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“Make a sound and I’ll blow your balls off.”

Mick stands very, very still. “Yes, ma’am,” he says, voice as low as he can get it, eyes fixed straight on the wall in front of him and nowhere else. You do that sort of thing when there’s a derringer shoved into your crotch.

“…you know that counts as a sound, right?”

“Wouldn’t want you mistaking the silence for disagreement,” he says, eyes still going nowhere near the girl whose eyes just about reach his chin, which makes her decently tall for a girl, but – and he can’t help but notice this – she’s damn skinny. Her hair is dark, and he only caught the quickest glimpse of her eyes, but they were a startlingly pale color, though he didn’t catch which one.

“You’re a smartass,” she says, though not disapprovingly. “Now I’m going to make my way out of here with this here bag of jewelry, and you’re not going to say a peep till after I’m gone, you got me?”

Central City accent. Heavy. Slum-bred and not faking otherwise, which means she’s not one of the working girls that got invited.

Managed to break open the Darbyinian safe in the middle of a Family party, which means she’s both very, very good and possibly quite insane.

“I’m not gonna say anything,” Mick says. His eyes involuntarily flicker her way.

She’s got a bruise high up on her cheek, with a little cut in the center. Backhand, male, older, his brain supplies. Boyfriend, pimp, or father, and quite possibly all three, what with the Central slums.

Still, while he’s looking, her lips suddenly quirk up into a great big old grin, turning her narrow face into something really pretty, cheekbones and all. “Yeah,” she says ruefully, moving her hand and gun away from his dick, a decision Mick’s already regretting because he’s got a stupid thing for girls that are undeniably badass. “Just like you didn’t make a sound when I told you to keep it down. Give a girl at least two minutes to get a running head start, will you?”

She doesn’t wait for an answer, just slips away into the hallway, blending in with the crowd so skillfully he’s lost sight of her within minutes.

Mick turns and looks into the room she just left, where everything’s all scattered as she searched for valuables after breaking the safe.

They’re gonna be pissed at him no matter what he does, even if he was just coming on duty now and couldn’t possibly be blamed.

Might as well get yelled at for something fun.

He pulls out his flask, straight vodka, and also a match.

About fifteen minutes later, he gets shaken out of his reverie by Ike Hickman, head of Darbyinian security and the guy who hired him, and his boss, Aral Darbiniyan, son of the branch leader. “Rory! Rory! What the hell happened?” he’s roaring.

“What?” Mick says, honestly dazed from being snapped out of his trance. “I – what happened?”

“That’s what I want to know!”

“There was a fire,” Mick says honestly. “I came up here – and I knew I ought to tell someone, but it was so beautiful…and it just kept growing and growing…”

“For fucks’ sake, Rory –” Hickman starts.

“Oh, leave off,” Aral cuts him off. “We all know about Rory’s thing with fire.” He smirks, looking down at Mick’s crotch, which is still feeling the aftereffects of being threatened by a very pretty lady.

Mick shrugs. If the (mostly) incorrect assumption amuses Aral even after he’s been robbed, he’s not going to complain.

“Do you see what he let happen?” Ike exclaims.

“He was with us until fifteen minutes ago when he came up for the shift change,” Aral replies, looking amused, sticking his thumbs into his belt loops. “The only thing that burned is the desk, and the whole room has been tossed. It would’ve had to happened before he went up, during the shift change.”

“They estimate the fire started fifteen minutes ago,” Ike growls. “He would’ve seen who it was, at least.”

“He might have,” Aral says, his eyes glittering. “He certainly might have. Mick, my boy, tell me, did you see anybody? Some men, perhaps, dressed in dark suits, with red handkerchiefs?”

“The Santinis?” Ike hisses. “You can’t be serious. They wouldn’t do something like this.”

“They might,” Aral hums. “And if they did, there’s no way the big boss can object to my taking a strike team in. So what do you say, Rory? You see something like that?”

“Yeah, boss,” Mick says. “Sounds about right. They had a gun to some poor kid’s head, too; some girl – they were making her toss the room so she’d get her fingerprints all over it.”

“Sounds exactly like them,” Aral says. “Filthy sneaks, using women and kids. They always do it that way. See, what’d I say, Ike? I knew it was them.”

“Sure,” Ike says grimly, glaring death at Rory. “Whatever you say, boss.”

Mick nods like the dumb grunt he is and gets sent home with a pat on the head.

He wakes up in the middle of the night, feeling strangely restless. He reaches for his lighter, then hesitates; he promised his shrink he’d try to push out the amount of time before he gave in to a craving. So instead he walks out to get a glass of water.

