Disclaimer: Angela, Gamora, Peter Quill, Rocket Racoon, Drax, and the Guardians of the Galaxy are the intellectual property of Disney. No copyright infringement intended.

Angela/Gamora romance. Eventually. No sexy stuff until later. Some blood and gore, if you're squeamish.

Hooked on a Peeling

Angela and Gamora held many interests in common.

They liked fighting. They liked swords, and spears, and axes, and maces. They liked lances, and daggers, and war hammers and morning stars. They liked whips, and scythes, and hatchets, and clubs. They liked weapons so bizarre, so outlandish, you couldn't even put a name to them.

Sharp edges, and piercing points, and twisting hooks, and crushing weights. Sliced flesh, and shattered bones, and crushed skulls, and spilt blood.

Angela and Gamora were women with very similar tastes.

Together, the pair went to visit markets and bazaars, all throughout the galaxy – they spent hours wandering amongst the tents and stalls, pushing their way through crowds of strange creatures, venturing into marquees and emporiums, browsing through racks filled with peculiar weaponry.

There were weapons that had been designed for creatures with six limbs, eight limbs, ten limbs, twenty, thirty, forty. Weapons designed for creatures that could fly through the air, could slither across the ground, could shoot through the water. Weapons designed for creatures that could make themselves as insubstantial as mist. Weapons designed for creatures that could withstand searing heat and stiffening cold. Weapons for every species, every race, every shape, every body type imaginable.

Angela and Gamora sifted through the wares on offer. When it came to their tools, Angela and Gamora both had a liking for the exotic. The foreign. The unfamiliar. The alien.

()()()()()()()()()()()

In a merchant's tent, Gamora reached up, and plucked a weapon from a shelf. An enormous blade, shaped in the form of a wide loop. She held it up to a shaft of light, and peered admiringly along the length.

Angela was examining a display cabinet filled with gleaming daggers. She glanced over at Gamora, and then crossed the tent to join her. "Something of interest, Lady Gamora?"

"Mmmmm." Gamora flicked a finger against the surface of the metal, and the blade gave a pleasing shudder. "It's a ring blade," she said. "I've seen these things before. They are crafted by a race called the Niagistini. They dwell upon a world named Nijika. The Niagistini are giant serpents – they can grow as long as twenty metres. They wear dozens of these weapons around their bodies – they spin and twirl around, and slice their enemies to pieces. It's quite a sight."

Angela pondered this a moment. "Well, you are not a twenty-metre serpent, Lady Gamora," she said, crossing her arms.

Gamora gave Angela a blank stare. "No, Angela," she said. "I am not."

There was an ironic twist in the corner of Angela's mouth. A dismissive quirk in her expression, also. "I would put that weapon back where you found it," she went on. "It was not meant for you, Lady Gamora. You might hurt yourself."

Gamora loosed a snort. "You know, it would behove you to be less transparent when issuing your challenges, Angela."

Angela made a great show of seeming taken aback. "Challenge, Lady Gamora?" she said. "I am simply concerned for your well-being."

Gamora gave Angela a smirk, and then she bore the ring blade over to the merchant, a shambling, corpulent creature hidden beneath dark robes. "How much do you ask for this weapon?" she said.

The merchant wanted two thousand credits. Gamora was now the proud owner of a Niagistini ring blade.

()()()()()()()()()()()

Angela and Gamora held many interests in common...however, Angela had one hobby that Gamora would never quite learn to appreciate.

Taxidermy.

When she was not serving with the rest of the Guardians, or exploring the planet Earth, Angela would often embark on hunting expeditions throughout the system. While she was off on these expeditions, Angela never answered her communicator. She would venture into the stars, disappearing for weeks on end, and not even Gamora knew where she went.

Angela travelled to the most barren, the most desolate, the most inhospitable realms in the galaxy – unbearably cold frozen wastes, sprawling jungles thick with poison and disease, charred deserts laden with oppressive heat, not a drop of water to be found for thousands of miles. Angela would journey to these forsaken, unwelcoming places, and there, she would seek out the most dangerous, most formidable, most terrifying predators that such environments could put forth.

Packs of enormous wolves that could gobble a woman whole.

Gigantic spiders that could cover landscapes in thick silk for miles around.

Hordes of overgrown rats that could sweep across entire continents in a seething, ravenous mass.

Revolting, eldritch things with dozens of tentacles that could crush a space vessel as though it were a soda can.

Angela hunted them all down, and slew them. She fought them, and killed them, and then she dragged their massive carcasses all the way across the stars, back to headquarters, so that she could convert them into trophies.

