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It might be easier, if he were a drunk. Make it easier for Len to explain, if only in his head. The phrase ‘abusive drunk’ has a much better ring to it than just ‘abusive’. But Lewis never drank that much.

He liked his drink, sure, yet never in any way that could be classified as addiction. Len can tell – he has known his fair share of addicts in his life.

*

Lisa’s cheeks are streaked with tears when Len comes home. Taking him back in the getaway car would have been too risky, so Dad told him to walk home.

“Lenny, I’m hungry,” Lisa she whispers, her voice hoarse. Her arms are covering her tummy as if it’s hurting. “You said to make cereal, but I couldn’t find any. Couldn’t find anything….”

He rubs her shoulders and his sister turns into his touch. “Where’s Mom?” he asks, equally soft.

“I d-don’t know.”

It’s nothing new. She will be back, Len is sure. Only when is the question – last time she had been gone for two days. The time before that it was eight. Len can’t make plans when Lisa’s mother is so inconsistent.

“I’ll get you something to eat, sis,” he promises.

Dad says he is too young to really help him and his friends. Says nine-year-olds have to learn how to play lookout first, how to do things right so that none of Dad’s colleagues finds out. Len always listens to his lessons, even though listening leaves no guarantee there’ll be no punishment, and he knows he could do more, but his Dad won’t let him.

His Dad’s not here, though, and besides – it’s only a little bread and a few cookies.

Lisa is asleep, the trash is taken care of (“Always remove your traces, son, so the police don’t catch you.”), when Dad comes home.

Lisa’s mother never does.

*

Len stares at the ceiling. He feels caged in after only one and a half days at Iron Heights, but he can’t bring himself to regret what got him here. At least there is a nice chill in the air.

He pulls the blanket down further, baring his torso completely, relishing the cold, recycled prison air against his naked skin.

*

His uncle finds him at the back of the ice cream truck, pressed against the freezer.

“Jesus, kid, you’re gonna catch a cold!”

“I’m fine,” Len grumbles.

Uncle Bob’s eyebrows shoot up, but he doesn’t call him out on the lie. He also doesn’t mention the black eye, not directly.

“What’s the lesson been this time?”

Len shrugs, climbing to his feet and regretting it immediately. The freezer was radiating enough cold to numb his bruised ribs.

“Dad wanted to take a detour, get more jewelry. I told him the police were ninety seconds away.”

Bob doesn’t say anything to that, doesn’t ask how Len knew since he has seen him listening to the police radio, has seen him jot down notes. Bob doesn’t ask “Why you keep talking back at him, Lenny?”, doesn’t chide him for provoking his father when he should know by now the man won’t listen to a bratty twelve-year-old.

Instead, Bob pulls open the freezer, sparing no mind to the bags of pills made to look like large ice cubes, and pulls out a popsicle.

“Thanks, Uncle Bob,” Len mutters and Bob ruffles his hair affectionately. He wants to lean into the touch but stops himself at the last moment.

(“Never show weakness, son. It’ll be easier to take you down if you do.”)

He tries to make the ice cream last, but it always melts eventually.

*

Iron Heights penitentiary has both minimum security, close security, and maximum security wings. On his first full day, Len thought his ‘close security’ status was a blessing, given that the segregation and forced inactivity that goes along with maximum would have surely made him lose his mind sooner rather than later.

On his second full day, he almost regrets thinking that when his supervisor suggests he participate in the GED program. Len glares at the man for five minutes until he sighs and allows him to return to his cell.

*

His side hurts, but he climbs into the driver’s seat anyway. The bleeding has stopped a few minutes after his father left, so Len won’t have to worry about getting stains on his uncle’s car.

Lisa keeps him waiting outside the library of her school and he watches other kids mill around the steps to the building, backpacks heavy on their shoulders. Len can’t remember the last time he was inside a classroom. Dad says he needs to pull his own weight, learn the family trade, contribute to the cost of living. Len is good at planning heists, yet not good enough to earn a smile from his father.

They have been back at their flat for only a few minutes when Lisa gasps, eyes fixed on his side.

“You’re bleeding!”

He shrugs, but she insists, retrieving the small first aid kit she stole from her school last time Dad… last time.

Lisa has become awfully good at patching him up. He notices the confidence of her movements, the way she doesn’t need to double-check if she has the right bandage. His own are similarly firm, he realizes with a wince. His best-honed skill is distracting Lewis when Lisa is close enough while he is in a teaching mood, and yet it’s still not enough. He can’t be at her side every second of the day.

Len’s eyes dart to Lisa’s shoulder where a nice pullover hides the scar from view. The item was a birthday present – incredibly expensive, but Len caught Lisa staring at it every time they passed shop’s window. Dad never noticed Len pulled off a job on his own that week to get the money.

If he had, a bit of split skin from Dad’s police club would be the least of his troubles.

*

The other prisoners are wary of him. No one bothers him, even on the third day. When someone meets his eyes, their expression is one of apprehension. Patricide seems to be a big enough deterrent in a place like this, Len muses bitterly.

Still, he prefers this to the way Barry looked at him when he visited. Len’s jaw clenches even at the memory.

There’s good in you, Snart.

A couple of run-ins, and the kid thinks he’s the expert on him. Thinks just because Len cares about his sister that he can be, what – reformed? Yeah, some such romanticizing bullshit is probably exactly what is going on behind those big, naïve eyes.

The little Speedster has no idea how twisted Len really is.

*

Len’s inner clock is meticulous. His mental countdown never stops, no matter how much adrenaline is coursing through his veins.

His father doesn’t know that, however.

Tonight there are two strings of numbers in Len’s head, and one reaches zero long before the other. Len doesn’t say, “Time’s up!”, though.

“A hundred and ten seconds,” is what he says.

When the sound of sirens closes in on them, the only thing he sees in Lewis’ eyes is disappointment, not betrayal.

They have run out of bullets, too, which means the resulting chase is over much sooner and a lot less deadly than it would have been. Len’s arresting officer – a tall Latino, very susceptible to Len’s bribe because of a baby on the way and too little cash in the bank – inclines his head for only Len to see.

Such a small movement with such far-reaching consequences. Len head-butts him, feels the man’s nose breaking as he gasps in pain, his grip loosening. He makes a run for it, runs as fast as his sixteen-year-old legs will carry him.

Lewis never suspects a thing. Len visits him regularly, pretends to listen to his lessons, doled out from behind a glass wall. Between heists Len takes care of his sister and drives Bob’s ice cream truck when his uncle wants to spend time with his wife, the only way Len can thank him for taking them in.

*

Len wonders if it’s karma, past decisions demanding their due decades later.

He was a cowardish little kid, too scared of his father to stand up to him directly. He never did learn the first rule of business, as it turns out – always protect yourself. But Lisa was more important, always has been and always will be, no matter how many lessons Lewis taught him.

It’s over now, though. School’s out for summer; there will be no more lessons, at least from Lewis. Len wonders what prison will teach him.

The alarm sounds. Lights go out. Len doesn’t bother with the blanket that night. Instead he lets the chilly air wrap itself around him, soothing and safe.