How to Buy Happiness

Chapter 6: Dramatic Rescue Gone Wrong

"H-How did you uninvited people get into my luxurious abode?" the panicked pink man all but squealed.

Gamora had cheerfully (what passed for cheerful with her, anyway) volunteered to interrogate Mr Brandt, who was tied up in several vines provided by Groot. Drax was guarding the door. Peter couldn't help a little smirk forming on his lips. The sweating business man was scared spitless and he deserved it. Peter never did have much respect for people who picked on those smaller and (sorry, Rocket) weaker than themselves.

"We'll be asking the questions, Brandt," the green-skinned assassin assured him flatly. "You took our colleague and we want him back."


"Yeah, you know, furry, got a big mouth, resembles an earth raccoon and carries around a big ass gun? He's kinda hard to miss," Peter elaborated scornfully, "but I'm sure you remember him, since you tried to buy him from us shortly before you went and kidnapped him!"

"I-I—" Brandt began.

Their little interrogation was interrupted prematurely by the blaring of the radio in Peter's jacket. Those crazy moon troopers had given him one so they could keep in touch during the mission. What could they possibly want now? Puzzled, Peter fished the noisy piece of equipment out of his pocket.

"This is Moon Clan to Star-Lord! Come in, Star-Lord!" the radio screeched through bouts of static. "We're meeting with heavy resistance on our end – repeat: heavy resistance!"

Peter was so thrilled that they actually remembered his name this time that he almost forgot to answer.

"This is Star-Lord," he responded into the radio, feeling very official. "I hear you, Moon Clan. What's your situation?"

"Any chance you could wrap up your business and provide us with backup?" the man on the other end sounded positively spooked. "W-We're being massacred, here!"

A stifled gasp drew the eyes of everyone in the room to the business man Groot was still holding down.

"D-Did he just say 'Moon Clan'!?" Brandt gasped, suddenly so pale there was hardly any pink left in his face. The man had been paralyzed by fear a moment ago, but now he started struggling like a madman. "You're not Moon Clan too, are you, kind sir? Please, you have to listen to me! They're after my son!"

"Your son?" Gamora frowned.

"They're after my boy! They're targeting him to get to me!" Brandt cried. It was shocking to hear the man go two whole sentences without a single unnecessary adjective. "They've sent me so many threats already! He's— He's only a boy… gods know what they'll do to him!"

"We're just here for Rocket," their green assassin interrupted sternly, but Peter could see the hesitation in her eyes.

"Look, you can have your little monster back, just save my son!" Brandt wailed. "Please!"

"I am Groot?" the tree man asked, sounding deeply troubled.

Peter grimaced. Everything was turning upside down and inside out. The whole thing left a bitter taste in his mouth. We're supposed to be the good guys, dammit… he thought sullenly. They couldn't just let those freaky moon dudes kidnap a little boy. On the other hand, Brandt had proven to be a very slippery bastard.

What if he was lying? What if they trusted him on this and they never saw Rocket again? What were the odds of this ugly slime ball actually having a son in the first place?

"Star-Lord, are you there? Get over here, now!" a desperate cry crackled over the radio, followed by a scream that reminded Peter of a horror movie, and what sounded very much like the man's death rattle. Whatever these guys were facing, it sounded like it was down right scary…

And that was when they heard it, a sound both terrible and beautiful: the sound of gun-fire combined with wild laughter and a very familiar voice shouting obscenities at the oncoming enemies. Peter felt his heart leap into his throat.

"I don't believe it!" he exclaimed, a reckless grin spreading on his face. "It's Rocket! Rocket is fighting off the kidnappers!"

Rocket Raccoon was having a blast. It felt like ages since he'd last had a chance to just cut loose and blow stuff up.

"Come at me, ya worthless flaaknards!" he cackled, shooting a few more suckers who dared to move too close to the gaping doorway.

A good old firefight did wonders for stress relief, and considering the amount of stress he'd built up during the past not-too-sure-how-many days, Rocket really needed the outlet.

Using the overturned bed as cover, he was able to take pot shots at the goons bottle-necking in the doorway. His only concern was that he couldn't make out if Timmy was all right. The boy was lying on the far side of the wheelchair with his back to Rocket, unmoving. The raccoon thought about calling out to him, but that would just attract needless attention to the kid.

