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A Song Among the Stars, Vol 1 : The Heart of the Sky

Chapter Text

Stepping inside the cracked-open hull of the downed ship and clambering up on the steaming engine block, Quill was immediately met with the smell of blood. In the half-dark the scent made his lip curl and his hair stand on end. On edge now, he blew out a breath and made a half-turn to the great split in the metal wall where he'd come. He called, “Look alive, Drax. We got company."

The pair of them had come here to investigate several reports of a downed ship in the Rajak wilderness; they had not expected to find a Sovereign gunship smashed on the rocky ground, the golden plating of its hull shattered and its banners torn ragged by a rapid descent through the trees. The two men approached, confident that the ship- like most Sovereign vessels- had been unmanned. Quill climbed in without hesitation, hoping to find evidence of what their old foes had been up to. But now it was clear from the metallic tang on the air that the ship had had at least one passenger after all.

Reflexively Quill's hand had come to rest on his gun as he leaped from the engine block and began to pick his way through the shadows. It was a small vessel, with the engine and navigation array taking up most of the lower level. But there was a small staircase at the back of the room leading up to an upper deck. After a few moments of scanning the rubble around him for any sign of a body, he made his way towards it. The passage up was narrow, hardly built to accommodate someone of Quill's considerable size, but with a bit of maneuvering he managed the squeeze through.

Up here, the smell of blood was stronger. At once Quill let out a troubled growl, giving the room a quick sweep with his eyes. There was no movement, no indication of life in the gloom. Quill made his way to the only source of light—a window above the navigation panel. Pulling his sleeve over his hand to protect his skin, he knocked the shattered glass out and leaned through the opening. On the ground below, Drax was shuffling about as he investigated the woods around the ship.

"There was definitely someone here," Quill called. "But I think they're gone now."

"I can't see anyone," Drax replied.

Quill shrugged. "Just keep your guard up is all." That said, he turned, Ravager instincts suddenly kicking in. If the Sovereign were to be trusted, there was bound to be some good loot here somewhere. He began to make his way methodically through the little room, overturning debris with his foot as he skirted areas of heavy damage. A few chips from the ship's solid-gold hull would be enough to trade for fuel and supplies, but he was confident that there were even more fanciful things to be had. As his mind wandered to the luxurious sort of things they could buy with a few batteries or a piece of fine clothing, something caught his eye in the dark- something dully glinting like smoked glass. Quill's heart leaped, his mind going at once to the tantalizing possibility of real treasure, of jewels and precious trinkets. But he had lost the gleam in the shadows. He stepped forward, caution forgotten, and gave a yelp of surprise; there was a body in the dark, moving and breathing and living. The jewel-glint of light had been of eyes, staring up at him from the gloom. The smell of blood was almost overwhelming now.

Quill, regaining his composure, swiftly drew his gun and trained it on the figure. The being watched him unflinchingly. With his free hand Quill fumbled with his flashlight, at last getting it switched on and turning the beam on the stranger. Golden skin glowed in the fluorescent light. A Sovereign, of course, although Quill had never known one to look so disheveled and out of sorts. Blonde hair was frizzy and matted, that smooth androgynous face smudged with soot and bruises. There was dried blood caked on the being’s nose and chin.

Rattled even further, Quill eventually managed, "Howdy. How’re we doin'?"

The being made a small, distressed noise but otherwise did not respond.

"Are you hurt?" Quill persisted. This time, the being gave an almost-imperceptible nod. Quill lowered his gun."Crashed your ship, huh?" Again, there was a tiny nod.

"That's okay. You ain't in any trouble with me. Do you need some help?" Without awaiting a response, Quill knelt. The being watched him evenly, eyes luminous in the dimness. Quill looked the Sovereign over as best he could with the beam of his flashlight, noting the creature's bare legs and naked chest. He also saw that the limbs were trembling violently, the hands balled into white-knuckled fists. "You got a name?" Quill asked softly, trying to soothe the being with conversation.

The voice that replied was hoarse, almost inaudible. "Adam."

Quill nodded. "Can you tell me where you're hurt?"

Adam let out a soft breath. "My leg."

"Yeah, I'd say you probably busted it up in the crash, honey. Let me help you up, we'll get you back home and take a better look. Okay?"

The being stared at him for a long moment, eyes distant. "Where did you come from?"

