Groot's On First

February 27, 2018:

Confusion reigns supreme when Phil Coulson comes face-to-face with baby Groot at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

A Landing Strip in Tanzania

Definitely a great place for chaos.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Captain America, Peter Quill


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Phil has business in Genosha still, but to get that rolling in truth he had to take a detour to Tanzania for various reasons of international embargos and other such problems. And this is probably Fate's way of smiling on Phil and Groot alike, because the comfy super-leather seats in the brand new Quinjet he took are even better than Captain America's seats for falling asleep in. And certain Groots are so very tiny now that they go completely unnoticed.

But soon enough there is a bunch of loading and unloading. Someone sets up a sweet stereo system out there and gets some tunes going, very loudly. It's not to Phil's preference; the Agent stands there with his sunglasses on, rubbing the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. It hasn't really been his day today, it wasn't really his day yesterday, truth be told. He wears a pained smile while the music just sort of knifes through his brain.

But the workers keep on working, so Phil doesn't complain, verbally, at all. He just stands there. Silently Dad-judging the whole of…well, the bay they're hanging out in, and all its people.


There's just something magical about chairs like that. Chairs in general, even; each one has its own set of different characteristics, style, and comfort level. This, however…this, by far, is one of the better choices Groot has made during his tiny stint.

He doesn't even remember when exactly he snuck in and climbed into that apolstered leather chair in this particular quinjet, but he knew it initially felt like a great place to curl up and nap for an hour or two.

…Except that specific timeframe sort of extended into more hours. And then into…this.

The tunes are loud enough to make the little tree jerk his big head up, blinking away the sleep that still clings to his big, black eyes. Small hands rub at them, then drop back down onto the seat of the chair as he stares blankly at some of the workers in passing, unseen and, for now, unheard.

Of course, that doesn't last for very long. Once Groot is awake, he half-crawls, half-drops off of the chair, toddling about as things go underway. And he makes it a point to stand in the middle of all of the hubbub too, as children or childlike beings are wont to do, obviously unaware he's just made himself a hazard to everyone.

He's small, anyone can step around him. Or over him. That's how it's supposed to work, right?


Phil Coulson is all about Situational Awareness.

Usually this keeps particular kinds of disasters from occurring. Bullets, specifically, say, from coming through his head, or knives through his kidneys. Really there's just a variety. Sometimes it's other people's heads and kidneys.

This time, though, it's someone's giant foot from colliding with Groot in a rather fantastically kicky fashion that might trip said gigantorman and spill his contents out from all over everywhere. "Look out," cries the Agent, and he's not sure which he's talking to.

He does rather reflexively try to scoop Groot up the way any Dad-like-person might try to scoop up a being perceived as a small child.

Whether successful or not, he adds: "…"

Which is not very articulate, but then: "…What is this? Did Groot get a girlfriend? Was Groot a woman all along? Did he…she…they…sprout? Did the family come in for a reunion?"

Just a whole host of theories about…Tiny! Tree!


That foot was coming in fast. And Groot - being Groot - had been used to not being fully aware of everything going on around him. But since he doesn't notice the verbal warning, being scooped up while the world suddenly blurs from clarity for a handful of seconds certainly clues him in on it.

A high-pitched shriek peters off once he's face to face with Dad # Coulson, flailing until he clasps onto the hands that hold him.

Feel that tiny grip. It's mighty.

The silence is returned, lingering as the agent starts saying things that really don't make any sense to Groot at all. The expression he wears while staring at Coulson pretty much echoes the sentiment. But given the opportunity to clear the air, Groot answers the man's confusion with three words:

"I am Groot."


"Really? Groot named you Groot?" Coulson asks. He doesn't seem to mind the grip. They are now mutually saying plenty of things that do not make sense to each other, but of course Groot is doing it in his very Groot-like way. "Of course he named you Groot. I mean. The guy only speaks 3 words. But I mean that can't be your entire species right? That seems patently non-functional. Though he understands every word I say. Maybe he just doesn't like English. But I mean you're young, you can learn."

He beams at Groot and sets him out of the way on a crate that is not going anywhere. "I am Phil," he tries, because it's really easy, right, with the one word shift. He's Groot, or Groot Jr. anyway, and Phil is Phil, and maybe he can get the little guy to say Phil and they'll be making some progress. Maybe then he can get into words like 'and this is how I ended up on your plane' and whatnot. "I suppose I should call Rocket and ask if he's— she's— missing his— her?— baby."

He pulls out his cell phone, though he's studying Groot more than he's paying attention to this exercise.


