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time is the ocean, or a grain of sand

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Sunlight barges through wide windows at the end of the hall. Rocket's eyes are crusty and swollen from tears and lack of sleep. He scrubs an aggravated hand across his face. This damn building is too bright.

The Avengers facility makes Rocket feel small. Lots of places do, but they built this one with stuff much bigger than Rocket in mind. Bigger, even, than Steve Rogers, who crosses his path with a weary half-smile.

Rocket wishes he didn’t notice how bad the others are doing. He has too many problems of his own to pay attention to the tension in Rogers’ shoulders. Or how Natasha marches past, only the chance of finding Thanos keeping her upright. Rocket shouldn't give a crap about them, but panic itches in his chest. Rocket has to give a crap about someone, right? If not, what does he have left?

Rocket shrugs and mumbles a half-hearted, “Cap.” He’s fallen into the routine of calling the guy by his title. It’s what Thor calls Rogers too. These are Thor’s friends, after all.

Rocket's hands are shaking, but Rogers only nods and continues on his way. Rocket’s opinion of the guy shoots higher.

The scientist Bruce trudges by next with a half-asleep, “Morning…”

The guy with the fancy leg braces follows. “What’s up, raccoon,” Rhodes greets tiredly. Rocket hasn’t thought once about swiping one of those braces. It would have seemed funny a few days ago. Lots of things would have seemed funny before the universe went to shit.

The crew is heading to the facility’s command center. It's the part of the Avengers compound with the scanners and the comms. So far, the readouts haven’t been promising. Something’s up with Terra, the energy readings from the planet are off the charts. From Thanos using the stones, no doubt. Killing off trillions will do a lot to fuck up a world’s balance.

Rocket should go with them, but he finds himself heading to Thor’s room instead. Ever since the Event, Rocket has been in orbit around Thor like a planet. Keeping close, but not too close.

Thor became too much to Rocket too fast. He was supposed to be a way to stay away from Thanos at first, that's it. But Thor turned into a friend faster than Rocket thought possible. A partner in arms. Someone Rocket respects.

Now, Thor is all Rocket has left. How does a guy go from convenient stranger to the center of the universe in a matter of days? Rocket doesn’t like how he feels with Thor. It's like he's sliced wide open and exposed. But Rocket can’t keep away from him either.

Speaking of, here he comes, cutting through the sun's glare from the other end of the hall.

It’s jarring to see Thor in a Terran t-shirt and sweats. The dark circles under Thor's eyes speak to sleepless nights of his own. His face is set with determination, as is Stormbreaker on his shoulder.

When Thor sees Rocket, he cracks a smile. It’s not a lot, but Rocket is proud of himself. Very little makes them smile these days. Rocket will take any signs of good he can get.

“Where’s the fight?” Rocket asks, glancing at Stormbreaker. The axe is as impressive as it was when Rocket first saw it forged on Nidavellir. The hilt's familiar wood looks woven to fit Thor’s fingers. Sorrow sags in Rocket’s chest. He tries to keep it from showing on his face.

“Training,” Thor says. He looks past Rocket towards the command room where his friends are already hard at work. “I need to get out of here."

Thor is pissed. They all are, but Thor is angriest of all. Rocket can almost taste the insane power that lurks under the guy’s fingertips. “You want company?” Rocket asks.

“I’m in a grave mood, Rabbit,” Thor says. “I’m afraid I would not make a suitable partner.”

“Who said anything about a partner?” Rocket asks. “You do you, I’ll shoot some shit. I’ve got to get out of here too, man, I’m losing my mind.”

Thor nods and, to Rocket’s surprise, offers a hand. Rocket meets blue and gold eyes, the fake one somehow as vibrant as the real. Rocket shrugs and climbs Thor’s outstretched arm, settling next to Stormbreaker. The axe's handle is perfection, not a single splinter on it.

Groot did this. Young as he was, face stuck in that stupid game. Rocket scrubs his eyes with angry fingers. They come away wet.

“I’m sorry,” Thor says. His swallow makes a short, painful sound. “Your weapons are in your chambers?”

“Yeah,” Rocket says.

Without a word, Thor starts in the direction of Rocket's room. His shoulder under Rocket feels like stone.

***

He doesn’t come right away. But what good is keeping track of time anymore? Time is stupid.

Like, there was a time when Quill used to get on Rocket’s nerves. Or when Rocket thought Drax was dumb as a box of rocks. The chick with the antenna was weird. Gamora always tried to act so tough. Groot could be a sapling pain in the ass. Useless. Rocket would give anything to have them back now.

The thought of his crew croaking first never once crossed Rocket's mind before the Event. Rocket's short lifespan used to make him happy. He may have been made as a furry freak, but at least he wouldn’t have to live as one for long. Now, Rocket is here but they're all gone. It's not right.

He doesn’t come right away. Rocket gets to take his anger out on rocks and flowers and stuff. Thor, by his side, turns tree stumps to ash. Lightning scales Thor’s arms like static snakes. Its power skims his chest and curls around his tension-thick neck. Rocket’s mouth goes dry.

They set up far from the compound so their companions wouldn't complain about the noise. Between trees and open sun, Thor never breaks a sweat. Rocket can’t remember talking about anything. He can’t remember it feeling weird either, enjoying Thor's company in silence.

Thanos doesn't come right away, but he does come. The Titan arrives in a cloud of gray smoke, like he’s built a portal out of the lives he stole. He’s got the glove on, its Nidavellir gold cracked and burned to a crisp.

His eyes fall on Thor, not a twitch of emotion in his face. “I’ll be taking that,” he says of Stormbreaker, “for safekeeping.”

Thunder crashes overhead, and the atmosphere charges with energy. “He’s here,” Rocket hisses into his headset. “Does anyone copy? Thanos is freaking here.” They won’t arrive in time.

The fight is too fast for Rocket’s eyes. A blur of limbs and light. The sickening crack of fists hitting bone. Metal clanking off metal. An animal scream of rage.

Then, everything turns slow-motion. Thor’s body flies back. The rock waits at the perfect angle to snap against his spine. Stormbreaker slips from bloody fingers. Thor’s hair grows wet and red. His good eye, cloudy, slides sleepily in the direction of his advancing foe.

Rocket moves on instinct. He runs as fast as his legs will take him and cocks his blaster. Rocket is not thinking. If he was, he’d laugh at himself. Look at this idiot, tall as Thanos’ knee, standing between him and Thor.

He aims his rifle and glares. “Fuck you,” Rocket snarls. When he fires, he thinks of Groot.

Thanos doesn’t have to use the stones on Rocket. He could crush Rocket with his bare hands. Thanos chooses to use the stones because he’s a dick. He blocks Rocket's blaster fire like nothing and aims the power stone. When Thanos flicks his wrist, it's like he's dismissing an insect.

Rocket’s body explodes in a flare of light. Energy echoes off every screw and bolt in his body. He doesn’t even manage a badass scream. When Rocket lands with a whimper, his body is in weird angles. Pain explodes through his back and blares like warning sirens behind his eyes.

Things get cold and dark. Weird, like the sun isn’t out anymore. Rocket hears his own breaths rattling in his ears. They sound wet and gross.

