd eat him alive, some literally. Only Kraglin knows, being Yondu's other son, in essence.

"All right, honey," Yondu murmurs as he kicks his own boots off and tosses his coat over a chair. He settles on the bed, sitting up against the wall, and pulls Peter to him, letting the boy rest his head in his lap. He plays with his hair, twisting it gently between his fingers, enjoying their silky texture. "Got yerself mighty damn sick, huh. What am I gonna do with you."

Peter's shaking so bad his teeth click when he says, "'m sorry, dad."

Without thinking, Yondu tugs on Peter's hair a little. "Got nuthin' to apologize for, son. Hush." Yawning, Yondu realizes he still hasn't gotten a full night's sleep. He slides down until he's flat on his back, letting Peter squirm up to rest his head on his chest. "You try to get some sleep, y'hear me?" Peter nods, wiping his damp face on Yondu's shirt.

Satisfied, Yondu starts humming. He's better at whistling but Petey likes the humming, the way it makes Yondu's chest vibrate against his cheek. Clutching fistfuls of the other man's shirt, Peter closes his eyes as he starts to drift off.

Chapter Text

Time passes as they both doze. Yondu wakes to Peter plucking anxiously at his shirt as if afraid to rouse him. Bleary with sleep, Yondu lifts his head to look at the younger man.

“M’thirsy,” Peter mutters. He’s flushed but his skin is dry, eyes dull. Probably dehydrated. Needs to take his meds, too.

For a bit Yondu lays there, trying to wake up, petting Peter’s hair absentmindedly. When it looks like Peter might fall back asleep, Yondu slides out from under him, shoving a pillow under his head in his place. Yondu's bed is always overcrowded with blankets and pillows, a comfortable nest for Petey to wriggle down into. "Gonna go to the mess, I'll be back in a minute."

Eyes widening, Peter moans, "nooo..." He grabs onto Yondu's arm, squeezing. Stronger than he used to be, not eight years old anymore that's for damn sure.

"Gotta get you water," Yondu says gently, trying to reason with him. Despite the possible serious nature of the illness, a grin cracks his face; he loves when Peter's clingy. Yondu tries to pull himself free of the other man's hands, but Peter ends up wriggling closer until he's able to bodily hug Yondu's entire arm. "All right, all right, I'm gonna call Kraglin, how's that."

Private captain's line, Yondu asks his first mate to bring two jugs of water down. Kraglin manages to school his facial expression--finally--but his eyes noticeably brighten. He wants to see his brother.

Kraglin was Yondu's first unexpected son. A bony waif picking pockets and cutting throats. He chose the wrong man to try to steal from, Yondu caught him but was impressed with his ruthlessness. Felt pity for the filthy child, so brought him along. Unlike Peter, Krag took almost no time to acclimate, became crew immediately, fell into the daily rhythms of life on a Ravager ship. Peter was more of a mascot, a rabid pet.

The door chimes and Yondu tells Kraglin to come on in. The scrawny first mate juggles the water and a bowl apparently made from an old engine part. When he catches Yondu staring, Kraglin shrugs. "Got Cook to make that shiken soup he likes."

From where his face is buried into Yondu's side, Peter's scratchy voice floats up. "Chicken," he grumbles. "No chickens in space."

Kraglin grins. "It speaks! An' here I thought that was a dead orlani." He sets the jugs down on a cluttered shelf bolted to the wall and brings the dingy bowl over. "Sure smells like one."

"Get up, son," Yondu says, nudging Peter with his elbow. "Eat the soup he broughtcha."

Peter groans and drags himself into an upright position, rubbing his eyes with loosely curled fists. Right away he has a coughing fit, a dry raspy hack that worries Yondu bad while he rubs the boy's back. When Peter's finally got his breath back, he holds his hands out for the bowl.

While Petey is slurping the broth noisily, Yondu points at Kraglin then at his coat on the chair. "Hand me the bags in the pockets." First bag reveals a couple of disposable spray injectors, the other bag has a jumble of loose pills, two different kinds. Pinching two pills between his blue fingers, Yondu holds them out to Peter.