The more Coulson spouts, the more Groot tilts his head at him. This man, he thinks, sounds insane. Is he all right? Does he get enough sleep? It doesn't look like he does.

Or he can be thinking of something entirely different from the former. This man. He is amusing and this is a hilarious theory he's coming up with. Wow, dude. Wow.

Either way, Groot replies after getting that trademark Phil Coulson smile. "…I am Groot!" He places a hand on his chest like he's trying to explain his strange alien language to the human along with the fact that he really is saying 'I am Groot.' Why would he be making it up? That's silly.

Sadly, there are no other words than the few strings of "I am Groot. I am. Groot!" being half-shouted at the poor man.


"It's got to be a tonal language," Phil mutters. "There's just no way the language makes sense otherwise…"

But he leaves these linguistic speculations in favor of saying, "Okay. Okay little guy. I gotcha. You are Groot. I hear you."

He shakes his head and picks up the phone and dials Rocket's number. Trying to figure out the logistics of Mini-Groot in the middle of these very dangerous and very touchy Genoshan maneuvers. He imagines Groot Jr. plopping himself on Magneto's lap and yelling I AM GROOT. Multiple times. Phil, desperately trying to convince the mutant that this is a baby mutant who should not be harmed. Magneto, turning either him or Groot Jr. or both into firewood because he has no sense of humor.

Yep, he needs the one who speaks English now.

Someone turns up the music, a new catchy tune comes on; Phil sticks a finger in his free ear so he can handle this call.



"HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I SAID THAT YOU CAN'T JUST LEAVE HIM ON THE SHELF LIKE SOME KIND OF TOY!! Flarkin'… He could be anywhere right now! What if he fell in the ocean! Or got picked up by some creepy hitchhiker?! What if someone decides to use him for kindling?! Maybe he followed an ice cream truck and who knows where the hell those end up- Oh hang on, someone's calling." Rocket hits the mute on the Milano's comm to pull out his cellphone. "…the heck? Deadeye, you never call! Unless you got a job for us- in which case I'll have to get back to ya cuz I'm kinda having a crisis here-"


"I. Am. Groot!" As Groot's face turns into a scowl, little hands curl into tiny fists of fury, trying with all their might to slam down on Coulson but leaving little damage.

This is the downside of being small: the strength, it does nothing.

Oh, but the new song that comes up catches his attention, miraculously preventing a full-out tantrum. Whoever made this playlist has good taste. And should get a raise.


"Hi Rocket," Phil says, pitching his voice a little louder to deal with both the music and Groot's tiny Fists of Fury. "Listen, is Groot missing h- her? baby? Her very angry violent baby appears to have hitched a ride on one of the Quinjets…Oh good, he likes music. Well I guess you could be she too, couldn't you? I mean…the name Groot isn't necessarily a man's name. I just always thought you and your parent had a masculine quality about you…"

Right, he's getting distracted. He turns the video phone on and turns it so Rocket could see Groot. "I mean if it's a family reunion sort of thing I get that too, but the point is, this child is— well he's— she's— here," he finishes lamely.



"What the hell're you on, Coulson."

It sure sounds like a party back there. They do all sorts of questionable drugs at those things, right? Rocket's seen it in these Terran movies all the time. "If this is some weird way to confess some newfound love for me or Groot then this ain't the way'ta do it, man…" Pause. "-wait, Groot's with you???"


In the middle of swaying about in Coulson's grasp, Groot turns to look at the phone facing in his direction.

He waves.

"I am Groot!" Boy, is he glad to see Rocket! At least someone can understand him now. He sounds a little more conversational now that his friend is on the line, gesturing as he continues sway-dancing. "I am Groot? I am Groot."


"This very tiny Groot is?" Coulson asks in confusion. "Rocket, where is this Groot's parent? The big one? When did we acquire Groot-children?"

The rocking, dancing baby Groot in his arms is regarded with no small amount of bemusement. He considers putting him down. Then he watches a mishap with a crane not seven feet away that causes him to wince, and think better of it.

"I mean this little guy nearly got squished. It might have been good to know we needed to watch out for him."

He sighs and looks down at baby Groot again, then, to Rocket on the phone: "They really all don't say anything other than I am Groot? The whole species? Because I'm way confused."

It seems to never fail, really, the myriad of ways 'Deadeye' manages to make a well-meaning fool out of himself whenever he is confronted with the particular brand of weirdness offered up by his so-called 'parolees.' At this point, really, this entire situation is maybe proof that the inmates took charge of the asylum long ago.


"Groot!" Rocket confirms, which…probably doesn't help clarify anything from Coulson's perspective. "Yeah, I dunno kid- you tell me. I mean, I sure thought he was crazy."