As much as Rocket enjoyed the way things were going right now, he realized that he needed to switch strategies soon – it was only a matter of time before these morons would get smart. While the single doorway was useful for funneling enemies into his sights, Rocket was cornered without an escape route.

He needed a plan of attack.

Rocket ran his eyes over the bodies near the upturned wheelchair, where he'd gunned the bastards down for trying to grab Timmy. One of them had a decent-looking supply of grenades – real grenades – clipped to a belt about the waist. Well, that clod wasn't going to need them anymore, so Rocket was sure he wouldn't mind if someone who actually had a use for explosives at the moment wanted to borrow them. Keeping an eye on the door, which had gone unnervingly quiet, he broke cover and made a dash for the wheelchair. He slid in behind it just in time as a shower of gunshots rained down on his trail. That at least meant he still had their attention. As long as they were concentrating on trying to shoot him, they weren't working on some other way to drive him out.

Rocket was in the process of slipping the dead man's grenade belt over his shoulder when a sudden feeling of vertigo assaulted his senses, followed by a violent spasm in his abdomen. He doubled over involuntarily, clutching his sides as the cramp persisted.

What – the – hell?

That was the only thought he had room for in his head until his muscles finally relaxed and the pain passed.

Thought I was getting better…! he despaired inwardly. Gotta finish this quickly.

Breathing hard, he righted himself and tried to get his bearings. He looked up just in time to see an unwelcome, grenade-shaped object sailing through the open doorway in his direction. Oh, they would pick now to suddenly get smart.

Rocket Raccoon would later admit that what he did next, he had done purely out of instinct and that it probably should not have worked. He would then suppose that the universe had chosen that moment to feel a little apologetic towards him after all it had already put him through. Without thinking, he took the great big gun in both hands and swung it like a thick and unwieldy golf club, whacking the advancing grenade back in the direction it had come from.

There was a hollow sort of 'clong!' as the thing flew harmlessly away from Rocket, bounced twice and rolled out the open doorway. A chorus of surprised shouts erupted from the unsuspecting enemies outside and the grenade burst into a cloud of thick black smog.

Of course, they wanted Timmy alive – probably as a hostage or something – so they wouldn't just toss a regular bomb into the room. Even so, Rocket was a little surprised to be alive.

He didn't waste time thanking his lucky stars just yet, though. He unclipped a grenade – the lethal kind – from the borrowed belt, armed it and hurled it into the smoke-filled hallway. A very satisfying 'BLAM!' punctuated its landing.

The next step, he thought as his feral grin dissipated, was to get Timmy to safety.

The boy, Timmy, pushed himself up on his elbows, wondering why everything smelled of smoke and fire. He was a little frightened, though he wouldn't admit it out loud – space pirates were not afraid of anything, after all. He bit his lip and tried to think like a Ravager. And then Rocket's furry little face filled his vision. The raccoon looked very serious and slightly concerned.

"C'mon, kiddo, up and at 'em, we gotta move!" he said, an urgent light in his eyes.

"Okay, but, where are we going?" Timmy asked and, upon looking up, was startled by the amount of inert bad guys strewn all over his bedroom floor.

Rocket was balancing one of Timmy's self-built guns, the one the raccoon seemed to have taken a liking to, over his shoulder almost casually. The weapon looked enormous in the hands of the little raccoon – it was longer than he was tall! But somehow, despite the comical proportions, Timmy found the sight of Rocket holding the large weapon so confidently oddly reassuring.

"Well, they obviously knew where to find you…" Rocket shrugged, grunting a little as he wrestled Timmy's heavy wheelchair back into an upright position, "so now we're gonna go somewhere they won't think of looking."

"All right, that makes sense," Timmy agreed.

He started dragging himself over to the desk in order to pull himself up on it. Rocket seemed to understand what he was doing and pushed the wheelchair closer for him. It took some effort, but finally, Timmy was back in his seat. Panting, he sat there staring at the pair of useless, cold and numb legs dangling from the front of the wheelchair. He didn't like the feelings of weakness and helplessness that began piling up inside him, so he looked away.

His eyes met Rocket's. They were bright, alive, honest eyes.

Most people became uncomfortable or flustered around Timmy because of his disability and those who did manage to look him in they eye always seemed to look on with pity. It was funny how a small, talking animal could look him directly in the eyes without being troubled, when most grownups could not. Timmy caught himself wishing for the hundredth time that Father could just smile at him like he would at any normal person.

