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A Father's Pride

Chapter Text

Upon staring down a rival band of Ravagers in the chaos of his own mess hall, Yondu realises that a bout of infighting is long overdue.

It's only been two hours since their guests arrived in good faith, bearing terms of a trade and enough ale to keep every man onboard satisfied. However, all negotiations have long since devolved into an exchange of vulgarities, the simmering tension between the two Ravager factions bolstered by alcohol, and as Yondu takes in the bloodthirsty expression on the other Captain's face, he knows it won't be long before bodies start piling up.

He supposes he should have guessed such an outcome was possible. They've had Peter for several months now, which means Ego's likely contacted traders throughout the galaxy, offering a handsome reward for whoever brings him his son. The other band of Ravagers first contacted Yondu earlier in the week with an offer to exchange stolen goods. They'd deliberately left out the part that those goods included Peter until the majority of both crews were royally drunk and itching for a fight.

Yondu coldly informing them that the kid would never be part of any deal had set them off like a bomb. Blasters had quickly been unleashed from red coats on both sides, and he was now stuck in a stare-down with his rivals' captain, Jax; a hideous Xandarian with greasy black hair and a white scar travelling down one side of his face. The grin the man is wearing would be unnerving were Yondu not flashing one of his own, though any hope for his cockiness to be anything more than a front is vanquished the moment he remembers he doesn't have his arrow on him. Some form of naivety had assured him he wouldn't need it as their guest's ship approached, and though he mentally calls to it with all the concentration he can muster, he can feel it struggling within its locked metal casing and losing.

That'll remind him not to be such an idiot in future. It's starting to look like having a kid around is softening him.

The boy's nowhere to be seen, though he had been feasting with the others at the start of the proceedings. Hopefully he's been smart enough to hide himself away in a vent or some corner of the ship too small for grown men to find; well enough away that any scouts Jax sent out don't have a hope of finding him. For all his skills in the thieving department, Peter has virtually zero experience in combat besides what little Yondu's been able to teach him about shooting, and the kid's scrappiness won't be enough to save him if any of their assailants find him.

He certainly won't survive long if they manage to get him to Ego.

Jax licks his lips gleefully as if unaware of the blasters pointed his way, before sauntering over to Yondu with his own gun lowered. He's trying to appear friendly, forgiving, and if the tension had arisen for any reason besides Peter then perhaps Yondu would have indulged him with a warm laugh. The man's too motivated by the sheer quantity of units Ego's promised to be dissuaded, however, which means he's only getting off the Eclector with the kid in his grasp or as a body left to freeze in space.

Yondu's hoping for the latter.

"What do ya say, my friend?" Jax says warmly as he approaches Yondu, close enough to clap him on the shoulder. The warmth in his smile isn't genuine enough to meet his icy grey eyes, however. "All we wan' is the kid. We'll even let ya keep everythin' else you was gonna give us. Hell, if yer really accomodatin', we'll let you in on Ego's share. Word is, he's offerin' thrice what he was payin' you."

Yondu spits at the name of that megalomaniac, and guilt that he once tried to ignore comes pouring back as he remembers the kids he delivered to the man before finally coming to his senses. Even saving Peter isn't enough of a redemption if Ego's simply found others willing to hand his kids to the slaughter.

"I ain't dealin' with that jackass no more," he tells Jax plainly, not bothering to suppress his grin at the obvious disappointment on the captain's face. "An' I certainly ain't givin' you the boy. So I'd suggest y'all leave my ship while yer still breathin', unless you'd prefer I let my boys shoot ya."

Jax sighs and shakes his head, before raising his own blaster to Yondu's chest. The air stirs as the clicks of safeties being removed echoes across the hall, and all Yondu can do is wonder how much time they have left before the bloodbath starts. Considering he's unarmed, he can't see himself coming out of such a situation in one piece.

Time slows and the hall quietens to the extent that one can hear a pin drop. This turns out to be a godsend.

Yondu hears something light clatter across the floor to his left, and when he mentally reaches out, the arrow flies to his side obediently in a flash of crimson. His grin widens as he takes in the sudden terror lacing the features of every man facing him – that greyness that comes with knowing death is near – and he indulges in the beauty of Jax's smugness being wiped cleanly from his face before he lets out a high whistle.

Red flashes across the room in an elegant thread, and the members of his crew who had been obediently showing restraint mere seconds ago are now firing their blasters with abandon. Jax swears loudly before throwing himself to the floor and ducking behind one of the tables, but Yondu ignores him in favour of skewering what remains of his crew before they can come to their senses and start firing off shots themselves. The odd blast that is let loose doesn't seem to hit any targets, but he can still feel the fierce burn every time one flies just a little too close for comfort and it's enough to tell him that he needs to wrap this up as soon as possible.

The slaughter is interrupted by a sound Yondu had hoped not to hear, but should have expected upon his arrow's magical appearance in the hall. Jax, mad-eyed and bleeding from a fresh scratch across his face, emerges from beneath a table with a struggling Peter locked in his arms, the kid yelling wordlessly like a caged animal.

The yelling stops quickly enough when Jax straightens and presses his blaster against the boy's skull, gifting Yondu with a victorious smirk.

"Looks like I found yer brat," he says breathlessly, flinching as Yondu calls his arrow to his side so that it's now aimed directly at the Ravager captain's head. One whistle is all that's needed to finish this, but it seems that idea has also occurred to Jax.

"Don' you dare do anythin' with that thing!" Jax says, frantically pointing the blaster in Yondu's direction before returning it to Peter's skull. Yondu ignores the evident fear in his manner to focus on the boy in his arms, who's white as a sheet but otherwise oddly calm as he fixes Yondu with something that might be trust (and gods, the kid's truly doomed if he's resorted to trusting Yondu). "I don' care 'bout Ego's reward, if you move so much as a muscle you'll be cleanin' the kid off the floor by mornin'."

"I'll be cleanin' you up too," Yondu says, trying to maintain the high ground even as Jax's threat leads to the sensation of something coiling in his gut. He knows he can fire the arrow before Jax even has a chance to think, but the man's grip on the trigger is so tight that killing him risks it being pulled reflexively. "Why don' ya just put the kid down an' be on yer merry way? Ya must know that's the only way you'll be walkin' outta here alive. Unless yer tha' desperate to join the rest a' yer crew?"

The fear clinging to Jax is almost palpable now. It's clear how desperately he doesn't want to die, which would be enough to make Yondu regret that that's exactly what's about to happen regardless of his next move, if he weren't threatening Peter.

He looks back to the kid, who seems preoccupied with fishing something out of his pocket, and suppresses a grin when he sees a copy of the keys to his own room and chest dangling from his belt.

Yondu will have to berate Peter for stealing them later, but for now he's grateful.

"How can I trust ya?" Jax asks, looking around at all his men lying dead on the ground before returning his attention to Yondu. "I let the kid go an' you'll jus' kill me!"

"Perhaps," Yondu says, aiming for calm though his silent rage threatens to simmer over. "Bu' what other choice do ya have?"

Jax studies him with wild grey eyes, his entire frame trembling and cool sweat dripping from his brow. At Yondu's back, he can hear the slowly growing rumble of his crew baying for blood - most uncaring over whether Peter gets hurt in the process or not - and he knows it'll only be a matter of seconds before a conclusion presents itself.

Sure enough, Jax swears loudly before shakily aiming his blaster at Yondu, but before it can be brought to full height, he's yowling in pain and fresh red springs free from a cut across his arm.

The surprise and pain from Peter slashing him with his knife is enough to force Jax to loosen his grip, and as soon as the kid's feet hit the floor he leaps up to push the man's other arm away, forcing the blaster away from Yondu and giving him the perfect opening. Yondu allows himself a small smirk before letting loose one final whistle, and Jax's cries are silenced as his head is thrown back by the force of the arrow embedding itself in his eye. He remains standing for several seconds, confusion marking his features before it's replaced with a sickening blankness, before he crashes brokenly onto the floor.

The tension is shattered as the Ravagers at Yondu's back roar with victory despite having done very little, but he has little focus to give them for now. Instead he watches as Peter shakily rises to full-height, the adrenaline of the situation starting to wear off, and looks down at the dead man on the floor as he pockets his knife. He peels his eyes away only when Yondu gives a high whistle, recalling the arrow to him and wiping the gore on his sleeve.

The kid looks shaken and more than a little grey, but he returns a smile when Yondu grins and has enough wits about him to pick up the discarded blaster before offering it to the captain.

