"He-ey, little June bug!" Peter smiles, swooping up his daughter in his arms and tickling her to pieces.
Elspeth squeals with pitches of laughter, squirming as she tries to stop the tickle monster, but her green little fingers and adorable dimpled cheeks are no match for an experienced tickler. Small, grubby little hands snatch at his own, but he's too fast, tickling her up and down into a fit of giggles.
"Daddy! Daddy!" She protests, smile so wide it's threatening to split open her face. "Stop! No more tickle monster!" She shrieks, laughing as much as a four year old can, still squirming to get out of his path, and trying to tickle him back.
"Aw, but I have to get in my tickle monster quota for the day!" He pouts, his fingers stopping their nimble assault on her rolly polly sides.
She gives him a stern, no nonsense look, that she definitely picked up from her momma.
"Fine, fine," he pretends to huff. "I surrender. June bug: one. Tickle monster: zero."
She smiles them, looking so proud at beating him, with a look that she definitely learned from him.
"Why do you call me June bug?" Elspeth asks suddenly, eyes wide and brimming with curiosity. She knows where a lot of her nicknames come from. Els comes from Elspeth. Baby comes from when she used to be a baby (she's a big girl now, but daddy calls her baby sometimes, but she doesn't mind- daddy calls momma baby too, and momma's the biggest girl she knows).
She gets called kid and kiddo a lot too (sometimes when momma leaves ship, she tells someone 'make sure those two kids don't get into any trouble' pointing at daddy and her, but momma's smiling all teasin' like when she does it). When she asks uncle Rocket why he calls her pip-squeak, he says it's because she calls him uncle Ro-Ro.
And while people other than daddy call her baby and sweetie and sweetheart (mostly momma), daddy's the only one who calls her June bug. She doesn't know why. He never calls anyone else June bug either. The only thing she's ever heard of being June bug is her.
Peter has to think for a second. He's always called her June bug. He never, like, intentionally started calling her that, or giving her that nickname- it just came out naturally, on its own. He's always called her June bug.
"That's what my mom called me," he answers, realizing his mom had a lot of affectionate nicknames for him. Of course there was Starlord, that one was the most special and dear to his heart. The most common one too, in happy and serious moments, smiling or sad, but always loving. She tucked him in and kissed him goodnight after a bedtime story with Starlord. She danced with him to the songs on the radio as Starlord too.
But he distinctly remembers his mom saying 'come here my little June bug', and coming at him as the tickle monster, sweeping him up in her arms just as he'd done to his own daughter.
"Why did she call you June bug?" Is Elspeth's immediate and quite frankly predictable question (he should've seen it coming). "What'sa June bug?"
She knew a bug was a thing. Maybe June bug was a thing too.
"Well, it's a bug from earth. Where your papa's from," he explains, knowing she's at least familiar with the concept of what a bug was. Lotsa planets had their own variety of insects, as if Drax hadn't affectionately called Mantis bug lady enough over the years. "They were about this big," he holds up the approximate size of the inch long insect between his thumb and forefinger. "And they flew around like crazy. Used to hear them bumping into the screen door at night whenever we left the back door open cause it was so hot out. They'd just go 'thunk' 'thunk' 'thunk' right into the door," he told her, mining out the bugs flying right into it again and again. "They only came out in the summer. June is one of the summer months where I'm from. So June bugs were the things flying around everywhere on summer nights."
"Why'd she call you June bug, though? Cause you fly around everywhere too? Did'ja run into doors a lot?"
Peter laughs, choosing to focus on the innocence in his daughter's question, not on the fact that his mom had no idea that he'd ever fly around like this one day. "No, she called me June bug cause my birthday's in June."
"You have a birthday?!" The little girl gasps. "How come you never told me?!" She sounds so aghast, maybe even offended. It was true, though. Elspeth's birthday was the only one they celebrated on the ship. Half the team didn't even know when they were born.
Everyone on the team either didn't know when they were born, and never celebrated birthdays, or if they ever had, they hadn't celebrated their birthday in decades.
Hell, Peter didn't even know when June was according to the galactic system. He wasn't even sure he could remember what day he was born on, according to earth time. He hadn't celebrated his birthday since he was eight years old. To be honest, a lot of the traditions they used to celebrate her birthday came from Drax's homeworld. Peter remembered gifts and cake from his own childhood birthdays. Much of what Elspeth knew of birthday celebrations came from the surprisingly child friendly traditions from Drax's home planet.
When Elspeth starts squirming out of his arms and pushing on his chest with rather determined grunting, he sets her down on the floor before she starts kicking and scrambling to get out of him holding her up high in the air.
The moment her feet hit the ground, she races off to the other room.
"Mommy! Mommy!" She yells, running into the kitchen.
Peter pops his head in behind her, seeing Elspeth has already made it to where her mother is sitting comfortably at the kitchen table. She has her hands on Gamora's knees, bouncing up and down on her toes, while Gamora waits to receive the news her daughter was excited to tell her about/shouting at her for while Peter steps into the kitchen.
"Daddy has a secret birthday!" She shouts, all scandalized in that bright eyes and childish way.
"He does?" Gamora asks, smiling, humoring her daughter, and giving Peter a look at the same time, not quite sure what's going on.
"Yeah! He has a birthday too! And I was named after his birthday!"
