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Don’t Tell Your Friends About the Two of Us

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Gamora,” Peter whispers, breath hot on her neck right before he groans and his hips go still.

Gamora pulls him a little closer, closing her eyes and trying to savor the stretch of him inside her. It’s nice, a pleasant ache that she enjoys. Sometimes it’s even intensely good. Not as nice as the press of Peter’s body against hers and the rub of their sweat-slick skin. Or the ability to run her hands all over his back while he thrusts.

He nuzzles her neck, pausing to spit out a hair. It makes her smile. She’s biologically incompatible with his species, so they stopped using barriers a few months ago. As disgusting as the mess is, it makes her feel close to him. And he seems to like it.

She looks up at the ceiling, trailing her fingers indulgently over his muscular shoulders. He’s still breathing hard, little hot puffs against her neck tickling her hair.

“Can I—?” Peter starts to ask, and then stops, pressing another kiss to her neck.

“What?” she murmurs, her stomach clenching up.

“I—do you want me to—?” He picks his head up and gives her a searching look. “I can go down on you,” he mumbles. He can’t meet her eyes.

Gamora stills. This isn’t the first time he’s asked. “Peter...”

“I’ll make it good,” he says a little desperately. “No pressure, Gamora, you don’t have to come or anything, I just—” He looks embarrassed. “I like it.”

She feels horrible; she wants to do things he likes, but the thought of laying there, with all his focus on trying to force something that isn’t going to happen...

“Never mind.” Peter’s face smooths into a smile that almost looks genuine. He smooths her hair behind her ear so tenderly she wants to scream. “No worries.”

“I love you,” she says softly.

That makes the warmth come back to his eyes. “I love you too.”

And that’s the end of it.

Only it isn’t, not really. It’s been nearly a year since she admitted—to him and to herself—that she wants Peter. He deserved her honesty, and she’s glad she confessed. They’re good together, she and Peter. He gets her to smile. He taught her to dance. He looks at her like she’s more than a weapon, when that’s all anyone else has ever seen. He makes her feel like a woman instead of a killer.

She trusts him.

But somehow, when they finally (later than the others might think) brought sex into the mix, they ran into problems.

Sex is nothing like she thought it would be. The first time, she was so nervous that she bruised him by squeezing her thighs too tightly. She can still remember his pained yelp. It’s humiliating.

Especially since no one else on this ship seems to have any issues. Gamora watches resentfully as Nebula and Mantis come into the galley for breakfast, both of them glowing the way they do after they’ve had sex in the morning.

Her fuckup sister is better at sex than she is. Gamora knows—she knows that’s a horrible thing to think, but it makes her so angry she has to put down her coffee cup before she shatters it.

Rocket hums across the table from her, poking at his datapad. He’s been designing new things again, which means he isn’t as talkative as usual. That suits Gamora fine, except for the fact that he gets more observant when he’s thoughtful.

He pauses and looks up when she sets her cup down.

The same chill settles over her every time she knows she’s made; no matter how high or low the stakes, that hunted feeling never goes away. So she does what she’s always done when she finds herself faced with bad odds; she leaves.

She can’t deal with Rocket right now.

Her retreat buys her a few hours while she takes her turn on the bridge with Yondu; they mostly spend it looking for work. He balked at first when Gamora forbid criminal activity, but now he’s stopped complaining aside from good-natured suggestions he knows she won’t accept. Sometimes he reminds her of Peter, and she isn’t sure how to take it.

Sometimes he reminds her of Thanos, too, in the quiet moments when it was just the two of them. He reminds her of things she doesn’t want to miss.

She wants to like Yondu. He’s important to Peter, and it’s become increasingly apparent that they love each other. She just can’t quite manage it, and she thinks he knows.

She can’t bring herself to do a lot of things she should.

Yondu’s humming the same song Rocket was earlier; she watches him out of the corner of her eye while he scrolls through job listings. It’s hard to believe that he’s the same vicious captain who ordered his men to hold her back while he beat Peter for stealing the orb. No wonder it took Peter so long to realize how the man felt.

The thought stings; Drax realized the nature of their relationship immediately. Gamora doesn’t like having her failures rubbed in her face, and Yondu’s presence is a constant reminder that she nearly got the man she loves killed because she wanted to believe in Ego.

It’s not fair to punish Yondu for her own mistakes, but she has no plans to stop. She’s grateful when her shift is over and she can escape with a ration bar.

That’s when Rocket finds her.

“So,” he says from the doorway where he’s leaning with his arms crossed, “what’s got you all wound up now?”

Gamora freezes with her mouth full of half-chewed ration bar. She narrows her eyes and chews the rest deliberately, taking truly petty satisfaction from the impatience that flashes across his face when he fails to get a reaction out of her. “What are you talking about?”

“This morning. Nebula do something to piss you off?”

She could slice the snout off his head easily, but somehow she’s sure he’d find another way to annoy her. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Denial doesn’t work on Rocket. He blithely steps around all the warning signs she’s laid out. “Quill seemed kinda down this morning. You two havin’ issues?”

“Why don’t you ask him?” she snaps, and curses herself for the misstep.

Rocket tilts his head, smirking. “Should I?”

Gamora hates when he does this. “I would prefer if you didn’t,” says stiffly. It feels like losing.

Rocket’s broad grin doesn’t ease the sting. “Hurts less when you quit struggling,” he tells her cheerfully, and comes to sit down next to her. He fixes her with a look. “Spit it out.”

“My feelings pimple is fine,” Gamora growls.

“Yeah, I can tell. You seem so relaxed.”

“I hate you,” she tells him honestly. “You’re relentless. And I don’t need your help.”

“Did I say I was helpin’? I was just askin’ you a question.” Rocket tilts his head.

Gamora looks away. “It’s embarrassing.”

“Yeah? More embarrassing than walkin’ in on Drax rubbin’ one out?”

“Oh my god.” Gamora stares at him in disgust.

“Tell me about it. So lay it on me. Worse than that?”

When he puts it like that... “If you ever tell anyone about this, I will kill you,” she warns.

Rocket doesn’t look as worried by that as he should.

She looks away again. Hesitating.

“Just fuckin’ say it,” Rocket says easily.

“I’m bad at sex,” she spits, furious that he’s managed to goad her into talking. Humiliation burns her face and she can’t bring herself to look at him.

“Uh,” is his oh-so-helpful response.

She snarls at him.

“What? I’m tryin’ not to say the wrong thing!” He holds up his hands as if to demonstrate that he isn’t a threat. “What do you mean you’re bad at sex?”

She hunches her shoulders, hating him for asking. Hating herself more for wanting him to ask. “I mean I can’t—finish.” She looks away. “Peter keeps trying but nothing works. And I think he wants things I that I can’t—” Words fail her and she looks down at her feet.

The gleeful mockery she expects doesn’t come, and she chides herself for being surprised. Rocket cares about her, in his own caustic way, and he’s never used anything against her that she told him in confidence.

“Okay,” he says slowly, “you wanna gimme some more information or do you just wanna sit here?”

It always startles her when he’s kind. Probably because it’s a fairly new phenomenon; their trip to Xandar changed things between them. Before, she’d classified Rocket in her mind as Peter’s friend, and Nebula’s. Now she supposes he’s hers too.

It’s nice in a way she didn’t expect. Doubling the size of their family after Ego was fine. She understands why they kept everyone. That doesn’t mean she has to like it; Kraglin grates on her with his quiet venom toward Peter, and Mantis makes her skin crawl. All the new people they’ve added are Peter’s, except for Nebula, and they’ve smashed the easy camaraderie the five of them had built up at first. They’re still trying to get that back.

She’s adaptable, but that doesn’t mean she has to like change.

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” she murmurs, refusing to look at Rocket, “or that I don’t want him. I do.”

“Well, yeah,” says Rocket; she suspects he rolls his eyes. “I got eyes. Way you look at him sometimes, it ain’t subtle.”

That makes her scowl. “It’s just...”

“Can’t relax?”

She pins him with a glare, feeling her face burn.

Rocket lifts an eyebrow.

“Fine,” she growls. “No, I can’t relax. I’m stronger than him and I almost hurt him the first time.”

“Bet he liked it.”

“What?” Gamora’s mouth drops open.

Rocket smirks. “Wanna tell me what happened?”

“No! That’s none of your business.” Gamora turns away haughtily. She never should have said anything to him.

“Okay.” He sounds skeptical and it’s infuriating.

She bares her teeth. She knows when she’s being manipulated, and it pisses her off that Rocket’s so good at doing it to her. “I almost crushed him with my legs,” she mutters resentfully. “I’ve killed people that way, Rocket. I’m not going to risk him.”

When she finally looks at him, he’s sitting there with a slightly stunned look on his face. “What?” she demands.

He shakes his head. “Yeah, I’d bet you a billion units he liked that.”

“He yelped like he was in pain!”

“What makes you think Quill ain’t into that?”

“What makes you think he is?” Gamora’s eyes narrow.

“Dude, Quill’s obvious.” Rocket shrugs. “He’s a slutty girl with daddy issues.”

Gamora’s jaw drops.

Rocket notices her staring. “What? He is! An’ mommy issues too. Which actually explains why he’s so nuts about you,” he adds thoughtfully.

She’s pretty sure she should be insulted. “Excuse me?

