"How is he?"
Rocket looked up at Gamora from his perch at the foot of the hospital bed, looking just as rumpled and exhausted as his charge.
"Still off his rocker. Did you bring coffee?"
The green-skinned assassin lifted an eyebrow as she entered from the doorway where she had been leaning. "Giving someone of your size an tenacity caffeine?" She passed him a cup of juice instead, ignoring the smaller alien's grumbles about discrimination. Taking a seat next to him, she joined in observing their fallen friend.
Peter Quill for the most part looked rather pathetic. Thank goodness for small miracles, but the absence of grievous injuries was not exactly a huge comfort compared to the fact that the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy was sick enough to not even be in his right mind.
"Where're the others?" Rocket asked looking desperate to keep his mind off the feverish Terran laying before them.
"Groot is off entertaining some of the younger patients, I think. Drax went back to the Milano after we spoke with the doctors."
Rocket took a gulp of the juice, looking rather incensed that he had no coffee. "What did the doctors say?"
"They were predictable," Gamora replied with a sigh. "That they were doing what they could for him, but that the antibiotics might not take for a Terran. That it was up to Peter."
Gamora did not do a roll of the eyes, but Rocket did. Both of them were well aware that the ideal planet to have sought help from was Xandar, but Quill's condition had taken a nose dive too quickly for them to go so far. Instead they were in a substandard hospital on a far closer planet. The locale was not the worst, but it still wasn't Xandar. Xandar would have been up to date. Xandar would have had friends.
The light in the doorway was blocked by a familiar silhouette. Drax entered, looking deeply concerned, especially when Quill began to moan as if on cue. Their sick friend's walkman was in the giant man's hands.
"Has there been any progress?" he asked as he knelt by Quill's side.
"Not much," Rocket answered. "Just the usual. Mostly unconscious..."
Quill's lips parted as his moans became words.
"Yuhh..." he murmured.
"And that," Rocket said, visibly annoyed.
"Yondu..." the red-haired man managed to say.
Drax's brow wrinkled as he looked back at the others.
"Still he says the curr's name?"
"It's really grating my nerves," Rocket muttered. "He keeps askin' for that dick. Fever must be higher than a sun for him to want Yondu's company."
The Destroyer glanced back at the pained expression on his friend's face, glistening in sweat. His own tattooed visage softened. The others watched as he placed the walkman under Quill´s motionless hand.
"I am Groot?" their bipedal tree companion asked the group. Rocket looked at him incredulously.
"Of course we're not going to call him, ya simpleton!"
"Not so loudly," Drax said, his whisper a rumble of thunder. Rocket acquiesced, but only slightly.
"Of course we're not!" he repeated. "In case you forgot, we left the Ravagers with a phony orb and they're probably going to take advantage of the situation our fearless and very peaky leader is in. Likely put him on a spit and roast his pasty ass..."
"Why would they roast only his"--
"Save it, Drax. It would just be a bad idea. Period."
Gamora finally decided to speak up, seemingly lost in thought until then.
"Yondu is still the individual who raised him."
"Oh, not you too."
"I hazard to say he's like a father to him."
"A father who would turn Quill into his own personal pin cushion."
Drax stood upright, mentioning that such an act would be too messy to serve the proper purpose of a pin cushion, but he was seemingly ignored in favor of the snarled out whispers of Rocket's argument with both flora colossus and Zen Whoberi. As he walked out of the room, unnoticed by all except Groot, he heard the argument continue, and it likely went onward even as he had left the hospital to return once more to the Milano.
"He's had plenty of chances to take revenge against us, Peter especially, and yet he hasn't."
"He's just biding his time for the right opportunity. And right now would be perfect!"
"I am Groot."
"The day that jerk-off makes exceptions is the day I eat one of my own bombs."
Drax makes a decision. A brief stale mate occurs.
Rocket sneered as he worked on a device which he had been developing from various medical instruments and hospital technology.
"I swear, Quill, if you weren't sick, I'd slap you in the mouth."
Groot had taken the seat next to his furry partner in place of Gamora, albeit he sat on the floor instead of the chair. A branch-like arm reached out and gently nudged Rocket.