“Rabbit?” Thor’s voice sounds like it’s coming out of a tin can. “Rabbit - oh god, Rabbit, Rabbit no.”

Rocket squints at Thor. He looks like shit, bloody and swollen. But Thor is alive, that’s the important thing. Thor is alive, which means someone Rocket cares about will outlive him. Hey, that’s something.

Shit. This is it, isn’t it?

Rocket’s brain is too bloated to figure out the right thing to say. He's always known he didn't have much life in him, so he’s spent time thinking about awesome things to say at the end. “Avenge me, motherfucker,” used to be one of them. Doesn't have the same ring to it anymore.

Rocket teeters between feeling everything and nothing. He chokes on the taste of his own blood. “Run,” Rocket sputters to Thor, “you idiot.”

“Rabbit!” Thor looks like he’s trying to shout, but everything comes out muffled. Rocket's own breaths, loud seconds ago, become background whispers.

“Rabbit, please,” Thor mouths, but Rocket can’t hear him.

Then, Rocket can’t see him. Then, Rocket can’t do anything.

***

“Cap,” Rocket mumbles, yawning and stretching as Rogers passes.

Rocket may look loose, but he's on edge. Rocket doesn’t belong with these Terrans who have known each other for years. But if he doesn’t belong here, where should he go? Groot’s gone, and his crew isn’t answering their comms. Maybe the Benatar is dead, a fuelless junk pile floating through space. Or maybe…

“Morning,” the scientist Bruce slurs as he stumbles after Rogers.

The dude with the fancy leg braces follows. He offers a tired, “What’s up, raccoon?” Rocket doesn’t have it in him to give Rhodes hell for the error.

Rocket should follow them. As many people as Thanos offed, there are trillions of others in as bad a way as Terra. Rocket should step up like this hero outfit he’s found himself stuck with. They all have problems, but they’re trying to do something good. Rocket respects them, and he wants to help. But he still finds his feet taking him in the direction of Thor’s room.

Turns out, Rocket doesn’t have to search for long. Thor's shadow blocks the glare from the hallway windows. Rocket may never get used to the sight of Thor in Terran clothes. His gray t-shirt fits trim to his chest, and his sweatpants are a hell of a change from his armor. Stormbreaker rests across his shoulder. Big as Thor is, the blade still hangs halfway down his back.

“Where’s the fight?” Rocket asks.

Thor’s face does something weird. Its grimness breaks with a slight widening of eyes. “Nowhere,” Thor says. “Training.”

Briskly, he closes their distance, and passes it. Rocket spies white knuckles around the weapon’s hilt. Pain clenches in Rocket's chest. “You uh,” Rocket spins to stare at Thor's back, “you want company?”

“No.” Thor does not look at him, but he does stop. Rocket catches the scent of burning on the air. It’s like the guy has already been training for hours.

Rocket gets being pissed, he does. Everyone is mad, but Thor is on a whole other level. Thor feels like he failed...which he did. But there’s plenty of failure to go around.

Rocket clears his throat. “I didn’t mean - we don’t have to train together. You do you, I’ll find shit to shoot. I get it, man. I need to get out of here too-”

“I wish to be alone, Rabbit.” Thor turns enough for Rocket to see the humorless set of his jaw. His gold eye flicks towards Rocket. “Please.” Thor continues down the hall without waiting for a response.

If Thor played his hand differently, Rocket may have let him go. Brushed Thor off with a snort and muttered, “Whatever, asshole,” at his back.

But the look on Thor’s face gives Rocket pause. As does that uncharacteristic, small ‘please.’ Rocket gets wanting to be alone. They all do. But this feels different. It's like something is wrong? Nerves crawl up Rocket's spine.

The concern is stupid. Half the universe is dead, how much worse can things get?

“Jerk,” Rocket mumbles, trailing after Thor. But first, he stops in his room for his favorite blaster.

***

The weather takes a turn for the worst by the time Rocket catches up. The sun disappears behind stew-thick storm clouds. A warm spring day descends into cold, whipping winds.

Shivering, Rocket wraps arms around himself. “What the hell?” he grumbles. Terran weather is weird, but this takes the cake.

A bolt of lightning cuts through the trees, and Rocket’s heart leaps into his chest. Training, he tells himself. A pirate angel like Thor doesn’t work out by kicking at the air like a moron. Thor is pissed, and he’s letting it out god-style.

Only, the air tastes wrong. It’s heavy with tension, and a shiver rolls down Rocket’s spine. Maybe Thor isn’t in control, or he’s...nah, what trouble could Thor be in? Who’s left in this screwed up universe to stir up trouble?

Rocket picks up his pace, huffing through his small mouth. He scrambles over fallen branches and kicks his way through early spring grass.

Rocket arrives in time to hear the crack of Thor’s spine against rock. Thor is a mess, shirt torn and face swollen. Rocket makes out ugly blue bruising on Thor’s ribs. His lips are red, and when he coughs a disheartening amount of blood trickles into his beard. He strains a hand for his axe buried in the forest brush. Stormbreaker twitches off the ground, then lands again with an weighty thud.

A great, terrible figure looms in the shadows. Rocket knows the silhouette, and his blood turns to ice.

Thor’s flickering power reflects off Thanos’ helmet. The ruined gauntlet is warped to Thanos' hand. From each cracked knuckle comes the glow of an infinity stone.

“Shit,” Rocket gasps. He crosses the brush, whipping his rifle off his shoulder. “Get the fuck out!” he shouts.

Maybe someone at the compound will hear the commotion through Rocket’s comm. They probably won't get here in time for Rocket, but they can get here in time for Thor. Absolutely. They'll make it for Thor!

But not for Rocket. Shit happens, right?

Rocket gets off two shots. They don’t do anything to Thanos, and he doesn’t expect them to. But they make Rocket feel better. Thor can take the heat of a goddamn star to the back. Imagine if Rocket couldn’t manage a few lousy blaster shots against Thanos?

The pain of the power stone is incredible. It should feel familiar after what Rocket went through on Xandar. But that was different, that was… Rocket had Quill with him, Gamora, and Drax. They faced the power stone together, hands locked, win or lose. They were a team, a ragtag bunch of a-holes, and they would live or die together.

They all lived that time. Picture-perfect happy ending. It isn’t right that they’re dead now and Rocket is still breathing. Really, Rocket is setting stuff right by croaking now, isn't he?

Rocket wishes Thor would stop crying. He looks stupid when he cries, squinty-faced and distraught. Rocket wants to remember Thor rising on Nidavellir, burns evaporating from his skin like rain on a hot day. Blue flame in Thor’s eyes, real and fake. God, he looked hot. Thor was power itself. He was unbreakable, unstoppable!

Now Thor is crying like an idiot. “Don’t,” Thor whispers. “Please.”

Rocket should joke that Thor didn’t ask nicely enough. He would stick around this miserable life if Thor said pretty please. Or offered up cash from whatever’s left of his royal horde. Weapons. God-booze.

Rocket smiles, but things get faint and weird. Rocket feels dizzy, then he doesn’t. Everything turns dark and calm and nice.

