Oh Tannenbaum

December 13, 2016:

A raccoon, star prince, and partially drunk investigator for hire seek out a walking, talking lost tree.

Central Park - New York

It's a gimungous park full of trees and people enjoying the evening as holidays approach.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*# ]


Fade In…

WIDE SHOT — CENTRAL PARK, NEW YORK CITY

It's been…days? Maybe even a week since Groot has last seen anyone recognizable here.

Despite being alone, he isn't exactly lonely; there have been plenty of people milling about of late, and their numbers raise and fall with the passing of hours found within the span of a day. Spending that much time has synced him up with the rhythm of the city, feeling the hectic pace of the holidays fast approaching when the numbers became droves among the more populated areas better for foot traffic.

While thrilling, the surge of frenzied energy does have its effects on everyone, including those who are plant-based. Groot found it best to take breaks, returning to the park for some moments of peace. Sleeping among trees is good camouflage, after all.

It is during one of his returns from wading through the crowds he realizes he's wandered much too far from where he was suppose to wait for Quill. Yes, it only now hits him. "I am Groot," he murmurs to himself as a twig-laden hand surrounded in gold tinsel strokes his bark-covered chin. Two plastic ornaments jingle as he looks around, checking for a landmark, a sign, or something that can help.

Staring at another set of Christmas-decorated trees does nothing to jog his tree memory because he's never seen them before. They're very pretty. And light-covered.

And that's bad.

Thoroughly distracted, the walking tree goes to see what all this is about.

—-

"And /THIS/ is why we don't leave Groot alone!"

This exclamation thoroughly shatters whatever quiet there might have been had as the day crowds had thinned out. It's probably not the first time he's said as much, but Central Park's huge, and for every place Peter Quill might have said that he was /sure/ this had been the spot he'd told Groot to stay and wait at, the more he'd hear it, paired along with that Look.

Rocket grumbles in between his complaints, mostly to mask his worry about his friend. His hands are shoved into the pockets of a bomber jacket, a black and gray plaid cap pulled low over his eyes. He's actually dressed pretty decently- look, he's even got pants and little boots! At a glance he might pass as a kid, so long as no one pays too much attention to the tail. He refuses to tuck that in.

"You should've just tagged /him/ with a tracker!" he sniffs, another verbal jab in Quill's direction. Oh yeah. He'd found that one he did.

—-

Jessica Jones may have the advantage of being objective here. She doesn't have to be mad or upset about the missing tree-man. She just has to do her job. And right now her job is asking people, here and there, if they've seen her two friends in the circus costume on stilts that makes him look like a giant tree.

"The Groot Act," she explains, in all earnestness. "He only says he's Groot. No, no, you see it's all about the meaning /you/ read into the word Groot. It makes the children smile. Have you seen him?"

Today she's not reeking of alcohol nearly so much. Her jeans and jacket and tank top and scarf are all blessedly clean. She had enough to prevent the shakes and is on-point. So she's focused and relaxed. She had said a sort of taciturn, "Nice to meet you" when introduced to Peter, followed by a, "I've always wanted to meet a guy who can /lose a tree/."

—-

Quill is ambling along with a piece of gingerbread in one hand, and a Starbucks cup in the other. That's right. He stopped for a snack. Look it's cold and he was hungry.

"It looks like the place I said, I didn't say this /was/ the place," Peter replies with a defensive glower towards Rocket. "I couldn't really cart him though town or anything you know. He sort of stands out!" A pause again. "I guess I could have tied him to the top of a car or something. It looks like they do that around here at Christmas. Or something." The man still is dressed in his famed leather jacket, space boots and all. It's what he's comfortable in.

"It's easy to lose a tree. You just have to leave him in a forest." Peter adds after a moment. "Come on Rocket, where would he have gone? What would distract him?"

—-

Jessica's words get a "Heh," out of him. He likes this broad more and more. Meeting Quill's glower with a glare of his own, Rocket then coughs a laugh, as though he barely believed he'd heard correctly.

"That's another brilliant one from our Star-Lord," he snorts, his grin all teeth and no humor. "What could distract h- /EVERYTHING./ You ask him to pick up some fingerfood from the buffet and he'll come back two hours later with everything but."