"Well, we got a call about a ship going down in the wilderness. We deal with that kind of stuff all the time. My name's Peter, by the way, Peter Quill."

"Peter Quill," the being echoed vaguely.

Quill extended an arm, which Adam stared helplessly at. "Grab on," Quill said. "If your leg's hurt then you're gonna want to keep your weight off it." Adam obeyed immediately, grasping Quill's elbow and allowing himself to be lifted upward. At this point Quill realized that the being was completely naked. He felt his ears grow hot and said, "Jeez, you're gonna catch your death out here. Hang on." He quickly shrugged off his long coat, wrapping it gingerly around the being's shoulders. Adam looked at once immensely grateful.

"You are very kind," he said. He looked, in a way, taken aback- as though it was utterly surprising to him that someone could be kind to him.

"Don't mention it. Let's get you out of here." Carefully he led Adam, who was keeping weight off his right leg, down the narrow staircase and over the wreckage into the forest beyond. It was not easy going- twice Adam stumbled out of pain or simply weakness.  Quill figured he'd been at least a day without food or water, and who was to say if he had any injuries other than the leg?  But with patience, Quill eventually guided the fellow out of the wreck and onto the forest floor.  Out here in the daylight, Quill gave his companion another looking over. He was startled to find that, under the dishevelment, Adam was about the prettiest thing he'd ever laid eyes on. His face was exquisite, with high cheekbones and a prominent nose. He had generous lips and long, jet-black lashes that fluttered in the strong light. His eyes were copper, shimmery even through a film of pain and dehydration. Quill let his mouth open a little.

"Is something wrong?" Adam asked softly, feeling Quill's eyes on him. He moved to lean on the man, taking the pressure off of his leg.

"Nothin'," Quill responded. "You hurt anywhere else?" Adam shrugged vaguely, as if suddenly shy. At this point, Drax, hearing his companion conversing with someone, emerged from the wood. Quill watched his hand fly to the short sword at this waist when his eyes alighted upon Adam. "Easy, pal," Quill said, moving between them at once. "He's not hostile."

"Not as far as we can tell," Drax replied, looking hard at Adam. Adam did not shrink from the man's gaze, but rather looked a bit annoyed at being surveyed in such a way. Seeing that he would gain no leverage with intimidation, Drax turned away. "He was in this ship? I thought all the Sovereign vessels were unmanned."

"Yeah, me too," Quill said. He glanced to Adam, who dipped his head in embarrassment.

"It wasn't supposed to be manned," he said. "I stole this ship. I had to get away...."

"Get away from what?"

"My creator. She wanted such terrible things of me."

Quill nodded. "You mean Ayesha?"

"Yes." Adam closed his mouth tightly then, as if fearful to say any more.

"Well, you don't have to worry about her anymore," Quill said slowly.  "You'll be safe with us. We ought to get back to the ship now." He placed an arm around Adam's waist now, providing all the support he could need. Adam looked up at him appreciatively once more.

Thankfully, it was not a long walk to Aurora. Adam gasped at the sight of the magnificent ship gleaming sleekly in the afternoon sun as they approached. "It's much larger than any of our vessels," he said. "How many of you are there?"

"Just six. But we need our space," Quill replied. "And don't be put off if the others don't seem like the friendliest bunch. They don't trust easy."

"But you'll protect me." It wasn't a question. Quill felt a strange little shiver go down his back as he looked into that ethereal face once more.

Inside the ship's cargo bay, Quill let Adam down on a box of canned fruit, crouching next to him. "Stay right there for a second. I'm gonna have Mantis take a look at your leg."

"Mantis...?" Adam echoed as Quill rose and hurried off. By the time Quill had located the woman (in her usual spot meditating under Groot's sunlamp) and fairly dragged her back to the cargo bay, Adam had let Quill's coat slip from his shoulders and pool around his hips.  Quill froze for a breath, staggered by his beauty- he was all smooth planes of lean muscle and flawlessly metallic skin. Quill hung back a little as Mantis gave a soft sound of surprise and went to Adam's side. She was reaching gentle hands out, laying them on Adam's bare shoulders.

"Where did you find him, Peter?" She said.

"He was in the wreck we went to check out. He says his leg is hurt."

Mantis moved her touch to Adam's calf, stroking him gently. Adam winced a little. "It is sprained, I think," Mantis said eventually. "It is hard to tell." She looked up into Adam's face then, a suggestion of shock on her face. "I cannot feel your emotions."

