He’s eight when his father first shows him a universe consisting of a billion stars.
They’ve just met after a long and scary journey on a giant spaceship filled to the brim with more alien shapes than Peter ever wanted to see. His father looks reassuringly normal after all this strangeness, with dark brown hair and a friendly, charming smile. He is tall and strong and he lifts him up as if Peter weighed nothing at all and the planet they stand on is weird and red and feels strangely like home.
His father seems so glad to see him, too: his eyes are warm, his voice is warm and everything about him is welcoming. It’s almost as foreign to Peter as everything else.
Sure, his mother loved him but these last two years were… hard. She was so sick and she didn’t always recognize him and even if she did, sometimes it seemed as if she were looking right through him and either seeing this man holding him right now – or something else altogether.
And sure, his grandpa loved him, too, his aunt, as well, but…
But in the end, for them he still was nothing but little Peter Jason Quill, constantly in trouble, always getting into fights, the boy whose mum called his father an angel, a little too loud, a little too mouthy, a little too strange…
They would have taken him in, he wouldn’t have exactly been a burden or unwanted, but…
Maybe here, with his father, he could be just Peter Jason Quill, son. No “buts” involved, for once.
Behind him, he hears the quiet whirr of a spaceship taking off and he squirms around until he can watch the sleek silver shape vanish into the wispy clouds, his father’s deep laugh rumbling through him right into his very bones.
Surprisingly enough, Peter feels a slight sadness at the sight. Sure, the whole experience up to this point had been nothing short of a nightmare, filled with screams, threats, chases through dark tunnels, far too many teeth and copious amounts of snot and tears. But still…
Aliens. Spaceships. Motherships (He doesn’t care what Yondu says, the Eclector is so a mothership.).
A part of him is torn; yearning for everything else out there he hasn’t seen yet, has only gotten the vaguest idea of.
But, a dad, a real-life dad, his dad!
That’s so much better.
(And if he ever decides otherwise, Yondu has slipped him a little something in his backpack right before they landed on the planet. A tiny but powerful communicator, right out of Star Trek. Just in case, if he wanted to get away or something. Peter has no idea why he would want to leave; he has a dad now, after all – but, just in case. Yondu had been strangely insistent and if there’s one thing Peter learned after this nightmare of first contact, then that it’s best for him to keep his head down and listen to Yondu. You live longer that way.)
If Peter felt overwhelmed before, then that’s nothing in comparison to what he feels a few hours later.
His father is a planet.
His father is a planet and an actual god (little g, but that’s impressive enough in Peter’s opinion) and a Celestial.
Peter has no idea what the last thing is, but he’s kind of hung up on the planet part (Gods as parents happen all the time, just look at all the stories where Mum said the constellations got their names from, but who ever heard of having a planet for a father?), so that’s okay.
He looks around with a new kind of awe, trying to understand that everything he sees, down from the pebble in front of his left shoe up to the bluish mountains in the distance, is his dad. Even the silvery fountain in front of the palace and the palace itself, heck, the air he’s breathing…
He promptly tries to hold his breath – what if he’s hurting his dad – but his father never even notices, instead explaining how he came to be and how he came to meet Peter’s mother after a long, long time on his own.
Peter loves the story; it’s like something right out of the movies, something big and romantic and sad, just like Mum always said the really big love stories have to be. (Also, the glowing brain-thingy in the diorama is just as creepy as it is neat. He kind of wants to poke it, just to see if it wobbles. He also wonders if there’s really a brain at the core of the planet and if he’s allowed to visit it.)
He likes being part of it even more.
For the first time in his life he’s not just Peter Jason Quill, son of “That Meredith-girl. You know who I mean.” but Peter Jason Quill, son of Meredith Quill of Earth and Ego of, well, Ego.
(Terra, his dad later tells him. Earth is called Terra out here. Peter kind of likes the sound of that. Earth is earth is dirt. But Terra sounds like a girl’s name, as if the shiny blue pearl he just barely caught a glimpse of while the Eclector was speeding away, were a Celestial herself. Full of life and laughter and music she would be, Peter decides. With long blond hair and a bright smile and warm eyes, just like his mother.)
But apparently the Celestial-part is important, too, because then his father is holding out his hands and there’s light, bright and silvery, like starshine trying to flow back into the sky. It’s what gives him his power – or it is his power, Peter’s not quite clear on that part – and apparently Peter has it, too.
He holds up his own hands and tries and tries, scrunching his nose up and biting his lips. A part of him can’t help but worry about what would happen if he can’t do it, if he doesn’t have the light. Will his father be disappointed? Will he send him back? Will he maybe decide that he wasn’t his father after all?
It takes a while, but in the end there is light. Faint and wispy, foggy little sparks of potential – but light. It doesn’t look like much, nothing at all like his dad’s starshine-brightness, but his father is still overjoyed, picking him up and swirling him around with the same deep laughter that rumbles its way deep down into Peter’s chest.
There will be more, his father promises, he just has to grow up. But he has the light and that’s all that matters for now.
Later, after hugs and pride and tears when Peter remembers his mother again and how happy she would be that he and dad get along and more hugs, Peter gets around to asking just what the light is actually good for other than reading after bed-time. In answer Dad touches his forehead – and lays the universe down before his feet.
Peter is ten and his world consists of wide yellow plains and reddish plants. His world consists of silver water and silver metal floating on the waves, in the air. His world consists of high arches of dark stone, of carefully carved walls and crystal-clear windows. His world consists of deep caves and high mountains and whenever he gets bored, when he’s seen everything there is to see, his father creates something new. Just for him.
