Title: Detonation Imminent
Fandom: MCU/Guardians of the Galaxy
Rating: General
Wordcount: This part, 1611
Characters/Pairing: Peter & the team - no pairings yet
Disclaimer: None of this is mine.
Other Disclaimer: Much as I loved this movie, I hadn't really expected fanfiction on it to happen for me, but it did, so if you're not into MCU, you might want to think about removing me from your author alerts. If you are, glad to have you on board! This one starts a little generic, but the next chapter is where I actually started writing, so I had to go back and set the stage - I think it will improve from here.

None of them knew exactly how to describe it, but something had changed after they held the Infinity Stone. The properties of the Stone weren't exactly quantifiable; maybe sharing its power replicated the kind of connection that usually came from genetics. Maybe it was simply acknowledging a link that had been forged the moment that they each made the decision to die together.

Whatever had happened that day, it was permanent. It was also intoxicating, like coming home at last and falling in love and embarking on an adventure all at once. The first sugar crash was Groot's death, and the consequent realization that dying together was not an inevitability but an almost attractive alternative to mourning each other. Then came the final epiphany: Groot was going to be reborn. They had done the impossible, found their place in the galaxy, and hadn't lost anybody. When they launched from Xandar, newly outfitted and named, Peter's exhilaration had reached its peak. There was nothing his team couldn't face together, and he couldn't wait to begin exploring the possibilities.

Then they had started to talk. In fragments and rambles he heard their stories, and the more they all got to know each other, the more they wanted to share. It was good to see them open up, and he never refused to listen any more than he deliberately solicited anything he thought might be painful. Eventually, though, the full truth hit him: everything was painful. Groot was whole, but he was also at his most mysterious and vulnerable. Drax would sometimes describe a horrifically blood-spattered scene from his memory, then look around at them and ask with genuine consternation why nobody found that funny. Gamora tried to come up with one normal anecdote and kept interrupting herself with offhanded references to assassination jobs or her own torturous training. Rocket...well, you try not to refer to your friends as time bombs. But with Rocket, the question wasn't whether he was going to explode, but how many of them he was going to take out when he did.

Peter himself was an ex-criminal vagabond manchild and, okay, something of a dick. But now he was a leader, too. He was in over his head, he knew that, but it didn't change anything. The Guardians of the Galaxy were his responsibility, and this was one ball he wasn't going to drop.

The first step was to assign duties. Aside from Peter's role as captain, there was also a rank, title, and official job description for everyone else in the crew. However, nobody knew what they were.

It was more or less assumed that Gamora was second in command, since she was the only one with both the stability and mental capacity for it. She refused to act the part when it came to issuing orders, though, as that had a tendency to backfire in this company. When she found Rocket in the engine room, she asked, "Rocket, are you busy? Peter is calling a Jackass Circle."

They found Drax already sitting expectantly in the cabin, which Nova Corps had graciously equipped with furniture far superior to anything the Milano had contained in its days as a bachelor ship. Peter was carefully positioning Groot so that he had a comfortable view of everyone. He had recently graduated to a larger pot, but he was still too small to make the full range of undertones that he could with his grown body, so even Rocket had some difficulty understanding him at times. He seemed to be able to understand them, though, and was generally content with his current limitations as long as they put in the token effort to include him.

Quill paced a little as he began to address them. "I've been thinking about our next stop. I mean, we cashed in pretty good with those last couple bounties and we could probably keep it up forever, but is that what we want?"

There followed a brief digression - Rocket had to point out that he had never made as much money with just Groot as they were making now, and he liked it - but Gamora soon summarized the prevailing opinion. "No. We made a difference once before. If we have another chance, we should take it."

"Yes." Peter nodded firmly, pointing at her for emphasis. "We can still boogie, but we can't let the galaxy fall apart while we're at it. And this is the part that makes me want to hide under the covers, but sooner or later, making a difference is probably going to mean…"

"Thanos." Drax's eyes lit up. "Yes, of course. Together we will face him, and put an end to his reign of bloodshed and injustice!"

