There is something deeply ironic about his current predicament.
Every step he takes, his boots sink into the snow, which is cold and wet and generally unpleasant. His arms are wrapped tightly around his body, and he's missing his parka, regretting leaving it behind on the Waverider, even as he recognizes that it probably wouldn't have made that much of a difference.
It feels like he's been walking for hours - which means that he probably has.
And now the sun is sinking.
He's not sure how much time had passed afterwards -one second he'd been standing with one arm deep in the Oculus machinery, snarling defiance at the Time Bastards and taking a few poorly-aimed shots at them with his cold gun in order to keep them at bay for the last few moments. The next? He'd been somewhere else, cursing and vomiting and, oh yes, bleeding from the eyes, such delightful side effects of a time jump that had felt like it took forever and no time at all.
When he'd finally been able to climb to his feet, swaying and wiping his face as best he could, he had found himself in a snow-covered landscape, surrounded by miles of gleaming white, mountains and trees and not a sign of human life anywhere.
It's entirely possible he'd wasted a bit more time cursing right then and there.
Eventually, he had picked a direction more or less at random and set out.
If he survives this mess, if he gets to go home and tell his sister, he's sure she'll laugh herself sick. Just imagine, Captain Cold freezing to death. Have you ever heard anything more ridiculous?
It feels like he's been walking for hours. And now the sun is sinking, its rays making the snow dazzle and gleam like gems all around him.
And that's when he spots the tracks.
But Len was never a boy scout.
On the other hand, he's seen enough winter sports to recognize ski tracks when he sees them, long and mostly straight with holes in the snow alongside. Unfortunately, his expertise doesn't exactly extend to making an educated guess when it comes to whether they were coming or going.
But then there are the animal tracks next to them - from a dog, perhaps? - and it's pretty obvious which way they are going. Presumably his mystery cross-country skier is out walking his pets or something.
So that's the direction Len stomps in as the sun sinks lower still, cursing the snow and hoping that whenever he has ended up, the people at the end of this track will be able to tell him where he is, and if he's lucky, they might even have a phone he can borrow.
Besides, it's not like he's got anything better to do.
The cold gun is a solid weight strapped to his leg, offering no aid or comfort whatsoever. The same part of him that regrets leaving his parka regrets not having left it with Mick in favour of taking the heat gun from his prone body, but those are useless thoughts. At least with the cold gun he'll have something to defend himself with if some wild animal decides to attack him - though it's useless against the cold.
Or forget the heat gun. He should have just taken Mick's lighter - at least that way he could have stopped and made a fire instead of having to keep walking. Or he should have emptied Rip's pockets, stolen Raymond - he'd probably have known how to make a fire, eagle scout that he is. And if not, well, huddling together for warmth with him wouldn't have been too much of a hardship, even if the idiot probably wouldn't have known when to shut up...
His train of thought it rudely interrupted by noises coming from up ahead, shouts and screams, and he finds himself picking up his pace and drawing his cold gun in preparation for a fight.
And then he reaches the top of a small hill.
At the foot of the hill, next to a small stand of trees, it looks like somebody was preparing a small campsite - getting ready to light a fire, that sort of thing - when they were rudely interrupted by a pack of big, grey animals - wolves.
Somebody once told him that wolves don't attack humans. Guess nobody bothered to tell these beasts, cause it looks like they've already ripped the throat out of one guy, and now they're surrounding the other three people down there, a man brandishing what looks like an axe and two children, the taller of which is firing an arrow straight into the throat of one of the wolves even as Len starts running downhill, stumbling in the snow.
He manages to hit a couple of the wolves furthest from the group with his cold gun, but when he gets closer he stops firing, looking around for a weapon because he's really not a fan of bashing things with his cold gun if he can avoid it, but neither is he going to fire it when he might risk hitting kids.
As he passes the dead guy, he spots an axe lying on the ground next to his outstretched hand. That'll have to do.
And then he's next to the group, where a wolf the size of a freaking pony has pushed the guy down on his back in the snow and is doing its level best to snap its jaws shuts around his throat, he doesn't hesitate before slamming the business end of that axe into the animal's head, right between the eyes, protected species or not. And then he yanks it back out and does it again for good measure.
Something hums past his ear and he turns to see a wolf almost right behind him with an arrow sticking out of its eye, howling and shaking its head and pawing at the stick in its face. So he yanks the axe back out of the dead wolf and finishes this one off as well.
When he looks up, the last couple of wolves are hightailing it out of there, leaving Len to sink down next to a dead animal, finally letting his exhaustion catch up with him.
Which is how Len ends up wrapped in a dead man's cloak. At least it's warm, as long as you don't mind the blood spatters - and right now he doesn't.
The other man manages to communicate to Len - mostly by pointing and just getting on with it - that he wants them to wrap the corpse in what looks like a tent, so that's what they do.
And then they finally get to sit down at the nice, warm fire, where the shorter of the boys are tending a couple of rabbits while the other digs some cheese and bread out of a bag and hands it around, followed by a bag of something alcoholic that Len can't quite identify and he can't ask about, because he's got no idea what any of these people are actually saying.
And then there's the part where the three of them - and the dead guy - are all dressed in furs and leathers and armed with axes and knives and bows, and Len's got a sinking feeling that they're probably not just escapees from a Ren Faire. How far back has he ended up, anyway?
The other guy catches his attention by touching his knee, then he says something in what sounds like a slightly different language than what he's been speaking so far - but Len can't really offer any answer other than a helpless shrug. Then the guy tries what Len suspects might be Latin, but that's no help either, but at least now he's got an idea of what the guy is trying, so he offers up his own crappy Spanish and what Russian he remembers from their little Soviet excursion and a smattering of half-remembered phrases, including some truly filthy bits of Chinese, but nothing that rings a bell for any of his new buddies.
Pity he doesn't have Gideon around to do her thing with the translator Rip had him swallow back in 1986.
Eventually they give up, and the guy ends up pointing at himself and saying what Len assumes is his name. It's a couple of tries before he manages to decipher the Athel in front of the Stan, part.
And then Athelstan points at him, saying something that probably means: "And what's your name?"
He's not entirely sure why he hesitates for a moment - he's clearly a hell of a long time before any time he's ever been in, there's no point in not telling them his name - except, if Vandal Savage is around in this time, and if his collusion with the Time Bastards had started this early, then he might be able to recognise the name "Leonard Snart" - well, assuming he's not on the other side of the planet.
It's possible that Len is feeling overtly paranoid. Still.
"Yeah, sure. Kollr. Close enough."
Then the boys help Len put on the dead man's boots and skis and everybody has a laugh at 'Kollr' trying to figure out how he's supposed to do this thing with just one long pole instead of two, but eventually he gets enough of a hang of it that they can get going, with Len feeling like some ridiculous winter wonderland gondolier.
They make their scrambling way towards the centre, passing the beach with carefully covered ships dragged up on it for the winter, carved wooden dragon heads sitting in a row, presumably waiting for spring.
Viking ships? He's fallen all the way back to the Viking Age?
Then Athelstan is pulling the cart to a stop in front of the biggest house in town and things get confusing, as the boys jump down and almost literally into the arms of a stately, blond woman, while another woman climbs into the cart and starts wailing over the dead guy and ends up having to be restrained while others carry the man away and everything is noisy.