He gives her a bright look that makes her want to punch him. “You’re sweet to him,” he says with a shrug, “an’ you’re closed off at the same time. Gets all his weird little issues excited in the back of his mind. Gamora, you’re exactly his type.”

“Yondu doesn’t seem to think so,” she says stiffly.

Rocket laughs. “Yondu’s dense as hell about that shit.” He leans forward with a grin. “Look, Quill’s been lookin’ for his mom in every chick he ever slept with. Didn’t realize he was lookin’ for daddy til he found you.”

He’s saying this like it’s a good thing. “What the hell are you talking about?” she asks.

“Just what I said!” Now Rocket’s looking confused, leaving Gamora wondering if she’s missed something here.

She doesn’t like the feeling. “Parents don’t belong in the bedroom,” she finally says.

“No shit. I didn’t mean literally, Gamora. God.” Rocket rolls his eyes at her; she idly debates whether he could bite her before she plucked one out. She thinks she’s faster. “Look. Quill’s textbook. You wanna make him happy, just make him wear frilly underwear and stick somethin’ up his butt. If that don’t work, I’ll take your dish rotation.”

“I’m not going to stick something up his butt!” Gamora hugs herself, horrified by the way her gut twists at the suggestion.

Rocket stares at her as though she’s somehow the abnormal one. “Why not?”

“Because!” She’s not sure she can explain it. She decides to try, because otherwise he won’t leave her alone until his curiosity is satisfied. There’s something sadistic in Rocket, she thinks, that gets off on prying uncomfortable secrets out of people. “I love Peter. I’m not going to—to degrade him like that!”

“Oh boy.” Rocket rubs a hand over his face. “Gamora, what do you think sex is?

This seems like a trick question. Gamora hates those, ever since Thanos asked her which arm Nebula favored in combat and dispassionately hacked off the weaker one. She’d been six, and it had been the first of the tests Thanos laid out for her. “Explain,” she says carefully.

“I mean, how do you think it’s supposed to go?” Rocket’s looking at her strangely.

“I—how it’s supposed to go?” Gamora isn’t sure what he means. Sex is an expression of love and trust when it’s done right. Or it can be a weapon; she’s seen enough war crimes and torture sessions to know the ugly side of sex. She doesn’t understand what Rocket’s getting at.

“Yeah. You know, like how it’s different every time depending on what sorta mood you’re in?” If that’s pity in his expression she’s going to hurt him. “Sometimes it’s kinda nice an’ sweet an’ sometimes you wanna get nasty?”

“I don’t want to get nasty,” she says grumpily. “I just want to make Peter happy.”

“Do you even enjoy sex?” Rocket eyes her.

“Yes! What kind of question is that?”

“A real one!” he snaps. “Some people don’t!”

She blinks. That’s not something that occurred to her.

Rocket being some kind of sex expert annoys her, as does the little voice in the back of her head (it sounds like Peter) that chirps ‘sexpert’ and makes her want to giggle. She looks away. “I like sex,” she mutters, embarrassed.

“Okay. Well, that’s a start.” He rubs his nose. “Lemme guess. You been beatin’ yourself up about not bein’ good at it right away.”

She looks down.

“Hey,” he says kindly, and waits until she looks at him to continue, “I get it, Gamora.”

“You weren’t good at sex at first either?” she asks, feeling a wild kind of hope rise in her chest.

He sighs. “I mean I get beatin’ yourself up an’ comparing yourself to other people. I can’t kiss like a normal person. There’s a lot of shit I can’t do in bed that I wish I could.”

Gamora always sort of wondered about that, but decided a long time ago she didn’t care to know. “That bothers you?” It’s terrible that his insecurity makes her feel better.

Rocket shrugs. “Course it does. I’d pay good fuckin’ money to crush Yondu with my thighs.”

That’s more than she wanted to know. It must show on her face, because Rocket clears his throat and looks away. “Anyway, point is, focusing on all the shit you can’t do takes the fun outta stuff,” he mutters. “You gotta just do the things you do like.”

She likes touching Peter. She likes the way his eyes flutter shut the moment he sinks into her. She likes the feel of his body against hers. Gamora chews her lip. She’s been focusing on those things, and the sex is still not...anything like she expected. “I do things that I like.”

Rocket eyes her. “You still mad you can’t come?”

Her face goes hot. “Must you be so crude?”

“How else am I supposed to say it? You ain’t gettin’ off an’ it’s buggin’ you.” He stops. “Quill’s makin’ it weird, isn’t he?”

“No! Peter’s been really understanding.”

“Level with me. He gives you the sad eyes when you tell him it’s fine, doesn’t he?”

She’s a little uncomfortable with how accurate he is. “He’s disappointed,” she admits.

“Figures. That’s his mommy shit coming out.”

“Can you stop? That’s disgusting.”

Rocket rolls his eyes. “I told you it ain’t literal. I mean he’s eager to please an’ he wants to make you happy. So he’s takin’ it all personal when he can’t get you off. Like it’s about him at all.”

Gamora gives him a sharp look. “You’re making him sound selfish. He isn’t.”

“Nope. He ain’t selfish an’ that’s half your damn problem. He can’t just pump an’ dump, he’s gotta feel like you had a good time.”

“Do you have to use the most disgusting language possible?” she growls.

“I believe in callin’ things by their proper terms,” he says, sounding amused. Like he isn’t making her uncomfortable on purpose. “He’s stickin’ his dick in you, Gamora. Ain’t a way to pretty that up no matter how much you love him.”

She looks away. He’s making something beautiful into something crude and she doesn’t like it. It gives her some serious doubts about his relationship with Kraglin and Yondu; for all Rocket talks like he loves them, she still can’t get a sense of how they make it work.

“If I were you,” Rocket continues, “I’d smoke a joint, lock myself in, look for some porn that gets me off, an’ play around by myself.”

“What?” Gamora’s scandalized.

“Come on, you watch porn.”

“I do not!”

“Wait, what? Seriously?” Rocket gapes at her.

“It’s degrading toward women,” she says. She can’t possibly enjoy anything made off the suffering of others.

“Some of it, sure,” says Rocket with a shrug. “I said find porn that works for you. That means the ethical shit, I guess.”

“Why don’t you only search for the ethical kind?” she asks with a scowl. Gamora’s no stranger to surreptitious holonet searching. She learned by necessity when she was under Thanos’s control. It should have occurred to her that there might be ethical pornography. The fact that she never thought of it annoys her.

Rocket shrugs again. “I saved the galaxy twice. I figure I can get my rocks off how I want.”

She bites her tongue because he’s never been a scared little girl with a grown man leering at him, and she doesn’t have the words to make him understand.

“Besides,” Rocket adds, “I mostly watch stuff with guys. Ain’t the same kinda shit involved there.”

Or maybe he understands more than he lets on.

“You really think that would help?” she asks in a small voice.

“Yep. Learn how to get yourself off before you try it with Quill. An’ tell him to keep his sad eyes to himself. It ain’t gonna help nothin’.”

Gamora grunts; she has no intention of telling Rocket she plans to take his advice. She suspects it would only make him smug, and that will lead to her punching him. “Thank you for listening,” she finally says. It’s polite and noncommittal.

Rocket eyes her. “Any time.”

Rocket sends her a message a few days later, on a night when he and Peter are taking a late shift on the bridge together. There’s no subject, but when she opens it she finds three or four links to different sites.

It makes her squirm uncomfortably, annoyed that Rocket was presumptuous enough to send her pornography. It’s intrusive and weird, and if she wasn’t so desperate there’s no way she would open the first link.

The site is surprisingly tasteful, especially considering Rocket’s usual proximity to good taste. It seems to be a curated blog rather than a paid site. There’s a lovely aesthetic to the still images she scrolls through, soft and saturated and somehow romantic. They seem more erotic than pornographic, with very little actual nudity. She supposes that makes this a little less horrifying.

An entry featuring a series of moving images catches her eye; a lovely dark-skinned Kree woman embraces a muscular Xandarian man, kissing him passionately before he sinks to his knees in front of her. The camera angle prevents her from seeing too much, but the way the woman’s hands tangle in his hair, and the look of ecstasy on her face, makes something clench low in Gamora’s abdomen. She looks for a source and investigates further.

What she finds is a pleasant surprise. There’s a pornographic site that acts as a charity. For every vid purchased, profits go to refugees from the Kree-Xandar war. Gamora scrolls through a few vids before she catches on. They’re all Kree and Xandarian couples—and in a few cases, groups. She passes the group sex, since she hates the thought of doing anything sexual with more than one person. The couples, though...

Well. It doesn’t surprise her that the Kree are capable of athletic sex. She’s spent time among them and she knows how much stronger they are than Xandarians. The silent previews that loop when she hovers over a particular vid give her an indication of what’s on offer, and for all that the sex seems enthusiastic, it doesn’t veer into the violence she’s found in her other furtive searches. In fact, it seems almost tender.

She buys one and sits back.

Their bed contains multiple pillows; they were Peter’s indulgence, since he said he remembered his mother’s bed with its piles of pillows being the most luxurious place in the whole world. Gamora grew up sleeping on a slab, and later a thin mattress she’d earned, but she finds she likes the pillows too.

