“Hey, Els? You wanna help me with something?” Gamora asked her 7 year old daughter with a grin, convinced Elspeth would be happy to be included on the festivities this year.
She thought she had a pretty good idea for one of Peter’s so called ‘pranks’, but she’ll need help to pull it off. Which is why she’d come over to Elspeth coloring at her play table- to enlist her help.
“What is it, Mama?” She asked without looking up, still hyper focused on coloring her pages with her tongue sticking out as she scribbled for maximum precision.
“Well, your dad and my anniversary is coming up, and-”
“What’sa anniversary?” Elspeth interrupted, screwing her face up in that way she always did when she came across a word that sounded familiar, but wasn’t used enough in their everyday lives for her to actually know what it meant.
“The anniversary of our marriage,” Gamora smiled, stepping closer and brushing the head of dark curls she’d inherited from her father. Even sitting down, she was getting so tall now. Gamora didn’t even have to lean down to brush her daughter’s hair as she sat in the child-sized play chair. “It’s like celebrating the birthday of our wedding,” she explained. “When we got married.”
“You guys got married?!” Her daughter shouted, utterly appalled. “How come you didn’t tell me?! I wanted to come!”
Elspeth looked absolutely heartbroken about missing out on her parent’s wedding that happened long before she came along. Yes, she and Peter usually celebrated their anniversary just the two of them. This was the first time she thought to include their daughter.
“Baby, we’ve been married you whole life,” Gamora assured her, tucking the hair behind Elspeth’s ear. “You weren’t born yet when your dad and I got married. Technically you were there, you were just still inside my tummy at the time.”
Gamora pointed at her stomach as if to verify her claim. Well, she wasn’t actually pregnant at the time since their daughter came along a few years after their wedding happened, but pointing to her stomach was the same general area, and Gamora figured she didn’t need to bother her daughter with the details and exact timeline.
Gamora was grinning too, cause this was the absolute cutest, and she was going to tell Peter about this conversation ASAP.
Elspeth frowned, pursing her lips and looking quite pensive as she stared hard at her mother’s stomach.
“Okay,” she decided, bright and chiper. “I forgive you.”
Gamora laughed. “Thanks, baby girl.”
“You need my help for your wedding birthday?” The little girl asked, suddenly all business, getting down to the problem at hand.
Her mother nodded. “So here’s the plan…”
“Perfect,” Gamora said, affixing the device behind Elspeth’s ear, brushing aside her hair and kissing her on the forehead before triggering the mask. Peter was still asleep (of course he was) and it had been the easiest thing in the world snatching the mechanism off their dresser this morning.
Elspeth clapped her green little hands in utter delight as Starlord’s signature mask slid over her face.
“Can you hear me, baby?” Gamora asked, whispering and tapping the ear bud in her own ear to test the com link she’d already set up.
She waited until the last possible moment (after Peter had started rustling around in their bedroom once he’d finally woken up) before sealing up the box and wrapping it in the colorful, festive paper that denoted a gift. Not as a safety concern or anything- Peter’s mask had over 9 hours of oxygen reserves, and could run much, much longer on recycled air if the wearer was in an enclosed space.
It’s not like the cardboard box that Elspeth was hiding inside was airtight anyway. Gamora didn’t even tape all the flaps down, because that would ruin her ability to launch at her father once he started tearing open the present.
No, the reason Gamora waited until the last possible second was because she didn’t want Elspeth to get too bored. A prank wouldn’t do if her daughter wasn’t having fun.
As it was, Gamora had a little girl giggling in her ear almost nonstop. Another good thing about the mask was that it muffled any quiet sounds of child laughter that would have been very suspicious coming from a wrapped gift.
“What if he doesn’t peak?” Elspeth asked, and Gamora paused. She hadn’t even considered the possibility that Peter might not peak at the huge, very inviting present on the table. She knew he wouldn’t be expecting a prank coming from a present for him on the day of their anniversary. She hadn’t even considered the possibility that her husband might not peak at his present.
“I guess you might have to make some rustling noises if he doesn’t go for it on his own.”
“Like this?” Elspeth asked, shaking the box she was inside.