Adam frowned. "Should you?"

"Yes... I am an empath. I have never met anyone whose emotions I could not feel."

Adam looked troubled, so Quill stepped forward once more. "I think that's enough, Mantis. I can wrap his leg up."

As she retreated, Adam said, "What a strange person."

"You ain't seen nothing yet, honey. Now let me grab the first aid kit. You're lucky your leg ain't broken." He reached into the overhead bins for the box of medical supplies before kneeling by Adam once more. Willingly Adam extended his wounded leg, and Quill took it carefully into his lap. There was a large bruise just above Adam's ankle, and Adam made a small noise of pain when Quill touched it.

"How long were you out there by yourself?" Quill asked. "You must be powerful hungry, huh?"

Adam nodded, lowering his eyes bashfully. "I was in the ship for two of this world's sunrises. I had some rations, but only what I could take in my satchel." At this, he looked around. "Oh. It seems I've left it behind."

"No big deal. We got plenty of food. But I gotta ask. What the hell happened to your clothes?"

Adam looked suddenly very pleased with himself. "I shed them as an act of rebellion. I find life more enjoyable without them, at any rate."

Quill laughed. "You're not wrong." He pulled some bandage out of the kit and began to wind it methodically around Adam's lower leg. He had tended a few wounds in his day- usually his own- but that was merely an excuse. He was simply happy to be touching Adam- he was fascinated by this odd fellow, by his regal and otherworldly loveliness as much as his seemingly candid nature. He had been drawn to all of the Sovereign folk he'd met for this reason- even Ayesha, with all her haughty coldness. But Adam was somehow more enchanting still. His skin seemed to possess a subtle glitter, and he radiated a peculiar warmth. He was more beautiful than the others, who had been attractive, but rather plain. His face was thinner, sharper, and so exquisitely androgynous that Quill was put in mind of those old Terran paintings of angels. He was watching calmly as Quill dressed his wound, lashes lowered. Quill realized he was staring and shook himself.

"That should do it," he said, tucking the end of the bandage under itself. "Be better if we had a splint, but if you keep it wrapped tight it should be fine."

Adam smiled so dazzlingly that Quill was again dumbstruck. He felt himself grinning stupidly back. At last he said, "Let me get you something to eat, baby."

Adam cocked his head. "Baby?"

Quill, already headed to the galley, waved and said, "It's just a saying." He then began the arduous process of rooting through the cabinets in search of something, anything, that might be worthy of feeding to such a splendid creature. He knew little of Sovereign cuisine, and he didn't want to alarm his guest with freeze-dried comet crawlers or a jar of Drax's "power jelly". Eventually he located a tin of adjaxi pears and an unopened bag of cloud taffy. Offerings in hand, he hurried back to Adam. "You're probably freezing," he said, looking at the half-naked being perched on a box. "Come inside."

With his free hand he gathered Adam up once more, letting the fellow cling to his shoulder. Adam, thankfully, caught Quill's coat before it fell and clutched it around his waist. Awkwardly they made their way from the hold to the galley, where Quill placed his new companion on the low bench by the stove. "Let me try to find you some clothes," Quill said, although he didn't expect he'd have much luck. Adam was too thin for anything of Drax's or his own, and too tall for anything of Gamora's. At any rate, he left Adam contemplating his tin of pears and headed to the laundry room.

Halfway through the basket of clean laundry, Quill became aware of a presence behind him. He turned, finding Gamora in the doorway. Her arms were crossed and she was frowning.

"Hey, Gams, what's up?" Quill asked, although of course he already knew.

"Care to explain why there is a naked Sovereign sitting in our galley?"

"He crashed his ship. He's hurt."

For a moment, Gamora stared at him as though he had said something in a foreign language. "You brought a Sovereign aboard our ship and then left him unattended."

"What the hell do you think he's gonna do? He's naked."

"He's a spy. And you brought him right where he wanted to be."

"Gamora, I think you're overreacting."

She fixed him with a deadly cold stare. "Think about it, Quill. We suddenly get a call that a ship crashed in the secluded wilderness, miles away from civilization, and it turns out to be a Sovereign vessel. With a passenger. What's wrong with this picture?"

"You know, paranoia isn't a good look for you."

"Just get him out of here before you make me do something we all regret."

