You're Hired

September 12, 2017:

Coulson comes to investigate the source of an audio disturbance within the Trisket. Rocket and Groot are given an offer they'd like to refuse.

The Triskelion, New York City

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tony Stark, Peter Quill, Captain America

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

With the music blasting in the hangar, one would think there was a party going on. The only thing that would suggest otherwise is the fact that there aren't the accompanying sounds to go with a party. Red Zeppelin's "Kashmir" echoes within the wide space, now and the heavy guitars here and there interspersed with the tinkling of metal from a dropped or banged tool.

The main pulse of music comes from the beacon that had been snatched during a certain space race, converted to be a fancy sound system. It also hijacked the frequencies of the nearest speaker systems and pumped classic rock throughout the entirety of the hangar floor, and potentially any of the neighboring PA systems. Maybe. Rocket's not sure how far the range can go but no one thus far has come running to complain. Or maybe they appreciate the Guardians' taste for music that they found no reason to.

Incidentally, the Guardians aren't in the hangar where the Milano's been set up. They're in one of the adjoining ones- well, two of them anyway. They've even gone so far as to drag Groot's secondary IKEA couch out there so they can relax and fit in some bingewatching by the projector they've hooked up, and there's an odd rectangle of what might have been a blank tarp now duct-taped to one of the walls, Christmas patterns framing the white, makeshift screen. Reruns of "Cupcake Wars" currently play although no one seems to be watching.

The smallest Guardian of the Galaxy is waist-deep in a panel of whatever unfortunate aircraft happened to be parked next door. His rear half, including his beautiful bushy striped tail is about the only thing to be seen of him, swaying to the music, accompanied by the slightly off-tune humming now and then. More clanking. A thump and a spit of a curse. The pawing of one clawed hand that blindly seeks out one of the nearby assortment of tools before retrieving one and returning to work.


He forgets what episode they're currently on. It may have been the one where the contestants had to choose one of a few strange ingredient combinations to create their next cupcake batch from, or it could have been one of several episodes where one contestant sabotages another contestant on purpose while trying to bake a thousand cupcakes for their final display. Either way, the judges are always very critical of their work no matter what they do.

But instead of arguing with the people that have been prerecorded and set on repeat for what seems like eternity, Groot has long since left his second-most-comfy couch for something to munch on.

At least, that was the plan. Get something to eat for the both of them.

INSTEAD instead, Groot is…distracted. Not by the reruns, or by the music blast from the sound system, but by the walls. Like he's never seen walls before. Well, it's true — he hasn't seen these walls up close and personal. He just thinks there's an aesthetic quality to them that seems fitting for a hangar such as this one, making 'ooh'ing noises as he brushes his branch-y tree hands over the seams.


The music, as it happens, reverberated all the way up to Phil's office. And the people who liked it did not complain. The people who didn't made sure Phil knew that his weird alien friends were doing Stuff They Did Not Approve Of (TM). Phil had taken some time to consider his approach. He'd poured another coffee in one of the fine, fine SHIELD-themed cups provided throughout this establishment. And he'd just. Gone downstairs to see what the Hell was going on.

He looks like a school principal standing there with that coffee in his hand, in his dark blue suit and light blue shirt with its top-most two buttons unbuttoned and his tie missing. The 33% amused, 33% concerned, 33% annoyed expression on his face is really one of the gifts of the levels he's taken in Dad (or principal— something in that Authoratative Teacher class, anyway). Groot studying the walls is perhaps getting less of that than the sight of a bouncing, bobbing not-a-raccoon tail sticking up out of one of the Quinjets. He spends a moment trying to decide if Rocket is a) salvaging a multimillion dollar aircraft for parts or b) trying to improve it and whether c) the latter could be asset or terrible, terrible misadventure.

He takes a fortifying sip of his coffee. He had written this into the risk assessment when he decided to bring the Guardians here. Right? Right.

He strides a few steps to the beacon, and studies it in the hopes of finding some way to turn it down so that he might have a word. Without having to shout.


The answer is 'Yes.' The answer is always 'Yes' when Rocket is involved. Well, unless you're on the opposing side, in which case it's up for debate.

"Okay, okay, I almost- gah, wait, no. Who the flark designed this thing anyway? This thing's all- oh, okay- okay, I think I see the problem here." The swishing tail pauses and then resumes, as does the clanking and humming once Rocket gets back to…whatever he seems to be doing. Usually it's better not to ask, on the offhand that you didn't receive an answer you liked. The chances of that with this Guardian are usually in the upper percentages.

For the moment he's otherwise oblivious that Daddy Deadeye's come to check up on his adoptive, wayward children. That's kind of a given though, when you've got your head stuck up a jet.