He makes a swipe for Quill's gingerbread as he points this out.

—-

Very maturely Quill raises it above his head.

—-

Poke. Poke poke. The lost 'circus performer' prods at the tiny lightbulbs attached to the loosely-wound wiring, each row strewn haphazardly over one side as if someone rushed the decoration job. So long as everyone else sees it from yards away, it's not that big a deal. Not being a critic, Groot thinks the dressing is interesting. And shiny.

He sort of wants this.

As he grabs onto some of the lights, his bubble of blissful distraction pops at the sound of voices. One of them is definitely loud enough to be his very best friend in all of the galaxy, but he's made that mistake once before. That poor disgruntled cabby almost had a heart attack when Groot stuck his head in the window of the taxi, immediately stepping on the gas to drive away screaming. Except he's /very/ sure this is the right voice this time. The tree straightens up to his full height, the bark of his brow shifting ever so slightly. "I am Groot?"

—-

Jessica was listening for something similar. She swivels her head around and then looks at the others. "Guys. Stop fighting over the pastry. I think I heard someone say Groot that /wasn't/ me…" She goes walking in the direction she thought she heard it, looking left and right for…well. For a big tree man. Is it possible they've gotten lucky? "Somewhere in this direction. Do you two see anything?"

Then again it could just be someone else spreading the story of this fantastic circus act. One can /hope/, but. Or it's another lead. Either way, she heard it, and it draws her attention.

—-

"Pastries are important!" Peter insists as he walks along, piece of gingerbread held high. He does pause though as he hears that familiar bass voice drift over the heads of the happy holiday goers.

"You're right, the big guy has the attention span of a goldfish." The man replies with a shake of his head. "I heard him…"

It's then he spots the copse of decorated trees.

"…you don't suppose someone dressed him up for the holidays?"

—-

Rocket seems to be setting himself up to make a scramble up Peter's leg. Oh, think yer so smart, eh? Your stupid height won't save your gingerbread, dummy.

His ears twitch under his cap, and he glances in the direction the other two start to look. And he frowns. "Dressed him up? What, why is this a thing? -of course, if they did, then I'm sure he'd enjoy it. Just smile like a big idiot the whole time."

Abruptly he turns to climb Mt. Peter- not for the gingerbread, but to get a better view over people's heads. Granted he succeeds in this new vantage point, he's going to hang onto a fistfull of Quill's hair with one hand and bring the other near his mouth before he shouts at the top of his lungs:

"GROOOooooT!! HEY! OVER HERE!"

—-

In the distance, the one giant tree without leaves on it turns on the spot, tinsel messily slung about his shoulders and arms like a Burmese python. The few ornaments he has on his person jingle and chime with every movement. The lights are still grasped in one hand, pulling the poor tree toward him. "I am Groot??" he says, a little louder with a touch of curiosity.

His non-existent ears and his twinkling eyes do not fool him a second time — the voice belongs to Rocket Raccoon, all right. That has to be him! The little guy climbing all over the man that looks like Peter Quill.

With that train of logic, the walking tree breaks into a lope, forgetting about the fistful of Christmas lights he brings along with little resistance. He knows they won't freak out like some people do when a giant tree comes striding in their direction.

"I am Groot!"

HELLO FRIENDS he has missed you and hey there's a new friend too! Surely introductions will be made in a few seconds.

—-

Case closed!

Actually that was the easiest case she's ever worked.

Probably good, as she didn't request any payment. Then again,seeing all this happiness…

Ugh. Where did THAT sappy thought come from?

That's the progression of thoughts behind the strange series of expressions on Jessica's face as she steps neatly out of the way, making sure she doesn't get trampled by the tree-man on his way to his happy reunion. A bit of tinsel falls on her head, and she plucks it off in a somewhat bemused fashion.

—-

Peter staggers to one side as Rocket clambers right up him. "Hey you furry menace let go! Stop pulling! Your messing up the do!" He calls as he flails about, not quite able to scruff Rocket off of his back.

Which means he staggers right into the way of Groot's charge.

Naturally.