"Nah, keep it," Yondu says, dismissing the offer with a wave of his hand. The surprise that glows in the kid's green eyes isn't lost on him, but he doesn't mention it. "Bout time ya had one o' yer own, seein' as I'm meant to be teachin' ya how to use it. So long as ya remember the most important rule."

"Safety off?" Peter asks, his lips quirking in a smile as the ghost of fear starts to leave him behind.

"Yeah, kid," Yondu laughs, before clapping him on the back appreciatively. "Safety off and a steady hand. S'all ya need."

He doesn't get the chance to say much else before they're swarmed by excitable crewmates, and Peter yelps in surprise when he's lifted onto Kraglin's shoulders and surrounded by men who on any other day would be threatening to eat him. A proud chant of the boy's name rings throughout the hall and Yondu guffaws at the confusion on his face before turning back to the dead captain.

It's strange to think that mere minutes ago, Jax had had the upper hand. Not that some of his crew couldn't have made it out alive, but Yondu almost certainly wouldn't have without his arrow by his side, and all he'd had to defend himself were his words. Perhaps that would have been enough, perhaps not, but there is little doubt that his job was made a lot easier by Peter going off in search of his arrow and bringing it to him when needed.

The kid's instinct upon sensing that a fight was near was to sneak off and ensure his captain was armed, rather than hide in terror. In coming back to the fray to deliver the arrow he'd put his own life at risk, but in the end his actions had ensured them a victory against drunk assholes who wouldn't otherwise be reasoned with.

Not bad for a nine-year-old.

Yondu looks back to his crew – to the kid – and tries to ignore the pride burning in his chest. Or at the very least, tries to chalk it up to the fact that the kid's proving himself to have the makings of an excellent Ravager, and not as a sign that he's starting to grow attached. It wouldn't do to show favouritism to the boy and earn himself a mutiny.

Still, he supposes he can join in on the celebrations at least, before the necessity to clean up their mess has a chance to sink in.

The kid's earned himself his first round of Kraglin's renowned ale after all.

Chapter Text

Space battles are a pain in the ass.

Most of the time they're over and won within minutes. Some planet's advance guard might get a little jumpy upon spotting a Ravager ship passing by, or some petty thieves will decide to test their new laser-cannons on the first ship they see only to be blown apart in retaliation. Even in these situations, however, Yondu finds himself having to deal with damage to his ship and is forced to put all plans on hold to find a fixer-upper on some nearby planet, and it's enough to make him wish he could blow up their opponent all over again.

It's even worse when the opponent is a worthy one and the fighting is drawn out for hours as their ships chase each other across the galaxy. Though these altercations are far and few between, whenever they do come around Yondu's almost tempted to give up this captaining-business and spend the rest of his life planet-side. Almost.

Thankfully, the ship pestering them this time around doesn't seem capable of bringing them to their knees, and Yondu has little doubt that they can finish this within minutes.

What's annoying is that the attack has come about during the crew's rest-hours, thus interrupting the only sleep he's had in days. Any mercy he may have shown to those currently firing against the Eclector's shell vanishes as weariness sinks further into his bones.

"Kraglin, what're we lookin' at?" Yondu asks as he arrives on the flight deck, his young first-mate already setting up the cannons to prepare for retaliation. The screen shows that their attacker is a cargo ship barely large enough to hold ten men, and though their cannons are powerful, they won't be able to break through the Eclector's hull. Which is good, frankly, because Yondu would rather his crew weren't sucked into the vacuum of space.

The shockwaves from each hit could still be causing damage within the ship though, so the less time spent as target-practice, the better.

"Not sure, Cap'n," Kraglin responds, reaching over the controls to zoom in on the image onscreen. The attacking ship is rather non-descript – a dull grey hull bearing a random serial number on its side – and its cannons seem industrial-grade, designed more for breaking apart rock for fuel than firing upon defended ships. It's likely stolen, given that the lack of any demands seems to rule out an official purpose for the attack. "I reckon they're just after our cargo. Seems they're aimin' at the East quadrant."

"If they know where to aim then they migh' know us," Yondu says, taking a seat and charging the cannons to maximum efficiency. It'd be best to finish this with one hit. "Think it's one o' Jax's lot?"

"Might be. Or someone else wantin' Ego's reward," Kraglin shrugs, before returning to lining up the ship's cannons with their target. The image onscreen shifts until the centre becomes focused on their assailants' flight-deck. One hit may not be enough to destroy the ship completely, but they can at least aim to kill all its occupants.

His job done, Kraglin turns back to Yondu and nods. They're ready.

It doesn't matter who their opponents were in the end. Yondu fires without another thought and watches as the impact tears the ship apart; flames and twisted metal left lingering in the space it once held. He watches the destruction for a few moments, reassures himself that nobody onboard could have survived the blast, then makes quick work of scanning the Eclector to assess any damage.

"Remind me wha's in East quadrant. Anythin' important?" he asks, as he flicks through the reports on systems operations and mentally lists any that need repairs. Most of the important functions are intact, though some electrics and piping closer to the areas of impact are starting to blink red on the screen.

"Not much. S'mainly just storage and the cargo hold. An' there's… oh."

Kraglin's pause comes at the exact moment Yondu's tired mind puts two and two together as well. East quadrant is also where they house passengers who need to be smuggled to another planet. It's where the kids stayed before being delivered to their father, in a neat little room just large enough to hold a bed.

Peter's room.

Yondu swears under his breath before handing control over to Kraglin and leaving the deck with more urgency than he intends.

His route is marked by irritable crewmates wondering what all the noise was about, but he pays little attention as he travels the winding corridors to the quieter bowels of the ship. As he draws nearer to the affected quadrant, flashing red lights start to indicate one broken system after another, and the odd burst pipe unleashes freezing water onto the floor. Beyond the groaning of abused metal, however, the area is deathly silent, and Yondu can feel his concern growing more and more bitter as he draws closer to the kid's room.

When he finally lays eyes on Peter, he finds him curled in a heap several feet from his quarters; trembling and white as a ghost, with his Walkman held in a protective grip. He's alive at least, if his soft whimpers and harsh breaths are any indication, but it doesn't take a doctor to know that he's hurt. Yondu kneels by the boy's side and places a gentle hand on his shoulder, trying to encourage him to unravel his body so that his injuries can be assessed, but any movement sends a sharp hiss through gritted teeth and tension grips the child's body like a vice.

"Where're ya hurt, kid?" Yondu asks, not sure whether he's likely to receive much in the way of an answer. To his credit, the kid opens his mouth to speak before releasing a pained gasp instead, and he clenches his eyes shut in frustration before pointing to his right side.

Yondu lays a hand over the boy's chest and feels bones shifting underneath. He swears quietly, before placing one arm under the kid's knees and another around his back and lifting him off the floor. Peter whimpers at the sudden movement and a small hand comes up to tightly grip the leather of Yondu's coat, but otherwise he seems more concerned with trying to catch a breath than the pain of his broken ribs.

It's only now that Yondu notes how pale the kid seems in the faint light – almost translucent – and how his chest shudders with every breath, and as he begins the long walk towards the ship's makeshift infirmary, he can't help but hope that the commotion of the attack has awoken the Ravagers' medic.

Luck appears to be on his side, as he wanders into the white medical bay and stumbles upon Alerion, the medic, applying a suture to an ugly gash on another crewmate's shoulder. There must be something urgent in Yondu's expression that has the Xandarian chasing off his patient and rushing to help his captain settle the boy onto the bed, before locating the tools he'll need to hopefully fix him.

"What's happened to him?" Alerion asks as he brings over an oxygen mask and a small, portable scanner from his toolkit. The man had been a professional doctor once, back home on Xandar, before he'd decided he could make more money selling stolen drugs on the black market. Knowledge of his criminal acts had led to his license being revoked and his reputation shattering, but Yondu doesn't have much choice but to trust him for now.

"Kid was in the area that got hit," he explains, watching from the side-lines as the medic starts preparing the scanner and holding it over the boy's chest. "Looks like broken ribs, bu' I imagine you'd know better than me."

Yondu doesn't miss the way Peter flinches as Alerion starts running the scanner over him, much to the medic's annoyance, and eventually he edges closer to the kid and tells him to stay still in as gentle a manner as he can muster. Surprisingly Peter obeys, perhaps in too much pain to bother arguing with the people trying to fix him.