While he was usually more than open to her counsel, something about Gamora's shoot first, ask questions later approach was rubbing Quill the wrong way today. "No way. He's hurt, and he needs help. No way are we leaving him here. That's not what we're about."

"You're doing exactly what Ayesha wants you to. He's going to try to kill us."

Quill shrugged. "Well, that's how we make friends around here, huh? Unless you don't remember that you tried to kill me the first time we met. And Drax tried to kill you."

"This is different."

"How?"

She glared at him. "I don't know what's gotten into you. You must be an even greater fool than I give you credit for, Peter Quill, if you can't see that you are playing right into Ayesha's hand. You can let your guard down, but I certainly won't." She turned on her heel and stalked off. Quill, blowing out a breath, resumed his hunt for some suitable clothing. At last he dug out an old t-shirt of his and some stretchy exercise shorts of Gamora's. He hurried back to the galley, where by now Adam had finished his pears and was picking daintily at the cloud taffy. Quill regarded him hesitantly for just a moment, Gamora’s words replaying in his head. But Adam looked up at him and smiled just a little, and the feeling of indecision was gone. "Hey, sweetie,” he said. “You wanna get washed up?"

Adam blinked at Quill. "Most certainly. Do you have a bath chamber here?"

"We've got a shower stall and some shampoo I stole from a hotel."

Adam sighed. "I did not consider that there would be so many things I missed about my home. Do you have no maids, no servants?"

"Nope. But the shower head is detachable, which is pretty cool. Lemme show you."

With some hesitation, Adam got to his feet. He reached out for Quill, who offered an arm at once. When he had been led into the tiny bathroom, Adam let out a small sound of unhappiness. "How dismal," he said. "A toilet in the same room. And no carpets on the floor. Have you even any towels?"

"A couple. I'll grab you a clean one in a second. Let me get the water started." By the time the water was running hot, Adam had left Quill's coat behind once more. Quill, half-covering his eyes, inched around Adam to the door. "Holler if you need anything. And don't come out here with no towel on. If I don't get to run around here in the nude then no one does."

Adam did not appear to be listening. He had already stepped under the water, eyes closed and face upturned. Quill smiled a little and retreated.

As he sat waiting, Drax found him again. "How is your guest?" The man asked. "I see that Gamora has noticed him."

Peter shrugged. "He's getting cleaned up now, and I found some clothes for him. I reckon he should see a doctor. I don't know how banged up he got. And Gamora's being a damn hypocrite."

"You can hardly blame her for being suspicious. I find the situation to be questionable myself."

"Y'all are just jaded is all. He's harmless. Can hardly even stand up on his own, and he was disappointed we didn't have someone waiting to wash his hair for him."

"Your trusting nature has always been both an asset and a flaw."

"I'll just take that as a compliment. Anyway, he's gotta be almost done, I should go find a towel for him." By the time he had grabbed a clean towel, then come back for a second just in case, he figured Adam must be about ready. He tapped gently on the door. "Almost done in there, hon?" There was no answer. Quill cracked the door open, letting a cloud of steam billow into the narrow hallway. He peeked inside the room, blinking at the humid heat that rolled over him. "You almost done, Adam?" He called again. He squinted through the steam to find Adam still standing under the shower, looking blissful. The bathroom was filled with a dim yellow glow. "Come on, buddy, you're gonna use up all the hot water," Quill said, causing Adam to startle back to reality. He turned to look back to Quill, who held out the towels. Adam stepped reluctantly out of the shower stall, wrapping himself hurriedly.

"It's very cold," he said. "I wanted to stay in the hot water as long as possible." "You'll be warmer when you dry off and put some clothes on."

At this point, it was becoming very difficult for Quill to keep his eyes off of Adam's body. First, they fell on his chest- he was cleanly muscular, and perfectly free of hair. They travelled over his flat belly, and this was when Quill chose to excuse himself once more.

In a few moments, Adam had joined him in the galley. He looked rather comical in Quill's oversized shirt and Gamora's shorts. But his face was free of dirt and blood and his hair already beginning to dry into big lazy ringlets around his head, and Quill thought, What an angel. As he came limping over to stand before Quill, he bowed a little. "I cannot thank you enough, Peter Quill. I'm feeling almost back to my old self."

Before Quill could respond, Gamora had entered the room once more. For a long moment, she stood glaring at Adam. He regarded her unerringly as he had Drax, although he did look a little uncomfortable. "You listen," Gamora said at length. "You've got one chance. You do anything that makes me think for even a second that you want to hurt us, and it's over for you."