He shakes his head then. "Wait, why are you even with- look, where's- Deadeye! That. Is Groot! And as for when, about a month ago? I dunno. It was a very confusing time involving dead demon bears and wolves and birds and a bilgesnipe- and I still haven't figured out how Groot shrunk! Look, I'm just glad he's in one piece and with someone res…re… With you."


As Rocket talks, Groot looks back up at Coulson. Although he wiggles away, his mouth forms a line that looks like a common frog puppet expression. Clearly that should help explain things better for a man who's already confused by his current circumstances.

But it doesn't hurt to try convincing him once more. "I am Groot," he adds, nodding in concurrence.


Coulson finally puts Groot down.

That's a lot of explanations. He almost had the thread at demon bears; it infected, after all, a whole lot of Stark Tech. The bilgesnipe bit loses him again. But there is useful information in all of that. Namely: Groot shrunk.

"My apologies, Groot," he says, sincerely. He looks mildly skeptical…shrinking is a thing? But he takes Rocket at his word. A dubious enough policy in his own right. As is his decision to treat Groot like a responsible mini-adult, probably, as he walks a few steps back towards the cargo hold. "Yeah, I guess he— I really don't know how he got here. Maybe someone kicked him into my plane without meaning to. I have a call in that's going to detour me back to the US in several hours…"

Then back to Genosha again, because his schedule needed to be more insane. "I'll just drop him back at the Triskelion before I go to my meeting."

He abruptly realizes he's talking about Groot like he's not there and he grimaces. That's not at all polite; maybe it's just that he really does look just so much like a child now. A little tiny tyke of a tree.


Rocket sighs, massaging the space between his eyes. "Okay. Okay, good. I'm just glad we know where he is now. Sorry if it got crazy there for you." He peers about from his end of the screen as though looking for Groot. "Hey, you keep out of trouble, huh? Well, more trouble." That's got to be comforting to hear, right Coulson?


And down he goes, lightly touching his little stump feet to the floor of the hangar. "I am Groot," he says in return, stretching his arms up and out as any child would for no real reason. Like 'It's fine. You didn't know any better. Look at me, I'm small but I'm present! Hi!' A lot can fit into one line.

Apparently Coulson's words and actions don't bother the tree too much. Half of that is because Groot is easily distracted by the slightest thing. "I am Groot," comes an absent sort of reply to phone!Rocket, the wave falling short as he starts to wander off again to keep himself entertained.

So he attempts to make a beeline for the source of the music, but that goes straight through the paths of several people still moving stuff around.


And for a moment Coulson can only stare.

"He's. Not used to being small yet, is he?" He asks this with the kind of sinking feeling rhetoric that only someone who is about to spring into action can manage. "You know what? New orders. Commandeer Quinjet, come to Tanzania, sending coordinates, okay bye," and he types those coordinates in fast before he stashes the phone and tries to go bolting after Groot.

But the big old speaker and the MP3 player attached to it probably aren't that hard to get to for all that. Some members of the crew, at least, are a little more aware. And then there's just. Tiny tree luck? In any event the music is now Groot's To Command.


"More like he's too used to it," Rocket sighs. "He's kid-Groot. Gets all over the place if you don't keep an eye on him. Distract him with candy or something, that always works." No, he hadn't expected the tree tyke to linger for long. The formerly smallest Guardian cracks open a beer.

"-wait, what-" the raccoonoid blurts, nearly spitting his first sip as he processes Coulson's hurried words. Well, on the one hand, he's got leave to fly….


Aw yiss, the MP3 player is his. Ignoring the crew members who keep an eye out, Groot hurries his pace, scrabbling at the speaker for a bit before changing the method. After hopping a few times, his arms stretch and extend, taking the player and sitting down to scroll through its options.

It doesn't take too long for him to find a good selection, however, letting that pump as he gets to his feet. He's obviously not aware of the fact Coulson gave clearance for Rocket to pick the tiny tree up at their next destination, but that isn't important.

Feeling the music, dancing about the grounds, and getting underfoot is important.


Phillip Coulson is usually a pretty dignified guy.

He has stood before terrorists, traitors, hostage-takers and would-be kings who had guns or other weapons in his face and he has smiled at them without breaking a sweat. He has been in situations that rightly should have killed him. He has dealt with interrogations while making comments on the mold problem or the decor, recommending good handymen or interior decorators as the case may be.

Usually, he is graceful, steady, and in control.