And then a man steps out of the house and the two boys break away from the woman Len is assuming is their mother to run right up to him, to be picked up and whirled around with a laugh. Len finds himself feeling abruptly jealous of a childhood he never got, but then ruthlessly forces the feeling down, because Athelstan has climbed down from the cart and has gone to talk to the man, leaving Len alone on the cart.
He climbs down while Athelstan approaches with the other man, smiling and gesturing and saying things that include the word 'Kollr' more than once. Hopefully Athelstan is saying nice things about him.
He straightens under the new man's scrutiny, idly wondering what the mind behind those strikingly blue eyes make of him - a man still dressed in by-now-somewhat-grubby 21st century clothes and a dead guy's fur cloak, with what must be an inexplicable contraption tied to his leg. The guy actually circles him, tugs curiously at one of his jacket's shiny buttons - which Len lets him do with a slight scowl, but he sidesteps when a curious hand reaches for his cold gun.
Clearly this guy is someone important, and clearly he's got some say when it comes to what's going to happen to Len now - but he's not about to just stand around all meek and let himself be all but felt up by the local kingpin. He's been in enough prisons to know why that's just as bad an idea as straightforward challenging the guy, and while this isn't a 21st century US prison, then it's not like his grasp of medieval history is good enough to give him anything better to go on.
The second time the hand reaches for the gun he slaps it away, tensing as he waits to see if he's overstepped his bounds - he could probably fight his way out of here, but he's far from certain he could survive this presumably Scandinavian winter on his own, and besides, after the fight with the Time Bastards and then the wolves, he's far from sure how much charge his gun's got left.
Fortunately, the little stand-off ends with the other guy barking a laugh and slamming a friendly fist into Len's shoulder, no doubt leaving a bruise, then turning and giving what seems like some sort of instruction to Athelstan, before heading back to the boys and putting the smaller one up on his shoulders as he heads back inside.
Athelstan offers what seems an almost apologetic smile, then gestures for them to follow everybody else moving inside the great house.
If he'd had any doubts about the new man's position as the local kingpin, seeing him sitting down on a literal throne inside the house would have done away with them. As is, Athelstan leads him to a table not far from the throne dais, and a serving wench - did Vikings have serving wenches? - puts food and mugs of what he assumes is some sort of beer in front of them.
While they eat their supper, Athelstan starts pointing at people with his knife, repeating their names until Len catches on and starts dutifully repeating them. Mr. Big Shot is 'Ragnar', the blondie on the other throne is 'Aslaug' and the tall young man leaning against Ragnar's throne is 'Björn'. Athelstan beams at him when he manages to not mangle the pronounciation enough to satisfy him, and Len finds himself reminded of Raymond, which is ridiculous, since Raymond is an overgrown puppy and Athelstan is a Viking.
A part of the great room has been cleared, and men are showing off, with fists and whirling sticks. A tall man - 'Rollo' - lets himself be blindfolded and proceeds to kick four opponents' asses quite thoroughly. Things settle down, when an old man sings a long, incomprehensible song that seems to have most of the room's complete attention, and then Ubbe steps up and launches into a story that Len soon figures out is the tale of the wolf attack and the mysterious 'Kollr's' valiantly coming to their rescue.
Either young Ubbe is a budding storyteller of note or the audience has had enough alcohol already to appreciate pretty much anything. Either way, there's an appreciative mumble throughout the hall.
And then the young man named Björn walks over to where he's sitting, leans over the table and smiles a wolfy smile as he says something addressed to him. Len throws a glance at Athelstan, who gestures at him to follow, and so he does, watching as Björn strips off his shirt and picks up to solid sticks. Ah.
Well. When in Rome.
He leaves the cold gun on the table, then strips off his jacket and shirt and walks forward bare-chested to accept one of the sticks, ignoring the stares at his scars and his tattoos, far more colourful than the mostly pure-black patterns of the locals. He glances back at Athelstan, who seems to have gotten thoroughly distracted by his jacket's zipper, then back to Björn, who grins at him and raises the stick in a salute.
And then they fight.
Sticks really aren't Len's weapon of choice. Guns, those he knows how to handle, but apart from that? Most of what he knows is either unarmed fighting or at best how to use a knife or a shiv. That said, he has gone a few rounds against Sara at her insistence, so it's not like he's a complete beginner.
But then, neither is his opponent. Definitely not.
They dance around each other, Len accepting more hits than getting, until he decides that enough is enough. He feints to the left, waits for Björn to swallow the bait, then hurls away his stick and runs forward, wrapping his arms around the surprised young man and throwing him to the ground. The ensuing scuffle is much more satisfying, because even if it ends with Björn bringing his knee straight up into Len's balls, at least he can say that he gave as good as he got.
Afterwards, there is laughter, more bruising punches on his upper arms and slightly too curious fingers poking at his tattoos, needing to get slapped away as he walks back to reclaim his possessions - but before he gets there, there's a call of "Kollr" from the dais and he ends up having to walk right up to Boss Ragnar as is. At least his buddy Athelstan is almost instantly at his side.
Ragnar rises to his feet and drags him forward, spins him around and announces something, loudly, which seems to please the crowd. Then he drapes one am over Len's shoulders and the other over Athelstan's, walking the pair of them down to sit closer to the fire. Ragnar gestures for a man to come over and says something to him, which prompts the man to look straight at Len and say something in yet another language he doesn't know.
It's somewhat amazing how many languages a town of vikings apparently speak between them - he's fairly sure he hears something Arab-sounding at one point, but once again, nothing close enough to anything he speaks himself to be any help.
Bloody ingestible translators. At least it could have been set to automatic.
Eventually, the second session of find-a-language-Kollr-speaks draws to an unsatisfactory close, with Ragnar frowning at him. Then he turns to Athelstan and drags him close, close enough that Len can feel his eyebrows wanting to rise to the occasion, because that's an uncommonly friendly gesture, as is the shy little smile Athelstan offers Ragnar, just before the guy gets to his feet, leaning just a little on Athelstan's shoulder as if there's some old injury paining him somewhere.
Then the pair of them is left alone, and Len elects to use the opportunity to reclaim his possessions and see if there's any more beer. He's not entirely sure of what his position is right now, but at least the locals seem friendly for now.
As the evening draws out and he finds himself starting to yawn, Athelstan taps him on the shoulder and gestures for him to follow. He leads him out of the hall and down a couple of frozen-mud paths to a small house, pushes open the door and gestures for Len to follow him inside into the dark. Len stops right inside the door, listening as Athelstan moves around and then there's light as his Viking manages to get a fire started in the central fireplace.
The house apparently only has one room and it's not a very big one - and it's cluttered and judging by the single, narrow bed it belongs to just one person and that person's probably Athelstan, who is gesturing to the bed. Then the guy picks up a blanket and looks like he's getting ready to sleep on the floor, which just won't do - Len's pretty sure it's terribly bad manners to kick his host out of his own bed, but when he tries to indicate that he'll sleep on the floor, he learns that it's also terribly bad manners to make the guest sleep on the floor.
After some fairly awkward negotiations mostly carried out by pointing a lot - damn, but he never realized how frustrating it is not to be able to simply speak with other people - they agree to share the bed, even if it's barely wide enough for one. Athelstan settles down against the wall, leaving Len lying with an arm dangling down towards the floor, the comfortable solidity of the cold gun beneath his fingers. It's awkward, but he's tried worse - even if he does find himself waking in the middle of the night having turned over at some point, with an arm draped over Athelstan and a hard-on pressed against his host's ass. At least he manages to turn back around and deal with that without waking him.
