Mick had known that it was only a matter of time before this gig went to shit, and ten hours wasn't even close to a record for the crew of the Waverider, so he just sighed when he heard yelling and sounds of a scuffle outside his new crew's supposedly secret headquarters. It was actually someone's cousin's warehouse. (It was always a warehouse; there was always a cousin.) Being found out didn't really shake him, but what Warren and Haynes dragged through the door after a few more shouts and a couple of solid thuds, did. It was a man, slumped and bloody (half carried, really, as they each had an arm over their shoulders, because they were stupid), and even with the shitty light and the man's head hanging limply, Mick felt something sink in his gut.
Simonson was on his feet already, doing his little cock of the walk micromanaging bullshit that only showed he wasn't much of a leader, and immediately demanded to know who'd gotten into their base. (He actually said base, like they were the army or some crap. If Mick had been an actual member of this crew, not undercover, he would have quit right then on principle. As it stood, he smiled to himself and figured they'd just go down easier when the time came.)
Instead of answering, Haynes shook his scruffy blond dreads out of his face, wiped his bloody mouth on his shoulder, and simultaneously kicked the knees and yanked the shoulder of his captive so that his head flipped back, revealing his face.
Mick went very still, then he put his beer down, slipped off the crate he'd been slouching on, rolled his shoulders to get the cricks out, and settled in for his letter of resignation, via the traditional punch up.
Or that's how it would have gone if Ray Fucking Palmer hadn't come to just then, met Mick's eyes like a lost puppy and slurred his name in the most pathetic voice Mick had ever heard. The rest of the crew (six in all, not counting Mick) turned to look at Mick, while Mick for his part glared at Palmer, who'd clearly be completely useless in a fight, more so now than usual as Mick would need to protect him, besides, and made his choice.
"Cupcake!" he yelled, throwing his arms wide.
Everyone froze; Palmer's jaw fell open, though that could have been the bleeding head wound, and not a soul got in front of Mick as he strode across the room towards the little group by the side door. He took Palmer's jaw and tipped his head to study the cut on his forehead (more blood than trouble) and check his eyes (unfocused and staring). He took Warren by the collar, hard enough to shake her, but not to make her drop Palmer, and was about to tell her what he thought of her, when something finally shook Simonson off his ass.
"You know this person, Rory?" he demanded. Then the whole crew was crowding them, and Simonson shouldering between Mick and Warren, which pissed Mick off no end, especially since it made Warren drop Palmer's arm, and Palmer would have face planted on the fuel-stained cement floor if Mick hadn't got a shoulder under him. If Simonson noticed, he didn't care. "Why do you know an intruder?"
He'd probably have outright asked if Mick was a spy, like an idiot, if Mick hadn't applied a discreet elbow to Haynes' ribs and taken full control of Palmer, who obligingly flopped over and buried his face in Mick's shoulder. "He ain't intruding," Mick said, ignoring the blood and drool on his neck. "Cupcake here was just looking for me."
"Cupcake?" Simonson asked, sceptically eyeing Palmer's lean six-foot frame.
"My boyfriend," Mick said resolutely. "I've been out of touch for a bit. He must've got lonely."
Palmer took that moment to wake up enough to slur, "Name's Ray."
"His name's Ray," Mick added, not missing a beat. "He's cute, but not so bright." Ignoring Palmer's groan of protest, Mick glared at Warren and Haynes. "And that was before you two meatheads gave him a concussion."
That sidetracked how Palmer had known to look here (and how had Palmer known to look here?) into an argument between Mick and Simonson about the propriety of inviting his "boy toy" (which was a phrase Mick was going to hold onto for a very long time) to a criminal planning session of great sensitivity.
To which Mick said that if Simonson didn't like it, he could find another available criminal with expertise in defusing temporal booby traps, with only twelve hours before the job. Simonson didn't concede the point, but turned to yell at Garcia, who was the one with the cousin, and whose cousin was supposed to keep this place on the down low. The man made Lewis Snart look like a picture of restraint, and Mick again fantasised about punching him in the face and storming out, or possibly setting the whole warehouse on fire (though he'd have to do that the old fashioned way as he didn't have his gun), or both.