"Oh hey big guy! We were looking for you—woah. WOAH! WOAH MAN!" Oh god he's going to get trampled by a happy tree.

While the tree pulls half the lights off the trees behind him in showers of sparks and broken limbs.

…yeah. That's not gonna cause a commotion is it?

—-

Well, thankfully nothing's caught fire. Yet.

Rocket ignores Quill's protests, keeping his balance expertly while at the same time avoiding flailing hands. Although he just might snatch that gingerbread with Star-Lord being preoccupied. And once Groot's within reach, the furry wonder leaps from human to tree, grabbing a hold of bark to meet the big wooden lug at eye-level.

"Yeah, we're happy to see you too, ya big idiot. I'm not even gonna ask where you dug up all this crap." He flicks a finger off one of the ornaments, scowling. "Oh yeah, Groot, this is Jessica," he adds, thumbing at the brunette as he glances over his shoulder.

—-

"I am Groot!" Yup, lucky Star Lord. Right within range of being hugged/crushed by a happy Groot. He's probably not letting go for a while.

Rocket's good timing saves him from sharing Quill's fate and the tree now has a face-full of raccoon fuzz in disguise. He blinks. "I am Groot?" He looks down at himself as his friend scowls and gripes, looking a little pouty before the same dumb smile returns right proper. He then looks over at Jessica, who gets to see how well the three get along with each other. "I am Groot," he greets with a nod of the head. More tinsel flakes off as he does this.

Funny enough, he doesn't realize he has all of this weight still tethered to him. He's too in the zone to notice the crowd starting to come together around the trail of a mess he's left behind.

—-

"Hello, Groot," Jessica says, with all the graveness this introduction seems to demand.

Then she gathers her legs beneath her and leaps up to his shoulder—the one not currently occupied by Rocket. She lands a little heavily, but it's nothing he can't handle. She balances her hand on the top of his head and goes to heave the bulk of all that mess off of his head and off, not caring if she rips half the branches off the trees as she does it. She /is/ careful to avoid, you know, hitting people with all that.

"So," she says, sitting down and making herself comfortable then, "I'd like to suggest we find somewhere else to be." She points towards the exit to the park. "Onward, Groot."

—-

This is totally ruining his image of being a dashing and roguish space pirate.

"I missed you too NOW LEMME DOWN YOU OVERGROWN IVY!" Peter calls out as he finds himself lifted off the ground and smushed against…well bark. It is not the most pleasant thing to be you know. He's getting tinsel and ornaments and sticks who knows where.

And there is a /girl/ there.

This is just the fates conspiring to hate him isn't it? It must be.

Because he knows. To the core of his being. That this is totally not his fault.

AND he lost his gingerbread.

And his coffee now has twigs in it.

DAMMIT.

Exasperated he adds. "Look I'm sure Zee has some christmas lights somewhere back at the house, and you'll have plenty of other friends to talk too. One of them is dead and talks in pictures."

He still hasn't gotten over the mummy.

—-

"Yeah, that crap- looks ridiculous! What is all this anyway??" Rocket then blinks as Jessica leaps up to join him, gaining from him an appreciative hum. And then he proceeds to watch as she starts pruning Groot of the unnecessary decor. Well, it's not like he'd get very far dragging all that behind him, true…

"Aw, calm down Quill," he laughs, and as though to add insult to injury, takes a nice big bite out of that gingerbread. He'd take the coffee too but you know, twigs. "This wouldn't have happened if you didn't just leave him alone in some big, alien city! At least, not without something to properly entertain him." Like being entered in a pit fight. You know, that sorta thing.

Grinning at mention of Zee, he turns his attention back to Groot. "Oh yeah, we scored a great place to stay at! It's like a palace! And there's free drinks!"

—-

Aw, he was missed. That's touching. Genuinely touching. Unlike Quill, Groot has no problem with this arrangement. What is 'public humiliation' anyway? What a strange and foreign concept.

As he's told to let go, he feels the extra weight on his other shoulder and removal of decorations from his body. "I am Groot," he says a little sadly as he watches the tinsel unwind in front of his eyes. "I am Groot. I am Groot!" The sadness is short-lived, perking again when his buddies mention more Christmas decorations and their new living quarters. Free drinks and free /everything/ sounds great.