Peter pulls the bowl away from his face hesitantly, eyeing the pills with trepidation. Abruptly he shakes his head, lips squeezing so tight the skin around them turns white. Kraglin snorts, earning a thunderous stare from Peter.

"Gotta take them or you won't get better." Yondu isn't surprised, getting Peter to take medicine has always been tricky. The spray will be even worse. "Wanna get better dontcha?" Peter hunches over, clutching the bowl, his face practically buried in it now. Grinning, Yondu sits back against the wall, stretching his legs out and crossing them at the ankles. "All right, you don't wanna take 'em, Krag and I'll hold you down an' make you."

Yondu has never held Peter down for meds himself, but the threat is enough because Peter reluctantly sticks his hand out. Taking a big mouthful of soup, he drops the pills in and swallows quick, grimacing, before finishing the rest of the soup off and handing Kraglin the empty bowl.

"Got an injector spray, too," Yondu says, gentling his voice.

Sure enough, Peter shuffles away from him to the other side of the bed, hugging a pillow and hiding his face in it. He's got an instinctive aversion to the sprays, the first time he'd been given one as a child someone had held him down for the painful injection. He was still cargo then and they had been a little rougher than they should have been.

Kraglin looks at Yondu, eyebrows raised in a silent question. Glancing at Peter, the Centaurian shakes his head. He's not gonna use force to get the boy to take his meds.

"Go on and make sure Horuz ain't breaking my damn ship," Yondu says, waving a hand in Krag's direction. "I got this."

With a promise to Peter that he'll visit when he's off duty, Kraglin leaves for the bridge.

Yondu scoots closer to Peter, pitching his voice soft and low. "'Member that little toy I got for you on Krylor? Yellow thing? Head bobs around?"

"Dog," Peter whispers, lifting his face. His voice is foggy, nose stuffed up from crying. "His name's Dog."

Smiling, Yondu nods and reaches out to wipe the boy's cheeks. "That's the one. Now if I get Dog for you to hold, you think you can be brave for your old man?" Any other time, he'd slap Peter upside the head and tell him to grow a pair, tell him Ravagers aren't afraid of any damn thing. But any other time, Peter wouldn't be so adorably weepy with his bottom lip poking out.

Pete nods. "Don't go too far!" he pleads as Yondu gets off the bed. "Don't feel good." He squeezes the pillow tighter to him.

"I know ya don't," Yondu says as he rummages around the shelf by Peter's old cot. When he finds Dog, Peter starts coughing again. Yondu turns back towards him just in time to see Petey tumble off of the bed, racing for the door. The coughing keeps triggering his gag response, and Yondu can hear the choked off retching sounds. There's a tiny bathroom down the hall from Yondu's room, part of his captain's privilege, so the Centaurian hurries towards it, fairly certain that's where his son went.

The bathroom door is still open, Peter is huddled on the floor by the toilet, not touching the filthy metal, crying. He turns to look at Yondu and whines like a kicked puppy. "Daaaad... I threw upppp..."

"I know ya did," Yondu says. He crouches behind Peter, taking his hand and placing Dog in his palm. "Don't worry 'bout it, boy. Think you can make it to my room again?"

Chapter Text

Peter wants to get up on the bed, but he also really really doesn't want to. He knows logically the bed is filthy, Ravagers don't really do a lot of laundry, but he doesn't want to lay around in his own filth. Plucking a loose string on the fraying hem of his shirt, he tries to decide if some of the stains on his shirt are barf or just regular stains.

"Whatsa matter?" Yondu asks as he comes into the room, slapping the control for the door. It hisses shut behind him and a small weight is lifted from Peter's shoulders. The outside world is gone again, it's just him and his space pirate dad in their own little pocket of the universe.

Sucking his lip, Peter frowns, so Yondu brushes Peter's hair off of his forehead, reaching up to do it. His chest hurts, talking makes it worse, makes his sore scratchy throat feel like sandpaper is rasping up and down it. "Dirty," he finally says, yanking on his shirt as if showing off the filthy state of it.