There’s a tall, skinny girl, with pale eyes, curled up in his crummy old armchair.

“I didn’t say anything!” Mick immediately exclaims, taking a step back and putting his hands protectively over his balls. Also to hide the little twitch he got just looking at her.

That earns him that gorgeous grin again, filled with mischief. “It seems that you did say something, but nothing I’m going to hold against you.”

Mick is almost disappointed. He wouldn’t mind her holding it against him a bit more.

Preferably without the gun this time, to be fair.

“You let on that it was the Santinis, and that they were forcing some girl to toss the room for ‘em,” the girl continues. “So when’s I went to pawn the stuff, they gave me a nice bit a cash for it and phoned the Darbiniyans a minute later, saying that the Santinis had ditched the evidence.” She arches her eyebrows at Mick.

“You weren’t wearing gloves,” he says, shrugging and dropping his hands to his sides when it looked like imminent castration wasn’t on the evening’s menu. “And I didn’t say nothing; Aral Darbiniyan’s been looking for an excuse to go after the Santinis for weeks. He supplied the story himself.”

“Sure he did,” she says with a smirk. “After he found the fire that’d been set on his desk, but nothing else in the room. Ain’t that a Santini thing?”

Mick shrugs. It is, in fact, a Santini trademark.

“What’s your name?”

“Mick Rory,” he says. “You?”

“Eleni Snart,” she says. “And next time, I’m gonna wear gloves.”

“Why didn’t you wear any this time?” Mick asks, because she doesn't seem that dumb, then frowns, because she really doesn't seem that dumb. “Unless you wanted them to track your fingerprints.”

“My dad’s a Darbiniyan enforcer,” Eleni says with a shrug. “He was at the party. Wouldn’t’ve objected too much if they fingered me if they thought he was the brains of the operation.”

Mick nods slowly. “That’s risky. Keeping that cash is riskier yet. You know they’re tracking it to the Santinis.”

“Oh, I know it,” Eleni says. “I went and traded the whole bunch of it into the Santini’s casino in exchange for chips. Then I went to their second casino and traded it back out again.”

“Nice,” Mick says approvingly.

Eleni inclines her head.

“What you got planned for next?” he asks.

Her eyes glitter. “What makes you think I’ve got another plan?”

“Well,” Mick says. “You didn’t come here just to thank me. But if you are, I accept Hallmark cards, chocolates and beer.”

Eleni snorts. “You’re right, that’s not why I’m here,” she says, swinging her legs down to the ground and sitting up straight. “Though I’ll keep that in mind for the future. How old are you, Mick Rory?”

“Twenty-one,” Mick says automatically, then reconsiders. No need to add the extra year; no one’s carding him or feeling iffy about hiring someone too young. “Twenty, just about.”

“I’m seventeen,” she says. “You wanna do something with your life that’s more than watching a door for the Darbiniyans and eventually serving as a fall guy?”

“What were you thinking?” Mick asks, because he knows as well as she does that that’s his fate if he sticks around. Arsonists are useful, but pyromaniacs are too unpredictable – and the Families like things nice and tidy.

She smiles, that goddamn smile, and Mick’s hers before she says a single word.

--------------------------------------------

Leni’s a goddamn genius is what she is. Sharp as a piece of cut glass, with an eye for detail that keeps them a few steps ahead of the pigs on a regular basis. Mick tends to blow his share pretty quick, but Leni’s got a little sister to support and watch out for, so she makes hers stretch as long as she can.

It takes Mick a while to find a casual way to suggest that she could save costs by shacking up with him, since he’s barely ever there, but once he manages to get it out, she moves in like a stray cat lured in despite itself by a bowl of milk – making a show of it being grudging and on a temporary basis, always holding out her freedom like a standard, but making herself at home and establishing supreme ownership over his armchair nevertheless.

She sleeps on that armchair, more of than not, even though he’s offered to make up the couch for her – he’d be a gentleman and offer her the bedroom, except he needs somewhere private to jerk off about her – her dark hair splayed out over the armchair arm and her knees pulled up to her chest.

His Leni’s no cute kitty cat, though. She’s orney as a donkey and spiteful for the sake of it, she holds pointless grudges, runs almost entirely on stupid adrenaline, she’s got the worst sense of humor Mick’s ever encountered, and Mick thinks she’s so gorgeous he’s gonna lose his mind.