Peter is ten and no matter where he goes, what he does, what he sees, there is a universe of a billion stars in the back of his mind, beckoning him, guiding him, showing him the way.
The light in him is stronger now; still nothing more than sparks but actually useful. It makes him run faster, jump higher, makes flowers bloom and water shape into colorful bubbles in the air.
What he wants, happens. What he wills, happens. He’s a god, little g, but still a god, and this whole planet is his playground under the benevolent eyes of his loving father.
He’s Superman (sadly without the heat-vision so far) and Batman and Kevin Bacon. He’s a space pirate and a cowboy and a prince all in one. He’s Starlord, the great and powerful, the terrible, the ruler of all he surveys.
He fights dragons and bandits and ninjas and he can be as loud as he wants and scream as much as he wants and there’s no school, no bullies, no bed-time, no rules to be had.
He’s Peter Pan in Never-Neverland.
He’s in paradise.
His father gives him no true rules to follow and everything he desires. He sleeps in the softest beds and eats the best things and no matter what he does, his father just smiles and chuckles at him with an indulgent glimmer in his eyes.
It’s in one of the rare instances his father is actually trying to sleep that it all comes crashing down.
His father has trouble sleeping, always had, and a shouting ten-year-old certainly doesn’t help.
Peter knows that and still remembers his mother – his poor, always exhausted mother, sick and yet smiling, wincing at every loud word and still so loving to a yelling kid –, so he makes his way away from the palace and near a cliff in the middle of the plains.
He’s found a cave here, deeper than all the others he’s ever found before, and today, when his father is asleep and not watching what Peter’s doing, he’s going to explore a bit. Maybe the cave actually reaches down right into the core of the planet and Peter will finally be able to see his father’s brain (That… actually sounds way creepier than he means it.). Whenever Peter tried before, his father had simply shoved a wall into his way and distracted him with something shiny or colorful, but today he actually has a chance.
At first it doesn’t look as if he will be successful.
The cave is big, the cave is deep, all solid stone and smooth walls, leading him deeper and deeper but not where he wants to go. At least his inbuilt night-light is useful and he amuses himself with throwing shadows at the walls, shaping dogs and birds and creepy-crawlies until he feels a slight shiver down his spine (Not that he has to be afraid. There’s nothing alive on this planet after all. Nothing but his father and him.)
But finally, just when he’s about to give up, there’s a crack in the floor, barely wide enough for a small ten-year-old to slip his head through and have a look around.
Peter is ten years old and for two years a whole world has been his playground.
He has stars in his mind and stars in his fingertips and his eyes hold the universe in all its glory.
At first he sees nothing but darkness in the hollow below, but a few sparks of his light and he can see everything.
He wishes he didn’t.
He tries to tell himself that what he sees are stones, some eccentricity of his father’s that he hasn’t witnessed before… but if there’s one thing comics and forbidden late-night horror movies were good for it is teaching him what skeletons look like. They are not all human, he notes, but they are all very small.
Fragile. Breakable. Childlike. Children.
A mountain of skulls and bones, lying in a silent tomb hidden halfway to his father’s core.
Not dusty but clearly forgotten.
There’s nothing alive on this planet. Only father and him.
For the first time since arriving here, Peter wonders why.
The stars in his mind seem fainter.
When his father wakes, Peter has no plan. Not really.
He has lots of ideas about the “Why”, one worse than the next (thanks, forbidden late-night horror movies), but no plan.
He’s standing in front of his father’s museum and watches Ego’s history play itself out.
Try as he might, he can’t find any mention of massacres.
It’s probably the worst idea he ever had, but when father asks, he tells the truth.
Mum always told him to never lie to her after all and even if she got angry for a time, everything always worked itself out in the end. Surely this will be the same, right?
His Dad doesn’t get angry – he gets sad.
He tells Peter about his brothers and sisters, about all his siblings, and how his father took them in and loved them – but they didn’t have the light. They weren’t Celestials.
It’s regretful, really.
Peter is ten years-old and part of him is a child. This child is nodding and tearing up and in doing so probably saving his life.
Peter is ten years-old and a part of him, the part that fought against bullies young and old, that watched his mother suffer and die, that survived the most ruthless of Ravagers, is well on its way to being fully grown. This part of him is saving his life, too.
This almost grown-up is watching his father through a cloud of stars and he is noting that it’s regretful that his siblings – all those small, brittle bones in one giant heap, the afterthought hidden where nobody will ever think to look – weren’t Celestials.
It wasn’t regretful that they died…
Peter is crying and hiccupping and his father is hugging him and making soothing noises.
It’s wonderful. It’s all Peter ever wanted from a dad.
(It’s giving him the creeps. And here he only worried about being sent back…)
What is so important about the light?
What is the light even good for?
Peter is ten and the child in him is nodding along to Ego’s explanation. The grown-up is too.
They have to. They never lied to Mum, but Ego isn’t her. Mum was nice and kind and happy thoughts. She never harmed anybody who hadn’t harmed her first and smiled at him whenever he tried to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves.
Ego is a bully, with the greatest stick of them all. He’s not going to smush frogs, he’s going to wipe them and everything else right out of existence. There’s nothing alive on this planet because Ego doesn’t want there to be. Why would he? Nothing can measure up to him.
Even Peter is not his child, but his copy, his tool, his battery-to-be. The one who will nod at all the right places and laugh at the others and praise Ego’s greatness while he recreates the universe in his own shape.
Ego may be a god, but he’s also a monster.
Peter had a universe consisting of a billion stars in the back of his mind.
He’s ten when he first understands that the light of all those stars shines down on nothing but his father’s reflection.