Now they cushion her back and neck as she reclines, feeling a little stupid. Porn is supposed to be for lonely losers, not people in relationships. But dammit if she doesn’t want to learn this, perfect this skill as she’s done with every other, make Peter moan and sigh and look at her with that heat in his eyes like the first time she touched him.

The memory makes her shiver as she watches the opening dialogue. It’s playful, stilted banter at an unrealistically empty bar over what’s probably water in the glasses. The lighting makes the sweat on the Kree woman’s face shine distractingly.

Stop. Focus.

She watches their body language, the way the man—a clean-shaven Xandarian with pale skin—leans into the woman’s space. There’s something off about it that she can’t put her finger on. It isn’t until the Kree woman curls her hand around the back of his neck and pulls him in for a kiss that Gamora places it.

Submission.

Her eyes narrow thoughtfully as the camera follows them into the bathroom, where the Kree woman locks the door and pushes her Xandarian lover (or bar hookup) against the wall, burying her hands in his hair as she kisses him. He keeps making these high little noises that Gamora’s heard out of Peter sometimes, usually when he convinces her to ride him.

Gamora likes those noises. Just like she likes being on top, where she can run her hands over his skin and map the spots that make him twitch.

She presses her thighs together at that thought, trying to harness the stab of arousal in her gut. In the vid, the Xandarian man’s pushed a hand under the Kree woman’s shirt and is making her moan by playing with her nipple. Gamora frowns. Hers have never been particularly sensitive. It’s another thing about her that disappointed Peter; she hates the way his face fell when she eased him away from her breasts the first time.

Stop. Focus.

The Kree woman pulls the shirt off her lover and tosses it away. Gamora doesn’t think that’s particularly considerate; she would never wear an article of clothing that had been on the floor of a bar bathroom, and she certainly wouldn’t throw someone else’s clothes there.

This isn’t working. Gamora stops the vid, annoyed with herself. Maybe getting stoned isn’t the worst idea.

No. She can’t start relying on drugs for things like this. It’s a cheat, an easy way out when she has to learn how to do things the right way. Gamora didn’t survive torture and genocide and break away from the mad titan to be thwarted by her own clitoris.

She shoves her hand down her pants with the steely determination she used to reserve for mission prep. Her fingers are a little cold, but she rubs them briskly against her thigh. Once they’re warm, she pushes two inside herself. The stupid vid got her a little wet, so that helps, and she pumps her fingers a few times before pulling them out and rubbing her clit.

She’s too rough; the sensation makes her twitch and she has to back off with a huff of frustration. Gentle is something she’s been learning, but it still doesn’t come naturally.

Sometimes she wonders how much of her real self can survive the transformation into the person she wants to be. How much of it she wants to survive.

Right now the only thing she wants is to come, but that doesn’t seem any more likely now than the other times she’s tried this. Before she escaped Thanos, she would occasionally wake in the night throbbing, with her underwear soaked, but she never chased the feeling. Part of her was terrified that it was some kind of response to the horror in her life.

Now she’s not sure what it is. Inability to relax, probably. Like Rocket said. Damn him anyway. As soon as he got out of his own head he started poking around in other people’s.

Gamora can’t touch herself while she’s thinking about Rocket; she flops back with a disgusted growl and starfishes across the bed, glaring at the ceiling.

She wonders how Nebula managed to figure this out. Her sister of all people ought to have trouble connecting with her body. It feels like the entire galaxy is in on some secret that Gamora doesn’t know, and the frustrated rage makes her eyes prickle.

No. She sits up, wiping her eyes with her clean hand and baring her teeth. She isn’t going to cry over this, she’s going to fix it. Because that’s what she does. She solves problems.

Try again.

She closes her eyes and tries to think of something sexy. Her mind goes to Peter, shrugging his shirt off and baring pale skin. She thinks about his pink nipples, tight in the chilled air, and the golden trail of hair that disappears into his pants. She imagines the sound he would make if she licked it, hands tangling in her hair without pulling, letting her explore the muscles of his abdomen with her mouth.

Okay, this is good. This is getting her going. Gamora bites her lip and slips her hand back down her pants, spreading her legs a little to pet gently over her underwear. She’ll go slow this time, slow like the first time Peter touched her here. He was so careful with her, eagerly checking on her responses, and the way he’d trailed his fingers down her belly had made her tremble with wanting.

She tries to imagine how it should have gone as she shoves her underwear aside and goes for her clit. Maybe if he’d just petted her, worked her up slow, then she might have been able to enjoy the warmth she’s feeling now, a spreading feeling that makes her muscles tighten. Instead he shoved his face between her legs like it was a goddamn buffet.

Gamora stops, too annoyed and embarrassed by the memory to continue. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t made the noises.

This just isn’t working. Gamora pulls her hand out of her pants, defeated. The part of her brain that can’t help but keep score awards a bitter point to her clit, although she suspects this makes them both losers. She’s horny and frustrated, and she doesn’t know how to fix this.

She rolls over and hugs a pillow before she punches it repeatedly. Hitting something feels good, and before she knows it she’s got another one in her mouth, teeth latched onto the fabric to muffle her screams of frustration.

She comes back to herself after a few moments, chest heaving as she tries to keep her breath steady.

She isn’t breaking down over this. She’s not.

Rocket takes one look at her the next morning and sighs.

“Don’t,” she warns, and tugs her cup of coffee a little closer.

“Okay.” The skepticism in his voice makes her want to reach down his throat and rip out his tongue with her bare hands.

Groot’s decided in the last month to start staying up late; none of them quite know what to do with this. He doesn’t wake up until well after the rest of them, and wanders into the galley wanting food at nearly lunchtime.

Gamora has been deliberately ignoring all of Kraglin’s muttered suggestions for correcting a Groot’s sleep schedule, which range from humiliating to downright cruel. Thankfully Rocket seems to be ignoring them too, or they would have to have words.

Regardless, it means they’re alone now, so she doesn’t feel bad about growling at Rocket. “You are the last thing I need right now.”

“Oh, I know. Thing is, I bet you could save yourself a lotta angst if you just fuckin’ talked to Quill.” Rocket pokes at his datapad without even looking at her.

“You know I can’t do that.”

“You absolutely can do that.”

She looks away. There are dishes in the sink again, which means that someone didn’t wash them last night like they were supposed to. “Whose turn was it on the dishes?”

“Mine and Yondu’s. Untwist your panties, I’ll do ‘em this morning.” Rocket still doesn’t look up.

“Why didn’t you do them last night?”

That earns her an amused look. “Because I had a way better night than you did, that’s why.”

“I hate you.”

“You keep sayin’ that.” Rocket smirks. “Cheer up. I bet you didn’t learn to wield that sword of yours overnight. Had to quit bein’ scared of it first.”

“I am not scared of sex,” she hisses.

“Sure, Gamora.” He goes back to his datapad, as though she couldn’t easily crush his skull.

It’s still novel, having people around who aren’t afraid of her.

She thought she would like it more than she does.

Then Peter comes in, sleepy and warm, and drapes himself over her back. “Morning,” he mumbles, his breath fresh from brushing his teeth.

He’d come in late last night to find her curled up in a nest of pillows. Sulking, although she would never admit it out loud. Since he had no idea she was having a crisis, he’d crawled in, delighted, and promptly fallen asleep on top of her.

Everything about Peter Quill is custom made to annoy the hell out of her. She’s still trying to work out why she finds him charming.

For now, she reaches up to comb through his curly hair with an absent hand. “Good morning,” she murmurs back, smiling a little in spite of herself. “Why are you awake so early?”

“No idea, but I’m regretting it. Coffee?”

“In the pot.”

He stays put for another long moment, nuzzling her hair. Then he heaves himself up and lurches over to the coffee. “Who didn’t do the dishes last night?”

“Apparently Rocket and Yondu had better things to do before Rocket’s bridge shift,” says Gamora snidely.

“Are you serious?” Peter turns around and scrunches his face up at Rocket.

Rocket shrugs. “What can I say, Quill? Gotta take advantage of those moments. Yondu ain’t as young as he used to be.”

“Stop right now, oh my god.” Peter glares over his coffee cup. “Rule number one.”

Rocket snorts and goes back to poking at his datapad.

Gamora takes an awkward sip of her coffee. Somehow they always manage to circle back to sex as a topic. It hangs unspoken between them; Rocket’s smugness, her own growing desperation, and Peter’s quiet sadness.

She hates it.

That night, Peter comes up behind her and kisses her shoulder. The touch of his lips makes her bare skin tingle, and she can’t suppress the shudder that rolls through her.

“Hey,” he says in that low voice that means he’s trying to be sexy, “I got an idea the other day.”

“Oh?” The fluttering in Gamora’s belly turns to churning. “What’s that?”

He slides warm hands down her arms. “I know not all women can get there with just fingers and hands and mouths,” he says earnestly, “so I got this.”

And he holds up a bag.

“No.” It’s out of her mouth before she can stop it.

Peter slowly lowers the bag. “No?”

She hates herself for making his face fall like that. “Peter...”

He takes a deep breath and steps back. “Okay.”

“What?”

“Okay, you don’t wanna use a vibrator. That’s cool. But do you mind explaining why you looked at this bag like I had a turd in it instead of a sex toy?”

“Why does everything come back to poop on this ship?” she wonders helplessly.

