They might be Guardians of the Galaxy, capital letters and all, but they're still, to quote Peter, losers - and therefore Gamora is completely unsurprised when Peter goes to a simple meeting with a contact to scout out a paying job, and doesn't come back in time. Irritated, grudgingly worried, yes - but unsurprised.

She's even less surprised when Drax goes to retrieve their fearless leader and comes back carrying him on his back. Instead of a paying job, or maybe a hangover and a sheepish explanation (Gamora kind of hoped for that), Peter now has broken legs, a concussion and too many bruises to count.

Rocket says, "Seriously? Seriously, that's how we do business now?"

Peter says, "Apparently this contact is a lying liar who lies, who knew? So I got jumped and robbed, sue me", and there's an undercurrent of anger in his voice that throws her off. So instead of adding to the discussion she sighs and helps Drax get him to his bunk.

They're still several jobs and maybe a proper Nova Corps contract away from installing a decent medsuite in the ship - and let's be honest, it's questionable if they will ever be able to fit one into the ship. Milano might be the joy and light of Peter's life (and if you ever caught Gamora sleeping and threatened her, she might've even acknowledged some fondness for it herself), but it's tiny, and not really suited to carrying five. They manage, they maybe even appreciate the close quarters a bit more than any of them is willing to admit, but: no space. So, for the time being, it's pills and splints and good old-fashioned recovery for Peter, flat on his back in his bunk.

Gamora fully expects Peter to be a terrible, terrible patient, all bluster and whine, and has even prepared a speech aimed at people who call themselves Star-Lord and yet get mugged in bars, and therefore can stuff their whining and take their medicine - but she never has a reason to use it. Peter's obedient and quiet, bearing both pain and inconvenience with something she would've called stoicism in another person; Peter is, in fact, too quiet.

Peter worries her. Peter worries them all.

She toys with the idea that it's the beating itself, but she has little doubt that Peter had been on the losing side of a fight many times before, and will undoubtedly be there many times again. She thinks about embarrassment and throws that idea away, as well: if there's something a person saving the world by attempting a dance-off doesn't believe in, it's embarrassment. He should be complaining, joking, demanding to be waited on hand and foot, decrying his boredom, pestering Rocket into making toys, teaching Drax new metaphors, annoying her. Instead he's just - subdued. Not right.

Gamora knows three hundred ways to kill a person armed and unarmed; two hundred and sixty ways of extracting information; one hundred and thirty-two ways of sabotage; eighteen ways to start a war.

She doesn't know how to fix this.

In the end, it's Groot who figures out what's wrong. He's relocated into a bigger pot by now, still not talking, but taking an avid interest in all the goings-on of the ship. They're all scattered in the main room, ostensibly doing maintenance and in fact each trying to figure out the way to say, "Something is seriously wrong here", and that's when Groot apparently despairs of them and, with a tiny mournful noise, imitates dancing.

Gamora flinches, for the first time hearing something she should've spotted from the beginning: silence. No weird Terran music, no demands for weird Terran music - and for full two months after Xandar you had to sit on Peter and threaten him if you wanted to hear your own thoughts.

Rocket says, "Oh fuck me sideways" and scrambles into Peter's bunk, shouting as he goes, "Quill, where're your tapes?", and they pile in after him.

There's a split moment where she sees something horrible in his face, naked and full of despair - that song belongs to me! - and then it's gone as if it'd never been there.

"Thugs with bats, armed robbery, I shouldn't go into bars alone, seriously, any of this sound familiar to you? I'm trying to sleep here."

"And your Walkman?"

"And my Walkman, yes. Come on, I know we're all into communal living now, but sometimes a man just wants to sleep in peace, what's with the group performance?"

The sheer force of his annoyance sweeps them out of the bunk and back into the common room, confused and (in Gamora's case, at least) tentatively angry.

Rocket sits back by his yet another bomb-in-progress and says, "So… a guard looks at his trinket wrong and he goes crazy and storms the entire prison wing by his lonesome, but some assholes making off with it is apparently A-OK?"

Drax is frowning. He says, slowly: "I didn't wish to mention it before, but… when I found friend Peter there, he was trying to get up, and he was - crying. He stopped when he saw me, said it was nothing, but…"

Gamora raises a hand to forestall him; in her head puzzle pieces are rapidly rearranging themselves. She remembers Peter on the terrace in Knowhere, stumbling over his words - my mom - when she - on the day that she - when I left - and the way his hands were reverent on the buttons. A little boy on a Ravager's ship, with nothing but it to tie him to his homeland. A desperate man in prison, convulsing and still trying to say "mine". Trinket, toy, music, link. All his to protect.

"I", she says, enunciating carefully, "am going to kill him."

"He sold us on this gigantic pile of shit about being friends and holding hands and trusting each other, and that's what he decides to be selfless about?"

Rocket clues in first, and grins sharply and entirely without humor. "Are we going to go blow things up now?"

"Oh, yes we are."

Four long, messy, irritating days later - it's amazing how hard it is to track a pair of faceless, nameless people and a piece of obsolete tech in a big, mostly lawless city - Gamora strides into Peter's bunk. Rocket immediately went to commune with Groot; Drax, relieved from babysitting duty, disappeared somewhere; and so there's nobody to witness the gentleness she allows herself when she places the battered player on his chest.

Peter stares at her, wide-eyed, fingers already clutching his treasure. She notes with pleasure that his bruises have almost healed.

"Next time, ask."

He puts the headphones on as if he can't help himself. His hands shake a little. But he looks at her seriously and steadily, eyes clear for the first time in weeks, and he says, "thank you", before hitting play.

On her way out, she hums.