Instead he steered Palmer over to a crate and got him sat down, while yelling at Warren for a first aid kit. "Follow my finger," he muttered, and Palmer just grinned at him lopsidedly.
"I can tell you what year it is," he said, actually sounding proud, and not the least worried that he'd fallen into a nest of villains who'd skin him alive if they had any idea who he was. "2167, but I don't know about the President. Didn't look that up. Is there a President? Is it Savage?"
"That doesn't make me feel better," Mick muttered. (Savage was dead, and gone centuries since, but that still hadn't done much to improve this period.) But before he could ask what Palmer remembered, Warren showed up with the first aid kit from her car. (Of course the "base" didn't have one).Mick grabbed Palmer's collar to hold him upright while he sorted through it one handed. He recognised more of the kit from the Chronos years than from anything he'd seen from his own time. Which was good because future first aid kits included a neural stabilising patch, which should sort out even a moderate concussion.
"Hey, ow," Palmer protested when Mick slapped it on his temple, holding it for a moment longer than he needed to, watching its lights glow between his fingers, as it automatically switched on and did whatever it did. "That tickles."
"Cry me a river," Mick muttered, but the beeps sounded encouraging, and he felt a little of the tension creep out of his neck, and unclenched his jaw.
"Sorry we roughed up your boyfriend," Warren said, she was watching Mick with a familiar expression, one that said she didn't know if or when he'd go off and burn them all. Mick liked it like that. "We didn't know–"
Mick silenced her with a wave, "I'll take any IQ points he loses out of your hide," he promised, but his voice wasn't serious, and he saw Warren relax enough to back away. Back to Haynes she went, and backing him up against Simonson's new rant. (That man had never met a contingency he'd planned for, or one he took especially well, and suddenly Mick missed Snart with an intensity that took his breath away.) He blinked hard, his eyes dry but stinging, and when he looked up, Palmer was watching him with a good deal more lucidity than he'd displayed a few minutes before.
"Boyfriend?" he asked, and he wasn't smiling.
Mick grunted non-committally. He crouched to look into Palmer's eyes again. Their focus seemed a lot better, and as best as he could tell, they were more alert. "What the hell are you doing here?" he asked, too low to be heard over the argument by the door. He knew that the crew of the Waverider still didn't trust him, not completely, but he'd thought he was one of the team to the extent that he could carry out a solo job on his speciality without Hunter sending someone to check up on him. He grunted again and tried not to care.
"Didn't know you were here," Palmer said, just as quietly. "Dr. Stein picked up some gamma particles, and I was trying to pin them down, in case it could be an independent lead on the Intrafacers, and take the pressure off you."
Mick sighed. So it was just the team's usual luck, and damn the Time Masters for leaving bits of their technology scattered across Space-Time, not Hunter undercutting him. "Well, play along, Haircut. I'll try to get you out of here. I saw what Simonson did to the guy I replaced. Paranoid bastard. Don't want that to be you." He cupped the side of Palmer's face and tilted his head to look at the cut, which had crusted over by now, the blood darkening until it looked like Halloween streaks of fake gore.
"Boyfriend?" Palmer asked again. "Seriously?"
"First thing I thought of," Mick said, then grimaced, knowing how telling that instant association could be if Palmer examined it.
Palmer was obviously still slightly punch drunk, because he didn't run with that like Mick had thought he would, instead he leaned in and brushed his lips to Mick's. He hadn't had to move much, mostly just tilt his head and fall forward a few inches, and then it was barely a kiss, more of a nudge, but it made Mick pull in a sharp breath, parting his lips, and Palmer took that as an invitation to keep going. He tasted like blood, which turned Mick on more than it bothered him, and he slid his hand up to cup the base of Palmer's skull and pull him closer.