The very next morning, Athelstan starts teaching him Norse.
A couple of days after his arrival, Björn and Rollo show up and drag him outside and hand him an axe, then spend half an hour until they manage to wrap his fingers around the axe handle the way they want them to be wrapped. Then Rollo swings his axe at him and Len's axe ends up several feet away, while Len's on his back with an axe pressed against his throat, and an unimpressed snort from the man straddling his chest.
In short, weapon's training could have started better - at least they're satisfied with his brawling skills, but considering he's never actually been the type to get involved with medieval reenactors, well - his skills with axe and sword and shield is roundly critiqued. At least he's a fast learner and picks up the basics fairly quickly, sparring with Björn or sometimes Athelstan most of the time. Exactly why they're feeling the need to train him to fight he's not entirely certain, but he decides to take it as a positive sign.
Curiously, nobody exhibits much interest in his cold gun, which he keeps stashed away in Athelstan's house. You'd think a weapon like that would have drawn some attention by now, so eventually he concludes that Athelstan and the boys must have been so focused on the wolves that they never actually saw him firing it. His jacket, on the other hand, disappears, at a point when his language lessons are still too new for him to even ask for it.
He finds that he doesn't miss it, as that very same day the woman Aslaug, Ragnar's wife, presents him with a truly amazing wolf fur mantle, which Athelstan manages to convey she has made herself from the wolves that Len killed to save her sons. And then Athelstan teaches him how to say "thank you" in Norse.
If he ever makes it home, Captain Cold is definitely getting a wardrobe update.
When he's not being taught anything, he spends most of his time observing.
He watches Athelstan, feeling perhaps a tiny bit possessive of the man he sometimes thinks of as his Viking. He watches him and notices that apart from himself and Björn and a lovely woman with too much eyeliner, the only person Athelstan spends much time with is Ragnar, the king himself - at least, he's pretty sure 'konungr' means something along the lines of king - and judging by the way the pair of them interact, all small smiles and glances and sitting so close together that they're practically in one another's laps, well - let's just say Len's pretty sure he probably shouldn't say the bit about Athelstan being his Viking out loud if he knows what's good for him.
Apart from Athelstan, he watches, well, everybody. People coming and going, women shopping at the marketplace, men and women sparring, slaves stumbling along and doing their best to avoid notice. He watches men and women drag one another close, giggling and unashamed, and he finds himself wondering what it would involve if he was to try to make a pass at one of the locals - but his grasp of the local language is still too poor for him to want to get himself into a situation that might easily turn complicated if he misjudges a host of little details, like whether the other person is already involved with somebody or whether or not, Athelstan and Ragnar making eyes at each other aside, the locals are the homophobic sort.
In the end he settles for jerking off. And if his usual go-to fantasies about a certain doe-eyed speedster occasionally give way to the image of a far-too-innocent-seeming-to-be-a-proper-Viking man, well, surely that's nobody's business but his.
And so winter passes, the world grows brighter and the snow melts to reveal a riot of snowdrops.
He might not be able to understand all of Ragnar's speech, which is clearly very rousing and eloquent, but his lessons have progressed far enough that he can follow the high points. Even if he couldn't, he'd understand one word that they keep repeating - Paris! They're going to Paris! To raid and pillage and plunder, presumably, like the world history's rowdiest biker gang.
He spends the next few days pondering - well, pondering and doing his level best to make a good impression when sparring with Björn or with a fierce woman that arrived with the ships and has been introduced to him as Lagertha, Ragnar's ex-wife. He's not entirely sure what he'll do once he gets there, but he knows that he needs to go to Paris.
If he stays in Kattegat, that's it - he'll stay in this time and grow old and die, and he doubts anybody will ever find him. Hell, he's not even sure anybody's looking for him. For all they know, the Oculus explosion was just a standard explosion and his team mates think that what's left of Leonard Snart was either vaporized or splattered all over the Time Bastards' precious Vanishing Point.
But even if they're looking for him, it's not like they'd know where to look. And it's not like he's Raymond, who managed to build a homing beacon for Gideon to track him by - he's good, but that's far out of his league. As is he's not even able to recharge his cold gun and he has to force himself to not turn it on and waste precious power every time he carefully takes it apart and reassembles it.
No, he can't build a homing beacon. And he can't even be sure that anybody would be looking for it. No, what he needs to do is change the timeline - in some way that's small enough that he won't ruin history and big enough that hopefully Gideon will notice. Paris - Paris might work. Paris would have monks writing history books and buildings that'll still stand in a thousand years, right? All he needs to do is be on one of those ships when the fleet heads south, and he'll figure out some way to get a message across.
As far as plans go, it's not one of his better ones, but it'll do.
And then he comes home late one night while the rest of Kattegat are busily celebrating some religious festival involving orgies and bonfires all over the beach to find a mostly naked Athelstan kneeling in front of a cross, arms spread wide, as a man Len has heard referred to as Floki is holding an axe above him, ready to strike.
It's instinct that propels him forward, slamming into Floki and deflecting the axe, but not completely - he's not fast enough and Athelstan's not even trying to dodge the attack and then there's blood and screams and he can't even pursue the asshole because he has to stop the bleeding, has to keep pressure on the wound even as he roars for "HELP!!!", shouting in English because he's got no clue what the correct Norse word is.
Everything gets confused after that - people come running into the house, some kneeling to try to help Athelstan, while others run and fetch Ragnar, who arrives surprisingly quickly and takes in the scene before him, the injured Athelstan and the axe still lying on the floor of the house and Len with his hands still bloody from holding the wounds closed, and Len suddenly realizes how this must look - because dammit, it's not like he doesn't know everything about the law jumping to conclusions based on circumstantial evidence, he's a criminal for crying out loud, and obviously Ragnar has jumped to exactly the wrong conclusion, because he's stalking towards Len, who gets to his feet and backs into a wall as the man grabs hold of his shirt, baring his teeth and making Len curse the fact that the axe is still lying on the floor and his gun is useless where it is, hidden under the bed.
And then Ragnar snarls: "Who?"
It takes Len's mind a moment to catch up to the fact that apparently Ragnar has jumped to the right conclusion after all - a moment long enough that Ragnar shakes him like a ragdoll, then gestures towards the bloody mess that is Athelstan and repeats his question.
Ragnar let's go of him, but for a moment he remains standing in front of Len, suddenly looking so unspeakably tired that Len realizes that Ragnar must have already known or at least suspected exactly who'd want to do such a thing to their Viking.
Then the king turns and stalks out of the house as Aslaug strides inside, some of her ladies following in her wake, and Len finds himself kicked out of the house he's been living in all winter as the women go about the business of trying to save Athelstan's life.
No good deed goes unpunished, isn't that how it goes? This is what he gets from playing the hero. He gets left behind.
Floki, on the other hand, Floki the would-be murderer, hissing and spitting, Floki gets to go, because apparently even a king can't execute a man for attempted murder when the only witness is a stranger who barely speaks the language. Or perhaps he won't - because Athelstan had clawed his way out of the fewer that has him in its grips most of the time, to beg Ragnar, to hold his hand and plead for mercy for the man that had stood unashamedly before Ragnar and hissed 'Kristinn' like it's some sort of a curse.