At least Rocket treated him the same way Timmy suspected the raccoon treated just about everybody else – complete and utter irreverence – and that was awesome.

"Thanks, Rocket," he blurted out suddenly.

"F'r what, this?" snorted the raccoon, gleefully indicating the fallen enemies all around them. He grinned savagely. "All in a day's work, kid – these losers had it coming!"

The little guy looked so darn proud of himself that Timmy decided not to explain what he'd really meant.

"Now let's g—" Rocket began, but cut off with a little gasp and clutched his side. "Ow… Flark it!"

Slowly, the raccoon moved his paw away from his side and held it up for inspection. For a long moment, he simply stood staring at it. Timmy squinted. Was that the red sheen of wet blood?

"Huh. Bastards got me…" he said like it was nothing, swaying just a little.

"Rocket, you're hurt…!" Timmy cried. "Let me see."

He reached out a hand to help the unsteady raccoon catch his balance and was rewarded with the most vicious snarl he'd ever seen on Rocket's face. Tail stiff and ears flat, there was a panicked look in his slightly disoriented eyes.

He watched as Rocket blinked once, and then Timmy could literally see him slowly, purposefully pulling himself together by sheer force of will.

"A-Are you all right?" Timmy ventured.

"M'fine," Rocket grunted. "Just… Warn first if yer gonna go grabbing my shoulder like that." Frowning, he turned away. "Don't like it when people get all grabby around me."

That last part came out under his breath. Timmy did not think he'd been meant to hear. Again, he found himself wondering what terrible things the world had done to Rocket to make him so distrustful.

"We should treat your wound," Timmy said decisively, but Rocket waved away the offer.

"Nah, s'just a scratch," he insisted, "besides, gotta get you outta harms way, first."

"Well, if you're tired, maybe I could give you a ride—"

"I can walk!" Rocket shouted, suddenly angry. Something of the surprise Timmy felt must have shown on his face, because Rocket sighed and continued in a milder tone. "I'm fine. I can walk, okay? Quit worryin'."

Even so, Timmy resolved to keep a close eye on the little guy.

"So, do you have a hiding place in mind? Where should we go?" he asked, just to have something to say.

"Out!" declared Rocket as he started walking.

"Out, you mean out into the hallway?" Timmy asked, following.

"No, doofus, I mean outside, in the frickin' garden!" Rocket countered.

"I'm… er… not sure if you're being sarcastic or not," he admitted. "I… don't really go outside. Ever… It isn't safe to go outside, so…"

Rocket turned and stared at him, a very peculiar look on his furry little face.

"You need to get out more, kid," was all he said, though. "Now let's get moving!"

He couldn't help but notice that despite Rocket's wavering steps, the raccoon's grip on the handle of the gun never faltered.

As they neared what was left of the door leading into the hall, Rocket stopped and spun around again so abruptly that Timmy nearly bumped into him from behind. The raccoon looked agitated and he was scratching at his head the way he did when he was about to say something he wasn't really sure he wanted to say.

"Um… Might wanna look away, Timmy," Rocket muttered, scratching half-heartedly at a spot behind one fluffy ear, an awkward expression on his face. "I er… kinda made a mess out there. Ya know, since yer just a kid and all…"

They passed a smoking crater that Timmy carefully avoided looking at. Not because he was afraid of what he might see, but because Rocket asked him to. Instead, he concentrated on the ringed tail swishing from side to side as the raccoon fell into step with him beside the wheelchair.

They hadn't gone very far when one of Father's Security and Maintenance force guys – Luke, Timmy thought his name was – spotted them coming down the hallway. Timmy always did the best he could to try and remember the names of all the staff, because he found it cold and impersonal the way Father referred to them simply by numbers. Well, that, and he secretly liked making up pirate nicknames for everyone like they were members of his crew – this guy would have been Long Man Luke, for his extraordinary height. If anyone ever found out, Timmy would reason that it was just a game to make people's names easier to remember.

Upon seeing the tall man, Rocket tensed up, ears flattening. He shouldered the massive weapon and aimed it at the approaching guard.

"Master Timmy, you're safe!" Luke exclaimed, a wide smile forming on his face.

He stopped a few feet away, his smile slipping a bit when his eyes fell on the angry gun-toting raccoon at Timmy's side giving him the evil eye and training a very recently tested prototype on him. He stared down at Rocket with a carefully blank face. Rocket, on the other hand, glared up at him with canines bared and growled menacingly. Timmy knew trouble brewing when he saw it.