New friend Jessica has a point, however. Groot finally notices the gathering public. Welp. They should go. "I am Groot!" he agrees, quickly nodding as he goes to lope off again with friends in tow. Unfortunately, since there are several things happening at once, he has Quill halfway down from his long tree arms as he does this. But Quill's been through worse, right?

—-

"So I have an intriguing and important question," Jessica says mildly, as she watches the crowd, mostly (not noticing whatever issue poor Peter might have with their sudden locomotion). "How are we going to get back to said awesome crash pad? That…seems like an awfully long walk for Groot." Cause she ain't walkin'. She's got a cozy perch. "Cars are out, the train is out, just about every form of normal make-it-down-the-interstate-back-to-Gotham transportation? Out."

Oh, , people in the crowd are still freaking out about the lights and…

She cups her hands. "THANK YOU, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, FOR ATTENDING THE GREGARIOUS GROOT GRENADA! WE'LL BE BACK AGAIN NEXT WEEK!" They won't. But it doesn't matter. And whatever. These are New Yorkers. They'll get over it.

—-

"Wait no! Don't walk till you put me…" Ah hell with it. Quill slips though Groots branches just as he starts to move. When he hits the man shows a surprising amount of agility as he bounces off the ground, uses Groot's arm to shoot himself slightly further up in the air and comes down clutching Groot's back and shoulder.

Casually reaching up he tears off a piece of the rapidly diminishing gingerbread slice. Careful not to get close to the part that Rocket bit.

Because he knows where the Raccoon has been.

The coffee in his other hand has gone flying by this point, and if some gets on the tail of a furry weaponmaster its totally an accident.

Totally.

There is a pause though from Quill as Jessica's words sink home. "Er…" Then he turns to Rocket. "See! That's why I left him here! Its not like we can fly him over there or anything!"

Deflection! Perfect tactic.

"Anyway, um…I'm thinking pickup truck. We can…borrow one! We might need a big pickup truck. They have those right?"

A pause again before he glances back to Rocket. "And all this decoration and lights is for a holiday they have around here. Haven't had one here in…uh…well since I was kidnapped by space mercenaries."

—-

Rocket pats Groot's head absently, snagging a bit of the stringy tinsel to loop over one of the ragged edges of his tree-friend's head to placate him a bit. "Oh, you two talk like me and Groot have never taken transports before! We'll figure something out. Private mode of transportation's probably a lot better than public though, seein' as how Terra's more about humans than other species."

He looks around ahead as they move towards the park entrance, probably for an ideal vehicle to…borrow. "Hey, that the part I licked?" he asks idly. He totally saw that, Peter. Revenge for getting coffee on his fur. And he won't say whether he's joking about that or not.

"I mean, walking wouldn't be a problem but it'd take a long time- Too bad Zee's not here. She could probably just magic us back. Terra sucks! No spaceships, no 'port-pads…" Although he trails off a little as Quill explains the decor. Oh right. This is his homeworld…

—-

Groot grunts when Peter changes positions without breaking stride. Well, now he has three passengers. No problem. He hefts the added weight so that everything is distributed evenly because hitching a ride on a walking tree is /totally/ normal. Although ridiculous, Jessica's cover helps sell it a bit more.

It's New York. They'll get over it eventually.

"I am Groot," he adds (un)helpfully to the conversation going on around him. He feels pretty good. Long walks are nothing with the right company, but if distance is really a problem then he's good with the option of 'borrowing' a vehicle to get there faster. "I am Groot," he says after a few beats, echoing the raccoon's sentiment about the lack of ships or teleporation pads. Convenience isn't as advanced as they're used to.

—-

"That's right, buddy, you are Groot," Jessica says dryly. See, she hasn't known him long enough to get past the stage where one reacts to that.