But usually, he is not confronted with a tree who really has not just in fact shrunk. He gets parting words to suggest no, no this isn't a size change, this really is some sort of de-aging. Or, well, Groot was always maybe a little childlike, but he was huge, so it was less of a problem. Or, at least, it was a very different sort of problem.

So now, here is this man, with every Dad-instinct activated. There are a lot. He doesn't just Dad at the entire world because he has a schtick, and it works for him. He Dads because deep down there was a Phil inside who would have been great raising 3.5 children, helping with homework, teaching them how to bait fishing hooks, delivering sage advice. That Dad will never happen, so he just Dads everyone and everything else he comes across, and now this includes the literal child that is literally trying to get himself killed out there.

And like any parent, he dashes. He dodges. He weaves. He flails, trying to chase Groot down. "Groot! Buddy, hey— !"


Groot doesn't remember much of his childhood. If he ever had one, that is; living on a planet full of gigantic bipedal trees is telling to some extent, but it doesn't actually validate that there is a period of youth among plant life. Youth among plants that act like other human or humanoid alien species, anyway, but whatever. Despite having this mindset as his taller self, he feels free. He feels like he can take on the world.

…But maybe he can do that after some more dancing.

It's odd enough he has two dad-like figures and a mom-like person taking care of him at home, but having an additional one doesn't seem to hurt anyone. Groot, on the other hand, can single-handedly take out someone just by being where he shouldn't, causing legs and feet to step awkwardly or misstep and fall. The good news is that they aren't transporting the heavier, more dangerous stuff at the time.

Thankfully, Coulson closes in on the tree just as he gets in the way of someone who has to handle the dangerous stuff.


Coulson is about five seconds from just throwing down an ICER grenade and letting metabolism sort them all out. Even the people loading up the dangerous stuff. Which is mostly just very delicate medicines one doesn't want breaking, spilling, or mingling with other medicines. He reaches out to steer that person out of Groot's way, rubbing a hand over his face.

He holds out a hand to Groot. Distract him with candy, Rocket had said, and at least Coulson has some idea of something similar.

"There are," he says, with the greatest of patience, "Ice cream shops in Dar es Salaam. It is not far. Let's go get some ice cream."

Boy am I glad I didn't take that weird assignment where I was supposed to go undercover as a principal at that one bouncing budding baby superhero's high school. I feel like it would have been like this literally every day.


Just as Groot is getting into some 'fancier' moves, he pauses at the careful mention of ice cream.

Ice cream. He's not hearing it wrong, is he? Ice cream? In Dar es Salaam, wherever that is?? Ice cream? Thirty-One flavor and counting?

Ice. Cream.

The tree shuffles, turning about to look at Agent Coulson with those big ol' eyes. A tiny smile lights up his face. "…I am Groot?"


Ok good. Good good. "Yes, ice cream. It's even good ice cream." He'll just commandeer a jeep.

No car seats. Well that's not good. They do not make SHIELD-issued car seats. In point of fact.

Well, every SHIELD agent makes do. He pauses to grab some safety webbing off a crate. He'll just improvise a better seatbelt. And drive really safely.

He holds out his hand. "C'mon. You can have as much as you want." Because SHIELD is buying, he's sure not. He's expensing the crap out of that.

How is it he always ends up either shooting perfectly good ice cream or expensing the crap out of way too much ice cream whenever any of these guys are around? Why is that a thing?


"I am Groot!" Some more pep gets into the tree's hopping step as he sort of side-skips over to Coulson, stumbling and accidentally running into the man's leg. He then fixes his course, pushing away to grab onto the hand that's offered, bouncing a few more times before tugging. "I am Groot!"

Maybe it's like this because ice cream makes the world go 'round. It does in Groot's case, anyway. And hopefully this trip to the ice cream shop doesn't get messy. The last thing Coulson needs right now is an angry Baby Groot.



Meanwhile here is Coulson. Trying to figure out how to make a safety seat out of cargo netting.

In the end he doesn't get a car seat. What he gets is one of those forward facing baby slings. He picks Groot up. "Safety first," he says, and drops the little tree into his new baby sling.

He adjusts the driver's seat so he can drive around this Grootness. And if people are already staring at the sight of a 54 year old man with a baby tree alien in some sort of orange cargo-netting sling worn over this man's crisp blue suit in a way that does not in fact interfere with his gun arm, well. That's just the way it's going to have to be.

He imagines the stares will only get more intense when they get out into Dar es Salaam, but it is what it is. He's gotta keep the little guy occupied till Rocket comes. Then he's gotta keep them both occupied till they both leave.

He'd better buy extra ice cream in anticipation of that, too.

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