Angela was a woman that liked to keep mementoes. Souvenirs. Tokens of past victories.

It was kinda serial killer-ish, when you thought about it.

()()()()()()()()()()()

One morning, Rocket and Groot saw Angela hauling a gigantic corpse across the cargo bay.

She had tied an enormous chain around its dead form, and now was dragging it across the floor, one tremendous tug at a time, pulling the enormous thing towards the waste disposal zone.

It weighed seven tons, at least. It was emerald green, and covered in scales. Unmistakeably reptilian in appearance – it had massive wings, and cruel, curving horns, and a long, pink tongue that lolled out of a beak-like mouth. Lots of sharp teeth. Lots of sharp talons.

"Is that a dragon?" Rocket said. He squinted, then looked at Groot. "It's a dragon. She killed a dragon."

There was astonishment on Groot's weathered countenance. "I am Groot."

Rocket cupped his hands over his mouth. "Hey, Angela!"

Angela glanced across the bay. "Good morning, Rocket!" she called. "Good morning, Groot! Does this day find you well?"

Rocket pointed a furry paw at the dead dragon. "Uh, Angela...all these nasties you hunt...you got a permit for that?"

Angela gave Rocket a quizzical look. "Permit?"

Rocket slouched where he sat. "Thought not."

Groot took a step forward. "I am Groot?"

"No thank you, Groot!" Angela said, with a cheery voice. She resumed pulling the dragon's cadaver across the bay. "I can manage by myself!"

()()()()()()()()()()()

When Angela was preparing her trophies, she wore a very different outfit than her usual attire. She dressed herself in a long brown leather apron that covered her from neck to foot. Leather gloves. Plastic goggles for her eyes. A large, rubber cap, to ensure that no troublesome splatters of blood found their way into her flame-red hair. In battle, Angela was an elegant, graceful creature, darting in and out of her opponents' reach, dodging blows and evading attacks, lopping limbs and piercing hearts and severing heads and shattering skulls. When she was enjoying her hobby, however, all of her focus was concentrated upon her hands. Her fingers. Taxidermy could be a messy business. Blood got everywhere.

Angela began work on the dragon. She had a collection of tools and instruments that she used to remove the pelts from her slain quarry – knives, and scalpels, and clamps, and saws. She peeled the hide from the dragon's carcass, an enormous pool of blood slowly growing at her feet. She pushed great rolls of skin over its belly, its limbs, its neck, its back, inch-by-inch revealing bones, and muscles, and organs, and sinews.

"I wish I could show you my trophy room in Heven," Angela said, as she worked. Her face was flecked with blood. "I served for thousands of years as a hunter for my people, and that room was a monument to my life's work. The greatest battles I ever fought...the most fearsome adversaries I ever vanquished...beasts the likes of which you could never imagine...my life's history, all contained in that place."

Angela paused, briefly. She seemed sad, for a moment.

"It is all lost to me, now," she said, her voice so low that one had to strain to hear it. "I must begin anew."

Angela began working again, pushing and pulling flaps of skin over the mass of flesh.

Gamora was there. She was standing by the door, leaning against the wall, a good distance away. She slouched in her spot, peering at Angela as she skinned the enormous beast.

"When you have the creature's hide off, what then?" said Gamora.

"Then, I must create a mannequin to wear the skin," said Angela.

Gamora furrowed her brow. "You'll create a mannequin? How will you do that?"

Angela pushed a scalpel into a troublesome spot. "I will carve it from wood," she said. "It must match the dragon exactly. The same size. The same shape. Also, I will need to create glass eyes! That's always the part that I enjoy the most." She glanced over at Gamora. "It's always nice when you slay a creature that has large, expressive eyes."

Quill was not there, but Gamora could imagine what he would say, at that moment. A hunter, a warrior, a sculptor, and an artist? she could hear his voice say. Angela's quite the renaissance woman, isn't she?

"How long does it take for you to create one of your trophies, Angela?" Gamora said.

Angela scrunched her face in uncertainty. "It all depends upon the size of the creature that you wish to mount, Lady Gamora," she said. "And the complexity of the job, of course. This dragon, I estimate, will take three months to properly prepare. Some prey might take one month, two months. Other creatures might need six months, a year, two years. A decade! Every quarry is different."

Gamora fell silent, then.

Angela turned away from the dragon, and peered directly at her. "Does something trouble you, Lady Gamora?"

Gamora shook her head. "No, no...you don't think I'm bothered by a corpse and a few splashes of blood, do you? I just...I just find all this unusual, is all."

Angela gave a frown. "How so?"

Gamora wondered how to explain herself. She took a few moments to find the proper words.