"He don' seem to like doctors much," Yondu says, before releasing a mirthless laugh. "Ya remember when we had to put the translator in 'is head?"

Alerion nods with a smirk of his own. "I'm pretty sure I still have the bruises."

He turns to assess the scan, before lifting the kid's shirt and lightly tapping on both sides of his chest. There's an odd echo on the right that has the medic frowning, before reaching for the oxygen and placing the small mask over Peter's face.

"Ya know enough 'bout Terrans to treat him?" Yondu asks, cautious, as he watches Alerion fiddle with the knobs on the oxygen tank.

"Way I see it, they ain't much different to Xandarians, only weaker," the medic responds. A faint hiss sounds from the oxygen tank which hopefully means Peter's getting more in the way of precious air, though with his still-rasping breaths and fluttering eyes he doesn't look much better. "I'll start him off with 10 litres per minute to be safe. I can give him more or less dependin' on how he responds. And I can treat this, but you're gonna have to warn your boy that it's going to feel like shit. One of the ribs has pierced his lung so now he has air where it shouldn't be. I'm gonna have to get rid of that air and reinflate the lung."

The medical talk fades to white noise as Yondu's brain becomes infuriatingly stuck on the words 'your boy'. He lowly growls, "He ain't mine," but the look he gets in return is one that would have him beating the medic for insubordination if he weren't so desperately needed. Such annoyance is petty though, so he turns his attention to the boy currently staring up at him with tired eyes. They're bright enough to suggest awareness, even when the rest of him looks like it's starting to fade, so he sits by the kid's side and tries to appear somewhat comforting.

He probably fails. He doubts many would be comforted by his presence if they were fighting for every breath.

"The medic here's gonna fix you, kid," he says, speaking just loudly enough to be heard over the clatter of Alerion grabbing what he needs. Peter seems to take a few seconds for the words to sink in, his distrust of doctors likely preying on his mind, before he closes his eyes and gives a small nod. "I ain't gonna lie to ya, it doesn't look like it'll be much fun, but it should get you breathin' properly again. Tha' sound good?"

Peter nods again, before clenching his eyes shut as Alerion approaches with a syringe and starts feeling around his upper ribs until he seems satisfied. He then moves the needle to rest over the area his finger had been moments before and pierces the skin before removing the plunger from the other end. A faint moan on Peter's part is interrupted by a sharp hiss as air pushes out of the syringe, and the kid gives a strong gasp before starting to breathe in a manner which strikes Yondu as somewhat normal.

His chest starts to rise and fall slowly, the syringe still standing on end, and when Peter looks back to Yondu his eyes crinkle with a weak smile.

"Tha' you done?" Yondu asks, though the fact that the medic is still digging through his supplies provides answer enough. The man rises just long enough to shake his head, before returning to his search; throwing together a scalpel, anaesthetic wipes and a contraption which looks particularly unpleasant before returning to his patient. He doesn't seem to notice the foul look the kid throws him as he approaches his bedside. Either that or he doesn't bother acknowledging it.

"That'll help release some of the pressure, but it ain't gonna do much in the long run," Alerion mutters as he gathers his equipment together and starts poking further down the kid's chest, ignoring the pained wince that arises whenever he comes close to the damaged ribs. "I need to put a chest drain in. It'll get rid of any air and gunk left behind and should help his lung return to normal."

"Should?"

"It works on Xandarians," Alerion says with a shrug that does little to reassure Yondu. "Can't speak for Terrans but our anatomy ain't that much different. I can't see what other option we have, unless you wanna wait the several hours it's gonna take for us to get him to a medical centre?"

Yondu shakes his head once. There's no point wasting time trying to locate somewhere planet-side that knows how to treat Terrans if Alerion's confident he can do something in the meantime. The medic takes his response as permission to carry on, and unwraps the topical anaesthetic before wiping it over the area he's picked out.

"You should probably warn the kid that this is gonna hurt," he says once he's done, before reaching for his scalpel and cleaning it. "Can't have him flailing all over the bed."

"Ya hear that, kid?" Yondu asks, and doesn't miss the flicker of fear that crosses Peter's face as he turns to face him. "We're gonna need ya to lie still. This'll prob'ly suck but it'll be over soon. If it starts hurtin' too much ya could always squeeze my hand, tha' sound like a plan?"

He takes a clammy hand in his own, resisting the urge to flinch at how cold it is, and grins when Peter gives another short nod. He feels a light squeeze against his hand and takes that as a cue to tell Alerion that he can start.

He doesn't bother watching much of the procedure itself, instead choosing to focus on Peter's face should the boy need to be restrained at any point. It's easy to tell when Alerion starts cutting into his chest, however, as Peter's eyes clench shut and silent tears escape, and the grip around Yondu's hand becomes crushing. To his credit, he remains still beyond the occasional wince and though the odd gasp escapes behind his mask, he doesn't ever cry out.

Hours seem to pass before Alerion throws the scalpel aside, wiping sweat from his face and reaching for what Yondu assumes is the drain. It's a long, clear tube which flows into a cylinder containing a small amount of water, and Peter can't quite suppress a flinch as the medic starts inserting it into the new hole in his chest. The pressure on Yondu's hand is now so tight he'll be lucky to avoid broken bones of his own, but he supposes he isn't in a position to protest right now. He's seen full-grown Ravagers deal with injuries less severe than Peter's with constant grumbling; the kid's holding up surprisingly well for one in his state.

Yondu can't bring himself to lie; he's impressed.

"That's me done," Alerion announces as he finishes taping the tube in place, and Yondu checks to see air bubbles flowing through the now faintly red water in the cylinder. Peter releases the grip on his hand with a small, broken sob of relief, his hair now damp with sweat and his face pale, though no longer worryingly so. Yondu claps him on the shoulder before rising to his feet, trying to ignore the weight of cold dread fading away.

At the end of the day, Peter is simply another member of his crew. He should not be so affected by the boy being hurt.

"He gonna be alright?" he asks, as the medic starts packing up his equipment to be cleaned and draws the covers over Peter to let him sleep. The kid does so surprisingly quickly, his exhaustion from the past few hours seeming to overwhelm him, and Yondu attempts to keep his expression neutral as he senses Alerion studying him with intense blue eyes.

"I'm gonna need to keep an eye on him," the man responds with a shrug. "He'll need scans to check the position of that tube and the progress of his lung. I can't guarantee there won't be complications."

Yondu looks over to the kid and watches soft breaths mist against the mask on his face. He looks almost peaceful now, like he's simply having a nap, and there's something unnerving in the idea that he might not entirely be out of the woods.

Peter's been brave enough tonight without being subjected to further prodding by yet more doctors, but Yondu suspects that might be a necessity he'll simply have to face.

"Ya think we should find a med-centre somewhere?" he asks, quietly so as not to waken the boy. "Or at least someone who knows Terrans better 'an we do?"

"That'll depend on how he fares through the night. And besides," Alerion looks at Yondu with an expression that seems almost dangerous. "He ain't all Terran, is he?"

Yondu can't stop himself from instinctively checking that Peter's still asleep. Alerion's words are fair enough, but that doesn't mean he has any desire to explain them to a child who has yet to see his tenth year. Especially one who still sees Terra whenever he dreams of home.

Yondu fixes the medic with a cold glare before conceding. "Keep an eye on him. If he ain't much better by mornin' we'll find somewhere that can fix 'im."

Alerion nods in obedience, before starting the process of sterilising his tools. Yondu leaves him to it, lingering by Peter's side longer than he probably should, before leaving his Walkman on the table at his side. He'll need it when he wakes up.

With that, he leaves in order to check up on the damage to the ship and make arrangements for any repairs. It would be best to distract himself after the last hour or so of alien concern.

Especially if it helps him ignore the strange warmth that's filling his empty heart.


They don't need to stop at a medical centre in the end. Peter's well enough to have the drain removed within fifteen hours, and up and about without a care in the world within four days.

It would be a fast recovery even for a Xandarian.

Yondu makes a conscious effort to ignore the implications of that.

Chapter Text

There are many places Yondu would rather be than this dive of a bar, but seeing as he promised to wait he doesn't have much in the way of choice.

Peter's been gone almost two hours now, having swanned off with the promise to bring back ten times the units Yondu expects of him. There's little to do upon waiting for his return besides gulp down cheap ale while sitting at a table stained by the ghosts of spilled drinks, or watch as drunken inhabitants fight over trivial matters. Yondu shares a smirk with a bartender who doesn't look like he earns nearly enough, before returning his attention to the door and the neon lights shining through grimy windows.

