Merry Grootmas

Star-Lord, Groot, and the rest of the merry Guardians of the Galaxy gang meet Santa Claus in this holiday-themed fanfic.

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"I...am...Groot."

Peter Quill—a.k.a. Star-Lord—gasped at the tiny tree-like creature sprouting from the pot of dirt on the Milano's dash. "Did you all hear that? He said his first words! He said—"

"He said he's tired of flying around the galaxy, with nothin' to do," Rocket said. "No one told us that guarding the galaxy would be so frigging boring."

Peter sighed. The raccoon was right. They'd saved the universe from total annihilation at the hands of Ronan the Accuser, and flown off into space to do a victory lap. Unfortunately, word of their righteous endeaver was slow to travel across the galaxy. Many planets they stopped on hadn't heard of the Battle of Xander, much less the Star-Lord and his rag-tag crew. Peter blamed the cable companies. Although interstellar travel had been mastered by most of the universe's inhabitants, reliable high-speed Internet access was lacking. In time, the legend of the Guardians of the Galaxy would spread—until then, Peter had planned to just fly around in search of adventure. The only problem, of course, was that adventure was exceedingly hard to come by. It was as if the second they defeated Ronan's army, the rest of the galaxy had laid down its arms. The universe seemed to be at peace with itself.

"I. Am. Groot."

"What'd he say now?" Peter asked his co-pilot.

Rocket shook his head. "He says we're running on empty."

"We're not—" Peter stared at the fuel gauge, which read "E." He cursed under his breath and brought up a map on the Milano's touchscreen. Since they hadn't found any adventure, Peter was taking his friends on a little tour of his favorite microbreweries across the galaxy. Right now they were halfway between Sakaar and Mogo—in other words, they were in the middle of nowhere. The closest planet, Aarder, was uninhabited. According to the map, however, there was supposed to be a fueling station on one of its moons...

"The North Pole?" Peter said. "That can't be the right name."

Rocket looked at the map. "That's the name. It's just a frozen rock, though. We're not going to find any fuel there. When's the last time you updated this map, Peter?"

"It's been a few years," he said. "Still, it's either we stop now or see how far we can run on empty. I don't like the thought of floating around without any power. We'll follow the map, and if it's wrong, at least we can radio for AAA to come fill our tank."

"I. AM. GROOT."

Peter stared at baby Groot. "What now?"

Rocket laughed. "He wants to know if you remembered to renew your AAA membership?"

"Very funny," Peter said. Of course, he knew the expiration date on his AAA card in his wallet was several years past. They had enough money to fuel up, of course—enough money to last them a few months of flying and drinking across the galaxy. Saving Xander had netted them an unexpected financial reward. The problem was that AAA was the only space-side assistance company that would take the risk of aiding a stranded ship on a godforsaken moon in the middle of nowhere. Peter knew that if they didn't find a fueling station on the North Pole, they were as good as dead.

"Are you kidding me?!"

Peter flinched, afraid Gamora was going to hit him. "We're going to fuel up, and—"

"I knew from the start you were going to be trouble, Peter Quill," Gamora said. "If you had spent less time singing along to your little mixtape and more time monitoring your ship's vital signs—"

"Enough," Drax said. The giant, hulking creature sometimes called "the Destroyer" stepped between Peter and Gamora. "What's done is done. Let's fuel up and get off this rock."

Rocket nodded. "The air is breathable. It's a little chilly out, so unless you're covered in fur you might want to dress for subzero temps. I'm talking to you, Drax—put a shirt on."

Drax stared down at his naked, green-and-red colored chest. He flexed his pecs, making them bounce to the music. OOGA-CHAKA, OOGA-OOGA. OOGA-CHAKA, OOGA-OOGA.

Gamora rolled her eyes. "Am I the only sane one on this ship?"

"I am GROOOOOOOOT."

"That's a yes," Rocket translated.

Peter opened the airlock, and stepped foot on the snowy surface of the North Pole. The air was cold, but breathable. No wind, which was nice. They were parked at the fueling station, which was exactly where the map said it would be. The two pumps were buried under the snow, as if they hadn't been used in hours or days. If any other ship had stopped recently, the snow had covered its tracks. The building about fifty yards away showed no signs of life. Was it open, or closed? They'd find out shortly, he guessed. It was, at least, light out—but that didn't mean much, since Peter had no way of knowing how long daylight lasted on this moon.