Rocket wonders if Thor finds the joke funny. Or maybe Rocket doesn’t manage to tell it at all.

***

Rocket yawns and stretches. His body aches from yet another fitful sleep, but it’s better to be up than alone in his room. He doesn’t know what to do. But anything has to be better than listening to himself breathe and thinking about trillions who can’t anymore.

“Morning,” Bruce mutters as he wanders past. May as well be a zombie the way he’s shuffling. But hey, he’s up. Like Cap, and Natasha, and the guy with the fancy leg braces who calls Rocket a raccoon as he passes. They all look like shit, but they’re up.

Thor is no exception. His presence is like a dark cloud blotting out the squint-inducing sun. Thor is in a mood, Rocket can tell on sight. Thor has been in a mood since ‘it’ happened. The guy is pissed. They all are, but Thor seems to be taking it hardest. Every day his anger seems to chip away at him a bit more.

Thor’s nostrils flare with barely contained rage. He snarls, holding Stormbreaker in a white-knuckled grip. Rocket’s eyes linger on the hilt, familiar wood knotted perfectly for Thor’s fist. Groot did that. He was a hero on Nidavellir. All Rocket could do was pat uselessly at sparks of starfire sputtering on Thor’s clothes.

Thor stalks down the hall, and if Rocket had any sense of self-preservation he would duck for cover. But self-preservation isn’t worth shit these days, and Rocket is too busy gawking. Thor’s t-shirt molds to his chest like a dream, and his sweatpants sit low on his hips.

Rocket’s mouth goes dry. It’s not the right time for this; there will never be a right time at this rate. But Thor’s anger stirs good feelings in Rocket. He’s marching with a purpose, and Rocket wants in, even if that purpose is diving off a bridge.

“Where’s the fight?” Rocket asks.

Thor passes Rocket as if Rocket has not said a word.

Frowning, Rocket follows. “Hey, Thunder,” he hails, “what gives?”

“Training,” Thor says - growls actually, in a dark tone that says he should not be pressed.

Too bad Rocket sucks at respecting other people’s wishes. “Cool,” he says. “I’m game. Where you headed?”

“Don’t.” The word bites, chopped off on the ‘t.’ Thor does not stop moving. “Leave me alone,” he says.

Before Rocket can react with an appropriate flurry of curses, Thor is gone. “Dick!” Rocket shouts at the empty space where Thor stood a second ago.

Does Thor think he’s the only one losing his mind in this hell hole? Whose family died? Whose friends died? Thor is the only one pissed off with no outlet for the shit going on inside? Rocket could tear this whole building to pieces if he let himself! His eyes are sticky with lack of sleep, and his chest burns with anger, confusion, and now hurt.

Fuck Thor. Rocket can take being brushed off by anyone else in this place, but not him. Thor should know that. Rocket is going to give the bastard a piece of his mind. But first, he’s stopping at his room for his blaster - the big one.

It won’t do a thing to Thor, but firing a few rounds will make Rocket feel better. Maybe he’ll zap Thor in the ass. Remind him that all they have left in the universe is in this building, and he should be less of a grabsack about it.

***

“If this is a trick…” Rocket freezes. He knows this voice.

Rocket is losing his mind, clearly, and for good reason. Lack of sleep blurs his way through the woods. A few tears too, not that those matter. Rocket cries every day now. They all do. And that’s without being blown off like some gnat. Freaking Thor.

Rocket cocks his blaster and treads slowly.

“No trick,” comes the response - is that Thor? An uneasy feeling churns in Rocket's gut.

Other than the two voices, this part of the wood is quiet. On his trek, Rocket encountered the usual forest dwellers. Birds, squirrels, and the like. A gentle breeze made the sun cascade between branches like fragmented glass. But in this spot, Rocket can't detect any other animal life. The sun still shines overhead, but cold settles deep in Rocket’s bones.

Rocket steps out into the clearing. It's - fuck, it’s Thanos, he’s here. The Titan looms larger than life itself, glaring from behind his gold-plated helmet. The gauntlet is still on his left hand. Its fingers are charred and splintered, but the stones remain intact. One adorns each knuckle, and the last sits on the back of the hand.

Thanos aims the gauntlet at Thor on his knees. A few feet in front of Thor, Stormbreaker lies unguarded, set before Thanos like some kind of gift. Rocket’s eyes nearly bug out of his skull.

Before Rocket can think, he’s talking. “What are you doing?” Thor twists to look at him, but Rocket can't make himself shut up. “What the fuck are you doing? Pick your shit up now!”

“You shouldn’t be here,” Thor says. His face drains of color, save blue and gold eyes that seem unsure of where to settle. “I thought - I thought if I - why are you here?”

He’s cracked. Thanos is here, and Thor has completely lost it.

“Damn it,” Rocket hisses. He cocks his blaster at the murderer of the universe.

Thanos returns his gaze with low-lidded boredom. Casually, he swings the gauntlet in Rocket’s direction. Rocket’s heart drops to his feet. “Run, you moron,” he barks at Thor.

It’s like every limb tears from its socket at once. Rocket’s windpipe cracks, and his heart pumps out of control. He shrivels in the young grass, steam rising from his monster body. His bloody tongue lolls out of his mouth.

Pain rattles through Rocket's bones when Thor hoists him gingerly. Thor looks stupid with tears running down his face. “You’re not supposed to be here,” Thor whispers. The words are hard to decipher, as hard as Thor's voice is shaking.

Rocket could say so many things. “How could you?” is what his mouth manages.

Then, everything goes dark.

***

“What’s up, raccoon?”

Rocket bares teeth on instinct, but his anger deflates when Rhodes smiles. Hard to blame humies for getting Rocket all wrong.

The Terrans are talking to Rocket at least, not treating him like a furry freak. They have every right to ignore him with everything they’ve been through. But all it took was a quick vouch from Thor. Ever since, Thor's buddies have treated Rocket like he’s part of the gang. End of the universe. What a party.

Rocket should follow Rhodes to the command center. The Terrans have proven good at adapting to galactic frequencies and scanning. But, through no fault of their own, they’re novices next to Rocket. Rocket may be the odd one out in this bunch, but at least he’s proven useful in the days since the Snap. He’s had stuff to keep him busy; scanners to configure, reads to review. The work forces Rocket to focus on stuff besides the empty place Groot used to fill by his side.

Rocket finds himself looking for Thor, but he does not need to. The squint-inducing sunlight cuts out behind a familiar shadow wearing unfamiliar clothing. It’s been days, but Rocket still hasn’t gotten used to seeing Thor in Terran garb. Today, he’s opted for a gray t-shirt and black sweats. Rocket wonders if Thor slept in the same clothes, they have an effortlessly rumpled look to them.

The guy is clearly having as little success with the whole sleep thing as Rocket. Thor’s eyes are red and swollen, like he’s spent a good chunk of the night in tears. Streaks of pink warm Thor’s cheeks, and Rocket catches a faint burning scent in the air.

The vulnerability on Thor’s face is a vast contrast to Stormbreaker on his shoulder. Massive as Thor is, the axe blade still stretches halfway down his back. The wooden hilt is against his collar, and Rocket swallows a lump in his throat. Groot did that. His Groot.

