They had taken the mission before, Rocket is sure.
Over the last months he had learned the telltale signs of which missions are new, even to Peter and which he took before, with their...counterparts.
Oh, and he is completely mad to even consider the possibility of time travel. But over the last months he thought about it (A LOT) and with all the things they see on a daily basis he doesn't rule time travel out anymore.
Somehow everything became easier once he accepted it.
Peter on the other hand took a worrisome turn for the worse.
At first his mood seemed lighter. He laughed easier and these melancholic moments happened less often. It was like he rode a wave of relieved happiness, an accurate comparison now that he thinks about it.
Then the nightmares started.
Over the next month he started to deteriorate. He was distracted and slipped up more often.
Rocket found out more and more about the alternate future Peter once had lived. The other Guardians were mainly confused and worried. The raccoon could almost see the theories Gamora formed but he was sure time travel didn't even cross her mind.
Today was a good day, or at least a better one.
Their job is on a rocky planet and seems easy enough. Peter also doesn't show his usual signs of nervousness like he does when it's a mission that will go wrong, so Rocket breathes a little easier.
Only when they stand in front of the artifact in one of the caves and Peter's breathing speeds up does he realize that maybe he has overlooked something.
It was utterly boring how nothing had happened on their way here and that should have been his first clue because the Guardians of the Galaxy didn't do boring.
“Peter?”, he asks warily. In his mind he panics.
“Don't worry, Rocket.”, Peter reassures him cheerful. But his breathing is still too fast.
Before Rocket can say anything else, the stupid humie reaches out and takes the little...thing from it's place.
The raccoon releases the breath that had caught in his throat and explodes.
To be fair it had been a tense few weeks and it is about time.
“What were you thinking, you stupid humie. Who knows what could have happened. That thing could be riddled with traps...”, he starts to rant.
“Relax.”, drawls Peter with an easy grin that doesn't reach his eyes. His gaze strays behind him and Rocket hopes the others give him an angry glare too.
With a huff he turns.
His first thought is 'mirror', his second 'clones' and only the third 'ghosts' since the five people standing before him have the see-through quality ghosts were rumored to have.
The gun in his paws is an automatic response, barely registering in his mind.
In his shocked state he is only semi-aware of the strangled gasp behind him.
“Oh, calm down. Look at us, weapons are useless.”, the transparent being in front of him says. It has the same height as him. Rocket doesn't need to be told to look at them. It is impossible to not stare.
The ghost that had spoken is him. Undeniable. But he is old. It isn't really obvious. No grey-streaked fur or -god forbid- wrinkles but the slightly longer hair from his fur hangs a bit down and there is a weary slump to his shoulders that he doesn't see when he looks into the mirror.
And then the eyes.
These eyes should belong to a white-furred raccoon. He can't look away from them. In the part of his brain that isn't frozen in shock he knows who this is. He doesn't need to look, to know who the other four people are, doesn't need to turn around and look at Peter's face to know that they are their future counter-parts.
“Gamora.”, someone (Peter) whispers.
Rocket finally tears his gaze away from his double to watch as one Gamora (Real-Gamora, Now-Gamora, Present-Gamora?) whirls around to Peter, while the other one (Furure-Gamora, Ghost-Gamora?) takes some steps in Peter's direction.
Time doesn't show in her appearance. Not like it does on Rocket. She just seems more relaxed, probably because she had more time in a ´normal` social environment.
And then Ghost-Gamora smiles with an ease their Gamora doesn't have.
“Peter. It has been some time since we last saw each other, hasn't it?”
“Yeah”, Peter breaths. “Since...”, he swallows, “Since Knowhere. I missed you so much.”
His voice cracks halfway through the last sentence. The human lifts a hand and lays it against her cheek. At least they seem to be kind of solid.
It is Now-Gamora who interrupts the scene.
“Peter, what is going on here? What are these...?”
With obvious reluctance Peter looks away from Ghost-Gamora. Rocket turns around too.
“I am Groot.” (I want to know that too) makes Groot his confusion clear.
“Friend Quill, do you know these people?”, a rather stupid question but then, that is Drax for you.
Mantis doesn't say anything, instead her wide eyes lie on Peter, a compassionate light in them. That is interesting. Rocket wonders if with her ability she knows more than she lets on.
The future Guardians seem content to let things play out. They look almost amused. He takes a moment to examine them.
Drax looks the same. Maybe some more scars but they aren't really obvious.
Groot is taller, a gangly teenager.
Mantis, on the other hand, is a shock. Her hair is longer. Her skin isn't smooth anymore but has nicks all over it. The worst of all is the one missing antenna. He has to practically tear his eyes away from her to concentrate on the conversation again.
“Do we have to do this now?”
There is bone-deep exhaustion in Peter's voice.
“Yes! Now tell me.”
Rocket knows the impatience is just Gamora panicking and if he hadn't already known he would be demanding answers too, so it is kind of hypocritical of him to defend Peter, but he knows the blonde needs time alone with his old family, probably deserves time with them, so he cuts the whole thing off.
“I think we should leave Peter alone for now.”
Gamora is so shocked, she lets him drag her away. The others thankfully follow without fuss.
Before they vanish completely he turns around one last time. Gliding his eyes over the Ghost-Guardians he tells them “It was nice meeting you but the truth is, I hope we'll never meet again.”
He doesn't need to explain.
Outside they stand around in an awkward silence, 'cause the Guardians of the Galaxy are never quiet. They are fucking loud.
Gamora stares at him and he can see the calculations running in her mind. Rocket knows the only reason she didn't do anything until now is, because she trusts them. He doesn't really care as long as she waits here for Peter.
After some time she finally says something.
“You know what's going on”
It isn't a question. He can see how it frustrates her, that she doesn't like it.
He answers truthfully and stops her before she can continue.
“It's Peter's secret to tell. I only found out by accident and our Star-Lord doesn't even know I know. I promise you Peter isn't in danger right now, so suck it and deal.”
With that they fall silent again.
It's still some time before Peter comes to them. When he steps out, he looks tired and exhausted but the shadows in his eyes have lifted a little and his steps are lighter too.
He runs a hand through his hair and takes a deep breath.
“Lets get back to the Milano."
"I owe you an explanation.”