He could still feel the hesitance in Palmer, like he'd never kissed anyone before (which given the number of times Mick had walked in on him and Saunders, obviously wasn't true), or because he was afraid. Well why wouldn't he be? If they screwed this up, they were profoundly outnumbered, and lucid or not, Mick didn't want Palmer in a fight, especially not without his suit. So Mick slowed down; he sucked at Palmer's lip gently and ignored how fast his heart was beating. He was just turned on by the blood and the danger, nothing to do with how soft Palmer's skin felt against his, or how he'd looked at Mick with absolute faith that he would save him, and that Mick had damn near thrown this job to do just that.
It was Palmer who pulled away first, and leaving Mick a little breathless.
"What was that for?" Mick asked. Then, because it had just occurred to him, "Where's your suit?" It wasn't like losing micro tech in the 1970s, but they would still need to get it back if Haynes or Warren had taken it.
"Got to maintain our cover, Sweetie-pie," Palmer said with enough rancour to burn, and completely dodging the second question. Where was his suit then?
"Mmmm," Mick said, and let it lie, for now. He shoved himself to his feet, and turned to yell at Simonson, "Are we planning a heist or just sitting around picking our noses?" That got everyone's attention, and Mick settled back on his original crate next to his beer (now too warm). What he didn't expect was Palmer to follow him, wobbling as he got up, but sure on his feet after that. He didn't take the medical patch off, even though the lights had dimmed, and hesitated when he got to Mick, who didn't know what to do either. If Palmer had been smaller, he'd have pulled him into his lap and kept going, but he couldn't do that and keep an eye on Simonson at the same time, and there wasn't room for two on the crate. He looked steadily at Palmer, indicating that is was his move, and Palmer shrugged, and settled on the floor with his back to the crate and his head leaning on Mick's knee.
A vision of Palmer on his knees, sucking Mick off while they went on their meeting (all the others watching and knowing that Palmer was his) flashed through Mick's mind, and he clenched his fists to press it back down again. That wasn't going to happen. That was never going to happen, here or anywhere, not with Palmer, anyway. Mick just needed to get well and truly laid some time soon, and he'd forget all about that kiss (his first kiss in years, since that girl in 2046). He did thread a gloved hand through Palmer's hair, but that was just to keep track of him. He didn't pay the least attention as Palmer moaned and settled against his leg.
"You good there, Rory?" Simonson demanded. "Comfy? All settled in?"
"Peachy," Mick said, and his breath caught again. That had always been a Snart word. He tightened his fingers in Palmer's hair. He wanted to take his glove off and feel it sliding between his fingers.
"Right, so," Simonson paused, making sure everyone was looking at him. Mick rolled his eyes, which Simonson pretended not notice. "Eight o'clock on the dot, what are you doing, Yee?"
"Pulling up in front of Cohen House," Yee said with the resigned tone of someone who'd been over this three times already, and foresaw no end to the recitations of the plan.
They went around like that, and then twice more, and the only people actually interested by the end of all that were Simonson and Palmer, and Palmer only because he hadn't heard about it all day.
"We done?" Mick asked before they could go around again.
Simonson strutted up, getting far too close to Mick's space (Mick considered kicking him in the balls; Palmer twitched), and demanded, "You got plans, Rory?"
Mick shrugged, making it small and disinterested. "Gotta take pretty boy here home."
"Not tonight you don't." Simonson rolled back his shoulders like Mick had earlier and looked like he was trying to loom. Mick stared up at him (he'd beat up tougher punks when he was in juvie), but Simonson didn't back down, just licked his lips before saying, "No one is going anywhere until we roll tomorrow."
"It's like you don't trust us," Garcia said mockingly, and Simonson stomped over to have it out with her instead of Mick, even though Mick had been thinking the same thing, and Simonson had to know it.
"Sorry, Haircut," Mick muttered, more sincerely than he'd meant to. "I guess you're stuck here."
He'd bent to speak as close to Palmer's ear as he could, so when Palmer turned his face up their noses almost bumped. "Yeah, well, I never liked sending you in here alone." Mick growled at that, and Palmer put his hand on Mick's leg, right above his boot. "I know this is your... milieu," he made a vague circular motion with his free hand. (Mick had no idea what it was meant to imply.) "Or it used to be, before the team." (Palmer liked talking about "the team" more than anyone else on the damn ship, more than even the Professor or Hunter.) "I just didn't like that you didn't have one of us watching your back."