It doesn’t help that now that he’s started feeding her on a regular basis – real food, too, fruits and vegetables and protein that doesn’t come from a can, and all the desserts he can think of because she makes this gloriously surprised expression every time she tries something sugary – she’s started to gain a bit of weight that even she can’t run off, right at the hips and breast and even a little softness around the belly that makes her look a bit less like an overgrown Dickens orphan, and just thinking about it makes Mick have to retreat to his bedroom for some personal time.

She calls him her partner.

Mick would rather set himself on fire than make her feel uncomfortable in his presence and give that easy partnership up, the one they fell into almost immediately like it was meant to be, and so he keeps his goddamn mouth shut.

Keeps it shut through her dressing up like a proper lady to sneak into a ball at the mayor’s house that they then rob blind, even though he needed to excuse himself to the restroom for a few minutes every couple of hours to keep his composure.

Keeps it shut even when Leni breaks some asshole’s nose for trying to cut Mick out of his proper share, because she won’t tolerate anyone speaking ill of Mick even when Mick himself doesn’t mind.

Keeps it shut even when he gets caught on a heist, as is inevitable, and goes in to wait out his time, and when he’s done with that he finds her waiting on the hood of a beat-up old car, ready to pick him up.

No one’s picked Mick up from anything since his family died in that fire.

He waits for her when she goes in herself, another heist gone wrong but her sentence shorter because she’s a woman with pretty, sad-looking eyes when she wants to be, and when she comes out she has a whole pocketbook worth of phone numbers for every type of contact under the sun.

“Clearly, I was wasting my time in prison,” Mick comments, eyeing the book. “All I did was work out.”

“Next time, I’m coming in to visit you privately and we’ll get the contacts thataway,” Leni says breezily, like she hasn’t been visiting regular hours already, like she doesn’t mean that they’ll have to set up fake conjugals to be able to talk in private.

Leni drives Mick absolutely bonkers sometimes.

“Besides,” she continues, “you have to try something new once before you realize there’s room for corrections. Get it?”

Mick groans and puts his head in his hands.

Totally bonkers, this woman.

Other people make assumptions about the two of them at first, of course, but Leni’s reputation is growing steadily. Women don’t generally run crews because criminals are dumb misogynistic shits, but Leni’s penchant for theatre actually helps her here: for some reason, guys who’d laugh at the idea of taking orders from a competent thief who just so happens to be a woman are more than okay with the idea of taking orders from a would-be James Bond supervillain.

Mick has no idea where this comes from, given that most movie supervillains tend to be unsuccessful, but maybe it hits something deep-seated in the criminal id or something.

Leni actually brings in a cat one day (she's fostering it for the local shelter) and strokes it the entire time she outlines the plan they’re going to use, and the whole crew goes away with stars in their eyes and stories about some ice-cold bitch-queen who works the diamond racket.

(Leni thinks diamonds are ugly, actually, but she has a nose for unguarded shipments.)

It’s something like four, five years into their partnership when they’re heading back from a heist – a little one, not a crew job, just the two of them knocking over a high-cash Family front – and abruptly she turns to him and says to the sound of sirens, “Pigs’re coming. Kiss me.”

So he does, gathering her into his arms till she’s on her toes and kissing her the way he’s always wanted to, because he’s a little stupid sometimes but he’s not dumb enough to miss an opportunity like this.

They break apart a few endless, glorious seconds later.

“Again,” she orders.

He complies.

This time it goes on longer, a few minutes, her arms winding around his neck, his hands sliding down her back; they fit together in the same easy manner that they slipped into partnership, one piece matching the other in every way.

They break apart again.

The sirens have faded off into the distance, but his Leni looks up at Mick with greedy eyes and says – asks, really – “Again?”

Mick wishes he were suave enough to say something like “as many times as you’d like” or swear his eternal devotion, but instead he just leans in and presses his lips against hers, a soft, chaste kiss this time, because as hot as she gets him, sometimes she makes his heart hurt so much he thinks it’ll burst, too, and he wants her to know that even if he doesn’t know how to say it.

“I think,” she says, when they split apart again, her eyes shining and her hands flexing on his shoulders, “that we’ve both been very foolish.”

Mick can’t help but agree.

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Funnily enough, even the people who originally thought that they were obviously fucking don’t think so by the time they actually are. Leni’s got too much of a rep now, the evil scheming ice queen who’ll sooner shoot you than give you the time of day; she doesn’t put an ounce of effort into seduction, no make-up or anything to hide the circles under her eyes from days of planning, but legends once made don’t need anything else to grow.

They don’t always stick together, because they’ve both got tempers like nobody’s business even if Leni’s tends to come out icy rather than burn hot like Mick, but most of the time Mick makes sure that where you find one, you find the other, and the rest of the time, Leni does the other half of the work. She lets him meet her sister, the one she breaks her back trying to protect from the sort of shit she grew up with, and she even lets him beat up her dad once while she laughs. That’s a good day.

