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All Time Low

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Peter jerked awake at the sharp banging on his door, limbs flailing so violently that he narrowly avoided hitting his bed partner (Jason? Peyton? What was this guy’s name again?). He let out a shaky breath when he realized they weren’t being attacked or some crazy shit, panic making way for irritation in an instant.

What? I’m tryin’ to fucking sleep here, man!” he bellowed, shrugging off the hand he felt trying to soothe him by rubbing circles on his back.

“You’ve got a call, Star Princess,” Rocket called through the door, banging on it once more and Peter wondered how someone with such tiny hands could make such a loud racket. “It’s that skinny little weirdo from Yondu’s crew.”

Peter’s heart lurched, because he hadn’t heard from anyone in Yondu’s clan (including the man himself) since the incident on Xandar, and the only reasons he could think of that Kraglin would be trying to call him now were firmly lodged in the ‘not good’ category. He sighed, scrubbing a hand over his scruffy cheek and reminding himself that he wasn’t supposed to care about anyone on the Eclector anymore; Kraglin may have basically raised him – both of them kicking and screaming the whole damn way, but dealing with it because it was the Captain’s order and disobeying was just not an option – and Yondu may have become something close to a mentor as he’d gotten older, but Peter knew he’d burned those bridges with that Orb shit. Better to not give a shit and avoid being emotionally compromised when they eventually came a knockin’.

“Alright, alright,” he called, glancing down at the man next to him, running one hand up a meaty orange thigh in a promise to have another go when he was done. The man shifted, rolling over so the sheet slid off his body. Peter leered at his half-hard length, sucking his own lip between his teeth. “Tell him I’ll be on the line in just a second.”

“Do I look like your goddamn butler? Just pick up the damn comm, Quill,” Rocket snapped, and Peter heard the nails on his little feet clicking the ground as he walked away.

“He is a very angry rodent, yes?” the man asked, leaning up to place a soft kiss on Peter’s shoulder.

Peter bristled, pulling his hand back. “Don’t call him ‘rodent’,” he snapped, sliding out of his furs and searching around for a pair of pants to slip on. What he found was a wrinkled pair of sweatpants, but it passed the sniff test and they would only be on for a few minutes anyway so he pulled them over his bare hips and made his way over to the desk. “His name is Rocket.”

The man huffed and fell back into the bed, scratching at his somewhat scaly chest before rolling over to presumably go back to sleep. Peter shrugged and flicked on his holoscreen. Sure enough, there was Kraglin’s ugly mug, his caller ID picture blinking on Peter’s hovering screen. He let out a breath – not shaky at all, alright? – and answered the call.

“Holy - !” he yelped when Kraglin’s video patched through. “What the actual fuck happened to your face?”

Kraglin frowned – at least Peter thought he was frowning. It was damn hard to tell what was going on under all the scabs and bruises – poking gingerly at his left eye which was so swollen Peter was pretty sure he wasn’t able to see out of it. When he spoke his voice was raspy, and Peter glanced down to see that there was a ring of livid purple bruises around his skinny neck. “It’s – Pete – “

He cut himself off with a shaky exhale and Peter stopped taking in the tenderized meat that was attempting to pass off as Kraglin’s face and paid full attention to what he was trying to say. Kraglin, as a rule, did not hesitate. It was one of his charms, really, the way he generally just blurted out whatever he wanted to say, other people’s opinions be damned. “Krags, what’s going on?”

Kraglin sucked his swollen, cracked lip between his teeth, glancing off screen once before bringing his focus back to Peter. “You can’t say anything, alright? I’m serious, Pete. Cap would have my damn hide if he knew I was callin’ ya right now.”

Peter rolled his eyes, waving his hand in the air. “Yeah, yeah, I know, he hates me now and whatever. Quit stalling and tell me what’s going on. You seriously look like Taserface right now and, buddy, that’s not a compliment.”

“He doesn’t – ugh, nevermind. Look, we was on a retrieval mission at the Collector’s place – “

Peter cut him off with a raised hand. “Hold on, hold on. The Collector’s place was blown up six months ago, so what were you supposed to be getting there?”

The least swollen eye on Kraglin’s face squinted at him in what passed for a glare. “That’s not important right now, ya jackass. Just shut up and let me finish!” Peter raised his hands in surrender and Kraglin went on. “Anyway, we was supposed to be gettin’ something from the wreckage. Don’t know what anymore, because we didn’t end up finding it. But, Pete, somethin’ happened while we was searchin’.” He rubbed the back of his neck, rolling his head on his shoulders to relieve some tension. “It’s the Captain. I dunno what happened, but there was this plant and he touched it or somethin’. It shot some kinda green pollen at him, and he seemed fine so we didn’t worry about it. But over the past week he’s been… changing, I guess.”