“Gamora.” He’s giving her a look she hasn’t seen before. His mouth turns down at the corners and there’s a tightness around his eyes that makes her hate herself.

She’s ruining things again. Gamora turns away, digging her fingers into the meat of her arms. Pain steadies her, and she needs to be steady for this.

“You know, you saying it’s fine when it’s obviously not fine is getting kind of old,” Peter says. “I’m trying real hard to not make this about me, but you’ve gotta work with me here.”

“It’s not about you!” she snaps.

“No, it’s about you. And how you keep shutting me out.” He’s getting angry now, a pretty red flush creeping up his neck.

“How am I shutting you out?” she demands. “You’re just angry because I won’t let you try your sex toy.”

“Is that what you think is going on here? Seriously?” His mouth drops open. “If I was just in this for the crazy sex, Gamora, we’d be having a really different conversation right now!”

The words land like blows, making her flinch away because she can’t handle cruelty, not from him.

Peter huffs a sigh. “Sorry,” he says after a beat. “That was shitty.”

Gamora doesn’t answer.

“But girl fine isn’t gonna cut it here. You say it’s okay, but I can’t keep fucking you knowing you don’t get anything out of it. It’s like you’re...humoring me, and if that’s the case, Gamora—”

“It’s not!” She can feel her throat burning, and this is unacceptable, she cannot cry here. Not in front of Peter.

“Then what the fuck is this, Gamora? You act like you’re into me but you freeze up any time I try to shake things up. I bought this stupid thing hoping that you might actually have some fun this time!” He shakes the bag at her. “I don’t get it and you won’t tell me how to make this better.

“Stop treating me like a problem that needs to be fixed!” she yells.

“Then what should I do?” He lets the bag fall and just looks at her.

She put that helpless look on his face. “Why is this so important to you?” It isn’t the first time she’s asked, but it’s always safer to turn the conversation back to him. If it’s something he needs, she can find a way to do it. It’ll fix things for a bit, until she can work out what needs to be done.

But Peter’s face darkens. “Stop,” he says seriously. “Stop that. I wanna know what you want, not what you think I want.”

Gamora stills; that hunted feeling is back.

“The other night, I got to talking with Rocket,” Peter starts, and of course. Of course.

“I’m going to kill him,” she hisses.

He blinks. “What?”

“What?” His confusion is odd; perhaps she’s miscalculated.

Peter frowns. “He was just complaining about how Kraglin bottles things up until he explodes,” he says slowly. “Did you tell Rocket about our sex life?”

“No,” she lies, badly, and kicks herself. God, she’s as bad as Nebula.

Peter stares at her.

She clenches her jaw and stares back.

“Oh my god. Not only did you break rule number one, but you’ll talk to Rocket before you’ll talk to me? What the hell?”

“I didn’t—he pried it out of me!” Gamora feels like she’s losing control of the conversation. This happens regularly around Peter, so she would think she’d be used to it by now. “I was upset, and he asked. You know how he gets!”

“What I don’t know is why you were upset and you didn’t say anything to me about it! What the hell’s Rocket supposed to do?”

Send her porn. “I just needed to talk to someone who wasn’t immediately involved! You have lots of people you can talk to about this! Who do I have?”

“Who the hell do I have to talk to about relationships? Kraglin and Yondu? They’re the reason I have no idea what I’m doing!” Peter throws his hands up. “And I’m not about to go telling your sister about this stuff. She might hurt me.”

Gamora tries to banish the thought of Peter and Nebula bonding. “So what about Drax or Mantis?”

“Drax yes. Maybe. Mantis no. You wouldn’t like that.” He sighs and looks at the ceiling. “You know, if it was just that you can’t come, I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. The problem is that you clam up whenever I want to try anything. You’re so careful all the time. You never relax! And when I ask if I can do something to help you relax, you tell me there’s no problem! How do I get close to you if you won’t let me?”

“You’re closer than anyone,” she whispers.

“Apparently not Rocket!”

“I don’t want to fuck Rocket!” Now she’s annoyed. “And I will deal with this on my own. I don’t need you shaking things up in the bedroom.”

“How are you still missing the point?” Peter demands. “Why does wanting to fuck me mean you can’t talk to me about our sex life? I should be the first person you talk to about our sex life, because I’m part of it!”

“I know I’m bad at it, okay?” Gamora shouts. “Rubbing it in doesn’t actually help!”

“Trying to make you feel good is rubbing it in now?” This is the angriest she’s seen Peter in a long time. “Excuse the fuck out of me for wanting to be good in bed. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but I actually give a shit about you. And how you feel. And if you like what I do. And you’re giving me no feedback!”

“I don’t know what you want from me!”

“I think your problem is that you don’t know what you want!” He pokes a finger at her. “You spend all your time trying to make me happy and you don’t think about what makes you happy! Which incidentally? Is what makes me happy.”

It takes her a minute to make sense of all that. “Making me happy makes you happy?”

“That’s what I just said!”

Gamora narrows her eyes. “Then back off.”

“Yeah, only I’ve been doing that and nothing changes.” Peter looks at her helplessly. “I’m not stupid, Gamora, and I don’t like it when you act like I am.”

“I’m not—” She tries to protest, but he cuts her off.

“No, you do. You act like you have to—to manage me or something. You know I’m not delicate, right? I can handle it if you’re not always—” he gropes for words—“always on around me.”

“On?”

“Yeah. Like an act. You’re just a little stiff,” he explains. “And I get it, I do. We’ve all got weird coping mechanisms, but for god’s sake, Gamora, I’m the last one who’s gonna judge you for whatever’s under yours.”

She stares at him. “You have no idea what you’re asking,” she finally says, as cold and clipped as she can manage.

His expression hardens. “So explain it.”

“No.” Gamora shakes her head. “No, Peter, I’m not going to do that.” She turns away with a shaky breath, hands clenching on nothing.

He has no idea what she is. What she’s capable of. She’s unmoored, unraveling. She needs to get out of here.

“Gamora—” She sees movement from the corner of her eye and reacts; before a conscious thought has crossed her mind she has him on his back and she’s crouched over him.

“I warned you about sneaking up on me,” she growls, furious with herself and furious with him for making her careless.

Peter’s eyes are wide as he stares up at her, and he tilts his head back very slowly. Baring his throat.

Gamora pauses, narrowing her eyes as the adrenaline fades and she takes in what she’s seeing.

He’s got his hands spread out, away from his body. Harmless. His chest heaves under her, but aside from that he’s holding himself very still. Cautious. Submissive.

He’s hard against her thigh.

“Are you kidding me?” she hisses. “You get off on this?

He gulps, eyes getting even bigger. His pupils are blown and he’s starting to flush a pretty pink color. Slowly, he nods.

She can see his nipples poking through his shirt. Why that’s suddenly the most erotic thing she’s ever seen is beyond her, but it makes her gut twist and her heart beat faster.

The only sound is Peter’s harsh breathing, which hitches a little as she shifts her weight experimentally. He bites his lip and makes a soft noise, which stops the instant she raises her eyebrows.

Unbidden, she remembers the porn from the other night, and the high, needy sounds the man in the vid made. He looked glassy too, wide-eyed and eager just like Peter does now.

She wants to bite him suddenly, or pull him apart so she can crawl inside and stay forever. It’s wild and violent and nothing like the other times they’ve had sex. Gamora feels her own breath speed up even as she’s horrified by herself.

Peter licks his lips. “This girl I fucked, one time, held me down and fingered my ass until I came on my own face,” he says softly.

Gamora snarls.

And Peter grins. “Bet you can do it better,” he whispers, and then she’s kissing him, hard, biting at his lips and swallowing the sounds he’s making because he’s hers, no one else’s, she’s fought and bled and yearned for him and dammit, she deserves him.

He lets her, kissing back enthusiastically but making no move to touch her. It sends a thrill through her, and she runs greedy hands over his chest, fingers catching at his peaked nipples and pinching. It makes him yelp, but then he moans, deep and throaty like he does when he’s about to come, so the part of her brain that’s started obsessing over protecting him calms, recognizes a good noise, and sits back down. Peter arches into her hands, pushing his chest up. Trying to get closer. He’s so hard, so she grinds down on him mercilessly just to hear him whimper.

Yes,” he whispers when she breaks the kiss, looking dazed and delighted. It’s the look he always gives her, like he can’t believe she’s real and she’s his.

She’s never been convinced she deserves that look, but he chose her and she chose him so she has no intention of letting him go.

She shifts from her crouch to straddle him, pinning him in place with her thighs as she kisses him again. This is better, the feel of him solid and thick between her legs. She tangles both her hands in his hair and tugs when he tries to pull away.

“Holy shit,” he whispers. “Gamora, yes.

She’s never heard him say her name quite like that before.

Gamora grinds down on him with a smooth roll of her hips. She closes her eyes at the sound it drags out of him and does it again, savoring the feel of his cock rubbing just right against her. She wants him naked, so she pushes his shirt up around his armpits.

“Better,” she mutters to herself, dragging her hands over his pink skin. He describes himself as white, which confuses her, because he’s not, he’s a pretty rose petal pink, or maybe tan. Terrans are bizarre. He’s certainly pink now, flushed all down his chest and panting. Goosebumps raise on his skin where she touches him, and he squirms under her.