Groot can barely hear his raccoon buddy talking aloud to himself over the music, thinking it's more a part of the song than the actual problem-solving going on in the aircraft. Still, this wall's even louder than anything else in the room right now.

Until he turns around, remembering that hey he's still hungry. Maybe he should get some food.

Of course by then, the tree catches a glimpse of a suit striding on by past his line of sight. He blinks a couple of times to make sure he isn't just seeing things, glancing over to see that, yes, that really is Coulson and he really is going over to the beacon just as the next song comes up on the playlist.

Maybe he should go lumber over and say hi, too. Because the man came downstairs and it'd be rude to not say anything.


"Tony Stark."

The answer to 'who the flark designed this thing.'

He says it once the music is down, just inserting it into the room. Doing the thing that Phil does, where he just sort of appears in the room and says something. His expression shifts, just slightly, adding a few percentage points to 'amused.' What would happen if he put Rocket and Tony in a room together?

He calculates those odds. A new design that makes the world safer?

Or a big hole in Manhattan?

Hmm. His money goes swiftly to 'hole' and he puts that thought right out of his head.

"What are you up to in there, Rocket?"

There's Groot, staring at him as he figures out how to turn the beacon down. Not off, mind. Just down.

"Hello, Groot," says Deadeye Dad, taking another sip of his coffee. Really, the key to dealing with adoptive alien children is just to remain calm at all times and try not to think about how you're going to write this stuff up in any kind of report. Or talk about it in any sort of hearing. Or anything like that.


One does not expect to get answers to rhetorical questions. One also does not expect the music to be turned down. There's a more muffled *clang* that's very quickly made but a memory for the onslaught of alien curse words that very loudly follow. Tools clatter off internal parts and falling to the ground from the hole they'd been employed in, and with his hands rubbing at his head, Rocket carefully extracts himself, scowling as he looks around.

His expression softens only slightly once he sees who's come to visit. The corner of his mouth tugs into something of a lopsided, teethy grin as he hops down the ladder. "Oh, look who's here." He nudges a tool up from the ground with a foot, catching it as he gathers up various other things to deposit in what has to have been a commandeered tool chest. The S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on the side's a pretty dead giveaway.

"Nothin' you need worry your pretty little head about, Deadeye. I was just havin' a look around."


"I am Groot," Groot greets in return, waving at Coulson upon approach. He clearly looks like he has no issues with their setup, smiling away as he usually does when things go along swimmingly.

However, the smile takes a short break when he tilts his head, wondering what the agent is trying to do with the beacon. He then helpfully points outs the knobs that control the volume levels. See? He's helping.

"I am Groot," he also advises once the volume does go down a few notches, making sure Coulson is informed that Freebird is slowly bulding up to its epic guitar solo.


There's a slight smile in return at Rocket. "Oh come on. You're going to tell me you got your head under the hood of that baby and you didn't make even a tiny little adjustment?"

Coulson really, truly needs to know. He hopes he can cajole the answer out of the alien. Otherwise, he will have to just…ground the jet until someone can figure it out. Meanwhile, Groot is saying something that's truly profound. "Thank you," he says, hoping that's the right answer. The Groot-Coulson Language Barrier continues, and he has to admit he's not sure what's going on there except a general gesture in the direction of various buttons. He gives Groot a helpful thumbs up in the hopes that this will continue to facilitate communications between them.

He doesn't have high hopes. But he has some.


"Pfeh! Adjustments," Rocket laughs, slapping his knee. "That's a good one." Just behind him, a chunk of hardware and parts falls out from the gaping panel he'd just been rooting around, dangling by a wire before landing loudly amidst a scattering of screws and bolts. The not!raccoon cringes right up to the tip of his tail, peering out of the corner of his eye at the mess. "Yeesh. Go figure after all that," he mutters.

In expected Rocket-form, he turns his attention and the subject towards Groot and his concerns about the music. "He's right, you're gonna make us miss the best part!"


The response is given a half-smile with the addition of his great tree head tilting the other way. Well. Deadeye's trying. He, like everyone else who doesn't understand the Groot language, gets brownie points for that.

As the panel drops onto the floor, Groot flinches, breaking eye contact with the man to look at how deeply Rocket has been rooting around the craft. "I am Groot?" He asks both Coulson and Rocket about it, sounding a little concerned as he wonders how important that panel really is.


Coulson is not a mechanic, so he couldn't say, off the top of his head, just how important the pieces parts that just fell all over the hangar floor were.