Floki the would-be murderer gets to sail to Paris, while Kollr, the hero of the hour, gets left behind in Kattegat, charged with guarding Athelstan.
If he wasn't so very pissed off, Len would laugh.
Instead, he curses until he runs out of words, then, when he finally grows tired of watching the ships growing smaller as they make their way out of the fjord and out on the open ocean, he turns and walks back to town, back to the small house and ducks inside.
Athelstan stirs as the sound of the door slamming shut behind him.
"Ragnar?" he says, turning his head in Len's direction, blinking with the eye that isn't hidden behind tightly wrapped rags.
"They sailed," he says, pretending that's the right answer to Athelstan's question, pretending not to see the disappointment on the other man's face.
"Good," Athelstan manages, and it's so obviously not sincere that it sets Len's teeth on edge, and he wants to start cursing again.
"Water?" he asks instead, and at Athelstan's "Please" he picks up the pitcher and the cup and sits down on the side of the bed to help his friend drink without using his right arm that's tightly wrapped to keep the wound on the upper arm from opening again.
Afterwards he puts the pitcher and the cup down on the floor and stares at the fire, remembering the long - longer because they had both needed to search for words simple enough for Len to understand what was required of him - and slightly awkward conversation he'd had with Ragnar, about how Ragnar had to go to Paris, how the raid could not be postponed, how he obviously couldn't take Athelstan, but he needed somebody to stay, to keep him safe in case anybody other than Floki might get it into their heads to kill the Christian among them.
How he trusted Kollr to do it since he'd already saved Athelstan's life twice.
"I'm sorry," and he looks up at the feeling of awkwardly being patted on the back by Athelstan's uninjured left hand in time to watch as his friend's eyes slide shut, watch as he slides back down into feverish sleep.
"Yeah, you're sorry. Fat lot of a good that does me," he grumbles as he reaches out to tug Athelstan's fur properly in around him.
As spring blossoms and starts turning into summer, Len finds himself spending nearly all his time with Athelstan, trying his damnedest to improve his Norse. After all, if he can't count on getting a ride to more civilized parts with the Viking fleet, sooner or later he'll have to make his own way south, and he'll need a proper grasp of the local language for that.
Sometimes he wonders at exactly how isolated Athelstan seems now that Ragnar has left. Apart from the women who stop by to inspect his injuries, unwrapping them to reveal well-healing wounds that will turn into some quite spectacular scars if Len is any judge, with an hollow socket where they had to remove the damaged eye - apart from them, he only seems to interact with Len, and occasionally with the small flock of Ragnarssons who will occasionally descend upon them, dragging the pair of them into the sunlight and making Len train with them with axes and shields.
And since Len is staying with Athelstan and still relying on him for anything more than the most basic of conversations, he's almost as isolated. It's enough to drive a man to distraction.
Ironically, he develops a habit of taking walks outside of the town, following the beach or heading up towards the mountains, spending a couple of hours in his own company. He brings a bow along when he does, using the excuse of going hunting to get that time to himself - and he does spend time practicing with the bow, occasionally even managing to bring a few small birds or a rabbit back for his and Athelstan's supper.
It's as he's walking back from one of his hunting trips, a couple of grouses dangling over his shoulder, that he finds half the settlement moving towards the great hall, chattering in excitement.
"What's happening?" he asks a boy he manages to grab hold of as the child runs by him.
"The Queen is going to kill the Christian," the child answers, excitedly. "She's going to make him carry hot irons!"
With a curse he lets his birds fall to the ground and starts running. Len has no idea why Aslaug would want to kill Athelstan, why she'd want to risk her husband's displeasure in this way - but right now he doesn't have the time to waste on that sort of considerations, or he doesn't think he has the time to detour around the house to pick up his cold gun either. Whatever reason the Queen might have, he doubts that Ragnar will accept that as an excuse from him to have failed in the task he was given.
He turns the corner and forces himself to slow to a walk as he arrives at the open space by the great hall, studying the crowd that has gathered, Aslaug lounging in a throne that has been carried outside for some reason and people looking expectantly at a man standing in front of the forge, a man wearing a large cross around his neck.
A man who is not Athelstan.
Len stops, reassessing the situation, watching as the blacksmith picks up a iron bar glowing as almost as hot as Mick's gun with a pair of tongs, holding it out to the man - the Christian - standing by the forge. He has very little doubt how this is going to end, and there's a small voice inside of him, sounding a lot like a certain annoying speedster, that wants him to intervene, to save the day, but he squashes it down, ruthlessly. This is none of his business.
Instead, he turns and grabs hold of Athelstan as the man tries to hurry past him, wrapping an arm around him, trapping both of his arms, and covering his mouth with his free hand.
Athelstan squirms, not actually fighting him, just writhing, pulling his head sideways and away from Len's hand long enough to get out a "Kollr, please" before Len gets a proper grip again.
"No. Ragnar said to keep you safe. This is not safe."
He takes a petty satisfaction in the fact that he's learned enough Norse by now to be able to string together a decent sentence that actually allows him to snarl at someone. Then he hauls Athelstan backwards, away from the jeering crowd and the screams of the Christian stranger, away - because he might not have a clue what prompted that mess of a situation he just saw, but he has absolutely no doubt that the man who was just weeks before denounced as a Christian for all to hear has no business being anywhere near it.
And certainly not when the first thing he says when Len takes his hand off his mouth is: "Don't you understand? That was supposed to have been me!"
Athelstan looks up from his bowl of soup to look quizzically at Len, turning his head slightly to allow his eye to focus on him more easily. Then he smiles.
"Because I know the love of Jesus Christ," and he reminds Len so very much of Barry in that moment, all wide eyes and happy, earnest conviction that it almost hurts.
"Not that why," Len grumbles. "Why are you a Christian here?"
He makes a sweeping gesture meant to encompass, well, Kattegat. Possibly all of Scandinavia.
"Oh," and Athelstan's light dims for a moment. "Well. I used to be a monachus. A priest. In England. I lived there - until Ragnar and his men came. He - took me."
It is a slow story to tell - partly because Athelstan keeps trying to find ways to say things that Len will understand, partly because he'll again and again stop and search for a word that simply doesn't exist in Norse before settling for what Len's pretty sure is a Latin word instead. And partly because it is a long and twisted tale, even if Athelstan is surely leaving out quite a lot, and Len is growing increasingly convinced that he might possibly be the first person that Athelstan has ever sat down and told his story to.
Len listens as Athelstan tells of how he was captured by the Northmen, how Ragnar made him his slave and took him back home - and as he listens he also hears the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, a farmer who made
himself king, who gave his slave his freedom and a gleaming silver arm ring to go with it. He hears the story of a monk who became apostate and then found his God once more, but who also found that he couldn't leave the man that had become his dearest friend behind.
Somewhere along the way Athelstan pauses and bends down to reach for something under the bed, only to grimace in pain from his half-healed arm. Len ends up being the one reaching in for the cloth-wrapped bundle that's been lying next to his cold gun, brushing away a few cobwebs and unwrapping what turns out to be a book.
He feels a momentary stab of greed, not for money or rare gems or valuable art, but simply at the memory of reading. When was the last time he read anything?