Adam looked to Quill in alarm. "What does she mean?" He said. "Why would I want to hurt you?"

"Ignore her, Adam, she's just paranoid-"

"I know you're working for Ayesha," Gamora persisted. She pointed at Quill. "You may have fooled him with the innocent act, but I know better than that."

"Gamora, seriously," Quill said, irritation coloring his voice just a little. "You're being very rude."

She looked at him in disbelief. "Manners are what you're worried about? When there's a Sovereign spy sitting here wearing our clothes, pretending he has no idea what I'm talking about?"

"I am not a spy," Adam spoke up suddenly. His eyes were like fire. Quill watched anxiously as the being stood tall and straight-backed, clearly prepared to defend himself. "And I would never work for Ayesha. She is a cruel, heartless woman who loves only herself. I came here to escape her- it's hardly my fault some enemies of hers happened upon me!"

Gamora turned to Quill. "So nothing about this seems suspicious to you?"

Quill shook his head, chewing the inside of his mouth. "He needs help," he said quietly. "And we help people."

Gamora pressed her lips into a thin line. "Fine. But don't come crying to me when he tries to kill you in your sleep."

As she spoke, Quill became aware that Adam had nestled up to his side, wrapping slender fingers around his wrist. He looked down at the being. "You alright?"

Adam nodded, but his face was oddly taut. When Gamora had turned and left once more, he said, "You have been very kind to me. But perhaps it would be wise if I found somewhere else to stay."

Quill shook his head at once. "Don't be silly. Gamora's just a little hard to get along with sometimes. She's had it pretty rough."

"She has felt much betrayal in her life." Adam was watching the spot she had been standing as though she had left a shadow of herself behind. "So have I."

A moment passed in silence. Finally, Quill said, "Feeling better now that you're clean?"

"Much," Adam replied, seeming to shake himself from his contemplation. "But you must forgive me. I am really very tired."

"Oh, I bet you are," Quill said. "Let's say we go make you up a bed. I have a spare cot in my room, and some blankets. I'm sure it's nothing as luxurious as you're used to, but we make do here."

Adam followed him wordlessly to his quarters. Quill was acutely aware of what a mess the place was- there were dirty clothes and candy wrappers everywhere, and his bed was a heap of sheets and pillows. Adam stood with his arms folded tightly across his stomach, visibly uncomfortable. Quill crouched to pull the spare cot out from under his bed, extending it to its full height. It hadn't been used in a very long time- the sheets were coated with dust and the mattress underneath was stained. Quill looked to Adam in embarrassment. "Forget it. You can sleep in my bed. I'll take the couch," he said.

Adam cocked his head attractively. "Your bed looks quite large enough for the both of us."

Peter laughed nervously, his face growing hot. "Oh, no, no," he said. "I don't think we can do that."

"Why ever not?"

"Two grown adults don't really do that, Adam. It's not appropriate." Looking at Adam's open, curious face, Quill remembered all that he had learned about the Sovereign. They were a chaste people who valued purity and purposeful reproduction. It was perfectly reasonable to think that Adam had never learned why such a thing was not generally considered acceptable. Quill sighed. "I'll change the sheets and get you some extra pillows, okay?"

Adam nodded, perching uneasily on the end of the bed. "I have never slept away from home before."

"You'll be okay," Quill said sympathetically. "The first few nights are tough. Trust me, I know better than anyone."

When he had replaced his old sheets and provided an armful of spare pillows, Quill nodded awkwardly to Adam. "Anyway, if you need anything, I'll be on the couch."

Adam, who had tucked himself into bed and was sitting with his hands in his lap, said, "Thank you, Peter Quill. You have been terribly kind to me, and I'm not sure how to properly display my gratitude."

"Don't worry about it," Peter replied with a chuckle. "You just get some rest now, okay? In the morning we can talk about what you wanna do next."

With that, Quill turned to leave. He strolled from his quarters out to the sun deck, thinking in a slow and comfortable sort of way about a great many things.  In truth, he had had a long and tiring day, and he didn't seem to be processing much. There was a strange Sovereign fellow who he knew next to nothing about sleeping in his bed- and his closest friend was not at all pleased with him for it.  But it all seemed distant, as though events had yet to catch up with themselves.  He paused in the galley to take a beer from the fridge before finishing his trip outside.  Drax and Mantis were already there, sitting by the fireplace and looking out over the darkening Rajak wilderness.