He's not overly worried about the boy. Throughout the years he's spent with the Ravagers, Peter's proven himself perfectly capable of getting out of tight spots and returning with a backpack full of riches. Such actions have always been carried out under Yondu's guidance, however, with a plan fully laid out and drilled into him before he enacts it, and he can't rely on others for guidance forever.

Peter's fifteen now - almost a man grown - and Yondu has deemed him worthy of the test that the majority of recruits have to complete before they can truly become a Ravager.

More difficult trials will face him yet, but for now the boy has the simple task of wandering into the grimy streets of a trading planet and returning with at least one thousand units. Yondu couldn't care less how he earns it – most Ravagers return with bruises or black eyes having literally wrestled the cash from their targets – so long as he figures out a way to acquire the money on his own. Kraglin will be lingering nearby to step in should the boy need help, or to report back to Yondu if he gets himself caught like an idiot; in which case Peter knows to simply suck it up and endure his sentence in the Kyln or wherever he ends up with his mouth shut.

Yondu doubts it'll come to that. He can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but the boy has enough brains in him to get himself out of a difficult situation should one arise.

Gods know he didn't get those from spending seven years with a Ravager crew.

It's approaching the third hour when a full backpack lands on the table before him with a satisfying clunk. Yondu grins, before looking up and seeing an annoying smugness crossing over Peter's unmarked face as he swallows down a sickeningly sweet-looking red drink. The kid doesn't seem to have so much as a bruise on him; hell, there's not even a blond curl out of place.

Yondu unzips the backpack, gives off a low whistle as what must be thousands of golden units stare back at him, and leans back in his chair to capture the boy with a mocking sneer.

"Ya steal all this off some ol' woman, boy?" he asks as Peter takes a seat before him, and he has to suppress a laugh as mock-outrage flashes across the boy's face. Curiosity is starting to set in, though. Peter's reasonably good in combat, but not good enough that he can escape a bitter fight for tens of thousands of units unscathed, which means he must have acquired it through other means.

"What do you take me for?" Peter asks, trying to appear offended though a proud smile ruins any chance of that. Yondu notices a pair of silver keys trapped in his grasp, though he doesn't recognise them from the Eclector. "I won it. Fair and square."

"So gamblin' then," Yondu says, almost disappointed, before swallowing the last dregs of his ale and setting his glass to the side. "Yer big plan for passing the test was luck?"

"Well," Peter shrugs, before fixing Yondu with that look that suggests he's feeling very pleased with himself. On any other day Yondu would threaten to have his crew eat him now that there's actually meat on his bones and be done with it, but he supposes Peter's earned the right to be prideful just this once. "It wasn't all luck."

There's a story he's itching to tell, Yondu knows. He can practically see the words thrumming beneath the boy's skin and the manner in which he'll explain every detail being mapped out in his brain. Indulging him means hanging around in this dive far longer than he intends though, and Yondu's half-tempted to just take his share of Peter's earnings and wander off to their shuttle, leaving him disappointed.

Despite his wish to go home, however, he's not quite cruel enough to deny Peter the right to brag. If he can sit through Taserface's boasts without skewering the man with his arrow, he supposes he has the patience to listen to the boy.

"Alright, spill," Yondu says eventually, trying not to smile as pure delight flashes across Peter's face. "How'd ya win it?"

"Well, you know that species that's, like, religiously honourable and obsessed with luck?"

When Yondu does little more than shrug, Peter carries on. "Y'know, those grey-skinned, tattooed guys. Feel compelled to honour every deal they make and always have tattoos of the things that are meant to bring them good fortune?"

"Yeah, I know 'em," Yondu admits, the description helping a little, though in his alcohol-addled mind he couldn't possibly name the race. He likes dealing with their kind though. It's nice to be certain that you won't be stabbed in the back after a trade.

"I saw one in the bay when we got here," Peter continues, looking back in the direction where their shuttle is awaiting them. "And you should see his ship, Yondu. She's a beauty."

Judging by the way Peter starts throwing the silver keys in the air and catching them, Yondu imagines he's not going to get much choice in that. "Anyway, figured I'd follow him once you headed off. You only really come to a planet like this if you're looking for a trade or someplace to gamble, and he didn't appear to have anything to trade."

"Sure enough, ended up finding him in some gambling joint. I'm pretty sure he was onto his second ale by the time I caught up with him. I offered to buy him a third, then a fourth, and we got talking. Nice guy. Says he's travelled to over a hundred planets in the last six months."

"Is that relevant?" Yondu asks, not intending to let Peter bore him with mundane details of what's starting to sound more like a date than a heist.

"Not really," Peter shrugs, having the grace to look sheepish. "But he also had a tattoo on his neck, like three black lines crossed with two red ones. It's their version of the number twenty-two."

"Lucky number?"

"That's what I was thinking," Peter replies with a short nod. "So I figured I'd introduce him to a Terran game. Using these-"

He holds out two small, white cubes - each of their six sides showing a different number of tiny black dots. He shakes them in his hand before unleashing them onto the table, and Yondu checks to see a two and a one facing upwards.

"Got these from a Terran dealer a few years back. You can throw them and try to guess the total they'll land on," Peter explains, throwing them again to bring up a three and a six. "I said this to the guy, and after some negotiation he was happy to bet fifty-thousand units on him being the first to guess correctly five times, then I buttered him up a little more and he was willing to throw his ship into the mix so long as I did the same. Then we shook hands and I brought Kraglin over to roll the die so neither of us could cheat."

Peter leans back in his chair, picking up the die and placing them in the pocket of his jacket. "The deal was struck, and he was honour-bound to fulfil the terms of that deal whatever happened. All I had to do was win."

Yondu scoffs, not sure whether to be amused or outraged at the gall of the boy. He'd been an idiot to bet money he didn't have against a race that valued the honour of a deal above all else, regardless of how confident he might have been.

"That's still luck," he notes with a sneer, although he doesn't miss the way Peter's lips quirk upwards in amusement at his words. "Yer gonna lose more money than you earn if that's how ya intend to go about things."

"Like I said; it wasn't all luck," Peter points out, before flashing that wide smile that's already starting to turn the heads of whichever girl/boy/other he aims it at. Yondu's starting to think he preferred him when he was a baby-faced runt. "I added a detail when I explained the rules. A little reminder to my friend that he could guess any number up to thirty. Turns out he was too drunk to notice that twelve was the highest possible option."

The words take a moment to sink in, before Yondu lets out a hearty laugh and slams his hand down on the table. It doesn't take long for Peter to join in, albeit more quietly. "His lucky number came up a lot, I take it?"

"Yep," Peter says, trying to contain his own laughter. "Occasionally he'd stretch to twenty-one or twenty-three, but that didn't work out too well for him either."

The boy gives a small shrug before calming, and something that might be sincerity crosses his face.

"Just because he's honourable, doesn't mean I had to be."

Yondu shakes his head, impressed despite himself, and feels the temptation to order another drink for them both. It's late though, and he's likely already had enough. They can wait.

"Yer too smart for yer own good, boy. Anyone e'er told ya that?" he asks, though he's not sure he means it as a compliment. Being smart will likely save Peter's life at some point, but in the wrong situation it's just as likely to end it.

If the boy's smile is any indication however, he's content with blindly taking it as a compliment.

"You have," Peter says, grinning. "More than once."

Yondu hums under his breath, before zipping up the backpack and handing it back to Peter. They can negotiate their shares once they're back on the ship; for now, he's happy to let the boy deal with its weight as they walk to the shuttle.

"We should head before yer friend realises he's been ripped off," he explains. Peter obediently rises to his feet, resting the strap of his backpack across his shoulder before joining Yondu in heading towards the door. "Where's Kraglin?"

"Oh, I told him he could just take the shuttle back to the ship."

Peter's left tensing sharply when Yondu grabs him by the lapels and lowers his voice to a hiss. "Ya did what?!"

The boy struggles before fighting his way out of Yondu's grip and dangling the silver keys in front of his face. "Chill, old man. I won us a ride, remember?"

"Ya really think I'm lettin' ya keep yer own ship?" Yondu asks, incredulous, though he knows Peter well enough to know what the answer is.

Gods help him, but the boy's probably going to be able to persuade him to do just that.

"You'll change your mind when you see her," Peter promises, and Yondu studies him for a long moment before shrugging and leading the way towards the bay.