He does watch them fall though. His eyes track a screw as it bounce-ping-rolls across the floor. He turns that gaze on the both of them as they try to tell him the music is the most important thing he should be worried about right now.

When his fingers reach out to raise the volume on the guitar solo, it is really only so he might take a moment. He needs to think things through, and the guitar solo is a fine cover.

He in fact lets the whole song play before firmly turning it off.

"Okay, you two," he says. "You did a really great job in Sokovia, and I've been meaning to talk to you. I may not be able to give you unrestrained access to space, but I was thinking of offering you two piloting jobs here on earth." He casts a significant glance to the Quinjet. "That one, in fact, is yours."

Problem solved. Anything done to it which might blow them up? Also their problem.

"You can even paint it. I can set you both up with paychecks, and parts to work with. But you will need to fly places I ask you to fly and fight people I ask you to fight. No extra-curriculars. What do you say?"


Oh, you know something's coming if it takes a guy that long to respond. "Freebird" ain't exactly a short song.

Rocket hasn't moved from his spot, save to toe a few screws and things that have ended up near his foot. Maybe he's hoping that Phil somehow missed the giant mass of parts that had just fallen out of the jet. At the very least the routine of ignoring the elephant in the room is an old one for this Guardian.

The room finally breathes again, and Rocket removes a pinky from his ear, flicking wax liberally away from him as he turns his eyes back towards Principal Coulson. He arches a fuzzy brow. "Oh, well you know. We always wake up and find ourselves in a crashing jet with two dead pilots, no biggie," he starts to say, easily talking over the man's words. And then he stops. "Wait, wait- what. Did you just say you were gonna give us a job?" Rocket throws a glance towards Groot as though to verify because yeah, he actually hadn't been listening completely.

For the record, he hadn't been trying to make it blow up, and he hadn't been completely lying when he said he was looking around. Of course Rocket was curious to see how Terran craft functioned. And maybe salvage some parts for a side-project. Now as Phil's proposal sinks in, the little Guardian makes a face. "You sure you ain't just sayin' that so we have to fix it for you?"


It's a wonder why Freebird is one of the first songs thrown out as a request for live bands. But during this time, Groot stands in place just as the other two are doing, sometimes rocking back and forth, other times barely tapping his foot along with the beat. Eventually he starts to try doing a little air guitar improv, fingers flexing randomly as he leans back, just like all of those rock stars he's seen do whenever he's come across a music video or recorded live concert performance. After a while, the tree becomes self-conscious thanks to the atmosphere, awkwardly dropping his arms back down to his sides so he can continue standing there.

He scuffs his foot against the floor, waiting for the song to fade off before things go on without skipping a beat.

Amazingly, for someone with such a short attention span, he's been paying attention to Coulson's spiel, nodding at Rocket to confirm that they're getting a job. That's a good reason to celebrate!

But after a moment, he frowns. "I am Groot." Why can't they do any extra-curricular activities? There's so much to see on Terra, he hasn't seen it all or visited anywhere twice!


"No. I'd already planned to give you a job. Making you fix things that you broke that weren't yours in the first place is just a bonus." Phil says this with the kind of implacable logic and mild-mannered snark that he's so good at. "There are not many beings who could have woken up in the situation you woke up in and not only make it home, but become an asset. I was duly impressed."

'I am Groot,' says Groot, frowning at extra-curriculars, and this time Phil thinks there are enough context clues to say, "With our planes and equipment, Groot. I'm not confining you to the Triskelion or anything. I just am trying to stress that I don't want you two deciding there's a nifty thing to go blow up somewhere, taking off, and going to do just that. I feel like I've become acquainted with you all enough to know that this is a caveat I need to give."

Slow sip of his coffee, eyebrow lift at Groot, as if to ask whether the tree man is going to tell him he's wrong.

He also pauses to look at Rocket. "How do you always know what 'I am Groot' actually means, anyway?"


Rocket scowls. Things have just taken a strange turn and he's still trying to figure out if it's good or not.

"Well, I am the best pilot in the galaxy," he snorts, and his tone is more of a matter-of-fact one than that of someone full of himself. Well, maybe just slightly, but he undoubtedly believes his claim too.

"Okay, so let's say you're making sense with all this. You're letting us have a Quinjet. You're hiring us to shoot stuff for you and willing to pay us. I do like shootin' stuff and getting paid for it." It sounds like a handy outlet for making sure that any destructive tendencies the two may have are exercised in a useful manner upon unfortunate targets. Well, Rocket supposes he can get behind that.

He opens his mouth and then closes it as Phil takes a stab at answering whatever he assumes Groot to have asked, brows lifting as he's mildly surprised the man had guessed right.

