Chapter 1: Chapter 1
After picking up Thor from New Asgard, Rocket made a quick stop at Pepper’s cottage to give her a communicator that had direct access to the Guardians, in case there came a time that their assistance would be needed again, as a thank-you for Tony’s sacrifice. After saying goodbye to Morgan, Rocket made his way back to the Milano, ascending the ramp and right into Quill’s leg, halting him.
“Rocket,” Quill started, “the team and I talked about it, and we don’t think you’ve earned your right on this ship.”
Rocket looked up surprised and hurt as he looked at each of the Guardian’s faces and body language, only Thor and Groot looked away, saddened.
“What are you talking about, Quill?” Rocket asked, sadness creeping up in his voice, ears lowering.
“You abandoned this team to join Thor to Nidavellir, taking Groot with you, rendering this team useless against Thanos, resulting in Gamora dying. So, until such a time that we feel you have learned your lesson, you will stay here. The Avengers and Wakanda have been instructed not to allow you inside their compounds.”
Rocket couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His family, the only people he cared about, the ones that were gone for five years, were abandoning him. Tears began welling up in his eyes, and before they could fall, he dashed off on all fours, into the tree line while the rest of them turned away to board the ship.
Nebula rounded the corner. “How DARE You!!!” she yelled at Quill, who looked surprised by her outburst. “How could you turn away a member of your family like that? You want him to suffer? He did that already, for FIVE Years! That’s how long you guys have been gone. Five years of Rocket barely sleeping, of listening to your music, of wishing you guys would return. I know he’s never said it, but Rocket loves every one of you, and he would not quit until he had you all back.”
Everyone was looking down, ashamed of their actions to the raccoon. Quill slowly raised his head slightly, “What do we do?”
“You go find him, apologize the hell out of him, and hope to God he comes back with you before he does something stupid.” Nebula lashed out.
With that, Peter ran off the ship towards the location Rocket went, hoping beyond hope he hadn’t gotten himself into any trouble.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
After running and searching for nearly an hour, Peter found himself in a clearing circling a lake. As he got closer to the body of water, he noticed somebody sitting on a rock which, as he got closer, he noticed it was Rocket. After breathing out a sigh of relief, Peter made his way over and sat down next to the raccoon while keeping his gaze on the lake.
After a couple of minutes, he managed to find his voice. "I'm sorry, Rocket," Quill started. "I was so hellbent and distraught about Gamora that I didn't take into consideration you or your feelings about all this. To me, it just seemed like a second had passed from dusting and returning, I had no idea that Years had passed. I know it doesn't sound like a good apology, but I made a hasty judgment without knowing all the facts, and I'm sorry, and...I would love it if you came back to the ship with me."
With all that out in the open, Peter finally turned to Rocket and noticed the tear marks running down his fur, and couldn't believe that it was him that did this to his best friend. Rocket slowly turned to Quill, "I don't think I can go back, Pete. One minute I'm excited on having my family back all safe-like, and the next, they're glaring at me with such disdain and disgust that..." Rocket abruptly stops and sighs. "I don't think I'll ever get that picture out of my head or know how to redeem myself to them, if that's even possible." Rocket stood up and gazed up at the clouds passing overhead, "All I wanted was my family back. For five years, I didn't want anything else, but I didn't stop to think if my family wanted me back." Rocket then looked to the ground, "If isolation from you guys is my way of repentance, then so be it. I'll be here when you guys decide my sentence is over."
With that, Rocket jumped off the rock and began walking away. Peter wanted desperately to grab Rocket and bring him back to the ship, but he knew that wouldn't work out in his favor, so instead, he stood up and slowly made his way back to the ship for another team meeting. This one, however, was to get Rocket back.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Everyone was happy when they saw Quill walking into view, but that quickly turned to sorrow when Rocket didn't emerge with him. Drax and Groot ran off the ship to meet up with their leader.
"I am Groot???" Groot asked anxiously, wondering where his friend and father was.
"Peter Quill, were you able to locate our furry friend? We would very much like to apologize for our mannerisms towards our smallest member." Drax enquired, but Peter just kept walking until he was aboard the ship and called a team meeting.
"I found Rocket. Unfortunately, he has no intention right now to come back to the ship. He says that it will take time for what we did and how we handled ourselves to pass through, but that doesn't mean we are going to give up on him. Starting tomorrow, Drax will follow the same trail I did to a clearing and wait for Rocket there. Under NO circumstances are you to force Rocket onto this ship, coming back to us has to be his decision alone. After Drax, Mantis will go out the next day, followed by Thor, Nebula, Groot, and myself. Hopefully, all of our wrong-doings will be corrected and we can be a family again. Until then, get some sleep and we will start this first thing tomorrow."