Then Athelstan balances the book carefully in his lap and opens it, revealing pages covered in presumably Latin writing that Len wouldn't be able to read anyway, and in pictures. Sketches. Faces of people he recognizes and faces of people he doesn't.
And one beautiful portrait of Ragnar Lothbrok, which it seems that Athelstan has barely started to colour, the man's sky blue eyes shining from a black-and-white drawing.
This time, Athelstan doesn't let Len hold him back. He pushes his way to his king's side, kneeling by him, and Ragnar's eyes focus on him, his hand rising to trace the scar on Athelstan's face. Unexpectedly, the man's lips quirk.
"What a pair we make."
Then they carry him into the great hall, Athelstan trailing them, and Len following just for the hell of it.
Len rarely leaves his side and he keeps his cold gun strapped to his leg.
He doesn't like the look in Aslaug's eyes whenever she looks at Athelstan, and he doesn't like how he's seen her speak privately with Floki, still around no matter how much better it would be for everybody if that rat bastard had stayed in Paris.
He remembers the Christian she forced to carry iron, remembers the screams, and when he's not personally keeping guard over Athelstan, he tries to prepare in case worst comes to worst and they have to run. He approaches the merchants who have arrived in the wake of the returning fleet, intrepidly going forth were none of their colleagues had traded before - their Norse is no better for his, but he does manage to establish that they apparently hail from Spain and that they might well be amenable to a couple of passengers, if the price is right.
He tries not to think too hard about why it's suddenly become important to him to save Athelstan, even if there'll no longer be a Ragnar to reward or punish him.
And then the man goes and spoils all his careful preparations by defying all common sense and waking from his coma just as the first snow of winter falls, because who needs the modern medical industry anyway?
Athelstan spends most of the winter as close as he can get to Ragnar. Once the king is back on his feet, the pair of them spend day away from town, just the two of them, and if Athelstan blushes when he returns home that first time and Len raises an inquiring eyebrow, well - good for them.
But that leaves Len more alone still and he wonders when he started disliking his own company so much. Sometimes he'll look around the great hall and almost regret that he took Mick's place - after all, Mick would have been happy here. These are his kind of people. Hell, Mick's practically a berserker already.
He finds a stack of carefully lined parchment pages in his and Athelstan's house and considers stealing them to write his memoirs. He's sure that Athelstan could be persuaded to teach him how to make a proper book of it - then he'd just have to somehow bring it south with him whenever he goes and stash it in some library and hope it lasts the millennia.
It's a ridiculous plan, of course. Even the idle thought of commissioning a rune stone and covering it with "Captain Cold was here! In the year of our Lord 800 and something! Come and get me!" makes for a better plan, and that one's ridiculous.
Though he's pretty certain Cisco would get a kick out of seeing one of his supervillain names carved in a thousand year old block of stone.
And then one evening in late winter, when food is growing sparse and everybody keeps glancing at the snow outside to see if there's less of it than the day before, the tiniest little girl crawls right up to him as he's eating his supper in the great hall, looks up at him with a happy gurgle and promptly falls asleep on top of his foot.
It's perhaps half an hour later that one of Aslaug's women - the Asian one that always looks harried, the one he can't figure out how has ended up in Kattegat of all places - plucks the sleeping child out of his arms, and he has to grab hold of her arm and repeat his question twice before she answers, telling him the child's name.
The itchy feeling of being watched makes him turn his head just in time to meet the eyes of Siggy's grandfather, his head tilted as if he's considering something.
Ragnar lowers himself to the ground next to them with a groan and a grimace.
"Should I be considering a bride-price?"
"She reminds me of my sister," Len shrugs, which both is and isn't true. Siggy is a far more quiet and well-behaved baby than Lisa ever was, but what she lacked in manners, she made up for in looks - Lisa had been an adorable baby, at least in his memories. Having seen himself as little more than a newborn, he suspects they've simply got good genes. No doubt from his mother's side of the family.
"Your sister - you miss her?"
"I suppose she is still back home in…?"
And there it is, and to be perfectly honest Len's been expecting this - especially since hearing Athelstan's story, he's more or less been waiting for Ragnar to get around to questioning him. At least the man isn't trying to get him drunk first.
For a brief, insane moment Len considers simply telling Ragnar the absolute truth. Then he decides against it. Distant, exotic lands are one thing, but the future?
"America. I'm from a land called America. To the west."
"England's to the west," Ragnar points out as he reaches over and plucks his granddaughter from Len's arms. Len glares at him for that, but Siggy seems perfectly happy to get to yank on her grandfather's beard.
"England is close. America is - further to the west. A lot further."
"But one can sail there," Ragnar nods, and Len supposes that's a reasonably assumption - after all, he must have gotten to Scandinavia somehow, and if not by boat, then how?
"I wouldn't advice it."
"Hmmm," but Ragnar does not sound persuaded.
"Will you be going back to Paris this year?" Len asks, an embarrassingly blatant attempt at changing the subject, but Ragnar lets him get away with it.
"No," he shakes his head - and Siggy, gurgling with laughter and letting go of the beard to fall safely back into Ragnar's hands. "Not this year. It was a good raid, but we lost a lot of warriors at Paris. Odin's gain, but it will take time to gather new men."
"How much time?"
"Another year. Perhaps two. Word is already spreading, the skalds are singing our praises. They'll come and we'll go back, just wait and see. We'll go back to Paris soon enough."
Len hums, leans forward and looks out to sea, feeling suddenly wistful - and old. How many years is he supposed to spend in the past anyway? At this rate, he'll break the ladies' record.
He turns his head at the feel of fingers running through his annoying hair, glares at a Ragnar that just offers an unrepentant grin and tries to tangle his fingers in the relatively short curls.
"Athelstan said you seemed disappointed that you didn't get to come along to Paris with us?"
Len shrugs, tries to ignore the feeling of Ragnar's hand sliding down the back of his neck, squeezing slightly.
"Kollr. We will be going back to Paris."
Then the hand falls away.
"Athelstan speaks of you often. He likes you, I think," and Len turns his head to try to gauge Ragnar's expression. After all, being liked by the king's boyfriend is not necessarily a good thing - not that he knows that much about kings from personal experience, but judging by the sort of torrid bodice rippers Lisa spent a period of her teens consuming in amounts that would embarrass her if he brought it up today, kings have a tendency to get jealous.
But Ragnar doesn't seem upset.
"He has been a good friend," he allows.
"You did save his life," Ragnar offers. "And Athelstan is a good man. He is grateful for that. As am I."
Len settles for raising an eyebrow and waiting for Ragnar to get on with it.
"I have been speaking with Yidu," Ragnar tries, which just makes Len's eyebrow rise higher, because what the hell does the Asian slave girl have to do with anything. "She told me, that in her country - China, she calls it - that in her land it is not uncommon for men to take other men to bed. Even to marry them as a man would marry a woman. And it is not considered improper or ergi."
"I have never been to China," Len offers, noncommittally, because this conversation is turning in a direction he didn't expect.
"I think I might like to go there someday," Ragnar states, leaning back until he's lying on the grass, Siggy curled up right under his chin. "It sounds much simpler. Here, it is always difficult, if a man likes another man. It's one thing if it's during one of Freyr's festivals or a pair of friends helping one another out during a long journey or being a good host - but to simply want to have sex with another man? What sort man could want such a thing?"