Realization slowly dawned on Peter, and he stared at Kragin’s injuries with renewed horror. “Yondu did that to you?” he choked, and shocked was too simple a word for what he was feeling because while Yondu had sometimes lashed or punched his men – Peter probably more than anyone, though he was man enough to admit he had deserved most of it – the brutality painted over Kraglin’s face was so beyond anything he’d ever have considered Yondu capable of. Besides, Kraglin and Yondu were, you know, together. Had been for years and years, and Peter didn’t pretend to understand how that relationship actually functioned but he’d never, not once, seen Yondu punish his first mate corporeally.

Kraglin scratched at a section of scab on his chin, flicking it away when it peeled off. “It ain’t as bad as it looks.”

“Bullshit,” Peter scoffed, brows drawing together in a frown. “Kraglin, this is… I mean, I know Yondu’s not the nicest but what the fuck? Has this ever happened before?” He couldn’t believe he was asking the only somewhat parental figure in his life if he was being abused by the man they’d both always admired (though Peter would eat his own foot before admitting that out loud).

“Fuck no! You think I’d just let somethin’ like this happen? Who do you think I am, kid?” Kraglin asked, looking at Peter like he was the galaxy’s biggest goddamn moron. Peter blushed, because, okay, Kraglin wasn’t Yondu’s first mate just because they fucked each other. He was smarter than he sounded, stronger than he looked, and damn devious when he needed to be.

“Alright, sorry. Wasn’t try’na offend your honor or some shit,” he said, scratching the end of his nose and darting his eyes away. “What happened then? Quit beating around the bush, man, the suspense is killing me here.”

Kraglin leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms, and Peter caught a glimpse of a ring of dark bruises around each wrist at the action. “At first, it just seemed like he was in a shitty mood. Snappin’ at the crew more’n usual, dealing out a few more lashings than he woulda normally. But yesterday Taserface and Halfnut were talking about you, about how Yondu shoulda killed you when he had the chance and the Cap’n just… lost it.”

Peter’s eyebrows had to be in his hairline by then, because since when did Yondu care enough about him to defend him like that?

“He whistled ‘em both right through, Pete, there in the mess like it was no big fuckin’ deal. The worst part is he didn’t even land a killing shot. Hit ‘em right through the throat so they bled out there on their trays.” Kraglin sighed and poked at his bottom lip, which was bleeding again after he’d chewed it. “I tried to go to him, ya know, relieve some tension, but he just started screamin’ at me. I was stupid and yelled back, and the next thing I know Horuz is dragging my unconscious ass outta Yondu’s room and Yondu’s been locked inside.”

Peter whistled. “That’s some fuckin’ mess. Where’s Yondu now?”

“We overrode the locks on his door so he’s stuck inside fer now.”

“So, what’re you callin’ me for, Krags?” Peter asked at length, eyeing Kraglin suspiciously.

Kraglin glanced away, and Peter got the distinct impression that if he wasn’t so covered in cuts and bruises there would have been a high blush on his cheeks. His next words were nearly spat out, like they were being forcefully torn from his throat. “The captain… he’s always had a sorta soft spot for you. I was hopin’ maybe you could, I dunno, come here and try to talk to him?”

Peter couldn’t help his barking laughter. “Are we talking about the same Yondu here? Yea high, angry, strung me up and lashed me in front of the crew I don’t know how many times? Threatened to eat me for basically my whole life? That one?”

“Look, Pete, you know I wouldn’t ever call yer sorry ass like this if I thought there was another choice,” Kraglin said, and the sincerity in his voice was enough to make Peter’s smile falter. “I know yer off doin’ some weird heroic shit or whatever, don’t need us no more, but right now we need you before the crew decides it’s time to send the Cap out the damn airlock. Don’t pretend like you don’t care. I know you, alright? I know you care about the captain, and I know even if you didn’t yer too damn sentimental to just let him die after ya damn near grew up under him.”

Peter let out a breath, deflating under the pressure of that pleading tone. If Kraglin was willing to do this, things must have been real serious. Pride was no small thing among Ravagers, Peter knew. “Yeah, alright. Send me your coordinates and we’ll make a pit stop by the Eclector. You got a picture of the plant he came into contact with?”

Kraglin nodded, tapping away on his comm to send the requested information. Peter’s own comm pinged with two incoming files and Kraglin looked up at him with a half-smile. “Thanks, Pete. If this works I’ll really owe you one.”

Peter nodded and the connection cut off. He rolled his chair over to hit the intercom on the wall. “Hey, Rocket. Change of plans. The Rigellians are just gonna have to wait because I got something I gotta do. I’m sending you coordinates now. Correct the course and let me know when we’re expected to arrive.”

Rocket’s acerbic voice crackled through the other line and Peter fought to roll his eyes. “Who died and made you the damn boss, Quill?”

