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The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

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He’s working for the mine when he meets Snart.

That, in and of itself, isn’t exactly surprising. Mick’s been working in mines since that day when he, barely a half-grown colt at the time, had followed the crazy old Scot who had shacked up with his mother down the mine shaft and watched him set the charges.

He’d never looked back.

He owed that crazy old Scot a lot. He’d taught Mick his letters as well as his trade, and he’d been the one to sing the praises of kilts and how manly they were when Mick hit a certain age and certain parts of him started to grow - even though these days he tended to prefer a solid leather apron.

He owed him a lot, that old, grumpy Scot. He’d been like a father to him, really.

Then came the day when Mick’s mother had looked at him and seen his actual father. After that, well…

Mick didn’t know a lot about his dad. He knew he’d been working at the railways, while his mum earned her keep at the brothel that followed the camp. Not that his dad had been a customer, oh no - Abigail Rory might have been a harlot, but she was a nice, Irish harlot. No Blacks or Chinamen or Beasties need apply.

No Irish, either, for that matter.

But everybody knew how centaurs were when they got drunk.

Afterwards, she’d left the railway. There was just as much work for a good harlot at the mining camp anyway - and when Mick came along, well, he supposes he’s lucky she even bore him, and when he showed up with two legs too many? At least she didn’t drown him. Nobody would have blamed her.

Not even Mick.

Just like he doesn’t blame her for him having to leave. Oh, she hadn’t asked - but he couldn’t handle her looks. And that old Scot, he’d had a quiet world with the mine boss and there’d been telegrams and teary farewells (she did love him, his mum, after all - he has the letters to prove it), and then there’d been a couple of fairly comfortable cattle cars and a new job at a new mine.

It had been a good job with good pay. They’d even let Mick have the run of the dynamite shed after a few months.

But everybody knew how centaurs were when they got drunk.

And everybody included his new foreman.

The gossip around camp that week was all about that foreman and the preacher’s missus, how she’d slapped him and called him names, and her a former squaw, and everybody knew how those women were who had been taken by the natives.

Just like everybody knew how centaurs were.

So, the foreman had brought him whisky. A lot of it, of course, because centaurs took a lot to actually get drunk. The problem wasn’t a few beers or whiskys, as long as there was a decent barkeep to call it a night. But that night there hadn’t been.

And then the foreman had led Mick to the preacher’s shack, knowing that the man was out visiting a friend across camp that night, and had knocked on the door.

Everybody knew how centaurs were when they got drunk.

Lucky for that woman, that Mick’s proclivities didn’t run along those lines.

The mine had been - considerably less fortunate.

He’d gotten away, burns on his arms and chest and forelegs and his mum’s letters his only possession left in this world. But he’d gotten away and he’d healed.

But a centaur needs more than prairie grass to live and he really only had one skill - so, he’d gone as far away as he could and when he couldn’t get any further, he went to the nearest mine and asked about a job.

They put him to work as a glorifed pit pony. Didn’t even listen when he tried to tell them about his skills with the blasting. Probably just as well, really - surely there must have been an award out for the centaur with the talent for explosions.

All of which has led to here and now and Mick pulling a wagon through a forest at dusk, the supposed driver dangling in his seat.

The creak of someone jumping on to the wagon and the click of a gun being cocked makes Mick stop and turn his head. Somebody’s holding the driver at gunpoint. Well, trying to anyway.

It’s getting darker, but Mick’s pretty sure that that close the fellow must be able to see the bruise across the driver’s chin.

“Idiot got drunk and forgot I wasn’t his usual nag,” he offers. The wannabee robber nearly falls of the wagon in surprise, but he recovers fairly quickly, pointing his gun at Mick.

“Hands up!”

Mick snorts. He hasn’t even bothered to raise the shotgun he took from the driver after showing him why putting stripes on a centaur’s back is a bad idea.

“Or what? You’ll shoot me? And where’ll that leave you, kid?”

Mick watches as the realization dawns on the robber’s face, how his entire scheme’s busily falling apart. Horse and wagon complete with the month’s pay in the back, that’d be an easy steal once the driver was disposed of - but centaurs aren’t so easily managed and stealing the pay chest alone? It had taken two men and a lot of curses to get it onto the wagon in the first place.

“They didn’t say anything about two guards,” the robber states, his eyes narrowing as he watches Mick start to unbuckle the harness. “And nobody said anything about a centaur.”

“The usual nag turned up lame,” Mick says, letting the harness slide to the ground and stretching - bloody thing isn’t even the sort intended for centaurs, “and the mine boss decided I needed to pull my weight.”

The robber keeps his gun pointed at Mick as he walks closer. This close, he can see the fellow’s dressed in a faded uniform jacket. Grey. Considering his current way of making a living, Mick’s guess is deserter - though really, these days? Not much difference between the deserters and the honest soldiers.

“There’s some saddlebags under that tarp,” he says, pointing. "There’s a bundle of letters and a few other things that's staying, but most of what’s in them you can throw out. Should be enough space for most of the money.”

The robber’s looking at him funny, but eventually he holsters his piece and gets to work. Meanwhile, Mick drags the driver off the wagon and leaves him propped up against a nearby tree. On top of some poison ivy.

Vindictive? Him?

“You sure you can carry all this,” the robber asks while adjusting the stuffed saddlebags. It took the both of them to lift them off the wagon and onto Mick’s back, and Mick was halfway worried he’d strain something, the way he had to twist himself.

“That and more,” Mick replies, feeling a little offended. What does this guy think he is? Something slim and prancing and fragile? “Do you know how to ride?”

“Of course.” The robber looks downright offended, as if Mick just questioned his manhood or something.

“Pity,” he comments, offering an arm. “Try to forget what you know. You’re not holding the reins tonight, kid.”

If the guy is at all shocked at being offered to ride a centaur - because everybody knows how much centaurs hate to be ridden - he’s pretty fast at recovering from it. He scrambles onto Mick’s broad back, settling himself as best he can between the saddlebags and Mick’s torso.

Trying not to touch. Well, that won’t work.

“Wrap your arms around me!” he orders and once the fellow’s obeyed, Mick takes a few steps, getting into position - then kicks back. And again. And again.

“Next time, warn a fellow,” his rider grumbles, while Mick turns to inspect his footwork - grunting in satisfaction. That wagon won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

“Saddlebags still where they ought to be?” he asks, cantering a few steps, trying to tell by how they feel.

“Yeah. Funny, though, how they were just lying there in the back of the wagon…”

“I was planning on catching the train, ‘cept as it turns out, the next train doesn’t come through town ‘till monday. Figured I might as well go back to camp and collect my month’s wages after all.”

That’s all this fellow needs to know, anyway. No need to mention the mine boss’s trick of getting his workers into debt, letting them have stuff on credit from the company store and how funnily enough the month’s wages never quite covered it.

“What’s your name, anyway?”

“Leonard Snart,” the man replies, moving and getting comfortable, settling his chin on Mick’s shoulder. It’s annoying, but Mick’s pretty sure he’ll be moving his head once they start moving, so he doesn’t bother to comment. “And you?”

“Mick Rory. Which way?”

Snart points back the same way Mick just came and Mick starts off at a trot, smirking as Snart yelps when Mick’s shoulder slams up into his chin.

That’ll teach him.