“Where’s the fight?” Rocket asks.

“What? Oh.” An unsteady smile fights its way to Thor's lips. “No fight. There’s - I thought I would - I would train a bit. I need some fresh air, I,” his laughs stumbles unsteadily off his tongue, “I need to breathe. I think. I’m not sure.”

A tangle of emotions knot in Rocket’s gut. He’s worried for Thor, and mad at him. No one else is letting themselves break like Thor now. Why does Thor get to? And why does he think he can do it in front of Rocket, who’s one thread away from snapping too?

“You, uh, want company?” Rocket asks. “You do you, I’ll shoot shit. Fun times.”

“No, I.” Thor releases a slow breath. “Forgive me, sweet Rabbit. I - I’d like to be alone. For a little while. I’m sorry, I,” His voice chokes off. “I’m sorry,” he repeats, quieter. “I’m quite tired.”

It’s the restraint in Thor’s voice that soothes Rocket’s anger. The excuse for his tears is a load of BS, but Rocket can relate to Thor’s attempt to put on a brave face.

“Ain’t we all?” Rocket says. When Thor glances his way, Rocket puts on a smile to show the big guy that he gets it. It’s ok to slip sometimes. Thor is trying to keep it together, that’s what matters. Rocket is trying to do the same thing.

“Yes,” Thor says, “I suppose we are.” He stops before Rocket, gazing down. Then, he sinks to his knees.

“You ok?” Rocket starts to ask, but he goes mute when Thor’s mouth touches the top of his head. It’s a barely-there kiss with a slow, shaking exhale.

“Thor?” Rocket tries to catch Thor's gaze, but his eyes are closed.

“Thank you,” Thor says, rising to his feet.

Bewildered, Rocket stares up at him. “What for?”

Thor replies, “For your friendship through all this. I’m not sure,” he laughs again, emotion straining the sound, “I’m not sure I’m worthy of you, but I’d like to be.”

Rocket’s mouth moves a few times before he manages sound. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?” Besides everything, duh.

But there is something wrong. It worms through Rocket’s gut and makes his own eyes ache with tears. How does he have enough juice left in him to cry after the past few days?

Thor scrubs away fresh wet lines on his face. “I’m tired, that’s all. My eyes are weak, I,” he takes a deep breath. “Some fresh air will do me good.” He smiles down at Rocket, and it feels genuine, if sad. “This will all be over soon, my friend. I swear it.” With a parting nod, he continues on, Stormbreaker bobbing against his shoulder.

Rocket lingers in the hallway. His fur still feels warm where Thor kissed him. “Asshole,” Rocket grumbles. A pang of longing throbs in his chest, but he stamps it out quickly. Feelings don’t matter in this new reality Thanos created.

Thor didn’t even mean anything by the gesture. He's clearly out of his head, on no sleep with too much emotion for even a god-heart to handle. They’re all pissed, no doubt about it. But Thor is taking this harder than the rest. He’s the one who had the best shot at Thanos. He made it his mission to kill the Titan after Thanos murdered his brother, his best friend, and his people. Thor is the strongest out of their whole crew. If anyone had the chance to take Thanos down, it was Thor.

But he couldn’t do it. None of them could. Who can blame Thor for being so tired? For choking up when he’s trying to talk? For losing his head in the middle of a normal conversation?

Only, what did Thor mean when he said this will be over soon? Does he think he’s figured out a way to bring everyone back?

No, Rocket won’t let himself hope. He keeps up a brave face for the Terrans. Combs their scanners and anything else they have to try to track down Thanos. But does Rocket believe they’ve got a shot to bring everyone back? No, he doesn’t. If he believes and they fail, it will be like losing Groot all over again. Rocket can’t survive that. He’s already lost Groot twice, he can’t afford to lose him again.

Rocket stiffens suddenly, heart leaping to his throat.

“He’s not that stupid,” Rocket mutters to himself. His stomach twists, and a chill worms down his spine. It's true, Thor isn’t stupid. They’ve all had bad days. Today is Thor’s, that’s all.

Rocket knows he’s being an idiot, but he scrambles on all fours to the exit because two legs won’t carry him fast enough. He takes off into the woods, sniffing the air for Thor’s scent, that whiff of burning in the middle of early spring. Rocket is breathing fast, his thoughts and heart racing. More than likely, Rocket will find the guy with no problem, and everything will be peachy. Thor can yell at Rocket for not respecting his wish to be alone. That's fine. No harm done.

Rocket sniffs the air again and squints through a tangle of tree trunks. There, to the right. Rocket continues on, not bothering to heed the twigs that snap sharply under his hands.

Rocket exhales when he finds Thor. The guy is fine, Rocket knew it. Thor is on his knees. There is a gap in the branches above, enough for the sun to touch his head and shoulders. Like a king, Rocket thinks.

Rocket has no idea what kind of training involves kneeling down, but maybe Thor wanted a minute to grieve. Do gods pray? Rocket’s never seen Thor pray before. Maybe so much death even brings faith out of deities-

“Forgive me,” Thor tells the early sprouts of yellow flowers. Then, Thor’s shoulders tense, and Rocket hears a gritted hiss. He hears more too - the shifting of metal and the unmistakable sound of sliced meat.

Rocket stumbles out into the clearing. Overhead, the sun disappears behind dark, heavy clouds. A harsh wind stirs the trees into a frenzy. Below, Thor’s eyes glow with the white force of lightning. It spills down his arms and skitters over knuckles clenched around Stormbreaker. Power flares from Thor’s chest. Out or in, Rocket cannot tell. The blade of the axe is buried in Thor’s sternum.

“Shit,” Rocket breathes. “No - no, no, no.” He has no time to feel anything - bewilderment, fury, disappointment. Gasping, Rocket runs to Thor. He grabs Stormbreaker’s hilt and glares with wet eyes “Don’t you dare,” he growls. “Don’t you fucking dare leave me.”

“Let go,” Thor says.

Rocket feels an awful give under his hands, because the axe is digging further in. Blood froths around the blade and soaks into Thor’s shirt. Thunder roars above them and lightning crackles across Thor’s skin. It’s like existence itself is screaming in rage. Like Thor’s own body is in mutiny, power spilling from his pores, trying to make him stop.

Rocket reaches again for the axe. Even with two hands, he can’t get a proper grip on the hilt. Not compared to Thor, whose fingers slip easily around the wood. The wood grows wet, as do Rocket’s hands. Rocket yanks violently, but the axe refuses to budge. White-hot power flares from Thor’s chest.

“Let go,” Thor says again. "It's alright." His voice is too quiet, lacking its usual gravel. Rocket shakes his head fiercely and tugs on the hilt. It barely moves, a slight give, but Thor feels it. Misery strains from the back of his throat. “Rabbit, please,” he says.

Rocket wraps his arms around the weapon’s hilt. He tries to leverage it against his body, wedging himself as close as he can. With a shout, he pulls, heels digging into Thor thighs.