With that, Peter left the table and, stopping briefly at Rocket's empty chair, went down the hall towards his bunk. Slowly, Drax, Mantis, Nebula, and Thor followed suit leaving Groot alone at the table, staring out the window.
After sunset, Groot left the ship and followed the path Peter and Rocket followed until he emerged into the clearing. After scanning the area, Groot found the rock and began walking towards it. He frowned, slightly, at the rock being empty, but sat down facing the lake, watching the stars dance off the water.
Two hours later, Groot was still sitting there, getting more disheartened that his dad was also avoiding him until he heard a twig snap. Instead of turning his attention to the noise, Groot kept his gaze forward and, after a couple of minutes, was rewarded the sound of small footsteps heading towards him that could only belong to one being.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Instead of the constant "I am Groot's". Groot's speech will be italicized for easier reading.
Groot turned his head and smiled at Rocket, "I'm glad you came out to see me."
Rocket hopped up on the rock and hugged his son, "of course, it's still my job to care for you, even if we have to be separated for the time being" Rocket was immediately saddened when he said that.
"I'm so sorry, dad," Groot began. "I tried to stop it, but I was outvoted 2-1. Thor was unable to vote, being new to the team, Nebula didn't show up, and Mantis refused to take either side." Groot explained as tears began streaming down his face.
"Hey, it's ok," Rocket said, comforting. "Pretty soon, we'll be one big, happy family again and cruising through the stars, but until then, I just have to ride out this sentence. I've already waited five years to get you all back, what's a couple more, right?" Rocket asked, trying to stay strong for his son.
"Quill called another Team Meeting after his conversation with you. Starting tomorrow morning, each guardian will spend some time with you, beginning with Drax. After Nebula gave everyone an earful of how we handled ourselves towards you, we realized that you weren't to blame for this, yet the one the blame shifted to. I was supposed to be one of the last ones to visit you, but I didn't want to wait that long. I was too worried about you to wait my turn. We only hope that after spending the week with us, one on one, you'll see how much we love you and want you back," Groot finished.
"Is that why Pete followed after me shortly after I left?" Rocket asked.
"What else did Peter say in this meeting?"
"He said that coming back to the ship is to be your choice only, and nobody is allowed to force you back. The order in which we come to visit you starts with Drax, followed by Mantis, Nebula, Thor, myself, and then Quill."
"Wait, why does Pete see me twice?"
"I'm not sure, you'll just have to ask him yourself."
Rocket was contemplating on his thoughts before a realization came to him, "Groot! It's way past your bedtime! I will walk you to the ship so I know you're safe, but it's time we all get some sleep."
"Ok, Dad." Groot smiled and followed Rocket through the trail until the Milano came into view, where Quill was searching the area outside the ramp and smiled when he saw both Groot and Rocket walking towards the ship.
"I was so worried, I went to check up on Groot, and he wasn't in his room or on the ship" he explained when he met up with the duo. "I should have guessed he wanted to see you," Quill said, softly smiling at Rocket.
"Yeah, he was worried about me, but it's fine. I wanted to make sure he got home safely."
Peter frowned, "So this means you're not coming aboard with us?"
"Sorry, Pete, but no. Now, head to bed Groot. Quill, I will see you later." Rocket said, turning away.
"Wait!" Peter hurriedly said, stopping Rocket before he could take off. "Just wait here, for just a sec," he said, running aboard the ship and throwing open cabinets. After a short while, Quill descended the ramp with some Jim Bean and a couple of glasses, "Won't you have a drink with me?" Peter asked.
"I really shouldn't, but after the day I had, why the hell not?" Rocket answered.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Before they knew it, half the bottle was gone and both were feeling the effects of it.
"I am sorry, Pete," Rocket said, ears lowered.
"About what, Rocket?" Quill inquired.
"About Gams. About ditching the team with Thor. After Nebula updated us 'survivors' about what happened in Vormir, I couldn't help but think about what you were going through. I don't blame you for your actions on Titan. I just couldn't help but wonder if I could be the one to bring you comfort in these trying times, and I know it's wrong and sick, but..." Rocket took a tentative breath, "I've loved you since we took down Ronan. That was why I made all those jumps with Yondu to save you from Ego, but it also destroyed me. When the Benetar came back and none ya were on it, my heart shattered. And then I got you all back to be just to be cast away, I just couldn't..." Rocket couldn't finish what he wanted to say.