“It’s my fuckin’ ship, you stupid trash panda! Just do it, man,” he snapped, clicking off the intercom and sending the coordinates through. He knew Rocket would comply; the jackass just liked to give him a hard time.

Once the message had sent Peter pulled up the other file, and a holo image of the plant glowed to life over his desk. It looked almost like a tiger lily, except it was positively massive, with vibrant purple petals and radioactive green stamens at the center. “Well, it’s his own damn fault for touching this thing. It’s fucking glowing, for crying out loud!” he grumbled, zooming in on the center of the plant for a better look.

Peter jumped when he heard a voice at his shoulder, having entirely forgotten about his bed guest. “That’s a mating flower,” the guy said, reaching out as if to touch the image.

Peter gaped. “Excuse me? It’s a what now?”

“A mating flower. Certain species don’t really copulate like you do, and they use the pollen from flowers like this one to jump-start the mating drive when the time comes.” He paused, wrapping the sheet tighter around his waist. “It is most common amongst species who spare too few thoughts for forming familial bonds; a way to make sure their species lives on.”

Peter eyed him suspiciously. “You’re mysteriously well-versed in this weird shit.”

The man laughed, green eyes sparkling. “Peter, you picked me up outside a university. I am what you call an anthropology student.”

Fuck, had he picked up a college student? He sure looked of age with his strong thick limbs and square jaw peppered with white stubble, but it wouldn't be the first time Peter had gotten in trouble for not bothering to check age or, you know, marital status.

He shook his head, pulling his thoughts back to the most important issue here. “So, what, Yondu’s trying to kill everyone so that he can mate with them? That doesn’t make any goddamn sense!”

“Yondu is a Centaurian name, yes? I do not know about your friend, but some Centaurian tribes must prove themselves worthy of a partner by besting them in combat. I would hazard a guess that he is attempting to test his potential mates.” He trailed his fingers down Peter’s neck, leaning down so he could place a kiss at his collarbone. “You are strong, for a Terran. If you go to him I feel confident you will succeed.”

Peter jerked away as if he’d been burned, chair toppling to the ground in his haste to stand and put some distance between him and the guy. “No fucking way am I – ugh – mating with Yondu! That’s – that’s ridiculous! Someone else on the crew can do it!”

The man – Troy, his goddamn name was Troy – raised one white eyebrow at him, clearly amused. “Did you know some in my species have empathic abilities? I could feel when I was touching you that the idea thrilled you.”

“Well that’s just fucking great, thanks for telling me now!” Peter snapped, tossing his hands up in the air in frustration. “Not cool, man, you gotta tell people when you can read their damn thoughts. And even if I had thought about sleeping with Yondu – which I fucking haven’t, alright? – he’s been with Kraglin for years. Kraglin should be the one to satisfy this – this weird pollen shit.”

“Your Centaurian has already tested that man and clearly found him lacking. If he tries again it is entirely possible that he will perish.” Troy cocked his head to the side, messy white hair spilling over his tangerine shoulder. “You Terrans are very strange. On my planet it would be considered an honor to hold the place of a warrior mate.”

Peter was spared the need to reply by Rocket’s angry voice coming over the intercom, letting him know that they were en route to the Eclector and would be there within twenty-four standard hours. He slammed his fist on the button to reply. “We gotta make a quick stop at the nearest planet to drop Troy off.”

“Fuckin’ Quill! You had someone on the ship this whole time? Where the hell do you even find these people?” Rocket grumbled. Peter didn’t answer, just cut off the connection and started searching for his shirt.

“Goddamn aliens,” he mumbled, digging around in the furs for a glimpse of color. “And their weird fuckin’ practices. This is why Terrans belong on Earth, dammit, so we don’t get caught up in this kinda freaky bullshit.”

“Here,” Troy said, holding out Peter’s blue T-Shirt with a serene smile. Peter snatched it out of his hand and pulled it on, trying very hard not to freak out.

As he sat back down at his desk and set to researching this guy’s claims, he couldn’t help his mind from wandering to his former captain, wondering what it would feel like to have all that power at his disposal. He couldn’t say he’d never wondered, what with how debauched Kraglin looked after a long night spent with Yondu. The sudden tightness in his pants caused him to shift to accommodate it and he groaned.

Fuck, he was screwed.

