“Peter, Peter,” Gamora softly called to him, rousing him from a dreamer’s sleep, her voice somehow floaty and ethereal as she pulled him out from the depths. Everything was unreal. He still hadn’t opened his eyes yet.
“Peter, I finally found you. Come back to me,” she said, fingers brushing, just grazing the wisps of curls on his forehead, and her touch was enough to finally bring him out of it, whatever he was under.
His eyes fluttered open to see Gamora’s face, gazing down as she stroked his hair so lovingly, cradling his head in her lap. As he looked up at her, the light from the sky illuminated the crown of her head, almost like a halo, giving her an ethereal glow. But the sky wasn’t behind her head. It was just light above them now. Where had the sky gone?
“G’mora?” Peter rasped, struggling to get his voice going, like it had gone unused for weeks. “What are you- what are you doing here?” He didn’t bother asking where they were. He strangely wasn’t concerned with it. He instinctively knew they weren’t home. This place was so unreal. Like a dreamscape. Maybe they were dead. Maybe they were someplace else. Whatever it was, it wasn’t their universe, it wasn’t home, but he wasn’t particularly concerned with figuring it out.
He just knew they weren’t home.
They were here.
“What do you mean-? How’d you find me?” He asked, shaking his head, trying to clear the clouded thoughts from his mind, but it had no effect. Everything was hazy. “How’d you find me in this place?”
“Your soul is aching, Peter,” she murmured, keeping up her light and reassuring touches. She smiled, but her expression was off, sad. She looked like she was consoling him. “I followed it, to find you.”
It felt like they were... drifting. Peter was filled with this dreamy sort of contentment lying there, looking up at her, Gamora filling his vision like she was the only thing he was ever meant to see. It felt like all was right with the world. Everything was as it should be.
Seeing her gentle smile, her gaze full of love and affection, filled him with such peace.
His mind felt like it was drifting too. Gamora seemed to be more lucid than him, but whenever he tried to stop and think about what she could be lucid from, he always got lost in her eyes again.
This feeling of unreality was one he was surprisingly okay with.
“Tell me about it, baby,” she murmured, trailing her fingertips at his temple, wanting to soothe his soul. The pain seemed dull now- more blunted- but there was still that ache and unrest just beneath the surface. She wanted him to stop hurting. She wanted to make it better.
The memories flooded through his head, and it hurt so much as it all came rushing back to him. Tears streamed down Peter's cheeks as he laid there in her lap.
“'M... 'm sorry, I- I screwed up,” he said, lip quivering violently. “He- he said he had to. I'm so sick of hearing people say anything is more important than-” Peter choked on a sob, turning into her, wrapping his arms around her as he curled up on his side, burying his face in her stomach and crying harder than she thought possible.
As Peter sobbed in her lap, clinging to her, the memories swept into her too. Transferred somehow.
Just by his touch.
The memories swept through Gamora, suddenly and all at once, and what they held was just... overwhelming. She could feel everything. It hurt so much.
She saw what happened on Titan. Felt every second of it. And, unexpectedly, she saw Ego.
Ego saying he had to. Ego saying his plans were more important, he had to kill mom because of his plans. He said he loved her. That's why he had to kill her.
Gamora had heard this story before- Peter told her sometime in the months following the aftermath, when he could finally bring himself to speak on it without breaking down. That Ego revealed he caused his mother's death- that he gave her the Terran illness that killed her on purpose.
But Peter only told her about the information he learned- just a summary of Ego admitting that he killed mom, that he gave her that tumor on purpose and left her behind to die.
Peter didn't tell her the exacts of that conversation. He didn't tell her that Ego broke the news in the most heartbreaking way possible.
But Gamora could see it all now.
She saw Ego crush the walkman in his hands, heard him saying he had to put that tumor in her head because he loved her, and if he came back to earth one more time, he would've stayed with her. But his plans were too important- he had to kill her. Mom had to die because Ego loved her. He said he had to.
And she saw Thanos, as the scene unfolded back on Titan. She saw the struggle of her family and unfamiliar faces against the monster that raised her and took everything from her. She heard him say he had to. He had to kill Gamora. To get the soul stone. The soul stone demanded he sacrifice what he loved. Gamora had to die because Thanos loved her. He said he had to.
She saw Mantis, with her hands on Thanos's head, saying he felt grief, that he was mourning.
He said he had to.
She heard what Ego said. “It broke my heart to put that tumor in her head.”
He said he had to.
