Groot had been fighting it for a week.
Rocket was talking while chewing, specks of food flying out of his muzzle, gesturing with his free hand. Groot's head lulled in motion with the raccoon's voice, spiking and plummeting as he scattered through his story. At the punch line, Rocket's brows shot up, and he let out a rather unattractive belch of a laugh, even more food flying out. He slapped the table with his hand, drumming it and whining. The Flora Colossus felt warm. Just watching Rocket like this made him happy. The raccoon cleared his throat, leaning over conspiratorially and covering the left side of his head with his remaining sandwich, nudging his head delicately towards the family sitting by the table next to them. He talked about each member of the family in an unsavory way, pointing out tiny little details in their appearance and drawing information from it. Groot loved him especially in these moments. He knew what Rocket was doing was not acceptable; it made it feel intimate. The raccoon was sharing something private just with him. The Colossus loved it. How the raccoon drank from his skill of perception. He loved how Rocket had taken something horrible, something inexplicably violent, and used it to make Groot laugh. To make himself laugh. That kind of perseverance, that stubbornness, that fire.
Oh, he loved Rocket.
The Flora Colossus let out a deep, trembling blow of an exhale, basking in the small man's light. Rocket halted in his low muttering, glancing at his friend from under his brows. They arched sharply as he leaned back, lifting his head and setting his elbows on the table. Something playful ghosted his face.
"What? I'm sorry, am I boring you?" he teased. Groot's chest tightened with joy. He loved the tone Rocket said those things with. The raccoon scoffed, fighting a smile, whiskers twitching, and sunk his teeth into his food.
"Damn stump," he muttered loudly. Groot smiled broadly, making the short man roll his eyes and snort. The way he threw those names at him. Groot felt like he was catching kisses, tiny invisible kisses thrown discreetly at him.
Oh, he did love Rocket.
He had been fighting it for a week now, but it was starting to look grim. He was running out of places to hide at night. The raccoon would fall asleep in his arms, and the Colossus would feel the weight of the narrow little frame relax against him, and he would sing. The sound always started somewhere deep in him, somewhere low, and built, pinging against his insides, building and swelling, making his crown tingle. He knew it was a sound outsiders could not hear. He would sit in the dark, holding the raccoon in his arms, for hours, his body chanting silently. He knew what it was telling him. He still remembered when he had been told about these things as a sapling. The concept had sounded alien to him back then, uninteresting. He had observed it with mild curiosity, then pushed it aside. It didn't seem relevant at the time.
It seemed very relevant now.
He remembered the symptoms the elders had described to him. He was seeing all of them in himself. He had been fighting it for a week now, and he was getting tired. Rocket was his Branch. There was nothing uncertain about it. The raccoon could not yet understand him, but Groot knew. He watched Rocket stand up on the table, ball up the wrapper, hoist himself on his little toes, and aim towards the trash can. He spewed out a litany of horrible things he would be willing to do if he missed, and threw. The ball flew right in, and he jumped up, yelping victoriously. He planted his hind paws on the desk firmly, faced the tall man, and yanked his pants up dramatically, flashing tiny sharp teeth in a grin. Groot decided at that moment.
That night, while the raccoon was tinkering on the floor of the motel room, Groot locked himself up in the dark bathroom and started working. Flowers pushed out of his chest slowly, dark red and trumpet-shaped, as spores lit up around him. Other flowers felt like nothing at all, but growing these was slightly painful. He had never grown them before; he just instinctively knew how to. He held them delicately, intertwining the soft stems together. He had to get it just right, it had to be perfect. He worked deliberately, his body humming softly. Raising the floral oval, he turned it around in his hands, inspecting it from all angles. It was beautiful. It was the best he could accomplish. Raising up, he walked slowly to the entrance of the bedroom, watching. Rocket had a blindfold on his face, hands assembling parts quicker than Groot's eyes could keep up with. With a loud clack at the butt of the gun, Rocket yelled "Time!" and the tiny device on the floor to his left blipped once. The raccoon lifted the fold with one impatient tug, looked at the screen and turned it towards the Flora Colossus.
"Check it" New record!" he said, flashing what seemed to be every single tooth in his mouth. Groot smiled hopelessly, in awe of that white little grin. Rocket turned back to his gun, starting to dissemble it rapidly. Groot sat down next to him, feeling the nerves starting to spike. He took a quiet, deep breath, and stilled himself. The crown he'd been holding behind his back came out, and supporting it from the rims, very carefully, Groot laid it on Rocket's head, stilling the raccoon's motion completely. The Colossus pressed his palms over his thighs, biting his tongue, and waited nervously. Rocket sat unmoving, glancing very quickly at what was on his head. Then at Groot. He slowly put the gun down, straightening his back a little. His tongue darted thoughtfully in his mouth, and he looked at his friend, his gaze cautious and alert. He looked Groot in the eyes, then at the flower crown on his head. It seemed like it was very important to the Colossus. His mind was racing, thinking of different explanations. It was probably some symbol of friendship in Groot's culture. It had to be.
Rocket let out a deep sigh, his weight shifting back, and rolled his eyes.
"Fine, this once," he huffed. Groot jerked.
Rocket had said yes! He had Accepted! The Flora Colossus smiled like a sapling, unable to take his eyes off Rocket's face. Rocket was his! He was finally his! Groot tried to keep himself from trembling, he was so happy. Rocket frowned at his friend, mildly concerned, and pushed the flowers out of his eye.
"Alright, flark... I'm not wearing this outside, ya know. I got a reputation. This wouldn't look right," he jabbed gently. Groot's eyes crinkled with joy. It didn't matter what happened to the crown after The Acceptance. Rocket could toss it away; it was irrelevant. What mattered was their bond was finally official. He stared at the redness of the flowers glowing against the dark grey fur of his Branch. Part of him, the painful part he could produce only once in his lifespan, was on Rocket's head. It looked right. The raccoon had already turned his attention on his pile of junk parts, searching for something. Groot sighed deeply, settling in to watch his mate. Rocket worked for a few minutes in silence, randomly glancing up and seeing his reflection in the mirror. He tilted his head back, then to the side, checking himself out. He sniffed, grinning.
"I still look pretty badass," he said.