Len stays quiet, but lies down next to Ragnar, who rolls up on his side, carefully settling down the sleeping child until she is nestled between them.
"Tell me of your America. How do the people there think of such things?"
"There are idiots everywhere," Len offers, truthfully. "But there are men who like men and women who like women, just like everywhere else, and if somebody doesn't like that, well, in a lot of places they are considered the ones who are in the wrong."
Ragnar bares his teeth in something a bit too wolfish to be called a smile.
"I think I'd like to visit your America. Here the idiots can be noisy and spread nasty gossip and most think them in the right."
"I haven't heard any nasty gossip about you and Athelstan," Len offers, because he's getting tired of beating around the bush. "At least not that sort of nasty gossip," he adds after a moment's hesitation, because he's heard the other nasty gossip, Floki's anti-Christian gospel that nobody even bothers to whisper anymore.
"It would be an unwise man who spread such rumours about the king," and that could have been a warning, except the tone is all wrong, Len is sure of it. "Or anybody the king invites to his bed."
"I'll keep that in mind."
"Be sure that you do," and Ragnar's getting to his feet, grimacing briefly before glancing down at Len and Siggy still lying on the grass.
"Athelstan and I are planning to go on a hunting trip in a day or two," he offers, casually. "You should join us."
"I'll think about it."
He waits until Ragnar is out of earshot before starting to laugh, keeping it low so as not to wake Siggy, because he's pretty sure that he's not only just been invited to have a threesome with a Viking king and his monk-turned-Viking, but unless he misunderstood something the Viking king in question just did his level best to reassure him - Leonard Snart, Captain Cold, nemesis of The Flash, Legend and actual supervillain - that he'll still respect him in the morning.
Perhaps he should go and sacrifice a chicken to one of the local gods in the morning, because he'd better pray that Sara never finds out. She'd never let him live it down.
They are lying in bed, the three of them, Athelstan curled up against the wall and sketching something in his book. Ragnar's lying halfway atop of Len, tracing the lines of the tiny dragon tattoo that curls around his side with his fingertips.
Len glances over his shoulder at the other man, trying to gauge his mood - something not always easy.
It has become a regular thing, this thing between the three of them. Len wouldn't call it a relationship, not as such - there is Ragnar and Athelstan, and sometimes, but far from every time, one or the other of them will invite him along for a hunting trip. Sometimes he'll accept.
After all, it had been a bit of a dry spell for him.
Not that the sex is even all that fantastic. They fuck, sometimes there's frottage and such, and then Len had managed to expand the sexual horizons of the Viking world by introducing his new friends to a little thing called blowjobs. Because apparently it hadn't actually occurred to anybody in this remarkably internet and porn free age that that might be a fun thing to do. There are a few other things he could teach them, but frankly, while the Vikings have proved to be far from filthy savages, they still do only bathe about once a week. Some things will just have to wait for the 21st century.
But the sex isn't fantastic. It's good, certainly, to have his dick sucked by an enthusiastic , if not particularly expert Athelstan or to fuck the monk-turned-priest while Ragnar fucks him. But more than that, he finds that it's simply nice to have their company. To sleep tangled with two other bodies, to occasionally share a hungry smile or a raised eyebrow, and receive a hungry look right back.
He might be the third wheel in this relationship, but Len doesn't particularly mind.
"I want to mark you," Ragnar says, and Len glances back at him, gauging his mood, before turning lazily, dislodging the Viking king as he rolls onto his back.
"Is that so?" he drawls lacily, still finding a quiet satisfaction in having become sufficiently secure in his grasp of the Norse tongue that he's starting to sound like himself again.
Ragnar's hands are back, rough as they slide over his chest and down along his thighs and legs. His fingers trace Len's scars, his tattoos - it seems a never ending fascination with him.
The first time he'd stripped before them - he's not shy, but he doesn't like to display his body to all and sundry - apart from that fight with Björn in the flickering light of the great hall's torches and fire pit, he'd made a point of not undressing when other people are around - the first time he'd stripped before them, they'd taken their time exploring his body. Learning the scars from his childhood and his adult life, marvelling at the fairly dull tattoos that are a riot of colour compared to most of the ones he's seen in Kattegat - and they'd both stared at his dick long enough that a considerably more self-assured man than Len would have started to feel self-conscious.
It wasn't until Athelstan had blurted "But what happened to you?" that he'd realized that neither of his new bedmates had ever seen a cut dick before.
Once he'd stopped laughing at Athelstan's expression, he'd tried to explain - said something about America, about how this was a normal thing there.
He often finds himself speaking of America while in bed with the pair of them. If Ragnar imagines himself subtle, he's sorely mistaken - his casual "tell me about your America" pillow talk while they bask in the afterglow would be obvious to Len even if he hadn't listened to Athelstan telling him how Ragnar got him drunk and made him talk about England. But he finds that he doesn't particularly mind, telling Ragnar random bits - that many are Christians and many are not, that there are many rich cities, even that he himself was the sort to go and take other people's treasures by force of arms.
Sometimes he wonders what sort of picture Ragnar's painting of America inside his head. Sometimes he wonders if he's not unintentionally launching a new round of Viking raids - presumably on Ireland, since that country has the misfortune of being "further west" than England.
"Yes. I want to mark you like I marked Athelstan."
Len glances at Athelstan. Where Ragnar is covered in whirling tattoos in the local style literally from the top of his head and down, Athelstan is scarred. The hollow of his lost eye and the jagged scar on his right upper arm has joined older scars, most prominently the circular hollows in his palms, telling a story that Len would only wish on his worst enemy. Athelstan is scarred - but curling around his left shoulder is the man's only tattoo, a black, stylized raven.
Ragnar pokes at Len's tattoos - the band with Lisa's name and birthday, the trail of snowflakes snaking down his spine, the tiny M-shaped flame on his left ass cheek (Mick's idea of a joke on Len's 30th birthday, when he'd for once had let down his guard and allowed himself to get spectacularly drunk).
"Because you are a man who carries his life on his skin. Because it is bad luck for one of Odin's wolves to not be accompanied by one of the Hanged God's birds. And because I want to see my mark on your skin."
Len bares his teeth in a wolf grin of his own, then grabs hold of Ragnar and rolls them until he's straddling the man, pinning him with one hand on his chest and sliding the other down towards Ragnar's half-hard cock. A pair of strong hands reach round to cup his ass, squeezing encouragingly.
"I'll think about it," he says, completely insincere, then leans down to keep Ragnar from saying anything else.
Nevertheless, the next day finds the cold, clear autumn sun shining down on a Leonard Snart sitting shirtless in front of Ragnar, letting him jab a sharp metal pin into his skin over and over again. At least it isn't any worse than when he got the prison tattoos done, though he does wonder whether it might possibly be even less hygienic.
The King and the Queen are at odds. Everybody seems to know it. Ragnar keeps company with a man that some refer to as his pet Christian, while Aslaug gathers her sons around her, frequently making sure to publicly remind them of their great heritage as her sons, her legendary dragon slayer father's grandsons and heirs. It's quite possibly one of the least subtle political moves Len has ever seen, and he's seen prison riots.