The rest of the Guardians (sans Groot) stepped out of the ship.

Gamora cleared the snow off the closest fuel pump and pressed a button. It lit up. "Looks like it's working," she said. "Self-service, but working."

"Great. You fuel up the Milano, we'll head inside and grab something to drink," Peter said. "If they're open, that is."

"I hope they have a public restroom," Drax said.

"What's wrong with the one on the ship?"

Drax gave him a solemn look. "The onboard facilities are inadequate for my current needs. I had thirteen burritos last night—"

"Enough, enough," Rocket said. "We get the picture."

As they crossed the snow-covered lot toward the building, Peter grilled his companions about the North Pole. Neither Rocket nor Drax had ever heard of it, but there were millions of moons and planets they hadn't heard of. That was nothing new.

"Back on Earth, we had a North Pole," he said. 

"Every planet has one," Rocket said. "That's nothing special."

"Ours was special," Peter said, fondly remembering his childhood. "There was a man who was rumored to live there. Santa Claus."

"Yeah? What made this man so special?" Rocket asked.

"Every year on the 25th of December, he would travel the planet bringing gifts to all of the good boys and girls."

"Why'd he do that? What was his angle?" Rocket asked.

Peter shrugged. "I never thought to ask why. I just knew that if you were good all year long, he would bring you presents."

"How many people live on your Earth?" Drax asked.

"About six billion, I think."

Drax rubbed his chin, as if he was deep in thought—quite unusual for Drax. "A man that can afford gifts for billions of children must be rich beyond measure," he said. "We should liberate some of his money."

Peter stopped in his tracks. "Are you suggesting we rob Santa Claus?"

"It sounds like he is a fool, with more money than he knows what to do with," Drax said. "I'm suggesting that we could put some of his wealth to better use."

Peter shook his head in disbelief. Perhaps he'd made a mistake bringing this alien along. He wanted to explain that Santa Claus wasn't even real, that he was just some myth parents told their children to keep them from misbehaving, but that would only lead to more questions on Drax's part.

When they reached the front door to the fueling station, Rocket tried the glass front door. It was locked. The door and the windows were all frosted over. Peter wiped the frost away with the sleeve of his leather duster and looked inside. His eyes went wide with surprise—for amidst the aisles of snacks and sundry items sat an old, bearded man in a red suit, bound and gagged.

"Santa Claus is real..." Peter backed away from the glass, his hand reaching instinctively to his blaster.

Rocket eyed Peter's hand. "Trouble?"

"You better believe it," Peter said, glancing around the empty lot. Treachery was afoot...but where?

"Finally," Drax said, cracking his knuckles. "Trouble!"

Rocket readied the double-barreled laser rifle he'd had slung over his shoulder. The damned thing was twice his size.

"Hold up," Peter said, raising a hand. "There's a man inside, tied up. We don't know what we're walking into, or where the people are that tied him up are."

"Perhaps he's tied up for a good reason," Rocket said.

Drax nodded. "Or, if this is the 'Santa Claus' you spoke of, perhaps someone robbed him before we got the chance."

"We're not robbing anybody. We're the Guardians of the Galaxy," Peter said. "Or, in this case, the Guardians of the Gas Station."

"What's going on here?"

The three of them jumped. Gamora was standing behind them, arms crossed.

"We have finally found ourselves some trouble," Drax said, a wide grin on his face. "There is a man inside this building, tied up. Peter thinks there is foulplay involved."

"In that case," Gamora said, drawing a dagger from her shin holster, "let's untie him."

"Wait," Peter said. "We can't just go storming in."

Gamora nodded. "You're right. We should split up. Two of us should go around back, in case the villains try to escape."

Peter shook his head. "I could care less about that. I'm saying, we can't storm the castle without a battle cry."

"We should have worked this out sometime in the past three months we've been flying around the galaxy," Gamora said.

Rocket flipped the safety on his weapon. "I've got a battle cry. How about...GUARDIANS ASSEMBLE!"

