She knew disappointment all too well. She had felt it in herself for her failures as a child in training. She had seen it in the eyes of her father. Now she saw it in the eyes of the fox.
'He's not a fox.'
Gamora's voice swirled around her brain, around the few parts of it that were made of flesh and blood, rather than the metal and machinery that had betrayed her. She didn't know how she could tell the fox about Gamora. About Quill. About Drax. She thought of Mantis and her chest squeezed. She wasn't crying. She couldn't cry. In spite of her determination to keep her tears locked inside, something grated inside her throat, nothing to do with her multiple cybernetics. They were dead. They were all dead and it was up to her alone to tell the fox and - oh god. Where was Gamora's son? "Where's Groot?"
There was no mistaking the resulting silence. The way his unusually dull brown eyes shone. "Gone."
'You took everything from us.' Nebula internally seethed against her father. It would have been hard enough to tell Groot about his mother being murdered, about how his entire family had literally vanished into dust, but at least he would have had the fox and at least the fox would have had him. Instead the fox only had her. She swallowed. That logic meant that she had him, but as Thanos' daughter, she doubted she would be wanted by the fox.
She looked at the fox. She knew what he wanted to know. She sank on cold metal steps leading up to the building Stark had disappeared into long ago. "What?"
"Where are the others?"
She looked at the ground - smooth stone covered with a film of rain. "Rocket." She had never used his name before and he had never used hers, both preferring to needle each other with childish, pointless mockery. Now all the others were gone, she had no wish to lose the last remaining link she had to Gamora. The thought of her sister forced out a tear from her left eye and she flicked it away with a metal fingertip. "They're gone."
She looked at him. It was clear that he thought she had meant that the Guardians had gone to some planet to find a way to fix things. She didn't want to tell him, not least because she didn't want to admit it to herself. "Thanos."
"Who did he take?" Rocket asked.
Of all the trials, battles and struggles Nebula had faced, this was possibly the hardest. She looked into his eyes and willed herself the strength to tell him the truth. "They're all gone. Quill, Drax, Mantis. They're gone, Rocket."
She had expected anger, cursing, rage. Maybe even an attack. Instead, he stared at her, his eyes wide with surprise and grief. He almost staggered and appeared to limp to the same step she was sitting on. He rested his elbows on his knees and sat forward. Amazing. She had just told him all his friends were dead and he just wanted to sit next to her. He didn't look at her. Maybe he was shedding tears she couldn't see. He sat up, looking straight ahead. "You didn't mention Gamora."
Nebula closed her eyes tightly. She could see her sister behind her eyelids; Gamora when they had first met, all bright green skin, flowing hair and scars from modification surgery. Gamora when she was an adolescent and growing stronger each day. Gamora defying their father's wish for her to sit with him on the throne, while Nebula had yearned for the chance. Gamora receiving the love Nebula had learned she could never have. That had been the sister she'd hated. The sister she'd loved was kind, she was good, she was brave and she was loyal. And now she was dead. "Thanos needed a guide and sacrifice to find the Soul Stone and she was it. She died because of me." It was her fault. Finding Thanos was her choice, getting caught was her mistake. And now Gamora was dead. Half of the universe was gone. It was a miracle nobody else had figured it out yet, who was really to blame. "This is all because of me."
Rocket was as silent as she was. He didn't walk away as she had thought he might. His left arm moved and she thought nothing of it until she felt something leathery yet soft graze over the only hand she had that was of flesh, blood and bone.
She flicked her eyes in its direction. The fox was touching her, his contact minimal, letting her know that she could knock his hand away from hers...or she could accept it. Accept him. She turned her hand and felt his palm connect with her thumb and closed her fingers over his hand, feeling soft, small hairs beneath her fingertips. She closed her eyes. She still didn't know what he would say.
"It ain't your fault." Rocket said. The cool air misted his words, leaving behind brief proof that they had been spoken. "She would kick your ass if she heard you blame yourself."
Nebula hadn't been expecting that. She had been expecting anger. She had been expecting agreement. She had not been expecting tentative comfort and reassurance. Especially not from Rocket. "He used me because I was there-"
"No, no." Rocket shifted, turning his eyes on hers. "That's bullshit and you know it is. He used you both. Only difference is that you're still here."
"It shouldn't be me."
Rocket's hand tightened around her thumb. "Gamora wouldn't want you not to be."
Water filled Nebula's eyes. She closed them tightly until the threat of tears was gone. "She offered me a place with her and the others when we made amends." Including the fox. "I should have accepted."
Rocket was silent, his hand still in hers. Then, he said; "It's never too late." As her eyes locked onto his, he shrugged, almost helplessly. "Y'know, if you want."
Was it pity? Was he only doing it for Gamora? Nebula looked at her hand, still gripping the smaller one of the fox. No. Not pity. He wanted her company, maybe in the way that she wanted his. "Fine."
"Okay." Rocket's hold on her thumb relaxed, but he made no move to remove his hand and she found herself glad of it. "For the record, I'm glad you're here."