There’s a catalog of information on Peter Quill she’s been keeping in the back of her mind since she met him, things like the color of his eyes, the meanings of his different laughs, that sort of thing. Tactical weaknesses. And she knows the places that will make him gasp every time she touches them.

His stomach is wonderfully sensitive, quivering when she runs her fingers over it. That line of hair that leads straight to his cock has been tormenting her since she first saw him in the Kyln. She isn’t sure why she doesn’t lick it more. Probably afraid she’ll bite him out of sheer want.

It rises in her like a wave until she’s too overwhelmed to do anything but press against him, rubbing her body against his like an eel just to feel him. It’s too much and it’s not enough, and she growls at him when he moves his hands.

“Easy,” he whispers to her, and he licks her cheek like a weirdo. “I’m just taking my pants off. That’s cool, right?”

Gamora pauses and then nods. Yes, that’s cool, that’s better than cool. That’s perfect.

Peter snickers, and she realizes she’s spoken out loud. She never does that.

“Kiss me again?” he asks sweetly before she can parse out all the other things he makes her do that she swore she wouldn’t.

So she kisses him, trembling a little as his hands brush against her crotch while he gets his pants down. He flicks open the button on her fly with a wink, and that makes her grab his hair again.

Ah, sorry.” He doesn’t sound sorry at all, and in fact he still looks delighted.

“Peter,” she warns, completely unsure what she’ll do if he annoys her.

He just gives her a wide, happy smile and rubs himself against her. She’s still wearing her leather pants, so it doesn’t feel like much, but she can see a wet spot growing on the front of his underwear.

She stares at it, licking her lips unconsciously. Before he can wiggle anymore she scoots back, settling her ass on his thighs and trapping his legs so he can’t buck her off.

“I’m feeling kinda naked here,” Peter tells her, squirming without success. When she pins him with a look, he grins. “Aren’t you warm?”

And dammit, she is. Gamora rips her shirt off and throws it away, sighing in relief at the feel of the air on her skin. Peter likes to look at her breasts anyway, likes to cup them in his hands when he presses close from behind with his arms tight around her. Would probably be content to play with them for hours, teasing her nipples to hardness in spite of her lack of sensitivity.

He’s looking at them now, his gaze going hot and unfocused like it always does when he sees her naked. It doesn’t make her feel exposed like it normally does.

She looks down at his underwear again, zeroing in on the dark patch of fabric where he’s hard and leaking underneath. It needs to be gone; she wants him in nothing but his skin. So she skims her hands up his thighs and rips the fabric off him unceremoniously.

Holy shit,” Peter whispers. She can see his cock twitch.

Satisfied now, she tosses the scraps of fabric to the side and wraps a firm hand around his cock. She loves the feel of him in her hand; he’s all velvety skin and soft downy hair, and so warm. She even likes the musky smell of him, and that’s something that surprised her at first.

Gamora’s always thought of herself as a cool, collected person. But there’s something about Peter that reduces her to this.

He pants at her, his eyes glued to where her hand moves on him. Peter flushes prettily, mouth hanging open. His lips look so red. Gamora has a sudden urge to shove her fingers in his mouth.

So she does.

His eyes flutter shut and he lets out the sluttiest moan she’s ever heard. His hips buck weakly as he starts to suck, tongue swirling around the callused pads of her fingers. He arches his throat to take them in deeper and opens his eyes to stare straight at her when he gags.

Gamora’s breath goes out of her. She wants to ruin him.

Peter’s cock twitches and she looks down at it, admiring the way the flushed purple head looks against the green of her hand. She smears a bead of fluid over the head, pleased by how his muscles tense up.

The feel of his tongue on her fingers makes her throb. She wants so much, everything all at once, and she must look lost because Peter lets her fingers slide from his mouth with an obscene pop.

“You could take your pants off,” he suggests gently.

Gamora could stab herself for not thinking of it earlier. Still, she dithers. She has to get off him to take off her pants.

“Tell you what,” Peter says to her indecision. “You take yours off and I’ll take mine the rest of the way off. That way we’re both naked.”

When he puts it that way it makes sense. Gamora nods and moves off him, just enough to slide her pants down around her thighs and then off. Peter wiggles and kicks until he gets his down to his ankles. One leg sticks; Gamora helpfully pulls it off for him.

“Thanks,” he mutters.

She’s already back on top of him, and the feel of his bare skin against hers is wonderful. Gamora lets out a pleased sigh as she straddles his thigh and wraps her hand around his cock again.

Peter makes a little noise at that, and his hips twitch. But he doesn’t thrust up into her hand; he lays there and takes it.

Gamora should reward that kind of restraint. He’s being so good, after all, letting her play. Keeping one hand wrapped around his cock, she pushes on his thigh to get him to part his legs. He does it quickly, spreading wider than she was going to ask him. No matter. Now she can use her free hand to cup his testicles and enjoy the way the soft skin feels against her palm.

He’s so vulnerable like this, spread out underneath her. She’s holding the most delicate parts of him in her hands, and he’s learned enough about her to know what she’s done with these hands. As Gamora smooths her thumb over the seam of his balls, she can’t help but remember exactly how it feels to crush them in her fist. It’s not a move she ever liked using, but it’s effective if an opponent is foolish enough to put that part of themselves in grabbing range. Messy, though.

She rolls them in her palm, lifting slightly just to let them slip from her hand. That gets Peter to make another noise, and she likes that. She smears another bead of fluid around the head of his cock, sliding her hand down and back up just to see his head fall back with a broken-off moan.

His thigh shifts under her, making her suddenly aware of how wet she is. His warm skin is pressed just so between her legs. Gamora’s eyes fall shut and she rolls her hips once, just testing.

It’s good, so good, better than all their fumbling before. So much better than being the focus of Peter’s well-intentioned attempts to get her off. That’s not how they should be; he belongs here, under her. At her mercy.

And he seems to agree from the way he’s staring at her with wide eyes.

Or that could be because she’s stopped moving her hand on his cock. Holding it like a joystick while she squirms on his thigh isn’t going to be any fun for either of them.

But she can do both, and she does, changing her grip before sliding up and down the shaft. He likes the tighter grip so she keeps doing it, grinding on his thigh. He keeps tensing his muscles, twitching just a bit under her and it’s absolutely delicious. She’s never felt like this before.

She chases the feeling, riding his thigh. It’s a nice backdrop to the sounds he keeps making as she jerks him off.

Peter keeps jerking his hips in aborted thrusts, and that pleases her. She likes knowing that he wants to push into her hand but won’t, that he’ll let her have him however she wants. She moves her hand faster, as a reward, and it pulls a throaty groan from deep in his chest. His cock throbs in her hand, a counterpoint to the growing tightness in her pelvis.

She fondles his testicles as she jerks him, focusing on the different speeds and movements of her hands and soaking in all the beautiful reactions he has. Fast and hard with one hand, soft and slow with the other. It’s harder to concentrate than she expects, and she finds she enjoys the challenge.

Peter spreads his legs wider, and Gamora remembers suddenly what he said about some other woman putting her fingers in his butt.

Unacceptable.

He belongs to her; no part of him gets to belong to anyone else. Gamora doesn’t care what floozy touched him before, but now that ass is hers.

Fuck yes,” he hisses when she pets a curious finger behind his balls. “Come on, Gamora, shit, put it in me, do it, please...”

He’s not wet, not like she is, and she growls a little at the inconvenience. So she reaches between her own legs, dips a finger into her cunt where she’s slippery and hot. That should work.

Fuck me,” Peter whispers, watching her with wide eyes. He throws his head back with a yell when she breaches him.

It’s not what she expected, for all that it only just occurred to her. He’s hot inside, as hot as she is, and strangely spongey. Gamora pumps her finger in and out, picking up speed as she gains confidence.

Rocket was right. Peter does love having things up his butt.

Gamora can be annoyed by that later; right now she needs to take Peter apart until he can’t remember any of the women he’s fucked before her. She can coordinate her hand on his cock and her finger up his ass pretty easily, and moving them in tandem makes him howl. He keeps rocking his hips, just a little, torn between pushing back onto her finger or up into her hand, and she loves him for his restraint.

The throbbing in her groin is more intense now, spreading lovely warmth throughout her pelvis. She gasps at the feeling, tossing her hair back to stare intently down at Peter, who’s panting and sweating and straining beneath her. Without much warning, he clamps down hard on her finger, squeezing like a vice as he comes with a wail, painting his own chest and—she’s smugly delighted to see—the underside of his chin.

He’s the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen.

She isn’t sure how it catches her off guard when she comes: one minute everything is tight and throbbing and the next she’s just there, snarling and squealing as her orgasm rips through her.

God,” whispers Peter, looking up at her with wide, soft eyes.

Gamora catches her breath. She shifts off Peter’s thigh, too sensitive to keep rubbing against him. His whole thigh is tacky and wet, covered in her slick where she rutted against him like an animal.

She’s still got her finger crooked up his butt.

“Oh my god.” She pulls it out, which makes him jerk. Horrified at herself, she scrambles off him. There’s a roaring in her ears.

The things she said, the things she did.

Gamora can feel herself start to shake.

“Gamora,” he says, propping himself up on his elbows, “Gamora, don’t freak out.”

He’s got come in his beard. Because she stuck her finger up his butt and humped his leg.