And Aslaug keeps Floki's company, leaves the youngest son, Ivar, the crippled one with him at odd hours, and Ragnar seems torn at that, because Floki is no longer a friend of his and yet it's quite obvious that the pyromaniac is still terribly important to him, even after trying to murder Athelstan.
So Ragnar pulls away from his wife and away from his sons, spending more and more time with his "pet" - and with Len, tracing the lines of his new raven tattoo with possessive fingers, telling him "Someday I should like to see your America," as they lie in the dark. There's something wistful about him these days.
New faces start to appear, hungry for gold and glory - a man calling himself a king, who can't seem to make up his mind whether to fanboy Ragnar or challenge him outright. This Harald Finehair stares at Athelstan and Len, as if he can't figure them out, and sits down to sup with Aslaug and Floki.
Len bares his teeth at him, even as Ragnar sends runners out across his lands to give the orders for the warriors to come to the great spring thing.
Familiar faces resurface - Björn returns from his having gone walkabout and his mother returns with him, and the people whisper things of her, that she has blood on her hands, two dead husbands and that Ragnar was lucky to escape alive.
Everybody's waiting - and tensions grow ever higher. Games are arranged, men on skates carved of bone crashing into each other on the frozen waters during supposedly friendly games of knattleikr. Twice they end in funeral pyres.
Then the snow melts and the ships arrive, brimming with men and women ready for adventure. And then it's suddenly, almost abruptly time to go.
Len kisses Siggy goodbye, once on each still-chubby cheek and once on her forehead, even as she cries. Then he hands her off to Yidu, telling her to "Take care of her," because Lord knows Aslaug's not going to. These days, the Queen of Kattegat barely seems to have the energy to handle all of her own brood, having grown more and more obsessed with Ivar ever since the boy somehow managed to be the first of these Aslaugssons to take a human life, ever since the dead child's family left Kattegat with their pockets lined with a generous wergild and a curse on their lips, ever since the rest of Kattegat's children started shunning the royal kids.
Ragnar's taking the oldest pair along, and Sigurd seems the sort to do well in his own company, but Len can't help but worry about Siggy. Judging by the sullen look Yidu spares him, he doubts the slave woman will be the one to dedicate herself to the child properly. If not for the fact that a fleet going to raid and pillage and plunder is no place at all for a toddler, he'd be sorely tempted to bring her - stash her away under some rope and sail and let her presence be a fait accompli once they were too far out to turn back.
He pats her hair, telling her to be a good girl, and then he turns and leaves, making his way aboard the ship that Ragnar will be steering personally, settles his freshly painted blue-and-white shield next to Athelstan's and grabs hold of the oar before him.
The look on Ragnar's face when the man realizes that his own brother has betrayed him - again - momentarily drags Len back to a small time ship, to sitting chained as he'd seen the face of an enemy and it'd turned out to be that of a friend.
And then they actually lose the fight to get past the towers guarding the Seine.
Len's too far back to make a difference there. He and Athelstan have been placed on a ship further back, and all he can do is watch as the ships in front of them are wrecked and fire and death rains down from above. If he'd been closer, he might have made a difference.
Instead, it seems as if the great Paris raid is about to end before it's barely begun, as if the great Ragnar Lothbrok was just a fallible human being after all. Except then he presents his plan and Len finds that he
actually likes it. Why bother fighting your way through a laser grid, when there's a maintenance shaft just ripe for exploitation?
Not that he doesn't finds himself regularly cursing Ragnar's scheme the next few weeks. Those ships are fucking heavy.
With a soft cloth he carefully goes over every piece of his cold gun, checking for any signs of wear and tear, of rust, of anything to be wrong. And then he finally puts the pieces back together again and for the first time in months he turns it - and he feels a surge of relief at the familiar hum and blue light.
Then he turns it back off and puts it away, ignoring the curious looks from the other two, who have completely stopped pretending to be engrossed in their game of hnefatafl - which Len can see that Athelstan is as usual about three moves from loosing.
"Tomorrow, we stay by your side," he tells Ragnar firmly.
"Is that so?" Ragnar smiles, echoing words right back at Len that he's probably used far too often.
"Yes. After all, you're the one who called me a wolf. Where's a wolf supposed to be, if not in the middle of the battle?"
"I'll think about it."
Len could easily grow to hate having his own words echoed back at him. Instead of answering, he shoulders Athelstan aside, rearranges the pieces to start a new game, and proceeds to kick Ragnar's ass at hnefatafl three times in a row.
But the next day he's standing at Ragnar's left side and Athelstan at his right as they're bearing down on the Frankish fleet, closer and closer still.
And then he gets up, putting on the goggles that are really the only part of his wardrobe that's survived the last three years without either mysteriously disappearing or simply getting worn to pieces. Then he turns on the cold gun and heads turn at the unfamiliar hum of it.
"What are you doing, Kollr?"
He can't help but smirk down at Ragnar for a moment, huddled behind a shield to keep from getting skewered by the enemy's arrows.
"I'm just making a slight change to the plan," and if he had been in Ragnar's place, he's aware that he'd be furious right now, because if there's one thing he can't abide, it's people who won't follow the plan. But then, he never claimed not to be a hypocrite - and if he doesn't act now, with Paris just a large speck on the horizon, he has a nasty feeling that he won't get a second chance.
Besides, he thinks Ragnar's going to get a kick out of this.
And so, ignoring the risk of one of those very arrows hitting him, he takes his time to carefully aim.
And winter comes to Francia.
The ice gleams under the summer sun, the creaking as it wraps itself around the Frankish boats almost drowning in the sound of wood splintering under the unexpected pressure and the cries of men suddenly trapped.
Len makes sure to aim into the water, makes sure to let the ray of absolute zero do its work, lets the ice form deep and strong and ruthless. Cold. He forces himself not to rush, not to skip any corners, not to worry about how much or how little charge he's got left, as he builds a field of ice.
And then the charge does run out, the cold gun going silent in his hands.
But it's done what he needed it to do.
And so he turns to Ragnar and makes a bow and sweeping gestures.
"Can all men from America do that?" and it's Athelstan, staring as if he cannot believe his eye.
"No. Just me," and Len shrugs and puts the drained cold gun back in its leather leg holster, draws his axe and picks his shield back up. "In any case, that was the last of it."
He glances at Ragnar, worried because the man has yet to act, has yet to move, and this ice won't last forever - but then he sees the grin spreading, sees the ice gleaming in the man's eyes - and then Ragnar reaches out, yanking Len close and pressing a kiss to his lips.
Then he lets go, stands and shouts, loud enough for the closest ships to hear, to repeat to the rest of the fleet.
"The gods are with us today! Attack!"
And so they do.
The Franks are slow to recover from their shock. They didn't expect this ice, don't know how to manage their half-crushed ships in this kind of cold. Len can faintly hear Rollo shouting orders from across the water, growing clearer as they draw near, oars cutting through the water as the dragon ships pick up speed.
And then they are ramming into the edges of ice, pushing Floki's floating platforms in front of them, pushing them up on the battlefield Len has provided for them. And then a flood of warriors, who have spent many a winter in the harsh north playing knattleikr, leap from their ships and attack.
Especially with the gods on their side.
Len hears the whispers as he walks through the camp, a shieldmaiden pointing him out to some berserkers who hadn't been close enough to see. "There goes the Jotun," they whisper. "There goes the winter wind that Ragnar Lothbrok tamed like a stallion."