"Gamma particles," Mick said, thinking back to Palmer's explanation of what had led him to the warehouse. "Nothing in here emits gamma particles."
"Ah," Palmer said, and blushed, but didn't blink when Mick narrowed his eyes. "I keep forgetting that you know this stuff now."
That Mick had knowledge from the Time Masters rattling around in what was left in his brain, whether he wanted it there or not, more like. "Would have noticed earlier, 'cept..." except he'd been too worried about Palmer having gotten his clock cleaned to nitpick his story. So they had been checking up on him, or at least Palmer had, and had also gotten the shit beat out of him for his trouble. (Mick noticed the pattern, but ignored it.) "Next time," he said loudly enough to make Warren look over, "don't bother."
The Palmer he'd first met would have flinched back, or at least looked up at him with big hurt puppy eyes. Now he squeezed Mick's leg and smiled up at him like he'd done something he was proud of, or like Mick had given up a point somehow.
He couldn't figure out what that was supposed to be, so he grunted and got to his feet, stretching tall and wishing he could just walk out of here. Hell, he probably should walk out of here. He pulled Palmer up after him and leaned in to say into his ear, "We should scram."
"I thought–" Palmer started, just as softly, then saw what Mick meant. "You found out where the Intrafacers are, and even how to get to them."
"We could hit right away, while Simonson's still dreaming," Mick finished. He'd rested one hand on Palmer's neck and other on his lower back, and knew they looked like lovebirds who hadn't seen each other in long enough that they couldn't take their hands off each other. Palmer was warm even through his gloves: warm skin, warm breath on Mick's cheek as he breathed into his ear. He wavered and let himself lean in, just enough to rest his temple against Palmer's. He got the edge of the medical patch instead, and jerked away. Before he could poke at the thing to see if it was completely finished, Palmer frowned, and Mick pulled back enough to try work out what was the matter.
"Does anyone besides the boss there have the codes to the security wall?" Palmer asked, and and Mick ground his teeth. Obviously just clobbering this lot, now that Palmer was up to it, and getting the goods themselves would be too simple to work.
"You can't crack them?" he asked, not very hopefully.
"Gideon could, maybe." He was looking over Mick's shoulder now, and leaned in to kiss Mick's neck right below his ear. "But not fast enough." They were dealing with Time Master technology (the bastards), and however Simonson had gotten access to the security system, he wasn't sharing his information with his crew..
Mick sighed, his breath ruffling Palmer's hair. "Then we do this."
He hadn't meant it as a question, but Palmer's mouth tightened as he put on his best hero face, and he confirmed: "We do this."
(Alexsa, Snart's voice said in his mind.)
There were mattresses on the floor along the north wall of the warehouse. Mick dragged theirs far enough away from the others that Simonson could see but not hear them, then stood looking down at the narrow bed, Palmer holding the blanket to his chest.
"How's this going to work?" Palmer asked.
Mick snorted. "Figured you and Bird Girl would have worked that out." The mattress was smaller than the bunks on the Waverider, but not by much. Mick sank to his knees, then rolled to lie on his back, somewhat to one side.
Palmer muttered something about "Boyfriends," and lay on his side on the remaining sliver of mattress, carefully not touching Mick, which wouldn't have been possible if he hadn't been so damn skinny.
"That's not going to work," Mick said, watching him out of the corner of his eye.
Palmer snorted, then all at once he flopped half on top of Mick, laying his head on Mick's shoulder and hooking one leg between Mick's so that they tangled together, then flipped the blanket over both of them.
Mick stopped breathing, stunned by the easy intimacy of Palmer's settling in. He'd expected to sleep close, but at the same time having Palmer's tall, lean body casually draped over his, his hand clutching Mick's shirt, and his breath puffing against Mick's neck, was the most heart-rendingly intimate thing to have happened to him in longer than he could remember.
