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Take care of

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This isn't the first time it's happened. That a night has found her curled up in Peter's bed, and the two of them… cuddling together.

She just can't leave him alone. Not at night. She feels like she has to be a watchdog, if she's not there, someone's going to take him away.

She supposes it could be worse.

It was a little less weird than it would have been otherwise, now that she had accepted and acknowledged the unspoken thing. They hadn't really done anything about it, but she supposed talking about it was the first step. It was too soon after everything for a second step to take place, but now that she had admitted it to him and herself, she at least didn't have to find excuses to be close to him anymore. Make excuses to be close to him.

She never would have been able to slip into his bunk in the middle of the night before without some sort of explanation. That certainly wouldn't have been “I was worried you disappeared, and I feel like I can't breathe if you're not around because I can't even try to protect you when I'm alone in my room and you're alone in yours. I'm afraid if I leave you alone, something's gonna take you away from me again. I have to stay, and I have to keep you safe, cause that's the only way I can sleep at night.”

That would have been the truth, but she certainly wouldn't have told him that.

But now, with their unspoken thing verbally acknowledged by both parties, she didn't have to offer any explanations when she slipped under the covers with him in the middle of the night.

She didn't have to offer any excuses as she felt the relief seep into his bones as she wrapped her arm around him again and pulled him close.

She didn't have to say a word.

After everything that's happened, she doesn't think twice about crawling into bed with him and wrapping her arms around him, reassuring herself that he's still there, he's alive, he's still breathing.

Two weeks after Ego, she doesn't even bother trying to sleep in her own room anymore. She gives up the pretense that she could ever be comfortable falling asleep without him, and now just automatically goes to bed with him. It's the only thing that's changed. Since they've acknowledged their unspoken thing.

She doesn't think he's ready for much more than emotional comfort right now.

But it's nice- she doesn't have to make excuses or offer explanations, she can just… be close to him.

While she doesn't have to give any explanations, that doesn't mean these nights are always silent. Sometimes they are. But, occasionally, they talk. About things much deeper than the day they had, and about pain that went much further than they had any idea of.

It was one of those nights.

Slowly, bit by bit, Peter had started giving her little pieces of information of what had happened on Ego’s planet while they were apart. What she missed while she was exploring caverns filled with dead bodies with Nebula, all the horrors he’d learned.

She knows there are a lot of unforgivable things that Ego did- one of the worst she found out about was probably giving Peter's mother the illness that killed her. But strangely, that wasn't the thing that upset Gamora the most. It didn't make sense, but of all his crimes, that wasn't the one she was angriest about. That wasn't the thing that hurt the most to hear, as he poured out everything that happened piece by piece over the course of these nights where they talked about hard things in the following weeks.

The thing that had made Gamora’s eyes blur with tears-

She hated Ego for destroying Peter’s walkman. For crushing it right in front of him. She’d never forgive him for that.

Tonight wasn't much different. Than the nights they talked.

Tonight, Peter cried, and they held onto each other like a lifeline. She intermittently wiped away his tears, prioritizing holding him over brushing the drops away from his eyes, and throughout every watery word, Peter clung to her like an anchor.

When he seemed to be done letting words out tonight, Gamora just stroked his hair in a soft and simple silence. A gentle quiet. Until he calmed, his breath fluttering beneath closed eyelids that he only opened when his heart rate was back to normal again (it took awhile- long enough that she had already started missing his eyes before he came back to her).

“How are you doing?” Peter asked with a tired, self deprecating smile. His voice was still hoarse from all his shed tears.

“I'm okay,” Gamora said immediately, considering that her full and complete answer. She didn't really have much more to say than that. But Peter’s face completely fell at her response.

“Really,” he said, but it wasn't a question. More like a statement of doubt. An unimpressed one. He didn't believe her.

When she saw the worry increase in his eyes and Peter's clearly negative reaction (was he hurt? That he just opened up to her and cried in her arms but thought she wouldn't tell him if she wasn't doing okay?) Gamora realized she should have gone with a different answer.

Instead of that immediate response that was reserved for anyone asking her that question.

Because this wasn't anyone.

This was Peter.

She didn't need to be strong in front of him.

He already viewed her as the strongest person he knew, even when she was showing undeniable weakness.

Because that is a different kind of strength, she's come to realize.

Gamora thought maybe she should be strong for him.

She exhaled and closed her eyes, running her fingers through his curls, letting the motion soothe her. She still wasn't sure quite what to say, but she knew she needed to say something more. And to return this vulnerability, or at least some of it, because that will help him feel safe. She wanted him to feel safe.

Opening up your chest and having the other person slam the door of their heart in your face never felt good.

When Gamora opened her eyes back up again, she could tell he was already starting to retreat a little, his shoulders curling inwards, and when she met his eyes, he looked away.

He didn't want to push her into talking about stuff if she didn't want to. He should've just left well enough alone.

But then Gamora laid her hand on his cheek and guided his eyes back to hers.

“You are alive, and safe. That means I am okay,” she told him honestly, moving her hand up to play with his hair again. It calmed her.

The words made her feel more vulnerable than any action could, but when she saw the look in his eyes, how they softened with an emotion that made her heart clench, she knew it was worth it.

Peter nuzzled into the crook of her neck, brushing his lips across her collarbone in the softest of kisses.

Gamora pulled him closer suddenly in a move that didn't seem to surprise him but was totally unexpected to her. Wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pulling him to her close and tight because his lips on her clavicle was nice, but the rest of his body was too far away, and she needed him right here, so she grabbed him and pulled him flush against her, and held him tight.

Yes, he was worth it.

He was definitely worth it.

Chapter Text

Peter, Peter, it's me!” Gamora shouts, trying to hold him down without causing him undue pain. He’s frantic trying to get away from her, to get out of bed, but he’ll only injure himself more.

