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The Joys of Raising a Teenaged Groot

Chapter Text


It was late at night. The Guardians were all in the living room, all cuddled up together (except for Nebula, who didn’t fancy the family aspect of the group, so she was in her room for the night.) watching a movie on their 65 inch projection TV.

They could hear the sirens from the police cars outside. It was nothing unusual, as they lived in the seedy part of town where a lot of crime happened. (Gamora often told Peter that she didn’t want Groot to grow up in such a hostile environment that had a lot of bad influences on a still-developing teenage mind and she wanted to move because of that.) But the sirens soon stopped and her mind was put to ease. A few moments later, there was an urgent knock on their door. Peter paused the movie, (They were watching the latest Fast and Furious installment) and he and the rest of the gang got up to see who it was.

“Hi, may we help- you?” Peter asked as he opened the front door.

They were in shock when they saw two Nova Corps officers at their doorstep with Groot, who was handcuffed with his hands in front of him playing his portable video game, oblivious to everything going on around him.

“Do you know this kid?” One of the officers questioned.

“Yeah, he’s my son!” Rocket said angrily as he laid his eyes on Groot as the officers took off the handcuffs that the teenaged Flora Colossus was wearing on his wrists. Groot paid them no attention as he was fully engrossed in his video game.

“Thank you, officers.” Peter cordially waved to them as they got in their squad car and left.

Rocket, however, was beyond pissed with Groot. “Inside, NOW!” He barked at the teenager, who angrily marched into the house, not taking his eyes off of his game.

Rocket still angrily paced inside, every piece of fur standing on end after Peter closed the front door and they were all seated in the living room.

“Why weren’t you in your room studying?” Rocket questioned Groot, who was still engrossed in his game. “That’s it!” 

“I AM GROOT!” Groot yelled as the raccoon snatched his video game from him, his voice still cracking from puberty.

“No, you ain’t getting your game back until you tell us why you weren’t in your room when you know damn well it was past your curfew!” Rocket spat back at Groot as he handed over the video game to Drax to keep it away from Groot.

“I AM GROOT!” Groot got into Rocket’s face as he stood up, easily dwarfing the raccoon’s height.

“SIT DOWN!” Rocket yelled in a voice Groot knew to fear as the tree sat down. “IF YOU AIN’T GONNA SAY WHERE YOU WERE TONIGHT, THEN YOU DON’T EVEN DESERVE A CURFEW!” The rest of the Guardians were in shock at this statement, thinking Rocket is going to give in to Groot like usual as the tree sat there with a smug look on his face, thinking he won this battle. “OH, NO! YOU WON’T NEED ONE BECAUSE YOU ARE GROUNDED UNTIL THE END OF TIME, MISTER! NOW, GET TO BED!” He ordered his son as Groot got up and began to go to his room. 

The raccoon then held out his paw before Groot went upstairs to his room. “Gimme your cell phone.” Groot refuses, but then relents as Rocket gives him “The Look.”

”And I’m also gonna kill the wifi in the house!” Rocket yelled up the stairs so Groot could hear him. There was then a loud bang as Groot slams his door shut in anger. Peter then stared at Rocket in horror. “Don’t get your panties in a knot, Star-Munch. I’m only gonna kill the wifi that goes into his room. He wants to act like that, then he will pay the consequences.” Rocket added as he disconnected Groot’s wifi and changed the password to it so Groot can’t have contact with the outside world as the rest of the Guardians went to bed for the night.

Chapter Text

The next day, Groot reluctantly came downstairs for breakfast. He was still mad over last night.

“Good morning, sunshine!”  Rocket, who was wearing a pink chef’s hat and a matching apron that said ‘Kiss the Cook’ on it, called out cheerfully to a still-pissed off Groot, who ignored him. “I said, Good morning, sunshine!” He repeated to his son.

“I am Groot.” Groot replied sarcastically as he sat down at the kitchen table and rolled his eyes.

“That’s the spirit!” The raccoon said gleefully as he came over to Groot’s seat and poured him some oatmeal. “Eat up, chum!” Rocket said as he pushed the bowl in front of Groot.

“I am Groot.” The teenager then pushed the bowl away as he got up to get something else to eat.

“Oh, no no no no no, NO!” Rocket called after Groot as the teen reached the top of the fridge for his favorite sugary cereal. The tree grabbed the box and Rocket promptly knocked it out of his hands as cereal pieces ended up on the floor. “You are NOT going to have the luxury of being able to pick out what you get to eat. Now, march back to the table and eat your oatmeal!” He barked at Groot, as the tree huffed before walking back to the table and sitting down angrily.

Just then, Kraglin came into the kitchen and was stunned to see what became of his favorite breakfast food laying on the ground, too dirty and germy to eat.

“Wh-Wha-What happened here?” Kraglin struggled to asked as his jaw lay agape at the sight. Rocket then pointed to Groot.

Groot glared at the Xandarian angrily. “I am Groot.” He growled.

Kraglin couldn’t believe his eyes. Cereal was just as sacred as soup to him, even if it was cold. In his eyes, cereal was just the breakfast version of soup. And all the different varieties and sugariness just added to his fascination and addiction to it. He then left the kitchen, clearly heartbroken.

“Alright, that’s it!” Rocket snapped as he took Groot’s bowl away from him. “Upstairs, now. Take a shower, get dressed, and come back down here.” The raccoon then flashed his own cell phone, which was outfitted with a security camera app. “And don’t even think about climbing out the bathroom window and running away. I got the security camera focused in on you while you’re in the shower.” He added as Groot looks at him, violated.

“Damn, Rocket. Invasion of privacy, much?” Starlord whispered to Drax as the Destroyer shrugged his shoulders and as Groot angrily got up, grunted, and went upstairs.

“Don’t forget to get behind the ears!” Rocket said as he looked at his phone, the security camera app currently opened as he watched his adopted son in the shower. “Don’t give me any attitude, you little piece of-!”

“Rocket! Leave Groot alone! God!” Peter scolded him. Groot mocks Rocket from the camera.

“Alright, that’s it! I’ve had it with that damn tree and his attitude!” Rocket then yells at his phone. “I‘m gonna give you a shower myself!” He then drops the phone on the ground as he climbs the stairs to the bathroom.

Moments later, a scuffle could be heard coming from the bathroom. Peter and Gamora just cover their faces at the commotion. Meanwhile, Drax picks up the phone and he, Kraglin, Mantis, and Nebula watch the fight between Rocket and Groot in the shower.

“Guys! Turn that off!” Peter ordered them.

“Why? This is internet gold!” Drax exclaimed as he laughed at Groot spraying Rocket with the shower hose.

“Yeah, Cap’n, this is gonna go viral so fast!” Kraglin said as he laughed at Rocket slipping in the shower.

“No, no it ain’t gonna ‘go viral’ because you ain’t gonna upload it, capeesh?” Peter said sternly.

“Aww! But it’s soo funny to see the crabby puppy become a wet crabby puppy.” Mantis said as everyone, including Peter and Gamora laughed at the oh-so-well-timed joke at Rocket’s expense.

Just then, the door to the bathroom opened and slammed shut shortly after. A few moments later, the gang saw a very wet, and pissed off Rocket walk down the stairs. Drax was recording all of this unbeknownst to the rodent.

“Uh, hey, Rocket. Uh, how was bath time?” Peter asked awkwardly as the others looked away from Rocket, but it was hard since the scent of wet raccoon filled the air. 

Rocket glared at him. “How do you think it went, Star-Munch?!?!” He barked at Peter as he turned his attention towards Drax, who had his cell phone. “Do me a favor and delete the latest footage from the app.” Rocket ordered as Drax nodded and didn’t reveal his true intentions with the video.

“Where’s Groot?” Gamora asked.

“He’s getting dressed. Don’t worry, I put bars on his windows late last night while he was sleeping so he can’t get out. Plus he’s too big to crawl through the vents since his last growth spurt.” Rocket told them as Groot slammed his bedroom door shut and walked down the stairs. “What the flark are you wearing?!?!”

Groot stood defiantly on the bottom step of the stairway. His arms were folded against his chest as he had a scowl on his face that was partly obscured by the emo hairdo Groot gave himself by brushing his bangs over his left eye, covering it. The teen wore a goth-inspired black top that had Bob Ross and his famous catchphrase “Happy Little Tree” in a Metallica-esque script with long see-through matching black sleeves. He also had on matching black parachute pants with an assortment of chains, straps and various buckles hanging from them. The shoes that he was sporting were a pair of tall black knee-high boots that had stainless steel pointed studs all over the outside. The final piece of clothing was a full-length black leather trench coat that was covered with the same stuff as the pants.

His accessories included a black leather choker around his neck that connected to the top of his shirt with silver chains and had the same studs that his boots had. He also wore matching leather bracelets on both of his wrists. What really threw Rocket over the edge was the black fingernail polish he had on both hands. And the thing that he was freaking out over was the white foundation covering Groot’s face, his eyes and lips outlined with black lipstick.

“Ahem.” Rocket cleared his throat to catch Groot’s attention. “I said, WHAT THE FLARK ARE YOU WEARING?!?!”

Groot whipped his head in a rebellious manner. “I am Groot.”

“Oh, no.” Rocket wagged his finger at the tree. “No son of mine is going out dressed like that!”

“I am Groot!” He yelled back.

“I don’t care if it’s ‘Casual Dress Day’ at school. It ain’t ‘Casual Dress Day’ for you, mister!” Rocket spat back as he got up in Groot’s face. He pointed the same finger in his face. “You should’ve thought about that before you snuck out of the house late last night and the cops had to bring you home. Now go back upstairs and change into your school uniform and take that shit off of your face.”

Groot turned around and angrily marched upstairs to his room. Five minutes later, he came back downstairs, wearing his school uniform, and all the makeup and goth jewelry was gone from sight. Rocket checked his backpack to make sure he wasn’t hiding his Emo Goth clothes and stuff inside. After he checked it and saw none of the offending articles of clothing inside, he handed the bag back to Groot.

“I am Groot.” Groot held out his hand to Rocket as he slung his bag over one of his shoulders.

“NO!” Rocket yelled. ”You are NOT driving your car to school today!”

“I am Groot?” Groot questioned. “I am Groot? I am Groot?”

“No, you’re not taking Drax’s car either. Or Gammy’s, or Aunt Nebby’s.” Rocket said.

“I am Groot? I am Groot?” Groot asked again.

“Mantis hasn’t even learned to drive yet. And Kraglin’s car is still in the shop after he ruined the interior with his homemade portable soup cooker stove thingy.” Rocket answered.

“Yeah, I should’ve gotten protective coverings for the leather seats...” Kraglin said to himself.

“I am Groot?” Groot asked as he saw a thoughtful smile creep onto Rocket’s furry face.

“Hm...” Rocket pondered as he stroked his whiskers thoughtfully. “Star-Munch’s car is a piece of shit... Would save us a ton of units from having to take it to the car shredder...”

“No! No! No!” Peter was clearly against the idea. “You are not taking my ‘67 Red Chevy Chevelle with a black stripe down the middle to the shredder. Yondu got me that car for my 16th birthday from a black market dealer on A'askavariia. That car is precious to me!”

The tree only had one option left. “I am Groot?” He sighed.

“Hell no!” Rocket exclaimed. “You are most definitely not taking my car out! You have lost all driving privileges until your attitude changes, Mister!”

“l am Groot?” He asked as he looked at the raccoon.

“Nope. Not going to let you take the subway either.” Rocket answered.

“I am Groot?” Groot was getting annoyed.

“Nope, you ain’t walking there either.” Rocket said. “In this neighborhood filled with gangs and stuff? I know, Gammy, we should move, talk to Star-Dump ‘bout that!” He added as Gamora looked at Peter.

“I am Groot?” He was getting mad now.

“Since when did you get a bike?” Rocket asked. “I’ve never seen you use it.”

“I am Groot?” The tree was getting desperate to leave as the school bus assigned to the neighborhood just passed their house and stopped nearby.

“You ain’t taking the bus either. School or city-owned.” Rocket replied. “Too many weirdos on them.”

Groot sighed. “I am Groot.” He walked over to the garage door and placed his hand on the handle.

“No, you ain’t taking a taxi there either.” Rocket said as his son stopped. Groot smiled, as he thought for a mere moment that Rocket would let him play hookie from school for a change. “Guess how you’re getting to school today, boy!” The raccoon said with the sort of enthusiasm that made Groot roll his eyes. “I’m gonna drive you there myself!” Rocket said as Groot moaned. “And then, when we get there, I’m gonna give you a big kiss right in front of the school and all your friends because I’m THE BEST FATHER IN THE WORLD AND I LOVE MY DELINQUENT SON, even though he might be a convicted criminal soon and might be sent off to jail as a result, but I wanna show everyone that he wasn’t raised in a broken home and I’LL LOVE HIM TO DEATH NO MATTER WHAT!” The raccoon hugged Groot tightly as the tree looked at Peter in embarrassment and as both Groot and Peter rolled their eyes in unison. Drax then went into his room to upload the video to YouTube.

Rocket then grabbed his car keys as he held Groot’s hand as he and Groot got in the raccoon’s car as they drove off. Peter and Gamora walked outside as Rocket was backing out of the driveway.

“Boy, this makes me grateful for one thing.” Starlord said as he put his hands around Gamora.

“Oh, really? What’s that?” She asked. 

“That I had Yondu for my adoptive father instead of my real biological father.” Peter said as he took a sip of coffee. “Or Rocket.”

“Peter, Rocket is going to embarrass Groot when they get there.” Gamora told him as Rocket drove off into the distance.

“No, worse.” Peter said. “Rocket is going to embarrass himself.” They then turned around and went back inside.

Chapter Text

As they turned onto the final street leading to Groot’s school, the teenaged Flora Colossus began to get antsy as they got closer to their destination.

“I am Groot.” Groot said as he fiddled with the car door, which wouldn’t budge thanks to the safety lock built into the car doors that prevent them from being opened while the engine was running.

“Nah, I don’t mind, son.” Rocket replied as he put one arm on Groot’s shoulder as he drove with his other hand simultaneously. “Plus, your school is on the way to the lawyer’s office, so it’s not a big inconvenience.”

“I am Groot.” Groot begged as they got closer to the school.

“No, Groot. I’ll drive you up to the entrance so you don’t have to walk that far.” Rocket offered as they waited behind a school bus. “Plus, I have to walk with you into the school and sign you in.”

“I AM GROOT!” Groot was horrified at the thought of having to walk into school with Rocket in front of everyone.

“Yes, I do have to walk you in. You’re five minutes late thanks to that little argument earlier today. Should’ve thought about that first.” Rocket told him as Groot pouted. “Hey, it could be worse. Star-Dork could be here instead of me. Now do you want that?” Groot shook his head. “Thought so.” Rocket parked the car and he, and a very reluctant Groot got out and walked up the stairs towards the entrance.

As they walked, Groot hung his head low as the other students, who were dressed in whatever they wanted today, laughed, teased, and pointed at him. Some even called him names as they walked past.

Before they got to the ornate entrance doors to the school, there was one last group of students that they had to walk by. These students were talking amongst themselves, dressed in the same Emo Goth attire that Groot wanted to wear today, and were doing some illegal stuff behind the backs of everyone else. Groot was hoping that they wouldn’t notice him being escorted into the building by Rocket, who was embarrassing him just by being there. But, unfortunately, the leader of the group turned around and saw the two.

“Aww, the widdle baby needs one of those emotional support animals to go to school today!” The lead bully jeered at the tree as Groot got angry and was about to get in a fight with him.

“Groot! GROOT!” Rocket yelled at his son. “Enough! Stop it NOW!” He ordered as he broke up the two. Groot then stormed off, going down the ramp that adjoined the staircase.

“I AM GROOT!” The teen growled as Rocket grabbed his arm.

“LOOK, you better change your attitude right now, young man and march into that building without causing an even bigger scene.” Rocket ordered sternly as Groot huffed. “Drax, Gammy, Star-Munch, the rest of us are under enough stress right now with protecting the galaxy. We don’t need anything else added on.” The raccoon then guided his son towards a quieter section on the ramp. “I don’t want to lose you again, Groot. First, the Dark Aster, then when we were captured by the Ravagers, then on Ego, and when the Nova Corps took you away and I had to win for the right to adopt you.” Rocket starts to form tears in his eyes at the memory. “I don’t want to lose you again. I don’t want you to go to jail and I can only visit you one time a year and we can only see each other through bars and bulletproof plexiglass while we talk to each other through a prison telephone.” The raccoon then began to cry. “I don’t want any of that. Can you make me that promise? That you won’t do anything else that would further aggravate your potential sentence?” He managed to ask in between sobs.

Groot rolled his eyes, but Rocket didn’t take notice. “I am Groot.” He said with little enthusiasm.

“That’s the spirit!” Rocket patted his son on the back. “Now, let’s go get you signed in and off to class!” He said as he and a reluctant Groot walked back up the ramp and into the school.

After Groot and Rocket entered the school and went inside the front office to sign in the truant treant, the other students who were previously outside were slowly starting to come inside and go to class.

“I am Groot.” The teen said anxiously to Rocket as the raccoon filled out the Truancy Form for his son.

“Relax, son.” Rocket said casually as his son looked over his shoulder. “You’ll be on your way in no time.”

“I am Groot.” The tree said more annoyed as he tried to cover up his head with his uniform jacket to conceal his identity, though it was hard to since he was the only one who was wearing a uniform while everyone else was wearing their normal street clothes.

Just then, the same group of Emo Goth kids that Groot was trying to avoid earlier came in through the doors. They saw Groot in the office with Rocket and pointed and laughed at him. Their cell phones were out and opened to a YouTube video titled “Raccoon Daddy Vs. Tree Son in Shower.” It was uploaded from a user named “Dr4x th3 D3str0y3r.” The same kids continued to point and laugh at Groot as they mimicked him in the shower with Rocket.

The group dispersed and all but the leader and his best friend, who hung around the front office, went to their separate classes when the raccoon finished signing Groot in.

“There we go.” Rocket said as Groot turned his attention back to the rodent. “Now, son, have a good day.” He said as he straightened up Groot’s uniform. 

Groot then held out his hand to Rocket. “I am Groot.” He demanded.

“No. You ain’t getting any lunch money today.” Rocket said. “You’ll only spend it on junk food since you don’t have your car to go off-campus to get whatever fast food your heart desires, instead of the delicious and healthy meal that these fine lunch ladies employed by the school have made for you and the other students here. So, instead...” The raccoon then got out Groot’s old Bob Ross tin lunchbox that he used to carry in elementary school. “I packed you a homemade lunch in your favorite lunchbox.” Rocket added as he handed the embarrassed teen the kiddie lunchbox.

Groot just wanted to be out of there more than anything right now as he placed his hand on the door knob.

Rocket cleared his throat. “Ahem, aren’t you forgetting something?” 

Groot groaned as he knelt down to Rocket’s height as the raccoon embraced him in a hug. Groot was about to stand back up when Rocket cleared his throat again before he gave his adopted son a big wet kiss on the cheek before he left for the lawyer’s office. Groot was beyond relieved when he was finally able to leave the front office and go to class. What he didn’t know was that the Emo Goth kids saw everything.

Chapter Text

As Rocket drove to the lawyer’s office, he couldn’t help but think about what Groot had become. What happened to his precious baby boy who was obsessed with everything Bob Ross and just loved his raccoon daddy? Rocket longs for the days when Groot would just sit in front of the TV for hours on end watching “Bob Ross’ ‘The Joy of Painting’.” He longs for the days when his biggest fear for Groot was if he found out how to undo the baby locks Rocket and the other Guardians installed around the house to keep him out of the things that he shouldn’t be around. (Mainly the “Death Buttons” Rocket was currently building and experimenting with at the time.) Now, the rodent fears what kind of trouble his teenaged son has gotten himself into or who he’s hanging out with.

As Rocket parked his car in front of the building, the gravity of the situation became apparent on him. What crime was Groot accused of doing? Would he be charged with a crime? Would Groot, because of his age, be charged as a juvenile or as an adult? If he was charged as a juvenile, would he have a criminal record for the rest of his life or would it go away when he became an adult, like how they do it on Earth, according to Star-Munch. What would his sentence be? Would it be as simple as paying a fine and writing a letter of an apology to the plantiff?

“Ha, writing a letter of an apology.” Rocket thought to himself as he gathered his breifcase full of old pictures of him and a happier Groot. “Groot can only say three words. How is he supposed to convey regret through a letter if his writing ability was about as good as his talking ability in that he could only write those three same words, over and over again? Especially if I’m not able to be present to translate for him because of legal reasons.”

Some more thoughts invaded Rocket’s mind as he entered the building: What if Groot was to be sent to a rehabilitation facility or jail for troubled youth? Or, and this was Rocket’s greatest fear, what if Groot was charged as an adult and sent away for years and years, never to see his family until his sentence was complete.

Rocket signed in and took a seat in the waiting room. After he sat down, he looked through the pictures of him and Groot.

“I miss the good ol’ days.” Rocket lamented as he held one of the pictures. Five minutes later, he was called to one of the rooms to fight for Groot’s freedom.

“Oh, good. Mr. Raccoon, I presume?” The lawyer, Meesko, asked as he shook Rocket’s hand.

“You can just call me Rocket.” The raccoon said as he sat down in front of the fancy desk that belonged to the attorney. 

“Oh, okay, Rocket.” Meesko began. “Well, I think that you’ll be pleased to hear that the judge is ready to hear Groot’s case today.” The tall, thin alien looks around for Groot, but doesn’t see him. “Where is he?”

“He’s at school.” Rocket replied. “Do you need me to go pick him up?”

“No. No, we can do the hearing without him. As long as someone from his immediate family or a legal parent/guardian is here to represent him, the hearing can proceed.” Meesko answered as he got out Groot’s file. “Do you have any questions before I get the judge on video conference?”

“Just one. What’s going to happen if Groot’s found to be guilty?” Rocket said nervously. “Is he going to be sent to jail?”

“That, I cannot answer.” Meesko said as he held Rocket’s hands and looked him in the eyes. “That’ll be up to the judge. Since this is your son’s first offense, the punishment probably won’t be severe. However, it’ll be more than just having him pay a fine. Anywhere from a year-long probation to possible time to be served in police custody.”

Rocket was fearful at that prospect. He was scared for his adopted son and the possible outcome if he was sent away to prison.

“But, but-.” That was all Rocket could manage to say. “But, Groot is so young. To have him already have a criminal record before he’s fully grown again-.” The raccoon couldn’t even process the thought.

“The judge has taken his age into account and has agreed to have his case moved to juvenile court.” Meesko said as he took a sip of water. “With that, Groot would be considered a convicted criminal until his 21st birthday or until he reaches full maturity or adulthood, whichever comes first to his species. But, he still faces the same gamut of punishment. Anywhere from a probationary period until he reaches adulthood when his criminal records are expunged to possible time spent in a juvenile home for troubled youth, or a mental health facility for young defenders, or a youth boot camp, or a juvenile detention center or prison where he would remain until adulthood.”

Rocket sat back in his chair, stunned by the punishment, even though Groot’s case would be heard in a juvenile court. None of them sounded good for Groot, even though he wasn’t the most well-behaved teenager, he was probably an angel compared to all of the other kids that were already in the facilities that Meesko mentioned.

As Rocket contemplated Groot’s future, Meesko set up the video conference with the judge that would be overseeing the teen’s case. Just then, the judge came into view on the lawyer’s laptop, which was connected to a closed-circuit TV. 

“Alright.” The judge, who went by the name of Cre’zhok, began as he got out his copy of the criminal complaint against Groot and shuffled the paperwork. “This is case number J-894176-FC. Or in basic terms ‘The Government of Xandar v. Groot.’ These proceedings will be confidential and kept from the general public since the accused is not of the maturity or the capacity of an adult, so this is a juvenile case with a maxium punishment of being sentenced to the Xandar Detention Prison for Troubled Youth up until he turns 21 or reaches adulthood, whichever comes first.” Cre’zhok looks around the room. “Where is the defendant?”

“Your Honor, the defendant’s adoptive father is here today to represent him due to the fact that the defendant is still a child, and is currently in school at the moment.” Meesko said.

“Oh.” Cre’zhok looks at Rocket. “A raccoon?” Rocket tried his best to not look offended at the comment. “I’m impressed. Flora Colossi have a reputation of being the toughest species to raise right. Takes a lot of discipline to raise one from a seedling to a full-fledged adult. May I ask your name, sir?”

“Rocket, Your Honor.” The rodent said. “Rocket Raccoon.”

“Alright, Mr. Raccoon.” Cre’zhok replied. “Let’s get down to business, shall we?”

“Uh, you can just call me, Rocket, Your Honor.” Rocket replied, not used to being referred to as a raccoon.

“Alright.” Cre’zhok agreed. “Rocket.” The word sounding foreign to the stern judge. “Now, you said that your son was enrolled in school, correct?” Rocket nodded. “What school does he attend?”

“The Xandar Academy for Gifted and Exceptional Students.” Rocket answered. “He’s been accepted only as a favor from Nova Prime.”

“And what were the terms of the favor?” Cre’zhok asked.

“Okay, you might’ve noticed that I’m Rocket. The Rocket of the Guardians of the Galaxy.” The raccoon answered as the judge looked impressed. “You might’ve heard of us before, as we have saved Xandar from total annihilation.” Rocket took a deep breath. ”Groot did too, or he did.” He tried to hold back the tears. “You see, he made sure that we were safe when Ronan’s ship came crashing down by forming a cocoon around us. The force of the crash killed him on impact, but the rest of us survived and we managed to save the planet and kill Ronan. After the battle, I went over to Groot’s corpse and managed to recover a tiny twig from him that Groot was reborn from. After Quill got his ship rebuilt, Nova Prime came to us and said that if we needed anything to not be afraid to ask.”

“I see.” Cre’zhok replied as he looked through Groot’s file. “And why was he placed at Xandar Academy?”

“When Groot was in his toddler stage and ready to go to preschool, Peter had arranged for an interview at St. Tre’ok Preschool, which is the most exclusive, expensive, but most inclusive preschool in Xandar.” Rocket took a sip of water as he explained. “Well, the first two parts, yeah. But they weren’t inclusive to Groot. They, like ‘Children’s Hope’ treated him like he was not like the other kids, different.” 

Rocket shed a tear at how hard it was for Groot to fit in given his language difficulties.

“So after I fought for the right to legally adopt Groot, I pulled him out of that preschool. Nova Prime then heard about one of her most senior officers forcibly taking Groot away from us, the only family that he’s ever known.” Rocket explained with sincerity. “She then offered him immediate placement at Xandar Academy, which is for preschool up until they graduate from high school. Nova Prime even offered to pay for Groot’s tuition for every year that he attends there.”

“Please, Your Honor. Groot’s a good kid. He didn’t mean to get in trouble. Give him another chance.” Rocket then finished his statement. 

“I will take what you’ve said into consideration, Rocket.” The raccoon breathed a sigh of relief at Cre’zhok’s words. “However, your son is still charged with a serious crime. The crime being the vandalism of various businesses in downtown Xandar, near the residence of Nova Prime. Surveillance video footage from one of the businesses show that Groot wasn’t the only one that partook in the vandalizing that night.” Rocket watched the video footage of the crime spree. “As you can see, there were eight, maybe ten others with him and they were doing various things, from spray painting graffiti onto the walls, to looting and shoplifting products, to one of them robbing the place and smashing the windows.” The raccoon’s focus was entirely on his son, who was standing timidly in the corner, a scared look on his face. “Now, when the alarms went off, the teens scattered, running off with the stolen goods and money. When the police arrived, they gave chase. However, they were only able to apprehend Groot. The others were able to get away.”

Rocket watched the video of their escape. It was crystal clear to him that the leader of the group made Groot trip and fall to the ground, allowing him and the others to evade capture.

Cre’zhok gets Rocket’s attention again as he clears his throat. “I have spoken with the business owners and they have all agreed that Groot should be punished, but not to the point of where we would have to pull him from your custody to be placed in a juvenile facility until he reaches adulthood. I have taken their wishes into account and hereby sentence Groot to a year of probation, along with 720 hours of community service at the Xandar Soup Kitchen and Homeless Shelter.” Rocket nodded at the terms as they were read. “His teachers and principal at his school shall also give me updates on his behavior and if he is showing no improvement there, then I will extend the time that he has to do the volunteer work and extend the time that he’s on probation. I will also issue a court order that requires him to wear an electronic ankle monitor with a GPS tracker built in since he has a history of running away from home and causing trouble. I’m also sentencing him to house arrest, where other than home or school, he can’t have free access to anywhere without court-approval. If he breaks any of these terms, I’ll have no other choice but to have him personally appear for the next hearing where I’ll be forced to formally sentence him to the juvenile detention facility where he will remain until he reaches adulthood. Now, Rocket, do you agree to these terms for your son as they were read?”

“Yes, Your Honor. I do.” Rocket responded.

“Alright, then can you sign the papers that Meesko will hand to you?” Cre’zhok asked as Rocket signed the aforementioned paperwork. “Any other questions?”

“Yes, Your Honor. Where do I have to take Groot to get his ankle monitor put on?” The raccoon asked.

“At the Nova Corps Headquarters. They will also need to take his fingerprints and mugshot, among other things.” Cre’zhok told Rocket before Meesko ended the video conference and closed his laptop.

Meesko and Rocket talk some more about the terms of Groot’s punishment. After an hour, Rocket leaves the office and drives himself home to give the other Guardians an update.

Chapter Text

Peter and the rest of the Guardians were in the living room watching Bob Ross when they heard the front door open and moments later, slam shut.

“What the hell?” Peter said as he turned around and saw an angry Rocket standing on the landing that had a step down into the sunken living room.

“Shut up, Star-Munch.” Rocket growled at the human as he stepped down into the living room and walked up to him and stared him down. “You are 1st on my shit list.”

Peter was horrified and confused. “What’s your problem, man?” He sighed at Rocket.

“Groot has a criminal record now.” Rocket told the group.

“So, is Groot going to prison?” Kraglin asked.

“No.” Rocket answered. “The judge presiding over the case decided that he should only be sentenced as a juvenile.”

“What was the sentence?” Nebula, who was brooding in the corner and never cared about the young sapling, nor giving a damn about the conversation at hand asked moodily.

“Groot is on probation for a year pending his behavior and any infractions at school.” Rocket stated. “He also has to go down to the Nova Corps Headquarters to get processed and be fitted with an ankle monitor for his house arrest, as well as do 720 hours of community service at the Xandar Soup Kitchen and Homeless Shelter.”

Kraglin’s ears perked up. “Uh, did you say that Twig has to volunteer at the soup kitchen?”

”Kraglin, NO!” Rocket yelled. “Groot is doing the volunteer work as part of his plea agreement to avoid potential jail time in the juvenile detention center.”

“But, I-.” Kraglin began before Peter cut him off.

“You ARE NOT going down there to make a fool of yourself and potentially embarrass Groot.” Peter sternly ordered the soup-addicted Xandarian.

“Like Groot would even care if I showed up.” Kraglin grumbled. “I was only gonna go down there for the free soup...”

“No!” Peter exclaimed. “Kraglin, the soup kitchen is for people who can’t get a hot meal on their own, not for you to hang around.” 

With that, Kraglin went to his room, mumbling to himself.

“What are we gonna do about Groot?” Rocket asked. 

“I’ll tell you what you’re going to do.” Drax chimed in as he sharpened his daggers. “Sit him down, have a stern lecture with him, and if that doesn’t work...” The Destroyer then placed his finger against his throat and dragged said finger across his throat.

“Dude!” Rocket said. “That’s a little much, don’t ya think?!!?” Drax then glared at the raccoon, as the two prepared to fight each other.

“Yeah, Drax, we all understand that Groot’s been a little bit moody lately.” Starlord interrupted as Rocket nodded in agreement. “He’s going through his teenage phase. He’ll outgrow it. It’s normal.”

“You consider hanging out with the wrong crowd of kids at school and constantly getting in trouble normal?!?!” The Destroyer growled at them.

This struck a nerve with the rodent. Up until recently, he had ignored his son’s typical teenage behavior. He excused himself to go pick Groot up from school and take him to go have his mugshot, fingerprints, and whatever else he needed done.

Chapter Text

As Rocket pulled up to the school, he decided that because of Groot’s attitude lately that he wouldn’t have Groot paged to the front office for dismissal, no, he would march down to the class that Groot was currently in and pick him up personally. He wouldn’t care if Groot was embarrassed by his presence in school, he thinks that Groot has more pressing matters to worry about.

The raccoon marched into the school, signed in, obtained a visitor’s badge, and started to go looking for his son. If his memory served him good, he recalled that according to Groot’s class schedule, the teenager should be eating lunch right about now.

Rocket made his way down to the cafeteria. Sure enough it was the first lunch period and there was a flurry of activity in the room, students of varying ages were seated in their social groups, jocks with the jocks, cheerleaders, the smart and nerdy kids, and the popular kids were in their own groups. The line to get the school lunch was deserted, as all the students brought their own meals from home, or, as Groot said, they go off-campus to any nearby fast food restaurant, or if they didn’t have access to either of those, they would buy stuff off of the snack cart.

Rocket scanned the room for Groot. At first he didn’t see the teenaged Flora Colossus, which was odd, since Groot was the tallest student in the school because of his species. But, eventually, the raccoon found his son.

Groot was sitting by himself at an isolated table in the far corner of the cafeteria. As Rocket got closer, he could see his son being his usual moody self, one hand resting against his face and a general disinterest in everything that was going on around him. Rocket ignored the laughter and taunting coming from the other students as he sat next to Groot.

“Groot, get your things.” Rocket ordered his son. “I’m taking you home early today.”

Groot just stared at him, clearly embarrassed by his presence. “I am Groot.” He said as he took out his science textbook to do some homework.

“Since when did you join the glee club?!?!” Rocket asked, shocked that Groot would show interest in that kind of extracurricular activity. “No, you know what? You can’t stay after school today. I have to take you down to the Nova Corps Headquarters to get you processed and your ankle monitor put on for your house arrest. Then you have to go to the Xandar Soup Kitchen and Homeless Shelter to begin your community service.” He then grabbed Groot’s arm to make him stand up. “So let’s go.”

“I AM GROOT!” The teen shrieked as Rocket accidentally pinched him. Everybody’s attention was turned to them.

Rocket then regretted his actions. “Groot, Groot. I’m sorry.” He apologized to his son as Groot huffed as he crossed his arms in anger as none of them spoke to each other for five minutes.

“Hey, Groot. Did you eat your lunch that I made for you?” Rocket tried to rouse his son from his moodiness as a couple of cheerleaders walked by and laughed. Groot just grunted.

The rodent then noticed that Groot’s Limited Edition Bob Ross tin lunchbox was missing. “Groot, where’s your lunchbox?”

“I am Groot.” The teen growled at his father.

“WHAT THE FLARK IS IT DOING IN THE TRASH?!?!” Rocket shrieked at Groot. “Don’t you remember all the trouble that me, Star-Lump, Gammy and the rest of us had to go through to get you that damn lunchbox for your first day of preschool?!?!” The rat looked at his son angrily in his eyes. “And now you just throw it away?!?! That damn lunchbox is a limited edition collector’s item that cost us 50,000 units for your happiness!!!!”

“I am Groot.” Groot mumbled underneath his breath.

Rocket was shocked. “What do you mean by ‘Bob Ross is for little kids.’?!?! You used to love him! You used to have his posters and stuff all over your room! You even had a miniature doll of him that you used to carry around all the time!”

“I am Groot.” Groot answered, wishing Rocket wasn’t here and would go away.

“No, no. I know what’s wrong with you.” Rocket replied to Groot as he placed his hands on his son’s shoulders and stood behind him. “You’re always cranky when you’re hungry and you didn’t have much of a breakfast today. So tell me where your lunchbox is and I’ll go get it for you.”

“I am Groot.” The teen pointed towards the other end of the cafeteria, where the trash cans were.

Rocket angrily marched towards the trash cans. He muttered to himself how Groot was being such a spoiled brat and that he will be punished even more when he gets home.

As the raccoon climbed up on top of the trash cans and searched for Groot’s lunchbox, a small group of students saw what he was doing in the trash and gathered around him.

“Smile for the camera, Trash Panda!” One of the girls said as she held out her cell phone, capturing the raccoon’s actions on video. Rocket then snapped his mouth at her as she continued to giggle with her friends. “This is sooo going on Instagram!” She told her friends as they laughed as they walked away.

After a few more seconds of sifting through the trash, Rocket finally found the Bob Ross lunchbox. He dusted off the grime and walked back to Groot.

“Here you go, son.” Rocket placed the lunchbox in front of Groot, who promptly shoved it away.

“I am Groot.” Groot replied, uninterested in eating.

“Listen here, young man. You are gonna eat your lunch right now or so help me god-!” The raccoon hissed at Groot.

“I am Groot.” Groot challenged.

“Fine, you know what, I’ll eat some to prove to ya that it ain’t poisoned or anything, and if nothing happens to me, then you will eat the rest, capeesh?” Rocket said as he opened up the lunchbox. “Plus, I doubt it’s poisoned since I had some help from Gammy and Star-Munch in making this for you today.” Rocket whispered to himself as he flipped the lid open, a big black widow spider came jumping out and he screamed like a little girl. Groot covered his face in embarrassment as Rocket closed the lid. Luckily, another student smushed the spider dead.

“I am Groot?” The tree begged.

“No, I ain’t leavin’ until you get some food in you and have a well-balanced meal.” Rocket declared as he looked over his shoulder at the empty lunch line. “Wait right here, I’ll be right back.”

Rocket went through the lunch line to get the school’s featured lunch for today, which was some type of mystery meat. After he paid the steep price of 10 units for the lunch, (which he thought was a little bit expensive considering it didn’t look too appetizing in his eyes. But then again, Groot didn’t deserve the privilege of deciding what he had to eat today.) he went to sit down with his son again.

“Bon Appètit.” Rocket said as he placed the tray down in front of Groot.

Groot looked up from the textbook that he was reading and looked at the food. “I am Groot.” He replied with a disgusted look on his face as he turned his attention back to the book.

“Okay, fine!” Rocket conceded. “I’ll taste test it for you again. But if it turns out to be edible and you still refuse to eat it, then I’m gonna force feed it down your throat until you get sick of it!” He threatened.

The raccoon then picked up the fork from the tray and pierced some of the pre-cut mystery meat onto it. He then placed it into his mouth and began to chew as Groot smiled sinisterly.

“Hmmm... This has a familiar taste to it.” Rocket pondered. “Groot, do you know what this is?”

“I am Groot.” Came his reply as Rocket took another mouthful of the meat.

“What the flark is a Procyon lotor?” Rocket asked Groot as the teen handed him his science textbook and pointed to a picture of a raccoon. “WHAT THE-?!?! This is worst than that time I snuck over to the college that one time for ‘Asian Night!’ God, those spring rolls and the ‘moist chicken’ they served was disgusting!” Rocket exclaimed as he covered his mouth and made a beeline right for the bathroom. Groot just facepalmed, hoping no one knows that the cannibalistic raccoon is his adoptive father.

After Rocket had left the little raccoon’s room, he saw the same group of Emo Goth kids that Groot was trying to avoid earlier in the day enter the cafeteria. The rodent smelled something fishy and decides to eavesdrop on them. He finds a ceiling vent that was opened for repairs and climbs up inside. Rocket traverses the maze inside of the ductwork and finds the path to the cafeteria.

Luckily the vent led him to just above Groot’s table. Rocket peered out from the slats in the vent to see that Groot had thrown the fried raccoon away along with the lunch that Rocket and company made for Groot today. At least the Bob Ross lunchbox was safely tucked away in his backpack. 

Groot then rifles through his messy and disorganized backpack. (Which Rocket commented to himself how Peter was supposed to teach him to have it nice and organized.) Groot then pulled out a wrinkled school letter that was addressed to “The Parents/Legal Guardian(s) of Groot.”

“Groot! What the flark are you doing?!?! That’s not for you to read!” Rocket gasped as he watched his son open up the envelope and take the letter out. It was a student write up notice that said Groot had to serve a detention today.

“You just can’t stay out of trouble, can you?” Rocket lamented as he read what the infraction was. “You got in ANOTHER fight after I dropped you off this morning?!?!” Rocket sighed as Groot grunted at the note before crinkling it up into a ball and throwing it away.

Just then, the rodent heard the Emo Goth kids approach Groot at his table. What Rocket heard next was disheartening.

“Hey, Groot, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal.” The leader of the group, Jarik, greeted Groot as he placed his hand on top of Groot’s shoulder. “How’re you doin’?” He asked Groot.

Groot, not looking up from his textbook, replied “I am Groot.” 

Rocket then whispered to himself, “Good, good. Just ignore those troublemakers and they’ll eventually go away.”

Jarik then sat right next to Groot, now embracing him in a hug and making him look at him instead of his homework. Jarik then said “Thanks for taking the fall for us. You’re one step closer to being one of us.”


Groot wasn’t sure what to think. He just shrugged off Jarik. “I am Groot.” was his reply.

“Whew! Good! He still has a shred of goodness left in his heart.” Rocket said to himself.

Jarik and the others laughed. “No? Just because of a court hearing in which your lame ass of a vermin father had to come to your defense? Now you gotta go on probation for a year along with community service at the hobo shelter? And you’re on house arrest?” Jarik couldn’t help but laugh anymore.

Groot wasn’t amused by them laughing at his predicament. “I AM GROOT!” He angrily roared as he stood up.

“Oh, now you want to be one of us?” Jarik inquired. “Well, today is your lucky day. It would seem that we’re gonna have something that would be perfect for you to prove your worthiness to us.” Jarik proposed. “Meet us outside Nova Prime’s residence at 8 o’clock tonight and we’ll fill you in on the details. Make sure that you’re not followed by anyone in that so-called ‘family’ of yours. Or else...” Jarik threatened Groot as he got in his face as the bell rang and everyone went to their classes.

Rocket walked out of the school and got back in his car. As he waited for Groot’s school day to be over with, (which was oh-so-conveniently extended because of that detention that he got just after Rocket dropped him off for the day.) he wondered what had happened to Groot to make him act like this.

Chapter Text

A few hours later, Groot emerged from the school, having served his detention. Rocket saw him walk out and ushered him to his car. Groot was humiliated by what he had done earlier in the day during his lunch period and didn’t want to be seen with him, so he waits until the other students are out of site before crossing the street to the parking lot where Rocket was waiting.

Groot didn’t acknowledge Rocket as he opened the front passenger side door, threw his backpack in to the backseat, and got in. He waited for his adoptive father to start the car.

“Ahem.” Rocket cleared his throat. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” Groot shrugged. “Seat belt, Groot. Get your seat belt on, or I don’t start the engine.” Groot still refused. “Okay, we can watch the other kids walk over to their cars while they see you have your little temper tantrum.” Groot quickly complied with Rocket and got buckled in.

As Rocket pulled out of the parking lot, Groot just stared out of the window, just watching the scenery go by. He was thankful that Rocket was preoccupied with driving for the next two minutes. That is, until something else caught the raccoon’s attention and his eyes were not focused on the road for one split second.

“ASSHOLE!” Rocket screamed and as he honked his horn at the car who almost sideswiped him and cut him off. He then saw the car in question swerve out of control and crash into the side guardrail. “HAHAHAHA! Serves you right, idiot!” He cackled at the driver as he passed him.

Groot just covered his face with his hand and shook his head at Rocket.

“What?” Rocket turns his head towards his son as the teen sighed. “He had it coming. Dumbass probably couldn’t even drive one of those Kiddie Coupes Star-Munch says that they have on Terra.”

Groot just rolled his eyes and turned back to staring out the window.

“Why are you so moody all of a sudden? What has happened to my Bob-Ross-and-Death-Button-obsessed son?” Rocket asked him. Groot just let out an annoyed grunt as Rocket pulled into an empty parking lot and turned off the engine. “We ain’t moving until you tell me what’s going on.” Groot then reaches for the door handle, which Rocket promptly locks. “We can be here all night. I don’t care if Star-Lump comes looking for us. Your choice. What’s been going on to make you act like this?”

“I am Groooot.” The teenager answered, annoyed.

Rocket wasn’t buying it. “It’s not just nothing. There’s something else going on.” He makes Groot look at him in the eye. “Tell me, son.” Groot quickly thought of a reason that would make Rocket drop the subject and not suspect that his son wanted to join the Emo Goth kids’ gang.

Groot looked sad. He tilted his head down. “I am Groot.”

“The other kids don’t believe that you helped us save Xandar?” Rocket was shocked. He never told Groot the events of that day other than he was reborn from the Groot that sacrificed his life so that they could save Xandar, in essence, making him a hero just like Rocket and the others.

Groot’s plan backfired and Rocket spent the next ten minutes droning on and on about the day the Original Groot sacrificed himself, a story that this Groot heard a million times since he was reborn.

After Rocket cleared his eyes from crying over the retelling of the story, he resumed driving. Groot was thankful for the silence for the remainder of the trip. 

A half hour later, they arrived at the Nova Corps’ headquarters. Rocket parked in the visitors’ parking lot and turned off the car and removed the keys from the ignition before getting out of the car. Groot was a little bit more hesitant, but after some convincing, (AKA Rocket threatening, nay, promising that he would embarrass Groot in front of his friends in the most humiliating way imaginable) he got out of the car and walked with Rocket into the building.

After Rocket signed Groot in, he sat down with the teenager in the waiting room. Groot laid his head against the wall, wishing that he wasn’t here. After about five minutes, one of the detectives called for Groot and he and Rocket follwed the detective to one of the questioning rooms in the back.