“Gamora!” But she’s up and moving already, grabbing her pants and her shirt and crashing through the door out into the corridor. She stumbles naked down the hall and ducks into an empty room, fingers shaking as she engages the lock.

“Gamora, open up!” Peter bangs on the door. “Come on, babe, don’t do this! Come on...”

Gamora covers her mouth tightly to hold in the scream that wants to escape. She feels disembodied, distant, and she can’t stop shaking. If she starts screaming she won’t be able to stop.

“Gamora...” Peter’s voice trails off with what sounds suspiciously like a sob of his own. “Okay, fine! That’s how it is, huh? Well fuck you.

The words knock the breath out of her and she stumbles back, sliding down the wall. The tears are coming now; she knows better than to try to stop them. The best she can do is hide here until they pass. She hugs herself tightly, thinking that this isn’t so different than being back on Titan, hiding from Nebula’s screams in her room.

For a sickening instant she wants her father, and the scream she’s been biting back lets loose in a ragged howl.

It’s Nebula who finds her, after what feels like hours have passed. Gamora looks up when the lock disengages and her sister steps into the room.

“What do you want?” she snarls.

“To know why you’re sitting here naked,” says Nebula flatly.

Gamora wipes her nose with the back of her hand and reaches for her pants. “Turn around.”

Nebula rolls her eyes and huffs but does it.

Gamora slowly pulls her pants up and reaches for her shirt. She feels achy and sluggish, not unlike she always did after modification.

“Are you decent?” Nebula asks, her voice heavy with irony.

Gamora wants to hit her. With her back turned, she’s an easy target. One kick right to the back of the neck would drop her. “I’m dressed.”

Nebula turns around and crosses her arms. “What happened?”

“Why should I tell you that?” Gamora hugs herself. “How did you know I was here?”

“I didn’t.” Nebula shrugs a little too casually. “But your door was open and I got suspicious.”

“Of what?” snaps Gamora. “It’s not your job to look after me.”

Nebula tilts her head. “You’re crying.”

“Shut up!” Gamora reaches up to wipe her eyes and stops; that’s the finger she had up Peter’s butt earlier. “Do you have a tissue?”

Nebula takes a step toward her. “Come on,” she says, reaching out slowly to take Gamora’s wrist. She holds gently, watching Gamora with dark, cautious eyes.

Gamora sniffles and lets her sister tow her down the hallway, dazed and numb. It’s not until they get to Nebula’s door that she balks. “No. I’m not going in there.”

“Mantis is on the bridge with Drax,” snaps Nebula impatiently, and pushes her through the door. “Now clean up.”

Gamora stays where she is, looking cautiously around the room. They never go in each other’s bedrooms, or at least she doesn’t. The idea of coming into Mantis’s private room makes her skin crawl.

“The bathroom is there.” Nebula points. “Shower. You reek like sex. Go, you can wear some of my clothes when you’re done.”

Gamora’s not sure what to do with Nebula being the strong one, so she wordlessly goes into the bathroom and strips off her clothes. The shower looks the same as the one in her room, with a few less products in it. Nebula doesn’t need shampoo, after all.

She turns on the water with shaking fingers and steps under the spray. It feels good, warm and safe. All an illusion, of course. Gamora hasn’t been safe since she was a very small child. But the water helps. She washes herself with the soap that smells like Nebula and efficiently braids her hair back. There’s a towel on a hook, so she wraps it around her body and steps out.

Nebula hands her clothes without a word; Gamora pulls them on just as silently.

When she’s dressed, her sister studies her. Gamora stares back defiantly, chin jutting out.

Finally Nebula turns away. “Quill’s not what I would have expected for you,” she says into the silence. “For a boyfriend, I mean.”

“What would you have expected?” Gamora narrows her eyes, feeling the defensiveness rising up unbidden.

“Someone driven,” Nebula answers. “Someone serious. Someone more like you.”

Gamora’s not sure what to say to that.

“You’re different around him,” says Nebula quietly.

“He makes me a better person.” Gamora hugs herself tightly.

Nebula turns back to her with narrowed eyes. “So why did I find you curled up naked in a storage closet crying?”

Gamora opens her mouth, years of habit making her want to snap, but she stops. Belatedly, she realizes that Nebula is worried about her.

She finds that she’s touched. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to tell Nebula what happened. “I don’t want to discuss it,” she says with as much dignity as she can muster.

From the look on Nebula’s face, it isn’t a lot. Gamora bares her teeth at her until Nebula looks away.

“If he did something, I can kill him,” Nebula says quietly. “But we’ll have to leave before the others find out.”

“Touch him and I’ll kill you,” snarls Gamora reflexively.

“That’s what I thought.” Nebula looks at her. “I’ve never seen you like this,” she admits quietly.

Gamora hugs herself tighter to stop the tremors wracking her body; it’s not working, but maybe if she squeezes tightly enough...

“You’re going to hurt yourself.” Nebula reaches out and lets her hand hover inches from Gamora’s arm.

Gamora stares at it. “Do you ever miss them?” she asks, surprising herself.

Nebula lets her hand drop. “Do you?”

“No,” Gamora lies, swallowing. She meets her sister’s eyes and prays Nebula can’t see through her. “Of course not.”

She can’t tell, and Nebula doesn’t push. “You should sit down.”

Gamora dithers, torn between ignoring Nebula out of habit and just giving in. She’s tired. Finally she sits, fingers still digging into her arms.

Nebula sits beside her, close but not touching. The heat of her body is comforting, and finally—after a struggle with herself—Gamora lets herself lean her head onto Nebula’s shoulder. Her sister feels solid for some reason, even though Gamora’s seen her in pieces more times than she cares to remember. Right now Nebula makes sense; she understands, in a way that the others never will, what Gamora thinks and feels and needs.

A cautious arm settles around her shoulders, and it tears loose another sob. Gamora hides her face in Nebula’s shoulder and cries.

Nebula pats her awkwardly and doesn’t say anything.

Finally Gamora sits up, pulling away from the comfort of her sister’s embrace and curling back into herself. She stares blankly ahead, unfocused.

“Sometimes I feel sorry for you,” says Nebula softly.

Gamora’s swinging fist is met with a patient block, and Nebula pins her with an even stare. “He’s in your head,” she points out, not unkindly, “in a way he’s never been in mine.”

Gamora lurches back and nearly falls off the bed. She catches herself, staring at her sister in horror. “He’s not in my head,” she says fiercely.

“Isn’t he?” Nebula raises her chin. “You were his favorite. I was only there for you.”

“No you weren’t!” Gamora covers her ears. “None of us know why he kept us. He’s crazy.”

“Of course he is. And he made us crazy too.” Nebula huffs. “He could have thrown me away once he had you. Didn’t you ever wonder why he didn’t?”

Gamora shudders. “No,” she lies, and hugs herself tighter.

“He kept me because you loved me,” says Nebula bluntly. “I was a lesson.”

“I don’t wanna talk about this,” Gamora whispers.

Nebula gives her a sharp look. “What happened with Quill?”

“We had sex,” says Gamora in a tone that implies several things about her sister’s intelligence. After all, she was naked when Nebula found her. Some things should be obvious.

“Really?” Nebula shoots back ironically. “I’ve never had sex that ends alone in a storage closet.”

Gamora growls at her, but she doesn’t back down. It’s worse than talking to Rocket, which is probably where Nebula learned this feelings shit. She was always garbage at it when they were kids.

And that just makes her angry; how dare Nebula be better at this than her? Why can she cast off the damage done to her and move forward and get miles ahead of where Gamora is crawling?

“Do not attack me in here,” Nebula snarls.

“I hate you,” Gamora whispers.

“That might be the first honest thing you’ve said tonight,” Nebula shoots back.

And that brings her up short. Gamora stares at her sister, her only sister, and feels such a profound shame that she drops her eyes to the floor. “Nebula...”

“You and Quill had sex. Then what? You fought?” Nebula looks away.

“It was...different than normal,” mutters Gamora. It figures that Nebula’s managed to make talking about Peter less awful than reminiscing about their childhood.

“Bad?” Nebula peers at her.

Gamora shakes her head, curling further into herself. “No,” she whispers. “Better.”

“So why did you fight?”

“We didn’t. I—” Gamora closes her eyes. She can still see the growing panic on Peter’s face. “I had to leave.”

“You had to,” Nebula repeats flatly.

“Yes.” Gamora swallows. “I—did things I shouldn’t have. I’m not—” She isn’t sure what she wants to say or how to explain it, so she clenches her jaw.

“He’s obviously still alive,” Nebula says. “Your room was empty.”

Gamora stares at her, horrified. “Of course he’s alive! What the hell?”

Nebula shrugs.

“It was just...” Gamora sniffles.

“Are you trying to say you had rough sex and then panicked?” asks Nebula.

“I—maybe.” Gamora glares over at Nebula.

Nebula nods thoughtfully. “Did you injure him?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Did he seem afraid or in pain?”

“No! Stop asking me things!” Gamora scowls.

“I’m just making sure no one will retaliate if you hurt him. I don’t like our odds against the arrow,” mutters Nebula.

Gamora narrows her eyes. “We could handle the arrow.”

Nebula gives her a sly look and quirks her lips. “Together, maybe.”

“This isn’t helpful,” Gamora sighs.

“You should probably talk to him,” Nebula tells her.

