Title: Ghosts of the Quadrant
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Rating/Warnings: G. Canonical deaths referenced, because ghost story.
Characters: Groot, the other Guardians, supernatural guests.
Setting: Post-Volume 2.
Summary: The Guardians of the Galaxy are not alone on their new ship.
Disclaimer: They belong to Marvel. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: My gift for Lunarium in the 2017 Trick Or Treat Exchange—and also my first completed Guardians of the Galaxy fic.
"I am Groot. …I am Groot? …I am Groot."
"Groot, you're talking to the wall again," Peter Quill muttered disapprovingly, coming into view as he rounded a bend of the corridor. "I'm starting to get worried about this habit you've picked up. Is this like some kind of imaginary-friend thing you've got going, or what?"
"I am Groot," the little sprout retorted, indignant at having to state the obvious.
"Yeah, whatever." Quill turned and began to walk away; but after a few steps he paused, glancing behind himself with a shiver as he felt the momentary chill of deep space. "Seriously, I've gotta have Rocket take a look at the heating system. This ship is draftier than I ever remembered…"
Still ironically mumbling to himself, the half-Terran strode away—unaware that he had just passed straight through the hovering form of an alien ghost.
There were many ghosts aboard the Quadrant: spirits of the Ravagers who were faithful to Captain Yondu, still lingering in the surviving section of the vessel where they had spent so much of their lives. For the majority of the time they were dormant, their energies at rest deep within the bulkheads and girders. However, from time to time one or more of them would stir, and emerge to go drifting about the ship on their own ghostly business.
Only Groot could see them—and they knew that he could.
They were not frightening to him. Evidently they were harmless as disembodied spirits anyway; and unlike the mutineers who had murdered them and tormented Groot, Yondu's loyalists had been more genial, jolly fellows. All of them were kindly towards Groot, even seeming to like having a still-living creature with whom they could interact. When they felt like it, they would amuse themselves and him too, leading him on games of tag or hide-and-seek from one end of the ship to the other.
On some level, they even spoke to Groot. It wasn't so much words as projected meaning, but he understood them clearly. After all, that was much more like his own species' means of communicating than the clumsy, complex noises his mammalian friends relied upon.
Mostly though, the ghosts were silent… and always watching the activity aboard their old ship.
Mealtimes in the galley often attracted the ghosts. They were drawn by the energy of the Guardians' camaraderie—and the stories the Guardians would tell. It was not uncommon for Groot to see a handful of spirits gathered around at those times, enjoying the raucous tales of past exploits.
Drax was a particular favorite of theirs. With his uproarious laugh and penchant for epic violence, they seemed to think he would have made a good Ravager himself.
Quill, on the other hand… Well, it turned out he had a tendency to exaggerate his tales. Groot was reduced to giggling every time Tullk's annoyed and exacting ghost would lurk behind Quill and correct him, submitting the often far less flattering truth of how the events had really happened.
Of course the snickers earned Groot quite a few ungrateful looks from Quill, but the amusement was worth it.
Although the ghosts were only visible to Groot, he was not entirely alone in perceiving their presence. The more sensitive of his friends simply didn't know what that presence was.
Beyond the faint physical chill their closeness caused mammals to feel, it seemed Rocket's animal senses could almost detect them. When they were near, sometimes his ears would prick up and his hackles would rise. Then he would look around the room suspiciously; but seeing no one, he would growl softly and return to whatever he was doing.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Mantis appeared to be second only to Groot in her awareness that the living were not alone. He was uncertain of how much she really knew, but at times her antennae would gently glow when she felt a ghost in the room… and quite often, a little smile would cross her lips. Whatever she sensed, she seemed to understand as Groot did that the spirits in residence were friendly.
And when it was needed, they were even protective as well.
You gotta wake up, Twig!
In the middle of the shipboard night, Groot's eyes opened sleepily to find a translucent blue face hovering inches from his own. It immediately earned his full attention. The ghost of Captain Yondu was usually the most reticent of the spirits, yet tonight it was he who had initiated contact—and there was an anxious, urgent look in his crimson eyes.
"I am Groot?" He wasn't sure whether Yondu understood him better now as a ghost, but his questioning tone was clear enough.
Y'all got troubles, Twig. There's a radiation leak down in engineering, an' the alert system's busted. If you don't get your friends to fix it right now, there ain't none of 'em gonna wake up in the morning. Come on!
Groot scrambled to his feet. Although he didn't know what radiation was, he got the point that a spill of it would somehow hurt his friends if it wasn't cleaned up right away. He scampered from the lower corner of Quill's bed to the pillow, and as Yondu's ghost watched him with approval, he proceeded to poke the Star-Lord's face with his twiggy fingers.
"I am Groot. I am Groot!"
Quill awakened with a jerk and instinctively tried to swat aside Groot's tiny hands, as if he thought a mosquito was assailing him. "Ow—what? Groot, what's the matter?" he mumbled, blinking his eyes open in drowsy confusion as he cupped a hand behind Groot's little body.
"I am Groot!" the sprout exclaimed, extending vines to wrap around Quill's hand and pull: a clear message for him to get up.
"Huh? No, come on, it's not time to wake up yet." Quill pulled back in resistance to Groot's tugging, and moved to lay his head down. "You just had a bad dream or something. Go back to sleep."
Yondu's ghost scowled. We ain't got time to be gentle. Git 'im up!
Groot complied without hesitation, wrapping a thick mass of vines around Quill's middle and dragging him bodily out of the bed. Quill hit the deck with a thud, and came up cursing.
"You little psycho topiary, what is wrong with you?" he snapped, viciously tearing the clinging vines away.
"I am Groot!" Groot pleaded, pointing frantically to the hatch.
"What?—Alright, alright!" Quill surrendered at last, as more vines snaked persistently around his arm to drag him forward. He stumbled, but he grudgingly stomped after Groot, snatching up his boots along the way. "What is it?"
Man, plant, and spirit promptly spilled out into the corridor. Yondu's ghost floated ahead with a sharp gesture for Groot to follow, and Groot obeyed—half-leading and half-towing the bewildered and reluctant Quill behind him. For the next two minutes they wound their way down through the ship, with the mammal grumbling a low stream of objections under his breath.
When they reached the engineering section, Yondu's ghost moved at once to an instrument panel, and emphatically waved a phantom hand at it. This right here is what he's gotta see, Twig!
Groot hauled Quill over to the panel. He clambered up onto it, and in imitation of Yondu's ghost, he pointed to the readout on its screen.
Quill took one look at the flashing red gauge the screen displayed. Then he turned as white as a proverbial ghost himself, and reached for the comm.
"Rocket, wake up! I need you down in engineering right now!"
Evidently they caught the radiation leak in plenty of time to repair it before critical levels were reached. Rocket and Quill spent the rest of the night on that work. When the others woke in the morning and learned what had happened, Gamora took the precaution of making sure they all got some kind of counteractive injection; but by then the Quadrant was officially out of danger.
"It's kinda creepin' me out, now that I've had time to think about it," Quill remarked later at breakfast, clasping his hand gently around Groot's shoulders. "We'd all be dead now if you hadn't woken me up and dragged me down there. But how did you even know about the leak?"
"I am Groot," Groot replied earnestly.
Rocket squinted at him. "Whadaya mean, a friend told you?"
"I am Groot."
"Okay, fine. Be mysterious. …I'm probably gonna look back on this later and worry."
Groot merely grinned up at the raccoon. Then he turned the same expression to the blue ghost who hovered near the table, looking on fondly; and Yondu returned the smile.
You done good, Twig.
2017 Jordanna Morgan