“Have a seat.” The detective motioned to two seats on one side of a heavy wooden table. One of the seats was placed right beside a heavy steel bar screwed into the wall in the unlikely event that Groot lashed out at the detective and would need to be handcuffed for both his safety and the safety of everyone else in the room. “My name is Detective Vizek, and all I want to know is what happened on Tuesday night when you were arrested and brought back to your parents’ house. Now, what’s your name?”

“I am Groot.” Groot replied.

“Alright, Groot. Now, who’s this person that brought you here today?” Vizek asked as he began to write down Groot’s responses on a form.

“I am Groot.” Groot answered.

“Yes, I got your name.” The detective replied back. “I’m asking you who this person is brought you here today.” He motioned to Rocket as Groot started to get frustrated.

“Groot, Groot.” Rocket tries to calm him down. “Relax.” The raccoon turns to Vizek. “He can only say those three words. That should be in the police report that the officer who arrested him wrote down. If needed, I can translate what he’s saying, sir.”

“Uh, let me go ask my supervisor about getting someone in who can understand him.” Vizek said as he stood up. “We do not let civilians translate for the convicted. Legal issues and what not.” He then left the room, leaving Rocket and Groot alone.

What they didn’t know was that they were being watched by Vizek and whoever the higher ups were in the Nova Corps via hidden cameras, microphones, and a one-way mirror.

“I am Groooot.” Groot groaned to Rocket as the raccoon held his hands.

“I know buddy. But it won’t be much longer.” Rocket consoled his son as he stroked his hands gently.

Rocket’s words didn’t help any. “I am Groot!” The teen moaned and groaned as he looked at his father.

“I know that you want to go home.” Rocket replied. “But you can’t yet. You still have to do your community service at the soup kitchen.”

Groot tilted his head back and let out another audible groan. “I am Groot!”

“No, Groot, Kraglin’s not gonna be there.” The rodent reassured his son. “He’s been banned from virtually every soup kitchen on Xandar.” Rocket and Groot then chuckled at how Kraglin got banned from every soup kitchen on the planet as Vizek came back into the room.

“I’m sorry, but I’ll need to have him come back for questioning another day. Our interpreter is currently on vacation and won’t be back until next week.” Vizek informed Rocket as Groot got up from his seat, anxious to leave.

“So, we’re free to go?” The raccoon asked as Groot was getting his coat on.

“No, not yet. He still has to visit forensics to have his fingerprints and mugshots done, and then he’ll have to give us DNA samples as well as go through a full examination and cavity search before he’s fitted for his ankle monitor.” Vizek said as he escorted them down to the forensic department.

“Well, that’ll be so much fun...” Rocket mumbled to himself as he and Groot stepped inside the door leading to the aforementioned department and Vizek left them to continue his own duties.

Moments after that, another officer, by the name of Mi’Zhok, came and forcefully grabbed Groot by his arm and took the teen into a dressing room where Groot was forced to strip down to a pair of police-issued briefs. Mi’Zhok then made Groot stand in front of a wall that had different heights marked on it. He then placed a identification number plaque around Groot’s neck that denoted his criminal ID number: 01F82-J. Groot was then told to face forward to the camera as another officer took his picture. Mi’Zhok then made him turn around to his right side, then to his left as his colleague got pictures of those. Mi’Zhok finally told Groot to stand with his back towards the camera for a final picture.

After Groot was finished with having his mugshots taken, Mi’Zhok brought Groot back into the dressing room where he made the teenager get into an orange jumpsuit that was the standard prison uniform for juvenile criminals when they were at the processing facility, even if they haven’t been charged with a crime, or, like Groot, were only charged with minor offenses and had to serve the most minimal of sentences. 

Deep down, even though he was still disappointed in his adoptive son, Rocket couldn’t help but feel sorrow for him. All the raccoon could think of was “Where did I go wrong with raising Groot? I’m supposed to be a better father than this for him.” As Mi’Zhok made Groot walk in front of his father, Rocket locked eyes with the teen. Groot’s eyes were filled with regret in that he failed at being a good son in not only Rocket’s eyes, the rest of the Guardians’ eyes as well.

Mi’Zhok then made Groot sit in a chair in front of the bulletproof glass that separated him from Rocket. He then placed a pair of handcuffs on the teenaged Flora Colossus and placed a leash on the handcuffs that attached to a bolted-down steel plate in the table to ensure that Groot wouldn’t be able to make a run for it and escape their custody. He then left the room to get the fingerprint and retinal scanner.

After about five minutes, the silence was too much for Rocket to bear. He leaned in towards his son. “Groot?” He asked as the moody teen tried to turn around in his seat.

Groot grunted in response. Rocket then continued. “Look, I know I’m not the best father in the world. Hell, I might be worse than Star-Munch’s asshole of a biological father. Hell, maybe on the scale of Gammy and Aunt Nebby’s adoptive father.”

Groot rolled his eyes. “But I wanna try to be a better father for you. Remember Yondu?” Rocket tries not to tear up at the mere mention of Peter’s adoptive father and the bond that they formed just before Yondu sacrificed himself for the sake of Peter. “I wanna be your Yondu. I won’t be as much of a jackass Yondu was to Star-Munch, but I wanna do better for you, Groot. What do you think about that?”

Groot thought about it for a minute. He then answered “I am Groot.” as he nodded his head.

“Honestly. I love you, son. I just want the best for you.” Rocket confessed to Groot as the door opened and Officer Mi’Zhok walked back in pushing the fingerprint and retinal scanner, bringing it in front of Groot.

Mi’Zhok then undid one of Groot’s hands from the handcuffs and dipped his fingers, one by one, into the black ink and pressed them against the scanner so it could read the prints. The officer did this roughly against Groot, as the teenager was crying and screaming as his fingers were pressed tightly against the screen. After Groot’s fingerprints were scanned, Mizhok brought the eye scanner to Groot’s face and scanned his eyes. The bright red laser light was too much for him and after the scanner was away from his face, he covered his eyes for a minute to get rid of the constant flashing he saw.

After his eyes adjusted back to normal, Groot was forced to stand up, as Mi’Zhok placed the handcuffs back on him before escorting him to one of the medical examination rooms, where two nurses were waiting. Rocket followed behind them and entered the room as Mi’Zhok closed the door.

“Up against the wall.” Mi’Zhok ordered Groot as the tree reluctantly stood against the wall. “Spread ‘em.” The officer commanded as he made Groot spread his arms and legs as Mi’Zhok frisked him.

“Why didn’t you do that beforehand?” Rocket asked as Groot was directed to sit on the exam table.

“It’s protocol.” Was the only answer Mi’Zhok gave as the nurses began to give Groot a general examination.

When the nurses were done, it was time for Mi’Zhok to collect various samples from Groot. He began simple enough by taking a tear and earwax sample. Then it came time to get the more important samples. Mi’Zhok made Groot open his mouth as he got a saliva sample from him. The stern officer then made Groot get off the table and escorted the teen into the bathroom so he could collect urine and fecal samples too.

After Mi’Zhok and a very-violated and embarrassed Groot came back out from the bathroom, Mi’Zhok ordered Groot to sit down at the table where one of the nurses got a skin sample from him and as the other nurse collected a blood sample from him as Mi’Zhok wrestled him to restrain his arm.

It was then time for Groot to have the ankle monitor put on him. Mi’Zhok measured how big his lower leg was and adjusted the bracelet part to make it fit snugly against his leg. The officer then placed it on Groot and activated the GPS tracking feature, which would tell the Nova Corps where Groot was at any given time. He then explained to Rocket that it wouldn’t go off when Groot was in one of the designated areas where he was allowed to be in. Those were the Guardians’ house, the Xandar Academy, the Xandar Soup Kitchen, the Nova Corps Headquarters for his appointments with his probation officer and when he could have the ankle monitor removed for when his probationary period was complete, and last, but not least, the Milano. For that last one, Groot was allowed to go on the missions with the rest of the Guardians, but only if Rocket pre-approved it with his son’s probation officer, and if the officer said it was okay. Groot would also have to stay within the confines of the ship and would not be allowed to handle any of the weapons, guns, and most importantly, anything that Rocket built specifically for the mission at hand. And, yes, that does include DEATH BUTTONS.

As Rocket and Groot left the Nova Corps Headquarters, the raccoon noticed a visible difference in his son’s attitude. The teenager wasn’t badmouthing or cursing at his adoptive father. The tree hung his head low as he walked in silence with Rocket to the car. Rocket thought that Groot regretted the mistake that he made, especially since he got caught and now had to face the consequences.

Groot continued this even after they got home. The teenager went straight to his room and closed the door to be left alone for the hour that he had to himself before Rocket had to drive him to the soup kitchen for his mandatory community service. Nebula smelled something fishy and decides to investigate.

Chapter Text

Nebula cautiously approaches Groot’s room. The teenager’s bedroom door was closed as a sign to the other Guardians that he did not want to be disturbed.

“Groot?” Nebula softly knocks as she whispers against the door that was adorned with various posters of rock bands, graffiti that Groot drew on there himself, (even though all it said was “I am Groot” in different ways), and a tiny sign of Bob Ross in the middle of the door that said “A Happy Little Tree lives here.” There was loud music coming from the other side of the door, even though Rocket just revoked his music privileges because of the attitude Groot gave the other Guardians as soon as he walked through the front door the day that he was arrested.

Inside, Nebula saw that Groot was successful in sawing off the wrought iron bars that were on his window to prevent him from sneaking out of the house. She was almost rendered deaf by the loudness of the music that Groot had on his stereo. The music was some mashup of hard rock, heavy metal, Emo, gothic, and some sort of punk rock all rolled up into one.

Groot’s latest project wasn’t his homework, no, as he already told Rocket that he’d already finished it while he was in detention today. Nebula walked over to where the teenager threw his backpack unceremoniously. She then opened it up to discover that Groot’s textbooks were virtually untouched and his notebooks where he was supposed to write his homework on were clean with no pencil marks on it. Groot was more interested in cutting something as Nebula heard a sawing noise coming from his bed that he was sitting on.

Nebula tapped her nephew’s shoulder. “Hey.” Groot jumped, startled by his aunt as she sat next to him. “What’cha doing?” She pretended to show an interest in Groot’s life.

“I am Groot.” Groot said as he hid something underneath his pillow.

Nebula tried to hide her frustration with trying to talk to a moody teenager that can only say three words. “Okay, I don’t know what you mean by that, but-.” Her frustrations become visible. “Ugh, I don’t know what you want!” She yelled at him before she regained her composure and said calmly. “Can you write down what you’re thinking to me?”

Groot glared at his aunt. He always feels insulted when anyone asks him to communicate his thoughts in any other way instead of just using his voice. Rocket understands him, why not everyone else?

Even though he’s enrolled at the most prestigious school in Xandar, he’s forced by the administrators and teachers to use a special communication device that is activated by him pressing various buttons that represent different words on a computer-like machine whenever he wants to talk to anyone or answer any questions in class. This is the main reason why his grades have been falling in school. Class participation is about 1/3 of his overall grade in each of his subjects in school. If he has to answer questions with a talking device that makes him sound like a robot to the other students, which makes him stand out like a sore thumb, and, as a result, Groot’s been a long-time target of bullies purely for this reason. 

It wasn’t always like this. When Groot first started at the Xandar Academy in kindergarten, he had a one-on-one aide that studied his species’ language and could communicate with him and convey his answers and wants and needs to his teachers and the other kids. But by the time Groot had entered the 5th grade, his aide was getting old and nearing her required retirement at 65. The school tried to find another aide for Groot, but there was no one that studied Groot’s language. Rocket was called in for an emergency meeting with the Headmaster and all of Groot’s teachers to come up with a plan. The only options that they gave him were to either homeschool Groot until he was old enough to graduate, place him in the special education classroom, or to have him communicate his thoughts via a communication device. Well, the Department of Xandarian Education would’ve shown up at the Guardians’ house faster than lightning as soon as they heard that the pyromaniac raccoon was teaching Groot how to build various weapons, bombs, and Death Buttons. If Groot was placed in the special ed class, he would’ve had an even bigger target on his back for being bullied by the other kids, and Rocket has seen enough of other kids bullying Groot during the time when the tiny tree was taken from their custody and placed in that so-called “orphanage” where Groot was bullied by the other orphans and the adults in charge of the facility.

So the only option was to have Groot use the communication device to talk to the other kids and adults when he was in school. The device in question was packed away in its traveling case, as the school allowed Groot to take it home in the hopes that it would become his main form of communication. But Groot refuses to use it when he’s at home because he has Rocket translate for him as it’s always been. Rocket doesn’t mind doing this, but deep down, he wishes that Groot could talk like everybody else. For one thing, everyone could understand him, and two, Groot wouldn’t have to rely on Rocket to do everything for him, even if Groot’s request was as simple as a glass of water.

Groot then sighed in frustration as he got up and grabbed a pen and a blank notepad from his desk before sitting back down on his bed next to his aunt.

Nebula tries to talk calmly to Groot. “Now, what’s been bothering you?” She struggled to ask without getting angry.

Groot then writes down his response in Xandarian Script and hands the notepad back to Nebula, who then reads it. Groot, who needs a special pen to write because of the size of his hands struggles with using the normal-sized pen and his handwriting comes out messier than usual, even worse than Peter’s handwriting.

“So, Rocket’s been a real pain, huh?” She asked as Groot nodded. “Well, there’s not much I can do or say about that.” She and Groot share a rare chuckle together. “He just wants what’s best for you. From what I’ve seen, you’re everything to him. He just wants to protect you.” Nebula added as Groot asked for the pen and notepad back.

The teenager wrote another question and handed it back to his aunt. “Yes, I agree, Groot.” Nebula nodded as she read the notepad. “The Stupid Fox needs to give you a little bit more freedom.” Groot smiled as Nebula, who, he never liked and was scared to death of when he was just a sapling, agreed with him for a change. “But, you have to obey the rules that he sets down for you.” 

Groot groaned and rolled his eyes when Nebula said this. She continued as she laid an arm across his shoulder in an embrace, “He won’t be in charge of you forever. As soon as you’re an adult, you can start to make your own decisions. Maybe leave the house and live on your own. But not until then. Okay?”

Groot nodded solemnly. He then lifted his leg and showed Nebula the ankle monitor that he was now forced to wear until his probation was over with.

“Ah, yes. I remember those, everytime my siblings and I went out on a mission for Thanos and we got caught, some of his most senior advisors would come and bust us out of whatever hellhole of a prison we were held in.” Nebula told Groot. “However, we did feel Thanos’ wrath as soon as we returned home to his base. As punishment, he would force us to wear these ankle monitors while we performed hard manual labor until he felt that we were toughened up from the torture.”

Nebula then looked at the ankle monitor that was on Groot’s leg. She then examined the monitor. “They were very much like this one. Big, bulky, very technologically advanced, but easily able to be hacked into and overridden. After time and time again of being forced to wear these, I learned how to override the microchip embedded inside the computer and could take it off as soon as I wasn’t guarded by Thanos’ lieutenants. But as soon as they came for me to continue the labor, I put it back on without them knowing that I knew how to take it off. But those nights of freedom were absolute bliss.”

Groot then looked at her. Nebula didn’t need him to write down what he was about to ask his aunt. “I know what you’re thinking. And no, I’m not going to remove the ankle monitor from you.” Groot then looked back down at the device, picking at it. Nebula then embraced him again, making the Flora Colossus look at her. “I’m a convicted criminal all throughout the galaxy, Groot. You’ve been given a chance to right your wrongs and not be sent to prison. No one in this so-called ‘Family’ wants to see you screw it up.”

Groot thinks about what Nebula said. After a minute, Gamora could be heard down the hallway, calling his name.

A minute later, there was a knock on his door, followed by Gamora gently opening it and seeing her sister and the teenager on his bed bonding, which surprises her.

“Groot, Rocket’s been waiting in the car for half an hour now. You have to go to the soup kitchen for your community service, remember?” Gamora’s gaze then went over to her sister. “Are, are you two talking to each other now?” She marveled at the pair as Groot stood up.

Groot grunted at the two before storming off to get in Rocket’s car so that his adoptive father could drive him to start his community service at the soup kitchen.

Chapter Text

Rocket then drove Groot to the soup kitchen. The teenager was again reluctant to come out of the car. But with Rocket’s urging, (He again threatened to further embarrass Groot in school, this time even more so than today when he showed up during Groot’s lunch period.) the tree left the car.

“I am Groot.” Groot whined as they walked up to the entrance of the soup kitchen.

“Well, you should’ve thought about that while you were at home.” Rocket told his son. “Drax did make dinner for everyone tonight. You were more than welcome to come out of your room to join us. But no, you were being your usual moody self today.”

Groot’s stomach then rumbled as he placed his hand on top of it. “I am Groot.” He complained as they walked inside.

“No, we ain’t going to McDonald’s so you can be rewarded. Plus, you’re already late for your community service. So, get in there right now!” Rocket ordered his son as Groot defiantly marched into the main room. 

Inside, there were about 30-50 volunteers that were from the Xandarian Church, which ran the soup kitchen and other programs for the less fortunate in the city. Groot was obviously the youngest person to be in there. He was also the least enthusiastic and just wanted to go home. As the pastor of the church called the newcomers to the front of the room as the more veteran workers helped set up the food lines and tables, he explained the various jobs and tasks to them. Groot was disinterested as he folded his arms and shuffled towards the back of the room and took a seat. After the pastor was done explaining everything to everyone else, Rocket, who noticed Groot shifting to the back, caught the pastor’s attention and they walked over to Groot.

“My child.” The pastor began as the other volunteers and workers walked to their stations in the food line and as the clergyman placed a hand on Groot’s shoulder as the teen scowled as he tilted his head down and crossed his arms. “Your, uh.” He looks at Rocket as the rodent looks at his adopted son. “Father here tells me that you don’t want to volunteer here to help the homeless.”

Groot nodded without looking at anyone. “I am Groot.” He murmured. The pastor then turned to Rocket for translation.

“Groot, language.” Rocket scolded as the pastor looked confused. He then told the pastor as the clergyman sat down next to Groot. “He says that this is beneath him and he has better things to do than this.”

“My son, please find it within your heart to help out the less fortunate. They would do the same for you.” The pastor said as Groot reluctantly nodded to his request. “Good.” He applauded the teen as he and Groot stood up and they walked over to the lunch line where everyone else was working diligently. “Now, I’ve saved the most important part of the food service line for you: The Soup Station. As the people come through the line, all you’ve got to do is ask them ‘What kind of soup do you want, sir/ma’am?’ Then serve them the soup of their choice along with a roll and butter.”

Groot didn’t look too impressed. “Uh, here, let’s practice first.” The pastor suggested. “Pretend that I’m a client and I want the Terran Clam Chowder.” He motioned to one of the ladles to the side of Groot as the teen picked one up. “Good, now what’s the first thing you say to me?”

“I am Groot?” Groot asked as he motioned his hand above the various soup containers.

The Pastor was about to say something when Rocket interrupted him. “Wait, how about they just point to the soup that they want?” The rodent proposed as the Pastor agreed.

“That’s not a bad idea.” He said as he handed Groot a hairnet as he put it on.

“Excellent.” Rocket proclaimed. He then turned to Groot. “Okay, son. Have fun helping out around here and I’ll be back to pick you up when you’re done.” Rocket began to walk to the door.

“Wait, Rocket.” The Pastor called out to the raccoon as he was about to exit. Rocket then turned around. “I have a better idea.” He began as he walked Rocket back to Groot, who was bored to death already. “Since this is Groot’s first day, I was thinking how bout you give him some moral support and volunteer right beside him?”

Rocket was not a fan, but to be a good role model for Groot, he reluctantly agreed to the Pastor’s idea and grabbed a spare apron, chef’s hat, and hairnet from the pile on one of the tables to the side and went into one of the back rooms.

Five minutes later, Rocket emerged from the back and rejoined the Pastor and Groot. The teenager covered his face in embarrassment at his father. 

Rocket was wearing a light pink apron with delicate flowers in an even lighter shade of pink printed all over it. The apron had the words “Kiss the Chef” emblazoned on it. It was accompanied by a matching pink chef’s hat.

“I am Groot.” The teen whispered angrily to Rocket, clearly humiliated.

“Hey, this is all that they had.” The rodent whispered back.

“Alright. Rocket, can you please put on this mustache guard and this set of gloves.” The Pastor asked Rocket as he got the mustache guard and pink gloves on. “It’s nothing against you, personally, but health code regulations require-.”

“Yeah, I know.” Rocket replied.

“Okay. I need one of you guys to manage the soup station while the other one hands out the rolls and butter.” The pastor directed as Groot looked disinterested.

“Well, uh, Groot, since this is your volunteer work, how about you be in charge of the soups and I’ll hand out the rolls and butter.” Rocket suggested to his son as he climbed up on a step stool so that he could look over the table and the duo took their spots on the serving line as the homeless citizens of Xandar filed in for that night’s dinner.

As the meals were being served, Groot displayed the typical behavior of a teenager who didn’t want to be there but was forced to by judicial order. He was miserable towards the homeless, giving them attitude as they asked for whatever soup they wanted. After they got the soup of their choice, Rocket apologized profusely for Groot’s attitude as he gave each person their roll and butter.

As the last person in line was served, there was a lull in the action before the next throng of people would come up to Rocket and Groot’s station. The raccoon takes this time to try to change his son’s attitude.

“You better change that attitude of yours, boy.” Rocket warned Groot as the tree crossed his arms and rolled his eyes dismissively. “I mean it. You’re skating on thin ice and if you step one toe out of line here, you’ll regret it later at the house. So you better straighten up.” He whispered to his son as an especially decrepit man with a cloak covering his body and face and who also had a severe hunchback approached the table.

“I am Groot.” Groot grumbled to the man with a mixture of kindness and miserableness in his voice. (But mostly the miserableness.)

“I’m sorry, good sir, but I don’t understand what you mean.” The man meekly said with a tremble in his voice.

“He asked you what kind of soup do you want.” Rocket translated to the man as he placed a roll and butter on his plate.

“Well, whatever you recommend, good sir.” The man responded.

“Groot, give him the Terran Clam Chowder.” Rocket told Groot as the tree grabbed a ladle and scooped out some of the soup and placed it in a bowl.

“Thank you, good sir.” The man said as he held the cowl over his head, concealing his identity with one hand as he grabbed his tray with the other hand as he began to hobble away to a table.

Rocket then noticed that the man was walking with the most fake limp that he saw in his entire life. “Wait a second.” The man started to walk faster. “Hey, stop!” Rocket then lunged at the man, tackling him to the ground and making him drop his tray. The rodent then grabbed the cowl that he was wearing from him and revealed his face.

“KRAGLIN?!?!” Rocket was dumbfounded by the soup-obsessed Xandarian showing up to the one place where he was NOT ALLOWED to be. “What the-. What the FLARK are you doing here?”

“I, uh, heard that you guys were going to the soup kitchen, and I was craving some soup, so I decided to come and check it out.” Kraglin’s lie was apparent to Rocket who could see through his ruse.

“We’re here so that Groot could do his community service in exchange for not being sent away to Juvie.” Rocket snarled at Kraglin.

“Oh.” Kraglin suddenly recalled Rocket and Groot leaving the house an hour earlier. He then turned to Groot. “Uh, hi, Twig.” He waved to the tree. Groot crossed his arms and rolled his eyes before he just huffed and turned away, clearly embarrassed.

The Pastor then approached Rocket, trying to diffuse the situation. “Rocket-.” He began.

“Don’t worry, Father.” Rocket interjected. “We were just leaving.” The raccoon then called out to his son. “Groot, grab your things. We’re going home.” He called out to Groot, who was standing alone in a corner, wishing he wasn’t here.

Rocket grabbed Kraglin by his coat and lead him to the car. Groot followed behind them, clearly wishing no one knew that these two were related to him. Rocket then started the car as Groot got in the backseat and closed the door, clearly humiliated by what just happened as the raccoon drove them home.

Chapter Text

The threesome return home. Groot is clearly pissed off about what just happened at the Soup Kitchen and angrily marches up to his room, not saying anything, except for a huff and a grunt as he ascended up the stairs.

Peter then turns around. He calls up the stairs to the moody teenager. “Uh, hey, Groot.” Groot ignores him and slams his door shut, startling the other Guardians to his and Rocket’s return.

“What has gotten in to him all of a sudden?” Peter asked Rocket.

“Ask him.” Rocket then poked Kraglin in the Xandarian’s side, tickling him. “Go ahead, Kraglin. Tell everyone where you were this fine evening.”

“I was, uh, here, with you guys tonight.” Kraglin tries to come up with a good alibi. “We were watchin’ a movie.” Kraglin tries to recall what movie Peter put in the VCR just before he snuck out. “It was, uh, Mary Poppins.”

Peter shook his head. “No, it wasn’t, Kraglin. We weren’t even watching a movie. We were just watching Bob Ross.” Kraglin then gulped. “So, where were you?”

Kraglin stood there, silent as he was beginning to slowly cower where he stood.

Rocket then explained where the soup-addled Xandarian was tonight. “He was at the soup kitchen tonight to humiliate Groot.” He pointed an accusing finger at Kraglin. “He was pretending to be a homeless person just to get soup.”

Drax then interrupted into uncontrollable laughter as Kraglin struggles to explain his motives.

“...But it was all Drax’s idea!” Kraglin finally managed to say after stuttering his explanation for five minutes. “He said that I was too chicken to do it!”

 Drax then stopped laughing immediately and he and Kraglin started to yell and fight each other.

“STOP IT! STOP IT!” Gamora tries to break them up. “NOW!” They stop their fighting at the change of Gamora’s voice.

Drax and Kraglin then bow their heads in submission. “Sorry, Gammy.” They say in unison.

“Don’t apologize to me.” Gamora told them. “I’m not the one you embarrassed tonight with your shenanigans.” She started to go up the stairs. “I’m going to go get Groot out of his room so that you two can say sorry to him.”

“What’d we do?” Drax asked Kraglin as the skinny Xandarian shrugged his shoulders.

There was a scream coming from Groot’s room and Gamora leaning over the top banister. “Peter, Rocket.” She gasped for breath. “Groot’s not here.” The rest of the Guardians come rushing up the stairs.

Chapter Text

They enter Groot’s room. Inside it was messy. An unmade bed, dirty clothes strewn all about his room, (except for the hamper that they were supposed to be in), and some sort of smell coming from somewhere, were just some of the things that made the teen’s room unacceptable to Rocket and Peter’s strict standards of cleanliness, which they remind Groot of on a daily basis.

Peter just shook his head at the state of Groot’s room. “He is sooo dead when he gets home.” The humie promised as he gazed his eyes at the state of Groot’s room.

Gamora then walked briskly towards the window that was the closest to the teen’s bed. She then picked up something. “He built a homemade hacksaw out of one of the legs on his desk chair and a strong tinsel from one of the Christmas decorations that was stored in the attic to cut into the bars on his window.” She told the others.

Peter didn’t look convinced. “Wait a second...” He began. “The Christmas tinsel ain’t strong enough to cut through metal. It has to be something else.”

Kraglin sniffed the air. “I smell soup.” He said as he got on his hands and knees and crawled around on the floor looking for the source of the smell. He then found a bowl of soup that was a week old. “Jackpot!” He exclaimed as he took a spoonful of the soup before spitting it out. “Ew! Well, if this is what he thinks of my cooking, then I’ll never make him another bowl of soup ever again!”

Drax then realizes something. “Oh, I know why Groot wanted the soup.” He stated.

“Well, we would like to hear it right now.” Rocket demanded.

“I once saw this on one of your Earth-Shows, Quill-.” Drax started to explain.

“Get to the point, Drax. We would like to know now.” Rocket hissed impatiently through gritted teeth.

“Alright!” The Destroyer barked back at Rocket. “Anyways, the show proved that, over time, it’s possible to weaken the strength of various metals with liquids. In this case, soup, and the heat from the soup sped up the deterioration process so Groot could get through the bars faster.”

Rocket wasn’t paying any attention to Drax’s speech. His eyes were focused on a crumpled up piece of paper near the trash bin near Groot’s desk. The raccoon picked up the paper ball and unwrinkled it. There was no mistaking that Groot wrote it, being in sloppy Xandarian Script since Rocket forgot to order Groot a new writing pen for school.

Rocket read what was written on the paper to himself. Groot had run away from home to go meet up with the Emo Goth gang for some sort of initiation ceremony. This worried Rocket as he put the paper inside his pocket.

As his eyes went from the trash bin to the window where Groot escaped from, Rocket noticed another troubling thing. The ankle monitor from which the Nova Corps could track Groot’s every move and whereabouts was laying on the floor, the elastic velcro band sawed through and the cut wires exposed. The raccoon excused himself to go to his room to prepare the man- er- treehunt for his son.

Peter followed the raccoon to his room where he was packing a survival bag. “Where do you think you’re going?” The humie questioned Rocket.

“What does it look like, Quill?” The raccoon answered. “To find my son.”

“Well, he is wearing a tracking device isn’t he? So, the Nova Corps will bring him home like they did the other night.” Peter reassured Rocket as the rodent handed Peter the ankle monitor that Groot was successful in disarming and getting it off of his body. “Alright, I’ll get on contacting the missing persons department-.” He said as he started to call the Nova Corps on his tablet.

Rocket quickly grabbed the tablet from the human. “Don’t.” He ordered.

Peter was confused. “What? Why?” He asked. “Don’t you want Groot back here safe and sound?”

Rocket mustered up the strength to explain what he was feeling right now. “Yes, but...”

“But what?” Peter asked as he was handed back the tablet from Rocket.

Rocket sighed as he looked at Peter. “As soon as they find Groot, they’ll arrest him and throw him into Juvie for violating his probation.” The raccoon explained. “I- I can’t let that happen to him.” He stated as he fought off the urge to sob thinking about what Groot would have to be put through should he be sent away.

“So... what’re you going to do?” Starlord asked Rocket.

“Isn’t it obvious? I’m gonna go look for him. I have an inkling as to where he might’ve gone to.” Rocket told him as he opened the front door as it started to rain heavily with a strong gust of wind howling as a bright flash of lightning and a strong rumble of thunder could be heard. He then showed Peter his cell phone as he tucked it in his pocket. “If I’m not back by midnight or something else happens, I’ll give you a call on the phone.”

Peter nodded as Rocket began to walk in the thunderstorm towards his car. He then walked back into the house as the raccoon backed out of the driveway to begin his search.

Chapter Text

Rocket drove around the city, going to different places that he knew Groot would frequent. He checked Groot’s favorite place to eat, the playground and park where Rocket would bring the sapling when he was younger, the mall that Groot liked to go to on his own, and last, but not least, Yondu’s monument which Peter had commissioned to be built in the city center.

Rocket sat on the bench over by the memorial. He bowed his head and sighed. “Man, Yondu, how did you do it with Peter? How did you manage his teenager years and not be tempted to kill him?” Rocket then looked up at the statue. “Who the hell am I kidding? There’s no one here. I’m just talking to nobody.” He then gathered his things as he stood up from the bench.

Just then, Rocket heard a gruffy, old voice from what he thought was behind him. “Hey there, Rat.” It greeted him.

There was only one person that he ever met that called him by that name. That person, sadly, was dead.

Rocket slowly turned around in his seat. He couldn’t believe who he saw. “Y-Yon-Yondu?” He stuttered, as he looked at Yondu’s corporeal spirit hovering above the raccoon.

“Yeah?” Yondu’s gruff voice, now more ghostly in tone, answered. “What’s it to ya?”

“Aren’t you- you know, dead?” Rocket tried to ask gently as possible.

“What?” Yondu then looked at himself. “Oh, yeah. Sorry, I forgot.” He chuckled as he floated down to the ground and sat beside Rocket on the bench. “So, what brings you here?”

“It’s Groot. He-.” Rocket began.

“Aww, what’s Twig been up to?” Yondu interrupted as he looked at Rocket. “He ain’t building no more Death Buttons, is he?” He asked in a serious life-or-death-Rocket-is-probably-the-worst-parent-in-the-whole-galaxy, sorta tone.

Rocket couldn’t help but chuckle at Yondu’s question. “No, no. He hasn’t built a working one since-.” The raccoon then trailed off, finishing the question in his head would result in painful memories of the events that followed the last time Groot was around a functional Button of Death.

“Ya know, I haven’t seen Twig in a while. Where is he?” Yondu looks around for Groot, who he thinks is still a baby. “Twig! Twig! Come over here! Come see yer Grandpa Yondu!” His disappointment grows when he realizes that Groot was nowhere to be found.

Rocket consoles Yondu before he explains why he’s here. “Yondu, Groot’s not here.”

Yondu’s expression changed from shear joy to disappointment. “Where is he then?”

Rocket told Yondu the truth. “I- I don’t know.”

“Some parent you are.” Yondu tsked at Rocket. “Can’t even keep track of your boy.” Yondu shook his head in disappointment. “Shame, Rat.”

“I know!” The rodent exclaimed. “Groot ran away from home and I don’t know where he went!” Rocket confessed as he tried to hold back the tears. “I suck at this whole parenting thing.” He couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. “I don’t know how you put up with Quill’s teenage years!” He bawled through heavy tears.

“Well, it wasn’t easy, but-.” Yondu began when he realized the third part of Rocket’s confessional. “Wait a sec... did ya say Twig’s a teen now? I’ve only been dead fer only a year and Twig is already a teenager?”

Rocket nods as he explains how Groot grows and ages. “I don’t know what to do with his attitude.” He admitted.

“Oooh, boy, yer in for a roller coaster ride with Twig.” Yondu cautioned as he explained his experience with a teenaged Peter. “One time, Quill’s hormones and attitude got the better of him and he was already skating on thin ice when he screwed up an especially lucrative mission, cost us thousands of Units. Well, afterwards, I was gonna uphold my end of the bargain I made with my crew the night we picked him up from Terra. Kraglin even volunteered to make his Galaxy-Famous Terran Noodle Soup.” Rocket looked at Yondu with intrigue mixed with disgust at the same time. “Anyways, Quill was soo scared at the prospect of becoming our next meal that he grew up and started to pull his own weight around here and his attitude changed.” Yondu then placed a hand on Rocket’s shoulder and looked at the raccoon in the eyes. “What I’m saying, Rat, is show Twig some tough love and he’ll start to give you respect. Look how Quill turned out.” 

Rocket and Yondu share a laugh at Peter’s expense. After a while, Yondu looks up towards the night sky.

“Well, Rat.” Yondu stood up. “Time fer me to be goin’ to that great dark beyond to hang out with Quill’s mom.”

Rocket looked at the sky too. “And Ego?” He hesitates uttering that name.

“Nah. All I know, that jackass is probably burning in Hell. For what he’s done to those other kids I brought to him before Peter. For what he did to Pete’s mom.” Yondu scowled. “Anyways, tell Twig that I’ll be looking over him when he needs me.” He smiled as he floated away to the sky like Mary Poppins.

Chapter Text

Rocket continued to look for his son. He decided to check out some other places that he knew Groot liked to go to. After none of them provided any credible leads, he checked his watch. It was a half hour past midnight.

“I probably should go home. I did promise the guys that I wouldn’t stay out too late. Star-Munch has probably gotten his panties tied in a knot.” Rocket conceded as he turned around. “...Again.” He chuckled at the thought.

He then took a look at his surroundings. “Hm... I’m near Nova Prime’s residence. There’s an alleyway nearby that I can take that’ll get me back to the house in five minutes instead of the usual ten minutes if I took the long way.” Rocket deduced as he entered the lone dark corridor. 

As the raccoon made his way down the alley, he couldn’t help but think where he went wrong in raising Groot. Peter, Gamora, and especially Drax, along with the other Guardians gave him good advice in being a parent. Where did he go wrong? Sure, Groot was just an average teenager, but none of the advice that the other Guardians gave him prepared Rocket for Groot’s mood swings, rebellious nature, and normal teenager behavior.

“Damn, Yondu, how the flark did you manage Peter when he was Groot’s age?” Rocket said to himself as he approached the end of the alley.

Just then, Rocket heard a soda can being kicked against the pathway that landed near him, followed by voices of rebellious teenagers. One of these voices sounded familiar as Rocket hid behind some trash cans to not be seen by the group as they approached his line of sight.

“Come on!” The voice of the leader of the group barked at one of the initiates that was shoved forward by the other members. “You either do it, or else!” He threatened the person.

Rocket cautiously peeks out from behind the trash cans to get a better understanding of what was going on. Sure enough, there was a group of teenagers up to something illegal. The leader of the group was that good-for-nothing troublemaker Jarik and the person that he shoved into the corner was Groot.

Groot was now cowering as Jarik stood over him in an act of intimidation. “I-I a-am Gr-Groot.” He tries to reason with him.

“Look, I just told you, this is your initiation. You climb up the wall to the 2nd floor, stab the guards on lookout duty, unlock the front door so the rest of us can get in, we rob Nova Prime, and after we ransack the place, and only then, will your initiation will be complete. Capeesh?” Jarik snarled as he got in Groot’s face.

“I am Groot.” Groot replied as he walked to the wall and disabled the security system to the mansion.

“Okay, Groot.” Jarik began as he handed the teen a pretty gnarly-looking knife. “Now it’s your time to prove yourself to us.” He then backed off of Groot as the Flora Colossus just stood there and looked at the knife that he was given. “What’re you waiting for?! Get on with it!”

Groot felt uneasy as he stared at the knife. “I am Groot.” He tries to tell Jarik, reluctance overtaking him.

Jarik wasn’t having it. He then took the knife from Groot’s hand and stabbed him several times with it. His friends then beat Groot up as the teen fell to the ground. Groot then did his best to cover his head with his hands and curl up into a ball as the gang roughed him up.

Rocket was scared for his son. Without thinking he grabbed the soda can that the group carelessly kicked in the raccoon’s direction and threw it at the corner to create some noise to make them think that they’ve been discovered.

“Oh, shit! Run!” Jarik ordered the other members of his gang and they made a run for it, leaving Groot for dead.

As soon as Jarik and the others were out of sight and no longer within earshot, Rocket came out of hiding to tend to Groot.

Groot was in pain, as he had bruises, a black eye, a broken arm and legs, and various stab wounds, some cut very deep into his bark, and close to his vital organs. Rocket then took the knapsack off of himself and began to rifle through it to look for the medical kit that he always carried in case of an emergency. 

“Why did you run away from home?” Rocket questioned Groot as he found the medical kit and opened it.

“I... am-.” Groot began as Rocket got out some antibiotics and applied them to a piece of gauze and then placed the gauze onto one of Groot’s wounds. Groot then began to scream in absolute pain and agony.

“I know, I know it hurts.” Rocket tried to soothe his son as he grabbed and held his uninjured hand as Groot squeezes it back in an attempt to fight through the pain. “Just let the medicine take effect and then I’ll worry about resetting your arm and legs.”

Groot begged his father to call an ambulance for him. Rocket refused, aware to the fact that if the authorities knew that Groot violated the terms of his probation by disabling and removing the ankle monitor from his leg and running away from home, that Groot will be arrested once he has been found and taken straight into police custody and placed into a juvenile delinquent center until he reaches adulthood, which could be years if Rocket’s calculations were correct.

But, then again, Rocket looked at the expression on Groot’s face. The face of someone who regrets the decisions that he’s made these past few days. The face of someone who wants nothing more than to please the most important people in his life. 

“Gr-Groot.” He bawled as he looked at Groot, whose breathing was starting to become heavily labored. “C’mon, buddy. You’ve gotta stay with me.” Rocket begged desperately as it started to rain and a rumble of thunder could be heard in the background. The raccoon adjusted how he was cradling the teenaged Flora Colossus in his arms, whose grip on Rocket’s hand was getting lighter and the teenager’s big brown eyes were beginning to dilate before getting cloudy.

Groot managed to hold his good hand up against Rocket’s cheek in a tender moment. “I... am... Groot...” Groot meekly whispered to his father as his hand fell from from Rocket’s face and the teen’s eyes closed.

”N... no...” Rocket was heartbroken at seeing Groot like this. “NO!” He exclaimed in pain and sorrow as he held Groot’s hand.

Just then, a team of paramedics arrived in an ambulance and begin to assess Groot’s chances for survival. Rocket keeps telling them that Groot is no longer alive and that they’re just wasting their time. What Rocket doesn’t notice is all of the medical equipment that the medics have Groot hooked up on to monitor his vital signs. Groot’s heartbeat might not work like a normal Xandarian’s or like a Terran’s or one of the vast number of other alien species that’s known to the galaxy, but the machines that the medics are using have been calibrated to include the unique biology and physiology of Flora Colossi, even though Groot’s the last member of that race, the planet from which his kind came from having been decimated eons ago. Before any of the other Guardians were even born. (Or in Rocket’s case, experimented on and given sentience.)

The medics were finally able to stabilize Groot to the point where they were able to get him on a backboard and placed on a gurney to be taken into the ambulance.

Rocket watched as the ambulance sped off, sirens ablaze. The raccoon then called an Uber and took it to the nearest trauma center where Groot would be taken to. As the Uber drove up to the emergency department, Rocket clutched Groot’s old Bob Ross doll in his hands. As they pulled up to the trauma center, Rocket saw the ambulance in which Groot was taken in just backed up into the loading bay. The raccoon paid the driver and bolted out of the car. As he approached the ambulance, he saw the medics bring Groot out on his gurney and rush him inside.

Rocket followed them inside, trying to get any information on his son’s current condition. He was stopped when they took Groot back to one of the procedure rooms to save his life. Rocket was told that he would have to wait in the waiting room for any updates. Rocket nods as he clutched the Bob Ross doll for comfort and he walked to the waiting room for the longest wait of his life.

Chapter Text

Rocket paced around nervously in the waiting room. A million thoughts kept running through his mind. Was there anything that he could’ve done to make Groot not act so rebellious? Was Groot just acting like a typical teenager and should Rocket have just let his adopted son go through the motions that comes with adolescence? And lastly, what caused Groot to lash out against everyone who has ever cared about him?

Rocket made his way to the coffee machine located at the other end of the waiting room. After the shock of seeing a bipedal raccoon making his way to the coffee machine by himself and drinking at least 50 cups of coffee died down, the other people in the waiting room stopped staring and went about their own business.

Just then, the automatic doors that led to the back swung open and a young nurse emerged. Rocket sprung to his feet and approached her.

“G-Gr-Groot.” He stuttered. “Do you have any information on my son?” Rocket asked desperately as he tried to hold back his tears, the sheer amount of waiting unbearable to his emotions. The nurse shook her head as she walked past the raccoon to another family.

Heartbroken, Rocket sat back down in his seat. He tries to drown out his thoughts as he drank his 51st cup of coffee. As he finished it and looked at the bottom of it, he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around to see the rest of the Guardians in the waiting room.

“Wh- what are you guys doing here?” Rocket asked as he wiped some of the tears from his face.

“We’re here for you, Rocket.” Drax consoled the raccoon as the Destroyer placed his hand on Rocket’s shoulder. Rocket then looked at the others.

“Rocket, we heard what happened.” Starlord clarified.

Rocket was confused. “What? How?” He asked as Kraglin gulped as Peter looked at the Xandarian who held a drone that was in a million pieces.

“Someone was playing with their drone and flying it around Nova Prime’s place when the security guards shot it down.” Peter explained as Kraglin cowered. “Before the screen went black, we saw you cradling Groot in your arms.”

Rocket didn’t know what to say. “You guys didn’t have to come.” He mumbled to himself. “I need to deal with this on my own terms.” He added as Mantis backed off.

“How long have you been here, Rocket?” Gamora questioned. 

Rocket lost track of time from the moment that they took Groot to the procedure room in an effort to save his life. “I-I don’t know.” He confessed.

“Was it nighttime when you were in the ambulance with Groot?” Kraglin asked.

“It was near midnight when I found-.” Rocket explained. He then looked towards the window. The three suns of Xandar were high in the sky. The raccoon then turned to Peter. “What time is it now?”

Peter glanced at his watch. “Almost noon, Xandar Standard Time.”

This hit Rocket hard like a truck. The emergency staff have been working on Groot to save his life for almost 12 hours. No one has even come out to talk to Rocket to give him an update on his son’s condition, if they’ve had any complications, or, and Rocket is fearful of this possibility: If saving Groot would mean that he would have to be supported by machines for the rest of his life and he would never be able to interact with his surroundings or the people that he’s known for his whole life, rendering him essentially as a vegetable. If this was the case, the medical staff would give Rocket the heart-wrenching choice of keeping Groot alive and hope for a miracle, or to stop all life-saving attempts and take him off life support.

Rocket knew what the Old Groot would have wanted. Back in Halfworld, after an all-day stint in the “Torture Chamber,” Groot was wheeled back to his cell in a restraint chair after a marathon of various procedures and tests on his already weakened body. After the guards left for the night, Rocket picked the lock on his own cage to give Groot the food he stashed in the overhead vent throughout the day. After helping Groot eat, the raccoon and the tree had a talk about the day that they would escape from Halfworld. But Groot wasn’t sure if he would last that long. The wise Flora Colossus made Rocket promise that when they made a break for it, if he was gravely wounded, that Rocket wouldn’t seek out medical help for him and let him die in peace.

But the Old Groot was gone. Rocket wanted this Groot to actually enjoy and have a life. Even during his rebellious teenage phase, Rocket cares for Groot. But what would this Groot want right now? Does he want to live the rest of his life as a vegetable unable to interact with the world or would it be best to let him go?

Just then, another nurse emerged from the back rooms. This time, she wanted to talk to Rocket.

Rocket stood up anxiously. “How- how is he?” He asked.

She remained calm. “He’s stable and in recovery. However, I think you should see him immediately.” Her voice sounded urgent as Rocket and the other Guardians followed the nurse to the recovery room.

Inside, Groot was laying on a gurney, unconscious and heavily sedated. An assortment of wires and IV lines were coming out of his body and hooked up to various machines that measured his vital signs and did any number of things to keep him alive for the time being. Anything from giving him nutrients through a feeding tube to helping him breathe with a ventilator. His left arm and both of his legs were in casts and an eyepatch covering up a black eye.

