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If You Have Half a Brain

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Groot had asked him what he remembered from his earliest days, once, and he didn't really answer. He'd had a mother, but mostly what he remembered of that was scent.

Most of his early memories were steel and silver, and pain. Bright lights. Tubes. Later, much later, voices, programming. Words fed into his brain. They’d taught him things. They’d taught him to lie.

Then Lylla.

He remembered her, all right. For a while, there, Lylla was all he had. They'd escaped together, him handling the detonations, her with the fast talk.

That had all gone to hell too, but it'd been pretty sweet for a while. No regrets there. Never regret Lylla.

Then he was on his own. He'd thought it was better that way, easier. Nobody up and calls you a freak when you work solo, and you don't have to worry about anyone bigger or slower holding you back. There was no one else like Rocket, and no one else was needed, thanks.

Rocket was five prison stays in when he met Groot.

He'd broken through the side panel of the cell and was about to short out the wiring when a deep voice in the back of the cell said, "I am Groot."

"Yeah," he said, without turning around. "That's just great. You wanna give me a hand here? I can't imagine you want to stay too long in this hotel either--"

What he had first assumed was a hand landed on his shoulder. Then he realized it didn't have any fingers. He turned around.

It was a big fucking tree with eyes and a mouth. "What, seriously?" he said, before he could stop himself.

The tree looked at him. He was serious, all right. "I am Groot."

"I ain't gonna set the whole place on fire," he snapped back. "I'd burn too, jackass."

It relaxed a little at that. "I am Groot," it said again.

"Huh," Rocket said, looking back at the wires. "Yeah, okay, it might overload. You any good at this?"

"I am Groot." That sounded like no, but I'm not stupid.

"I'm gonna assume 'I am Groot's all you can say."

"I am Groot."

“Good for you. So what if I just crack this open? What can you do? Can you get your little...finger-y things in there?"

Groot smiled. He extended a hand, and the tendrils--they really were like fingers-- thickened.

"Ooooh. Oh yeah, we can work with that."

Groot's smile got even wider.

"C'mon, buddy. Get your fingers, whatever, right there--" Rocket gestured-- "and just break some shit. We'll be out in a second. Can you fight?"

"I am Groot!"

Rocket felt his own mouth stretching into a smile. "Now you're talkin'."

Rocket ran. That's what you do when you break out of prison. You run. Unless you're some kind of moron.

Where the shit was the tree?

He turned, just for a second, and looked behind him. "Shit."

The tree -- Groot -- was holding the door open for everyone else to get through.

"What are you doing!? Get moving, asshole!"

"I am Groot!"

"I don't think we're all in this together, idiot! Do you see any other morons holding that door?"

"I am Groot."

"Fine, fine, but don't wait too much longer--"

"I am Groot."

"Wait, you want to--" Wait a second. You want to come with me?

"I am Groot!"

"Okay, fine, fine, but I ain't waitin' long."

So there Rocket was, evaluating the size of the ships he could escape on, making sure there'd been enough room for a tree bigger than most of the species he knew.

He waited. Waited for about sixty-seven seconds longer than he really should have, not that he was counting. And then, coming through like the wrath of an angry god, there was Groot, giant arms waving, guards and civilians scattering in his wake like tiny fragments of stardust. So much power, and strength. And moving at one hell of a clip.

Rocket hit the dirt.

"I am Groooooooot!" The tree fucking dove over him.

Dove. Over. Him.

Groot had to weigh half a ton, at least, right? Wood was heavy.

A branch whipped around Rocket's waist and pulled him into the ship. Not too gently, either. "Shit!"

"I am Groot," Groot said apologetically, slamming the port shut behind them.

"You know how to fly this?"

"I am Groot?"

"Yeah, me neither," Rocket said, and slid into the cockpit. "Shouldn't be too hard if the guards can do it. Let's see."

In fact it was easier than breaking out of the cell had been, and the ship, for all its bulk, had some real power behind it. Soon enough, the prison was a dot in the interstellar horizon.

"Well," Rocket said. "Guess I owe you a thank you."

Groot clapped him on the shoulder. "I am Groot."

Smart money said to get far away from the prison before stopping in anywhere, so Rocket checked the supplies. A few days' worth of food for a human, which was more than enough for him. "Groot?"

The tree looked in Rocket's direction.

"You eat? Need nutrients or anything?"

"I am Groot."

"We should be able to coast on this for a week or so, then, if the fuel holds."

Groot smiled.

Rocket closed his eyes. "Smooth sailing for a little while, anyway."

"I am Groot," Groot said, happily. One of his branches uncurled in Rocket's direction.

"Yeah, it's cool," Rocket said, and shoved a little closer. "You're gonna have to explain to me how a decent guy like you ended up here, though."

It turned out that Groot had been working with a Shi'ar guy, hunting bounties, and one of that guy's friends had given them a line to a wanted criminal, just sneak into the prison, grab the sonuvabitch, get out. Only problem was, the whole thing was a setup. The Shi'ar--hard to get his actual name through the "I am Groot"s-- had gone down, and somehow they'd known how to stun Groot. Even Groot wasn't quite sure how they'd done it. He thought it was some kind of electric impulse disruptor--plants had electrical systems just like animal brains, and a big charge would be enough to throw Groot for a loop.

The Shi'ar guy had been okay. Good sense of humor. They hadn't been close, really, but they'd worked together, and Groot missed him.

"I get that," Rocket said.

"I am Groot?"

"Yeah, I'll sleep in a little bit," he said. "I'm okay for now. You can get the controls okay?"

"I am Groot."

"Awesome."

At some point he did fall asleep. Groot was...comfortable to be around. Probably some stupid ancestral memory from whatever Rocket was before they started tearing him apart on Halfworld. But fuck it, he didn't care. He needed the rest. To hell with it.

When he woke, Groot was looking out the viewscreen. "How long was I out?"

Groot pointed at the controls. Hmm. Maybe ten hours. Not so bad.

"So you catch bounties?"

"I am Groot."

"Good money?"

Groot shrugged.

Teaming up had never really worked out for Rocket. But hell, money was money, and it was hard to beat Groot for sheer power. Might be fun for a cycle or two. "Tell me about it."