Gamora felt the loss, the pain, the anger, that they thought they lost someone they loved when they killed her. It wasn't their loss. It was their evil.
He said he had to. He said he had to kill mom, just because he loved her. He said he had to. He said he had to kill Gamora, just because he loved her.
He didn't have to.
It hurt so much. The pain was overwhelming.
Gamora could feel her heart break twice, at the exact same time, as Peter curled into her lap and sobbed so hard he couldn't breath.
Gamora didn't even realize there were tears streaming down her own cheeks until she saw the drops landing on the back of his head. She numbly lifted her hand to her face, almost to confirm she was crying. That the reason her vision was so blurry right now was because drops falling on Peter really were from her own eyes. She touched her cheek, and her fingers came away wet.
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” Peter whispered, his whole body shaking.
Gamora stroked his hair in silence as her tears kept falling.
Time was weird in this... dimension. She didn't know what else to call it. Wherever this was. This world.
It was like time didn't exist at all here. She had no idea how long she had been here, if it had been minutes, weeks, or something else. It was like time stopped existing.
That didn't change once she found Peter. She had no idea if he had been lying in her lap for an hour, or if she had been trying to comfort him for days.
She didn't mind. She was fine losing time with him.
“I'm... 'm sorry. I screwed up,” Peter said, his voice weak, throat corded as he struggled to speak. “I'm so sorry.”
“No, you didn't,” she tried to reassure him, but he interrupted.
“I did... the gauntlet... I'm so, so sorry, Gamora. It's all my fault.”
She hummed, lifting up his face to look into his tear stained eyes, and smiled at him with the softest, warmest, most comforting smile she had. It was a smile she had reserved just for him.
“As usual, you lack perspective,” Gamora said fondly, giving him a light tap on the temple to show him what she had seen. From his memories.
There was a reason they were such good partners.
She saw things he didn't, made connections he didn't get. And he did the same for her.
Gamora showed him the wizard, how he said they only win in one future. She showed him after the battle, how when Quill asked if they had lost, the wizard had said 'We're in the endgame.'
“He meant no, Peter,” Gamora told him gently. “That meant not yet. That means we're still in the game. It's not your fault, baby. Everything happened as it should, as it had to. To get to that one winnable future. You didn't do anything wrong, baby. They're still on the right track. Still in the game. Because of you, because of us, what we did. We set up all the pieces, baby. Now it's time for them to play.”
“You're not leaving are you?” Peter asked, sounding so afraid.
It was the first time she'd heard anything but pain and sorrow in his voice. Fear wasn't much of an improvement, if at all. She was at least glad he seemed to stop blaming himself.
She didn't understand how she had access to his memories, but she found herself reassured by what she saw there. She hadn't known what happened, what was going on, since she'd been in this place. Now, with Peter, she had hope.
She wanted to tell him no, promise that she wouldn't leave him no matter what, but she couldn't lie to him.
“I... I don't know,” Gamora said, avoiding his eyes for the first time since she'd found him. “I don't want to. This world... it's hard to navigate,” she frowned, brows furrowing as she looked around. Their surroundings just faded into a haze. “I only found you because I followed how much your soul was aching. I keep... I keep running into people, but they're all asleep. Like you were asleep, when I found you. I didn't know if I'd be able to wake you up. I haven't tried waking anyone else up.”
She shivered- not because she was cold. It didn't really feel like... any temperature here. The only thing that seemed to have any sort of variance was Peter, the warmth from him, that she felt in his presence, and even then it wasn't so much of warmth as it was light. Still- familiar, comforting. Having him close like this.
All of her senses were affected by the drifting, drifting, drifting feeling. Wrapped around her perception, dulling and morphing everything until all she could feel was this dream state quality.
She couldn't even call up a clear image of what she had been doing before she found him. The memories of being in this world, how long she had been walking, all the bodies she had run into- she couldn't picture what even one of them had looked like, now that she was sitting here with him. There were so many of them. Still, the memories that she couldn't quite recall made her shiver.
“I don't understand how everything works here, or why I'm the only one awake. There are so many people sleeping, Peter. This place- it's like... the patterns keep shifting, and what's fuzzy and gray becomes blurry becomes something else, everything's all mixed up and out of sorts. Like the perception...” Gamora groaned, clutching her head in pain. It hurt so much. Her head was killing her, the pain bright and splitting, and even though she shut her eyes, she still couldn't shut it out. “It hurts when I think about it too much,” her lip quivers, trembling, the pain unbearable after only a few seconds of trying to focus. “Like it doesn't want me to concentrate on it. Or- or glare, and I'm not supposed to look at it too long. This world doesn't want me to look at it. I'm not supposed to look at the seams.”