Rocket held Groot’s uninjured hand. “Groot, buddy, we’re- we’re here.” The raccoon tries to sound strong, but fails as a tear emerges from his eye. Groot showed no response. “Wh-what happened?” Rocket asked the nurse.

“He sustained multiple stab wounds. He was awake by the time we got in the room and he was aware of everything that was happening around him. Unfortunately, he was in so much pain as we were treating his wounds that we had no other choice than to sedate him while we were saving his life.” The nurse answered.

”Well, what about now?” Rocket asked desperately. “Is he waking up now?”

”We did a pain threshold test on him when we were finished.” The nurse looked at Rocket in the eye. “Unfortunately, he was still in so much pain that he had to be placed in a medically-induced coma.”

Rocket was heartbroken as he held his head down and placed his hands inside his pockets. He then takes out Groot’s old Bob Ross doll. “But he will wake up, right? Medically-induced comas are only for a short time, right?” He was hoping that his understanding of all of the medical jargon he heard during his time on Halfworld was correct.

“I’m sorry, but there were further complications during the procedure.” The nurse began. “Groot stopped breathing, going into cardiac arrest and died twice on the table. We were able to restart his heart both times, but he lost a lot of oxygen and could have suffered irreversible brain damage.”

Rocket was shocked. “How bad?” That was all that he could ask.

“It’s too soon to tell.” The nurse informed the raccoon. “We won’t know the full extent of his injuries until he wakes up and we can run a few tests on him.”

Rocket just looked at Groot. He just didn’t know what the future held for his son. Right now, he wasn’t worried about Groot getting sent away to Juvie for violating his probation. He was more concerned with keeping Groot alive.

Chapter Text

It was getting late in the afternoon and visiting hours were almost over. The prognosis for Groot wasn’t good. If he showed no change by morning, he would be taken off of life support. Rocket was disheartened by the news.

“Hey, Rocket? It’s getting late, are you coming home with us tonight?” Peter asked as he stood up.

Rocket held Groot’s hand. “No, Quill.” He looked at Groot. “I wanna be here for him. I want to make sure that he knows that someone was here for him during this time.” He solemnly stated as he gently stroked Groot’s hand.

With that, the other Guardians left the ICU where Groot was moved to in the late afternoon. Rocket stayed behind to stay with Groot for what possibly could be the last night of his life. The attending nurse assigned to Groot came in shortly after to change his wound dressings and give him his sponge bath for the night while Rocket sat on a chair reading a magazine. She sang softly as she did it.

“Uh, not to be rude...” Rocket began as he put down the magazine. “But, what are you doing?”

“Singing.” She replied. “Research has shown that comatose or brain-dead patients have a 50 percent chance of making a full recovery if you sing to them.”

“Do you believe all that so-called ‘research’ or whatever it is?” Rocket asked her.

“It doesn’t hurt to try.” She said as she finished washing Groot and changed his diaper. “Actually, it might help if he has someone whose voice he’s familiar with talk to him.” She proposed to Rocket, who wasn’t thrilled with the idea. “Or we could put on one of his favorite TV shows.” The nurse grabbed a bag filled with various shows and movies and searched through them. “What does he like to watch?”

“He hasn’t watched much TV since he became a teenager and video games are his life now.” Rocket lamented. “But when he was younger, he was obsessed with Bob Ross and watched ‘The Joy of Painting’ nonstop.”

The nurse rifled through the bag some more until she found an old video tape that had every episode of “The Joy of Painting” on it. She then plopped it into the VCR.

The opening theme song to the show played. Groot showed no response to it. Not even when Bob Ross appeared on the TV and began to talk in that sweet, sweet ASMR voice of his. Groot just layed there, motionless, except for the machines that helped him breathe.

“Give talking to him a try, Rocket.” The nurse encouraged the raccoon. “It might help.”

Rocket agreed. “Alright.” He softly nodded to her. “I’ll give it a try.”

“That’s good.” She encourages him. “Well, my shift’s almost over with. I’ll be back in the morning when we give your son a test to determine if he can come out of the coma at some point in time.” She added before she left for the night.

After the nurse closed the door to Groot’s room, Rocket was all alone with a comatose Groot. He held his son’s hand and closed his eyes as he bowed his head in both prayer and regret. Regret meaning not being a good father for Groot and giving him the discipline and guidance that he desperately needed, despite the teen thinking otherwise.

The raccoon then looked at Groot. Groot’s face was swollen with numerous tubes and IV lines coming out of it. His face was also bandaged heavily and a bunch of monitors were placed on his forehead as well as the top of his head to monitor his brain waves and any brain activity that he might still have. Rocket saw Groot’s face. He saw his son in extreme pain and discomfort and this tore at his soul, if Rocket believed in such things. 

Rocket then took the nurse’s advice. If anything, it would help him get all of the emotions out in the open. He then held Groot’s uninjured hand into his and looked at Groot.

“I, uh, don’t know where to start.” Rocket began. He then glanced at the overhead TV where the nurse put on Bob Ross in an effort to stimulate Groot’s brain.

Rocket watched a couple seconds of Bob Ross and smiled. “You always loved Bob Ross. You would wake me up at 6:00 AM everyday just so you could watch him.” Rocket turned back to Groot. “And every time that we had to go on a mission that was too dangerous for you to come along with us, we had Kraglin babysit you until we came back. That was a bad idea, ‘cause one time all we had on the ship for you two to eat was Terran cereal and you said that cereal was the breakfast version of soup. And that’s how he got addicted to it, and that’s why we gotta make a weekly trip to Terra so he can get his fix.”

Rocket continued to reminisce about Groot’s childhood before the subject turned to Groot becoming a teenager.

“I don’t know what happened. One second you were this happy-go-lucky kid, and the next-.” Rocket stopped, trying to gather his thoughts. “I don’t know where I went wrong in raisin’ ya, Groot. Flark it, I should’ve listened to Gammy and Star-Munch when you were starting to give me an attitude and shouldn’t have let you get away with so much. I should’ve put my foot down and shown ya some tough love.” He looked at Groot’s motionless body. “...But I didn’t.”

The raccoon then sighed before looking up towards the ceiling, then looked down back at his son. “If you somehow come through this, I’ll be a better father for you, Groot.” Rocket sighed before continuing. “I promise you this. I swear.”

Rocket then looked at the wall clock. It was almost 7 AM Xandarian Time. The nurses and technicians would be in here soon to give Groot the test that would determine if he should stay on life support in the hopes that he could be weaned off of it someday, or, and this was Rocket’s worst fear, it would be better to pull the plug and let Groot die in peace.

A few more minutes passed. Rocket looked outside the window and saw the most gorgeous sunrise that he’s ever seen. He knew that the nurse that was here last night would come to take Groot for that fateful test that would determine if he would live or die. Sure enough, the nurse arrived to collect Groot and wheel him down to the testing room.

She sensed Rocket’s fear. “Don’t worry, Rocket.” She reassured him as she placed her hand on his shoulder. “No matter what happens, Groot knows that you were there for him.” She then pushed him in his bed out of the room.

Rocket watched the nurse take Groot down the hallway of the ICU and into an awaiting elevator that was big enough to fit the bed he was laying on. As the doors to the elevator closed, Rocket walked back inside to reflect on his son’s fate. It pains him to look around at all of the medical charts, various medications and dosages, and all of the medical equipment needed to keep Groot alive. He looks outside at the rising sun and decides to go out on the balcony attached to Groot’s room to bask it in and think about what was going on and how to proceed should the worst-case scenario come true.

A few hours pass. Rocket was still outside on the balcony when Groot was brought back inside. The raccoon walked back inside as Groot’s bed was placed in its usual parking spot. Groot was still hooked up to the same machines that he was on when he went for those tests. He still was in a coma and heavily dependent on the nurses around him. But to Rocket, none of that mattered as he held his son’s hand and looked at him. Groot was still there, even if he was fighting for his life and that’s all that mattered.

Just then, the nurse, along with a couple of other people, came to talk to Rocket.

“Rocket, can we talk to you?” The nurse asked as Rocket looked up from Groot’s bed and let go of the teen’s hand. He followed them outside of his son’s room and down to the conference room.

Chapter Text

Rocket walked in the conference room. Inside were big brown leather chairs on wheels surrounding a giant circular oak table. The walls of the room were filled with an array of book cases filled to the brim with books about different medical conditions and research into those ailments.

The raccoon took a seat on one side of the table. The nurses, emergency room techs, and all of the other people that were assigned to Groot’s case sat on the other side. Rocket could tell just by the sheer amount of paperwork, files, and other important pieces of documentation that the news probably wasn’t good for Groot and he should be prepared for the worse.

The nurse that was assigned to Groot when Rocket came to visit with his son spoke first. “Rocket, I’m Kalika and I was Groot’s nurse when he came in last night. It was very touch-and-go with him and he was in a lot of pain when we took him to the procedure room, where we had no choice but to place him in a medically-induced coma until his condition stabilizes and improves. But he showed no immediate improvement as is typical of people who come in with these types of injuries. There were also a couple of times when he stopped breathing and was deprived of oxygen for at least fifteen minutes. And he was also clinically dead for a couple of minutes twice in the span of ten minutes before we were able to revive him.”

Rocket bowed his head down at hearing this. He sighed before mumbling to himself. “So there’s no hope for him, is there?” He looked up at the other people in the room. “You’re going to pull the plug, aren’t you?”

The nurses, specialists, and technicians looked at Rocket as they silently nodded, confirming Groot’s fate.

“All the signs point to brain death. He also contracted a very severe infection from the blades of the knives he was stabbed by and some of the stab wounds he suffered were very deep and close to some of his vital organs, further increasing the severity of the infections. Now, he suffered a very bad black eye that’s extremely swollen. We tried to get him to open it while he was still conscious so that we could look at the damage and determine if his eye could be saved, but he couldn’t. He also has a few lacerated muscles and a few fractures in his arm and both of his legs.” Kalika explained as Rocket’s expression changed. “His chances for survival, let alone a full recovery are less than a 0.01% chance. If somehow he did make it, he would be severely brain damaged and would be a bed-ridden vegetable for the rest of his life, and I know that neither you nor him would want that, so it would be best to remove him from life support and let Groot die peacefully.”

Rocket does his best to contain his emotions. He tries not to cry as he asks “Can I see him one last time before he-.” The raccoon couldn’t finish the sentence.

Kalika nodded as she and all the other specialists got up and escorted Rocket back to Groot’s room. On the way back, they pass the waiting room where a few familiar faces greeted them.

“Gammy? Drax? Nebula? Kraglin? Mantis? Star-Munch?” Rocket was surprised at seeing the other Guardians in the waiting room. “What- what are you guys doing here?”

“We figured that you needed some moral support while Groot recovers.” Drax answered for the others as he placed an arm around Rocket. “I would’ve wanted the same if my wife and daughter had a chance to be saved after Thanos slaughtered my people.”

“That’s very kind of you guys.” Rocket acknowledged their kind gesture towards him. “But...” He paused, the next words tough for him to say. “Groot’s going to be taken off of life support.” The other Guardians were saddened at the news as they joined Rocket in walking down the long lonely ICU corridor to Groot’s room.

When they arrived, the Guardians all stood around Groot’s bed in a semi-circle. There were two nurses already there to clean Groot’s wounds and treat them with a special ointment before covering them up with gauze wrappings. Groot also was recently given a sponge bath and had a fresh diaper and gown on him. He was still alive, but just barely and the machines that were hooked up to him were doing the breathing for him. His entire face and body were extremely swollen and Groot’s expression told the Guardians, especially Rocket that he was in extreme pain and wanted it all to just go away. Rocket didn’t have the heart to tell Groot that it would be over with soon.

The other nurses left the room. Kalika was still present to oversee the Guardians saying goodbye to one of their own and then she would turn off all the machines that were keeping Groot alive. Moments later, the coroner stood at the doorway with a cadaver cart that he would transport Groot on once he died and take him to the morgue that was in the basement of the facility so an autopsy could be performed on him to determine what injuries contributed to his eventual death. The coroner also had in his possession a fountain pen in his front pocket and laying on the cart was Groot’s death certificate. It was already filled out, the only things that were missing was Groot’s cause of death and the date and the time of his death.

The pastor entered the room and said a final prayer for Groot before the Guardians said their goodbyes to the teenager.

Up first was Mantis. She placed her hand upon Groot’s forehead to see if she could read his thoughts.

“I-I can’t tell what he’s thinking!” Mantis wailed as she trembled. “It’s unending darkness!” Drax then picked her up and carried her to a chair.

Nebula approached Groot’s bed. “Hey, Groot. I know that we didn’t actually get along all that well and you were scared to death of me when I first came to visit but, you eventually got used to seeing me everyday and became less scared. Even Gamora said over these past few weeks you were starting to look at me as your Aunt Nebby.” Nebula reminisced to Groot. “I’ll always be your Aunt Nebby, no matter what.” She added before she got up and walked over to where Drax and Mantis were sitting.

Kraglin walked up to Groot next. “Hey, Twig.” He greeted the teen, hoping Yondu’s nickname for Groot would miraculously wake him up. Nothing. Kraglin thought of something to say. “Remember the time that we went to Terra for a weekend vacation of rest and relaxation? And on our last night we were looking for some place fancy to eat? And every other place was either closed, out of business, or didn’t want to serve a mangy raccoon or a fat guy who refuses to wear a shirt.”

“Hey! I’m not a mangy raccoon!” Rocket snarled at Kraglin.

“And I’m not fat, I’m buff!” Drax corrected the Xandarian.

“Oh, yeah?” Rocket challenged. “Then why can’t ya wear a shirt? They make em big enough for fattys!” He roared as Drax charged towards the raccoon.



Peter and Gamora separated the two before they got to each other and got into fisticuffs. Peter using all his strength to hold Drax back and Gamora holding Rocket in her arms after he leaped into the air.

“ENOUGH! BOTH OF YOU!” Gamora yelled at the two. “This is not the time for you two to be fighting. Now, calm down and apologize to each other.”

“Rocket, I’m sorry for my sudden outburst.” Drax said as he bowed his head in submission.

“And I’m sorry that I called you fat.” Rocket apologized. “Hey, do you and your sensitive nipples wanna get some Ben & Jerry’s later?”

“Small friend, it would be a pleasure to get some Terran Ice Cream with you.” The Destroyer accepted Rocket’s offer.

Kraglin waited for everything to settle back down before he continued to talk to Groot. “Anyways, as I was saying, Groot, that night, the only place that was open was Souplantation. Quill was tired of trying to find some place that would please everybody. Long story short, I guess that’s where my soup addiction came from. And I remember the time when I babysat you and there was no soup for us to eat. You showed me that cereal is the breakfast version of soup and all the different sugary types got me addicted to cereal now. That brings me to my next point, I’m sorry about sneaking out of the house to go to the soup kitchen the other night. I knew that it would embarrass you, but Drax dared me to or he would show Quill my secret soup stash...” Kraglin looked around at everybody. “...And now that that secret is out...” Kraglin regrets talking about his secret soup stash out in front of everybody. “Anyways, Twig, when ya meet back up with Yondu in Heaven, tell him that I’m holding down the fort and keeping Quill in line.”

Kraglin got up and traded places with Drax, who sat next to Groot.

“Hey, Groot.” Drax began. “I know that you and me weren’t the best of friends, but I’ll never forget the fun times that we’ve had together.” Drax wipes a tear from his face. “All the times I rocked you to sleep when you were on my shoulder, all the play fighting we would do just for fun and you teaching me how to turn invisible.” Drax chuckled to himself. “I’m sorry for calling you ‘dumber, smaller Groot’ and ‘dumb tree.’ I didn’t want it to sound mean to you. I’ll miss you Groot. Do me a favor and tell my wife and daughter that I’m doing good.”

With that, Drax sat back down where Mantis, Nebula, and Kraglin were. It was now Gamora’s turn to reflect on her time with Groot.

Gamora brushed some of Groot’s moss out of his closed eyes as she began to speak softly to him. “Hey, baby. Oh, sweetie, you’ve grown up so much since you were little. I remember all of us, especially Rocket getting excited when you started to move in your little pot. He was so happy and overfilled with joy when you stretched your little arms out and yawned. We all remember when you started to talk for the first time. Sure, all you could say was ‘I am Groot.’ But he was so happy and he took it upon himself to teach us how to understand you. When it was time for you to leave your pot for the first time, Rocket placed you on the kitchen counter to get you ready for your bath. But you wanted some cookies first, and Rocket kept telling you ‘No.’ You waited until his back was turned and you extended your little arms until you reached the shelf the cookies were on and you lifted yourself up to them. Well, your coordination wasn’t the best, so you fell over and luckily I caught you before you hit the ground.” Gamora smiled. “Rocket and I checked you out and saw that you had two very strong legs that were scrunched up in that pot and it was time for you to stretch them out. At first you were crawling, then we had to baby-proof the entire house so you wouldn’t get into stuff that you shouldn’t have been near. Rocket was against the idea of having to keep all his weapons under lock and key, but better safe than sorry. And then you started to grow up as soon as you started school and we were all proud of you.”

“We love you, baby.” Gamora finished before she kissed Groot on the forehead and got up from her seat and rejoined the others as Peter got up to talk to Groot.

“Hey there, Groot.” Peter began as he sat next to Groot. “I know that these last couple of years you weren’t the most well-behaved kid and that’s kinda my fault.” Peter looked at Rocket as the raccoon stared at the humie. “But, not once did I not think of you as my son. I know that Rocket is technically your adoptive father and he did most of the work needed with raising you. The truth is, Groot, is that each of us had a hand in helping to raise you, and in turn, you taught us new things and together, all of us became a family. A dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless.”

Peter patted Groot on his shoulder as he stood up. It was now Rocket’s turn to say his farewells to the one person that his whole life revolved around. As the raccoon walked to Groot’s bedside, he couldn’t help be reflect on Groot’s life. Not just when this Groot was reborn, but from the very first time he met the Original Groot back when Original Groot and him were both experiments and prisoners on Halfworld.

“Groot, I know that you and me haven’t had the sort of traditional father-son relationship these past few years when you became a teenager, and especially since you’ve entered your rebellious stage and started to defy all the rules I set down for you.” Rocket struggles to say as he fights back the tears. “But- but, I wish that I had been more stern with you. If I’d put my foot down when you started to disobey us, we wouldn’t be here right now.”

Rocket held Groot’s hand as he struggled to look at his son through tear-shot eyes. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t the father that you wanted. I’m sorry that I wasn’t the father that you deserved.” Rocket then looked at the other Guardians, specifically Kraglin and Peter. “I wish that I was more like Yondu. If I was, Groot wouldn’t have snuck out the house. Groot wouldn’t have met up with those hooligans and gotten stabbed. Groot wouldn’t be here right now on his deathbed fighting for his life.”

Rocket looked back at Groot. “I failed you, Groot. I tried my best to raise you right and keep you safe from everything and everyone that could hurt you. I should’ve tried harder.”

Rocket stroked Groot’s face in a caring and fatherly manner. “I love you, Groot. I’ll never forget the joy I’ve had in raising you and being your daddy.” He then tucked Groot’s old Bob Ross doll into Groot’s clutched hand.

Rocket then tilted his head towards Kalika. He was ready for her to take Groot off of life support. She pulled the plug on all of the machines and took the breathing tube out of Groot’s mouth.

“Go on, Groot. Go to Heaven. Be free of this pain.” Rocket sobbed to his son as Groot’s breathing became more sporadic and his heartrate started to slow down. “Go to Yondu and Bob Ross.”

With that, Groot’s heart stopped beating, the heartrate monitor flatlining, letting out the lone, long beep that signaled Groot’s death.

The coroner came in and filled out Groot’s time of death on his death certificate while Kalika disconnected all of the IV lines and monitors from his body. The coroner and Kalika then picked up Groot’s lifeless body and placed him on the cadaver cart to be taken to the morgue. Rocket was overcome with emotion when Kalika draped a white blanket over Groot, offering him one final look at his son before she covered the teen’s face with the blanket, signifying his passing.

No amount of consoling could satisfy Rocket. With some convincing on Peter’s part, the raccoon obtained clearance to accompany his son down to the morgue before the autopsy began. The other Guardians went home to let Rocket mourn in private. For obvious reasons, Rocket couldn’t be in the room while Groot’s autopsy took place and he wouldn’t see him again until all the funeral arrangements were made.

As Rocket walked into the morgue, Kalika and the coroner placed Groot on a cold table so that the autopsy could take place. The teen was washed clean and incision lines were drawn all over his body in preparation. Groot was stripped of his casts that were on his arm and legs, his gown, and diaper, the only thing on him was a damp washcloth covering his loin area. Groot just looked like he was just sleeping, but Rocket knew that this wasn’t true. All of the instruments on the side table said otherwise, as he knew that they would dissect Groot piece by piece to determine how he died.

Rocket climbed on a nearby stool to see his son one last time. He looked at his son in silence for five minutes until the coroner was ready to begin the autopsy with his assistant.

“Well, Groot, I’ll see you later.” Rocket sobbed as he held Groot’s hand. It was now time for Rocket to leave.

As the coroner grabbed one of the scalpels and hovered it above Groot’s chest, Rocket began to let go of Groot’s hand. As the scalpel came down, Rocket thought he could feel Groot’s grip on his hand. Rocket couldn’t believe what he was seeing, Groot grasping his father’s hand on his own. Could Groot be alive?

The coroner and Kalika check Groot for a pulse and find that Groot has a weak pulse. They perform an emergency intubation on him to make him breathe again before taking Groot back up to the emergency department for immediate care and scans as to see how he came back from the dead.

Rocket couldn’t believe it as he got out his cell phone to call the other Guardians. The impossible has happened: Groot was alive again.

Chapter Text

Rocket called the Guardians at home to tell them of the miracle. Unfortunately, none of them were home, so he left a message on their answering machine.

“Hey, Quill, this is Rocket.” The raccoon began. “Look, uh, I’m sorry that I’m not back home yet. Something has come up. Uh-.” Rocket’s cell phone battery died and shut off just as he was about to tell Peter and the others the good news about Groot. “Kurtakin’ piece of crap.” He mumbled as he placed the phone in his pocket.

Groot was sent away to get his arm and legs back in their casts before he went to get another brain scan done to see how much damage he suffered. Rocket came to the decision that no matter what Groot could or could not do, he would love him no matter what. He didn’t care if Groot would be back to his usual moody self or would need to be placed in a specialized nursing home that cares for severely brain-damaged patients with 24-hour care and a private nurse for Groot. He decided that he would celebrate every single milestone Groot reached, no matter if it was as simple as Groot maintaining eye-contact with Rocket as he talked to him, or if Groot could talk to Rocket again himself.

Rocket didn’t know what to expect as he was escorted to Groot’s room. Sure enough, Groot was still hooked up to all of the life support machines that he was on before he was taken off of them when it was decided to let him die in peace. But this time, Rocket was glad to see Groot hooked up to those machines. It meant that Groot was fighting to stay alive, that he had a fighting chance to live. Rocket secretly hoped that Groot would beat the odds stacked against him and make a full recovery without any lasting injuries or impairments. But he would accept whatever his son could do.

Rocket sat next to his son and gently stroked his face. Groot’s head was shaved as a result of the emergency procedure that he had to have done to prevent even more catastrophic damage to his brain. His head was wrapped up in gauze with a green covering over it.

“It’ll be okay, Groot.” Rocket said to him softly. “You’re a fighter, that’s for sure. And if you won’t give up, I won’t give up.”

There was a blip on the heartrate monitor followed by a beep. The same thing occurring on the machine that monitored Groot’s brain waves. Could Groot detect Rocket’s presence even though he was in a coma? He pondered this as he left Groot’s room to meet the Guardians out by the entrance to the ICU wing.

Just then, Peter and the other Guardians came by to see why Rocket called them. They were perplexed as to why instead of crying, Rocket was smiling.

“Rocket?” Peter was confused as to why the raccoon was smiling as he stood in front of the entrance to the ICU wing where Groot was recovering. “What’s going on?”

“You remember when you told me that when everything seems to be lost, to just keep faith and life will find a way to make everything better?” Rocket responded as Peter looked confused as to what he was saying. “Groot came back. He’s in there fighting for his life still, but he’s alive.” The other Guardians were shocked by this as they walked with Rocket to Groot’s room.

Inside, two nurses were assessing Groot’s vitals after they gave him a sponge bath and changed his diaper. The nurses told Rocket that Groot’s vital signs were vastly improved compared to when they checked them this morning.

“He’s doing really good.” One of the nurses, Talei, informed the Guardians. “So good that in fact, we might be able to wake him up from the coma.”

This filled Rocket with emotion. Just 24 hours ago, Groot had no hope of recovery and was taken off of life support as Rocket held his hand as he watched Groot take his final breath just before he died in front of his father.

Now, Groot was now considered a “Miracle Child”, having come back from death and making such a fast recovery that his caretakers were talking about bringing him out of the coma that he was currently in.

A few minutes later, Kalika entered the room and Talei and the other nurse gave her an update on Groot. She talked to them for a while before calling her supervisor on her work-issued cell phone. She then came to tell Rocket the news.

“Rocket, we will be waking up Groot today.” Kalika confirmed to Rocket and the Guardians as the raccoon was overcome with emotion.

“How- how soon?” Rocket stammered as he looked at his son. “How soon?” He repeated as he held onto Kalika’s arm to hold himself up.

Kalika looked Rocket in the eye. “How does ‘In the next five-to-ten minutes’ sound?” She asked the raccoon.

Rocket couldn’t believe it. In the next few minutes, Groot would be conscious again. He didn’t know what to think. Just a day ago, Groot wasn’t expected to ever come out of his comatose state. This got Rocket thinking, was Groot making a faster recovery than expected?

The raccoon sat by Groot’s bedside as Kalika and the other two nurses lessened the amount of the medicine that was keeping him in the coma while at the same time, injecting the medicine that would enable him to wake up into his main IV line.

Slowly, the medicine started to course through Groot’s body. Over the next ten minutes, Groot started to moan and groan as he stirred in his sleep. Kalika urged Rocket to talk to him to encourage him to open his eyes. Rocket understood and nods.

Rocket leaned in towards his son and started to talk softly to him. “Hey, Groot. It’s me, Daddy.” Rocket said soothingly to Groot as he placed Groot’s Bob Ross doll in his hand and gently stroked it. “I’m here, Star-Munch’s here, Aunt Gammy... we’re all here for you. Can you open your eyes for us so we can see those big beautiful eyes of yours?”

Groot opened those gorgeous brown eyes of his. Granted, one of them was covered with gauze as it continued to heal, but the eye that wasn’t covered with gauze looked at Rocket with fear, uncertainty, confusion, but most of all, faith, confidence, and happiness. Faith for all of the obstacles Groot is guaranteed to face in these next few months, the love and support of Rocket and the others to help him through it. Confidence for Rocket’s constant encouragement through the trials and tribulations that these obstacles are certain to produce. Lastly, Happiness for when Groot has an especially rough day in his recovery, that he can look at his family and their undying love for him.

But fear quickly took ahold of Groot. He tried to scream even though he had a breathing tube down his throat. He has no idea of where he was, how he got here, or what has happened to him. Rocket tries desperately to calm him down to no avail.

”Groot, it’s me.” Rocket shakily said as he looked at his son. “It’s me, Groot. Daddy.” There was no response from the teen as he continued to silently scream. Instant worry flooded Rocket. “Can- can he hear me?”

“I don’t know.” Kalika admitted as she gave Groot some medication to calm him down through his IV line. “Since he’s conscious now, we can take him to the labs to determine the exact amount of brain damage he suffered.” 

Groot calmed down moments after the medicine entered his body. Rocket stroked Groot’s face in an effort to comfort him and agreed to the tests for him and signed the consent form. But no matter what Rocket did, Groot was still scared and confused about everything going on around him and wouldn’t stop trying to scream.

Rocket tries to soothe Groot one last time before he is taken to get those tests done. “Alright, Groot. You’ll be alright. I’ll be right here when you get back, okay? I love you, son.” Rocket kisses Groot on his cheek just before Kalika takes him in his bed down to the exam rooms.

After Groot is inside the elevator at the end of the ICU wing and the doors close, Rocket turned back to face the other Guardians. The look in his face says everything. Even though Groot was out of the coma, he faced an uphill battle with his recovery. Rocket doesn’t know what to do.

“Rocket.” Gamora began as she placed her arm around Rocket’s shoulder as she pulled him in close in an embrace. “No matter what Groot can or can’t do, he’s still your son.”

“Yeah, she’s right.” Peter added. “Your love for him never lessens, it only gets stronger.”

“But, didn’t you guys see him?” Rocket asked. “It’s like he’s forgotten everything and all he knows now is the unceasing pain that he’s in.”

Rocket’s body language told the others that the raccoon was about to give up all hope on Groot. 

“Rocket, you’re not going to give up on Groot.” Drax interjected. “Groot wouldn’t give up on you if you were in his situation, so don’t do it to him.”

Rocket took out an old photo of him and Groot in happier times. “I guess you guys are right.” He agreed. “I can’t give up on him. I gotta be here for him, no matter what.”

Just then, Kalika returned with Groot, who was still silently screaming in pain while he laid down in his bed. “Look who’s back!” She cheerfully said as she pushed Groot’s bed into its normal spot.

Rocket was anxious to hear the results from the evaluation on Groot. “How’d he do? Is he gonna be his old self again?” He implored Kalika. “Well, minus the typical moody teenager crap, of course.” The raccoon added as the other Guardians looked at him weird.

“Well, the good news is that we took a look at his black eye and it has completely healed up to the point where he doesn’t need to have it covered anymore. The swelling in his face has vastly diminished too.” Kalika explained as the Guardians saw Groot started to look more like himself and his black eye was completely gone and the bark around it has returned to a healthy color. “We also tested his eyesight and there’s no problems there either.”

“What about his hearing?” Peter asked.

“His hearing was also tested and I’m happy to report that he suffered no impairments to his hearing.” Kalika stated. “But... I’m afraid that’s where the good news ends.”

A lump suddenly formed in Rocket’s throat. “What’s the bad news?” He asked nervously as he stood up.

Kalika placed her hand on Rocket’s shoulder. Her mood took a more somber tone. “I think you should sit down for this.” She implored as the mood in the room suddenly changed.

Chapter Text

Rocket sat down, nervous to hear what Groot’s prognosis was. Would he only have his worst fears realized and Groot would be bedridden for the rest of his life, unable to interact with the world, let alone anyone else and need specialized care? Or would he eventually recover from all of this and be back to his usual self?

Rocket mustered up the courage to ask the most difficult question of his life. “So, uh, what’s Groot’s outlook?”

Kalika broke the news slowly to the raccoon. “I’m sorry, Rocket, but it’s not good. When we took Groot in for his evaluation, the first thing we did was scan his brain to check how much brain matter wasn’t affected.” She took out a scan of Groot’s brain on a hologram and showed it to the Guardians. There was a lot of dark spots. “He only has about 1 percent of brain function left after the accident. As a result, he has the mental capacity of a 3 month old. We gave him a memory test and have concluded that he has severe short-and-long-term memory loss. Also, after he has his cast for his skull removed, he’ll have to wear a specially-designed helmet to protect his skull from any further injuries for the rest of his life. If he gets another skull fracture, he’ll have to be placed in a halo until it heals over.” Rocket looked down at Groot, he didn’t know what to say.

“What does that mean for Groot?” Gamora asked. “What can he do?”

Kalika took a sigh. This was going to be hard to explain to them. “Well, for starters, Groot can’t breathe on his own, but we are going to try and wean him off of the ventilator, but that will be a very touch-and-go process as Groot’s current condition is very fragile. As a result, Groot can’t talk either.”

“But, when Groot’s off the ventilator, he will be able to talk again, right?” Rocket asked.

“No, I’m afraid not.” Kalika answered. “Groot’s language center in his brain was one of the areas affected by the trauma he suffered. He’ll likely never be able to talk again without some sort of talking device.”

Rocket didn’t know what to say. No matter how much speech therapy he would put Groot through, Groot’s only possible way of talking with the people around him was that communication device that was like the one that the school had forced him to use or else his grades would drastically plummet.

“What are some of the other things he’ll need help with?” Peter inquired as Rocket held Groot’s hand and stroked his head.

“Groot is currently unable to eat solid food on his own, as he can’t chew or swallow on his own.” Kalika explained. “Therefore, he has a feeding tube in his stomach so that he can get the nutrients that his body needs. As with the ventilator, we will work on weaning him off of it when he relearns how to chew and swallow. At the same time we’ll introduce him slowly to liquid foods, then to extremely puréed foods, then he’ll move on to baby food, then toddler food, and finally when he can eat normal food again.”

“Well, we did have to do the same thing when he was a baby, so that might not be bad.” Peter reassured Rocket. “At least he won’t be in a diaper.”

“I’m afraid that’s not the case.” Kalika told them. “Groot has no control over his bladder or his intestinal functions, so, he’ll have to wear a diaper until he can be toilet trained, which right now, is impossible.” She informed them as Groot had a coughing fit as Kalika cleaned out his breathing tube.

“Is- is he gonna-.” Rocket couldn’t finish his sentence as he caressed Groot’s cheek in an effort to comfort him.

“Be able to get out of bed?” Kalika finished the sentence for him. “No, I’m afraid that he will be bedridden for the rest of his life. You can look into intensive physical therapy for him and with a lot of work, they might be able to get him to sit in a manual wheelchair for a short period of time, but other than that, anything more voluntary, moving his arms, using his hands, or him being able to walk on his own with an assistive device, will be about a million-to-one longshot. Plus, with the injuries he sustained to his arm and legs, after he’s out of the casts, he’ll have to wear an arm splint and leg braces for the rest of his life and will always have a profound limp if he was to walk again.”

“I-I just can’t see him living like this.” Rocket stammered. “I want to take him home without any medical intervention and let him live out the few days he has left.” He tried not to cry.

The other Guardians knew that Rocket really didn’t mean that and they voiced their concerns about how Rocket was making a spur of the moment decision without properly thinking about it.

“There are other options.” Kalika interrupted when she was able to sense a lull in their family argument. “Groot won’t have to go home to die.”

“Are you saying that he’ll have to spend his whole life here?” Rocket countered. “Just to stare at the ceilings as he’s being wheeled room-to-room for whatever experiment your sick twisted minds can come up with to torture him?!?!” Rocket barked at Kalika.

“No, no, he won’t.” Kalika answered. “We never keep any patients here long-term. We work to fully heal them. In the rare instances that a patient comes to us with substantial, life-changing injuries, like Groot here, we work with them and their immediate familes to find the best placement for them in certain rehab facilities. For Groot’s needs, he’ll need to be placed in a nursing home facility that has trained nurses and staff that deal with severely brain damaged patients.” She hands the Guardians a brochure of the facility in question.

“What would they do for Groot?” Mantis asked.

“Firstly, they would assign Groot his very own personal care nurse that would be with him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The nurse will take care of him, bathe him daily, get him dressed, give him his medications, and accompany him on any day trips the nursing home does for its residents. The nurse will also stay with him during his various therapy sessions.” Kalika stated. “The nurse will also maintain contact with you and give you updates on any progress in Groot’s recovery, or if anything happens to him.”

“How much will this cost?” Peter said as he crossed his arms. Surely this amount of personalized care wasn’t going to be cheap.

“The care that Groot needs won’t be cheap and is not covered by any insurance plans. The cost will be around 10,000 units per month.” Kalika said as there was an audible gasp from the Guardians, whose bank accounts were dried out after an impromptu party by Drax and Kraglin last week led to repairs that needed to be done on the house. “But it’s worth it, these people have been known to work miracles.”

“We’ll think about it. When’s the soonest Groot can move there?” Peter asked.

“Groot will need to be weaned off the ventilator and no longer need to be fed through a feeding tube first, but after that he’s guaranteed immediate placement there because of his condition.” Kalika answered.

“Alright. Give us some time to think about this and discuss it and we’ll let you know of our decision.” Peter said as Kalika left them to deal with some paperwork. This would be the toughest decision of their newfound life as a family.

Chapter Text

“Rocket, what the Hell was that about?” Peter asked the raccoon after Gamora closed the door to Groot’s room so that they could have some privacy.

“I don’t know, Quill!” Rocket answered. “I don’t know!”

“Rocket, there is something.” Gamora replied. “We know how much Groot means to you and you don’t want to lose him again.” She makes Rocket look her in the eye. “Tell us.”

“Fine.” Rocket conceded as he placed his hand in Groot’s hand as he looked at his son. “I don’t want Groot’s life to be like how mine used to be before we met you guys. When I first met Groot, we were both prisoners and experiments on Halfworld. Our lives were not easy.” Rocket said softly as he stroked Groot’s hand. “What those assholes subjected me to wasn’t as bad as what they subjected Groot to. Everyday, when they came in to get Groot, they would wake him up by sending a strong shock through his shock collar as he screamed. They would then place a muzzle over his mouth so that he wouldn’t spit or bite at anyone as they wrestled him onto the restraint chair and tied him down.” Rocket explained as Groot let out a soft cry. “I know, buddy, I know.” He stroked Groot’s head to calm him down. “Then they would take him down to the torture chamber where they did their experiments on him. Anything from heavily medicating him to behavior modification through electric shocks to various procedures being performed on him in an effort to ‘study’ his species, even though they knew that they were the ones to wipe out his kind, essentially making him the last one of his kind. That’s not the only thing they did. They would also starve him and deprive him of water to see the effects that it had on him. Truth be told, they only did that to lessen his strength so that he wouldn’t fight as much and his resolve to escape would be nonexistent.”

Rocket smiled at Groot. “Truth is, it only strengthened it. After an especially hard day on him, I snuck him some food I hid from the scientists to make him stronger. He was weak when he came back from the torture chamber that night and he was near death when I heard the scientists say that if he didn’t get better by tomorrow after they performed some tests on him in his cell, they would be forced to euthanize him in the morning. They left and I helped Groot eat for the first time possibly since he came to Halfworld.” Rocket glanced at his son. “He did make it through the night and when the scientists came by in the morning to determine if Groot was still a viable test subject, that’s when I struck. Sure I was overcome as I fought them and taken to Solitary for an undetermined amount of time, but I showed Groot that there was at least someone who cared about him. That night, I snuck out of Solitary through the heating vents to visit Groot and to give him his half of my food. I also told him that tomorrow, we would escape and taste freedom for the first time ever.”

Rocket smiled at the others. “And we did escape. It was a glorious escape too, sure we got injured on our way out and Groot needed some medical attention after we found a safe planet to lay low on, but you guys should’ve seen his face when he realized that we were free and no one would hurt us ever again. He was in a place very much like this one, watching Bob Ross of all things, when he smiled for the first time when I told him the news.”

Rocket then looked at Groot again. He tried to hold back the tears as he was reminded of Groot’s current condition. “Th-the Th-thing is... I-I don’t kn-know i-if I’ll ev-ever s-see th-that sm-smile of hi-his ev-ever ag-again...” He sobbed as he held Groot’s hand.

“Even if you won’t see his smile again, Groot can show you that he loves you in other ways too, Rocket.” Peter comforted Rocket as he embraced the raccoon. “And you’ll also feel his love in here.” The human tapped Rocket’s chest where his heart is. “Don’t give up on him, Rocket, he wouldn’t give up on you.”

Rocket wiped away his tears. “I suppose you’re right, Quill. I won’t give up on him.” He looks through the brochure of the nursing home that Groot would be sent to. “This place is nice. Even though it’s expensive, I’ll drain my bank account to make sure Groot can go there and get the best care possible. If the people that work there can help Groot in any way, to make him do more than just lay in bed drooling on himself as he mindlessly stares at the TV for hours on end, then it’ll be worth it.” He declared as he opened the door and left the room to tell Kalika of his decision.

Chapter Text

Rocket told Kalika of his decision on Groot and Peter went to the Xandar National Bank to withdraw some money so they could place a down payment for Groot’s placement at the nursing home. The rest of the Guardians went home to do their daily errands. Rocket stayed at the trauma center to remain as close to Groot as possible.

“Yeah, I think Groot will be happier when he moves to the new place.” Rocket said as he and Kalika walked down the ICU wing on their way back to Groot’s room. “If anything, I think he’ll enjoy the change of scenery.” He added as he looked at the plain walls.

Just then, Kalika’s pager starts to go off. It was coming from Groot’s room. Kalika and Rocket run to Groot’s room where there was a team of nurses working on him. The teenager was scared and screaming.

“What happened?” Kalika frantically inquired as she joined the other nurses and techs in assessing Groot’s condition.

“We were going to give him a sponge bath and change his diaper when he tried to pull his breathing tube out.” One of the nurses answered as Groot screamed and thrashed about in his bed.

The nurses work on getting Groot’s breathing tube back in place for the next half-hour. Groot wasn’t exactly a perfect patient and kept moaning, groaning, and kept swinging his arms as the nurses try to reintubate him.

As they try in vain to try to get Groot to calm down, finally resorting to tying his arms and legs down and placing his head in a vice so that he could be completely still while they worked on him. The screaming didn’t stop and was getting louder and more desperate, almost as if Groot, even though he couldn’t talk or communicate, was trying to tell them something.

“Groot, buddy, calm down, they’re here to help you.” Rocket desperately called out to his son from the other side of the room as he stood on top of a chair to get a better view of what was going on.

One of the nurses turned around momentarily to check Groot’s stats on the monitor. She then motions for everyone else to look at the monitor.

“We need a breathing mask to get on him!” Kalika shouted as the nurse who checked Groot’s stats rushed to a supply room to grab a breathing mask for him.

They drew the privacy curtain surrounding Groot’s bed so that they could work on him in private and to spare Rocket from witnessing a graphic scene, (even though Rocket’s parental instincts made him to try to climb onto various furniture to get a better look), but no matter what Rocket did, Groot was obstructed from his view, although Groot’s incessant screams still could be heard.

A few minutes later, Rocket was able to see his son as Kalika pulled back the privacy curtain and he got an unobstructed view of Groot. The techs and nurses that assisted in Groot’s emergency gathered up their things and left the room to look after the other patients in the facility. As Rocket looked at Groot, he saw that Groot didn’t have the breathing tube down his throat anymore and was breathing on his own with the assistance of a breathing mask instead.

“Rocket.” Kalika began as the raccoon held Groot’s hand. “Groot’s making a faster recovery than we ever thought he could. We have no idea why or how, he is surpassing all of our expectations we put on him. What we want to do now is to take him to get some scans done and see what is causing his accelerated recovery.” Rocket nodded as Kalika pushed Groot’s bed down to get the scans done.

An hour later, Kalika returned with Groot. She then talked to Rocket outside.

“This is unprecedented.” She stated as she held up a scan of Groot’s lungs. “Never before have we ever seen anything like this.”

“Like what?” Rocket asked as he stared at the scans, unsure of what they mean.

“Groot is truly a remarkable patient.” Kalika said. “It would seem that his body is regenerating itself, cell by cell. That’s why Groot tried to pull out his breathing tube, he was regaining the ability to breathe on his own. The breathing mask is only temporary, he might take his first breath in a couple of hours or so.” Rocket was floored by this development.

“Does that-.” Rocket gulped. “Does that mean that he could be back to his old self? With no lasting effects?” He wondered hopefully.

Kalika tries to not crush Rocket’s hopes. “We don’t know, sadly. We don’t know much about Groot’s species and how much they can regenerate. He might still be profoundly brain damaged and need a lot of assistance with normal everyday things, but him not needing help with breathing on his own is a big step for him getting discharged and moved into the nursing home.”

“So, he’ll be ready to go to the nursing home tomorrow?” Rocket asked.

“No. He still needs to be weaned off the feeding tube and have it removed from his body before the nursing home can take him in.” Kalika explained. “But by what we’ve seen with him, nothing’s impossible.” She added as she stroked Groot’s face as Peter and the rest of the Guardians came by to visit Groot. “I’ll let him relax and enjoy his visitors while I get his dinner feeding ready.” With that she left the room.

“What was that about?” Peter inquired as Rocket motioned over to Groot.

“Groot had his breathing tube removed today.” Rocket still couldn’t believe the words coming out of his raccoon-sized mouth. “He only needs a mask right now and there’s a strong possibility that he will be off of that before he goes to bed tonight.” He told the others as they congratulated Groot.

“How long until Groot can come back home?” Mantis asked as she sat down next to Groot and stroked his hand gently.

A lump formed in Rocket’s throat. “Uh, Groot won’t be able to come home.” The raccoon answered.

“So he has to stay here longer?” Kraglin questioned.

“No, Groot won’t have to stay here for much longer. After he gets his feeding tube out, he’ll be ready to be discharged.” Rocket replied.

“To go home, right?” Kraglin repeated, still confused about everything that was just said.

“No, Kraglin, not back home.” Rocket reiterated. “Remember that place that we got the brochure for?” Rocket then looks at the others. “I’ve come to a decision and decided that that’s where I want to send Groot to.” He then looks Groot in the eye as he holds Groot’s other hand. “It’ll be the best place for him. He’ll get all the care and attention that he needs, they have the most advanced therapy programs, and most of all, the staff there will treat him like a normal person and not some bedridden vegetable. I know that it’s gonna be expensive, but for Groot, it’s worth it. I’ll do anything for him. And he’ll know it too because I’m gonna be there right by his side throughout.” Rocket smiles at his son.

Peter then stood up. “But, Rocket, this place is four hours away from our home. So, that’s an eight-hour drive, round trip. You’re going to have to wake up really early in the morning to drive to this place, spend the whole day with Groot until visiting hours are over, then drive back home, which you’re not going to be home until midnight, give or take traffic. Plus gas is at an all-time high and given how much of a gas guzzler your car is, you’re gonna spend 1000 units in gas in just one week! And, no, we ain’t gonna drive all the way up there for you to be with Groot everyday. We’ll go visit him once a month, but that’s it! We have our own lives to live too, you know.”