"I was trained since birth to serve as an assassin," she said. "I was trained to eliminate my targets in the most effective, efficient way possible." She pressed a fingertip against her temple. "I was taught to put a bullet in a target's skull, and then vanish in a flash." She drew a finger across her throat. "I was taught to cut a target's throat, and then disappear." She put a fist to her chest. "Stab a target in the heart, and then get as far away as possible. Forget about them, forever."

Gamora shrugged her shoulders. "Life is very cheap, when you're a professional killer. Disposable. Nothing worth dwelling upon."

She inclined her head towards the half-skinned dragon. "But you...you're different," she said. "You kill your opponents...and then you spend months slaving over their corpses. Preparing them. You...you killed this creature, this dragon...and now you're slowly, carefully removing its skin. Patiently, painstakingly slowly, so that you don't damage its hide more than necessary. And then you're going to cut a mannequin from a block of wood, and then you're going to cut glass eyes, and it's going to take you months to finish, and you won't rest until it's done." Gamora folded her arms, and shrugged again. Her eyes wandered to the sides. "It is almost...it is almost as though you are worshipping them."

This gave Angela food for thought. She stood before the bloodied corpse a while, and mused over what Gamora had told her. She was covered all over in flecks of viscera. She held a gore-stained instrument in either hand.

When Angela finally spoke, her voice was a gentle whisper. Gamora heard her well enough all the same. "Sometimes," she said, "when I smite down my opponents...when I slay them...I wonder if they would find some small consolation in the knowledge that I will treat their corpses with such reverence. Such respect. Such obsession."

Gamora gave a gentle snort. "I doubt that, Angela," she said. "They're probably just angry that you've slaughtered them."

()()()()()()()()()()()

Gamora never imagined that Angela's little hobby would almost get them both killed.

One day, Gamora and Angela descended upon a world named Titan Lux. On this planet, there resided an extremely wealthy arms dealer. This individual – this businessman – had recently profited from a number of military conflicts that had, of late, broken out in various corners of the system. He lived in an enormous mansion, in the middle of a vast, luxurious estate that stretched for miles and miles in every direction.

The arms dealer had information that the Guardians urgently required. Unfortunately, when Angela and Gamora came to visit, they did not find him in a particularly cooperative mood.

The arms dealer had a pet. He kept it in an enormous enclosure, adjacent to his mansion. It was a dazzlingly beautiful creature – if a human was asked to describe it, they might have said that it had the body of a lion, the head of an eagle, and wide, sweeping wings that could whip up a gale in an instant. It was covered in golden fur and silken plumage, and a fierce flame burned in its eyes.

The creature was very exotic, and very expensive, and very, very aggressive.

Angela took one look, and was instantly in love.

The arms dealer released his pet, and Gamora and Angela spent the next twenty minutes or so racing through the gigantic estate, the monster tearing off in pursuit. They rushed through opulent gardens, the monster demolishing gazebos and flattening flowerbeds and smashing sculptures as it thundered after them. They dashed through vineyards, the monster rampaging through bushes and vines. They raced through woods, the monster barrelling through the trees. They leapt across lakes and ponds, the monster bounding across the water, never far behind.

Angela loosed a length of her ribbon to distract the creature – it snapped and clawed at the fabric for a few seconds, and then began chasing them again. "Do you suppose our arms dealer friend has any other pets?" she called to Gamora.

"If he does," Gamora growled, "I'm going to feed him to them!"

Killing the creature should have been a simple enough matter. Gamora had brought an assault rifle, and she had thought to equip herself with explosive shells. In addition, Quill, Rocket, Groot and Drax were on the ship, high, high above, monitoring the situation. It would have been the easiest thing in the universe to blow the beast to pieces. Blast it with missiles. Cut it into chunks with a well-aimed planetary laser. Reduce it to a gory smudge on the ground.

Unfortunately, Angela had other ideas.

"Peter, do not intervene!" Angela barked into her communicator. "Allow me to vanquish this beast myself!"

Quill's voice crackled in her ear. "What? Angela, what are you doing?"

"Do not harm this creature!" she screamed. "I wish it unharmed!"

"Unharmed?" Gamora shrieked at her, from a few feet away. "It's trying to eat us!"

It was. The creature tried to trap Gamora in a corner; she sprinted up the wall, and was narrowly able to reach the top, the beast smashing into the stone beneath her. The creature took to the skies, and tried to swoop down upon Angela from overhead – she darted into a copse of trees, the leaves and thick trunks giving her some cover.

Far above in orbit, the others tried to make sense of the spectacle on the display screens.