Thor makes a high, yelped sound Rocket has never heard from him before. Energy explodes from his chest, a blaze of white-blue light. It flares through the weapon, rattling off the metal and spilling down the wooden handle. And into Rocket. Every bit of raw, determined energy swallows Rocket up like a thirsty mouth.

Rocket lets go of Stormbreaker and falls to his back. His eyes are wide open, as is his mouth. Vaguely, he smells burning. Is it Thor or him this time?

Thor’s cry sounds like a dying animal. Which Thor probably is, they both are. Rocket lies unmoving on the ground, aftershocks stabbing through his spine. He faintly makes out Thor landing with a thud in the spring grass.

“Rabbit.” Rocket blinks at Thor’s outstretched hand, at the wild fear that even makes his fake eyeball seem real.

Rocket hates Thor right now. He hates Thor’s selfishness. He hates Thor for cracking. Thor was the best of them! The one who never bent no matter how bad it got. Rocket’s erratically beating heart aches. Thor isn’t breathing right either. A weird grayish pallor comes over his skin.

Rocket hates Thor, but he still tries to reach for him. He thinks of Thor’s mouth pressed to the top of his head. Of Thor’s breath, soft and warm, shivering through his fur.

Teeth grit, Thor drags himself across the forest floor. He stretches, arm extended as far as he physically can. Rocket heaves out a heavy breath and kicks his spasming body forward. Their fingertips land inches apart.

Rocket has to smile at how stupid this is, how stupid they are. When everything goes dark, Rocket is still smiling.

***

Rocket wanders into the command center. Lights flash off raised holo screens as 3D energy charts cycle through new readouts. The scientist Bruce is at an observation window. Beyond it are white walls and floors. From the rounded rectangle glass, Rocket makes out some old piece of junk Terran device. It’s old to Terrans too, from the little Rocket understood of the Avengers’ conversation. Belonged to some dude named Fury. It’s beaming out some spatial signal - to who, or what, no one knows.

Rhodes is checking out a data screen with a handheld video feed from some Terran city. Lots of wrecked shit. Burning vehicles. Broken shop windows. Rocket doesn’t know Terran geography at all, and since Thanos every city looks like any other to him. The planet has spiraled into a mess of chaos and fear.

Rogers and Natasha are chatting about something at the center table. They both look up when Rocket enters. Natasha's breaths are shallow, and Rocket recognizes barely restrained panic in her eyes. Her tightly-pressed lips threaten to drop open in a scream.

Rogers’ face, drawn and tired, is at least a decent fake of composure. Rocket looks at him. “You guys seen Thor? Thought I’d catch him at breakfast, but he didn’t show.”

“He hasn’t been through here,” Rogers says. "Sorry."

“Thor sometimes goes out to the hangar bay,” Rhodes adds. “Just sits there.”

“Might have gone out to train.” Natasha’s voice is quiet. “Or you could try his room.”

Rocket nods. All decent ideas. “Thanks,” he says, backtracking towards the hallway. The feeling of so many eyes makes him nervous. Rocket trusts these people, he watched them fight their asses off. But Rocket has never liked attention, especially from people totally unlike him. Thor should be out here, not Rocket. They’re his friends, and at least Thor can blend in with their kind. When he's not zapping people with his sparkle-fingers, anyway.

“Rocket,” Rogers calls, and Rocket pauses. “We’re on the comms if you need us.”

Some of the tension bleeds out of Rocket’s shoulders. “You got it, cap,” he says.

Rocket tries the hangar bay first. Rhodes is right, it’s become one of Thor’s favorite places to go when he wants to stew in his own anger. Thor can sit for hours on one of the old crates. Sometimes he forgets to eat unless someone fetches him.

When the hangar turns up empty, Rocket checks outside next. Thor likes to go out into the woods to train. But the dude is lightning itself. There’s nowhere around the perimeter where people won’t see his giant bolts of power. No burning brush or catastrophic rainstorms to speak of.

Rocket checks the surveillance monitors. Nada. One more swing through the kitchen doesn’t yield any results either.

Rocket winds up at the closed door to Thor’s room. There is a keypad to the right of the metal door, silver with buttons outlined in blue. Rocket presses the button for the doorbell. A metallic ping alerts him to the signal being sent. Rocket waits a minute, watching the closed door. He does not hear any stirring inside.

Rocket rings again, and this time calls through the door. “Thor. You in there, buddy? You missed breakfast.”

Nothing again. Rocket puts an ear to the door, but he can’t make out anything on the other side. Not even a voice telling him to go away.

With a sigh, Rocket leans on his tiptoes to reach the keypad. They’re not supposed to know the access codes to each other’s rooms but - eh, what’s the harm? It’s good for someone to know them, never know when an emergency might hit.

Thor’s door shifts open with a sweeping sound. Inside, no lights are on, and the blinds have been shut. Sunshine from the other side casts the room into a dark orange haze. Like a fire on its last embers.

Turns out, being the God of Thunder doesn’t mean better space allotment. Thor’s room is as basic as Rocket’s. He’s got a small metal desk and chintzy desk lamp. Thor's closet is open, disheveled clothes piled on the floor. Thor’s bed is pressed against the far wall.

It’s not long enough for him, or so it seems by the way Thor has his legs bunched up. He is lying down, back to Rocket, tucked against the wall. Rocket would think he’s asleep if not for the tremor between his shoulders.

“Hey, pal,” Rocket greets with caution. “You, uh, feeling ok?” Thor answers with a quiet moan. Rocket’s ears shoot straight up. “You sick or something?”

“Please.” Thor’s voice scratches like he’s been craving water for the past week. “I can’t do this.”

“You can’t do what?”

“I can’t do this,” Thor repeats fiercely. “I can’t.”

Thor hasn’t exactly invited Rocket, but Rocket climbs on his bed anyway. Thor’s hunched body is riddled with tension. His painfully bunched shoulders bridge higher when Rocket crosses the mattress.

Thor hasn't been a model of ‘holding it together’ these past few days. He's pissed that he failed, but there's plenty of failure to go around. Thor isn't the only one in pain. From the looks of things, Thor is trying to shoulder the whole load himself.

Rocket gets close enough to see over Thor's shoulder. His wide eyes are fixed on the wall two feet in front of his face. Short, choppy exhales burst between his lips.

“What's your deal?” Rocket demands. This isn't the Thor Rocket knows. But Rocket can't muster anger with the quiet wheezes slipping off Thor's tongue. He makes Rocket sad. Or numb, really. Rocket has too much sad in him to feel anything worse. Every day since the Snap has been like sleepwalking.

“You gonna get up?” Rocket asks. Thor replies with staggered breaths and eyes squeezed shut. Rocket sighs. “Fine. Why get up? I should've stayed in bed too.” As he speaks, he climbs over Thor's body. Even lying down, Thor is too big for Rocket to step across. Rocket hoists himself up on Thor's arm and swings himself to the other side.

Wedged between Thor and the wall, Rocket lies down. “Yeah,” he admits. “This is way better.” It's comfortable in Thor's room, shaded away from the light of a fucked up planet in an even more fucked up universe. Thor is solid as stone against Rocket's body. He smells like a campfire at night, a faint burning scent that tickles Rocket's senses.