“I already got it figured out, Star-Munch.” Rocket chided. “I found an apartment near the nursing home that’s only 50 Units a week that has a bus stop nearby that has a drop-off point right next to the nursing home, so getting there will be a breeze.” The raccoon explained. “Stop getting your panties tied up in a knot.” He chuckled.

”I do not wear panties.” Peter muttered to himself, hoping no one, especially Gamora could hear him as Kalika came back with Groot’s nighttime feeding.

”Sorry that it took so long.” Kalika apologized. “The nutritionist changed Groot’s formula so that he gets more protein so that he can build up some muscle tone that he lost.” Groot then let out a cry as she injected his nighttime medications into his feeding tube so that his body could absorb them. “I know, sweetie, but you need to take it so you can get stronger.”

Groot was scared as Kalika placed the bag that contained his formula on his IV stand and connected it to his feeding tube.

“Groot, honey. Here, hold my hand.” Gamora held her hand out so Groot could hold it as Kalika flipped the switch that would allow the formula to flow into Groot’s stomach.

Kalika then finds a problem with Groot’s feeding tube. For some reason, it wasn’t allowing the formula to go through it and into Groot.

“Hmm...” She tries to think of a way for Groot to get his nutrients for tonight. “Well, we have been discussing on getting him to eat liquified foods since the nutritionist came by earlier to see if Groot could swallow, he was a little scared at first, but we talked him through it and it seems that as we practiced swallowing, he was starting to pick it up.” Kalika then turns to Rocket. “With your permission, we want to try and see if Groot can eat some maple syrup.”

Rocket thought about it for a moment. “Okay. Question, if Groot does good, does that mean that he can get the feeding tube removed?” He asked as he held Groot’s hand.

“I’ll take him for an examination afterwards, but if he has no issues, then it’ll be possible that he can have it removed tonight and if that’s the case, then we’ll call the nursing home and tell them what happened and if everything goes well, Groot will be ready for discharge tomorrow afternoon.” Kalika explained to Rocket as the raccoon stood up as he let go of Groot’s hand as Kalika sat by Groot and got ready to feed him.

Kalika brought up Groot’s bed so that he was sitting up. She then placed a bib around Groot’s neck so that he wouldn’t get his gown dirty. Kalika then got out a tiny jar of pure maple syrup and stirred it to a consistency where Groot could safely eat it. She then got out a tiny baby spoon with a soft tip so that it wouldn’t hurt Groot’s mouth should he bite down on it too hard. She dipped the baby spoon into the jar and brought out a teeny tiny bit of maple syrup on the tip.

Groot was confused and a little bit scared of what was going on. Kalika put the jar and spoon down on the bedside table next to Groot’s bed.

“Groot, sweetie.” Kalika caresses his face to get him to look at her. “Remember how we learned and practiced how to swallow earlier today?” Groot tries to think back that far before slowly blinking his eyes twice to signify that he did remember that. “Alright, do you want to show your family what you learned today?” Groot blinked twice.

“Okay, what’s the first thing you have to do?” Kalika asked Groot as he placed his hand on his chest, then took that same hand and touched the jar before bringing his hand to his mouth, as if he was going to place a piece of food inside it. He then rubbed his hand on his chest. “Are you hungry, Groot?” She asked him as Groot softly nodded. “Good job, Groot!” Kalika praised him as she turned to Rocket and the other Guardians. “We’re teaching him how to sign. It will give him some sort of communication should our assumptions be right and he never regains his voice back. Also, after he asks for something, you have to confirm it just like I did, by asking him if that’s what he was saying. Yeah, it might sound weird, but it stimulates his critical thinking and that will benefit him down the road.”

Kalika then removed Groot’s breathing mask so that she could feed Groot. Groot opened his mouth as he was being spoon-fed. He then closed his mouth as he tasted the syrup and sucked on it. He was amazed by the taste.

“It tastes good, doesn’t it?” Kalika asks Groot as he nods yet again. “Alright, Groot, do you remember what you have to do next?” Groot thought about it, he then swallows for the first time to cheers and applause from everyone.

This continues for another half-hour, Kalika would give Groot some of the syrup, Groot would suckle on it, before he swallowed it. This lasted until the jar was empty and Groot had a full belly.

“Well, that was as successful as we could hope.” Kalika declared as she put the empty syrup jar into the recycling bin and the baby spoon in the sink. She then took off the bib and wiped Groot’s face and mouth, which was covered in a mixture of syrup and drool. Kalika then takes a damp cloth and wipes Groot’s hands clean. “I’m going to go down to the nutritionist’s office, tell him what Groot did and how much progress he made, and that we didn’t have any problems with him. If all goes well, Groot can have his feeding tube removed after you guys go home for the night and he fasts for a least 4 hours, which means that he’ll be ready to have it removed as soon as midnight tonight and he’ll still be able to be discharged and moved to the nursing home tomorrow.”

Kalika leaves to inform the nutritionist of Groot’s progress. She returns minutes later to tell the Guardians that Groot will have his feeding tube removed tonight. They congratulate Groot for the rest of their visit. Rocket is amazed at how fast Groot is recovering and hopes that Groot can return to his old self soon.

Chapter Text

Early the next day, the Guardians come by to visit Groot. Kalika was already there getting Groot up, who didn’t want to wake up and was whining.

“Look who’s here, Groot!” Kalika announced cheerfully to Groot as the teen groaned. “Sorry, he’s been like this all morning.” She apologizes for Groot’s attitude.

“So, anything change from when we were here last night?” Gamora asked as Rocket took his usual seat by Groot’s bed.

“In fact, so much has changed.” Kalika began. “He did have his feeding tube removed late last night after you guys left and shortly after he woke up, we tested his breathing and he is now able to breathe on his own.” She informed them.

Rocket looked at his son and saw that he didn’t need the breathing mask over his nose and mouth anymore. He then saw that Groot wasn’t wearing the top half of his gown and Rocket soon discovered the bandage that covered the scar where Groot’s feeding tube used to be. It was holding back some blood that leaked when the wound was freshly stitched up.

“Anything else?” Peter questioned as he poured himself a glass of water.

“Yes, we also took some X-Rays of Groot’s arm and legs and they’ve healed up to the point where we could remove them from the casts and get his arm into the splint and his legs into the braces.” Kalika acknowledged. “They do cause him pain when he has a muscle movement or if he feels something brushing against his arm or legs. I’ve talked to the therapists at the nursing home and they are planning on working with him to eventually get him in a set of more comfortable, technologically-advanced braces that will help him perform more rudimentary tasks down the road, but for right now, these will have to do.”

“But overall he is doing good, right?” Peter reiterated as he looked at Groot. “Another question, what’s that thing on his head?” He asked as he pointed towards Groot’s new headwear.

“This is Groot’s protective helmet.” Kalika began to explain as she adjusted the bright green piece of headwear on Groot’s head to make sure it was snug. “He needs to wear this at all times to prevent any further injuries should he accidentally hit his head against something.”

Rocket brushes his hand against Groot’s. “He is going to be transferred to the nursing home today, right?” He asks as Kalika nodded. “When are they gonna be here to pick him up?”

“In a couple of hours, which is why I had to wake Groot up earlier than usual and why he’s not in a good mood. I have to feed him, bathe him, get him changed into his regular clothes, and let him have some time to himself before the people from the nursing home come to pick him up.” Kalika answered.

“Dang, you must have the patience of a saint.” Kraglin complimented her.

“Oh, it’s nothing. It’s pretty much protocol when we have someone being moved to a nursing home.” Kalika stated as she sat on the foot of Groot’s bed.

“I’m just happy that I got Groot back.” Rocket said, trying to hold back the tears.

“Groot, honey.” Kalika caught Groot’s attention as she brought up his bed so that he could see her as she got out a clipboard that had velcro on the front and a book that had pictures of everyday things and activities that were drawn in a way that Groot could understand their meaning. “It’s time for you to put your schedule together for the day.” She placed the picture book within Groot’s reach so he could easily grab the pictures as she held the clipboard close to him.

Kalika flips to the page that had pictures of all of the people that Groot knows, including one of himself. “Now, whose schedule is this for today?” Groot placed his hand on his chest. “That’s right! This is Groot’s schedule!” Kalika praised him. “Now, Groot, can you find the picture that has your name and face on it?”

Groot looked at the different pictures in the book and selected the one that had his face and name on it. He then handed it over to Kalika who placed it on the clipboard.

“Good job, Groot!” Kalika congratulated him. “That’s your picture! Now, what’s the first thing that you are going to do today?” She flipped to the page that listed all of Groot’s daily activities.

Groot stared at each card for a moment before choosing the one that said “Breakfast” and had a picture of eggs, bacon, a glass of orange juice, and a piece of toast and butter on it. He tries his best to grab it, but the dexterity in his hand made him drop it.

Kalika picked up the picture. “Yes, Groot, you’re going to have breakfast soon.” She said as she placed the picture on the clipboard under Groot’s name. She then helps Groot make the sign for breakfast so that he understands the meaning. “Alright, what are you gonna do after that?”

This was starting to confuse Groot and he looked at each choice for a little bit longer than the last time before handing his choice over to Kalika. It was a drawing of a shirt and pants, which represented getting dressed.

She looked at Groot sadly as she shook her head. “No, Groot.” She then showed him what he should’ve chosen, which was a shower head that had some water coming out of it. “You’re going to take a shower first.” She placed the shower picture next to the breakfast one before helping Groot make the sign for shower. “Then you’re going to get dressed.” She placed the card that signified getting dressed next to the shower on his clipboard as the helped him sign the word.

Rocket could sense Groot starting to get annoyed and frustrated. But before he could do anything to calm him down, Kalika was there.

“Groot, Groot.” She soothed him as he calmed down. “It’s okay, we’re almost done.” Groot did his calming technique that Kalika taught him. “Alright, now after you get dressed, you get to do something special. Do you want to know what it is?”

Groot nodded as a little drool escaped from his mouth. Kalika took a napkin and wiped it up for him. “Alright, after you get dressed, you’re going to have a couple of people come and pick you up and you get to ride in an ambulance.” She explained as she grabbed a card that had a picture of an ambulance on it. She then helped Groot make the sign for ambulance before she helped him place it on his clipboard.

“And guess where you’re going.” Kalika cheerfully said to Groot as he looked at her. “You’re going to go to an airport,” Kalika grabbed a card that depicted an airport and showed it to Groot and helped him place it next to the ambulance picture as she helped him form the sign for airport. “And then you’re going to get on an airplane to go to the nursing home.”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Drax interjected. “If that’s the case, then why can’t we take him home in the Milano ourselves? I bet that he’ll be much more comfortable there.”

Peter facepalmed. “Because, Drax, Groot needs to be monitored by trained professionals and no one ever said that Groot was coming home.” He explained to the Destroyer.

“But his nurse said-.” Drax began.

“He is going to be discharged from here, yes. But he’s not well enough to come back home. He needs specialized care.” Peter reiterated.

“For how long?” Drax questioned again.

Peter was about to say that he didn’t know how long Groot was going to be at the nursing home or if he would even be able to come back home at all. Rocket was even to be away from the rest of the Guardians because his primary concern is Groot and his wellbeing. But he didn’t say anything when he saw Rocket get up and leave the room, upset about something. The human follows the raccoon outside.

“Rocket!” Peter called out to the depressed raccoon who then stopped in his tracks. “Everything alright?”

Rocket took a deep breath and gathered his thoughts before speaking. “No, Quill.”

Peter was worried. “Why, man? What’s wrong?” He asked.

Rocket tries his best to supress the impending tears that were sure to come. “What- What if Groot’s never able to come home? What if he never gets better than what he already is?”

“Then we’ll deal with it. But you’re love for Groot is the most important thing right now.” Peter stated as he wrapped an arm around Rocket. “He looks up to you and if he sees you like this, then what will he think? You need to be strong for him.” Peter encourages the raccoon as they walk back inside Groot’s room.

Inside, Kalika was talking to the other Guardians. Groot seemed more awake and engaged as he made noises as if he was trying to talk.

“Oh, good, you two are back.” Kalika greeted warmly. “Now, where were we?” She grabbed the clipboard and helps Groot make the sign for airplane. “Now, Groot. You get to travel with some people.” She then flips to the page where every single person that Groot knows has their own corresponding card with their face and name on it.

“Who do you think is going to go with you?” Kalika asked as Groot pointed to himself. “Right, you’re going to be on the plane, who else?” 

Groot then pointed at Kalika before he attempted to reach for her card.

“Yes, I’m going to go with you. Who else would you want to go?” Kalika asked again as Groot pointed to Gamora as he touched her card and Kalika placed Gamora’s picture next to the airplane. “Alright, who else?”

Groot’s hand then reaches for Drax’s picture and gives it to Kalika.

“Good choice, Groot.” Kalika praised him as she placed Drax’s photo next to Gamora’s. “Choose another person.”

Groot looks around and makes another choice. This time he picks up Kraglin’s card and hands it over to Kalika who puts it in the appropriate spot.

“Ya sure that ya want me ta come along, Twig?” Kraglin asked as he ate some cereal. Groot nodded as Kalika helped him place Kraglin’s picture next to the others.

“Who else, Groot?” Kalika asked as Groot handed her Mantis’ photo. She then places her card next to the other ones.

“But I’ve never been in an airplane before...” Mantis whispered to herself. Drax then told her that there was nothing to be afraid of.

“Groot, who’s next?” Kalika asked as Groot tapped Nebula’s picture and Kalika placed it with the other ones. Everyone was surprised because the first time Groot met Nebula, things were shaky between them.

“Okay, Groot. Who do you want to come with you next?” Kalika asked as Groot reached over and grabbed Peter’s card.

“Good choice, Groot.” Peter commended the teen. “What? I provide the cool music that all the cool kids listen to today.” He stated as the other Guardians snickered as he danced over to where they all were standing.

Kalika placed Peter’s card with the others. “Alright, Groot, there’s one more spot left on the plane.” She told him. “Who do you want to give that to?”

Rocket looked at Groot. Kalika expects Groot to choose Rocket. But Groot looks at Rocket, then at his booklet that had Rocket’s picture still in it. Groot didn’t know who the raccoon was.

Rocket’s emotions were at an all-time high. “Groot.” He croaked out. “Groot, it’s me, Daddy.” Groot starts to cry at Rocket’s words. He didn’t know where he was or what has happened to him and starts to cry. Rocket hugs his son and gently rocks him back and forth like he used to when Groot was just a baby. “Shh, shh... it’s okay. You were in a fight and you got hurt, but now you’re getting better and will be leaving here soon to a place that will help you get stronger.” Rocket soothed Groot. “And you won’t be alone, I’ll be by your side everyday. I promise you, Groot, I promise.” Rocket comforted his son.

”I think we should give them some time alone.” Kalika whispered to the other Guardians as they left the room to give father and son some privacy.


Chapter Text

Rocket looked at his son. Groot returned the look. For the longest time, Rocket didn’t say anything. After five minutes he musters up the courage to speak.

“Hey, uh, Groot.” Rocket began. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t the best father for you. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there when you needed me the most. But all of that is gonna change.”

Rocket rested his hand on Groot’s shoulder. “From now on, I’m going to be here for you, no matter what. I regret that this happened to you and I’m deeply sorry for that and I’ll never forgive myself for not being more strict with you.”

Rocket then held Groot’s hand. “But right now I’m going to do my best to help you get through the next phase of your recovery and give you my undying support.” Rocket looked at Groot in the eyes. “I love you, Groot.”

Groot acknowledges Rocket and simply nods. Rocket feels better now that he made his feelings towards his son known to him. He then opens the door and everyone comes back inside and sits in their usual seats.

Kalika shows Groot the clipboard again and helps him sign each part of his day with his hands. 

“Alright, Groot.” Kalika said as she took away the clipboard. “Do you remember what you’re going to do first?” She asked as Groot tries to sign breakfast with his hands. “Correct! Okay, I’m going to go get it ready and as soon as it is, I’ll come back to help you eat.”

Before she left, Kalika turns on the TV for Groot as a reward for correctly answering her question.

Ten minutes later, Kalika returns with Groot’s breakfast: Maple Syrup. She pulls up a chair and sits down next to him as she stirs the syrup to a consistency that Groot could eat it safely so he wouldn’t choke on it. Kalika then sprinkles on Groot’s morning medications, which, since he could now eat liquid food, was in a powder form so it could be mixed into the syrup without him noticing. She then places a bib on Groot and inclines his bed up a little bit to make it easier for him to swallow.

Kalika got some of the syrup on the baby spoon that she was using. ”Okay, Groot, open wide for me.” She instructed as Groot opened his mouth as she gave him a spoonful of the maple syrup. “Good job!” Kalika congratulated him as he sucked on the syrup for a few seconds before swallowing it on his own. Kalika was proud of this and congratulated him some more.

After Groot was done eating, Kalika took his bib off and wiped his mouth clean. She then took his empty bowl and baby spoon away to get cleaned. After about 15 minutes, she came back.

“Alright, Groot.” Kalika said as she sat back down and grabbed his clipboard. “You just ate breakfast, now what are you going to do next?”

Groot looked at the clipboard and took off the picture that signified “Breakfast”, he then grabbed the one that said “Shower” and handed it to Kalika, who then stood up and left the room to gather the things that she needed to get to take Groot down to the showering room.

She then returns moments later with a bathing chair for Groot so that she can get him into the shower without much difficulty. Kalika then places a giant sling underneath Groot so that she could pick him up with the patient lift and get him in the commode chair. She then lifts him up and gently places him in the reclined chair and secures him using the velcro straps attached to the chair.

“We’ll be back soon.” Kalika told the Guardians as Groot let out a cry as she pushed him in the commode. Just before she left the room with Groot in tow, Kalika stops in her tracks, turns around and looks at Rocket. “Actually, Rocket, Groot seems to be a little bit nervous and scared about going to get a shower, so how about you come along to make him feel at ease.” Rocket thought about it for a minute before nodding and joining Kalika and Groot as they walked down the hallway.

They entered the showering room. It was large and had ten normal sized showers for the patients that needed little-to-no-help with showering and only needed supervision should they accidentally fall inside the shower stall. There were five larger, roll-in showers for the patients, like Groot, who were in commode chairs and needed to be brought in by a nurse, but otherwise, they were independent enough to shower on their own.

There was one last stall. This one being the largest of them all. To use it, the patient’s attending nurse needed to scan their ID and type in their patient’s name and depending on the patient and their needs, would be granted access. There was only one patient that qualified to use this shower and his name was Groot.

Groot knew the door that led to the stall all too well. As Kalika scanned her ID and typed in Groot’s name, the teenager looked around nervously before starting to scream, thrash about, and other hysterics while still laying in the commode chair.

Kalika knelt by him and started to soothe him. “Shh, shh, Groot.” She cooed him as he stopped crying. “It’s okay. Lars isn’t here today.”

Rocket had no idea of who Kalika was talking about. “Lars?” He asks as they enter the extra-large stall. “Who’s Lars?”

“Another nurse that sometimes helps me when Groot takes a shower or a sponge bath.” Kalika answered as she pushes Groot’s chair next to the adult-sized changing table. “Mainly when I need to pick Groot up and carry him over to the tub when the overhead patient lift was out of commission for a while because of repairs and routine maintenance.”

“I’m guessing that he didn’t like Groot.” Rocket surmised as he looks at his son.

“No, not really.” Kalika replied as she carefully wrapped a body sling around Groot. “He was too rough with Groot when he picked him up and carried him over to the changing table or over to the tub. He would also slap Groot if he acted up or if he soiled his diaper by accident. Lars wasn’t too nice to Groot as we bathed him either. He wouldn’t wash Groot gently with a sponge and instead would use the roughest loofah and scrub Groot down like a dog.”

“Is he still working here?” Rocket wondered. “Did you tell your boss what he was doing?”

“Of course I told my boss of Lars’ abuse towards Groot.” Kalika informed Rocket. “As soon as I did, he was called into the boss’ office and promptly terminated. Unfortunately, the shower lift was still out of order when this happened so I had no choice but to give Groot sponge baths in his bed since there was no safe way to get him into the shower by myself. But luckily, the lift is fixed now.”

Groot started to get bored and let out a groan letting Kalika and Rocket know this.

“Okay, Groot, we’ll get started.” Kalika placated him as she undid the velcro straps that kept him secured in the commode chair. She then turned to Rocket. “Do me a favor and inside of the closet there are a bunch of body slings for the patient lift. Can you get me the biggest one in there?”

Rocket obliges and gets the biggest sling out of the closet and hands it over to Kalika. She then carefully picks Groot’s body up gently with one arm as she shimmies the sling underneath him.

“Alright, sweetie, I’m going to lift you up and bring you over to the changing table where we’ll get you undressed and then we’ll move you over to the tub.” Kalika told Groot as she reached for the remote that had all the controls for the ceiling-mounted patient lift. “On 3, sweetheart. 1... 2... 3.” She counted down before she pressed the button on the remote that made the lift pick Groot up and guided it to where the changing table was. Kalika then carefully laid Groot on the changing table before unhooking the sling from the lift.

Kalika took off Groot’s pajamas and inspected his body, gently taking off the bandages that covered the stab wounds that he suffered during the “Initiation Ritual” that he partook in thinking that he would finally become part of the Emo Goth gang. The wounds were healing slowly, but showed no signs of infection and Groot wasn’t in any pain when his nurse lightly touched his wounds.

“Good job, Groot.” Kalika praised him. “You’re doing really well. Now, I got to take your diaper off before I get you into the tub, alright?”

Groot was scared and started to cry as Kalika took off his diaper. He had an accident and was freaking out, afraid of what was going to happen next.

“Groot, it’s okay.” Kalika frantically tries to calm him down as he cries nonstop, arms flailing around. “Remember what I said? Lars isn’t here today.” She holds his arms and hugs him to show that she isn’t angry at him and that he wasn’t going to be punished. “Shh, shh. It’s okay, sweetie.” She softly says as she strokes Groot to make him stop crying.

After five minutes, Groot was calm enough to where Kalika could wipe his bottom and groin area clean. She then reattaches the sling to the patient lift so that she can get Groot into the specially-designed tub. After getting the patient lift over the tub, she carefully lowers Groot into it and detaches the sling from the lift and pushes the lift to the side.

Kalika reaches for one of the handheld shower wands, turns it on, and holds the palm of her hand up against it to test the temperature of the water. When she was happy with the temperature not being too hot or too cold, she slowly introduced Groot to the water by gently splashing it against his body. Groot didn’t like the sensation of the water and he let both Rocket and Kalika know this by moaning and groaning.

“Groot, I know that you don’t like bath time and the last time you were in this room, you didn’t have a easy time because Lars wasn’t nice to you, but he’s not here today. I’m here and I’m going to be gentle with you and tell you what I’m doing so you won’t be scared while I’m washing you, okay?” Kalika told Groot as he nodded and became less fearful of the impending bathtime. “If you get scared at any point, you can hold Rocket’s hand.” She said as Rocket held Groot’s hand.

“Alright, Groot, I’m going to start by getting you used to the water, okay?” Kalika informed him as she gently sprinkled some water on him. He didn’t show any discomfort as she did this, so she preceded with the bath. “Rocket, can you help me? I have to wash his hair and need you to hold his head still as I take his helmet off.”

“Yeah, yeah, of course.” The raccoon obliged as he let go of Groot’s hand and walked over to where Kalika was and held his son’s head still.

Kalika unbuckled the strap under Groot’s chin in preparation for taking off his protective helmet. “Okay, Groot, on 3. I don’t want you to move while I do this, so Rocket’s got your head so that you don’t hurt yourself.” Groot squeaks in acknowledgment before she counts down and removes his helmet.

Afterwards, Kalika sets the helmet on the side and inspects his skull. It was still red and swollen, and Groot flinches as she lightly touches it, but he was starting to grow new bark on top and there was a hint of green moss starting to regrow.

Rocket sneaked a peak and what he saw broke his heart. The top of Groot’s head had scars that resembled the busy streets of Xandar in the middle of the tourist season. Some of the smaller scars were healing nicely and you could barely tell that they were even there, but the longer and larger scars haven’t healed as easily and were extremely swollen with bumpy spots and irritation surrounding them. Rocket didn’t touch any of the scars, in fear of causing Groot even more pain. Rocket also noticed the little leaf sprig that Groot had on the top of his head was wilted and almost dead, but like Groot was showing signs of regeneration.

“Groot, I have to wash your hair. I’m going to be really really quick, but really really gentle so that you can get your helmet back on.” Kalika stated to Groot as he let out another squeak to let her know that he understood.

Kalika then placed the showerhead on its most gentle setting and got Groot’s hair wet. After his hair was wet enough, she grabbed the shampoo bottle which Rocket readily handed her. She opened the bottle and let Groot smell the scent that it had: Brown sugar and cocoa butter. Kalika then gently scrubbed Groot’s head as she sang to him to take his mind off of the pain that the motion likely caused. She then grasped the shower wand to wash the shampoo off.

”Good job, Groot.” Kalika soothed him. “This was one of the toughest parts for you, I know. But the rest of this is easy. And Rocket’s here to help out too.”

Groot was put at ease as Kalika began to wash his body with the same scented body wash as the shampoo. Much to Groot’s relief, she was using his favorite sponge instead of the roughest loofah that Lars always washed him with. Although he couldn’t do much, Rocket helped by calming Groot down when he noticed his son getting scared or agitated. He also helped Kalika when she needed to wash Groot’s armpits by gently lifting up his arms.

As he watched his son getting bathed, Rocket couldn’t help but reflect on the last time that he “Helped” Groot in the shower. The last time, Rocket was being embarrassing towards Groot by fighting with him in the shower as he tried to give him a “Proper shower so he could get that typical teenager stench off of him.” Unbeknownst to him that Drax recorded the entire encounter and the argument that followed with Groot’s choice of clothes for that day and uploaded it to every internet site in existence.

Now, Rocket would do anything to have any of that back. Just a few days ago, Groot was a typical teenager. Just a few days ago, he was arguing with Rocket and the others about normal teenager things. His diet consisted mainly of burgers and junk food and he would flat out refuse to eat anything healthy or whatever the other Guardians were eating. Whenever he had a disagreement with the other Guardians, (which was normal), he would just march angrily up the stairs to his room and slam his door shut. He would say that he was going to run away from home on a daily basis. He was virtually attached at the hip to his video games and always had his handheld game in his possession at all times, even at school where his grades were failing and he was called in to the principal’s office at least once a week for some kind of infraction and would receive a detention or suspension in return. But, what Rocket missed the most was the chance Groot had at growing up and living a normal life.

Now, Groot was still a teenager, but there was nothing normal about him. Just a few days ago, he ran away from home to go join that gang with dire consequences. After he refused to perform the “Initiation Process” that was put forth for him to complete, he got jumped by the members of the gang, beat up, stabbed, and left to die. That is, if Rocket wasn’t the helicopter parent that he was and found Groot in that alley and a Good Samaritan heard what was going on by their apartment and called the authorities. Groot did die a couple of times after he was brought to the trauma center, but they were able to bring him back, however, he suffered a significant amount of brain damage and Rocket was told that it would be in his best interest to be taken off of life support and die shortly thereafter. 

But Groot never gave up, if anything, after he was taken off of life support, he started to get better. But he had a long way to go if he was to fully recover and be back to his old self.

Groot couldn’t talk, he can make various noises and laugh and cry, as well as nod and shake his head, but as for forming words, he couldn’t and would either need to sign or use a voice synthesizer to convey his thoughts, wants and needs to the people around him. Groot’s diet now consisted of liquid foods solely and he needs to be spoonfed with either a baby spoon or a syringe as he doesn’t have the strength or control in his hand to properly use a spoon. Groot couldn’t move on his own, let alone get out of bed without help and if he needed to be moved, he would need to have Kalika take his bed to wherever he needed to go, or if he needed to get a shower, be placed in a commode chair and taken to the shower room. Now, Groot’s the normal weight of a teenager of his species and is to heavy for Rocket, or anyone else to lift by themselves, so Groot needs the assistance of a patient lift in order to be moved anywhere. It is Rocket’s hope that Groot will walk again, even if he would need the assistance of a walker or a set of crutches to help attain that feat. But Rocket is reluctant to accept the reality that the best case scenario for Groot right now would be to get him to sit in a specially designed wheelchair that had a tilting function to make him feel comfortable when he sits in it. Groot would never be able to play his video games again, and Rocket felt guilty to admit that that would probably be a good thing. But he knew that Groot loved his video games. Groot would probably never be able to go back to school since the care he needs is intensive and full time. If he were to get an education, he would need to be homeschooled at the nursing home with a specialized course in order for him to graduate. If he could go to a traditional high school again, it probably wouldn’t be the Xandar Academy since Groot would need a one-on-one aide to be with him at all times and he would need to be placed in a special education class since his intelligence was probably below the threshold that would make him able to be in the mainstream classes. If that was the case, then Groot would be attending a special school that could educate him at his level and the school would also have the various therapies that he needed to somewhat live a normal life. Another thing was, if Groot was to attend school again, then the Guardians would have to work with the nursing home to find a nurse for Groot that had a degree in being an aide for him. All-in-all, Groot’s life would never be normal again.

But as Rocket looked at Groot, he reaffirmed to himself that no matter what, he would love his son. It never mattered to him what Groot could or could not do. He was his son and Rocket was his Daddy. He snapped out of his meditation when Kalika called him over to the tub.

“Easy, Groot, easy.” Kalika soothed a frightened Groot. “I just want to show Rocket something.” She said as she peeled back the bandage that covered his scar from the feeding tube that they removed from him earlier this morning. “As you can see, the scar is healing faster than we previously thought it would.” Rocket looks at the scar. Instead of it being an inflamed red color, it was a healthy pink color and Groot didn’t flinch or cry with Rocket accidentally brushed his shirt sleeve against it.

Kalika replaced the wet bandage with a dry one as she got Groot’s attention again. “Groot, I have to wash your groin area now. I’m going to be real gentle so don’t get scared, sweetie.” She told him as she cleaned him. “There, all done.” Kalika calms him down afterwards.

Kalika lets Groot stop crying for a few minutes as Rocket talks to her.

“So, is that it?” Rocket asks.

Kalika shakes her head. “No, I’m afraid not.” She stood up. “I need you to help me remove Groot’s braces so that I can wash his arms and legs. It’s going to be painful, but he needs it to be done.” She looks at Groot. “Groot, honey, we have to wash your arms and legs now.” Groot cries as it causes him extreme pain and discomfort when his limbs are taken out of the braces and anytime he moves them a tiny inch afterwards. “I know, sweetie, but I’ll be just as quick as I was with washing your hair, okay?” She told Groot as he nodded and braced himself for the pain that he knew was coming. “Alright, Groot, on the count of 3, I’m going to start unscrewing the bolts that hold your braces together. One, two, three!” She counted down just before she started to loosen the bolts on his braces much to Groot’s discomfort. “Rocket, can you do me a favor and put his braces on the changing table?” She asked as Rocket nodded and complied with her request.

Groot, as expected, cried and screamed after this was done. Not wanting to see his son in any more pain, Rocket acted fast.

“Groot, Groot.” Rocket got Groot’s attention away from Kalika as the teen looked at him. “It’s okay, look at me.” He was successful in distracting Groot as Kalika cleaned his arms and legs as she shaved the hair off of them too.

“Groot, look, we’re all done! You did a good job!” Kalika praised him as she rinsed his body of all the soap. She then got the body sling underneath him and attached it to the patient lift. “Alright, sweetie, we’re going to pick you up and bring you to the changing table so you can get your helmet and braces back on as well as a fresh diaper.” She said as she picked up Groot with the lift and brought him over and laid him down on the table.

Kalika dried Groot’s arms and legs vigorously as she applied lotion to make them smoother and to promote blood flow in the veins to lessen the stiffness Groot felt which caused him pain.

“Okay, Groot.” Kalika said as she laid out the parts of the braces where she would attach them to Groot. Groot knew what was coming and he started to cry. “I know, sweetie. I don’t like having to do this to you either, but it has to be done.” She apologized to him as Rocket stood by Groot and held his hand. “Look, Rocket is here. If you start to feel pain or get scared, you can hold his hand as tightly as you want. But we’re going to try not to scream, okay?” Groot nodded as he turned his head and looked at his father.

Groot tries his best to not scream or cry as Kalika began to get his braces back on. He flinches and clinches his face in reaction to the pain.

Rocket notices this and makes Groot look at him. “Groot, Groot. It’s okay. Here, hold my hand, buddy. Shh, shh. It’ll be over with soon.” Rocket coddled Groot as the raccoon held his son’s uninjured hand.

Rocket continued to distract Groot as Kalika reattached his leg and arm braces to him. Three minutes later, she was done. She lets Groot calm down for a few more minutes before she moves on.

“Good job, Groot.” Kalika praised him. “Now we have to get your hair dried so you don’t get cold when you go outside.” She went in the closet to get out some hand towels and a hair dryer. Groot was afraid of the hair dryer because of how loud it was and started to tense up as soon as Kalika plugged it into the outlet and he got a glimpse of it. “Groot, calm down. I’m not going to use the hair dryer on you as much because your hair is still regrowing so for the most part, I’m going to towel dry your hair before I put your helmet back on, okay?” She informed him as Groot let out a squeak. “Remember, if you get scared, you can hold Rocket’s hand.” She said as Groot reached out for Rocket who immediately held his hand.

Kalika turned on the hair dryer. Groot squeezed his father’s hand. But luckily for Groot, the hair dryer was only on for a minute before being turned off and put away. Kalika then carefully wrapped his head up in the towel and gently dried off the remaining water from his hair before unwrapping the towel from his head in exchange for some gauze that covered the top of his head where all of those scars were before getting his protective helmet back on him and clicking the chinstrap and tightening it.

“Alright, Groot. We’re almost done here.” Kalika said as Groot let out a disgruntled moan, bored with laying down on the changing table. “I know, I know. You want to go back to your room so you can watch some TV. I have to get your groin cleaned with a baby wipe, then get a fresh diaper on you, then get you in a robe before we put you back in the sling and into the commode chair so we can go to your room.”

As she was wiping Groot clean and getting a fresh adult diaper on him, Rocket didn’t realize until now how much care Groot needed. It was like Groot was a baby again, but in a teenager-sized body. He knew in his heart that the chances of Groot ever being able to get well enough to come home were slim and it was very likely that Groot could spend the rest of his life in the advanced care facility. That in turn could splinter the Guardians since Rocket made a vow that he would spend as much time as he could with Groot while he recovers, no matter how long that took. As each day goes by, that just keeps getting longer and longer with all of the setbacks Groot has had lately.

“Rocket, can you get me a clean robe out of the drawers over there?” Kalika implored him as the raccoon was brought out of his thoughts. Rocket walked over to the drawer and brought her the biggest robe in the drawer. “Thank you.”

“You need any help?” Rocket asked as Kalika unfolded the robe and prepared to put it on Groot.

Kalika looks at Rocket as she tries to get the robe on Groot by herself. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.” She answers as Rocket walks over to the changing table. “Can you hold Groot’s arms like this while I get the robe on him?” She shows Rocket how to hold Groot’s arms in the easiest way in order for her to get them in the sleeves.

Kalika then got the robe on Groot. Groot didn’t like having his arms held up like that and whined. Rocket did his best to soothe his son by softly talking to him. Groot was calmed when Rocket put his arms back down by his side and as Kalika was straightening the light blue robe that was now on him and as she tied it with the cloth belt around his waist.

“Groot, are you ready to get back in the commode chair so we can go to your room for a while?” Kalika asked him as Groot let out a squeak to let her know that he was ready. “Alright, let’s get you in the sling so we can attach the patient lift to it and get you in the commode chair so we can go back to your room.” She told Groot as she gently rolled him from side to side as she moved the sling underneath him before attaching the loops to the patient lift and then activating it and moving him to the commode chair before lowering it and detaching the sling before she unlocked the wheels to the chair and she pushed Groot back to his room as Rocket followed.

A minute later, Groot was back in his room. Kalika hooks up the sling that he was sitting in to the patient lift in his room and picked him up and placed him in his bed. The rest of the Guardians were there waiting for him. Kalika grabbed the clipboard from the bedside table and sat on the edge of Groot’s bed.

“Groot.” Kalika said as she held the clipboard within his reach. “You just had your shower.” She reminded him as she helped Groot take off the card that corresponded to the shower. “Can you tell me what you have to do next?”

Groot grunted and whined as he pointed at the TV, which was off.

“Yes, I know that you want to watch Bob Ross, but you can do that while you do your next activity. Can you show me what it is?” Kalika quizzed Groot as he tapped the flash card that had a picture of clothes on it. “That’s right, Groot. You’re going to get dressed now.” She then turned to Rocket. “Rocket? Can I talk to you outside, please?” She asked as Rocket followed her outside of the room.

“What’s wrong?” The raccoon asked as Kalika turned on Bob Ross for Groot to watch in the meantime.

“Well, since Groot was involved in a purported gang activity when he came to us, we had to contact the Nova Corps and since Groot was unconscious when they came to interview him, the only thing that they could do at the time was collect his personal belongings that he had on him at the time for evidence. That meant all of the clothes that he was wearing was taken to the station for analysis.” Kalika explained. “I know that he doesn’t have any other clothes and the ones that we have in storage here aren’t his size and won’t fit him because he is tall for his age given his species’ genetic makeup. So, do you by any chance have any other clothes that he can wear today?”

“No.” Rocket responded. The events of that night were still too fresh in his mind. He has spent every waking minute that he could here with Groot. Even when he was home with the other Guardians, his mind was always worrying about Groot. Down to the point where Rocket regularly forgets to wear clothes at times. Today was one of those occasions where he almost boarded the Milano sans clothes. So if he forgets to put on clothes, there was little chance that he would bring some clothes for Groot.

They walked back in Groot’s room where Kalika asked everyone else if they had any of Groot’s clothes by chance.

“Rocket.” Gamora spoke up. “Didn’t you always store a spare set of clothes in the Milano for Groot to change out of his uniform if he got a prank pulled on him during school?” Rocket suddenly remembered and asked Gamora to retrieve the clothes.

Gamora returns minutes later and hands the clothes to Kalika. Kalika takes the clothes and draws the privacy curtain around Groot’s bed, and with the help of another nurse, gets Groot changed into his first outfit that he’s worn since the accident.

Kalika then pulls back the curtain to reveal what Groot was wearing. He was wearing a deep blue Bob Ross graphic tee with the painter on it painting one of his famous portraits and Bob Ross was accompanied by a raccoon on his lap. The words “Happy Little Trees” were draped across the bottom part of the shirt. A matching bib was tied around his neck to prevent any drool from getting on the shirt. Groot also had on a pair of denim pants that were brand new. There were no shoes on him, just socks, as placing shoes on Groot with his legs in the braces proved uncomfortable for him.

“Alright, Groot.” Kalika began. “You just got dressed, right?” She questioned the teen as he nodded before he picked up the appropriate flash card and handed it to Kalika. “Now what comes next?” Groot pointed to the picture of an ambulance. Kalika looked at everyone. “Okay, I’m going to go check and see if they’re here yet and when they do arrive, we’ll get going.” She stated before she left to go check on the ambulance’s status.

Groot was left to relax with his family for a half hour as Kalika went downstairs to wait for the transport team that would take Groot to the airport for his chartered medical flight on a private plane to the nursing home. Kalika returns with two young medics as the men placed a stretcher next to Groot’s bed.

Groot was curious, confused, and a little bit scared as the medics lowered one of the safety rails that were on the side of his bed.

Kalika sat next to the teenager as he let out a frightened squeak. “Groot, do you remember what we’ve talked about with your schedule for today?” She asked Groot as Groot looked at his communication clipboard. He then pointed to the picture of the ambulance. “That’s right, you’re going to ride in an ambulance, and these young men here are going to help you get in it.” Groot then patted his bed. “No, Groot. Your bed is too big to fit in the ambulance, but the medics brought a special one that can fit inside the ambulance and when you get to your new home, there’s going to be a brand new bed waiting for you. So, can we get you on the special bed?” Kalika implored Groot as he nodded in agreement. 

“Question.” One of the medics asked Kalika. “Does he need to be placed on a backboard?”

“Yes, to prevent anymore injury or pain to him during transport, that would be for the best.” Kalika responded as she gently rolled Groot onto his side as the other medic slid the backboard underneath him before Kalika rolled him back down and as they strapped him to the board.

Groot didn’t like the straps being on him and cried until they loosened them up, but not too much to where he could easily fall off.

“Alright, sweetie, they’re going to get you on the stretcher now.” Kalika told Groot as the medics lifted him up and placed him carefully on the stretcher and buckled him in. “You ready to go, Groot?”

Groot nodded as he left his room for the last time. Rocket and the other Guardians followed as they all entered the freight elevator to the ground floor. With ten people plus Groot in the gurney, the elevator was extremely cramped and filled to the maximum capacity. Groot didn’t like the claustrophobic feeling and shook in fear until the elevator arrived at its destination and they all left it and went outside to where the ambulance was waiting and the medics opened the back doors so they could load Groot, who was now laying comfortably in his stretcher, into the ambulance.

“So, uh, I guess that we’ll call a taxi and meet you at the airport.” Rocket said as the medics got into the ambulance.

“Actually, Rocket.” Kalika began. “I think it wouldn’t be too much of an issue if you rode with Groot to the airport. If anything, he’ll be less stressed and more relaxed.” Rocket thought about it before turning to the other Guardians, who nodded to let him know that they were fine with him traveling with Groot before they got into the taxi that followed the ambulance to the airport.

When they got to the airport and they unloaded Groot from the ambulance, Kalika quizzed him yet again about his schedule as he pointed to the picture of the airport. She then asked him if he knew why he was here, to which Groot responded by handing Kalika the card that had an airplane on it before he was brought on the airplane on his stretcher. Everyone else got on soon after for the two hour flight that was about half of the time they would be traveling if they had to go by vehicle.

They then arrived at the nursing home. Kalika then asked Groot where he was and he answered by pointing to the card that depicted the nursing home. They were soon met by the Director of Patient Care, who was also the owner of the facility and one of the personal care nurses that worked there.

“Hi, I’m Azrik and this is my daughter, Valeeska.” The Director introduced themselves as he approached Groot and smiled at the the teen. “And this must be Groot.” He deduced as he held Groot’s hands. “Hi, Groot. I hear that you’re going to stay here. I want you to meet my daughter who’s going to be your full-time nurse and take real good care of you.” Groot made noises in response as Valeeska stroked his head.

“Can he talk?” Valeeska asked Kalika.

“No. He’s been completely nonverbal since the accident.” Kalika answered. “But he does know how to communicate by shaking his head, nodding, and he makes noises as you can see. Now for more complex thoughts and for him to know his schedule for the day, he uses a clipboard with flash cards to act as a more visual aid and reminder.”

“Alright. Well, let me show you to his room and we can discuss his care further.” Valeeska responded as she escorted them to Groot’s new room in his new home.

Chapter Text

As they walked down the brightly colored hallways of the nursing home, Rocket took notice of the other patients and their personal nurses. All of them were mobile in some fashion, whether it be by moving a power chair by themselves to walking without an assistance aid of any type, but they still had a limp to some degree, they could get around on their own. All the other patients were communicating in some form whether it be by signing to forming actual words and speaking them. Rocket looked at Groot and wished that he could be like that, but he knew the reality of Groot’s current condition.

“And here’s Groot’s new room.” Valeeska announced cheerfully as she opened the extra-wide door so that the paramedics could get Groot’s gurney inside the room.

Groot’s room was spacious. The walls were painted vibrant colors with various cheerful pictures hanging on the walls. The ceiling tiles were painted too just in case that Groot had to be in bed all day because he got sick, he would have something to look at. There was a ceiling hoist that could pick Groot up from his bed and carry him to the bathroom which was attached to his room so that he could have all the privacy he needed.

The patient hoist led into the bathroom where there was a changing table that was built into the wall and was strong enough to support Groot’s body weight. The table had various belts to ensure that he wouldn’t fall off accidentally should he suddenly move. Next to the changing table was a closet that was filled with baskets of adult diapers in various sizes and it also had full-size body towels for Groot to be wrapped up in after his shower. The shower itself was a roll-in shower with a glass door enclosure that was wide enough for Groot to get into with his tilt-in-space commode chair so his attending nurse could wash him in the shower with the handheld shower wand. The last thing that the bathroom had was a sink that had the bottom cut out so that Groot’s nurse could roll his chair up underneath it so he could easily reach the sink to wash his hands or a number of other things that he needed to do.

Groot made a discontent noise of getting tired of being in the gurney.

“Okay, let’s get him into his bed.” Valeeska ordered as the medics carefully unbuckled Groot from the stretcher and backboard and got him in his new bed before they left the facility.

Groot’s new bed was specially-designed for his needs. It had an extremely soft mattress that gave Groot the comfort and support that he needed for his body. The side guards were lined with an extremely soft padding should Groot have a seizure or similar medical emergency, he wouldn’t bang his head or get his limbs caught in between the mattress and the bed frame and he wouldn’t fall out of the bed either.

Groot instantly got comfortable in his bed and pointed up towards the overhead TV and made a noise that meant he wanted to watch something. Valeeska turned the TV on so Groot could watch it while they talked about his care.