The route is one lined with flashing neon lights advertising bars just as seedy as the one from which they've emerged, while pickpockets and thugs guard the alleyways and scout their next victims among the drunken crowds. One man stumbles on a ledge in front of them before staggering into what must be his tenth bar, while another sits in the middle of the pathway, singing at the top of his lungs. As they head further out, however, the rabble is replaced with blissful quiet.

Yondu lets Peter take the lead as they reach the bay, where hundreds of ships ranging from one-man shuttles to massive cargo traders are parked side-by-side. Their own small shuttle is gone – Kraglin's probably minutes away from the Eclector by now – so he resorts to following Peter as he makes his way towards his prize with excitement quickening his steps.

To be fair, the ship they approach truly is a beauty. She's a small thing - large enough to house Peter maybe, but not many others - with faded blue paint surrounding a bright orange. Her shape reminds Yondu of a bird or winged insect and compared to the box-like shuttles surrounding her, she almost seems like a living being.

"What do you think?" Peter asks, already close enough to lay a gentle hand on her hull before turning to Yondu with a bright smile crinkling his eyes. Gods help him, the boy's in love. "Impressive, isn't she?"

"I think she needs a paint-job," Yondu shrugs, drawing closer himself so he can assess her properly. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of wear and tear, which means it was probably the drink that convinced the owner to relinquish her rather than a desire to get the ship off his hands. "Ya go flyin' around in this an' yer enemies'll spot ya from miles away. An' I certainly ain't lettin' ya fly her yet."

Peter's mouth gapes in protest, but he's smart enough not to voice any complaints. He's not the worst flier in the galaxy – if anything, he's proven himself to be a natural when Yondu takes him out on lessons – but that doesn't mean Yondu's itching to give him the satisfaction of calling the ship his own just yet. She might be worth a fair amount if they clean her up a little.

Any plans for that can wait for now though. He lets Peter insert the key into a panel at the ship's side and waits for the ramp to crawl open and allow them onboard. On the inside, the ship is sparsely furnished, with only the odd item of clothing strewn about suggesting the past owner's existence. The man must have taken her on a short-trip, unable to foresee that he wouldn't be using her to get home.

Yondu would feel sorry for him if he hadn't been stupid enough to accept a bet off a sly fifteen-year-old clad in Ravager leathers.

He finds Peter already settled in the main pilot's seat by the time he approaches the deck; his eyes intensely scanning the controls and hand ghosting over the accelerator; his desperation to take her out for a spin thrumming through the air. Yondu takes the co-pilot's seat, looking out at the flashing lights of the town ahead surrounded by the fierce blackness of the night. The stars are out in full force and the planet's three moons are shining brightly enough to guide their way, but though they both must be itching to head back, neither makes a move for several long moments.

"You never did tell me," Peter says, his confidence dampened somewhat to make way for the uncertainty he rarely shows these days. Or at least, the uncertainty he refuses to show the other Ravagers. He's always been slightly more transparent with Yondu, ever since he was a child. "Did I pass the test?"

Yondu had almost forgotten that was their purpose for being here. He's so used to his men returning with bloody fists or black eyes in an attempt to prove themselves that Peter's non-violent method seems novel. He'll have to take the boy aside before they report back and tell him to make up a few details - perhaps involving threatening his target at knifepoint - to avoid accusations of softness.

In the end, though, the kid returned with the money Yondu asked him to obtain and then some, and used smart tactics to do it. He can't say that for much of his crew, and though he internally scolds himself for it, he can't deny the pride that's starting to well up in his chest.

The kid will make a fine Ravager. Whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen.

"Yeah, I guess ya passed," Yondu says with a shrug, deliberately ignoring the small smile that appears on Peter's face. "An' if yer so desperate then I suppose it won' hurt to let ya fly us back."

He doesn't miss the way Peter's eyes light up before he takes in the console in front of him, enamoured, and it takes more effort than it should to make his next words sound gruff seeing as the boy's smile seems to brighten the entire flight-deck.

"Just this once, mind. After tha' ya can wait 'til yer eighteen like the others. And if ya crash, I will personally follow yer ass all the way through hell, ya hear me boy?"

Peter nods, the threat doing nothing to sour his mood, before flicking on the controls and starting up the ship. She comes to life with a soft whirr before gently lifting off the ground under Peter's command, and Yondu leans back in his chair conflicted over whether to simply rest his tired eyes or hold on for dear life.

In the end, he needn't have worried. Peter takes to flying the new ship as easily as though she were an extension of himself; her movements smooth as honey as they breach the atmosphere and zoom through the darkness of space in near-silence. It's almost a shame when the Eclector comes into view and Peter's test-run of his new love has to come to an end, but though the boy doesn't know it, he's at least succeeded in changing Yondu's mind.

He decides Peter can keep her after all.

Chapter Text

It's been a funny old week. There's barely been time to rest between chasing Quill's ship across the galaxy to reclaim an orb they'd probably be better off without, only to catch up with him and find that he's in the process of building a new oddball family from scratch.

This isn't the first time the boy's swanned off on Yondu. It occurs around six times a year now; Peter will fail to return from a job having sold his goods elsewhere, and instead spends a few weeks exploring the galaxy on his own before growing bored and returning home. He'll greet Yondu with a sheepish grin that masks how unapologetic he truly is and endure any vicious rants thrown his way, before inevitably being pulled into a tight embrace and welcomed back.

Yondu suspects that Peter only does this to spite him. He acts like a child rebelling against his old man - though he never ends up staying away for long - and the worst part is that no matter how furious Yondu gets, he always lets the boy come home in the end. It's a weakness of his, one that refuses to go away even when he tries to harden his heart, and it's a weakness that's not going unnoticed.

There's something that seems final about Peter running off this time though.

Yondu loses count of how many times his men insist he simply kill him and be done with the whole vicious cycle. Truth be told, he can't deny that the boy's desertion and betrayal stings more than it should, but when Yondu finally brings Peter onboard with a daughter of Thanos held in his arms, the rage of the crew far outweighs his own.

He's annoyed, certainly, and he makes sure Quill knows it - throwing in a few hits for good measure - but reluctance grips him in a cool vice as he activates his arrow and holds it a hairs-breadth from the boy's neck. His crew roaring in their bloodlust deafens the room, but all Yondu wishes to hear are Peter's cocksure words as he talks his way out of trouble for the hundredth time. The woman may have filled his head with sentiment and brought out that infuriating softness he'd always tried to bury yet failed, but that doesn't mean he isn't smart enough to sway the room.

Any certainty of that isn't quite strong enough to prevent Yondu from turning his back. Should the need arise, he can ensure Peter's death is over in an instant, but that doesn't mean he has to watch.

(He wonders if he'd be better off killing most of his crew instead and letting Peter fly away, but then Yondu will truly have nothing)

Peter saves himself of course. Wins over the crew with a promise to return the orb after stopping Ronan from destroying the galaxy with it, and excites the more egotistical among them with a further promise of glory. Empty words, seeing as their band of criminals have no hope in hell of defeating the likes of Ronan, but words that have Yondu laughing with his men and wrapping an arm around the boy's shoulder as they reminisce about the good old days.

He doesn't thank Peter for making the decision not to kill him an easy one. The accusations of softness have been thrown around enough without him being the target of them.

And in the end, they actually manage to save the galaxy. Peter, with his dance moves of all things and the already formidable bond between his new friends, defeats the would-be conqueror and contains the stone before it can do any more damage. When all is said and done, Yondu accepts the orb, knowing the instant he's warned not to open it that he's being betrayed again but finding that he doesn't care, and leaves Peter behind with his new family.

Yondu isn't really surprised that the boy's finally moved on from him. After all, Peter had never truly been his.

He'd always been his mother's son above all else, with her brains and her heart and her music constantly playing in his ears. Yondu may have raised him since he was a boy, but that doesn't mean he did a good enough job to merit any warmth in return, and it's miraculous that growing up among the Ravagers hasn't corrupted Peter to the point where he's simply another bloodthirsty crook.

Whether his new role as leader of an eccentric band of individuals will be enough to fulfil him, Yondu can only guess. He seems rather attached to the girl already - though gods help him if he breaks her heart - and when they're not trying to blow Peter up under the guise of saving him, the rat and Drax are probably better company than the likes of Taserface. It's a shame about the tree, but then, they should have expected casualties when they decided it was a good idea to go up against one of Thanos's lackeys. That more weren't lost is nothing short of a miracle.