Yondu nods sagely. "Sure are, aintcha. All right, all right, sit down and I'll rustle somethin' up."

The room is a mess, mountains of clothes and knickknacks and crates and weaponry, things flung across every viable surface or directly onto the floor when no surface presented itself. This reminds Peter of the water and he eyes the shelf it was set on. To get to it, he would have to stand up. But everything hurts, his body aches deep, all the way in his bones, every muscle is on fire.

Sucking his lip again, Peter whines softly. He doesn't want to be annoying, he doesn't want to be a bother, not really. Not when Yondu is already looking for a clean enough shirt for Peter. But that's sort of what this is about, isn't it? He's supposed to be needy and Yondu is supposed to indulge him. He's allowed. So he whines again, louder.

Yondu looks up from the pile of discarded clothes he's rooting through. "Whuzzat?" When Peter looks pointedly at the water, the Centaurian grins. "I guess ya still haven't had any water, huh." He steps over and grabs a jug in his free hand, a faded powder blue shirt in his other. Peter likes the color blue, it reminds him of Yondu.

Setting the new shirt on the bed and the jug on the floor, Yondu says "arms up, son." When Peter dutifully raises his arms, Yondu grabs the bottom of the dirty shirt and yanks it off of him in one motion. Usually this has Peter in stitches but he can only muster the energy to crack a smile. Peter pulls the new shirt on, it smells only faintly of sweat and blood and leather, clean by Ravager standards. By the time his head pops out of the collar, Yondu has the jug open and ready.

Peter intends to take the water jug but, when it almost slips from his hand, Yondu holds it for him and he instead helps guide it to his mouth. It's not cold but it feels so soothing it's like every atom of his body sighs in relief.

"You go on, lay down now." Yondu splashes some of the water onto the corner of a different shirt and when Peter settles down into his nest of blankets and pillows, Yondu wipes his face for him with the damp fabric, his forehead and cheeks and closed eyes. This time Peter actually does sigh out loud.

He drowses. Being asleep means he's not in pain anymore, which means he doesn't feel the gritty prickle in his chest and throat. Yondu's bed smells heavily of him, a comforting and familiar scent. It reminds Peter of being eight years old, homesick and mourning, unable to stomach the strange new foods. Of muscled blue arms gently coaxing him out from behind a cluster of pipes and carrying him around the ship. Of sitting at the foot of the captain's chair and playing with all sorts of little toys, a rough calloused hand patting his head.

That same hand shakes him awake. Peter blinks, confused, wasn't he just on the bridge? He has Dog in his hand but didn't he have some of his other favorites?

Yondu leans down close to him, his voice a soft rasp. "Listen up, Petey. I gotta give you this injection. I know you're scared of 'em but ya won't get better if I don't."

Peter's hand tightens around Dog and it clacks as it's plastic head bounces. He knows he needs it, he wants to feel better. The injector spray is in Yondu's hand, looking suspiciously innocent. But Peter remembers when the crew held him down even though he was screaming and crying, he remembers their voices babbling over top of his own in their alien language, the way the medic on duty grabbed his arm so hard there were yellow and purple bruises for days after.

Yondu takes Peter's arm and pushes the sleeve up. His grip is light, barely there, giving Peter plenty of freedom to yank his arm away. "That's my boy," Yondu says. He lifts the spray and rests the shiny metallic nozzle against Peter's bicep. "Here we go-" His finger tightens on the trigger and there's a kachunk and a hissing and it feels like hot agony, a glowing poker shoved into his muscle.

But it's over.

Peter realizes he's crying, his tears are sliding sideways to soak the hair at his temple. It tickles. Pulling his arm out of Yondu's hand, Peter rubs his eyes viciously, squeezing Dog as hard as he dares.

There's a clatter as Yondu chucks the injector onto the floor. The older man stretches out next to Peter and pulls his head onto his lap. "Look at you, m'brave boy." He rests his hand on Peter's stomach and starts rubbing softly. The muscles are sore from the coughing and vomiting, and even though the hand is sort of chilly, it still feels good. Peter grumbles wordlessly.