“You shouldn't be here.” Thor's voice wavers.

“What, sulking's only good for big strong gods now? Screw you, Thunder. I can blow off reality with the best of them.”

Thor smiles, but it looks painful. “I don't know what to do,” he says. A wet looking bead rolls down his cheek. “I thought I did. I-I thought if I-”

“Shut up, will ya?” Rocket buries hands in Thor's t-shirt and nuzzles into Thor's throat. “I'm trying to mope. You're ruining it.” Thor's laugh comes out like a sob. There is a twitch in the fingers that settle on Rocket's back. Warm feelings slide through Rocket's body.

“I don't deserve you,” Thor says.

Rocket snorts, but he can't help nosing at Thor's neck. “Nope. You sure don't,” Rocket says. “Loser.”

Rocket feels Thor’s smile graze the top of his head. It's like Thor is kissing him? Rocket smiles back, bewildered. “Idiot,” he mumbles. Pleasant feelings of a different kind slip into his belly.

***

They lie together until Rocket loses track of time. Rocket feels a familiar empty pang in his gut when he opens his eyes and realizes he dozed off. They missed lunch, no doubt about it.

Rocket jumps at a loud, crashing sound. Like concrete and steel splintering. He hears shouting too. Blaster fire.

Rocket's attempt to spring up is thwarted by fingers hooked in the straps of his flight suit. “It's ok,” Thor says. His face is eerily still.

“It's ok?” Rocket echoes, incredulous. “What's ok? What is that?”

“This will be over soon,” Thor says. “Stay with me.” He scritches Rocket's back. At any other time, the touch would make strange, happy things flap around in Rocket's stomach. Now, they feel like ice water down his spine.

“Your friends are in trouble, man,” Rocket protests. He squirms, trying to detangle himself from Thor's fingers. He blows out an angry breath, squirming against Thor’s chest. “Thor!” he barks. “Snap out of it!”

“I can’t save you,” Thor says. His real eye is as blank as the fake. “I don’t know what to do, I don’t - I can’t stop it.” He glances down with a mirthless smile. “Stay. Please. We’ll do this part together, you and I.”

Thor’s gone mad. Absolute batshit crazy. Rocket’s eyes widen, and his mouth drops open.

Thor’s bedroom door gets blown to hell. The room fills with smoke, billowing from fire still blazing around the doorframe. A silhouette forms from the smog, toweringly large. And from its center, six glowing stones.

“No!” Thor shouts for Rocket. His fingers barely miss Rocket's shoulder when he springs up.

Rocket wishes he had his blaster - the big one. It wouldn’t do any good, but it’d be better than being known as the fuzzy freak who charged Thanos with a pocket knife.

Rocket doesn’t even make it to the bedroom floor. When he crumples, it’s on the edge of Thor’s bed, his charred body adding to the haze of smoke in the room. He feels shaking fingers on his shoulders and the soft tap of a tear landing on his face.

“I’ll get this right,” Thor whispers above him. “One day, Rabbit, I swear. I’ll get this right for you.”

Rocket drifts off with a pang of regret. It’s bad enough Rocket is dying like a moron. But now he knows that Thor’s lost his mind. The guy won’t be too far behind.

***

Rocket yawns and stretches. He has no clue what day it is, not that it matters much. Days on Terra since the Snap feel both long and short. Rocket is exhausted, but he can’t sleep no matter how long he lies in bed staring at the ceiling.

He has to hand it to Thor’s buddies. Rocket doesn’t know much about them yet, but they’re not giving up no matter how frayed they are around the edges. Rogers, Natasha, Bruce, and Rhodes are already on the way to the command center. Another day of galactic scans and comm attempts will be underway. Rocket already knows he’ll have a dedicated channel waiting when he’s ready to pick up the search for his crew. Fat chance they’re still out there, but keeping up the search gives Rocket a reason to not lose his mind.

Rocket finds himself looking for Thor instead of following them. Maybe it’s not fair to Thor that Rocket has latched on in recent days. Thor was already going through shit before the Event happened. He’s pissed off, and he’s low - real low. But Rocket needs to have someone to stick by, and Thor is all he has.

Should Rocket go straight to Thor’s room, or is that weird? There’s a good chance Thor is already up. Maybe he’s grabbing breakfast or training out on the woodland side. He could be in his favorite spot too - sitting on a crate in the hangar bay, wringing his hands and looking miserable.

Turns out, Rocket doesn’t have to look far. A familiar shape blots out the sun glaring in from the hallway windows.

Thor has gone for the Terran lounge look today, a gray t-shirt and sweatpants. The odd, relaxed clothes contrast with Stormbreaker on Thor’s shoulder. His hand is looped around the wooden hilt. A lump forms in Rocket’s throat.

“Where’s the fight?” Rocket asks, swallowing back emotion.

“No fight,” Thor says. “I need to get out of here for awhile.” He smiles. “Would you care to join me?”

Rocket blinks. “You want me to train with you?”

“By my side, yes. Not ‘with.’ You will be - what’s the phrase? - shooting shit. I will also shoot shit, just not with blasters. This could be rather therapeutic for both of us.”

“Uh.” It sounds great, honestly. Being cooped up inside has Rocket two seconds away from screaming. The suggestion seems too reasonable for Thor’s current mindset, though. Talking about ‘therapeutic’ stuff like ‘shooting shit’?

“Unless,” Thor regards Rocket, “you would rather not?”

“No, no,” Rocket answers quickly. “I’m game, I just - you caught me off guard, man.”

“My apologies,” Thor says. But the guy isn't too sorry for surprising Rocket. If he was, he wouldn't do it again by sinking to one knee. They’re close enough now for Rocket to see the red, sleepless rims around Thor’s eyes. The real one has some lightness to it today, though. Something Rocket hasn’t seen since - well, since they’ve known each other.

“I enjoy your company,” Thor tells him. “I only wish we had this time together under better circumstances.”

“Um,” Rocket frowns. “You feeling ok, buddy?”

“No.” A laugh follows, quiet and sad. “I’m not, but thank you.”

Rocket feels the brush of Thor’s lips against his head. Warm, startled feelings twist in Rocket’s stomach. He turns his shock on Thor. “You-”

“Forgive me,” Thor says with a smile that looks sheepish. His fingers skirt the knotted ridges of Stormbreaker’s handle, “I know you miss him. Tree. I failed him, and you. I’m so sorry.” Thor lowers his eyes. “One stupid mistake, and I-”

“Stop.” The words come out angry and shaking. “There’s enough stupid to go around, idiot. No one failed Groot more than me.”

“That’s not true,” Thor replies. He sounds eerily at peace. “But thank you. Are your weapons in your quarters, my friend?”

Rocket glares at Thor as tears prick his eyes. He doesn’t have the energy to be mad, and he sure as hell doesn’t have it in him to cry. It’s amazing that he has fluid left in his body for tears after the past few days.

Shoulders slumped, Rocket climbs Thor’s offered arm and settles between Thor’s head and his axe. He rests a shaking hand on Stormbreaker’s hilt.

“Blasters are in my quarters, yeah,” Rocket mumbles.