That’s the last thing Gamora wants to do. “I’m not sure I can even look at him right now.”

“So do it in the morning.” Nebula’s being far too reasonable and it’s irritating. “You’ll feel better then.”

Gamora’s not so sure of that, but she lets Nebula pull her into a hug again. It’s awkward, but she sags into it anyway.

“Not everything is a trap,” Nebula whispers. “That’s the secret he didn’t want us to know. Sometimes people just love you.”

Gamora’s throat tightens up and she can’t speak. She turns her face into Nebula’s neck, feeling pathetically grateful when her sister doesn’t comment on the hot tears that start to flow.

She hears voices, and it pulls her awake. Gamora’s eyes pop open and she goes still to listen to Nebula’s low rasp and Mantis’s lilting murmurs.

“—still don’t know what happened,” Nebula’s saying softly.

“Yondu was very unhappy.” Mantis sounds worried. “I don’t like when people fight.”

Nebula huffs. “Be grateful it doesn’t happen more often. You don’t have to leave, you know.”

“She will not want me here when she feels vulnerable. I do not mind. Besides, Drax is going to teach me to make his grandmother’s biscuits.”

“I like biscuits,” Nebula admits quietly.

“I know.” There’s a quick smacking sound, and the sound of the door opening and closing.

“You can stop pretending to be asleep now,” says Nebula.

Gamora sits up with a glare.

Nebula crosses her arms. “I think I figured out what happened to you last night,” she says.

“Oh really?” Gamora doesn’t want to hear this from Nebula.

“It’s called topdrop. You fucked him too hard and it led to a temporary chemical imbalance.”

“I didn’t fuck him that hard,” mutters Gamora, and then she flushes. “Shut up,” she snaps in the direction of Nebula’s growing smirk.

Nebula throws her clothes at her. “You’ve got a bridge shift,” is all she says. “I made Kraglin promise not to kill you. You’re welcome.”

“What?” Gamora really doesn’t want to talk to Kraglin. “What time is it?”

“Almost lunch. You slept late.”

Gamora thinks. “I wasn’t scheduled to have a shift with Kraglin.”

“I know,” says Nebula forbiddingly. “He switched with Rocket.”

Rocket’s sold her down the river, the bastard. “Dammit,” she whispers with feeling, and gets dressed.

Kraglin doesn’t talk to her for a full thirty minutes. It’s unnerving; she can feel him watching her, but when she looks, he’s always engrossed in the navs.

The macho posturing is completely unnecessary. Gamora just wishes it was less effective.

“I didn’t mean to upset him,” she finally says.

Kraglin slowly pivots his head and looks at her.

Gamora narrows her eyes.

“Is that right,” he says simply.

She doesn’t actually know him that well, for all they’ve been living together for the better part of a year. Gamora’s dressed his wounds and fought beside him, but he’s quiet and so is she, and she’s always just thought of him as an extension of Yondu.

It’s disconcerting, how predatory he looks now.

“I could possibly have handled it better.” There. She’s owned her mistake.

Kraglin just stares at her.

It’s uncomfortable, so she looks away.

“Pete told us what happened,” he says, and Gamora wants to die. “Said ya took off right after.” He fixes her with a narrow look. “Scare yourself?”

“None of your business,” she snaps.

“Is when it’s Pete,” he says simply.

“I am not going to listen to a lecture from you on healthy relationships,” she growls. “I’ve heard about how you handle things.”

He laughs; the sound makes Gamora’s hand drop to her sword. “Pete been tellin’ you stories?” he asks with a crooked grin.

“Maybe,” she allows cautiously.

“Pete needs to shut up about shit he don’t understand,” says Kraglin with a shrug. “You can dig up old stories all ya want, girl, but I know how to run a fuck without fallin’ to pieces.”

That gets her hackles up. “I don’t appreciate Peter telling everyone about our sex life.”

Kraglin stops grinning. “Tellin’ everyone? Rocket had to drag it outta him. Dumbass kid was in real rough shape but he still tried to keep your secrets.”

Gamora feels a rush of affection for Peter, along with crushing shame at her own actions. “Is he okay?” she asks in a small voice.

It’s the right question; Kraglin relaxes a bit and studies her. “He is now.”

“What happened?” She doesn’t really want to know, but she’s not sure she could live with herself if she didn’t ask.

Kraglin gives her a hooded stare. “Pete came knockin’ on our door last night,” he finally says. “Opened up an’ he was crashin’ pretty hard. So we let him stay with us.”

Gamora doesn’t think she’s ever been so humiliated. “I’m so sorry,” she says, wrapping her arms around herself again. “I should have—”

“Shoulda done a lot different,” he cuts her off. Then he peers at her curiously. “You even know what to do when someone crashes on ya?”

“I don’t even know what crashing is!” Gamora turns away. She’d rather get a knife in the back than continue this conversation.

Kraglin sighs loudly. “Look,” he says after a minute, “you ain’t like Pete’s other girls. He thinks you hung the stars, so ya get a free pass this time. But if you get rough with him again an’ don’t take care of him after?”

“Arrogant of you to threaten me,” she says, turning back to face him.

Kraglin studies her. “Do that to him again an’ you’ll hurt him worse than me or Yondu ever did.”

That takes some of the wind out of her sails. Gamora purses her lips and studies Kraglin right back. “What exactly do you mean by take care of him after?”

“Rule about sex is if ya get mean during, ya gotta be extra sweet after.” He gives her a funny look. “You got no idea what you’re doin’, do you?”

She flushes hotly and glares out the windshield. “We didn’t all fuck our way through the galaxy,” she snaps.

Kraglin snorts. “Never heard you say fuck before,” he says wryly. He sets the Quadrant to autopilot and pours himself into the chair next to her, all sprawling limbs.

Gamora huffs and keeps staring ahead.

“There’s a lot Pete don’t understand about us,” Kraglin finally says.

She glances at him. “Like what?”

“Lotta stuff. Reckon you’re the same way. There’s a whole bunch o’ shit ya can’t see from the outside.” Kraglin idly watches the planets they’re cruising past. “Some stuff is just yours an’ ya don’t wanna share it.”

Gamora thinks back to the startled delight on Peter’s face when she’d ripped his underwear off. “I suppose that’s true.”

He eyes her. “I might complain about Pete, but that don’t mean I ain’t gonna be the first one to kick anyone’s ass who makes him cry.”

“Unless it’s Yondu,” she mutters bitterly.

Kraglin’s expression goes cold. “How ‘bout you shut the fuck up before ya say somethin’ real stupid?”

Gamora sits up straighter.

“I ain’t prepared to let you talk any shit about Yondu,” he says very softly.

She stares into his face and believes him. He’s loyal, she’ll give him that. “Fine,” she says back just as softly. If she escalates this, there’s going to be blood.

He sits back, still wary. Kraglin never stopped watching her like she’s dangerous, a fact which she sometimes appreciates and sometimes finds irksome.

Right now she feels dangerous, but she knows she’s being counterproductive. Picking fights might feel good, but that’s lessened by her own guilty conscience. She takes a deep breath. “I don’t want to fight.”

Kraglin’s eyebrows indicate his skepticism, but he nods. “I ain’t fightin’ with ya.”

Gamora glares. “You’re hardly being friendly.”

“Nope. Ain’t doin’ that neither.”

She’s not sure what to do with that, so they sit there. The rhythmic beeping of the navs is the only sound for a long time.

She cracks. “So how am I supposed to take care of him?” she asks in a small voice.

Kraglin’s head pivots, but she doesn’t look at him. “Hold him,” he says after a beat. “Stay close to him. Sweet talk him, probably. He’s gotta feel like ya care.”

Gamora swallows. “Rocket told me he thinks of sex like a game. I’ve never thought of it like that.”

“Can be a lotta things.” Kraglin shrugs a skinny shoulder. “Ain’t really rules.”

“Aren’t there? When you love someone?” Gamora stares out at the stars.

“Do shit they like, I think is the rule,” Kraglin says thoughtfully. “What were you thinkin’?”

She doesn’t know, really, so she shrugs.

“You never been with nobody but Pete, have ya?” he asks.

When she glances over, he’s watching her. It’s not hostile anymore, and she’s grateful for it. “No,” she admits.

He snorts. “Well, I was never with no one but Yondu either. It’s somethin’ you gotta learn, bein’ with someone like that.”

Gamora shudders and bows her head. “That’s not one of the lessons that was stressed in my youth.”

“I sorta figured. You ain’t as nice as ya wanna be.”

Her breath leaves her. “How did—”

“Me an’ Rocket actually talk.” The bastard sounds amused. He glances over and snorts. “But only to each other, so relax. Ya seem like you’re tryin’ anyway, an’ that’s better than most.”

“There’s no reward for failure,” Gamora catches herself saying, and wants to vomit at the sound of Thanos’s words coming out of her mouth. She clenches her teeth, wishing she could choke it back down.

“Chance to learn,” says Kraglin; she checks, but it doesn’t look like he noticed. “If ya feel so bad about it, go an’ fix it.”

If only she knew where to start. Maybe it shows on her face, because Kraglin says, “I got a idea if ya want.”

Gamora feels sick to her stomach. This is worse than her first solo mission, when there was no Corvus or Proxima to take the brunt of Thanos’s wrath for any mistakes and that knowledge churned her gut until she’d puked from sheer nerves.