Kalika checked her watch. It was getting late as she had to return to the trauma center before the end of the day. “Oh, Valeeska, I have to talk to you about Groot’s routine and care before I leave.” She said as Groot reached out his hand for her to hold. “I know, Groot. But I have to go now.” Groot squeaked to tell her that he wanted to go with her. “No, sweetie, you have to stay here. You’re getting better and I got to go back and take care of some people that need more help.” Groot squeaked some more. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. Valeeska is going to take such good care of you because I’m going to teach her how to, alright, sweetie?” Groot nodded as Kalika helped him sit up so that he could hug her. “Okay, just relax and she’ll be back soon so that you two can get to know each other.” Kalika told Groot as she laid him down before she left with Valeeska and Azrik to discuss Groot’s care further in private.

An hour later, Valeeska and Azrik returned to meet with the Guardians. They discussed what their plan of action was for Groot in this part of his recovery, they met with the speech therapist and all of his physical therapists (They didn’t assess Groot because he was frightened.) They also met with the dietitian to discuss what the best way was for Groot to eat normal foods again.

After a whirlwind of meetings with the people who would be taking care of Groot, the Guardians (except for Rocket) said goodbye to Groot and began the long drive home. They decided that they would visit Groot twice a month as the journey to the nursing home was long depending on how the traffic was. Rocket, however, would be by Groot’s side at all times during visiting hours. He couldn’t visit Groot if he got sick, since the facility has a strict rule about exposing visitors to potentially deadly infections, which Rocket understood.

Rocket stayed with Groot until visiting hours were over with and he had to check into the hotel that he rented while Groot was at the nursing home. The hotel was a little bit run down and the rooms were a little dingy and dark, but the proximity to the bus stop and the price of 50 Units a week made it irresistible.

The raccoon unlocked the door leading to his apartment using the card key the hotel provided him and started to unpack his bags and place his clothes in the drawers and closet. Before he went to bed for the night, he took out an old photo of him and Groot, who just reached the teenager phase of his life and were celebrating at Groot’s favorite restaurant. Rocket placed the photo on his nightstand before he turned out the lights and went to bed for the night.

Chapter Text

Rocket woke up the next morning and got ready to go out and visit with Groot for the day. After the complimentary continental breakfast that the hotel provided, he left and walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus to take him to the nursing home. The bus arrived moments after he sat down on the bench and he boarded the bus for the ten minute ride to the nearest stop to the nursing home. After a five minute walk, Rocket arrived at the facility.

He placed his bag down on the clean floor for a minute while he signed himself in the visitor’s logbook. After he picked his bag up, Groot’s nurse, Valeeska, approached him as she exited the elevator that led to the resident floors where the patients that needed more intensive care were kept.

“Hey, Valeeska.” Rocket waved at her.

“Oh, Rocket.” Valeeska was startled by his presence as she almost dropped the patient files that she was carrying in her arms. “What brings you here?”

“I’m here to visit Groot.” Rocket said as he gathered up the files and handed them back to her.

Valeeska gave Rocket a sympathetic look. “Oh, I’m sorry, but Groot fell seriously ill last night so we had to quarantine him and he can’t have any visitors until he gets better.” She apologized to the raccoon. “But I’ll tell him that you said hi.” She gave him a reassuring smile before she walked away.

Rocket watched Valeeska as she walked towards the administrative offices of the nursing home. He then sat down in the lobby for a few minutes as he browsed the Internet on his phone.

But something didn’t feel right to him. Inside he felt this nagging feeling that kept telling him that something wasn’t right.

He got up and looked at the board that had the floor plan of the entire facility. He found the section labeled “Quarantine” and headed that way. Before he entered through the double doors, he found out that he needed to key in a special 9-digit code on a keypad to gain access. Rocket didn’t feel like going through thousands upon thousands of possible combinations. It also didn’t help the fact that if the first combination he entered wasn’t the correct one, Rocket would surely set off a set of alarms and if he was caught, he would surely be thrown out and banned from visiting Groot while he recovered from his injuries.

Luckily, a nurse was just leaving the quarantine wing in a full protective body suit.

“Uh, excuse me, Miss.” Rocket caught her attention as she looked at him. “But is my son, Groot, in there?”

She checked the clipboard that had all of the patients that were currently being quarantined for a variety of ailments. “I’m sorry, no.” She apologized as she shook her head before walking off.

Rocket was really suspicious now. He ran towards the elevator and hit the button for the floor that Groot was on, which was the one at the very top, the fifth floor, which was reserved exclusively for the residents who needed the most care. As he exited, he saw Valeeska walk by and hid behind some medical equipment so he wouldn’t be seen.

Valeeska was headed to Groot’s room. Rocket cautiously follows, making sure that his footsteps were silent. When Rocket got closer to Groot’s room, he could hear his son moaning and groaning in pain and fear. Valeeska entered the room and closed the door behind her so Rocket couldn’t listen in. After a couple of minutes, she re-emereged from the room, this time she left the door open so that Rocket could easily enter Groot’s room without her seeing him.

When the coast was clear, Rocket emerged from his hiding place and entered his son’s room. What Rocket saw and heard was horrifying. Groot was crying and shaking uncontrollably, almost as if he just had a seizure. His protective helmet was off of him and thrown to the side and when Rocket picked it up, he saw that there was a gigantic crack down the middle of the helmet. Rocket went back to Groot and saw that his son had a few scratches and bruises all over his body and he was now sporting a black eye that looked pretty new.

Groot was scared as Rocket looked at him. He tensed up as Rocket cradled him in his arms and started to cry again. “Shh, shh. It’s me, Groot. Daddy.” Rocket whispered soothingly to his son as Groot calmed down.

Rocket looked around some more. Groot looked emaciated and weak. “Did you get fed yet, Groot?” Groot shook his head. Rocket wished that he could feed him. But Groot was on a special diet and he needed his food served in such a way that it would be easy for him to chew and swallow and he needed it made in such a way that it would be easy for him to digest.

Rocket then smelled something. It smelled as if Groot soiled himself. “Groot, did you have your diaper changed recently?” Rocket asked as Groot shook his head again. The raccoon then lifted Groot’s covers on his bed only to discover that his son did have an accident and his diaper had leaked through and his bedsheets, as well as his mattress, was now ruined.

”Groot, what are you doing?” Rocket questioned as Groot started to cower. It was like Groot was expecting to be yelled at or hit. It all then became clear to the raccoon. “Groot, Groot. Look at me.” Rocket implored to his son as he placed a finger underneath Groot’s chin to make him look at his father. “Does Valeeska yell at you? Does she hit you when you have an accident or do something that she doesn’t want you to do?” Groot nodded to both of his father’s queries.

Rocket was in shock. The very person that he, the Guardians, and Azrik entrusted to take care of Groot was doing the exact opposite of what she was supposed to do. If anything, she was abusing Groot, putting him in constant fear of her should he do anything that was not to her liking.

Rocket knew that no one of authority would believe him without some sort of photographic evidence. He got out his camera and took pictures of Groot and his various injuries. But he felt that this wasn’t enough. He then videotaped his son’s reactions as he asked him various questions. Groot shook his head at every single one that involved his nurse’s treatment towards him should he not do what she wanted.

After Rocket finished recording Groot, he knew that none of the evidence that he has collected so far would matter if he didn’t catch Valeeska in the act of her tormenting his son. 

He knew that every patient’s room had a set of hidden security cameras that we were supposed to be on at all times. “Groot, do you know where the cameras are in your room?” Rocket asked him as Groot meekly nodded and pointed to the cameras’ locations.

The raccon then climbed up on the furniture to get a closer look at the hi-tech cameras. He quickly discovered that someone had disabled the cameras. Luckily, Rocket had the knowledge on how to fix them and get them working again. Rocket even took the extra step of having whatever the cameras capture in Groot’s room streamed to his laptop in real time.

Rocket’s ears then prick up and thanks to his enhanced hearing, he heard the footsteps of someone coming. Not knowing if that person was Valeeska or another nurse, he quickly left Groot’s room and stealthily made his way out of the nursing home and to the bus stop so he could get back to his hotel room to keep a vigil over Groot’s treatment. 

As soon as he got in his hotel room, he opened his laptop to the livestream of Groot’s room and sure enough, Valeeska was there and Groot’s torment was just beginning as Rocket picked up the phone to call the Guardians to tell them what he found.

Chapter Text

Rocket called the Guardians on the phone. Unfortunately, he got a busy signal and hangs up. He then spotted the holographic projector on the nightstand and activated it before calling the Guardians.

He waited as the call went through, but then the Guardians’ figures lit up from the base and were made to make a 3-D image of their likenesses.

“Hey, Rocket. How’s it going with Groot?” Peter greeted him.

Rocket sighed. “Not good.” He answered. “You know his nurse, Valeeska? I caught her abusing him today. She’s not feeding him, changing his diaper, and worst of all-.” Rocket couldn’t bring himself to say anything else.

“What is it, Rocket?” Gamora questioned him.

Rocket swallowed. “He-. Groot-.” He stuttered as he held his head low.

“What, Rocket? Answer us.” Gamora demanded.

“Valeeska is hurting Groot.” Rocket finally managed to say as the other Guardians gasp in shock.

“How?” Drax queried angrily as he clenched his fists. “What is she doing to Groot and how did you find out?”

“I went to go visit Groot when I bumped into Valeeska and she said that I couldn’t see him because he got sick.” Rocket began. “I thought that it was a little bit strange considering that he was fine last night and he never gets sick in such a short amount of time, it usually takes days before he even gets a runny nose.” The Guardians nodded in agreement, having seen Groot get sick multiple times when he was a baby. “Anyways, Valeeska said that Groot was moved to the quarantine wing before she left. As soon as she was gone, I made my way to the quarantine wing and asked a nurse if Groot was in there.”

Rocket took a sip of the soda he was drinking before he continued. “He wasn’t and that’s when I started to worry. So I went to his room. He was there, but he didn’t look good.” He said, a hint of worry in his voice.

“Why? What was wrong?” Mantis asked the crabby puppy.

“He was crying and moaning in bed as he shook.” Rocket stated. “He didn’t have his helmet on, as I found it on the floor and there was a big crack in the middle, leading me to think it was taken off of his head by his nurse and thrown, therefore breaking it. I also saw that Valeeska has been beating him too, as he has scratches and bruises covering his body and he also has a black eye again.” Rocket’s voice got somber. “He got nervous as I approached, leading me to believe that his nurse was also verbally abusing him. I then discovered that he hasn’t eaten anything since he got there and he hasn’t gotten a diaper change in the same amount of time either.” 

The Guardians were in shock over Groot’s treatment. Peter was the first to say something.

“Does, does Azrik know anything about this?” He questioned Rocket.

“No.” The raccoon replied. “But I’m going to make him fully aware of it tomorrow morning when I go over there. I’m worried for Groot.”

With that, Rocket ended the holographic conference with the rest of the Guardians. He went to sleep worrying about what Groot was probably going through right now.

Chapter Text

Rocket woke up early the next day and makes his way to the nursing home. When he enters the facility, he signs in and makes his way to Groot’s room. As he gets off of the elevator on the fifth floor, he ran into Azrik. Rocket got up the courage to tell him what Valeeska was doing to Groot and showed him the video evidence from the cameras that were in Groot’s room but were disabled by his daughter so that she could hide how she was really treating Groot. Azrik was expectedly shocked as he and Rocket heard screaming coming from the wing Groot was in and they ran to his room.

They arrived at Groot’s room. The door was closed and locked and Groot’s cries and screams could be heard from the other side. Azrik ferociously banged on the door, thinking that someone accidentally locked it. But they did it on purpose. Azrik then got out the Master Key to the nursing home that could unlock any door in the building. He uses it to unlock Groot’s door and as soon as it was opened, Rocket ran inside to comfort his son.

“Shh, shh, it’s okay, Groot.” Rocket soothed Groot as the teen whimpered in bed as his father cradled him in his arms. “I’m here now.” Groot starts to calm down at the sound of Rocket’s voice.

Azrik looks at Groot’s current state of health. He did not like what he saw. “Groot, did you have anything to eat yet, today?” Groot tried to shake his head no, but couldn’t because his head and neck hurt for some reason, so all he could do was blink to signify that Valeeska hasn’t given him anything to eat yet. Azrik then smelled something. “Groot, did you have your diaper changed recently?” Groot again blinked to signify no.

Azrik lifted the covers off of Groot to discover that his bed, pajamas, and bedsheets were completely soiled. He then takes off Groot’s shirt to discover that Groot was extremely malnourished and he was basically a skeleton of his former self. Azrik then began to examine Groot’s head as the teen flinched in pain when Valeeska showed up.

Valeeska was surprised by her father being in Groot’s room. She masks her treatment towards Groot and says cheerfully “Oh, Daddy! Groot, look who paid you a visit today!”

Azrik wasn’t buying Valeeska’s act. “DON’T YOU ‘OH, DADDY’ ME, YOUNG LADY!” He barked at his daughter. “You have been abusing Groot, haven’t you?” Valeeska didn’t answer. “ANSWER ME!” Azrik yelled as Groot cried, thinking he was in trouble. Rocket calmed down his son the best that he could.

“FINE! I’ll tell you what you want to hear.” Valeeska snarled as she pushed Rocket out of the way. “But I only do it because he doesn’t know better. He just stares at the ceiling all day drooling on himself and crapping in his pants. He has no chance of getting any better and HE’S A BURDEN TO SOCIETY!” Valeeska shouted as she began to beat Groot as he cried.

Azrik wrestled his daughter off of Groot and asked for Rocket to go get the security officers that were assigned to the nursing home. Rocket comes back minutes later as the security guards subdue Valeeska and handcuff her.

“Get her out of here and take her down to the Nova Corps Station.” Azrik ordered the guards.

Valeeska acts all innocent to her father. “But, Daddy, I have a job to do.”

“No, you don’t. After what I saw you do to Groot and you covering it up under my eyes, you don’t deserve to work here anymore. You’re fired!” Azrik told his daughter as she was taken away.

He then turned to Rocket. “I’m sorry.” He apologized. “I had no idea that she was doing this to Groot. She always wrote on Groot’s progress sheets that he was beginning to show improvement and that he was enjoying her company. She lied to me.” Azrik explained. “I’m going to have Groot be taken to a trauma center as a precaution to see if he suffered any injuries. If he has, I will be pressing charges against Valeeska to make sure she goes to prison for a very long time so that she doesn’t harm anyone else.” He took a sip of water. “If you feel that it would be in Groot’s best interests to be moved to another facility, then I will help you to find him another place to get the care that he needs.”

Rocket thought about this for a moment. He then looked at Groot. “No. I want him to stay here.” He responded. “I want him to get the best care that he can and get as well as he can. There’s nowhere else for him to go to get the care that he needs. You guys are the best. Just promise me one thing, when you hire a new nurse for him, make sure that they won’t hurt him the same way that Valeeska did.”

“Of course, Rocket. Of course.” Azrik replied. “That will be my main contingency on hiring Groot’s new personal nurse. I will never let this happen to any of my future or current patients ever again.” He added with utmost sincerity as he looked Rocket in the eyes.

“Alright, then.” Rocket agreed to the terms. “Well, let’s get going so that we can get Groot checked out.” He said as they began the arduous task of getting Groot ready to go to the urgent care facility.

Chapter Text

After Azrik gave Groot a sponge bath and got a new diaper on him and dressed, he left Groot alone for a few minutes to let the teenager watch some TV. 

Rocket then looked at his son. Groot was still scared about what transpired around him today and was shaking uncontrollably.

“Groot? Everything okay, buddy?” Rocket asked worriedly. “Groot, shh, shh... it’s okay, Valeeska won’t be around you ever again.” He reassured Groot as the teen stopped crying.

A few more minutes go by before Azrik comes back with a stretcher.

“Hey, Groot.” Azrik greeted him warmly. Groot groaned, as he looked at his stomach. “I know that you’re hungry and you haven’t eaten anything ever since you met Valeeska. But we have to get you checked out to make sure that you’re okay. So, can I get you on the gurney?” Groot tries to nod, but stops as he screams in pain. Azrik holds the back of his neck to give it some support. “Groot, is your neck bothering you?” Azrik asked concernedly as Groot grunted to signal to him that his neck was throbbing with pain.

“Rocket, can you go in the closet and get me a neck brace for him?” Azrik beseeched the raccoon as Rocket ran with lightning speed to the supply closet in Groot’s room and retrieved a support brace for his son’s neck. Azrik then took the brace with one hand as his other one carefully supported Groot’s neck as he got the neck brace wrapped around the teen’s neck. “There, Groot. Does that feel better?” Groot squeaked his appreciation for the pain relief.

Azrik then got a body sling underneath Groot and lifted him up using the patient lift to get him onto the gurney. The noises that the lift made annoyed Groot and when asked what hurt, Groot groaned when asked if his head hurt. Azrik wrote that down after he got Groot strapped in the gurney and he and Rocket got Groot out to the ambulance and they drove to the emergency room.

After a fifteen minute drive, they arrived at the emergency room. Azrik got Groot’s gurney out of the ambulance and he and Rocket rushed Groot inside. They waited in the waiting room for only five minutes before Groot was called back. Azrik and Rocket pushed Groot’s gurney to one of the exam rooms where they waited inside. 

It was another five minute wait before a nurse came in to assess Groot. She was a kind woman who warmly greeted them as she sat down by the computer as she typed up Groot’s medical history.

“What brings Groot here today?” The nurse, who was named Xalani, asked.

“Well, Groot had a personal nurse that was abusing him and she hid the abuse from us ever since he arrived at the nursing home. And with Groot’s inability to speak, we didn’t know what was going on with him until his father, Rocket, installed hidden cameras in his room that captured everything that was going on.” Azrik explained as Xalani looked shocked as she typed it all down.

“What was she doing to him?” Xalani inquired as Groot made some noises.

“Well, she wasn’t feeding Groot, as his injuries require him to be fed a special liquid diet by hand.” Azrik told her as he took a sip of water from his water bottle. “Another thing is, the amount of trauma that he suffered at the time of his accident has made it mandatory that he wears a special protective helmet at all times to prevent anymore brain damage or skull fractures. Rocket found his helmet thrown on the floor with a giant crack down the middle of it, rendering it as unusable for Groot.”

Xalani then turned around to Rocket. “Have you noticed any change in his behavior? Is he feeling any pain anywhere?”

“Well...” Rocket began. He then looked at his son as he placed his hand over his good arm. Groot looked back at his father and Rocket saw the discomfort and pain that his son was in. “He moaned and groaned that his head hurts. And when we asked him if anything else hurt, he tried to nod, but cried in pain when he tried to, so that’s why he’s wearing a neck brace, because his neck hurts too.”

“I see.” Xalani said as she stood up from the computer. She then approached Groot, who was still laying in his stretcher. She turned to Rocket and Azrik. “Is it okay if I check his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth?” She asked as Rocket and Azrik nodded.

“He can understand you too.” Rocket pointed out.

Xalani then turned her attention to Groot as she grabbed the necessary instruments. “Groot, honey, I’m going to check your ears, eyes, nose, and mouth, okay?” She asked Groot before he gave an approving squeak.

Xalani checked out Groot’s ears, eyes, and nose with no problems. Before she examined his mouth, she wiped up the excess drool that was coming out. She then asked Groot to open his mouth as she placed a wooden tongue depressor inside of it as she took a look inside. Groot felt a lot of pain as he opened his mouth, but with a little coaxing from Xalani, who encouraged him, he opened his mouth just wide enough for her to look around.

“Good job, Groot!” Xalani praised him as she took the tongue depressor out of his mouth and threw it away. Groot let out a couple of coughs in response. “It’s okay, sweetie.” She soothed him as she wrote down that he had pain in his jaw area. She then turned to Rocket. “Is it okay if I take his temperature?”

“Uh...” Rocket was unsure as Xalani took out the thermometer. She then swiped it across Groot’s forehead and got a normal temperature reading. Rocket easily forgets that the medical world has evolved their temperature reading techniques from the days of The Halfworld Method.

“Alright, Groot.” Xalani said as she got out a stethoscope. “I’m going to listen to your heartbeat now. It’s going to be a little bit cold, but I’ll be fast, okay?” Groot looked at her and blinked twice.

Xalani then placed the earpieces of the stethoscope in her ears as she gently lifted Groot’s shirt before she placed the stethoscope over Groot’s chest.

Groot let out a shiver as the stethoscope touched his bark. “It’s cold, sweetie, I know.” Xalani said to him. She listened to his heart beating and his lungs taking in oxygen for him to breathe. After about a minute she removed the stethoscope from his chest and draped it across her neck. “Well, his heart and lungs are normal. Now, Groot, can I take your blood pressure?” She asked as Groot blinked twice to signify that he was okay with it.

As she got out the cuff that was the right size for Groot’s arm and attached it to the machine, Groot looked at Rocket and locked eyes with his father. Rocket knew from Groot’s eyes that his son was scared about what was going on around him and there was nothing much that he could do to comfort his son. All he could do was hold his hand.

As soon as Xalani wrapped the cuff around Groot’s arm, he started to whine. Xalani hasn’t even started to take his blood pressure and Groot was already freaking out. She immediately took off the blood pressure cuff and told them that she’ll get Groot’s rating as soon as the examiner comes in to assess him.

Xalani left the room and Rocket immediately calmed his son down. After about five minutes, she returned with the person who would be examining Groot today, Cre’Nok.

Cre’Nok looked at Groot. “So, what seems to be the problem today?” He asked as Xalani handed him Groot’s paperwork. “Hm... I see.” Cre’Nok then turned to Xalani. “Did you take his blood pressure yet?”

“No. He was too frightened by the cuff.” Xalani told him.

“Alright.” Cre’Nok then turned to Groot as he placed the blood pressure cuff around his arm. “Shh, shh, this isn’t going to hurt you. It’s just going to feel like a hug.” He reassured Groot as the teen seemed more at ease as Cre’Nok held Groot’s arm in his to steady it as he put on his own stethoscope and placed the end of it in the middle of Groot’s elbow and listened to Groot’s blood flow as he took Groot’s blood pressure without much fuss from Groot. “Good job, Groot.” He praised Groot as he took the cuff off of him. Cre’Nok then turned to Rocket and Azrik. “His blood pressure is fine. A little high, but that’s because he’s nervous.”

Groot was given a minute to relax as Cre’Nok left to get something. When he returned, he came with a tray full of various vials, rubber bands, and needles.

He placed the tray on a side table and the got out a pair of blue stretchy gloves as he got them on his hands. Cre’Nok then picked up the tray and placed it on the table next to Groot, who looked at it with curiosity and fear.

Cre’Nok turned to Rocket and Azrik. “Since he’s a new patient, he’ll need to have some blood work done. Can one of you take his jacket off for me?” He asked as Azrik stood up and took Groot’s jacket off of him and handed it over to Rocket.

Xalani rolled up Groot’s sleeve on his shirt. She then spoke softly to him. “Groot, sweetie, we have to do some blood work on you.” Groot wasn’t a fan and was starting to tear up as he got nervous. “I know, but it won’t take long and the rest of your appointment is easy, okay?” Groot calmed down slightly as Xalani offered her hand for him to hold as Cre’Nok tied the rubber band around his upper arm as he tries to get Groot’s vein to show up.

Groot didn’t like the tapping of Cre’Nok’s fingers against his arm and squeaked disapprovingly. 

“It’s okay, Groot. I didn’t insert the needle yet. This makes it easier for me to see your veins so you won’t feel the needle as much, and in turn, it won’t hurt as much.” Cre’Nok reassures Groot as one of his veins presents itself and he sanitizes the area with a cotton swab wipe. “Here we go, Groot. On the count of three. You can hold Xalani’s hand if you want. One, two, three.” He counted down just before he inserted the needle into Groot’s arm and got three vials’ worth of blood from Groot as the teen screamed in agony as he squeezed Xalani’s hand.

“Alright, and now we’re done!” Cre’Nok declared as he removed the needle and untied the rubber band from Groot’s arm. He then placed a piece of gauze over the injection site and secured it with a piece of colorful medical tape. “You did a good job, Groot. I promise, no more needles today.” Cre’Nok said as he handed the vials over to Xalani, who then took them back to the lab.

Groot was given a couple of minutes to calm down. Rocket gently stroked his hand as he soothingly talked to him.

Xalani came back and Groot’s break was over. Cre’Nok turned to Rocket and Azrik as they needed to get Groot’s height and weight. “Can he get out of the stretcher so we can weigh him and see how tall he is?”

“No, he is strictly bedridden and can’t sit up without excruciating pain.” Azrik informed Cre’Nok. “He is extremely fragile to move unless you know what you’re doing.”

Cre’Nok and Xalani thought of how they could possibly weigh Groot and get his height without causing him discomfort. Xalani then spoke up.

“Hm, the custodial staff did get some of the new ceiling lifts installed yesterday. I can go check and see if they’re ready for use.” Xalani proposed. “Then to measure his height, we can lay him down on the gurney and use a tape measure.”

“Probably. Plus, the lift also has a patient weight feature added on to them so that we can get Groot’s weight without having to guesstimate it since the wheelchair scale can’t accommodate his stretcher.” Cre’Nok stated as he looked at Groot and pointed towards his legs. “And since he can’t stand up and his legs are buckled in like that, with him laying down, we can hopefully straighten them out to where we can accurately measure him.”

“Alright, I’ll go get it ready.” Xalani stated as she walked out of the room. She came back moments later with the aforementioned patient lift that was suspended from the ceiling and had a body sling attached to it. Xalani then shimmied the sling underneath Groot and attached it to the hooks on the lift.

Groot looked around nervously as Xalani grabbed the remote that controlled the hoist. “Groot, sweetie, this is only for a few seconds so that we can get your weight. Then we’ll lay you back down again.” Xalani soothed Groot as she activated the remote to lift Groot up while he was wrapped up in the attached sling. Groot grunted as he was being picked up. Xalani then noticed that he was uncomfortable for some reason. “Groot, honey, let me hold your head up for you.” She offered as she gave the teen some much-needed head support.

Cre’Nok read the weight that was on the scale. “75 pounds.” He then wrote the number down in Groot’s charts as Xalani lowered him back down on the stretcher.

After Groot was made comfortable in the strecher, and as Cre’Nok and Azrik gently straightened out his legs (with much protest from Groot in the form of moaning), Xalani got out a cloth tape measure and checked his height, measuring from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. “He’s a tall one, that’s for sure. He’s six feet, zero inches.” She relayed to Cre’Nok, who wrote it down.

“Hm... something doesn’t feel right.” Cre’Nok had a suspicious feeling. “Groot, can I lift your shirt up?” He asked Groot as the teen blinked to signify yes. Cre’Nok rolled up the lower part of Groot’s shirt to expose his belly.

Xalani notices the scar where Groot’s feeding tube used to come out of his body before it was removed. “How long ago has it been since he had his feeding tube removed?” She inquired.

“Well, uh, he had it removed right before he moved into the nursing home...” Rocket began as he looked at Groot. “So... about three weeks ago.”

Xalani looked worried. “And when he arrived at the nursing home, that’s when Valeeska got assigned to his care and neglected to feed him?”

“Yes.” Azrik replied. “But as soon as we found out what she was doing, she was immediately fired and that happened today.”

“So, Groot’s gone without nourishment for almost three weeks?” Cre’Nok asked. “Groot’s lucky to still be alive.” He stated as he gently pressed against Groot’s abdomen as the teen meekly cried. “His stomach has become extremely distended. He’s the most severely malnourished person that I’ve ever seen in all my years of practice, and I’ve seen the atrocities of the Cadmanian Civil War and what that planet’s citizens have gone through with the famine that followed.” He then turned to Xalani. “Go see if the one of the rooms in the ultrasound wing is available. I want to see what his body is doing to keep him alive.”

Xalani left and returned minutes later to tell them that there was a room available for Groot. They then pushed Groot’s gurney to the available room with Rocket following closely behind. When they get to the room, Rocket closed the door behind him as Azrik and Cre’Nok park Groot’s gurney next to the exam table and carefully pick him up and move him onto the table much to his protests.

“We know, Groot.” Azrik tries to quell Groot’s moaning. “But we have to get a better look at your tummy and this machine’s cord won’t reach all the way over to your gurney, so we had to move you to the table.” Groot looks fearful as he thinks that he’s going to fall off the exam table. “It’s okay, you’re not going to fall. This table has bed rails built into the sides that will make sure that you stay on the table.” He reassured Groot as he brought up the railings on the side.

Groot felt more secure and raises his arms while he was making noises. This made it difficult for Azrik, Xalani, and Cre’Nok to perform the ultrasound on him. Xalani then remembered the restraints that were attached to the exam table and put them on Groot as he cried, thinking the torment that he suffered when he was under Valeeska’s care was imminent.

“Groot, you need to remain absolutely still for this next part.” Xalani told Groot as he tried to break free of the restraints that were on his arms, legs, and chest. Groot then cried, hoping that she would feel sorry for him. Xalani relented as she knelt next to Groot and got to his eye-level. “I’ll only remove these if you promise to be a good boy and not move much as we’re taking a look at your tummy. If you get scared, you can hold Rocket’s hand, okay?” She asked as Groot made a squeak to signify that he understood.

Cre’Nok sat down on a stool next to Groot as he grabbed the ultrasound wand and turned the machine on. “Groot, buddy, I’m going to put some of this gel on top of your tummy. It’s not going to hurt, it’ll just feel cold.” Cre’Nok informed Groot as he looked a little bit scared. “Hey, remember what I told you? No more needles today.” Groot didn’t understand what the gel was used for as Cre’Nok put a little bit on his abdomen and gently pressed down on him using the wand. Cre’Nok then turned the monitor so that Groot could see. “Look, there’s your tummy.”

Groot was amazed as Cre’Nok looked around his stomach area. He liked seeing all the various colors on the screen. Cre’Nok then spots something that is unusual.

“What is that?” Cre’Nok pondered as he zoomed in on the screen to get a better look of what was going on inside Groot. “No... it’s impossible...”

”What is?” Rocket questioned, careful not to sound too frightened to worry Groot as he held his hand.

Everyone stared at the monitor in awe. “Groot’s stomach is starting to digest itself to survive. That’s what caused his extreme weight loss. When a Flora Colossus doesn’t eat for a prolonged period of time, their bodies will start to digest themselves until there’s nothing left.” Cre’Nok explained.

“Why do you sound so shocked if you know that this can happen?” Rocket questioned.

“It has never been documented before.” Cre’Nok replied. “I’m sure that when Halfworld was an active experimentation center, they had acquired a few Flora Colossi to experiment on.”

This deeply troubled Rocket. He knew that Groot was the only Flora Colossus that those damned scientists from Halfworld captured on his homeworld, the other members being killed after the spaceship that the scientists took Groot on when they took him prisoner on hurled a bomb that decimated the planet as soon as they were out of the atmosphere.

After Groot met Rocket, who was an illegal experiment performed on a raccoon to give it “Sentience”, Rocket could tell that Groot’s desire for freedom burned inside of him. It only strengthened as Groot was being tortured more and more as the months went by. When he and Groot made their escape attempt, Rocket deliberately set fire to all the buildings where the labs, prisoner cells, and offices were. As a result, all the research that was recorded down in various log books was lost forever.

Rocket drowned out those thoughts as he gently stroked Groot’s hand. After a few more minutes of them ultrasounding Groot’s belly, they were finished and lifted Groot back onto his gurney and took him down to the X-Ray room so they could see if Groot had any broken bones in his jaw and neck.

After they picked up Groot and laid him on the table to get the X-Rays done, it was time to leave the room for a moment so that no one would accidentally get exposed to the radiation from the X-Ray. Xalani draped a lead vest over Groot so that he would also be protected. When everyone except Groot was out of the room, Groot let out a cry.

Xalani goes in to see why Groot was upset. “Groot, sweetie, what’s wrong? Do you want Rocket to be in here with you?” She asked as Groot blinked once for yes. She then motioned for Rocket to enter the room and hold Groot’s hand. “Oh, you’ll need this.” Xalani said as she grabbed a smaller lead vest for Rocket to wear while he was in there to comfort Groot as he got his X-Rays done. It was child-sized and had little rocket ships all over it. Rocket smiled as he put it on.

Xalani then delicately removed Groot’s neck brace and positioned his head so that the X-Ray could be easily seen. She left the room and took the X-Ray. She then replaced the film and repositioned Groot’s head and took another X-Ray. Xalani did this a total of four times to get as many angles as possible.

She then came back in to get the neck brace back on Groot and get him on his stretcher again. “Good job, Groot! You were such a good boy.” She praised the teen as Azrik helped her lift him on the stretcher and they went to a private room to discuss the results of the X-Rays with Rocket.

After Cre’Nok placed each X-Ray on a special backlit board, the severity of Groot’s injuries were apparent. “This is bad.” He began. “Groot’s jaw is severely fractured on both sides. We’re going to have to go and reset the bones and put in a bunch of plates and rods in order to correct it. This will also force us to completely wire Groot’s mouth shut until it fully heals.”

Rocket gasped. “How long will his mouth be wired shut for?”

“At the most, one week.” Cre’Nok answered. “After which, he’ll come back to have it removed and he’ll relearn how to eat and move his mouth at the nursing home with a therapist.”

“Wait, how is Groot supposed to eat in the meantime?” Rocket asked.

“Well... that’s another thing we have to talk to you about.” Cre’Nok began as Rocket sat down. “Groot has to be put back on a feeding tube.” The news hit Rocket like a truck. “His body is trying to eat itself alive and the only way to combat that is to get nutrients into his body. Since his mouth is going to be fully wired shut, he won’t even be able to get a spoon inside his mouth to eat a cup of soup. So the feeding tube is our only option for him. Now, we are hopeful that he’ll only need the feeding tube for only a week and we can remove it the same time as he gets his mouth unwired. The worst case scenario would be that he needs to be tube-fed for two weeks, but the feeding tube wouldn’t be long-term.”

Cre’Nok then got out a laser pointer and moved it around the X-Ray. “Now the blunt force trauma Groot suffered to his neck was severe.” He began. “In fact, Groot is lucky to be alive.”

Rocket was stunned. “Wh- Why’s that?” He stuttered.

“If Groot suffered just one more hit to his neck, he would have been internally decapitated. This tiny strand of muscle and nerves is the only thing keeping his head on.” Cre’Nok stated. “We’re going to have to place steel rods and plates in his neck and repair the fractures that have occurred as a result. Groot will have to wear a specially-designed neck brace as his neck heals.”

As everyone (except Groot) looked at the X-Rays, Xalani saw something troubling. She whispered her concerns to Cre’Nok and he nodded in agreement.

“Rocket.” Xalani began. “We want to take Groot to get a head scan done. Do you consent to this?”

“Why? What’s wrong with Groot’s brain?” Rocket inquired, a strong hint of worry in his voice.

“Nothing. It’s just... we think Groot might have fractured his skull and we want to get confirmation on it.” Xalani answered as she handed Rocket the consent papers and he signed them.

They pushed Groot’s stretcher to the scanning room. Inside there was a giant machine that took up about the entirety of the room. To the side was a smaller room where all of the computers were set up and where everyone would be while Groot was getting his scans done.

Cre’Nok and Xalani brought Groot’s gurney to the machine and brought out the sliding bed that Groot would be laying on as it goes into the scanner. They unbuckled Groot from his stretcher and placed him on the platform.

“Okay, we’re going to have to strap him down so that he doesn’t move.” Cre’Nok told Xalani as they got out the straps that would hold Groot still. “Alright, now he can’t have the neck brace on as it’s metal and would cause problems. So on the count of three, I’m going to remove the neck brace and I want you to place this neck pillow underneath him so that he can get some support. One, two, three.” Cre’Nok counted down as he took off Groot’s neck brace and as Xalani placed the pillow underneath his neck.

Groot looked around nervously. His eyes then locked onto Rocket. “Groot, sweetie. I’m sorry, but Rocket can’t stay out here while you’re getting your scans done.” Xalani stated as Groot started to cry. “But as soon as you get inside the scanner, he can talk to you through the speakers to comfort you, okay?” Groot squeaked in acknowledgement as Xalani pressed the button on top of the machine that would bring the bed that he was laying on inside of it and as everyone else went into the adjoining room next door.

As soon as Groot was in far enough, Xalani got on the microphone. “Alright Groot, we’re going to start scanning you. Now, the machine is going to move around your head and the bed is going to shake a little, but I want you to remain completely calm and lay still for us.” Groot moved his eyes around. “Another thing is, the machine is going to make some loud noises as it does its thing, but don’t get scared. It’s only for a few minutes and then you’re done.” This made Groot even more nervous. “If you want, Rocket can talk to you to calm you down.” Groot blinked twice to say that he wanted his father.

Xalani gave the microphone to Rocket. He spoke to Groot as the machine was activated and all the movements and sounds went on. A few minutes later, it was done and Groot was brought out of the scanner and got his neck brace back on and he was lifted onto his stretcher.

A few minutes after that, the scans were ready and Cre’Nok shared the results. The news was not good.

“As you can see, Groot’s old injuries were starting to heal.” Cre’Nok began as he held the scans up for everyone to see. “However, when Valeeska got ahold of Groot, she took off his protective helmet and started to beat him relentlessly with a metal object, shattering his skull and causing some new fractures. Some of which are putting extreme pressure on his brain and causing it to bleed and swell, as well as giving him some pretty bad headaches. This has to be treated immediately by fusing the skull together and possibly removing a section of the skull so that his brain has a chance to heal up. Now, we’re hoping that we’ll not have to remove a section of his brain as well, but there’s always that chance. Also, while he recovers, he’ll have to be placed in a halo and into a complete body traction so that he can heal completely.” He then handed over the consent papers for Rocket to sign.

Rocket was understanding of the urgency of the procedure that was described to him as he signed the parental consent papers. “What about the other procedures that he needs done to fix his jaw, neck, and reinsert his feeding tube?” The raccoon asks as he looks at his son.

“We’re going to do all of them at the same time. Each procedure Groot needs has its own reasons for urgency. If he waits too much longer, he could die.” Xalani explained as they walked down the hallway to the procedure wing.

They then stopped at the automatic doors that separated the waiting room from the procedure rooms. Rocket squeezed Groot’s hand as the frightened teenager started to cry. “Hey, shh, shh.” Rocket did his best to soothe his son. “It’ll be okay, Groot. They’re going to make you better.” Groot squeaked in fear. “Don’t worry, I’ll be right here when you’re done. I’m not going anywhere.” Rocket said as he kissed his son’s cheek before they opened the doors and wheeled Groot down the hallway to the procedure room. Rocket then waved before he lost sight of them and turned around and sat down in one of the chairs.

An hour goes by. Rocket is reading some sort of dirty magazine that he snuck in when Xalani emerges from the back room. Rocket quickly hides the magazine.

“Done already? Boy, that was quick.” Rocket said as he got up and gathered his things.

“Uh, not exactly.” Xalani began. “We’ve been having trouble with getting Groot to sleep. You see, when we try to place the mask over his face, he swats it away. We were thinking if you were in there with him, he might not be scared as much.” She said as Rocket agreed and followed her to the procedure room that Groot was in.

Rocket went in the back and scrubbed up. As he entered the procedure room, he saw that Groot was out of the gurney and laying on the procedure table. Groot looked around nervously and cried when anyone got close. Rocket got up on a step stool so that Groot could see him better.

“Groot, look who’s here!” Xalani tries to cheer him up.

“Hey, Groot.” Rocket greeted his son. Groot cried in response, afraid of what was going on around him. “Shh, shh. I know, it’s scary now, but I’m here with you. Can you be brave for Daddy?” Rocket soothed Groot as he coos in response. “Good job.”

“Groot, can I put these stickers on you?” Xalani asked as Groot squeaked in approval. She then placed two stickers that had wires that connected to a heartrate monitor on Groot’s chest. “Thank you, sweetie. Can I drape this paper blanket over you too?” Groot again squeaked as Xalani placed a blue paper-like blanket over his lower abdomen.

Cre’Nok then sat down on a stool with the mask that would put Groot under for the procedure. “Alright, Groot, can we try this again? Rocket is here with you, and there’s nothing to be afraid of.” Groot starts to shake in fear.

Rocket knew his son’s fear. “Groot, it’ll be okay. They just want you to have a little nap while they make you feel better. When you wake up, the pain will be gone.” The raccoon tried to quell his son’s fear as Groot stopped shaking.

Cre’Nok tried to place the mask on Groot again. But as soon as it touched Groot’s face, Groot swatted the mask away again.

“Groot, Groot.” Rocket was fast in diffusing the situation with his son and able to calm him down. “Shh, shh. It’s okay. Hey, how ‘bout I read you a story, hm, how would you like that?” He asked as Groot squeaked his approval. Rocket then turned to Cre’Nok, Azrik, and Xalani. “Is there anyway that you guys can desensitize him towards that mask?”

“We could get him used to having the mask over his nose and mouth without the laughing gas and gradually turning it on.” Azrik suggested as the others nodded. “But what’s the best way to distract him?” He wondered.

Rocket looked over towards the bookshelf. He hopped off the stool he was standing on and walked towards the shelf where there was a selection of kid’s books. “How about I read him something.” Rocket proposed as he chose a book and walked over back to Groot with it. Cre’Nok, Azrik, and Xalani agreed.

Rocket climbed back up on the step stool and started the read the book.

“The Giving Tree.” Rocket read the title as he flipped to the first page. “‘Once there was a tree... and she loved a little boy.’” Rocket flipped the page as he read to Groot as Xalani got him used to seeing the breathing mask. “‘And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest.’”

As Rocket went on, Xalani was successful in desensitizing Groot to the mask to the point where he didn’t mind feeling it on his face. She then slowly turned on the gas that would make him fall asleep.

As Groot started to breathe in the gas, Rocket was nearing the end of the story. As Groot was drifting in and out of consciousness, Rocket got to the last few pages.

“‘I am sorry, Boy.’ said the tree. ‘But I have nothing left to give you. My apples are gone.’” Rocket recited as he flipped the page. “‘My teeth are too weak for apples,’ said the boy.” Another page flip. “‘My branches are gone,’ said the tree. ‘You cannot swing on them.’” Rocket flipped to a new page. “‘I am too old to swing on branches,’ said the boy.” Rocket turned to a new page. “‘My trunk is gone,’ said the tree. “You cannot climb.’” Groot let out a yawn as Rocket turned yet another page. “‘I am too tired to climb,’ said the boy.” Groot cooed as Rocket flipped the page yet again. “‘I am sorry,’ sighed the tree. ‘I wish that I could give you something- but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump.’” Rocket turned the page.“‘I don’t need very much now,’ said the boy. ‘just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.’” Rocket flipped to another page. “‘Well,’ said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, ‘Well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.’” Rocket turned to the last page as Groot fluttered his eyelids sleepily. “‘And the boy did. And the tree was happy.’”

As Rocket closed the book, Groot was already asleep. He kissed his son goodnight and left for the waiting room, knowing full well of the marathon procedure that Groot would have to endure.


Chapter Text

Rocket sat down in the waiting room. There was nothing much to do while he waited for any news on Groot. After about twelve hours, Azrik emerged from the procedure room and gave the raccoon an update on his adopted son.

“Everything went smoothly.” Azrik began as he sat down next to Rocket. “There were no complications and Groot is just waking up in the recovery room. If you want, we can go visit him right now.” He added as Rocket nodded and they went to where Groot was in the recovery room.

As they approached Groot, Rocket couldn’t bear the sight of his son. Groot was laying down in bed, not awake yet from the medicine that put him to sleep. Groot didn’t yet know what happened. Xalani and Cre’Nok were there too.

“Groot did really good, Rocket.” Cre’Nok said to the raccoon. “The bleeding in his brain wasn’t as severe as we were expecting and neither was the swelling we saw on the brain scan. So we didn’t have to remove any part of his skull or any section of his brain.” Cre’Nok’s tone of voice then got serious. “However, the force of the trauma that Groot was subjected to caused some of the old fractures to reappear and some new ones to show up too. These are deeper and were more difficult to repair, but we managed to do it. As a result, we had to place Groot in a full halo and while he is in the vice, he can’t move any part of his body, except for his eyes.”

Rocket looked at his son, he noticed that Groot’s mouth was completely wired shut. “Were you able to fix his jaw?” He asked.

“Yes, but that too wasn’t easy.” Xalani told Rocket. “When we went to repair his jaw, we opened his mouth to see that he had several of his teeth knocked out while his other teeth were forcibly removed either as punishment or to prevent him from biting his nurse. He also had a large abscess in the back of his mouth that was the probable cause of his pain when I asked him to open his mouth. So we got rid of the abscess and gave him a new set of porcelain teeth before we moved on to fixing his jaw.” She then showed Rocket pictures of Groot’s new teeth before they were wrapped up in a protective mouthpiece.

“How did that go?” Rocket asked.

“Well, we had to realign it first to make sure that Groot could bite down and chew normally. As soon as we got his jaw to the proper position, all we had to do was attach the metal plates to his jawbone and screw them in.” Cre’Nok replied.

“What about his neck?” Rocket implored.

“His neck was surprisingly easy to fix. All we had to do was strengthen his neck bones, repair the muscle fibers, and place the metal plates along the sides of his neck. Now, he has to wear a neck brace while the bones heal, but soon he won’t have to and when that happens, if he’s also free of the halo, he will be able to move his neck normally again.” Cre’Nok told Rocket as Groot stirred in his sleep.

Just then, Groot woke up. He was frightened at his surroundings and in so much pain that he started to scream, even though his screams were muffled by the wires holding his mouth shut. But Rocket knew Groot needed some comfort.

“Groot, Groot, shh. It’s okay buddy, you’re just waking up.” Rocket soothed his son. “We were just talking about you and they said that you did really good during your nap.” 

Groot was still feeling pain. “We gave him some pain medication to help him as soon as we were done. It should be taking affect at any moment now.” Xalani told Rocket as Groot suddenly became calmer.

Groot’s stomach started to rumble and he let out a cry letting everyone know that he was hungry. “Alright, Groot. I’ll go get you your food.” Azrik said to Groot just as he left.