***

Rocket doesn’t feel happy. He’s not sure if he’ll ever have it in him to feel happy again. But today is a good day. About as good as he thinks he’s capable of anymore.

Being outside lifts Rocket's spirits more than he expects. It feels amazing to fire off rounds and watch shit blow up. He takes his aggression out on rocks, flowers, stumps, and a squirrel or two. He leaves the grown, living trees alone without thinking. Rocket only catches on when he realizes Thor is doing the same.

It’s still impressive when a growl from the clouds answers Thor’s outstretched hands. Energy crackles between Thor's fingers and fills his real and fake eyes. Rocket thinks of Thor’s lips against his fur and goes a little weak in the knees. Won’t happen, not possible, but he still gawks when Thor chops a large rock in two with one swing of his axe. Lightning coils around his arms and sparks down his back. Rocket wonders how Thor's power would feel shuddering against his belly.

Thor faces him and grins. “Why don’t you take that one?” He points at a stone wedged against the base of an oak, no bigger than Rocket’s two feet put together.

Rocket huffs and aims instead at one of the two boulder halves left behind by Thor’s axe strike. He turns the power up on his blaster. The rock bursts into one thousand smaller pieces and crumbles into the early spring grass.

Laughing, Thor puts up a placating hand. “Point taken, my friend. You are a fierce warrior.”

“Damn right,” Rocket says. For the first time in days, he puffs out his chest with pride.

Thor smiles at the display, but Rocket reads sorrow in him too. Emotion sags his shoulders and turns his gaze wistful.

Words bubble up from Rocket's gut, odd and pressing on his tongue. “You know, I’m glad I’m with you,” he says. “This sucks. This really sucks, but we still got each other's back no matter what.” It’s a truth Rocket didn’t know he had in him. A reason placed to why he’s been orbiting Thor these past few days, how he can’t seem to stay away.

Thor lowers his head. He seems to hesitate, then lifts his gaze, like he wants to look Rocket in the eye. Like he’ll regret it if he doesn’t. “I will do anything to protect you, Rabbit. Anything," Thor says. "I hope you know that.”

Rocket does, and he hates it. 'Anything' means losing people he cares about. People he could, if he let himself, one day…

“Don’t get soft on me, Thunder,” Rocket grumbles. Rocket doesn’t want to think about Thor doing anything to protect him. But he doesn’t doubt it, and the weight of it makes Rocket feel warm.

Thor’s attention is off him, though, turned towards a thick line of trees. Rocket follows his gaze with a squint. He can’t make anything out, but something seems off. The breeze has died down, and Rocket can’t hear or see any of the usual forest critters. The birds and chipmunks weren’t scared off by Thor and Rocket letting out their aggressions. Something else must have them spooked.

“Go back to the compound,” Thor says. “Alert the others.” He starts in the direction he’s been looking, Stormbreaker over his shoulder.

“What is it?” Rocket asks, following him. “Thor?”

Thor turns back around. “Rabbit, go. We can’t trust the comms. You need to get help on foot.”

“Why can’t we trust the comms?” Rocket presses. “Come on, if something's out there I'm not letting you go alone.” Which is stupid, because Thor is Thor and Rocket is some boot-high fuzzball with a blaster. A badass blaster, to be fair, but it’s not exactly the power of nature snarling down from the sky.

The sentiment softens Thor’s expression. “I don’t deserve you,” he says. Then he’s...gone. Off the ground and through the canopy, Stormbreaker hoisted above his head. Rocket is left alone, beseeching arms stretched towards the sky.

“Damn it,” Rocket growls. Fear claws through his insides, but it hits some hardened, resolved thing. A thing that insists on chasing after a god instead of going somewhere safe like said god suggested. “Anyone copy?” Rocket barks into his comm. “We got a situation out here.”

Rogers’ reply comes back crackled. “What situation? Are you guys alright?”

“I don’t know,” Rocket says. “Thor saw something. I’m trying to find him, I’m-” Thunder cracks like a downed tree overhead. The sun dies behind thick clouds. Plunged into darkness, Rocket can barely make out the trees around him. Static crackles on the comm line. “Cap?” Rocket tries. “Hey, cap, you copy?” Nothing. “Nat? Rhodes? Anybody?” Nothing.

“Shit,” Rocket hisses. The scent of burning hits Rocket’s nose seconds before lightning flashes. Its glare pierces the darkness, and Rocket stumbles back. “Thor!” Rocket shouts. He scrambles after the flash on all fours. Rocket trips over fallen branches and slips in the young grass. “Thor!” he calls again. “I’m coming!”

Rocket’s breath whooshes out when he hits the ground. Instinctively, he snarls and fights the grip pinning him to the ground. Until Rocket realizes it’s Thor on top of him. Rocket squirms, shoving at his chest. “Get up, let’s go!” he demands.

Thor’s eyes glow like stars. There’s blood on his face, Rocket realizes. Slipping down his temple and dotting a cut on the bridge of his nose. Teeth grit, Thor holds his hand out for Stormbreaker. A few feet away, the great axe of Nidavellir rises from the earth. Power shivers across its metal surface. At Thor’s command, it bellows forward.

Until it’s caught by a mighty hand. Still wearing the infinity gauntlet, blistered and cracked from use. Thanos hefts the axe with a warrior’s shout and swings it down.

Thor’s body stays upright, his hands and knees shaking from the strain. But red floods the chest of Thor’s t-shirt. Lightning sputters around him, and overhead the winds howl. Trees rip from their foundations, and thunder rattles the ground beneath them.

Then, the light is gone. Thor’s power goes out, and he’s falling.

Thor’s wet mouth grazes Rocket’s cheek. Rocket realizes he’s smiling. “You’re alright,” Thor says. “You’re safe.”

Insane as it is, Rocket barely notices Thanos. Smoke marks the Titan’s retreat from this new nightmare. He leaves with Stormbreaker over his shoulder. His glove grips the weapon's hilt, once the arm of Rocket’s best friend.

In his absence, thunder grumbles dissatisfaction overhead. Rocket pushes at Thor. His hands come away frighteningly wet. “We’ve gotta get - can anyone hear me!?” Rocket screams into his comm. “Thor’s hurt bad! C’mon, anyone!”

“It’s alright,” Thor says. His words hitch against Rocket’s ear. “I'll be fine.”

“Fuck you,” Rocket fires back, fear shaking his voice. “How - damn it, Thor!”

“You’re safe,” Thor slurs. His weight is getting heavy, and terrifyingly soaked. Rocket paws at Thor weakly. “It’s alright. You’re safe.”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Rocket snaps. “I’m fine, but you’re not, so we’ve gotta - you’ve gotta help me, man. I comm’d back, the team’s coming. All your pals, they’re on their way, so you’ve gotta - you’re going to hang on, ok? You’re going to - Thor?” He listens for affirmation. For the sound of Thor’s breaths. For the slightest nod. Anything.

“Thor?” Rocket tries again. “You still with me?”

He wriggles an arm free of Thor’s weight. “It’d be real stupid of you to leave now.” He pats an unsteady hand on Thor’s cheek. “Thanos was here. All the sensors we got set up, we can trace him. Find out where he went. Get the stones. We can - we can reverse what that son of a bitch did. You’d have the worst goddamn timing ever if you croak on us now, you hear me?”