They all looked at him. It was the stupidest thing any of them had ever heard. They were already assembled. Maybe it would work for some second-rate team like the Avengers, but the Guardians of the Galaxy needed something a little more epic. Something that the bad guys would never forget. Something—

Drax kicked in the plate glass door and stepped through the frame, his feet crunching down on the broken glass. "Anybody home?" he shouted. Santa struggled against the ropes binding him and looked up at them. He tried to say something, but the rag stuffed in his mouth prevented him from speaking. His breathing was heavy and labored. 

"Anybody home?" Rocket repeated, watching Drax poke around the convenience store's aisles. "That's not a catchphrase."

"The store is empty," Drax said.

Gamora kneeled with her dagger next to the man in the red suit. The man's eyes went wide, but he relaxed as she pulled the rag from his mouth. He sucked in a few deep breaths. Gamora cut the ropes, freeing his hands.

Rocket hopped onto the front counter, where the cash register was open. He looked behind it. A man's body lay in a pool of blood on the floor. "There's a dead one over here," Rocket said.

"I walked in on a robbery," the man in the red suit said. "A man in purple armor and wings was holding up the store."

Drax furrowed his brow. "Why did this winged man let you live?"

"I think he was going to kill me," the man said, rubbing his wrists. "But he realized who I was."

"Santa," Peter whispered.

"That's right," Santa said with a wink. "If he killed ol' Saint Nick, he could attract the wrath of the Avengers or the Fantastic Four. One of those superhero teams that protects Earth. He was trying to fly under the radar, I guess. Still, he stole my ship and is probably on his way to my workshop, not some five miles from here."

"Well, he may be flying under the radar of the Avengers, but he's got a far bigger problem now," Peter said. "The Guardians of the Galaxy."

Santa stared blankly at him. "Who?"

Peter sighed. "We'll explain on the way.”

As the Milano neared Santa's workshop, Drax whistled. The massive compound was composed of dozens of warehouses, surrounded by barbed wire fences and observation tours—not to mention an opulent, gleaming golden palace in the middle of it all with a hot tub on the roof. "This is all yours?" Drax asked. "You are a very rich man indeed."

Santa said nothing. Instead, his eyes were transfixed on the smoke rising from the buildings. "No," he whispered. "The elves..."

Peter brought the ship in low over the compound, so they could survey the situation before landing. They'd found trouble, all right: Pint-sized bodies lay scattered across the grounds. Fires raged. It was a warzone.

"I'm sorry," Rocket said, trying to comfort the old man. "We'll get this guy."

Santa wiped his tears away with his red hat.

"There," Gamora said, pointing at the mansion. A small spacecraft was crashed on the front steps, and the winged creature was climbing out of the cockpit. 

"Aw, crap," Rocket said. "Maybe we should just keep flying."

"Why?" Peter asked. "You recognize the guy?"

Rocket nodded. When he spoke, there was fear in his voice. "His name is Annihilus. He's from the Negative Zone...and he's bad news."

"If he's bad news, then he probably has a big bounty on his head," Peter said. He had a glint in his eye, one he hadn't had for months. It made him look more boyish, in a way that maybe made Gamora feel a little funny. "Plus," he added, "bad news is my middle name."

Drax smiled as well. "I like the way you think, Peter Bad News Quinn."

"I AM GROOT!"

Santa stared at baby Groot on the dashboard. "What did that stick say?"

Rocket cleared his throat. "He said...GUARDIANS ASSEMBLE!”

The villain known as Annihilus disappeared into the palace. Peter parked the Milano on the snow-covered lawn. "Everyone, get your weapons ready," he said.

Santa Claus patted himself down. "I, uh, don't have a weapon."

Peter found a small single-thrust blaster and tossed it to Santa Claus. "Merry Christmas."

Santa eyed the gun. "This looks familiar..."

"It should be," Peter said. "You gave it to me for Christmas back in 1987."

"It's not real," Santa said, disappointment in his voice.

"You're staying on the ship with Groot," Peter said. "We'll handle Annihilus."

Gamora hit the airlock, and the Guardians of the Galaxy (once more sans Groot, and also sans Santa) stepped back onto the surface of the North Pole, weapons drawn and ready for battle. 

Drax led the charge, marching straight up to the front door and kicking in what was left of it. "Anybody home?" he yelled.

"That is a terrible catchphrase," Rocket mumbled, following him inside.

Peter shrugged. "I kind of like it."