Mick will never forgive himself for getting caught on that stupid job that Leni hadn’t been running because she was sick with the flu, because he knew that there were a handful of gangs that Leni’d been crossing recently that were just waiting for a chance to go for his stupid ass. He gets roughed up so bad he wakes up two days later in the hospital before being shipped right back to Iron Heights.

It’s not the injuries he minds, because they heal, but rather he hates himself because Leni grimly takes money out of the college fund she’d been working on for little Lisa, cuts her hair, and shows up in the pen with a smirk and a death wish.

It’s amazing what some money, saved up, will get for you in Central City. The prison guards are more than happy to mark down M what ought to be F when they get paid enough off-the-books money to do it, because in Central City money can do what the ACLU’s still working on as money’s the only real law that speaks in Central City, but that doesn’t make them any more inclined to do anything to defend her once she’s inside.

That’s Mick’s job.

He spends six months with his heart in his mouth, waiting for the moment when he won’t be there fast enough to stop the gangs from jumping her in some dark corner, but Leni’s fearless as always, making friends and contacts with the same savoir-faire that she brings to everything else she does.

By the time she oh-so-casually organizes a prison break that takes out half of B wing, her fist full of IOUs, Mick’s pretty sure his nerves are totally shot. Leni takes pity on him and they go on the road instead, now that Lisa’s old enough to be gone from home more often than not for juniors skating competitions. They go all over the states and even pop over to Europe and Asia for some quick jaunts that no one back home ever believes because they’re so ridiculous, but they always come back to Central because Leni loves that city with the sort of protective fervor she otherwise devotes to Lisa and Mick alone.

She keeps the short hair, though; says she’s tired of people yanking on it whenever she gets into a tussle. Mick doesn’t mind in the slightest, as long as she still lets him put his fingers through it.

She runs jobs against the Families all over the world and they seethe, but don’t dare touch her because they know that next week they might need her services. The cops hate her but they can’t find her, because Leni didn’t just buy herself a pair of gloves, she spent something like three months in the library learning everything she could about crime scene detection.

Mick suspects she might have sat in on some college courses, too, aimed specifically at would-be CSIs; her hair all done up to make her look cute and innocent like she hasn’t been since he’s met her.

(She ends up TA’ing a graduate level class under some kid’s registered name, and she says that one of the undergrads that finagles their way into her class is the cutest damn thing she’s ever seen; Mick would be jealous, except she brings a picture and damn if she’s not right about that.)

They break up a dozen times, mostly Leni raging in her ice-cold way about Mick’s inability to keep himself out of trouble or Mick losing his temper at the way Leni loses herself to her jobs so totally that she forgets about silly things like self-preservation, and the worst time of all is after a warehouse fire that no one could have foreseen, where Mick gets lost in the flames and Leni runs into a burning building to pull him out, and that triggers both their issues so bad that they end up having a row for the record books after she breaks him out of the ambulance at his request.

Mick feels that what comes next is probably his fault, because he should’ve known better than to leave Leni to her own devices for two years. Everyone might spout pretty words over the infamous Leni Snart’s ability to keep her head cool even in the face of her arsonist partner’s stupid temper and the worst the cops can throw at her, but Mick knows that it’s his job to stand in the door when she gets something dumb in her head and yell “no more”, because Leni Snart will walk, cool head and all, into the world’s most terrible ideas as long as they tickle her funny bone.

Leaving her alone for two years is how they end up as supervillains.

Literal. Goddamn. Supervillains.

Who thinks it’s a good idea to test themselves against someone who can run faster than most people can see, Mick asks? Leni fucking Snart, that’s who.

But just like her theatrics when she was younger, it ends up turning to their advantage. Leni Snart, robber of ATMs, ice-cold queen of major heists, was respected as a thief among thieves; Captain Cold, enemy of the Flash, leader of the Rogues, inspires a terror strong enough that even the Family men stop hitting on Leni, which Mick would’ve bet money would never happen.

Even little Lisa, who isn’t so little anymore, ends up joining up with a golden gun that makes Mick ask her if it’s genetic, that all Snarts secretly want to be James Bond supervillains when they grow up.

“Don’t mention that to Leni or she’ll complain that she should’ve called the Rogues SPECTRE,” Lisa tells him, grinning. “You know she’s still trying to convince Ivy to join up, right?”