After a brief moment, Peter broke the silence. "You know, I'm kind of glad you weren't with us on Knowhere."
"What are you talking about, Pete? You just said that if I were there, then Gams..."
"I know, I know. It's just that Thanos already had the Reality stone and after he turned Drax into Blocks and Mantis into String, I just couldn't help to think what he would have done to you. Like, if he ripped your cybernetics from your body or take away your intelligence, and the more I thought about it, the worst I felt. I'd rather give up my life than to condemn you to more torturing." Peter finished, giving a small smile to the raccoon.
"What are you saying?" The Procyonidae asked warily.
"I'm saying I love you, you furry asshole"
"Really?" Rocket asked, hoping it was true.
"Yeah, I didn't know it at first, but it's true. We get along better than with the other Guardians, and our chemistry is simply unrivaled, 'sides for Cap and Bucky, but I don't see why it couldn't work out for us, aside from your decision to come back." Peter swallowed hard, awaiting his best friends answer.
"Peter, I do want this, I do, but what about everyone else? What will they think about us? About me?"
"Rocky, we don't need to decide right this minute, just let the week ride out and when I see you again, then you can give me a definitive answer, alright?"
"Okay, Pete. One Week, but I should take off before people start waking up." Rocket said, stealing a quick kiss from Pete before heading towards the lake, leaving Pete there smiling at his retreating form. Of course, Pete's fantasies were shattered when a booming voice sounded behind him.
"Friend Quill, I am ready to see our furry friend." Drax declared.
"Hold on Drax, we can wait 'til at least noon," Peter said, still smiling.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Rocket woke up mid-afternoon to the sun shining in his face and, after scaling down the tree he's been sleeping on, made his way to the nearby creek to hydrate and groom himself. Once he ensured he was presentable enough for company, he made his way to the lake to meet up with the first Guardian. Drax seemed to be in a daze as he stared at the water that Rocket was able to jump up on the rock, sit down next to the Destroyer and tap him on the leg before the larger man even realized that another being had accompanied him.
"I am sorry, Friend Rocket, I was in awe of the beauty surrounding this body of water and couldn't help but picture my wife and daughter with me," Drax stated.
"I'm sure they would have enjoyed the view, big guy, but I also think they would have enjoyed being here because you enjoy this place, too," Rocket reasoned, ashamed of his comment to Drax about his family on Knowhere.
Drax smiled, "I thank you for that. I do miss them as each day dawns and sets, but my place is now with the Guardians, my new family...as it is yours."
"Yeah, well that's going to be a bit. I still haven't forgiven myself for my actions," Rocket said irritably, his ears flickering.
"Friend Rocket, you have atoned yourself. Your diligence and compassion to get everyone back, your family back..."
"And where has that gotten me?!" Rocket snapped. "It got me kicked off the ship, separated from my family and son, left alone with only my misery and despair."
Drax picked Rocket up and hugged him, "I am sorry, my furry friend. I let my anger dominate my actions. I have dishonored the trust and friendship you have bestowed upon me and ask for your forgiveness. I noticed that my room had been thoroughly cleaned and dusted and my knives have been sharpened and cared for and that only a true friend would put in so much work for his returning family. I have brought along shame to this family, and to redeem myself, I will sleep out in the woods and you shall sleep in my bed." Drax reasoned with himself.
"You don't have to do that, ya big dummy." Rocket said, a small smile on his face on how ridiculous Drax was being.
"I insist that you do this for me, Friend Rocket. As my way to atone for my transgressions."
"Alright, fine," Rocket stated. "Thanks, Drax."
"You are welcome, furry one. Also, it is considered good luck on my planet to have a reunion during a great battle and win." With that, both of them laughed into the night while Rocket told Drax about the mess they went through to get them back.
At around 11 pm, Drax informed Rocket that everyone should be asleep and to make his way to the ship. As he got closer to the ship, Rocket found Peter sitting on the ramp, causing him to smile.
"Pete, don't tell me you were waiting up for me," Rocket said with an amused tone.
"For you, Rocky, always," Peter replied, smiling at the Procyon. "How did everything go with Drax?"
"Well, considering he offered me his bed for the night while he toughs it in the woods, I'd say it went well."
"That's good, I'm glad to hear it, but I'm afraid I can't authorize you to sleep in his bed," Peter stated.
"Wha-Pete? Why?" Rocket asked worryingly, wondering if Peter was refusing him entry into the ship.
"Because" Quill began with a seductive grin, "Tonight, you'll be sleeping in my bed."
"Well, what the flark are we waiting for? Let's go!"