Rocket clapped a paw to his face. "Are you ever gonna quit with the crazy? Us five against freakin' Thanos?"

Thankfully, Quill cut in before Drax could attempt a compelling argument for why they should all run headlong into their certain deaths. "Rocket's right. We're not ready for that. But it's a good time to start looking for allies." He checked each of them for a sign of affirmation, then continued, "So here's an idea I'm gonna throw out there, and we can vote on it, or you can tell me why it's stupid, or whatever: Terra."

It made sense that Peter would want to visit his homeworld, but nobody had expected him to be pitching it as a mission instead of a vacation. "You want to get help from a bunch of primitive humies?" asked Rocket. "This Terra of yours ain't even made contact with an interstellar government yet."

Gamora sat up straighter, looking interested. "But they fought off a Chitauri invasion. Successfully! There must be some power there worth investigating."

"Yes," said Drax, his eagerness still evident under his contemplative tone. "Perhaps Billy the Kid, or Bonnie and Clyde."

"Not quite," said Peter, "but we'll keep them in mind as a backup plan." He had been fiddling with the controls of the display screen, and now brought up an image of a city, presumably Terran. It showed signs of the attack that Gamora had mentioned, but the damage was superficial on a planetary scale. Then the footage zoomed in to center on a single building, a skyscraper with a few chunks missing from its top and one prominent symbol in the middle. "All the sources I can find say that the counterattack was launched here, and it…" He checked an article scrolling by in the corner of the screen, and read "...'Hinged on the efforts of a small number of super-powered individuals'."

Gamora asked to look at the sources herself, and for the next ten minutes they passed them around, theorizing about the nature of the Terran warriors and debating the merits of meeting them face-to-face. Rocket was slowest to warm up to the idea, which he insisted was strictly because he felt it was his duty to be the voice of dissent, as the only one here who had any sense of self-preservation. "So say the media got it right for once about these guys. We're gonna, what, waltz in there and ask if they want to die fighting Thanos with us?"

Quill shook his head. "Not until we know if we can trust them. This picture of the building is current; there's nobody living there now. I could take a look around, see what kind of people they are. If you think you can sneak me inside without bringing down the house."

"I am Groot!"

"You don't gotta get all indignant. He knows I can, he just thinks I'll agree faster if I'm tryin' to prove something."

Gamora cleared her throat. "Peter, I would like to see your planet. But I had understood that you did not wish to ever return there."

All eyes turned to Peter, who shrugged unhappily and wandered over to the couch to sit next to Drax. "Yeah, I've been avoiding it all these years. It's not like I can set up shop there, you know? But I think I'm ready to stop in. I got some personal stuff I should take care of, see if my grandparents are alive, that kind of thing." He fell into momentary silence, then lifted his head and carried on in a firm tone. "But I don't want this to be all about me. If we're going, we're all going, and the mission comes first."

Drax jumped to his feet. "I support your plan, Star-Lord of Terra!"

"Drax, I told you we don't always need to stand up to cast a vote," Quill complained, but he was smiling.

"As our custom of the Jackass Circle takes its nomenclature from the initial occasion in which we pledged our solidarity by standing, I feel it is appropriate to -"

"I also vote yes," interrupted Gamora, raising her arm.

"I am Groot." It was one of the times that anyone could understand what he meant by his three words. Quill leaned forward to give him a fist-bump, which had apparently become their favorite ritual in the past few weeks despite Groot's "fist" barely matching the breadth of Quill's fingernail.

After letting the suspense build for a minute longer, Rocket put in his consent to the plan as well. Instantly, "I Want You Back" began blasting from the tape deck, and Peter grabbed Gamora's elbow and whirled her into a dance, infecting her in the process with his delighted laughter. Someone must have had a finger hovering over the play button for the celebration to begin so quickly after the deal was sealed, and he only knew that it wasn't him.