"I am Groot."
"Why would I be worried?" the smaller alien asked, focused on his new device. "I'm just pissed that the only thing this ginger lunk-head can say ever since he went out is that bastard's name."
"I am Groot."
"Of course you're worried. You're a sap." He paused, then forced a chuckle. "Heh. From a sapling to a sap."
He might have shown an iota of vulnerability at the situation if the familiar voices of their teammates had not been heard coming down the hall.
"Then don't be surprised at what comes out of his mouth when you tell him," they heard Gamora say.
"He should underst"-- Drax trailed off, reaching the door with the assassin. Rocket and Groot looked at their friends expectantly.
"Understand what?" Rocket asked, catching on as to whom they were speaking of. "Tell me what?"
Gamora looked irritated but already defeated, hands resting on her hips.
"We're expecting company," she said carefully.
"I am Groot?" Groot asked for clarification, though Rocket already had a feeling what said company entailed. He put a paw-like hand over his eyes.
Drax seemed undaunted. "I contacted the Ravager ship."
Fists clenched, Rocket miraculously managed to speak in a hybrid of whisper and scream.
"I am Groot!" Groot reprimanded.
"I don't care that he raised him!" Rocket countered. "I don't trust Yondu as far as I could throw him!" He then immediately pointed straight at Drax, who looked like he was about to speak. "And yeah, I AM too small to throw him, that's the point!"
Gamora stepped in to make her point. "The doctors seem very keen on the notion that part of Peter's recovery involves Peter himself being in the mood recover."
"That's so cliche," Rocket grumbled.
"Either way," Drax interjected, continuing his and Gamora's side of the argument, "Perhaps friends will not be enough this time. As much as we all would rather avoid any encounters with him, Yondu has known Peter since he was a foundling. He may know how to soothe Peter into healing."
Rocket's face curled into a snarl. "He ain't comin' into this room."
Less than half an hour had passed before a Ravager ship landed not in a docking bay but just outside the hospital itself.
"When the hell did you call them?" Rocket asked as the Guardians heard the commotion of several Ravagers entering the building and clashing with hospital staff.
"Only moments before telling you," Drax replied. "They must have been very eager to reach their destination."
Rocket glanced at him, ready to say "no shit??" but deciding he did not want to hear the unavoidable confusion from the Destroyer concerning the figure of speech.
"Stand aside!" a familiar voice rang out above the din of both staff members and space pirates. Within seconds, first mate Kraglin Obfonteri strode down the parting of the crowd and made a bee line for the door where Drax and Gamora stood. Drax stepped forward first, partly as a greeting since he had been the one to make the call. Still, a part of him which was deeply protective of Quill had doubts.
Kraglin glanced toward the door, then back at Gamora and Drax. "Quill in there?"
Neither Guardian moved from their spot.
"He is," Gamora answered, arms crossed. The Ravagers' second in command smirked.
"We hear he's been askin' for Yondu."
"Ohhh no," Rocket countered as he exited the room, brandishing the device he had been working on. How he had managed to make an incendiary weapon out of the scraps he managed to scavenge without suspicion was anyone's guess.
"I dunno what the meat head over here told you, but we're doing just fine with Quill, and he certainly doesn't need help from any of the likes of you."
Kraglin stared down the muzzle of the improvised weapon and gave a crooked smile.
"That there's a contradiction of facts," he said, his tone condescending.
"Where is he?" Yondu's voice echoed from down the hall. A distinct flash of blue became visible as the captain appeared amidst his crew and rushed over to the small group. Rocket switched aim, but the Centaurian was undeterred, even more so than his first mate.
"I hear tell there's a Terran runt who's been askin' for me," he addressed Drax.
"You got here awfully quickly," Gamora noted aloud. "Have you been trailing us?"
"Does it matter?" Yondu asked smugly. "Can't a man visit a sick boy he raised since he was a kid?" He looked at Drax. "That's the reason you called on me, ain't it?"
The Destroyer remained still, though his complexion seemed to darken. Yondu's smile began to show his jagged teeth.
"What proof do we have that you won't take this opportunity to take revenge for what happened with the orb?" Gamora asked.