Rocket was confused. “Wait, how is Groot supposed to eat if his mouth is wired shut and you can’t even get a spoon inside his mouth?” Rocket pondered.

“We reinserted his feeding tube in his stomach.” Cre’Nok answered. “As his body’s natural reaction is to absorb his organs, veins, muscles, and other various biological elements of his being, it was the only way to save him from certain death.”

Azrik then returned with Groot’s first feeding that he’s had in a long time. “Yes, since he can’t open his jaw to eat like you and I can, this is his only option.” He explained as he hooked up the bag that contained the formula that would sustain Groot. “He is on a strict regimen of one pint of formula feedings every two hours to help him regain the weight that he’s lost over the past three weeks. Groot is also on a special formula mixture to promote muscle growth and help him regain the strength that he’s lost.”

“He’s already getting stronger.” Cre’Nok acknowledged as he placed his arm on Rocket’s shoulder. “So strong in fact that he might be able to go back to the nursing home tomorrow. We would let him be discharged tonight, but with all of the medical problems he’s had to face, it would be in his best interests if we kept him overnight for observation just in case anything goes wrong.”

Rocket nodded in agreement. Groot was in a delicate state right now and if anything should happen to him, he was near trained professionals that knew how to deal with it.

“We will want him to come back in a week to see how he’s doing and to see if we can at least unwire his mouth.” Xalani informed Rocket as he nodded again. She, Cre’Nok, and Azrik then brought Groot to his room for the night and left Groot and Rocket alone.

Groot was still upset that he couldn’t move anything except his eyes. Rocket thought of something to cheer him up.

“Hey, buddy, wanna call the guys and see if Star-Munch burned the house down yet?” Rocket suggested to Groot as the teen squeaked to say yes. “Alright then.”

Rocket grabbed the halographic pad and dialed the code for their home. Moments later, the Guardians show up on the screen.

“Hey, Rocket.” Starlord greeted the pair as the camera became more focused on them. He then saw Groot laying in bed. “Hey there, Groot.” All Groot could muster was a weak groan. “What’s wrong, buddy?”

“Groot just had a long day.” Rocket spoke for his son. “He had to have his neck, jaw, and head fixed as well as his feeding tube placed back inside his body.” Rocket then went on describe all the procedures Groot had today in graphic detail, much to Mantis’ horror and disgust. “But anyway, Groot should be able to go back to the nursing home tomorrow. They just wanna keep him overnight for observation just in case anything goes wrong.”

Groot then moaned and let out a muffled sound that sounded like yawning to Rocket, a sure sign that he was getting tired.

“Okay, guys, Groot’s starting to get sleepy and he still has to take his nighttime medicine and get one last feeding in before bedtime.” Rocket told the other Guardians as they said good night to Groot and as Cre’Nok and Xalani came in, injected Groot’s nighttime medications into him through his feeding tube before they flushed out the excess and disinfected it before they gave Groot his last feeding of the night.

“Are you going to be staying with him tonight, Rocket?” Xalani asked after Groot was done eating and she disconnected his feeding tube.

Rocket was in the midst of daydreaming. “Wha-? Oh, yeah, I’ll stay with him.” Came his answer as the raccoon got out a spare pillow and blanket from the closet and then pulled out the sofa bed.

“Alright. I guess that you can tuck Groot in yourself?” Xalani gave a motherly smile towards Rocket.

“Yeah, of course.” Rocket replied as he tucked Groot in. “I’m going to try to be more fatherly to him from now on.” He said as he got out a bedtime story.

Rocket read from the book. The book’s title? “Go the Fuck to Sleep.” Rocket did his best Nick Fury impressions.

Chapter Text

Groot was discharged early the next day and he returned to the nursing home with Azrik and Rocket. As they brought him back to his room on his stretcher and lifted him into his bed, Rocket spotted a familiar trench coat whose owner passed by just on the outside of the room. Rocket went to investigate as Azrik left to prepare Groot’s formula for his next feeding. What he found was unexpected.

“Star-Munch?” Rocket wasn’t expecting him and the other Guardians to be here. “What- what are you guys doing here?”

“Well, since Groot was coming back today, we decided to give him a little party.” Peter answered as he placed a bouquet of flowers beside Groot, who was laying down.

“That’s nice, but Groot’s not feeling good. He just had some major procedures done yesterday and he’s still recuperating from them and he needs his rest.” Rocket told the others as Groot groaned in protest.

“Is he alright?” Mantis questioned timidly. Rocket then explained the procedures Groot had done and the amount of abuse he suffered from his old nurse, Valeeska.

“Are you in the process of finding him a new nurse?” Gamora asked Azrik as he came back and hooked up Groot’s feeding tube.

“Yes, we are.” Azrik answered. “But in the meantime, I’ll be Groot’s personal nurse.” He added as Groot grunted and Azrik turned on the TV so that he could watch Bob Ross. “I don’t want to take any chances of him being subjugated to anymore torture.”

Rocket nodded in agreement. He didn’t want to take any chances and have Groot’s new nurse to take advantage of his condition and treat him the same way that Valeeska treated him.

Rocket then glanced at his son. Groot was fast asleep in bed, having dozed off to the dulcet baritone voice of Bob Ross. Groot, despite all the contraptions attached to his body in order to help him heal, looked peaceful in his slumber. As the visit was winding down and they were starting to leave, the Guardians were talking to Azrik about all of the challenges Groot would most certainly face, Rocket couldn’t help but think about those same hurdles that Groot would most certainly overcome.

Chapter Text

A week has passed by. It was time for Rocket and Azrik to take Groot for his first checkup to see if he had made any progress in his recovery. After they got him bathed, dressed, and onto the gurney, they got him into the ambulance and drove to the emergency care facility for his examination. (Rocket had asked why Azrik didn’t give Groot his breakfast and he explained that there was a good chance that Groot could have his jaw unwired today, and since he needed to be put under so that he couldn’t feel any pain, Groot couldn’t have any of his formula this morning.)

After they brought Groot into one of the exam rooms, the same nurse that he had the other day, Xalani, came into the exam room.

“Hi, guys.” Xalani greeted them warmly as Groot cooed. She then kneeled down to his level to give him a once-over. “How is he feeling today?”

“He’s feeling a lot better.” Azrik replied. “He’s just cranky from not having anything to eat today.”

Xalani nodded as she turned to Groot. “Groot, hey, sweetie.” She tries to please him, but Groot is afraid that he’ll get a needle in his arm. “No, no needles today, honey. Just a checkup.”

Groot seemed more at ease as Xalani did her examinations on him. Groot didn’t seem uncomfortable when she took his blood pressure and didn’t cry as the cuff tightened around his arm.

“Alright, let me go tell Cre’Nok that Groot’s here and we’ll get started with his appointment.” Xalani stated before she left.

Ten minutes later Xalani returned with Cre’Nok. While they were away, Groot started to get cranky and bored so Rocket got up and held his cell phone out so that Groot could watch some videos on it.

“Hey, guys.” Cre’Nok greeted them. Groot then made a disgruntled sound as Rocket took away the cell phone and sat down so that Cre’Nok could stand next to Groot who was laying down on his stretcher. “I’m sorry, Groot. I’ll be fast then Rocket can let you watch some of your favorite videos.”

Cre’Nok then began with a general look over of Groot. After he was satisfied, he rewarded Groot by letting him watch one one of his favorite videos while he took Groot’s height and saw that he was still six feet tall.

“Alright, Groot, we have to get your weight now.” Cre’Nok said to Groot as he and Azrik carefully picked Groot up as Xalani placed the sling underneath him and attached it to the hoist. They then slowly laid Groot down on the sling.

Cre’Nok then pushed the button that picked up the sling that Groot was in. He read the numbers that showed up on the screen.

“Groot is 100 pounds now. He’s gained 25 pounds since he was here last.” Cre’Nok told Azrik as he lowered Groot back down on his stretcher. “You have been keeping up with his rigorous feeding schedule, correct?”

“Yes, of course, 10 ounces of formula every 2 hours. I have it all written down.” Azrik responded as he handed over the log he kept of Groot’s daily feedings to Cre’Nok as he read the notes.

Cre’Nok seemed impressed by how much Groot was eating. “And has he managed to keep it all down?”

“Well, his first midnight feeding after he came back to the nursing home he did throw up a little. Our best guess was because of all of the excitement and activity of that day might’ve caused it. But at his next feeding, he was calmer and he didn’t throw up at all.” Azrik explained as Cre’Nok nodded.

“I see.” Cre’Nok replied as he turned to Groot. “Groot, can I roll up your shirt so I can get a look at your tummy before we go to ultrasound?” Groot then blinked to say that he was okay with it.

Cre’Nok then lifted and rolled up the bottom of Groot’s shirt so that he could take a look at his abdomen. “This is a promising sign. He’s starting to gain a little bit of body fat around his midsection.” He said as he felt Groot’s ribs. Groot then tried to let out a giggle. “Are you ticklish there?” He said playfully to Groot as the teen attempted another giggle.

Xalani then walked up to Groot so that she could get a better look. She then felt along Groot’s ribs. “You’re right. Last time he was here, he was basically a skeleton, just flesh and bones. You could see every bone in his body, he was so underweight. Now, he has some fat and muscle coming back making it harder to see his bones.”

“Exactly.” Cre’Nok agreed with her. “I want to get him to ultrasound to see what is going on.” Cre’Nok then turned to Rocket to gain his approval.

After they got Groot down to one of the ultrasound rooms, Cre’Nok prepped the machine as Xalani and Azrik placed Groot’s gurney next to it. Xalani then got some of the gel out and applied it to Groot’s abdomen as Cre’Nok scanned his stomach with the wand.

“Here’s another promising sign.” Cre’Nok stated as he turned the screen so that Rocket, Xalani, and Azrik could see what he was talking about. “Groot’s stomach is no longer absorbing the other organs, tissues, and muscles around it to keep him alive.”

“Does that mean that Groot can get the feeding tube out?” Rocket asked hopefully.

“No.” Cre’Nok answered. “It wouldn’t be wise for us to remove the feeding tube from Groot at this time. He needs to regain some more weight before it would be feasible for us to remove the feeding tube from him and slowly reintroduce him to solid food.”

“How much weight are we talking about?” Rocket inquired as Groot groaned from not being fed yet.

“His target weight is 150 pounds. He is currently at 100 pounds. So, he has to gain 50 pounds-.” Cre’Nok began before Rocket interrupted him.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know the math. But why does Groot need to be at that weight before you remove his tube?” Rocket asked as he held Groot’s hand.

“We want to make sure that he’s at a healthy weight before we remove it.” Xalani explained to Rocket. “We’re also going to test him beforehand to see his swallowing reflexes. We’ll also have to keep him here for a couple of days to teach him how to chew and swallow again. But after that, he can go back to the nursing home.”

Rocket nodded as they got Groot back onto his gurney and took him down to the scanning room. Groot wasn’t as frightened by the machine like he was the last time, but those memories quickly came back when the table underneath him began to vibrate in preparation for it to bring Groot into the main part of the scanner.

“Groot, buddy, it’s okay. Nothing is going to hurt you. Remember the last time that you were here? The machine is only going to take a picture of your head so that we can see how much it is healing.” Rocket tries his best to reassure Groot as the teen tried to vocalize. “I know that you want me out here so that you can hold my hand. But it’s not safe for me to. You’re not going to be inside that contraption for long, only a couple of minutes and then you’re done.” Groot tries to put on a brave face for his father as the raccoon smiles at him. “If you get scared, I can talk to you through the speakers, okay?” Groot blinked to signify that he was okay with it before Rocket rejoined the others in the control room.

The scanning process was faster this time around. Groot not being scared as much probably contributed to it being faster since they didn’t have to stop in the middle of the process just so Rocket could calm down his son.

They then got Groot back onto his stretcher and took him down to the X-Ray room. On their way, they discussed the results of the scan with Rocket.

“His skull is healing up nicely.” Cre’Nok began. “The swelling on his brain has gone down a lot and is starting to heal at an extraordinary rate. This means that within a week, we might be able to remove him from the halo and he’ll only need to wear his protective helmet.” He said as they entered the room.

After Cre’Nok and Azrik lifted Groot and placed him carefully on the X-Ray table, Rocket stood by his son’s side and held his hand. As they got the X-Ray ready, Rocket felt something gripping his hand. He looked down and saw that Groot was attempting to squeeze it with his slightly better hand.

Rocket was shocked. “Groot?” He mustered out. “Is-Is that you trying to squeeze my hand?” Rocket asked Groot as the teen squeaked to say yes.

Cre’Nok and Xalani then moved to Groot as Rocket got out of the way.

“Groot, can you squeeze my hand, sweetie?” Xalani asked as she held Groot’s right hand and he squeezed it yet again. “Good job, Groot.”

Cre’Nok then held Groot’s considerably weaker left hand. “Groot, can you squeeze my hand with your other one?” He asked as Groot meekly squeezed his hand.

This surprised everyone, especially Rocket. The raccoon then looked at them. “What does this mean?”

“This means that Groot’s muscles are getting stronger. We might even be able to bring him out of traction today too.” Cre’Nok explained. “And tomorrow, he might even be able to start therapy.”

Rocket then smiled at Groot. His son was making tremendous progress in his recovery. But he knew Groot wasn’t out of the woods yet. He still needed to heal from the abuse that was inflicted upon him by his former nurse and go through intensive physical therapy, which Rocket knew wouldn’t be easy on Groot.

As they got Groot ready for his X-Rays to be done, the teenager got frightened and Rocket volunteered to stay in the room with him. As he donned the lead vest that would protect his little raccoon frame from the radiation, he noticed that he was wearing the same rocket ship vest that he wore the last time that they were here. He chuckled at the thought as he calmed Groot down as he got his X-Rays done.

After they got Groot back onto his stretcher, they discussed the results with Rocket.

“It’s looking good, Rocket.” Cre’Nok began. “Groot’s jaw has healed up to the point where we can unwire his jaw. Now, granted, he’s not going to like the process, and it will be extremely painful for him, so he’ll have to be put under while we remove the wires from mouth so that he won’t feel any pain. When he wakes up, he’ll be a little sore from the procedure, but we’re going to give him a lot of pain medication to dull the sensation. He’ll also have to wear a mouth guard to protect his teeth from any damage while they settle into his mouth.” He said as they walked to the staging area that was adjoined to the procedure wing.

Xalani then got out a gown for her to get Groot into. Groot knew what the gown signified and began to get nervous. She saw how worked up he was over it and got it out of his sight.

Azrik, Xalani, and Cre’Nok knew that Groot understands what is being said around him. They couldn’t talk to Rocket about the procedures that Groot would undergo today while Groot was in the same room, so they asked Rocket if they could talk to him outside of the preparation room. Rocket nodded as he turned on Bob Ross for Groot to watch on the TV.

“So... what’s up?” Rocket asked as he closed the door so Groot couldn’t listen in.

“Rocket, as you know, we have to put Groot to sleep for the procedure so that he doesn’t feel any pain or freaks out.” Azrik began to explain to the raccoon. “But Groot is smarter than what his condition lets on, as demonstrated by Xalani trying to get the procedure gown on him, he knew what that meant. So, we’re going to have to sedate him while he’s in the room that he’s currently in.”

“Alright... so you’re gonna bring out the sleeping mask and stuff out here?” Rocket wondered.

“No.” Came Cre’Nok’s reply. “The machine is too bulky and cumbersome to be moved out of the procedure room that its currently in. Plus, Groot also knows the meaning of the mask and the noise of the machine frightens him. And he knows all too well what awaits him in the procedure room.” He explained.

“But how are you gonna get him to sleep?” Rocket inquired.

“We have an injection of the medication that’ll put Groot to sleep right here.” Xalani answered as she held a vial of the medicine in her hand. “We can inject it through his feeding tube so that he won’t be frightened by the sight of the needle.” She explained as she filled an empty syringe with the amount needed to give Groot. “After he’s put under, we’ll need to take him right away to the procedure room so that we can intubate him and begin unwiring his mouth and bringing him out of traction.”

“So, what do you need me to do?” Rocket asked.

“There’s a chance that while we’re administering the medication, that Groot’ll take notice. We can’t risk his blood pressure spiking because there is a real possibility that he could die from shock. So we’ll need you to distract him while we’re putting him under. It’ll take a couple of minutes to take effect, so the chances are great for that scenario to happen.” Cre’Nok explains as Rocket nods as they go back into the room with Groot.

Rocket sat by Groot’s side as Azrik rolled up the teenager’s shirt in order to access his feeding tube. Groot looks at him with worry.

“I just want to make sure that your tube is clean, Groot.” He reassures Groot as the teen looks at him inquisitively. Azrik then pretends to examine the tube as he walks with the end of the tube in his hand to behind Groot so that the teenager couldn’t see what was going on.

“Groot, relax.” Rocket comforts his son. “Hey, let’s watch another episode of Bob Ross.” The raccoon was successful in easing Groot’s mind as the teenaged Flora Colossus settled down and watched the TV.

After a couple of minutes, Groot was relaxed enough to where Cre’Nok could give him the required dosage to put him to sleep. As he injected it into Groot’s feeding tube and it slowly flowed into his body, the teenager realized what was going on and he began to freak out.

“Groot, Groot, calm down.” Rocket was frantic trying to get his son to relax. “It’s going to be okay. You’re going to get those wires out of your mouth and your also going to be able to move your arms and legs again so that you can start therapy back at the nursing home.” Nothing he said calmed down his frightened son. He then thought that Groot would be interested in seeing his new set of teeth after the procedure. “When you wake up, you’ll be able to see your new set of teeth, don’t you want to see that?” Groot squeaked calmly to say that he wanted to.

“Okay, after your nap, then. Shh, shh...” Rocket soothed his son as he gently cradled him in his arms and gently rocked Groot back in forth as he sung one of the lullabies that Peter sang to Groot when the teenager was just a baby.

Within a few seconds, Groot was sound asleep. Xalani took Groot from Rocket’s arms and laid him on a bed as Azrik and Cre’Nok intubated him. Rocket kissed Groot before he was taken to the procedure room and the raccoon made his way to the waiting room.

Chapter Text

It was a long wait for Rocket. After about six hours, he got the word that Groot was done and in recovery. Rocket made the long lonely trek down to the recovery ward where Groot was laying down in one of the beds. As he approached the privacy curtain that separated him from his son, Rocket was stopped by Azrik and Xalani.

“How’d he do?” Rocket asked them.

“He did really good.” Xalani replied. “He’s having a little trouble waking up from the sedative we gave him, so Cre’Nok is working on getting him up.” She tries her best not to worry Rocket.

Just then, Groot could be heard meekly crying on the other side of the curtain. Cre’Nok pulled back the curtain so that Rocket could see his son as he woke up.

Cre’Nok let Rocket stand by Groot as the teen was slowly waking up. “He was an excellent patient.” Cre’Nok complimented Groot as his cries died down as he laid his eyes on his father. “We unwired his jaw and he can now move his mouth freely. It’ll be sore for a couple of days, but with regular massaging of the muscles and joints, the pain’ll go away. It’ll also prevent him from getting lockjaw.”

Rocket then noticed something in Groot’s mouth. “What’s that thing inside of his mouth?” He asked.

Cre’Nok got up and gently pried Groot’s mouth open. Groot moaned as he did this. “Shh, shh, I’m not going to hurt you, Groot.” He soothed Groot. He then motions for Rocket to come look. “This is his mouth guard to prevent him from grinding his teeth and possibly damaging them. These are to remain in his mouth at all times for the foreseeable future.” He then looked at Groot. “Hey, Groot? Do you want to see your new set of teeth?” Groot squeaked as Xalani held up a handheld mirror for him to see his teeth.

Groot gasped as he looked at his new set of pearlers. They were anatomically correct to resemble the color, shape, and density of natural Flora Colossus teeth. Groot glanced at his father, who gave him an encouraging smile.

“Alright, Groot, time to put your mouth guard back.” Xalani said as she gently pried Groot’s mouth open to put the mouth guard back inside of his mouth. Groot moaned as she did this. “I know, sweetheart. I know that it hurts. But, Azrik and Rocket are going to help you move it so that it doesn’t hurt anymore.” She told Groot as he formed a tear in his eye. “Hey, you’re not going to have to wear the mouth guard for the rest of your life. It’s only there to help protect your teeth while they settle inside your mouth. Maybe by your next appointment, we might decide that you don’t need the mouth guard anymore. But you gotta put up with it for right now and let Rocket and Azrik do what they need to do to make sure your teeth settle down correctly.”

“What do you mean by that?” Rocket asked inquisitively.

“Groot’s teeth are pretty new to him and he’s not used to them being there.” Cre’Nok began. “So, he’s going to be just like a teething baby when their teeth start growing in.” He then saw Groot try to get his mouth guard out of his mouth. “But unlike a teething baby, he’ll need to have that mouth guard on at all times and-.” Groot then tries to grab the stethoscope that Cre’Nok had around his neck. Cre’Nok then gets it out of the teen’s reach and holds down his arms. “But, since his teeth are very delicate and fragile, he can’t bite into anything to soothe the pain.”

“So...” Rocket was perplexed by how to dull and soothe Groot’s pain. “How are we supposed to comfort him while his teeth settle?”

Cre’Nok then put on a set of rubber gloves and put a little bit of medicine on his fingertip. He then opened Groot’s mouth and took out the mouth guard and gently rubs the gel on Groot’s gums.

“This will help soothe his gums and the rubbing motion helps calm the sensitivity that he has in his gums right now.” Cre’Nok informed Rocket. “Now, small circular motions are the best so as not to cause Groot pain.” Cre’Nok then pressed down gently onto the top of each of his teeth. “And gently press down on each tooth gently to reduce the pain that he’s feeling.”

“How often should he have this done?” Rocket inquired.

“About every couple of hours, so you can feed him and while he’s getting his nutrients through his feeding tube, you can do this at the same time.” Cre’Nok answered as he finished up and took off his gloves.

Rocket nodded. He knew that Groot wouldn’t like this one bit, but there was no other choice. Groot didn’t like Rocket having to brush his teeth when he was younger, nor did he like going to the dentist for his 6 month checkups.

The raccoon then noticed that Groot’s arms and legs weren’t as restrained as they were earlier.

“Where’s all of the stuff that Groot had on his arms and legs?” Rocket asked as he didn’t take his eyes off of Groot.

“We were able to bring him out of traction, Rocket.” Azrik began. “His arms and legs have healed up to the point where that was feasible for him. Now, granted, he will be in pain as his limbs get used to being able to move around more, so it’s recommended for him to start physical therapy as soon as we get him back to the nursing home.”

“Well, when is the soonest that he can go back to the nursing home?” Rocket inquired as Groot let out a squeak.

“Groot seems to be doing well and he might be able to go home as soon as today.” Xalani stated. “We’ll give him an hour to fully recuperate, but after that he should be fine and start his therapy tomorrow.”

Rocket was pleased by Xalani’s answer. They let Groot rest and wake up fully while watching Bob Ross and an hour later, they got him on the stretcher and out to the ambulance to go back to the nursing home.

Chapter Text

It was the next day. Groot just had his first feeding of the day and his teeth were massaged by Azrik using the methods and techniques that Cre’Nok showed him yesterday.

“Alright, Groot, I’ll give you five minutes to relax, then I’m going to give you your sponge bath.” Azrik informed Groot as he plopped Groot’s mouth guard back into place as Rocket walked in. “Oh, hey, Rocket. Groot, look who’s here.” Groot let out a squeak when he saw Rocket.

“Hey, there, Groot.” Rocket greeted his son. He then turned to Azrik. “What’s the plan for today?” He asked Groot’s nurse.

“Well, Groot has a full schedule today.” Azrik began as he got the supplies that he needed to give Groot his sponge bath. “After he gets his bath, his therapists are going to come by and assess him and after that he has his first speech therapy session.”

“Assess him?” Rocket replied as Azrik undressed Groot and began to bathe him. “What do you mean by that?”

“That basically means that they’re going to see how much he can move without causing him pain and discomfort.” Azrik told the raccoon. “But, Groot will feel some pain because of him being immobile for these past couple of weeks. Based on his comfort level and what his evaluation results are, his therapists will decide how to go about his therapy and what exercises he should start out with.”

“Well, uh, what’s some of the exercises that they would normally do for someone like Groot?” Rocket inquired as Groot cooed towards his father.

“Anywhere from his therapists working on gross motor movements with his arms and legs to, and I don’t want to get your hopes up, his therapists helping him relearn how to walk.” Azrik then grabbed Rocket’s shoulder and looked him in the eyes. “But, Rocket, I must warn you, with the catastrophic traumatic brain injury Groot suffered and the subsequent abuse that he suffered at Valeeska’s hands, it’s extremely likely that he’s not going to progress much. Best case scenario would be to get him comfortable to the point where he could get out of bed and into a customized manual wheelchair with a tilting seat function where he can sit comfortably and go about his day.”

Rocket looked disheartened by the news. “I wish that I had better news, Rocket.” Azrik tries to console the raccoon. “Maybe Groot will prove everyone wrong.”

Rocket nodded as Azrik continued to wash Groot. Rocket excused himself to walk around the ward where Groot’s room was. He had a lot to think about.

As he made his way back to his son’s room, he saw a few more people inside Groot’s room. These people were familiar. They were the Guardians. Quill, followed by the rest of the gang, came in one by one and sat down by Groot.

Rocket’s heart was warmed by the kind gesture of the Guardians coming by unexpectedly to visit Groot. “Guys, what are y’all doing here?” The raccoon asked as he tries not to cry.

“We had some business to attend to nearby and while we were going back home, we decided to stop by and see how you two were doing.” Peter answered as the other Guardians nodded.

“Thanks, Quill.” Rocket was at a loss for words. He finally added. “You know that you didn’t have to do this.”

Just as everyone settled down, the therapists that would be working with Groot came in. There were four of them, two men and two women. The ladies’ names were Miska and Talia and the guys were named Zeliek and Qu’lo.

Azrik then turned off the TV Groot was watching. The teen wasn’t happy about being interrupted in the middle of watching Bob Ross and started to cry.

“Groot, shh, shh...” Azrik calms down the teenager. “You have a busy day today. You’re going down to the therapy room where Miska, Talia, Zeliek, and Qu’lo are going to see how much you can move and then you’re going to go to speech therapy where we’re going to find out what’s the best way for you to talk again.”

It took Groot a couple of minutes to calm down before his therapists could approach him.

“Groot, sweetie.” Miska said soothingly to him. Groot looked at her. “Can we get you on the stretcher so that we can take you down to the therapy wing?” Groot thought about it as he looked at everyone who was in the room. “Your family can come down with you if you want.” Groot thought about it some more before finally agreeing to it. “Alright, sweetie, on the count of three, we’re going to pick you up and get you on the gurney so that we can go down to the therapy room. One, two, three!” Miska counted down before she and the other therapists gently picked Groot’s fragile body and placed it on the gurney as they took Groot down to the therapy wing as the rest of the Guardians followed.

When they entered the therapy wing, Groot was taken to a quiet room away from all of the commotion of the main therapy room. As the Guardians walked beside Groot, who was laying down on his stretcher, Rocket couldn’t help but notice the other patients. They were all up and moving, and, unlike Groot, weren’t restricted to being in a stretcher just to be moved around. Some were in powerchairs, while others were using specialized walkers to get around. There were some that depended on arm crutches to move, and there were a couple who didn’t need any of these devices and they could walk on their own, give or a take a severe limp in the process.

As he passed by the other patients and their therapists, Rocket refused to cope with the fact that no matter how much intensive therapy he would put Groot through, his son’s best case scenario would be to sit in a customized reclining manual wheelchair to ease his pain and make it easier for either him, one of the Guardians, or one of Groot’s caregivers to push the teen around. 

Rocket entered the isolated room and closed the door behind him so that Groot could have complete privacy while he was being evaluated. Inside, Zeliek and Qu’lo carefully lifted Groot up from his gurney and placed him on the examination table.

“Alright, Groot.” Azrik began. “Your therapists are going to start to evaluate what you can do.” He strokes Groot’s cheek. “Now, it’s going to hurt, but just remember that Rocket, and all the members of your family are here to give you moral support in case you get scared.” Groot then stared at Azrik and made a squeak at him. “No, Groot, I cannot stay. I have to go to an important meeting, but afterwards, I’ll come back to see how you made out, okay?” Azrik told Groot as the teen gave an approving squeak.

After Azrik left to go attend to other important matters, Groot’s first therapy session began. His therapists knew that the evaluation would be painful for the teenager, especially since his arms and legs would have to be brought out of the splints that they were in and that meant that the splints would have to be unscrewed from Groot’s body by the pins that held them in place and that act alone caused Groot insurmountable pain. Pain that was more than the torture that Rocket recieved at Halfworld.

Miska prepared Groot for the pain that was to come. “Groot, sweetie, we’re about to begin. This isn’t going to be easy on you and it is going to hurt because your arms and legs have to come out of the splints so that we can measure them correctly and see how much they can move.” Groot looked scared and tears started to well up in his eyes. “But you have your entire family that’s here to give you support and if you need them, they are here to calm you down.” She grabbed a screwdriver to prepare for taking off Groot’s splints.

As expected, Groot screamed in agony as his splints were unscrewed from his limbs. Rocket’s parental instincts rushed in and in a matter of seconds, he was right by Groot’s side, trying his best to calm his son down.

Miska, Qu’lo, Zeliek, and Talia then looked at each other, then at Groot, who, though he stopped screaming, was still wincing in pain. They then came to an agreement.

“Rocket, we want to get a mold of Groot’s arms and legs so that we can make him a set of new braces.” Talia said as she handed Rocket a copy of the brochure of the state-of-the-art braces that they would be making for Groot from his molds. Rocket then passed the brochure to the other Guardians as they took a look too. “They would be made from carbon fiber and gel so that they’ll be extremely lightweight and comfortable for Groot to wear all day. But I will warn you, these specific braces are custom made for your son and because of this, they will be extremely expensive and the cost won’t be covered by Groot’s insurance company.”

“How much are we talking here?” Rocket questioned.

“These braces are in the 5,000 Unit range of pricing for each one.” Qu’lo answered. “But we believe that Groot could benefit from having these and it would reduce his pain by quite a lot and it would be easier to put on him since, instead of having to manually screw it onto his limbs, all you would have to do is to wrap the straps around his arms and legs. They would also make doing Groot’s therapy sessions easier.”

Rocket thought about how much the braces would benefit Groot in the long run.

“Alright.” The raccoon replied. “Get him fitted for the braces. I’ll work with his insurance company to wrap their cockamamie minds around why these braces would help Groot in his recovery. Worst case scenario is that I’ll have to pay for them myself.” Rocket said as he twirled a credit card that wasn’t his that was hidden in his pocket. The cardholder’s name? Peter Jason Quill.

Groot’s therapists went into another room and came back five minutes later with some plaster that was in a bucket and some cloth strips. Qu’lo and Zeliek dipped the strips into the plaster while Miska and Talia laid the plaster-drenched strips onto Groot’s limbs until they were completely covered.

Groot didn’t like the weird smell of the plaster as it dried. It reminded him of the time Kraglin left his World-Famous Terran Noodle Soup on the stove for too long and an hour later, the entire Milano smelled like rotting humans. The squishiness and dampness of the plaster on his arms felt weird, but soothing in a weird way.

Ten minutes later, it was time to remove the hardened plaster from Groot’s arms and legs. Zeliek got out a buzz saw that was specifically designed to remove casts from arms and legs. Groot saw the device and got scared.

“Groot, there’s nothing to be scared of.” Qu’lo reassures the teen. “This saw won’t hurt you.” He then grabs a pair of noise-canceling headphones for Groot. “It is going to be very loud though, and for that reason, I want you to wear these headphones so that you don’t hear it and won’t get frightened.”

Groot squeaked as Qu’lo placed the headphones over his ears. The alien then turned on the saw. Groot freaked out as soon as the saw got close to him and he could see the blade spinning.

Qu’lo then turned off the saw. “Alright.” He said as he placed the buzzsaw down and got out a blanket and draped it over Groot so that he could not see what was going on. “This’ll make him not see the saw as we use it.”

Qu’lo waited a couple of minutes to let Groot calm down so that he wasn’t shaking as much. As soon as the teenager stopped shaking Qu’lo used the saw to take the hardened plaster molds off of Groot.

Qu’lo then took off the noise-canceling headphones that Groot was wearing. He then took off the makeshift drape that blocked Groot’s view of what was going on.

Groot’s arms and legs were now free from the molds. After Zeliek gave his limbs a quick wash to rid them of the lingering residue from the plaster, he laid Groot’s arms and legs down to where Groot was comfortable.

“Groot.” Talia caught his attention as she held out a brochure for him to look at. “You get to choose two colors for your braces, one for the hard outter shell and a color for the soft inner gel padding.”

Groot looked at the various color options that he had to choose from. He looked at each color twice before pointing to a medium sky blue for the outside of his braces and a bright red color for the gel inner padding.

Rocket, Kraglin, and Peter understood the significance of Groot’s color choices. These colors represented Yondu. The same blue hue of his skin and the red paint that covered the mohawk-style fin that controlled his Yaka Arrow.

“Groot, you sure that you want those colors?” Peter, who never asked Groot about his feelings for Yondu after he died, asked Groot. “You want to honor Yondu?”

Groot blinked to signify that he wanted to honor Yondu. Especially after what he done to ensure the family’s survival on Ego. After the Ravager Funeral they held for him, no one asked Groot if Yondu meant anything to him. He obviously did and wanted to show it in anyway he could.

Talia went off to get the braces made as Qu’lo, Zeliek, and Miska continued with Groot’s evaluation. It wasn’t easy, as to properly gauge Groot’s movements meant that his limbs couldn’t be in the braces. But luckily, by the end of the examination, Groot’s new braces were ready for him to try out. Each of his therapists placed one brace each on one of his limbs.

After the braces were on Groot, (which was an infinitely easier task thanks to the Velcro straps versus having to manually screw the braces into Groot’s leg bones.) the teen looked at the braces.

After about an hour, Groot was finished getting his evaluation and was taken back to his room on the gurney to have some time to himself before he was brought back to the therapy wing for his next session. But for the next hour, Groot and his family were watching Bob Ross.

Chapter Text

As the Guardians watched Bob Ross with Groot, the teenager was enamored by the painter’s soothing voice and by the way that he paints his portraits of various landscapes filled with trees and animals. Groot was so deeply enthralled by how Bob Ross was painting one of those “Happy Little Trees” that Groot squealed in excitement and lifted up his stronger right arm and tried his best to point at the TV as his therapists and Azrik entered the room.

“Hey, hey, Groot!” Azrik greeted him joyfully as he spots Groot’s new braces. “I’m glad that you got your new braces and are already beginning to use your arms again.”

“Yeah, he likes that he can start to use them without feeling as much pain.” Rocket told Azrik as Groot stared at the TV in amazement.

“Good.” Azrik began. “We want to take him back to the therapy room to start him on his exercises. Is that okay with you?” He asked Rocket.

“Yeah, of course.” Rocket answered. “He might not like it, but I want him to get as much functionality back in his arms and legs as he can.” He added as Groot moaned in protest as the teen didn’t want to go and miss out on Bob Ross.

They got Groot on the gurney and took him down to the therapy wing. This time, he wasn’t taken to the private room, as that was meant for evaluations only, but he was still separated from the other patients as he needed to concentrate on his therapy program and for Groot to do that, he couldn’t have any distractions, so in the back corner of the room, his therapists set up a little area for him that had all of the necessary therapy equipment that he needed to perform the exercises that would benefit him. It was big enough to fit Groot while he was in his gurney, Azrik, and all of the Guardians and Groot’s therapists.

Qu’lo and Zeliek got Groot out of his gurney and onto the specially-designed therapy table that had a blue padded top. They carefully laid Groot down flat on his back as the teenager moaned.

“Groot, be good.” Rocket gently reminded his son as Talia got out a wedge-shaped pillow for Groot to lay down on. Groot moaned yet again.

“Do you want me to calm him down, Crabby Puppy?” Mantis shyly asked the raccoon.

Rocket glanced at Groot. Seeing how much pain that his son was in, he finally agreed to it. “Alright. I just can’t stand to see him in so much pain.”

Mantis then gently laid her hand on the front of Groot’s forehead. As her hand glowed a faint yellow color, Groot felt the effects of her empathic abilities on him and became less tense and more at ease. Groot was still nervous, however.

“Groot, we’re going to do some hand and arm exercises with your braces on first before we’ll see how you’ll do without them on.” Miska said to Groot as he looked down towards his legs. “No, sweetie. We don’t want to overwhelm you so we’re going to start exercising your legs another day.” Groot seemed relieved at that answer.

They then began the task of getting Groot to exercise his arms. Groot didn’t like it at first, but with a little coaxing, they managed to get Groot moving his hands and arms without much fuss from the teenager.

“Alright, Groot, you’re almost done here.” Azrik reassured Groot as the teen started to become agitated over all the exercises that he had to do. “We want to see if you can do one more exercise for us.” He then held a soft rubbery blue ball just above Groot as Miska, and Talia each held one of his arms above his head as he laid flat on his back on the therapy table. “Can you reach out your arms and touch this ball?” Groot began to whine, as he was getting extremely tired and needed to rest his muscles from all of the exercising he had done today. “Don’t worry, your therapists will help you reach so that you don’t strain your muscles.”

Groot then blinked to signify that he understood and was ready to begin. Slowly, Miska and Talia took turns stretching out his arms so that he could touch the ball that Azrik was holding above his body. After about a set of ten repititions on each arm, Groot had enough of the exercise and it was decided to end his therapy session for the day.

After Groot was placed back on his gurney and his therapists were escorting him, Azrik and the Guardians back to his room, Groot saw another patient on a specially-designed swing for people with special needs. It was basically an oversized baby swing, but it had all of the necessary seat belts and restraints needed to keep Groot securely in place as he swung.

Groot pointed towards the swing and made a grunting noise as the other patient was helped out of it by his therapist. 

“Groot, what is it?” Azrik asked the teen as Groot made another noise. “Do you want to try out the swing?” He asked as Groot squeaked to signify that he wanted to. “Alright, we’ll get it set up for you.”

“Wait, how are we going to get him comfortable in the swing?” Talia asked concernedly to her colleagues. “Groot can’t sit up in anyway, even if he could, he would need some sort of posture support because he has no trunk control whatsoever. Plus, he needs something to support his head because of the halo that he’s wearing.”

“Well, we could make some sort of homemade seating system using the tumble forms that we used for him in therapy since he didn’t seem uncomfortable when he laid on them.” Zeliek proposed.

“Well, let’s get him into the swing first before we worry about his positioning.” Qu’lo stated as they carefully picked Groot up and gently placed him in the swing.

All of Groot’s therapists then took notice of how Groot was situated in the swing. Groot was by no means in an optimal position. His arms were up near his face while his abdomen was extremely curved in an S-shape as he heavily leaned towards one side. His legs were in a similar position while at the same time, his knees were buckled inwards and squeezing up against one another.

Miska then chimed in as she grabbed some soft cushions in order to make Groot more comfortable. “Let’s get him to sit straight and not to one side so that he puts anymore pressure on his one hip.”

They then got Groot to sit straight as Miska placed both the makeshift lateral and postural supports along the sides of the swing in order to make Groot sit up straight. Groot didn’t like having his body straightened out, but Azrik kept telling him that this was for his own good, but Groot thought otherwise.

“Almost done, Groot.” Azrik tries to soothe the teenager after yet another cry of discomfort from him as Qu’lo and Talia gently separated his legs so that they could put in a cushion so that his knees couldn’t touch. Meanwhile, Zeliek and Miska propped Groot’s head up with a pillow. They then signaled to Azrik that they were done. “There, Groot, all done. Are you ready to swing?” Groot looked at him and squeaked in anticipation. “Alright, let’s get you buckled in.” He said as he got the various seat belts and harness onto Groot. “Okay, Groot, let’s get you swinging.”

Asrik then gently began to swing Groot. As Groot swung back and forth, he started to make excited squeaks. He liked the movement and he laughed and tried his best to clap his hands, even though he had virtually no use of them.

After about ten minutes, Groot’s time in the swing was over and it was time for him to get out of it and back onto the gurney. Groot didn’t want to go back on the gurney and started to whine as his therapists were undoing his seat belts, harness, and the various supports that they put in the swing so that Groot could properly sit up straight. Azrik also took note of the time that Groot was in the swing that he didn’t show any signs of discomfort or pain. He told this to the therapists.

“Since Groot wasn’t in pain while he was sitting in the swing, do you think he’s ready to be placed in a custom made manual wheelchair?” Azrik asked his colleagues.

“Possibly.” Talia replied. “If Groot wasn’t in any pain while he was sitting up in the swing, then he might be ready for a manual wheelchair.” She then gave Rocket and the Guardians a brochure of the chair that she recommends for Groot’s needs. “It will have to be tilt-in-space, and he will need various side supports and restraints, but this will give him more mobility and freedom than what being bedridden and confined to a gurney would ever be.”

“How much is this chair going to cost us?” Peter asked as he browsed the brochure as it was handed to him by Kraglin.

“It’s not going to be cheap.” Azrik warned. “That type of chair is highly customizable and some of the options on it are very important to have Groot be pain-free while he sits in it.”

“How much are we talking?” Peter asked yet again, this time a little bit more annoyed.

“About 8,000 Units.” Azrik answered as the all of the Guardians’ mouths dropped at the exorbitant price tag.

“Is it covered by Groot’s insurance company?” Gamora thought fast to de-escalate the incoming rage that was surely to happen between the Guardians and Azrik over the price of Groot’s wheelchair.

“Unfortunately, no.” Azrik replied. “I already talked to the insurance company, and because Groot was issued a death certificate after he was taken off of life support, the insurance company legally declared him dead and closed his coverage.”

Rocket briefly looked down at his lap before standing up and looking at everyone. “I’ll pay for the chair.” The raccoon then turned to Groot, who was still sitting in the swing and held his son’s hands. “It’s the least I could do for him. After all that he’s been through, he needs to know that I still care about him.” Rocket then kissed Groot’s forehead as the rest of the Guardians looked on without saying a word.

“He deserves his mobility. He shouldn’t be restricted to where that gurney can or cannot go.” Rocket spoke up again. He then turned to Azrik. “When’s the soonest that he can get his chair?”

“We can have him sized and fitted for it today and it will be built and ready for him in an hour, fully customized.” Azrik replied as he and the rest of Groot’s therapists began to fit him for his new ride.

The sizing and fitting of Groot went smoother than expected. Instead of thinking of being measured and having his arms and legs moved around as painful, Groot thought that his therapists were tickling him with the various tape measures that they used to get his exact measurements for his wheelchair. He laughed the best he could in response.

“Alright, Groot.” Azrik began as he brought out a brochure for Groot to look at. “Now comes the fun part. You get to pick out the colors of your new chair. It can be whatever color you want, you can have a second color too...”

Groot looks at the different color options and finally points to a vibrant candy blue color. 

“Ah, Xandarian Blue. Nice choice.” Azrik praised Groot as he wrote down the color on the order form. “You can also have another color too if you want.”

Groot’s ears perked up as he looked at the brochure again. After about a minute, he settled on a nice orange color.

“This color is going to look good with it, too.” Azrik complimented Groot. “Titan Sunrise.” He recited the color as he wrote it down also. “Now, Groot, why did you choose these two colors?”

Groot then pointed at a video of the Milano that was on the TV at the time. Groot then looked over towards Rocket and pointed at him.

“Groot, buddy, what is it?” Rocket asked his son as he stood up and walked over to him as Groot’s therapists and Azrik walked into the back to place the order for Groot’s wheelchair.

Groot then tapped Rocket’s jumpsuit that he was wearing. Rocket took notice of the color of his clothes. It was the same blue color that Groot picked out for his chair. But why did Groot also want an orange color? Rocket then looked at the picture that was in his wallet of him and Groot after he was reborn and in his pot, no bigger than a twig. The jumpsuit color? Orange.

So, the colors that Groot chose for his wheelchair had significance from two different sources: The Milano, for which Groot spent most of his toddler years and saplinghood on until the Guardians bought a house in Xandar City and settled down so that Groot could attend school full-time. Sure, when Groot was off from school and during summer breaks and major Xandarian holidays, they would travel on the Milano for missions and stuff, but for the time that they were in Xandar, they only took the Milano out for joyrides on the weekends.

The second source of inspiration for Groot’s color choices was the clothing that Rocket always wore. He had to wear a jumpsuit at all times in order to protect the cybernetic processor in his back from getting damaged. One time he was wearing his old orange jumpsuit and the fabric was getting so old and damaged that when Rocket got thrown from a high location on one of the missions that they were on and he severely injured his back and the cybernetics within it. Rocket’s injuries were severe enough to where he wasn’t expected to survive. Groot, just having been out of his pot, weaned off of baby food and formula and just beginning the process of being potty trainied, climbed up onto Rocket’s bed and cried as he shook him awake. Groot refused to leave Rocket’s bedside and stayed with him until he was healed. When Rocket was healthy enough to be discharged, the Guardians made him buy a newer suit that would better protect him from high falls. It wasn’t orange, but a very vibrant blue.

About an hour later, Azrik and Groot’s therapists emerged with Groot’s brand new tilt-in-space manual wheelchair. It had a tall black leather seat with matching custom headrest and lateral side supports. It also had customized gel armrests with custom hand and wrist rests for Groot to place his arms on with a strap to make sure that Groot’s hands wouldn’t get caught in the rear wheels accidentally. There was also a padded lap belt, a chest harness, along with foot straps for Groot to be secured into his wheelchair without having to fear for him falling out. The wheels were very high-quality 3-spoke mag wheels with black tires on them to give it an edgier look. The handlebars were the adjustable stroller style so it could be easier for Groot to be pushed in. There was a shorter set of handlebars underneath those so that Rocket could push Groot too without him having to walk on his tiptoes. It also had an IV pole to hang Groot’s feeding tube bag when he was getting his formula.