The boy's new team have been hailed as heroes across so many planets, he's probably already been knighted somewhere. Such a reputation tends to attract money; perhaps enough to set them up for life. Peter will be fine.

Yondu's not so sure he can say the same about himself.


He ensures they're several jumps away from Xandar before he brings himself to open the orb.

The noise of his men dancing in celebration fade into the background as his finger rests upon the button he was warned not to press, before he does just that. Perhaps doing so is idiotic, on the off chance that Peter was being sincere and he ends up unleashing a planet-killer, but then, Yondu's always been able to read the boy like a damn book. He knows a lie when he sees one.

The orb slides open with a satisfying click and he grins as an ugly doll he himself had bought for a nine-year old Peter stares back at him. Though he knows he should probably put up a front of rage, he indulges in unrestrained laughter and jokingly curses the boy before trying to decide what he's going to tell his men.

He can't keep the fact that they don't actually have a priceless infinity stone in their possession a secret. He's tempted to do so merely to avoid dealing with the fallout, but he knows it won't be long before it becomes common knowledge that the stone is with the Nova Corps. Besides, it'd probably be best to come clean and erase any doubt over the relic's location sooner rather than later.

If they aren't going to earn billions of units for the stone, then they can at least ensure they don't get targeted by the likes of Thanos who would unleash all manner of horrors upon them in order to obtain it.

The news is met with the miniscule level of restraint he's come to expect from his men.

Yondu contents himself with sitting at the head of the table while furious suggestions are thrown this way and that; from the reasonable (Horuz's suggestion that they place a bounty on Peter's head, though he pointedly stares at Yondu as he utters the words "Dead or Alive") to the neutral ("Why don' we jus' let 'im go?" some voice queries at the back of the room, earning himself several glowers in the process. "Hey, I don' know 'bout y'all, but I certainly don' wanna fight a daughter of Thanos or Drax the Destroyer just to kill one traitor") to the downright murderous. He imagines he'll be seeing Taserface's detailed descriptions of tearing the boy limb from limb every time he closes his eyes for the next few weeks.

The only man he pays the slightest heed throughout the proceedings is Kraglin, who remains a silent anchor by his side and fixes him with an intense stare that suggests they're both thinking the same thing.

Kraglin likes Peter too after all. Always has, ever since the boy was picked up and latched onto him during his first few weeks on the ship. The then-young first-mate had been the one to give Peter a detailed tour of the ship; had helped make his miserable chores slightly more bearable and warded off any would-be attackers in Yondu's absence. That early attachment wasn't one that would be easily forgotten.

Quill's betrayal may have stung them both, but that doesn't mean they want him dead.

In the end, Yondu silences the debate before it can escalate beyond his control and agrees to put a bounty on Peter's head, if only to appease the more reasonable among his crew.

Alive of course. Always alive.

Any man who brings him Peter's body will spend the rest of his days begging for the mercy of death.


The next few months pass in a strange blur, as his crew take on jobs with far less enthusiasm than usual, and Yondu learns to keep his ears peeled for any tales of the infamous 'Guardians of the Galaxy' wherever they land. Some days, when he's alone, he'll even bring up the tracker data on the Milano just to make sure the red dot representing her is still blinking away somewhere in space.

And all the while, an orange-haired doll sits proudly on his console.

Chapter Text

There are a few long hours in which Yondu stops caring, despite the mutiny raging on around him. Attempting to do anything more than stare into space yields little results, and before long both the rabid roaring of the traitors and the terrified cries of those loyal to him are drowned out by white noise.

He should feel something, he thinks. Anger should be burning through him like fire - though whether that should be aimed at his men or himself he cannot say - or a glint of fear at the uncertainty surrounding his own death should be planted in his mind like a seed. And yet, there's nothing. That empty hole residing within his chest starts to overwhelm his entire body, and when the cool bite of a dagger eventually comes to rest upon his neck, he feels nothing but sweet relief.

Until the rat starts talking that is.

On any other day, Yondu would find his mockery of Taserface amusing, but as it stands he can do little but curse the creature for dragging this whole sorry mess out. Their fates are sealed as it is without them playing the waiting game. The situation's made worse when the daughter of Thanos declares that there's been enough killing for the day – condemning Yondu to an even longer wait for the inevitable – and he's forcibly dragged towards the cells, along with the very rat he now has an urge to strangle.

The promise that he will be returned to the Kree's hands is what finally drags Yondu out of his funk. He can pretend not to care all he likes, but that doesn't mean he's willing to die at the hands of those who enslaved him. With time, he starts letting the rat's words sink in, and though the creature's an asshole, the reminder that he needs to stop feeling sorry for himself and do something useful like escape and kill his traitorous crew is one he undoubtedly needs.

"Where's Quill?" he asks eventually, under the guise of mere curiosity. That the boy wasn't found with the rat or his beloved ship is mildly concerning, though seeing as neither the green woman nor the Destroyer had been present either, he isn't too worried about him quite yet.

No, the soul-crushing fear comes with Rocket's answer.

Ego.

Twenty-six years. That's how long it's been since the celestial first provided Yondu with instructions on how to find Peter.

It's also how long he's spent doing everything in his power to ensure Ego never lays a hand on him.

Even now he can clearly see the faces of the other children in his mind's eye, and cold dread lances through his chest as he remembers what happened to them.

Asha. Lyxander. Merike. Jo'na. Alaria.

Peter.

He can't let Ego take Peter as well. He will claw his way to that monster's core and tear it apart with his bare hands if that's what it takes to stop him from killing one more child.

Yondu doesn't say a word of this to Rocket, but he doubts the rat misses the way he comes to life and throws together a plan of action the minute Quill's mentioned.

As unnerving as it is to admit, he gets the impression that the rat sees him more clearly than most.


Yondu's not sure how he got to the point in his life where he's willing to fight an entire planet; but then, it has been a rather strange day. The sight of that lump of rock causes bile to rise in his throat as he remembers all the times he ventured there before, and though he supposes there must be some beauty among the crimson leaves and glittering pools, he can't think of anything he'd like to see more than the whole thing crumbling into dust.

There's even a moment where he lets himself believe that's a possibility. They have a plan laid out - one that seems almost doable despite them all being ridiculously overpowered by Ego - and eventually they manage to get Peter back, alive and whole. As he should be.

Everything starts to feel normal, despite their circumstances. Yondu jokes with Quill again as if they were never separated, and he even gets to teach him something in a way that harkens back to their early years ("Ya thought?! Ya think when I fly my arrow, I use my head?"). Kraglin waits ever-faithfully on the other line as he has on so many jobs before; incapable of showing disloyalty to his captain even after inadvertently starting a mutiny. Even the emptiness lingering within him subsides a little whenever Peter smiles, and he would worry about turning soft if all those who could punish him for it weren't already dead.

Even the frantic moments following the explosion of their ship is remedied by Quill declaring him to be as cool as this mysterious 'Mary Poppins'.

Looking around at his new team, it hits Yondu that he's found himself among a bunch of oddballs. There's Peter of course, who despite being half-celestial is still very much the Terran boy he helped raise, and Rocket (no longer the rat; there's too much understanding between them now for Yondu to reduce him to that). There's the warrior sisters who only hours ago had been desperate to kill each other, and Drax who seems to think fighting Ego is a rather wonderful way to spend his time. There's the young, bug-eyed girl he's never met who somehow has the power to silence a god.

And then there's himself. Yondu can't begin to explain how he fits into all this, but that doesn't mean his being there doesn't feel right.

The moment's ruined when Ego awakens and starts acting like the megalomaniacal jackass he is. White-hot anger flows through Yondu's veins when the man starts calling himself Peter's father, as though that's a title he's in any way earned, and his heart sings as he sends the arrow through every tendril of light that comes his way. The pain that comes with eventually being overwhelmed by rocks crushing his body is nothing compared to the sight of those tendrils piercing Peter's chest and head; draining the very life-force from his boy.

Not Ego's.

His.

Admittedly, the right to call himself Peter's father likely isn't something he's earned either. Raising a child as his own was never something he wanted – never something he planned for – but before Yondu had realised it, the little eight-year-old who followed him around in fear of being eaten by the crew had grown into a young man who was better than he ever could hope to be. It hurts to think of all the times he pushed the boy away, running in fear of the warmth and care that awoke whenever he got too close. That Peter turned out as good as he did is more in spite of Yondu's influence than because of it, and Yondu knows that if he had a chance to do it all again, he'd take it in a heartbeat and raise the boy right.