Part of him thinks he should probably worry about some of the other things they say, speculations about exactly how Ragnar had gone about taming him. Apparently getting kissed by a Viking king in the middle of a battle will start rumours. Who'd have thought?
But another part of him, a bigger part is glaring at the walls of Paris, feeling impatient. After all, he's made his move. All he can do now is wait and hope that the sign he planted was big enough.
It has been nearly two weeks. Surely there's some goddamn monk behind those walls that's taking time to write something instead of praying for deliverance from the heathens?
He's scowling as he makes his way to the somewhat improvised thing site where the kings and earls and chieftains are gathering to discuss how to break through those walls. He scowl doesn't lessen when Ragnar notices him and leans forward to say something to Athelstan, who gets up to go to Len's side.
And then there's a noise loud enough to drown the argument going on in front of him, and a shimmer in the air above them as the Waverider flickers in and out of sight as if whoever's steering the ship can't decide whether it's actually worth the bother to camouflage it in a time where even this can dismissed by history as simple superstition.
Apparently that's what the person at the helm finally decides, because the Waverider fades fully into view as it starts to land at the outskirts of the camp. The ship's entrance opens while it's still in midair and a winged form erupts from it, causing the people around him to take cover to the cries of "Valkyrie!"
But Len steps forward into the suddenly open space before him, steps forward and looks up at the white clad form dangling from Kendra's arms as they rapidly approach - and then Kendra lets go and pulls up and around, letting Sara fall and land and leap into Len's arms.
"Don't you ever dare to do something like that again," she threatens, but her face is buried in his wolf fur mantle and there's something choked about her voice.
Out of the corner of his eye he sees Kendra land, folding her wings in and glancing curiously at the Vikings around them.
And then, somewhere high above, there's the unmistakable noise of Firestorm moving through the air, and then there's the equally unmistakable sound of a distant catapult hurling a rock.
"Hey! Why the hell are you guys shooting at me?!" comes Jax indignant voice, and Len looks up just in time to see Firestorm hurl a ball of fire towards the walls of Paris, making the soldiers posted on it run for their lives.
Then Firestorm turns around and lands, banking his flames as he goes.
"Man, Snart, is it good to see you!" For a moment, it looks like he'll hug Len too, but then he seems to change his mind - or more likely Stein changes it for him. Just as well. Even with his flames banked, Len doubts anybody other than Mick would appreciate a hug from Firestorm.
That's alright. Len's literally got his hands full with Sara.
Then Firestorm shakes his head, muttering "Will you just let them have a moment?!" before straightening his back and clearing his throat.
"So. Uhm. Rip said we really couldn't stay long in this time period. Something about not wanting to risk making any big changes to a period that's so poorly documented that he can't know what'll change things. So we really need to get back to the Waverider right away."
"Okay," and it's strange, speaking English for the first time in - years. "Let me just grab my gun."
He let's go of Sara and ducks into Ragnar's large tent, picking up the cold gun from the wooden chest he's been keeping it in since the battle on the Seine. When he turns to leave, Ragnar and Athelstan are standing in front of him.
Ragnar's the first to break the silence.
"I take it you'll be going home to your America, Kollr?"
"That was always the plan," Len agrees, refusing to feel guilty, refusing to let himself get ensnared in this sort of trap. Sara's outside, Mick must be still on the Waverider, waiting for him to board, waiting to hit him and roar at him, no doubt, and back home there's Lisa, waiting for him to come back from his adventures in time and space.
They stand aside as he walks toward them, letting him pass, though Athelstan moves as if to reach for him, only to change his mind. Still, the pair of them follow him, trailing the stranger they thought they'd come to know as he walks in the company of a valkyrie and a Jotun of Muspelheim and a shieldmaiden clad in white.
He smirks at the thought of what his fellow Legends would think if they could understand the mutterings of the people in the camp.
And then they are at the Waverider, a strangely unfamiliar sight after all this time, and there's the Boy Scout standing in the door, a wider shadow behind him that must be Mick, probably just barely controlling his temper
He lets the others enter first, stopping with one foot on the ramp and one foot on the ground to turn his head and look back at Ragnar and Athelstan, raising an eyebrow.
"So, it is goodbye then," Athelstan ventures.
Len smirks. He just can't help it.
"That depends," and he turns his head slightly, looking straight at Ragnar. "Didn't you say that you'd like to see my America someday?"
"If Gideon traces any major deviations to the time stream, you are going to put them right back where you found them!" he'd finally relented, stomping off to grumble about his ship not being a cruise vessel for any random temporal tourist, dammit.
Len finds himself smiling at the memory.
Across from him on the sofa, Athelstan looks up and offers him a small smile in return, before lowering his eyes to focus on his book.
They hadn't been aboard the Waverider for long before Gideon had offered to fix Athelstan, but Len had had a better idea. Once they'd made it safely back home to 2016 for some long overdue shore leave, he'd promptly proceeded to kidnap Cisco again - and Hartley Rathaway, mostly because they'd been working on something together in S.T.A.R. Labs when Len dropped by.
Oh, Cisco had whined - though if Len was to hazard a guess, that was just as much because Lisa wasn't around, having decided that the best way to welcome her brother home was to one-up him. She'd gotten hold of Shawna Baez and then the pair of them had invited Sara along on a girl trip to Paris, promising to bring him back the Mona Lisa as a souvenir.
Cisco had whined and protested in a very manly way that he wasn't going to go along with Captain Cold's dastardly scheme - those were his exact words - and Rathaway had snarked at him, but they'd settled down and gotten with the program remarkably quickly when Len had pushed them into the warehouse, where Raymond and Athelstan were sitting and chatting amiably, the newly reprogrammed ingestible translator courtesy of Gideon doing its work.
Because apparently the secret to unlocking a tech geek's heart is the words 'bionic eye'.
The eye they'd produced didn't just mimic a normal human eye, with an added bit of night vision and telescopic sight, because, well, bionic eye. They'd also put in a tiny program to help Athelstan read. The way Cisco explained it, it wasn't as such a translation program - it was simply that the usual shape of letters had changed a lot over the centuries - "Have you ever tried to read Gothic writing?" - so they'd had Athelstan write down how he thought the letters were supposed to look, and now the eye would do a simple bit of search-and-replace, letting him happily consume his ridiculously huge volumes of Latin theological debates in modern printed versions, catching up on Erasmus and Luther (and possibly getting introduced to the Latin version of Harry Potter along the way, because apparently the idea of any geek (even of the medieval variety) not knowing Harry Potter was just too sad for some people to contemplate).
And if Athelstan had insisted - once he realized that it was an option - that the eye should be the fierce yellow eye of a wolf, well, Len wasn't going to comment on that. Just like he wasn't going to comment on how Ragnar had insisted on going into the very first tattoo parlor he'd seen in his life, had sat down and demanded the tackiest wolf's head tattoo in the artist's portfolio. The skin around it is still an irritated red, visible because Ragnar has also discovered the joys of t-shirts and jeans in the Central City summer.
Len's not going to comment. He's just going to lie back on the couch and enjoy the sight of Ragnar bending over the table, frowning at the blueprints there, while they all wait for Mick to call them out back when the barbecue's ready.
Ragnar looks up and meets his gaze.
"So, Kollr - tell me about this raid you're planning."