So that's the backstory. Space. Not magic. Well, why the eff shouldn't they collide? Jessica is now riding a woody steed like the world's tiest princess in her own personal weird fairy tale. She gets that strange look on her face again, the one that says she's processing before she finally just pulls out a thermos and takes a long, long drink. The dry spell really couldn't last. This is how she deals. Once she's dealt, though, she says, "You know what? You're right. That's how she brought me over the first time. We can go get out of sight. I know an abandoned warehouse we can hole up in. I'll give Zee a call and I'm sure she'll just pick us up as soon as she can."

She is definitely NOT going to explain the magic of Christmas. She peers around from her vantage point and says, "Ah ha. And there's our way to get there. Groot, take that street there, then make the first left. We'll just tack on to the end of that ty Christmas parade and break off when we get close, which…it will." That thing is one of several Christmas parades that has clogged up the streets and made her life difficult over the years. She knows the route well. "Everybody remember to wave." She says, with one hand cupped around her booze-thermos and one hand holding firmly onto Groot. Guess who has no intentions of doing that?

—-

"It would be really convenient if they had tele-pads." Peter nods towards Rocket as he entirely ignores the comment about the gingerbread and just defiantly chews and swallows. Its fine. It'll be fine. He's sure.

"Huh, I guess Zee /is/ a kinda like a tele-pad. One that knows how to wear a fine pair of fishnets." He nods sagely at that. "Sounds like a plan to me! And just remember to wave…and…" He looks around, searching Groot's branches for just the right thing…

And comes up with a band of golden tinsel.

Which he then wraps around Rocket's head.

"There. Now you're festive."

They have to look festive for the parade right?!

"That's a good idea by the way," He adds towards Jessie. "I've almost forgotten about these things."

—-

Don't worry, Quill. At least you know he doesn't have rabies.

"They /are/ pretty backwater," Rocket nods at Groot's addendum. He's glad that the sentiment's generally agreed with, however. Even more so when Jessica reveals that it might be possible for them to get back lickety-split after all!

"…aw hell no." He eyes the parade up ahead as the lady makes her intentions clear. "You know, this'll just get /more/ people to stare at us? At least if we run around back alleys the only things we'll run into are the people no one cares what they say!"

He glares at Quill as he's given some sparkly tinsel over his hat. Well, could be worse, he figures. At least it isn't one of those dumb pointy hats with the fluff all around it. ….he's totally going to look for one to snag from someone in passing for Peter. And maybe Jessica. It was her idea, after all. Bells, how about bells? Wait, are those frickin' antlers???

—-

The progress they're making could have gone several different ways. Jessica's option makes more sense in this case — or, well, as much sense as it can, considering what they're all doing at the moment.

Her directions are taken with gusto, black eyes brightening as Groot sets his sights on that Christmas parade. He picks his way through the crowd, nudging some parade-goers on accident as he falls into step with the last hastily-made parade float…

…which has a strange Winter Wonderland theme full of trees and highly-decorated performers. And some of the performers are on stilts. Oh yes, they are blending in SO well right now.

The tall tree alien waves enthusiastically at the crowd as Jessica drinks herself into a mild stupor, Quill fixing Rocket with the extra tinsel, and Rocket stealing other hats and antlers for the other two to suffer with him. He's really enjoying the cheesy holiday parade music.

—-

"It's called hiding in plain sight. Live it, love it, and know that if you put any of that on my noggin there will be a stump where that fine fluffy tail used to be," Jessica replies, a faint smirk crossing her features as she takes another long swig. Though she's worried. If only because the thermos can only last so long. She's pretty sure it's not going to cover this entire day.

"Granted, it is the holidays, so I might leave you half of it. If you ask me nicely." She pat pats Groot's shoulder. You're doing fine, buddy, just fine. "Knock yourself out on Quill though." Sorry, Quill. She's only got room in her tiny, Grinchy heart to stand up for the dignity of one person's noggin.

—-

There is only one thing that will make Rocket stop with his horrible holiday assault. Only one thing that could deprive the Raccoon of the joy of humiliating his companions via horrible headwear. That way is horrible to contemplate. But Peter Quill is a daring man. A dangerous man. Therefor he will contemplate that terror.

Which is…

…you gotta own it.

So he just snatches up the reindeer hat with the bells on it, and stuffs it right on his own head.

"You gotta go with the spirit of the holidays man."

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