"So as long as we don't use your equipment, we can blow up anything we want, got it," the smaller Guardian says, nodding. He glances at Groot and then back at Coulson, shrugging. "We were stuck in the same cell for how long, I guess it kinda rubbed off."


With the part about extra-curriculars clarified, Groot ahs and nods, smiling once again. Now they really can make another trip to Disneyland. And maybe Disney World. It's ambitious, but he believes they can do it, one way or another.

He's also glad that Coulson picks up on his simpler notions and hopes that sticks to him they way Rocket explains how he knows what Groot means.

"I am Groot," he shrugs, now reminiscing about that one time in that one space detention center they broke out of. One of many breakouts, but the first time they met. Good times.


Phil's left eye twitches, just a little, as Rocket twists, just a little, the words that come out of his mouth. "Blowing up too much may mean other people want to put you back in a cell, but there's still plenty to do." Just put all their genius to work. Make the liability into an asset. It has worked with many other agents. "I have a warehouse full of parts and experimental parts and recovered space parts that need to be put to good use. I'm also willing to pay you to go mess with those and bring me various helpful things which might help agents in the field. Weapons, armor, more explosives, shields."

Meanwhile, he's contemplating Groot. He nods thoughtfully. He's probably not willing to sit and watch a lot of Cupcake Wars to try to get the more complex read on All Things Groot, but he's starting to note nuances of expression and body language that he is learning will give him credible guesses from time to time, just as they might on a human. And opportunities for offensive and hilarious fails, too, but. There it is.

"I'll make the same offer to Quill, when I see him next," he adds. He's…well aware they are a Packaged Deal.


"Hmmmmmm…."

Rocket strokes his chin, but he's grinning- just a little. It's a shame that most of the time his grins just have a sort of sinister undertone to it. It might just be because of the way his face is, and raccoons or even those that claim not to be but look suspiciously similar just can't completely banish that air of mischief suggested by that infamous bandit mask. Except when he's depressed. Because then it's really obvious and almost heartbreaking.

"This deal sounds too good to be true." It really does. Therefore, of course it is subject to suspicion. People normally don't tell him 'hey, I'mma pay you to fly our big expensive killer jet and mess with a bunch of awesome parts to make potentially terrible things that you normally do anyway' willingly unless they're crazy or desperate. And frankly, Phil Coulson doesn't come off as either. There's probably a compliment in that.

The words that the man phrases this deal in are pretty straight forward. Rocket knows what he heard. He also knows that it's not his fault if interpretations between parties tend to differ. He taps a finger against his chin.

"Yeah, I guess it's only fair to offer Quill the same," he concedes, although not very convincingly. He could care less whether Quill gets a job offer or not. "Just wanna clarify, but if you're gonna end up providin' us with a paycheck, is that per person, and does that make us officially employed, or as freelance?"


Ending up back in a cell is a Bad Thing. Unfortunately, it's nothing new. Groot knows Rocket will work on an escape plan the moment they set foot inside of one. And maybe he shouldn't be curious as to how that would go here under the watchful eye of The Agent.

Yet he nods, agreeing on the part where this whole thing should be extended to Quill to see if he'll go along with it. Of course his interest in that wanes once he looks back over at the projector and the makeshift giftwrap screen, instantly curious to see which episode of Cupcake Wars is currently playing.

So don't mind him if he stalks off to sit back down on his couch for that. There may be a day Coulson sits with him to watch any available show or movie, and whenever that day comes Groot will readily welcome him.


"Which do you prefer? SHIELD has contingencies for both," Phil replies. He can see the suspicion, but he's had this before. Sometimes the best way to keep someone off balance is to be absolutely, 100% genuine. And in this case, he's got a circus on his hands, thanks to Thor. He can either watch it pull the Triskelion down around his ears, or he can become the ringmaster in truth. He has a preference.

Meanwhile, though, he sips his coffee like he doesn't really care if Rocket or Groot accept or not. He doesn't even spare the tree a glance when he goes to catch up on which cupcake will reign supreme. He just focuses on the negotiation with the more verbal of the two, hazel eyes steady. If the sinister air around the alien's face bothers him that sure doesn't show. But then, if Coulson can be said to have superpowers, one of them is surely that he never lets anyone see him sweat, and rarely loses his cool.


"Oh, I'm sure it does," Rocket nods, flicking but a brief glance after Groot. It's not too difficult to guess where the walking tree's mind has gone, and the raccoon's known him for years. "I prefer not to have to split pay between three people, for one," he notes. Just to make that clear. "Depending on whether we were officially employed by SHIELD or stuck to bein' mercs, who would we answer to an' what would the benefits be?"