Mantis looked up at Quill's approach. "Peter," she said. "How is our new guest?"

"He's trying to get some sleep. He sure seems like he's been through a lot. I'm gonna try to get some more information out of him tomorrow."

"He mentioned that he was fleeing Ayesha," Drax said. "Perhaps he is a traitor to the Sovereign nation."

"I don't know about that," Quill replied. "He seems more like a kid that ran away from home."

"I could not feel his emotions," Mantis said. "It was very strange."

"Yeah, well, the Sovereign are like that." Peter settled on the deck between them, letting out an enormous sigh. "I hope Gamora's not too upset with me. I couldn't just leave the poor fella here."

"Of course not," Mantis said. "He is wounded and afraid. It would be cruel to leave him behind."

Quill, thinking in that same lazy way of Adam's trusting face and deep, glittering eyes, nodded sleepily.

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It seemed that Quill had only just fallen asleep, after several hours of tossing and turning, when a bright patch of morning sunlight was falling on his face. He grunted and rolled over, pressing his face into the unforgiving vinyl of the couch. "This ain't gonna work," he muttered. Then he was sitting up, smoothing his hair and wiping his mouth on his sleeve. His shoulder was aching from laying on it all night. He went to the galley, filling a glass of water at the sink. Then, he remembered why it was he had slept on the couch and hurried to his quarters. Sliding the bedroom door open with the greatest care, he peeked inside. In the bed, Adam was bundled in blankets, his hair a halo of white-gold curls around his head. He was still fast asleep, so Quill closed the door and returned to the galley. He retrieved some of the starberries they had bought on the way here, then grabbed a bottle of juice from the fridge. These he brought back to his bedroom, sneaking quietly in and sitting on the bed beside Adam. "Wake up, hon," he said softly, reaching out to tap Adam's shoulder. "You want some breakfast?"

Adam murmured, eyelids fluttering. "Father...?" He said softly.

"No, sir," Quill chuckled. "It's your new friend Peter. You hungry?"

"Mm," Adam replied, looking up at Quill blearily now. Quill proffered the bowl of berries and the juice.

"Sorry that's all I got to offer you. We're supposed to be going shopping today."

Adam sat up, clutching blankets around him, and looked around the room as if seeing it for the first time. "Where are we?"

"Still Rajak. We're just getting ready to take off now." "And where are we going to go?"

"Marketplace on the moon of Krylor first. They have all the best stuff. We might even be able to get you some clothes. And after that, we were thinking you might want to go to a hospital. Have that leg looked at a little better. And maybe there we can find someone who can sort out a place for you to go..."

"Go?" Adam echoed. "Well, I have no idea where I shall go.  I know so little about the outside world."

Quill studied his face. He looked sad and tired, even after sleeping so comfortably. "I mean, you could stay with us."

"I do not think your cross friend would appreciate that."

"She'll warm up to you. She did with the rest of us, for the most part."

Adam sighed. "To tell the truth, I would like very much to stay with you. You are a very compassionate man."

Quill grinned. "We run in some dangerous circles. And you'd have to get used to travelling all the time. But you'll get to see some fun stuff."

Adam contemplated a starberry. "I haven't been forthcoming with you," he said suddenly. "And I feel I must, because you have been so kind to me."

Quill nodded, biting his lip. Adam lowered his head and said quietly, "The woman was not entirely wrong about me. Ayesha did intend for me to kill you- for you are the Guardians of the Galaxy, are you not?"

Quill swallowed hard and said, "Sure are."

"Please, listen to me. She intended me to kill you, but she did not send me here. I fled from her because I am meant for more than senseless violence. Even before I knew how very kind you were, I did not want to kill you. The very thought of such an act is repulsive to me."

"So you left before she could send you out to kill us."

Adam nodded emphatically. "You must believe me. It is purely coincidence- or perhaps, fate- that we met today. I have no love, nor loyalty in my heart for Ayesha. Father taught me to distrust her, and to have faith in myself. And so I ran away. But she will try to find me, you must understand. She will be looking."

Reflexively Quill reached out for Adam's hand, grasping it tightly in his own. "Don't worry about that. We've faced her before, we can sure do it again. You shouldn't have to live like that. We'll look out for you just like we look out for each other."