The world was shifting apart at the seams, everything was shifting apart at the seams, and like the bright glare of the sun, she wasn't supposed to look at the cracks.
She wasn't meant to see them. But she could.
Maybe she was meant to be asleep. Maybe everyone here was supposed to be. Maybe she was supposed to be under like Peter, unconscious and drifting like all the other bodies she'd run into.
Maybe no one was supposed to be awake here, no one was supposed to see the changing patterns, how this place was inherently unstable, unsustainable.
She wasn't supposed to concentrate on it.
This world didn't want her looking at it. She wasn't supposed to look at the seams.
“It hurts my head when I think about it,” Gamora finished quietly, hoping for the pain to leave her, for the thoughts to leave her- hoping to get distracted again, to forget again. It was worse than anything she'd ever felt- all the horror and torture she was subjected to as a child was nothing compared to this. Nothing was as bad as this.
Every time she'd come out of the haze and start paying attention to the patterns in the cracks of this world as they changed, she'd be struck by the pain until she had forgotten what she had been thinking about in the first place and started wandering again, unworried and unconcerned with her drifting surroundings in the misty dreamscape. Just floating again. Wandering aimlessly around all those who slept.
“Then stop thinking about it,” Peter murmured, lifting his hand to trail at her temple, and just his touch seemed to soothe the pain trying to blind her, to numb her to any awareness.
He gently tucked her hair behind her ear, his fingers light and soft as air as they grazed her skin, and when Gamora's eyes fluttered open to see his gazing up at her, her head didn't hurt anymore.
She smiled at the warmth and the familiarity of this simple contact with him.
“Now I don't have to,” she reminded herself, why she had been trying to come back to consciousness so hard in the first place, every time she had drifted out of the walking sleep. This world didn't want her to look at it, wanted her to stay in her lotus eater state.
But she kept pushing back, fighting to pay attention, to just look- willing to pull herself apart at the seams and this world with her for one reason. Just one.
“Before I was just trying to figure it out, find a way out of here. To get back to you,” Gamora covered Peter's hand with her own, holding it against her cheek and letting his warmth reassure her. “But you're here now. I found you. I won't let you go so easily,” she moved to press her kiss into the palm of his hand, a little promise of fervor and fire. “I don't understand how this world works, and it seems like the rules are always changing on me. I don't know if they'll change again. No matter what happens, I promise I'll fight as hard as I can to stay by your side. Or bring you with me. Not going anywhere without you.”
Gamora looked out into the distance, seeing the world shift again out of the corner of her eye. But the place seemed... calmer than it had before. Like it had gained some temporary stability, the mist in the distance somehow manifesting as something more defined, a little more solid. She wasn't sure how long it would last. This ever shifting realm was inherently unsustainable, she knew that, could feel it in her bones. But time didn't seem to exist here. Maybe, if they waited, it would last an eternity.
She wasn't certain they'd get that long. If the cracks-
Gamora shook her head to clear it again. If the world started falling away again, maybe they'd have to keep walking. They couldn't stay here. Not forever. But that would be then- now, she could use a rest.
She'd been wandering so long before she found him. Something in this reality seemed settled for the moment. They had time.
She looked back down at Peter, he was still focused on her, like she was the most transfixing thing in existence. And she could just get lost in the look in his eyes- the look that Peter always had in his eyes when they were on her. Something loving. Something whole.
“For now, though, I think we'll be able to say here for awhile,” Gamora told him, returning that loving look in his eyes with the same in her own. “No rush. Just us. Together. We can stay here, Peter. We deserve a break. To rest. We set up the pieces. It's up to them to finish the game.”
She interwove her fingers with his and gave them a squeeze, and Peter squeezed back.
Yes, she could stay here for awhile. As long as she had him. She had everything she needed, right her in her arms.
They could stay here in their own little world, she could keep him safe, and they could just exist here, together.
That sounded extremely satisfying. Stay here in a dreamy peace of contentment for now.
They could stay here for a little while.
Happy. Safe. In love.
Gamora stroked his hair, and kissed him on the forehead. She didn't have words for how relieved she was when she felt the warmth and happiness pouring out from him.
All she wanted to do was soothe his heart ache. And Peter's soul wasn't crying out anymore.
She found him.