Just to Play My Worries Away
By Izzy

The new version of the contraption was half the size of the old one that had held his tape player, and Shurlee had even suggested he could make it still smaller. “Terran technology has really shrunk in the past twenty-five years,” he’d said. “Typical enough for this phase of their development, I think.” Since he was the exotic devices specialist, Peter would defer to his judgement on that one. Still, they’d left it big enough to not look too jarring when it was installed in the old tape player’s place.

Typical, maybe, but Shurlee had also thought too commercialized, forcing the customer to buy other things to get it to work right. Like an external power source, for starters, though thankfully, like any good space pirate, Peter had long known all the ways of connecting a standard power cell to anything without breaking it. He’d speculated there was a device you were supposed to buy that allowed the Zune to play its music out through speakers. But it seemed that it really had been designed mainly for solo listening. It was ridiculous, Peter thought, all that music not to be shared. Rocket and Groot had agreed as they’d waited many weeks for this, for a makeshift wireup that allowed the Zune’s contents to be played through the Milano’s systems.

Although at least the new earpieces allowed two people to listen at once. Peter and Gamora have now enjoyed multiple evenings cuddling and listening to song tracks together. She’d grown fond of more than one of them, and Peter might soon get her to admit that the one by some Rob Thomas called “Ever the Same” was her favorite song. It was a little overly angsty for his tastes, but he’d listen to it all night just to see her smile when they did. He felt very strongly she ought to embrace having a favorite song.

But now, the others gathered around him, Peter carefully settled the Zune into its bed, and then pulled the switch to connect it in. When he touched the controls, the screen lit up, and a couple of flicks brought him to his choice of song to play first. “This was a very popular song on Earth when I was a kid.” He remembered loving the music video for it, with the girl and the racer in the comic book. But trying to explain that to his friends would probably just confuse them. “Here goes…”

Little Groot’s face visibly lit up as soon as the space was filled with the opening beat. He was happily dancing away even before the first notes kicked in. As the main melody started, he trotted up to Rocket. He was now about half the raccoon’s size, just big enough to dance with him without it being too awkward.

Generally, Rocket liked doing other things to music, rather than dancing. It disturbed Peter, how much he loved killing people to music. Menacing them too, or stealing their stuff, and he also really liked to do more mundane tasks like building bombs while listening to music.

But when Groot eagerly held out his arms, Rocket took them and let Groot swing him around, more literally than not. He looked genuinely happy, too, the way he still spent way too little time looking, even when including all the times they were in the middle of a fight.

Drax was not going to dance, of course. Peter was mildly surprised he had even joined them. But he was sitting there, watching Groot and Rocket go about the floor, and he seemed to genuinely be enjoying that. Peter supposed that was enough for him.

Mantis did not start dancing immediately either. She stood up slowly, staring at the Zune as if expecting it to give her further instructions. When Groot and Rocket started dancing together, she looked down at them, but they were moving pretty fast, making it hard for anyone to imitate them.

Peter had been gearing up to hit the floor himself, but from where she was sitting, Gamora called out to him, “Maybe you should dance with Mantis, Peter? Help her?”

That probably meant no dancing for her today. Sad, but not surprising. Gamora had still never danced in front of anyone except Peter. And some people in her past she’d been compelled to entice or even seduce for Thanos’ nefarious purposes, which he knew she was having trouble forgetting about. Contrary to what Drax had once assumed, Gamora, by nature, was someone who did dance, and for herself, but it was only in the past few months she’d gotten the chance to find that out, and that didn’t make things easy.

Peter looked forward to the day she would hear music and jump up to dance, uncaring as to who saw. But it seemed that wasn’t today. He did notice her feet were tapping in time to beat, which was progress.

For now, he stepped up to Mantis, and offered his hand. “You can have my enjoyment if you want, or wear your gloves. But really, this isn’t anything fancy or precise. Just move your arms and legs however you want, and follow me.”

As she took her gloves out and put them on-they’d bought them for her when she’d confessed she’d like to feel her own emotions more, and touch people without always getting hit with theirs-he saw her hesitantly tap her feet the same way Gamora was doing. As she took Peter’s hand, she kicked first one leg up, then the other, in time to the beat. “That’s right,” he said, and let his free arm move slow enough for her to mimic.

When he stepped back a bit she initially stumbled. But then she got her bearings, moving more of herself, and as he picked up speed she started skipping. When he swung her, she giggled as she skidded. “This is fun!” she exclaimed. “This is so much fun!”

“Of course it is!” Peter shouted back. “It’s dancing, baby!” He started singing along to the music, “Taaaaake oooooon meeeee…”

By the time the song was over, though, three of the four dancers had worn themselves out. Groot was ready to groove right on when the next song started playing, but the other three all collapsed into sitting positions. Since the death of his father, Peter definitely had suffered a drop in how much energy he had, which he was sorry for, though he was learning to live with it.

“Dancing Queen,” he identified the song out loud. “Queens are female, so I think that’s you by default, Mantis.” Mantis just gave him an exhausted smile, then pulled off one her gloves and held out her bare hand, asking permission. Peter took hold of it, and her smile widened.

He glanced over at Gamora, just a little worried she’d get jealous. But she was only smirking, and a moment later she had sauntered over and was sitting down next to them. “That was a short dance party,” she said.

“Party’s just taking a break,” he said. “I should get the Zune to shuffle the songs anyway. Just give me a minute.”

“I am Groot?” Groot stopped dancing, and looked anxious.

“It’s okay, Groot,” Peter assured him. “We’ve got plenty of good dance tracks on that thing. Sooner or later, I’m sure we’ll dance to them all.”