“Oh, flark it!”
Peter paused by the ladder to the upper decks as he heard the sound of Rocket cursing in his room, followed by the sound of something hitting the wall. He hesitated, wondering if he should pretend he heard nothing or he should see if his furry teammate needed help. The sound of a defeated sigh made the decision easy.
“Rocket?” Peter asked, knocking softly on the door.
It was silent on the other side of the door for a moment, and then Rocket responded quietly, “Whadda want, Quill?”
Peter pressed his ear up to the door. “You okay in there? Need any help with anything?”
There was a pause, then Peter heard the sound of the door unlocking. He stepped back and slowly slid the door open, stepping in before it was open all the way.
Rocket was sitting on his bed, stripped down to the waist. Various tools of all shapes and sizes were scattered on the bed around him. His ears were folded back, giving him an air of both frustration and shame.
“Hey, man, what’s up?” Peter cautiously stepped forward and sat next to Rocket on his bed.
Rocket huffed out a breath. “I need to do some basic maintenance…usually I’d have Groot or Gamora help, but Groot’s out getting non-artificial sunlight for once and Gam’s out with Drax…Plus, they help me enough as it is. I dun wanna be a burden to them anymore than I already am.” Rocket shuffled around a bit until he faced away from Peter, uncomfortable with being so open and vulnerable.
“You’re no burden, Rocket.” Peter wanted to place a reassuring hand on Rocket’s shoulder, but he wasn’t sure how the gesture would be received right now. So he refrained, instead he clenched his hands up in his lap.
“If you…directed me, I could help. If you wanted.”
Rocket cocked his head to the side, side-eyeing Peter over his shoulder.
“You’d do that?”
“Ya won’t break anything?”
“I’ll try not too?”
Rocket slumped a little, then turned so his back was fully facing Peter. “Worth a shot. Better than me messing up something I can’t see. ‘Sides, I can get Gams to fix whatever you mess up later.”
“Hey!” Peter faked indignation, smiling a little as Rocket joked around with him.
“So…what am I doing?” Peter looked at the scaring on his friend’s back, realizing it was the first time he’d seen it up close. He briefly saw red, thinking of what had to have been done to Rocket to have caused such massive permanent scarring.
“Just…clean around and in the implants. If ya don’t mess that up, I’ll have you try the more serious stuff.”
“Okay…” Peter swallowed quietly. He was more nervous about this then he let show. Picking up a damp rag and a long spindly circular brush, Peter got to work.
Gently, he wiped around the implants, lightly rubbing the scarred skin around them. Rocket stiffened up at first, but gradually relaxed. Peter was very careful to clean up any build up between the skin and metal, using the brush to get the tougher spots.
“How often do you have to do this?”
Rocket shifted a little. “About once every six days or so. Sometimes I can go longer if we aren’t too active or gettin’ into trouble.”
Peter hummed absentmindedly, tongue slightly poking out as he moved on to one of the larger implants.
“I can help you when you need it, if you’d like.”
“…Thank you, Quill.”
Peter continued cleaning and scrubbing around the implants, happy to be able to help his teammate. A while later, Peter set his tools aside.
“You said you had something else for me to help with?”
Rocket sighed. “Yeah. I need you to help me swap out my translator.”
“Wait, why? What’s wrong with it?”
Rocket hesitated, embarrassed. “I programmed a new on so that I can understand your daa’st music better. My current translator jumbles everything up and I can’t ever figure out what the songs mean.”
“You…reprogrammed your translator so my music would make sense? Wait…is that why you don’t like my music?” Peter gazed at the back of Rocket’s head, eyes wide.
“One of the reasons. Look, ya wanna help or not?” Rocket shot a bit of a glare over his shoulder at Peter.
“Yeah, of course. What do I do?”
Peter was very focused and in the zone as Rocket recited the steps that needed to be taken. At first, Peter thought Rocket was crazy for allowing him perform such a touchy procedure on the side of Rocket’s head. However, as Peter continued to work, he began to appreciate the amount of trust that Rocket had placed on him.
Without thinking too much, Peter cupped the left side of Rocket’s head, just under his ear, to provide some stability while he carefully poked around some wires linking the old translator. He continued to hold Rocket’s head, even unconsciously rubbing his fingers through the soft fur when Rocket would flinch or twitch. It wasn’t until Rocket started to purr quietly that Peter even realized what he was doing.
He paused for a moment, waiting for Rocket to flip out, but nothing happened. Sighing internally, Peter left his hand where it was and continued his work, gently stoking Rocket every now and then.
After a while, Peter successfully swapped out and installed the new translator. Rocket was dozing lightly, having finished giving Peter instructions a while ago. Without thinking about it, Peter dropped a kiss to the top of his friend’s head. He froze instantly, lips an inch from Rocket’s soft fur. Casual touch was one thing, kisses were another entirely. Peter swallowed when he felt Rocket stir.
Peter tried to blow the whole thing off. “Hey, Rocket, you’re awake! I just finished up, your translator should be working better now, and I, uhh, have to go check our supplies. Gam’s request,” Peter rambled, avoiding Rocket’s gaze. He quickly shuffled the tools away from himself and got off Rocket’s bed.
Peter paused by the door. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. Uh. No problem. Anytime.” Peter caught the strange look in Rocket’s eyes and fled.
What the hell just happened?