“Ivy’s never leaving Gotham,” Mick says immediately, because it’s true. “For one thing, she’s too crazy for Central, no matter what Leni says, and for another, she – and I quote directly here – ‘needs her natural soil to properly flourish.’”

Lisa covers her mouth when she giggles, the lady that Leni never was. Still, cute as a button as Lisa is, Mick prefers Leni and her full-bellied, back-shaking, fall-on-the-floor laugh, the few times he's been able to coax it out of her. “She is a bit nuts, isn’t she?” Lisa says with a grin.

“Better than Harley or Jane Doe,” Mick says. “I let Leni go to Gotham for one weekend, and suddenly she’s shopping buddies with the worst of Gotham’s nuts. She doesn’t even like shopping!”

“She does if it’s for money,” Lisa points out quite reasonably.

“You don’t shop for money,” Mick growls, even though he has to admit their tendency to swing by high-end stores to empty the inventory and the register might just qualify. “Do you know that Harley owns hyenas?”

“Yes, I did,” Lisa says, eyes crinkling with the effort it takes to keep from laughing. “But you didn’t.”

“I’ve never been to the zoo in my life,” Mick complains. “How was I supposed to know they weren’t weirdo Gotham dogs? You get weirdo everything else in Gotham! I give ‘em a couple of ear scratches and sneak ‘em a few bones, and suddenly they think I’m one of the girls.”

“Probably for the best,” Lisa says, patting his shoulder. “You should’ve seen what Harley tried to do to Mark with them last week.”

“I don’t want to know,” Mick says. “Also, tell your sister that going time-travelling is a terrible idea.”

“You’re going time travelling?” Lisa says, clapping her hands. “Bring me the Mona Lisa!”

“What the hell is with you two and that stupid painting? I’ve seen it! It’s not even that pretty!”

“It’s a Lisa,” Lisa points out with a wicked grin. “And so it should be mine. I’ll settle for a sketch or an alternate version, don’t worry.”

“You’d better,” Mick says, and resigns himself to accede to Leni’s outlandish demands the way he always does. “You watch over the Rogues for us, will you?”

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“I’ve decided that women make no sense,” Mick says, leaning back on a very specific armchair he insisted the Waverider stop by 2016 for him to pick up when he was feeling down, arms splayed out over the sides of it.

“Well, that’s rude,” Leni says from where she’s curled up under his left arm, head tucked onto his shoulder. Her knees are pulled up, digging awkwardly into his thigh, and he wouldn’t take a million dollars to ask her to move them. “Why do you say that?”

Mick holds up a finger. “Supervillains of Central City, enemies of the Flash.”

“Yeah, and?”

He holds up a second finger. “Legend and hero of the Waverider, saving history and the whole world through a self-sacrifice that the Flash himself would – and did – salute.”

“Yeah.”

He holds up a third finger. “And now you’re in something called the Legion of Doom?”

Leni pauses. “Well, yes. That might be a bit inconsistent.”

“Have you considered making up your mind?”

“It’s a woman’s right to change her mind as often as her clothes,” Leni replies haughtily, but Mick sees the grin that she’s trying to suppress.

“Says the woman who decided, entirely of her own free will, to take up a career that involves wearing the same stupid parka I got you for your birthday ten years ago every day!”

“Hey, Eobard pulled me out of the Oculus explosion,” Leni protests. “I figured I owed his stupid little Legion thing a try!”

“Yeah, but Damian Darkh?”

“Oh, no, him we can totally kill,” she says. “Anytime, really. Both of them, actually, after hearing some of their stunts. Fucking Nazis. I don’t think they realize I’m Jewish.”

Mick buries his head in his hands. “What’s next?” he groans. “You wanna join the Flash’s new Justice League?”

Leni’s silence goes on for a second too long.

Mick lifts his head in alarm. “Leni,” he says, more than mildly horrified. “Leni, no. No Justice League. You’re a supervillain. No Justice League.”

“I didn’t say I was gonna do it,” she protests, but he knows that far-off look in her eye to mean that she’s already scheming.

“Oh god,” Mick says. “I regret everything.”

“Even the golden chain of office of Louis XIII that you got for Lisa?”

“Oh, get off of it, I got you dinosaur barbeque.”

“Yeah, with your new best friend,” she pouts. “I can’t believe you gave him my gun.”

“I’ll get you the Mona Lisa next time, okay?” Mick says, rolling her eyes and hauling her in for a kiss. “Even if it does mean I’ll have to wear tights.”

“I’m not sure if I’d be into that, or be laughing too hard to appreciate it,” Leni says, letting out that wicked grin of hers. “But I guess we’ll see, huh?”