Adam's eyes grew brighter. "Oh, Peter Quill. You don't know what I've been through."

"You can tell me," Quill replied. "You can tell me all of it. I don't know what it is about you, Adam, but I feel like we know each other. I don't wanna take my eyes off you."

Adam's golden face went a little red. "That is flattering, Peter Quill."

"Er, you can just call me Peter."

Adam smiled. "I feel much better now that I've told you. I hope you can trust me." He set the bowl of berries aside and got to his feet, ginger of his sprained ankle. "I am so glad to be off of Sovereign and away from Ayesha- although I will miss Father terribly. He'll be so happy to know that I've new companions. He was the only one who ever showed a real interest in me, you know."

Now that Adam had got to talking, it seemed as though he had no intention of stopping. For the next half-hour, he gave Quill all the information he could want concerning Adam's life on Sovereign. He learned that Adam's birth- only six months prior- had been overseen by Ayesha. She had been training him ever since, honing his skills in combat and diplomacy. She had told him venomous tales of the Guardians, which Quill patiently explained as largely untrue.

"So your green friend..." Adam said uneasily as he followed Quill from his quarters to the cockpit.

"Gamora," Quill supplied, settling in the pilot's chair.

"Yes, Gamora-- she didn't kill her family in cold blood and spend years as an assassin for hire?"

Quill shrugged. "She was an assassin for a while, but she doesn't do that anymore. And it was the Church that killed her family."

"The Church?" Adam replied.

"Yeah. Real bad people. I don't know much else about them. She could probably tell you, but I seriously don't recommend asking."

Adam contemplated. "And the big fellow who was with you when you found me. His tattoos are not made with the blood of his fallen foes?"

"Jeez, I dunno. That sounds pretty bad-ass. You should run that by him."

"And I also understand that there are two members of your crew I have not met yet: a terrible little sharp-toothed monster and a... tree?"

Quill cackled. "That part’s true."

"And what Ayesha told me about you- that you are a half-breed..."

Quill, setting the course in Aurora's navigator to the big Krylor moon, hardly looked up. "Momma was a Terran, and Daddy's a Titan." He gave Adam a sidelong look, watching for his reaction.

"How fascinating- Father told me about Terrans. They're a rather odd people."

"You got that right." Peter had also heard a great deal about Adam's father this morning, although he had yet to learn how this man could be Adam's parent if the Sovereign were born from pods. He decided not to pursue that question, largely because he was curious to see if Adam ever stopped talking of his own accord.

"I know a little about flying," he was saying, watching Quill's hands at the controls. Below them, the ship's engine roared to life. There was a gentle bump as Aurora rose from the ground. "But obviously not enough. When I crashed, I thought I was going to die. But I didn't care; anything seemed better than remaining under Ayesha's tyranny.”

"You sure know a whole lot for a fella who's only six months old," Quill said as he guided the ship from her perch on a rocky outcrop and into the hazy morning air.

"I had the finest teachers, and access to all of Father's books. That was how I learned that there was a life outside of the one I was leading, one where I wouldn't have to be a servant to my creator's will."

Adam stood, steadying himself on the armrest of Quill's chair. His softly floral scent wreathed around Quill, making him a bit lightheaded. Adam watched the surface of Rajak fade to inscrutable colors below them as they broke the atmosphere. Then he turned his gaze to the stars, eyes dancing.

"It is beautiful," he said at length. "I could look at the stars for hours."

Quill murmured agreement. Watching Adam, he saw something peculiar, something he couldn’t quite put a name to. It was as if the reflection of the stars had been projected onto Adam’s even skin, sparkling and glinting like a million tiny diamonds. They were so vivid that Quill could almost make out constellations. He looked around for the source of the illusion, puzzled, but found nothing. Adam, meanwhile, had closed his eyes as though to he was aware of the starlight bathing his form and was basking in it. Quill swallowed and was struck acutely with a feeling he had had once before- the first time, he had been looking upon the Guardians just after their first encounter with the Infinity Stone. A rush of adrenaline, and a sort of melancholy that sat in the pit of his stomach like hunger. He could not identify the emotion any better now than he could then. But one thing had become in that instant certain to him: there was more to this beautiful and bizarre fellow than was at first evident. His chest ached with the knowledge, but when Adam turned to look at him once more, he smiled.