Groot was ecstatic as he looked at his new mode of transportation. The first thing that he noticed was the color scheme. Groot’s chair was predominantly in Xandarian Blue with Titan Orange accenting the anodized parts. Both the rear wheels and the casters carried on this color scheme with the spokes being in Xandarian Blue and the rims being in Titan Orange. There was another thing that Groot noticed and that was his name sewn into the back of the seat with the same colors in a way that it made it look like flames were embroidered into it.

Groot’s therapists, along with the assistance of Azrik, got the teenager into his new chair. Groot’s happiness didn’t die down as he was being strapped into it. He knew that this would make the world more accessible to him than the gurney could ever be. With his chair, he wasn’t confined to just his room, the therapy wing, or the trauma center when he had to go there for checkups. He could go out into the courtyard of the nursing home, either with Azrik, or the Guardians with permission, could take him for daily strolls on the sidewalks surrounding the nursing home, and with a little bit more planning and if the nursing home’s accessible van was available, they could take Groot on day trips into Xandar City Proper.

“You like it, Groot?” Azrik asked the teenager as he helped Groot raise his arms so that he could attach the tray table to Groot’s chair. Groot squealed appreciatively in response as Azrik adjusted his arms before he strapped them down. “That’s good. Now, let’s get you back to your room so that you can hang out with your family before your speech therapy session starts.”

As they walked with Groot back to his room, Rocket felt like the whole world just got bigger for his son and he was happy about that.

Chapter Text

Groot was brought back to his room where he sat in his wheelchair and watched Bob Ross. The Guardians tidied up his room as Azrik came by with Groot’s formula and hooked it up to his feeding tube. After about five minutes, Azrik turned off the TV. (Thankfully, he timed it just right as Bob Ross was ending.)

“Groot, it’s time for you to go to speech therapy.” Azrik said softly to Groot as the teen was almost asleep. Groot let out a meek groan in response. “I know that you’re tired. Do you want me to adjust the tilt on your wheelchair so that you’re a little bit more comfortable as we walk down to the speech therapy room?” He asked Groot as Groot let out a soft squeak to signify yes as his aide adjusted the tilt on his chair. “Better?” Azrik asked as Groot squeaked his approval as they left his room.

As Azrik and the Guardians walked to the speech therapy room, Groot started to become more awake and tried to stretch, but couldn’t because of the restraints on his arms and legs in order to keep him securely in his wheelchair. Azrik stopped pushing Groot and untied his arms and legs from the straps in order for him to help Groot stretch them out before putting the straps back on before he continued to push him down to the speech therapy room.

When they arrived at the speech therapy room, they were met by Groot’s speech therapist, Calina. She held the door open so that Azrik could push Groot inside and parked his chair on one side of the table as he sat next to him. She then held it long enough so that the Guardians could file inside and sit all around Groot. Rocket, as usual, sat on Groot’s other side and held his son’s hand.

“Hi, Groot.” Calina greeted the teenager as he looked at her. “Are you ready for your first speech therapy session?” Groot shifted his eyes towards Rocket, unsure of how to act.

“It’s okay, Groot.” Rocket reassures his son. “It’ll be okay, son.”

After the Guardians introduced themselves to Calina, it was time for her to start Groot’s speech therapy session.

“How is Groot going to talk again?” Mantis asked inquisitively.

“Well, we have a few options for Groot, we just have to see which one works best for him.” Azrik explained as Calina got out Groot’s file.

“What are the options?” Gamora inquired as Groot played with one of the straps on his chest harness.

“Well, Azrik, you and I met earlier talking about Groot, and these are the options that we have discussed for him.” Calina answered.

“The first option was to have Groot communicate using sign language.” Azrik then held Groot’s hands. “However, because of how his hands and fingers are restricted in movement, it would make signing for him extremely difficult and he would get easily frustrated in communicating his thoughts and needs to us. Plus his arm braces would interfere with some of the signs. So that is not an option for him.”

“Are there other options for Twig to talk to us?” Kraglin asked as he noisily slurped some soup.

“Actually, there are.” Calina replied as she got out a weird device from its box.

“What is that?” Drax, who was enamored with the device, inquired as he stared at it.

“This is an electrolarynx.” Calina answered as she let everyone see it. “We’re hoping that this will help Groot talk.”

“How does it work?” Peter wondered as Calina put the wrist strap around Groot’s wrist so that he could hold it better.

“Well, Groot’ll hold down this button.” Calina depressed the button on the electrolarnyx and it vibrated. She then held it against Groot’s palm so that he could feel the vibrations. Groot tries to giggle at the sensation. “It tickles, huh, Groot?” Groot squeaked in response.

“How is that tiny box going to make Groot talk?” Drax still didn’t understand. “Did you trap his voice inside?”

“No, not exactly.” Azrik answered. “But since Groot can make various squeaks and sounds, we think that when he places the device up against his neck, underneath his chin, or on one of his cheeks, when he attempts to say a word, this will make it clear to the rest of us.”

“Groot, sweetie, where do you want to try it out first?” Calina asked as Groot blinked to signify that he was okay with it. “Alright, hold it in your hand like this, and, where do you want to try it?” Groot tapped his cheek. “Okay, let’s put it on the softest part on your cheek, push the button, and say whatever you want.”

Nothing came out of Groot’s mouth. Calina noticed that neither his lips or mouth moved. “Groot, you’ve got to move your mouth and lips if you want to talk. Let’s try again.” Groot moved his mouth, again, nothing. “Let’s try your other cheek.” She moved the transmitter to Groot’s other cheek. Groot tried again to talk, and again, not a word from the teenager was heard.

Azrik then stepped in. “How about underneath his chin?” He suggested.

“Yes, let’s try that.” She agreed as she repositioned the device underneath Groot’s chin. “Alright, Groot, try again.” Groot tries again, but again, nothing.

“Well, the last place to try is on his throat, right on top of his vocal chords, but his neck brace is on and the tip of the transmitter is too wide to fit in between the spaces.” Azrik surmised.

“Not really.” Calina replied as she did something to the transmitter. “This model has the option for different receiver heads to fit in the space in between the neck brace supports.” She then showed Azrik the slimmer tip that she placed on the contraption before she placed it on Groot’s neck, where his vocal chords were located. “Alright Groot, try and talk.”

Groot tried his best to vocalize, but all that came out was a staticky noise.

Calina removed the electrolarynx from Groot’s throat and placed her fingers where the device was. “Groot, try to talk.” Groot tries again, this time getting frustrated that he can’t talk. “Hm... he is trying to talk because I can feel his vocal chords moving.” Calina then got out a small, handheld scanning device and placed it where her fingers were previously on his neck. “Try again, sweetie.” Groot attempted to talk, but absolutely nothing came out. “Hm... that’s interesting...”

Rocket bolted up in his seat. “What’s interesting?” He questioned worriedly.

“Groot is trying to talk, but-.” Calina began.

“But what?!?!” The raccoon implored.

“His vocal chords are severely restricted and paralyzed. No matter how much he tries, he can’t get them to move.” Calina explained. “I’m sorry, but Groot will never be able to talk on his own again.”

Rocket was on the verge of tears. But he fought them back in order to show his son that no matter what his prognosis was, that he wasn’t going to give up on him.

“Groot still has two more options.” Calina stated. “Before he came here, his nurse at the trauma center used a picture board to help him communicate, correct?”

“Yeah.” Rocket answered. “You think that’s how he can talk again?”

“Yes, but the issue with that is that he’ll have to go through a book with picture cards on it and apply them to the board.” Azrik explained. “It could take him five minutes to form a fairly complex sentence structure and I don’t think that’ll be the best case scenario for anyone.”

“What’s the final option then?” Rocket asked.

Calina got out a messenger bag and unzipped it, unveiling a computer-like device. “This is how Groot’s going to communicate with everyone.” She then powered it on, even Groot was interested in the contraption. “Since he has limited use of his fingers and hands, this device, called an Eye-Gaze Communication Device is going to track his eye movements and select the words that he’s looking at and convert them into sentences. With this, Groot can communicate normally again, although it will be an artificial voice and not his own.”

Groot then let out an audible groan. He didn’t like to use the communication device that he had to use at school.

“It’s okay, Groot.” Rocket consoled his son. Groot still wasn’t happy. “Uh, is there anyway that the voice can sound more like him and less like a robot?”

“There are options for that. I will go look it up.” Calina stated as she got up from her seat. Groot then let out a cry.

Azrik checked the time. “Oh, Groot, I forgot to take you back to the nurse’s office for your formula.” He then sniffed the air. “And I suppose that a diaper change is in order too.” He said as he got up and started to push Groot out of the room.

Calina then got a text message. “Azrik, wait, I’ll come with you. His therapists said that they got the stand in for the talker to be attached to his wheelchair.” She and Azrik then left with Groot.

Drax’s stomach then growled. “Anyone else hungry?” He asked.

“Yeah...” Replied Kraglin. “Hey, can we please go to Souplantation?” The soup-addicted Xandarian begged.

“Hell no!” Everyone answered, much to Kraglin’s heartbreak.

“Didn’t you get a lifetime ban from there after you snuck into the kitchen when they were closed?” Peter replied as Kraglin muttered to himself.

“Alright, just down the block from here is a small group of fast food restaurants. I’ll take down what everyone wants and go get it and bring it back.” Peter proposed.

Everyone then got riled up. Among various complaints from getting their orders wrong to Kraglin still lamenting about Souplantation in the corner, there was no way in making everyone happy.

“Oh, alright!” The humie shouted over everyone. “Y’all can come with me to make sure that I don’t screw up.” Everyone, especially Drax, Mantis, and Kraglin cheered. “But, Kraglin, you are to stay in the Milano when we go to Souplantation because of your lifetime ban from that establishment and you’re not allowed in the restaurant.” Kraglin pouted as they started towards the lobby.

Peter then noticed Rocket was still sitting down. “Rocket, are you coming?”

“Nah, Quill, I’m gonna wait for Groot.” The rodent responded. “Just get me an Original Chicken Sandwich from Chik-Fil-A. Extra pickles.” He said as Peter left.

Rocket sat alone in the room. He glanced at Groot’s new device that would enable him to talk again. He was curious as to how it worked. He turned it on and as soon as it was powered on, the “Settings” screen loaded up. The options, although complex-sounding to the average person, was simple to understand to a speech pathologist, or, if you were Rocket, a cybernetically-enhanced raccoon with a penchant towards the mechanical and how things worked.

After fiddling with the generic options, Rocket came across the option that was the most important: Voice. There were two options: “Boy” or “Girl”. After selecting “Boy”, Rocket played around with some of the words on the homescreen. After hitting a couple, he found out that the preprogrammed voices within the device sounded as if a little boy was trapped inside a robotic body. Rocket knew Groot wouldn’t like that and hoped that what Calina said about that voice merging software was true and that Groot could use it.

Rocket then saw a file called “Family and Friends”. He tapped on it and a bunch of touchscreen buttons came up, all with cartoon representations (for example, a Terran with a Zune for Peter, a Xandarian eating soup for Kraglin, etc.) of everyone that Groot knows, along with their names underneath. Rocket looked at where his name was and was disheartened. His button was represented by a generic raccoon. Rocket went into the settings and replaced the image with a image of himself with Groot. He also replaced everyone else’s. (He replaced Peter’s image of the time that they went to Contraxia for vacation and Peter ended up getting a really nasty stomach bug.) He smiles at the memory.

Rocket tapped everyone’s button. For the most part, they said who the person was. Except for him. When Rocket pushed his name on the pad, it came back as “Rocket Raccoon.” Knowing Groot (both Original Groot and this Groot) would never add on the “Raccoon” part of his name, Rocket changed how his name was pronounced in the software. He then pressed Peter’s name and got an idea and ran with it.

After about five minutes fiddling with the settings, Rocket heard footsteps followed by a squeak and put the communication device back in its bag. A moment later, the door opened and in walked Calina and Azrik, who was pushing Groot. Groot’s wheelchair had the pole needed for his talker fully installed on the frame of it. Groot also had a fresh diaper on him and his feeding tube was hooked up to the formula bag that was hanging on the IV pole of his chair. A moment later, the rest of the Guardians came in, their fast food in hand. Peter handed Rocket his order and everyone began to eat. Drax and Kraglin (who worshipped the bag that said “Souplantation” on it) ate their food more voraciously than everyone else. After everyone was done eating, (and Azrik took Groot to have his feeding tube disconnected from the bag when all of it was gone.) the speech therapy session for Groot continued.

Calina took the communication device out of the bag and placed it on the stand and adjusted it so that Groot could easily use it. She then got it to the calibration page. “Groot, you’re going to see a big red dot go across the screen. I want you to follow that dot with your eyes until it goes away.” Groot grunted knowingly as the process of getting his eyes attuned to the talker began.

After about five minutes, the calibration process was complete and Groot was ready to use his talker.

“Alright, Groot, can you introduce yourself to everyone?” Calina encouraged Groot as the teenager’s excitement increased, finally being able to communicate with those that were the most important in his life.

“I am Groot.” The novelty soon wore off and Groot became upset as he heard the boyish robotic voice that was preprogrammed into the device.

“Groot, Groot, don’t cry.” Rocket tries to comfort Groot. He then looked at Calina. “Can we do that voice donation thingy that you talked about earlier?”

“Yes, yes we can and Groot would be a good candidate for it.” Calina stated as she got up and knelt next to Groot. “Groot, sweetie.” Groot looked at her in the eye. “You don’t like that voice?” Groot grunted his disapproval. “Alright, honey. Hey, I have some good news. If you don’t like that voice, you can have a voice that sounds more like you.” Groot looked interested and confused, because he didn’t know how that’s possible. “You can pick anyone here and the three of us are going to go in the back where we’re going to record your voices and merge them together. So pick whose voice you want.”

Groot looks at everyone in the room. After a couple of minutes he decides on his father, Rocket, who happily accepts the request as they go into the recording room and re-emerge a half hour later.

After powering up Groot’s talker with his new voice that Rocket donated to him programmed into it, Groot was eager to try it out.

“Alright, Groot, I know that you want to do this so badly, so introduce yourself.” Calina said.

“I am Groot!” Groot’s eyes lit up as he heard his new voice, which was merged with his teenager voice and Rocket’s more wise-cracking Halfworlder accent. “I am Groot! I am Groot!”

“Good job, Groot!” Calina praises him. “Now, can you tell me who this is?” She asked as she pointed to Rocket.

Groot found Rocket’s picture on the talker and activated it. “DADDY!” He still couldn’t believe that he was able to communicate. (Calina explained that the talker gave Groot the ability to say more than just “I am Groot.”)

“Nice job, Groot.” Calina praised the teen yet again as he continued to name each of the Guardians.

Peter then noticed something weird with his icon on Groot’s device. “What’s up with my icon?” He asked.

“What?” Rocket acted like he didn’t know what the humie was talking about.

Drax then looked at the picture and let out a hearty laugh. “I remember that time! We all got drunk at that bar on Contraxia and you said that you could drink the most Contraxian Sunrises than the rest of us! Rocket obviously won that bet and after we got home, I held your head above what Rocket called a ‘porcelain throne’ which I didn’t get, it just looked like a toilet to me, not where a king or queen sits...” The Destroyer reminisced as Peter was even more embarrassed.

“How- how did anyone manage to even take a photo of that night?!?! Mantis was busy babysitting Groot, Nebula was on a mission to kill Thanos, Gamora went to the police station to bail Kraglin out of jail after he was loitering around a soup kitchen and acting like a homeless person, and you were busy holding my head over the toilet, and Rocket-.” Peter paused. “Rocket was at the casino gambling his ill-gotten gains away.” A realization then hit the Terran. He turned his attention to the raccoon. “Right, Rocket?”

“Yeah, Quill. How could I forget?” Rocket responded. “I won a bet with some guy in the casino and won 100 credits. I then snuck into his room later that night and stole his eye.” He then muttered to himself, “Even though the only way that I could sneak it out of Contraxia was up my-.” Gamora then slapped him.

“Tell the truth, Rocket.” Gamora ordered in her most stern voice.

“Oh, FINE!” Rocket snarled. “After I came back to the hotel room, I heard you throwing up in the bathroom. I then snuck into the vent and got a couple pictures of you puking. There, are you happy now?”

Peter was content. “Yes, Rocket, I am content.” He then turned to Calina. “Can you replace that image with a better one?”

Calina reached over to the stand where Groot’s talking device was and took it off. Groot wasn’t happy, but he managed to glance over Peter’s button and have the sensor detect his eye movement.

“SHUT UP, STAR-MUNCH!” Groot laughed as he heard his device do the talking for him.

“Groot, that’s not a nice thing to say.” Azrik reprimanded the teenager as Groot formed tears in his eyes.

“Wait a second... I didn’t program his device to say that when he selected Peter’s name.” Calina stated as everyone looked at Rocket.

“What?” Rocket asked as he acted like he didn’t know what was going on. “You heard Groot yourselves.” He added as he took a bite of his chicken sandwich.

No one bought Rocket’s ruse.

“You were the only one in here when we went to go get lunch and Azrik and Calina tended to Groot. And you’re the only one out of all of us that is technologically inclined and that knows how to get around firewalls and other computer security enhancements in order to hack whatever it is that you feel like hacking into. So it must’ve been you that changed the settings in Groot’s talker.” Peter deduced.

Rocket tries to think of a comeback. “Oh, FINE! I admit it, I was the one that switched around the settings and for that I’m sorry.” The raccoon apologizes.

“There, now was it that hard to admit your wrongs?” Peter said as he wrapped his arm around Rocket’s shoulder as the raccoon reluctantly shook his head.

The speech therapy session was now over for the day. Calina offered to take Groot’s communication device and change the settings back to normal. As soon as they left the speech therapy wing, Peter and the rest of the Guardians had to go back home for the night. They promised Rocket and Groot that they would be back later in the week.

As Groot was placed back in bed for the night and was getting tucked in, Rocket promises him that there will be no more lies kept from him or the other Guardians. No matter what.

Chapter Text

After visiting hours were over, Rocket went back to the motel that he was staying at. He undressed himself, jumped into the shower, and got changed into his pajamas. After climbing into bed, the raccoon flipped through the channels on the ancient TV. (Of which there was only three, and they were all educational crap and none of those shows interested Rocket.) Rocket tries to hack the TV so that he could get some of the good channels and a little bit better reception so the picture wasn’t as grainy and staticky, but even that proved fruitless. He then got out his top-of-the-line gaming laptop and decided to at least play a couple of games he installed on his PC, but since he was on a different planet and the game, World of Warcraft, was on Terra, he would need a signal strong enough to carry his wifi connection to Earth and back. Since the motel he was staying at had shoddy wifi at the best, playing the game, or even going on the internet was out of the question.

So the only option for Rocket was to rifle through the bag of old movies that he brought with him. After searching for something good to watch, he found nothing. But, as he looked in the bottom of the bag, he saw an old VHS tape labeled “Guardians Family Moments”.

“I-I don’t remember packing this in the bag...” Rocket was confused as to how the video tape ended up in his bag. He then remembered that Peter helped him with his bags to the car when it was time for the raccoon to move into temporary housing while Groot was being rehabilitated at the nursing home for an undetermined amount of time. “Star-Munch...” He whispered to himself as he held the tape.

The raccoon plopped the tape into the VCR and an old reel of various moments of the Guardians’ life as a newly formed team, and more importantly, a family played. There were touching moments of everyone, but Rocket payed close attention to the moments between him and Groot that were captured on camera.

The first scene was when Groot was reborn and started to move around. Rocket was so elated that he had his best friend back and vowed to protect him from any harm that befell him. The raccoon wishes that he was more protective over Groot, knowing what has happened to him in the last few months.

Rocket fast fowarded to the next part. This was when Groot was starting to mimic words and everyone was seated around the tiny twig inside of his pot, which was lovingly decorated by Rocket. Groot was trying his best and the Guardians were encouraging him to speak (although Peter was hoping that he would say something other than “I am Groot.” He was coaxing the tiny twiglet to say “Starlord is the best!”) At last the tiny Flora Colossus spoke.

“I... I... am... Groot!” Groot exclaimed as he held his tiny branch arms up towards Rocket, wanting the raccoon to pick him up.

As Rocket held the baby Flora Colossus in his arms, he couldn’t believe what Groot’s first word was.

“So, what did he say?” Peter impatiently asked. “It better have been ‘Starlord is the best uncle in the entire galaxy!’” He playfully teased Groot as the sapling tries to hide in Rocket’s fur for protection.

“He definitely didn’t say that, Star-Munch.” Rocket snarled at the Terran as he handed Groot off to Gamora.

“Then what was it, Rocket?” Gamora, who let Groot play with her hair asked as the baby giggled.

Rocket smiled as Gamora handed Groot back to him. “Dad.” The raccoon wiped a tear from his eyes as he looked at his son. “He called me ‘Dad.’”

Rocket reflects on this part. He knows that no matter how well Groot mastered the speech synthesizer, he’ll never hear his son say “Dad” in his own natural voice ever again.

The tape then showed Groot’s first steps. Rocket had set Groot’s pot on the counter, in order to give the tiny Flora Colossus a bath, even though Groot wanted cookies first. As soon as Rocket turned his back to check the water temperature in the sink that Groot was to be bathed in, the tiny tree extended his tiny arms to the shelf that the cookie jar was on and began to lift himself up to it. Unfortunately, Groot’s coordination wasn’t the best and his arms let go of the shelf as he slowly fell to the floor. Luckily, Gamora entered the kitchen at the right time as Groot was free falling to the ground in slow motion and caught him just before his pot hit the floor.

“Groot! Groot!” Rocket was frantic as he rushed over to Gamora, who held Groot’s pot with the twig in it, in her arms. “What the-. What the flark were you trying to do?”

“I am Groot!” Groot replied in his most adorable voice as Gamora handed him to Rocket.

“I told you that you would get some cookies after your bath, not before.” Rocket said as he caught his breath. Groot then got upset and began to cry. “No, no, Groot, I’m sorry that I said that. I just want you to be safe and happy.” The raccoon then proceeded to rock Groot back in forth in his arms. “I love you, son.”

Groot’s tears stopped, the tiny tree looking up at his father. Rocket felt Groot shift his weight in his pot. He mentions this to Gamora and they carry Groot over to the table.

As Gamora examines Groot’s roots underneath the soil, she sees something amazing. “Rocket.” She began as she shifted some of the dirt around so that he could get a better look. “Groot’s ready to come out of his pot. He has legs now.”

Rocket was happy. Groot has reached another milestone in his development, growing legs and being able to leave his pot and explore the environment around him for the first time. At first Groot was crawling on his hands and knees, just like any other toddler. But unlike other toddlers, Groot’s surroundings were filled with dangerous things. Everything that was normally found in family homes that was a potential safety risk to a now-mobile toddler was now within his reach. But unlike other families, the Guardians’ house was filled with other hazards, the most luring items in Rocket’s workshop, which contained various weapons, bombs, and DEATH BUTTONS that were especially tempting to Groot. After multiple failed attempts to keep Groot out of Rocket’s workshop, (neither their warnings or time outs worked on the little tree that was entering the Floral Colossi version of “The Terrible Twos.”) The only option was to babyproof (or in the Guardians’ case, “Grootproof”) the entire Milano, paying particular attention to the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, anywhere Groot could sneak off to or hide in without the Guardians knowing, and Rocket’s workshop. ESPECIALLY Rocket’s workshop, where any of the weapons, bombs, and DEATH BUTTONS could pose a danger, not only to the Guardians, but to the entirety of Xandar should Groot get his branches on one and ACCIDENTALLY activate it.

Well, the aforementioned “Grootproofing” was only successful for only a day. It didn’t take Groot long how to figure out how to undo the baby locks on the cabinet doors. He also discovered how to climb over the baby gates and various barriers that blocked him from having free range of the house. (All he had to do was extend his arms around to where he could hoist himself over the obstacles.) It took the toddler a little longer to figure out how to get into Rocket’s workshop, but when he did, the Guardians gave up their “Grootproofing” plan and settled on just HEAVILY SUPERVISING the tiny tree wherever he went in the house or on the Milano.

The next part of the video was Groot’s first day of preschool. The little guy was nervous as he clung tightly to Rocket’s jumpsuit as the raccoon carried his son to the preschool entrance. As soon as the duo approached the door (The other Guardians stood proudly as they watched father and son go up the steps of the preschool together.)

Rocket placed Groot on the ground as the tiny Flora Colossus looked around nervously as Rocket straightened up his school uniform that had the school seal of The Xandar Academy for Gifted and Exceptional Students emblazoned on the front pocket of his blazer jacket. “Hey, don’t be nervous, Groot. You’re going to have a lot of fun, meet new kids, and your teachers are going to teach you a lot.” He said as he knelt next to Groot and handed the toddler his Bob Ross backpack and his Limited Edition Bob Ross tin lunchbox.

Rocket smiled as Groot took ahold of the lunchbox and stared in amazement at the embossed impression of his idol, Bob Ross, on it. “You better cherish that lunchbox because it’s going to be your only lunchbox through school. I don’t want to hear you complain, you’re even going to carry that lunchbox with you through high school. Costing us 50,000 units just for a lunchbox with a flarkin’ humie on it. Well, at least he ain’t as ugly as Quill.”

Groot stared at Rocket in confusion. “I am Groot?” The toddler squeaked out as he put his backpack on.

Rocket took Groot’s hand into his own. “Nothing, Groot. You just think about meeting and making new friends.” He reassures his son as Groot’s one-on-one aide came out to greet them and talk to Rocket as she escorted the two to Groot’s preschool class.

Rocket remembered that day. Groot loved his teachers and his aide helped him feel less of an outsider and more like a typical kid. But all of that changed when Groot was in the fifth grade and his aide had to retire because she just turned 65. Rocket remembered the emergency meeting that he had with Groot’s teachers, the school headmaster, the school guidance counselor, Groot’s case manager, the special education department and the school’s speech pathologist. Since Groot was only able to say “I am Groot.” He needed his aide because she was one of the very few people that studied Groot’s species’ language and could translate Groot’s thoughts to everyone else. The headmaster explained to Rocket that they tried to find a new aide for Groot, but since he was the last of his kind, that the need to study his language wasn’t necessary. The school only had 3 options for Groot: homeschool him until his high school graduation, place him in the special education classroom, or give him a communication device so that he could convey his thoughts, although he would sound like a robot to everybody.

Rocket knew that if he homeschooled Groot, the Xandar Department of Child Services would show up at the Guardians’ house faster than a bolt of lightning as soon as they got word that Rocket was teaching Groot how to build various weapons, bombs, and Death Buttons. Rocket didn’t want to place his son into the special education class because Groot was already getting teased because no one could understand him without his aide being present. If he were to be put in the special education class, the teasing would increase tenfold and it would lead to god knows what for Groot. Also, another problem with Groot being placed in the special education class would be the pace of the curriculum. Groot is one of the smartest students in the school and to put him in a class where he wouldn’t be academically interested or challenged would bore Groot to death.

So the only option was to have Groot use the communication device. At first he didn’t like it mainly because none of the voices sounded like him and they all sounded like a robot, which started the bullying of him by the other kids in the school. He still refused to use it even when his case manager and the school’s speech therapist allowed Groot to take the device home in the hopes that he would get used to it and be more apt to communicate through it. But that didn’t make Groot more inclined to use it, especially since he had Rocket at home to translate for him.

It’s Rocket’s hope that Groot will use his new communication device. Especially since Groot’s probability of getting his voice back was nonexistent. But, Groot seems to like his new voice synthesizer, especially since it sounds more like him and less like a robot.

There was one more scene. This was Groot’s latest birthday when he became a teenager. Groot has already started to exhibit the typical teenager behaviors of being moody and embarrassed by anything that his family did. Groot was sitting in a corner playing the portable video game that Rocket just gave him for his birthday. It wasn’t a big party, as Groot had no friends in school and the kids that the Guardians invited to his party refused to show up. 

Gamora just brought out the double chocolate cake that she baked for Groot’s birthday, (his favorite type of cake) and Peter wrote “Happy Birthday Groot!” in green icing. They then brought it over to the table and Rocket got a reluctant and moody Groot up from where he was sitting and brought him over to the table as the Guardians sang “Happy Birthday” to Groot. Groot sat there with a bored expression on his face before he unceremoniously blew out the candles without much gusto before he got up and went to his room, bringing an end to the party.

Rocket then turned off the TV and went to bed. As he dreamed of raising Groot, he remembered all of the good times that he had with him, not the bad.

When he got up the next morning, he got the video tape out of the VCR and placed it in its case. He then put the case in his bag before he went to the nursing home. He decided to show Groot his saplinghood, both the good times and the bad times. Since Groot suffered severe memory loss, this was Rocket’s only chance to remind Groot of all of the things that he did before the accident. If Groot even remotely remembered anything, it was worth it to Rocket.

Chapter Text

Rocket showed up to the nursing home and signed in before he went up to Groot’s room. When he arrived and walked into his son’s room, he saw that Azrik was their, as usual, but Groot was still in bed with his pajamas on. 

“Hey, Groot.” Rocket greeted him as Groot moaned in pain. “Aww, buddy, what’s wrong?” He asked concernedly.

“He’s not feeling too good today.” Azrik told Rocket. “He has an upset tummy, severe diarrhea, vomiting, and he is extremely tired.”

Rocket looked at Groot. It was clear to him that his son was extremely sick and uncomfortable. “Do, do you know what it is?”

“We believe that it’s no more than a simple case of the flu.” Azrik informed Rocket as he scanned Groot’s head with the temperature reader and wrote down the number. “Actually, he’s starting to get better than he was earlier and he doesn’t need to go to quarantine. If all goes well, he’ll be back to his usual self tomorrow.”

“Okay. So what does that mean for today?” Rocket queried as he held Groot’s hand as the teenager groaned in pain.

“That means that Groot is on bed rest until he gets better.” Azrik said as he brought up the bed covers to Groot and tucked him in. “I’ve already talked to his therapists and they’ve agreed to hold off on his rehab and speech sessions until he gets better.” Groot tries to let out a little cheer but ends up having a coughing fit that ended up in having Groot cough up a little phlegm. “It’s okay, Groot. Relax.” Azrik soothes Groot as he gently makes him sit up and he rubs the teenager’s back gently to comfort him.

Azrik carefully lays Groot back down. He then stands up and begins to walk out of the room.

“Uh, so should I go back to the hotel?” Rocket asked as Azrik turned back around and looked at the raccoon. “Because if Groot’s not going to be doing anything...”

“Use this time to reconnect with your son, Rocket.” Azrik replied. “Watch some TV or something.” He added as he left the room.

Rocket didn’t know what else to do, so he put on Bob Ross for Groot to watch. As he sat next to Groot, who had a severe headache from the flu, he absentmindedly reached into his bag that he brought with him and took out the home video that contains all of the Guardians’ family moments, and, more importantly, Groot’s entire saplinghood.

Rocket gently woke Groot up from his nap. “Hey, buddy, do you want to watch this?” Rocket asked as Groot cooed his response as the raccoon plopped the video into the VCR.

Rocket watched the home movies with Groot, watching his son watch the memories of his saplinghood that were unfairly stripped away from him. Groot laughed at the funny parts and cried at the sad parts. Every so often Rocket would whisper to Groot how much everyone loved him. When the video was over with, Rocket told Groot that no matter what happened next in his recovery, he and the rest of the Guardians were proud of him.

It was getting near the end of visiting hours and Rocket had to start to make his way back to the hotel. He got up, ready to take the video tape out of the VCR, when another video started to play. This one wasn’t like the other scenes. Almost like it was edited professionally by someone with vision and actual talent. Instead of Groot being a baby or a teenager, Groot was fully grown. 

Groot pointed at the television screen in confusion as to who the giant version of him was.

“That’s your dad, Groot.” Rocket said as Groot looked at him in confusion. Rocket then went on to explain how this Groot was reborn from the previous Groot when he died as the movie played.

When the movie was finished, Rocket took it out of the VCR, placed it back into its case before putting it in his backpack. He then kissed Groot good night before leaving for the hotel.

As the raccoon got ready for bed, he couldn’t help but to think of all the things Groot did and how his son had a normal childhood before the accident. Rocket closed his eyes dreaming of Groot being able to do all the things that he previously could.

Chapter Text

The next day, Rocket came to visit Groot to discover that he was fully recovered from the flu that he suffered from yesterday. Groot was more alert and eager to start his day as Azrik got him into the patient lift and into his wheelchair and buckled in before he took Groot down to the nurse’s office to have his feeding tube hooked up to him for his breakfast.

As Azrik left with Groot in tow down the hallway, Rocket had a few unexpected visitors enter Groot’s room: the rest of the Guardians.

“Hey, Rocket.” Peter greeted. “How are you and Groot holding up?”

“We’re good.” Rocket answered. “Azrik just took Groot down to the nurse’s office to have his feeding tube hooked up to him. He’ll be back soon.” Groot’s excited screams could be heard down the hallway. “...Or right now.” He said as Azrik brought Groot back to his room.

Groot was happy to see the other Guardians. The teenager squealed in delight as he tried to outstretch his arms in an effort to hug each of them, where they each gave him a hug, one by one as Azrik affixed the lap tray to Groot’s wheelchair and placed his talker on its stand.

“Alright, Groot, we’re going to do something a little different this morning before you go to therapy today.” Azrik informed Groot as he looked at his aide, confused. He then turned to the other Guardians. “We have to have a meeting concerning Groot’s future care. So, if you guys don’t mind, we can go down to the conference room to discuss this.” Azrik added as he started to push Groot down to the conference room as the other Guardians followed.

They all filed into the conference room, Drax holding the door open for everyone before closing it. They each sat down in one of the plush dark brown leather seats as Azrik parked Groot in the middle of the Guardians before sitting on the other side of the table and getting out Groot’s case file.

Azrik cleared his throat before he began his statement. “As you all are well aware, Groot wasn’t expected to make it this far.” He stated as Rocket held Groot’s hand in order to make him feel at ease. “Groot wasn’t even expected to live, but by some miracle, he pulled through.” Rocket then smiled at his son. “However, Groot’s recovery hasn’t been easy. His diagnosis was severe brain damage from his injuries and his prognosis was for him to be no more than in a vegetative state, dependent on machines for the rest of his life. He was not supposed to even make eye contact with anyone or understand what was going on around him.” Groot tried to not become upset at these words.

Azrik then smiled at Groot as he looked at the teenager in the eyes. “But you’ve proven everybody wrong, Groot. You can look at everyone who sees you everyday and know who they are, you don’t need a ventilator to breathe, you’re not a vegetable by any means, you’re not confined to your bed, instead you’re sitting in your wheelchair and you’re able to do more things and move around because of it, Ms. Calina says that you’re enjoying speech therapy and using your voice synthesizer to communicate, especially since Ms. Calina was able to merge Rocket’s voice with yours so it’ll sound more natural, and your therapists say that you’re making progress in rehab.”

“So... why are we here? You could’ve just told us he was doing so well in his room. Why do we need a meeting?” Peter questioned.

The comment didn’t faze Azrik, who stated. “It is with my recommendation that we send Groot home.”

The Guardians were speechless for a moment, followed by uninterrupted cheers and congratulations for Groot. Groot expressed his happiness by joyous cheering.

When the celebrating died down, Azrik continued. “Now, the only caveat is that this is only a trial period of time. Groot has a lot of medical concerns and if anything should go wrong, he’ll need to be brought back here for further care. Your house would also have to be inspected and be declared safe and accessible for Groot before he is able to come home.”

“When you say a ‘trial period’, how long do you mean by that?” Drax questioned.

“We want to see how Groot would do at home for a couple of days, so we’re probably going to send him home for a weekend, starting on a Friday, staying overnight, and him coming back to us on Monday.” Azrik explained. “However, Groot has multiple medical conditions that would make a sudden life change such as this impossible, so we have to slowly get him used to it over time, until both you and him are comfortable.”

“What conditions are you talking about?” Rocked asked worriedly.

“Groot doesn’t like sudden changes in his daily routine or environment unless he knows what to expect. Which brings me to my next point. Starting tomorrow, we’re going to move Groot from the special housing unit, down to the transitional housing unit.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kraglin asked as he ate some soup.

“Transitional housing is where all of our patients go when they will be discharged soon and can go home to their families. But since Groot has a couple more special needs, it would be advisable that you attend some of these home life sessions with Groot so that you can properly care for him.” Azrik advised.

“What are these sessions about?” Gamora asked as she got out her notebook to write down notes for the other Guardians.

“Well, since Groot is unable to tell you when he needs to go to the bathroom and isn’t able to be potty trained, you’ll need to learn how to change his diaper.” Azrik answered.

“Well, that won’t be too hard. We’ve raised Groot from when he was a baby and needed to change his diaper before he was potty trained, this won’t be much different.” Peter stated.

“Actually, it is.” Azrik replied. “Since Groot doesn’t have proper bladder control, he had to have a catheter put in to help control his bladder movements. It also needs to be changed twice a day- as soon as he wakes up and taken out before he gets his shower and replaced with a new one afterwards and just before he goes to bed. Now, if he falls ill, he’ll need a catheter change 3 times a day.” Groot winced in response.

“Anything else?” Gamora queried.

“Yes, you’ll also be learning how to help give Groot a shower. Since he isn’t mobile on his own he’ll need the use of a commode chair just to get into the shower.” Azrik began. “You’ll also need to wash him with a shower wand to make it easier on yourselves.”

Kraglin soon realizes a problem and brings up his concerns. “But we don’t have a shower big enough to fit all of this stuff. Plus, converting the showerhead into a handheld one might be a problem...”

Peter was confused by what Kraglin was saying. “Kraglin... the shower was working just fine yesterday. What are you talking about?” Kraglin stared at the floor as Peter placed a finger underneath his chin and made the Xandarian look at him in the eye. “Tell us the truth...”

“...I reconverted the showerhead so that instead of water coming out, it rains hot soup instead...” Kraglin mumbled as everyone except for Groot and Azrik covered their faces with their palms. “What? It was Drax’s idea...”

The Guardians let out a collective moan. Peter was not too happy that he would have to call the plumbers again to fix another problem with the shower, on top of possibly having to widen and probably convert the shower to a roll-in shower in order to fit and accommodate the commode chair Groot would need to be able to even get in the shower.

Gamora broke the silence after an uncomfortable minute. “Is there anything else that we’ll need to learn in order to take care of Groot?”

“The biggest and most important thing that you’ll need to learn in order to properly care for Groot is how to feed him and give him his medications through his feeding tube.” Azrik took note of the Guardians’ faces as he talked. “Now, I know that all of this sounds daunting, but if you guys start to feel overwhelmed, we can look into hiring a professional home care nurse to look after Groot full time. They will take on the responsibilities of administering his medications to him, giving him his formula through his feeding tube, basically all of the medical care that he needs, his nurse will be able to provide for him.”

“Is that all?” Gamora asked as she flipped to a new blank page in her notebook.

“Just one more thing. Are you planning on taking Groot anywhere after he’s discharged?” Azrik inquired.

“Well, yeah. I mean, I’ve been talking to him about taking him different places after he leaves here and he’s excited about it.” Rocket answered as he held Groot’s hand as the teen squealed happily.

“Do you have a way of getting Groot around?” Azrik questioned.

Peter thought about his answer. “Well, yeah, I mean, we have a car of course.”

“Can your vehicle accommodate Groot?” Azrik asked.

“Well, yeah. It ain’t like Groot’s going to be standing up in the car while we’re driving.” Peter was starting to get annoyed.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea for him either.” Azrik stated. “Groot needs to be seated down in a moving vehicle. Now, there’s two options for him. The first would be specialized car seat designed for special needs individuals like Groot.” He showed the Guardians a brochure of the car seat in question. It was designed just like an ordinary car seat for babies and toddlers, but the size was much larger for teens and adults. It also had a block in the middle to prevent Groot’s legs from squeezing against each other. “However, in order to use the car seat, Groot must be able to sit up on his own without any assistance of any type. I’m sorry to say that this would not be feasible for him.”

“Then what would be feasible for him to get around in?” Gamora asked as Azrik handed the Guardians another brochure.

“Since the only safe way to transport Groot is in his wheelchair, he’ll need a special van to get around in.” Azrik began. “Luckily, this company specializes in building those types of vehicles so that the people who need them the most get them. There’s almost no difference in between driving them and a regular car. The only difference is that in the back where the lift gate is for the trunk, there will be a wheelchair lift to get Groot in and out of the van. The last row of seats will also be removed, except for a single captain-style seat next to the bay where Groot’s wheelchair would be tied down so that he can safely ride in the vehicle. Now, given the size of your family, you would have to get the biggest van that the company currently offers. The layout would be the leather driver’s seat and front passenger seat, 2 rows of bench-style leather seats, that can fit 3 people and 4 people, respectively, and the single captain seat in the back next to the wheelchair bay with tie down straps where Groot would be riding from.”

Peter was a little bit skeptical at all of the features. “How much is all of this going to cost?”

Azrik took a deep sigh. “Unfortunately, these types of vans are expensive. Since your family needs the biggest one that they make and Groot needs all of the space in the back, it’s going to cost around 100,000 Units.”

Peter balked at the price tag. There was no way any of the Guardians could ever afford the vehicle. Before he could say anything, Gamora talked to him.

“Peter, it’s okay. We’ll find a way to pay off the van so that we can take Groot places.” She reassures the humie as Peter calms down.

After a moment, Azrik turned to Groot. He then asked the teen, “Now, Groot, do you have any questions about what we discussed?”

Groot thought about everything that was said. He still couldn’t believe that he was going to get the chance to go home. Even though it was only going to be for a short trial period to see how he’ll make out. “When can I go home?” He asked through his voice synthesizer.

“Well, Groot, you’ll need to have your halo removed and be in the transition program for a while, but as soon as we feel that you’re ready, you can go home.” Azrik told Groot as the teenager squealed happily as he squeezed Rocket’s hand.

The meeting was now over. Everyone then went to Groot’s therapy session. They (especially Rocket) couldn’t believe that soon, Groot would be able to go home.

Chapter Text

Early the next morning, Rocket and the other Guardians meet up at the nursing home. (The Guardians stayed overnight at a ritzy hotel.) They all signed in and went up to Groot’s room.

Inside, Azrik was just waking Groot up. Groot yawned a couple of times before he was completely awake and looked at the doorway as his family comes inside.

“Groot, are you ready to go?” Azrik asked Groot as the teen stared at him with a puzzled look on his face. “Remember what we’ve talked about yesterday? You’re going to the transitional care program and going to be in a new room.” Groot then moved his eyes towards the Guardians. “Yes, they’re going to come too. Now are you ready to go see your new room?” Groot squeaked as Azrik took the bed covers off of him.

Azrik then carefully placed his arms underneath Groot’s body as he gingerly placed Groot into his wheelchair and buckled him in and placed his talking device on its stand and attached Groot’s lap tray to his chair. He then undid the attendant brake in the back with his foot before he pushed Groot out of his old room as the Guardians followed.

After a short elevator ride down two floors, they were now in the transitional living wing. The lobby had a more comfortable and homelike feel to it, instead of the institutional feeling of the rest of the nursing home. The fireplace on the one side of the room was especially inviting with 2 plush chairs and a fluffy rug underneath. Azrik signed Groot in on the patient log and the receptionist behind the desk handed him a piece of paper that had Groot’s new room number on it and a lanyard that had Groot’s Patient Identification Card on it. Azrik placed the lanyard around Groot’s neck. He then motioned for the other Guardians to come as he pushed Groot to the door that leads to the patient rooms that were in the transitional wing.

”Okay, Groot, you see the card hanging from your necklace?” Azrik quizzed Groot as the teen held the identification card up. “Can you hold it up to this scanner on the wall so the door can open?”

Groot meekly held up his ID card with Azrik’s help to make the scanner read it. After a short beep, the door was opened and Drax held the door open as Azrik pushed Groot on the other side of the door and as everyone else followed suit.

To Rocket’s surprise, Groot’s new room in the transitional wing looks a lot like his old room back at home. The only differences were Groot’s bed, the ceiling patient hoist that had tracks all throughout the room, and Groot now had a private bathroom connected to his bedroom.

“Here, let me give you guys a tour of the room.” Azrik stated as he pushed Groot towards the main part of his new room. “As you can see, we have went to painstaking lengths to make sure that every single, minute detail of Groot’s room here is an exact copy of his room back at home so that when he is finally able to leave, he’ll have some familiarity of his environment when he comes home and the shock of being in an unfamiliar place won’t exist.”

“Except for how messy he keeps his room.” Peter mumbles to himself.

Groot then looked at his bed and outstretched one of his arms to feel it. He shrieked with joy as he felt it.

“Do you want to try out your new bed, Groot?” Azrik asked the teen as Groot squeaked excitedly. “Okay, let me get you closer to the bed.” He said as he took off Groot’s lap tray and began to get him closer.

Azrik parked Groot’s wheelchair next to the bed. He then lowered one side of the specially-designed side rails so that he could get Groot on the bed easier. After he undid the seat belts and harness keeping Groot secured in his wheelchair, he showed the Guardians how to lift Groot.

Azrik placed one arm underneath Groot while his other arm carefully supported Groot’s neck. “Now, I’m a trained professional, and I don’t recommend doing this, but I hold him like this with one arm supporting his body while his legs dangle like that. See? His legs aren’t hurting and he’s completely comfortable. I also give him a little bit of head support for good measure too.” He then slowly turned to face the bed as he carefully placed Groot on it. “And then it’s best if you straighten out Groot’s legs so that they’re not curled up and he gets good unrestricted blood flow to them.” He instructed as he straightened out Groot’s legs so that the teenager was comfortable. “Are you comfortable, Groot?”