“A bit more subtle, baby.”
“Like this?” The question was followed by a soft little scuttling of scratching mice.
“Perfect. Oh, I think he’s coming! Shh. I’ll be watching from the monitor to tell you when to get ready to pop out. I’ll tell you when to scratch if he doesn’t go for it too. Just keep quiet.”
After he walked into the kitchen, Peter was clearly intrigued by the big present sitting right out in the open.
He went over to the table to take a closer look, inspected it even, but it was only a visual inspection. He didn’t peak. Poking around, maybe, but not peaking.
Gamora, meanwhile, kept her daughter comprised with constant updates of exactly what her father was doing in the kitchen at the moment, so she wouldn’t have to whisper and ask.
Peter had resigned himself to making some toast and then immediately seeking Gamora and asking if he could open the bigass present on the table right now, and if she said no, maybe beg her a couple times and ask when they would be doing present exchanges if not first thing in the morning when his curiosity was already killing him.
He would’ve been tempted to shake it to guess what was inside, but Gamora got mad at him last time he did that when they were doing some sort of present holiday or whatever. She liked it to be a total surprise.
Still, she couldn’t expect him to wait until that night to open it, right? As it was, the gift was just taunting him. He couldn’t wait to see what was inside. He had no idea what it could even be. Something that big had to be awesome. He wondered if it was like a romantic thing because of their anniversary, or if it was just a gift for him of something she thought he would like or enjoy. He couldn’t imagine what would need a box that big other than weapons, and weapons were more of Rocket’s thing.
Oh he couldn’t wait. It would be so mean just leaving it out there on the table if she expected him to wait until later to open it.
Nope, he was gonna make breakfast and then immediately find his wife wherever she was on the ship and give her the please please please please please puppy dog routine to open his present. The same one their daughter did every time she knew she was getting a present. She learned it from him.
Peter popped his toast on his plate, pulling out a jar of Prolaxlian jelly to spread on it, but then he… heard something.
He looked around for the source of the noise, but nothing had changed about the room. It had already gone silent. He had chalked it up to his imagination when he heard it again and whipped around. Okay, that time he knew it was coming from the present on the table.
He stared at it long and hard, the persistent silence long enough to make him think he went crazy after the second time he heard it.
Then it started up again, just a few seconds, a soft little scratching noise. Almost… panicked. Like something was inside. It was way too fucking early in the morning for something to be this spooky.
It’s not like a present could be haunted, right?
Well, with the things they’d seen, in a galaxy as crazy as this one, he couldn’t rule it out.
Oh god, what if Gamora got him an accursed object?
His heart was hammering in his ears as he slowly crept towards the table, bending low like maybe the freaky gift wouldn’t be able to see him or something.
He placed his hand on the top. No reaction. No noise. No response.
Response? Who was he fucking kidding? How the hell was a present supposed to respond? The general inanimateness of the object didn’t calm his racing heart, and he had a terrible sense of foreboding as he carefully, carefully peeled the tape off, wincing slightly and holding his breath when he ripped the wrapping paper a bit.
He was kinda slow about it, but something about unwrapping the present felt dangerous. So he was careful with it.
He’d just pulled back all the wrapping paper when-
Over the com link came the most high pitched scream Gamora had ever heard, and she was laughing so hard she was in tears.
She hadn’t stopped laughing by the time she made her way to the kitchen, clutching her stomach and cracking up, and the sight she was greeted with made her laugh even harder.
Peter had let out the most shrill, terrified scream when the masked vigilante launched herself into his arms, stumbling and actually falling backwards onto the floor with the frightening creature landing on top of his chest.
It was also the cutest thing in the world, seeing Elspeth sitting on top of her father and playfully scratching and swiping at his chest with ferocious (adorable) paws and saying “Rawr, rawr.”
It seemed he had already resigned himself to being his daughter’s mauling victim; he appeared quite adjusted to his new spot on the floor when he looked up at the sound of Gamora’s laughter. He gave his wife a long suffering sigh.
“You know you almost gave me a heart attack, right?” Peter asked her, the kind of tiredness and acceptance in his tone that could only come from a patient father who’d just been scared half to death by his 7 year old.