"It's all right, Rocket," he said, eyeing Luke and Rocket in turn. "We're on the same side here."

He gave Luke a pointed frown. The man scowled at the raccoon a moment longer before shrugging, his smile returning.

"How sweet, you gave it a name. Well… as long as you keep your… animal… under control," Luke said disdainfully, "there's probably no harm in letting it roam."

Timmy thought there was something unusual about the way Luke was emphasizing certain words, but he supposed the man was just on edge because of the terrorist attack. On top of that, Timmy had his hands full placating Rocket, who thought the man's tone and comment offensive and didn't hesitate to express his displeasure, loudly.

It took a few moments of arguing back and forth before they could finally begin moving again, Rocket and Luke watching one another like strange cats all the way.

"Hold on…" Timmy said slowly, an uneasy feeling settling over him. "This isn't the way to the safe room… Where are we going…?"

"Not to worry, Master Timmy, I am taking you to a safe place…" Luke said, smile still in place.

"Not to worry, Master Timmy, I am taking you to a safe place…"

Rocket Raccoon harboured a healthy mistrust of people in general.

This mistrust was what saved his life tonight. He'd been watching the man's hands, which were decidedly twitchy for someone who just wanted to help. And as the bastard spoke, he reached into his jacket. Rocket's whiskers twitched, and a split second later he was diving out of the way, and a good thing, too. He barely registered the resounding gunshot, but he was all too aware of the sizable crack in the tile floor where he had last been standing.

Trying to stay off his injured side, he rolled and came up aiming straight for the enemy's chest.

He was unprepared, however, for the creep coming up from behind.

"Rocket, look out!" Timmy cried.

The boy's warning came mere moments too late. Rocket gasped as he was tackled – hard – by something that had him rolling across the floor in a tangled heap. Winded from the force that had sent him skidding, reeling from the impact when the far wall stopped his wild slide, Rocket was confronted with the horrifying realization that the thing that had tackled him was a net, hair fine yet strong as steel. His immediate reaction was to start struggling, to break free, but this only made the tangle worse, drew the thing tighter around him. His mind screamed at him to stop moving and think of a way to escape, but panic had him by the throat and he couldn't move and he had to but he couldn't…!

Squeezing his eyes shut, he tried to block out the fact that he was pinned down, surrounded by enemies, helpless… C'mon, Rocket! Gotta think of a way outta this! His claws closed around a grenade attached to the belt he still wore.

But even as he felt the reassuring round shape of the bomb against his pads, he knew it would do him no good. He would have chanced it if it were just him he had to worry about, but there was no way to utilize the grenade without hurting Timmy in the process. He gazed wistfully at the gun that had been knocked just a little too far out of reach from where he'd landed. If only…

The click of expensive shoes echoed down the hall.

"Now I see why you called Code Animal Control," a voice remarked from just outside his field of vision.

A fat man in a hooded cloak stepped into view. Rocket cringed as a pudgy hand came down to fondle his fur. He couldn't even move his head enough to bite the jackass!

"Such a puny thing…" the newcomer in the hood said, smiling condescendingly down at the raccoon caught in the net. Rocket bared his teeth. "This fluffy little thing was what had my men so hysterical? Honestly, they made it sound like they were fighting off a pack of werewolves!"

"F-Flark you!" Rocket ground out, trying hard to move enough to be able to snap his teeth at the fingers touching him, anything to get the man to take his hand away and leave him alone.

"Oh, how cute," the fat man chuckled, eyebrows climbing as he kept stroking Rocket's head, "it even swears…"

"Please, Mister, don't hurt him!" Rocket could hear Timmy plead, bless his innocent heart. The boy had yet to learn that people who were bigger and had more power than you would do just as they pleased and did not care how much you begged. "Rocket was just trying to protect me! Please!"

"That's one dangerous critter, sir," Brandt's traitorous bodyguard replied, completely ignoring the son of his former employer. "Here, you'll need this!"

"No!" Timmy pleaded. "I-I'll do anything you say, I promise!"

Dread filled Rocket from head to tail when a very familiar bottle of spray changed hands above his head.

Wait-wait, no, not that…!

"The boy seems to be attached to the little beast," the fat man smiled cruelly, shaking up the aerosol. "We'll take it with us. Maybe it'll fetch a pretty price on the black market. At the very least it will make for a nice souvenir."

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