She can tell he’s not really all there. It’s in his eyes- flashed wide in alarm, eyes that don’t even recognize her as he fights against his oppressor while she does her best to keep him still.

He’s in his bed, in his room, but it’s clear from the way he’s looking around that he doesn’t recognize his surroundings either. Whether he’s still half asleep or delusional from various wounds and infections, she doesn’t know.

His fever had gone down last night. She thought that was a good sign.

But now Peter’s skin is clammy and his eyes are wild, and she doesn’t know where to touch him so she doesn’t hurt him while restraining him.

His limbs are uncoordinated as he tries to escape her, his addled mind no doubt remembering, comparing her to the figures he had last been with before he fell unconscious. Confusing her for those he’d been trapped with for days. His captors. He’s not fully there, she tells herself. He’s not afraid of her. He’s not afraid of her.

They broke his leg, among other tortures. The guardians had put it in a makeshift splint once he was safely onboard the Milano, but it was a temporary fix, and too much movement wouldn’t do him any good.

If only he’d stop struggling. She knew she couldn’t let him stand up- he’d only exacerbate his injuries- but try telling Peter that. It’s much harder to keep him down than she expected it to be, and he won’t stop fighting her. Keeps trying to scramble away, swinging his arms out violently as he twists to escape his captor, clawing at the hands and arms pinning him down.

Gamora hisses at the sudden swipe of pain, realizing that his nails had actually managed to dig deep enough into her skin to draw blood. Her bleeding arm starts to recoil, but when she sees he’s about to use the distraction to make a break for it she slams her hand back down on his shoulder.

Peter cries out, giving up fighting against her (for now), his face scrunched up tight in pain as Gamora practically lays on top of him to keep him immobile.

It seemed the adrenaline more than made up for how weak he should have been after three days. Normally, she thinks, it wouldn’t be this hard to hold him down.

When she lets up, Peter just lies there, arm wrapped around himself, holding his shoulder and breathing ragged breaths.

Peter, Peter, I’m sorry, please, I’m so sorry,” she whispers, her hand reaching up to stroke his hair.

He makes a noise at that, whipping his head to the side, turning away from her in defiance.

She tells herself he’s not all there, that his awoken from a delirious sleep state still hasn’t realized he’s not with enemies anymore. He’s not afraid of her. Peter’s not afraid of her, she tells herself.

She continues stroking his hair, whispering what she hopes to be soothing sounds. Trying to soothe him and maybe calm herself at the same time.

I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, Peter. Everything’s going to be alright now, everything’s going to be okay, you’re going to be okay now. I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you, please stay still, you can’t get up right now, you need to rest. Please don’t move. Please don’t try to get up,” she sounds like she’s begging him. “It’s okay. It’s me, Peter, it’s me. You don’t need to be afraid anymore. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to- I won’t hurt you anymore, I promise. I won’t let you get hurt. I won’t let anything happen to you. We’re all here. Rocket’s piloting to the closest medical facility, Drax is just down the hall putting Groot to bed, and I’m right here. I’m here, I promise. I’m so, so sorry. I promise.”

There’s at least a glimmer of recognition, because Peter visibly relaxes at the mention of their team member’s names. Just hearing them helps assuage him, a bit. He starts accepting her help now. He still doesn’t open his eyes, but he’s more open to her touch, actually leaning into her hand as she strokes the fringe at his forehead. Willing to accept her comfort.

All is quiet in the next few minutes, the tension easing out of him as Gamora brushes his hair gentle as can be, and Peter almost imperceptibly moves towards her, tilting and pressing into her continued contact. She’s so relieved she thinks she might cry.

Then his long eyelashes start beating against his cheek, and his eyes flutter open. It takes him a bit, to process what he sees, his pupils dilating then shrinking as he squints against the dimmed lights of the room. He blinks, swallows, his eyebrows knit together in distress.

G’mora?” He asks with a shaky voice, sounding so uncertain and unconvinced.

Yes, Peter, it’s me,” she confirms, her voice coming out weaker than his as she takes his hand in hers and cradles it to her cheek. “It’s Gamora,” she whispers, nuzzling into his palm, trying to keep her lip from quivering at the ghost of a smile that graced his face. She closes her stinging eyes, pressing into his touch.

In normal circumstances, she’d never do something like bringing his hand to her cheek and keeping it there. That was just too much, when she could barely hold his hand for more than a couple moments before she got a hold of herself and dropped his. She was barely able to do that sort of touch before she let go and started distancing again. And that was nowhere near this- cradling Peter’s hand to her cheek and covering it with her own. Holding it there and keeping it there, warm and reassuring.

But this intimate touch is different- she can’t help it, can’t stop herself. She’s not even self conscious in the slightest as she continues to hold his hand for much, much longer than she ever has before.

Her thumb smoothing strokes over the back of his hand, cradling it like it was more precious than he had any idea of. She’d do anything to keep him grounded. He’s not afraid of her. Peter’s not afraid of her.

Gamora’s eyes are still blurry when they reopen, and she lets out a shuddery breath at how peaceful he looks. His eyes had shut as well, and she half hopes he had fallen back asleep, knowing the adrenaline would fall soon and he’d start feeling his broken leg and the pain from his other injuries in full force.

But that was too much to hope for, apparently. They’re open a second later, another fluttering motion, almost like a flinch. They’re still a bit glazed over, as he gazes up at her.

Peter’s brows furrow, his lips pulled together, looking like he was struggling to form a thought, but he manages to get it out.

You’re crying,” he murmurs, another teardrop falls to his finger. He looks so concerned it almost breaks her heart.

Gamora doesn’t have the strength to deny it. Instead, she turns into his hand, burrows into it as more tears start to fall. It’s enough.