Rocket shudders, throat tight, eyes stinging with tears. “You’re not that stupid,” he chokes out. “You wouldn’t leave, not when we’ve got our best shot. Not when we need you. That’d be nuts.”

Tears mat into Rocket’s fur. His body is hot and sticky, crushed under Thor’s weight. “Maybe I don’t want you to protect me,” he snarls. “Maybe - maybe you don’t have to protect everyone. Maybe that ain’t your job!” A sob tears from his throat.

Rocket tucks his face close to Thor’s unmoving cheek. He scratches nails across Thor's lips; they’re still warm.

“Maybe I don’t want to be here if you’re not,” Rocket says quietly. “You idiot.”

***

It takes Rocket a minute to remember where he is. He lifts his head, blinking the sticky, sick feeling from his eyeballs. His vision doesn’t want to clear, a bleary softness to the outline of the room around him. He wakes with the fur of one cheek flattened out of place from face planting against the side of the bed. His arms hurt from stretching out too long. His nose is tucked against Thor’s wrist, letting him breathe in the faint scent of burning on Thor’s skin.

Rocket yawns and squints around. Someone was nice enough to shut the light off and draw the blinds in Thor’s room. It must be midday outside from the dark orange cast from the muted light of the closed windows.

From the looks of things, Thor has not moved. His blankets are still drawn to his chest, his arms extended straight at his sides. A knot of discomfort aches in Rocket’s back. He’s fallen asleep bowed over Thor’s bed, spine bent in a way it shouldn't go. Hours must have passed. Rocket feels lethargic in a way he only gets when he manages a considerable amount of sleep. His slumbers are dreamless and numbing. Rocket tends to feel more tired when he wakes up. But it beats the alternative: screams tearing Rocket’s vocal chords to shreds.

Rocket takes in Thor’s face. He finds dull lines of blue and gold peering at him between fenced lashes. The sight makes Rocket shoot up quickly, nevermind the pain in his back. “Thor?” he says. “Buddy, you awake? You hear me?”

“Yes, I…” Thor’s voice is choked from lack of use. He breaks off, swallowing with a grimace.

“Right, yeah.” Rocket crawls over Thor’s body to his nightstand where a plastic cup and jug of water are waiting. The ice cubes have long since melted, a sweaty layer of condensation on the glass and metal stand below. Rocket has to use two hands to balance the pitcher as he pours. “Think you can drink this?” he asks.

Thor nods. He swipes at the stand but completely misses the cup. Thor huffs, blinking slowly. He turns towards Rocket like a creaky old gate.

“Um... That’s ok, hang on…” Rocket balances the cup between his hands and slides onto Thor’s lap. Cup tucked against his body, he uses Thor’s t-shirt to pull himself up. Luckily, Thor’s body has plenty of hard lines to climb. Rocket hooks his feet in Thor’s clothes for balance, the cup extended by two careful hands.

Thor gazes at him through low lids, his real eye and the fake equally dull. He tips his head back and relaxes his lips. It’s a good angle for Rocket to set the rim to his mouth. He’s careful as he pours, not wanting to drown the guy. Thor manages a few splashes, his throat bobbing jerkily, out of practice. When Thor finishes, he nods and licks a drop of water from his lips. Some messy, nervous feeling sloshes around in Rocket’s stomach.

“Good,” Rocket mumbles over his own discomfort. “Good. Let me.” He backtracks down Thor’s mountain of a body and places the half-full cup back on the metal stand. His tail twitches against Thor’s arm.

“What happened?” Thor croaks.

Loaded question. What happened in the large ‘life sucks now’ sense is that Thanos snapped his fingers and trillions went up in smoke. They’re still looking into the readouts - the energy spike on Terra and its impact across known space. The Avengers’ facility is a bit rudimentary when it comes to its galactic network. In the days since the Event, its surviving inhabitants have pushed the tech as far as it can go. Rocket has been able to help in this regard. With his crew still MIA, the work has kept Rocket from going completely out of his mind.

What happened to Thor? No one knows. He was the closest to Thanos when the damn gauntlet got used. Thor reacted like the rest of them - real bad. He was silent at first. Then the screaming started.

The next morning Thor didn’t get up. He wasn’t the only one. Some didn’t sleep at all, others refused to leave their assigned quarters. Rocket trudged out of his room the day after like he’d taken a sledgehammer to the face. But he was hungry. His body had the nerve to be hungry after Groot ghosted right out of his arms. Eventually, everyone followed suit. They had to eat, they had to do something.

But Thor didn’t get up the next day, or the next. On Day 4, they stopped being cute about giving Thor time to grieve. Rocket got them inside, he knew the entrance codes to everyone’s rooms by then. Thor was sleeping, it looked like. Only he wouldn’t wake up. Not for fists shaking his shirt or smacks across the face. Not even for IV needles stuck into his arms. None of them knew if a thing like Thor needed the hydration to stay alive, but IVs were one thing they knew how to do. Ever since the Snap, they’ve survived on the things they know how to do.

“You were asleep, I guess,” Rocket says. “We couldn’t get you up.”

Thor closes his eyes and blows out a tired breath. “How long?” he asks.

The days since Thanos have blurred together. Rocket keeps track of events more than time lately. He knows there’s still no word from the Benatar. And that weird, old Terran signal device found in New York City stopped putting out its frequency. The Terrans have been trying to get it back online. It belonged to some dude named Fury, apparently.

Rocket has spent his time not looking for the Benatar in Thor’s room. Hours bled together staring at Thor’s sleeping face or shouting at him to wake up. Or, after making sure the security cameras were off, tucking himself under one of Thor’s arms. Nestling as tight to Thor’s body as he could as tears burned his eyes.

“Too long,” Rocket answers, a rough texture to his voice.

Thor won’t know what it’s been like, but his weary smile says he has an idea. “I don’t deserve you, my friend,” he says.

“You sure don’t,” Rocket snaps, hands shaking. He glares up at Thor. “Don’t do that again. Things are bad enough already, I - we need you here. We need everyone who’s left.”

“As long as…” Thor pauses. His head dips to his collar, gaze fixed on Rocket. He is still smiling, but there’s sadness too. “Thank you,” he says, “for staying with me.”

“Where the hell else would I go?” Rocket demands. The truth of the question makes panic itch in Rocket’s chest. With his crew likely dead and Groot gone, where would Rocket go if something happened to Thor?

Thor nods. He looks exhausted. Rocket feels the shiver of Thor's arm as he tries to muster enough energy to rub Rocket’s back. Rocket bares angry teeth and twists to grab Thor’s hand. Like pulling an unruly blanket, he drags Thor’s fingers up to settle against his side.

Rocket tucks against Thor’s ribs, a hand on his sternum. Thor’s breath constricts, a jagged pause when Rocket’s hand rests against the cleft of his breast. “What is it?” Rocket asks, glancing up at him.

Thor's fingers form a loose C around Rocket’s side. “It doesn’t matter,” he says quietly. “Not anymore.”

* The End *