"I give you my word as a Ravager," the captain said, his expression far from trustworthy.
"Not good enough," Rocket said, voicing his friends' thoughts. Yondu stared down at the much smaller alien, looking ready to stomp on him. Rocket ignored the look. "I don't care about Drax's change of heart. Get out of here before I roast you."
The smile dropped from Yondu's face. His version of exchanging pleasantries were over.
"I'm going into that room," he promised, his voice steadily growing louder. He pushed aside his coat, arrow glittering in the light at his hip. "You got no say in it, you little rat!"
Both assassin and Destroyer knew things were about to get violent the minute the r-word left the captain's mouth. Rocket began to go into a 'why you little...' and nearly pulled the trigger when a new voice rose above the conflict.
Things happened very quickly then. Yondu shoved easily past Rocket before the furry Guardian could use his weapon, arrow forgotten and all the menace gone from his visage.
"Quill?" he entered the room, followed close behind by the three Guardians. Kraglin stayed behind, keeping watch in the doorway. Inside, Groot knelt at the foot of the bed, looking almost as helpless as the half conscious patient, and he stood up, stepping back to allow the visitor past him.
"Some help you are," Rocket told the visibly cheered sentient plant.
Quill had to have recognized the sound of Yondu's voice, based on the frantic nature of his voice. His eyes barely opened as he writhed on the mattress and kicked off his sheets. He was a mess.
"You settle down there, Quill," Yondu said, speaking over the moans of the Terran he had raised from boyhood. Quill heard him, and his eyes opened enough to seemingly focus on the Ravager captain. The other Guardians just stared. This was more progress than any of them had seen in the last two days.
"Yondu..." Quill murmured, grimacing in confusion and the misery he must have felt in his sickness. A shaking hand lifted but quickly dropped as he was eased fully onto his back. Yondu did not smile, but his expression had softened. Even in his attempts to interact, Peter was completely out of it. He looked frustrated in his delirium for a moment, but he seemed to calm under the Ravager's touch.
"I gotcha, boy." Pale skin looked even more so when a blue hand was placed flat against Quill's sweat-dampened brow. "S'alright now. I gotcha."
"This is so surreal," Gamora said, garnering the new visitor's attention.
"You satisfied I won't go blowin' the little bastard up?" Yondu sneered. "I known him since he was barely higher than that hairball."
Rocket snarled. He still had not put down his invention, even though trying it on Yondu would also harm Quill in the process. Gamora still looked doubtful, but Drax was already starting to leave the room.
"Let us give them some time."
Gamora followed him out, trailed by Groot and then a very anxious Rocket. "Drax, do you really think..."
"Yes," he interrupted, turning her away from Kraglin, who still stood watch. The first mate was a mere foot away, but Drax did not care; turning their backs toward him still gave them some level of privacy, even if it was only pretended.
"I saw a look in his eyes when he saw Peter," the Destroyer whispered. "It is a look I have known before. It is the look of a father."
Sighing in defeat, Gamora looked up at him and found sympathy in his cerulean eyes. Kraglin seemed to pay them no attention, but he was glancing in the direction of the open door as though more interested in what might be going on within. It did not necessarily mean he was not still listening, much less smug about things having gone his captain's way.
"This is your fault if things all go to hell," Rocket pointed out to Drax, furry arms crossed.
"I am Groot."
Rocket lifted an eyebrow at his partner. "I wish I had your faith."
Quill wakes up. Kraglin is smug. Rocket is pissy. And so on.
"You ain't been takin' care of yourself," Yondu stated, observing the young man's motionless face, still paler then usual, but a little more serene than it had been when he first arrived. "Got yourself into trouble you can't handle."
Quill of course did not answer, but he did lean his cheek into Yondu's touch. Good progress. His boy may have been Terran, but he was tough.
His boy. Yondu gave a joyless chuckle.
"Your dumbass friends are useless," he said to the unresponsive form. "But they're real worried about you." He stroked Quill's hair. "Real worried."
"Mmn..." Quill stirred in his sleep. A few seconds later, his eyelids fluttered open. He did not look Yondu's way with full focus, but he still recognized him.