Make sure he knew all along that he was loved and that no matter how infuriating he could be, Yondu couldn't help but be proud of him.

He barely manages to wheeze out his next words to Peter before the rocks swallow him whole; possibly his last, and the only words that truly matter right now.

"I don't use my head to fly my arrow boy. I use my heart."

For years, his arrow coming when called was the only reminder Yondu had of the fact that he must still have a heart hidden away in his chest. It isn't lost on him that the ease with which it flew skyrocketed as soon as Peter was brought aboard his ship, even as his mind tried to convince him that the boy meant little to him.

And if Peter has too much of anything, it's heart. Far more than Ego seems to have anticipated. As the weight of the planet subsides, Yondu feels precious breath return to his lungs before looking up and seeing Peter wielding blue light with ease and charging at the thing that has the gall to call himself his father. Yondu clambers to his feet, pressing a hand to his still-aching chest, and can only watch with pride as his boy takes on a celestial and holds his own.

And to think that during all those years with the Ravagers, his warm heart had been seen as a weakness.

Yondu watches the battle play out until Peter falls out of sight, only to turn and be greeted by Rocket and the twig. They won't leave without Quill, which is understandable, and though he promises he'll do everything in his power to save him in the hopes it'll convince the pair to go to safety, Rocket ends up choking out a broken, "Not without you."

The words lance through Yondu's chest in a manner which would probably be less painful had Rocket stabbed him with them. They can't change his mind though. His life has been riddled with mistakes from the moment of his birth, but leaving Peter to die on this godforsaken rock is not going to be one of them.

Ego already robbed him of his family with Stakar. Yondu can't let him take his son as well.

He wordlessly takes the spacesuit and aero-rig from Rocket, and tries to act sincere when the twig welcomes him to the Guardians of the Galaxy. Yondu's not entirely sure how to feel about that role, brief though it promises to be, considering the galaxy's never really done much for him. Selfishly, he knows he isn't setting out to save the universe so much as he's setting out to save one very important person within it, but perhaps that's enough.

For a few paralysing minutes, he doubts he'll even get the chance to do that. The crushing blows of Ego and Peter's fight seem to echo throughout the caverns, but as Yondu swerves between falling rock and surveys his surroundings, the boy is nowhere to be seen. It feels like he's been given no time at all to search before the shock of the blast obliterating the planet's core leaves him winded, and he stills in the air just long enough to watch his surroundings erupt into flame and dying blue embers. Any joy over Ego's death is strangled by the fear that the man may be dragging Peter along with him, and Yondu thinks his heart stops when he spots the boy kneeling on the ground, his eyes closed in anticipation like an idiot.

(He should be fighting until the last breath leaves his lungs and his heart sputters to a halt, rather than silently waiting for death to claim him. Yondu taught him better than that).

His heart doesn't calm until Peter's held safely in his arms and they're soaring out to the stars.


"He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn't your daddy," is what Yondu tells Peter as they leave the crumbling remains of Ego behind. He takes a moment to indulge in the sight of a disbelieving smile gracing his son's face, before watching the spacesuit wrap itself around him like a protective shell and managing a few final words.

"I'm sorry I didn't do none of it right, but I'm damn lucky you're my boy."

He doesn't get the chance to say, "You're the best thing that ever happened to me" or "I'm so proud of you," before the cold steals the breath from his lungs and ice starts to creep across his skin. The words would probably be drowned out by Peter's cries anyway, and though he'd give anything for that smile to return, the sound serves as a blessed reminder that his boy will survive. In the end, that's all that matters.

Besides, everything he's left unsaid should hopefully come across when he lays gentle hands on his son's face.

Chapter Text

The instant he's brought aboard the ship, hands still clinging to an ice-cold jacket, everything descends into numbness.

Peter stopped yelling minutes ago but occasionally a broken 'no' will pass his lips beyond his control, and his own breathing hitches painfully in his chest while the man in his arms stays infuriatingly silent. He doesn't notice he's no longer alone until surprisingly gentle hands cover his own and guide him away from Yondu, and like a child he finds himself clinging to Gamora and burying his face in her neck in order to hide away for a little while.

On some level of consciousness, he's aware that she too is holding him with a tightness that is almost painful and that any hesitation in letting her hands linger on his body seems to have vanished. She's saying words his busy mind can't process right now, but he latches onto her voice like an anchor; appreciates the cadence of what she's saying even if he can't focus on the content. There's a hitch at one point that suggests she's holding back tears of her own, but the thought is so ridiculous that he has to fight to suppress a giggle. He can't have everyone thinking he's going mad after all.

Not that he'd blame them. They'd all seen what his father was as clearly as he had.

Madness runs in his blood.

Peter can't tell whether it takes minutes or hours for his hold on Gamora to relax enough that he shifts his head and takes in the rest of his team. Rocket seems to be keeping his distance, standing back from the airlock with an unreadable expression on his face and Groot resting upon his shoulder, the sapling still too young to realise the gravity of what's happening. Drax is standing guard over a barely-conscious Mantis, though when he sees Peter looking his way he gives him a small, sincere nod. Kraglin and, surprisingly, Nebula seem to have concerned themselves with taking care of Yondu, and Peter watches just long enough to see the first-mate gently lift his captain off the floor before he returns to burying his face in Gamora's neck and escaping into blissful darkness.

Part of him wonders if this is the moment where he can finally wake up. All of this - the Sovereign, meeting his father only to find that he was the monster who killed his mother, saving the galaxy (again), Yondu being a sacrificial idiot… it can't all have occurred over the last forty-eight hours. Surely his life and everything he's ever known can't have been warped so drastically in so short a time.

He doesn't wake up. There's no easy escape from this.

That realisation is enough to convert the numbness to a heavy exhaustion.

Awareness returns to him without warning. He starts to notice Gamora tracing light circles on his back, and her comforting nothings suddenly form words like "You're okay, you're here," and "I'm so sorry," and "Do you want to get up?"

To the latter he nods, finding to his surprise that his legs still obey his commands, and though he could probably stagger to a bench on his own, Gamora continues to rest her arm across his shoulder until they're able to sit somewhere more comfortable. Part of him thinks he should sleep off the exhaustion that's seeped into his very bones – the energy leeched from his body finally making its absence known – but though he lets his head rest on Gamora's shoulder and accepts the blankets draped over him by Drax, his mind refuses to quieten.

All he can see is Ego creeping across the cosmos for eternity; wiping out his friends and planting a tumour in his mom's head. The echoes of his glimpse into eternity still linger, even in his now-mortal brain. He can see the wonder of all those planets and stars - all that life as it is now - as well as the twisted grey ruin it would have become after the Expansion. Peter wonders if those memories will ever truly go away, or whether the guilt from those fleeting moments where Ego had made his vision sound beautiful will consume him forever.

Perhaps the whole sorry ordeal would have been easier to deal with if defeating one father hadn't led to the loss of another.

In the end, it takes Mantis's touch to lull him into a mercifully dreamless sleep. Even then he finds himself waking only four hours later, gripped by the phantom sensation of light piercing his heart.


Peter chooses to be alone after the funeral.

He's aware that he probably shouldn't - he's already struggled with the death of one parent on his own - and that the others worry in their own way, but he imagines they all need space too. He saw Gamora go off to say farewell to her sister – their history so complicated he's still struggling to comprehend it – and Rocket comforting Groot, and Kraglin trying to hold back his tears while surrounded by a team he barely knows. It's been a rough few days for all of them, and if they can claim precious time to deal with it alone then so can he.

Besides, Mantis helped calm him earlier with a gentle touch to his arm. Not enough to warp his emotions to her will, but enough to allow him a few moments of contentment.

He'll have to thank her for that later.

The Zune seems to burn a hole in his pocket as he sits on the bed, watching colourful embers spill out into space. The promise of three-hundred new songs is enough to have his heart racing, but he knows that the moment he takes out the device and switches it on, that's it. An acceptance of the last gift Yondu will ever be able to give him. He's never going to see the man return from his travels having bought some trinket from Earth for him ever again.

It's his mom's last parcel all over again; her final words left unread for decades as he tried his best to hide from them. Perhaps if he were more clear-headed, he'd be able to remember the bittersweet relief that came with finally pulling apart the wrapping-paper, but for now that memory seems to be encased in cotton wool and held just out of reach.