Gamora gives Peter another look, this one much less amused- they both knew that Elspeth was named after Gamora's mother. Peter looks wide eyed at their daughter's claim.
"No, I did not say that," he corrects hastily, very alarmed by his wife's expression.
"Nickname, sweetheart, nickname," he reminds Elspeth, coming closer to ruffle her hair. Then, whispering over her head, he clarifies "She asked where the nickname June bug came from."
Gamora's eyes flash in understanding.
"Yup. Daddy was born on June, Momma. I'm nicknamed after his birthday," she asserts proudly.
Gamora looks up to Peter for confirmation to see if Elspeth had a correct understanding, and Peter vehemently shook his head.
"Well, sounds like an interesting story," Gamora says, effortlessly lifting their daughter in her arms and seating her in her lap.
And then his two girls both look up to him with puppy dog eyes for a retelling of the origin story of June Bug.
Peter sighs. "You weren't 'nicknamed' after my birthday. You were nicknamed after me. It used to be my nickname. I only call you June bug cause I used to be called June bug. And my mom called me June bug because I was born in June."
"Is tacking bug onto words a Terran form of endearment I'm unaware of? Your mother called you an insect as an expression of affection?" Gamora asks, genuinely curious. Just when she thought she got a hang of Peter's human-isms ('honey' he assured her was something sweet, and as such a perfect thing to call someone you loved) he threw in another curve ball. To be honest, she never really thought of asking where the nickname June bug came from. It was already normal by then. She just wrote it off as some nonsense thing she still didn't quite understand, like why he called their daughter 'sweetie' AND 'sweet pea' even though they seemed nearly identical, and she still didn't understand the difference and why he used one and not the other sometimes. Among his list of colorful terms of endearment for their daughter are 'sunshine', 'grumpy pants', 'cutie patootie', 'little miss grumpy pants', and the normal ones that Gamora uses like 'baby' and 'sweetheart'.
He has so many nicknames for Elspeth, she doesn't know how even he keeps track of them. She finds them all rather adorable.
But she's never thought to ask about June bug specifically. She didn't know that it used to belong to him. She didn't know that his mother called him June bug. She didn't know that nickname was from Meredith.
Now that she's heard, though, she's wondering if bug is an affectionate word like 'baby' or 'honey'.
"No, no. June bug is a type of bug. It's a species. That was really common where I grew up. They were called that cause they came out in June. So did I. And that's where I got the nickname June bug. You got it from me," he says, bending down on his haunches so he's eye level with Elspeth, and boops her on the nose.
Gamora nods in understanding, thinking she might still have some more questions, but she'll ask him later tonight, when they're alone. She has enough of the story for now. She can't help but be filled with warmth whenever she learns something new about Peter, even after all this time.
"See, I told you he had a birthday," Elspeth says to her mother.
"Most people do, darling," she responds with a chuckle.
Her daughter looks up at her in surprise. "Do you have a birthday?" She asks, eyes wide.
"Yes. Myself included. Most people do have birthdays, or a hatching day of some sort. Drax, Rocket, and Mantis have birthdays too. We all do."
Somehow, her daughter looks even more scandalized by the news, like it was some big secret they were keeping from her- and oh, now she's pouting.
"Why did nobody tell me?!" She whines. "Why is everybody hiding birthdays?"
"Nobody was hiding birthdays, Els. We just don't celebrate them, that's all."
"Why don't you celebrate birthdays?" She asks, looking between her two parents.
Peter and Gamora share a frantic look with each other for a second, trying to silently come up with a collaborative story, because the real answer was much more complicated than could be explained.
"We did, but when we were younger. Now… we're grownups?" Is the offered excuse. For why none of the team celebrates birthdays.
"I don't wanna grow up! I wanna keep having birthdays!" The four year old exclaims, looking like she's about to cry. And now both her parents are really panicking.
"Oh, no, no, no," Gamora says comfortingly at the same time Peter says "You don't have to."
"Why'd you stop having birthdays if you didn't have to? Why am I the only one who gets a birthday? That's not fair. Why don't you guys get to have a birthday? Why do I have a birthday now, and you guys don't? Why do I get a birthday?" Elspeth asks, partly out of concern for her parents, and partly because she's afraid her birthday might get taken away.
"We all chose to stop having birthdays before we met, dear," Gamora tells her, lovingly tucking the locks of dark hair behind her ear. "Before your dad and I, uncle Drax and Rocket, and aunt Mantis all met each other. But when you were born, you gave us a reason to celebrate."
She seems appeased by this answer.
"Mhmm. Now we all get to celebrate your birthday with you. Thanks for that, baby," Peter says, kissing her on top of the head.
"You're welcome," Elspeth replies, already back to smiling.
And, because he couldn't help himself, Peter asks his daughter with a grin "You know who else likes birthdays?"
"The tickle monster!"
"No! Mommy, mommy! Help me!" Elspeth shrieks, already laughing and trying to get up and away onto Gamora's shoulders before her father gets at her sides.
"Don't worry, I'll protect you," she promises, wrapping her daughter up in the biggest bear hug possible, using her arms and curling around her to block any impending tickle attacks.
'love you,' Peter mouths to her as she bundles their daughter up in her arms.
'love you too' she mouths back.
AN: To answer the question of those of you who follow me on tumblr, yes, I really am desperate enough to post a birthday themed one shot on my actual birthday. Supes desperate.
Thanks for reading!