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A New Normal

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“I am Groot.”

Steve nods, despite having no idea what the tree-teen is saying. “Do you think you could repeat that with sign language, Groot? I’m still learning here, sorry.”

Groot huffs in annoyance, but uses his hands to sign I’m bored.

“Ah, okay.” Steve makes sure to sign as he talks; Groot is still learning ASL, and he’ll learn faster if everyone around him uses it, too. Besides, he doesn’t want to make Groot feel singled out, like it’s his fault nobody except the Guardians speaks his language. “Do you wanna draw with me?”

“I am Groot!” Yes. Paint.

Steve smiles. “I’ll get my supplies.”


When Rocket and Bucky return an hour later, Steve and Groot are both absorbed in their artwork. Groot is splattering paint enthusiastically across the heavy-duty watercolor paper on his easel, splashes and lines of color with no apparent pattern to them. A few feet away, Steve is drawing in his sketchbook, tongue between his teeth as he attempts to capture the Flora Colossus’s profile.

“We got those kidney-looking fruit things,” Rocket announces, holding up a shopping bag to demonstrate. “There were a ton of ‘em at the market.”

“Mangoes,” corrects Bucky. “And you’re not allowed to eat them all at one time, I’m gonna make lassi and I need at least six for that.”

This, Steve knows, is aimed at Groot, who has a habit of emptying the fruit bowl in the kitchen whenever the others’ backs are turned. None of them really mind, but it does mean a lot of extra shopping.

“I’ll try not to go overboard,” he says drily, and is rewarded with Bucky’s smirk.

“Yeah, you watch yourself, pal.”

Groot waves his paintbrush excitedly. “I am Groot!”

“Really?” Rocket asks, making his way over. “You wanna show me?”

“I am Groot! I am Groot!”

“Oh, yeah, I see! That’s great, buddy. And that—what’s that color called?”

“I am Groot!”

“Yeah, that’s real pretty.”

Bucky abandons the groceries in favor of draping himself over Steve’s back, hooking his chin over Steve’s shoulder. “Whatcha’ doin, Stevie?”

Steve leans back so he can kiss his cheek. “Just drawing.”

“That supposed to be Groot?”

“What d’you mean, ‘supposed to be’?” Steve demands in mock indignation. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“I dunno, Steve,” says Bucky gravely. “Looks like a tree with a paintbrush, to me.”

Steve swats at him, and he yelps and tumbles into the grass beside him.

“Okay, okay, it looks just like him, jeez!”

“That’s what you get for maligning my art skills, you jerk.” He looks up, to where Rocket is still admiring Groot’s painting, nodding attentively as the teenager talks.

Watching the two of them, he can only be profoundly grateful for the second chances they’ve all been granted—the opportunity to settle here, to become a family. It’s not what he ever would have imagined—living in Wakanda with Rocket, Groot, Gamora, and Peter, Sam next-door, the other Avengers and Guardians constantly dropping in—but it feels right, it feels good, to share his life with these extraordinary people. He’d told Tony, once, that the guy who wanted a home and family died in the ice. Now, he knows that’s not true.

We’re okay, he thinks wonderingly, not for the first time. We’re all okay.

“You’re thinking too hard, Stevie,” Bucky murmurs in his ear. “Gonna hurt yourself, if you keep up like that.”

Steve laughs, surprised, as he often is these days, at how easily it comes. “Just thinking how lucky I am, is all.”

“Don’t I know it.” Bucky smiles at him, bright, unshadowed, and holds out a hand. “Come on, let’s get those mangoes undercover before Groot eats them all.”

He lets himself be pulled to his feet, gathers up the abandoned groceries, and follows Bucky into the house.