"Am I asleep?" he slurred. Perhaps he wasn't. More like... sleep-talking.
"Maybe," Yondu replied with a grin, suddenly all bravado and swagger again. Upon seeing Quill look at his surroundings and start to become disoriented again, he rubbed a thumb against the younger man's forehead. "You got yourself in trouble but good."
Quill closed his eyes, already dizzy, and he sighed. Out of illness or relief Yondu was not certain. The self-proclaimed Star Lord cleared his throat, looking ready to return to sleep.
"Funny seeing you here," he mumbled. "After... I didn't figure... I thought you wouldn't..."
"No sweeping exits..." Yondu softly, half-heartedly sang. "Or offstage lines..."
Quill nudged his head against the blue palm, calming enough to go back to sleep. Was he fucked up in the head, he wondered. He did not know why the wily bastard presently soothed him. Still, the bastard had raised him, taught him everything he knew, and had been there for him in previous - very similar - circumstances.
"Could make me feel bitter... or treat you unkind..."
He was calm. The fever was not so unbearable. He could feel better in no time. He returned to sleep to the sound of Yondu's voice, echoing Mick Jagger from Quill's Awesome Mix, Vol. 1.
"Wild horses couldn't drag me away... wild, wild horses, we'll ride them someday..."
The Ravagers had been strangely convenient during their stay on the planet, or at least had conveniently avoided causing trouble at the hospital. Even Rocket was raising more of a commotion with his improvised weapons.
"It's awfully peaceful around here," he said, leaning against the wall where Kraglin had been keeping his post. "Almost too peaceful."
"You think so?" Kraglin's tone was hard to decipher between honest or sarcastic.
"I know Ravagers," Rocket remarked. "And I know your boss. You always keep a few extra heads of livestock around to cause trouble. Where are they really?"
"Around," the first mate simply said. "Not bothering the captain."
"Bothering others, I imagine," Gamora joined in, bringing more juice and ignoring the subsequent groan from Rocket. Even more noteworthy was the fact that she was holding three cups, one of which was offered to the Ravager.
Kraglin lifted an eyebrow, surprised at the offer. "No thanks. Our line of work, you never know what's in there."
A rustling of clothes and sound of footsteps preceded Yondu's exit. Gamora quickly looked in while Rocket entered for closer inspection.
"Oh, don't get yer underthings in a bunch," Yondu said with a dismissive wave. "He's still alive." He then turned toward his first mate. "Well?"
"What job?" Gamora asked, frowning.
Yondu looked at her as though explaining things to a child, knowing full well that it would infuriate her. "Aw g'wan, you didn't think we were all the way out in this shitty corner of space just to pay the kid a visit, now would ya?"
"Oh, get bent, you maggoty piece of day-old guano!" Rocket shouted.
"Shh," Yondu reprimanded him. "You're in a hospital."
Quill was still alive, as promised, and his room was filled with his fellow Guardians by the time the Ravagers had taken off. He awoke to the sight of them surrounding him, and felt a little bit foolish for having reached such an unwell state to begin with.
"How long was I out?" he rasped, taking a cup of water offered to him by Drax and sipping it carefully. The last thing he needed was to drown himself whilst half-awake.
"Two days," Gamora replied, then hesitated. "You had another visitor besides us."
"Oh..." Quill concentrated on remembering. "So that wasn't a dream. Huh."
The other Guardians observed his nonchalance and all wondered if he was still too sick to be properly concerned. Rocket was the first to speak up.
"Not that Yondu really cared. He had the rest of the crew doing some job while the rest of us were worried about what he did to you."
Quill didn't seem to be listening.
"Wild horses..." he sang softly.
Quill smiled. "Nothing."
The others assumed the fever was still talking for their leading Guardian, but Peter was feeling clear-headed for the first time in days. He was not surprised that the Ravagers had taken a job during their stay on this planet, but he knew better than his friends: the heist or theft or what-have-you had not been the only reason for their little visit. In fact, he was not too sure that the job itself was the point of their arrival at all. Had they even pulled a heist at all?
"I'm glad he behaved himself," Quill finally said.
I'm glad he was here, he thought.