"Comfortable, Haircut?" he asked, and Palmer hummed against his shoulder. It seemed positive, or at least sleepy, which was the same to Mick, so he curled his arm around the small of Palmer's back and closed his eyes.
He'd hoped that would be it, but of course Palmer's brain was still ticking away, almost loud enough to hear, and Mick only got a few minutes of silence before Palmer said, "Hey Mick?"
Mick sighed. "Yeah."
"You usually," a pause, and one that told the question before Palmer asked it, "you usually like guys, or is this..."
"Me saving your meddling hide?" Mick asked mildly.
If it would have gotten him anywhere, Mick would have told Palmer to fuck off, but that had never worked before, and usually just made him more persistent, so Mick just said, "Bit of both. It's complicated." (It wasn't really, but he had no desire to discuss his sexual history with anyone, even if they were currently in bed with him.)
"Were you and Snart...?"
"Complicated," Mick repeated. (True this time.)
"Oh," Palmer said. "I never really, uh..." Another pause, and if Mick opened his eyes right now, he knew he'd see Palmer blushing. "I mean, I fooled around in college, who didn't, but I've always dated girls."
Mick figured if he told Palmer that he didn't care, or that some people had what passed for a eighth grade education, than he'd just keep rattling on, so he just grunted and kept his eyes closed.
"But I've always kind of wondered..."
"Not tonight, Cupcake," Mick said, attempting to cut whatever this was off.
"Well, obviously," Palmer said. Silence. Mick pictured flames licking through the warehouse, creeping over boxes and up the walls, pulling the air into them, and filling the ceiling with rolling smoke. He relaxed, and felt himself start to drift off.
Mick sighed, knowing that Palmer could feel it. "Yeah?"
"Thanks for saving me."
Mick woke up with a hard on and Palmer still wrapped in his arms (and also drooling on his shirt). He stirred when Mick did, revealing that the morning wood was mutual. He murmured something that Mick didn't catch, and possibly hadn't been words, and kissed the corner of Mick's mouth. His breath was terrible, but his lips felt soft against Mick's cheek, and when he parted his lips, Palmer again counted it as encouragement, sucked his lower lip and ran his hand across the stubble on Mick's scalp. Mick's hard on was starting to get uncomfortable, and he shifted his hips so that it wasn't trapped under Palmer.
Palmer froze, his hand behind Mick's head, his tongue curled between Mick's lower lip and his teeth. His eyes snapped open, and he would have jerked away if Mick hadn't buried both hands in his hair and pulled him back in again. When Palmer gasped, Mick ran his tongue long the edges of Palmer's teeth, then pressed further in. He could feel Palmer's heart pounding now, and his cock rubbed against Mick's leg. He gasped again, but it came out a moan, and Mick couldn't help rolling his hips. This time Palmer shimmed down so that their cocks rubbed against each other through their pants, and grabbed a fistful of Mick's shirt to keep him from pulling away. (Not that Mick wanted to).
A few of the others were stirring already, and Mick heard them and didn't care. (In truth, the thought of him taking Palmer right there, with enemies all around, only made him harder.) Keeping one hand in Palmer's hair, bare hand finally able to feel it, he stroked down the length of Palmer's back until he found his belt. (He could undo it, strip Palmer to the skin and fuck him right there on the cruddy old mattress. Palmer wouldn't stop him.)
Which is when glass shattered and fucking Firestorm soared into the room with the White Canary dropping to the floor right behind him. Mick grunted and heaved Palmer off of him, before scrambling to his feet and pulling Palmer up behind him. By then Firestorm was already blasting Mick's would-be crew, and Sara was beating the tar out of the stragglers. It lasted about a minute, until it was just bodies on the floor, and a very pissed off Sara buttonholing Palmer and demanding, "What the hell are you doing here?"
Palmer blushed and stuttered, and from the way Firestorm was looking anywhere but at Mick, it was pretty clear they'd all gotten a good look at what had been going on when they'd rolled in.
"I asked him the same thing when he showed up?" Mick put in, when it was clear that Palmer was getting nowhere. "And you just busted up our best shot at the Intrafacers."