------

Hours later, when Troy had been dropped off on a space station (with a kiss goodbye so hot it nearly made Peter regret not taking him one more time), and Peter had researched to the point that his eyes were stinging and watering, he shut off his holopad and leaned back in his chair. Centaurians were a bunch of secretive motherfuckers, and it had taken him forever to just figure out where to get information on them from. What he had found had been a set of complicated reports from Xandar, of all places, and what he could gather was that sometime around sixty years ago an exploratory mission had been undertaken and lead a team of Anthropologists to Centauri-IV. Buried amongst the pages and pages of complicated bullshit, Peter had found what he’d been looking for in a personal journal entry from one of the anthropologists:

‘Centaurians pair off solely to reproduce, focusing mainly on keeping their villages thriving. They do not otherwise form intimate relationships, which I’ve been told had at some point led to a decline in their population. To compensate, they began to grow a type of flower (their name for it is a sort of whistling click sound, but I’ll call it simply the mating flower for ease) which, when the pollen is inhaled taps into their primitive mating drive. This happens in a ceremony involving the entire village (it’s almost like a birthday, actually, once a year for each unmated individual), and once the “fever” – as they call it – begins to rage the partaker becomes consumed with his/her drive to mate.

Those of the opposite sex from the partaker then come to him/her one by one and engage in hand to hand combat. As far as I can tell, the goal is to best the partaker for the right to mate with them. Once that happens, the victor also partakes in the mating flower and they set about their task. Their mating lasts for two to three days, at the end of which their mating drive seems to be satiated and they return to life as usual.

I’ve been told by my guide that if a partaker does not find a suitable mate, the drive does not dissipate, but rather burns hotter and hotter until the person eventually succumbs to death as a result. Occasionally when a partner of the opposite sex cannot be found, someone of the same sex manages to fulfill the need, though to the Centaurians this is seen as a waste of pollen and it is generally frowned upon.’

Peter recalled the entry, having all but committed it to memory when he’d re-read it what felt like a hundred times in an attempt to find some clue that he was misunderstanding. He fell back into his furs with a groan, tossing his arm over his eyes. There had been no misunderstanding. It was right there for him to read: Even if Yondu didn’t get torn apart by the crew for his mental state, he was going to literally die of blue-balls if he didn’t fuck someone for two to three goddamn days.

Kraglin was gonna fucking love this, he thought as he recalled the pulpy mess of the man’s face. Peter knew for an absolute fact that there was no way Kraglin was going to be able to best Yondu in hand-to-hand combat. He had to weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet, skinny and slippery and no doubt a good fighter, but Yondu was all bulky corded muscle, strong and thick. Peter had seen him lift three-hundred pounds once like it was nothing. Add to that the fact that he was a damn dirty fighter, and impossibly quick on his feet to boot, you had an extremely ill-matched fight.

The question was: could Peter best him?

He’d been thinking about it constantly, a nagging little thought stabbing at the back of his mind for hours and hours, and as hard as he tried he could not come up with a single person aside from Kraglin who he’d trust to “mate” with Yondu. He couldn’t think of a single person who Yondu wouldn’t literally kill once he’d left his weird horny blind rage fest except for, according to Kraglin, Peter himself. Sure, Kraglin hadn’t known he was offering up his surrogate son to his sort-of-lover for a two-day fuck fest, but he’d more or less implied that the only person he knew Yondu trusted outside of himself was Peter.

So here he came back to those two all-consuming questions: could he win a fight against Yondu, and – most importantly – did he want to?

The answer to the second question was surprisingly significantly easier to answer than the first one. The more he thought about it, the more he wondered what it would be like to have – be had? How was that going to work? – the prickly captain for a night or two. In fact, since he’d sat down to start his research he’d had a near constant half chub going on from thinking about it. So, yeah, he guessed that there was a part of him that really did want to.

On to the slightly more complicated question of whether he was going to be able to or end up looking a hot fucking mess like Kraglin did. He’d sparred with Yondu quite often when he was younger and never come close to besting the older man, but the last time had been three years and eighty pounds ago. Back then there had been none of his current significant bulk, and he’d been far less experienced of a fighter.

Now?

He looked down at his bare chest, at his well-defined pecs, strong abs, and biceps almost as thick as his head. Not counting his work with the guardians as of late, he’d been the victor in plenty of fights over the past three years. Bar fights, ambushes, fights with Yondu’s crew – he’d come out on top more often than not in a good majority. He was about Yondu’s size now when it came to bulk, and taller too, but there was still a little bit of doubt in his mind. Looks could be deceiving, and Yondu wasn’t human. Who knew what his species’ strength looked like?

Peter sighed, rubbing his palm over his eye. He knew already that his deliberating was goddamn pointless. The fact of the matter was that, try as he might to fight it, he’d always cared about Yondu. Kraglin was right about that, and about the fact that he was a fucking bleeding heart and even if he didn’t care about their captain as much as he did he would do this just because he knew it was the right thing to do. Even if there was only a slim chance he was going to succeed in this, he knew he was going to try because he was Peter fucking Quill, the only jackass in the galaxy who couldn’t shake his Terran sentimental bullshit.

Once the idea had solidified he was able to relax, body melting back into the furs, sudden weariness overtaking him. He fell asleep to thoughts of naked blue skin, of sweaty writhing bodies, of panting grunts and moans.