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Even though his family has come back to him, things aren’t quite the same.

In his head, he knows it’ll never be the same again.

In his head, they’re still gone. They’ve been gone for the past five years, and they’ll still be gone when he wakes up.

Rocket throws himself into work. They were the Guardians of the Galaxy, for crying out loud, and it wasn’t like they could stay on Earth forever.

He builds a new mask for Quill, giving the helmet a red and gold trim surrounding the modified Ravager flame that served as the Guardians’ insignia.

Stark’s engineering prowess was comparable to his own, even if he was only a genius on Earth. They had exchanged entire volumes worth of notes on how their respective technologies worked, and he appreciated the extra set of hands while tinkering.

He fashions new blades for Drax, forged from vibranium and intended to be as balanced and aerodynamic as possible.

It isn’t the same alloy used in Rogers’ shield, but he figures that it’s close enough. That shield didn’t obey any laws of physics, but the super-soldier did have the longest acting steroid known to exist coursing through his veins. That probably had something to do with it.

For Gamora (now that she’s only kinda gone), he carefully lays a set of tasers into the ornate hilt of the Godslayer, knowing that the ex-assassin preferred to incapacitate rather than kill unless absolutely necessary.

He had only seen Romanoff use her Widow’s Bites once—on him, during a sparring session. He had secretly been thankful for the week-long bout of unconsciousness that followed as his implants rebooted.

They all get several sets of new clothes, Nebula and Thor included. Groot accepts his with only a passing mention about how rarely he wears clothes.

They say nothing about how the uniforms mostly matched the blue and red of Rocket’s newer jumpsuit, except for the EVA suits—those were white, with black trim and clear face masks for easy communication. They weren’t just a family, after all—they were a team, and they needed to look like it.

During the day, he argues with Quill and Thor over who the captain is. He laughs with Mantis and Drax as they pull pranks on Nebula, and banters with Groot while playing one of the new games he had ‘found’ on Terra.

At night, Rocket fidgets restlessly in his bunk, or goes to the bridge to keep watch, but he doesn’t go to sleep.

He rarely goes to sleep now.

He’ll look out of the viewport one night and see stars drift past like ashes, and the next he’ll be seeing galaxies and nebulas swirl together like ripples in a lake.

Just like that, Groot is gone, and he doesn’t know about the others—.

They had done it. The Avengers had reversed the snap, he’ll see them again—but the building is collapsing on top of him. He’s pinned, and the water is rising—he can’t breathe—.

Rocket can’t breathe.

After five years, he has his family back, but it isn’t quite the same.

In his head, he knows it’ll never be the same.