"Quiet," Gamora said. "If we're going to get the jump on this creature—"

An energy blast hit Drax, throwing him against his teammates. They landed in a pile. Drax's tough skin could protect against one blast like that...but how many more? He stood back up, and helped Peter and Gamora to their feet. "Where's the rodent?" Drax said, looking around.

"Up here," Rocket said, perched on Drax's shoulder.

"I meant the other rodent—Annihilus."

Peter pointed down a hallway, where a flash of purple armor vanished through a door. The Guardians chased the villain and paused outside the doorway. "He's cornered," Gamora said. 

Rocket peered inside the door. 

"What's he doing?" Peter whispered, leaning against the wall. The safety was off on his blaster.

"He's...he's crying."

"What?" Drax said, astonishment in his voice. "It must be a trap. He's trying to lure us in."

Peter looked inside, weapon raised. "I don't know about that. He looks pretty shooken up."

They entered the room. The intergalactic criminal known as Annihilus was laying on his back, hands covering his face. He was bawling like a baby. Peter kicked the cosmic rod he'd shot them with away, and Gamora picked it up.

"Explain yourself, villain," Peter said.

Annihilus looked up. There was sadness in his empty black eyes. "What's there to explain? Look at me. I used to be somebody. I used to be the scourge of the Negative Zone. Now I've been reduced to knocking over convenience stores. I used to have ambition. And now...now I'm fighting raccoons and She-Hulk."

"My name is Gamora. I am a daughter of Thanos."

"Big whoopdy-doo," Annihilus said between sniffles. "I give up."

"Hey, now, don't be so hard on yourself," Rocket said.

Peter, Gamora and Drax glared at him. 

"You have plenty of reasons to be ashamed. Attacking Santa Claus's workshop?" Peter said.

"I'd never heard of Santa Claus until today," Annihilus said. "He explained to me who he was, and what he did, and...and I didn't believe him. I had to see for myself." He pulled a rolled up scroll of paper from his pocket. "I found this here. Santa's list. I found my name right there, on the naughty side."

Rocket snatched the paper from him and looked it over.

"You'll have plenty of time for your little midlife crisis when we put you behind bars," Peter said. "We're taking you in to the authorities, whoever they are in this part of the galaxy."

"I think the Green Lanterns," Annihilus said, standing up. Gamora put a dagger to his back and led him out the front of Santa's mansion.

Once Annihilus was locked up safely in the Milano's onbaord holding facility, the Guardians gathered on Santa's lawn. All around them, his remaining elf security forces were putting out fires and tending to the wounded.

"So I guess we saved Christmas," Peter said, resting his hands on his holstered blasters.

"Christmas?" Gamora asked.

"I'll explain it later," Peter said.

"You're all dressed up for it," Santa said to Drax with a wink. "With your red and green skin—"

"Do not wink at me, old man," Drax said. "I saw that my name was on your naughty list."

"Mine too," Rocket said, advancing toward Santa.

"All of our names were," Peter said. "Except for Groot's."

Santa reached into his bag, which he'd retrieved from his mansion. "Well, ah, you kids have been quite naughty this past year. Peter stole something called an 'Infinity Gem.' Drax, well, what didn't Drax do this year? I could go on, but there's much work here to do. Christmas is less than a month away." Santa produced a shiny, red bulb from his bag and handed it to Rocket. "Here, this is for Groot. For being a good tree this year."

"What is supposed to do with this?" Rocket asked.

"I think Peter knows what to do with it," Santa said with another wink.

Onboard the Milano, the Guardians prepared for takeoff. Gamora stared at the red ornament, dangling from one of baby Groot's twig arms. "You ready, Groot?"

Groot smiled. Peter put another of his tapes into his tapedeck, a tape he'd snatched out of Santa's living room sound system after they'd captured Annihilus. He hesitated to say "stolen," because he had every intention of returning it. Someday. He pressed play, and a familiar song began to stream over the Milano's speakers. Peter smiled.

Baby Groot smiled too, and began dancing to the beat.

"What in the name of Galactus is that noise?" Rocket asked, buckling himself into the co-pilot's seat.

"That," Peter said, "is 'Last Christmas' by Wham."

"I am Grooooooooooooot."

"No, I'm not saying that," Rocket said.

"What did he say?" Peter asked.

Rocket sighed, and repeated Groot's words. "He said, 'Merry Grootmas to all, and to all a good night.'"