"Krutack are they doing?" Rocket said. "Why don't they just kill the frickin' thing?"

"I think Angela's found her next art project," said Quill.

Rocket threw up his paws. "You gotta be kidding me."

"I am Groot..."

Quill shrugged. "We see a hungry, flesh-eating carnivore...Angela sees a piece of interior decorating..."

Rocket groaned. Drax simply gave a low grunt of macabre approval.

()()()()()()()()()()()

Gamora vaulted over a wall, and then felt an explosion of dust and stones at her back as the creature smashed through to follow her. She unstrapped her rifle from where it hung at her back, and tried to aim behind her.

"Do not fire at that creature!" Angela screeched. "It's a highly rare species!"

Gamora leapt to the side, and narrowly avoided the beast as it dived after her. "You've only been in this galaxy for a year-and-a-half!" she bellowed. "How the hell would you know anything of rare species?"

"I read books, Lady Gamora!" Angela roared in reply.

Gamora twirled around an ornamental lamppost, and gained a little distance as the creature took a few moments to figure out where she was, now. "Well, what in blazes do you suggest we do, then?"

"I have poison!" Angela shouted. She waved a small, purple vial about for Gamora to see. "This is a highly potent venom! We can poison the fiend, and slay it without causing any damage to the beast's hide!"

Gamora plunged into a dense thicket of tendrils and thorns, angrily cursing whichever shiftless alien gardener had failed to keep this particular area neat and tidy. "How long will it take for the poison to bring it down?" she yelled.

Angela snatched a glance at the monster. "Ten minutes?" she ventured.

"Ten minutes?" Gamora roared. "We'll be in its damn belly by then!"

Gruesome mischief blazed to life, then, in Angela's eyes. "Are you telling me that the deadliest woman in the galaxy cannot even last ten minutes with this devil?"

Gamora rolled her eyes, and gave a deep, weary sigh. She motioned with her free hand.

Angela tossed the vial to Gamora. Gamora caught it.

()()()()()()()()()()()

Gamora managed to poison the creature. After seven more minutes of frantic hide-and-seek, the beast began to grow tired. Its movements became slow and lethargic. Its attacks became sluggish and predictable.

After twelve minutes, the arms dealer's exotic pet lay dead at Angela and Gamora's feet.

Gamora glared at Angela. Angela had a smugly triumphant look on her face, an expression which did not help at all with Gamora's present mood. "I thought you were different from the others," Gamora said, the slightest snarl in her voice.

"Oh?" Angela said, eyes wide. "How so, Lady Gamora?"

Gamora shot her one last resentful stare. "You were supposed to be smarter than the rest," she said, and then she turned away, and walked off.

Hundreds of miles above, Quill, Rocket, Drax and Groot turned, and looked at one another.

"That hurts," Rocket said.

()()()()()()()()()()()

Gamora told Quill about the Niagistini. She told him about ring blades.

Quill needed a moment to make sense of this in his head.

"Hula hoops?" he said, at last. "You're telling me that some tribe of snake people somewhere have managed to weaponize hula hoops?"

Gamora wrinkled her nose. "I don't know what that is," she said, "but...the Niagistini wield their blades very effectively..."

Quill held up both hands in the universal signal for okay, some common sense is urgently needed...like, right now. "Gamora, you are not a giant snake lady..."

Gamora narrowed her eyes. "How very perceptive of you."

Quill stared wearily at her. "You're doing this to impress Angela, aren't you?" he said.

An inferno leapt to life in Gamora's eyes. "I am doing no such thing!" she snapped.

"You're arming yourself with weapons that you barely know how to use..."

"I can master any weapon in the universe!"

"You're heading into high-risk situations with arms that you have next-to-no experience with, all so that you can show off to her..."

"I could not care less what she thinks!" Gamora spat.

Quill sagged where he stood. "Fine. Whatever." He took a few moments to decide what was best said next. "Just...just be careful, Gamora. None of us want to see you get hurt." Then, there came that familiar, knowing blankness in his eyes. "Remember: now that Angela is an idiot like the rest of us, you're the only smart one we have."

Quill turned to leave. As he headed towards the door, he knew that Gamora was trying to vaporize him with her eyes.

Worth it.

Apologies if there are any hugely egregious canon or continuity errors in this book...I sort of only got into the GotG when Angela came aboard. Looking forward to the movie, tho!

In the Spawn comics, Angela was a complete and utter asshole, and I loved her for it. She did some really unpleasant things to quite sympathetic characters. The Angela in this fic is a leeeetle bit more cruel and sadistic than her current characterization in the Marvel books – it's how I like her best.