His brown, sometimes red eyes meet that hazel gaze as he folds his arms. His complete attention's on Phil now, cupcakes and classic rock but some weird ambiance.


From the couch, Groot utters a sound that may have just been "Groot!" because two of the contestants almost crash into each other. Several cupcakes on either side suffered casualties, a camera zooming in on part of the carnage as voices speak over the gruesome scene.


Phil actually looks genuinely baffled for a moment. "Split pay between three people? It's not… even really legal… in America, on Earth… to pay people as a group. Not unless you're all registered as a company. No, you all get your own paychecks. You would answer to me either way though. I'm afraid there's no getting around that. Benefits— medical, dental, retirement, life insurance…we have some sort of hot shot legal aid plan as well that you probably ought to take advantage of. You'll be expected to avoid conduct unbecoming either way, though, Rocket. I can't have SHIELD-affiliates or employees running around blowing things up randomly or causing havoc or anything like that. Not even if they're really, really annoyed."

He glances over at the television, and at Groot, and feels inspired to add, "I'll add live tickets to Cupcake Wars if you want." Because you know, you gotta pitch your offer to appeal to all negotiators at the table, not just the furry savvy one.


"Just makin' sure," Rocket says, waving a hand. He's used to lump sums being paid for Guardians' service, and while he was pretty sure they didn't do that here, it was nice to cover one's bases. Making money legally probably isn't a bad thing. Ever since Zee banned them from raiding her magical liquor cabinets, they've had to make do with what they'd horded before then, having expected that good things don't tend to last.

"Aw, didn't know you cared so much about us, Deadeye." Yeah, he knows that's not what Phil meant when he said either way they'd have to answer to him. "I dunno what good retirement an' life insurance will do us here. We ain't moving into Terra permanently, you know." He's back to eyeing Coulson as he suspects the guy's plugging the legal aid plan for good reason. It's like he doesn't trust them or something!

Rocket thinks long and hard on this. He mentally turns over the words of the specifics as per mentioned by Coulson. Slowly he begins to nod. "Fair enough," he says. He never blows things up randomly. And much against popular belief, he doesn't always cause havoc or the like. A lot of the time it's someone else's fault. He just happens to be in the near vicinity. Oh yeah. This deal is totally workable.

The added offer almost blatantly made in appeal to Groot is given a snort and a very forced laugh. "Please. Captain America got us front row seats to Hamilton. Hamilton. Sitting with Captain Frikkin' America."


"I am Groot!" Groot adds helpfully as he calls over a shoulder, seconding that thing about Hamilton tickets with Captain America. He hasn't forgotten that!

He then turns back to see that the one called 'Pattie' wins out the final round with her gaudy-colored display covered in gallons of glitter. The show subsequently cuts to the next scenes with her at some kind of fancy fashion gala while she happily prattles on in her squeaky voiceover.

Groot groans, crossing his arms over his chest and slumping in his seat. "I am Groot."


Phil spreads his hands and offers an apologetic gaze to Groot on this one. "Cap," he says, "is Cap. I am but a humble aspirant to but a third of his heroism and power. Including his power to get tickets to Hamilton. I'm afraid that you may have hit the limit of what I can accomplish."

On the matter of caring, he remains silent. The hard truth is he cares about all his people, and all the people he ends up responsible for, so that phrase is not really that terribly inaccurate. His Headaches May Vary.

Still, he has a feeling show tickets aren't really going to make or break this deal. To Rocket: "I might be able to manage Dear Evan Hansen or something, but no promises."

Also the hard truth…Phil really does only aspire to be about a third as amazing as Captain America. Anything else would just be ridiculous. Egotistical and ridiculous.

"Maybe your team will win next time," he encourages the tree. Look, sometimes it is obvious.


Rocket by then's already made his decision, with or without show tickets. But freebies are always good to grab whenever they're in reach.

"Well, we can't all be influential epitomes of the great Terran country of America," he says, and if Coulson were in reach he'd offer the guy a consolatory pat. On the kneecap. Okay, so being short has its disadvantages.

Instead, he holds up a finger. No, not that one. "Freelance. Think in terms of a trial run. We fix up this jet, I futz around with your salvaged parts, you got missions where you think our skills might best be applied, we get paid."

He pauses and glances over at Groot. "You sound so disappointed- I know you watched that episode five times already."


As Groot sadly nods, he accepts Coulson's consolation. That gets derailed right as Rocket mentions the fact he's watched it more than once before.

"I am— " He pauses, checking just as the next episode gets into the first cupcake challenge. He then snorts at the raccoon for being right. "…I am Groot."

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