"We thought you were in trouble," Firestorm snapped at Palmer, who apparently had not informed the team in general that he was checking up on Mick. "What the hell?" Then he finally did meet Mick's eye and said again, "No, seriously, what the hell?"
"Ask the Professor, if he thinks you're old enough," Mick told him. If he'd had even a little bit of wood left, this conversation was killing it.
Apparently the Professor had volunteered something, because Firestorm snapped, "No shit, Gray!" at no one in particular.
"Next time you want to sneak off to make a booty call," Sara told Palmer, who had flushed all the way up his ears, "a heads up would be nice."
Rallying, Palmer turned to Mick and asked, "So what do we do now?"
Mick grunted. He hadn't even gotten to punch Simonson, which had been his endgame for the heist. "Grab that guy, take him back to the ship. See if he'll sell us the security codes."
"Fine," Sara said. "Whatever. But you can carry him."
They dumped Simonson with Hunter, which led to far more explanations than Mick wanted to deal with. He mostly leaned against the back wall with his arms folded and watched Palmer edging towards the door, until he could slip out without notice. Mick let him go. He was still hoping that he might get a chance to kick Simonson where it hurt most, but Hunter seemed to be doing pretty well at buying him off. Too bad.
Then they actually had to get on the damn heist, which went better than most things this team planned, and as a bonus did not involve Mick and Palmer having to talk to each other until they were back on the Waverider. At which point Palmer, the Professor and Hunter holed up with the Intrafacers, and Mick and Sara went to shower off the sewer stink. (Better than most plans was still far from perfect.)
No one on the ship ever really bothered keeping track of time, given their line of work, but Mick figured it'd been a day or so since he'd woken up with Palmer macking on him, when Palmer finally tracked him down in the cargo room. (Mick knew Snart had used to hide out here, partly because only Sara seemed to use the place, and for the same reason.)
Mick was slouched on a WWII footlocker in a corner that wasn't visible from the door, so he assumed that Gideon had ratted him out. That was confirmed when Palmer found him immediately.
"Why do we even have a cargo area, Mick?" Palmer asked by way of an opening. "I'd have thought Rip could just get Gideon to make whatever he wanted."
So they were pretending to have just casually run into each other, despite Palmer almost never coming down here.
"It's mostly antiques, some tech," Mick answered. (He and Snart had gone through all the crates the day they all came on board.)
"Any more whiskey?"
"Not that I've found."
Palmer opened his mouth to either say something as simple-minded as the first comment, or try to turn the conversation to whatever prepared speech he'd run though, presumably to do with feelings, or something else Mick would rather burn his hands off before talking about.
Mick cut off whatever stupid thing it was by snapping, "Here's what happened: you were about to get shit kicked; I claimed you to save me the trouble of rescuing you; it doesn't mean any more than that."
Palmer's eyebrow's drew together, and he gaped at Mick like he'd been punched in the kidney. Christ. the kid had been thrown over for other men twice in the space a year (or three years, depending on how Mick counted), and he'd still come to Mick expecting nothing but kindness. But then he'd walked into a Soviet gulag and thought he could make friends.
"Nothing personal," Mick added, ignoring the way his gut twisted at Palmer's lost expression. (Ignoring that the ghost of Palmer's touch lingered on his skin, even in his sleep.) "I don't do this whole relationship crap."
Mick saw Palmer's chest rise sharply, like he was taking a last deep breath before he jumped off a cliff, and he watched as Palmer ducked his chin and threw his shoulders back. "I was thinking more friends with benefits," he said, then ruined it by adding, "I mean, if it turns into more later, that would be okay, too, but–"
"Shut up, Haircut," Mick said, before Palmer talked them both out of it. He heaved himself to his feet, and closed the space between them. Palmer still stood like he was expecting a sucker punch, but he didn't flinch when Mick cupped the line of his jaw. (As they touched, Mick knew exactly what would happen: the increasingly less furtive tumbles, Palmer's growing intrusion into his life, his inclusion of Mick into his, until they too were complicated.) "That'll do nicely," Mick told him, and Palmer grinned.