There's a small rap on the door, and he turns to see Kraglin inviting himself in. He seems to have adopted the role of Groot's babysitter, if the small child happily resting on his shoulder is any indication, and Peter gives him a weak smile before turning back to the window. The bed dips a little as Kraglin takes a seat beside him, watching on silently as reds and blues and greens drift before them like stardust.

"How're ya holdin' up?" Kraglin asks eventually, and Peter doesn't miss the way his voice catches as if something is stuck in his throat.

It's not the first time Peter's been asked that during the last twenty-four hours and his answer stubbornly remains the same.

"I don't know."

He looks to Kraglin and sees the man give a single acknowledging nod. Seemingly bored, Groot leaps off his shoulder and onto the sheets between them before edging closer to Peter.

He returns the sapling's smile with more ease than he expects, before returning his attention to the man at his side. "What about you?"

"'Bout the same," Kraglin admits with a shrug, turning to Peter with an unconvincing smile of his own. His eyes light up with reverence as he stares down at the arrow held protectively in his hands, before looking back to the view beyond the window. "'Least we could do this for 'im."

Peter's grateful for that much too. Growing up among an exiled Ravager faction meant he never got to see a proper funeral, but he's heard the stories. They're supposed to be beautiful, with colours bursting into space like fireworks and allied ships coming together in order to celebrate a life. He never expected the Ravagers to care much for beauty beyond the number of units they can earn from it, but the ceremony is one they seem to take pride in and Yondu had always been slightly bitter that he'd lost the right to it.

Their own funeral for him is a much quieter affair, but Peter hopes it's one he would have appreciated.

"He left somethin' else for ya," Kraglin says, breaking the silence as he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small holoscreen, not unlike the one Yondu used to track down the best deals for their cargo or to keep an eye on Peter's tracker whenever he went off thieving. "He left a message for ya jus' in case he… just in case. Dictated it on the way to Ego. Damn thing always struggled with 'is accent but it should be written down alright."

Peter takes the small device with a trembling hand and looks down at the clear, blank screen before bringing it to life. It opens on the most recent page, a list of saved files seeming to consist mainly of cargo details, and his breath catches a little as he takes in the one simply titled "Peter".

He notices that the one directly below it is addressed to Kraglin, but he imagines the man is already aware of its existence.

The first-mate seems to take Peter's acceptance of the device as a cue to leave, and he lightly claps him on the shoulder before rising to his feet. He stops just long enough to return Groot's wave goodbye and give a single nod, before walking towards the door and leaving them in peace.

The child sitting beside him looks up with wide-eyed curiosity, but Peter can offer little but a weak smile before swallowing down any reluctance and opening the file addressed to him. A brief document comes up, and in spite of the still-raw grief that aches dully in his chest, he can't contain a small grin as Yondu's words leap off the screen at him.

Hey Peter,

If this message sounds like a load a' shit, that's cause yer rat friend's just flown us through seven-hundred jumps like a maniac. If he's still alive when yer readin' this, do me a favour and wring his neck will ya?

Anyway, looks like Ego finally found ya. If I coulda spared you from meeting that jackass I woulda done, but we're here now so we're gonna fight him. For what he did to those other kids; what he woulda done to you if I hadn't come to my senses when I did. Delivering his children to him was the worst thing I ever did an' I'll never be able to change that, but at least it brought me you. I may not have deserved the privilege of raising you, boy, but I'm damn lucky I got to.

Never thought a child of mine would save the galaxy. Never thought I deserved the pride of seeing somethin' like that after everything I've done.

(Yer troll doll's still on my console by the way, jus' in case ya want it back).

Anyway, keep those friends a' yours close, ya hear? They're a bunch o' maniacs, but they care for you an' I imagine they do a better job of showin' it than I ever did. I reckon they need you as well, so ya better be around to save the galaxy for a few more decades at least. If you die young even after all this, I'll wring yer neck when I find ya (and so will yer momma, probably).

I should stop now before I go all maudlin on ya. Jus' know that I'm proud of you, Peter. Don't you forget that.

Now go kick Ego's ass for me.

Yondu.

Ps. Most of the songs on that Zune thingy are a load a' crap, but I sorted through 'em and found some that aren't so bad (better than that damn Pina Coladas song ya love so much anyway). Thought you might appreciate it, seeing as ya like those mixes your momma gave ya a lot.

Peter reads the last paragraph three times before the implications of the words sink in. His hands are shaking as he brings them up to return to the menu, and he curses the wetness threatening to spill from his eyes as he frantically flicks through the list of files. The names flow by in a messy blur, and he's almost tempted to try again more slowly or ask Kraglin if he knows anything before something catches his eye.

Between a list of meeting-points for trades and a plan for a heist that must have been carried out weeks before, is a small file merely titled "Awesome Mix".

Any prior hesitation seems to vanish as he clicks on it in a heartbeat.

Father and Son – Cat Stevens

Starman – David Bowie

Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen

Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin

Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Give it Up – KC & The Sunshine Band

Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty

Hocus Pocus – Focus

The Seeker – The Who

Gimme Some Lovin' – The Spencer Davis Group

Don't You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds

Baby Blue - Badfinger

His eyes scan over the list of songs in awed disbelief. Some of them are distantly familiar from back when his mom would sing over an ever-playing radio, but some are new to him. That Yondu, who always put up a front of merely tolerating his music at best, had dug through a pile of songs to find the odd few he thought Peter might like has warmth pooling in his chest, and he imagines that if the man were here now he'd be in the process of fighting off a fierce hug.

Peter reaches into his pocket and stares at the blank screen of the Zune for a few seconds, before clicking on the power and placing a small earphone in his ear. The menu of songs seems unending compared to what he's used to, but it isn't long before he finds the first on his list.

When the gentle guitar marking the beginning of 'Father and Son' starts to play, he thinks he feels the crushing weight of the last few days fade a little.

A small pressure coming to rest on his knee forces him to look down, and when Groot silently asks, he hands him a small earphone of his own. He keeps a hand pressed against the child's back to steady him and can't help but smile as bright brown eyes widen in wonder. They barely make it to the end of the verse before the peace is interrupted by a rather urgent-sounding Rocket demanding their presence on the deck, and Peter carefully helps Groot onto his shoulder before joining the others.

The once-silent darkness surrounding them is now filled with ships he vaguely recognises from Yondu's stories. Peter finds himself struck speechless as what looks like hundreds of ships line up around them, releasing a barrage of sparks which whistle through space before exploding into colour, and he doesn't need Rocket's explanation to know what he's seeing.

It's a Ravager funeral.

"He didn't chase them away," Rocket says as he approaches the window, the words hushed as if meant only for himself. Peter feels his heart lift a little at them - at knowing that Yondu must still have mattered to so many regardless of any wrongs he committed - and a deep sense of realisation washes over him as Rocket carries on. "Even though he yelled at 'em. And he stole batteries he didn't need."

"Well, of course not," Peter tells him, hoping it's assurance enough that Rocket throwing the odd rebellious temper tantrum is not going to cause their team to abandon him. Especially seeing as the last few days have come so close to shattering them into fragments, and forced them to face the pain of what that's like.

Gamora makes her way to his side, and Groot wastes little time in leaping onto her shoulder (she always was his favourite; Peter can't hope to compete). He doesn't miss the way she stares at him with thoughtful brown eyes, but when he finally breaks and forces himself to ask "What?" through a smile, she merely shakes her head.

"Nothing," she says in a tone that suggests what's preying on her mind is anything but. "It's just some unspoken thing."

Peter doesn't press her further. He's never really been a patient man, but he thinks he's willing to let her be the one to decide when to let their unspoken thing become spoken.

It hits him, as they watch the beautiful display unfold before them, that this is the lightest he's felt since Ego crumbled in his hands. Any pain that lingers in his chest has quietened to a dull ache; one which threatens to return in full force eventually, but stays numb for the moment.

He's probably not okay just yet, though. It'll be a while before he can say that and mean it. That said, much as he wishes all their lives had been easier, he's surrounded by a family whose very existence can be defined as 'not okay' and they've somehow been able to find comfort in each other.

They make for one dysfunctional family, but he supposes he's used to those.

A small, contented smile pulls at his lips as he wraps an arm around Gamora and looks on at all the Ravager ships who have come to pay their respects to Yondu.

To his dad.

Deep down, Peter hopes that wherever he is, Yondu knows he's proud of him too.