Groot let out a content squeak. This bed didn’t feel like the other one he was laying on just five minutes before. It felt like the bed was conforming to Groot’s specific body shape and made him feel like he was floating on a cloud.

“Now, there’s a couple of things that you need to keep in mind while Groot’s in his bed.” Azrik began. “The first thing is, after Groot is in his bed, the guardrails on the sides must be up to prevent Groot from accidentally falling out and injuring himself. Now these guardrails are a little bit different than the normal guardrails in that they have been heavily padded on the sides.”

“Why’s that?” Gamora questioned as she held Groot’s hand as he reached out to her.

“Since Groot has a history of seizures and other significant issues, the padding will help prevent further injury if he was to get his arms and legs caught in between the railings of the normal sideguards. It’ll also prevent him from hitting his head too hard during one of those episodes.” Azrik explained.

“He seems comfortable on his new bed.” Drax remarked as he observed Groot. “Almost as if he’s going to sleep.”

“That’s what I was hoping he would do.” Azrik stated. “His bed is very technologically advanced in that it has traditional spring coils in the mattress, but those coils are wrapped up in another set of coils and there is additional padding in between each and every coil and the entire mattress is lined in space-age memory foam so that he’ll feel like he’s floating in midair.” He added as Groot cooed contently as he yawned. “There is another important feature that this bed has that his old one didn’t have.”

“Which is?” Gamora asked as she gently massaged Groot’s hand.

“Since Groot has a history of seizures and other potentially life-threatening events, his bed has been specially outfitted with sensors built into the mattress that will detect when, if, and for how long these episodes last based on sudden erratic movements and sounds that Groot makes when he has one of these events. As soon as the sensors pick up on something, they will send out a visual alarm in the form of a strobe light throughout the house, but not in Groot’s room, since he’s sensitive to rapid flashing lights and that could worsen his current condition.” Azrik explained. “There is also an app that you can download to your phone and it’ll give you updates in real time so that you can constantly monitor Groot while he’s in his room alone.” Azrik then demonstrates how the app works to monitor Groot’s condition.

Rocket was amazed by the technology that they have come up with to give him peace of mind when Groot was in his bed and not under his father’s watchful eyes. The raccoon felt a sense of relief wash over him as his never ending job of constantly watching over his son became a lot easier.

Azrik grabbed a remote that was connected to the bed as it rested on the bedside table next to Groot. “You can also make adjustments to the bed so that Groot can sit up in bed, you can raise the lower part of the bed so that he can get blood flow to his legs, among other things. It can even change the station on the TV.” Azrik demonstrated how the remote worked. Groot then reached up for the remote. “You want to see the remote, Groot?” He asks as Groot squeaked and began to press the buttons to make his bed help him sit up. Groot then used the remote to change the channel to Bob Ross.

Mantis then spotted something sticking up from one of the bed rails, near Groot’s head. “What’s that thing for?” She wondered as she pointed to it.

“Oh, this?” Azrik said as he adjusted the item, which looked like a holder for something. “This is to hold Groot’s talker up so that he can use it in bed.” He stated as he moved it closer so that Groot could use it.

“Azrik?” Groot got his carer’s attention as he used his device.

Azrik turned to Groot as he knelt beside him. “Yes, Groot?”

“I’m hungry. Is it time for breakfast yet?” Groot asked as he placed his hand against his tummy as he felt it rumble.

Azrik looked at the clock. He was five minutes late in getting Groot’s morning formula to him. “Yes, Groot, it is. Thank you for reminding me, I’ll get right on it.” He then turned to the Guardians. “Let me show you guys how to prepare Groot’s formula.” The Guardians followed Azrik down the hallway to the meal preparation kitchen as a nurse came by to watch over Groot while they were away.

“Now, before we do anything, we have to wash our hands.” Azrik said as he approached the sink and performed the action. He then moved to the side so that everyone else could do the same.

Azrik then led the Guardians to the main part of the kitchen. The chefs were busy taking meal orders from the nurses for their patients and preparing them. In the middle was a long table used for cutting up stuff and putting them items on a plate. Alongside one wall was a very industrialized stove and oven used for cooking. Along the other wall, there was a huge fridge filled with various meals. Next to that one was a much smaller fridge labeled “Groot”. There was also a small shelf located next to it with a bunch of containers that contained various protein powders in them and they were also labeled “Groot”.

“As you can see, we have two fridges here. The larger one is for all of the other patients.” Azrik began. “The smaller one here is exclusively for Groot.”

Azrik then opened Groot’s fridge to show the contents of it. Inside was a bunch of what looked like baby formula, but the Guardians knew that it was specially formulated for Groot’s diet and the ingredients were strictly monitored. Rocket knew that if Groot had known that he had his own special fridge to himself, the teenager would rather have it filled up with his favorite junk foods instead of the formula that he was restricted to.

“This formula has to be kept at a certain temperature for it not to spoil. It also can’t be around the other patients’ foods because either it will contaminate their food or vice versa. That’s the main reason why we keep Groot’s food separated from everyone else’s.” Azrik stated as he got out a can of the formula from the fridge and walked over to a separate room that was away from the main kitchen. Everyone else followed him into the cramped space. “It is also important that we prepare the formula in as sterile an environment as possible. So that’s why we’re in here. Now, before I begin combining the ingredients, I’m going to have to ask everyone in here to put on a set of disposable gloves and a mask. I don’t want Groot to come down with something that could have been easily prevented.”

Everyone donned the masks and gloves before Azrik opened the formula can and poured the contents into a sterilized steel bowl. He then threw the empty can away and got out the various protein powders that needed to be added in. He scoops out a tablespoon of each powder before dumping it into the bowl. The last step of the process was to pour the mixture into a blender to get it to a liquified state. After it was to the correct consistency, Azrik walked over to a drawer which contained an assortment of bags that connected to Groot’s feeding tube. He got out a fresh sterile bag and poured the formula mixture into it.

“Before I close the bag, I make sure that there’s no air bubbles anywhere so that Groot doesn’t get colicky and gassy, because that’s really uncomfortable for him.” Azrik informed the Guardians as he examined the bag. “This one looks good and now we’re ready to leave.”

“And go back to Groot’s room, right?” Drax implored as they left the kitchen.

“No, we have to stop by the nurse’s office to pick up Groot’s morning medications.” Azrik stated as they walked down the hallway.

“How does Groot take his medicine if he can’t swallow?” Kraglin questioned.

“He takes it through his feeding tube.” Azrik answered. “I’ll show you when we get back to his room.”

They arrived at the nurse’s office. Azrik asked the nurse behind the desk for Groot’s morning medications. She then went into the back and came back out minutes later with the medication Azrik requested. He thanked her and they made their way back to Groot’s room.

Inside, the nurse that watched over Groot greeted them. “He’s taking a little nap right now.” She whispered. “He fell asleep watching Bob Ross.” She added before she left.

“Oh, good.” Azrik breathed a sigh of relief. “Maybe I can get his medications into his body without him knowing.” The Guardians look at him with puzzled looks on their faces. “He’s not a fan of taking his medicine.”

Azrik quietly approached Groot, who was fast asleep. He was careful on how he made his steps, as Groot is a very light sleeper and who could and would wake up at the slightest sound.

“Alright.” Azrik whispered as he put on a mask and gloves and the Guardians did the same as they gathered around Groot’s bed. “Now, the first thing that you have to do is roll up Groot’s shirt until you-.”

Groot then opened his eyes. He saw Azrik and knew what was going on and began to cry.

Azrik tries to calm down the frightened teenager. “Groot, shh, shh. I didn’t do anything yet. I was just explaining to your family how to give you your formula.” Groot started to calm down at his caregiver’s words.

Rocket then held his son’s hand as Azrik started to demonstrate how he readies Groot’s feeding tube in preparation to give him the nutrients that he needs to live.

“As I was saying, the first thing that you have to do is roll up Groot’s shirt until you can see his feeding tube and the port that connects it to his body. Then, unroll the tube and find where the connections are. There are two on here and they’re color-coded. The connection that has the red cap on the end is the one that you’re looking for.” Azrik said as he took off the end cap. “This is the one where Groot gets his medications from.”

“What difference does it make what connection port Groot gets his medications from?” Drax questioned.

“Well, if Groot is constantly getting his food and medications from both ports on alternate feeding times, he is at risk of cross-contamination and he could get extremely sick from it.” Azrik explained as he got out the glass jars that contained Groot’s medications and placed an exact amount of each medication in each syringe. “That’s why Groot’s feeding tube has two dedicated port connections for his medications and formula.”

Azrik got out a syringe filled with a clear liquid solution. Groot winced at it and began to get scared and nervous. “He especially doesn’t like this part.”

“What’s in there anyways?” Drax questioned.

“This is a saline solution meant to wash out the tube in between his medications so that they don’t mix and he doesn’t get his tube clogged up.” Azrik explains as Groot swats at the syringe. “Now, the smell of it is really strong for him and he thinks that it’s going to go into his body, but the solution is too thick and it won’t get past the hole that leads into his stomach.” Azrik explains as he injects the solution into Groot’s feeding tube followed by his first medication.

“What does each of his medications do?” Gamora asked as Groot squeezed Rocket’s hand.

“Well, the first one I gave him is to prevent him from getting any seizures.” Azrik stated as he finished giving Groot that medication followed by another syringe filled with the saline solution. “This one here is a muscle relaxer so that when his therapists work with him, they’ll have an easier time moving his arms and legs.” He finished with that medication and flushed out the excess with the saline solution before giving Groot his final medication. “This last one is for his bowel movements and constipation issues. It also alleviates any stomach pain or cramps that he might have.”

“So, is that it for the medications?” Gamora asked as Azrik replaced the red cap on the connection and threw away the empty syringes.

“Yes, it is.” Azrik replied as he placed the bag with Groot’s formula in it on the IV pole next to his bed. “Now what you have to do now is find the port that has a green cap on it. This is where he’s going to-.” Groot then grabbed the feeding tube away from his aide.

“Groot, can I have that back?” Azrik asked as Groot refused. “Groot, do you want to eat breakfast in bed as a special treat today?” Groot still wasn’t letting up. “If you don’t, I’m going to put you back in your chair and you’ll eat there. I’m only letting you eat in bed as a reward for you being good today, do you want to lose that privilege?” Groot looked at him apologetically. “Alright, now I’m going to be really fast so that you don’t feel much, okay?” Groot squeaked in response. “Okay, on the count of three, I’m going to inject the saline solution and then hook you up to your formula, okay?” Azrik then counted down before injecting the final syringe filled with saline solution into the feeding tube in order to clean it and flush it out. He then attached the formula bag to Groot’s feeding tube and the nutrients began to flow into Groot’s body.

“How long does it take for him to eat?” Kraglin asked as he ate some soup.

“About a half hour, during which he can do other things like watch TV or whatever he wants.” Azrik replied as Groot settled in to watch Bob Ross with his family.

A half hour later, Groot was finished with getting his formula and was ready to have his feeding tube disconnected. This, thankfully, went by easier and quicker than when they had to connect it to the formula bag. Azrik explains that since Groot didn’t need to have his tube cleaned with the saline solution post-feeding, instead just having it cleansed with distilled water. 

Just as Azrik was finishing up with rolling up Groot’s feeding tube and tucking it underneath his shirt, Bob Ross ended and a kiddie show that he didn’t like came on, so Rocket turned off the TV.

“Alright, Groot, you’ve just had your breakfast, relaxed in bed, and watched some TV.” Azrik stated as Groot looked at him. “Do you remember what you have to do next?”

Groot then looked at his Eye-Gaze talker. “Take a shower and get dressed?” He responded.

“That’s right, Groot.” Azrik replied back as Groot prepped himself for being lifted and placed in his wheelchair. “No, no. We’ve got a new way for you getting into the bathroom.” He said as he grabbed a remote control that was laying on the bedside table.

A few moments later, a patient lift that was suspended from the ceiling came out of the bathroom. It was more advanced than the previous one that Azrik used to get Groot around in. It resembled a hammock chair so that Groot would be more comfortable in it than the other one that he was used to.

Azrik then turned to the other Guardians. “Now, we’re going to gently pick Groot up and place the sling underneath him. Then we make sure that he’s laying nice and comfortable and that there’s no kinks or anything like that before we make him sit up.” He then presses the button that brings Groot into a sitting position. “Now, we take these hooks and put his legs in them. Don’t worry, they’re padded so that they won’t be poking him.” Azrik makes some minor adjustments to make sure that Groot is comfortable before buckling him in. “Comfy, Groot?” He asked as Groot squeaked his approval. “Okay, I’m about to lift you up, so don’t get scared.” Azrik told the teenager as he pushed the button that would lift him as he sat in his new ceiling lift. Groot tries his best to remain calm as he was lifted. “Good boy, Groot.” Azrik praised his young charge. “Good job.”

“Question, is it okay for his legs to hang like that?” Drax implored as he pointed towards Groot’s legs.

“Yes, it’s perfectly fine if his legs dangle like that. The only thing that you’ll have to watch out for is when you come around any corner, that his legs don’t hit the corner.” Azrik answered as he started to move Groot away from his bed. “You ready to go into the bathroom, Groot?” Azrik asked as Groot squeaked in response.

The Guardians followed Azrik as he guided Groot’s lift into the bathroom. The bathroom was immaculate. It resembled the Guardians’ main bathroom at home, but instead of it being rundown and in constant need of repairs, everything was brand new.

The bathroom had a few features that were key in making it accessible for Groot. The first thing that was noticeable was that the floors were completely tiled with a special rubber tile that was designed to be softer on Groot in case he fell. The lights were on a dimmer switch to adjust the brightness of the bathroom in the likelihood that if Groot wasn’t feeling good and had a sensitivity to lights, that the intensity of the lights wouldn’t bother the teenager. There was ambient sounds too in an effort to drown out any background noise that annoyed Groot and replaces the noise with something that was more calm and soothing to him. The sink had an extended bowl and the bottom of it was cut out so that when he’s either in his commode chair or his regular wheelchair for when he wasn’t getting a shower, he could just roll up underneath and easily reach the sink. But where the bottom was cut out, there wasn’t any pipes exposed to give it a more hygienic appearance and make it look classy too.

Along one wall there was a specially designed toilet that had a raised toilet seat and special cutouts to keep Groot secure while he was sitting on the toilet. Since Groot is unable to be potty trained because of his inability to control his bladder and sense when he needs to use the bathroom, he will probably need to be diapered for the rest of his life. Next to the toilet was an assistance button should Groot need to be helped in the bathroom.

“Alright, Groot, I’m going to bring you over to the changing table so that you can be ready for your shower.” Azrik stated as he pushed a button on the nearby wall and an adult-sized changing table unfolded automatically from the opposite wall. Azrik then brought Groot over to the table and laid him on top before bringing up the side guards and using the belt buckle to secure Groot to the table.

“Now, getting Groot ready for his bath entails the same steps as if you were getting a baby ready for a bath.” Azrik began. “You’ve got to take off their dirty clothes and throw them into the hamper first of all. Next, you have to take off Groot’s braces so that they don’t get wet.” Groot, surprisingly didn’t cry or flinch as this was done.

Azrik then got on a set of bright blue disposable gloves. Groot started to freak out because he knew what was coming next. Azrik turned to the Guardians. “This is his least favorite part. I know, Groot, I’m sorry.”

“What is he getting nervous about?” Mantis wondered.

“I have to take his diaper off and remove the catheter that he had on overnight.” Azrik answered as Groot continued to cry. “It’s extremely stressful and painful for him.” He then turned to Groot. “Groot, I’ll be quick and I’ll be sure to use the drape so that you don’t have to watch me, okay?”

None of these options quieted Groot’s fears and he continued his hysterics.

Mantis then looked at Rocket. “Crabby Puppy, do you-. Do you want me to calm Groot down?” She asked as Rocket just stood there, unsure of how to comfort his son.

Mantis took this as a sign and placed her hand on top of Groot’s head. “Calm.” She said in a trance-like voice.

It worked. Groot was calmer and he stopped crying immediately and let Azrik do his job. He showed the Guardians how to remove Groot’s catheter in preparation of him getting a shower. He then showed them how to clean Groot up after a diaper change. (It was no different than changing a baby’s diaper.)

It was then time to get Groot into his commode chair and into the specially designed roll-in shower. The only noticeable difference with the shower was that it had an extra large etched glass door and was completely flat and had enough room so that Azrik could turn Groot around in his commode chair without difficulty. The shower was also equipped with a handheld shower head that had at least ten different spray settings.

After Groot was done getting his shower, Azrik brought him out in his commode chair and got him into the ceiling lift to be brought back to the changing table. Groot started to freak out as soon as he saw the new catheter that was going to be inserted into him. Mantis then calms him down again and Azrik gets a fresh catheter and diaper on Groot without a fuss from him before getting him dressed for the day. 

Azrik then guided Groot’s lift over to where his wheelchair was parked and lowered him into it before getting him out of the sling and securing him into his wheelchair so that he could begin his day.

Chapter Text

Groot was dropped off at Calina’s office to begin his speech therapy session with her. This meant that the Guardians had a little free time with each other to talk and catch up with Rocket and how he was doing while he was separated from the other Guardians while he cared for Groot in his son’s recovery.

They decide to take a walk around the courtyard of the nursing home. It was warm and sunny with not too much humidity today.

“It’s beautiful outside today.” Mantis commented as they took their first steps outside in the fresh air.

“Well, after all of that rain that we’ve had last week, I think we deserve this nice weather.” Peter added.

The Guardians started to explore the courtyard. As they admired the beauty of the grounds, Rocket lingered back, something didn’t feel right.

Groot should be here. Groot should be outside with his family enjoying this magnificent weather. Instead, Groot was inside the nursing home, receiving the most advanced therapies that are available to anyone in the galaxy. Groot is making progress in learning how to use his voice synthesizer to communicate with those around him and he is now able to sit in his wheelchair for the entire day as well as starting to regain some basic motor functions in his arms and hands, but he had a long way to go if he was even remotely close to being fully able-bodied again. Rocket knows that he would rather have Groot able to come outside than to undergo hours and hours of intensive therapies, none of which were completely enjoyable or pain free for the teenager.

But Groot now hates the outside. Since the only time that he’s been outside was to go to the emergency care facility, he now only associates it with having to go there. As the first rays of the sunrise hits Rocket’s face and he shields his eyes, he wishes that Groot was here with him.

Peter is the first to notice Rocket’s body language as the raccoon walks towards one of the benches located in the middle of the courtyard that were arranged in a semi-circle surrounding a small water fountain.

“Rocket?” Peter motions for the others to follow him. “Everything okay?” He asks as he sits next to the raccoon.

Rocket tries to hide his emotions. “Yeah, Quill.” He stares down towards the ground. “Everything’s fine.”

Mantis knew Rocket was lying. “Everything is not fine.” She said as she detected his feelings. “He feels regret for Groot.” She added as she gets uncomfortably close to Rocket. “He wishes that Groot was out here to enjoy the outside with the rest of us.”

Rocket then broke down crying, possibly for the first time since Groot was on the verge of death. He wants his son to be able to explore the world around him instead of being stuck inside all the time. Even though Groot was in a wheelchair instead of bed, Rocket still felt like his son was confined. He felt that Groot’s fears of the outside world restricted his son’s freedom to explore everything that was around him. Rocket couldn’t take it anymore and stood up.

“Rocket-.” Peter called to the raccoon as he began to walk towards the door that led back into the facility. “Rocket, wait up! Listen!” But it was too late, as Rocket was already back inside the building and had closed the door behind him.

As the rest of the Guardians re-entered the building, Rocket was already halfway down the hallway on his way towards the therapy wing where Groot was finishing up his session.

Chapter Text

Rocket stood by the door to Calina’s office as he waited for Groot to be done with his speech therapy session. A few minutes later, Calina opened her door so that Rocket could step inside. The other Guardians followed behind him.

Groot was parked in his usual spot, with his desk tray removed. The teenager wasn’t happy, as he had a scowl on his face and was in a bad mood as he screamed. His Eye-Gaze talker was off of its stand on his wheelchair and set to the side of Calina’s desk.

Rocket couldn’t help but to try to calm his son down. “Aww, Groot.” He tries his best to soothe him. “What’s wrong, buddy?”

“We experienced a little bit of a problem with his talker.” Calina explained. “It started to emit a staticky sound and a loud buzz every time that Groot used it. I called the company and they offered to fix it for free.”

“How long will it take for them to fix it?” Rocket asks, knowing how much independence the talker gives Groot in expressing his thoughts.

“I told the representative on the phone about the technical difficulties and that the talker is Groot’s only means of communication with the people around him and told them how much confidence and freedom that it gives him and they said if I send it out today, it’ll only take a week, two weeks at the most for them to repair it and send it back.” Calina explains. “So in the meantime, Groot gets to take a little break from his speech therapy sessions.”

“Does Azrik know?” Rocket asked.

“Yes, he does know.” Calina answered as she placed Groot’s talker inside of its travel bag to prepare it to be shipped. “Even though he’s been busy with meetings all morning, I was able to get ahold of him in between and tell him of the situation.”

“Then how is he supposed to communicate in the meantime?” Rocket questioned.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t many options for Groot.” Calina replied. “We’ve already ruled out teaching him Xandarian Sign Language or having him use the electrolarynx, and since those two options didn’t work out for him, we settled on him using the Eye-Gaze device and that was the best option for him since he picked up on it immediately.”

“But how is Groot going to communicate with us?” Drax echoed Rocket’s question.

Calina then reached for Groot’s lap tray. It had a bunch of picture cards, as well as a red card with the word “No”, a yellow card with the word “Maybe”, and a green card with the word “Yes” on it taped to the underside of its surface. She then got up and placed it back on Groot’s wheelchair. Groot looked at her confused.

“Groot will have to communication via the pictures that are on his lap tray.” Calina stated as Groot looked upset. She then turned to the teen. “Groot, sweetie, it’s only for a short time until your talker gets fixed, okay?” Groot squeaked as he reached out for his talker as Calina zipped it up in its case. “I’m sorry, Groot, but we have to send your talker away in order to get it fixed.” She apologized to Groot as his eyes started to swell with tears, his only way of talking suddenly taken away from him. “Don’t cry, Groot. It’ll be okay.”

“So, until his talker is fixed, what is Azrik supposed to do with Groot until he can resume his speech therapy sessions?” Peter asked. 

“Azrik is going to be in meetings all this week in the mornings, so it’ll be up to you guys to find stuff for Groot to do. I’d suggest that since Groot is currently in the transitional program, that you take this opportunity to reconnect with him.” Calina suggests as the Guardians agree.

They then leave Calina’s office as she went to the Xandar Postal Service store to send Groot’s talker back to the manufacturer to get it repaired.

Just then, Azrik came out from the conference room to greet the Guardians. Groot was still upset over the situation with his talker.

“I know, Groot.” Azrik tries to comfort him. “But like Ms. Calina said it’s only going to be for a short time. Plus, you’re going to be busy with all of your activities and spending time with your family so much that you’ll have it back in no time and you’ll be chatting up a storm again. Hey, you have an hour before you go to physical therapy and I have one more meeting to attend to before I’m done with them for the day. How about for the next hour, you, Rocket, and the rest of your family go find something fun to do for the next hour, okay?”

The Guardians obliged and they left with Groot in tow. As they passed Groot’s room, the teenager was confused as to why he wasn’t going in his room as usual.

“Groot, don’t you want to go outside?” Rocket asks his son as Groot points to the red card. “C’mon, buddy, just for five minutes, then if you don’t like it, we can go do something else.” Groot thought about it before touching the green card.

The Guardians then proceeded to the automatic doors that led to the courtyard. As Rocket hit the button on the wall so that the doors could open up and Gamora could push Groot’s chair outside so that the teenager could get some fresh air for the first time since his accident.

Groot, however, didn’t like the outside. From the first few seconds that the sun shone on his face, Groot made his displeasure of being outside known.

“Groot, Groot.” Rocket said in an effort to get his son’s attention. When he finally got it, the caring father continued. “It’s okay, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Azrik said that in order for you to get closer to being sent home, you have to do some things that you might be scared of doing, but it’ll benefit you in the end.” Rocket then looks Groot in the eye. “Trust me, buddy. We want the best for you.” Groot then tries to cover the sun that was getting in his eyes. “Here, let me put on your sunglasses for you, Groot.” Rocket said as he placed Groot’s sunglasses on the teenager. “Better?” Rocket asked as Groot gave a content squeak.

The Guardians then began their leisurely stroll around the courtyard of the nursing home. Gamora pushing Groot as Rocket walked beside them. Slowly, Groot was beginning to enjoy being outside and any qualms he had quickly vanished by the time that they sat in the center of the courtyard on benches that surrounded a huge fountain.

“You like being outside, Groot?” Rocket asks his son as Groot stretches out his arm so that he could feel the water splash on him and coos in response. “That’s good.”

They spend the rest of the time sitting beside the fountain. Groot enjoys the change in his environment and is more engaging with his family than when he first began his recovery. The teenager is upset when they go back inside so that Groot could go to his therapy session, but Rocket promises that as soon as he was done, they’ll do another activity that Groot wants to do, whatever that might be.

Chapter Text

Azrik was just coming out of his latest meeting when he spotted the Guardians bringing Groot back inside.

“Hey, Groot!” Azrik greeted his young charge. “How’d you like going outside and getting some fresh air?” Groot pointed at the card that represented fun and tries to give his aide a thumbs-up. “That’s good. Are you ready to go to therapy now?” Groot pointed to the card that had someone nodding their head as they all went to the therapy wing.

When they met up with Groot’s therapists, Azrik talked to them for a while in private, and when they came out, they talked about what they discussed with Azrik.

“We want to change up Groot’s regimen.” Zeliek began. “Now, he’s doing fine with what he’s doing, don’t get us wrong, but he’s not progressing as fast enough as we would like him to be.”

“So, what does that mean?” Kraglin asked as he slurped some soup that he stole from the vending machine.

“We want to get Groot walking again, but his current therapy routine hasn’t shown much improvement in working towards that goal.” Miska explained. “So we have to change up his routine.”

“By changing his routine, what do you mean by that?” Rocket asked. “Like having him do a couple more exercises or something?”

“Yes, that’s one part of our plan. The other part involves us giving Groot therapeutic massages along his arms, legs, and back, as well as giving him some electronic impulses through electrodes that we’ll place on his arms, legs and back.” Qu’lo explained. “It won’t be easy on him, but it’s going to be his best chance of walking again.”

With that, they walked into a private room where a specially designed massage chair was set up. It looked like a normal chair, except that it could recline all the way back, whoever was sitting in it could have their legs up at the same time. It also was designed as a massage chair with additional cutout slits for the occupant’s arms, legs, and feet, as well as a special cradle to support the user’s neck. There was also a remote control to the side of the chair that had several preprogrammed massages and other settings, as well as features that enabled a more custom massage for people that needed special treatment.

Azrik pushed Groot past the massage chair to a specially-designed table. It was like the examination tables at the trauma center where he goes to get his checkups. It had the side rails in place to make sure that Groot didn’t accidentally fall out and hit the ground. It also had various belt buckles as an added safety precaution.

“Groot, we’re going to pick you up and place you on this table, okay?” Azrik informed Groot as he brought Groot’s chair close to the table and positioned it to where they could easily get the teenager on it without much effort. He then removed Groot’s lap tray from his chair and undid his various seat belts as he and Zeliek got ready to lift Groot. “On three. One, two, three.” Azrik counted down before he and Zeliek lifted Groot up in unison and got him on the table.

“Okay, Groot, we’re going to place these sensors on you to see if you can feel anything.” Miska told Groot as she placed the electrodes on Groot’s arms, legs, and back. “Alright, sweetie, you might feel a little pinch, but that’s okay, there’s nothing to worry about, it won’t hurt you at all.” She reassures the teen as the machine was turned on.

Over the next few minutes, the various muscles in Groot’s limbs and back were stimulated to see if they had any reflexes and/or movement. As each muscle was tested, Groot cried out in pain, even though he couldn’t feel the sensation of the shocks themselves, the feeling of the pinching was too much for him.

After just only five minutes, Groot’s therapists agreed that the teenager was in too much pain to continue on with the electric stimulation of his muscles.

“Alright, Groot.” Azrik soothed the teen as he turned off the machine and as he and Qu’lo began to take off the various electrodes off of Groot. “You did good.” He reassures Groot.

Qu’lo and Zeliek then carefully picked up Groot and placed him in the massage chair. Groot was tired of this current session and didn’t want to do anymore. But with some coaxing from Rocket, Groot settled down, albeit reluctantly, but after a couple of minutes, Groot was back to his usual joyful self.

“Groot, can we get you to straighten out your arms and legs a little bit more so that we can get them in the slits a little bit better?” Talia asks Groot as she gently straightens out each of his legs. “Relax, sweetie.” She encouraged the teen as he slowly lost the tension in his limbs and it became easier for his therapists to move his limbs to the correct positions that they would need to be at so that they could rest in the massage chair correctly. “Good job, Groot.” She praises him as she turned on the massage chair and it did the program that Talia specifically selected for Groot.

As the massage chair did its thing, Groot was almost lulled to sleep. It was that soothing to him. The only thing about the massage that Groot didn’t like was the rollers in the chair that pressed against his body as they moved up and down.

An hour later, Groot’s first session on the massage chair was over. After he was placed back in his wheelchair and the lap tray placed back on, Groot tried to lean on it, clearly exhausted from the massage treatment today, but couldn’t because of his chest harness that helped him sit upright in his chair.

“Groot, buddy?” Rocket tries to see why Groot was so tired all of a sudden. “Are you tired from the massage today?” He asks as Groot points to the green card that was taped to his lap table that signified yes. “Alright, let’s go back to your room so that you can take a little nap.” The raccoon was starting to sound like Azrik.

Azrik then bent down to get to Groot’s eye-level. “Hey, Groot? Do you want me to recline your chair so that you’ll be more comfortable as we go back to your room?” He inquires as Groot tapped the same green card and he tilts Groot’s chair back to the furthest angle.

“Is that better, sweetie?” Gamora asks Groot as the teenager gives her a thumbs up as Azrik pushes him out of the therapy wing as the other Guardians followed.

Chapter Text

As they were walking back to Groot’s room, the teenager was moaning in pain over how much his body ached because of the massage earlier.

“I know, Groot.” Azrik tries to console his patient. “But the more and more they get massaged, the easier it will be for you to move them. Perhaps one day, you could move them on your own again.”

When Azrik said those words, Rocket desperately wanted to smile. But he knew better. It was extremely unlikely that Groot could improve any more than what he was. When Groot first recieved his injury, his prognosis was grim, if he somehow made it through that fateful night, he was expected to remain in a vegetative state and never come out of the coma that he was in, being entirely dependent on machines to help him breathe, monitor his heartrate, and give him his nutrients, among other vital things. If Groot was still in this state, he wouldn’t have interacted with any member of his family for the rest of his life. Rocket would’ve felt that the best thing for his son would to move him to a palliative care home where he would be taken off of life support and allowed to die on his own.

But Groot was a fighter. Sure, the night that he got his brain injury, it wasn’t certain if Groot would even survive the life-saving 12 hour procedure that he needed as soon as he arrived at the emergency room. It was expected that after he failed the test that would determine how much brain function he had left and Rocket agreed to take him off of life support, that Groot would shortly die.

Groot defied the odds. After he was declared dead and moved down to the morgue to have an autopsy done, Rocket was given permission to go down to the morgue with his son and stay with him until the autopsy began in an effort to give closure to the raccoon and ease the insurmountable mourning process that the adoptive father was going through at the time. But amazingly, just before the autopsy was set to begin, Groot squeezed his father’s hand and to everyone’s surprise, he had a weak pulse, but he was still alive.

In the coming days and weeks, Groot vastly improved little by little until he was well enough to be moved from the emergency center to the nursing home. Unfortunately, the nurse that was assigned to Groot abused him until Rocket found out what was happening and had the nurse fired and Azrik took over caring for the teenager and Groot has been blossoming ever since. Now, they’re currently thinking about having Groot go home for a weekend on a trial basis to see how he would do.

As they entered Groot’s room and Azrik got him into his bed, Rocket couldn’t help but feel pride for raising Groot. Sure, when Groot became a teenager, he went through various phases, the most recent being the Emo Goth phase when he was trying to get into the gang of miscreants that would attempt to take his life after he refused to participate in their “Initiation Ceremony”.

Rocket was brought out of his reminiscence as Groot grunted and reached for the remote control that his father was holding. “Do you want to change the channel, son?” Rocket asked Groot repeated his actions. The raccoon obliged as Groot obtained the remote and changed the channel to Bob Ross. The teenager then yawned sleepily and Rocket placed a heavy blanket over his son to make him more comfortable. “Alright, you can take a nap.”

As soon as Rocket finished tucking Groot in for his nap, there was a knock on the door. Azrik opened it and in walked Calina, who was holding a laptop-sized black bag.

“Hey, Groot.” Calina greeted the teenager warmly as he yawned. “Tired, sweetie?” Groot grunted his displeasure of not having his nap yet. “Well, I’ve got some good news for you that I think will make you happy.”

“What’s the good news?” Mantis inquired as Calina grabbed the bag that she was carrying.

Calina unzipped the bag and took out its contents. “Groot, your talker is fixed now!” She announced as she mounted it to the stand next to Groot’s bed so that he could use it. “Go on, test it out.”

Groot moved his eyes so that the scanner on the talking device could translate his eye movements into words. “I’m tired, can I take my nap now, please?” Groot asked politely as he let out another yawn.

“Yes, Groot, we’ll get out of your room so that you can get some rest.” Azrik replied as he tucked Groot. “You have a big day tomorrow because you’re going to go for a checkup to see how you’re doing.” He added as he turned off the lamp before ushering the other Guardians out of Groot’s room and closing the door behind him. Calina left to help another patient enrolled in the speech therapy program.

“Yeah, I think we should be heading home too, Rocket.” Peter said as the raccoon looked at him. “We’ve been away from home for a while and the Nova Corps probably have a lot of missions for us to take on and-.”

Rocket raised up his hand. “No, no. I get it. You guys need to go to get us some well-deserved Units. I get it.”

Peter didn’t know if Rocket was upset. “Rocket, I’m-.” He began to apologize.

“Quill, I understand.” Rocket interrupted yet again. “Go home with the guys, kill some assholes, make the money. I’m fine with it.”

“You sure?” Peter asked yet again. This time, Rocket was shoving him towards the elevator.

“Yes!” Rocket reiterated as Peter joined the other Guardians in the elevator. “Bye, Star-Munch.” He waved goodbye to the humie as the elevator doors closed and he was left with the rest of the afternoon to do whatever he wanted before Groot woke up.

Chapter Text

Rocket woke up early the next day and arrived at the nursing home. Azrik successfully got Groot up and ready for the day. As soon as Rocket exited the elevator on Groot’s floor, Azrik could be seen pushing Groot in his wheelchair, which was tilted to make him more comfortable, out of the transitional housing unit and over to Rocket.

“Hey, Groot!” Rocket greeted his son as they approached the raccoon at the elevator. Groot was happy to see his dad and squealed in delight. “Where are you off to today?”

“Well, Groot has to go for his checkup today.” Azrik reminded Rocket as he pushed Groot closer to the elevator so that he could press the button to go down. “You can come along too if you want.”

“Of course.” Rocket replied as the elevator arrived and they went in. “Groot’s my son. I’d do anything for him.” The doors then closed and Azrik pushed Groot over to the inside panel so that he could push the button to the first floor.

After they reached the first floor, Azrik left Groot and Rocket near one of the many sitting areas in the lobby so that he could get the keys to the nursing home’s only accessible van. But he returned empty-handed.

“Where’s the keys?” Rocket asked.

“I’m sorry, but the van is currently out of service. It has an oil leak.” Azrik answered. “But I was able to call for a taxi that an accessible vehicle that we can take Groot in. It should be here in five minutes.” He added as they went outside to wait for the taxi.

Five minutes later, the taxi did come. The driver greeted them before opening up the side door and deploying a lift so that Groot could get on. Azrik backed Groot’s chair onto the lift and applied the brake. The driver then got out a remote control and made the lift go up until it was level with the floor of the van. Azrik then undid the brake to Groot’s wheelchair and the taxi driver positioned Groot in the space in the van that was cleared out for his chair. The driver reapplied the brake when Groot’s chair was situated correctly and he attached the restraints to the tie-down points that were built in to Groot’s chair. He tested the tautness of the straps by gently shaking the sides of Groot’s chair and tightening them until there was no give.

It was time to get Groot buckled into the van. He didn’t like the shoulder and lap seat belts that he had to wear in addition to all of the other buckles already on him, but with some coaxing from Rocket, Groot calmed down and allowed himself to be buckled in.

After a fifteen minute drive, they arrived at the emergency care facility. The taxi driver got Groot unbuckled and out of the van. Azrik then paid for the ride and he and Rocket brought Groot inside to the waiting room and signed him in for his appointment. They only had to wait five minutes before they were called back and escorted to an exam room.

“Hey, guys.” Cre’Nok greeted them warmly. He then looked at Groot who squeaked as he tried to wave his hand. “Hi, Groot.” He was pleased with how Groot looked compared to the last time he saw him. “Groot’s looking good. How long has he been out of the stretcher and in his wheelchair?”

“He started therapy the day after he came back to the nursing home and his therapists saw that he was doing so well with his exercises that they decided to reward him and he wanted to go on the swing that was in the room. They weren’t so sure that he could do it because he can’t sit up by himself without support, but they used some foam bolsters that we had laying around to help Groot sit up in the swing. We then saw that he showed no discomfort while sitting up and decided that he was ready for his chair.”

“We’re surprised by the improvement that he’s made since the last time we saw him.” Xalani stated as she took off Groot’s lap tray and undid his arm and foot straps. She then moved the footrests out of the way so that Groot’s legs were suspended.

“Yeah, who knows? Maybe Groot’ll be on the verge of walking by his next appointment.” Cre’Nok added as he stretches Groot’s arms and legs while he was still seated in his wheelchair. “His muscle tone has increased significantly and he has better control.”

Groot was starting to get bored and lets it be known by screeching. He didn’t like to be kept waiting and wanted to get this appointment done as fast as possible and go back to the nursing home.

“Alright, alright, Groot.” Cre’Nok said as Groot quieted down. “We’ll get started.”

“Hey, Groot.” Azrik caught Groot’s attention as Rocket grabbed the handlebars of Groot’s chair that was set to his height so that he could push his son. “How about you show Cre’Nok and Xalani what else you can do.”

Groot’s attitude changes as he lets out a more content squeak before he moved his eyes to activate his talker. “I can talk to everyone now.” He then looked at Rocket and Azrik as Xalani got his feet back into the footrests and strapped them down.

“Is he okay without the lap tray?” Xalani asks Azrik as he nodded. She then placed the tray in a corner. “Does he need his arms strapped down?”

“Not necessarily.” Azrik answered. “He’s much happier when he can move his arms without them being tied down. We only use the straps for when he’s being moved long distances so that his arms don’t get caught in the wheels.” He added as Xalani placed her hands on the handlebars of Groot’s chair as Cre’Nok opened the door for her.

“Where are you taking Groot?” a concerned Rocket asked as he stod up from his seat.

“Since Groot is no longer confined to a stretcher, we don’t need to weigh him in the sling anymore and can get his weight while he’s seated in his wheelchair.” Cre’Nok told Rocket as they walked down the hallway.

“But how are you gonna weigh Groot if he can’t stand up on his own?” Rocket questioned as they arrived at a small room and Azrik opened the door.

Inside the small room there was a couple of chairs up against one wall, while there was a desk with a small desktop computer set up against another wall. The wall opposite that one had a height chart hanging in the middle of it with a standing device set to the side should the patient be unable to stand on their own. In the middle of the room was a scale that had a small ramp and a platform large enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

“Okay, Groot.” Xalani tries to rouse Groot from his tiredness with no success. “We need to get your height and weight.” Groot groaned in response. “I know, but it’ll only take five minutes and then the rest of your appointment is easy.” She then turned to Azrik. “Has his therapists worked with him on standing up?”

“No, not yet.” Azrik replied. “His therapists just got him started on a new program and he is still on step one.”

“That’s okay.” Cre’Nok said as he got out a cloth tape measure. “We can get Groot’s height this way too.” He measured Groot’s height and saw that he was still six feet tall.

“Alright, Groot, now it’s time for the next part.” Xalani nodded as she brought over a portable patient lift that was next to the standing device and began to unbuckle Groot from his chair. “But he will need to be in the sling for a minute so that we can weigh his wheelchair separately so that we can subtract that number from the total number so that we can get Groot’s official weight.” She explained as she got Groot into the sling and lifted him up. Once he was securely in the sling and out of his wheelchair, Xalani moved his chair up onto the scale and recorded the weight. “100 pounds.” She read from the display as she brought Groot’s chair underneath him and carefully lowered the sling that the teenager was in until Groot was back in his chair and buckled in. Xalani then pushed Groot up onto the platform of the scale. It took a couple of seconds to record his weight, but it came up on the display. “225 pounds, total. So that would mean that Groot now weighs 125 pounds.”

This pleased Rocket. Groot was continuing to regain the weight that he had lost. “Does, does this mean that he can have his feeding tube out today?” The raccoon asked eagerly.

“No, Rocket.” Cre’Nok answered as he placed a hand on the raccoon’s shoulder. “We want Groot to be at 150 pounds before we remove his tube. But by the Groot steadily regaining the weight like he has, he might be eligible for it to be removed by his next checkup. But not today, sadly.” He explained as they took Groot to one of the ultrasound rooms.

Once Azrik and Cre’Nok got Groot out of his chair and onto the table, Xalani brought over the ultrasound machine and began to press the wand against Groot’s belly.

Xalani, Cre’Nok, and Azrik were amazed by what they saw on the screen. They turn the screen around so Rocket could get a better look.

Rocket was perplexed by what he was looking at. “What is this?” He questioned.

“Groot’s stomach has stopped consuming the organs around it and has been only consuming the formula that he gets through his feeding tube.” Cre’Nok explained. “That’s why he’s so upbeat today. He is getting the nutrients back so that he can get the energy that he needs instead of his stomach consuming everything around it and making him so underweight and malnourished. Look even the color in his eyes and skin is starting to return.”

Rocket then looked at his son. Groot’s skin was starting to turn to a healthy tone and the bark wasn’t so brittle and delicate. Rocket couldn’t even see or feel every single bone in Groot’s body and the teenager didn’t look like he was a skeleton.

When they were finished with ultrasounding Groot’s stomach, they got him back into his wheelchair and took him down to the X-Ray room to get a look at his neck and his head. After they laid him on the table, Groot started to get a little bit scared.

“Groot, buddy.” Rocket rushed to Groot’s side in order to comfort him. “Do you want me in here with you?” Groot squeaked his approval in response as Xalani handed the raccoon the all-too-familiar child-size rocket ship lead vest that protected him from the radiation that the machine gave off.

“Groot, I have a surprise for you too!” Xalani cheerfully told the teenager as she placed a larger lead vest over top of him. It had the same rocket ship design on it. “There! Now you two are matching!” She declared as she placed an empty film in the machine before she left the room to take the X-Ray.

Groot then reached up and pointed at his father’s chest. “I know, Groot.” Rocket said as he gently stroked Groot’s cheek before he held his son’s hand and gently placed it back down by his side.

Groot then grunted and repeated the motion, tapping harder on the vest that his father wore before tapping on his own vest.

Rocket then realized what Groot is trying to say to him. “My, my name, Groot?” Rocket knelt down to his son as he held his hand. “You want to hear the story about how I got my name?”

Rocket told Groot of how he was bestowed his name by the Original Groot shortly after they escaped Halfworld once before when the teenager was a toddler, but since Groot’s accident, he probably lost the memory of how the story went, but Rocket didn’t mind telling it to him again. Rocket watched as Groot’s expressions changed as he told the story to his son.

After Groot’s X-Rays we’re finished, he was taken down to the scanning room to see how much his skull had healed. Groot wasn’t frightened as he was placed on the table and brought into the scanner, which made the process the fastest yet.

Azrik, Xalani, and Cre’Nok went into a room as soon as the scans were in to discuss what was next for Groot. As Rocket was left alone with Groot, the father talked to his son.

“Hey, Groot?” Rocket softly spoke to the teenager as Groot acknowledged him by squeaking. “No matter what happens, I’m proud of you and I love you, son.” He told Groot as he placed a hand on the teen’s cheek before he kissed his son on the forehead.

The door opened and in walked Cre’Nok, Azrik, and Xalani. They were carrying Groot’s results from his X-Rays and brain scan. Rocket looked at their faces to see if the news was good for Groot. They smiled at him.

“Rocket, we have good news for Groot.” Azrik said as Groot was more alert. “He no longer needs to wear the neck brace and he’s going to get the halo around his head removed today.” 

Rocket didn’t know what to say as he just stood there by his son as Groot cheered with happiness. “How-. How soon can this happen?” Was all that he could say.

“There is a procedure room available right now, but it’ll be unavailable soon if we don’t move fast. Meaning Groot would have to go in by himself and we can’t sedate him out here because of the time constraint.” Cre’Nok informed Rocket. “Otherwise, we would have to wait until tonight and Groot would have to spend the night here.”

Rocket thought about it for a moment. “Alright. If you can get him in right now, then do it.” He agreed as he turned to his son. “Groot, I’ll be up to see you when you’re all done.”

Groot tried to wave to his father as Xalani got behind him and began to push him down to the preparation room that adjoined the procedure room in order to get him ready as Cre’Nok and Azrik followed suit and Rocket walked to the waiting room.