It’s been a long time since anything’s made her that anxious.

It would help if Rocket would stop snickering. “This isn’t funny!” she hisses.

“It really is,” he tells her; the glee on his face makes her wonder if Kraglin’s making things up to embarrass her. She wouldn’t put it past him.

“Gamora is right,” Mantis says firmly. “It is not funny. It’s romantic.”

At least someone agrees with her. Gamora throws Mantis a grateful look and gets an encouraging smile in return. “We will all be with you,” Mantis tells her.

“As long as you don’t ask me to dance,” mutters Drax. “You’re sure this is a traditional Terran courting ritual? Why are they courting? They’re already together.”

“Quill’s a sentimental little dweeb,” Rocket explains patiently. “This is gonna make him happy.”

“But why do I need to be part of it?”

“If I gotta be here so do you,” says Yondu darkly. “An’ I’m doin’ whatever it takes t’ get him outta sleepin’ in my bed. Kid ain’t little anymore.”

Gamora feels her face heat up and she swallows down another bout of nausea.

Nebula’s lurking in the corner with her arms crossed. Sulking. Gamora’s not sure what she’s unhappy about; she has a better voice than Gamora does.

“You know the words, right?” Rocket always picks the worst times to be helpful.

“Yes, I know the words,” she grits out between clenched teeth.

“Just makin’ sure.” Rocket shoots Kraglin a grin. “This is how I expect you to apologize from now on. Every time.”

“Thought you was happy with blowjobs,” says Kraglin idly.

Gamora closes her eyes for strength as Rocket concedes. She needs to focus; think of it as a mission.

No. Think of it as something for Peter. If Kraglin’s right, this will bring that soft, delighted look back into his eyes. And then maybe she’ll be able to find the words to make this right.

Kraglin had described it as a twofold apology; she needs to make amends for running away the night before, and for closing herself off and making him feel alone.

At least she has reassurances that that last bit is an ongoing process; Kraglin looked fairly sympathetic when he’d told her he hates talking about feelings as much as she does.

She can believe it, since he’s scowling to himself and half skulking behind Yondu. Or maybe he’s just embarrassed that this was his idea. It’s more romantic than she’d have given him credit for.

“Where’d you get the idea for this again, Krags?” asks Yondu in a dangerously sweet voice.

Kraglin clears his throat, but it’s Mantis who answers. “It’s from Top Gun! The one with the wingmen.” She pauses. “I am not entirely certain this is necessary to become wingmen.”

“That’s what I thought.” Yondu’s eyeing Kraglin. “You been makin’ that boy crazy for years ignorin’ his stories. Thought you didn’t pay attention t’ none o’ them movies an’ shit.”

Kraglin grunts and double checks the music. “We’re good to go whenever.”

Gamora squares her shoulders and steps through the doors.

Peter’s on the bridge, fiddling with his Zune. He pulls the earbuds out as soon as he sees her and opens his mouth.

She holds up a hand as the music starts. “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips,” she sings shakily, trying not to cringe at the way the note goes flat. “And there's no tenderness like before in your fingertips.”

Peter’s mouth falls open.

“You're trying hard not to show it,” she sings, and finally the others join in. “But baby, baby I know it.”

They haven’t exactly practiced, and Drax’s timing is off, but she’s just glad she’s not alone anymore.

Peter’s eyes have gotten progressively bigger and he has to bite back a laugh as they launch unevenly into the chorus of “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling.” Yondu and Kraglin are definitely just mouthing the words, and Mantis is louder than she is good, but Peter takes pity on them and laughs before they have to attempt the second verse.

“Did you just Top Gun me?” he says. “Oh my god.”

“It was Kraglin’s idea,” says Rocket obnoxiously.

Peter glances at Kraglin, who looks away. But it doesn’t take long for his eyes to drift back to Gamora. “You actually came out here and did that,” he says softly.

She nods.

“We should go,” Mantis whispers loudly, and Gamora drops her gaze, embarrassed, as they all leave. Slowly she looks back up at Peter to find him still watching her with a guarded expression.

“Drax!” Rocket’s voice cuts through the strange reverie between them. “Dude, don’t watch ‘em, ya pervert!”

“What?” Drax grumbles, but he does follow Rocket out.

When the doors are closed behind them, Gamora hugs herself. “Peter, I—”

“Hey.” He holds up a hand. “I’m not mad.”

“You should be.”

“I pushed you too far. I’m sorry.” Gently, he reaches out to tip her chin up. “I just wanted you to talk to me and I wasn’t thinking about how it sounded to you.”

Gamora wraps her hand around his wrist, smoothing her thumb over the delicate bones there. “I want you to know that I trust you,” she says, because that’s the most important thing.

“I know that.” He studies her face.

She manages a weak smile. “I’m sorry I ran away. There was no excuse. I didn’t—” She swallows. “I didn’t take care of you.”

“Gamora...” He pulls her into his arms and she goes, sinking into the embrace because there’s nowhere in the galaxy that feels better than his arms. “I’m gonna tell you a little secret,” he murmurs into her hair. “Even big, strong, sexy assassins need someone to take care of them sometimes.”

Her face heats up, so she hides against his chest.

“For the record,” he continues, “last night? Was seriously awesome right up until you ran out of the room with no clothes on.”

Gamora groans and weakly hits him without lifting her face. “When you put it like that it sounds horrible.

“Like, trying to put a positive spin on it, I got an amazing view of your ass when you ran away, but—” His eyes crinkle in the corners when she covers his mouth with her hand, and it’s impossible to be mad at him when he looks so damn cute.

“I’m afraid I’m gonna hurt you,” she whispers.

And that wipes the smile off his face; she can feel his mouth turn down under her palm. She swallows again. “You remember the first time?”

He nods.

“I’ve killed people that way. Maybe you think it’s sexy that I’m so much stronger than you, but I could really hurt you, Peter.” She finally lets her hand drop. “I’m...not used to being so soft all the time. I’m bad at it, and I hate being bad at things. I just...”

“See, I knew that was bugging you!” The triumphant look falls off his face when he catches her eye. “Sorry, but I did. You can’t handle not being instantly good at stuff. But here’s the thing, Gamora, last night was really freaking good. If that’s what gets you off, being on top like that, then I am happy to be your bitch. I’ll even wear lacy underwear or something if that turns you on.”

Gamora opens her mouth, remembers Rocket’s suggestions from earlier in the week, and closes it again. “I don’t have strong feelings about lacy underwear,” she finally says.

“Okay, well, that’s cool. I totally don’t either.” He scratches his ear.

There’s an awkward pause. Gamora tries to picture it, the incongruity of something so soft and feminine stretched across Peter’s hips. She can’t believe it would be able to hold his cock, not once it starts to get hard. It would probably end up peeking out the top...

“I could develop feelings about lacy underwear,” she grants him.

His whole face lights up before he clears his throat. “Hey, I mean. If that’s something you wanna try, then I’m game. Whatever you want, babe.”

Gamora crosses her arms and raises her eyebrows until he stops lying and looks down. He does flush the prettiest pink.

“Thanks,” he mutters.

“Maybe,” says Gamora thoughtfully, “we can try again. Sex, I mean. But not as...” she searches for words. “More controlled, maybe.”

Peter bites his lip. “I will try anything,” he says. “I mean, I know you don’t like hearing about stuff I used to do, but...I’m not gonna think you’re weird or gross or whatever you’re worried about.”

“I know that!” She looks away. “I do know that. I just...” She sighs. “There’s a lot about sex that I don’t know. I never felt safe even touching myself before, and you’ve done—well, everything.”

“Not everything,” he mutters.

Gamora levels him with a look. “Last night was the first orgasm I ever had,” she admits softly.

Peter swallows. “You were so hot,” he says roughly, and when she looks down, she can see the bulge in his pants.

The sight makes her bite her lip. God, she wants him. “Were you afraid I would judge you? For the things you like?”

“Maybe.” He looks away. “I was kind of a slut.”

There’s no kind of about it, but Gamora finds herself a little less threatened by that than before. “I guess you’re just my slut now,” she says in a weak attempt at humor.

Peter’s eyes fly to her face and the heat in them makes her gasp. “Yeah,” he whispers.

Oh.

Gamora clears her throat and looks away. “This isn’t exactly the place,” she mumbles.

“We are not the first people to have sex on this bridge,” he tells her, stepping closer.

She wrinkles her nose. “That doesn’t make the thought more appealing.”

“I’d want you anywhere,” he whispers, bending down for a kiss.

She blocks him with a hand over his mouth. “Yondu and Rocket.”

“Ugh! No!” He jerks away from her. “God, that’s disgusting. Why would you mention them when I’m trying to kiss you?”

“So you’ll calm down until we get back to our bedroom like civilized people!” she snaps back.

“Oh. Well, that’s different.” He grins. “In that case, lead on.”

They eventually try the lacy underwear. It does not hold Peter’s cock, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Things get better. Like dancing, they find their rhythm. And it turns out Gamora’s a leader where Peter’s happy to follow. It really does remind her of how she mastered her sword; the less she focuses on herself and her movements, the easier they become.

She still doesn’t come every time, but when she’s taking him apart in their bed it’s so much easier to let herself go. To trust the heat and the rhythm between them.

She likes to think she’s catching on.