Groot never had understood the concept of singular love. He had traveled across the galaxy, encountered more species than he dared to count, and the vast majority of them chose to show love for only one individual. Even in familial situations, the number of being most species were capable of loving was very limited. He had never understood the difficulty of loving others.
On Groot’s home planet, the vast forests of Flora Colossus were connected through joint root systems and powerfully empathetic waves of thought. Though each being had its own consciousness, it was interwoven with the minds of those around it. Each Colossus was held close, safe in the warm embrace of its family’s minds and bodies.
Losing the forest was the worst pain Groot had ever experienced. Cast out into a cold, unfamiliar world, pushed back and forth by the rushing, ever-moving flow of alien culture. Groot's forest had moved slowly; the dust particles floating in golden sunbeams were the quickest things there. These new life forms were impossibly fast, fierce and emotional in a way Groot had never seen before. They demanded to know what Groot was, who Groot was, whether Groot was male or female. The colossus had never considered the concept of sex or gender before, but accepted the male label without much worry; it was of no concern, really. Still, Groot had no idea what the creatures around him wanted. He understood their languages – all of their languages – readily; their thoughts were not as clear as those of his forest, but they were still easily discernable. However, Groot could not vocalize all the myriad thoughts that he wished to express. In all the frustrated years of trying, he could only ever repeat the first answer he had given another being: I am Groot.
Eventually, he met Rocket. The little creature was nothing like the massive, creaking family Groot had left behind, and yet he provided a certain familiar comfort. Rocket was as alone as Groot was, perhaps even more so – he never had a family to lose. Moreover, the raccoon’s thoughts were clear and vibrant, and he understood Groot’s intentions and feelings without the help of his limited vocabulary. They joined forces and took the galaxy by storm, an unstoppable force, and for the first time since his homeworld burned, Groot felt the warm glow of happiness.
That marked the first time he was able to release spores since the loss of the other Flora. He showed Rocket, reaching his arms into the darkness of an abandoned warehouse on a dingy black-alley asteroid, and in the golden light of his joy he saw his companion cry for the first time. Rocket glared and rubbed his eyes, tried to turn away, but when Groot scooped him into his arms and rested against the concrete wall, his friend cradled to his chest, the raccoon didn’t complain. He simply curled into Groot’s body and watched silently, still sniffling, as the little golden puffs floated through the cracked roof and into the night.
Groot never showed his luminescent spores to anyone else.
Not until the Guardians.
Groot never had understood the concept of singular love. But he understood that this group of misfits – losers, Peter had called them – had the most beautiful minds Groot had ever felt. He knew he loved them the first time they were all together in the flying prison tower, escaping the Nova Corps. He felt that love every time Peter cracked a joke or Gamora rolled her eyes at their antics. Groot would never forget his family, but he was glad he had found a new one.
Shortly after Ronan’s defeat, after Groot had recovered his full size and strength, after Rocket had shaken his shoulders and showered him in angry tears (Groot had been sure to sprout a few flowers for effect, much to all his friends’ amusement), the group sat sprawled about the main deck of the Milano, sharing low conversation and several bottles of liquor stolen from the last store they had visited on Xandar. Groot’s spores floated about the ship, providing the only light the little crew needed. Peter and Gamora leaned against each other amiably, Drax sharpened one of his blades at the table, and Rocket had curled himself protectively around Groot’s shoulders. The colossus reached up to stroke his friend’s back, and was met with a few drunken, mumbled curses. Groot smiled. He could feel the love permeating the air, the sleepy affection that all of his companions shared.
Groot never had understood the concept of singular love. Then again, he reflected as he felt Rocket nuzzle his cheek and saw Peter wink at him from across the room, maybe he didn’t need to.